Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler · Ramblings

Nature Walk: Whose Tracks Are These?

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I had mentioned in a previous post that your little ones can be scientists by taking a nature walk to make some interesting discoveries.

Maybe your little ones would like to find some animal tracks in sandy, muddy, or snowy areas. Guidebooks that show animal tracks can be very beneficial to identify the animals that made the tracks.

My family has found many tracks over the years. Below are a few samples of animal tracks we have found.

These are tracks we found on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River. We knew they were bird tracks, but we weren’t sure what kind of bird.

bird tracks

We looked at the guide found here (from USGS Education), and it appears as though they are heron tracks.

This is another picture I took on an island in the Mississippi River. The deer who left these tracks behind would have had to swim across the river to get to this island.

deer tracks in sand

We explored the small island for a little bit, but we never found any deer.

These were dog (or coyote) tracks found on the same island. It can be fun to make up stories to go along with discovered tracks. What kind of animal was it? What was it doing?

dog tracks in sand

We were guessing the tracks below were from a dog visiting with its family. That seemed like a nicer story than a coyote following the deer.

There are multiple tracks in this mud we found at a Wetlands Center we visited.

tracks in mud

Here is a large turtle track we saw while visiting MacArthur Beach State Park in Florida.

turtle tracks on beach

I’m glad we had decided to take a tour with a park ranger while there otherwise I’m not sure I would have recognized this as a turtle track. The park ranger was kind enough to point it out to us and tell us that it had been left by a turtle laying her eggs the night before.

We have enjoyed many field trips to nature centers and parks. On one visit, the naturalist showed us multiple animal track samples and allowed the kids to create their own animal track molds.

One of my daughters molded a Canadian goose print.

canadian goose track mold

My other daughter molded a wolf print.

wolf track mold

We used rubber molds of animal tracks when we created these animal prints out of plaster of paris. If you are interested in making a mold of an animal print you find outside, you may want to read How to Make a Mold of Animal Tracks with Plaster of Paris on Frugal Fun 4 Boys or this booklet from USGS Education, which includes an animal track reference guide.

Searching for tracks may lead to a hungry kid. You could continue with the theme of tracks with these cute animal track snacks as seen on Loreen Leedy’s website.

It may be fun to discuss another animal track animals leave…scat! You may want to save this discussion for after snack time, though. A cute book to check out about animal tracks and their scat is called Track that Scat! by Lisa Morlock.

Track that Scat book

Will you find (or make) any tracks today?

Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler

Become a Little Scientist on a Walk

It’s not officially summer yet, but many kids will be starting summer break really soon. As the weather continues to warm up, I am looking forward to taking walks with my family.

My daughters and I have enjoyed many nature walks over the years. We have had the opportunity to take walks at nature centers, state parks, national parks, and on various other walking trails.

Did you know kids can collect Junior Ranger badges by completing tasks at national parks? My daughters have each received a badge for completing a packet and going on a guided hike with a park ranger at one national park. You can call national parks and ask what they offer for the Junior Ranger program. Otherwise, you can find more information on the National Park Service’s website here if you are interested. I have seen some families go to multiple national parks and collect badges at each one. National parks also often offer free programs throughout the summer (and the year) in addition to the Junior Ranger program. Normally the information for upcoming events can be found on their websites.

My daughters have also learned a lot about national parks through the National Park Service’s Webrangers program. This is a free online program, which you can access on the National Park Service’s website here. You are required to create a user id and password so all of the completed activities can be saved. Kids can earn virtual badges and rewards as they complete each activity. Children are also offered a physical badge once all of the activities are finished. My daughters learned quite a bit while completing the Webranger activities.

Maybe you would enjoy walks with your little one on a “mission as a scientist”. Your little one could be a scientist just like the girl in the book Jobs of a Preschooler. You may want to search for something specific each time you go on a nature walk such as:

I’ve noticed when we search for specific items, my daughters seem more focused on looking around and exploring than if we are just “going for a walk”.

For even more fun, you could pack a little “scientist bag” filled with a notebook, magnifying glass, binoculars, camera, and pencils. Depending on what you are searching for, a little guide book may also be helpful to identify animal tracks, flowers, etc. (Libraries often have guide books to borrow if you don’t have one.) Sunscreen and bug spray are also beneficial on nature walks, although it is best to keep it off of hands especially if handling interesting finds.

scientist supplies

Your little one may have fun drawing, taking pictures, and studying (as long as it is safe to do so) interesting discoveries along the way. The drawings and pictures can be added to a little science journal (a notebook or binder with papers) if desired. Both of my daughters have had fun creating their own binders filled with photos they have taken. If you choose to collect items, you may want to check policies. Some places have rules against taking any items, so all of the leaves, flowers, acorns, etc. must remain there.

Outdoor exploration often leads to conversations and research to find more information about specific items. For example, what is the difference between butterflies and moths? What are the different kinds of animal homes?

Hands-on learning can be a lot of fun. I don’t know about you, but I end up learning quite a bit along with my daughters when we do activities like this. The world is our classroom. Have fun discovering new things and learning as you take a walk!

I will be writing posts with pictures based on themed specific nature walks for you to see (and share) with your little ones. Stay tuned!

Jobs of a Preschooler- I'm a scientist...

What will you discover on your next walk?