Jobs of a Preschooler · Ramblings

Nature Walk: What Interesting Creatures Will Your Scientist Find?

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you click on the link and make a purchase.)

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

Some specific findings I have written about in past posts include animal tracks and nests. Today, I have decided to show you some interesting creatures my daughters and I have discovered. I hope these posts encourage you to explore the world around you. I would love to hear about what you are able to find while out and about!

Last year, my daughters were chasing each other around in our yard when one of my daughters noticed the grass had eyes.

Ok, so the grass didn’t really have eyes. My daughter had actually seen the top part of this praying mantis.

Praying mantis

Isn’t the praying mantis such an intriguing insect? I have seen kits to raise praying mantises, which I think would be a really interesting science lesson. A praying mantis egg case can contain over 100 tiny praying mantises at one time! I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge of containing that many little creatures.

My family has raised caterpillars (using the Insect Lore Butterfly Kit) and tadpoles, but we probably won’t be raising any praying mantises in our house any time soon.

Did you know the babies may actually eat each other? What a way to be welcomed into the world!

praying mantis

My daughters moved the praying mantis to a nearby tree so they could continue running around in the yard without accidentally stepping on it.

praying mantis

The noise of cicadas can be deafening near our house in the summer. They are out and want everyone to know it! We have found quite a few cicada exoskeletons attached to trees since they molt as they grow. My daughters found this noisy little fellow in a tree in our yard. They caught him and released him back in a tree.

cicada

Here is another noisy cicada we found in a tree by following his noises. Can you find him on the tree branch? Talk about camouflage!

cicada on tree

A few years ago, we were walking on a trail at a state park when we found this large millipede crossing in front of us. I have to admit, I didn’t know there were millipedes this big in Iowa until we found it. He was at least five inches long!

millipede

This guy was fun to watch and take pictures of, but we did not touch it. Look at all of those legs!

We were on a trail at another state park when we found this walking stick on one of the signs. He wasn’t as camouflaged on the sign as he would have been in the trees, which made me wonder how many of these guys we walk past unnoticed.

walking stick

What interesting creatures will you find and learn more about?

Check out these posts for more nature walk fun.

 

 

 

Ramblings · Themed Books

Nature Walk: Where Will You Find a Nest?

(This post contains affiliate links which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. Thank you!)

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

Besides finding tracks, little ones may have fun finding nests (without touching or disturbing them). I have been doing some research recently on nests.

While doing research on nests, I watched multiple videos on animals building nests. They are all so intriguing to me, so I have decided to share a few of them with you.

Many other animals such as wasps, bees, squirrels, mice, and chimpanzees also build nests.

My family has enjoyed walking through the woods while the trees are bare to find bird nests and squirrel nests. I have taken some pictures of nests that we have spotted over the years.

This bird nest was easy to find in a tree.

nest in tree

Last summer, one of my daughters and I spent a few days together at a camp. We enjoyed finding nests in random places throughout the camp.

This one was in the corner of a gazebo.

nest in a building

This one was in another outside structure.

nest on wood

This nest was on the side of one of the buildings on a light.

nest on light

Just as a side note: Nests on lights make me a little nervous. Years ago, I had a bird build its nest in my light fixture on the front of my garage. I turned the lights on late one night, and the nest caught on fire as my family was in the house sleeping. Thankfully, I was awake and noticed the reflection of the fire in my car windshield through the front window of the house. My husband (who had been sleeping) was quick to put the fire out with the hose attached to the front of our house when I yelled “fire”. My daughters slept through it all. Unfortunately for the bird, the nest was completely destroyed. I thank God, though, that we only had to replace the light fixture and siding on our house.  I now make sure there aren’t any birds attempting to build nests near any of my lights.

This nest was above the back deck on the cabin we slept in. My daughter and I had fun playing card games on the deck as the mom bird flew back and forth to the nest.

nest on side of cabin

This bird built its nest along the side of a wall. This reminds me of all of the swallow mud nests my family has seen crammed together on the bottom of bridges. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of those.

bird nest above thermometer

Last spring, we found this nest on the back of a satellite dish.

nest with eggs

We have seen multiple bald eagle nests along the Mississippi River. They are huge! The parents return to the nest and continue to add to it each year. This is a picture of a bald eagle’s nest replica at a nature center.

bald eagle nest

Did you know it takes years before a bald eagle gets its white feathers on its head and tail? Each year, you can watch bald eagles live on their nest on the Decorah Eagles Camera.

I remember when I was little, my parents often had killdeers lay eggs in their rocks on the ground. Whenever someone would walk even remotely close to the rocks, the mom would start hopping away as though she had a broken wing.

It is amazing to me how each nest is built to be perfectly suited for that particular creature. I am intrigued by the variety of shapes, sizes, and building materials of each of the nests. I believe God did an amazing job when he created animals capable of building such detailed nests.

Books About Nests for Kids

If you would like to read books about nests with your little ones, you may be interested in the following books:

All Kinds of Nests! by Eun-gyu Choi

Amazing Animal Architects of the Air: A 4D Book by Mari Schuh

A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts 

Bird Builds a Nest by Martin Jenkins

Birds Make Nests by Michael Garland

Birds, Nests & Eggs by Mel Boring

Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward 

Nest by Jorey Hurley

Squirrels and Their Nests by Martha E. Rustad

This is the Nest That Robin Built by Denise Fleming

Where will you find a nest?

For more book ideas, check out these posts:

14 Children’s Books About Flowers

14 Children’s Books About Seeds, Plants, and Gardening

5 Interactive Educational Children’s Books

10 Cookbooks for Kids

25 Books About Grandparents

 

Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler · Ramblings

Nature Walk: Whose Tracks Are These?

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking a link. Thank you!)

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?

 

 

Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler

Be a Scientist With an A-maze-ing Potato

Your child may have fun being a scientist like the girl in the book Jobs of a Preschooler with a potato maze experiment.

To make the maze, follow the steps below.

  1. Gather the needed supplies: potato with an eye, shoebox with a lid, cardboard, scissors, a knife, and tape.
  2. Cut a large circular hole in one side corner of the shoebox. (I found the knife worked best for this.)
  3. Tape two pieces of cardboard (cut to fit) inside of the shoebox on opposite sides to create a maze.
  4.  Set the potato with the eye in the shoebox on the side away from the cut hole.
  5. Close the lid and put the shoebox in a spot where the sun can shine through the hole. (You want light to only come in where the hole is.) Have your child hypothesize what will happen.
  6. After a few days, see if there have been any changes to the potato.

Potato experiment

As you can see above, the eye of the potato sprouted and started to make its way through the maze to the hole on the opposite end of the box. It should continue to make its way through the maze as it grows towards the light.  This is a fun experiment to show how plants grow towards light.

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

For another similar science experiment to show how plants grow towards the light, you may want to check out the shoe-box maze as seen on Plants for Kids with step-by-step photo instructions.

Here are more simple science experiments you may want to try with your little ones.