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Spring Nesting Bird Study and Egg Craft

nesting bird spring study

This week we studied all things birds with our nature study curriculum, Exploring Nature with Children. We are crazy about birds over at our house, so I thought I’d share our activities and resources here.

Bird Study Activities

nest and egg spring craft

Nest Building and Egg Painting

This spring craft is a bit messy but worth it! The boys each painted wooden eggs with acrylic paint (you could use any paint) and then using moss, twigs, string, yarn and rubber bands, they made a nest. A good book to go with this activity is Mama Built a Little Nest (listed below in Resources).

There are so many materials birds use in their nests – you could have the kids search your house for other items birds commonly use, like socks, feathers, hair, shoelaces – the list is practically endless.

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The best thing about this craft? It doubles as a pretty Easter decoration!

Bird’s Nest Cookies

birds nest cookies for spring

A fun and tasty way to celebrate the birds coming back for the season.

Get the recipe here.

DIY Bird Feeders

Remember making these growing up?

Gather some cardboard toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, bird seed and some string and let the kids go at it. Sunflower butter works just as well if there are any peanut allergies.

bird feeder DIY craft

If you wanted to make it into a “bird store” of sorts, you could also hang nest building materials in the toilet paper roll – string, shoelaces, etc. This is a fun spring craft to do with friends.

Bird Bingo

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Such a fun way to learn about bird species and play at the same time!

Find the Bird Bingo Game on Amazon (it’s very affordable)

Bird Watching Nature Walk

Take the kiddos on a nature walk and look for birds flying back and forth to their nests. Listen to the new bird calls of spring, bring along a bird call identification guide and nature journals if you wish.

Resources

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The Backyard Birdsong Guide – An absolute must-have! Our whole family has learned so much about birds just by keeping this book on our table by the window

Bird Feather Identification Cards by Chickie & Roo

Nature Journal

Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest

Mama Built a Little Nest

Robins, Songbirds of Spring

Have you Heard the Nesting Bird?

My Book of Birds

Blue Sky Bluebird

A Nest is Noisy

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

 

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Spring Pond + Frog Life Cycle Study

Last week we learned about the spring pond with our Exploring Nature with Children curriculum. The boys learned about the ecosystem of the pond and the lifecycle of a frog through play-based learning, lots of good books and outdoor exploration.

Here’s what we did:

Spring Pond Loose Parts Play

For this activity, I set out some kinetic sand along with mini pond animals, marbles, small stones and some leaves I pulled off a silk plant (because they need lilypads, of course!).

The boys played with this setup for days.

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Life Cycle of a Frog

The boys colored this free printable while I read aloud from one of our favorite nature study books: Nature Anatomy. There are a couple of pages dedicated to frogs and toads.

If your kids are a bit older, you could also have them make a Venn diagram that illustrates the differences between frogs and toads. And if you have access to frog eggs or tadpoles, nothing beats seeing the life cycle play out in real life!

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Pond Nature Walk

Nature study is somewhat limited unless you actually go outside and experience nature, right? Most of our ponds are still partly frozen, but we followed the recommendation of a friend and went to a sweet little neighborhood pond. There were geese, ducks and we looked for frog eggs but unfortunately didn’t find any (although we did find other cool pond creatures in the water).

The kids brought their nature journals and colored pencils, some buckets, nets, a good magnifying glass and we made a picnic lunch out of it.

And only one kid fell in the pond so I call that a success. 🙂

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Pond Study Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner (This book is really neat)

Pond by Jim LaMarche (A wonderful and beautiful story that left us all smiling)

Turtle Pond by James Gladstone

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury by Arnold Lobel  (My five year old loves these stories)

Seasons of the Freshwater Pond Biome by Shirley Duke

National Geographic Kids Tadpole to Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

 

 

 

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DIY Tide Pool – Ocean Science Activity for Kids

This week we studied ocean zones while following the Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 curriculum – and to add an extra element of fun, we also studied the Intertidal Zone.

Did you know that the Intertidal Zone is one of the harshest environments on earth? It’s true. Animals who live there have to withstand extreme variations in temperature and water levels, not to mention crashing waves and predators.

Amazingly, so many little creatures still make tide pools their home, like sea stars, puffer fish, crabs, anemones, barnacles, mussels and even baby octopuses!

See, I bet you learned something. Class dismissed.

Jk.

One of the ways we studied tide pools was this fun little backyard activity. I know it’s winter and 30 degrees outside, but my boys were not opposed to playing in the water. It’s a mystery, but it’s true.

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DIY Tide Pool

  • First, get some sort of large container to act as your tide pool. We used the top of an old plastic bird bath, which was perfect. You could also use a trash can lid or storage container.
  • Put a few scoops of sand or crushed rock in the bottom.
  • Add some seashells or small rocks. Check your local dollar store or craft store for shells, sand dollars and starfish. We got a very inexpensive bag of shells (since we live nowhere near the beach) and it was so worth it!
  • Add some mini sea creatures – but only ones that live in the intertidal zone! We used sea stars, sea turtles, crabs and a little octopus.
  • Have your kids fill up the tide pool with buckets of water. They can take turns making it high tide and low tide. My boys especially loved making waves by rocking the container back and forth.

This activity kept my boys occupied for hours!

Further Resources

 

Wild Kratts Stars of the Tides episode

Tide Pool Secrets

Look Inside a Tide Pool

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 Activities + Resources

cc cycle 1 week 19 lesson plan

Science

We did a lot for science this week, since we LOVE learning about the ocean.

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Ocean Layers Activity
This was a great way to visualize the epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathypelagic and abyssopelagic layers they learned about at CC.

Learn how to do it here.

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Tide Pool Sensory Play
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I’m all about sensory play. We created a little tide pool from a discarded bird bath top (you could use any kind of container), play sand, pebbles, shells and mini sea creatures from the dollar store. Add water and let them play in their mini tide pool.

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Ocean Layers Felt Board
My biggest boy and I made this scene out of felt scraps and it ended up being such a great tool to learn about which species live in each layer of the ocean. So fun!

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Growing Overnight Crystals
My kids could not get enough of crystals at CC day and begged to do more, so we followed this lesson and they turned out amazing!

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History Resources

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History

About the Anasazi

Fine Arts

To go a little more in-depth, I set out all of our instruments with some labels and had my big boy try and group them into types of instruments: percussion, strings, brass and woodwinds.

If you’re looking for a good book that introduces little ones to the orchestra, we LOVE this First Book About the Orchestra and can’t recommend it enough!

(This is the musical instruments set we used.)

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Nature Study

This week was field trip week with Exploring Nature With Children, so we went to a local trail to search for tracks and wildlife signs. Luckily, everything in Colorado this time of year is super muddy – perfect for spotting animal tracks. We recorded what we saw in our nature journals and even played around with making tracks in Kinetic Sand.

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Resources

You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!

Super Simple Ocean Projects

Oceans: A Journey from the Surface to the Seafloor (3-D Explorer)

Tide Pool Secrets

See Under the Sea: Lift-the-Flap Book

Wild Tracks: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints

Who Pooped in the Park?

Tell me what you’re doing with your kids this week!

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Ocean Zones Hands-On Science Activity

ocean layers

This week in Classical Conversations (Cycle 1), we learned about the layers of the oceans, or ocean zones.

This was a simple and fun activity that required minimal effort and supplies you probably already have lying around.

(We got the idea from this book)

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First, gather 5 clear cups or jars and line them up next to one another. Make sure you put down parchment or kraft paper underneath if your surface stains easily, since you will be working with food coloring.

Next, fill them up 3/4 of the way with lukewarm water.

To the first cup, add 2 drops of yellow food coloring. This will be the Sunlit (Epipelagic) Zone.

To the next cup, add 1 drop of blue food coloring, for the Twilight (Mesopelagic) Zone.

To the third cup, add 2 drops of blue food coloring, for the Midnight (Bathypelagic) Zone.

To the fourth cup, add 3 drops of blue food coloring; this is the Abyssal (Abyssopelagic) Zone.

We added a fifth category: Trench. Add 4 drops of blue and 1 drop of red; it should look nearly black.

Now, have your kiddos place one ice cube in the second cup, three in the third cup, five in the fourth cup, and a handful in the last cup. This represents the ocean temperature as you go deeper, and it’s really fun to feel how the temperature changes as you move from cup to cup! You can also discuss how the pressure changes as you go deeper into the ocean’s layers.

We also printed out labels for each zone.

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To add another element of learning, we got out our mini ocean animals and the boys dropped each animal into the ocean zone in which they live. We had to reference our books for some of them – it was a great learning opportunity!

Let me know if you try this activity, and how it went!

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Tips for Nature Walks with Young Children

nature walk with children

Before you think I’ve got this whole thing figured out, let me just paint a picture for you.

About a year ago, we set out with a friend on one of our very first nature walks at a local trail.

“It’ll be fun!” we said.

Three minutes into our walk, my littlest one (who was two at the time) started clinging to my leg and asking for “uppie.”

“Uppie, mommy. Uppie! I want uppie! UPPIEEEEEEE!”

I didn’t have a hiking pack, my back was sore and I was not about to carry my two year old the entire time, so I said no. He cried and fussed for the remainder of the walk. The rest of the kids were hungry and thirsty. It was so windy, it was hard for the little ones to stand up straight.

It was basically a disaster.

I say all this to say – our nature walks are not perfect and wonderful every time. Some days, there’s a lot of fussing. Some days there are self-inflicted injuries every five minutes. Some days mom forgets to pack snacks and water and sunscreen.

You win some, you lose some.

That being said, here’s what I’ve learned over the past year to increase the likelihood of having a successful nature walk with little ones, and make sweet memories.

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Set Expectations

This is probably the most important thing you can do to set you and your kids up for success. Tell them what the general plan is, what they are likely to encounter and what you expect from them – BEFORE you even get out of the car.

Are there hazards off the trail? Make sure they understand to stay on the trail at all times. Is it going to be muddy? Tell them beforehand whether they’re aloud to play in it or if they need to keep out. Is there going to be water? Can they play in it? How far can they wander from you? Are we going with friends who are a little slower-paced? When is lunch or snack time going to happen? Are we going to be observing a particular tree species, bird, reptile, etc.?

I find if children know the boundaries ahead of time things go more smoothly and there is much more freedom to play and explore.

Be “Just Prepared Enough”

I’m so helpful, aren’t I? 😉

Here’s my problem with adventuring with little ones – they need a lot of stuff but don’t want to carry any of it. So my job is to figure out the essentials and leave the rest.

For our family, essentials include food – either snacks or a light lunch – (because hungry kids are grumpy kids), water (we often share a big water bottle), sun hats or winter hats/gloves, small buckets for them to carry for collecting “treasures,” (I got tired of stuffing my pockets with acorns, rocks, etc.), a portable magnifying glass and our nature study supplies if we are going to study our curriculum on the trail.

One backpack for mama and that’s it.

When J Bear was really small, I brought my hiking carrier, which had a little pouch for other items. That way when he was tired of walking, I could stick him in the pack and still have my hands free. The hiking carrier was SO much easier than trying to navigate a stroller, or carry him on my hip.

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Don’t Try to Set a “Destination”

Take some time right now to go ahead and lower your expectations. Lower. Lower…. keep going. 😉

Maybe it’s just my kids, but walking a quarter of a mile can take an hour.

Stop to pick up a rock. Stop to splash in a mud puddle. Sit down and draw in the dirt for a bit. Lean over the bridge and throw leaves in the river for 47 minutes.

For little ones, nature walks are about experiencing nature. Seeing all of the little bits and pieces. Hearing the sounds. Smelling all the smells. Watching the bubbles in the creek. Chasing the ants around with a stick. They want to fully immerse themselves in every. little. thing.

I think they might be on to something…

So try and choose a spot that has room for them to roam and explore without needing to actually “arrive” somewhere. There will be a season for accomplishing things, like hiking to the summit, but don’t hold high expectations when they are little.

To them, the little things ARE the destination. You may spend two hours on a trail and not really get anywhere. Embrace it. Learn from their curiosity and wonder.

Don’t Force Learning, But Make Space For It

We started following a wonderful nature study curriculum (Exploring Nature With Children), which is pretty easy to incorporate into our Friday nature outings. I’ll usually bring a printout of the lesson (it’s typically a page or two), our little nature journals , a few colored pencils and another resource when appropriate – like a field guide or our bird identification guide, something like that.

Sometimes we’ll see something along our journey that sparks interest and leads into the nature study for the day. I’ll read the lesson while they are exploring and maybe later we’ll find a spot to draw in our journals about what we’ve found. (Nature journaling post coming soon!)

Just having these things handy allows us to seize the learning opportunity when it arrives. Sometimes, it never arrives. Sometimes we are all too busy splashing in the river and building a dam to do a lesson on bees. And that’s okay. At least for us, following the spark of interest, rather than trying to force learning when they are engaged in something else, sets us up for a much better experience.

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Try to Loosen Up a Bit

I’m preaching to the choir here.

I tend to cringe when my kids slosh through the mud, spread sap in their hair, pick up spiders, etc. etc. (Ahem, boys.)

Recovering helicopter parent, here.

I try to let them explore as much as possible without saying things like, “be careful!” or “don’t climb on that!” or “don’t touch that!”

It’s really hard to walk that tension between keeping them safe and letting them be wild and free. I mean, how can you really, fully enjoy playing in nature when your mom is firing off warnings every five minutes? I know I wouldn’t enjoy it.

So take a deep breath. Try to really, fully consider what the consequences might be. If they fall and get a scrape? Not the end of the world. Most kids tend to be more careful and aware of danger when they are playing outside, in natural surroundings. Try to let go and let them be little.

Nature Walk with Children

Lastly, Just Do It.

There are a lot of really important things us homeschooling mamas have to fit into the school week. It’s easy to push things like nature walks and nature study to the bottom of the list because they are so NOT measurable.

I totally get it.

(Sort of. I have a kindergartner and a preschooler so our actual “school” time is pretty short.)

But can I just say this? When our kids are little, what do they really need? I’m talking three, four, five, even six years old.

Do they really need to be spending hours on math worksheets? Do they really need to have perfect handwriting? Spell all the words?

I know all of us mamas have differing opinions on this – but here’s mine.

One of the major reasons we are homeschooling is so that our boys can have more TIME. We are fiercely protective of their childhood. We want homeschooling to give them more time to run and play outside, climb trees, collect bugs, play in the dirt – all of the things that they were designed, as children, to do.

Yes, they need to learn how to read and write and count. But these little years – they will never get them back. Childhood is fleeting.

So, for us that means playing outside is a priority, right up there with math and reading. It is an essential part of their development. Even if we didn’t finish the lesson plan for the week; even if the house is a pit; even if the weather isn’t great or we’re all feeling a little grumpy…

We try to make it happen.

For the most part, we make nature day a non-negotiable. It’s an appointment on our weekly calendar. If we don’t make it a priority, it’s too easy to let it go.

Do you make it a habit to regularly explore nature with your kids? What have you found helpful?

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**