Thursday, March 31, 2011

Butterfly Origami for prechoolers

I love origami and doing it with young kids can be quite a test of patience for everyone. I found this lovely simple butterfly a few years ago. I've used with kids as young as three and they have been quite successful at it.

Rather than recreate a wonderful tutorial, I am going to point you to it here.

This butterfly is symmetrical and could be colored like a real butterfly.

Book Review: The Girl Who Loved Caterpillars

The Girl Who Loved Caterpillars by Jean Merrill.

This book had me at the title! This is a pretty advanced book for preschoolers to read, but worth reading to your kids. In this story, the girl really does love caterpillars and all sorts of creepy crawly things much to her parent's dismay.

What I loved about the book is that she remains true to herself, even though it was the ideal image of what a girl should be like in Japan at that time. Reminded me of myself as a girl, hunting for rocks and looking under logs.

The other thing that was quite wonderful about this story is that it doesn't end. The scroll that it was taken from didn't have the next chapter so we are free to make up our own story. What if... and what could happen next... are powerful questions to get everyone thinking and imagining.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Animal of the Week - Snow Monkey

Image from

Snow monkeys are an iconic image of Japan, the theme of the week. All our hearts and minds are still in Japan as people still struggle with the aftermath of earthquakes and nuclear concerns.

The Japanese word for money is saru and these monkeys are the most northern dwelling monkey in the world.

They are omnivores just like us. That means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet is usually seeds, nuts, insects, eggs, berries, fungi and roots.

These snow monkeys live in family groups headed by the females.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fun Friday Fact

If you turn an alligator over on its back, it will fall asleep.

Really! I've seen it with my own eyes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Book Review: Tuatara and the Skink

Ok, finding books about the rarest of reptiles, the Tuatara, was tricky, but TA DA~ here it is. The Tuatara and the Skink, is a New Zealand themed retelling of the Tortoise and the Hare. Here are a few facts about the Tuatara so you can guess whether it is the Tortoise or the Hare.

Tuataras are only found in New Zealand and their name means peaks on their backs. They are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. Their eyes move independently (how cool is that!) and they have a very slow metabolism. They thrive in low temperatures that send most other reptiles into brumation.

Soo, have you guessed yet?

They are similar to the slow moving Tortoise!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Turtle Tuesday

This is me holding a baby painted turtle who wandered into my backyard. We have a big snapping turtle who tries to lay eggs in our back yard from time to time. I've never actually caught her laying the eggs, but I have seen her dig. We had a painted turtle lay eggs near our garden last summer. It was an amazing moment to see her put the eggs in the tiny hole.

Turtles off an opportunity to talk about symmetry. You can make a symmetrical turtle with a coffee filter, some cotton swabs, water color paint, glue stick and some scrap paper.

First fold the filter in half. Now dip a swab into some damp water color paint. Dab it onto the filter. When you are done, open up the filter. The design will be repeated exactly on the other side. This is symmetry - the same on both sides.

You can use scrap paper to add a head, arms and a tail.

What other animals are symmetrical? Are you symmetrical?

Check out the last post on Fun Fact Friday about turtles here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Animal of the Week - Blue Tongued Skink

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There are five different groups of reptiles and a lizard is one. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet a Blue Tongued Skink.

Unlike many other lizards, the Blue Tongued Skink doesn't move very quickly, so to evade predators, it sticks its blue tongue out to scare them.

They are native to Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania. The female gives birth, not to eggs like most lizards, but to live babies like humans do. Cool.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fun Friday Fact

The tongue of a blue whale weighs more than an elephant.

Thought you like to know that.

Challenge: Make a Flinker

Can you make a flinker...

something that neither floats nor sinks?

Fish, submarines, and SCUBA divers are all examples of flinkers - the science term is neutrally buoyant.

Try it in the tub or sink tell us about it!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Floaters and Sinkers

We had a great, wet time today playing with floaters and sinkers. First we gathered stuff that we thought would either float or sink. These were our predictions which is a fancy science word for guess.

We recorded our predictions in a small notebook. I was really impressed with the variety of ways that the kids recorded their predictions from tracing the objects to drawing with different colored crayons.
Then we tested our predictions. This part was great fun. We used another science tool, tweezers, to reclaim our objects from the water.

We double checked our predictions and found that for most part, our predictions were correct. We did have some surprises. The rubber bands did not float. A few folks thought that the Legos would sink and were surprised that they float nicely.

Our final challenge was to make a boat that could float as many pennies as possible. One participant, Lucas, was able to float 23 pennies on a piece of tin foil!

If you want to check out some other things to float and sink, go see my previous post here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Animal of the Week - River Otters

Image from

River otters will live in all kinds of water, not just rivers. They like to have fresh water where they can swim, hunt for prey, and play.

On land, they use their senses of smell and sight to find they prey. They eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans and if they can catch them, small mammals.

When they dive in the water, otters use their sensitive whiskers to find prey.

River otters like to slip and slide in the mud and snow.

Locally, check out the Blackstone River Bike Trail for otters. I have seen them there twice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fun Friday Fact

Squirrels have a sweet tooth.

Red squirrels will bite the bark of sugar maples in the spring and lick the sap. Yum.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Making a bird feeder

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This is a classic activity to do with your preschooler. It is messy and lots of fun. Using a pine cone, some string, peanut butter and bird seed, you can create a bird feeder the birds will flock to. Tie the string on to the pine cone first, then slather the pine cone with peanut butter. Roll the pine cone in bird seed and you are done! Hang up in location you can see from a window.

If your child is allergic to peanuts, solid shortening can be substituted. Also check your bird seed to make sure it doesn't contain peanuts.

Another fun bird feeder to make that reuses material, is a water bottle bird feeder. You need a water bottle, scissors, pencils or spoons and bird seed.

Image from

Poke holes in water bottle where the pencil or spoon will go through. Then you need to cut a small hole above that one so the birds can perch on the pencil and reach in to get seeds. You can cut one set of holes or two as shown in the picture above. Once you have your holes cut, add your pencils or spoons and fill with seed.

What birds come to your feeder? The more mixed your seed, the greater the mix of birds. I refilled my bird feeder this morning and it took a male and female cardinal less than two minutes to come to the feeder.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review: Feathers for Lunch

Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert is one of my very favorite field guides - trust me I not only have a lot of field guides, I've read even more. This is a story about a house cat who escapes in to the yard and encounters a dozen common backyard birds. Each bird is illustrated in detail that will allow identification of the bird.

The back of the book has a traditional field guide layout for each bird but in a streamlined form showing the most basic of information.

There are a few ways to use this book with your preschooler. First you can just read it and talk about how the cat is a predator and the birds are prey. The cat isn't effective as a predator since he has a bell. Why did his owners put a bell on the cat?

Another fun way to use the book is as a field guide. You can check out the birds at your feeder and see what birds you have. The book can help you identify the birds you have and since there are on a few, and the most common birds, you won't get lost wondering what bird you have.

Lois Ehlert uses paper to make her pictures. Can you cut out different shaped pieces of paper and create pictures of the birds you see?

5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Animal of the Week - Squirrels

Image from

This time of year squirrels, like this grey squirrel, may be the most common visitor to your bird feeder. Many birds are starting to find some juicy bugs and seeds that were covered with snow and our squirrel friends are still waiting for the ground to defrost before they can dig deep to find their hidden caches of nuts.

Squirrels' primary habitat is mature woods - woods with big trees and some under brush, but because they can find food there, many squirrels are moving into places like parks and suburban neighborhoods.

In the winter, squirrels will nest in a cavity, often one left by a bird. They will store some food and line the nest with sticks, leaves, and sometimes fur for insulation. In the summer, squirrels build a nest of leaves and sticks a bit bigger than a basket ball. This summer nest is called a drey.

Unlike most other species of squirrel, the grey squirrel will eat birds and eggs in addition to the traditional squirrel diet of nuts, seeds, mushrooms, pine cones, fruits, and bark.

We love to watch the squirrels at our feeders. We have three grey squirrels and at least on red squirrel. They are quite bold and very funny to watch as they seem to play with each other and carry on great conversations.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fun Friday Fact

Could dinosaurs spit?

In the movie Jurassic Park, a Dilophosaurs spits venom in a man's face. Alas, there is no physical evidence that dinosaurs could spit. It takes a lot of muscle to spit and that probably would have left marks on the skeletons of dinosaurs.

There are snakes such as the Spitting Cobra that appear to spit venom, but they really just spray their venom. The have large muscles that allow them to eject venom quite accurately.

Check out this video of a spitting cobra, well spitting. It is under two minutes and very well done.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Make your own Fossils

Using modeling clay or Model Magic and objects like ferns, feathers, bones, or shells, you can create a fossil.

We just did this at the library and made all kinds of impressions from shells to toy dino prints to car tracks.

Flatten a piece of clay with your hand and press an object into it. You can just stop here and let the clay or Model Magic to dry and then paint it. This is how foot prints are fossilized.

If you are ready for a more realistic fossil, you can use plaster or clay. Carefully roll out another piece of clay about the same size. Cover the object with the second piece of clay and be sure it molds to the object. Gently pull the clay apart and you will have two impressions of your fossil! Once dry, you can paint the clay to look like rock.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: Dinosaurs Big and Small

I am a huge fan of Kathleen Zoehfeld - I really love all her books. She takes very complex topics and makes the very accessible with out talking down to me.

Dinosaurs Big and Small demonstrates how long and tall dinosaurs were and more importantly to me, she talks about how we know this information. The next question most kids, and adults might have is how heavy dinosaurs were. Kathleen handles this extremely well. Scientists don't actually know how heavy dinosaurs were and can only make some well educated guesses.

The best part of this book is how they measure things. While using standard measurements of feet and pounds for everything, she also puts the measurements in context for kids by measuring in kid units. She also measures in elephants for weight which is a way scientists do to.

I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Dinosaurs in the library!

We had dinosaurs in the library today! We had a great time exploring just how really big some of the dinosaurs were and how small some of them were. We know a lot about dinosaurs from fossils so we played paleontologist, scientist who studies dinosaurs, by digging out our own dinosaur clues. Then we got to make fossils.

Here are some ideas for exploring dinosaurs with your own paleontologists at home.

What if you had a dinosaur? Make a habitat for your dinosaur in a shoe box, empty tissue box, or on paper. Cut out magazine pictures, use natural materials (pine sprigs, twigs, rocks) or paint your own food, water, and friends for your dino.

Counting. Use dinosaur shaped crackers for counting. If you find dinosaur shaped fruit snacks you can lay them out in a graph before eating to see which color has the most and which color has the least.

Sorting. Gather all your toy dinosaurs and then group into piles with at least two dinosaurs in each pile. What kind of piles did you make? Try again but make fewer or more piles. Try piling them by what foods they ate or when they lived.

Herbivore or Carnivore? Look at your teeth together. Some of our teeth are long, wide and sharp while others are just bumpy. What do we use our teeth for? What do the front teeth do better than the back teeth? You can extend this at lunch by offering meat like a hot dog and plants like lettuce or carrots. How do you eat different foods? Dinosaurs were the same way. Plant eaters used their teeth to grind leaves (molar = grind) and plant stems up while carnivores used their slim sharp teeth (incise = cut) to tear into meat. (Humans are omnivores – we eat both plants and meat.)

Dig it! Hide plastic dinosaurs in the sand box or a small box with corn meal. Give your child a small shovel, paint brush, a ruler, a sifter, and a hat as the tools of a paleontologist. They can dig the fossils and use the tools to carefully uncover and measure them. As they dig the dirt, they should put it through the sifter to uncover tiny fossils. You can make footprints or scenes with toy dinosaurs as well.