Summer has arrived and the great outdoors is bursting with life

 that peaks the curiosity of young explorers!

Last week I was greeted by a tiny ring neck snake at the door of my barn.  He was smaller around than my little finger and about six inches long. He lifted his head to  inspect me, then quickly disappeared down the crack in the cement. If I hadn’t been watching, I might have missed him altogether.
I remember one day finding another little (non-poisonous) snake in my garage.  Being the teacher always, I scooped him up in one of my peanut butter critter catcher jars.  He rode with me to my young home bound student’s home that day and became our guest lesson.  It took most of the morning for me to convince her that it wasn’t a worm!  We got out a book on snakes and identified what type of snake he was.  We learned what he ate and where he lived.  We hypothesized why he was in my garage.  We found out how big he got and if he was hatched or born.   We found a magnifying glass and watched him.  We drew pictures of him and even made up stories about his family and feelings. Instead of the regular lesson, we had an in depth, hands-on interdisciplinary lesson instead.  It was awesome, and so much more meaningful than words or a worksheet.  Her mother avoided our lesson area that day and shook her head and smiled each time she passed the room.  I tried to convince her to meet our new friend, but she politely declined.  That afternoon, Mr. Snake traveled back home with me and I let him go… in the yard along with a lecture about staying out of my garage.  He must have been confused.
I remember as a child making a living lantern by catching lightening bugs and putting them in a  jar.  I would fall asleep with them twinkling next to my bed. It seemed magical and became a treasured memory of summer evenings. My children also did this activity.  After they fell asleep I would release their “night lights” back into the yard.
It is amazing the different size, shapes and colors that butterflies, bugs and small critters come in.
Although many may scream and swat at these creatures,  they are extremely fascinating to look at and study. And they have a magnetism to children who are soaking up knowledge, curious and inquisitive.  And, if we are lucky, not swayed by negative adult opinion.
Insects, reptiles and amphibians are designed with the most unique, intricate, complex patterns and parts; and, serve many positive functions in our environment.

Today’s post is in celebration of these amazing critters.

How this celebration is accomplished will be determined by the age of your child(ren).
Young children like to look at and watch.
Older children will research interesting facts about diet, habitat, lifespan, etc.
Some children may like to draw or take pictures of their discoveries.
Diaries or journals of summer discoveries might be a wonderful on-going activity.
Other children may delight in creating stories (both verbally and in writing) about their findings.

Of course, SAFETY IS THE HIGHEST priority with this activity…

so use common sense and education. 

Not all insects and snakes are safe to hold or catch (i.e. bees, wasps, poisonous specimens, etc.) 
However if you have a child that is really into the creeping, crawly variety of life,
observation and documentation of  habits are just as exciting as catching.
Here are some tools to make your study more exciting:
1.  Bug Box/Jar:  Any jar or bottle with holes punched in the lid will make a good container.
                            Holes can be made by pushing a hot ice pick melting through a plastic lid or
                            by using  a drill with a small bit.   This part is for adults to do.
empty, clean plastic peanut butter jar
For larger catches such as frogs, geckos, large insects, or tiny (non-poisonous) snakes,
plastic fruit containers make perfect collection boxes. 
They seal firmly and already have breathing holes.

plastic fruit box and peanut butter jars
2.  Insect net
3.  Magnifying glass
4.  Journal
5.  Sketch pad with colored pencils
6.  Trip to the library or time to research the characteristics and habits of what is found on the Internet
7.  Books and or Field Guides on insects, butterflies, amphibians, reptiles.

8.  Binoculars


This Blog Post is inspired  from the book:
Miraculous, Magical Moments in Minutes:
Over 500 Quick, Easy Activities for Adults and Children to Share
by Becky B. Baxa
If you would like more fun ideas to share with your children
(that do not require batteries or electronics )
you can purchase this 180 page book,
full of color photos,
for $21.95

from or 


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