Monday, September 29, 2014

10 Ways to Learn About Animals

Animals, animals, animals. There is never any shortage of animals in our house. Between our two pets, piles of animal toys, and even bigger piles of animal books, my girls know more interesting facts about animals than most people I know. I know they're not alone. So many kids connect with animals and want to learn more about them. Animals can peak their interest in reading. They can teach them compassion and conservation. They can teach them science. A world without animals is no world at all.

In honor of World Animals Day 2014 (October 4), I've joined together with a group of kid bloggers for the Children Loving Animals Blog Hop with 10 of our favorite ways to learn about animals. I've illustrated this post with several animal pictures I took over our summer vacation. We were able to observe several animals in their native habitat while on a vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

1. Subscribe to an animal magazine. My kids have a subscription to Ranger Rick Jr. and in the past we've also received National Geographic Little Kids. Both also have versions for older kids. I love these magazines because they are stuffed full of animal facts and beautiful pictures. It's easy to pick one up and read for a few minutes. Of course, the best part about a magazine is that you get a surprise in the mail once a month! 

2. Observe them in the wild. You don't have to go on an African safari to observe animals in the wild (although that would be amazing). Just think small. We had the opportunity to see amazing animals in the wild while visiting Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota this summer. When visiting a state park or a national park, stop by the visitors center to find out the types of animals you can see and the best spots to find them. If you don't live near a state or national park, you can also visit a local nature center. Birds, deer, squirrels, and other small animals native to the area are often found at a nature center. We love to check out the turtles who hang out at our favorite nature center. For great tips on observing nature with young children, you can visit my post here.

3. Go on a virtual trip. If you can't go on a real trip to observe animals, go on a virtual trip instead. Watch a animal documentary. We love Chimpanzee by Disneynature and March of the Penguins.  Or, you can view some videos on YouTube. (As always, you will want to preview any video on YouTube before showing it to your kids.)

4. Watch a webcam. There are so many amazing webcams where you can watch animals in their native habits, zoo, or wildlife sanctuaries. Visit the giant pandas at the National Zoo. Check out an eagle's nest with the Decorah Eaglecam. (Note, it does stop for the season during the beginning of September, but check back again next summer for live streaming.) Or, visit Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska to see if any bears show up to catch some fish.

5. Take care of a pet. If you have a family pet, invite your kids to play an active part in their care. My girls are in charge of feeding our dog and our cat as well as letting the dog outside. They come along when we take the animals to visit the veterinarian. My girls have learned so much about caring for animals through our pets. If you don't have a pet of your own, you can offer to walk a neighbor's dog or pet sit for a friend to get a taste of what it's like to take care of an animal.

6. Get acquainted with the nonfiction section of the library. You'll find all of the animal books grouped together in one section of the library. We visit there often and have brought home so many amazing animal books. Our knowledge has grown and grown with each book we read. Ask your librarian the next time you visit the library or go exploring and find it on your own. (It's usually a large section!)

7. Visit a county fair. Have you been to a county fair? I'll admit it's not always my favorite place to go, but it is a treasure-trove of animal learning. Go through the animal barns and see the different farm animals. Chat with their owners if they're around. They love to tell you all about their animals. Plus, your kids will absolutely love the fact that many of the animals were raised by kids their own age. Mind-blowing. 

8. Talk to an expert. A zoo keeper, park ranger, or veterinarian is a wonderful source of animal information. We learned so much from the park rangers on our vacation and the girls had the opportunity to feel bison horns and examine animal skulls thanks to the friendly rangers. You'll usually find that they welcome questions and love curious kids. Let your kids ask those questions they are wondering about. It's so much fun and education to meet an expert.

9. Volunteer at a humane society. Ask at your local humane society (or other animal shelter) and see if they need volunteers. You and your kids will get the chance to experience animals while serving the community. It's a win-win all around.

10. Donate to an animal charity. Do some research and donate to an animal charity. And, while you're donating, research the animals they are protecting. Learn why they need your help. It may be a local animal shelter or a large international organization. Teach your kids about why it's important to help animals and show them just what they can do to help.

What are your favorite ways to learn about animals?

I'm thrilled to be participating once again a blog hop celebrating World Animal Day. Animals are such an important part of our life and I hope yours too. 

Please stop by all the blogs participating in the blog hop:

Date Kid Blogger
26th of september
27th of september
28th of september P is for preschooler
29th of september Creative Family Fun
30th of september Living Montessori now
1st of october Adventures of Adam
2nd of october Kid World Citizen
3rd of october A teachable year
4th of october - WORLD ANIMAL DAY &

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*Note: I've included Amazon links for your convenience. None of these links are affiliate links. 

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Friday, September 26, 2014

4 Fun Science Fair Projects

I'd like to welcome Catherine here to Creative Family Fun. She's got some great (and simple) science fair ideas for your kids. Thanks for stopping by Catherine!


So, you’re looking for some great ideas for your child’s upcoming science fair project. I’ve compiled a list of some really interesting ones he can do with materials found around the house. These projects are suitable for elementary grades and work well if your child isn’t exactly Einstein. Here’s how you can give him the chance to shine at the science fair.

Make a Simple Microscope
Use plain water to make a simple microscope or magnifying glass that lets you see things in greater detail than if you were to see them with an unaided eye.

You will need
·         Fuse wire
·         Water
·         Books or newspapers with fine print

What to do
·         Make a 2 mm wide loop at the end of the wire.
·         Dip it into water so that there is a droplet on the loop when you take it out.
·         Hold it as close as possible to one eye and examine the book or newspaper closely. Can you see better with this “microscope” than you could before?
·         You may have to experiment a bit in order to achieve the right distance.

What’s happening?
The water droplet is shaped like a convex lens – it refracts light and converges it so you can see an image more clearly if you look through it. This phenomenon was used by scientists to develop early microscopes and spectacle lenses. Modern microscopes have a variety of lenses that let you see objects that are practically invisible to the unaided eye.

Make a Potato Battery
Now there’s one more reason to love those mashed, baked or roasted goodies – they can be used to make the most delicious battery nature ever made!

You will need
·         Two potatoes
·         Two galvanized nails
·         Two small pieces of heavy copper wire
·         Three alligator clips wired to each other
·         Low voltage LED clock that uses a ½ volt button battery

What to do
·         Note which way the negative and positive points of the LED clock’s battery goes inside the clock.
·         Remove this battery.
·         Number the potatoes and insert a nail in each.
·         Insert a piece of the copper wire in each potato, placing it as far away from the nail as possible.
·         Use the alligator clip to connect the copper wire in potato number one to the positive point in the clock’s battery chamber.
·         Use the second alligator clip to connect the nail in potato number two to the negative point in the clock’s battery chamber.
·         Use the third alligator clip to connect the nail in potato number one to the copper wire in potato number two and set the clock.
·         Your potatoes are ready to power up the clock!

What’s happening?
A potato is a potential electrochemical cell in which a spontaneous electron transfer can transform chemical energy into electrical energy. The zinc present in the nail reacts with the copper wire, while the potato acts as shock absorber between the copper ions and the zinc ions. The potato holds them apart, so the transfer of electrons takes place through the copper wires which channel this energy into the clock and power it up.

Make a Stethoscope

You might not be a real doctor but you can certainly make some medical equipment and use it to examine yourself and others. Check your heartbeat with this DIY stethoscope.

You will need
·         A balloon
·         2 small funnels
·         A piece of tubing
·         Timer
·         Scissors
·         Rubber band

What to do
·         Fit one funnel to each end of the tubing.
·         Blow up the balloon so that it stretches and then deflate it.
·         Cut off one third of the balloon from the top.
·         Stretch the chopped off piece tightly over the open end of one funnel and hold it in place with the rubber band.
·         Your stethoscope is ready to measure your heartbeat!

What’s happening?
When you listen for your heartbeat, you must listen for two sounds – a short, high-pitched one (made by two heart valves when blood flows into the heart) and a long, low-pitched one (made by two other valves when blood flows out of the heart.) These sounds make the stretched balloon of your stethoscope vibrate and these sounds are carried into your ear by the tube.

Make a Telephone
Use some old-fashioned technology to make a rudimentary telephone.

You will need
·         2 paper cups
·         Sewing needle
·         Kite string or fishing line
·         A friend

What to do
·         Cut out a 20 meter long piece of string.
·         Poke a tiny hole in the bottom of the cups.
·         Thread the string through the cups and tie the knots at the ends.
·         Take one cup and hand the other to your friend.
·         Holding the cups, slowly move away from each other so that the string stretches completely without snapping.
·         When you have put the maximum possible distance between you, try to converse, using the cups as telephone receivers.
·         Can you hear each other?

What’s happening?
When you speak into the cups, you create sound waves that are transformed into vibrations. These vibrations travel from the bottom of the cups, pass through the string and are transformed back into sound waves at the other end. This is why you can hear what your friends talk even from a distance of 20 meters.

If your child enjoyed doing these simple science fair projects, maybe it’s time to move on to more complex ones before too long! Any ideas?

Author Bio:
Catherine Ross is a full-time stay-at-home-mum who believes learning should be enjoyable for young minds. An erstwhile elementary school teacher, Catherine loves coming up with creative ways through which kids can grasp the seemingly difficult concepts of learning easily. She believes that a ‘fun factor’ can go a long way in enhancing kids’ understanding and blogs at

Thank you Catherine!

And, if you want to find even more great science ideas, please follow my Science Play Pinerest board.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Storybook Snack Time: Baked Apples

Snack time is a very important part of our day. The girls and I reconnect, chat about our day, and sometimes just settle in with a good book and some yummy food. One of our favorite snacks in the fall is baked apples. We've always got a bowl full of apples and tend to indulge in them a lot during September and October. The recipe is super simple to make and requires only three ingredients. Combine them with a good book about apples and you've got a fun way to reconnect after school or any time. 

Ingredients Needed:
3 medium-sized apples
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

This recipe makes 2 snack-sized portions. It's very easy to double (or triple) to make as much as you need.

Slice and peel all of your apples. I usually slice them the same as if I were serving them raw. If you have one of those nifty apple corer and slicer gadgets, use that. Your apples will be the perfect size.

Throw your apples in a bowl with your brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix them up until your apples slices are evenly coated. *Note: we love the taste of cinnamon, so feel free to adjust the amount of cinnamon to your tastes. 

After your apples are coated, put them in an 8x8 square baking pan. Put them in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. At this point your apples are starting to get juicy and your house will smell like apple pie. Yummy! Stir the apples and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes more. Now it's time to eat! For a special treat, we love to put a little whipped cream on top. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

While you're eating those apples, indulge in a good story. There are many great books about apples, but these are some of our favorites.

Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington
Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray
The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson
How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro


Baked Apples (serves 2)
3 medium-sized apples
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Slice and peel your apples. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir to coat the apple slices evenly. Put in an 8x8 baking dish and bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake for 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Apple and Pumpkin Mini Books

Sometimes, all it takes to get a kid interested in writing is a special book to hold their thoughts. My daughter spends a lot of her time at school writing in spiral notebooks or composition books. So, I thought I'd spark her interest at home with some special fall-themed mini books. These books are little, so they're not too intimidating. Plus, they're filled with lined paper to make writing easier.

Supplies Needed:
Red and orange card stock (1 sheet for each mini book)
  *Note: You can also use construction paper. It just won't be as durable as the card stock.
Lined notebook paper
Cardboard for templates

Before beginning, create a pumpkin and an apple template from your cardboard. Make it small enough that you can cut two apples (or pumpkins) on each sheet of paper. If you use a template, it will be easy to make sure all of your pages are the same shape and size. If you are unsure of your drawing abilities, search for simple clip art or coloring pages. You should be able to find something online to serve as your template.

Trace two apples on your red card stock and two pumpkins on your orange card stock. Cut each one out. Next, take 3 sheets of notebook paper per mini book. Fold the pieces of paper in half and trace one apple (or one pumpkin) on one side of your folded paper. Now you can cut all 6 pages of your mini book at once. I used this method to save myself some cutting time. 

Stack all of your cut-out pieces so that you have a piece of card stock on the top, 6 pieces of notebook paper in the middle, and another piece of card stock on the back. Attach all the pages together with your stapler. I found that one staple on the side of each book did the trick. These mini books are very simple to make and an older child should be able to do the process from start to finish on their own. I made the books myself because I wanted to surprise my second grader with a fun writing invitation.

To set up the writing invitation, I added the mini books to a small basket with a pencil holder full of a variety of pencils. I added a couple of index cards with some pumpkin- and apple-themed writing prompts to the basket. I love writing prompts because sometimes the most overwhelming thing about writing is choosing the topic. Writing prompts help narrow down the topics and spark your kid's imagination.

Apple Writing Prompts:
  • My day at the apple orchard...
  • My favorite things from apples are...
  • I planted an apple seed one day and...
Pumpkin Writing Prompts:
  • How do you carve a jack-o-lantern?
  • I grew the biggest pumpkin and I took it to the fair...
  • My jack-o-lantern came alive tonight...

What stories will your kids come up with? Happy writing!

For more writing ideas for kids, please follow my Reading & Writing Fun Pinterest board.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Domino Doubles Game

One of my 2nd grader's goals these first few months of school is to memorize her doubles addition facts. (Examples: 3+3=6 and 7+7=14) She's doing quite well, but we want to keep working on them so she knows them without hesitation. She brought home flash cards to practice with, but I didn't really want to use those. I don't want to make math boring! 

One of the ideas I came up with is this Domino Doubles Game. I've seen many similar versions of domino math on Pinterest and at my daughter's school, but I've created this version to specifically target the doubles addition facts. You just need to print the game board on a piece of card stock and find all the doubles from your set of dominoes. 

I've uploaded the game board I created, so it's easy for you to set up this game. Please click here to print the game board. I printed on card stock for durability, but plain printer paper would work as well. 

To play the game, turn all your dominoes upside down. Have your child choose one and flip it over. They need to count only one side of the domino, such as 5. Then, they need to figure out the double addition fact, 5+5=10. Finally, put the domino on the correct spot on the board. Game play is very easy, but it's more hands-on and definitely more fun than flash cards. 

If you don't have any dominoes, don't worry, you can still play the game. Just cut 10 rectangles from paper and create paper versions of the dominoes you need. You can also find printable dominoes by Googling "printable dominoes." Either way would work just as good as regular dominoes. 

My daughter has been playing this game almost every day after school and is having loads of fun learning her doubles math facts. Give it a try! It's much more fun than flash cards!

Are you looking for more fun math games? Come follow my Number and Math Pinterest board.

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