Activities, Stories and Science for Kids
Feeling stuck inside? Why not bring the outdoors in and explore the exciting world of nature through crafts, experiments, games and stories? Or take a look through your window, a step into your backyard or onto your balcony, or a stroll* through your neighbourhood to discover some signs of spring.
* In the context of this unique spring, please practice safe social distancing and keep all neighbourhood excursions brief.
LYNDE SHORES CONSERVATION AREA
Kid's Birding Checklist
Print and fold to create your birding pocket booklet for Lynde Shores Conservation Area. How many birds can you identify? How many of each can you find? Please remember to only feed the songbirds only seeds. Also, please take home any extra seeds, because the birds are amazing at finding everything they need in nature!
Lynde Shores Conservation Area is closed until May 20 due to
NATURE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
Story time! Share in young Taylor's delight in welcoming the returning migratory birds by reading 'Taylor's Phoebes'. The Eastern Phoebe, as Taylor will later explain, is named after its "Fee-be? Fee-be!" song. This story, written by Patricia Lowe from Central Lake Ontario Conservation, was created especially for this unique spring and includes a 'Your Turn' activity section at the end of each chapter.
Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Early Years and Young Elementary
Take a walk around your neighbourhood and look for signs of spring. Choose somewhere to stop and listen.
Make 'deer ears' by cupping your hands behind your ears to help you hear better. How many different sounds can you hear? Remove your deer ears and see if you can still hear the same number of sounds.
Did you know that deer have excellent hearing and can even turn their ears to hear sounds behind them? Can you wiggle your ears? Is your neighbourhood quieter than usual (fewer cars, fewer airplanes)? What is your favourite sound?
A SNACK FOR YOU AND THE BIRDS
Make a biodegradable bird feeder by cutting an orange in half and eating the inside of the orange with a spoon. Carve out the remaining bits to create a smooth bowl. Poke three holes in the sides of the half orange around the top. Tie a string through each hole and join the strings above the half orange. Fill with bird seed and hang from a tree that you can see from inside your home.
Don't have oranges? Create a bird feeder by recycling a plastic pop bottle with Ontario EcoSchools.
Source: Ontario EcoSchools
'MY SNAIL' SCAVENGER HUNT
Colour in your snail as you explore your neighbourhood. Can you find a sign of a worm? Something soft? An anthill?
Source: Toronto District School Board, Outdoor Education Schools
WATER AND ME
If you had to choose a favourite thing, what would it be? Did you know that clean water is the most important thing we need?! How do you use water? What is the water cycle? What animals live in the water? Find out through this Water and Me Activity Book!
Source: California Department of Water Resources
When is your birthday? Most wild animals have their birthday in the spring! Some baby animals look very similar to their parents (only cuter), while others are like transformers and go through big changes called metamorphosis. What do you think you will look like when you grow up? Birds, butterflies and frogs all start as eggs. Can you colour, cut out the pictures and place them in order? Ask an adult to help you create a flip book for each animal.
Source: Sheri Amsel, exploringnature.org
Although, none of Ontario's fish fly, there is a fish called the Silver Carp that has come to live in Ontario. This fish eats the food of Ontario's fish, which is bad, but it does have the ability to fly! When boat motors make vibrations, they can jump up to three meters out of the water! Try making some flying fish of your own. What else in nature flies? Can plants fly?
Source: Mini Eco
MUD, STICKS, PUDDLES, & WORMS
Join the Harwood Nature School in wiggling, crouching, measuring, and collecting in nature.
Source: Harwood Nature School - Homeschool Support
PIPE CLEANER POLLINATION
Many plants need help getting powdery pollen on their flowers' sticky stigmas to make seeds.
Sometimes the wind helps, but sometimes it's pollinators. Pollinators are animals (mostly insects like bees and butterflies, but bats and hummingbirds count, too) that accidentally help flowers get pollen on their stigmas.
Pollinators visit plants because of their beautiful flowers, tasty, sweet nectar and pollen hidden inside. As these pollinators travel from flower to flower, pollen hitches on for a ride. The pollen hopes to get stuck to the sticky stigma of one of the next flowers so the plant can make seeds!
Explore how this works by making your own pipe cleaner pollinators!
Materials: Pipe cleaners, disposable cups, scissors, tape, several different powders (e.g., flour, cornstarch, icing sugar, crushed chalk, drink crystals, jello powder, hot chocolate powder, spices)
Make Pollinators: Bend and twist pipe cleaners into the shapes of your favourite pollinators.
Make Flowers: Ask an adult to help you poke a hole in the bottom of your cups (flowers). Stick a pipe cleaner (stigma) through the holes, tape it in place and attach a wad of sticky-side-out tape to the top of it. Sprinkle powder (pollen) in the bottom of each cup (different for each flower).
Pollinate: Fly your pollinators in and out of the flowers, touching the powder.
Did any pollen stick on the stigma's of your flowers?
Pretend to be a pollinator and go on a hunt for real pollen. Look inside a flower and see if you can find the sticky stigma(s) and powdery pollen. Will the pollen stick to your finger?
Source: Learning for a Sustainable Future, Resources for Rethinking, Adapted from "Nature's Partners - Pollination, Plants and You" by Richard Ponzio and Ella Madsen (2007)
NESTS AND EGGS
Explore Week 3 of The Cornell Lab's "Science & Nature Activities for Cooped Up Kids" by building a bird nest, designing an egg, performing an egg dissection and trying out some egg-xperiments!
Check out their other bird related activities. Content available for Grades K-2,
3-5 and 6-8.
Source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
IT'S RAINING, IT'S POURING!
On a rainy day, put on your boots and raincoat and take a paper plate and food colouring outside.
Have an adult help you place a few food colouring drops on the plate. As the rain hits the plate, it splashes and moves the colour around to make a beautiful abstract painting. When you decide it’s done, bring it inside and let it dry.
You can cut away at the ridge of the plate and cut out hearts to hang in your window. Poke a hole in the top of the heart and make a mobile or stick them directly on your window with tape. The hearts will surely encourage your neighbours who may be walking by or looking across the street from their home where they are self-isolating.
Find a branch that makes a 'V' in your backyard or on a neighbourhood walk. Tie some string around one side of the V to secure it, and wind it across to the side of the V, back and forth to make a loom. Find some yarn, string, long, dried-out grasses and weave them in and out of the string to create a beautiful piece of art!
Add nature items like leaves, berries, seeds and pieces of bark or seashells you might have brought home from a trip to a beach. Hang it up inside or outside, and add to it as you take future nature walks.
Remember, only take what is on the ground and unattached items. Don’t pick plant leaves and living items to add. You have four seasons to decorate your branch, so be patient.
Middle and Older Elementary
'GET OUTSIDE' FOLDABLE BOOKLET
Learn how to cut and fold a single piece of paper into a pocket-sized booklet and head outside for some time in nature.
Source: Toronto District School Board, Outdoor Education Schools
SHAPES IN THE SHADOWS
Just before bed, set up a lamp to shine on your wall and try your hand at shadow puppetry. How many different animals can you make? Brainstorm some wildlife that lives in your neighbourhood. Can you recreate any of them as shadows on your wall? Invite a sibling or parent to join you and perform a hand-shadow puppet show.
Source: Hand Shadow Puppetry ClipArt Etc.
Go for a night walk with your family, leaving your flashlights and cell phones at home. On a clear night you might glimpse the moon. What phase (shape) is it? Is it full, quarter or crescent? Venus, a planet, is very clear in the western horizon right now; it's one of the brightest things you will see. Can you find the big and little dipper?
When you return home, look at the calendar to see if you guessed the moon phase right. If you go on more night hikes, consider charting the phases of the moon on a calendar with a small sketch to determine if it is waxing (getting larger) or waning (getting smaller). Can you predict when we will have the next full moon?
Sometimes you can see the moon in the daytime. Why is it in different spot from where it was in the evening? Why does the moon have different phases? Do some research on our night skies and share three interesting facts at dinner.
Have you heard the frogs singing yet? Usually the first one to sing is the spring peeper. Male frogs and toads sing in the spring and each species can be identified by their unique song. Green frogs sound like a plucked rubber band, while wood frogs sound like ducks! Frogs, salamanders, newts and toads are all amphibians. Do you know the names of any amphibians that live in Ontario?
Frogs and toads have a metamorphosis life cycle, which means they go through some big changes as they grow from an egg to a tadpole, to a sub-adult to an adult. Use the guide links above to help you with Peter Mills' Amphibians of Ontario Quiz. Name either the life stage or the species.
If you are interested in frog songs, have a listen to the Cable Natural History Museum's animation of eight common frogs and the timelines of when they sing. It's quite the chorus! Also, consider learning more about the Toronto Zoo's FrogWatch Ontario program where you can become a citizen scientist and collect information on frogs in your neighbourhood.
Sources: Peter Mills Ontario's Amphibians at all Stages of Development; Toronto Zoo
Did you know that by April, Great Horned Owls have already finished incubating (sitting) on their eggs and the downy, hungry owlets (baby owls) have hatched? As the migrating birds return, they too will be looking for the perfect spot to build a nest and raise some young.
Some birds like ducklings are ready to go when they hatch. They are covered in tiny feathers called down and can move around on their own. These ready-to-go chicks are also known as precocial.
Other birds hatch helpless and pink, and are completely dependent on their parents for a while. These helpless nestlings are called altricial. Altricial nestlings become fledglings or teenagers when they leave the nest. As teenagers, they have their flight feathers, but may not know how to use them yet. Even though they are out of the nest, their parents continue to feed them until they can take care of themselves.
If you find one of these fledglings, the best thing to do is to leave it alone and keep your cats inside and your dogs on a leash. Its parents know where it is, and will return soon with a delicious meal.
Usually fledgling chicks are more camouflaged than their parents to help keep them hidden while they learn to fly. See if you can match these teenagers with their mothers. Some of their fathers look very different from their mothers. Why?
What else can you learn about baby birds?
If you are interested in nesting birds, consider joining Bird Studies Canada in their Project NestWatch program by collecting information on a nest over time and reporting your observations online and and become a citizen scientist by collecting information on a nest. Scientists will use the information you collect to learn more about birds.
THE EXCITING WORLD OF BIRDS
Check out the bird activities posted on our blog where you can try your hand at a virtual owl pellet dissection, listen to a story about the many purposes of feathers, make some chalk out of egg shells, learn the science behind flight, find out who is the true bird feeder bully and more...
ANISHINAABE: THE FIRST PEOPLE
Learn some Ojibwemowin words by using the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission's Anishinaabe Colouring and Activity Book. There is a language guide on the last page, but don't peek at the activity answers until you've tried them yourself!
Source: Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission
Did you know that some of the plants and animals you find in nature are actually invaders? They haven't always lived in Ontario. Join the Superhero Invader Raiders in their quest to find and report invasive plants, animals and insects through the Ontario Invasive Plant Council's Activity Book. Then colour in all the native plants on the Canadian Wildlife Federation's "Copy Nature and Support Wildlife" page. Our wildlife need native plants!
Sources: Ontario Invasive Plant Council; Canadian Wildlife Federation
WHICH NEST IS BEST?
If you were a bird, where would you build a nest? Some birds prefer ledges, others platforms, the side of a cliff, or even the ground. Some birds also nest in holes in trees. These are called cavity-nesting birds. To a cavity-nesting bird, a birdhouse is the same as a hole in a tree, so they are quite happy to build a nest in a birdhouse. Can you tell the difference between a good birdhouse and a bad birdhouse? How many differences can you find between these birdhouses? Which one is a good birdhouse and why? Check your answers here.
Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “Features of a Good Birdhouse” infographic to learn more about great bird houses. If you’re interested in building your own birdhouse, use their “Right Bird, Right House” interactive to search for designs that would work well in your region and habitat. If you already have a birdhouse and want to learn more, visit their “All About Birdhouses” page.
If you don’t have a birdhouse, colour in all the things that make this backyard a great place for birds. Remember, birds need, food, water, and shelter!
Sources: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Canadian Wildlife Federation
BIRDS WITH HATS
While many birds are migrating back to your neighbourhood from a warm winter in the south, a few stayed around all winter. One of these tough guys is the black-capped chickadee. So how did they do it? One of the coolest things chickadees do to survive the winter is grow bigger brains! Like squirrels, chickadees store away food in the fall to prepare for winter and their bigger brain helps them remember where all their hiding spots are.
Chickadees have 15 different calls but are named after their “Chickadee-dee-dee” call which is often used to alert other chickadees to danger. How scary are you? The more “dees” they add to the end of their call, the greater the threat.
In the spring the males are often loudly heard singing their “cheese-burger” whistle. (“Cheese” is whistled high and then “burger” is whistled a little lower.) They mostly use this song to advertise their territory and attract a female. Females don’t only care about the song through, they are looking for males who are dressed their best with bright white feathers and shiny ultraviolet dark feathers. Check out the Royal Botanical Gardens’ “Looking for Chickadees” page to learn a few more of their calls and their “Chickadee Food Scavenger Hunt” to see how hospitable your backyard is to chickadees.