Thursday, March 29, 2012

Activities for The Secret Life of Walter Kitty

Toddler Cat Mast Activity for The Secret Life of Walter Kitty

Little BBQ has requested that Miss Bubbles participate more in our school which is a challenge since Miss Bubbles is only 2 years old. Miss Bubbles calls our school, "special school." I love that she is enthusiastic about school, and I love that Little BBQ wants her involved but making lessons that are challenging for Little BBQ and engaging for Miss Bubbles is not easy, but a common challenge for many homeschooling parents. She does not have the ability to sit through a book with too many words, so I read lots of picture books around her and have her make a craft based on the book. Little BBQ also has the option to make the craft as well on top of his writing assignment based on the book. For the book, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty by Barbara Jean Hicks, Miss Bubbles made a kitty mask and Little BBQ wrote a story about the secret life of his kitty, Bullwinkle.

The mask is made from a plate, cotton balls that Miss Bubbles pulled apart, and construction paper for the ears and nose. There was also a mouth drawn with a marker by Little BBQ, but Miss Bubbles decided to cover up the kitty's mouth with fur instead.

Little BBQ wrote a story about me catching Bullwinkle in the school room. Bullwinkle was not a happy kitty with me catching him. In the story I put the kitty in the guest bathroom. I asked Little BBQ why I put the kitty in the bathroom forever. He me told it was so he can play with the kitty forever. Bullwinkle is our new kitty that is still scared of humans. Apparently he was brought to the animal shelter at a very young age so this has made him very scared of everything. He has been coming around to me the best, but he is still scared of the kids. He lets the kids hold him, but he will not show them his wonderful kitty side. Hopefully over time he will warm up to the family.

For more activities with The Secret Life of Walter Kitty please visit Barbara Jean Hicks's website.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Melissa and Doug Pinterest Giveaway

Melissa and Doug is doing a giveaway on Pinterest! All you have to do is make a board called "Spring Wish List" and pin 10 Melissa and Doug items that you like. At least 5 of the items have to be in the new Sunny Patch Collection. On your board description explain why you like Melissa and Doug toys. Lastly, leave them a comment with your pinterest board.

Our family really loves the wooden dish sets they sell. We have found that the wooden dishes hold up much better than the plastic dish sets of other companies. What are your favorite Melissa and Doug toys?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Building Secondary Cavity Nesting Bird Nests: Bluebird, House Wren, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, House Sparrow

We have been studying birds as part of our nature study in the past few weeks. In particular, we have been focusing on the Bluebird. Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters meaning that they can not build their own nests. Instead they find homes that woodpeckers (primary cavity nesters) or humans leave behind for them. Bluebirds are part of the Sialia genus of the thrush family. Gardeners love Bluebirds because they are primarily insectivores (insect eaters) and dine on garden pests.

The trouble is that many other birds will also reside inside of a Bluebird house, so it is important to be able to identify birds by their nests. Some other birds that can make their home in a Bluebird house are House Wren, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, or House Sparrow. For the Bluebird enthusiast, there is only one type of bird that really poses a threat and that is the House Sparrow. The House Sparrow is not native to the US and is very aggressive. The House Sparrow can and will kill a Bluebird. The House Sparrow has been partially blamed for declining Bluebird numbers along with humans destroying their habitat.

To help Little BBQ learn about potential birds that can make their home in small cavities we decided to do a hands on project where a built sample nests from secondary cavity nesters. Each type of bird has an unique nest. We built out nests in foam cups with one side cut open so you can see inside the "cavity."

Eastern Bluebird Nest


dry grass
pine needles

The details:
One or both types of materials maybe used depending upon availability. The nests do not fill up the entire cavity, so there is plenty of head space in this cavity.

House Wren

finer plant material (we used crumbled leaves)
feathers (we used paper feathers since we could not find any real ones outside)

The details:
The bulk of the nest is composed of twigs with some feather and finer plant material lining the inside of the nest as well. The cavity is usually filled to the top.

Tree Swallow

feathers (we used paper feathers)

The details:
The bulk of the nest is made out of grass with feathers lining the top. The nest has lots of head space and does not fill up the entire cavity.

Carolina Chickadees

very fine plant fibers (we used crumbled leaves)
animal hair
dryer lint

The details:
A Carolina Chickadee is flexible about what type of material the bird is willing to use to build its nest. We used animal hair, dryer lint, and crumbled leaves for our nest since we could not find any moss in the backyard. A Carolina Chickadee builds small soft nests that are meticulously built. A Carolina Chickadee is most likely to settle in a Bluebird house.

House Sparrow

The details:
The House Sparrow will fill their cavity to the brim with a wide assortment of found materials.

"House Sparrow Kills Eastern Bluebirds" Journal of Field Ornithology. Summer 1984. pp 378-380.
North American Bluebird Society Educational Packet: information on nests found on pages 18-19

Photo Credits
All "nests" were taken by me
Bluebird Photo: Ken Thomas released to public domain
House Wren Photo: Calibas released under GNU Free Documentation License 
Tree Swallow Photo: John Benson released under Creative Commons
Carolina Chickadee Photo: Dan Pancamo under Creative Commons
House Sparrow Photo: Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Monday, March 12, 2012

Toddler Nature Journal

It seems that everyone is talking about nature journals these days. They are a very popular tool for teaching children drawing, observation skills, and science. At our house, we use nature journals for even the smallest hands. A lot of people ask me how I manage to teach Little BBQ while having Miss Bubbles running around. Some things we do while Miss Bubbles naps, but there are some things that she participates in. Nature journaling is great for little hands. We use a combination of collected items, drawing, and photos for Miss Bubbles’ nature journal. Most of the photographs are of Miss Bubbles interacting with nature. I will also take photos or let her take photos of things that interest her. In the sample page above Miss Bubbles sampled some wild green onions, picked up lots of sticks, and hugged lots of trees.  She glued a feather into her book that she found while walking. We use basic white glue for her book. If you look closely you can see her excessive use of glue that is the toddler trademark, but luckily it dries clear so no harm to the notebook is done. I add the date and sometimes the location to each page.

Pictured below is Little BBQ’s nature journal page from the same day. For Little BBQ’s nature journal, we use found items (although he did not find anything that he felt was worth collecting on that day), photos of things that he finds interesting, drawings, observations, and photos of him interacting with nature. 

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