Sunday, February 22, 2015

Beginning Bird Books, Activities, and Tools for Kids

A friend asked for recommendations of beginning bird books for her 4-year-old recently, as her daughter has really been interested in what is happening at their bird feeders. Additionally, one of my son's has been recording bird sightings as part of a cub scout requirement. Birding is one way we connect with nature and get outside. These are a few books that I like, plus a few other ideas and options to enhance bird study and nature play:

1. Birds of Indiana --A local naturalist suggested this book. It's great for our local birds. We gave our then 4-year-old one for his birthday. It was perfect for him! He continues to use it, asking about it today so he could peruse birds. Now he is trying to read more words in it and paying attention to the titles and captions. This has more information than the Stoke's Guide. Stan's notes at the bottom of each entry give a nice personal touch to the observations of these birds.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Science Alive!

I love finding great quality activities for our family to do! It's even better when they are free, educational, and fun! Science Alive, at the downtown South Bend St. Joseph County Public Library, definitely fits the bill. We've been several times in the past and still enjoy returning. I was lucky this weekend and was flying solo with just one of my sons on a "date". We used to do this more often and I've missed doing this. And, after the night at an exhibit opening with a 2-year-old the night before, I was happy to have a happy and complacent 8-year-old as my side kick.

For Science Alive, the downtown library is transformed with tables and people to make science come alive. It's a great place to learn about area resources and get a chance to do hands on science! Our first stop was Fernwood Botanical Gardens. We looked at skulls, touched furs, and learned about adaptations. It looks like they have some great summer camps coming up! We've enjoyed visiting there in the past.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Movies, Shovels, and Snow!

I recently had our boys watch Snowmen (affiliate link) after I really liked watching it. I thought it was a really good movie, though be aware that it deals with death, bullying, and other issues. Basically, a boy and his friends make snow tunnels near their house and discover a dead body. They get on the news for it and become better friends. One of the boys has recovered from cancer and still thinks he is going to die. He actually tells us early in the movie that he will die. He wants to do something inspiring before he dies and coordinates the building of record number of snowmen in his community. I will say I cried pretty hard during part of the movie, but also was left with hope and inspiration to be a cause for good in my community and a renewed sense of friendship. In the movie, the boys build snow caves and men, ice skate, sled, and spend a lot of time outside during the winter. Our oldest son is 10, so he's needing more "adventurous" type movies that still model good values and shows how people deal with problems. This fit perfectly for him.

So, guess what my boys are doing now? Building their own snow caves! We had about 1 1/2 feet of snow last week and it's piling up where we (okay, husband and the boys) have shoveled the driveway. It's getting pretty tall. My oldest will sometimes grumble a bit when I say he needs to spend some time outside before using technology. Right now, he gladly agrees and works on his own snow cave, like in the movie!

The boys have been working together. We have a variety of shovels that we leave on the front porch. Having tools accessible makes it easier for them to be used, as well as more likely to be used. They dig and dig and dig some more! They've been working on this for days!

I'll have to say that while we limit technology to some degree (I did just say SOME), there can be power in watching inspirational shows that model certain behaviors with our kids. While the whole family loves Master Chef, Jr., the 5 and 8-year-old boys are asking to make eggs every single day after school. We talk about plating, seasoning, and more! It's neat to see their interest in cooking through watching these great chefs near their ages on television. 

Just like Master Chef, Jr. has been an inspiration for our boys, the movie Snowmen (affiliate) has been an inspiration for our oldest son. He is inspired to get outside more! He has been building and playing in the snow more than he had in the past. My husband remembers Snow Day (affiliate link) as another movie that encourages kids to get outside during the winter. The Winter Olympics usually inspires us to get outside as well. 

So, do movies, television, and technology inspire your nature play? Technology seems like it will be a part of lives. Can we use it to help people get outside more? What movies inspire your families to get outside? 

Shared with Outdoor Play Party. Fun things happening outdoors there! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Imagination Station

On a recent trip to the Lafayette area, I took our boys to Imagination Station. It was a fun way to spend half the day and a great place for the kids to play and explore. We even found nature! The hours are somewhat limited; however, it makes sense for the people they serve most. Additionally, it is a volunteer run operation. Helping with a local center, I completely understand the time and effort to make these things work! I paid $14 for the 4 boys and I to enter. If I lived closer, I would buy a membership which also offers reciprocity with other ASTC Science Centers, such as The Field Museum, Minnestra in Muncie, Science Central in Fort Wayne, etc. It's worth it to look into these memberships that really give a bang for the buck! I almost considered it just for that and wish I did as we looked at visiting some of these places later.  This is a great perk to membership! Since our visit, they have done some updating and cleaning, so I can imagine it is only better! We will have to check it out again the next time my husband travels to Lafayette.
Current Hours and Prices: 
Tuesdays: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Fridays: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Saturdays: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Under 3 years: FREE
Children (3 – 16 years): $4.00
Adults (17+): $2.00

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lilly Nature Center

We were in West Lafayette the other weekend and stopped by Lilly Nature Center that is part of the Celery Bog Nature Area. As we drove up, it was great to see so many people out using the property, whether they were hiking, jogging, cycling, birding, etc. I love seeing natural spots in the middle of busy life! This is about 195 acres of wetlands, woods, and fields. The small interpretive center also hosts a room for rent for conferences and meeting space.

As we entered the nature center, we were greeted by barefoot children sitting on a log watching a turtle.  What a great way to set the stage for exploring nature! Inside we checked out the wildlife viewing window first. Sound is piped in from outside over speakers so we could hear all the birds outside. The feeders were plentiful and well stocked. We talked about the many birds outside, like the juncos, cardinals, etc.


The lobby has many windows open to the natural world, helping us feel at home in nature. There were a few interactive components that helped us learn more about frogs and other animals. My youngest loved being next to a frog his size!