Animal Games

Improving Powers of Observation

Children are generally
fascinated by the lives of animals and will play animal games with
insects and other small creatures without any encouragement from

These are their first forays into the world of science and
should be encouraged rather than frowned upon. By providing a few items
of equipment like a magnifying glass, net and bug catcher your kids can
learn to appreciate the animal world without spending their time
stomping on ants or squashing bugs.

Powers of Observation
Equipment– Field Guides (can be bought as books or picked up as leaflets on day trips to National Parks), binoculars
Location– Anywhere, but preferably not in the neighbors windows!

Whether you live in the
city or the country there is always a diverse range of animals to be
found. Each environment has its own distinctive habitats for animals.
By spending quiet time watching animals your children will improve their powers of observation while learning about how animals:
Interact with each other;

caterpillar - enjoying nature with kids

Where their homes are;
What they eat;
How they grow;
and What they do while you observe them

Bird Watching
Equipment– Field Guides (can be bought as books or picked up as leaflets on day trips to National Parks), binoculars
Location– Anywhere

Birds are generally
timid but are easier to watch than most small animals because they like
to be out in the open and have distinctive songs.

bird watching with kids

You can set up a
bird bath, or bird table where your children can watch birds during the
day. Different bird species like various foods so try to provide a
variety. Some prefer seeds and nuts while others like worms, insects or
even small pieces of meat.

The bird pudding below can be adjusted
for the time of year. As a Christmas treat you might like to use creamed
coconut instead of lard.

Recipe for Bird Pudding
Ingredients– Variety of seeds, nuts, breadcrumbs, dried fruit and chopped suet and melted lard.

Have your child mix all
of the ingredients in a mixing bowl while you melt the lard. It needs
to be softened but not too hot as it need to be kneaded like bread. Once
the lard has been poured onto the seed mixture it is ready for
kneading, be warned it is very messy! You may even want to do it
outdoors. Spoon some of the mixture into yoghurt pots, filling them only
3/4 of the way. Push a length of string on top ( this is what the
pudding will hang from) and cover with more of the mixture, pressing
down firmly.
Leave it to harden and then it can be hung out for the birds.

kids catching bugs

Equipment– Insect/bug catcher, net, magnifying glass, field guide
Location– Anywhere

Children love to watch
insects, there are plenty around and they are always busily scurrying
about. You can purchase specially made insect bottles which usually come
with a net and an insect field guide so that your kids know what it is
they are catching. Make sure they use their net, rather than their
fingers, to pick up insects or intrude on nests as some do bite or
sting, and to stay away from spiders. Once the creatures have been
identified and investigated with a magnifying glass they can be safely
returned to their habitat.

Snail Ages
love watching creatures that they find in the garden, snails in
particular because of their slimey trail. Get your children to look
closely at snails to count the number of rings on their shell. This
tells us how old the snail is. As the snail grows so does its shell, so
just like trees, the more rings you can count, the older the snail is!

How Animals Grow
animals go through amazing transformations during their life cycle.
Tadpoles turn into frogs, caterpillars into butterflies and eggs become
birds of all varieties.
You can often find cocoons around your yard
or neighborhood and if you are lucky can see the butterfly emerging
from the chrysallis. Tadpoles can be kept at home, as can fish which
require some time and patience to breed successfully.

These are just some of the animal games and activities that can be enjoyed in the outdoors.

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