It’s officially summer break, and while we love the pool, the beach, and park dates with our friends, sometimes we have to stay home, stay indoors, and most importantly KEEP BUSY. Anyone else find that a challenge sometimes during the longest, hottest days of the year? We have plenty of indoor activities but sometimes I yearn for an opportunity to teach them new things. I often forget how easy (and impactful) it can be without even leaving the house. Or maybe, without leaving the backyard.
Last night I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting the house ready for bed. I had to pull a few toys in from outside and saw a little toad on our back step. One day this past April we let Addie stay up late and “hunt toads” outside, knowing there were two hopping around. She had the best time and has been asking about hunting toads ever since, but we haven’t seen any, plus it gets dark SO LATE. So I scooped this little guy up, put him in our Kritter Keeper (one of the best kid-oriented purchases I’ve ever made) and let him hang out in the kitchen until the morning. Excited is an understatement. He ate breakfast right beside her. And me, being the worrisome mom I am, felt bad for starving him all night. I tried to find a cricket or moth outside and ended up finding a green tree frog (and an unlucky rollie poly) and a summer lesson was born.
Observing how things around us are alike and different is such a good exercise for growing minds. How often do we ask our littles critical thinking questions? So today we learned about frogs vs. toads. We started with the differences. I asked her which was the frog and she got it right! When I asked her to tell me about the frog. What does he look like? What color are his eyes? And then I just asked “What else?” letting her connect the dots and think of more things she could tell me about the frog. Then we did the same thing with the toad, and we started looking at how they were different. At the end of our “lesson” she was pointing out similarities herself. My favorite was that they both hop and say “ribbit ribbit.” When talking about differences, she noticed their toes the most of all things. Is that something we, as adults, would focus on?! But toddlers do. The frog’s toes were round, smooth, and sticky. The toad’s toes were pointy and “furry” as she said, but we decided she meant bumpy. She wanted to hold the frog first because she concluded that the toad’s toes would hurt. I assured her they wouldn’t, but how amazing are children?! I love how they look at the world and how they put things together.
We spent about an hour talking about the frog and the toad, naming them, and then playing with them outside before letting them go. Some quick research on the internet over breakfast gave me some facts I could share with her, like the fact that toads don’t have many predators since they taste terrible, but frogs have several predators. Frogs also like to live near water, but toads don’t have to. This helped us decide where to let them go and we talked about what bugs they like to eat. Before I knew it it was lunch time and I felt like we had a very successful summer morning!
If you don’t have an abundance of wildlife around you, this is still an activity you can do with your children, with anything! The difference between mommy’s & daddy’s car, the difference between two stuffed animals, the difference between seashells, etc. It may sound like a silly start, frogs, but it has really made me ask my daughter more prompting questions. WHY is that your favorite doll, WHY do you like strawberries, WHAT do you love about your sister? It gets their hamster wheel turning and gives my chatterbox something new to talk about.
We also pulled out the books we had which talk about differences. One of my favorites is Hello, Hello which shows how very different animals still have things in common. Another is You’re All My Favorites, which is about three bear siblings who are different and wonder who is their parents’ favorite bear. Several of the kids books already in our collection reinforced differences in animals and people, so we rode that wave all day.
How do you teach kids about differences? What are some of the questions you ask? What conversations do you have? We are all about teaching our kids the most we can about the world around them, people and animals alike, so please share your words of wisdom! Happy summering!
XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate