Nature Explorers ~ Squirrels

10/31/2009

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~Mali is 4.8 years and Elli is 2.9 years old~


If you give a mom two weeks to do a lesson on squirrels, she will have way too much fun with it! Here is what I have been doing to explore nature with my young children.




We have lots of these little furry creatures living in our neighborhood.

First, we read a cute squirrel book:






This was a fun, predictable book, that Elli was able to read with me after reading it together several times. The leaves are falling and the air is getting cold, so squirrel is busy getting ready for winter. He couldn't stop to play, because he was so busy!

We learned a lot about squirrels in the book, Nature for the Very Young: A Handbook of Indoor and Outdoor Activities. One of the things we learned is that squirrels like to nibble on pinecones, so we took a walk to find pinecones and did a Tot School activity with them.




Collecting pinecones.




Elli transferred pinecones with tongs into an egg carton.

She is giggling because "something" doesn't belong. Can you tell what? She also claimed a pine cone as her "cute little baby." It cracked me up so much that I had to share this short video!



I also had her count them when she was done. She counted to 13 and then skipped to 18.

Squirrels like to eat acorns so for an indoor activity, we made acorn cookies from a great peanut butter cookie recipe that can be rolled out:

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter
  • 2 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 T vanilla
  • 3 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t. salt

Cream butter, sugar and peanut butter until smooth. Then add egg, milk and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt and stir into mixture until well blended. {Note, I forgot the eggs and the cookies came out great}

While the dough is still soft, place a ball of dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll into a sheet. Place on cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm. Then cut cookies into desired shape and bake as usual. (8-10 minutes at 375 degrees). This recipe is an adaptation from the Delicious Peanut Butter Cookie recipe. {Halve for smaller families}

We dipped the tops in melted chocolate. If they look good, it is because they were!

Peanut butter acorn cookies.

We went to the park to learn more about squirrels. We did an experiment to find out what squirrels will eat. We laid out different foods like nuts, fruit vegetables, etc. in a place where we could observe it to see which foods are eaten first.


Our squirrel buffet.

We included:
  1. Pine cone (we read that squirrels like to nibble on pinecones)
  2. Pine cone with peanut butter
  3. Peanuts
  4. Almonds
  5. Rolled oats
  6. Whole grain banana muffin
  7. Flax and sunflower toast w/ butter
  8. Peanut butter cookie
  9. Squash chips
  10. Apple
  11. Cheese
  12. Sunflower Seeds



We set the egg carton filled with food under a big tree in our city park.

My little Nature Explorers



Observing the squirrels and recording what they learned.




Mali did not think the squirrels would like anything we brought. He thought they would only eat acorns. Elli thought they would like everything.

Our squirrels liked the:
  1. banana muffin
  2. pine cone with peanut butter
  3. peanut butter cookie
  4. toast
  5. peanuts
  6. almonds
  7. sunflower seeds
  8. cheese


They went after the home baked goods first! And apparently the squirrels at our park do not like fruits and veggies. I thought it was funny that one squirrel moved the apple out of the way.

We also thought it was funny that the squirrels quarreled over the food and attacked each other for it.



And they are pretty brave when they want food.



I got a comment about this video on You Tube that squirrels do eat people. From what I could find, squirrels are primarily vegetarians that eat nuts, fruits, fungi, lichens, buds, mushrooms, roots, pine cones, leaves, twigs and bark; but, if faced with hunger they have been known to eat bird eggs, snakes and insects. I do think squirrels carry disease and do bite, so while you can hand feed the squirrels at our park, I do not encourage this.

Afterwards, we had fun pretending to be a squirrel. We hopped, galloped, leaped and climbed like squirrels. We even tried walking on a movable balance bean pretending it was a branch swaying in the wind!

Squirrels have great balance!


Squirrels can climb really good!

The idea for this tree comes straight from the nature book mentioned above. I originally saw it and didn't think I was ambitious enough, but Jen's video (in her post here) on how to make it encouraged me. It turned out colorful and fun.



Dress Me Oak Tree

Elli had a little difficulty with the snaps, but still enjoyed dressing the oak tree with baby squirrels, acorns and leaves made out of felt.

7 comments:

Virginia Lee said...

Love the squirrel taste test! They are very amusing little creatures to watch.

We have a squirrel feeder with a bell on it. It's attached to a bungee rope and the little squirrels bounce and jingle while we watch them eat. The kids get a kick out of it.

Andi said...

How fun! The cookies are so yummy looking - great post!

Jackie said...

What great learning activities! You do such a great job with nature themes. Looks like lots of learning and fun took place.

Jennifer said...

What great fun!! Your squirrels were a lot more adventurous than ours. I'm glad you did the tree. It took a while for Esther to master the snaps, but she eventually did. The cookies were a great addition as well.

Anna said...

It looks like you guys had a fun time learning about squirrels. I'd love the peanut butter cookie recipe!

Anna said...

It looks like you guys had a fun time learning about squirrels. I'd love the peanut butter cookie recipe!

Michelle said...

@ Anna

I added the recipe to the post!

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