Thursday, August 27, 2015


Just in time for back to school, the KinderNature website is once again live. Search the over 300 activities reviewed by the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children for being developmentally appropriate and incorporating a variety of learning styles. Many activities will meet Head Start Performance Standards.

Activities range from songs about birds to making creature cupcakes to creating craft projects with leaves to playing a game to learn the roles of bees. They offer experiences such as discovery-based learning through play, sensory exploration, large and fine motor activity, creative expression, making friends, and developing social skills.

Featured Activity

Students use their senses to observe signs of fall, size and shapes of leaves, matching seeds, animals that eat the seeds, and fall migration of ducks and geese.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Touching for Textures

Nature is full of a variety of textures – rought, bumpy, smooth, prickly, and slippery. Try these simple ideas to explore the sense of touch outdoors.

Texture Rubbings
Explore textures in your schoolyard or a local nature area. Help your students make rubbings of the textures they find. Experiment with various paper types and writing utensils to compare which works best. Have the children share out their experiences and show their texture rubbings.

Texture Creations
Add sawdust, crumbled leavers, coffee grounds, nutmeg or cinnamon to tempera paint. Make a masterpiece!

Mystery Box
Make mystery boxes by cutting two circles in the long side of each box so that a child could put both hands inside. Place one natural tree item inside each box (e.g., bark, cones, evergreen needles, leaves, nuts, seeds, fruits, paper, rocks). Each child reaches inside the box to feel an object and then describes how it feels to the class. Invite the children to remove the lid and look at the object.

Musical Texture Squares
12x12 squares of different textures (e.g., bubble wrap, carpet, cardboard, sand paper)

In a large area, tape one texture square to the floor for each child. Explain how the different squares feel. Play music while the children move from square to square. Instruct them to stop on a square when the music stops. Teach children a simple call and response. For example, you can ask, “Who is standing on a bumpy square?” and the children standing on a bumpy square can answer, “I am standing on a bumpy square!”

Textured Trail Mix
Mix together different textured fruits, nuts, or dry snack foods in a large bowl. Let each child scoop out an appropriate measure of the mixture to eat. While they are eating, ask the children how the different foods feel on their tongues (e.g., crunchy, smooth, mushy, or rough).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reconnecting Children with Nature: Growing Up WILD trainings

This workshop leads you out the door and provides hands on activities and resource materials to help you lead your own nature explorations. Growing Up WILD activities use age appropriate practices and concepts to build on children’s sense of wonder and invites them to explore nature and the world around them. Specially written for children 3-7, activities include sections to address many learning areas: math, science, language, literacy, health living, play, and creativity.

September 19, 2015
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Cass County Extension & Outreach (805 West 10th Street, Atlantic)
Iowa Child Care Providers Training Registry— Click on Search Trainings, then search Reconnecting in the Title.
Registration Deadline: September 4, 2015
Registration Fee: $15 - your enrollment will be complete when payment is received: mail to Cass County Extension, 805 West 10th Street, Atlantic, IA 50022
For more information, contact Kim Branter at 712-542-7076 or

October 3, 2015
8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Heery Woods State Park (27887 195th St., Clarksville)
Registration: Iowa Child Care Providers Training Registry— Click on Search Trainings, then search Reconnecting in the Title.
Registration Deadline: September 25, 2015
Registration Fee: $10 - your enrollment will be complete when payment is received: mail to Allison office, 101 Cherry Street, Allison, IA 50619
For more information, contact Cindy Thompson at 641-229-6655 or

October 3, 2015
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Page County Extension Office (311 E Washington St., Clarinda)
Iowa Child Care Providers Training Registry— Click on Search Trainings, then search Reconnecting in the Title.
Registration Deadline: September 18, 2015
Registration Fee: $10 - your enrollment will be complete when payment is received: mail to Page County Extension, 311 E Washington St., Clarinda, IA 51632

For more information, contact Kim Branter at 712-542-7076 or

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fun Nature Themed Games

Keep your kids active this summer with these fun nature themed games.

One Fish, Two Fish
Designate 2 students as ducks. The remaining students are fish. Fish are scattered throughout the pond. When the music begins the fish “swim” around the pond. The ducks waddle around trying to tag the fish. If a fish is tagged he/she becomes a duck and tries to tag the fish. When the music stops all fish must freeze. The ducks continue to waddle around trying to tag the frozen fish. If a frozen fish moves while the music is stopped, he/she becomes a duck. When the music starts again, fish begin to swim. Continue until 2 fish remain. You can repeat the game with the last 2 fish becoming the new ducks.

The Hungry Caterpillar
Scatter small balls or cones across the play area. Divide students into small groups. Each group is a hungry caterpillar searching for food. The first student in each group is the caterpillar’s head and the remaining students are the body. The last student carries a ball bag. Caterpillars must travel around the play area in single file, holding onto the student in front of them. Each caterpillar must collect as much food (balls) as possible within the time limit (30 sec - 120 sec). Only the head of the caterpillar can guide the body and only the head can pick up the food (one at a time) and pass it back through the body. The food must be passed to each student down the line (as in relay) to where it is collected in the caterpillar's stomach (ball bag). To increase difficulty, designate a specific method in which the food must be passed (e.g., using left hand only, passing to the rear over the head, under the legs). 

Leap Frog
Mark off two parallel lines (using chalk, masking tape, or rope) two to three feet apart to create a stream. For large groups, create several streams to keep all students active. Students line up on both sides of the stream, facing each other (towards the middle). Outside of the lines are the “banks of the stream” and the middle is “in the stream.” The leader will call out one of two commands: “in the stream” or “on the bank.” Students must leap like frogs according to the command. If a player follows the wrong command, they must sit out. The leader can repeat the command “in the stream” while players are in the stream and if any student moves, they are out of the game. To add further challenge, the leader can give false commands like the “in the lake” or “in the ocean.” Students should only move to the commands “in the stream” or “on the bank.”

Snake Tag
Designate one student as the snake tamer. Arrange the remaining students into groups of three or four. Each group forms a snake by holding onto the waist of the student in front of them. The student in front is the head of the snake and the student in back is the tail. Snakes must twist and turn to keep from losing their head. The snake tamer tries to catch the tail of one of the snakes and attach to it. If the snake tamer successfully attaches to a snake, the head must come off and become the new snake tamer.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Reading List

Looking for some new books to share with your kids this summer? Check out these nature themed children’s books.

Arnosky, J. 1997. Bird Watcher. Random House Children's Books.
Arnosky, J. 1993. Crinkleroot's 25 Birds Every Child Should Know. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Arnosky, J. 1992. Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the Birds. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Bailey, D. 1992. Birds: How to Watch and Understand the Fascinating World of Birds. DK Publishing, Inc.
Boring, M. and L. Garrow. 1998. Bird, Nests, and Eggs. National Book Network.
Collard, S.B. 2002. Beaks! Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
Herkert, B. 2001. Birds in Your Backyard. Dawn Publications.
Oppenheim, J.F. and B. Reid. 1987. Have You Seen Birds?. Scholastic, Inc.
Pascoe, E., et al. 2000. How and Why Birds Use Their Bills (How and Why Series). Creative Teching Press, Inc.
Rabe, T. and A. Ruiz. 1998. Fine Feathered Friends: All About Birds (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library). Random House Children's Books.
Scarry, R. 1999. The Early Bird (Step into Reading). Random House Children's Books.
Sill, C.P. 1997. About Birds: A Guide for Children. Peachtree Publishers.

Arnosky, J. 1993. Crinkleroot's Twenty-five Fish Every Child Should Know. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Clements, A. and Yoshi. 1997. Big Al. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.
Cook, B. 2005. The Little Fish that Got Away. HarperCollins.
Gall, C. 2006. Dear Fish. Little Brown Books for Young Readers.
Gallimard, J. 1998. Fish. Scholastic.
Harris, T. 2000. Pattern Fish. Millbrook Press.
Heinrichs, A.R. 2003. Fish. Coughlan Publishing.
Knudson, M. 2005. Fish and Frog. Candlewick.
Pastel, J., K. Fitzsimmons and L. VanDeWeghe. Bur Bur's Fishing Adventure: An Exciting Fishing Adventure. IGI Press.
Pfeffer, W. 1996. What's it Like to be a Fish? (Let's Read-and-Find-Out Science 1). Harper Trophy.
Pfister, M. and J.A. James. 1999. Rainbow Fish. North-South Books.
Prosek, J. 2004. A Good Day’s Fishing. Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Quigley, M. 2007. Granddad’s Fishing Buddy. Dial.
Sayre, P. 2007. Trout, Trout, Trout: A Fish Chant. Northword Books for Young Readers.
Schaefer, L.M. 2001. What Is a Fish?. Coughlan Publishing.
Stockdale, S. 2008. Fabulous Fishes. Peachtree Publishers.
Turnage, S. and J. Stevens. 1984. Trout the Magnificent. Harcourt Children's Books.
Wells, E. 2006. Wishing I was Fishing. Beaver’s Pond Press.
Winner, C. and B. Lehnhausen. 1998. Trout. Lerner Publishing Group.
Wood, A. and B.R. Wood. 2004. Ten Little Fish. Blue Sky Press (AZ).
Yoo, T. 2007. The Little Red Fish. Dial.

Bishop, N. 2004. Forest Explorer: A Life-Sized Field Guide. Scholastic, Inc.
Costian, M. 2001. Life in a Tree: Focus, Habitat. Tandem Library.
Cotten, C. 2002. At the Edge of the Woods: A Counting Book. Henry Holt & Company, Incorporated.
DK Publishing. 2004. Forest. DK Publishing, Inc.
Dundy, M.R., and K. Richardson. 2010. Forests For All. MDCT Publishing.
Ehlert, L. 2004. Pie in the Sky. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Fonte, I. 2007. Animals of the Forest. Barnes & Noble Books.
Hankin, R. 1995. Up the Tall Tree. Steck-Vaughn.
Humphrey, P. 1995. In the Deep, Dark Forest. Steck-Vaughn.
Jeunesse, G. 2003. In The Forest. Scholastic, Inc.
Krupinski, L. 1997. Into the Woods: A Woodland Scrapbook. HarperCollins Children's Books.
Lies, B. 2004. Spy Hops and Belly Flops: Curious Behaviors of Woodland Animals. Houghton Mifflin Company.
Lindeen, C.K. 2003. Life in a Forest. Capstone Press.
McGehee, C. 2006. A Woodland Counting Book. University of Iowa Press.
Miller, D.S. and S. Schuett. 2003. Are Trees Alive? Walker & Company.
Pascoe, E. and D. Kuhn. 2003. The Ecosystem of a Fallen Tree. Rosen Publishing Group.
Pyers, G. 2004. Forest Explorer. Raintree Publishers.
Stone, L.M. 2004. Forests. Rourke Publishing, LLC.
Van Laan, N. 2000. A Tree for Me. Random House.
Vitosh, M.A. and A.L. Vitosh. 2000. Forest Where Ashley Lives. Iowa State University Extension.
Whitehouse, P. 2003. Hiding in a Forest. Heinemann Library.
Worth, B. 2006. I Can Name 50 Trees Today!: All about Trees. Random House Publishing Group.

Arnosky, J. 2002. All About Frogs. Scholastic, Inc.
Beltz, E. 2009. Frogs: Inside Their Remarkable World. Firefly Books, Limited.
Dexter, R. 1996. Frogs (Troll First- Start Science). Troll Communications.
Elliot, L. 2002. The Calls of Frogs and Toads: Breeding Calls and Sounds of 42 Different Species. Stackpole Books.
Heller, R. 1995. How to Hide a Meadow Frog and Other Amphibians. Groslett & Dunlap.
Jordan, S. 2002. Frog Hunt. Roaring Book Press.
Lionni, L. 1998. An Extraordinary Egg. Dragonfly Books.
Marent, T., and T. Jackson. 2010. Frog: A Photographic Portrait. DK Publishing, Inc.
Moignot, D. 1998. Frogs: A First Discovery Book. Moonlight Publishing.
Stewart, M., and H. Bond. 2010. A Place for Frogs. Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.

Ponds, Streams & Rivers
Arnosky, J. 2008. The Brook Book: Exploring the Smallest Streams. Penguin Young Readers Group.
Bandes, H. 1993. Sleepy River. Philomel Books.
Falwell, C. 2001. Turtle Splash!: Countdown at the Pond. HarperCollins Publishers.
Fleming, D. 1993. In the Small, Small Pond. Henry Holt and Co.
Fowler, A. 1996. Life in a Pond. Scholastic Library Publishing.
Galko, F. 2002. Pond Animals. Heinemann.
Giesecke, E. and A. Royston. 2002. Pond Plants. Heinemann Library.
Hunter, A. 1999. What's in the Pond? Houghton Mifflin Company.
Korman, S. 2001. Box Turtle at Silver Pond Lane. Soundprints.
Kosek, J.K. 2003. What's inside Lakes? Rosen Publishing Group, Incorporated.
Kurtz, J. 2000. River Friendly, River Wild. Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Pascoe, E. and D. Kuhn. 2003. The Ecosystem of a Stream. Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
Pratt-Serafini, K.J. 2001. Salamander Rain: A Lake & Pond Journal. Dawn Publications.
Schuh, M.C. 2002. What Are Lakes? Capstone Press.
Stewart, D. 2002. Pond Life. Scholastic Library Publishing.

Butterfield, M. 1999. Animals on Plains and Prairies. Raintree Publishers.
Fowler, A. 2000. Lands of Grass. Scholastic Library Publishing.
Howard, F. 2006. Grasslands. ABDO Publishing Company.
Mader, J. 2004. Living on a Prairie. Scholastic Library Publishing.
McGehee, C. 2004. A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet. University of Iowa Press.
Nichols, C. 2002. Grassy Lands. Benchmark Books.
Penny, M. 2003. Grasslands. Thameside Press.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fun Summer Outdoor Experiences

There are lots of simple ways to get kids outdoors in Iowa this summer. Use this as a checklist to guide your outdoor explorations.

Catch Fireflies
A simple, fun way to get kids interested in bugs and other small wildlife. Remind kids to be gentle to avoid crushing the beetles, and if you want to collect them be sure your container has air holes. Take care not to handle fireflies if you’ve applied bug spray to you and your child, as the chemicals in the spray can kill the insects you touch.

Learn to Fish
Every kid needs to try fishing at least once - check out our tips for taking kids fishing. To commemorate the first time your child catches a fish, take a picture to upload onto a congratulatory certificate you can find at

Skip Rocks
Skipping rocks is a great way to relax and spend quality time together. Throw with the current of a river to help you get more skips, making it easier for young arms with less throwing power to achieve success.

See a Goldfinch
Our state bird lives just about everywhere in the state, and their bright yellow plumage makes them easy to spot. Put thistle seeds or black oil sunflower seeds in a finch feeder and wait. Goldfinches are social, so when they come you’ll see plenty.

Make a S’more Over a Campfire
The process of finding a suitable roasting stick, burning a marshmallow or two, and finally getting a golden gem is rewarding. Don’t like marshmallows? Try fire-roasted Starburst for a fruity twist.

Swim in a Lake
Taking a dip is a great way to cool off. Kids can build sand castles and look for shells on shore when they’re done making a splash. Make sure to stay in designated swimming areas, and consider bringing water shoes to protect your feet from debris.

Pick Wild Raspberries
Black raspberries can be found in many public parks throughout the state in late June and early July. Show your child how to pick berries without hurting themselves or the plant, and point out the differences between berries that are safe to eat versus poisonous ones like honeysuckle.

Go Stream Walking
Iowa streams and creeks tend to run cool, and walking in the middle of them wicks away body heat with continual water movement. Take into consideration how deep the stream you want to walk in is beforehand, as kids can tire quickly from slogging through deep water. Wear sturdy footwear that can protect you from debris.

Catch a Frog
Frogs of all types and sizes live in Iowa, but leopard frogs are particularly fun to chase. Their tremendous jumping ability keeps you on the move, but distinctive dark markings and bright gold eyes help you keep track of them. When catching any frog, remind your child to be gentle, as the soft amphibians can be easily hurt by excited fingers.

Visit a Fen or Marsh
These wetland habitats are home to an entirely different set of organisms than we usually see. Bring along binoculars and watch a heron stalk the water for frogs and fish, or look for other animals like ducks, geese, muskrat, cranes, egrets, and shorebirds. Don’t forget the plants; you could find Iowa’s endangered pale green orchids right under your feet. Remember not to pick anything, as these habitats are very ecologically fragile and many of the plants there are protected by federal law.

Chase Butterflies
Catching butterflies can be a great way to get kids excited about insects. Demonstrate catching the butterfly and holding it gently for your child, ideally by carefully pinching all four wing segments between the sides of your fingers. Holding it this way allows you to examine the butterfly without the animal being able to flap its wings, thus preventing damage to the tiny scales that help it fly.

Go Hiking
Iowa’s parks and forests collectively boast over 600 miles of hiking trails, with more being added every year. Go for a stroll or a more difficult excursion, and take plenty of snack and water breaks to enjoy the nature around you.

Try Geocaching
You need a GPS and a list of coordinates, which will take you to sites where you can search for a small container. Geocaching coordinates can be found online for free. The containers at the sites usually contain a notebook with the names of those who have already found the container and a pencil to write your own name with. Some caches have little trinkets inside, but geocaching etiquette says to only take the trinket if you have something of equal or greater value to leave in its place.

Go Camping
Camping gives kids the opportunity to be fully immersed in nature. Bring along children’s creature comforts from home (like blankets from their bed or a favorite stuffed animal) to help them get comfortable with the new environment.

Look for Fossils and Geodes
A very long time ago, Iowa was part of the ocean floor. Over time, sediment built up and created the limestone we now use for making concrete. This type of rock is excellent at preserving fossils, and at multiple sites collectors can look for and keep their finds. Particularly good specimens have been found in the Mason City area, and visitors can learn more at the Floyd County Conservation Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve and Center.

Visit State Preserves and Parks
With 72
state parks and 95 preserves, Iowa has a rich diversity of public lands available for exploration. Seven sites were developed and planned as recreation areas, and offer extensive options for all sorts of activities. Most state parks have camping options, ranging from rustic to the occasional glamourous cabin.

Go on a Bike Ride
Iowa is one of the nation’s leaders in cycling, with nearly 700 miles of paved bike trails. Biking in Iowa is a great way to see the state and get exercise while taking it easy on your joints. The High Trestle Trail is a popular favorite, stretching 25 miles through five towns and featuring a 13-story-high trail bridge over the Des Moines River.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Come along with me….Earth manners!

Children are naturally curious about nature and their environment.  Take a child outdoors and chances are they will start exploring under rocks and leaves, picking up sticks and searching for bugs.  The desire to explore and learn should be nurtured while also teaching children about respect for all living things and their environment.

This holiday weekend, while you are outside enjoying the lovely weather and taking part in the 4th of July festivities, don’t forget to use your “Earth manners”.  Earth manners are a simple set of “rules” that help ensure that while you are exploring the great outdoors you are also respecting the environment that you are visiting. 

Earth manners
  • Do not disturb wildlife.  Follow this simple rule - look, learn, leave alone.
  • Do not pick wildflowers, cut branches from trees or otherwise destroy plants.
  • Do not carve or draw on trees or rocks.
  • Be careful with fire.
  • Be careful not to litter and try to pick up any litter left by others.
  • “Take only memories, leave only footprints” - leave an area in the same condition, or better, than when you got there.

Discuss Earth manners as a family this weekend before heading out the door.  Or better yet have your kids brainstorm and come up with their own set of rules and why they think they are important.  Have a fun and safe 4th of July exploring the great outdoors!

Reading Connections
Arnosky, J. 1993. Crinkleroot's Guide to Walking in Wild Places. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.Barraclough, S. 2007. Respecting Our World. Black Rabbit Books.
Bruchac, J. 1991. Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children. Fulcrum Publishing.
Bruchac, J. 1997. Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children. Fulcrum Publishing.
Dr. Seuss. 1971. The Lorax. Random House Children’s Books.
Galko, F. 2004. Earth Friends at Home. Heinemann.

Gile, J. and T. Heflin. 1989. The First Forest. JGC/United Publishing Corps.
Green, J. and M. Gordon. 2005. Why Should I Protect Nature? Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
Guillain, C. 2008. Caring for Nature (Help the Environment). Heinemann Library.
Madden, D. 1986. 1993. The Wartville Wizard. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Schimmel, S. 2002. Children of the Earth…Remember. T&N Children's Publishing.
Schimmel, S. 1994. Dear Children of the Earth: A Letter from Home. T&N Children's Publishing.

Tafuri, N. 1987. 1987. Do Not Disturb. HarperCollins Publishers.