Do you ever have those ideas that hit you in the middle of the night and wake you up?
Well, right before the madness of the holidays hit I had this idea to use indoor/outdoor play and games to teach the girls about the habits of animals in winter. I have several fun ideas to test out and we started with squirrels.
I found some coloring images of acorns on the web and printed out 16 acorns. Sam was given the job of coloring them and cutting them out. At first she was hesitant and didn't really care about the project but then I told her that we were going to be using the acorns to pretend to be squirrels and play a game. She sat in one spot until all 16 acorns were colored and cut out!
Before we started playing we talked about squirrels; what they eat (acorns primarily), where they live (nests and hollowed out holes in trees), how they find their food (using their nose to sniff out the nuts), and how they get ready for the cold winter months (collecting and hiding as many acorns as they can before snow falls).
Then I hide all of the acorns around several rooms in our house and told the girls to turn themselves into squirrels to find as many acorns as they can.
After the girls had hunted for the acorns a bit I added a new twist and became a fox that was hunting them! I slowly crawled around the rooms that they were looking for acrons in, scaring them and pretending to try and catch them. They loved this part. Sam even went so far as to decide that their princess tent was their tree house that they should store their acorns in and hide in until the fox was gone. I stalked them at the "bottom" of the tree house for a while and then told them the fox was giving up and moving on.
This was a great way to talk about habits of squirrels and for the girls to get a chance to see what it would be like to be a squirrel. We learned, we played, we laughed and had a great time!
The Nitty Gritty!
This could very easily be advanced for older kids into an outdoor game. I learned a similar type game as a graduate assistant at the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station. Something more waterproof and indestructible, like poker chips, could be used as the acorns. With a playing area designated simply spread out the acorns and let the squirrels head out to gather their food. Large cups or similar container can be used as "stomachs" for collecting. After a short amount of time send a larger predator out to start hunting the squirrels. If a squirrel gets caught s/he has to give all their acorns to the larger predator (you can let the squirrel go back to colleting or have them sit down to be dead). Stop after a few minutes and see who has food in their stomach. Talk about what it was like to collect acrons with no predators chasing you versus collecting once the larger predator came out.
With older students this game can also be used to discuss bio-accumulation, food chains, food webs and energy transfer.