Discovering snow prints always exciting

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling, and Katers

Every time there is fresh snow a new story appears in the backyard. Families can help foster curiosity and love of nature by showing children ways to observe wildlife.

A young nature detective can learn signs of animal life around the neighborhood. Looking for tracks in mud or snow give clues about animal visitors any time of the year. It provides an excellent opportunity for storytelling, taking photographs, and writing little books.

Learning animal signs

Very young children can build an early understanding about how prints are made. You can use mud, sand or play dough to introduce the idea of pressing a little hand or foot in the soft material to make a footprint. Walk together outside in a muddy or snowy area and notice the big and little tracks you make. Do boots make different tracks than shoes? Who makes the bigger print? Drag a stick along the ground to see the kind of mark it leaves. Are there any tire or snowmobile tracks? Look around trees in the snow or dirt for any animal tracks.

Families can check out guidebooks like “Tracks, Scats, and Signs” by Leslie Dendy to see if any of the prints match. What kind of tracks does your dog or cat leave? What direction was it going? Are there any deer or squirrels around? Can you see hoof marks or hand- like paw prints? What marks to bird feet leave? Did they leave parts of their lunch behind?

Before you go outside or when you come back inside, read some books about common backyard animals. Some suggestions include “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, “Tracks in the Wild” by Betsy Bowen or “What’s in the Woods?” by Zoe Burke.

Making casts

Children can take some photos or casts so when you are back inside, they can draw a picture showing some of the tracks you made or saw on your walk. You can print a simple sentence on the bottom of the page to tell about the picture. Use the play dough to make animal tracks found in the guidebook. It’s great fun! In a few days, check out the yard again to see if there are new tracks. If you visit a beach or pond area, look for different tracks. What kind of animals might live here?

Families will be helping to build curiosity and observation skills which are important for an appreciation of nature and problem solving. Talking together as you walk outside develops good vocabulary and conversation abilities. Families will be fostering a life-long habit of noticing animal clues and signs. If you use a guide, children will learn the importance steps of searching in a reference book. For more see, Through the Seasons and Pinterest.