Sunday, February 23, 2014

Identification Contest Winner and Wintery Scenes....

Well, my intentions are always good but sometimes life gets a hold of me and I just can't keep up.  I apologize for the delay of announcing our Bird Identification Winner!  

We asked parents to have their children do a bit of research and try to identify two birds here in Connecticut.

Bird 1:
 This is Bird 1 also but the female:
 Bird 2:

We had lots of comments and are so proud of all the children who worked so hard to get the correct answers!  The birds are:

Bird #1 - Eastern Towhee
Bird #2 - Carolina Wren

Now to randomly select a winner who will get to pick any e-book off of the Little Acorn Learning website for free......

The winner is:


"This is my answer:  Bird #1 is the Eastern Towhee.  Bird #2 is the House Wren.  My name is Isaac, and I am 8 years old. I love bird watching, and I used my bird book to identify these birds."

Congratulations!  Please email us at info (at) to claim your prize!

Now for a few photos of the busy winter we've been having here (I hope you're not getting sick of them!): 

What's the weather like by you?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Make Snow Ice Cream!

Here is a fun activity to do with your little Valentines today.

I have been wanting to do this activity for years.  I always forget to try it and then yesterday a Facebook friend of mine posted that she was doing it with her children and I followed suit.  With all of this snow, we have to keep things exciting around here!

Luckily, my children already know I'm a little crazy so when I told them we were making Ice Cream out of fresh snow they just rolled their eyes at me as usual. 

It is very simple to make:

Gather 5-6 cups of snow in a big bowl and keep it outdoors until you are ready.  Obviously make sure the snow is very clean.  We have so much snow that we just dug off 4-5 inches and used clean snow from the middle.  

In a separate bowl, mix 1-2 tablespoons of pure vanilla, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1-2 cups of milk.  Stir the mixture together and then slowly add it to your snow bowl and mix it up until it gets the consistency of ice cream.  Go slow with the milk so you can add more if you need it.

Boom, that's it!  You have Vanilla Snow Ice Cream!

We added fresh fruit, white chocolate chips and sprinkles too.


Thursday, February 13, 2014


The amount of snow here is insane.  And, this evening we are expecting another possible 10 inches!  By tomorrow morning it could total 20" of new snow (not to mention all of the old snow still on the ground).  In addition, this weekend we are expecting even MORE snow!

The kids and dogs are loving it and so far, we are too.  The temperatures are tolerable and it is fun hunkering down with a warm fire and good food.  We didn't have a snow day because the schools were already closed today, Friday and Monday for President's week which is good because we've already missed a lot of days that will need to be made up at the end of the year.

King Winter has definitely arrived in Connecticut!!!

What is the weather like where you live?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bird Identification Contest!

 This Red-Bellied Woodpecker came to our feeders today.  We've seen this type of bird other years but this was the first time this winter that he's made an appearance and it was pretty exciting.  

This is the Tufted Titmouse.  He is here often with all of his buddies.  A very pretty bird but common at our feeder so we don't get as excited when he visits us.  :)
 I must sound like an old lady but I absolutely LOVE sitting at my dining table every morning and watching the birds each day.  I get my coffee and my computer for writing and I make sure I can see right out of the window.  How lucky am I that I can intertwine my personal life and my work in this way?  

I recently put out new feed including meal worms (I know, yuck but a good source of protein for many of the birds during the cold months) and suet and now we are getting a variety of different birds which is really fun.
This is the female Downy Woodpecker.  They are common year-round in Connecticut.  The male looks the same but has a red spot on the back of his head and that is how I can tell the difference.  This is another common woodpecker that we have seen in years past but haven't yet this winter until we put out the suet.  This bird looks identical to the Hairy Woodpecker but it is much smaller (about 6").
Of course, we always love seeing the cardinals.  I see the males more frequently than the females so I love it when she comes for a visit.  I wonder if the males are the ones who tend to bring the food back to the nest more and that is why I see them more often?  I know their call now by heart and can hear when they are on the back deck before I even see them.  There is something about the coloring of the female cardinal that I find so subtly beautiful.

 I also see a ton of Blue Jays but they are very bossy and take over the feeders when they come around.  They are very pretty but I just don't like their attitude much ;) 
Here we have the male Dark-Eyed Junco.  Another very common bird at my feeders.  They migrate from Canada to Connecticut so we see them more in the winter time.  I'm not sure why they bother anymore as Connecticut has been just as cold as up north the last few winters.  I actually wonder if the migrating of birds will change after seeing our climate shift so much recently.  At one point, Brian and I had a dream of buying a winter cabin in Vermont to enjoy the snow and quad riding but it seems Connecticut is the new Vermont these days and we won't really have to budge.
I'm pretty sure this bird is a Song Sparrow.  I know it is a sparrow but can't seem to find a good picture match in my field guides and the Song Sparrow was as close as I could find.  

Here is another new bird and this one I have never seen at our feeders before.  It is the White-Throated Sparrow.  There are two variations of this type of sparrow and the one we have is the white-striped kind (not the tan-striped one).  Really beautiful and it was fun trying to discover what type of bird it was.
 Another frequent visitor is this guy, the Black-Capped Chickadee.  We see them ALL the time so again, while very pretty, the excitement gets lost after awhile. 

Years ago, we created this wonderful Bird Chart for our home.  We drew pictures of the most common birds that come to our feeder and put tally marks next to them whenever we see them.  I'm considering making a new chart soon as we've used this one QUITE a bit... but it is a fun activity and something you should try at home if you have the time.

 NOW I want to challenge you!  There are two more *brand new birds* that I saw at my feeder today that I've never seen before.  I've figured out what type of birds they are after doing some research but can you and your children?  

Take your time to look at both photos and either research in the library or online with your children to discover what type of birds they are.  Remember, we live in Connecticut.  

Parents - do your best to let the children do most of the research with your help and use this as a nature enrichment activity if possible...

Bird #1  

Bird #2

Once you think you know what type of birds they are, post in the comments section of this post with your guesses and your name.  On February 19th (one week from today), we will randomly choose a winner from the comments section and announce it on our blog.  It will not matter if you get the names right or not, we just want you to give it a good try so let the children decide what they think the right answers are.  

The winner will receive a FREE E-Book of their choice from Little Acorn Learning filled with even more wonderful activities to do with your children! 

Good luck and I hope you enjoy this project as a fun nature lesson to share with your class or family. 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
to say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
~Robert Frost
Ice and fire.  
Two extremes.  

Both so amazingly beautiful and powerful.  

Fire is always moving and ice stands still.  
Yet they are both so strong.
Both can preserve as well as destroy.

In Frost's poem above, he points out how both extremes can cause the end of things.  Just like both extremes of passion and coldness in our emotions.  

The best path is somewhere in between the two, I believe.  
Always in the middle.  

Yet, when you take the time to truly look closely at the two elements, it is just all so amazing and breathtaking.  When is the last time you looked this close? 
 I think it is important that we teach our children to look closely at our world.  I want children to slow down and be sure not to rush through life, missing all this beauty in a hurry to get nowhere.  

I hope that the books that I write you help you to stop and pause with children and notice.  
In the January Enrichment Guide, I offer some fun ideas on exploring ice:  

Go outside and look for icicles. Did you know that the Ice Fairies work hard to make those for King Winter? Check out the story of King Winter’s Arrival and all the work the Ice Fairies did to prepare in our King Winter E-Book and share it with your children. 

Some ideas to use during circle time or morning talks with the children:

When something is frozen is it moving or standing still?  (still)
Can you show me how you stand very still like ice? 
Now show me how you move like running water! 

Exploring Ice:

Have each child put a mitten on one hand.  Have them hold an ice cube in each hand.  Ask them which hand feels cold first.  Does the ice melt faster in the hand that has the mitten on or the one that does not?  Why does the hand that is not covered with a mitten feel less cold?

Freeze water with a little bit of food coloring in various colors in ice cube trays.  Insert a popsicle stick and freeze.  Have the children use the ice paints on paper.

Fill one glass with warm water and another with cold.  Ask children which glass they think will melt the ice the fastest.  Place an ice cube in each.  Talk about melting in further detail.

Take the children outside and look for icicles.  How many can you find?  Observe the difference in length and shape of each one.  Under supervision, allow the children to hold an icicle.  How does it feel?  If age appropriate, talk about how they take form and what is required for them to melt.  The children can sketch the icicles and write about their discoveries in their Nature Notebooks.
In the January 5 Day Guide, we talk a bit about warmth and hibernation as well:

Talk to your child about hibernation 
and the fact that when the cold 
weather comes some animals hide and 
sleep through the entire winter. What 
types of animals can you think of that 
hibernate? (bats, woodchucks, 
squirrels, etc.) 

Help your children make a fun indoor fort out of all the 
blankets, pillows and cozy things you can find! Invite a few 
well-loved stuffed toys or your child’s favorite dolls to have a 
make pretend sleepover party. Read books, turn off the lights 
and break out the flashlights for some fun

Or make an Igloo outdoors!  This requires a lot of work but the children will remember it for a lifetime!
Here are some ideas on Creating Warmth in your classroom or home from our January Enrichment Guide:  

·        Each child should have his or her own space for napping or relaxing.  Purchase wool blankets, sheepskin rugs, natural bedding and other cozy materials to assist with this. 

·        Wake early and start a fire in the fireplace or woodstove before the children wake up or arrive to your program. 

·        In the winter months, start a ritual of having warm decaffeinated tea with your morning snack (herbals are wonderful). 

·        Have each child bring a pair of indoor shoes or slippers that they wear throughout the day when they arrive. 

·        Recommend that the children are kept very warm and dressed with wool undergarments and come to your program with warm hats, gloves and scarves.

·        Keep an extra sweater or robe for each child handy on a special hook with their name or symbol. 

·        If you knit or do handcrafts, pull out your warm yarns and fibers and display them in baskets for easy access. 

·        Make lots of warm soups and breads together during the winter months.  See our Winter Childcare Menu for ideas on our website