Nature Watching as a fun and educational activity

My daughters love animals. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that just about every child has love for some type of animal or another. If you ask someone what their favorite animal is almost nobody say “I hate them all”… so it’s probably safe to say that most children like animals. My older daughter is, for whatever reason, all about nocturnal creatures, but she really has a thing for Owls. She gets so excited when we talk about them, and it is really amazing what she knows!

We live in the city, but lucked out and got a great deal on huge (to us) lot of 2.5 acres. The house sits right up on the front of the lot and the back is mostly wooded, and in those woods live / roam all manner of critter! We’ve got racoons, bats, squirrels, coyotes, birds of all manner, and owls.

The other evening my wife and I decided to take the girls outside right before bedtime and let them observe the owls. We all trekked out about 1/2 hour before dark, found a good sitting place, and just watched and listened. We have a 3 year old and a 5 year old so it was tough to get the sitting still part working, but we were pleasantly surprised with how easily it went. It wasn’t long before the bats showed up. They were a cool sight. I think we counted three of them. Then came the owl calls. The owls talked to each other who-who-wh-wh-wh-whooo for a few minutes before we actually saw them take flight. We tracked them through the trees and talked about what they were doing (which explained to them why we don’t let our chihuahua out this time of night without also have the big dogs outside too!).

The girls thought this experience was so cool! My wife and I enjoyed it also. It was a nice thing that we were able to do as a family. It didn’t cost us any money and the kids learned from it. They learned about dusk by experiencing it, they learned some of the various sounds that owls can make, and they learned how some bats augment their vision with their precise hearing (echolocation) when they fly and why they fly so erratically (they’re chasing bugs and the bug just turned). They even learned a little patience waiting on the animals to show up since we got out there a little early.

The next day we talked to the kids about what happened and what we had seen and you could just feel the excitement and could tell how much fun they had on that simple little trip. I strongly suggest nature watching as an activity for families because it allows them spend some time together and it is a fun, educational activity for everyone involved.

One note though… you might want to make sure you take some insect repellant depending on the time of year.

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