Hi Kids,  

This fun page is just for you. It's loaded with fun facts, crafts, outdoor activities, jokes, games, videos, and stories. Nature-themed activities change every few months, so make sure you check back for new fun stuff to do.

Your Groundhog Friend,
Willy the Woodchuck
Nature Rules!

____________

Winter is a great time to look for animal signs! An animal sign is anything left behind by an animal that can give you a clue about what type of animal it is and maybe even what it was doing. Keep your eyes open for tracks, scat (animal droppings), fur, feathers, chewed twigs, nests and more! Keep reading to learn how to identify which animals have been near your backyard or neighborhood. 

Top Seven Signs that Animals are Near

No. 7: Smells

Some animals let off some pretty fun scents!

via GIPHY

No. 6: Leftover food

Look at the ground and all around. Some animals leave the shells of what they eat behind.

Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock

No. 5: Fur, feathers or bones

Animals can also leave bits of fur or a feather or two, whether it’s theirs or that of their prey. You might also find some bones scattered about.

No. 4: Scat

Learn to identify animal droppings and you will be amazed at how many different animals live nearby.

No. 3: Sounds

Lots of animals make sounds! Birds, squirrels, coyotes, deer and raccoons can be heard regularly in the forest preserves.

 

No. 2: Homes

Animals need homes. Some are nests. Some are holes in trees. The possibilities are endless!

 

No. 1: Tracks in the mud or snow

Tracks cannot only tell you that an animal has been nearby, but they also provide a clue as to where they’ve come from and where they might be headed.

Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock

Track Sponge Stamps

Make your own tracks by creating these sponge stamps! Follow the directions below to get started. 

Materials Needed:

  • Cardboard pieces
  • Sponges
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paint
  • Paper

 

Steps:

  1. Cut cardboard into squares. 
  2. Look for track examples in books or online. 
  3. Use a marker to draw a track on a sponge. 
  4. Cut the sponge into the shape of the track.
  5. Glue the sponge track onto the cardboard square. 
  6. Let dry!
  7. Dip track into paint and stamp on a piece of paper. 
  8. Make a story using your tracks. For example, maybe your coyote chased a rabbit into a hole! 

Photo by Suzy Lyttle

Bear Scat Cookies 

Get messy in the kitchen making one-of-a-kind cookies that will be sure to freak out your friends! Grab a parent to help, gather all of the ingredients and follow the procedure below:

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup butter 
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour 
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips 
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut 
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts

Procedure:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. 
  2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. 
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. 
  4. Continue to mix on low speed and add eggs and vanilla. 
  5. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix on low until ingredients are combined. 
  6. Add white chocolate chips, coconut and pine nuts. Stir until combined. 
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool on the baking tray until the cookies are able to be moved to a cooling rack with a spatula. 
  9. Enjoy! 
  10. Store the remaining cookies in an airtight container for 2-3 days.  

Watch this video to follow along with Jen from Cookies, Cupcakes, and Cardio! 

Willy's Scavenger Hunt

Walk in your neighborhood or visit a local forest preserve and complete our scavenger hunt.

DOWNLOAD THE SCAVENGER HUNT FORM 

 

Animal Track Table

Come check out the animal track table at Isle a la Cache Museum.

Not only can you learn what animals lived in Illinois more than 300 years ago, but the table is interactive. Press the animal track replicas into the track table putty to see the awesome track prints that get left behind!  

Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock

 

What did one fly say to the other?

 

WATCH THE FULL PLAYLIST

Can You Identify These Animal Tracks? 

This quiz gives you 10 tracks to identify. Select the correct animal for each track from six possible choices. Complete the quiz and see how your score compares to others! 

 

Can You Identify This Animal Scat?

Scientists use animal droppings or “scat” to help learn about animal diets. Scat can also be used to keep track of where an animal is located or where it is traveling. This quiz gives you 10 different scat photos to identify. Match the correct animal with its scat, and then see how your score compares to others!  

 

Tracking and Mystery Critter Games

Put your skills as an animal tracker to the test! Look at tracks, scat, sounds and habitat in both the “Tracking Game” and the “Mystery Critter” game. Use the clues and animal signs to guess a critter. Click for the answer to see if you were right! 

Books for kids

Tracks in the Snow
2007
Wong Herbert Lee
A little girl follows tracks outside her window after a fresh snowfall.

“Just outside my window,
There are tracks in the snow.
Who made the tracks? Where do they go?”

 

Tracks, Scats, and Signs
2000
Leslie Dendy
This book helps eager young naturalists identify wildlife though clues. Tracks, scat and other signs animals leave behind can help solve the mystery of what animals are around.

Photo by Mallory Fischer