Attracting Garden-Friendly Wildlife

Many creatures can be the gardener’s best friend in the spring and summertime.  Lots of insects, birds and small animals can help in keeping down pests such as aphids and mosquitoes as well as help to pollinate the flowers and make your garden a much more interesting place.

Butterflies are an attractive addition to any garden and a vital component in pollination, although those who like to grow vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce may want to put nets over the plants so that the caterpillars don’t much their way through their crops.

To attract butterflies you need a good source of scented flowers with open nectar sources – buddleia and milkweed are very popular with butterflies.  Take time to find out which butterflies are common and which plants they prefer to feed on.

Butterfly food

Butterfly Nectar

Using a butterfly feeder if you don’t have a large backyard or many flowers is also a fantastic way to get these pretty visitors.  This specially formulated nectar will attract many different types of butterflies and should be hung in an open, but shaded space.

Attracting bees to your backyard not only helps your flowers and fruit to pollinate, but you are also doing your bit for conservation.   Mason bees in particular are friendly visitors and perfect for families with young children as they don’t possess a sting in their tale.  Whilst they don’t build a hive, so work as individuals rather than a community, if you provide shelter you will quickly find you have a large population in your garden working their magic.

Providing bird tables and bird boxes is a great way to get a variety of different bird life to visit your backyard.  If you feed them nutritious foods, preferably seeds and nuts and have an ever-ready water supply they will reward you with regular visits.  Ensure that any bird table or bird house is put in a position where predators, such as the family cat, can do them no harm.

Other animals that are beneficial to your garden are toads and ladybugs – both will happily munch on all the insects you don’t want in your garden damaging your flowers and vegetables.   Providing shelter for these will ensure they have somewhere to protect them from wind or wet weather and give them somewhere safe to stay over the winter months.

Ladybug House

Ladybug House

 

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First Signs of Spring – Caterpillars

As the plants start to bud and blossom and our world starts to look a little greener and brighter.  Gone are the cold winter days and the hazy sunshine starts to warm the earth and bring back to life the busy insect world.

With flowers inevitably comes butterflies, but first they need to start their life cycle as eggs and then caterpillars.

The butterfly life cycle is one of the most fascination transformations in nature, and is a wonder to behold to people of all ages.

Usually we don’t get to see the whole process, sure we see furry caterpillars munching their way through spring leaves, and then we see lots of pretty fluttering butterflies a few weeks later, but what happens in between is usually top secret and kept away from prying eyes.

By using live butterfly kits you can witness this compelling metamorphosis up close and personal. The kits are excellent for both homeschool and classroom nature projects, or purely as a lovely thing to do with your children to help them learn about the beauty of nature.

Live Butterfly Kit

Live Butterfly Kit

Starting out as young caterpillars the children get to watch the caterpillar slowly fatten up and then hang upside down in their chrysalis ready for the next stage of their amazing journey.

Painted Lady Caterpillar

Painted Lady Caterpillar

Watching the adult butterflies break free from their chrysalis, wait a moment to dry off, and then finally start to flutter those wings is a fantastic moment to share.

Once the butterflies have matured they can then be released outside if the temperature is over 50º, or kept inside to study further if below 50º.

Whilst you can use live butterfly kits all year round, even in winter, springtime is a fantastic time to rear butterflies as you can release them into your backyard or school garden and watch them pollinate the flowers.

The whole process from small caterpillar to adult butterfly takes around three weeks, with the first stage of caterpillar growing lasting around 7-10 days.  In this time your young students can chart their growth through photography, video or drawing and use the internet or library to study different types of caterpillars and butterflies.

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First Signs of Spring – Tadpoles

One of my earliest childhood memories of spring is of the appearance of tadpoles in a stream near our house. We would visit the stream regularly over the following weeks to see how the tadpoles had progressed, and indeed if any of them were still there and hadn’t all been gobbled up by predators.

I still find tadpole fascinating to this day.  The metamorphosis they undergo is really quite spell binding and never fails to amaze me.

Sadly I don’t live near that stream anymore or any other water where tadpoles and frogs could be seen at this time of year, but thankfully I don’t have to take my children miles for them to witness this spectacle of life as they can experience it now in their own homes.

Live Tadpole Kits are fantastic.  You can raise your very own frogs in your den, bedroom or classroom without being anywhere near a river or stream.  Better than that, you can see the transformation up close and personal so you need never miss a stage or come back one day to see that the pond is empty and all the tadpoles have been eaten.

Live Tadpole Kit

Live Tadpole Kit

The kits are great for a homeschool or classroom nature project and because the life cycle from tadpole to an adult leopard frog takes between 12 and 16 weeks there are lots of additional work you can do to complement the project.

You can track all the subtle changes on a daily basis with a digital camera, or get the children to draw the life cycle the frog goes through whilst reading about it on the internet or in a book about the subject.

The Live Tadpole Kits come complete with everything you will need to raise either one or two tadpole into adult frogs, including habitat, food, water treatment, water change cup and even a plastic plant to decorate your habitat with.  There is also a coloring page highlighting the different stages of the frog’s life cycle.

Live Tadpole Kit

Live Tadpole Kit

Once the frog (or frogs) becomes adult it can then be kept as great, easy-to-keep pet for you to study further or just enjoy their company.

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Bringing Wildlife to Your Back Yard This Spring

With spring just around the corner it is time to start thinking about the best way to attract lots of lovely visitors.

Bees, butterflies, ladybugs, birds, toads and other creatures make extremely welcome additions to any garden in the spring and summertime.  They do an excellent job of keeping down aphids and other unwanted insects that will happily graze their way through your favorite flowers and plants, as well as providing that all-important job as pollinators – vital if you want bigger and better fruits and flowers.

Planting bee and butterfly friendly plants which produce heady scents and have lots of easy to get to pollen is one way to attract pollinators and to encourage them to stick around you’ll need some kind of shelter for them to protect them from the wind and rain, and any potential predators.

We have some beautiful hand-made insect and animal houses that not only look stunning, but will provide welcome shelter for all sorts of amazing creatures.  Here are some of our favorites:

Mason Bee House

Mason bees, like all other types of bees, are on the decline in the US, mainly due to crop spraying and insecticides.  We can help to restore the balance by giving these friendly non-stinging bees a home.

This beautiful house will provide shelter for lots of mason bees who unlike their cousins the honey bee, don’t require a hive and tend to work alone rather than for a queen.  However, they do like company so this is the perfect retreat for them after a hard days pollinating.

Metal Roof Mason Bee House

Metal Roof Mason Bee House

Paint Your Own Butterfly House

We have a great selection of hand-crafted butterfly houses, but this makes a great gift for a child as they can paint and decorate it themselves.

Paint Your Own Butterfly House

Paint Your Own Butterfly House

This is best hung somewhere near to a reliable nectar source if you want butterflies to take up permanent residence, or can be used in conjunction with our live butterfly rearing kits so that when you release the adult butterflies into your garden they will stick around.

Ladybug House

If ladybugs are more your thing, then we have a selection of wooden ladybug houses to choose from.  Ladybug houses are great for attracting the creatures in the spring and providing somewhere safe for over-wintering ones to hibernate in.

Ladybug House

Ladybug House

Toad House

They may not be everyone’s favorite gardening friend, but did you know that a single toad can eat over 100 various flower eating bugs in a single day!    And we promise you don’t need to kiss them, just provide them with somewhere pretty to stay in.

Toad House

Toad House

 

 

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Mimicking Nature at Home or in the Classroom

All children love science experiments, they like to get involved and use their hands and to see the visual changes that come about from the experiments.

Experiments in the classroom or homeschool are great for showing how nature works in the big outdoors, replicating events in a small, controlled way makes studying science and nature fun and informative – more so than just reading it in a book or looking it up on the computer.

We’ve got some cool science based tools that help children to better understand the world around them.  They can be used purely as fun toys or as a accompaniment to science and nature lessons in the classroom or homeschool class.

From growing your own crystals to building a volcano, we can pique your children’s interest in the natural world.

Crystal Growing Experimental Kit

Crystal Growing Kit

Crystal Growing Kit

This large kit can be used to study 7 different crystal growing experiments.  Once the different colored crystals have grown they can then be displayed in the included cases to be kept for future reference.   This kit is ideal for older children aged 10 and over.

Magic Rocks

This classic set has been around for years and with good reason—it is every bit as fascinating and fun today as it was years ago.  Grow your own underwater rock garden in minutes.  Great for nurturing an interest in rocks and gems.

Magic Rocks

Magic Rocks

Volcano Making Kit

Everyone loves a volcano, but this miniature experiment set is perfectly safe to conduct in your own home or classroom.   Your children can cast and paint their own volcano and then watch it erupt with fizzing lava.

Volcano Making Kit

Volcano Making Kit

Pet Tornado

No need for dangerous road trips storm chasing for tornados, this miniature tornado in a can will help children to understand the physics behind one of nature’s most destructive forces.

Pet Tornado

Pet Tornado

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Winter Nature Projects – Studying Life Cycles

It may be cold and snowy outside (very snowy depending on where you live), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t study nature and enjoy learning about the life cycles of various creatures.

While we have lots of different live insect and animal kits on offer, shipping at this time of the year is often impossible due to the effect it will have on the creatures.  However, there are other ways to learn about life cycles at this time of year that are just as fun and interesting.

Coloring books and information books are great for explaining how insects and other creature evolve from larvae or tadpoles into fully formed animals.  Also, life cycle figurines are excellent for children to hold and pass around the classroom to fully understand the bodily changes that happen during the life cycle.

There are many different types of insects to study, and this method of study can be backed up in spring by using live insect kits.  The children will already know what to expect of the insects or creatures which will make the exercise more exciting and interesting to watch as the transformation happens.

Frog Life Cycle Figurines

Frog Life Cycle Figurines

Ladybug Life Cycle Figurines are soft plastic figurines that are perfect for little hands are a great introduction into the study of these favorite insects. Older children with better reading skills can also use the ‘A Ladybug Larva Grows Up’ book to further illustrate and explain the life cycle.

Ladybug Life Cycle Book

Ladybug Life Cycle Book

If you want to study butterflies, but would prefer to wait for warmer weather to buy a live butterfly kit, then we have a range of study aids that can be used in the colder months.  From books, to stickers and rubber stamps, these educational aids are perfect for homeschoolers or classrooms.

Butterfly Life Cycle Rubber Stamps

Butterfly Life Cycle Rubber Stamps

Ant farms are excellent ways to study the amazing world of ants, but if you’re shipping into a cold area below 40º then you might prefer to use figurines, books, and rubber stamps.

Life and Times of Ants

Life and Times of Ants

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Explore the Amazing World of Ants

Ants are amazing little creatures, they have a super strength that belies their small bodies, and working together they are a force for most things regardless of their size or strength.

A colony of ants is fascinating to watch, trying to establish what each different ant is doing and what’s its role is in the community.  These busy little insects never seem to stop, constantly going back and forth, gathering food, making tunnels or looking after the young.

Ant farms are a great way to watch this tiny world up close and personal.  Not wondering what happens when the ants disappear into their nest, these kits show you how they move and go about their daily business at any time of the day.

Ant will be on the go pretty much constantly, although they do tend to slow down when the weather is cooler.  By placing the ant farm in different locations in your classroom or home you can see the effect that temperature has on the work rate of ants.  If you put the ant farm in the refrigerator or outdoor in winter for a few minutes, you will see that the ants slow right down, but once they are warmed up again to room temperature they will quickly carry on as normal.

Ant farms are constantly evolving too, nowadays ant farms come in a variety of colors, and use space technology for the environment which provides all the nutrients the ants need to survive as well as a material to tunnel through.

Ant Works Ant Farm

Ant Works Ant Farm

 

Bright colors and LED lights that project shadows of the ants onto ceilings make the ant farms much more fun, but if you prefer a more natural and traditional ant farm, we have ones where the ants make their homes in sand and you can see them fetch and carry the sand to clear tunnels for their co-workers.

Safari Ant Farm

Safari Ant Farm

 

The latest designs in ant farms now combine two features—an ant farm and a terrarium.  So you can study the ants going about their business in the NASA designed gel as you watch the seeds you plant grow into thriving plants—a true ecosystem!

Ecosystem Ant Habitat

Ecosystem Ant Habitat

Whatever style of ant farm you prefer, we can assure you that they will provide you with hours of entertainment as well as help to educate children about how ants live.

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Understanding How Compost Works

How things decay and decompose is a fascinating subject for anyone—child or adult, and being able to watch something break down and become one with the soil is a valuable learning experience.

In the same way that we can see something like a piece of fruit or vegetable quickly break down, the experiment will also show how long some things take to decompose (if ever). Which is a valuable lesson in how we can better treat our environment and how some products, such as plastics, glass and other non-composting items are better to be sent to the recycling center so that they can be made into something else.

This unique clear composting container has three compartments that show the decomposition in action. It’s a great homeschool or classroom experiment that shows pupils which household items can be thrown into the compost in the backyard and which should be disposed of more carefully.

Clear Composting Container

Clear Composting Containeront

This lesson in ecology and recycling can help us all to become more environmentally aware and help us to look at ways of reducing our carbon footprint. Whether this is to always compost all of our vegetable peelings and fruit cores and skins, or recycling packaging that is potentially damaging to the earth if sent to landfills by leaching toxin poisons into the earth.

Children will be able to see how something such as a banana skin decomposes, and they will be amazed at how quickly it disappears into seemingly nothing, whereas a piece of paper or cardboard will take longer to break down into the soil.

The composting container is great to use as either a short-term experiment or to use as a longer experiment that can go over a school term or even a whole school year. It can also be used in conjunction with a worm farming kit to further illustrate bio-diversity and how worms are important in helping vegetable matter to break down quicker and thus

Worm Farm

Worm Farm

improving the fertility of the soil, making it better to grow plants and flowers in.

 

The container is aerated and also has magnification spots that will intensify the heat within the compartments to speed up the decomposition process as well as making the process easier to view. Thermometers in each compartment will show the temperature changes that occur whilst the items in the compartment are decomposing.

Further experiments can be carried out on the soil, using soil from each compartment to grow seeds in and establishing which soil is more fertile.

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Make 2014 Your Fun Science Year

The earlier you introduce your children to science, the more likely they are to really enjoy learning about the subject and excel at it in later years.

Whether you focus on Physics, Chemistry or Biology, it doesn’t matter, so long as you and you children have fun whilst learning about how the world works and how important science is.

You don’t need to introduce complicated formulas or start drilling the periodic table to get young children interested in science, if anything introducing these difficult (and maybe a little bit boring) elements too soon and you may turn your child off science.

The beauty of science is all around us, and there are many experiments that you can do with your children that are completely free of charge and can be found using items around you to start to pique the interest and begin a life-long love affair with the natural world.
Explaining in simple terms how gravity works, why the water drains in a certain direction, or how water can turn to steam or ice are great ways to show science and nature at work within the home.

Why the water drain in a clockwise direction?

Why the water drain in a clockwise direction?

When your child asks a science based question, take the time to try and answer them.  Even if you don’t actually know the answer, you can both sit down and look it up on the internet.  Answering questions is a great way to furthering their interest and want to know more and more about a subject.

There are also lots of fun, educational toys that help to explain scientific events in ways that are easy to comprehend and are great to play with over and over again.

Can you defy gravity with a Gyroscope toy?  This toy is aimed at children 6 and over and will help to explain how gravity works as well as being incredibly fun to use.   Investigate further on the internet to find out different ways that gyroscope technology is used in navigational systems in planes, ships and even spacecraft!

Gyroscope Toy

Gyroscope Toy

Plasma balls are not a new toy, but the fact that they have endured the test of time is that they are so much fun.  These mini plasma balls will help older children of 10 and over to understand a little bit more about electricity as they hold their hands on the ball and watch the lightning bolts come towards them.

Mini Plasma Ball

Mini Plasma Ball

Learn all about prisms, color, and light projection with this crystal light prism.  The hand-sized acrylic prism can be used indoors against a blank wall or outdoors on a sunny day to create rainbows.  Suitable for children over 8 years old.

Crystal Light Prism

Crystal Light Prism

 

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Scientific Christmas Present Ideas – Rocks, Crystals and Gemstones

Get your children interested in the natural world this Christmas and help to pique their interest in nature.

Studying rocks, crystals and gemstones can be great fun, understanding how they form, how many millions of years old they may be, and what was on the earth with them at the same time can be fascinating for children of all ages, and adults too!

Unearth the budding paleontologist in your family and help them to learn all about how fossils are formed with this collection of fossils, some of which may be up to 7 million years old!  The fossils are hand selected for their texture, color and overall appearance and could form the start of your child’s interest in the subject.

Fossil  Collection

Fossil Collection

If pretty and sparkly stones are more to your child’s taste, then this collection of gemstones will delight and educate them.  Help them to discover what each stone is called and how it is formed in the natural world, whilst admiring the beauty of each one.

Gemstone Box

Gemstone Box

To further educate your children in the world of gemstones, this book will explain all the different types of precious and semi-precious gemstone found all over the world.

Gemstone Book

Gemstone Book

If you like to conduct science experiments with your children to have fun and further their education, then this mineral kit could be just the stocking filler for you this Christmas.   It contains 15 different minerals, along with a magnifying glass, nail to test for hardness and tile to investigate the color of the powdered residue from the minerals.

Mineral Science Kit

Mineral Science Kit

You don’t need to send your children down the mines to let them see how crystals are extracted from rocks.  This crystal mining kit can be done in the comfort of your own home and children will marvel at how such beautiful crystals can come from such dull looking rocks and stones.

Crystal Mining Kit

Crystal Mining Kit

Speaking of crystals, how about growing one of your own!  This amazing crystal growing kit comes in a variety of colors and you can grow your very own crystal with ease.

Crystal Growing Kit

Crystal Growing Kit

If you want to take your study of rocks and fossils out of the home, then we have books that will help you and your children to locate the best places to find interesting rocks and fossils and how to identify them.

Rock & Fossil Hunter Book

Rock & Fossil Hunter Book

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