Top 3 Best Selling Classroom Nature Projects

With the children all back at school or homeschool, it is time to turn our attention to nature projects.

Children can learn so much from nature, but you don’t need to be outside to appreciate nature, some of our live insect and animal kits make it easy to study close-up these amazing creatures in the classroom.

1.  Ant Farms

Ant farms are great for showing just how industrious these little creature really are. Seemingly constantly on the move, ants work together in great harmony and we have a great selection of different ant farms that will enthrall your young students.

Our ant farms are made with either gel or sand so you can see the ants actively digging their tunnels and we include everything you need for your ant viewing pleasure.  This amazing ant farm is a complete eco-system.

Ecosystem Ant Habitat

Ecosystem Ant Habitat

2.  Live Butterfly Kits

Our amazing live butterfly kits can be used all year round – yes, even in Winter!  However, if you choose to study the life cycle of butterflies in the early fall you can release your adult butterflies outdoors so they can enjoy the last dregs of summer.

With different kit sizes available, the live butterfly kit can be used for family fun, homeschool project or a classroom project.

Live Butterfly Kit

Live Butterfly Kit

3. Ladybug Kits

Ask a child what his or her favorite bug is and they will probably say “a ladybug”.  Like the butterfly kits, these live ladybug kits can be used all-year-round, but the adult insects can be released outside if the weather is still warm.

Delight at how the children will rush into the classroom each morning to see how the larvae have grown and whether they can see the emergence of wings yet.  It takes around two to three weeks for the larvae to turn into adult ladybugs, plenty of time for children to learn about their life cycle, before their interest starts to wane.

Ladybug Kit

Live Ladybug Kit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Homeschool Projects, Live Animal Kits, Live Ant Farms, Live Butterfly Kit, Live Ladybug kits | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips for Brilliant Flower Pressing

At the moment in the height of summer we can enjoy all the wonderful colors and scents our gardens are producing. But, wouldn’t it be wonderful to take some of those amazing colors and shapes and preserve them forever?

Flower pressing is incredibly simple and you can create some amazing piece of arts using the blooms from your own backyard. It is an excellent pastime for adults and children alike and you can achieve some amazing results if you take the time to find the right blooms.

Pressed Flower Kit

Pressed Flower Kit

Pick the Flowers at the Right Time

Just before the buds are due to open or as soon as they have opened is the best time to pick flowers for pressing. At this time their colors will be at their best and the petals won’t have been damaged by weather.

Pick flowers either in the morning once the dew has dried or in the evening. Don’t keep the flowers for too long after picking before you press them as they will quickly start to wilt and will be easily damaged, ideally you want to press them as soon as possible.

Which Flowers to Press?

Any flowers and foliage can be pressed, but some work better than others. As a rule, flatter, single layers flowers such as violets, pansies, sweet peas and geraniums than roses and other multi-tier petal flowers. These flowers can be pressed but the process will take longer as they will need more time to dry out.

If you want to press a variety of different flowers and leaves, ensure that you press like for like flowers together to ensure they all dry thoroughly.

If the flower has a stamen you might want to remove it as the pollen could stain the rest of the flowers.

How Long to Press For?

Different types of flowers take longer to dry out, but single-tier petal flowers usually take around 2 weeks, and multi-petal blooms around 4 weeks before fully dry.

To help the process along, placing tissue paper between the flowers and then replacing the paper after about a week will help draw out the moisture quicker, but take care when handling the flowers at this delicate stage.

What to do With Your Pressed Flowers

The flowers and leaves once pressed and dried can be used in many way. They can be used to adorn vases and other ceramics and then carefully coated with a clear varnish.

They can be used to make pictures, collages and greeting cards.

Once you’ve created your masterpiece, ensure that you keep it out of direct sunlight and humid conditions, that way you can enjoy it for years to come.

We sell a lovely pressed flower kit that includes everything you need to both press the flowers and make wonderful creations.  All you need to do is collect some flowers.

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Encouraging Children Away from Electronic Gadgets

Whilst tablets, ipads and other gaming devices can be extremely useful and sometimes educational toys to play with – particularly so when you know you’ll have a long wait in the doctor’s office or a long car journey— we all know that children need to have boundaries set on how long they can play with them for.

The easiest way to avoid the temper tantrums and sulks when you ask your child to switch off the device is to have a clear plan of what they should do instead. Here are just a few ideas for encouraging children to put down their electronics and do something else instead…

Playing Outside

Create a safe environment outside for them to play in. We know it’s not practical to supervise your children every minute of the day, so if you know that your child can play outside safely while you complete a few chores around the house or yard then everyone is happy.

If you can play outside with them then all the better, take the time to introduce them to classic games that you used to play as a child such as hopscotch or jump rope so they get plenty of exercise as well as fresh air.

Make your garden a haven for wildlife such as butterflies and ladybugs to help pique your child’s interest in nature from an early age.

Educational Toys

Invest in some educational toys such as science toys, models or jigsaw puzzles that can help your child learn whilst they play. Where possible leave them to complete the models and puzzles on their own, only stepping in when they find something difficult, that way they can really revel in their own achievements.

Moving Scorpion Model Kit

Moving Scorpion Model Kit

Picking models and puzzles that are based on geography or nature is a fantastic way of expanding their learning world.

Arts and Crafts

Encourage creativity. From simple coloring in for younger children, to painting pictures and writing stories for older children most children love to be creative. Set them a nature project where they have to draw different animals and learn about their lives.

Watch what you throw in the garbage, can that box, carton or tube be used for a fun craft project? Having a large box full of colorful items that would normally be thrown away can help to make great collages or models.

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Ten Things You Might Not Know About Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs may dive for cover in their shells if they feel frightened or nervous, but they are in fact sociable little creatures and prefer the company of other hermit crabs than being alone.  They can live in very large colonies in the wild.

Hermit Crab

Hermit Crab

If provided with a comfortable habitat and are well cared for, hermit crabs can live for anything from five to fifteen years.

Hermit Crab Kit

Hermit Crab Kit

Hermit crabs don’t have their own shells; in fact their shell has been stolen from a sea snail!  They will need larger shells as they grow so you will need to provide an assortment of sizes as your hermit crabs grow, otherwise they may take a fancy to one of their friend’s shells and try to steal it!

Hermit Crabs are nocturnal, something to consider if you were planning on putting the habitat in one of your children’s bedrooms.

There is over 600 different types of hermit crabs, most of which live in the ocean.  Land hermit crabs are better for keeping as pets as it’s easier to recreate their habitat.

hermit_crab2

Hermit crabs like to dig, climb and explore.  Hermit crabs are inquisitive creatures so therefore need some stimuli in the habitat.  Pieces of bark, plenty of sand, gravel or coconut fiber to dig into and some friends to play with are essential.

Hermit Crabs do not like chlorine.  You must use special drops that remove the chlorine from your water for cleaning the habitat and providing drinking water for your hermit crabs.

They enjoy a varied diet.  Whilst you can buy specially formulated hermit crab food from pet stores and online, your hermit crab can also be fed fresh fruit and vegetables that have been cleaned in non-chlorinated water.  They will also happily snack on tuna fish and small pieces of meat.

3806-hermit-crab-l

 

Hermit crabs drink by dipping their claws into the water and then catching the drips in their mouths.

Hermit crabs need a lot of attention and looking after therefore they do not make ideal pets for very small children, or those who don’t feel ready for the responsibility involved.

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Fun Froggy Facts

If you’re considering purchasing a pet frog or a live tadpole kit, you might want to know some fun facts about your new friends.  Frogs make great pets for children and adults alike, and learning all about their life cycle is a great introduction to the wonderful world of nature.

Live Tadpole Kit

Live Tadpole Kit

Frogs are amphibian which means they can live in water and on land.  They are born in water and the first part of their lives as a tadpole is completely in water.

A frog will shed its skin around once a week.  It will then eat the dead layer of skin!

A group of frogs is called an army!

Frogs use their eyeballs to help them swallow food; they push their eyeballs down into the roof of their mouths to help the food go down their throats.

Red Eyed Frog

Red Eyed Frog

Frogs only have teeth on their upper jaws and are used to keep prey in place when eating rather than biting.

Frogs take on water by soaking it through their skin rather than drinking it.

They also breathe through their skins as well, but they do also have nostrils that take in around half the air they need.

Common pond frogs are ready to mate when they reach 3 years old.

Tomato Frog

Tomato Frog

Frogs use their very long tongues to catch food.  And they are super-fast at it!

Frogs never close their eyes, not even when sleeping!

Frogs have amazing all-round vision, they can see ahead, sideways and upwards all at the same time.

Only male frogs croak; which they use to attract female frogs and warn off other males.

Frogs need to be around a water source so they can keep their skin cool in warm weather.

The largest frog in the world is called a Goliath frog and is around a foot long and weighs about 7 pounds. 

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Posted in Live Tadpole Kit, Pet Frogs | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Reasons to Teach Your Children about Nature

There are many reasons why you should spend some time with your children to teach them about the wonder of nature.

Get them to love the great outdoors

Nowadays children spend far too much time watching TV, playing video games or glued to a hand-held electronic device.  Getting them out into the open air – even if it’s raining, is a great way to get them to fall in love with outdoors.

Spending more time outside will make your child fitter and more active, increase their imagination and learn just how amazing nature can be.   Not to mention create meaningful memories that will outlast any video game.

Don’t be afraid to go out in all weathers, there is so much to see in different weather conditions, and so long as your children are wrapped up against cold or smothered in sunscreen they won’t come to any harm.   And let them get dirty!

Appreciate the beauty of nature

Beauty comes in many different shapes and forms – whether it’s a pretty spring flower or the intricate pattern on a snail’s shell.  Foster your child’s interest in nature from a young age and they will continue to love nature as they get older.

Pink spotted ladybugs

Pink Spotted Ladybugs

Teaching respect for their environment

From not dropping garbage, to realizing the importance of recycling, children who love nature will have the utmost respect for the environment.  They will understand that man’s actions could have serious consequences and that they have the power in them to change things.

For health and vitality

Children who regularly get to explore nature outside are less likely to be obese and suffer from depression.

All the senses are activated when outside; sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste under careful parental supervision.  It is a truly absorbing experience and each time they venture out they can explore somewhere new or come across a new creature or plant they find fascinating.

Spend quality time as a family

Painted Lady Caterpillar

Painted Lady Caterpillar

You don’t need to spend mega-bucks to enjoy a great family day out.  A trip to the woods or nature trail should only cost you the price of a picnic for a memorable experience.

Spending time together as a family exploring nature and discovering the joys of outside is beneficial to all members of the family, and indeed everyone can learn something new each trip.

Creating a nature based home project over the summer is a great way to spend some quality time together as well as educate your children.  Our live insect kits are great fun and really allow your children to get up close and personal to creature they would only get to catch briefly outdoors.

Once the insects become adults they can be released in your backyard or local nature spot.

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Unique Pets for Classrooms and Homeschool Learning

While we know that many classrooms and homeschoolers have pet rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs, we here at Nature Gift Store think that teachers and homeschoolers could look at alternative pets that will help their students to learn about the different types of wildlife and the biodiversity of the earth.

Choosing insects or reptiles as pets may seem like an unusual choice, but fostering the interest in these types of creatures early is a great way to ensure children are not afraid of insects and reptiles later in life.

Insects play a very important role in the ecosystem – both in terms of providing food for larger creatures and also keeping plant destroying insects at bay.  Ladybugs are a prime example of a helpful insect in the garden.

Live Ladybug KIt

Live Ladybug Kit

In addition, some insects such as worms help to aerate the soil and break down waste material into valuable and much needed compost.

Worm Farming Kit

Worm Farming Kit

Learning about insects and reptiles can be tailored so that it is age appropriate, but insects and reptiles make ideal classroom pets from kindergarten age up to high school age.

Live insect kits are perfect for teaching children about their amazing and unique life cycles. Butterflies and ladybugs, and even tadpoles, can make learning about nature fun and give children a unique opportunity to see one of the most spectacular transformations up close and personal.

2501-grow-a-frog-kit-l

Live Tadpole Kit

However, other interesting creatures can be kept happily for years as classroom pets, such as frogs, hermit crabs, ants, worms, and sea monkeys, all offering a different learning experience and a chance to befriend a fascinating and curious creature.

Hermit Crabs

Hermit Crabs

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Summer Fun with Ladybugs

If there was to be an insect which epitomizes summer, it would have to be the ladybug. Its bright red body, black spots and dainty wings makes it a favorite garden buddy for children of all ages, and keen gardeners also!

Pink spotted ladybugs

Pink Spotted Ladybugs

Not only are these little bugs super cute to look at, but they are also great for the garden as they munch on aphids and other plant eating bugs and insect eggs.

Encouraging ladybugs to your backyard is easy—ensure that there are plenty of plants and particularly early spring blooming flowers that will give a good source of nectar and pollen- and aphids!  If you want ladybugs to be regular visitors, then investing in a ladybug house will offer them shelter from wind and rain and also give them somewhere safe to over-winter meaning you’ll have them visiting very early the following year.

Ladybug House

Red Roof Ladybug House

However, you don’t need to have a backyard to enjoy ladybugs. Our live ladybug kits let you watch these amazing creatures up close and personal. In addition, you also get to study the life cycle of the ladybug from larva to fully grown adult.

The live ladybug kit is a great homeschool tool to aid with nature studies, and can also be used in classrooms for a longer, in-depth science and nature project using the library and the internet to further the study into the ladybug life cycle.

Now is the perfect time to buy a live ladybug kit. The entire lifecycle from larva to adult bug takes around two to three weeks and it is fascinating to watch this rapid transformation happen right in front of you.

Ladybug Kit

Live Ladybug Kit

Once your ladybugs have reached adulthood you can release them into your backyard, school garden or local green area where they can enjoy the rest of their life providing it is above 55º and below 85º.

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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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