Here is a fun guest article about exploring nature and nurturing early science skills for kids, by raising snails at home!
My name is Katie Norris and I so thrilled to be guest-posting for the amazing Anna! I am the co-author of The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn. I also write the blog Mommy With Selective Memory where we focus on easy learning activities and lots of fun playing.
There was a time when I could never get any dishes or cleaning done around the house because my daughter was constantly running up to me and screaming, “Mommy! There is a spider! Come look!” Usually the spider was dead or it was really just an old web or even a little piece of lint so I decided I needed to cure her of this fear of insects and bugs. I bought a magnifying glass and we spent a wonderful afternoon in the sun, inspecting anything that moved. She suddenly became the world’s greatest connoisseur of bugs, insects, even spiders and she has a new wish for her birthday: a pet in a jar. I will admit that so far I have taken my time with this request. I have enough trouble sleeping as it is, without worrying about spiders escaping from their jars in the middle of the night.
However, Susan Case is a former Kindergarten teacher and the co-author of my book, and in our chapter about science, she recommends: “Help grow a scientist with simple tools such as magnets, a magnifying glass, net, bug box, and labeled collections. Let children get messy with water, dirt, mud puddles, and sand. Easy-to-care for pets include a goldfish in a bowl, an outdoor cat, or wild birds.” I have to admit that I love the idea of having a little scientist around the house, so, last weekend we were visiting my in-laws and while we were playing outside in the morning, my daughter was thrilled almost to tears with the sight of…a snail. Actually, there were tons of them. My mother-in-law explained that for some reason they had an abundance of snails in their area and apparently they tend to eat up all their plants. See all those holes in the leaves?
So I decided this was a great time for her little pet. We found a jar and my daughter gathered up her 2 favorite snails (don’t worry, there were dozens more around their patio so we weren’t injuring an extinct species.) Now, I have to admit that I know next to nothing about snails. Normally we would go to the library and get a book to educate ourselves on something new, but since we were just visiting and our time was limited, I decided to take this opportunity to teach my four year old about Wikipedia! We looked up snails and found out all kinds of things about them. For example, did you know that snails typically live for 15 years? Oops! I guess we now have some long-term pets! My daughter really enjoyed seeing all the photos of snails that we found on the Internet and we learned that snails really like water and are more active at night.