Make Way for Ducklings

If you live in Boston with kids, you've read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. This beautiful story is a great celebration of wildlife in the city, the Boston Public Garden, and the infamous swan boats. If you haven't taken a ride -- put it on your to-do list!

Everyone loves the duck statues, and even as by kids get bigger they love to stop and climb on them for a few minutes!

We also listed to an amazing CD of an orchestra and reading of "Make Way for Ducklings," narrated by Ted Kennedy, now available on amazon

One spring, we went to the Public Garden and noticed a duck on a large nest, sitting on eggs! The city had fenced off the area, to allow for privacy and protection. While observing the duck on the nest, my son said, "Ducks are not mammals." My daughter replied, "Nope! They don't give live birth!"

When we got home, we wrote down his comment and made lists, classifying animals into "mammals" and "not mammals."

Later in the week, we pulled out our mural paper and a beautiful sticker book my son received as a birthday gift. We used the images to categorize and then graph animals, expanding with reptiles, birds, fish...: 

Meanwhile, we looked for ducks and swans all over the city!

At the Museum of Science - models of ducks

At the Museum of Science - models of ducks

Now at the MFA -- until June 18 - there's a lovely gallery about Robert McCloskey and his artwork. We are such fans of his books - Make Way for Ducklings, obviously, and Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine have found permanent spots in our reading rotation. 


And we can't wait until those eggs hatch in the Public Garden this year!

Fall in the Public Garden

We are so lucky to have the Public Garden.  It is lovely in every season, but especially in the Fall.  Taking a stroll through it these days, you can hear all types of instruments - yesterday it was a fife that echoed beautifully to every corner and see the amazing and vibrant colors of the changing leaves.   


If you look up, you might see a Falcon perched on a branch.  My daughter spotted this one watching a squirrel.  A few people gathered around to gaze at it and then it took flight.  

What is your favorite part of the Public Garden?

Historic Home Tours: Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

Our last historic home is the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury.  The grounds, the farm and the grandeur of the home all make it worth the drive north.  We packed a picnic and spent two hours on the property.  We took a tour of the home, went on a short hike, pet the farm animals, played soccer, jumped rope and played frisbee.  It was the most relaxing day in a beautiful historic setting.


All of the animals on the farm were rescued and now are living out the remainder of their lives on the farm.  The farm works together with a nearby animal rescue facility to care for and provide and a wonderful home for these animals.  There are so many different types of farm animals all living peacefully together.  We couldn't get enough of them all and will definitely go back to visit.

My daughter participated in a horseback riding camp over the summer and so she really got along with the older horse.  My son really took to a little black goat who he named "Batman" while we were there.  We also met a sheep, a donkey and a couple of huge pigs.

The house tour was really low key (we were the only ones there) and so we went at our own pace and got to check out some cool artifacts like an old phone.

The gorgeous tree-lined driveway was the perfect place to jump rope.  And, next to driveway was an enormous field which was perfect for playing frisbee.

Plum Island is minutes from the house and has the most beautiful beaches.  Also, if you have time stop in Newburyport.  We love going because it's such a quaint little town.  Check out our earlier post before you go: Getaway to Newburyport.

We'd love to hear from you if you get there!

Squam Lake Natural Science Center

If you're looking for a day trip from Boston to explore nature, we recommend a visit to the Squam Lake Natural Science Center in Holderness, New Hampshire. It's a beautiful trail with rescued animals, thoughtful and interactive displays, and beautiful exhibits. They have bobcats, mountain lions, deer, owls, eagles, bears, and so much more! It's worth a visit in the summer, fall, or spring! 

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Birds of a Feather...

A couple of years ago, a friend asked my daughter to participate in a birding fundraiser he was doing.  I never knew that birding could be for kids, but ever since then, we have been more attuned to these opportunities for children. Check out the programs and activities around birds at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln. 

Inspired by our interest in birds, we decided to make "migration gifts" for birds last fall. Using an idea and recipe we got from our friends at Charlestown Nursery School, we made a mixture of: 2 packets of gelatin dissolved in 2/3 cup boiling water + 2 cups of wild bird seed. We pressed the mixture into cookie cutters, used a straw to poke a hole for stringing, and put in the fridge for one hour. Then, we let them dry overnight. 

This summer, we've been welcoming the birds back home and counting the number of different species we find around our home. We are inspired to make different kinds of feeders, and we just bought these great binoculars to observe birds close up!

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
— Chinese Proverb

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Dairy Days

We've been talking a lot lately about where our food comes from. We don't drink a lot of cows milk, as I like to mix it up with nut and coconut milks. But my kids do love cheese, yogurt, and ice cream! We went on an adventure to Great Brook Farm in Carlisle to explore their "smart barn."

Observing the animals at Great Brook Farm

Observing the animals at Great Brook Farm

The "robot" that milks the cows -- each cow has a chip that tells the computer the size and shape of her utters, and the robot arm hooks up and milks each cow for 6 minutes, 3-4 times each day. 

The "robot" that milks the cows -- each cow has a chip that tells the computer the size and shape of her utters, and the robot arm hooks up and milks each cow for 6 minutes, 3-4 times each day. 

Inside of the "Smart Barn"

Inside of the "Smart Barn"

The milk storage - it is picked up every-other day by the Family Cooperative and sold to a larger processing plant. 

The milk storage - it is picked up every-other day by the Family Cooperative and sold to a larger processing plant. 

The baby cows live outside in individual pens.

The baby cows live outside in individual pens.

Great Brook is a small New England farm; it was neat to see the robot milking and their Smart Barn up close. The more we know about where our food comes from, the better choices we can make!

The next day, we went to Appleton Farms in Ipswich (Read more about Ipswich in our "Getaway" post!). It's the oldest continuously working farm in America. They have a huge CSA program, a large dairy cow operation, and a beautiful country store with their own milk and lots of local products. We were too late for the farm tour, but they have lots of family programs and cooking workshops that we will go back to check out. In the store, we bought some local honey and a cheese making kit! We made mozzarella the following afternoon - all it takes with the kit is a gallon of whole milk. 



Making cheese balls and logs - it became more solid and formed after the ice bath!

Making cheese balls and logs - it became more solid and formed after the ice bath!

Our conversations about cows, milk, cheese, and dairy reminded us of a stop we made last year at Stonyfield Farms in Londonderry, NH. While they no longer allow factory tours, we enjoyed their store/Visitor's Center and peeking inside of the large windows at the factory. We love their yogurt and we stocked up on flavors that are hard to find at our local Whole Foods. It's worth checking out if you're on Interstate 93, on the way to or from New Hampshire!

Later, we got to practice milking cows at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence.

As luck would have it, later on in the summer we were on vacation in the midwest and learned about a working dairy farm. We went for a tour and learned how milk was pasteurized and made into cheese.

milk processing .jpg

Sometimes, the best connections are spontaneous! 

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Head to Drumlin Farm's Dairy Day this Saturday, June 11!

Animals: Machines in Motion

We are so lucky to live near the Museum of Science.  The newest temporary exhibit, Animals: Machines in Motion, which was developed by The Field Museum in Chicago, is simply fantastic.  There are so many hands-on exhibits that use math and science to show how animal bodies work and move.  My kids loved it and are begging to go back.


We had never thought about the way a cheetah runs before.  It's a pattern called the rotary gallop that other animals like horses also use.  My son was enthralled with this video and played it over and over (as well as backwards!).  The video we took is of him counting the separate steps to get a better idea of the coordination these animals use to run.

My daughter wore herself out pumping this giraffes blood.  We were able to learn to about blood pressure as well as some interesting facts about giraffes.

All of these living things have evolved into a similar dome shape to protect themselves.  We were impressed by the array and now notice this shape all the time in our everyday lives.

We love the Field Museum in Chicago and were so happy to see our favorite dinosaur, Sue, in Boston.

We had fun experimenting with this infrared camera.  My son held up his shirt to see if his stomach was warmer than his shirt.  We held onto one of my daughter's braids to warm it up and by doing so changed it to different color than the rest of her hair.  We also grabbed a piece of paper and blew on it to see it change color as it warmed up.

My kids really enjoyed pretending to be birds.  They had fun trying out the two different wings to get a sense of flying.  Check out the video of my daughter spinning herself around and around with the smaller wing.

This exhibit is only temporary and we highly recommend getting to the Museum of Science at least once to see it!

Animal Tracks

Last winter, we loved taking walks to look for animal tracks. With so much fresh snow continuously falling, almost everyday provided new opportunities to go out and explore. 

We found a few great books to help us identify tracks, and we noticed our own boot prints in the snow. Then, back at it this summer, we discovered tracks in the sand at the beach...

My son was intrigued by his own footprints and the patterns of the birds. We stamped his footprint and then used stamps to investigate other animal print shapes. While not to scale, he loved noticing the toenails and patterns!

Inspired by a new interest looking for evidence that an animal has been near, he noticed marks on a tree while on a hike... looks like we will be getting books on beavers at the library this week!

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Roger Williams Park Zoo

One of our favorite day trips is the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island.  If you are a Museum of Science member, admission to this zoo is free!  

The animals come right up close to eat.  It's amazing to watch them eat their meals.

We were really able to study the stripes on this zebra.


The zoo also has a huge natural playground that inspires children to be creative in their play.  If your children love these types of playgrounds, check out our earlier post on natural playgrounds.


 One last tip, bring your bathing suits because there is a water element as well.  Enjoy!

Terrific Turtles

Our family was recently spending time near a lake and my son spotted a tiny painted turtle on the bank.  My kids were so fascinated by this turtle that we hung out with him all day.  We built a nest for the turtle in a shallow dish and included rocks, leaves and water from the lake. At the end of the day we set the turtle free feeling sad but also excited to learn about our new friend.


Turtles were on our mind so we headed to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see the shell of a gigantic freshwater turtle.  To think that we were holding a turtle in our hand earlier in the week!

Later that week we walked over the Boston Public Library in our neighborhood and checked out a few books on painted turtles.  We also have plans to head to the New England Aquarium to visit Myrtle the Turtle and learn about sea turtles as well.  The staff at the aquarium hosts feeding times to see Myrtle eat and also learn a bit about her.  

Image Credit: The New England Aquarium

Image Credit: The New England Aquarium

The Aquarium also has a presentation on turtles with hands on experiments for kids.  We were able to learn the length of a few sea turtles and compare ourselves to them.  

We took a trip to the Museum of Science to check out the turtles in the Live Animal exhibit.  The staff is so helpful and willing to answer any questions.

We also had a longer than normal visit to the Tortoise and the Hare statues in Copley Square while we were stocking up at the Farmer's Market.  While climbing all over them, we started discussing some of the new facts that we have learned about turtles.  Do you like to visit any of these spots?  Or, maybe you've found more turtles in Boston?  Please share!


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The Tortoise & the Hare
By Jerry Pinkney
All About Turtles
By Jim Arnosky
By Mary Pope Osborne, Natalie Pope Boyce

B is for Butterfly

Last Spring, I took my children to the Museum of Science on a rainy day.  We had three free passes to a 3-D movie and so decided to watch a documentary on monarch butterflies.  We were so amazed at the journey these little butterflies made throughout the year!  We went straight from the movie to the butterfly garden with a new appreciation for these beautiful bugs.

An outdoor butterfly garden we like to visit is at the Boston Nature Center.  Every April the BNC participates in a statewide volunteer day to spruce up much of their property and the butterfly garden is included.  After getting our hands dirty in their garden, we decided to order some of our own milkweed seeds (a plant that monarch butterflies need to survive) and plant it in our urban garden.

Another butterfly garden we found is along the Southwest Corridor near the Mass Ave T stop.  The corridor is a great place to practice bike riding and spotting lots of city butterflies.

The Butterfly Place in Westford, MA is a quick trip, and it's such fun to be in a large room surrounded by butterflies. Our favorite part was the "butterfly nursery" where you can watch them hatching!  Another day trip I have planned is to Magic Wings in Deerfield, MA.  If you happen to go or know of other places we can study these beautiful creatures, please let us know!

At home, we invested in a butterfly garden and are watching our caterpillars grow so we can experience their magical metamorphosis first-hand. We are excited to (soon) transfer them to the butterfly house, watch them form their chrysalises, and then eventually transfer them to the outdoors!

After growing our own butterflies, we thought it would be important to help them survive.  A wonderful organization we found that supports the life of butterflies is the National Wildlife Federation Butterfly Heroes. Your children can join with other families and become Butterfly Heroes to receive a free Butterfly Garden Starter Packet which includes seeds, an observation notebook as well as a poster and stickers.

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Visiting an Animal Shelter

As part of our month of simple ideas to do for others, we visited the animals at the Animal Rescue League on Chandler Street in the South End.  Someday we will adopt a pet of our own, but until we are ready, we find others ways to pet and play with our four footed friends.  We have a tradition of donating items on the ARL's wish list around the holidays.  We read the list together and my kids decide what they'd like to donate.  The next time we are at the grocery store, we pick up the times on our list.

We always get plenty of peanut butter to make sure the dogs get a tasty treat.  After choosing a few squeaky toys, some kitty treats and getting a couple of items on our own list, we all help to check out.


On our way home from school a few days later, we dropped by the ARL.  Both kids were able to give a bag of needed items to the shelter.  

Next we visited and played with the animals.  My son was letting this kitten take his mitten off again and again.  I'm not sure who was having more fun, my son or the kitten!

My daughter enjoyed chatting with the dogs and giving them a few treats.  

Another way to donate is to let your kids choose from ARL's Amazon Wish List.  

Do you have a favorite animal shelter to visit?

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The Perfect Pet
By Margie Palatini

For older kids....

Hey, Little Ant
By Phillip M. Hoose, Hannah Hoose, Debbie Tilley
By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Starring Rod Steiger, Scott Wilson, Bonnie Bartlett