Family fun in the snow and with snow – Part 2: Tracks in the snow

Children can explore wildlife tracks while playing in the snow.

Winter is here and the ground either is, or will be, covered with snow. This is a perfect time to bundle up your kids and take them outside for some winter family fun. While your children are enjoying building a snowman, making snow angels, catching snow flakes or just simply are having fun playing in the snow, you can easily weave some science activities into your outdoor winter adventure. Michigan State University Extension recommends to ask many open ended questions to stimulate your children’s critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills.

This is the second article in a series about family fun in the snow. This article will focus on discovering and exploring wildlife tracks in the snow.

While you are outside, have your children find wildlife tracks in the snow. They are best visible in snow that is not too deep  and not too fluffy. If you are in your back yard, you may find tracks from your dog, or the neighbor’s cat, from various birds, or maybe a squirrel. If you are in a local or state park you may find tracks from a variety of wildlife and birds. Children will enjoy exploring these tracks. Ask them to compare the size and shape of the tracks they found to their own tracks. Ask them how many toes they can count on each paw print; can they discover claw prints? Which imprints are from front feet, and which prints are from back feet? How do they differ from each other? Did the animal travel by itself, or with companions? Have your children take a guess: did the animal run or walk? What was it doing? Following the paw prints will give you many clues about the identity of the animal. You may want to have your children take a picture of the tracks or have them make a sketch of the tracks in a journal. Adding a date and the location where the tracks were found, such as back yard fence line, edge of woods in county park or close to backyard compost pile will help give some clues about the habitat. Later go to your local library and help your children find a book to identify the tracks and to learn more about the animals.

Your children will not only enjoy being outside and playing in the snow, but they will also be introduced to some basic concepts of science.

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