Science ideas for preschoolers – Part 3: Rock ‘n roll frogs

Learn how to identify frog calls with kids of any age.

This is the third in a series of articles on science activities about the natural world that anyone can conduct with preschoolers. This can be done within a family, in a day-care setting, as part of school activities, or with any group working with preschoolers. Frogs are an important part of the ecosystem and can be identified by their distinctive songs.

There are a dozen species of frogs and toads that live in Michigan. Each of these ambitious amphibians has a song that is unique. Contrary to what you may have learned in kids’ books, none of these critters say “ribbit.” Usually the males are singing, trying to impress the females with their voice. In the spring and early summer, you can listen for the frogs and toads calling (a calendar for average time is available online).

The variety and number of frogs you hear singing can help you determine how healthy the environment is where you live. You can even report your statistics to the Michigan Depart of Natural Resources (DNR).

The songs of all the frogs can be heard on the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center website (note: a Quiktime plugin is required).  

  1. Cricket Frog (acris crepitans blanchardi)
    The Northern Cricket Frog is a rare frog in Michigan. They sing between mid-May and mid-July in a normal year. Their song sounds like tapping two marbles together.
  2. Bull Frog (rana catesbeiana)
    The bull frog is the largest frog in Michigan. They sing in June and July and sound like a very deep “jug o’ rum.”
  3. American Toad (bufo americanus americanus)
    What some consider to be one of the ugliest of our frogs and toads, has one of the prettiest calls. They breed in April and May and their song is a drawn out trill.
  4. Fowler’s Toad (bufo woodhousei fowleri)
    Fowler’s Toad likes the sandy soils on the western side of Michigan. Their call almost signs like a very upset baby crying, “WAAAAAHHHH!” They breed in April and May.
  5. Gray Tree Frog (hyla versicolor and hyla chrysoscelis)
    These tree frogs can change their color to match their surroundings. They have a short trill that can be made by trilling your tongue against roof of your mouth like you are trying to purr, but make the sound higher and louder.
  6. Green Frog (rana clamitans melanota)
    The green most common frog in Michigan and can get quite large. They sound like plucking a rubber band.
  7. Mink Frog (rana septentrionalis)
    The mink frog only lives in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. I think it sounds like tapping on a hollow piece of wood.
  8. Northern Leopard Frog (rana pipiens)
    This spotted frog sounds like a person with a bad snoring problem.
  9. Northern Spring Peeper (pseudacris crucifer crucifer)
    Many people confusing these early spring singers for birds. They are called peepers because they actually peep. Some people say they are singing “knee-deep, knee-deep.”
  10. Pickerel Frog (rana palustris)
    The pickerel frog has a call which sounds like rubbing your thumb over an inflated balloon slowly.
  11. Chorus Frog (pseudacris triseriata triseriata)
    The chorus frog is the first frog I hear in the spring. I often hear it when snow is still on the ground. It sounds like dragging your thumbnail over a comb.
  12. Wood Frog (rana sylvatica)
    The call of the wood frog is one of the most difficult to describe. It sounds like a quiet duck, or it has sometimes been described as “chuck-chuck-chuck.”

Activity: Make a frog band
Using voices or the instruments mentioned above, have the children wear a name tag and pretend to be that frog and sing to their hearts content. You could have the students play leap frog and make their sounds as they are jumped over.

You can also go out in the evening near a wet area (pond, lake or wetland) and see what kids can hear.

For more ideas on teaching science to preschoolers, see these articles:

Science ideas for preschoolers – Part 1: Stream table science

Science ideas for preschoolers – Part 2: Race through the dirt

Science ideas for preschoolers Part 4: Baby birds

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