Using Field Guides With Your Children
What is that bug? Where do squirrels go in the winter? Is there a difference between a frog and a toad?
If these questions strike fear in your heart as a parent, you aren’t alone. Most of us have little difficulty in identifying everyday animals like a squirrel or an ant. But what about that big yellow and black spider at the corner of the house with a zigzag pattern in its web? Or those black birds with the red slashes on the tops of their wings? Or that tree with leaves shaped like a star? What do you call them, and maybe more importantly, what are they good for?
As parents, we are our children’s first teachers. It’s up to us to help them make sense of the world around them. In today’s complicated urban world, we may be the last generation to have played outside with only the requirement, “Be sure you’re home in time for supper.” Yet, even with our own memories of outdoor play, we may not feel competent to answer more than the most basic questions about bugs, birds, and buds. Fear not - there’s help on the horizon!
A good quality field or nature guide allows you to not only name and identify what you find in the out-of-doors, it can give you the ‘so what’ about them too! Field or nature guides let you know the favorite foods of the animals or the flowering and fruiting times of plants. Color pictures and/or drawings illustrate identifying characteristics and the ‘range map’ of where you can expect to find a particular species of animal or plant. Even pre-readers can use simple, well-illustrated field guides to identify common creatures.
These kinds of guides are available for all sorts of living things, including trees, wildflowers, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects, and even fish and grass. Some of them pack an amazing amount of information in books that are small enough to keep in a pocket or backpack. More in-depth guides for older audiences give additional facts, such as notes on behavior, color phases, offspring, breeding, and more.
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