We’ve had a good stretch of warm weather here in the east. The Sourland Mountain preserve in central New Jersey is the perfect place for outings in all seasons. Spend enough time there, and you will encounter just about every bit of wildlife NJ has to offer. One end of the preserve is about 3 miles from my door. The trail winds its way after about 20 minutes to a lovely, smelly swamp that is deafening with spring peepers, green, wood, and leopard frogs in the summertime. Now that the warm spring weather has hit, it’s time for a lesson in amphibian metamorphosis!
I timed it just right—the mucky waters were teaming with tadpoles. I don’t think my 4-year-old was too certain what we were doing when I said "Let’s hunt for tadpoles." In an abstract way, he understood that they were baby frogs, but his squeal of glee when I managed to scoop out some in a mason jar we brought along sealed it for him.
It’s one thing to point out the little swimmy frog things when they dart around in the muddy water, but it’s quite another to see them up close nose to nose. One even had the beginnings of back legs! I never realized what a mental jump it is seeing the little bulbous creature and knowing that it will eventually look and live completely different. Developing your kids’ sense of wonder and exploration and thirst for discovery is similar, and it begins in the simplest of forms.
Now is the perfect time to make up your own nature lesson with your geek-progeny. You don’t have to be a naturalist to share in the amazing transformations of springtime. And the long-term psychological benefit you’ll give your kids by allowing them to plow their booted foot into murky, stinky water without trepidation is worth the effort right there. (Disclaimer: No future frogs were injured in the making of this post!)