We’re Going on a (Backyard) Safari!

Spring has finally sprung! In New England, that means that nice weather is (hopefully) here to stay and we can all enjoy the great outdoors. It also means that you can observe wildlife galore enjoying the spring sunshine, too. Luckily, our friends over at the Museum of Science, Boston Children’s Museum, and Zoo New England have created some fabulous resources for your family’s flora and fauna explorations.

A great place to start your backyard safari is by listening to the Museum of Science’s Pulsar: A Podcast episode on “Observing Wildlife in Your Backyard.” Biologist Colleen Hitchcock of Brandeis University offers tips and tricks for observing and identifying wildlife that you may see around your house. It is also particularly helpful for observing nature in more urban or highly populated areas, as this episode was originally broadcast as a resource for the City Nature Challenge at the end of April. Be sure to also check out some of their fantastic Family STEM Activities, especially Outdoor Explorers and Ecosystem Exploration, and the Museum’s guides to bird flight pattern identification and butterfly watching for more great activities and ideas for exploring nature in your backyard!

The Boston Children’s Museum also has some wonderful activities designed to get kids outside and in touch with nature. In their Activities Archive, you can find resources for getting creative and going on a National Geographic Neighborhood Safari or Nature Scavenger Hunt. The Museum’s Beyond the Chalkboard educational resource site also includes many great ideas for exploring nature, including how to figure out what wildlife shares your habitat.

Finally, head over to Zoo New England for a wide-array of ideas to connect with nature. Learn how to turn your backyard into a certified wildlife habitat or build a habitat for your favorite animal (if your favorite creature is a butterfly, use their guide to creating a butterfly garden). For the birdwatchers out there, check out the Zoo’s guide to birding in your own backyard, and how to make a bird feeder for your feathered friends. For even more fun, their Kid’s Corner site has lots of awesome nature-inspired activities, including instructions on how to identify trees through touch!

And, of course, we’ve got you covered for all of your bird-watching, butterfly-garden-building, and backyard-exploring reading needs — all free, with your library card, through our Overdrive/Libby and hoopa e-collections:

Pamela Hickman’s Nature All Around series: Trees, Plants, and Bugs

Counting Birds by Heidi E.Y. Stemple

My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valério

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jaqueline Davies

Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons

Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben

Winged Wonders by Meeg Pincus

Common Critters: The Wildlife in Your Neighborhood by Pat Brisson

Kids in the Kitchen: A Curated Collection of Cookbooks and Activities to do at Home

Our friends at the Boston Children’s Museum, the Museum of Science, and Institute of Contemporary Art have been hard at work creating fun and educational STEAM content that you can do at home, even in the kitchen. We’ve rounded up the best-of-the-best kitchen science activities for the whole family to try!

Watch Boston Children’s Museum’s Kitchen Science for Kids YouTube series, which includes how-to videos on making butter, composting with kitchen scraps, and fermenting your own veggies. Their Beyond the Chalkboard site is another great resource for food-related activities, from becoming an effective food detective, to designing a healthy dip for fruits and veggies, to making art with food. Be sure to also check out their daily activity archive for more wonderful and engaging content! 

At the Museum of Science, learn about acids and bases using blueberries and other ingredients in your kitchen! Take a peek at their #MOSatHome page for even more fun family STEM activities, virtual exhibits, and presentations (including a snake taking a bath!). 

And over at the Institute of Contemporary Art, check out their guide for eco-dyeing fabric for crafting using fruit and veggie scraps and other kitchen materials. Interested in more great activities? Their Art Lab at home has everything from DIY flip books to virtual quilts (maybe made with all that fabric you just eco-dyed).

After you’ve tried these awesome activities, work on those kitchen and nutrition skills with this curated list of cookbooks for junior chefs:

On hoopla:

Stir Crack Whisk Bake: A Little Book about Little Cakes by America’s Test Kitchen

This interactive board book walks little bakers through making the tiniest of sweet treats — cupcakes!

Plant, Cook, Eat!: A Children’s Cookbook by Joe Archer & Caroline Craig

This cookbook takes you from the garden to the kitchen with handy tips & tricks for starting a kitchen garden and how to turn your harvest into healthy, delicious, kid-friendly meals.

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Liz Lee Heinecke 

Using basic kitchen ingredients, everyone from toddlers to big kids can whip up these exciting experiments at home!

On Libby:

Cooking Class by Deanna F. Cook

Designed for 6- to 12-year-olds, this instructive cookbook teaches budding mini chefs basic kitchen techniques and over 50 yummy recipes.

National Geographic Kids Cookbook by Barton Seaver

Part craft and activity book, part how-to and cookbook, master chef Barton Seaver’s National Geographic Kids Cookbook teaches you how to start a kitchen garden, host a family cooking competition, and everything in between.

On hoopla & Libby:

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids

From the pros at America’s Test Kitchen come over 750 kid-tested and approved recipes for all skill levels with the goal of empowering young chefs to feel confident in the kitchen.

On Overdrive and hoopla

The Forest Feast for Kids by Erin Gleeson 

*a hoopla Bonus Borrow through today

This colorful cookbook includes the most kid-friendly recipes from the vegetarian hit The Forest Feast