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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Animal Homes

What is a home? It’s where we live and eat and share our lives with our families. It is certainly more than a house, more than the roof over our heads. As a parent I am conscious of all the things we do to make our house a home; from the family pictures on the walls, the meals we cook, the songs we sing, and the memories we make. My mom always told me that home is where your family is. Over the past few years I have put that definition to good use as we made our new house in California a home.

The actual walls and roof and the windows of a house mean something too. Think about the house you grew up in or your first apartment on your own. You probably don’t live there anymore, but driving by or looking at an old photo can stir up those memories of home. My heart still yearns for our house back east where I brought my babies home for the first time. Home can stay with you for a long time.

But those definitions are different in the animal/science world. When we talk to preschoolers about “animal homes” we are trying to teach them about the different shelters, caves, burrows, nests, etc that animals build or move into. When the boys and I started on our Animal Homes investigation I hadn’t really thought through the semantics of the science we were learning.

As usual, I set up the investigation by asking the boys “Where do different animals live?” Mistake number one. Henry and Leo immediately replied by saying things like in the ocean, in the dessert, and in the jungle. My kids obviously know their habitats. Then I revised my question and asked, “What kind of home does a bird live in?” This time they got caught up on the word “house.” To Henry, a nest doesn’t qualify as a house but it is where a bird lives. So I asked one more time: “What is a bird’s home?” A nest, of course! Then we started looking around the neighborhood for animal homes.

On our front porch we have a spring treasure that a friend gave us. The boys ran to it grab it for our first find on the Animal Homes Scavenger Hunt.

Home1.jpg

Henry and Leo had a hard time coming up with ideas for animal homes until I started naming animals. When I asked about squirrels, Leo said “in a tree.” I had to explain that squirrels made nests like birds for homes. The tree is not the home, the nest is. Then we moved on to spiders. That was an easy one!

Home2.jpg

When I asked them for another animal home, Leo ran across to my neighbor’s garage and found a home for a dog.

Home3.jpg

Technically, a dog crate isn’t a home for a dog. See how things get complicated? Dogs live in houses with us…at least in this culture. But I thought Leo was clever, so I let it count. Then we started talking about ants. We often follow ant trails around the yard, the boys like to see where the ants are going and what “highways” the ants are using. Leo is convinced that ants live in holes under the ground and I think he’s right — at least around here. He found a hole he insists is an ant home.

Home4.jpg

We made our way into a friend’s house across the street. I am taking care of their critters while they are on vacation. Henry was very excited to add the pet rat, Spice, to our animal home list. Spice lives in a cage.

Home5.jpg

I was hesitant to include pets on our lists, but I guess the cage is the rat’s home in this case. I explained how rats like to build nests and gather all kinds of materials to make a home, either in a cage or out in the world.

It was funny how a simple activity got us all thinking about the meanings of the words “house” and “home.” Animals aren’t so different from people in a lot of ways!

Have you tried this activity with your kids? What did you find?


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