Today’s post comes from MacGregor Point Provincial Park, courtesy of Discovery Program Leader Matt Cunliffe.
Longer days provide additional hours of outdoor play and provide the perfect opportunity to explore our trails with the kids.
So put on some comfy clothes and head to your favorite park (bonus: spring means a lot less work getting the little ones ready for a hike!).
Absorbing the sounds, sights and smells of the environment around you, now awakening from its winter slumber, is a wonderful experience to share and an opportunity to learn with your family. Spring is the season of rebirth and renewal. It seems appropriate to learn about new signs of spring, or even new aspects of the most traditional ones.
Here are five fun ways kids can celebrate the new season:
Find the robin
The American robin has long been an icon of the imminent arrival of spring, and hearing its call is enough to warm the spirits. Learning your call (cheerfully, cheer up, cheer up, cheerfully) of the other spring migrants is good practice for those beginning to develop their birding skills.
Play a game about who can spot the robin first or who can tell it apart by ear.
Practice your bird songs
From the evening song of soaring gulls to the melody of the white-throated sparrow, learn some of the songs of our migratory feathered friends and find your favorite sign of spring. Mine is the red-winged blackbird…a sure sign that spring is on the way!
This very widespread and talkative bird will shout (kon-ka-reeeeee!) from a multitude of humid or bushy habitats. Once you’ve mastered a few different bird calls, challenge kids to “name that bird” as a fun addition to walking a trail.
Beware of turtles
Melting snow reveals a lot. One of my favorite sights is the lazy gaze of a turtle sunning itself on a rock (a great example that we’re not the only ones who enjoy the warm energy of our sun!).
Four northern map turtles resting in the river
Turtles are ectothermic, meaning they need heat from their environment to regulate their body temperature. These ancient shelled creatures bask in the sunshine after spending months hibernating under the winter ice that covers their wetlands.
Find woodpecker holes
But what happens if you are not near a wetland? We’re not always there to see wildlife firsthand. But with a good eye you will begin to recognize the evidence that remains.
Woodpeckers create deep rectangular cavities to access the wood-boring insects inside.
As the temperature continues to rise, the evidence will increase. Look for fresh woodpecker holes in diseased or decaying trees.
Each Ontario woodpecker leaves a different mark when it feeds, from the small, toonie-sized holes of the Downy Woodpecker to the surprisingly large rectangular cavities created by the Pileated Woodpecker (Ontario’s largest woodpecker).
Breathe in the spring aromas.
Spring rains bring fresh aromas almost forgotten during the cold and dry winter. This time of year is a great reminder to take a break from the ever-increasing speed of our daily lives and literally stop and smell the roses (well, the roses won’t bloom for a few months yet, but it’s still a Good practice!).
Instead, stop and smell one of my favorite spring scents: Balsam Poplar. This seemingly unexceptional deciduous tree produces fragrant leaf buds that survive the winter.
Have you ever wondered how some trees are better suited to colder weather? Well, the leaves of the balsam poplar are coated with a resin that helps protect the fragile buds during turbulent winter weather until early spring. As the weather warms and the buds begin to open, the balsam poplar aroma begins to explode!
Take a moment with the kids to smell the sweet aroma this resin produces and I guarantee you will appreciate it every year.
Fun fact: bees use these resin-coated buds to propolisa well-known self-made antibiotic, to seal your hives against the winter elements and help keep potential intruders away.
Explore your own signs of spring
See a busy beaver? What about the first wildflowers of spring? Before long, your kids will discover their own traditional clues to search for each spring!
Ready for a family adventure? Find a park near you and get outside this spring!
We’d love to hear what you find… feel free to share your discoveries with us via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!