April is National Frog Month, and is a wonderful excuse to get out and have some thematic fun with your children. You can settle for the same old printables and handpuppets, or you can make this Frog month a truly memorable celebration for you and your kids. Here’s how.
Make a jumping origami frog and organize a race. Doing this with children is a fantastic way to have them explore both another culture and get some great fine motor skill development in.
The traditional Japanese art of folding paper into intricate patterns, objects and animals can be very simple and a whole lot of fun for grownups and kids alike. An origami jumping frog is a basic origami that, when completed, rewards the maker with a homemade piece of art that can double as a toy…in this case, a racing amphibian.
You don’t have to use special origami paper-experiment with different thicknesses or paper, and a range of solid and patterned colors to personalize your frog. If you’ve never folded an origami frog, use Sandra Loosemore’s http://www.frogsonice.com/froggy/origami/index.shtml easy to follows diagrams to help guide you.
After your kids (and you!) have completed your frogs, set them up at a starting line and begin ‘hopping’ them to a finish (this is done by pressing and moving the back end of the origami frog, quickly). Make a frog-olympics to keep the fun going.
After you’ve finished racing, the origami frogs can be kept to play with later, or used in other crafts. Origami frogs make great 3D additions to any cut and paste project, and look beautiful hung from a set of strings as a frog mobile.
An impromptu game was formed in my own home when Raffi’s infamous Green Speckled Frog song played one afternoon and we began trying to hop our frogs onto the centre of a placemat (the ‘pool’ mentioned in the song). The lyrics of this song (which can be read, in full at http://www.hotlyrics.net/lyrics/R/Raffi/Five_Little_Frogs.html) are catchy and easy to remember:
Five green and speckled frogs sat on a speckled log
Eating some most delicious bugs. Yum! Yum!
One jumped into the pool
Where it was nice and cool
Then there were 4 green speckled frogs
Each verse is identical, counting down from five to zero, until there are ‘no green speckled frogs’.
Have a game of realistic croaking leapfrog. Keep the props simple for your kids-have everyone dress in green and then, while leaping over one another, make your loudest frog songs and noises.
To make things a lot more interesting, you can use and experiment with frog calls in different languages. While my family lived in Japan, we realized that frogs are traditionally represented as saying ‘kero-kero-‘, and not ‘ribbit, ribbit‘. Many languages have different sound characterizations for frog songs. In Finnish, a frog says, ‘kvak kvak!’, in Hungarian, ‘bre-ke-ke‘, in Turkish, ‘vrak vrak‘, and Hebrew, ‘kwa kwa’. Check out http://familycrafts.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://allaboutfrogs.org/weird/weird.html for an even more comprehensive list of languages and how they say ‘ribbit!’. This same web site also has a bunch of great audio links where you can listen to real, different species of frog calls. From the African Dwarf Frog to the Golden Frog, to the Northern Leopard Frog to the Oriental Firebellied Toad, you and your family will not only get a lesson in the great variety of frog songs, but in all likelihood, get a good chuckle in as well (frog croaks, whistles and squeaks can be ridiculously entertaining!).
Your game of leap frog is sure to be very colorful, very noisy and have a whole lot of jumping going on at once which makes for a wonderful time so far as most children as concerned.
Read frog-tastic books. There is no better way to get a kid into reading, then by introducing them to an interesting theme. Frogs couldn’t be more interesting…and there couldn’t be a wider range to choose from in terms of terrific books.
Non-fiction titles that focus on the lifecycle of a frog from pollywog to full grown croaker are generally filled with colorful pictures or illustrations that are sure to captivate any young reader, and get them asking lots of questions. Bullfrog (Jason Cooper), Frogs (Gail Gibbons), and Frogs (Peter Murray) are all excellent choices.
If good old fashioned froggy-tales are more your child’s cup of tea, try The Frog Prince (which has many new and old editions re-told at varying levels of difficulty), or Arnold Lobel’s classic Frog and Toad books. If your child takes a shining to the Lobel stories, you’re in luck! There are a many in the series to satisfy an avid reader long after National Frog Month has passed.
Frog purists, nationwide may scoff at their inclusion, but you may also wish to test out Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (which features the well-loved Mr. Toad), and a personal favorite from my own childhood, Jane Yolen’s Commander Toad series. Yolen’s books are brilliantly illustrated by Bruce Degen making for a hilarious read, which, as in Frog and Toad may prove to be a wonderful opportunity to get an otherwise ambivalent child really excited about the prospect of picking up a book.
One final book recommendation is The frog and the princess and the prince and the mole and the frog and the mole and the prince and the princess (John B. Bear). This one is a pure delight and touts itself an ‘upside down-story in rhyme book that can be read in both directions’.Uniquely told and wonderfully illustrated, this is a must-read (and must see!) for any frog enthusiast.
If your child has an affinity for poetry, see the aforementioned Raffi song, and read through the lyrics like a poem.
Have a frog-tastic snack: ‘bugs on a log’ and ‘green treats’. Everyone’s had the classic, healthy snack ‘bugs on a log’. Made, easily and quickly with a long piece of celery, filled with cream cheese (light if you’re watching your waistline), and topped with a line of raisins (the ‘bugs’), this quick dish can be made by your children, adding to the fun.
Having your kids make their bugs on logs can be an activity that makes for a delightful lunch hour. Set out the ingredients and let them stuff and dot their own celery. My own kids enjoy a variety of different ‘bugs’; I’ve used carrot ‘matchsticks’ (bought pre-packaged and cut at the grocery store) to be caterpillars, or other long bugs, and pine nuts to be potato bugs (or ‘roly polies’). Every so often, adding chocolate chips can be fun (and tasty!) too.
See who can grab their bugs in the most frog-like fashion. It’s the one time of year it’s alright for a child to stick their tongue out (and at the table no less!) Eating bugs on logs like hungry frogs is sure to get some laughs and ensures your kids get a good helping of celery at the same time.
For dessert, make a simple pan of Rice Crispy squares and tint it green. This classic recipe is cheap, quick and easy, and never fails to please.
Just melt ¼ cup of margarine together with 36-40 large marshmallows in a large saucepan (use low heat). When the marshmallows and margarine are fully melted, remove from heat, and add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of vanilla, depending on your personal preference, then add a few drops of green food coloring. Stir gently until you’ve got the shade of green you desire and it’s consistent throughout. Add 6 cups of Rice Crispies Cereal and stir until the cereal is completely coated. Scoop out the mixture into a lightly greased pan or tray and press down evenly (a lightly greased rubber spatula works best for this). After approximately 30 minutes, slice your squares and enjoy! For an alternate ‘green’ Rice Crispy Treat dessert (made with Lucky Charms cereal), try http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1553374/st_patricks_day_dessert_easy_green.html?cat=22
If you’re making origami
jumping frogs on the same day, it’s fun to slice your squares into lily pad shapes, and mount your origami creations on top.
Join Frogwatch USA and go on a frog hunt. A great resource for all-things-frog is the National Wildlife Federation’s Frogwatch USA program (http://www.nwf.org/frogwatchusa/index.cfm). This is a frog ‘club’ of sorts. Devoted completely to frog and amphibian conservation it’s complimented by a comprehensive website that is chocked full of frog facts, in-depth information, fun things to do and how to frog watch in your specific state and area. It’s also an awesome place to research and identify the critters you may come across in your hunt. If your kids get bitten by the conservation bug, this website will get them well on their way to helping protect frogs and other amphibians.
Whether or not you decide to sign up with Frogwatch USA, finding frogs on your own is easy and fun for all ages. You may be able to search (and find) many frogs in your own backyard, or at a local pond, lake, bog or wetland. Tree frogs can be found …where else? In wooded areas, in the trees (although usually, you’ll only be able to hear them).
It’s easiest to hunt for frogs at dusk, or in the early evening, so be prepared to head out with ample bug repellent and a flashlight (a camera is also a great idea!) Head to the banks or edges of water beds, or even to damp flower beds. Use your flashlight to peer along the ground and search for frogs or listen for frog songs and follow the tune until you spot one. Frogs are notoriously timid creatures, so be as quiet as possible in your hunt.
Frogs are magnificent marvels of nature and have earned their special month! Sock puppets, coloring pages and pipe cleaner crafts are wonderful and entertaining to be sure, but by injecting a series of new, unique activities and adventures into your celebrations, you and your kids can make some truly memorable moments during this National Frog Month! Ribbit up and have fun!
http://www.frogsonice.com/froggy/origami/index.shtml (Sandra Loosemore)
Cooper, Jason. Bullfrogs ( Lifecycle Series). Rourke Publishing, LLC 2003.
Gibbons, Gail. Frogs. Holiday House, 1993.
Murray, Peter. Frogs. New Nature Books, 2007.
Bear, John B. The frog and the princess and the prince and the mole and the frog and the mole and the princess and the prince… Tricycle Press, 1994.
http://www.frogsonice.com/froggy/index.shtml (Sandra Loosemore)