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Backyard Exploration

For bugs, butterflies and other backyard wonders, these products are sure to encourage further exploration.

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!
Ages: 2 - 6 yrs.
Author: Bob Barner  
Chronicle Books, $12.95 (Hard Cover)   

Introduce kids to one of their favorite subjects with this cheerful book about bugs. Preschoolers will enjoy the full-color illustrations and rhyming text, while older children explore bug facts with the Bug-O-Meter chart of bug characteristics.

It's a Big Big World: The Earth Needs You It's a Big Big World: The Earth Needs You
Ages: 2 - 8 yrs.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $14.94 (DVD)   

It’s a Big Big World takes children into the heart of the rainforest, into the native habitat of sloths, marmosets, tree frogs, turtles, anteaters, and a wide range of other exotic creatures. In this DVD these animals are addressing matters close to their hearts: how to be good stewards to the environment. The animals, represented by state-of-the-art, true-to-life puppets in a world that’s a mixture of sets and CGI, are occasionally difficult to understand, but the episodes stimulated a range of discussion and was particularly educational to early school-aged children.

Inflatable Insects Inflatable Insects
Ages: 3 & Up
Learning Resources, $34.95

Our testers, ages 5-10 couldn't get enough of these oversized bugs. The inventive play scenarios ranged from bug monsters to bug pets, and every insect had a name. Kids used blocks to build houses and cages. The inflatable bugs hatched a trip to the library for books to learn more about the ladybug, dragonfly, the ant, the bee and the grasshopper. The hang tabs inspired more than one tester to suggest that he redecorate his bedroom. Repair kit and activity guide are included.

Your Big Backyard Your Big Backyard
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
National Wildlife Federation,

Intended for children ages 3-7 who are interested in animals, nature, the outdoors, and wildlife, Your Big Backyard offers a satisfying mix of information and activities. The extent of information presented is well suited for the intended audience. The overall design is quite pleasing and easy to follow. The recurring games and activities, such as "My Little Book" and "Family Fun Guide," provide learning opportunities that extend well beyond the printed page.

Explore Spring! 25 Great Ways to Learn About Spring Explore Spring! 25 Great Ways to Learn About Spring
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Maxine Anderson   Illustrator: Alexis Frederick-Frost  
Nomad Press, $12.95 (Hard Cover)   

From tracking spring peepers and raising tadpoles to learning about seeds and recording plant growth, this activity book invites young readers to explore the wonders of spring by becoming scientists in the field. Combining hands-on learning with solid science, trivia, riddles, and terrific illustrations, projects investigate "the reason for the season."

Also look for Explore Winter! 25 Great Ways to Learn About Winter

The Beautiful Beetle Book The Beautiful Beetle Book
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Sue Unstead   Illustrator: Gill Tomblin  
School Specialty Children's Publishing, $17.95 (Hard Cover)   

Crawl into the amazing world of beetles! Each page of this fact-filled book invites you to explore beetles close-up like you've never seen them before. Product Description

Also try: The Beautiful Butterfly Book

Monarch Magic! Butterfly Activities & Nature Discoveries
Ages: 4 - 12 yrs.
Williamson Publishing, $12.95

For children interested in butterflies - monarchs in particular - this book should not be missed. Through photographs and illustrations, children learn about the life cycle of the butterfly, how to plant a butterfly garden, and crafting butterfly-inspired artwork.

Backyard Explorer Kit Backyard Explorer Kit
Ages: 5 - 10 yrs.
Workman Publishing, $11.95 (Hard Cover)   

Backyard Explorer is the kit that begins with something kids do naturally--picking up leaves, collecting pine cones, stuffing their pockets with acorns--and turns it into seasons full of educational fun. Tthis unique outdoor activity kit--combes the Leaf & Tree Guide, the Leaf Collecting Album, and a durable plastic leaf collecting envelope. By categorizing leaves and needles into twenty recognizable shapes (smooth, toothed, hand-shaped, etc), it makes identification extremely easy and intuitive. Product Description

Backyard Safari Outfitters Lazer Bug Vacuum Backyard Safari Outfitters Lazer Bug Vacuum
Ages: 5 & Up

Your budding bug collector will never tire of this excellent bug finding tool. Before it was even out of the box, our testers were jumping with excitement to try it out. From the microscope to the "laser" pointer, they were exclaiming over every little aspect of it, and they couldn't wait to catch their first bugs. The accompanying pamphlet had children screaming with pictures of tarantulas and ladybugs. They immediately started searching the neighborhood in order to check off the bugs on the list. Children will want to search deep, dark corners of the basement and garage with the "scope" (a little red laser light on the front of the vacuum), and they might even scare bug-fearing parents with what they find. The bug vacuum is very easy to use, almost like a miniature dust buster. It came with an extra reservoir, so once the first was full, it could be removed and replaced. Bugs can be set free with a simple twist of a dial on the side, but not before being carefully studied under the magnifying glass that also serves as the "escape hatch" for the bugs. We can't recommend this toy enough, especially for a family with natural bug enthusiasts.

Little Labs: Animals Little Labs: Animals
Ages: 5 & Up
Thames & Kosmos, $15.95

Learn about animals in your backyard and parks by investigating their natural habitats and tracks. The simple pictorial instructions included has just enough text to reinforce vocabulary and aid in language learning, and also to advise parents and adult supervisors. Includes: knowledge wheel, specimen bags, plaster, tweezers, measuring cups, bug viewer, stickers, and 16 page full-color guidebook.

Little Labs: Plants
Ages: 5 & Up
Thames & Kosmos, $15.95

As one might expect, this kit includes seeds and a small pot, the fundamentals of any home or school exploration of growth. The additional experiments in the booklet demonstrate the ways in which water and light are taken in by plants, and how each is essential if the plant is to survive.

Science on Gardening Adventure Science on Gardening Adventure
Ages: 5 & Up
The Young Scientists Club, $29.99

This is a do-it-yourself indoor gardening and science experiment kit. Well-designed, engaging, and educational, the kit teaches children a variety lessons beyond the basic gardening. Children conduct experiments and explore concepts such as the scientific method, pH levels of soil, bugs and insects, effects of sunlight and water on plants, plant biology and more. Patience and persistence are key elements in the scientific process.

Wild Cards: Bugs Wild Cards: Bugs
Ages: 5 & Up
Birdcage Press, $9.95

Bugs is a deck of 48 cards, with 24 sets of 2 identical cards with photographs of insects fall into one of six categories: butterflies, beetles, ants, spiders, caterpillars and katydids insects. Handsome, shiny, informative cards, with easy-to-follow directions for the triumvirate of children's card games: Go Fish, Old Maid and Memory. The photographs on the cards are spectacular; the facts are interesting and memorable. Budding entomologists will be fascinated, if not somewhat grossed out, by the larger-than-life pictures of some of the world's hairiest, scariest, creepiest, and even sometimes, prettiest bugs.

Big Bad Booming Bugs Big Bad Booming Bugs
Ages: 6 & Up
Little Kids, Inc., $19.99

This is no ordinary bughouse. It's an "Electronic Observation Station." Young backyard explorers use the handy bug scooper to capture insects and place them in the "bug dome" observatory, cleverly designed to look like an insect. In addition to observing the bugs with the built-in 3X magnifying lens, promising entomologists can monitor the bugs' audible sounds with the included earphones. The dome's base surface is sensitive enough that larger insects can be heard walking. Information about ants, beetles and grasshoppers is included.

Ages: 6 & Up
Jakks Pacific, Inc., $49.99

The EyeClops is an innovative science toy with a unique twist on the traditional microscope set. Connect this hand-held bionic "eye" to a standard television and see everyday objects magnified 200 times on the TV screen. Kids can either put the eye directly on an object, such as a family pet or sofa, or place small objects, such as insects or coins, in a plastic tray that fits on top of the eye. Magnified pennies and carpet fibers delivered a lot of "ooohs," while human hair and skinned knees brought on the "eeeewwws."

Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids' Guide Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids' Guide
Ages: 7 - 12 yrs.
Author: Lynn Brunelle  
Workman Publishing, $11.95 (Hard Cover)   

Whether you're planning an over night in the backyard or a weekend in the wilderness, this book is packed with stuff to know. The basics, from gearing up to choosing a site to building a tarp tent. Tasty outdoor recipes: Solar Oven Pizza, Chow Down Chili and s' more's of course - with 8 variations. Plus: how to keep a Field Journal, exploring the nighttime sky, creepy campfire stories, and when it's time to go home, leaving no trace. It's everything you need to pick up and head for the hills. Book Description

Kid's Easy-to-Create Wildlife Habitats Kid's Easy-to-Create Wildlife Habitats
Ages: 7 - 12 yrs.
Williamson Publishing, $12.95 (Paperback)

Emily Stetson has created one terrific resource for children and families interested in exploring the wildlife in the environment around them. Children will learn how to best observe animals, build birdfeeders with items often on hand at home, find resources for building squirrel boxes and bat houses, and construct a "blind" for better viewing opportunities.

Ranger Rick Ranger Rick
Ages: 7 & Up
National Wildlife Federation,

Ranger Rick, a well-designed magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation, is a time-tested and notable offering for children ages 7 - 10 interested in learning about wildlife. It includes comic strips, stories with photographs, craft ideas, games and puzzles as well as some reader-submitted content. Articles are informative and beautifully illustrated with stunning photos and good illustrations.

Wee Enchanted Garden
Ages: 7 & Up
Creativity for Kids, $22.00

This kit is perfect for first-time gardeners with limited space. Children decorate the planter dish, create a landscape and plant the seeds that are enclosed (in the incipient garden). The plants begin sprouting in just a few days.

You Build It Weather Station You Build It Weather Station
Ages: 7 & Up
SmartLab, $18.99

Kids explore the science behind weather using this interactive station. This kit includes 13 easy-to-assemble parts, a cloud chart, stickers, and a weather tracker to record wind, rain, and temperature. The enclosed book rains down weather wisdom, teaching kids about clouds, cold fronts, tornadoes, and more.

The Bug Book & Bottle The Bug Book & Bottle
Ages: 8 & Up
Author: Hugh Danks  
Workman Publishing, $13.95 (Hard Cover)   

The Bug Book & Bottle is a bountiful bundle of goodies stored inside a hard plastic oval about the size of a crayon box. Inside are a bug identification chart with nearly 50 common insects that you might find in your yard, or even, yes, in your house, a 110-page Bug Book, an illustrated field guide and activity booklet, a bug bottle and magnifier to help identify and store the winged creatures you might catch, and a Bug Journal, designed like a miniature school notebook with pages to catalog and draw your discovery.

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