Category Archives: children’s activities (recycled materials)

Box House For Pet Rat

Meet my daughter’s pet rat named Kitty.

Entertain your pet rat with a multi-story playhouse. Rats are curious little things and are very smart. Keep your pet rat busy with houses you can make yourself out of salvaged boxes.

To make:

Find boxes that will fit inside your enclosure. Use them to create the playhouse especially for your rat. Don’t be sad if it gets chewed up or soiled. Just make a new one. Changing up your rat’s environment will make your rat happy.

Don’t forget to hide food around for your rat to find.

Here is a very simple home for a rat made out of a tissue box.

Before Kitty had her own home, my daughter liked to share her doll house.

Here are a few shots I took. Hope you enjoy them!

Hope you enjoyed my little story about a rat.

It’s environmentally friendly to share your toys. Right!?

Make A Micro Pond Observatory For Learning And Fun: Damselfly Observation

In this photo is a damselfly larvae (arrow points to it) and to its left is a salamander larvae (more on it in another post).

How interesting to discover the world living in pond water. When I scooped up some pond water and brought it home for observation, I didn’t know that there was a damselfly larvae in it; we just wanted pond water full of tiny aquatic insects to feed our salamander larvae (more on this salamander larvae later). We were delighted when it crawled out of the water and soon emerged as an adult damselfly.

To make your micro pond you need only to find a container, gather some pond water, and add a stick and/or rock. We used a large glass cookie jar. We broke the top sometime back; it is 10.5 inches height and about 9 inches across (see picture). But you can use what you have or can find; think outside the box. Use an extra large pickle jar (ask for one at a sandwich shop; that’s what I did), find a secondhand fish bowl (not hard to find at thrift stores), or use a large glass carafe from a coffee maker (one that the coffee maker itself is broken but not the carafe).

The idea is to keep your micro-pond around long enough to allow things to grow. We plan to keep ours for most of the summer or until our frogs metamorphose. Some frogs like bull frogs and sometimes green frogs hibernate at the bottom of ponds and therefore will not finish metamorphosing until the following summer. Bull frogs will sometimes take 3 years. If tadpoles don’t complete their metamorphosis, we will let them go before the fall (more about keeping tadpoles in another post). To keep the critters in your micro- pond alive you must add new pond water to it every week. Take out some of the old water at this time. Basically, the tiny things swimming around are food for the larger things. 

According to this website: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/bay/cblife/insects/damselflies.html, larvae feed on other insects and small invertebrates while adult damselflies feed on mosquitoes and other flying insects.

The three “tails” at the back are called the caudal lamellae. These are the insect’s gills.

The skin that the insect leaves behind after turning into a winged adult damselfly is called an exuvia.

Here is a snapshot of the adult damselfly. You will want to put a screen across the top of your pond if you suspect a damselfly larvae will be emerging soon. I was unprepared and this guy got away in my house.

More about this soon.

Explore A Stream: You Might Discover Lampreys

In an earlier post I misidentified this lamprey as an American Eel. I’d like to make the correction here.

On a hike along a stream (Maryland USA / March 2010) we found several brook lampreys swimming around. There are three species of lampreys in Maryland: Sea Lamprey, Least Brook Lamprey, and American Brook Lamprey. This one is a Least Brook Lamprey or an American Brook Lamprey. Both or these brook lampreys are non-parasitic. Sea lampreys use their disk shaped mouth to attach themselves to fish and drink their bodily fluids and blood. Brook lampreys do no do this. I believe we came across some lampreys spawning. After they spawn they die soon afterward.

You can find some interesting things out there!

Use An Old Fame To Frame A Picture Before It Is Even Taken

I found an old and ugly fame. It needed to be glued in a few spots but nothing a little Gorilla glue and some clamps couldn’t fix. I gave it a light sanding and used left-over pant from another project to give it a clean look and that’s it.

It feels good to give new life to something unwanted. It’s a pretty cool photo prop now!

By the way, the thrift store is a great place to look for costumes of any sort.

Look For Amphipods The Next Time You Are Visiting A Beach

Summer is on the way and many families head to the beach. Make a special effort to seek out amphipods. They are rather interesting little creatures.

You can find amphipods such as this big-eyed beach flea on or in the sand. This picture was taken in Southern Maryland. They like to feed on decaying vegetation that washes up on the beach.

This amphipod is commonly called a beach flea. Don’t worry though, they don’t bite. They feed only on organic debris. If you get flea bites from a visit to the beach, you got them from common fleas (like the kind you have on your cat or dog). Common fleas can also be found on beaches.

Big-eyed Beach Flea Talorchestia megalophthalma

Have you ever come across any of these funny looking things with excellent hopping ability while at the beach?

More about amphipods:

About 7,000 species of amphipods have so far been described.

Amphipods are found in almost all aquatic environments.