Father's Day 2011 – 7 Ways to Enjoy Nature with Your Kids

A couple of years ago, we received an email from a reader named Marty who lives in in Eastern Pennsylvania (Lehigh County) one hour south of the Pocono Mountains.  Here’s part of the email:

On of the best things I can do as a Dad is to teach my children to preserve these treasures [frogs and salamanders] that are so dear to me. My grandfather taught me the love of wild places and I want to pass that on to them.

I wish more dads were thinking about how they could introduce nature to kids. My sons are in their twenties and still love learning about wildlife and animals. I think most of this love of nature came from their dad. So I’m offering a few suggestions. But we’d like to open this up to readers of Frogs Are Green and get your ideas also. How did your father encourage your love of nature? What are you doing as a dad to instill a love of nature in your kids?

photo by Mary Jo Rhodes

Here are some ideas:

1. Take them on short hikes or walks into the woods, starting when they are very young. (Here is a list of state parks). Young children need no encouragement to love nature—everything around them is still magical and interesting (bugs, stones, flowers).  The key is to keep taking them on walks in the woods (or fishing, hiking, or whatever) throughout their childhood, even when they start saying it’s boring (the preteen years). You might have to add other incentives during the rougher times (a trip to an ice cream store afterwards or some other treat).

2. Your child might start to like one animal and that may become their animal. Encourage this by buying books about the animal, plush toys, trips to see the animal in the wild or in zoos or aquariums.

3. Adopting a wild animals from (from the World Wildlife Fund or other organizations, for for $25 or so will give your child a personal connection to animals.

4. Plan family vacations around national parks rather than amusement parks. We’ve visited a number of national parks over the years. These are fun because the trails through them are easy and well worn, there’s a certain familiarity to them (the park rangers, the gift shops, etc), and the scenery is spectacular. Your child can become a Junior Ranger and collect badges and get certificates etc.

5. Share your enthusiasm about nature, but don’t be too heavy handed about it. If kids feel you are always teaching them, they might get turned off. Instead, share your sense of wonder. Point out a cardinal (look at that red bird!), but don’t turn it into a lesson about birds.

6. The National Wildlife Federation has ideas about enjoying nature with children, including setting up a tent in your backyard and sleeping outside. You can join their Great American Backyard Campout on June 25, 2011. I camped out a few times as a kid in my suburban backyard (without the tent), and loved it. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place far from cities, you can stargaze with your children, pointing out a few constellations.

7.  As far as our amphibians friends… the best places that we’ve found to see them are state parks or wildlife refuges. Unlike Marty, we live in an urban area and it’s tough to find amphibians in a region where all the land has been developed and the swamps have been turned into strip malls. But state parks and wildlife refuges that have been left untouched, with ponds and swamps, are great places to see them. Tell your kids to look out for frogs, toads, and salamanders. Kids are closer to the ground and have sharper eyes and will most likely see them before you do.

Dads: Please send along your ideas for introducing kids to nature!

Happy Father’s Day!


10 Frogs Handsome Enough to Kiss

While researching our post The 10 Weirdest and Most Unusual Frogs on Earth , we found so many beautiful frogs we decided to give them their own post. Below are 10 of the handsomest princes of the amphibian world.

1. Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychis callidryas)

This frog might be called The Planet’s Most Beautiful Frog. It has been a pin-up on dozens of wildlife calendars and cards. But its beauty has a purpose—to help it to survive. When at rest, the frog’s eyes are closed. But if disturbed, the sudden appearance of its bright red eyes may startle a predator for a second or two—enough time for the frog to leap away. With its large toe pads and long thin limbs, it can climb trees easily. The Red-Eyed Tree Frog lives in tropical forests from southern Mexico through much of Central America. We used this frog on a poster we created to help spread awareness of the global amphibian crisis (you can download the poster for free):

Red-eyed Tree Frog from IStockPhoto.com

2. Golden toad (Bufo periglenes)

The Golden Toad became extinct 30 years after its discovery in 1976. They were found only in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve of Costa Rica, where hundreds would breed in shallow forest pools. The Golden Toad has become a symbol of  the plight of frogs and toads worldwide—we don’t want other amphibians to suffer the same fate as this beautiful creature.

Golden toad, photo by Charles H. Smith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

3. White’s tree frog (Litoria caerula)

These handsome frogs seem to have a perpetual smile on their faces. White’s tree frogs are often kept as pets, but they are happiest when left alone in their native home: the woodland and scrub close to water in northeast Australia and New Guinea.

courtesy of www.frognet.org

4. Strawberry poison dart frog (Dendrobates pumilio)

This frog has a bright red head and body speckled with black spots. Because of its blue legs, it is also called the Blue Jeans Frog. Like many brilliantly-colored animals, the frogs’ bright color serves as a warning—Don’t eat me or you’ll be sorry! It forages on the forest floor eating small ants and termites, from which it derives the chemicals needed to synthesize the poison. It lives in tropical rainforests of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

5. Ranitomeya amazonica

A recent report from the World Wildlife Fund highlighted the amazing discoveries of the past decade in the Amazonian biome. According to the report, between 1999 and 2009 more than 1,200 new species of plants and vertebrates were discovered in the Amazon – a rate of one new species every three days – confirming the Amazon as one of the most diverse places on Earth.  Ranitomeya amazonica, another beautiful poision dart frog , is one of the most extraordinary of these newly discovered species. Its main habitat is lowland moist forest near the Iquitos area in Peru.

photo copyright AFP/HO/File/Lars K

6. Malagasy Rainbow Frog (Scaphiophryne gottlebei)

One of the most beautiful of the Madagascan frogs, the Malagasy Rainbow Frog  is adapted for a burrowing lifestyle. It is able to live under the ground for up to 10 months.  But it also has claws on its forefeet to help it cling to vertical canyon walls to escape floods or predators.  Unfortunately thousands of these frogs are captured every year for the pet trade.

image from Wikipedia, by Franco Andreone

7. Venezuelan Glass Frog (Cochranella helenae)

This lovely frog, native to the subtropical or tropical most lowland forests and rivers of Venezuela has translucent skin, to help hide it among the leaves.

Photo by Cesar Luis Barrio Amoros, courtesy of Amphibian Ark

8. Tiger frog (Hyloscritus tigrinis)

The Tiger Frog was discovered in 2007 in Southwestern Colombian. Little is known about the frog except that it is not believed to be toxic. Rather with its bright coloring, the frog seems to be mimicking other poisonous animals to deter predators. This gorgeous frog is threatened by destruction of the forests where it lives.

photo copyright Francisco Jose Lopez-Lopez, courtesy of www.arkive.org

9. Harlequin frogs (Atelopus varius)

Harlequin frogs are usually black or brown with spots or streaks that can be a combination of yellow, orange, red, blue, or green.  They live in the moist, tropical forests in Central and southwestern South America. About two-thirds of over 110 species of these brightly-colored frogs have vanished since the 1980s. Their decline is attributed to the destruction of their native forests, collection by the pet trade, and fungal infection (chytrid fungus).

image copyright Forrest Bren for the New York Times

10. Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

The Wood Frog’s beauty is more subtle that that of its tropical cousins, yet its colors seems to mimic the color of rocks, bark, and fallen leaves in the forests in which it lives.  This frog is America’s most northernmost species, ranging from northeast USA to the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada. Wood Frogs have already begun hibernating. First they find a place under the leaf litter or in a crack in a log or rock to settle for their winter nap. They’ll slowly begin to freeze as soon as temperatures reach the freezing point. Then the frog’s blood will stop flowing, its lungs, heart and muscles will stop functioning, and ice will fill the body cavity: they will go from frog to frogsicle, until they begin to thaw in the warm temperatures of spring.

Wood frog, photo by John Rounds

Some of the information from this post came from Frogs and Toads (a Golden Guide) by Dave Showler, illustrated by Barry Croucher/Wildlife Art Ltd.


Frog Gifts for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us, and we wanted to highlight some of our favorite froggy gifts.

Frog calendar

A portion of the proceeds of this calendar go to the World Wildlife Fund.


For baby

From Angel Dear, a curved frog pillow for baby. You have to feel this pillow to believe it-it’s incredibly soft. I found this in a little boutique and I liked it so much I bought one even though I don’t know anyone who is having a baby anytime soon!


The pillow is machine washable with a removable cover.


14″ square, cashmere-soft, machine washable frog blankie

Adopt a Frog


Adopt a frog from the World Wildlife Fund. For $25, your gift recipient will receive an adoption certificate, species information card, and photo. For $50, they’ll receive a bucket of frogs, an adoption certificate, species information card, photo, and gift bag.

Children’s Books

Big Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems (Hyperion, 2009)


Big Frog is big. Quite big. So big this book can’t hold her. But with a lot of help from some good friends, Big Frog will fit in just fine.

Filled with unique sturdy pop-ups, and suitable for little hands, this new pop-up book will appeal to Mo Willems fans old and new.

Books for adults

The Lilypad List: 7 Steps to the Simple Life by Marian Van Eyk McCain


During the holiday season, especially, we need to be reminded about what is truly important in our lives. McCain uses frogs as a metaphor for living a simple but meaningful life. She writes, “Looking back, I think frogs have always been around calling to me to notice them. I am glad I am noticing them now and listening to their small, quiet messages. They have lots to teach me.”

Most of us know we need to simplify our lives, slow down, buy less stuff, and live more lightly on the Earth. But McCain, a psychotherapist, helps us to understand why we feel we need to acccumulate so much stuff. Each chapter opens with a charming drawing of a frog.

Frog T-Shirts


Show your love of amphibians by wearing this fun t-shirt from FROGS ARE GREEN. A portion of the profits go toward supporting Amphibian Ark and other amphibian conservation organizations. The rest of the profits will go toward creating programs and educational materials to support our cause.

Stocking stuffers

Wear the GREEN! The FROGS ARE GREEN wristband, that is!


When my sons were young, I loved to give them Dover’s inexpensive little activity books ($1.50 each). Here is one–a stained glass frog coloring book. Note: although the link below is to Amazon, it can also be bought directly from Dover Publications.

Ecowear – Frog Pendant from Future Oxygen. This company offers 100 % biodegradable cards and lovely Frog pendants. Both the cards and pendants can be planted into the ground (the pendant contains flower and grass seeds). For every pendant sold they will donate $1 to benefit the Save the Reef campaign.


Holiday Sleeper Gift

The Calls of Frogs and Toads (with CD) by Lang Elliott31AAXjV65NL__SL500_AA200_

One Christmas, I gave my husband a book of bird calls–you find the bird in the book, press a button, and hear the bird’s call. He was a little underwhelmed by this gift! But over the years, we’ve used that book so many times. (It really captured our cats’ interest, too!). So in that spirit, I offer this frog call book as a sleeper holiday gift. Maybe on Christmas day after you’re tired of listening to holiday music, you can listen to great frog choruses instead!


Fanged Frogs in the Land of the Lost

No, the fanged frogs are not THE FROG PRINCESS meets TWILIGHT! They are recently discovered amphibians, found with many amazing other animals, in an untouched jungle in a crater of Mount Bosavi in Papua New Guinea. It does seem incredible that such a pristine place still exists on Earth.

The Guardian (UK) reports that in addition to a fanged frog, they discovered:

  • an additional 16 new frogs species
  • giant monitor lizards
  • a grunting fish that makes noises from its swim bladder
  • kangaroos that live in trees
  • a giant rat the size of a large cat that may turn out to be the largest rat in the world
  • the never-before seen Bosavi silky cuscus, a marsupial that has no fear of humans and sat on one of the scientist’s shoulders

The rainforest in Papua New Guinea is disappearing at the rate of 3.5% per year, so these discoveries remind us of how important it is to preserve these incredibly biodiverse habitats. In fact, soon after this news was reported, the World Wildlife Fund reported the discovery of another fanged frog (this one eats birds!) in the Mekong river delta in Southeast Asia. This MSNBC article has a picture of the fanged frog and a slideshow of the other animals.

Below you can see some of these remarkable animals in a video from the Guardian about the Papua New Guinea expedition, led by an international team of scientists, cavers, and filmmakers. On the BBC Natural History Unit site, you can meet the explorers, see a map of where the expedition traveled, read some wild stories about the expedition, and see some episodes online (if you’re in the UK).


If Frogs Could Fly

I’ve just returned from vacation in Massachusetts, where I went whale watching off the coast with my family. On land, we also did some frog watching! My husband snapped a picture of a handsome frog in a little pond in the woods before it hopped off the lily pad. (Picture soon to come.)

Lots of frogs stories have come to my attention in just a few days, including a story about newly discovered flying frogs. The World Wildlife Fund released a report on Monday compiling recent discoveries in the Himalayas. Over 350 species have been discovered, including the world’s smallest deer and a flying frog, making the area a “treasure trove,” and one of the world’s most biological rich regions. This is an environmentally fragile area, however, that is vulnerable to climate change and development.

Tariq Aziz, the leader of the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Himalayas Initiative, a conservation program that covers India, Nepal and Bhutan, has called on these countries to develop a conservation plan for governments to give local communities more authority to manage the forests, grasslands and wetlands.

Below is a photo of the amazing flying amphibian. It glides through the air, using its long, webbed feet:

Flying Frog or Rhacophorus suffry, in Assam, India. Photo copyright Totul Bortamuli, Nepal (World Wide Fund for Nature)

Flying Frog or Rhacophorus suffry, in Assam, India. Photo copyright Totul Bortamuli (World Wide Fund for Nature)