Welcome to day 9 of DIY Summer Camp at home. Our theme this second week of DIY Summer Camp is all about reptiles, including slithering snakes, terrific turtles, dangerous dinosaurs, amazing alligators, and lively lizards. This makes for some fun activities that you can do right in your own backyard. Or, even better, you can send the kids out to do, while you relax.
Terrific Turtles and Tortoises
When many people think of turtles, they think of TV characters. But turtles are real animals with some unique features. Turtles and tortoises may not do flips and defeat villains, but they are some of the longest lived creatures on the planet. Let’s explore the world of turtles and tortoises.
Activity: Sea Turtle Magnetic Navigation
What you need:
- metal bolts
- clay or playdough
- refrigerator magnets
- cereal box
- pencil & eraser
What you do:
First, tie a 12″ long string to each bolt. Then create a “turtle” by wrapping the bolt in playdough or clay. Shape the clay into a “turtle” shape, while making sure the string comes out of the top.
Test your turtle by hovering it over top of a magnet. Observe how the turtle reacts to the magnet — it should come closer, or move towards it. If it doesn’t, you’ll need stronger magnets, or you may not have the right kind of metal bolt.
Now cut a cereal box in half, length-wise. Turn the printed side down and fold down the corners, so the top of the box is the blank cardboard side. Tape the corners so it holds a box-shape, and trim the edges so that the top of the box will sit approximately 1/2″ above the table.
Distribute the fridge magnets in a pattern on the surface of your desk or table, and place the box over top, so that they are all hidden by the box. This is your “turtle habitat”. Tape your box to the desk so it doesn’t accidentally get moved.
Now dangle your turtles over top of the box and observe their behaviour carefully. When you think you’ve found a magnet, use your pencil to draw a dot with a circle around it on the box. When you’ve found all the magnets, carefully lift your box and compare your circles to where the magnets were. Were you right?
Erase the circles and move the magnets to reset and try again.
Activity: Egg Carton Baby Turtles
What you need:
- egg carton
- green pipe cleaners
- brown or green paint or markers
- large green or brown pom poms
- hot glue gun and glue
- googly eyes
What you do:
- Cut apart your egg carton, so that each egg “holder” is on its own.
- Color or paint the egg holder inside and out. Set aside to dry if you used paint.
- Cut about 2″ pieces of green pipe cleaners. You’ll need 5 for each turtle. Poke the pipe cleaners into the sides of the cardboard egg holder for the legs. Bend the 5th one in half and poke it through at the back. On the inside, bend the ends so they don’t come out. Alternatively, you can hot glue them in place too.
- Hot glue the pom poms to the shells. (We recommend hot glue, because pom poms don’t always stick well with white craft glue.) And hot glue the googly eyes to the turtle heads.
- Now your baby turtles can race to the sea!
Snack: Kiwi Turtles
These adorable turtles will make a great snack.
What you need:
- green grapes
Peel and slice your kiwis. Use a whole grape for the head, and sliced grapes for the legs and tails. Cute and yummy!
Activity: Turtle Races
For this activity, every racer will need a “turtle shell”. Use an empty laundry basket for the shell. Have your child crawl on their hands and knees with the back on their back. How fast can they get to the finish line?
For single racers, use a stop watch for a time trial. For more than one racer, you can race against each other or time it as well.
Activity: Egg shell experiment
Here’s a fun experiment that can show you what a turtle egg would feel like without the hard shell.
Turtle facts for you to share
Turtles are pretty awesome. They are some of the longest-lived creatures on the planet, and they aren’t just the slow, calm animals we think of. In fact, the word “turtle” means different things in different parts of the world!
In the UK, turtles refer to the shell-bearing reptiles in the sea. They use the word” terrapin” to describe freshwater turtles, and “tortoise” for the land-dwelling kind. But in the US, turtles are the ones that live in water, and tortoise live on land, with the ones in the ocean being called “sea turtles”.
Use these facts to excite your kids’ curiosity about turtles. Then do your own research!
Species & Location
There are sea turtles, soft-shell turtles, snapping turtles, and tortoises. There are big ones, little ones, ones that live in water and ones that live on land. In fact, there are 356 different species of turtles out there!
Turtles live on every continent except Antarctica. However, you’ll find the most species in North America and South Asia.
Turtles in general are omnivores, so they will eat anything they can get. They eat fruit and plants, bugs and eggs, fish and even poisonous jellyfish.
Some species of turtles are herbivores, eating just plants and fruits. Others, like the Leatherback Sea Turtle, are strictly carnivores. The Leatherback eats just jellyfish!
This is where the difference between species really determines where they live.
Turtles, with their webbed feet or flippers, live a large portion of their lives in water. Sea turtles only leave the water to lay eggs, where freshwater turtles might be found on land in migration or just to sun themselves on a log or rock.
Tortoises have claws, and flat feet, and will dig burrows in the ground.
All turtles lay eggs. They all find a place to create a nest, dig a hole, lay their eggs, and walk away. No species of turtle says with their young or nurtures them. Turtles are born with all the instincts they need to survive.
Turtle shells are the identifying characteristic of turtles. All turtles have shells. These shells are actually part of a turtle’s skeleton, and are made of bones covered by plates called “scutes”. The scutes are made of the same material that your fingernails are made of: keratin.
Turtle shells are both enduring and sensitive. While their shells don’t feel pain, they can feel changes in temperature and pressure. So be careful when handling turtles, and never ever sit on a large turtle. You could hurt them!
End of the day: read aloud time.
There’s nothing that settles kids down like storytime at the end of the day. So after all the snakes and games today, grab a classic read-aloud and read a chapter every night this week.
Try one of these:
- The missing ‘gator of Gumbo Limbo
- What the Tortoise Told Alice
- Willard Price: Python Adventure *Note: suspenseful!
Come back tomorrow for another day full of reptile-filled adventures. And don’t forget to subscribe so you get every day of the DIY Summer Camp at Home right in your inbox.
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