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Toads are fascinating animals that are too often ignored. The new picture book, The Hidden Life of a Toad* by biologist and photographer Doug Wechsler, brings attention to these neglected creatures.

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The main text concentrates on toad development and life cycle, complete with photographs of toads mating. Back matter is filled with supplemental information, including a glossary, toad facts, suggestions for helping toads, and details about how the author captured the photographs.

For my full review, see Nonfiction Monday blog.

Related:

Is it a Frog or Toad?

The terms "frog" and "toad" are not scientifically-based, but are common names. According to frog scientists, all frogs and toads belong to the Order Anura and are called "frogs." Although many people call the bumpy, dry land-dwelling creatures "toads" and the smooth-skinned, pond-dwelling creatures "frogs," in reality some species are hard to separate into one or the other group.

This brown, bumpy animal is a toad.

Toad External Anatomy

Have you ever taken a close look at a toad? You may discover some interesting things.

(Illustration based on public domain photo from Visual Hunt)

Starting with the head, prominent features are the bulging eyes. Because they are nocturnal, toads have well-developed night vision. A cool fact is that frogs and toads use their eyes to push food down their throat when swallowing. If you aren't put off by seeing frogs eating bugs, there's a video of frogs swallowing from David Attenborough.

Adult toads have lungs and breathe through opening called nares.

Fun fact:  Toads don't drink water through their mouths, but absorb water through their skin by sitting in it.

Beneath the mouth, male toads have a flexible membrane called a vocal sac. The sac helps amplify the mating calls.

The circular tympanum has a dual function, serving to pass sound vibrations into the ear and also as a protective cover.

Large bumps on the back behind the head, the parotoid glands of toads produce toxic secretions. This is why you should keep pets away from toads and wash your hands after touching them.

A toad has four toes on their forelimbs (front legs) and five toes on the back. Unlike frogs, toads lack webbing between their toes. Both frog and toads are known for their ability to jump with their hind legs.

A .pdf worksheet (with blanks) to download:  toad external anatomy worksheet

Toad Life Cycle

Toads also lay their eggs in water and the eggs hatch into tadpoles.

The dark-colored dots are the frog embryos. They are protected by a gooey jelly-like substance.

The embryos grow into free-swimming tadpoles. They feed and grow, eventually developing legs. Once the tadpoles grow lungs they can move onto land and they are called "toadlets." During that time, their tail disappears.

Activity: Life Cycle Poster

Gather:

  • Pictures of frog and toad life stages from books or the internet
  • Art supplies such as markers, crayons, colored pencils, and/or paint
  • Large sheets of paper

Encourage the children to plan and decorate a poster featuring the stages of a frog or toad life cycle. Don't forget the toadlet stage.

Younger children might benefit from exploring life stage models.

Insect Lore Frog Life Cycle Stages

Where Adult Toads Live

Toads feed on insects and other small creepy crawlies. During the day they rest in moist, shady places. Growing some dense shrubby plants will provide them with cover.

Activity:  Make a Toad House

Instructions for making toad houses are all over the internet. Here are directions for a simple version.

Gather:

  • Clay flower pot at least six inches in diameter
  • Two potato-sized stones
  • Optional:  Acrylic paints and paint brushes

If you desire, have the children decorate the flower pot with acrylic paint. Acrylic markers work, too. Precautions:  Prior to painting, protect the work surface with a washable or disposable covering.

Once the paint is dry, find a moist, shady location outdoors. Overturn the pot and use the two stones to prop up one side. Leave enough room between so a toad can climb under. Make sure the toad house is stable, so it won't slip off the stones and trap the toad inside. Burying it slightly on the back side or covering the back side with a small amount of soil may help stabilize it.

Providing a small tray of water nearby will help keep the area moist. Keep curious pets away and check regularly.

Interested in learning more? See our growing list of children's books about frogs and toads at Science Books for Kids.

Groundhog's Day is coming up soon. It's a perfect time to learn more about this fascinating animal.

Groundhogs have a number of common names. They are also called woodchucks or whistle pigs. Their scientific name is Marmota monax. They belong to the taxonomic group marmots. Groundhogs are rodents, so they have large front teeth or incisors. They also have sharp claws for digging their big burrows.

(Public Domain Illustration)

It is not unusual to see groundhogs sitting next to their burrows or eating plants along highways. Perhaps that's why I've seen them often, but don't have a single photograph.

For older children:

Susan and Joe Sam have spent a great deal of time studying, photographing, and videoing families of woodchucks that live near their home. See their new website, Woodchuck Wonderland™. (Note:  The website does discuss the entire life cycle of the woodchuck, including mating.) They have made many interesting discoveries regarding the family behavior of woodchucks. I highly recommend the photo galleries.

For preschoolers:

Groundhog Day Play By Roberta Gibson

It is February 2, Groundhog Day. Groundhog is looking for his shadow. People say that if he sees his shadow there will be six more months of winter.

Where is Groundhog?

He’s in his burrow.
Can he see his shadow?
No, it’s dark in there.
Where is Groundhog?
Can he see his shadow?
No, he’s behind the big rock.
Where is Groundhog?
He’s behind that tree.
Can he see his shadow?
No, the tree trunk is blocking the light.
Where is Groundhog now?
Can he see his shadow?
No, he’s hiding behind Deer.
Where is Groundhog?
He’s standing out in the sun.
Can he see his shadow?
Yes, he can!
Back to bed Groundhog. You can sleep for six more weeks.

Related:

Earlier Groundhog's Day Science post with shadow activities

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Just in time for Great Backyard Bird Count  February 17-20, 2017, we have a terrific bird-themed giveaway opportunity offered by Downtown Bookworks. Let's see all the great stuff they have to offer, and then discuss what you have to do to enter below.

Number 1 on the list is Bird-acious (Science with Stuff) by award-winning children's science writer Melissa Stewart.

This book is a fun and educational introduction to birds for young readers. It contains big color photographs and interesting facts. It covers everything from feathers and flying to beaks and eating. There’s even a two-page spread that features photographs of cool bird tongues and describes what the various structures are used for.

But Bird-acious offers even more. In the cover image above, do you see the brown mass in the yellow oval to the right, just under the title? That is an actual owl pellet for kids to dissect, as well as detailed instructions how to do it in the back of the book. A bird book with its own hands-on activity included, what more could you ask for?

See more about Bird-acious in last week's STEM Friday review.

Age Range: 6 and up
Publisher: Downtown Bookworks; Nov edition (December 10, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1935703900
ISBN-13: 978-1935703907

Number 2 is A Walk in the Woods: Into the Field Guide by Emily Laber-Warren.

This Into the Field Guide is perfect to carry along on a hike in the woods. Color photographs and clear, simple descriptions will help youngsters learn to identify common animals, plants, and even some rocks. Also includes basic scientific concepts and facts, such as how stick insects hide from predators using camouflage.

Although not solely about birds, both these guides have a section on common birds found in the habitat they feature. A Walk in the Woods has descriptions of American robins, Northern mockingbirds, chickadees, goldfinches, etc., all the birds you might see for The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Age Range: 5 and up
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Downtown Bookworks (June 18, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1935703269
ISBN-13: 978-1935703266

Number 3 is A Walk on the Beach: Into the Field Guide by Laurie Goldman.

A Walk on the Beach helps young readers learn about common animals, plants, rocks, shells, and even debris found on the beach.

The bird section includes information about water birds ranging from great blue herons and seagulls, to eagles and ducks. If you live near a body of water, this book will also help your children identify birds for the GBBC.

Age Range: 5 and up
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Downtown Bookworks; Original edition (June 18, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1935703277
ISBN-13: 978-1935703273

Number 4 is Look and Learn Birds (PBS Kids) by Sarah Parvis and PBS KIDS (Editor)

Perfect to accompany a citizen science project like The Great Backyard Bird Watch, this kit comes with a 64-page Look and Learn Birds book, simple-to-use binoculars, a laminated identification sheet with pictures of common birds, and an activity poster. What a fabulous way to encourage the next generation of bird watchers!

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Downtown Bookworks; Box Pck Pa edition (August 30, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1941367291
ISBN-13: 978-1941367292

Giveaway

Would you like a chance to receive the prize pack of all four of these items? Simply login the Rafflecopter below -- making sure you leave a valid e-mail address -- by 12:00 a.m. EST February 7, 2017. Rafflecopter will randomly pick the winner and I will notify Downtown Bookworks (they have kindly agreed to ship the prize.) Their only request is that the giveaway is only open to US residents.

The Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please let me know in the comments or contact me at the e-mail address listed on the about page if you have any problems with Rafflecopter.

_________________________________________________

Related Activities:

Check out the bird-related activities in this free downloadable .pdf:

Activities from PBS KIDS Look and Learn Birds

 

And don't forget the Great Backyard Bird Count.

 

Disclosure: These books and kit were provided by the publisher/author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.