Posted on Leave a comment

Fun Fish Activities For Preschoolers

On one particularly cold, dreary, winter day I decided we needed to get out of the house! We piled in the car and headed to the pet store for an impromptu field trip. Your local pet store is such a great place to learn about fish with preschoolers! No one is getting dirty, wet, and there are so many different types of fish to observe.

preschool science fish

Usually I can walk into that store and not come home with anything. This day, however, I couldn’t resist. The kids were so interested in all the fish. We left that day with a table-top tank and fish supplies but no fish. When I got home, I started planning our preschool fish theme.

The first day we set up the tank and talked about what our fish would need in their home. My kids added the gravel, real plants, and water.  We waited a day in order to prepare the tank environment.  We added  water conditioner to the water to  help stabilize the environment (get rid of rid of any chlorine, ammonia, or chloramine) which hopefully would allow the fish to acclimate to their new home easier. Then we let the water sit in our table-top tank for 24 hours before going back to the pet store to get our fish. We decided to get guppies!

Fish Vocabulary & Journal

I like to introduce vocabulary while observing items. So while we  sit and watch the fish, I try to bring up the following terms naturally.

“Do you see the fish’s tail?”

“Look at the fish. Does it have skin like we do?”

“How do you think fish breathe under water?”

“Do you see those ‘slits’ on the side of the fish? Those are gills– and they help fish breathe.”

  • gills
  • fins
  • scales
  • mouth
  • eyes
  • tail (actually a caudal fin)
  • Fish Journal

Homeschool Nature Study Members can download My Fish Journal in their dashboard.

If your preschooler enjoys sorting games, be sure to print the Water or Land worksheet from the dashboard as well. This is a cute sorting craft & game. All that’s required is to cut out different animals from the worksheet and sort them into which habitat they live ~ water or land. Be sure to ask your kiddos questions using the Fish Vocabulary words above. Does this bear have gills? Is the fox fury or does it have scales?

Fish Pretend Play Activities

We had some left-over gravel from setting up our own aquarium so we poured that into the bottom of a plastic shoe box. Then the girls decorated their own pretend aquarium using toys from around the house. Though I did this activity more for my toddler and preschooler, my kindergartener loved it too!

Older children can make their own cardboard box fish diorama. By using craft supplies around the house they can create their own fun underwater world. Either glue felt fish to the box or make hanging “puppets”.

My kids played with this for quite a while–using their imaginations. It ended up looking like a scene from Finding Nemo. Which is also a fun movie to watch during lunch or afternoon snack time.

Fish Books

learn about fish

We read and looked at many different fish-related books. After reading Fish Eye, each child made their own foam fish design. Here were some other books that we used:

Fish Eyes by Lois Ehlert, My Visit to the Aquarium by Aliki, What’s It Like to Be a Fish? by Wendy Pfeffer, Under the Sea by Anna Milbourne, Goldfish: Watch It Grow Series.

We are enjoying our guppies very much! And much to our delight, we also found a snail in our tank! It must have hitched a ride on the plants we put in the aquarium.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

Not yet a Member? Join today to access Nature Studies all year long, free Worksheets and Downloads, plus more fun Ideas!

Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge Catfish Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Catfish Nature Study

You may be able to sneak this catfish study in before your weather turns cool. I know plenty of families that know just where to go to catch a catfish but just in case you don’t, use the links in the study for more information and the awesome narrative story in the Handbook of Nature Study to glean some facts about the catfish.

fishing for catfish 1994
Some young boys have the patience to sit and fish for hours. My oldest son loved to go fishing in the Mokolumne River and he would many times catch a big, fat, smelly catfish. He would be so proud of himself. Most times he would catch and release because he really didn’t like cleaning fish.

After your indoor preparation, use your outdoor time to find a pond, creek, or river to visit as part of this study. Build appreciation for the habitat and look for ways to learn about fish when the opportunities arise in the future.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Catfish Study @handbookofnaturestudy. Fish nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study.View the original challenge here: Outdoor Hour Challenge – Catfish.

Bullhead Catfish nature study notebook page

Catfish Nesting Notebook Page

If you have access to the ebook, there are notebook pages for your nature journal.

Additional Study: Members can use the July 2013 newsletter for additional fish nature study ideas, including printable activities and a notebook page.

Handbook of Nature Study Autumn Nature Study 2015 Cover Image

Sample to view: Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Nature Study 2015 Sample Pages

If you don’t have a membership yet, click the graphic above and join today for immediate access to the 26 ebooks and so much more! Remember that all levels, even the Discovery level membership, include access to all of the archived newsletters!

Topics in this ebook include:

  • Swallows and swifts
  • Catfish
  • Jewelweed
  • Prickly lettuce
  • Cockroach
  • Field horsetail
  • Catbird
  • Calcite, limestone, marble
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Hedgehog fungi
  • Sapsucker
  • Brooks

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

Posted on 1 Comment

Pond Life – 4 Seasons Activity

Pond Study Nature Club August 2018 @handbookofnaturestudy

Handbook of Nature Study

Nature Book Club – August

Seasonal Pond Study with Printables

The theme of the link-up for August is Water – River, Stream, Pond. I decided to share one of the books that we used for our study of local ponds. This compact book is a terrific source of information for all ages. It’s detailed enough for an older student to use as a reference and it has colorful illustrations that will capture the interest of younger students.


Here’s the book I’m featuring: Pond Life – A Golden Guide

You can look for it at your public library or it’s available from Amazon (note that I’m an Amazon affiliate and there are affiliate links in this entry).

You can use this as a reference book or field guide during your pond study. Or, read a few pages a week over a longer period and learn about pond life in preparation for a future pond study. There are sections for plant life and animal life in this book, including birds, reptiles, fish, and mammals. In addition, there are simple illustrations for really small things you might collect in pond water, looking at them up close with a magnifying lens or microscope.

We have owned and read this book several times during our homeschool studies. I’ve kept it in our nature library even now as a quick way to learn more about things we see in our own pond/stream.

Pond notebook page with net

Nature Journal Page (shown above) Printable Link

 “Almost any of the fishes found in a brook or pond may be kept in an aquarium for a few days of observation in the schoolroom. A large water pail or a bucket does very well if there is no glass aquarium. ”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 145

august nature book club graphic

Seasonal Pond Study with Printables


Use this notebook page to record your pond study observations and then revisit your pond in each season to compare plants, insects, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
Printable Seasonal Pond Study Notebook Page


Pond Study and Pond Grid 

As a bonus, I’m including the Summer Pond Study notebook page and the Pond Study Grid from the August 2011 Newsletter!

Pond Nature Journal

Additional Links

Here’s another idea for the field: Guide to Pond Dipping(YouTube video). I also found this excellent resource for identifying things you find when you scoop your pond water: Simple Guide to Small and Microscopic Pond Life.


Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

Make sure to subscribe to my blog to follow along with our weekly nature study activities.

Note: This post is part of a monthly series of posts I’m writing as part of a fantastic group of nature loving women who I’m linking up with on the 20th of each month. There’s a topic of the month and we’ll all share a book and activity that goes along with that theme.  Use the linky tool below to share your own nature walk related links this month too.

Check out these other links for more nature walk ideas from Nature Book Club Co-Hosts!

Sensory Bin and Observation Notebooking Page from Jenny at Faith & Good Works
Pond Life Printable Pack from Emily at Table Life Blog
Aquatic Science Studies: 10 Activities for Teens from Eva at Eva Varga
Above and Below a Pond Unit Study and Lapbook from Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
Online Book Study about water cycle from Dachelle at Hide the Chocolate
STEAM Challenge – Does Water Ever Flow Up? from Erika at The Playful Scholar
Who Was?® What Was?® Where Is?® Book Series: Where is the Mississippi River? from Sharla at Minnesota Country Girl


Past Month’s Themes:

Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Autumn Trout and Salmon

Outdoor Hour Challenge Trout and Salmon @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Trout and Salmon Study

From the Archives and the Autumn Ebook

The last time we studied salmon we were in California and we lived very near a creek where the kokanee salmon spawned every autumn. We had such a tremendous experience and reading back over the entry I remember the excitement of the day spent with my boys.

salmon chalk pastel

You can read it here: Salmon Circle of Life.

I know that many of you won’t have direct access to salmon or trout, but the best part of any nature study is the time you spend with your children outside.

autumn leaves and salmon

Take the time this week to read about the trout in the Handbook of Nature Study and then get outdoors for some fresh air with your children. Visit a stream, visit a fish hatchery, or get creative!

 You can also use this free resource here on the Handbook of Nature Study.




Print and use the Fish Copywork notebook page

I hope you’re enjoying the autumn series of Outdoor Hour Challenges posted here on Fridays. Please note that all of the challenges along with corresponding notebook pages are available to Ultimate Naturalist Members at the Handbook of Nature Study.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can see all of the ebooks available by clicking the graphic above. This includes 20 ebooks, 76 archived newsletters, and over 75 other printable notebook pages and activities.


Posted on Leave a comment

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter – May 2017 Beach and Fish

HNS Newsletter Cover May 2017

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter

May 2017 Beach and Fish


Please read the following explanation outlining how to get this month’s newsletter.

The newsletter link is not in this email but will come separately. Members should have received their link already.

If you don’t receive the separate email with the download link, you probably aren’t subscribed to the blog yet. This will take less than a minute to do if you follow the steps below.

If you are a subscriber and you haven’t received your newsletter email yet, check your SPAM inbox. Some subscribers have found the email buried in SPAM inbox.

Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now

If you need to subscribe:

  • You will need to go to the Handbook of Nature Study, look to the top right corner for the box to type in your preferred email address, and then confirm the email that comes to your email inbox.
  • Once you subscribe, you will receive a thank you email from me with the download link for the current month’s newsletter.

This month’s newsletter link will be available only during the month of May so be sure to download it before 5/31/17.

Remember! All of the archived and current newsletters are available as part of the Ultimate Naturalist Library…every level!

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter March 2017

Contents of this edition of the newsletter include:

  • This month the theme of the newsletter goes along with the Ambleside Online theme of fish.  I expanded on that theme to include beach nature study ideas.
  • There is a Nature Study Planning Page for May with lots of great ideas related to the monthly theme.
  • Don’t miss reading this article by contributor Jamie Worley from See Jamie Blog
  • Printable: Fish Grid Study

Resources for your Nature Library: I have started to build a nature library store on Amazon that will feature by category my favorite nature study books and resources. Take a look and see if there is anything you would like to put on your wish list for your family’s nature study library: Handbook of Nature Study Nature Library Suggestions on Note this is my affiliate store to items I personally recommend and have read or seen in person.

Please note that Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level members have access to members only printables each month in addition to the newsletter printables. You will need to log into your account and then go to the “Other Releases” section.


Outdoor Hour Challenge Wildflower Set 1 Ebook

This new ebook is found in the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level memberships.

Ultimate Naturalist Library Benefits by Level June 2016

As a special promo, you can use the discount code WILDFLOWER5 for $5 off the Ultimate Naturalist Membership.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Membership


Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Catfish


Outdoor Hour Challenge Catfish Study @handbookofnaturestudy. Fish nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study.

Outdoor Hour Challenge


Inside Preparation Work:

  • Read pages 148-151 in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson #37).
  • You may wish to read this page: Best Way to Catch a Bullhead Catfish.
  • Youtube video: Brown Bullhead and Bullhead Nest (great video, crazy music so you might want to turn the sound down).
  • More in-depth information for kids about bullhead catfish: BioKids. (Check out the section, “Who eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?”)
  • Learn about the barbels (whiskers) of this fish: Barbels.

“The bullhead lives in mud bottoms of streams and ponds and is particularly adapted for life in such locations.”

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Spend your outdoor time at a stream or pond. If you are able, do some fishing! Or, you can wade in and use a net to try to catch any fish to observe.
  • Create a nature journal while outdoors as you take advantage of the early autumn weather. Use watercolors to paint a bullhead or any other fish you find during your outdoor time.

Follow-Up Activity:

  • If you didn’t complete a nature journal page during your outdoor time, do so as a follow up activity. There is a notebook page in the ebook for you to use if you desire.
  • Advanced Study: Follow the suggestion in the Handbook of Nature Study to write an account of the nest-making habits of the bullhead. Insert your work into your nature journal.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library
If you want to purchase the Autumn Nature Study 2015 ebook so you can follow along with all the notebooking pages, coloring pages, and subject images, you can join the Ultimate or Journey Membership Levels. See the Join Us page for complete information. Also, you can view the Autumn Nature Study 2015 announcement page for more details.

Handbook of Nature Study Autumn Nature Study 2015 Cover Image




Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge- Johnny Darter, Sunfish, Shiner

Outdoor Hour Challenge Johnny Darter Common Shiner Sunfish @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Johnny Darter, Sunfish, and Common Shiner

Inside Preparation Work:

  • Read in the Handbook of Nature Study:
  • For this challenge, make drawings of each fish with captions as a means of preparing for your outdoor time. Drawing each fish carefully will allow time to focus on the shapes and sizes of each fish so you can more readily identify them in the future.  Use the images in this ebook to help you draw each fish.
  • Additional fish activity: Use the fish grid study in this ebook for some fish fun.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Take a trip to a nearby stream, river, or lake to create an opportunity to look for fish  Take along a little fish net to use to scoop up water and maybe a fish to observe. Some families may prefer to take a fishing trip to complete this challenge, perhaps catching one of the subjects for closer observation.
  • Make sure to keep your eyes out for any nature study subject that may come your way. Take a photo or write a few notes and then research the subject when you get home or at your local library.

Follow-Up Activity:

  • Create a follow-up nature journal for one or all three of the fish in this study. Use the notebook pages provided in the ebook or create your own page in your nature journal.
  • Advanced study: Use the information on these websites to complete a fish study for each fish in this challenge.
  • Advanced study: Research the term “lateral line” and complete a nature journal page Or the notebook page in this ebook explaining what it is and then create a sketch to illustrate .

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library
If you want to purchase the Summer Nature Study Continues ebook so you can follow along with all the notebooking pages, coloring pages, and subject images, you can join the Ultimate or Journey Membership Levels. See the Join Us page for complete information. Also, you can view the Summer Nature Study Continues – New Ebook announcement page for more details.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Nature Study Continues ebook

Posted on 3 Comments

Hawaiian Fish in My Nature Journal

Fish are a more difficult nature study topic for our family than I expected! We have been several places where there are fish but we have not seen any up close and personal. Since last week’s challenge was to draw fish, I remembered that I had a journal page with a variety of fish so I decided to share that with you.
Which led me on a merry chase to find some images to share with you too!

I drew lots of fish in my nature journal last November (2012) during our trip to Hawaii. We went snorkeling quite a few times and I was trying to keep a record of some of the more beautiful fish we encountered. Snorkeling is a fantastic way to observe fish in their natural environment which on the Big Island of Hawaii is the coral reef.

All of the photos in this post are from the past….once I started digging through old photos I actually found quite a few to share with you.

Snorkeling is one of those activities that all my children enjoy. It is a really frugal way to spend time in the water and have nature study at the same time! We taught all the kids to snorkel in the swimming pool and when they felt comfortable we ventured into the ocean. My kids are all confident swimmers and they all caught on really fast. We rented their gear the first time but now we all have our own and we pack it along for every trip.

We have seen many fantastic things snorkeling like Green Sea Turtles, eels, Spinner Dolphins, and a rainbow of tropical reef fish. There is nothing more surreal than swimming along side by side with a big sea turtle. They are just as curious about you as you are about them!

My favorite are the Yellow Tangs! There can be whole schools of them along the reef if you are lucky. I think these photos are from the Big Island, Kona side at a place called Kahalu’u. The water is shallow, there is a sandy entrance and it is perfect for beginners to try. This is where I learned to snorkel.

This is a video I found on YouTube and it gives you a really good idea of what snorkeling at Kahalu’u is like…including what it sounds like. All those little snapping sounds are what you hear and if you want to know what it is you can click over here: Little Pistol Shrimp...

This is our favorite place to snorkel on the Big Island of Hawaii….Honaunau Bay or Two-Step Beach.  It is an easy two steps into the water from the rock’s ledges. It is an amazing place…can’t recommend it highly enough.

Here is the view from the shore looking out into the bay. This was a busy weekend afternoon and there are lots of people enjoying the snorkeling. My boys are in the center of the photo walking on the rocks. The water you see off the rocks is a calm area where there are lots of fish and sea turtles. You can see a person sitting on the edge of the rocks towards the left side of the photo and that is where the ledge is to step into and out of the water easily.

The last time we were here there was a pod of resting spinner dolphins just out in the bay. Amazing!

Moorish Idol

I wish I knew the names of all the fish but I decided it is a life project and try to learn a few new fish each time we snorkel. I purchased a field guide and page through it to identify fish I remember seeing.

Some of the fish are really big and don’t seem afraid of you at all.

Some fish swim in large schools and even though the photos don’t show it, they sparkle and shimmer in the sunlight. Sometimes if the light is just right, you see lots of fish and can get carried away swimming after them.

So even though I haven’t found any fish this week to draw in my nature journal, I had lots of fun going through all my images from past snorkeling trips to share with you. I encourage you to try snorkeling if you ever have the opportunity.

Have you seen any fish this week?

Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge – Drawing Fish

For this challenge, you are going to be drawing some fish in your nature journals. Use the links below to help your family get started. Don’t forget that you can use the Fish Grid Study from the newsletter during any of the fish challenges. I encourage you to get outside and find somewhere to learn more about your local fish.

How to Draw a Fish

If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #3. This challenge is going to help you get some sketches in your nature journal. Maybe you will want to draw a fish or if your child wants to draw something else..let them create their own page with their own subject.  

Blog Logo 1
OHC Blog Carnival
You are welcome to submit any of you blog Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Entries for the current month are due on 7/30/13. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Outdoor Hour Challenge Goldfish Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Goldfish Nature Study

This is a fun challenge for those of you who have aquarium goldfish. If you don’t have goldfish of your own, you can be creative and visit a local pet store and observe the goldfish there or you can even use the video below to get a taste of what goldfish are like. However you decide to use this challenge, I look forward to seeing your entries in the next blog carnival (see instructions at the end of this challenge).

Goldfish YouTube Video – Watch full screen!

Printable Goldfish Nature Study and Notebook Page

This two page printable will outline a study of goldfish using the Handbook of Nature Study. You can complete the study and then record your observations on the notebook page provided.

Handbook of Nature Study Goldfish Lesson and Notebook Page


If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #2. After your goldfish observations, use the directions in this challenge to help your child express their experience in words. Afterwards, record some of their words on the accompanying notebook page.   

Blog Logo 1
OHC Blog Carnival
You are welcome to submit any of you blog Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Entries for the current month are due on 7/30/13.