What Kind of Wild Animals Live Near You? Go Animal Track Hunting Today!

Spring is the perfect time of year for outdoor exploring and animal track hunting.  The lack of vegetation in the woods combined with the mud of the season help to reveal animal tracks that are easily hidden the rest of the year.  Taking your kids on an “animal track hunt” is a great family adventure, and it’s the perfect way to get everyone outside.

Go animal track hunting!

What kind of animals live near your house?

You can use your detective skills and the downloadable and printable sheet in this post to help identify the animals you find tracks for.  The same instructions are posted below if you’d rather not print them.  (Download and print the attached animal track and plaster mold guide here.)

Here’s what you will need:

  • A one- or two-pound bag or box of plaster of Paris. This is a powder that looks like flour. You can buy plaster of Paris at the hardware store. It is not of expensive.
  • A mixing bowl – a small plastic container such as Tupperware or a plastic cereal bowl. Actually you can use anything that will hold one or two cups of water without leaking, but plastic is reusable and easier to clean. You will be mixing the plaster with water, so it is also better to have something shallow and wide rather than something tall and narrow.
  • A bottle of water.  A 16-ounce plastic soda bottle works great.
  • An old tablespoon.
  • A 2-liter soda bottle cut into 2 inch sections.
  • A few sheets of newspaper to wrap the track cast.
  • A bag or knapsack to put all of this stuff in.
  • Oh yeah, old shoes and clothes that you can get muddy in.

Let the detective work begin:

Look for tracks on wet ground and soft mud. The best place to look is where animals go to get water. The bank of a creek, stream, river, pond, or lake is a great place to start. Sandbars are good places, too. The edges of mud puddles shouldn’t be overlooked.

How to make a plaster cast:

Once you have found a good clean track that you want to keep, gently clear away any debris around the track. Remove any leaves, small stones or twigs without disturbing the track.  Place one soda bottle ring around the track so that the track is centered, and press it about 1/2 inch into the ground. This makes a sturdy circular wall that will keep the plaster from running out.

Mix up some plaster:

Follow the directions that came with the plaster.

If you don’t have instructions, here is how we do it in the field: carefully begin sprinkling some of the plaster into the water. When the plaster looks like the top of a volcano and is about 1/2 inch taller than the water, stop. (See the drawing. It’s worth a thousand words.) Let it sit for a minute or two so that the plaster absorbs some of the water.

When the plaster looks like the top of a volcano and is about 1/2 inch taller than the water, stop.  Let it sit for a minute or two so that the plaster absorbs some of the water.

When the plaster looks like the top of a volcano and is about 1/2 inch taller than the water, stop. Let it sit for a minute or two so that the plaster absorbs some of the water.

Next, begin slowly (slowly is the magic word) stirring the plaster and water with your spoon until it is creamy like pancake batter. Here is another hint: you don’t want to get air bubbles into the plaster mix. They take away some of the detail of the track. Don’t whip the mix. Just stir it gently until it is evenly mixed and has no lumps.

Gently tap the bottom of your mixing bowl on a rock or a fallen tree trunk to remove any air bubbles. As you tap you will see bubbles come to the top. Aren’t you glad you didn’t whip the plaster? Keep tapping until the bubbles stop coming up.

Now you are ready to pour the plaster into the circle you made earlier. Do not pour the plaster directly on the track. It might ruin it. Instead, pour to the side of the track and let it run into the track. Fill the circle to the top.

This plaster thing you have just made is called a cast. It needs to harden for at least 30 minutes. An hour is better. Even after an hour, the cast will still be soft and will easily break if handled roughly. This is a good time to look for more tracks. Can you find any bird tracks? How about snail tracks?

When the time is up, it is time to remove the cast. Start removing the mud 4 or 5 inches outside of the cast. Next dig away the mud below the cast. Carefully lift up the cast. If there is any resistance, stop. Dig out some more mud. Do not try to pry the cast out with a spoon or a stick. It will crack. Lift it out gently with your hands.

Wrap the cast in newspaper to protect it on the trip home. It is still very fragile. It will be for about two more days. When plaster is drying it feels warm to the touch. The cast will be ready to clean after it feels cool to the touch.  Clean it by carefully brushing away any dirt and debris.

Then you can paint it if you like.

Next, you’ll need to identify your tracks.  Download and print the attached animal track and plaster mold guide and take it with you in the field, or use the photos below to help identify your tracks. If you’d rather skip the do-it-yourself way, there is a ready made Wildlife Animal Track Mold Kit made just for you.  Also, if you’d like a more in-depth identification guide, check out The Tracker’s Field Guide.  It’s loaded with valuable information and identification techniques perfect for beginners and advanced trackers alike.

Common Tracks

Common Tracks 2


Common Tracks 3


Common Tracks 4


Common Tracks 5


Common Tracks 6


Common Tracks 7

*NOTE – The attached printable pdf and the instructions in this article are part of the public domain and are courtesy of the USGS.  They can be found at http://education.usgs.gov/kids/tracks.html.


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Tonka Trucks – Making Dreams Come Alive for Over 60 Years

Are you a truck lover?  Does your heart beat a little faster at the sight of four-wheel drive machine?  It’s ok, mine does too.  For us truck fanatics, our love of trucks didn’t start when we got our driver’s license.  It started when we were kids playing on the floor, making engine sounds, and pushing around a mighty Tonka Truck that was almost as big as we were.

Tonka Trucks

Tonka Trucks allow kids to be heroes and to dream big.

What’s so special about a Tonka Truck?  It isn’t just their construction (although they can last for generations), it isn’t only their realistic design, and it isn’t just their true-to-life detailing.  Tonka trucks are so beloved because they allow boys and girls to dream and to dream big. When a six-year old is playing with a Tonka firetruck, he’s not just playing with his truck.  At that moment, he’s a heroic fireman rescuing strangers from a burning building.  When you see a toddler pushing around a bulldozer, he’s not just pushing it.  He’s in that truck, pushing dirt and building himself a racetrack.  A little boy pushing a tractor in the driveway is, at that moment, a farmer in charge of the biggest farm in the midwest.

The reason that Tonka trucks are still popular after 60 plus years is because they allow children to become heroes, dream big, and to create their own grand adventures.  Whether it’s a Tow Truck, a Tonka Dump Truck, or a Steel Bulldozer – your child or grandchild is sure to get years of dream building and epic adventures out of their Tonka Truck.


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Easter Themed Scavenger Hunt

Round up the whole family for an Easter Themed Scavenger Hunt!

Round up the whole family for an Easter Themed Scavenger Hunt!

After the Easter Baskets are found and dinner is consumed, you may want to plan an activity to help burn off some of that excess sugar.  An Easter Themed Scavenger Hunt is the perfect way to get the kids focused on an activity that will get them moving and keep them occupied – at least for a little while!

Download your printable copy of the Easter Themed Scavenger Hunt here:

_______ Easter Basket

_______ Stuffed Animal

_______ Chocolate Egg

_______ Cross

_______ Easter Basket Grass

_______ Red Jelly Bean

_______ Easter Bunny

_______ Flower

_______ Lamb

_______ Plastic Easter Egg

_______ Real Easter Egg

_______ Easter Hat

_______ Baby Chick (Can be candy, toy or real)

_______ Easter Card

_______ Easter Decoration

_______ Chocolate Easter Bunny

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Spy Games for Kids – Create Your Own Invisible Ink in 4 Easy Steps

Secret messages, treasures maps, and notes that big sister isn’t allowed to read – those are a few of the many reasons that young boys need to know how to make invisible ink.  Luckily for Mom, it’s easy, non-toxic, and shouldn’t make a big mess.  You only need two ingredients – baking soda and water.

Step 1.  Mix equal parts water and baking soda.

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Step 2. Dab a cotton swab, toothpick, or paintbrush into the mix.

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Step 3. Write a message onto white paper using the baking soda solution as the ink.
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Step 4. Allow the ink to dry thoroughly.
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Reading the message is easy, and there are two ways to do it. The first is to hold the paper up to a heat source. An incandescent light works perfectly for this. The baking soda will cause the writing on the paper to turn brown.
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The second option is to paint over the message with purple grape juice. The message will appear in a different color than the juice.

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The instructional portion of this article was provided by wikiHow, a wiki building the world’s largest, highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Make Invisible Ink. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

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This Year Fill Their Easter Basket with Adventure

I’ll admit it – this year, I cringed when I saw the marshmallow eggs, the generic jelly beans, and the colored fake grass start to creep on the store shelves.  Not that I don’t love a good Cadbury Egg once a year, but the thought of buying all that sugar, bringing it home, and then letting it get spread all over the house in a pile of messy grass and empty wrappers DID NOT fill me with joy.

Adventure Filled Easter Basket

Be creative and fill their basket with fun and inspiring gifts.

I know I sound like a bit of an Easter Scrooge, but I’m sure I’m not alone.  My quest was prompted in part by conversations I’ve had with other moms who are likeminded.  After all, I think there has to be something else that I can fill their basket with besides calories. My mission this year is to reduce the basket calorie count and replace some of it with a little more fun and adventure.

With adventure in mind, here are my top picks for mom approved, kid-friendly, reduced-calorie Easter Basket Gifts.

Survival Themed Easter Basket – A survival themed basket is easy to put together and is ideal for the outdoor-oriented kid.  Items to include are:

The Ultimate Readers Adventure Themed Easter Basket – If you have an avid reader in your house like I do, then this Easter Basket will keep them happy for a long time!

The Hands-On Child’s Dream Basket – When you have a “take-it-apart, see-how-it-works” kid in the house, you need productive and interesting projects to keep them occupied.  Add one or more of these items to their basket and they’ll be thrilled!

A themed adventure basket is a great idea to inspire your kids and keep the easter afternoon sugar coma at bay.

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Get Outside Spring Scavenger Hunt for Kids

Now that spring has arrived, it’s time get outside, explore the world around you, and have some fun.  What better way to get reacquainted with the great outdoors than with a spring scavenger hunt?  This simple scavenger hunt will keep the kids busy as it opens their eyes to the world around them.

Download your FREE printable Spring Scavenger Hunt here.

Get Outside Spring Scavenger Hunt

Take this list outside and see how many of the spring items on this list you can find.  You’ll have to look high and low!

_______ Green grass

_______ Flower

_______ Acorn or other tree nut

_______ 1 brown bird

_______ A bee

_______ A butterfly

_______ A tree bud or leaf

_______ A pine cone

_______ Animal track(s)

_______ A worm

_______ An ant

_______ A feather

_______ A spider web

_______ A cloud shaped like an animal

_______ A colorful bird

_______ A bird nest

_______ A empty plastic bottle

Are you looking for more fun adventure ideas?  Check out our library of Adventure books that span all ages.  You’ll find books on survival, camping books for kids and families, outdoor adventure stories, and dozens of how-to manuals and guides for outdoor adventure.  With JM Cremp’s as your go-to resource, your kids will never be bored!

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Beat Winter Break Boredom With These Family-Friendly Activities

Christmas break is upon us and that means the kids are home and the house is busy.  Don’t be alarmed if after the excitement of presents, visiting, and Christmas cookies wears off, the “boredom” phase of vacation sets in.  This year, you can be prepared with a few “suggestions” to keep the kids (and even some of the adults) happily occupied.  Here are a few of our favorites.

Snowball fight!

Build a snow fort (or two) along with an arsenal of snowballs,  and challenge the family to an old fashioned snow-ball fight!

1.  Build a Snow Fort.  On second thought, build two snow forts.  That way you can join the kids in making an arsenal of snowballs, and the whole family can have a good old fashioned snowball fight.

2.  Plan Family Game Night.  Family game night is a staple at our house.  We pick a few games, order pizza, and let the family rivalry begin!

3.  Do Some Night-Time Sledding.  This is a fun diversion and an extra-special night for the younger children who are usually in the house after dark.  Grab some lights (headlamps work best), your favorite sled, and hit the sled hill.  The younger kids find this exciting and quite thrilling.  Finish your special night with a good cup of hot chocolate, and you’ll be a shoo-in to win the “Parent of the Year” Award.

If all else fails, you can do what I do.  I usually suggest a few chores, and within minutes, the boredom magically disappears!


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