Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Cragbaby’s First Field Guide

When most people think of favorite childhood books, usually classic stories like “A Cricket in Times Square,” “Stuart Little”, and “Charlotte’s Web” come to mind.  Although I of course have fond memories of those books as well, oddly enough the most tattered books in my collection were a little more technical in nature.  As long as I can remember, I have always been a nut about field guides.  Mammals, Birds, Plants and Flowers, Rocks and Minerals, Spiders and Insects – I had a field guide for anything you could imagine almost.  But above all my very favorite one was a little purple pocket guide entitled “Butterflies and Moths.”  I have probably read it cover to cover about a million times.  I basically had it memorized, so I could find any type of butterfly or moth listed in the book within seconds, as well as tell you whether I’d seen that particular species in “real life,” along with geeky juicy details like where and when.

When I wasn’t reading it, my purple pocket guide could generally be found in the basket of my little pink banana bike, so that I was always prepared at the drop of a hat to go on a “butterfly mission.”  Also in my basket were other essentials: a jar and my trusty butterfly net.  I had several fields and meadows I would visit as I would make my “rounds.”  Every year I would catch as many different types of butterflies as I could, mount them in a frame, and enter them in our county fair.  I would win 1st prize every year, probably because I was the only 12 and under entrant that included scientific names as well as detailed field notes about habitat…I was pretty meticulous in my approach, and never used more than one of each type of butterfly I caught for my frame projects (didn’t want to interfere with the natural population of course.)  All the other catching was to keep my “skills” up and to observe the butterflies before letting them go.  Anyway I always dreamed about working in the field as a correspondent for National Geographic…though my path over the years veered from that somewhat, I feel like an argument could be made that both the Cragmama website as well as my current guidebook endeavour has caused my inner nature dorkiness to come full circle a bit.

I’ve noticed in recent months a few signs that perhaps Cragbaby had inherited his mommy’s love for nature observation.  He loves pointing out (and investigating firsthand if possible) every living thing we encounter whenever we are outside.  I also discovered that he was thrilled whenever he recognized an animal or flower in any of his books.  That’s when I got the idea to make him a field guide.  It was cheap, easy to make, and he seems to love it, so I thought I’d share the idea here…

Materials Needed:
Pictures of local flora/fauna – I used random photos from Google images for all except our neighbor’s cat (that one was an actual photo).  If your child is old enough to use a camera, I think a really cool idea would be to take the pictures together during some Green Hour time!
Sturdy Paper – I used posterboard, and cut it into the sizes I wanted.
Access to Laminator – I just took our materials to Kinko’s, and use the laminator there.  Quick, cheap, and painless.
Binding Rings – I picked these up for just a couple of $ while I was getting everything laminted.
Markers:  I labeled my own, but again, if you have older kids, letting them help with the labeling would be a great way to involve them as well!

The Final Product:  C loves his book.  We take it with us on walks and whenever we see something that is in our guide, we make sure to flip to that page to point it out.  C gets really excited to see “anunna (another) butterfly, anunna ant”.  It definitely brings a smile to my face that his favorite page so far is the caterpillar page.  Like Cragmama, like cragbaby I guess.  🙂

Anyone else ready to come out of the nature dork closet and join me?  I know I can’t be the only one…What geeky things does your family do to enjoy nature?


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN