Today is a day to appreciate the squirrels! After spending the Fall gathering and collecting nuts and seeds, food sources can be scarce during the mid-winter for these animals. Many people consider squirrels to be pests, as they can monopolize bird feeders, dig holes and steal flower bulbs, but they are still one of nature’s creatures, and at least they provide some entertainment during the long winter months!
Here’s a snack for the squirrels you can have your kids make:
- Toast (or a container or cardboard tube would work too!)
- Peanut butter (the ‘glue’ that will stick on the seeds)
- Bird Seed (can also use nuts, raisins, etc.)
3. Repeat for the other side.
4. Poke the string through the birdseed toast and hang outside for your furry friends.
5. Wait, watch, and enjoy!
Learn About Squirrels
We were wondering about how squirrels keep warm in their tree nests. They don’t look like they’d stay very warm inside that ball of leaves way up in the trees, especially on these frigid windy days of January!
Here’s some interesting facts that we learned:
- Squirrel nests are called dreys
- They are built in the summer or early fall, made of gnawed off branches bearing green leaves (which stay attached to the branches all winter), and lined with grass, moss, pine needles, bark, and leaves.
- The outer layer of leaves help keep water from getting in
- The lining helps keep the squirrels warm
- The entrance hole is towards the tree trunk
- Squirrels build a couple of dreys, in case one is invaded by predators or pests
- Sometimes 2 squirrels occupy a drey to help keep each other warm
- Squirrels give birth to 3 babies in June and in January
- January broods are born in tree cavities, where it is much more stable, concealed, and protected. The entrance hole for these nests are only 3-4 inches wide to keep predators out.
- Babies born in dreys are 40% less likely to survive than those born in tree cavities.
Build Your Own Squirrel Nest
You can experiment with this by building a makeshift squirrel nest outside in the winter! If it were fall, we could actually try this with sticks, leaves and grass, but being winter, we are short of these items. (This is a good point on why winter animals need to do a lot of work in the summer and fall to get ready for winter!)
- Large cardboard box
- 2 Tarps
- Old blankets
1. Lay a tarp down on the ground.
2. Place the box over the tarp. The box will be like the sticks and branches the squirrels use to weave their nest together.
3. Cover the box with the other tarp. This is like the layer of leaves around the nest that protects the nest from getting wet.
4. Line the box with a few blankets. This is like the grass and moss the squirrels use to keep the nest warm.
5. Hang out in your ‘nest’ in the cold and see if it keeps you warm!
Other Squirrel Projects
- Make Nutty Squirrels (spoonful.com) – We did these, but I never took pictures. They are really cute, and it doubles as a game!
- The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri – Squirrel is too busy getting ready for winter to nibble a pumpkin with Mouse, run in the field with Dog, or otherwise play with any of the other animals. The leaves have started to fall. The air is cold. Squirrel needs to get ready for winter. He cannot nibble with the mice. He does not have time to hop with the frogs or run with the dogs. But there is one thing he can do!
- Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt – Meet Scaredy Squirrel, a squirrel who never leaves his nut tree because he’s afraid of the unknown “out there.” But then, something unexpected happens that may just change his outlook.