Get your kids off their screens and into nature! Teaching kids about life cycles the fun way – through hands-on play is invaluable. Here’s how you can find frogspawn, watch it hatch into tadpoles and later grow into frogs!
My daughter was the first to point it out to me, ‘Mama, what is that?’. The yellowish blob was hanging on the edge of the pool, just above the surface, resembling a ball of construction foam –the stuff you squirt from a can. When I pulled it off, and threw it in the garden, its soft squishiness surprised me. When we saw another one the next day, I scraped it off carefully, and examined it more closely. On the inside of the spongy grey-yellow foam, there were little white balls. Some kind of eggs? Google told me this was the egg mass of the four-lined tree frog.
In the evenings, when we were sipping our drinks by the poolside, we’d see the frogs come down from the surrounding trees, and host their own pool parties. They hovered around the edges, croaking out to prospective mates loudly. Occasionally, we caught them in the act, get a room, you two!
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The kids got used to our daily blobs, and we had to set rules, no throwing, and no putting them down your sister’s swimsuits. Once, we must have missed a blob, and the pool was full of tiny tadpoles. The children spent a morning painstakingly catching every single one with their hands, and collecting them in the pail where we were hatching some frogspawn already. With tadpoles aplenty; we were now running a frog farm!
Frogspawn to Tadpoles to Frogs
Hatching your own tadpoles is a fun and educational activity to do with kids. The hardest part is finding yourself some frog eggs. There are surprisingly many frogs around Singapore, so ask a friend with a pool or check your local streams and ponds to find eggs. Some frogs lay their eggs in the water, where others like to position spawn just above, to keep it safe from predators. Some rare frogs even keep the eggs in their mouth for safekeeping!
1. Get organized
You need a good sized container to hatch your tadpoles, and make sure never to put them directly into fresh tap water as this contains a lot of chlorine. Ideally collect rainwater, alternatively let tap water stand overnight so the chlorine can evaporate. Make sure not to put the tank in direct sunlight. Then put in your eggs and wait!
2. Feed ’em greens
As soon as the tadpoles are born you’ll need to feed them. They eat soft leafy vegetables. Chye sim, lettuce, spinach, any local greens will do. Defrosted or blanched leaves are easiest to digest when they are little. Make sure to feed them plenty, and give them ample space, or they might turn cannibalistic. As they grow older you can add a little fish or cat food to the mix. You can provide some rocks for little froglets to sit on.
My kids and I love checking up on the tadpoles to see them slowly but steadily transform. First, they just get bigger and fatter, until one day two hind legs will emerge. Then, more legs. At this stage, the tadpoles still have a tail they use for swimming, but they will start to hop too, so be mindful where they escape to. The tail will disappear completely, and you have a baby frog! Other than tadpoles, frogs are carnivorous, so unless you like to start feeding them insects, this is the time to release them back into nature.
4. Say goodbye (for now)
The best place to do this is at the same spot you found the eggs, as this will be a suitable environment for them. Not all your tadpoles will make it into frogs, but you can explain to your kids that the same thing would happen in nature. Frogs have lots and lots of babies, but only a small percentage of them will make it to adulthood; many animals like to snap up the little swimmers for a snack. But even at home, out of a 100 eggs, you might only get 5-6 little frogs. But by enabling some of them to grow up in safe surroundings you will hopefully have helped them a little bit.
At our frog farm, the tiny froglets usually disappear stealthily in the night. When I sit by the pool at night and see a big one appear, I can’t help but think: is that one we hand raised on chye sim?
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Let the kids go on their own garden safari