Monday, May 27, 2013


One great thing about rainy days is that it brings out the salamanders. As we had a lot of rainy days last week it proved a perfect time to go on a salamander search in the woods. I've loved searching for salamanders since I was a kid; my brother and I used to go together, combing our driveway after storms. And even now, whenever I run after a rainy spell I always stop along my way to move these little, orange creatures off of the road. But what was really special last week is we could do our search as a whole family.

First we read one of my favorite books for connecting kids to nature, called The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer.

The story tells of a little boy who brings home a salamander and slowly turns his room into the forest to meet the salamander's needs. It's great for talking about habitat with children. But it can also be used to explain why it's best to observe salamanders in their own environment and not to try to bring them home as a pet.

After we read, we set off into the woods to search for salamanders. Our neighbor's property contains a network of cross-country ski trails which make for easy walking and exploring in the woods and they generously allow us use of them. As we searched for salamanders we came across wood frogs, slugs, jack-in-the-pulpits, wood violets, and other interesting finds.

Of course we also found salamanders!! In fact, we found six during the walk. 

It's important to note that salamanders can absorb our chemicals and oils through their skin, so you should be hesitant to pick up a salamander if you've recently applied bug spray or sunscreen. Some people encourage you to just admire salamanders and not to pick them up at all, so they are not exposed to our natural salts and oils. After looking at some up close we tried to do that. 

Big Brother shows Daddy and Little Brother a salamander up close. 
Because we had read the book before beginning our walk, with help Big Brother was able to understand why we couldn't bring them home. He did ask, of course, but with our questions could tell us what we didn't have in our house to help the salamander live.

An Art Connection
Since we couldn't bring any salamanders home, we decided to make some after Big Brother's rest that afternoon. First we started with a simple salt dough recipe. Salt dough is great because it's easy and affordable to make, and dries nicely on its own or in a low temp oven.

For this project I made a model while Big Brother followed. First we rolled out a piece of dough and then pinched the ends. 

Next we rolled smaller pieces to make legs and added them onto the body. Then we made balls for eyes. We used a bamboo skewer to add holes to the eyes. Big Brother also remembered the dots on the salamanders and added dots to his. 

We each made two more and then I baked them for two hours in a 250°F oven. 

Big Brother really wanted to paint them, so the next day we got out our washable project paints. He chose to make some orange, some green, and some a mix of colors. 
Painting one red and orange to make it look like the salamanders, aka "newts," in the woods.
Little Brother watches while Big Brother paints (And Mama makes dinner . . .) 
The finished products: 
Why only three? Well, in a Real Family Moment our beloved family dog was lonely while we were out one afternoon and managed to get the fourth one and chew more than a third of it (before I took a picture.) Luckily we had some more salt dough for making another one. 


  1. Love this post, great book and a great family day outing! The boys are so cute! Thanks for sharing I look forward to the future posts!

    1. Thanks for your positive response! One of my favorite parts of this activity was we could do it by walking right out our door. Kids are so amazing at exploring in the world around us. Even if there isn't a nature trail nearby there is bound to be something right outside that will engage a kiddo.