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Farm Lessons and Activities for Kids

Updated on July 23, 2012

There is much to learn about farms, and farms have a lot to offer in the way of inspiration. The following farm activities are some that I have done as a camp counselor at The Farm Institute with elementary school aged children. The activities are fun, hands-on, and they get concepts like "compost" and "poult" buzzing in the kids' brains.

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Grass Weavings

Good pasture and grass is key to a healthy, sustainable livestock operation. Explain to the kids that hay is cut-up and dried grass, fed to animals when they don't have access to enough green grass, or during the winter when animals are housed in the barn.

Activity: Have the kids cut long grasses from the field, or provide a hay bale to pull from. Observe and appreciate the number of different species found in pasture grass. Ask how many species of grass are on their lawns at home (likely just one). Talk about how grazing on a variety of grasses is good for the animals' health, just like it's good for humans to eat a varied diet.

Find sling-shot shaped branches and tie twine in parallel lines across it, making a loom. Take the long fibrous grasses and hay and weave it over and under the lines. If enough grasses are used it makes a tight weaving showcasing the different species of grasses in hay.

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Chicken Stomachs

Chickens don't have teeth! So how do they chew their food?

As they peck the ground and grasses, chickens swallow small granules of sand that they store in a chamber of their stomach called the gizzard. The small stones mush the food around like teeth, allowing it to be digested.

Activity: have the kids put chicken feed pellets and small pebbles in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and tell them to mush it all around until the feed starts breaking down. You are successfully imitating a gizzard!

Soil Erosion Experiment

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Soil Erosion Demonstration

In agriculture it's bad practice to leave bare soil exposed to the elements (think the Dust Bowl, Great Depression era). This experiment demonstrates visually for the kids how vegetation and cover crops are important to soil conservation.

Activity: Place a pile of loose dirt next to a cut of grass or sod. Put the surface on a tilt, or use a porous surface as I did. Take a hair dryer and have the kids blow on each pile, representing "wind" erosion. Next take a watering can and have the kids pour water over each pile, representing "rain" and storm erosion. Have them note which pile held the dirt better.

To further demonstrate why erosion is bad, collect the muddy "run-off" water that drained from the experiment in a container. Tell the kids that this container represents our drinking wells, or the ocean. Would we like to drink that muddy water? Would fish like to live in it? If you were a gardener and you wanted to continue planting, would you have enough soil left?

Compost S'mores

The center of compost piles can get very hot, enough to burn your hand or burst into flames! The larger the compost pile the greater potential for reaching high heat. Also the more aerated your compost pile is the hotter it will be; you can aerate your soil by turning it over frequently, providing the decomposing bacteria with more oxygen. The microorganism activity is what generates heat.

Activity: Have each kid construct an uncooked s'more and put it in a plastic bag sealed tight! (Thus avoiding any nasty decomposing food and bacteria contamination.) Push the bag into the center of the compost pile using a stick or gloved hands. The temperature of your compost will determine how long to leave it in there, and once taken out the kids can enjoy a compost-heated delicious treat!

Pigs and children look remarkably alike once covered in mud.
Pigs and children look remarkably alike once covered in mud. | Source

Build a Wallow

Why do pigs need mud? Not because it's fun - though it is! Pigs need mud because they physically can't sweat, as we do, to cool off. It also helps to act as a sunscreen for pink pigs, who are vulnerable to sunburn.

Activity: Build the kids a "wallow" (definition: a mud pit where animals roll about) and enjoy the craziness that ensues! Bathing suits are highly encouraged.

Farm Animal Vocabulary

Get the kids talking like a farmer by introducing them to all of the different names of farm animals. Explain that farmers use different names for male and female animals of the same species. Make a chart such as in the example below, and fill in the different animals and their male, female, and baby-specific names.

Farm Animal Vocabulary

Farm Animal
Female
Male
Baby
Pig
Sow or Gilt
Boar
Piglet
Cow
Cow
Bull, Steer, Ox
Calf, Yearling
Chicken
Hen
Rooster
Chick
Sheep
Ewe
Ram
Lamb
Horse
Mare, Filly
Stallion, Gelding, Colt
Foal
Turkey
Hen
Cock, Stag
Poult

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    • profile image

      whowas 5 years ago

      Brilliant stuff, Tara.

      I used to work for an environmental education association doing outdoor, site specific theater and workshops with kids of all ages and these activities remind me of some of the best workshop-based stuff that we did (that wasn't theater).

      I can say from personal experience that getting kids involved in this sort of thing is a vital part of their development and education - particularly kids from inner city areas such as we used primarily to work with. The benefits of these activities are tangible, observable and lasting. Worth every ounce of effort they take.

      Fantastic stuff indeed, keep up the good work!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      What fun lessons these are! They remind me of all the camp crafts I loved as a child- minus the complete lack of educational value. Thanks for sharing the ideas, Tara! These would be great for parents prepping their kids for a fun weekend visit to a farm- or just parents / older siblings who want to capitalize on a kid's interest in farm animals!