Squirrel Nest Game
Eastern Grey Squirrels are the common tree squirrels found in many areas of southern Ontario, and are more often black than grey. What do they do in winter? They need to construct a well-insulated nest in tree branches or tree cavities for protection from the harsh weather.
Can you build a nest that will keep a tiny squirrel warm? This game is a great fall activity for families or school groups.
For this game, every player will need a small container with lid that will be their ‘squirrel.’ Pill bottles, old film canisters or baby food jars are all ideal. Just be sure that every player’s container is the same size (kids can work in teams for larger groups). Everyone can decorate their ‘squirrel’ if they like – just make sure you can still remove and reseal the lid. You will also need a small thermometer and some warm water – set all these aside while you prepare your nest.
- Take all the players outside to find natural materials for building a nest. These could be leaves, branches, shreds of bark or paper, ‘fluff’ from seeds like milkweed, or anything you can find that you think would make a good home for your squirrel.
- Each player builds their squirrel nest in a protected place that they can find again.
- A teacher or parent heats a pot of water to body temperature (warm water from the tap is fine too). Tip for teachers: having warm water ready in a thermos can be handy for larger groups.
- Everyone checks the temperature of the water in the pot (or thermos). Write down or remember the starting temperature!
- Find your own squirrel and bring it to the pot of water. Quickly fill your ‘squirrel’ with the warm water, put the lid on snugly, and take the squirrel to the nest you have built. Carefully place it in the nest, and snuggle the nest materials around it.
- Leave your ‘squirrel’ in its nest for 30 minutes. This is a good time for a nature walk, or an autumn scavenger hunt, while you’re waiting for your ‘squirrel’ to settle in its nest.
- After 30 minutes, come back to each nest with the thermometer. Carefully remove each lid, and take the temperature of the water inside. Whose squirrel stayed the warmest? Which cooled down the most? What kinds of materials were best for keeping the squirrels warm?
- You can play this game as often as you like, trying different decorations on your ‘squirrels’, making the most creative nest, and using different materials to keep the squirrel warm.
Hope you stay warm this winter too! Staying cozy outdoors in cold weather depends on having several layers of insulation and a good windbreak. Squirrels use the same tricks!