Last night’s visitor

Recently the temperatures have been unseasonably warm. This has resulted in the early emergence of all kinds of critters and flowers. Last night, we enjoyed a visit from a young…amphibian.

Benjamin and I went outside to set up his rain gauge when we found this little guy peeking into the living room.

The big question: Is it a toad or a frog?


  • have smooth, wet/damp skin
  • some have bumpy skin
  • have webbed hind feet (for swimming)
  • long legs for jumping
  • teeth


  • have dry bumpy skin
  • generally brown or gray
  • no webbed feet (because they live on land)
  • large parotoid glands behind the eyes
  • big and wide bodies, larger than frogs
  • no teeth

Either our visitor was a young toad (it’s not very big and wide) or this is a frog. It appeared to have long hind legs, webbed hind feet, a narrow body, and we didn’t notice the bulbs behind the eyes. His skin was damp. Plus, his feet looked like those belonging to a tree frog. So, perhaps we met a brown, bumpy frog. Very difficult to be 100% certain. I should have checked for teeth.

Not that it matters much. Frog or toad, his visit made us glad.

He reminded me of my childhood desire to be a naturalist. My grandparents were camp hosts for a few state parks during my pre-teen years, and I befriended the naturalists and rangers who managed the nature centers at these parks. Throughout my childhood, all I wanted to do was be outside, learn about animals, and collect the things I found: bones, squirrel skulls, turtle shells, birds’ nests, interesting rocks, feathers, snakes’ skins. But somewhere between 13 and falling in love with boys, I forgot about becoming a naturalist. College, marriage, babies…life happened.

I don’t regret not becoming a naturalist. Lord knows I’ve learned so much about biology and nature just trying to teach my kids at home. It’s been the joy of my life to see everything again through their eyes. Everything was SO EXCITING and NEW. A few of my favorite moments: grasping at crickets, finding a turtle, chasing sand pipers on the beach, and stopping to gaze at every single flower on the trail. Our explorations have only improved with the kids’ growth and curiosity. I wouldn’t trade them for the best nature center anywhere.

Now, if my children were younger, I’d take the random appearance of a frog and turn it into a short unit study. I keep nature coloring books (like the ones you can purchase in museum gift shops) and print pages from them when needed. I’d find one of frogs and toads for the kids to color. We’d learn about amphibians and life cycles. I’d teach them the word “metamorphosis.” We’d go for a walk around a pond or lake and look for tadpoles and frogs. We’d go to the library and check out all kinds of interesting books to tell us everything we ever wanted to know about amphibians. We’d learn about their bodies, and I’d have the kids draw and label their own frog and/or toad pictures. We’d definitely read, The Adventures of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. I’d ask the kids to copy sentences from the stories for handwriting practice and copywork. Finally, we’d create a lapbook to showcase everything we learned.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: All you really need to teach young children successfully is a little creativity and a library card. The world is your classroom.

8 Comments on “Last night’s visitor

  1. Great pictures, wonderful childhood memories, and you are a great teacher!


  2. I don’t think toads generally have the sticky pads that enable them to cling to a window like that, so I say frog.


  3. I was thinking tree frog too. When I was 10 yrs old I some how managed to bring a whole shoe box of them home, much to my mom’s dissatisfaction.

    Thanks for the lesson Leslie – the only way I ever knew to tell the difference was that the toads always lost control of their bladders when I picked them up. haha!


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