From Xplor for Kids
January 2021 Issue

Year of Epic Adventures

Publish Date

Jan 01, 2021

There’s tons of fun to be had all year long outside. Here are 50 adventures — some easy, some challenging — for you to try from now through December. How many can you tick off the list?

January

  • Encounter an eagle. Every winter, thousands of bald eagles follow migrating flocks of waterfowl to Missouri. With keen eyes and a pair of binoculars, you can spot the iconic birds perched in trees along rivers, lakes, and wetlands.
  • Hike 100 miles. Missouri’s conservation areas offer hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Start now, hike a little every week, and see how many miles you can cover by December 31. To find nearby trails, download the free MO Outdoors app.
  • Build an igloo in your backyard.
  • Search for sheds. Most white-tailed deer drop their antlers from late December through February. A buck’s loss can be your gain. Search for shed antlers on south-facing hillsides, crop fields, and brushy stream banks.

February

  • See a snow goose tornado. To experience the rush and roar of thousands of snow geese bursting into flight, visit a national wildlife refuge like Loess Bluffs or Swan Lake.
  • Build a house. Eastern bluebirds begin raising babies in early March. Persuade a pair to nest in your yard by building a birdhouse. For construction plans, visit audubon.org/news/howbuild- bluebird-nest-box.
  • Catch a chorus. A spring peeper is barely bigger than the end of your thumb. But when a bunch of the tiny frogs sing together, it gets loud! To catch the chorus, explore puddles, wet fields, or flooded ditches at sunset.
  • Attend an air show. Head to a pasture, woodland, or cemetery at sunset and listen for the call of a male woodcock: peent. When the peenting stops, scan the sky for the chubby brown bird spiraling high into the air. When he’s just a speck in the sky, he’ll fold his wings and dive, landing in nearly the same spot from which he took off.

March

  • Marvel at a mass migration. Flock to one of Missouri’s wetlands in March and you’ll see thousands of migrating ducks, geese, and shorebirds fueling up for their journey north.
  • Go on a wildflower walk. Animals aren’t the only ones waking up from winter. In March, early bloomers like spring beauty, Dutchman’s breeches, and bird’s-foot violet color the forest floor.
  • Bash some trash. Pick a wild place near your house and promise to keep it trash-free for the rest of the year.
  • Snag a dinosaur. Paddlefish were around long before dinosaurs lumbered over the Earth. And they’re still here thanks to careful conservation. Snag one of these 100-pound behemoths from March 15 to April 30.
  • Score a grand slam. Catch a trout from at least five of Missouri’s Blue Ribbon streams to score a “Trout Grand Slam” — and earn certificates and pins to prove it. For details, cast your browser to short.mdc.mo.gov/ZLR.

April

  • Hug a tree. Better yet, plant one for Missouri’s Arbor Day, which falls on April 2.
  • Catch some crappie. Crappie (crop-ee) taste yummy. And it’s easy to catch a stringerful of these silvery panfish. Just flip a small jig or minnow-baited hook into a crappie-filled lake. Once you hook one, keep casting to the same spot, and you’ll likely land more.
  • Hike to the roof of Missouri. At 1,772 feet, Taum Sauk Mountain is the highest hill in the Show-Me State.
  • Forage for fungi. In mid-April, morel mushrooms pop up on forest floors. While it’s tons of fun to find them, frying them up to eat is even better. Just be sure to ask a grown-up before you chow down. Some mushrooms are deadly poisonous.

May

  • Bring back the buzz. Native bees are disappearing across the nation. To give these hardworking insects (and the plants they pollinate) a hand, build a bee hotel. For plans, buzz off to short.mdc.mo.gov/Zc2.
  • Explore a mini desert. Hot, rocky glades are home to some of Missouri’s most interesting animals, including fleet-footed roadrunners, colorful collared lizards, and craftily camouflaged grasshoppers.
  • Learn to identify 50 birds. May is the perfect month to hone your skills as migrating songbirds mob the Show-Me State.
  • Go on a big bug hunt. Hercules beetles can grow as long as your finger. Praying mantids may stretch the length of your hand. But to bag Missouri’s biggest insect, rise before sunrise and check your porch light. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a saucer-sized cecropia moth fluttering about.

June

  • Move your bedroom outside. Up for a challenge? Then see how many nights you can sleep outside. Just pitch a tent in your backyard. There’s no need to rough it. Going inside to eat, watch TV, or shower isn’t against the rules.
  • Join a Stream Team. Missouri’s 110,000 miles of streams provide water, recreation, and habitat for people, plants, and animals. Pitch in to keep streams healthy at mostreamteam.org.
  • Cook supper over a campfire.
  • Peruse a prairie. Every June, prairies across Missouri turn into a rainbow of wildflowers. Pack a picnic lunch, bring a butterfly net, and explore one of these multi-colored grasslands.
  • Catch some croakers. If you don’t mind getting muddy, grab a buddy, and head to a pond. Shine a flashlight at the first frog you find, sneak close, and grab it! Frog season opens at sunset on June 30. For details, hop over to short. mdc.mo.gov/ZZm.

July

  • Score a sweet treat. July is the heart of blackberry picking season. But the brambly bushes don’t surrender their treasures to the faint-hearted. Protect yourself from thorns and chiggers with long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and bug spray.
  • Build a fort. Everyone needs a secret hideout. To build one, gather branches and lay them over a fallen log to build a lean-to. Or weave limbs through upright trees to form walls.
  • Picnic after dark. When the sun drops, so does the temperature. As you munch your PB and J, you’ll be serenaded by yipping coyotes, see bats flit about in the twilight, and watch nighthawks perform death-defying dives.
  • Canoe an Ozark stream. The scenery is beautiful, riffles and rapids provide plenty of thrills, and spring-fed pools offer refreshing relief from the summer sun.

August

  • Make a wish. On August 12, the Perseid meteor shower will flood the heavens with up to 80 shooting stars each hour.
  • Train a hummingbird. Hold your finger close to a hummingbird feeder. With patience — and a steady hand — one of the fearless birds will buzz in and perch on your finger while it sips nectar.
  • Troll for mini-sharks. When the moon is bright and the wind is calm, twitch a topwater fishing lure across a pond. In no time, the surface will erupt as hungry largemouth bass lunge up to swallow your lure.
  • Go on a backyard lion hunt. Ant lions dig small, cone-shaped pits in fine, dry soil beside houses, under decks, or in flowerbeds. When an insect stumbles into the pit, it can’t climb out. The ant lion waits at the bottom, ready to snare the unlucky bugs.

September

  • Hunt for hidden treasure. Ahoy there, matey! Use the GPSon your smartphone to find trinket filled treasure chests. To download treasure locations, visit geocaching.com.
  • Tag butterflies. Monarch butterflies flutter through Missouri every September on their way to wintering grounds in Mexico. Help scientists track their movements by netting monarchs and placing identification tags on their wings. For details, flutter over to monarchwatch.org.
  • Pedal across Missouri. The Katy Trail is Missouri’s longest state park, stretching 240 miles between Machens and Clinton. Late September, when trees start to show spectacular fall color, is a great time to bike the trail.
  • Predict winter weather. Some folks claim you can forecast winter’s weather by splitting open a persimmon  seed. If the inside looks like a spoon, expect plenty of snow to shovel. A knife predicts frigid winds. And a fork forecasts mild weather.

October

  • Attend an art show. The Show-Me State hits its showiest in mid-October when oaks and hickories paint our state with a dazzling palette of color. For leaf-peeping forecasts, visit mdc.mo.gov.
  • Explore a swamp. Fall is perfect for a romp through the swamp at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. Cypress trees turn fiery red, river otters are easily seen, and swarms of waterfowl flood the swamp.
  • Tell a spooky campfire story.
  • See Missouri’s “Big Three.” Elk, black bears, and white-tailed deer are the Show-Me State’s largest mammals. Deer are easy to see nearly anytime and anywhere. But to spot an elk or bear, your best bet is to drive through Peck Ranch Conservation Area. For details, visit short.mdc.mo.gov/ZJJ.

November

  • Feed your feathered friends.
  • Visit a nature center. Whether you want to hike a trail, tickle a box turtle, climb to the top of a fire tower, or learn to cook a wild turkey, the Conservation Department’s nature centers offer an adventure each time you visit.
  • Take a night hike. Conquer your fear of the dark by going on a night hike. Use the full moon to light your way and listen for coyotes howling and raccoons chattering.
  • Show off your catch or harvest. Post a photo on Instagram or Twitter (make sure your account can be viewed by the public) and tag it with #mdcbragboard.

December

  • Train a chickadee. Hold out a handful of birdseed and sit quietly next to a bird feeder. If you’re patient, a fearless chickadee may nab a few seeds from your hand.
  • Discover a champion. Missouri’s tallest tree, a scarlet oak at Lake Wappapello, stretches higher than four school buses stacked end to end. It’s a “champion tree,” the largest of its kind in Missouri. Even bigger trees might lurk afield, and you can join the hunt to find them. For details, branch out to short.mdc. mo.gov/Z4i.
  • Make snow ice cream. Just mix fresh snow, milk, sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract.
  • Prowl for owls. Hoo’s hiding out there in the dark? The longest night of the year, December 21, is the perfect time to find out. Bundle up, pack a thermos of hot chocolate, and head out after sunset to listen for owls.

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This Issue's Staff:

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Alexis (AJ) Joyce
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White

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