Fun With Kids & Nature: Vernal Pools!

Fun With Kids & Nature: Vernal Pools!

Are the kids antsy for winter to be over? Are you looking for a fun idea for the family to get outside and welcome the change to spring?

Head out one evening to a vernal pool near you and introduce your children to an epic annual event. The massing of millions of amphibians to mate and lay eggs only occurs once a year. In the Washington DC area, this would be during mid to late February through March on a warm evening (55 F or above) during or after rain.

Vernal pools are special habitats that fill with rainwater in the fall, winter, and spring and typically dry up in the summer.  Because these pools are not permanent, fish are not able to survive. Without fish to eat their eggs or larvae, amphibians such as spring peeper, wood frogs, and spotted salamanders are able to utilize vernal pools to lay their eggs.

A vernal pool is probably closer to your home than you think.

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Wetlands area behind ballfields – perfect for Spring Peepers or Chorus Frogs


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Spring Peeper


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Vernal Pool in ditch filled with Wood Frog eggs


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Wood Frog Eggs


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Wood Frog


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Vernal Pool with emerging Skunk Cabbage behind an office building next to the Beltway in Fairfax VA

A great way to find a vernal pool is to listen for the loud, piercing “PEEP!” of Spring Peepers peeping, usually in the evening, but occasionally during the day as well. Follow the frog chorus and it will lead you to an area where there is probably a vernal pool or at least a wetland of some sort.


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Spring Peeper Peeping

If it is close to dark, give everyone a flashlight or headlamp and head out. Once you arrive at the vernal pool, let your family know to keep their eyes and ears open.  You may see see the tiny Spring Peeper frogs, but you are more likely to hear them. Larger and easier to see are Wood Frogs which make a call similar to the quacking of ducks. Spotted Salamanders are silent, however they are spectacular!  They grow up to 8 inches in length, are shiny black and usually have rows of bright yellow spots on their back.

Kids may want to catch or handle the frogs and their eggs. Teach how to be respectful of animals while encouraging excitement about the natural world. Be sure hands are wet and chemical-free when handling amphibians or eggs. Be gentle and return any captured animals or eggs to the spot they were found. To stop the spread of disease among amphibian populations, when you get home be sure to wash hands with soap and water after touching any animals and disinfect shoes and any nets, buckets, or other materials that came into contact with animals, eggs, or the habitat with a 10% bleach/water solution.

The awesomeness of an up-close experience in the wild with amazing animals that only appear once per year is an activity your family will never forget.


Tips For a Fun Winter Kids Party with Reptiles Alive

6 Tips for a Fun & Easy Winter Kids Party with Reptiles Alive

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African savanna monitor lizard HannaSavanna all ready to head to a winter birthday party.

Although Spring is just around the corner, winter is not quite finished yet.  If your child has a birthday in the winter months, a Reptiles Alive party is a super-fun choice.  Here are tips to help make your party a wild success!

1. Book your show as early as possible.  Sometimes we are able to fit birthday shows in at the last minute, so contact us even if you party is the next day! However, the earlier you book with us, the more likely it is that your first choice of a date and time will be available in our schedule. You can easily book your Reptiles Alive show on our online booking page.

2. Plan your guest list.  Smaller groups are usually more fun for the birthday person, guests, and parents, especially with young children. A general suggestion is to invite the child’s age + 2. For example, at a 4 year old’s party, 6 guests would be invited. And a winter party usually means an indoor party, another reason to keep the guest list short. Of course a small guest list is not always possible, so we offer reptile party shows for small groups and big groups too!  See both options on our party page.

3. Anticipate the weather.  In the Washington DC area, even a tiny amount of snow can cause complete gridlock which can stop both guests and our animals from getting to the party.  At Reptiles Alive, we offer to refund or reschedule any show cancelled due to snow/ice.  It is a good idea to keep up with the weather forecast for the day of your show. If snow/ice is predicted, consider rescheduling for another date.

4. Plan the menu. Is this a cake and ice cream only party, or will you also be serving lunch, dinner, or even breakfast?  A great idea for a fun indoor activity is for guests to decorate their own cupcakes.  Pre-bake or buy plain iced cupcakes and then set out a cupcake fixins bar.  Since this is a reptile-themed party, edible reptile themed sprinkles and gummy worms (as snakes) can be offered along with other colorful fun toppings.

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These amazing cakes were at Reptiles Alive parties.

5. Plan fun indoor activities. Set up a big table as a coloring station with fresh crayons, plain white paper and reptile coloring pages printed from our kids page. Play indoor games that children already know and give the game a reptile twist.  Examples include “pin the tongue on the snake” or “a snake egg hunt.”  A whole list of fun activity ideas, craft projects, games, and more listed on our party ideas page.

6. Keep it simple.  Most parties need only last 2 hours.  Expect guests to arrive a bit late.  An example of a typical cake & ice cream (no main meal being served) party would be:

1-1:30 pm   Guest arrivals/Coloring table time/Easy game time

1:30-2:15 pm Reptiles Alive show

2:15-2:20 pm Wash Hands

2:20-2:45 pm Decorate cup cakes/Sing Happy Birthday/Eat cupcakes (or cake) and ice cream

2:45-3 pm Easy game/activity

3 pm  Guests depart

Have a few easy backup games at the ready in case guests finish activities more quickly than expected. And if you are lucky enough to have a nice day and a fenced in backyard, send the kids outside to play.

You are always welcome to contact Reptiles Alive for more kids party ideas and information – we are happy to help in any way to make your party a sssssuper ssssucess!

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Rockin’ReptileRachel delights two birthday girls with Elvis the king snake.

RA Welcomes 2017 With New Website

The new year promises to be another great one at Reptiles Alive LLC.

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Rockin’ReptileRachel rings in the new year at the First Night Winchester Festival

With the new year we are excited to introduce our new website!  Features include a great mobile layout, easier navigation, and a more streamlined online booking form.  When you are ready to book a show, just click anywhere it says “book a show” and you can bring Reptiles Alive to your next birthday party, school assembly, or any special event.

Our public events calendar page has also been upgraded and is filling up with tons of fun events.  More public events are being scheduled nearly every day for the upcoming spring, summer and fall, so be sure to check the public events page often.

Teachers and educators can use all of the great resource materials on our Teacher’s Page.

Moms and Dads hosting birthday parties can find party invitations, party games, and all kind of other kids party ideas on our Birthday Party Ideas page.

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Reptiles Alive birthday shows are great way to have wild party!

Kids can find coloring pages, jigsaw puzzles, mazes and more fun activities on our Kids Page.

And watch some pretty cool and sometimes funny RA videos on our Videos Page.

There are lots more pages with tons more material. We would love to hear any feedback you have concerning the new site.  Let us know about any glitches you find. Suggestions for content or future blog post topics are also very much appreciated.

Thank you and Happy New Year!

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  1. Leesburg Flower & Garden Festival Reptiles Alive Show

    April 21 @ 11:00 am - 11:45 am
  2. Mason Neck State Park Eagle Festival

    May 12 @ 11:15 am - 5:00 pm
We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17