Autodidacts Creating Culture

What do Kids Learn from Catching Frogs

Picking up frogs is his passion. Why, and what is he learning from doing that?

Our little towhead boy once obsessed about finding, catching and looking at frogs.

Now that he is sixteen, he opts for chillin’ in his king-size bed to browse Facebook or to study.

Wondering if he still likes to catch frogs I interview him below and ask him to describe why (specifically) he likes to do it.  Afterwards, I explain what I think he has learned.

Typical to any kid who is sixteen, he mumbles the following while I dictate his answers:

Yeah, I still like to catch them.

What is the appeal for picking up a frog?

I’m kind of afraid to pick up frogs (but) I want to look at them closely.  Capturing them is fun.  It’s a challenge to figure out how to do it.

How do you do catch them?

First, I wet my hands.  Frogs (are amphibians and they) breathe through their skin and the oils of your hand mess them up.  I trick it to jump to a place where I can catch it, grab it quickly around the waist and scoop it up into my hand without squeezing it.

Do you care about identifying it?

Well, if it’s a poison dart frog it’s kind of important to know what kind of frog it is, but I mostly like to look closely at its eyes and face.

Then what?

I put it back where I found it and look for another one.

My daughter pipes in:

It’s really weird and gross when we caught toads in Hawaii and they would pee and swell up in your hand.

The last part may explain why most people are squeamish about picking up amphibians or reptiles.  Furthermore, their texture is bumpy.  They feel cold and slimy.  The animal’s heartbeat is pulsing in your hand.  It’s probably squirming while you hold it and easy to drop.  It could be defecating or possibly spitting blood like a horned lizard. Well, those are all the reasons why I fear holding creatures, but I do it anyway.  My husband is really good at it.

Qualitative Analysis of the Learning

What the heck could my son and daughter or anyone learn from picking up a frog?

In order to answer this, I’m going to borrow the social learning theory concepts of Albert Bandura (1977) that I found in an article at SimplyPsychology.

Perhaps my husband and I model this and our kids imitate us.  Picking up critters has also been reinforced by us positively and therefore they continue to do it.

Another theory that pertains here is what Howard Gardner says is a “Naturalist Intelligence.”  Our son has “an ability to find and distinguish among different… animals… that are found in the natural world.”

In order for him to catch a frog, he would have pranced around bushes in the sandbanks by the riverbed to pick ’em up which requires a “Bodily Intelligence.”


This is a stretch but he might even be using “Interpersonal Intelligence.”  But, that would mean that he is understanding the mood and intention of the frog he is holding.

Check out my Pinterest page and when you do, look for a Board on the top titled “Ideal Education.”  I use images from that group for quickie-posts interpreting intrinsic learning.

Related Material

McLeod, S. A. (2011). Albert Bandura | Social Learning Theory

Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

8 Responses to “What do Kids Learn from Catching Frogs”

  1. patricia

    That picture of C is so adorable. I love how his freckles and the frog’s spots echo each other.

    I definitely agree that there are some kids who are simply drawn to picking up critters. It’s no surprise that those are the kids who *find* critters! My brother was like that as a kid. He constantly stalked and caught lizards. Kids who do that need to have keen eyes and patience–a good skill to develop!

  2. Kristin

    Hi Tricia,

    Thank you for pointing out two obvious traits that a person learns from catching critters: patience and keen eyesight. That is quite true. It made me think “I should have thought of that” and included it.

    Honestly, your comment has made me aware of something. For the two posts I’ve written under my new menu item “interpreting photographs,” I’ve been caught up in solely using learning theory and properly crediting my sources to explain the “learning.”

    I have failed to use my own inherent knowledge and observations. I feel like I’ve been given permission to do so thanks to your comment.

    Gracias Amiga!

  3. Katharine Trauger

    Having raised four boys (and a girl who also caught creatures) I think I have seen a simple sense of wonder in their souls. They sort of escape, like Alice in Wonderland, into the frog’s world of large-mouthedness and coldness.
    My children were imaginative, making “cities” in our woods and “homes” in the pine needles under pine groves, pretending to be super-heroes of their own invention, and creating electric gadgets such as a ticker tape, just for the sheer fun of it.
    They would entrap scorpions in jars to study them, to learn of their many parts, up close, first hand.
    The world of the frog is amazing. Imagine having such a long tonue, living burrowed in mud, being able to swell your throat, jumping to 5 times your height, etc.
    I think it’s a sort of “how does he DO that” time of exploration for them. And a time for learning the part I always imposed: no cruelty.

    • Kristin

      Hi Katherine,

      This is great. I am totally enjoying the feedback you are giving because you are contributing to my content about “what is learned.”

      Your illustrative writing has illuminated a few more concepts to be had from such a simplistic activity for a child. I’m noting the following from your text.

      To catch a frog, a child will learn:

      -A sense of wonder of the natural world and its creatures. -Use of their imagination. -Compassion for all living things.

      Thanks for sharing your insightful and sweet memories.

      Sent from my iPhonemeister

      • Katharine Trauger

        You are welcome! It was fun remembering all that. One other thought — they knew they were good at catching things and I was not. At times that made them feel somehow bigger and in possession of great skill! ;-)

        • Kristin

          Katherine, just for fun, can you think of an erudite way to describe that, a term that demonstrates they’ve learned how to one-up their Mom?

          Sent from my iPhone

          • Katharine Trauger

            Hmm. Confidence, self-reliance, autonomy? Almost a rite of passage, realization you can beat a grown-up. Tempered with knowing Mom used to be able to do this. It’s a sort of epiphany, actually, in my opinion. But I cannot pin it down to one term very well. Sorry.

          • Kristin

            Actually, I like the words you came up with Katharine. They all apply.

            Sent from my iPhone

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