Pond Dipping: A How To Guide and DIY Kit for Exploring Pond Life

Kids playing near the "Frog Pond" at Como Regional Park in St. Paul, Minnesota

What is pond dipping, you ask? Basically, it is exactly what it sounds like. Dip into a pond to see what interesting pond life you can find. This article was inspired by Maplewood Nature Center. Several years ago, they offered a kit to teach kids all about tiny pond creatures. It all came in a backpack ready to explore. Unfortunately, when Maplewood temporarily closed its Nature Center, they quit offering these unique kits. We really loved the idea, so we have added Amazon links to the kit components at the bottom of this article for families who want to make their own backpack.

Maplewood Nature Center’s Guide on How to Pond Dip

To help families explore ponds, Maplewood Nature Center created a kit and how to guide. The kit provided everything you need to follow the instructions on the video below:

  1. Fill your water holding dish with pond water.
  2. Put your net in the water, swish back and forth to collect creatures or scrape underneath a lily pad.
  3. Even if you don’t see anything, turn your net inside out into the water dish. You will likely find some tiny swimming creatures.
  4. This is where you can use your magnifying box to scoop up the tiny creatures and view them magnified.
  5. Compare your finds to your key to see if you can learn what you have found.
  6. Repeat as many times as you want.
  7. Photograph your finds and share on Facebook @MaplewoodNatureCenter.
  8. Put everything back where you found it when you are done.

Safety Advice: Always keep one hand and two knees on the ground when scooping to give yourself more balance so you don’t fall in. Parents should supervise this activity.

If you can’t get out to Maplewood Nature Center, pick another pond with a sturdy dock.

This video from Maplewood Nature Center has more tips and conservation advice.


Create Your Own Pond Exploration Kit:

We have linked to Amazon items for this kit. While this is convenient, I can’t match the price that Maplewood Nature Center was offering. If I were making my own kit, I would start with my own cupboards, the hit Axtman and/or a pet store to search for better local prices. If you do order through Amazon, Family Fun Twin Cities receives a small commission on items purchased through our links*:

  1. A Pond Net. If you have a small fish net left from the last time you had goldfish, it would be a little smaller, but could probably work.
  2. A Water Holding Dish (This could be a butter dish. You don’t need to buy something special.)
  3. A Small Magnifying Boxes – This is actually pretty cool and not a bad price on Amazon.

Free Downloads from the DNR. If you can print these in color, they’ll be more fun.

  1. Young Naturalists – Life In A Jar. This guide will give you some more information and pictures of creatures you might find.
  2. The DNR’s Fishing in the Neighborhood Guide will help you find ponds  and lakes with fishing docks.
  3. Young Naturalists – Spring to Life. This guide is specific to spring pond life.

More Pond Fun at Home:

Our favorite free library program — Bookflix — has a book pairing to go with this activity.  Before or after your visit, your preschool through early grade school kids may enjoy In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming and Life in a Pond by Allan Fowler. After reading the books, Bookflix offers a couple of reading comprehension games.


Find More Ideas Like This In Our Big List of Nature Activities65+ Fun Nature Play Ideas for Kids

*As Amazon associates, Family Fun Twin Cities earns from qualified purchases

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