How do mummies make milk?

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Milk is a white liquid, made inside an animal’s body. It contains lots of nutrients that are important for growing and being healthy, so milk is an important food/drink for babies and young animals. But not all animals can make milk: those that do belong to a group called ‘mammals’.

Human beings (like you and me) are mammals, and human babies drink milk as their only food for the first few months of their lives. My children are amazed to think that they drank milk that I made with my body and they want to know: how do mummies make milk?

So, let’s find out more about how mammals work…!

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What do sea animals drink?

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All living things need water – it is needed for lots of important things that help to keep plants, animals, fungi and bacteria alive. Where my family lives, we are lucky to have clean water to drink from the taps in our house and at the places we go to school and work. But some people and animals have to travel long distances to find water that is safe to drink.

My children were drinking water with their lunch: “What do sea creatures drink?” asked my 5-year-old. “Whales eat krill but they spit all the water out. So what do they drink?”

My 9-year-old suggested that perhaps sea creatures don’t need to drink because their food is already wet. “Maybe the krill is moist enough?” she wondered.

It got us thinking about why water is so important for life and how living creatures get the water they need.

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Do fish have eyelashes?

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My 5-year-old and I made a shoebox aquarium (see photo) during the holidays. She has been learning about the natural environment at school and decided to get creative. She made fish and an octopus and a shark, and decorated them all with googly eyes, smiley faces and glitter sparkles. She drew eyelashes on the fish, which made them look super-cute, but it got my 9-year-old thinking:

Do fish actually have eyelashes? What about eyelids? And do they need to blink or does living in water mean that they can always keep their eyes open?

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Is milk a juice?

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Milk is a white-coloured liquid food made by mummy cows to feed their baby calves. It contains all the nutrients that a young calf needs to grow – and that makes it a good food for humans to drink too.

In our family, we drink a lot of milk – about 8 pints each week! We put milk in our tea, on our breakfast cereal and in our baking. And we eat other things that are made from milk, like butter and cheese and yogurt and ice cream.

But over breakfast the other morning my 5-year-old was thinking about the milk on her cornflakes and she wondered – is it a juice? So let’s find out…

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Why are humans a animal?

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Human evolution was a topic of conversation at the dinner table. My 9-year-old declared that “humans used to be monkeys a long, long time ago”; my 4-year-old worried that she might have monkey children when she grows up.

I explained, as in my answer to Why do monkeys still exist?, that humans have evolved over millions of years, and that monkeys and apes and all other creatures have evolved over millions of years too. I showed her a book called The Story of Life and said that, like other animals, humans have evolved over a long, long time.

She didn’t like the thought of being an animal, so we had a think about what being an animal means…

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Why do I have to go to bed?

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Bedtime is one of my favourites times of the day. For me, going to bed is a time to get comfy and snuggle down under my duvet, head on pillow, for a good night’s sleep. Lovely.

But my daughters have other ideas at their bedtimes – they want to stay up late, read books, watch TV or play games. I insist on a routine of calming down (no TV or games!), cleaning teeth and brushing hair, maybe a bath, a short story and getting off to sleep as quickly and quietly as possible.

And our cat sleeps for most of the day and the night – he thinks sleeping is great!

So why is it so important to go to bed? What good does sleep do?

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Do sharks hibernate?

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Hamsters are the latest pet obsession in our house – the 8-year-old wants one but Daddy has said “No”.

The girls have friends and cousins with hamster pets and they know lots of facts about the furry little creatures. “Apparently, they hibernate in the Winter” our eldest told us, as she and her sister¬†tried to list all the animals they could think of that hibernate. “But what about sharks?” asked the 4-year-old. “Can they hibernate?”

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