Friday, June 17, 2016


A young child is smaller than a lot of the people and even other animals and things in their world. So books that focus on what it means to be among the smallest animal in a big wild place can be special discovery experiences for them. Can even give them tools for living in their own BIG world.

Jump into investigating two of the smallest monkeys in the world: golden lion tamarins and pygmy marmosets. Both live in forests in South America.

Author Sandra Markle (Millbrook/Lerner 2015)

Author Sarah L. Thomson (Boyds Mills Press 2016)


First, discover just how small these monkeys are. An adult golden lion tamarin's body is squirrel-sized--about 8 inches long. 

An adult pygmy marmoset's body is about house mouse-sized--about 6 inches long.  

Have children make two paper strips: one 8 inches long (tamarin-sized) and one 9 inches long (pygmy marmoset-sized).  Next have them measure their handspan. To do that, they need to spread their fingers wide and trace around their hand on a sheet of paper. Their handspan is the distance between their thumb and stretched out little finger. Now have them lay each of the paper strips across the outline of their handspan.

Which would fit best in your hand: 
a golden lion tamarin or a pygmy marmoset?

This is a pygmy marmoset.

This is a golden lion tamarin.

Now, have children think about the monkey they're holding. Its long tail would hang down their arm. Use a piece of string or yarn tacked onto the child's palm with masking tape so they can feel what that would be like. 

If they chose to hold a pygmy marmoset, they'll need a  9 inch long piece of string. An adult pygmy marmoset's tail is about 9 inches long. If they decided they would try to hold a golden lion tamarin, they'll need a 10 inch long pice of string. An adult golden lion tamarins's tail is about 10 inches long.

By the way, in case you're wondering just how small a baby is. A baby pygmy marmoset is smaller than a baby golden lion tamarin. In fact a newborn baby pygmy marmoset is the size of an average adult human's thumb. 

To Talk About: 
Twin baby golden lion tamarins.

Both pygmy marmosets and golden lion tamarins usually give birth to twins. Then the father and  older brothers and sisters take turn carrying the babies. 

Twin baby pygmy marmosets.

The mother usually saves her energy to produce milk and only takes the babies while they nurse. But while the family travels in search of food, water, or shelter, the babies have to hang on to the adult's back. What could be two reasons it's good these monkeys have thick, furry coats?

Clue: At night, the family huddles together to stay warm.


Golden lion tamarin leaping.

Being so little means there are lots of big dangers in their forest home. Something both kinds of monkey have in common is they react fast to danger.  As quick as they spot a bird hunting over head or a climbing hunter prowling the branches, they drop, flying between branches or even trees with their very long tail to help them balance. So challenge children to test their reaction time with this game.

1    Have a partner hold a ruler with the zero end down.

Now grab that ruler. Hold it so your thumb is close to the zero.

Open your grip so your fingers no longer touch the ruler.
Pygmy marmoset hanging on tight.

Get ready!

Have your partner decide when to let go.

Grab the falling ruler fast.

Next, see which number is under your thumb. The lower the number, the faster you were able to react.

Repeat two more times.

Do you get faster with practice? From the time it's a baby, a pygmy marmoset and a golden lion tamarin practice reacting fast to escape danger.

Talk About It: 
Both of pygmy marmosets and tamarins have sharp claws instead of flat fingernails like some other monkeys. How could that help them when they make a fast flying escape in the treetops?


Golden Lion Tamarin Family 

Pygmy Marmoset Family 

Both pygmy marmosets and golden lion tamarins live in family groups. 

They have special calls to communicate. Both use high-pitched trills to say "I'm here? Is anybody there?" These can be heard over a mile away. Such calls can be extra important if a youngster gets separated from the family group. Try it. 

Assign children to groups of four to form family groups.  Have each group choose a sound to be their family's call, such as TWEET-Peep-Peep or CHEEEEEP-Click-Click .  Next, have the group members mix together and form one big circle. Then tell everyone to  look down at the floor.

Upon a start signal, have each person start making their family sound and, without looking up, move slowly toward other family members.  

Can every family group reunite?

Talk About It:  How hard was it for family members to find each other?  How would living in the treetops in a forest make this even harder?

Now take one last look at these two little monkeys together. What are four words you would use to tell about Golden Lion Tamarins and Pygmy Marmosets?

Golden lion tamarin on left. Pygmy Marmoset on right. This pygmy marmoset clearly isn't pleased about sharing a meal.

Imagine being as small as one of these monkeys. Make up a story about a day you spent being as small as the monkey you chose.

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