Out and about
There is something about being outside that ignites children’s curiosity and imagination like nothing else. I am a firm believer that the best classrooms have no walls and even on the coldest and soggiest day, children and adults should go outside, even if only for a while.
As a child I spent many happy days out with my father, a keen birdwatcher, fisherman and advocate of learning about the natural world. My brother and I enjoyed wandering through woodlands making plaster casts of mysterious footprints, rowing across lakes looking for monster catfish and sitting on hillsides waiting for the sun to go down and the badgers to come out.
Living with a wildlife fanatic can be a challenge at times, we often had moths he’d caught in a moth trap overnight, in pots in the fridge waiting for an id. Sometimes I was awoken in the dead of night to see the hedgehog that he’d found in the garden and that was now sitting on the end of my bed, and on more than one occasion, I took on the care of waifs and strays my father had found on his adventures.
All this to say that I learned vast amounts about the flora and fauna that surrounded me and now I enjoy spending time outside with my own children doing the same. You don’t need to live in the countryside to see the wonders of nature, look up, look down and even in the smallest of places and you will find it.
Leaf pictures and flower fairies
One of the simplest activities to do with children is to gather up leaves of different shapes and colours and create pictures with them. By simply gluing them to paper or card you can turn them into all sorts of wonderful creations. Here are a few of ours.
You could also make flower fairies in the spring with fallen blossoms, or use sticks, pine cones, leaves and other natural materials to create a piece of art on the ground. There is so much you can do, let your imaginations run wild.
NOTE: With toadstools, mushrooms, berries and plants you are unsure of, I would advise against using these. There are lots of field guide books available that you can use to identify the plants that are perfectly safe to handle.
You don’t need to be a survival expert to engage in the art of den building and this is an activity that all of my children thoroughly enjoy.
Whether they are in the garden with poles, clothes pegs and sheets or in the woods playing under an oak tree or constructing a shelter from branches and leaves, the act of creating a base to play in outside is enough for it to become a den.
I’m not going to offer a specific way to construct a den here, I’m going to advise that you work with your children, if they need you, and let them create their own special, magical shelters in the wild.
Gardening and growing grass heads
Gardening is something that I have come love as an adult and it’s something that all of my children like to help with. As we have our own Dig for Victory garden, it’s an activity that keeps us all busy during the spring and summer and is always educational.
Gardening offers children the opportunity to learn about how plants grow and why we need them. It teaches them where their food comes from, why the process of pollination is essential and why it is important to care for their environment and all of the creatures within it.
But you don’t need to have a huge garden to teach your child about the wonder of growing things, a simple warm, light windowsill would be perfect. As an introduction to gardening each of my children have made grass heads. Why not try it yourselves?
You will need:
A pair of old tights (Less than 30 denier is ideal)
A cup or container
Cut one of the feet off of the tights, from about half way up the shin.
Stretch the tights over a cup and put in two handfuls of grass seed (where the toes would go).
Stuff the rest of the foot full of damp compost until it is round and plump.
Tie the open end of the tights into a knot, this will be the bottom of your grass head.
Sit your grass head up right, with the knot at the bottom, and pinch out a small bit of compost to form a nose. Twist it a little and secure it with an elastic band.
Use some PVA glue, or a glue gun to stick on some eyes.
Put water in the cup and sit your grass head on top.
Leave on a warm, bright windowsill to grow.
Make sure you water it regularly and if the top becomes dry, soak the whole thing (except the eyes) in water.
Once the hair starts growing you can give your grass head crazy haircuts! Lots of fun for everyone.