Some of my happiest childhood memories are of the time I spent exploring our garden. I used to hunt for snails and caterpillars, look at flowers, dig holes and generally just explore nature. It is something that I wish my own children would do more of, however they seem to prefer indoor luxuries and computer games. Its a real shame because I think I learnt a lot just by looking at plants, birds and mini beasts and then finding out as much as I could about them.
This time of year is as good as any to get out there in the garden. One of the benefits of all this rain for the wildlife explorer is that it tends to bring things like worms to the surface. Children can have a lot of fun looking at worms and trying to work out which ones they are as there are loads of different types. Of course, this also encourages the birds to hop around the lawn digging out food!
One of the things which I always do with my children is to teach them about life cycles and the woods at this time of year provide a brilliant opportunity to talk about this. Now many of the leaves have dropped you can clearly see tree stumps and if you look at the stumps you can see rings: the broad rings indicate years of sunshine and rain; narrow rings indicate years of drought or cold. You can also count how old the tree was. All good fun.
Another fun project is to find a snail and put it on some glass. The glands in a snails foot secrete a slime on which it floats along, this allows snails to crawl virtually anywhere without hurting themselves. You can see this in action if you look under the glass. You can also work out the speed of your snail- they apparently average about 12 cm a minute!
There are loads of fabulous little projects you can do with the children to help them understand nature and the world around them, I will list a few more over the next few weeks.
In the meantime one of the most helpful thing to start doing is to encourage wildlife into your garden. Feed your local birds this time of year with proper wild bird food and they will start frequenting your garden and you can start recording what you have. You might even be able to recognise particular little characters and name them.
We’ve installed a series of nest boxes and insect houses around our garden. Its a bit late now for the nest boxes (you should put those up in autumn) but there is still time to make some mini-beast houses with drinking straws or to purchase a little wildlife houses.
A garden teaming with wildlife is a wonderful educational asset for your children and for you to enjoy. Make the most of it even at this time of year and do pop back over the next few weeks for a few more simple nature projects for this time of year!