Hello world - family ideas for fun outside with the Wildlife Trust
- Credit: Emma Websdale
Taking young children out? These are our experts' tips for 15 outdoor games to introduce them to the wonderful planet they are a part of
1. Explore under logs, in crevices in trees, on leaves, in meadows, in streams. Children love holding millipedes that are 'playing dead' and watching them unfurl.
For advanced 'minibeasting' set an overnight pitfall trap: sink a yogurt pot to ground level and prop a rain-proof roof over the top.
2. What sounds better? 'Fancy going for a walk?' or, 'Who's up for a mission to go back in time and discover dinosaurs and find their eggs?' It's fun chasing imaginary dinosaurs through the woods. Stones are their eggs! Muddy puddles are footprints!
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3. Find objects and make up what they could be. A twig is a walking stick for a hedgehog. A catkin is a squirrel's scarf. Children will really get into it and come up with some crazy ideas.
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4. Roll down a grass bank and see who can roll the slowest – or who can get to the bottom first!
5. Ask the children to pretend they're an ant. They could put a piece of string on the ground and explore every minute detail along it as if they were very small. What do they see and what do they find? What would it be like to be that creature?
6. Stop, sit and be still in long grass or under a tree. Nature will come to you! A couple of minutes is all it takes!
7. Watch bees: spot the pollen baskets on their hind legs, and their long tongues drinking nectar.
8. Use the best binoculars available – a pair of taped-together loo rolls. This simple bit of kit will focus their attention on the smallest of habitats under a leaf, or features across a landscape. They're light, durable and you can even stick them on the compost heap when you get home.
9. Even your back garden becomes a jungle of exciting creatures after dark. Hang up a sheet and shine a torch to attract moths. Or search under stones or logs to spot nocturnal creepy crawlies.
10. Lay a sheet under a tree and shake a branch. You will be amazed at how much is living up above your heads.
11. In the woods, get the children to leave a trail, marking out arrows with stones, sticks or pine cones to show the way they've gone. Or leave some leaf art for other people to find.
12. As you walk, make up stories about the unusual things you pass. Who really lives down that hole? Was that tree watching you?
13. Catch grasshoppers in long grass with a net made from light material and a wire coat hanger. Have a jam jar ready to catch flying insects from the net for a closer look.
14. Building nest boxes is a brilliant activity for children. Ready-sawn wood and pre-drilled nail holes make it easier for smaller ones to get involved.
15. Make a pond to attract wildlife with an upturned dustbin lid dug into the ground.
Wait a few weeks in spring or summer. Then just lie down on your tummy and watch.
Think like this
• Embrace the great outdoors in all its wildness. You and your children are wild at heart. We are meant to be connected to nature.
• Children who are engaged and buzzing with excitement take in and store that experience for the future. It also awakens their natural curiosity.
• Get out there and enjoy the sunshine, wind, and rain. Children will follow your lead and will want to do the same.
• Let yourself go: run around, get muddy, make silly shapes and noises. Children will thrive off the energy you give off.
• Keep it simple, cheap and local. There's no need for fancy expensive materials.
• If you come across a bug you're not sure of, think of a funny way to describe it. That way you'll remember it to look up when you get home, if you want to.
• Above all, give them the time and freedom to play, and to explore the outdoors for themselves.
Dos and Don'ts
• Play with your children outside, regularly.
• Let them get wet and muddy.
• Encourage them to explore and discover.
• Let them grow plants they can eat.
• Climb trees, make dens, dip ponds, look for bugs.
• Go out at night to search for bats or minibeasts.
• Rear spawn into frogs or caterpillars into butterflies.
• Pick and eat wild blackberries.
• Use your senses: look, listen, touch, smell.
• Worry if you're not an expert. Just aim to create a sense of wonder – happy memories which will set them up for life.
• Stay indoors if it's raining. Take a change of clothes and see who can make the biggest puddle splash! You can do a lot of fun things with a handful of mud.
Go wild this summer
Find a wild place near you to explore. See a list of The Wildlife Trusts' regular nature clubs. Download activity and spotting sheets at wildlifetrusts.org/mywildsummer.
Wherever you live there is a Wildlife Trust that covers your area. You can support their work by joining your local Wildlife Trust today. Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org to choose the Trust you would like to join.