35 activities for children in your own garden

I have noticed over the last few years, that fewer and fewer children know much about nature. In fact a few weeks ago I was surprised to discover than none of the children I was working with in school knew what a buttercup was.

I know it’s hard to find time in busy lives to get to the park or walk in the country, so here are a few suggestions of things that can be done without leaving your own garden.

 Important notes for the adults
This post contains lots of ideas to help your children connect with nature in your own garden. There are also ideas included for linking some of these activities to maths, English, science and art. Your child may need help or supervision carrying out these activities. These activities are suggestions only – it is your responsibility to ensure that it is safe to carry them out. Although I have used the websites and apps suggested, I have no control over their availability, content or any adverts that are placed on those sites and I cannot therefore accept responsibility for them.

Important notes for the children
There are some suggestions of things to eat in this list, but never eat anything you find in your garden without checking with an adult that it is safe to do so.
Make sure you ask an adult’s permission before doing any of these activities, and especially before visiting any of the websites or downloading any of the apps suggested here.
Always wash your hands after touching things found in your garden.

Thirty-five ideas of nature-related things to do in your home or garden.

  1. Race two raindrops down the window pane. Describe the path they take – straight or curvy, fast or slow?
  2. Count ladybirds in the garden. How many did you find? Make a tally chart of how many have two spots, four spots, etc. What was the highest number of spots? Which amount of spots was most common?
  3. Close your eyes outside for two minutes. What sounds can you hear?
  4. We talk about the seven colours of a rainbow but they don’t really have 7 colours. Look at a rainbow. What colours can you actually see?
  5. Choose two pretty stones from the garden. What is the same about them? What is different about them? Look at the patterns. Draw one of the stones.
  6. How many different coloured butterflies can you see? Have a look at a butterfly identification chart- can you identify any of them?
  7. Place a blade of grass between your fingers and blow. What sound does it make? What happens if you use a thicker or thinner piece of grass?
  8. Look at the flowers in the garden. Either find one for each colour of the rainbow, or find 3 the same colour and order them from lightest to darkest.
  9. Make a daisy chain.
  10. Touch the soil on a dry day. What does it feel like? Touch it again after it has rained. Describe the difference in texture (how it feels).
  11. Watch the bees. Which sort of flowers do they like best?
  12. Count how many different sorts of birds visit your garden. How many can you name? If you don’t know what sort they are, have a look at the RSPB site to try to identify them.
  13. Open the windows early one morning and listen to the bird song.
  14. Plant some meadow flower seeds to attract the wildlife to your garden. Don’t forget to water them on the days it doesn’t rain.
  15. Make your own rain gauge and measure the rainfall. If you measure it over a few days, you could draw a graph of your results.
  16. Eat your lunch outside.
  17. Look for spiders webs. How many different sorts of spiders did you spot?
  18. Lots of people don’t like wasps. Find out about wasps and write down one reason why we should be grateful to them.
  19. Tie a ribbon to a stick. Which way is the wind blowing? Watch it for a few days. Does it always blow in the same direction?
  20. Plant some runner bean seeds and wait for them to grow – don’t forget to water them if it doesn’t rain. When the beans develop, you can pick and eat them!
  21. Ask five different people what their favourite flower is and why. Write down their replies.
  22. Make a bark rubbing.
  23. Lift up a stone or log. How many different insects do you see? Note which insects like which habitats. UK Safari is a useful site  to help you identify what you have found.
  24. Count the number of petals on different flowers. How many arrangements can you find? How many had 3 petals? How many had four? How many had 5? How many had more than 5? Draw a bar chart to show your results.
  25. Lie on your tummy and look at the grass. Have a look at the tiny insects you can see. Can you see any more if your use a magnifying glass?
  26. Smell the flowers. Which one do you like best?
  27. Make a collection of leaves. Pay attention to the size, colour and shape. Are they smooth, prickly or furry? Are the veins (the lines running through the leaves) hard or easy to see? If they are leaves from trees, see if you can identify them from the Woodland Trust website or download the free woodland trust app.
  28. Watch a sunrise or a sunset to find out which direction is east/west. Remember the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Paint / draw what you can see, or write a description/poem about it.
  29. Plant some nasturtiums. They are climbing plants, so they look really pretty growing up walls and fences and you can eat the flowers and leaves on bread and butter!
  30. Look at the clouds. How many different types can you see? Have a look at the Royal Meteorological Society website to help you identify them. What colours can you see? How quickly are they moving? Can you see any pictures in the clouds?
  31. Grow your own potatoes.  Grow your own potatoes has some instructions for how to plant them and some instructions for how to look after them.
  32. Make a sundial. You can also do this with a stick in the ground instead of using a board and a nail, and by placing a stone where the shadow falls each hour, instead of marking the board with a pencil. Don’t forget to paint the numbers 1-12 on the stones!
  33. Enjoy a thunderstorm. Work out how far away the storm is. Is there sheet or fork lightning or both? Learn how to spell the word lightning (tip – there’s no ‘e’ in it)!
  34. Look at the sky at night and try to pick out some constellations. SkEye is a useful app for knowing what you are looking for, or you could try the Astronomy Now website.
  35. Feed the birds. Use proper birdseed – bread is really not good for them. Make sure that if you decide to put out peanuts, they only go in a proper peanut feeder – otherwise very small birds can choke on them.

And above all – have fun!


It’s all about the birds

This was the last week of 30 days wild and we’ve managed a few trips out this week.

Last weekend we went to Hill Hook, which was recommended in an email from the 30 Days Wild team. We had an enjoyable stroll around the lake, and watched a wren fetching and carrying things to build a nest inside some ivy. Later we had a picnic on top of Barr Beacon and watched the swallows. They skimmed along at ground level – coming really close to us. There were a couple of times it seemed as if they were going to crash right into us, but they banked at the last moment and missed us by a few inches. I’ve never been so close to a swallow before but they’re obviously not as timid as I have always assumed them to be.

Another day, I spotted a buzzard sitting on top of the direction sign as we came off the M6. I’ve seen buzzards circling overhead on the motorway many times, and I’ve heard that they can be seen sitting on the road signs, but I’d never seen that myself before. That is definitely my favourite buzzard sighting ever.

I’d never make a serious birdwatcher, because I get just as excited about seeing sparrows as I do about buzzards and swallows. We spent a day in the Cotswolds this week, and had lunch at Hidcote gardens. There were lots of sparrows hopping round under the tables picking up any crumbs that had been dropped by visitors. I think sparrows are really beautiful birds – they remind me of patchwork quilts with all the different colours and patterns woven into their feathers.

We had another day out this week to Poncysyllte, Britain’s highest aqueduct. After walking across the top of it, we strolled down to a nearby bridge to look back at it from below. And there on the bridge was a yellow wagtail. I’ve seen pied wagtails and grey wagtails before, but this was my first yellow one. He was an active little fellow, flitting from the top of the bridge, to a ledge about half way down, down to a rock in the middle of the river, across to a rock on the other side of the river, back up to the top of the bridge, and then off again in the same circle – over and over.

No daytrips today, but I enjoyed watching the power struggle in my back garden. This morning there were several magpies in my garden – taking advantage of the newly-filled bird bath, and pecking at whatever they could find on the lawn. All was peaceful until the squirrel arrived. Usually the squirrels in our garden arrive in twos or threes, but today there was just one, and he wasn’t happy to see the magpies there already. If I was a betting woman, I would have put my money on 4 magpies against one squirrel but the squirrel won. He raced at each one individually until it took flight, and then he charged at the next one. If any of them dared to land back on the lawn, the squirrel ran full-tilt at them until they took flight again. Eventually the magpies gave up and decamped to the next-door-neighbour’s garden. The squirrel didn’t get to lord it over the garden for long though. A big crow landed right in the middle of the garden. The crow eyed the squirrel and the squirrel eyed the crow. The squirrel took a few tentative steps towards the crow, which ruffled it’s feathers and strutted confidently towards the squirrel. The squirrel hesitated for a moment or two, and then scarpered!

I’ve watched quite a lot of different types of creatures over the last 30 days, but this week it’s been all about the birds.

Related posts: It’s all about the winged things, It’s all about the little things, It’s all about the stolen moments

It’s all about the stolen moments

This week has been a busy one but we’ve still managed to fit in a few “wild things”.

We’ve walked to the end of our garden every day and stood looking up into the trees. On one of the evenings we were treated to a family of tits, fluttering around together on the lower branches of the trees, before flying upwards to settle down for the night.

On another of the evenings we enjoyed the sunset from the comfort of our living room. It faces just the right way for watching the sunset, and we get some quite spectacular ones, made even more beautiful by their sharp contrast to our urban surroundings.

On another evening again we sat in the bedroom looking out over the back garden. It’s a completely different perspective from upstairs as the tree tops are so much closer to eye level. We spotted a blackbird sitting right at the top of a tree at the end of the garden – we never would have seen him from ground level – and enjoyed watching a couple of crows cosy up together towards the top of the next door neighbour’s conifer.

We finished the week off by taking advantage of a small gap in between two of my tutoring sessions  to have a quick walk in Sutton Park, where we took pleasure in the shade of the towering, leafy trees.

This week has been all about the stolen moments.

It’s all about the little things

7th June
This week started well. We had some friends from New Zealand staying and we took them for a walk around RSPB Sandwell. We saw long-tailed tits (which I’d never seen before), lapwings, cormorants and a pair of buzzards. We also spent some time near Swan Pool watching the fish stirring the water up as they chased each other around. We saw perch (identified by their distinctive dorsal fin) and carp (identified by a friendly fisherman)!

8th June
Monday was another pleasant day spent in the countryside. We visited Chatsworth, and after visiting the house we enjoyed strolling around the grounds and enjoying the views across the Peak District. We saw chaffinches and rabbits, a few fish (possibly sticklebacks) in one of the ponds. It was interesting to chat about the similarities and differences between our wildlife and that in New Zealand.

9th June
It was back to work which again made everything more difficult. By the time I’ve done my day job and then my evening job there’s little time for nature. But on the way home a little moth somehow ended up in the car. It was tiny – only about the size of my fingernail – but I still wasn’t happy when it landed on my cheek. Instead of quickly brushing it off like I usually would though, I held my breath, sat still and waited for it to fly away on its own. It was a bit tickly but otherwise ok. I can’t promise I’d do that for a bigger moth though!

10th June
Another busy day for me with both day and evening jobs, but my lovely husband found time for a quick stroll in a local park, and he brought me some leaves and pine cones back with him. We looked the leaves up and identified them (we think) as Rowan and Wych Elm.

11th June
Today I took advantage of the good weather to have my personal raining session outside. I always do that when it’s warm and dry enough, and often I’m lucky enough to see blue tits and greenfinches. There was nothing to be seen on this occasion, but although the birds remained hidden, they did sing beautifully.

12th June
Another long day – 8am to 7.30pm – so difficult to find the time for nature, but I did open the windows and enjoy the birdsong while I was setting my classroom up.

13th June
It’s been raining none-stop so far today and I haven’t been outside yet. I watched a wagtail land on the tree outside my window though. He clearly wasn’t impressed by the rain either as he hopped underneath a large cluster of leaves, and then shook himself out just like a dog would. I’ve never seen a bird do that before, so I found it fascinating. Eventually the rain eased off a little and he flew away.

The two full days outside at the beginning of this week were great, and I love doing things like that, but this week has been all about the stolen moments and the little things.

It’s all about the winged things

At first I wasn’t sure about including #30dayswild on this blog, because this blog is about education and teaching. But then I decided that #30dayswild is all about nature, and nature is science, and science is very much a part of the national curriculum, so it does belong here.

June 1st

Our 30 days wild adventure started in a spectacular (and unplanned) way when we heard a terrible bumping crashing sound, followed by silence, followed by a panicked fluttering sound. We called out a gas engineer who took our gas fire to pieces and pulled out a terrified wood pigeon, who had somehow managed to fall down our chimney. We set him (or maybe her) down in our back garden with some food and water, and kept an eye on him. It took him a while and we were starting to get worried, but after about 15 minutes he fluffed out his feathers and flew off into the trees. We’re still not sure how it happened as we have a cap on our chimney, but we’ve made a note to check and make sure the cap isn’t damaged as we don’t want other birds to suffer the same fate.

June 2nd

The sky was beautiful. It was covered in thick black cloud, but once it got dark and the moon started peeking between the clouds, it was really quite breathtaking. We spent a few minutes just watching the clouds blow by. Before bed I opened the window ready for the following day’s wild thing.

June 3rd

I woke up to the dawn chorus, and although it was earlier than I would usually wake up, it was a really relaxing sound to wake up to (and to fall back to sleep to before being woken at my more usual time by my alarm).

We always have lots of bees in our garden. I like bees and always insist that we have the sort of flowers they like in the garden. In the late afternoon I watched one of the bees circling round, looking for his home – a little hole in between the flowers on our front drive. I looked him up and identified him as a tawny mining bee.

June 4th

duckMy husband and I went for a walk in a local park. We saw the usual swans, geese, grebes, black-headed gulls and moorhens, as well as rabbits, squirrels and even some cows! As we were leaving we spotted a duck we’d never seen before. My first thought was, “What an ugly duck”, but the more I watched it, the more I liked it. He was standing at the edge of the lake, well apart from the other ducks, and the crest on top of his head stood right on end when they came near.  I took his picture so  could look it up when I got home, although there was no chance of forgetting what it looked like. It turned out to be a Muscovy duck.

June 5th

I thought I was going to do my wild thing early today. I went for my shower and spotted a big black spider scuttling across the bathroom floor. I was going to put him outside so he didn’t accidentally get squished, but by the time I’d found a glass and a sheet of paper to slide underneath, he had found somewhere safe to hide and I’ve not seen him since.

Following that failure, the rest of the day became a tricky one. I arrived at work at 8am and didn’t finish until 7.30pm. By the time I’d eaten, prepared my lessons for the following week and done some housework it was almost midnight!  I went outside with my husband, and we spent the last few minutes of the day standing in our back garden.  It was a clear night, so we looked at the stars, listened to the wind rustling the leaves of our cherry tree, and watched the moths fluttering by.

Birds, bees, ducks and moths – this week has been all about the winged things.