I was filling in the garden watch survey for Springwatch and
one of the questions asked how much of your garden is paved over. I thought
about it and decided the answer was rather more than needed to be…so I decided
to give our patio area back to nature.
Luckily Ian is used to my impulsive decisions by now so he
was happy to go along.
Phase one has been digging up half the area (which included digging up a whole pile of concrete that we didn’t know was under there), replacing the hole where the concrete used to be with a mix of soil and compost, and scattering grass seed to turn it into a lawn area.
When the grass has established itself, phase 2 will be to move the picnic table across to the grassy side, and then to take up the other half of the slabs and to turn that into a wildflower area.
Hopefully the birds will enjoy having this extra area of grass to look for food in and other wildlife will find a welcoming environment below the grass to thrive in.
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.
Race two raindrops down the window pane. Describe the path they take – straight or curvy, fast or slow?
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?
Close your eyes outside for two minutes. What sounds can you hear?
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?
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.
How many different coloured butterflies can you see? Have a look at a butterfly identification chart- can you identify any of them?
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?
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.
Make a daisy chain.
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).
Watch the bees. Which sort of flowers do they like best?
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.
Open the windows early one morning and listen to the bird song.
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.
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.
Eat your lunch outside.
Look for spiders webs. How many different sorts of spiders did you spot?
Lots of people don’t like wasps. Find out about wasps and write down one reason why we should be grateful to them.
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?
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!
Ask five different people what their favourite flower is and why. Write down their replies.
Make a bark rubbing.
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.
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.
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?
Smell the flowers. Which one do you like best?
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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.
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.