When the weather permits, spend time with the children outdoors, if you don't have a garden, taken them along to a park. As well as outdoor games, try taking some of your children's favourite puzzles and board games to play outside too - being outside adds another new dimension to the games. Here are some fun games to play outdoors:-
Pin the Bug on the Daisy: This is a version of pin the tail on the donkey only using a big drawing of a flower and some stickers. Draw a big daisy flower with a stalk and leaves on wallpaper. Hang it up and blindfold the children getting them to try and stick their sticker nearest to the yellow centre of the daisy.
Hunt a Bug: This is a scavenger hunt game game which is easy and fun! Each child gets a list of five things (draw each one) they need to find: a branch, a red curly leaf, a pine cone, a dandelion flower, a feather etc. They then have to go off in pairs and them.
Bee Landing: Draw a small bee (or find a picture of one) and stick it to some blue tack or play dough to give it weight. Draw a large sunflower outdoors with pavement chalk. Blindfold each child and get them to throw the bee and see who gets nearest to the centre of the flower!
Mr and Mrs Pots: Turn empty flower pots into flower pot people. Paint on faces using poster paints, and glue or tape on hands and feet made from twigs or rope. Loop a long string to the top of the pot and you have a garden puppet! Why not put on a show?!
Landing on Leaves: Draw a large leaf for each child and get them to colour it in. Place one on each chair. When the music starts each child must fly like bugs around the chairs and when the music stops they must find a leaf to land on.
If you have some garden space, why not create a haven for insects and log, with your little ones, what you see over time? Plant flowers and make other insect friendly features. You could start by planting wild flowers from seed and allowing a small section of your garden to 'overgrow'. Let a small patch of grass grow long naturally and sprinkle wildflower seed down. Don't worry if nettles or other weeds grow, these are perfect for insects!
If you want to create an insect garden more quickly you could buy some more established plants from a garden centre. Look for lavenders, budleias, cornflowers and wallflowers. These typical cottage garden plants attract butterflies and other insects.
Ladybirds are a gardeners friend - they live off many other insects regarded as pests, including aphids. You can buy ladybird shelters in most garden centres but you can also make one very easily. Take a plastic drink bottle (1 or 2 litre) and cut the bottom off it. Find a length of corrugated card and cut the width to match the length of the bottle. Roll the card up and place it inside the bottle. Thread some wire through the bottle and the card to keep it in place. Put the 'house' in the garden and see what you attract!
Make a log book with your children. Have them draw pictures of the flowers and insects, and make notes on what days you see different insects. Note which plants you see which insects on and create a project to follow throughout the spring and summer. Talk about the life cycle of insects, especially ones such as butterflies and ladybirds that go through a process of metamorphosis.
At this time of year there is so much going on in the garden - here are a few ways of introducing some wildlife to your outside space.
- Any bird-feeder whether the most expensive fancy gizmo from a garden centre, or just a plate of seeds on a table will encourage feathery birds into your garden. You may even see something exotic if you're lucky!
- Birdhouses: Fit a couple of bird boxes or reed bird houses in your garden to encourage birds to stay and move in! Site them fairly high and in well sheltered positions.
- Plant flowers that attract insects such as lavender, thyme and Buddleia.
- For bugs and ladybirds, and even frogs if you're lucky, keep a pile of old branches or logs in a shady spot. They will be attracted to the warm, dark, damp atmosphere and will set up home. Not one for those mums scared of spiders!
- A water bath can be as simple as a saucer of water and this will encourage birds to bath or drink in the garden.
- Worms and centipedes love compost so how about create a compost heap or compost bin and encourage some long, slithery worms to the garden.
- Throw some wild flower seeds on a patch of soil or grass. The pretty flowers will grown and provide a meadow-like patch which is really pretty and easy to maintain.
- Try not to cultivate all areas of the garden. Leave some damp leaves or grass cuttings in a pile to welcome bugs frogs, hedgehogs and spiders looking for a home.
- Take cuttings from friends and family and plant your own trees and shrubs for free! Just pop any cuttings into a pot of soil and see how your garden grows! Great fun!
Most of all, get the children involved and get them muddy too! Nothing is more exciting for a toddler or pre-schooler than dirty hands, mucky knees and a brown, muddy smudge on their nose! Start a diary project and draw what you do and what you observe in the garden.
It's nearly spring, so why not make your garden into a wildlife garden and encourage some furry, buzzy and fluttery friends into the garden. Lovely for the children to watch and a chance to plant some pretty shrubs and trees. Here are some ideal plants to think about putting in this spring in order to attract wildlife:-
- Soft fruits: Blackberries, raspberries and red currents are loved by insects and birds. You may have to keep a few under a net to actually get a chance to eat any yourself!
- Dandelions: Many of us pull up the yellow blossom of dandelions, but they are a great favourite with bees and other buzzing insects; finches love their seeds.
- Honeysuckle: The berries are devoured by all sorts of birds, the nectar by buzzing bees.
- Lavender: The lovely scent of lavender attracts all sorts of bees and insects. Lovely to watch them merrily buzz around and a great mellow fragrance for the garden.
- Sunflowers: The sunny yellow flowers are loved by bees and the seeds are often eaten by birds.
- Buddleia: loved by butterflies and the pretty purple clusters of flowers have a stunning effect when in flower.