As we move into autumn, a number of wild animals will settle down and hibernate for the winter. Hibernation is a topic that young children will cover early on in their schooling, but there's nothing to stop you giving them a head start and talk with them about hibernation yourself.
The topic introduces changes in seasons as well as different animals. You may or may not be familiar with animals that hibernate. In the UK you can expect the following to hibernate during winter:-
Many insect also hibernate, including:-
Some animals hibernate in their natural habitat but do not in a domestic setting, such as hamsters and mice.
Some insects survive the winter in different forms, either as eggs (only hatching in the spring), nymphs, larvae or pupae - none of which technically hibernate.
Use the internet with your little ones to find pictures of animals that hibernate, talk about how these animals and insects sleep during the winter, and learn what they all look like.
During winter, many of our birds really suffer in the cold weather and many perish as temperatures drop. We may take our birds for granted, but we would miss them if they weren't around. Run a diary project during the cold weather with your little ones. Chart what birds you see them and when, and put our food for them to attract them nea your home and to help them through the winter.
Nut feeders: there are all sorts of specialist nut feeders available from garden centres and pet shops to attract and feed different species of bird. You can simply hang a cheap nut feeder from a drainpipe or window and they will still come. If the weather is bad, they will become bolder in order to get to the food!
Bird tables: place the food on the table in a good, open position, near to trees in case a predator comes or cover is needed, but away from the fence that a cat might use as a springboard to get to the table! Make sure you can observe it from your window so that you and your children can enjoy watching the birds come and go.
Keep bird tables and feeders well stocked: if you decide to start helping the birds by providing food, try to keep it up throughout the winter so they can rely on your home to provide them with food throughout the winter rather than just for the first few days! Have your children help you put out food each day.
Water: A bowl of water (rather than ice!) is useful as during the icy months usual sources of water to drink become icy and frozen solid - rendering them useless. Bird baths are also essential for birds to clean their wings and rid themselves of any muddy debris that may have come attached. When their wings are not washes properly, they have trouble flying. Float a small plastic ball in the water to try to help it from freezing over. If it does freeze, break the ice and replace it with fresh water.
Spot any bird tracks (or any other animals for that matter!) in the snow and get the children outside (wrapped up warm!) to look at their environment.
Encourage your children to get involved in whatever way they can. Looking after nature is important and looking after our birds is easy and rewarding when you see them enjoying your food and flying around the wintery garden.
It's freezing cold and we are told it's going to get worse, but you can't close your front door and stay inside no matter how much you want to! Children have to get to childcare, nursery, school and you need to brave the cold weather even if you (and your kids!) don't want to. Here are a few tips to make it that bit more bearable!
Wear a hat: most of your body's warmth will be lost by heat escaping through the top of your head.
Mittens: mittens are preferrable for children as they are warmer than gloves.
Warm drinks: a nice cup of hot (or warm) chocolate can be very satisfying. Try to tempt your little ones to warm up with a warm drink when they get home.
Scarf: around the neck and chest, flat against the body under the coat and another one, if you think they need it, around the back of their neck and across their face and cheeks.
Layers: dress in layers; warm air is trapped between layers and helps to insulate.
Outer layer: make sure the outermost layer is tightly woven so as to keep out the wind.
Underwear: make sure you have long sleeved vests, thick socks and even leggings over tights (or under trousers) to keep out the cold on the way to nursery. The children can always take them off once they arrive.
Keep dry: make sure your child is dry and wears waterproofs if it's raining.
Shivering: is a reflex and if you child is so cold they shiver, they need to get inside and out of the cold.
With summer seeming almost a distant memory, it's easy to feel that there's nothing to do at weekends but to cuddle up at home and entertain the children with craft and games. There are, however, plenty of attractions and days out that remain open throughout the year, and visiting such places on a fine autumn or winter day can be very rewarding. Tourist numbers are undoubtedly down, so you can gain a richer experience visiting attractions that remain open. Smaller crowds also mean it's less frantic with your baby and young children. If you don't have children of a school age, then you'll find that the weekends outside of school holidays and half terms are quietest of all.
Attractions with animals invariably remain open all year round because even though the crowds may be small, the animals require just as much as care and attention as they do on a busy summer day! Animal attractions include zoos and farms, also animal sanctuaries and wildlife parks.
Whilst the majority of National Trust and English Heritage properties close over the winter months, many privately owned country houses, stately homes and castles remain open. These can offer a wonderful place just to 'get away' and enjoy lovely outdoor walks. Many such properties offer garden and grounds only tickets which often suit younger children who may not endure a traipse around a stuffy home!
Lots of towns and cities have local museums that also remain open throughout the year. If you are looking for something different to do in your area, try to discover a new museum that you perhaps didn't know existed before! Use the internet to search for attractions new to you nearby.
Wherever you live, you're never far away from some 'great outdoors', perhaps a National Park, a country estate, a local park, the coast, a wildlife sanctuary, reservoir or industrial space such as docks. All of these can make for a fun place to walk and explore no matter how young your children.
Exposing your children to interesting places from an early age will impart a curiosity for interesting places and learning in later life. Just because the traditional tourist season is over, don't write off the idea of great days out in the autumn and winter!