OK, so the notion of playing in meadows probably harks back to a romantic Victorian era, but there are lots of games and japes that can be played in the park! Exploring wild flowers and plants helps children discover new things. Here are some fun elements to explore next time you're walking in the park, or passing through any outdoor areas:-
Sticky Bombs and Darts: Explore some of the fascinating seeds that can stick to you. Nature has created these so that they stick to passing animals such as birds and foxes. The seeds are then dispersed by the host animal when they fall off later. Look out for teazles and goose grass, also grass spears that have gone to seed can cling on with their tiny hooks. Great for older kids to throw at each other!
Firing Bombs: Look out for plantains which have a tall stem and a seed head on top. Pick one with a long stem and tie a knot in it. Pull the stem near the head through the small hole and the head will fire off in the opposite direction...hours of fun!
Butterlicious: Do you like butter? Hold a buttercup under your little ones chin and if it reflects a shiny yellow gleam then they like butter! Have your little ones do this on you, they love this simple trick.
Telling the Time: Pick a dandelion that has gone to furry seed. Count how many puffs it takes to disperse all the seeds. Each puff represents an hour, so four puffs suggests that the time is four o'clock. Hmm, perhaps digital clocks are slightly more accurate!
Daisy Chains: Great for developing fine motor skills, but probably not a good activity for the very youngest! Pick a handful of daisies and make a chain by carefully splitting the stem and passing the stem of the next daisy through. Make a necklace and bracelet for your youngest children.
Fairies: Keep an eye open for 'fairies', fluffy seeds from dandelions or other plants just floating past on a warm day.
Nectar: Find some 'dead nettles', the flowering nettles that don't sting, and pull off one of the flowers. Suck the base of the flower and you will taste the nectar which is just like honey. Look for clover plants and do the same, pull off a clump of the petals and suck nectar from the base.
Fruit Picking: Look out for wild fruit later in the season. Wild blackberries are very common but beware the thorns on the brambles. Look out for other fruit trees that might be growing wild, such as cherries, plums, apples and pears. You may find other soft fruits like blackcurrants and redcurrants.
Do you remember any old games that you used to play in your own childhood?
Children love a bit of messy play and this spell of fine weather gives the perfect opportunity to make potions in the garden! Give your little ones a selection of little pots and a large mixing bowl and encourage them to find different ingredients to make a potion. Stir together sand, water, leaves, some small stones, perhaps some flowers such as daisies or dandelions. Look for small items around the garden that can all be mixed together.
Talk with your little one about what the different ingredients do? Perhaps the flowers make it taste sweeter, perhaps grass cuttings and leaves help to turn the drinkers skin a green colour? Pebbles might be to help make the potion more digestible, strips of bark from trees and a few twigs may give you strength.
Of course, stress that this is only pretend and that your little one shouldn't really drink it, but at the same time, fire up their imagination and see what they can pretend this potion is for. Describe the different textures of the ingredients and discuss whether they make the potion easier to stir, or lumpy, or change colour and so on. Observe the changes as more ingredients are added. Above all, have fun!
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