Children don’t need much encouragement to engage with nature. Whether you live in a rural location, or in a city with limited access to open space, you’ll find it’s the small things which catch their imagination. Perhaps as a family you’ve spent more time recently in the garden, and your child has become fascinated by the bugs, butterflies and birds he spots there. In the city, small children may have noticed birdsong for the first time.
To help families connect with nature, a group of leading nature, environment and mental health organisations have come together to provide activities for a new Vitamin N campaign – the message is simple, everyone needs a daily dose of nature!
Being at home more frequently provides a great opportunity to make space for nature. #VitaminN highlights easy, fun ways to connect with nature on your doorstep, whether it’s from your garden, local outdoor space during your daily walk or even indoors through a window. Activities include the RSPB’s birdsong radio, the Wilderness Foundation’s Badger Cam and a nature-themed scavenger hunt from Jordans Cereals.
Dr Eleanor Ratcliffe, Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, says: ‘Restrictions to movement outside the home mean it’s not as easy to visit our beauty spots, but there are still ways to connect with nature. Just listening to birdsong from the window, or looking at a tree in the distance, can help us to feel happier and more relaxed.’
5 ACTIVITIES TO TRY
Grow your own – from the Royal Horticultural Society
You don’t need a garden to grow your own veggies, just some seeds and a shallow tray. Sowing seeds indoors allows tender plants to be started off successfully earlier in the season. When they have grown into young plants, they can be planted outside in the garden or vegetable plot. Many vegetables, including tomatoes and runner beans, can be grown indoors. You need a shallow tray and standard soil-based compost or seed compost. Check the seed packet for seed-specific instructions. Water your seeds and cover then until they germinate. Don’t forget to label which seeds are which!
Early bird – from the RSPB
Take part in RSPB’s Breakfast Birdwatch for a moment of calm before you start the day. It takes place between 8am-9am on weekdays, when you’d normally be doing the school run. Share photos and videos of what you see at #BreakfastBirdwatch on social media – and the RSPB will help you identify what you’ve seen and heard.
Scavenger hunt – Jordans
Fill an empty egg box with a host of natural treasures, such as new green leaves, scented blossom, springy moss, sticky leaf buds, a lichen coloured twig, a piece of eggshell, dandelions, smooth pebbles, daisies, pine cones, wiggly worms, or anything you can find. You can use a magnifying glass to investigate – can you see any intricate patterns, colours or textures?
Build a bug hotel – Wilderness Foundation
Celebrate the invertebrates by creating a creepy-crawly community centre on your doorstep. Decide where you want your hotel to go, somewhere with a mixture of sun and shade. Design your exterior, based on the materials you have – a pallet is ideal, unless mum or dad is handy with wood, nails and a hammer! For the interior you could use any of the following, or anything natural you can find: sticks, chippings, bark, moss, dry leaves, old terracotta pots and roof tiles, straw, hay, pine cones, hollow bamboo canes, dead hollow stems cut from shrubs, bricks with holes in. Be resourceful and use whatever you’ve got to hand!
Nature yoga – Wildlife Trusts
Learn a range of wildlife themed yoga poses such as the frog and the heron. You’ll need some space, either indoors or outdoors, and ideally a yoga mat, towel or blanket – but that’s not essential. You can make your yoga session extra ‘wild’ by trying out the fox or pine marten wildlife poses. Make sure to warm up and stretch properly when starting yoga and always give yourself plenty of space.
We asked some children to share their favourite activities:
- Identical twins Isla and Evelyn Hoyle have been busy making mobiles out of pine cones – all they needed was sticks, string and pine cones.
- Bethany, aged 7, planted sunflower seedlings on a windowsill, one for each member of the family. They’re having a race to see which grows the fastest. Bethany’s also been digging up the soil to create a mud kitchen in their small patio garden; made water funnels by recycling old plastic bottles and used dead flowers that were in vases to make confetti and witches potions.
- Grace, who loves a bug hunt, has been getting up close and personal with snails, woodlice, worms and ladybirds in her garden, and has created a colourful nature journal so she can record what she finds. A keen tree climber, she’s also been playing in a blossom tree.
Observing nature is a fun way to encourage learning. These educational tools will help children spark their curiosity and investigate their surroundings.
- GeoSafari Jr. Bug Viewer Jar from Learning Resources, ages 4-8 years, RRP £4.00 Children can collect their bugs in this easy to use bug viewing jar, simply pop bugs inside, secure the magnifying lid and look through the top at the specimens collected. The 3x magnifying lid also features air holes and a measuring grid.
- GeoSafari Jr. Mighty Magnifier from Learning Resources, ages 4 – 8 years, RRP £14
These hands-free, wearable magnified explorer glasses are perfect for scientific observation of nature.
Participating organisations contributing resources as part of #VitaminN include RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, the Wilderness Foundation, WWF, Nature Friendly Farming Network, The Climate Coalition, Mental Health Collective and Jordans Cereals.