It’s the summer holidays and that means you might be looking for ways to keep your little ones occupied before they decide to draw on the white walls in the living room or use your favourite vase as a rugby ball. Well, don’t worry, because we have some ideas which can help you connect with nature and connect with one another.
From getting crafty to discovering a new skill, nature provides us with so many opportunities to engage, learn and enjoy…
Make a nature collection
This could be leaves, shells, pine cones or flowers (here’s how to press flowers in a book, I used to love doing this as a kid),
anything works and you don’t have to make a collection of all the same types of things either, maybe one day you will collect a shell and the next
day a leaf. It’s a bit like keeping a scrap book but instead of pictures and receipts, it’s of natural treasures. Kids will love this activity I promise you, and it’s something you can do throughout the holidays, whenever you go on a walk, visit a new place or just go out in the garden. We all know that wildlife is important and lots of us want to make sure our young ones value the natural world, so what better way to get them learning than searching for natures best treasures. It’s also going to get them asking lots of good questions (p.s. don’t worry if you don’t know the answers – Google them together, this is a great example that learning never stops in life!).
- Improving observation skills
- Recognising why things are shaped in different ways
- Learning about new objects, new names and facts
- Noticing the differences and similarities between natural objects
- Independent research into the natural world
Think about how you can display your new collection.
How could you group the items in your collection? (pointers = size, colour, shape, old/new)
Can you label all the things in your collection? What different names can you give them?
What memories are attached to each item in your collection?
Visit a local museum and learn about why collections are important for scientists.
What’s your favourite item and why?
Can you present your collection to your grandparents or cousins or siblings and then they can present theirs to you?
Draw a sound map
This really is a good one for all the family to do together and it’s the perfect activity to help slow everyone down and introduce some quiet time. In fact, you may well be surprised at how much you enjoy this activity yourself – you might even start to introduce it as a regular slot as a form of mindfulness. Choose a spot in the garden, park or at the beach (if it’s raining you can even do this one indoors with the window open). Make sure everyone has a piece of paper/cardboard and a pencil/pen, then take a few minutes and sit without talking, and listen to the world around you and draw it. Now when I say draw the sounds, I mean do whatever feels right, you might draw a gull if you hear one but you might also use shapes and squiggles to represent the sound. Here’s a webpage from the sensory trust which explains more about why this is such a good activity.
- Tuning in your senses – the art of listening!
- Drawing and interpreting
- Presenting and explaining ideas to others
What sounds did you hear which were made by humans? Were any natural sounds made by animals or wind or rivers and streams?
Did everyone hear the same sounds? How did different people draw those sounds?
Do the activity in another location or at a different time of day, what different sounds do you hear?
Colour in your sound map – what colours do you give to different sounds and why?
Why do things sound quieter if they are far away?
Now, I know what you are probably thinking… how can we go birdwatching if I don’t know the names of the birds myself? Will they even be interested? I can’t afford to drive to a nature reserve or get a pair of binoculars? Fortunately, none of these are barriers because birdwatching is for all abilities and can be a fun family activity which doesn’t cost a thing.
Choose a walk to go on, it could be around the block or to your local park, along a stretch of coast, around a football playing field- anywhere will do. Now, set the challenge (because everyone knows that games are always a win) – who can spot the most birds on our walk today? You can count in your head or maybe take a piece of paper and keep a tally. Make sure you join in too so there’s some competition (obviously if you have multiple kids then that part is easy). OK, so lets say Sophie won today – she spotted 6 birds in total – good job. Tomorrow we are going to go on exactly the same walk and we are going to see what we spot but tomorrow the challenge is to see who can spot the most types of birds?
- Improving observation skills
- Learning about bird’s bodies – beaks, feathers, wings
- Counting and recording information
- Animal behaviour – noticing what birds are doing in different habitats
Can you spot anything on your walk which comes from a bird (feathers, owl pellets) or is made by a bird (a nest, footprints in the sand or mud)?
How many different bird calls can you hear on your walk? Can you recognize the sounds different birds make?
Can you draw a bird that you have seen? Maybe you can label it’s different features
Go out on the same walk at a different time of day – what different birds do you see? Are they doing the same things?
Make a graph of the number of birds you see over the week (pie chart, bar chart)
So those are just three ideas, but there are so many more things you can do together using nature, check out our website page: Learn, play and explore for more fun things to do this summer. Plus, all of these activities have the potential to become a daily task and you may be surprised how much time your young ones want to spend doing them once they start to explore and learn about the world outside their window. Exploring the natural world is something we should all make time for in our lives, and discovering new things as a family can be a fantastic way to bond and grow together.