The Wildlife Around Us
Prompted by the Big Garden Bird Watch that took place this weekend; I started to think about the nature, and the wildlife, that we have all around us and, when better, than in a post-pandemic era, when we’re all doing more staying in and staying home, to consider the natural environment in the area in which we live.
I’m writing this from my countryside home in rural Hampshire and, nestled in the heart of the South Downs National Park, I count myself very lucky to live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by medieval hunting parks, working downland farms and chalky coastal clifftops, I don’t have to go far to see a red kite, or an otter, or roe deer, or even a llama! However, you don’t have to live in the countryside to find the beauty in the nature around you.
Even in the middle of our capital city, London, home to over 8.5million people, there is wildlife to be found living right alongside us: Regent’s Park alone is home to a bustling heronry (image: The Royal Parks) in addition to the hundreds of hedgehogs, kestrels, squirrels, owls and woodpeckers, to name a few of the other resident species living there! My point being, that, if you look, no matter what is going on in Number 10; nobody how hard your week has been, nature and wildlife is blossoming around you.
So with this in mind, I thought I’d share some of the ways in which I enjoy the nature and the wildlife around me, with my children.
One of my favourite things to do with the kids – and particularly if we’re having a bit of a trying day(!) – is to get out in the fresh air and to go for a walk. We all love walking on the heathland near our home and there is little that stretching our legs together can’t fix.
My eldest, who is four, loves to spot the wildlife living on the woodland heath; she can’t get out the front door quick enough when she knows we’re off to spot the voles and water rats that live along the lake pond; to see if we can spy a heron, or to feed the ducks and see their new ducklings.
Whenever we go, we take along a bag of rolled porridge oats for the water birds and Little Miss will happily while away the time, hurling the contents of it at some greedy geese.
Sometimes we take a roll of paper and some crayons with us; Little Miss loves to take wax reliefs of the trees and any “special” leaves; occasionally, she picks a particularly “special” leaf and brings it home to be a blanket for her imaginary bee friend, Fluffy.
Nature is a place that children can be free to use their imaginations in a completely open-ended way; and I love encouraging the creative sides of my children’s personalities. One of the ways I like to do this is by bringing our toys with us, pretty much everywhere!
My two love taking our Tickit Treasure Tube out and collecting “treasure” at the heath. Whether that’s conkers, or pinecones; leaves, twigs or feathers: it’s “treasure” to them and it warms my heart a little to see them so happy and excited by it.
We like taking our animal figures along on our walks too, and my daughter determinedly waves her Robin at the chubby little robin who follows us round, desperate to show him that she’s brought him her robin, “to be [his] friend”. I find that having the animal figures makes her more observant of the features and characteristics of the animals themselves too: “Look, my Robin has a matchy red tummy to that robin!”
But it’s not just our woodland walks that get the BYO treatment…
Even something as simple and every day as the walk to school can be an exciting opportunity to discover nature and wildlife. Little Miss and I like to do a rundown of ‘What does today look like?’:. What’s the weather like? Is it frosty? Have any new flowers popped up? How many dogs are out for a walk?
But sometimes, by the end of a busy week, motivating my tired Reception Classer to get a wiggle on on a Friday morning is easier said than done; so: we take a friend for the ride and Hetty (a Lanka Kade hedgehog) or Goldilocks (the Yellow Door figurine) walks to school with us (and comes back home in Mummy’s pocket) and they get shown all the things we can see on the way, and they get to spot the “special leaves” and the frost and the dogs, and the daffodils peaking their heads out.
My two love matching their real life experiences with nature to their imaginary play. For instance, the other day Little Miss and I were walking back home, along the riverside path that takes us from her ballet class to our house, and as we were walking we met a vixen with her angsty teenage fox cub. My daughter was fascinated by them and when we came home we talked about the pair and set up a little small world play activity about “Mummy and Baby Animals”, ready for the following afternoon. On another occasion, as we were walking to school, we saw a particularly impressive spider busily weaving a web and we spent the rest of the way planning a the spider craft we would do that afternoon.
So – to recap (because I know some of you love a good recap! – here’s a round of the things I’ve talked about and a few more of our favourite ways to explore the nature around us – do you do these too? What are your favourite things to do?
· Feeding the ducks, geese and swans (and spotting any ducklings, goslings and cygnets!) on our heath walks.
· Spotting the water rats and voles scurrying around the lake at the park.
· Watching the squirrels play in the trees on the walk to school.
· Going to see the deer on the farm.
· Taking leaf and bark rubbings.
· Pretending there are trolls under the bridge on the way home
· Counting dogs out on their walkies
· Waving to the llamas!
· Scavenger hunting
· Collecting woodland “treasure” in our tube.
· Playing Pooh Sticks
· Walking the toys to school.
· Playing in crunchy leaves.
· Building dens.
· Looking for animal homes and habitats (also fairy houses!)
· Playing ‘Eye Spy’ and ‘Hide and Seek.
· Taking a book to read in the woods.
· Donning our wellies and jumping in muddy puddles
We love being outdoors and in the fresh air, together, as a family. For me, there’s no better way to re-set and refresh: my daughter takes tree-hugging to a new level entirely and has started kissing trees(!) and we spend a fair amount of our time running thorough the woods, pretending to be in Frozen’s Enchanted Forest, with Little Miss bellowing “Aah-Ah, Ah-Aaah!” as loudly as she can, but actually – although we’re probably a little bit mad – I really love it.
This week, I’ve put together a few FREE PRINTABLE wildlife activities for the kids to get involved with, so do have a look at those and below is a list of my favourite resources to support exploring the wildlife in the environment around you. Enjoy!
My Top Resources to Support Your Outdoor Adventures:
· Safari Binoculars
· Crayohlala Autumn Crayon Set
· TickIt Treasure Tubes
· Bee A Little Wild Spring Cards
· Teddo Play: Birds of Prey, Wild Animals, Insect and Farm Animals Learning Cards
My Top Wildlife Learning-Through-Play Resources:
· Curiosity Corner Sensory Dough (Pinecone)
· Pond-Dipping Play Set
· Tender Leaf Woodland Bundle and Silhouettes Printable
· Yellow Door Tree Stump
· Tray Play Toolkits Woodland Sensory Base
· Wudimals Animal Figures
· Yellow Door Sensory Leaf Tiles
· Lanka Kade Woodland Animals (Set of 6)
· Yellow Door Woodland Footprints Set
My Top Children’s Stories to Read in the Woods:
· One Snowy Night: A Tale from Percy’s Park by Nick Butterworth
· The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
· Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
· First Stories: The Wind in the Willow by Campbell Books, Kenneth Grahame.
· The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
· That’s Not My Hedgehog by Fiona Watt
· Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne
Until next week!