Let’s lure our kids away from screens this summer and introduce them to the joys of play, adventure and learning in nature. From sowing wildflower seeds for pollinators, to making bug hotels, building dens and constructing a mini-pond, here are 13 awesome, wildlife-friendly ideas to keep kids of all ages happy during the summer holidays:
- Grow wildflower seeds in a wheelbarrow
- Build a wormery
- DIY grass people
- Grow your name in courgettes
- Make a butterfly feeder
- Sail a nature boat
- Set a bug trap
- Construct a bat box
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Dig a mini-pond
- Build a bug hotel
- Make clay faces
- Build a willow den
As an additional challenge, try listing all the different types of birds you see throughout the holidays and make the kids responsible for checking and topping up your feeders with fresh bird seed each day.
“Do you want to show your kids how to attract pollinators and help turn your outdoor space into a wildlife garden?” asks Lucy at Kids of the Wild. Here she shares her tutorial for creating a wildflower meadow in an old wheelbarrow or other fun container. She says you can grow wildflowers at virtually any time of year and kids will love watching their garden grow, as will the butterflies, moths, bees, and other pollinators who come to feast on it.
“Making a wormery out of a plastic bottle is a great way to take a closer look and learn more about the worms,” says Louise over at Little Hearts, Big Love. Visit her post for a step-by-step guide to creating your own wormery by adding layers of sharp sand and soil to a clear plastic bottle. Add worms and food, wrap with card and leave in the dark. When you return, kids will be fascinated to see how the worms draw the food from the surface, mixing the layers as they go.
For a great growing project to put on the windowsill, we highly recommend this activity which comes from Sarah at Whimsical Mumblings: grass people. All you need is a pair of old tights, a glass jar, grass seed, compost, paper and decorations. The result is a very funky creation with rapidly growing grass hair. “Don’t forget to give him a haircut now & then!” says Sarah.
Kids will enjoy becoming a big name in vegetables with this fun activity courtesy of Catherine from Growing Family. Simply take a pointed instrument – not too pointy for small kids – and get them to gently scratch their name in the side of a courgette. Allow the courgette to grow and the name grows with it. Catherine says her children love it: “It’s not just the wow factor of the huge name at the end that they enjoy; it’s also the regular checking to see how big they’re getting and the comparing between each other.”
Take one paper plate, some string and a mushed up banana and you have all you need to make a fun butterfly feeder to hang in the garden. This thrifty idea comes to you from Becky Goddard-Hill, blogger at Baby Budgeting and author of ‘A Year of Nature Craft and Play’. She says her daughter came home from a Wildlife Trust event super keen to give this little project a go. To make things more interesting, they made one feeder from a plain paper plate and another from a brightly coloured one and will report back on which the butterflies find most attractive.
An extension of the concept of Pooh sticks, this is a game to supervise carefully but it’s a challenge children will love. All you need is some string or garden twine, a stream and some sticks, twigs and leaves, says Jemma at Thimble & Twig. The challenge: to construct a mini raft from items found in nature, and sail it down the stream to see whose vessel proves the swiftest and most seaworthy.
“Pitfall traps are the perfect activity to investigate the minibeasts around your home,” says Cerys of Rainy Day Mum. A fun project for kids which helps them to learn about creepy crawlies and the vital role they play in the ecology of the garden, all you need to build your own bug trap is a paper cup, a trowel, a tray on which to examine your catch and a local bug identification guide. Cerys provides full instructions as well as details on how to get the most out of the experiment with both younger and older children.
Modern roofing methods are causing a decline in the availability of bat roosting sites, says Joel Ashton of YouTube channel, Wild Your Garden with Joel Ashton. In this excellent video, he gives step by step instructions for building and siting your own bat box – a roosting and potential nesting box for these wonderful little mammals. If you’re handy with DIY projects this is a great one to involve your kids in.
Kids will love exploring the colours of the natural environment with this fun garden scavenger hunt from the guys at the Royal Horticultural Society. Just take an old egg box, pre-paint the indentations with bright colours, then send your children into the garden or local park to fill the cells with matching items. A great way to talk about the flowers that grow in the garden, you can even paint the boxes different colours to match the seasons.
Bury a bucket or other watertight container in the ground to create an instant mini wildlife pond. This idea from the Wildlife Trusts ‘Wildlife Watch’ comes with complete instructions including how to build and plant your pond so that it thrives and, crucially, so that the wildlife that enters it can easily clamber back out again. A project that requires little other than a spade, a container and some old bricks, rocks, or pebbles, kids will enjoy rolling their sleeves up and getting stuck in.
“Why not try making your own insect home – or ‘hotel’ – out of junk, to give bugs somewhere to live? They’ll repay you when they help control pests and even pollinate your plants.” When it comes to recommending projects which lend nature a helping hand, they don’t come much more highly recommended than those coming from the Eden Project in Cornwall. All you need is “recycled stuff”, “natural materials”, and these excellent instructions!
“One of our favourite garden activities for kids is making clay faces,” says Jenny at Monkey and Mouse. Using air-dry clay, they squish a circular shape onto trees in the garden or even the shed, moulding a face into the clay to give the denizens of the garden instant personalities. Jenny says, “the best part is searching around for items like twigs, leaves, acorns and other natural things to make the face and hair.”
If you’ve been inspired by this article, and you’re looking for an outdoor activity that you can start planning now in time for October half term, check out this tutorial from Dogwooddays Nic Wilson. Kids love somewhere to hide and be alone in nature. But with less opportunity to roam the countryside unsupervised, and with ever-smaller back gardens, this is much harder than it used to be. Which is why Nic decided to build a willow den in her flower border. Here you’ll discover how to go about constructing a small hidey hole for little ones to call their own, and it looks lovely too – a win-win for both adults and children.
With these excellent outdoor wildlife mini projects, the summer holiday promises plenty of opportunity for kids to get outdoors and into nature. Share your photos with us over on social media. We’d love to see your projects!
Lead image: Monkey and Mouse