Help your youngsters engage with the natural world and find all sorts of minibeasts and bigger critters in your gardens

Here come the summer holidays, and with the uncertainty of foreign travel meaning more families will be staycaytioning at home, here are some great ideas for keeping children entertained outside.

Former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins has devised four budget-busting ‘days out’ for children in their own back garden.

Former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins says children get so much out of garden wildlife

Chris, who worked on the BBC TV show for nearly a decade and is now Head of Organic Horticulture at national charity Garden Organic, Chris said: “Children always benefit from being outside in the fresh air.

“Tempt them away from their computer games by organising days out for them in their garden where they can learn about birds and bugs, plants and shrubs.

You are never too young to go on an accompanied mini-beast safari!

“More and more children are becoming environmentally aware and teaching them about beneficial wildlife which help keep down garden pests such as slugs and snails without the need for harmful pesticides will increase their understanding.

Here are Chris’s four top outdoor gardening activities:

Go on a bug safari

Give your child a hat, a small spade and a magnifying glass if you have one and let them stride out into the wilds of the garden.

They can dig up a spade full of soil and spread it out in a tub or on a piece of cardboard and then search carefully for all the creatures they can find. They might see lots of different types of worms, a centipede, a beetle and much more.

It’s amazing what you can find when you use a magnifying glass

Encourage them to draw what they find. When they’ve finished looking at one area, direct them to a different spot in the garden and see if they can see more or fewer creatures – ask them what they think could be causing the difference?

Once they are back in the house they could find out more about the creatures using the Internet and a crafty Garden Organic bug identifier at https://tinyurl.com/y3xwjjta

Turn your garden into a nature reserve

Many birds and creatures visit gardens when it is quiet and still. To enable your children to get to know these creatures better why not encourage them to build a bird hide or den out of natural material that they can hide in and sit quietly to watch. Don’t forget to add a roof in case it rains!

When they stop making a noise they may be surprised by the creatures they share their garden with.

You can find all sorts lurking under stones

Get them to write down and draw what they see – and remember that if your garden is organic and you don’t use pesticides they are even more likely to spot a wide range of birds and creatures.

Build a pond and spend the day ‘by the seaside’

Ponds are a brilliant addition to any garden and children will have lots of fun building one with a shallow gravel or sandy slope to form a beach.

All you need is a spade, a plastic bag or old washing up bowl for a liner and some water.

Even little ponds will bring wildlife, birds and insects flocking, but make sure children are always supervised

Ponds attract all sorts of beneficial wildlife, including frogs and toads that will keep your children entertained and help to keep your slug population under control.

If you are building a pond, make sure to make one end shallow (or piled up with stones) so animals can enter and leave the water, and never leave young children unsupervised.

See https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/creating-pond for more details about making a pond and https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/humble-bog-garden for bog garden-making info.

Appoint your child as a Night Ranger

Get them to grab a torch and a coat and head out into the dark to undertake a night patrol.

A close inspection of your plants may uncover some of those pesky slugs creeping out hoping to have a feast unnoticed.

Night time is when a lot of the garden wildlife action happens, but wrap up warm!

Then encourage tem to sit quietly and see what might be stirring around them. If they are lucky they might spot a hedgehog on the lawn or a bat or owl overhead, maybe even a family of foxes or a badger.

Sit with them so they aren’t scared and make notes of what you’ve seen – and don’t forget to swot up on the constellations for a bit of stargazing!

 

Let’s keep gardening!

One of the great things about lockdown was that more people discovered the joy of gardening and growing things and we greatly hope that this won’t wear off now that ‘normal’ life has resumed.

The hardworking team at AG are here to help with all your gardening needs and questions

This blog is an insight into what the AG team is up in their gardens, what we like to grow, what we pick and harvest, what’s worked for us and what hasn’t – because like everyone, things go wrong for us too!

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer within 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@futurenet.com

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