Nature activities for kids - The Heart of England Forest

Nature activities for kids

With the nation now home schooling, we have lots of activities for families to do together in their gardens or other local natural space.

These fun activities get children out in the fresh air and connected to nature, but they are also National Curriculum linked so support your child’s learning.

Nature activities for kids

Plant a bulb or seed

The children might already be missing their friends, so give them something to look forward to by planting a bulb or seeds in your back garden, with the promise that things will seem more certain by the time it blooms.

Plants that can be planted in March/April include begonias, marigolds, sunflowers, petunias and sweet pea. Talk about all the butterflies, bees and other insects your flower will attract.

Make a bird feeder

Classmates can’t come round to play, but restrictions don’t apply to our feathered friends. Make a bird feeder

from an old milk or juice carton or use Lego and fill with goodies to attract the birds. If you don’t have bird seed then cooked pasta or rice, boiled potatoes, cheese, uncooked and unsalted bacon rind, raisins, sultanas and soft fruits are all suitable. Check the RSPB website.

Encourage children to come up with their own design. They can draw it first and evaluate it afterwards – what worked well, how could they improve their design? Paint them to make them look more attractive or cover them with sticks.

Nature diary

Start a nature diary featuring a different plant or tree each week as they come into bloom. Take a print of the leaves, press a flower between the pages of a book and take your time to draw a beautiful picture.

Touch and smell your plant and notice the colours and textures before writing a list of adjectives, similes or metaphors to describe it. You can even write an acrostic poem (where the first letter of each line spells out the name of the plant).

Homing snails

You’ve heard of homing pigeons but have you heard of homing snails? Find snails in your garden and put a small dot of nail varnish on their shells, then take them a short distance from your house and see if they come back!

To turn this into a science investigation to find out how far the snails will travel to get home, put different coloured nail varnish dots on the shells and drop the snails off different distances away from the garden.

You can turn this into a fun maths activity using the data you have collected:

  • Measure and record how far from the garden the snails were moved.
  • Show the data in a bar chart to show how many snails in different distance groups came home
  • Plot a distance/time graph to show how long it takes the snails to travel a certain distance.

Obstacle course

Bring adventure into your back yard by building an obstacle course for your push bike in your back garden.

We used some old cupboard doors & bricks to make ramps and see-saws, cones or plant pots to weave in and out of, and some old bits of skirting board to make bumps to ride over. See what you have in your shed or garage and come up with your own designs.

Health & safety note: Ensure the course is appropriate to the age and skill level of your child. Let your children build the course to make sure they are comfortable with the obstacles. Make sure they are robust before your child tries the course for the first time and of course make sure they are wearing a helmet.

Pebble pollinators

Make some pebble pollinators and hide them around your garden. Use poster paints, paint pens or permanent markers to decorate your pebbles to look like bees, ladybirds, butterflies or bugs. You can even varnish them afterwards to make the colours last.

Write directions using positional language or draw a treasure map to help someone else find them.

Weave a ‘Wildthings’ crown

Weave a ‘Wildthings’ crown using fresh sprigs of willow, hazel or birch, or any other flexible green wood you can find in your garden or close to your home.

  1. First cut a strip of cardboard and measure it around your child’s head with an overlap of about 7cms.
  2. Next find some elastic bands and stretch them over your cardboard band. You can use the elastic bands to help you measure the width of your band, ideally the elastic bands should stretch over the band once and fit snugly, but should still have plenty of stretch so they don’t snap when you start weaving.
  3. Now space 5 or 6 elastic bands at even intervals around the cardboard band.
  4. Finally weave the sprigs over and under the elastic before bending the finished crown around the child’s head and securing the ends with the elastic bands or staples.

Wildflower spotting

Springtime wildflowers are blooming in our woodlands and our gardens. Whilst taking your daily exercise, see what beautiful spring blooms you can spot.

Primroses, forget-me-nots, wood anemone, lesser celandine, common dog violets and cow parsley are already attracting bees and butterflies. You may also spot the grape-like buds of bluebells.

Ask older children to look for the pollen and explain the role of flowers in the lifecycle of plants/plant reproduction.This great spotter sheet from our friends at Woodland Trust will help you with your quest.

Worry dolls

This is a worrying time for children as well as grown-ups. Give children time to relax and express their worries by making a worry doll using twigs and wool.

In the villages of Guatemala in South America, children tell their worries to a small doll then tuck it under their pillow at night to take their worries away.

  1. Collect 2 small sticks (one larger than the other). Your worry doll should be small enough to keep in your pocket.
  2. Tie the sticks together to make a cross, wrapping string or wool around to secure them.
  3. To make a face, peel off a piece of bark on the top of the stick, or whittle the bark using a potato peeler to peel off the bark, so you have space you can draw a face on with a pen.
  4. Dress your worry doll. Wrap the coloured wool around the arms, legs and body, dress with material scraps or leaves, flowers, etc

Earthworms

For an outdoor activity that works even better on a rainy day, use your science and maths skills to investigate the earth worms in your garden.

Measure an area 20cm x 20cm and dig it out using trowels, collecting all the earth worms you uncover.

Next mix 2 teaspoons of mustard powder with 750ml of water and pour the mixture in the pit to draw out the deeper burrowing worms.

You can use these great resources from OPAL to identify the types of worms you have found then record your results.

Make a rain cloud in a jar

Whatever the weather outside, make your own rain cloud in a jar. Fill a large jar with water, leaving a 2cm gap at the top of the jar. Now squirt some shaving foam on top of the water up to the top of the jar.

Mix some blue food colouring with a cup of water before dropping the liquid on top of your cloud and observe what happens.

Can you explain what you see?

Garden treasure hunt

Go on a garden treasure hunt and help the children develop their vocabulary at the same time.

Challenge them to find objects to match the descriptive words: for example rough, smooth, beautiful, ugly, smelly, prickly, squidgy, sticky, big, small, hard, soft, bendy, brittle, strange.

Can they think of other words to describe their finds?

Make a bug hotel

Improve your garden as a habitat for wildlife during the Easter holidays by making a bug hotel. All you need is an empty plastic bottle and some old newspaper!

Talk about the creatures that might live in the bug hotel: ladybirds, woodlice, earwigs and the other animals that might benefit through the food chain – for example the birds that can eat the bugs to feed their young.

 

Alternative Easter eggs

For a Egg-cellant Easter activity idea, experiment by dying eggs using natural dyes.

In Britain it was traditional to make “pace eggs,” dyed with onion skins wrapped over leaves to create golden eggs with foliage patterns.

Instructions:

  1. First, place an old cloth, 20cms x 20cms on the work surface
  2. Lay around 6 layers of onion skins on top of the cloth
  3. Arrange leaves or flowers on top of the onion skins – this will create an interesting pattern on the egg. We found that daisies worked best, the primroses transferred a yellow colouration onto the egg but the effect was not as clear.
  4. Now lay the egg on top, before wrapping the cloth and onion skins firmly around the egg. Secure with an elastic band.
  5. Place in boiling for around 30 minutes, with a separate pan for each egg.
  6. Finally remove the egg from the water and allow it to cool, before revealing your design.

Bug hunt

We’re going on a bug hunt! Challenge yourself to see how many different invertebrates (creepy crawlies) you can find in your back garden in 15 minutes.

Don’t worry if you don’t have your own bug pot – yoghurt pots or the bottoms of plastic bottles will work just as well.

Use this garden bug chart to ID your finds.

Petal perfume

Making perfume out of fallen blossom and flower petals is a fantastic way of getting children to notice what is growing in their garden and use their senses to explore.

  1. First collect the flower petals and put them in a glass jar. Make sure you set the ground rules first – what flowers are they allowed to pick, or can they just collect the blossom from the ground?
  2. Then pour on some just boiled water and leave your perfume to seep for a couple of hours.
  3. Finally decorate the jar to make it look beautiful

Make a boat

Make a boat and see if it will float!

We love this mini canoe resource from our friends at Scout Adventures, or try your own design

First sketch your design, before selecting your materials. Think about whether you want your wood to be flexible (willow, hazel), strong (oak, alder) or lightweight (aspen).

After you have made your boat test it to see how well it floats. How effective was your design?

Build a reading den

Build your own special reading den in your back garden. Use any sticks, garden canes, garden furniture or any old junk you have lying around to make your structure, and rope or string to lash it all together. Can you make it waterproof using plastic sheets or bags?

Finally make it really cosy with blankets and cushions before snuggling in to read your favourite book.

Dissect a flower

Pull it apart and examine all the different parts – petals, stem, leaves, pollen, etc.

Name and label the parts, then reconstruct the flower in 2D, sticking the parts onto paper using sellotape.

Older children can also label and reconstruct the reproductive parts of the flower – the stigma, anther, ovary, etc. Why are flowers important for plant reproduction?

Pollinators

Close up of wasp in jam jarCatch some buzzing pollinators in jam jars and examine them closely. Can you see the pollen baskets or hairs on the bee’s legs? Why are they important?

Now look more closely: It might look like a bee, but flies are cunning masters of disguise. Flies have very short antennae and very big eyes.

Why is it an advantage for flies to look like bees or wasps? Once you’ve examined your pollinators, release them back into the wild.

Health & safety point: obviously some of these insects have a nasty sting! You will need an adult to help you catch the pollinators, and make sure you are very gentle so no one gets hurt. If anyone in the family is allergic to bee or wasp stings then this activity is probably not for you!

Crystallised flowers

Make a sweet treat by crystallising violets, primroses, pansies or other edible flowers that can be found in your garden or during your daily exercise.

This is a really fun way of encouraging your children to get to know common wild and garden plants and notice the changing of the seasons.

1) Pick the flowers, away from roadside verges and anywhere that might have been treated with pesticides. Wash & dry the flowers
2) Paint the flowers with egg white using a fine brush
3) Sprinkle the flowers with sugar, ensuring that the front and back of the flower is completely covered in sugar
4) Leave on dry on baking paper for 24 hours
5) Eat within a few days. The flowers can be used to decorate cakes.

Health and Safety point: you must be 100% sure that you know what you are picking and that the flowers are edible so check first. Also make sure that the location you are picking the flowers is suitable – away from traffic fumes and pesticide

Cook up a stone age treat

Cook up a treat to learn about the huge changes that occurred in prehistoric times. The history cook book has many recipe ideas from the old stone age right through to 1985, so you will be able to find a recipe covering whatever period of history your child is studying.

We pretended we were old stone age hunter gatherers and cooked baked apples sweetened with honey on a campfire in our back garden. Although they work in the oven too!

Don’t forget to chat about how life was different and what we have that they wouldn’t have had in the stone age. How were they like us and how were they different?

Make a volcano

Make a volcano in your back garden then make it erupt!

First create a mound in your back garden using soil, stones or mud. Dig out a crater large enough to hold a paper or plastic cup.

Next combine 4-6 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda, 1 teaspoon of washing up liquid and ¼ cup of washable paint in the plastic or paper cup, before filling it up with water.

Finally place the cup into your crater and begin pouring in vinegar (1 cup) to start your eruption!

Natural rainbows

We love all the rainbows in people’s windows cheering everyone up. Can you make a rainbow using natural things you can find in your garden like flower petals, colourful bark or pebbles, sticks and leaves?

You could make a giant rainbow on your lawn, or on a rainy day stick your natural finds on paper to display in your window.

Make sure you set the ground rules first – what flowers & leaves are they allowed to pick, or can they just collect fallen petals from the ground?

Get creative with natural dyes

Make a flag with natural dyes by crushing petals and leaves you can find in your back garden or local green space.

First using a piece of white cotton and some masking tape or Sellotape, mark out a pattern on the material.

Now collect colourful petals and leaves before mashing, squeezing and wiping the colours onto your material.

Use mathematical language to talk about the lines, angles and shapes you have created. You can also link this to history by talking about how people used to dye their clothes.

Kitchen roll art

On a rainy day learn that plants need water to grow by making your tree artwork bloom.

Fold a piece of kitchen roll in half. On the front page of your folded kitchen roll draw a tree trunk and branches before opening your kitchen roll and drawing the detail – leaves, blossom, birds or fruit – on the inside page.

Finally drop your artwork into a tray of water and watch your artwork transform before your eyes!

This activity can be used to support science learning about plants – from seasonal or lifecycle changes from winter to spring, through to learning about the parts of plants or what plants need to grow.

Pollinator survey

Carry out some science and geography fieldwork in your own back yard or local green space. All you need is some string and a few common flowers or weeds!

This citizen science survey involves measuring out a 50cm x 50cm area containing flowers like dandelions, buttercups or hawthorn blossom and recording the pollinators that visit the flowers during a 10 minute period. Find resources to help here. Finally, submit your data online to develop your child’s computer and geography skills.

World War 2 recipes

Try out some World War 2 recipes from the History Cookbook. Parallels can be drawn between the current crisis and events in Britain during World War 2 – including personal sacrifice, coming together as a community and shortages of some foods like eggs and flour.

We love these wartime recipes including elderflower jelly – just as the elders are blossoming in the Forest – and the golden slices using stale bread!

Patterns in nature

Today see what patterns you can find in your back garden or local green space and collect lots of different imprints with play dough, plasticine or clay.

Many patterns occur in nature: the arrangement of leaves and petals on plants, or textural patterns on bark and rocks. Others you find will be man-made.

Use language to describe the patterns, textures and shapes you see, sort the patterns into groups based on their properties, or play a game to see if you can match the imprinted patterns with the objects that made them.

Butterfly spotting

Butterflies come out to play on sunny days – the warmer the weather the more you will see in your back garden or local green space as they visit flowers to get the food they need for energy.

See how many different types of butterfly you can spot in your back garden or during your daily exercise walk. Use this this fantastic spotter sheet from our friends at The Woodland Trust to ID them.

If you are very careful and gentle you may be able to temporarily catch the butterflies to get a closer look, but make sure an adult helps to make sure you don’t damage their delicate wings.

VE Day crafts

It’s the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, so how about trying these themed crafts:

Or make a spitfire from lolly sticks and clothes pegs like we did!

Outdoor maths

Take your maths lesson outside today. Use a compass (or the compass on a mobile phone) to mark out a simple shape with tent pegs or garden canes and string.

  1. Put the first tent peg in the ground behind your right ankle.
  2. Walk 3 steps North – put a tent peg behind your right ankle.
  3. Walk 3 steps East – put a tent peg behind your right ankle.
  4. Walk 3 steps South – put a tent peg behind your right ankle.
  5. Walk 3 steps West – put a tent peg behind your right ankle.
  6. Finally tie the string around the tent pegs to find out what shape you have made.

Year 4, 5 and 6 pupils can challenge themselves by measuring their shape before working out the perimeter or area. Younger pupils can talk about which bits of their shape they are most proud of, or how it can be improved.

Make a mandala

Make a mandala with clay, play dough or plasticine, decorated with natural objects you can find in your garden or during your daily walk.

This is a fantastic way of encouraging children to look at everyday natural objects more closely, and notice and use the colours and shapes creatively. It’s also a great way of reinforcing learning in maths, thinking about patterns, symmetry and angles.

Create an imaginary habitat

Make an imaginary habitat in a shoe box. Your habitat can be from anywhere on earth – rainforest, dessert, mountain or savannah. Or maybe you can imagine a habitat on another planet? How would life be different – hotter than earth, or colder than earth?

Ours is a tropical rainforest where plants are competing for light and the attention of pollinators. We found lots of plants and flowers in our garden we thought looked like tropical plants and trees.

Write a letter to a tree

Trees give us so much, so why not thank them? Take your English lesson outdoors today. and write a letter to a tree (or a plant) in your garden – tell it what it means to you, what you like about it, how it makes you feel and thank it for everything it does for you. Don’t forget to add some amazing adjectives!

Maybe you could imagine you are the tree and write a letter back. What would it say to you? Maybe it would thank you for climbing in it – or maybe it is angry with you! What would it’s hopes and fears for the future be?

If you need some inspiration read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Woven artworkClose up of woven artwork

Create a woven artwork inspired by the Huichol people of Mexico. All you need are 2 sticks and some brightly coloured wool.

Here’s how:

  1. Make a cross with your sticks and then tie them together with one end of your wool.
  2. Now from the middle, start to weave by crossing the wool over and under the arms of the cross, working around the cross in a clockwise direction.
  3. Continue until the weaving is the size you want, tying different colours of wool together to create a multi-coloured design.
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!