Little Citizen Scientists Needed for the Big Garden Birdwatch

Little Citizen Scientists Needed for the Big Garden Birdwatch

January's Big Garden Birdwatch is a perfect home learning opportunity that's fun and benefits children in a multitude of ways.January’s Big Garden Birdwatch is a perfect home learning opportunity where children can find out about wild birds and get a better understanding of nature itself. What’s more, it’s a hugely worthwhile event that will benefit birds, conservation efforts, and children themselves. The activity also demonstrates how easy it is for little ones to become citizen scientists. With that in mind, let’s explore today the Big Garden Birdwatch, explain what it is, how to take part, and why it’s important for families to get involved.

What Is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

The Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s biggest garden wildlife survey and is organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It’s an annual survey of garden birds and is undertaken in late January each year by individuals, families and children right across the UK. Taking part is free and typically takes just one hour.

What’s the Goal?

The idea of the Big Garden Birdwatch is to understand how garden birds are faring in the UK.The idea of the Big Garden Birdwatch is to understand how garden birds are faring in the UK. Sadly, many bird populations are in decline, with some species facing huge declines over recent decades. Some 38 million fewer birds are now seen compared to 60 years ago. Song Thrush populations, for example, are down by 80% since the survey started in 1979. Even House Sparrow numbers have more than halved during that time. By studying the bird populations each year, trends can be identified including whether any bird species are in danger. Then the RSPB and other conservation organisations can work out what the problems are and how we might go about rescuing the situation as a nation. It also follows that, if there is a problem with bird populations, then there is likely to be a wider problem in nature too. This could be, for example, due to disease, over-intensive farming methods, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, use of chemicals in gardens and farmland, and so on. Gathering data across the UK each January will help guide the nation to improve things — and children can help by getting involved in the Big Garden Birdwatch each January.

How Children & Families Can Take Part

Taking part is easy and takes just 4 steps:

  1. Register here to take part Children simply count how many birds of each species land on their patch at any one time.— it’s quick, easy and free to do so. Once registered you’ll receive detailed instructions in your free guide to the event, which includes your free bird identification reference sheet. This will be useful to you and your children so each bird species can be recognised more easily.
  2. Next, choose an outdoor spot to monitor. This will be your ‘patch’ and it could be your garden, balcony or perhaps even a local park. Optionally before the event begins (late January – see below), you may wish to start putting out bird food to attract more birds to the patch in the run-up to the event.
  3. Sometime during the period 26-28 January 2024, spend an hour noting down how many birds of each species you see actually land at any one time on your patch. So, for example, if you see four blackbirds during the hour but only 3 land on the patch at the same time, you’d count that as 3. That’s simply to avoid counting the same bird more than once.
  4. Once complete, fill in and submit your survey results to the RSPB. This can be done any time from 26 January to 18 February 2024 and indeed that link may only work during that date range. You can submit more than one survey if you like, so long as each submission is for a different location/patch. The RSPB will then analyse all the submissions from across the UK and be able to see how each bird species is faring.

Can’t get outdoors?

If you can’t get outdoors for any reason, don’t feel left out. Children and families can undertake the January birdwatching event from a window or balcony too, so long as they can view an outdoor patch where birds are likely to land.

The Huge Benefits of Nature to Children

Children love feeding birds and wild creatures!This wonderful activity is a great way to encourage families outdoors, where children benefit from nature in a myriad of ways. From lower stress and increased well-being to improved academic performance, stimulated imaginations, and better sleep, the benefits of nature to children are profound. Studies show that even a view of nature will benefit children — it’s incredible! Click the bold green link for more details.

The survey is also a great opportunity for children to practise counting and enhance numeracy skills. It’s also a good excuse to get creative, for instance by building a cardboard or stick bird-spotting ‘hide’ — the perfect den from which to watch the birds when the time comes.

Involvement in the Big Garden Birdwatch also allows children to get a better understanding of conservation issues and the need to protect nature and the planet. That’s incredibly important, not least because today’s children will be tomorrow’s caretakers of our precious Earth.

Reference & Bird Identification

The RSPB's bird identification sheet for January 2024.Together with the RSPB, we also have bird identification covered for children. The first option is the RSPB’s free bird reference sheet, which families will receive when they register for the event. Their digital version is best because it’s more environmentally friendly, is quicker to access, and usually shows a larger list than is shown on their printed version.

Free bird identifier poster — download available so children can print out and see how many birds they can identify over the course of a year.However, don’t forget that Little Acorns Nursery also published our own bird identification poster for children last year. That is also free to download (follow that bold green link) and shows many more species of birds than the RSPB’s option — perfect if children are really interested in bird spotting and want to continue after the January event.

A pine cone bird feeder that is simple for children to make at home.How to Encourage Birds to Visit Your Garden

If children and families want to make a real success of the Big Garden Birdwatch event, a few preparation measures will help attract more birds to their patch. We have that covered too with our separate post all about how to make home-made bird feeders and another explaining a number of excellent tips on bird feeding for under-fives. In addition, the RSPB offers a discount on bird food, purchased via their website, to anyone that registers for the event.

Outstanding Childcare in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Looking for the Best Nursery or Preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, or Central Lancashire?

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Today’s article was brought to you by Little Acorns Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, an outstanding provider of childcare and early years education. Our outstanding nursery status is backed up by Ofsted and an important National Nursery Award too. So, if you want the very best start for your baby or child under five and live in the area, consider Little Acorns Day Nursery for your weekday childcare provision. We’ll bring out the best in your child, help them achieve personal bests, and give them the tools to absolutely thrive. We support many different Government-funded free childcare schemes too, making childcare more affordable for those who are eligible.

Get in touch today to request a nursery place, arrange a free tour of the setting, or ask us any questions — we’re here to help!

As well as being perfectly located for families in Clayton-le-Woods and Chorley, we may also suit those living nearby in Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland or Penwortham.

Autumn Nature Hunt — a Fun Activity for Children (with Free Reference Sheet)

The autumn season brings with it a treasure trove of fascinating natural things for children to discover.By mid-November, autumn is in full swing and leaves are turning a myriad of different colours. Scenes of green, yellow, red and golden trees can be breathtakingly beautiful and the air is often crystal clear at this time of year — that’s great for photos! The autumn season also brings with it a treasure trove of fascinating natural things that children can discover if they take the time to look. Indeed, an autumn nature hunt is the perfect excuse for little ones to spend some time outdoors, where they will also benefit from outdoor play and everything that nature has to offer children. Whether finding gorgeous sweet chestnuts, cute acorns, dangly catkins, fascinating fir cones or highly coloured leaves, children will love an autumn treasure hunt and are sure to be enthralled by what they find. It’s a magical time of year! With all that in mind, we have prepared a free activity sheet that children and families can download, print out, and take with them as a visual reference when they next venture outdoors. We suggest children make a start soon, while all the natural wonders are abundant. Download your free Autumn Nature Hunt Reference Sheet (preview below) and get started today!

Free autumn nature hunt reference sheet (preview - click to download in Acrobat PDF format).

Checklist

  • Children must be supervised and educated about potential dangers and hazards.Ensure children, particularly the very young, receive appropriate adult supervision at all times. Although fascinating and fun, the outdoors holds many hazards for the unwary. Therefore, children will need to be closely monitored by a responsible adult in order to safeguard their well-being.
  • Children should also be educated about all outdoor health and safety matters. For example, they’ll need to know they mustn’t stray far, speak with strangers, or go too close to hazards like fires, ponds, lakes, steep slopes or trip hazards. They will also need to learn not to touch berries, fungi and other potentially poisonous or dangerous flora and fauna. They must be careful not to hurt themselves on the sharp points of things like chestnut cases and even things like acorns are potential choking hazards (so keep away from mouths). And so on (the above are just a few examples).
  • Supervising adults will need to do their own risk assessments, as well as helping children learn to do so.
  • Last but not least, ensure your child takes the Autumn Nature Hunt reference sheet with them, along with something safe and suitable to put their nature treasures in (for example, a jute bag or backpack).

Nature & Forest School at Little Acorns Nursery

Forest School sessions in and around Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, in Central Lancashire

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

At Little Acorns Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, we understand the importance of nature in children’s early years. That’s why we post nature-based activity ideas like this one today. It’s also why we are a Forest School setting. Through Forest School sessions children, including our under fives, get to enjoy, experience, and learn from everything that nature has to offer — and that’s a lot! Follow the bold links for more information or learn more about Forest School and what it’s about here.

If you would like your baby, toddler or preschooler to attend a truly outstanding nursery or preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, then look no further than Little Acorns Nursery. We’re rated as outstanding by Ofsted, won an incredibly prestigious National Nursery Award and, as we mentioned before, also run Forest School sessions for our children.

Get in touch using an option below and we’ll be delighted to welcome you and your little one, answer any questions, and take the first steps in regard to your childcare application:

Little Acorns Nursery & Preschool is located in Clayton-le-Woods, so may also suit families living or working nearby in Chorley, Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

Let’s Find Minibeasts! A Simple Nature Activity for Kids (With Free Poster)

Let’s Find Minibeasts! A Simple Nature Activity for Kids (With Free Poster)

Today's activity is a perfect opportunity for young children to get closer to nature, and learn about some of it's incredible wildlife.Children and parents, let’s go minibeast spotting! Whether you have a garden, neighbourhood park, or just a few potted plants, there are bound to be minibeasts visiting or living there. What’s more, summer is the perfect time to spot them. Spending time in nature is hugely important for children and there are many benefits to children simply playing outdoors too. Today’s minibeast activity is therefore the perfect opportunity for young children to reap all those benefits, get closer to nature, and learn about some of its incredible wildlife.

Minibeasts

Minibeasts are fascinating little creatures that come in many shapes and sizes. Each is a unique little character and many are simply enchanting. Take bumble bees, for example, with their adorable furry bodies, stripes and antennae, little ladybirds with their cute spots, or stick caterpillars that look just like twigs! There are so many different types, so we’ve put together a free identification poster showing 30 of our favourite minibeasts that are likely to be lurking nearby if families take the time to look. The poster is free to download and share. Print it out in colour at full size (A3) or reduce it to A4 for children to take outdoors. There are little tick boxes too, so children can mark which minibeasts they’ve seen as time goes by.

Our minibeast poster is a nice companion to our previous article that showcased a British Birds poster and a bird-spotting activity, which was published here back in May (follow the bold green link). We’ll also be adding more nature-themed posters in this series over the coming months, so keep an eye out for those, to add to your child’s collection.

Poster Preview:

Poster preview — click to download or view online (PDF format).

Poster Download Instructions

Click the large preview image above (or this link) to view or download the poster in Acrobat PDF format. Whether you left-click or right-click will depend on your own specific browser settings, so try both if in doubt.  You will need to have Acrobat Reader to view the file. Print in colour from Acrobat Reader ideally using high-quality A3 paper, or ‘reduce to fit’ if printing to A4. Alternatively, viewing on a screen will allow you/your child to zoom in to see all the lovely detail, for example using a tablet or smartphone.

Once you/your children have the poster, see how many of the little critters you can spot. Try looking in different kinds of places to see where the little creatures are. Compost heaps are great places to look for some types of minibeast, while flowers, plants, trees, tree trunks and even rotting logs will attract many others. However, be mindful around health, safety, well-being and hygiene (more about that later). What’s more, try not to unduly disturb the minibeasts and be very gentle around them so they don’t get harmed in any way.

Teach Kindness to Kids

Parents can help with this. Be sure that children learn to treat other creatures nicely and with great care; minibeasts are only small and, as such, are very fragile. If you spot any, teach kids to look but not touch, as each little minibeast has a life and feelings — just like you and your child — and won’t want to be disturbed or taken away from its home. Children will learn lessons about empathy, ethics, personal responsibility and much more by using this caring approach.

A Focus on Nature at Little Acorns Nursery’s Forest School

Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Central Lancashire

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

We hope that families and little ones can make the most of the free minibeasts poster and this nature-based activity. At Little Acorns Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, we understand the huge positive impact that nature and outdoor play can have on children. That’s why we encourage them to play and explore outdoors (under supervision, of course). It’s also why we have our own Forest School, which you can learn about here.

Little Acorns is an outstanding nursery/preschool that’s located in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Central Lancashire. Ofsted agrees and also rates us ‘outstanding’ and we also won a major National nursery award, beating every other nursery in the country to the top spot. Parents/caregivers can therefore rest assured that we offer the very best childcare and early years education service available.

Please use an appropriate button below to register your child for a nursery place, ask us any questions, or to book a guided tour of the setting with your child. We’d love to welcome you.

Little Acorns nursery/preschool is also conveniently near to Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

Safety Note

It goes without saying that the child’s parent or supervising adult should be mindful of the health, well-being and safety of children, especially when they are playing outside or taking part in outdoor activities. There are many hazards outdoors, so please be vigilant. This includes, but is not limited to, avoiding stings, potentially poisonous flora and fauna, trip hazards, bodies of water (however small), changes in levels (for the avoidance of falls), choking hazards, sharp objects, stranger danger, traffic and so on. Do your own risk assessments and also teach children to learn about safety and hygiene considerations themselves.

Wildlife-Friendly Flower Growing Fun for Under-Fives

This wildflower-growing activity gets children outdoors, closer to nature, as well as doing some good for conservation and wildlife.Today’s flower-growing children’s activity follows on nicely from last month’s butterfly-counting activity. Once again, it focuses on getting children outdoors, closer to nature, and doing some good for conservation and local wildlife — including butterflies. Also, as we know, outdoor play is important and getting closer to nature is hugely beneficial to children.

This time, it’s all about growing wildflowers that help to feed pollinators and encourage them to come to gardens, balconies, patios, plant pots, and window boxes where children live. As well as butterflies, the pollinators include bees, hoverflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and some non-flying insects like beetles. What’s more, you may well find that wildflowers attract birds and sometimes even bats too!

Pollinators are not only beautiful and adorable, but they’re essential for a healthy environment and to pollinate food crops. So, all in all, this is another hugely worthwhile activity for under-fives and older children to get involved in. It’s also great fun and educational. So, without further delay, here is our simple guide explaining how children and families can start growing wildlife-friendly flowers to support and attract these magical little creatures. Enjoy!

When Children Should Sow Wildflower Seeds

Wildflower seeds sown in March and April will generally flower in late spring/early summerIt’s possible to sow wildflower seeds from March right through to mid-October or, at a push, early November so long as snow or frost is not forecast. Those sown closer to March and April will generally flower in late spring/early summer. Those sown very late in the year will flower the following year, from spring onwards. Any sown up to and including the middle period, for example during July, should still flower in the same year — wildflowers usually bloom some 60 to 80 or so days later if they’re timed to grow in the same year as they’re sown.

While pollen from the flowers is the main source of food for pollinators, the actual leaves of some late-growing varieties of wildflower plants are also useful as a food source, for example, for caterpillars. These will appear from around September followed by a second generation that will appear in April/May of the following year.

Given all of the above, the main message about timing is for parents and caregivers to plan ahead and also read seed packets and instructions carefully before sowing. In this way, children will know when to expect to see the plants, flowers, and resulting wildlife. Once the flowers and creatures appear, it’s sure to delight children!

Where to Get Wildflower Seeds

There are several easy ways for children and families to source wildflower seeds.There are several ways for children and families to source wildflower seeds. The most obvious way is to buy them commercially, in seed packets. These are available from any number of different outlets including nurseries, supermarkets, wildlife/nature charities, and countless websites online (here’s a good example).

A potentially cheaper way is to scour the Internet for free wildflower seeds and you may have some luck. Timing is important because some of the free wildflower seed schemes are likely to be early in the year — March/April for example. Some environment-centric organisations and companies may also provide free packets of wildflower seeds if you simply cover the cost of postage.

The best and totally free way to get hold of wildflower seeds, however, is to keep your – and your little one’s – eyes open when you’re outdoors around nature and plants. If you time it right, you’ll spot the seed pods of naturally-occurring wildflowers and, so long as they’re ready to be harvested, you can save the seeds for your child to sow later. Perhaps use small paper envelopes, so you can write the name or description of the wildflower being saved. If children help with harvesting seeds, ensure you adhere to our health and safety guidelines at the end of this article.

What Flowers to Grow

There are several ways to decide which wildflowers to grow.

  • Look out for bee, butterfly, and pollinator-friendly wildflower seed packets if buying commercially.If you buy your child commercially-available wildflower seeds, the information on the packet will often say if the resulting flowers are bee-friendly, butterfly-friendly, good for pollinators, and so on. So, if you’re sourcing seeds that way, much of the decision-making criteria around which actual flowers to grow is made clear and therefore the choice is easy.
  • Additionally, of course, the visual appeal of any flower photographs on the packets will help you with your choice. You may like a mixture of colours, or perhaps you’d rather limit the colour palette to just one or two colours. Cornflowers are blue, for example, while poppies can be red, orange, or yellow, and so on. Choosing by colour also therefore makes selection easier and indeed your child will probably enjoy helping in the decision-making process. Prompting them to choose by colour and pollinator-friendliness will, however, also be educational for them, subtly teaching them the importance of helping wildlife and the environment through the power of their personal choices.
  • On the other hand, if you/your child want complete control over the exact species of wildflower you/they want to see growing, then some homework will be needed unless, of course, you are already knowledgeable. The RSPB’s article on growing wildlife-friendly flowers may be a useful place to start and lists several varieties along with details of their colours.

Where to Sow the Wildflower Seeds

By their very nature, wildflowers are not terribly picky about what type of soil they will grow in.By their very nature, wildflowers are generally not very picky in regard to the type of soil they are happy to grow in. Therefore you/your child will have a greater choice of where to sow the wildflower seeds. A fairly clear sunny area is good, whether that’s garden beds, flower pots, window boxes, grow bags on a balcony, or even the lawn itself if you want a wild ‘meadow’ type lawn. Whatever the choice, it’s best if it’s somewhere that won’t be disturbed by you/the family though, as you wouldn’t want the wildflowers trampled once they do arrive.

How Children Can Grow the Wildflowers

Before sowing the seeds, ensure that the soil is free of weeds. Your child may enjoy helping with the weeding process or, if you are using pots and starting from scratch, you can avoid the weeding stage by using peat-free compost afresh. Either way, the topmost layer of soil will need to be loosened and raked neatly so there is somewhere for the seeds to fall and eventually embed. Again, children may enjoy getting involved in this part. If using pots or containers, ensure water can drain at the bottom, so the earth or compost will not become waterlogged later on.

Children will love it when their seeds have sprouted flowers and pollinators like bees and butterflies come to visit.With regard to sowing the seeds, follow any seed-specific instructions on packets in relation to timing and spacing. If you’re using self-harvested seeds or there are no instructions, simply sprinkle the seeds so they’re spaced, fairly evenly, i.e. not too densely sown. This will avoid the wildflower plants having to compete with one another once they start growing. A tip is to sprinkle from a height as this will naturally scatter them more widely. Once scattered, your child can help* to pat the soil surface down, either by hand or using the back of a tool like a spade or a trowel, so that the seeds are secured in the soil. Children can even ‘walk’ them in if they prefer. Once complete, ensure that you/your child keep the soil damp over the coming weeks. The preparation stage really is as simple as that!

Enjoy the Magic of Nature!

Ensure children know that they have now started a natural chain reaction that will result first in tiny shoots, then plants, then later beautiful flowers along with all the visiting pollinators, insects, birds and maybe more.

Don’t forget; following the flowering stage, the wildflowers are likely to ‘seed’ themselves at the end of their flowering season. That’s unless, of course, you/your child harvest the seeds yourselves, ready to sow at a place of your choosing next time. Some varieties of wildflowers will also naturally regrow next year — those are called perennials. — in contrast to those that only live for one year, which are called annuals. That said, even annual plants may self-seed, so their offspring appear next time, and such is the circle of life.

Nature & Forest School at Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

We hope today’s nature-based activity gives children, whether under five or older, an enjoyable time while also learning and helping to nurture the natural world. Nature teaches children a huge amount and that’s one of the many reasons why Little Acorns is a Forest School setting.

Little Acorns Nursery is an outstanding nursery/preschool in Clayton-le-Woods and the winner of an important National Nursery award. These are some of the many reasons why Little Acorns Nursery represents the very best early years childcare and education for babies and children under five in Central Lancashire. We also support Government childcare funding schemes, making it easier to afford for eligible families. To register your child for a nursery/preschool place, ask a question, or arrange a free guided tour of the setting, please select an option below:

For those not actually living in Clayton-le-Woods itself, we may also be a suitable choice if you live or work in nearby towns and villages including Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

* Health & Safety of Little Ones

Parents/caregivers should supervise and accompany children, especially the very young, at all times to ensure their safety and well-being. For example, special care should be given near hazards including garden ponds, trip hazards and unhygienic areas. Children should be taught good practices around hygiene and self-care including the avoidance of poisonous plants, care around unhygienic soil, non-ingestion of seeds, avoidance of germs and so on. Keeping hands and fingers away from faces during outdoor activities, perhaps even wearing protective gloves when touching natural things like earth and plants, and washing hands with soap and water after outdoor activities, are also good examples to set for children.

 

The Big Butterfly Count takes place in July and early August each year, when most butterflies have reached adulthood.Many will have heard of the Big Garden Birdwatch that takes place every year in January. However, fewer are aware of a similar activity called The Big Butterfly Count that takes place in July and early August. As well as being extremely worthwhile, it’s a wonderful activity for both children and adults to get involved in as citizen scientists. The activity helps with butterfly conservation, is educational for those taking part, and encourages families to get outdoors, closer to nature. And, as we know, getting closer to nature is very good for children and people of all ages. Today, we take a look at this wonderful butterfly-spotting activity and explain how children and families can get involved, help these beautiful little pollinators, contribute a little time to the conservation initiative and benefit themselves at the same time.

The Big Butterfly Count

On 'Big Butterfly Count' day, families with smartphones can use the free smartphone app, which is available on both Apple IOS and Android.Organised by the charity Butterfly Conservation, the long-term aim of the Big Butterfly Count is for butterflies and moths to thrive and be enjoyed by everyone. That’s important because populations of butterflies have really suffered in recent decades, with some species of butterfly even becoming extinct in the UK and elsewhere. Changes in their numbers are also very good indicators of wider problems in pollinators of all types, including bees for example.

The key requirement of the Big Butterfly Count is simply for families across the UK to spend just a little time outdoors, during a very specific time of the year, to record how many different species they see during that time. The findings of thousands of families throughout the UK will then help Butterfly Conservation to understand what species are living in the different UK regions. Data submitted will allow a comparison of reported data from year to year, so Butterfly Conservation can see trends in butterfly populations and spot any significant increases, reductions and areas of concern.

“Help take the pulse of nature.”

When is the Big Butterfly Count?

For 2023, the Big Butterfly Count is any daylight time from Friday 14th July to Sunday 6th August. The reason this period is chosen is because that’s when most butterflies have reached adulthood, so people should be able to spot more of them. This ‘peak adult’ period is essentially at the same approximate period every year.

How Can Families Get Involved?

Getting involved in the Big Butterfly Count is easy and takes very little time. All that’s needed is a 15-minute period of time during daylight hours, between 14th July and 6th August. Bright, sunny weather conditions are preferred. Families simply need to find a good spot* outdoors and watch carefully, just for a quarter of an hour, and record which types of butterflies they spot. They can then submit their sightings any time up until 31 August. The count focuses on specific species within each area of the UK. These are mainly butterflies but they also include a few daytime-flying moths that Butterfly Conservation are interested in monitoring.

*Another alternative, by the way, is for children and families to monitor butterflies during a 15-minute walk i.e. you do not necessarily have to stay in one spot.

  • The Big Butterfly Count app shows the results of butterfly counts all over the UK. This image shows the number of counts in Clayton-le-Woods for 2022's count.If you are counting butterflies from  a static spot, count up how many of the same species you see at the same time. For example, if there are three Large Whites visible at the same time, count that as three. If you see only one at a time, but see it on three separate occasions during the 15 minutes, that counts as only one. That’s so that we can be sure it’s not the same one visiting three times!
  • If you’re counting while on a walk, however, simply count the number of each species you see during the entire 15-minute time frame.
  • You may do as many counts as you like; then simply submit the separate records, through the app, for each different location and/or date.
  • As well as having a section for your own submissions, an interactive map can be found on the smartphone app to show you results from other people across the entire UK. Zoom in for more detail. Shown in the image is the butterfly counts for 2022 in Clayton-le-Woods. In the app itself, each is clickable so you can find out which species were spotted and the number of them.

Where is a Good Spot to See Butterflies?

The 'Big Butterfly Count' smartphone app has a useful section to help you identify which butterflies and daytime-flying moths you see.A good spot, by the way, would be either somewhere outdoors with lots of flowers to attract butterflies and other pollinators, or somewhere you’ve left out some very ripe fruit e.g. pieces of ripe orange, apple, nectarine, grapefruit, banana, or strawberry— butterflies love sweet fruit even when it’s a little over-ripe! Whether that’s in your own garden, near potted flowers on a patio, school grounds, in a park, or out in the countryside is entirely up to you and your family. Even if you spot no butterflies during your 15-minute count, you should still submit your results, by the way, as that might indicate a problem with the butterfly population — and potentially other types of wildlife loss — in that area.

“Numbers of butterflies and moths in the UK have decreased significantly since the 1970s. This is a warning that cannot be ignored.”

How Can You Identify the Types of Butterflies?

Help is on hand to help children/families more easily identify which butterfly species they spot on the day — and at any other time. On the day, families with smartphones can use the free Big Butterfly Count phone app, which is available on both Apple IOS and Android. Below are the links to download them, free of charge, and they seem pretty fast to download too.

Download the Big Butterfly Count app for Apple IOS   Download the Big Butterfly Count app for Android.

Detail pages include information like the difference between males and females and their distribution in the UK. Photos show wings both open and closed.For the youngest of children, an adult will need to supervise the use of the app but many older children will no doubt take to the technology like ducks to water. The app includes several sections including an excellent guide to up to about 21 species that the Big Butterfly Count is particularly interested in this year. Shown are details about each type along with photographs for reference and ID purposes. Details of each type of butterfly — or daytime-flying moth — include information like the difference between males and females, their distribution in the UK, and whether their populations have increased or decreased. Photos show each type with wings both open and closed, making identification even easier.

What if you Spot a Butterfly Species You Can’t Identify?

If you happen to spot a butterfly that’s not included in the species of interest shown in the Big Butterfly Count phone app for your area, you can instead submit them using the free iRecord Butterflies app, details of which are available here. That alternative app can be used any time of year and features many more types of butterflies and moths. It still, however, allows you to submit your sightings to help with conservation and monitoring efforts. Indeed, you could argue that it’s a more permanent way of children helping to both monitor and report butterfly sightings as little citizen scientists.

What If You Don’t Have a Smartphone?

If you don't have a smartphone or can't use the app, downloadable charts of the butterflies in your area are available from the Big Butterfly Count website. This is the one for England for the Big Butterfly Count in 2023.You/your child can still get involved in the Big Butterfly Count even if you/they don’t have a smartphone. Instead of using an app, download charts of the butterflies in your area from the Big Butterfly Count website. You’ll need to fill in a very short form to access the chart links, but they are free of charge and obligation. Choose the most appropriate download link for your region and download the chart. You/your child can then view it on screen and zoom in for the best detail, or print it out on paper. Once you’ve ticked off any that you/your child have seen in the 15-minute period, you will need to ask a friend or family member who has the app if you want them to submit your count for you, however. That’s because paper, email and phone submissions cannot be accepted. Spotting butterflies is a wonderful activity for children, though, whether or not their results are submitted.

Safety & Well-Being of Children & Butterflies

Safety is paramount, of course, so young children should be accompanied and supervised by a responsible adult. It’s also important, of course, not to disturb or interfere with the butterflies. They are extremely delicate little creatures and their wings and bodies are too fragile for handling. Please do not try to catch them — you will do more harm than good.

“Butterfly declines are also an early warning for other wildlife losses … if their numbers are falling, then nature is in trouble. That’s why taking part in this massive citizen science enterprise is of great importance.”

A Focus on Nature at our Outstanding Nursery/Preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

At Little Acorns Nursery, we know how important it is to get children involved with nature, so will always encourage worthwhile, educational activities like this one. As a Forest School setting, we encourage them to appreciate the natural world and all the flora and fauna within it, so this butterfly-spotting activity is a perfect fit. We also encourage children elsewhere and at home to get involved — it’ll do them, their families, butterflies and the natural environment great good.

Ofsted rate Little Acorns Nursery as an outstanding nursery/preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, and we’re also the winner of a National Nursery award. It simply doesn’t get any better than that and you therefore know your baby, toddler or child under five will be in good hands at Little Acorns. All Government childcare funding schemes are also supported for eligible families. To register your child for a place or to enquire about the possibility, please choose an option below:

Although Little Acorns is located in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, in Central Lancashire, we will also be a convenient option for those looking for high-quality childcare near Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland and Penwortham.

Quotations in this article are from Butterfly Conservation.

Bird Spotting Activity for Kids - with Free Poster

Bird Spotting Activity for Kids (with Free Poster)

Free A3 bird poster for children use to see how many birds they can spot and identify over the course of a year. Read on (below) for download instructions.Are you looking for a fun and educational activity for your children? Why not encourage them to do some bird spotting? Not only is it a great way to spend time outdoors, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about nature and develop observation skills. As we know, being around nature is hugely beneficial to children and outdoor play is important.

To help you get started, we’ve created a free PDF poster featuring 40 British birds that children can try to spot and identify. Whether little ones are in the garden, park, or countryside, there are plenty of opportunities to see these beautiful birds in their natural habitat. Children can even try to spot birds when they’re simply looking out the window — this is quite an accessible activity.

So why not download the poster, print it out, and head outside with your children? Instructions are given underneath the preview image shown below. Who knows, your little one(s) might just discover a new passion for birdwatching and nature!

Bird Poster Preview:

Bird Spotting Activity Poster - click to download (Acrobat PDF format, 4.8MB) then print out or view on screen.

Bird Poster Download Instructions

The poster is supplied as an A3 Acrobat PDF file and is less than 5MB in size. Click the large preview image above (or this link) to download the poster file. Depending on your device and web browser settings, you can usually left-click to view the poster on screen or right-click to save the file, then view it by opening it in Acrobat Reader . If printing, ideally print it to high quality A3 paper, or ‘reduce to fit’ if your printer only prints to A4. Viewing on screen is also recommended as the images are high resolution — you can zoom in to see the detail, even on the tiny inset images.

Teach Respect for Wildlife

Remember that the birds you’re observing are wild animals and should be treated with empathy and respect. Stick to designated trails or paths. This will help protect fragile habitats and minimize your impact on the environment. Teach children to avoid disturbing habitats, making loud noises, or getting too close to birds and other wild creatures. This is especially important when the time comes for young birds to leave their nests; they should not be disturbed and, generally speaking, their parents will know where they are even if you/your children cannot see them nearby.

With our free PDF poster featuring 40 British birds, you and your children can embark on an exciting adventure of birdwatching. Tick off each bird as you spot and identify them, and see how many of the 40 you can find over the course of the year. You might be surprised at how many different species you encounter!

An Outstanding Nursery & Preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare provider

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

We hope that our poster helps you and your family to start exploring the wonderful world of British birds! We love nature at Little Acorns and always encourage little ones to make the most of natural environments. It’s one of the many reasons we are also a Forest School setting.

We are an outstanding nursery/preschool in Clayton-le-Woods, offering the very best childcare service to babies and children under five. We support the Government’s free childcare funding schemes for eligible families too. If you’d like the very best start for your little one, enrol them for a place at Little Acorns and we’ll bring out the very best in them. We’d also welcome a visit, so why not arrange a tour and we’ll show you around and answer any questions you may have. Please select an option below to get started:

A Word About Safety:

While birdwatching is a fun and educational activity, it’s important to prioritise safety. Here are some tips to keep in mind while you’re out in the field:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings and any potential hazards, such as steep drops or bodies of water. Always keep a close eye on children and make sure they stay within your line of sight.
  • Make sure to wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and footwear. Bring sunscreen and insect repellent if appropriate. Don’t forget some water, so you all stay hydrated.
  • Binoculars can be a valuable tool for birdwatching, but ensure they are used responsibly. Children and adults should avoid aiming them directly at the sun and be aware of surroundings while looking through them.

By following these safety tips, you can ensure a fun and enjoyable birdwatching experience for the whole family. So head outside to discover the wonderful world of British birds!

Little Acorns is a nursery and pre-school located in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, in Central Lancashire. We are also conveniently close for those families living or working near Clayton Brook, Clayton Green, Thorpe Green, Pippin Street, Buckshaw Village, Whittle-le-Woods, Farington, Bamber Bridge, Lostock Hall, Euxton, Leyland or Penwortham.

Microgreens: A Fun Food Growing Activity for Under-Fives

Microgreens: A Fun Food Growing Activity for Under-Fives

Microgreens can be grown in trays, egg cartons, used yoghurt pots or any shallow pot or dish that has drainage.As promised in our recent Educational Food Growing post for kids, we’ve got another wonderful food-growing activity for children today. Whether you have a toddler, preschooler or older child, they’ll love this activity and it also has a huge range of benefits. It is a fun, educational, easy and inexpensive activity that gives children an enormous feeling of achievement. It also results in the miraculous growth of delicious food that children and the whole household can eat! What’s not to love, therefore, about our growing microgreens activity! Today, we explain just how easy it is.

First: What Are Microgreens?

Children can get really creative with what they sow their microgreen seeds in!Microgreens, also known as micro leaves, are the young shoots of growing plants that are edible. Examples include the seedlings of herbs like basil and coriander, red cabbage micro leaves and the shoots from root vegetables like beetroot. When growing, the seedlings form a thick and rich ‘carpet’ of shoots that, when ready, can be snipped off en masse and used in meals as salads or garnishes. What’s more, they’re delicious, highly nutritious and make meals look amazing. The entire activity can also be accomplished indoors in any home. You do not need to have a garden because a well-lit windowsill or counter top will more than suffice.

Growing Microgreens is a fun, educational, easy and inexpensive activity that gives children an enormous feeling of achievement. It also results in delicious food that children and the whole household can eat!

Additional Benefits of Children Growing Microgreens

Getting children directly involved in growing microgreens can also encourage them to try new foods, enjoy new flavours and to get much needed vitamins and minerals at the critical time when they are developing. Teaching them to grow food will also teach them a huge number of lessons, for example about nature, the circle of life, how to care for another living thing responsibly, where food comes from and even meal preparation, nutrition and balancing diets. Growing microgreens is a doorway to all of this and more, yet is so simple as an activity.

 

There is a huge variety of different microgreens

What You’ll Need to Start Growing Microgreens

You/your child will need a few things to get started in the growing activity:

  • Microgreen seeds in a seed tray being sprayed gently with water.Microgreen seeds. These are available inexpensively online or at places like garden centres and even some supermarkets. You can buy microgreen mixed seeds or choose seeds for rocket, beetroot, spinach, red cabbage, fennel, broccoli, radish or mustard. Each has a distinctive look, when growing, and flavour, when eaten. Read the packets for more detail or just have fun and experiment!
  • One or more shallow seed trays – also available inexpensively from garden centres or online. Alternatively, you can use any shallow tray left over from a ready meal, or use used yoghurt pots, egg cartons, cut down kitchen roll ‘cores’ or similar. Whatever you use will need to have drainage holes underneath, so parents will need to help any piercing, for safety purposes.
  • As the main pots or tray require drainage holes, you will need another tray, cut-down pot or saucer to catch drips underneath. This is known as a drip tray and simply protects your surface from moisture.
  • Lastly, you’ll need some light soil to sow the seeds in. This can be from the garden if you have one and are on a low budget (sieve first), or buy peat-free compost. Multi-purpose compost or a compost specifically for seeds and cuttings will be perfect. If you’re on a really low budget, another alternative is to simply sow microgreens directly onto layers of dampened tissue paper e.g. horizontal sheets torn from a kitchen towel.

That’s all you and your little one need, apart from water, natural light and some care and patience.

What to Do

Once you’ve got the above items together, your child can take the following steps:

Step 1: Fill the seed tray, pots or cartons almost to the top with compost or whatever is being used as ‘soil’ (see the tissue option above if the budget is low).
Step 2: If using soil or compost, this needs to be tamped down gently to flatten and level the surface.
Step 3: The microgreen seeds can now be sprinkled lightly and evenly (best done from a little bit of a height), or manually spaced if your child enjoys that alternative approach. Clumping should be avoided.
Step 4: A light sprinkling of additional compost (or sieved soil) can then go on top to keep seeds in place. It may be best to do this outdoors.
Step 5: An additional layer of kitchen towel or tissue can be placed on top of the seeds, but only until the seeds start to germinate later on.
Step 6: Lightly sprinkle water or spray the seeds gently with a water spray, taking care not to disturb or wash away the seeds.
Step 7: Place the trays or pots, with their drip trays underneath, onto a well-lit windowsill or counter top. A little ventilation will also not be a bad thing for the seeds.
Step 8: Your child will need to check that the seeds/soil/tissue are damp each day and watered lightly to ensure they don’t dry out. Watering can either be done from above (ideally using a mister or water spray so as to not disturb the seeds) or from below by simply pouring water into the drip trays. This will be slowly drawn up into the soil naturally, particularly if it’s not too deep.
Step 9: As soon as shoots begin to appear, your child should remove any covering (from Step 5), taking care not to disturb the seedlings, and continue to water lightly each day as the seedlings grow.

TIP: Don’t forget to get your child to wash their hands after touching soil and seeds etc.

Harvest Time!

For young children in particular, snipping them off is best done by parents, to avoid injury.Different microgreen seeds grow at different rates but usually a dense carpet of growing shoots and tiny leaves will cover the trays or pots within one or two weeks. Generally speaking, when you can see small, immature leaves at the top of shoots about 1 to 1¼ inches tall, they are about ready to be harvested. For young children in particular, snipping them off is best done by parents, to avoid injury. The carpet of microgreens can be snipped off, using scissors, low down near where the shoots begin. It’s best to snip them off rather than to pull them up by the roots because then they have the chance to regrow and give you/your child a second crop later on. The microgreens can then be washed in a fine colander, under a cold tap, to remove any remnants of soil.

And Eat!

Microgreens make wonderful garnishes, are lovely in salads and sandwiches and can also be added to soup, risotto, pasta, baked potatoes and burgers.Your child can then continue the fun by helping with meal preparation (with adult supervision for safety). Microgreens make wonderful garnishes, are lovely in salads and sandwiches and can also be added to things like soup, risotto, pasta, baked potatoes and burgers. They are incredibly attractive to look at, jazzing up any meal and also giving children extra nutrients to consume. They are also a great way to encourage children to try new tastes and food textures.

By growing microgreens themselves, children will have had great fun and will have learned so much along the way. It’s a fabulous and educational activity, any time of year!

A Place for your Child at our Outstanding Nursery & Pre-School in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

An outstanding childcare providerLittle Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley

Are you searching for outstanding nurseries or pre-schools in Clayton-le-Woods (PR6), Chorley, or near to Clayton Green and Clayton Brook in Central Lancashire?

Little Acorns is in Clayton-le-Woods and is rated by Ofsted as an outstanding nursery. It is also an award-winning nursery, having won an important National award. Our childcare service is simply unrivalled in the area.  So, if you’d like your child to experience the very best childcare, register for a nursery place at Little Acorns Nursery. You can also request a guided tour or ask any questions using the buttons below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Educational Food Growing Activities for Kids

Nature is incredibly important for children With a little planning, care and effort, children can grow herbs, vegetables and even fruit.and that’s just one of many reasons why little ones should be encouraged to learn about sowing seeds and growing their own plants. Today, we’re taking that a step further by explaining how children can grow plants that will give them real, edible food! With a little planning, care and effort, children can grow herbs, vegetables and even fruit if they put their minds to it. What’s more, it’s possible without a garden and needn’t cost a penny!

The Benefits of Children Growing Their Own Food

If they successfully grow herbs, vegetables or fruit that the family can actually eat, little ones will have an immense sense of achievement — and justifiably so. They will have learnt so much during the process too, including where plants, flowers and foodstuffs come from, how seeds germinate into plants, the relationship between flowers, pollination, seeds and fruit, caring for living things — and the circle of life itself. Children love growing and caring for plants and growing edible food is even better!That will never be more evident than when a seed has grown into a plant that bears fruit, which contains more seeds, through which the whole process can start again.

Children will also love growing plants as an activity. They’ll learn from the responsibility of tending to living plants and seeing the progress that seedlings make when they have cared for them. It’ll be a real milestone, too, when their plants start bearing fruit (… or veg!). And — who knows — harvesting fruit, herbs and vegetables that they can eat may even get them interested in cookery and trying out more foods. All in all, growing food is a brilliant and highly educational activity for little ones.

Growing food is a fun, highly educational activity for little ones.

Take a look below for a few easy and inexpensive ways under-five children can get started.

Shop-Bought Seeds Are a Start But Free Seeds Are Even Better!

Shop-bought vegetables like peppers are full of seeds that can be grown into new plants.Seeds for herbs, vegetables and microgreens are all widely retailed in places like garden centres and even some supermarkets. Each seed packet will usually explain when and how seeds can be planted. This is perhaps the most obvious way for children to grow plants that, if all goes well, result in a healthy crop of food. However, we can be far more adventurous than that! Where is the fun in buying seeds in packets when children can get them for free? Let’s take a look at some cheaper and far more creative ways that children can start things off.

Grow Free Pepper & Tomato Plants!

Seeds from shop-bought tomatoes can be saved and grown into new tomato plants.“Free” you say? Well, pretty much! Next time you have some shop-bought tomatoes and/or peppers as part of your ordinary shopping, get your little one to take a few moments to save some of the seeds. These are found within things like tomatoes, before they’re eaten, and are usually discarded in the case of peppers. Such seeds can simply be spaced out on some compost or earth, watered in and a thin layer of soil or compost added on top. If these are left on the windowsill and the earth kept moist by the child over the coming days, little seedlings will soon start to appear. Our pepper plants were grown from the seeds found in shop-bought peppers. This one is about 4 weeks old.The image of the green plant shows our pepper seedling grown in this exact way — and it was incredibly easy to achieve. Ours is about 3 or 4 weeks old and it’s just about ready to be “planted out” outdoors, to mature. Once mature, they should flower then sprout some new peppers! It’s identical for tomatoes. If children have no garden for larger plants to be transferred to, ‘grow bags’ or any kind of suitable container can be used on a patio or balcony. Children will need to keep watering them every day, to keep the soil moist. Flowers will eventually appear and, with a little help from bees and insects, will be pollinated so that they eventually ‘fruit’. If appropriate care and attention continues, your child will eventually end up with vegetables that can eventually ripen and be eaten. That’s free tomatoes and peppers for the family, in our examples. Don’t forget to remind your child to save a few more seeds, though, so they can repeat the whole process again … and again!

If you have a large enough space in a garden, your child can do a similar activity using the seeds from squashes, pumpkins, marrows, courgettes and suchlike. However, those do take up quite a bit of room.

Grow Free Herbs!

Children will need water their little plants every day, to keep the soil moist.Does your little one know that he/she can grow new herb plants totally free of charge? This is done simply by clipping cuttings from your usual shop-bought herbs and leaving them in water to root. It’s incredibly easy so long as the child has some patience (that’s another useful lesson for them). All the child needs to do is to save some small (3 or 4 inch long) cuttings from the tips of herbs like basil or coriander. For safety, parents/carers may need to help with the cutting part if the children are very young. Cuttings from shop-bought herbs can grow into new plants by leaving them in water to root.The bottom sections of the clipped cuttings should be dangled into a glass, small bottle or other suitable vessel of water and left over a period of days until they sprout roots. See the photo for an example. A clear water vessel, e.g. drinking glass, will allow your child to clearly see the roots. Once suitably long, these new little plants can be transplanted individually into compost/soil in something like flower pots — or indeed a free, recycled alternative like a yoghurt pot. The little ones will need to continue attending to the plants with regular watering so that the herbs grow and mature. This activity can all be done indoors on a windowsill too, so requires minimal space. Growing their own herbs may even make children more inclined to eat them!

Grow Free Extra Lettuce & Celery!

A free and easy way to grow food is to “re-grow” it. This celery base would normally have been discarded, but it's growing new edible stems.Another ridiculously easy way to grow food is to “re-grow” it. A classic example of this is to save the root section from a salad vegetable like iceberg lettuce or celery. This is the part of a shop-bought vegetable that would normally be cut off and discarded. However, in what has to be the easiest food growing activity of all, the child simply needs to keep that root section and leave it root down in water for 1 to 3 weeks. It will eventually grow some roots but, before that, the upper tip will start to sprout new leaves. In our own test using an iceberg lettuce we ended up with loads! That is new, free salad that can be later harvested and eaten. Simple!

More Food Growing Ideas for Kids

Pop the 'root' section of lettuces into water and they will grow new edible leaves. This iceberg lettuce is re-growing in just 2 days.(Speaking of iceberg lettuces): Excuse the pun, but the ideas above are just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many other types of vegetable and fruit that children can grow (or re-grow) for next to nothing. For example, they can grow new apple trees from apple pips and new strawberry plants from the outside skin of strawberries. And the whole topic of growing microgreens merits its own stand-alone article, available here. We may follow up in due course with another batch of food growing ideas for under-fives and, indeed, for people of any age. In the mean time, we hope your little one has some fun with the wonderful ideas above.

Little Acorns: an Outstanding Nursery & Pre-School in Clayton, Chorley, Lancashire

An outstanding childcare providerLittle Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyOur award-winning nursery & pre-school in Clayton-le-Woods gives babies and children under five the very best early years education. It’s also a fun place for little ones to grow and thrive during their most formative years. We have an outstanding Ofsted rating, an integral Forest School and represent the best childcare service in Clayton-le-Woods, Clayton Green and Clayton Brook, Chorley, Central Lancashire.  Register a nursery place for your child today or get in touch to arrange a visit. Ask us any questions that you may have and we’ll be happy to help. Please choose a button below to get started …

12 Outdoor Activities for Little Ones

Our last post described the huge number of benefits of outdoor play for children in their early years. With that in mind, today’s post highlights twelve excellent outdoor play activities that young children can enjoy. With spring all but upon us at time of writing, children will be able to get outdoors more and more in the coming weeks and months. Our activity suggestions are fun, educational, will teach children new skills and will get them out into the healthy fresh air too. Our ideas below are mostly of the more natural variety too, so need not cost anything. Take a look …

Bird spotting is a wonderful activity for young children and helps introduce them to an appreciation of wild creatures.1. Bird spotting

Teaching children to spot birds will really help them to appreciate wild creatures. They can simply watch for them in the park, on the balcony, in the garden or out in the country. Putting out some bird food and waiting patiently and quietly out of sight will help, of course. If children have made home-made bird feeders — even better! It’s more educational if they can view a UK bird book or app so they can identify the types of birds that they see. Maybe make them a list if they can read, or a pictorial reference sheet that they can tick off. Robins, sparrows, blackbirds, pigeons, doves and various types of tit are common in the UK, but there are many other types too. Here’s a handy list of the 19 most common British birds.

2. BBee and butterfly spotting is a wonderful activity for young children.ee & Butterfly Spotting

Similarly, bee and butterfly spotting is a wonderful activity for young children, although it relies more on there being an abundance of the right kind of flowers and plants growing nearby. Butterflies, bees and gentle hover flies will flock to plants like Buddleia, for example. They all generally like any flowering plants that are rich in nectar, scented and colourful. As we suggested for birds, perhaps parents or carers can print out pictorial reference for the different types that children may discover. Here’s a great reference for the different types of bee found in the UK and here’s a guide for UK butterflies.

Another educational and interesting outdoor activity for little ones is to see if they can find animal tracks.3. Search for Animal Tracks

Continuing with our wildlife activity theme, another educational and interesting activity for little ones is to see if they can find animal tracks. This is best done when there is suitable habitat for paw prints and suchlike, for instance where there is soft earth, mud or sand nearby. It might be a good activity to do whilst out rambling (see #6 below). Perhaps search near a lake or river as many birds and animals will visit the water’s edge — or in snow if it’s winter. (N.B. such activities should be done under adult supervision for safety, of course).

Children love building dens to 'camp' in.4. Make a Den

Once in the outdoors, whether in a garden, courtyard, park or countryside, children love building dens to ‘camp’ in. Building them is all part of the fun and they can be made with long sticks and foliage, a sheet draped over string tied between trees, or simply using a low-cost children’s tent or similar. Once erected, children will love using the den to use as a base, like their own ‘home in the wild’. Their imaginations can run riot and all manner of games, role-play and adventure can ensue.

 

Little ones will love floating little boats on water.5. Float a Boat

Little ones will love floating little boats on water (with supervision of a responsible adult for safety, of course). They’ll enjoy it even more if they have made the little boat or raft themselves. Boats can be made simply from folded paper (as in the photograph) or using little sticks, string and perhaps a little bit of a cloth for a sail. If there’s a stream, then even better — they can race their boats! Even a puddle, pond or paddling pool will do, though.

Rambling is a wonderful chance for adventure, discovery, varied play — and fun!6. Go on a Ramble

A walk to around the local park, beside a local river, woods or countryside is one of life’s great free pleasures. The benefits of being out in nature are significant and numerous for children and adults alike. A ramble with Mum or Dad or another responsible adult will do wonders for a child’s physical and mental wellbeing. It’s also a wonderful chance for adventure, discovery, varied play — and fun!

Children will love seeing the results when they take photos of flowers, insects, landscapes, trees and sunsets.7. Get into Photography

With cameras being a part of mobile phones and tablets these days, photography is easily accessible to little ones. It’s easy too … just preview, check the subject is in view and in focus, and press the button. And, if children get more interested, perhaps they could ask for a camera, whether new, second-hand or passed down when a relative upgrades. Children will love seeing the results when they take photos of flowers, insects, landscapes, trees, sunsets and anything that triggers their imagination in the outdoors. Who knows — it could even lead to a creative career!

Children will love running and climbing around an assault course.8. Obstacle Course

The opportunities for playing are infinite outdoors. Children will love running and climbing around an assault course. This could be formal (like in a playground) or using more rustic obstacles like trees, logs, inclines and suchlike. Obstacles courses outdoors are a great way to challenge children’s imaginations, skills like problem-solving and, of course, fitness, motor skills, balance and coordination. They could even do it in teams. It’s all great fun!

Little ones love picnics!9. Have a Picnic

Little ones love picnics! So, next time the sun is out and you’re taking your child(ren) out to the park, the countryside or even perhaps just to a garden, consider taking a picnic. Children can even be involved in preparing for one and will enjoy the sense of responsibility that goes with gathering everything that’s needed. Then, once outdoors, they’ll enjoy sitting on the picnic mat with the food, drink, fresh air and immersing themselves in the very ‘civilised’ thing that is the picnic!

Planting seedlings, vegetables, plants or herbs in the garden is one of life's simple pleasures for children and adults alike.

10. Plant a Mini Garden

Planting seedlings, vegetables, plants or herbs in the garden is one of life’s simple pleasures for children and adults alike. It’s a relaxing and educational activity for children to enjoy outdoors. While a garden is ideal, containers or pots on a balcony, courtyard, patio or windowsill will suffice as plants need only be small. Supervising adults can help children to care for the plants and, in time, harvest flowers, herbs or vegetables from them. They will learn so many lessons by growing plants and food, including patience and empathy, and will get a great sense of achievement when they see the results. They will also have witnessed the magic of nature.

Children love discovering mini beasts.11. Hunt for Mini Beasts

Children can also search outdoors for mini beasts like woodlice, ants, beetles, ladybirds, centipedes, caterpillars, slow-worms and even earth worms. They need to be respectful of them and be gentle, however. After all, each is a living being with its own needs and feelings. So caring, adult supervision is always best around little creatures, particularly when children first learn about them. They will love getting to discover their tiny neighbours and perhaps even get to rescue any that occasionally get themselves into trouble, for example a bug that’s landed in a puddle or butterfly that’s in danger of getting caught in a web. A sense of empathy will naturally come from such activities.

It's surprising how creative children can be with pebbles and rocks!12. Get Creative with Rocks & Stones

Pebble sculptures are easy!Whether on the beach or in the garden, it’s surprising how creative children can be with stones and rocks! Stones can be painted with lovely patterns or images, perhaps combined with simple words or as part of a ‘stone story’. Bigger rocks can be piled one on top of the other to form sculptures — these look magical. Children will love these and other creative activities that they can take part in outdoors, with simple stones and rocks.

Safety First

Safety is paramount. When playing, particularly outdoors or near hazards, children should always be supervised by a parent or responsible adult.

Outdoor Play at Little Acorns Nursery & Forest School (Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley)

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyWe have outstanding outdoor play areas at Little Acorns Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley, Central Lancashire. We also have a wonderful Forest School for our under-fives. We have an Excellent Ofsted rating and an outstanding National-level nursery award. We’re near Clayton Green and Clayton Brook too, so will be perfect for you if you live or work in any of those areas and need the very best childcare for your child. Arrange a visit with your child or baby, so you can all look around. Alternatively, get in touch to ask any questions or simply apply for a nursery place if you’re ready to. We look forward to meeting you!

Arrange a Nursery Visit Send Us a Message Call: 01772 696 288
Bird Feeder Ideas for Kids

Bird Feeder Ideas for Kids

In last month’s article about bird feeding for under-fives, we promised to follow up with a post showing ideas for bird feeders that children can make at home. So, that’s what we’ll look at today.

Making home-made bird feeders is a fun activity for children; it's creative, educational, teaches children new skills and gets children more in tune with nature.Making bird feeders

Making bird feeders is a fun activity for children, it’s creative, educational, teaches children new skills and gets children more in tune with nature. What’s more, making home-made bird feeders is pretty easy. It’s an inexpensive activity. It’s also great for the local birds, who get to eat much-needed extra food and that’s especially important during Winter. That’s a time when most other natural food sources for wild birds are in very short supply and the birds are burning calories just to stay warm. All in all, making home-made bird feeders and feeding birds during the colder months is an excellent activity for young children — and indeed for everyone!

So, take a look at a few easy-to-accomplish home-made bird feeder ideas below. However, young children should be supervised by a responsible adult at all times during both the making and locating of the bird feeders — health and safety comes first! There are also some guidelines included for the safety and wellbeing of the birds.

A simple apple bird feeder - popular among black birds in particular.

Apple Bird Feeder – Simple!

We’ll start with one of the most simple bird feeders: with adult supervision, children can be shown how quick and easy it can be to attract birds to the garden just by threading a nice apple onto a strong twig on a tree or onto the tip of a bamboo stake, or alternatively dangling it from a branch using a loop of string. Perhaps start the apple off by removing some of the skin in one or two sections, so birds can see the ‘flesh’. Before long, species like blackbirds, in particular, are likely to show an interest and be amongst the first to start nibbling them.

Children need to be patient; birds and wild animals instinctively wait a while before trusting new things that have appeared in the garden or anywhere outside. Patience is a great skill for them to develop, though, so this is another great lesson for them.

Important: only put out as much food as is likely to be eaten over just a day or two, otherwise it can go mouldy and that’s terribly dangerous for birds (it can even kill them).

Bread is a popular choice for garden birds, but it's not really that good for them.

Or Use Bread – But With a Warning

Children can alternatively use a chunk of bread (ideally wholemeal, seeded and non-stale) but first read our warning below if going this route:

Warning: although bread is a popular choice for feeding birds, it’s actually not that great for them, particularly if it’s white bread and lacking in any visible seeds. It’s also dangerous for birds if it goes mouldy, which is why we say above that only small amounts that will be eaten within a day should ever be put out for the wild birds. So, in truth, any of the other food types mentioned in this article are far better for birds than bread.Bird eating a seed-covered pine cone.

Although bread is a popular choice for feeding birds, it’s actually not great for them.

Home-made bird feeder made of a pine cone covered in seeds.Seeded pine cone bird feeders

These are fun and simple for children to make. The pine cones can be foraged from local woods and the best ones will be ‘open’ rather than ‘closed’, so that there’s somewhere that bird food can be pressed into. Children can simply spread peanut butter2, suet or lard1 all over the pine cone, pressing it in between the many seed scales that protrude from the open cone. Once covered, the entire thing can be rolled in bird seed and this will stick. The seed-covered pine cone can then be hung outside for the birds using some string, somewhere suitable (we wrote about the best location for bird feeders here).

1. A Word About Lard & Suet

Only use proper beef suet or pure lard that’s hard at room temperature even when it’s quite warm. Proper suet (from cows) is good for them as they need saturated fats and it does lend itself to the making of seed cones, seed balls and even simple seed cakes in plastic flower pots or cleaned yoghurt pots.  However, if you use a type that’s going to melt in the sunshine, then it could actually do terrible harm to birds. So, ensure you are always only using proper beef suet or pure lard that’s hard and does not leave an imprint if squeezed – suet, for example, should be hard and should crumble when handled. Avoid softer fats and so-called suets that may be ‘faked’ through the use of additives to make them appear harder.

This home-made bird feeder features a plastic spoon to dispense the seed and give birds somewhere to land.Water bottle bird feeders.

These are quick and easy to make, great for birds, and also teach children how easy it can be to recycle or repurpose something that would normally be discarded. As you can see from the photographs, empty plastic bottles can be made into excellent bird feeders in a variety of ways. All that’s needed is string at the top to hang them and a suitable hole, which can be cut using scissors or a knife (it’s safest for a responsible adult to do the cutting). This recycled drinks bottle makes an excellent bird feeder (for seed or water).Then, they can be partly filled with bird seed, or perhaps grated Cheddar cheese. Alternatively you can see that some of the designs could be used for drinking water, for example the one shown immediately on the left or at the very top of this article. Another variation even has a plastic spoon pushed into it, forming a convenient perch for the birds to land on and to feed from (see right).

Drinks cartons make wonderful bird feeders that children can decorate.Carton bird feeders

These are similar in approach to bottle feeders, but are made from adapted milk or fruit juice cartons (washed before repurposing, of course). Once again, a responsible adult can help children with the cutting part, for safety. Carton bird feeders can be more creative than water bottle feeders because they’re a little easier to cut and also they can be decorated more easily, for example with paint as shown in our example (right).

Strings of unroasted monkey nuts are popular with larger birds, some tits, and squirrels.Monkey Nut Bird Feeders

These are another very simple type of home-made bird feeder that children can make.  As you can see from the photograph, all that needs to be done is for the monkey nuts to be threaded together to form a ‘string’ that can be hung in a tree or from one bush to another. Larger birds and some tits (plus a few squirrels) will find it easy to bite through the outer husk to get to the peanuts inside. Use unroasted monkey nuts, though, for reasons we’ll explain in the next section.

2. A Word About Peanuts, Monkey Nuts & Peanut Butter

When it comes to any type of peanut-based bird food, you have to be careful and follow a few simple rules.

  • The choice of bird seed can make a huge difference to how popular your feeder is with birds.If using peanut butter in your home-made bird feeders, ensure it is fresh, has no salt or sugar added and is not ‘flavoured’. Smooth or crunchy peanut butter is great for bird-feeders, though, and you can even stick extra bird seed to it once it’s been spread on your feeder e.g. pine cone or apple. There are also some peanut butter brands made specifically for wild birds, by the way.
  • When it comes to peanuts and monkey nuts (peanuts still in their cases), ensure they’re unroasted and break a few open to check they’re fresh and that there is no mould/fungus between outer skin and the actual peanut. Aflatoxin is something that can greatly harm birds and this can be found in any fungus present. Never use them if you find any affected by this fungus; it harms humans too, as it’s a carcinogen.
  • Remember too, to only put out as many peanuts as will be eaten in a day or two maximum, so as to avoid mould build-up, and keep your store of nuts clean, hygienic and dry. Finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers and several varieties of tits will be likely to visit — peanuts are very popular!
  • During breeding season (spring/summer) it’s best not to put out whole nuts for the birds. Parent birds may try to feed them whole to their offspring and chicks are likely to choke on them. So, avoid whole peanuts in warmer months or simply crush them into much smaller pieces to be safe.

Read more about the types of bird food that we’ve found to be really popular with our own local birds here — choosing the right food can make a massive difference to the success of your bird feeders. Read more about the best places to site your home-made bird feeders here. And don’t forget about hygiene, which is important for both humans and the birds.

Nature is one of life's magical pleasures and teaches children so much.Why Nature is So Important for Children

Nature is one of life’s magical pleasures and teaching children to feed birds is a great way to introduce them to the natural world and some of the lovely creatures in it. Nature has so many benefits for children. It teaches them about empathy, about being responsible, demonstrates that it’s important to think about others, and so much more. Learn more about the benefits of nature to children here.

We hope you and your family give some of the ideas on this page a try. Making bird feeders will teach children new skills and introduce them to new facts about the world too. Hopefully, you’ll all soon get to know some of the regular birds that visit your neighbourhood and your child will begin to recognise and name individual species. And, as we said in our last post, teaching children about nature from a young age has been shown to make them more inclined to live greener lifestyles as adults.

Nature at Our Clayton-le-Woods Nursery & Forest School

Little Acorns Nursery, Clayton-le-Woods, ChorleyLittle Acorns is an outstanding Nursery in Clayton-le-Woods, Chorley. As well as being a nursery and pre-school, it’s also a Forest School for under-fives, where children can learn about nature, the natural world, and about themselves. Our Ultimate Guide to Forest School explains more, so take a look if you’d like your child to benefit from everything a Forest School has to offer. Please contact us if you have any questions, if you’d like to visit the setting or if you’d simply like to reserve a place for your child. We’re based in Clayton-le-Woods so are also very near to Clayton Green, Clayton Brook and Chorley in Central Lancashire.

Arrange a Nursery Visit Send Us a Message Call: 01772 696 288