Tag Archive for: nature activities

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.