A National Trust report recently revealed that 83 per cent of children and 79 per cent of adults never or have rarely smelt wildflowers. And three quarters of children around the UK have rarely or NEVER listened to birdsong.
With so much nature around us, taking a moment to appreciate it is proved to improve our wellbeing and mindfulness. People who do find the time to notice the sound of the first birds tweeting in the morning – and not immediately tapping into social media – are proven to be happier overall.
But it doesn’t have to mean a big adventure. Get your little ones (and yourself) interested in nature on the school run with these simple tips:
- Stop – If you have an extra few minutes, take a detour through a green space – but if not, just look at some colourful gardens on your walk in. Ask your kids which ones are best for bees? See if you can spot any insects on the flowers.
- Look – When the leaves have fallen from the trees bird nests are easy to spot. Keep a running tally on each school run for a week so that you have time to spot the more challenging ones as well as the easy ones.
- Listen – Birds are all around us. The most common city birds are Starlings, Sparrows and Pigeons. Where there is a food source they’re never too far away. See if you can spot the different type of birds (don’t worry if you don’t know their names – just point out their similarities and differences).
- If you live near a park, make a point of passing through on the way home from school. Take a bug hunting guide with you and tick off the list each time they spot one. Do it seasonally and they’ll quickly learn differences.
- Celebrate the new flowers as they come into season, by challenging them to be the first to spot the new snowdrops, a yellow daffodil or a red tulip. Friendly competition is a great way to get them engaged in nature.
- During the summer months gardens are a hive of activity. Bees swarm flowers and butterflies flit. But there has been a decline in recent years – blamed mainly on environmental damage. Get your children interested in insect extinction. Download an app or print off a sheet so they can start a butterfly or bee count. With many different species out there – get them to compete to find the most types by the end of the week.
- Play tree detectives – challenge your little ones to see the similarities and differences between two trees on your way to school. See if they can put their arms all the way around the trunk and compare the difference in size. Pick up a leaf that’s fallen from each tree and compare it. Use body parts as a measuring guide…Is it the same size as your thumb? Or as big as your forearm?
- This one requires some extra prep – but it’s worth it! Head out with a roll of sellotape and encourage your child to find a stick on the way to school. Look for natural leaf fall, feathers, grasses and fallen blossom petals and stick them onto the stick to help tell the story of their walk to school. By the time they get there – it’ll be worthy of a class show and tell!
- Make a plan to draw a map of their way to school that involves natural markers as well as buildings and roads. Encourage your children to find the natural markers on their way to and from school. Making the map is a great rainy day activity – but just talking about is enough to get them looking.
- Hedgehogs can travel between one and two kilometers every night, but there are many blockages that we humans put in their way to stop their natural route. Encourage your little ones to spot a Hedgehog route or barrier to help them to think about making greenspaces safe spaces for our spikey friends.