We’re appreciating moments in the great outdoors more than ever right now. Make the most of them with these great nature activities, some of which you can do indoors too.

One abiding refrain during lockdown is how much more we are all appreciating nature. Cars on the road have dwindled to numbers similar to the 1950s, aviation has been curtailed hugely, and the burning of fossil fuels has been drastically reduced, clearing the air to the point that the colour of the sky is actually now a deeper blue. Whilst the economic cost is, of course, grave, the lessened air pollution has already had a positive impact on natural habitats and biodiversity.

Here are a few activities to do with your children to make the most of this collective moment of standing still and appreciating wildlife. Here’s hoping that the pandemic prompts a swifter change to clean energy and transportation and that nature stays at the top of the agenda post lockdown. With these ideas, you can certainly ensure that it does in your household.

Try Out The Woodland Trust’s Activities

May the gods of lockdown bless The Woodland Trust for coming up with these ten activities to keep children interested and engaged with nature, even while we’re in lockdown. If you are able to get out with your brood, then ideas such as going on a mini beast hunt (while singing the obligatory bear hunt tune, naturally); making a loo roll bird feeder using things you probably have in your house anyway; going on scavenger hunts; and creating natural art are just some of the things that will be keeping us from going loopy. They’re great with younger kids, and if yours are old enough to be home schooling, then we say these count as lessons.

Make A Seed Bomb

We love the Wildlife Trust’s sweet illustration for making a seed bomb. These are great for livening up a garden and, most particularly, for encouraging a diversity of wildlife into it. You can used this method whether you have a small patch of flowerbed to fill, or a patch of lawn you’d like to pepper with wild flowers, or, indeed, a whole meadow to fill. You will need meadow flowers seeds, water, peat-free compost, powdered clay and a mixing bowl, so you may need to plan this activity for a couple of weeks hence to order in the supplies. But it’s such fun, you’ll be glad you did – not least when a buzzing cacophony of winged creatures appears later down the line.

Make A Container Garden

More genius from the Wildlife Trust. The great news is that whilst these containers look lovely in a garden, you don’t actually need one. All you need is a window with a bit of sunlight – you’ll need a container and an old jumper, compost and, of course, the bulbs and plants to fill it, but thereafter, you get the pure joy of watching all grow, and attract wildlife to your corner – whether a big garden, a balcony or a window. There are lots of beautiful and fragrant flowers that do well in this sort of arrangement – lavender, sweet pea, snapdragons for example – but we’d also recommend trying out herbs. Not only will they smell divine, they’ll add some flavour in the kitchen too.
Photo credit: Cath Hare

Count Butterflies

Who doesn’t love spotting beautiful gadding butterflies fluttering by? As well as being a charming and diverting activity that is easy and free to do during your daily exercise, you could also be helping scientists understand how wildlife environments are being affected. Butterflies respond to environmental changes quickly, and thus are good indicators of biodiversity – as the Big Butterfly Count says, this exercise is akin to ‘taking nature’s pulse’. The organisation explains: ‘The count will also assist us in identifying trends in species that will help us plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife’ All you have to do is to download a free chart (or the free app for iOS and Android) to help you identify the different species, choose a spot and spend fifteen minutes counting butterflies and noting your findings down before submitting them. It’s backed by the big guns: David Attenborough and Alan Titchmarsh. The official count doesn’t start until July, but we say, why not start now and get in the habit?

Do Some Bird Watching

Back in January, half a million people took part in the RSPB’s initiative to record the birds they spotted most commonly in their gardens and localities. The results? The House Sparrow was the most ubiquitous, followed by the Starling and the Blue Tit. Birdwatch began in 1979 and is a great way to chart bird populations – as well to identify species which might be in trouble. While this year’s official survey is over, you can still look out for birds with your little ones and chart what you are seeing. The RSPB has some great resources for helping with identification, and there are fun quizzes online, such as one to find out which bird you are. You can also go behind the scenes to see how the scientists make use of the results. When next January rolls around, we’ll be twitching and ready. The great news is that you don’t need a garden to do this – though if you do have one, the RSPB has plenty of tips for encouraging bird life in.

Build A Bug Hotel

Anyone who loves nature knows that there is not need to be squeamish about bugs. After all, they do a great job in our gardens, eating pests and pollinating plants. The grest thing about building a bug hotel is that you’re likely to have many of the materials knocking about – and apart from a sturdy base of some pallets, most things go, as long as they’re recycled. The Eden Project’s step-by-step guide outlines what to include, depending on what insect life you’d like to attract.

Go Virtual Nature Exploring And Save The Planet

If you can’t get out at all right now – or you just want to expand your horizons beyond your house, garden and immediate neighbourhood –but you do have £10 to spare, do consider spending it on one of Greenpeace’s virtual exploring kits. You can get lost in habitats across the world, and learn about places that need our protection, which your money for downloading the kit will help towards. Subscribe via National Geographic Kids, and spend hours transported to far-flung lands, learning all the while.

Grow A Bean Plant

This old classic is brilliant for the situation we find ourselves in right now. Not only do you need very little equipment – a broad bean seed, an old jam jar, a saucer, some kitchen roll and water – but you can do it inside, so long as you have a sunny windowsill. It’s great for kids, especially since the seed should start germinating within a few days –gratifyingly speedy when working with naturally excited (read: impatient) children. Plus, you’ll eventually have beans to eat at the end of the exercise, so it’s healthy too. Great Grub Club is a no-frills but very useful website instructing on all sorts of growing projects with little gardeners. Another we love is the irresistibly sweet cress egg head project. Simple, easy, perfect: because complicated is not what any of us needs right now.

Make A Sundial

The Wild Network is on a mission to ‘rewild childhood’, get knees muddy again and children climbing trees once more. A not-for-profit organisation, it has ‘created a new form of network, a broad and diverse collection of 30,000 mums, dads, guardians, community workers, activists, policy-makers, doctors, care givers, creatives, play-workers and educators and 2,000 organisations from corporates, to NGOs to hundreds of grassroots interventions with interests across nature, education, health and play. We bring together our community together through a range of programmes specifically designed to overcome the barriers to Wild Time.’

Watch the eye-opening film that kick-started the whole movement here – or dip in with some of its project and activity ideas. We love its suggestions for staying wild while remaining at home or social distancing. But the one we’re making first is this basic sundial, allowing little ones to tell the time by the sun and without a watch. All you need is twelve rocks, some paint and a stick – as well as place you can return to each day. Download its useful and inspiring app here.

Go Foraging

The panic buying of a few weeks ago has thankfully calmed down. But that early rush for flour, eggs and tinned tomatoes did a good job of alerting many of us to the fact that, if we can, it’s never a bad idea to be more self-sufficient. If you have a garden – or even a sunny windowsill – it’s a great idea to grow some of your own food. But you can also forage for it too. The good news is that kids are never too young to start recognising plants, so with some careful supervision, why not try harvesting some wild food on your next socially distant walk? But first, do check this helpful guide by Gypsy Soul (as she says, it goes without saying to avoid roadsides, dress kids appropriately, and not to take too much). What to look for right now? Check out The Woodland Trust’s handy guide to what’s in season in May.

By Nancy Alsop
May 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.