Spending time outdoors offers so many benefits for little ones - even (if not especially) right from birth. You may have noted a look of fascination on your baby's face as they stare at leaves rustling in the breeze, seen the sheer glee of 'toddler meets puddle' or the intensity of a stick den building project involving older children. No matter how young, the enjoyment, and sense of wonder generated through little ones engaging with their environment is priceless.
Here is what a little time spent in nature each day does for kids:
- Promotes confidence and a sense of well being.
- Gives exposure to rich experiences that are unique to the outdoors - such as direct contact with the weather and the seasons.
- Builds an understanding of (and respect for) nature and the relationship between, humans, animals & plants.
- Develops problem-solving skills and confidence.
- Nurtures creativity, imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness.
- Improves sleep (for everyone!).
What to see & do outdoors with your little ones this month
1. Pose on the blue carpet
Bluebells are the epitome of an English Spring - but blink and you'll miss them & a mild Spring so far means you'll get caught short it you're thinking May. Bluebell woods make a multi-sensory treat for little ones and for budding (geddit?) parent photographers, what better setting for taking gorgeous shots of your little cuties - now if only mine (pictured) would just stay still!
*Bluebells can be potentially harmful if eaten so do keep a close eye if they are at 'that' stage.
2. Lamb Gangs
Head to a rural area or local farm park and check out the antics of these cute woolly kids. No longer at the wobbly newborn stage, they'll be ganging up and skidding wildly around the fields, playing "king of the castle" atop grassy knolls, jumping off things and generally running amok whilst their harassed looking mums try to keep control - it's noisy, fun to watch and a cute reminder that themes of childhood (play) and motherhood (nurture & protect) aren't just the domain of humans.
3. Go on a Tadpole Hunt
Ponds across the UK will hopefully contain frogspawn or wriggly tadpoles around now. Some little scientists may be inspired to try and catch some. If, in the event of success, you find yourself wondering how to look after them - Young Toby Wills Hart has it all here for you (thanks Toby!)
Even very young children will find watching the tapdoles interesting and older children love helping to take care of them & watching them develop. Another adventure can be had when it comes time to re-release them into the wild.
4. Get Growing
April is an ideal month to plant seeds. A great one for small children to start with is the sunflower - they sprout quickly, can be grown in a pot if space is limited & the relatively large seeds are easy for little fingers to handle. Poking holes in the dirt, putting the seed in, then patting in down & giving it a watering... it's all good (non)clean fun - not to mention the chance to check out some worms and bees while they're at it. Younger babies don't need to miss out - given a trowel or even a plastic spoon, will love just scooping about in the dirt.
5. Forage - Wild Garlic & Dandelions
Britain and Europe are packed with wild edible plants and foraging is a wonderful way to teach kids about provenance of food and foster a connection with nature.
Wild garlic and dandelions are both good choices at this time of year, as they are plentiful and easy to safely identify. Choose foraging spots away from main roads (fumes can taint plants) and wash your findings well before using. As always, very little ones will need watching until they've learned all about checking with a parent before eating anything. Babies will love tagging along on a forage in a carrier or sling and will enjoy looking at (or nibbling) samples.
Once home, involve the little ones in creating some weird and wonderful concoctions in the kitchen with the spoils of your forage. Our faves are Dandelion Fritters
(easy, yummy & very kid interactive) and this amazing Wild Garlic Pesto
6. Busy Birds
As it stays light for longer, birds know it is time to hit the dating scene. They do this by cavorting and singing to each other and, confident of success, are also busy building nests. This makes April one of the best months to take little ones out spotting birds - as there is plenty to see. Younger toddlers and babies will just enjoy the sounds of the constant signing (and it doesn't hurt us to stop and take a moment to listen too!)
If, like us, you can't tell a swallow from a swift - download Isoperla
- A great app for identifying birds - or print out this spotters guide
from The Woodland Trust Nature Detectives.
The hedgehogs have been having a tough time of late, with numbers declining by a 3rd in the last 10 years. This month these spiky cuties will be waking up from hibernation looking rather skinny and feeling peckish. Get the kids involved in mixing up some breakfast to put out in the garden or a local green space. Hedgehogs like things like dried cat food (not the fishy flavours though), peanuts (unsalted), raisins & sultanas, mealworms, chopped up bits of mild cheese, or cooked potato. Avoid giving them bread and milk, it's not good for them at all. A dish of water will be much appreciated too.