PARENTS are being offered ideas for budget busting days out for youngsters without even leaving home this summer.
Former Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins, now head of organic horticulture at Ryton-based Garden Organic, has devised four ‘days out’ for children in their own back garden.
Children could have hours of fun by going on a bug safari, hunkering down in their own nature reserve, or taking on the role of a Night Ranger.
Chris, who worked on the BBC TV show for nearly a decade, is always seeking ways to interest children in organic gardening.
Chris said: “Children always benefit from being outside in the fresh air. Tempt them away from their computer games by organising days out for them in their garden where they can learn about birds and bugs, plants and shrubs.
“More and more children are becoming environmentally aware and teaching them about beneficial wildlife which help keep down garden pests such as slugs and snails without the need for harmful pesticides will increase their understanding.
“In addition, sitting in a bird hide or den will keep them quiet and still for a few precious moments!”
Chris’s top four days out ideas are:
Go on a bug safari – Give your child a hat, a small spade and a magnifying glass if you have one and let them stride out into the wilds of the garden.
They can dig up a spade full of soil and spread it out in a tub or on a piece of cardboard and then search carefully for all the creatures they can find. They might see lots of different types of worms, a centipede, a beetle and much more.
Encourage them to draw what they find. When they’ve finished looking at one area, direct them to a different spot in the garden and see if they can see more or fewer creatures – ask them what they think could be causing the difference?
Once they are back in the house they could find out more about the creatures using the internet and learn about how they are helping in your garden.
If you are feeling creative you could award them a homemade bug finder badge.
Hunker down in your own nature reserve – Many birds and creatures visit gardens when it is quiet and still. To enable your children to get to know these creatures better why not encourage them to build a bird hide or den out of natural material that they can hide in and sit quietly to watch. Don’t forget to add a roof in case it rains!
When they stop making a noise they may be surprised by the creatures they share their garden with.
Give them pen and paper to write down information about the birds and creatures they spot, their colours and size.
If your garden is organic and you don’t use pesticides they are even more likely to spot a wide range of birds and creatures.
Build a pond and spend the day ‘by the seaside’ – Ponds are a brilliant addition to any garden and children will have lots of fun building one with a shallow gravel or sandy slope to form a beach.
All you need is a spade, a plastic bag for a liner and some water. For instructions on how to build your pond visit https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/creating-pond
Ponds attract all sorts of beneficial wildlife, including frogs and toads who will keep your children entertained and help to keep your slug population under control.
If it’s a hot day, supervised children will be able to dangle their feet in the cool water and imagine that they are at the seaside.
If you would rather not have open water at home, why not swap the seaside for a swamp and make a bog garden instead? For instructions visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk/humble-bog-garden
Appoint your child as a Night Ranger – Get them to grab a torch and a coat and head out into the dark to undertake a night patrol.
A close inspection of your plants may uncover some of those pesky slugs creeping out hoping to have a feast unnoticed.
Encourage them to sit quietly and see which creatures visit your garden when the lights go down and the quiet descends. If they are lucky they might spot a hedgehog on the lawn or a bat overhead. And if they listen carefully they may just hear an owl.
Get them to make a note of what goes on under the light of the moon. Just make sure they are accompanied by a sensible grown-up who isn’t afraid of the dark!
For more ideas on children’s activities to undertake in the summer holidays or for organic gardening advice visit gardenorganic.co.uk