Ways kids can make the most of the great outdoors.
Are you looking for some ideas to keep the kids entertained? Here’s a couple of ideas you might not have thought of yet… Enjoy!
This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the Irish Independent which you can read here.
A Wild Night Stake-Out
We’ve all been camping over the past year, in our living rooms and our gardens and countryside if we’ve been lucky. Camping’s a great way of connecting with nature but why not set up a camp with a difference… A Night-time Wildlife Stake-Out Camp. It’s no secret that most of our amazing wildlife here in Ireland is nocturnal, (probably down to us humans being so loud and annoying during the day!) so here’s some things to both look out for and activities to help your expedition, regardless of location.
Bats – we’ve got 9 species and thankfully most are widespread and common. Most will be in areas close to freshwater and trees or meadows however our urban bats are active also catching insects in the air at night. Listen for the high-pitched sounds firstly then have your torch ready for them zipping over head on a clear night.
Footprint Trap – whether it’s foxes or hedgehogs, garden birds or frogs, or maybe just your loveable pooch or cat, analysing tracks and footprints from visitors during the night is so much fun. Simply put out a shallow tray and cover with sand that’s super smooth and flat. Leave it a bit away from your tent and depending on where you’ve pitched, try to put it somewhere you think animals might roam (along boundaries and hedgerows is a great place to start.)
Trapping Moths – did you know we have over 1300 species of moths here in Ireland? These fluffy light-lovers are truly a thing of beauty if you look at them up close. To set up your trap, simply hang a white sheet up outside (over a fence, branch or washing line) then shine your torch light on it. It won’t take long before you’ll be documenting some visitors. Keep your eyes peeled for other insects also.
Fun fact – when you shine your torch on wildlife at night, you can expect different colour eyes looking back at you! Cats eyes are yellow, foxes eyes are red and frogs eyes are green!
Free Flavoursome Foraged Food
It’s probably also safe to say we’ve all become more interested in our food and the miracle of growing it over the lockdowns. Some will also have began foraging too which is basically getting back to our roots (pun intended) and eating the food our ancestors ate… For free! Here’s a quick snap of what’s in season or what to look out for but remember, always wash then double check what you’re eating before you eat it and always, always make sure you leave enough for the wildlife who depend on it.
Nettles, wild strawberries, gorse flowers, dandelions, and wood sorrel are all easily identifiable and delicious. Recipes are abundant in books and online but why not add some competition to your camp and award the best use of foraged foods at your meals.
We spend a lot of time looking for the bigger and beautiful creatures around us and sometimes forget that there’s a whole wild world right under our feet. We’ve seen lots of bug hotels pop up on our walkways and in our parks but we don’t usually get the opportunity to take a closer look at the residents. The good news is you can channel your inner David Attenborough and explore marvellous mini beasts anywhere. Simply dig a small hole in soil and place a cup in it making sure the top of the cup is slightly below the ground. Put some stones either side of your hole and rest a piece of wood on top (like a tiny bridge over it). Leave it for a few hours then have a look at what you have caught. Hopefully, there will be some fantastic looking friends in the cup for you. Examine delicately from a distance but then always make sure you take them out of the cup and put them back where they belong with their families and friends.
Download our free ‘Mini Beasts Hunt’ with the Irish and English names of our common insects here https://www.johnnymagory.com/outdoor-guides/
Meticulous Map Making
We all know that X marks the spot to all the riches on a pirate’s map but did we ever think about how they went about making that map? Learning to make and read maps is so much fun and can be done from anywhere in the world. It can also lead to so much more fun once it’s complete and could form the basis of a scavenger hunt for another day’s playing. Start by making a legend or key with the meaning of the symbols you’ll put on the map for example a dotted line could be the path to follow, a thick black line could be a wall, a small tree, square building etc. Observe the area and begin to draw landmarks then work down to the finer details. Introducing a compass for older children is great fun. Counting steps between certain symbols is also a great activity to introduce logging distance on their maps.
About the Author
Emma-Jane Leeson is the author behind ‘The Adventures of Johnny Magory’ children’s book series which is aimed at getting children outside exploring and connecting with nature and learning about our Irish wildlife and heritage (all in a fun way!) Her ‘One Question a Week Children’s Journal’ is packed full of 52 outdoor activities to help families have fun outdoors whilst documenting the minds of their children and making their own personal time capsules along the way. www.JohnnyMagory.com