Nature is all around us, and a lot of the time it’s absolutely free to visit, and fresh air is great for tiring out little ones! There are plenty of other benefits too. One of the ways that you can encourage children to engage with the great outdoors is by making them into nature detectives. It might be worth familiarising them with the Countryside Code if you’re going further afield.
Whether you’re in a park, woodlands or an official nature reserve, there are bugs, birds and mammals to be found! I’ve rounded up some of the best tools that your young explorer can use to find a collection of critters from a backyard, or beyond.
The first thing that every detective needs, is a magnifying glass! Children’s magnifying glasses tend to be cheap and shoddy, this one is for an adult and is much better quality. You can help your child to use it to peer at plants and bugs, and you can even borrow it yourself.
Any old pot from the house will do, and you can recycle any tubs you have lying around. You can use these make pitfall traps, for pond dipping and for inspecting any creatures you find. If your kid digs a pitfall trap that creatures fall into, make sure they remember where it is so the creatures aren’t trapped in there!
Digging is a great way for kids to find bugs like worms, which they can collect in their pot. It’s also useful for digging out a trap for creepy crawlies. A small trowel or spade is useful for small hands and you can even get them to help with gardening or potting plants! I liked this set as they’re metal and wood, but they don’t come with random stuff as many kid’s gardening sets do.
A jam jar is a great tool for inspecting bugs, and it can be carried if you tie a string around the top. Its also good for pond-dipping and kids will be mesmerised by watching their finds.
Remind kids that they need to be careful with butterflies that can get damaged in nets! Make sure to have a larger see-through container with a lid to admire your butterfly, as they can get crushed when held. If your child is old enough, and you have or live near a large light then you can even try catching moths at night. Near ponds or rivers, you can also find beautiful dragonflies and butterflies, although they are delicate too. These nets are good because they’re long-lasting but not too big to carry around with you.
There’s no use finding all this wildlife if you don’t know what it is (or can’t remember which I find sometimes happens!). This Bug-opedia is a great book as it has bold pictures of bugs as well as interesting facts about them. If your child correctly identifies something, like a good nature detective, then encourage them to write it down or photograph or help them to do so. This will give them something to look at when they get home and it might even get them excited for your next expedition!
If you are looking for more inspiration for fun to have with kids then try my list of 365 things to do with kids on every day of the year.
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