Spring is in the air!
Spending time in nature is good for your children: research has shown that it has many benefits on a child’s physical and psychological well-being, which include greater physical health, more creativity, reduced stress and improved concentration. There’s no easier way to get your child interested in nature than building a wildlife garden for them to explore, and by encouraging your children to get involved with planning and creating the garden , you will help give them a sense of responsibility towards their environment.
Planting the beds
There are hundreds of wildlife-friendly plants to choose from which will encourage an abundance of birds, bees, butterflies and insects to visit your garden. However, be careful which plants you choose for a childrens’ garden – there are some that are loved by birds for their bright tasty fruit but are toxic to humans, such as red baneberry and deadly nightshade. Good choices for attracting butterflies are alyssum, the ‘butterfly bush’ (Buddleja davidii) which can be planted in a pot, and both candytuft and marigolds which are easy choices for children to grow themselves from seed. The birds will love crab apples, elderberries and field scabious, and the bees will flock to lavender, love-in-a-mist and pretty michaelmas daisies.
Resource: Explore the Butterfly Conservation website with your child.
Another easy way to attract wildlife is to create a wildflower patch, perhaps in a raised bed or a neglected corner. Wild flower seeds can be bought in shakers or packets and are easily sown by the children in spring – these give a wonderful spread of bright and beautiful colours throughout the summer which will attract all manner of butterflies and insects.
Feeding the birds
Children love to leave food out for the birds and to watch them eat. Breadcrumbs, peanuts and seeds are all good choices, as are half eaten apples and chunks of cheese. Having a bird table, hanging feeder and apple holder will encourage different species to visit the garden. Robins, doves, sparrows and pigeons will be drawn to the table, with finches and tits drawn to the hanging feeders. Encourage your children to put out a little food on the floor too, as this will attract wrens, blackbirds and thrushes. Fresh water should also be left out, as this can be hard to find especially during the cold winter months.
To help your children identify the different species that visit the garden, you can download this free guide sheet which has photos of 12 of the most common garden visitors for them to spot.
Many species of our wildlife are under threat due to loss of habitat and now rely on shelter in the millions of gardens across the UK. Children will love creating little homes for the various creatures and insects that frequent the garden – give them twigs, leaves and logs to create little dens for their creepy crawly friends. They’ll be providing bugs and small mammals with shelter as well as providing a place for small creatures to hibernate.
A pond is also a fantastic way to draw nature into the garden and your children will love helping you build it. Get them involved with marking out the pond shape using rope, digging out the dirt, adding the substrate once the liner has been put in and then filling it up with water! You should try and plant a variety of totally submerged oxygenating plants, submerged plants with floating leaves, emergent plants and marginal plants on the pond’s edge. You should also create a scalloped edge rather than straight edges, and ensure that at least one side is quite shallow. This provides habitats around the pond that offer a variety of depths, shade and temperature, helping many different types of creatures. Get the children to place stones and logs around the outside edge providing further shelter for a range of creatures.
Stuck for ideas on what to plant in your pond? Staff at Swallow Aquatics in the UK told us that Cardinal Plant Lobelia Cardianlis, Variegated Orange Peel Plant Houtunia Cordata Variagata and Umbrella Fern Cyperus Umbellatus were the top three best selling plants across their four stores. As these plants grow, water insects and creepy crawlies will start to thrive in the vegetation.
As the pond becomes even more established, you may like to download this pack which includes a great guide to ‘pond dipping’ and to the different species your child might encounter in and around the pond.
This article was contributed by Carly, a keen blogger from the UK. When not writing, Carly LOVES scouring Pinterest for home decorating inspiration, and walking her two doggies in the local park.
Child with butterfly: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/23566085@N00/114039369/”>e³°°°</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Bird feeder: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/9422878@N08/6711487533/”>Bill Gracey</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>