A childcare expert shares handy tips for encouraging little ones to connect with the natural world, without breaking the bank, just in time for the Jubilee bank holiday
Everyone loves a long bank holiday – and this year we get a bumper four-day weekend from 2 to 5 June.
While it’s a great chance to have some real family time, parents also have to plan activities to keep young children happy. With inflation the highest it’s been for 40 years, occupying the kids is becoming more and more difficult.
The good news is this: you don’t need expensive days out or holidays to make lasting memories and help little ones to develop. In fact, the answer could be as simple as spending some time in the Great Outdoors.
The Journal of Pediatric Nursing found that access to green spaces improves mental wellbeing, overall health and cognitive development in children. On the role of outdoor play in child development, the Porto Biomedical Journal highlights that it gives children unstructured play opportunities and ‘promotes positive self-esteem, autonomy, and confidence’.
Joy Wood, early years expert at Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries with 30 years childcare experience under her belt, is an enthusiastic advocate of kids engaging with nature. She’s channelled her years of experience into some great tips for parents wanting inspiration for fun activities during the long June bank holiday weekend.
“Life can be hectic and money is tight for so many across the UK at the moment. But parents can still create magical moments with their little ones, as well as plan activities to encourage their cognitive and intellectual development.
“Learning about and interacting with nature from a young age will build on children’s understanding and acceptance of everyone and everything around them. And exploring practical activities as a family can help our children learn about the impact we have on the Earth and how we can make it a better place.”
Here are Joy’s 5 top tips for outdoor activities this bank holiday:
Nature scavenger hunt
For this simple activity, all you have to do is create a list of seasonal objects for kids to spot. Think bees, dandelions, ants, flowers, pinecones and trees.
Young children enjoy being able to identify things they see around them and a scavenger hunt will stimulate their senses, inviting them to pay attention to different sights, sounds, smells and textures. And don’t worry if you don’t have much of a garden: you can go hunting in public green spaces, parks and nature reserves.
Young children of all ages enjoy painting, so why not encourage them to paint things they see in nature? Better yet, ask them to find things like twigs and leaves that they can use to apply the paint or incorporate into their art.
Once their piece is finished, they can present it to you, boosting their self-esteem and celebrating their creativity.
Create an bug hotel
Your kids will get a real thrill from making a habitat from scratch, and seeing how little creatures gradually move in. It’ll also teach them about the importance of protecting natural habitats, however small they might be.
To construct the insect hotel, cut a cylinder shape from a plastic bottle and fill it with twigs, bark and pine cones. You can set it on the ground or hang it from a tree. It’ll soon attract guests such as ladybirds, butterflies and bees.
Tell your kids they can paint on something other than paper and watch their faces light up and their imaginations take over.
They can collect their own rocks from the garden or park, choosing their favourites to get arty with. Once they’re finished, you can keep them as decorations around the home, showing your little ones how much you value their creations.
Build a den
This old favourite requires very little effort. Simply place two or three chairs (and/or a clotheshorse) on the lawn, hang a sheet over them and there you have it – a secret den, exclusively for the kids! They’ll love having their own space and the independence it gives them.
Decorate it with flowers or connect it to a tree to introduce some more nature. And you can even dress your little ones as pirates or explorers to really get their imaginations firing.