Wildlife Fun in the Garden

We were inspired today by our weekend visit to the RSPB Headquarters at Sandy, Bedfordshire.  I came away full of plans to make our garden a little wildlife haven, and we made a start today by creating a simple bug hotel.

We had seen a very impressive one at Sandy – the Ritz of Bug Hotels.  Ours is more of a Travelodge but was great fun to make using things we already had at home, and got the children thinking about different habitats.

We used a large planter turned on its side as a basic framework, and added plant pots containing various materials – dried leaves, pinecones, stones, mud, grass, twigs.  We added a brick stuffed with vegetation and mud too.

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The great thing about using small plant pots was that L and N could carry them around the garden and be responsible for creating their own little habitats in each one.  This really got them thinking about the conditions bugs and insects would like (cool/warm, damp/dry, dark/light) and investigating the properties of materials as they tried to create those conditions.  L had the idea that butterflies and moths wouldn’t like getting wet and so we had some dry areas too – and this led to the idea of planting some wildflowers too, to attract bees and butterflies.

N mixing soil and water to make the right consistency of mudImage

ImageL filling his plant pot with leaves and sticks

F had a go at filling a pot too…and emptying it…and refilling it…Image

Another challenge for L and N was to fit the plant pots, stones and bricks into the larger planter – a bit like a jigsaw using natural materials :-).  Here are L and N showing off the finished product:

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Our plan is to keep a journal with pictures and a bit of writing about the insects that visit our “hotel”.

Seeing as we had already collected sticks and leaves, and made mud, I challenged L and N to play at being birds, and use these materials to make a nest.  It involved getting very messy indeed!

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We experimented with weaving sticks and leaves, shaping them, bending them, sculpting mud – alil great fun and involved some real planning and problem solving for the childiren, as well as a little science lesson in understanding how birds make nests.  We discovered that our most effective way to build a next was to use mud as a glue and leave it to dry.

I was pleased that F could join in.  I have been finding it harder to include her ithan I did when she was tiny. She is now at an age where she wants to be in on the action, but doesn’t quite have the skills or concentration to match her enthusiasm – it’s a difficult balance between letting her experiment, and not letting her destroy things carefully constructed by the older ones.  In the garden, she was free to roam with supervision, and seeing as the point was to get messy and experiment, it was right up her street.  Pilus it was novel enough to hold her interest that bit longer than usual.

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Finally, we fed the birds and put together a very basic makeshift bird bath using two planters:

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We plan to make the birds some food tomorrow, like we did here.

The afternoon “flew” by (ha ha) and even thought the weather wasn’t as lovely as expected, the fresh air certainly was – we came in tired, happy and muddy, which is always the sign of a good day!!

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