In the second week of our series of at-home summer camps, we look at ways kids can make the most of the great outdoors
Walked every wood? Played in every park? Spent more time in your garden this year than you ever thought possible? Don’t worry, in this, the second of our at-home summer camps, we’ve asked the experts for their top ways to get kids engaging and exploring with even familiar outdoor spaces in exciting new ways…
Make a footprint trap
“Whether it’s foxes or hedgehogs, garden birds or frogs, or maybe just your lovable pooch or cat, analysing tracks and footprints from visitors during the night is so much fun,” says Emma-Jane Leeson, of Johnny Magory, an Irish company set up to get kids outside, exploring and connecting with nature. “Simply put out a shallow tray and cover with sand that’s super smooth and flat.” Try to put it somewhere you think animals might roam (along boundaries and hedgerows is good) then start the detective work in the morning to try and work out what nocturnal visitors have been visiting.
Become a mini-beast expert
“We spend a lot of time looking for the bigger and beautiful creatures around us but sometimes forget there’s a whole wild world under our feet,” says Emma-Jane. Simply dig a hole in the soil and place a cup in it making sure the rim is below ground. “Put some stones either side and rest a piece of wood on top (like a bridge) then leave for a few hours and see what you’ve caught.” Then release back to the wild. See here for a free Mini Beasts Hunt johnnymagory.com/outdoor-guides/
Use your ears
We always think of bird watching but have you tried bird listening? “Keep an ear out after dark for the calls of young long-eared owls which are very vocal,” suggests Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland. “When begging their parents for food, they sound very like a rusty gate swinging on its hinges. Many people hear it but few realise what it is!”
Jump into a world of frogs
“For wetter days a fun craft would be to make an origami frog, then read all about frogs from our Hop To It Frog Book and then, when the rain has stopped, have a frog search and become citizen scientists by taking part in the longest running Frog survey in Ireland, the Hop to It Frog Survey,” says Nuala Madigan from the Irish Peatland Conservation Council. See ipcc.ie.
Bond with butterflies
Don’t fancy frogs? Then get bonding with beautiful butterflies by downloading the leaflet on IPCC.ie full of tips on how to ‘spot’ the difference between small tortoiseshells, peacocks, red admirals and all the other stunning species the summer has to offer.
Nothing fires up the imagination like a hunt for pirate treasure. “Take note of where north is (phones have a compass app on them) and each team draws a map to where the treasure is hidden for the other team to follow,” says Ciara Hinksman from Forest School Ireland. “You can also sculpt the map out of natural materials laid out on the ground like a 3D map.”
Go back to basics
The Get Out Mummy (@thegetoutmummy) on Instagram has some excellent posts on classic back-garden antics (like pillow-case sack races, water ‘painting’, and bike-car wash stations) as well as an inspiring ‘Summer Bucket List’ of cheap and cheerful things to find and do throughout the holidays.
Next week... Space Camp