11 STEPS TO CREATING A WILDLIFE GARDEN WITH KIDS
With Spring coming, bringing lighter days (finally) I bet you’re wondering how you’re going to keep your kids entertained? Why not try attracting wildlife to your garden?
This can be a year round activity the kids can come back to over and over as the seasons change. It is a wonderful learning opportunity too. Teaching them how to care for the world around us, as well as having an appreciation about how the seasons work, understanding life cycles for animals and of plants.
Also, nice idea to teach kids is how their food chain works, as well as, from a wildlife point of view, and what happens if that is unbalanced.
This could also lead to learning how to reduce their waste and recycle in the most natural and basic way possible i.e. compost.
So, here is a list of activities that you and your kids can enjoy doing together to attract wildlife into your garden. We enjoy these activities here and we’ve learned so much from them. As the weather begins to get warmer we’ll enjoy helping the wildlife in our area with even more ideas.
1. MAKE A BEE WATERING HOLE.
Bees need water to drink. Collecting all that honey is thirsty work! It can be dangerous too, as the bees can be drowned in a pond or larger body of water. So, providing a bee bath can literally be a life saver to the struggling bee populations.
TO MAKE A BEE WATERING HOLE
- Fill a shallow dish with marbles stones or water-beads, 1 layer thick.
- Place this at soil level near some bee friendly plants.
- Now, fill the dish with water half way up the marbles. The bee can land on the dry marble and stick its long tube tongue through the marbles to get a drink safely. When the local bees find your safe drinking dish your garden will be the place to go for bees all over!
This post from Kidsinthegarden, shows another cute way to do this using a large plastic flower pot water tray . I’m making one like this this Spring in our old stone bird bath.
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FEED THE MOTHS AND BUTTERFLIES.
This is a nice easy one for late Spring, Summer. It helps to make sure butterflies and moths get the nectar they need.
Now that they’re adults and nearing the end of their lives. They don’t eat they only drink nectar. So it’s important they can find enough of this. Their only function as an adult butterfly or moth is to find a partner and lay some eggs, and they do all this with the help of a major sugar rush ha!
- We just lay a shallow dish in the garden beside the flowers. I’ve made a small platform from some stacked up bricks to sit this on.
- I then lay a flat sponge in the dish, the type with holes in it.
- Then, I make up a sugar solution of half water and half sugar and stir it until it’s all dissolved.
- You can lay some over ripe fruit in the dish too, oranges and bananas are wonderful and give an instant sugar rush.
3. GROW WILDFLOWERS
Butterflies and bees are drawn to areas of wildflowers.
Buddleia is a particular favourite of butterflies, and open structured flowers are good for attracting bees, foxglove and poppies.
Other annual plants that are so easy for kids to grow are Cornflowers, foxgloves, bluebells, crocus and sweet peas, Also think about moths and nightlife, Night scented flowers are wonderful for attracting moths and other night insects, which in turn attract bats to roost nearby. We had a resident bat here a few years ago that loved swooping in front of out sitting room window at dusk to catch all the moths and flies attracted by my Sarcococca Confusa plant that smells amazing.
So experiment with flowering times and seasons and see what you can attract. These are just a tiny selection of the plants you could choose to encourage wildlife.
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4. BUILD A TERRARIUM
The kids I care for LOVE creepy crawlies. They really enjoy exploring new habitats, doing bug hunts, getting muddy and slimy at the same time.
This craft is so easy but condenses wildlife down into manageable size for little ones. We have a whole city to explore this year like this one here.
I can’t wait to fill it up in Spring and see who moves in. In the mean time we will make mini jar terrariums. Just like these ones here from Allparenting.com
You can also use the jars as bug collection jars.
Fill a large glass jar with a thin layer of stones or pebbles on the bottom for drainage,
Then fill the jar with a thin layer of soil, leaves, sticks, and flowers.
Put some holes in the lid carefully then let kids outdoors into the garden or forest and see what they bring back. It might be an idea to take spoons or mini spades to help lift the bugs safely.
Keep the jars for a few hours and let kids see a range of behaviours.
REMEMBER TO LET THE BUGS GO BACK TO THE PLACE YOU GOT THEM WHEN YOU ARE DONE.
If you don’t want to make your own terrarium, here are some of the other bug sets we’ve had over the year.
This is easy to set up and so educational for the kids. My daughter CC checked the cocoons every minutes she could and the kids squealed and cried when the butterflies hatched. Such a wonderful experience and the set is reusable too.
I was worried these little critters would escape but they didn’t. After a few days you started to see them making changes to their enclosure.
This one was amazing. The different layers of material like soil and sand really helped us see how the worms make their way through the layers feeding and making tunnels leaving a clear network of tunnels through the layers.
5. PUT UP NESTING BOXES
Nesting boxes encourage birds to stay in your garden and raise their babies.
We put up various sizes and shapes of boxes in a sheltered area under our roof line, away from the wind and hot sun. Every year we get some starlings nesting in the roof line and in some of the boxes. It’s wonderful to see the mum and dad birds flying in regularly to feed the chicks, and we get to hear the cheeping of the babies. I’m hoping, with the aid of our new bird nest cam, we will see a lot more this year and maybe actually see them leave the nest and fly. The kids will LOVE it!
This is a job that needs doing in Winter or even late Autumn. So that you do not disrupt the breeding season.
6. GET A BIRD TABLE AND BATH
All birds feed differently, so need the food to be on a flat surface like the ground or on a table where others will feed from a hanging fat ball. Provide a range of options to attract the most birds.
Birds also need a drink and water to clean their feathers, with so make sure you provide a constant source of water so the birds can rely on it.
Just a note on feeders, Try not to put out to much food so it gets wasted. Rats and other vermin with feed off bird food tables if their short on other supplies
7. PLANT A TREE
Native trees to your area will help attract birds and insects. In the UK, go for species like crab apple, conifers, silver birch, yew, alder, or if you have space for a large tree, try elm, beech or ash. Trees provide a nesting place for birds and squirrels, as well as lots of insect life, while if you want to attract bats, willow will give you the best chance.
If you have space to plant a few trees near each other, this will create more of a woodland habitat drawing a wider range of wildlife.
8. GROW A WILDLIFE HEDGE
Hedges provide additional nesting areas for birds and small animals. They also help to shelter the garden and some even produce fruit or berries providing food for the wildlife or you! Suitable hedge plants include blackthorn, buckthorn, cherry plum, elder, hawthorn, hazel and privet. Climbers and creepers are great to grow up through the hedge as they provide further foliage to boost the insect population and draw birds. Clematis, dog rose and honeysuckle are good choices.
9. MAKE A WILDERNESS AREA
10. HANG A BIRD FEEDER
Hang a bird feeder filled with peanuts or seeds. This post here has planty of feeders you can make with the kids. You can also get these wonderful feeders that attaches to a window with a suction pad for a close-up view. I finally ordered ours so we are looking forward to seeing the birds use this too. It takes birds a little while to get used to new feeders but I’m so excited to think that soon we will be able to see them up close.
Fat balls and seed mixes are ideal for attracting a range of bird species. We also offer bacon rind raisins and grated cheese when we have them.
11. ATTRACT MAMMALS
This year we are making a hedgehog home in our garden. We saw a hedgehog in the garden a few times last year and we would love to attract him back this year. They are wonderful for keeping on top of the local slug population, so I’m keen to attract him here. In Spring when they wake from hibernation very hungry so we will be putting out food for them and I will make sure to leave out water as well.
NEVER GIVE MILK OR BREAD to hedgehogs as this can be very bad for them.You can buy special hedgehog food or give them dog food tinned meat.
My husband is convinced that he is hibernating under our shed but I will be attempting to build him a hedgehog home soon so he will use that next year.
So! these are the steps we will be working on this year to attract more wildlife to our garden. I hope you will try some too and support your local wildlife so they can in turn support you!
What challenges do you face getting outdoors with your kids? Do you have a favourite activity or something that always gets in the way? I’d love to know so drop a comment or an email below.
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