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A breath of fresh air

Children learning outdoors

It may still be a bit dark in the mornings and evenings, but we’re on our way to lighter walks to and fro from school – and what better time to encourage your children to pay attention to what’s around them.

Even in the cities there are trees, parks and wildlife and there are always opportunities to get the family out in the fresh air on crisp, winter days. Walking is good exercise and when you or your partner have been stuck in an office all week, or busy in the house, it’s easy to miss out on the pleasure of a walk where you can see what nature offers.

When you’ve got young children, it’s also a great way to introduce them to the different kind of trees, plants, birds and animals. Even older children aren’t always sure what the leaf of a birch tree looks like or able to recognise a blue tit or chaffinch immediately.

Most people know an acorn leaf, because of its unusual shape and can spot a magpie, but there is so much more.

Encourage your kids to identify different birds in your garden or in the local park and then look them up and find out more about them. Get them involved on the Big Garden Bird Watch and spend the weekend of 27-29 January counting the different birds in your garden.

Get your children to be more aware of the wildlife around them.

  • what kind of food do they eat?
  • Did you know that leaving milk out for hedgehogs does more harm than good?
  • How do you make your garden hedgehog friendly?
  • Which animals hibernate and how do they do this?
  • What kind of flowers to different plants grow?
  • What flowers can be seen in March, April, May, etc.?

This kind of nature awareness will provide material for activities all year round. In winter it might be to try and guess what kind of leaves will grow on the bare branches when spring comes. In autumn it might be what colour each tree will turn as the autumn progresses.

On family walks, competitive kids (and parents) can see how many different animals, birds, plants, trees, etc. they can list, with a reward for the winner (be creative – it might be making tea and toast for Dad if he wins, or getting to choose their favourite dinner for the winning child).

Why is this important? Appreciating the beauty of nature and the changing seasons is one of life’s great pleasures and you never know, you may have a budding naturalist or zoologist in the family.