Kids have a natural curiosity about the world around us. Who hasn’t waited while their small child watches a ladybird climbing a grass stalk or a bee gathering nectar? So it’s easy to develop that interest into a real love of nature by helping them to explore even further.
One of the best ways to do this is by organising a wildlife hunt. You could focus on birds, plants and flowers, or trees. But one of the easiest and most satisfying (especially for smaller children), is to look for mini-beasts. Mini-beasts are easy to find and mostly harmless, which makes them great for even very small children to enjoy.
Organising your own wildlife hunt
So how do you organise your own hunt?
What you need
You need to be prepared before setting off on your hunt.
Here’s a list of what you need:
- Field guide or spotting sheet: This helps identify the species you might discover. Choose one with clear pictures and simple information (see below)
- Magnifying glass: Perfect for viewing bugs close-up
- Collection pots: Any clear container will do, but special pots make it much easier. They’re cheap, durable, and some come with magnifying lids. A pooter helps you collect insects using suction (but without risking swallowing them!). Wildforms has a good affordable selection.
- Soft paintbrush: Useful for gently encouraging insects into the pot
- Camera: Keeping a record of what you find will help kids remember more – make a photo record afterwards
- Fishing net: Can be used to collect moths and butterflies safely
- Notebook: Children may want to draw what they’ve discovered
Where to go
If you live near some woodland or a park, that’s a great place to start. But even your own garden is a haven for wildlife. You can even find mini-beasts in the street, so don’t discount the fun an urban hunt can bring.
Where to look
Many mini-beasts love dark, damp spots, so try lifting stones or logs (carefully). Flying insects can be seen on or around flowers, and water often attracts dragonflies and damselflies. Or just lay down on a patch of grass and see what strolls by.
Where to find spotting sheets and trails
Lots of wildlife organisations work hard to encourage kids to explore wildlife. Many have spotter sheets, keys (for older kids), and food chain charts. Websites often have a wealth of ideas to get you started, such as this sheet from the Wildwood Trust.
Woodland Trust: The Nature Detectives section has lots of free resources for all ages.
Wildlife Trusts: Check this site out for great resources, including spotter sheets, wildlife card (similar to Top Trumps), and bingo cards. Check out your local Wildlife Trust for organised events near you.
Joining an organised wildlife event
Many organisations also run special events to get kids out and exploring. These include trails (sometimes with a small prize at the end), pond-dipping, or guided nature walks. Many are free (although you may need to pay admission charges to the venue), and equipment is supplied.
National Trust: Lots of events for children during school holidays. Check out their ’50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾ ‘ challenge.
RSPB: Plenty of opportunity for children to find out about bird life at their reserves
Wetlands Trust: Holiday activities and self-guided trails
Of course, if you have any local nature reserves, they probably have their own trails and events for you to enjoy.
We live in a fabulous world, so why not plan a wildlife trek today? You could be setting your kids on the path to a lifelong love of nature. And if you do go on a wildlife hunt, do tell us about it in the comments.
Photo courtesy of emerson12 at Flickr Creative Commons