This week, in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about leaves. We have been identifying the leaves of common trees in our outdoor area.
Go for a walk in a park, woods or any other open space and encourage your child to identify trees by looking at their leaves. Some trees such as oak or horse chestnut will be easier to identify as their leaves are quite distinctive.
Collect a selection of leaves from different trees. Make sure the leaves are dry and lay them carefully between two absorbent sheets such as paper towels or kitchen paper. Place the whole package under a heavy book and leave for a few weeks. The pressed leaves could be used to make a piece of artwork such as a collage.
This week, in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about the signs and colours of summer through exploration of our outdoor area. To help continue your child's learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these summer-themed ideas.
Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and explore! Go for a walk in a park, in woods or in any other open space and encourage your child to identify the signs of summer. You might see different varieties of insects collecting nectar from the summer flowers or fledglings leaving their nests and learning to fly.
Make Your Own Sundial
Collect 12 stones and paint each one a different colour. Number the stones 1 to 12. Find a sunny spot in your garden or in an outside space and push a straight stick into the ground. At midday, look to see where the shadow of the stick falls and place the stone marked twelve at the end of that shadow. Repeat this every hour until you have laid out all the stones. Use your sundial on the next sunny day to tell the time!
This week, in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning about the role and importance of bees in spring. To help continue your child's learning and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these nature-loving ideas:
Plant a Bee-Friendly Garden!
Bees need flowering plants from which to feed. Grow some plants that bees love in pots or in your garden. These could be wildflowers, herbs, sunflowers and shrubs, such as bottlebrush.
Bumblebees need places to nest and hibernate. You could leave a pile of stones, logs or fallen leaves in your garden for bumblebees to hibernate in over winter.
This week, in our Muddy Monday session, we have learnt about bird life in spring. We have built our own bird nests and made a bird feeder.
To help continue your child's learning and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these nature loving ideas:
Busy Bird Watchers
Find a large cardboard box and cut a small hole in one side for a look out. Cover the box in wet mud and glue grass and leaves onto the box to camouflage it.
Put your "bird hide" in a quiet place in your garden. Make pretend binoculars using small cardboard tubes or use real binoculars and climb inside your "hide" to look out for birds. You could draw pictures or take photos of any birds that you see. Try to find out the names of the birds that you have spotted.
Go for a walk to an outdoor space - a garden, a park, or a woodland. Ask your child if they can recognise any birds. They should be familiar with blue tits, blackbirds, and robins.
Make a Bird Feeder
Make a bird feeder for your own garden or outdoor area. They can be easily made from an empty, clean plastic bottle.
This week in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning about the new growth that can bee seen in spring. We planted vegetable and flower seeds and have learnt why spring is a good time for planting.
To help continue your child’s learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these nature-loving ideas:
Set up your own vegetable patch or tray. Children will enjoy watching the vegetables grow and it might even encourage them to eat the vegetables!
Plant flower seeds such as sunflowers or wildflowers. Check the seed packets for the best time to sow the seeds and look out for bee-friendly varieties. Flowers can be planted in anything - an old pot, watering can or boot - so be creative! Children can watch the new shoots grow and enjoy the flowers in the next few months.
Have a look at the vegetable aisle in the supermarket. Can your child recognise lettuce and radishes like those that they planted in their Muddy Monday session? Which vegetables grow from seeds? Which vegetables would they like to grow?
This week in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning about tree buds. We have learnt that a bud is a tiny bundle of new leaves or flowers which will start to grow in spring.
To help continue your child’s learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, you could try the following ideas:
Go for a walk to an outdoor space – a garden, park, or a woodland. Ask your child if they can see any buds on the tree branches. Can they remember what a bud is and how it will change during spring? Do buds look different on different trees? Why are some buds’ sticky?
Choose one tree and carefully tie a ribbon around a low branch which has buds on. Take a photo of the bud closest to the ribbon. Take a photo of the same bud every few days to record the changes that are taking place.
This week in our Muddy Monday session we have been learning about the signs of spring. We have been exploring outdoor areas to find examples of new growth, spring flowers and animal life. We have also made a spring flowerpot.
To help continue your child’s learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these spring-themed ideas:
Go for a walk to an outdoor space – a garden, park, or a woodland. Ask your child if they can remember any of the signs of spring that they learnt about in their Outdoor Explorers session. They might be able to recognise some spring flowers such as daffodils, tulips and bluebells and see butterflies and bumble bees nearby. Look for buds and blossom on trees. Listen for birdsong and hunt for bird nests. If you can visit a pond or lake, you might see frogspawn.
Spring in an Ice Cube
Buy some spring flowers from a shop or pick a few flower petals from your garden. Place them into an ice-cube tray or a small pot, fill with water and freeze. Your child can play with the ice cubes and watch them melt to reveal the flowers. Ask your child if they can remember the names of each flower. This is an opportunity to learn about freezing and melting too!
This week in our Muddy Monday session, children have been learning all about minibeasts and how they survive through the winter.
To help continue your child’s learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these minibeast-themed ideas:
Explore your garden, a park or some woodland for minibeasts. Look under stones, in piles of leaves and on tree trunks. How many different minibeasts can you spot? Remember not to disturb any creatures that you find and try to leave the habitat exactly as you found it.
Your child may have built a minibeast mansion in their Outdoor Explorers session at school, so why not build one at home too! You can design and build your own structure, providing an ideal microhabitat for minibeasts. Encourage your child to monitor the minibeast inhabitants and develop their interest in the natural world.
This week in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about some of the birds that we see in winter and how they survive the colder months.
To help continue your child's learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these winter bird-themed ideas.
Birds are often easier to see in woodlands or gardens in the winter due to the lack of vegetation. Go for a walk with your child and see how many bird types you can identify - you could borrow a guidebook from your local library if necessary. Some species of birds, such as robins, blackbirds and sparrows, have been here all year. Others, like fieldfares, redwings and waxwings, visit from colder regions such as northern Europe.
Make a papier-mache robin by placing multiple layers of newspaper strips soaked in wallpaper paste or white glue (such as PVA) onto an inflated balloon. Let each layer dry before adding the next layer. When the papier-mache form is completely dry you can add a beak made from papier-mache and some legs made from pipe cleaners. Paint your robin and hang it up. You could create a whole flock of winter birds!
This week in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about tracking woodland animals in winter.
To help continue your child's learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these animal tracking-themed ideas:
Although wild animals are not easy to see, there are often signs that they have been around - you just need to look hard enough! Visit a woodland with your child and look for animal tracks on frosty or snow-covered ground, or in the mud. Look out for burrows and holes in banks - if you're lucky, there might be small animal trails leading to them or some droppings nearby! Animal fur often gets caught on tree bark, bushes and barbed wire, while feathers are a common sight on the ground. Claw marks on trees, or some nibbled hazelnuts or pine cones, are a signs that squirrels are around. Remember to always wash your hands after touching anything that has been left by an animal.
Use this homemade tracker to find out if any wild animals visit your garden overnight. Fill a large, shallow tray with fine sand and smooth the surface so that tracks will show up clearly. Leave some cat or dog biscuits in a dish in the middle of the tray. Check the sand in the morning to see if any animals have left their footprints. Remember to throw any leftover biscuits away.
This week in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about mistletoe and how it survives by growing on other trees.
To help continue your child's learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these mistletoe-themed ideas:
Explore a park or woodland area with your child. Look high in the branches of deciduous trees for clumps of mistletoe. How many can you count? Talk to your child about how mistletoe depends on other plants to live, i.e. it grows on trees, absorbing their water and nutrients.
Many trees and plants have berries during the winter. Most winter berries are red, orange or purple; although mistletoe berries are white. How many colours of berries can you find? What shape are the berries - round or oval? Talk to your child about why plants develop brightly coloured berries. Explain this is because they contain the seeds of the plants and need to be attractive to birds and animals who will eat the berries and spread their seeds.
This week in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about the parts of a tree and about ways in which trees survive the winter.
To help continue your child's learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these winter tree-themed ideas.
Deciduous or Evergreen Tree
Explore a park or woodland area with your child. Ask your child to count how many deciduous trees and how many evergreen trees they see on your walk. Remind them that deciduous trees are trees which lose their leaves in the autumn to help them survive through the winter. Look for tiny buds developing on the branches of deciduous trees which will grow into new leaves in the spring.
Winter Tree ID
Without leaves, it is much harder to recognise an oak tree from a beech tree! However, different trees can still be identified by the types of buds growing on their branches. Use a book to help identify different types of tree - how many different types can you spot?
Many trees have beautifully patterned bark. Using some plain paper and crayons, encourage your child to take bark rubbings of different types of trees. What do they notice about the different textures and patterns that they see?
This week in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about the signs of winter and the changes that are occurring in nature.
To help continue your child's learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these winter-themed ideas:
Explore your garden or a park with your child to search for signs of winter. Can your child identify a deciduous tree and an evergreen tree? Can any wildlife be seen? If there has been a frost, encourage your child to explore the patterns and textures of frozen leaves. If there has been snow, look out for animal and bird tracks.
Winter A to Z
Encourage your child to observe the changes that occur in the natural world during winter. Whenever you are outside, try to find something that begins with each letter of the alphabet. For example, A for acorn, B for bark, C for conker, etc. This will improve their observation skills as well as practising letter sounds.
This week, in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about spiders, about how they make a web and why we should look after them.
To help continue your child's learning and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these spider-themed ideas:
Spider Web Walk
Explore your garden or a park with your child to look for spider webs. Can you find a spider building its web or repairing a damaged web? You might see a spider catching its prey. You could keep a photo record of how the web changes over time.
Create a place in which spiders and other insects can shelter during the colder months. You can make a simple spider hotel in your garden using logs, sticks and old bricks. Keep checking your "hotel" to see who has moved in!
This week, in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about bird migration.
To help continue your child’s learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these ideas themed around bird migration:
Save the Swifts
Swifts visit the UK in May, June and July to breed and raise their young before returning to Africa. The number of swifts in the UK has decreased by over 50% since 1995, largely due to the loss of derelict buildings in which they nest. You can help by putting up a nest box designed specifically for swifts, or by logging swift sightings for the RSPB.
There are many places to see migrating birds. You might like to visit your local Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Wildlife Trust Reserve or RSPB Nature Reserve to spot wildfowl and other species arriving here in autumn. Talk to your child about the starting points around the world for these migrations and about why the birds have made such epic journeys.
This week, in our Muddy Monday session, we have been learning all about squirrels - about where they live, what they eat and how we can help to protect the endangered red squirrel.
To help continue your child’s learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try these squirrel-themed ideas:
Go on a walk to a park or a woodland to look for squirrels. You might also see some squirrel nests which are called dreys. Dreys look like messy, leafy bird nests and are found high up in the forks of trees. If you find nibbled pinecones beneath a tree, it is a good sign that a squirrel lives there!
Feeding red squirrels is encouraged. Make a squirrel feeder with an entry hole suitable for the size of the smaller red squirrel only - this is so that the larger grey squirrels cannot steal the food. Place the feeder somewhere there is a quick escape route from predators such as cats i.e. high up in a tree or close to a high wall. Red squirrels enjoy hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, apples, carrots, and cuttlefish bones.
Food is scarce in the spring and summer so feeding a small amount is helpful but remember not to overfeed squirrels as it is important that they still look for natural food sources. Regularly clean and disinfect the feeder to prevent disease and always remove any uneaten food before refilling.
This week in your child’s Muddy Monday session, they have looked for signs of autumn and have learnt how to keep wildlife safe on Bonfire Night. They have retold the story of Bonfire Night and created a piece of outdoor art using natural materials.
To help continue your child’s learning, and to do some outdoor exploring at home, try some of these nature-loving ideas:
Collect some autumn leaves which have fallen to the ground. Create a piece of outdoor art with them, letting your child’s imagination run free.
Create safe spaces in an outdoor area for animals to hide out as the weather turns cooler. This could be a pile of leaves and twigs for insects or rocks, stones and old roof tiles for frogs, toads, and newts.
Collect acorns and turn them into imaginary pets using any material you like. You could stick cotton wool and twigs to your acorn to make a sheep!