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Looking to keep kids close to nature this winter

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

With the arrival of Coronavirus in 2020 and a national lockdown, parents up and down the country were forced to ‘think outside the box’ when it came to home schooling. Does a few hours of school work in the morning then outside to play in the garden sound familiar?

Well, it’s now 2021 and here we are again. A national lockdown and lots of families managing their children’s education remotely. The big difference? It’s January.

We don’t have a beautiful summer and the same range of outdoor activities, from riding bikes to paddling pools, to keep the kids entertained in these challenging times. It’s tougher than ever to spend meaningful time outside when it’s cold and we can’t really go anywhere.

While the garden can seem a bleak place with little to see and do at this time of year, there are still many nature based activities that can double as a learning opportunity. Here’s some ideas on how you can get the kids wrapped up warm and outside to be inspired by the nature around them in the colder months.

Make a recycled bird feeder (Ideal for children aged 3 +) Rather than throw away empty plastic containers, look to re-purpose them and bring birds into your garden. This activity promotes fine motor skills in nursery and early years school children as well as enhancing their knowledge of the range and diversity of birds. What birds can they see? Can they draw them?

The RSPB website have a fantastic bird identification sheet to download. Just click here to view. To create your bird feeder, you will need:

  1. A plastic bottle (juice bottle, milk carton etc)

  2. String

  3. One or two sticks

  4. Bird seed

  5. Scissors

What to do:

  1. Carefully cut a hole in the side of the plastic bottle, this should be as tall and wide as the birds you are looking to attract.

  2. Snip 2 small holes in either side of the bottle, opposite one another, to allow a perch to be created. (You could also choose to replicate this and have 4 holes, allowing for two perches).

  3. Push a sturdy stick through the small holes in the bottle.

  4. Add wild bird seed to the bottom of the feeder.

  5. Tie string around the bottle lid and knot to allow you to hang the bottle from a tree in your garden.

  6. Sit back and watch the gardens come along and feast on the bird seed!

Big Garden Birdwatch – 29-31 January (Ideal for children aged 4 - 11 +) Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch from 29 – 31 January 2021. This is a UK wide survey that allows information to be gathered about the volume and species of birds habituating in the UK. All you need to do is take an hour out and watch how many birds visit your garden . Find out more here You could also let you children explore the long list of RSPB activities inspired by wildlife, nature and sustainability here. How old is that tree? (Ideal for children aged 7 +) Did you know that the girth/circumference of a tree can be used to estimate its age? Large trees, such as conifers, form a growth ring each year and therefore gradually increase in circumference size as it grows older. All trees grow at different rates but on average a tree's girth will grow 2.5cm per year.

This activity promotes counting and simple calculations as well as problem solving. . What you’ll need:

  1. Measuring tape(s)

  2. Calculator

  3. Paper and pencil

  4. Camera

What to do:

  1. Measure around the trunk of a tree, about 1.3 - 1.5 metres from the ground, as this is assumed to be at the centre of the trunk. If swellings are evident at 1.3 - 1.5 metres then you are best to measure around the stem at various points below this.

  2. Record the measurement in centimetres

  3. Divide the girth of the tree by 2.5 to provide an age and record this on your paper.

  4. Take a photo of you next to each tree and then organise in order of tree age, that way you should be able to notice the size differences.

Sensory Scavenger Hunt (Ideal for children aged 3 +) Looking for something to entertain the whole family whilst also getting outdoors for some daily exercise? This sensory scavenger hunt is ideal for occupying toddlers and school-age children. This activity focuses on sensory learning whilst also encouraging children to explore their surroundings and record what they found!

What you’ll need:

  1. Download our Scavenger Hunt worksheet

  2. Pencils

  3. Camera

  4. Bag

What to do:

  1. Find answers to the questions noted on page 1 of the worksheet

  2. Draw the items you record for each activity on page 2 of the worksheet

  3. Collect some of the materials you record and pop in your bag to do some arts and crafts at home (ie. sticks, bark, stones, leaves etc)

  4. You can also take pictures of each of the items found and then upload them to your online schooling forum.

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Worksheet
Download PDF • 1.05MB

Floral Pancake Art (Ideal for children aged 7 +) With Pancake Day coming up on Tuesday 16th February, this activity is ideal for getting the kids cooking creatively. This activity aids independence whilst also growing confidence in the kitchen. Pancake Recipe:

175 grams of self-raising flour 1 tsp of baking powder 40 grams of caster sugar 1 egg

200ml of milk Place the flour baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Crack the egg into this well and half of the milk before whisking into a smooth, thick batter. Keep adding milk to create the batter consistency you are after.

Heat a large frying pan or pancake griddle and grease with a little butter. Design your floral pancake and turn it over once bubbles appear in the mixture. Cook for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute before removing from the pan/griddle.

What you’ll need:

1. Ingredients listed in the recipe above

2. Pancake griddle or pan

3. Piping bag or plastic squeeze bottle

What to do:

1. Start by making a batch of pancake batter

2. Spoon some of the batter into a piping bag or plastic squeeze bottle

3. Start with drawing the centre of a flower, to accentuate pollen, do this by forming a series of dots to create a circle. Remember to pause between dots to create more definition.

4. Draw one petal and fill the space with batter. Repeat five times around the center circle.

5. Draw a stem for the flower and add a leaf to this.

6. Flip over and see your design come to life.

Let’s talk about bees (Suitable for 4 – 11+) Did you know that there are over 270 species of bees in the UK? These can be split into three categories; Honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees. Visit The Bumblebee Conservation Trust website to explore a myriad of facts and activities suitable for all ages of children.

We hope these activities inspire you and the kids to get out into your gardens and explore. There’s much to see and experience at any time of year. Stay safe and enjoy your garden!

When it’s warmer, come and see us at The Scottish Garden Show, a family-friendly event for garden lovers of all ages, from May 29-31 at the historic Scone Palace in the heart of Perthshire. For tickets visit

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