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Outdoor Playgrounds

Woods offer one of the world’s most wonderful playgrounds. They are full of opportunities for children to explore, roam and grow. And being outdoors together allows families to create precious memories.

Who can forget the wild eyed wonderment on a child’s face as they pick up a stone and see a myriad of insects scurry away? Or the sound of laughter as a wiggly worm tickles a hand?

Who hasn’t loved jumping in puddles or scuffling through a carpet of golden autumnal leaves?

Being outdoors stimulates the senses and the Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives initiative really helps to inspire curiosity and fire up the imagination.

There’s never been a better time to nurture a love of nature in your little ones. A recent survey commissioned by the Trust and carried out by YouGov revealed nine-year-olds are more likely to identify Britain’s most iconic trees such as the oak and holly than people in their twenties. It’s only by children getting up close and personal with nature that brings that knowledge and maybe even a passion they will carry with them into adulthood.

Credit Jill Jennings Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust wants children, no matter where they are, to start enjoying the benefits of woods more regularly and often this is about making their visits fun. By visiting the Nature Detectives website parents can download a wealth of free age-appropriate activities, all aimed at encouraging and enabling children to love, value and engage with the environment.

Nature Detectives resources are exciting, engaging and appeal to children and adults alike, from den building and woodland art, to getting muddy and wildlife spotting. There is a wealth of information to access online with an emphasis on fun and learning in the great outdoors. Parents can search for things to do by age, season, topic or type and download all the inspiration they need to make a really memorable day out.

And the beauty of many of the activities on offer is that you don’t need to go to a wood to do them. Many can be carried out in any green space, whether that’s a local park or the bottom of your garden. There’s also plenty of indoor activities to keep young minds stimulated on those wet weather days.

Here’s just a few to choose from:

Butterfly Footprints

For the youngest explorers aged 0-2, why not paint their feet with bright colours and make a butterfly using the downloadable template. Layer the footprints in different colours – the more the better. Every new beautiful picture is totally unique to your little one and you could create a new print every month and watch your family of butterflies grow.  Cut them out and stick them together to make their very own butterfly garden.

Autumn Shaker

An autumn shaker is great for the little ones. All you need is a plastic bottle, acorns, conkers and beech nuts, and rhythm! This is a fantastic sensory activity for tiny Nature Detectives. Shake the bottle or roll it along the floor – but take care they don’t put anything in their mouths!

Build a Giant Nest

Credit Jill Jennings Woodland Trust

For older adventurers aged 3-5 try building a giant nest. Birds put a lot of effort into making nests that are strong and comfortable for their chicks. See how comfy you can make yours. First find a nice flat patch of ground on the woodland floor. Stack sticks in a circle taking care to overlap them as you build up the sides, then fill the middle with soft things like grass, feathers, moss and fallen leaves. How comfy can you make it and how many of you can fit in it?

You could then make a memento of your day out by taking some of your sticks and leaves home to make a mobile. Using a needle carefully thread string or strong cotton through a leaf then tie it to your sticks. Cross the sticks over in the middle then tie together. Your mobile can be as big or small as you like. Try using leaves that are different shapes, colours and sizes. You could paint your sticks for an extra splash of colour before hanging it up for the family to admire.

If you’re inspired to get outdoors and explore a new world visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives to find your next adventure. You might even be inspired to join the Woodland Trust. When you become members you’ll help the Trust care for the UK’s trees and woods, and the animals, birds and minibeasts that rely on them. You’ll get a fantastic welcome pack plus your children will get their own exciting post – activity packs every season, full of ideas to help them explore our amazing natural world.

Main image: Credit Michael Hefferman Woodland Trust