Tag Archive for: nature

Bird Feeder Making Activity for Kids

There are many types of bird feeders that children can enjoy making at home.As promised in our recent posts ‘How to Attract Garden Wildlife – for Under-5s’ and ‘Bee-Friendly Flower Growing for Kids’, we follow up today with a guide to bird feeders that children can enjoy making at home. It’s a creative and educational activity that children of all ages will enjoy. And, With the right location and bird food, the home-made bird feeders are sure to attract a multitude of beautiful birds to the garden for the children to enjoy and learn from.

With any of these feeders, though, don’t expect birds to come right away. They’ll be suspicious of anything new in the garden for a while, so children need to be patient while the birds learn to trust the new addition. Once they have accepted it, though, they’ll come again and again if suitable food continues to be supplied.

Apple Feeders

Starting with the most simple bird feeder of all, children can make an apple bird feeder.Starting with the most simple bird feeder of all, children can make an apple bird feeder. All they need is an apple and something to hold it. So, a piece of string threaded through it would be one easy solution for a hanging apple feeder (an adult may need to supervise for safety reasons). Another would be to spear the apple onto a vertical stick (see example photo), bamboo cane or even a suitably angled tree branch/twig. Again, adult supervision would be wise so the child does not hurt itself. Try peeling off some of the skin to show the apple flesh and this may encourage birds to have a peck. Apple feeders may be particularly popular with blackbirds.

Pine Cone Feeders

Pine cone bird feeders are easy and fun for children to make.These are easy and fun for children to make. All they need is a suitable pine cone that’s ‘opened’, some bird seed and either peanut butter, suet or lard.* Children simply need to paste the peanut butter, suet or lard into the spaces between the pine cone scales, then roll the entire thing in bird seed, which will stick, and suspend the new feeder by string. Easy!

If no pine cone is available, the same approach can be used but using a chunk or thick slice of bread instead of the pine cone. However, we do not recommend it as bread will go mouldy if left outside for more than a day or two, and this can harm or even kill birds.

Suet* Flower Pot Seed Cakes

Suet or lard can also be used to make flower pot seed cakes.Suet* or lard* can also be used to make flower pot seed cakes. However, this will require the help of an adult because it will need to be melted on the hot stove before being mixed with bird seed. While still molten, it can be poured into flower pots or used yoghurt pots, where it will set solid, once cool. Children can take over only once it’s safe to do so. A piece of string can be then used to thread through and hang the seed flower pot or yoghurt pot in a suitable place to attract birds.

*Peanut Butter, Suet & Lard — Important Note

*If using peanut butter, ensure it’s fresh, salt-, sugar- and flavouring-free (or use a good brand of peanut butter made especially for birds). Both smooth and crunchy are suitable but smooth is a little safer for baby birds during breeding season.

With regard to suet, use only proper beef suet, from cows. It should be hard, not imprint if squeezed but instead crumble when handled. Avoid fake suets as they are not safe for birds.

If using lard, ensure it’s pure lard, is hard at room temperature and remains solid when it’s even warmer — otherwise it may simply melt on hot, sunny days, and this can be a bio hazard for birds. Like suet, pure lard should also not imprint when squeezed.

Plastic Bottle Feeders

Plastic bottle feeders are amongst the most adaptable of home-made bird feeders.These are amongst the most adaptable of home-made bird feeders. As the photographs on this article show, they can be hung vertically or horizontally, depending on the way they’ve been adapted. They can also be used to house bird seed/food or drinking water. Birds do need fresh drinking water and, by the way, will often appreciate spring water more than tap water in areas where there is more chemical in the latter. Take a look at the photos to see what’s possible with recycled water bottles — children can get quite inventive!

Milk/Juice Carton Feeders

Bird feeders can be great fun when made from used juice or milk cartons.Bird feeders can be great fun when made from used juice or milk cartons. As the example shows, a few simple cuts (with adult supervision) are all that’s needed to form landing stages where birds can land in order to get to the seeds inside. String for hanging can be trapped at the top by using the screw-on lid, or using a hole made carefully/safely in the centre of the lid. Simple! What makes carton bird feeders extra fun is the fact that they can be painted by children. This will stimulate their creativity as well as making the feeders attractive — or even camouflaged.

Monkey Nut Feeders

Another very simple type of bird feeder that children can make is a hanging monkey nut feeder.Another very simple type of bird feeder that children can make is a hanging monkey nut feeder. All children (or a supervising adult) need to do is to thread string through part of the outer husk of each monkey nut, forming a chain of nuts. This can then be strung between the branches of a tree or other suitable place. Birds including tits will easily peck through the outer husk to get to the nuts inside. Squirrels may also visit!

Please note that monkey nuts (peanuts that are in their outer cases) should be unroasted. Before serving them to birds, an adult should break a few open to ensure that there is no fungus between the outer case and the nut itself. The fungus called aflatoxin is harmful to both birds and children as it’s a carcinogen (i.e. causes cancer).

Choosing Your Bird Food

Choosing the right bird food is critically important for the success of bird feeders.Choosing the right bird food is critically important for the success of bird feeders. There are many types of seed to choose from and different seeds will appeal to different bird species. However, to get started, we found that children can’t go wrong with just two or three key bird foods:

Sunflower hearts and/or mild cheddar cheese, each of which are easily and inexpensively available from supermarkets and online. These are extremely popular, especially amongst robins, various tits, sparrows, dunnocks, nuthatches, woodpeckers blackbirds, starlings and thrushes.

If going with cheese ensure it’s grated or chopped into tiny pieces that small birds will be able to easily swallow. Also ensure it’s fresh and has not got any mould on it (this can be dangerous to birds).

Robin Peanut Cakes‘ are also a huge hit with the same feathered friends, especially robins plus the addition of long-tailed tits, which are perhaps amongst the cutest of all UK birds — they are adorable! Robin Peanut Cakes are available from the physical and online shops of The National Trust, Ocado, Morrisons and many others, including Amazon.

Bread should ideally be a last resort (it’s not actually that good for birds) or, if used, it must be fresh, mould-free, torn up into tiny pieces and never left to rot. So, little and often is better than putting out a large amount all in one go when feeding birds bread, otherwise it can quickly go mouldy and harm the birds.

Locating Bird Feeders

To protect from attack from above by birds of prey, bird feeders should be located ideally under some kind of ‘overhang’.Children and adults should look for a safe and suitable place to site their newly-made bird feeders. To protect from cats and other ground-level predators, bird feeders should be at least 1.5 metres above ground level, while remaining low enough to allow for easy refilling. To protect from attack from above by birds of prey, bird feeders should be located ideally under some kind of ‘overhang’. For example, under the branches or canopy of a mature tree, or below protruding eves of a house or building. Children may well find that the bird feeders are more popular if these rules are followed.

Hygiene for Birds

Woodpeckers love sunflower seed hearts.For birds, the bird feeders will need to be cleaned regularly so that disease is not spread throughout the bird populations. The RSPB has some useful guidelines here.

Bird drinking water should also be regularly changed and any vessel holding it also cleaned from time to time. Whether near drinking water or food, bird droppings are a particular hazard for birds, as these can spread disease and parasites.

Hygiene & Safety for Children

For children, particularly the very young, an adult should supervise the feeder-making activities, cleanliness around the bird feeders and even hygiene around bird food.

Adults may need to step in during the feeder-making process itself if materials need to be cut or punctured with scissors or a knife. These are especially hazardous for the youngest children who are not yet fully dextrous or good with hand-eye coordination.

After touching or cleaning used or dirty bird feeders, children should wash hands with soap and water or, better still, wear rubber gloves during the process. Any cleaning of feeders should ideally be done outside and any handling of cleaning chemicals (see RSPB link above) should be done by the supervising adult, not the child.

Last but not least, nuts are a known allergen to an unlucky few. Avoid them unless you know for certain that your child is not allergic to them.

Nature is So Good for Children

Long-tailed tits love sunflower seed hearts too. They're incredibly cute!Children learn a huge amount and benefit enormously from nature, particularly the very young, so making bird feeders to attract wild birds is a very worthwhile activity. It also supports several aspects of the EYFS curriculum, including understanding the world, nurturing creativity and much more. What’s more, it need not cost much, if any money to accomplish and will also help our feathered friends, particularly during months when there is precious little natural food around for them.

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Or perhaps you need high quality childcare near Harlesden, Willesden Green or Kensal Green.

Treetops - an outstanding nursery & pre-school in Willesden, near Willesden Green, Kensal Green & Harlesden.We are Treetops Nursery, one of the best nurseries and pre-schools in Willesden, and also near to Willesden Green, Kensal Green, Harlesden and London NW10. We’re independently rated by Ofsted as a Good early years provider in every category, so you know your baby or child under five will be in safe and capable hands. To register your child for a nursery/pre-school place, arrange a tour of the setting or find answers to any questions you may have, please contact us:

Bee-Friendly Flower Growing for Kids

Easy flower-growing activity for children, to attract bees and other friendly insects to the garden.Today, we follow up last month’s wildlife attracting guide for Under-5s with another, more specific, activity for children to undertake outdoors. This time, we outline easy-to-accomplish flower growing activities that children can enjoy, to attract bees and other friendly insects to the garden. While flowering plants can be purchased commercially ready-grown, we’ll concentrate today on ways children can grow wildlife-friendly flowers themselves, from seed. After all, it’s far cheaper, much more fun as an activity, teaches children more about nature and will also give them a greater sense of achievement. If it all goes well, the result will be some pretty flowers to brighten the place up as well as a host of charming and beautiful little creatures visiting. Children may get to see different types of bee perhaps along with butterflies, hover flies, ladybirds and probably many more wonderful creatures that might otherwise never have visited. Children will generally find flowers, bees and butterflies not only beautiful to look at, but also fascinating once they really start to look closely. After all, what’s not to love about stunning flowers and the cute, colourful pollinators that will visit them!

Sourcing Bee-Friendly Seeds

Forget-me-nots, poppies, sunflowers, sedum, buddleia, nasturtium, daisies, cornflower, cosmos and calendula are easy seeds for children to grow.Parents/guardians of under-fives will need to supervise which seeds to buy — or to harvest free of charge at the end of a previous season. If purchased, they’re inexpensive with seed packets typically costing as little as £1.99 from places like Suttons, garden centres and even online from some supermarkets. Look out for seeds that are marked as suitable for growing bee-friendly and/or butterfly-friendly flowers, or are simply suitable for pollinators. Typical examples include seeds for poppies, sunflowers, forget-me-nots, sedum, buddleia, nasturtium, daisies, cornflower, cosmos and calendula. Even herbs will grow fragrant flowers that’ll attract pollinators if you allow them to grow to maturity. Good examples include mint, basil and thyme, any of which would serve a secondary purpose of being useful to eat — another useful and educational benefit of this activity for young children.

Even easier are seed packets that contain mixed wildflower seeds. As the name suggests, these contain a real mix, resulting in multi-coloured flowers that’ll liven up flower pots, balconies or garden beds and attract a multitude of different pollinator visitors.

Fun-to-Grow Seeds Just for Children

Hover flies are delightful, friendly and peaceful little creatures that may also visit children's flowers.Suttons and other seed suppliers even offer whole ranges of bee-friendly flower seeds just for children. These include a ‘Bug Magnet’ flower seed kit for kids containing Calendula daisy seeds, 8 bug stickers and even a magnifying glass for closer inspection of the visiting bees, butterflies and insects. The price of that example is only £2.49 (price correct at time of writing — even cheaper if you’re a member). Sainsbury’s offers something completely different with their Bee-Friendly Flower Bomb Kits for little ones. Timing of this post is perfect too, as all these seeds can be sown during March, April and May, with flowers appearing anywhere from March to the end of September.

Sowing the Seeds

Children can simply scatter seeds (spaced out as per instructions on seed packets) onto some soft, weed-free soil.Commercially-supplied seeds will usually have instructions for sowing on the packets, so these can be followed easily. Generally speaking, though, there are a couple of main ways to sow flower seeds:

  1. The easiest way is for children to simply scatter seeds (spaced out according to individual instructions) onto some soft soil that’s been pre-prepared so it’s free of weeds. That might be, for example, in a flower bed, window box or in flower pots. The seeds can then be covered by a thin covering of sieved soil or compost and then slightly firmed down.
  2. Alternatively, children can sow the seeds in seed trays, flower pots, used yoghurt or margarine cartons or similar, Children can sow the seeds in seed trays, flower pots, used yoghurt or margarine cartons.so long as whatever they use has drainage holes at the bottom (adults may need to supervise that part, for safety reasons). Drip trays will be needed underneath if this part is initially housed indoors. The earth used can be soil brought in from the outdoors or, of course, compost (suitable for seedlings and ideally peat-free as it’s better for the planet). Using this approach instead of the outdoor scattering approach will allow children to manually space out individual seeds more easily, once they’ve actually sprouted.

Either way, the soil should be kept moist over coming days/weeks, so children should check on progress daily.

Safety Notice

Read the seed packet because some seeds can be poisonous. Therefore, this activity should be undertaken only with the close supervision of a responsible adult. Children will need to be closely monitored when handling seeds and earth, and will need to take appropriate safety precautions, for example keeping hands away from the mouth and eyes and washing their hands with soap and water afterwards.

Along with regular watering, a suitable organic liquid feed will help to bring on some types of seedlings. However, as some liquid feeds can be poisonous, handling of it is best left to a supervising adult.

Soil should be watered regularly so it remains moist.After about ten days to two weeks or so, seedlings should start to appear through the soil. Once they start to grow significantly, it may be necessary for children to ‘thin’ some of them out, by transplanting any that are cramped, so there’s only one plant every few inches. This will allow each plant to grow to a significant size in the coming weeks, free of overcrowding.

Once they’re mature, flowers should begin to appear and then it all starts to look rather beautiful. It may even be fragrant, depending on the plants chosen.

Along Come the Bees, Butterflies & More

Butterflies may also be attracted to bee-friendly flowers.Once flowers are coming through, many types of delightful pollinators will soon follow. These are likely to include various types of bee, different kinds of butterfly, hover flies, ladybirds and potentially many other pollinators.

Children Learn from Nature

Children can then have educational fun taking a closer (but careful) look at the visiting creatures and perhaps even saying ‘hello’. Actually, it’s not a bad idea to encourage children to greet the visiting pollinators in this way because it demonstrates to children that each is a little being that deserves to live safely and be given space, peace and respect. Teaching children to recognise even the smallest creatures as individuals may also help to reduce the chances of children being fearful of them. Children can have educational fun taking a closer (but careful) look at the delightful visiting creatures.After all, little pollinators are generally very harmless, hard-working creatures who just want to go about their business in peace. They are, though, completely charming when you take the time to watch them and this is too easily missed by children if they’re glued to screens or kept indoors too much. Given the opportunity, children learn and benefit so much from nature, so this activity is very worthwhile one for under-fives and, indeed, for children of any age. Learning from/about nature also supports the ‘Understanding the World‘ aspect of the EYFS curriculum, which is so incredibly important to under-fives.

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Treetops - an outstanding nursery & pre-school in Willesden, near Willesden Green, Kensal Green & Harlesden.Today’s guide was brought to you by Treetops Nursery, one of the best nurseries and pre-schools in the Willesden, Willesden Green, Kensal Green, Harlesden and NW10 areas of London. We’re independently rated by Ofsted as a Good early years provider in every category, so you know your baby, toddler or preschooler will be well looked after — and indeed will absolutely thrive — at Treetops Nursery. To register a place for your child, request a visit, ask a question or to find out more, please get in touch:

Next Time:

Next time, we’ll publish a wonderful guide to bird feeders that children can make at home.

How to Attract Garden Wildlife - for Under-5s
Nature provides the most wonderful creatures that will both fascinate and educate young children.The little creatures that nature provides are some of the most wonderful, magical things that both fascinate and educate young children. Nature is a wondrous thing, when you think about it. All the little beings and characters that crawl or dart around any wildlife-friendly garden will enrich both the garden and any onlooker. What’s more exposure to nature is known to benefit children in many different ways. With that in mind, today’s guide provides ways to make any garden more wildlife-friendly. By following the suggestions, young children can get to see more of these beautiful little visitors, many of whom may even become regulars if the conditions are right.

Attracting Mini-Beasts, Insects & Reptiles to the Garden

Mini-beasts like woodlice, centipedes, millipedes and many other bugs will love it if children leave them an undisturbed compost area to nest in. Insects and even reptiles like lizards and slow-worms may even move in. All they need is composting vegetation like rotting leaves, logs and perhaps grass cuttings that gradually break down — and they’re happy!

Hedgehog Hotels

A commercially available hedgehog hotel.Hedgehogs also love piles of leaves, so long as they’re left undisturbed and are somewhere peaceful and safe. Therefore, a pile of them under a secluded bush or underneath a shed may prove popular with them. Children can also make hedgehog hotels — or buy commercially available ones from a garden nursery or online. It’s essential that hedgehogs are able to get into the garden in the first place, though. Therefore, there needs to be a space somewhere to get in, e.g. under a garden gate and/or under one or more parts of the fence around the garden. If there are no gaps, then there is no point in putting out a hedgehog hotel.

On a side note, milk is harmful to hedgehogs, so never put it out in the garden for them.

Insect Houses & Bug Hotels

A bug/insect hotel.If children have no garden, simply attach an insect house (also known as a bug hotel) to any external wall. Alternatively, stand it firmly out of harm’s way, preferably somewhere peaceful, undisturbed and out of direct sun for most of the day. Simple insect houses and more complex bug hotels can be bought inexpensively online or from garden centres. They can also be home-made using chopped-up lengths of bamboo (or similar hollow sticks) bundled together with string. Children will need supervision for such an activity, of course, for safety. After a few weeks, children may notice that some of the hollow ‘tunnels’ are obstructed and this is likely to be insects, including solitary bees, ladybirds and some fancy types of solitary wasp, who have moved in or filled the hollow cores with pollen or nectar. They may seal entrances to overwinter or to protect eggs laid inside.

Flowers are Irresistible

Flowers, and the nectar they provide, are irresistible to bees, butterflies, hover flies and ladybirds.Flowers, and the nectar they provide, are irresistible to flying insects like wonderful bees, butterflies, hover flies and ladybirds. Many different flower types will attract such creatures and create a real buzz in the resulting flowerbed. We’ll write a separate post in due course about the types of flower that children can grow, perhaps from seed. Poppies are just one example to get children started, though. However, suffice it to say, if children grow any types of flowers, adorable creatures are likely to visit and bring real life to the garden.

Waterholes for Bees, Dragonflies & Damselflies

Children can also place small, shallow dishes or jar lids of water amongst any flowers that are growing in flowerbeds. It’s important to put a ‘landing stone’ in the middle, so that visiting bees, dragonflies and damselflies have somewhere safe to land. They’ll sit at the water’s edge and sip the water, particularly on hot, sunny days.

Sugar Water for Butterflies & Moths

Sugar water drizzled over ripe fruit will attract butterflies and moths.Similarly, butterflies and moths will enjoy a drink. However, in their case, they like some sugar dissolved into the water (a 50/50 mix is good, so the water may need to be warm during the preparation stage). Once cold, the sugar solution should be drizzled over pieces of ripe fruit like apples or oranges, which can then be placed into shallow dishes or speared onto vertical sticks. These can then go into the garden, balcony or window box — anywhere so long as they’re alongside any insect-attracting flowers.

Attracting Birds

The main way of attracting birds to the garden (or to the house if you have no garden) is through the use of the right type of bird food. They love bird seed, fat balls and even Cheddar cheese! Birds love fat balls, Cheddar cheese and sunflower hearts.The cheese is a big hit with robins, blackbirds, pigeons, doves, sparrows and dunnocks, for example, but never use blue or mouldy cheese as it could harm them. These same bird types also love sunflower ‘hearts’, the inner kernel of sunflower seeds, which can be purchased inexpensively with the weekly shop from most supermarkets or, of course, online or from garden nurseries. ‘Robin Peanut Cakes’ by the National Trust (also available from Ocado) are also a massive hit in our own garden. Long-tailed tits, woodpeckers, starlings and nuthatches all adore such foods mentioned in this section. The seed can be sprinkled on the ground (little and often is best, so the food doesn’t go off, and somewhere safe away from hiding prey). Better still, for their safety, the bird food can be placed in bird feeders attached high up to windows, walls, sheds and fences. Birds also need water to drink and to bathe in.Or place on bird tables if you have them. Ideally, though, feeders should also be protected from attack from above, by birds of prey, so under a building overhang or overhanging tree branch would suit — not too near the ground either, otherwise cats are a potential threat. We’ll follow up in due course with a separate post showing children how to build and site home-made bird feeders — they’re easy, inexpensive and fun!

Birds also need water to drink and to bathe in. So, some shallow water somewhere will prove popular once the birds have watched it for a few days and seen that it’s safe. A rock or upturned pot base placed into the shallow water will allow birds somewhere safe to land, just like we did above for the bees. Commercial bird baths would work, of course, but if budgets are limited any static, shallow vessel will do. Large pot bases are a good example. Birds do notice when things are moved, though, so wherever it’s sited, it needs to stay put, so they learn to trust it.

While we refer to ‘gardens’, any accessible outdoor space will do if no garden is available. Windowsills, patios, courtyards, balconies, shared allotments, walls for bug hotels and areas of common ground may all suit if they’re made friendly and peaceful for wildlife. Areas should be hazard-free, though, so avoid siting them anywhere that’s had weedkiller or other poisonous chemicals used.

Wildlife Will Enrich Your Child’s Life

Making wildlife-friendly gardens will enrich the lives of both the wildlife and children.Making wildlife-friendly areas will enrich the lives of both the wildlife and children — and their families. Visiting birds, mammals, insects and mini-beasts can teach children so much educationally as well as encouraging a deep respect and empathy towards nature. They can help children grow their understanding of ecological issues and possibly even lean children towards greener lifestyles as they grow up. Witnessing local wildlife in the garden can also feed into children’s creativity, encouraging them to draw, paint, take photos, build things and so on. In time, many of the delightful little visitors may indeed become regular ones that become familiar, friendly faces that come to say hello daily if conditions are right.

Outstanding Weekday Childcare in Willesden, NW10

Are you looking for the best nurseries or pre-schools in Harlesden, Willesden or Kensal Green?

Treetops - an outstanding nursery & pre-school in Willesden, near Willesden Green, Kensal Green & Harlesden.Ofsted rates Treetops Nursery as a Good in every single category. So, babies, toddlers and under-fives under our care are exceptionally well cared for. We are a nursery and pre-school offering high quality childcare in Willesden, London NW10. We’re also very near Harlesden, Kensal Green and Willesden Green so would be equally suited to those who live or work in those locations. If you’d like to register your child for a childcare place at Treetops Nursery, or would like to visit the setting to see it for yourself, we’d be delighted to welcome you and to answer any questions:

 

16 Ways Nature Benefits Children

The natural world will enrich children's lives in a myriad of natural ways.At the time of writing, spring is just around the corner and snowdrops and daffodils are already sprouting out of the ground. Soon, it’ll start to feel warmer and we’ll be more likely to venture outdoors again. With that in mind, we thought the time was perfect for a post all about the benefits of nature to children, particularly in their early years. If you’re a parent/carer and your children don’t usually get much exposure to nature, take a look at these benefits and consider encouraging them to get out more. The natural world and everything it offers will enrich their young lives in a myriad of natural ways.

1. Nature is Good for the Mind & Spirit

Nature is good for both mind & spirit.Nature is good for both mind & spirit. Many studies have shown that time spent with nature is very healthy for mental wellbeing and you only have to spend time in the Great Outdoors to know that this is true. There is something instinctively calming about spending time outdoors, surrounded by flora and fauna, and this is very beneficial for mental health, including relieving stress, anxiety and even depression.

2. Imagination Stimulation

Nature stimulates the creative mind in children. The natural world is a place of absolute wonder, when you think about it — particularly for the very young. So, spending time outdoors sets their minds working to create adventures, build, perhaps draw, create dens, collect flowers, invent games and so much more. Nature is an almost limitless source for children’s imaginations!

3. Nature Gives Children Perspective

Nature stimulates the creative mind in children.Spending time in the natural environment, surrounded by nature and everything that it brings, allows children to get a better perspective on life. Once they see the enormity of the ‘bigger picture’, small issues they may be facing will become insignificant and they will learn what’s really important and what’s not.

4. Nature Promotes Profound Thinking

Children also get to think bigger thoughts and ask bigger questions when they spend time out in nature. For example, “Where do I fit into the world?” … “What is this little creature doing?” … “What is he or she thinking?” … “How do those little seeds grow in the wild?” … “What is life?” … “How did we all get here?” … “Where does planet Earth fit into the bigger picture?” … and so on.

5. Nature Gives Children Greater Freedom

Nature allows children to feel much more free than they ever can indoors or in the confines of a playground.The natural world is vast so, with suitable adult supervision, allows children to feel much more free than they ever can indoors or in the confines of a playground. They can run around over larger areas, across different terrains and a myriad of different types of natural environment. It’s no wonder you see children putting their arms out like wings when they’re out in the natural world — they feel so free it makes them feel like they could almost fly!

6. Nature Facilitates Personal & Social Skills

The freedom and opportunities that children get from being out in nature help them to improve and build many skills. Playing and having adventures outdoors with other children will help them to improve language, social skills, self-confidence, teamwork skills, leadership skills, the ability to assess risk, responsibility, cooperation and so much more. What’s more, it also helps children to form closer bonds and friendships.

7. Nature Helps Children Focus

Children with ADHD particularly benefit from time spent out in the natural environment because it helps them to focus. Studies back this up as well as confirming that short-term memory can improve and mental energy increase for any child after a spell out in the natural world. Indeed, research shows that children’s attainment and engagement levels are higher in the classroom if they recently spent time in the natural environment.

8. Nature Improves Fitness

Nature helps children to become stronger and fitter in the most natural of ways.With the space to run around, explore, climb and build, nature helps children to become stronger and fitter in the most natural of ways. Another good thing about it is that it doesn’t even feel like they’re consciously ‘exercising’ when they’re having fun out in nature — it’s totally natural.

9. It Nurtures a Healthy Lifestyle

Time spent in the Great Outdoors as a child can often build a deep appreciation of nature, a natural tendency to keep fit, to eat a healthy diet and generally lead a healthier lifestyle as they grow older.

10. Nature Helps Improve Motor Skills

With the myriad of physical activities on offer in the natural world, children will improve both gross motor skills and fine ones without even trying. From running, jumping, balancing and coordination to finer skills like holding, fashioning, tying and hand-eye coordination, nature gives children an incredible range of opportunities to hone physical skills.

11. Nature is a Sensory Feast

Nature is an absolute feast for the senses.Nature is also an absolute feast for potentially all of the senses, giving children ample opportunity to see, touch, smell, hear and (under suitable supervision) even taste. Vestibular (movement) and proprioception (body position) senses are also amply stimulated in the Great Outdoors. Stimulation of the senses is incredibly important for children, particularly in their early years, helping in the generation of new brain pathways and syntaxes that are part of the essential building foundations of children’s lives.

12. Nature Helps Children Appreciate the Environment

Spending time in the natural world also helps children to appreciate the flora and fauna that it contains. It’s a magical world, when you think about it, and every living thing has its own specific needs. Recognising this helps children to become more environmentally conscious and to build skills like empathy, responsibility, self-control and to understand the importance of caring for others.

13. Nature Helps Children Sleep Soundly

Time spent in nature, with everything it brings, helps infants sleep more soundly at night too — and that can only be a good thing. Studies back this up.

14. Nature Supports the EYFS

Nature supports many of the goals of the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage).Nature supports many of the goals of the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage, an important framework that guides the learning and development of under-fives in England). Allowing children access to nature and the natural environment will help them with Understanding the World as they explore and discover, Physical Development as they play and move around in the outdoors, and both Communication & Language and Personal, Social & Emotional Development as they interact naturally with friends and supervising adults. That’s at least four of the 7 key areas of the EYFS.

15. Nature Improves Academic Performance

Numerous studies have concluded that the benefits of time spent in the natural environment help children to perform better academically. Improvements can even be seen in areas like reading, writing and mathematics.

16. Nature Gives Children Perspective

Spending time in the natural environment, surrounded by nature and everything that it brings, allows children to get a better perspective on life. Once they see the enormity of the ‘bigger picture’, they will learn what’s really important and, perhaps, what’s not.

Nature at Treetops Nursery, Willesden

Treetops Nursery has its own plant growing area for the children to use.The many benefits of nature are fully supported at Treetops Nursery in Willesden. Our wonderful outdoor areas even include plant-growing area and other play areas where children can enjoy the fresh air and explore natural materials and textures. The nursery/pre-school is also adjacent to the King Edward VII Park, so it feels very ‘green’ since it is surrounded by trees and natural vegetation. Roundwood Park is also only a stone’s throw away, with its flower garden, wildlife area and aviary. It’s a formal Victorian park, with English Heritage grade two listed status and holder of a Green Flag Award, for the high standard of the park and green spaces within it. Children at Treetops Nursery — and their families — therefore have easy access to nature and natural things all around.

Weekday Childcare Services in Willesden, near Kensal Green & Harlesden, NW10

Treetops - an outstanding nursery & pre-school in Willesden, near Willesden Green, Kensal Green & Harlesden.Treetops Nursery is officially a ‘good’ nursery, located in Willesden, NW10 and also close by if you are looking for nurseries or pre-schools near Harlesden, Kensal Green or Willesden Green. Please get in touch if you’d like to bring your baby or child along for a visit, apply for a nursery place or simply ask any questions you may have:

Microgreens: fun, nutritious, food growing for little ones

There are now microgreen farmsThere is one class of edible plant that can be grown all year round and is perfect for kids to grow indoors, for example on a windowsill. Some types of this food will sprout in as little as a week. What’s more, it’s tasty and highly nutritious. Growing it is super-easy and a perfect way to keep kids entertained, educated about nature and eating healthily. It’ll also be a welcome addition to mealtimes for the whole household.

Growing Microgreens

We’re talking about Microgreens (also referred to as micro leaves). These are the early, edible, sprouting leaves of very young herbs, leafy greens and some root vegetables that might usually be thought of in a larger, more mature form. The tender new leaves are cut just days after they first sprout and can be made into wonderful salads, garnishes or meal accompaniments. They also bring some very tasty flavours to mealtimes. The young micro leaves are full of vitamins and minerals, look fantastic on the plate and will grow back time and time again after snipping. The secret is simply to harvest the immature micro leaves and to stop them from growing to full size. Just harvest … re-harvest … and re-harvest.

“Micro leaves are usually eaten fresh and raw, and the fresher the leaves are, the more vitamins and minerals they contain. Each little leaf is a gold mine of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals such as iron, folic acid and potassium.” (Gardeners World)

Various microgreen leaves sproutingHere are just a few examples of plants that make suitable microgreens and can easily be grown by children indoors:

  • Basil — their tasty baby leaves are full of flavour and can be harvested just ten days after seed planting. They’re wonderful on salads, pizzas and can even be made into pesto sauce.
  • Coriander — their tiny, delicate leaves pack a unique and punchy flavour that’s perfect with salads, stir-fries, chopped onions and curries. They can be harvested a couple of weeks after sowing the seeds.
  • Rocket — ready to harvest just a week after first sowing, rocket microgreens are another flavoursome and slightly peppery leaf to add to salads and put onto pizzas. Very tasty!
  • Mustard leaves — these may not be to every child’s taste, but many adults will enjoy the slight heat they’ll bring to salads, stir fries and Eastern dishes. Ready to first harvest in 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Salad with microgreensFennel — just 10 days after first sprouting, leaves from young fennel seedlings will give a pleasant aniseed tang to dishes like pasta salads, risottos, soups and even stuffing.
  • Beetroot leaves — the sprouting microgreen leaves from the beetroot take just ten days to appear after sowing. With their rich green leaves and red stems, they look wonderful in salads and lend their mild, earthy flavour to garnishes for some fish dishes.
  • Radish leaves — in just a week, the young, fiery leaves from the radish seedlings will be ready to snip and add to salads, stir fries and sandwiches. For some, their microgreen leaves are even tastier than the traditional root.
  • Spinach — tender leaves from young spinach plants can be harvested in ten days or so. They’re really good for you too. With their mild flavour, they’re a perfect addition to leafy salads, risottos, pastas and noodles.
  • Broccoli leaves — these will be ready to first harvest in just a week and have quite a different flavour than their fully-grown counterpart. With their slightly spicy taste, they’re also great in salads, risottos and omelettes.
  • Red cabbage microgreens are packed with nutrientsRed Cabbage micro leaves have one of the highest Vitamin C concentrations of any microgreen. They also contain Vitamin K, potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants. As with many of the microgreens, many top chefs use them as an attractive and tasty garnish. They can be sprinkled over soups, salads, grilled vegetables, stews and cooked meats. After sowing, they take only days to appear.

How children can grow microgreens at home

Your children will need very little to get started. You’ll need to buy them some packet seeds, which you can get at your local garden nursery or online. If you’re unsure who to order from online, Suttons are probably the best-known supplier and seed packets there seem to start from as little as just a pound or two. You can also find mixed seed packets. (If you’re on a really tight budget, you can alternatively take a look at the excellent post about growing food virtually free of cost, by our sister nursery in Streatham).

Along with the seeds, your child will need some multi-purpose or seed and cuttings compost (peat-free is more eco-friendly) and something to sow the seeds in. If you’re going to grow the microgreens on the windowsill, you could use flower pots, slim seed trays (perhaps left over from plants or herbs you have previously bought), containers, yoghurt pots with drainage holes pierced underneath, egg cartons, or even the cardboard cores from used kitchen rolls, cut down to a suitable size. Any of these will need something to sit in, to catch any draining water, for example a saucer or seed ‘drip tray’.

Lemonbalm micro leaves sprouting in compostYour child will need to fill the chosen containers with compost, not quite to the top. Tap it to level the soil, then pat it down just a little to firm it. Some gardeners also indent the compost where the seeds will go. The seeds then need to be carefully placed or lightly sprinkled into the indented areas. It’s important that your child spaces the seeds out so there is no clumping, otherwise significant problems can occur (the crop might get diseased or even completely fail). The seeds don’t need to be covered but a light dusting of sieved compost will keep them in place while allowing light to get through. The seeds then need to be lightly watered. It’s best for your child to do this part outside, just to avoid potential mess indoors, taking care not to over-water nor to wash the seeds away. A way to water them indoors is to simply stand the vessels in some shallow water for 30 to 60 minutes, so the compost naturally draws up the moisture.

The rest is also very easy. Your child simply needs to place the potted seeds on a light windowsill and ensure that the compost is always kept damp, taking care not to over-water. Also consider a label for each pot for identification purposes, particularly if several different seed types have been planted. Some people cover the seed pots or trays with a single sheet of kitchen towel, newspaper or even cling film to keep the moisture in while the seeds initially germinate. Your child will need to check under the covering every day. The moment little shoots can be seen, the covering will need to be removed, so long as the soil is kept moist thereafter, so it never dries out. Ensure the potted plants get full light and ventilation too. Within a week or two depending on the seeds chosen, the young shoots will grow baby leaves and can then be harvested. Snip them near their bases before mature leaves start to replace the baby leaves. If you want to benefit from them for longer, snip them like this rather than pulling up their roots, so they can sprout and re-sprout time and time again.

Eat & enjoy!

A sandwich with microgreens as a garnishOnce rinsed, the tender young micro leaves can be enjoyed in meals by the whole family. They’ll add often exquisite tastes and textures to meals as well as adding much-needed vitamins and minerals to the family diet. That’s even more important for growing toddlers and preschoolers, of course. And, throughout the growing journey, the children will absolutely love seeing the new shoots grow into young plants. They will have learnt new skills, had great fun getting to know more about nature and have a real sense of achievement. Chances are, too, that they will love the taste of the micro leaves.

Treetops Nursery in Willesden

We hope you and your family enjoyed this article and will have fun growing your very own microgreens. The post was brought to you by Treetops Day Nursery in Willesden, London NW10. We are a childcare nursery and pre-school, suitable for babies from 6 months and children up to 5 years of age. We’re also convenient for parents and carers who are looking for high quality weekday childcare near Willesden Green, Harlesden, Brent, Kensal Green, Brondesbury Park, Kilburn, Mapesbury, Dollis Hill, Church End, Roundwood, College Park and Park Royal. Please do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about a possible nursery place for your child.

For further details, contact Treetops Nursery:

020 8963 1259 Book a Visit Get in Touch