It’s half term, so I’ve run away. Don’t get me wrong – I have taken the children with me (social services might have had words otherwise). However, I am a wimp and I’ve done my usual trick of bolting to my parents when faced with a week of uninterrupted childcare.
There is also the added attraction of a huge garden for Ava and Oscar to run wild in. This does though include a moat, which is what I call a water feature with serious safety issues, especially given Oscar’s dubious sense of balance. The result is, whenever the kids decide to go out, I have to don wellies and coat and join them.
After countless games of hide-and-seek – where I have to hide, yet still be able to watch Oscar and large bodies of water – I thought we should try something a little different. So today, before lunch, we went bark rubbing.
Ava and Oscar bark rubbing
It’s such a simple thing to do – you only need crayons and paper – yet my 5 and 3-year-old were surprisingly taken with the whole exercise.
We also made sure we identified the trees as we went. As well as noticing the difference in bark – from a relatively smooth beech to the fissures of an oak and the white of a silver birch – I pointed out the variety of bud shapes and the children looked for more clues on the floor such as the walnut shells, acorns and the very distinctive oak leaves.
We are going to paste the rubbings into the children’s garden journals this afternoon, but not before we test their grandpa on his bark identification.
You could also cut the pieces of paper into leaf shapes and make a tree collage from the various bark rubbings or even use them to start your own tree guide.
OK, so it’s now slush, not snow, but with temperatures barely above freezing, neither I nor the kids fancied braving outdoor pursuits yesterday. Instead, I invested £2 for at least 45 minutes of non-Cbeebies-based garden fun. Plus, I had two garden journals to show for it – I think even my visiting mother-in-law was impressed…
Here’s the recipe:
Children's garden journals
Take one scrapbook per child (about £1 each from almost any stationery shop) and cover it with some wrapping paper – it personalises the journal and if it’s flowery, green or in any way garden-related, all the better.
Let them design a front cover picture, or for the very youngest, why not write out their name and garden journal title in big letters they can colour.
Begin the journal… Let your own children lead the way, and for your own sanity, don’t worry about how it looks (this is not for a parents’ evening display). However, it’s worth giving them a few ideas and options to see what piques their interest. So how about:-
- Plants they would like to grow – I gave my two a big pile of old gardening magazines and let them loose with the scissors. Ava plumped for a Magnolia flower (and was slightly shocked to find it comes attached to a tree), Oscar went for more food based options with apples, tomatoes and, rather ambitiously, peaches
- Pictures – let them draw their ideal garden or favourite garden feature
- Seed packets – when you plant seeds, let them paste in the empty packets and perhaps make notes of what was planted when and also dates of harvesting
- Photographs – with digital cameras, it’s very easy to let children take their own garden shots as you can weed out all those random, unidentifiable pictures without having to pay huge printing costs
- Bark rubbings – a great one for the bleak winter
Cutting images out of old magazines
- Pressed flowers – use some sheets of paper between heavy books if you haven’t a custom made flower press
- Animal spots – find (or take) pictures of visitors to your garden, or draw the shape of animal tracks you have seen
- Leaf identification – pick as many different leaves as possible and stick into the journal (best to do this after pressing and drying between sheets of newspaper for a few days) – and for older children you can try to identify them from a book or website
- Natural colour – find as many different colours occurring in the garden – you can gather these outside with double sided sticky tape on a collecting card and then paste this into the journal. Repeating the activity in different seasons will show you how the colours in your garden change.