Posted by TP Toys on 5th March 2015
As the calendar turns to March, meteorologists are starting to talk about the beginning of spring, which is the perfect time of year to get into the great outdoors with the children.
Despite the low temperatures, there are still plenty of signs that the seasons are turning, so why not venture into your garden, local park. woods or nearby open space to check out what's there? Just don't forget to wrap up warm.
What to look for - flowers?
One of the most obvious signs of spring are the flowers shooting up everywhere, in what will have been a rather barren landscape for the last four or five months.
The so-called 'nature detective' section of The Woodland Trust website has a series of useful 'spotter sheets' that help little ones identify the various plants, flowers, birds and wildlife about at this time of year.
Bluebells are just one of the many pretty blooms that will be out in force, as will snowdrops, elderflowers, primroses and mayflowers, to name but a few.
Why not make it into a competition and see who can identify the most, or if your child is on their own, offer them a small gift, such as some stickers, if they manage to spot, say five different varieties?
There are multiple ways of checking for the presence of animals, one of the most entertaining is to look out for their footprints, which are all unique and distinctive.
Whether it's a badger, deer, dog, duck, fox, heron, otter or squirrel's mark, they could all lead you to some interesting creatures.
Another way to spot animals is by looking out for their droppings, but obviously be careful your little ones look but don't touch.
Hearing birdsong in the morning is yet one more way to tell the seasons are changing, so why not get your child to look out for some of the most common varieties found in Britain such as blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinches, magpies, robins, starlings and wood pigeons?
Children seem to be endlessly fascinated by butterflies, so let your little one glance at a website or book with different varieties listed and then take a walk and see how many they can spot.
There are so many to look out for including the orange tip, peacock, red admiral and speckled wood, you'll be spoilt for choice.
The great thing about bugs such as woodlouse, millipedes, ants, caterpillars, beetles, worms and snails is that they can be quite hard to spot, so you can have plenty of fun searching for the little critters in the undergrowth. Lift up big logs and peer to see what's underneath. Alternatively, you could venture into the garden and get your little one to dig into the ground to see what snails and worms they can unearth.
You could then explain how they help to nourish the soil and keep gardens healthy.
If you're lucky enough to have access to a pond, maybe in your own garden or at a local park, you can take your little one to come and see the frogs that will be emerging at this time of year to lay their frogspawn.
You can explain the lifecycle of frogs to your child and you could offer them repeat visits to see them hatch, become tadpoles and eventually frogs.
Benefits of these trips
Multiple studies have shown that when people have exposure to nature they are calmer, happier and more likely to engage with one another in a positive way, so your child will benefit mentally as well as physically from regular trips outdoors.
Not only that, they are also learning about nature, the cycle of life (think about the frogspawn to frog development), and how to concentrate and identify different species, which will help them in their studies as they grow up.
A trip outdoors is also an important way to spend quality, fun time with your children, without screens to distract either you or them.