Month: March 2016

Get outside! Get Muddy! Have Fun!

I was lucky as a child I got to spend as much time out of doors as I wanted. I could roam through fields, play down at the stream. There was noting to stop me and only the wonder of nature to guide me. In recent months, there has been an increasing amount of research published that is showing worrying trends on the amount of time children are spending out of doors. In a recent Guardian newspaper article, it was reported that children are spending less time outside than prisoners:

“The new survey questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 parents of 5-12 year olds and found 74% of children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day. UN guidelines for prisoners require ‘at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily‘”.

What is more the research has shown 18% of children spent no time outdoors on an average day!

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So in 2016, what stops children getting outside? An article in the British newspaper The Express reports on the reasons parents give for not allowing their children outdoors, including the weather, lack of time and the fact that the children just wanted to stay inside. From my perspective as a parent I know that each of these are valid points. It rains a lot in Ireland, but we have have waterproof coats and trousers and have been known to go for walks in the rain.Often my children won’t go out unless there is an adult that will go out with them, so I need to make time. But the thing is once the children are out there they just need to know I am near, they don’t need me to play with them, I can be getting on with some gardening while they are taking their imaginary dogs for a walk (that was what they were doing today!). And yes, children like nothing better than sitting on the sofa having screen time, but what is that doing for them? So we try and just have half an hour screen time a day. It doesn’t always work, but most of the time it does.

According to the Huffington Post, who were reporting on a study commissioned by UK’s Eco Attractions Group, there are children who have never had a picnic in their back garden, never built a sandcastle or jumped in a muddy puddle. I would say that these are activities that should not only be enjoyed by every child but also by every adult. So as a parent or guardian of a child, why not get out there with your kids. Have a picnic, go for a walk, buy some Wellington boots and a raincoat and have some fun in the rain.

Research shows that outdoor play is essential for childrens’ development and it makes them happier and calmer. Being outside helps children learn to explore, it allows them to use their imagination without the aid of modern electronic gadgets. As parents it is time we allowed our children to get muddy, let them make mud piles, let them get their hands dirty, let them feel the soil and grass on their hands, and even let them climb a tree – all this connects them with nature. Who cares if they get dirty – that is why we have baths and washing machines!

 

Further reading:

The Wild Network – This is a network of  people and organisations with a collective vision to re-wild childhood, increase time outside and help children thrive in the 21st century.

Last Child in the Wood a book by Richard Louv

Dirt is Good a campaign by Persil to get more kids outdoors

 

 

 

 

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Green-Schools – Biodiversity

Green-Schools, known internationally as Eco-Schools, is an international environmental education programme, environmental management system and award scheme that promotes and acknowledges long-term, whole school action for the environment. Biodiversity is the fifth theme of the Green-Schools programme.

I am on our local school’s green school committee (Eco-schools) and we have started working toward the school’s biodiversity green flag. I love working with the children they are so enthusiastic and full of ideas.

One of our first tasks as a committee was to map our school grounds. The school is situated in a small village so is lucky to be surrounded by green fields, and hedgerows. There is even a stream just over the school fence.

A couple of weeks ago we spent the afternoon making bird and bat boxes with 1st and 2nd class. My husband had a busy week cutting out the wood and drilling holes so that all the kids had to do on the day was assemble the boxes and hammer them together. It was noisy but the kids had great fun and no one hammered their fingers! The boxes will be placed in the school grounds to encourage birds and bats to use it more.

 

Last Friday we are started an after school’s gardening club. I hope to keep everyone up to date with our progress here.

RESOURCES

Bird box plans

Bat Box plans

 

 

Frogs

Here in Ireland it’s the time of year to talk about frogs. Two weeks ago I noticed the first frog spawn in a local drain and today I counted 38 frogs in our garden pond!

Frogs are amphibians. In Ireland, we only have three amphibians; one species of frog (the Common Frog) and one species of toad (The Natterjack toad, only found in Kerry) and one species of newt (Smooth newt).

Amphibians need watCommon froger to breed but spend most of their time on land. They eat slugs as well as other insects so are a great addition to any garden.

Each clump of spawn you see is from one female – so if you count the clumps you can estimate how many females have been visiting your pond. Frogs will travel up to half a mile to get to a water source to spawn.

How long the spawn takes to hatch into tadpoles depends on the temperature of the water. The warmer the water the quicker the tadpoles hatch.

Check out any ponds or drains near you and see if you can see any spawn. Remember frogs (and their spawn) are protected under Irish law. If you are a school teacher follow this link to the National Parks and Widlife Service and see how you can get a license to collect spawn for classroom learning.

Common frog

Common frog

 

 

Activities:

Common frog colouring sheet from Froglife UK

Craft – Make a pebble frog from Froglife UK

For lots of fun easy activities for young kids check out www.activityvillage.co.uk/frog-worksheets

 

Resources:

Frog life cycle sheet

Irish Peatland Conservation Council have a detailed page on frogs if you want to learn more