Gardening with children: 4 simple ways to help our winter wildlife

Getting outdoors and gardening with your children could be the perfect way to spend the coming months. Here, Lisa Lyons from home and garden storage suppliers Plastic Box Shop shares the ways you and your little ones can help out your local wildlife this winter. 

Since 1970, the UK has seen a 60% loss in some of its most important species, which includes many birds, mammals, and insects, according to the State of Nature 2019 report. So, we all need to do our bit to help protect our environment, especially over the winter when colder weather can be harsh for many animals. No matter what size your outdoor space is, you can easily incorporate a few little features to help your local winter wildlife. 

As an added bonus, spending time gardening with your children can do wonders for their wellbeing. Four out of five children have stated that they felt more confident after being outdoors, according to a survey conducted by UCL and The Wildlife Trusts. It’s also a great way to teach them about the importance of protecting our environment. If gardening with your children sounds like the perfect winter activity for your family, just follow my tips below to get started on your wildlife saving journey. 

Build an insect shelter

Creepy crawlies, like worms, spiders, slugs, and snails, are very important for keeping our gardens in good condition, and they also provide plenty of food for birds, so it’s important that we look after them and do our bit to help boost their numbers. One way you can do this is by building a bug hotel in your garden using an old box placed on its side. Your bug hotel will be outside all year round, so it will need to be waterproof. Clear plastic boxes are an ideal choice, as they’ll withstand the British weather, and your little ones can watch their bug ecosystem grow without disturbing it. 

Next, you’ll need to gather some items to fill your bug hotel with. Ask your kids to forage around the garden looking for leaves, twigs, and pinecones and fill some cardboard tubes with whatever they find. If you can’t get your hands on any cardboard tubes, you can also use plastic bottles with their tops and bottoms removed. Then, simply place them in your bug hotel and wait for some little residents to move in!

Help the hedgehogs

As of this summer, hedgehogs are now considered at risk of extinction, according to data compiled in the Mammal Society’s Red List for British Mammals. Over the winter months, hedgehogs hibernate to conserve their energy, so they need a warm place to snuggle down in. By gardening with your children, you can help to create a cosy hedgehog house underneath shrubs or bushes for them to live in. 

To keep them protected from the wet and cold, you can use a plastic box tipped onto its lid. Cut out a small entry hole and fill it with various foliage. To keep away any predators, you can cut the bottom off a plant pot and place it in the entrance to create a tunnel which will help keep your little friends safe. 

Hedgehogs need to eat as much as they can before winter, so, if you notice one roaming around your garden before going into hibernation, you can leave out some dog food and fresh water in shallow bowls. 

Protect the birds

Here in the UK, we have a wide array of winter birds, such as robins, blue tits, and goldfinches, that stick around rather than migrating. In the colder months, their food sources tend to dry up, so it’s common to see these birds in your garden foraging for something to eat. To help this winter wildlife, your little ones can put out birdseed, fat balls, and nuts (which are a great source of food for squirrels too) as well as a bowl of fresh water for birds to drink and bathe in. Try to use bowls that are suitable for outdoor use, such as those made from plastic or bamboo, as these are less likely to break if they fall over. You could even make it a competition to see how many different bird species your children can find during the winter!

Break up any ice

If you have a pond in your garden, you might also have a few fish or some frogs hibernating at the bottom. When your pond freezes over, it can stop fresh oxygen from entering the water, and toxic gasses can soon build up below the surface which can be dangerous to wildlife. Ice can also prevent birds and other animals from taking a drink, so it’s important that you break it up, or at least create a hole. 

You can do this by gently placing a pan of boiled water over the surface of the ice while it melts, making sure your little ones stay well back. Try to avoid pouring boiling water into the pond or forcefully breaking up the ice, as this could harm any creatures living below. 

If you’d like to be fully prepared, place a ball in your pond at the beginning of winter. As it bobs around the surface, it’ll help stop the water freezing over.

By enlisting some little helpers and getting busy in the garden, you can help your local winter wildlife. Just follow the steps above and remember to have fun!

We hope these tips have given you everything you need to get gardening with your children and save your local birds, insects, and animals. For other ways to keep your children entertained this winter, take a look at our range of LOGICO educational toys and games.

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