Nature Play: Tree Climbing School

Playing in Nature

Every child should be able to climb a tree, right?

Sometimes, it’s not that easy for children to try something new if they are nervous about their surroundings or aren’t physically confident.  I have a child who loves nature but no amount of gentle encouragement from me could get her trying to climb a tree. As you’ll read, if you let your child play in nature and add in some confident friends, that refusal to climb may just change!

The best thing I did last week was to let my children just be in nature rather than head off on our usual bush walk. The neighbour’s children joined us too (possibly due to all three girls loudly bellowing like a koala in the bush).  The most lovely thing happened. The boys from next door started climbing trees. Soon, everyone wanted to climb trees (even my not-so-keen-on-climbing six year old was interested).

how to climb trees

How the boys taught tree climbing

  • They were unknowingly making tree climbing look like so much fun
  • They were modeling how to climb trees
  • They were teaching the girls where to place their feet
  • They used encouraging words
  • They helped them when they needed help

The boys were natural teachers and without much prompting my three year old girls were confidently giving it all they had.

Tree Climbing Nature Play

I was completely shocked when Miss Possum gave it a go. She struggled but to my delight she kept trying. Soon, Miss Possum was trying to climb everything. It was just so wonderful to see her face once she’d finally achieved the goal of getting to the top of a tree.

How to Climb a tree

I never expected that climbing a tree would need to be taught but it was most certainly the case for Miss Possum. Had I tried to force her to climb a tree, she wouldn’t have done it.  Letting her play in nature with her friends was the perfect way to make her more confident with her natural surroundings and try something new.

I want to allow my children more time of unstructured play in the bush  to experiment with nature, make their own fun in nature and fall in love with nature. I’ll be asking the neighbor’s children to join us for more nature play too!

Have you given your children unstructured time in nature lately? Are your children confident tree climbers?

Painting Patterns using Nature

Nature Craft: Painting Patterns using Nature

We’ve made lots of lovely nature crafts lately and our crafting doesn’t cost us a lot because all our craft accessories are easily accessible outside. You’re not limited by your craft accessories either because nature can be used in a variety of ways. All you have to do is go outside for a little nature hunt.

To paint patterns, we used:

  • Paint
  • Gumnuts
  • Dried Banksia flower
  • Clumped bottlebrush seed pods
  • Casuarina seed pods

Nature Craft for kids

Paint, press and roll all your nature items to get some lovely textures and patterns on the paper.

Nature texture activities

The messier your children’s fingers,  the more lovely the patterns and textures that are created.

Nature and texture

Have you painted using nature lately?

Animal Yoga for Kids

Animal Yoga for Children

I was first introduced to animal yoga by KarmaKids Grow who came to our wildlife park to add a little extra fun to our wildlife holiday program. The children on the holiday program loved the activity  and continued to do the poses throughout the day.

My girls and I weren’t sure what to do yesterday until I suggested we go into the nature reserve, out the back of our house, and do a little animal yoga ourselves. There’s nothing like animal yoga in the bush! If you didn’t know, yoga has a lot of benefits for children:

  • It refines balance and coordination
  • It develops focus and concentration
  • It boosts self-esteem and confidence
  • It strengthens the mind-body connection

Visi Talik on Parents.com, 2014)

Also,  I think if your child participates in animal yoga it’ll probably:

  • Build and strengthen animal connections with your child too!

Our neighboring kids over heard us in the bush and wanted to join in. It was lovely!

Each child chose a pose that represented an animal.  They all took turns to close their eyes and hold the pose for as long as they could and think about the animal they’d become.

Try their animal poses:

Snake pose

Snake yoga Pose

 Owl pose

Owl Yoga

 Hedgehog pose

Hedgehog Yoga pose

 Frog pose

Frog yoga pose

Yoga for kids

Animal yoga is such  a simple and fun activity for children that you can do practically anywhere. We’ll be doing this more often for sure!

Want another animal movement activity? Try our wildlife dice. It’s a lovely extension on this activity. Have your children ever participated in yoga before? Did they like it?

Egg Candling Surprise

Egg Candling Activity

Did you know that there’s a way to check if an egg is fertile or not? It’s called egg candling and although animal keepers rarely use a candle to check the fertility of eggs these days, it’s fascinating to watch. Instead of a candle, keepers usually use a special torch that allows you to see inside the egg.  Most candling happens with bird eggs but I have been lucky enough to see fresh water crocodile eggs being candled too.

Many of us don’t have access to fertile eggs to let our children experience egg candling first hand though (including me) so I decided to create a fun activity with candling in mind. 

What you’ll need:

  • Eggs (please support free range chickens)
  • Needle or pin
  • Masking tape
  • Printable animal silhouette and quiz (below)
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Torch

How to make the candling eggs

1.   Create a small hole in the side of an egg by pushing a needle into the egg.

2.   Using the needle, work the hole into a bigger hole until you can get your finger all the way through the hole.

Easter Egg Activity

3.   Clean the egg contents out (use them in wildlife pikelets perhaps) and let it sit and dry. The inside of the egg must be dry before you do the next step.

4.   Print the animal silhouette and quiz sheet below

Egg Candling Activity


 5. Cut out an animal silhouette you’d like to use inside the egg. Use a glue stick to glue over the top of the animal silhouette cut out. You’ll be tucking the picture into the hole and sticking it to the inside of the egg.

Animal Shilouettes

5. Stick the picture inside the egg. Make sure the picture sticks to the egg quite well by smoothing it with the tips of your fingers.

6. Close the egg’s hole using some pieces of masking tape.

real egg craft

7. Paint your eggs but don’t go too heavy on the paint or it might spoil seeing the silhouette inside.

Egg Candling

8. Move the torch around to get a good light going through the egg. I found putting the torch up to the masking tape that covers the hole was the best place to shine the torch.

To play the game

For young children: Don’t use the quiz cards. Instead, let them light up the eggs  in a dark room and guess the animal inside. Then ask them these questions about the animal:

  • What does this animal eat?
  • What noise does this animal make?
  • Where does this animal live?

For Older Children: Set up a place in a dark spot. Let your child explore the eggs and use the torch to guess the animals inside.

egg candling

Then, give your child the the quiz cards and ask them to place the quiz cards with the correct animal.

Animal Quiz

As an added surprise. Why not hide a little plastic animal inside an egg for once your child has finished the activity? Kids do love cracking eggs!

Real egg surprise
Have you ever heard of candling eggs?

 

Animal Sand Play in Three Fun Ways

Animal Sand Play in Three Fun Ways

We’ve been playing with sand a lot lately and it’s been really enjoyable to watch how the girls interact with it. Sitting outside is always a must when there is sand involved (trust me!)

We took out our place mats, grabbed some of our coloured sand and created three fun ways to play. Sometimes the easiest activities are the most enjoyable to watch.  We only used these items:

  • Cookie cutters
  • A  jug (or container with a lip)
  • A paintbrush
  • Sand (you can mix it up with some easy-to-make coloured sand)
  • A place mat (to help keep the sand in one place and to help put it back into a container when play has finished)

1.   Use sand to colour in

Sand Animals

Make an outline of an animal and colour it in using different sand colours.

2. Shape cutting sand

Sand Play for kids
Don’t just use cookie cutters for making biscuits, they can be used to make cool little outlines in the sand too. We pressed them into the sand to get some lovely butterfly shapes.

3.  Sand Painting

Sand Painting

Get out your paintbrush  and paint using the sand. You can make all sorts of lovely pictures. Try to create shading using the sand, the less sand the darker it is.  Try sharp lines, flowing lines and even dots.  Who knew sand could be so versatile!?

I love activities that take only 10 minutes to prepare. It was so simple to leave all the items out and watch the girls touch and play with the sand and experiment with a range of tools that’s I’d prepared.

More Sand activities?

The Wildlife Rescue Kit for every Car!

Wildlife Rescue Kit for EVERY car

I was driving  to a friend’s place late one evening, enjoying the empty roads that night driving brings when from the corner of my eye I notice a possum running full speed toward my car. He was so close that I didn’t have time to slow down. After feeling a slight tap on the wheels I stopped my car on the side of the road. My mind was screaming “no!” and I burst into tears.

I turned the car around and used my headlights to look for the horrid scene flashing in my mind.  I searched everywhere with my headlights and then got out at what I thought was the exact location. Nothing. He was nowhere to be seen.  Not finding him was both positive, he may be fine because I just clipped him and negative, he may be wondering in the bush injured.

At that moment  I realised just how unprepared I was. I kept wishing I had a torch in my car but that’s not all I was missing. I would have needed quite a few items should I have found the possum. I regularly check animals on the side of the road  and it’s really irresponsible of me not to have had one of these packs.

Here’s a list of wildlife rescue items everyone should have in their car in case of a finding sick or injured wildlife.

Wildlife emergency kit

Wildlife Rescue Kit

Flourescent vest. There’s been a couple of sad incidents lately where someone stopped to help a wild animal and ended up in hospital themselves. Please be careful around moving traffic. A fluro vest will make sure cars can see you so that you can safety rescue the animal. I’ve just ordered this one. 

Torch.  A torch is a must because most animals are hit from dusk until dawn. It would have been much easier to search for a possum hidden in the scrub with a torch in hand.

Gloves. Gloves will help to protect yourself from an animal you may have to pick up. Any animal with a mouth can inflict an injury to you, so make sure you have these in your pack. You’ll thank me if you ever have to pick up parrot or sugar glider!

Towel. Once you find the injured animal, if it’s still mobile, you’ll need to catch it. A towel is not only another way to protect yourself from the frightened animal but it’s a good way to catch an animal too. Throw it over the animal and quickly grab it.

Pillow case. Pillow cases are an excellent way to restrain and transport small animals. Make sure you have some string or rubber bands to secure the pillow case too.

First aid Kit. Despite your best efforts to reduce the risk to yourself, wild animals can be very determined to get away by any means necessary. You may still get scratched or bitten. It’s always good to have a basic first aid kit on hand just in case. I made my own but this is a good little one to add to the kit.

Pliers. It’s always good to have these handy should an animal be stuck on an object like barbed wire etc.

Box. Boxes are another great way to secure a sick or injured animal. They can also be used to gently scoop up an animal into the box creating a good safety barrier between you and your patientA word of warning though. Make sure you secure that box VERY well. The last thing you want is an animal on the loose in your car while you’re driving them to a vet or hospital.

Important Phone number list. Rather than having to search contact numbers on your phone, have a list of the important phone number you’ll require if you do pick up a sick or injured animal. It’s so much easier just to have them on hand. I stuck mine to the box

Wildlife care

Wildlife reference books. Another helpful addition can also be a local species reference book and a caring for wildlife book too.

A few important tips before rescuing a sick or injured animal

  • Do not attempt a rescue unless you are confident that you will not be harmed and your actions will save the animal.
  • Wild animals become stressed by handling, so you should seek expert advice before handling an injured animal.
  • Never pick up snakes. Always call an expert.
  • Never touch bats. An expert, with the lyssavirus vaccination must attend this rescue. Learn more about this here.
  • Try to keep the animal calm by minimising the noise and interaction with people. Only handle if absolutely necessary.
  • Do not try to give the animal food and water. That’s the last thing the animal needs right now. It need specialised care.
  • Please don’t keep the animal and try to treat it yourself. You’re doing the animal a disservice by not handing it over to a hospital and specialised carer with the important knowledge and training.
  • Always check dead animals too, as they may have surviving young with them (e.g. in a pouch) or near them.

Want to do more for wildlife?

Learn how to become a wildlife carer for those orphaned and sick wildlife cases that come through vet and wildlife hospitals. There are never enough wildlife carers! Ask your local wildlife hospital for details on an organisation near you.

There’s plenty of wonderful wildlife carers out there with more experience on capturing and restraining wild animals than me. Did I miss anything? What else would you suggest we add to this basic wildlife rescue kit?

Ten Wildlife Art Gallery Activities

10 Wildlife Art Gallery Activities
Visiting a wildlife Art Gallery or exhibition is a wonderful way to get your children out of the house and enjoying an activity they wouldn’t usually explore. It’s another wonderful way to learn about wildlife and their habitats too.

Miss Possum enjoys drawing, painting and also loves wildlife so visiting an art gallery was a match made in heaven.  Although our visit was quick because we had three year old twins in tow, it was a really nice cultural and educational experience  for all three of them. Here’s some activity suggestions for during and after your wildlife gallery visit.

While you’re at the art gallery

1.   Talk to your child about the art gallery. Ask questions like what is an art gallery and why do people visit them?  Encourage your child to take their time looking at each picture/sculpture/image and to view the whole picture and not just the animal in the picture.

2.    Ask open-ended questions.  Asking questions will help children see, learn and understand more about each piece of artwork .e.g.

  • What animal/s are in this picture?
  • What habitat is shown behind the animal? Is this animal at the beach?
  • Look at the picture again, is there something you didn’t see before? What can you see?
  • What do you think the animal is thinking?
  • What is the mood of the painting?

3.    Get closer to the artworks. Discuss how the artist made the scales/features/fur look so real using different types of art techniques.

Wildlife Art for Children

4.    Talk to the gallery staff (perhaps they are an artist themselves). Ask the staff member  about your favourite picture in the gallery and  if they have any behind the scenes information. Did the artist  draw from a photograph? From life? From memory? What is the artist like? See if your child would like to learn more about their favourite art in the gallery too.  

5.    Discuss the different types of wildlife art. Can you see paintings, collages, sculptures, photographs?

Wildlife Art Gallery Post visit activities

6.   Create your own wildlife art at home. Trying different types of wildlife art can also teach children about wildlife. Clay lets children think about how to build the body of an animal, how it’s put together and what adaptations the animal has.

Drawing can help a child see and understand the small external features of wildlife like scales, fur, claws and whiskers. Remember you can try many types of wildlife art too. We’ve already explored drawing wildlife from an image, wildlife hand art, wildlife collage and wildlife photography.

Wildlife Art for Children

7.    Learn about an artist. Look up one of the artists you learnt about from the gallery visit and find out more about their life and why they are passionate about creating wildlife art.

8.    Watch some wildlife art You Tube clips. It can be hard for children to understand how much time goes into creating such beautiful artworks. This video clip below starts slow but it does show you how this artist uses paints and shades to  build a rhino on paper.

9.    Set up your own art gallery. Once your child (and you) have created your own wildlife art, why not display it in a room and invite family members to come and view your art exhibition.

10.    Start a wildlife art journal. Each day draw/sketch/collage animals you’ve seen in a wildlife art journal.  We documented our daily wildlife finds on a wildlife holiday last year.

wildlife exploring

Want more wildlife art ideas? Take a look at our Wildlife Craft Pinterest Board

DIY Coloured Sand in a Bottle

DIY Coloured Sand in a Bottle

We’ve been having so much fun with coloured sand lately. If you haven’t seen how easy it is to make coloured sand,  you can find the instructions here. Since seeing the man at the market making bottled sand, I couldn’t wait to let the girls experiment with patterns and colour contrasts all on their own.  My twins can be very messy, so it was nice to know they could create as much sandy mess as they liked.

Sand is such a lovely natural product to play with and so tactile too. As soon as I put the coloured sand in front of the girls, they ran their fingers through it, pinched it and even made hand prints. I put the glass jars in front of them and they started making their sand bottles right away.

Here’s what you need to make coloured Sand in a bottle:

Coloured Sand Nature Craft

It’s quite easy to make lovely patterns in the jar.  Here’s a few tips:

  • Use contrasting colours to create bold effects. Why not make a zebra themed bottle with white and black sand or a tiger with orange and white? We will be exploring more sand colours soon.
  • Lean the jar slightly on its diagonal side before adding the next coloured sand layer to get flowing diagonal lines.
  • Use the skewers to create patterns in the sand. Push the sand with the skewer down against the side of the jar to the next coloured layer to create sharp Vs in the sand. They create lovely patterns.
  • Don’t forget to make a rainbow sand bottle. My girls loved adding all the colours together.

Patterns in Sand

Once you’ve finishing making your sand bottle, tap the bottle very gently on the table to settle the sand slightly before adding more sand until it’s full. Make sure you secure the lid tightly.

Viola, beautiful coloured and patterned sand in a bottle.

Sand in a bottle

Are you going to try this activity?

Animal Dot Painting

Easy Animal Dot Painting

This is such an easy and relaxing craft to do with your children. You only need a few items, most of which are readily available around your home. I’m also a big advocate for playing and creating with nature and adding, just a stick, will bring that natural element to this simple animal craft.

What you’ll need

Easy animal dot painting steps

  1. Using a stencil, draw an animal with a black felt pen
  2. Collect a stick
  3. Dip the stick into the paint and then do some dot painting inside and outside of the felt pen lines.

Animal Painting

Your creativity is endless.

Ours turned out lovely and reminds me of beautiful Aboriginal art. Miss Possum loves this activity so much that I think she’ll be better than me in no time!

Animal Craft

Talk about the Animal 

While dotting the animal you can talk to your child about the animal:

  • What does your animal eat?
  • Where does your animal live?
  • What body covering does your animal have?

Have you been crafty lately?

How to make Coloured Sand

Make your own coloured Sand

While exploring on our camping holiday a couple of weeks ago, we found on a quaint little market. There sat a man allowing children to fill a bottle of coloured sand for a small price. I let Miss Possum make one while I kept the twins busy.  I didn’t think  he’d be impressed with the amount of mess and wasted sand the twins would have created on his table.

I felt really bad that I couldn’t provide the same opportunity for the twins so I decided to take some sand home from the beach and try to dye it myself. It would all give us the ability to explore and play with coloured sand, use it in a variety of ways (posts to come) and not worry about the mess it would create. Sand is a wonderful natural material that we haven’t really explored that much before.

Making coloured sand is actually REALLY easy!

What you’ll need:

  •  A bowl
  • Food colouring dye. I used this Queen food colouring but I’ve heard this is a good alternative outside of Australia.
  • Sand (any sand would work but white is best)
  • A tray
  • A cloth that you don’t mind coloured or destroyed. We used an old tea towel
  • Water

Easy DIY Color Sand

 How to make coloured sand

1.  Add some sand to a bowl

2. Fill the bowl with water until the sand is all wet. It shouldn’t be runny, just wet.

3. Add the food colouring to the bowl and mix until you have an even colour. You will need a good amount of food colouring. The more you add the darker your sand will be.

DIY Colouring Sand

4.  Scoop the sand out onto the tray covered in a tea towel (or what ever you’ve decided to use). The colouring does seep through the material, so if you’re using a tray that could get stained, I’d put plastic in between the tray and the material.

5. Do step 1-4 to make as many colours as you would like. We used red, blue, green and yellow but if you mix the colouring in the bowl you can get heaps of different colours and shades.

How to color sand

5. Take the tray out in the sun and let the sand dry.

6. Scoop the dry sand into separate containers.

How to make colored Sand

So easy! We have lots of activities to share in the coming weeks showing how we explored sand as a play tool. We had a lot of fun!

Coloured Sand Activities