Creating a world just waiting to be discovered.
In this day and age of the shrinking backyard, computer games and T.V we can easily forget how important it is for children to have an understanding and connection to nature. Even if you live in a unit or town house you can still create an environment full of learning and discovery.
Children do not need constant entertaining by us, or the media. Stimulation of the imagination can come from just sitting in a garden created for biodiversity and discovery. This in turn becomes and is a source of educational entertainment that will stay with your children or grandchildren for life.
Simple things like watching lizards basking in the sun catching insects, ants busy at work, bees collecting nectar and pollinating flowers while doing so, caterpillars and grasshoppers munching away, spiders building webs, all these small things can be and are intriguing to young minds. Remember the good old bug catchers, for closer observation.
Here the life cycle of the butterfly may also be observed from feeding caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Checking everyday to see if that chrysalis has hatched yet is great fun.
We also have a native beehive in an old tree stump. The bees can be watched busily coming and going all day long and on occasion there is the task of robbing the stump of some of its honey. The joy of the bees we have is they do not sting.
Create a bird – attracting garden by planting seed and or nectar bearing shrubs. Place a birdbath in a position where one can watch without disturbing and scaring the birds away. Try and learn to identify all the birds that visit your yard by their call or song.
Night watch. A lot of wildlife are nocturnal, so a night time venture outdoors with a torch can provide some interesting viewing in form of possums, fruit bats, bandicoots, owls and a lot of insects can also be active at this time.
Secret wild places to be found and created.
Large trees provide us with many benefits but for children they are places to climb and places to sit and lie under, a place to get away from the summer sun and listen to the leaves rustling in the wind. Trees are home to so many organisms it can be fun just trying find how many you can spot.
Winding pathways made of stepping – stones leading to a secret spot in the garden. Maybe it’s just a seat or a place for observation like a pond or maybe it’s a place for hidden treasures to be kept.
Ponds are a mecca of activity and once established they are their own eco system at work. Here life cycles and habitats can be observed close up. Frogs are fantastic to see go from tadpoles to adult frogs. Dragonflies will visit along with a whole entourage of other insects. Fish are also an important part of the pond eco system, feeding on mosquito larvae and keeping the water clean. It can also be a water source for birds and various other forms of wildlife.
Rocks and logs placed around the garden can also create hidden small worlds, of beetles, spiders, ants and lizards.
Perfume is one of the biggest triggers for memory. So having flowering plants that are scented throughout the garden or planted in pots is an important aspect in the enjoyment the outdoor world for children and adults a like.
There are still so many shrubs, trees and smaller plants that when they come into flower instantly have the power to transport me back in time to when I was a little as 3-4 years old. Old-fashioned freesias, Rondeltias, Rangoon creeper, Mr Lincoln roses, dark purple petunias and so on. All have a special memory of a certain place, of certain people and at a certain time in my childhood. Smell creates these special memories of carefree days spent in the garden as a child.
Flowers are important in a children’s garden, they provide colour, perfume and visual stimulation. Children love to pick flowers. Here they can also watch their favourite flowers go to seed, these seeds can then be collected in envelopes and sown again next season.
Now if you’re one of those with limited space, things to consider are growing a range of plants in containers and or baskets. Or start up a fish tank or an ant farm. Make time to visit the park, go a bush walk and or visit other peoples or public gardens.
The world needs its next generations to be aware of what exists within it in order to be able to protect it.
Education and personal experience are the best way for our children to have a better understanding of what could be lost and what needs to be protected for the generations that come after them.