November: damp, cold, dark, miserable. It’s far easier to just stay indoors and watch TV or lounge about. But everyone knows that it isn’t good for children to be inside for too long – they don’t get enough exercise or sunlight and they can become lethargic or grouchy. Furthermore, we want our children to connect with the natural environment throughout the year and learn about the different seasons and how they affect plants and animals. But if it is cold and damp then we need some exciting ideas to get them outdoors.
This was the challenge I faced when I wrote The Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Outdoor Things to Do. It’s the fifth title in my popular Bloomsbury non-fiction series that combines facts, humour and activities. I wasn’t short of ideas: I’ve always been a great outdoors enthusiast and also spent many years doing fun and imaginative things with my own children when they were younger. The problem was that many of the activities in the book are ones you would typically do in the warmer months – we needed to ensure that there were some cracking ideas for winter too (and not just involving snow!).
So, here are some of my favourite outdoor activities from the book which help connect children with natural environments around us – and can be done in November:
- Leaf catching
This is just so much fun and a surprising challenge. It’s simple but not easy: can you catch a leaf falling from a tree. Get down to a park on a day with a slight breeze and have a go. You won’t stop until you’ve done it, I promise! Then, identify the leaves and take some home to sketch.
- The matchbox challenge
Children adore this. Everyone needs an empty matchbox and the challenge is to fill it with as many different small, natural items as you can collect. Seeds, berries, small leaves, tiny pebbles, shells, a down feather, blade of grass – spread out the finds at home and see what you can discover about each one.
- Mud walk
We usually tell children to avoid mud but why not get togged up with wellies, an old coat and gloves and find a country footpath which is full of wet, black gloop. The secret is to make sure that everyone has a good walking stick to avoid slipping over or getting stuck (and for testing the depth of quagmires). Take photos, spot birds, find animal tracks (speaking of which…).
- Track wildlife
November’s soft mud may be messy but it’s a top place to spot animal footprints. Also look out for signs of feeding (nibbled nuts and cones, for example), tree damage (deer and hares love to chew bark), droppings (can you tell a badger poo from fox plop?), bird pellets (lots of species produce these, not just owls) and burrows or other holes (look for fur around them).
- Fly a kite
Kites are inexpensive and fun. Get down to a large park, sports field or a beach, well away from overhead power lines or tangling trees. Once your kite is in the air and you are looking up, check out the birds. Can you spot geese, gulls, corvids or maybe a buzzard? How do they stay in the air? Read about wings and birds’ amazing lightweight skeletons.
- Beach adventures
Those beaches which are heaving with people in August are often empty in November. Check when the tide is out, take some carrier bags and plenty of warm clothes and then have a go at beachcombing. Who can discover the most interesting item? Can you find crab shells or shark egg cases or driftwood or sea-polished glass fragments? Have a Best Pebble competition or a challenge to build the highest pebble tower. Hunt for fossils and collect curiosities to sort and identify at home. And, of course, don’t forget to charge along the sand to keep warm!
This guest blog was provided by author Andy Seed. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the FCBG. You can find out more about Andy Seed and his books here www.andyseed.com
The Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Outdoor Things to Do is published by Bloomsbury.