30 Days Wild: Day 27-Butterflies and wild art

Yesterday was an exciting day for deliveries. First, we had the delivery of a new sunhat from my aunty for Alice. A reversible hat with bees on one side and ladybirds on the other.

The second delivery was from insect lore. I’d ordered in one of the butterfly kits. However, due to Corona, they didn’t have the one we ordered so we got an upgrade and got a few extras in our set.

We’ve got two insect feeding stations to try. These are just dishes essentially with sponges to put the butterfly food on. Sugar water will attract butterflies and other insects if you fancy trying it, just like our bee dish.

In previous years I’ve seen people criticize these kits as cruel and reducing a live animal to the level of a toy. I think this is an unfair claim. It is only reduced to the level of a toy that the children look at and then move on if you treat it as such. This was very much an exciting event the caterpillars arriving. She watched them carefully and they’ve been handled carefully. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that most of my nations favourite naturalists, people like David Attenborough and Chris Packham, will have been egg collectors or used the killing jar to collect butterflies. While these aren’t practises we would do anymore it was this hands-on experience that gave these people their knowledge of the natural world. And from there they have helped countless species. The caterpillars included are painted ladies. These migrate north and south. When I’ve bought these sets I’ve tried to time it so they will be released as the butterflies would be migrating through our country so they aren’t just released into the cold to die. Last year was a bumper year for them so we’ll see how many come through this year.

It also came with a mechanical toy butterfly. You wind it up with the elastic band and then release it to flap. Alice was fascinated by it. That was probably an hours worth of entertainment her working out the mechanism and seeing how to make it fly best.

And that was enough time inside. Thunderstorms had been predicted on the weather forecast so I wanted to get her out for a bit in case we were stuck in. The National Children’s Gardening Week Facebook account had set a competition to create wild art. I gave Alice the brief and left a few bits out and then left her to it.

Lots of grass for hair.

She made a face complete with a bow made from the red leaves, a hair clip from the petals and lipstick made with rose petals.

Then we tried the first of our long-awaited strawberries. Alice has been checking on these daily to see how they’ve been coming on. They’ve been getting redder over the week and I thought it was time to try before the birds take a fancy to them. We haven’t got many but they were very nice. All the better for having been grown by her.

A bit of a lazy day staying at home but we’ve had quite a few good walks out this week. We’re almost at the end of this years 30 days so I’ll be trying to make them exciting ones before we slow the pace down to our normal nature involvement.

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30 Days Wild: Day 20-Broomsticks

Following on from our magic days earlier in the week Alice had requested a broom for her beat baby cuddly toy to go with her wand. I did most of the construction today but once she’s been shown how to do something she’ll usually give it a go later in the week. So between downpours we managed a quick craft job in the garden. These are easy to make and you can make them on the go if you carry a bit string.

I collected up one thicker stick and a pile of thinner sticks and cut to the same length. I then wrapped it in florist wire to keep it secure.

Then to neaten it up and keep the look of a broom I wrapped it with twine.

Then the two of them went flying back and forth around the garden. She did lots of ‘flights’ jumping off the slide.

Then she helped out as the feeders were looking empty.

Though we moved off fast as we were looking to be swarmed.

I hope you enjoyed our simple craft for today. A good little bit of stick play for the imagination.

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30 Days of Wild: Day 15-Spells

Having made the stick wands I thought we’d carry on with the magic theme and have a go at spell books and some time in the mud kitchen on potion-making. Alice had started playing this at the den and when we returned home so I was looking to extend her play with a few more ideas.

We started with the wonderful book spells by Emily Gravett. This book tells the tale of a little frog who finds a spellbook and dreams of being a handsome prince. Each page is split in half and can be turned to make different spells. The illustrations of lovely. The book design with the half pages is playful and the story is funny. It’s a good starting point for any magic lover.

I did a bit of prep work on this project preparing some special paper to make a spellbook. I used two special spray paints to give the paper an aged effect but you could easily use tea bags or buy the paper that already looks aged.

I then folded to construct a book.

I’ve said before that I like to introduce tasks through letters. I thought this one would suit a scroll. Children often really buy into messages delivered this way. They are no longer doing a job for you. They are doing it for the person you’ve suggested whether that be a fairy or messages from the teddies. So long as you buy into it they go along with the silliness. So the plotline I created was that the witch had accidentally cast a spell on her book and she had made all the spells vanish. She needed our help to write some new spells.

Then I engaged in a bit of roleplay pretending to hear a noise upstairs. She went upstairs to investigate and found the scroll delivered by the owl. She can pick out her name and the pictures are so she knew who it was from. She really bought into this one talking about the witch and how she was a good witch and adding lots of extra detail to the character of the letters sender.

Back downstairs we worked on one spellbook together with me modelling a few examples to spark her own imagination.

Alice came up with lots of wonderful ideas of her own for spells.

She had a good go at copying a few words as well as writing lots of numbers for quantities for ingredients. So we got lovely mark-making, imagination and maths from this part of our play. I particularly like her frog.

It kept her attention for a good while and she filled two books with spells before taking her book off to find her wand and cauldron.

All kitted up we headed out. Alice was keen to find a stick as she felt Amy missed out on a wand yesterday. She found one quickly and got a basic wand constructed.

She had a good play around the den making her spells.

And then a bit of a rest and a snack together.

Amy took some spectacular bee photos with the macro lens.

Mine less so, but I was using the mid range lens rather than the macro.

All in all a magical adventure out. The fact that Alice referred to it as an adventure when we returned home makes me feel I did something right.

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30 Days Wild: Day 14-Stick wands

I was asked yesterday if I’d like to feature as a guest blog on Little Acorns website. They are an online shop selling nice open-ended wood toys. Lots of nice toys for young minds to explore. They are looking to feature several dad’s blogs about 30 days wild and they asked if they could feature my Ladybird Maths blog. So, it’s up on their site. It’s nice to know the blogs are being read and even nicer that people feel there worth sharing.

For tea earlier in the week we made our own pizzas with bases we got from the eco pantry at Alice’s nursery. They’ve carried on opening it during lockdown with social distancing in place. The eco pantry gets given food from the supermarkets that for various reasons isn’t going to be sold. It’s either about to go out of date or the labels were done wrong or they’ve just got too much of something. It would contribute to the problem of food waste. So for a pound a visit we get to choose 7 items. These schemes are massively useful for helping the environment as it means perfectly good food doesn’t go to waste, so more food doesn’t need to be sold in its place.

Alice enjoyed the process of making it though she was fussier about eating it.

Then we started yesterday with a quick craft job. We had a pile of circles left from our fish plates and I’d mentioned we could make a very hungry caterpillar.

Then Alice decided she wanted to make a chrysalis and draw a butterfly.

A nice little picture.

Then as the rain was looking like it would hold off and the wind had died down we made it out for a walk. We found a delightful little hoverfly straight out the door on the ferns.

On the walk to the park, we spotted plenty of wildflowers in the wall that borders the park.

Ivy leaved toadflax scrambling along the wall.

I think this is yellow cordalis, a member of the poppy family.

And a tiny Asplenium scolopendrium in the wall.

One of the activities I’d had at the back of mind for 30 days wild was to play stick wands and we found a perfect stick as we entered the park.

The meadow area is still in full buttercup glory mode.

There are still lots of ladybird larvae to be found.

And a few moved onto pupa.

The den area had been moved around a bit again and Alice decided she was going to make potions with the grass seed heads.

Then using a bit of florist wire we added a few found items to her wand.

And she cast lots of spells.

Across the bigger of the fields a sea fret was blowing in. Possibly as a result of Alice’s spells and potions.

Back at home we looked at adding to the wand from the craft box. A bit of ribbon, a flower hair slide and some string around the handle for ease of grip.

A pretty snazzy wand.

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30 Days Wild: Day 13-Plate fish

Alice has been talking about Uncle Richard who works at the Deep a lot this week. And as we live by the sea I felt we should really do a few more 30 days activities around the sea. We started off by reading the beautiful story of the rainbow fish. In the story the rainbow fish has many glittering scales and he learns to be kind and share his scales. I thought it would be nice to make one of the fish he shared his scales too.

We started by using a plate and cutting off most of the edge just leaving a little bit for fins. We got a triangle out for a mouth which we saved for a tail.

We then painted the whole plate. Alice wanted hers all red. If you are doing a job like this get the big brushes out, otherwise the interest goes before they’ve even finished the first part. Then you end up dealing with a sulky child who doesn’t want to do the craft activity you imagined would be wonderful.

We had some sticker eyes to choose from in the craft box but you could use googly eyes, draw it on or cut a circle of white.

We then used a circle hole punch to make lots of scales in colours Alice picked. She then glued them on around her fish.

Then once it had all dried we put the tales on. I think they were pretty effective for a simple craft where Alice could do most of it unaided. She’s happy with it but still more excited for eating our gingerbread from the day before.

We’ve got a few more wet days ahead so looking at a few more days of sticking close to home. So looking at a few more activities inside and in the garden. Got a good list of ideas ready though so should be fine.

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30 Days Wild: Day 11-Flower card

After a busy day previously and as it was pretty gloomy and wet outside I settled on a quiet day. Alice was keen to make a card for the staff at her nursery. So, I thought we could use the pressed flowers from earlier in the week. We selected a card and an envelope to construct it.

Alice arranged the flowers on the card and we put it in a laminating sheet.

Alice waited eagerly for the sheet to come out.

Alice wrote and drew inside her card.

She’s starting to want to know how to write different words, so I’ve introduced ‘love’ to her. Her fine motor is excellent but still trying to encourage her to mark make more and attempt writing what she wants to put down.

Then we assembled her laminated flowers onto the card with her special tape and she drew some extra flowers for good measure.

I hope the nursery like it. She spent half her time in forest school and half the time in the nursery and she loved it. The staff there have been wonderful and both me and Amy will be sad to see her move up into school having missed the last few months with the staff she loved so much.

For more 30 days ideas check this year’s contents page and the ideas pages.

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30 Days Wild: Day 9-Beetles maths

Last weekend was World Coleoptera weekend so I thought I’d make a focus of beetles. Beetles are one of the most diverse forms of life on the planet. They are the largest order of insects and makeup almost 25% of all known life forms. So worth spending a bit of time on.

We had a look at a couple of different beetle books, which I’ll comment on later in the blog. Then we had a look at the ladybird lifecycle models and stag beetle life cycle.

For those of you who don’t know a ladybird is a type of beetle and its lifecycle is much like the butterfly. We start from eggs, usually laid on leaves. Out of the egg hatches the larvae. These are particularly useful for gardeners as it is these that eat a mass number of aphids, yet a lot of gardeners don’t recognise them. The larval stage is when the beetle puts on most of its growth. When it has matured enough it forms a pupa. Later in the year, you will often find these hanging off leaves. From the pupa, the ladybird emerges as the mature beetle capable of reproducing and thus the cycle can continue.

After covering part of the science and answering the many questions we moved onto an activity designed for pushing the craft and maths. I had made up ladybirds, but with a problem, they had lost their spots. On the back, it had a calculation for Alice to represent.

We added the spots with paint and a sponge brush.

Once made we ordered the numbers and counted the doubles. Then I taught Alice the ladybird doubles song.

“This ladybird has 2 spots, 2 spots, 2 spots, this ladybird has 2 spots, 1 + 1 makes 2.”

Then in the afternoon, we headed out to the park.

And I’m pleased to report we found the key stages of the ladybird. A mass of ladybirds, though many were the invasive harlequin we did see some 2 spots. The following photos are courtesy of Amy and her macro skills. We have the larvae first. There were lots to be found on the nettles and buttercups.

Followed by the pupa.

Then a handful of ladybirds.

And I found one in our own garden.

The two main beetle books I used today were the beetle book by Simon Jenkins and a beetle is shy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. I’ve reviewed A nest is noisy previously by the same team. Both these books are beautifully illustrated and show the great variety in beetles as well as a chance to talk about different body parts, wing cases, mandibles, etc. For older children, there is the beetle boy series but Alice isn’t quite ready yet.

I hope you’re enjoying our 30 days journey so far. I’ve added a contents page if anyone wants to look for ideas. There are also lots of ideas used in previous years here.

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30 Days of Wild: Day 8-Den discovery

We started the day with another quick craft activity. We used polymer clay to make a few mini-beast.

We ended up with butterflies, a ladybird on a leaf, a snail and a flower.

Then wrapped up in waterproofs we headed out for our walk.

The seasons are visibly moving on with the elderflower out.

The conkers are forming.

In the park, the bees were placid after all the rain. A mass number were resting on the mallow.

And a few in the meadow area.

Alice was excited to be out with her umbrella again although she didn’t need it again.

A few more painted stones left around.

We made the discovery of a new den. Part of the trees have been cleared and they have been stacked into this rather nice den. A few additional routes seem to have been cut through the wood area. I’m not sure whether this was planned before lockdown or they felt this was needed.

Alice was excited with the discovery.

Though not so keen on Amy asking her for photos.

Though she showed no remorse.

Alice did eventually play along.

A good discovery, but I think we might have tears if we find anyone else in it.

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Six on Saturday: Day 7-Butterfly life cycle

Well, we’ve had plenty of wind and rain the last day. We’re quite happy heading out in one, but amber weather warnings make a walk through trees less appealing. With all the rain and clouds we have seen plenty of rainbows though. Here was a double rainbow, though only one shows on the photo.

We had a pleasant delivery. Alice won a pack of prizes from National Children’s Gardening Week. She got a giant sunflower kit, stickers, notepad and a £10 garden centre voucher. So that’s rather nice. I don’t feel safe taking her to the garden centre so I may go and pick her something I think she’d like or we’ll leave it until things are a bit safer. But she’s a bit happier with this than her lawnmower prize.

With the wet and windy weather, I settled on an inside random act of wildness for today looking at the lifecycle of the butterfly. We started with making a caterpillar folding two strips of paper back and forth to make a springy caterpillar.

We made the butterflies with the sizzix die cutter. She drew her egg on a leaf.

We crumpled some tissue paper for a chrysalis. For a little factoid moths make cacoons wrapping silk. Butterflies make a chrysalis.

Then assembled all together. From an egg, the caterpillar hatches out, makes its chrysalis and emerges as a butterfly before more eggs are laid.

Then she carried on in the afternoon with Amy. She’s been interested in the planets so they worked together making a mobile of the planets in our solar system. She has lots of questions and is developing a good inquisitive mind. Alice was keen to explain that the planets went around the sun. Then told me a bit about each planet.

As well as Alice’s prize, we also received this lovely mosaic piece from my Aunty. Made by a friend of hers in lockdown raising money for a kidney charity after a kidney transplant. The bee has an M on its thorax for Manchester after the city adopted the bee as its symbol. Lovely don’t you think?

https://www.instagram.com/enid_and_the_bee/

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30 Days Wild: Day 5-Grow your own for wellbeing week

A little bit of exciting news for the blog first. The Wildlife Trust got in touch to ask if they could use one of my blogs to feature on their 30 days of wild bloggers. So one of the blogs from earlier in the week was featured on their site. Nice to be asked as I’ve taken part for 4 years now and I’m happy to carry on supporting the campaign for lives more engaged with nature.

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/blog/30-days-wild-guest-author/30-days-wild-our-teddy-bear-picnic-30-days-wild-parenting

Yesterday I decided we’d have a go at a handful of the activities from National Grow Your Own for Welfare Week. Not the snappiest of titles for a national week but a good cause. This initiative has come from Life at number 27, a social enterprise that pushes the mental health benefits of gardening and particularly of grow your own. With many mental health services pushed to the limits through government cuts the last few years the need for organisations like this has gone up. They have put together a nice little booklet of activities to do perfectly suited to kids and fun for the adults as well. Growing your own fits in perfectly with anyone taking part in 30 days wild. It gives you a chance to help create a more sustainable lifestyle, cut your food miles and it’s good fun. Allotment holders are always experts at the sustainable lifestyle side with lots of ideas for creating their plots on a shoestring budget, reusing materials, composting, water collection and all the rest. Whether you grow your own on an allotment, in your garden, a community space or on your windowsill eating your own produce gives a burst of happiness making it well worth the effort.

We started Wednesday evening with some rock labels for the veg pots. Amy and Alice employing their superior artistic talents.

A few made by drawing and some with decoupage using paper tissues Amy bought with bees and butterflies on. I wonder if you can guess some of the things Alice is excited to grow?

Then we carried on with learning a bit more about butterflies reading “what’s the difference between a butterfly and a moth?” This unimaginatively named book gives children lots of key facts to help identify between the two. Sadly out of print currently so a bit expensive for a book I used a lot for teaching.

Then on Thursday, I decided Alice would buy into these activities more as a list. She then got the satisfaction of ticking each activity off as we did them. No pressure was put on to finish them all but it lays out what the options are.

We started with the cress caterpillars and had a bit previously grown to eat along the way.

Then the two have been placed ready to grow.

We had made a few seed bombs during National Children’s Gardening Week so rather than repeating the activity we just went to do a bit of bombing on some of the unkept grass behind the garden.

We headed back in to have a go with the paper pot maker. The sooner Alice masters this skill the less I’ll need to make. These give use a biodegradable pot and a use for newspaper and excess paper packaging with deliveries.

Back outside we got them potted up with some red marigolds (Alice’s current favourite colour).

Then we got some cut and come again lettuce sown in a pot. I prefer growing the salad leaves in batches in small pots as it means we have salad at various stages so we don’t get a glut all at once.

Another task ticked off, we moved onto lip scrub. Olive oil, sugar and fresh-picked mint and a little lemon were mixed together in a bowl and spooned into some tins I had spare.

I think this may have been Alice’s favourite activity of the day but that may have something to do with the size of her scoops of sugar. While she did count out the 6 spoons of sugar she put more effort into getting six large scoops of sugar than 2 of olive oil. She was very excited to show her mum her tin.

After a decent sugar dose, we went out to let off some of that excess energy with the scavenger hunt included in the booklet.

She had good fun dashing about. Here she is finding water.

Another activity in the booklet was to make your own bug hotel. We built a fairly substantial one a few years ago with old bricks and decking panels and tile offcuts.

So we added some of our stones to the top to add some extra decoration.

I think Alice enjoyed herself. She asked to make some more lip scrub, so we tried the lemon recipe as well. And she’s now waiting for our lettuce to grow. She’ll eat it from the veg patch but she isn’t convinced by the shop stuff. She’s also taken a liking to the mint, so I’m not sure I’m going to have any left for my intended mojito but nevermind. But nice that she’s trying new food. The activities today all came from the growing for welfare pack, so if you fancy any of them check it out and there a few competitions to try.

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