This weekend, I went along to the book launch of Hattie Garlick's Born to be Wild with the RSPB. In actual fact, I'd helped to organise it, ensuring we had a lovely bunch of bloggers along.
You may remember Hattie from her Free Our Kids campaign where she pledged to go a whole 12 months without spending a penny on activities for her child. Hattie is one cool mamma, finding fun in all sorts of unexpected places and her love for nature and general zest for life shone through when I met her. She's also a real mum, with real kids, not someone who lives life like a beautifully shot instagram photo.
Her new book Born To Be Wild is jam-packed with nature-based activities, with suggestions and ideas that can be replicated in any community throughout the year. The book is helpfully divided up by seasons and by materials, so you can always find something fun to do, with whatever the day gives you.
From old favourites such as making stick boats, petal perfume and daisy chains, to more unusual ideas such as 'misleading a butterfly'-
A bit mean, this one, since you're effectively luring male butterflies with the false hope of romance. It feels a bit like creating a hideously misleading online-dating profile'.
I love her honesty and humour throughout the book, and she freely admits that sometimes it's not easy to drag your kids away from the TV and out on a walk. But seriously, take this book with you and you'll have so much fun, the kids won't want to come home!
Nature provides us with such an amazing array of free materials to play with. Combine that with a few cheap craft materials and some household bits and bobs and you've got an endless source of entertainment. The kids will not only have fun, but they'll get fresh air, stimulation, learn about science and wildlife and be able to express themselves creatively.
Our kids are often wrapped in cotton-wool these days, so it's great to be able to throw off some of the health and safety shackles and explore. Hattie has tips for safe wild swimming (hooray!), pond dipping, foraging, mud painting and snowball fights. A woman after my own heart!
We met at Rainham Marshes, a RSPB reserve just outside of London. Driving through the ugly industrial environment with towering pylons and fume-filled ring-roads, I wasn't expecting the oasis of calm we arrived at. A huge, imposing modern-architectural wonder of a visitor centre greets you at first. Here you'll find a visitor shop, a cafe, playground, picnic tables and toilet facilities.
We headed out to the education centre, the kids skipping along the winding paths and boardwalks that cross the marshes. Our guide, Louise from the RSPB pointed out the best places to spot water voles and enthralled the children with the secrets of some of the plant life - who knew teasels were carnivorous? Not me.
The education centre is set back from the main paths, an unassuming collection of rusted old shipping containers. But inside this secret lair, the RSPB host up to 100 school children on wildlife visits. The room inside reveals a full-length window across one side giving amazing views of the surrounding area, with Eurotunnel trains whizzing by, ships on the Thames in the distance, but in the foreground, an incredible display of visiting wildlife. This whole area was once an MOD firing ground, but now it's been totally reclaimed by nature and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.
|Image credit: RSPB|
We started with pond dipping, a family favourite, and the kids armed themselves with nets, trays and identification cards. There was lots of excitement when water boatmen, damselfly larvae and bloodworms were found. After this, we moved inside to create Easter Trees. A simple collection of twigs, petals and mud made the basis of these designs, and the children let their imaginations run riot embellishing them with paint, yarn and glitter. Each child proudly held their jam jar tree aloft at the end.
|Image credit: RSPB|
|Image credit: RSPB|
|Image Credit: RSPB|
It was such a lovely day, and great to see the kids going wild. The rest of the activities in the book should keep them going for the remainder of the year, never mind the Easter holidays!
You can purchase a copy of the book from the RSPB site and a proportion of the purchase price is donated to the charity to help fund the RSPB's conservation work.
Disclosure: I have a professional relationship with the RSPB for this launch, and received a press copy of the book. All opinions and views are my own.