9 wildlife projects for kids

Wildlife projects for children
Help your child learn about and look after native species with these great outdoor activities.
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Getting children out of the house can be a challenge, especially when you’re competing with Minecraft and YouTube. But many have a natural love of animals, and chances are your garden or local area is home to lots of native species. We’ve rounded up nine great wildlife projects to coax your child into the great outdoors and help them learn about the creatures living on their doorstep.

#BeeTheChange

Bees may be a common sight in the summer months, but modern farming methods and changes to the way countryside is managed have put them under threat. Two species became extinct in the UK during the 20th century, and eight more are at risk.
 
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is asking people to #BeeTheChange in their local area. There are lots of great activity ideas for kids, including working out your garden’s Bee Kind score based on the plants you grow, planting a ‘monthly menu’ of flowers to attract bees, making space for bumblebees’ nests, and feeding them through the seasons.
 
Friends of the Earth also has advice for making a bee hotel and watching out for visitors.

Make a caterpillar complex

Munching Caterpillars is a campaign from Butterfly Conservation with loads of family-friendly projects for children to get stuck into at home or school, such as learning to identify different species of butterflies, moths and their caterpillars, and planting nectar-rich plants.
 
There’s a brilliant guide to studying caterpillars in more detail, collecting them in the garden or your local area, building them a house, feeding them, and then watching them transform into butterflies: a fascinating study of their lifecycle.
 
You can also buy ready-made kits that come with caterpillars from Insect Lore.

Become a hedgehog champion

Being visited by a hedgehog is a real honour, especially as numbers have declined by a third since 2000. Your child can play their part in the conservation effort by joining Hedgehog Street: a network of over 92,000 people committed to helping hedgehogs in their local area.
 
Hedgehog Street encourages people to watch out for hedgehogs and add them to a national map, and to make hedgehog holes in their own hedge or fence so they can travel freely through gardens: they can roam an impressive one mile a night. There are instructions for building your own hedgehog house, feeding hedgehogs and keeping them safe in your garden and community by talking to neighbours.
 
You can also submit photos and videos of your prickly pals, and if you’re feeling really enthusiastic, you and your child could volunteer to give a hedgehog talk at their school or an extracurricular club.

Plant a tree

Trees are a vital part of our ecosystem, providing habitats for wildlife and helping to counter climate change. Planting a tree and looking after it as it grows is a satisfying project for children of all ages: even toddlers can help with digging and watering. Growing a tree from seed is a particularly good challenge and helps your child see it progress through its different stages.
 
On a wider scale, there are many community projects, including in urban areas, that welcome volunteers to help plant trees: a hands-on way for you and your child to make a difference locally.
 
There are also several schemes offering free trees for schools, including the Tree Appeal and Tree Council, so it’s worth talking to your child’s school about creating a green space for pupils to enjoy.

Make a mini pond

Even if you only have room for a washing-up bowl, your child can make a mini pond to attract wildlife to your garden and study the creatures that turn up.
 
It’s easy to make a pond by digging a hole around 20-30cm deep and sinking a watertight bowl, bucket or plant pot (without drainage holes) in it. If you’re really tight on space, you don’t even need to dig a hole – you can just stand the receptacle on the ground.
 
Add a layer of gravel and rocks and wait till the pond fills with rainwater, then add a few water-loving plants like miniature water lilies: garden centres should be able to advise on what will work. Then wait until wildlife like water boatmen, dragonflies and even frogs and newts make the pond their new home.

Join the RSPB Wild Challenge

If you want something to do in all seasons, the RSPB Wild Challenge is packed with activities to help your child both experience and help nature, with bronze, silver and gold awards to be earned for every six completed challenges.
 
There are activities for children of all ages, from growing sunflowers and composting to building bat boxes and reptile homes. Each challenge has its own difficulty level and recommended time of year for completing it.
 
The RSPB’s main annual campaign, the Big Garden Birdwatch, also counts towards your child’s Wild Challenge, and is a lovely way to spend some time being still and watching what flocks to your garden.

Set up a nature cam

Ever wondered what visits your garden overnight? Setting up a trail cam could reveal more than you ever imagined, and can be really exciting for the whole family.
 
Watching the wildlife that comes along after dusk will help your child learn more about native species, and encourage them to think about how to look after your nocturnal guests, for example by providing the right foods and materials for them to make a habitat. They could start a journal, checking out the video every day, noting down who visited and what they did, and adding printed stills from the film.
 
Bird box cams also make for compelling viewing: who wouldn’t be enthralled by watching chicks hatch, be nurtured by their parents, and eventually fledge the nest?

Make a soda bottle wormery

Poking about in the mud looking for minibeasts is a childhood rite of passage, and many kids will relish the opportunity to get their hands dirty, digging up worms for their own wormery.
 
It’s easy to make a spend-free wormery using a 2l fizzy drinks bottle. Cut off the top, keeping the section you cut off to use as a lid. Fill the bottle with alternating layers of damp soil and sand, then put in a few worms and give them some food: vegetable peelings and dead leaves are ideal. Then close the lid and wrap the bottle in black card (worms don’t like daylight).
 
Every couple of days, unwrap the bottle and get your child to write down their observations: they should start to see clear channels going through the layers of sand and soil where the worms have tunnelled. 
 
Release the worms back into the garden after a week.

Experience the dawn chorus

There’s something truly magical about heading out at sunrise and hearing the birds wake with the sun, and taking your child to witness the dawn chorus is the stuff memories are made of. You can do it in your garden or visit a quiet nature spot like a secluded woodland or a hill.
 
According to the RSPB, the best time to experience the dawn chorus is on a fine, clear day between April and June, an hour before sunrise. It peaks between 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after sunrise, but the medley of birdsong can be hard to distinguish between at its height, so getting out early gives you a better chance of identifying each bird by its call. You can download a birdsong identifier app to listen to beforehand so you get to know the different sounds and melodies.
 
In some areas, organised dawn chorus walks take place, with guides who can help you find the best places to hear birdsong and identify which birds are singing, but not all are welcoming to children, so check when you book. International Dawn Chorus Day is on May 3, with people sharing their dawn chorus videos and sound recordings online.