We’ve got six wildlife-friendly bits of kit to tempt your kids back to nature this autumn…
The nights are drawing in and all creatures great, small and miniscule are busily preparing for the coming winter – and your kids are sure to want to help. But there’s no need to trek off to the wild woods. No, we’re talking about the wonders of nature on your own doorstep. There’s a whole menagerie of critters waiting to be discovered in even the smallest of gardens, and we’ve selected six toys and gadgets perfect for the job.
Creating a buzz this year with the toddlers is the Bee Wheelybug. Dapper in black and yellow go-faster stripes, this sturdy set of wheels is designed for robust fun, whether pushed, pulled, petted or ridden. Now, of course kids know where that goo-ey sweet stuff on their toast comes from, but do they – or you – realise that if wasn’t for those farmers working their fuzzy butts off, pollinating all over the place, we could be looking at a scurvy-filled future? That’s why Hippychick, the makers of Wheelbugs, are donating a bit from the sales of each Bee Wheelybug to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, a charity devoted to raising awareness of the plight of the humble bumble.
Bee Wheelybug (ages 2–5): £69.95. hippychick.com
Backyard Safari Bug Vacuum
A backyard bug hunt usually begins by lifting a flowerpot while the kids crouch beside you wide-eyed in wonder – or grossed out – at the mini-critters lurking beneath. But as the beasties scarper hither and thither the question of how to catch the little blighters comes to the fore. How to avoid squishing the delicate ones? How not to be savaged by that earwig’s lethal-looking pincers? Enter the Backyard Safari Bug Vacuum, which gently sucks up the bugs and deposits them into a ‘capture core’, complete with a magnifying lid for close-up inspection. Plus, a handy field guide helps identify some of the critters you’re likely to encounter. Nifty!
Bug Vacuum (ages 5+): £34.99. backyardsafari.com
Who hasn’t wanted to give the adorable hedgehog a big ol’ hug – unfortunately, they’re too darn spikey for that. But another way to show you care for this threatened species is by providing a bijou residence with the Homes for Hedgehogs Starter Pack. Bedding, food and bowls are all included, while design features include an internal tunnel to deter predators, a bedding chamber for cosy kips, and even foot rails to prevent damp. There’s also a hinged inspection roof so that the kids can take a peek once in a while to check on their guest. There’s something in it for you too, as you’ll have the ultimate slug terminator to protect your veggies come the spring.
Hedgehog House Starter Pack: £57.50. arkwildlife.co.uk
Pond Dipping Kit
Ahh, pond dipping – what a perfect way to enjoy an autumn afternoon. Although the usual suspects such as tadpoles and newts have left the pond by now, there’ll be plenty of other charismatic creatures holding the side up. Horny-headed water snails are still found in abundance, and a lucky dip may haul out a wicked-looking dragonfly nymph, which is sure to induce gasps of ‘Corrr!’ from kids to teens. Flight of Fancy’s Pond Dipping Kit includes a foldable net, a collection jar with a magnified top, 24 identification cards, a notepad and pencil to record your finds, and a plethora of pond-dipping tips.
Pond Dipping Kit (ages 8+): £10.99. flightsoffancy.co.uk
Backyard Safari Field Scope
Here’s a bug fact bound to impress your kids: millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, while centipedes have a single pair per segment. So if you’re not sure what you’ve found, simply count how many legs on a segment. “But how?” we hear you ask. Well, those clever folk at Backyard Safari have made a Field Scope providing six-times magnification so that you can count the wee beastie’s segments, legs and even check if it’s been cleaning its toenails. The Field Scope comes with a built-in light to let kids peek into rocky cracks and crevices where creepy-crawlies love to lurk.
Backyard Safari Field Scope (ages 5+): £6.99. backyardsafari.com
This cool Kidz Labs Science Kit contains everything you need to build a rocket that can fly up to 25 metres, so it’s a sure-fire way to get your kids away from the TV and out into the garden. OK, so it doesn’t help wildlife directly or teach about wildlife – in fact, your kids’ shrieks of delight at lift-off will send wildlife scattering. However, when your local feathered residents realise that you purchased the rocket from the RSPB website, and that 100% of profits help to save birds and other wildlife, they won’t mind the temporary invasion of their airspace. Much.
Kidz Labz Green Science Green Rocket (ages 8+): £12.99 shopping. rspb.org.uk
Get geared up for more garden adventures with our three top play tents.