Be inspired to enjoy nature and the outdoors, even in isolation, even without a garden
If you’re struggling for ways to occupy yourselves and the children whilst in lockdown, I’ve come up with a list of ideas for you to try out. It is important to keep using that outdoor exercise – fresh air and sunshine will do wonders for your sense of wellbeing as well as maintain your bodily health while other forms of exercise are harder to come by right now.
If there had to be a lockdown at any time, spring might have been the best possible season to choose. The sun is making itself known again and the beams making their way through your windows will already be lightening the mental load you’ve been carrying and improving your physical health too. Even though we can’t go out and about like we would usually, there are still so many ways to enjoy the sunshine and all the magic of springtime.
Your children will be desperate to spend time outside under the blue skies and frothy white clouds. Nature is a wonderful healer and we should embrace the excitement of new life and potential that spring brings. BUT if you’re not so lucky as to have your own garden, just walking around the block once a day might be getting tiresome.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own garden, then you’ve got a whole playground for your children to explore. Even if it’s just a patch of grass with a football goal, you can still use that good green earth to search for insects or sow some seeds. You could find new ways to encourage wildlife by building insect and hedgehog friendly homes – or even building a small pond. You really don’t need much, just what’s already lying around the house or in the recycling bin.
If you’re not so lucky as to have your own garden, then you might need a bit more inspiration to make sure you and your family are enjoying your time out in the fresh air. I hope this list of ideas will help you get excited to be outside and to engage with nature in whatever way you can.
Front garden tour
A beautiful tree blossoming round the corner from my house
If you’ve been following us on Instagram (@rhinogreenhouses), you might have noticed my somewhat red-faced morning antics: when I go for a jog around the block in the morning, I take a gander at the front gardens I pass by. It sounds a bit odd out of context, but people are proud of their gardens and stopping to admire them is only a compliment!
No matter where you live, I bet you won’t need to venture far from your own home to find some little wonders in the front gardens nearby.
Set the kids on the task of finding the most beautiful flower or counting birds or searching for rainbows in windows. And don’t forget the old favourites – wax rubbings of trees and leaves. Create a scrapbook!
One of my favourite front gardens near me
If you’re already a plant-fanatic, you’ll be able to stroll along with your family and identify plants as you go – but can your children? I certainly can’t!
There are some fantastic apps out there that you can use to identify trees, flowers and plants. How many plants can they name? Who can find the prettiest flower?
Here are a few apps you can try out:
British Tree Identification – Woodland Trust
Spring means new life – and no matter what’s going on with the humans right now, the rest of the natural world trundles on, more or less as normal. It has been observed already that a lot of wildlife is absolutely basking in the respite from humanity. Maybe it’s the pollution clearing away, or maybe it’s just that I suddenly have the time to notice – but there are so many birds singing and frittering away their time in my own garden and close by.
So when you go on your daily stroll, see what animals you can spot. What insects are taking flight once again and what birds are tweeting in the trees close by? Download a questionnaire or checklist and get exploring, whilst still keeping safe and having fun.
Grow your own
It doesn’t matter if you have a garden, or even a balcony – if you’ve got a window, you can still grow your own plants!
You don’t need to spend lots of money on tools and resources, either.
You don't need much to grow you own at home
Who needs tools anyway? Gardening without gardening tools.
All you need are some seeds and a bit of soil. Everything else can be done with everyday household items – I use empty fruit punnets for seed trays and casserole dishes to sit them in. Who needs a garden fork, when a dinner fork will do for smaller plants? Don’t have a watering can? Try passing water through a sieve or colander over your plants to create a gentler shower. Toilet rolls make for perfectly good root-trainers (to you and me, that’s a tall narrow pot that encourages roots to grow longer for greater stability). Trowels are only large spoons.
Me using a wooden spoon as a dibber
And when all else fails, use your hands!
Getting seeds and plants for free! Beg, Borrow and Steal.
Sourcing seeds and plants is much easier than you might think. Most local supermarkets will still be stocking a huge variety of seeds – and because of production regulations, they have to be prepared and stored in a certain way, so they should still produce very well, despite being cheap.
You can also find seeds in the produce you buy to eat at home – tomato seeds are in all tomatoes, after all. And why not pop the end of your spring onions into some water and see if you can’t get them to sprout?
Harvest your own seeds from home produce
If you buy potted herbs from supermarkets, you’ll want to separate them out and repot, so they have more room to grow and breathe. Supermarket growers pack seedlings tightly together and force growth, so they’ll need some love and attention if you want to try this – but it is perfectly doable! I had great success with basil plants last year.
You can also get great results from cuttings on a HUGE variety of plants. Ask friends and neighbours if they wouldn’t mind you taking a small cutting from their mint or geranium.
Bear in mind that some plants/varieties will work better than others for these different methods, so if you’d like to give it a go, have a little Google first.
Now this is the only thing that might be tricky, but there are still ways and means. You can of course ask friends if they have any spare lying around, but if you do end up needing to buy, then get online. Many garden centres and plant nurseries are still running orders and delivering to customers, so you can get it safely.
If you’re local to Rhino here in Norfolk and East Anglia, we have compiled a list of gardening suppliers local to us that are still up and running. PlantGrow is delivering their wonderful peat-free, veganic fertiliser and are just a pleasure to communicate with too.
Daniel from PlantGrow delivery compost and fertiliser direct to my home this week.
Safe ways for Kids to Play Together and Make Friends
Kids are already so much better at technology than most of us; I’m sure many of your own children have been finding ingenious ways to keep in touch and have fun together. But if you need a few ideas:
Hopscotch for the masses!
Make a hopscotch on the pavement outside your house
If you’ve got any chalk lying around, why not draw a hopscotch outside on the pavement for your family and others to enjoy as they pass down the road. Make it long and winding or fiddly and ridiculous. Write instructions on the ground – “Jump over here!” “Do a jumping jack!” “Touch your toes!” “Shout out the name of a flower!” – It’ll keep the kids engaged with one another and if you do it right outside your own front door, wait and see who passes by one-legged with a smile on their face.
Make signs to go in your front window
Draw rainbows to spread love for each other and the NHS
The rainbow initiative is already being well publicised up and down the country, as a way for children to signpost to one another from their homes and thank the NHS for the amazing work they’re doing. Spreading love and awareness in a simple act of colouring. I have passed a number of other inventive banners and placards whilst taking my daily stroll.
Found this a few doors up from my house.
Find a pen pal
Children can still make friends with one another in these times by writing letters. Try writing letters and posting them through letterboxes with a return address and see what you get back. You could use the rainbow signs to figure out where children might already be.
Or see if you can’t just bring some joy to a stranger with a letter of happiness through their door.
My last and favourite suggestion: Guerrilla Gardening!
If you’ve got some seeds lying around that you don’t have space for in your own house or garden, why not take to the streets with them? Find some soft verges on pavements that could do with a bit of colour and see if you can’t sow a few to delight some strangers in a few months’ time when they start blooming. Pop back to your spot with a watering can occasionally and keep an eye out for those seedlings.
Sow some seeds of love in the pavements and watch the magic happen