Teaching your children about garden wildlife can give them a sense of ownership and pride as they take care of their very own wildlife garden, allowing them to develop an interest and concern for the environment and its habitants. It also helps to develop new skills that they may otherwise not have known. Creating your own wildlife garden is a great way to get your children involved and interested in environmental issues.
We’ve outlined some of the most common types of wildlife garden animals below, with some advice on how to feed and take care of them with your children.
Getting to know garden wildlife
Always remember that if you’re exploring garden wildlife with your children, you need to be prepared. Check out our range of kids’ outdoor jackets and kids’ puddle suits to keep your little ones cosy and protected while you’re learning about the wildlife.
Just remember, wild animals should be left untouched unless absolutely necessary, so it’s important to teach your child the importance of watching and not disturbing wildlife.
One of the most adorable garden animals – hedgehogs are those nocturnal creatures you may catch a glimpse of curled up in the corner of your garden or searching for food on the lawn after dark. Typically, garden hedgehogs hibernate between November and March, so if you see one wandering around during the winter months or during the day, it may need a helping hand from a kind human. So why not build them a hedgehog house to offer them a safe place to rest? Use untreated plywood to build a box and a tunnel entryway. Cover with soil and leaves to disguise. Leaving gaps or holes in your fences to let the hedgehogs in and out will also help to keep them safe and sound.
Feed them with hedgehog food that you can pick up from garden centres, or a plain, meat-based cat food. But if you find that you’re leaving their dinner out for them and cats are getting to it first, create a small hedgehog-sized shelter out of bricks that felines can’t get to. And always remember that bread and milk can cause diarrhoea in hedgehogs, so avoid putting these out at all costs.
Fun fact: A baby hedgehog is called a Hoglet!
Flying insects with large, scaly wings that are covered in beautiful colours and patterns. They also have 6 legs, 3 body parts and a pair of antennae. You may find butterflies fluttering around in your garden on a regular basis, but each garden attracts a different kind of butterfly, depending on what plants, trees and shrubs you have. Some of the types of butterflies you may find in your garden include:
• Common blue: The males are violet-blue on the top side of their wings and underneath they are grey-beige, while the colour of the females varies – some are mainly brown with orange touches, and some are more blue. You’ll typically find adult common blue butterflies throughout May-September.
• Painted lady: The tops of their wings are a pale orange colour with black and white detailing – you’ll notice that the tips of their wings are black with white spots, while the rest is covered in rows of black spots. Adult painted lady butterflies can be spotted in May to October.
• Large white: Much like the common blue, their colour is in their name – their white wings are tipped with black, as if they’ve been dipped in ink. The females also have two black spots and a small streak on each wing. The adult large whites can be found in your garden between April and October.
The best food you can give a butterfly is nectar, so be sure to plant plenty of nectar flowers for them to survive on – like Buddleja (commonly known as the butterfly bush) and Lavender. And while planting these flowers, be sure to put them in sunny, sheltered spots because butterflies like the warmth. But if you ever spot a butterfly who needs a little help, giving them sugar water on a teaspoon will still provide them with the energy they need.
Fun fact: Butterflies taste their food with their feet!
Insects are a type of arthropod – an invertebrate species that has no backbone. Some of the other types of arthropods are crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, etc.) and spiders. Insects share various characteristics that help you to separate them from other arthropods. These features are:
• Six legs
• Three body sections
• A pair of antennae
• An exoskeleton
• Compound eyes (eyes with lots of light-sensitive elements)
• A three or four stage life cycle (egg, larvae/nymphs, pupa and adult)
• And most of them come with wings!
There are various types of insects that you’re likely to find lurking around in your garden – from ladybirds and ants, to bumblebees and dragonflies. If you’re looking to take care of those that live in your garden, build an insect hotel using twigs, rocks, leaves and other natural materials you may find lying about outside. You’ll soon find plenty of insects booking in for an overnight stay – including beetles and spiders. You can also let your grass grow a little longer– it doesn’t have to be the whole garden, maybe just a corner to make a special home for species of plants and insects (e.g. butterflies and wildflowers).
Fun fact: Caterpillars have 12 eyes!
From robins and blackbirds to sparrows and pigeons, spotting garden birds whilst sitting in the garden can make for an entertaining pastime. Keep them safe by building a bird box high in a sheltered tree, so they have somewhere warm to sleep. Leaving feeders out in the garden will help to make sure they get all the food and nutrition they need – seeds are good for winter, but don’t feed them bread as it lacks lots of the nutrition that birds need. Remember to put the feeder in a covered spot if there are pets around, to help keep the birds out of reach of tiny paws.
Fun fact: Magpies are actually scared of shiny objects…
What you can do to build a wildlife-friendly garden
Taking care of wildlife in and before the winter months is especially critical to make sure that they’re protected and prepared for the colder months. So here are some ways that you can manage your garden to help look after wildlife:
• Grow more hedges. These provide important shelter for wildlife and help to protect them from predators and adverse weather. Hedges are particularly good for nesting birds and hibernation. Replace those garish fences with lovely greenery. Fences also block out access for other wildlife, like hedgehogs and frogs, so if you’re opting for fencing, be sure to leave some gaps at the bottom.
• Grow a wild patch of grass. As mentioned above, this offers a home for many wildlife species and plants.
• Build a pond. It doesn’t have to be big! Bury a bucket if you don’t have much room to play with. You can use rainwater caught in a separate container to fill the pond with water. Ponds are wildlife magnets that will provide homes, bathing spots, food and watering holes for many garden species.
Now you have a better understanding of some of the types of wildlife you may find in your garden, kit your kids out for your wildlife adventures with the right clothing and kids’ outdoor footwear. From wellies for wet days, to walking shoes for hours of outdoor fun, browse the full collection of kids’ outdoor clothing online today.