My five year old has a broken arm and we were rethinking what we could do over the holidays. Then he came home from school with holiday homework which had the theme: Nature Detectives. Our idea was formed. We would be the trail blazers.
We have done a total of five trails in various places and with a variety of themes, gadgets (yes gadgets!) and everyday things. We are going to give you the low down on what worked or didn’t work for us, so that maybe you can make your own trail to do at home or when you are out and about for your own nature detective.
THE BLESS US ONE!
The first trail we did was an Easter Egg Hunt at the Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead near Colchester. This was at the start of the holidays and just after my son had broken his arm. He was so upset that we wanted to cheer him up. With this trail we had a map of the garden and we had to look for hidden wooden painted eggs. Next to each one was an ink stamp that you could stamp on your map to show you had found the egg. Once you had found them all you could collect your prize which was a lovely pack of seeds and a plant pot and some mini chocolate eggs. We have never got so wet doing a trail, but I have to say it was just lovely to see a little smile on my son’s face. I think we needed it. IDEA FOR HOME: Why not get some ink stamps and some string and tie them to plants in the garden and let them stamp away on a piece of card. This was the element that we loved the most and it’s so simple.
THE ONE WHERE WE HAD TO CHEAT.
Another Easter trail. We escaped to a Forest Holiday in Norfolk and did the Easter Trail on site. This involved following a map and finding signs where you answered nature related questions and then fill in the missing letters to make a word. It turned out that our grownup nature knowledge was a bit poor so we had a bit of help from a famous search engine! Do you know what baby hedgehogs are called? No we didn’t either. IDEA TO TRY AT HOME: The drawings were lovely on this one. Why not get out some crayons and do some mark making and may be some bark rubbing with a piece of paper.
THE GADGET ONE.
This was a bit like the ‘high end’ trail! We felt we wanted to push ourselves a bit and combine our son’s love of gadgets with nature. We embarked on a geo-caching trail also in the forest holiday. With the broken arm now in a cast we could do a bit more. After a false start with the GPS compass, we loved it. My son enjoyed holding the compass, but actually got the most out of finding the bird boxes in secret locations. Each one had a letter, nature information and a plastic box with clues inside. It was brilliant. None of us had done anything like this before and tracking co-ordinates was really interesting for the grownups and my son enjoyed getting stuck into discovering. It had a real family team feel about it. IDEA FOR HOME: Why not get some little plastic containers and put clues inside. Don’t stop there, people put all sorts in these boxes. You could have plastic bugs, toys. Somewhere in the Norfolk forest boxes there is a Sounds Right business card!
THE MINI RANGER ONE.
Still in the forest we decided to do a Mini Forest Ranger activity. This involved going into the Forest with a Ranger and finding things to look for with bug hunting equipment. At first I thought it was going to be a bit more useful for us than my son who prefers to explore for himself than following instructions, but actually half way through he began to really get into it. We were taken to places we would never have gone to on our own and managed to get down and explore things. My son loved showing the ranger what he had found. IDEA FOR HOME: When you are out and about just lift up a log and see what’s under there. Also look for trees with perfectly formed little holes in as you may find they have been made by a woodpecker. Why not take home a pine cone and create your own mini beast pine cone with some craft things.
THE WORDY ONE.
Back at home we did the Butterfly Trail at Cressing Temple Barns. This was lovely. We did it with friends. It was a really cold day and we had to find wooden butterflies and write down their names. Considering my son’s good arm was freezing, he couldn’t hold the paper with the other one and we had to lean on the wall to write he did amazingly well. He loved practising his letters as he has missed school. IDEA FOR HOME: Put some simple pictures and words up around the house if it’s raining and get your child to find them and practise writing their letters.
The Trail Blazers x