Creature features

Plants are one thing, but you can bring an entirely new dimension to your children’s garden enjoyment by introducing them to the numerous creatures which reside there. Below are some specifically child-friendly ideas, but for more information please see our guide to wildlife gardening. You should also consider investing in some children’s books for identifying garden creatures, particularly birds, insects and butterflies/moths, these are readily available second hand and can allow children to work out exactly what they’ve found in the garden.

Attracting birds to the garden

  • Children can make their own nest boxes to provide nesting accommodation for birds. Most national societies for birds will provide free instructions for making nest boxes online. Older children can practice their woodwork skills making the box. For younger children you could either make a box for them, or purchase a ready made one, and allow them to decorate it.
  • Help stop birds flying into your windows (particularly of conservatories) by cutting out bird of prey silhouette shapes from black card or paper to stick to the windows. Children can be involved in creating them and can decorate the side on show inside as their own works of art.
  • Having a bird feeder-refilling rota will help children feel involved in preserving your bird life. You may have to help small children by reaching down the feeders for the, but the children should enjoy the sense of responsibility (and it’s less risky than trusting them to feed their pet hamster which doesn’t have any other food resources if forgotten!). Make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.


  • There are plenty of different mammals which visit the average garden. These furry little creatures are fascinating to children, particularly those which appear frequently in daylight. Here are some ideas to get kids involved with mammals in your garden:
  • Work with your children to set up a squirrel assault course – put your garden squirrels to the test to see if they can get to food put out for them. Put some peanuts on a bird table and give the squirrels different ways to get to it, such as rope ladders made from two lengths of string with pencils tied between them to form rungs, pieces of plastic plumbing pipes to make tunnels or a hole cut in a large, stiff piece of card for them to jump through.
  • Place a large tray of moist, fine grade sand in the garden with some appropriate bait in the middle, leave it overnight, then check in the morning for footprints of your nocturnal visitors. (Be warned, if you have cats locally please check the tray first to ensure they haven’t used it as litter overnight!).

Insect observation

  • Find out what’s crawling around your garden by creating a pit-fall trap using an empty 2 litre plastic drinks bottle. Remove the cap. Cut off the top part of the bottle and insert it, upside down, into the top of the remaining bottle so it creates a funnel into your trap. Then bury the trap so the top is in line with the soil surface and cover loosely with a piece of bark to stop birds and rain getting in. Check it frequently to see what you’ve captured!
  • A night-time moth count can be great fun. Get a white sheet and hold it up vertically, or pin it up (eg to the side of your shed). Shine a bright light on it and in no time your sheet will start to get flying visitors which children can enjoy observing and identifying.
  • Play bug bingo! Give the kids a ‘bingo card’, replacing the numbers with drawings or names of insects, then see how quickly they can find one of each insect in the garden.

Pond life

  • Water in the garden can provide a great source of fascination for children of all ages. But please remember to consider the health and safety implications of water in your garden and don’t leave children to play around it unsupervised.
  • A simple fishing net can reveal all sorts of creatures living in the depths of any garden pond.
  • Once you’ve fished out some microscopic algae or creatures from your pond, you’ll want to take a good look at it. Children’s microscopes can provide a wonderfully magnified insight into the underwater world. Microscopes can be bought cheaply secondhand online or at car boot sales.