What could be more rewarding than spending some time with your children observing life in your garden (or even your balcony or park)? Whether it is planting some seeds and watching them grow into veggies, or watching butterflies visit a flower and roll out their long “straw” to drink nectar, if you just take the time, your garden will give your children a moment of internal quietness while they witness amazing buzzing activity.
Before you start, try to make enough free time in order to enjoy nature’s activities with the family. With a bit of patience and flexibility, you can involve even small kids in the preparation phase and pick and choose your favourite activities:
1. Give your children their own little plot of land or their own plant container. Ownership is important here! No mum/dad or big sibling needs to interfere in the young child’s personal approach when it comes to gardening! A little freedom can create miracles (be prepared to bite your tongue if it does not look pretty or neat)!
2. Find some easy, fast-growing plant seeds which the children can also enjoy, such as giant sunflowers (they grow taller than dad), sweet peas (nice to harvest and eat right away) or the edible nasturtium (the tall growing 3-4m ones). Make it into a routine to check the process daily and talk the waiting time away with stories and riddle games about nature and by looking at nature books...
3. Small-sized garden tools and little gloves can make it into a special moment, working alongside mum or dad!
4. Planting indigenous bushes and flowers which attract butterflies, bumblebees, and bees (see our 4 language-list on our website www.sunbeams.eu) can make your patch of land into a feast for the eyes and nose. You can easily find nature books and websites which can help you and your kids to learn all about local species.
5. Do not forget to leave a patch of land to nature: the host plants for butterfly eggs and larvae are often called “weeds” by humans. Sowing some wild flower seeds in between makes it look very pretty. Leaving some piles of wood and stones will offer shelter for them as well!
6. Making your garden into a haven for birds is very rewarding: shrubs for birds to hide from predators, bushes with berries for their food (go for the local species), a little pond or water area, all of these will make a huge difference. Extra feeding is only necessary in winter time (November-February), but water is always welcome.
7. Hedgehogs and rabbits might visit your garden if you leave a space in and/or under the fence/wall/hedge of your garden for them to pass through.
8. And of course, it is not ideal to use pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides when you have children around. There are many alternatives available: e.g. eco-labelled garden products, homemade potions (internet!), or rediscover some old wisdom by combining the right plants to keep away insects (e.g. permaculture techniques).
9. A little pond with a shallow slope will automatically bring guests and permanent inhabitants: salamanders and frogs will find their way to your garden (do not get eggs from other places as these might bring with them the wrong bacteria for your local amphibians), and all kinds of dragonflies will become regular visitors!
10. Planting a domestic tree is a lovely thing to do with kids (local species can be found on our website in several languages)! Make sure you plant them in the right season (October to March) and that you find the right spot for them to grow big!
11. Last but not least: composting. There is no better educational process to observe with your children: the complete cycle! Involve your children in composting your kitchen waste, putting it into the right bin, bringing it outside in a little bucket, adding the right green and brown layers, maybe some more water or cardboard and watching the worms do all the work. Then, finally to end the cycle, add the compost to their little garden to make their next season seeds grow tall....
If you want to know more about what you can do for biodiversity take a look at the special page on our website www.sunbeams.eu or at the suggested activities with children on this page.
The Sunbeams Team
A few nice addresses:
- Toy shops such as e.g. Nature et Découvertes (www.natureetdecouvertes.be)Woluwe Shopping Centre, City 2 and Esplanade in Louvain-la-Neuve) and Lokilino (Tervuren) offer many ideas for nature activities;
- Webshop of Vivara (www.vivara.be) gives a commission fee to nature organisations like Natuurpunt (www.natuurpunt.be ) and Vogelbescherming (www.vogelbescherming.be );
- Some English bookshops have a good selection of nature books for kids, e.g. Treasure Trove (Tervuren).
Activities with kids:
www.naturalsciences.be: Many activities for the whole family including an exhibition on biodiversity in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
We humans are not an isolated species. Due to globalization, industrialization, and our number, we have an enormous impact on this planet. All the things we do and those we choose not to, have repercussions on the world we live in.
If we each started practicing a no-impact lifestyle today, without electricity, shops, or technology; if we just picked and ate berries and only used hand-made tools, one can argue that the planet would not be able support the current population. However, the opposite is certainly true. The planet cannot sustain every individual living an average Western lifestyle.
Sunbeams has written a series of articles to celebrate the International Year of Biodiversity.
Join us to make small steps for biodiversity around us.
Sunbeams articles on what you can do for biodiversity:
- main areas to do small steps - Sunbeams Newsletter May 2009 ( pdf 590Kb)
- small steps advice by IUCN - Sunbeams Newsletter January 2010 ( pdf 1.1Mb)
Sunbeams articles on biodiversity in Away Magazine:
- Interview with IUCN representative, by Leanne Halewyck [Jan-Feb 2010]
- Permaculture, by Dave Meyer [Mar-Apr 2010]
- You and me and biodiversity, by Ilke [May-June 2010] (available here soon )
Sunbeams article in Small Talk (BCT):
Celebrating biodiversity with children [June 2010] (available here soon)
Sunbeams Events related to biodiversity:
- 4 Workshops for children on nature and wildlife (as from October 2010)
- Annual workshop for adults on wildlife in Belgium (fall)
- Annual tree planting event (spring)
- Annual composting event (May-June)
- Build a herb spiral together with Sunbeams in your commune
- Guided nature walk in Zoniënwoud/Forêt de Soignes (in the fall)
Other events focusing on biodiversity:
- Natuurpunt needs your help to count biodiversity in your garden, weekend of 22-23 May 2010 www.waarnemingen.be
- EU Green Week, 2-5 June 2010
- Environmental Party outdoor in Jubelpark/Cinquantenaire, 6 June 2010 (come and see us at the Sunbeams stand)
Useful links can be found in all teh above articles, and here are a few more:
Check out the activities at the Museum of Natural Sciences and their focus on Biodiversity
Order a little booklet with 366 ideas on what you can do for biodiversity in Dutch:
or in French:
More Sunbeams articles relating to specific areas of biodiversity:
- Biodiversity (!)
- Composting - April 2009
- Organic food baskets in and around Brussels - Sunbeams Newsletter September 2009 ( pdf 517Kb)
- How and when to plant trees in Belgium - Sunbeams Newsletter October 2009 (pdf 760Kb)
- Gardening for wildlife [Sunbeams Newsletter November 2009 ( pdf 560Kb)
- Saving energy - Sunbeams Newsletter December 2009 ( pdf 500 Kb)
- Precycling - Sunbeams Newsletter February ( pdf 600 Kb) and March ( pdf 1.0Mb) 2010
- Bees and biodiversity - Sunbeams Newsletter March 2010 ( pdf 1.0Mb)
- How to build a Herb Spiral - Sunbeams Newsletter March 2010 ( pdf 1.0Mb)
- Nature Nook, a new series on nature - starting in Sunbeams Newsletter May 2010
This article was originally published in the January 2010 issue of the Away Magazine.
The international year of biodiversity has begun and we are now counting down to the end of the year. The Countdown 2010 was launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to call for a global action to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.
In our series on biodiversity, we will focus on bees this time. There are two major groups of bees: the honeybees, whom we all know, living in big communities and the solitary bees, less known and with a big variety of species (more on them later).
As you might know, all bees are crucial for humans, because they pollinate: if bees were extinct, it would take human kind another 4 years to disappear as well. The problem is we do not know where the tipping point is in the declining numbers among bees we see today. Even the causes are not always clear. Recent studies show that the general loss of biodiversity is a main factor, the excessive use of chemicals and climate change have all been mentioned in this regard. Hopeful news is reaching us, like the French government announcing a large scale project to plant wild flowers, the thriving of bees in towns, and the raised interest in beehive associations. There are also things you can do!
22 May 2009 was the International Day for Biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the diversity of all living creatures: the diversity between species, the diversity within the genes of one species, and the diversity of the habitat they live in or their eco-systems.
You have heard about the endangered and extinct species of animals and plants for which mankind often has been responsible. One species disappearing can have a lot of consequences for other species within the same eco-system and once extinct, one cannot restore that imbalance.