We have borrowed advice from the Woodland Trust to help you find activities that involve you getting outdoors and appreciating nature and the benefits it brings to your mental health.
We are starting with a nice family activity - Pond Dipping
Pond dipping kit – what you need
There are a few items you’ll need to catch and study pond creatures, but you don’t need to buy special equipment. In fact, most of the things you need you probably already have at home.
a net – don't worry if you don't have one, we have instructions to make your own below
a light-coloured shallow tray or container
a few spoons
a magnifying glass
a notebook to record your findings
a camera or phone to take pictures
Where to go pond dipping
If you happen to have a garden with a pond, great! But if not, there’s bound to be a pond in a park or other green space not too far away. Some parks and nature reserves even have special pond dipping platforms, so have a look online to see if there are any near you.
How to pond dip
First, scoop some pond water into your container so that any creatures you find will be happy swimming around in it. Then lie on your front or kneel by the side of the pond – don’t lean too far over the edge or there’s a chance you’ll fall in. Sweep your net slowly through the water – a figure of eight shape works best. Make sure you don’t stir up the mud at the bottom as that will make it hard to see anything.
Then take lift up your net and carefully turn it inside out so anything you’ve caught drops into the container. You can then use your spoon to scoop them up and get a closer look. Don’t pick the creatures up with your hands – they’ll be very tiny and you could hurt them.
When you’re done noting down what you’ve found, carefully pour the water from your container back into the pond and make sure all of the creatures are safely returned.
What to look for
Counting the legs of any creepy crawlies you find can help you identify it. Leeches and bright red bloodworms don’t have any legs of course. Water beetles, backswimmers and pond skaters all have six legs; water spiders and water mites have eight legs; and waterlice have 6 pairs of legs!
Don’t forget to look for wildlife around the pond too. You might see dragonflies whizzing past, hear frogs and toads croaking, or see a family ducks waddling about. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a heron.
How to make a net
It's easy to make your own net from items around your home. You will need:
an old pair of tights
a wire coat hanger
a strong stick
some strong sticky tape
Bend the coat hanger into a circle to make the rim of the net.
Wrap the waistband of the tights over the wire and staple them into place.
Cut the legs off the tights and tie up the holes.
Finally, straighten the hook of your coat hanger and wind it around a stick, then secure it with sticky tape. Make sure it's firmly attached so it doesn't fall in the water.
Pond dipping is hugely exciting for children, but exploring water does have risks so it’s important to be vigilant.
Make sure you are always supervising your child while pond dipping.
Ensure children exercise caution around the water and don't lean too far over.
Never enter the water if you drop something – the pond may be deeper than it looks.
Pond water contains bacteria, so make sure any cuts are covered by watertight plasters. Always make sure hands are thoroughly washed after this activity.