Spring is a great time to introduce children to the natural world, and Norfolk Wildlife Trust has plenty of ideas to help, say Reserves Officer Robert Morgan 

English language is a constant war of words, each year many join our common lexicon, others lose the battle, become lost and eventually die.

Dictionaries should, obviously, reflect this and compilers are incessantly reviewing their content.

A decade ago it was concluded that the new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary would drop a number of words as they were seldom used by children and, as such, didn’t merit inclusion.

Eastern Daily Press: Convolvulus hawkmoth

Astonishingly, these included plant names such as bluebell, dandelion, willow and bramble.

Just as shocking, animals such as newt, otter, kingfisher and lark were removed. In fact over forty words concerning nature were erased.

The author Robert Macfarlane was prompted by these exclusions to produce an exquisitely illustrated book of ‘spells’ called Lost Words.

It is a volume of beautiful rhymes, descriptions and word-scapes that endeavours to encourage children to go outside and engage with nature.

I’ve been a naturalist since boyhood and every opportunity was, and still is, spent outside.

Eastern Daily Press: Female Blackbird

I find working indoors, especially during spring, makes me miserable, particularly as I know what I’m missing.

Sadder still is the thought of children, on a sunny morning, sat looking at a computer screen having no concept of what they are missing.

Although, as a realist too, I understand the erstwhile days of youth, away from 24 hour parenting, spent climbing trees or fishing for stickleback barefoot in a stream, are probably long gone.

But I do feel, that more than ever, we should create new opportunities for our children to experience and kindle that free spirit of spending time immersed in the natural world; a world of sights, sounds, smells and touch.

This doesn’t necessarily require a long journey to wild places, for even urban gardens or local parks contain something of interest. For there is often as much wonderment in the small and commonplace as in the mighty and rare.        

Eastern Daily Press: Never too young to learn about nature

At Norfolk Wildlife Trust we work hard to encourage young people to enjoy and value wildlife.

But we also understand how difficult it is sometimes to motivate children to spend more time outside.

We hope that this spring and summer we can help provide you with some ideas, activities and events to both amuse and - without them knowing - educate your children.

Learning about birds is a great way to start.

They sing, are often colourful and come in all shapes and sizes!

Eastern Daily Press: Night garden - buddleia

They are also ubiquitous, even appearing in the most urban of environments.

If you live in the city centre, the local churchyard or cemetery can be a great place to see birds.

It’s at this time of year that they are very active collecting nesting material or feeding young, and with patience you can work out where your local blackbird, robin or starling is nesting.

Please don’t disturb them or approach the nest, even for a quick peek. Just sitting quietly and listening to the sweet fluid sounds of evening bird song can evaporate the stress of a school day, or work for that matter.

My grand-daughter’s favourite activity is searching the garden at night with a torch.

We look for hedgehogs or frogs and toads, then listen to the hoot of an owl.

In spring and summer the night is a magical time, and some of our strangest insects are nocturnal.

There are nine hundred species of large moths in the UK, with many as colourful as their butterfly cousins.

Eastern Daily Press: Night garden - common frog

You could try placing a bright lamp on a white sheet laid out in the middle on the lawn, on a warm still night a bewildering array of moths will be attracted to it.

The kids could convince you to spare a splash of red wine to make wine ropes.

A piece of thick string soaked in a solution of wine and dissolved sugar, then hung on a branch, proves irresistible to some of the more discerning moth species.  

If rain keeps you indoors you can set an art challenge, perhaps a collage of natural items collected from the garden or during a walk.

Remember, please don’t pick wildflowers, instead have your child photograph them and set a challenge for the family to find out their names using the internet or a spotter’s guide.

Every pond, tree or field margin has nature to explore and discover, and with NWT’s urban nature reserves in Norwich you don’t have to travel deep into the countryside to see some incredible wildlife. Nature is always nearer than you think.    

Eastern Daily Press: Pond dipping

I believe a desire for us to live on a clean green planet is discovered, fundamentally, through nature play in childhood.

Although stopping the decline of our natural world is clearly our generation’s job, turning it around is ultimately for the next.

The philosopher A J Ayer argued that ‘unless children have a word for something, how are they to conceive of it’.

The need to engage children through education is important, but enchanting them through the beauty of art, mystery, wonder and words is vital.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust organises events and activates throughout the year that provide the chance for all the family to explore Norfolk’s amazing countryside and the wildlife that lives alongside us. We also have five visitor centres across the county, providing information, books, gifts, snacks and most importantly a gateway to wide open space. Visit our website and follow the links at norfolkwildlifetrust.co.uk