Boredom busters are quick activities that need minimal resources. They’ll probably only take 30 mins to an hour to complete. These are undoubtedly the easiest to make for rainy days too, so while some will be outdoor activities, we’ll include things to make and colour and things to do online here. We’ll be adding new activities as the coronavirus lockdown progresses.
Featured Boredom Buster
Water Cycle Board Game
Print out the rules, the board and the playing cards for this game all about the water cycle. Can your raindrop be the first to reach the sea? Will you get drunk by a tiger, stuck behind a dam, or turned into ice? This is a fun, easy-to-play game for a rainy day and definitely one for all the family
Download the full instructions: Water Cycle Board Game
All Boredom Buster Activities
- 2 Minute Beach Clean
I saw this terrible video on Twitter last week of a machine that was designed to ‘clean beaches’. It basically scooped up 6 inches of sand and everything on top of it and sieved it through a fine mesh to leave nice clean sand. I wanted to scream “What about all the little animals!”. Yes, folks, that lovely sand is full of little critters, and lots of our gorgeous shore birds like those little critters for their tea. The only way to clean a beach is by hand. So this weekend, why not do a 2 minute beach clean. Not convinced? You will be – watch this:
So how do you do a 2 minute beach clean? Simple, pick up litter for 2 minutes. Take a snap of what you found, and post it on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #2minutebeachclean. Take care you don’t touch sharp objects and always wash your hands with soap or take hand sanitiser with you.
If you want to get more involved with caring for your local beach, then check out the Clean Coasts Website: https://cleancoasts.org. The 2MinuteBeachClean is their initiative. They’ll show you how to join a regular beach clean, or organise your own beach cleaning group, and you too can become an ocean hero.
- Practice Leave No Trace
Below are seven tips to encourage the kids in your life to practice Leave No Trace.
- Know Before You Go. Kids have few choices in life; therefore, finding opportunities to give choice helps build buy-in and confidence. When planning an outdoor adventure, gain kids’ input. Have them research the weather forecast and plan the best clothing to wear, provide trail choices within their ability, and allow them to choose their lunch and snack food.
- Choose the Right Path. Play a game of “ninjas and detectives.” Encourage children’s imaginations while guiding their powers of awareness and conscious foot-stepping with the power of role-playing. Ask them to pretend they are ninjas or spies—or any characters that require them to observe their surroundings without leaving “clues” as to where they have been. Parents can play “detective” to follow the ninjas’ trails as they attempt to remain unseen and unheard.
- Trash Your Rubbish. Play “I spy” with rubbish by creating a competition among kids (or between kids and parents) to see who can collect the most litter. This activity gets kids thinking about the accumulation of rubbish and its impact on parks and communities. Ensure you use gloves and do not collect any PPE or briken glass. See can you guess how long the different items take to break down.
- Respect Wildlife. Kids are naturally fascinated by animals they encounter outside, often wanting to touch or get close to them. Help them to understand how close they can safely be from an animal by asking them to stand with one arm raised straight out at shoulder height with their thumb up. Ask them to look at the animal with one eye closed and try to cover it with their thumbs. If they are far enough away, their thumbs will completely block sight of the animal.
- Minimise the risk of fire. When camping, play a firewood relay race. Create groups of two or more (or have a competition between children and parents). The objective is to gather dead and downed firewood of appropriate size. Once retrieved, sequence the firewood from smallest to largest in diameter. Any firewood larger than kids’ wrists are disqualified. The team with the most appropriate firewood wins. Finish this game by explaining that firewood should be no larger in diameter because it takes too long to burn into ash, hindering the decomposition process.
- Leave What You Find. Give kids a camera to take photos of treasures they find on the trail. Use a photo collage application, such as PhotoLab, to encourage creativity and save and share their outdoor adventures. This reinforces that they can keep the memory while leaving the objects themselves in nature.
- Be Considerate of Others. Encourage kids to be inclusive and polite when playing outdoors. Model and teach good manners, such as sharing the trail with others, and avoid bad behaviours, such as talking on phones while exploring.
- Rainbow Art
Making Rainbow Art
Making rainbow rainy day art is a simple and fun STEAM activity for kids. All you need are some washable markers, watercolor paper or heavyweight card, and the desire to have fun and get creative on a rainy day.
If you really want to try this activity but don’t have any rain in the forecast, we recommend using a watering can to ‘rain’ on your drawings.
It is easy to create a light sprinkling of water that can easily transform rainbow drawings into rainbow rainy day art with a small watering can.
If you choose this method, take your watering can outside with your rainbow art and use it to rain on your drawing. You can create rain art with a watering can in the bathtub, a shower, or a large sink.
STEP 1 – INVITE CHILDREN TO DRAW ON HEAVY WATERCOLOR PAPER OR CARD USING A RAINBOW OF COLORS
Have your children draw a rainbow invite them to create artwork and doodles using all of the colors of the rainbow in any way they choose.
STEP 2 – PLACE RAINBOW RAINY DAY ART OUT IN THE RAIN
Place your rainbow drawing out in the rain and watch what happens. Children love watching the rain create new art!
Alternatively, you can put rain art outside and set a timer to go back and check it in a few minutes, but don’t leave it out too long in heavy rain or it will all wash away!
No rain? No problem!! Use a watering can to rain down on your artwork.
STEP 3 – ALLOW RAINY DAY ART TO DRY
Pick up your rainbow rainy day art and carefully bring it inside to allow to dry. Hold it as flat as possible when you carry it in–watch out it can drip!
The colors may shift and change depending on how much water is on the paper. Watching the colors move on wet paper is also loads of fun for kids!
- Ocean Cams
It’s raining again in Galway, so today’s marine activity is an indoor one! Looking at visitor stats on the website, it looks like you all really liked the animal cams. So here today are some more, but today’s are all marine. These CAMS are all hosted on explore.org so if you want to find more of your own, that’s where to go.
The first camera is in the waters of a small island off the coast of California. This is a kelp forest in the eastern Pacific. Kelps are very large seaweeds and they really help increase biodiversity by providing homes for many small animals.
The next camera is a ‘shark cam’. This camera is on the other side of the USA, off North Carolina. So this is the other side of the Atlantic to Galway. Lots of people are afraid of sharks, but they are amazing and wonderful animals which have very few impacts on humans. To find out more about sharks, check out the Florida Museum website.
And the third camera often has killer whales in its view finder. It’s in the Johnstone Strait in British Columbia off the west coast of Canada. I only watched for a couple of minutes, and yes I did see a killer whale! It’s very unusual for killer whales to come into such shallow water, but there’s some pods in the NE Pacific that do this quite a bit.
When these cameras aren’t live, they tend to show “highlights” reels. These are great too, but be sure to check back and see if you can see live ocean fun!
- Find your tree twin
There’s a special tree in every wood thats just waiting to meet you! All you have to do is find it.
Today take a walk in your local woods and see if you can find your tree twin. Maybe you can take a photo of you with your tree twin and visit it on a regular basis to watch it change through the seasons. Follow the simple instructions on the Sheet below and remember always to follow the Leave No Trace principles. #respectnature #leavenotrace
- Underwater Observatories
Would you like to help the scientists who run Underwater Observatories? Read today’s downloadable to learn all about ocean observatories and how you can get involved. The image we used today is a schematic of SmartBay, Ireland’s own underwater observatory off the coast of Spiddal.
Downloadable: Underwater Observatories
- Wicklow Mountains National Park
It certainly looks beautiful, but living in the west, I’ve never actually had a chance to find out. One thing’s for certain though – the nature activities on their website are awesome! I’ve linked to a few of their resources previously (on butterflies and corvids), but they just keep adding new stuff, so now it’s time to check out their website for yourself.
They have fun worksheets (with puzzles and games) for plants and animals that you’ll find in your garden, some as gaeilge, and lovely posters to help you identify butterflies, bees, birds and trees. Oh, and a video showing every species of butterfly in Ireland in 35 seconds… You know what to do:
- Ocean Instrument Quiz
Download: Ocean Instrument Quiz
Download the quiz, and look at the photos to guess what the ocean instrument does! Today’s quiz will give you a flavour of the instruments we use in marine research.
- Ocean Eddies
Today’s downloadable is all about Ocean Eddies. How do they form in our oceans and why are they important?
Download: Ocean Eddies
Image: The image above shows the sea surface currents and temperatures of the Gulf Stream heading across the Atlantic towards us from the USA and was produced by researchers at MIT: http://news.mit.edu/2020/staring-into-ocean-atmospheric-vortex-0319
- Learn about Lakes
Did you know that there are around 12,000 lakes in Ireland? A European project called MANTEL-ITN co-ordinated by Professor Eleanor Jennings (Dundalk Institute of Technology) is currently underway looking at management of climate extreme events in lakes. They have 12 short videos giving fantastic insight into lakes and all of their properties https://www.mantel-itn.org/mantel-pieces
Waves transport energy from our open oceans to our coastlines. As they reach our beaches and coasts surfers enjoy riding them and as they break they shape our coastline. How do they form and can we harness their energy? Why not read todays download and learn some more about waves?
- Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife Learn the Rule of Thumb
Learn how you can practise the Leave No Trace principle of Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife:
Audience: All ages.
Time: 30 minutes.
Leave No Trace Objective: To help participants understand ways in which they may be disrespectful of farm animals and wildlife.
Directions: First, imagine if you had a guest in your house who ate all the food, left rubbish on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink, chased you around the house, walked on the carpet with dirty shoes, etc. Adults can explain that, when we visit the outdoors, we have a responsibility to treat animals’ homes with respect.
Next, pick your favourite wild animal. Describe how they (the animal) would feel if it were shown disrespect by humans. Tell your parents what that animal would say if it could speak its mind. Examples: a bird that had its nest disturbed, a cow that could not find its calf because someone left the gate open in the field when out walking, a sheep who was chased by a dog. Think now about how humans could have behaved in a way that would have shown respect.
Watch this video from Leave No Trace America and learn the rule of thumb, this is an easy way for you to learn how you can protect farm animals and wildlife and keep your distance.
Make a list of other ways humans can disrespect farm animals and wildlife and what then think about how they could change their behaviour and show respect. Share the rule of thumb with all your friends and when you are out walking within your 5km limit, practise the Leave No Trace principle.
- How does the ocean circulate: part 3
In previous kitchen experiments we’ve looked at how Temperature and Salinity (saltiness) affect the movement of the waters in the world’s oceans. We also looked at how the moon affects tides. If you missed those posts, maybe you’d like to check them out first:
How does the ocean circulate Part 1 (Temperature)
How does the ocean circulate Part 2 (Salinity)
Today’s oceanography sheet puts it all together and explains how these factors and others cause water to circulate all around the world. It’s really important the water keeps circulating bringing nutrients up from the deep and keeping all the waters full of oxygen, and bringing cooler and /or warmer waters to different parts of the globe regulating climate. Did you know that Ireland is warmer than it should be, because of warm ocean currents? We’re further north than Newfoundland in Canada, but much much warmer!
So check out our oceanography sheet which includes some excellent videos explaining ocean circulation and climate change:
How does the ocean circulate Part 3 (The round up!)
- 22º Halo
If you’re in the Galway area and you looked up to the sky around lunchtime yesterday you might have seen a big ring around the sun and wondered what was causing it. I asked NUI Galway’s Iain Mac Labhrainn, mostly because he’s got a degree in astrophysics and a PhD in cosmology. I’m going to add here, that I have previously relayed my children’s questions to him like “What came before the Big Bang” and he always gives me a reliable answer.
Today was no exception. According to Iain this is an example of a 22 degree halo around the sun caused by hexagonal ice crystals in the atmosphere. You can read about it on Wikipedia here:
If you saw it too, tweet us your photos to @NatureAtHomeIE
- Make a bird bath
Birds need somewhere to drink and they need to bathe to keep their feathers in great condition. I noticed that with all the recent warm weather, the usual puddles in my garden that the birds use had all dried up. To make a bird bath, you just need (i) a shallow wide dish and (ii) something to raise your dish off the ground (to help guard against predators). Even the poshest birdbaths are little more than this:
If you’ve got an an old terracotta saucer, or can get one when the garden centres open, these are ideal, as they’re heavy, wide, shallow, and let the birds get a good grip. You can also use old galvanised dustbin lids – they make a great wide shallow bath. Be creative but make sure your dish is shallow (1 or 2 inches is plenty) as song birds aren’t great swimmers, and if it rains hard enough, it’s going to fill to the brim. Slopy-sided dishes are best because they make it easy for birds to get in and out: if your dish doesn’t slope much at the edges, put a rock or some stones in it to make it easier for the birds.
To raise your shallow dish off the ground just stack plant pots. Old terracotta plant pots are ideal because they’re good and heavy so they won’t blow away. But if you’ve only plastic plant pots just fill them with rocks and stones to weigh them down. You could also pile a few old bricks to raise your bird bath off the ground.
Once you’ve found the items that you need to build your bird bath, just pile everything on top of each other and then fill the dish with water. Birdwatch Ireland recommend that you change the water in bird baths daily to help prevent the spread of disease, and that you wash it thoroughly on a regular basis. After you’ve cleaned them be sure to rinse them really well and let them air dry before putting them back out. If you want to make your bird bath more stylish, you could paint the terracotta pots or bricks that are acting as the stand, but don’t paint the saucer because chemicals from the paint can leach into the water and harm the birds.
- Rainy Days
It was pouring yesterday morning in Galway, even if it did brighten up later. So here’s a couple of fun animal things to do online.
The first is a word search site which has lots of animal word searches. I love this site because you can even make your own word searches. So you can have competitions to see who can make the best one. You can do them online, or you can print them out and do them the old-fashioned way with pen or paper.
The second is a colouring site. I love this one because it has really good animals, and it has loads and loads of sea creatures. It also has flowers, leaves, trees. It literally has thousands of different nature pictures to colour. And once more, you have the choice to print it out and colour it with crayons or paints, or you can paint online.
You’ll find some tutorials for drawing animals on this site too – so if you fancy improving your skills, try this link: http://www.supercoloring.com/drawing-tutorials/animals
- Animal Cams
Last week, we featured the amazing Sea Eagle Web Cam at Glengariff and a few other birdcams. Today we’ve a selection of mammal cams for you! The best animal cams are those that show the animals in the wild, but of course, you often get less activity on them (unless you put them in a nest or den). Here’s some of the most active ones we’ve found.
This webcam is from the Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve on the northern border of South Africa where it meets Botswana. This webcam looks over the Tau Waterhole and, if you’re lucky, you may see elephants, giraffes, lions, and wild dogs.
You can watch bears in Transylvania…
Or racoons in a backyard in South Carolina…
If you can’t see enough action on those cameras, try some of the ones at zoos and wildlife parks. I can’t seem to embed the footage from Dublin Zoo, but you can check out their webcams of elephants, penguins and giraffes here. Or you could a whole series of webcams in San Diego Zoo. Or maybe you prefer to watch these cute little Giant Pandas in China….
- How does the ocean circulate: part 2
In a previous blog, we gave you an experiment to show how temperature affects the circulation of water in the ocean. Here’s a very similar experiment that you can do to see how the saltiness, or salinity, of the water affects the ocean’s circulation. These are great indoor activities for less sunny days. Why not do them both together using different colour food dyes? You can tweet us photos of your experiments to @NatureAtHomeIE and we’ll retweet the best.
Download: How does the ocean circulate: salinity
- Sea Eagle Web Cam
This is A-MA-ZING! The National Parks & Wildlife Service have put a webcam close to a white-tailed sea eagle nest down in Glengarriff Nature Reserve, Co Cork. The camera’s there so that NPWS they can keep an eye on the nest, but it also means we can all watch.
There’s a whole website about Glengarriff Nature Reserve that you can check out, and, if there’s not much live action on the webcam, they’ve a clip there of more happening.
Can’t get enough bird live action? Try these webcams:
We’ll follow up with some other great webcam sites in a few days. They great gray owl nest is in Montana, USA, so if you’ll be able to watch dawn without getting up too early because of the time difference!
- Flower pressing activity
Pick some flowers that have fallen to the ground
One of the best sights in spring is foamy clouds of blossom on the trees. You might be lucky enough to have an apple or cherry tree in your garden but if not keep a look-out for one on your daily walk.
On a breezy spring day it’s great fun to stand under a cherry tree when the wind makes it fall like confetti at a wedding. And when everyone‘s finished pretending to be a bride, you can gather some of the fallen blossom and have a go at flower pressing.
When you get home simply place the petals between some sheets of kitchen roll and carefully put them inside a book. Pile some heavy books on top and leave them for a week or two until they’ve dried out. You and your kids can then use the pressed petals to make pretty pictures or patterns.
- Water Cycle Board Game
Can’t get to the shops for a new board game? We’ve the solution for you. Print out the rules, the board and the playing cards for this game all about the water cycle. Can your raindrop be the first to reach the sea? Will you get drunk by a tiger, stuck behind a dam, or turned into ice? Created by my inventive primary school teaching sister, Rachael Smith, and given professional-looking graphics by my NUI Galway colleague Kevin Healy, this is a fun, easy-to-play game for a rainy day and definitely one for all the family over Easter.
Download: Water Cycle Board Game
- Write a story
Write a story inspired by your local woods or your favourite tree
If your kids love writing, then get those creative juices flowing with a story challenge. Kick things off by giving them the first sentence and encouraging them to write the rest of the story.
You could also jot ideas on scraps of paper, then get kids to choose some at random that they have to incorporate into their story. These could include:
A tree has fallen in the woods
A character has gone missing
An animal is shouting an alarm call
There are some mysterious footprints to follow.
Gather together as a family and share the stories you’ve written. They’ll make great bedtime stories too when you’ve read all the books you have at home.
- Who Am I? An Animal Guessing Game
Activity: Learn about Irish wildlife through a simple guessing game
Learning Objectives: Investigate Irish wildlife and farm animals and how we can respect them in the natural environment
Links to Curriculum:
SESE Geography Strand: Natural Environments, Strand Unit: The Local Natural Environment
SESE Science Strand: Living Things, Strand Unit: Plants and Animals
SESE Geography and Science Strand: Environmental Awareness and Care, Strand Unit: Caring for My Locality
Time: 30 mins
Materials: A list of the Who Am I? Questions included below, an image of each animal, crayons, colouring pencils or markers
- Explain to children that you will be playing a guessing game about animals, and you are going to draw the answers on your sheet
- Have a copy of each animal.
- Read through the clues with the children and they have to guess what animal it is and draw them on their sheet.
- Read through each riddle below, give the children a few minutes after each one to guess what the animal is and to draw it in on their sheet.
- Talk with them about what the answer is.
- Have they ever seen any of these animals before? If so where did they see them? How did it make them feel? (e.g. surprised, excited)
I live in an underground tunnel system called a sett,
I am a nocturnal animal which means I only come out at night,
I eat slugs, beetles and lots of earthworms!
You would recognise me by the white stripe that runs down my head
I make my home in woodlands and hedgerows,
I like munching on all types of bugs: worms, slugs, earwigs and spiders,
I am a nocturnal animal so you won’t see me out during the day,
You would recognise me by my prickly exterior!
I am an arboreal animal which means I spend most of my time in trees,
I even make my nest in trees but I’m not a bird!
I have sharp front teeth that I use to split hazelnuts and tease seeds out of pinecones,
I have a long bushy tail that helps me keep my balance when I’m running up and down trees!
My name in Irish, Madra Uisce, means water dog,
As my name suggests I am an excellent swimmer!
I make my home on riverbanks, lakeshores and coastal areas,
I love munching on fish, eels and frogs
I am an amphibian which means I am cold blooded,
I make my home in nice moist places such as ponds, marshes or long grass,
My long back legs mean I am an excellent jumper!
I have no arms or legs!
I live in tunnels I create in the soil,
Although I have no eyes, my body can sense changes in light,
I eat the remains of leaves and plants in the soil
You can usually find me on a farm,
I have a thick fleece on my body that keeps me nice and warm in winter,
I even star in several well-known nursery rhymes!
Is it important to protect animals? Why?
Are there actions we can take to respect farm animals and wildlife when using the outdoors?
Download a resource sheet with everything you need to play the game: Who am I? Animal Guessing Game
- How does the ocean circulate
The water in the ocean is moving all the time. Suitable for a rainy day, and able to be done in your kitchen with a glass bowl and a plastic cup, this simple experiment will show you one of the reasons why the water in our oceans moves.
Here’s the download: How does the Ocean Circulate?
- Garden Birdwatching
Since I posted the instructions for making a Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder, I’ve been searching for a free downloadable guide to Irish garden birds. Such a thing is amazingly difficult to find. Then, lo and behold, in my Twitter feed this morning came exactly what I was looking for. The wonderful people at the Cork branch of Birdwatch Ireland have produced two perfect posters Irish Garden Birds in English, and Irish Garden Birds as Gaeilge. What’s more, they’re having a competition from 4th 11th April 2020 and all you have to do is identify and count the birds in your garden. So if you don’t already have a bird feeder, make one, and then join in their competition. If you’re reading this after the competition, you can still make use of their wonderful ID sheets to identify your garden birds. These two fellas were in my garden yesterday!
- Nature Art
Today’s post doesn’t need downloadable instructions. Just go to your door and see what you can find from nature to make a picture. Maybe you have sea shells or pretty stones, or maybe conkers or pine cones lying around from previous walks. Mix them with fresh leaves and flowers and see what you can ‘draw’. Enormous thanks to Megan Smith for these lovely pictures.
- Leaf Rubbing
Friday 13th March was the first day of #LockDownIreland, but today is the first day of the more severe version so now we need activities that don’t involve going out even to the park. Leaf rubbing is an activity more normally associated with autumn, when leaves are everywhere and are old and hard. But it can be done in spring too as long as you’re gentle with those soft new leaves. Just grab some leaves from your garden or yard (or even a pot plant!) and follow our quick guide to Leaf rubbing.