At the weekend I held a huge earthworm and a centipede in my hand – not words I expected to say. We’d bundled the babies into the car and driven to the picturesque House of Dun in the Angus countryside but we weren’t going to view a civilised stately home, oh no, we were going on an adventure – a mini beast hunt, or as Mr Toddler dramatically claimed ‘a bear hunt’. He always goes OTT.
We’d turned up for one of the National Trust for Scotland‘s renowned Nature Nippers events aimed at pre-school tots. Our Ranger, Ross, gathered up his gang of intrepid hunters and we set off into the woods around House of Dun in search of beasties. Along the trail Ross had hidden ‘insects’ for the tots to find and they went hurtling off in search of them. With each insect discovered the Ranger gave an explanation about the animal in question. I’m so ignorant about bugs that these chats, aimed at pre-schoolers, worked for me too – millipedes often don’t have eyes (who knew?), that wasp is actually a honey bee (they look so similar!), a ladybird is brightly coloured to discourage birds from eating its poisonous body (ok, I kind of knew that one).
Then the drama increased. We went in search of REAL beasts. The Ranger led his brave explorers to a pile of logs and we lifted them up in search of creatures. It’s pretty startling what you can find if you actually look – the kids were holding snails and slugs with no anxiety, phobias or yuck syndrome. They were fascinated. I was proud as punch when I found a giant earthworm in the grass (competitive mum), Mr Husband found a centipede (competitive dad) and Mr Toddler and the other children were encouraged to hold them – gold stars all round.
The Nature Nippers sessions are ideal for toddlers and pre-schoolers. They last around an hour and each one is different so locals can attend all the events in the area if they wish – activities include building a nest like a bird, exploring the woods or trying to grow plants from seeds.
The Trust’s Head of Countryside, Arthur Martin said, ‘These events feed children’s curiosity, allowing them to explore nature for themselves and teach how living things grow and survive. It’s a great experience for under fives, designed especially for them and led by our experienced countryside rangers’. Encouraging kids to get out in the fresh air, engaging with the land around them and having a hoot at the same time can only be a good thing.
The Nature Nippers events run at several NTS properties across Scotland:-
Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire – events till 4 October 2016
Culzean Castle & Country Park, Ayrshire – till 15 December 2016
Glencoe & Dalness, Highlands – till 1 December 2016
House of Dun & Montrose Nature Basin, Angus – till 15 October 2016
Inveresk Lodge Garden & Newhailes, Edinburgh & Lothian – till 1 December 2016
Malleny Garden, Edinburgh – till 3 June 2016
Whatever the weather kids will enjoy a Nature Nippers outing but when the sun shines it’s a pretty fab way to spend a morning. Search for more info and ticket details here.
Tots2Travel were guests of the National Trust for Scotland – Mr Toddler says Tankoo – he’s working on his enunciation.
THE LOWDOWN – we drove from Aberdeen to House of Dun, near Montrose. Montrose is also served by trains by Scotrail and Virgin Trains East Coast. The station is a ten minute taxi ride from House of Dun.
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