Mention going on a family walk to older children and you're likely to be greeted with groans. However, as most parents know, family walks are fun, free and educational offering you a chance to slow down and chat. What is not to love?
Quite a bit, I suspect if you're nine and would rather sit on the sofa and watch Ben Ten. In an effort to silence the groans and tantrums it sometimes pays to have an ace up your sleeve: whether it's the promise of a Coke and a bag of crisps at a pub, sweets, or a wild flower treasure hunt.
However, this hunt is one with a difference because you leave the treasure behind. But clever parents know how to appeal to junior's more competitive side (and if that doesn't work there's always the promise of some pop at the pub as a prize).
Here are my tips and Top 10 wild flowers to look out for this summer.Before you set out it's important to stress to children that no part of the plant should be picked. We must leave them for other people to enjoy plus some could cause irritation or be poisonous.
Taking a camera or a notebook and coloured pencils to draw the flowers is also a good idea. The book can be used to record the date and location of the find. To help you with this it's essential, if your knowledge is a little sparse, to be equipped with a wild flower guide such as the Usborne Spotter's Guides or Charlotte Voakes' Little Guide to Wild Flowers.
For older children there is a scorecard at the back of the Usborne book to help keep track of who spotted what, with a handy point system.
Little ones can have pictures of the wild flowers you hope to find photocopied and laminated or covered with contact paper to make them more durable and which could then be ticked off.
Here are my Top 10 Wildflowers to look out for:
- Woad: This is a tall plant with yellow flowers and hanging pods. The leaves were once boiled to make blue dye. It can be found in dry places and waysides.
- Hogweed: This white flower grows on a hairy plant which has huge leaves and a long stalk in woods and grassy places.
- Corky-Fruited Water Dropwort: Meadows are the places to find clusters of white flowers with feathery leaves on plants which grow to 60cm.
- Pheasant's Eye: Worth a lot of points, this one, as it's quite rare but look in cornfields. It has red flowers with black centres and feathery leaves.
- Devil's Bit Scabious: The flowers range in colour from pale to dark purple on this erect plant which grows in wet grassy places.
- Jumping Jack: The purple flowers look like open mouths and the seed heads explode when touched. It grows near streams and can reach 200cm tall.
- Dandelions: I know, everyone has these growing ten steps from their front door but that's the beauty of wild flower hunts -- you don't have to travel too far to do it. It also helps to search for one or two easy plants so children don't get too frustrated or downhearted.
- Shepherd's Purse: This has heart-shaped leaves with white flowers and can be found all year round on wasteland.
- Bats-in-the-Belfry: This is a hairy plant with purple flowers that grows in hedges, shady places and woods.
- Soapwort: This plant, which grows near streams, has pink scented flowers with leaves that were once used to make soap.
Apart from creating wonderful family memories, identifying wild flowers is also important because it's teaching the next generation about their world which is a vital step towards teaching them to protect it too.