I have been trying to whistle using a blade of grass since I was about 8. OK – so I haven’t thought about it much in the last ten years or so having long since given it up as a non-starter but I remember very clearly thinking it was a very cool trick to have during my primary school years and one I fancied using t my advantage these days to entertain Roo on walks!
I was finally put out of my misery by a friend and fellow mum just over a year ago, who pointed out where I was going wrong. I have since become a bit of a pro, much to Roo’s delight!
Since then I’ve been revisiting my favourite plants for outdoor fun with Roo. It’s a great way for her to learn plant names as well as a way of introducing her to their more important purposes as a hedgerow habitat and food source.
Some might say that picking any wild plant is wrong but for me, passing on a love of the outdoors to my toddler and teaching her the names of our native plants and flowers is worth the loss of the occasionally plucked stem.
n.b. If you’re trying any of these plants out for the first time then do remember that for some people, occasionally a few wild plants can cause dermatitis when touched. I’ve never had a problem with any of those listed below though.
- Whistle with grass.
With the right technique, grass can produce a really loud impressive whistle and you can perfect your technique to be able to adjust the sound from bass ‘quacking’ noises to high pitched shrieks. Great for confusing the ducks or creeping up and making siblings jump!
To produce a whistle, pick a broad piece of grass and pinch it between the top and bottom of your thumbs so it is taut. Blow through the gap between your top and bottom thumb knuckles. It might take a few goes (or a decade) to get it right – be patient!
- Sticky fun with Goose Grass.
Common Cleavers, more commonly known as Goose Grass or Sticky Willies in Scotland, is an all-time childhood favourite. With its distinctive bright green leaves it is commonly found in hedgerows, particularly in the late spring. The leaves are covered in tiny little hooks meaning that when picked and put against an unsuspecting victim’s clothing, it grips on like velcro. Hours of fun!
- Firing Flowers of the Ribwort Plantain
The Ribwort Plantain is commonly found in hedgerows and verges, with its distinctive flowers appearing in the late spring and summer. The flower heads make excellent missiles for firing at the unsuspecting – simply bend the stalk in a loop around the bottom of the flower head, tighten and pull forwards like a catapult. Fairly thin stalks are better than thicker ones as they can snap.
- Sticky burrs
These little round balls are a pain to get out of pet fur but are great fun for children. Used in a similar way to Goose Grass, I always enjoyed sticking sticky burrs on the backs of the unsuspecting or for target throwing competitions with the help of a volunteer’s jumper during picnic breaks!
- Dandelion Clocks
The old classic plant game – children have for years been picking the white seed-heads of Dandelions and blowing off the seeds in an attempt to tell the time. The rule goes that each puff it takes to remove the white fluff is another hour on the clock. Perhaps that’s why children are such inaccurate time keepers when left to play outside alone!
- Bind weed
Much as gardeners hate the invasive nature of this weed, the flowers of the Convolvulus are a good source of entertainment for children. We used to pick them and put them on our noses, breathing in through our nostrils to balance them there! Not the most sophisticated of games but fun nonetheless!
Another childhood classic, picking Buttercups to tell whether or not someone likes butter is generations old! The saying goes, if your chin reflects the yellow of the buttercup flower when held up to it, then you like butter. Either that or you have a sweaty chin!
- Dead Nettles.
There was always at least one cool kid at school who would run around the playground with a nettle in their hand, seemingly too hard to feel any pain. They were usually the same ones who chased people with large spiders or Daddy Long Legs!
For those in the know, this is an easy illusion. The White Dead-Nettle is actually a related but different plant to the Common Nettle and produces white flowers amongst its leaves in the late spring. Unlike their cousins though, the Dead-Nettle does not sting, so you can pick it without coming to harm. Those willing to take the illusion one step further can pluck off the tell-tale white flowers!
What are your favourite hedgerow plants? Do you know any good games to play with those things growing in our verges? I’d love to know about them! And remember – if you have written a post about wildlife, enjoying the great outdoors with kids or exploring nature then do link up your post to this week’s #wildlifewednesday linky below!