Your outdoor calendar: June 2022

Julie Mountain
Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Early summer is so very full of promise – get active outdoors to make the most of warm days and light evenings, suggests Julie Mountain



In small gardens, space for plants is at a premium, so it’s vital to use up all the surfaces you have and pack in an abundance of leaves and flowers. Dense areas of plant life can reduce temperatures in small and confined spaces, so the more you can fit in, the better. Some ideas for greening small spaces:

  • Hanging baskets: screw brackets into walls and fences, everywhere. You’re unlikely to use all of them, all the time, but having brackets ready to take planters means you can be flexible with growing areas. A choice of locations makes the most of seasonal sun or shade, or creating gloriously floral corners, or perhaps a veggie and fruit garden ‘in the sky’. Where possible, include pulleys for your brackets, or hang the baskets much lower than you ordinarily would, so that children can examine the plants up close rather than only ever from below.
  • Attach trellis or rigid wire mesh to any and every wall that’s available. When they aren’t being used to grow climbing plants up, they double as weaving frames or a spot to peg children’s artworks. Even the narrowest of pots or troughs can be a decent location for climbing plants – maybe start with quick-growing fragrant annuals such as sweet peas or something more robust and long-lived like Virginia creeper.
  • Attach castors to the bottom of heavy plant pots, or place them on ‘dollies’ – that way, you can move them around outdoors and create smaller, more cosy spaces, or line them up to provide temporary barriers between areas or define a bike and trike route.
  • Fix a network of strong wires overhead, between structurally sound surfaces such as trees, timber posts and fascia boards. If there is no room for a pergola to grow plants up, choose a super-fast clematis species to grow from a large pot, and train it up the post or wall and along the wires.
  • Allow grass verges and edges along the bottom of walls and fences to grow along; perhaps add a few wildflower seeds or plugs (seedlings) or some periwinkle (Vinca minor).

understanding the world


There are lots of ways of collecting natural treasures for later discussion and examination, but double-sided sticky tape is one of my favourite resources for nature walks. In early summer, so much is blooming and showing itself off that flower and leaf walks are irresistible. Depending on the observations you would like children to make, try some of these ideas:

  • Cut strips of thin cardboard, just over twice the width of your double-sided tape, and attach a double strip of tape all the way along (so that almost the full width will be sticky). Cut the strips into bracelet-sized lengths, remove the tape and stick them around children’s wrists – then off you go to use nature to inspire unique jewellery designs.
  • Cut artists’ palette shapes from stiff card and add 3–5cm lengths of double-sided tape all around the edges. Ask children to collect tones and shades of a particular colour (green and yellow are obvious choices at this time of year), or to make a rainbow, or mark a colour adjacent to each piece of tape, to indicate colours you would like children to find.
  • Cut out thumb-sized artists’ palettes, big enough just to take one piece of sticky tape. Can children find lots of really tiny items to stick to it?

Store some of the children’s collections in a cool, dark place and repeat the activity in late September – what differences do children note between the objects they could discover and collect in high summer and those of early autumn? Can older children, who are able to recall what each season feels like, speculate about what they might find if they searched in January or March?

June top tips

  • Make sure you have plenty of ways to store rainwater. In addition to water butts, consider leaving buckets and trugs out on rainy days (this is now how I keep my fire bucket topped up ready to use) and wheeling indoor plants or greenhouse plants outdoors overnight. Talk to children about the importance of conserving natural resources such as water as they help you place buckets and plants outdoors – and it is great physical activity too. And remember to use some of the water to top up your bird bath!
  • Choose a few late-flowering seeds to sow on warm windowsills over the summer, then plant out in pots or directly into the soil for a colourful floral display. Nasturtiums are my favourite.

active stories

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber and vividly illustrated by Brian Lovelock is a super story for telling, reimagining and performing outdoors.

Scout is a worker bee on her first trip from the hive in search of flowers for pollen and nectar. The book tells the story of her adventure and return to the hive and includes facts about the lives of bees that will help you enrich this story if you want to investigate the science of bees in more detail.

The ‘journey’ element of the story really lends itself to replication outdoors, as Scout visits many places familiar to young children and encounters other animals and weather events along the way. I also really love the similes throughout the text – for example, the pollen on Scout’s back is described as ‘a sprinkle of sun-powder’ – and it offers an opportunity to pick out natural objects in the garden and help children make up their own similes to describe them.



  • Make music with dandelions: remove the flower or seed head then blow down the stalk; it’s not completely hollow, but the sound vibrates down the stalk. Children will need to purse their lips – it’s fun to practise this into the air beforehand, making ‘parpy’ noises. Change the flute’s pitch by splitting the stalk from the bottom, or even make ‘notes’ by using the blunt end of a wooden skewer or toothpick to poke small holes through one wall of the stalk – children will need to be very delicate with the skewer to avoid poking all the way through!
  • If you can harvest new hazel or willow stems, use them to create 2D and 3D shapes and structures. Both plants are flexible and strong and traditionally used in construction. Experiment with them – can children bend a willow stem into a whole circle? Can they make a triangle? Use masking tape to quickly join stems together – if they are long enough, children might be able to make a cube big and strong enough to throw a sheet over to make a den.

planning ahead…

  • July is peak outdoor festival season – why not plan one of your own to celebrate the joy of playing and learning outdoors? Invite parents, carers and local communities to experience a child’s eye view of outdoor learning – offer art and craft projects and music or harvesting and cooking produce outdoors. You could host a fitness festival, with children helping you lead ‘Boing! Whoosh! RolyPoly!’ activities – the Early Education website has details and Top 10 downloads for each type of activity (check out:
  • To help retain moisture in the soil if we have a dry summer, start seeking donations of wood or bark chippings, to use as mulch around plants. Contact local tree surgeons or landscapers and ask for a bagful every now and then when they are working in your neighbourhood.

natural learning

In June, trees really begin to show off their lush, generous beauty, so take the time to explore their component parts:

  • Discover ‘crown shyness’ – this is the natural phenomenon whereby some individual trees’ crowns don’t meet or intertwine; there is a gap between them. There are many suggestions for why this might occur – from avoiding the spread of pests and diseases through to allowing sunlight into the lower branches of other trees. Lie on the ground under a grove or copse of mature trees. Encourage children to lie silently, listening to the sounds of the trees and the ambient sounds coming from nearby. Can they see through to the sky between the trees’ crowns? Sometimes the blue peeking through looks like ‘rivers’ in the sky…
  • Create Hapa Zome prints – I introduced this activity in last August’s calendar ( Briefly, the children collect leaves and flowers, sandwich them between two layers of pale-coloured cotton fabric and then bash through the top layer to create a print from the pigments in the plants. It is a hugely enjoyable, noisy, physically vigorous activity, and June is a brilliant time to try it as the leaves are new and full of water and fresh pigments.
  • Play a leaf-matching memory game: prepare by picking two leaves from five different trees or shrubs in the garden – choose plants with plenty of leaves on to spare. Try to find really distinctive leaves, choosing a variety of shapes, unusual colours and so on. Place each pair of leaves together, separate from the others, and ask children to examine them carefully. Can they describe what they see? Now, can they find the plant these leaves were taken from? They can come back and check again if they need to – then, when they are certain, they should pick one leaf and bring it back to compare to the original pair.
  • You can find downloadable ID sheets for a ‘top 15’ of trees and shrubs in the UK from the Pappus project website. Check out:

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