Now in its 17th year, the Festival of Nature runs from 24 – 29 May 2023. Whether you’re in the city or the countryside, there’s plenty on offer for all ages, spanning hands-on and outdoor activities in gardens, parks, and forests. It’s a great opportunity to get out and have fun exploring local biodiversity with your kids. Follow our guide!
Last year, hundreds of thousands of people in clubs and associations, local authorities, businesses, and schools took part in the Festival of Nature. Over five days, a host of fun, family-friendly events for young and old allowed participants to discover or rediscover France’s regional biodiversity. How do you pick the activity that’s right for your family? Here’s a snapshot of what’s on offer... or things you could organize yourself!
The Festival of Nature is a chance to celebrate biodiversity by bringing all of your five senses to the party! We often focus more on our vision than our hearing, but by really listening we get to enjoy a more sensory experience of nature. You’ll be amazed at the sounds out there! Recording natural soundscapes, taking a sound quiz, or simply spending quiet time listening to the wildlife in a garden, park, or forest, you’ll feel the thrill of tuning into nature’s song.
To really be able to listen, you have to start by making space for silence. You can help children to hold a silence by using an object as a visual cue (covered up/uncovered), or perhaps a colour code.
To combine moments of individual concentration with time for convivial sharing, everyone can pick out one specific sound that they’ve identified, explain what they think is interesting about it, and then let the others try and pinpoint it.
If you’re brave enough, why not head outside at first light to catch the dawn chorus? Birds are particularly chirpy at daybreak, especially at this time of year.
Despite what some people might think, nature isn’t only to be found in the countryside. If you just pay attention, you’ll spot pockets of biodiversity nestling in every corner of the city – on urban wasteland, in a crack in the pavement, or on a green wall. To help you notice these often-overlooked little gems, here are two family activities you can do around your city to mark the Festival of Nature.
Trees in the city
The idea is that you go for a walk guided by the trees. Children will particularly enjoy circuits that involve little challenges, quizzes, and riddles. You could also make it like an orienteering race. Either way, trees will be the big milestones along your trail. Take the time to really look at the shapes of the trees’ trunks, leaves, buds, and seeds. You could even make rubbings of the patterns on their bark. It’s super-simple to do, you just put a sheet of paper up against the tree, rub across it gently with a piece of coloured chalk or a pencil, and you’ll see a beautiful artwork appear before your very eyes. This is even more fun to do with younger children.
The natural secrets of a stone wall
For this hands-on experiment, leave the concrete behind and seek out a big old stone wall. Then examine it very carefully (don't forget to bring magnifying glasses with you!) You’ll notice that the plants growing on its north side are different to the ones on its south side, and also that the species living near the top aren’t the same as those at the bottom. What are the little critters seeking? Warmth/coolness? Humidity/dryness? Your family will have to channel Sherlock Holmes to unravel the secrets of biodiversity there before your eyes. You could even go a step further and draw out some of the many little creatures hiding in the cracks of the wall.
Here’s an idea! How about swapping your traditional Sunday walk for a nighttime ramble, for a change, during the Festival of Nature? Kit yourselves out with a torch and warm jackets, and keep your senses on high alert! You’ll discover smells, noises, and animals that you don’t realise are there during the day. This activity can be adapted to suit all ages. Older children might enjoy a night hike or even sleeping out under the stars, while younger kids would be satisfied with a walk after nightfall or some stargazing in the dark.
Discover the budding entomologist in you…
Luckily for all insect lovers, insects are attracted to light! This makes it easy to go on a non-violent insect hunt. On your balcony, in your garden or outdoors in nature, simply hang up a white sheet vertically and light it with a strong lamp. You’ll soon see a variety of insects appear and you can easily sit and observe them... Even better than a movie – watch A Bug’s Life in real time!
Good to know:
You could enjoy these activities with your own people or join in events near you, but you can also organize something and open it up to other nature lovers! You can sign up on the Festival of Nature website until 17 May.
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