Holiday Play

We run play activities for local families in the school holidays in our gardens. We also run sessions in other local venues such as Imperial College Invention Rooms, local children centres and parks. 

Check out some of our fun activities below that you can do at home, and don’t forget to sign up to our activities mailing list!



    Friday 27th March 2020

    Make a Petal Sun Catcher!

    During this period of home-schooling, we have compiled some fun, nature and science-based activities we have found online, for you and your family to have a go at . We will send activities twice a week so keep an eye out for next week’s ideas too! Please do share pictures of your creations with us via social media or email; we would love to see them!

    To make the Flower Petal Sun Catcher below, you may not have a paper plate, but instead you could use a recycled cereal packet or cardboard box as a frame and cut a circular hole out of the middle and if you don’t have sticky back plastic, you could try using clear sticky tape or clingfilm. If you don’t have petals or flowers at home, why not try to find some daisies in the park when you go for your daily outing? Sending our best wishes to you all. 





    Tuesday 31st March 2020

    Make a Play Dough Bird’s Nest!

    Here at Hammersmith Community Gardens Association we have another fun activity for you to try with your children at home during this period of home-schooling. Spring marks the beginning of the nesting season in the UK; a time when birds gather all sorts of natural materials to make their nests, ready for their hatchlings to hatch into. So, what better way to explain this special time of the year to your children, than by making their own mini bird’s nest? Enjoy! And tag us in photos if you give it a go – we’d love to see!

    If you go out for your daily exercise, you should be able to find some of these natural objects along the way. You don’t need to use play dough, you could make the nest entirely out of twigs, leaves and grass- or whatever you are able to find!







    Here is a useful video via the charity, Action for Children, that shows you how to make the play dough:

    From all of us at Hammersmith Community Gardens Association, we send our very best wishes to you all.


    Friday 3rd April 2020

    Make a Flower Crown!

    Here at HCGA we love using natural materials to make craft! Have a go at making your own crowns, bracelets or masks using materials you find during your daily exercise.Enjoy! And share your creations with us -we’d love to see them! Here is a photo of one of our amazing volunteers helping children, at last summer’s HCGA play scheme, make flower crowns! See below for instructions and more examples for inspiration. 







    Tuesday 7th April 2020

    Make an Easter Bunny Scene!

    Have a ‘grow’ following the instructions below! If you don’t have grass seeds, why not pick a handful of grass next time you are out for your daily outing? Happy Easter! 




    Friday 10th April 2020

    Grow Plants Using Store Cupboard Ingredients!

    April is one of the best times of the year to sow many seeds and you can grow many plants easily from ingredients you might have in your fridge or cupboards! Happy growing! 


    Tuesday 14th April 2020

    Make an Up-Cycled Flower Garden!

    If you have some plastic bottles or some juice cartons at home, why not turn them into flower pots? Follow the instructions below to make your own up-cycled flower garden! 





    Friday 17th April 2020

    Sow Seeds in Eggshells!

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    Spring has arrived and with it, the food growing season really kicks off! Here at Hammersmith Community Gardens Association, we love recycling and reusing things. 

    So, if you don’t have any small plant pots, do not worry! Just use your eggshells from breakfast to sow seeds inside and watch them grow on your windowsill. Happy seed sowing! 




    Tuesday 21st April 2020

    Try Weaving with Natural Materials!

    This nature art activity requires very few resources; most of them you should be able to find in the park or in your garden! So, when you are next out and about, try to find some natural materials, such as, sticks, leaves, flowers, seeds and feathers and weave your own piece of natural art! If you don’t have wool, you could use string, twine or even twisted fabric – whatever you have at home!

    For children aged 3-6, they may need lots of adult help to make the frame, but they usually really enjoy winding the wool around, finding the natural materials and weaving them onto the finished frame! 





    Friday 24th April 2020

    Try Re-using Plastic Bottles in Inventive Ways!

    To help you and your family with your gardening, the following pictures show some ways to reuse plastic bottles for DIY gardening projects. Here are some of our favourites that we use at Hammersmith Community Gardens and in our own gardens at home.





    You may find that slugs LOVE eating your sunflowers, so you could try this plastic bottle deterrent! 




    Tuesday 28th April 2020

    Make a Dreamcatcher!


    Image via:  Warunya Ngamcharoen


    To Native Americans, dreams were messages sent by sacred spirits. It is believed that the Ojibwe Nation were the first indigenous people to use dreamcatchers. There are many versions of the legend about how they work as different tribes have different interpretations. One version says that the hole in the centre of a dreamcatcher web allows good dreams to reach the sleeper, while the web itself traps the bad dreams until they disappear with the first light of morning. Another version says that the web “catches” the good dreams and allows the bad ones to slip away through the hole.

    Follow the instructions below to help your child make their own dreamcatcher. Wishing sweet dreams to you all!





    For younger children, you can use a paper plate: cut the middle out, punch several holes around the inner circle and weave wool through the holes instead (see photo below).



    Friday 1st May 2020

    Make a Dinosaur or Fairy Garden!



    To help get your children excited to learn about plants and how they grow, you could help them to make their own miniature dinosaur or fairy garden!

    We know many of you won’t just happen to have dried, poppy seed heads lying around the house, so instead, your children could draw a fairy on a piece of paper and stick it onto a lolly stick or on a disposable wooden spoon, then decorate it with flowers and leaves that they find in the park or in the garden! If you don’t have any dinosaurs, your child could draw them on paper and stick them on matchsticks or make them out of playdough! More instructions below.








    Tuesday 5th May 2020

    Beautiful Butterflies!


    Can you identify this butterfly using the chart below to help you? Find the answer at the bottom of this section!


    We know many of you love butterflies so we thought we’d put together some resources to help you learn more about their amazing life cycle; how to identify them and how to attract them to your garden! Did you know that butterflies are also a type of pollinating insect?! The more we can do to attract them to our gardens, the more they help us to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables!

    Identifying and Naming Different Types of Butterflies

    Here is a useful chart to help you identify butterflies when you are out and about! To join in with the Big Butterfly Count this year, print out this chart and complete it between 17th July – 9th August 2020 then send your results via this website:

      Infographic via:

    Make a Butterfly, Life Cycle Mobile!




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    More Butterfly Mobiles for Inspiration



    Butterfly mobile for tots and preschoolers - this is a lovely collaborative project where all the family can join in.

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    Wax Crayon Resist, Painted Butterfly Mobile



    Favourite Foods for Butterflies and Bees!


    If you don’t have a garden or any of these plants, do not worry – you could try to spot these plants when you are out and about and see if you can see any butterflies or bees drinking the sweet nectar from the flowers!



    Infographic via:



    How to Make a Butterfly Feeder

    Butterflies are mostly around during summer and early autumn, so now is a great time to put out a feeder for them. There are two main ways to make a feeder: you either make a sugary, nectar mixture or put out some overripe fruit. We have put together some instructions and sourced some more ideas from online. Have a look below:




    How To Make A Butterfly Feeder DIY Video InstructionsInfographic via: Pinterest


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    Answer: A Peacock Butterfly! We spotted this last summer at our Phoenix Farm site in White City, Hammersmith!



    Friday 8th May 2020

    Make a Miniature Sailboat


    Re-Using a Recycled Plastic Container for a Sailboat


    This activity is a practical way for your children to explore materials that float and sink. They could try it in the bath, on a puddle, or you could simply fill up a washing up bowl with some water for them to try it out, but keep children supervised at all times near water. Follow the instructions below!



    More Sailboats Made Using Recycled Materials


    Image via Floris Hovers


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    Tuesday 12th May 2020

    Buzzing Bees!


    Can you identify this bee using the chart below to help you? Find the answer at the bottom of this newsletter!


    We know many of you might be a bit afraid of bees, but they are really only interested in two things: nectar and pollen! 


    Sadly, honey bees are in trouble and the numbers of many wild bumblebees and solitary bees are dropping. Two bumblebee species are already extinct. The aim of this newsletter is not to make your children feel sad about the bees. There is an opportunity here to help them learn more about these amazing creatures! So, in this week’s newsletter, we have put together some resources to help your children learn more about why bees are so important.



    Pollination – What is it?


    We are used to seeing bees buzzing from flower to flower in summer, but we often don’t appreciate quite how much they do for us – without them and other insects, plants would not be able to produce the fruit, berries and seeds that we eat! Here’s a short video that explains how pollination works:

    Here is a useful diagram which helps to explain pollination and below it, there is a flower-labelling activity for your children to complete.


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    Resource sheet via:


    Identify Parts of a Bee


    Like all insects, bees are made up of three parts – a head, a thorax and an abdomen. Attached to the head is a tube-like tongue (proboscis) for sucking nectar. The antennae are responsible for smelling, taste and they can feel vibrations, movement of air, sounds, temperature and humidity.

     Bees are easy to confuse with wasps and many people are worried about their stings. Bees can sting but in fact they rarely do unless provoked and feel they need to protect themselves and their hive. They have black and yellow stripes because this is nature’s way of telling everyone, including us, to keep a safe distance!


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    Finally, bees have two compound eyes which means that they see colour brilliantly! Although bees can’t see red very well, they can see ultraviolet light which is not visible to humans. The ultraviolet light makes the flowers look like targets to direct the bees to the pollen and nectar!

    Here is a worksheet to identify the parts of a bee’s body. Once you know the body parts, have a go at playing the Roll a Bee game which is explained after this section!


    Resource sheet via:

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    The Bee Game!


    This bee game not only helps children to learn key body parts of a bee but it applies to all other insects too! 



    Identifying and Naming Different Types of Bees


    We mainly think of bees as making honey, but honey bees are just one of Britain’s 267 species! The rest are wild bumblebees and solitary bees. All species of bee collect nectar and pollen as food, and at the same time they pollinate a large amount of our fruit and vegetables.

    Here is a useful sheet to record some of the different types of bees you might see in your garden or when you are out and about. If you spot any that aren’t on the list, you can draw them on the back of the sheet or take a photograph and look them up online! Always be careful to observe bees from a safe distance so they don’t accidentally sting you!





    International Bee Day – 20th May 2020


    To raise awareness of the importance of bees and to celebrate how amazing they are, we found a fun event to join: The Global Waggle Dance Challenge!

    A bee’s waggle dance is a figure of eight dance which can tell other bees the precise direction and distance to a patch of nectar-rich flowers or water. If the bee waggles straight up inside the hive it tells the others that they need to fly towards the sun to find food. If they waggle left, they need to fly to the left of the sun, and if they waggle right, they need to fly to the right of the sun. The longer the bee waggles for, the further away the food is. 

    Here is a David Attenborough video explaining the honey bee’s waggle dance:


    Can you come up with your own funny waggle dance like the bees?! Entries are accepted until 14th May 2020 via this website:


    Make a Solitary Bee Hotel!


    Bee hotels are used as breeding places by solitary bees like Mason bees, Leafcutter bees and Yellow-faced bees which naturally nest in hollow stems, earth banks or old beetle holes in dead wood. 

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    From spring through summer, different species of bee will hopefully build cells inside the hollow stems and lay eggs. They’ll add pollen and nectar to feed the larvae, and block the entrance to the holes with leaves, mud or other materials.



    More Examples of Bee Hotels!


    How to Build Bee Hotels for Solitary Bees Friends Of The Earth, Build A Bee Hotel #Wildlife #HabitatforWildlife #BeneficialWildlife #SaveTheBees #BeeHotels #HomeForBees #NativePlants #BeneficialPollinators #BeeFriendly
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    Bee and insect hotel made by Marta Zientek and Wojciech.
    Image via: Marta Zientek and Wojciech



    Make a Bee Drinking Station!


    Bees need water to survive! Honey bees need water to make food for their young, and keep their hive cool and humid. They collect water during the summer months so now is the perfect time to make your bee drinking station!

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    Bee watering station
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    Fill a bucket, tray or saucer with water – ideally rain water – and put a few different sized stones in it that are large and stable enough to give bees a safe place to drink from. If you have a pond, you could try adding floating-leaved plants, wine corks or rocks to give bees a landing pad!


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    A Bee’s Favourite Plants!


    If you don’t have a garden or any of these plants, you could try to grow some of them-especially herbs – in a pot on your windowsill!

    Or see if you can identify the plants, on the second sheet below, when you are out and about and see if you can observe the bees collecting the sweet nectar and pollen from the flowers! Maybe you can even see pollen on the bees’ bodies as they travel between flowers! 


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    Resource sheet via:


    Use Honey as a Natural Sweetener!


    Here’s a quick recipe that is easy enough for your children to help you make…and eat! You could let your children decide if they want to add any seeds, nuts or dried fruit – maybe they will be adventurous and try something new! 




    Grow Sunflowers as Food for Bees and Birds!


    Growing sunflowers not only helps the bees and birds but it also helps children learn how to look after their own plant! The sunflower can be planted in a large pot or in the ground, in a sunny place. Here is a handy video tutorial about how to sow sunflower seeds:


    A Giant Sunflower at HCGA Phoenix Farm, White City, Summer 2019


    If you like, you could then enter your sunflower into our sunflower growing competition! Send us a photo of your sunflower before 7th September 2020 and the person to grow the tallest sunflower will be the winner! Prizes will be revealed soon! See more growing instructions below.



    For more bee-related children’s activities have a look here:


    For more detailed bee hotel, construction and maintenance advice:


    Answer: A garden bumblebee, spotted at our Phoenix Farm Community Garden in White City


    Tuesday 19th May 2020

    Making Seed Bombs!


    calendula, cornflower, pulsatilla flower field, flower, meadow, yellow, white, grass, field, summer
    Cornflowers and pot marigolds
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    This is a fun, messy play activity that will hopefully lead to some beautiful flowers blooming! May and June are the best times in the year to make and throw your seed bombs, so, happy seed bombing! 


    The following flower seeds germinate fairly easily: poppies, cornflower, pot marigold (Calendula), Californian poppies, cosmos, nigella and verbena bonariensis or alternatively, you could buy a native, wildflower seed mix. These flowers will not only brighten up a neglected area but will also provide food for pollinating insects! See instructions below.




    Poppies, cornflowers, pot marigolds and chamomile.
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    Cornflowers and Chamomile Growing at Queen’s Park Gardens, Summer 2018

    Tuesday 26th May 2020

    Edible Elderflowers!

    Over the May bank holiday weekend, we made elderflower cordial and have put together this newsletter to assist you and your children on your elderflower foraging journey! 


    Finding Elder Trees


    Elder berries are devoured by song birds in autumn then the seeds are dispersed by them. The seeds germinate very easily on almost any soil type so you find elder trees all over the place; in parks, gardens, hedgerows, woodlands, by the sides of railway lines or on wasteland. Here is a lovely time-lapse video showing an elder tree growing and here are some photos of the types of places where you might find elder trees growing.


    Next to a railway line in Deptford (left) and tucked underneath other trees in Greenwich Park (right)


    Growing amongst lilac trees and conifers in Greenwich Park 


    Intertwined with a rambling rose climbing up a brick wall in Ravenscourt Park


    Identifying Elder Trees (Sambucus nigra)


    An elder trees’ flowers grow from late May – mid June and are best picked early in the morning on a dry, sunny day away from busy, polluted roads or railways. They are in flower the same time as rowan trees and both have white, umbel flowers so be careful not to confuse the two. Here are some photos to help you correctly identify them. For a detailed identification guide via Woodland’s Trust, check here.

    Elder leaves (left) and Rowan leaves and flowers (right)
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    Young elder stem (left) and older elder stem (right) 
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    Here’s a video showing you how to identify an elder tree.


    Foraging Guidelines



    Choosing the Best Flowers


    Make sure the flowers are fully open and have lots of yellow pollen on the anthers. You can test to see how much pollen there is by shaking the flower gently against your hand and you can see the yellow dust (pollen) on your skin! 


    Photo credit (left):


    Try to avoid choosing flowers that have started to turn brown and dry as they are not as fresh and may not taste as good in recipes. Also, do not pick flower heads which have not opened fully yet.


    Unopened flower buds (left) and older, dried flowers (right)


    Labelling Parts of a Flower


    Your children could have a go at completing this flower labelling activity while they are out foraging with you!






    What to Take with you when Foraging Elderflowers


    Take a pair of secateurs and some recycled plastic bags to put the flowers inside once you have cut them off. Cut the flowers with about 10 cm of stem remaining and put them in the bag straight away to keep them fresh until you get home.



    Making Elderflower Cordial



    Elderflowers can be used to make cordial, tea (or for the grown-ups, champagne!) to drink or you can make elderflower flavoured cakes using the cordial like in the recipe here. You can also cover the flowers in a light batter and fry them to make sweet-scented elderflower fritters like in this recipe here

    Many elderflower cordial recipes recommend using citric acid as it may help the cordial to be preserved for longer. We were not able to find any in the chemist or shops, so we just used lemons instead. However, this means the cordial will need to be kept in the fridge and may only last up to one week. If you want to preserve it for longer, you could pour the cordial into ice cube trays or ice lolly moulds and freeze them for a delicious, preservative-free and food-colouring-free treat, on a hot summer’s day!



    Once you have harvested the elderflowers, you are ready to start making your cordial. Follow the photo guide below for step-by-step instructions: 


    1. Most of the elderflower heads were completely clean so we didn’t wash them as this removes a lot of the pollen which makes the cordial even more tasty! Some of the flowers had some black flies (aphids) so we picked them off using a pencil or you can squash them with your fingers, if you’re feeling brave! Then we gently swished them in some clean, cold water to get the last few insects off. 


    2. Wash the lemons, peel the skin and juice them.


    3. Fill a very large pot with the cold water and pour in the sugar. Stir every few minutes while cooking on a low heat until all the sugar dissolves. Bring the water to the boil (when the water starts to bubble a little bit) and then turn off the heat.


    4. Put the elderflower heads straight into the boiling syrup and leave the stalks poking out, if you can.


    5. Tip in the rest of the petals, the lemon zest, lemon juice and pith into the pot.


    6. Stir gently without pushing the stalks under the water, put a lid on and leave to steep for 24 hours!


    7. 24 hours later, using a piece of muslin cloth inside a sieve, strain the cordial into a large bowl or jug. Luci, the cat, was very intrigued at this point, but not very helpful!


    8. Re-use and wash any glass containers you have, such as: jam jars, Kilner bottles or old wine bottles with screw tops, in hot soapy water. If you want the cordial to last longer, you need to sterilize the containers.


    9. To sterilize the jars: while still wet, place the jars or bottles (without the lids) into a pre-heated oven at 160C and leave for 10-15 minutes until they are dry. Soak the lids in boiling water and leave them to dry on a clean tea towel.


    10. Remove the jars from the oven using a tea towel and while they are still hot, pour in the cordial, leaving 1/2 cm gap at the top, then screw the lids on immediately. Label with the name and date and store in a cool, dark place, or in the fridge or freezer. For more information about sterilizing jars using a water bath, the Kilner jar website has further instructions.


    Here’s a useful video from Woodlands TV showing how to make elderflower cordial.


    To make pink elderflower cordial, you can use Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’ or Sambucus nigra “Black Lace’ flowers like in the photo below, but remember to only pick and eat wild plants if you are 100% sure of their identification. 


    Photos via:

    Tuesday 2nd June 2020

    Lovable Ladybirds!

    Can you identify this ladybird using the identification guide? 


    This week’s newsletter is dedicated to the well-known and important spotty, little beetle –  the ladybird or also known as ladybug. They are a gardener’s friend because they are a natural predator of some pests in the garden, such as black flies, green flies (aphids) and scale insects and they can help to keep insects under control; eliminating the need to use harmful pesticides. Some species even feed on types of mildew on plants! In this newsletter, we have included identification guides for each stage of their life cycle and some ways that you might try to encourage them into your gardens or growing spaces. 


    Ladybird Identification Guide


    There are over 5000 species of ladybirds across the world; approximately 46 of which are found in the UK. The 7 spot ladybird is the most common and easiest to recognise of all the species. There are many different colours of ladybirds and some have lots of spots while others have none! Here is a short video about ladybirds.

    This useful ladybird identification recording sheet (see below) could be taken with you next time you go outside to see if you can identify some ladybirds. 


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    Your children could observe some ladybirds and then see if they can identify the body parts using the activity below. 


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    Making a Ladybird House


    Many adult ladybirds need a moist, sheltered and frost free place to hibernate over winter, so you may find them overwintering in a greenhouse, shed or poly tunnel.

    If you want to encourage them in your garden or growing space, you could leave some plants with hollow stems to grow over winter for them to hibernate in; such as, elder, cow parsley, teasel, buddleia, or fennel – insects can live in the stems while many of these plants have dried seed heads which provide food for birds over winter too.

    Or, you could leave an untidy, unused corner of your garden (ideally in the shade) with piles of dead wood, dead plants and leaf litter for ladybirds and many other invertebrates to hibernate and breed in. Alternatively, you could make a ladybird/insect house with your children; see the instructions below.



    Making a Pooter


    One way of observing insects more closely without touching them is by using a homemade or shop-bought pooter. Adult support and supervision is required. See the instructions below. 



    Ladybird Life Cycle Activity


    When you are next outside, see if you can spot some ladybirds in the different stages of their life cycle! In spring and summer, you can see ladybirds in all stages of their life cycle. Eggs can be found on the underside of leaves, larvae can be found in cool, shaded places or on plants, pupa stage can be found on plants and adult ladybirds can be found on plants or flying around. Look at the photos below to help you identify them and have a go at completing the lifecycle activity. Here is a video showing the life cycle of a ladybird


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    Image via: Twinkl


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    Make a Ladybird!


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    More Ladybird Craft Ideas


    Here are some ladybird craft ideas; as alternatives to plastic or non-recyclable materials such as pipe cleaners, you could use twigs or plant stems for the antennae and legs and instead of using plastic googly eyes, you could draw eyes on paper and glue them on or paint them directly onto the artwork once the first coat of paint has dried.


    Painted ladybird leaves
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    Potato print ladybird
    Potato print ladybird
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    Painted stone ladybird
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    Ladybird anatomy craft
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    This blog has some great ideas for natural alternatives for many commonly used crafting materials.


    Replace with nature
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    Growing Plants for Ladybirds


    Calendula (also known as pot marigold)


    The greater the variety of plants you grow, the more biodiversity your garden or windowsill should have, so the following is just a short list of plants that encourage insects and ladybirds but there are many more. 


    Angelika, calendula, caraway, chives, coriander, cosmos, dill, fennel, feverfew, marigold, statice, sweet alyssum and yarrow. 


    For lots of other ways to attract wildlife into the garden have a look on the RHS website. 


    Children’s Stories about Ladybirds


    Here are some story books about ladybirds. This rhyming Julia Donaldson picture book sees a quiet ladybird save the day on a farm full of noisy animals. 


    What the Ladybird Heard By Julia Donaldson


    Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds is a chapter book about a boy who can talk to animals. It looks at the similarities and differences humans share with creatures. There are some social and environmental messages about cutting down the use of pesticides and realising that everyone deserves a home.



    The Bad-Tempered Ladybird is a picture book about a ladybird who picks fights with every animal he meets, but he soon learns the importance of friends and turns into a kinder, happier bug!


    Click here for more fun facts about ladybirds.


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