Save the Stag Beetle

Today, we were lucky enough to find a female Stag Beetle in our garden! Living in a very Urban environment, with a small, nature unfriendly garden, this was a very exciting discovery for us. The kids at first thought it was a Stink Beetle, which do have some similarities, but generally are much much smaller. So it was great for us to look at it and discuss.. as well as discuss that the Stag Beetle is endangered here in the UK and that we must do everything to protect it. (See our video below, too cute!).

Female Stag Beetle - exploring nature and wildlife with kids

Mike Strick recently posted THIS on Facebook and I shared it with my children and my friends (please visit this link and share with your friends and family):

Every year in early summer, the stag beetles emerge to find mates. They have spent the first five to seven years of their life underground as larvae and now have just a few short weeks to live as adults.

Every year I’m shocked by how many people fail to recognise these icons of British wildlife, and am saddened by how many beetles end their lives crushed underfoot. Stag beetles have been around virtually unchanged for millions of years, and are not equipped to survive in an urban environment. Their numbers have declined drastically over the past few decades and the species is seriously endangered.

If you see one on a pavement, please move it out of harm’s way. Despite being large (the male can be up to three inches long), they are placid and harmless provided you don’t stick a finger between the male’s large ‘antlers’, which can inflict quite a strong pinch. Pick them up gently with finger and thumb on either side of the thorax (the middle part of the body, behind the head) and move them into a garden or similar.

Please keep an eye open for them. In flight in the early evening they are phenomenal, flying in an upright and rather ungainly style, making a noise like a small fighter plane. They tend to make a pretty uncontrolled landing, often ending up on pavements, which is where you’re most likely to see them and where they need your help to get to safety. The recent high winds are probably giving them trouble, meaning that they could end up in particularly tricky situations.

If you have children, it would be a big help if you could make sure they know about stag beetles too. Kids probably come across them more frequently than their parents. If they know what they are and what to do, the beetles are more likely to survive the encounter!

These are spectacular animals. We really have nothing else like them. It would be a shame if we lost them forever.

And then… we were lucky enough to discover……

Growing Beans – Science at Home

We have been very busy here at Life At The Zoo.. but not always had the time to share our activities – such as this Growing Beans activity. We have lots of photos to share and will hopefully do so over the coming days and weeks. We have been particularly busy with Gardening with Kids, and exploring “Growing” Science activities. Today’s activity, has a little twist on the simple, easy and fun “Growing Beans” experiment.

Bean Growing - Science fo Kids

A wonderful image showing the classic “Bean Growing” observations – you can see the roots forming and the shoot and leaves going up “stretching” towards the light.

We decided to watch beans grow… but we also decided to see what happens if you keep one bean in darkness and one in the light. Would one grow quicker than the other? Would one grow BETTER than the other? Let’s see….

Bean Growing with kids1) Use a glass  or a jar of a clear plastic cup for your growing beans experiment.

2) Line it with kitchen towel paper or cotton wool buds. Then tuck your bean (it can be any bean – a broad bean or a runner bean – between the glass and the tissue.  We actually prepped 6 beans like this “just in case”.

3) Squirt with plenty of water. You want the tissue to wet, but you don’t want the bean to swimming in water – in case it gets mouldy.

4) We placed on glass into a “cardboard box” to darken it and to see what would happen.

Now wait. And make sure the towel stays moist!!!

Growing Bean Experiment – Results

After 2-3 days our beans started to grow. Interestingly… not all beans “hatched” at the same time. In fact some took well over a week. BUT, ONE of the beans in the dark, and ONE NOT in the dark started sprouting at the same time.

This tells us, that the light has little to do with it. The bean itself contains enough energy for it to start growing – the growth is stimulated by the wet and the temperature around the bean – telling the bean it is time to grow.

We continued to keep one been in darkness and one in light. Look at the difference:

Bean Growing Experiment - Science for Kids


I would say that the difference is minimal. Yes, the bean grown in the light has a few more leaves. But then the bean on the left grew better than some of our other “test beans” that DID get light. I would not say that the growth or colour difference is significant enough to say, that light is necessary for the bean to grow well at this stage.

All the bean needs is water, a warm environment and the energy stored within.

You could argue that “this makes sense”. As the bean buried in the earth, doesn’t get light either. It is only once it breaks through the surface, that it starts to stretch and reach out towards the light.

After this, we planted all the beans out in the garden 3-4 weeks later they are quite tall already and have started to bloom. We look forward to the broad beans beginning to from!

Your little scientist may also enjoy these DIY Catapults!



Get your kids growing with the widest range of seeds

Nature (Carrot)

There are all sorts of great ways to involve children in gardening. One of the best is to get them to grow plants from seed. Children enjoy getting their hands dirty, and the extra labour is useful for your own horticultural efforts. So try some seeds for kids, from a reputable retailer like Seeds By Post.

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First of all, choose a species that they will be excited to plant. Sunflowers are always a favourite as children are obsessed with their own height, and they like the idea of the big flower heads towering over them. A little friendly competition between schoolmates and neighbours also keeps them interested. Unwins Giant Sunflower is great for this. It can grow four metres high, which is larger than some bungalows.

What’s more, do your kids have trouble eating vegetables? They won’t if they grow their own. Anything a child grows becomes something cherished and prized for them. Better yet, home grown veggies always taste better. Among Thompson and Morgan’s seeds for kids range, you’ll find pumpkins, tomatoes, radishes, runner beans, carrots and more. When they water the plants every day, you can build their anticipation of the great flavour the food will make. The seed stock is high quality too, which helps to stop kids getting their hopes dashed. For faster results, you can also grow cress in a few days.

Those with a sweet tooth will love ‘Tomato Candy Tots’. This super sweet variety produces lots of delicious fruits, which are a healthier alternative to sugary snacks. Then there’s Popcorn Fiesta. When grown, these seeds for kids turn into kernals that make great popcorn, and they come in multiple colours from fire engine red to buttery yellow. Moreover if you have boys, they’ll love growing chillies too. Try ‘Apache Chilli’. It’s a hardy variety that makes lots of little fruits, and being fiery hot, it’ll win them a great deal of kudos in the playground.


Of course, children also love bugs. You can bring more insects into your garden with the ‘Attract Butterflies Collection Pack’. The plants look great, and the children can spot the different butterflies during the summer season. You might even find chrysalides. Another way to get kids into growing flowers is to try Cosmos Atrosanguineus. This is the famed ‘Chocolate Cosmos’ which has reddish brown petals, and better yet, smells strongly of chocolate milkshake!

Science for Kids: DIY Wormery

Make our own Wormery How ToSo.. my kids have are finally spending more and more time outdoors. Wonderful, to be able to enjoy some better weather and the garden again. There is lots going on with flowers growing, trees blossoming and snails and worms making their presence.

Today’s feature of the day is this DIY Wormery post from We Made That. What a great experiment for kids that adore digging in the mud and discovering the creatures within.

Off to make our own DIY Wormery I think!!!

Indoor Garden for Kids

Well… I don’t know about you, but the kids are DYING to spend more time outside! and this is the time of year, when they LOVE to grow things of their own. So we decided to have a go at a fun little “indoor garden” project. To be honest, this indoor garden spends half it’s time indoors and half outdoors, so am I am no longer sure WHAT to call it. Either way, the kids love it.

It is rather simple…

For an Indoor Garden you will need:

  • a large container, lid optional, but we find it good for that Green House effect – ours was a fruit container, so already had holes in it for drainage and air
  • some compost/ earth
  • grass seeds
  • decorative items, such as stones for baths and pinecones
  • later you will also need scissors for trimming and maintenance!

Our container had “holes” in the bottom (good for drainage), so will need something to stand your garden on, to catch any excess water (which there will be if kids are doing the watering!


Indoor Garden How To:

mini garden

1) If your container has now holes.. make some at the bottom for drainage and top for air circulation. Add a good layer of compost to the bottom of your container.

2) Decorate with stones and pinecones etc.. though note these may well get rearrange several times.. all part of the garden game!

3) Sprinkle liberally with grass seeds.

mini garden for kids

4) Water and let grow!!

Gardening with Kids

5) Trim your garden regularly… add different details and games. We plan to “transplant” some small flowers into it later in the Summer!

Our min garden regularly has “toy visitors”, who explore and have adventures!

Learning Opportunities

  • Learning about how things grow and what you need – light, water, earth
  • Learning to care for things (enough light and enough water, not too much water)
  • Being creative (in arranging your garden)
  • Creative play (introducing toys and story telling)
  • Collaboration (if more than one child is working on this).. taking turns etc.