Big Garden Birdwatch: making the most of Nature’s Therapist

From Friday 26 to Sunday 28 January, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) will hold its annual Big Garden Birdwatch. This is a yearly survey of the wild birds that visit British gardens and nature spots. Participants can sign up for a digital guide to identifying and attracting birds. Then, they can spend an hour of their choosing watching and recording the number and types of wild birds that land in their garden or designated natural area.

This is not only a lovely way to spend an hour, but it helps the RSPB keep track of how different birds are faring at the moment, and which species might be doing better than others. Anyone can join in. It’s free to register. Find out more online at

The great thing about nature is that it is free to access, relaxing to interact with and always there, waiting for you and your residents to enjoy. If you are inspired by the RSPB Big Garden Watch to do more to get your residents connected to nature and the great outdoors, Care Vision can help. The system can support staff in planning outings to local gardens, talks from wildlife experts and horticulture based arts and crafts activities. Here are some ways for your residents to take part in therapeutic nature activities this month.

Feed the birds

If you want to attract more birds to your gardens and grounds – and not just for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – you need to make it worth their while! Feeding the birds and providing plenty of water to drink and bathe in is a great way to increase your care home’s avian population. Food options are massively reduced during the winter months as the trees and bushes no long produce berries and the ground is harder and therefore more difficult to peck for worms. You can put up shop-bought bird feeders or engage your residents in making their own. Save suitable scraps from mealtimes to put out, such as bread, fruit, seeds and suet.

Raised beds and assisted gardening

Many care home residents retain a love for gardening and making things grow, even while coping with restricted mobility and other health issues. You can help them carry on their passion with a few adjustments. Raising flower beds and herb gardens to waist height can help wheelchair users and those unable to bend down enormously. Indoor gardening sessions, such as planting up flower baskets, or using a shed to help ward off the worst of the Winter weather can also help people stay warmer and drier. Other ideas to help people enjoy gardening well into old age include providing chairs or padded kneelers, choosing ergonomic gardening tools that are lightweight and easy to hold and use.

Natural connections

Even if people are unable to physically spend much time outdoors, there are still many ways in which care home staff can bring nature and wildlife inside to them. Holding flora and fauna themed crafting afternoons is one way – you could press flowers to make greetings cards or make birds and animals out of fabric, decoupage or clay. Make sure that there are plenty of flowers and pot plants situated around the home. You can also try and ensure that residents can see out of the windows to natural views, trees, plants and wildlife – with as much natural light as much as possible. Have wildlife books, DVDs, websites and other resources readily available for people to browse and enjoy.

Wildlife skills

It’s never too late to learn new skills or discover a new passion. Helping people access wildlife and outdoor hobbies can be a highly effective way to encourage more fresh air, help stimulate the imagination and raise morale. There is a huge range of wildlife-based activities about which people from all walks of life can enjoy deepening their knowledge. Many can be enjoyed indoors, e.g. arranging flowers, making bird feeders or sketching wildlife. Other activities don’t take too much effort or know-how to set up for outdoor enjoyment. These include planting a herb garden, creating a compost heap, deadheading and weeding a flower border or learning what to put out for visiting hedgehogs, birds or insects.

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