Summer activity: Pond-Dipping!
There’s nothing that fascinates kids like messy play. Sludge, slime, water, mud… and bonus points for creepy-crawlies! There’s one activity that generally ticks all these boxes, and that’s pond-dipping!
If you’ve never been pond-dipping before, the most important thing to consider is safety. Children and water can be a dangerous combination, so always think carefully about where best to dip, NEVER leave children near water unsupervised, even for a moment, and if in any doubt, don’t do it. You’ll find extension activities below which can augment your pond-dipping, or be used alone to avoid the danger of water altogether!
With a tiny bit of prep work you can make pond-dipping-linked activites cover a couple of days. Use a book, find printables online, or try the Tenderleaf pond-dipping game to introduce some of the creatures you might find. Depending on the age of your child or children, you can go into different depths of detail - talk about what lives on the surface of the water, what lives under the water, what lives on the bed of the river/stream/pond. You could discuss life-cycles of frogs or dragonflies, and about creatures that live around the water, not just in it. You could talk about habitat and animal homes, what they eat - and what eats them too!
If your pond-dip is delayed by rain or put off by safety concerns, the game also makes for a great indoor pond-dipping activity. Extend play by having players match their catch to the creatures in a book, or make your own pond-dipping bingo cards and take turns in drawing a creature from a hat, bag or pillow case - first to cross off all their creatures wins! You could get out the play dough (or make your own) and recreate the creatures in 3D. Or make some slime and add black beads to represent tadpoles - or for toddlers and preschoolers, how about some taste-safe mud, made using cocoa, flour and water? All lovely prep (or follow-up) activities to help create broader connections in their curious little minds!
For the pond-dipping itself all you really need is a jar to dip with - these bug jars are ideal, and double up for bug-hunting, rock-pooling, building sandcastles, shell/pebble/treasure collecting…. You frankly can’t go far wrong with a sturdy jar with a handle and magnifying lid!
- a plastic container to pour your dip into - an empty ice-cream tub works well
- a magnifying glass to look more closely at the creatures - the Tickit two-handed magnifier is perfect for little hands, while older kids love these colourful magnifying glasses
- a pippette - although we don’t have one, and just examined our finds in the bug jar.
How to pond-dip - a beginners guide
- Firstly, dress appriopriately and always think safety first. Wellies and a waterproof are probably your best bet, especially if older children will be dipping themselves, although you will need to think carefully about whether they are mature enough for this. If in any doubt at all, dip for them.
- Choose a spot near the edge of the pond that allows safe access to the water. Lie down on your front and drag your jar through the water in a figure 8 shape. You’ll usually get more creatures near vegetation, so don’t worry about being too close to the bank, but do avoid dragging up mud from the bed.
- If you are dipping with a net instead of a jar, half fill your ice-cream tub with water first, then drag your net in a figure 8 the same way.
- Either tip your finds into your ice-cream tray or stand your jar on a stable surface, and leave to settle. Always be very gentle and careful not to disturb the creatures too much, and never touch them with your hands or fingers.
- If you have caught creatures you want to look at more closely, you can use a pippette, if they are small enough, to move into a clean jam jar or bug jar to examine under a magnifying glass, always being careful not to damage them.
- When you are finished, always return your creatures to where you found them.
- ALWAYS always wash your hands thoroughly after pond-dipping.