Nature Boats

Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” So says Ratty to Mole in Kenneth Grahame's classic novel 'The Wind in the Willows’. We agree - and making our own boats to float is one of our favourite wild activities.
All you really need to make a nature boat is, well, nature. However, it can be helpful to have some garden twine or string handy - long grasses, stalks and bramble cord can be used but younger children might struggle.
We tend to go for one of three techniques:
The Raft - this can be made simply with a large, flattish piece of bark, or by lashing sticks together. Masts, sails and other embellishments can be added using ferns, leaves or flowers according to the child’s imagination (and materials available). Careful not to make this one too heavy!
The Leaf Boat - these are pretty simple structures made by pushing the stem of one leaf through the middle of another leaf, then carefully pulling a tiny bit of leaf end through so it stands up like a sail, with the leaf underneath serving as the base of the boat. Fragile but lightweight!
The Hoop Boat - make natural wooden hoops using bendy branches (young hazel works well for this) carefully bent and twisted together to form a hoop - you can add crosshatching using other sticks or stems for stability and pizazz. This technique makes a really successful boat - light and strong.

This is STEM play at its best - masses of opportunities to experiment, finesse, learn, test, think and all whilst having tremendous FUN! Kids love a challenge and theyll talk you through what theyre doing if you ask plenty of questions - all that wonderful vocabulary and theorising as they consider what will float the best.

For extra bit of fun you can try to sink your rafts afterwards by throwing rocks at them and pretending you are defending against invading pirates. Or how about transporting messages on them across the water - or even make a crew of figures to float on your raft.
With grown-up kids’ (and a responsible adult) around, you might even make a ‘Viking funeral’ by setting fire to your boat and watching it drift downstream… One for the extra-wildings perhaps?!