Nature Noughts and Crosses

Now that families are being asked to stay at home and wander only within a two kilometre radius, the reality for many is that woodlands and beaches are no longer available to them.  Some people may count themselves very lucky to have a green area close to their home, others will be very grateful for their front or back garden no matter the size.  Others still may be lucky enough to have a bit of a balcony, and then there are those who have no outdoor space of their own at all.

There are, however, still ways to get creative and to engage with nature together, in some small way each day.  Remember games such as hopscotch, where all you needed was a piece of chalk and a footpath on which to draw out the course?  Well there are many other games that can be translated outside, to even a footpath, if that is all you have access to, to ensure that we continue our nature connection journey, all the more important during these stressful and anxious times.

A simple game of noughts and crosses can be transferred outdoors, and the act of creating the pieces for the game is a way to engage with nature in itself.  Find six stones or rocks.  Decide on two different insects or animals that you would like to decorate them with (we painted bees and ladybirds).  Paint three of the rocks as one creature and the second three as the other.  Other options to use are leaves, nuts, grass, seeds or other natural objects that you can find close to home.  Please leave the flowers for the bees (unless they have already fallen), they are especially grateful for dandelions at this time of year.  You can paint a grid on old news paper, or chalk the pavement, or if you can find some sticks or twigs, create the grid using those.  The fun with this version, as opposed to the pencil and paper kind, is that you can keep moving the pieces until someone gets three in a row.

Happy playing!

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L-R: Oak leaves, conkers and willow branches that had been pruned back from a willow arch during weaving.  Fallen leaves and flowers from the garden used as pieces.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, create a grid with nine squares, 3 x 3.  Two players at a time, each person decides on an animal/insect/leaf/nought/cross to be.  Alternating turns, each player places one of their pieces on the grid, with the aim of getting three in a row to win.  Traditionally you could only have one game per grid drawn on a piece of paper, with no opportunity to move once your nought or cross was drawn.  With this version you can continue to move the pieces until someone achieves three in a row, and also clear the board and start again with the same grid/pieces.

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