Children in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can be guided in their exploration and study of nature by a new scheme which rewards their inquisitiveness.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has set up the Wildlife Watch Awards to nurture the next generation of naturalists.

The hedgehog, kestrel and nature ranger awards will offer children a way to explore and study nature, whether in an urban or rural setting. Activities will help children become bug hunters and bird detectives, getting them outside into gardens, parks, and nature reserves where they can find out about their local wildlife.

Awards are earned on completion of challenges, including making a mini nature reserve, marking and recapturing garden snails, making a bat box and helping birds avoid flying into windows.

Chris Packham, the trust's vice president, said: "Enjoying nature at a young age and coming to value it really can bring a lifetime of pleasure. But, as most good naturalists are hooked by the time they are nine years old, I truly hope these awards help to put the spark that sees the beauty of life in many a young heart."

Naturalist Nick Baker, also a vice president of the trust, said: "How do we get young people to turn off their computers, shut down their virtual worlds and go outside, get dirty and smell the mulch? We don't.

"Wildlife Watch embraces technology and uses it as a spring board to the real world outside. It's a virtual scrapbook, a digital wildlife club, and a place to exchange information, ask questions and record wildlife you've seen."