A sniff of sea air

I love our weekends. They are a time for us to spend together as a family. With the husband on hand, they are certainly much easier than my week days! They are made for outdoor adventures and getting out and about (which is why we never get anything done at home, haha).

Yes, our weekends are great. Just not this one, unfortunately.

Three whole days… I was looking forward to our bank holiday, planning on getting a few long overdue practical bits done around the house yet still with time to enjoy a family day out, try a new pub for lunch, meet friends.

It all started going wrong on Thursday, when both Baby E and I came down with a nasty bug. When Little Miss A took herself off to bed on Friday night and had a voluntary nap on the sofa the next day, we realised she was ill too. Luckily, neither girl had anything we were too worried about but it’s never nice to see your babies unwell. And not great when you feel like crap yourself!

So, our weekend has ended up looking something like this:

Two grumpy children
LOTS of kids TV
Little sleep
Two tired parents
A chaotic house, with huge great big washing mountains piling up, toys everywhere, dinners cobbled out of fish fingers and baked beans


Having not left the house for four days and being completely and utterly fed up of back to back kids TV (I think my exact words to the husband were, “If I have to watch one more episode of Blaze or Dora, I will not be responsible for my actions”), we decided to go for a drive to the coast – the girls would nap, we’d get out, two birds, one stone.

We tucked them up in the back, Little Miss A tickled by the unusual occurrence of leaving the house in her pyjamas. First, we headed to our local McDonald’s drive-through for a Mcflurry to keep Little Miss A quiet treat our poorly big girl. Then we drove to a nearby seaside town.

Gazing out at the choppy waves. Watching all the people on the seafront; couples strolling along holding hands, families with children in pushchairs and on shoulders, dogs running on the beach, ice creams and fish and chips being eaten. Winding down the windows to sniff the fresh air. Giggling to each other at how a drive-by trip to the seaside was the best bit of our weekend.

Not much of a bank holiday outing, I know.

But I have a funny feeling it will stick in my mind as one of those odd things you sometimes end up doing to get by as a parent. Those small things that can really cheer you up when you’ve retreated into survival mode.

Getting outside of our four walls, which I was in danger of climbing, seeing all the people going about their day despite the rubbish weather (you’ve got to love the determination of the Brits to spend a grim May bank holiday by the seaside), catching a glimpse of the sea which is always good for my soul, even when the waves are boiling and brown – it all helped me return to our tip of a house and Nick Jr on a loop, not refreshed exactly but ready to keep on.

It’s amazing what a sniff of sea air can do.

(But please let next weekend be better!)

Farm sensory tub

Create a sensory tub with a farm theme for tactile imaginative play for toddlers and pre-schoolers…

Farm sensory tub

This was a very easy activity to set up, using our trusty storage box and a mixture of dried rice and lentils leftover from our baking sensory tub. Into this, I added a selection of farm animals, both plastic and wooden, plus a few props such as tractors, fences, trees and a Happyland building to represent a farmhouse/barn (it was actually a toy shop but we used our imaginations!).

To add to the sensory element, I also included some scoop scissors and an old Quality Street tub, so that ToddlerGirl could do some scooping and pouring. These were the first things she reached for. She loved using the scissors, spending some time transferring the rice and lentils out of the tub and back in again.

Farm sensory tub scooping and pouring

She then moved onto playing with the farm pieces themselves, making a little henhouse area using the fence and some wooden blocks, then adding a path from this to the house using some old milk bottle tops. The farmer and his family made several trips along the path and back again, checking on the animals along the way.

The animals were buried under the rice and lentils before being crammed into the building because it was apparently a bit chilly and a big storm was coming. Once safely inside, ToddlerGirl grabbed handfuls of the rice and dropped them slowly over the house: “Pitter patter, it’s raining!” It really did make a good rain sound!

Pretend play with the farm sensory tub

ToddlerGirl enjoyed playing with this for a good hour or more. The combination of sensory and small world pretend play was a real winner. Given how much she enjoys them and the amount of play they generate, I really want to do more of these simple sensory tubs this year!

Homemade hot air balloon for toys

A DIY hot air balloon toy made from recycled packaging for hours of pretend play!

Little Miss A came home from preschool the other day determined to make a hot air balloon. I’m not sure where she got the idea from, whether it was in a book or something they’d been learning about but she was quite obsessed, talking about it all the drive home!

“I was having a good idea, Mummy,” she said as I got her out of the car. “I can make the hot air balloon with my pink muzzy and tie it on my broom handle.”

I took Baby E up for her nap as soon as we got in but the husband reported that Little Miss A did indeed try very hard to make a hot air balloon using the broom handle and her material, getting a tad frustrated in the process when it didn’t go according to plan!

I came back from putting Baby E down to find that Daddy had stepped in and suggested using an actual balloon. This met with Little Miss A’s approval and he had found a balloon plus an old Ella’s Kitchen packet to use as the basket. The result was a very cute hot air balloon, perfect for a selection of her small toys.

Homemade hot air balloon for toys

She flew them round the living room several times and told me they were going on holiday to Africa.

“It takes twenty years to get there, Mummy.”

We decided to recreate the plains of Africa on our dining room floor using a selection of our Happyland and wooden animals. Well, it was a fairly loose recreation: the lion and giraffe were friends who lived in the same cave and the elephants had an entire house with beds… But it made for a whole afternoon of entertainment.

Eventually, all the animals piled in the hot air balloon to go to Spain. That journey only took eight days.

I love watching Little Miss A at play, especially seeing her imagination at work. It’s a wonderful thing to behold. The homemade hot air balloon led to hours of fun and has been returned to many times during the week with various different toys enjoying flying around in it! Sometimes the simple things really do provide the most play value!

Playing in hay

A playbarn full of hay = some great sensory and pretend play!

Do you have any ‘go to’ places that you like to visit with your little ones? I have a few, although they have been under revision since having Baby E as I haven’t been sure if I could navigate them with two kiddies to worry about! Nearly eight months down the line, however, and I am gaining enough confidence to widen the net on our days out…

It’s great to rediscover old favourites – and even better to find that they have new and interesting spaces to explore. One of our local favourites has created a brilliant covered ‘playbarn’ area, with cheerful farm-themed murals along the wall, a generous variety of ride on tractors and cars, some trailers, wheelbarrows, brushes and – the very best bit – LOTS of hay!

This, it turns out, is a sort of playing seventh heaven for small children, including my own. Little Miss A was really excited to get stuck in, while Baby E found the whole thing absolutely fascinating.

First, Little Miss A gathered great big handfuls of the hay to fill a handy wheelbarrow…

Moving hay

Once the hay had been piled into the wheelbarrow, it was time to move it to the other side of the barn and dump it out all again.

Dumping hay

Then came the serious business of ‘feeding’ the animals…

Feeding the animals

Farmer Baby E supervised the whole process from her dinky little tractor!

Supervising on her tractor

The pretend play continued for a while, with Little Miss A filling and emptying many, many loads of hay in her wheelbarrow. This was obviously a major draw, judging by the other children absorbed in doing the same thing!

After a while, the sensory lure of the hay proved too much and she ended up sitting on the floor, ‘burying’ herself in it. (It was pretty much just my child doing that…)

Baby E was equally as struck with it, enjoying the feel of the hay under her fingers and, of course, trying to grab whole handfuls to put in her mouth!

Exploring the hay

With UK weather being what it is, it’s wonderful to find a covered area that still allows for great fun outdoor play. And the hay clearly provides for hours of fun!

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Let’s go fly a kite

We’ve been having a great run of sunshine lately, which has meant lots of lovely fresh air and easy outdoor play for us.

When we woke up to yet another beautiful day at the weekend, we decided to head to the coast. I had visions of sandcastles and stretching out on the sand basking in the warmth… Despite the sunshine, however, when we got there it was both freezing cold and ridiculously windy!

We could see the waves racing along off shore and the kite surfers and wind surfers were out in packs, enjoying the blustery conditions. We marvelled at the kite surfers leaping into the air on their boards and had fun spotting all the colourful kites in the sky.

It was a bit too windy for us to venture onto the beach but, luckily, we had our own small kite with us, so we set off to a grassy area behind the sea road to fly it.

Little Miss A was so excited! We have done kite flying with her a couple of times before, but she lost interest very quickly. This time, she was fascinated by the whole set up process, ‘helping’ her Daddy and watching very carefully.

Kite preparation

Then came time to launch it. After one false start, it was soon soaring and looked gorgeous with its bright tail streaming against the blue sky.

Little Miss A took the string, her face a picture of delight and concentration! The husband had made a ‘safety’ string so we wouldn’t lose the kite if she let go but she kept a really tight hold.

kite flying

Her favourite bit was running along with the string in her hands, watching the kite swoshing and sweeping along with her.
There is something so joyful and exhilarating about watching a kite bounce along in the air and I couldn’t help but giggle along with Little Miss A.

kite flying

After we’d had a good play, the husband brought it down and packed it away, while Little Miss A amused herself pulling up some clumps of grass. She held her hand up experimentally, letting the blades go into the wind. We talked about what we could learn from watching the grass blow away, with Little Miss A telling me knowledgeably: “It tells us which way the wind is blowing.” I was impressed with her conclusion. Since I’ve become a mum, I am so often amazed at the natural instinct of children to experiment with their surroundings through their play – and how much they pick up from this.

Kite packed away, we headed to a nearby playpark which was in a bit more of a sheltered spot. This is a really great place: part of the small nature reserve, it contains several pieces of play equipment designed to look like some of the insects that can be found in the reserve.

Wolf spider slide

There are boards with information about each insect. Perhaps my favourite nugget was about the clouded yellow butterfly, whose creamy yellow colour supposedly gave rise to the name ‘butter-fly’. Whether it’s true or not, I love the idea of it!

caterpillar climber

Little Miss A had a brilliant time clambering, climbing, running, sliding. When we last visited, she was only eighteen months old so she was able to get so much more out of the equipment now she is nearly four. There was’t much that was suitable for Baby E but she enjoyed laying on the basket swing with her Daddy.

Spider web climbing

We rounded off the day by finding a small soft play off the seafront and then treated ourselves to some delicious ice cream, perched on the beach wall watching the last of the kitesurfers with the sunshine sparkling on the water. Just lovely!

Learning for Life

Playing at the science park

Hands-on science exploration, disguised as play!

Racing ducks

We were in Sussex over Easter, spending some time with my family. As usual, we had a jam-packed time, catching up with friends and enjoying family days out. I love taking Little Miss A to places I visited as a child but on Good Friday we discovered somewhere completely new to me, the Observatory Science Centre.

I didn’t know much about it beforehand but I’m so glad we ventured there as it is the sort of museum every area needs: a fully hands-on, interactive experience where kids (and grown ups!) can have a go at everything and not even realise that they are learning in the process.

The centre has indoor galleries, domes with huge telescopes (that you can visit on guided tours) plus a lovely outdoors space featuring a discovery park and a water zone.

Although it was a grey, drizzly day, we took advantage of a break in the rain to explore the outdoors areas first. Little Miss A couldn’t wait to get stuck in – and her Daddy was pretty excited too! In fact, there were times when I wasn’t sure who was having more fun…

We found a circuit powered by water, with wheels and pulleys and pumps and an Arcamedes screw transporting the water round. Little Miss A found this fascinating, watching our demonstrations carefully, before insisting on doing it all herself, heaving the wheels around to make the various parts work.

Water circuit

“I is having to work very hard to make this move, Daddy.”

Water circuit experiments

There was also a water table with several hands-on (or hands-in!) activities that Little Miss A loved exploring.

Water table

There were sections for building dams, constructing waterways to race ducks, turning taps to make fountains work…

Water fountain

… Or just for enjoying getting your hands wet!

The discovery park was equally as enticing. Little Miss A was possibly on the younger end of the suitable age range for this section but it didn’t stop her running around from exhibit to exhibit to try her hand at each one.

Sound tubes

There was all sorts of equipment, including a giant ‘marble’ run, various sound tubes, a huge wobbly balance board and a fab climbing frame shaped like a DNA helix!

DNA climbing frame

Once we pried ourselves away from the outdoor fun, we headed to the indoors exhibits, which covered topics such as light, the solar system, forces and magnetics. While Little Miss A is still a bit young to understand the explanations that went with every experiment, she had so much fun pushing buttons, pulling levers, building, knocking down, peering through microscopes… It was a great way to introduce science and I can imagine that she would get something different out of it with every passing year, as her understanding grows.

Indoors at the science centre

Baby E wasn’t left out of the fun, either! She was absolutely fascinated with many of the exhibits, loving watching various items moving and swinging and changing colour.

We’ll be back in Sussex in the summer and are already tempted to add this to our list of places to visit then, as we just had such a brilliant time and could have easily spent longer there. It’s also inspired me to start collecting ideas (on Pinterest, of course) for simple science experiments that we can do in the garden at home, now that Little Miss A has a taste for it!

Learning for Life

A sunny week

We’ve had so much fun this week, playing outdoors and enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine.

It started while we were away on Easter Monday, meeting friends for a lovely, relaxed catch up at the park. The kids ran around and played (even together a little bit!) while we chatted and basked in the warmth after a chilly weekend. I was so totally unprepared that I even got a little burnt!

Back home, Tuesday saw us at our local park with some of my antenatal friends. Little Miss A has known this group since she was born, seeing them so often that they all now play together really nicely. After running around the play park, they settled into a game of collecting grass cuttings and making ‘birds nests’ to sit in! It was lovely to watch their imaginative play and listen to their conversations with each other. I stayed on a bit longer with my two and the nesting kept Little Miss A occupied for another 20 minutes or so while her sister slept. It’s always useful when it works out like that!

Making bird nests

Wednesday saw us venturing further afield for a proper day out… I’m slowly getting a bit braver, taking both girls out on my own to places other than the park and toddler groups and friends’ houses! It’s only taken six months or so to work up to it, haha.

We met a friend and her two children at a nearby animal and adventure park. I didn’t get any pictures as I was too busy watching Little Miss A like a hawk! She had so much fun running around, bouncing on trampolines, whizzing down giant slides, watching ducks racing (really – the ‘quacky races’ with comical looking Indian Runner ducks), feeding goats, spinning on roundabouts and more. It was exhausting but great to widen the scope of my days out with the girls.

On Thursday, we woke to yet more sunshine, hooray! We headed to our local park again to meet friends for a picnic. Their kiddies are a bit older so Little Miss A couldn’t quite keep up with their games – and had to stay closer to Mummy than they did! But she loved trying out their frisbees (I think we might need to get her one of her own) and she did some brilliant kicking and throwing of her little football, which she is starting to get really into now. Plus there was time for digging in the mud round the trees!

Under the tree

Back home, we spent the rest of the afternoon in our suntrap garden. Little Miss A made potions while Baby E cruised around our deck, peeping out at her sister every now and then. I’m looking forward to lot more chilled out afternoons like that over the coming months (well, as chilled as it gets with two littlies, anyway!).

Making potions

Today is Friday and amazingly there has been yet more sunshine. I decided to take the girls to a local farm shop that has a great outdoor play area, along with a few animals and a couple of short trails.

We picnicked first on some goodies bought at the shop (including delicious olive, pepper and feta foccacia – so bad for my diet but so good to eat!). Then I let Little Miss A loose on the play area, which has a ‘castle’ slide with small house underneath, a wiggly snake rope swing, some wooden climbing and balancing bits and pieces, and a tractor. It’s a really lovely space for outdoor play, especially now Little Miss A is older. Today, she spent most of her time on the tractor as the “farm girl who fixes it”. This involved taking handfuls of bark chippings and rubbing them on the wheels or stuffing them in the ‘engine’, and it occupied her for ages.

Tractor girl

Baby E was getting rather grumpy but it turned out she just wanted a go too, sitting happily on the wheels watching her sister playing.

Baby E on tractor

After I got fed up standing in the same spot for half an hour, we set off to explore one of the trails, which led to the small fishing lakes and bird hide. We haven’t done this before and, apart from me being slightly nervous that Little Miss A would dart off and fall in the lake, it was a good wind down activity as the spot was lovely and peaceful (until we arrived, anyway!).

Swan on lake

We peeped out of the bird hide and spotted some geese and a swan, with Little Miss A much more interested than I thought she would be. Next time, we’ll take some binoculars for a better look.

Peeping out of the bird hide

On our way back, we found some “alarmas” (or llamas…) and had just enough time for a few swings on the wiggly rope snake before heading home for teatime.

Llamas on the farm

Our week of sunshine has been fab and just what we needed to survive the Easter holidays, with no preschool to help with entertainment.

Fingers crossed there are many more sunny weeks to come now we’re in April!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall