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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Hands-on science exploration, disguised as play!
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.
“I is having to work very hard to make this move, Daddy.”
There was also a water table with several hands-on (or hands-in!) activities that Little Miss A loved exploring.
There were sections for building dams, constructing waterways to race ducks, turning taps to make fountains work…
… 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.
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!
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.
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!
We headed up to our local university this weekend to join the celebrations for Chinese New Year.
The university’s Chinese society did a great job, putting on a whole host of activities to welcome the Year of the Sheep (also somewhat confusingly known as the Year of the Goat!).
To start it all off, there was dragon and lion dancing. We only caught the tail end (literally!) of the dragon, which was a shame as it looked amazing. But the lion dance was really interesting.
Little Miss A was fascinated, getting up as close as she dared and even joining in, dancing along to the drums.
The dancers swapped over a few times; we guessed that it must have been hard work crouching down inside the costume, especially as the routine was so physical with the lion rolling around and rearing onto its hind quarters.
Afterwards, we headed indoors to look around the Chinese market. We treated ourselves to a very untraditional hot chocolate to warm up, as, despite the gorgeous sunshine and blue sky, it was decidedly chilly outside. Then it was time to explore. Little Miss A loved dressing up in a traditional Chinese gown, examining the beautiful parasols and receiving her very own pink paper lantern. She also waited incredibly patiently in line to have her face painted (Hello Kitty!). Baby E liked bouncing along to the music and I enjoyed a sneaky spring roll, yum!
We had to leave to get home for tea and bed so didn’t get to see the fireworks display unfortunately – I am already plotting staying later next year so we can catch them next time!
There are many things I love about the festive season but seeing all the beautiful lights and decorations is a real favourite. Once the big switch on happens in town, you know that Christmas is coming soon!
Since having ToddlerGirl, I’ve started a new family tradition of heading into the city centre to look at the lights before going to dinner all together. Last year, this was mostly fun for me, with ToddlerGirl semi interested in it all. This year, though, is the year I have been waiting for. Now she’s three, she’s really enthusiastic about all things Christmas. In fact, we have one incredibly excited little girl on our hands – and it’s only the beginning of December! I admit I’m probably partially (er, mostly) to blame for that…
She absolutely loved our trip to look at all the lights, not least for the novelty of being out and about in the dark, which is usually equated with bedtime. She found it very strange to see so many people around, asking wonderingly: “Why is everyone out at night?!” It was only 5pm of course but it obviously felt very late to her!
First, we wandered through the lovely Christmas market, which sits in the grounds of our cathedral (although ToddlerGirl doesn’t accept that and insists it’s a castle!) and has a warm, cosy glow after dark. With ToddlerGirl perched on her daddy’s shoulders, there were lots of interesting stalls to stop and look at. Mummy particularly enjoyed sampling some chocolate wine, with some not so subtle hints to the husband that it would make a great present!
Then we set about spotting as many lights as we could, finding them in all shapes and sizes: strung along the streets, twinkling in trees, hanging like icicles from shops… Some were brightly coloured, others wintery whites and blues. It was a festive dream! Our favourite find was a huge canopy of white lights over the main street, although a long line of Christmas trees, decorated by various charities and schools, and some giant baubles came a close second and third. It was a brilliant family outing, finished off by yummy burgers and thick shakes for tea.
We had our second festive fix at a local Christmas fair this weekend, where the entire road was closed off and crammed with market stalls. The shops spilled out onto the pavement and there were delicious smells and tempting treats everywhere. The lights had a more traditional feel, with small Christmas trees sticking out over the shop fronts all the way along the street, although we also spotted a couple shaped like reindeer. We found a small fairground ride for ToddlerGirl and stopped to enjoy the brass band.
The street was heaving and it was lovely to see the local small businesses doing so well. I got the last of my Christmas shopping done, feeling smugly organised as the husband hasn’t started his – until I realised I’m the only person he needs to buy for!
Our two trips out have been the perfect way to begin the festive season. I’m not done hunting down Christmas lights, though. Now I’m looking forward to our annual drive by to find the best decorated houses in our area. Obviously by that I mean the ones crammed with the most novelty lights…! ToddlerGirl will love it.
Sun, sea and sand – ahhhhh, the recipe for a great day out. OK, it’s winter and the only paddling was with wellies on but that didn’t stop us having a lovely time at the beach!
I’m finding our weeks are whizzing by in a bit of a blur at the moment. Days are full on with a baby and a three year old, a busy round of naps and nappy changes, tears and tantrums, wiggles and giggles, and a whole lot more besides!
It doesn’t slow down much at the weekend but, with the husband on hand to help out, there is at least room for me to pause a little. Plus we get to go out and have fun together, which is really the best thing of all.
Last weekend, with the sun shining, we decided to head to the coast. I enjoy the beach in the winter almost as much as in the warmer months. And it’s pretty safe to say ToddlerGirl loves it whatever the weather.
We had lunch first at a great café nearby, which had a small corner with toys for children to play with. This entertained ToddlerGirl before and after our food, so the husband and I had time for a yummy shared pudding and some rare relaxation time together, chatting, cuddling BabyGirl and watching ToddlerGirl playing. I wish more cafés catered for kiddies (and parents) so well.
After lunch, we headed to the beach, which was buzzing with couples, families and an awful lot of energetic dogs! With our wellies on, we wasted no time in venturing right down to the waves. ToddlerGirl was so excited by this, we were treated to a little made up song: “I love the seeeeea” (splash, splash) “I love splashing in the seeeeea” (jump, splash).
We dug a small hole in the sand, which soon became a ‘rockpool’ as we lined it with shells and filled it with water using our bucket and watering can. Of course, the water drained away, much to ToddlerGirl’s disappointment. It became our mission to keep refilling it, which proved to be a fun enough game to keep ToddlerGirl happy for the duration of our stay. Run to the sea, fill the bucket, slosh the water into the ‘rockpool’, jump in it, repeat, repeat, repeat.
BabyGirl was tucked into her carrier with daddy, leaving me free to play with ToddlerGirl – and the one who had to keep wading into the shallows to replenish the water. The tide was going out, so I had a bit further to run each time! That’s the way to burn off the baby weight… It can feel like a real juggling act during the week, balancing the needs of a four month old and a three year old, so I loved having time to focus completely on my big girl.
My daughter, being the little mess monster that she is, was soon stretched out on the wet sand and covered head to toe. She was also pretty wet from all the splashing; despite waterproof trousers and wellies, the water had found it’s way in. And me being the disorganised mum that I am, I’d failed to bring a change of clothes or even a towel – you’d think I was new to this or didn’t know that my ToddlerGirl was bound to end up soaked and sandy!
That was our cue to leave, so we waved goodbye to the sea and headed back to the car to strip ToddlerGirl off, wipe her down with a muslin and wrap her in one of her sister’s blankets.
There are some hard bits to being a parent. There are definitely some exhausting bits. And, of course, there are many, many fun, heartwarming and wonderful bits. But I think these family days out are my absolute favourite, the ones we’ll remember in years to come when the sleepless nights are distant memories.
I love our local park. It has been a brilliant space to have on our doorstep since I had ToddlerGirl. When one or both of us are climbing the walls after an uneventful day at home, it is a real sanity saver to pop over for a play!
We made good use of it one afternoon this week. With BabyGirl tucked up napping in the sling, I could give my attention to ToddlerGirl, who skipped around trying all the equipment.
Her current favourite is a roundabout type thing that she spins around on like some kind of whirling dervish! It was so funny to watch her with her hair flying, giggling like mad.
Once this started to wear thin, we wandered over to what I call the ‘mud mounds’. This is a good-sized area of concrete and several mounds of compacted mud, great for scooting or riding bikes over or simply running around on! They are even better at the moment with piles of huge leaves on the ground, perfect for shuffling through and kicking up into the air.
Armed with nothing more than a big stick and our imaginations, we managed to while away nearly an hour there. The stick proved useful for swishing in the leaves and some very vigorous stirring of muddy puddles, or ‘puddle soup’ as ToddlerGirl called them. (Actually, the stirring was undertaken a little too enthusiastically and she ended up a tad wet… Luckily I had a change of trousers so we didn’t have to cut short the fun!)
After that, I decided it was time to tone down the puddle stirring (although I still caught her trying to dip her toe in!) and we discovered that the layer of mud on the ground made a lovely blank canvas for some mark making with the stick.
ToddlerGirl dragged it through the mud to make long lines, then carefully drew circles and, with a little more difficulty, triangles. She also pretended to do some writing, making a series of marks that she said were her name. She then asked me to write her name for her and we decorated it with hearts and stars (me) and wavy lines and circles (her).
We thought about some creatures that we might find at the park. ToddlerGirl drew a number of wiggly worms and requested I draw an elephant. We had a little giggle at the idea of finding an elephant there one day as I attempted to make a reasonable likeness! I’m no artist and it proved quite hard to draw one with the stick, but ToddlerGirl was kind enough to tell me that it did indeed look like an elephant! I’m not so sure…
As the light started to fade and thoughts turned to teatime, we headed home – with our big stick, of course, which was added to the growing pile outside our front door.
It just goes to show that you don’t always have to go far or to anywhere special to have an outdoor adventure. Our quick trip to get us out of the house turned into so much more as we explored and had fun together.
I love our park!
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a wonderful time!
I’ve been neglecting my blog lately as I get to grips with motherhood to two littlies. It’s fun, it’s hard work and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging at the moment!
There’s a huge adjustment curve, particularly getting used to going out and about with two. Although she’s getting a lot better at not legging it at any given opportunity – and, importantly, listening to me when I tell her to stop! – our daily activities revolve around going to contained spaces, where I don’t need to worry that ToddlerGirl can stray too far from me.
The weekends, though, are family days, time we are cherishing all the more since our hospital experience with BabyGirl.
One of our favourites for the autumn has been to head to our lovely local forest park. It’s great all year round but there is something extra special about the woods at this time of year. Beautiful colours, crunching and rustling leaves underfoot, a slight tingle of cold in the air, mellow sunlight filtering through the trees.
ToddlerGirl adores the freedom of the forest park, as it’s one place where we can let her roam ahead without having to constantly tell her to stop! There are fallen logs to climb and balance on, puddles to splash in, sticks to find, dens to explore, and paths to adventure down.
One of her top activities is to collect items on our walks. We’ve had quite a few autumn nature finds that have been transported home, although our last trip to the forest saw her obsessed with scooping up handfuls of dried, flaking leaves and pine needles for her ‘foraging bag’, which was soon full to bursting! We are getting good at surreptitiously ‘loosing’ many of these items when she is distracted… You can always find a few sticks and leaves knocking around our car, though!
Perhaps her absolute favourite find, however, has been a huge pile of sawdust chippings, a perfect mountain to clamber up. The slightly springy texture was interesting to explore and poke sticks into, it was great fun to run around on and roll down(!) but the very best bit was scooping up the chips of wood and letting them run through her fingers, making piles on her legs. Sensory exploration in it’s best, most natural form!
We’re very lucky with our forest park. While there the last time, we discovered a new themed trail celebrating The Gruffalo’s Child, which we’ll be going back to investigate further.
It’s definitely one of my favourites at the moment: feeling BabyGirl snuggled against me in her carrier; watching ToddlerGirl giggling and running ahead; breathing in the beautiful fresh air; time even to snatch a quick hand hold with the husband… These happy happy family days out are ones that I want to lock into my memory forever.