Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Pump it up...

The first lockdown saw us exploring our town more than ever before. For the first few weeks, we stepped out of our front door and headed into the countryside, there were so many footpaths we had never walked before and so many beautiful views we’d never even glimpsed!

Alongside our walks, we also took to our local streets and cul-de-sacs for bike riding practise. Both children were confident riders, but most of their experience had been in parks, so we wanted to teach them to navigate crossing roads, watch out for pedestrians and negotiate other hazards. Once we were happy that they’d mastered those skills, we started to roam further afield, trying to stick to cycle paths where possible, but thanks to the quieter roads we could also teach them how to ride safely on the road, when we needed them to.

 

One of the best places we’ve cycled to in Cheltenham is the BMX Pump Track at Burrows Field in Leckhampton. Children and adults alike, can use the track to hone their bike skills, improve their fitness and most importantly, have fun!


Currently, there are social distancing reminder signs by the track, it’s the perfect activity for kids to meet up without the temptation of huddling together!

 

If you’re not up for cycling there, there’s a small, free car park at the edge of the field (next to Broadlands Pre school). There’s also lots of grassy space around the track, perfect for meeting up for picnics at a distance.

 

We arrived at the track at around 11am and as lunchtime came and went, it got quite a bit busier, so I’d suggest heading down there early if it’s your first time, giving your children chance to get to know the lay of the track. There’s a really helpful sign next to the entrance, explaining the skills you should master before taking on the track, as well as covering track safety and etiquette points.

 

As well as other newbies like us, we saw toddlers on balance bikes bossing the track, older children who had clearly been practicing for years and adults who effortlessly navigated the track. Despite the range of ages and abilities, everyone was polite and respectful, giving the smaller children space and nobody laughed or made comments when wipeouts inevitably happened. 

Both our children (4 and 7) had an awesome time and spent the cycle home planning their next trip!


If you fancy giving it a try, you can gain access to the track via Moorend Grove. The postcode is GL53 0HB.





Honey and Ace wear... Cycle helmets (don't get on a bike without one).







Monday, 31 August 2020

We're Going Camping in a Camper Van...

Disclosure: We were give a discount on Hartland's hire fees in exchange for Social Media coverage and honest feedback to the Cheltsea team.

Our Cheltsea story started in July 2020, when we booked our first ever camper van experience! We are seasoned campers, but fancied something a little bit different this year. A VW camper is something we have often talked about and lusted after, but we are not in a position to buy one (nor do we have space to park one), so we were really excited to get going! 

As our holiday approached, we exchanged emails with the Cheltsea team, arranging details like which awning we wanted to hire and booking me in as an extra driver. We didn’t tell the children about the holiday until the van was parked on our driveway and we had packed it up. It was so much fun planning everything and imagining their reaction and Cheltsea did everything they could to ensure that our surprise had maximum impact!

Hartland and the Drive Away Awning.

Once we had shown the children the van and established that we were free to roam in it for the next four days, we headed straight for our favourite place, Woolacombe. It’s been a special place for my husband for many years and I have shared his passion for the place over the last 10 years, we even got engaged there in 2011! 

 

Van life is a little different to camping, some differences we loved and others not so much, but it’s all down to personal preference! Here’s our top three perks of van life:

 

1.   You get your very own mobile changing room and kitchen! We made packed lunches in car parks, ate takeaways overlooking the sea and used the van to change in and out of wetsuits.

  2. The cool. Hartland is very cool. There’s no way you can lose this van, even in a car park full of campers! Its distinctive colourway appeals to my love of bright colours and is a great change from the usual block colours.

3.  Setting up is fast, even faster if you’re travelling light and don’t need an awning! If you’ve  

     been organised and kept your bags etc tidy, you can pack away quickly too.

 

When we go to Woolacombe, we usually stay at Easewell Farm in Mortehoe. It’s part of the Woolacombe Bay group and we love it there because it’s nice and quiet, but you also have access to their bigger, busier sites (should you wish to visit them), which have more facilities and evening entertainment. We don’t normally go down there in the summer holidays and unsurprisingly, Easewell was full this summer, so we booked Woolacombe Sands as we have friends who have stayed there and recommended it.

 

The main difference between the two sites, was proximity to town and therefore, the beach. Woolacombe Sands is the closest camp site to the beach and there’s a lovely foot path which leads you there in around 15 minutes.

 

Our few days away were a blur of exploring beaches (we loved Grunta and Combesgate this time), walking, bodyboarding and enjoying delicious food. Shout out to Fudgies for their incredible pasties and sausage rolls, Big Chief for their wonderous waffles and ice cream and Woolacombe Bay Pizza Co for the obvious!

We loved being back in Woolacombe and loved our first foray into van life. We look forward to making more camper van memories in the future! 


P.S. If you sang the title, you are my people! ;-)


Honey and Ace wear... T- Shirts tie dyed and printed by AMG Cre8tes




Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Playmobil EverDreamerz...

Disclosure: We were sent the products featured in this blog post to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I have a bit of an issue with dolls. Honey has some great ones, some terrible ones and some average ones in-between. The terrible ones lose limbs, have torn clothing and sometimes their paint even chips off. The average ones sit in a drawer for a year or two and then get passed on to a younger friend or relative or sent to the charity shop. But the great ones? They encourage role play, story telling, imagination and even problem solving. The great ones, like the new Playmobil EverDreamerz, are played with often and by everyone and will be kept and passed down to cousins and grandchildren in the future. 

As children, my brother and I were lucky enough to own some Playmobil sets and I remember them keeping us occupied for absolutely ages. They were such good quality, robust enough to pass on to our younger sister a few years later and then I took it all into work with me years after that, for classes full of excitable 6 and 7 year olds to enjoy. I am pleased to report that modern Playmobil seems to maintain the high quality standards I remember.
       

Playmobil's new EverDreamerz collection couldn't be more up Honey's street if it had been designed by her! The dolls are brightly coloured, come with a whole host of accessories to inspire exciting, creative play. There are two worlds, Candy World and Comic World and there's an introduction to the characters and collection on the Playmobil website. Honey loved watching the cartoons, singing along to the positive, empowering song and playing the simple online game, this content is all free for anyone to access.


The packaging is great. Aside from a few small, thin plastic bags (which can be recycled alongside your supermarket carrier bags), everything else is cardboard and is designed to be reused and then placed in your kerbside recycling bin, once it reaches the end of its life.                      

Inside each box, there's a doll and a range of themed accessories, including a bracelet which your child can add charms to. Everything comes in small parts, ready to be assembled at home, hence the recommended age of 7+ for these dolls.


Each set also includes a water pen, which can be used on the stickers provided, to reveal words, patterns and designs, there's also a collector's card and sticker set to go with each doll.

 

So, if you're looking for cool toys that will stand the test of time, you can find the full range of EverDreamerz here.


Honey wears... Butterfly dress by H&M


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

It's all about you...

I was kindly gifted these books in exchange for an honest review.

When Wonderbly got in touch to see if I would be interested in choosing some of their books to review, I was so excited. I'd seen their adverts online and had put them on my list of sites to visit when I was looking to give an extra special gift. You can search the site by age, bestsellers or occasion and easily add personalisation to make your book one of a kind.

With Father's Day coming up, we chose a present for Daddy, from Ace, entitled 'Ace loves Daddy this much'. You enter your child's name and choose the illustration that most closely resembles them, in the first instance. After that, you can choose between a hardback or soft cover (pricing varies depending on which option you choose), then you choose a colour for your front cover and you can even add your own dedication at no extra cost.

Ace Loves Daddy This Much
The website is very user friendly, with clear menus and easy to navigate pages. You can even preview your whole book before you commit to buying it, which is great for checking you've spelt all the names and entered other details correctly. I was kept up to date with shipping progress via email and our books arrived really quickly.

Opening up the new books
Once you have finalised your book, you can choose whether or not to have it gift wrapped (extra charge applies). The wrapping is in the form of a pretty, cardboard envelope, which can be recycled, used again to gift a different book (or book shaped object) or it could be used as part of a craft project, which is what we decided to do with it. 

The other book I chose, is called 'That's MY Cake!' and it's all about how we sometimes don't want to share things, but it often turns out better if we do. It's perfect for siblings who have been spending more time than usual together and have been navigating the world of taking turns and sharing things they may not normally have to. As you can tell from the photograph above, Honey was so excited to see that the book was all about Ace and herself, she especially loved the personalised dedication!

Honey is a proficient and avid reader and found the book easy to read, she just needed help reading some of the larger numbers. She was amazed that the facts surrounding their ages were accurate (another thing to double check when you preview your book, as the numbers are calculated from your children's dates of birth) and loved that they were the stars of the story.
Sharing the new books
Beautiful pictures and such a fun story
I chose the hardback versions and I was not disappointed, the quality is brilliant. The colours are vibrant, the pages are thick (Ace proof) and the illustrations are so lovely. Honey and Ace absolutely love reading these books, they don't sit on the shelf for long at all, which in my opinion is the true sign of how good a book is!
These books stand out in a crowd(ed bookself)
If you'd like to order your own Wonderbly personalised book for Father's Day (or just because), visit their site by clicking here and enter your email address to receive a voucher for £10 off your first order, or enter my name (Steph Gore) at the checkout (where is says 'Been referred by a friend?). In the interest of full disclosure, I will receive money off my next order if you use my link or name when you order.

Thanks for reading my review and I hope you have fun designing your own books!

Honey wears... Flower hairband from a festival last year
Ace wears... Yellow shorts from Cotswold Baby Co


Monday, 25 May 2020

Secret learning...

There are so many brilliant activities out there for keeping little ones entertained at home. My main sources of inspiration are Pinterest and Instagram, I'm forever taking screen shots of activities I like the look of or think I can adapt for my own children. Often, the activities are just for fun, but there are nearly always learning opportunities to be found if (like right now) you want to draw them out.

A few weeks ago, we criss crossed the patio with masking tape and used pavement chalk to fill in all the shapes we created. While we worked and after we had finished, we chatted a lot about shape. This is just one example of how you can create learning opportunities during a game or activity.


Set Challenges
Find a rectangle and colour it yellow.
Colour the smallest shape blue.
Jump on a triangle.
Throw a stone onto a rectangle.

Ask Questions
How many triangles can you see?
What is this shape called?
Can you see anything else in our garden that is square shaped?
Can you see any more rectangles?
How many sides does this shape have?
How many corners does this shape have?
Can you see any letters in our pattern?
Can you see any numbers in our pattern?
Which shape is the biggest?
Which shape is the smallest?
How many different shapes can you see?
How many shapes are there altogether?
Which shape has the most sides?

Ask Trickier Questions (depending on age or stage)
Can you see any symmetrical shapes?
Are any of these shapes squares? Why/why not?
How many right angles can you see?
What is the length of the sides of this triangle?
Which shapes are regular?
Which shapes are irregular?
Which angles are acute?
Which angles are obtuse?
Can you name some 3D shapes that have rectangular sides?

So you see, home school doesn't have to be worksheets every day, there are loads of activities you're probably doing already that you can find learning opportunities within. Let me know if you have a favourite activity with added 'secret learning'!

P.S. Aside from all the learning that took place, these photos also lead to me cleaning our patio due to how grim it looked here! I spent a happy hour scrubbing the slabs using a cream cleaner, water and a stiff bristled broom (another hack seen on Instagram) and we were all amazed by the results. It feels like we have a new patio!















Honey wears... Tutu by Candy Bows






Friday, 24 April 2020

One mans trash...

We are currently feeling very grateful that we are allowed to leave the house each day for a walk or a bike ride around our local area. We have rediscovered footpaths we haven't walked down for 10 years, discovered places we've never been before and realised that our children can walk a lot further than they let on, especially if they have a challenge to keep them occupied!

Here are some examples of the fresh air challenges we have given the children recently. All of them can be made quickly and easily using things from your recycling box and home. Text in blue demonstrates an English link (EYFS/KS1) and text in red demonstrates a maths link, just incase you're looking for ways to sneak a spot of learning into your fun!

1. Treasure Hunt

A cardboard rectangle.
A felt pen or marker pen.
Double sided sticky tape.

You can differentiate the task depending on your child's stage. Ace loves letters and numbers and is absolutely loving sounding out short words, so I used sound buttons to help him read some of his clues independently. I also specified some quantities, so he could practise his counting and so that we could ask him questions such as 'how many have you got?' and  'how many more to make 5?' For Honey, I suggested that she could try to make her blades of grass the same length and I also used synonyms for some of the words on Ace's board so that we could talk about vocabulary choices.

I was wearing a gilet, so I peeled off Ace's tape and put it in my pocket as we went along, but you could peel it all off before you begin and then leave the rubbish at home.


2. Nature crowns

Packaging paper.
Sticky tape.
Double sided sticky tape.

We used string to measure Honey and Ace's head circumference, then cut a piece of packaging paper to size for each of them. We then spread the paper out on the table and added strips on double sided tape. Finally, we used normal sticky tape to secure the ends. As we were walking, Honey and Ace chose flowers, twigs and leaves they liked and added them to their crowns. Ace was thrilled to find some pink tipped daisies and loved blowing the dandelion clocks, while Honey tried to make her crown a sea of different colours.


3. Bunting

Packaging paper.
Toilet roll tubes.
Paint.
Felt pens.
Stampers (optional).

This one isn't something to take on a walk with you, but my children love seeing bunting whenever we go out, so we thought we would make some of our own. First cut the paper into a row of even triangles leaving a strip at the top so that they all stay together (you can make your strip whatever width you like). Then use your toilet roll tubes to stamp circles/ovals, depending on the shape of your chosen animals. When the paint is dry, use your felt pens to draw eyes, noses, legs etc as appropriate for your animals. Finally, use pens or stampers to add wording (if you want to). We made these for Easter, but you could make them for lockdown birthdays/anniversaries/just because!


4. Clipboard

A cardboard rectangle.
A large paper clip.
A blob of Bluetac.
A felt pen or marker pen.
A pencil.
Rectangles of packaging paper.

I made a couple of little clipboards for Honey and Ace, to add a twist to our daily walk. On our walks, we noticed that lots of people had drawn and coloured rainbows or left bears in their windows to brighten other peoples' days. A couple of times, we tried to keep count of how many we saw, but we kept forgetting our total! I drew a simple table on to a piece of packaging paper and off we went, keeping a tally of the things we saw along the way. We stopped to count our running totals (in 5's and 10's) and then found the difference between the totals once we got home. You could also use the clipboards for indoor or outdoor sketching, or for making lists of trees, flowers or types of cars you see while you're out and about.


5. Nature weaving

A cardboard rectangle.
Elastic bands (you could use string instead or cut lines straight through the cardboard).

Finally a use for all the elastic bands out postman has dropped over the last year or so! Ace's set himself a goal of finding sticks shaped like different letters, he managed I, y and t. Honey wanted to find things that were exactly the right length to fit widthways on her weaving board.


Honey wears... Gryffindor scarf by Nanna
Ace wears... Flower crown by Ace



Monday, 13 April 2020

Get out (while you can)...

There's nothing that can't be solved by getting outdoors, well very few things anyway. If tensions are running high, simply opening the back doors and pouring the children into the garden can work wonders for everyone's mood. Often, a walk to your local parkland is in order (obviously avoiding play areas at the moment) and sometimes an adventure further afield is called for! 

A couple of years ago, we explored lots of our local National Trust properties, which included meeting up with friends and family for woodland walks and this year (after lockdown), we are joining Historic Houses, so will be doing more of the same I'm sure. We love getting outside whatever the weather and having the right kit is crucial to make sure that it can happen.

A Comfortable Backpack

I love the Vans Realm Backpacks and we have a few in the house! They were the perfect size to carry our sling, potty, spare clothes and some snacks when Ace was smaller and now I use mine to carry snacks, drinks, spare clothes and all manner of adventure essentials, including our Scrunch buckets and spades, binoculars and compass. Honey used to take hers to the childminders and has used it as a school bag for the last few years, so it's been worth the initial outlay.


A Travel Potty



While a nature wee is a common occurrence when out in the countryside, sometimes when they're first potty training, little ones can announce the urgent need for a number 2 at any time! Although it's not something we need to carry around with us anymore, we used and loved My Carry Potty with both Honey and Ace, you can read more about our potty training experiences here (Honey) and here (Ace).




Waterproof Outerwear

A warm, waterproof coat is worth its weight in gold. Things to look out for include, a hood that stays up during the wind and rain, upright pockets so that gloves don't fall out and a warm lining. We love the Puddle Buster coats from Frugi and also have warm, padded coats from Mountain Warehouse for chilly but dry(ish) days. For warmer days, I carry a lightweight, parkway waterproof for each of them, in our backpack.
Waterproof trousers or dungarees are key too. Not only do they keep little bottoms dry when they're sitting on the sand (or in a puddle), they also provide a valuable extra layer to protect from chilling winds. Our favourites are from Mountain Warehouse and Grass & Air and our tip is to wear them over the top of wellies instead of tucked in, as this helps keep wellies dry inside too!
             

Waterproof Gloves

My children love to pick up sticks, stones and other treasure on our walks. If we're on the beach, they also love to build sandcastles and climb rocks. All of these things are fine during the warmer months, but when you're out in the wind and rain, little hands can get very cold and when they're cold there's whinging and when there's whinging, nobody has fun! Mountain Warehouse come up trumps again here, we rate their ski mittens and gloves and love that the elastic cuffs can be tucked into sleeves to keep out the weather.

A Cosy Hat

Everyone's Granny ever used to tell them that '10% of your body head is lost through your head', so a decent hat is an absolute must! We love Little Hotdog Watson hats because they're water resistant, have a cosy, thinsulate lining and are even reflective for those darker days. My favourite things about these hats is that they can be fastened underneath your chin so they don't blow off your head and also the they are not too bulky, so can easily be worn under a hood for double warmth! They also do amazing summer hats which have SPF and mosquito repellent built in, they're worth every penny.

Appropriate Footwear

Cold extremities are the absolute worst on an outdoors day. I've already mentioned the importance of keeping fingers warm, but keeping toes warm is essential too! Recently, I was lucky enough to win our family a set of Warm Wellies and I can honestly say that our recent winter holiday to Devon was the first time EVER that my toes have stayed toasty all day while wearing wellies. I have tried countless different sock combinations previously, as well as welly liners and have always ended up with freezing toes. The Warm Welly Company make neoprene lined wellies, which keep my feet warm and dry while only wearing my normal day to day cotton socks. To say I'm impressed is such an understatement! 

At the moment, the children's Warm Wellies are too big for them, so they have tall wellies (so they can wade in deeper puddles without water cascading over the top) and insulated, moisture wicking welly socks, which seem to do the trick judging by the lack of wet feet complaints! For tall wellies, we rate Muddy Puddles and Mountain WarehouseFor warmer days, unlined wellies or hiking shoes can save the day.

Spare Clothes

When the kids are kitted out in full wet weather gear, we don't carry spare clothes in the backpack anymore, but we do tend to keep a full set of everything back at the car just in case. The one time we didn't do this recently, Ace decided to go for a swim in the sea (in february) and water went down the neck of his coat (brrrrr). He had had to wear my jumper until we could raid the local charity shops for a more appropriately sized one!

Wet bag

We keep the wet bag from our brief foray into cloth nappies in our backpack which is great for making sure wet clothing stays away from the rest of our things. Bags for life and Ikea bags are also great to keep in the car boot for containing wet garments and footwear.

So if you've broken up the fourth fight of the morning, ended up in an argument about whose turn it is to pick a film or found chocolate smeared on the sofa, get out. Draw chalk rainbows on your patio or path, practise your ball skills in your garden or explore your local area and make the most of your government sanctioned period of daily exercise. Breathe in, breathe out and enjoy the fresh air, I guarantee it will make everyone feel better.

*Everything mentioned has been bought by us (apart from our Warm Wellies, which were a Facebook giveaway prize). I have linked our most useful buys so you can find them easily if you're looking for anything similar, none of the links are affiliate.
 

Pump it up...

The first lockdown saw us exploring our town more than ever before. For the first few weeks, we stepped out of our front door and headed int...