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.
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.

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