Nowadays there are so many different activity places available to take children to. You have soft plays, parks, farms (most are more play centres now than animals) and theme parks.
Do we really need to take children to these places to have a good time?
Today my girls and I had one of the best days so far of the summer holidays and we achieved this by visiting Epsom Downs which is a wide open field in between the famous race course.
We arrived at midday and the place was near enough empty. We started off by having a lovely picnic.
My girls had brought with them a frisbee and some tennis rackets to play with. They were all so happy with the freedom to run about and hit the ball as hard as they liked without it going over a fence or landing in the road.
We ended up staying there playing for over 3 hours. We played frisbee, tennis, I.T, stuck in the mud, handstand and cartwheel competitions, granny’s footsteps (the girl’s taught me this game it is a bit like what’s the time Mr wolf) and running races.
It was amazing how much fun we had from an empty field and the best thing it cost nothing! We already had the frisbee and tennis rackets and we just bought the sandwiches that we would have eaten at home anyway.
It was so great to see the kids making their own fun and I got to join in, unlike when we visit places especially designed for children where it is normally me sitting on the side watching them play. We received loads of fresh air and exercise and had a great enjoyable day. We would have stayed a lot longer but ran out of water and it was a very hot day.
Our open spaces are slowly disappearing and as we saw for ourselves not that many people use them which is such a shame as there is so much fun that can be had when using them. As a parent you can let your children run free without worrying as much as you would in a busy place.
*Edit* We still to this day enjoy visiting open spaces the only thing that has changed is instead of a frisbee and tennis racket we now have a football that is always in the back of the car and I have just bought a rounders set.
I have never really had much interest in yoga before, I didn’t understand how slow movements and deep breathing would ever help me achieve any health and fitness benefits. I was ignorant when it came to yoga and its power.
I have always been a ‘go hard or go home’, type of exerciser looking for the highest intensity workouts and pushing myself to my limits, taking things slow was never my style.
It wasn’t until this year that I truly discovered the amazing power of yoga. It truly has the power to melt away stress and transport you into a peaceful serene.
I suffered from a bout of stress and anxiety that left me feeling physically ill. I would feel sick, have bad stomachs and physically shake.
Being a parent of 3 children and working full time looking after another 9 children as a childminder my life was pretty stressful anyway so when we then decided to move 150 miles away my stress levels rocketing.
I needed to find a way to combat my stress.
Someone told me that yoga is great relief for stress. So I thought that I would give it a go, after all I had nothing to lose. I did some research into yoga and its benefits and watched some Youtube videos on basic yoga and gave it a try.
After doing yoga a few times I was able to control my breathing and movements and I could then clear my mind. This in turn helped my stress and anxiety just disappear and put me in a calmer frame of mind. Once you can really immerse yourself in the moves and can control your breathing, you can really feel the positive energy running through your body.
After doing just basic yoga moves for over a week, I am seeing improvements in my flexibility, strength and most importantly my stress levels. Yes I still do get stressed it is hard not to especially with children however a quick yoga pose or deep breathing exercise and my head feels so much clearer and I am then in a better frame of mind to deal with the situation.
When dealing with children you always need to have a calm persona to be beneficial and yoga a great way to do this.
To start of my mornings now I carry out some basic yoga moves which is great as it only takes about 10 mins of my time, it leaves me feeling energised for the day ahead and starts me off stress free. The best thing is that if you are pressed for time in the mornings then the basic moves will not leave you hot and sweaty so you can head off straight to work or on school runs without needing a shower.
You can also fit it in throughout the day, I am on my feet a lot and I find that doing a yoga pose helps to ward off stiffness in my back and legs. My back especially has benefited as I do suffer from backache from picking the children up and yoga really helps to stretch and relieve tension.
Yoga is going to be a long term activity for me and although I am still at a very basic level of yoga, I mean I can barely touch my toes, I intend to one day to be able to achieve the advance yoga and will definitely be looking more into mindfulness and look forward to discovering the power it can have.
We recently took a family day out to visit the beautiful Dover Castle. It really is one of Britain’s national treasures, even Hitler had his sights set on the castle itself.
This is the reason the castle survied unscathed through World War 2 when the rest of Dover was badly hit as Hitler ordered for it to be left alone as he wanted to take it over for himself.
Dover castle stands proud on its iconic hill overlooking the historic port and out on to the English Channel. The castle was built to impress, even the drive up to the castle is dramatic as you sweep up the step circling hill to reach the entrance.
There is so much to do and see on this English Heritage site, it makes a great day out for children too as there are lots of activities for children and facilities for families.
We visited the two museums that are on site one that has the history of the castle and the monarchy of England and the other museum was The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment Museum. Both of these were jam packet full of information and had interactive games for the children to play with allowing them to take in some of the history in bite size portions.
The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment Museum has tons of war paraphernalia some as far back as World War 2 and the Cold War. There was even tributes to soldiers who had lost their lives in the recent war in Afghanistan. The museum had a vast array of war medals and official hats worn by the regiment throughout the years which made it a very interesting place to visit.
The remains of the light house that still stands at Dover Castle was built by the Roman’s and is the oldest standing lighthouse in the country and one of the oldest in the world. It is built directly next to the Anglo-Saxon church.
We visited the Castle on a Sunday morning and as the church is still in use there was a church service going on. The big doors at the back of the church were left wide open so we could peak in to the see. At the time we were there the parishioners were all in full singing mood which bought the church to life with the beautiful harmony’s reflecting from the stone walls.
The main part of the Castle is called ‘The Great Tower’ however in my opinion the word ‘Great’ just does not do it justice. It is stupendous with its sheer size and grandeur.
As you walk through the rooms you discover bit by bit the depth of the castle as it slowly reveals itself to you. It measures 100 feet in each direction with corner turrets and passages throughout. There are vast rooms spread out over 3 floors and a roof terrace on top.
English heritage has done a spectacular job of recreating the medieval time period with authentic replicas that you can see and touch. You do get the feeling of being transported back in time. We were lucky to have attended on a day that they had costumed actors roaming round and playing instruments from the time period to really bring the castle to life.
In the castle you will find throne chairs that you are allowed to sit on and take pictures, replica swords, shields and chain mail that you can pick up and try on giving you the true sense of what it would have been like to wear them into war. The chainmail in particular had me amazed the sheer weight of it was unbelievable I am astonished how anyone managed to wear it let only be able to fight in it.
You can access the rooftop terrace where there is a breathtaking view of Dover, you can see the white cliffs and the port from there. For the children this was the main talking part of the trip being on top of the world. The stairs to get to the top are big stone steps but are very wide so are accessible for young children. Even if you are carrying them up to the top you can go up a floor at a time and explore the rooms on each floor before reaching the top so as not to have to carry them up numerous flights of stairs in one go.
Outside you can walk around the grounds and follow the walls around the outskirts which has replica cannons and aircraft rifles which my girls enjoyed and pretend to shoot the ‘Pirates’ out to sea.
The Castle has some lovely cafes that serve a selection of hot meals, sandwiches and mouth watering cakes. If you didn’t want to purchase food there is plenty of space on the grounds that you could sit and eat your own picnic. They do have an ice cream stall that you can treat the kids to and a gift shop.
Once we had thought that we had seen all that Dover castle had to offer we were stunned to find that underneath was a vast tunnel system.
To see the tunnels there is two guided tours that you can take one is called Operation Dynamo which is 45 minutes long and the other is a tour of the underground hospital. The Operation Dynamo tour takes you down below where they once used these tunnels as a command centre to put into action the safe withdrawal of troops from Dunkirk. The tour does not involve too much walking so young children will be fine and I think you can take pushchairs in there. The slope on the way down is steep and a bit slippery but the rest of the tour is on the flat surfaces.
During the videos that they show on this tour there are a few images of the war that children may find upsetting and the tunnels are quite dark when the lights turn off before the videos come on so be wary if taking small children on the tour. In saying that my 8, 6 and 4 year old were all fine and found it an enjoyable experience.
Dover castle turned out to be an amazing family day out for us all. Our day was packed full of fun and adventure and best of all our girls got to learn about History first hand. I would highly recommend a visit if you are near Dover.
We are English heritage members which is well worth the subscription. The price for us alone to have gone to Dover castle for the day is £52.50 with gift aid (which is definitely worth the money if you don’t have membership), this cost is over half of what you would pay for the annual joint membership. So even if you went to the same site twice you would have made the membership worth the while. English heritage do own over 400 sites across the UK to visit so it is well worth getting the membership.
Last summer we spent a lot of time at the beach with the kids. On our last trip we ended up with loads of shells, stones, driftwood and sand. We had buckets and bags full not to mention the few extra that I found hidden in the girls pockets when it came to washing their clothes.
The big question was what to do with all this beach memorabilia?
That’s when I saw a post about using salt dough shapes then adding shells to them. This was a great idea but I didn’t just want them lying around so I decided that we would make them into hanging decorations and fridge magnets as keepsakes to remember our day at the beach.
The kids went through their hull of shells and stones and picked out the best ones that they wanted to use. We then made a batch of salt dough and to make it more authentic I added the sand that was in the bottom of the bucket to the salt dough mixture. This gave it a great look and texture. I already had some craft ribbon that I picked up from our local craft store and I found some cheap small magnets on Amazon.
How to make Salt Dough Beach Shell Keepsakes
Step 1. Take a trip to the beach and get collecting.
Step 2. Sort through your collection and pick out the items you want to use then give them a good wash.
Step 3. Make your salt dough – One a cup of flour, half a cup of salt and half a cup of water. I then added some of the left over sand from the bucket to give the dough more of a beach feel. Then knead the mixture together until you have a dough.
Step 4. Roll out your salt dough about a cm thick and using a cookie cutter cut your dough into shapes.
Step 5. If you want them to hang make a hole in the top or if they are for the fridge, gently push the magnet into the back so half of the magnet is still sticking out.
Step 6. Add your shells and anything else that you have collected to your salt dough. To add to the keepsake I wrote the beach name and the year we went. I did this with a cocktail stick doing little dots next to each other in the shape of the words then gently pushing the dots together to form the letters alternatively you could use letter stamps or just wait for it to dry and write on your salt dough keepsake with a sharpie.
Step 7. Let your salt dough air dry, we left ours over night.
Step 8. I then went over them all with Mod Podge to seal them and give them a nice glazed look. Then leave them to dry.
The fridge magnet ones I found didn’t hold very well so I added a small bit of super glue then put the magnet back in the hole. For the hanging ones I tied together with the craft ribbon.
Step 9. Hang up and enjoy.
If you enjoyed reading my post why not take a look at my other post –
I think it is so important for kids to be kids, to explore, get messy, discover nature and what is around them. I am always on the lookout for new exciting ways to get the children into nature and the great outdoors.
A great inexpensive way for this is pond dipping. We are lucky to have a beautiful river running through are local park that is teaming with pond life. The nets themselves are very cheap, I got two of them from Amazon and the other we picked up last year at the beach.
This time that we went pond dipping we couldn’t even find our bucket so I used an old takeaway tub that I had cleaned out but if you do have a bucket it would be better. We normally use a crab bucket as they are clear so children can easily peer through and see what is inside the bucket.
My girls had an amazing time, we were fishing for ages and found all sorts of creatures. The excitement on their faces every time they pulled the net up from the river and found something inside of it. After about 30 mins we had caught two fish, a few caddis fly larvae, a great pond snail, a slug and a pond skater.
We also fished out two bees that fell into the water, my girls were please that they had saved their lives. It was great for the girls to get so close to the bees and have a real good look at them.
They could see that as long as the bees are left alone they are harmless to us. The bees were actually mid mating which is probably the reason they landed in the water in the first place, but to the eyes of the innocent child it was a mother bee and her baby.
It was amazing to get so close to them and one of the bees was the biggest bee I had ever seen. As you can see from the picture the bee at the back is an average size bee but looks small in comparison.
The girls also fished out a butterfly that fell in but unfortunately it wasn’t so lucky. Alexa also pointed out a really big dragonfly she had spotted and as we were all watching it fly around it swooped above our heads and caught a butterfly and flew off with it.
It’s amazing what you can see just from being by the river and taking a good look around. The fun didn’t stop there as on the way back to the car the girls were chasing the butterflies with the fishing nets trying to catch them. We only managed to catch one but the girls had great fun trying. Not to mention the exercise they got from running backwards and forwards chasing after them.
The girls then decided to use the nets to go on a bug hunt. They heard the grasshoppers in the long grass and discovered if they used the nets they could catch them. It was the first time they had actually seen a grasshopper and enjoyed watching how far they can jump and listening to the noise they make.
Pond dipping is a great day out that is inexpensive and provides so many learning opportunities for children and adults. It kept my girls amused and interested for hours and gave them a hands on learning experience that they will remember a lot longer than seeing pictures in a book.
Me and the girls all gave pond dipping a big thumbs up and will definitely be returning again during the holidays and I recommend to any parent looking for activities to do with children over the summer to give pond dipping a try.
If you enjoyed reading this post why not also read my post –
Being a childminder and having my own 3 little ladies I have over time gathered up so many children’s toys. Every where you look around the house you will see toys and quite often there is more toys than floor. No matter what I had out for the children to play with, I would always end up with the same outcomes.
The children would argue over who had what first
They got bored easily
My house would be a complete mess, as every single toy would be out.
I have carried on like this for a very long time and it was only recently when we decided to move house that I cleared out at least a skips worth of toys. I then packed away the few remaining toys that my girls were going to keep in boxes ready for our move to the new house.
As these things go, our house move was delayed by two weeks, so I was faced with the decision of leaving my children without any toys to play with or painstakingly re-open the packed boxes. After spending hours packing I was definitely not going to open the boxes back up so I choose the latter.
I dreaded what my kids were going to be like not having anything to play with and to add to it the weather was not great either. I was not working at this point so luckily it was just my children I needed to keep entertained.
After all my worries I was surprised that completely the opposite happened, I was amazed with what I observed.
The only thing my girls could access was a few dress up clothes. They all dressed up in different outfits and for hours they entertained themselves with no arguments. They played mums and dads, shopkeepers imagining up the money and things to buy, pets and owners then they carried out performances, in which they sang, danced and did some gymnastics moves.
They created a beautiful happy atmosphere full of laughter and adventure and best of all is the fact that THEY created it. It was not adult led or based around any resource I had set out for them. The bonus for me was my house was still as tidy as it was when they woke up. I just needed to get them to put the costumes back away once they took them off.
Even when I needed to go to the shop to get dinner the role play didn’t stop there they stayed dressed up and in character all the way.
As soon as we move house I will be ruthless with the remaining toys that are contained in the moving boxes as I have seen with my own eyes that ‘Less is more’ especially where children are concerned.
Having less toys allows their young minds to create and imagine what they want, if they can do that then the play possibilities are endless.
There was a study carried out in the US by Claire Lerner a licensed clinical social worker and childhood development specialist that was funded by the government. She concluded the following on children through her study, “They get overwhelmed and overstimulated and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn from it so they just shut down. Too many toys means they are not learning to play imaginatively either”.
Also in the 1990s there was research conducted buy two German researchers, Elke Schubert and Rainer Strick. They took toys away from Munich nursery for three whole months. They concluded that after a short period the children re-adjusted and their play became more social and creative.
Within a day of me removing the toys from my children I noticed how much more social and creative their play became. I would recommend having a toy clear out. In the long run it will benefit your children and your house will be tidier and less cluttered of toys.
Blackberry picking is one of our favourite past times. My children are normally the first to notice the ripened blackberries on the bushes and start asking when we can go blackberry picking.
We grab empty carrier bags or sandwich bags and head off in search of blackberry bushes. Living in Somerset we are lucky that there are lots of wild blackberry bushes around. Even if you live in the city I am sure you won’t have to look too far to find some blackberry bushes.
The children get so excited when they spot the nice ones and when the bags start to fill up they feel proud of how many they have picked. We have learnt from experience that the best blackberries are nearly always hidden so it is worth moving the leaves and brambles around to try and find the ones hiding out of sight. Be really careful to avoid the thorns I found the best way was to use my foot on the lower branches and gently move the brambles down to expose the blackberries behind.
You should always look for the blackberries that are completely black and look squishy. When you pick them they should come easily away from the stalk. If you have to struggle to pull them off then they are not quite ready and will taste a bit sour. The plumper the blackberry looks the sweeter it will be.
After a while when we have half filled a carrier bag we head off back home, so we could get stuck into our blackberries.
For us the best way to do this and to get to really enjoy all the hard work we put into picking them is by making a crumble. There is nothing better than a good old fashioned homemade crumble our favourite is blackberry and apple which goes down a treat with a little vanilla ice cream.
My children love to cook and help out in the kitchen whenever possible they can bake quite a few dishes now with minimal help from me so they took over making the crumble with me just keeping a watchful eye.
Once ready we all sat down and enjoyed the fruits of our labour and it was well worth it. Not only was it a delicious crumble but it was made all the greater by the fact that we had handpicked the blackberries and made the whole thing from scratch. I know from the picture it is not the best looking crumble as the blackberry juice bubbled over but we are no Mary Berry. It tasted amazing and that is what counts, hopefully with more days like these our crumble will turn out perfect with the practice.
A cup full of blackberries
One large Bramley cooking apple
tablespoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons of honey
120g plain flour
60g of demerara sugar + extra for sprinkling on top
Put the oven on to 180c
Wash the blackberries and apple then place the blackberries into a saucepan
Cut the bramley apple into small pieces and put in the saucepan with the blackberries
Add in 2 tablespoons of honey and a tablespoon of cinnamon
Add the pan to the heat and stir constantly for 5 minutes until the blackberries have released some of their juices and the apples have softened