Life has changed a lot for us over the last few months. R is now at nursery until 3pm a couple of times a week, and with Grandma on another day each week. The long afternoons with a bored two-year-old bouncing off the walls seem like an almost distant memory.

I started this blog as a way to push myself to try something new with R every day, to get us through the few hours every afternoon when his baby sister needed to sleep at home. It was brilliant. We did so many wonderful things because of it that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. Some of these things have become firm favourites: making roads out of play dough, sticking foam shapes to windows, and of course making pizzas, which we now do weekly.

But as regular visitors may have noticed my enthusiasm for this blog has waned somewhat over the last few months. I have a folder on my computer full of unpublished photographs, but just not the motivation to get on with posting.

So, I’ve decided to leave this kind of blogging to those who can do it better than me and return to my first passion – food. I have been blogging for a long time as Yumski – a veggie food blog, and now have a new blog – Sneaky Veg – which includes recipes for children that include hidden fruit and veg.

Do come and visit me at one of these blogs – I’d love to see you there, and as always, hear your ideas.

We had a lovely trip to a fruit picking farm this week with R’s nursery. Twenty or so kids piled onto a coach with parents and teachers and we headed to the farm near Gravesend in Kent.

Luckily it was glorious weather (unlike last year when it poured with rain) and both kids loved the chance to run around under the fruit trees and pick way more fruit than we could possibly carry. We bought a variety of apples and some plums, blackberries and beetroot (with which I’ve made beetroot ice cream!).

We even managed a picnic outside it was so warm.

The farm is next to a garden centre and pet shop, both providing extra entertainment.

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Our stash of apples

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A rather odd creature in the pet shop

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

This turned out to be one of my all time favourite activities. It started out as a simple idea – let’s cover plastic bottles with tissue paper and see what happens – and ended up turning it an epic game involving space ships, aliens, moon landings, hasty escapes and moon buggy rides!
I set R up with PVA glue, strips of tissue paper, pens, a few labels (eg I drew a door and cut it out). We had two bottles and being R he wasn’t happy until I made one too. So we happily passed 20 minutes or so making our space ships. He really enjoyed this. As he gets older (he’s almost three and a half now) his patience for craft activities is really increasing.
But that was nothing compared to how much he enjoyed playing space with our two space ships. We realised that the bottle openings were too small to fit our toy astronauts in so I got the scissors out and widened them.
We then covered some cushions with a picnic blanket to make a bumpy moon surface, set up another planet on the other side of the room and got some soft toys out to be monsters and aliens. He loved it when I made an “alien” attack his space ship and he flew off to Saturn.
We probably played this for an hour, until we had to wake baby R up from her nap.
R getting stuck in

R getting stuck in

The completed space ship

The completed space ship

Landed on the moon

Landed on the moon

The eagle-eyed among you may notice the chicken pox, which shows how out of date I am with blog posts as he had it in July…

Things have changed a lot for us in the last few weeks. R is now at pre-school for 15 hours a week, including a couple of days until 3pm and Grandma is coming to help with childcare a couple of times a week. R is growing up so fast – and his attention span and imagination are growing up with him. He would gladly spend all day running around the house pretending to be a superhero/knight/builder etc.

Making a beach from shells, pebbles, play dough and toy sea creatures

Making a beach from shells, pebbles, play dough and toy sea creatures

Baby R has also changed. Now 21 months (where did THAT time go?) she too is growing up fast and is playing in a different way (and much more independently than R has ever done). She will happily spend hours making beds out of cushions and blankets for her soft toys or pushing a toy shopping trolley around like a pram.

All of a sudden my focus now isn’t so much keeping R occupied while baby R is having her nap and we have to stay inside but finding things for them both to do!

Luckily there are some things that they both love – and play dough is one of them. I picked up a bag of shells and pebbles last time we went down to visit Granny and Grandad (who live on the Kent coast). R got an Octonauts comic yesterday which came with some toy sea creatures AND we did pretend “crabbing” in the bath last night with some baby stacking cups so it seemed the perfect opportunity to bring all of this together with some play dough and play “play dough beaches”. We only had a small amount of blue and yellow play dough left (for the sea and sand) but luckily baby R was happy with the (now completely mixed up) green and black play dough to use as pebbles, and to press shells into to see what shapes they leave. This was a really great game, and I hope is one we can come back to and play again with as much enjoyment as they had today.

Making pebbles

Making pebbles

A collection of things from the beach and some homemade play dough pebbles as well

A collection of things from the beach and some homemade play dough pebbles as well

A crab shape

A crab shape

Baby R seeing what patterns a shell makes

Baby R seeing what patterns a shell makes

Reaching for another one

Reaching for another one

R got the most amazing birthday present back in April – a butterfly growing kit. In the box were several things: a large mesh bag, a dropper and a form to fill in and send off for your caterpillars. Due to our planned holiday at Coombe Mill in the summer we didn’t send off for our caterpillars until after we returned from this – otherwise we risked missing all the fun.

A few days after sending off the form in the post a small box arrived. Inside was a small pot with five tiny caterpillars inside. We didn’t have to open the box or do anything at all other than watch our caterpillars grow. All the food they needed was inside with them.

Now it may have been due to the fact that we did this in the middle of the heatwave in July but I still can’t believe how quickly the caterpillars grew. The tiny 1cm long creatures you can see in the photo were almost two inches long less than two weeks later. From this stage they quickly built their chrysalids around themselves and amazingly all five hatched out into live butterflies which we released into our garden.

It was a really amazing present and so good for the children to see the caterpillars grow and turn into butterflies, even if the chrysalis stage secretly gave me the creeps and daddy had to transfer them to the larger mesh bag for hatching!

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R admiring his tiny caterpillars

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The chrysalids (this secretly gives me the creeps, but I was very good at not letting the kids know!)

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Our first butterfly!


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Speaking of play dough (see last post), how ace is this green and black play dough we made. We made a special trip to the supermarket to get some new food colouring with which to make some new play dough and these were the colours that R chose. See our play dough recipe.

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The novelty of play dough doesn’t seem to be wearing off, despite the fact that R is now nearly three and a half, and we can *almost* trust baby R not to eat too much of it!

While she was napping the other day R and I made a play dough road and he happily spent a long time driving his cars up and down it. I added a river in blue and he had the idea of getting the boats down from the bath to play with on this (see photo). Of course before long the play dough got a bit cut up and messy from the pressure of the wheels going over it constantly – but that’s half the run right?

playdohroad

We have also been playing play dough building sites a lot – but be warned – dried play dough is nigh on impossible to get out of a toy concrete mixer!

If you want to make your own play dough see our recipe here – it’s easier than you might think.

R always enjoys a good experiment. Not being a scientifically-minded person myself I am very glad that there are lots of blogs and websites out there with ideas of simple experiments to do with young children. I got the idea for this experiment from mynearestanddearest.com.

We did this outside after lunch one day. As soon as I mentioned the words “water” and “experiment” R was up for it. He dragged a large box outside, got the hose ready and asked me to turn on the tap. Once he’d filled the box up we got a mirror from inside and put it in the water. We looked at his reflection, then mine, and then both of ours together. We put the mirror in the water and talked about whether it looked different or not. And then R did lots of tipping or pouring – partly to see whether this changed his reflection and partly because it’s fun.

The box of water got tipped out in the end of course – but that’s the most fun part right?!

Filling up a box with water, getting ready for the experiment

Filling up a box with water, getting ready for the experiment

What happens if you pour water on your reflection?

What happens if you pour water on your reflection?

Looking at himself

Looking at himself

More pouring

More pouring

Girls can be bus drivers too!

Girls can be bus drivers too!

With an active three-year-old and an increasingly active 20 month old we’re always looking for new things to do and new places to go. Getting out of the house, exercising and fresh air are essential daily requirements for us – without them everything goes a bit wrong. And without nursery for six whole weeks to keep R busy we’re very much in need of new places to go.

Kennington Park is close to our house but not close enough to walk and we’d never made it there before. So when a friend from out of town was visiting, and staying near there, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit it. I’d heard that it had a double decker bus that the kids could climb on and a café, which were reasons enough to hop on the bus and make the journey there.

We got there at around 10am and apart from one other child had the playground to ourselves for a while. The bus was a bit hit – although of course R and (not really a) baby (any more) R fought constantly over who got to sit in the driver’s seat. “She needs to be a passenger mummy!” was shouted repeatedly. Incidentally – I’m finding it increasingly difficult to know how to deal with these sibling battles. As baby R is getting older and more independent I’m finding myself leaving them more and more to sort out their own battles – as long as no-one gets hurt…

Anyway, once the bus had been exhausted the kids explored the rest of the playground – there’s a small sandpit, with a slide that lands in it, swings, climbing frames, a boat to climb on, one of those circular things that changes its height as you spin round on it (no idea what the name is) and some little motorbikes to ride on.

Our friends turned up soon afterwards, at which point the boys ran off to play hide and seek and we discovered a lovely little nature garden at the back of the playground. It was lovely that it was part of the playground, so could be easily explored. The boys had a good time playing super-heroes and hide and seek amongst the logs back here and baby R tried her best to join in. I love these little nature gardens – not only do they provide an opportunity for the kids to run around on grass and play in a more natural environment than that which they’re used to, growing up in zone 2 London, but they also provide an opportunity to talk about nature – what might like to live in logs, what birds can you see, can you spot any insects? Hopefully R at least learns something, and baby R always has a wonderful time if there are sticks and mud involved.

The nature garden at Kennington Park

The nature garden at Kennington Park

We also visited the cafe (for the purposes of research of course!) for coffee and ice creams. The boys finished their ice creams before everyone else of course and so ran off to chase each other around some nearby trees and then when we’d all finished had a great time having races up and down the park, while baby R tried hard to keep up.

Lots of space for races

Lots of space for races

It was a lovely outing, close enough to home for us to get back in time for lunch and baby R’s nap but not so close it’s become over-familiar. We’ll definitely be going back.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

R’s nursery organise a termly outing to a place that’s fun for pre-school kids (previous trips include apple picking, theatre, farm) and this term we went strawberry picking.

We went to Crockford Bridge Farm in Surrey. It took an age to get there because of an accident on the A3 – two and a half hours in fact, with a coach load full of pre-schoolers and their small siblings. Not fun! But it was worth it when we got there.

Now, R is not a big fan of fruit, and usually the appearance of strawberries at the dinner table causes him to run off, covering his nose and shouting “I don’t like the smell”!

However, he had a great time picking strawberries and raspberries, as long as he didn’t have to eat them. He enjoyed learning about the link between the straw they grow on and the name strawberries and quickly got the hang of only picking the red ones.

Couldn’t say the same for baby R however who had a wonderful time stuffing her face with green and red alike.

The farm also has a soft play room, garden centre, cafe, playground and ice-cream parlour so what’s not to like really!

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall