Finally a Snow Day!

This month’s regular guest post from outdoors mummy blogger, Leila Balin, is all about playing in the snow……

Snow Day

Last year I was incredibly disappointed at the lack of snow. Little Man had been born during a very snowy February and I was desperate for him to really experience playing in it. This year, when the snow finally came I was silly excited! I just knew Little Man would love and would be desperate to play in it.

Sure enough, when he woke him, he seemed very excited about how white everything was. I told him we would eat our breakfast, get wrapped up warm and go play. It was still early but as we were eating and getting ready I could already see it starting to melt. We had to get out quick before it completely turned to slush!

Little Man was good and keen to get outdoors so getting ready wasn’t a problem (as it sometimes can be with a strong willed 3 year old!). We were outside in no time and Little Man immediately asked for his bike. I tried to convince him bike riding wasn’t a sensible idea in snow but he knew best. I reluctantly handed him the bike and watched as he attempted to ride it round the garden. At first he didn’t do a bad job, the snow was wet enough for the wheels to cut through with ease, however, it wasn’t long before there was a fall and then the tears came. It wasn’t a serious fall, just a little slip but Little Man was not impressed and the whole world knew about it!

I slowly convinced him that it might be best to leave his bike in the shed and to spend some time playing with the snow but the cold stuff on his hands was too much to take. I wrongly assumed he would like playing with it, he loves to play with ice so naturally I thought snow would be his bag too. He begrudgingly followed me around the garden watching as I made a snow angle, threw snowballs and even made a very silly looking miniature snowman (no pictures I’m afraid!) but to no avail. The white stuff looked pretty but it wasn’t exciting his senses.

Maybe it was the fall off the bike, maybe he was slightly overwhelmed, or maybe he was just having one of those days but our one and only snow day failed to impress my grumpy little boy. He was much happier once we were inside and he could drive his cars and tractors around the carpet. What happened to my outdoorsy little man? For the remainder of the day he watched the snow melt from the window and occasionally attempted a snow angel on the carpet but that was as much as his interest would allow. Maybe next year he will be more into snow play, let’s hope we have more than one days worth to experiment with.

Did your kiddos enjoy the snow this year?

Leila writes a personal, nature inspired blog at Mud Marvellous Mud. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and writes about her son’s experiences as they explore together. She is trained to Forest Schools and Beach Schools level 3 and is currently studying for an Open University Open Degree.

Storytelling Outdoors

Storytelling outdoors

Storytelling is one of those things that we never feel like we can do. It is a mysterious art left only for authors and those with a natural talent for it. However, our kids tell stories all the time so when did we lose the confidence to tell stories ourselves? Was it when we forgot our imaginations or did real life get in the way?

Storytelling is such a lovely way to share a piece of our children’s imagination that we think everyone should get involved an we know that everyone can do it if they give it a go. Here are some ways we think you and your kids can share a passion for stories and have a go at making up your own. Let us know how you get on.

Choose a spot to site and then take turns to tell part of the story. With each person putting in their own ideas there is never any way of knowing where the story might go.

  1. Once upon a time in a deep dark wood…..
  2. A fairy princess fell down a hole……
  3. The hole had been put there by pixies to capture dragons…..

And so on and so on. Once your story is complete spend some time playing using your story as your theme, each choose a character and as you play the story will develop growing in your children’s imaginations. You can even continue the theme when you get home by retelling it at bedtime, spending some time drawing your story and any other ways you can think of to bring it to life.

Create your own mini fairy houses and then talk about the characters that live there. Encourage your children to discuss what they look like, what they might wear and eat. Are they naughty or nice? Think about how they might get about and interact with the other characters their siblings/friends have made. Get involved and use your own imagination too and take the characters into a story. Ask your children to imagine an adventure they might go on and then all head off and follow them into it.

Choose a favourite book or fairytale and take it outside. Easy and obvious choices might be ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ or ‘The Gruffalo’ but think of others too. For example, ‘The Princess and the Pea’. Can you make a bed out of natural materials? What would you make the mattress out of? How about ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. Can you go for a walk in the woods to find Grandma’s house? Maybe Daddy could be the Big Bad Wolf?

Simply choose a spot and make up your story right there. Be inspired by your surroundings. Your kids will love it no matter what you think of it. If you get stuck encourage them to help you to finish it. Let your kids take turns too. You might be surprised with what they come up with.

Pick a tree, a plant or an animal and tell its story. Think about how much they might have seen, what might have happened during their lifetime. Trees can live for hundreds of years, how did it get there, who has it seen, who has been to visit it? When I was a kid I had a special tree we used to visit a lot and I always made up stories about how magical the tree was and why it was so special, I did the same for the big Oak tree in our garden. There was something mysterious about trees for me so make them magical for your kids too.

If your kids are old enough to read by themselves then simply give them some space to do that outdoors. Reading outdoors can be a lovely experience and as you get lost in the book your senses get tickled by the world around you. I would recommend this activity to everyone at least once in a while, big or small.

Collect a bucketful of natural materials then blindfold your kids. Ask them to choose an item from the bucket and then make up a story about it. By simply feeling and smelling the item their story becomes very different to the one they would have created if they had seen the item. Their senses pull them in and their imagination remains unrestricted by what they already know about the item. This one is great fun and it is always funny to hear what they come up with.

Do you tell stories to your kids on a regular basis or does the thought of storytelling give you a fright?

My featured post for this week is Mother Natured’s Give a Sewn Leaf Heart this Valentine’s Day. We love the idea of leaving a secret message inside and think it will make a lovely Valentine’s gift. We would be happy with one anyway!

 

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Nature Lovers

Valentines

Valentine’s is nearly here and we often struggle to find the time to spend with each other in-between working and running around after the kids. This year, however, we have decided to make the effort and in my search for ideas I found some of these lovely ideas just for nature lovers. So if you have a nature lover you want to impress this Valentine’s Day then check out the ideas below.

Show your love by planting a tree together. We think this one is so sweet, especially if you have the kind of love that is forever love. Year after year you can visit your tree and watch it grow up as you grow together. Such a lovely metaphor.

Brave the cold and enjoy a romantic outdoor picnic. It is a bit chilly so blankets and a fire might be in order for this one but what is more romantic than snuggling around the campfire with a glass of wine.

Go out on a romantic hike. We love to walk, so this is perfect for us. If you walk a lot then choose a spot that is special for you, alternatively try somewhere completely new and discover it together. Take a smartphone and be sure to get lots of lovely selfies for the photo album too.

Look for hearts in nature and create a romantic collage. You can do this by either taking photos or collecting and sticking the items onto a piece of card and then framing it. The fact that you went out on the mission to find all these lovely hearts is sure to impress and the collage will be a lovely keepsake to display at home. We think this is a lovely one for the kids to do to, they will love going on the hunt for hearts as well as creating their special artwork either for Mummy or Daddy or for that secret crush at school.

Find a heart shaped rock or sea shell and paint it with some special words or your loved ones favourite colours. This is perfect as a little trinket of your affection, if the item is small enough your loved one can keep it with them always as a reminder of how you feel about them.

Create a heart shaped seed bomb and present it to them. Plant it in the spring and by summer there will have lots of lovely flowers to appreciate. Choose native flower and grass seeds for the best results. Mould a mixture of clay, soil your chosen seeds and some water into a heart shape using a heart cookie cutter. Once dry, wrap up in pretty paper and a ribbon and add a little tag and when your partner plants their seed bomb in the spring they will have a lovely splash of colour all summer to enjoy.

Set up a scavenger hunt of natural hearts leading to something special at the end. We love this idea! To make the hearts you could use twigs, leaves, mud and anything else you can find. At each heart you could leave a clue to find the following heart then the very last clue will lead to your final heart and your special Valentine’s gift. Aww, how romantic

With the freezing temperatures we have had, make them some ice hearts using red food colouring. These won’t last forever but will be a nice addition to anything else you have planned for your special day. We also think this is another great idea for the kids to try and would make pretty outdoor decorations.

We hope you manage to find some time to escape the kids and enjoy some time together. We certainly will! What other nature loving ideas do you have for celebrating Valentine’s Day? Send them over to us on our facebook page Adventure Togs or catch up with us on twitter @Adventure Togs. We would love to hear how you are going to make the day special.

Outdoor Blog Roundup – January

Outdoor Play Roundup

It’s time for the first Outdoor Play Roundup of 2015 and we have some lovely wintery posts for you all to enjoy.

First up the lovely The Boy and Me started their new year enjoying the beach on Barry Island. They made a cracking moat and waited for the tide to come in and fill it up. This is something we think everyone should try at least once. It looks like great fun!

We absolutely loved this post from Mummy LogicHere are two sticks.  Her post just goes to show how wonderful sticks are for our children’s imagination. Something so simple yet utterly magical.

With all the snow in the news we know some of you are feeling left out. Coombe Mill has the answer though with their Snow Free Snowmen. With these there is no need to miss out, who needs snow hey?

Last but not least we loved Wild Family Fun’s post about not letting winter get in the way of their outdoor play. We love their spirit and think their photos are fabulous. How much fun have you had outdoors this winter?

Now it’s time for this week’s Outdoor Play Party. My featured post for this week is Bubba Blue and Me’s post Frost Doesn’t Stop Play. We loved reading about how the cold never seems to stop her boy getting outdoors and as a Mum of boys myself, I loved seeing them roughhousing and having fun despite the cold. Do your kids feel the cold or do they long outlast you when the temperature drops?

pile up on the trampoline

A Mouse in the House

This month’s regular guest post from outdoors mummy blogger, Leila Balin is all about finding a mouse in the house….

A Mouse in the House!

On Saturday evening I came home from work as usual, walked through the door and was bombarded by a torrent of excited words from Little Man. After kneeling for a minute, trying to make sense of his blathering I realised he was telling me he had a mouse in the front room! For a moment I had a blind panic because I am terrified of dead animals and I assumed that it must be dead, how else would he have it. Fortunately for me Daddy quickly explained that the mouse was very much alive and was being kept in a jar with kitchen roll as a hidey hole and wedge in the top so that it could breath. Phew! I could breath again too.

Apparently Daddy had decided to clean out our pantry cupboard (it was long overdue!) and in amongst some of our wedding crockery, hidden in the back corner was a mouse, all tucked in amongst the tea cups with a full larder of dried pasta. It sounded to me like something out of Alice in Wonderland and once the pantry had been fully cleaned and all pasta had been dutifully removed Daddy has spent some time showing Little Man the mouse. Little Man was absolutely taken with his little friend and Mouse had been dutifully carried around from room to room for most of the afternoon, he had been shown all of Little Man’s toys and the two had become fast friends (according to Little Man anyway!)

Now that Little Man had proudly shown off his new friend to Mummy we decided it was time to set him free. Little Man couldn’t get his wellies on quick enough. Daddy grabbed a torch, I grabbed my camera and Little Man carefully picked up Mouse and we made the short journey up to the patch of nettles at the end of the garden. Little Man gently put Mouse and his jar on the ground while Daddy got his torch in place and I fiddled with my camera settings. Once we were ready Daddy lifted the lid and we watched and waited. Mouse didn’t take long to pluck up the courage to poke his little head out, probably encouraged by the smell of fresh air and after a couple of looks about he hopped out over some weeds and into the undergrowth.

Little Man shouted with glee and we all stopped for a moment to wonder where he might have gone and whether we would see him back again. Little Man had learnt a lot about mice during his time with Mouse and was keen to tell us where he might be going, he was probably off to find the Gruffalo of course! Before we knew it it was time for Little Man’s bedtime and the excitement of his first close up experience with a wild small mammal had taken its toll. He was asleep in no time leaving Mummy and Daddy to hope Mouse didn’t make it back to face the cat!

Have your little ones had close up encounters with unexpected house visitors? Were they as enthralled as Little Man?

Leila writes a personal, nature inspired blog at Mud Marvellous Mud. She is passionate about connecting children to nature and writes about her son’s experiences as they explore together. She is trained to Forest Schools and Beach Schools level 3 and is currently studying for an Open University Open Degree.

New Year ….. New Style Office

Adventure Togs Office Refit
Adventure Togs Office Refit 

The first two weeks of January have been a bit chaotic. Just returned from our Christmas break, we immersed ourself into reorganising our workspace and had some much needed worktops installed around half the office. There is still some work to do, but it’s amazing how spacious the office feels now that we can slide boxes under our lovely deep worktops.

Next job is to network the computers, set up a standing desk and 2 packing stations. Here’s to a super organised 2015!

10 Ways to Play Outdoors this Winter

10 ways to play outdoors this winter

Here at Adventure Togs we think winter is one of the best times to play outdoors. The wild weather combined with heaps of mud, rain and snow make for some great adventures. We have given you 10 ideas to get you started but, as always, we love to hear your ideas too!

Make multi-coloured ice building blocks. Fill up an ice tray or some other plastic containers with water and add different food colourings to make different coloured bricks. If it is cold enough where you live then leave them outside overnight and you will have ready-made play blocks for the morning. If not pop them in the freezer and then take them outside to play with so they won’t melt so quickly.

Go pattern hunting. Rain, mud, snow and ice all make great patterns. Check out all the different natural patterns you can find or make your own in the mud and the snow. Rain can be especially fascinating to watch, especially as you watch the way it falls on different surfaces.

Make some ice art. Raid the recycle bin and use all sorts of different shaped containers that can be filled with water. You could try freezing water in balloons too. Add food colouring and any natural materials you can find, such as leaves and berries, then leave the containers to freeze overnight. If you add some string in a loop before they freeze you will even be able to hang some of your art in the trees. Once frozen show off your art by decorating your garden with them or head on over to a local park and let others enjoy your art too.

Go sledding! If you have snow and a decent hill then this is a must but if you don’t have snow then see if you can find a suitable muddy slope to try. Look out for trip hazards though, muddy ground won’t be as smooth as snow so check it out before you take the plunge.

Just play. The wonders that winter brings with it from mud to snow make great play materials. There are plenty of twigs on offer as well as fallen leaves and big sploshy puddles. Go outdoors without a plan and see where your imagination take you, just revel in the fun of going wild.

Collect items for your winter nature table and discover this wonderful season in more detail. What treasures does winter have to offer and what can you find out about them?

Make snowmen and snow animals. See who can build the wackiest snow monster. If you don’t have any snow try making miniature versions out of mud. For both versions you can use twigs, leaves and berries to dress up your creations.

Build an igloo. If you are lucky enough to have deep snow then build yourself a mini igloo. If you don’t have snow then winter is a great time to go den building. There should be plenty of large twigs and fallen tree branches around so head on down to your local woods and make your very own hideout. Just avoid the woods in high winds though, you don’t want any of those branches falling on your head!

Go wildlife tracking. The winter can be the best time to spot signs of wildlife. Check mud and snow for prints. Look out for droppings and use the bare trees and hedges as places to spy on birds. Find out what had been prowling around your local area.

Get cooking. Winter is the perfect time to be playing in your mud kitchen. With all that mud and snow you could make some fabulous mud pies or winter ice lollies. Experiment and add some new recipes to your mud kitchen repertoire.

What are you favourite winter play ideas?

My featured post for this week is Coombe Mill’s Wildlife Trail. We think it is a great idea and will be a fabulous addition to the farm. Do you have a local wildlife trail, gruffalo trail or something similar near you?

5 Outdoor Science Experiments Well Worth a Try

5 Outdoor Science Experiments

Make a smoke bomb

This is brilliant fun and the kids will love it although it is probably best with the slightly older ones. You will need some sugar, some potassium nitrate (which you should be able to pick up from the garden centre), an old pan you don’t mind ruining, a long candle, some goggles and a fire glove. Weigh out 60g potassium nitrate and 40g of sugar and place them in the pan together. Place the pan over a hob on a low heat and bring it to the boil, stirring to avoid it burning. Once the mixture is a liquid brown it is ready. Head on outside with your safety goggles and your fire glove. Place the mixture in a safe place such as on a wooden table or in a clear area on the floor. Using your gloved hand light the candle and use this to ignite your mixture. Once the mixture catches it should start to smoke and will keep going until it has burnt off. Step back and enjoy the show. Once it is done then leave the pan to cool before you attempt to pick it up as it will still be quite hot.

The good old Coca Cola Volcano

This is so simple but kids always love it. It even works with littlies who are overawed by the results. All you need is some diet coke and some Mentos. Pop one or two Mentos into the Coca Cola stand back and watch the fizziness explode.

Turn water into ice with a bang

This experiment is only for the patient but the results are well worth the wait. It is also perfect to try outdoors at this time of the year while the weather can help with keeping the temperature low. The long wait just gives you the perfect excuse to play outdoors while you are waiting – http://www.bbc.co.uk/bang/handson/super_cool.shtml

Create your own homemade bubble solution

For this one you will need water, washing up liquid and some glycerine and whatever additional ingredients you want to try such as food colouring and gelatine. Experiment with different amounts of each ingredient until you find the perfect recipe. Once you have it then write it down and you will never need to buy another pack of bubbles again.

Create a film canister rocket

You will need an empty film canister, some baking soda and some white vinegar. Some goggles might be useful just to be on the safe side. Put a spoonful of baking soda into the canister and then add some white vinegar. Quickly add the lid and place it lid side down on the ground. If you get the timing right your pot should rocket up into the air making a loud pop. Experiment with different amounts of baking soda and vinegar to find out which recipe shoots the rocket the highest.

Want to know how all the experiments really work? Spend some time using your tablet or smartphone to discover the science behind the reactions. In the process your kids will learn how to discover the answer to their questions, learn which sources are trustworthy and which aren’t and build on their scientific knowledge. If you want to extend it even further you could even ask them to show their friends or someone in the family the experiment asking them to explain how the reaction works.

Do you have any fun outdoor science experiments to share? Send them over to us on our facebook page Adventure Togs or catch up with us on twitter @Adventure Togs. We would love to hear how you enjoy science outdoors.

5 easy ways to look after the wildlife this winter

5 easy ways to look after the wildlife this winter

Now the festive period is over and we have all filled ourselves up on chocolate, cake and Christmas turkey we think it is time to spare a thought for some of the wildlife we share our lives with. We might not see these creatures very often, or we might just not pay them much attention but getting involved in helping them through the tougher times of winter can be great for kids. Kids reap the benefits by learning all about the secret world in their garden, learning how to care for others and building some practical skills too.

Probably the easiest place to start is to make some bird feeders. If you type DIY bird feeders into your search engine there will be reams and reams of ideas. If you want to be more creative then try out Pinterest for ideas. At this time of year natural food is becoming scarce so garden feeders are vital fuel stations for our small song birds to top up. Once you have made your feeders then hang them somewhere you can easily see them. If you sit and wait the birds will arrive and entertain for hours, you might even get to know a few individuals. We used to have Jack Sparrow visit us regularly. He was a little peg leg sparrow who used to stop in whatever the weather and was always popular with the gang he hung around with. The boys loved spotting him and they would often shout ‘Jack’s back!’ from the front room.

If your little one loves to transfer water, as many do, then filling up the bird bath will be easy peasy. A bird bath doesn’t have to be anything fancy either, it can be as simple as an upturned dustbin lid. Not only will it be somewhere for the birdies to have a bath it will also be an important drinking source. If it is close to the ground it won’t just serve birds either, mice, badgers and squirrels might even use it too.

If you are feeling practical then have a go at building a nest box. You can find plans on the internet and this could be a great project if your kids enjoy building things. Believe it or not but birds will already be scoping out places to start a family so putting up a nest box now means the birdies should have plenty of time to find it. If you want to get really technical get yourself a nestbox camera kit and come spring you won’t need CBeebies or Frozen for entertainment, the nest box will provide plenty while you wait for the little eggs to hatch, watch Mum and Dad busy feeding the little chicks and then wait on the edge of your seat for each one to finally fledge the nest.

Improve your garden for wildlife by planting some berry laden plants and spring bulbs for early nectar. If you have the room plant a fruit tree such as an apple tree and the blackbirds will cover your garden during the autumn, mopping up all the excess fruit. The lovely thing about planting with kids is that they get to see something grow over time and then get to enjoy it once it is fully grown. Growing a tree needs some commitment so it could be a good one to get the kids thinking about how they will remember to water it, mulch it and prune it.

If you are lucky enough to have badgers in the garden (or maybe unlucky if they dig up all your plants!) then take advantage of it and put out some peanuts for them. Come dark turn out the lights and sit at the window watching to see if they hoover them all up. Badgers love peanuts but if you don’t have badgers then the squirrels will provide plenty of entertainment too. Watch as they scurry back and forth picking up the nuts and burying them around the garden.

Winter is a brilliant time to start watching wildlife and spending some time looking after it will provide added satisfaction to the experience.

My featured post for this week is Wild Family Fun’s Adventures when the winter weather sets in. We loved this post so much we featured it on our December Outdoor Play Roundup. We think learning to rock climb is a fantastic skill to learn with so many benefits and you don’t even need to brave the cold to give it a go.

climbing3


Outdoor Blog Roundup – December

Outdoor Play Roundup

Merry Christmas everyone. We hope you are all suitably stuffed from all that Christmas food and that you have all had a magical time. What a wonderful time of the year it is! If you are ready for the Christmas wind down we have some lovely December posts to share that will have you back outdoors and playing in no time.

The first is from the fabulous Wild Family Fun. If your kids are ready to step up the risk factor in 2015 but the weather is holding you back then try an indoor climbing wall. These girls made it look easy and show us why climbing is a great sport to get involved in.

For all you fabulous teachers out there, the wonderful Kierna from Learning for Life shared a great guest post about how the children in Iceland learn to manage risk. Can you believe it? They don’t have to fill in risk assessments!

Red Peffer has the perfect way to blow away all those Christmassy cobwebs with a lovely welly walk. They have been visiting a local National Trust property but we reckon any muddy spot in your locale will do nicely.

Welly Walk Packwood House

Last but never least is Planet Pals Blog’s amazing ways to play in the snow. If you haven’t already got snow yet (we haven’t!) then be sure to pin this one because there are some great ideas in here. We can’t wait to try some snow painting!

Are your kids already fed up with all their toys? Over on facebook the fabulous Woodland Trust – nature detectives shared their 20 things to do with sticks download. Ahh, there is no better toy than a stick!

What was your stick?

Don’t forget to let us know if any of the posts have inspired you to play outdoors or to share your own ideas with us. You can contact us on our facebook page Adventure Togs or catch up with us on twitter @Adventure Togs