Spring is Springing

Spring is springing

March has arrived and with it we are seeing lots of lovely signs of spring, getting us all excited about the year ahead. There is just something about the new life in spring that gets us all motivated and looking forward to the sunshine. The warmer lighter mornings are a sign in themselves that spring is nearly here making those horrid early morning starts just that tiny bit easier. Of course it isn’t all sunshine in spring time, rain is often a common feature at this time of year but without the wet stuff all the lovely flowers, fresh grass and new buds that we love about spring wouldn’t happen. Celebrate the rain this spring with our 10 ways to play in the rain.

One of the first signs we have spotted this year is the pretty little snowdrop, peaking through the ground even in some of the worse weather we have had recently. I don’t know about you, but they remind us of fairy hats and conjure up all sorts of images of spring fairies frolicking about amongst the spring blossom.

We haven’t heard them yet but soon enough the air will be filled with the warm fuzzy buzz of bumble bees, taking full advantage of the early nectar. Queen bees will be out looking for new nests with the buff-tailed bumblebee being one of the first to emerge. I do love standing in the garden on a warm spring morning just listening as their hum is carried along the wind.

Another wonderful sound to hear in spring time is the new burst of birdsong that happens as male birds start to sing for their mates, searching out females to bring up new broods with in just a few weeks time.

Probably one of the most iconic signs of spring is the appearance of newborn lambs in fields across the country. These little cuties remind us all that this really is the time of year that brings about an abundance of new growth. Why not grab your family and head on out around the fields seeing how many you can spot. As the season moves on you will see more and more appear and watching their unsteady antics is sure to make you all go ‘Awwww’.

A lesser known sign of spring is the sight of oil beetles. These little creepy crawlies are becoming quite rare in the UK and have a fascinating lifecycle that relies on solitary bees to survive. Once the larvae hatch they head on up the stem of a nearby flower, lie in wait for an unsuspecting bee, hitch a ride back to their burrow and then feed on their eggs. Not too nice for the bees but necessary to keep the Oil Beetle alive. To find out more about these fascinating little beasties check out Buglife’s Oil Beetle campaign (https://www.buglife.org.uk/campaigns-and-our-work/oil-beetles) and get involved in the Oil Beetle Hunt (https://www.buglife.org.uk/oil-beetle-survey) . We think this is a great way to discover more about our micro wildlife this spring.

What signs of spring have you spotted so far? The brilliant Nature Detectives have some fabulous printable sheets to help you head out with the kiddies and get closer to nature at this time of year – http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/download/hunt_spring_early.htm

If you are looking for more ideas to help you make the most of the warmer weather and longer days then check out our 10 Ways to Play Outdoors this Spring.

However you choose to enjoy this spring we would love to hear about it. Drop us an email at sales@adventuretogs.co.uk or share your pictures on our facebook page and help inspire others to play outdoors this spring.

Outdoor Blog Roundup – February

Outdoor Play Roundup

We have a lovely mixed bunch for you on the Roundup this month with posts about searching for the first signs of spring to fun with crates. We hope you enjoy!

One of the lovely things about late winter is that some of our first flowers start to appear as spring takes hold and gets ready to take over. Wild about here shared a lovely post about spotting colourful flowers at this time of year including a fabulous spotter sheet that is well worth printing out and taking along on your walks with you.

Everybody knows kids love a cardboard box but who knew about crates? Wonderful fellow outdoor play party co-host Learning for Life shared a great post about the amazing diversity of crates in children’s play. So if you can get hold of any for your garden or your school it certainly seems like they will be well worth the very small investment involved.

obligshadow1

Lastly we loved these grass caterpillars shared by Red Ted Art. They are so very cute and so easy to make. The perfect way to get your kids into gardening.

Over on facebook we discovered a fabulous new Forest Schools Kindergarten based in Sheffield. The will be running The Dangerous Adventure Club over the Easter which sounds like so much fun! We would love to see more of these across the country.

 Please do share your posts with us here at Adventure Togs and tell us how you have been playing outdoors this fortnight.

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.

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.

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


Learning on a Simple Winter Walk

This month’s regular guest post from outdoors mummy blogger, Leila Balin is all about how her little man is learning all the time….

Learning on a simple winter walk

I love how a simple winter walk with any toddler will always be an adventure. They just find pleasure in every little detail. This weekend we headed down a lovely leaf littered path we hadn’t explored before and although it was pretty it didn’t look like it had much in the way of toddler entertainment. Looks were, however, deceiving and the amount of time exploring meant that we never even found out where the path led. We stopped, we played and we headed back the way we came before Little Man decided his legs could carry him no more.

Firstly it was the leaves that caught his attention. They were good for kicking and jumping in, he explored a few in great detail discussing their colour and their shape. Colours and shapes are important to him at the moment. He is learning about them at nursery and at every opportunity he will show off the shapes he knows and the colours he can pick out. It’s amazing how little ones learn with such relish, oblivious to the fact that learning should be anything but fun and exciting. Whatever he learns at nursery always transfers through to his play and I expect that has a lot to do with being taught through play too. I watch this miracle of knowledge gained and I wonder why learning ever needs to change. Why can’t it always be fun?

He soon moved on from the leaves to discovering stones. Stones are always good for throwing. Forget checking out their intricate colours or exploring their smooth shapes, how far can they be thrown? One of the ditches beside the path was full with water and besides asking if he could get in it (it was far too deep and cold!) every stone and twig he found from there on in was hurled as hard as he could. Giggles erupted every time the water exploded with a plop and a look of determination came over him whenever a throw failed. He soon discovered that the twigs didn’t make great tools for creating a splash and they were quickly discarded in favour of the stones.

Little Man trawled the same patch of path for what seemed an age, picking up stones he thought would be good for splashing and discarding anything that didn’t look promising. Each time he threw one in he waited to see what happened, getting more excited the bigger the splash. As he searched you could see his brain assessing the stones, comparing the stone in his hand to the ones he had thrown previously. Which ones would work and which ones wouldn’t. He was practising science. Experimenting as naturally as any true scientist does. For me this is simply more proof that our kids are all born ‘little scientists’ and that we don’t always have to try very hard at all to encourage them to explore their own natural curiosity. Get them outdoors and let them discover for themselves and before you know it they will have learnt more than we can ever teach them.

How do your little ones show off their inner scientist?

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.

My featured post for this week has to be Creative Star’s Outdoor Snacks and Drinks. We love Creative Star and we especially love this post. Eating outdoors is such a treat and this post shows just how much learning can take place simply by moving food outdoors. We really enjoyed the idea of a flask experiment. It sounds like great fun.

Outdoor snack 4

Why we love the nature table

Why we love the nature table

Do you remember having a nature table at school? We had a little one in the corner that every morning we would proudly place our collected treasures on. What I remember most about it is the chance to discover the items for myself. Pick them up, explore them, play with them and find out more about them in our small collection of natural history books.

I’m not sure how many schools have nature tables now but that is no reason for our kids not to get in on the action. Why not make one at home? All you need is a corner of a table or an easily accessible shelf and you are part of the way there. Once you have your designated nature space then the really fun part is filling it. You can do this by going on designated nature hunts or simply picking up things that interest you when you are out and about. However you collect for your table try to spend time each week or each month exploring the collection, finding out more about what you have found. Keep a little journal of what you find and have a pocket camera handy on your walks just in case you find something you can’t take home. It is such a great way to learn about nature and the learning really sticks because your kids will have discovered it all for themselves.

Here are just some of the reasons why we love nature tables….

They look delightful. All the different textures and colours of nature look lovely all sat together in one place. There is no need to hide away any of your treasures.

With a nature table you can really explore the seasons, discovering what happens in nature and when. Why do certain colours turn up at certain times of year? At what times of the year do you discover the same things? How does the table change as the seasons change? If this becomes a long term task in your house then your kids won’t just learn about the objects they find but they will discover how it all works together.

Collecting treasures for your table will create all sorts of lovely family memories. Do you remember when you found the biggest conker ever? How about that bit of seaweed that we found out was a shark’s egg? Do you remember you fell in the mud trying to reach that stick and you lost your wellies?

Having little bits of nature on display at home can remind us of how connected we are to all it has to offer. It reminds us that we don’t exist only inside our own little bubbles and that sometimes we should stop, relax and enjoy what the world has to offer.

A nature table offers something different to every individual. Whether you have a budding scientist, artist or engineer the nature table will have something for them. Some kids will love to discover the textures, shapes and colours of things, others will revel in discovering more through books while some children will use items as prompts for play and storytelling. The beauty of a nature table is that it is personal no matter how many people contribute to it.

Do you remember having a nature table at school? Do you and your family already have one? We’d love to hear your nature table stories. Send them over to us on our facebook page Adventure Togs or catch up with us on twitter @Adventure Togs. See you there!