Getting Crafty Outdoors

This month’s regular post from outdoors mummy blogger, Leila Balin is all about getting crafty in the outdoors ….

Getting Crafty Outdoors
Inspired by a Seed Manadala craft (by I had discovered on Pinterest, I thought it was time to have another go at some crafts outdoors. Normally Little Man is far too interested in the garden itself, and his leaning towards ‘self directed mischief’ means that anything I try and attempt to set up outdoors is shunned. With this in mind, anything crafty is usually carried out indoors. But the sun was shining, and the mud was calling us so I braved it and set up my own version of the seed Manadala craft.

I took an old cereal box out of the recycling bin and cut out two circles (I used a CD as a template) drawing a pattern on each. Little Man loves circles, which is what had attracted me to this craft in the first place, and he loves snails so I drew a snail on one and a flower on the other. As you can tell from the photos, art was never my strong point! I then gathered together some coffee grounds, some old baby pasta we had lying around and some pretty cake sprinkles that were on their way out. I also grabbed a Pritt stick for convenience. If you try this at home PVA glue will be much better, and you won’t ruin your Pritt sticks (mine is now covered in gooey coffee and mud!)

Once we were outside I used the old recycling tub as a table because Daddy seems to have pinched Little Man’s mud kitchen table. I laid everything out ready, gave one of the bits of card to Little Man and kept one for myself so I could show him what to do, but, as I should have guessed, Little Man had his own intentions. The coffee was the first thing to go, the whole tub was picked up and poured all over the floor, then he used the bird seeder trowel to scoop it up and pour it out again. This was closely followed by the sprinkles and the pasta! He had a brilliant time exploring the textures and colours for about 2 minutes before he was off trying to feed them to the cat!

He did come back and explore them a bit more, but today was all about riding his bike round the garden and exploring the ice that had collected in crystals in the grass. I took the opportunity to talk to him about it being cold and how it quickly changed to water when we held it in our hands, and he seemed to take it all in, repeating back to me some of the words and absorbing it like a little sponge. He also spent lots of time playing hide and seek with the cat as if she was a proper playmate, saying things like ‘come here’ or ‘hello bell’.

I’m not sure Little Man will ever be big on creating and making crafts, he is much happier attempting to hammer in nails or fix the engines on his bikes and tractors, but he has such a natural curiosity about the world that it really doesn’t matter. I will carry on offering lots of different opportunities for him to play and he can carry on choosing how he wants to play, even if that means my efforts aren’t needed or used in the way I first expected. That is what it is all about after all.

Does your little one like making and creating or are they like Little Man, busy enough already?

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.

Adventure Bugs – An Outdoor Playgroup is Born

On Thursday afternoon we got together with a few friends to enjoy our first Adventure Bugs outdoor playgroup session at the Cwm Clydach RSPB reserve in Swansea. Myself and another local business mum had the idea of joining forces some months ago, at one of our local networking meetings. As a pharmacist, I am intensely aware of the health problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle and alarmed that the increased prescribing of medication for ADHD in recent years has been linked to the lack of outdoor play. Following from my recent Forest Schools course, I was itching to do something about it!

When I told Helen about my ideas, her eyes lit up – as a Science teacher herself she was keen to help children connect with nature and wanted to get involved. And so, we put our heads together!

First we did an assessment of the area we planned to use, by taking our own children for a walk, playing pooh sticks and skimming pebbles in the stream. Despite the big difference in age of our children (mine are 11 and 15 and hers 3 and 6) they all enjoyed and were keen to meet again.

This week we invited two friends with their children, so we could try out some ideas and get feedback and, wow ….. we had a ball! I bought a pack of tarpaulin sheets so we could sit by the stream and get creative.

We started by collecting small fallen branches to make rafts as we made our way to the stream and to tie them together we used long grass which we wove around the branches in any way we could – as long as they held together we were happy! By this time, some of the children we already splashing in the stream in their wellies. It had started raining, but no-one minded. Each of them had a raft to float and they watched with joy as they bobbed in the water!

Floating our rafts
Floating our rafts

I had brought along a pack of white chalk as I thought it would be a good idea for the children to draw on pebbles. Some children washed pebbles in the stream, and we tried brushing some clean so there was a mix of wet and dry pebbles to chalk on. There was plenty of chatter as their creations appeared – faces, stick men, the gym, Monsters University characters, a house, a bird, a tree, a car, a bike …… their imaginations ran wild. We encouraged them to put together a story with the pebbles.

Pebble Art
Pebble Art

Soon the tarpaulin was covered with our collection of rafts and pebble art ….

Rafts and Pebble Art
Rafts and Pebble Art
Fun by the stream
Fun by the stream

We had planned to read a story, so the tarpaulin was cleared and opened out so we could all sit down to listen. Helen read us the story about an Ash tree as we used our hands to sway like trees and pitter patter like rain. We chatted about animals and insects which live in trees, learnt what a fork in a tree looked like and discussed what we thought “rotten” was.

We had such lovely feedback that we cannot wait to go along again next week. The older children will be back at school, so we will invite a few new pre-schoolers and see how that works. This is a completely new experience for all of us, and although Helen and I have lots of ideas we want to try out, we would love to hear from others who run similar group activities. Your feedback and comments would be greatly appreciated.

Free Family Camping Fun – Guest Post by Hazel from YellowFields Camping

Hazel is a camping addicted, mum of two, who insists on a campfire!  Her blog,  YellowFields Camping, is all about camping on the wilder side with full reviews of campfire campsites with lots of pictures.  Also, fun ideas for children plus loads of camping related posts. YellowFields Camping is all about campfires, ropeswings and streams – not clubhouses and hard standing!
Follow her on twitter @yellowfieldsh
Or on facebook YellowFields Camping

Free Family Camping Fun!

Children of all ages love camping, however,when their natural curiosity and energy for exploration has finally expired they can get bored. So here are a few ideas to help them keep busy on a camping trip without having to put your hand in your pocket or bring loads of extra equipment!

The Obstacle Course

Get them to gather a variety of objects from around the camp to create a course. This may involve dribbling a ball in between some shoes, throwing a tennis ball into a bucket, hopping to a marker and back, walking along some strategically places lengths of wood. Use whatever can be found and your imagination. A few silly things make it even better!

Everyone takes turns at racing around the course, use a stopwatch (many mobile phones have one) to time everyone. It is most fun if adults join in too!

Of course it’s unlikely the youngest of the family will be able to win so instead set them a target of beating their own Personal Best!

Ground Art

Gather some natural bits from around the campsite or go on a little walk. Pine cones, daisies, handfuls of grass, sticks, anything you fancy.

Help your children decide what shape or picture they might like to make on the ground. It might be a specific picture like a butterfly or just a pattern. Let the creative juices flow!

This can of course equally be done on a beach with shells, stones and seaweed.

Ground Art
Ground Art


Make a Mini Den

There may not be enough materials around to make a full size den, but it’s easy to make a mini den or fairy house from what’s nearby. We have made many different sorts, perhaps among the gnarly roots of a tree, against an old stump or free standing teepee style. The opportunity for invention is extensive. We have even tied long grass together at the top to make a hollow. They can be furnished with leaves, grass and nut shells. Occasionally the fairies visit and leave a few pennies of rent for the pleasure of staying in a great mini den, so it’s always worth getting your child to check in the morning!

Make a Mini Den
Make a Mini Den


Trail Making

Depending on age you may need to help your child hide a ‘treasure’ and then make a trail. Older children will relish making one themselves.

Simply hide a treasure which could be anything from a note saying ‘ I love you’ to a bottle of beer! Then make a trail using sticks to create arrows on the floor. The longer the better, the trail should go all around the houses (or campsite) before leading back to the treasure right next to the tent!

Scavenger Hunt or Bingo

Write a list of items to be collected, or found and ticked off, around the campsite or on a walk. Never fails to get kids excited especially if there is some kind of prize available for being the first back!

Make a Mini Raft

If you are lucky to have a stream on the campsite and the kids have finally exhausted dam building, stone collecting and general splashing around you might suggest building a mini raft. They can collect a few sticks, use about 6 thumb width sticks plus two as cross braces. Tie together with string as well as you can and “ta da” a mini raft is born! Top tip: Attach a length of string to the raft as a lead if there is any danger of it sailing off too far!

Make a Mini Raft
Make a Mini Raft


So much can be done with the fairly limited materials, once the children have been shown the possibilities their imaginations will take them even further!

Thank you Hazel, for such an inspiring post. Please leave any comments or your own ideas for ” free family camping fun” in the comments section below.

7 Ways to Encourage Kids Outdoor Play

7 Ways to Encourage Kids Outdoor Play

A few decades ago we would never have imagined that we would need to encourage children to play outdoors in the year 2013. Not only are today’s kids attached to numerous electronic gadgets, but they also have very organised social lives with after schools clubs and other extra curricular activities to fit into their day. No wonder there is little time for outdoor play and the free time many of us parents enjoyed in our youth. There have been dramatic increases in childhood obesity, attention difficulties and depression in children in recent years, with studies of outdoor education programs showing  a clear therapeutic value to childrens health and wellbeing. The UK education system is waking up to the fact that kids need to get outdoors more, leading to increased emphasis on outdoor classrooms in schools and also the evolvement of Forest Schools. So, what can we do as parents to encourage our youngsters outdoors?

Here are our top 7 ways, but I’m sure you will find more to add to this list.

  1. Walk to school, the library, the shops, to the swimming pool, in fact walk everywhere if you can. Explain to the children how bad for the environment it is to use the car when you have leg power!
  2. Encourage them to collect “stuff” when they are outdoors….shells, pebbles, leaves and twigs….make a picture when you get home or build a bug house with your findings.
  3. Talk about what you see on your walks. Find out historical facts from your local library, take photos and enjoy what’s around you.
  4. Take a bug box, magnifying glass and trowel and let your kids explore!
  5. Make compost together, grow your own salad, veg and give the kids a few pots of their own to maintain.
  6. Collect leaves and get them to work out which trees they belong to.
  7. Carefully …. build a campfire in your garden, toast marshmallows or bake jacket potatoes for tea!


International Mud Day 2013

Last Saturday was International Mud Day!

We celebrated by making a mud face for our tree.

This is Boy 2 mixing up our garden earth with water to make a mud pie ….


Whilst I squashed our mud pie onto the tree, Boy 2 made the nose and collected flowers and greenery to decorate him…


With daisies for eyes and a big buttercup smile, he was a friendly addition to our garden!


 Our tree leans to one side so it helped to hold him in place for longer…..


He still looked good the following day, and we will miss him when he gets washed away!

10 Ways to Make Outdoor Play Happen

Outdoor play - ideas for kids
Childrens outdoor play
  1. Create a nature trail – Print off a sheet of clues and a short quiz or word search of what you will see on your walk. Collect leaves along the way and try to identify them when you get home or (even better) make pictures with them by gluing on recycled cardboard.
  2. Head to the beach – Collect shells, seaweed and count the crabs. Write your names in the sand and paddle in the sea.
  3. Go to your local park – Let them run around and simply play. Interaction with other children is an important part of child development.
  4. Play ball – Play catch or have a kick around on an open field. Always a favourite!
  5. Take a camera or binoculars – Let your children take some photos and they will love to show them off to their friends. Try some bird watching with a pair of (not too expensive) binoculars and introduce them to a new hobby.
  6. Get planting in the garden – Create a small plot for your youngsters to sow some lettuce or herbs and they can enjoy watching them grow. They are also more likely to eat it!
  7. Get on your bike – Enjoy a family cycle ride, take along a scooter, skateboard or roller blades! Check out the Sustrans network for some great cycle routes.
  8. Wear suitable outdoor clothing – Layer your kids with a fleece mid-layer and waterproof outer-layer in winter or UV protective clothing with high factor sunscreen on sunny days. Hats are always important (pick something bright and fun) and gloves for chilly days.
  9. Take a picnic – Kids can’t go far without being hungry or thirsty, so remember to pack some fruit and treats in addition to a water bottle.
  10. Make it so much fun that they will ask to do it again and again! – Fly a kite or take torches on an evening walk.