Toddle onto the farm for sunny adventures in September

Posted on September 29th, 2018 - Fiona

Wow what a week it turned out to be. After 3 storms in one week last week we had back to back sunshine for this week. Our lucky guests were treated to the best of September sunshine. Almost frosty mornings gave way to t-shirts and looking for sun cream by lunchtime. For those beginning to toddle around we have acres of safe space to run free, learn and play.

Toddler led adventures start here

Here on the farm we have been busy with preschool children throughout September.  This week they have braved the chilly mornings and been rewarded with something new to experience every day on the farm. As the sun rises over the valley so the animals wake, prick up their ears and come out to the sound of the tractor arriving. From egg collecting to goat feeding our little ones have enjoyed every minute. 

Contemplating Farmer Nick’s “Gently” advice.

It takes a cracked egg or two for the little ones to understand “gently” but it’s all part of farm learning.

collecting eggs

 

Hand feeding the goats

Goats can’t bite unlike ponies, it takes a while for the little ones to grasp this but the thrill of plucking up the courage to hand feed them is magical. 

 

goat feeding

 

If you have a preschool age child who might enjoy our farm this autumn, do take a look at our website for our special low season prices and deals.  It’s not just me shouting out about the fun here, this is from one of our guests in the week: 


Nature Piñatas to Create and Smash

Posted on September 28th, 2018 - Fiona

What do you do to entertain an eager group of children age 3 to 12 on a soggy Friday afternoon? I had struggled all week to come up with something and knew the forecast was at best mixed. I dug back in my mind for inspiration from birthday parties with my own children here on the farm over the years and decided the three things that were always most popular were water fights, DIY piñata making and treasure hunts. I ruled out the water fight with the different age ranges and thought on the other two. Finally I decided on the Piñata but with a twist, instead of using recycled materials as we had in the past, we would use nature. It all fell into place in my mind as I created an example nature piñata to show the children.

 

Nature Piñatas to create and smash

 

Setting the nature piñatas challenge

I split the group into two teams with a mix of ages, girls and boys. Each were given a sealed box with sweets inside and a long piece of string out of one end, a pair of scissors and a length of wool. I showed them the example nature piñata I had made and challenged them to go between the rain showers in search of nature to do the same or better. As an extra incentive to make them try their hardest to make them secure I told them they would swap piñatas at the end and have to try and crack open the other team’s work.  

Collaboration and team work

It took a little while for the teams to begin to work effectively, but with a few tips and pointers they began to organise themselves. Some ran off gathering resources while others considered how best to secure them with the limited resources available.  The more they worked together and listened to one another the better the progress. It became quite frantic and competitive as each watched the other team and I began to count down the time to stop building.

Making nature pinatas

I hung the finished nature piñatas up from the games room veranda.   

nature pinata ready to play

Then the children had to think how they were going to knock them down. A stick was the obvious nature choice and they dashed off in search of the biggest they could manage. Just to spice it up again I made them give their chosen stick to the opposite team to use, though we swapped half way to ensure no one had an unfair advantage.

finding whacking sticks on the farm

Ready to play

Excitement was bubbling by this point but the children all lined up for the agreed 3 whacks each before moving to the back of the queue. This rule was essential so that no one was excitedly standing in whacking range!

whacking pinatas

The nature surrounding the boxes held fast for a good few minutes before the boxes were finally reached and hacked and the sweets came thumbing out. With a little reminder to share with their team mates the team leaders ensured everyone in the team had their share of sweets.   

sharing sweets from nature pinatas

It turned into one of my most fun activity sessions and in the excitement of it all no one cared about the showers, though having the veranda to build under was certainly a help.  

 

Recreate Nature Piñatas at Home

This would be a fun activity to recreate with a group of children for a play date or birthday party.

What you’ll Need

Nature collected from a walk keeping flexibility in mind to wrap.

A measured length of string at least a meter long

A box with wrapped sweets inside and a good length of string secured around it. 

A hook outdoors to hang your nature pinatas

A big stick to hit the nature pinata.

scissors.

Educational Benefits

Creativity

Lateral thinking

Team work

Leadership 

Suitable ForAge 5 – 13

 

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Blackberry Biscuits and Stick Pencil Writing  

Posted on September 21st, 2018 - Fiona

Every year when blackberry season comes round I can’t resist a little baking fun with the kids here. However I have made our yummy blackberry muffins so many times I was keen to try something new. My other easy to make recipe is biscuits and I figured a few blackberries squished in would add a new dimension to a classic recipe.  To this we added a little fun pencil making and blackberry juice ink for some creative nature writing.

Blackberry Biscuits and Stick Pencil Writing  

Blackberry picking

Before any of the activities could start we needed to go blackberry picking. I knew all the best places that had escaped Farmer Nick’s careful pruning this summer and we headed off with collecting punnets.

Blackberry picking

We washed the blackberries. Next the children helped to shape the dough into rounds and place them on baking trays before pressing blackberries into the dough balls.

Making blackberry biscuits

Our mix made 2 large trays which went into the oven to cook.

Making blackberry buscuits

Blackberry Ink

While the biscuits cooked, we put the rest of the blackberries through my old fashioned hand held cheese grater to create blackberry ink.

 

Making blackberry juice

Stick pencils.

Sticky fingers were washed and the children ran off to find sticks they could turn into pencils in the fairy gardens.

 

collecting sticks in the fairy garden

 

Decorating pencils was great fun. We used coloured floristry ribbon and wool and then took them to Theo who whittled the ends with his penknife into a nib for writing. The smaller sticks fitted into a pencil sharpener which was even easier.

 

Whittling and decorating stick pencils

Blackberry writing on recipe cards

Then came the fun part; Everyone took a piece of card and stuck the biscuit recipe in the centre, before dipping the decorated pencil nibs in the blackberry ink to add writing and pictures. Some ribbon around the edge completed the cards and made a lovely keepsake and holder for the pencils.  

 

Blackberry ink recipe pictures

 

The only thing left to do was to sit back and sample our blackberry biscuits.   

 

Blackberry biscuits

Recreate Blackberry biscuits and stick pencil writing at home

This would be a fun and educational activity to recreate from a family blackberry picking walk.

What you’ll Need

Blackberries and a pencil shaped stick collected from a walk

Biscuit ingredients: Flour, butter, sugar

Something to squish the blackberries for ink (we used an old fashioned cheese grater)

Ribbons

Sharp knife or pencil sharpener for the stick.

Card to write on (we used a cereal box cut up)

Educational Benefits

Creativity

Cooking health and safety and lessons

Dexterity

The opportunity to explore writing through the ages  

Suitable ForAge 4 – 12

 

 


Creating Illusion and exploring perspective at the beach

Posted on September 15th, 2018 - Fiona

I can’t resist a little beach art when I have time on my hands at our local beach.  Simply stacking rocks and pebbles creates a fun photo and is a great balancing act. Initially I planned to just photograph the rock stack, before it became a shooting target for the kids. However an idea came to me as Jed was hovering in the distance. He is often the one who ends up photo bombing my pictures but this time he gave me a great idea. Perspective was something he had struggled with as a child and I really wish I’d thought to do this with him then. However this was my chance to demonstrate that mystifying concept of perspective again and create a clever illusion at the same time.  

It’s just an illusion

I explained what I was trying to achieve. He began by just reaching out with an arm. I showed him on playback and he chuckled at the illusion of him adding the last rock to the stack. Tickled by the effect he was game for trying a little more. We opted for climbing the stack. While the end result isn’t perfect, it gives the idea.

Jed adding the final touches to my Rock Stack

Jed finishing rock sculpture

The rock stack photo I originally planned

Creating Illusion and exploring perspective at the beach

Creating illusion and exploring perspective as Jed threatened to photo bomb my rock stack photo. 

Illusion of Jed climbing rock sculpture

This little bit of fun photography has inspired me to experiment further in the future with perspective and illusion. I have wound perspective into our activity hour sessions with the children staying here in the past and separately tried rock stacking in the river. I think I will revisit both again next year with a little photo illusion fun added too.

Have you ever tried creating illusion and exploring perspective with photography?   

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Creative Nature Boards in Stick Frames

Posted on September 14th, 2018 - Fiona

I had one of those sun and showers afternoons where everyone was on site and looking for something to entertain the children. Suddenly sign up for my Activity Hour soared, but I had predicted this and was ready with a great activity that would work from little ones to teens. Creative nature boards in stick frames gave enough scope for everyone to make them as detailed and bespoke as they chose. The idea was to collect the things that reminded them of the nature around them at Coombe Mill, strung together in DIY frames decorated in their own personal styles and colours.

 

Creative Nature Boards in Stick Frames

 

As we all gathered and I explained what we would be making the heavens opened. Undeterred we headed out in search of sticks to form our frames. The Fairy  Gardens was a popular hunting ground as the canopy of trees kept us sheltered from the rain and there were plenty of fallen branches ideal for what we needed.

 

collecting sticks in the fairy garden

Stick Picture Frames

Back under the veranda of the games room we began to form frames from our sticks overlapped in a criss-cross design and tied up with wool. The older ones could do these themselves while the little ones needed help.

stick frames for nature pictures

 

If help was needed forming the frames, it certainly didn’t extend to decorating them. From the very youngest there was a clear direction on colours and patterns for decorating the frames. It was a great way for everyone to add their own individuality to their frames.

 

Decorating stick picture frames

Nature Boards

The nature boards were cut from cereal boxes, with a whole punch on each side through which wool was thread and tied to the stick frames.

 

Creating Nature boards in frames

 

Finally there was a break in the rain and everyone dashed off in search of colourful memories of Coombe Mill to decorate their boards.

 

Collecting nature from the farm

 

We used double sided tape for the children to fix their nature into position and felt tip pens for any writing.

 

Nature Pictures in Nature Frames

 

I was thrilled with the results from all the children. It was a lovely use of a showery afternoon on the farm with some great keepsakes to take home.  

 

Recreate a Nature Board in Stick Frame at Home

This would be a lovely activity to recreate from a day out in the countryside at any time of year.

What you’ll Need

Nature collected from a walk

4 Sticks

String, tape and hole punch

Cardboard (we used cut up cereal boxes)

Colourful ribbon (optional)

Educational Benefits

Creativity

Imagination

Dexterity

The opportunity to discover nature in any one season

Suitable ForAge 4 – 10

 

 

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