Posted on June 23rd, 2017 - Fiona
After making vintage tea cups and saucers into bird feeders I was keen to find a way to use these as part of our activity hour. As is so often the case, once I have an idea for a theme, then the whole afternoon plan begins to fall into place. A bird spotters trail along the old Welly Walk would replace my old tin can flowers with my 7 tea cup bird feeders and 2 bird houses to find and fill with goodies.
Every good bird spotter needs some binoculars
These were so easy to make and put the children in the right mindset. A couple of toilet rolls stapled together and some ribbon and we were ready for some creative painting.
With a gentle breeze and a glorious hot day, we hung the binoculars out to try ready for going on the trail.
Goosey Gandar in the grass
While our binoculars dried we set to work turning paper plates into geese just like the ones at Coombe Mill. A little clever cutting and folding gave some surprisingly good results. We showed them off against blue craft paper, picked grass for the geese to sit in and mounted them on card ready to hang.
This took just enough time to allow our binoculars to dry and everyone collected their bespoke coloured binoculars ready for the bird spotters trail.
To keep little legs motivated on our trail I handed out bird spotters trail sheets and pens packed with things to tick off and do along the way.
On an adventure along the bird spotters trail
The first thing to spot was the welly walk signs telling us the way to go. From here we were looking out for old wellies, tea cups and bird houses. I had a watering can ready to collect water from the brook and some birdseed with me; the children helped to add the seed to each of the saucers and fill the cups with water.
At each step the children ticked things off. There were birds to try and spot through the binoculars and bird songs to listen for. Annoyingly the most prevalent bird was the crow after our chicken eggs from the adjacent field!
Bird spotters treat
My cane tunnel was still looking great and the children ran through to discover the lovely shallow paddling area in the brook the other side and the tree swing. This was the perfect place to play and enjoy the afternoon sun before the trek home.
I am planning to work on the bird spotters trail sheets a little more and leave laminated copies in our reception for holiday guests to take and work though in their own time. Without a big noisy group of us there will be more birds to spot!
Posted on June 16th, 2017 - Fiona
I was determined to fit in a week working with herbs, and in particular wild garlic, before it was over on the farm for another year. Wild garlic has such a strong smell rather like spring onions and so useful in cooking. I had a feeling many of our children staying would not have noticed it during the week with us and so I decided on a spot of foraging for herbs and baking savoury scones as the basis for our activities this week.
Preparing to study herbs
We began by cutting up a cereal box to make a backing board for our theory work together with a clever little pouch to store the herbs we would find. Printed information sheets on each herb were stapled next to the pouch with sensory information to fill in on the herbs.
Foraging for herbs
With our work all prepared we set off in search of our herbs. The wild garlic was just at the end of flowering and having showed the children what to look for they soon came across some along the farm paths. Armed with a good bunch for everyone we headed into my garden for snippets of all the other herbs I had growing. We had 6 to collect in total and the children needed help to carry back their haul.
Making wild garlic and cheese savoury scones
Back at the craft tables we washed hands ready for cooking. I had all the ingredients for cheese and wild garlic scones. We measured, mixed and kneaded the ingredients together before cutting them into hearts and stars to go in the oven. The children were wonderful at taking turns to help at every stage.
Completing herb worksheets
While the scones cooked the children began to complete their worksheets using the collected herbs. They rubbed each herb on the page to release the smell and then wrote down how it smelt, felt and looked along with what foods it was used in. They were great at suggesting foods the herbs reminded them of.
Writing up the savoury scone recipe
They worked really hard and made a lovely job of completing their worksheets before moving on to recapping the recipe we used for the scones. I handing out printed sheets where the children just had to fill in the amounts of each ingredient and mount them onto coloured card of their choice decorating them with felt tip pens.
I just had time for a photo of everyone with their competed recipes and herb cards while our delicious smelling freshly baked savoury scones cooled enough to eat.
I was thrilled that every scone was eaten with the children all tasting their hard work and the parents polishing off any going spare. I can safely say cheese and wild garlic savoury scones make a very tasty snack. This turned into a really fun and educational afternoon with even the parents learning a thing or two about cooking with wild garlic.
Posted on May 26th, 2017 - Fiona
During term time Coombe Mill is full families with toddlers and preschool children who are able to take advantage of our lower priced weeks. Planning activities they can all join in with is often a challenge, but a good theme helps. We have looked at pirates before and know how popular this is for little ones, but we wanted to add something new and decided to focus on every pirate’s best friend, the parrot. Parrots and pirates was the perfect toddler combination.
Colourful Parrots from toilet tolls
With our theme set the rest all flowed. I had some red painted toilet rolls left from making Chinese New Year Lanterns and decided these would make perfect parrot bodies. With help from parents we cut the toilet roll to make the head, beak and feet and then added coloured floristry ribbons for the wings and head feathers. Ta-da, beautiful parrots for little pirates.
Pirates off on an adventure
I had planned to do some painting next but I could see the children were already becoming restless going off to play with my giant pirate palm tree so I decided to move onto our treasure hunt. We had newspaper prates hats planted on sticks that the children had to spot and collect to lead us to our treasure.
Our trail took us through the fairy gardens where we had to spot the parrots in the tree.
Finding the hat to lead us out of the fairy gardens took a little time as there were plenty of distractions that we let the children explore. Finally we were on our way again and the children were now tuned to looking out for the hats and found them more easily. The last was by the pirate play boat where they began hunting for the missing treasure for my box. This was a great chance to combine play and treasure hunting all at once.
It was a long walk back for little legs so we had them finding a stick along the way. This was to form the oars for their own pirate boat. They climbed aboard with their parrots and the palm tree behind and rowed to home singing along the way.
Painted parrots everywhere!
After all that adventure time the children were ready for my parrot painting. Asking 1 to 4 year old’s to paint a parrot was clearly too tricky so we made them fun and easy with hand and foot prints.
With warm bubbly water on ready in a paddling pool to clean up, painting parrots had never been such fun!
Capturing our parrot and pirate adventures in video
Posted on May 19th, 2017 - Fiona
We had just had our sheep sheared and the children had enjoyed watching this during our morning feed run. The trailer load of fleeces was due to be collected so I pulled a bag full onto one side to get creative with the children at the end of the week. They were all curious about the feel and texture of the wool and so I thought there had to be a good way to incorporate it into a sheep themed activity hour.
A Sheepscape 3D picture to hang on the wall
With an age range of 1 – 4 I wanted to keep my activities simple enough for the children to manage, but interesting enough for them to want to have a go. After searching online I adapted a hand painting idea and came up with a 3D sheep craft picture for the children to make and keep.
It was a gorgeous day but very windy so we set up in the reception garden where we were sheltered on 3 sides. It was still a job to hold things down. Painted hands made the basic shape on a piece of card with a blob of sheered fleece sticking to the wet paint to bulk out the body.
The children then went off in search of daises and grass for the floor of their sheepscape which we stuck on with double sided tape.
We added a little floristry ribbon and a bend in the card and our 3D sheepscape pictures were ready for hanging.
Sheep Inspired Kites
The wind may have been causing us a few problems making our pictures but it was going to be just what we needed to fly sheep face kites. With some bamboo, black and white bin liners and some printed sheep faces we cobbled together some makeshift kites for the children to run with.
A run around was just what they needed after concentrating on their sheepscapes and the wind did indeed come into its own lifting them up over their heads in gusts.
I lost most to one of our nearby play areas at this point; however the eldest came with me to the farm to feed Friday his afternoon bottle, a fitting end to any sheep themed activity hour!
Sheepscapes and Kite making on video
Posted on May 5th, 2017 - Fiona
We have a tradition at Coombe Mill of ending the Easter holidays with a recycled raft race. Every year this popular event grows with regular visitors to us looking forward to the day, newcomers joining in the fun and a few new additions from us to keep the event fresh and exciting.
The fun begins with a pile of washed and recycled floatable items from our recycled bins, a ball of string and plenty of masking tape. Every one works as groups or individuals on their raft following my “one I made earlier” as a rough idea guide.
Making recycled rafts in teams
I allow a good half an hour for everyone to work on their rafts. I have found the more time I allow the more creative and imaginative the rafts become. There were milk bottle bases, stick bases, masts and decorative additions being added to some wonderful bespoke designs. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day and the time just ran away from us.
New for this year we had made a range of certificates. There was everything from biggest raft to smallest raft, most creative to fastest, best in class by age and more. I figured everyone would win something and the challenge added a new burst of energy to the finishing touches.
Finally everyone was ready and we carried the rafts down to the river. Despite the building excitement I managed to gather everyone for a team photo and gain enough of their attention to remind them of the rules.
Ready for a Recycled Raft Race
The chatter was building as they climbed the bridge and held the rafts over the starting line. We managed a perfect first time start and the rafts were away to the sound of much cheering and shouting.
The dash to beat them along the river bank was on. Guy and Jed were on hand in the river to rescue any rafts caught in the reeds and set them free, along with a few others keen to wade downstream, while the rest dashed towards the finish line.
For most of the journey it looked like my raft was going to win, this was not the outcome I wanted! I was quite relived to be moved into second place by a smaller team raft on the final straight. Those who weren’t on the bridge by now were in the water, me included. There were plenty of helpers to stop any runaway recycled rafts from racing down to Padstow.
We handed out the certificates writing in the winner names as we went and every team won something.
As is often the case the real fun began just at the end. All the older children piled into the river for a big water fight, the screams and squeals as they were showered in cold water was enough to make all the adults smile. I feel sure this will be another fun afternoon on the farm that will remain with the children for a long time to come.
If you fancy joining us for Easter Next year, the Easter Egg Hunt and recycled raft race will take place on Easter week: 31st March 2018.
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