Family farm holidays in Cornwall magical for children, toddlers and babies.
Coombe Mill Blog
"Tales from the farmers wife" shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.
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Autumn colours are so beautiful and I was determined to have an activity hour to make the most of the rich seasonal colours on the farm. This was only a few weeks ago yet already the vibrant leaves are few and far between now December is here. We do still have the last of the Hydrangeas from summer turning rich shades of blue and purple and the fuchsias are still blooming, though suffering from the frost this week, in our mild hidden valley. For our activity hour colour by number became colour by nature with some numbers thrown in too. A great afternoon of learning made fun for our preschool children.
Nature Scavenger Hunt.
I find with preschool children that preparation is the key. Things need to be fast paced and easy to complete to keep their attention. I had an afternoon set up that I was sure would deliver. Thankfully the weather was on my side and we were able to do everything outside without the children feeling the autumn chill. After explaining what we would be doing, we set off with collecting trays in search of the colours of the rainbow in nature.
Autumn is so rich in colour it wasn’t hard to fill our trays and the children returned to the craft table eager to begin colour matching their finds to the rainbow chart. I had already placed little pieces of double sided sticky tape already on the card so they were all ready to peel and stick. The children were quite competent with their colours and delightful in their enthusiasm to complete the task.
By the time we finished, the one year olds were tired but the others were all keen to join in my colouring farm game. Each child choose a different coloured pen and take it in turns to roll two dice , add the numbers together, find the farm animal with that number and colour it in. This is in our early years educational section on the Coombe Mill website, as developed with twinkl UK, however, at just age two and three, I wasn’t sure they would manage it. The children really surprised me and colour by nature became colour by numbers.
Painting with Nature.
As they took the last few turns at rolling the dice I sensed their concentration waning and set up a table of paints. This was just what they needed. Once again colour by nature was in control as they painted the remaining scavenger hunt items and printed them onto paper. Energies were revived and concentration was back up to 100%. We had dinosaur steps with sound effects, raindrop splashes and all sorts of creative ideas flowing from the nature prints.
The children left armed with all their good work for the afternoon, but not before one last colour test: to see what colour would result when all the paints were mixed together. The result was, unsurprisingly for the grownups, a sludgy autumnal brown! I did feel sorry for the parent left with taking home the brown mixing plate as an extra souvenir from a fun afternoon.
If you have a preschooler age 2 to 5 I really recommend ‘colour by nature’ as a great afternoon of learning made fun.
I was after a different sort of autumnal adventure for activity hour this week and an ideal I had been thinking about for a while suddenly fell into place thanks to a little creative thinking. I had been planning to do some kind of nature photo frames and was preparing my example frame when I suddenly thought how great they would be for explaining perspective to the children. My nature frames became magic photo frames with a little lesson in science thrown in!
We began with a nature walk down the welly walk. I was surprised to find that even my two week guests hadn’t been along the trail before and so it was something new for everyone. On the way down we looked out for signs of autumn with the bracken dying back and fallen golden leaves.
The clearing at the end is a perfect play ground with a tree swing and a sandy shallow section of the river perfect for paddling. I think the kids could have spent all afternoon here and everyone wanted to return in their own time.
The return journey led us back through the bamboo tunnel with eyes peeled for collecting interesting pieces of nature.
Back at the craft tables we began to make our photo frames using rainbow wool and cereal boxes.
We weaved the collected pieces of nature into our frames.
This was my chance to introduce a little science. I asked each child who was bigger, them or their photo frame. Even my youngest could tell me they were bigger. Yet when I took a photo of them looking through the frame they could see themselves inside the frame. How could that be? Then I showed them my hand up close and they watched as I moved further away. Clearly my hand appeared smaller. It was a great way to explain perspective and how the magic photo frames worked.
Each took their magic photo frames home with tired legs from our walk and a little knowledge imparted.
The magic photo frames were so successful we used them with a younger group of children too, but instead of collecting the nature first, we made the frames first and took them on our walk to fill them as we went. Explaining perspective to younger children was harder but they loved the idea of the magic and giggled at the pictures of themselves inside the frames!
The Forestry Commission are encouraging us to explore our woodlands this season and get creative weaving with nature just as we have been doing. Do check out their website for more creative ideas and downloadable packs as well as a list of your nearest forests. As we are coming up to Christmas there is also a list of forests selling Christmas Trees. Why not make a day of visiting and come home with a little piece of the forest for your home too.
Kite flying is something I remember fondly from my own childhood. The hours I would spend on our campsite in Cornwall with my kite “touching the sky”. Here with my own children I have grappled with twisted strings and complicated designs down at the beach and more than often given up. However I wanted to give the old fashioned one string kite flying a go again and thought we could try to make them for activity hour. The forecast was for heavy wind and rain ahead that night; I was banking on the wind arriving ahead of the rain so that we had a chance to try it all out.
How to make a simple kite
Luck was on our side and we were bless with sun and a real gust building. I risked laying blankets outside with all the materials while the children set to work following my prototype.
It’s amazing how much fun some colourful ribbon, bamboo and bin liners can create, although I was grateful to the parents for lending a hand too as tying all the string is a little fiddly for little fingers.
Time to go kite flying
With decorative tails in place and string secured the children couldn’t wait to give their kites a go. There was a handy little slope just up from where we had been constructing them that was perfect to fly a kite.
There followed a mad half hour of running hither and dither with kites following on behind.
More and more completed their kites and added to the buzz of children dashing around flying their newly made creations.
Just as I was thinking how lucky we had been with the weather the sky clouded over and the rain drops began. It was already time up on activity hour but the children were feeling cheated of their extended kite flying time so as I had all the coloured wool out with me anyway we moved into the games room to make friendship bracelets and hair braids. The children were thrilled with their braids, though I fear I have now cheated the beach side stalls out of their business from this group!
By the time we finished the sun had returned and it was time for the evening train ride. There were some happy passengers complete with hair braids and having enjoyed the chance to make and fly a kite.
A no glue, easy assemble, stylish upcycled Poppy Wreath
With Remembrance Sunday fast approaching I wanted a craft I could share with the children staying on the farm which also gave me a chance to explain what Remembrance Sunday is all about. My own children still give me a sigh when I insist they attend the Remembrance Service with their scouting movement, but I feel it is an important date to mark. As kids they have enjoyed the fun of Halloween and Bonfire night, this one is a chance to step back, to reflect and to remember how we came to enjoy the freedom of our country. A little crafting fun makes listening and comprehending easier for children. The result is a beautiful poppy wreath to show your support as well as a reminder to give generously to the poppy appeal.
What You’ll Need
2 x 6 egg plastic egg box
Red, green and black poster paint
A large cereal box
Floristry ribbon (optional)
Green leaves (optional)
How to Make your Poppy Wreath
To make the wreath base
Draw a circle on a cereal box (use a plate or something to draw around) and cut out. Use both long side of the box.
Make a hole in the centre of both pieces with scissors and cut out a smaller circle within the first.
Paint your remaining rings with green paint and set aside to dry.
Take the black wool and tie a knot around both pieces of card to hold them together then wind the wool round the card leaving a length of wool free at the end. Set aside
To make the poppies
Cut the egg shapes from the egg box.
Use the lid of the egg box as a paint tray, and then dip the outside of each cut out egg holder in the red paint and leave to dry. (This will take several hours)
Take the dried red egg holders and paint the inside circle black to form your poppy; then leave to dry.
Make scissor cuts down opposite sides of your poppies from the tip of the petals to the start of the black middle.
Returning to your wreath weave another layer of wool adding a poppy via the scissor cuts as you go round.
When you have finished leave a length of wool for a handle to hang your wreath.
A few extra’s you could try
Add a little floristry ribbon to the base of your wreath curled with scissors
Thread green leaves into the wool behind the poppies.
Try PVA glue coating your finished poppy wreath to help it withstand the outdoors.
Try using holly and mistletoe for a Christmas Wreath
Half term and Halloween may have come out of sync in recent years, but there was no way our regular guests were going to let that stop the fun they expected from a half term holiday here. It has become something of a tradition on the last day to have a massive Halloween fun day. Each year in my endeavor to ensure it lives up to expectations the activities grow. Not surprisingly this year was our most exciting yet.
When I say Halloween fun day I really mean a full day.
Fancy Dress Feed Run
We like to make the most of those spooky outfits so we begin with a fancy dress feed run. I had decorated the tractor and trailer the previous afternoon and left it hidden in Farmer Nick’s shed. There were children who had held back from taking a turn at driving all week just to be able to drive on the Halloween fun day ride. Thankfully high spirits and scary clothes didn’t put the animals off their breakfast!
There were a welcome couple of hours after this for everyone to enjoy lunch and their last day on the farm while I rustled up my children to help Amber and I undress the Feed run trailer and add all the decorations to the Ghost Train and then stage the clues for the scary Scavenger Trail. It was a race against the clock for us but we made it back to the games room for 2.30 with everything in place for the rest of the Halloween fun day activities.
We made tin cans into devils, pumpkins, monsters and black cats with crape paper and paint and left them to dry for games later on.
Toilet rolls became mini devils and Frankenstein’s and I took inspiration from last week’s woodland weaving making spiders to take to the giant web, which was still going strong down by the river.
I couldn’t believe this week’s children hadn’t spotted the giant web, it was a whole new discovery to find the web and add their spiders.
Our fun day continued as the children joined us for a Halloween Trail challenge. Handing out trail sheets and pens the they were tasked with counting how many of the marked items they saw along the walk.
Amber was waiting at the end of the trail with her witch’s cauldron to collect completed sheets. These were exchanged for a dip into the pot where the children rummaged between the bones and skin (twigs and leaves) for a gold token to buy them a ghost train ride.
Queuing is never a problem with the rope swing, bamboo tunnel and stream to entertain while waiting to dip into the cauldron.
We left everyone playing down the Halloween trail to set up the games. This was a chance to run off some excess energy, test the children’s teamwork skills and bring a little silliness and competition into play. We could have run this session for much longer as after an hour and a half the kids were still going strong but my voice was failing and darkness setting in!
Our tin cans were put to use in team tower building competitions. Tactics and teamwork were essential to build the highest tower.
Moving over to the lawn our tins were used for racing games along with broom sticks, the competitive side in the children really shone through and I was delighted to see my triplets join in too after helping to organise things all day.
We quietened everyone down with pin the arm on the skeleton with forfeits and the ever popular apple bobbing and find the sweet in the flour.
Musical bumps and musical statues was much harder to judge than I imagined, I think everyone must have been seasoned party goers!
Some of the younger children must have been flagging by now, but they certainly weren’t going to let it show, as they all raced over for the ghost train. I collected gold coins from the Halloween walk as the children boarded and with squeals of joy Guy led lap after lap round the track and through the spooky tunnel.
No Halloween fun day would be complete without a little Trick or Treating. Here at Coombe Mill we make this an organised procession from property to property. A lit pumpkin signifies we are welcome and we do our utmost to ensure little ones go first and older children, who can be inclined to push in their excitement, go after. They system works well with each door only being knocked on once all evening and a parent from the group running ahead to open up for us. I was thrilled to see not only pumpkins but wonderful house decorations to welcome us too.
Thank you to all the parents for making this last part of the day so successful for the children. Each finished with a huge haul of goodies and crafts to remember their Halloween fun day at Coombe Mill.
If you would like to join us next year, all the activities for the Halloween fun day are free for our October half term guests but, be quick this is a popular week!
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares life on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. Step into our beautiful 30 acres and experience nature close up with farming and educational crafts in stunning North Cornwall. Family, fun and adventure start here.