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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The summer weather has brought out so much wildlife on the Coombe Mill lakes and river I was keen to run an activity hour session introducing a little pond dipping and river life into our play. Glorious sunshine in May and early June had given way to rain this week, thankfully it dried up in time for our activities but any study of the river was out of the question as it was racing through Coombe Mill at close to flood levels.
Undeterred I had a plan of activities using the more tranquil lake and a DIY safe pond whilst talking through river safety.
We began with a sweet little storybook about a fish and his friends.
From here we set off on a scavenger hunt for bracken, sticks and sticky weed to play nature fishing. This is something I did a couple of years ago and knew it would be perfect for toddlers.
Our story rug was transformed into a pond with bracken fish. Sticks became fishing rods with stick weed as the line. It is such a simple activity but perfect for preschool age as it encourages creativity, imagination and counting.
When every fish had been caught we put together our pond scopes. These were simply made with plastic bottles, cling film and loom bands. With these, some identification sheets of things to look out for and a fishing net each we set off over the river towards the lake. Crossing the footbridge everyone took a look at the raging river, but this was as close as we dared go.
Our two lakes are a fair size and ideal for serious fishing. However Nick built a launching pad for HMS bath tub last year and this was a perfect spot on the slipway for our pond dipping. We could see boatmen and pond skaters zipping across the surface and the nets gave the children a chance to trawl a little deeper.
I had prepared a little micro pond for our pond scopes to avoid anyone peering into the lake and toppling in. Felix had helped me in advance to fill a paddling pool with buckets of lake water, then launched me off in HMS bath tub to trawl deeper in the lake. I knew we had some water mini beasts for the children to find in our micro pond.
The excitement of turning stories and play fishing into real pond dipping and finding waterlife was palpable. I was thrilled with how well the pond scopes worked and when the children found something in their nets they took it over to the micro pond for a closer look under their pond scopes.
Once everyone had found something on their pond dipping sheets we headed back towards the games room. My final activity was painting trout. We have fresh water trout in our top lake where we were pond dipping as well as in the river. On a calmer day we could have watched the trout swim through under Coombe bridge. I had pre-cut the trout shapes and stuck them to paper plates. The children then painted on the river or pond and pulled away the cut out fish to reveal their trout.
It was a very busy afternoon for the children with so many activities, but they never once looked like they were flagging.
With Father’s day almost upon us Father’s day crafts felt like an obvious choice for a theme to our Activity hour this week. The children were all quite young so I wanted to keep things as simple as I could whilst still creating something worthwhile and fun to make.
Father’s Day Crafts
We began by making cards. Each child chose from my lovely stash of colours paper and then glued on their choice of Father’s Day Messages. From here it was into the paints for a spot of colour play and creative designs.
What Daddy doesn’t appreciate a Number I Dad Medal? The children set to work painting and colouring our pre cut circular medals. I had a plan for these but we needed to allow the paint to dry first.
While our medals and cards were drying we set off on a nature hunt through the fairy gardens. Farmer Nick had just finished trimming back the overgrown branches and mulching them for the fairy garden pathways. It was looking very green and spacious in there. The children were able to easily pick out some fallen purple Rhododendrons and their choice of leaves for the next Father’s day crafts.
We worked our way along the river bank picking daises, red campions and buttercups. The children compared their favourites and held up the buttercups under chins to see who liked butter!
When we reached the Mud kitchen we set to work making Father’s Day pies with some of our collected treasures.
With pies safely cooking in the oven for the Daddies the children took the opportunity for a little free play. Clambering aboard the tractor, they re-enacted the feed run each claiming they were Farmer Nick. They would jump off, telling us which animal they were feeding next, have a little play and hop back aboard the tractor again. This was all quite spontaneous and not in my plan, but I was happy to go with the flow and watch their game develop.
Finally the last imaginary animals were fed and we continued with our remaining nature treasures back to the craft table. Here we made nature ties with pretty flower designs.
While the children finished their ties I laminated the Medals and threaded wool through. They each finished up with a fine set of gifts from our Father’s Day Crafts and enjoyed their afternoon out in the fresh air making them.
Pirates are a great theme for childhood play. There is a little history, plenty of adventure and make believe and best of all it appeals to both girls and boys. Here on the farm I’d say pirates is one of our more popular Activity Hour Crafts as the children enjoy both creating costumes and props and the games and activities that follow. Do check the link for how we incorporate both. Last week I explained in detail how to make Cutlasses and Eye patches for my #Trash2Treasure link up. This week I’m sharing how to make a treasure chest complete with treasure from everyday throw away items.
Treasure Chest & Treasure
What you’ll need:-
Flip lid Shoe Box or container
Double sided sticky tape
cardboard from old cereal boxes
Felt tips or marker pens or coloured paint
plastic egg boxes and / or chocolate tray inserts
old necklaces or bracelets
Paint a flip top shoe box black and leave to dry
Once dry unfold a bin bag and line the inside of the box leaving it loose to look like material and cut off any excess.
Place strips of double sided sticky tape around the edges of the box
Carefully lay the cut to size bin bag into the box making sure that all the edges are secured and the box move to one side
For the Treasure
Trace around the top of an egg cup on an old cereal box
Cut it out and even out your circle,
Wrap the circles in small scraps of tin foil
For extra decoration use a pencil to emboss skull and crossbones.
To make gems instead of coins use shiny wrapping paper or sweet wrappers such as quality street using sticky tape to hold them on.
Ferrero Roche Gems
Take out the lining tray from a ferrero roche plastic box
Cut out each indiviual cup
round off any sharp square edges
Egg Box Gems
You can use an old egg box similarly as done here by Larabee UK.
Place some double sided sticky tape on the inside of some of your coins to stick them around the edge of your box to decorate
We also drew a skull onto a piece of cereal box, cut it out and stuck it on the top.
Place the remaining treasure inside your chest.
A few Additions you could try
Try lining your box with silky material instead of a bin bag.
See what other throw away packaging might make good treasure.
Take your treasure chest and hide the treasure for your little pirates to find. We used the pirate ship play ground to hide our treasure.
For a smaller chest try using an egg box instead of a shoe box as Meals & Makes did.
A Vlog Tutorial on Making a Pirate Treasure Chest Filled with Treasure
I do like to keep the themes fresh and the ideas moving forward on our farm activity hour. This week we had a predominance of girls staying with us and a wide age range, with a couple of families who were allowed holiday leave from school. It can be challenging to find something that appeals across the age groups but my plans this week suited everyone.
It is a while since we have had an activity hour session using the Coombe Mill Welly Walk. There is a tree at the far end which is home to our rope swing. I was fairly certain no one had ventured down during the week. It was whilst counting lambs on my morning farm checks and glancing down the welly walk that an idea came to me. The tree at the end reminded me of one of my favourite childhood books, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. Suddenly I could picture fairies, tree people and adventure all around. I had Farmer Nick slice up a branch into sections for us to make fairy doors. The children decorated their doors with paint and pens, adding their own interpretations on the classic story. I was surprised to find that one 9 year old had even read the book; it is lovely to think that this story is still going strong, generations after it was written. With doors painted, we created magic pebbles to lie around the base of the tree and loaded them all onto trays.
Handing out welly walk sheets we set off to complete the challenges. There were leaves to identify, waterfalls to find, fords to leap over and gates to open without allowing any sheep to escape! The children had no problem spotting the signs showing them which way to go. It was really rather pretty with the bracken and bluebells all fighting for space along the banks; parents were shocked that they had not discovered this area of the farm all week.
Our bamboo tunnel captured their imagination as they all ran through.
On the other side of the tunnel, in a clearing, stood the Magic Faraway Tree. We added our fairy doors to the trunk and laid the pebbles around the base.
Each child then took a ball of clay to make a tree face, embellishing the facial features with nature.
There were some great designs and the finished effect was quite impressive with the tree folk and fairy doors up the tree trunk. It was time to embrace The Magic Faraway Tree and share in its fun with a turn on the rope swing. It was safe to say that this was a huge hit from youngest to oldest.
It felt a shame to break the fun and take everyone back for the train. As all my own children were away on various adventures from Scouts to Ballet with Farmer Nick, it was me running the train. We did an extra lap for good luck before rounding off the evening on the pirate ship.
I think there were tired children going to bed that night; each with their own dreams of The Magic Faraway Tree.
At Coombe Mill we have a weekly activity session on a Friday afternoon as a fun way to round off a holiday here. We usually do something crafty with the kids, often with an educational bias to aid imaginative play and to help with fine or gross motor skills whilst also having fun. The results are used to decorate areas of the farm or for the children to take home with them as keepsakes. We have had a few fun sessions with pirate themed afternoons which both boys and girls age 2 to 7 have adored. I thought I’d share some of the more popular simple pirate crafts for this. It would make a great birthday party theme for a cheap at home celebration with all the fun of a more elaborate event.
Pirate Eye Patches
What you’ll need:-
Download our printable eye patch design below and cut the shape out.
Lay the cut out on black thick paper or card and draw round. Cut out the shape on your black card.
Measure the string around the child’s head with it so that it lays just over the eyebrows and allow an extra 10 cm for tying.
Fold over the top tab of eye patch, tuck the string into the fold and staple so that it won’t fall off.
Place the eye patch around the child’s head and tie it, making sure it’s not too tight.
What you’ll need:-
Cardboard (we used a cereal box at double thickness)
Draw a cutlass shape on the cardboard, or use our printable template below, then cut it out and place it to one side.
Draw an oblong with a thin long rectangle inside of it, or use our printable template below then cut out being careful of fingers when cutting the inside rectangle
Cover the hilt and body of the cutlass in tinfoil.
Cut the tin foil along the hole you made in the hilt earlier.
Slide the hilt up over the main part of the cutlass until it stops.
Click on the picture below to open up the printable template
Do pop back next week where I’ll be expanding on the theme of simple pirate crafts with how to make a Treasure Chest, Treasure Map and a Pirate Ship. Add all these together and it makes a great afternoon of fun and games for little ones with plenty of opportunity to let their imagination develop.
A Vlog of How to Make Simple Pirate Crafts of a Eye Patch and Cutlass
Joining in with Trash 2 Treasure
If you have post about something you have made with something from nature or something you would have otherwise have thrown away please come and share on Trash 2 Treasure. The linky will run on the 1st Monday of every month and stay open for the full month. Posts can take any form, all that matters is that the item made has primarily been upcycled from something of little value or found in nature. Leaves and loo rolls, sticks and staples, there are so many throw away items which, with a little imagination, can be turned into something of value. Most of my something from nothing craft tutorials will come from fun keepsakes we have made with the children in our farm activity hour but sometimes I will share bigger upcycling projects from Farmer Nick too. I hope through the linky to acquire some new ideas and I welcome all posts old and new.
A little extra from the awesome folk at Duck Tape Colours
Trash to Treasure is sponsored by Duck Tape Colours, makers of colourful tape to add pattern and sparkle to all your upcycling projects. My favourite upcycling post each month will receive 3 colourful rolls of tape to inspire your next project. Do check out their website for plenty of creative ideas.
My May winner of the duck tape colours is @PouchVintage from You, Me & Magoo with a great outdoor table from an old wooden cable real.
As always there were some wonderful upcycled ideas again last month, Please keep them coming.
“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.