Studying Caterpillars and Butterflies for The Big Butterfly Count

Posted on August 10th, 2018 - Fiona

In mid July when the buddleias are at their peak, the butterflies flock around the farm. We have the most beautiful bush up behind our Pencarrow lodge with a perfume so sweet and distinctive. An unappreciative Farmer Nick was about to chop it down as it isn’t so easy to mow around, but I was up in arms as the butterflies adore it and I had plans for our activity hour around the scented bush. Thankfully I won, the bush remained and we had a beautiful afternoon butterfly hunting there for the Big Butterfly Count.


Studying Caterpillars and Butterflies as part of the Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly Watch for The Big butterfly Count 

We talked about how shy butterflies can be and the need to creep up to the bushes to spot the different varieties. We had been on stealth patrol earlier in the day and taken photos of all the different butterfly types landing on the Buddleia and surrounding ground. These were complied in a table with labels for the children to tick off when they saw them. The children did a great job on all but being very quiet and managed to spot them all. I was slightly concerned about the lack of Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral this year, though there were lots of Silver-washed Argynnis Paphia which I’d not seen in the past and the Common Blue and Small White are reappearing in numbers again.


Big Butterfly Count at Coombe Mill

Creative Caterpillars

Butterflies spotted, the children were keen to see what crafts I had planned for them. I wanted to vary things from our butterfly studies in previous years and came up with something quite original. We began by making caterpillars from card circles and pine cones joined with paper clips and wool.


Making caterpillars


The really fun part was painting them. I’d brought out the spray paints to let everyone make their caterpillars unique with splatter colour.


Spray painting DIY home made caterpillars

Butterflies on boards

While the caterpillars dried in the afternoon sun we turned our attention to butterfly boards. My big bag of material scraps was used to create colourful butterflies. Simple rounds or rectangles were pinched in the middle and stapled onto cardboard. A felt pen completed the butterfly bodies and antenna. The results were quick and impressive which was perfect for the time we had.

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It was a lovely way to look at butterfly varieties, talk about their lifespan, habitat and create our own crafty butterfly varieties.  If you fancy joining in The Big Butterfly Count it is running till 20th August and there are some great downloadable identification sheets. I wish I’d checked this out before making my own!   

The Big Butterfly Count and Crafts:

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Learning Shapes with books, nature and paint

Posted on July 13th, 2018 - Fiona

I love to build on an educational theme for our activity hour on the farm. This week was all about shapes with a group of children age 2 to 5. I had some fun ideas prepared to make learning shapes fun. After all, the children were on holiday and coming along for some creative fun and not to feel like they had started school.  

Learning Shapes with books, nature and paint

Learning shapes and counting

I had a beautiful book on counting, colours and shapes from Phaidon I had reviewed on my Facebook Page and dug it out of our library collection. As we all sat down on my colour in picnic rug I began the book. The children were instantly drawn to the quirky opening of the book and soon they were all helping me turn the pages to identify and count the shapes revealed.

Reading shapes book

Printing shapes

It was clear the children had a good grasp on basic shapes and only a couple of the higher sided shapes were new to them. Everyone loves a little painting fun and while I read the book Clio was setting up paint at the craft table. We gathered round and used potato stamp shapes to print onto corresponding shape worksheets. (These can be found on the education pages of my website).

Potato print shapes

Circle Rolls

Re-gathering on the rug the children settled down to listen to a fun story of a circle who took on a life like character and rolled into his fellow shapes creating quite a commotion. This light-hearted tale had the children laughing and totally engaged.  It is another gem from Phaidon I can totally recommend.

Identifying shapes in the fairy garden

After sitting so well, the children were more than happy to be on the move for our next task. We were off to the fairy gardens to identify shapes on the fairies new dancing carousel. This was one I had been making in Farmer Nick’s shed from an old chain real painted and wrapped at the middle with Duck Tape Colours to avoid any splinters.  I had chosen to decorate it with different coloured painted shapes so it was perfect for today’s theme. The children spotted it as soon as they ran into the gardens and began shouting out all the shapes they could recognise.

Fairy Carousel

Creating Shapes with Nature

While we were in the gardens I showed the children the magic sticking property of sticky weed. They each collected and piece and hunted for colourful flowers for our shapes craft.

collecting nature in the fairy gardens

Back at the table and rug I handed out cereal boxes cut to size and invited the children to choose some fabric to cover their boxes. We simply cut and stapled the material around the boxes to make a base for the sticky weed.

Fabric base for nature fuzzyfelt

Then came the fun part; the children created their chosen shape from stickweed and stuck it to the board. If it didn’t work the first time, the stickweed just peeled off and could be stuck down again. We used double sided tape to fill the shapes with the collected colourful flowers.  The children loved making them and seeing their shapes take form. The results were colourful and pretty and the shapes clear.

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Extra time and extra activities

That was the end of my organised learning shapes activities but the children took things further rolling down the bank like the circle in Circle Rolls. Then they asked for long rectangular strips of material to add to the wishing tree.  They made their wish as they hung them and enjoyed a play with the wishing well before feeding the ponies that had come to watch us.  

 Hill rolling pony feeding wishing Well

I don’t think anyone left thinking they had been learning anything, but they certainly had!

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Kindness bunting trust games and friendship bracelets   

Posted on July 6th, 2018 - Fiona

Back over the Easter Holidays we started our Kindness trail. The children had a lovely time spotting all my giant painted stones and plaques and helping to start a wishing tree. As summer arrived the stones became buried in lush new growth and Farmer Nick had to rescue them and hammer them onto batons in the ground for me. I also added a wishing well next to the wishing tree and the trail took on a new lease of life. I was keen to use the newly refurbished trail to build on our Easter activities around trust and friendship. This time instead of stones we created kindness bunting, played some games centred on trust and finished off with rainbow friendship bracelets.

Kindness bunting, trust games and friendship bracelets

As it was half term I had a huge variation in age from 2 – 11.  I wasn’t sure quite how it would work and at first I only had the younger children as the older girls were busy playing with the ponies up in the field.

Petting and walking ponies

Kindness bunting

However as I set to work in the afternoon sun with the younger children a couple of the older girls came down to join us. Cutting the material was always going to be a challenge for the younger children but the older girls were able to work independently. We choose colourful material from my scrap collection and stapled while sheet over the top to create a mounted piece of bunting. The children all chose their own kindness message to add in pen.

Making kindness bunting

Kindness hunt

While the older girls finished their bunting pieces I took the younger ones off across the fairy gardens to hunt for kindness rocks to tick off on their sheets.

fairy gardens spotting kindness rocks

We attached all the bunting shapes along string to create our kindness bunting adding the older girl’s pieces at the end as they finished carefully writing. Then we set off up the kindness trail in search of the plaques with messages. I was very impressed with how well the 5 year old’s read and identified each plaque to mark off on their sheets and their enthusiasm running from one to another as they saw them approaching .


Finding kindness plaques

Make a wish

The little well was an instant distraction. The children added grass and flowers to the bucket and wound it up and down.

It turns out we were missing one plaque, it must be buried deep in the summer growth on the slopes and I’m now determined to take a long stick and have a good look for it. We hung our bunting between two trees on the trail and watched it flutter in the breeze.

kindness bunting

Trust games.

Back down on the grass we began our trust games; I had a set of games I thought everyone could manage. Many involved a blindfold and instructions demonstrating the need to trust the instructions given.

Playing friendship games outdoors

Friendship bracelets

Finally we settled back down and made kindness bracelets with little animal trinkets. I taught the children how to finger knit the wool which gave it both stretch and width. They were delighted with the results.

Making friendship bracelets

As always it was an action packed afternoon with a little gentle learning and a lot of friendship fun.


Kindness bunting trust games and friendship bracelets   

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Father’s Day Craft Gifts Kids can Make

Posted on June 22nd, 2018 - Fiona

We have been enjoying the most beautiful weather in Cornwall and it has brought out so much pond life and bugs I had planned to study these in our activity hour. then I realised it was Father’s Day at the weekend and swapped my plans for some Father’s Day craft gifts the children could make.  

Father's Day Craft Gifts Kids Can Make

Dad Medals

I have learned over the years that preparation is key, especially with younger children who like to see crafty results come together quickly. With this in mind I pre-prepared our Medals with masking tape to make the word ‘DAD’ on pizza trays. All the kids had to do was choose how to paint, with which colours and get going. 

Painting Father's Day Medals

The tape on the polystyrene worked a treat. Originally I was going to use paper but when I tried it in advance the tape ripped when peeled. The polystyrene peeled perfectly as well as giving structure.

Peeling tape to reveal Father's Day Message


We finished the medals by poking a hole through the top with the end of a paint brush and treading string through for hanging the medal round Dad’s neck. The children finished at different times and used their waiting time for running and rolling up and down the hill in the sunshine.


hill rolling

Clay prints

Our next Father’s Day craft involved flattening chunks of air dry clay and making hand or finger prints in them then painting them as gifts. We had some lovely prints for the Dad’s to keep as well as a finger print flower beautifully painted.

Making Clay hand print gifts

Nature Ties

Even with little ones who can race through crafts I find three is all we manage in an hour. For our third craft we returned to a successful one from a couple of years ago: Nature Ties. With pre-cut tie shapes ready stuck with double sided tape the children just had the fun part of adding the nature.  I gave the children a choice of places we could visit to look for pretty colours of nature for their tie and they all chose the fairy gardens racing ahead to show me the way.


Nature hunt in the fairy gardens

When little hands were loaded we came back and spread out across the table and rugs on the grass. It was lovely to sit back at this point and watch the creativity unfold. There was some serious concentration of tie design and which petals and leaves should go where.

Making nature ties for Father's Day

I thought I was pushing my luck to bring them all back down from playing on the grassy bank for a photo with their crafts, but they obliged. It might not be perfect but it is true to life and I was thrilled with how well they all did, especially as the oldest was just 5 and the youngest just 2. I hope the Dad’s were as happy with their gifts as we were making them!    

Father’s Day Craft Gifts Kids can Make

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A wishing tree where dreams come true.

Posted on June 9th, 2018 - Fiona

Back in the New Year I made a commitment to create a new trail in the orchard. Farmer Nick had carved out a pathway so he could mow, but I instantly saw the potential for a new farm trail. I painted some kindness plaques and lay them along the slopes. We used the newly forming trail as part of our Easter Activity hour creating a wishing tree too. However as I showed it to friends in May, I discovered the plaques had been buried in spring growth. Farmer Nick came to the rescue. He screwed the plaques to some old balcony batons and hammered them into the ground. To these I added my painted wishing well under the apple blossom of the Wishing tree.

I’m thrilled with my newly named kindness trail and hope to add to it over the summer. For now it is a beautiful space to explore. Guests can wander through at leisure discovering the motivational messages on the plaques and add a wish to the wishing tree. With no traffic noise, just the distant sound of the river and nature going about its business, it is a peaceful setting to reflect, feel grateful and dare to hope for the future.

Wishing tree and wishing well.

Wishing tree and Wishing well

Kindness plaque and wishing tags on the Wishing tree.


Kindness plaque standing proud on a banister in the ground. 


Look towards the sun and the shadows will fall behind plaque


Coombe Mill Lodges located in front of the trail.


No rain no flowers plaque


Wood chip paths for ease of walking the kindness trail to the wishing tree

Kindness trail with wood chip paths