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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Inspiration for my activity hour comes from following up on learning from a week on the farm and anything topical and nature related. This week it was a new book arriving from Lonely Planet Kids called “Where Animals Live” that had my mind spiraling off into an afternoon of discovery with the wild animals and their homes here on the farm.
Where animals live
The book is packed with everything from the smallest creepy crawly to foxes and badgers and it provided a great way to start our afternoon. The kids took to the book instantly, lifting flaps identifying the animals and recognising from the photos where and how to find their homes.
A pebble Mouse comes to life.
It was a glorious afternoon and as we closed the book I introduced our first craft. Adding clay to pebbles we made mice with little stick tails.
Handing the children an egg carton each, they ran off to fill them with soft nature bedding as a home for their mouse. I explained that really they would look for a hole to hide in like at the bottom of a tree but that leaves would make it comfy just like their egg cartons.
We took advantage of the late afternoon sun which still had some warmth to make clay spiders in their web homes. The children enjoyed molding their spiders and counting on the stick legs, and weaving webs for them into paper plates.
Adventure along the wildlife trail.
We have a wildlife trail set up around Coombe Mill with laminated clues to take from reception. These have been heavily used by our holiday guests over the past year but no one had been on it this week. Instead of the clue sheets we used the video clues from the website downloaded onto my tablet. This was not only very clear for the children but visual too so they knew just which animal they were looking for as we made our way across the farm following the audio and video clues.
I was amazed how much energy the children had racing from clue to clue. We stopped to look for bugs and where they lived in the fairy gardens and bug hotel.
We even found a real mouse hole in the bottom of a tree, along with mole hills hiding the underground mole runs and the odd squirrel and wild rabbit that ran across our path. The children found all the animals on the trail, squelched through puddles, discovered hidden areas of the farm and gained an insight into the wild animals living in nature alongside our farm animals.
Nature has so much to discover and it is a pleasure to introduce children to the life going on around them on the farm.
We have classic English Oak trees all over Coombe Mill. In autumn they shed their pretty leaves, twigs and of course acorns. We have already looked at acorn collecting for the pigs as part of our pig crafts, this week I decided to major on the old oak tree itself and crafts based on its autumn shed. We have a lovely big oak tree hanging over the Coombe Mill car park and fairy gardens so we didn’t have to go far for all the goodies we needed for our crafts.
We began our session by splitting the group in two based on the different ages. The older ones were enjoying a farm counting game with dice from our education pages on the website while the younger ones used wax crayons to colour in hedgehogs as we would be making these later.
Searching under the old oak tree
Before we could continue we needed to go off in search of acorns, twigs and oak leaves. It didn’t take the children long to spot them scattered on the floor of the car park and fairy gardens. In no time their pots were brimming and as the rain increased in intensity we retreated under the veranda of the games room to start creating with our scavenged floor finds.
Reverse leaf printing
Instead of just painting leaves, we arranged our leaves on the reverse of cereal boxes and loosely taped them down before dipping fingers in autumn leaf colour paints to paint around the edges. We used a scrap of the box to make the trunk the same way and then spray painted grass from watered down poster paint all around.
When the leaves and card board were removed a clever leaf print tree remained. We set these on one side to dry and continued to our next craft.
Oak Tree Crafts – Clay hedgehogs
I can’t remember when I last brought the pot of air dry modelling clay out for a craft session. Anyway it was the perfect medium to hold acorns and twigs in place as the body of our hedgehogs. The children moulded and remoulded to get their hedgehogs just as they wanted them. A great craft for all ages as they can be as realistic or alien as they want with no complicated sticking involved.
Oak Tree Crafts – Clay leaves
Most left us at this stage but the really keen stayed on to make clay leaves. By rolling an oak leaf onto the lay then carving around the printed edge and painting you have yourself a perfect reminder of autumn to keep all year round.
Despite the rain arriving we managed a full afternoon of outdoor activities to keep everyone busy. Thankfully the rest of the week fared much better. Just as well I had a few undercover crafts up my sleeve for the wettest afternoon of the week!
I felt like I was due a lucky break, we had bravely fulfilled a few soggy activity hour sessions, dodging showers with wellies to complete our outdoor tasks and retreating into the games room for the crafts. This week we were blessed with a winter sun that felt more like summer and I was determined to make the most of it by collecting and using nature that wasn’t soaked through. An autumn scavenger hunt for nature’s treasures was my starting point and my mind was full of possibilities to make with our collected goodies.
A treat to start
I had set out quite a challenge for little legs so we started by enjoying a homemade cookie for energy while I explained the scavenger hunt and handed out collecting bags and pens.
Autumn Scavenger hunt
We set off and in no time the children had spotted the first things on their list. Acorns and acorn leaves, helicopter seeds and sycamore leaves.
Encouraged by our early finds we wandered through the fairy gardens for more treasures and on across the farm path where all the children managed to tick off everything on their list. I think the elderberries and hawthorn berries were their favourite, they looked so juicy and ripe unlike the blackberries which really were looking end of season.
Hello from the animals
We had added the pigs and the chickens to our tick sheet knowing we would pass them, but the sheep and goats also came to say hello in the hope a branch might be spared for them. Finally we took the footbridge back across the open field to our craft station where we emptied out our treasures ready to make some autumn crafts.
Autumn Scavenger hunt leaf keepsake
The children chose an oak or sycamore leaf card with double sided tape to arrange their autumn scavenger hunt find on. It made a lovely keepsake of all the things they found from the sheet.
The remaining collected items were used to thread into paper plate wreaths. Here all the pretty berries and flowers made a colourful collection to hang in each house. A few pieces of autumnal coloured floristry ribbon completed the wreaths and the children left happy with their afternoons work.
I can totally recommend a scavenger hunt as a way to motivate little legs on a country walk and learn about nature all at once.
Every year our Halloween Fun Day seems to grow a little more involved. I thought last year we had peaked; the weather, the events and the participation all came together to make the most wonderful experience for everyone involved. Yet each year I am conscious that for many who rebook from year to year, the children will be a year older with even high expectations than the previous year. For this reason I try to bring in fresh ideas with the old favourites. This year I really think we pulled that off, with a fun day to rival events anywhere. So much so I’m splitting the day over 2 posts and sharing part 2 next week.
Fancy dress animal feed run
The day begins with a fancy dress feed run. I dressed the tractor and trailer the night before so it was all ready to spook the children in the morning, though I fear I may have gone a little overboard this year as a couple of the youngest were a little afraid to climb on board! Even Farmer Nick and some of the parents joined in with Fancy dress which made the children laugh.
It adds a fun spin on the daily tractor rides as the children see if their costumes have spooked the animals or if they will still come over for their food. Needless to say food wins and the animals refuse to be spooked!
Halloween Fun Day Crafts
We have a couple of clear hours after the feed run to set up the rest of the day’s events which flow right though to the evening. The first one is the Halloween crafts. We had a trail run at most of these last week as we created the Halloween Display. However managing the crafts on a larger scale with so many children meant a few changes were necessary.
The lanterns worked well last week so we repeated this one. They also doubled up later in the evening to light the way alongside the pumpkins for Trick or Treating.
Next we reused the apple and potato fabric printing from last week, although instead of joining them all to make bunting, this time the children printed onto squares of material and mounted them on black card to take home.
With so many children we only had time for one more craft for our fun day. As most were older than last week we swapped ghost prints for spooky eyes. Cutting triangles into black painted toilet rolls gave us the eyes while placing glow sticks inside made them spooky in the dark.
Spooky Activity Trail
In the past for our halloween Fun Day we have had a trail with spooky things to spot and count up. This year with a little help from the triplets dressed in various guises we turned the static trail into much more of an interactive activity session.
First up was the Fairy Gardens which had a witch cast a wicked spell and fill it up with a spider’s web. The children had to clamber through the web collecting a spider ring each on their way.
From here we made our way to the den building area where the children had to ring the wind chime to make the ghost come out of his den and play his spooky message.
Across at the pirate boat an evil pirate had been baking gruesome cakes blood red from the blackberries inside! Each climbed up the stairs to meet the pirate before sliding back down with their cake. They must have been fooled as even the older ones had to ask me if it was OK to eat the cake!
Down on the farm path a witch was waiting with a basket of insects covered in sticks and leaves. Each child took a lucky dip to see what they could find.
Excited by the activities the children raced on ahead to find the devil hiding on the island on the island. Here they had to try and spray him with Holy Water to take the evil away.
After converting the Devil there was an evil intruder to deal with. He had been captured in the aviaries and needed pelting with deadly flour to ensure he didn’t escape.
Our chores were nearly done, just one last stop to make at the witch who had created her brew in the Mud Kitchen. The children had to delve deep in the pumpkin goo to find a glowing bracelet as a pass to ride on the Ghost Train later.
Already it had been quite a day, but we still had the excitement of Halloween Games, the Ghost Train and the legendary Coombe Mill Trick or Treating to follow. I hope you’ll catch up with me next week to see how we fared in part two of our Halloween Fun Day.
Our Halloween Fun Day has become quite legendary taking place on the last day of half term, regardless of when Halloween falls. It takes a huge amount of preparation and I like to practice a few of the crafts the week leading up to half term with the guests here in activity hour. With a group ranging from age 1 to 12 I knew it would be a good test for what worked and how long each craft would take. Needless to say I had far more planned than we managed but it did all make a lovely Halloween display stand for Half Term and a few extras to take home as keepsakes.
Lighting the way
We began by making decorative tea light jars. The children disappeared off in search of pretty autumn coloured leaves while I applied PVA glue to all the jars and placed a tea light inside.
By the time they returned I had a jar ready for everyone and a stack of coloured tissue paper to intersperse with the leaves.
We finished the lights off with a piece of ribbon and added some to the Halloween display and kept others back for the children to take home.
Halloween printed bunting
My Halloween display was taking shape with a while sheet and some Icicle lighting over a delivery pallet but it looked a bit plain. We used large windfall cooking apples to make Ghost, pumpkin and Bat stencils and printed triangles of sheeting to make festive bunting. I stapled each piece onto string to make the bunting but had a really job keeping up with my enthusiastic printers!
Watch out for the ghosts
The younger children then moved on to making spooky hand print ghosts on black card. It sounds so simple but they really had to think about how they were placing their hands on the card to create the ghost effect. We gave them each a little directional smudge to make them look like they were floating through the night. Adding fingerprint faces really brought them to life…..Oooooh!
Giant Pumpkin Painting
We wanted a new game for the fun day and came up with throwing spooky items into the pumpkin. Farmer Nick purchased a giant bag of plastic creepy crawlies on his travels which would work a treat and we set a couple of the older girls to work painting the pumpkin we had drawn on a giant reclaimed piece of card packaging. They did a wonderful job and I’m really excited to try the game now.
Still in full pumpkin flow the girls designed and carved a real pumpkin for me to take centre stage on our Halloween display.
I hadn’t even started on my toilet roll crafts and monster eyes but we had run out of time, the night was drawing in and storm Brian threatening to take hold! I wasn’t going to be short of crafts for our half term fun day, I just had to cross my fingers with the Cornish weather; more on that one next week.
Putting together our Halloween Display for Half Term
“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.