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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We may not have cattle here on the farm, but that never stopped a good adventure. I was admiring a post from Little hearts Big Love on Country Kids a few weeks ago where the girls had a lovely time in a DIY garden teepee and it reminded me I’d been meaning to do something Wild West themed for ages. The forecast was dry and I had a crowd of eager children keen to get involved as cowboys and cowgirls.
I planned to take a few bamboo canes from the Welly Walk tunnel to make the frame, but I suddenly thought there might be something sturdier in the den building zone. Right over the entrance was the perfect wigwam of branches. I added a couple more to make our teepee larger and knew this would be stable and perfect for what I had in mind.
Cowboy and cowgirl costumes.
As everyone arrived and I explained the Wild West theme the children dug into my box of dressing up clothes, I had a few cowboy jackets and added some fairy dresses, there has to be a little poetic licence with little ones after all!
We set to work making our cowboys and cowgirls hats with sheriff badges. I was thrilled with the results just from cut up cereal boxes and the kids loved them.
Making the Teepee.
Our cowboys and cowgirls were all ready and eager to decorate the teepee I had prepared from a super-king duvet cover saved from our marked linen collection. As all our business bedding is plain white it was perfect for adding some paint. From cactus plants to cowboy hats, smiley faces to hand prints; the kids relished the messy play on a big scale.
We lifted the giant decorated cover and wrapped it around the frame I had embellished earlier, adding our Brug inside to make cosy seating. The kids soon piled in to listen to a story about the hungry beast of the Wild West.
Talking of food made us all a little peckish; I had anticipated this and was armed with a batch of freshly baked cookies from my oven for everyone which went down a treat.
Refreshed, the children spotted my musical logs and began to create their own cowboy music.
Back in the tent a caterpillar caught the attention of others as it climbed the trunk of the teepee.
We left the children playing in and out of the tepee to enjoy the rest of the afternoon together. I was thrilled to see one little boy still wearing his cowboy hat as he left Coombe Mill the following day.
When the cowboys and cowgirls came to Coombe Mill.
With a summer that has been characterised by sun and rain the bugs and insects are rife here on the farm. Rather than say “ew”, we have been embracing them and making them part of our activity hour studies and crafts. We had so much fun a few weeks ago despite a very damp day I decided to revisit the world of the minibeast on a sunny afternoon with frogs and some new crafts.
A Giant Minibeast Board Game
The make-believe bug pair’s game of last time was a big success so I built on the idea for this week with a giant minibeast game that the children helped to create. I had a worm board and a dice with some challenge cards and squares set out and the children added the rest.
They made coloured counters from milk bottle tops with fingerprint minibeasts on the top and decorated the playing board with lots of little creepy crawlies in fun colours.
When they were all finished we played a game. It was great fun with everyone joining in the challenge questions like “Leap like a frog” and “sing Incy wincey spider” to move up 3 places.
The game provided the perfect mix of jumping around and concentrating on counting on places together with painting fun. I’ll definitely be looking at DIY games more in the future but for now my discerning little ones had spotted my pebbles waiting to be painted.
Painting Bug pebbles
I collected and painted white a selection of bug shaped pebbles from a family beach trip the day before and the children couldn’t wait to get turning them into bees, ladybirds and centipedes like the ones in our fairy gardens.
Off on a minibeast hunt
Once everyone was cleaned up we left our pebble bugs to dry in the sun and headed out with magnifying glasses to find some real bugs down in the fairy gardens. Farmer Nick’s carved fairy toadstools always reveal a wealth of little beasties scurrying to and fro and the children were thrilled with crowing round to identify them all. We saw centipedes, beetles, woodlice and lots of worms. There was even a shiny unidentified bug that had everyone confused and fascinated in equal measure.
We progressed down through the bug hotel peering into pipes and dislodging logs where we saw spider webs and snails but no spiders in residence.
Baby Frogs on the farm paths
From here we headed over to the farm in search of baby frogs. We were rewarded with lots of little jumping frogs that leapt from our hands. The children laughed as it was just as they had practice leaping like a frog in our minibeast game right at the start.
Help the frog catch a fly
Back at our craft table we continued the frog theme with some fly catching frogs that made another great little game for the children to keep. I’m going to follow up with a tutorial on these for #Trash2Treasure as they are such fun and easy to make.
Mini beast crafts have so much millage and so many possibilities; I have a stack in my head I still want to try. They are great for normalising touching and investigating these little beasties in real life for kids.
So it rained and it rained but we didn’t let that stand in the way of an afternoon of fun with minibeasts. Remembering what a great afternoon it made last year I was keen to develop and adapt the theme to meet the needs of our little preschoolers this year. Retreating into the games room we set out the plans for our afternoon from crafts to outdoor exploring. We were determined to manage at least part of the afternoon outdoors and thanks to the natural umbrella from the canopy of trees over the fairy gardens and down near the river we managed it.
Bearing in mind most of the children were just age 2 and 3 with a couple age 4 I wanted to keep the crafts easy yet educational and came up with an inspired idea for minibeast pairs. We played a game with my DIY cards so that everyone could practice colour matching. Then the children made their own card sets. As the minibeast bodies were just fingerprints it was easy for the children to do themselves with parents just helping the younger ones to add the legs and antennae.
We set our pairs game on one side for the paint to dry ready for the children to take home and set about some friendly hand print spiders. They decided to make their spiders in colourful paints and not just black, I thought this made them look friendlier and welcomed the idea.
Finally we made some little colourful spider style critters from painted halved toilet rolls
A woven forest with minibeasts
We took our colourful creatures out with us to my woodland spider web down by the river and the children wove them into the web adding nature to make a minibeast forest.
After all our fun with make believe beasties it was time to hunting for some real ones. The Fairy gardens with our bug hotel are a perfect place to search with the added benefit of a canopy of branches overhead giving us protection against the rain. Even though it was midsummer, the rain had made it dark and a combination of phone torches and magnifying glasses helped us to see.
We lifted Farmer Nick’s stools and carved mushrooms to see woodlice, centipedes and worms all scurry away from the light.
The children were fascinating moving from one location to the next. I was delighted that they were happy to pick them up and let them crawl across their hands. These little ones were quite fearless and full of curiosity. I’m sure our fun crafts beforehand helped.
Right now the sheep and lambs in the fields are shedding their winter coats, if they haven’t already been sheared. If you go on a country walk you can often pick bits of fleece out of the fences where they have been rubbing up against them. In our case we had a mountain of fleece available to us after shearing our sheep back in May. While most of the fleece went to a local crafter we held back a few handfuls for crafts during our weekly activity hour. Sheepscapes are one of my favourites. A 3D sheepscape picture is so simple and ideal for preschool children to make. The finished result is very effective and just like our Jacobs sheep here on the farm.
What you’ll need
Grass and wild flowers
Floristry ribbon or string
Double sided sticky tape
Method to make a sheepscape picture
Go for a walk and collect some sheep’s wool, there’s usually some on the fences around the edge of fields.
Open a cereal box up and cut to leave one side and one long edge.
Trim the excess edges from around the box.
Paint a hand black and make a print so that the fingers form the feet and the thumb is spaced out for the neck and face. Add an extra fingerprint on the thumb for where the eye is going to go.
Stick a blob of fleece to the wet paint for the body.
Stick a googly to the wet paint for the face.
Place a line of double sided sticky tape over the fold in the box.
Stick grass and wild flowers to this and bend up.
Add ribbon to create a 3D Sheepscape hanging picture.
Hang up on display for all to see.
A few alternatives you could try
Try with a group of children on a play date or as a party craft
Paint your hand in multicolour for the body and add a few dabs of paint to the fleece then sing ‘Bah bah rainbow sheep’
Paint a few sheep on a large wall canvas and create a meadow with big hands for the mothers and tiny hands for the lambs
Cut your sheep out to put on sticks and create your own sheep story in a mini theatre by painting a cardboard box as the theatre.
If you can’t find any sheep wool you could always use cotton wool.
A quick minute long video on how to make a 3D sheepscape picture
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!
“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.