Posted on June 23rd, 2017 - Fiona
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!
Posted on June 17th, 2017 - Fiona
Life on the farm changes each week with each new set of guests. We may do similar things each day with our morning tractor rides and evening train rides, but it is the children and families staying that change the dynamic. There is always a buzz of excitement on a Sunday as everyone joins in the activities on offer here for the first time. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of seeing the excitement of driving the tractor for the first time, feeding the animals, holding them and enjoying all that we have to offer. Sometimes it isn’t even the tractor or the animals that captures the children’s imagination; it can be something as simple as nature itself interpreted through the eyes of a child. I try to be ready with my camera to capture those special moments to share here, though I need eyes in the back of my head as I never know where or when those magic moments will occur. What I do know is that there are special moments in every family holiday here and being here to witness them all is a privilege. Watching children discover the farm from the structured activities to the self created ones makes mine the best job in the world and provides so much of my inspiration on how to develop what we offer.
Driving the tractor is a highlight for children
Our tractor and trailer rides go out each day, it may be the same for farmer Nick, but for the children each day is new and exciting.
Special moments from self made activities
These two boys started quite a trend of jumping from the split trunk of this old tree. In no time there was a queue forming to give it a go.
Station mistress says go
Flag waving is a top job at the Coombe Mill Railway
Stop that train
Watch out someone has pulled the signal to stop the train.
If you fancy making some special moments of your own here at the farm we still have availability this summer.
Posted on June 16th, 2017 - Fiona
I was determined to fit in a week working with herbs, and in particular wild garlic, before it was over on the farm for another year. Wild garlic has such a strong smell rather like spring onions and so useful in cooking. I had a feeling many of our children staying would not have noticed it during the week with us and so I decided on a spot of foraging for herbs and baking savoury scones as the basis for our activities this week.
Preparing to study herbs
We began by cutting up a cereal box to make a backing board for our theory work together with a clever little pouch to store the herbs we would find. Printed information sheets on each herb were stapled next to the pouch with sensory information to fill in on the herbs.
Foraging for herbs
With our work all prepared we set off in search of our herbs. The wild garlic was just at the end of flowering and having showed the children what to look for they soon came across some along the farm paths. Armed with a good bunch for everyone we headed into my garden for snippets of all the other herbs I had growing. We had 6 to collect in total and the children needed help to carry back their haul.
Making wild garlic and cheese savoury scones
Back at the craft tables we washed hands ready for cooking. I had all the ingredients for cheese and wild garlic scones. We measured, mixed and kneaded the ingredients together before cutting them into hearts and stars to go in the oven. The children were wonderful at taking turns to help at every stage.
Completing herb worksheets
While the scones cooked the children began to complete their worksheets using the collected herbs. They rubbed each herb on the page to release the smell and then wrote down how it smelt, felt and looked along with what foods it was used in. They were great at suggesting foods the herbs reminded them of.
Writing up the savoury scone recipe
They worked really hard and made a lovely job of completing their worksheets before moving on to recapping the recipe we used for the scones. I handing out printed sheets where the children just had to fill in the amounts of each ingredient and mount them onto coloured card of their choice decorating them with felt tip pens.
I just had time for a photo of everyone with their competed recipes and herb cards while our delicious smelling freshly baked savoury scones cooled enough to eat.
I was thrilled that every scone was eaten with the children all tasting their hard work and the parents polishing off any going spare. I can safely say cheese and wild garlic savoury scones make a very tasty snack. This turned into a really fun and educational afternoon with even the parents learning a thing or two about cooking with wild garlic.
Posted on June 10th, 2017 - Fiona
A week into the summer term and already the Whitsun half term holiday feels like a distant memory. However as I reflected back on the farm fun that was enjoyed I really wanted to share this wild child island adventure.
Wild Child Island Adventure
You could be mistaken for thinking you were looking at a page from the famous Lord of the Flies book. The burning cross, the camp fire and spear making in progress does all smack of teenage boys learning to survive on a deserted island together. These boys were indeed all teenagers, one of them my own, but they are far from deserted. The little island is just a rocky outcrop in the river Camel as it meanders its way through Coombe Mill. It was where Felix sat and wrote his inspired GCSE English descriptive writing piece and where I take so many photos of our beautiful river to share here across the seasons. However last week it was home to a group of boys, their imagination and many happy days spent at one with nature. Best of all they were away from technology as there is no wifi or mobile signal over there. This is forest school learning for big kids.
Fire Pit on the Island
I didn’t pry into the purpose of the burning cross, I’m not sure I really wanted to hear the answer, but I did admire the campfire pit and homemade spears lashed up to a tree. They hoped spear fish as they swam upstream to cook on their fire. The theory was sound, I’m pleased to say no fish were ever in danger, but they certainly had some fun trying to catch one and ending up rather wet in the process!
A dam to trap fish and ward off adults
Looking back at the island by day you see the dam they built to improve the island defenses against adults and improve their chances of trapping a fish.
I was more than happy to see them while away their time like this, as were the parents of the other boys. For my own, this wild child island adventure is one of the joys of farm life, for the other boys it is part of the magic of Coombe Mill that keeps them returning year on year. We are the growing up holiday you never grow out of.
Posted on June 9th, 2017 - Fiona
I feel like we have been so lucky this year with plenty of dry weather and if you follow my Country Kids posts you could be forgiven for thinking the sun always shines on Coombe Mill. However sadly this isn’t always the case and the rain caught up with us just in time for my life underwater studies. Thankfully it was warm enough to still be outside but due to the frequency of the showers I based our activities under the eaves of the games room. At least water was in the theme for the afternoon.
We began with a gorgeous little mini game I’m reviewing from Orchard Toys at the moment as the children were the perfect age. It is called little bug Bingo and since many of the bugs were to be found on or around our lakes and river it felt like a good link. The children soon picked up the idea of the game taking it in turns to turn over the cards and match them to their place mats.
We moved onto a delightful story from Quarto Kids about life under the ocean. The children really took to this with the lift up flaps despite only being in black and white. There was a treat at the end as I handed out colouring pens and every one had a chance to turn the pages from black and white to colour.
We still have tadpoles in huge quantities in our lakes so we had a little look at the Frog life cycle using our bingo matching skills to place the elements of the frog life cycle into place
That was enough studying for my little ones and they were keen to see some real life underwater. In case we couldn’t get out on our underwater search I had brought a bucket of underwater life from the pond up to the table. The children crowded round to look at the tadpoles and water boatman swimming among the reeds in my bucket. After a quick lesson in how to use a magnifying glass they were captivated.
I promised if the rain stopped we could all go to release them and see what else we could spot on the way. However first I had a fun fishing game lined up. A bath mat became my pond with bracken leaves as fish. The children used sticky weed on sticks as fishing lines and had great fun trying to catch a fish. This is such a simple game we have used before and would be ideal to play down at a park or by a river too just by collecting things from nature.
Finally we had our break in the rain and set off with tick sheets showing life underwater in our lake and river. We spotted sticky weed and bracken in the hedges from our fishing game, stopped to look for fish swimming upstream on the bridge over the river and spotted plenty of tadpoles in the lake while I carefully replaced our bucket full.
There were plenty of tadpoles, carp popping to the surface and more bugs on the surface to tick off on our water life spotters worksheets
We came back a different route stopping to check the frog hiding under the bridge.
I was so pleased we were finally able to complete our walk and the children could see the pond life in the lakes and not just in my bucket.
Life Underwater studies for preschool children
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