A Good Day

I don’t really have a lot to say, at the moment, but I think as parents we’re often hard on ourselves. We judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else can, and when someone else compliments us, we normally down play it. And if someone else¬†does ‘do’ parenting well, or achieve what we’ll call the ‘Pinterest Perfect’ parenting, well, we shun them for making us feel inadequate. Or at least that’s what the latest trend seems to be.

Well, I suck as a parent these days. I’m so busy trying to keep a roof over our heads, and food on the table, that my girls don’t get the mama I intended to be, and they don’t get the mama I dream of being. Oh, if I could pause time, go back in history, do a few things a bit differently so that I could have, and provide more security right now for these childhood years…. and so the thoughts go round and round in my head.

But, yesterday was a good day. Yesterday my children played in crystalline water and wore mud shoes. Yesterday they frolicked like lambs in a field and were carefree, and happy. I hope that yesterday will be a memory, one day, when they look back. That they’ll remember a childhood that looks like yesterday. And in the meantime I’ll celebrate and share the winning moments.

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A bridge over troubled waters – except they’re not that troubled, fortunately ūüėČ

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Muddy shoes. Signs of a childhood well spent, methinks

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Frolicking and frivolity, wild and free – and boy did they sleep well

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There’s so much to learn in nature too…

Earth Day Books, Movies, Activities And Games For Children

Earth day¬†happens every year in April, and it’s an opportunity for us to talk to our children about their world, to give them reasons to love it and understand how it works, and most importantly to protect it.

One of the simplest ways to teach without it being hard work, while also spending time together, is through books. There are loads of books with the theme of recycling and reusing. Pick up a couple that you can re-read year after year.

Earth Day books, movies, activities and games for childrenSome good examples are¬†Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day* where Nancy helps her family be Earth-friendly every day, not just on Earth Day. In¬†Little Critter: It’s Earth Day*, Little Critter¬†learns about¬†climate changes,¬†and decides¬†to do his part to slow down global warming. In this story children will¬†learn about the importance of not wasting water or energy. Join Little Critter as he plants a tree, makes a climate control machine, and helps the polar bears.

In I Can Save the Earth!: One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle* Max is a little monster who likes to litter and never, ever recycles. Then the electricity goes out and he sees how exciting and beautiful the Earth is, and that it will need his help to stay that way. 

And if stories are good, activity books are even better.¬†Earth Day Is Every Day!* is a fun activity book where four kids and a dog guide young readers through word searches, mazes, cryptograms, and other puzzles that provide fun facts about Earth Day and offer ideas for recycling, conserving energy, and making “green” practices part of everyday life.

I also love the idea of using Earth Day as an opportunity to connect with our friends and family, or our neighbours, or someone we haven’t caught up with in ages, and this Secret Garden*¬†postcard set is beautifully thematic.

¬†If that’s a little ‘old’ for your small people, why not have a go at this¬†Earth Day Colouring Book*.¬†With 32-pages of colouring fun, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to talk about the Earth and our role in protecting it.

Sometimes it hard to know if the Smalls will be interested in something before you spend money on it, so why not print this¬†Free Earth Day Activity Book¬†and give them that for a start. If you’re not in the US you can just remove the page about your State. If you are – it’s perfect for you!

For when the kids want to watch something, Wild Kratts and Tumble Leaf are both great nature shows available for download on Amazon Instant Prime Video*¬†(and you can enjoy a free 30-day trial, often even if you’ve had a trial before).

When book work and brain work gets a little too much, try out¬†Earth Day Kids Yoga¬†–¬†yes, that’s really a thing! This book will walk you through a story of movement and exercise with the children. It’s a great way to get the active, introduce yoga and breathing and talk about Earth Day at the same time.

Earthgames: 50 Nature Games For Ages 3+¬†is another great avenue for rainy day or any day entertainment.¬†The book is¬†full of chanting, play-it-again action games that are easy to learn quickly, yet substantial enough to last through repeat performances. The book is broken into three nature-themed sections–Wildlife World, Playful Planet, Cosmos–each containing its own Warm Up & Cool Down exercises. Designed for indoor or outdoor group play, EarthGames are a perfect fit for ¬†Earth Day or any day.

And of course, the best way to get the children to love the Earth is to make them part of it. Organisations like the Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, National Trust and The RSPB all have membership schemes where your money goes to helping protect your environment. The Wildlife Trust and the RSPB both do a lot of work with children, including magazines that are pitched at their ages Рand provide a gift that tops up their interest throughout the year. The National Trust operates in a number of different countries around the world and membership to one gives you access to all (they also have a fab home ed discount of £41 for the family for the year.) Most of these organisations also offer activities for the children throughout the summer. Have a look at our 50Things posts for an example of what you can do as part of that project.

* Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and then buy, I’ll receive a percentage from the merchant. You don’t pay more or less whether you use this link or go direct.

Growing Tomatoes Indoors

Indoor gardeningI’ve been trying for years to get a garden going, but either the universe is against me or I suck at it. I’m guessing it’s the latter. The first year in our home with a garden, the summer pretty much burned my garden up (due to¬†that pregnancy, I didn’t get out to water much!) The next year, we did okay, and the third year, the slugs pretty much carried the garden away following heavy flooding. This year? Well, this year we don’t even have a garden, so we’re reduced to indoor gardening.

One of the things we did manage to actually eat from the garden last year was lots and lots of cherry tomatoes, so when Heinz invited us to join them in a growing project again this year, we thought it would be a good opportunity to try some indoor gardening, so we’ll be having a go at growing tomatoes indoors.

Indoor GrowingThe thought of not growing anything this year is a bit much for me, so here are some indoor growing options if you want to give it a try too.

For those starting small, you could try a specific¬†Indoor Garden Kit¬†for growing tomatoes. There are also these Peat Free Mini Grow Bags which are cute and a great size when you don’t want a huge sandbag indoors!

If you’re really serious about your indoor gardening, however, there’s a brilliant looking battery operated “Smartpot” that’s said to deliver fantastic results too!

I haven’t decided which way we’ll go yet, but I’d best hop to it and get our tomatoes growing!

If you’re in the UK,¬†¬†shoppers¬†who purchase a bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup can pick up a free pack of Heinz tomato seeds (available in selected stores from 5th ‚Äď 25th March).

¬†* This post contains affiliate links. Using them won’t cost you anything, but I’ll be paid a referral fee. Heinz have also provided a non-cash incentive for participating in their project.

 

Simple Resources For The Solar Eclipse

I am so excited to hear that we’re expecting a solar eclipse in the UK. We’ve missed things like meteor showers and lunar eclipses over the years usually due to cloud cover, but with the sun – well, dark is dark, so we’ll experience¬†something no matter the weather. In my corner of the world we’re only expecting a 40% darkness, but as you head further up into the UK, there’ll be more to about 94% darkness in Scotland. The last time the UK saw an eclipse like this was in 1999, so this is pretty epic.

You can learn more about what to expect in your zone here:

Solar Eclipse Zones

I intend to take  full advantage of this eclipse and make it as engaging a learning experience as possible. I remember seeing a full solar eclipse with my mother as a child, and I intend to make the same memory for my girls. 

Here are a few of the Solar Eclipse resources I’ve pulled together so far:

I’ll add some more here if I find more resources to use – and if you have any you’re planning on using pop the link in the comments and we’ll add it here!

Bring Up A Butterfly …

As far as summer’s go, ours fizzled out a bit towards the end as our plans for the future began to unfold, ¬†work took up a lot of my time, and life in general just had a bit of meh going on, especially once our friends packed up their lives and moved to Australia. One aspect of our summer that did lift me out of my funk a little, was the¬†50things campaign, which gave me a bit of time and focus on the children. If you find yourself struggling with getting outdoors, do have a look at the campaign. It helps focus otherwise busy mother’s mind on their children. It did for me, at least.

One of the things on the 50things list is Bring Up A Butterfly. It’s one we embraced with gusto, because my girls (4 & 2) really want a pet, but we can’t have one where we live. Of course, a butterfly isn’t a pet, so much, but it was quite the learning experience for them.

We bought a butterfly kit from Amazon* which came with a net and a pot with caterpillars in it. The pot contains the worms, and the food they need till they transform.

 

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It was really quite amazing for all of us, watching the teeny tiny caterpillars turn very quickly into large caterpillars and almost overnight go into their cocoons. They stay in Chrysalis form for almost two weeks, then, before you know it, there’s a cocoon shaking and rattling as the butterfly writhes its way out. Soon a beautiful Painted Lady joins the world, and like a deer finds it’s feet unsteadily at first.¬†Bring Up A Butterfly

Before you know it, the butterfly has a sip of nectar, and so the cycle is complete.

We kept them in their basket until they were all steady and ready, and on a sunny afternoon went into the garden to let them go. Butterflies are incredibly low maintenance. You really just have to look at them, and once they are hatched, give them some nectar on a saucer. It’s even easier than a gold fish.

To turn this into a true learning experience, we also used Twinkl’s Butterfly Life Cycle¬†resource.

*If you buy the kit any time other than the Spring, they will send you everything you need, except for the caterpillars. Those will be sent to you in the Spring. It makes a lovely gift though, which is what Ameli’s was, and consequent years you can just buy caterpillar refill packs. It’s also worth noting that you can also buy a Ladybird Kit.

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 38: Bring up a butterfly  on their list. You can see the full list here.

Check Out The Creatures In A Rock Pool

When I told the kids we’d be going rock pooling, this is the kind of thing I had in mind:

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As it turns out, however, either rock pools are the UK’s best kept secret, or this display at Climping Beach is the best the South of England has to offer.

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I can’t say we saw a whole lot in the rock pools. A few darting life forms, some algae, and an anemone, but the girls had a blast in the water, digging in the sand, and spending an afternoon in wild abandon doing something they don’t normally get to do.

Wild Abandon

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 37: Check Out The Creatures In A Rock Pool  on their list. You can see the full list here.

Discover What’s In A Pond

It’s a little hard to find some frogspawn without discovering the other things in a pond.

All things slimey and erm… fun.

Our local canal centre offers a fabulous guide to help children identify what they’ve found in the pond, and over the spring and summer months, pond dipping is a favourite activity among the children – and one that ages me. I’m not fond of water I can’t see the bottom of and the thought of a child landing in it… well, not great! But so far so good. My girls have stayed safely on the side.¬†35And they do love pond dipping!

Apart form the canal centre’s guide we also have the RSPB guide to pond life*, a brilliant little book that lets them tick off what they’ve identified. ¬†Money well spent in my mind!

What benefit does a child derive from a few hours of pond dipping, I hear you ask?

Well, aside from learning about what lies beneath the water, increasing awareness of their environment and learning about other ecosystems, pond dipping also works on balance – so you don’t fall in the water – and teaches risk management – just how far¬†can¬†I lean before I start falling?¬†

Discover what's in a pond

The excitement on their faces as they realise that there’s life in the bottom of those nets is priceless, and finding the critters in their pond life book is so good for instilling that sense of excitement and discovery. It’s like a treasure hunt, following clues, finding answers, handing eager young minds a love of learning and inquiring without them even realising that it’s happening.

And so little scientists and discoverers and adventurers are born, just there by the local pond, with a net and a guide book in hand.

 

We‚Äôre completing ¬†the National Trust‚Äôs #50Things campaign because, well, it‚Äôs great. This was¬†number 35: Discover what’s in a pond¬†on their list. You can see the¬†full list here.

Catch A Falling Leaf

The end of the summer is coming, and pretending it’s not so doesn’t do anything to stop the impending doom winter. I think we may have some exciting plans up our sleeves for this winter, but I’ll have to see how it all pans out before I start sharing. In the meantime, we’re carrying on with our #50things and well on target to get through a lot, if not all of it, this year.

Earlier this year we went to the Whipsnade Zoo¬†for a family day out. It was an early spring day, and the air was thick with cherry blossom scent. Yes, cherry blossoms aren’t leaves, I know, but hey ho, the skills are the same.¬†Catch A Falling Leaf

There’s something about standing waiting in anticipation, spotting a leaf – blossom – jumping into action, grabbing, missing, catching that can’t but make you feel 5 years old. There’s nothing you can do but laugh, and giggle, and shout as you wait and act. The feeling of success as you finally clutch that foliage in your hand.

It’s a great way to burn energy, and to laugh together, play together.

It also costs nothing!

And while catching spring blossoms is imbued with the hope of warmer days, catching autumn leaves are indicative of chestnut roasting, mushroom foraging, and berry picking – there’s nothing not to love.

And while you’re having fun, the kids are learning hand-eye coordination, action and reaction and that mama can run and laugh and play too.

Get out there this autumn, and chase the leaves.

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We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 33: Catch a Falling Leaf on their list. You can see the full list here.