10 Things Children Learn on Holiday

Just after the recent furore about school holidays, I actually took the children to France for a much anticipated holiday. We booked it back in December, in the doldrums of winter, about to move house, and in the midst of a lot of personal upheaval. I figured if we survived to May, that would be a great way to celebrate making it to this point.

We are home educators anyway, so it being term time made no major difference to our lives but given the whole ‘term time holiday’s debacle, what children learn on holiday was on my mind a lot. Here are some of the things that stood out to me most on our trip:

1) Exposure to new things

Things Children Learn On Holiday

Children see new things when they go to a new place. For example, they saw the impressive wind turbines that dot the countryside in the north of France. These gargantuan structures prompted a discussion about fossil fuels and renewable energies among other things. Not something we discus on a random Tuesday in May.

2) They learn non verbal communication

On our first day in France, it poured with rain, so we spent most of the day in the heated pool on site. Six year old Ameli picked up a little friend, an 8-year old French girl called Juliet, and for two days, these two were inseparable. They had so much fun together. They barely spoke a word of the same language. They very quickly learned that they could communicate by gesturing, by describing, by pointing. By the end of the second day, when Juliet was leaving, they had even picked up a few words from each other.

3) They learn new language skills

Which leads me here. They also learn new language skills on holiday. Whether that’s a different dialect in a different part of the country, or a new language, Ameli’s French improved significantly over the course of 7 days. (Considering she could say Bon’jour and Merci on arrival in France.) Ameli found the inability to understand and communicate frustrating, so what did she do? Downloaded an app that translated for her. That came in really handy at times, when we had to ask full sentences to people who didn’t understand any English (there was a fuel shortage while we were there.)

4) They learn about budgeting

We had been in two minds about actually going on this holiday, even though it was fully paid up front, because there are always expenses on holiday and having just moved house, we have very little spare money floating about. As a result we went in with a very tight budget of €30 a day for food and entertainment – and between 3 people, that’s not a whole lot of money, really. So we had to budget and the children had to make decisions and prioritise. After I’d bought our meals every day, we would look at how much was left. Having spent the first two days in the pools and taken some food from home we had a little ‘extra’ money, so our budget went up to just under €40 a day, which suddenly seemed so much more. On the day we went tenpin bowling we had a little less, so didn’t buy ice creams. On the day we went on the canoe and on the motorised race track we had a meat free (but local tomatoes, local mozzarella and fresh baguettes!) dinner, on the day we went to Parc Asterix we were stung a little by tolls we hadn’t realised we were going to have to pay, so only had one ice cream and a tiny souvenir each. But we still got to do all those things, and we enjoyed them all – we just had to work together and decide together what to spend each day’s money on.

5) They learn about planning & cartography

If you want a six year old to learn to read a map, draw an X over the ice cream shop and let her lead the way.

Or sit down together with a big map and find out what’s in the area. We stayed in a really lovely resort. Many people were there and didn’t leave for their entire stay. Others hopped on the day trip bus to Disneyland or to Paris. Those weren’t in our plan for the week – or our budget – so we arrived in Berny-Rivière and unlike me, we had no plan. I had no idea what was around us. So we picked up a map of the commune (county) and poured over it together, making note of big towns, landmarks and tourist highlights. We chose the closest three and decided to visit them. We chose two in the same direction for one day, then another in the opposite direction for a day where we also wanted to attend an event on site. Planning. Together. That’s a valuable life skill.

6) They learn about different fauna and flora

Things Children Learn on Holiday
A few days before leaving home we picked up a book about popular British trees in the Poundshop (like a Dollarstore or the Reject Shop). Ameli decided to take it with and see if we could find any of the French trees in our book (we did). But we also discovered trees that aren’t found in the UK. (Or at least not in our book.)

7) They learn their limitationsThings Children Learn On Holiday

Aside from the fact that (at least this part of) France is much more relaxed about Health and Safety, and Aviya was allowed to go down a water slide she has never been allowed on in the UK holiday parks, she discovered very quickly which ones she liked and which ones she wasn’t ready for. We’ve been in a park in the UK where they didn’t allow her to go down the water slide and she spent the entire week sulking about it.  On the contrary, in this park she was allowed to go down the slide with parental supervision, and she only did it one time, deciding it was too fast for her and she didn’t like it. That was the end of that conversation and it was her choice.

8) They experience a bit of history

Things Children Learn On Holiday

Remember the three towns we decided to go to? One was called Soissons – I’ve never heard of it, but what we did learn was that it was actually the capital before Paris was! The girls learnt all about Clovis and his wife Clotilda and the Vase of Soissons and it’s legend. At ages 6 and 4 they know more about French history than I did before this trip (although if you’ve been watching Vikings on Amazon Prime it’s a great place to visit as it must hail from roughly the same period!) We climbed up a castle turret called Septmont. We discovered a magical chateau in Pierrefonds. History, all around us, alive and basked in Spring sunshine. In the future we will return again, because there is so much World War 1 history in that part of the world too.

9) They unplug

Having no wifi for a week meant no TV for a week either (since we only watch Netflix or Amazon). It also meant no computer games, no phone games, no ‘white noise’ from having the radio on. It meant reconnecting with nature, with each other.  It even meant reading to themselves when they wanted some down time.

10) Family TimeThings Children Learn On Holiday

Of course it’s entirely possible to have a holiday with not a single one of these things happening. You could spend all holiday on the park by the pool if that’s your thing. There were families that did just that. They had board games, books, picnics. They swam together, ate leisurely meals, played games. They had good, quality, family bonding time. And that is valuable for a happy life.

Bonus: And as an added bonus, for me, my step counter counted almost double the amount of steps I do at home every day of the week we were away! So there’s a health benefit to throw in there too!

Are holidays of any value to children? Shouldn’t they be in school instead? Or learning at least? I don’t know – I think there are many things children learn on holiday.

21 Reasons To Visit Ladram Bay Holiday Park

Last week my family and I had the amazing fortune of being in Ladram Bay, in Devon on England’s South Coast. I say amazing fortune because the weather was incredible. Our first two days there were shrouded in mist and the final four were beautiful sunshine, so we got to experience the best of both climates.

I had trepidations, heading off for a caravan holiday in a holiday park. I’ll be honest – I didn’t think it’s my kind of thing. To me a holiday involves a backpack and a passport, and maybe a youth hostel (I still think I’m 18, clearly), so I went ‘for the sake of the children’. Ladram Bay, however, can have me back any time. We had such a fantastic time, and here are our top 21 reasons why:

  1. The views are spectacularLadram Bay Views

    Ladram Bay ViewFrom the moment you enter the park and head down the hill, your breath is taken away. You enter the park at the top of a mountain, and it’s downhill all the way to the cliff edge, where there’s a wedge that leads to the sea. I think you’d have rotten luck to not have a single glimpse of the ocean from your caravan, as they’re all on a slope. We were in the front row, with a balcony and it was the most beautiful view to wake up to and have dinner to in the evening.  To one side you have high open fields, to the other a beautiful cliff face and in front the ocean. There’s nothing not to love.

  2. The facilities are brand new
    Ladram Bay Facilities

    They’ve had a huge renovation recently, so when I was chatting to regular visitors they were saying that some of the facilities, like the new mini golf area, weren’t even finished two weeks before our visit. The gym was still under construction during our visit, and they were extending the balcony on the restaurant so that more patrons can enjoy those amazing views I mentioned above.  The swimming pool is fantastic, clean and with a squishy ‘bladder’ that I’m sure helps insulate and keep it warm too. It’s the first holiday park heated pool I’ve been in that’s actually been warm enough to swim in, even in cold weather.

    The showers, sauna and steam room are almost spa-like in their appearance – you certainly don’t feel like you’re in a state run swimming pool. Add a dash of aroma therapy to the steam room or some sandalwood to the sauna and you’d think you were in a spa.

  3. The facilities include a pool and pool play area…

    There is so much to do. After previous visits to holiday parks, I’ve learnt to pack a craft box, some story books, a few DVD’s.  On this trip, in six days, we didn’t even open the Trunki. There wasn’t a gap where we had nothing to do – unless what we were doing was nothing, by choice. And we didn’t even get to do everything.

    The pool is almost Olympic sized with a bubble section on one side. It also has a brand new kids play area, with toppling water buckets, a water feature, spraying worm, slide for smalls and larger slides for kids of all ages, or just kids at heart.

  4. and a spa and a sauna…

    I’ve already mentioned this, but for tired and worn out parents, it’s worth a separate mention. There’s a sauna and a spa and they don’t allow children under 17 in them. Yayness. I still think they could add a few drops of essential oil and turn it into a spa experience, but it’s not billed as a spa, so fair enough.

  5. and an adventure play area, arcade area, soft play & mini golf….

    The adventure play area is something we meant to get to, but never quite made it to. There’s a pirate ship, a zip wire, swings and more. There were pretty much always children in that park! There’s a games arcade and a small soft play are and dinosaur themed mini golf too. I found the arcade a little pricey, but it’s not their fault I can’t stop once I’ve set my mind on a specific number of tickets!

  6. and a a full schedule of Start and Ozzie’s Crew Activities

    Start Activities Ladram Bay

    The highlight of ‘things to do’ at Ladram Bay, however is the activities. Between the paid for activities run by the Start Team (and by paid for, I mean around £3.50 an activity, not near £10 like a place we visited last year!) and the free activities run by Ozzie’s Crew (the Greencoats) there was never a shortage of something to do.

  7. The kids entertainment is excellent

    Ladram Bay Facilities

    The only way I can really describe the people running these activities is by saying that they were born for these jobs. They were so engaged with the children. They made you feel like you wanted to be there, they wanted you to be there and more importantly, they wanted to be there. They very quickly got to know the children’s names, and used them. They went above and beyond with entertaining the kids, even if we happened on a member of the teams on their lunch breaks.

    These guys (and girls) made our holiday! (Shout out to Greg, James, Lee, Dan & Ryan – my girls normally ‘don’t like boys’ and they loved you guys!)

  8. The accommodation is luxurious and comfortable

    8I can’t speak for all the caravans, but we were blown away by the one we were in. It had more storage space than our house does (I’m not kidding. We have no cupboards.) It is well stocked – I brought a sieve and funnel for my Kefir, but that’s not something most people take on holiday – with everything you need for self-catering, had a microwave, oven, stove and large fridge and freezer (again, more than we have at home!). There was even an airing cupboard (I know you’re imagining my house right now, but yup, we don’t have one of those at home right now either!)  Oh, then there’s plenty sofa space, and a fire place (my house is starting to sound positively grim now – it’s not really), and a balcony with outdoor seating. On and not one, but two toilets. The kids were stunned by this luxury!

    The beds were comfortable, the linen was cotton and pleasant, and the heating was really useful for the first two days once we figured it out.  There’s a reason my two year old wants to go back to the caravan instead of being at home! Oh and a decent sized TV with what I think was Freeview channels.

  9. There’s also a choice of accommodations

    Ladram Bay offers a choice of accommodations, so a large party can sleep in the luxury cabins, or a group of four can  have a budget caravan. You can have a caravan with or without a balcony, or with a jacuzzi on the balcony. Or a touring caravan pitch if that’s your thing. There’s a vast range of choice and related price options. You can use the facilities whether you’re there in a camper van for a night or a static van for six months.

  10. They offer great value last minute deals

    If you’re like me and like to do things on the fly, Ladram Bay’s website is a good one to check for last minute offers. The prices are really reasonable. Off peak they don’t have quite the same number of activities on (i.e Start activities are only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays off peak, if I recall, and the shop has shorter opening hours, but still completely acceptable!)

  11. Ladram Bay has a beach and a forest and a mountain

    I love the beach, but I don’t like lying on it in the sun, so for me having variety is a bonus. There’s a forest you can climb up the mountain to, there’s a mountain you can climb, and there is a beach. I think it’s wonderful having a variety of options so you can please everyone. I took the children rockpooling while my husband climbed the mountain – we were all happy!

  12. You can tick off some of your #50things

    You know we love our National Trust #50things campaign, and on this trip we ticked off explore a cave, hold a scary beast, discover the creatures in a rockpool,  and build a raft and you could also do a few others, like canoe down a river except it would be the sea or if you’re small like mine, the pool.

  13. The staff are happy to be there

    I’ve said this before, but it really struck us: the staff are happy to be there. When I asked Ben, the Pebbles Restaurant manager if he thought that was true, he pointed at the view and said ‘How could we not love working here!’

    I asked a few of the staff what made working there good, and they all said the management really look after them. For example, when they designed the kitchen they specifically opened it up so that the chefs could still enjoy the view rather than being stuck in a windowless box all day. I think that’s awesome.

  14. Ladram Bay StaffThe staff are really attentive

    I’ve mentioned how good they are with the children before, but I was really struck by how good they were in looking after everyone. Even if there were just the three of us in the pool, there were three life guards on duty – and they all seem to rotate position every 15 minutes or so to keep fresh, I suppose. When the pool was really full and the sauna and steam room were being over run by a group of about 20 15 year old boys, it didn’t take long for one of the life guards to stick his head in and make sure all the under 17’s were out quickly. No one is left to run riot, so the holiday isn’t ruined for everyone. I love that.

  15. You can eat decent food on site

    We’ve all bought over priced, terrible food. We accept stale chips, dry burgers and limp lettuce as part of holiday park food. You don’t get that here. We didn’t eat from the take away, but we did visit Pebbles Restaurant twice – read the full review here – and the food was amazing. The children’s options were what I would call standard, and not overly exciting, but the rest of the menu is fantastic. I had the most amazing, locally sourced rib eye steak with melt in your mouth dauphinoise potatoes. It was incredible. And that’s just one of the meals. If we were in the area and not at Ladram Bay, I’d still drop in for a meal!

  16. You can do all your grocery shopping on site

    There’s a little shop on site that stocks pretty much everything you need, though we found the selection of nappies to be on the slim side. There was everything else though, especially if you’re camping and find yourself short of anything. There’s a fab range of food stuff, and fresh food, as well as freshly baked pastries and while they could charge whatever they want, really, we didn’t find the prices to be over the top – it certainly wasn’t worth driving the 15 minutes to Exmouth instead.

    You can also send and receive mail from the Reception if you need to.

  17. There’s limited internet

    There’s communal internet in the Waves Bar, but that was down for two days. There’s also an option to pay for wifi in your caravan. At £20 for one week, it isn’t ‘cheap’ and it didn’t always work well. Vodafone doesn’t get signal all the time, but EE was fine for syncing my laptop to a phone internet. My advice: unless you’re like me and have to work even on holiday, embrace it. Leave the phone and enjoy the time with your family. Forget about the internet. Just spend time.

  18. The whole family is catered for

    We’re a man, woman and two girls under 10 so maybe we’re not the widest demographic to judge by, but I think every age, size, preference, is catered for. There wasn’t a thing lacking the whole week and not once did we think “oh, I wish we could… “

  19. You manage your budget


    One ice cream or one a day, restaurant dinner once or daily, activities once or daily, it’s all up to you. You don’t have to spend more money than you would do at home. Between the beach, pool, soft play, adventure play ground and taking your own bat and ball onto the lawn area, you don’t have to spend money. It’s not like you’re being milked dry at every corner.

    Cook in the caravan, eat at the restaurant, grab a takeaway, it’s up to you.

    Pay for activities, do the free activities, your call.

    You spend what you can afford and you’re unlikely to feel too left out if you don’t do everything

  20. It’s a family owned site

    The site is family owned, and has been for 70 years. They have an allocation of Hoseasons caravans which allows them to ‘compete’ for awards, but for the rest Ladram Bay is family owned and run, and you can feel it. While it has all the hallmarks of a UK caravan holiday site, it doesn’t feel like you’re in a corporate machine.

  21. There’s plenty to do off site

    If you want to leave the site, there’s so much to do in the area. From a historic fishing village called Beer to a fun family day out at World of Country Living you could not spend a single day on site, but that would be a waste – and that’s huge for me to say. Normally I’m all about getting out and exploring, but we had so much fun and were so busy, and yet so relaxed at Ladram Bay we didn’t even want to go off site and even extended our holiday for an extra day – both brand new experiences for us!

To be fair and balanced, I should add a negative, so one thing I would like to see more of is a focus on local food in the shop. The owners of the site also own a butchery, I think, so having a ‘Devon Local Food’ section would be nice. The fresh meat in the shop is delicious, but it could be from anywhere. You can buy local chutney, jam and mustard in the shop too, but again some local produce and local specialities (cheese, for example) would be nice for foodies like me. It would probably just require a change in marketing, rather than produce!

So those are our reasons to visit Ladram Bay. We hope to be back again soon and would love to see you there!

We were given four nights at Ladram Bay for review. Thoughts and opinions were entirely our own. 

Lost Down Under

It may seem like we’ve fallen off the face of the earth, but actually, we’ve been spending a bit of time at the bottom of it. The last five or so months have been a roller coaster for our family as we decided we wanted to do some slow travelling around Europe so that we could keep working, but move our walls and explore some of our world.  A week after giving up our house, however, my husband was told that his job would be ending and then his contract was ended a month early too, so all our plans came to a disappointing and grinding halt. More so because we were set to visit Australia for my brother’s wedding, but with the loss of income we could no longer do it.

Fortunately my little brother has a big heart and he bought four tickets for our family to cross the oceans.  Aren’t I a lucky big sister ?

So, for the last 6 weeks we’ve been bumming around Perth, trying to spend as little as possible – no small feat in December, with Christmas and feeling a little bit holiday-ish.

Like many people around Christmas time, we’ve  spent a lot of time running around:

Perth beach

And a lot of time just trying to keep our heads above water:

Perth Head Above

We’ve been hiding in the shadows:

perth wedding

Watching movies late into the evening:

Perth Movies

Yep, this has been a rather more austere Christmas than we had imagined:

Perth Christmas

And we’re really looking forward to returning to the UK and leaving scenes like this behind us*

Perth beach

P.S. In case you weren’t sure, I’m trying reverse psychology on myself, psyching myself up to leaving Perth!

Going on holiday soon? 

Last Minute.com offers fantastic breaks, getaways and treats on your holiday.
Before your trip, sign up with Groupon.com to find discounted offers while you’re away. We found a dinner and a day trip for our stay in Perth.

365-291 to 365-297 A Week in Pictures

We have been exceptionally blessed this year with trips away and awesome adventures. This week was a perfect example of that as we went from the green winelands and coastal area of Gordon’s Bay in the Cape to the dry, hot bushveld. We had a fab time with my two grandmothers for the first half of the week, then a wonderful time with my parents for the second half.

Day 291 – Mist over the Mountains

Gordon’s Bay is in a half a basin, with the mountains making a ring around the one side and the ocean on the other side. It is simply beautiful, and often protected from the raging wind on the Cape. When the clouds roll over the mountains it is a spectacular sight. Sadly there’s a lot of crime and petty theft still, so carrying around a large camera isn’t a great idea, so most of my pictures when Ameli and I are out on our own are just phone pics.

Gordon's Bay

Day 292 – Penguins

My gran, Ameli and I drove to Betty’s Bay on a windy Cape day to see the penguins. They live in a ‘reserve’, where they are protected, although left to let nature take it’s course. It was beautiful. They are such entertaining creatures.

Betty's Bay Penguins

Day 293 – Great-Granny, Mama and Baby on the Beach

My Granny has featured often in these pages this year. It has been amazing to be able to spend so much time with her. I have been blessed. She has been my best friend for many years, and I have loved watching my daughter grow close to her too.

Day 294 – Play Park

Parks here are a bit different to the ones in the UK and in general not really geared at babies. Perhaps in other areas, but certainly not in this one! It’s all for bigger children. We still had a good time anyway.

Play Park

Day 295 – Welcome to the Bushveld, Baby

We returned from the Cape and the next day went to Dhikololo, a totally different experience, but just as intrinsically African. This is my dad and Ameli. He has wanted a grandchild for many, many years now, so this is pretty awesome for him. And its awesome for me to see them interacting. She’s a lucky girl, with four good men in her life who all love her.

Baby and Grandfather surveying the bushveld

Day 296 – Swimming at Dhikololo

Boy, but it is hot in the bushveld. Too hot even to be in the sun, so we spent many many hours in the in door pool. Ameli learned to go under the water, and she loved that. We would go under and she’d come up clapping! Too cute for words. I’m loving the Kodak Playsport, by the way, with which I was able to take pictures in and under the water. Here’s Ameli and me both closed eyed coming up out of the water, my dad and I under the water, Ameli sitting on the ledge between two pools with my dad and mother, and Ameli under water – smiling. Has to be one of my favourite pictures ever.

My Water Baby

Day 297 – Holiday Living

Another day another dollar, adventure. My dad and I went quadbiking around the game reserve. It was quite slow, but incredibly fun. We found great waterholes and so on that we could return to the next day. Oh, and my dad fed Ameli icecream. Tut tut.

Fun in the Sun

And that’s it from us for this week in pictures. Thank you so much for joining us!

365-284 to 365-290 A Week in Pictures

We had some domestic days, some (horrible, terrible mastitis) sick days and a few great days. We went to visit my grand mothers in the Cape – the part of South Africa most of the world has at least heard of 😉

Day 284 – School Play

I’ve not been to a school play since my brother’s last play about ten years ago, so I felt particularly old when I went to my niece-in-law’s school play. It was good though, with some amazing voices.

Day 285 – Playtime With Nana

My mother collected Ameli and took her to the park for the morning so that I could focus on work. It as lovely to have a little time out, knowing that my daughter was in safe hands. I also loved the photo messages she sent me throughout the morning. It gave me the distinct impression that I was missing out though!

Day 286 – Improper Behaviour

Ameli and I went to visit an old friend I’ve not seen in a few years. We went to a lovely restaurant in a love area with a lovely waiter and lovely tables and really lovely food – and behaved totally inappropriately. Ameli loved the water feature and the fish in it, so instead of letting her simply get soaking wet, I stripped her down and let my little girl play in the water feature. I saw a few raised eyebrows, which raised even higher later when I was breastfeeding her, but she had a great time and was entertained, so that I could enjoy a bit of a social time too.

Day 288 – Gordon’s Bay

This is the beach at Gordon’s Bay where we stayed for almost a week. It’s beautiful. There’s something about those mountains that makes my heart sing every time I get there. I love it.

Day 289 – Granny on the Beach

I took a few sneaky photos of my granny and Ameli on the beach. They’re not the best as they are simply mobile phone photos, but I love them and will treasure them.

Thank you for joining us again for our week in pictures

10 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Money

My husband, nine-month old daughter and I have been travelling around for nine weeks all told this summer. We have camped, stayed in hotels and cabins and for one week, with family. Here are some of the top things we have done to stretch our budget as far as possible:

Read more: 10 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Money

Letter to a Nine Month Old

Dear Ameli

I was just reading through the letter I wrote you last month and it feels like just last week I wrote it, but reading it back now, it seems like you were a small baby then.

I don’t really know where to start with this month. Your great-granny from South Africa came to visit with your uncle from Australia. You smiled at them, but preferred to be with me, at first. It only took a few days, though, and you were as much at ease with them as with Daddy and me. You and Granny got on really well. She whispered to you and you listened closely. She pretended to be the wind and you giggled. She rubbed noses with you and you squealed with glee.

Read more: Letter to a Nine Month Old