Educational, fun and easy ways to inspire children to connect with nature

IMG_6479“Inspiring children to connect with nature” is the strapline adopted by children’s activity subscription box company Mud + Bloom.  It’s definitely an aim we can get behind and the minis were really pleased to be given an April box for review.

As well as educational and fun, Mud + Bloom’s website promises that its monthly gardening and craft activities aimed at ages 3 to 8 will be easy – “The boxes will be delivered to your door with all the seeds and materials needed for the gardening activity – there’s no need for you to have a garden or tools” – but I still worried that I would find some of it difficult to carry out with the minis.

So, when one of the first activity cards I read was “Watch a… Puddle disappear”, I was quite relieved.  Helping children to “see how water turns to vapour and disappears when the rain stops and the sun comes out” and accompanied by a water cycle diagram, the chalks required to draw round the edge of a puddle were included in the box.  It’s a perfect example of one of Mud + Bloom’s tasks – yes easy, educationally effective for both visual and physical learners and with a resource (the chalk) that could be used multiple times for the same task or also in other ways.  I had pictured us going on to make various patterns or drawings whilst waiting for our puddle to shrink but, despite being the month famed for showers and the simplest of the activities, it’s the one that we haven’t yet had the chance to carry out.

The card daddy and Luke started out with was “Grow your own… Wheatgrass”, four compost pellets and a packet of wheatgrass seeds were provided, you just needed to find a small plate to spread and sprinkle them on – “All seeds are certified organic and biodynamic. We also provide organic peat free compost pellets in each box, to enable our subscribers to get planting immediately.”

Next I tackled the craft project “Make your own… Water cycle bracelet” with Luke and Willow.  I loved the idea of this – Luke learns best with physical action, threading is a great fine motor activity, I think the water cycle is a particularly compelling subject due to its various very different states and Willow is always interested in anything involving jewellery – and with Step 7 being “make another bracelet for a friend” there was enough beads and thread provided to one bracelet each (we were gifted a single box but sibling boxes are also available).   The task did seem to very much do the trick with both Luke and Willow recalling what step in the water cycle each colour bead represented as both were firstly threaded and then played with when on their wrists.  The beads supplied for this however were far too small for my minis’ little fingers – Willow did persevere and manage the first bead but then I had to help with all the rest.

As well as showers, April brought us Easter this year and the next card we picked was “Make you own… Batik eggs”.  The idea of this immediately appealed to me again as it reminded me of a previous cyanotype printing activity we enjoyed.  We started by heading into the garden to collect some small leaves, flowers and grasses before wrapping them around some eggs in the muslin cloth provided and then boiling them in a pan with onion skins in.  It obviously sparked Luke’s creative imagination too as he was very quickly coming up with different ideas of what materials we could use to try for different effects.  Whilst we tried getting him to concentrate on following the steps as written for our first go he’d be glad to know that Step 9 is “You can reuse the muslin cloth, should you want to make more!”  Even Faith liked this activity as she got to enjoy the culinary results of this one after we’d finished admiring the aesthetic ones.

A few days later and it was time to scatter the organic Nantaise 2 Milan carrots seeds provided in the box.  We are fortunate to have a garden but they could also have been planted in a deep grow bag, container or pot.  Hopefully in a couple of months we shall have some “sweet and crunchy” orange veggies to enjoy at dinner!

As well as seasonal gardening and crafts the box also include nature news, a quiz and a spotter sheet, all of which have been created by qualified teachers and support the national curriculum with influence from Forest School, Steiner and Montessori education.

For the first time since they’ve been publishing their boxes there was an accidental omission on one of the cards but the benefit of it being a subscription service meant that they were able to contact all their readers to correct it.

Sign up now and your May box will include pressed flower bookmarks, poppies, bark and leaf rubbings, sweetcorn and bee spotting.  If they sell out of May boxes before you have time to click then you’ll start with June’s instead – perfect if you’re planning on joining in with the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild.

You can subscribe from month to month at £9.95 per single box (£12.95 for a sibling box) or commit to six month or 12 months at discounted rates.  Gift subscriptions are also available.

Find out more at www.mudandbloom.com 

*We received the April single box for free in order to review the subscription service.

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#30DaysWild Day 30 – Boris and Betty

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_30When Boris and Betty tweeted the blurb of the first installment of their escapades about a week ago it seemed the perfect book to be introduced to as we neared the end of this year’s #30DaysWild:

BorisBetty“Boris and Betty are spending too much time on their favourite computer game, much to Mummy Bear’s dismay!

“But Mummy Bear has a plan to get her children back outside!

“With some friends popping up along the way, will these twin bears rediscover their love for the great outdoors, or will they be forever glued to their favourite computer game?”

Written by Lee Harris and illustrated by Jordan Brown, the minis were lucky enough for the author to send them a copy to see what they thought of the ursine pair’s excursion into “the world outside our door” and it arrived just in time for the end of the month-long challenge.

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I love the colour tone of the bold, simple illustrations and how Boris’s favourite toy rabbit, that he obviously can’t leave home without, soon spends more time in his mother’s paw than his.

A great importance is placed on rhythm and rhyme in developing early literacy skills but I also find that books written this way can immediately help the reader find an engaging voice for the story when sharing them aloud and, along with an occasional typesetting highlight, it works well in this instance too.

The author is a father of three who has years of bedtime reading experience and was inspired to write Boris and Betty after becoming “frustrated with the current trend of children spending most of their spare time with an electronic gadget in their hand”.  And it’s lovely to note that the twins don’t just find enjoyment in the countryside and active pursuits but also in finding friends to play with too as Daisy Deer and Henrietta Horse make cameo appearances.  (Who doesn’t love a little bit of alliteration too?!)

Fun with friends and camping, playgrounds and kites are definitely topics that meet with the approval of the minis – kite flying was even desperately requested on our last camping trip despite a distinct lack of wind.

“Today has been fab, with lots to explore.
This kite’s amazing – we want to see it soar!

The world is a wonderful, joyous place
We’ve learned to enjoy and start to embrace.”

But, whilst coaxing them outside away from screens isn’t too hard at the moment, I can see a time coming in the not too distant future where it will become more of an issue.  #30DaysWild has proved harder this year due to the demands of the school run which, due to the lack of local school places, sees us confined to the car for each trip as well as truncates our afternoons.  Fortunately Luke’s school has great grounds and takes part in The Daily Mile initiative and Willow’s nursery has lovely outdoor play areas and even animals that they can observe and help in looking after.  But it won’t be too many years before the classroom will swallow a significant part of their day and I don’t like that thought.

It will, however, give me plenty of reasons for keeping Boris and Betty as a staple part of our bedtime reading canon for years to come so we can ensure a yearning to head outdoors as much as possible during weekends and holidays.

And, whilst the bears realistically don’t give up their love for “tablets and gadgets galore” altogether, the tale’s closing couplet:

Now that the bears have begun to discover,
What future adventures will they uncover?

seems to suggest they might have further titles to add to it in the future too.

Find out more at www.borisandbetty.com

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#30DaysWild Day 29 – Decorate a stone

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_29Luke’s school summer fair gave us the opportunity to decorate a stone today and encouraged children to become art ninjas.

“Art Ninjas are a super sneaky fun group of Lincoln people who love making art and love to share it by leaving it for people to find in unexpected places! Art Ninjas aim is to share a smile and spread the power of creativity to connect and inspire the community. No special art skills required just the Art Ninja skills of stealth and kindness.”

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We’ve been lucky enough to spot one or two decorated stones in and around Lincoln in the past few months, now maybe we’ll be able to add ours too.

Click here to find the Lincoln Art Ninjas’ Facebook group.

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#30DaysWild Day 24 – Texture

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_24We enjoyed a lovely hot day out at National Trust property Nostell today.

We were very grateful to whoever decided to put their play area in the woodland’s shade but it was in the sun-soaked garden and meadow of the “18th-century architectural masterpiece” that so many different textures caught my eye.

If your minis like spotting different textures in nature then pop over to Pinkoddy and print out Joy’s Nature Trail Checklist for You and Your Little Ones.  With seasonal as well as all-year-round suggestions, her list includes a smooth pebble, a soft feather and a prickly pine needle.

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Celebration of county offers unique experience for all

Lincolnshire Show 2018 and #30DaysWild Day 21

Tractors and animals were the main two things on the minis’ to do list for the Lincolnshire Show 2018.

Having been in previous years, we considered this highly achievable.  Organised by the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society (LAS) at the Showground just north of Lincoln, the Show has its roots in agriculture and, now reaching its 134th event, it’s still firmly at its heart.

The minis were guests of the LAS for the second day of the event that would see horses, cows, sheep, poultry, bees, pigs and more feature in its rings and exhibition tents.

We had a plan, we had a route.

What we didn’t allow for, however, was the lure of a helter skelter.

To be fair, mummy and daddy had already gone slightly off piste when we happened upon the world famous Red Arrows doing a meet and greet ahead of their aerobatic display later in the day but once we’d spiralled down the fairground ride, been spun around on a merry-go-round and bounced about on an inflatable castle we were well and truly disorientated and just decided to see where their little feet would take us next.

And, whilst the amusements were fun, they were richly rewarded by venturing further afield too.

A laser show meant something interesting for all including our miniest one, the two eldest minis enjoyed their caving experience with Lincolnshire Scouts so much they went round the course twice and daddy enjoyed getting up close to the Checkatrade Trophy that we’d seen Lincoln City FC hold aloft at Wembley in April.

The Schools’ Challenge entries had joined in with the Show’s aviation theme marking the centenary of the RAF and children had made their own aeroplane costumes, air raid shelters and Dig for Victory displays.

Luke and Willow tried their hands at resuscitation with St John Ambulance, examined Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue’s equipment, had a go at table tennis with the Positive Futures team and more sporting experiences with Active Lincolnshire and dug for historic artefacts with Heritage Lincolnshire.

And once they (and daddy) discovered the Lego pit inside Lincolnshire County Council’s tent, promoting the Kingdom Lego Brick Show coming to Lincoln Castle in the summer, they was every chance we’d never have got past that area of the Showground.  Fortunately Willow was enamoured by some 1940s singers so we danced our way out to enjoy yet more including the University of Lincoln tent which offered more hands on activities with Luke and Willow asked to consider what they might like to research when they’re older – Lego and sleep were their choices.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_2130DAYSWILD_ID2 lightgreenMummy just managed to squeeze in a visit to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust tent too for a #30DaysWild activity where, had they not still be uncovering ancient relics with Heritage Lincolnshire, the minis would have found plenty more to keep their busy fingers occupied.  This year the charity’s tent focused on wildflowers and their Heritage Lottery supported project celebrating Lincolnshire’s amazing plants #LoveLincsPlants.

We made it to the land train just in time to stave off any disappointed meltdowns (many thanks to the drivers for letting us on so late) and were dropped off in front of – finally! – the tractors, rounding off the day listening to the marching band in the main ring whilst enjoying rolling down a grassy hill.

We may have only seen some horses, a sheep and a cow from a distance but I think it’s fair to say we had a very full day packed with fun, interesting and educational experiences and left with lots of information on enjoying all our county has to offer all year round.

There is so much on offer at the Show each person will have their own unique experience.  Mummy’s dreaming of the year she can seek out the Lincolnshire gin tents and stroll around the shopping aisles, a year that daddy will be heading straight for the beer tent.  We definitely found out why they say you can’t fit it all in in just one day.  Luke’s school only closes for one day of the Show though, and we’re fortunate in that, so we’ll just have to go again next year instead.

The Lincolnshire Show 2019 will take place on June 19th and 20th.

What do your minis get up to at your county show?  Are We Nearly There Yet?’s Kara’s kids took an alpaca for a walk and watched camels racing on A visit to the Dorset County Show 2018.

#30Days Wild – Days 18, 19 & 20

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_18Day 18 – National Insect Week

InsectWeekDid you know it’s National Insect Week this week?

Celebrating “the little things that run the world” every two years, the week is organised by the Royal Entomological Society.

Find out more at www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk and get your little ones involved simply by going on a minibeast hunt in your own garden or a local park.

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_19 Day 19 – Poppies 

I have been driving past this lovely patch of wildflowers and its bright red poppies every day but today I stopped quickly to photograph them as they’ve been reminding me of 2016’s Poppies:Wave hosted by Lincoln Castle.

If you’re interested in wildflowers then click on Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s project #LoveLincsPlants.

 

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_20Day 20 – Tickle someone with a feather

Today I discovered that doing the school run on the bus isn’t my first choice when there’s an hour and a half to wait for the next service.

Fortunately the bus stop was next to a leafy island and Luke and Willow entertained themselves whilst waiting by tickling each other with feathers and then weaving them into a pine cone to make an art.  Unfortunately the car has to go back to the garage again another day soon…

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#30DaysWild Day 17 – Far Ings Nature Reserve

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_17This weekend is the Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wild Weekend organised as part of #30DaysWild.

We wanted to go to somewhere we haven’t explored before so headed to Far Ings National Nature Reserve to enjoy their open day.

“The chain of flooded clay pits and extensive reedbeds along the Humber Bank” had plenty for mini hands to enjoy from making bird feeders and bee hotels to colouring, plaiting bookmarks, identifying poo, searching for colourful flowers, investigating a nature detective trail and pond dipping, all aided by both knowledgeable and lovely staff members.

And it also gave me the opportunity to take what’s now one of my favourite photos of Luke.

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Find out more about the “diverse landscape made up of reedbeds, meadow and scrub, and both freshwater and saltwater environments”, visit www.lincstrust.org.uk/get-involved/top-reserves/far-ings

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