Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bobchat - Eyes

On being called upstairs to Harry after bedtime
H - Mummy, my eyes are stopped working
M - What do you mean your eyes aren't working?
H - They not do this (shuts eyes) any more

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Camp Bestival - Family Fun in Threes

I was lucky enough to win tickets to Camp Bestival after entering a competition on Twitter with - we found out on the Monday and that gave us *just* enough time to get together all our camping gear, organise last minute holiday from work (husband not me!) and rearrange our lives slightly to enable us to go. It was fantastic and it was an experience I was so glad to be able to give my two little boys. We are off on a camping holiday in France at the end of the month, so it was great to give camping a trial run too (although, honestly, I hope that none of our pitches in France will be quite as sloping, and I'm also hoping for flushing loos!).

There's so much to say about Camp Bestival - it's such an amazing family experience. There are very few people who go without kids, so you really feel like you are part of one extended family. There's no shushing if your little ones get over excited, there's no tutting if they decide to have a tantrum, and there's always someone on hand with baby wipes if you can't lay your hands on your own. My little ones aren't really the type to run off - but if there were I imagine it would be slightly less stress-inducing knowing that they are surrounded by 'mummies and daddies' who have little people of their own.

In fact, there's so much I could say about Camp Bestival, I'm going to have to reign myself in a little - we could be here until next year's event otherwise! So I've grouped a few of our favourites into 'Top Threes' to give you an idea of the variety of things we enjoyed!

Top Three Experiences
1. Camping
We've camped with Harry before, but it was before he was 2 and I don't think he remembered anything about it. There's something about sleeping under canvas that is so special. We arrived at the camp Thursday evening and there wasn't a huge amount of choice of pitch left - we ended up on the least-sloping pitch we could fine, but it wasn't exactly level. We later found that there were a few pitches closer to the festival that might have been better, but as new festival-goers, we just went with what we could get! The first night saw me moving in with Harry as he was rolling all over the place. This was actually one of the best bits for me - I seldom get to lie and cuddle my biggest boy, and this was the perfect opportunity :-)
2. Festival Feel
This was the first festival for all of us. I suppose it was as we expected - you see festivals on TV and it always looks so fantastic - but you can't really describe the atmosphere when you get there. We were blessed with some lovely weather, especially on Saturday, and the lowering sun behind the flapping flags thronged with happy people is something I will never forget.
3. The Freedom
Seeing our little ones hare around, whilst knowing they were completely safe was wonderful - Archie, who has only been walking for the past couple of months particularly enjoyed the freedom!

Top Three Activities
1. Dingly Dell
With two under 5s, Dingly Dell was a great draw for us, it was a fairy forest full of crafts and story telling - perfect for our little ones. Harry made a wish on the wish tree, and was even enticed into doing some craft! He really wanted to know where the fairies were and why they weren't in their houses and went hunting with a magnifying glass for them. There was also a play park with swings and a slide, which Harry really enjoyed. Archie was entranced by the fiery lights when we visited after dark.
2. Camera Obscura
It seems amazing that in this digital age a Camera Obscura can still be so entrancing. After all, many of us hold devices with the ability to make instant videos in the palms of our hands. However, nothing can beat being in that dark little room observing those outside, who are completely oblivious. If you've never visited one, you must!
3. The Percussion Orchestra
The Royal Albert Hall 'Percussion Orchestra' was a big favourite with the boys, and the way they created a whole piece of music with the little ones was just amazing - all interspersed with some great classic tunes. The boys loved it and so did I!

Top Three Music
1. Proclaimers
Watching our little boys with their Scottish heritage dancing along to '500 miles' has got to be one of the highlights of the weekend :-)
2. Levellers
We weren't sure if we were going to catch The Levellers - a band Ian was keen to watch. We hadn't invested in a trolley and ear defenders like many of the more serious music fans, deciding instead that we would just cut our losses and head back to the tent if we needed to. However, with the little one asleep in the buggy and the big one happy to snuggle on the picnic blanket we were able to catch some of their set, which was great.
3. Ady Suleiman
We caught this guy's dulcet tones as we were finishing up an evening play in the sand pit. We were both drawn in and really enjoyed the end of his set, definitely a great chill out for a summer's evening with a drink in hand.

Top Three Food
1. Mexican
It was a bit tricky thinking of things to buy for our slightly fussy two. We brought enough supplies of cheese sandwiches to see us through lunches, so at least they gobbled that up! However, Nachos were certainly a real hit - although we did fairly quickly scrape off the jalepeno dip. I'm not sure that would have been such a big hit.
2. Churros and Chocolate
What could be better of a summer evening that some tasty, sugary doughnuts dipped in chocolate? Not much, I think - and the boys agreed.
3. Fish and Chips
The food at Bestival was great - it wasn't your usual scuzzy burger van, but high end, delicious and well cooked food. The fish and chips were no exception. Scrummy!

Top Three Souvenirs
1. Programme
The programme was £10, but it was definitely essential. It all came in a lovely bag, which we proceeded to use for snacks and contained an almanac, a handy programme on a lanyard, a colouring book - and, most essentially - a CBeebies magazine - a great hit with H.
2. Guardian Bags
The Guardian were giving away great, brightly coloured canvas rucksacks when you purchased a copy of the paper. They also had a handy kids magazine contained- again, a great idea for some down time for the kids. We couldn't resist getting all three bags. However, with 2 little ones, we're still working on reading all the content!
3. Camp Bestival T Shirt
We couldn't resist buying H a t shirt to commemorate his first festival. We chose the one with the artists names on the back. We were going to get navy (I don't buy white for myself or my children as we have a propensity for getting grubby and my laundry skills aren't up to it) but they'd sold out so we got pink. My boy looks lovely in pink so we were really pleased when we saw it on him. He gets called a girl everywhere we go any way, so a pink T shirt isn't going to make any difference!

Harry's Top Three
1. Dressing Up
Harry's not always the biggest fan of dressing up, but he got into the festival spirit and refused to attend without his pirate outfit! Unfortunately this did mean we lost his little foam sword (woe - it was my fault :-( ) I guess losing things and knowing they are gone for good is a lesson to be learnt and he did quite well bless him, shedding just a few bitter tears.
2. Sand Pit
Without a doubt Harry's favourite place at the festival was the massive sand pit. He spent hours here digging, building and generally getting covered in sand!
3. Bubbles
We loved watching the bubble stand at the festival, especially the smoke bubbles. Amazing!

Archie's Top Three
1. Dancing
Archie grooving away as we listened to the sing a long Jungle Book is a sight I will never forget!
2. Percussion Band
Banging noisily and being ALLOWED to? Win/win!
3. Dingly Dell at Night
Archie was mesmerised by the lights and fire in the Dingly Dell at night. We had to wait in a MASSIVE queue to get in, but it was really worth it.

Friday, 9 August 2013

10 Cheap or Free Summer Activities

Despite not having school age children myself, as a teacher I still have the 6 weeks holiday to enjoy with my gorgeous boys who don't stay in childcare over the summer. What I have found is that a lot of the toddler groups that we would usually attend during term time stop over the holidays, and also some of the places that we may pay to go to as a treat become very busy during the holidays - also, if we paid for them regularly it would soon add up! So here is my list of things we do week to week during the summer - all free or very cheap and great fun for little ones!

1. Picnics
Pretty much every morning I make our lunch whilst the boys are eating breakfast and it gets packed into a coolbag. With two under 5s, it can feel like I spend half my day sweeping up and cleaning in the kitchen - picnics are a fun way to avoid this! We love to visit our local parks - sometimes the large central one, but remember that there will be lots of little play areas hidden around your town, and it can be great fun to discover somewhere new. Try looking on Google maps to spot where there might be somewhere new to visit!

2. The Library
We are lucky enough to have a fantastic library with a huge children's section. We can spend a whole morning there (with a picnic on the way home!) we read, research and join in with any activities they might have - we have a Bookstart 'passport' with which we gather stamps each visit. Our library also keeps running its Rhyme Time sessions throughout the holidays, unlike some of the toddler activities which stop over the summer break.

3. The Museum
Museums have a very unfair reputation of being boring. Remember, you don't have to look at every exhibit, and you don't have to read every plaque. I've found that my 3 year old now asks me questions about the exhibits, and it's great to chat about them. Check out your local museums, ours has a treasure trail, castle, blocks for building, school, fire engine, shop... it's a great place to spend some time and they also run free craft activities for older children during the holidays.

4. Fly a Kite
This comes under the 'cheap', as you do require some materials to either make a kite or some pennies to buy one. A basic one is fine for little ones and they can be got for less than a fiver. Stunt kites are great fun, but rather tricky to get the hang of. Remember to follow all safety advice - find somewhere high, windy and clear of obstacles and give it a go!

5. Water Play
To be honest, my boys don't much like the paddling pool even when it's super hot. Besides, buying a paddling pool isn't exactly 'free', although my 3-ring pool was £3.99. However, water play doesn't have to mean paddling pool. Buckets, pans, plastic cups, bath toys and washing up liquid will all do the job. Set up the water play in an area of the garden that is suffering from lack of rain and your watering is done too! Mine really enjoy sticking foam letters onto the patio doors, giving H the chance to practise his phonic too!

6. Road Trip
I haven't yet done this, but it's on my list of things to do. This will cost you a few pounds, but it's a small cost compared to a day out at an attraction. Find a bus stop and jump on the bus! If you live in a city, take a trip to a different area - or if you're in the country perhaps to the next town. Even better if you have scoped out a new play area/park and have your picnic with you. If your little ones are younger enough you'll just be paying the price of any adults in the party so it shouldn't be too costly. A train trip might cost more but is even more exciting!

7. Field Trip
Give your child a sheet of paper and write or draw some things for them to spot as you take a walk around your local area. Perhaps a spider, a buttercup, some lavender - or for more urban areas a mini, a bus and a motorbike. Your little ones will get a great sense of satisfaction as they find the items and the longer the list, the longer you can keep them entertained for. This is also a fantastic trick for shopping - pictures on a sheet of the things that your pre-schooler can safely grab off the shelves themselves and pop into the trolley.

9. Beginner's Orienteering
Orienteering is perhaps a bit ambitious here, but if you have an older pre-schooler they might enjoy following a simple map (hand drawn or printed off the internet) or directions that you can read to them. Take them on a little journey around the area you live in, using landmarks to help them find their way, do your best to let them take control - they can tick off each step as they follow it.

10. Collections
This can be done in the garden or out and about. You'll need to change the parameters depending on where you are. If you're lucky enough to be near the sea, try collecting shells of a certain type or colour, pebbles or seaweed. In the park, pinecones, flowers and interesting leaves. In the garden you might be able to find beetles and snails (they are easy to return to their home), or perhaps a treasure hunt of some of your child's toys (remember where you've hidden them! We've all tried Easter Egg hunts only to find some of the precious eggs in the undergrowth much later)

I'd love to hear any of your ideas of things to you with little ones below - what do you get up to in the summer months?