Sunday, 31 July 2011

Bristol Zoo

The day post wedding we met up with the bride and groom and their 2 beautiful children and went to Bristol Zoo for the afternoon. I love Bristol zoo because it is not too large - you feel you can get your money's worth before the small children get fed up with yet another animal.
This year to celebrate the zoo's 175th anniversary, artists have decorated life-size gorillas and they have been placed around the city for 10 weeks until the 7th September5. We found 6 of them! I would love to go back and hunt for the other!
The highlight of the visit for the girls was a replica lion that wees - E thought that was the best thing ever! I loved the lions, the walk through lemur enclosure, the penguins and the armadillo.  Other highlights included the (busy) kids play area and Splash! (a water-play area). The older 2 and Daddy loved the highwire course - suitable for over (brave) 5s - although there is an additional charge for this. All in all it was a great day out!

I suppose it is a bit expensive (but I find anything with animals is expensive) and some things could do with a lick of paint! But overall the animals looked happy and had nice enclosures (for a zoo).

Friday, 29 July 2011

Hidden Valley Yurts

According to the owners. this is not glamping, but luxury camping - what ever it is it is my kind of camping! Set in the beautiful Wye Valley, hidden from view (and down a 1:4) are the most beautiful yurts (although I base my judgment on a sample of 1). Our yurt was on a large wooden deck equipped with wooden chairs, tables, benches, built in stone bbq's and a chiminea. Inside was a Mongolian day bed (for I to sleep on),2 single futons (for E and G) and one of the most comfy king size beds I have slept in (plus we borrowed a cot for P). The yurt was spacious, clean and very warm (there is a fire you can light but when we did it made it far to warm). There was a communal kitchen (with ovens, fridges, a dishwasher and a large and varied selection of kitchen equipment) and an extremely clean toilet block (which drains into their reed bed). We cooked Pizza (they have a wood fired pizza oven but we decided it would take too long to heat up so we cooked it in the oven) and pasta and had a BBQ. There was a fab stream which the girls spend ages paddling in and building dams (and racing plastic ducks down); a tire swing, a den Tee-Pee and best of all a dog named Tilly! The husband and I enjoyed boules and badminton! I also brought the girls glo-sticks and illoom balloons (balloons that glow in the dark thanks to a tiny LED) which won me some street cred with them (and other children on the campsite). 

It really was a fab place - our only regret was because of the wedding we went to we didn't spend enough time exploring the farm's land - still at least we have an excuse to go back.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

colouring and other downloadable fun

The girls were arguing, it was raining ... what to do for some peace and quiet? - ahh haa colouring! Great for developing fine motor skills -  those small muscle movements that occur in the finger, in coordination with the eyes which are essential for writing (and eating and dressing one's self etc). It was interesting to note E has started to hold the pens in the tripod grip - I have bought triangular felt tips to help with this! but as yet doesn't colour in the lines.

There are lots of free printables to use. Here are some favourites:

lots of favorite TV/film characters etc

cbeebies colouring

more grown up animal colouring

G favourite Starwars colouring in

Mandala colouring in 

All kinds of different book related activity sheets from Walker books

More book activity sheets from Ladybird books

Book plates to colour in based on different authors

The Wimpy kid activity pack is fun if you are a fan

Scroll down for Beatrix Potter character colouring in

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Paultons Family theme park

On the way back home we stopped off at Paultons Family theme park which is just off the M27. The girls had a great time - it is perfect for 2-12s.  I and G went on some roller coasters and big slides. The best was a dangerously fast water slide where you sat in a big boat - even I (and E) went on that so maybe not that dangerous! The highlight for E was Peppa Pig World where there are some lovely rides (including Grandpa Pig’s Little Train, Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Flight, Peppa’s Big Balloon Ride, Daddy Pig’s Car Ride, Grandpa Pig's boat ride and Windy Castle ) and a nice play area based on Mr Potato's playground with some lovely things for new walkers (and old hands) to climb on - but it was busy. Every ride was a 20 minute queue (but this was only in the Peppa Pig bit). The girls enjoyed meeting Peppa and George and looking inside Peppa Pig's House (which is a walkthrough attraction featuring an animatronic version of Peppa's family where using moving limbs and wobbling mouths, the characters play out a short scene about cooking pancakes for breakfast). The food was standard theme park junk so we took a picnic and there was plenty of green space to eat!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Our 1st camping trip

To celebrate my cousins' 18th, 18th and 21st's, they had party in Dorset. So post-party we stayed here - to remind myself why I dislike camping). We hired a soulpad - a pre-erected huge tent. The owners were very friendly; they came round in the evening to ask how the party had gone and brought the kids glo-sticks. Most people were quiet by 11pm (there is a 11pm - 9am quiet time); except the tent near us were talking to about 2am and our girls were up by 7am. In the morning, the girls had a fab time exploring the lakes and woods - finding fairy dens, climbing trees, crossing bridges and loved the freedom to go and explore. The downsides - I hate campsites loos and showers and P didn't sleep so well

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Milton Maize Maze

We went for the afternoon and had so much fun! It really is such good value for money :). We bought tickets on line - but to he honest by the time they had worked out what wristbands we needed etc etc it hadn't saved any time at all when we got there! The maze this year (it changes year on year) is in the shape of the mouse trap game.  If you wish to play the game you have a spinner and then follow certain routes to find bonuses and traps and at the end work out how many corn kernels you have left (if you wish to play it is worth investing a pound for a map - and we still got lost). The children loved the bridges they have offering a vista of the maze. When we were bored of maize they have lots of things extra in the "field of fun"; bouncy castles, inflatable slide, go-karts, crazy golf, tractor rides, trampolines, a mini-maze for the children etc AND a fab farm shop. You would easily spend an afternoon there.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Marvellous marbling

Today Miss I and E did some marbling. I bought some proper inks from Amazon, put a few centimeters of water in a roasting tin and then let the girls lose with the inks. It was interesting watching the process of how deciding how much ink to add, whether to stir it or not and the discussions about why the ink floated on the surface.  They were pleased with the outcomes but I think had more fun doing.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Window crayons

Inspired by this post ( I bought some window crayons from Amazon. The girls loved them and spend a merry 3/4 of an hour writing and drawing on the playroom window. I then spent about an hour cleaning the window - they do come off but if you are house proud these are probably not for you as the window is still a little smeary... but it is great for fine motor development. Writing in unusual places was defiantly motivating for the girls - I think this would be a great way to practise spelling.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Belton House

We drove for an hour and a half up the A1 to go to Belton House - a NT place near Grantham. It is a truly magnificent late seventeenth century house with amazing parkland which stared in the BBC's TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth. We have been before and this time we didn't go in the house as the sun was shinning and there is massives of grounds to explore. There is a formal garden with an orangery, a (small) maze to lose children in, a boathouse and lake (prefect for picnics) and, the best bit for small children, the NT's largest adventure playground - with massive slides, a fort, swings, treehouses and a little train (extra charge). The girls had a lovely time :).

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Magic Potion

What child doesn't like a bit of magic and chemistry often provides a bit of magic. We added some white wine vinegar to a clear bowl (easy to see what was happening), then added a squirt of washing up liquid and some food colouring. We stirred it up and then added a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and watched.
The girls loved the foaming and then couldn't resist stirring it up, mixing and feeling it. They also enjoyed experimenting by adding more ingredients. It was quite interesting to watch them work out what was happening -  both I and G knew it was something to do with the bicarbonate of soda and the vinegar. Miss I worked out something was going on to cause bubbles to be made and this must be due to gas being produced.

For those of you who like your facts ..this happens because the
bicarbonate of soda and vinegar react to produce water and carbon dioxide.

NaHCO3(s) + CH3COOH(l) --> CO2(g) + H2O(l) + Na+(aq) + CH3COO-(aq)

Acetic acid (the acid in vinegar) reacts with and neutralizes sodium bicarbonate (the bicarbonate of soda ). The carbon dioxide that is given off is a gas and is responsible for the fizzing and bubbling during the 'eruption'.

This was great for developing investigative skills (such as thinking about what might happen and trying to explain what had happening by using previous experience).

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Face painting and chocolate cookies

I think face painting is one of the favourite things my girls do .. well in Miss E's case it turns into whole body painting. It has been something they come back to again and again .. spending vast amounts of time carefully decorating their own faces (bodies). Lucky it all comes off in the bath!

Then for snack Miss I made chocolate cookies. She weighed out 125g of butter and melted it. Then in to a bowl she put 75g of soft brown sugar and 100g of granulated sugar. She added the now melted butter and mixed it up with a wooden spoon. Then she added an egg and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and mixed them up. Next she added 125g of plain flour, 25g of cocoa powder plus half a teaspoon of baking powder and mixed it until it was well blended. Then she added 100g of chopped milk chocolate. It is quite a sloppy mixture. Then she dotted pudding spoonfuls on a lined baking tray and baked in the oven at 190 degrees C for about 8-10 minutes. You can tell when they are done as they go cracked on the surface. Then we left on the baking tray for about 5 minutes to harden up and transferred on to a wire rack to cool down.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Write your own story book

Today as bribery for keeping her room tidy I bought Miss I this book. It is perfect for her as she loves to write short stories. The first half of the book offers ideas for how to plan a story, making up characters, different settings etc. Then it gives you different story genres, from a school diary, to a journey through time, an animal adventure etc. Each genre has questions to start you off, wordbanks and some have points to consider. The last bit of the book is Story Writing Toolkit - thinking of good opening sentences, exciting adjectives and verbs etc. She has already written her 1st masterpiece entitled "Rose the lost Kitten"!.