Bonkers about Conkers

It’s that time of year when the ripe seeds from the Horse Chestnut tree fall to the ground.  The conkers are encased inside a green spiked capsule, which are attached to the branches of the tree. When the spiky capsule begins to turn brownish in colour they fall to the ground. It’s a sign that Autumn is on it’s way.

My youngest has never really been that into conkers, that is until this year and he has absolutely gone bonkers for conkers! Collecting well over 400 of them; with the help of friends.

Wherever we go: on the way to school, to the park, to football practice or walking to the shops, he is always on the lookout for a conker. When we get home he empties his school bag, trouser pockets and even his lunch bag and places them into his growing collection.

With so many conkers I asked him what he wanted to do with them. His reply was just that he wanted to collect them and see how many he could find.

I know conkers are, apparently, good for keeping spiders away if placed in the corner of the room. So I think we will be safe for a while from our eight legged friends.

Apart from the obvious of playing conkers we decided to get our craft heads on and do something a little different with what we had. We made conkers paintings and snail conkers.

Conkers paintings are really simple but can get quite messy.

You will need :

  • Conkers
  • A tray
  • Paper
  • Selection of paint

Place the paper into the tray. Then add in the paper and squirt some poster paint around the paper. Place some conkers on to the paper and now the fun and messy part. Start to shake the tray so that the conkers roll around in the paint leaving a coloured trail behind them.

About to roll
Finished picture

Conker snails were so much fun

You will need:

  • Conkers
  • Paint pens or acrylic paints
  • playdough

First we made up our playdough. We added in chocolate powder to give it that earthy colour. My son loved making the playdough as he likes to get messy and it’s really good for the children to practice their measuring and motor skills.

Then, we decorated the conkers with the paint pens, we used my posca pens but you can get cheaper versions which are just as good. Once the conkers were dry we moulded the playdough for the snails body and placed the conker on top for the shell.

Aren’t they just so cute!

You could even hide the snails around your local park for other children to find or even just the decorated conkers ( just like the rock decorating craze)

As a child, I used to love playing conkers with my friends and big brother. It was something that my parents had taught me. Who had the strongest conker? There were even methods that you could use to strengthen your conker; keeping a conker for a year, baking, soaking, boiling in vinegar, or painting with clear varnish. Nowadays, children don’t seem to want to play the simple, but fun games that we played when we were younger.

Conkers is a game that could dates back as far as 1821. To score in Conkers you must break the opponent’s conker to gain points – you can score when you are attacking or defending. If strings become entangled the first player to shout ‘strings’ gets an extra turn.

I have not given up on introducing the boys to the game, as I know they will just love it as much as I did.

All ready for a game of conkers

But, this activity is for another day 🙂

 

 

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Learning Outdoors: Free Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack

Having my own children and especially working within a school has made me realise that keeping children on task at such a young age can be difficult, it is hard to keep children engaged especially those with a short attention span. Taking lessons outdoors can engage children keeping them motivated. The experience of an outdoor lesson becomes more memorable and at an early age children learn through play.

The Forestry commission have launched a free downloadable Gruffalo Pack for teachers, full of activities based around the popular Julia Donaldson story The Gruffalo. Aimed at Early Years, Foundation stage and Key Stage 1, the activities are designed to be taken outdoors, aiming to encourage children to explore the nature world in the forest. All the activities have been designed to be used outdoors, in your local woods, park or school grounds.

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“Following Forestry Commission, England’s research, 83% of teachers said they’d would like to participate in more outdoor learning if it was more accessible. FCE looked at what prohibited teachers from teaching in the woodlands/ forest and how they could overcome these barriers to increase the ability of schools to teach outdoors when they wish to do so. The result, The Gruffalo’s teachers pack”

The Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack aims to teach learners about forests and how they are looked after for the benefits of people and wildlife. It has 4 sections:

1. Introduction: Scene setting

• This section will enable learners to get to know the Gruffalo story, the characters and the forest environment.

2. Programme 1 – Explore and discover the forest

• EYFS – Understanding the world; Mathematics;
• Geography KS1 – geographical vocabulary; geographical skills; place knowledge

3. Programme 2 – Design, make and evaluate

• EYFS – Physical development; Expressive arts & design
• Design & technology KS1 – design, make, build, evaluate

4. Programme 3 – All about animals

• EYFS – Understanding the world; Communication and language
• Science Year 1 – animals, humans, senses

Each section is full of ideas and tips and set out as a lesson plan that you can follow. Each section has a conclusion at the end, what you have investigated and what you have learned about living things. Covering areas of EYFS, curriculum linked. In each programme there are ideas on what you can talk about and also hands on activities. They are easy to follow and full of information, you will also receive the activity sheets to go along with each activity.

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The benefits of outdoor learning

  • Taking lessons outdoors engages and motivates children
  • Makes the learning more real by putting the subject into a context that they can grasp
  • Nurtures creativity and the imagination
  • The experience becomes more memorable, it becomes a hands on lesson
  • All children benefit from the lesson regardless of language, SEN and level of learning
  • Aids personal and social development
  • Being outside, children become more aware of the environment around them.
  • Widens their vocabulary and becomes more confident
  • Engages children with a short attention span

After reading the story to children in school and my own children, we took to the outdoors to make a story map of the Gruffalo. We followed the hands on activity from programme 1, to explore and discover the forest. The curriculum links for this part are mathematics and understanding of the world and it covers KS1 geography. We had to find a flat area and by using 4 big sticks make a frame. Using natural materials that were found from within the surroundings, we recreated the map.

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The stone is the mouse. Turn left and you reach the Fox’s underground home, go straight up and you come to the Owl’s tree, turn right and then you at the Snake’s logpile house and then comeback down to the Gruffalos cave.

We used twigs that had fallen to the ground, moss from the floor, leaves, bark from the trees and stones.

The children loved running around and working together to create their map. They were engaged and worked as a team, discussing what they should look for and what should represent the items in the story. As they were creating the map they retold the story how they remembered it, becoming familiar with the scenes and the forest around them.

After we had made the map we then went on the look out for any signs of the gruffalo and the other characters.

Learning about the forest and the environment becomes so much easier if you could explore it.

To get your paws on the Gruffalo Teacher’s Pack visit http://www.forestry.gov.uk/gruffaloteaching

We was sent a copy of the pack and the book for the purpose of this review.

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Calling all Pirates and Princesses! All aboard the Lolli-Rodger

OOh Arrgh! Me Hearties! I’s have some amazing Lollibop news for yous all, come a little closer and listen up!
On Sunday 6th July, Lollibop will be presenting – Pirate and Princesses on The Lolli-Rodger!
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Families are invited to set sail on an amazing Pirate and Princess adventure down the Thames with fantastic children’s entertainers Sharky & George. Follow the treasure map and learn the ropes to become the fiercest pirate on the seven seas of the most enchanting princes in the kingdom.
There will be two 90 minute sessions (11 – 12.30pm or 1 – 2.30pm) starting from Butlers Wharf all the way to Westminster Bridge.

There’ll be:

  • Treasure clues
  • Pirate hat and eye patch making
  • Princess tiaras and wand decorating
  • Foam sword decorating and battles
  • Treasure Island, Pirate treasure chest
  • Water bomb canon ball catapulting
  • River bank pirate spotting (waving flags with answers to clues)
  • Awesome Pirate Princess Face Painter

Parents can hang out in their own bar with some pirate punch and an old sea shanty to keep ’em company, whilst the whole day rounds off with a rollicking kids disco on the high seas, DJ’ed by our very own Wooden Eye Willy

The Lolli-Rodger is just a little taster of what’s to come in August at Lollibop festival.
Tickets are now on sale with Ticket Master at a price of £10 each: http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/36004CC9D9744B66
This news is brought to as we are official lollibop ambassadors
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Combe Haven Where Dreams Are Made #review

As a family we love to go on caravan holidays in the United Kingdom and we have been to quite a few Haven Holiday Sites in the past but have never stayed at Combe Haven until a few weeks ago when we visited the site for the weekend. As a Haven Ambassador we was invited along to Combe Haven to experience the holiday site and what it had to offer

What makes a holiday for us:

  • Good evening entertainment
  • A good selection of play areas that are safe to play in
  • Excellent tasty, healthy food
  • Comfortable accommodation
  • A nice size swimming pool
  • Location and setting of the park
  • Day time activities
  • A clean picturesque park

We was booked in for the weekend, arriving on Friday and departing on a Sunday but due to work we would have to leave on Sunday evening!

Combe Haven is roughly 62 miles away from where we live In London and even though we drove down on a Friday (leaving at 5.00) we arrived in good time, only taking us 1 hour and a half to get there. The park was easy to find as we put in the postcode into our satnav, although we did nearly miss the entrance as the site is just off of a residential road. Driving through the gates we were directed to a car park where we could park the car and walk just a short distance to the reception where we would pick up out keys to the caravan. The ladies in the reception were friendly and offered us lots of information, including a welcome pack, an entertainments guide to what was on and a map on which we was shown where our caravan was (lucky for us not too far from all of the action)

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The caravan that we was in was a prestige caravan, located in valley view, we couldn’t park outside of our caravan (which is something that we would have liked to do) but the car park was only a short walk away and there are pavements to walk on that take you from the car to your van.

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The caravan had a picnic bench just outside near the door, on a patio, which was perfect to sit down and enjoy a spot to eat and drink and look out to the views across the valley.

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The caravan was wide and luxurious (i do believe that it was a new version) it was very spacious and stylish with lots of lovely interior fixtures and fittings. At the front of the caravan there were two big wide doors that opened up, which was lovely to have open on the last day when the sun was shining.

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All of the rooms were light and airy and the furnishings were modern. The caravan was fully equipped with everything that you would need to make your holiday comfortable, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, gas fire in the lounge, central heating through out, TV and DVD player, bed lined and pillows are provided with the beds already made upon arrival, microwave and a lovely big fridge freezer. The caravan really was special and definitely home from home.

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Once we were unpacked and the boys had a game of hide and seek in the caravan, something that they always do when we first arrive on a holiday, we sat down and had a look at the entertainments guide. Dad and Jak were very happy to see that Karaoke was on Friday and Saturday evening so we all got changed and walked the short walk down to the entertainment complex.

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We walked past an outdoor multi-sports court, a lovely little play area set within sand and the outdoor pool, which may i add that the bowl slide looked amazing.

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We were a bit hungry so we sat down in the Mash and Barrel and ordered a family combo to share and an extra plate of chips, we had to wait 15 minutes for our order so i took the boys next door into the live lounge where they showed off their dance moves until it was time to go back for some food.

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Family Sharing Combo Tower £13.35
Prawn and filo twists, barbecue chicken wings, lightly
dusted calamari, crispy whitebait, potato wedges with
melted mozzarella, rustic garlic bread and tortilla chips;
served with sour cream, sweet chilli and barbecue sauce

We had a mini feast and it was enough to fill our bellies up. You don’t have to eat at the Mash and Barrel as there are other places to eat like Papa Johns Pizza, Burger King and a Spar shop that is open daily, stocked with lots of food at generous prices.

We made our way down to the Saxon Bar where the karaoke was, this is also the place where the indoor soft play area is and the bowling alley. While dad and Jak enjoyed a good sing song I sat down and watched the younger two boys playing in the soft play. It is advised that the area is for under 6 only but on a few occasions it was missed by the arcade attendant that some of the older children had got into it, once informed by other parents he was soon over throwing them out of the area. The soft play is quite small but ideal for the younger ones.

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Jak singing on the karaoke

We love the idea of a Karaoke, sometimes we have visited other parks and although it was on the entertainments guide they never had it, Dad and Jak love to sing so it kept them busy for a while. It was a late night for us and we all attired back to the comfort of our caravan for a peaceful night sleep. Oliver had been provided with a bed guard (which can be hired from the site for a price) he chose to sleep in a bedroom with Joseph, Jak had his own room and Dad and I had the luxurious double bed at the back of the caravan which had an ensuite toilet.

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Bradley and Rory getting comfy for the night
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hahhh!

After a very comfortable nights sleep (even Oliver slept through) we woke all fresh ready for the day ahead. We had a sport and splash activity pass which we could book onto 6 activities with, there is a full list of activities that you can book here With a selection of fun sports to choose from like roller blading, archery, fencing, pool party and Aqua gliders, it wasn’t easy for the boys to choose what to try out.

They eventually opted for aqua gliders, rollerblading (which is 2 for 1) aqua jets, turbo paddlers and fencing

Their favourite fun and games activity by far was the rollerblading disco, it was their first time at it and yes we did have lots of tumbles but it was all fun. All i could hear was the boys giggling away at each other when the other fell over. The rollerblading along with the fencing, archery and easy gliders are all set in an indoor multi sportsdrome, which brought back memories for Paul as he been here as a child and he remembered the rollerblading with his friends. With the music pumping and the lights flashing, the roller disco was a hit with all ages, it certainly was a very memorable 45 minutes. The boys came away with a few bumps and bruises and a fabulous memory that they won’t be forgetting (maybe just like their dad, they will return when they are older to sample the roller disco again)

Jak really enjoyed the aquajets and Joseph liked the aqua gliders, each activity lasted for 30 minutes and they were something that they had never done before, so it was great seeing them sample new things. Joseph did two activities in a row in the water and the only problem was after having lots of fun on the aqua glider and then going on the turbo paddlers, he found it a little boring as they didn’t go as fast as the gliders and you had to move the handle to turn the wheels, the faster you pedal the further you go in the water. He was quite cold from being splashed by the lifeguards with water and i think that he maybe lost some of his energy as he decided to get out of the pool early.

All of the activities need to be booked in advanced from the swimming pool reception, some activities have an age restriction on them but are available from the age of 4 upwards. A level 1 activity pass costs £40 for 6 activities and a level 2 pass costs £75 for 12.

Oliver is only 2 so he couldn’t join in on any of the activities so we took him to Rory’s adventure playground, this play area is amazing and the children could spend all day in there without getting bored, with so much to do and play on.

There was also many activities planned by the funstars throughout the day and into the early evening, like Z-stomp, Puppet show, imagine with Anxious, but as we only there for two nights and one full day we didn’t have time to experience them, although the boys did participate in an arts and craft session where the children got to make a hat from the materials provided by the funstars and once done they were all invited to stand up on stage to show them off to the adults.

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There was some very creative hats (which i’m sure the parents did), 3 winners were picked for creativity and colour and of course it had to be a Frozen hat that won lol, who doesn’t like Frozen! My boys enjoyed getting messy with glitter and glue and Oliver learnt how to use a pair of scissors correctly (he just cut everything up)

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In the evening we had dinner in the Mash and Barrel, we chose to eat from the Curry buffet that was on special that evening

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Chicken Korma, Chicken Tikka, Madras, Vegetabke curry and Pilau rice

The food was lovely but not spicy enough for me, although perfect for the boys.

To sum our weekend away in this post has been hard as we did so many things and there was so much more that we didn’t get to explore on the park and participate in, like pitch and putt, nature trails, outdoor multi-sports court

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We will definitely be returning to this site in the future, especially in the summer so we can get to sample that brilliant outdoor space bowl, the park is clean and the staff are friendly and helpful.

We came away from our mini holiday with some special memories, want to know more about this holiday park or other Haven sites? Take a look at www.haven.com

The price of our 3 night break costs £254.50 which was in May Prices will vary throughout the year and you will be looking at paying roughly between £750-£1100 for a weeks holiday depending on the standard of accommodation during the Summer holidays.

We was supplied with a weekend away, including the activity pass and £4o vouchers to spend in the restaurant for the purpose of this review. We was invited along as we are Haven Ambassadors. All pictures and opinions are of our own.

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Crafting with Yellow Moon; Finger Puppets and Christmas Wreaths

As being part of the Yellow moon blogging community we are extremely lucky to receive special packages from them, the boys and myself loves these type of packages as they are full up with crafts. As soon as a parcel arrives they are quickly opening up the box to see what is inside and deciding what they are going to use and make.

last week we received:

Winter Card & Paper Value Pack (pack of 100) £5.99

Snow Pals 4 Piece Stationary Set (pack of 3) £3.95 £1.99

Christmas Feathers (14g bag) £2.50

Christmas Glitter Pom-Poms (pack 100) £2.75

Pearlised Sparkle Acrylic Deco Pens (pack of 5) £9.99

Mini Glue Dots (box of 300) £2.99

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The little stationary sets are ideal for little presents or to add in to your child’s pencil case, Joseph loved the set and now keeps it in his bedroom next to his secret diary 🙂 easily accessible when he needs to add some information into his diary. Joseph also uses it for his homework, he really enjoys having his own stationary set to use. I have taken the other two into work with me ready to give away as prizes to the children at their Christmas party, I know that they are going to love them!

We used the colourful card to make a Christmas Wreath, I cut out a circle with a hole in the middle from the green card and then Oliver got to the fun bit, sticking! He stuck on some of the feathers and pom-poms, to make it look all Christmasy and it is now hung up in our livingroom for all to see.

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Jak has recently learnt how to do origami in school and he also has a book on it, he used the paper to fold up and make finger puppets. He made all types; Superman, big ones, little ones and even a little Santa. My favourite one was Superman, the boys spent ages playing with them and jak has even made some for his friends.

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He used some of the small pom-poms for the eyes and a feather for the hair. The mini glue dots were easy for him to use and also less messier than pva, the eyes haven’t fallen off yet so they must be held on quite firmly.

Their are lots of colours to choose from in the card & paper pack including silver and gold which is a favourite of my boys as they always like sparkly stuff, but as it is Christmas they just stuck with the green and red colours.

The pearlised  sparkle deco pens were a personal favourite of mine and Jak’s although i must admit I have sneakily hidden them at the back of my drawer so that the boys don’t get them. The pens comes in two different packs, each with different shimmery colours in them, the pack we received had Silver, Gold, Red, Blue and Green. each pen is filled with a water based acrylic. They can be used on just about anything such as card, paper, wood and glass. I decorated a small jar for Jak’s Christmas present and filled it with his favourite sweet; yellow bellies.

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With a little bit of ribbon round the neck it will make a perfect stocking gift for him. As the pens are water based you don’t have to push down on them too hard, but the good thing is they don’t take too long to dry 🙂

For all your Christmas crafts or any type of crafts, check out www.yellowmoon.org.uk

I was sent these products for the purpose of this post

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