Half Term Break

Good morning!!  A little cheeky Friday morning post to just let you know there will be no new blog posts published next week…….it is half term in the UK, and although our trio have their week off the following week (sportlov) we have solid holiday bookings from Sunday to Sunday with friends and family from the UK next week (it’s going to be a very tight change over day on Thursday!!)  We will be back with the next blog post on Tuesday 20th February, and although my three will be enjoying a week off school, normal blogging will be resumed amongst our adventuring.  In the meantime I will leave you with a few snapshots of the fun we have been having the past few weeks with the snow (and very cold temperatures hovering around -10 for a few days), and some gorgeous Swedish scenery 🙂  We will still be around on Instagram (I post a daily photo of our fun or of Sweden) so you can follow what we get up to on there, and don’t forget if you want to follow us on Facebook (here you can catch up on old posts), Twitter, or Pinterest, just click the links and go ahead and follow (or click the icons on the sidebar of the blog).  Have a lovely week whatever you may be doing!!

What Is Nature Based Learning – Tips To Get Started

What is nature based learning?  Nature based learning is a form of learning and development via the immersion in nature, which also has underlying conservation values as well.  It develops a life long connection to the natural world for the children, and puts nature at the centre of their learning.  I will go into the benefits of nature based learning another time, and you can find ideas for nature based learning here, but today I just want to give an overview of what nature based learning entails. 

Many authors have helped increase the awareness of the fact that children should be in the outdoors as much as possible.  One of my favourite reads about this topic is Richard Louv’s “Last Child In The Woods”, you can check out my other favourite outdoor reads here. In addition to this, the popularity and provision of things such as Forest Schools and Nature Preschools have also increased.

As a previously home schooling mum of three, we chose to base our learning around nature as much as possible, and I saw the benefits with their enthusiasm which then naturally lead to better and more fun learning experiences.  Nature draws most children and excites them to learn.  We would either learn about specific nature based topics, or we used nature as an accessory to another learning topic.  However, you will find that nature topics use a range of educational skills that are needed for their learning development.

What is Nature Based Learning & Tips To Get Started:

  1. Get outdoors!!  Take all subjects into the great outdoors.  Think of the outdoors as your classroom.  Be committed to getting outdoors in every season (however brief depending on your climate extremes!!), and invest in good outdoor gear to achieve this 🙂
  2. Nature props:  If you can’t be outdoors, bring nature indoors with you, and use it as props to aid your learning, still basing your subject around the presence of nature.
  3. Immersive experiences: Provide experiences which can be immersive and very hands on.  One of the main principles about nature based learning, and why it is so effective, is because of the interaction children are having with nature.
  4. Environmental activities: Taylor your learning activities with your local environment in mind, and change the types of environments you are visiting too, to broaden the experience.
  5. Pace setting: Let your child set the pace….don’t hurry or rush them.  Allow them time to explore and ask questions, and the direction the learning takes may even change!  It’s absolutely fine to have a plan, but allow for it to change and be encouraged by the learning that happens due to having the flexibility to do this.  

Good Resources For Nature Based Learning:

  1. A Nature Curriculum:  The nature curriculum we have used is, “Exploring Nature with Children. A complete, year-long curriculum”. It is a beautifully written framework, written by Raising Little Shoots, and can be found over at https://raisinglittleshoots.com/ It suggests a topic for the week, and then provides some background information and suggestions for nature journaling and outdoor exploring. It also provides a comprehensive suggested reading list (fiction and non-fiction) for each week, plus a poem and a piece of art to study. There are extension activity ideas too. We used the topic as the theme for our week, and followed the ideas for our journaling, and one fiction book.
  2. The Almanac:  This is a yearly guide (so we are now using “The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide to 2018” by Lia Leendertz) that connects you to the months and seasons of the year through activities such as exploring the night sky, foraging, feast days and seasonal eating, and a few other subjects too. 
  3. Spotter books are a good place to start when exploring an environment, and can help identify what you are looking at as well.
  4. Forest Schools are springing up all over the place.  If your child is school aged or not home schooled (so you can’t attend this on a weekly basis), they very often have weekend/holiday activity days as well.
  5. There are lots of books out there as well for background reading about what is nature based learning.  I have already mentioned that I have written about my favourites  in another blog post 🙂

What is nature based learning in terms of how much or how little?  The great thing about nature based learning is that you can do it as much or as little as you want.  You can either take on a few learning activities or craft ideas, or you can immersive yourselves and your little ones into it completely and base their whole learning experience on this method.  You can pick and mix to find the balance that works for you, your children, and your family as a whole.

In the future I will write about the benefits of nature based learning, and nature based learning ideas, but in the meantime you can check out our  Nature Based Learning Category  for inspiration.

What is nature based learning - tips to get started, tips for nature based learning, nature, outdoor classroom, nature curriculum, forest school, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Inspiration Wednesday – Winter

Inspiration Wednesday - Winter, Quote, Quotes, inspirational quotes, motivational quotes, winter quotes, winter, nature quotes, nature, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Skåne’s Outdoor Viking Museum – Fotevikens Museum

Over the summer holidays, I took the trio over into Skåne county for a camping adventure.  While we were there we visited a fantastic outdoor viking museum, called Fotevikens Museum.  The viking museum is an open air museum, which is depicting how life could have been in a viking village.  It is so good for the children and their imagination because apart from usual exhibits, they have reconstructed a whole viking town, showing various different buildings.  As is common here in Sweden, a great importance is placed on being able to interact with the museum and exhibits, therefore climbing up stairs, exploring inside the buildings, and picking up exhibits to examine, is encouraged.  A perfect way for children to learn and remember their experience.

 

We arrived for when it opened, although as we have found over the past year of living here, nothing really seems to get too busy!  However, I wanted the children to be able to bimble around at their own pace, and not feel rushed.  I paid 110 sek for me (just over £10), and 40 sek (around £3.60) for the little lady, and my 5 year old twins were free.  I get quite excited about reasonable entrance fees to places, as to take a family of 5 anywhere usually costs a small fortune!  The children excitedly headed into the viking museum village under the town wall and through the gates, the village’s protection.

We saw and explored a lot of differing types of buildings.  There was a blacksmith’s, a poultry house, tanner’s home, the guard tower (which we climbed to the top of several times to enjoy a stunning view), fishery cottage, a smokehouse, lawman’s home, town hall, weaver’s house, and a baker’s home and bakery.  Not only could we explore these buildings in the viking museum, but there were people dressed authentically, working away in their respective trades.  So, for example, at the bakery they were baking various goods and you could taste them too.  If people didn’t have a trade, they were going about their village life…chopping fire wood, making clothes, or maintaining homes.  There was even a “punishment area” complete with stocks, and a post with neck weight and chain.
The trio had such an amazing time, full of questions, and letting their imaginations run riot!  I would really recommend this viking museum as a place to visit if you are ever over this way in the world 🙂 Even after living here for nearly a year, I am still amazed by the Swedish attitude that children should be allowed to touch, feel, and climb over everything.  Of course this is by far the best way for them to get the most out of an experience and create memories, but it is such a refreshing change of attitude to be able to live with on a daily basis!

Fotevikens Museum, viking museum, outdoor museum, vikings, skane, sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Valentine’s Day – A Family Alternative

 

Last year, for the first time, I tried an alternative Valentine’s Day idea….I made it more about family (well Dadda was still at work, but it included the children!), and we headed out to an island with an amazing view for a sunset picnic.  With sunset still occurring early enough during the winter, there is no danger of missing bedtimes 😉 !!  So what better way to celebrate Alla Hjärtans Dag (Valentine’s Day) than with a sunset picnic.  We lit a fire in the fire pit to keep us warm, we watched the sky change through a rainbow of colours, we listened to the bird song as they started to roost at dusk, we got to see a few murmurations, and we got to see the stars come out and spot a few constellations.  It was only -2°C, there was no wind, and this sunset picnic was a perfect end to the day 🙂

Some Simple Food Ideas For A Valentine’s Day Picnic:

The last thing you want to be doing for your Valentine’s Day picnic is going all out with the food so you can’t enjoy the experience and magic of the moment as well.  You need to keep it themed but simple.

  • For our sunset picnic I had made heart shaped sandwiches (using a biscuit/cookie cutter).
  • I served these with a side order of jam croissants.
  • They were accompanied by heart shaped Swedish biscuits (pepparkakor).
  • For drinks we had a flask of hot chocolate and a flask of hot squash.

I had also taken a table runner and a nice candle (that would stay lit outdoors!) to make it a really special cosy sunset picnic. I wouldn’t normally be quite so extravagant with extras outdoors, especially as I usually have to lug it up some hill!  I completely forgot their fruit (bad mummy moment!!) but I did totally remember the marshmallows 🙂

With the fire lit (we didn’t need it to cook for once, but it added warmth and awesomeness to the experience), we needed to put it to good use toasting some yummy marshmallows.  Always a favourite.  The stars were starting to come out by now and Venus was shining brightly.  The children were trying to get snowballs to reach the sea, and we were treated to huge murmurations of birds.  Eventually it was time to dampen the embers and head off, but everyone was very chilled and happy having had their sunset picnic outdoors, listening to and watching a natural spectacle or two 🙂  What better way to experience Valentine’s Day together?!

Valentine's Day - A Family Alternative, Family Valentine's Day, Sunset picnic, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Renovation Bay-Bee

Inspiration Wednesday – Children’s Health

Inspiration Wednesday - Children's Health, Children's Health, outdoors, nature, nature play, outdoor play, quotes, quote, inspirational quote, motivational quote, www.mammasschool.co.uk

This month I have done the first of 12 monthly simple lists to help you get your Vitamin N with your little people.  Have a read and get some February outdoor inspiration .  Don’t forget to head back at the start of each month to check out the month’s new list 🙂

Get Your Dose Of Vitamin N – Monthly Outdoor Activity Lists

Any form of getting children into the outdoors is a good one.  Whether it is a gentle potter around the back garden, a good old hike for older ones across the countryside, if it is for 5 minutes or 5 hours, the benefits can still be reaped.  As the author Richard Louv famously suggests, we should be using vitamin N (N for nature) as treatment for nature deficit disorder. 

However, we also know that, especially during these darker, damper, winter months, it can be extremely hard to drum up the enthusiasm to head outdoors and do everything that getting out there entails. I will be the first to admit it is blooming hard work convincing three small people that they really do want to go out, and then shoehorning them into various weather proof outfits.  That is why each month, at the start of the month, I will add onto the freebies page, a monthly list of 10 activities you can do to help inspire you to head out there for your dose of vitamin N with your little, or not so little, people.  These are some of the things I do with my three to give me some direction and an aim for getting them out there, which often helps everyone’s frame of mind.

The aim behind the ideas for getting vitamin N is that they are all very simple so shouldn’t put you off, and if you need a little more convincing about the ideas where mud is involved head over and have a read as to why mud and dirt are worth all the extra effort 🙂  Vitamin N can be achieved without sitting in the middle of a forest, wild camping, and hunting for your supper!!  It can be achieved by just stepping outside your front door (or back door), onto whatever awaits you out there.

I hope through these activities you make a lot of happy memories, have fun together, and enjoy being outside.  If you need more information about an activity, I have blogged about doing most of them, so if you type in a few keywords in the search box, you should then be able to get some more information, or see what we have done in the past.

Let me know how you get on in the comments below for each month, I will love hearing about your experiences.  You can also share your experiences on social media too, it will give others ideas and I can keep up with what you are all doing.  Use the #fridayoutdoorfun on your instagram  photos, and don’t forget to join in with our Friday outdoor fun thread (every Friday). And if the children have got mucky, then join in with our Mucky Mondays thread (every Monday) over on Facebook .

Photo credit Tom Pitman Photography

Just subscribe to the blog and you will receive an email with the password for the freebies page, and then you are all set to access every month’s new ideas by clicking on the month’s thumbnail in the freebies tab.  Have fun!!!

Get Your Dose Of Vitamin N, Vitamin Nature, Nature, outdoors, February Outdoor Activities, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Cost Of Living In Sweden – Risk & Reward

When we first heard about the possibility of moving to Sweden, there was a lot of research we needed to do.  One of the main things to look into was the cost of living in Sweden.  It is OK to think you need a certain income coming in, but how would the cost of living in Sweden compare to the cost of living in the UK.  We researched as best we could from a distance, and in a very short space of time.  However, since hitting the ground here (running!!), there are a few things we now know about a lot better, so I thought I would put together some main points and differences about the cost of living in Sweden.

Housing:

There is no doubt about it, you can get a lot more for your money here than back in the UK.  Yes, prices around the main cities can be comparable to ours in the UK, but once you move only a few km’s away from there the prices drop significantly.  Whereas in the UK, you can live a good distance from a main town and still be paying a lot for very little (and yes we did used to live in the south of England so prices were also higher there).  We now live around 15km from a big town with amazing transport links in and out, considering it is a Swedish island too.  We have what can be called a proper garden, not a postage stamp.  This was an amazing bonus point for the cost of living in Sweden, as it was by far our biggest outgoing.

Home Insurance:

This seems to be around double what we would have paid back in the UK for a similar sized home, with contents.  I am not sure if it is because we are living in a wooden house now (the insurance comes complete with free fire extinguisher), but this is a cost that needs to be borne in mind when budgeting.

Groceries:

I have found a weekly shop for 5 people roughly balances out, but if you are big meat eaters you need to budget more for this household expenditure.  We have one vegan in the home and I tend to eat that meal too, and the children get a main meal at school every day, so we do not buy meat so much for everyday use.  Expect to pay double for meat than you would in a standard supermarket in the UK.  Cheese is also another constantly pricey item.  Otherwise most things are comparable in price.  You get the odd randomly higher priced item; raisins, washing powder, and hot chocolate are a few! But generally, our outgoings on food are very similar.  I was pleasantly surprised when we started buying alcohol.  I had thought it would be a lot more than the UK, but it is around the same for a bottle of wine.  Four cans of beer would perhaps work out a pound or two more, but it is not a deal breaker.

Eating Out:

Whilst we don’t really get to do this (I can’t take credit for the photo, that is a friend’s mouth watering meal), it is more expensive.  Two coffees, a hot chocolate, and 2 small pieces of cake will easily set you back over 200 SEK (around £20), while a meal out will be similar in comparison.  Thank heavens McDonald’s and IKEA compare similarly!!  So you can always downgrade to those options, although I do love a good meal at IKEA!!  As for drinks, you can easily pay double for a glass of wine or a pint (half litre!) of beer.

Cost of Running A Car:

We have a Volvo V70 (yes I know, very Swedish, but we were limited with options as we had to fit three car seats across the back seat).  The cost of buying this was similar to if we had bought one in the UK the same age etc, and insuring it is similar too.  Here though you insure the vehicle (so anyone qualified can drive it), rather than a person.  You also mustn’t forget to include your wild animal cover for those deer and elks that like to give you heart failure as you are driving along.  Fuel is also about the same price as well.

Utility Bills:

We are paying a little more over the course of a year for electricity than we did in the UK for both electricity and gas, we only use electricity here.  Bear in mind though it is on 24/7 over the Swedish winter, whereas in the UK we got away with a couple of hours twice a day.  Water costs are about the same, but what is significantly cheaper is everything that comes under the title “council tax” in the UK.  We pay for bins separately and you chose a plan that suits you and your rubbish production.  We are a family of five and have alternate week collections for food and combustible waste. Similar to UK and costs around £20/month.  Everything else (cardboard, metal, plastic, glass etc) we take to the recycling places which are found all over the place. Our nearest is about a 5 minute walk, or no time at all in the car.  Don’t think big recycling centres like in the UK (“the tip”), think a group of metal skips like bottle banks, that you just pull up, sort, and go again.  The rest of our home tax is around £48/month compared to over £170/month for our council tax in the UK.

Public Transport:

Dadda uses the busses daily for his commute into town about 15km away.  He pays £60/month for his travel card for busses that turn up on time, for a regional area for up to around 25km radius away from the main town, for as much travel as he wants (or anybody else, as anyone can use the card), and up to two children under 7 go free with a paying adult.  It is also very reliable.

Children’s Activities:

This was a big outgoing for us in the UK having 3 children.  We don’t over schedule them, but we insist on swimming lessons. Then if there is something they want to do, we let them within reason.  Swimming is hard to compare as the lessons here are 40 minutes, plus our older one can actually attend twice a week if she wanted to.  It averages out to not being too much more than we were paying in the UK.  Our little lady is a member of the (sea) Scouts here and her scouting membership is around £32 for the year.  Back in the UK we paying around £24 for a term for Brownies.  We pay £40/year each for the boys to do a local gymnastic class, plus twin 1 does an hour of football a week too for that price.  Twin 2 could, but he chooses not to.  It is a pass to do whatever is on offer.  The little lady’s modern/jazz dance class works out a lot cheaper….half the price of what we paid in the UK, which was around average price there. But when she and twin 1 did do ballet that was at least double.  So, it can depend on what your child enjoys, but on average it is comparable to the UK and not a shock to the system when you move.

I hope this little insight into the cost of living in Sweden has been helpful if you are thinking about moving abroad. If not, it may have been fun to have a little nosy at how we have found it!  If you are thinking of moving abroad, but not to Sweden, I hope it can give you some direction to research in terms of budgeting.  It was so hard to get a picture of what the cost of living in Sweden would be before we moved.

Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are about the cost of living in Sweden, especially if you have moved here too, and let me know if there is anything you have found living here 🙂

The cost of living in Sweden, Sweden cost of living, Cost of moving abroad, cost of living abroad, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Inspiration Wednesday – Nature Therapy

Inspiration Wednesday - Nature Therapy, Nature Therapy, healing nature, nature, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Outdoor Play – 15 Tips To Encourage Outdoor Play

I will be the first to admit there are definitely days when I would rather hibernate from the Swedish weather battering our island, or I am just too tired to tackle the issues that arise with dressing three small children for the elements (talking more about winters than summers here, and you can read a previous post here about those trials and tribulations).  However, outdoor play is something that all children need, and to be honest mine are easier to handle after using their energy up in the great outdoors, and we generally have a better day together as well.  This post is to give you some top tips on making getting out there a little bit easier for everyone, and more enticing for our little people.  This post is not to promote the benefits of outdoor play, but you could read these other posts I have written about the benefits nature play  and outdoor play.

15 Tips To Encourage Outdoor Play:

  1. Have basic things in your outside space to encourage play.  Water tables (mine even love just playing with a watering can that has filled with rain water), sand pits, and simple mud kitchens are all easy ideas.  For our mud kitchen we have an old table, some old pans, and some old spoons.  It’s not had any money spent on it, and they use the surrounding nature mixed with water the rain has collected in various places.  Also having basic tools is good such as little trowels.  
  2. Take the indoors outside.  In better weather (I’m all for limiting the clear up operation!) allow indoor toys in the outdoors.  Mine love making up small world imaginary games, such as hiding the dinosaurs in the bushes etc
  3. Invest in a basic night time star chart (the National Trust do a fab night time explorers kit) and go out looking for the star constellations.  This is a really good activity in the winter months when it gets dark so early, but you may not want to be cooped up inside for the rest of the day.
  4. Dress them appropriately, as if they get wet/cold they will not want to stay out in the colder weather, and also you’ll be faced with a pile of washing.  Weatherproof them from head to toe throughout the cooler months and you will be more relaxed about them wading and splashing through the deepest of puddles.  In the warmer months, use old clothes and try not to let them see how much the dirt issue is getting to you, or show you are thinking about the clear up operation!  (read here why it is good for them).  This, along with leaping around climbing trees, is one of the hardest things I find to bite my tongue about…
  5. Don’t let the little people hear you voice the weather conditions as an excuse for not doing outdoor play.  I would often rather stay indoors in the poorer weather, but until us adults start being negative about it, the children don’t have so much of an issue.  They will pick up on our vibes though and will learn habits of avoiding weather such as rain.  It is hard, but dig deep for that enthusiasm for a good old splash about.
  6. Get them into any nearby open spaces, and take their lead.  Don’t make suggestions or comments, just let them be and see what happens…..let the magic begin!
  7. Spotter books are a great accessory to outdoor play.  They can be for beaches, gardens, woods, the list is endless.  It can give some direction when enthusiasm from both sides is low, a focus and a talking point.  In the poorer weather we take a look at ours, head outdoors without them, and fill them in after with what we have spotted.
  8. Let them use what nature provides for their outdoor play.  Let them climb trees, play with sticks, take risks, and have a fantastic game of hide and seek.  Nature provides great props for outdoor play.
  9. Explore different outdoor areas as they all offer something different in terms of exploring and having fun.  Get out into woods, meadows, around ponds or lakes, and seasides.  Play parks are great too, and if they want to walk up the slide, let them (as long as it isn’t interrupting someone else’s play coming down!).  Let them use their imagination as to how the equipment should be used….you will be surprised with what they come up with, as well as the skills they are developing.
  10. A basic bug kit will keep little people amused for hours.  They can explore the undergrowth and lift stones and sticks and see what they can find.  Just remember to return the mini beasts back to their homes where you found them!
  11. Give them a little bit of responsibility in your home’s outdoor space.  Whether this is a small patch of soil they can plant and grow things in, or making a habitat such as a mini beast hotel, or even making a mini garden pond (see our post on this). My trio really loved potting the spring seeds 🙂 Children really thrive on being given something that is their own responsibility. 
  12. Make it a habit.  If you have a day less full of commitments than other days, make that your “outdoor adventure day”.  Fridays work well for us as all the children have finished school by around midday.  I realise this is not the case in the UK, but then we avoid Saturdays full of swim classes, and we can squeeze another one in on a Sunday if we want to.  But by heading out every Friday, we have a designated outdoor adventure/explore time. And then for the rest of the week we just squeeze in mini outdoor sessions, that are not so long or ambitious.
  13. Don’t interrupt the children (unless you need to go home or they are in danger!!).  Let them get on with it.  Make sure you have packed the thermos, listen to the play, and let nature and being outdoors work its magic on you too.
  14. Make it a social occasion.  We usually try and have some food, but apart from packing a picnic, you could take an afternoon snack and drink.  You don’t need to whip up a whole gourmet meal on a camp fire.  A thermos of hot chocolate and a snack will add just as much to the outdoor adventure.
  15. Arrange to meet others.  You are more likely to keep to your plans if you are meeting others out and about as well.

There has been many a time when I have not felt that I had the energy to bundle three children up and get them outdoors, but once we have been out and returned I never think that I wished I hadn’t bothered.  I feel refreshed from the time outdoors, they need me less, and I seem to get a bit of a break to enjoy just being and watching them.  There are less arguments, and when we get back home they seem to settle better into play indoors as well.  I brace my self for the initial moans and groans of getting out the door, but then they never want to come back once out!

I hope these tips give you some ideas and help you to get you little people outdoors to play.  Drop any more ideas I have missed into the comments below 🙂

Outdoor Play, 15 tips to encourage outdoor play, nature play, children outdoors, get outside, www.mammasschool.co.uk

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