Mamma's School

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Tag: nature play (Page 1 of 23)

Flower Pounding – Nature’s Art

flower pounding, nature's art, art with nature, outdoor art, flower art, www.mammasschool.co.ukFlower pounding is a very effective way of doing art with nature.  My trio love doing this because it so easy and very effective.  We also love seeing how our results change over the course of the four seasons.

 

 

 

 

So what supplies are required for flower pounding?

Very few?!  Any shape or size of cotton based material…plain is better as your results will be more visible.  You need to bear in mind that whatever you choose, the material needs to be large enough to place the flowers on one side and then fold in half.  You then need to pick a good selection of flowers and leaves.  When we pick our leaves for flower pounding we look for ones that would make good patterns.  For example, bracken with their fronds are good, or something similar.  With the flowers anything with a good solid colour will work well.  Then you just need a hammer.

Now you are all set to go….

Place your material flat, and start laying your leaves and flowers onto one half of the material.  You can either do this randomly, or think about the end result you would like and put more thought it into it.  My trio are all about the colours and patterns at the moment, so lay them out randomly.  You then need to fold the other half of the material over the top so the foliage is covered by the material.

 

Now you tap, tap, tap very gently with your hammer.  Too hard or fast and the hammer will shred the material.  Make sure you are firm enough though to see the colour coming through the material.  Go over all the edges of the leaves and flowers to get the best definition results.  You also need to do this on a firm surface.  As you can see we have chosen our garage floor, rather than the lawn (too squishy with all the moss!), or the decking (didn’t want hammer shaped dents all over it!!).  Once you think you have finished, open the material up and brush off the “crumbs” of the foliage, and you will be left with a lovely colourful pattern.  One of ours turned out very much like a butterfly but this was completely accidental!!  Nevertheless the children were very happy it did 🙂

 

 

 

Stenshuvuds National Park – A Biodiversity Gem

Stenshuvuds National Park, Sweden National Parks, Sweden www.mammasschool.co.ukStenshuvuds National Park is an area in southern Sweden that brings together many different natural environments within quite a small area.  Stenshuvud is actually a hill located in a relatively flat area of Sweden, so the views from the top are magnificent. It faces the Baltic Sea.  The Stenshuvuds National Park contains forest, meadows, open heath land, swamps, and beaches…you can’t get many more forms of environment in one area!!  With the rich diverse environments, also comes a rich and diverse array of animal and plant life.  Close to the top are the remains of a 5th or 6th century fortress (which we didn’t visit this time round).

We arrived at Stenshuvuds National Park with the aim of taking a nice afternoon hike in a loop, taking in as many of the different environments as possible.  We started out in the forest, with a boardwalk over the more swampy areas.  The children loved trying to balance along the edges, and being the first real warmish day of spring, we were able to ditch the hats and over trousers, and enjoy the freedom of just being in thick jumpers and coats!

Once we had emerged from the wooded area, there was an open slope down to the wide and open stretch of beautiful white sandy beach.  This area of Sweden is known for amber washing up ashore, so we were on a treasure hunt immediately!  The rocks and stones were so beautiful.  Many different colours and patterns, and soon the children were collecting them and stowing half of Sweden away in their pockets.  They had a lot of favourite ones, and there were some tough decisions to be made about which few could come home with us, after they had lugged them a good way along the beach!  Unfortunately we didn’t manage to locate any amber, but we did enjoy the stunning beach, its views, and the windiest part of the walk.  The boys loved racing the waves in and out, standing on the verge of the water and then running backwards before the next wave could soak their feet:-)

After the beach it was up through the heath land and admiring the views on the way up, as well as the few hardy flowers that had been brave and already opened.  Then it was back into the forest again to head towards the car.  It was so nice to finally feel we were out in spring sunshine and the walk had amazing views.  A truly beautiful place, and as the park describes themselves “a biodiversity gem”.

 

Sandhammeren Beach – The Carribean in Sweden!

Sandhammeren beach lies down in southern Sweden in Skåne, and is one of Sweden’s finest beaches.  The long stretches of white sand there can rival any Caribbean beach.  On our recent adventure into this part of Sweden, Sandhammeren beach was on our “to do” list, and we were not disappointed.  The beach stretches for miles and miles and miles, the sand is white and soft, the sea is blue and clear (and cold in late April!), and there are the most amazing sand dunes as the back drop to this fantastic landscape.

As As soon as we released the trio from the car they ran straight for the dunes, and were racing up and down them for ages, giving Dadda and I ample time to take in the gorgeous view and use a leisurely pace to head towards the beach.  The children were just running and running.  The huge expanse of dunes, meant total freedom for further than they could have stamina for (a perfect win for parents!).  Once we caught up with them, we headed onto the beach.  Here the sand was so white, soft, and beautiful.  We were there on a windy late April day, but in the summer the sea will be a lot calmer and warmer for swimming in.  Today the children were happy just to chase the waves, and again run, run, run enjoying the freedom.  We didn’t meet another soul along Sandhammeren beach, and could see either way along the beach for miles.  Our little lady seemed to favour playing down on the shore line, enjoying splashing, running in and out of the waves, and writing her name in footprints on the sand.  It wasn’t long before the wellies were discarded in favour of bare feet as the waves had gone in over the top anyway.  Where we used to live in the UK we had a shingle beach, and whilst she was always to be found barefoot (the best way to be), it was always with an uncomfortable hobble.  So, to say she enjoyed sinking her feet into the soft sand is an understatement.  After a long winter of being all wrapped up in hats, coats, gloves, and second pairs of trousers, I think we all felt a sense of freedom with the shedding of the layers!

Meanwhile the mini men seemed to favour the dunes immediately behind us, running up and down them, before finally persuading Dadda to leap off them (he doesn’t need much persuading!!).  They had so much fun going up and down, and in an out of the grasses.

An action shot of Dadda and our little lady jumping off the dunes

We spent a good couple of hours just exploring this gorgeous beach, and shoes and pockets were filled with sand by the end of all the fun.  We headed back towards the car through the heath and scrub on the footpath, meandering our way a bit more chilled out by now.  Once we were back in the car park, the children had a quick obligatory tree climb and play on the rope swing, before climbing back into the car, with a little less energy than they got out of it with!!  We will definitely be returning to Sandhammeren beach during the summer to have some fun in the Swedish summer sun here, as we have totally fallen in love with the place!

Sandhammeren Beach, Skåne, Skane beach, Sweden beaches, white sand, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Two Tiny Hands

Dandelion Cookies – The Flowery Biscuit!

Our garden is a little bit of a dandelion farm, so it got me thinking, what could I make with these golden flowers, other than fairy potions and posies!!  So we tried to make biscuits with them, and it worked!  This recipe makes 12-15 dandelion cookies, and as usual I have had to make three batches (having three children), so have a plentiful supply!! If the thought of eating dandelions makes you feel a little eugh, you only need to consider their health benefits and you might be swayed.  Bear in mind these are the health benefits for only the flowers, the rest of the plant has even more health benefits to it!  They are a great source of antioxidants, they can help relieve aches and pains (more specifically from headaches, backaches, and menstruation), the can help tummy aches, they contain vitamin A and B12, and have antibacterial effects in the pollen 🙂

 

So what ingredients do you need for your dandelion biscuits?

Pick 15 dandelion flower heads.

100g butter

80g sugar

1 egg

1 lemon, zest and juice

150g plain flour

20g cornflour

and a pinch of baking powder.

Wash the dandelion heads, and then pluck off all the petals into a bowl

Cream the butter and sugar together

Add in the egg, stirring well

Add the plain flour, the cornflour, and the baking powder

Add the zest of the lemon, the juice of the lemon, and the dandelion petals and stir well

Place overloaded teaspoon sized dollops onto baking paper, and spread out well.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 12-15 mins

…..then tuck into your dandelion cookies!!!

Dandelion Cookies, foraged food, cooking with dandelions, dandelion food, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

3 Little Buttons
Two Tiny Hands

Learning to Use a Compass – Teaching the Basics.

Learning to Use a compass-teaching the basics, compass, navigation, orienteering, map reading www.mammasschool.co.ukToday’s hike had an ulterior motive behind it…to get the trio learning more about the basics of using their compasses.  We have had these out before for a little walk, and a brief lesson about finding north, but I felt it was now time to learn a little more about direction.  My trio definitely learn best in the great outdoors, and with a practical skill such as compass use, it suits us better to be doing it outside, rather than sat indoors.  I remember at school doing the theory indoors and then heading outdoors for the practical, but not really taking anything in until we were outdoors.  Therefore, I aim to teach as much as I can out on the ground, and less splitting it into definite theory and practical elements for them, as they find it much harder to relate the theory to anything!

We left the car in the car park, and had gone 20m when we came across a style, and our first stand off of the hike.  My double trouble are very into competing against each other.  It ranges from who is first everywhere, to who was last in through the door so has to shut the door (the back door is open flapping letting cold air in for ages while they argue who shuts it), and today it seemed no one wanted to be first down the steps the other side, although both had reached the top together in a race!!  My little lady and I were stuck behind them trying to get them to shift so we could get on with the yomp!  Oh the joys of hiking with little people.  The trio were quite grumpy on this particular afternoon, so I decided we’d hike to our designated fire pit for the afternoon, have our cooked treat and a play, and then hopefully they would be in better spirits for the return leg, and a bit of a compass lesson.  No point teaching them in this mood as nothing will go in and they will not be receptive.  Sometimes, I’ll carry on the plans with whoever is receptive, but with all three behaving like it was a bad day, there was little point!!  It was a lovely spring day so I was determined we would make the most of it.

We arrived at where the fire pit should have been, but there wasn’t one we could find…very unusual here in Sweden.  So we retraced our steps a bit to a large rock and gathered some stones into a circle and created our own fire pit.  It was good for the children to learn why I wasn’t just happy to place a fire any old place in the woods, and then how to build one, so all was not lost!  I had also bought a new piece of equipment, a raised grill shelf on legs, that I wanted to try out too.  The fire pits here are great, but it isn’t until you reach somewhere that you find out whether you have a grill over it or not.  Not everything we cook needs it, but there are some things I prefer not to place directly on the flames, and today I was using a saucepan so it was a perfect chance to try it out.  We lit our fire, we cooked our food (see outdoor cooking for the campfire posts, as recipe in another blog post), and the children played happily….well until there was screaming to be heard!  The trio had found a tree to climb that was infested with the hugest red ant colony.  Instead of then staying away from it, they felt it was a challenge of who could get up and down it without getting bitten, but also they were curious to watch them.  Very soon someone had been nipped (twin 1) and he was yelling at the top of his lungs (he has big strong lungs!!).  Luckily I carry Anthisan, so it was calmed down quite quickly and another lesson was learnt!

Apart from the ant nip, everyone was in much better spirits so we each got our compasses out.  We started by learning the main four directions of the compass…north, south, east, and west.  Looking at the letter with the little ones, and working out what that would then stand for.  We then lined north up, to work out which way we were walking.  Luckily this was quite simple at first as the path followed an east direction.  Very soon though my little lady announced that “Mamma it is in the middle of north and east now”.  At this point we then sat down and looked at the other letters on the compass (NE, SE, SW, and SE).  Once we had learnt to listen to the sound of those letters (for the twins) to then work out what they stood for (the little lady was a little bit easier to teach as she can work it out quicker), we then were able to stop at regular intervals and say in which direction we were walking.  That was more than enough for them to take on board today, and I think we will be just practising that skill for a little while yet before we introduce anything else new, but they enjoyed it, and the accomplishment of understanding what the compass was saying.

All three did eventually admit they had loved their little hike, despite the wobbly start.  Once I had got over twin 1’s insistence that he didn’t need to use the compass because he wasn’t lost, they also loved being able to use the compass and work out what it was saying!  It was a close shave at the start of the walk, but eventually it became a successful and sunny afternoon out!

 

 

Blowing Dandelion Bubbles – Nature’s Bubble Blower.

Blowing dandelion bubbles - Nature's bubble blower, nature bubbles www.mammasschool.co.ukWe have just had a lovely afternoon blowing dandelion bubbles through the plant’s stem 🙂 The trio loved making these and then experimenting with them also.

It’s a really easy activity to prepare, and because it’s outside all mess is outdoors too…bonus!  So what do you need for blowing dandelion bubbles?

Washing up liquid

Water

Bowl for mixing

Scissors

and of course….dandelions!!

Here is what you do:

Make up some soapy water

Cut the flower head off

Trim the other end of the stalk too

Swirl around one end in the soapy water (not the end you want to put up to your mouth!!).

Then gently blow through the stem, and you should see your bubble 🙂

My trio loved blowing dandelion bubbles, and then experimenting with different lengths of stem, different diameters of stem, variations of puffing, and who could make the biggest dandelion bubbles.  It was such a lovely, but chilly day, they stayed there for a good while.  Afterwards the chalks came out for drawing, and even a small potion was whipped up with the newly flowering plants.

 

 

Country Kids

Seed Bombs – The Gardening Grenade!

Seed Bombs-The gardening grenade, children gardening, gardening, seeds, wildflowers www.mammasschool.co.ukSeed bombs are a great way to introduce colour, flowers, and therefore wildlife, into corners where nobody seems to care….just go for a walk, and lob one of these creations into a place that is dull and boring and then return in the summer to see if it has worked.  They are great for brightening up places you feel are uncared for, but full of sunshine with grass or bare soil.  We had an ulterior motive though here in our Swedish garden.  It is HUGE…..I’m not boasting, as that is just the way where we live, but it’s 3 hours of lawn mowing & strimming a week huge.  Gardens here are very different from back in the UK.  Forget a lot of plants that you would have in the UK, as they won’t survive the winter.  Then there are the deer and elk that like to nibble the lovely blooms, not to mention the stony wild areas that just need to be left the way nature intended.  You need to work with the wild, and tame it where you can.  It is a whole new experience of gardening out here.  I have left a very small UK garden although it was bursting with very typical English cottage style flower beds and climbing roses, to learn very rapidly that I can’t do that here (or maintain it even if I could!).  So, we have a few “wild” areas of our own, that would benefit from the gardener’s hand grenade that is the seed bomb.

So what do you need?

1 cup of air drying clay

1 cup of compost

2 packets of seeds

(we have multiplied this to cater for the fact that I have three children doing it, and a lot of space to cover!!  However, having said that, once we had put out the supplies, the boys decided they weren’t participating today!)

So how do you make them?

Break the clay into small pieces and put into a bucket or bowl

Add the compost

Rub the 2 together

Sprinkle in your seeds and gently stir.

Roll into small balls and place on a tray to dry out (1-2 days).

 

Choose your designated area and head out for a garden grenade throwing session 🙂

 

The Cotswold Farm Park – A Day on the Nation’s Favourite Farmers’ Farm.

Heading to a farm for a spring day out, a few days before Easter, is always such a lovely thing to do with the family.  On a recent trip back to the UK, we were staying with my parents who were keen to treat their children and grandchildren to a day out at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park.  His father first started the farm back in the 1970’s to try and help some rare breeds, and since then he has taken over this rather famous place.  It is growing all the time and has become very successful.  We headed off to enjoy a slightly cooler, but still dry, spring day on the farm.

There is a lot to do there, and if you are a local, it is worth a few visits there to make sure you have seen everything.  We started the day with a tractor safari around the farm.  This was a good way to get our bearings and see what things there were to do, and where it all was.  It was a very informative ride, as the driver told us about the history of the farm and the breeds they have as we went round.

As you can imagine, there were babies everywhere!!!  They have a large lambing barn, and they are keen for you to be able to experience as much as possible, so if are lucky you can see a live birth.  My father was, and he watched some triplets being born.  One didn’t make it sadly, but he was able to see mum settle in with her other 2, and by the time we got there, they were only 20 minutes old.  The trio were slightly confused by the pink tinge of the newborn lambs, but after a brief biology lesson, they’d learnt something else.  It was so lovely being able to get so close and to see so much going on.

The trio were very involved; stroking lambs, kids, holding bunnies and chicks, admiring piglets, tickling guinea pigs, and bottle feeding the lambs and kids too.  They loved being so hands on.  We’d also bought 4 bags of animal feed, and there was a very good walk around the fields of the farm, allowing us to stop and feed the animals along the way.  The majority were hand fed, but the cows had a little chute that you poured the feed down into their trough.  All the animals were so docile and very friendly.  The most laid back farm animals I have ever seen.

It was a really lovely day out, very hands on, and the trio learnt a lot too.  We could easily go back though and enjoy it again!!

The Cotswold Farm Park, Rare breeds farm, children's farm, farm day out, farming, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Country Kids

Healing Nature – Relying on the Beach to Work its Magic!

The past few days have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of squabbling, arguing, and whinging going on in our home.  We were in need of some emergency healing nature power!  I was getting close to the end of my tether with my trio.  I’d seen everything over the last few days.  We had death stares and grumbles from the little lady because someone dared to choose the same cereal to eat as her!  I’d seen breakdowns over someone wanting the same jam on their toast as someone else.  There had been fighting over who was taking what to lay the table.  Twin 1 had been hiding twin 2’s outdoor clothing during the mad morning dash to get out the house, resulting in a distraught, not ready twin 2.  Twin 1 had also been pushing twin 2 over into the door.  The list just goes on…..I was coming down stairs in the morning, and my first words for the past few days to my children had been cross and frustrated ones.  To say I was exasperated is an understatement!  So we packed the car and headed off for an afternoon of that well known remedy….healing nature.

Being surrounded by nature has so many benefits, and the main one I was in search of today was the gentle lapping sounds of the waves (hopefully I’d be able to hear them over the bickering!).  This sound instantly de-stresses me, lowers my heart rate, and I find my lost patience again.  Nature is a well known regulator of stress, so it’s a very valid reason to seek it out in times like this.  However, the benefits would not just be mine.  Nature play is known to resolve conflict and encourage team work….well, hello….if there was anything these three needed reminding of, it was that they liked each other, could enjoy each other, and play together!  They could also do with a little de-stressing too!  There are so many other benefits of nature play that I have written about already, http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/outdoor-play-children-natures-sanity/, but for today and our current situation, these were my main aims.

The children settled into their play fast, while I lit a fire and prepared some food, breathing a sigh of relief as I listened to their happy chatter.  All three worked in pairs at some point, in varying combinations.  Our little lady was engrossed in making a complex river and dam construction from redirecting the sea.  Lots of learning thrown in to her afternoon, while the boys mainly busied themselves building castles and moats, and using their dumper trucks to transport construction sand.  The food was well received in a opportunistic break from play, but they hurried back once it was scoffed down.  I sat back and watched them play, and enjoyed them in that moment, after a painful few days.  My plan had worked!

We headed back to the car after over three hours chilling on the beach, nature having worked its magic while we were all immersed in it.  As they clambered back in, the bickering started up again over the seat belts and who was in whose way!!  Well, all good things must come to an end I guess, but at least my patience fuel tanks were topped up again to deal with it all and we’d had a lovely few positive hours!!  However, I can see the wine tank in the fridge being a little more depleted later, and thank goodness we’ve just had Easter so the chocolate supply is high 😉

healing nature - relying on the beach to work its magic, restorative nature, nature play, outdoor play, benefits of nature www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Country Kids

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens – A Child Explorer’s Dream!

The week before Easter saw us heading back to the UK to catch up with family and friends having been living abroad for 6 months now.  On one of these lovely sunny spring days, we met some friends at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, near Romsey in Hampshire.  One of the things that was so striking is how much more advanced into spring the UK is than where we live in Sweden.  The trees have leaves on, and the blossom is out in abundance looking so pretty.  Sir Harold Hillier Gardens did not disappoint in its beauty and tranquillity.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens can seem full to bursting point when you arrive in the car park, but once into the gardens, it can seem really quite empty.  It is large enough to seem like you have a lot of space, peace, and calm away from other people.  The huge place is divided up into many differing types of gardens, and that in itself is one big adventure to explore.  There are also many other features there for children, not to mention the labelling of the trees and plants so us grown ups learn a thing or two as well.  There is a fantastic tree house play area (which also has the most amazing trees for climbing nearby – more on that later in the post), the flying carpet, and the super snake swing to play on.  There are fish to watch in ponds, wobbly bridges to run over, pathways hidden amongst bamboo tunnels, and boardwalks.  You can also sneak in a little geocaching too whilst you are there.  We were there for 5 hours and didn’t do half of what is there!

We met our friends and headed off to pay £1.50 for each child to do an Easter egg hunt.  The children had to use a map to hunt for rabbits that had a question on them.  The answer was used to fill out a crossword, and then the shaded letters on the crossword formed an anagram to solve.  The bunnies were well sited throughout a lot of the gardens, taking us on a lovely route and making sure we got to see a lot of the place.  We passed through an education garden with chimes to play, and a well to operate, we walked through truly beautiful blooming magnolia trees, and we ate a picnic half way round while the children raced around an open lawn playing tag.  It was so laid back, unhurried, and calming.

We returned back to the visitors’ centre to claim their prizes, and once those had been gobbled and ice creams consumed, we headed over to the tree house play area.  This is such a lovely idea.  A wooden house wraps itself around a tree and is built on stilts on a slope.  It has walkways, slides, and a climbing wall.  Plus there are the most fantastic pine trees, perfect for children climbing.  There are full of horizontal branches that start at the bottom and go all the way up the trees, very very high!  Our little lady was at least 25 feet up in the air, and was closely followed by her friend and one of our mini men.

Yesterday was such a lovely day, out enjoying yet more warm spring sunshine, surrounded by beautiful blooms, and with 5 very happy children, doing what they do best, playing in nature….happily!!  I really recommend a visit (or 2 or 3) to this lovely and very special place tucked away in Hampshire 🙂

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens - child explorers dream nature play blossom flowers trees www.mammasschool.co.uk

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