Inspiration Wednesday – Play Is Learning

Inspiration Wednesday - Play is learning, play is research, play is important, free play, unstructured play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Autumn Outdoor Activities – Fun In All Weathers

I love all the seasons, and I am not sure I favour one more than the others.  However, when the seasons start changing and moving on, I am always ready for a change and love what the next one might bring – especially now that we live somewhere that has four distinct seasons!  So, now that autumn is well and truly here, we have made an autumn outdoor activities list of all the great things you can do during this fantastic, beautiful season, that sees a bounty of colours and changes.

Our Autumn Outdoor Activities List:

1.Have a leaf fight:  It would not be autumn without this on our autumn  outdoor activities list!

2.Catch falling leaves:  This is so much harder than it looks and can keep little ones amused for ages on a walk.

3.Look for conkers then head home for a good old game of old fashioned conkers.

4.Go blackberry picking – It would not be autumn without making an autumnal blackberry pudding.

5.Collect different plant seeds that you see out and about, or from the garden, to plant in the spring time.

6.Pick apples:  This is an easy one for our autumn outdoor activities.  Walking around our island with dogs (my own business that the children accompany me on after school finishes at midday) people have such an abundance of fruit from their gardens, that they leave them in boxes at the end of their drives to help yourself to.  The children love this!

7.Sunset picnic:  This is one of my favourite autumn outdoor activities now the sunsets are much earlier.  They are very spectacular where we live, so we light a campfire and watch as many as we can, admiring the light show.

8.Sunrise picnic:  Don’t panic!!  With the sunrises getting later, and a little night before preparation, this becomes quite feasible with the get up times of younger children!!

9.Count the leaf colours on a walk.

10.Fly a kite.

11.Go pond dipping and see what is going on at this time of year.  We have an abundance of dragonflies which are memorising to watch.

12.Go on a fungus spotting walk.  These are beautiful (be careful with touching and eating) and you could even draw a few when you get back home.

13.Jump in leaves….a good old favourite!

14.Autumn Camping:  Providing you take enough layers for the night, some of the day temperatures can be quite balmy at this time of year, and the sunsets very dramatic.  On the plus side, with the sun rising later, your little people are less likely to have you up so early as during the summer months (I think it was around 0430 we woke this summer).

15.Collect leaves, and then go home and make a collage or a “leaf person/animal”.

16.Collect fir cones, and then head home to decorate them in glitter 🙂

17.Have a campfire: Read about how to make a campfirecampfire problems, and ways of cooking on a campfire.  We also have lots of easy and tasty campfire food recipes.

I hope these have given you some inspiration of some autumn outdoor activities you can do now that autumn is well and truly under way.  Also ways to have fun in the outdoors whatever the autumn weather throws at you!!

Autumn Outdoor Activities - Fun In All Weathers, Autumn fun, autumn play, outdoor play, nature play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

How To Cook On A Campfire & Some Handy Rules

We love cooking outdoors on campfires and it’s such a cosy way of spending time together.  I have previously written about the basics of making a campfire, and also how to solve some campfire problems, but in this post I want to run through some methods of how to cook on a campfire and a few handy rules.  I hope you can then head out and enjoy cooking food on the campfire as much as we do 🙂

Methods To Cook On A Campfire:

This list is by no means definitive, but it is what we mainly use to cook on a campfire:

  1. Using a grill:  These come in all sizes, but if you use a smallish one with folding legs, they become a very handy piece of kit.  They can be set up over a fire, avoiding having to put the food directly onto the flames and they keep the food steady.  They are a very light piece of kit too making them easy to pack and carry.
  2. Foil parcels: This is perhaps one of the most used ways we use to cook on a campfire.  It is so versatile and means you can prepare the food at home, package it up, and carry it all ready to cook at your destination.  You can cook all sorts this way, and there is a wealth of foil parcel recipes out there (including in our own outdoor cooking category).  You can place the food directly onto the fire this way, or use the grill option as well.
  3. Pots:  Again these can be placed straight onto the fire (beware of food sticking to the bottom and be prepared for a tough pan scrub at home), or used on the grill.  We favour one pot recipes keeping things very simple.
  4. Skewers:  These are perfect for bread based recipes, sausage, or of course good old marshmallows.  We also have a tasty fruit kebab recipe.

Handy Rules For Campfire Food:

  1. Keep it simple:  The less ingredients the better.  You have enough going on around you, and you will need less equipment, making less clearing up!
  2. One Pot Dishes:  Try and do recipes that just use one pot.
  3. Prep before you head out:  You will need to take less equipment then to use to prepare the food, and it makes it easier at the fire pit, especially if the weather is inclement.
  4. Get the children to help:  They love helping with both the food and the fire…plus they are more likely to eat the food if they have helped cook it.
  5. Make it heart warming, filling, and popular:  Remember this is not a time to try out weird and wonderful recipes that may not be received with enthusiasm.  The meal may need to be used as a morale booster, for energy, and for warmth.
  6. If you are unsure that you will find a fire pit or be able to make a fire, make it a meal that might be viable hot or cold.  Our pizza wraps are a good example of this.
  7. Try and make food that only needs simple utensils (like a spork) or fingers.
  8. Use metal, not plastic accessories such as tongs.
  9. Use fireproof gloves to wear.
  10. Cook safe:  I stick to foods that have a very low risk of breeding anything nasty that will make us sick, and use common sense with food hygiene.

Once you have finished, don’t forget to tidy the area up properly (looking after the area), package and put away left over food so the wild animals are not tempted, and put out your campfire properly (see the link at the start of the post).

I hope this has given you some helpful hints and tips to get you outdoors cooking on the campfires and enjoying it 🙂How to cook on a campfire,campfires, bushcraft, camping, hiking, outdoor cooking, campfire food, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Inspiration Wednesday – Slow Down!!

Inspiration Wednesday - Slow Down!!, slow, slower life, hurry less, don't hurry, slower living, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Children Taking Risks – Why We Are Letting Them Build A Tree House

“By allowing your children to take risks you are empowering them to grow brave and sure” (anonymous)

My trio are currently in the throws of building a tree house.  A tree house with the plans for construction firmly rooted inside someone’s imagination, and plans that change on a daily basis.  But they are creating and making, and everyone is happy.  They are teetering up a tree, banging nails and hammering away and we are totally happy with that.  Because it is all about the children taking risks.

Let me explain further.  These days I live my life with my heart in my mouth for the majority of the time I am with our three children.  Since the arrival of our twin boys, I believe I have now been pushed into a better style of parenting, than the cautious helicopter style I used before (without being aware of it) when we just had our equally cautious little lady.  But this double trouble are a totally different kettle of fish who are willing to try anything and everything.  They are risk addicts.  But as Angela Hanscom put it, “Children are natural risk takers.  They need it.  They crave it”.  My trio first started using tools (saws, drills, hammers etc) at forest school, so as a parent I was broken into it gently.  Don’t get me wrong, common sense is always applied.  Drills and saws are always supervised, but they have their own proper hammers (with little handles for easier manoeuvrability) and a pot of nails, and have had access to these and wood for a good 3 years or so now.  So now, without a plan, they are mounting an assault on the tree and we are happy with this…..why?

We are happy because children taking risks, for a number of reasons, is something that doesn’t go hand in hand so much anymore.  We are in danger of breeding a generation who are unable to take risks due to less time outdoors for a number of factors.  Increased screen time (less time in the outdoors), perceived stranger danger risk (which has led to increased adult presence watching over child activities, so less risks taken), and us adults having a more sedentary lifestyle and not setting the best of examples for getting them into the great outdoors, are some of these factors.

“Children learn to manage, control, and even overcome their fears by taking risks” (Angela Hanscom)

Children Taking Risks Leads to Benefits:

  1. Better physical development:  They are using so many physical skills and strength as well.
  2. They will be learning to assess risk.
  3. They will learn to manage and control risk.
  4. Their confidence will increase.
  5. They will become better equipped to deal with the real world when they are older.

Children taking risks are a natural occurrence stemming from their need to learn and find out about the world they live in.  Our intentions of wanting to protect our children may be good, but too much interfering and it can become detrimental to them.  Yes, if they are in imminent danger of harm by all means intervene, and quickly too.  Common sense does need to be applied, but instead of calling “Be Careful!” as they clamber up a tree, or swing a stick around, think what else could be said.  For example; “that branch is looking a little thin where else could you put your feet”.  But only say it when the situation requires it.  They are often doing totally fine, but our parental instinct kicks into overdrive (and I find this so difficult with our double trouble who will virtually stop at nothing!).  However, that simple phrase “be careful” it can trigger a few things. They will begin to doubt themselves and perhaps make them have a fear that they didn’t have before.  We are also teaching them to avoid risk.  Often they are often handling a situation perfectly until us grown ups intervene!!  “The only risk is that we take away all the risks” (anonymous).

Children taking risks is natural.  Mistakes do happen but they can learn from them.  React if they are in danger, but in some situations the children only require some awareness and advice.  They need to be encouraged to seek out adventures.  I can thoroughly recommend reading Angela Hansom’s “Balanced and Barefoot” as recommended on my post Get Outdoors!  My 7 Favourite Books To Inspire.  So go on…get out on those adventures, give them a hammer, nails, and wood and see what they create!!Children taking risks, risks, risk taking, climbing trees, building a treehouse, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Why Hike With Children & Its Benefits

Why hike with children?  Whether you head out on an all day adventure or just a short walk, the benefits to children and parents alike are huge…..as is the effort to get out the door!  I am realistic, and as a Mamma of three, I know that planning, logistics, weather, and the thought of the aftermath tidy up operation, can sometimes be very overwhelming, but I want to explain why all this is sooooo worth the effort for everyone concerned.  We try to get out for a hike once a week, and yes there days when I just can’t face it, but I know on those days when the double trouble are headed for an early very long bath, I wish I had done it.  Previously I have written about hiking with kids and tips for surviving it, but in this post I wanted to talk more about its benefits.

8 Reasons To Hike With Children 

  1. Physical health:  This is the obvious reason to hike with children.  As the grown ups we can teach our children ways to look after their health and lead by example, with exercise being one of them.  To hike with children may not be the first form of strenuous exercise that crosses your mind, but if you add a backpack onto yourself (and of course you get lumped with all the heavier items), and a few child carrying manoeuvres or sprints dashing after them, and it can be one hell of a serious workout for the parents too!
  2. No weather is bad weather:  This very familiar phrase can have us feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of heading out with children on those bad weather days, but there are good reasons to meet the challenge of a non sunny day head on.  Children do not seem to have the same hang ups about the weather as us adults, but yet we can teach them to have these hang ups quite fast by our own attitudes.  There is also the notion that good things happen only when the sun shines……but there is plenty of fun to be had out there in all weathers IF your gear is right…..yes, otherwise you will be downright miserable!
  3. Being out in nature is so good for their development in many ways.  I am talking about physical development in this part.  They are using so many more and different muscles walking on the uneven, varying terrain, than they would on a man made surface.  Children’s strength and muscle tone are improved as they lift, shift, climb, and move about in nature.  They will use a wide range of skills, utilising both large and small motor skills
  4. The children learn to take some risks.  Being in nature, naturally lends itself to more risk taking due to the environment the children are in.  We are in danger of raising a risk averse generation, and this will have further consequences when they are older.  By taking risks, they are learning to manage and control risks, and learning about risk management.  Otherwise they will not take risks and then will be unable to manage risks, or control them.  Their development suffers when they are not allowed to take risks as “children need it, crave it, and are natural risk takers” – Angela Hanscom.
  5. They learn a lot of new skills.  Aside from the physical development we have already discussed, they can learn a lot of other new skills from the practical (compasses, maps, kit, self care, cooking, etc) to communication, negotiation, and teamwork.  Then there is the confidence that comes with achieving something like a hike.
  6. It is a chance to unplug and reconnect as a family when you hike with children.  There are no distractions out there on the hiking trail.  Just you, your family members, and nature.  Being outdoors in nature helps teach the children to enjoy the simple things in life, and to live in the present moment.  It does this whilst also instilling a sense of awe and adventure.
  7. Despite the stress of getting everyone out there, it is a stress buster!  Nature is known to decrease stress, and increase happiness.  It is food for our minds.  This is because it doesn’t place any demands on us, but it is still engaging.  It is a must for our mental health and well being.
  8. Us getting out in nature is very important for nature too. Being outside helps develop a bond with the outdoors so it is also good for nature.  The children will grow up wanting to protect it, respect it, and nurture it more after having been immersed in it.  This in turn will help to conserve it more. 

These are just a few reasons to pop on those boots and waterproofs and get out into the great outdoors for a stomp.  We are very lucky here in Sweden to have the concept of allemansrätten which gives a lot of freedom to get out there and enjoy nature, but all over the world there are open spaces to be enjoyed, wandered around, and respected.  So, when the walls are closing in on you, the noise is deafening, and mountains of Lego prickling under your feet is getting too much, go for one big push of getting everyone ready to head outdoors.  I promise you, you won’t regret it…..that doesn’t mean everyone will be happy all of the time (if you have accidentally gone on a walk with my three that is the reality!), but it does just seem to make life a lot easier to deal with out there.  The mess is out of sight, the noise seems less as the wind blows their shouting away, and there are very few ways to get up to mischief!!  Why hike with children, Hiking with children, Outdoor families, outdoor life, hiking life, hiking, www.mammasschool,co.uk

Inspiration Wednesday – Children In Nature

Inspiration Wednesday - Children In Nature, quotes, inspirational quotes, outdoor children, nature play, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Life In Sweden – 2 Years On

The 5th October marks 2 years since we arrived, joined Dadda, and started our life in Sweden…it has gone crazy fast and I can’t believe we have already been here that long.  Our little people are starting to be not so little anymore, and all three have now started school here.  I have previously reflected back at the 6 month point and I also evaluated life after being here for 1 year.  This year I thought I would do something a little different, and rather than write the whole post from my perspective, I thought I would do a little interview with all the family members and see what they had to say about our life here in Sweden.  I asked each family member (including myself) 5 questions.  Please bear in mind our double trouble are still only 6 so their outlook on life is very different (but nevertheless just as important) from us other three 🙂

1.  What do you like about life in Sweden?

Twin 2:  I like having a bigger garden, all the snow, playing on the big swing at school (play equipment in schools in the UK is rare), and having grandparents to stay with us for many days instead of a few hours.

Twin 1:  Less school, lots of snow, I can climb trees at school (this was certainly not allowed at our daughter’s school in the UK), and there are lots more types of mushrooms growing.

Little lady:  Our bigger garden, wearing her own clothes to school, more freedom and independence (she is able to go out on her own with her friends here (with all the safety measures in place, but we would never have considered this yet in the UK) campfires and fire pits, and there are lots of different food celebration days (for example chocolate ballswaffle day, and cinnamon bun day).

Dadda:  It is more peaceful and calm here (less people really help!), and people are just more generally laid back about life on the whole.

Mamma:  I am so happy with the schooling ethos, the accessibility to nature and allemansrätten, the slower pace of life, having four proper seasons in a year, being amongst such welcoming people, much less traffic, and our lovely wooden home.

2.  What Do You Find Hard About Life In Sweden?

Twin 1:  Eeeeeerrrmmmmm……..

Twin 2:  *silence while the brain ticks over with no result*

Little Lady:  Having less friends.  There are less people on the island so I have less amount of friends and it is because my class is much smaller too, so there are less people to be friends with.

Dadda:  Learning Swedish is very hard….finding the time and energy around full time work and having three children.

Mamma:  I am finding teaching myself the language very difficult.  SFI (the free language course available to attend) is not so accessible when you are chasing after three children and the first finish school at midday, and you are trying to grow a little business of your own.  Progress is happening (I just need to keep thinking we didn’t have any words when we arrived and now we can hold a simple conversation….well either that or people are very good at bluffing!).  I miss having support….support of those who really know you and your children, especially when going through the tougher times with three children or even just needing to take a break from them for an evening.  Everyday tasks can also take a lot more effort…for example booking a doctor’s appointment through the automated system is a total nightmare for me to navigate, or just simple things like understanding a letter to pay a bill.

3.  What Do You Miss About The UK?

Twin 2:  English sausages!!

Twin 1:  Pirate park (a park near where we used to live), Grandparents, my old room, and Smiggle (a very expensive but lovely children’s stationary shop….and my wallet does not miss it!!).

Little lady:  Family and friends.  She has perhaps been the most affected of all 5 of us by the move and her friendships becoming long distance.  We have been very fortunate in that people have visited us and we do a lot of FaceTime, but when she feels low it does hit her very hard. She has no one who has known her for years to vent to.  She is making some lovely friends here, and now language doesn’t hold her back, she is happier to socialise more and more with them.

Dadda:  Accessibility to alcohol (the nearest place is a 20 minute drive and it is all in special state run shops here), our old VW van (we so wanted to bring it with us, but being right hand drive it was just impractical as would have cost so much in the long run.  But it did make such a difference to daily living as a family of 5).  Family and friends.

Mamma:  As well as family and friends I really miss prawn cocktail crisps, spray polish, Marmite (which people ship out to us!), and popping to the local garage to pick up a bottle of red wine for the evening.

What Would You Change If You Could?

Twin 2:  I would get a dog….

Twin 1:  Eeerrrmmmm…..

Little lady:  I wish we could have brought our van….she is now squished in the middle of her twins car seats in the back of a Volvo….she had space in the van around her to bring the 377 things out a little girl needs with her for a quick 5 minute drive.

Dadda:  More time and energy to learn Swedish.

Mamma:  Brought our van…..I miss the ease of it to throw three children into the back, as well as everything a family of five needs for its outdoor lifestyle in the boot (not to mention being able to change children in it during very cold, snowy, or rainy weather so easily!!).  I would have also tried to start learning Swedish before arriving in an ideal world….as it was we only had 4 weeks notice Dadda was leaving the UK, and then I was left looking after 3 children and packing for an international move on my own!

Does Life In Sweden Get The Thumbs Up Or The Thumbs Down?

Twin 2:  Thumbs up

Twin 1:  Thumbs up

Little Lady:  Thumbs in the middle

Dadda:  Thumbs up

Mamma:  Thumbs up

I hope you have enjoyed seeing how we are all finding life in Sweden two years on now.  Overall we would all say we are happy and settled with life in Sweden, and of course there will always be things we miss about the UK, but all 5 of us unanimously think of Sweden as our home.  When we travel back to the UK to see family and friends we don’t say we are going home, that is when we return back to Sweden.  Of course it isn’t or hasn’t all been plain sailing.  We have all had our emotional ups and downs, and sometimes a very good hard cry (I’m not sure Dadda has participated in one of those yet, but there is still time!), and especially for our little lady expat grief is something that crops up when she is having low moments.  If you fancy life in Sweden, want to move abroad, or have moved abroad, and have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me either through the comments or my email, or if you can offer any advice to us too!!  Follow us on Instagram to see more photos of life in Sweden and living the outdoors lifestyle here with three children in tow.

Life In Sweden 2 Years on, living in Sweden, Sweden, Living abroad, expat, expat living, Scandinavia, moving abroad, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Kalmar Slott – Best Preserved Renaissance Castle In The Nordic Countries

Kalmar Slott is a beautiful and imposing castle, that on the day we visited, mysteriously appeared out of the fog when we were almost on top of it.  It is set in a beautiful location with lots of green areas, and water surrounding it.  It is an exciting place for any children to visit and imagine what life would have been like with its displays of pictures, interactive activities, and a wealth of things to see and touch.

The 12th century was a period of unrest and attacks from the sea, so the initial buildings on this site were built to protect the harbour.  In 1180 it consisted of just a defence tower to protect the town from pirates and gangs, and it was gradually built up from that as the times necessitated.  For hundreds of years the fortress saw a LOT of action, as Kalmar was at the centre of Sweden defending itself from Denmark.  The country’s borders were very different back in those days, which much of southern Sweden as it is now, actually being Danish.  It was a very important and strategic military base until 1658 when a peace treaty was finally drawn up that stopped the bloody fighting. 

It is now a symbol of Kalmar.  Gradually it changed from being a medieval castle to a renaissance one.  Weddings have been held in its church since 1276 and it is now one of Sweden’s most popular churches to marry in.  It is a very lively and active place, from turning into a children’s castle in the summer, to hosting a beautiful Christmas market in the winter.  There are also concerts held there as well as ghost tours.  It is now the best preserved renaissance castle in the Nordic countries, after being extensively renovated in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Castle’s, their history, and the lifestyle of its past inhabitants generally intrigue children and set their imaginations racing.  Our three were no different, as they marvelled at the size of the building and rooms, and imagined what it would be like to live in Kalmar Slott.  There were certain rooms (for example the kitchen and great dining hall), set up as if it was being used now which immediately grabbed the children’s attention.  There were interactive screens that the children (and us) could use to find out a lot more about what we were seeing.  The information boards were so informative (and in English too so we could understand more).

Although everything in the castle was really well laid out and made the experience of visiting it good, there were a few areas that stood out.  One was the women’s prison.  The graphic picture display of the punishments, and the scribbles on the walls where the beds were, made this a very vivid part of the castle to visit.  There were also displays of old robes and gowns which you could get up close to (not encased in glass) and this made the experience of seeing them more visceral.  There is something about artefacts not being shut away behind glass, although don’t get me wrong, I do understand why they are!  Ongoing discoveries are still being made in the grounds as well.  In 2015 a burial ground was found of 10 adults and children that they think were buried between 1470-1520.  They think there will be more.  They were carefully excavating an area when we visited, discovering yet more building foundations.

After we had finished with the delights of the castle, we headed to one of the nearby (2 minute walk) gorgeous beaches to enjoy the view of the castle whilst playing in the sand and swimming in the sea.  It really is set in a beautiful location.

We also had a little potter around the town, both old and new parts. Kalmar Slott, Kalmar, Sweden, Castles, Swedish Castles, Castles in Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Ginger Pears – Autumn Campfire Food

Ginger pears are an easy, yummy, warming campfire treat or pudding, that are especially good on a chilly autumnal day.

Ingredients For Ginger Pears:

You only need two things for these yummy ginger pears!!  Pears and ground/grated ginger 🙂 Easy peasy!!  I use one pear per person.

Method To Make Ginger Pears:

  1. Slice the pears, or chop into bite size chunks and place into your pan.
  2. Pour in water.  One third of the way up the fruit level.
  3. Place on your fire and bring the water to boil.
  4. Once boiling, stir intermittently allowing the fruit to soften.
  5. Stir in well, a liberal sprinkling of ginger, and allow to cook for a few minutes longer.
  6. Serve up your ginger pears, and eat while warm.

My trio love stewed fruit, and I am also happy as I know they are getting a healthy treat or snack.  We often do this at home too for a mid afternoon snack, or one of my other outdoor fruit based recipes.  Take a peak in the outdoor cooking category for more inspiration 🙂

 

Ginger pears, autumn campfire food, healthy campfire food, campfire fruit, www.mammasschool.co.uk

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