Growing Butterflies & Ladybirds

Last year the girls and I ‘grew’ our own butterflies. It was an amazing experience for us all – I mean, them, mostly, of course, but I loved every minute of it.

butterflyThe butterflies arrive in the post in a small tub with self contained ‘food’. Over a period of about 2 – 4 weeks, you watch the butterflies go from tiny caterpillars to huge ones, to chrysalis, and eventually, to butterfly. Feed them for a few days, look after them while their wings strengthen, and before you know it, you have five fully-fledged butterflies ready to send out into the world to help cross pollinate the plants in your area, bringing new life into your environment. I find it quite an emotional thing, letting those butterflies go!

You can buy the butterfly kit at any time, but the company will only send the butterflies out from March onwards, to make sure that they’re looked after, and do as much as they can to make sure the little insects have a good start to life.

Bring Up A Butterfly

If you’re worried that you wouldn’t know how to raise a butterfly, it’s honestly easier than fish! You largely just sit and watch them for four weeks, but it is an incredible learning journey for children too.

There are fantastic resources to help you on your journey too, like the Butterfly Life Cycle from Twinkl or one of the ample free resources online too. And don’t forget Youtube – there’s everything from songs to kids shows about the butterfly life cycle

Growing butterflies is so rewarding – I can’t wait for our new kit to arrive.

*I’ll receive 5% of your purchase price for recommending this product. You won’t pay any more or less through using or not using these links.

Harvesting Oats – Learning About Farming

My brother getting married in Australia has introduced us to a whole new level of family, recently, and in this case, farmers! Apart from the fact that they are all lovely and seem a perfect family to be ‘in-lawed’ to, they are also incredibly generous with their time, and invited us to spend the last day of a six week harvest with them this year.

The farm is out in the middle of nowhere – or Williams – about two hours from Perth.

Their home is beautiful, their farm is spectacular, and the time we’ve spent with them has been quite different to anything else we’ve experienced. We arrived on the last day of harvest, and the girls absolutely loved it. It was a fabulous learning experience for them too!

This particular field was full of oats, so once the oats were ready for harvest, the harvester is sent in. This no mess no fuss machine costs a fortune, but it’s brought farming into the technological age. Complete with airconditioned cabin and radio, it also has an impressive on board computer that tells the farmers at a click of a button how much harvest was gleaned from each individual field, the quality of the crop and loads of other information about the field and the crops. All this is kept and in the ‘down months’ when they’re not actually working the fields, but prepping the machines, and selling the harvest, they also spend time analyzing the data so that they know where to e.g. add more fertiliser or send the cattle in or whatever.

harvester

The oats are cut by these might rotating blades, and the whole blade contraption is controlled from within the cabin, lowered and raised based on the landscape of the field. From here it’s sucked up into the back of the machine, where the ‘wheat & chaff’ are separated, so that the oats fall through into the bin, but the stalks and everything else it picks up is chucked back out the back of the machine where it is left to become grazing or mulch.

harvesting

Once the bin reaches an almost full state, an orange light atop the cab lights up so that the Chaser Bin driver knows to head in. Either the harvester stops and empties out into the Chaser Bin, or the tractor pulling it will just drive alongside and be filled up as it goes. I guess it depends on whether they feel like stopping for a chat and a snack or not! In this image they had stopped, so you can just see the blades in the back behind the blue tractor raised off the ground. 
chaserFrom here the harvester carries on again, and the Chaser Bin goes off to the silos which are then filled in a similar way before they are again emptied into a truck that will take them to the warehouse for sorting and preparing for market.

It was a really fascinating way to spend an afternoon, and Ameli was engrossed in it all.

I love that we had the opportunity to see first hand where the oats for our bliss balls (since we don’t really eat porridge!) comes from. 

mesmerised

 

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Bring Up A Butterfly …

As far as summer’s go, ours fizzled out a bit towards the end as our plans for the future began to unfold,  work took up a lot of my time, and life in general just had a bit of meh going on, especially once our friends packed up their lives and moved to Australia. One aspect of our summer that did lift me out of my funk a little, was the 50things campaign, which gave me a bit of time and focus on the children. If you find yourself struggling with getting outdoors, do have a look at the campaign. It helps focus otherwise busy mother’s mind on their children. It did for me, at least.

One of the things on the 50things list is Bring Up A Butterfly. It’s one we embraced with gusto, because my girls (4 & 2) really want a pet, but we can’t have one where we live. Of course, a butterfly isn’t a pet, so much, but it was quite the learning experience for them.

We bought a butterfly kit from Amazonwhich came with a net and a pot with caterpillars in it. The pot contains the worms, and the food they need till they transform.

 

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It was really quite amazing for all of us, watching the teeny tiny caterpillars turn very quickly into large caterpillars and almost overnight go into their cocoons. They stay in Chrysalis form for almost two weeks, then, before you know it, there’s a cocoon shaking and rattling as the butterfly writhes its way out. Soon a beautiful Painted Lady joins the world, and like a deer finds it’s feet unsteadily at first. Bring Up A Butterfly

Before you know it, the butterfly has a sip of nectar, and so the cycle is complete.

We kept them in their basket until they were all steady and ready, and on a sunny afternoon went into the garden to let them go. Butterflies are incredibly low maintenance. You really just have to look at them, and once they are hatched, give them some nectar on a saucer. It’s even easier than a gold fish.

To turn this into a true learning experience, we also used Twinkl’s Butterfly Life Cycle resource.

*If you buy the kit any time other than the Spring, they will send you everything you need, except for the caterpillars. Those will be sent to you in the Spring. It makes a lovely gift though, which is what Ameli’s was, and consequent years you can just buy caterpillar refill packs. It’s also worth noting that you can also buy a Ladybird Kit.

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 38: Bring up a butterfly  on their list. You can see the full list here.

Check Out The Creatures In A Rock Pool

When I told the kids we’d be going rock pooling, this is the kind of thing I had in mind:

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As it turns out, however, either rock pools are the UK’s best kept secret, or this display at Climping Beach is the best the South of England has to offer.

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I can’t say we saw a whole lot in the rock pools. A few darting life forms, some algae, and an anemone, but the girls had a blast in the water, digging in the sand, and spending an afternoon in wild abandon doing something they don’t normally get to do.

Wild Abandon

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 37: Check Out The Creatures In A Rock Pool  on their list. You can see the full list here.

Discover What’s In A Pond

It’s a little hard to find some frogspawn without discovering the other things in a pond.

All things slimey and erm… fun.

Our local canal centre offers a fabulous guide to help children identify what they’ve found in the pond, and over the spring and summer months, pond dipping is a favourite activity among the children – and one that ages me. I’m not fond of water I can’t see the bottom of and the thought of a child landing in it… well, not great! But so far so good. My girls have stayed safely on the side. 35And they do love pond dipping!

Apart form the canal centre’s guide we also have the RSPB guide to pond life*, a brilliant little book that lets them tick off what they’ve identified.  Money well spent in my mind!

What benefit does a child derive from a few hours of pond dipping, I hear you ask?

Well, aside from learning about what lies beneath the water, increasing awareness of their environment and learning about other ecosystems, pond dipping also works on balance – so you don’t fall in the water – and teaches risk management – just how far can I lean before I start falling? 

Discover what's in a pond

The excitement on their faces as they realise that there’s life in the bottom of those nets is priceless, and finding the critters in their pond life book is so good for instilling that sense of excitement and discovery. It’s like a treasure hunt, following clues, finding answers, handing eager young minds a love of learning and inquiring without them even realising that it’s happening.

And so little scientists and discoverers and adventurers are born, just there by the local pond, with a net and a guide book in hand.

 

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 35: Discover what’s in a pond on their list. You can see the full list here.

Five Reasons Kids Must Roll Down Hills

When I was studying to be a Rhythm Kids and Baby Massage instructor, I was surprised by a fact that has always stuck with me: in our age of health and safety and what ever else, kids no longer roll down hills like they used to and this is a very big problem.

Roll Down Hill

Rolling does a few different things for a child’s development. It aids in:

  • Vestibular Development which they need to improve their balance
  • Midline Crossover helps us become physically better coordinated and mentally with the act of thinking, and later reading.
  • Sensory Development, which helps in creating understanding of the world – like up and down, and danger or hazards and risk taking.
  • Gross Motor Development as we build strength
  • and proprioception, the tactile understanding of space.

Big words, and I’m sure you’ll agree all valuable skills that we never really think about, but just take for granted.

Of course, you can learn most of these thing in other ways too, but rolling down hills is just so much fun.

My friend Yasmin and I  threw caution to the wind and joined them in rolling down the hills one day. I can’t remember the last time I laughed as much as we did then, and I think the suited men in their meeting in the fancy building behind us were secretly wishing they could do the same! (Or really glad their wives would never do anything like that!)


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Tell me that didn’t bring a smile to your face!

No, there is definitely value to rolling down hills. It’s good for kids, and it’s fun.

I heartily recommend it!

Roll Down Hill

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 2: Roll down a hill on their list. You can see the full list here.

Pooh Sticks Have A Special Place In My Heart

Pooh Sticks is a really special game to me. My mother loved Winnie the Pooh, and after our discovery of the House at Pooh Corner and the original Pooh Sticks bridge in Ashdown Forest last year, I knew we had to take her there when they came to visit us last December.

Pooh Sticks3Unfortunately she became aggressively ill and died two weeks after arriving on their holiday and she never made it to Pooh Sticks Bridge. Instead we went as what was left of our family a few days later, we played Pooh Sticks, we sat waiting to see if Pooh and his friends were coming back, but alas, they were off on an adventure, and we lit a Chinese lantern and sent it up into the sky.

So, yes, the game that Pooh invented and played with pine cones has a very special place in my heart.

One day, when Pooh bear was just walking along the bridge with a fir cone in his paw, in his own world, not looking where he was going (probably thinking about honey), he tripped over something. This made the fir-cone jerk out of his paw into the river. 

“Bother”, said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge. So Pooh went to get another fir cone, but then thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day. So, he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him, and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too. ‘That’s funny,’ said Pooh. ‘I dropped it on the other side,’ said Pooh, ‘and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?’ 

And he went back for some more fir-cones. It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice … and then he went home for tea.

And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.’

Pooh Sticks4

If you were that way inclined, this would make a pretty good physics lesson too – something about speed and weight, trajectory, force and a whole lot of other factors too.  Or you could just have fun. The kids certainly love it.

Pooh Sticks

We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 19: Play Pooh Sticks on their list. You can see the full list here.

 

50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 And 3/4

A few years ago Ameli and I joined up with the 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 and 3/4 campaign from the National Trust because, well, I didn’t really know what to do to keep a toddler occupied!  We ticked off maybe 10 things that first year, and last year another 20 or so. Ameli is now a little older and able to do a lot of the ‘things’ without my guidance or help, so I decided that we should start over again this year, and keep a proper record of it.

The National Trust have really gone to a lot of effort to encourage people outside and if I compare my first ever visit to a National Trust property back in 2003 to what they offer families today. Every visit to a property these days is fantastic, and we have a few favourites.

If you haven’t signed up to do 50 things  yet, you can do so online, or you can pick up the free paper booklet and stickers at most properties. If you want a proper ‘memento’ you can also buy a hardback version of ‘My Adventure Scrapbook‘ for £6.99.

A particular thing I love about the 5o things is that you can make it what you want. It can be educational or fun, you can make a day, or a weekend out of it, or tick ten things off in a morning. It really can be whatever works for you. It certainly is for us!

There’s so much fun in these 50 things, I can’t wait to share them with you (the linked ones are ones we’ve done):
50 Things To Do Before you're 11 3/4 book

For Adventurers:

  1. Climb a tree
  2. Roll down a really big hill
  3. Camp out in the wild
  4. Build a den
  5. Skim a stone
  6. Run around in the rain
  7. Fly a kite
  8. Catch a fish with a net
  9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
  10. Play conkers

For Discoverers:

  1. Go on a really long bike ride
  2. Make a trail with sticks
  3. Make a mud pie
  4. Dam a stream
  5. Play in the snow
  6. Make a daisy chain
  7. Set up a snail race
  8. Create some wild art
  9. Play Pooh-sticks
  10. Jump over waves

For Rangers:

  1. Untitled2Pick blackberries growing in the wild
  2. Explore inside a tree
  3. Visit a farm
  4. Go on a walk barefoot
  5. Make a grass trumpet
  6. Hunt for fossils and bones
  7. Go star gazing
  8. Climb a huge hill
  9. Explore a cave
  10. Hold a scary beast

For Trackers:

  1. Hunt for bugs
  2. Find some frogspawn
  3. Catch a falling leaf
  4. Track wild animals
  5. Discover what’s in a pond
  6. Make a home for a wild animal
  7. Check out the creatures in a rock pool
  8. Bring up a butterfly
  9. Catch a crab
  10. Go on a nature walk at night50 things

For Explorers:

  1. Plant it, grow it, eat it
  2. Go swimming in the sea
  3. Build a raft
  4. Go bird watching
  5. Find your way with a map ad compass
  6. Try rock climbing
  7. Cook on a camp fire
  8. Learn to ride a horse
  9. Find a geocache
  10. Canoe down a river

So, it’s summer time, we have no schedules, we have no agendas and we’re going to see how far we can get in our #50things. Why not join us?

 

Literature To Crafts: The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

It’s been absolutely ages since we’ve had a chance to read a story and do crafts from it, but the opportunity presented itself today and I grabbed it with both hands.

A few weeks ago we were going to make an ocean diorama, so we painted out a box in shades of blue and green. Our plans didn’t quite work out – my girls aren’t fond of colouring, what’s that about? – so we abandoned it, but I still had the box, in hope.

We read The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile by Margaret Wise Brown (currently £5.16 at Amazon UK/$7 Amazon US), which is a story about … well, endurance, I guess, because I couldn’t really find many other lessons in it. But endurance is a valuable skill and in this story, the fisherman search high and low for a fish with a ‘Deep Sea Smile’. They don’t find one for ages, but come across many other fish in the meantime: there’s one with a strong jaw, one with an electric tail, one with eyes on sticks, one with terrible claws and even one with a laughing eye.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

The ability to see something through, in this case finding the fish they were looking for, is valuable, and uncommon in our quick-win society, so I think it’s a great life skill to talk about.

I also love the illustrations in this story. They are done by Henry Fisher, and if I was to have a book illustrated, I’d love him to do it. They are so beautifully done. The pictures don’t really do it justice – especially the electric fish (second on the right below).

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

To bring our book to life, I cut the parts of the fish from coloured paper, and put the different parts of the fish together in piles so the girls could ‘build’ their fish from the given parts.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

I must say that I love our finished product. In all honesty I’m  not always ‘yay’ about the crafts we do, and we’ll keep them on display for a while before letting them ‘disappear’. I really do like this ocean diorama though. I have no idea where we’ll keep it, but it’s cute, bright, colourful and the fish are so friendly and fun.

It’s a great reminder of the story, which the girls thoroughly enjoyed.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

*We received this book as part of the Parragon Book Buddies program. You can find Parragon Books on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can find this book on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here.

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