Winter garden fun – #CountryKids

There are many reasons why we are enjoying living at Granny and Grandad’s house temporarily. One of these is the fact that they have a nice garden with lots of space to play. Having come from a flat, though we were lucky enough to have almost sole use of the communal garden there, it’s a real luxury just to be able to open the door and run out to play, knowing that the boys are fully enclosed. With the weather being so rubbish this week, and us being ill at the start of the week, it’s been good just to be able to get out between showers without going too far and getting drenched.

Slide Collage 1

The boys’ main point of interest this week and last has been the slide that Andrew got for his birthday. I know they like slides at the park, but I guess with other equipment there the fun gets spread around, whereas in the garden this is THE thing to climb on! (They haven’t taken to climbing the trees…yet!) I love how kids like nothing better than repetition – somehow doing the same thing over and over again entertains them for hours. Andrew can of course do it entirely unaided, and how dare I offer to help! Going down on your bottom forwards is for wimps, so instead we see all angles attempted, though some (like head first on tummy) he’s discovered aren’t too comfortable. Joel tries to do the whole slide thing himself, and has a good go, but as it’s really meant for 2-6 year olds, the steps are quite big for him, and an arm stretched out to Mummy appears. He’s not afraid of the relatively steep drop for his size though, and laughs as he whooshes down.

Slide Collage 2

Although the slide is brand new, the older garden toys still get a look in. Joel is particularly fond of the seesaw, probably because it’s just the right height for him to get on and off himself, which isn’t the case at the park. What you see behind the seesaw in the pictures just below is a Little Tikes toy kitchen – there’s a bit of a story behind how we acquired this… Granny and Grandad were walking down the road near to home one day and spotted this kitchen in a skip on the drive of a house. It looked in perfect working order, if a little grubby, so they knocked on the door and asked politely if there was any chance they could have it. The man at the door said of course they could, it used to be for their grandchildren but they have now grown up, and he even offered to drop it round to our house in his van! So with a bit of a clean up with the hose, it’s now got a new home to get loved by another set of grandchildren, who love playing with (toy) kitchens. Those are the pots and pans that came with it scattered on the grass. A good bit of recycling that would otherwise have ended up at the tip.

Seesaw Collage

Talking of recycling, the boys are always fascinated by cardboard boxes and other such ‘interesting’ bits of rubbish. The slide came in a big box, which when flattened out on the grass became a ‘trampoline’ for a while. They had great fun jumping up and down on it, rolling balls over it and generally treating it like a toy rather than something to go in the recycling box. It’s amazing how far a little imagination can go when it comes to cardboard!

Box Collage

It’s particularly good to have an enclosed space outdoors for Joel, because he is surprisingly fast for his age and I find I need eyes in the back of my head when out with the two of them on my own at the park. Of course he can still get into mischief in the garden – like when he takes an interest in the compost bins (pictured bottom right below) – but generally it’s a pretty child proof environment. On this particular day he was getting tired towards the end of our play outside, so at one point just lay down on the grass and kicked his legs in the air – pity he never adopts this pose when I’m actually trying to change his nappy rather than running off immediately!

Joel garden Collage

Another of Andrew’s favourite ‘toys’ that isn’t a toy is the water butt and watering can combo. Ever since he learned how to get water out of the tap on the butt, he’s keen to water the plants at every opportunity, even if they clearly don’t need watering (he obviously hasn’t realised how much rain we’ve had recently!) But despite the fact that he didn’t really need to water the garden, it was alright to be emptying some water from the butt, because there was a blockage at some point between the two butts (one doesn’t have a tap on so just flows into the other, if all is well) and Grandad needed us to get rid of a bit of water so he could investigate. So we filled a few watering cans and poured them onto the garden or then down the drain once the plants were well and truly saturated. Andrew took charge, showing Joel how it’s done.

Water Collage

No post about garden fun could be complete without a word on the various forms of food and drink that are on offer for local wildlife, mainly birds, though squirrels get their oar in too, and Grandad has created a ‘hedgehog home’ out of scraps of tree and other foliage at the back of the garden (which you can just about make out in the bottom left picture below).Andrew is often intrigued by the nut holders and other equipment that is rigged up on the lawn, and likes to help Grandad mend it and top up the food/water when necessary. There’s even a tray on the lawn at their height for putting food out like scraps of bread and fat (pictured on the top left). I could write a whole post about bird watching with kids in this garden, or better still get Grandad to write it – he blogs at Garden Twitter.

Animal food Collage

Although it’s been cold and wet recently, we’ve still had fun togged up in the garden whenever we can, and now the evenings are getting noticeably lighter, it’s so positive to be able to get out even after afternoon naps for an hour or so. Roll on spring! We’re also looking forward to having a garden at our new house, where the new slide will live and where I’m sure we’ll have many more good outdoor times to come.

I’m linking up with the fabulous Coombe Mill blog for #CountryKids again this week.

Family day out to find Brum (and some penguins!) – #CountryKids

Hands up – who’s heard of Brum? The little yellow car that is, not the nickname for Birmingham, though that is the point – the play on words that this car is called Brum and he has big adventures in the Big Town which is actually Birmingham. You may not have heard of him, or watched the programme when you were little. I just about remember it, but I think we had more interest in it than most families in the country as we lived near Birmingham and recognised the places it was filmed; it was on CBBC back in the 90s.

We found Brum!
We found Brum!

Thanks to Grandad, who was born and bred in Brum, Andrew has become a big fan of Brum the car. It’s his favourite DVD and he could sit for hours and watch it if I let him. For Christmas, Granny gave Andrew and Grandad the present of a day out to find the real Brum in person! We decided to wait until the weather was better and Joel was older before we did this, so we took advantage of the bank holiday three-day weekend last week and went on our family day out.

At the beginning of each episode we see Brum leaving his home in a garage full of old cars in a quiet Cotswold village and driving all the way to Birmingham to have an adventure and save the day in some big farcical mishap (often involving ‘naughty men’ or ‘baddies’ in Andrew’s words). It is at this Cotswold home that he now resides full time since he no longer films TV programmes. It is actually the Cotswold Motoring Musuem and Toy Collection run by the CSMA club in Bourton on the Water. As well as housing Brum, there is an amazing collection of old cars and other memorabilia from various decades of the last century. Now I’m not in any way a car enthusiast (as long as mine gets me from A to B I couldn’t care less what it looks like!) but I have to say I found the museum fascinating, I think precisely because it wasn’t just old cars, but old cars placed in context with other items of everyday living from their era.

Lots for toddlers to do around the museum
Lots for toddlers to do around the museum

When we spotted Brum hiding between two bigger cars, just as he does in the opening scene, Andrew was surprised to see him, but after the initial shock he seemed happy enough to have his photo taken (a few times!) next to him, of course with Grandad too! Once we’d hung around and talked to him for a bit, we made our way through the rest of the museum, which I would highly recommend for children of any age from toddlers to teenagers. There were toys to play with along the way that related to the era of each room, for example a toy work bench with tools in the old car workshop and bright coloured star block things in the swinging sixties room with multi-coloured windows! Andrew loved it, and so did we 🙂

Perhaps the best bit for a Brum-obsessed toddler (and his grandad) was the play room at the end – not only were there real old toys including cars to look at but also some new toys to play with and a ride-on Brum! What more could he ask for?! The paintings on the wall of famous portraits, such as the Mona Lisa and The Scream, repainted with Brum characters were particularly entertaining.

After the excitement of finding Brum, we took a wander through the village and then found a lovely cafe for lunch. We weren’t sure if the weather was going to be good enough for a picnic, so didn’t risk it, and even if we had have taken one, we would have been fighting the world and his wife for a spot by the river in this idyllic Cotswold village that gets rather busy (read: rammed) on a sunny Sunday afternoon!

Brum 3

As it had turned out so nice and sunny after a cloudy start, we decided to make the most of being out and go to Birdland in the village. I remember going there a few times as a child, so it was lovely to go back with my own kids and se how it has changed and also how it’s still the same place. As we arrived we were just in time to see the penguin feeding session. There’s a bit of a penguin theme in our family, as Tom has been into collecting all things penguin since he was little, and the boys seem to have been given quite a lot of stuff to carry on the tradition. So we were all impressed with seeing some real live penguins enjoying their fishy snack!

Penguins

Once feeding time was over we headed off around the park to see lots of other birds. There was everything from small canaries to owls to storks to large ostriches. Andrew was very good but was clearly starting to get tired, so after a wander we sat outside at the cafe and had a nice cool drink, until he spotted a play park nearby and insisted on having a go, the Duracell bunny that he is! So Grandad (was) volunteered to go with him. Meanwhile, Joel was very contented to spend most of the day being worn in the sling, either asleep or having a good old look around at all the new sights, and also getting out and feeding/eating with us when we sat down.

Flamingoes and an ostrich
Flamingoes and an ostrich

A quick dash back to the cars when we remembered that the time on the ticket was running out and we were on our way home again. A thoroughly enjoyed day to remember for years to come and some worn out boys were what we were left with.

Linking up with Country Kids at Coombe Mill blog again today 🙂

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Shufflepot ice cream – wot so funee?

As I said in yesterday’s blog, we’ve just been on holiday for a week to the Lake District. During the week, Andrew came out with a few things that tickled us, or even made me howl with laughter in utter astonishment! So here’s my offering for the wot so funee linky this week….

Kisskin

First up is a type of bird. Now Grandad loves bird watching and is keen to get Andrew involved in his hobby too. Granny and Grandad’s garden is full of bird feeders, bird boxes, other bird paraphernalia that I have no clue about, and even cameras that capture some pretty amazing footage – take a look at Grandad’s website Garden Twitter if you’re interested, there are activities for kids too. Whenever he goes up to their holiday house the Lake District, Grandad always takes some bird feeding equipment with him so he can get some birdlife into the garden up there. This time he had a ‘spot the bird’ book for children, and encouraged Andrew by getting him to stick the stickers provided on the right page when they saw each type of bird. This meant that Andrew learned various bird species names last week, most of which he was pretty good at accurately reproducing, but one was worth a giggle – siskin became kisskin! I’m just imagining these little birds kissing each other now 🙂

It’s not unusual for children acquiring language to do this thing where they repeat a sound in a word, in this case ‘k’, at the start of each syllable. It’s not quite the same thing as ‘reduplication’, which involves whole syllables being repeated, as in ‘ma-ma’ and ‘da-da’ when they first start to say mummy and daddy, and of course in that very early babbling which Joel is just starting to do now (another post coming up on that some time soon).

shufflepot

When we got back to Granny and Grandad’s house in Coventry where we stayed overnight on the way home, Andrew had great fun removing every single price of outdoor game/sport equipment from the little shed that they keep them in. Once he’d been through all the different types of balls, commenting on their size, he came across the weird ones with (plastic) feathers that are used to play badminton with. His curiosity led him to ask Granny what it was, so she replied with ‘shuttlecock’, and his repetition of the word was a hilarious ‘shufflepot’! He then proceeded to pop a tennis ball in the top and walk round saying he had an ice cream (well it did look like a cone with a scoop of ice cream in!)

To be fair, ‘shuttlecock’ is a bit of a mouthful, with all sorts of different sounds made at different places in the mouth, so it wasn’t a bad rendition at all for a 26-month old. He got the outline of the word correct, the right number of syllables, the right stress pattern, the right vowels, it was just the consonants that were a bit mangled. The ‘p’ and ‘t’ of ‘pot’ are the same type of sound as the ‘k’ at the start and end of ‘cock’, as the air coming up from the lungs is momentarily stopped before being released again, they just vary as to where in the mouth the blockage is formed (lips for ‘p’, behind the teeth for ‘t’ and at the back of the mouth for ‘k’).

Shufflepot
Shufflepot ice cream 🙂

fangle

He’s said this one a few times now, since his birthday, but I still find it funny. When we walked into the pub for lunch one day, there were 2 candles on the table that we sat at. Andrew was very excited by this, and took great pleasure in repeating ‘two fangles’ a few times until I translated for the rest of our family and they replied, ‘ah yes you’re right Andrew, there are two candles’! 

Again, this isn’t a bad go at the word – he’s got the outline right, it’s just the consonants at the start of each syllable that need a bit of work, but he’ll get there over time. Notice how he’s using an ”f’ sound in both ‘fangle’ and ‘shufflepot’ instead of a ‘k’ or a ‘t’ sound (these two are quite similar in that they are the same type of sound, as I said above). I’m not sure exactly why he should go for this sound, which is made by air hissing between the bottom lip and top front teeth, but maybe it’s some kind of default for him when he’s finding it hard to get right all the sounds he’s heard.

No mummy, you’ve got it all wrong!

To finish off today’s post, I have to share something that left me in stitches. Unlike all the other things he’s said that have made me laugh, it wasn’t that he said something in a child-like way with dodgy consonants, but rather what he said was perfectly accurate and sounded like he was about 7 years old!! We were driving along with mountains on one side and a lake on the other (as you do in the Lake District!) He was looking out the window, so I commented on the scenery and said something like (I can’t remember exactly) ‘oh look Andrew, there are some trees up there’. His reply, in a very adult-like manner and intonation, was an insistent ‘No Mummy, you’ve got it all wrong!’ I couldn’t quite believe my ears!

He is saying many more sentences now, but this was the most accurate, out of the blue and out of the ordinary that I’ve heard from him. I think he must have picked it up just like that, the whole sentence, from someone, either in person or in a book that was read to him (or possibly on a DVD though we don’t have that many and I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard it on any of them). What I’m trying to learn from this is to watch what I say… you never know when it might get repeated back to me at an inappropriate moment. So far so good on this front, but it’s only a matter of time I’m sure!

Wot So Funee?

Personalised birthday cards: Grandad’s birdies

After the success of Granny’s Garden, I decided to have a go at making some birds to go on a card for my dad’s birthday. Over the past few years he’s got into bird-watching, particularly in my parents’ back garden, and has rigged up all sorts of camera technology to get quite fascinating pictures and videos of birds as they come and eat/drink/nest in the garden. If you’re interested, he has a website displaying all his finds, called Garden Twitter. He’s be really chuffed if more people went and had a look.

Anyway, that’s not really the main point of this post. I know nothing about birds, and would find it hard to tell you any names of those that land in the garden other than the obese pigeons that you can’t fail to notice. So I had to do some research in order to make the birds on the card as realistic as possible (OK, maybe realistic is the wrong word, because they’re cartoon-like, but I mean they have the right colours in the right places on their bodies!) That’s where the RSPB website came in handy, with its very useful colour sketches of birds that I know Dad has seen in the garden – perfect 🙂

Here’s a step by step guide to how I made ‘Grandad’s Birdies’…. (p.s. in case you were wondering, this post was written a while ago but I couldn’t publish it til after his birthday – I’m still busy with other things at the moment, so little blogging action 🙁 )

1. I started with a piece of thick brown A4 card
2. I folded it into three - the 2 side sections (which will become the front of the card) were deliberately unequal in size
3. I made a bluetit, by cutting a body, wing feathers, tail feathers, face and top of head feathers out of different textured papers
4. Here's the finished bluetit
5. I made a robin - just like I made the bluetit, using the same shapes but in different colours of paper
6. Here's a greenfinch - made in the same way again
7. Here's a goldfinch - made in the same way again
8. I then stuck the bluetit onto the wider front section, and then cut round him with a craft knife until reaching his tail, and then carried on cutting a straight line from him to the top and the botton of the card (making this front section less wide than it was, but still wide enough to meet the other front section when closed, as shown in the picture)
9. Now for the inside of the card... I cut out a tree from some coloured papers, and a piece of blue paper to be the 'sky' as well as a flowery piece to be the 'garden'
10. Then the other 3 birds found their home in or on the tree - all this sticking was done using double-sided tape by the way
11. I then drew round bluetit with silver pen, and on the flap underneath where he sits, I then cut out the centre of the bird-shaped silver outline that was now drawn onto it.
12. The idea of this hole was that it allows us to peak through at the garden of birds just before we open the whole card up. I also stuck a Happy Birthday sticker on the left and flap (the other side to the peep hole)
13. I added some flowery paper onto the front of the card, the same height as it was inside, so it's in keeping and continuity with the garden inside
14. The final touch was some writing on the front - Where are Grandad's birdies? Beau (the name of his Bluetit on his website) knows!.... then you open the card and find them in the garden, you see 😉