Outdoor fun close to home – #CountryKids

As the weather has got much nicer this week, most afternoons we’ve been outside making our own fun either at the local parks or in our garden. In the mornings we go to groups where there is usually an opportunity to play outside too, either during or after the group, when the weather is nice. But it was when I was taking pictures of the boys at the local parks (we live about half way between two) and in the garden that I realised just how important it is to us to go out so locally and have fun involving physical activity.

Earlier in the week the weather was sunny but still not so warm, hence the hat and coats!
Earlier in the week the weather was sunny but still not so warm, hence the hat and coats!

It’s not that we didn’t do it in the winter – believe me we went to the park as often as possible over the past 6 months – but when it was (getting) dark at 5pm, even our local parks were difficult to walk to in 10 minutes, play for a while and walk back, all after Andrew had woken up from his nap and Joel had finished feeding (notoriously hard to coordinate these things!)

A warmer day at the other park later in the week.
A warmer day at the other park later in the week.

As much as we love adventuring further afield and exploring new places, particularly on holiday, we do also love the familiarity of our local outdoor spots that are great for the boys. Although Cambridge is a city (ok, a fairly small one) there are lots of green spaces and parks, so wherever you live here, even if in or near the city centre, you’re never very far from somewhere that the kids can run around and let off some energy. As I said, we live in between two parks, one of which offers more for Andrew now that he’s confident on all sorts of equipment including slides, swings, seesaws, tunnels, rope bridges etc., and one of which is smaller and more contained so is easier for me to keep an eye on him whilst letting Joel go on the swing and seesaw.

I distinctly remember taking Andrew to the park for the first time when he was nearly 4 months old. I pushed him gently on the swing and it was a gloriously sunny day – that was the year that we had a lovely April and May of hot weather. Just recently I realised that although Joel has been to the park many times in his life, I hadn’t actually given him a go on anything, because he’s usually been asleep as we tend to go out when he needs a nap and he feeds mostly when we’re at home. So I’ve started trying to give him chance to have a go on things before he goes to sleep – quite tricky to coordinate timings, but we’re getting there.

Bike in garden
I’m riding on my bicycle, riding on my bicycle – in our garden

Although we live in a flat, there is a lovely communal garden (read: our garden, as nobody else ever uses it, they’re all singles and child-less couples who work all day and seem to go away at weekends) with plenty of grass and a gravel circle which Andrew loves – picking up gravel, moving it to our window sill, making shapes with it on the slabs, throwing it (until Mummy stops him doing that one!), kicking it (gently is ok by Mummy), kicking a ball on it, riding his bike around the edge and more! The grass is handy too, for these kind of activities. There is also the great game of running round and round the house of flats trying to hide from Mummy, which can be exhausting but fun for anyone over the age of 2.

Playing with balls of different varieties in the garden.
Playing with balls of different varieties in the garden.

The only downside of this garden is that we have to go out the main front door, even though we are on the ground floor and our ‘balcony/terrace’ looks out onto the garden but is separated from it by a thick glass panel that only people as tall as daddy can jump! So I can’t just open the back door and let Andrew out on his own and watch him from inside. One day we hope to have enough money to get a bigger place and we would only consider places with a garden because we can see how crucial this is for our boys. But for now we all go out together, which is by no means a bad thing, we just have to wait til we’re all ready.

Do you enjoy going to your local park? At what age did you start going with a baby/toddler? We’d love to hear from others who love being outdoors like us 🙂

Andrew trying to be like Daddy and jump the balcony/terrace wall! Plus a new found skill of looking at me through his legs. It all got a bit much for Joel and he took a nap as we played :)
Andrew trying to be like Daddy and jump the balcony/terrace wall! Plus a new found skill of looking at me through his legs. It all got a bit much for Joel and he took a nap as we played 🙂

I’m linking up with #CountryKids at Coombe Mill blog again this week

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



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 😉

Personalised birthday cards: Granny’s Garden

It’s that time of year again: my parents’ birthdays are here (one in February and one in March). They have lots of things and I never know what to buy them. So this year I decided to make them personalised cards for a present, because I know they will appreciate something that was hand made. (I also popped some cinema vouchers inside for Mum – I can’t say yet what will be in Dad’s as his birthday hasn’t come yet.) Here’s how I made the card called ‘Granny’s Garden’….

I started with a piece of A4 chocolate brown stiff card in a landscape orientation
I folded it into 3 in a zig-zag kind of way: the height of the folded card is the shorter side of A4, and each third is about 10cm wide. I cut off a piece from the top of the middle section and the front section using wavy pinking scissors to create a wavy edge, cutting from one side to the other in a diagonal direction.
I cut a piece of green paper with a geometric pattern about 5mm less wide on both sides than the front section of the brown card. I cut the top with wavy pinking scissors to create a wavy edge at the same angle as the card. I then made a plant bed (see next picture).
To make a plant bed just like Granny has (but hers aren't pink!), I cut a small rectangle of brown card for the soil, two longer strips of pink stripy paper, two shorter thinner strips and finally 4 very short and thin bits for the corner posts. It was all stuck together using double-sided tape, and likewise stuck onto the brown card. I added some small bits of thick green wool to be the vegetables, stuck on with PVA glue at the base only so they flap around at the top.
I then attached two cocktail sticks to the inside of the card, which would later be used to hold the bunting up. They were stuck on with PVA glue and then a small rectangle of brown card on top to cover up the stick where it was attached on the card.
This was the trickiest and fiddliest bit. I made some bunting using lilac craft wire and little triangles cut out of various patterned papers. I folded each triangle over the top of the wire by about 3mm, and stuck it down back on itself using double-sided tape. I used contrasting patterns and colours for each successive triangle as I went along. Finally I wrote 'Granny's Garden' on the finished bunting using a black gel pen.
I attached the bunting to the back of the card at the top using double sided tape and then sticking a small piece of brown card over the top using more DS-tape to hide the wire where it was stuck down. At the other end I tied the wire around the cocktail stick and put a small blob of PVA glue to stop it springing up again. The bottom piece of bunting was attached at both ends to a cocktail stick in the same way.
I then stuck a piece of coloured paper with a flowery pattern on the middle section of the card, about 5mm less wide on both sides than the card itself so there was a brown border. I also cut the top using waving pinking scissors to create a wavy edge. I stuck a button on with PVA glue on the centre of the big blue and green flower on the top right (see below)
I then cut out a wheelbarrow shape, a fork and a trowel in different coloured papers that contrasted with the green background. They were stuck on using DS-tape, and then I drew around the wheelbarrow with a black gel pen. A black button for its wheel, stuck on with PVA glue, completed the wheelbarrow.
Inside a Happy Birthday sticker completed the card, and it was then ready to write for Granny.
There we are: Granny's Garden

I love making things and this project reminded why I like doing it for other people – I like to see them receive something personalised and made with love. I find it very relaxing and it’s the kind of thing I do when Daddy and Andrew go out together on a Saturday morning. There will be more of this kind of craft coming up on the blog when I get the chance.