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.

Fun in the ‘garden’ with our Little Pals gardening set – #CountryKids

Before I knew I was pregnant with Andrew, we were looking to buy a flat in Cambridge. The week after we paid a reserve deposit on a newly built flat in a great location within walking distance from the city centre (about 30 minutes), a pregnancy test showed up positive. I’m not sure knowing this earlier would have affected our decision – with property prices being so high around here we wouldn’t have afforded anywhere bigger within the city – but one thing I was slightly concerned about was that we had no garden of our own for a small child to have fun in. But there is a communal garden, which we do use quite a lot to play in, and there are a few local parks only a short walk away, and we have a balcony, which isn’t a bad size. It’s on this balcony that we’ve had fun with gardening recently – and I like to think that our situation is proof that you don’t need a big garden to have gardening fun with a toddler!

Andrew and Granny planting seeds
Andrew and Granny planting seeds

Over the nearly 3 years that we’ve been here, we’ve managed to grow more and more food on our balcony. It first started off with a couple of tomato plants; this year we have four tomato plants in big (faded) red planter bags, several runner bean plants (some in a planter bag and some in a tub hanging over the balcony rail), strawberries, various herbs, radishes, onions, carrots and lettuces (all in tubs hanging over the balcony rail). We also have some sunflowers, but they’ve had to come in as a slug ate one of them. I have to say that it’s really Granny who’s taken the lead on this, bringing seeds and plants as she’s sorted out some for her own garden. I’m not naturally the most green fingered person, but Tom enjoys watering and tending to plants, and now he has a helper in the form of Andrew!

Andrew (and Daddy) doing some watering
Andrew (and Daddy) doing some watering

So when I heard about the BritMums Kids Grow Wild challenge, through which we could grab ourselves a Little Pals gardening set, I knew this would be perfect for Andrew who is keen to help with the gardening. Unfortunately it didn’t arrive in time for Granny’s visit when she and Andrew did the actual planting into tubs of the seeds and plants that she had prepared for us, but Andrew has still has lots of fun watering every day with his very own watering can, and putting on the gloves as he inspects how the plants are doing (rather heavy handedly at times!)

Gloves on, inside and out!
Gloves on, inside and out!

The set comprises a bag with the perfect sized carry handles for little hands, a proper metal watering can, trowel and garden fork, a small pair of gardening gloves and some seeds. Andrew is very impressed, and often plays with the bag and gloves even when not gardening! We’ve left the trowel and fork outside in the high tubs out of his reach, as he’s only allowed to use them with our supervision – they are really very sturdy, and knowing him he’s probably do some serious damage if left to his own devices.

The Little Pals gardening set
The Little Pals gardening set

When Granny came with all her stuff, Andrew was very interested in helping her plant seeds and transfer plants to our tubs. I’m glad that he’s learning from an early age about how plants start off from seeds and grow. He didn’t quite get it at first that you have to wait and watch as they grow slowly – he expected them to grow immediately like on the Waybuloo app on Grandad’s iPad! But now he’s slowly realising, I think, that they are gradually growing and we have to wait before we can eat things from them. He keeps saying that he wants a bean when they are ready. Every evening when Daddy comes in from work, they go out on the balcony together and water the plants, each with their own watering can. Next year we can use the seeds that came in the Little Pals set, or maybe we can squeeze another tub onto the balcony this year, we’ll see!

Our tubs on the balcony
Our tubs on the balcony

How big is your garden? Hopefully this post will inspire anyone who thinks that their garden (or equivalent!) is too small to do much with – it is possible to have gardening fun, especially if you’re 2 years old! I’ll leave you with a video of us (well actually me: Andrew got camera shy) singing ‘I dig my garden’ – one of Andrew’s favourite songs to sing at the moment (when he doesn’t think anyone is listening/filming); he also recounts how he dug with Granny and Grandad, and shows his enthusiasm for his little fork 🙂

This post is an entry for the BritMums #KidsGrowWild Challenge – more details at Moneysupermarket.com 

The Little Pals set was sent to us free of charge. All views expressed are honest and our own based on our experience of using the set.

I’m also linking up to #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall