The sand park – #CountryKids

Whilst we’ve been living at Granny and Grandad’s house, we’ve done lots of park trips, just like we used to back in Cambridge. The nearest park to us here in Coventry is the War Memorial Park, which is the biggest in the city. In fact, considering it’s only a 10-15 minute walk from the city centre, it’s easy to forget you’re in a big city whilst walking through its green fields.  We love it because it’s perfect for bike riding and getting a good walk in the open air, and yet it’s so close to home. Not to mention that it has an aviary, a skate park, and a couple of nice cafes.

Right in the middle is Andrew and Joel’s favourite bit: the ‘sand park’ as Andrew calls it. This is a play area that, unsurprisingly, has sand on the ground. It hasn’t always been like this – I remember playing there as a child and it was bark chipping underneath the climbing frames etc. The sand means that it’s almost like a mini beach, which is a nice idea for kids living in one of the most central cities of the UK, miles from the actual beach.

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Andrew in particular likes to play with the sand in the main bit of the park if we remember to take implements or if he finds some there. There is also a smaller section to one side, also with sand on the ground, that has buckets and pulleys, so you can lift sand off the ground and transport it around the climbing frame and do various things with it like put it down chutes, through a mill and through a colander. This provides lots of entertainment, and is just the right size for Joel to climb on too.

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It’s not quite like the beach in that there is no water most of the time. During the school summer holidays they open up a water area that has fountains another water features that the kids can run through and play in. I don’t think we’ve ever actually seen this working though!

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Generally the boys really enjoy this park, but I tend only to go there if I’m with another adult these days. The trouble is that most of the equipment is a little too old for them apart from the one section with buckets, and they both try to climb on the sections meant for older kids and teenagers, which I find stressful on my own. So we usually go to another park when it’s just the 3 of us. I’m sure this phase will pass, and we can go back there the 3 of us when they’re older. The sand is a lovely feature though, even if it does get everywhere – including all the way home!

Linking up with the fab #CountryKids linky at Coombe Mill’s blog as usual.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

To the steering wheel shop – wot so funee?

In the past couple of weeks, Andrew has well and truly given up his afternoon nap. It wasn’t’ bad going at all to be still napping beyond his 3rd birthday, so I can’t complain, but it does mean that he is around in the afternoon. He is actually very happy to just play on his own for a while, and seems to like the time without Joel (who has at least some nap in the afternoon) to play with the toys that Joel isn’t allowed. However, it does mean he can also get into more mischief now that he’s roaming around downstairs rather than enclosed in his bedroom.

One afternoon last week, I suddenly became aware that I could hear some noises coming from the kitchen. Just as I was about to get up from the sofa and investigate, Andrew came in to the living room and said… “Look Mummy, I made myself some squash!” Wot so funee about that, you may ask? Well, I was sceptical that he’d managed to do that all on his own, so I asked to have a look. As I thought, he had poured neat squash into one of his drinks bottles and was drinking it undiluted from a straw. So I gently brought him back to the kitchen, where I saw the scene of devastation that was half a bottle of squash spilled all over the work surface and a pack of straws strewn across the floor. I had to admire his independence and determination to do it himself, but it took me a while to clear up!

Andrew is becoming very keen on pretend play, for example with the toy kitchen and making us cups of tea and cake, and also acting out role plays. I saw him sitting on the floor with arms out in front of him, brumming like a car. He caught my eye and the following conversation started…

A: “I’m in my car Mummy”

Me: “Ah I can see, where are you going Andrew?”

A: “To the steering wheel shop to buy a steering wheel”

Me: “Of course! That’s obviously what you buy from a steering wheel shop!”

I did wonder how he was driving the car in the first place, but I didn’t like to go down that route.

I’m used to being handed random blocks or bricks and having to play along with the fact that they are really cakes/biscuits/something else edible. Except I did this automatically the other day, and started to pretend I was eating a block of Duplo, thinking I was supposed to be treating it like a cake. But then I got told off…

A: “No it’s not an eaty marble, it’s a rolly marble!”

Me: “I can’t see any marbles Andrew?!”

A: “It’s a marble holder that, I just said, not a cake!”

Me: “Ah sorry I must have missed that!”

Now that we’re living with Granny and Grandad temporarily, they too have been experiencing quite a few funee moments first hand, and relaying them to me. Here’s a good one from the other morning when they were watching Cbeebies together and a cow called Buttercup came on screen…

Granny: “Buttercup – that’s a classic name for a cow.”

A: “I do like plastic names!”

I wrote a few weeks ago about Andrew using nouns that he knows as verbs – for example, to fork something (get it on his fork). This week he was playing in the garden with a ball, and came out with “I want to tennis it!” We presume he meant he wanted to serve it off the bat, or maybe just throw it.

And finally for this week, here’s another example of Andrew deliberately changing the words of a song for effect. He loves singing, and knows the words to quite a few songs (in French and German as well as English), but every now and then he likes to make his own words up to a song that I know he knows the real words to. This week we had: “All do the hocus pocus!” And I know full well that he’s known the words to the Hokey Cokey for a long time, since he sang it most weeks at the music group he and Daddy went to in Cambridge on Tuesday mornings.

Wot So Funee?

Heroes of the City – review & giveaway

In stereotypical boy form, Andrew is very into vehicles of any sort (though he does like the colour pink). From passenger ones like cars and buses, to construction ones like diggers and cranes, to emergency ones like police cars and fire engines, to countryside ones like tractors and harvesters, and of course to airborne ones like planes and rockets, he can’t get enough of them. So when we were given the opportunity to review some goodies from the TV cartoon series Heroes of the City, I knew he’d love to put them to the test.

Heroes of the City is about rescue vehicles in a small town where everyone can be a hero. Each episode involves an exciting adventure, where characters such as Paulie Police Car and Fiona Fire Engine help the people of the town find thieves, put out fires, and solve the many mysteries that happen in the otherwise quiet town. The characters emphasise friendship, warmth, and what can be accomplished by helping each other. The cartoon is primarily targeted at children age 3-7, and is created by Swedish company Ruta Ett DVD AB. So Andrew well and truly fits in their target audience category.

Hotc eng copy

We were sent a goody bag that included 3 exciting items – toys, book and DVD – each of which I’ll review in turn below. Andrew’s first impression of these goodies was this:

“Wow I love these toys, they’re my favourite!” (though I don’t think he’s quite understood the concept of favourite, he says that about a lot of things, but still, this means it’s positive), “can I watch the DVD please?”

Toys

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We received two die cast toy vehicles – Paulie Police Car and Troy Tractor. These are very cute, and just the right size for Andrew to enjoy playing with now that he’s old enough to have something that bit smaller than the chunky vehicle toys that Joel still plays with. They look well made, and being metal (rather than plastic), they look like they will last for a long time of being well loved. I love how they are cartoon-y in shape – not like a standard Matchbox-style toy car – and reflect really well the characters that you see on screen. They have already been played with a lot, including the snippet of fun in this video in which they went to the car wash (or tractor wash)…

Book

We were sent the Hot Air Balloon story, and there are others too. It has hard front and back covers with glossy full colour pages inside. The pages are filled with full scenes from the episodes, with chunks of text in boxes overlaid to tell the story. I think there is just the right amount of text for Andrew, and he can easily follow the story. He loves the big, bright pictures that fill the pages, and he’s had fun pointing out what he can see as well as reading the story with me and recognising letters and a few words. I think the font is easy to read and about the right size for Andrew at this stage. On the front and back inside covers, there’s even a spot the Calamity Crow scene, which is a fun searching game.

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My one slight reservation is that it sounds slightly American to me – for example in this book, the word soccer is used instead of football, and I had to explain to him what this was, because he knows what football is but he hasn’t heard of soccer. I don’t have a problem with American culture, it’s nothing personal, I just like to stick with British English when reading to Andrew. In time he will no doubt get used to American English too. It won’t stop us reading this book, I just have to do more explaining on a couple of things.

DVD

We were sent Volume 1 which has 5 episodes on. Andrew likes watching it, and straight away picked up on the fact that it’s the same characters and city as the ‘games on Mummy’s phone’. I like the animation, and the faces on the vehicles cleverly show all sorts of emotions using lights for eyes, bumpers for mouths, grills for noses etc. I can see how the aim to ’emphasise friendship, warmth, and what can be accomplished by helping each other’ comes across through watching it myself with the boys, I think it achieves this well and in a way that appeals to preschoolers, particularly if they like vehicles.

The theme tune is catchy, and I found myself humming it to the boys randomly – this happens with various kids programs I find, and this too has made it into my subconscious playlist 😉

Again I should say that the English is American, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but just something to watch out with in terms of vocab differences that crop up. It doesn’t seem to stop Andrew understanding it, though he’s used to watching DVDs and youtube in various languages that he doesn’t understand much of!

App

We were also asked to review the Heroes of the City Movie app, which is free to download from the App Store and Google Play. It is aimed at 2-6 year olds, so again Andrew fits well into this target audience. Included in the app are films and games, based on the Heroes of the City TV series. You get one full episode, one music video and 3 games for free, and then extra ‘fun-packs’ cost £2.49 each, with more films and games.

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I downloaded the Apple version of the app on my iPhone (we were sent the full app for free). I first gave it to Andrew one morning whilst I got Joel ready and did some jobs around the house; I wanted to see how much he could figure out on his own. Before I knew it he had played most of the nine games, so I asked him to show me what to do so I could play too. He’s used to the finger actions needed to play games on his grandparents’ iPads, onto which we also downloaded the Heroes of the City app too.

He loves doing jigsaw puzzles, so the game on the app where you have to slot pieces into a puzzle to reveal a character was particularly popular, and he was very good at it. The pieces were trickier to move on the phone than on the tablet-sized screen, but he still managed it. He also liked the game where you have to touch a car that’s racing along to make him jump and catch stars with points attached. This was mainly because the car makes a ‘waps’ sound whenever he jumps, and Andrew thought this was hilarious – this game is now called the ‘waps’ game to him.

HotC_app_01As you play more games, you earn trophies depending on how well you perform, and then you can look at all your trophies in another section of the app. Andrew asked me what this was as he was flicking through, so I explained to him about the gold, silver and bronze trophies – I’m not sure he understood fully what the different colours mean, but he now knows he’s winning and collecting trophies as he goes along. I’ve also heard it on the grapevine that there is a special secret surprise in store which you unlock when you’ve collected enough trophies….!

As well as the games, there are some film clips – more than 6 hours in total (if you buy the extras). Andrew has watched a few of these, but so far it’s been mainly games that he’s played. I can imagine though, that the film clips would be a great way of entertaining him for 5-10 minutes or so if we are out and about and he’s bored waiting for something – it’s like watching a DVD but handily on the phone, already downloaded so no issues with internet connectivity when out and about. If you’re at home and have Apple devices, there is an Air Play function for your Apple TV.

I generally don’t spend money on games apps because there are some good free ones out there, but I would consider paying for 1 or 2 extra Heroes of the City fun packs because they are great games and just right for Andrew’s skills and interests at the moment, plus there are levels that increase in difficulty as he grows and develops.

Overall

We have been impressed with the pack that we were sent: Andrew has enjoyed the games, TV episodes and book, and I have generally found them just right for his age and development, with room to ‘grow’. I also like the fact that this is a collection of various media all based around the same characters and stories. Many of our books, DVDs and games are like this, and I’ve noticed that these are ones which Andrew generally comes back to again and again – maybe he likes the fact that he recognises characters across the various activities he’s doing, whether that’s reading, watching a DVD or youtube, or playing a game on the phone/iPad.

If you’d like any more info on the series, you can find out all about it on the website, Facebook page or on Twitter.

Competition time!

If you like the look of all this fun we’ve had, here’s your chance to win your very own set of toys, book and DVD. All you need to do is fill in the Rafflecopter below to be in with a chance of winning, by 22nd March (please see full T&Cs below).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: we were sent the pack and full app to review free of charge, but all opinions expressed are honest and our own, based on our experience of using the items.

In the garden – #CountryKids

In case you missed my recent posts, or haven’t seen me for a while, we’re in the process of moving from Cambridge to Birmingham. One of our reasons for moving to a more affordable city is that we can buy a house with a garden instead of our current flat. I would love to be able to open the back door and let the boys out to play, because they love being outdoors running off energy. Having said that, we do have a very nice communal garden that we share with the other 7 flats, and as none of them have children, we’re the only ones who are ever out there playing in it. But we do all have to go out and come in together because it’s not completely fenced off, and we can’t just pop back in easily if one of us needs to fetch something or go to the loo, for example.

One morning this week we hadn’t got any particular plans, and I asked Andrew what he wanted to do. His answer was to go in the garden, so we did! I knew that Joel would want (or rather need) to nap at some point after another of his spectacularly early starts, so I wore him on my back and wrapped us all up warm. He did eventually drop off, after watching Andrew run around a bit first.

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It was lovely to spend a couple of hours playing and bike riding, and I took some pictures to remind us how great this space has been. It’s nothing fancy, but the gravel circle in the centre has provided hours of entertainment over the few years we’ve been here – digging, hiding balls and other bits in it, crunching it and swishing it with our feet, kicking balls on it (and inevitably kicking gravel too!), walking/running around the brick border, making letters/numbers/patterns with the stones on the bricks… and much more!

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There are also a couple of man holes that Andrew often stands, jumps and dances on; it’s a bit like being on some kind of podium! The grass is of course great for running around on, or riding a bike on, though he prefers using the large and quiet drive in front of the flats as his bike riding territory. Talking of bikes, for a while there have been a couple of ornamental metal bikes in the garden (I think a couple of ex-residents left them when they moved out and they used to be on their balcony) – Andrew thinks these are hilarious, and loves to put his bouncy balls in the basket on one of the bikes and ‘ride’ it around, or rather drag the bike around whilst walking with it under his legs.

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Whenever we go out in the garden (or to a park), there is one rule that cannot be broken: we must take balls with us! These can be bouncy balls, footballs, tennis balls, fluffy balls – whatever balls we have that are easily find-able at the time of departure. If any children do come and live in these flats at some point, they will probably end up finding some balls lodged underneath fences, balconies, bushes etc., as I’m sure we don’t have nearly as many as we should do anymore. Andrew loves hiding small balls in the gravel, kicking any balls around the grass, and trying to throw one or two before I catch him and suggest that we save that for the park as there are too many windows in sight.

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At just less than 3 years old, Andrew just about understands the classic game of hide and seek. There are only a couple of good hiding places, most notably a long thin passage to the side of the block of flats where it doesn’t quite meet the fence – perfect size for a toddler hider. The other popular place to hide is behind the bins, but more because he knows I won’t come too near due to the smell, which doesn’t bother him apparently!

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We’ve had a lot of fun in this shared garden since the boys were born, and we have some good memories of outdoor fun very close to home in this period of our lives. Water balloons and gardening are two other blog posts that spring to mind. But looking forward to next year, we’re also excited to be searching for a house with our very own garden, and thinking about all the fun that we can have when it belongs to us 🙂

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I’m linking up with the amazing Country Kids linky again – I’ve not been so consistent at linking for the past month or so since we found out we’re moving, but I hope to be joining in again more often in the new year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodland discovery area – #CountryKids

Following on from my post last week about the woodland art activity that we did after one of our many trips to our local National Trust property, Anglesey Abbey, I thouht I’d write a bit more about the woodland discovery area there, because recently Andrew has got very into exploring it.

The property has extensive grounds that range from formal gardens to informal fields to wild woodland. Once you enter the grounds, there are signs that point the way to the woodland, which is at the far end of the grounds relative to the entrance. The signs are made from natural materials, such as cared wood and painted rocks and stones. Andrew particularly likes the rocks painted as ladybirds that signal one of the entrances to the area.

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Once inside, there are many activities to keep an active, or even less active, toddler amused for quite a while. Near the entrance, we enjoy the stepping stones, and the branches that hang from a rope that you can ‘chime’ with another branch like a xylophone and play a ‘tune’. Then as we venture further in, never taking quite the same path, we come across the tree house and the pirate ship, both built up around trees using wood, and which are perfect for a toddler who likes to climb up steps (with help of course).

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One of our recent trips was at the time of a scarecrow competition – local schools had made and displayed scarecrows in various categories like ‘the best dressed’ and ‘the scariest’ scarecrow. So that was fun to see their creations as we wandered through the woods.

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We also like the places that you can sit and have a rest (well I do, Andrew sits for about 10 seconds before turning the benches into climbing frames!) There are a few circles with benches made out of logs, one has a ‘tent’ made out of willow branches over the top, and one has a story telling cupboard inside – it’s actually a hollowed out tree stump with a hinged door fitted into the bark, and inside there are various costumes and props that you can use for telling stories. Andrew chose to be Little Red Riding Hood on one of our visits.

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Of course I can’t forget the hut where we saw the picture frames that inspired us to make our own. Inside there are lots of crayons, paper and other craft materials that you can use to be creative in this middle of the woods location. Not that Andrew is too interested on one activity for more than a few minutes, but I think this is a lovely idea for slightly older children who like to stop running around for more than 5 minutes!

Even though we’ve been to the woodland discovery area several times, both before and since children, I still don’t think we’ve discovered every single part of what’s on offer there. It is extensive and has so much to offer for all ages from baby to grandparent (though I don’t think we’ve been to that bit with the boys’ grandparents – we must do that!) I’d definitely recommend it for a day out.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

Trip to Coombe Mill – #CountryKids

Ever since I came across the Coombe Mill blog through the Country Kids linky that Fiona runs every week, I thought that it would be lovely to visit one day, either by staying there or by popping in when we’re down that way. As we go on holiday to Tom’s parents every summer, I thought it would be a possibility to have a day trip there this year, as it’s only just over an hour’s drive in good traffic. I was so glad that we managed to make it, just before Fiona and family set off on their family holiday.

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We started off on the journey down into Cornwall and made good time, so arrived in the later part of the morning. The first thing that Andrew spotted as we drew up in the car was one of the play areas, so he insisted that we get him out right away and he ran across to it, climbing up on the ship-shaped climbing frame, steering with the wheel and playing with the canon. He also liked the look of the trampoline, so had a go with some adult supervision from the other side of the netting.

Meanwhile I went across to reception and introduced myself in person to Fiona – it’s so nice to meet people in real life having tweeted with them and read their blogs. She was busy sorting things out to go away, and I felt very privileged that she was so welcoming and willing to spend time with us even though it was a big deal to get things done in order to leave the family business and go away for a week. Whilst she finished off a few things, I went back over and joined the others; my parents and parents in law were looking after Andrew on the playground. Very kindly, Fiona then came back over and invited us to their house for a cup of tea and cake, which was lovely, and we chatted for a while whilst three of her children came to join us, mainly for the cake!

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Then it was time for a farm tour, courtesy of Felix and Clio. Our guides did a great job of showing us all the animals. We saw peacocks, chickens, pigs, donkeys, deer, goats and rabbits. Andrew was very impressed, and was keen to stroke and feed animals where appropriate, as shown by the older kids. Joel also liked looking at the furry moving things, though he was getting a bit whingey by that point, maybe teeth, maybe hunger, maybe tiredness, who knows! We were all particularly impressed by the deer, who did a run by in front of us as Clio ran into the field behind them.

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Once the farm tour was over, and we managed to prize Andrew away from the other play areas that he had seen on the way back to the start, we sat down and had a picnic on one of the benches dotted amongst the lodges. I knew that Joel would like some milk before a nap, so I slipped into the BBQ hut to feed him – this is a fantastic hut that seats 15 people with a barbecue in the middle and a chimney that lets the smoke out, or is perfect for feeding a very distractible 9 month old away from all the sights and sounds of a family day out.

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After some milk he soon went off for a nap, so I went and joined Andrew on the play area where he was playing with Granny and Grandma. Fiona came and joined us for a bit too, and Andrew found her son Jed playing with the swing ball so tried to join in.

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After a while we headed back to the toddler-specific play area, which is full of ride-on cars. trikes and tractors, so right up Andrew’s street. He also spotted the soft play hut, and had another go on there (apparently he’d already been in when I was feeding Joel). Not that it was raining that day, but having an indoor play area is perfect for the British weather, because even though we often get togged up and go out in the rain anyway, sometimes it’s nice to have a dry place for him to burn off some energy, so I can imagine that if we stay there it would prove invaluable.

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We would have loved to stay and see the miniature railway running at 5pm, but Andrew was flagging and it was clear that he would need his nap in the car on the way home sooner than that. So we started to make a move towards the car. Once we got going, it didn’t take long for both boys to drop off (Joel had woken up from his nap as we transferred him but went back off again), and by the time we had driven through the winding lanes and reached the main road, they were both sound asleep. A sign on a great day out!

The whole family was very impressed by what we saw at Coombe Mill, and we will certainly be recommending it to other families who might be looking to holiday down in Cornwall. There is so much for young children to see and do, including helping out on the farm for feed runs which we didn’t get to experience, and it’s a great spot to go off and explore Cornwall too, from beaches to hills to towns. All the accommodation is well equipped for families with babies and toddlers, so it feels like a home from home. We are blessed with this ourselves in Devon, and at the moment I expect we’ll continue to stay with Grandma and Pop, but when the boys are a bit older we would love to go and stay at Coombe Mill for a holiday. It would be a lovely place to go with another family or two with children a similar age to ours.

So for this week’s Country Kids linky, Andrew and Joel got to be country kids at the place where Country Kids was born, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

Adventures in Germany – #CountryKids

Last weekend we were treated to a long weekend away courtesy of my parents as my birthday gift (it was a special number of birthday after all 😉 ) The destination was Germany, to visit mmy friend who I’ve known since we were paired up for the exchange that our schools organised when we were 14.  We now both have families, and we don’t manage to write to each other as often as we once did, but we are still in touch and so are our families, who have visited each other on a few occasions in the past, including for each of our weddings.

Part of the present was for my parents to come with us for extra pairs of hands – I can’t imagine flying on our own with energetic 9 month old and 2 year old boys! So on Thursday, off we all travelled on our Germany adventure. We flew into Cologne/Bonn airport and hired a car to drive to our first location – a sleepy village in the Westerwald, home to my friend and her in-laws, about half way between Cologne and Frankfurt am Main. The area is beautiful, full of trees (Wald = forest), rolling hills and quaint villages. We stayed in the neighbouring village called Friedewald, in the old castle – yes that’s right, actually in the castle, which has been done up fairly recently (in the life span of the building at least) into a hotel. This was the perfect setting for us all.

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On Friday (my birthday) we decided to go swimming because my friend, knowing how much we love it, recommended a pool that had very recently opened up in the nearest town – Loewenbad, Hachenburg. The weather was warm, muggy, overcast and occasionally drizzly, so we decided that swimming would be a great activity, especially as there was an outdoor pool as well as an indoor one at the complex. Plus we always take the opportunity to go swimming when we have extra pairs of hands because it can be quite a handful with both the boys, even with two of us adults.

We were very impressed when we arrived, there was something for everyone. There was a plain indoor pool where I could swim some lengths, as well as a gorgeous little padding pool with lovely warm water, just right for Joel. Andrew spotted the water slide outside, so he, Daddy and Grandad went outside to the slide and happily plunged into the cooling water. The little swimmer was slightly shocked by the temperature of the water as he came off the end of the slide, but was soon happy to do it again, and again, and again….! The outdoor pool was amazing: a plain pool as well as the slide and another bit for kids with a seal squirting water and even an outdoor heated paddling pool for babies which Joel enjoyed. The pool was set in a grassy area so there was plenty of space to play outside, sunbathe and eat a picnic if you wanted on a sunny day – the entrance fee was valid for a whole day, and was very reasonable considering you could spend a good day there. We had a birthday lunch planned back at the village, so just spent an hour or so there, going between the various parts of the pool between us. I haven’t been to an outdoor pool for a long time, and I was so glad that we all got to enjoy this outdoor swimming while the weather was warm enough.

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Then on Saturday we headed about an hour and a half north to Hemer, the town where my friend’s parents still live, where I stayed for the original school trips before she moved south when she got married. It had been 10 years since I was last there, and the town has undergone quite a lot of regeneration. On Saturday late morning, just after we got there, we walked the short distance down into the town centre and the boys had fun on the new playground in the pedestrian zone. There is a blue ‘band’ with water in that runs down a slope around the playground; this was perfect for walking through and cooling off our hot feet, and both boys loved it. We spent the afternoon in the garden, and my friend’s sisters and their families came for Kaffee und Kuchen (German equivalent of afternoon tea). The kids had great fun playing with the various water toys, which included two water slides, a paddling pool, and some water shooters. We all got very wet once the toddlers realised that it was fun to get the parents and grandparents soaking as well as themselves. But we didn’t mind, it was so good to cool off in the heat.

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On Sunday morning we headed across the town to a new attraction, the Sauerland Park. This was perfect for kids of all ages as well as their parents and grandparents for a fun family day out. We started off on the adventure playground, which is called “Zwergengold” (Dwarves’ Gold). It is made to look like a little dwarf town, set in the woods, and gives the impression of a little touch of magic about it. Andrew enjoyed this, and we all had a go on the twin log swing! Then we walked to the viewing tower, and those of us who weren’t afraid of heights or trying to get a tired baby to sleep without distractions climbed to the top to get an impressive view across the town and the Sauerland. Again Andrew was very impressed with this. Next we found an exercise area with outdoor gym equipment. We all had a go on a few things, and the trampolines were a big hit with young and old alike.

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A walk further down the hill brought us to a sandy play area with water features. Next to it was a cafe so we bought some nice cool drinks and the adults sat and had a rest while Andrew played in the sand and Joel was just waking up from his nap. Andrew also spotted a carousel with various vehicles on it a bit further down the hill near the entrance/exit, so after playing in the sand we headed down there and he chose which vehicle he wanted to sit on – of course it was the fire engine! (Well actually he wanted to go on the tractor but another little boy had beat him to it!) Soon it was time to leave and get home for lunch with the extended family again so we could make our flight in the afternoon. As we walked to the exit there was a big paddling pool being filled with water, so we took our shoes off and had a quick splash through it on our way out – Andrew was particularly interested by the little boy who was riding his bike through the pool!

PicMonkey Collage  5

All in all we had an amazing time and thoroughly enjoyed our time in Germany. The weather was warm and mostly sunny which meant we had plenty of opportunity to get outside with the boys and the family we went to visit.

Next weekend we’re off to Devon to see Grandma and Pop – handy having the boys’ other grandparents living near the seaside – so I’m sure I’ll be back with more outdoor tales after that 🙂

Linking up with the amazing Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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