#EveryMomentCounts Photo Challenge with Families Online

Families Online set us a photo challenge to capture a special moment every day for a week, on a different theme each day. This is the compilation post of our #EveryMomentCounts challenge.

Families Online have set selected bloggers an #EveryMomentCounts photo challenge to capture a special moment daily over this past week, with each day having a different set theme. The aim of this campaign is to remember that even the seemingly ‘little’ family moments throughout each day are precious and actually do matter. Every moment really does count! The themes for the challenge are as follows…

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I don’t think these are ‘official’ rules of the challenge whatsoever, but I also set myself the additional challenge of picking just one single photo for each day. Each ‘moment’ captured was on the actual day of the challenge too – no throwbacks – because for me personally, I felt the point was to focus on being ‘in the moment’ and embrace those special little moments as they actually happen. That was just how I chose to interpret the challenge though, and also I felt this is how I would get the most out of doing it as well. 

So here are my moments throughout the week…

Day 1 – Together

Monday was a tough day. But for days like that, it is even more important to capture and remember the special moments.

We don’t often spend time at home all playing together (it is usually either one or the other of us with Squiggle when we are at home, not both) so it was lovely to grab a few minutes together. I particularly love this photo because I captured Squiggle affectionately stroking her daddy’s stubble too.

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Day 2 – Tradition

I struggled to imagine how I might find much tradition in a regular Tuesday in September to be honest. But I decided to just get on with our day regardless, and see how it all worked out. After all, I feel that the whole point of the challenge is to just be in the moment, enjoying family time, and making every moment count!

As it turned out, we found ourselves outside embracing the beautiful signs of Autumn, collecting acorns and leaves. Of course this is a tradition! We do it every year, ever since she was tiny. I remember spending many afternoons during my childhood doing the same with my parents, as no doubt they did with theirs, and one day maybe Squiggle with her own children too.

However, I chose this particular photo, which is taken in the same spot we collected our autumn treasures just minutes later, because it is my favourite moment of the day. Squiggle had the biggest smile as she carefully jumped on and off the moving roundabout. And look at that lovely traditional style play area! They had those same rocking horses that you can just see in the background when I was her age, they were one of my favourites infact. Fun times!

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Day 3 – Laughter

On this morning I could hear lots of giggling from my bed, as Squiggle played with her daddy whilst I caught up on some rest. It is lovely to hear her enjoying precious moments, even if they weren’t mine to share with her! But ‘the moment’ I chose for Wednesday was when Squiggle was delighted to discover that the paddling pools are STILL open at one of our local parks (brrr lol!) and ran through them, giggling and laughing happily. This photo really captures that. Love it!

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Day 4 – Three Things

Continuing on with our Autumn exploration from earlier in the week, on Thursday we visited a beautiful local park that we hadn’t actually been to before, for a lovely nature walk and Autumn hunt. We found these 3 little treasures which we collected from different trees (obviously!) within a few metres of each other. We paused under a gorgeous horse chesnut (conker) tree with huge fabulous branches to take this photo of our little collection.

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Day 5 – Colourful

We had a day at home on Friday and we actually used the theme as inspiration for one of our activities. Squiggle and I went into the garden with the challenge of getting as many beautiful natural autumn colours into one photo as possible.

I adore this photo because of the vibrant red and orange berries on bold green leaves against the bright blue sky with gorgeous yellow and brown leaves in the background. So much colour at this time of year!

I really loved this moment of our day because it’s a great reminder that not only is it important to savour precious moments, but that sometimes we need to take the time and effort to actually create those special moments too!

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Day 6 – Love

Of course this picture would include Squiggle, whom I love more than anything! And this particular photo captures us outdoors in nature, which is one of our biggest loves.

But beyond that, this moment also captures us watching some charity fundraisers and volunteers at the park – an act that no doubt comes from a place of love. And even though these people were random strangers, we felt grateful that we were able to witness this for a few moments too.

So lots of love in this moment from Saturday, in various different forms.

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Day 7 – Reflection

For the last day of this photo challenge, how better to end it than with a moment of reflection. I stood on this bridge, looking out at the water, and took just a moment to myself to reflect on the wonderful moments we shared as a family throughout the week.

As a busy parent, taking a moment to myself is sometimes just as important as those precious family moments, hence why I chose this particular photo. I am grateful for the rare moments alone, as well as the many I share with those I love!

(By the way, we spent lovely quality time together as a family, right before and after this particular moment for myself, going for a wonderful walk in the warm sunshine. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday!)

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I really enjoyed taking part in this challenge; I loved how much it helped me to really be in the moment and focus on, and celebrate, those ‘little things’ each day. It amazed me how I noticed things so much more than I usually would, depending on the theme for the day, and generally too. I practice mindfulness anyway, but I am still genuinely surprised by how much difference taking part in this challenge made!

Thank you to Families Online for inviting me to take part in #EveryMomentCounts 

Easter Bunny’s Garden Adventures by Squiggle

Ever wondered what goes on whilst you are still asleep in bed? This, apparently…

Easter Bunny really should jump to it getting those easter eggs delivered…

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But there is always time for a quick game of tennis with a friend…

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And badminton too…

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Oh look! Bunny height basketball…

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Shhh! He won’t spot me up here…

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Now for a spot of tag rugby. Doh! So close…

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Volleyball anyone?

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And always time for a quick sack race too…

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Now, must dash! Someone is coming and I got things to do…

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HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!!!! 

Credits: 

Concept, photography, set design and director ~ Squiggle

Assistant ~ Andy (daddy)

Captions ~ Katie (mummy)

Sports Challenge: Celebrating Sports For All

On Friday we took Squiggle to the athletics track to do some races. This reminded me that I never actually properly wrote up our fantastic sports challenge (100 days of sports) last year! 

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Athletics track

I had started out by doing regular round-up posts about it but then for one reason or another, I decided to just do a big summary post at the end, once we had actually finished. But it never happened! We successfully completed the challenge, and had a great time doing it – I just didn’t get round to writing the post to share all the sports activities we did and brilliant fun we had! Oops! So I figured better late than never; Squiggle and I are excited to finally share this post with you… at last!

During the sports challenge, Squiggle took part in a wide variety of sports. Some activities we arranged ourselves, often with her home ed friends, whilst others we attended were organised sessions. I was pleasantly surprised during my research for this challenge at how many inclusive sports sessions are available, including some aimed specifically at SEND children. 

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Netball

This has also led me to reflect on the great importance of sports being accessible to everyone and the huge value of disability sports for both physical and invisible disabilities. I think back to London Olympics and Paralympics 2012 and how we opted to take Squiggle to watch the Paralympics specifically, as not only is it truly inspirational and an incredible honour to watch live generally, but we felt it particularly important for Squiggle to have such role-models from a young age.

I am thankful that there is such a great awareness within the sports sector and for the investments that have gone into disability sports and developing inclusiveness. Bristol Street Versa have also created this infographic to celebrate the pioneers of disability sports; because without them, of course, probably none of this would ever have been achieved. 

(By the way, if you happen to be looking for a wheelchair vehicle, check out their website bristolstreetversa.com/new-wheelchair-vehicles)

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So anyway, back to the sports challenge! Here are some of the sporting activities that Squiggle took part in as part of 100 days of sports…

  • Athletics (long jump, hurdles)
  • Badminton
  • Basketball
  • Beach tennis
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Beach tennis
  • Cricket
  • Football
  • Foot golf
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Foot Golf
  • Golf
  • Hockey
  • Netball
  • Rounders
  • Sports day (including flat races, relays and fun races e.g. egg and spoon race, beanbag balancing race, sack race etc…)
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Sports Day races
  • Table tennis
  • Tag rugby
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball

She invented her own sport too; a game she called ‘Round and Round Tennis’. She also acted out sports with her Sylvanian Families and played indoor versions of games; such as finger tennis, desktop table tennis and blow football.

We had a fantastic time doing this sports challenge and there are still plenty more ideas that Squiggle is keen to try out sometime in the future too! Such a great experience and very motivating!!!

What is your favourite sport? Let us know in the comments section!

*This is a sponsored post. 

Review: Crayola Games – 3, 2, 1 Draw!

Squiggle loves getting creative, so we were delighted to be given the opportunity to review one of Crayola’s exciting new games. We were sent 3, 2, 1 Draw! which is a fun versatile game that can played in several ways. It retails at £9.99 rrp and is for 2-8 players, ages 6+ years.

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This game is part of the Crayola Games collection, which consists of three fast-paced games to test your creative skills. Like 3 2 1 Draw, Scribble Scramble is also aimed at ages 6+ and focuses on drawing, whilst Doodle Delirium is for children aged 8+ and includes both drawing and modelling challenges. All of them sound like hilarious family fun, just the sort of thing that would be great for Christmas gatherings, or at any other time of year!

3, 2, 1 Draw has an almost retro feel to it, reminiscent of etch-a-sketch style toys, but yet has it’s own unique style in that it has been made into a funky game. It comes with a wipe-clean screen, pen, sand timer, eraser and three dice. The timer fits neatly onto the end of the pen, which can be abit hard to see while you’re drawing with it, but it does mean less to juggle if you are playing on the move! And of course it can be removed from the pen if you’d rather put it down elsewhere like we did. Either way it’s a nice feature that gives you the option. The dice and eraser are stored in a little flip lid compartment at the top, which is really handy.

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There are various ways to play, based on the level of difficulty and length of game. In all versions, the aim of the game is to guess the drawing before the little sand timer runs out. You then just rub away the picture with the eraser and play again! The only thing I noticed is that the pen doesn’t wipe off with the eraser as easily as I would have thought. However, a damp tissue or cloth seemed to remedy that.

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Draw before the timer runs out, wipe away, play again!

The simple version allows the freedom to draw anything at all, whilst the rest of the team (or the other person, if playing as a two player game) tries to guess what it is before the sand timer runs out. Or roll the dice for a silly challenge to make the game harder, such as drawing with your eyes closed; which proved much harder than I thought, my doodle looked very abstract and impossible to guess!

You can also make the game even more difficult by rolling the category dice, or use the third dice to determine what letter the drawing should start with. Squiggle personally found the topic dice harder than the letter one because she doesn’t really watch TV. But this was no issue, we just didn’t really bother using that one, and chose to play with one of the other two instead. Still plenty of fun to be had!

Whilst it states on the box 2-8 players, it could also be played by an individual too. If playing alone, just race against the sand timer to finish your drawing before the time runs out! Squiggle likes using it just to doodle before the timer runs out.

The game definitely made us laugh and it turns out that Squiggle’s creative drawing skills are so much better than mine! (Not that I doubted that for a moment anyway!) I also particularly love how portable and compact it is, meaning it can be played on the go, as well as at home. It would be good for car or plane journeys, which is extremely useful; we all know how much more peaceful a journey can be when there are things to do! It’s a fun little game if you fancy something creative that doesn’t take too long.

More information about all of the games can be found on the Crayola site.

Disclaimer: I received this game free for the purpose of review, all opinions are my own.

Christmas: Ayletts Garden Centre, St Albans, Herts

We love visiting Ayletts garden centre at Christmas, they always make a wonderful effort with their displays and often add extra activities or competitions for children too. This year is no exception!

As you walk into the entrance, there is a very modest display with Christmas tree. But keep walking beyond that and the garden centre opens out into a lovely walk-through Christmas scene. Each year there is a different theme, usually featuring cute woodland characters.

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Walk-through Christmas scene.

Next to the entrance to the walk-through scene is a large snowman with a twist; turn the handle to make him come alive! It’s quite sweet and I like the retro style way it works, rather than it randomly going off when people walk past, which often gets annoying!

Grab yourself a pencil and paper to take part in their free competition. Find the ten letters hidden around the Christmas sections to make up a word, and have a go at naming the snowman too, then post it in the box before you leave.

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Squiggle doing the free festive competition.

There is also a collection for Age Concern as part of this display, so don’t forget to take a few coins to throw into the little ‘pond’ there!

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Squiggle throwing coins into the ‘pond’.

There is a large Christmas section in a separate building in the middle of the garden centre. They sell everything from confectionary to lights, to singing santas!

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Squiggle dancing with singing santa.
Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Miniature Christmas scenes.
Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle loves these statues!

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Ayletts is a family run business situated on a dual carriageway on the outskirts of St Albans. It has a large cafe, good disabled access and a good size car park. Next door to the garden centre is Partners Pet Supermarket, an independent pet store, and Maidenhead Aquatics, which has a small soft play area in the cafe and fish you can feed. It is well worth a visit if you are local and have up to a couple of hours to spare. Especially during the festive fun!

Stay Wild: Bug Hunt

Last week, we went on a family bug hunt organised by Highfield Park Trust.

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It was a lovely morning; the hunt was well organised, fun, engaging and informative. We both learned lots of new things!

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There were 17 questions, which could be answered by finding the different information cards hidden around the park.

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For example, did you know ants use their head to block the entrance to their nest to keep intruders out?

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Squiggle found out that a male wasp is called a drone.

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I had no idea that a praying mantis only has one ear and Squiggle was very surprised that woodlice has 14 legs.

There were sweet prizes for everyone who completed the quiz, which Squiggle was very happy about! But not as excited as she was when she spotted that they had some of their delicious apple juice for sale, made locally from apples collected from the park orchard.

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She polished the bottle off very quickly!

The bug hunt also inspired her to create one of her own back at home, in the garden for her toys.

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Even a cat came to join in the fun and followed her around finding them all!
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Great family fun, big thumbs up from us.

Stay Wild everyone!

Stay Wild: Autumn Colours

I love all the gorgeous autumn colours, they are one of the main highlights of our nature walks at this time of year. Here is a collection of photos I have taken recently of the beautiful colours…

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Happy November everyone!

What Do Parents Do To Unwind Around The Home?

I mentioned in a recent post about the importance of having time to myself as a parent, and what an achievement it can be to actually find time to relax! But what are my favourite ways to unwind at home? A few things come to mind; I enjoy sitting in the garden, meditating or doing some yoga, or chilling in the living room on the sofa either writing or watching TV.

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Relaxing in the garden

Rattan Direct are conducting a survey about how parents unwind at home, and they will share the results with us soon. If you would take a moment to complete the survey, that would be really helpful, thank you.

www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/37BFHD9

The survey is in three parts:

1. How do parents unwind around the home?

2. How are you going to celebrate Christmas this year?

3. Has Brexit actually affected your spending habits around the home and garden?

Part one I already answered, but I did leave something out earlier! One of my very favourite things to do to unwind is to have my own little silent disco once Squiggle has gone to bed- I stick on headphones so I can listen to the music as loud as I want and dance around the living room!

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I love dancing around the living room to my silent disco!

Ooh, and they mentioned the C word in part two! Given it’s now practically November I am very much starting to think about Christmas now and get my head in that zone. Christmas tends to be very low key for us, to meet Squiggle’s needs. We try not to overwhelm her with too much going on or too many visitors, so we spend Christmas day at home and just have one or two family members pop over for a short time to wish a Merry Christmas, spend some time together and exchange gifts. Most of our family lives fairly local anyway, so nobody has far to travel, and we probably see them just as much, if not more, during the rest of the year compared to Christmas. We also do lots of festive days out in the lead up to Christmas too though, so there a nice balance!

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We have a quiet Christmas at home

As for Brexit, I have been trying not to think too much about it to be honest. It hasn’t affected my spending around the home and garden as yet, but who knows how I will feel in future. I do think house prices have been affected though, as I know a few friends are having problems with that. Let’s hope it settles soon. But for me personally, there has not really been any difference.

What are your thoughts?

DISCLAIMER: This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with Rattan Direct.

Littlesea Haven Holiday Park, Weymouth, Dorset

Last month we went to Weymouth for a mid week short break to Littlesea Haven Holiday Park. This was our second trip to Littlesea and, given it was one of our favourite Haven sites, we were very keen to return! It certainly did not disappoint.

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Pretty scenic views at Littlesea Haven Holiday Park

Littlesea is a lovely site, with scenic views and nice little ‘Tiger Trail’ nature walks. Squiggle really enjoyed following the Rory footprints on our map, so good for developing her map reading skills too!

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Tiger Trail on-site nature walks

There are also several playgrounds on-site, with a variety of equipment suitable for a range of ages. It is great that there are different play areas dotted around the park, as it encouraged us to explore further to find them all!

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Playground outside main entertainment complex
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The playground in the campsite section of Littlesea
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A lovely little natural playground

The holiday park is set next to Fleet Lagoon nature reserve, with pretty nature walks and coastal paths. We did find that some of the paths were abit too overgrown (and that is baring in mind we often explore wild overgrown areas!) and it was not always clear where to walk next, so better signage might be useful. However, I am not sure how much of this belonged to Haven, as it wasn’t clear at what point we left the site. Regardless, we had fun exploring and enjoyed a wonderful walk to Chesil beach.

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Beautiful nature walks overlooking Fleet Lagoon
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Exploring Fleet Lagoon

The caravan itself was clean and spacious, with everything we would need for our stay. We were also very kindly upgraded, which meant the quiet but central location of the caravan suited our needs perfectly. (A quiet area of the park is absolutely essential for Squiggle).

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Caravan at Littlesea Haven site

There is a good range of on-site amenities and facilities including; a Spar shop, gift shop, coffee shop, take aways, restaurant, bar, arcades, soft play, pool, golf, sports courts, entertainment venue and multiple play areas, as mentioned.

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View of golf
Caravan park, Weymouth, Dorset, England, holidays, places to go, review, Living Life Our Way
Arcade

The swimming pool was newly refurbished last year and is lovely, with fun water features that Squiggle loves. Both indoors and outdoors there are shallow paddling pools, as well as the deeper family swimming pools. The changing rooms are quite small but adequate. There is also a separate pool for water sports and activities, for an additional charge, which we didn’t personally take part in but they do seem to be well recommended by others who have, and having a separate area dedicated to this is a great idea.

The showbar has been refurbished even more recently, just this year. It is a spacious venue with a good size stage and dance floor. The entertainment held in the showbar is a fun mix of discos, shows and competitions. Squiggle adores the Seaside Squad shows and she loves to meet them for cuddles; this is one of her highlights of Haven Holidays. Because of the nature of her needs, it is important that she feels unhurried during these meetings (otherwise it triggers her severe anxiety and OCD), which can be difficult during busier times or with certain members of staff present (and is difficult for me because I can’t mention it around her, as that also makes it much worse!) However, the majority of the team seem very understanding of SEND in many ways, and do a wonderful job generally. And Squiggle had a fantastic time meeting several of the characters!

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Meeting some of the Seaside Squad

 

The characters also give some great positive messages through their songs, shows and activities, for example about exercise, healthy eating and taking care of our environment. Squiggle often sings lines from Greedy’s songs such as ‘pick up all the rubbish and put it in the bin’ and dances around to keep fit like Rory. These are great role- models for children!

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Seaside Squad showtimes

This emphasis on healthy lifestyle and environment etc… runs throughout many of the daytime activities on offer too; with plenty of sports and games, and outdoor activities such as den building, exploring nature and wildlife spotting. I also really liked the information displayed in the corridor between Reception and the entertainment complex too.

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Display in main complex
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Bug Hotel

Overall, this was an absolutely wonderful holiday and we would highly recommend it. Thank you Haven for another brilliant time!

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Littlesea Haven Holiday Park

(Photos of our previous trip to Weymouth are here).

Sylvanian Families Trail, Hatchlands Park (Guildford, Surrey)

Recently we visited Hatchlands Park, which is a beautiful National Trust site in Guildford, Surrey. Being a huge fan of Sylvanian families, Squiggle was keen to do the Sylvanian Families nature trail, open until the end of this year.

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There is a small charge to enter the park, including the Sylvanian Families Trail, of £6 per adult and £3 per child, or £15 for a family ticket (these prices are for park only, cost to enter whole site including house is extra. Prices are on the website here). National Trust members get in free.

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The trail has a series of signs as you walk through the wood, each with nature questions and clues from members of woodland Sylvanian families. There is a more difficult question at each stop, making it fun and informative for all ages.

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We did get abit confused when we reached the end because there was no obvious finishing point. We probably should have realised from the number of clues but even so, a clear indication, such as a finish sign or message from one of the Sylvanian families, would have been a nice additional touch.

National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way

Regardless, we really enjoyed the trail and the wooden sculptures were lovely. Squiggle got so excited each time she spotted one and loved cuddling them!

National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way

For more information see their website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatchlands-park/features/sylvanian-families-trail-at-hatchlands-park

Whilst we were there, we also went to Hatchlands Park playground. It has lovely natural play features, including a wonderful treehouse. Squiggle really enjoyed playing here and it fitted in beautifully with the surrounding natural environment.

National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Treehouse
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Balancing
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Den seating
National Trust, days out, places to go, things to do, family fun, outdoor activities, living life our way
Climbing

All in all, it was a fun day out!