Cassiobury Park, Watford: Paddling Pools and Splash Park – BRAND NEW 2017

Cassiobury Park in Watford, Hertfordshire has been undergoing a huge restoration project over the last year, thanks to a £6.5 million investment with help from the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery Fund. The transformation includes brand new paddling pools and splash park, which we were keen to check out soon after it opened! 

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There is a main paddling pool and a smaller one, as well as a splash park and various water play features too. It has push button controls suitable for all abilities and seems to be mostly accessible (although we didn’t have any wheelchair users with us). Users can enjoy a variety of sprays and fountains of differing heights and styles, plus paddle in the pools themselves too of course! There is plenty of space both in and out of the water, and a (very) small amount of shaded areas. 

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

There is a sustainable park hub building that includes toilets and changing facilities, as well as a café. The hub also has a community and exhibition room, plus education facilities. For more information about the wonderful transformations that have taken shape at Cassiobury Park, see Watford Borough Council website.

Our Latest Wild Adventures – #30DaysWild

Ok, so I got abit behind in blogging about our 30 Days Wild adventures. We have still been very much taking part, and I have posted on social media about a couple of things, I just hadn’t got as far as writing about it here! So I thought I would do a quick round-up post instead to catch up!

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On Friday, we went for a lovely family walk through a local nature reserve called The Wick. It is a lovely area of ancient woodlands that local residents are working hard to protect and preserve. 

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The highlight was when we came across this old log and Squiggle looked at it and declared it looks like a rabbit – which it really does! I love her creative mind.

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Squiggle exploring…

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I also paused to grab a few photos during our walk too…

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30 days wild, #30dayswild, #livinglifewild, The Wildlife Trusts, stay wild, nature, wildlife, natural environment, photography, get outside, outdoors

30 days wild, #30dayswild, #livinglifewild, The Wildlife Trusts, stay wild, nature, wildlife, natural environment, photography, get outside, outdoors

On Saturday, we took a day trip to Whitchurch for the annual Sylvanian Shopping Weekend. It is a pretty village and the event is surrounded by beautiful natural settings with lots of wildlife. We had a wonderful time!

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On Sunday, I planted a virtual seed on Grow Wild UK. Squiggle also took this photo in a local park…

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Also on Sunday, one of our furbabies went off exploring and hadn’t returned for several hours. By evening I was wondering where he had got to, so I went out to call him. I heard a high pierced sound and when I looked up there was a bat circling right above my head!!! I have seen lots of bats round here before, but I have never heard one – to be honest, I didn’t think humans actually could hear them! I thought their pitch/ frequency was out of the range of human hearing… but I know what I heard; I was shocked, but very exciting!

Earlier this week, I spent time looking into more sustainable products to help us progress with our journey towards a more plastic- free and less waste, green living, lifestyle. I am hoping to collaborate with some brands soon to write an essentials guide – so more on that soon hopefully!

Today Squiggle enjoyed splashing around in the lake at Ruislip Lido

30 days wild, places to visit, Ruislip lido, days out, blue mind, #30dayswild, #livinglifewild, The Wildlife Trusts, 100 days of blue, #waterislife, #waterismedicine, stay wild, nature, wildlife, natural environment, childhood unplugged, get outside, outdoors
(Please note: swimming not allowed!)

And that brings me up to date with our wild adventures!

What adventures have you been up to recently? Tell me in comments or leave your posts in my linky! 

Cycling Adventures: Exploring St Albans 

Now, I am the first to admit that I am not a regular cyclist. However, I do love being outdoors and I also like a challenge! So when Inntravel set a cycling adventure challenge; to explore our local area by bike, creating a cycle route, then share what we discovered, I was more than happy to take this on!

Inntravel are a holiday company that have been offering cycling holidays in Europe since the late 1980s. They arrange the hire of a high-quality bike and you cycle self-guided from one welcoming hotel to the next, following detailed maps and route notes while your luggage is transported ahead. Inntravel plan all their biking holidays carefully, making sure that each route is tried and tested, preferably using quiet roads and country lanes. They try to ensure the routes are enjoyable and interesting, giving you the chance to take in the beautiful scenery and gorgeous views.

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Our cycle route went from London Colney (Hertfordshire) across St Albans to Verulamium Park, via Highfield Park then onto the Alban Way. This is a fairly short linear route that covers approximately 5.5 miles each way, so only about an hour or so of cycling in total, but with ample opportunity to pause and take in some of the nearby attractions, or stop for food and/ or refreshments.

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Heading from London Colney high street, the route takes us over a fly-over, which cyclists need to dismount for, onto Nightingale Lane then into Highfield park. The park is a lovely place to explore or have a picnic. There is a tree trail and history trail, as well as a maze.

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Highfield Park
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Highfield Park (with maze to the left)

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Leaving the park, the next step of the route takes us down bike lanes until we reach the Hill End Garden of Rest that leads onto Alban Way. Alban Way is a cycle path that has been created from an old railway line that joins Hatfield to St Albans.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Alban Way, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Alban Way cycle path

The Alban Way disjoints briefly at Orient Close where we cycle down a quiet street. There is generally very little traffic though so it is a peaceful ride back onto the Alban Way again.

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Alban Way by Orient Close

Just past here is an opportunity to dismount if you wish to and follow the footpath along a small section of the River Ver Trail to discover the wildlife and explore Sopwell Nunnery. We loved doing this! Alternatively you can stay on the cycle path until you get to Cottonmill Lane.

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At this point there is some road cycling including crossing a fairly busy intersection (there are traffic lights though). On the other side of the road, is Westminster Lodge and the entrance to Verulamium Park using the cycle path that runs from the athletics track, through the park – where we take in the beautiful views of the Abbey Cathedral in the distance, as well as the scenic views and historical attractions across the rest of the park – onto the Roman Verulamium museum at the other end.

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Views of Verulamium Park (from Roman Hypocaust)
#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Verulamium Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire, historical, Romans, history, The London Gate, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Cycle path near The London Gate

 Verulamium park has a wealth of Roman history to enjoy, including the mosaics/ hypocaust, remains of the Roman wall, theatre and the museum. If history is not your thing, you might enjoy a walk around the lake or visit the Wildlife Trust centre instead.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Verulamium Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside

Before heading back home along the same route, you can also stop for refreshments at the Inn on the Park, nip into Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (rumoured to be the oldest pub in Britain) at the other end of the lake, head down past the museum to pretty St Michaels Village that has a selection of delightful pubs, or grab a bite at the well-known Waffle House.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Waffle House, St Michaels Village, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside

After our local cycling adventure, I really the idea of a cycling holiday. Slow paced and relaxing, yet active, with plenty of time to be outdoors and a chance to enjoy exploring new places; that all sounds ideal to me! Plus I like the fact that with a cycling holiday, you don’t need to stick to circular routes or have to turn around and head back to your original destination because your luggage is forwarded onto your next destination. Also as they are not groups cycles, they can be personalised with your choice of selected routes for the day and travel at your individual pace. It sounds great for any level of cyclist, including very occasional complete amateurs like myself!

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Inntravel.

#WorldEnvironmentDay – I’m #WithNature

#WorldEnvironmentDay #WithNature

For my own favourite nature spot, I was torn between green and blue, so eventually decided I simply had to choose photos of both! 

The first photo is a local park that is one of my very favourite nature spots, largely just because I spend alot of time here. The tree in the photo is straight up one of my absolute favourite subjects to photo because it is so photogenic- it always comes out looking so magical!

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Highfield Park

The second picture was taken at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire last November for our annual visit during pupping season. Whilst not recent, or the best photo ever, it is one of my most favourite spots on earth for feeling truly connected with nature and wildlife. It is an amazing experience.

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Donna Nook

The final photo was taken a few days ago at Southend-on-Sea. I didn’t feel that I could possibly post about my favourite nature spots without listening to my #BlueMind and therefore including the beach that we visit most regularly! This isn’t my favourite capture of it if I am perfectly honest, there are more striking photos of it on my blog photo gallery, but this is the most recent so I stuck with that!

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Southend-on-Sea

Where is your favourite nature spot? Share it today to be part of World Environment Day!

Choosing A Family Car: Important Considerations

Whilst we spend alot of our time out and about on foot, we do still rely on our family car to provide us with more freedom and flexibility. At present however, ‘our’ family car is actually just a company car, which we may not even have access to in the future, so we have been discussing and researching into the possibility of getting a new car.

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Stock image

Personally, finding an eco-friendly car is one of my first considerations. Ideally I would love an electric car if at all possible, but in reality other factors might prohibit this. However, this is certainly an important part of our research. Auto Express lists their top 10 green cars of 2017, which includes a combination of electric, hybrid and traditional cars. Top of the list is BMWi3 followed by the Toyota Prius. However, I was also surprised and impressed though with how many electric cars are available now.

car, car safety, vehicle, environmentally friendly, finances, money, travel, general life, Living Life Our Way
Stock image

Of course though, the absolute top priority is safety. Accident Advice Helpline have created an interactive guide to some of the safest cars of 2016 – 2017.  It shows safety percentages for drivers, passengers and pedestrians so gives a clear picture of different aspects of safety. You can also filter based on the type of car you are searching for.

Again, the Toyota Prius appears high up on the list here too, so this car would be a great all rounder if environment and safety were the only two factors we needed to consider. But, of course, budget also plays a part in the decision too though!

However, these guides highlighting key information are really useful. Then it is just up to us to weigh up all the factors and decide on balance which car is best, within our budget. Regardless of outcome though, I feel much better knowing that I have researched properly!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post. 

An Early Start (In More Ways Than One!) #30DaysWild 

We woke up super early last Sunday morning and watched the sunrise out of an upstairs window. It was really relaxing and a lovely feel – good way to start the day! Here is a speeded up video clip of it. (Note to self: window cleaner needed 😉 Ignore the dirty marks!) 

We then went to Southend-on-Sea for a day out at the beach. It was so empty and peaceful early Sunday morning. Squiggle had fun playing on the beach, paddling in the sea and looking for crabs.

Turns out the beach is very peaceful at 8am on a Sunday morning…. who knew? 😉😄💙 #livinglifewild #bluemind

A post shared by Katie (@living_life.our_way) on

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Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, wildlife, sea creatures, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

We then walked along the seafront, past Adventure Island funfair and the pier, to Three Shells Lagoon. Squiggle enjoyed a lovely morning paddle/ swim in the lagoon. Unsurprisingly it was very cold apparently!

We also spotted bird footprints in the sand and we spent a few minutes doing a quick beach clean too, as there was alot of litter around sadly.

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, wildlife, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, beach clean up, litter, environment, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Here are some other photos I took from the visit too….

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

It was such a lovely and relaxing day!

Click for photos and a blog post I wrote from a previous visit. 

#LivingLifeWild #30DaysWild

National Pet Show: A Fantastic Day Out For Pet/ Animal Lovers!

This past weekend saw the return of the National Pet Show to Excel, London. For those who have never heard of it, this event hosts tonnes of pet-related stands with information, advice and products, as well as lots of talks, activities, shows and demonstrations. Of course, there are lots of animals too! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

We went to this event once previously, when Squiggle was much younger, back when it was held at Earls Court. (Blog post here). We had a lovely time and Squiggle remembered it well so we were excited to return!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

We have only been to Excel once with Squiggle before, to watch the Paralympics in 2012, and I don’t think she recognised it. I personally really like this venue because it is spacious and has good facilities. Events can be very crowded and overstimulating for a child with autism, so it is good that the venue is big enough that it is possible to find a space in a quiet corner if needed. Plus, as it is located by the docklands, there is also somewhere calm outdoors to go for some fresh air if it does get too much. 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

The pet show itself has a huge range of animals to see. I didn’t get a photo because s/he was attracting quite a crowd but Squiggle adored seeing the hairless cat, as well as many other rare breeds. I loved this funky dreadlock looking dog, a bergamasco, which is certainly not a breed I had come across before. So gorgeous though!

Perhaps a slightly unusual highlight but, for me personally, one of my favourite parts was getting inspiration for our new bunny housing. We have already got the actual enclosure itself, but we spotted some great ideas of what else we could include for enrichment!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Squiggle also loved the opportunity to meet some more exotic pets in the reptile section, such as Terry the tegu, a python (I think?!) and a very giant tortoise. It was lovely to experience these magnificent creatures close up and hands on! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Over at the More Than stand, there was a little display going on by this cute little poodle pair. I gather there were other appearances spotted here too! I also liked the park theme with children’s games, such as Connect 4 and Jenga. A nice little chilled out spot in the midst of the hustle and bustle!

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As I already mentioned, there were lots of demonstrations and shows. For example, we saw this golden retriever display and got to meet them afterwards too.

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

There were lots of stalls with useful information too, such as various animal charities. We enjoyed meeting the therapy pets, including this beauty. I think a therapy dog would be amazing. But I also feel that any pets are great for autism, anxiety etc… They are so therapeutic! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

There were loads of children’s activities too. Stories, colouring, meeting animals, talks, games and even an exciting future vet activity with Noel Fitzpatrick. There was also a weaving activity; Squiggle was most excited about the huge rabbit that had been created!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Tickets cost from £13.91 for a child ticket. However, Littlebird often have deals available, so it is well worth checking if there are any discounted tickets. Also, carers get free entry to assist those with disabilities so if this applies to you then do get in touch with them.

As well as the London dates, the show is also held at NEC in Birmingham each November too (next dates are 4th and 5th November 2017). It is open all day from 9.30am to 5pm, with a schedule of different shows, talks, demonstrations and appearances throughout the weekend.

It is a really fun day out. A fantastic event for those with their own furbabies, wannabe pet owners or general animal enthusiasts! 

*Thank you to More Than for the complimentary pair of tickets we received. All thoughts are opinions are my own.

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza 

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza event is a fun day out that we have been to every year for a number of years and yet it still works just as well as it is suitable for a range of ages. This year we were lucky enough to get a free family ticket through Herts Big Weekend but we did wonder whether this might affect the size of the crowd. Luckily, although it was busy, it didn’t seem particularly packed. And there is plenty of space and lots to do which helps it feel less crowded too.

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The schedule of events is carefully timed so that you can still do the majority of activities and shows even if you are only there for half a day, like we were, but there is certainly more than enough to do for a whole day out too. We were able to do everything we wanted without feeling rushed from one thing to the next but without much spare time to fill either! 

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Squiggle meeting Lilly Bobtail

Some of the highlights of this particular event include the Bunny Hop show, Easter Garden egg hunt, meet and greets with Peter Rabbit, Lilly Bobtail, Benjamin Bunny and Easter Bunny, and various shows by Peter Rabbit and friends – including a brand new show featuring all three characters on stage together. We didn’t see this particular show but we did watch the Bunny Hop show with the Easter Bunny.

Squiggle loved this show and got really into it. One song in particular about chocolate really made her laugh and it was really catchy; she has remembered alot of it to sing to herself after just hearing it that once! 

Willows Activity Farm, Easter Eggstravaganza, Hertfordshire, Easter, events, Bunny Hop Show, days out, places to visit, family fun, Living Life Our Way
Bunny Hop Show

The Easter Garden is open for most of the day, daily throughout the Easter Eggstravaganza event. Here you are given a basket on entry and then search the garden to find five different coloured eggs. Once you have completed the hunt you can exchange the five eggs you found for yummy chocolate prizes. 

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Easter Garden

This is also where the Easter Bunny makes an appearance for meet and greet sessions, so be sure to check the schedule if you want to time your visit right! (Entry to Easter Garden is only permitted once). 

Willows Activity Farm, Easter Eggstravaganza, Hertfordshire, Easter, Easter Bunny, meet and greet, events, days out, places to visit, family fun, Living Life Our Way
Squiggle meeting Easter Bunny

Other activities also available at Willows include Peter Rabbit playground, agility course, sand pit, funfair rides, bouncy castle and slide, animal encounters, tractor ride, indoor role-play village, tractors, soft play, and arts and crafts. Plus of course lots of animals! There is also a large cafe and gift shop. For further information see Willows Activity Farm website.

100 Days of Home Ed #LoveHomeEd – Day 25 (Our Round-Up So Far)

So we are now 1/4 of the way through the #100daysofhomeed challenge! I thought this might be a good time to do a brief round-up of some of the activities we have done since the challenge started. No doubt there is a tonne of stuff I have forgotten but here are a few of the things we have been doing…

Literacy

  • Punctuation and grammar – Squiggle was reading the side of a cereal packet whilst having a snack. She asked about the use of apostrophies, which she has now been using correctly since. It also led onto further discussions about punctuation and grammar, and covered alot of ground! I love how such amazing valuable learning opportunities can arise naturally from even the simplest of everyday tasks.
  • Writing – Squiggle wrote some tips on green living/ protecting the environment.
  • Scrabble – We played this for the first time recently, great for spelling!
  • Squiggle has written lots of letters to her friends and characters, and wrote cards for Valentines Day.
  • She also frequently writes shopping lists etc…
  • Squiggle regularly writes her own stories.

Maths

  • Squiggle has written a list of some of our maths resources and we have played most of these games/ activities since the challenge started.
  • Valentines Day – Squiggle did lots of themed maths activities from the Twinkl website.
  • Squiggle has been playing shops;  involving real money, working out cost/ change etc…

  • Science Experiments/ STEM

    • Squiggle has been doing some of our Dyson STEM challenge cards, including ‘invisible writing’ with lemon juice and using coke to make coppers shiny.
    • We have also experimented with growing crystals.
    • Squiggle figured out how to make herself a basic microphone using household objects using her knowledge and understanding of sound, vibrations, amplification etc…

    STEM, science, #100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, activities at home, freedom to learn, Home EducationScience experiments/ STEM challenges

    Geography

    • Squiggle has been learning more about different countries and continents.

    Geography, maps, continents, #100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, activities at home, freedom to learn, Home EducationGeographyGeography, maps, continents, #100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, activities at home, freedom to learn, Home Education

    Technology

    • Squiggle has been creating some digital art on my phone using PicsArt app.
    • She has written alot of emails to myself and her dad.
    • She has typed lists etc…
    • We use the internet together for research.

    Digital art, Pics Art, technology, #100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, activities at home, freedom to learn, Home EducationDigital art

    Creative activities 

    Sports

    •  Squiggle has played lots of sports in the garden and we have also been to the athletics track too.

    Music

    • Squiggle has been to her regular music class.
    • She has been putting on performances at home, including singing with her new mic!

    Days out etc…

    Places to visit, Whipsnade, zoo, #100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, Days Out, freedom to learn, Home EducationWhipsnade Zoo

    • Nature Walks – We have enjoyed countryside walks observing the earliest signs of Spring.
    • We have been to parks and playgrounds.
    • Garden Centres – We loved seeing the wildlife and the wood carving sculptures outside this garden centre.
    Vanstone Park, garden centre, wooden sculptures, #100daysofhomeed, #LoveHomeEd, 100 days of home ed, activities at home, Days Out, freedom to learn, Home Education
    Garden Centre

    Life Skills

    • Squiggle has earned money by doing tasks. She has a Go Henry account and has been using that to learn about having an account/ dealing with money.
    • We have also discussed the basics of running a business. She then practised some elements of this by ‘hiring’ me to do things (such as drawing her a picture for example) which I then invoiced her for, and she paid me – and vice versa. 
    • We talked about other aspects of running a business too, such as making ethical and eco-friendly choices, and we even discussed giving back to the community / helping others by giving x % profit to charity. 

    There are loads more things I’m sure but that’s all I can think of right now!

    Seaside Trip and Signs of Spring #LivingLifeWild

    On Sunday we went to Southend-On-Sea for a day out at the seaside. We love the fresh sea air, sand under our feet and paddling in the water – at any time of year! Here are my photos…

    #livinglifewild, wildlife, childhood unplugged, nature, outdoor adventures, seasons, seaside, days out, photography

    #livinglifewild, childhood unplugged, nature, outdoor adventures, seasons, seaside, days out, photography

    #livinglifewild, childhood unplugged, nature, outdoor adventures, seasons, seaside, days out, photography

    #livinglifewild, Southend on Sea, childhood unplugged, Days Out, nature, outdoor adventures, photography, seaside, seasons

    I have also added a couple of new albums to my photo gallery. I have added my Winter Collection (I thought I would finally share my photos of this season before it is over!) and Signs of Spring Collection too, as we have been out on nature walks over the past couple of weeks observing the changing seasons and spotting the earliest glimpses of Spring popping up. 

    Thank you to Mammas School for sharing their snow walk blog post and beautiful photos of Sweden on Instagram and to Eps and Amy for sharing a lovely spot to go for a walk in West Sussex. 

    Check out our hashtag #LivingLifeWild on Instagram, there are lots of fantastic photos! Here are just a couple of my faves…

    #livinglifewild, childhood unplugged, nature, outdoor adventures, seasons, seaside, days out, photography

    Remember this linky will be open throughout March. I look forward to reading your posts!

    #LivingLifeWild