Organising An Eco-Friendly Children’s Party 

Are you holding a kids party, and considering ways to make it more eco-friendly? It is not an easy task, as I discovered when trying to organise Squiggle’s 9th birthday party a couple of months ago! You need to get a bit creative if you don’t want to leave behind piles of plastic, wrapping paper, and litter. In some ways we succeeded, others we need to work on for next time! Here are some thoughts…

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Eco- and Kid-Friendly Catering

  • Opt for reusable plates, bowls and cutlery instead of disposable options. Alternatively, create personalised party food packages wrapped up resuable food bags or wraps, or even in scarves or bandanas. They not only make colourful decorations for the table, but this approach can subtly assist with addressing allergy issues/ dietary requirements of young guests, plus they’ll double as napkins and the children can take them home afterwards.
  • Prepare fruity drinks ahead of time, using jam jars with sealable lids. It saves on packaging and if the weather’s hot and you’re outside, they’re easily kept cool in a cool box or even a bucket filled with ice. Use sustainable straws (e.g. paper or reusables) rather than plastic, and make the drinks more exciting by adding chopped or sliced fresh fruit such as strawberries.
  • Picnic or buffet areas set aside from other activities help to keep the mess and left overs in one place. They make supervision easier too, so if anyone needs help they aren’t left on their own. Dressing up metal barriers (which you can hire from staging and event specialists) with paper bunting or streaming creates a separation from other areas while maintaining the celebratory atmosphere.
party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living
Squiggle’s 9th party

      Green Ideas for Party Activities and Take Home Gifts/ Favours

      It is traditional to give the party-goers some kind of goodie bag or favour to take home, but it doesn’t have to affect your pledge to organise an eco-friendly party.

      • How about giving each child a small plant or sapling they can take home and put in their own garden? If you wrap each root ball in hessian, there’s no waste at all since it can go on the compost heap when it’s no longer needed. This is even better if any of the party activities have a similar theme of planting and growing.
      • For example, you could make ‘plant pots’ by halving empty cardboard roll tubes, then decorate by painting before planting their seeds. Plug each ‘pot’ with balled up newspaper so it will hold some compost. This creates an activity and a gift to take home in one. 
      • Or make seed bombs at the party to take home! 
      • Recycled plantable seed paper, for instance, is also an interesting novelty for children.
      • Nature crafts are fun activities. Have a scavenging hunt with a pile of twigs, mosses and grasses, then make some nature art.
      • Hold a bug hunt. Make a short list of insects to find, with prizes for all who find some, then invite children to draw or paint their favourites.
      • You could even get everyone involved in planting a special ‘celebration tree’ as part of the party!
      party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living
      Nature art

        Other Tips

          • Use Japanese blow up paper balloons rather than latex or foil balloons. These last a long time and are more environmentally friendly.
          • Reuse decorations. If you don’t want the same theme year after year, pass your old decorations on and source ‘new’ secondhand ones on your chosen theme. Better yet, also opt for decorations that are made from sustainable materials too!
          • If it is a particularly large party and you plan on having several different activities going on at the same time, or maybe with specific start times if you’re holding competitions or races, it might mean guests are quite spread out at times. Setting up a PA system to make announcements will keep everyone informed and save you a lot of running round. I remember once we had Squiggle’s party on a huge field; that would have been very handy then! 
          party, eco, environmentally friendly, kids party, celebrations, events, green living
          We held a party on this large field a few years back

            Eco-friendly parties are taking off in popularity, not just because they are good for our planet and build empathy for our natural environment, but also because they’re fun and children enjoy them! 

            Can you think of other eco- friendly party ideas? Tell me in comments! 

            *Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Alistage. 

            Gobions Wood, Hertfordshire: A Magical Place To Explore

            Today we visited Gobions Wood in Hertfordshire for the first time, which we discovered from a useful list of local nature reserves on Herts Wildlife Trust website. 

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            The first section of our walk took us past beautiful meadows, where moths and butterflies fluttered around us as we walked. 

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            We then reached the entrance to the wood…

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            Honestly, I have never felt quite so overwhelmed (and almost intimidated!) walking into a wood. I literally got tingles down my spine and a surge of excitement in my tummy. 

            Two huge ancient trees guard either side of the path as you enter, towering above everything, watching over the rest of the woodland…

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            It looks like something out of a film; like walking into a Lord Of The Rings set or somewhere…

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            I love the colours and the way the lower leaves create a whispy appearance, almost motioning to the path…

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            Squiggle found this and asked me to take a photo…

            She loved exploring…

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            It is a magical, enchanting place to explore and we hope to return soon! 

            Pick Your Own: Fruit Farm Visit #30DaysWild

            Today we visited a local pick your own fruit farm. We love growing our own food at home of course, but we also love the fun of visiting the PYO fruit farm too! It had only just opened for the season so there were quite alot of people there, but there was an abundance of delicious fruit that was ripe for the picking! I took some pictures of the fruit, which you can find in my photo gallery. And here are some of Squiggle collecting various fruits…

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            childhood unplugged, fruit farm, pick your own, PYO, places to visit, Herts

            childhood unplugged, fruit farm, pick your own, PYO, places to visit, Herts

            childhood unplugged, fruit farm, pick your own, PYO, places to visit, Herts

            childhood unplugged, fruit farm, pick your own, PYO, places to visit, Herts

            By the way, does anyone else see a smiley face strawberry with a big nose…

            strawberry, smiley face fruit, fruit farm, pick your own, PYO, places to visit, Herts

            What have you been doing so far this weekend, and what plans do you have?

            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.

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            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)
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            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.

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            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.

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            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.

            Family Fun Day – Finding The Wild! 

            On Sunday, we went to a family fun day at a local college. Whilst that was in itself far from wild, we did find a couple of nature related things going on!

            The main thing was finding our local beekeepers. This also led me to read more about beekeepers afterwards, especially from an ethical point of view. I found an interesting blog by a beekeeper about how approaches can vary and some are less ethical so I would like to know more about the practices of the ones we saw now. It was educational for Squiggle to see them though anyway!

            Beekeepers, local honey, family fun day, #LivingLifeWild, #30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, The Wildlife Trusts, wildlife, nature

            We also spotted some woodcarving, which is such an awesome skill! Squiggle loved the rabbit…

            Wood carving, family fun day, #LivingLifeWild, #30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, The Wildlife Trusts

            There are a few less ‘wild’ photos too! Building a wall…

            Building a wall, bricklayer, manual skills, family fun day, #LivingLifeWild, #30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, The Wildlife Trusts

            Building a wall, bricklayer, manual skills, family fun day, #LivingLifeWild, #30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, The Wildlife Trusts

            Inflatable assault course…

            inflatable assault course, family fun day, #LivingLifeWild, #30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, The Wildlife Trusts

            Fun games…

            Games, family fun day, #LivingLifeWild, #30DaysWild, 30 Days Wild, The Wildlife Trusts

            There were also sheep, birds of prey, funfair rides and dancing demonstration, plus lots of other things that we didn’t get round to as well!

            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! 

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            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!

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

            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.

            How Do You Entertain Your Children? 

            As a home educator, I spend alot of time with my daughter. We play, talk, research and do activities together, or go to classes, out on adventures and meet up with friends. Aside from the usual parenting duties, I view my role mainly as learning facilitator and to support her development in all areas. However, for the most part, I don’t see it as my job to entertain her per se. But of course there are times when I do need to keep her entertained for one reason or another, or rather help her to entertain herself! 

            So how do parents choose to do this? Do you reach for a tablet, grab a book or get out board games? Or maybe you have a different approach? Rattan Direct are conducting a survey to find out more about how parents entertain their children. (Click here to complete the survey) 

            activities at home, family fun, parenting, Rattan Direct, survey

            The survey asks questions such as which room in the house do your children spend the most and least amount of time; do they tend to hide out in their bedroom or do you all socialise in the living room together? Or perhaps they are most likely to be outside in the garden rather than in any room at all! 

            What do you prefer to use as entertainment at home for your children; books, board games, gaming or TV? How about on car journeys? Do you struggle to entertain your children or not? And what are your thoughts on technology; is it a good way to entertain your children, do you think it is educational and do you think it affects their sleep?

            activities at home, family fun, parenting, Rattan Direct, survey

            Personally I think technology can be educational and I think whether or not it affects sleep depends on the individual child. I do not personally use it as entertainment for Squiggle but that is down to our personal preferences and mainly due to her needs too. 

            We are most often in the living room or the garden. She often grabs a book or magazine to look at, or chooses to do some drawing or writing as an independent activity if I am busy for a few minutes, whereas games tend to be something that we play together. If we are going on a journey, she takes some toys to play with in the car and listens to music.

            activities at home, family fun, parenting, Rattan Direct, survey

            The final questions ask about furniture; for example, what do you look for in new furniture now that you have children? For us, there are alot of factors to consider but cost is important and durable is an absolute must! 

            I would love to hear your thoughts on this survey, leave your comments below!

            *This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Rattan Direct.

            Surprising (and not so surprising!) Ways That Couples Spend Valentines Day

            Do you spend Valentines Day on a romantic date with your partner, or are you a Valentines ‘grinch’ who would rather forget it even exists? Do you plan months in advance, or go with the flow? And parents, do you reach for the phone to call the babysitter or do you include the entire family in the occasion? Read on to find out what these couples do…

            Date Night At Home

            A date night at home is a popular choice. Some couples, such as Angela from The Inspiration Edit, and Kate from Modern Mum, love to chill at home with a bottle and a movie with their partner. Katie from REOLife agrees, she also opts for a simple night in, doing some gaming together and watching a movie. As Angela says

            “Chilling out is lovely, and just spending time together on an evening when we are usually so busy is a special thing to do.”

             

            The Family Occasion

            Devon Mama jokes that she just wants hubby to take the baby so she can sleep! But in reality they tend to cook a meal together and buy each other a card. This year that will extend to their little one too, to start his Valentines Day card collection early! Tracey from Witts in the Wild also likes to involve their daughter too…

            “My husband usually buys flowers for both me and my daughter, and buys her a soft toy with a love heart, we decorate the table and the walls and have a themed dinner together making it special for the three of us.”

             

            events, family fun, general life, special occasion, things to do, Valentines

            The Couples- Only Night

            Nomipalony on the other hand explains why Valentines Day is important couple-only time for them and they prefer to go out; they grab a babysitter and splash out on a fancy restaurant…

            “We always celebrate valentines as both of our birthdays and anniversary are all in the same week, so we never end up celebrating our anniversary; so Valentines makes up for that in our house. It’s not about the kids at all for us, it’s mammy and daddy time so usually we will arrange for a babysitter and head to a really nice restaurant for a lovely meal and drinks. The past two years we have been to a Michelin starred restaurant for their tasting menu. We normally wouldn’t be able to justify the expense of that so its a real treat for us and we are both foodies so we love it.”

             

            The Sentimentals

            Many couples like to return to a spot that means somewhere to them as a couple personally; for example the place where they met, or proposed, or maybe even shared their first kiss! Laura from Oh So Mummy and her fiance, who go to the pub where they first met to reminisce. How cute!

             

            The Mutual Interest/ Hobby Date

            Some couples choose to spend the day or evening doing something that may not be typically romantic, but is a hobby or activity that they both enjoy doing together so is the perfect way to celebrate for them personally. For example, Kirsty from Life With Boys intends to spend Valentines Day at the Bingo, which is somewhere she enjoys going with her partner.

            We’re 23 going on 80, plus who will ever turn down the chance to win the valentines jackpot….

             

            The Surprise Date

            Whether it is the same person who organises the date each time, or the pair take it in turns to arrange, some couples opt not to decide together and instead one person surprises the other. Such as Ed, who surprises Emma- Louise from Even Angels Fall each year with something different. He has made it tradition to choose something that is not considered typically romantic, but ironically this idea in itself has a rather unusual but romantic ring to it. She tells me:

            We’ve been horse riding and to a shooting range so far. No idea what this year will be but looking forward to the surprise. It’s nice to do something not typically romantic on Valentine’s Day and it’s become our tradition.

             

            Something Different

            A day out is another nice way to enjoy Valentines Day. There are lots of possibilities, such as the zoo, or even a theme park for example. Beth from Twinderelmo agrees this is a great idea, this year they are going to the Harry Potter studios. Very romantic!

             

            The Grinches

            Jen and her fella are being somewhat more unromantic about Valentines Day this year; rather than their usual meal, he is going to football and she will be at at home watching TV with a cuppa! Trying to rivel them in the grinch stakes is Emma from Me and B Make Tea who will spend the evening blogging whilst her partner plays xbox! Now that is romance 😉 They are not alone though; many people view Valentines Day as an over-commercialised money-making exercise and choose to ignore the whole thing! Duvet day until it’s all over anyone?

             

            So what type of Valentines Day couple are you?! I would love to know in the comments below!

            Shut The Box (Game Review)

            Squiggle was given Shut The Box game for Christmas as a stocking filler. We hadn’t heard of this particular game before, until very recently when I spotted it on a gift guide and thought it looked fun. I was right!

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            Shut The Box is a lovely wooden dice game that also has good educational value. The aim of the game is to successfully get all the numbers down from 1-9 so you can ‘shut the box’. The simple version is to roll both of the dice and then flip down one or two numbers to match the total on the dice. If you are unable to put down one or two numbers then it moves to the next player’s turn. There are different versions too, I found other instructions by searching online. 

            The game can be single player or played with any number of people and is suitable for all ages from approx 6+ years. This means it is great for some family fun together, but it is also handy that it can be played alone, as it is great for those moments when someone needs to occupy themselves for a few moments! The version we have is pocket size, which also makes it useful to take when travelling too. 

            I like that it is a simple game, nothing fancy about it, but yet is still both fun and educational. It is fab for practising maths skills, such as calculating and number bonds. I also love wooden toys and games, so that’s a bonus too! 

            Our verdict: big thumbs up!

            You can be in with a chance of winning your own Shut The Box game by entering my prize giveaway via rafflecopter below. 

            Competition ends at midnight on 31st January 2017. T&Cs apply.

            a Rafflecopter giveaway

            *This post contains an affiliate link.

            A Quick Cuppa With… Kerry (Discovery Bubbas)

            I am so excited to have the lovely Kerry of Discovery bubbas as my very first guest on this new series! Here she is, talking to us about being an ‘outside of the box’ thinker, her love of outdoors, and her future hopes…

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            Welcome Kerry, and thanks for being my first guest 🙂 Tell me about yourself!

            I am a mummy to one 2.5 year old girl and a wife to a musical and hard working man. I was a nursery nurse prior to having my little one, so I am qualified and experienced in childcare and early years education. I initially took up some nannying when my daughter was 11months old, which was lovely because I could take her with me and she became friends with the family’s own little girl. I stopped nannying because I was at the same time just developing my ideas and starting up my Discovery bubbas group- which is sensory, messy exploration and creative play sessions.

            Sounds interesting! What inspired you to set these sessions up?

            I decided to set up and run these type of sessions/class because I love it! All of that kind of play was my favourite thing to plan for and watch the children enjoy, and it is very beneficial to their development as it links in with many areas in the EYFS- EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION STAGE. 

            Totally relate- we love creative activities and really value the importance of sensory activities/ messy play too! I’d love to hear more about your family and how you spend your time, when you’re not busy with Discovery bubbas of course!

            As for my family life, my husband and I like to think of ourselves as ‘outside of the box thinkers’ – in tune with the wider picture of things, and we are quite compassionate people. If we could, we would live in an open space or wood and help animals and people who need it. I am very much into nature and natural ways of living and approaches to health, and I do try to use natural based products for home and on ourselves. I try to get outside every day with my daughter, even if it’s a quick play in the garden or park, but I do love a good walk and climb of the trees in the woods. My daughter has developed quite good balance from walking along fallen tree trunks. 🙂 

            We love outdoors and nature here at Living Life Our Way… Where is your favourite outdoor place to visit?

            Our favourite outdoor place to visit is Shenley Park, its just a lovely place to visit with the orchard and little wooded bit to walk through. Plus tea rooms for a bite to eat or drink, and a little animal area with rabbits, guinea pigs and chicken to look at, and feed if you want to. There’s also a walled garden which regularly runs events or can just be a nice quiet place to walk round and sit.

            It sounds like somewhere we would love too, especially with the animals to feed! What’s your favourite animal and why?

            We have 2 cats and I always have had cats since I was little, love them, they can be playful and affectionate but also they have their own personalities. I have also always loved Dolphins- not quite sure why I just think they are magnificent animals, so intelligent and kind and interesting to watch. 

            It’s been lovely getting to know you! Anything else you want to tell us about yourself or Discovery bubbas before you go?

            I am hoping to develop a range of busy bags, create, make and do craft kits, other ‘on the go’ activity kits, mini treasure/discovery baskets, STEAM challenge/activity kits and maybe more. 

            Sounds exciting- we will watch this space! Thanks so much for taking part!

            For more information about Discovery bubbas see their website or facebook page.

            Kerry is also kindly giving away four free Discovery bubbas sessions to one lucky winner! Simply enter via rafflecopter below. 

            T&Cs apply. Please also remember that the classes are for children from 6 months to 5 years old, and you need to be able to get to these Hertfordshire based sessions under your own steam – transport is not provided! Thank you and good luck 🙂