Easter at Willows

Today we went to Willows Farm for their Easter event. We were hesitant to go over the weekend in the middle of the Easter holidays as we know how busy it gets on weekdays during this popular event but Squiggle loves Willows (especially at Easter!) so we braved it anyway. And actually it wasn’t quite as packed as we might have imagined and all went smoothly so we are very glad we did, it was a lovely afternoon.

 

There were various Easter events and activities going on, as well as the usual facilities they have available, so a family could certainly easily fill an entire day there. There was far more to do than is possible to fit in just a few hours but we were prepared for that and prioritised the Easter events, having been a few weeks ago to enjoy the regular facilities anyway. They do however schedule shows and activities to be on twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, so it is entirely possible to only go for half a day and still make the most of what is on offer for Easter. The schedule is well organised to provide a natural flow to the visit at a reasonable pace for a young child without it becoming too much. We left just before closing feeling very happy with our visit indeed!

 

The farm itself is decorated in a spring/ Easter theme with lots of pretty displays throughout…

Easter
Easter hay bales
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Easter displays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was an Easter egg hunt in the Easter Gardens….

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Collect a basket and find five different colour Easter eggs
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Search for the eggs hidden around the Easter Garden
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Keep searching!
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Once all five colour eggs have been collected they can be exchanged for five small chocolate eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were several different shows, including ‘Scarecrow and Friends’ (a lovely introduction to some of the farm animals via a simple game of guess the clues with some basic information about the animals and an action song at the end), ‘Bunny Hop’ (action songs with the Easter bunny on stage) and ‘Singalong with Curly’ (action songs with Curly the pig on stage)…

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Scarecrow and Friends
Bunny Hop
Bunny Hop
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Singalong with Curly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was even sheep racing…

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Sheepstakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Squiggles favourite, cuddles from the characters…

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Meeting the Easter bunny
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Cuddles with Woolly sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also found time to fit in a couple of the regular activities including looking at the animals (there are lots of newborns and young babies to see at this time of year of course!), holding a guinea pig, sand and funfair rides…

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Funfair rides

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baby goat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guinea pig handling

The Value of Free Time to ‘Just’ Play

Yesterday we went to a birthday party somewhere new. Squiggle loves to act out new experiences, I think it helps her to process it fully so is really important she can do this. By the time we got home it was too late to spend much time doing this so we only had a chat about it before she went to bed. However, today we had a whole day free for us to just play at home, entirely self-directed by her. She spent literally all day acting out the event in great detail, for 7 hours solid (except eating!) It really reminded me how beneficial it is to keep a slow pace; it is essential to factor in plenty of respite between activities and keep entire days free regularly just for sustained free play. It holds so much value, this time is just too precious to give up.

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Here are the guests at the party. She made several cards, written independently for the birthday children and also wrapped up gifts herself for them.
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All guests need a wristband before entering the party!
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She spent a couple of hours making wristbands for guests, including cutting to size, colouring and writing on each one then carefully putting them on each guest.
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Using her fine motor skills to put wristbands on her guests- it was quite fiddly!
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Wristband says 'Partyman World' (sounded out and written independently)
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Rope swing/ zip wire in soft play at the party.
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Squiggle having a go of the pinata at the party.
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Acting out the pinata at the party.

Sapphire Gymnastics (Hemel Hempstead, Herts)

A couple of weeks ago we held a home education group at Sapphire gymnastics in Hemel Hempstead for the second time. It has a good variety of equipment to cater for a range of ages; facilities include balancing equipment, ropes, bars and rings, spring board and box, trampoline, soft play and bouncy castle. There are two sites, we have not been to the new Mark Road site yet but the pictures look very impressive so we are keen to visit this one sometime too. The following photos are of our home ed group held at the original Park Road site next to the sports centre. For more information see Sapphire Gymnastics website www.sapphiregymnastics.co.uk

 

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Balancing
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Balance beams
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Trampolining
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Swinging on ropes
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Bars
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Bouncy castle slide
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Soft play

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Fun at Sapphire Gymnastics
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Why Do Nettles Exist?

Whilst we were sat outside on a bench at KIDS playground yesterday, Squiggle asked ‘why do nettles exist?’ She said she was curious because she knows they sting people but do they have a purpose as well, are they useful in any way? And do they sting other animals or just people? What about insects? When we got home, we did some research together to answer her questions. She was interested to discover that nettles can be used as a medicine, as well as food and drink. Insects don’t get stung as they move between the spines without activating the sting. Animals do get stung in theory but only if it touches their skin, so often their fur protects them. This was a useful website for our research www.nettles.org.uk. Squiggle then suggested that maybe stinging nettles are also a way of teaching people to be careful of plants and be more aware of where they are walking.

 

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This is just one example of how natural curiosity leads to discussion and learning. And what better way to foster a child’s natural curiosity and interest in the world around us than simply to be out in it, surrounded by things to wonder about? To me, this is what education is all about!

 

Latest Highlights: Our Fortnight in Pictures

These are the highlights of our week fortnight in pictures…

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Playing in the woods with friends
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Whipsnade zoo.
Squiggle particularly enjoyed comparing her hand to an adult foot and elephant foot, driving along the ‘Passage through Asia’ and seeing baby Mara, as well as playing in the outdoor adventure play area ‘Hullabazoo’. She also loved the penguins and of course the sealions. One of the sealions spent much of the time sunbathing, which she found especially fascinating and hilarious. She was also able to view them underwater (for sealion cuddles!) and watched a member of staff carry out their health checks and enrichment activities, which she found both intriguing and entertaining. Later two of the sealions enjoyed playing under the spray of a water hose, which she was also lucky enough to observe.
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Playing at home.
A few of her self- chosen activities recently include making outfits for her toys, drawing and writing, practising her letter formation, reading books to her toy baby, making mosaic pictures and hosting an imaginary bring and share lunch with toys. Lifting and carrying shopping is a fantastic sensory activity!
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Making magnets using plaster in moulds
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Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington has lots of sensory activities.
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Art group/ Meet up and play
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Local park (with friends, just not pictured!)
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Woodside Farm.
Squiggle loved spending time with family members, playing inside and outside, feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs, and seeing other various animals including goats (including a baby kid less than a fortnight old). llamas, lemurs, ducks and geese.
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This begun has Squiggle wanting to make a zip wire for her toys but turned into an excellent learning opportunity when the ribbon she used broke repeatedly because it rubbed against the other ribbon as it moved. This led to a discussion about friction, investigating how much friction different materials produce and then also a discussion about making fire by rubbing sticks together as well. She decided to use the smooth side of a belt to make the zip wire as it would create least friction out of the items she had available.
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Playing in the garden
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Longacres park

Signs of Spring

Today we went on a walk to the local woods to look for signs of Spring. As always, all of these photos were taken on my phone. I admit I don’t even own an actual camera!

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Signs of Spring on the walk to/ from the wood.
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Photos taken in the woods.

Here are some of personal favourites from today…

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Woodland ‘swamp’
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Ladybug
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Flowers in Spring
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Daffodil
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We noticed how this had grown through a tiny gap in our driveway fence.

Pancake Day

We made gluten free, dairy free, soya free and egg free pancakes for dinner, to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. This was partly based on family diet restrictions (both mine and Squiggle’s) and partly because we decided to rise to the challenge of using what we had available in the kitchen without taking a trip to a supermarket!

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1. 250g gluten free flour
2. 600ml alternative dairy free milk (we used almond milk)
3. Egg replacer
4. Mix together
5. Fry in sunflower oil or alternative (we used rapeseed oil)
6. Flip or toss the pancakes

And here is Squiggle enjoying the finished product….

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For more free from pancake recipes see the BBC good food website www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2920662/egg-dairy-and-glutenfree-pancakeshttps://livinglifeourway.files.wordpress.com/

Our Week in Pictures

We started this week back in Weymouth to revisit the Sealife Centre as we found it so relaxing and therapeutic last month. We often find it helpful to return to places of interest quite soon after the previous visit, especially when something specific has captured her attention, because subsequent visits often add a new dimension to the place visited. We find the familiarity of the environment provides her with security and confidence (but yet at this stage the place is still ‘new’ enough that her expectations aren’t too rigid) so she is able to build on the previous experience and add even more value to it, by allowing her to extend her interests further and encouraging new interests at the same time.

Highlights of this visit were playing in the water (yes, even at this time of year!), going on the seal ride, watching and discussing the various fish, different types of turtles, studying the corals and anenomes, observing the seals again and alot of laughter!

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Sealife Centre at Weymouth

Later in the week we visited a local park on Thursday, attended a home education group visit to KIDS playground on Friday, went to a home education information session on Saturday (which mainly turned into an excuse to play in another local park with her friend most of time!) and then finished the week by going to a family- friendly disco with another friend on Sunday. She also enjoyed time at home drawing, playing and caring for her pet bunnies.

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Playing at a local park
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KIDS playground home ed group
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Home ed info session/ playing in a local park
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Bopping Babes disco
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Drawing
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Feeding her pet bunnies

The Beauty of Interest-Led Discussions

Today so far we have discussed the following, all entirely led by Squiggle (and it’s only lunchtime!)…

Odd and even numbers

Times tables (she specifically asked about counting in twos, threes, six, tens, elevens, hundreds and ten thousands). This also led to a discussion about how larger numbers are written.

Why people can’t fly and how gravity works. This led her to demonstrate and explain it to me herself in her own words while jumping around flapping her arms.

Why our cat is called a half Norwegian Forest cat, what we mean by ‘half’ and where the rest of the name in general comes from.

The weather forecast for today and how people predict the weather. This led to discussion over recent weather, climate and seasons.

How paper is made.

Our Week in Pictures

Here is a small snippet of some of last week’s activities…

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Splashing in puddles
Drawing, spelling, reading and writing in a wipe clean book
Drawing, spelling, reading and writing in a wipe clean book
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Woodland walk
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Various activities (see below for more detail)

Activities at home this week included water play (sensory activity), studying a particularly friendly ladybug, discussion about the weather (with myself as well as our cat obviously!), drawing lots of different pictures including a cat character and Igglepiggle (as well as many others), making a decorated model house for her seal, sorting beads and inventing her own target games using a set of foil containers she found in the cupboard. In additon, our egg experiment can be found here. We also met up with friends at a local soft play centre.