Three Shells Lagoon, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Three Shells Lagoon at Southend-on-Sea in Essex is a newly built man made lagoon that opened this summer. The lagoon is the size of a football pitch and is 1.1 metres at its deepest points. 

Swimming at Three Shells Lagoon, Southend on Sea, Essex
Squiggle was laughing at how I reacted to the cold water initially- but she wore a proper wetsuit, I didn’t!

Despite visiting in the last week of September, it was still warm enough to wriggle into our swimsuits and go for a swim. It was cold, but we soon got used to it! Squiggle enjoyed practising her swimming skills in the sea water, as well as paddling and splashing around in general. I think it’s wonderful to be able to enjoy swimming in a natural environment, whilst not being entirely in the open water with an inexperienced young swimmer. I imagine it would also be great for learning water sports.

Swimming at Three Shells Lagoon, Southend on sea, Essex
Three Shells Lagoon

One thing I did wonder about was how the lagoon water is kept fresh and hygenic. So I did some research and found the design quite interesting. “Sheets of welded metal inside the rock walls retain the seawater when the tide comes in, whilst rubberised material at the base of the wall will prevent silt and mud from entering and exiting the lagoon. Valves have been installed into the wall so that the lagoon can be emptied and refilled, ensuring a high quality of regularly-replenished bathing water.” (Southend government website) For further information about the lagoon www.southend.gov.uk

Haven: Allhallows, Kent

We spent a couple of days at Allhallows in Kent. Our favourite things about this site were the direct access to the beach, helpful staff, lovely play area and nice pool. I do think the layout could be improved- for a child with sensory processing difficulties it was very overstimulating to have to keep walking right through the arcade and restaurant to get to the outside play area and it was a shame that the soft play is not sectioned off abit too rather than in the centre of the noisy arcade. The entertainment venue felt abit cramped, it needs to be abit bigger or designed better to give a more spacious feel. Overall though we enjoyed our stay and would happily return.

haven beach july 2014
Beach (direct access from site)

 

Drawings in the sand
Drawings in the sand

 

haven play area july 2014
Onsite playground

 

haven characters 2014
Dancing along at the disco and meeting Bradley bear and Anxious elephant from ‘The Seaside Squad’.

 

 

A Typical Week in Home Education?

In reality there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ week for us, we are interest-led and we tend to go with the flow as we feel this suits our needs as a family. The freedom to do this is one of the many reasons we love home educating. I will share more of our personal educational philosophy sometime but that is really a separate subject so I will leave it for now. However, this post aims to give a flavour of the type of thing we might find ourselves doing and a rough gist of what our week might look like. So here is a brief summary of our week:

Saturday

In the morning Squiggle played outside in the garden with her dad. She also picked some blackberries then helped to clean and feed our rabbits. After this we decided to head to the seaside at Southend for the rest of the day.

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Playing on the beach
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Collecting seaweed
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Paddling in the sea

Sunday

We spent some the day at home then decided to pop to Milton Keynes shopping centre for a little while (where she particularly enjoyed the caravan show and studying the inside of a working clock)

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This is the model plane she made at home

Monday

We went to London Zoo for the day.

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We enjoyed seeing the star fishes and seahorses in the aquarium
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Iguana in the reptile house
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The gorilla striking a pose!
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Petting farm
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Squiggle spent a long time playing in the water fountains with an acorn. She had fun designing a science experiment to see which fountains could hold the acorn up in the water. She did lots of investigating how easily the acorn moved in the little stream as well.

Tuesday

We played at home for a while (self- directed learning) then we decided to go to Paradise Park for the rest of the day.

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She decided she wanted to play with some coins that had been left on the table so this led to learning to recognise and sort different coins. We also had a discussion on the value of things.
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Watching how the otters behave
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We enjoyed watching the white tiger take a bath

Wednesday

We had planned to go to a local park to meet up with some friends in the morning then we also went to Leighton Buzzard park in the afternoon.

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Fleetville park
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Counting the shapes then setting the dial to the correct number
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Developing her climbing skills and confidence
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These stepping stones wobble to make this more challenging.
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Balancing skills

Thursday

We stayed at home today so I produced a hidden parcel that had arrived recently, which she was very excited about. It was a zip wire for her hex bugs! This of course inspired her to play with these for sometime, including lots of exploration and discussion about how they work. Activities she later chose included playing Reading Eggs and Maths Seeds on the laptop.

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Hexbugs
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Maths seeds

Friday

Most of our day was spent at the scout hut for art group then ‘meet up and play’.

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Exploring clay at art group
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Doing scratch art

A Trip to Weymouth, Dorset: Haven and Sealife Centre

We stayed at Weymouth Bay Haven holiday park, which Squiggle particularly enjoyed. Nearby there was a sandy beach at Bowleaze Cove, which also had a quiet little funfair. For more information about Bowleaze Cave see website www.bowleazecove.co.uk and for further details on the Haven site we stayed at view the Haven website here.

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Making a beach collection
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Footprints in the sand
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Enjoying the funfair rides
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Helter skelter slide with her grandad
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She was most excited about going on the funfair wheel (or in her words a mini London Eye)
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Exploring on a nature walk.
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Playing outside at Weymouth Bay Haven Holiday site.
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She enjoyed going swimming and meeting characters on-site at Haven (although not at the same time!)
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Trying out the dancing game

However, the highlight of the trip for us had to be the Sealife Adventure Park in Weymouth. Although it was very expensive it was a fantastic day out and we would definitely love to return! It is also worth noting that Sealife Adventure Park is part of the Merlin group so annual pass holders get in free. For more details see their website here.

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Giant crab
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Sting ray close up
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Walk through tunnel, beautiful giant turtle
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Fascinating ‘sea worms’ and shrimps
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Jelly fish
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Learning about crocodiles
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Fun educational facts
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It also has an excellent splash park and paddling pool, one of her favourite bits of course!

Princess Diana Memorial Playground, London

Princess Diana Memorial Playground is in Kensington Gardens next to the palace. It has an excellent range of equipment suitable for children under 12, all adults must be accompanied by a child. There is a queuing system for when the playground reaches maximum capacity but on the plus side this really makes a difference to the playground not feeling too over-crowded, especially during peak season when other places can often be uncomfortably packed. Further details of this playground can be found on the website https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/sports-and-leisure/diana-memorial-playground

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There are giant musical instruments set in pretty natural surroundings.
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Lovely natural wooden playground with lots of equipment.
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Sensory garden
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Wet sand
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There is an impressive pirate ship in the centre of the playground.
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There is a stream to paddle in with a stone crocodile.
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The playground is set in beautiful surroundings and it has a wonderful calm vibe.
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Great shade for a warm day.

Summer Fun: Parks and Paddling

Editors Note: Update 09/05/16 See here for latest information on splash park and paddling pool opening times for summer season 2016 and links to official websites

 

 

 

We have enjoyed visiting a range of places over summer and we especially loved finding fun places to cool down on the wonderful hot days we had! Here are some of the places we have been over July and August…

 

This is Stockwood Park Discovery Centre in Luton. It has an interesting museum and lovely playground, free entry. (The bus is not always there and was not open during our visit unfortunately, she still loved running around it though!) http://www.lutonculture.com/stockwood-discovery-centre/stockwood-discovery-centre/

Discovery centre 28.07

 

Highfield park in St Albans has lots of green space and hidden pockets containing little play areas dotted around, plus there is also a tree trail. The leaflet for the tree trail is available at Charters Health Club. “The Trail is 3km (2miles) long and follows a circular route. The trail identifies 25 different trees, each with a numbered way marker, the leaflet provides you with interesting facts about the various trees.” The Highfield Park summer fete this year included an agility show, much to Squiggle’s delight! There are a few other events held at the park throughout the year. http://www.highfieldparktrust.co.uk/index.php/visiting-the-park-mainmenu-33

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This is Leighton Buzzard park. As well as a lovely playground suitable for a range of ages it also has an excellent splash park to. Squiggle loved it but it was far too busy to get any pictures!

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This is Morris Playing Field in London Colney. It has a small paddling pool and play area, as well as a football pitch and tennis courts.

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We enjoyed a day trip to Southend to paddle in the sea and play in the sand. There is a small children’s climbing frame on the beach next to a large fun fair. This picture makes it look rather less crowded that it really was though!

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We also enjoyed looking for crabs, Squiggle was fascinated watching them…

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We love Verulamium park. Lots to do in this massive beautiful parkland including feed the ducks (duck food can be puchased from Inn On The Park cafe), let off steam in the play area and cool down in the splash park (again too many other people in the background of our pictures to publish them!) There are also tennis courts, football pitches, an outdoor gym and Roman remains. http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/parks-and-green-space/parks/Verulamium-Park/

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Wick nature reserve in St Albans is a hidden gem for us. Popular with dog walkers and families alike but this place never seems to get very busy as many locals don’t even know about it! There is a little play area, small woods and green space. Great place to go exploring!

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Having lived in St Albans for most of my life, this local recreation ground on Sherwood Avenue had remained secret from us until this summer.

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Fleetville park in St Albans has recently been refurbished in the section aimed at older children and also now has an outdoor gym.

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Cassiobury park in Watford has a lot to offer. A paddling pool area with three large paddling pools (one heated), a lovely playground, miniature train (£1) and river walks (also good for paddling and watching canal boats).

 

 

 

And of course plenty of opportunities to splash around in the paddling pool at home…

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Last but not least, this does not technically belong on this post as it is not a park (nor a place to paddle) but the indoor beach at Centre: MK (throughout August only) was definitely worth a visit to.

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