Sustainable St Albans Week

Sustainable St Albans Week kicked off this weekend with a variety of activities throughout the city. There are over 100 events happening throughout the week, that focus on green living and sustainability, to educate and inspire our local community. There is a wide range of activities, for both adults and children, such as; litter picking, talks, films, exhibitions, storytelling, junk modelling, food waste workshops and many more. Just a few of the highlights are:

  • Plant-based cooking demonstrations by The Green Kitchen to help reduce food waste.
  • Make reusable gift bags at St Albans Christmas market from recyclable materials.
  • Recrafting. Swap a donation to Oxfam (Harpenden) for swatches of fabrics or other craft materials.

These are just a few examples of some of the wonderful selection of activities available during this week. Many of the events, including the ones above, are FREE. However, please note that there is a charge for some of the other activities. A full schedule of events can be found on Sustainable St Albans Week website.

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Last but not least, I would like to challenge St Albans pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs; will you go straw-free to celebrate Sustainable St Albans Week? Either ditch disposable plastic straws completely or provide them on request only. Sign up here…

http://strawwars.org/

Individuals can also join in too, simply request no plastic straws when you order. Pledge your commitment to refuse plastic straws by signing the One Less Straw campaign pledge. You can also use #1LessStraw #strawless and/ or #strawfree hashtags to share your commitment on social media, and don’t forget to ask your friends and family to take the pledge too! 

See onelessstraw.org website for more useful information about this campaign.

We can ALL make a difference just by saying ‘no thanks’ to plastic straws.

Christmas: Ayletts Garden Centre, St Albans, Herts

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

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

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Walk-through Christmas scene.

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

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

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families
Squiggle doing the free festive competition.

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

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families, Age Concern
Squiggle throwing coins into the ‘pond’.

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

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

Ayletts, garden centre, Hertfordshire, places to go, things to do, places to visit, days out, festive fun, Christmas, families

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

Paddling Pools and Splash Parks (Herts and surrounding area)

Summer Fun: Parks and Paddling is one of my most popular blog posts and, rather unsurprisingly, has had alot of hits this past weekend! So here is the latest info for this season…

 

● Cassiobury Park paddling pool: closed for refurbishment

 

● Verulamium Splash Park: Now open 10-6pm daily until Sunday 11th September 2016  www.stalbans.gov.uk/community-and-living/communityleisure/play_areas/splashpark.aspx

 

● London colney (Morris Way) paddling pool: opens 28th May. No further info.

 

● Paradise Wildlife Park lagoon: Now open daily. This is part of the wildlife park (no separate entry)- admission costs apply www.pwpark.com

 

● Leighton Buzzard splash park and beach: Now open 10am-6pm daily www.leightonlinslade-tc.gov.uk

 

● Ruislip Lido: Now open daily until end of September www.hillingdon.gov.uk/ruisliplido

 

Of course there are many others in and around Hertfordshire, this is not a comprehensive list! Others I have heard of but never visited are Harpenden outdoor pool, Letchworth splash park/ paddling pool and Hitchin outdoor pool. Plus, of course, there is natural water play such as the stream at Wheathampstead, Stanborough or Cassiobury and plenty of beaches within an hour or two (driving or train) too!

Leighton Buzzard Splash Park

Leighton Buzzard Splash Park

 

Happy splashing!

April 2015

Ok, since I have gotten lazy about blogging lately here is April all rolled into one…

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Spring walks
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Highfield Park, including some of the tree trail with friends
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Growing our own food
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Science experiment- celery in food colouring
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Sand and water play
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Problem solving- how to patch up a leak with resources available
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Art group- foam marbling
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General garden fun
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Squiggle designed a carrier bag kite and parachute
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Quality time with our cats
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Observing and discussing the sky above- including clouds, rainbows, sunrise and sunset
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Playdate at home
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Writing
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Princess Diana Playground, Kensington
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Aldenham SEN playground
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Designing own games and activities
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Art and crafts
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Fun at a park
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Physical games- cone activities
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More playground fun- with grandad
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Butterfly World
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New 'Music Meadow' at Butterfly World
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Seaside- yes, she did steal daddys cardigan for a short while!
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Art group
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Art group- butterfly symmetry painting
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Art and Science! Put a few drops of food colouring into milk. Then put some washing liquid on a cotton bud, dip it in and let the colours disperse. Makes an interesting 'painting'
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Exploring instruments- lots of singing and dancing too!
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Park with a friend

We also did lots of Easter activities, which I blogged about separately, and have been to music class but haven’t got any photos of that! Last but not least, we did various circus themed activities, but that needs it’s own post!

November: Part One

These are some of the things we have been doing so far this month…

character drawings 01.11.14
Drawing various characters she has created in a variety of outfits 01.11.14
fishing 01-11-14
Fishing for coins in the bath- a game she designed herself 01.11.14
water scales 01-11-14
Squiggle started off using her balance scales to compare volumes of water. This then led to a discussion about measurements of solids and liquids, and the units they are measured in. She then decided to experiment with comparing the ducks and water combined. She observed that when the water was the same volume each side and therefore balanced, that the two ducks did not weigh the same. This was not what she predicted because they look the same and are the same size, but she the concluded one of them must have water inside adding to the weight. She then tried to push the duck down into the water and was amused that it popped back up again so we discussed why this happens. She also noticed the water level rises as she did so, which also led to a discussion on water displacement. 01.11.14
white water rafting 01.11.14
We went to watch white water rafting at Lee Valley. 01.11.14
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Caldecotte lake 02.11.14
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Watching watersports on the lake 02.11.14
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Photos at the lake 02.11.14
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One of my favourite photographs of Caldecotte lake 02.11.14
cuddly toy cat game 3-11-14
Cuddly toy cat game 03.11.14
paradise park play area 4-11-14
Paradise park 04.11.14 physical exercise and a spot of map reading too
paradise park animals 4-11-14
A few of the animals at Paradise park 04.11.14
paradise park monkey 4-11-14
We were lucky enough to spot a two day old newborn baby gibbon clinging to mum 04.11.14
sylvanian school game 5-11-14
Squiggle used her Sylvanian families to act out a day at school. This led to some very interesting questions, such as why do the children need to wear a school uniform, who decides what it should be etc… We then had a very balanced discussion about the differences between school and home education. She was able to articulate very well why she personally feels home ed is much better suited to her needs. 05.11.14
southend 6-11-14
Southend beach 06.11.14
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We found this great resource at the beach playground, it is simple explanation of the weather cycle. Squiggle enjoyed learning how clouds form and how it rains. This led to further discussion about weather, the sun and also how stars form too 06.11.14
southend boats 6-11-14
Boats at Southend 06.11.14
southend more photography 6-11-14
Some of my favourite photos from our trip to Southend 06.11.14
southend photography 6-11-14
Scenic photos of Southend 06.11.14
fireworks fleetville 7.11.14
Local fireworks display 07.11.14
fireworks crabtree 8.11.14
Watching fireworks with a friend 08.11.14
fashion garden 9.11.14
Playing in the garden 09.11.14
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Picnic in the garden 09.11.14
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Fun at Bopping Babes disco 09.11.14
sylvanian imagination 10.11.14
Small world imaginary play 10.11.14
sylvanian ayletts christmas display 11.11.14
Acting out Ayletts Christmas display from last year 11.11.14
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We then visited Ayletts garden centre to see this year’s display 11.11.14
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Notcutts garden centre 11.11.14
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Squiggle made her own Christmas sticker book 12.11.14
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Sylvanian family decorating for Christmas (wearing clothes she made for them for winter) 12.11.14
duplo treehouse 13.11.14
Duplo construction (tree house playground) 13.11.14
clarence park 13.11.14
Clarence park 13.11.14
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Squiggle designed a multi pack of cat treats 14.11.14
cats 14.11.14
Squiggle then asked the next day to go to the pet shop to buy the cats a treat 15.11.14
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Chilling together
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Van Hage garden centre 16.11.14
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We popped to Stanborough lake briefly on the way home 16.11.14

 

In addition to these activities, we also practised estimating (time mainly) and discussed the difference between a guess and an estimate. We have also played a game several times that she invented whereby we try to recall what we were doing x number of days ago. This proved to be a fun memory game and we enjoyed talking about past events, as well as doing the maths to work out how many weeks, months and sometimes years ago the day was. I also discovered she didn’t know what a typewriter was when she found a miniature toy one (then again, why would she know!) So we discussed technology and how it has progressed, which she found very interesting.

 

Autumn Trip to Butterfly World

As the opening season of Butterfly World (www.butterflyworldproject.com) comes to an end, we took the opportunity for a final visit on this sunny autumn afternoon…

 

Exploring the designer gardens.
Exploring the designer gardens.
Squiggle likes the feel of these leaves.
Squiggle likes the feel of these leaves.
Giant plant pot. Imagine being the size of an insect in the garden!
Giant plant pot. Imagine being the size of an insect in the garden!
Lovely walk in the gorgeous Autumn sunshine.
Lovely walk in the gorgeous Autumn sunshine.
PE in natural surroundings.
PE in natural surroundings.
The butterfly house.
The butterfly house.

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You can also find my previous post here.

The Importance of Playgrounds: Vestibular/ Proprioceptive Activities

Sometimes I think the importance of playgrounds are undervalued. I have often included in my posts photos and information about our trips to playgrounds and it strikes me that some parents may wonder why this is even noteworthy. Yet everything around us can be considered of educational value in some way. Other than the obvious health benefits of this physical exercise, a trip to a playground also has another clear purpose as well as ‘just’ being fun. Playgrounds are highly beneficial for a child with sensory processing disorder (or any child without!) because they provide plenty of opportunities to organise the nervous system, especially through vestibular and proprioceptive input, which helps to integrate and rebalance the senses. In short, it has a calming effect and helps the child to be more focused and ready to learn. A playground is almost like an informal sensory integration therapy session, with the added benefit of being readily available and often entirely free!

 

Personally we love going out alone to quiet playgrounds during school hours for some unrestricted and unhurried therapeutic play. When we meet up with friends at playgrounds it tends to be a very different experience compared to going alone, both beneficial for Squiggle but in different ways. Whilst one provides a lovely social opportunity, she gets less out of those trips in terms of sensory ‘therapy’ because she tends to play differently at playgrounds when with others, rather than spend as much time on the range of equipment. So she particularly enjoys the opportunity to focus on the environment itself sometimes too.

 

greenwood park zip wire 7 oct 14
Zip wire provides vestibular input.
greenwood park tyre swing 7 oct 14
The tyre swing provides a circular movement as well as backwards and forwards motion.
greenwood park swing 7 oct 14
Swinging can be very calming.
greenwood park seesaw 7 oct 14
Squiggle enjoyed walking along the see-saw so she could feel the movement through her whole body.
greenwood park roundabout 7 oct 14
More vestibular input on the roundabout.
greenwood park sensory mud 7 oct 14
Mud is also a fantastic sensory activity.
greenwood park running 7 oct 14
Space to run- up and down hills and over bridges as well as on flat land.
greenwood park climbing frame 7 oct 14
Climbing provides proprioceptive input.
greenwood park tactile maze 7 oct 14
These are lovely tactile activities. Squiggle had far more patience doing these mazes with her finger than she has for paper and pencil ones.
greenwood park different ways of using equipment 7 oct 14
Using the equipment in different ways (climbing over the tunnel and going down the steps like a crab).
greenwood park slide 7 oct 14
Slides are also great sensory input. She enjoyed using them in different ways too.
greenwood park chilling 7 oct 14
Of course taking time to relax is important too!

Our Week in Pictures

sylvanian skiing aug 14
Imaginative play- skiing
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Face painting Fluffy. She sounded out ‘flufe’
garden balancing aug 14
Balancing on the logs with Gingerbread, our cat.
pick your own in garden aug 14
Picking fruit from our garden, lots of blackberries and a few apples too.
person collage aug 14
Collage person.
art group aug 14
Art group, using different tools for painting.
connect four models aug 14
Using connect four counters to make models. She made a 2D dog and a plane, plus a well balanced 3D tower.
designing parachutes and exploring gravity aug 14
Learning about gravity and designing parachutes for her seals. She compared which fell fastest and we talked about why. She then modified her design several times to try to improve it’s effectiveness.
acting out park aug 14
Design and technology, plus imaginative play. She built a park out of duplo for some of her toys. She also designed and made paper clothes for them to wear.
paradise park aug 14
Paradise Wildlife Park
erinne party blog photos aug 14
A friend’s birthday party.

Highfield, St Albans

We had a lovely time in Highfield, St Albans for a few hours this afternoon. We know this part of St Albans very well as we used to live there so we enjoy just generally wandering around the area. Highfield Park itself has lots of open space and a tree trail, details of which can be downloaded here A60148_Highfield_Park_Leaflet_P5. There are several small toddler play areas dotted around, mostly tucked away in quiet corners of the residential streets. The Trestle Arts Base and Charters Health Club are also situated in Highfield, both of these venues have various classes and activities for children and adults alike. We have many happy memories from community events that have been held in various locations within Highfield over the years, such as Larks in the Parks and an Olympic Themed Fun day to celebrate 2012, as well as various other fundraisers and of course the annual Highfield fete. There are also regular Health Walks that happen here too. More information about Highfield Park, including information on various events and activities that occur throughout the year, can be found on their website www.highfieldparktrust.co.uk

 

Balancing
This play area is on Russet Drive, opposite the main entrance to Highfield Park itself.
Squiggle enjoyed collected pine cones in this play area.
Squiggle enjoyed collected pine cones and playing in the ‘maze’ (as she calls it) in this play area.
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Quick stop off on the way past during our walk.
This play area is across the road from Highfield Park.
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Squiggle enjoyed ‘exploring’ to find this one furthest away, down one of the residential streets at the other end of Highfield.

 

Agility Practice

Squiggle really enjoyed the opportunity to watch dog agility at a local fete yesterday. She then had fun doing her own agility practice on the inflatable obstacle course and the agility course that were also at the fete. Today she had fun in the garden with her dad acting out the dog agility race with plastic toy dogs and some garden equipment.

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Squiggle watching the dog agility races.
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She then went on the inflatable obstacle course and pretended to be a dog doing agility practice.
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Squiggle doing an agility course.
acting out dog agility 2014
Acting out dog agility races in the garden with plastic toy dogs.