The Importance of Playing Outside: Play More with Sudocrem (Giveaway)

My readers already know how much I value spending time outside; my blog features heavily on outdoors and nature. So I was somewhat surprised, and saddened to be honest, to read that new research reveals that 1 in 9 British children have not visited a beach, park or forest in a year, and on average a British child only spends 4 hours a week playing in the great outdoors.

Squiggle outdoors in nature in the rain

Many kids are so disconnected from nature that over half of those surveyed admitted that they had never climbed a tree, a staggering 89% didn’t know what a buttercup was and 77% couldn’t identify a sunflower. The survey, carried out by Sudocrem, also asked 200 children between the ages of 4 to 8 years old to identify some of the creepy crawlies in Britain. It revealed that 89% of children were unable to recognise a butterfly, 51% didn’t know what a bumblebee looks like and 29% didn’t realise that bees make honey. These results are truly shocking!

The Importance of Playing Outside: Play More with Sudocrem (Giveaway)

There are so many benefits to spending time outdoors in nature; both physical and mental. This is why Sudocrem set up the award-winning Play More campaign, an initiative designed to encourage parents and children to get back in touch with nature.

According to children’s TV presenter and Play More ambassador Chris Packham, parents should be encouraging their children to explore the natural environment around them. “I was very fortunate when I was a child because I was encouraged to interact with the outdoors – looking under rocks and searching under logs and hedges to find creepy crawlies. If you just open your eyes, you’ll see that there is an incredible natural world out there waiting to be discovered.”

Chris Packham holding a Play More box

Vote For Your Local Nursery

As part of the campaign, Sudocrem are offering nurseries around the UK the chance to win support for playground regeneration or a mural, which will be painted by award-winning artist, Joy Pirkle. They have so far helped hundreds of UK nurseries improve their outdoor area. If you think you know a nursery that deserves to win, you can nominate them on the ‘Play More’ section here.

*All nurseries must be based in the UK and nominations close on 31.08.2018. For full Terms and Conditions, please visit www.sudocrem.co.uk/social-hub

Giveaway!

I’m also working with Sudocrem on their Play More campaign, giving away an adventure kit worth £40, which has been carefully put together to encourage children to play outside. The kit includes:

– Play More t-shirt

– Play More sun hat

– Bug Pot

– Frisbee

– Butterfly Net

– Magnifying glass

– Trowel or fork

Contents of Play More giveaway kit as listed

To be in with a chance of winning this fab prize, simply enter my rafflecopter giveaway below. Open to UK residents only. Ends 05/08/18. Other T&Cs apply.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Garden, Growing, Grounding… A-Z of 30 Days Wild

G is for…

A-Z of 30 days wild

Garden

We spend alot of time in our garden. We help to encourage wildlife and nature into it, then take the time to enjoy it! During 30 Days Wild, we did many simple activities in our garden that embraces the whole concept of 30 Days Wild. You don’t have to just go on adventures to appreciate wildlife and nature; you do that anywhere!

Growing

We also use our garden for growing our own food. This is something we loved doing as part of 30 Days Wild, and generally too!

#30DaysWild – Day 6: Grow Your Own

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Grounding

Grounding is such a simple but effective act – walking barefoot on the ground – and one Squiggle does regularly. I really should do it more often too!

#30DaysWild challenge- Day 3: Grounding 💚 Connect to the earth by going barefoot on the grass 💚

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Draft Elective Home Education (EHE) Guidance: What’s The Problem?

You may or may not be aware that the Government is currently consulting on new draft EHE guidance. We, like many other home educators across the country, strongly oppose these new guidelines because we believe them to be unnecessarily restrictive and intrusive.

Our ultimate objective is to secure the home ed status quo, support action to reduce off-rolling, highlight the good work being done by parents, and put the focus back on OFSTED to deal with schools (including unregistered ones) rather than putting the blame on home educators. We urge the Government to put the huge financial cost and resources it would take to implement the draft EHE guidance to far better use.

Please sign this national petition to help us.

It takes less than a minute to complete the process of signing it. The reason why we are asking people to do so is to show the government that people all over the country are angry about what they are proposing to do. Please take a minute to sign it.

Please also take time to respond to the consultation. You do not need to be a home educator to do so.

Fill in the online consultation by clicking here

It has been made really easy by following this guide:

Dare To Know Blog – guidance for completing EHE consultation

The most effective way is to respond to the consultation online. Alternative contact details though are as follows…

Email: HomeEducation.consultation@education.gov.uk

Write to:
Elective Home Education: Call for Evidence
Independent Education and Boarding Team
Department for Education
Bishopsgate House
Feethams
Darlington
DL1 5QE

A note about SEND children

As a parent of an SEND child, who also has a severe anxiety disorder, the guidance is particularly concerning. This is because it proposes the potential for intrusive monitoring, and invasion of personal space, that could badly trigger anxieties and be detrimental to a child’s mental health.

Many autistic children, especially those with high anxiety – as is often the case – would potentially find it distressing to have a stranger enter their home, which is their safe space in an overwhelming world, and/ or be subject to a stranger speaking to them alone, due to their social and communication difficulties. Also, there is a genuine concern that the parents themselves might incorrectly be seen as non-compliant, because some people do not understand child refusal.

Whilst many families would view such procedures as inconvenient or intrusive, autistic families could find it a whole other degree of stressful and it has the potential to dramatically affect their mental health. For some, it could be extremely distressing should this draft policy come into action.

Whilst, theoretically at least, exceptions could be made for such children, it is likely in reality that parents would have to then fight for their child’s needs – and voice – to be heard. So it would be far preferable for these rights to be protected for all children, not just those most vulnerable to its impact.

FAQs about the draft EHE guidance

What’s wrong with having a home education register?

In short, optional registration for some kind of service is entirely different to compulsory registers for the purpose of tracking and monitoring.

Registering for a service is different. E.g. registering at a dentist, a doctor, library or a school – you are registering to receive a particular service at a particular place. The registration is so that the service knows who uses its services and often so that the service gets funded. You can choose to stop using the service at any point, and be removed from the register.

The other forms of registration are mandatory, based on a particular characteristic. Not to receive a service, but so that the individuals can be tracked and monitored. Why do home educators need this? If the argument was for a compulsory register of say muslims, or LGBT, you would most likely see the issue with it!

Why are you opposed to the government offering support? Surely that is a good thing!

Support – if it is actually helpful i.e. the right kind of support for that individual/ family – can most certainly be a very good thing of course! But when ‘support’ is really a code word for interference from authority figures who do not necessarily understand the family’s needs, or the value of different educational approaches, this can actually be somewhat detrimental to say the least.

The consultation has just two questions in the support section, yet 7 in registration, and 9 about monitoring. That should probably give most people a clue about the true purpose of the guidance!

It is somewhat like suggesting that OFSTED really only comes into schools to offer support!

But if it saves just one child…

This argument comes up often! But it short-sighted. Whilst, in theory, it could save a child from abuse (although statistically, there are far less abuse cases amongst home educators than school children anyway, and I am not even going to get into all the other reasons why this argument misses the point!) in reality the number of children it could actually harm with its interference is undoubtedly far, far higher.

Children who were removed from school due to bullying, kids with fragile mental health and/ or severe anxiety, could be irreversibly damaged – or lives lost to suicide – because of a system that is supposedly intended to protect vulnerable children.

As home educators, we are looking at the bigger picture and seeing the otherside of the coin. The Government sadly appears to be dismissing such concerns.

Surely if you have nothing to hide, what is the issue?

Firstly, see all the points above.

Secondly, if a stranger demanded entry into your home and started searching through your stuff just incase you had stolen something – with no actual evidence, or even a good reason to suspect you are guilty, other than that you happen to do your shopping at a particular store – would you mind? Would that be ok with you?! No, I didn’t think so. Not ok with us either.

As another example, I am not carrying a concealed weapon – it doesn’t mean I am happy to walk around naked to prove it to everyone! For the comfort of everyone, let’s just assume I’m not 😉

We have a right to quiet privacy in our home and wanting to protect that right does not make anyone criminals. And the truth is, there is absolutely no logic in suggesting otherwise!

But children have rights! We need to make sure all children have a good education!

We agree! That is exactly why we are fighting to protect our freedom and rights to home educate as it stands currently!!!

The draft guidance is extremely heavy- handed and unnecessary. It invades our children’s privacy, and restricts our educational choices. Sometimes children do need a different approach to education, such as SEND children for example.

Education is not, should not and cannot, be a one-size-fits-all approach. Square pegs, round holes…

The bottom line is: whatever your opinion is on education, please support our freedom and right to choose.

Forest Holidays: Our Winter Retreat to Forest of Dean

Back in January we decided to book a last second escape to the Forest of Dean for a winter retreat at Forest Holidays. This was our first time visiting but it came recommended from friends who have stayed at a different location on one of their other sites. Squiggle’s anxiety was high, so we figured some extra time relaxing outdoors might be just what we all needed. It didn’t work miracles in that regard (but then again, I am pretty sure they don’t claim to either though!) but it was still a lovely holiday! Here is our review…

Title written on image of Forest Holidays cabin.

The Cabin

There are three main styles of cabin; golden oak, silver birch and copper beech. The main differences between them are that silver birch has a hot tub, and golden oak has both a log burner and a hot tub. We intentionally wanted to avoid having a log burner for personal reasons, and silver birch was fully booked, so that made it pretty easy to choose!

Despite copper beech being their cheapest (and most basic) option, we were absolutely amazed by the size of the cabin! The whole place had a wonderful air of luxury about it, whilst also feeling very homely. I loved how beautifully in keeping the decor is; very natural. I was very impressed! And everything is eco- friendly wherever possible too, which we were really glad to see.

Eco friendy kitchen kit

I was quite worried that it might be chilly in winter but the underfloor heating took care of that! If anything, it was actually abit too warm when we arrived but the thermastat was easy to use and had separate settings for each room too, so that was soon remedied. I don’t know how hot the cabins might get in a heatwave with all that glass though! But given that they seem very well designed overall, I am assuming there are measures in place to maintain optimum temperatures. We were certainly able to do that during our winter stay anyway, despite having both sunny days and snow in the time we were there! They are really cosy and it is easy to feel right at home there.

Here is my video tour of the cabin…

The Setting

The cabin we had was in the meadow so it was very open, whereas some of them are tucked away amongst the trees. Honestly, in my opinion, regardless of where your cabin is situated, you can’t go wrong.

Our view from the cabin. A meadow with cabins spread out.

The site is in a beautiful location, in the Forest of Dean, with stunning scenic walks all around. Regardless of the time of year we visited, even in Winter, we couldn’t fail to be in awe of the forest setting. Here are just a few of my pictures taken, the first onsite and the others literally a few moments walk off the main site…

Stunning forest setting of the Forest Holidays site.

Beautiful views at the Forest of Dean

Winter scenes at Forest of Dean

Forest of Dean

By the way, the sheer drop on the above photos is less breathtaking and more heartstopping when your autistic child suddenly bolts!!!! Especially if you happen to suffer from vertigo as well, like I do! So I recommend if you explore this area with a young child, or one with SEND, that you not only have nerves of steel, but a very tight grip of their hand!

We don’t have a dog personally, but the site is very dog- friendly and it would be the ideal holiday to take a dog if you are an owner. This is probably also worth noting though if you are nervous around dogs though I guess! Squiggle loved seeing all the dogs about going for walks, she was delighted!

Facilities

Forest Retreat

The Forest Retreat is the main hub where you check in and book activities, and is home to the shop and restaurant. It also has pottery activities for children.

The shop sells a lovely range of gifts, books and activities that are carefully chosen to be perfectly on theme for the nature of the holiday. It also sells a wonderful selection of food and drink; including an extensive range of cider, wine and beer, fresh produce and a range of Cook meals for easy self- catering dining options.

Forest Retreat photo strip showing selection in store.

Food

The menu has plenty to choose from, to either eat in the restaurant or take away. The food was consistently good and service was prompt.

Bike Hire

Bike hire is available onsite from £28 per break per adult or from £25 per child. It is recommended you book these in advance. We didn’t hire bikes on this occasion but Squiggle did ask about it (towards the end of the holiday!) so we would definitely consider it next time.

Cycle Hire building from the outside.

Play Area

The play area was sectioned off during our visit as they were carrying out work on it. It looked more suitable for younger children, but Squiggle would have had a quick go if it were available no doubt!

Bug Hotel

Granted not really one of the facilities per se (at least not for humans!) but I wanted to mention the bug hotel anyway. We have seen these in many places but this one is particularly well made!

Large bug hotel with information sign. Squiggle is stood next to it.

Activities

There are a range of forest ranger led activities available for various ages. Some are shorter at 90 minutes in duration, whilst one survival course is half a day. As well as daytime activities, there is also a night-time ranger adventure so you can spy on the nocturnal forest inhabitants after dark! Dogs are allowed on some of the activities but not all courses, and some have a minimum age for children, so do check details before booking. There are also a selection of activities off- site that can be booked through Forest Holidays as well.

Squiggle on the winter trail.

Squiggle wasn’t up for any of these due to her anxiety, so we opted to do their self- guided seasonal trail instead. This cost £6.95 and she got a prize at the end for completing it. This was a really engaging activity. She started off reluctant to join in but as soon as we got to the first few stops and solved the clues she was hooked! We really enjoyed it and it was definitely one of the highlights of our holiday.

Seasonal trail clue

Local Places To Visit

There are numerous walks nearby surrounded by beauty and tranquility. Aside from that, there are several local places to visit that might be of interest. Forest Holidays have some suggestions of what’s nearby. I would really love to visit Clearwell Caves and also Puzzlewood sometime in future.

We did go to Beechenhurst, mainly to go on the sculpture trail. However, Squiggle was very near tired and nearing meltdown, so we didn’t actually find any sculptures and ended up just having a quick wander instead. I would love to return when it is better timing for her though; it looked like a lovely place to spend a day and I really want to see the sculptures – from the photos they look brilliant!

One thing I will remember from our trip though was that, as we drove up into the carpark, something moving in the forest caught my eye. As I turned to look I thought at first it was dozens of rabbits scurrying into the bushes. But then I realised, whatever they were, they weren’t hopping – they were running. It was a huge group of baby wild boar!

Now I know they are very common to the area and especially at that time of year, but I had never actually seen any before. I was so excited! They were gone in a flash; no time to grab a camera or even point them out to Squiggle, but that was a personal highlight that I will always remember.

We also visited Symonds Yat briefly, on the bank of River Wye. I took a few photos, but I could have taken many more of these stunning scenic views…

River Wye

Stunning scenic view of river Wye

Symonds Yat

In Summary

We really enjoyed our stay at Forest Holidays and loved exploring Forest of Dean. We are very keen to return here sometime in the future, and also would like to try other Forest Holidays locations too. We would definitely recommend it – at any time of year!

Last but not least…

Here is a video clip I put together summarising the highlights of our holiday:

*Disclosure: I was given a discount when booking this holiday in exchange for a review post. However, as always, I have expressed my honest opinion and all thoughts are my own.

Top Tips For A Plastic-Free Picnic

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the launch day events for Plastic-Free St Albans is a Plastic-Free Picnic at Highfield Park. This is also an awesome way to celebrate Earth Day too. So whether you are planning a picnic for this reason, or having one on any other day, here are my top tips for a plastic-free picnic…

Top Tips For A Plastic-Free Picnic

Shopping

Firstly, choose items that are sold loose or in recyclable packaging. Avoid plastic packaging as much as you can! It is hard to do, which is why there are several campaigns focused on holding shops and supermarkets more accountable for this too. If you are feeling abit rebellious, you could unpackage everything after you pay, before you leave and give the rubbish back to them… maybe it will help them to take the hint!

Better yet, head on down to your local eco store, if you have one, with your refill jars and avoid the supermarkets with all their unnecessary packaging full stop!

(Oh, and wherever you shop, don’t forget to take your reusable bags, obviously….)

Plastic Free St Albans eco friendly reusable bag organic cotton sustainable bag

Packing Your Picnic

Transporting

Use an old style wicker basket to carry your picnic! Or choose from one of the many reusable bag options available. This one is easy; just don’t use a plastic bag! Moving on…

Containers

Tuppaware containers are ok as they aren’t single- use plastic. However, there are even better alternatives! Stainless steel containers are more environmentally- friendly and will most likely last you longer too.

Keeping it Fresh

Rather than cling film, use sandwich bags or reusable wax wraps. These keep food fresh very effectively and are much kinder to the environment.

Reusable sandwich bag

Plates, Bowls and Cutlery

Taking your own cutlery that you use at home is a good choice. You don’t actually need different cutlery just because you are eating outdoors! But if you do prefer to use something else, invest in a reusable bamboo cutlery set if possible.

For disposable cutlery options, as well as bowls and plates too, choose eco- friendly items such as from The Blue Speck. They are 100% biodegradable and sourced directly from plants.

Drinks

Take a flask along with a reusable cup for hot drinks. For cold drinks, take along a reusable drinks bottle. If you need a straw, invest in a reusable one made from metal or bamboo, or buy disposable alternatives to plastic, such as paper straws.

Reusable eco friendly cup

Other Useful Info

Low Tox Box also has a fab zero waste starter kit. It contains several reusable bags, spork, cup and straw for £30 plus P&P. They also plant a tree for every box sold and send a certificate too.

Enjoy your plastic- free picnic!

Click here for more zero waste tips

Fun Family Activities To Celebrate Earth Day!

Sunday 22nd April is Earth Day. So here are some lovely ways you can celebrate, either then or any other day (because really, everyday should be Earth Day anyway!)…

Fun Family Activities To Celebrate Earth Day!

Nature Art

There are lots of fun nature art activities that you can do as a family. One that is particularly great for Earth Day is to collect some large pebbles, arrange them in a solid circle, then paint them with a map of the world (I decided to add a peace sign too!)

Earth day, world peace, creative, art, artivism, family fun, educational activities, home education, green living, global citizen, our world, environment

Get Crafty!

Make a paper mache globe – a project takes several days but is lots of messy creative fun – head on over to The Crafty Classroom to for a detailed tutorial. Or make an Earth Pom Pom, pop over to Monkey and Mouse for info!

Nature Walk

Use all your senses to explore the natural environment around you. Stop for a few moments, be still and listen. What do you hear? What do you see? What can you smell? Touch the bark of a tree, go barefoot on the grass. Take it all in and connect with our earth.

Earth Day, Living Life Our Way, nature, global citizen, green living, our world, natural environment, family fun

Complete a Challenge

Go from room to room to find ways to reduce energy consumption in your family home. Who can spot the most ways?

Give Earth a Helping Hand

Clean up your local environment with a two minute litter pick in your local park or nearby beach.

Earth Day, Living Life Our Way, litter picking, park clean up, activism, global citizen, green living, our world, natural environment, family fun

Family Movie Night

Watch an eco documentary such as A Plastic Ocean or Blue Planet 2.

Storytime Snuggles

Grab some books from your local library, such as Duffy’s Lucky Escape.

Duffy's Lucky Escape

Plastic- Free Picnic

Can you manage to hold a plastic- free family picnic? Which part is most difficult? How could you resolve it?

Take Part in a Project

Create your own family documentary about whichever aspect of green living you choose. Or make a poster about it. Or whatever format you prefer! The key is to engage with your ideas and share them with others.

What are you doing for Earth Day? Tell me in comments, I look forward to reading about it!

7 Simple Ways Kids Can Contribute to an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle: Guest Post by Veronica – My Parenting Journey

Families often live wasteful lives, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Living an eco-friendly lifestyle with children can seem like a daunting task. Little humans can create a lot of waste, but there are plenty of ways kids can contribute to an eco-friendly lifestyle. Now is the time to change your habits and set better habits for your growing kids.

Child outdoors exploring nature

Can Families “Go Green”?
A common assumption is that families can’t go green because children tend to produce a lot of waste. The amount of waste children generate depends entirely on the lifestyle you live.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that an average American family generates 4.4 pounds of garbage a day. That means each week your family puts out about 29 pounds of trash. Seems crazy, right? There are ways to reduce that output. Having kids doesn’t have to be wasteful!

● Use cloth diapers
● Try an eco-friendly laundry detergent
● Breastfeed
● Save clothes for other children
● Shop used sales
● Use stainless steel or glass bottles

Talk With Your Kids
Before you introduce an eco-friendly lifestyle to your kids, it is important to sit down and have a chat with your kids. Discuss with them why you want to make this change! Show them ways you may already be going green at home or school. Do their schools or classrooms recycle?

During your talk, encourage your kids to think of ways you can go green together as a family. Kids are creative and inventive, so give them this time to shine. Start with their ideas first to encourage them to keep going!

7 Simple Ways Kids Can Contribute to an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle title with image of two children

7 Ways Kids Can Contribute to an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

1.Start a Garden
Our family, kids included, gardens and grows a large portion of our food. You don’t need a large garden; growing any of your food is a step in the right direction. Gardening gets everyone outside, soaking in vitamin D, and it brings the food cycle to you! Kids make fantastic gardeners with a little direction.

2. Work a Compost
If you are going to garden, composting makes sense. Composting creates a source of free nutrients for your garden while eliminating your waste.

Your kids can collect items each day for the compost, such as the eggshells from breakfast and veggie scraps from dinner prep. Kids can also stir the compost and add in grass clippings or shredded leaves!

3. Sort Recycling
Reducing the amount of waste you generate as a family reduces your carbon footprint. All should do recycling. Create a recycling bin system and encourage your children to sort the waste throughout the day. They can rinse out milk jugs or put the newspaper into the right bin. Later, take your children to drop off the recycling and see if you can visit a recycling center!

4. Turn Off Lights
Make it a game to see who can turn off the most lights each day. Reducing your electricity usage saves your money and contributes to a green lifestyle. Children are sponges, and they adopt whatever lifestyle you encourage in them. Teach them to turn off the water as they brush their teeth and more!

Another idea is to have family nights when you turn off all electronics. Unplug the TV and spend time together reading or playing board games. If it is nice, head outside for a hike or a game of soccer. You are reducing your energy output while spending time together.

5. Bike Together
Cars are massive producers of pollution. Biking to places may not be easy depending on where you live. If you live in a city, biking could be a great opportunity for your kids to get exercise and to reduce pollution. Walking or riding bikes are great alternatives! If you have a baby, you can get a seat to put on your bicycle. Families with toddlers can attach a pull-behind seat!

6. Make Reusable Bags Together
Kids love to craft, so why not make a craft that has a purpose? Reusable bags are a staple for green families. You might end up with a small collection everywhere. You can find easy tutorials to make bags from t-shirts or old pillowcases. Be creative! It is also a great opportunity to teach your kids to use up what they have rather than going to purchase new.

7. Make Homemade Cleaners
Another easy task for your kids is to get them involved with making homemade cleaners! Working with vinegar, baking soda, and more is quite safe for your kids. Older kids can learn about the toxicity of harsh chemicals. Show them how to clean with simple ingredients. It is best for you to add essential oils if you use them rather than the little kids!
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle takes more than just one person in a family. It has to be a family effort. Teach your kids the importance of treating the earth with kindness and show them simple ways to do so. You are instilling values that will last a lifetime.

Image of two young children exploring a pond

About the Author
Hi! My name is Veronica Mitchell. I am a mother to two adorable little girls and a handsome little boy. I spend my days caring from my children, packing lunches, reading aloud, kissing boo-boos, and working as the Chief Editor of My Parenting Journey.

Free Festive Fun: Places To Visit (Hertfordshire and Beyond) 

We have visited lots of garden centres and a few shopping centres this season to enjoy the festive displays. So I thought I would write a round-up of some free places to visit this season. Ideas range from places to pop to briefly when you are short on time, to places where you could easily spend several hours, or even make it a whole day out… and it won’t cost you a penny! (Except parking in some cases).

Please note additional activities such as ice skating, grottos etc… mentioned are NOT free, there is generally a charge for these activities.

So here are our suggestions…

Christmas display with title 'Free fun festive places to visit (Herts and Beyond)'

Garden Centres

Crews Hill, Enfield

This is a whole row of garden centres, most of which have some festivities. One in particular has a large display, an ice rink, snow globe, grotto with train ride and real reindeer. Crews Hill is somewhere that you can easily spend most of the day if you wanted. You can also soak in the atmosphere in an hour or two though if you are pushed for time.

An interactive elf display at Springtime Crews Hill

Christmas lights at Springtime Crews Hill

A Christmas display at Crews Hill, Enfield

Van Hage, Great Amwell

This is another of the larger garden centres. It has an ice rink (bookable in advance), grotto and lots to see generally. It also has an animal garden onsite too.

Christmas display at Van Hage

Snowman Christmas display at Van Hage, Great Amwell

Notcutts, St Albans

Great for popping into briefly if you are passing or are nearby. The giant snowman is fab! Have tea or breakfast with Santa has a fun alternative to a grotto. (Book in advance, costs apply).

Notcutts, St Albans, Christmas door display

Notcutts Christmas section

World’s End Wyevale, Wendover (Bucks)

We visited this garden centre for the first time recently. There is a mini funfair and a huge Christmas shop, plus a grotto and winter wonderland (entry charges apply). Even if you don’t pay to go into the wonderland, as we didn’t, it is still worth a visit. It has a nice Christmassy feel generally.

Worlds End Wyevale Garden Centre Christmas display

Vanstone Park, Hitchin

This is a fun place to pop to if you have a short time to spare for a quick whizz around. There is a woodland train ride too.

Vanstone Park garden centre snowman festive Christmas display

Burston Garden Centre, St Albans

We popped here for the first time a couple of days ago. Cute displays, worth a brief visit for a little while.

Christmas door Burston St Albans

xmas display at Burston with Christmas trees and seals

Colourful festive Christmas display Burston Garden Centre St Albans

Aylett Nurseries, St Albans

This has lovely displays and some nice little interactive activities too. It is perfect for soaking in the festive atmosphere while on a time limit.

Aylett Nurseries St Albans xmas display

Aylett Nurseries festive display

Aylett Nurseries Christmas small world display

Aylett garden centre xmas festive small world display

Shopping Centres

St Albans

St Albans centre has a nice little display in Christopher Place, a traditional style Christmas Market in the Vintry Gardens next to Abbey Cathedral (with a timetable of events and activities), and there is a fun Nutcracker Trail across the city too.

Santa in a sleigh with reindeer and christmas tree in Christopher Place festive display St Albans

Centre MK, Milton Keynes

Whilst many of the activities here are at additional cost, such as carousel, train rides, grotto and helter skelter, there are also some pretty displays and a brilliant festive atmosphere generally. Plus a little snow area!

Centre MK festive display with igloo

Centre MK festive train ride

Squiggle playing in fake snow at Centre MK Milton Keynes

The Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

I have saved the best until last! This is my top pick this season because I love the theme; Santa’s Waste-Not Workshop focuses on recycling and green living. With awesome displays and cool activities that educate and inspire during what can be a very consumer-based and wasteful time of year, I think this is genius! Squiggle loved lighting up the tree using energy she generated from cycling – such a clever idea. Well done to whoever came up with this, it gets a big thumbs up from us!

Squiggle cycling to light up clean energy Christmas tree The Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

Santas Waste-Not Workshop, Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

Upcycled festive display at Santas Waste- Not Workshop, Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

Snowman display at Santas Waste- Not Workshop, Marlows, Hemel Hempstead

Seasons Geetings everyone!

Where is your favourite festive place to visit?

The Best Places to Find Birds on a Rainy Day

Here in Britain, we’re well accustomed to the rain and wet weather; and sometimes it takes a  little bit of extra work to find wildlife on a drizzly day. Despite this, with a keen eye and a touch of willpower, you’ll be able to spot some of the fantastic wildlife our country has to offer!

If you’re keen to spot a few birds on your next winter walk, the bird enthusiasts over at Kennedy Wild Bird Food are here to help! They’ve generously offered their top tips on where to find birds on a rainy day, to help you make the most of your next wildlife adventure. Read on to discover their helpful hints…

Take a look in nearby trees and bushes

Two birds sat in a tree full of red berries.

Birds are designed to withstand a range of different weather conditions, which is part of what makes them so brilliant! However, sometimes they need a helping hand to protect themselves from the cold temperatures when it rains.

In wet weather, you’re more likely to find smaller bird species nestled in the branches of trees. Small birds lose body heat more quickly, and therefore they have a higher risk of catching hypothermia. Staying tucked away in bushes and trees allows them to hold on to as much body heat as possible when it’s raining.

Check your bird feeder

A small bird next to a large hanging bird feeder.

When looking for birds in wet weather, they may be closer to home than you think! No matter what the conditions are like outdoors, birds need to eat regularly to give them enough energy to survive.

Unfortunately, this means that many birds will have to endure getting a little bit wet whilst feeding, but their bodies have some clever adaptations that make them highly water resistant!

Their feathers are made of a protein that makes them both flexible and resistant to water. As well as this, birds have an oil gland at the bottom of their tail. This is used to put a water resistant coating over their feathers, so the water glides right off in the rain – amazing, right!

Keep an eye on the sky

If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see a few birds flying from branch to branch when it’s raining! This is more tricky because birds usually only fly very short distances when it’s raining.

In heavy rain, the downpour may make it more difficult for birds to fly, therefore it’s safer for them to stay sheltered in trees and bushes. However, should they need to fly from A to B, their oil-coated feathers can protect them from the wet weather conditions.

A picture of a bird on a thorny branch with the title 'The Best Places To Spot Birds On A Rainy Day' and blog address.

It’s important not to be deterred by Britain’s rainy weather, as you’ll miss out on some of the best wildlife! If you’re taking the time to do some bird spotting this winter, don’t forget to log your sightings in the Kennedy Wild Bird Food BirdSpotter map!

*This is a sponsored post.

How To Make An Apple Bird Feeder: Protecting Birds in Winter

As it is starting to draw closer to winter and food for wildlife is becoming more scarce, I thought it would be a good time to share this simple, fun activity we did at home recently.

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How To Make An Apple Bird Feeder

You Will Need…

  • Apple
  • Twigs – Thick enough to be a perch but thin enough to fit through an apple.
  • String or raffia
  • Peanut butter
  • Seeds

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Step by Step Instructions

    Step 1

    Core the apple.

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Step 2

    Carefully push the sticks through the apple. You might need to use a knife to help make a hole first.

    Step 3

    Tie the string through the apple. Use it to also hold the sticks in place if possible.

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Step 4

    Use the peanut butter as ‘glue’ to stick the seeds on.

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Step 5

    Hang it onto a tree branch. Then just sit back and observe the birds enjoying their treat!

    bird feeder, protecting wildlife, birds, winter, garden, nature, how to guide, childhood unplugged, outdoors

    Do you feed the birds in winter? What type of feeder do you have?