We have been spending a huge amount of time in the garden. Grandad is obsessed with his lawn and has lots of random bits and bobs lying around, and naturally Arlo likes to follow him as he potters around.
To include Arlo we bought a children’s gardening set from amazon but this isn’t essential.
You will need:
Pots (recycled yoghurt pots are great)
All of these things are available to order online from Wilko and also in most large supermarkets too.
Seed packets come with instructions as to how they need to be planted. And there’s a lot of preparation which goes into this which can keep toddlers very busy.
We like to add gravel / stones to the bottom of plant pots and then add compost as it helps with drainage.
Filling up the pots with compost is hard work for little ones and it’s great to get hands dirty and scoop/dig etc.
When it comes to planting, it’s simple enough to poke a finger or a lollipop stick into the soil, pop a seed in and then cover it back up again.
Of course at two years old Arlo can’t yet write, but he wanted to imitate us as we labelled all of the different seed trays and so he was content to sit in the garden on a Sunday afternoon and again dish out orders whilst we all did the dirty work.
Sometimes activities don’t go to plan, but I have found it’s good to follow the lead and turn something they are interested in, into an activity rather than take the pens away and cause a tantrum which is no fun for anyone when there’s nowhere to escape!
After planting the seeds a couple of weeks ago, Arlo now knows it’s his job to take care of them all. It’s become part of his routine to water the plants and check up on them all. Which takes him quite a while every day.
Mum Tip – if you have never done this before then start with cress, you get quick results which helps develop interest.
What a beautiful place. It was my sisters idea to take all of the kids for a little mini break, so we booked a hotel, packed up the cars and headed off on an adventure for the bank holiday weekend.
Arley Arboretum is in Worcestershire, not too far from the beautiful banks of the river Severn where there are plenty of beautiful rest stops for scenic picnics.
The entrance to the arboretum in a lovely wisteria covered archway which takes you into the entrance courtyard, with a little cafe, outdoor seating and a hut to buy tickets. For an additional £3.50 we purchased a Peter rabbit trail booklet.
What a fabulous idea – the booklet and enclosed stickers have been designed with much thought, to guide you around the grounds following the story and looking for Peter at some of the most beautiful spots, at each location a picture of Peter was hidden with a little Beatrix Potter themed set up and we had to match stickers to the location.
The story began of course at Mr Macgregors garden. The first Peter was hidden in the beautiful courtyard at the first of the greenhouses, with a watering can and so we found the first sticker with the watering can, added this to our map and read the next bit of the story.
This told us to follow the signs – bright orange carrots painted on to signposts in the shapes of arrows pointed the way clearly, and as a little checkpoint we found Peter’s blue jacket in the gardens. At this point Arlo was fully invested….. he knows what a rabbit is and is familiar with Peter Rabbit so recognised the blue jacket and then began to point out the signs as we spotted them along the route.
We walked through the courtyard and through an arch into the grounds, past Mr MacGregors gate to look for Jeremy Fishers pond. This area was nothing short of stunning.
I won’t share all of the details and ruin the surprises, but along the route we met Jemima Puddle Duck, Mrs Tiggy Winkle and other characters from the books before finally finding Peter Rabbit.
The walk took us over an hour to complete, and we slightly overlapped with another route for older children called “the goblin trail” so even without the guidebook we decided to follow the signs for this trail too, because who can resist a fairy door?
Our route took us to retrace some steps back to the park area, and we spent a while here with a picnic, and being followed by pheasants. Throughout the day we’d heard the far off sound of the Severn Valley Railway steam trains and we were delighted to discover that just behind the park, was the perfect grass bank for train-spotting.
We sat and played tumbling down the hill before picking up the goblin trail clues again which led us along a path to a sensory garden, which is a work in progress but full of herbs which we took some time to investigate before heading along an enchanted pathway to the maze.
I took a picture of the maze map before we entered, and it took us a good 45 mins to find the centre and then find our way back out again. The kids loved running through, chasing dead ends and each other – by the time we’d finished here it was time to start a leisurely stroll back to the main entrance.
We took our time ambling through the woods and into the walled gardens, which are beautifully landscaped and home to chickens and peacocks which were free roaming, and we sat for a while on the tree swing just to soak up the surroundings, before heading past the fountains to the cafe.
We showed our completed Peter Rabbit trail sticker books and all of the kids chose their reward from a basket full of chocolate eggs and bouncy balls and all sorts of fabulous prizes, and then we ordered milkshakes and sat outside to enjoy our drinks and review the days “best bits.”
We decided to conclude our May Day bank holiday mini break with a trip to Rays Farm, set in the Shropshire Countryside. With four children to amuse it’s sometimes difficult to satisfy all of the different age ranges, but here there really is something for everyone.
As we arrived we purchased tickets and animal food and headed to the farmyard to meet the animals. Arlo is now an expert when it comes to naming all of the animals and so he roused us all into a few verses of “Old Mac Donald” as we met rabbits, lambs, goats, chicks and ducks in the small animal shed.
We followed one little escapee goat across the courtyard to visit the llamas and donkey before heading to the open field to play with the goats. This is a truly unique experience, and the playful goats were happy to jump and skip around, and over us – this made our day!
We paused for a snack on the picnic benches before parking up the pushchairs and tying up our shoelaces to hit the forest trails. May is the perfect time to explore the beautiful English countryside and the work done along the trails at Rays Farm is inspired.
Along the entire route are wooden sculptures inspired by classic fairy tales, myths and legends. At the start of the route you can choose to go left or right at the big chair. There’s some giant boots you can try for size here too
We decided to take the woodland walk to the left first and came across Excalibur set in stone – alas none of us were strong enough to remove the sword and claim the English Throne – quite fittingly as we were here a news alert popped up to let us know that a new member of the Royal Family had been born.
We followed the path down alongside the brook, and were surrounded by a sea of the white flowers of wild garlic. All of the children were busy spotting wooden sculptures, and Logan the eldest at six years old pointed out an orienteering clip so we spent time looking for these along the route too.
The woodland walk is approximately 300yards and so if you have little ones with tired legs you can head back to the farm, however we marched on, and I’m so glad we did.
The pathway is a bit of a climb up and down, but there’s so much to see and so many rest stops that it’s a lovely route. Here we were delighted with the swathes of bluebells, and along the route were informative wildlife signs.
I won’t post too many spoilers with the sculptures, there’s plenty of nursery rhyme characters to meet along the way – including Humpty Dumpty.
There’s a fairy ring, a story telling witch and then three men in a boat looking over an assault course style play area.
The kids all had muddy knees, and the little ones were tired so without strollers they had piggy backs for the walk back, and then as we left the woods we stopped at the little crooked house for snacks, next to a field of goats at the far side of the farm.
We’d been exploring the woods for over three hours at this stage, and slowly ambled up the far side of the farm boundary to meet the pigs, Reindeer and the owls which bought us back to the courtyard.
We finished our day with some refreshments from the cafe and a little run around in the indoor and outdoor play areas, being followed by a mother hen with two chicks.
The farmyard is lovely, the animals are well cared for and very friendly but the stand out for us was the fairy tale forest. We will be back to explore again as the seasons change.
To read about our day out at nearby Arley Arboretum during our May mini break click Here
Have you got any suggestions for family days out in the Midlands? Have you been to Rays Farm? Which was your favourite sculpture? We’d love to hear from you
We love to celebrate in our family… any excuse for a gathering and we will all get together and start planning the food. Easter is quickly becoming as commercial as Christmas, and I don’t see this as a bad thing. We aren’t religious as a family but having been bought up in a multi cultural city I think it’s important to acknowledge all cultures, (we have also enjoyed celebrating Chinese New Year, Diwali and Pride recently) – an easy way to learn about others is to join in with festivities and it’s also an opportunity to spend quality time together as a family.
This bank holiday weekend we have done so much I’m going to have to split this up in to several blog posts – we kicked things off with a trip to a local children’s farm “Hatton Country World” on Good Friday – a glorious day spent meeting lots of baby animals, and running around in the sunshine.
On Saturday we went to a not so festively themed “Ice Age” walk at the Botanical Gardens for some quality time with Nanny. This is another beautiful local attraction we have been visiting as a family since I was a child and it was lovely to see Arlo running around outdoors and marvelling at all the new sights.
On Sunday I hosted the egg hunt to end all egg hunts, with four children aged 1-6 years I knew we had to try and make it fun (and fair) for them all. I also wanted to make them earn their treats, and focus more on fun and festivities than the sweets and chocolate.
I purchased a fabulous little set of clue cards from an Instagram store A little bit vintage and the simple rhyming clues led the kids to locations all around the house.
The first card was a welcome and I attached this to my front door wreath, and with personalised egg hunt bags left in the front garden, and the clue led them to “the place you leave your shoes” and here they each had a little parcel to open (bunny ears, tails and bow ties).
The clues then them to “the place you cook” – of course Logan the eldest ran straight to the kitchen….. however we predicted this would happen and so actually the treats were hidden inside the play kitchen, and Logan quickly realised he had to pay attention, taking on the role of “clue reader” like a pro!
The first challenge to complete for the Easter bunny was to decorate some real chocolate Easter Eggs. Surprisingly the kids all completed this task with their chocolate eggs intact, keen to earn the next clue card.
￼ “Head to where you brush your teeth” – the kids all rushed upstairs to the bathroom, and of course I had to include one messy play activity so I had pre filled the kitchen sink with shaving foam…. they had to dig in, fetch all of the eggs and count them correctly for their next clue, which led them downstairs to the dining room table.
Here they all had to paint a wooden bird box, and again they all rolled their sleeves up to get stuck in, really focusing on the activity before proudly placing their finished items in the garden to dry and getting the next clue, which led them to “where you fetch the mail” We thought it was time to get some treats out now and so the kids all got a jellybean filled carrot shape along with a brand new nature trail clipboard and the next clue which sent them to under the sofa to find some bubble wands (a firm family favourite) and a clue card which told them to head outside. We stopped for a refreshment break before getting back to work for the Easter Bunny….. and the next challenge was to plant some sunflower seeds.
They did this task really well together, all getting stuck in and helping share the tools and fill each other’s plant pots with soil and so they earn their next clue pretty quickly – which led them to my bookshelf with a basket filled with strange items…They went back outside and here it was revealed that they were to use the items in the basket to make cress hair for potato heads. This one delighted Lincoln because I bought curly cress to match his hair.
With our bird boxes, plant pots and potato heads all proudly on display after a couple hours of activity we felt like they really had earned their rewards… and so the final clue led them all charging upstairs to find the “good stuff”
They all received a personalised “champion egg hunter” top and more chocolate than they could carry – you’d think that this would spoilt their appetites, but not this family – with the hot weather we decided to break with tradition, cancel the formal roast and set up a buffet style array of food.
We then went back to the garden to enjoy the sunshine with some ice excavation, the older boys enjoyed a good old fashioned water balloon fight, Arlo splashed around in his tuff tray and Paloma bought her play doh outside to make the most of the sunshine.