7 ways rain wont stop play (that don’t include a soft play)

When will it ever stop raining?! In the midst of winter down on the south coast the weather can only be described as bleak… not cold enough for snow, but miserable enough to want to hibernate under the duvet until Spring… someone give my toddlers the memo!

Two three year old boys make it near impossible to have a cosy day in watching movies. And any attempt of this inevitably results in upturned furniture, destroyed living room and eventually attempts at physical violence as they literally climb the walls with pent up energy. So it goes without saying that I don’t have many problems persuading them to Get Out. The difficulty comes in thinking what to do with them when we are out. So here some top things we’ve been up to this Winter:

Embrace the dirt

I blame Peppa Pig, but all kids seem to be obsessed with jumping in muddy puddles. FFS. But really if they’re going to get outside, kids are going to get dirty and I think you just have to get it over it. Since having twins, I’ve been pretty lucky that my standards on acceptable levels of cleanliness have been lowered A LOT – but even if you like everything to look pristine you might just have to suck it up. Everything can be washed – even a splash suit and down coat. Exploring dirt and the creatures, namely worms, hidden in the mud is exciting for young minds – telling the kids that loud noises scare the creatures is also an excellent way to keep them calm during the process!

Make yourself get out

On a day with rubbish weather, one of the biggest barriers for us leaving the house is actually me. Last winter I booked a local forestry school one morning a week – people thought I was mad only doing it in winter but it’s always easy to get out in summer. The class forced us to get up and out and we had so much fun when we were there, exploring the woods, making things and building fires. Skills the boys definitely remember, they’re so good at collecting sticks and not getting too close to a lit fire at the same time relishing the opportunity to be part of the process.

There’s no such thing as bed weather, just bad clothes

Being organised in winter is an absolute must, having double of everything with spare changes of socks and mittens being the essential items. As long as the little ones aren’t cold they’ll stay out for hours. We layer up with t-shirts, jumpers, leggings and trousers, socks, welly boot socks and then waterproofs and coats. The boys also adore their umbrellas so staying dry is actually fun. There’s a song they sing at nursery ‘put on your coat to keep yourself nice and cosy, put on your scarf to keep yourself nice and cosy’ that we sing, which helps actually getting them dressed!

Ride the train

If the weather is really too awful to bear, getting out and hitching a lift is a huge adventure for littlies. Even when you’ve got no where to go! Getting down to the train station, buying the tickets, getting on board and spotting things out the window for just a couple of stops can while away a few hours – and the kids have had some fresh air in the process. Take a picnic for the journey and it becomes one big adventure!

Head to the beach

I’m renowned for forcing everyone out the car on a blustery and wet beach (I even took a dip on New Years Day!). I find that 30 minutes at the beach in winter is the equivalent to a whole day in summer – throwing some seaweed around and back in the car or nearest cafe for a hot chocolate is often used as a bribe for getting blown around!

Embrace the dark

One of the most depressing things about winter here in the UK is the darkness – sunrise is at 7 then it’s down again by 4ish. Now the boys are at a certain age we’ve got them into star gazing, heading into the garden at night to look up and see what we can see. If we can we’ll head out for an ‘evening’ walk to listen for owls and other night time creatures. I also love just taking them for a walk through town, peeking into the houses which are all lit up imagining who lives there. We’ll also stop off at a cosy kid friendly pub for a ‘pub water’ (water with ice cubes and a lemon – what a treat!) and a packet of crisps. Although your toddler asking when they’re next going to the pub in front of the grandparents is a challenge you’ll also have to take on!

And finally…

Get stuck in, laugh and find pleasure in the little things. The cold and wet comes around every year, you might as well enjoy. The kids will if you do!

A must see… Wilderness Woods, East Sussex

Ever had one of those weekends where everything just falls into place? Well we had one, and it was pretty darn special!

We headed off all the way (1.5 hrs drive!) to East Sussex – we were blessed with being gifted a three night stay at a Treehouse at Fairoak Farm (more on that in a later post). But I wanted to quickly tell you about a little place we happened upon on our travels…

Wilderness Woods. And what a wondeful wilderness it is.

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A small sign signalled the spot off the road and we thought we’d give it a go. Greeted by a lovely little cafe in a quirky wooden house with hand written signs and beautiful looking cakes, we started to read up on the place.

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Owned by The Moorish family since 2014, the site is 62 acres of chestnut coppice with stands of beech, scots pine, douglas, cedar and giant sequoia trees. It’s been expertly managed to include a cafe, a workshop, a kitchen garden, camping shelters and the most wonderful children’s activities and play areas.

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We arrived at 2.15 – lunch stopped at 2.30 so first up was to order from Rachel’s Wilderness Cafe. Utterly delicious! Healthy lunch boxes for the kids and a cheese and pickle board for us. So much salad and fresh local goodness! The weather was perfect so we sat outside and while we ate the kids played in the mud kitchen and wooden platforms in the trees. All located amongst the cafe tables so we could keep an eye on everything. (

The Fox still managed to stack it a couple of times but he could literally fall over a crack in the pavement!)

After lunch we followed the (very small amount) of visitors into the woods. A beautiful area for the kids to run around, a tractor for them to climb all over and some sculptures for them to wow over – and us!

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As we carried on round we discovered little bridges, a christmas tree farm and plenty of sticks to pick up and turn into rockets and airplanes. We only just scratched the surface on the forest to explore. Older kids were further down the valley racing around – just so much space! As we returned on the loop we then discovered the giant swing, slide and zip wire – we definitely weren’t getting our two out of there in a hurry! But we promised them an ice cream back at the cafe. Perfect!

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It really is such a special spot – no rules, no plastic signs, no crowds. Just room to roam and explore and spend time together. If I could create my perfect spot to visit, this really would be it. It’s just… magic!

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And before I forget, the cost… you’re just asked to pay what you feel they deserve.

Wilderness Wood

Hadlow Down
East Sussex
TN22 4HJ

http://www.wildernesswood.org

Open Wednesday – Sunday 9am-5pm and every day in the school holidays.

There was a fairy birthday party in the woods while we there – email information@lucyslittleforestschool.com if you’re interested in finding out more. If only our two didn’t have their birthday in the middle of winter!

If you’re interested in camping, email emilyanddan@wildernesswood.org

Final words from me, go this weekend. Go before everyone ELSE finds out how wonderful this place really is 🙂

 

 

 

7 tips for camping with kids

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If anyone ever asks me whether they should take their kids camping my answer is always YES YES YES & YES.

My husband and I have camped all over the world so when it came to having the kids, it was a natural thing for us to have the kids come along straight away. I’m not going to lie, we have had a few disasters along the way… forgetting the bottles one trip, constant rain another. But by the end of the holiday, when I tuck smiling rosy red cheeks back home into their beds, I know they have loved every minute of it.

So, for anyone considering a night under canvas with toddlers here are some of things I’ve learned about camping with Under 3’s.

(Full disclosure, we are blessed with our gorgeous camper van – anyone in the market, I whole heartedly recommend. We are looking forward to when the kids can sleep in a tent on their own outside though!)

1. Organisation is key

IMG_6874I’m a pretty organised person so I quite enjoy getting organised for trips. And with kids and camping it helps, big time!

Spending time outside in the UK comes with the weather gamble, so I tend to over pack in every direction – even if it’s wonderful sunshine, I just don’t want to be stressing about the kids getting dirty or wet when out exploring. The beauty of packing up the car or the van means you’re not confined by luggage limits. And twins come with a lot of luggage.

Being prepared doesn’t just go for clothes either, taking plenty of food, nappies, formula, towels, blankets. I never want a lack of something to get in the way – and there is nothing worse than searching for a supermarket when you’ve got your camp all set up in the middle of the country side.

2. For little ones, it is possible to keep routine… 

CEEC3A34-98FB-455C-9794-A701C8C2F01EIn the first year of Twinning, we were obsessed with routine. I think we had to be for survival. So when we went away we didn’t want anything to change – the main thing for us was bath and bed time and naps in the day. If those corner stones were in check we kind of knew we’d be OK.

In a campsite with only showers, we managed to make things work with a bucket bath – and the boys loved it! When it wasn’t warm we held bath time in the camper van or tent. We used the same lavender smelling bath bubbles which I think eased the boys into routine. When I got them tucked up into their beds, I left my phone on with familiar music (always Ben Howard!) to try and make them feel more relaxed.

For nap times, we timed the day’s activities with a long walk at nap time. They’d fall asleep in the pram which really helped!

3. …. But don’t be scared to flex the rules

Now the boys are older we’re braving it with a lack of routine! Not at home, but we rules are different when you’re away, especially when it’s not getting dark until 10pm. And here’s the secret, a day after coming back and we’re pretty much back to normal routine with a strict 7pm bedtime!

 

4. In fact, make your own rules

Saying that we don’t have a routine when we’re camping isn’t entirely accurate. I believe that kids thrive on routine, so what we do is create a new one and it really works for us, even if we’re only away for a couple of days. We have an early dinner with the kids at about 5pm, we do dessert sitting round the campfire and a walk before bed time. We do baths in the morning when we’ve all got a bit more energy (and need to fill some time in the wee hours before the other campers have woken up!). One of the boys helps me cook and the other does the washing up with daddy. It took us a few trips, but the more we go the easier it is as we all know what our camping routine looks like.

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5. Activities are a must

At 2.5, the boys are not at the stage where they’re running off into the woods to make their own fun. It’s easy to forget that even though we’re outside, they still need kid friendly stuff to play with. Importantly, stuff that they’re familiar with too. If I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed when I came to this realisation – I thought it would all be making things out of sticks and flowers. Don’t get me wrong, we do do that, but with under threes it can be quite hard work sometimes. Having some toys that keep them happy while you cook or (shock horror) relax is a god send!

In the first year we set up a kid friendly play area which kept crawlers out of the mud and somewhere we knew they would be safe.

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6. Just because you’re camping, doesn’t mean it has to be hotdogs every night 

My first valentines day with my husband was spent camping – he made me mussles in a rich tomato sauce and heated up some chunky bread. Mind blown! From that point on we have never compromised on cooking when we’re camping. From pancakes and home made croissants for breakfast to freshly caught trout battered and accompanied by Moroccan couscous. Cooking can be a lovely activity in itself when you’re camping. Putting on a casserole over a campfire in the morning, smelling the cooking aromas throughout the day and feeding hungry little ones (and big ones) after a day of adventure is the best!

I’ll get some of my favourite recipes up soon to share – some other top tips in the mean time: Food prep as much as you can ahead of time – make a bolognaise sauce, or puree the carrots and bring in pots for weaning little ones. I also freeze everything, even milk to keep it in the ice box/esky. It lasts a lot longer. Keep lots of freezer bags for leftovers and open packets, filler some little pots with pre mixed spices that you can chuck onto meat or in a sauce.

7. Finally, relax

No matter what the trip throws at you just remember, your kids will have the best time just because they’re with you. None of life’s normal distractions in the way, no laundry, no internet. Something toddlers thrive on! Try and slow down the pace and they’ll feed off you.

I’d love to hear about you camping adventures!

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The Loft @ Sparks Yard

When friends are visiting Arundel with kids, The Loft always tops my list of places to eat. We go there a lot ourselves, in fact it was the first place we ventured to after having the twins! So yes definitely a firm favourite!

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Leaving the house with newborn twins… winning!

Sparks Yard has been a bit of an institution in Arundel, West Sussex since the doors opened in 2003. Holly and Andy, owners of the American style shopspecialise in unique and fun gifts and homewares.

It was a few years ago though that they added to the space and opened a restaurant on the top floor of their Victorian warehouse.

The place is so easy to find, with on street parking right out the front. There’s a lift up to the restaurant which fits a double buggy and a Californian inspired menu featuring locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and an after school snacks. Occasionally open in the evenings but seems to be happening less often recently.

What’s Good

The menu is one of the best kids menus we’ve ever seen. Hands down. From when my kids were first weaning, sharing one of the kids tasting menus -(five options from baby favourites like cucumber, breadsticks) to now enjoying a kids main meal each. Everything is made fresh and has a focus on being healthy. To go alongside the kids meals, the parents don’t do too badly either! California salad or a fish finger sandwich are my personal faves – and a great cocktail list. For kids, as well as the food, there’s colouring in placemats and freedom to walk around.

The design of the place is lovely, light and airy – it feels very much like the Aussie places we’re used to in Sydney. The new(ish) court yard is such a lovely spot now the weather is warmer too with a really good playlist to accompany your meal from speakers hidden in the palm trees. An extra kiddie plus point is the new sail sun shades erected recently.

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Could Do Better

As a healthy, relaxed cafe that feels a bit of a treat at the same time, there isn’t really much I can say that needs improvement. All that being said, I wouldn’t recommend this spot to anyone in a rush. On a few occasions we’ve been sat with hungry kids and the service can be just that side of too long.

Toilets/baby changing could do with a bit of a revamp.

To get to the outside courtyard, you have to get the lift up and walk through the shop. This can’t really be helped (the outside gates are locked) but something to be aware of when trying to herd little ones through the glassware and breakables on display/

Final Verdict: 4.5/5

Anywhere that makes me feel totally at ease with both boys on my own is always going to be a winner!

 

The Loft at Sparks Yard

18 Tarrant Street

Arundel

West Sussex

BN18 9DJ

+44 1903 885588

info@sparksyard.com

 

4 things we’re doing this July in Sussex

 

1. Babes in the Wood Pirate Adventure, 26 July, Chichester, West Sussex

The lovely ladies behind Chichester Forestry School really deserve a post all to themselves and I will do one when I get the chance. I love love love everything about the forestry school ethos and these guys make it so fun and exciting for the little ones – their sessions start at 2 years old which is younger than most of the ones I found, and my little adventurers adored it through the winter. Unfortunately we had to stop our term sign-ups due to other commitments, but the good news is they do one-off sessions through the holidays. We’ll be heading to their pirate themed event which The Fox will DEFINITELY embrace whole heartedly.

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Ah Hoy There!

Head to their Facebook page to find out more

 

2. Medieval Jousting Tournament at Arundel Castle, 25-30 July, West Sussex

We are so lucky to have a castle on our doorstep (the boys can see it from their bedroom), especially one as beautiful and well maintained as Arundel Castle. People come from all over the country to visit – and July is the perfect time with kids. For five days during the week the castle hosts the Arundel International Jousting Competition, as knights from around the world gather to test their skill at mounted combat wearing full armour. The tournament is accompanied by craft displays and entertainment so the kids are sure to love everything about it!

 

3. Through The Door Family Festival, Weald and Downland, Chichester, West Sussex 29-30 July

The Weald and Downland Living Museum is a wonderful museum for kids to explore – a large park with a number of traditional buildings alongside traditional activities. Plenty of space to explore and picnic!

In July they are hosting Through The Door Festival for the first time, with a tagline of ‘Imagine, Play, Create and Explore’ – the Fox and Bear will be in their element! The festival sets to offer children the opportunity to run wild with their imagination through woodland trails, fun fair rides, climbing walls, circus skills classes and art workshops.

Accompanying teddy bears have the opportunity to turn their paws at extreme sports with a zip wire set-up especially for furry friends!!

Tickets on sale here.

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The Bear at the museum last year… mummy particularly loved the flower crown craft! 

4. A stay in a tree house, Fair Oak Farm, Mayfield, East Sussex

This one we are very excited about. A very thoughtful gift from my parents for an adventurous family like ours! The tree house is in Fair Oak Farm, Mayfield, East Sussex – luxurious self catering up in the trees. I sense that the boys will love it! Watch this space for a review after our stay….