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Discovery Table Week 4: The Ocean Waves

We like to take inspiration from our real life experiences. After a trip to Mollymook on the New South Wales coast over the weekend (and with another trip planned next week!), it was the perfect opportunity to create an ocean themed discovery table.

 

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We love being on the beach!

So what’s on the table this week?

 

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A basket of sea creatures:

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Using wicker baskets means it’s a lot easier to transport objects for other play activities. Here we used items from the table for sensory play group too!

Baskets are a great way to present toys to little learners. You can choose a theme, like we’ve done here, or present an assortment of sensory items for little ones to explore. The idea of a ‘discovery basket’ is to let your child investigate and choose the direction of play themselves.

Grimm’s Rainbow

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Grimm’s wooden toys are well worth the investment. We use them in a variety of ways. 

Purple, green and blue hues from our Grimm’s rainbow and a little house were perfect for making waves. What we love about Grimm’s is that the elements let the imagination go wild!

Beach Treasures

 

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Have you tried a kid friendly magnifying glass? Both Zoey and Harrison love theirs. As well as exploring treasures at home, we also often taken them out and about when we go on nature walks.

 

Book Selection

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Magic Beach by Alison Lester was a particular favourite with Zoey over the weekend. I think the fact we we’re visiting the beach everyday, then reading the story made it extra appealing!

The Usborne Mermaid sticker book is another go-to of ours, especially when visiting cafes. I’d recommend them for a screen-free way to entertain the kids when out and about.

Again, the important thing here is making use of resources that you already have or perhaps even go out and support your local library!

Want more?

Here’s the series so far:

Discovery Table Week 1: Baby Clinic

Discovery Table Week 2: The Alphabet

Discovery Table Week 3: The Tiger Who Came to Tea

There’s also daily updates on both my Instagram and Facebook pages.

 

Happy Learning!

Sian x 

 

 

 

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Canberra for Kids: Our Top Springtime Activities

We’re big fans of Canberra. We’ve lived here for almost 3 years now and it’s surely got to be one of the best places to raise kids. Now I know a lot of people bag out the nation’s capital, but not us – we might not be local locals, but we sure do love the place! Springtime, in my opinion, is one of the best times to visit as there is just so much happening. Read on below to find out our favourite spots…

 

Floriade

Ok, so an obvious choice here, but the start of Spring means the month long flower festival that is Floriade. Whilst there have been mixed reviews in recent years, we still think it’s worth a visit, especially since this year marks the 30th anniversary of the event.

We’d advise showing up early before the car parking situation gets crazy, then grab yourself a takeaway coffee and spend the morning getting heart eyes over the beautiful blooms. Whilst Floriade itself is free, costs can escalate if your kiddo wants to go on the iconic ferris wheel or the fairground rides – personally I’d steer them towards the ferris wheel to get a birdseye view of the festival!

Details: Floriade is on now until the 15th October. Check the website for Night Fest info. 

Questacon

A place that has just won a place on the Australian Monopoly board definitely deserves a mention, right? Questacon is filled with STEAM fun and to be honest, is just as much for adults as it is for the kids you take! Now we’re annual pass holders, so we get to visit regularly, but a hot tip for those of you visiting in the school holidays, show up early to avoid the long queues!

If you have kids under 6, you must check out Mini Q. It’s the perfect place for some hands-on sciencey fun. During term-time, Zoey and I visit Mini Q once a week as its basically a better version of a soft-play centre. We love it for the rather fabulous role play zones: there’s a car garage, vets, bakery, space station and building site to try out.

Details: To find out about pricing and events, click here 

National Zoo

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One of the newest members of the zoo!

 

We LOVE this place. I’ve been to a fair few zoos in Australia (including Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo) and I have to say, The National Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best. The zoo has recently doubled in size to include zebras, rhinos, giraffes and cheetahs so if you have a little animal-obsessed human like I do, then it sure is the place to visit!

The zoo holds special zookeeper experiences for children during the school holidays which is kinda perfect if you need some ‘me-time’ whilst the kids learn and have a generally awesome time. I’ve also only heard amazing things about the Jamala Lodge, but unfortunately Zoey is too young to stay (I believe the age limit is 6). Perhaps something to consider if you have a special occassion coming up?

Details: Visit the website for pricing and individual events. If you live locally, i’d thoroughly recommend a season pass. 

National Museum of Australia 

When we first moved to Canberra, The National Museum of Australia was one of the first places we visited. The clue is in the title, but you get a really good overview of historically significant events. There’s plenty of ‘hands-on’ stuff to keep kids interested. If that isn’t so appealing, K-Space is the place to be. It’s basically an interactive computer game which takes you back in time so there’s lots of sneaky learning happening whilst the kids play!

At the moment, the Towers of Tomorrow Lego exhibition is happening. It’s a chance to view 20 Lego skyscrapers and also have a stab at making one yourself. There’s also Lego themed workshops during the school holidays which are bound to be popular with any master builder!

Details: The museum itself is free although you do need to pay for car parking. Exhibitions and workshops are priced separately so see the website for more information. 

National Botanical Gardens 

We go to the Botanical Gardens at least once a month and every time we’ve visited the experience has been completely different. There are so many paths to explore – our particular favourite has to be the rainforest section as it geniunely feels like you’ve travelled back in time! There’s a fair few events that happen during the school holidays too – Bush Blitz Biodiversity Detectives workshops are happening if you have any mini Steve Backshall’s in your midst!

The new cafe Pollen is a top spot for a breakfast date, but if you have busy kids like us you’re probably best off grabbing a takeaway coffee and browsing the gardens at a leisurely pace!

Details: Whilst there are paths for wheelchairs and prams, I would recommend using a carrier for babies and toddlers so you aren’t limited to certain paths. For information on workshops, click here

National Arboretum 

The husband finds my obsession with The National Arboretum kind of amusing. Sure, most of the trees are still growing, but that means the views are pretty spectacular! We mainly go there for The Pod playground which I’m pretty sure is the best in Canberra (please feel free to disagree with me below!) What we love the most is that the playground is divided into different ages/abilities so both kids can happily skip off and play.

The holidays often mean special events for kids too such as kitemaking and storytime walks in the woods. Check out the website for more details 

Details: Whilst the centre itself is free, you’ll need some spare change for the car park. The centre is also closed on the 28th of September for a special event. 

 

Lake Burley Griffin: The National Library to The National Gallery of Australia

During the holidays, we often park up at The National Library and walk to the National Portrait Gallery or the National Gallery of Australia (sometimes even both!).  If you’re doing a fly by visit to Canberra, this is a great way of seeing some of the big attractions when you’re short on time. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you could even visit Questacon on the same day as all four attractions are practically next to one another!

Alternatively…

Park up close to the Nara Peace Park and take photos of the gorgeous cherry blossoms whilst they are in bloom. According to Time Out, much of the gardens were a gift from Canberra’s Japanese sister, the city of Nara. Afterwards head on over to Snapper on the Lake for some fish and chips – just watch out for the crazy cyclists!  If you’re visiting in late October, definitely go and check out the incredible Canberra Nara Candle Festival – you can find out more details here. 

Details: Car parks around the lake are ticketed – the car parking officers tend to be on the ball too! Please check the website links for special events. 

Also worth a mention…

If you have slightly older children (6+), chances are that they’ll enjoy The Australian War Memorial – it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Australia after all.

We also absolutely love Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve – you’ll just need a car to get there! 🙂

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Travel with Kids: Warwick Castle

Visiting a castle is surely a ‘must do’ activity when travelling in the United Kingdom? Warwick Castle, which is described as ‘Britain’s ultimate castle,‘ was our choice on one of the only sunny days we had!

Although we’re currently living in Australia, Warwick Castle is a place I’m very familiar with. As a child, I lived relatively close (only 45 minutes away) and would visit every few years. Whilst it has changed rather substantially since I was little, I love that the general magic of the castle is unchanged.

Here’s our 5 favourite activities from the trip:

1. Trebuchet Talk

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If you time your trip right, you get to see all sorts of awesomeness. We got there just as the trebuchet talk started (11.30am). Now the title itself might sounds pretty dull, but it rather underplays the event itself! Essentially, the trebuchet is a gigantic catapult that was used during the 13th century to breach castle walls – I won’t say anymore about that so as not to spoilt the event but the launching of the trebuchet is something you shouldn’t miss!

2. Archery

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Letting a kid loose with a bow and arrow might sound like a recipe for disaster, but thankfully the Bowman was used to unpredictable 8- year-olds! Although this wasn’t included in the ticket price, I’m all for encouraging new activities and Harrison was super keen to try this one. We paid £5 for 12 arrows: the extra spend proved worth it when it was declared Harrison’s ‘favourite activity of the day.’

 

3. Flight of the Eagles

Warwick keeps an impressive collection of birds of prey. One of the main-stays at the castle is the ‘Flight of the Eagles’ where you get to see the magnificent predator  in action. There’s something rather wonderful about watching an eagle swoop the ancient grounds whilst its handler explains the hunting methods. If you really love your birds of prey, you can also book a special package where you can hold and even feed them – something we’d definitely do in the future!

4. The Horrible Histories Maze

The Horrible Histories Maze is one of the newer attractions at Warwick Castle.  The aim of the game is to reorder the mess Rattus Rattus has made of time by collecting stamps of each era, then find the way out. At the age of 8, it provided Harrison with the perfect mix of challenge and learning.

Moreover, us Thomas’ are a competitive bunch: give us a challenge and we will go for it full-throttle. Whilst we didn’t get around to collecting the prize for completion, we were super thrilled with the stamps. As an added bonus, we also got to learn a fair amount about the six eras in a true ‘horrible histories’ style!

5. The Castle Grounds

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Whilst this might seem completely obvious, walking around the castle grounds themselves is one of the best things you can do at Warwick – particularly if you’re more of an outdoorsy person like myself. Some of our favourites include: visiting the peacocks on the conservatory lawns, climbing the north wall to imagine life as a soldier and scaling the mound to view the spectacular grounds.

Also worth checking out this summer…

Unfortunately, we missed out on some of the big events that Warwick hold each year: Jousting and The War of the Roses as they are only held during the summer season. We’ve seen them both in previous years and I have to say that watching jousting is a memory that will last a lifetime. If you’re planning a visit, it’s really worth checking out the website to see exactly what’s on.

Another time we’d love to visit the newly opened Knights Village Lodges in order to fully immerse ourselves in the experience – I reckon that would make for a brilliant birthday present!

If I wasn’t currently living in Australia, I’d be trying to get my paws on a Merlin annual ticket as they currently have a sale on. This would get you entry into a number of memorable attractions such as Legoland, Alton Towers and Sealife.

Details:

We paid £26 for 2 adults and £23 for a child’s ticket.  (Zoey at 18 months was free). It’s definitely worth checking out share packs of Cadbury’s chocolate because they have a ‘buy one adult ticket, get one free’ offer on all of the Merlin attractions.

There’s no denying that Warwick Castle is an expensive experience BUT I would say that it’s completely worth it. The trick is to be clever with how you approach the day:

  • Park in the nearby St Nicholas Park  (£4.50 for all day versus £6 in the castle car park). Although it involves more walking, I personally think it adds to the atmosphere. You can always checkout the park itself afterwards!
  • Unless your kids are over 10, just buy the standard ticket. The dungeon is only suitable for those 10 and up, plus there’s plenty to see and do anyway. Don’t forget to check out the Cadbury’s packs too – any excuse to eat chocolate is surely a good thing!
  • Consider a packed-lunch. We personally felt the restaurant was a little overrated for the price and we’re pretty disappointed that certain stalls weren’t open during our visit (basically we’re still bitter that we couldn’t have a hot pork roll!)
  • Give your kids a maximum of £5 spending money for the gift shop. There’s a lot of gimmicky products that are fantastic for the day, but probably won’t see the light of day afterwards. Harrison bought a foam mace that he loved for approximately 2 hours and hasn’t used since!
  • Encourage the kids to choose experiences (e.g. archery lesson) over merchandise like refillable drink bottles. They will remember their arrow hitting the target, but I doubt they will fondly recall their third coca-cola!

 

We hope that you find this guide useful. Please comment below if you have any questions or indeed to add your own favourite Warwick Castle activities! Don’t forget to hit ‘follow’ for regular updates on education, travel and crafts with kids or like us on instagram and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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Nature Walk Activity Guide 

Nature walks are one of our absolute favourite things to do as a family: they boost well being, provide an easy way to spend time together as a family and as an added bonus, are completely free!

Continue reading Nature Walk Activity Guide