Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Ten Fun Ways to Play at Bluestone Wales

We recently went for a fantastic and fun filled week long holiday to Bluestone National Park Resort in Wales.  It was just what we needed after all of the stress and craziness of moving, and the perfect opportunity to spend lots of time with the kids playing and exploring.  There are so many ways for young kids to play at Bluestone, and here are our top ten!

1. Scoot or cycle around the park.

Bluestone is a huge resort with loads of cycle paths that you can follow around the whole place.  We brought Ethan and Ivy's scooters with us, but you can bring bikes or hire them from the resort.  It's a great way to get some exercise and make your way from one place to another quickly.  Ethan loved being able to scoot around freely and his skills definitely improved from going up and down all of those hills.

2. Check out the bug lodges

Ethan and Ivy are absolutely fascinated by bugs!  We brought Ethan's bug kit, which includes a magnifying glass, tweezers and a couple of little jars so that we could examine some of the bugs that we would find in the woods.  Then we came across these fabulous bug lodges with all sorts of different materials to attract different species of mini beasts, they're definitely more sophisticated than our Bug Houses and the kids were having such fun looking through to see who lived inside.

3. Climb around the Treetops Playground

Right in the village area with all of the shops and restaurants is a fabulous playground for little ones.  Ethan loved running over the bridges and climbing up the ropes, scurrying through the tunnel and whizzing down the slide.  Ivy couldn't always quite keep up with him, but not to worry as there's even a Treetots side of the playground specifically for very young children which had it's own little climbing frame and swing for the little ones.

4. Explore in and around your lodge

We stayed in one of the Skomer Lodges which has 3 bedrooms, a living area, full kitchen, cute kids area (the cwtch) and a lovely outdoor space.  There's plenty of space inside with everything that you need, and a lovely grassy area outside to run around (but of course my kids just enjoy rummaging through the rocks!)

5. Go to see a dinner show

We went to see a Woody Wild Dinner Show which features one of Bluestone's own Wild Woody characters Huwie Hedgehog, Shelby Snail, Lola Ladybird or Buzby Bee.  On the night that we were there is was Shelby Snail's turn to perform, encouraging all of the children to come up and follow along with actions to songs, to follow him around the restaurant and to listen to a story.  Then dinner is served at your tables, encouraging the children to eat up so that they can have their pudding, before finishing up the show and allowing each child the opportunity to come up and have their photo taken with the character.

6. Look for wildlife

There is nothing more exciting than walking around the resort in the evening and spotting bunnies hopping around!  If we did nothing else at all that week Ivy would have been happy just running around trying to get a closer look at those rabbits.  They also loved seeing all of the birds, feeding the ducks in the pond and watching little tiny frogs jumping around on the path around our feet.

7. Roast marshmallows at Camp Smokey

Our absolute favourite place to eat on the resort had to be Camp Smokey.  You really feel like you're camping in the woods, eating food cooked right in front of you on an open fire and being able to order marshmallows for pudding that you can take over to the fire pit to roast yourself.  Ethan could not have been happier and would have gone back to Camp Smokey for every meal if we would let him!

8. Meet the Woody Wild characters

Throughout the week there are so many different activities that you can pre book to take part in, as well as opportunities to meet the different Woody Wild characters throughout the resort for different fun and games.  They do evening fun at the tent in the village, treasure hunts around the pool and games in the woods by Camp Smokey.  This is when we met Huwie Hedgehog, playing hide and seek amongst the trees.  

9. Play at the Adventure Centre

There is a huge indoor play centre for children of all ages.  Ethan and Ivy loved playing on the the bouncy castle and the ball pool together.  Ethan also climbed all around the massive climbing frame and scooped up rocks with a real working digger.  There's also a circus zone room that's great for younger children which Ivy had fun exploring.

10. Swim at the Blue Lagoon

The definite highlight of the trip had to be all the time that we spent at the Blue Lagoon.  Both Ethan and Ivy love the water and we don't take them swimming nearly enough, so we went to the fabulous waterpark at Bluestone every single day that we were there.  From the wave pool to the lazy river, the spraying pirate ship to the cute Little Nippers area for young children we just didn't run out of fun things to do.  Ethan became so brave and was jumping waves all by himself by the end of the week, and Ivy loved climbing through the rock pools in the baby area.  We literally took them away crying at the end because they just did not want to leave the pool.

Image courtesy of Bluestone Wales
We had so much fun at Bluestone, we could have spent a lot longer there to really be able to do it all.  There are so many organised activities as well as opportunities to play and explore on your own.  We can't wait to go back again!

* This is a review post, we were provided with a lodge to stay in at Bluestone free of charge in order to write our honest opinions about the resort. *

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Play Dough Zoo

Today we decided to use our play dough in a different sort of way, instead of shaping our dough into animals, we made homes for them instead (well their zoo enclosure homes).  This was a great way to have fun with play dough, work on a few different skills and play with some animal toys.

We started by using our favourite play dough recipe for Kool Aid Play Dough to make two different colours of dough.  Then I explained to Ethan that we wanted to make different areas for the animals to live, but that they all had to be different because the animals have different needs.  So I reminded him of the various ways that we have played with play dough before, and had him rolling it into balls, into long strands and flattening it out.

He really put a lot of effort into making sure that each animals' enclosure was just right, picking up the animal and fitting it in, them making their home bigger if he needed to.  We talked about the different animals and why they would need different homes, and he decided that he would have to make a lake for the hippo to live in because hippos live in the water.  We also talked about snakes and how they are usually behind glass so that they can't slither out.

We even experimented with new ways of forming the play dough, making pointy shapes to go around the elephant enclosure that are like hedges to keep the very large elephants in their home.  Ethan got really into it and was finding other animal toys to make homes for.

Playing with play dough is so valuable for Ethan's learning as he's working all the little muscles in his hands while he's forming the dough.  It's just fun to take it to another level and get him thinking about what he's making too.  I can see a lot of other fun play dough challenges to come!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Our Favourite Books About Canada

It's almost Canada Day, and with Ethan and Ivy growing up in England they don't really know all that much about Canada.  I try to teach them things as they come up in everyday situations, but around Canada Day I do step it up a bit, and we've been reading these two books a bit more than usual.

For Ivy I really like ABC of Canada as it's a simple Canadian place or animal to go with each letter of the alphabet.  We have the board book version so it's sturdy and Ivy can turn the pages herself.  This week she has been sitting and looking through it on her own, pointing to the different things and pretending to read.

For Ethan and older children I love M is for Maple.  It's got absolutely gorgeous illustrations, and again is in the alphabet format, but with a paragraph for each letter giving an in depth description of something Canadian.  It is still a bit long for Ethan, but it's lovely to just flip through the pages and read a few that stand out to him.  It's a keepsake that we'll have for years to come.

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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Making Flower Soup

Another sunny day meant another day of water play for us.  This time we decided to make things more fun by adding some flower petals from our garden to make some flower soup!  I set up a play area in the water tray for the kids while they were napping.  I put some toy pans and spoons in the tray as well as rose petals, blossoms and lavender flowers.

As soon as Ivy woke up she couldn't wait to get outside to play.  I opened up the water tray and she was right in there splashing the water around.  I showed her the spoons and how to stir around the rose petal soup, she then began scooping up the petals and taking them in and out of the pot.

She loved the little lavender flowers and the blossoms, picking them up in her hands and running them through her fingers.  She liked to drop them in the water and watch them float on the top.  She was choosing which ones she liked to add to her main soup pot, then stirring them all around together.

Then she was filling up both pots and transferring the soup from one pot to the other.  She even started going into the garden to find her own petals to add to the soup, then bringing them back and stirring it all up again.  After letting her play independently for some time I began to ask her to do certain tasks, stirring, pouring and picking up petals to see how good she was at following instructions.  Even though she was very focused on her task she was able to to do the things that I asked her to do, and then she was so proud to show me once she had done them.

I let her to play on her own again after that, having given her some more ideas of how she could create flower soup.  She could have played in that water tray for hours, it was only when her real dinner was ready that I could convince her to come into the house.  Water play of any kind really is a winner with her, and adding flowers just made it more fun!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Canada Day Sensory Bin

It's almost Canada Day, and even though Ethan and Ivy were born here in the UK they are still Canadians at heart and so every year we celebrate and I teach them about Canada.  Ivy hasn't even been to Canada yet (crazy I know!) but she sure did enjoy exploring this Canada Day sensory bin.

I used white rice and red lentils as the base of the bin, using a maple leaf shaped cookie cutter to form the shape of the leaf in the middle of the flag.  I added some maple extract to the lentils and the rice to give them a slight maple scent and add to the sensory experience.  Then I put in some maple leaf foil confetti, just for a little extra something shiny in the bin.

Ivy was drawn to the sensory bin straight away, I put it down to take this first photo and she was there straight away, I had to be quick!  She couldn't wait to find out what was inside and to get her hands on it.  I have been quite reluctant to give Ivy any proper sensory bins as she still puts a lot of things into her mouth, but I am proud to say that not one bit of rice or lentil was eaten, so this has opened up a whole new world for Ivy.

I put in some little Canadian block toys (a maple leaf, a beaver and a polar bear) as well as some red scoops, cups a funnel and tweezers to pick up and move the materials around. Ivy spent a lot of time using a tiny red spoon to fill up the funnel and then watch it all go through.  

Then it was time to put the spoon aside and just go for it, Ivy was picking up handfuls of the lentils and rice and running them through her fingers over and over again.  She was so happy just to experience the feeling of the materials moving around and sticking to her pudgy little fingers.

I should mention that after a couple minutes of playing I realised that this was going to be a very messy experience, Ivy was scooping up the rice and lentils and pouring them everywhere, so I did get the tuff spot out and sat Ivy and the sensory bin on it to keep the mess a bit more contained.  She could have sat in there for ages, what better way to celebrate Canada Day than with a bit of sensory play!

For more Canada Day fun have a look at our Pinterest board:

Follow Play & Learn Everyday's board Canada Day Fun for Kids on Pinterest.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

First Aid Pretend Play

One day last week we had a really frightening experience when Ivy had a choking episode.  She wasn't breathing and turned blue within seconds, but my husband and I went to her straight away and administered first aid and luckily she began breathing normally again quite quickly.  We had an ambulance come and take Ivy to the hospital to be checked, all while Ethan was there witnessing the whole thing.  Ivy is absolutely fine now and there is nothing to be concerned about, but it really has made me think a lot about first aid and how it's never too soon to start learning about it.

I also really wanted to go over all of the events of that night with Ethan, as he is such a thinker I can never be sure of what he has understood or if he's worrying about other emergencies happening again.  So I started off by explaining that Ivy was choking and that Mommy and Daddy knew what to do to help her, but that Daddy called for help as well. Then asked him if he knew what number to call in an emergency, and he did (I can thank a certain cartoon fireman for that I think!)

So we got out some of the baby dolls and medical kit toys and played through a scenario with the toy baby choking, holding her face down and patting her back and then calling 999. Ethan was able to find the number 9 on the toy phone and pretended to call in the emergency.  Then we rushed the baby off in the ambulance, making siren noises all the way (although that part didn't really happen, Ivy was fine by the time the ambulance arrived). 

Then I explained to Ethan that Ivy was checked by a nurse and a doctor at the hospital, before having an x-ray, so we played through those actions as well. Ethan was able to use some of his doctors' kit to take the baby's temperature and to look into his mouth as well as checking blood pressure and laying baby down to take pictures of his insides with a special machine.

Once we were done that I reminded Ethan that Ivy was then free to come home and that he and Daddy came to pick us up.  He told me about what happened from then on, and he seemed to really understand the whole situation which made me feel better.  While we were doing all of this first aid play I thought that it would be a good opportunity to play a bit with bandages and plasters, as Ethan is the only child that I have ever known that does not like to have a band aid when he has a cut or scrape.  So we played though the baby dolls hurting themselves and having to have plasters put on, which Ethan and Ivy enjoyed doing, so hopefully he will be ok with needing one himself next time.

On that night, while the doctor walked with me down the corridor to the x-ray room, as Ivy peacefully slept on my shoulder, the doctor turned to me and said that my husband and I may have saved Ivy's life.  It only hit me later that that meant that the outcome could have been very different if we hadn't known what to do when a baby is choking.  So I urge you all, as parents and carers of small children to make sure that your first aid knowledge is up to date.  Please have a read of what to do if your child is choking from the NHS and watch this video from St John's Ambulance and think about taking a first aid course if you haven't already.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Filling and Spilling Water Play

There is nothing that my two kids love more than water play, they are drawn to water like nothing else, so it isn't hard to convince them to go outside to play in the water tray!  Today I put out some pots and pans from our cooking play set, as well as some tea cups and a tea pot just for something different to play with.

I then just left the kids to explore on their own and see what they would come up with.  Straight away they were filling things up and pouring them into other containers.  Those tea cups were the perfect size and shape to easily fill and pour.  For Ethan I was able to ask him to count out how many cups he was filling up for each larger pot.

Ivy mostly enjoyed the spilling part!  She liked the ones with holes in the bottom and the tea pot with the spout for pouring out.  Of course she got completely soaked, just like she always does, but she had so much fun doing it!

I love watching them play side by side, and this is the perfect activity that they can both take part in at their own level.  While Ethan was counting out cups and learning about the different volumes of the pots, Ivy was happily exploring in her own way.  Then Ethan started playing tea time, serving everyone cups of tea and suddenly it changed from playing side by side to actually working together and interacting.  Ivy was using the words that she knows how to say like 'more' and 'done' to join in with the play and Ethan was happily serving everyone as many cups of tea as he could.  A great way to spend a sunny afternoon, full of countless ways to play and learn!