Days Out | National Trust

A Moment in History: The Vyne

By on February 23, 2018

If you're a regular reader you may have worked out that I like to do activities and outings on a budget. Mainly because there are 5 of us, sometimes 6 if Daddy comes too, which quite often means a hefty price tag. Therefore during school holidays I like to make the most of any annual memberships that we have. One of which being the National Trust and this time I am here to tell you about The Vyne and how you and the kids can make a mark in history.

We have visited a few National Trust locations and I have written a couple of posts reviewing our visits. Firstly I wrote about Bluebells in the Woods and the English Countryside which you can visit at Hinton Amper, as well as A family day out at Mottisfont. Both of which are in Hampshire.

17th century summer house

I particularly love this membership because it give us a chance to leave the city and become submerged in some of the most beautiful countryside the UK has to offer, it gets the children outside in nature instead of glued to a screen and we get to soak up some amazing history.

This time round, not only did we get to soak up some history but we got to leave our mark in the history book too! And the good news is there is still time for you to do the same!

The Vyne

I had decided before the half term that I wanted to spend some time with the children in a forest / woodland type place but the beginning of the week we had so much planned in the way of dance festivals, dentist appointments and a play date with our bestie who lives miles away from us, that the woodland walk had to wait until the end of the week.

I was originally drawn to The Vyne because of the woodland walks it has to offer but after a quick google search (what we would we do without google these days?) I soon realised our day here could be much more special.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. The air was fresh but not cold. It really felt like spring was on its way.

On arrival we were asked if we wanted to take part in the 'lost tapestry trail' which was fab for the kids. A picture of a tapestry which is in the house has been printed and laminated then cut into 12 puzzle pieces. The pieces were placed in bird boxes around the grounds and we were given a map of their location. Not only was this treasure hunt type activity fun but it was brilliant for developing the kids map reading skills. Plus we get to go home with a puzzle!

Two of the bird boxes were empty but at the end of our day when we were heading back towards the carpark, we checked the boxes again and found they had been refilled. Allowing us to collect up all the pieces . Or so we thought... we ended up with 12 pieces but two of them are the same! Hey ho; you win some and lose some. It was fun nevertheless and we laughed a lot when we realised.

Tapestry Trail - The box was empty! Luckily on our way back round as we headed home the box had been refilled allowing us to collect all the pieces.

On the way round the trail we came to the house. The National trust are in the process of restoring The Vyne's roof due to extensive storm damages in 2013. The job is huge. And this is where you get to leave your mark in history.

The Roof

We saw people forming an orderly queue so me with my typical British ways joined the queue! We were queuing to go up on the roof and see first hand the restoration works going on. The children and I were given high vis jackets given a short safety briefing and were directed to the lift or stairs. The children were also given a task to look out for the Lego Workman pieces that had been placed around the roof - a great task to keep the younger children occupied on a building site.

Amazing to see all the work going on - we really felt like part of the action.

Both the works going on and the views from the roof were breath-taking. You get to walk round the whole roof and there are Perspex openings that are eye level for children so they can see what is happening without parents lifting them up and over the edge! The re-building of one of the chimneys has stuck with me. It was leaning like the Tower of Pisa but has totally restored. It has been rebuilt with new materials and reinforced to prevent future storm damage yet looks exactly the same as the original.  It really is a must see.

Leaving your mark in history

On the way back out you are able to Tag-a-Tile. There is a recommended donation of £5 to do this but any donation is welcomed and appreciated. This is where you can draw on, write on or a sign a tile that will be going up onto the roof.

Master E and Little P decided to share a tile, while Master A and Miss O wanted a tile of their own. Donations can be put in the jar or can be paid on the front desk.

Putting our mark on Great British history.

Once our tiles were completed we put them into a wheelbarrow with other signed tiles and were told they would be on the roof the very next day!

Last Chance

There is still time for you to see the marvellous works going on and the views from the roof, as well as tag-a-tile of your own. BUT you only have until 28th February 2018.


To find out opening times, prices and the location of either The Vyne or any other National Trust place I have mentioned please visit The National Trust website.

NB: I am NOT paid to write for the National Trust. I am just a member who is very pleased with what I have seen so far and therefore want to share the love by writing honest reviews.

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Creativity & Crafts | Family Fun | Learning Through Play

Kids Arts and Crafts: Blow Paint Volcano

By on February 14, 2018

"Mummy can we make something from my book?" Master A came to me with his Usborne Activities Dinosaur Things to Make and Do book desperate to make a volcano painting; he is dinosaur mad. He loves them and he loves making a mess so the two combined is just perfect! As it is half term and its raining (surprise surprise) we have plenty of time to spend indoors having fun. So we turned to page 12 in his book and a dinosaur volcano painting is exactly what we made, as well as a valentines related kitchen activity but I'll tell you about that in a different post.

Volcano Painting

Here are the step by step instructions and a video for how to create the volcano painting.

What you need

  • orange paint (if you don't have any you can improvise like we did - we planned to mix red and yellow, before we learned we didn't have any yellow paint either! So instead we mixed red and gold and tiny bit of white to get the orange colour for our lava).
  • black crayon or in our case a sharpie
  • paintbrush
  • straw



  • Mix your paints if you don't have any orange
  • Draw two thick lines for the sides of the volcano
  • Scribble between the two lines at the top to create the crater
  • Blob your orange paint at the top of the crater
  • Use the straw to blow the 'lava' up from the volcano like it has exploded
  • Run some orange paint down the sides of the volcano
  • Then we painted a Dinosaur sponge green and dabbed it on at the bottom of the volcano



Learning Opportunities

As a registered childminder and a teaching assistant I often look for areas of learning in the activities I do with my littluns and this painting exercise was no different. This task is inclusive but by no means limited to the following learning areas I have identified.

Physical Development: Hand-eye coordination, control and movement is developed with an activity such as painting.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Having confidence in their ability, as well as understanding and delivering appropriate behaviour for the task, i.e. for this task - not jumping around throwing paint every where.

Literacy: Reading and following instructions

Expressive arts: Exploring and playing with a range of materials. Learning and mixing colours.

So as you can see a simple task such as painting a volcano is not only fun but provides great learning opportunities too!

Go on, give this one a go. Its great fun and took all of 10 minutes with limited mess! I would LOVE to see your paintings over on my Facebook page 🙂

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Mindset, Mental Health and Wellbeing | Parenting

Lost Learning Time

By on October 19, 2017

The other night, my daughter came to me with four books in her hands and asked if she could read them to me. It was 7:30pm, just before her bed time and she had to get up early for school the next morning; therefore, I had to say no in order for her to get her much needed sleep. I had to say NO to my little girl learning; I had to say NO to the ‘baby’ of the class, the one ‘who won’t catch up’ with some of her peers due to her age; I had to say NO to the young school girl who wants to read, the one who ‘isn’t quite where she needs to be’, so that she could go to bed & get some sleep ready for the next school day...

The next school day where she will be given an allocated reading slot, where her reading will be informally assessed, most likely not with her teacher and at a time when she isn’t focused but instead is still thinking about the math class she just had or wondering what’s for lunch; in an environment where there are constant distractions, not just for the reader but for the listener also; distractions from the daily hustle and bustle of the school; distractions from the few children that don’t want to learn and whom can be destructive; background noise and other teachers politely interrupting to ask the TA that’s with her something that cannot wait 5 minutes...

Don't get me wrong reading is something that happens ALL the time naturally - cereal boxes, road signs, magazines, sub-titles on films and so on, so her skills are always being developed, but this type of reading is a far cry from losing yourself in a book, albeit the riveting tales of Biff & Chip that 6 year olds read!

Was the fact I told my daughter she couldn’t read to me when it was beautifully quiet at home, when she was focused and raring to go, when it was a ‘want’ not a ‘requirement’ and when she was in the right mindset, a learning opportunity missed or was getting her off to bed ready for school the next day the right thing to do?

I LOVE education and love watching children learn and grow but I cannot help but think we are getting it wrong in schools. There are without doubt fantastic schools and even better teachers but I feel the education system has started failing our children. (I say ‘started’ loosely as I feel this is a huge ongoing problem that stems back to my grandparents days as pupils in the mainstream system, when the Butler Act was in play, along with the tripartite system which had an aim to provide parity of esteem (Holborn, 2008) except there’s evidence to suggest the aim wasn’t met, but I digress)!

During my time volunteering in a local school I was given the opportunity to mark the pupil’s spellings. I should point out I was only there 1 day a week and was there the same day each week. However, being given this opportunity was a huge eye opener for me. There were many children who were not getting full marks - 15/15 not even 10/15 so I started to question why…

Each week the pupils, aged 7/8, are given an A4 sheet of paper with 15 spellings down the left and five columns to the right which they are to practise and complete at home. Then there is a spellings test every Thursday. These spellings are marked and the next lot handed out.

It was whilst marking books, I realised that on the day I was volunteering there had been minimal work and focus on spellings during class time, which led me to wonder if the children had the chance to revisit the more difficult words that they got wrong – I was told “no; there is not enough time to keep going back there are too many words they have to learn by the year”. My problem with this is that they are not learning. They were not even being told which words they had got wrong – just that they had got 6/10 for example. Sure there are TA’s who work with those who are ‘behind’ but the focus seemed to be on the statistic not the learning for the child.

See, this for me is not the fault of the teachers’ it’s what is expected of them that is the issue, because of this the children are expected at ages as young as 4 to do homework. Which brings me back to my first point; they are exhausted after school, they just want to relax and why shouldn’t they. Then when they have de-stressed, are in the comfort of their own home, are in peaceful mindset and wanting to learn again, its bedtime…therefore passing up valuable learning time.

What the answer is I am not sure so for now may the cycle continue…

(Holborn, 2008. Sociology Themes & Perspectives - 7th Edition. 7 ed. s.l.:Harper Collins.)

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Creativity & Crafts | Learning Through Play

Weather board fun (and its benefits)

By on October 1, 2017

I've created a weather board for my childminding setting and I just had to share it. The kids and I love it.

This post contains affiliate links and explains how I made the weather board, along with the learning benefits it has.

Not only is it fun pretending to be the weather man (or woman) from the television but it has so many learning benefits too...

Understanding the world

🍂It teaches the children to be observant and pay attention to their surroundings - the kids in my care will be able to set the weather each day and learn about the seasons, which they will also change when the time calls.

Critical Thinkers

❄️I will occasionally set the board myself, but will set it incorrectly. This will encourage the children to think critically, by not accepting what is in front of them for face value and having the confidence to constructively challenge what has been presented to them.

Physical Development

🌻the moving of the symbols will help develop fine and gross motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination.

Communication and Language

🌞speaking about the symbols will encourage language development - talking about what each symbols is & means. As well as talking about the past, present and future (what the weather was like yesterday, how it is today and what could it be like tomorrow) and talking about what we know about the seasons.

weather symbols for kids

To create this board I simply googled 'weather symbols for kids' and this came up...

I cut out the symbols and discarded the words (although they could be used to enhance learning in other areas such as reading and spelling etc), then I popped them into a laminating pouch and laminated them.

As well as weather symbols I wanted pictures for the seasons too

This is what I found on google images...

Again I cut out what I wanted and laminated it.

Using blue tack I stuck them to my white board and hey presto the weather board is done.


You don't need a white board screwed to your wall at home to create this. I only have one as I've set this up in my childminding room. Here are some variations I've found on Pinterest...

Such a fun and simple activity with so many educational benefits for young learners without them even realising they are learning! Perfect!

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