kids need trees – supporting the tree charter

Watching the news last week, I saw a segment on something called The Tree Charter. It’s apparently about how people and society can benefit from trees and should be protecting them. There are ten principles in the Charter, but the one that grabbed me was Recover health, hope and wellbeing with the help of trees. Particularly the point about giving children a a daily dose of trees. I love that recommendation, because kids need trees.

kids need trees

 

childhood and trees

When I think of my childhood, trees played a big part. The trees in our garden were the houses, shops and school of our make believe games. We used to one-up each other to see who could climb the highest…and then shout for dad to come and get us out. We’d leave the house in the morning and, like the old cliche goes, not go home until dinner time because we were too busy playing in the woods. Hide and seek, dens, counting the rings in fallen trunks, peeling the bark off sticks and prising open beech nuts. Coming home smelling of the outdoors, with leaves in our hair and dirt all over our jeans. Kids needs trees to be their playground.  Trees bring out their imagination and their adventurousness, more than any toy or play park equipment ever could.

kids need trees - young boy exploring a tree

And it isn’t just some nostalgic thing, either. My boys love trees. Oldest son has inherited his uncle’s fearlessness and monkey-like skill for climbing to the very top of the nauseatingly tall ones. Middle son is drawn to them, collecting fallen leaves or picking up sticks to add to the pile he keeps at our front door. Even our youngest, at just four months old, is happiest lying in his carry cot with the hood down, watching the branches pass overhead as I push the pram. Kids need trees to spark their curiosity.  Textures, smells, colours and the wonders of nature are things that all children love to explore.

 

magic trees

Trees are amazing.  Just try taking a cranky kid for a walk through the woods, and watch their mood transform.  There’s a reason why you see far fewer kids having tantrums in woodland than in shopping centres.  Anything that can save my sanity like that is magic.  When Middle son is climbing the walls and making the rest of us want to chuck ourselves out the nearest window, all we need to do is ask if he wants to go for a walk.  Suddenly the beast is tamed, too busy pulling on his wellies to remember what he was moaning about.  Kids need trees…and so do parents!

As a mum who has battled depression throughout my adult life, I know that getting out in nature can be an incredible mental health pick-me-up (you can read my tips for boosting mental health here). Whether it’s letting the kids burn off energy so that they aren’t trying your nerves, or finding somewhere peaceful to help clear your mind, being with trees is one of nature’s best therapies.  Fresh air, beautiful surroundings and getting away from housework, job stress and technology can really help you hit reset.

kids need trees - little boy looking at a leaf

 

make trees fun

At this time of year, we can all get a touch of cabin fever.  So if you or your kids need trees, here’s a list of my boys’ favourite things about trees, in case you’re looking for inspiration!

  • conkers  Who didn’t love trying to find the biggest, strongest conker as a kid?  We never get as far as actually playing with them, as the collecting seems to be the bit my kids are interested in, but all you need to know about playing conkers (including the rules and how to make a tough contender) can be found on the BBC website.
  • pine cones  We love these so much that we used them in my wedding bouquet and our table centrepieces! The way they open and close fascinates the kids.  The boys collect so many that we use them as decoration around the house.
  • sycamore seeds  Or to give them their proper name, helicopters.  I’ve got fond memories of both my older boys getting so excited, throwing these up and watching them twirl to the ground.
  • take a rubbing  A bit of an old school one this! But you can create some really beautiful patterns.  Just hold a piece of paper against the bark of a tree, and rub a crayon across it.
  • go for a walk in the woods  Exploring the woods can spark a kid’s imagination. It’s pretty cool to see what weird and wonderful questions about nature they can throw out (though you might need to wait until you’re back home to find the answers on Google!)
  • kick up leaves  What is it about kids and piles of crunchy, autumn leaves?  It must appeal to their mess-making instincts.
  • look at the roots  You can often find a fallen tree in the woods, with all the roots pulled up. My kids are always fascinated by the roots, and all the creepy crawlies that live in them.
  • build or find a den  It can be as simple or elaborate as you like.  Nature may have already created a ready-made one for you, or you can use other materials to make your own.
  • climbing  Of course!  Problem solving, physical activity and a bit of daredevil thrillseeking all rolled into one. The National Trust has some great tips to do it safely. If you get palpitations thinking about your wee one doing their monkey impression, you could always seek out an aerial adventure course. These use safety gear and trained professionals for tree fun!

If you’re looking for more tree-based fun, Fantastic Fun and Learning has a great round up of activities and crafts.

kids need trees - both smiling through leaves

 

sign the charter

A tree will be planted for every signature that the Charter receives.  Technically, that means you can have a tree planted in your honour!  If that isn’t worth a couple of seconds of your time, I don’t know what is.  If I’ve convinced you that kids need trees, you can sign the Tree Charter here.

 

 

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getting kids to eat vegetables

There are certain battles which you can guarantee every parent has fought.  The do-your-homework confrontation, or the find-your-shoes struggle.  But the age old fight must be the one we all face in the dinner table trenches – getting kids to eat vegetables.

Now, I will throw my hands up and admit that I know I’m lucky.  I think my kids do quite well when it comes to food.  They eat pretty much everything that Hubs and I would eat, and for the most part do it happily.  And even though vegetables can still get a bad rap in our house, I can get my boys to eat them with most meals.  So I thought I’d share my tips for getting kids to eat vegetables, based on what has helped us.

 

make veggies part of every meal

When dinner time becomes a battlefield it can seem easier to just cut your losses and avoid veg altogether.  But even if you know they wont touch it, I think it’s important to still have vegetables on the plate.  It may seem wasteful, but kids learn through routine and familiarity.  My 15 year old eats more vegetables now he’s older.  I think that only happened because they were available to him.  His natural curiosity grew stronger than his childhood pickiness!

 

find a food they love…

…and then find a way to sneak veggies into it!  Middle son is a soup fiend, and that’s probably the easiest food in the world to cram full of veg.  Blend it smooth and they’ll never know that the tomato soup contains all sorts of other sneaky goodies.  Dishes like bolognaise or chilli are also good to smuggle veggies in to.  You can really finely chop them or even blend them and cook them right down.  It makes me feel a bit smug when I watch my kids wolfing down food containing peppers and mushrooms.  If only they knew!

 

find a vegetable they love…

…and serve it all. the. time.  Maybe love is a strong word, but even the pickiest of eaters will have one or two veggies that they will actually eat.  And most kids will happily eat the same foods over and over again – if you’re on to a winning thing don’t feel like you need to shake it up too much.  I know with my kids that corn on the cob, onions, broccoli and salad all go down well.  Making sure at least one of those is included in every meal is a sure fire way of getting kids to eat vegetables.

 

getting kids to eat vegetables

 

encourage them to try one bite

Sometimes kids just hate a vegetable on sight.  They’ve never even tried it, but they hate it.  In our house, we encourage the kids just to try one bite.  Usually, they still decide they hate it (stubborn boys, never like to be proven wrong).  But I like to cultivate an attitude of trying new tastes.  Every now and then, something is just too yummy for them to resist.

 

make food fun

I try not to labour the point of how healthy and good for you vegetables are.  What kid cares about that?  Kids are about fun, and so tapping in to that with food can be a good way of getting kids to eat vegetables.

My boys love corn on the cob, but I think part of that is the cute little corn-shaped handles we use.  I’ve also managed to get my kids to eat vegetables more easily if they’ve been involved in preparing them – shelling peas, peeling mushrooms, or even learning safe knife skills can all be fun ways to get them excited about food.  And as I learned from our trip the pumpkin patch, a Pick Your Own farm (or even growing your own) can also spark a kid’s curiosity about veggies.

 

chill out

So, your kids wont eat a single vegetable and you’ve tried everything?  Well, good for you for trying.  As a parent, that’s all you can do.  A lot of the time, the best thing for getting kids to eat vegetables is to wait for them to grow out of the picky stage.  Until then, don’t stress it.  Just make sure they take a good multivitamin and keep setting a good example by eating the veggies on your own plate.

 

I hope my tips help ease some of the dinner time stress that can come when it#s kids versus veggies.  If you have a tip, I’d love to read it so drop me a comment below!

 

 
This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m not getting paid for the content, but it does contain affiliate links.  You can read more about my affiliate policy here.

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Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens – an honest review

Today our four year old turns five. What with him starting school a few weeks ago I’m fresh out of emotions at milestones, so I’m coping just fine! Five suits him, and I remember from the teen that five is a good year. Less tantrums, more personality. Though this kid has personality by the bucketful already, I’m not sure I could handle any more! We didn’t throw him a party this year, as he doesn’t know all the kids in his class yet, so instead we took him to Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

It’s a dreary Monday and I’m the bad (good?) sort of mum who makes her kids go to school on their birthdays. He opened all his gifts before school – a street sweeper, mini bus, log lorry, crane and sea plane in a variety of Lego, Playmobile and Sika…he’s a total vehicle geek. Another thing he geeks out over is dinosaurs. He geeks out over those hard.  We’ve seen every dinosaur movie possible, our house is over run with books and toys, and the little dude can tell you facts about the most obscure dinos (as well as pronounce their names).

So when I first heard about the Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens I knew we had to take him. Animatronic dinosaurs would blow his little mind.  I had the tab open on my browser for months until the tickets went on sale, and yesterday it was finally our time to experience the magic.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

getting there, getting in

I’ll get the bad bits over with first.  The tickets for Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens weren’t cheap – for a family of four it was over £10 per perso. The customer service is poor to non-existent too.  I raised a request via Eventbrite and got no response, and on Facebook had to chase for a reply which was curt to say the least.

I also didn’t like the booking process.  If you’re thinking of going when the tour moves on to other areas of the country, don’t book as soon as the tickets go on sale.  I did that, only to find that a discount code was released the next day.  Not a nice way to treat your most keen customers.  The tickets are also non-refundable, which isn’t great when you’re buying in advance for children. Better hope they don’t come down with chicken pox or something on the day!*

Obviously if you catch the tour somewhere else this one may not be an issue, but specific to Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens there is no dedicated parking.  We didn’t see that as a problem but I thought it was worth a mention here.  We got parked on Byres Road, which was free and unrestricted as it was a Sunday. There are also a couple of car parks nearby.  But I would guess the car parks would fill up quickly, and they aren’t free.  On-street parking is restricted and most of it is residents only, so I’d recommend public transport if at all possible. Our friends got public transport, which is great to that part of the city.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

the dinosaur experience

The dinosaurs are laid out at points along a route through the Botanic Gardens.  The route was well sign-posted and was fine for pushing a pram along, though due to where it is there were hills and part of the route does take you out on to a road.

We were greeted by a colossal Brachiosaurus as we made our way up to the start of the route. The wee guy was a bit nervous at first!  The dinosaurs make noises, and he wasn’t too sure about that.  He soon warmed up though, when he saw some Pterodactyls in the trees. After that he excitedly ran from dino to dino, getting up close and really enjoying himself.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

The models themselves were really good, and there were facts about each one.  A lot of them moved and made sound so it was a lot of fun being roared at!  It was really busy when we were there, but the models are spaced out well enough that there’s plenty of room to see them and pose for photos.

We were lucky enough to get a typical Scottish summer day for our visit. The heavens ripped open and torrential rain pelted us before we even got halfway round the route.  We’d worn our trusty waterproofs, which was lucky as there is very little shelter.  Feeding the baby under a bridge while rain thundered down and a T-Rex growled menacingly at us is a memory I wont forget.  It was like being in our own version of Jurassic Park. We just needed an upturned car to complete the scene.  Make sure you check the weather and dress appropriately so your trip isn’t spoiled by soggy socks!

Highlights of Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens for us were the Raptors snacking on another dinosaur, the Euoplocephalus and of course the enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex!  It was also nice to see the Botanic Gardens, which I haven’t been so since I was a kid.  We’ll definitely be visiting there again once the dinosaurs have moved on.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

facilities and extras

There were portaloos and catering facilities at the mid-point, although we didn’t need to use them.  There was also a merch trailer selling all things dinosaur.  Our little guy chose a plastic model Pachycephalosaurus (he can pronounce it, I can’t) which was £9.  I actually didn’t think the toys on sale were too badly priced.

There were ride-on dinosaurs and a VR experience, both which cost extra.  The wee guy wasn’t interested, so I don’t know if they were worth the money.

There are also an egg and a dinosaur’s jaws near the entrance, to use as photo props.  They are free, but the queue for these was pretty long so we didn’t use them.  As you can tell from his pained expression in the photos, the birthday boy wasn’t in the mood to pose!

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

overall – is jurassic kingdom at glasgow botanic gardens worth it?

Given the bad experience with booking, I was really worried that Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens was going to disappoint.  I’d read some less than positive reviews from other stops on the tour, especially about the condition of the models.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.  The models were all working and all looked great.

In terms of value for money…are these things ever value for money?  But I didn’t feel ripped off as we walked around.  Sadly the weather was pretty awful for us yesterday. But we were waterproofed up enough to still enjoy it and see everything there was to see.  We could have easily made a day of it, with a picnic and going round the route more than once, had the weather been at least dry.  We’d love to do it again for that reason, though not at the current price.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

The tour still has some places in the UK to visit. I’d recommend it if you have a little dinosaur nerd like ours,  particularly if they’re under the age of ten. Though I did see childless adults enjoying it just as much as our crowd!

 

 

*They say they’re non-exchangeable too, but Eventbrite do let you change the names on the tickets.  So if you are unable to go you could always sell your tickets to someone else.

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first day of school – how we prepared for our baby starting primary

It’s that time of year. Summer holidays are over and the schools are back.  I’ve seen the Dear Teacher poem doing the rounds on social media, read blogs by mothers distraught at the thought of their little one walking through the doors of “big school” and clicked past countless adverts for iron-on name tags.  Parents all over the country are packing their babies off for their first day of school.

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby starting primary

This year we joined them, watching our four year old toddle off for his first day of school.  It’s a rite of passage, for parents as much as for the kids.  One which is meant to come with tears and bittersweet longing for the baby you were holding only yesterday.

But actually, I wasn’t one of the sobbing mums having to be peeled off her child and bodily removed from the classroom.  I found this next adventure exciting. I couldn’t wait to see him in his uniform and to share in his first day with him.  Hubs and I walked out of the school that first morning beaming.  Not distraught, but proud.

 

the build up to the first day of school

I hadn’t always expected to feel so positive on his first day of school.  When school sign-up time came around he still seemed far too small for that to be looming already.  I worried that school would be a scary and difficult place for our little guy who still needed us so much.

But there have been many steps up to the school gates.  With each of those steps we’ve felt a bit more ready. When we signed him up, he and I were given a tour of the school.  The nursery also took him to spend some time there, and the teachers visited the nursery.  Then came a couple of sessions where the kids spent a few hours in the classroom without parents or nursery staff.  The end of nursery was signalled by an adorable graduation day, and folders of all his work to bring home.

This all brought nursery to a gentle close, and opened the school gates to welcome our little man.  It meant I could happily watch him disappear into the classroom with a herd of other tiny little people without wanting to break down.  He was happy to go too, and has loved it every day since.  He’s become a bit of a role model, taking kids who aren’t so happy to be dropped off each morning under his wing.  He comes out of school grinning at 3pm, with his shoes all scuffed, shirt untucked and tie skew-whiff as if he’s been on the go all day!

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby's first day of primary

 

help prepare your little one (and you) for the first day of school

I know we’re quite lucky that our transition from pre-schooler to primary school kid has been so smooth.  And I know that not every child will find it so easy to make that leap.  Even children that have been through the exact same settling in process as our boy struggled on the first day of school.  A week later some are still crying and having to be coaxed through the gates.

I thought I would share some of the things we did to prepare our son for school. I hope it will help even one other parent avoid the school gate heartbreak:

  • Talk about school
    We talked about school every day over the summer.  Sometimes it was just a comment – “you’ll get to do that at school.”  At other times we read books about school, or just had a chat about how he was feeling.  We also pointed out some things that would change too, like having to wipe his own bum!
    I took his lead – if he wasn’t interested I didn’t push it. I wanted school to be a positive topic.
  • Make school familiar
    We drove past the school whenever we could, and pointed out children in the uniform.  To give him ownership we referred to it as “your school” and we didn’t call it “big school” either, to avoid it seeming intimidating.
  • Try on the uniform
    I bought my son’s uniform way back at the start of the summer. We tried it on at the time, but it then lived in his wardrobe for weeks.  I tried it on him again the week before school started, more to make sure the trousers didn’t need taken up, but I think this made him more comfortable.  I wasn’t sure how he’d cope with a shirt and tie (he refused to wear one even for our wedding!), but he’d got used to it by the time the first day rolled around.
  • Build independence
    As a full time working mum trying to get two kids out the house by 7.15am each day, sometimes it was just easier to do certain things. But in the run-up to the first day of school I made an effort to encourage more responsibility.  Things such as dressing himself, carrying his own bag, finding his own belongings at the end of the nursery day and yes, wiping his own bum.  I also encouraged him to carry his own plate to the table. I even got him to use toilet cubicles on his own when we were out in public (I think that was scarier for me than him!).  This all built him up, and made me more confident that he’d be ok doing these things at school.
  • Get used to other kids
    Having been in childcare since he was a baby, our son is well used to other kids.  But they’re the same kids he’s been with for most of his life. The move to school meant new faces and personalities to get used to.
    Soft play was really helpful in teaching him how to deal with strangers, either turning them into friends or coping with behaviour that he didn’t like.  So far at school he sticks with his nursery friends, but they are very close so I’d expect that.  He is learning new names and getting to know other children too though, and is confident enough to say hi when we see them outside of school too.
  • Routine, routine, routine
    I think this is key to any aspect of a young child’s life, they thrive on routine. Again, we had it easy with this one.  We’ve been in a routine of getting up, fed, dressed and out the house for 7.15 every day since our son was tiny. But over the summer (and with a newborn) this routine slipped. In the weeks before school started I made an effort to impose structure to our day again.  That has helped our mornings run smoothly – we haven’t been late once so far!
    Routine also goes for what happens after school too. We use the walk home to unpack his day, get some fresh air and have a snack. Then we get homework out the way and make sure everything is ready for the next day when we get home.  That means the evening is his to play as he wants.

 

new school kid on the block

I’ve gone from thinking he wasn’t ready, to wondering if the teachers are ready for him!  Our son is a vibrant little boy who is always talking and wanting to know everything. We frequently describe him as “full on” because he doesn’t seem to have an off switch.  He is confident, articulate and picks things up quickly, and school hasn’t intimidated or unsettled him. He has big ideas and the vocabulary to match.  But  he can be stubborn and determined, even in the face of adult opposition, so I wonder how he’ll get on having to sit quietly or do the prescribed work if there’s something he’d rather be doing!

I guess we’ll find out when parents’ evening rolls around!

 

Good luck to any other parents about to send their little one off to primary school.  Each milestone takes them further away from the tiny babies they were, but see it as an exciting adventure. Think of all that they’ve got to look forward to!

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our rainy day on the farm

 

We are lucky in that we live in a very beautiful part of Scotland.  We’re close enough to cities like Glasgow and Stirling to enjoy all that they offer but far enough into the country that we’re surrounded by natural beauty and opportunities to get out and about.

So that’s just what me and the boys did recently, to kick off my maternity leave.  Despite the rain, we headed to a local farm, who were having a fairy woodland weekend.  There were games (racing rubber ducks using water pumps was a clear winner, and even the teenager joined in for that), crafts and a hunt through the woods to find fairy doors.

We also went on a tractor ride around the farm to meet the animals.  I don’t think I need to say what a stupid idea it was for a heavily pregnant woman to ride through fields on a trailer…this would be obvious to anyone.  Except me, it would appear.  It was only as we set off and the first few jolts knocked me that I started to worry about my waters breaking.  But we made it through intact and the four year old was made up to have gone on it, so at least I scored some mum points.

Living in the west of Scotland – possibly one of the wettest places on earth – we’ve come to embrace that saying about there being no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.  And actually, I’m usually glad when conditions are a little less than perfect on a day out because there are less crowds to bother with.  Clouds over crowds…I should get a t-shirt made up with that on it.

The other great thing about a bit of rain is that I think there’s something beautiful about nature when it’s wet – the colours and smells just seem to be a bit more alive.  Plus, there’s nothing quite like being slapped in the face by a wet branch as you race after an intrepid explorer on the hunt for fairies.

From my point of view it was quite an emotional day too.  As we tucked into some lush home baking in the farm shop, I said to the boys do you know, this is the last time we’ll have a day out just the three of us.  Struck by the fact that next time there’ll be another little person in our gang soon, that this was the end of an era for us, I thought that was kind of a big deal.  The mum, please looks I got back from the teen and the four year old told me I was alone in the moment though, and they got stuck straight back into their obscenely large strawberry tarts.  Maybe it was for the best, it would have been a bit cringe if I’d burst into hormonal tears and hugged them to me in the middle of the café.

We had a lovely day out, and I’m hoping that once the baby arrives and the school holidays start our summer will be full of more adventures to share on here.

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Pink Pear Bear
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