baby and toddler activities, festivals and events

Autumn Events

I used to think summer was my favourite season, but I think autumn is a new contender as I get older. Whilst I’ll always love shorts-weather and getting outside in the warm summer air for games, walks and even paddling with the wee man, there’s definitely something to be said for the magic of autumn, as the leaves change colour and the anticipation of Halloween and Guy Fawkes night gets us excited.

Plus, Travis’ birthday is in October, so that brings even more joy to autumn! It seems like there are more and more great things to do with kids in autumn (or maybe I just never noticed them before?) And as a famous comedian once said, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! So grab your coat and wellies and see if you can get along to any of these events:

*once I have previewed or reviewed each event I’ll share a link to it below*

Ardardan Scarecrow Festival
A community celebration, held across the weekend of 28th-29th September involving local groups, schools etc. creating their own scarecrow to be displayed throughout the farm over the weekend. The festival is free to attend, as is the scarecrow trail, but there are additional extras such as tractor rides and inflatables for the little ones.

The Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry
This one has been on my bucket list for some time. Quite pricey at £20 per adult, I’ve heard it’s worth the price tag for this immersive light show experience. This year’s theme is Cosmos, capturing everything from astrology to astronauts and all that lies between here and space. Runs from 3rd October to 3rd November, however its hugely popular and many dates and time slots are already sold out.
Get your tickets here.

Loch Lomond Scary Faerie trail
We’ve been on the faerie trail before, during summer, so this sounds like a nice wee variation on the classic 2km trail. It’s a bit pricier than the regular trail, but for an extra couple of pounds (£6.50) you get to enjoy a spooky version of the trail, which we’re assured isn’t too scary for the little ones! For added Halloween fun, go around 4pm and take a torch with you! Starting at Luss car park and going up through the glen and back down, there are some cracking views to be had on this trail too. Runs from 1st to 31st October.
Get your tickets here.

Arnprior Pumpkins
Another autumn event which I’ll be attending for the first time this year. Opening on Saturday 12th October through Sunday 27th October this year, Arnprior Pumpkins, located in the countryside outside Stirling, is a great family experience with pumpkin picking, kale maze, quad pods and more. It’s also really good value for money – just £5 gives you entry for one car full of eager autumn lovers, and also entitles you to £5 to redeem against a pumpkin (if you pick a small pumpkin, essentially that’s free with your ticket!). The 2 hour session slots are also ideal time wise for younger kids so as not to encroach on napping, eating and the usual routine.
Get your tickets here.

The A-scarium at Lomond Shores
One of our favourite haunts (pardon the pun) is the Sea Life Aquarium at Loch Lomond Shores, as it’s so close to home. One thing we love about it is the fact they do frequent themed activities throughout the year, and this Halloween, they have the Ascarium (see what they did there?!). Running from 12th October to 3rd November, the Ascarium is included in the price of a regular ticket, so under 3s get in free. Kids are invited to help the sea witch unlock the treasure chest by paying close attention to each tank and completing activities on their way through the aquarium.
Get your tickets here.

baby and toddler activities, festivals and events

Ardardan Scarecrow Festival

We love Ardardan Estate for a visit on a (dry) day, so we are super excited to go to the scarecrow festival this weekend.

I’d never heard of a scarecrow festival before, and if it wasn’t held at Ardardan I’m not sure how appealing I would have found it. I had visions of multiple scarecrows being burned guy fawkes style – thankfully my macabre imagination was wrong!

The festival is a community celebration, with local groups, schools etc. Creating and sending in their own scarecrow to be displayed over the weekend. No burning involved!

The scarecrows entered are then dotted around the woodland trail on the farm, which is a nice wee walk with a toddler on a regular day, never mind when there are fun and fancy scarecrows to spot! The whole community involvement is something I really like, knowing that time and effort has been put into each scarecrow by those groups who have entered, whether a primary school class, community group or workplace.

In addition to magnificent scarecrow spotting, the farmer’s tractor Archie will be out taking people on tractor rides at set times throughout the day. There’s a cost of £4 per person to go on the ride but I imagine it would be worth it for the full farm experience. Although there’s no option to book and pay online, you’re advised to call the team at Ardardan to reserve a space.

Younger kids will have a ball with inflatables in the walled garden area, which also comes with a charge of £4. Fingers crossed the weather holds up to be able to make the most of this!

All of Ardardan’s staple farm shop, tea room, garden store and trails will be open and available as usual. From duck racing to fresh farm shopping and home-made cake-eating, it’s an autumn event I’m really looking forward to. Stay tuned for scarecrow pictures after the event – or check out my Instagram story on Sunday!

Oor-wullies-big-bucket-trail-wee-wullie-riverside
baby and toddler activities

Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail

What exactly is Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail I hear you say?

Well it’s pretty self explanatory but for anyone outside of Scotland, Oor Wullie is a beloved character, part of The Broons, who appeared in the eponymous comics in newspapers for years. A household name in Scotland, Oor Wullie has his own annual and range of merchandise, and is undeniably recognised for his dungarees and bucket seat.

Oor-wullies-big-bucket-trail-glasgowThe Big Bucket Trail pays tribute to that iconic version of Wullie on his bucket, in the first ever national public trail. 200 sculptures have been created and spread throughout Scotland’s main cities; Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, all in the name of charity. Each region has its own select charity which the statues are raising awareness and funds for. Local to us, it’s Glasgow’s Children’s Hospital charity.

The idea of the bucket trail is that it’s a free, mass participation event that anyone can take part in, whether you aim to collect them all, or just enjoy adventuring out to see which ones you happen upon. Conversely it’s also about art and communities, as many brilliant artists have designed a Wullie for the trail, as well as numerous nurseries, schools and community groups creating their own Wee Oor Wullie’s.

There are 56 of the main Wullie sculptures in Glasgow and the surrounding area, so needless to say we didn’t capture them all. However it’s a fun game to play with your toddler and absolutely free. You can pick up a free copy of the map at selected Wullie locations, or you can download the free app, which contains the app, counts your collection and also offers rewards for unlocking certain Wullie’s along the way.

We didn’t download the app, as with a toddler under 2 we weren’t sure that 1) he would even like the sculptures or 2) would want to walk all that far as some of them are spread out. We managed to see some of the little ones in Braehead Shopping Centre and the Riverside Museum, and had fun walking through Edinburgh during the Fringe trying to find some big and wee Wullie’s.

I would say that this is an ideal activity for the whole family, and that if you want to collect them, maybe take a buggy with you in case of tired little legs.
Given more time, and a little planning, we would have probably tried to do the trail purposefully rather than happening upon it. And maybe if Travis was a little older we would have visited further afield to try and find Wullies. (If he was older he may also have posed nicely for a photo rather than screaming no and running away, but that’s another story!).

The Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail is highly recommended, as it ticks all the parent boxes. Firstly, kiddos are outside in the fresh air (mostly), burning off energy walking to find the sculptures. Secondly, each sculpture has a different design, many with things to spot and talk about with little ones. Thirdly, each sculpture comes with a backstory behind it, so you can learn more about the design, the artists and so on. Finally, the trail raises funds for a children’s charity, which you can’t really contest as a parent (why would you though).

Sadly, the trail comes to an end on 30th August, so you’ll need to be quick if you want to get out and spot some. However, there will be a big farewell weekend from 13th-17th September in each city, so you can see all the Wullie’s from that section of the trail at once. Tickets are free but there are limited numbers for certain time slots, see the Oor Wullie website for more on this.

unlikely-mum-quick-skincare-routine-products
Mum time, Mum's finds

Unlikely Mum’s Quick Skincare Routine

I’ll let you in on a little secret… I was always lazy with skincare, even before Travis made an appearance. I’ve always been a fan of quick and easy personal care products, and if they can do more than one job, even better!

Now that I’m a mum (and a toddler mum at that) I have even less time to dedicate to my own skincare, though I know it’s still important to have some self care and look after the skin I’m in. So you’ll barely ever find me wearing makeup unless I’ve got an important work meeting or a night out. However there are 3 magic products I try to use on a daily basis where possible.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of these brands, and have not been paid or approached to promote them – they are just genuinely the products I use and love.

Liz Earle Naturally Active Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser
I was first told about this by a former boss when I was around 23. She explained about the benefits of the cleanser and why it was so much better than face wipes, but all I heard at that age was that it was a cleanser for older folk worrying about their ageing skin. I didn’t think I had time (or the cash) for the faff of using a hot cloth cleanser and I certainly didn’t think it would work on my spotty still-teenage-in-nature skin. Fast forward seven years, and now that I’ve reached the age my boss was when she told me all about this product, I’m a total convert. There’s literally no faff in using it – simply use one pump, massage into the skin and wash off with the hot cloth.

It’s so simple I tend to do it either right before bed, or right before the shower in the morning, washing it off as I’m in the shower. I’m a big fan as it ticks all the boxes – it’s less wasteful and environmentally damaging than face wipes, the natural ingredients cleanse without reddening and the cleanser even removes stubborn mascara!

For 100ml it costs £17 and you get 2 hot cloths with it, which is perfect to rotate for washing them. You can buy it from the Liz Earle website here.
Pixi Glow Tonic
I first fell in love with this around Christmas 2018, when I received it in my Birchbox Advent Calendar. I hadn’t heard of the brand before and was totally intrigued when I found that loads of people were raving about it on my Twitter feed and Insta stories.
Not normally a toner kind of gal, I went in open-minded to see if I actually felt any added benefit of using this each day. Guess what? This is definitely a product that lives up to its name, as skin instantly feels more refreshed, and is noticeably brighter and glowing after just a few uses.
To buy the product from Birchbox, it’s just £10 for 100ml or £18 for 250ml, depending how dedicated you are! Now to give you an indication of longevity, I used my 40ml Birchbox sample size bottle every other day, give or take, since around Christmas, and only just ran out in August, so it’s great value for money.
Astral Cream
This is a cheap and cheerful moisturiser which my mum has used since before I was born I think! As a teenager, my mum told me about how versatile this product is, and since I didn’t really have an endless source of pocket money to be spending on makeup at that time (and if I did, it was going on blue mascara!) I began to use hers to see what the fuss was about, and then adopted it as part of my makeup routine.
It’s such a great moisturiser for under your makeup, especially in the winter, as it’s thick and creamy and gives your skin that much-needed hydration boost. It’s also a fab eye makeup remover – just layer some on your eyes, rub gently then massage away with a cotton pad. Hey presto! Stubborn mascara is removed!
I usually just buy the small 50ml tubs as they are handy for travelling and taking away, and in all honesty I only have to buy a little tub about twice a year. Get it from Savers and it costs around £1 – best beauty bargain ever!
So there you have it, a fool-proof, 5 minute skincare routine for busy mums, for under £30!
unlikely-mum-quick-skincare-routine-products-under-30
lamont-farm-free-things-to-do-with-toddlers
baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Lamont Farm

Lamont Farm is a wonderful charity farm project in Erskine, about 20 minutes from Glasgow city centre. It’s a city farm, so it’s in a much denser space that your regular rural sprawling hectares of farmland.

That’s not to say animals are boxed in on top of each other, it’s just that there aren’t massive fields with hundreds of sheep or cows in them. Yes they do have some of those animals at Lamont Farm, but to a far lesser quantity, and you might find a horse sharing a field with a llama or something.

The project itself is half typical farm life and work, half rehoming other animals, so on any given visit you might find your typical sheep and pigs, but also a bearded dragon and guinea pigs. Volunteers work hard to ensure the welfare of all animals, and not only give up their time to look after all creatures on the farm, they also offer guided tours for visitors.

 

The basics

As a community run project, Lamont Farm is completely free for all to enter, however there are donation buckets on the gates as you enter and exit. All donations go back into helping the running of the farm and continuing to look after the welfare of the animals. If there was ever a farm you wanted to visit that wasn’t out for commercial gain, or where you wanted to be sure the animals were treated properly and not like a production line, then this is the place.

The farm area is quite small, so it’s not a problem to visit without a pram/buggy. If you have smaller children unable to walk yet, there’s definitely room to get a pushchair in, however, there might be some areas you’d have to leave a buggy outside, such as the reptile shed. The location is quite easy to drive to, but there’s no set parking (it’s just on-street) so that’s something to consider when you’re visiting.

What to expect

Nothing like your average school farm visit, Lamont Farm is a city farm, so everything is in much closer proximity. Around the yard and stabling areas, the ground is all concrete so easy to navigate with a pushchair. Despite being concrete, wellies or boots are still advisable as even in nice weather, the volunteers at the farm may be cleaning out stables, rabbit hutches etc, and hosing things down which means puddles and muck are to be expected even on the sunny days!

My advice is to expect the unexpected! There are ponies, goats, sheep and a massive pig for those interested in typical farm life, but the uniqueness of Lamont Farm is really the rehoming and taking care of all the other animals. As the point is to get animals to a stage where they are rehomed, you might not see the same animals on a second visit. Similarly, as they take in rescue animals, you might find some new friends on a second visit.

Volunteers at the farm offer guided tours which are really interesting and allow you to find out more about each animal. Not only do you get to hear about how each animal came to be on the farm, and what they are like, you also get the opportunity to handle many of them. From rabbits, gerbils and guinea pigs to bearded dragons, snakes and turtles, it makes for a really interesting experience!

In addition to all of the animal fun, there’s also a play area for kids (it’s definitely for smaller kids), with the likes of red and yellow cars, slides, seesaw toys etc. There’s also a little tiny pig that gets to run around in the play area too, so you might be fighting him to go through the tunnel!

Within the play area, there are a couple of picnic benches, and the farm sells juice and snacks, ice lollies etc so you can enjoy a wee snack break there too. There are toilets, including baby-change facilities too, so it ticks all the boxes of all the necessities of an afternoon out with a toddler.

Unlikely mum verdict

I found this farm an amazing day out not only for my little man and his best friend who we brought with us, but also for myself! It was great to hear volunteers so passionate about the animals and what the farm is all about. Equally, it was lovely to be able to hold some of the animals, and let the kids try the feel of a tortoise, or pet a pony for example. I wasn’t brave enough to hold a snake or anything myself but that’s also an option!

I love the idea that not only is this a visitor attraction where you can learn and interact with animals, you could also adopt one or even end up taking one home! Not that we have room for a pet, but if we did I would consider rehoming from there as they do such a great job ensuring the welfare of the animals. Plus, even if your not a kind of pets-in-your-own-home kind of person, there’s always the fact that when you revisit, you might find some new and different animals, or find out that an animal you handled before has finally found their forever family. Additionally, you can sponsor an animal and visit it, and volunteer as if it were your own pet that just doesn’t live with you. A perfect way to introduce animals and the idea of care for pets to kids, without the additional mess and cleaning required at home!

I didn’t expect there to be a play area and juice etc available so I was pleasantly surprised by that. The kids had an absolute ball petting animals, chasing geese and playing in the picnic and play area. It’s definitely a good afternoon out for the family.

Main points

  • Free
  • Animals to be rehomed
  • Picnic area
  • Animal handling
  • Not suitable for young babies
  • Changing facilities available
  • Easy to explore without a pushchair

lamont-farm-free-toddler-activity

 

Did you enjoy this post? Check out more free activities and attractions for toddlers

baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Briarlands Farm

Another in my series of free things to do for toddlers, Briarlands Farm is the ideal all-round winner for amusing, educating and burning off some energy in your toddler. Located off the A84 near Stirling, it’s a countryside adventure a world away from the city.

Briarlandsfarm isn’t your average working farm of sheep, cows etc in a field. Yes, there’s that, but there’s also so much more to see and do. The farmland has clearly been set up as a family and tourist attraction, and has been invested in over the years. The most notable of the kids attractions is the massive bouncing pillows, which tend to pop up on any newsfeed or photo collection of anyone who’s ever visited. These giant pillows are like a cross between bouncy castles and trampolines and cause no end of amusement for kids.

The basics

In comparison to Blairdrummond Safari Park right next door, Briarlands Farm is an absolute steal to visit. Kids under 3 are free, and for adults the cost is just £5.75 to enter. Children aged 2 to 16 are £7.75 to enter, which struck me as odd at first as it’s more expensive than adults, but actually, the farm is set up for children to partake and enjoy more than adults so I guess it makes sense? If you prefer just to visit the tearoom, it’s free to visit, and if you’re within season, you can go strawberry picking for £6.75 a kilo.

We were advised of the times of the tractor rides, which cost an additional £1 per person, and the times of the animal handling sessions, which are free, however you can purchase bags of feed for 50p to feed all of the animals if you wish. We were also given a paper wristband (to separate us from the tearoom-only guests) and a map outlining the different animal fields and attractions, and where to find them.

It’s worth noting that we took Travis without a pushchair, and he was 21 months old at the time if that gives you any sort of comparison for your child. We also only stayed just over 3 hours, though you could easily spend all day there so a buggy might be advisable for nap times

What to expect

It’s fair to say that the map leads you to believe the area of Briarlands Farm is going to be much larger than it is. It definitely covers a decent amount of space, but you can see most of the site from pretty much any of the locations, as everything is designed in quite an open way. Plus there’s a path right around the farm, which makes it easy to navigate with a pushchair or pram.

Don’t expect a stereotypical farm day out with a barn, field and pen of animals and token playpark on the side, as this just isn’t what Briarlands is about. The focus here is fun in the fresh air, and whilst that involves seeing the animals, feeding them and learning about them, it’s also as much about play.

Some of the play is farm related – for instance a big bales of hay to climb (or it might be a hay fort?) and there’s a real tractor that kids can sit in and pretend to drive. However there’s loads of great other outdoor play such as plenty of climbing frames and slides, along with go karts, sandpits, mazes, football golf, archery and mini diggers to keep the kids amused all day. Plus this year the farm added some new springer toys and swings to keep things fresh and give kids of all ages something to do.

In terms of the farm aspect, visitors are encouraged to feed the animals (bags of feed cost 50p each) as they make their way around the field viewing the animals and finding out their names. There’s also an animal handling barn, in which you are allowed to pick up and pet the soft furries such as gerbils and bunny rabbits, thought the lambs are usually up for a bit of a pet too. The handling sessions are held at set times, outlined to visitors on the day, and the staff give a talk about the animals too. For a more in-depth understanding of the farm, there are tractor rides which run at several times throughout the day. It costs £1 extra per person to go on the trailer (petrol doesn’t pay for itself!) which takes you on a guided tour round the outer edge of the farm.

Expect to prepare for a typical outdoor day – we seen some kids with wellies on despite it being a warm July day when we visited! And remember your child will likely be climbing on frames, and possibly treading through muckier ground depending on the time of year.

Unlikely mum verdict

I honestly can’t fault this as a top place to take your toddler, and think it’s great value for money for adults too. Travis had so much fun all day and loved being able to go between the animals and play areas. The farm is definitely kitted up for kids of all ages, with toddlers like Travis able to enjoy the under 7s inflatable pillow, small cars, sandpits, smaller climbing frames and slides, and of course a shot in the big tractor! I have genuinely never seen a happier child in a tractor than Travis!

We were quite lucky to visit on a dry summers day, so were able to wander around freely in shorts, t-shirts and trainers, but obviously waterproofs and wellies are advisable for the unpredictable Scottish weather! The tearoom was bustling as we visited in the height of summer, but the food was good and the service was fast too. The tearoom uses local and homemade produce – Travis absolutely devoured his jam sandwich made from Briarlands Farm’s very own strawberries.

It’s worth noting that the tractor ride was particularly busy as we visited during the Scottish school holidays, but there is a notice that says the tractor will come round again until everyone that was waiting gets a shot. As we have an impatient toddler, we opted out of the tractor ride on this occasion. We also didn’t manage to go strawberry picking as unfortunately they were in between crops to pick, which just means we will have to revisit before the summer is out!

We spent just over 3 hours there and there were still things (like the tractor and strawberries) we didn’t manage to do – we didn’t even get any feed for the animals! – and yet we still explored so much and Travis had so much enjoyment from the place. We will definitely need to go back, either for a longer day, or for another afternoon to complete the whole Briarlands experience.

Main points

  • Children under 3 free. Kids 3-16 £7.75 which is more expensive than adults at £5.75
  • Numerous additional extras, such as animal feed (50p), tractor ride tour (£1) and selected amusements (£1)
  • Strawberry picking available throughout summer for £6.75/kilo
  • Family-friendly with a pushchair-friendly path around the farm
  • Lots of play frames and entertainment for toddlers

Briarlands-farm-toddler-activities

loch-lomond-faerie-trail-free-toddler-activity
baby and toddler activities, Parenting

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail is one of the first in my series of free activities for toddlers. For more information on the series, and why I’m doing it, see this post.

As the title suggests, Loch Lomond Faerie Trail is situated on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond – just outside of Luss, Scotland. It’s a wonderful wee place in its own right, with claims to fame (if you’re old enough to remember TV soap Take the High Road), breathtaking views, and plenty of places to eat and drink. In a past life I worked in the village so have all the tourist info to spout, if you want to know any more!

The Faerie Trail is a relatively new attraction to these parts – it opened in mid-2018. I felt Travis was too young to go then, as he was barely walking at this point. Although the guide advises the trail isn’t a pushchair-friendly walk, there weren’t many parts that seemed a challenge for a buggy – as long as you’re comfortable bumping up a few steps at the beginning of the trail. So if you have babies and toddlers, it could be an ideal way to get fresh air and keep a toddler amused. It’s worth noting that when walking the trail with a pram, you might want an all-terrain pushchair or to avoid it in the winter/wetter days as it’s still very much natural woodland you explore for a chunk of the walk.

The basics

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail cost us just £6 to take part in. I’m assuming this is broken down into £3 for adults as we were told Travis didn’t need to pay. However, this also meant that he didn’t get the accompanying activity book for the trail. This was fine with us, because at only 20 months old, he was still a bit young to pay that much attention or take in any of the activities. Both parents were given the booklets (and pencils!) though, which contains the trail map at the back, directions to each stop on the trail, and a series of activities to take part in as you go. These range from interacting with the stop points to fill-the-blanks, drawing and some information and rhymes about faeries! For us, this was definitely worth the entry fee – as adults we might not have made much of it ourselves but it was a good way to ensure you take in each stop on the trail and get little imaginations going. For a child to make the most of the booklet, I’d probably recommend waiting until they are 3+ (so unfortunately will be subject to paying!)

We also each got wristbands for the trail, and at the purchase point (a food van at the moment as their premises had recently been burnt down, though they are working to get this back up and running) there was the opportunity to buy faerie memorabilia, like a faerie door, faerie dust etc. I’m sure there will be more of a gift shop again once the premises is reopened.

We were advised that the trail was about 2 miles long, which again was the perfect length for us to take Travis without a buggy. He is a confident walker but obviously 2 miles is quite a distance to go on little legs! We were actually surprised at how much of the walk he managed to do himself without wanting to be carried – a testament to the attraction itself.  It took us about an hour and a half to complete, though we didn’t stop too long at each point as we didn’t complete all of the activities within the booklet. To make the most of the day, and with bigger toddlers or older children, I’d say give yourself 2 hours to enjoy the trail.

What to expect

The trail takes you over and under a main road, through a glen and back down again, so be prepared in terms of footwear and travel system (buggy etc). There aren’t any particularly steep points, aside from the steps you climb to go up to the overpass to get started on the trail. However there is a section which takes you down into an old quarry, which is probably the steepest any climbs/declines get, but the main thing to note is there is still a lot of loose slate from the quarry here so be careful with your footing.

Expect a lot of magic and wonder, as the organisers of this trail really have thought of it all! From little faerie doors that act as markers along the way, to incorporating the tooth fairy, fairy godmother etc, you’ll have loads to see and plenty of picture opps. Your child can enjoy posing as a faerie, exploring the faerie library and more. I don’t want to ruin the magic of all of the stops but it’s certainly not a boring trail, and even just from a nature point of view, there’s loads of beautiful scenery from babbling brooks to fresh flowers and views of the lush, green glen. This is of course if you visit on a sunnier day, which can’t be guaranteed!

One thing I would suggest is bringing along some pennies, as there are a lot of pennies at the faerie doors and your little one might want to place their own and make a wish.

Unlikely Mum verdict

I would definitely recommend this activity for toddler mums. It’s not too expensive for adults and it fills up most of your morning or afternoon. In the summer, it’s definitely feasible to do the trail with a pushchair too, so can still be a good activity for kids who can’t yet walk or aren’t yet confident walkers, or for parents who have a toddler and baby. With 20 stops along the way, it’s certainly enough to keep little brains (and adult ones!) engaged without getting distracted, and I have to say the organisers have thought of everything. For me, another main draw is that once you have done the trail once, with your map and guide, you are free to return to the trail any time and do it all again at no cost, as everything is within a public walking space. I know Travis will be just as enchanted if we visit again in 6 months, and maybe even more so as he grows and develops, so we will just need to keep those guide books in a safe place!

Main points:

  • Price – £3 adults, £4 for 3+ and infants/toddlers free*
  • Pushchair friendly – yes, but one stairway at the start of the trail
  • Length – 2 miles walk or about 2 hours to complete with a little legs
  • Additions/extras – includes a map and activity book, there’s a gift shop to buy faerie memorabilia at the end

*Although there’s a charge for adults and older kids, you could revisit the walk again at any point without paying (as long as you remember your map and the route!)

Loch-lomond-faerie-trail-toddler-activities

free-toddler-activities-parenting
baby and toddler activities

Free Toddler Activities and Attractions

As a toddler mum, I’m always looking for new ways to keep my little man entertained. There’s only so many episodes of Hey Duggee or visits to the soft play one can take without contemplating spiking your own coffee – even if the wee fella is quite content to watch and do the same thing over and over again.

New activities are good for all – toddlers get to explore and expand their horizons, learning as they go, and us parents get to save our sanity for one more day. However, many activities come with a price tag, which means they aren’t always possible or accessible. So I’ve tried to explore a variety of different activities in a range of locations, both indoor and outdoor, which at least offer free toddler places, if not free for adults too.

It’s important that our kids get a range of experiences and that we have the opportunity to provide them with fresh ideas, games, things to explore and places to go. I’ve started with some of the places closest to home for me, but I am looking to expand locations as I go. On top of this, I’m looking for a variety of different experiences which stimulate different senses or get different parts of the brain working. So it won’t be a list of physical activities (playparks, outdoor adventure etc) and viewing activities (farms, aquariums etc) but also experiences and learning activities that encourage skills like reading, writing, counting etc.

The idea is that I will add a link below to a post about each activity or attraction. The posts will be a mixture between a review, our experience and what you can expect for free, plus any other information such as additional extras etc.

  1. Ardardan Estate – we visit here quite regularly, and they are currently improving the farm to include more animals and a children’s playpark by 2020. Read the post to see what’s currently on offer there.
  2. Loch Lomond Faerie Trail – Brilliant attraction and walk in a scenic area. Read the post to find out how to make the most of the trail.
  3. Briarlands Farm – this Stirlingshire farm contains more than your regular farm animals, with tractor rides, play areas, mazes, archery and even go-karts!
  4. Lamont Farm – a charity farm project based in Erskine. Dense city-farm which focuses on the welfare of animals and rehoming animals

 

Coming soon:

  • Loch Lomond Sealife Centre
  • Bookbug
  • Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail
  • Riverside Museum
  • Tall Ship

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handmade-gifts-fathers-day
Uncategorized

Homemade Father’s Day Gifts for Kids

So following on from my homemade Mother’s Day gifts post in March, I thought it only fair that the dads/gradands/papas get the same treatment! I’ve based the gifts on both the kind of ability a toddler can join in on, and on the kind of things I think the men in Travis’ life would appreciate.

handmade-fathers-day-cardHandmade Cards
A handmade card adds a great personal touch, and gives you the chance to make a card that really reflects dad, grandad, step-dad etc, rather than having to trawl through card shops or websites to find the perfect message or funny quip (just me who does that?). All you really need is some A4 card, some pens, crayons and your imagination for the rest. If dad’s into golf, why not add a pom-pom football and make the card 3D? You could get messy and get your toddler to add some handprints, footprints or finger painting – hands can be high-fives, little fishes on a rod, a little monster, whereas a foot can be a trophy, a rocket to the moon, walking in daddy’s footsteps… you get the idea!

homemade-fathers-day-gift-couponFather’s Day coupons
This one is a great fail-safe if you’re unsure what to give your dad, and it’s a great addition or fallback gift that kids can get involved in making. All you need is paper/card of various colours, some markers and colouring pens, and a stapler or some glue to hold the pages together.
Get your toddler involved by asking them the type of thing daddy/papa likes and how you can turn that into a coupon. Plus there are heaps of standard coupons to include, such as breakfast in bed, a cup of tea made, charge of the remote control, undisturbed PlayStation time etc that can be used on Father’s Day and beyond. Let your child choose the colour for each coupon, and draw a picture on each. They can even sign their name (i.e. scribble) like a cheque on the coupon.

handmade-fathers-day-keyringPhoto keyring
Does dad drive a lot for work? Maybe papa has a separate set of shed keys? Either way, their little pride and joy’s face on their keys will be sure to brighten their day. All you need for this is a nice photo of your little one(s) with their dad/grandfather etc – be sure to print 2 copies as the keyring will be double-sided – and either a laminator or a little plastic photo keyring. The latter is probably the easiest, and you can buy them in bulk from a craft store like Hobbycraft, and then Bob’s your uncle! Or Jim’s your grandad…. (sorry)

homemade-fathers-day-gift-shaving-creamHomemade shaving cream
Most men need to shave at some point, if even to trim and tidy their beloved beard. A homemade shaving cream adds an extra special touch, with natural ingredients to ensure a soft, moisturised face that’s perfect for giving a kiss goodnight. Although I’ve not made one for myself yet, I did discover this great recipe on The Garlic Diaries which not only sounds lush, but is apparently also a great shaver/moisturiser for your legs too, so double-win!

homemade-fathers-day-hamper-giftBig night in kit
This is another one that can be personalised to dad’s taste. Maybe it’s a Saturday night in with the family, or maybe dad’s got a night to himself? Either way, all you need is a hamper and some of dad’s favourite things. Ask your toddler to help choose some of dad’s favourite things, whether it be a beer, chocolate, movie etc. Maybe there’s a game you always play together? Or there’s a big sports match coming up? For the latter, you can make a “ticket” to watch it on TV on the specific day, with a coupon for a takeaway too. Maybe dad likes a good bath too – no discriminating here! You can also add in the shaving cream above to the night in kit for another double-win.
Tip: If you have more reliable weather than Scotland, why not switch this for a big day out kit? Add in picnic items and garden games the whole family can join in.

 

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5-essential-baby-products-blog
Lists, Parenting

5 essential baby products I couldn’t live without

There are loads of so-called baby essentials out there, and for first time mums, choosing the right products to help you care for your baby can be daunting. I was definitely in those shoes before Travis was born, and with baby shows, events and brands all offering different things from genuine essentials to new products that position themselves as genius new life-hacks, it was a bit overwhelming to know who to trust and what to buy.

With a bit of hindsight in mind, I’ve made a list of the top 5 baby essentials I don’t think I could have lived without. In my opinion these were the best things to fork out on for my situation, but yours might be different. I’ve not been approached or paid in any way to promote or review any of these products so you can make of that what you will!

Oh, and I’d be grateful if you could let me know of any of the amazing products you couldn’t have lived without as a new mama!

Nappy Bin
The single most useful thing that we were lucky enough to be gifted with before having Travis was an Angelcare nappy bin (other brands are available!). I was sceptical about using disposable nappy bags as my conscience already eats me up enough that we use disposable nappies and they are terrible for the environment, but on the same note I didn’t want a smelly bin all the time. As a new parent, putting the bins out (especially if you live in a flat) can get pushed to the back of your mind as you juggle a new found lack of sleep with trying to care for a tiny human’s every need as well as your own. So this nappy bin which sooks in stinky nappies and takes away the smell, means your home smells poo-free, your baby is clean, and nobody has to take a trip to the bin unless it’s full. Plus less plastics on disposable nappies – yay!

Perfect Prep Machine
The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine is money well spent for any formula feeding mother. It sounds stupid but if you’re not used to getting up multiple times a night, and don’t like keeping a sleeping baby awake longer than necessary (because new rules say you can’t keep formula for more than like an hour or something equally as silly) then this is ideal. Just make sure it’s topped up with water, press a button, add formula, press a button and hey presto, your baby’s feed is ready, with their exact amount and at the right temperature in just two minutes. Word to the wise – Tommee Tippee products (especially this one) can be expensive, but there will usually always be a deal on the Perfect Prep Machine if you shop around for baby events etc. At the time of writing this post, you can grab it for a reasonable price at John Lewis of all places.

A good travel system
I can’t stress the importance of a good travel system for your baby. As we live one floor up with outside stone steps, a pram and buggy with air tyres was essential for us to bounce up and down the steps. As I said, I’m not being paid to write about any products, but for me the Venicci 3 in 1 travel system was ideal for our circumstances. It also came with a cup holder which was an added bonus for all those caffeine induced walks in the park! Travis still fits in his buggy at 18 months (despite being the height and weight of an average 3 year old) and I can’t relate how good it is to be able to pop the car seat onto the frame if you’re nipping out to the shops in a journey which must be done in the car. We ran into a few issues with our back wheel (tyre tube and wheel had to be replaced multiple times) but I think that’s an anomoly as anyone else I’ve spoken to with a Venicci pram system also swears by it!

Sleepyhead
I was fortunate enough to be gifted a Sleepyhead Deluxe by my work colleagues as a mat leave gift, but they can be quite pricey. There are similar brands available, and they basically all do the same thing. There are various health warnings that babies shouldn’t be allowed to sleep in them, that you have to watch them etc, but I honestly found this a lifesaver for naps. Travis could quite easily sleep on the couch inside it while I either napped on the other end of the couch or pottered about tidying the living room or whatever. It was also the perfect size to take in the car when visiting family, because as we know naps are inevitable when they are so young, but you don’t want to be carting around a moses basket or travel cot everywhere in case your child naps! Plus, if you’re having one of those utterly unbearable nights where they wake heaps of times and just want a touch from mum or dad, then the Sleepyhead is ideal for placing on top of the covers on your bed, meaning your baby is snug and close to you, without the worry of a quilt covering their face etc.

 

Sling/baby carrier
As a Scot, I was fortunate enough to receive a Baby Box when Travis was born, which came with a bunch of useful items in, including a baby sling. Now I have to say the different ways to tie this and secure your baby absolutely baffled me, but I did love the sentiment. I had already purchased a baby carrier with money gifted to us for Travis when he was born, and I can honestly say I’d probably still be using it today if 1) Travis wasn’t a giant and 2) it didn’t burn down in our house fire. Travis was quite a colicky baby, which meant he was a lot more comfortable if he was elevated. This was fine to a point, but considering he weighted 8lb 15 when he was born, you could imagine the strain on my arms as he got to 3, 4, and 5 months old. The baby carrier was the ideal solution as it meant he could be upright and close to me, without the strain on my arms or back. It also meant I could perfect skills like going for a wee while he was strapped to me, making life that little bit easier for everyone.

 

Those are my 5 top baby essentials that I definitely could not have lived without, but I’d be keen to hear of anyone else’s – after all, every baby and every situation is different!

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