baby and toddler activities, Lists

10 simple toddler crafts and messy play

It feels like there are loads of articles and daily inspiration full of ideas to help you and your kids get through lockdown. On one hand, I apologise for adding to the list. On the other, I’ve shared stuff I’ve found easy enough for crafting novices like myself to try.

This quick top 10 is based around activities which are engaging and fun for toddlers, and which (mostly) use stuff you would have or gather in the house.

paint-rainbow-lockdown-nhs-toddler-craftRainbow making

You’ve probably done this one already, displaying it proudly in the window in support of our fabulous key workers during lockdown. But who says you need to stop at one? We’ve made more for grandparents and there’s always the option to post some through your neighbours’ letterbox, or create some rainbow greetings cards to cheer up some family and friends. Another way we’ve managed to make rainbows is to get creative with some chalk rainbows on the pavement to bring a smile to those out on daily exercise. Obviously the rain washes it off, which is an unfortunate common occurrence in Scotland, but that’s just an excuse to get out and do it again with your toddler!

Loo roll superheroes
If you were one of those panic buyers at the beginning of this pandemic, you are well sorted. If not, you probably have the goods in your recycling bin that may or may not have been emptied by now. The basics needed here are loo rolls and crayons/pens/paint. However if you’re feeling fancier, why not add some crepe paper capes, pipe cleaner limbs and some googly eyes, pompoms and more if you have them. Superheroes aren’t the only characters you can make either – some families have made their favourite football team in loo rolls. Others have made loo-rock-and-roll bands.

Painted-stones-messy-play-craft-toddler-activities

Painting stones
We are lucky enough to live close to a park, so stones are easy to come by. Whether it’s from the garden, park, beach or anywhere else, good, chunky stones are great fun to paint. We painted minions on ours, and housed a particularly large one outside our front door like an ornament, but there are infinite ideas on what you can create and do with them – your imagination is the only limit! I have seen other people create the characters from Monsters Inc and other kids’ favourite Disney films, painted animals and much more. Other ideas for what to do with them include placing them in an area of your garden, leaving in gardens for friends/neighbours/family and we have even seen painted stones appear in the park with the instructions to re-hide them.

bird-feeder-simple-toddler-craftBird feeder
Another really easy make, taken from an infographic shared by Scottish Canals. There are three difficulty options, which you can choose based on your child’s age and ability (or, if you’re me, your own creative abilities!). We enjoyed making one with an apple and it’s handy if you have fruit which is getting past its best, as fruit is ripening quicker in the warm weather at the moment.

Butterfly feeder
Again this has come from an infographic shared by Scottish Canals. It’s really simple and uses an old glass jar (we always seem to accumulate these from pasta sauces, jams and even dips jars) along with some cotton pads, sugar, water and basically anything brightly coloured you can decorate with.

Flour drawing
If you’ve been one of the lucky ones able to get hold of a bag of flour (or maybe you were more than a lockdown baker and had a stash anyway) this is a fairly easy lockdown activity. All you need is flour – any kind will do – and a baking tray, or any other sort of tray really. You can use paintbrushes or wooden spoons to give your child something to draw with, or let them go wild with their hands, creating their own Art Attacks in the flour. If they’ve mastered it, why not get a straw and show your toddler how to blow the flour to make more masterpieces?

simple-crafts-for-toddlers-messy-play-pin

Loo roll flowers
Since we’re all a fan of loo rolls these days (heaven knows we’re using more at home 24/7!) why not make some loo roll flowers too? This really simple one involves a grown-up cutting around 1-1.5 inch lines upwards into the loo roll all the way around. The more lines, the more petals your flower will have. Choose which colour you’d like your flower to be (or choose multiple colours if you have numerous loo rolls!) and squirt some out into a large circle on a plate – paper plates are ideal in size if you have them. Fold all the lines on your loo roll out so they are at right angles (or close to right angles) then dip into your chosen paint colour and print onto paper. Use a paintbrush to make the inner circle yellow and voila, you have a flower!

Handimals
You may know them as something else, but I love the term ‘handimals.’ These are essentially animals made from handprints, with added Sharpie and imagination. For example an upside down orange or brown hand print can easily be turned into a cheeky monkey by adding some facial features, whilst an orange hand the other way could be a lion with a big mane. If you’ve got googly eyes lying around, why not stick them on too for added fun. And if you’re feeling adventurous and imaginative (and are up for more mess!) then why not do ones with footprints too?!

Playing-with-rainbow-rice-indoor-toddler-craft-activitiesRainbow rice
We found this one on Made For Mums – which has LOADS of great ideas of things to do and interact with every day – and it’s surprisingly easy to do, as long as you have rice and different coloured paints! They suggest adding rice and paint (or food colouring) into sandwich bags – a separate bag for each colour you use – and shaking until all grains of rice are covered. We didn’t have sandwich bags so just used some old poly bags that were past their best for shopping and they worked just as well. Once the rice is covered, you need to lay it out until the paint dries. Then add all the colours to a big baking tray or similar, and let your child go wild with the colours and textures.

Marble painting
This one is a bit messy but fun. For this you need a baking tray (or other deep tray like a big lasagne dish), some paint, paper and some marbles. In the absence of marbles why not use bouncy balls, toy cars or anything round and/or on wheels. Lay the paper down on the tray and add some splodges of paint at random. Then roll your marbles along the tray – the momentum should carry them through the paint – and make some crazy works of art!

crafts-and-messy-play-for-toddlers-paint

 

baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Indoor games for toddlers

So this is the first time I’ve really felt inspired to write all year, mainly due to planning an impending wedding which was promptly cancelled at the 11th hour due to COVID-19 restrictions! Suddenly, I’ve found myself with some spare time now I’m not organising table plans or making decorations and favours.

It has been nice to spend a bit more time with my little man now there’s no commuting and no nursery. Its taken a bit of adjusting and thinking of new and creative – and preferably free – things to do with a 2 year old around the house. So here are the games for toddlers we have found ourselves playing during this government lockdown…

Cars in a bucket
Cars, paw patrol figures, really any little toys fit the bill here. We’ve been racing cars off the end of the couch, trying to get them into a bucket placed not far away. The Paw Patrol pups all jump off. Pretty simple, doesn’t require anything more than existing toys and a bucket, and helps with motor skills/aim and accuracy etc. It keeps our wee man amused for ages and breathes new life into his every day toys.

Making our own soft play
One of the big killers of having a toddler in lockdown is that they dont understand why they cant do things like go go soft play (or anywhere else for that matter) like usual. Its heartbreaking trying to explain and watching the little man get upset, so we started to improvise. We had a pop up tent and ball pool that kept Travis amused when he was about 8-18 months, and which hasn’t been looked at in over a year. I’m so glad I didn’t give it away as its been a good soft play alternative. Other things to substitute are cushions and pillows on the floor with boxes to climb and hide in. A paddling pool with toys in makes for a good ball pool alternative too.

Dens
Everything is better in a den isn’t it? We’ve made dens from things lying around the house like blankets and chairs and then proceeded to play in them, sometimes with his favourite toys, sometimes watching cartoons on his tablet. Other times we’ll incorporate the other games like hide and seek or even have a picnic in it.
We’ve also started moving on to making dens for his cars out of building blocks. The possibilities are endless!

Sorting
Another little game we’ve made out of regular toys is sorting. It’s maybe a little of my OCD coming through, but dont things just look nice when they are lined up or put in some sort of order? We have been playing at sorting things by colour and by size. Then we count them – how many blue cars are there? How many little building blocks and how many bug ones? This counting and organising is about as close as we get to home schooling!

Hide and seek
Travis has just begun to understand the concept of hide and seek, though he doesn’t like doing the counting and waiting. He also loves to go and find hidden items, whether its toy figures, a missing jigsaw piece or an errant dummy!
This is also great practice for any easter egg hunts that may be happening over the long weekend.

 

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christmas-at-the-falkirk-wheel-santa
baby and toddler activities

Santa at The Falkirk Wheel

This year we’ve been on a bit of a Mission Santa now that Travis is a bit older and has more of an understanding of the festive season. We’ve been trying to open up to as many festive experiences as possible, preferably meeting Santa if possible.

Last year we had a bit of a hurdle to overcome as Travis absolutely hated Santa and was scared of anyone with a white beard wearing red! This year we’ve worked a bit on turning that around, and one of our first Christmas experiences was at The Falkirk Wheel.

We visited on the first weekend of their Wheely Festive Boat Trips (Saturday 14th) which run until Monday 23rd December. The idea is that the normal Falkirk Wheel boat trips have a Chirtmassy twist. The boat essentially goes on the same journey up through the wheel as with the original trips, but there’s a whole lot of festive fun on board – think elves leading the way, singing Christmas songs, festive decorations. Then, as if by magic, a grotto appears at the end of the tunnel, ready for a special visitor to board.

Santa joins the girls and boys for some songs and gives out presents according to age, with the option to have a photo with Santa too. That pretty much takes up the second half of the boat trip as you make your way back down the wheel and back to land. However there are loads of great festive elements within The Falkirk Wheel’s visitor centre which add to the overall experience and make it a great day.

Firstly, (and quite importantly!) parents are met with a voucher for (unfortunately, non-alcoholic) mulled wine and shortbread available in the cafe area. Within this area there are other activities for kids, including cupcake decorating, colouring in and the chance to write and post a letter to Santa. There’s also the chance for kids to have their face painted, and a snowman hunt which rewards a prize for finding all the images of snowmen hidden around the centre. Best of all, these activities are all free to take part in, meaning you can enjoy a cup of coffee while they colour in Rudolf or release their inner Mary Berry.

Travis-cupcake-decorating-falkirk-wheel

If you make a day of it, the cafe has plenty of food options catering to most requirements. Plus at this time of year there’s a festive menu, which included a foot long (!) pigs in blankets baguette when we were there. Need less to say I had to try it, and was exactly as amazing as it sounds! There’s plenty for little ones to pick from too, and a lunchbox option which gives the choice of a sandwich, juice plus three snacks (think fruit, yoghurts, crisps and chocolate) for around £4.

It’s worth noting the Wheely Festive boat trip takes an hour, which might be a struggle for some toddlers. We had a few whines from Travis, but managed to keep him appeased with some juice and crisps on the trip. Usually there are great views to distract toddlers with lots of things to point out the window at too, but we went on one of the single wettest days of the month – hard to avoid in Scotland in December, but it didn’t really impede our trip.

Tickets are £13.95, or £2 for under 1s (to cover the cost of the gift) and are available to book online. Tickets include the boat trip, chance to meet Santa and a gift. The pictures with Santa are extra, but make a great souvenir, plus digital copies mean you can print some as pressies for grandparents etc.

Overall I’d say this makes for a great day out with toddlers – the experience offers enough to do for a whole afternoon. The boat trip may be a little long for younger toddlers, but the other activities balance that out. Well worth a spin I’d say!

santa-at-the-falkirk-wheel-christmas

look-for-a-book-west-dunbartonshire-free-activity
baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire

One thing I love about where I live is the amazing community spirit. It mat be one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, but what we lack in our pockets we make up for in kindness and good spirits.

The latest example of that is the Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire initiative which was recently started by a local mum. Having seen something similar in another area, she decided to bring the idea to our neighbourhood which has got everybody in the community spirit.

What is Look for a Book West Dubartonshire?

According to their Facebook page, it’s a thrilling activity for families which injects fun and excitement into reading, by combining it with hide and seek. Essentially, children are invited to hunt for books around the local area, which have been hidden by other children. Books are hidden in parks, at the school gates, in the leisure centres and local cafes and anywhere that makes a good hiding spot really.

Each book is hidden with a cover note from Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire, saying congratulations on finding the book, and encouraging finders to read and keep, pass on or re-hide the book once they have read it. Finders are also encouraged to hide their own books for other boys and girls to find.

The power of social media is what really drives this fun game – clues as to where books are hidden are shared in the Facebook group and conversely parents share pictures of their happy children who have found books. The cover note with books strongly encourages the use of social media to share findings and be part of this community game.

Taking part in Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire

Its really easy to take part as all you need is a dry day to get outside and get hunting! We looked on the Facebook group to see if any books had been recently hidden nearby, and if any clues had been shared. This game is so popular in the area that books can literally be found within 15 minutes of a clue being shared online.

Unfortunately we haven’t found any books yet (though not for lack of trying!) But we did take part and hide some books locally. The cover sheets to accompany the books are available to print online, and most of the local West Dunbartonshire libraries have stocks of the cover sheets and plastic wallets to keep books dry. We just did it the old fashioned way and wrote our notes by hand.

We picked our spots and set off to hide some books from our bookshelves which Travis was no longer interested in. At this stage in his life, I’m too scared to give away some of his more loved books to others (if we don’t read Mr Happy at Sports Day every bedtime, I think his world would implode) but a lot of the participants have given away some of their favourite books, and well-loved ones that they have grown out of. Others have bought books especially to hide, though there’s no obligation to do that.

Free fun for all the family

The best part about this initiative is that it’s all-inclusive. There’s no cash barrier and no age barrier – books are hidden for all-ages from baby books right up to YA fiction. If your child finds a book and you/they think it doesn’t suit age or topic-wise, then you’re welcome to re-hide it for someone else to find, whilst you search for another to read. Additionally, the only ask is that you hide books back – this can either be the same book you found, or a book your child already owns. Either way, this costs you no money to participate in, and you get to enjoy two activities with your child – getting outdoors on a book hunt, and enjoying story-time later.
This has honestly got to be one of the best uses I’ve seen for social media and one of the quickest-adopted community schemes (RIP chain mails) in my area and I’m so thankful that we can take part. If you’re reading this and you’re not from West Dunbartonshire – why not set up your own Look for a Book game in your area?
Look-For-a-book-West-Dunbartonshire-Pinterest-Pin
baby and toddler activities, festivals and events

Arnprior Pumpkins

An autumn event which I’ve been eager to attend for a few years now is the Arnprior Pumpkins event on Arnprior farm, just outside Stirling. I’d passed the farm many times when travelling to uni (longer ago than I’d like it to be), so it’s great to see the farm offer something for the community and wider public, and even better to watch this event bloom and grow over the last few years.

Welcome-to-arnprior-pumpkins

What’s on offer?
As the title suggests, there are a lot of pumpkins. Essentially a pumpkin picking trip, Arnprior Pumpkins has evolved over the years, to a full scale event with food, beverage and more family friendly activities. Plus it’s a super insta experience for those who have an eye for the ‘gram.

This year, in addition to the pumpkin picking and selfie hotspots (there are hay sofas, selfie frames, giant letters and pumpkins with face holes specifically for snapping, never mind anything else) there was a kale maze, encouraging kids to explore and find the hidden pumpkins within it. Unfortunately it was far too muddy when we went (on the first day too!) And if it had been sticky mud we would have been fine but it was soooooo slippy and dad only had trainers on!

Arnprior-pumpkins-selfies

Plus the veg picking has expanded from pumpkins of all shapes and sizes to potato picking, and the chance to pull your own turnip too!

There are hot food and beverage stalls catering for hot drinks, gin drinks, burgers, pizza and churros. On the subject of food, there’s also a bakers stall in the tent and a table selling fresh farm produce.

Inside the tent is where you pay for your pumpkin, and on the way to the till there are various craft tables, with the opportunity to colour in pumpkins, create puppets and make your own badges to take home. Around the crafty areas there are stalls of handmade items such as halloween decorations, candles and more autumnal goodies. Handily, there are also pumpkin carving sets on offer for a couple of pounds too.

How much does it cost?
Entry is £5 per car, so great value if you want to go as a family. The fiver also gives you a token towards the cost of a pumpkin, meaning if you choose a small pumpkin its essentially free. Pumpkins range in price from a tiny munchkin at £1.50 to a big daddy xl at £12. We opted for a medium (still pretty big!) and a carving set, costing us a further £5.

Arnprior-pumpkins-price-list

Prices for food and drink stalls vary, starting at a couple of pounds for a hot chocolate. Other picking veg ranges from £1.50 to £4, whilst the quad pod rides are just £1 per child.

When can I go?
The tickets are selling out fast, but there are three sessions per day on the weekends throughout the month, plus weekday sessions throughout half term. For those without kids (how did you end up here?) or of a more romantic persuasion, there’s also a date night session, but you might be lucky to get a space. Check out the Arnprior Pumpkins ticket site for more information and to book your car ticket.

arnprior-pumpkins-with-toddlers-pin

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.

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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.

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

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