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!

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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.

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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

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baby and toddler activities, Mother and Baby classes

Baby and Toddler Swimming Lessons

One of my favourite all-weather activities for Travis is his swimming lessons. We’ve taken him since he was around 5-6 months old, and he absolutely loves it. Having grown from the baby classes into the toddler classes, it’s easy to see progress in terms of his abilities in the water, but also his confidence in water and his ability to listen and follow instructions.

Why swimming lessons?

If there’s one thing I could recommend to new mums looking for things to do with their little babies it’s this. There are so many benefits of this for mum and baby. Remember when the midwives gave you information on water births and they spoke about babies being surrounded by water when you carried them? That’s a main reason for starting swimming lessons so young – babies grew surrounded by water, so it’s something they are familiar with.

If, like me, your newborn absolutely hated bath time to begin with, swimming lessons are a way to combat that. Sure, they may scream the pool down the first couple of times (Travis returned to doing this again last week, despite swimming for a year!) but that’s only normal until they get used to the water. The lessons involve simple things like pouring water over different parts of your babies body to get them used to water whilst learning body parts too.

Other great reasons for booking a block of lessons are that it helps you create a routine with your child, going at the same time every week, whilst encouraging mums and babies to get out and see other mums and babies. As mum is going in the water too, it helps you get some gentle exercise (and not so gentle as your baby grows into a 2.5st toddler!) as you bounce your baby and guide them through swimming techniques.

Selfishly, I’ve also always found that it’s quite tiring on Travis, so it means he usually goes for a nice long nap afterwards – a godsend if mum is in need of some rest too, or just a hot cuppa in peace!

What do lessons involve?

As well as pouring water over the body, there’s time to splash, time to kick, and time to play at the end too. As your baby becomes more confident in the water, your instructor will show you how to hold baby to get them to move as if they were swimming. This encourages their motor skill development and invokes the urge to kick in the water. Your instructor will also guide you on dunking your baby underwater. Believe me – this is far more traumatic for mums than babies the first couple of times! In fact, I actually chickened out and only put Travis in up to his neck the first time.

There are usually songs or nursery rhymes to accompany most things you do, so you get that repetition and association that’s key to babies’ routines.

Depending on how well your baby adapts to and enjoys the water, your instructor will introduce floats and various different moves, such as lying your baby on their back and guiding them across the water. Like with everything, every baby develops at their own pace so there’s no time or age limit on anything really.

The toddler lessons involve more floats and swimming – and sometimes even letting go of the floats to watch your little one go! Plus there are opportunities to “catch treasure” by encouraging your little one to reach under water to bring out toys and (toy) coins that are placed on the steps of the pool.

How soon can I book swimming lessons?

The advice from health visitors is to wait until after your babies’ first round of jags. I think this is probably due to the fact that swimming pools and changing areas can be a breeding ground for germs.

However, after your baby is 8 weeks old, you’re free to book onto the next set of lessons. The lessons in our local pool (Ready, Steady Splish and Ready, Steady Splash) run in blocks of around 8-10 weeks to coincide with school term time. This might mean you have to wait a few weeks longer than planned to start, if there’s currently a block in the middle of running.

The only downside of blocks running like this is that there are no lessons during the 6 week summer break, but if your child has started before this then I’d strongly recommend taking them for a little splash during the holidays so they still remember the pool.

How much do lessons cost?

The price very much varies from area to area, and depends if you chose to go with a brand of swimming instruction (such as Water Babies) or stick with your local council pool offering. I’ve heard that some big brand name classes can cost upwards of £70 for a block of just 8 lessons.

Our Ready Steady Splash classes are run in the local council pool, and a block is usually between £28-£35 a time. The cost is dependent on the number of lessons per block, and other factors such as bank holidays within the block. This tends to affect us as Travis’ lesson day is a Monday, but most pools offer a variety of days and times to choose from.

What should I bring to swimming lessons?

As you would for swimming yourself, bring a costume and towel for each of you. There are costumes with in-built flotation devices/materials for kids, but it’s entirely up to you if you want to pay extra for this or just buy a simple all-in-one or two piece. As Travis has gotten older, I’ve found a two piece trunks and top set is much easier to get on and off a wriggly toddler than an all-in-one.

Swim nappies are other essentials, as nobody wants to be swimming alongside a poo! At first I was so paranoid, I used a disposable swim nappy with a cloth swim nappy on top so no accidents could leak through! However just one is enough, whatever your preference!

If you can, I’d recommend buying some travel-sized toiletries to keep in your swimming bag, with baby wash and Aveeno cream at the top of our list. Travis has quite sensitive skin which is prone to eczema in the folds so a slather of Aveeno after swimming keeps this away. And of course, be sure to pack the usual nappies, creams, wipes and spares just in case!

Finally, I’d recommend a snack/feed or toy to keep them occupied while you dress yourself. Unless of course you have another parent, relative or friend on hand to help for that bit!

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