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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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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baby and toddler activities

Ardardan Estate

A great free place to take kiddos near me is Ardardan Estate. It’s actually not that far from Glasgow either, so if you’re fancying a trip out to the country, it’s a nice place to stop and appreciate nature with plenty to see and do. The best part is, they are only getting started too – there’s a petting zoo and adventure playground in the pipeline for kids, due to open in 2020.

What can you do at Ardardan Estate?

The Estate is a working farm, so there are loads of sheep, cows and horses to go and look at. As its springtime, we had lots of fun looking at the little lambs and baby Highland cow. When we visited previously, there were also pigs, hens and chicks, but we’ve been advised that they are on their holidays for now, as works are ongoing at Ardardan Estate to bring lots of family fun in 2020. I have to say, all the animals were great and come right up to let you pet them at the fence, if you have a bit of patience to wait on them!

Throughout the Estate land, there are a number of walks, through the fields or through the woodland. The latter is great for kids as there are loads of things to do, like spot the ribbons in the trees, run through the woodland maze, climb trees and spot lots of bugs and birds who call the woodland home.

Tucked away behind the plant nursery and garden shop is a cute little duck racing game too! Travis absolutely loved this, as splashing and rubber ducks rate high on his list of fun things to do. The way it works is that there are four old-fashioned water pumps lined out in a row. Each one has a plastic pipe below it, flowing down and around, like a little ducky water slide. Racers pick their rubber duck from the box, place it on the pipe under the pump, and start working those arm muscles to pump their duck down the slide. And you guessed it – fastest one wins the duck race!

For the grown ups

I briefly mentioned that there’s a plant nursery within the grounds, so you can imagine all the great plants and garden decor you can buy here. From hanging baskets to water features, you can make a spectacular garden display with what’s on offer here.

The shop area doesn’t just sell plants and garden items, there’s also a tasty farm shop too. Packed with fresh produce like eggs, in-season fruits and veg, along with prime cuts of meat, the farm shop also sells fantastic jams, preserves and baked goods.

If food and plants aren’t your thing, there’s also a great gift shop section, packed with cute and unique ideas for things like Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, kid’s birthdays and more. Of course it also caters to the tourists, so expect plenty of postcards, maps and very Scottish themed keepsakes.

Cafe

Although there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I’d definitely recommend spending some cash in the cafe if you’re heading to Ardardan for a day out. Those trail walks can work up an appetite, and they’ve got options to cater to all tastes. Travis especially enjoyed a babyccino (though that doesn’t stop him still eyeing up the chocolate on top of my cappuccino) and I can testify that their homemade soups and cakes – especially the massive scones – are to die for.

 

Ardardan Estate also regularly holds family fun events, such as egg hunts at Easter, family fun events and vintage tractor rallies. Check out their Facebook page before visiting to find out if anything special is on before you visit.