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, 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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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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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!)

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free-fun-indoor-activities-toddlers
baby and toddler activities, Parenting

5 Fun Free Indoor Activities for Toddlers

Spring has almost sprung, but if like me you live in a country where the weather is increasingly unpredictable, spring can be a gamble in terms of plans to make with your toddler. A few times in the past couple of weeks we have planned to go feed the ducks or visit farms, go on woodland walks and a number of other outdoor activities. Sadly, between rain, hail and even snow, it wasn’t meant to be.

However, with cancelled plans comes the panic of what to do instead (in my case anyway), as I always fear my little one won’t be as stimulated with the same toys, no fresh air, too many cartoons and the like indoors. I’m probably mad, but I think it’s important to introduce new toys and activities to keep kids interested and entertained.

Here’s my top free indoor activities to keep toddlers amused and learning:

indoor-toddler-activities-storiesAnimate stories

Storytelling needn’t be solely a bedtime activity – reading books can be fun at any time of day. Travis cannot get enough of books and stories, especially books where there are things to touch (aka all the “That’s Not My..” books which he loves), as the interactive experience adds a new level of enjoyment to the book. Another way to do this is to animate the stories you read. For example, if it’s a book about animals, I’ll get down on all fours and pretend I’m the animal, making the noise it makes. We also use teddies to act out the story. Of course this doesn’t have to accompany a book, you can make up stories or simply tell them from memory with props, sounds and actions.

Flashcards

Flash cards are a great way to add an educational element to staying indoors. Whether your toddler is young or almost at pre-school age, flash cards can be used to introduce word association, encourage speech and, as your toddler gets older, they can be used to complement any reading or spelling they may be learning at nursery or school.

build-a-den-indoor-toddler-activitiesBuild a den

Is there anything better on a miserable, cold, grey day than diving under a fort and getting all cosy? Whilst it may not be the relaxing, quiet blanket-fort you’d envisage for an adult, you can create a den for the kids and transport them out of the living room/bedroom for a little while. Bigger toddlers can help building the fort, whilst smaller ones will enjoy exploring inside. Why not pretend you’re camping in the woods and the teddy bears are coming for a picnic? Or maybe you’re in the jungle and the tigers and lions are just outside? You can even combine activities, like reading inside the den, just to mix things up a bit.

Word Tracers

As your toddler develops, you may want to introduce reading and writing activities. Word tracers are ideal for this. What’s a word tracer I hear you say? Well they are exactly as they suggest – practical sheets which allow toddlers to explore and create words that the sheet outlines. Want to print one for yourself? Here’s one with action words.

Toddlers are always on the move, so this action words word tracer is perfect for them. Word tracers are a fun way for little ones to gain practice with their fine motor skills and beginning letter recognition. They can even act out the words as they trace. For even more fun educational resources, check out Education.com.

indoor-toddler-activities-make-pretendMake and pretend

It’s time to get out the cardboard boxes and dig out some of the recycling material and get ready to make and pretend. Rice or lentils in a plastic bottle becomes a musical instrument, as does elastic bands over an empty tissue box. Bigger boxes can be cars, planes or rocket ships that fly around the room. If you’re more crafty, why not use some of the old toilet roll tubes, empty egg cartons and yoghurt pots to make your own space ships or princess castles or whatever your imagination chooses!

 

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baby and toddler activities, Parenting

5 Free Activities for Toddlers

At this time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to have a mix of indoor and outdoor activities on-hand to keep your toddler amused and learning. The list of things you can pay to take your kids to, or things you could buy to amuse them is much vaster than this. However, unless you’re a millionaire it’s just not practical or possible to fork out every time your kid is bored or needs some stimulation.

Here are 5 go-to activities that cost nowt, but will keep your child amused, active and learning.

Feed-the-ducks-toddler-activity1 Feed the ducks

Maybe I’m showing my age, as maybe it was something to do with Rosie & Jim, but I always loved going to feed the ducks as a child. Watching all the ducks come up for bread, sometimes getting a glimpse of little baby ducks and feeling a bonus thrill if swans or geese dropped by was often enough to make it fun. However if you feel like making it more of an educational experience, why not count the number of ducks and swans with your child, or point out the different types of birds that are feeding.

2 Playpark

Failsafe option every time. Playparks are always a winner, as kids never seem to get bored of swings or slides! Plus, playparks these days seem to be getting more and more impressive by the minute – flying foxes are all the rage in my neck of the woods! That’s not to mention the elaborate climbing frames, sandpits and trampolines that have become more commonplace in playparks. Usually there will be other kids around in the park too, meaning your toddler can enjoy playing with other kiddos too.

Playdate-toddler-activities3 Playdate

If there’s no other kids at the park, why not get in touch with a mum friend and arrange a playdate? I’ve already written about how much of a saviour playdates are, but don’t just take my word for it, experience it for yourself! Whether you go to their house, they come to you, or you meet in the playpark (weather permitting!), there are loads of benefits for mums and toddlers.

Messy-play-crafts-toddler-activitied4 Messy play/crafts

The same toys and the same cartoons in the house can get boring and repetitive after a while, and your little one might need some more stimulation after a while. If the weather is putting a dampener on any outdoor activities, why not get the crafts out or make some messy play? This doesn’t have to involve buying loads of craft material in – I bet you have plenty of items in the house that could be used. From basic colouring and drawing, to experiencing shaving foam, soapy bubbles and other interesting textures, your household items could become a great hub of crafting and messy play for an afternoon!

5 Bookbug

Another activity which I think is great for babies and toddlers is Bookbug. Run in Scotland in local libraries, Bookbug classes last around 45 minutes and consist of story time, rhymes and play. The aim is that parents and children will also check out books for their child and encourage reading from an early age. Classes are suitable from birth until around three years old, and take place weekly throughout term time. You can find out more about this great free activity in my Bookbug Week 2018 post.

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