A Trip Down Memory Lane at Ipswich Museum.

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I drove by my grandad’s old house, simply because I could.

Usually when we go back to my home town of Ipswich it’s just for a couple of hours to visit my parents or, even when we go back for several days, we have plans. There’s normally no time for a trip down memory lane but this occasion was different. I had time between dropping my mum off at the hospital to visit my poorly dad and picking her up again, so I went the long way home.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. The same deep purple window ledges, the name ‘Sorrento’ engraved on a wooden plaque above the front door, colourful prize-winning dahlias peeping over the garden fence.

What I saw was almost unrecognisable. Aside from the structure of the house everything was different. The windows had been replaced, the colour-scheme gone. They’d even taken down the porch on the side of the house.

To be fair, it has been more than 20 years since he died so perhaps some change is inevitable but nothing seemed to be the same anymore – and not just his house.

Old friends have left, their parents moved from houses once as familiar as my own, my high school has been demolished, even my childhood bedroom has been replaced by an en suite (not that I’m bitter, much). With my previously indestructible dad in hospital, I was looking for something familiar to cling on to but it all seemed to have drifted off on the tide of time.

Until we went to Ipswich Museum. (Please excuse the quality of the photos, I only had my phone and wasn’t really thinking about blogging so was just randomly snapping things.)

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I dropped my mum at the hospital at 10am (Freya was too young to visit so my mum went up a couple of times in the day and then I went to see him at night while she watched Freya) and drove straight into town with a couple of hours to play with.

Having visited another childhood haunt, Christchurch Mansion, on a previous trip, I had always planned to take Freya to Ipswich Museum but had never found the time. My mum tells me she used to take me to the museum almost every week when I was small and I do have a strong memories, particularly of this fellow who seemed even bigger than I remember.

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Yes, he is a wooly mammoth! Or a life-size model, anyway. The species is believed to have lived in the area a long, LONG time ago. Freya was just as in awe as I used to be (ok, as I still was).

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Seeing him seemed to set something off inside me. I gleefully roamed the museum, pointing out things I remembered.

History.
Founded in 1846 at a property in Museum Street, its aim was to ‘educate the working classes in natural history’. It was originally run by a committee on behalf of subscribers but, after financial troubles in 1852, it was adopted by the Corporation in 1853. When the original building became too small, it moved to its current location in the High Street, opening in 1881. For a more detailed history visit the Wiki entry here.

It takes you on a “journey through Suffolk’s past from Iron Age to Romans and Saxons” and beyond.

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Galleries include Victorian Natural History, the Ogilvie British Bird Gallery, Suffolk Wildlife Gallery, British Mammal Gallery and the Suffolk Geology Gallery.

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I’d say the Victorian Gallery, with its exotic animals, was Freya’s favourite. She didn’t like the stuffed birds but we both enjoyed seeing the huge whale skull hanging above our heads, which was frankly mind-blowing, and the fascinating fossils. She spent some time looking at the human skeleton and also seemed to enjoy the treasures from abroad.

For me, it was more about the feeling I was left with. In stormy seas, it felt like an anchor. A very enjoyable anchor too.

It’s free to visit (although we left a donation). For opening times please click here.

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Five Tips For Helping Young Children Enjoy The Great Outdoors.

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As much as I like the lifestyle living in a flat gives us as a family, it was lovely being able to open the backdoor, while we were staying at my parents’ house last week, and let Freya play in garden – and so easy.

I’m grateful to have lots of green spaces around us and we generally spend a lot of time outside but, even when we go to our patch of shared grass downstairs, it’s something of an expedition. Mostly Freya loves nothing more than jumping in muddy puddles or hunting butterflies but sometimes the extra effort of always having to go somewhere means she does need a little bit of convincing.

While I’m more than happy to let her have quiet days at home when she needs them, I firmly believe that for children to care about the environment, they need to feel part of it – and she can’t do that if she’s sat inside all the time.

In a way, because we can’t just pop outside, I think it’s even more important to encourage her to have that connection with nature, which is obviously good for her both mentally and physically too. As a result, over the last couple of years we have come up with a few tricks for getting her excited about being in the great outdoors which I thought I’d share.

1. Bug/nature hunt.

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Just like her mum, Freya loves a list. Suggesting a bug hunt is the most successful one for us, especially now she’s learning to read and write. When she was younger, I had a go at drawing the bugs or different leaves but now, with her help, we make a list. I just fold two sheets of A4 paper in half and then tie them with string (or ribbon, if I’m feeling fancy). She loves to tick things off.

2. Explorer’s kit.

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Every explorer needs equipment, which in our case is things we already had but were just randomly scattered about the flat. Now they live in their own bag (an Elsa lunchbox, of course).

We have a magnifying glass, binoculars (which I found in a charity shop), a pond sampler (which we were given at an event), pens and paper (if we don’t have a bug hunt book) and mini Collins gem guides to birds and bugs. If we spot something and we don’t know what it is, we look it up. Like this little fellow.

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We think its a cinnamon bug. One to add to the list next time.

3. Art scavenger.

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Generally I’m a ‘take only pictures’ type person – I certainly never let her pick flowers -but if we go to one of our local parks, which were are very lucky to have nearby, we will occasionally collect some leaves and twigs to make into ‘art’. We’ve also made them at the park and left everything behind too. If you’re like me and lack any sort of imagination for this type of thing, Pinterest is your new best friend.

Sometimes we also take paints or colouring pens outside on nice days. Leaves make good paint brushes or shapes to print around.

4. Bike ride/race.

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One of the main reasons we like to get Freya outside is because she has SO much energy. In the flat I’m always having to say “don’t lump around” (our poor neighbours) whereas when we are outside she can run, jump and generally race about as much as she likes. As she’s got older, we’ve added the bike/scooter into things. Also, one of the things we’ve found is that, if she starts moaning about having to walk, if you offer her a race to a certain tree or bench she will soon perk up. So competitive! She doesn’t get that from me.

5. Picnic.

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We usually go out fairly early so we can end up eating our picnic anywhere from 10am. Even though I’m not a fan of fending off assorted bugs, if it makes Freya happy, I’ll give it a go (I do jump about quite a lot though). It’s nice for her to sit for a while too (although she’s quite often looking at things through her binoculars in between bites).

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These things work well at the moment but she’s only four.  I do wonder how much longer we’ll be able to encourage her using these methods.

Have you got any tips for inspiring reluctant children outside?

Make Your Own Masquerade Masks for New Year #BostikBlogger

IMG_8246My memories from the last time I went out on New Year’s Eve are vague – not because I was worse for wear but more because it was so long ago.

Overcrowded, over-priced clubs or pubs were never my cup of tea but after having Freya the logistics involved in going out, especially as we don’t have anyone nearby who could watch her, are just too complicated.

Normally we just go to bed and wake up on January 1st (unless the neighbours wake us before) but I thought this year, as Freya is much more aware of what’s going on, we’d have a little mini-party, just the three of us (although we will probably all be in bed by 10pm).

As New Year is the theme of our latest craft box from Craft Merrily, which we receive as part of our role as a Tots100 Bostik Blogger, I thought we could make ourselves some fun masquerade masks to wear as we welcome 2018.

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To make your own masks, you will need.

Card (ideally glittery or sparkly).

Decorations (we used sequins, feathers and flowers).

Chop sticks (or something to hold the masks).

Pipecleaners.

Card to make a template.

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Step 1.

To get an idea of what to make I Googled “mask silhouette” and all sorts of pretty examples came up. Freya already had a cardboard owl mask so we drew around that first of all and then I adapted it for the different designs we wanted.

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Step 2.

Once you have cut out your template, transfer it to the card, making as many as you need.

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Step 2.

Once you have cut them out, the fun really starts. I basically put a box of decorations in front of Freya and said “go for it”. I was really surprised when I turned back from decorating my own mask to find she had picked all the flowers out. This was all her own work (apart from some help with the tape).

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I decorated this one.

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And the last one we did together.

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Step 3.

I twisted the pipe cleaners around the chopsticks, just to make things a bit more colourful and then stuck them on.

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You can tell Mark is loving every minute.

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Have you got anything planned on New Year’s Eve?

Note: We were sent a box of craft materials for free in return for this post.