Today I took my kids to Rowallane Gardens. They had a gingerbread decorating event on for kids in the cafe (which is on again tomorrow from 11am until 2pm for anyone that is interested.)
Before we went to the cafe, we walked around the grounds and made some Christmas decorations out of twigs and wool. There are a lot of natural displays around Rowallane (most of the Christmas decorations are handmade or made from found objects.) I found it therapeutic tying twigs together, and it made me think maybe we should try making more of our own decorations next year. The girls enjoyed copying the “how to draw a Christmas tree” picture that was there. They often change the indoor and outdoor activities for kids to match the seasons.
We went for a walk around the walled garden, which was stripped back and bare looking with the loss of flowers. But it still makes a good hide and seek spot for kids. I was surprised by how tranquil it was there. Maybe the key is to arrive earlier than anyone else can be bothered going out at Christmas time 🙂 We were (almost) the only ones walking in the gardens and it was crisp and refreshing in the quiet winter air.
At the barn, there is a big Connect Four and giant Jenga. It is conveniently located next door to a second hand bookshop I like to slip into 🙂 They have a good selection of different genres of books and there is an honesty box for payment. They have added a few children’s books too. The shop was dressed up with Christmas puddings painted onto chopped wood and crocheted snowflakes.
There is a stile my kids like to repeatedly climb over and a little car made out of a tree trunk that they pretend to drive. There is also a natural playground, but we didn’t make it that far today. I noticed the bright red berries on the holly, the sun hanging low in the sky, and the carpet of acorn casings, and it all did my mind good.
When complaints of tired legs started, we went inside to the warmth so the girls could decorate their gingerbread while I had a quiet coffee, a mince pie and a half-read 🙂 I had thought about venturing into soft play today as a quick way to tire my kids out, but I was glad we went to somewhere natural instead. Fresh air, the contrast of coffee steam and cold fingers and watching my kids cram as many smarties as they could fit onto one baked good was better for my soul today.
Sometimes the weather overrules your plans and dictates what you’re going to do. For example, I wouldn’t dare to drive in frost again after a recent skid in the snow. So, when the weather is chilly we won’t be covering a great distance, but that makes us enjoy nearby nature and cosy comforts more.
Here are a few frugal things to do on a cold day:
- Winter walks. I love going for wrapped-up walks on winter days. It makes you appreciate the warmth even more once you retreat indoors. You can go to watch the sea when it is rough, go to a park, or just wander around and see what you find. My kids like to fill their pockets with leaves, pine cones and twigs along the way.
- Scrapbooking. Your kids can add what they have collected to a scrapbook. It doesn’t have to involve expensive crafting materials. They just need a blank notebook or paper hole-punched and tied with string or ribbon, glue, pens, scraps of paper, things they have picked up at places you have visited, stickers, etc. You could make a Winter-themed scrapbook for yourself while they are making theirs. Fill it with found objects, quotes, photos and seasonal colours.
- Hot chocolate with marshmallows. My kids and I like to have tea parties on cold days. We make hot chocolate, I light candles and put on jazz and we sit and chat at the table.
- Sitting under a cosy blanket with books and a hot water bottle. Sometimes I read alongside my kids and sometimes I read to them. They like to make up their own stories to the pictures sometimes and I use the opportunity to read something other than Winnie the Pooh.
- Pretend post-box. Use a cereal box and cut a slot into the front of it. You can let your kids paint it if you’re feeling particularly patient, or just leave it as it is. Give them little pieces of paper to write on and pens. Get them to draw pictures or help them write letters to family members or friends. Ask them what they’d like you to write. Then get them to put them in envelopes, add a “stamp” with a sticker or stamper and then get them to post them. They like to empty the post box and open their own letters too.
- Movie afternoon. Make some popcorn and drinks with straws. Let your kids agree on a movie and make a home cinema. You can make tickets for them and let them pretend to buy their snacks. You can also set snacks out for them to put in their own bowls, eg, breadsticks, raisins, popcorn, crackers, etc. I usually put a small amount out in different cups so it seems like they have lots of options, without ruining your dinner plans.
- Make warming foods. Making foods like soups, stews, casseroles and bread help to pass a day indoors and you can involve your kids. If I’m making soup I let them do simple things like placing the vegetables in a roasting tin and sprinkling seasoning on top.
- Go to a charity shop and get a board game or a book of crafts/cooking/activities for kids. I have found quite a few of these second hand and they are great for inspiration. Alternatively, find these for freeat the library.
- Going out for a small treat. My kids particularly like to get ice-cream on cold days. It’s a bit weird, but they are my children, so bizarre choices aren’t exactly cause for alarm.