Category Archives: Outside

Activities for the outside world

Oak Eggar Moth Study

Little Bear loves bugs, beasties and all sorts of creepy crawlies. Much of his time has been spent capturing specimens to draw, discuss and release, and he enjoys taking care of the creatures he finds. One of the most anticipated events of our year is the arrival of Painted Continue reading


level crossings

A bit of a trip out is always a welcome break in the day, and the level crossing has become a favourite haunt of Little Bear. Most days include a request to visit, and he is already very knowledgeable about how they work, including how to stay safe near to train tracks.

level crossing

So this is it. The level crossing. I think we spend about half an hour here most days. That is a lot of half an hours. Little Bear is usually keen to go and check for ‘flickering lights’ as soon as we arrive, and we often cross over the track to look into the field on the other side. One day we plan to go for a walk in that field, but so far the level crossing is much too interesting.


These are the tracks. Note the wooden slats with pointed tops that prevent people from wandering off along the track too easily. Little Bear reminds me every time to hold hands whilst close to the tracks.


Holding hands, we peer along the tracks, looking for the flickering light that tells us a train is on its way. We’re not sure why the light just to the left of the track is red (there is a green one if you look in the other direction), so I really must find out. Once that flickering light has been spotted, we scarper back to the gravel patch to watch the action.


The siren sounds, the lights start to flash, and the barrier goes down. Little Bear can do a rather good impression of that siren now, and practices it frequently throughout the day. We have examined the reflectors on the barriers, and talked about how when car headlights shine on them in the dark the reflectors make them easier to see.

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And at last the train goes past in a whoosh and a rush. Teddy loves this bit, and always lets out a bit of a squeak of excitement.

Today we saw these two, a fast cross country one, and a slower Great Western that had probably stopped at the station up the road before getting to us.

These visits have led to lots of imaginative play using level crossings both with his Brio railway set, and in the garden. He draws level crossings, imagines level crossings when playing cars, constantly listens for trains going past. His enthusiasm has also extended to other types of crossing such as zebra and pelican crossings, road signs and an interest in our local area in general.

Where do you and your little ones love to visit?

miniature gardens

Little Bear is very much an outdoorsy kinda guy, but he has wilted in the recent hot weather. His usual running around, digging and rolling on the grass has been prevented partly by the lack of shade in our garden, and because he simply doesn’t like to get too hot. At last a little coolness, though, and I persuaded him to try something new: a miniature garden.

I can remember making little gardens as a child myself, scrambling over mum’s rockery at home, or building little huts for snails at my grandparents’ house. I would make up stories as I went, imagining all sorts of romantic tales of princes and princesses, wizards and fairies, and a few about escapee snails. I was reminded of those long gone days, though, by a post on one of my favourite blogs: The Imagination Tree. Have a look at what they did here: Making a Fairy Garden

Little Bear is not keen on fairies, however. I think he thinks they might sting him, or something. In any case, mention of fairies does not usually go down well. So we made a garden for Zebra.

I put Teddy Bear down for his nap, and hunted for a largish, round, terracotta tray. We collected some compost, and added some sand to make two sections with a path running through. Then we collected some leaves, flowers and seed heads from around the garden.

Flower collection

Flower collection

Actually, I collected the flowers, Little Bear was more interested in adding extra compost. I found buddleia, clematis seed heads, roses, thrift, various leaves and some gorgeous bright red flowers I can never remember the name of. Next we simply stuck the flowers into the compost and sand, and made a beautiful garden.

The completed garden.

The completed garden.

Little Bear added some stones, which he preferred to mostly hide beneath the soil and sand. Zebra seemed to enjoy his garden. He had a nibble on some leaves, and hid for a while, but was quickly abandoned.

Who could that be, hiding in the brush?

Who could that be, hiding in the brush?It's Zebra!It’s Zebra!Zebra having a nibble.Zebra having his lunch.

This was not quite the hours of quiet fun I remembered from my childhood. Never mind, I left Little Bear to dig around in his play box, the garden abandoned on the patio.

Little Bear, slightly nonplussed.

Little Bear, slightly nonplussed.

Later, I headed out to hang the washing, and found our beautifully decorated and planted garden destroyed. For a moment I felt horrified, and slightly bereft. But this was no longer my childhood game, it was Little Bear’s. The garden was gone, and in its place was the start of a building site. His digger, dumper and bulldozer had moved in.

Excavation begins.

Excavation begins.

I listened in as I hung the washing, and here was the story telling and imagination I had been hoping to inspire. Little Bear’s digger worked hard at digging its hole at one end of the site, trundling back and forth to the dumper, which in its turn returned the excavated sand to a spot right next to the digger’s hole.

Emptying sand into the dumper.

Emptying sand into the dumper.

Little Bear played for ages at this game, muttering to himself as he made paths and trenches through the sand and soil. He exercised his imagination, and his understanding of how a construction site works. He learned a little about efficiency and about how high a pile of sand and soil can be. This was not quite the activity I originally intended, but it was one that he enjoyed much more.

Little Bear was aged 3 years, 4 months for this activity.