We visited the Discover Story Centre in Stratford last month. I’d read about it in Little London, a really useful book for any parents who live in or near London, and was curious to visit. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’d never heard about anything like it. Little London describes it as ‘a magical place for young kids, gently exploring their imaginations and encouraging them into a lifetime’s love of reading.’
Nothing says summer more than the gentle hum of fat, golden bumblebees and the soothing scent of lavender blooms. Fragrant lavender is in full bloom during July and August, so these are the best months to dig out your camera and get snap happy among the purple blooms. This is the ideal time to capture those summer vibes with a visit to a lavender farm, and if you go yearly, you’ll also collect lifelong memories of the family as they grow.
I’m a massive fan of London. London without kids is fun. London with kids is even better. Anything you fancy doing, London will have it, and a lot of the best activities for kids in London are free too. Because there is such a lot to do, I’ve split this blog post up into themes – so whether you have a dinosaur fan, book worm or outdoor explorer you’ll find the best of London for the family.
What a weekend. I feel like I’ve just come back from a week abroad. We took a spontaneous trip over to the Isle of Wight on Bank Holiday Saturday as the weather was so perfect. We found the perfect Isle of Wight campsite, went orienteering (aka ‘mountain climbing’ according to my son), splashed at the beach, ate ice cream, and went for a bike ride in the New Forest on the way home. I am now completely in love with the Isle of Wight. Why haven’t I been before?
Part of why I set up The Smaller Explorer was to connect with like-minded families. There’s nothing like chatting with others who have managed to do something amazing after having children. It’s so inspiring, and also gives me loads of ideas of what I could do in the future too, and how to do it.
This series hopes to inspire other families who want to get back out there after parenthood, but don’t quite know where to start, or if it’s possible. There was only one lady I could start with – Catherine Edsell. Catherine is an adventurer, expedition leader, PADI divemaster, Reef Check trainer, yoga teacher, FRGS, TED talker, podcaster and mother of two daughters. Phew.
Finding UK adventures and having a go at different challenges when you have young children is not just achievable, it’s great fun and a good bonding experience too.
Here at The Smaller Explorer, we have a BIG family travel bucket list. Some places are listed because of the one-of-a-kind wow factor. Some places would be an eye opener and hugely educational. Some are pure childish escapism. I’ve listed some tour operators that do similar trips, but there’s no reason why you can’t plan and organise it all yourself. In no particular order, because how could you choose?!
The March hare is hopping mad right about now, as it’s breeding season. You might be lucky enough to see them boxing too. This is actually the females fending off unwanted male advances.
Hares are larger and rangier than rabbits, and can be found in open fields or flat grassland in early mornings or at dusk. They are super fast, so you may need some binocular practice beforehand.
Frogs and toads come out of hibernation in spring to lay frogspawn, so March is a good month to spot them (with April being the best time to hunt for tadpoles).
Greenwich Ecology Peninsula Park hold an annual frogs day every March (20th March in 2018), where families can get up close to frogspawn, have a go at pond dipping, see some newts and get all crafty making amphibian-related pictures and paintings.
Don’t foget to tick off a #50things if you see frogspawn, as it is on the National Trust’s list of 50 things kids should do before they are 11 3/4. The National Trust also list many places where you may be able to see frogspawn.
One of our favourite birds, the comical puffin arrives back at breeding colonies from March, until mid August. Puffins are actually teeny tiny at under 30cm long, but they are super hardy seabirds.
Most puffins breed on islands –
1 Hermaness and Sumburgh Head, Shetland
2 Lunga, off Isle of Mull
3 Fowlsheugh RSPB, Aberdeenshire
4 Isle of May and Craigleith Island, Fife
5 Farne Islands, Northumberland
6 Bempton Cliffs RSPB, Yorkshire
7 South Stack Cliffs RSPB, Anglesey
8 Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire
9 Rathlin Island, County Antrim
10 Great Saltee, County Wexford
Going on a boat trip to see pint-sized puffins is an adventure in itself, though Bullers of Buchan north of Aberdeen and Bempton cliffs in Yorkshire are two mainland places where you may see them too.
Our book review of Amazing Family Adventures by Jen and Sim Benson.
On 3rd March, it’s World Wildlife Day, held to celebrate the world’s plants and animals. This year the theme is ‘big cats- predators under threat. Unless you are lucky enough to live in Africa or Asia, you’ll only see them at safari parks. Much as we’d rather just see big cats in the wild, the parks listed below are all fantastic ambassadors for conservation, and many also have successful breeding programmes. We think anything that gets younger explorers interested in wildlife conservation is a good thing.
If you don’t want to go to a themed place to see wildlife, we’ve also rounded up some of the best places to see UK wildlife in their natural habitat too.