Family time, Life of a Mum

West Lodge Farm Park- post lockdown family day out

For our ‘first’ day out we decided to head to West Lodge- I’d been ‘watching from afar’ and concluded they had the whole ‘social distsncing’ thing well managed. I wanted our day to feel safe but fun.

It turns out I wasn’t far wrong. Although our ‘normal’ day out at west lodge would include indoor play, coffee and chats with friends- we all admit life is much different now. A degree of isolation and fresh air feels so safe- and that’s what west lodge offers.

We booked an afternoon session; it was expectedly busy on our arrival- no one in the busy queue seemed to be wearing masks or caring much about distancing; so (having been shielding for 16 weeks) I felt a little wary. But the staff managed the queue quickly, effectively and safely; with hand gel and advice leaflets given- and once inside the farm park felt incredible spacious and distancing from others was easy.

As we arrived at lunchtime we headed straight to the picnic/den building area- and enjoyed the space- no one was around (in fact 8 picnic benches around us) Dot enjoyed the pre built dens and cute toad stool seats.

We then headed over to the animals when Dot (and Nanna, to be fair) enjoyed feeding and petting the incredibly tame, cute and often bouncy goats. We also took our dog Woody; despite being a total plonker, he was incredibly well behaved and enjoyed watching the goats and pigs!

Dogs are surprisingly welcome at West Lodge Farm Park- a blessing to doggy families- of course they cannot cuddle the bunnies or try the swings (that would just be weird) but there’s a multitude of walks to wear them (and their chatty sidekicks) out.

Talking of walks- we then snuck off to an old memory of Mummy’s- the witches house (I remember bring my nephews here 18-20yrs ago- and not much has changed). Dot and Nanna loved spotting the super cute fairy doors, toadstools and the badgers crossing- making a 4km walk a breeze.

There’s a fairy trail and a dinosaur trail for those with older kids; you get a worksheet and a reward if you find them all.

Dot found the witches house, but she was out. A little girl we saw shortly before told us the witch had gone to mend a poorly deer with her magic potions! Dot liked this idea, and although her legs were tired, her imagination carried her up the many steps and back to the farm for an ice cream.

Visiting, what you think is going to a busy family attraction post lockdown was very anxiety inducing for me, but after a hour I felt incredible safe. West lodge have obviously got this all in hand; staff regularly spraying down areas of high use, very clear signage, great leaflets, hand washing facilities, one way paths marked out, and enough space to very safely distance.

Seeing your child’s face enter a play park for the first time in 16 ish weeks was pretty epic, Dot was so happy, so full of energy and she literally loved every minute. She’s keen to go back- so hopefully we can make it a weekly trip.

Dots favourite bits:

– the incredibly tame and friendly goats

– a beautiful walk to the witches house and spying all the fairy doors

– the maze; so impressed with herself that she found the way out

– her first whippy ice cream with flake

– being ‘king of the castle’ in the outdoor play area

Mums top tips:

– take a picnic; there’s so many great picnicking spots

– you have to book your visit online(don’t disappoint the the kids)

– pre book your tractor your online (we didn’t know this and missed out)

– buy some animal food on arrival so the little ones get a hands on experience

– a few quid for the shop is a good idea; they’re beautifully stocked including Lanka kade and cute wellies

– grandparents will also love the on-site garden centre (we left with a huge olive tree!)

– if you live local-ish then membership is a must have (costs 14p a day!)

West Lodge Farm Park is just outside Desborough in Northamptonshire

West Lodge Insta drop them a follow

Baby/Toddler stuff, Playtime

Our favourite books

We love books! We always have, from bedtime stories to using them in play activities or discovery baskets. From when Dot was little we attended ‘Story Imaginory’ classes run by the wonderful Freya. These classes are themed around a letter and a book- with the class leader reading the story and guiding you through related songs/dances (with signing) and some amazing play activities- all linked to the original story.

Story imaginory

Since lockdown Story imaginory have gone virtual- with stories being read- and play activities given on a sheet to recreate at home- it’s amazing and Freya (and the other class leaders are awesome story readers).

Attending the Story Imaginory classes have inspired me with how we read and use books at home. As well as just reading stories to Dot, I try to get her more involved by encouraging her to point things out in the book, linking play activities to the book or finding books that are more interactive.

Here are some of our favourites.

The Jolly Postman– this is one I remember from my childhood- and we bought her the Festive one for Christmas. She loved it so we recently added this to our collection.

It’s wonderful as it’s really interactive; with envelopes with postcards, letters and puzzles for little ones to open and explore. It’s written in a way that it’s super easy to read and you can be really expressive too.

Play activities we’ve tried linked to this book.

  • Used it to guide writing postcards to friends and family on lockdown.
  • Made a quick postbox (out of a shoe box) and posted letters which we then delivered to her teddies and friends.

Who’s hiding on the farm. We bought this from one of our not so recent trips to a National Trust property; I find they always stock awesome books. This isn’t a story book; but a great interactive ‘lift the flap’ book, which toddlers tend to love.

We love creating ‘farm’ themed play trays with dry foods/sand/moon sand and our farm animal toys.

Why do we need a potty? Together with the book ‘what is poo?’ We are using this to help our potty training mission. It’s not going well, to be fair; but Dot does have full understanding of the toileting process, and loves to play with her babies on her potty.

Me and Daddy think these are the most bizarre books ever; but she seems to love them.

Read with Fred- local Usborne book lady

Questions and answers about plastic. Another great Usborne book; and if you follow me on insta, you’ll know I’m on an eco mission. Another lift the flap book so entertaining enough for a toddler; but I think Dot will really enjoy this book as she gets older too.

To use this book in play I encourage Dot to sort (clean) rubbish into groups- recyclable and not or plastic/paper/cardboard etc.

Zog – well we love all Julia Donaldson books; and they mostly make up our favourite bedtime books. Zog is our most recent Donaldson purchase; it’s a bit more difficult to read than others (in my opinion) but I think it’s a great story which shows Princesses aren’t just there to be pretty.

We recently read this book and made our own crafty crowns.

Rabbits Nap- another Julia Donaldson book, but definitely lesser well known. It’s a cute short, lift the flap book (so ideal for younger toddlers). We find this one links very nicely with the ‘hop little bunny’ song and dance.

First facts BUGS- a great factual book to get little ones interested in bugs. I didn’t want Dot to be scared or bugs and beasties- so bought this book and some play resources recently to help her understand their importance. She’s now loving butterflies, bees and spiders- and saying hello to them instead of running away.

For a range of awesome play resources check out The future image and use ‘ivfninja’ for discount.

I hope you’ve liked my recommendations of books and simple play ideas follow me on insta for more My insta and drop me a comment with what you think.