Friday, 24 February 2012


I think spring has sprung (at least temporarily), and with the warmth came the hoards - we had six new families - which is why we have very few photos as we haven't gained permissions yet!

Yesterday there were tree surgeons in the Forest Garden, removing an unstable pine tree, and they very kindly left us a massive pile of log rounds and brashings. So a couple of the Forest Tots team went down early to build a log circle round the fire 'pit' and improve our den building site.

Our Den - yes it looks just like a hedge! Next week we'll get some action pictures and it will all make more sense!!

All in all it was a lovely session, which felt balmy warm after the last couple of weeks of frost and snow! (my car temperature thingy informed me it was 16 degrees!!) As always the stream was a massive hit with the new families - there's just no keeping the kids out of it!

Lets hope that the weather stays so warm for next week!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Snow!! (Well just a little bit)

The garden was beautiful with it's light dusting of snow. Just waiting to be explored!

There was sliding...

And car driving...

There were mad Mummies!!

And exploring Tots.

Giant mug of hot drink were drunk...

And new friendships began to form!

We chatted...

And laughed...

And made giant muddy patches when the snow got boring!

See you all the week after next (it's half term next week) for more fun and frolics from the woods.

Forest Tots open as usual.

There has been very little snow here in the Forest, the roads look passable locally so we're open as usual today! Obviously if conditions locally to you are significantly different then be cautious.

So dress up warmly and pop on over for a snowy fun session in the woods!

I will bring all the spare snow suits I can find from home to loan out to folks (I have a 0-6 months down one if that is any use to any of you with tiny ones?). Lets see how many tots we can fit into the garden today?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Snow Forecast.

There is a forecast of snow here in the Forest for tonight with the possibility of significant accumulations. We will post back here, on the website and on facebook if we feel it is necessary to cancel tomorrows Forest Tots Session.

As a guide if Parkend school is closed (you can check the County Council schools closure list to find this out) then we will also be closed.

Obviously do please use some common sense and discretion, some of you are travelling from further afield. Please don't make the trip if your local road conditions are unsafe!

However DO wrap up warm and get out to enjoy the snow one way or another (if it actually arrives).

Happy Sledging, love from The Forest Tots team.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Making a DIY mud kitchen (for free!)

First off a disclaimer. I am crap at you know! I have big dreams and little actual skill to complete them. Not that I let that stop me ;-) So please feel free to copy and improve on my design, but DO NOT blame me if it all goes horribly wrong!

Secondly  this is a 'rustic' style kitchen. It has splinters, and broken planks and stuff. But it is strong. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the finished kitchen is really sturdy and would almost certainly take the weight of a child climbing on it.

So if (like me) your DIY skills are minimal but you still fancy a Mud Kitchen for the garden then read on...

Time taken?
I managed to build my Mud Kitchen whilst the baby slept, so it must have taken under 2 hours. However my pallet had already been broken into wood, which must have taken about an hour or so.

Skills required?
Virtually none! The only skills I used were banging nails in, cutting wood with a (slightly blunt) handsaw and marking lengths with a pencil. I didn't measure anything other than by eye. Enthusiasm and problem solving skills are far more important that knowing how to work power tools!

Tools needed?
A hammer, wood saw and pencil. That's it!

Materials used?
2 wooden pallets. I got mine for a small donation to charity from my local builders merchants. Many places give them away for free if you ask.
A generous handful of old nails. I found a tub of mixed ones from old projects.
(you could easily make this with one pallet plus random bits if wood, it would just take more ingenuity. I used four 5inch wide bits of wood and four 3inch wide bits of wood)

First off choose the best pallet to form the back board. Prop it up in the required position so that the slats are horizontal. This will form the back wall of the kitchen and help support the shelves. I have positioned mine alongside the sand pit box.

The second pallet then needs to be broken into parts. This can be harder than it looks depending how well made it is! I got my husband to lend some muscle (or brute force and ignorance) for this bit. My pallet had two different widths of wood slats which was perfect for this project...but with ingenuity you should be able to use whatever sized wood you end up with.
Then choose two slats of wood to form the work surface. I chose the two in best condition with fewest cracks and splinters.

These two planks need fixing together. Cut three short bits of wood 1cm shorter than the combined width of the two planks. When the braces are in place this will leave a 1cm gap (on left in picture above) along the back of the work surface to rest onto the support pallet. Using a hammer and nails bang it all together like above. The end braces are about 1.5cm in from the end of the long planks (shown in the foreground of the picture above - this is where the support legs will rest).

Bang enough nails in to make the whole thing solid. I used about 12 nails in total. (Luckily I had 'help' with this bit).

Now you need to carry the surface over the the support pallet and choose how high to have it. The back 'gap' behind the braces will rest on one of the horizontals of the support pallet (circled below).

Now you need to measure how long the 'legs' need to be. I did this completely by eye, marking the length needed with a pencil. See how the legs sit under the working surface butted up against the braces holding the surface planks together? Then I had more 'help' to cut them!

I cut a total of 4 legs, one for the front and one for the back for each end of the kitchen. Because I measured by eye, and the ground is uneven, they were all slightly different lengths, so I marked where each one went. You could just use one leg on each end but it would make the structure less stable.

Next it's time to fix the legs together with another brace that will also double up as a shelf support under the kitchen work surface. This time the brace needs to be cut longer than needed. the extra length forms to tongue that slips between the horizontal bars of the support pallet, helping to hold the whole structure together (see second photo below). Bang it all together again with more nails. Repeat for the other end of the kitchen.

See how the brace slides into the pallet to provide extra strength? should now have two leg pieces, one work surface and one support pallet. You might need a little bit of help to get it all resting together in the right places. Unfortunately at this point my help had disappeared inside to watch TV (apparently they were cold) so I had to manage on my own!

(the box underneath is an old fruit crate that I was trying for size)
OK so far so good. Now it's time to cut a shelf. Again I measured by eye and marked with a pencil. It should rest on the leg braces. My shelf was made with one wide and one narrow piece of wood so that it's narrower than the work surface. Once cut to size they should just slide into position!

Now for the fun part! Hammers out...long nails at the ready...anywhere that two pieces of wood touch that hasn't yet been nailed...NAIL IT! I nailed the legs to the surface, the surface to the legs, the legs to the shelf, the shelf to the get the idea? I didn't join the pallet to the kitchen though as I wanted to be able to seperate and move them if needed.
Finishing touches now....I added a couple of long nails on the support pallet to hang things off. Cup hooks would be better only I couldn't find any! Add a couple of pans/cups/bowls/spoons etc then see if you can entice the little people back out into the cold to play!

Job done!

Here at Forest Tots we'd love to see your Mud Kitchen photos. If you make (or have made) a mud kitchen inspired by this post, or to your own design it would be great if you could post them on your own blog and leave us a comment with a link, or e-mail us photos to and we'll share them here for you.

Thanks...and enjoy ;-)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Below Zero...

With frost lying thick on the ground (even at midday) we laid out our invitations...

The new mud kitchen

New rugged vehicles great for playing with outdoors

Ice to explore

..and, wrapped up really warm, the small people came to play!

The borrowed hammock was a massive success, quickly becoming both a train and a pirate ship.

Exploring the ice blocks was both fascinating and a little bit chilly!!

Slipping and sliding on the frozen marshy bits

Despite (or maybe because of?) the cold we all had a great time. Which is good, it just goes to show what fun you can have when you take a chance, wear the right clothes and then go out to play despite the weather!!'s not that cold - check out this blog for a year round outside playgroup in Alaska where the temperature reaches well below zero! (The temperatures quoted are in Fahrenheit, -13F is -25C Eeeekk!!! now that is COLD).