acepuppets


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Children already find school really exciting, what with imaginative play, spending time with your friends, practising kissing and of course school playground equipment. After a hard morning doing maths and English, being able to play on school playground equipment is a welcome break. School playground equipment has a duel purpose in the playground and the variety of pieces available reflects this.  School playground equipment can be used to support the curriculum and as entertainment during playtimes.

Music

Children can have music lessons outside with a number of outdoor musical instruments that are both robust and produce pretty good sounds.  Teachers can feel relieved that they don’t have to control the infernal noise generated by music lessons and can have a natural stance to the lessons.  During playtime, children can practice what they have learnt during lessons because the instruments are easily accessible.  Schools can purchase outdoor musical instruments as a group or individual pieces.  If the instruments are dotted around the playground children will, ‘discover’, them at playtime and create music of their own.  If the instruments are installed near to each other,  they are perfect for having a summer music lessons.  Generally choices are made according to space available and the size of the school budget.

Environmental

Teaching children about the environment can often be an abstract affair which can make it difficult to comprehend.  Playground companies have recognised this and developed ranges of planters, compost makers, bird feeders and bug hotels.  Children will be able to plant and nurture seeds while watching them grow every time they go out at playtime.  They will be able to observe birds and see how garden waste is recycled to make food for new plants.  This type of playground equipment is really useful if the school is in an urban area and there isn’t much greenery in the playground.  Also the raised beds mean that they are not prone to having too many unwanted visitors.

Story Telling

Children actually like telling stories, they may not be as keen writing them down but the fact that they love the sound of their own voice means that they love to share stories.  Many schools have story telling corners which are centred around a storytelling chair.  Children can either listen to stories being told to them or they could take it in turns to share stories with the class.  The teacher can guide the children so that they are not so long winded.  Eventually children will start incorporating their story telling skills in their writing.

Balance And Coordination

Using climbing walls and climbing frames teaches children an awful lot about how their body works.  Children see their friends scaling the playground equipment and set themselves goals to be as good as their friends.  In the past climbing frames in school playgrounds were quite terrifying but now they are accessible for all children to enjoy.  Just negotiating different equipment allows children to explore their limits and train their body’s so that they can achieve their personal goal.

Next time you are waiting for your children at the end of the day – have a sneaky peak at the school playground equipment – you will wish that your school playground was just as exciting.

 


 

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The sand castle we all attempt to make but fail miserably

Since we have been blessed this year with Mediterranean weather my son has chomped his way through lots of orange ice lollies and built castles in his sandpit. We decided to buy Alistair a sand pit because every time I picked him up from after school club he would be knee-deep in the sand pit.  In fact whenever there was an opportunity to dig or water play equipment was available Alistair would be covered in sand and soaking wet.  My Mum informs me that I used to shovel mud into the kitchen when I was small, so this predisposition to digging  was probably inherited from me.

We decided that the day could be rearranged so that Alistair would be able to come home at normal school time, which meant that he could relax more after school and I would be more organised to listen to him read.  This meant that he would miss playing in the sandpit so I decided to get him a smallish sandpit that is big enough for him to enjoy getting covered in sand and dig to his heart’s content.

The sandpit is under a garden tap so I encouraged Alistair to be sparing when adding water to the sand.  This was a piece of advice he chose to ignore and he turned the tap on so high that he couldn’t turn it off.  After following the screams I found him standing in a sandpit that resembled the beach when the tide came in.  We got as much water out as we could but it was still like sinking sand.  Of course sand this wet was not very good for building with so Alistair’s first play with the new sandpit lasted about ten minutes and it took two weeks for it to dry sufficiently for Alistair to play with it again.

At last the sandpit is dry enough for construction purposes and frantic digging has resumed, everything is covered in sand and my son has learnt how to use the vacuum cleaner.   If you ask a child why they love playing in sand and water they just tell you that it is, ‘fun’.  Sand and water play is actually classified in both the heuristic and imaginative play categories and probably many others too.

Heuristic play is essentially having the ability to play with everyday objects you find around you.  Little children are encouraged to play with pots, pans and wooden spoons while slightly older children can make tents with sheets.  Heuristic and imaginative play tends to merge into one when children are left to their own devices, this is particularly noticeable when playing in a sandpit.  As long as your child is not likely to eat the sand you can step back a little and let them get absorbed into their own adventure.

I suspect that this heat wave will dry the sand out again and the whole water episode will be repeated.


Science is exciting, particularly when you can do it at home and make a big mess in the garden.  Some science experiments are so cool that even big kids like to have a go – you know on, ‘Wine Friday’, when you are being a rebel. Science experiments don’t have to involve expensive kits with copper sulphate in them to be great fun.  Kitchen cupboards and the corner shop provide the best ingredients for impromptu science afternoons.

The following five experiments are categorized into items used and different scientific concepts.

Vinegar And Bicarbonate Of Soda

These two ingredients can kick up a real stink when used in experiments, this is why it is advisable to set up a table in the garden and do it there.  These two experiments are really smelly but you will love them.

Bouncy Egg

You Need: Vinegar, uncooked egg in shell, a jar and a peg for your nose.

What to do: (This takes a bit of time so you could start it at the beginning of the afternoon)

  • Half fill a glass of jar with vinegar.
  • Put a raw egg in the vinegar.
  • Leave for two days.
  • Place egg in water and remove shell.
  • Feel how bouncy it is and shine a light through it.
  • Put on plate and cut egg to reveal yoke still intact.

If you haven’t got time to do this experiment – this video shows you what happens.

This happens because the egg is made up of calcium carbonate and the vinegar is acetic acid.  The acetic acid takes away all of the calcium leaving the egg soft.

What do you think will happen if you leave the egg on a plate for a day or two?

Inflating A Balloon Without Any Puff

You Need: Bicarbonate Of Soda, Vinegar, Balloon

What to do:

  • Pour the vinegar into a bottle.
  • Use a funnel to put some bicarbonate of soda into a balloon (That you have stretched a lot).
  • Put the balloon on the bottle neck – making sure it is firmly on.
  • Watch the balloon inflate.

Again watch this video to see what happens :-

This happens because the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the bicarbonate of soda and causes an effervescent chemical reaction.

What do you think will happen if you use more bicarbonate of soda?

Diet Coke, Mentos and Eggs

Experiments using these three ingredients cause excitement or are used as a warning about drinking Diet Coke in moderation.

Mentos And Diet

You Need: Lots of packets of Mentos, Diet Coke (still in its bottle) and goggles.

What To Do:-

  • Supervise all children (and silly adults)
  • Simply unscrew the lid off the Diet Coke
  • Put Mentos into bottle
  • Stand well back and wear swimming goggles

If you are too scared to do the experiment this video will give you a clue as to what happens:-

What is the minimum number of Mentos you need to make the fountain come out?

Egg In Diet Coke

You Need: 365 days, a jug you are not going to use for a year, a boiled egg and Diet Coke.

What To Do:-

  • Boil an egg
  • Fill jug with Diet Coke
  • Put Egg In Jug
  • Programme alarm in your phone for a years time
  • Go and enjoy yourself
  • Come back in a year and if it hasn’t been thrown away rince egg and see what has happened.

The egg shell is made from calcium – remember your teeth are made from calcium.

If you can’t be bothered to wait a year here is a time lapsed version of the experiment:-

Does Lemonade cause the same thing to happen?

Hydraulic Systems

A hydraulic system is used to increase or decreasing the force of a push by using different sized hydraulic cylinders.  Hydraulic systems are used all around us.  A good example is a brake in a car – you only put a small amount of pressure on the brake peddle but a lot more is used to make the car stop.

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Children will have probably made a simple hydraulic system at school using syringes, tubing and water. Here is a video showing a girl using a hydraulic system to make a lift.

What other kinds of objects can you move using a hydraulic system?

You can find many more great ideas on the internet for wild experiments.  Children please make sure that you are supervised by a responsible adult to avoid getting hurt.

 


 

It is probably just as well that Walney begins with a, ‘W’, because it lends itself to the alliterated nickname, ‘Windy Walney’.  Anyone who has visited this beautiful, gritty island  will remember the wind racing round their heads.  Walney has some of the best beaches in the Furness Peninsula and generations of children have consumed sand in their picnics while trying to build the biggest sandcastles ever.  I remember taking crabs home with the intention of keeping them as my pets but accidentally killed them when putting then in tap water or releasing them on the lawn.  We didn’t notice the wind on Walney during the late 70’s and early 80’s but it was probably still there.

Walney Air Field

To be perfectly truthful I know very little about Walney Air Field and don’t think I have ever been on it.  If you click on the source link on the photo you will access a detailed chronological list of its history dating back from 1928 to the present day.  Imagine if Barrow had continued to boom, the airport could have been extended to be an international airport.  However this has not happened and the runway was maintained by BAE Systems and the Lakes Gliding Club resides there.

Wind Farm

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Source: Chris Cross

Although the view has become a little bit distorted by this army of wind turbines it shows that the famous Walney Wind is capable of producing energy.  Wind turbines use both variable speed drives and programmable logic controllers to ensure that the blades are not damaged by the force of the wind.  Natalie Bennet, leader of the Green Party, has suggested that we scrap Trident and make wind turbines instead.  Apparently there is good business in selling wind turbines around the world.  The wid turbines almost fence Walney in and it looks as if there is a great obstacle before you can sale on the ajitated Irish Sea.

Biggar Bank

Biggar Bank is one of the wonderful beaches on Walney, children can play on miles of golden sand while being over looked by Coniston Old Man.  I remember one summer playing with other children on the beach when a little girl drank my orange juice, I was just about to protest when her elder brother warned me that if I tried to stop her I would be, ‘sorry’.  Needless to say I didn’t try to find out why I would be sorry but have carried the injustice with me ever since.  My son loves going to the beach and playing with other children too – there hasn’t been an orange juice incident yet.

 

Jubilee Bridge

Walney is an island, or more accurately a spit (we loved to offend friends from Walney by telling them they lived on a spit) in the Irish Sea.  Walney is connected to Barrow – in – Furness by a Bascule bridge that rises so that boats can pass through.  Both adults and children find the concept of the road turning into a vertical wall exciting.  However if you were in a rush and the bridge went up I doubt you would be in awe of the technology.  A Bascule bridge uses counter balance to lift each of the sides.  It truly is magnificent watching large boats passing through the gap.

BAE Systems

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Jubilee Bridge between Barrow and Walney. Source: NWEMAIL

You only really understand the significance of the area’s maritime heritage as you leave Walney Island.  The horizon is filled with huge magnolia boat sheds that eclipse the houses around them.  BAE Systems design and build the controversial Trident Submarines and people in the area are really dependent on the contracts in order to work.  Barrow boomed in the 18th century with the steel industry, the railway and the explosion in boat production.  The local industries provided job security for locals and people were able to maintain their close knit communities.

Boom And Bust

The steel industry expired in 1984, which was probably devastating but the area still had the ship yard – or so we thought.  When I was in school the year above us was the last to taken on by Vicker’s Shipbuilding as apprentices  and many workers were laid off.  Teenagers now had to reconsider their future because an apprenticeship was no longer going to provide a life long career.  Experienced workers had to leave the area and unemployment rose.  The knock on effect on local business was devastating and Barrow became a ghost of its former its former self. If you want to find more about the area’s maritime history the Dock Museum is a wonderful place to go.

Again there are so many things to say about this area of Cumbria that you have to stick to the main facts. I haven’t mentioned the caravan parks, playgrounds, the seals and the hidden jewels of Walney Island.  If you are ever up this way – maybe you could find them for yourself.

 


I remember vividly the moment I fell in love with Bugsy Malone.  My brother got the part of Baby Face in a local drama group production of Bugsy Malone.  As a family we were all very proud and obtained a pirated copy of the film.  We wore the old video tape out watching Baby Face say his immortal words, ‘Pass this to Baby Face – Oh I am Baby Face’, and then promptly chase the big guys with a baseball bat. I was more distracted by Scott Baio who played Bugsy Malone and have been in love with him ever since. These are the reasons why I could watch Bugsy Malone a multitude of times.

Bugsy Malone – Synopsis

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Bugsy Malone is a gangster movie set in the 1920/30s when alcohol was banned in America.  Bugsy Malone however has beautiful twist of having a cast entirely made up of children.  The film is based around uber gangster Fat Sam and his cabaret bar, which is a private members club to avoid prosecution.  The main thread of the story is the, sometimes stalled, relationship between boxing promoter Bugsy Malone and club singer Blousey Brown.  Their relationship is hindered by lack of money, starlets like Tallulah (Fat Sam’s girlfriend) and Bugsy’s involvement with gangsters.  Dandy Dan and Fat Sam were mortal enemies who spent the whole film using splurge guns to kill each other with custard.  At the end everyone at the Grand Slam gets splurged and collapse on the floor.  Bugsy Malone and Blousey Brown escape with the cash, Bugsy earned, to follow their American dream.  The rest of the cast slowly rose from the floor singing, ‘You give a little love (we could have been anything we wanted to be)’, and continued throwing custard at each other.

Cast

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Bugsy Malone is a musical so there are plenty of great songs, which incidentally are performed by adults.  Apart from delicious boxing promoter Bugsy Malone and sassy Blousey Brown we also have seductive Tallulah and hapless Fat Sam who reside mainly in the Grand Slam.  We also have Fat Sam’s gang members who all have cool names; Knuckles, Roxy Robinson, Snake Eyes and Louis.  Apparently Michael Jackson was in the film as Razmataz the pianist.  Bugsy Malone enlists the help of Leroy Smith, who he trained to be a boxer, and a group of down and outs he recruited from a soup kitchen to help Fat Sam defeat Dandy Dan.  Baby Face proved to be the most dangerous member of the group despite having a cute name and being small.  In the Grand Slam there is a sparkling cast of dancing girls and singers.  One diva is remembered because she sabotages Blousey Brown’s audition on her return and proceeds to sing high pitched and off key.  When you look at the cast list it is made up of child actors who became very famous adult film stars.

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To top all of the great things I have told you about the film all of the cars were peddle cars that resembled real child size cars and the cast got to drive them.  We all wanted to drive one of those cars.  If you want to have an uplifting afternoon and like food fights you will most definitely like Bugsy Malone.


We are so lucky to live in the Cartmel Peninsula in the North West of England.  The area is populated with beautiful little towns that have their own characters and treasures.

Cartmel

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Source: Visit Cumbria

Cartmel is considered to be one of the best places to live in the country and boasts; a race track, riding stable, Michelin Stared L’enclume,  a magnificent priory and of course the world famous Sticky Toffee Pudding.  There are also many wonderful pubs to eat in, a brewery, artisan bakery and cheese maker and many lovely little shops that sell beautiful gifts.  The town is  protected by the watchful eye of the medieval priory that dates back to 667 AD.  The town successfully embraces the modern world without removing the medieval element of the town.  Chris Evans (BBC 2) describes it as a, ‘Thimble full of diamonds’.  and many more people are continuing to discover the secret that locals already knew – how wonderful Cartmel is.

Cark in Cartmel

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Source: Ian Taylor

Cark is very reminiscent of 1950’s Britain with the river Eea at its core.  It has a railway station, hairdressers, two pubs, artisan bakers, garden centre, access to the estuary, a small business park and of course the pièce de résistance – Holker Hall.  Cark was originally an industrial town built round a watermill that was used in the production of cotton.  The river is much smaller than it used to be but the high tides restores the river to its original height and makes the estuary look like a magical place.  The estuary is a place of scientific interest and school children come from all over the north west to conduct surveys of the river.  Annually scientists come to study the plants and animals in the estuary.

Holker Hall

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Source: Visit Cumbria

Holker Hall is a magnificent stately home with beautiful gardens.  It is owned ny the Cavendish family, who own lots of property and land all over the Cartmel and Furness area.  Houses owned by the Cavendish’s are painted a special blue colour which distinguishes them from privately owned houses. Many events are run at the Hall including the famous Garden Festival.  You can buy local produce from their farm shop, enjoy a high class meal and of course look around the hall itself.

Haverthwaite and Backbarrow

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Source: Steam Railway Lines

Haverthwaite and Backbarrow are separated by the A590 and were possibly Viking settlements.  Haverthwaite is home to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway which takes you directly to lake Windermere where you can go on a lake cruise, visit the Aquarium of the lakes or enjoy a top notch cream tea at the Lakeside Hotel.  Over the course of the year the railway hold children’s events such as, ‘Thomas Weekend’, and ‘Witches and Wizards’.

Playdale Playgrounds and Lakeland Motor Museum

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Source: Playdale Playgrounds

In Haverthwaite itself Playdale Playgrounds designs and builds playground equipment which is exported all over the world – they have even won awards for exporting.  This timber yard turned playground equipment manufacturer has made play magical for children all over the country.  If you are into cars and yummy food then the Lakeland Motor Museum is the place for you.

Flookburgh

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Source: Sky Dive North West

 

Flookburgh is a small village dominated by the local fishing trade, it is believed that its name originates from the word, ‘Flukes’, a flat fish found in the area.  Some of the houses even advertise that they sell potted shrimps.  The square bustles with a sandwich shop, convenience store, chemist, pub, hairdressers and village hall.  Down a long straight road, known locally as the, Mile Road, you can find Willow Water, the factory where Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding is now produced, Duckys Park Farm,  the Haven Lakeland Holiday Park and Cark Airfield which is home to mega car boot sales, Sky Dive North West and the annual Steam Gathering.

Allithwaite

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Source: Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Allithwaite is a small village between Flookburgh and Grange, it is near to Humphrey Head, which is a limestone outcrop looking out onto Morecambe Bay.  According to folk law, the last wolf in England met a grizzly end after being chased to the end of the cliff with men wielding spears.  There is a street in Allithwaite called Greendales which may or may not be a reference to Postman Pat.  You can enjoy drinks and food in the local pub called The Pheasant and children can enjoy the well maintained playground near to the school.  The church and the school over look the rolling countryside.

Grange Over Sands

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Source: Wordsworth Country

Grange over Sands may have started off as a storage place of grain by the Cartmel monks.  It became a fishing village then a popular Edwardian tourist attraction which boomed during the Victorian era.  Before the River Kent was redirected, Grange was really a beach and ferries operated to jetties leading to the promenade.  The prom is well maintained by volunteers and hosts Prom Art during the summer months.  The railway station is at the end of the prom near to the ornamental gardens.  It has always been traditional to wave at the train going past as you walk along the prom.

Grange Lido

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Source: Bodian

At the far end of the prom is a dilapidated lido that was very popular up until the 80’s where it became difficult to maintain and now looks like a ghost of its former self.  Grange is a cornucopia of gift shops, hardware stores, cafes and pubs.  It is often referred to as, Heaven’s waiting room’, due to the high density of old people’s homes.  However these days there seems to be a resurgence in younger members of the community.  There are a large number of hairdressers and beauty salons in the town and the area in general.  Grange is home to magnificent hotels such as, The Cumbria Grand and the Nether wood.

There are many more wonderful things that I could tell you about my local area but I am at nearly 1000 words already.  You are welcome to come and see for yourself the wonderful Cartmel Peninsula.

 

 


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Our world is precious and provides us with everything we need to live a healthy life.  Sadly we often reward it with total disrespect which damages ecosystems and the landscape.  Unless we start changing our attitude to nature, and set our children a good example, the earth is going to start looking like a dystopian movie set.  We all know that children learn through play and that the early years is when they are most open to learning habits that will grow with them.

When children are taught about the environment they don’t need to be bombarded with statistics about how much plastic is choking the earth and how the rain forests are being obliterated to make way for burgers.  Initially all they need to know is how to care for the world around them.  A child’s world is their garden, the school, playground and where ever they are at the time.  We know that they are in love with nature because walks with a toddler requires collecting treasures such as; sticks, stones and feathers.  At that age you can spend a fortune to go into a theme park and they will enjoy the puddles more than anything else.

A love of nature can be nurtured by going for walks, looking at plants, birds and keeping quiet in order to spot a bunny rabbit. The way we, as parents and carers, react to; rainbows, icicles, frogspawn, birds and clouds helps children to see the beauty around them.  If children see the world as beautiful, they are less likely to disrespect it as they get older.  By planting and nurturing seeds children can see the effort nature has to go to in order to grow.  If children know the best conditions in which to grow plants they are more likely to support measures to ensure that the health of the environment will allow this to happen.

Schools teach children about how plants grow and are increasingly setting up gardening clubs or investing in school playground planters gives children ownership of plants. School playground planters can also allows schools to teach children about how plants decompose.  The Better Health Channel has written an article about the benefits of gardening for children

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