Saturday, 15 August 2015

Fun at the Beach // Kids Art & Activities

Last week the kids and I were on the beach and while my daughter was busy driving a truck through a sandcastle, my son & I were finding and examining shells and rocks. He was thrilled with one particular find when he looked up at me and exclaimed, "Mom, I love collecting shells with you". It was one of my very proudest mom moments and I had to quickly scoop up all the drippings from my melted heart, right there off the sand! 

We do a lot of beach visits, well, as many as possible when the weather allows for it. We're fortunate to live in an area that is close to several beaches in Dublin- Killiney, Seapoint, White Rock, and Sandymount Strand, as well as visiting nearby Bray, Greystones and Brittas Bay beaches too. The thing is that here in Dublin, the water is freezing! (This coming from an Atlantic Ocean-loving New England girl). But because the water is colder and the temperatures outside aren't sweltering, my kids don't end up in the frigid water very often. You can imagine that beach days would be slightly boring if you weren't swimming for most of the visit, but we've figured out plenty of ways to keep ourselves busy. 

Check out this fantastic article from Playtivities that highlights 10 Beach Games for Kids. I love these suggestions- some classic ideas, but also some we haven't tried before, like the water race. We will most definitely be trying that at our next beach outing.

Below are two of our favorite beach day activities to add to this already fab list, because truly can we ever have too many ways to keep our kids active and entertained?!

1. Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunts are always a big hit with kids, and my kids absolutely love this sea themed one. I fondly remember some of my favorite childhood moments that included scavenger hunts. One particularly elaborate hunt by my Aunt Gayle had us searching for toy airplanes in the treetops of our local woods. 

Because my toddlers can't read yet, we use scavenger hunt lists with pictures. You can make your own custom list with beach themed stickers or drawing your own. But if you want an even quicker option, there are some really great downloads available online. Check out this post, with a free colorful checklist printable from Buggy and BuddyOr this post, from Mindfully Frugal Mom, which includes a free printable PDF of another beach list. Just print and bring along on your next beach visit. 

Another excellent option is to make Scavenger Hunt Cards. I photocopied images from this gorgeous watercolor from DesignSponge- seriously, how beautiful is this print? I cut out 8 of the 10 images, keeping only the items that we might find on our beaches here in Dublin. Unfortunately for us, we have yet to see a Starfish or a Sand Dollar, so we'll save those for a visit to somewhere like Florida or the Caribbean (some day!). Using some thick, white card stock, I pasted the images to the paper to create two little square card sets to take along in our beach bag. 

I'd nearly frame this DesignSponge piece, it's so pretty!
Here are the 8 images after I cut and pasted them to the card stock. The images are a Mussel Shell, Crab Claw, Driftwood, Seaweed, Scallop Shell, Sea Glass, Seagull Feather and a Gastropod/Snail Shell. I'd love to someday expand this set to include Barnacles, Hag Stones, Limpets, Yellow Periwinkles, and Clam Shells, mostly because they are common finds here and we come across a lot of them. And I'd maybe even add a question mark for a mystery find that could be something like a coin, button, clay bead, or any other interesting object. I love that we never know what we'll find. This little set stays in a pocket in our beach bag, just waiting for it's next use, where we can search for, sort through and identify our discoveries together.

Two-year old Harry, searching the tide pools
Some of our findings from a trip to Dun Laoghaire 
The discoveries after a trip to Seapoint Beach 
My curious creatures are always collecting!

2. Beach Art
Using objects found on the sand or in the sea, create your own masterpiece!

These silly faces we made as a family of 4. The square faces were made with boys versus girls teams and the round faces we switched up the teams with mom & son versus dad & daughter. 

This elephant was created with rocks that my son and husband found

Seaweed for hair, various rocks for the body, head and bikini top, sticks for a spear and green sea glass for a scaly tail and ta-da! You've got yourself a warrior mermaid. To make this I told my 3-year old daughter the color & sized rocks and seaglass pieces that we needed and she would bring back several options until we had enough to make the art. 

This deserted island was made with mussel shells for the water, crab claws & a broken limpet shell for the sun and rocks in shades of light brown for the sandy island. All items found by 2-year old Harry & I at Greystones Beach, but I definitely directed the placement!  

So what do you like to do while you're at the beach? I'd love to hear your creative ideas in the comments section below. And if you need a suggestion for using up all those shells you discovered at the beach, then take a look at this previous blog post for some creative artwork we made. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Feather Crowns // Quick DIY

We recently visited Dalkey Island for the first time. While there, we managed to bring home some of our usual nature finds- stones, shells, flowers and feathers. Inspired by that visit, and the freedom we felt while out in the middle of the sea,  these crowns were created using some of the gorgeous black and white feathers we discovered. They are a super simple, quick craft that the kids are now asking to wear everywhere!

Supplies Needed:
Craft Leaves
Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

  • Gently hand wash feathers in dish soap and allow to fully dry.
  • Cut the ribbon to fit the child's head, including some slack to tie. 
  • Snip pointy ends of feathers to remove sharp pieces.
  • Arrange your leaves and feathers so that the larger pieces are in the back and smaller pieces are in the front. 
  • Use the glue from the glue gun to attach leaves and feathers.
  •  Allow the glue plenty of time to dry.
  • Go adventuring in your new crowns!

A bit Peter Pan and the Lost Boys meets a cool, boho, hippie style. Anything to inspire the kids with another opportunity to play and imagine!

Dalkey Island and the feathers we found there inspired this project, but today we spent the day at the beach... I wonder what our next craft will be?! Let me know in the comment section below if you have an idea to use found feathers. We're always looking for a new way to use the pieces we find!

Closeup views... 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Dublin, Our Playground // Dalkey Island

My husband's birthday took place on the 1st of August. Wanting to mark his 35th birthday with something special, but not too expensive as we have an upcoming trip to the States, I planned a family day out to explore Dalkey Island. 

Dalkey Island, view from Coliemore Road
A lighthouse in the distance

The origins of Dalkey Island go back over 6,500 years, including evidence that it was once used as a Viking base. It's main features are the ruins of St Begnet's Church, erected in the 7th century, as well as two buildings from the 19th century, a Gun Battery and a Martello Tower, one of 8 that line the Dun Laoghaire coastline as a first line of defense against invasion during the Napoleanic Wars.

After living in Dublin for 21 months, we've always seen Dalkey Island from a distance. When we visit Killiney Beach or White Rock Beach we can see the island. A hike up Killiney Hill offers stunning views of Dalkey Island too. It was time to finally check it out! 

In preparation, I packed a picnic lunch that consisted of:
-Chicken salad, cranberries & sunflower seeds on ciabatta or multiseed bread
-Tricolored, bow tie pasta salad with red onion, celery, cheddar and a light vinaigrette dressing 
-Peanut butter & jam sandwiches
-Pretzels, popcorn and grape snacks 
-Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting & chocolate shavings

To make the occasion feel a bit more festive than our typical weekend picnics, I brought along some helium filled balloons in various colors. 

We arrived at Coliemore Harbour at 1130am to a small queue of seven other island-hopping enthusiasts. While we waited for Ken the Ferryman to make two quick trips before ours, we witnessed a battle between one of the pier's fishermen and a determined fish. In the end, we were delighted to watch the fisherman land two small dogfish sharks. 

When it was our turn to take the boat over, Ken the Ferryman guided us into his 5-passenger boat where we all donned life jackets. He even had them for the small children. The boat ride to the island is quick, taking less than 5 minutes, which was just enough time to get a chat in with the friendliest ferryman in the harbour! Once on the island, you're welcome to explore for as long as you'd like. When I asked Ken how would he know when to come back for us, he simply grinned and said "Just wave at me". Oh how I love those cheeky Irishmen. 

From a distance, the island always appeared small to me. I imagined that if a few people were all on it together at once, it'd feel confined. Once we were actually on the land, the island felt much more vast than I'd expected, yet also incredibly intimate.  It felt like we were VIPs to a special venue, even with the other 20 odd visitors roaming around the island too. Sitting on 22 acres, there are plenty of places to drop a blanket for a picnic, loads of paths to follow for a little exploration, and stunning views from every direction. 

My two little nature lovers were thrilled with their new surroundings, especially when we saw several rabbits on the loose. But to be completely honest, with the amount of rabbit holes and rabbit poop covering the island, I thought we'd see more than what we did! We also witnessed a few seals swimming just off the island. They'd poke their heads up and ride the waves, every so often disappearing under the blue waters, only to be spotted in a different location when they broke through the surface again. But the wild goats, the rumoured herd of 6 goats that I thought surely on a small island, how could we miss them? Well, they remained elusive, for this particular visit anyways. Apparently they like to hang out on the edges of the cliffs, away from the likes of us weekend adventurers. 

There are no facilities on the island so pack your lunch and find a restroom before you board the boat over. When we were ready to head back to the mainland, a mere 300 metres away, there was a family waiting as Ken pulled into the inlet with another couple of visitors. We happily took in the final moments of the gorgeous sunshine and our beautiful surroundings.  

My husband grew up in Dublin, spending his first 21 years of life here, and had never been on Dalkey Island. His parents, who have been in Dublin for most or all of their lives had never been either. Most Dubliners that I've spoken with about the island had never been nor realized you could visit the uninhabited place.  So this trip was the perfect way to celebrate my husband's 35th birthday, in a special, family-friendly way, while allowing us the opportunity to sight see, learn some history, and most importantly, share some memories on an experience that will never be forgotten!

For more information on Dalkey village and Dalkey Island, check out the link here. Let me know what you think if you ever do go. I know I'll certainly be back again- I still have to catch a peek at the wild goats, after all!

Oh and a very happy 35th birthday to my loving husband, Alan! Emme, Harry & I couldn't be luckier to have the most adoring Father, Husband & Best Friend in our lives. And an extra special thanks for letting me use your birthday as the perfect excuse for exploring ;) We love you so much xoxo

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