We have always wanted to go on a farm stay and this year we realised that goal. We stayed at Balingup Heights for 5 days. It was the most tranquil relaxing place, set in 46 acres of woodland surrounded by farm land and beautiful views—the perfect recipe to unwind and reconnect as a family.
We stayed at Hepton Hill cottage on the edge of the Balingup Heights estate. All cottages have a TV but we choose to have a screen free holiday. The cottages are beautifully appointed, with everything a family needs and includes a wonderful hamper of local produce. The jam was a complete favourite as it reminded us of grandma’s homemade jam! When we arrived the log fire was lit and waiting for us, making the cottage feel homely straight away. As the temperature dropped making a fire became a nightly affair.
The attention to detail was quite something. 5 days before our holiday we received a warm and friendly email telling us it’s 5 days to go and asked the age of our children. As we arrived in the cottage, I completely knew why! The kid’s beds were made up with a stuffed toy on each just waiting to be hugged. There were also games, jigsaws, books and DVDs appropriate to the kids ages and ample books and magazines for adults too!
A farm stay has great educational and developmental benefits for everyone. Here are 10 reasons a farm stay should be your next holiday!
Spending time on 46 acres gave the kids the freedom to roam in a safe space that they could navigate themselves free from adult constraint. Wandering the paths together made them feel all grown up and responsible – making their way from our cottage to the secret garden, the lookout or the animals and back again enabled them to have their own adventure without mum and dad for a change.
Paddock To Plate
It is critically important that we teach our children where food comes from, YES I know it can be confronting and it is a sensitive subject. However, the cellophane packet so neatly wrapped at the supermarket is a world away from the true nature of meat production. Spending time on the farm really put into context the conversations we have had previously about the animal production industry.
We went daily to feed the animals were the children got to interact with a baby lamb, chickens, horses and sheep amongst others. The highlights of the animal feeding were collecting the yummiest eggs to eat as soon as we returned to the cottage for breakfast and bottle feeding an adorable lamb called Jack.
Critical Thinking And Problem Solving
Farm stays are the perfect place to nurture and develop critical thinking and problem solving. Navigating their way, building a cubby, making up new games, feeding the animals and collecting eggs are just some of the activities we got up to. All of these activities involve so many processes that engage critical thinking and problem solving. Without critical thinking there can be no problem solving! We often talk about critical thinking as a:
- Willingness to think openly
- Have the ability to reason
- Be an active learner
- Question our own thinking as well as others
- Appraise, identify and analyse the problem
Only through critical thinking can a learner define the problem thoroughly, determine the cause, and seek a solution.
The opportunities for nature play are endless on a farm stay. Every day is a nature play day. The open-endedness of a forest is just perfect for unstructured play, the kids loved balancing on fallen trees, playing in the mud and getting dirty. Playing with the natural elements fosters creativity and the fall of the earth at the back of our cottage was just perfect for creating gullies and caves with rocks and twigs for storytelling fun.
A game of Tiggy is taken to new heights when there are endless trees to hide behind and dodge. A forest is also the perfect place for a nature scavenger hunt.
In today’s fast paced world, time spent in nature without technology is the perfect place for all of us to practice being present. It is so easy to flick between channels, apps or games these days. Having no technology to stimulate and distract was just the recipe for all of us to be present in the here and now. The rumble of school and work behind us we had time to practice not getting lost in our own story and the stillness of the forest helped to bring our attention to the moment. The usual routine was dropped as there was no next activity. In the quiet so much more is spotted. On our daily walk to feed the animals we spotted this amazing spider’s web.
I do believe in the hum drum of our normal life, we may well have missed it altogether .
The freedom to ramble in the forest has a certain level of risk involved. All children need and want to take risks. Kids need a certain amount of risk to explore their own limits and it is completely necessary for development. Any injury is upsetting however, it doesn’t always have to be negative. Children learn from challenging themselves and this will develop capable independent thought patterns.
Encouraging kids to get outside, explore new surroundings and be active participants develops independence, resourcefulness, resilience and team building. From building the bush cubby to feeding the animals. They all had to work together to achieve their goals.
A farm stay is the perfect place for your kids to practice their communication skills. Communication is not just about speech, it is about being able to fully listen to instructions and carry them out. On the farm the kids had to listen to the farmer and ask relevant questions to aid their understanding. They also had to think about non-verbal cues and interact with others in a socially acceptable way. Each day we reflected on our experiences and discussed the new adventures of the day. After a farm stay you could also ask your children to retell their experience, draw it or make a photobook – the opportunities for further learning are endless.
A farm stay is the perfect place to connect with the local community. They are places that still have the main street full of local businesses needing our support. Whilst in Ballingup we visited the local villages in the surrounding area. We found great local veggies and bread in Kirup from Newys Veggie Patch and amazing local meat from the Blackwood Butcher in Bridgetown. We loved Bridgetown and found several lovely shops along the main street to visit.
Oh La Lollypop is quite probably the best sweet shop we have ever been to, so many sweets from so many different countries, we spent quite a bit of time choosing, as you can imagine. This place has the most amazing customer service with a happy chat and a smile.
Christmas @ 139 is festive all year round with everything you could possibly need for the season from decorations to gifts. We buy a new Christmas ornament every year, however, we have ended up with 4 this year because we couldn’t decide. Lots of the trees along the main street are yarn bombed which makes it look beautiful. Bridgetown Loft is a boutique gift store that only stocks handmade West Australian products. A truly breathtaking creative space. I bought some lovely handmade games as stocking fillers for Christmas. I could have bought one of everything in the store though!
Develop A Sense Of Wellbeing
The kids helped to prepare meals and light the log fire. Each cottage also contains a Chook scraps box which the kids were responsible for filling to use each morning at animal feeding. Taking responsibility for tasks, independently having adventures and taking small risks are experiences that foster confidence, sense of self and wellbeing.
I highly recommend a farm stay wherever you maybe. Time spent in nature is proven to aid family connection and destress us all.
Have fun and go play outside xxx