Monday, 14 December 2020

Gifts Ideas for 4 Year Olds - Using The 8 Gift Method

When it comes to Christmas shopping for the kids I have always been in either of two camps. I either end up buying too much completely randomly throughout the year and have no idea how much I have spent or I have a complete mind blank and end up buying last minute gifts just because I need to get them something. 

So this year (well and last but not as strictly) I adopted a new technique I had seen online to help get some structure, streamline my present buying and keep within a reasonable budget. The Want, Need, Wear, Read method is quite common but I chose to use the extended rhyme of Make, Do, Share, Feed so that each child gets 8 gifts plus their stockings to open on Christmas morning. Our budget is around £100 per child as they both have winter birthdays and therefore money being spent on birthday presents around the same time. 

I wanted to share with you what we chose for each child under the 8 present rule and a few tips on how to make your money go further at Christmas. First up is Callie who has just turned 4. Her top present on her list from Santa falls into her Want category then we work the rest of the presents from there. 

Want - Callie has been desperate for a Super Marshall Firetruck for ages so in the months leading up to Christmas I have been hunting for a secondhand version. Sadly with it having small water cannons none of the used toys came with all the parts. Next I searched online and realised it was around the £45-50 mark which is A LOT for a kids toy but it was all she had wanted. Eventually we managed to find it on Amazon for £35 so it is worth searching regularly.

Need - I went with a new bedding set. We got a beautiful unicorn one for just £5 from B&M

Wear - Both kids have matching onesies from John Lewis. We actually had some vouchers we hadn't spent and this brings me to another tip. Save any vouchers you have throughout the year towards presents. Even Tesco Clubcard or Boots rewards points all add up. I even save my Costa points for a treat after a stressful shopping trip! They were these ones and are £16 each.

Read - We got her a couple of books this year from The Works in their 10 for £10 deal. She had some for her birthday, Halloween and Christmas. Well worth stocking up! 

Make - I got her a £2.50 bath bomb making kit from The Works too (they have some great deals) it makes one bath bomb but was a lot cheaper than the big sets and she really wouldn't need that many.

Do - A board game, this one is called Animal Who Am I and I know she is going to love it. This was only £6.99 but we used our vouchers again. Aldi currently have some great little games in their specialbuys though which would cover off the Do category really well.

Share - This one was a struggle as I wanted to get the kids this beautiful den making kit from Hobbycraft but it is currently out of stock. I will probably buy them one in the new year when they are back in! 

Feed - I got them a big pack of The Happy News Bananas! £5.98 for two packs I thought was actually such a good deal. 

Hopefully there are some last minute ideas for this year and some helpful tips for next year. I will pop Ted's list up tomorrow for 8 year olds who I think are a lot trickier to buy for. I am pleased we managed to stick to our budget and even if we had paid for the voucher items it would have been in our £100 budget. We were also able to get some stocking fillers with the money we saved!

Friday, 11 December 2020

AD - Press Visit - Drive Lap Land at Silverstone Circuit

When it comes to Christmas activities this year we have certainly been limited but lots of places are pulling out all the stops to make Christmas 2020 a special one despite social distancing etc. One of these places is Silverstone Circuit and we were invited along this week to attend their brand new light show extravaganza Drive Lap Land! We also visited the Silverstone Experience Museum but I will pop that in a separate post. 

The event has been so popular as I am sure you can imagine. Everyone is on the hunt for things to do as a family and given that this event is from the comfort of your own car and completely Covid safe it's no surprise they sold out most time slots quickly. I believe there are still some tickets available though and it runs up until 3rd January. Tickets start at £35 per car for the light show or £50 including a drive thru screening of The Snowman at the end. 

As I mentioned we arrived early to Silverstone as we had museum entry beforehand. Staff were really friendly throughout, dressed as elves and really great with the kids. We were guided into a car park where there were toilets, merchandise and a snack van. After the museum we went to buy some snacks and were met on the way by to elves selling flashing light sticks for the kids. Ted chose a light saber and Callie got some flashing antlers. They came to £16 which as always at these things was overpriced but it was a treat for the kids and they will get plenty of use over Christmas. 

Popping over to the snack van with a few minutes to spare and the staff were having a few technical issues. The internet connection was playing up so we wouldn't be able to pay by card. I am sure this was resolved shortly after we left as I had a friend who went after us and it was fine We didn't have time to wait for the issue to be fixed though so promised the kids something after the show and bundled back into the car glow gear in tow! 

There was a bit of confusion as to how we got from the car park up to the start of the track but eventually after asking some staff members we found our way past the dancing elves on the roundabout, over the bridge and onto the track. Following a light studded track we weaved around to the pit stop where we met some more elves who were super friendly and the kids shouted "Merry Christmas" out of the window. The garages were lit up with a winter woodland display which was really pretty.

We were a bit confused by how it all worked just following the track round a bit unsure if we should keep going or where we would start the show. Finally we got to the start of the display and we passed giant snow globes full of festive characters. We tuned our radio into the Silverstone station and there were Christmas songs along with shoutouts via social media. I dropped them a photo of the kids who were buzzing when the DJ said hello to them! 

There were a lot of cars there but everyone seemed to keep in lane and at a reasonable pace. I would say it was busier than I thought as they had said to keep a 5 car distance but it did feel like we were in a big queue. The lights were really fun though, I felt like I was in a night club! I think the music on the radio really made it festive though as the lights themselves weren't Christmas themed. That was until we came around a bend and spotted another snow globe....who was inside? 

Santa! Father Christmas himself perched on a throne with his elf helper by his side. The kids were over the moon that he was there and honestly it was the best part of the show. We continued on past some display cars and some fireballs which made me jump as I had my window down and didn't realise how hot they were. It was fun though and I had moved Callie onto my lap so that she could see more (she's so dinky). 

When we got to the end the cars going to the drive thru screening went in one direction which I later learned had hot food stalls and we snaked back round the track to the main entrance before heading to the nearest McDonald's to fuel our rumbly bellies. 

Overall I think this was a great experience for someone who loves a F1 or racing in general as you are paying for the opportunity to drive around Silverstone. The lights really did need to be more festive perhaps with some art installations or spreading the snow globes out around the track for a treasure hunt sort of thing. It has the potential to be spectacular though and it is certainly shone some light on such a horrible year. 

Friday, 4 December 2020

Time for a catch up...

You know how we track our years in B.C and A.D? I feel like in the future my life will be B.C and A.C, Before Covid and After Covid because it really doesn't feel like the same world we left behind does it? 

It has been such a roller coaster of a year and I have taken some much needed time out from writing to just navigate my way through. I count myself so lucky to have almost made it through the year with everyone I care about still here. So many people have lost loved ones and my heart breaks for them. If you are one of those people I am truly sorry and send so much love your way. 

What has changed for us in 2020? 

Joe is now working completely from home with his office closing during the first lockdown but he works in remote desktop "stuff" so his industry has been relatively unscathed. We muddled through homeschooling and Ted is on track despite my lack of teaching experience (that was a rough ride wasn't it Mum's and Dad's?). Callie has settled back into nursery well too. Both children were really struggling emotionally by September but since being back have returned to their happy wonderful selves. 

I am down an organ after having my gallbladder removed just under two months ago. A journey I may share with you over here soon if you haven't been following on my Instagram

We haven't seen any family nearly as much as we would have liked, met Joe's side in a country park once but his Nana is in her 80's so we haven't seen her at all which is so sad! I am grateful that my family are local so we managed door step visits and cuppas with Mum saved my sanity before the second lockdown. 

What did we get up to?
  • Lots of lovely walks
  • Crafts galore! (some of our lockdown activities are here)
  • Celebrated VE Day
  • Hung rainbows in our windows and clapped for the NHS
  • New decking in the garden
  • Painted the downstairs toilet
  • Grew our own Pumpkins, Lettuce and kept several houseplants alive
  • Attended lots of Zoom quizzes
  • Had not one but 2 socially distanced weekends away in Norfolk (Nearly lost our son which was a moment of my life I never want to relive!)
  • Ate far too many takeaways
  • Baked Banana Bread (who didn't?!)
  • Potty trained Callie and said goodbye to dummies!
  • Carried out lots of random acts of kindness to spread love at hard times
  • Shopped small and supported local businesses
  • Had a lovely Halloween 
  • Decorated for Christmas early!
Here are some of our memories...

What next? 

Well the Christmas rules have made it all a bit tricky haven't they but we have embraced the changes and are actually spending Christmas day with our best friends and their 3 girls. We are all low risk and the juggle of trying to decide which parts of our own families we see was just too much so we opted for a friends Christmas dinner which will be so lovely. 

We have a meal to a local Robot restaurant booked for Ted's birthday. It was originally for Callie's but with the second lockdown we had to reschedule. My parents were booked to come with but being in Tier 2 now we can't do that so will just be the 4 of us. I will pop a review up after as it looks epic! 

We don't have any grotto experiences booked but are off to review a fun experience next week which I will of course be sharing with you. Christmas has become a lot calmer for us this year and I actually like it. The lack of dates in the diary has left me much more relaxed and we are embracing cosy movie nights and long crisp walks. Ted's school play is being recorded so that we can watch remotely and he is still getting a Christmas Jumper Day complete with roast dinner so it really isn't hugely different for the kids. 

I hope that is a nice little round up of our year and I can't wait to get back into sharing our lives with you all. Do pop over and give me a follow on Instagram if you don't already and I hope you are all safe and well! 

Lots of love

Monday, 11 May 2020

8 Easy and Cheap Activities for Children During Lockdown

We are now fast approaching the stage of Lockdown (if you haven't got there already) where you have exhausted every activity you can think of to keep the kids entertained at home. I wanted to give you 8 simple ideas that are either free or super cheap and will be sure to keep them occupied for at least half an hour. Which in fairness is enough time for you to pop a wash load on and enjoy a hot cup of tea right? 

My children are aged 3 and 7 which means finding activities that keeps them both amused can be difficult. A few of these are aimed towards Callie's aged children, preschool/nursery but can easily be made a bit more advanced with some simple changes. 

I'm far from a childcare expert but having been a Girl Guiding leader, Nursery Nurse and working for an Autism charity in the past I have picked up a few things along the way. 

Ride of Emotions

First up is an activity we got from our Early Years Fun subscription box but can be made with whatever scrap paper you have around the house. Cut out the shape of a bus, train, aeroplane etc. Basically you want a vehicle that seats lots of people. You then need to cut out some shapes for the windows, wheels and any other bits and bobs. Think wings for the plane, a face for the train like Thomas etc. 

Get out those crayons and a glue stick and let them colour and stick down all the parts. Talk about the shapes, colours, functions of the different items and they are learning as well as using fine motor skills without really putting a lot of emphasis on it.

Next comes the fun bit. Grab your stickers! We have emoji stickers in our set but you can use any face stickers. These ones are cheap on Amazon. Alternatively you can draw the faces. Either way you want to talk about the expressions on the people's faces, really open up their imagination. Why is that man on the bus angry? How is the driver feeling? Which face would you be? How are you feeling right now? 

I always find these sort of activities can give your child a platform to express their own emotions and at a time like this really help them to explain how they are feeling. 

Rainbows Around The Home

With rainbows being everywhere at the moment spreading joy across the land how about introducing them into the home. Get your child to sort their toy cars, animals, dinosaurs, LEGO into colours. My two love doing this they sort them into piles by each colour first then lay them out in a long line before ordering me to take a picture! It keeps them occupied for quite a while and you can level it up by asking them to do them in shapes, size order, species or make and model if using cars! 

Rainbow Walks

If the sun is shining why not take the rainbow hunting outside? We are so fortunate to live in the countryside but if you live in a more built up area and can do so safely a walk can do everyone the world of good. Just remember to stick to social distancing rules. 

My Slimming World group did a rainbow body magic challenge and each day we had to do some form of exercise featuring a colour. The kids got stuck in with me and each day we went on our daily walk and we had a colour to find. One day was Blue and although there were blue flowers in nature a lot of the Blue we found was man made. Pick a colour and see what you can find!

Shape Sorting with Food

Back in the house and some activities for when the weather isn't so nice. More sorting, this time with multigrain hoops but you can really use any leftover cereal, rice, pasta or beads if you don't want to use food items. We got an ice cube tray and on this particular day Callie sorted the hoops into colours in the tray and threaded them onto a lolly stick. 

You could use a selection of cups and pots and let them just roll with it. Small children love just moving things from one pot to another and there isn't too much mess to clean up afterwards as they generally eat most of them! 

Messy Play

Using the same green tray we have had so many different messy play activities. We filled it with bubbles and Callie washed her dolls, I think it has been part of a water park, a sink or float experiment and most recently for Gelli Baff fun with the Peppa Pig characters. Just don't let your child empty the contents onto the lawn because ours is still like a swamp despite raining a couple of times. 

Have a rummage around at home and see what spare plastic boxes you have. Can you declutter some old stuff to use another box? This used to have toys in but we managed to sort them and find a home elsewhere. They are also quite cheap to pick up online or in the supermarket while you are picking up your food shopping. Even a roasting tray will do the trick. 

Mama's Coffee Shop

We have really been missing our coffee shop dates. One of the first thing the kids said was can we go for a babyccino during Lockdown and they were sad when they realised we couldn't go. So, while they were in bed Mama's Cafe came to life. I wrote a menu of items we had at home, added prices and made fake money all out of scraps of paper we had at home (the green was an old document wallet I had and the cardboard was out of a parcel we had delivered. 

We baked some jam and apple tarts and I donned an apron and played waitress. Ted loved having the money and working out how much they had to spend. His maths skills were put to the test but they had just enough for a babyccino with cream and marshmallows to go with their tarts. I haven't seen them that excited in ages! This week we are attempting a fake McDonald's which given our surname I think it is quite apt. 

Printable Fun

Most of these activities have been quite simple to do using stuff around the house but if you have a printer there are so many more fun things you can do. We adore an Australian show called Bluey in our house. It is on Disney Junior but they have a website with lots of fun downloadable crafts. This one was toilet roll tube versions of the characters dressed as Grannies (a great episode) and was really easy to put together. 

Note- Don't let your little one be in charge of searching out toilet roll tubes. Callie unravelled a whole loo roll just to get to the tube inside! 

Whatever character your child loves I am sure there are printables somewhere online for them just have a look on Google. Ted adores Minecraft so I found some learning resources and colouring by numbers sheets he has been working through. 

Temporary Tattoos

These are cheap fun thing to do. I paid less than £2 for a pack thinking it would be maybe 10 tattoos and 40 arrived! Total bargain. Here is the link to the ones I got.

There are also fun kits online for making your own designs if you have some pocket money to spend or a Lockdown birthday is coming up.

With the governments latest announcements it could be months until we are back to some sort of normal. The internet is your best friend when it comes to keeping the kids occupied. No, I don't mean sticking them on the internet to play although no judgement here. Just get yourself on Pinterest, check out Facebook groups and forums. There are so many great ideas out there. Please do leave any you have in the comments too to share with other readers!

Stay Safe!

Thursday, 5 December 2019

REVIEW - The Further Adventures of The Owl and the Pussycat

Last weekend we were kindly invited to Royal and Derngate Northampton for a performance of The Further Adventures of The Owl and The Pussycat. The story is written by Julia Donaldson and is a magical tale featuring old favourites.

We all know the original poem of The Owl and The Pussycat and how they went to the moon on a beautiful pea green boat. Well where that story ended a new sequel began full of beautiful creatures and far off lands.

The Royal and Derngate is right at the very heart of Northampton having been built in 1884 and a much loved part of the community. Growing up in the town I have fond memories of seeing pantomimes and shows like Blackadder which I still have a review I wrote up from when I was 8 or 9 after a school trip...see it was in me from a young age! 

We arrived at the theatre early, parked in the multi story car park down the road and picked up some snacks before heading in. This was our first time going to see a show with both children and were so pleased with how inclusive it was. There were cushions on the floor in front of the stage like a giant cloud. We managed to get a few of the chairs that were across the back of the room and the kids sat on the cushions in front of us. Plenty of other parents were sat with their children on the floor but I wouldn't have gotten back up again after 45 minutes! 

Before the performance started there were two actors sat in a boat on the stage silently miming knitting. For the 10 minutes everyone was settling they sat fully in character and mimed chit chat between them it really was a lovely way to start. 

They turned out to be the Owl and Pussycat in human form and as the story unfolded out came the most gorgeous puppets and props. The attention to detail was brilliant. They had the whole audiences attention all the way through which is hard when there is only two of them. They moved the furniture around on stage seamlessly, sang silly songs and moved around so gracefully.

The play lasted about 40 minutes and although the kids got a bit fidgety at times it was noting extra snacks couldn't help. We all had a really great time and are already looking at the next performance we want to see! 

The Further Adventures of The Owl and The Pussycat is still showing until 5th January so if you are local there is still time to book tickets. I have popped a little trailer below too. 

Do let me know in the comments if you would like to see more of these try of reviews, with the kids getting older we will be able to visit the theatre a lot more! 

*We were gifted tickets in exchange for an honest review. As always all opinions are my own. Photo credit to Ellie Kurttz

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Fun Secret Santa Ideas - *FREE* PDF

Secret Santa isn't just for the work place, it is also a great way to reduce spending in the family at Christmas. For a few years my extended family have done Secret Santa amongst the adults and this year we have gone one step further and done it for Christmas Day with my parents and siblings too. We realised we were spending a lot of money on gifts that really nobody needed. By doing a Secret Santa we only have to buy one gift at a set price and everyone comes away with a present that they love...hopefully!

Firstly for anyone who doesn't know what Secret Santa is, it is basically a way of gifting where all the participants names are put in a hat and each person draws a name out. They then have to buy a gift just for that person and all the gifts get put into a pile on Christmas Day/At A Party and the buyer is kept a secret. Now the whole secret thing rarely sticks in our family but on the whole we just do it so you only buy for one person. That's the basics.

There are lots of ways you can theme your Secret Santa and I wanted to share a few ideas with you to spice up your gifting this Christmas!

Alphabet Santa - Each gift has to start with the first letter of the persons name! I did this once at work and it was great, although somehow I ended up with some hair drying gloves so not sure my Santa really understood the idea. 

Gifts of Experiences - This could be cinema tickets, vouchers, subscriptions etc. Something that isn't a gift but more something that the person can enjoy doing. Some ideas here are vouchers for favourite restaurants, coffee shops or activities like rock climbing or gym membership.

Food Santa - This can be shop bought or homemade, the idea is you list 3 food items or flavours that you like and your Santa gifts you something to do with those flavours or foods. Simple but great for foodies. We are doing this one with extended family this year. 

Charity Santa - This one is lovely if none of you really need anything. Each person gifts a set amount to the persons chosen charity. It means the recipient gets money donated to a charity they are passionate about and the gifter can not only feel great donating to a good cause but may learn a bit about that charity at the same time. 

To make Secret Santa a bit easier there are sites like Elfster (not an ad) where your friends and family can sign up, put ideas together and it also draws the names for you to make sure all is done fairly. I have also put together a little sheet below you can use to get some more information from your participants. Just click the image to open the PDF for printing! 

Have you ever had a really bad gift? 
Let me know in the comments below, I promise not to tell the gifter! 

Sunday, 6 October 2019

5 Things Not To Do At Blog On

Two weeks ago I went to the brilliant Blog On Toys conference down in Bracknell. This was my second of these great blogging events, with my first being up in Manchester in 2017 and I had the best couple of days. Blogging conferences aren't for everyone...I mean if you don't have a blog yourself then you probably won't understand any of what you are about to read. However if you are interested in hearing 5 Things Not To Do At Blog On then keep on reading! 

First up, when it comes to networking at Blog On I already know a fair few people. I have been blogging for 10 years now so am bound to come across a few bloggers I know. That said if you haven't met any bloggers face to face you should definitely join the attendees Facebook page beforehand. Get chatting in the months leading up to the event. Make a note of people you want to meet and maybe arrange to find them when you arrive to break the ice. Perhaps you can find a "travel fwend" (thumbs up) to buddy up with. 

DON'T get the wrong postcode and drive half way across town to the wrong hotel to meet said "Travel Fwend" though. 

It will leave you extremely flustered, you may end up traumatised from using the toilet in that wrong hotel (eugh don't ask!) and arrive at your destination a frazzled, sweaty mess!

Once you arrive and calm down though it is time to check in and pick up your much coveted #BlogOnGoodyBag which brings me to my next DON'T.

DON'T underestimate the importance of an empty suitcase! 

The goody bags are EPIC and you will not be able to carry them without your trusty Samsonite (other brands are available) Once you have collected them store them safely in your room/car/special place then get on with mingling.

The day is a long one, there are some amazing speakers, sessions and don't even get me started on the brand den! You will have a lot to cram into the day and it can all be a bit overwhelming if you don't have a plan. Next point m'lady....

DON'T just go to sessions because your friends are. 

They might have different skills they want to develop and although you may not know anyone in the session you are interested in I can guarantee you won't feel left out. This is your event, if your goal is to learn everything there is to know about SEO and YouTube then drink up that knowledge. 

If blogging is a hobby for you then why not plan to go to a few sessions that aren't actually blogging related. I attended Karin Joyce's Imperfectly Happy which just uplifted me and inspired me when I really needed it the most. There are often sessions about positive thinking, mental health or even creative workshops that are less business led too.

It is also totally fine to sit out a session and have a chat with friends, explore the brand den or sneak off to your room for a cheeky afternoon nap. I mean we have all wanted to right?!

DON'T forget to enter the giveaways!

Many of the brands on the day will be hosting some fab giveaways that are very simple to enter. Usually just requiring a tweet or share and there are some amazing prizes to be won. This year was Batman's 80th Birthday (he looks good for it right?!) and LEGO were giving away a huge set of Batman LEGO which Ted would have loved! There was also a giant snow globe full of flower petals from the people at Awesome Blossems which had hidden gold petals to find. They also provided the beautiful cake on the day too. 

While we are on the subject of prizes there is a massive raffle each year, there were around 200 prizes from the Toy Awards available and with tickets costing just £1 each it is well worth picking up a few (dozen) tickets. 

DON'T forget your running shoes though! 

As Kate from Counting to Ten discovered your inner Mo Farrah may kick in when the offer of a giant Sylvanian House is on the cards! 

I had a really great time this year and will be getting my ticket for the next event as soon as they go on sale next year. I think my favourite part was meeting up with some of my blogging buddies as they are dotted all over the country. If I can sneak in a little DO for the weekend it is to squirrel away any good bits for Christmas gifts/ your own personal use, make mini goody bags for the kiddos and your other half to cushion the blow when you let them know you are leaving them for another weekend next year. 

Then finally...make the most of the free booze at the after party and let your hair down...but not too much remember the vloggers are everywhere!!!

Merry Christmas!!!