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!!!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Happy and Stuff Mix Tapes - Childhood Memories

I have been wanting to start this series on the blog for a while. Music is something that can really change my mood, If I need a pick me up popping on one of my favourite playlists never fails to pick me up. I don't know about you but I rarely listen to any new music, often taking a trip down memory lane to the times where I was happiest can really cheer me up. 

That is why I wanted to share with you some snippets of my life via the medium of music (plays a little flute like Little Britain...who gets that reference?) I have taken all of the songs each week and put them into a Spotify Playlist so that you guys can listen along! 

Those of you reading this first weeks post will have a sneaky preview on there for the next 2 posts which will cover my teenage dirtbag phase and the party years! Can't wait to hear what memories the songs bring back for you all so please do let me know in the comments. 

I will also be sharing some pictures along the way. Starting off with me and my sister meeting Mr Blobby wearing a Rosie and Jim T-shirt and double denim, I mean could we get any more 90's?

Anyway, without further ado I will kick off the memories from my childhood with...

Wet Wet Wet -Love is All Around. This song is a powerful one for me. When I was little my Uncle suddenly passed away. It was a huge shock for the whole family, he was just 21 years old. There are lots of sad memories from that time of my life but when I hear this song I have one amazing memory. Uncle Brett being the cool young Uncle would take his nieces (there were a few of us before the boys were born) for walks along the beach on the south coast where we used to holiday. One of those days he taught us the lyrics to Love is All Around and every time I hear the song I remember walking along that pebble beach with him and my cousins. It is a good memory to have.

Bryan Adams - Everything I Do is one of my Mum's all time favourites, many of the songs on this playlist were on in the background when we were kids. Mum would get up on a Sunday morning, throw open the windows and listen to her favourite music while she did the housework. We would help her with dusting and dance around the room. I hope my children carry memories like that with them too. 

UB40 - Red Red Wine - I have probably mentioned on the blog that my siblings and I have different Dad's and my sister's Dad used to have us to stay once a fortnight when him and Mum got divorced. Anyway his Mum used to listen to UB40 quite a lot when we were kids. I don't have the best memories of her as she was quite strict with me but I do recall listening to this song in her car and the sun was shining. We were on our way to the supermarket and we would get lunch while we were there. I was an odd child and always chose cheese salad. This song reminds me of sunshine and my favourite lunch. 

Another picture for you, me and my sister (we were born 3 years apart so until my little brother was born most pictures are just us two) meeting Rick from Neighbours!

Next song...

Inner Circle - Sweat - Man I love this song, yet when I was a kid I remember someone telling me I shouldn't sing it. Probably my Mum and now I know why. The lyrics are so inappropriate! Still a tune though right? 

Billy Rae Cyrus - Achey Breaky Heart - This song takes me back to being really little. I remember singing it along with the next song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini on my kids cassette player with microphone. You remember those ones in the 90's that you could carry around, probably from Early Learning Centre or something. I loved singing when I was little and still do, something I am planning to share a bit more on my social media soon (if I am brave enough!)

Kylie Minogue - Locomotion - I realised that I may have the wrong version of this song in the playlist due to how many times it was covered but I think it was the Kylie version that used to play a lot at the clubhouse where we used to go on holiday. I remember prancing around on the dancefloor to this. It is always guaranteed to make me boogie. 

Last picture of us looking super cute, fresh from the bath with our jammies on. Little Mermaid FTW!

Now for the last few songs...

Phil Collins - Can't Hurry Love - Another of Mum's favourites. This was always the one I would ask her to play as it was good to have a jiggle about to. We were all so excited when Disney's Tarzan was released because Phil Collins did the soundtrack. If you haven't seen the film it is one of my favourite from Disney and the songs are beautiful. 

Final one is a fun one, Star Trekkin' by The Firm. Who doesn't remember this song? It was played at every birthday party and disco in the early 90's and alongside The Purple People Eater was a real classic. I think I may have to relearn the dance moves and teach it to the kids! 

Well, that brings me to the end of my Childhood Memories playlist. I have so many more songs that could have made the cut but I want to hear which ones you would add and how old you were when these came out. I forget that readers of different ages may have been either out clubbing during the early 90's or not even born yet! Let me know in the comments. 

If you want to check out the playlist and get all nostalgic you can find it here!

Friday, 6 September 2019

Family fun on the Swanage Railway

I have been meaning to write this post up for a while so apologies if it is a bit out of season (just seen the weather outside) but I thought it would be good to share. 

Dorset has always been one of our favourite areas to visit because of the wide variety of days out available. You are never far from something fun to do with the family and when we stayed at the start of summer we were torn with where to go. One day we were split between going to Farmer Palmers and the Swanage Railway. The price for entry to the farm as a family and for the train ride were around about the same price but after realising we go to the farm a lot at home and have a few on our doorstep we settled on a trip to Swanage on the train!

I remember going on the same trip with my family when I was little and we rode the line when Ted was two so it was nice to go back with Callie now in tow and Ted had no memory of it so was all like new to him too. 

We were staying at Rockley Park so the trip to the train station was about 35-40 minutes along the coast. To drive from the car park at Norden to Swanage only takes 5 or 10 minutes so it always makes me chuckle that the train takes 40 minutes to make the same journey but there really is nothing like travelling on a steam train. 

The parking is £3.50 for the day and train costs £39.00 for a Family Ticket which can be used by 2 adults and 3 children or 1 adult and 4 children. We decided against adopting another child for the day but if you have 3 children it is quite a saving from the £54 for individual tickets. 

There are refreshments available at the station which is really quaint and old fashioned. The smaller children get a My First Train Journey ticket which is a lovely touch and we still have Ted's from his first visit. 

All of the staff and conductors are really friendly and come round to punch your tickets. Dogs are welcomed if well behaved and we made friends with one on our journey home. 

Swanage itself is a traditional seaside town, it is quintessentially British and there are lots of areas to explore. Our kids love the old fashioned toy shops, arcades and ice creams on the sea front. We found the "Old Gaol" and the kids giggled pretending to be "baddies" stuck in jail. We joked about leaving them there then decided we rather liked them and carried on with our holiday!

We treated ourselves to Harry Ramsden's for lunch which was delicious and although we would have preferred to support local businesses we have fond memories of HR chips on the night Joe proposed to me 7 years ago so had to be done. I had pie with chips and gravy and the hand made pie really was yummy. They do take away too but it was closed the day we went. I must admit it was nice not to have to share my chips with the seagulls on the beach for a change.

We had a brilliant day and certainly one to add to the memory bank. I am sure we will come back in the future too and are looking into another train journey on our next break in Norfolk this October

Have you ever been to Swanage? What did you think?

Friday, 30 August 2019

*Review* Home Education for Pre-Schoolers with Early Years Fun Subscription Boxes

Since becoming a stay at home Mum and pulling Callie out of nursery I have began to feel the pressure to educate her and keep up with her increasing need to learn. She is really smart, I don't mean that in a "my kid is a genius" kind of way, like all parents think their kid is "da bomb" right? She is genuinely quite advanced and it is tricky to keep up with her. 

She is already talking at a level a year ahead and is sharp as a button, not much getting past this kid. She keeps me on my toes and made me realise if I have 2 years before she starts school I am going to have to pull out the big guns to keep her from getting bored. 

My eyes lit up when I saw Early Years Fun were looking for people to try out their new subscription boxes. They took the thinking out of it for me and provided us with all the tools we needed for fun and educational activities from home. 

The box comes with everything you need for 8 activities and all cover off a wide range of areas from sensory and reading to craft and creative play. The set we have is the transport box and Callie loves playing with toy cars and spotting all the different vehicles when we are out and about so it was a perfect match.

We really liked that not all the activities were messy meaning we could take some with us when out and about. The vehicle scavenger hunt with little velcro images was a particular favourite as was the sticker sheet. Callie had so much fun creating her race track picture and showed it off proudly to anyone who came to visit. There was also a pack of Geli Baff in our box which we are going to try out this weekend before Ted goes back to school.

As every activity in the box ties in with EYFS curriculum I found it good to be able to see what ones she was able to complete. It made me feel more positive that when she does start pre-school in January she will be able to carry out these sort of activities and understand what is happening.

Since starting to do more hands on things with her she has come on leaps and bounds, her mark making has improved and she is following instructions well. She thrives when she is using her creativity and it makes me happy having one on one time where she is calm (it has been a tough few months!)

As well as the one off boxes like this one, you can sign up to monthly subscription boxes where you will get a new theme each month. I love the look of the seaside and mini beast ones and hope there will be a Christmas one in the pipeline. There are also a wide range of subscriptions so you can do 3 monthly, 6 monthly or annual sign ups as well as the offer of half size boxes which would make great presents!