Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Making letter formation cards for the summer with Fellowes

The summer holidays are now in full swing and like most parents I'm busy thinking of things to do to entertain the children for the next few weeks. Recent research from Fellowes* has shown that I'm not alone - 46% of the 1000 parents surveyed admitted that they found it stressful trying to think of activities for their children to do. Not to mention the fact that all these activities often end up costing a lot of money - something that almost 47% of those surveyed listed as their top worry.

I'm really looking forward to the summer holidays and I love coming up with things for the children to do, trying to save money wherever possible. It is hard work though having both children at home all day, and although I'm fortunate that I don't need to worry about finding extra childcare I'll definitely be joining the 52.6% of people that will be facing additional cleaning and decluttering!

If you are looking for some fun crafts for the children then the Fellowes Ideas Centre contains lots of craft and activity ideas, learning aids, resources and suggestions for days out. There are some great printables, like these really sweet dress up dolls and this fab pinwheel craft for the garden.

The Twinkl website is also a great resource for summer holiday activities. In particular with Mia I'm going to be working on her handwriting over the summer as it's an area that needs work, and so I printed out these letter formation flash cards (Premium resource) which I cut out and laminated to make them wipe clean. She can use them over and over to practise her letters whenever she feels like it! Here's a little video showing how easy it was to make them with a paper cutter and laminator:

Here's to a fun summer!

*The survey results represent the findings of 1003 respondents from across the UK and was carried out among parents with children aged 4 - 8 years.

I met Fellowes at BritMums this year, and I will be working with them over the summer to showcase how their products can be used for crafting as a family. I am a part of the Twinkl blogging network and as such have been provided with a Premium subscription.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Review - Express Trolley Bags

At the end of last year I shared my review of the awesome Trolley Bags. With free supermarket shopping bags a distant memory, and my stash of plastic bags dwindling, these bags really are invaluable when it comes to the weekly shop. I'm lucky that my husband normally does our large weekly shop, and he's been making great use of them. However I'm usually responsible for a smaller top up shop during the week, and I find that I just don't need that much capacity when I'm only picking up a few bits and pieces.

Enter the Express Trolley Bags! These bags are smaller in size and designed to fit perfectly into the smaller, speedier trolleys. I prefer to use this size trolley anyway when I'm shopping as I find them much more maneuverable, and although the larger bags can be used in the smaller trolley, ones that are designed to fit are much better.

There are four separate bags that velcro together and can be rolled up neatly when not in use. Then when you are ready to use them you simply pull them across your trolley to fit it and separate them at the end when you come to load them into your car.

Express Trolley Bags review

If you are using a scan as you shop service you can fill the bags directly while you are shopping, otherwise you can keep the bags rolled up out of the way at the end of your trolley until you are at the checkout.

Express Trolley Bags rolled up in trolley

Although smaller the bags are still really roomy, I only needed to use two of the bags for my small shop! And because they are smaller they are also light and easy to lift into the car.

The bags are colour coded, and we've found it really useful to designate different bags for different types of items - for example one is used for fruit and veg, one for dairy, and we use the largest bags for the bulkiest items so that they don't end up too heavy. I've had so many positive comments while out and about shopping with the Trolley Bags and I'd really recommend a set!

Express Trolley Bags filled

I received the Express Trolley Bags in exchange for this review. A set of Express Trolley bags costs £19.99 and you can order both Express and Original bags here - Packing Sorted

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A family summer holiday challenge

Quercus Living have published a Kids Summer Holiday Challenge, with a different activity to try with the children for each week of the summer holiday. It's a great help, as it's difficult coming up with things to do with the children over the holidays. I usually get together with the children and we make up a list together of all the things that we want to do, from old favourites to something new.

So here are six things that I'm challenging us to do this summer, perhaps there's something here to inspire you!

Visit some local Geocaches - we are used to looking for Geocaches when we are camping or otherwise out and about in the countryside, but having checked recently I was surprised to find that there are 20 within a mile of our house alone, including one at our local Asda where we go all the time! We'll definitely be hunting some of them down.

Go for bike rides - I had this on my list last summer, but I'm determined to get Harry riding a bike this year. We've very kindly been given a bike by a friend that is the right size for him so it's just a case of getting out and practising on it! We are lucky that our cul-de-sac is quiet, so as long as I'm out there with them I'm happy for them to spend as long out there as they want, and perhaps I can sit in the shade with a book...

Complete a Summer Reading Challenge - I definitely want to make sure that the children keep up with their reading and the other day I shared a great list from YouTube Kids of different ways that children can read a book for 20 minutes each day. It's printed out in the kitchen and Harry has already made a start, it's going to be a lot of fun!

Have a camping festival in the garden - We tend to avoid campsites over the summer holidays as they get very busy and also have a minimum two night stay, and we've not built up to that yet. But I'm definitely hoping to be camping in the garden this summer as we've done before, weather permitting, and I want to make it really special this year, with decorations, bunting, glow sticks, music, a barbecue, a midnight feast and lots of games. Let's hope for some nice warm evenings!

Go to the beach - We are so lucky to live by the coast and we don't make nearly as much of it as we should do. I'm intending to get myself out for some runs along the seafront, and I want to spend more time there than just a brief visit, with a picnic, some beach toys, and maybe even a paddle!

Play more board and card games - I recently sorted out our toy cupboard and we've been having a great time re-discovering the games that had ended up at the back and having a go at ones that had been too difficult before. In particular I've found that we can now all play simple card games like Happy Families and Old Maid, which is brilliant as I have very fond memories of playing family games when I was growing up. I'm going to attempt playing at least one card or board game every day that we are at home during the holidays.

If you are interested here's our full list that we have all contributed to - it's very much still a work in progress but lots there to keep us busy!

Summer holiday challenge for kids

This is a sponsored post.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The new Enkl range from Twinkl - with video

Enkl is the name of the new home decor crafting range from Twinkl. Regular readers will know how much I love Twinkl - we've used their printables for all sorts of things both educational and fun - and there are now even more gorgeous and colourful things to print. You can find all the new Enkl resources here.

It was the Enkl Little Pony Peg Printables that caught my eye first, they print out beautifully in lovely range of colours and are so simple to put together. It's recommended to print on cardstock but my printer can only manage paper and they still worked really well. I printed them all out and made up a couple to give Mia an idea of how to put them together. When she saw them she was thrilled, and couldn't wait to make up her own.

Enkl little pony printables

Here's a little video showing her putting together her own little pony, and she's been having so much fun playing with them!

Next on my list to have a go at is this lovely Enkl Summer Party Pack printable which is packed with bright and cheerful things for the summer, I'm going to start with the bunting and cupcake cases for our next picnic!

The Enkl range can be accessed as part of the Twinkl Premium subscription package. As a member of the Twinkl blogger network I have been provided with a Premium subscription.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

#ReadAlong with YouTube Kids

The summer holidays have now very nearly begun, and I'm looking forward to six weeks of no school runs, no packed lunches, long sunny days and lie-ins! Well, maybe I'm being a bit optimistic about the last two, but at least things should be a little more relaxed, especially now that the children are that bit older and hopefully not quite as difficult to entertain as they used to be!

Although I have lots of fun activities planned, I'm keen to make sure that the children don't fall too far behind academically, especially as they are starting a new school in September and I want them to make a good impression! So in particular I'm going to be making sure that they at least keep up with some daily reading. Harry continues to read well for his age and he reads a wide variety of books to himself now. Mia has made fantastic progress this year and in the last few months her reading has really come on.

Over the summer, YouTube Kids are running a 30 Day Reading Challenge and they are showcasing reading related videos to encourage children to get reading. It might seem a bit strange to be promoting videos to help with reading instead of actual books, but the idea behind it is to bring stories to life, particularly through the use of kinetic typography and animation videos. For example, this video The Story of Seeds is aimed at younger readers, and uses animation to bring the story behind the words to life, great for children that are just starting out with reading.

Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing also has a brilliant channel on YouTube - you can find it here SimonKIDS - where you can find book trailers and author interviews along with fun and educational videos. Harry was sent a copy of The Explosive Story of Fireworks! (affiliate link) which is a really fun book and comes with an accompanying video that brings the pictures in the book to life, to his great delight!

I'm going to be encouraging the children to take part in the 30 Day Challenge by using this fun checklist, letting them choose a different one each day, and I think they are going to have a lot of fun working through the list!

YouTube reading challenge list

YouTube Kids is a free app which makes the YouTube experience safer and more accessible for young children - you can download the YouTube Kids app here.

YouTube reading challenge

We received a bundle of goodies from YouTube Kids in exchange for this post.

Book reviews - Spot the Lot and London City Trails from Lonely Planet

This week we've been looking at another couple of gorgeous children's books from Lonely Planet.

New books from Lonely Planet

City Trails is a brand new series which launches this month and includes London, New York and Paris. We are regular visitors to London and always keen to find new and interesting places to visit, so City Trails - London is perfect for us. Young readers can learn about these amazing cities and discover 19 themed trails which pick out things to see and do around the city. There are stories, fantastic facts, photos and illustrations, covering a huge range of attractions. Harry has been poring over the book and picking out the things that he wants to see next time we are there, even though we feel like we know the city pretty well there are still many things that we've not yet discovered!

City Trails London from Lonely Planet

Spot the Lot is a brilliant new title that is part sketch book and part I Spy book. Spot The Lot is packed with pages covering a huge variety of places that you might visit when out and about, from exotic destinations like the ski slopes and on the aeroplane, to more everyday places like the shops and the park. All the things that you might see there are given points depending on how rare they are, and if you don't see them while you are there you can spot them in the illustration on the next page. There is also a page for your own drawings relevant to the location.

Child spotting things on a camping trip

We first took this book out on a recent camping trip, and the children had a great time spotting things together while we set the tent up and then colouring in the next page. Then we've also been using it at home for sketching and colouring. It's a lovely little book and will be accompanying us on many of our adventures!

Child's sketch of dinner

Find out more about the books here:

We received copies of these books to review. Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday, 15 July 2016

5 Years of Blogging - My 5 favourite blog posts

This week I've been celebrating five years of blogging! I'm also holding a little giveaway to celebrate so pop over for the chance to win a crafty bundle.

Today I'm sharing five of my favourite blog posts. It's been quite difficult to choose just five, as I have written and published well over 1200 posts during these last five years (!) but here are five that I particularly remember and enjoyed writing.

My first post is still one of my favourites. It was really just a quick post to get me started and I didn't go with any kind of introduction, I just jumped straight in with something I'd made that I was really proud of - Felt Party Rings and Chocolate Chip Cookies. The felt biscuits are still going strong in Mia's toy kitchen and I love seeing her still playing with them all these years later!

Felt party rings and cookies

Hama beads have featured very prominently on the blog since I first discovered them, and my favourite Hama bead creations are probably my Hama Bead Elephants. They are so fun and cheerful and really brighten up the room. I have written lots of other Hama bead posts and you can find them all on my Hama bead page.

Hama bead Elmer elephant

I love writing about all the places that we've visited as a family, especially if I'm able to help people out by sharing new information or writing about somewhere that they might not have considered. This first post about our holiday to Center Parcs, Erperheide has been very popular and I really hope that it has inspired people to think about a Center Parcs holiday abroad for a great money saving trip.

Children in tube slide

My blog has inspired me to try lots of new crafts and activities with the children, and across various school holidays I've had great fun hosting themed days for them. My first and favourite one was Space Day, and I remember how thrilled the children were when they came downstairs to find the kitchen table transformed with tin foil and all their space toys.

Space day themed table

Finally I wrote a post quite recently titled Ten Things I love about Blogging, and it really sums up everything that blogging has done for me and had a lot of positive feedback. I love writing my blog, and I love the opportunities that it has brought me.

Ten things I love about blogging logo

I hope that I have many more years of blogging ahead of me!
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