Thursday, 24 August 2017

Ancient Egyptian Day

After the success of Minecraft Day, it was time for our second themed day of the summer holidays - Ancient Egyptian Day. This was Harry's choice, inspired by having studied Ancient Egypt at school last term, and he had some ideas of his own. In fact I found so much to do that Ancient Egyptian Day actually spilled over into the weekend and inspired our activities for several days!

How to hold an Ancient Egypt themed day with children

As usual, I set up our dining table with some of our favourite Ancient Egypt books and my little cat statue that my parents brought me back from Egypt after I regretted not buying one after our own trip. The night before I printed out a set of Ancient Egypt Matching Flash Cards from Twinkl (Premium resource). This is a set of cards which make up text and image pairs. I stuck them up all around the house. The children loved spotting them when they came down to breakfast, and when they had finished we played a mad matching game which involved them tearing about the house trying to match up the cards - they loved it!

Twinkl resources for Egyptian theme

They were ready for some quiet activities after that, so I settled them down with an Ancient Egypt Wordsearch (Premium resource) and a Design an Ancient Egyptian Death Mask printable. Mia in particular really loved this activity, she spent ages making sure that her mask was symmetrical.

While she was getting on with it Harry spent time reading his Explore 360: The Tomb of Tutankhamun book which we received to review a little while ago. There is a free app that goes with the book but can be used independently and I'd really recommend it. It's called TutTomb 360 (TutTomb 360 for Android, TutTomb 360 on iTunes) and you can use it for a virtual tour of King Tutankhamun's tomb. Harry has spent ages exploring using it, there is lots of information about the objects that were found in the tomb.

Design your own death mask craft

Then we moved onto our baking activity and made some gingerbread mummy biscuits. I used my favourite gingerbread recipe from Tesco. I know that it makes loads of dough so I reduced the quantities down to one third and it made enough for about 12 mummy biscuits. When the biscuits had cooled we used a spoon to drip white icing over the biscuits to form stripes like bandages - they looked brilliant and were delicious!

Gingerbread mummy biscuits

Our next craft was another mummy one - making our own mummy models. This idea came from a great book that Harry received for his birthday - Egyptian Things to Make and Do. The book is packed with crafts to do with Ancient Egypt which all use materials that are readily available and are really imaginative. The mummies were made using tin foil pieces, scrunched up and placed together to form the shape of a person and a cat, then covered with more in foil to hold everything together firmly. Then the children used thin strips of kitchen roll, dipped in water and wrapped around like bandages.

Making mummies craft with children

When they were dry I painted them with a slightly diluted mixture of PVA glue to keep everything stuck down firmly. They really enjoyed making their mummies and it was interesting to see how the bandages had to be positioned to wrap the bodies most efficiently.

Ancient Egypt day making mummies

All this mummification reminded Harry of something that he'd done at school - mummifying a tomato. I found some simple instructions here - how to mummify a tomato - and we gave it a go. You basically just scoop out the inside of the tomato, give it a wash, pack it with salt to preserve it, then leave it somewhere warm and dark. Ours is currently sitting in the airing cupboard, I'll be checking in a few days to see what has happened to it!

How to mummify a tomato

After lunch we had a go at playing the Ancient Egyptian game of Senet, using another printable from Twinkl - Ancient Egyptian Board Game Senet (Premium resource). The game involves throwing sticks to determine how many spaces to move your counters, and racing to move all your counters off the board, with lots of extra goes, swapping, and safe spaces. It was a bit complicated to start with but we worked it out and it was a lot of fun to play!

Ancient Egyptian game Senet printable

It was time for more crafting, and we decided to attempt some headbands. Harry found one in a book that he wanted to try but it was a bit complicated, so we used this Egyptian Snake Head Band printable from Twinkl (Premium resource). It was simple to put together and looks really good! There are also some other fab papercrafting printables over at Twinkl, you can make a Mummy, a Pyramid and a Sphinx (Premium resources).

Printable 3D Egyptian headband from Twinkl

Then Harry pulled out a hieroglyph chart and ruler that he bought on a trip to the British Museum. The ruler has a stencil for drawing the different hieroglyphs, and he loves writing little messages.

While he was doing that I began to work on some cases for their mummies, again using instructions from the Egyptian Things to Make and Do book. You make a basic shape for the case using a shaped piece of cardboard and a cardboard strip taped up the sides. I gave the case several coats of white paint to cover up the printing, then left overnight to dry.

The next day we covered the cardboard cases with papier mache made from white tissue paper and glue. This made sure that the edges were covered evenly and the whole thing had a smooth finish. Then we painted them with a gold coloured acrylic paint. When it was all dry the children decorated them using stickers from the craft book and their own designs, with a hieroglyphic alphabet for some writing. I think they look pretty good!

Ancient Egyptian mummy case craft for children

Finally, we had to involve Minecraft in our themed day somehow. Harry set them both up in a desert landscape, and I challenged them to build a pyramid.

Playing Minecraft with an Egyptian theme

These are the books that we used while we were learning about Ancient Egypt, I can fully recommend all of them!

Affiliate links.



Our other themed days so far:

Space Day
Antarctic Day
Dinosaur Day
Under the Sea Day
Beach Day
Disney Frozen Day (a guest post from my sister)
Roman Day
Transport Day
Australia Day
Minecraft Day

I have been provided with a Platinum Plus subscription to Twinkl in exchange for sharing their resources on my blog from time to time. Amazon links are affiliate.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Being terrible at organising play dates

The school summer holidays are sadly coming to an end, and we seem to have been very busy. We've been out and about, as well as spending lots of time having fun at home, doing craft kits, playing games and playing Minecraft. It's also been really nice to catch up with friends and their children that are at different schools, the children get along well and they don't really see each other during the term so it's a good opportunity to meet.

It's turned out though that they've not really seen much of their friends from school. Harry has had play dates with a couple of his class mates, here and at theirs, but Mia so far hasn't seen anyone from her class and it's my fault. I just haven't taken the initiative to get around to organising anything.

I tend to worry that the other child will be busy, they won't want to come around, it will be awkward for their parents (we live a few miles away from the school). I also am not very good about getting too many things booked into the calendar, it starts to make me feel anxious. Then the start of term approaches and it feels too late to sort something out now anyway.

I do enjoy having other children around, they are no trouble, and in many ways it makes things easier for me because they can just get on with things by themselves now, I don't generally have to organise any activities for them. Harry can sometimes get a bit overwhelmed with too many events all at once, but Mia loves having friends round, both hers and Harry's.

I'm also bad at term time play dates. We only have a couple of afternoons during the week when we are free, and everyone else always seems so busy too that it's difficult to co-ordinate. We don't get home until around 4pm anyway, and by that time it seems a bit late in the day to be entertaining, besides the children are usually quite happy chilling out by themselves.

I know that Mia in particular is quite concerned about her friendships at school, and she'd love to have some of her friends over. Only one of her class mates has ever been to our house. I've always been really pleased when a Mum has invited one of mine over, so I need to encourage myself to make the first move. I'm determined that once the new term is under way I'm going to try and organise for a few more children to come over (although not all at once!)

Two children on the sofa

Do you organise lots of play dates for your children? Am I alone in my insecurities?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Having fun with stashed craft and activity kits

I've mentioned before when it comes to planning activities for the summer holidays that I store up craft and activity kits that the children have received for Christmas and birthday presents, and bring them out when I need to entertain them for a little while. We've had a lot of fun this summer working through some of them and so I thought that I'd share just a few of our favourites in case you are looking for activity or gift ideas!

Amazon links are affiliate.

Mia received the Galt Toys Sparkle Jewellery Box for her birthday and she was really pleased with her finished jewellery box. The box comes with lots of numbered gaps on the outside for you to place corresponding jewel stickers, and it kept her occupied for ages sticking them into place. The one problem was that as soon as she had finished the stickers started falling off, causing some frustration. So I watered down some PVA glue and gave the entire box a couple of coats. This stuck the jewels down really well and we've not lost any since. It's a nice big case with a felt lining, perfect for all her little bits and pieces.

Activity and craft kits for children

Another birthday gift was a Make Your Own Lip Balm kit, which Harry also showed a lot of interest in. Making the lip balms was very simple, you just have to mix together a couple of spoonfuls of the lip balm base in a pot with some scent/flavouring. You place the pot into some hot water to melt it slightly so you can easily mix it together. The kit comes with four little tubs for your finished lip balm along with stickers to decorate. It's also a nice little gift to make for friends.

Activity and craft kits for children

Mia also really loved this My Fairy Garden Fairy Garden. She received two very similar ones for her birthday so we chose one to start with and one to save for later in the year. It's a really simple concept, and of course you can make your own, but it was so much more fun to have all the tiny fairy bits and pieces. You need to put your own compost in, then you sprinkle in grass seed and add other bits like a path of coloured stones, a little house, a pond and a washing line, and there are fairy and mouse figures too. We made it a couple of months ago and the grass is still growing well as long as it's regularly watered, I'm always having to give it a trim!

Activity kits for children

Harry had a lot of fun with this Galt Toys Horrible Science Creepy Crystals set which he bought for himself at a friend's garage sale. He loves science kits, and I have to say this was one of the better ones that we've tried.

The crystal making kit contains three different crystal making experiments. The first is a crystal tree, with a cardboard tree that you colour in and then leave in a solution. After a few days it is covered in little coloured crystals. The second one that we tried was the one in the picture, where a small crystal is left in a solution that you've dissolved powder into (as you can tell I'm not that scientific, I don't really know what we were doing!) and then the small crystal grew into a larger and more impressive crystal. The third experiment involved putting a crystal into vinegar for a week or so, to be honest it didn't do much so I'm not sure if we did it right, but it was fun setting it up!

Activity and craft kits for children

Harry also enjoyed this Science Tricks set from the Science Museum. There are some bits and pieces in the box and most of the other things that you need are easily found around the house (cocktail sticks and so on). He was able to work out some of the tricks by himself and put on a little show for us, and he also enjoyed adding to it with some of his other science kits and playing with syringes and funnels and so on.

Finally, there's one activity kit that the children have loved but I've been less impressed with. We've had a few different versions of the Gem Excavation kit over the last few years. It's a brilliant idea, but all the ones that we've had have turned into 'parents extracting the gems' kits after the children have tapped away ineffectually for a few minutes and then got bored.

They are a great idea in practice - some kind of plaster of Paris block with gems embedded in for children to excavate with the tools provided. However they aren't easy to get into, and the last one I got so cross with that I encouraged the children to throw lumps at the patio to try and shatter it and release the gems. This caused the gems to go flying in all directions and get lost in the grass. Far too annoying, just buy a pack of gemstones! If you want any kind of excavation kit, we did get on quite well with this Dinosaur excavation kit which produced a really nice dinosaur model that could be putt together and was a bit more exciting to excavate.



Amazon links are affiliate. These are all kits that we've been given as gifts or purchased and that I particularly wanted to recommend as I was so pleased with them, I know that I'm always looking for gift ideas when it comes to birthday parties!

Friday, 18 August 2017

Coping with a lack of me time over the summer holidays

I'm very lucky that I'm able to spend all school holidays at home with the children. But I'm an introvert and I need time by myself to recharge, something that I learned from the fab book Quiet by Susan Cain. During term time I very much enjoy my quiet days at home by myself, catching up with my blog and social media work as well as housework and other chores, leaving my evenings free to spend with the husband once the children are in bed.

The school holidays are a different story however. I'm very grateful to have affectionate children, but it can be overwhelming at times. They don't like to be far from me, and while reasonably content to be in the room next door they are very reluctant to be on a different floor to me for very long. Ideally they like to be sitting as close to me as they can, which often leads me to bemoan the fact that we pay so much on a mortgage for a good sized house when most of the time we are only occupying a tiny percentage of it! Even when they are playing quietly away together I'm constantly on edge, anticipating imminent chaos.

My husband is very good about taking the children when he's at home, and most evenings he will take them away after dinner to watch a film together, leaving me time to get on with the things that I need to do in my study. They still like to come and visit me from time to time, to request a drink or a cuddle, but generally they understand that I'm busy. Sometimes he will even take them both out for an hour or so. They like to go down to the nearest beach playing Pokemon Go, although while Harry is always keen to go lately Mia usually prefers to stay at home with me.

Another time that I truly get to myself is if I go out for a run, something which I don't fit in as often as I should. The children have been staying up later so they've been sleeping in later in the mornings, a luxury that I've been dreaming of for many years, so I don't like to ruin it by setting my alarm early!

Tired Mum squashed by children

I've also found that a good way to get some space from the children during the day is to get on with some housework. Mia in particular is often keen to help, but I can distract her with a spray bottle and a duster and find her something to clean and she'll get on happily before she gets bored and wanders off to find something else to do. Also popping them in the bath is a good idea, obviously I have to be in there too to supervise them, but I can be cleaning the bathroom, or just sat on the floor faffing on my phone!

My big winner though for having some time to myself has been Minecraft. It's not always peaceful, they play in the same game together and there are often arguments. It also means that both our PCs are occupied, so it's not an opportunity for me to catch up with work unless it's something that I can do on my own. Unfortunately I can't let them play Minecraft all day!

How do you manage to get time to yourself when you are at home with children?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Finding blogging inspiration over the summer holidays

When I'm used to having time to myself while the children are at school, it's quite a big adjustment having them around for the whole time during the school holidays. We often go away during other breaks, but tend to avoid travel over the summer. I can't justify sending the children to any kind of holiday club, but it definitely has an impact on my blogging and social media work. I either need to get on with things while they are around (near impossible) or cram everything into a few hours after they have gone to bed (leaving me without much time to relax!)

I do my best to keep up with social media bits and pieces from my phone during the day while they are playing or distracted by Minecraft. The trouble is that I'm constantly on alert for an argument leading to a meltdown which requires me to intervene at short notice, so it's difficult to get on with longer tasks like writing blog posts. So when I do get a few hours of uninterrupted time to myself I need to have a plan, in particular a list of blog posts that I want to write to work through.

So I thought I'd share some of the ways that I find blog post inspiration over the summer holidays!

How to find blogging inspiration

* Even though we don't always do a huge amount, we still do more as a family, and with the nicer weather we enjoy more day trips. So that usually gives me something to write about, whether it's a day out locally with friends or some activities that I've organised for the children at home.

* I really enjoy reading other blogs, and I subscribe to a lot through Feedly. I catch up daily, as well as finding interesting blog posts on Facebook or other social media. Reading blog posts is something that you can make fit the time available, and it's great to see what other people are writing about and whether it sparks an idea (fully credited of course!)

* Similarly, you can see what other people are talking about on Facebook or other parenting sites, in particular reactions to things in the news, and think about your own opinions or reactions. I generally have a continuous inner monologue going on anyway, and so I like to get things written down if I'm stewing on them, whether or not it ends up as a blog post.

* I try to write down ideas as I think of them, and I have a Trello board where I store ideas for future posts. Some of them never see the light of day, but I go through them again from time to time and sometimes I see a way that I can take a different angle to an old idea, or I can combine several ideas into one.

* It's also helpful to go through my old blog posts (this was enforced upon me recently thanks to Photobucket!) and I can see where I've written about the same sort of thing several times, which can be combined into a round up. This is particularly true when it comes to some of my crafty posts, for example my recent round up of Summer Hama bead ideas.

* I spend a lot of time browsing Pinterest, both under my own account and also for the BritMums account. It's particularly good for crafting inspiration, as well as seeing what is popular and trending at the minute. Again it's important to credit any ideas that you reproduce, but I often find that it leads me on to my own ideas for crafts or things to try.

* If I'm really stuck I'll search for lists of blog post ideas. There are loads of them out there, including a few that I've written myself - Blog post ideas for Travel Bloggers, Blog post ideas for Crafty Bloggers and Blog post ideas for Summer. This list from You Baby Me Mummy - 87 Awesome Post Ideas - also has plenty of ideas to get you going. I very rarely take a blog post idea and use it exactly as the author intended, but they are great for coming up with ideas that you can adapt to your own blog and niche.

I hope that this was a helpful post, and enjoy your summer!

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

Monday, 14 August 2017

Sharing my favourite childhood books with the children

I loved reading as a child. I always had a book on the go, and I read my favourites over and over again. Harry is 8, and at his age, and younger, I devoured Enid Blyton books in particular. I think my favourite series was the Adventure Series - The Island of Adventure, The Castle of Adventure and so on. I also really loved The Secret Island, about a group of children that run away from their unkind aunt and uncle and set themselves up living self-sufficiently on a remote island, complete with chickens and a cow. I read the Famous Five books over and over, and I also have fond memories of the books about Mr Galliano's Circus. I didn't mind that many of the stories had similar elements, and that although the names were different the children didn't change much. Perhaps it made them a comforting and easy read before I moved on to more challenging books.

To my dismay, Harry hasn't shown the same interest in Enid Blyton. I read the The Magic Faraway Tree series to him a couple of years ago and he's since read them to himself, as well as The Wishing-Chair Collection, so they were a hit. He recently enjoyed a few of the Secret Seven books but he didn't get on with the Famous Five. I'm hoping that I can either rekindle his interest, or that perhaps Mia will want to read them when she's able to read more confidently!

I recently interested Harry in Five Children and It by E. Nesbit and I'm hoping that he'll go on to enjoy some of her other books. I've also got a long list of other books that I remember enjoying as a child, and although some of them might appeal more to Mia in a few years I'm looking forward to seeing what they think. Fortunately these days, even though many are now out of print, they are often available digitally, sometimes very cheaply or even for free.

I kept lots of my own old books specifically for my children to read (from well before children were on the way!) and I have a collection of old hardbacks that were my Dad's. I've also kept an eye out for them in charity shops over the years. I don't keep that many books on my own fiction bookshelf, but the childhood books are harder to part with.

Vintage children's books on the shelf

I also have quite a collection of old Ladybird books, some of my own originals but mainly ones that I've collected over the last few years. Harry will be learning about the Stone Age next term at school so I pulled out my Ladybird Stone Age Man in Britain and he lapped it up. I find that the non-fiction Ladybird books are brilliantly written for young children, explaining all the facts in a really easy to access way. The books in the Easy to Read series were also excellent when the children were still learning to read, they made a good alternative to the school books that they were bringing home when they wanted something a bit different.

Of course there are also lots of fab new books for children that weren't around when I was younger. The Harry Potter books and the His Dark Materials Trilogy are both sets of books that I bought and read when I was in my twenties, and that Harry has enjoyed reading recently. I've also seen some re-imagined versions of childhood classics for sale. For example the other day I spotted Katy by Jacqueline Wilson in the shops which seems to be a modern version of What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. I loved that series of books when I was little, and although I'm not sure I like the idea of rewriting a beloved story, I am very tempted to check it out!

Child reading in bed

I'd love to know which books you enjoyed when you were younger that you've shared with your own children!

Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Start of term keepsake craft for children

We are over halfway through our summer holidays already, and I'm starting to think about and plan for the new term ahead. This month the theme for our Bostik Bloggers craft was 'Back to School', so I came up with a keepsake craft that could be replicated each year to show how much the children have changed when they go back in September.

Back to school keepsake craft

To make this craft you need:

Coloured paper or card
Patterned paper
A photograph of your children, ideally in their school uniforms on the first day of school
Stickers and embellishments
Bostik White Glu
Bostik Foam Pads

Back to school keepsake craft

Instructions:

First come up with some questions to ask your children. I put in the name of their teacher and then asked them about their favourite subject, likes and dislikes, what they wanted to be when they grow up and so on. Print this out along with a title.

Then use the Bostik White Glu to stick everything down.

Back to school keepsake craft

To add a bit of interest I used some plastic numbers to illustrate the years that the children will be going into, Year 2 and Year 4. To stick them down I used a couple of Bostik Foam Pads. These are really sticky so they will hold the larger decoration firmly in place, and they really make the numbers pop out from the page.

Back to school keepsake craft

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.
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