Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The best attractions at Walt Disney World, Orlando for very young children

Visiting Walt Disney World young children is a fantastic experience. But it can also be hard work. Florida can be hot and humid, and the parks get very crowded. After our visit last year I wrote a post with some tips for visiting DisneyWorld with small children, and after our more recent visit I thought I'd put together a list of our favourite attractions so that you can have some idea of what young children might enjoy there. These are the rides and attractions that appealed most to my two when aged 4 and under.

We spent most of our time in the Magic Kingdom. This is where you will find the most rides themed around the Disney films and characters that are familiar to your children, and if you only have time to visit one park then this should be it. A tip so important it's worth mentioning here too - arrive early, before the park opens. You will be able to fit in so much more while the park is quieter in the morning.

Here are our absolute favourite attractions across the parks for little ones:

Magic Kingdom


The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - This ride through a Winnie the Pooh story is very popular, and so to help entertain little ones in the queue there are some games for children to play while a parent waits in line. It's a happy, fun ride with nothing scary at all about it.

Peter Pan's Flight - Another very popular ride, a trip in a pirate ship through the story of Peter Pan which children love.

It's a Small World - A boat ride through a world populated by happy, singing dolls - once the song is in your head you will never forget it!

Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid - A new ride with music and scenes from the film, bright and colourful and fast loading.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant - Recently re-themed with a circus themed waiting area, allowing for a virtual 'queue' which is great for little ones. A classic Disney ride in a flying elephant.

Pirates of the Caribbean - Our two love this ride, although with lots of skeletons it might be a bit scary for some children.

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin - A fun shooting game, if your child is too small to work the gun they will certainly be able to reach the joystick which spins you round and round!

Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover - There is hardly ever a queue for this little ride which takes you through some of the Tomorrowland attractions.

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin - Similar to the Dumbo ride, magic carpets which swoop up and down at your child's command.

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Epcot


Spaceship Earth - A ride inside the large silver sphere which is the Epcot icon and journey through the history of human communication. Although the subject matter might appear a little dry for young children, ours loved it!

Living with the Land - A slow boat ride with a focus on agriculture, ending with a tour of Epcot's greenhouses where plants are grown in various futuristic ways. Again, it sounds a little dry, but my pre-schooler son was fascinated!

The Seas with Nemo and Friends - A ride which joins characters from Finding Nemo as they search again for Nemo. At the end of the ride you pass through a massive aquarium where Nemo and his friends are cleverly projected into the tank, then you can explore the aquarium on foot. There is a little shark-themed play area where you can climb inside a shark's mouth, and our children spent a long time in this attraction.

Journey into Imagination with Figment - A journey through the senses accompanied by Figment, a little dragon. Us adults found it a bit silly, but the children loved it.

Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros - A short boat ride with hardly any queue following Donald Duck and friends through a selection of Mexican scenes.

Animal Kingdom


Kilimanjaro Safaris - A simulated open-air safari ride through East Africa with plenty to see, lots of opportunities for taking photos and a few surprises.

Wildlife Express Train - A short train ride through the park, including some of the areas behind the scenes.

The Boneyard - An open-air dinosaur themed play area. As well as play equipment children can also excavate 'fossils'.

Finding Nemo - The Musical - I haven't included any other shows on my list in the post, as to be honest we found most of them a bit of a struggle with our toddler who was reluctant to sit still for very long, but Finding Nemo really captured her attention and was also one of my favourite shows.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover

Hollywood Studios


Toy Story Midway Mania - This is a very popular ride and is probably the best one for little ones at Hollywood Studios. A very clever, fast moving shooting gallery ride, which is also in 3D.

Disney Junior - Live on Stage - A show aimed at little ones based on three popular Disney Junior shows. It's very relaxed with seating on the floor so that children can get up and dance along, and they'll enjoy it even if they aren't familiar with all the shows.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure - Not a ride but a playground, and my children spent a long time here. Even very little children will enjoy running about and dodging jets of water from oversized insects. Just make sure you have an adult manning the exit as it can get very busy.

The Great Movie Ride - A fairly slow ride through some great movie scenes which held the attention of even my wriggly toddler. Obviously most of the references go completely over their heads, but there is plenty going on to keep them interested.

Enjoying Fantasyland

Of course these are only our highlights, and all the parks contain plenty of rides and attractions which small children will love. I really hope that this post has given you some inspiration if you are thinking about a holiday to DisneyWorld with very young children. If I've missed your favourites, please do add them into the comments!

Disclaimer - On our most recent holiday our family received complimentary passes to the Walt Disney World theme parks in exchange for writing about the parks. Although as you can see from posts about my previous holiday, I love writing about them anyway without any incentive!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Drusillas Park, East Sussex

We have also made a more recent visit to Drusillas Park - You can read about it here.

Drusillas Park is a small zoo in East Sussex. It's a lot more than just a zoo though - as well as over 100 species of animal across various themed exhibits there are also large indoor and outdoor play areas and a small Thomas the Tank Engine themed train and track. I have very fond memories of Drusillas as it is somewhere that we used to visit when I was younger, so I was delighted when our family was invited along to review Drusillas.

Our visit started with a well marked tour through the zoo. The path leads through the different animal displays, with plenty of extra features to keep children entertained. There is a free animal spotter guide which you can stamp as you see each animal, and a series of challenges as part of the Zoo Olympics where you can compare your abilities to those of the different animals - for example how fast you can run, how high you can jump or how long you can hold your breath. We didn't take it too seriously, but it was fun to try them out as we passed them.

Slight relief to find out that the crocodiles weren't real!
There are also lots of interactive features for children, for example you can have a go at milking a (pretend!) cow and there are lots of opportunities to touch some of the friendlier animals. Harry was also fascinated by a large giraffe model which you can climb into and look out from using a periscope in his neck.

It's a giraffe periscope, and it's inspired us to make our own at home
We ate our sandwiches in a large and pleasant picnic area and then headed for a ride on the Thomas the Tank Engine experience. As well as being a train that looks like Thomas the Tank Engine, the ride takes you past a selection of familiar characters from the television show and was a big hit. Then we headed for the adventure playground. This was the part of the park that I remembered most from my childhood, and it didn't disappoint. The outdoor play area is large and contains play equipment suitable for children of all ages. We spent all our time in the area aimed at younger children, where there were slides, rope bridges, a roundabout and the biggest hit which was a large trampoline, safely sunk into the ground. Wi-Fi is also available in the play areas, although it wasn't working when we visited.

Mia loved this roundabout, she went round and round for ages
Fortunately for the usual British weather there is also an indoor play area, which has a separate section suitable for younger children. Even though the park was busy when we visited it didn't feel too overcrowded. The food and drink in the adjacent cafĂ© and other food outlets wasn't cheap, but we always take our own along anyway.

Before we left we explored the Eden's Eye Maze, a small themed maze which the children loved looking around and jumping as statues talked to them and squirted them. The park also has a number of other attractions, for example Panning for Gold and Dino Dig, but these do have an additional charge.

We had a really good day out at Drusillas, and I would definitely recommend it for a family day out. To save some money, you can use Tesco Clubcard vouchers for admission and cheaper tickets are available if you book online in advance.

We received a complimentary family ticket to review Drusillas.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Dinosaur World, Orlando, Florida

We have recently returned from a fantastic family holiday in Orlando, Florida, and the first attraction that we visited was Dinosaur World, Florida. Like most young children, Harry (4) is fascinated by dinosaurs, and from reading about Dinosaur World we could see that it looked perfect for him. Mia (2) is also just at the age where she is taking a real interest in everything that she sees around her, and we knew that she would enjoy it too.

Although this was our second trip to Florida with the family, this was really the first time that we had strayed from the main theme parks. It was a very refreshing change to drive into a free car park with plenty of spaces situated just a short walk from the entrance, and to be able to enter and purchase some very reasonably priced tickets without having to queue.

All ready for the first day of our holiday!

From the map, Dinosaur World doesn't look very big, but it's deceptive. Most of the park is taken up with the Dinosaur Walk, where over 150 life-size dinosaurs are displayed outdoors in a natural setting along with information boards. It's a bit of a mixture of dinosaurs from different periods and climates, and there were plenty of dinosaurs which were new to us. There is lots of vegetation which makes for a pleasant shady walk in the Florida heat, and the children loved feeding the Koi carp in the fish pond where you could buy a generous amount of fish food for a bargain 25 cents. They loved exploring the winding pathways and spotting the dinosaurs.

Pretending to be a dinosaur

Harry's absolute favourite attraction at Dinosaur World was the Boneyard. It's a big undercover sandpit with raked seating at one end for the adults to sit down while the children use spades and brushes to dig for a buried Stegosaurus skeleton. What a genius idea, and I think that Harry could easily have spent all day there. The park was very quiet on the day that we visited and so he mostly had it to himself, with an occasional influx of school groups to give him a bit of a hand with the excavation. Mia was quite happy sitting at the edge and digging in the sand too.

Loving digging for the dinosaur skeleton

Another big hit was the Fossil Dig. This is included in the child admission (ages 3-12), and under threes can pay an extra $2 to take part, which is well worth it if you have an older toddler. Children stand alongside a raised sandpit and are provided with a little sieve and collection pot. The sand pit is stuffed full of small fossils for the children to find, and they can choose three to take home as souvenirs. I think that us adults enjoyed hunting for fossils just as much as the children! Knowledgeable staff were on hand to help with identification at the end, and we brought home some lovely fossils, including a shark's tooth and an ammonite.

Finding fossils at the Fossil Dig

The museum was very interesting, with some excellent examples of real dinosaur fossils. At the end is a small animatronic dinosaur display which I must admit did rather scare Harry, especially as you can hear the dinosaurs before you can see them, so that's worth being aware of if you have a younger child. There is also a large playground with a good range of equipment for both younger and older children, and we enjoyed the Skeleton Garden with some life size skeleton replicas.

There are plenty of picnic tables but the only food and drink available to buy is from vending machines (although details of a local pizza delivery company are available!) We were particularly impressed with the Gift Shop, which carried a wide range of very reasonably priced merchandise. Normally we hurry the children through attraction gift shops, but this time we actually bought them a small plastic dinosaur each for just 50 cents.

We spent about four hours at Dinosaur World, and we only left because it was the first day of our holiday and we were all still suffering a bit with the jet lag and the unaccustomed heat. We could easily have spent a lot longer here, and we are so glad that we visited. It's very easy to overlook some of the less well known Orlando attractions, especially if you have tickets to the major theme parks that take up your entire holiday, but we had a lovely day here and both children really enjoyed themselves. It's definitely better suited to younger children, but if you have children the right age you will find that it is pitched perfectly to them and I'd really recommend a visit.

Disclosure - We received two complimentary adult press tickets to Dinosaur World, normal adult admission is $14.95. We purchased Harry's ticket for $11.95 and two senior tickets for my parents at $12.95 each, children under 3 are free.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Catching up

I've been away on holiday! Hopefully my absence wasn't too noticeable thanks to a bit of advance planning and some excellent guest posts. Look out for plenty of posts about the holiday to come.

I have come back to an enormous number of blog posts to go through in my blog reader, and my poor social media channels have been badly neglected. One thing I did learn though was that during the week of our holiday where I had no Internet access whatsoever I didn't actually miss anything. I sometimes have a compulsive urge to check Facebook, Twitter and so on throughout the day, but it was much easier to catch up in one go. So I'm now going to try and put my phone aside during the evening more and concentrate on some of my projects - in particular there are a number of things on my Day Zero Project list which need to be worked on!

I'm giving myself a couple of days to get through the washing and over the jet lag, then I'll be back in the swing of things. Also something exciting for me, just before we went away I took the big step of registering myself as self-employed with the aim of searching out some actual paid work as a freelance content writer. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Three Things sampler update

It's been a little while since I shared a picture of my very long term cross stitch project, so I thought that it was time for an update. I started off the year with good intentions and was really hoping that I might finish it this year, but other projects have encroached and I've not done as much lately as I was hoping.

Three Things sampler by Moira Blackburn

I'm not doing too badly, probably just over a quarter left to go. I just need to put my mind to it and get on with it! I'm going to work on the lettering in the middle next, I find working on text very satisfying because you can make quite a difference in a short space of time.

The sampler is the Three Things Sampler by Moira Blackburn.

UPDATE - I finished the sampler in March 2014! You can see a photograph of the finished sampler here - Moira Blackburn Three Things sampler completed.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Watching my son fall asleep

I'm really pleased to welcome a lovely guest post to the blog today, thanks Ruth!

This is a post from Ruth, who blogs as DorkyMum. Ruth lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and 4-year-old son. She posts about parenting, politics, current affairs and photography, and is a finalist in the Outstanding Blogger category at this year’s MAD Blog Awards. You can always find her for a chat on Twitter or Facebook.

Watching my son fall asleep is my favourite thing to do.

It doesn’t happen so often anymore.

When Tom was just a baby he'd nod off in my arms, or leaning on my shoulder, all the time. I took it completely for granted.

One time my Dad came to visit, and we went out for a walk. As I pushed the pram along, Dad kept skipping ahead to peek into it.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked, laughing?

‘Just watching him fall asleep,’ said Dad. ‘It’s one of the loveliest things to see.’

I thought he was a bit mad, and said nothing.

Now Tom is four and he has taken sleep - that most private of things - behind closed doors. He tucks in to bed with only Binky - his manky old hippo - for company. We will hear him sometimes, singing a song or chatting to himself for a few minutes before falling silent. Sometimes he will call me through, bleary eyed in the middle of the night, for a nose blow, a sip of water, or to retrieve Binky from somewhere in the tangled sheets. He'll be in that half sleepy state; will murmur something dreamy that makes no sense to me.

But the actual process of falling asleep, those precarious moments between one world and another, are not something I see very often these days.

When I do - usually on some long journey - I understand what my Dad meant all those years ago. I’m reminded what a sweet and lovely thing it is.

He fights it, first. Bashes his head from side to side as though trying to shake those snoozy sensations right out of there, blinking frantically to ward off sleep. Any small noise or movement will make him jolt and sit straight up with a start.

But eventually, with a sense of resignation, he starts to settle. His eyelids become heavier, and his blinking slows right down, giving me the chance to admire those eyelashes that are longer and thicker and darker than is really decent. He clutches Binky to his face, turning him over and over until he finds the most loved part – his tatty old tail - that he picks at with the pinky nail of his right hand. Pick, pick, pick... No wonder poor Binky has needed so many repair jobs.

Tom’s left hand is saved for the serious business of ‘thumb pie’ which is what he calls sucking his thumb. Gentle, at first, although as he falls deeper and deeper into sleep it becomes more furious and noisy, great slurping noises that make me giggle, until he finally reaches that sleepy place where all is calm, his mouth relaxes, and the thumb is released.

He will nap like that for an hour; soothed by the motion of whatever train or plane we happen to be on. His head will get incredibly warm, and often a tiny bead of sweat will course its way slowly down his pink cheek. He will twitch, sometimes, dreaming of ice cream or buses or whatever other things make little boys happy. If he is lying on me, I will have to shift in my own seat, slowly so as not to wake him, trying to get comfy as his weight becomes heavier and heavier.

And then, when he is done, when the batteries are recharged, he will open his eyes and sit up, his hair a mess, his face crumpled and flushed.

‘Good nap?’ I’ll ask.

‘What nap?’ he’ll say. ‘What are you talking about? I didn’t nap at all.’

‘Oh,’ I’ll say.

‘What a shame,’ I’ll say.

I like it, watching Tom not nap. It’s one of my favourite things.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A quick children's craft - design your own room

This craft is something that I remember doing with my Mum when I was little. She used to receive a mail order catalogue and when the new one came we could have the old one to cut up. I used to like choosing my favourite items to glue on to a cardboard house. All you need for this craft is a thick catalogue with plenty of pictures of furniture, homeware, toys and other things that appeal to little ones. Ours was a Tesco one, and the Argos one would work well too.

Design your own room craft

I'm working with Harry on his scissor skills at the moment, and he's doing pretty well at it. We went through the catalogue and I got him to cut out pictures of things that he'd like in his bedroom, then we stuck them all down on to some coloured paper to make his dream room.

This is it:

Child's dream room craft

This craft provides a very interesting and often amusing insight into your child's mind. Harry chose a bed with the same bedding that he has at home anyway, but then chose some very pink, girly accessories including a dresser. I was pleased to see that storage was important to him, less pleased to see that he considered a large television essential. He also picked out some smart bookshelves and he really wanted to include a display cabinet, which isn't something that we have in our house. I asked him what he was going to put on display and he said "my stuff".

The good thing about this activity was that it kept Mia entertained as well with her own little pot of glue and the off cuts of paper. A really quick, easy and cheap activity - and lots of fun!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

How to enjoy your staycation with the kids

Today I am delighted to welcome a guest post from Cat, with some fantastic tips for avoiding the hassle of travelling with small children and enjoying a staycation at home.

Before I had kids holidays were all about long lie-ins and lounging by the pool with a book. Taking a whole evening for dinner and wine or dancing the night away has given way to more family friendly activities. When you combine the practicalities of travelling with children with the pressure on everyone’s finances at the moment it’s no surprise that more people are opting to have a ‘staycation’ or holiday at home, but can that ever be as much fun?

Here are a few steps to make sure it is:

1 – Adopt a ‘holiday’ frame of mind


It’s not going to seem like a holiday if you are occupied with all the usual boring things so try and get any chores finished of beforehand. Get the shopping done along with any cleaning or washing to stop it hanging over you so you can enjoy your break. To make sure you stay in your ‘holiday bubble’ try and ignore things like your social media accounts, the news and the papers. Why not go the whole hog and tell people you’re going away if you really want some peace and quiet?

2 – Make a Plan


On a normal holiday you can take each day as it comes, planning outings or lazing around. If you don’t make plans for your staycation, however, you’ll just end up slipping into your normal routine and where’s the fun in that? Try to schedule one or two things a day so there is always something to look forward to and you don’t end up stuck in front of daytime TV or cleaning the kitchen.

3 – Investigate local attractions


We often forget about the things we see signs for everyday and go for ages without visiting the attractions right on our own door step. Take some time before your break to look into events scheduled during your holiday. I’m sure there will be some big permanent attractions like zoos or National Trust properties near by but also think about temporary things like exhibitions or theatre shows that may be coming up. There may well be some regular scheduled events at your library or community centre. How about something as simple as visiting a ‘pick your own’ fruit farm or finding a little bit countryside for a picnic which can be a fun day out for all ages.

4 – Do something unusual at home


They say a change is as good as a rest so why not try spending the day at home but doing something unusual? How about a Film Day? Rent some DVDs and get comfy with popcorn, pick ‘n’ mix or some nachos. You could even set the kids to work making some tickets for everyone to allow them entry to the living room.

Maybe a ‘Books in Bed’ Afternoon? Head off to the library so everyone can choose some new books or gather up their old favourites at home and then don some PJs and squish into bed together to enjoy them. Take it in turns to read out your favourite parts and to talk about what is happening or why you like the characters.

Gardening can sometimes be a chore but what about getting some cheap plastic pots for the kids to decorate and fill with bedding plans or herbs so they can watch grow for the rest of the summer. Kids will love a chance to play all the board games that you’re normally too busy for or to make their own pizzas with their chosen toppings. I’m sure you can come up with lots of ideas once you get started.

5 – Remember little things can be treats too


One of the nicest things about being little is that it only takes a tiny treat to make your day and, let’s face it, when they’re happy we’re happy so remember the little things. How about letting them choose their favourite dinner or getting a tin of special chocolate biscuits for an afternoon snack. One favourite in my house is letting the boys have a bath in the middle of the day. Instead of waiting until the evening when you’re all tired and focussed on getting them into bed why not do it during the day to make the most of all those toys and bubbles (and don’t worry about the splashing). So have a great staycation this year. Who knows, you may never want to go away again!

Cat is a married mum of two small boys who, after a career in health service management, now works as a freelance writer as well as blogging about parenting and family life at Yellow Days.

Friday, 17 May 2013

How messy play actually keeps my house clean

I've started getting a bit more into messy play recently. I used to say that Harry could do enough of that at nursery, but now that he has moved to a new pre-school they don't seem to do it as much, and Mia hasn't been much to nursery yet so I don't want her to miss out. I've also discovered that it's one of the few activities that they can both do together. They each play in their own way - Harry has proper role-play going on and Mia is content just to tip things in and out of containers - yet they are both using the same materials and in the same place. It also keeps them both busy for ages, as does the subsequent bath.

Many people are put off messy play because of just that - it's messy. But I've found that thanks to our new found interest my house is actually cleaner!

I use a shower curtain on the floor in the kitchen, which is good for dry things but although it absorbs water it is not entirely waterproof. Water is usually involved in our play, so the floor is nice and wet when we've finished. I can wipe it up quickly with a few old towels, which gives the floor a good clean too.

I'm also getting the hoover out a lot more, to clean up the trails of mess created from the real kitchen to the play kitchen (to grab more things to make messy) and up to the bathroom. While the hoover is out I tend to do a quick whip round the rest of the downstairs too, so I'm also getting more hoovering done.

I'm even finding that the washing machine is going on more reguarly too, as the shower curtain needs a wash afterwards as do the clothes that they've been wearing. It means that I'm keeping well on top of the laundry!

So don't be put off trying messy play, it has its benefits!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A pirate treasure chest and some gold doubloons

Both children are very into Jake and the Neverland Pirates at the moment. I'm not sure exactly how it suddenly entered our life, but we are planning a Disney holiday soon and I think that my husband is trying to make sure that their Disney knowledge is complete by putting on Disney Junior at every opportunity. It's not a bad programme, although I have noticed that Harry is starting to speak American ("I sure can!"). Recently I blogged about the pirate treasure map that we made, and our next task was to make some gold doubloons.

Treasure chest craft

I bought this plain pirate treasure chest at the same time as I bought my butterfly box, and this seemed like the right opportunity to decorate it. They seem to pop up on sale regularly in Hobbycraft and I've used them for a variety of crafts - I also covered one in ribbon.

I stuck some yellow foam strips around the edges, then Harry glued some plastic jewels all over it. I've not watched Jake and his friends a great deal (when it's on I'm usually to be found making the most of some quiet time) but I know that one of the objectives of each episode is to collect and count the gold doubloons.

I did a quick search through Google images and found a skull and crossbones picture which I placed inside an olive wreath image,then printed out a sheet of them. Then we cut out circles from gold cardboard and stuck the pirate picture on. Harry has been having lots of fun hiding the treasure chest for me to find, and then counting out his pirate money.

pirate treasure chest and gold doubloons

If you want to make some pretend money to fill a play treasure chest you might like my instructions for salt dough pirate treasure.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Some brilliant summer crafts from Red Ted Art

Today I am delighted to welcome a guest post from Maggy at Red Ted Art with some fantastic crafty ideas. Enjoy!

HELLO! I am Maggy from Red Ted Art and I am so pleased to be here today, sharing some our favourite crafts! Thank you so much for having me and share some of crafty favourites!

Excuse the crazy photo - I made it a while back for my+ account and I can't resist using it! Anyway, I digress. Our favourite thing over at Red Ted Art is KIDS CRAFTS! We are craft crazy and we love making things as often as we can! (We do also like doing other things, btw, like cooking and gardening, but you will have to read about that over at Life At The Zoo and Theatre, Books and Movies!!!). And whilst Jennifer is have a break, we thought we would share some of our Summer favourites!

Bottle Top Crafts - simple DIY stamps

Bottle Top Stamps We love these bottle top stamps - as they are soooo simple to make. Most households have these materials to hand (or at least substitutes for these materials), the variations are endless AND once you have made them you can have a great arty crafty session. So almost a "two in one" if you wish. We have used our stamps, for creating pictures, for simply stamping and for making wrapping paper. Perfect. Check out this post for more bottle top craft ideas.

  Salt dough crafts for kids

Saltdough (Hearts) Next up our easy salt dough recipe - in this case we made hearts to decorate Christmas and Valentine's with. But really you can make anything - use cookie cutters to make shapes and ornaments or mold it like playdough. We have added colours to our salt dough in the past, so you don't necessarily have to paint them afterwards. Find more salt dough crafts here.

Butterfly Cards Going to a birthday party and need a card in a hurry? What to write a thank you note to the children's teacher? Make these sweet and bright butterfly cards and you are all sorted. I share a little template over on Red Ted Art to make it easier for you too!

    diy snowglobe

Snowglobes Yes! Another childhood "classic" of ours. Every child NEEDS to have made a DIY snowglobe at some point. A great opportunity to recycle some old jars (I particularly like using small jars e.g. from baby food) as well as some of that "plastic tat" kids get in party bags or kinder surprises.

  Andy Warhols for Kids (2)
Great Artists for Kids

Or how about getting Arty? I have a series of "Art with Kids" posts - some looking at Great Artists, like here Andy Warhol and creating art in the style of these artists and the others are open ended activities that promote creativity - easy to set up and do!    

Well, I do hope that that keeps you going! Some ideas to have lots of fun with. If you liked what you saw and fancy a lovely Craft Book for your kids, I have just brought out Red Ted Art, Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids! It is packed with crafty ideas to keep you busy for a long long time. This makes for a fantastic gift too, so please do check it out. Read the reviews and see how many people enjoy it already! Thank you Jennifer, for having me!

Monday, 13 May 2013

More love for Pinterest

Following on from my recent participation in the Pinterest #pinitforward campaign, I asked my sister to write me a guest post about Pinterest. You see, it was through Anna that I first discovered Pinterest, and so I have her to thank for introducing me to it! So here's over to Anna:

When I first started using Pinterest I thought it would be one of those things I'd play with for a bit and then forget about. But now I love it and go there every day. It’s a brilliant way of saving things you find as you browse the web – a recipe you’d like to try, or a craft you think the kids would like – as well as looking through the things other people have found.

I have 22 boards. They range from recipes, crafts, pattern inspiration and ideas for things to do with the girls, as well as things I think are just cool and interesting! The board with the most followers, and my favourite to browse myself, is my crochet & knitted blankets board – I love all the colours and the designs, and it always leaves me feeling cosy.

As a designer, I also find Pinterest useful for my work. Pinterest recently started allowing ‘secret’ boards – perfect for making mood boards and collecting inspiration without sharing it all with the world. And scrolling through the main page feeds is great for spotting trends and seeing what people are looking for.

Pinterest is one of those things that, once you get used to it, you wonder how you managed without it! It’s such a convenient way to organise not just pictures but online information of all kinds. Give it a try, but be warned, it’s addictive!

(Anna is mum to Laura (4) and Emily (2) as well as designing knitting patterns. She blogs at http://beepbeepdesigns.blogspot.com

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Making a pirate map, and some new pirate books

Like many children, Harry is fascinated by pirates at the moment. There are so many different crafts and activities that you can do on a pirate theme, and I decided to re-visit a craft that I remember loving as a child - making a pirate map.


We took a piece of plain white paper, and used a teabag dipped in a small bowl of water to paint on it to make it look old. When it was dry, I used a candle to burn around the edges of the paper. This makes it sound a lot easier than it was - it involved a lot of frantic blowing out of flames and a smoke filled kitchen. Harry's map also ended up with a somewhat larger hole than intended, after the paper continued to smoulder once blown out.

Then we decorated it with felt pens. I drew some things out for him to copy, we made mountains, beaches, trees, paths and of course an X marks the spot. Then we crumpled it up and flattened it out to make it look really battered. A truly authentic pirate treasure map!

Pirate treasure map



To continue the pirate theme, we've also been sent two brand new pirate picture books to read.

The first is Plunge into the Pirate Pool by Caryl Hart, published by Simon and Schuster. Albie loves going swimming, but this time when he dives in to the pool he finds himself in the middle of an underwater adventure when he boards a shark submarine and makes friends with the cheerful pirate crew. There is plenty of detail in the illustrations, giving lots to talk about as we read the story. Definitely a story that your little pirates will enjoy.


The second is Tim, Ted and the Pirates by Ian Whybrow and Russell Ayto, published by Harper Collins. This story is about Tim and his Ted, and the pirate adventure that they have while their teacher is reading them a story. The story is written in rhyme, and it was a real pleasure to read aloud. The pirates in this story are up to no good at all, and so Tim and Ted battle the bad pirates and save the treasure. Another pirate book which I can fully recommend.


Both of these stories particularly appealed to Harry because they are about what is happening in the child's imagination rather than what is really going on, and he is fascinated by that idea at the moment.

I'm sure that we'll be returning to the pirate theme. Harry is currently enjoying Jake and the Neverland Pirates on television (somewhat to my dismay, he's starting to speak American) and so he has requested that we make some gold doubloons next!

If you are looking for more pirate crafts you might like my pirate treasure chest and salt dough treasure to fill it with!



We were sent the two pirate books to review, Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday, 10 May 2013

My love for Pinterest and the #PinItForwardUK campaign

If you are a regular reader, you will know just how much I love Pinterest. I joined Pinterest almost two years ago, and I've been using it regularly ever since.

If you're not familiar with Pinterest, it's best described as a collection of visual, online pinboards of the things that you love. You can create new boards on any subject that you like, and then as you spot things on your travels around the internet you can pin an image to the board which links back to the page where it comes from. People use it for all sorts of things. I tend to use it to collect together ideas for activities that I'd like to do with the children, inspiration for crafts that I'd like to try and recipes that I want to have a go at. I have the mobile app too, so for example I can access my pinned recipes when I'm in the supermarket shopping for ingredients or the kitchen baking.

In addition, because so many people use it, Pinterest also contains a wealth of ideas and inspiration. To get the full experience you need to follow other like-minded people, see what they are pinning, and then you can re-pin all the things you see that interest and inspire you.

I have discovered so many different crafts and activities since I started using Pinterest. For example, as I wrote the other week, Pinterest introduced me to washi tape. I also try most months to take part in the PinAddicts challenge, because Pinterest can become so addictive that you end up pinning lots of things that you never actually get around to doing!

There is a brilliant social side to Pinterest too - you can comment on pins to let others know what you think and share further ideas and inspiration. One of my favourite boards is my Craft Inspiration board. It's packed full of gorgeous things that I've spotted online, mainly re-pinned from within Pinterest, that I would love to have a go at one day.


If you already use Pinterest then don't forget to follow me, you can find all my Pinterest boards here.
If this has inspired you, and you'd like to join Pinterest, you can do so easily using this registration link. I'd love to see you over there!

This blog post is a part of the #PinItForwardUK campaign. Passionate bloggers from across the UK have been selected to showcase their personal tastes, talents and inspirations. The bloggers write about a range of subjects, all representing popular categories found on Pinterest.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Five must-see places for Harry Potter fans in the UK

Today I'm delighted to welcome a fantastic guest post from Joanne at Kids Days Out Reviews!

Five must-see places for Harry Potter fans


There is huge demand in the UK for film tourism. People flock to see where famous film actors and actresses once stood to deliver their seminal lines. Possibly the biggest film phenomenon over the last few years has been Harry Potter, and there are several places in the UK you can visit to catch a glimpse of the Potter magic.

Warner Bros Studio Tour, Watford near London


An obvious starting point for any fan of the eight Harry Potter movies is the place they were mostly filmed – the old Leavesden film studios just outside of London. The tour takes you through the sets, props, and costumes of the films, including Diagon Alley, the Griffyndor common room, and all the house robes. You can ride a broomstick on a green screen, walk through the castle bridge, and get carried away in the massive gift shop. A must-do.


Diagon Alley at Warner Bros Studio Tour
Diagon Alley at Warner Bros Studio Tour


Alnwick Castle, Northumberland


Alnwick Castle in Alnwick, Northumberland dates from the late 11th century and is home to the Earl of Northumberland and his family. It has recently been used as a school and a college but is now a popular tourist attraction, not least because both the interior and exterior were used for filming the Harry Potter films. Alnwick Castle is Hogwarts in the film and is set in a most beautiful part of the country, with lots of other places to see.

Goathland train station, North Yorkshire


For scenes at Hogsmeade station in pretty much every Harry Potter film, the real-life train station in the gorgeous village of Goathland in the North Yorkshire Moors was used. Goathland has also been home to the cast of Heartbeat over the last few years too, and it really is a step back in time. You can ride the NYMR steam train while you are here, and have a pint in the Aidensfield Arms.

London Zoo


Remember the scene from the first film where Harry talked to the snake at the zoo, and Dudley fell in to the tank? This was all filmed at London Zoo’s reptile house. The reptile house was built in the 1920s and houses animals including crocodiles, snakes, and frogs.



Kings Cross train station, London


From the moment Harry Potter pushed his trolley through the magic wall to get to platform 9 and three-quarters, fans have been flocking to Kings Cross train station to try and do the same. To help you out, there has been a trolley placed in the wall, so you can don your house scarf and make like a Hogwarts student. If you haven’t got a house scarf, you can buy one at the conveniently placed Harry Potter shop just a few feet away. Great for a bit of magical atmosphere for free.



Written by Joanne Brady – mother of four and writer of Kids Days Out Reviews, a blog featuring great family days out around the UK.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A simple flower mosaic craft for children

I was really pleased with this simple flower mosaic that I made with Harry. His scissor control is really improving, and I love that as he gets older his attention span is increasing and he is able to finish more complicated projects.

Simple mosaic craft

I drew around a small plate on some white cardboard and let Harry cut out the circle. Then I drew a flower on some scrap paper for him to copy. We talked about what colours to use and he decided that he wanted to make a daisy, so he drew his design out onto the circle, Then I helped him to cut the coloured paper into small pieces and he glued it into the pattern, using different colours for different areas of the picture.

It was so simple to do, and I think it looks really good!

simple children's mosaic craft flower


This craft would fit in really well with Roman themed activities. We held a Roman themed day where we also made mosaic style designs using Hama beads, like these Roman mosaic inspired Hama bead border designs. We have also made mosaics for Easter using dyed egg shell pieces, another way of making mosaics that would work really well with this sort of design.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Review - Hoops and Crosses crisps from Walkers

We were recently sent a pack of the new Walkers Hoops and Crosses crisps to review. Research has shown that some children in the UK don't have enough wholegrain in their diet, and 27% have none at all. Hoops and Crosses contain 56% wholegrain, and the baked snacks are marketed as a perfect snack for parents to include in lunchboxes.

Our pack of Hoops and Crosses was Roast Beef flavour, and came packaged along with a lovely stuffed monkey which Harry instantly claimed! The other flavours available in the range are Salt & Vinegar and Prawn Cocktail.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses crisps
Harry liked the monkey

Not surprisingly, the crisps are in the shape of hoops and crosses, and there were plenty in the pack. They were tasty, and would be a very satisfying snack. Because they are baked, they aren't greasy like some crisps. Although they are aimed at children, I'd probably be more likely to buy them as a snack for myself because they are fairly low in calories and filling.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses crisps
Mia was more interested in the box

Thank you to Walkers for giving us the opportunity to try them out!

This is a paid review.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Tactile alphabet cards

Today I'm sharing a craft that was inspired by Pinterest and appealed to me as soon as saw it - some tactile alphabet cards which I pinned from Fairy Dust Teaching, the letters of the alphabet created using found objects. I probably don't spend enough time working on letters with Harry at the moment, I tend to think that it is something that he'll pick up easily enough when he starts school. But I loved how bright and colourful these alphabet cards were, and it looked like something that would be a lot of fun for us to make together.

How to make tactile alphabet cards for children

For the cards I cut up an old, sturdy nappy box, it's best to use the strongest cardboard that you can as the paint and glue can warp thinner card. Each alphabet card measures approximately 8cm x 12cm. First we painted the backgrounds in a variety of different colours, then before we started putting letters on I planned the layout in advance so that I was happy with the spread of the colours when they were all displayed together.

To make our letters, I drew the outline in pencil and let Harry glue on the different things. I was a bit worried that I would struggle to think of 26 different things to use, but once I got started I kept thinking of more and more ideas! I loved watching Harry's fine motor skills at work. He's also enjoying patterning at the moment, so some of the letters are made using patterns in the colours like the alternating beads.

I used lowercase letters instead of the uppercase letters in the original pin, because those are the ones that I want him to become familiar with first. Perhaps we'll go on to make an uppercase set next!

Tactile alphabet cards for learning letters



Here's what I used for the different letters:

a - star eyelets
b - small beads
c - curtain hooks
d - sequins
e - cord
f - macaroni pasta
g - red lentils
h - gold stars
i - cotton wool
j - small stones
k - ribbon
l - lollipop stick
m - pipecleaner
n - felt
o - scraps of wool
p - large beads
q - pom poms
r - shredded paper
s - glitter
t - washi tape
u - scrap of fabric
v - lace
w - nails
x - sandpaper
y - tin foil
z - paperclips

The cards are still loose at the moment but I'm planning on attaching them to his bedroom wall somehow, perhaps gluing them on to a larger piece of cardboard as a background.

Tactile alphabet cards for children


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...