Friday, 22 September 2017

Toys I made for the children that they still play with

I've blogged a lot in the past about the homemade toys that I've either made for the children or we've made together. Some of them, especially the bulky ones made from cardboard boxes, were definitely temporary additions to our home, but others have surprised me with their play value and durability, and many of them are still being played with today.

So I thought I'd share some of the favourite things that I've made for the children that they still pull out to play with!

Toy food has always been very popular in this house. They have a lovely wooden toy kitchen which is great, both for playing with and for storing all the bits and pieces. Mia is always pulling out the play food and setting up little picnics for her teddies, choosing unusual combinations of dishes to tempt them with. She also loves writing up menus so that we can choose something to order from her restaurant, and delivering it to us on a little pull along truck.

The salt dough and felt pizza is admittedly looking a little battered now, and looking at the picture below I can see that lots of the little pieces have gone missing, luckily they are easy to make, I need to sort out some replacements! The felt biscuits and cookies have held up really well, and I always request them when I'm offered a snack!

Homemade felt and salt dough pizza toy

Another toy that has stood the test of time is the I Spy Jar. It sits on a bookshelf in Harry's room and I often see him shaking it about to find new items. Sometimes I spot things in there that I had forgotten putting in! It's a few years ago that I made it now and the rice has held up fine, it looks the same as it did the day I made it.

How to make an I Spy Jar toy

Our magnetic felt fishing game was a big hit when I first made it. Unfortunately the fishing rod is now long broken, but the little felt fish are still played with. The children love hiding them around the house for each other to find, and giving them as 'teddies' for their own teddies to play with.

Felt fish for a magnetic fishing game toy

My bean bag comet is also still going strong, it lives in the summer house with the garden toys and I often see it being chucked about. I should make a few more really, they were so easy to make!

How to sew a bean bag comet

You can see all the toys that I've made for and with the children here on my homemade toys page - have you made toys for your children? Which were the ones that have lasted the best?

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Everything always needs charging

Before we go to bed, we make sure that all the tablets (currently three in active use) and our two phones are plugged in to charge ready for the morning. It's as much a part of the bedtime routine as brushing teeth and turning out the light. We have many chargers throughout the house, and two in each car. 

It's not just the phones that need to be kept topped up. I tried to make a list of how many things we have in the house that need to be kept charged and there are so many. There's my Fitbit - it can last for a week without being charged which is really handy, but I'm always loathe to take it off to charge as I don't want to miss counting any precious steps.

Then there's my Kindle, fortunately this can go for several weeks without a charge, but I like to keep it topped up in case I fancy a long reading session.

In addition there are all the toothbrushes - we each have an electric toothbrush now. The children have one with an app on the tablet and a little character to earn rewards for, I've only had mine since Christmas and there's been a noticeable improvement in the cleanliness of my teeth. But the children's toothbrushes don't have a low battery indicator, so I can't keep track and remember which one I've just put on to charge. This has led to Mia having hysterics at bedtime in the past because she's had a message on her tablet to say that the battery is running low.

I found two old digital cameras the other day which I passed on to the children, and they were delighted. The trouble is that they need charging before they can be used and I always forget, meaning that some planning is required before use, they can't just be pulled out spontaneously.

All these things need so many different cables that are lying about all over the place in every room, getting tangled up and generally adding to the visual clutter. My husband assures me that it's not long before we'll have some kind of mats that will charge devices without the need for tangled cables everywhere. Just the other day he was showing me some new magic Ikea wireless charging pads that look very good, even if they do require you to bore massive holes into your furniture to fit them in nicely. 

It's one piece of technology that I can't wait for!

Person charging a phone with dead battery

Image credit rawpixel.com via Unsplash.

Monday, 18 September 2017

A knitted scarf with pom poms

I was recently contacted by Love Crochet and asked if I'd like to receive some yarn in exchange for sharing a craft tutorial on my blog. Of course I said yes, I find it very difficult to turn down craft supplies! So here's how I used the yarn to make a little knitted scarf for Mia, complete with pom poms on each end.

How to knit a pom pom scarf for a child

I was sent four 100g balls of Painbox Yarns in pastel colours. The four colours are 146 Dusty Lilac, 152 Ballet Pink, 138 Sky Blue and 131 Seafoam Blue. They all co-ordinate beautifully together.

Painbox yarns in pastel

To make the scarf I decided to use two strands of yarn at a time and I knitted with 5 mm needles (UK size 6). I cast on with 16 stitches which made a scarf with a width of about 10cm. It makes quite a narrow scarf, but Mia is only little so it fits her perfectly!

Painbox yarns in pastel

The scarf is knitted entirely in garter stitch, knitting every row. Each stripe is 12 rows which makes them about 4 cm wide. The entire scarf measures about 115 cm - I read that the length of a scarf should be the same as the height of the person that it is intended for and that seemed pretty accurate. I made sure to try it out on Mia before I cast off!

How to knit a simple scarf

Then I used the yarn to make a coloured pom pom for each corner of the scarf. I used a pom pom maker which was brilliant, it made the pom poms really quickly and easily, quite a revelation after I've always faffed about with cardboard rings!

How to knit a simple scarf

Make sure to leave long tails on the pom poms when you tie them off so that they can be sewn firmly to the ends of the scarf. I suspect that they are going to be fiddled with!

How to knit a simple scarf

I'm really pleased with this scarf and Mia is too!

Child wearing a hand knitted pom pom scarf

How to knit a simple scarf

I received the yarn for this project and a pom pom maker set in exchange for a review.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Crafty ways to get organised

If you read this blog you will probably have noticed that I love crafting and yet I also yearn for an organised, minimalistic home, two things that are a bit at odds with each other. Being a crafter involves gathering and storing a stash of different supplies, as you never know what might come in handy one day, especially if you flit between different crafts like I do. Then you are left with the dilemma of what to do with the finished product - there is only so much wall space in the home for cross stitch samplers and embroidery hoop art.

So it's always good when I can find something to craft that is useful as well as being decorative, and I thought that today I'd share some of my crafty projects from around the home that help me to stay organised.

Crafty ways to get organised in the home

First up is this week to view patterned wall calendar. I can't quite believe just how much this has helped me with day to day organisation. Every Sunday I open up our shared Google calendar and write down the things that we are up to that week. Some come around each week, like swimming and piano lessons, others are specific to that week. I can write on the glass with a dry erase pen and then easily rub it out the next week. It was so easy to make with just a picture frame and some patterned paper.

Week to view dry erase calendar

Also in the kitchen, it's really useful to have a noticeboard where I can store the little bits of paper that accumulate in the house - letters from school, party invitations and so on. I shared how I made this padded fabric and ribbon pinboard using some lovely blue and white fabric with matching ribbon. It's really handy and looks lovely too!

Padded fabric and ribbon pinboard

I love the little wooden Ikea drawers for storing small craft supplies, but they are quite plain to look at. I used some paint and patterned paper to upcycle the Ikea wooden drawers, and I was really pleased with how they turned out. They've help up well to plenty of opening and closing and they still look really smart.

Upcycled Ikea wooden drawers with paint and patterned paper

Finally, to keep myself organised I have lots of notebooks. Lots of my organising is done electronically, but nothing beats writing something down with a pen and paper, it just seems so much more solid! I used to decorate my notebooks back when I was at school, and the children and I recently used some Posca pens to decorate some black notebooks which was really effective.

How do you keep yourself organised?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The names I didn't choose for my children

I was reading something the other day about the meaning of names and why people had chosen them for their children, and it got me thinking.

I'll start by saying that I'm very happy with the names that we chose for our children. I had Harry's name in mind before we were even pregnant. I wouldn't say that he's named after Harry Potter, but I probably wouldn't have thought of the name if it wasn't for Harry Potter! However I'm honestly not sure where the name Mia came from, I can't remember any book or film that would have put the name in my mind, but fortunately it's one that we both like!

But each of my children does have an alternative name that I probably would have chosen first if I had a different surname. I've always really liked the name Jack for a boy, again I'm not sure where it comes from, but Jack Jain just didn't sound right to me (I'm not very sure about Jennifer Jain to be honest, but I'm stuck with it now!) so I reluctantly put it to one side.

As for a girl, well I really like the name Daisy. But again, when you put it with out surname it doesn't really go. Actually I think it does, but I'm not sure that we could have lumbered a girl with the name Daisy Jain also known as daisy chain. We had the name Mia picked out first time round, and when we found out it was a girl second time around I did suggest calling her another name that I really like - Sophie - but we decided to use that as her middle name instead. I liked the idea of using Elizabeth for her middle name, which is mine and I think it goes really well, but Ram wasn't keen!

If I ever become paranoid about sharing their names on this blog and social media I may well change them to their alternative names so at least I get to use them!

Did you have alternative names for your children? Are you happy with the ones that you settled on?

Mum with her children

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Miniature Halloween knitting for the dolls house

Today I have a guest post from my sister Anna. She's sharing some of the gorgeous miniature knitted items that she has made with a Halloween theme, great for adding a seasonal touch to your dolls house!

You can purchase the knitting patterns for these items in Anna's Etsy shop here - Halloween Knitting Patterns for Pukifee and Lati Yellow


Miniature knitting patterns for Halloween - Pukifee and Lati Yellow dolls

Jen has very kindly invited me to talk about my Hallowe’en knitting pattern book! It’s one of five knitting pattern books I’ve written for 1:12 scale ball-jointed dolls, especially Pukifee and Lati Yellow. I love these dolls, they are so cute, and it’s easier than it looks to knit clothes for them. All my patterns are designed so that they can be made by any intermediate (or adventurous beginner) knitter.

Because these dolls are the same size as dolls house dolls (other than their heads) a lot of the patterns in this book and my others can be used for other dolls, or for decoration. Also of course you don’t need to make them so tiny – using thicker yarn and bigger needles will make bigger items.

My personal favourite in this collection is the little pumpkin – at the smallest size it is very cute, and you can make it using any yarn and appropriate-sized needles, to make pumpkins in any size you wish for decoration this Hallowe’en!


Miniature knitting patterns for Halloween - Pukifee and Lati Yellow dolls

The pumpkin hat has also been very popular, especially in my shop where I also sometimes sell finished items.

Miniature knitting patterns for Halloween - Pukifee and Lati Yellow dolls

There are also patterns for a witch’s hat, witch’s cloak and a trick-or-treat bag in the shape of a little cat. Knitting miniature items can be a lot of fun – a bit fiddly but as they are so small they are quick to finish and you can outfit your whole dolls house with tiny jumpers in no time.

So why not give it a try!

Anna's Etsy shop is here - beepbeep - where you can find the Halloween Knitting Patterns book along with other books of knitting patterns and more gorgeous crafty things.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Playing the #minsgame again

I first took part in the Minimalism Game back in February 2015 (I wrote about the #minsgame here). If you're not familiar with it, the Minimalism Game was invented by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus - known collectively as The Minimalists - and is a method of decluttering your home. On the first day of the month you get rid of one item, on the second two, and so on until the end of the month. At the end of the month you should have made a huge dent in the number of things in your home - if I've worked it out correctly September should see me remove 465 items.

This decluttering method is very different to the Marie Kondo method, which I've also used before. But my clutter problem really is a continuous one, there's a steady flow of things coming in to the house, and I don't want it to pile up. So I find that taking part in the Minimalism Game fairly regularly (I think I've done it about four times now) is a good way to keep things in check.

I do bend the rules slightly. You are supposed to take part in the game with a friend or two, but after the first time, when I was invited to take part in a group, I've been playing it on my own.

Also, officially you are supposed to have everything from that day leave the house the same day, but that's not practical for me. Most of my items go to the charity shop, and I can't pop there every day with just a few bits and pieces. So I have an area in my wardrobe with different bags - charity shop items, charity bag things (for the scruffier clothing that is collected door to door) and things to pass on to others (after having checked that they actually want them!) There's also a small box for things to sell on eBay, I don't really like doing it but I have made some money that way. When one bag is full I take it where it needs to go.

Bags of clutter in a wardrobe

I also stack things up in advance which I'm sure is frowned upon. But especially as the days go on I can struggle to find the time to declutter that many things at once. I keep a list on my phone so I can keep track, and the end result will be the same!

I find it a really motivating way to declutter. It suits my enjoyment in making lists, ticking things off, and having a goal to work towards. It also forces me to make decisions about things that otherwise I might have overlooked or procrastinated on. For example we have a room at the top of the house that had developed quite a pile behind the door of old boxes and packaging materials, far more than we will ever use, now it's lovely and clear!

I started with the craft cupboard which was very successful - I found over 40 paintbrushes and 15 pipettes, which have now been culled to a more reasonable number! I'm also tackling Mia's bookcase and passing on some of the picture and board books, she's much more interested in books about fairies and puppies now. Next up I'm going to be re-visiting my own bookshelves, and having a go at toiletries.

Have you every played the Minimalism Game? Or have I inspired you to give it a go? I'd love to hear your experiences!

Monday, 11 September 2017

September - Lately I've been...

I'm a bit late with my update this month - after sorting the children out with back to school I had lots to catch up on, both blog-wise and house-wise! So here's what I've been up to lately.

Thinking about

Now that the children are back at school I'm thinking about how quiet the house is, and wondering what they are up to. Today they are both starting new lunch time clubs - Mia has joined a Speech and Drama class and Harry has finally been persuaded to join the Junior Choir as his school is taking part in the Young Voices performace at the O2 next year. I hope they enjoy them!

I'm also looking around and thinking that the houses is looking a bit cluttered again so I'm taking part in the Minimalism Game again this month. I've written about the #minsgame before, I find it's a method that really helps me to keep on top of the clutter in the home and tackle the areas that I keep putting off.

Crafting

My latest crafty project is in collaboration with Love Crochet. I've been sent some lovely yarn to make something with, and I decided to make a small scarf for one of Mia's teddies. I'm combining the different colours together to add a bit of interest. Unfortunately I didn't work out the width very well so it's going to end up being a very large scarf - I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up fitting Mia better than her teddy!

Paintbox yarns in different colours

Our Instagram crafting community continues to grow - last month almost three hundred posts were tagged with #craftingismytherapy_august. If you'd like to join in this month we'd love to see you share your crafty projects under #craftingismytherapy_september.

Watching

We've just finished watching The Handmaid's Tale which I enjoyed very much. It's one of my favourite books so I was interested to see how it transferred to the screen. I don't want to spill any spoilers but I was pleased with the adaptation, even if it did have lots of extras which are clearly a set up to future episodes going beyond the scope of the book.

We've been watching a few films too, although not that many that have particularly stood out. The Big Sick was quite funny, and Life was also enjoyable, albeit a bit gruesome!

Eating

The children are back to school so I'm back to being careful with what I eat. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I hadn't put on as much weight over the summer as I expected (and probably deserved to). I'm hoping this is down to the fact that I made a real effort to hit my step targed (11,000 steps) every day - even when I had to march around the house in circles because the weather was too bad to drag the children out. Hopefully a few weeks of proper calorie counting will sort it, and then I just have to be careful not to slip back into the unhealthy habits.

Travelling to

We've mainly stayed local this month, the furthest we've been was to a wedding in Bracknell over the Bank Holiday weekend which was very fun and a good chance to catch up with lots of people. Now I'm just travelling to school and back every day!

Reading

I recently re-read Bill Bryon's The Road to Little Dribbling after being reminded about it when a friend posted a quote on Facebook. It's hilarious and quite thrilling because Angmering gets a (very brief) mention, as does Worthing. I love all of Bill Bryon's books and I've read most of them several times over, they still make me giggle.

I'm currently re-reading The Handmaid's Tale after watching the television series. It's another book that I've read several times, but not recently, so it's interesting to go back to it.

Planning

Over the October half-term we have a very exciting trip coming up - we are going to Hong Kong and Singapore. Ram and I visited Singapore some years ago, and I always hoped that I'd be able to return one day with children. We've never been to Hong Kong, but we are planning to visit Disneyland Hong Kong for two days and then we'll definitely find plenty more to keep us busy. It's a big trip (kicked off with a 14 hour long haul flight!) and there is lots of planning to do. So I've set up a Trello board and I've been doing lots of research. I've put together a pretty comprehensive list of things that I want us to do, so now I'm moving on to the detailed planning - scheduling in the days and making a note of how to get to places, opening times and prices and so on.

Of course, like any trip away I also find myself planning and scheduling for my blog and social media to keep it ticking over while I'm away, so there's all that to plan too!

Looking forward to

Our holiday of course, and before that a few weeks of getting the house back to normal after the summer holidays!

What have you been up to lately?

Friday, 8 September 2017

Autumn Leaf Hama bead coasters

It's getting cooler outside, and with the children now firmly back at school my thoughts are turning to Autumn crafting. Last year I used my Hama beads to make some Autumn Hama bead battery candle holders which I was really pleased with, and so this year I've brought the Hama beads back out, this time to make some Autumn leaf coasters for those warming Autumnal drinks.

Autumn leaf Hama bead coaster designs


Although the leaves are made using Autumn colours, I've also included some pastel blue and green. Even though the weather is turning colder, winter isn't here quite yet, and there can still be some lovely blue sky at this time of year!

I came up with two different leaf designs and used a variety of different colours. I think they also look nice arranged into a square, a bit like my Hama bead Russian Doll tiled picture!

Autumn leaf Hama bead coaster designs

They are ironed on both sides, and well ironed to make sure that they won't come apart. After ironing, I always place my Hama bead pieces between two cork mats and leave something heavy on the top for a little while to make sure that they cool flat, otherwise the finished project can have a tendency to warp.

Autumn leaf Hama bead coaster designs

With Halloween approaching, you might also like my Halloween Hama bead coasters. Or I have also designed some Hama bead coasters for Easter featuring Easter Eggs.

You can find all my Hama bead designs on my Hama bead page

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Blog post ideas for Autumn

The children are back at school, and after taking a bit of a break over the summer holidays it's time to get back into my blogging! So I thought I'd put together a list of blog post ideas for Autumn to get me started, and hopefully they will inspire you too!

Autumn blog post ideas for bloggers

Before the memories fade, it's a good opportunity to reflect back on the summer. You could share some of your favourite summer photos, and remember some of the fun things that you got up to. This could be done as an interview with children, asking them about the things that they enjoyed the most.

Did you travel anywhere for summer this year? Now is a good time to think about what you enjoyed, what you didn't, and make your travel plans for next year.

As the children begin a new school year it's a good opportunity for a catch up. You could write about how the children have changed since last September (perhaps along with some photos to compare) and what you hope the new school year brings for them. This could be done in an interview style, asking questions about their favourite school subject, what they hope to be when they grow up, and so on.

Do you have any school tips to share with new school parents? Essential items for schoolbags or perhaps some packed lunch ideas, as well as helping children settle down and make friends.

Has September brought a new change in routine now that the children are back at school? Do you have a little one that has started school for the first time and you finally have some extra time to yourself, or are you back at work after a summer break? How do you feel about it?

I always find September a good time of year for a new start and new resolutions. Do you have any goals that you want to accomplish before the end of the year? Similarly it's a good time to catch up with those New Year's Resolutions and see how they are going!

One of my favourite things about going back to school was always new exercise books and new stationery. You could do a roundup of the favourite things that you've bought for your children (or yourself!) this new school year, or a round up of new bits that you've spotted.

As the evenings start to draw in it's fun to think about making your home more cosy for winter. You could pick out some seasonal decor for your home, like cosy throws and comfy cushions with an Autumnal theme.

You could also do some seasonal wardrobe picks and share some of your favourite Autumnal clothing pieces.

It's a great time to share Autumn recipes, using seasonal ingredients, that are warm and comforting, for example my Spicy Butternut Squash Soup. If you have published several on your blog over the years then you might want to consider publishing a round up so that readers can easily find them all in one place.

Similarly, what are your favourite Autumn ingredients for cooking and baking? We have an apple tree in the garden, and I love trying out new apple recipes. Many years I manage to grow a pumpkin, and I love making pumpkin soup.

Before the weather gets too cold, plan a visit out and about to see the beautiful natural Autumn colours. Write about a family or solo trip to the forest, and collect plenty of fallen leaves to use for crafting when you get home.

There are lots of other natural things that you can use for Autumn crafting - like conkers, acorns, pine cones. See what you can come up with, and share the results on your blog. It's also a good opportunity for a round up of Autumn crafts, either sharing your own or choosing posts from other bloggers to share.

Dream catcher made with Autumn natural materials

Write a list of your favourite things about Autumn. You also could ask friends and other bloggers for their own favourites to add to your list. Great to look back on too when the cold dark evenings are in full swing!

Think back to some of your favourite Autumn memories. Did you have any back to school traditions, a place that you always visited as a family to collect Autumn leaves, or a favourite meal or drink that you enjoyed with family or friends.

I'm not a coffee drinker but I've noticed that everyone seems very excited about the yearly launch of Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, are there any other seasonal releases that you look forward to?

On the 5th November in the UK we celebrate Bonfire Night - you could write about Bonfire Night memories and how you celebrate with your children.

You could write a round up of firework displays in your local area to help people planning trips out (you could share it to local Facebook pages or groups), or write a review of a display that you've been to. You could share safety tips, or tips for visiting a fireworks event with young children.

Also in Autumn comes Halloween, do you mark the occasion with your family? Do you go trick or treating or host a party at home? How do you carve your pumpkins? Share some of your favourite Halloween memories and traditions.

Do you decorate your home for Halloween? Share some of your ideas, or share photographs of houses in your area with the best decorations.

If you are hosting a Halloween party, share some Halloween party food and costume ideas. This could be homemade, or things that you've picked up or spotted in the shops.

If you have published lots of Halloween posts over the years you could consider a Halloween round up to bring new eyes to older posts.

I hope that I've inspired you! I really enjoy making lists of blog post ideas. If you liked this list you might also like my Blog Post Ideas for Craft Blogs and Blog Post Ideas for Travel Blogs

And if you are planning really ahead, you might also like my list of Blog Post Ideas for Summer.

Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash

Monday, 4 September 2017

Annoying at the time, but I miss it now

Last night was another long evening of putting Harry to bed and suffering through his convoluted bedtime routine (a series of actions and phrases that must be repeated in a particular order and that if deviated from necessitates starting again. Very frustrating!) Once again, I got myself through it by promising myself that it won't be long before he won't want me putting him to bed, and I'll miss it when that happens.

It reminded me of some of the other annoying things that I had to do when they were small children, and that how when you are in the middle of something you don't appreciate that it's just a phase and will one day come to an end.

For example, toddler Harry went through a Button Moon stage. He played it with play dough, with cardboard props, watched episodes over and over, and for his third birthday he had a Button Moon cake. Throughout this phase, for lunch every day he would have a 'Button Moon sandwich', which was a circular Marmite sandwich with four holes in the centre. Then he demanded 'cheese around the edges' - so I had to cut up little cubes of cheese and arrange them artfully around the edge of the plate in just the right way to satisfy him. It was really annoying and made preparing his lunch quite a chore. But now I miss making him a shaped sandwich, he really did love it!

Also at mealtimes we always had to prepare a small bowl of food for his cuddly Giraffe. This was a little bowl of food from the toy kitchen filled with some scraps of green felt to make pretend food. It was really sweet - I'm sure that he doesn't remember but he's still so attached to Giraffe, I bet he'd love it if I made Giraffe a bowl of food tomorrow!

Toddler with comfort object

Bedtimes have always been a bit of a struggle in this house, and for a long time as part of the bedtime routine with both children we used an app on the tablet called Nighty Night. It's a picture of a farmhouse, and you click on the windows to put each animal to bed. There's a short and a long version, and I used to find it so boring sat there, desperate for some quiet time after a day spent with a toddler, waiting for them to painstakingly slowly put all the animals to bed. Then suddenly one night we didn't do it anymore and it was all forgotten, and now I quite miss it!

I used to dread the walk home from nursery after lunch with toddler Mia. It wasn't far away so I would take her scooter, which used to fill me with fear for the first part of the journey as she had to scoot alongside a busy road. Then soon after that she'd just give up and I'd have to push her home, balancing both rucksack and my handbag as I leaned over at an awkward angle. She was so slow, always wanting to stop to look for pine cones, even when I could see that there weren't any there, and she wanted to be lifted up to stand on every post that we passed. But now I miss our little chats and that time that we had together.

However one thing that I definitely don't miss about small children is the night times! They really were both such awful sleepers - Harry in particular with a couple of hours of screaming in the early hours every single night. I also don't miss those 4.45 am starts - even though he's still an early riser at least he can entertain himself in his room until we need to start getting ready for school!

What do you miss about the toddler years? And what will you definitely not miss?!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Matchbox Monster Pets

This month the theme for my Bostik Bloggers box of craft materials was Monsters. When it arrived I had just finished sorting out the kitchen cupboard and had emptied a couple of small matchboxes. I was looking for a craft to use them, so I thought that the children might enjoy making some tiny monster pets to live inside.

Matchbox monster pets for children craft

You need:

A matchbox
Coloured paper or card
Small pom poms
Small googly eyes
Any other monster themed embellishments
A Bostik Fine and Wide Glu Pen

Instructions:

First we decorated the outside of the matchboxes. We used coloured paper to wrap around the outside and then they decorated the boxes with small googly eyes, stuck down firmly with the Bostik Fine and Wide Glu pen. This pen is really easy for little ones to use as you just need to squeeze it gently to release the glue. One end is wider for spreading, and the other end has a smaller nozzle for more detailed application.

Matchbox pet monsters craft

For the monsters they stuck two small pom poms together and added a googly eye in the middle.

Matchbox pet monsters craft

The monsters fit beautifully inside the matchboxes! The children also decorated the insides with pens and coloured paper to make a little home. They've loved playing with them!

Matchbox pet monsters craft

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

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

How many clothes do children need?

I lurk in a few decluttering and organising groups on Facebook, and I was really interested in a graphic that I saw shared recently several times. I won't reproduce it on my blog, but you can view and print it here - How much clothing do kids need?

It has a table which gives each category a description - Minimalist, Moderate and Plenty. There's a suggested number of items for each type of clothing, for example shirts, sweaters, pajamas, dresses and shoes, and I was really interested to compare the amount clothing that mine have to the charts.

I always feel that the children have too many clothes. I wash quite frequently and so the only time that they need clothes for more than a few days is when we go on holiday. Perhaps I don't allocate enough space in their wardrobes for clothing, but Mia's drawers in particular always seem to be jammed full. I find that if there is plenty of space in the drawers it's much easier to put clean washing away rather than leave it piled up, so I much prefer to have less.

We are often lucky enough to be given clothes, both new and second hand, and I don't feel that I buy them a huge amount of clothing. I usually pick up bits in the sale, buying extra underwear when we are about to go away and I realise they don't have enough.

So according to the list, I think that my children fall somewhere in between Minimalist and Moderate. They have a few more tops, because I like to have 7 to 10 to allow for a couple of weeks away. I struggle with finding them trousers that fit, so they don't have very many of those anyway. One area where we are way over though is dresses as Mia has ended up with quite a few - especially when you take into consideration her sizable collection of princess outfits! She does wear them all regularly so I don't mind!

Dresses hanging in the wardrobe

Each of them have plenty of pairs of pajamas because they like to have varying thicknesses and a combination of long and short to allow for seasonal variation - they'll often change a couple of times during the evening before they go to sleep! They also have more underwear - it's cheap and it doesn't take up too much space!

I like to think that they are quite limited when it comes to shoes, but they each have a pair of school shoes, trainers, slip on shoes, wellies, sandals, flip flops for swimming and crocs for the garden, and Mia has a couple of pairs of sparkly party shoes - placing them well into the Plenty category!

During the week in term time they are wearing school uniform, which this chart doesn't take account of, and as their uniform is kept separately I don't really count it as part of their clothing. In terms of uniform they each have a clean shirt for every day and one spare, two jumpers, then Harry has two pairs of trousers and two pairs of shorts and Mia has two tunics and two summer dresses. They are generally quite clean children, and I've never had to do an emergency wash because they didn't have clean uniform for school the next day, so we've managed with that amount so far.

What do you think of the graphic? Where do your children fit?

Monday, 28 August 2017

Making an effort to wear dresses

I've never had very many clothes. I used to think that was because I wore uniform at school and so I didn't need that many other clothes, but that was a long time ago, and although I've had plenty of opportunity to increase my wardrobe size since I often look at my clothes and think that I don't have a lot of choice. I think I'm just a bit lazy about buying new clothes!

Every day I wear jeans and a top - short sleeved in summer, long sleeved when it gets a bit cooler, and something warm and cosy on top for winter. But in my wardrobe I do have a reasonable collection of smart dresses for going out like these that I've picked up over the last few years. We still seem to have quite a few wedding invitations, and also as we are lucky enough to go on a cruise from time to time it's nice to have a few to choose from when you need to dress for dinner every night, but compared to the frequency with which I wear them the number that I have is a bit excessive.

I do find it much easier to find dresses that fit me than trousers. I hardly have any pairs of trousers because it's difficult to find ones that don't gape at the back or aren't too long. I also wear out the knees on my jeans astonishingly quickly, even now I'm well past the 'crawling on the floor with toddlers' stage.

However I only ever wear dresses for special occasions, and I feel really self-conscious when I wear them. Some of them are a little skimpy, but I think that I can pull them off, especially if I'm wearing thick tights, and I really do like wearing them. If I'm going out for dinner with friends I will try and make an effort to wear one, but I always feel over dressed, even if others are dressed up too.

I can't imagine turning up on the school run wearing a dress, even though plenty of the other Mums do, I'd think that everyone was staring at me! I missed an opportunity last September when the children started a new school, I could have re-invented my style completely and no-one would have known!

I do remember making a resolution a few years back as part of my Day Zero Project to wear a dress or a skirt for a week, and even though it was one of the easiest things on the list I never actually got around to doing it! So I've decided that I need to try and make an effort to get more wear out of the dresses in my wardrobe. Maybe not the really fancy ones - I'll save those for the cruise ship - but the simpler, more comfortable ones could easily become more every day wear, especially when the weather is a bit warmer, or perhaps with tights or leggings as we come into autumn and winter.

Me wearing a dress

Are you a fan of dresses, or are you more of a jeans and t-shirt person like me?

This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Saving the time spent looking for lost things with Neatlynamed

According to a new survey by Neatlynamed, manufacturers of labels for children's clothes and belongings, parents spent £1589 replacing items lost by their children before the age of ten, and spend nearly two days looking for them. The most commonly lost items are hats, jumpers and cuddly toys, and 62% of the missing possessions are never found again.

I must admit that we've generally been quite lucky when it comes to not losing things. I've always been very careful to label as much as I can - and this is a good idea as according to the survey 64% of items that were lost and then subsequently found had name labels. It definitely worked out well for us last term when Harry lost a new, rather expensive PE jumper. It disappeared for a few days but eventually turned up on his peg. I don't know where he left it, but fortunately the label meant that it was returned safely to him, rather than ending up who knows where!

As we prepare for the start of term I've been busy buying all the new uniform and other bits that the children need, and making sure that it is all well labelled. According to the survey, school or nursery is the place that children tend to lose things most often, and around half of mothers said that they have known their little ones to lose items within just 20 minutes of getting them for the first time!

Neatlynamed provides a range of self-adhesive stickers and name labels designed for children's clothes and other personal items. There are clothes labels, iron on labels as well as shoe and sock labels and stickers for other personal belongings. They can all be personalised with the child's name, choice of colour and an icon. We were sent some of their new Disney themed clothing labels to review. There is space for two lines if you need them, so you can add for example a phone number underneath, and depending on the design you can choose different sizes and styles. You can see the full Disney range of labels here. Mia chose some of the Frozen labels, and Harry went for labels featuring Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters.

Disney name labels for school from Neatlynamed

The labels are designed to be stuck to the clothing care label within a garment. After being in place for 24 hours the clothes can be washed, and they will withstand washer and tumble dryer for about eight months. I was really impressed with the design of the labels, there are plenty of different cheerful designs in different shapes and sizes. They stick really well and I'm confident that they will stay in place. They are also not just great for clothing - I've used them for the water bottles, hats and book bags, and there are plenty in the pack to keep us going.

Neatlynamed school name labels

Fingers crossed, everything that goes into school will be coming back!

Figures based on a survey by Neatlynamed of 1000 Mums with children aged three to ten. This is a collaborative review.

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.
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