Saturday 29 September 2012

Money boxes and posting coins

I have a gorgeous money box, I don't know where it came from but it's quite old, made from tin and in the shape of a postbox. I use it to store my small collection of interesting coins - old coins no longer in circulation, leftover coins in small denominations from foreign holidays, and some pressed pennies from a trip to the US when I was a teenager. Recently I took the coins out to show Harry, and he was fascinated. He spent ages posting them back through the slot. They were still out when Mia woke up from her nap, and so under supervision I let her join in. This activity was a huge hit. I found some more money boxes from around the house - my old piggybank along with some that they have received as gifts. We have spent many happy sessions all posting coins together.

Children posting coins in money boxes

Children posting coins in money boxes

Then, a few days later, prompted by a book we were reading I was showing Harry some old photos from when I was little. Looks as though I wasn't the first to come up with this activity!

Children posting coins in money boxes

Thursday 27 September 2012

Halloween Craft - Really simple spooky window pictures

If you are looking for a really simple craft to do with little ones, then these spooky window decorations are perfect. They can be made easily even by really young toddlers, and they look really effective when displayed in the window, whether during the day or at night.

How to make spooky Halloween window decorations

To make the window decorations, all you need is thin black card, some clear contact paper (sticky backed plastic) and tissue paper in suitable Halloween colours.

First cut out your shape from the black cardboard - I made a pumpkin and a haunted house. Then place the entire piece of card onto a face up piece of clear sticky backed plastic. Tear some coloured tissue paper into small pieces, and help your toddler to place them onto the sticky areas. You can add detail to the image by positioning cut outs from black card, like the face of the pumpkin or the windows of the house.

Child crafting for Halloween

When you have finished, fold over the edges to provide a bit of extra adhesion to the tissue paper. It might not look like much from the front:

Halloween window decorations for toddlers

But when the light is behind them I think they look very spooky! They are so easy to make that you could come up with different ideas every year and cover an entire window.

Simple Halloween window decoration craft

I've written about lots of things that you can do with very little ones at Halloween. My children both loved the Halloween sensory tub that I put together and the Halloween ice block excavation activity. They also had a lot of fun with this make a monster busy bag.

Finally, if you are planning a Halloween party for little ones you might like this post - some simple Halloween party ideas for children.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Diwali craft - Making a Rangoli using dyed rice

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links

After making our salt dough divas for Diwali, we turned our attention to Diwali Rangoli. Rangoli are decorative patterns created on the floor during Hindu festivals such as Diwali. They can be geometric patterns or flower and petal shapes, and are traditionally created using coloured rice, sand or flower petals. At Diwali they are created to encourage the goddess Lakshmi to enter homes. I made our Rangoli using dyed rice.

Outlines for dyed rice rangoli

For the base I used some sturdy cardboard. I drew some freehand patterns using a thick black pen, taking some inspiration from pictures that I found online such as these simple Rangoli designs. To dye the rice I followed the very simple instructions from The Imagination Tree - you basically just mix a handful or so of cheap rice with about half a teaspoon of food colouring, and you can squirt in some alcohol hand gel to help it dry quicker. I found that yellow and red dye worked brilliantly, but the green not so well.

How to dye rice for rangoli

We painted our cardboard designs first with poster paint in bold colours. I thought this would give a good solid background, instead of having to cover the whole design in rice. Then we worked with one colour of rice at a time. I applied the glue thickly to the areas required, then we piled on the rice and pressed it down. I found that it dried quickly and we were able to shake of the excess before moving on to the next colour. A little bit of rice went a long way, I had lots left over!

How to make dyed rice rangoli

I was really pleased with how well our Rangoli turned out, and it wasn't nearly as messy or unpredictable a craft as I had worried it would be! We are looking forward to putting them on display when we celebrate Diwali.

How to make rangoli with dyed rice

If you are looking for some more Diwali crafts, then you might like these pages:

How to make a salt dough diwa
Homemade Diwali cards
Large Hama bead Rangoli
Small Hama bead Rangoli
Simple Burfi sweets for Diwali

If you are teaching your young children about Diwali, here are some books that they might enjoy:

The Best Diwali Ever (affiliate link) - A heart warming picture book about Diwali, siblings and how very special this celebration can be.

Diwali colouring book for kids (affiliate link) - A simple coloring book for young children, suitable for ages 2-5. Contains all sorts of things to colour including lamps, fireworks, candles, lanterns, food & rangoli patterns.

First Festivals: Diwali (affiliate link) - Featuring simple text, gorgeous illustrations and satisfying lift-the-flaps, this book explores common Diwali traditions and helps young children understand the importance of this special holiday.

Mr Men and Little Miss Happy Diwali (affiliate link) - The five-day festival of lights is celebrated by millions of people across the world and the Mr Men and Little Miss can't wait to join in. They're busy cleaning their homes, creating Rangolis, lighting lamps and enjoying all the festivities, including large feasts that Mr Greedy is particularly looking forward to. It’s going to be a busy five days of light and laughter!

I've also collected together lots of fun Diwali crafts and activities on my Diwali Pinterest board:

Follow Jennifer Jain's board Diwali Crafts and Activities on Pinterest.
I'm linking up with Tuesday Tots at Rainy Day Mum and Kid's Get Crafty at Red Ted Art.

Saturday 22 September 2012

A tale of two babies revisited

Soon after I started blogging I wrote this post - A tale of two babies. (Don't worry if you didn't read it, not many people did!).

I make no secret of the fact that I found Harry to be a difficult baby. Having had Mia I have realised that it wasn't just me, compared to her he was a difficult baby. Although of course she had her moments, in general she was a much more contented and happier baby. The key thing was that she could last much longer between naps. It sounds like such a small, insignificant thing, but Harry used to get so grumpy when he was tired, and he was always tired (his tendency to start the day at 5am by the latest also didn't help). Mia had so much more stamina, she could stay awake for several hours and was generally contented for most of that time. It was such a revelation to find that I didn't have to plan every single part of my day around her nap time. I could meet with friends or go out, and not have to worry that the baby would be due a nap and would therefore scream.

Harry did redeem himself though, and as a toddler he has been very good. If someone took a toy from Harry he would grumble a little bit, but then move on to something else. I noticed early on that if you take something from Baby Mia that she wants, she will scream. If you take something from her that she really really wants, she will do the watch-me-hold-my-breath-and-brace-yourself scream.

I'm becoming a little worried that we are about to start paying back for our easier baby with a stroppy toddler. What have you found - does an easier baby make for a difficult toddler?

Small child in wellies in the rain

Friday 21 September 2012

Adventures with Cravendale and Epic Straws

Harry has a bit of a fascination with pipes and plumbing, so he was delighted to take delivery of two sets of Epic Straws from Cravendale as a part of their latest promotion. Firstly we built the two sets. Harry wasn't much help, but I think I managed quite well on my own. He twigged immediately what they were for, and couldn't wait to get going with the drinking. Since we received these straws I have had no worries about his liquid consumption.

Playing with Epic Straws from Cravendale

I was challenged to come up with something more creative than just following the instructions. So I decided to incorporate the straws into one of his toys. His toy house fitted the bill perfectly, with lots of windows to poke straws through and two little old ladies to look on in bemusement.

Playing with Epic Straws from Cravendale

We've been playing with these straws for several days now and they've been brilliant. They come with a little net bag for washing the pieces in, or you can just suck some water through them! Harry has worked out how to build his own creations now, and he keeps proudly calling me in to show me what he was built. Fantastic!

We received two sets of Epic Straws and some vouchers to buy Cravendale milk. 

Thursday 20 September 2012

Liebster blog award

I would like to begin this post by saying that I love being tagged in things! The trouble is that it takes me ages to get to them, although I do get there in the end. This means that I sometimes get tagged in something twice before I've had a chance to respond, and also begin to accumulate a backlog. So here is the latest one - the Liebster blog award. I have 11 questions to answer from two bloggers:

From All-in-One Mum:

1.What is your favourite blog post that you have composed?
I'm quite proud of my Legoland post. That took a long time to put together. I also have a post scheduled for next week that I like very much so look out for it, it's to do with dyed rice!

2.Once you have your blog post topic, how long does it take you to create and finish it?
It varies, sometimes I can bash them out very quickly, others sit in drafts for days. It also depends whether I need to take and edit photographs.

3.What is your biggest achievement/proudest moment?
My children :)

4.What is your favourite food?
For dinner - Pizza. For dessert - Chocolate brownies with ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

5.When you travel, do you stay away from the local food or try experience everything you can?
I have a fussy husband, so we tend to go with what we know!

6.Mac or PC?!
PC, I've never used a Mac.

7.Kindle or real, paper books?
Kindle, although I still have plenty of real books.

8.Do you have a favourite quote or personal mantra?
Carpe Diem.
9.If you were an animal, what would you be?
A cat. I often gaze enviously at cats as they sleep all day...

10.What is your favourite room in your home?
The bedroom. Mmmm, sleep...

11.If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing that you did?
Cry with the shock probably! Then book a holiday.

From Entertaining Monsters:

1.How long have you been blogging for?
I started in July 2011, so that's a year and a bit.

2.Where is your favourite place in the whole wide world?
My favourite country is Australia. But I'm quite a homebody really so my favourite place would have to be home.

3.What is your favourite bar of chocolate?
Do Maltesers count? I do like Galaxy chocolate if we're talking plain chocolate.

4.Have you ever broken a bone?
No, the worst I've ever done is sprained my ankle.

5.When was the last time you went on a child free night out with your partner (if you have one)?
Last Saturday, we went to a wedding, lucky us!

6.What was your first job?
I did some photocopying and filing in my Mum's office in the summer. My first job where I was employed was in the library.

7.How many toilets do you have in your house?! (I only have 1 and am very jealous when people have more!)
We have four, it's nice, if rather excessive, to have one each but I'm the only one that cleans them!

8.What is your favourite season?
The beginning of summer when it's starting to get nice and warm.

9.What is your favourite children’s book?
The Hungry Caterpillar. Or for older children I love A Little Princess.

10.Do you get a real or fake Christmas tree?
We have a fake one, I can't be dealing with all those needles.

11.How many siblings do you have?
One brother and one sister.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Diwali craft - How to make a simple salt dough diva for Divali

I decided that Harry is now old enough to start learning a little bit more about his cultural heritage, customs and traditions. He already understands a little bit about geography, different countries and languages, and so I thought that now was the perfect time to teach him what I can about Diwali. Diwali is one of the largest festivals of the year for Hindus, and is also celebrated by Jains and Sikhs. It is commonly known as the Festival of Lights. The Diwali legends vary across different areas of India, but in its essence it is about celebrating the triumph of good over evil.

In 2016, Diwali will be celebrated on Sunday October 30th. The date is set by the Hindu calendar and changes every year according to the position of the moon - it usually falls in October or November in the English calendar. 

I'm going to be doing a series of posts on my blog covering the various different Diwali crafts and activities that we'll be doing which are suitable for young children. 

Our first craft was making a salt dough diva. A diva (also called diya or diwa) is a small lamp, traditionally made from clay and containing oil and a wick. The lamps are lit to celebrate the triumph of light, and along with leaving open doors and windows, they are also lit to help the Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) find her way into people's homes.

How to make salt dough diwa lamps

We made our divas from salt dough, and they are large enough to hold a tea light or votive candle.

My simple saltdough recipe: 1 part salt, 2 parts plain flour, 1 part water, mixed together to make a dough.

I used about half a cup for each measure and this made enough salt dough for two divas. I divided the dough into two and made it into a ball. Then we flattened the balls and used our fingers to mould them into a small bowl. I pinched at one side to make a spout. They can be left to air dry naturally for a couple of days, or cooked at a low heat in the oven (about 100 degrees) for an hour or so, just keep an eye on them so that they don't burn.

How to make salt dough diwa for Diwali

When fully dry, we painted them. They can be any colour that you like, as long as it is nice and bright. When the paint was dry we covered them in glue and added plenty of glitter and sequins.

If you are teaching your young children about Diwali, here are some books that they might enjoy:

The Best Diwali Ever (affiliate link) - A heart warming picture book about Diwali, siblings and how very special this celebration can be.

Diwali colouring book for kids (affiliate link) - A simple coloring book for young children, suitable for ages 2-5. Contains all sorts of things to colour including lamps, fireworks, candles, lanterns, food & rangoli patterns.

First Festivals: Diwali (affiliate link) - Featuring simple text, gorgeous illustrations and satisfying lift-the-flaps, this book explores common Diwali traditions and helps young children understand the importance of this special holiday.

Mr Men and Little Miss Happy Diwali (affiliate link) - The five-day festival of lights is celebrated by millions of people across the world and the Mr Men and Little Miss can't wait to join in. They're busy cleaning their homes, creating Rangolis, lighting lamps and enjoying all the festivities, including large feasts that Mr Greedy is particularly looking forward to. It’s going to be a busy five days of light and laughter!

I've also collected together lots of fun Diwali crafts and activities on my Diwali Pinterest board:

Follow Jennifer Jain's board Diwali Crafts and Activities on Pinterest.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Alton Towers with babies and toddlers

We've been to Alton Towers a couple of times without the children. It's a long way from our home, but it's not too far from Ram's parents, and as we were staying up there for the weekend we thought that it would be nice to take the whole family this time. We had sussed it out in advance, and decided that although Alton Towers does seemed to be aimed mainly at older children, there were still a few rides and attractions that younger children would enjoy. Well, we are so glad that we did, we ended up spending nearly a whole day there and it was fantastic! So I thought I'd write a little bit about the things that we particularly enjoyed, in case anyone was wondering if it would be appropriate for babies, toddlers and young children.

We used our Merlin passes to visit otherwise it can be very expensive. You can use Tesco Clubcard vouchers for entry, and there are usually lots of 2 for 1 vouchers about. Children under the age of 4 are free, which seems generous. Parking is an additional £6 unless you have a Premium Merlin pass, so that's something to be aware of. We visited on a weekday in early September and found that the whole park was quiet, and the children's areas were almost empty. Alton Towers covers a very large area, so even if your child is normally out of a pushchair it's worth taking one as there can be a lot of walking.

Toddler and Baby at Alton Towers

We spent most of our time in Storybook Land and Old MacDonald's Farmyard, which are next to each other and near the entrance to the park. Storybook Land only actually contains the Squirrel Nutty Ride, which is a slow moving ride in large acorns on a track up in the air, with views all over the Farmyard area. The acorns are quite small and only really hold two adults or one adult and a child. It is probably quite slow loading, but because it's not that popular I shouldn't think you'd ever have to queue for long.

Old MacDonald's Farmyard has several small rides which our children loved. Old MacDonald's Tractor Ride lets you ride a full-size tractor through a little farmyard, complete with chickens. Then on Riverbank Eye-Spy you ride on a boat past lots of different models of farmyard animals. Each row of seats has a bank of buttons to press as you pass each animal (or just press randomly throughout the tour). The Doodle Doo Derby is a slow carousel type ride where you can choose which animal to ride, each equipped with an appropriate noisy button. If your child isn't old enough to sit on an animal by themselves you can stand or squat next to them and hold them in place. Old MacDonald's Singing Barn fascinated our two, it's a barn filled with noisy animal models that sing along when you press their buttons, and there are plenty of buttons to go around. There are also some real animals to see, and older toddlers can go into the Berry Bish Bash which is a large barn filled with hundreds of foam balls which you can load into air guns and fire them about all over the place. Children need to be accompanied by an adult. My son was the only one in there when we went, but I can see that it must get a bit mad when it's full, and very noisy. Finally we went in the outdoor playground There's Something in the Dung Heap which wasn't huge but again it was empty so plenty of space for our two.

Toddler and Baby at Alton Towers

Then we headed over to the other side of the park. We watched the 4-D Ice Age film which they both seemed to enjoy, despite a refusal to wear the special glasses. Then we went into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is a boat ride through the factory, ending with a trip in the glass elevator.

Then it was time for lunch. Normally we take sandwiches but this time we treated ourselves to the Pizza Pasta Buffet Restaurant. There was a good selection of food, hot pizzas, pasta and salad, with unlimited drinks. Our children are quite fussy, but we found enough to feed them. It was quite pricy though, even with our Merlin pass discount.
After lunch Mia was exhausted so she fell asleep in the pushchair while Ram took Harry on the Runaway Mine Train. He's been on the one at Chessington but I think that this one was a bit more intensive. He said he enjoyed it, although he didn't want to go on it again! Then I took him into Duel, the old haunted house ride. I was worried that he might be scared, but apart from jumping a bit when things leapt out at him it didn't seem to bother him at all! Ram took him on the Frog Hopper, which is a little row of seats that bounce up and down. He didn't see it in action before riding it which was probably a good thing, I'm not sure that we would have persuaded him otherwise! He loved it though, letting out a little high-pitched squeak every time it bounced down.

Mia woke up at this point, so we took them both into the Wobble World indoor play area. It is a huge indoor inflatable area, divided into a section for taller children (over .9 m) and younger babies and toddlers. Adults can't accompany the older children, so Harry wasn't very happy about going in on his own, although he did. You can watch them through large windows in the side, but you can't see the whole area and I'd imagine that when it's busy it's very difficult to keep track of your child. The staff there were really good, and I wasn't at all worried that he would leave the area, but I was concerned that he might hurt himself or otherwise get into trouble and I wouldn't be able to see or get to him. Because he's only very slightly over the height restriction they let him come into the baby area with us and Mia, and he was much happier there. We stayed for quite a while letting them both clamber about.

Toddler and Baby at Alton Towers

We used the Skyride to get back to the other side of the park, and even though we had two pushchairs we still had plenty of room. We finished the day back in Old MacDonald's Farmyard, where we rode all the rides again. At this point we were ready to go home, but there were still plenty of other attractions that we could have taken them on, not to mention a walk around the ruined Towers or the gardens. Harry even met the height restriction for Hex, but I thought that it might mess with his little mind too much. Without wanting to spoil it, it presents a very convincing illustion that I thought might freak him out!

We had a brilliant day. I love that Mia is getting to the age where she can really enjoy what is going on, rather than just being the baby dragged about with us. Harry is so into everything, and it is a real pleasure to take them on an outing. I'd definitely recommend Alton Towers for little ones!

Have you visited Alton Towers with young children? What did they particularly enjoy - did we miss anything?

Friday 14 September 2012

A sad day - passing on the baby things

The other week I sold our baby car seat and first pram/pushchair travel system on eBay. We didn't get very much for it and I didn't expect to. The pushchair in particular was pretty battered and very well used, and the storage basket underneath was worn through. What took me by surprise was how upset I was to see it go. The lady that bought the pushchair was delighted with it, so I know that it has gone to a good home, but as I watched her load it into the boot of her car I nearly ran after her and told her I'd changed my mind. After she had gone I sobbed and sobbed, and over a week later I'm still feeling sad. Rationally I know that it had to go, it was very bulky, and there's no point hoarding things that you don't need when someone else can still use them. We have a couple of smaller, easily folded pushchairs that are much more practical for daily use. But that particular pushchair has seen me through some emotional times.

The first few months with Harry were difficult, and the pushchair is intrinsically linked with that time. We have walked for miles together, mostly in a desperately sleep-deprived, zombie-like state. I've spent hours peering anxiously under the pram hood, hoping that baby had finally fallen asleep. We've marched around pavements both near our house and further away. We've been up on the Downs, and over pebbles on the beach. We've been around town, around the library and around the supermarket. The handles and basket underneath have been hung with shopping bags, change bags, a watermelon (which was what did for the storage basket underneath) and it has had doormats, empty storage boxes and a fireguard balanced on top of both it and baby.

Remembering buying the pushchair takes me back to that confusing time when we had very little idea what we needed, and were shocked at the amount that even an ex-display model could cost. It took hours with the two of us poring over instruction booklets to learn how to assemble and collapse it. Then I remember very clearly the first time that we strapped each tiny baby into the car seat and took them home from the hospital, and the first time that we took each out for a walk in the pram, all bundled up in their jackets and blankets.

Oddly I have no real problem in getting rid of baby clothes, which I know is difficult for a lot of people. As the children grow out of things I put them straight into carrier bags, then when I have several lying around I take them down the charity shop. Although I've kept a couple of favourite items, most of their clothes have gone. For some reason passing on the pushchair has really affected me. I don't think it's just the realisation that there will be no more babies. I'm happy with that decision, and I'm enjoying the little ones much more as they get older. Perhaps it's just closing the door on a very tiring and emotional few years of my life.

Old baby pram sold

Tuesday 11 September 2012

The London 2012 Paralympics Closing Ceremony

I said goodbye to London 2012 a few weeks ago, after the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games. Of course I intended to watch the Paralympic Games on the television, but we had really asked too much of my parents, our loyal babysitters, and it all felt a bit excessive somehow to think about returning to the Olympic Park. But when my husband managed to get hold of tickets for the Paralympic Closing Ceremony at just £20.12 each, how could I refuse? He even managed to pick up some cheap tickets to the Wheelchair Rugby game earlier in the day, so we had another exciting day at the Olympic Park.

We quickly picked up the familiar routine, parking at Ebbsfleet, into Westfield for some lunch, empty out the water bottles, go through security into the park, fill the water bottles back up again, then on into the venue. The park hadn't changed of course, although it is starting to look a little bit worse for wear compared to that first evening. The pavements are a bit grubby, and the beautiful flowers are past their best. I also noticed the names of the sponsors in evidence a lot more. Another thing that I realised was that there were a lot more family groups in the park, with lots of young children. Perhaps because the tickets have been easier to come by, or after hearing the positive experiences of others at the park.

London 2012 Paralympics Closing Ceremony

We enjoyed the wheelchair rubgy very much, although watching the players falling backwards out of the wheelchairs did make me wince - I don't know why they don't wear helmets! It was an exciting game, and you could easily see that Australia were the better team. As we left the Basketball Arena the park was emptying quickly and the fences were being erected to close off the outer areas of the park. We returned to Westfield for some dinner, then headed back into the park for the Closing Ceremony. The mood was buoyant, yet tinged with sadness. The wonderful volunteers were still going strong, I can't imagine the come down that they must be experiencing today after six weeks on such a high! We took our seats almost at the very top, and waited for the show to begin.

Someone had taken the excellent decision to seat the athletes before the ceremony began, which meant that the whole evening moved along nicely. We love Coldplay, which was a good thing, as it did feel in places like a glorified Coldplay concert. The staging was amazing, along with the lighting , the performers, and the dancers flying high through the air. The songs performed reflected the mood in the stadium perfectly - upbeat at the fantastic way in which the games have been hosted, contemplation at all the amazing things that we've witnessed over the last few weeks, and sadness that now it really is all over. The fireworks were spectacular, and although we couldn't see them all inside the stadium we saw footage of the fireworks all over London on the television screens. Of course the main focus in the ceremony was the feats which we have witnessed throughout the Paralympic Games, which really have been incredible.

London 2012 Paralympics Closing Ceremony

Everyone left the stadium in a good mood as we moved towards the trains and high-fived the volunteers. From what we've seen, the handling of crowds has worked incredibly well throughout. Despite the large queues, the flow of people moved continously from stadium to station. Of course we were late home, but it was so worth it. We are so lucky to have been able to take part.

Now London 2012 really is over, and what a fantastic experience it has been. 

Thursday 6 September 2012

In the rain and little red boots

It rained today, which meant that it was time to get the wellingtons out. I remember very clearly the first time that I put Harry in wellingtons and took him out in the rain. He walked normally along the pavement, then when he reached his first puddle he immediately stamped in it. It was as though some sort of puddle-jumping instinct had just kicked in. However when I set Mia down next to some puddles she just looked at them suspiciously, before delicately walking straight through them. Even though Harry was right next to her showing her how to jump in them. An example of a classic boy/girl difference?

These little red boots have been handed down through the family. I used to wear them myself. Quite an unusual family heirloom, but a useful one at least!

Children wearing red wellingtons

Wednesday 5 September 2012

A simple helicopter game

Harry helped me to make this simple helicopter game. We had a lot of fun making it together, and then even more fun making up and playing games with the pieces.

How to make a simple home made helicopter game

I found a line drawing image of a helicopter on Google images and printed out six copies. Then I let Harry colour in each one in a different colour and cut them out. In the meantime, I cut out six circles from white paper to make the landing pads, and cut out a letter H for each colour. Harry glued them into place, then when they were dry I laminated all the pieces (in my household most pieces of paper that sit still for too long end up being laminated, but of course you could just make the cards of stiff cardboard, or cover them with clear sticky backed plastic).

How to make a simple home made helicopter game

Here are some of the games that we've been playing with the helicopter cards:

Colour matching the helicopters to the landing pads. Even though this is far too easy to challenge Harry now, he still enjoyed doing it.

Find the landing pad. I placed the helicopter landing pads around the main room while Harry waited outside. Then he brought in each helicopter in turn to find the appropriate landing pad. This is a really good game for getting children to run about, and you could increase the area in which the landing pads are hidden, especially if you play outside. It is also a really good memory game, as the child needs to remember where the landing pads are that they've found for future helicopters.

Find the helicopters - Harry loves hiding games. He will quite happily play find the helicopter over and over again. I make it more difficult by putting them out of actual sight and then doing the 'getting hotter...getting colder' thing, he is just starting to catch on.

Colour matching and grouping by finding other objects around the house to place on the landing pads, like Lego bricks, pom poms and so on.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Chessington World of Adventures, and how our family days out are changing

At the weekend we visited Chessington World of Adventures. We are fairly frequent visitors, thanks to our Merlin passes and the fact that we don't live too far away, although we've given it a wide berth over the school summer holidays. We really like it at Chessington, it's perfect for young children as there are a good number of rides that even babies can go on. There are also the Zoo and Sea Life Centre, which the kids love and which are great if you want to step away from the crowds for a while and go at your own pace. 

We tend to arrive early, and have a fairly hectic first couple of hours while we tear about to get on all our favourite rides. When the queues have started to build we slow down a bit, and spend some time seeing the animals before leaving in the early afternoon.

This was our first visit since Mia started walking confidently, and I really noticed a change in how our day went. I'm beginning to appreciate how much easier a day out is when you don't have a baby. Mia can now manage comfortably on just the one nap a day, and it makes such a difference when you don't have to plan everything around baby's nap. It's easy to say that you shouldn't let yourself be ruled by baby's routine, but my babies have never fallen asleep when tired, instead becoming over-tired, grumpy screamers. Mia didn't even sleep in the car on the way up, and yet she was able to keep going until we left! She can eat her cheese sandwiches along with the rest of us, and we don't need to worry about taking special food or milk for her. 

I must admit that we do still take a pushchair for each child though, as although Harry is perfectly capable of walking, it's much easier to pop him in a pushchair as we rush about first thing, then make him walk later on when we can slow down a bit! I'm not sure how we will manage without pushchairs, where will we put the packed lunch/water bottles/spare clothes and all the other paraphenalia that's required for a day out?!

Chessington World of Adventures

This was our first family day out when I really felt that we were doing it for Mia too. Previously she's been more of a spectator rather than a participant, being lugged about on the rides but not really showing much interest. This time, she was into everything. She loved the goats in the Children's Farm, wandering up to stroke them of her own accord. She was fascinated by the Sea Life Centre, reaching out to the tanks and trying to say fish. 

The best part of the day was in the soft play area. There is a baby/toddler section with a gentle ramp leading up to a small slide. Once she discovered that she could clamber up the ramp and get herself into position to come down the slide on her own there was no stopping her. The two of them chased each other round over and over again, and both were absolutely loving it. 

It was a wonderful feeling to sit there and watch them both going round and round, and it gave me a taste of how family days out can be as they get bigger and more independent. I hadn't really realised before how much of my energy has been taken over with worrying about whether little ones need a nap, something to eat or if they are going to start screaming because they are fed up!

Chessington World of Adventures

Our little family seems to be growing up so quickly, but I'm really excited about all the new things that we'll be able to do as they get older.