Literature To Crafts: The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

It’s been absolutely ages since we’ve had a chance to read a story and do crafts from it, but the opportunity presented itself today and I grabbed it with both hands.

A few weeks ago we were going to make an ocean diorama, so we painted out a box in shades of blue and green. Our plans didn’t quite work out – my girls aren’t fond of colouring, what’s that about? – so we abandoned it, but I still had the box, in hope.

We read The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile by Margaret Wise Brown (currently £5.16 at Amazon UK/$7 Amazon US), which is a story about … well, endurance, I guess, because I couldn’t really find many other lessons in it. But endurance is a valuable skill and in this story, the fisherman search high and low for a fish with a ‘Deep Sea Smile’. They don’t find one for ages, but come across many other fish in the meantime: there’s one with a strong jaw, one with an electric tail, one with eyes on sticks, one with terrible claws and even one with a laughing eye.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

The ability to see something through, in this case finding the fish they were looking for, is valuable, and uncommon in our quick-win society, so I think it’s a great life skill to talk about.

I also love the illustrations in this story. They are done by Henry Fisher, and if I was to have a book illustrated, I’d love him to do it. They are so beautifully done. The pictures don’t really do it justice – especially the electric fish (second on the right below).

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

To bring our book to life, I cut the parts of the fish from coloured paper, and put the different parts of the fish together in piles so the girls could ‘build’ their fish from the given parts.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

I must say that I love our finished product. In all honesty I’m  not always ‘yay’ about the crafts we do, and we’ll keep them on display for a while before letting them ‘disappear’. I really do like this ocean diorama though. I have no idea where we’ll keep it, but it’s cute, bright, colourful and the fish are so friendly and fun.

It’s a great reminder of the story, which the girls thoroughly enjoyed.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

*We received this book as part of the Parragon Book Buddies program. You can find Parragon Books on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can find this book on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here.

Disclaimer for reviews

Skills - Learn to Read Skills - Imagination Skills - CreativitySkills - Fine MotorSkills - Hand Eye Coordination

Disney Frozen Themed Snow Play In The Summer

The Frozen fun continuous here as my two sing and dance their way to Let it Go – that’s one thing they’re not doing – letting it go. But it gives us a lot of fun along the way, and Frozen gives us the opportunity to talk a lot about sisters, and sharing. Ameli has aligned herself as Elsa, the older sister, with ice power, which left Aviya feeling a little sad as she didn’t have any powers. We decided that Aviya’s power was love, and that love is probably the most important power.

I decided for this particular day’s fun and games, to go back to making little tokens from Skrinkles, and go for a sensory play activity, which of course turns into three activities, really:

  1. Making Disney Frozen Shrinkles
  2. Snow play (in the bath)

Fairy 4Shrinkles* are a staple craft product in our house. If you use the right kind you can print directly onto it saving yourself loads of time and effort.

I Googled Frozen Edible Toppers and printed off one of the groups of images I found there. The ones with the white backgroundcame out better than those with the blue background.

I have a heat gun, which we used to shrink these Shrinkles, but the oven works perfectly well.

Fairy 4

For the snow play, I went to the Poundshop (Dollar Store) and bought cheap sensitive colourless shaving cream. They also have Disney Frozen themed lip gloss, so I bought two tubes. Back home, I filled a glass dish with the whole contents of the spray can and put the shrinkle disks and the two tubes of lip gloss in with it, before popping it the freezer for a few hours.

Fairy 4

I am okay with mess, to some point, but wasn’t in the mood for it yesterday, so I put the girls in the bath in their costumes, with the glass dish of ‘snow’ and left them to search for tokens and treasures, and build snowmen. They had a lot of fun, and loved the feel of the cold between their fingers and they soon got messy enough to make me very glad that I had put them in the bath!

A quick shower and all the shaving cream was gone, leaving them ready for their bath.

Skills - Sensory Skills - Creativity Skills - Imagination

How To Make A Fairy Garden (For Busy Mamas!)

Make A Fairy Garden

The Magic Onion blog is filled with Fairy Gardens I’ve wanted to make with my girls for years, but they’re so lovely and so beautiful that to be honest, I found it overwhelming, and ‘making a fairy garden’ got resigned to the list of things I wish I could do well. I was offered the Fairy Garden Craft Box for review and I couldn’t wait to try it with my girls.

When we sat down to it, they were super excited. We opened the box and emptied out the contents.

Inside the box you’ll find a fairy garden bowl, and fairy figurine, oyster shell which is the water feature in the garden – and the kids need to keep the water fresh and the shell clean –  a sparkly fairy cottage, a clothes line with posts & pegs, die-cut cloth for the clothes line, and a die-cut carpet for the cottage. There’s grass seed and coloured gravel as well as mushrooms, flowers and various bits of glitter, or fairy dust.

There’s loads in it and my girls have loved the kit! We spent about half an hour putting it all up together, and then the girls decided to play with the fairy while the grass grew. They weren’t best pleased when I told them it may take a week or two! I’m looking forward to the grass growing so it’ll give them something to do.

They started playing with the ceramic fairy, and very quickly broke the wing off, so I had to glue it back together with an explanation that it’s not actually a toy.

So, they decided that Ameli would be the fairy, and that the fairy was a statue of her and of her house.

I wasn’t really expecting the imaginative play that came with doing this kit, if I’m honest, but it’s been lovely.

Now it’s up to the girls to keep the ‘water feature’ clean, and to sprinkle water on the grass every day so that it will grow.

We also decided that we could make sure our fairy felt close to nature by putting some fresh flowers in her garden from time to time, some acorns and pinecones in autumn and rosehips in winter. I love how we’ve been able to talk about the seasons as part of this fun activity.

Amazon sell these make a fairy garden kits for £12.99, and I think it’s money well spent.

Skills - Imagination

Skills - Explore Nature Skills - Sensory Skills - CreativityDisclaimer for reviews

Disney Frozen Themed Shrinkles, Ice Play And DIY Jewellery

Our ‘Ocean’ Playlearning theme didn’t really go down well this week. The girls just weren’t interested, and I’ve been working long hours on top of it all, so I just let it go (see what I did there?) and decided to follow their lead. That lead took us to Elsa and Anna – the two sisters in the Disney movie “Frozen” that has taken seemingly everyone by storm!

We’ve had some gloriously hot weather, so I decided it was time to turn our new found Frozen frenzy into fun and crafty activities.

1) Make Disney Frozen Shrinkle tokens

2) Create a Frozen ice block for excavation

3) Make jewellery out of the ‘jewels’ from our digging


Shrinklesare a staple craft product in our house. If you use the right kind you can print directly onto it saving yourself loads of time and effort.

I Googled Frozen Edible Toppers and printed off one of the groups of images I found there. The ones with the white backgroundcame out better than those with the blue background.

We cut out the circles and used a hole punch to make a hole in each one.

A couple of minutes in the oven, and our Shrinkles become disks.

The kids had fun playing with them as tiddlywinks/coins/whatever else came to mind for a while, before I took them away for part 2.


In an ice cube tray, pop tokens and beads, and fill with water and freeze.

Once they’re frozen, fill a container with the ice cubes and top with cold but not frozen water to freeze again – this is so that the beads and tokens will appear throughout your whole ice block, not just all lying in a layer at the bottom. I found that if we used a really big block the girls lost interest before it was all chiseled away. A soup bowl size works well for a four and two year old though.


Once solid, removed the ice blocks to the water table outdoors and gave each child a garden shovel to use for ‘excavation’. They had a blast banging and knocking and discovering their treasures.

Frozen5Finally, I took blue and white wool – we were out of string, and the wool was sparkly – and made bracelets, a necklace and a ring.

We took a string of each colour and held a side each. Ameli turned to the right, I turned to the left and we twisted the string together. When you let go, the string snaps together, twisting to make a perfect ‘friendship bracelet’.  For the necklace we did that, and just added two beads on the end threading one through the other to attach it.

For the bracelet we threaded the disks through carefully before letting go of the two ends to snap it all together, then just moved them around so that they were placed properly all the way around.

For the ring we use a much smaller amount of string, and a single bead.

Ameli loved it. I had to get her to take it off for bed time, but with the firm promise that she could ‘be Elsa’ again tomorrow.

Does it tie into any learning goals? Well, no. But the kids had fun.

Skills - Sensory Skills - Imagination Skills - Creativity Skills - Fine Motor

disclaimer for links

Doctor Role Play Using Doc McStuffins Clinic Playhouse

Both my girls were born at home, and apart from routine infant checkups, they haven’t had much to do with doctors. When we were in Australia, Ameli had to have a checkup before we could extend our visas, and she freaked out so badly, the doctor couldn’t even put the stethoscope on her chest to confirm she didn’t have TB (That was $200 well spent then).

Doc McStuffins ClinicFast forward 8 or so months, and my mum died in the night in Ameli’s room – Ameli was asleep in my room – and another five months on, and I was carried off by ambulance to hospital (I’m all fine now – just a freak gallbladder issue!) Suffice it to say, Ameli specifically, and Aviya to a lesser extent, are pretty terrified of people in medical uniforms. I didn’t really realise the extent of it, till the paramedic came into my room, and Ameli ran over to me, crying that she didn’t want me to die.

I realised that we really had to step in and do something about it, so when we were offered the Doc McStuffins Clinic  Playhouse to review, I thought it would be perfect for role play.

Something I realised quite early on I had to address was that going to the doctor didn’t mean you were going to die. Sometimes you just have to have a check up, or get a diagnosis. The separate issue was dealing with dying itself and talking to children about death.

I found this paragraph the Dealing With Dramatic Bereavement leaflet from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust really useful.

They do not always talk about what upsets them, but use play to process emotionally-laden events – this may be because they find it difficult to give their attention to separation or grief for periods of time. Through play they explore and try to  understand events they have experienced in their own way and in their own time. This is how young children work through grief.

I took that to heart, really, in dealing with this fear of doctors.

Doc McStuffinsThe Doc McStuffins Clinic Playhouse is a double story playhouse from the TV show. My kids have never watched it, so the phrases and so on didn’t matter much to them, but they loved the toy in and of itself.

The clinic comes with a bedroom upstairs, complete with a (plastic) metal frame bed and full length (child safe) mirror, and downstairs furniture consists of the reception desk and examination bed, as well as a weighing station/work bench. There is also a outside balcony-lift and banisters for the stairs.

Randomly, there’s also a slide for outside as well as sticker sheet for 2D furniture and a house full of pictures and paintings, an opening red front door, and ‘moving’ fish in a fishtank.

Setting up the house was pretty quick, and Ameli enjoyed sticking the pictures up around the house. It was a good time for us to talk about our previous doctor visits.

The desk has a telephone on it, but it’s quite an old fashioned phone and my girls didn’t know what it was! Shocking!

Other accessories include a laptop, which I think we’ve since lost, and then Doc herself and her two assistants, a little Lamb and a little Hippo. They have heart shaped indents in their bottoms, that when they are pressed down by the assistants on the bed, they offer lines from the show. My girls like it, but it doesn’t mean anything in the greater scheme to them.

Even when they’re not playing with the playset, they do play with Doc and her friends. She’s definitely a favourite. Unfortunately with my kids, Doc’s clothes and shoes come off, so right now I can’t find her doctor’s coat!

I am quite pleased that despite not having to see a doctor since we’ve been playing with the set, Ameli’s attitude to doctors has improved a lot. She doesn’t put on her scared face when I mention the doctor anymore, which I’m hugely relieved by.

In our role play we talked about Doc checking her heart rate, and her temperature and her tonsils and so on, and we used my mom’s old medical kit – she was a nurse practitioner – for the hands on role play.

I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to role play with the Doc McStuffins house, which is now nicely incorporated into our toys.

Doc McStuffins Clinic is currently £45 on Amazon. It’s a great, durable and hardy toy, and with the exception of the laptop which disappeared pretty quickly, the rest is easily identifiable and is a lovely toy.

Disclaimer for reviews


Whipsnade Zoo, Luton, Bedfordshire

Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire is really part zoo, part wildlife reserve. If you say ‘zoo’ you tend to think of a bunch of animals in cages. While this is partly true, there’s also part wildlife reserve like the ones you’ll find in Africa – where you get to drive or walk around with nothing between you and the animals. In a sentence, the Whipsnade Zoo is fantastic. We spent a bank holiday Monday there and we loved every minute of it. 
Whipsnade Zoo


The rest of this review has moved. Please click here to read it. 


Twinkl Home Education Resources

A few months ago I discovered an online resource for Early Years, KS1, KS2, and SEN teachers, classes and home educators called Twinkl. I emailed them to find out about a rate for Home Educators, and eventually got the full membership, so that I can give it a try.

Twinkl is essentially a compilation of teaching resources and themed printable documents. While it’s true that a home educating parent could probably sit and create all their own resources for whatever theme you’re working on, I have found Twinkle to be an invaluable website for a number of reasons:

1. Twinkl gives you resources on tap


While we tend to plan our PlayLearning themes well in advance, I don’t always have time in the run of daily life to actually prepare all the resources in advance. At those times, it’s wonderful to be able to quickly head over, type in our theme, print out a few pages – be they colouring pages or activity sheets – and give those to Ameli to keep her busy while I put together other things, like craft projects, or experiments to go with our themes.

2. Twinkl gives you a starting point for your own projects

Last week we were looking after two friends who are moving to Australia soon. I printed out Australian and UK flags, and cut them out. The children coloured one of each flag and while they did so, we spoke about our friends moving away and what that means. We then made those into bunting to show we’d always be connected, even though we’re in different places. Of course I could have printed these from other places, but I didn’t have to search, sort or think about it too much, they were there and ready.


We took an ambulances word sheet from the role play section, and cut them out and used them for a treasure hunt, before using the same pieces to trace the letters and try to read the words.

3. Twinkl gives you options for themes

One week we went to the fire station for emergency services week. We printed out paper themed with little firemen all around it to write thank you notes for the firemen. Of course this wasn’t necessary but it was nice! (And I now remember I haven’t posted them yet! )

Capture5If we had a theme for a longer period than a week, we could, as an example, print off themed alphabet pages – emergency services, spring or whatever we were working on. (Remember Ameli is still preschool, so we’re not using all the formal bits yet.)

4. Twinkl saves you a lot of time


Again for the fire services week, I found a ‘game’ where you can mix and match the fronts and backs of emergency service vehicles. I printed these off (I printed them 4 to a page, if I recall, so that they were smaller), then cut them and laminated them. Again, I could have searched for a variety of vehicles, edited them all to the same size, spent time looking for similar styles – but with just a few clicks we were on our way, and Aviya still plays with them, weeks later. This is so useful for reinforcing learning – in this case of the 999 number for my two year old.

There was also an interactive PowerPoint with videos of emergency vehicles that I didn’t have to search through YouTube to find – it’s ready and fit for purpose.

5. Twinkl printouts can make gifts with no effort

Capture8We recently went to a birthday party for a four year old. I had a very small budget, and didn’t want to buy a toy, as such so instead I bought a box file, magnifying glass, basket, stick of glue, a note pad and pen on a lanyard. Inside the box, I placed a few printed worksheets for mini beast hunting, a spring hunt checklist and so on.

If I was doing them for an older child there would have been more difficult activity sheets or experiments in the box, but I thought a nature explorer slash bug hunter would be great for a four year old. I know mine would have loved it! Again, of course I could have spent time searching for something good online, but the whole gift took me half an hour to assemble (once I’d bought a few bits) and I was very happy with the price, and the end result.

6. Twinkl can be your first port of call

Tomorrow we will be spending some time on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I can spend my evening on Pinterest looking for ideas, for sure… or I can pop over to Twinkl and download the massive resource they have available, and cherry pick what we want. If I have more time, and more ideas,  I can go to Pinterest. But if I need something quick, easy, accessible and quality, I know where to go. If the resource isn’t there, you can request it – it won’t be immediate, but if you plan ahead, you can make that work for you too.

I know the argument some people use against paying for a subscription service with a resource like Twinkl – mostly because as educated, computer literate people, we can all design our own stuff, or even better, use the many, many free resources  around the internet including some on Twinkl.

I also love how, if I do want to create my own resources, I can do so using their templates, and I can share and save it to the site, for which you get points too, and enough points can win you ‘freebies’ and prizes too.

If you’re in a position to be able to do that, great stuff, but for me as a working and home educating mama, I love the ease of Twinkl, how it takes the pressure off me on the small, standard stuff, so I have more energy and time to spend on the fun stuff.

Disclaimer for reviewsP.S. If you sign up using my links, I’ll get a free month on Twinkl and my girls and I will be super duper grateful!


The Vyne National Trust, Basingstoke

A few years ago the National Trust started a campaign aimed at getting children outdoors – 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4. We started working our way through the fifty things when Ameli was just two, using the online system. Last year we carried on with it and by the time she was four, she had ticked off 37 things! This year we decided to start from scratch and see how we could get on with it through the summer.

One of the benefits of following the #50things program is that as National Trust members, we get to visit a lot of properties around the area and find what they have earmarked that can be ticked off in their grounds – things like explore the inside of a tree, play Pooh sticks and so on, so it’s really useful, actually, and a cheap day out.


The rest of this review has moved. Please find it hereThe Vyne Basingstoke Hampshire

If you’re following along with the #50things project, here’s a list of things you can tick off at The Vyne:

1. Climb a Tree

2. Roll down a really big hill (Hidden Realm)

4. Build a den

5. Skim a stone

6. Run around in the rain

9. Eat an apple straight from a tree (on selected days, I think!)

10. Play conkers

11. Make a trail with sticks

13. Make a mud pie (Hidden Realm)

14. Dam a stream (Hidden Realm)

16. Make a daisy chain

18. Create some wild art

19. Play pooh sticks

25. Make a grass trumpet

28. Climb a huge hill

31. Hunt for bugs

33. Catch a Falling leaf

44. Go bird watching

45. Find your way with a map and compass