Getting Crafty With Meadow Kids Mini Stencils

We recently received a Great Gizmos Mini Stencils set from Meadow Kids to review with my 5 and 3 year old girls. While this set is billed as ‘for girls’ which is evident from the over abundance of pink in the packaging, they are suitable for anyone who likes fairies, flowers, butterflies, dresses, crowns, shoes and other frilly and generally ‘girly’ things. stencils

The Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Mini Stencils set comes in a self contained box, which opens up as two drawers. In the drawers are 12 x stencil sheets with over 150 stencil shapes, 20 x sheets of framed paper (A6? If that’s a size), 6 x small sized colouring pencils, 1 x pencil sharpener, and a selection of blank cards and envelopes.

The stencil sheets and paper come in two spiral bound booklets, which is great because the stencil sheets can be left in the book and used that way, or removed and returned as needed – which I did the first few times, then decided they could live quite comfortably in the drawers without my interference!

The stencils are very thin, which initially I thought would see them break really easily, or they’d just be a pain to work with, but I was surprised by how solid they are. They are quite durable.

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils For Girls In Action

I also thought the small size of the sheets would make them hard to hold onto while drawing the outlines, but the stencils all have a matt-style finish, which means they grip plain white paper pretty well and don’t slide around the page much.

I like that the kids can use the framed pages for practice or for adding to the envelopes, and obviously the card and envelopes are ideal for getting kids sending ‘letters’ to family and friends, which my two thought was a great plan.

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils For Girls Sample A

Great Gizmos Meadow Kids Stencils For Girls can make an artist out of me yet 😉

If you’re not excited by the pink set, there’s also a ‘for everyone‘ set and a blue set, both of which have over 170 stencil shapes, along with all the other bits. But thefor girls’ set is certainly good for most things girly girls like!


Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

My life over the last year has not been ‘my life’. It’s been a crazy attempt at keeping my head above the water as both a mother and an employee.  My job is winding up this week, and while I’m panicked to the hilt about how on earth I’m going to stay afloat, there’s also a part of me that feels a huge amount of energy returning to my day to day. I feel excited about spending time in home education again, and not like my little girls are just another thing on my to do list every day. We’ll see how the next months go, but I’m excited about getting back to being a mother first, even if the government is trying to push mothers back into work – even those that don’t want it. But that’s a post for another day.

Today I decided that it was time to start at the beginning again. Ameli is reading beautifully and mostly confidently, when she can be bothered to. Aviya is slowly starting to recognise letters, and I think it’s time we start focusing on our play-learning themes again. At least for Aviya it’s a formal start to alphabet learning.

I thought a fun introduction for us all would be something crafty, so I went with the Little Cooks Collection alphabet letters. I gave them all to Ameli to sort out for me, “so that we can see if we have them all”. I was really pleased that she got it right as far as I expected her to – that is, she still confuses “j” and “g”, but we’ll work on it.

Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

Salt Dough Recipe

The salt dough I used is probably the best recipe I’ve used to date. I’ve often found that making salt dough is fine, till you try to dry it, then it tries to rise and cracks and breaks. This one didn’t do that. For this recipe I used 270g flour, 160g fine salt and about 170g water (2/3 cup). Mix it all together, so that it’s properly combined, then knead the dough. I have a Thermomix so I did a quick three minutes in that, but a 10 minute knead by hand should produce a similar result. You want it pliable, and not crumbly. It should also not stick to surfaces.

Roll the dough out, and cut out your shapes. We transferred ours to a pizza stone (two, actually) and put them in the oven for 2 hours at 135C. This may vary from oven to oven, so keep an eye on it. It needs to be dry, but not browned.
Salt Dough Alphabet Learning

Leave the shapes to cool completely, then paint and decorate as you wish. I let the girls run with it, but they  had to make sure the sides were painted too, which is pretty good fine motor skill training. We used a water-based paint, which I wasn’t initially sure would work, but it did work beautifully.

Salt Dough Alphabet LearningOnce properly dried, we will focus on a letter a week and do alphabet learning around it, using some for word sounds (like ‘ch’ and ‘th’ and so on too. It should keep us busy for a while!

For other literacy themed ideas, click here

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Have Fun Painting In The Rain

It’s been a rainy day here on the Isle of Wight, and we’ve been spoiled by some of the good weather we’ve had recently. With the children up from before 6 this morning, we’d already had a fairy tea party and watched a movie by 11am and I didn’t feel I had the strength to keep them indoors all day. Instead we pulled on the wellies and rain gear and went painting in the rain.

We took a variety of paints and materials: we took paper, watercolour paint, poster paint and chalks as well as paintbrushes and cotton wool.

It was a fun, if soggy experiment and the girls had a fantastic time:

Painting with watercolours

11249464_10155457822030234_1404164277_oWe fished the watercolour discs out of the box, and used them without brushes, just moving them around on the paper with our hands – then with brushes too.

Cheap watercolours like these are good for this project!*

Painting with poster paints

11032530_10155457821640234_1356770624_oBlobs of poster paints spread over the paper using cotton wool and brushes – it was a great lesson for the girls in being gentle, since the wet paper easily tears.  We also added blobs of paint, then stuck the pictures to the wall, letting the paint run down in a free-style of patterns.

Try these washable poster paints for yourself*

Painting with chalks


The wet chalks didn’t transfer too well on to wet paper, so we decided to change the canvas to the floor, where I drew pictures for the girls to colour in.

And finally, playing in the rain, drawing on the floors? You have to include a bit of hopscotch.


This is a great way for little ones to learn shapes too, as I had my 3 year old call out the names of the shapes she was standing in. Adjust the ‘tasks’ to their ages – so my 5 year old was counting jumps, how many sides each shape has and so on. And in the end, just let them have fun, jump, and play, burn off energy and enjoy the fact that the rain this time of year isn’t entirely freezing!

Try different paints and see how they react in the water!


Painting In The Rain

Earth Day Books, Movies, Activities And Games For Children

Earth day happens every year in April, and it’s an opportunity for us to talk to our children about their world, to give them reasons to love it and understand how it works, and most importantly to protect it.

One of the simplest ways to teach without it being hard work, while also spending time together, is through books. There are loads of books with the theme of recycling and reusing. Pick up a couple that you can re-read year after year.

Earth Day books, movies, activities and games for childrenSome good examples are Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day* where Nancy helps her family be Earth-friendly every day, not just on Earth Day. In Little Critter: It’s Earth Day*, Little Critter learns about climate changes, and decides to do his part to slow down global warming. In this story children will learn about the importance of not wasting water or energy. Join Little Critter as he plants a tree, makes a climate control machine, and helps the polar bears.

In I Can Save the Earth!: One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse, and RecycleMax is a little monster who likes to litter and never, ever recycles. Then the electricity goes out and he sees how exciting and beautiful the Earth is, and that it will need his help to stay that way. 

And if stories are good, activity books are even better. Earth Day Is Every Day!* is a fun activity book where four kids and a dog guide young readers through word searches, mazes, cryptograms, and other puzzles that provide fun facts about Earth Day and offer ideas for recycling, conserving energy, and making “green” practices part of everyday life.

I also love the idea of using Earth Day as an opportunity to connect with our friends and family, or our neighbours, or someone we haven’t caught up with in ages, and this Secret Garden* postcard set is beautifully thematic.

 If that’s a little ‘old’ for your small people, why not have a go at this Earth Day Colouring Book*. With 32-pages of colouring fun, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to talk about the Earth and our role in protecting it.

Sometimes it hard to know if the Smalls will be interested in something before you spend money on it, so why not print this Free Earth Day Activity Book and give them that for a start. If you’re not in the US you can just remove the page about your State. If you are – it’s perfect for you!

For when the kids want to watch something, Wild Kratts and Tumble Leaf are both great nature shows available for download on Amazon Instant Prime Video* (and you can enjoy a free 30-day trial, often even if you’ve had a trial before).

When book work and brain work gets a little too much, try out Earth Day Kids Yoga – yes, that’s really a thing! This book will walk you through a story of movement and exercise with the children. It’s a great way to get the active, introduce yoga and breathing and talk about Earth Day at the same time.

Earthgames: 50 Nature Games For Ages 3+ is another great avenue for rainy day or any day entertainment. The book is full of chanting, play-it-again action games that are easy to learn quickly, yet substantial enough to last through repeat performances. The book is broken into three nature-themed sections–Wildlife World, Playful Planet, Cosmos–each containing its own Warm Up & Cool Down exercises. Designed for indoor or outdoor group play, EarthGames are a perfect fit for  Earth Day or any day.

And of course, the best way to get the children to love the Earth is to make them part of it. Organisations like the Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, National Trust and The RSPB all have membership schemes where your money goes to helping protect your environment. The Wildlife Trust and the RSPB both do a lot of work with children, including magazines that are pitched at their ages – and provide a gift that tops up their interest throughout the year. The National Trust operates in a number of different countries around the world and membership to one gives you access to all (they also have a fab home ed discount of £41 for the family for the year.) Most of these organisations also offer activities for the children throughout the summer. Have a look at our 50Things posts for an example of what you can do as part of that project.

* Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and then buy, I’ll receive a percentage from the merchant. You don’t pay more or less whether you use this link or go direct.

Really Easy DIY Easter Baskets

Despite my best efforts, I’m not really massively successfully artistic, so when I come across a crafty idea that actually works, and doesn’t turn into a Pinterest Fail, I’m quite excited by it. I’m sure you’ve seen this craft perfectly done and photographed before, but this is our version, and it’s perfect for Easter baskets, or nature baskets for Spring. Easter Basket

For this project you’ll need PVA Glue (I used one for wood. It worked fine), water, paper, a bowl and a balloon

Get together:
PVA Glue
A Bowl
A Balloon
A Paintbrush

To start with, mix your DIY Modge Podge – the glue and water. You’ll need one part water to two parts glue. Mix well.

Next, cut strips of paper. We used an Easter craft pack like this*. Cut the paper into strips of about 1 – 2cm wide.

Blow up a balloon to the size you’d like your bowl to be, then rest it on a bowl, vase, glass or whatever is the appropriate size to rest the balloon on.

‘Paint’ the glue all over the top half of the balloon and begin layering the strips of paper over the balloon. There’s no particular way to do it, but remember that you’re making a bowl – if there’s a picture or pattern you want to see in the bowl put that face down first. If there’s something you want on the outside, put it face up as the final layer, and so on.

Keep ‘painting’ the glue on between each layer, covering all parts of it.

Easter BasketsWhen you’re done, smooth it out with your hands, then set it aside to dry. You need to leave it for a good 24 – 36 hours to dry properly. If you try before it’s properly dry, the bowl will ‘crack’.

After the glue has dried, gently peel the balloon away from the sides as much as you can, the puncture it for a slow leak, preferably. Ease the balloon off the sides, and your bowl is complete.

I cut about two centimeters into the balloon and around it to make a straighter top edge, and used the off cut for a ‘handle’, attaching it with a glue gun.

It’s really sweet, and perfect for collecting Easter eggs, or leaves, sticks and flowers for our Spring nature table.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea Live In London

If I were to have any regrets about my life before children it would be that I didn’t take enough advantage of the theatrical options that life in London offers. I mean, we did go to Royal Albert Hall, we did go to the National Opera and we did see ballet. We saw King Lear, and we saw amazing concerts from Leonard Cohen to Nickelback, but considering that we lived in London, and that we had two good full incomes, we really didn’t take advantage as much as we could have.

I do love the theatre though, and it is my sincere hope that the girls will grow up loving it too. Which means that we need to expose them to it now, in their childhood.

When Kids Week came along a few months ago, I was thrilled to get two adult tickets with two free child tickets for The Tiger Who Came To Tea Live.

We walked into the theatre with no expectations, since we have never actually read the book and had no idea what Judith Kerr’s story was about. Sometimes its nice that way.

The Lyric Theatre in London is beautiful, small and perfect for a show aimed at children. We had front row seats, so the kids had to sit on our laps to be able to see the whole stage.I only realised this a few minutes in, and Aviya’s face went from ‘that’s nice’ to ‘WOW’!the tiger who came to tea live

The show itself is highly engaging, with the audience being encouraged to participate from the off. They make use of ‘old tricks’ like a bit of slap-stick comedy from the father, or the Tiger knocking on the door and disappearing – cue hundreds of children shouting warnings at the cast, but it works brilliantly. The children adore it.

The actors entered the stage with huge smiles and full of enthusiasm. They sang and had fun and the audience loved it. The children were mesmerised by the on stage magic – the disappearing food, emptying juice bottle and vanishing contents of the cupboard and fridge.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea Live

– Engaging show

– Short enough for children

– Beautiful theatre experience

The tiger/father/postman/milkman was played by Matthew Dudley. The tiger was a huge suited hind-leg standing creature made up entirely of frills and the actor who played him was fantastic. The kids loved the tiger and my daughter has been emulating his walk and curtsy all day long. I was worried that a huge stuffed tiger would be scary for the kids, but it wasn’t – his way, his movement, him presence, were all comical and lovable. He was really very well portrayed.

The actress who plays Sophie, the little girl, Abbey Norman, is wonderful too. She had such a lovely singing voice, she was an absolutely mesmerising. She was full of energy and looked like she was having fun.

Finally the mother, Jenanne Redman, was so like a real mother: she led the tick-tocks and told the story in the ‘everything on stage is a prop’ kind of manner – like the passing of time, had fantastical facial expressions, and made everything happen – she brings out the food, makes the bathroom appear, and loads of other little scene setting things, that are largely unnoticed…. pretty true to life, I think! I did laugh out loud when the tiger said he was hungry and she grabbed her daughter away from him. So mother like indeed.

the tiger who came to tea live

I think the real magic of this show is definitely that of the props. The tiger eats all the sandwiches,cakes and biscuits off the plates, so there’s obviously some kind of mechanism to flip inside of the plate upside down.  My daughter is convinced the Tiger ate them.

There must also be an opening back to the cupboards and the fridge, that someone takes things out as the large tiger “eats” through everything. It really provided an element and awe and magic and reality that the children adored and I appreciated.

We loved The Tiger Who Came To Tea, the actors, the set and the props. It was a fantastic show, and a brilliant 55 minutes of day time entertainment for the kids.

Here’s a little clip from the live stage show:

[youtube PkdNNFWwVjc]

And here’s more information:

The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES
Box Office:  0844 412 4661

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.

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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.

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