Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators

Some time during last summer, we booked a home ed visit for one of the Pizza Express School Visit sessions, and though we had to wait several months for our session, we arrived on the agreed date and had a fantastic and informative visit.

Pizza Express School Visits offer groups the opportunity to not only see how pizza is made but also to get hands on and involved. For some children this is a brand new experience, of course, and for our group there was a mix of abilities too, considering our participants ranged from about 3 – 14 years.

Obviously the details may differ from visit to visit, but for ours on the Isle of Wight, the children were decked out in chefs hats and aprons, and given loads of flour to flour their work surface – a set of tables in the restaurant. Each child was given a ball of dough. The chef – whose name I sadly can’t remember – was amazing. He had such great rapport with the children, and was engaging and informative and did a fantastic job of managing such a range of ages.Pizza Express Visit

They spoke about the different steps they went through, the chef demonstrated, and the children were able to take their own dough ball, and knead it, twist it and shape it into circles – they even got to toss it up into the air. Read more: Pizza Express School Visits & Home Educators

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Activities – DIY Jazzies

I don’t know why, but as long as I can remember I’ve loved Jazzies. I really don’t know why – they are made from cheap chocolate, and full of Hundreds and Thousands (Nonpareils, to my American readers) that taste of nothing. When we decided to do Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for our home-ed Play & Learn theme, I knew we had to make our own Jazzies.

Initially I was going to pour the melted chocolate into muffin pans to make them perfectly round, but in the end I decided to just free-hand it and let the kids have fun. They don’t care so much for perfectionism!

The main thing here was to provide a selection of toppings for our DIY Jazzies, and as it happens I didn’t have any Hundreds and Thousands, so we went for chocolate sprinkles and chocolate twirls, Frozen snowflakes, shredded coconut, wafer flowers and popping candy. If I had any, we’d have added some chopped nuts and dried fruit too.

DIY Jazzies

I melted the chocolate at 50C for 3 minutes in my Thermomix, but you can do it in a microwave or on the stove (put the chocolate in a glass bowl that fits inside a pot. Put water in the pot, but the bowl in the pot and boil the water till the chocolate has melted. Be careful, the glass will be hot.)

While the chocolate is melting, lay out strips of plastic wrap. (I taped these down onto the table so the kids couldn’t lift them. On trays would be better as you can then move them out of the way.)

Once melted, spoon the chocolate out and place a tablespoon full at a time on the plastic. Let the children do the toppings – you don’t have to act too fast, it does take a few minutes for the chocolate to set.

Leave for 2 – 3 hours till the chocolate is firmly set, then peel off, and enjoy.

DIY Jazzies Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Keep in an airtight container for up to a week, depending on the toppings you’ve used.

The better the chocolate, the better they’ll be. Doesn’t this just leave the small people feeling like chocolate inventors though? It’s a fun activity!

Study Unit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Find more Charlie & The Chocolate Factory activities here.

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman? Disney Frozen Olaf Cake Pops

Disney Frozen Olaf


The Frozen fun continues here and today we made Frozen Olaf cake pops. I made my gran’s no flop cake a few days ago, but didn’t have time to do anything with it. I made some icing, and put the whole lot in the Thermomix to make it into cake pops. This morning we covered our cakes in simple icing – icing sugar and water – and left them to dry. We could have used fondant icing or white chocolate to cover them ‘perfectly’ but I thought it was sweet enough as is, really.  Next up I mixed icing sugar and food colouring to make the noses, ears and buttons.Disney Frozen Olaf

Once the icing was dry, I put everything out with an invitation, straight from the movie. Ameli asked ‘Can we eat them now’ and I said, no… you have to ask something else. She looked for a moment and with a big grin said, “Do you want to build a snowman?”

With all the parts done, building the snowman didn’t take terribly long, but it was fun. We put them on a tray of marshmallows  before tucking in to it for desert. Yum fun. So… do you wanna build a snowman?

(It was mentioned to me recently that our pictures and projects aren’t as fabulous as other bloggers, and perhaps I should make a ‘blog’ version of things rather than photographing what my children have done. That kind of defeats the purpose, as far as I am concerned. I’m a real mum, with real children, doing real crafts. We’re happy enough!)

Skills - Creativity Skills - Social SKillsSkills - Imagination Skills - Sensory


The Carrot Cake Catastrophe – Stories And Cake Recipe {Book Review}

One of my friends told me once that she loved my blog, because I don’t post perfect crafts and that makes her feel like a normal mama when their crafts and projects don’t come out perfect. Well, this one is for everyone who ever has not-as-planned-cakes.

Carrot Cake CatastropheWe received The Carrot Cake Catastrophe by Elizabeth Dale (Author) and Gemma Raynor (Illustrator) from Paragon a few months ago as part of the Paragon Book Buddies project and today we decided it was time to go read it.

Instead of making it into a standard round cake, however, we poured the cake dough into gingerbread man shapes, since our PlayLearning theme this week is around the human body

Well, it didn’t really work out. The dough is way too moist and the resulting cake way too crumbly for it to work that way. It was still absolutely delicious though. So our cake may have turned out a bit of Catastrophe too, but it was still way, way better than Grandpa’s cake from the book.

In this story, a little girl and her grandfather decide to make a cake for her mama’s birthday. That’s all fine and well, but with his glasses on Grandpa can read the instructions, but not identify the ingredients, so he ends up adding soap instead of butter, and so on. Yum. They head into the garden for fresh, juicy carrots, and stir them into the batter – without grating or chopping! It’s a recipe for disaster, for sure.

In the end the birds eat the cake – apparently they don’t mind the soap – and Mama saves the day with a previously baked cake.

At the end of the book there’s the recipe Grandpa and the little girl followed, with instructions, so you can make it at home too.

It’s a very basic carrot cake, making it ideal for little bakers. Even though I’m a very proud and happy Thermomix owner, I think it’s essential that Ameli and Aviya learn to cook the ‘old fashioned’ way, including weighing, measuring and a bit of elbow grease.

The sign of a great children’s book for me is when the girls remember it later. We had to walk to the shop for cream cheese for the icing, and Ameli laughed suddenly, saying she’s glad we didn’t put soap in our cake! She asked me what ‘bitter’ meant (I said it would probably taste bitter from the soap), and asked about the meaning of other words… I love when they learn without knowing they are.

An all round lovely story, great for preparing for birthdays as we are this week – can’t believe Aviya is coming up for two!  – and just a bit of fun and a laugh. Lovely.

 Disclaimer for reviews


Ideas For Dr Seuss’ Birthday {PlayLearning}

Our PlayLearning theme this week is Dr Seuss and a touch of World Book Day, we have a few books waiting to be read, so we’re going to work through them this week.  We are also huge Dr Seuss fans, and Ameli particularly loves them for bed time stories, so Dr Seuss is a great theme for us to repeat again, despite having done it once before already.

Dr Seuss ActivitiesBecause of the multitude of Dr Seuss stories, there’s so much to do in this theme, it’s rather brilliant.

Crafts and Play 

Lorax mask

Truffula Tree Landscape

Lorax Pencil Holder

Lorax Puppets

Truffula Tree Waterless Snowglobe

Truffula Tree Hop (And other games)

Cat in the Hat Paper Plate

Horton Hears a Who Toilet Roll Craft

One Fish Two Fish Three Fish hand print craft

Family Foot Book

Green Eggs and Ham Bath

Hop On Pop Site Word Cards

Tweetle Beetle Play Rice

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut Glasses

The Sneetches Game

Cat In The Hat Paper Plate Craft Hats


Cat in the Hat Yoghurt

Marshmallow Truffalo Trees

Green Eggs And Ham

(Scrambled) Green Eggs and Ham

Cat in the Hat Fruit

Cat in the Hat lunch

Truffula Tree Fruit

Lorax Cheese Snack

One Fish Two Fish Savoury Crackers



The Loraxand Youtube has been most helpful with movies too, such as: Green Eggs And Ham, The Cat in The Hat, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas (awesome drawing art)


There’s so much Dr Seuss stuff out there, that it’s hard to know what’s worth spending money on. We don’t have a definitive list by any means, but here are some of our favourites:

The Lorax Pop Up (US) – A beautiful pop up version of the story, with really funky interactive bits.

A Classic Case of Dr Seuss (US) – A case of books. We have this one. Ameli loves it.

I Can Do That Card Game (US) – A fun little card game, especially for a group of children.

Follow Luschka van Onselen’s board {Themes} Dr Seuss on Pinterest.
disclaimer for links

13 Chinese New Year Ideas For Children {{PlayLearning}}

The Chinese New Year celebrations begin around the world this week, and while we have no actual reason for ‘celebrating’ Chinese New Year, I thought it would be a fun theme for this week’s Play Learning.

Chinese New Year falls on the 28th of January this year, and sees the rise of the Year of the Rooster. The origins of Chinese New Year are based on the story of man’s fight against a mythical dragon –  the dragon and lion dances and fireworks are part of the original traditions (According to my Chinese friends when I lived in Malaysia, anyway! You can get a lot more detailed info online!)

Chinese New Year

The day on which New Year falls differs between January and February depending on the Lunar calendar, and celebrations last for 15 days.

While it doesn’t hold any spiritual or otherwise significance for us, Chinese New Year gives us the opportunity to do some crafts, learn to use – try at least – chopsticks, and learn a few tidbits about life in a different culture – different alphabet, ancient coins, different dress, even different music. We discussed silk production, China as a mass producer for the world, and much more.

Here are some of our PlayLearning activities for this week:

1)  Make a Chinese Lantern


You can find the instructions for these lanterns here. My kids wanted to set fire to them, and put candles in them. I’m not sure that’s a good idea, but they were very proud of their lanterns irrespective, and spent a lot of time walking around holding them. A quick and easy winner of an activity.

2) Colour letters from the Chinese alphabet 

I am assuming these are Chinese letters saying Happy New Year. That is what I Googled!


3) Horse Face Mask

Another activity the children really enjoyed, although to be honest, I did most of the work, was cutting out ready-printed horse masks.


4) Make Rice Balls

So, this activity did not work out as planned. We were meant to make balls, stuffed with cucumber and learn to use chopsticks in the eating of them. The children cut their own cucumber, but I used arborio rice rather than sushi rice and I’m not sure if it’s a less sticky, perhaps, but it didn’t work out. So we ate a bowl of rice. It was a fun family activity, anyway. Here’s the original rice ball recipe for you, maybe you’ll have more luck.


5) Ancient Chinese Coins

I must admit, this was a super fun activity! We used salt dough, rolled out, the stamped circles using an egg cup. Using a decorator thingy we made squares inside the circle, and popped them in the microwave. Our microwave is the most unused item in the house – it just stands there, but it is useful for fast cooking salt dough – from dough to dry in around 3 to 4 minutes. Perfect for toddler. We then painted it. The coins should really be gold or bronze, but in pre-school world, pink, blue and green money is worth a whole lot more, didn’t you know?

Chinese Week - Chinese New Year

6) Make Wontons

There are loads of Wonton recipes online, or you buy some wrappers and just fill them. Great activity for little ones, I think – scoop and twist. Easy peasey.

Chinese New Year

7) Make a fan

Fans are just as easy to make. First we printed off a colouring picture of a Chinese Lantern Sceneand coloured it. Next, we glued two popsicle sticks to the short ends of the A4 page, then folded the paper in a zia-zag pattern, before gluing together the bottom zig-zags, and opening the top, thereby making a fan.


8) Make a dragon

The dragon was superb fun. We cut A4 pages in half, lengthwise, and then in a similar fashion to the fan above, zig-zagged the dragon’s ‘body’. We glued the body parts together, and cut thin strips for the tail, which we tapered down to – you can just about see it in the picture.

I tried to draw a dragon head, but was told it looked more like a mouse… or maybe a hand. So I went back to the Internet, where I found a printable dragon head from Red Ted Art. So we used that, and again tapered the pink paper so that the joining point was the same size as the printed dragon head. Next we took tiny bits of orange and yellow, and curled them around a pair of scissors, before glueing them to the mouth, for flames.

Finally we glued four popsicle sticks to the bottom of the dragon so that we could ‘dance’ and ‘fly’ our dragon around.

I think this was Ameli’s favourite activity!


9) Count with chopsticks

I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to have this kind of sweet in the house. I think they’re really hard to digest, among other things! But, we were trying to learn how to use chopsticks, and also doing some basic 1+1, 3-2 mathematics. Ameli spent more time laughing about the silliness of chopsticks than much else, but it provided a few giggles, which is always nice.

This was also a lesson in full instruction giving. I told her she could eat whatever she could get in her mouth using chopsticks. About a minute later she was using two hands to grip the sweets into her mouth, then decided that was too much effort, so started randomly stabbing teddybears with a chopstick. Clearer instructions next time, methinks!

Counting with Chopsticks

10) Make a peasant hat

We used to make peasant hats as children, but I have no idea why! I guess we liked the hats! They are pretty easy to do. Cut a large circle from an A3 sheet. Cut from one point into the centre. Decorate the circle, then overlap the cut ends, till the hat is in the right shape. You can attach some string underneath too, to pop under the chin and keep the hat secured on.

11) Find China on a map

A globe is a great tool to have. We only have an inflatable one, but it does the job. It’s a great opportunity to ask leading questions and have a discussion on everything you’ve done in your crafts. What kind of food do they eat, what music do they like, what do they celebrate, how are they different to us, how are they the same as us….

12) Use the Internet

The Internet has revolutionised learning,  and homeschooling particularly! There’s just nothing you can’t find on it these days! Find Chinese traditional music on Youtube. You can also find loads of dragon dance demonstrations – we loved this one with the lit up dragon.

13) Attend a New Year Celebration

Just a simple Google of Chinese New Year Celebrations should give you some idea of whether there are any celebrations in your area. If you’ve never been, they are normally loud, colourful and an adventure for the senses – a highly recommended activity!

The Snowman – 24 Days of Christmas Crafts {Literature to Food}

The advent calendar book for day three was The Snowman, a much loved classic I always hear people saying they remember from their own childhoods. The first time I ever heard of it was when I was sent the book for review earlier in the year. Apparently there are two versions – one with no text, just images, and this one, a written story. I don’t know the original, but this one was kind of sweet, although I’m not sure about the message that it’s a good thing to sneak out and go to a dance with a random snowman! But my paranoia aside, the children love the story. This particular version came with a CD so there’s a song we got to listen and dance to a few times over too.

Our craft of the day was to make meringue snowmen. You can find our recipes for making it the traditional meringues here, or for using the Thermomix here. I made three different styles of snowmen too – the first were piped as snowmen, the second as meringues and then stuck together in the icing phase and the third as flat figure of eight style snowmen. I preferred the ones we had to stick together in the end. They were the most manageable.

Not only did we have fun reading the story, but we also enjoyed baking and decorating together, and a lot of fun was had in the eating too. 

And it may just be me, but I think it would make a fun gift too! A copy of the book, with a jar of snowmen, right?

{PlayLearning} Dr. Seuss Activities For Toddlers

Our PlayLearning theme this week was Dr. Seuss, inspired by the lovely Tiana at Two Cheeky Frogs.

The books we’ve read are:  One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (I muted it and read along), The Lorax (audiobook)

The movies we watched were: The Lorax, and Youtube has been most helpful with movies too, such as: Green Eggs And Ham, The Cat in The Hat, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas (awesome drawing art)

We only did two craft activities this week, The Lorax mask and a scenic Truffula Tree picture:

Our Lorax mask is pretty easy to figure out instructions for. You will need:

  • A paper plate
  • String
  • Orange crayons, pencils or chalk
  • Yellow paper
  • Scissors
Colour the paper plate orange, and cut holes for eyes. My Ameli didn’t like her nose squishing against the plate, so we also made a hole for her nose.
I then folded a yellow A4 page in half, and cut eyebrows and that fantastic moustache. Make two holes around the ‘ear’ area to thread a string through, and have fun playing the Lorax, guardian of the trees.

Again a simple craft, for the Truffula Tree we needed:

  • Blue paper for the sky
  • Green paper for the hills
  • Pompoms for the treetops
  • Embroidery thread for the tree stumps
  • Glue
  • Scissors
Cut a wavy line along the green paper, and glue it to the blue paper for your background. (You could of course draw this)
The tree trunks are good old fashioned friendship bracelets,  just not tied into a bracelet. To make them, take two colours of string, and tie at one end. Secure that end – I get Ameli to hold it tightly – and twist the other end around and around and around until it’s tightly wound. Bring the two ends together, and the whole thing will twist together. Stretch it out so that it doesn’t bunch up anywhere, and tie the open end into a knot. Glue everything onto your scene and enjoy your very own valley full of Truffula trees.
(I tried to explain to Ameli that you could show distance by gluing the shorter trees further ‘back’, but he wasn’t having that. She wanted them to be baby trees.)

 Dr Suess books lend themselves really well to food related snacks, it seems, and we took full advantage, enjoying tasty foods.

Cat in the Hat Yoghurt

Layer pureed or mashed strawberries with coconut flavoured yoghurt and top with crushed meringue. Ameli thought it was delicious.

Marshmallow Truffalo Trees

Stake marshmallows on chop sticks, skewers or lollipop sticks,

Dip in liquidised strawberries

Roll in crushed meringues

Green Eggs And Ham

Prepare pasta according to manufacturers instructions.

Stir in cream cheese or other sauce and sliced proscuitto or other ham. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Boil the eggs, and cool.

Scoop out the yolk. Add a pinch of paprika and salt, and blend well. While you can add green food colouring, use a tablespoon of pureed spinach for the green colouring.

Using a piping bag, pipe the mixture back into the egg.

Dish up the ham pasta, and top with the green egg.

Cat In The Hat Fruit

A simple activity for toddlers, great for introducing knife skills.

Slice banana and strawberries, and alternate onto skewers. Strictly speaking, it should be red, white, red, white, red, white, but whose checking 😉

Our Dr Seuss Week was fabulous. We hope you like our ideas!