Indoor ‘Sports’ Activity Cube {Bostik Bloggers}

I think to myself, “Summer holidays are coming”  – duh duh duhm – then I remember they’re not in school so summer holidays are pretty much like every day, except there are loads of festivals and activities on the Island I live on, and more traffic, and (hopefully) a little more sunshine, so there’s really nothing to panic about. And yet, I like to have things prepared for the summer so that I can actually have some down time too.

Unfortunately we no longer have a garden, and being in Britain, there’s every chance of rain pretty much every day, yet the kids still need to be active and burn off their energy. I decided to make activity cubes for this months’ Bostik Blogger sporting theme. Activity Cubes

For these cubes you’ll either need fantastic free hand skills, or to print off four copies of this template.Read more: Indoor ‘Sports’ Activity Cube {Bostik Bloggers}

The Original Mr Frosty – Crunchy Ice Maker

There are things in every person’s childhood that, when reintroduced sometime in your future, they get really excited about. Well, Mr Frosty isn’t actually one of mine, having not grown up in the UK, but when I told a friend that I had received a Mr Frosty in the mail, she squealed down the phone so loudly I had a fright! Apparently Mr Frosty of her childhood filled many a summer and she was really excited to hear that they were being relaunched in the UK. And yes – her childhood was in the 90’s. Mine, not quite!

Mr Frosty is an at-home slushy maker that comes with a snowman with handle and removable drawer, with an internal grater for crushing the ice. 9bc1faf9-cb5e-497d-9c84-c7a06667c92e

It comes with two bowls and two spoons – the bowls are tiny, but perfectly child sized. They don’t honestly need more, and seconds aren’t a problem. There is also an ice mold with summery ice shapes – fire hydrant and summer fruits – and a lolly maker for three icy popsicles and snowman handles. Finally there’s a squeezy penguin with a removable hat so that you can fill it with cordial and a hole in the hat so you can squeeze it out over the plain ice. I’m told that the Mr Frosty of the 90’s came with sugary syrups, but in this 2016 version, those aren’t included.  You can, however, buy concentrates from your local supermarket, or choose to use something else or nothing else! The kids won’t know the difference, really!Read more: The Original Mr Frosty – Crunchy Ice Maker

Summer Time, Beaches and Gazillion Incredibubble Wand

Tonight I’m sitting here shivering because my skin is burning up from sun exposure. Warmer weather took it’s time in coming, but it’s here, as the back of my neck can attest! One of the best things about summer for my kids is bubbles on the beach. I quite literally have up to 6 bubble wands in the boot of my car all summer long because I know that wherever we are, the kids are going to want bubbles! They bring kids together in a play ground, they make even the dull at the beach look up, point and smile, and they turn ‘mummy I’m bored’ into a great session of running and squealing in the garden.

This week we got a new toy – the Giant Gazillion Incredibubble Wand set, and it was an instant hit. You just have to look at these pictures to see why!

Gazillion Incredibubble Wand

Read more: Summer Time, Beaches and Gazillion Incredibubble Wand

Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag {Review}

Summer is coming! As I write this, the sun is shining brightly, though there’s still a chill in the air. Soon though, soon, the weather will be balmy – or as balmy as it gets here in the UK – and we’ll be heading out to sleep under canvas. Read on to find out why the Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag is a must-have for young campers this summer.

The Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag for kids comes in either a panda or dragon design. We received the panda free in exchange for our review, and if you watch this video, you’ll see just how much the children loved it.

[youtube 52PmIf5HbCQ]Read more: Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag {Review}

Gelatin Bird Feeders For The Garden (With Recipe)

I love the idea of helping out nature, though living on a lush green Island with rolling hills and meadows, it can be hard to imagine that we need to. But, because here and now we might not need to, doesn’t mean I don’t need to instil a wish to protect our wildlife in my children. At five and three they are perfectly capable of learning how, and now is the time that they are still so full of enthusiasm, so it’s the perfect time to do it.

Recently we’ve been talking about birds and how birds fly, and the different types of birds and all that, so it seemed fitting to make gelatin bird feeders for the garden, though this is something we’d normally do in Autumn. We don’t actually have a garden either, so we’ve just hung them in trees around us.
bird feeders

These bird feeders are made with gelatin, as they last a little longer than for example peanut butter, and gelatin isn’t harmful to the birds – and probably helps their beaks grow stronger too!

We’ve made them in cookie cutters so that we can play with the shapes, and have fun with them. Since we live by the sea, we’ve even had a few ships to hang in the trees.

Birdfeeders

Tip: Don’t hang them in direct sunlight. If it gets too hot the gelatin begins to melt. Also, press as much together as you can in one shape to hold them tightly together. Gelatin Bird Feeders

How to make gelatin bird feeders:

  1. To make the birdfeeders, plan on a packet of gelatin (powder) to a cup of bird seed. So if you’re making two cups (500ml) bird seed, add two packets of gelatin and so on.
  2. Prepare the gelatin to the manufacturers directions, but only add 1 cup of water to one packet of gelatin (250ml water). (Or double if you’re making double) It needs to be thicker than jelly to hold it all together. Once the gelatin has melted, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes, then add in the bird seed. It mustn’t be runny and since your seed may differ to mine, just add more if it’s too wet and liquid.
  3. Stir in well till all the seed is coated, then scoop in to your waiting shapes.
  4. We scoop half the amount needed to fill the shape, then add a length of string, before adding in the rest of the seed, so that the string is in the centre when you pull the shape out of the cutter. Press down firmly to compact everything as much as possible, before setting aside overnight to dry.
  5. Don’t leave in the sun or it may melt again.
  6. Carefully remove from the cutter, and hang somewhere to enjoy.

Google ‘garden birds’ in your local area and see if you can find a checklist of what you should be able to find in your country. Keep an eye on your bird feeder and see how many local birds you can spot in your garden.

We love the RSPB’s ‘First’ Series of books. They are perfect for small people.  And why not turn it into a full experience by using a bird watching kit to really feel like a nature explorer.

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Skills - Sensory Skills - Explore Nature Skills - Creativity

FitFlops – The Perfect Summer Shoe For Busy Mothers

Fitflop-LuluCanvas-BlackRETAKE-PAIR-ExtraI don’t post much about fashion, and for good reason: I’m not so much one for the fashion trends. But I know what it’s like to be a mother, and I know what it’s like to run around after small people. I know what days out in ‘amusement parks’ are like, and trips to the beach, and shopping, driving everyone everywhere, cooking daily meals, baking, doing arts and crafts… yes, I know what all those things are like. And they are all exhausting, and one thing that they all have in common is the amount of time that a full time parent spends on their feet.

So I think footwear, and finding footwear that supports a busy days’ parenting is a parenting essential!

I’ve always been a fan of FitFlops, but I’ve been wearing the same pair for a few years and I didn’t actually realise how much they had worn down over the period of years (I have a weird instep. All my shoes wear down weirdly. I can’t blame the shoes.) until I received a new pair of sandal style Lulu Canvas FitFlops with their lovely high arches, and their flattering platform heel.

FITFLOPLADIES-FITFLOP-LULU-CANVAS-TOE-POST-SANDALS-BLACK01The thing with FitFlops is that they’re supposed to tone and shape your legs while you wear them. I don’t really have particularly toned and shaped legs (again, I think that may have more to do with Keeper of the Kitchen‘s predilection for all things sugar and chocolate, rather than the shoes!) but I can tell you one thing about these shoes: they are the most comfortable I have ever worn.

If you aren’t used to FitFlops you will find they burn your calves for a little while in the beginning. This is due to the barefoot effect they are said to produce (but for me with high arches, I have a lot less pain an hour after wearing these than I do after an hour of barefoot walking – or with any other shoes for that matter), but with a degree of shock absorption. This makes the muscles work harder, creating the toning effect.

The arches in them are quite high, I find, so if like me you have stupidly high arches anyway, these are flipflops that support your arches. That’s a little bit of magic right there.

So next time you’re looking around for summer shoes, try on FitFlops. They are meant to tone your body as you walk, and I’m sure they do for most people (see previous statement about chocolate), and they are available in some stylish and funky summer styles. Most importantly, however, they are comfortable. I can spend hours, days in them.

I’ve been backpacking around Europe in FitFlops. I’ve walked across pebble beaches in them. And I’ve worn them as my sole shoes for weeks now, and I love them. They are my favourite shoes of the summer!

Here are the basic Lulu Canvas, and a little something more glamorous too. Now if only they’d make ice-skates, I’d be in shoe-heaven!

Have you tried Fitflops? What do you think of them?

I was sent a pair of FitFlops for review. Opinions are my own.

5 Travel Essentials For Children

As the summer holidays start and everyone heads off on their vacations, I want to share with you the wisdom gained in four years of travelling with children. As my (almost) four year old has been to 20 countries, I feel particularly qualified to say something on this topic, and feel especially smug that I’ve never resorted to drugging any of my children for any part of any travel – call me judgey if you wish!

Here are my top five travel essentials for children:

1) Trunki

A Trunki is a travel suitcase with wheels, handles and a pull-string which is suitable as hand luggage for all airlines I’ve come across. It is a fantastic invention. The Trunki is a hard case, suitable for your toddler to sit on as you pull them through the airport, which is such a relief from carrying them. It’s not really easy enough for a small child to open, so you won’t have the contents strewn across your mode of transport when you’re not looking, but as they get older, they can get their travel accessories in and out themselves. The Trunki holds loads too. Enough for one child on a 20 hour flight, certainly. You can keep a change of clothes, activities and whatever else you feel you’ll need for the trip.

Trunki Review

There is a scooter-variety on the market, but a lot of the space needed for carrying stuff is taken up by the scooter handle, so that’s futile in my view. There are also ‘fake’ Trunki’s on the market – I wouldn’t buy those, simply because your child is going to want to use the Trunki as a ride-on: you don’t want the wheels coming off.  (See the range of Trunki designs from Littlewoods for a good idea of the multiple options available.)

2) Sticker, paint and colouring activity books

In your Trunki, put loads of new books – they’re easy to get at a Pound shop or similar. Sticker books, colouring books, activity books and even books with the paint pallets on the pages themselves are ideal for travel and will keep your little explorer occupied for ages.

3) Snacks

Most of us eat more when we’re bored. Have a variety of snacks available for your child. It will make for a much happier trip. Things like nuts, dried fruit, bars, flapjacks and the like are easy to prepare ahead and package individually, in snackable sizes. Airplanes and airconditioned cars will also dehydrate your child, which will lead to difficult behaviour from them. I don’t tend to buy juice boxes regularly, but I find the already-thinned-with-water juice varieties are great for trips.

4) Something from home

A blanket, favourite story, loved teddy bear or familiar night light or lullaby player is also a godsend on trips away from home. It reminds your little one of the stability they may be missing when travelling, and can be very reassuring. We carry a Winnie the Pooh projector night light along with us for just this reason.

5) You

Travel is hard on everyone, children especially. Back in the day I would board a plane, fall asleep and not wake till breakfast was served an hour or so before landing. Travel was blissful. Now I spend the entire trip sticking stickers, licking paintbrushes for on-the-page-pallet books and reading stories to keep my children happy. It’s exhausting, but people always compliment me on the children when we’ve been flying.

If you’re driving, have a repertoire of games up your sleeve. “I spy with my little eye” can be about colours, about ‘something starting with the letter… ‘,  about shapes. It doesn’t have to be boring and frustrating. You too can have fun with your child in cramped quarters.

What is your must have travel essential for travelling with children? 

{Festival of Food Carnival} Recipes From The Garden

It’s time again, and this month we’re celebrating grow your own, or local food, whether that’s from your garden or from your local farmer’s market, veggie box or similar.

Unfortunately the late start to our spring and summer seasons here in the UK have not been good to our garden, and one of the only crops I’ve successfully reaped so far has been the Kale, so over at Keeper of the Kitchen, I share a simple, summery salad of kale and parmesan.

Co-host for the Festival of Food Carnival,Jennifer, gives us a gorgeous looking Grilled Fennel and Tomatoes with Basil dish. This recipe brings together some of the freshest, most vibrant flavors from her garden into a simple dish that even her wee-one adores.

In a guest post at Hobo Mama, Sam shares a garlicky, sweet, salty, and tangy topping for salads, sandwiches, pasta, and burgers and pairs it with a delightful dish that will help you use up the tomatoes and spinach fresh from your garden or farmers’ market. Such a versatile topping can never go wrong.

Lindy at Poppy Soap Company shares a recipe for Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Vinegar which pairs well with protein heavy meals as a decadent and easy side dish.

Angela from Earth Mama’s World scored some ‘imperfect’ veggies from a local farmer’s market and turned them into a perfect rosemary roasted veggie dish. That just looks a picture of health, really!

Amy at Anktangle details two different methods of preserving hearty summer greens (such as kale and chard) so you can enjoy the variety—and nutritional benefits!—year-round. This is definitely one for my Kale crops!

Last but not least, Destany at They Are All of Me creates low fat, healthy mock ups of some of her favorite restaurant dishes, using whole foods and ingredients from her garden.

Do you have recipes from your garden that you’d like to share with us? Add them to the link up below! We’d love to try them!
Stay connected! Be sure to “Like” the Festival of Food Carnival Facebook page.


How To Make The Most Of A Very Wet Summer

I’ve often said that I’m not very ‘crafty’ and don’t really enjoy too much ‘messy’ play, but any parent to a toddler knows that that just comes with the territory – either that, or your child’s not having much fun. It’s been a learning experience for me, and I must admit, it’s growing on me. Now that Aviya is getting a little older and is able to do real crafts, it’s almost fun.

I started a series recently called Andrea’s Summer Camp At Home. It came about when an old friend of mine, who now lives in Canada with her two boys, aged 5 and 2 decided that to survive the 12 weeks of summer holiday she would need a plan. Others quickly jumped on board and soon Andrea’s Summer Camp At Home was born.

 

Welcome to the July 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Creations

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared crafts, recipes, and philosophies of creativity. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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There’s a theme for each week, which has been awesome, and an activity for each day, and the best part of it has been the flexibility. We’re really enjoying it.

Here are some of our activities from week 1: Ice Cream.

Our home made ice cream truck, painting with water beads in the bath, decorating ‘ice cream’ cupcakes, (Bottom left:) making ice cream balloon shakers, cut and paste water bead ice cream cones and glitter pen ice cream, coloured popsicles. 

And here are a few activities from week 2: Wild Animals  (We actually did very few of the week two activities, and added a few of our own out of our craft box!)

Home made playdough, painting toilet rolls with glitter glue, decorated and drying, (bottom left:) painted frog, looking at the frog through the now dried binoculars, give a child two cups – one with animal shapes, one with bells – and sit back and watch what they get up to. Amazing. 

We’re now in week 3: Ocean theme and so far we’ve had two fishy-dinners this week. I work the first half of the week, so crafty fun has to happen towards the end of the week, but we’re looking forward to it. You can see what we’ll be doing though and feel free to join in! If you want more information on ASCAH, read the first post about it. You can join in at any point, too!

 

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Garden Soup — Bailey finds a way to help momma Katy (from Muse of a Daffodil) in the garden.
  • This One Time, I Tried To Make a Car — Ashley at Domestic Chaos tries once again to make something crafty from stuff around the house.
  • Pin-tastic creative ideas — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares how Pinterest is inspiring creativity in her family this summer.
  • Baby Hiccups In The Womb — Alinka at Baby Web shares one of the ways she bonds with her unborn baby.
  • Turtle Mosaics — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school and her little family spend a quiet hour making a turtle mosaic inspired by the work of Melanie Mikecz.
  • Edible Art Plus 8 Art Supply Recipes — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares some natural, chemical-free art supply alternatives, which are gauranteed to be tons of fun for children or all ages. They taste great too!
  • A surprise art lesson — Tat at Mum in search has been taking art lessons from her 5-year-old son.
  • Memory Creation — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen talks about how her family aims to create as many memories as they can as a family.
  • A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words — Melissa at Momma Beer tries to replace cars with crafts.
  • My Creative Family: Sometimes Messy, Always Fun — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM embraces the messes that sometimes accompany creative play but admits you don’t always have to get dirty to have fun.
  • Fun Family Learning: Constellation Cave Tutorial — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter gives step-by-step instructions for building a fun new twist on a cardboard box playhouse.
  • Cooking… Kind Of — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings makes pizza with her daughter, hoping to inspire a love of cooking and encourage a bigger interest in food. As well as making mess and having lots of fun, of course!
  • Crockpot Refried BeansThat Mama Gretchen‘s family loves to experiment with new recipes, and today she’s sharing a kitchen success!
  • Creating Memories — Andrea at Tales of Goodness reflects on how the best creations can emerge from just letting kids be kids.
  • Making Beautiful Things … And Sometimes Just Average-Looking Ones — Tamara at Tea for Three looks for ways to add more craft and creativity into every day family life.
  • Making Fruit Leather Together — When Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work took some time to involve her children in the process of finally trying a fruit leather recipe stored on her Pinterest food board, she got more than just a scrumptious homemade snack as a result!
  • Making Glasses from Children’s Art — Mandy at Living Peacefuly with Children used her children’s artwork to make some very special glasses for her husband for Father’s Day.
  • Preparing Family Meals Together — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares how she started the tradition of creating meals together with her children, which makes family gatherings more fun.
  • It’s a trap! — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares the innovative snares her son and husband have set for her.
  • How To Make The Most Of A Very Wet Summer — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shows us the first few weeks of the Summer Camp At Home project for keeping boredom at bay.
  • Creating with… well, what do we have? — If necessity is the mother of invention, Momma Jorje thinks perhaps boredom is (or at least can be) the mother of creativity. In a pinch, she got creative with a household item to entertain herself and her toddler.
  • Creating Joy! Felt Counting Fish and other Fun — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle started creating Felt Counting Fish and then fell down the rabbit hole of fun with a number of other games.
  • I Am Going! (A Code Name: Mama Homemade Theater Production of Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie book) — This might be the finest example of child and baby acting ever recorded. Enjoy this Mo Willems treasure via video from Dionna at Code Name: Mama.
  • DIY Summer Sleep Sack for Baby Tutorial — Shannon at GrowingSlower made an organic summer sleep sack for baby, and you can too with her easy tutorial.
  • Chalk It Up! — Amy at Anktangle recounts how an impulse buy has turned into a fun collaborative activity that she hopes will continue to foster creativity in the whole family.
  • The Family Garden — Excited that her son has been a big help in the garden this year, Ana at Pandamoly shares how her garden grows and offers up some secrets on how a toddler can be a great assistant in the garden.
  • Getting my craft on — Jona at Life, Intertwined takes a trip down memory lane — and finds it in stitches.
  • Easy DIY Sandpit for Toddler Play — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares her easy DIY toddler sandpit tutorial.
  • Building Without Nails — Laura at Laura’s Blog builds a swinging bar using just sticks and twine.
  • Family Talent Show — Erika at Cinco de Mommy holds an after-dinner family talent show.
  • Ar matey! Fun and Learning with Pirate Play. Positive Parenting Connection is sharing lots of really fun Pirate-themed learning activities for the whole family.