Sunday, 30 September 2012

Emergent Drawing

I find the way that children develop amazing, and I had to share the latest burst from C.  Suddenly, as though the neurons in his head have been busy making connections and have opened up a new pathway, his drawings really look like things!  Check these out:

Friday, 28 September 2012

West Wales - Things to do around the Mawddach Estuary with young children

We had a week away in the caravan staying at the lovely Graig Wen site at Arthog.  Here are a few of the great things that you can get up to in that area of Wales, which are great fun with children:

Catch the train to Harlech.  There visit the castle and the swimming pool and then catch the train back.
Park at Morffa Morddach train station, walk across the Barmouth Bridge to Barmouth...

 ...visit Barmouth lifeboat station, look at the lifeboat and get the little ones to try on the lifeboat kit...

...spend some time just playing on the beach...

 get back to Morffa Mawddach you can either catch the train back across the bridge, or you can catch the ferry from Barmouth Harbour across to Fairbourne on the other side of the estuary.  Then take a ride on the Fairbourne miniature steam railway.  Drop one member of the party off at Golf Halt (one of the stops) from where they can walk back along the embankment to pick the car up at Morffa Mawddach and meet you back at Fairborne Station.

Go for a walk at the Forestry Commission (Wales) site at Coed y Brenin, where there are brilliant marked walking trails, including one where you have clues and have to spot the wooden cut out animals hidden in the trees on the side of the trail.  There's also a brilliant play area, where materials are available for dam building and shelter making.  The cafe is also excellent!

As you can tell, we had a fantastic time.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Quick and easy activities for toddlers - cave /den

The trip to Wales went well, more on that later in the week.  I hardly took any photos, so I'll wait for Hubby to pass his on (he must have been reading my mind, he's just passed them to me on a memory stick!), and post about that another day.

In the meantime, here's another simple activity that keeps the toddlers happy for at least half an hour.  I used one of those A-shaped clothes airers, but you can use cushions, cardboard boxes or even a table.  Drape with blankets, towels or sheets, fill with cushions and you have a den or a cave.  
My two had loads of fun with this, and C has asked me to build him a cave on several occasions since (I usually comply!).  They play peek-a-boo in and out of the cave, C makes doors and windows, we've read stories in it, had our snack in it and all sorts.  This is one of those super-easy to set up activities that the children love.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Toddler Craft Activities - junk castle

As regular followers of this blog will know, I try to have a vague theme for each month.  I also love doing creative activities with the children.  Sometimes I just don't quite get around to getting stuff set up and nothing happens.  This week I looked at the title of our theme, "History", and my plan to do some model-making, and I got a wave of inspiration - A castle!  

I headed into the recycling box and came out with a shoe-box full of tissue paper (Hubby had a new pair of shoes), a kitchen roll tube, an old cardboard box that I had emptied and not found a use for yet, and two cardboard ice-cream tubs.

First I showed the children how to use selotape to attach the boxes together.  We opened the flaps on the larger box and C used selotape to attach them at the corners.  C then practised his scissor skills cutting all the way down the kitchen roll tube, and cutting slots in the ice-cream tubs.  I used a sharp knife to cut crenellations in the top, to cut the lid off the shoe box, and to cut out a door-way and some narrow windows.  C then slotted the ice-cream tubs on to the top of the shoe-box, and used selotape to fix the kitchen-roll tube on to one corner of the large box.
The next job was to cover the entire structure with a 50:50 mix of water and PVA, cover it all with tissue paper and apply another coat of the watery glue - this makes the paint stick even where the cardboard box is shiny or there's selotape.  We then left it to completely dry out over night.

The next day we painted the entire castle in grey.  We started at the table, but they couldn't reach inside the boxes so we transferred to the kitchen floor.  (Afterwards the clothes went straight into the washing machine and the children went straight into the shower - then I shut them out of the room while I cleaned the table and floor!).  They did well sharing the pot of paint.  C learned that to make grey we use black and white.  We left the paint to dry overnight.
Today we completed the project.  The children had a tray with green at one end and yellow at the other end, which they were free to mix as much or as little as they wanted.  Their instructions were to paint trees and bushes around the bottom of the castle - as you can see they went more with the idea of ivy!  While they were doing that I painted around the crenellations and windows in black, and added in some extra windows and also some stone-work effect lines in black.

So there we have it, three days.  The cost was virtually zero - just a bit of PVA and some paint - definitely less than a couple of pounds - and we have a castle which they are delighted with and feel a lot of ownership and pride in.  I'm not sure what we're going to do with it, we don't have any knights or kings, or dragons or damsels - perhaps we'll need to make some of those too!

The best bit is that we are going to Wales tomorrow for a week, so we're going to be visiting plenty of real castles, and also seeing some steam trains - all in keeping with our History theme!  I can't wait to see how they choose to play with the castle when we return.

Liebster Award

Wowee!  I've been nominated for the Liebster Award, by lovely fellow blogger Vic at Entertaining Monsters!  Thank you Vic!
The Liebster Award is nominated by somebody else who has received the Award.  They nominate five other blogs to receive the Award, each of which must have fewer than 200 followers.  Here are the Liebster rules:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog
2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed 
Most of the blogs that I follow have more than 200 followers, but I am nominating the following Blogs:

5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.
I am also supposed to answer the eleven questions asked by the person who nominated me.  So here are Vic's questions and my answers:
1.How long have you been blogging for?  About 2 years I think.  
2.Where is your favourite place in the whole wide world?  Ooh, this is a tough one.  I might say, anywhere camping out under the stars with my husband and children I guess.  Or I did love Florence.
3.What is your favourite bar of chocolate?  Yorkie bar, the biscuit and raisin ones, and they are definitely also for girls.
4.Have you ever broken a bone?  Yes, embarrassingly I broke my nose when drunk once (not fighting, I nose-dived a dance floor)
5.When was the last time you went on a child free night out with your partner (if you have one)?  Before Bug was born, so over 18 months ago.
6.What was your first job?  My first grown-up job was teaching, but as a teenager I started out with babysitting, and then added on waitressing.
7.How many toilets do you have in your house?! (I only have 1 and am very jealous when people have more!)  Bizarre question!  2.
8.What is your favourite season?  I think Autumn.  I have a birthday at the beginning of September, and I always associate my birthday, the smells of early autumn (rich, earthy smells) and the fresh polish and paint, pencil sharpenings and new-shoes smell of back-to-school, which I love.
9.What is your favourite children’s book?  The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
10.Do you get a real or fake Christmas tree?  At the moment it's a fake one, but once the children are a bit bigger I'll go back to volunteering at a local nature reserve - in December you shop down unwanted conifers from a bog, and you get to choose one to take home!
11.How many siblings do you have?  I'm the middle of two sisters.
And now here are the questions that the bloggers who I have nominated have to answer - I want you to write down the first thing that comes into your head for each one:
  1. what's the last thing that you made?
  2. what makes you smile?
  3. what makes you cry?
  4. where do you do most of your reading?
  5. when's the last time you sang?
  6. if you were a bird what type would you be?
  7. what's your favourite word?
  8. what's your favourite mode of transport?
  9. what are you most proud of making?
  10. what would you most love to experience?
  11. If you could see any wild animal at home in its natural habitat, what animal would you want to see.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Embrace the camera

The odd glimpse of me with my little ones - just being together with love.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Favourite toddler toys

My children, like most in the Western World, have plenty of toys.  Too many really.  Certainly more than they could ever "need".  I try to rotate them round, setting out toys that haven't been played with for a while, and definitely passing on toys to friends and relations with young children, and to the charity shop.
Here are some of the children's favourite things to play with:
cars and garage - definitely a favourite with both children

doll, pushchair and cot - again, a favourite with both

wooden train set

wooden building blocks

Friday, 7 September 2012

Best stand-by recipe in the world.

My best ever stand-by recipe is... tuna pasta bake.
It's easy to cook, all the main ingredients are always in my store cupboard, and the children love it.
Cook some pasta until al dente.
Hunt around for any stray vegetables in your fridge or cupboard - any of the following are good: courgette, peppers, sweetcorn, olives, onions, mushrooms or tomatoes.  If you prefer, fry them off a little.
Mix the al dente pasta, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a few herbs, a tin of tuna chunks and the vegetables.  Top with grated cheese and bake in the oven for 15 or 20 minutes at 180 C.
As an alternative you can exchange the tuna for some fried off lardons or pancetta or chopped bacon, or cooked chicken.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Red Chalk!!!!

There comes a moment when you wonder why you allow your children to have free access to art resources such as pencils, crayons, paper, glue and chalk.  

Today that moment came for me when I turned around from cleaning the oven to find that my normally reliable three-year-old had not only drawn with red chalk over the blackboard and his face and hands, but also over his sister's clothes, several pieces of furniture and flooring, and a cream rug!

Granted, the cream rug is usually pretty grubby anyway, as it's just inside the front door (stupid place to have a cream rug), and I count myself as reasonably easy going about "creative mess" (though I try to keep it reasonably contained and supervised) but that didn't stop my gasp of horror as I saw the mess.  

My reaction?  "C. what were you thinking? (shouted) Quick, lets get some cloths and try to clean this up (more measured tone - let's try to turn this into a positive lesson!)."  C's response: "I'm sorry about that mummy, I think I was having a silly five minutes with my brain switched off.  I am sorry about that."

Sadly, I'm not sure that the chalk will come out of the rug, this photo is taken after ten minutes of scrubbing.  Not long after that I had to give it a rest, as my activities leaning over the side of the bathtub attracted the attention of the little ones, and they decided that they wanted to get in for a bath, so the rug had to be removed elsewhere for further work later.

I don't think I'll be changing the free access to art resources allowed in the house, but I might be keeping a closer eye on the children!  

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Muddy walk

I just thought I'd post today about my walk this afternoon.  
I had a rare opportunity to get out for a long walk without needing to rush back for anything or having any toddlers to think about.  
I took the waggy-tailed one, and we headed up the hill near our house.  This is a regular haunt of ours, and a full circuit up the hill, down the other side and round the back usually takes me about an hour and a quarter.  This time at the top I headed west along the ridge, before dropping down through a forestry cut-through on to the ancient track running from Glen Devon to Dollar at the head of Glenquey reservoir.  
I may be a little bit of an adrenaline junky - looking down a steep hill and finding my way blocked by a fast flowing stream and a deer fence gives me a bit of a buzz...  Anyway, along the extremely muddy track to Castle Campbell in Dollar, and then following a short-cut to the back road (Hillfoots Road), and then along this and back to Muckhart.  
I'm trying to get fit, so the whole route I kept my pace at what I would refer to as "a notch faster than comfortable".  The distance to Dollar and back by road is six miles, and my route was definitely longer than that, and included an ascent of Seamab, so I was quite proud of myself to have done it in only two and a half hours.  I feel refreshed, reinvigorated and all back in perspective again, it's great the magic a walk in the fresh air can do.