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See posts about: // Isabelle // Parenting // Family //

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Our 5 most successful activities

During our 50 active days challenge, some of our activities turned out to be much more successful that others. In fact, during the challenge, many of the activities were repeated over and over again at Isabelle's request, and have now become a staple play activity in our house.

Here's a run down of our 5 most loved activities.

1. Painting with water
This was a spur of the moment activity which is, without a doubt, our most successful of all the 50 we completed. Almost every day, Isabelle asks to 'paint' her chalkboard, and spends 5 or 10 minutes mark making on the chalk board with some water. I have even bought more sponge paint brushes for this activity. I don't think you would actually believe me if I said that at this exact moment in time Isabelle has just said "Some water please, painting!" and is currently painting happily! The best thing about this activity is it involves minimal set up, materials and clean up! In fact, it actually cleans the chalkboard for us! Perfect.

2. No cook play dough
Since our less than happy beginnings with play dough, it has turned around to become one of Isabelle's favourite things to do. She asks for "Dough and rolling pin, please" every day, and I am very pleased to say that the no cook play dough I made is still in perfect condition. She especially loves being able to incorporate her buttons, to make things like our playdough faces and hedgehogs. Both of these items are also currently sitting out at the minute!

3. Shaving foam bath paint
Even though her relationship with touching shaving foam is still a bit strained at times, painting using foam in the bath is one of her favourite things to do. We have done it several times since I first introduced the activity, and for a while she asked for "Painting please!" every time she got into the bath. Similar to this activity was our mouldable foam soap, during which she was more than happy to get her hands into the foam and play. This, again, is something she asks for all the time now.

4. Bubble snake
Isabelle adores bubbles, so this activity is one of her favourites. She isn't great at blowing the bubbles (and to be honest, it is quite tricky!) but she loves to chase them around the garden. As they group together, they are slightly more dense than a single bubble, so they lie on the ground allowing her to chase and catch them easily. The dog also adores this activity, as do Simon and I, so it's a winner all round really!

5. Moon sand 
This is one activity with which Isabelle will sit and play independently for 45 minutes or an hour. We have done both glitter moon sand and orange and lemon themed moon sand, both of which were a big hit. She loves to crumble the sand between her fingers, and knock down any structures which we have built. The moon sand keeps perfectly, so it's always available for play on a rainy day.

All these activities were part of our 50 day activity challenge, and the full list can be found here.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Day 50: Felt Busy Book

I can't believe we have reached the end of our 50 day activity challenge - my aim to complete 50 activities with Isabelle between September and Christmas 2014. You can see the full list of activities here.

The last activity is one which took me a long time to create. Longer than any of the other activities and, actually, it's a bit of a cheat because Isabelle hasn't actually received it yet. For our final active day I made a felt busy book for Isabelle, which she will receive as we sit down on our flight to England to keep her interested and amused for that hour.

My friend Alex introduced me to the world of felt busy books after she made one for her little boy. After lots of Pinterest research, I knew I wanted to do the same. I'm not the most crafty person so I was worried I would struggle, and it really did take me a long time even though it is relatively simple. I sustained many burns from the glue gun along the way, but I'm so pleased with how it turned out!

I'll give you a brief run down of how I made the book itself, and then what went inside.

For the book pages, I used a "That's not my..." board book as a template to draw around, on to some green felt I had left over from making our Christmas tree. That gave me roughly even sized pages, which I thought would be big enough for various things to be

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Day 49: Tuff spot mix

For today's penultimate activity, I decided not to go with a Christmas theme, or much of an anything theme, and simply use some of the materials we have in the cupboard on the tuff spot for a quick and simple set up.

I pulled out the red and blue rice from our day 13 activity and a bag of chickpeas which I bought to use during the challenge, but never got round to using. I simply tipped them onto the tuff spot with some scoops and 4 toilet roll tubes.

As soon as Isabelle saw this, there was lots of squeals of excitement and "Oh! Oh! Oh!" to be heard. She dived in immediately to play with the "little balls" (chickpeas), and spent around 10 minutes in the tuff spot just pushing the bits around and doing a little scooping.

Unfortunately, she is currently in the grip of (very mild) chicken pox so that 10 minutes was all we got out of this activity. I'm glad it was a quick set up as it was a very quick play!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Day 48: Tissue paper baubles

It's Christmas!!!

Well, not officially, but today I finished work for the holidays so it feel like Christmas is officially beginning. I honestly never thought this day would come - this has been the longest 4 months of my life. The end of term today meant one beautiful thing - a 12pm finish so I was home to Isabelle nice and early.

That left us lots of time to get a little bit crafty and create something for her grannies' Christmas trees. I had seen this idea on Pinterest and thought it would be perfect, especially given Isabelle's enjoyment at our previous 'sticky' activities with contact paper (here and here).

It was a very simple activity to set up. I cut some circles out of card, and laid strips of double sided sticky tape across the circles. I cut out smaller circles of red and green tissue paper too, and set everything up on our table.

Isabelle is familiar with the idea of sticking items from our previous activities, so I showed her how this one worked - slightly differently as it wasn't set up on the window - and she was off. It didn't take her long to stick as much tissue paper onto the card as possible, and tried to stick even more on

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Day 47: Christmas water beads

Trying to keep with the Christmas/winter theme, our day 47 activity was loosely based around Christmas colours. I made up some red, green and clear water beads, leaving them overnight in a vat of water to allow them to hydrate. As water beads usually hold Isabelle's interest on there own, I left out a selection of scoops and a bowl, but also added some trusty toilet roll tubes to add something new.

I left this activity ready for Simon and Isabelle on Simon's day off with her - leaving them to it as I trudged out to work.

Isabelle played for around 45 minutes, which I think is a great amount of time for such a little child to spend immersed in one activity. It shows just how well the water beads hold her attention, and how very interested she is in them.

According to my reliable source (Simon) Isabelle spent some time squishing the water beads, which seems to be her new favourite thing to do. She loves crushing them in her hand, and picks up handfuls which she crushes, before picking up some more. She must enjoy the feel of them between her hands, and she actually loves to squash anything.

However, using both her little scoop and her spoon, Isabelle also enjoyed scooping and transferring the water beads, putting some into

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Day 46: Snow Play

Continuing with our winter/Christmas themed activities, today I set up some snow for Isabelle. It is actually pretty topical for us, as there has been snow on and off here all week (resulting in some very hairy drives to work as I drive back roads over a mountain!) and I have really enjoyed showing Isabelle the snow outside in the mornings - but unfortunately it is always melted by the time we get home.

So today, she had snow that would never melt - hers to play with for as long as she liked. I made the snow using 2 ingredients:
- baking powder
- shaving foam

I tipped 3 cups of baking powder into a tray, and slowly added shaving foam until I got the consistency I wanted. You have to add a lot more shaving foam than you would expect - I used around 3/4 of a can. Once made, the snow resembles a stickier version of moon sand. It is crumbly, but moulds together well.

Considering that a few months ago she was terrified of shaving foam,  it was great to see that Isabelle was excited about helping me spray the foam out of the can and mix it in with the baking powder. Previously, I would

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Day 45: Reindeer Christmas Cards

I am not a big Christmas card person at all - I never send Christmas cards to people. However, when Baker Ross sent me some of their Reindeer Christmas cards as part of our latest blogger box, I thought it would a lovely activity to do with Isabelle in the run up to Christmas - with the added bonus of then having handmade cards to give to our family.

I mixed some brown paint (yellow, red and blue) and some green paint, and laid all of the heads and bodies of the reindeer out on the tuff spot. I popped the two paint pots and some brushes down as well, and let Isabelle have at it. She loved painting when we did it a few weeks ago, so I knew she would enjoy it again this time.

This activity had the added element of smaller pieces of card to paint, and different shapes. Isabelle preferred the bodies to the heads and she splatted paint across them in varying amounts. After a while, she got bored of the brown paint and moved onto the green, however she decided that brown was actually best, and went back quite quickly.

As with the previous paint session, I was again surprised when Isabelle wanted to have her hand painted. This time, she asked me to do it,

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Day 44: Snow Clay

I want our last few activities to reflect the run up to Christmas and the shift to winter, and so when I spotted a recipe for snow clay I was very excited to make some for Isabelle. I knew she would love it as it is so like play dough, and I read that it hardens wonderfully to make decorations - so I decided to make a Christmas tree decoration with it.

The clay is silky soft, sparkly and cold to touch.

The recipe for the snow clay is as follows:

- 2 cups baking powder/bicarbonate of soda
- 1 cup corn flour
- 1.5 cups cold water

Combine the ingredients in a pan, and heat over a medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mashed potato. Take off the heat and leave to cool- placing a wet cloth over the pan as the mixture cools. Once cooled, take out of the pan and knead the clay (adding the glitter) until it becomes the required consistency. Keep in the fridge to make the clay cold.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

I've deleted Facebook!

Ok, let's clarify that title. I've deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

I've been thinking about it for a while, and today I hit the X on Facebook while the icon danced in front of me.


Because it has been taking over my life. Simple as that. I am on Facebook for more time each day than I should be, and a large part of that is because I have access to the app wherever I go. I can be at school in class...and checking Facebook. I can be sitting while Isabelle plays....and checking Facebook. I can be wandering round the supermarket....and checking Facebook. And, worst of all, I can be in the car....and checking Facebook. And yes, I mean while I am in the driver's seat. Yes, I know how bad that is.

So maybe you'll see why I've decided enough is enough. I don't want to be the idiot on their phone while they are in charge of a car. I don't want to be that person sitting waiting for the doctor whose eyes are glued to her phone for 45 minutes (as I was today). I don't want to be the mum on Facebook instead of talking to her kid. 

It had to go.

The thing is, most often, nothing new is happening on Facebook, so why I feel the need to check it so often is totally beyond me! Even if something does happen - it's hardly going to be life changing for me is it? Anything important and I will get a phonecall or text. Everything else is just me being nosey.

Coming up to Christmas, I was very aware that I do not want to spend the entirety of the festive season on my phone instead of with family. 

More than that, I am a massive hypocrite as far as my child is concerned. She sees me playing on my phone and asks me "Press a buttons mummy?" which means she wants to play on the phone. I don't like her using the phone or iPad, so then I say no. No, it's not OK for you to do what I'm doing? That makes me a hypocrite, and I don't like it at all. I also don't want Isabelle to think it's OK for adults to have their nose attached to their phone and not be paying full attention to her. In my eyes, that's not great parenting - and I am guilty of it. 

So, Facebook is gone. Gone from my phone. Of course, I'll still use it on my iPad but I hope by taking it off my phone I will make a little change that will have a big impact. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Day 43: Cut up straws

That title isn't the most thrilling, is it? Today's activity was, yet again, a deviation from the plan. I had a doctor's appointment at which I was held up, then traffic was very bad, so I got home much later than expected - too late to start the activity I had planned. For some reason, these straws were out, and so I decided that now was the time to play with them.

I've seen a lot of material online about using cut up straws as a base, and back in October I bought some, chopped them up, but never got round to using them. They didn't look overly exciting so I wasn't sure what we would do with them.

Today, I found out. As with so many of our activities, it was simple - I gave Isabelle the straws and some materials for scooping and holding the straws, and she was off.

Just yesterday, Isabelle received her big Christmas present - a kitchen. She loves the fact that the sink comes away, and so I used the basin from her kitchen to hold the straws. She immediately started running her hands through them and picking them up to look at the "tiny bits", before running her hands through them again. She spent around 5 minutes just enjoying the feel of the straws and how they felt in her hands.

Then, she remembered that she can blow through straws, so we spent a few minutes blowing and whistling through them at one another,

Monday, 8 December 2014

Why I don't let Isabelle watch TV

This is a topic I've been thinking about posting about for some time, but I've always worried that people will see it as an attack on their parenting and that has put me off. However, it is something I do want to blog about so I've decided to go ahead anyway.

Even before Isabelle was born I was certain that I didn't want her watching TV as a baby or young toddler. People heard that and laughed and said "That's ok while she is young, but you wait until she is a bit bigger!" I wondered if they were right, and I would change my thoughts on the matter as she turned into a toddler. However, she will be 2 in just 4 months time, and I haven't changed my views yet.

It is a really simple reason why I don't want her watching TV - the total lack of interaction.

I see toddlers and young kids watching TV and they stare at it like tiny zombies, so engrossed in it that they don't hear you call them, they barely even move. They just stare. And that is absolutely what I want to avoid - that glazed over expression. Now, I'm sure plenty of kids chat away to the TV - but I am yet to see one. When I see toddlers and kids watching TV, they are so engrossed in it that the rest of the world falls away (and hey, I don't blame them! I'm the same!). It is a one way flow from the TV to them and the tiny people give nothing, or very little, back.

How do I know Isabelle will be that tiny zombie? Well, of course she has actually seen a TV on, just not in our house. I can't police other people's homes (as much as I'd like to!) and so she has watched TV at other people's houses, though infrequently, and when she she has seen TV on she has stopped and stood like a statue, totally engrossed. If I speak to her she doesn't appear to hear - she is in the TV zone. My normally chatty girl who bundles around the house just....stares. And I despise it.

People often say that their little one learns from TV - shapes, numbers, colours and even signs - and I think that is great! I will never be against anything that teaches kids.........but I can't help but think that they would still learn those things if the TV was off - as Isabelle has.

I know many mums who pop the TV on for a while so they can get things done around the house, or because they really need a break. There have been times - usually when I have been sick - that I have contemplated for a moment switching the TV on to occupy her for five minutes so I can have a break. But I am always glad I didn't in the end. Maybe I am lucky because Isabelle is an easy toddler to entertain and we have a great family support network, but we have always pushed through any rough days and if she is in a really bad mood and I am trying to do housework or cook, it either simply doesn't get done or she gets slung on my back where she is happy to chat away to me.

I'm not saying Isabelle won't ever watch TV, she will of course. If she is anything like me she will be a total TV addict when she is older! However, for now, I am happy that she watches none and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible. I'm sure some of you with two, or three, or more, children are reading this and laughing and saying "You wait until the next one arrives!" and maybe you are right. Maybe, with the next one, I won't mind if they watch a bit of TV, and I won't mind Isabelle watching more but only time will tell.

I don't think there is anything wrong with other people letting their toddlers watch TV if they are happy to do so - it's just not my cup of tea.

And yes. When I plonk my bum down in front of the TV every night I do feel like a total hypocrite. I can watch as much as I want and she can't watch any? Really? Well...maybe the fact that I watch so much is exactly why I don't want her watching any - I know how much time you lose watching TV, and I want hers to be spent in the most constructive way possible, before she gets sucked into the world of Peppa Pig, Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Day 42: Pasta and Rice Musical Instruments

We are so close to the end of our 50 day challenge now, and it has kind of snuck up on me! Today, I had planned to do an activity with Isabelle...however Simon got in there first and when I arose from my lie in he and Isabelle were playing happily with rice and pasta musical instruments.

Using our plastic cups, balloons, rice and pasta, Simon had made Isabelle a drum, a rainstick, a 'shaker' and some very fun musical balloons.

The drum was simply a cup with rice in it and a balloon cut and pulled taut over the top. For the rain stick (see our previous rainstick here) he had the (pretty ingenious) idea to fill two cups with pasta and rice, and tape them together. The presence of the pasta meant that the rice 'trickled' through the cups slowly and gave a much nicer noise than the rainsticks we made last week. An old chewing gum bottle was filled with rice to make a shaker, and Simon filled balloons with pasta, rice and ceramic beads to make noisy balloons.

Isabelle seemed to enjoy the drum, and certainly made some interesting faces when she was playing it!

The noisy balloons were my favourite (until I popped one!), as they were so much fun to shake and gave a really great noise. The balloon which had the ceramic beads was especially fun as, when shaken, the beads were visible inside. If you shook it lots and then set it down, the continued movement of the beads made the balloon dance around on the floor....until it popped!

Simon had also left some pasta and rice out on the tuff spot for Isabelle who always enjoys a good play with dry ingredients.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Day 41: Christmas decoration tuff spot

On Tuesday, I posted about the lovely Christmas decorations that Home Bargains sent us. While I was putting some of them up, Isabelle became fascinated with the string of beads and so I decided to use the remaining decorations to create a Christmas decoration tuff spot exploration activity for her (what a ridiculously 'grand' title for some decorations thrown down!)

We haven't done an activity like this before. This was all about simply touching, feeling, looking and getting to grips with the decorations. There was no over arching purpose, no end product, just exploration and a chance to look at materials which we may not normally encounter. I wasn't sure if it would hold her attention for very long, but she soon proved me wrong.

Onto the tuff spot I put:
- fake snow
- electric tealights
- glittery stars
- glittery bows
- glittery apples
- a glittery butterfly
- a feathered bird
- silver beads
- angels

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Christmas decoration explosion!

I don't know if the same if true for everyone, but my newsfeeds EXPLODED this weekend with Christmas decorations. Trees popped up from everyone on Facebook and Instagram, and generally it was just a bit of Christmas overload.

We are heading away to Simon's parents' this year for Christmas, so we aren't planning to decorate too much. We normally get a lovely big tree, but I don't fancy the idea of coming home after a week to a dead tree, so we are forgoing that this year and have just popped up a few of the smaller decorations around the house.

Every year I seem to have the same problem - we get he Christmas decoration box down and I suddenly think "Is this all we have? I need to buy more!" and yet I never seem to know where to go to buy things. There is a local garden centre which sells lovely stuff, but it's so expensive, and I do kind of resent paying too much money for decorations that we have out for 3 weeks a year.

Luckily, this year Home Bargains were kind enough to send us some of their lovely Christmas range to try out, and they fit the bill just perfectly. I am very much a muted colour kind of Christmas decorator, and silver is my go to colour, so I was thrilled to see they have such a big range of silver, glittery decorations for trees and the rest of the house.

My absolute favourite decoration is something I would never think to buy myself - fake snow. The fake snow from Home Bargains feels lovely and looked really special when I used it to decorate the mantlepiece. The selection of silver Christmas tree decorations is great, with something for everyone, but my favourites are these cute little angels who I think are just gorgeous. I can't wait to get them onto the tree next year but, for now, they are helping decorate the mantlepiece, too.

The little flickering tealights are fab as well, and I have popped them in the window at the front door to add a little bit of Christmas ambience in the hall.

These little festive touches are just perfect for us for this year when we aren't decorating too heavily, and can all by found in regional Home Bargains stores now.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Day 40: Felt Christmas Tree

I can't believe we are 4/5 of the way through our 50 day challenge! It seems to have flown in, but I am a bit worried about whether or not we will fit 10 more activities into the next 17 days, considering how busy we will be!

Today's activity has been in the wings for a while, and it is actually something which I know will be played with right up until Christmas itself - a felt Christmas tree. I saw this idea on Pinterest (where else!) a few months ago and knew instantly that I wanted to have one for Isabelle.

The tree is so simple to make. I bought a large piece of green felt from eBay, and a smaller selection of multicoloured felt from the same seller. I cut the green felt into a very basic triangle shape, and that was the tree! For the decorations, I cut bauble shapes from felt and added contrasting coloured stripes or other features, also made from felt, using our glue gun. For the Santa and snowman, I simply cut the required shapes out of felt and glued them together in the same way.

There is no need to use something to stick the baubles to the tree, as felt clings to itself and so the baubles attach to the tree perfectly. This is probably my favourite

Monday, 1 December 2014

Isabelle's Christmas list

It's December!

I have been working on Isabelle's Christmas list for months, adding things as I thought of them and then taking things off as we got closer and I thought they wouldn't meet her needs, or interests, by the time we reached Christmas. The list started small, grew to quite epic proportions, and then settled down at a happy medium.

As we progressed through our 50 active days, I began to realise that Isabelle is less interested in lots of actual toys, and mostly interested in imaginary play and little 'bits' which she can use in various ways. Learning that, I ditched a whole load of items from her list to be replaced with little stocking fillers of more buttons, pom poms, homemade play dough and moon sand.

However, she is still getting quite a few big and small 'normal' gifts from us, and from family. So here is a run down of what Miss Isabelle can expect to receive over the next month.

BIG gifts:

1// Ikea play kitchen - this is Isabelle's big gift from Simon and me. I searched high and low for a kitchen I loved and couldn't find one. In the end, we settled on the simple Ikea kitchen. Of course, I didn't want her to have the plain kitchen (as I actually think it's a little ugly!) so instead we have customised it to make it more lovely and fit in with what I wanted. She also has a load of Ikea play food, pots, pans and utensils to go with this, along with some wooden play food from ELC.

2// Radio Flyer trike - this is Isabelle's gift from Simon's parents. She loves bikes and so it is definitely time she had her own. I am a real snob about kids' trikes and absolutely hate most of the ones that are sold. When I saw this gorgeous Radio Flyer trike online I knew she had to have it. It's such a classic looking trike, and it comes with the handle so we can push her ladyship around until she is ready to peddle herself. It's so beautiful, I can't wait for her to get it!

3// Wooden dolls' pram - this is from my parents. Isabelle adores her babies, and she loves having the chance to push them in a pram. She has one at my parents house, so this beautiful wooden pram is for our house. I know she is going to love pushing Baby, Katie, Gee and Goo around in it, and tucking them in there for a nap.

4// Teepee - This is her present from her aunts and uncles. Isabelle loves hiding, and loves when we build her a tent. After spending ages looking for a teepee I came across this print and loved it. I plan on filling her teepee with cushions, a blanket and some books to make a reading area for her. The only issue is I think it's 6ft by I'm not 100% sure exactly where we are going to put it yet!

"Stocking fillers"

1// Happyland bakery - this is something which I took a long time to decide on. I hate plastic toys like this, however Isabelle seems to really enjoy playing with her cousin's Happyland, and she loves little people figures, so I decided to get her a set of her own. I'm yet to be convinced, but if she loves it, I'm sure more will join it in the future!

2// Happy Hopperz Cow - this was a total spur of the moment Zulily purchase, after I was swayed by a group of friends who were all buying them! I think this will live at my parents for all three kids to enjoy up there...

3// Wooden threading beads - Isabelle loves intricate tasks, and her fine motor skills are excellent, so I am hoping she enjoys the challenge of these little beads.

4// Bath crayons - after the success of our shaving foam bath paint these were a must!

5// Wooden camera - this absolutely gorgeous camera is from Etsy, and FawnOverBaby. Isabelle is always having her photo taken (by me!) and she is desperate to play with my DSLR camera. Soon, she will have her very own! It has a little spring loaded button and the dials turn, so she can snap away just like mummy.

6// Wooden farm animals - as I mentioned, Isabelle loves little figures and she adores animals. I added these wooden farm animals to her list at the last minute as I thought she would enjoy them.

Along with the books I posted about last month, Isabelle will have a lovely influx of brand new toys and games to keep her busy over the coming months. She won't actually be receiving most of this stuff on Christmas Day as we will be in Norfolk, so she will be getting things in dribs and drabs throughout December, as well as a few smaller gifts (and her trike) on Christmas Day - which is actually a good thing so she doesn't get too overwhelmed with receiving too much at once.

The countdown is well and truly on now...

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