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

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Us // January

I usually hate January. It seems like the longest month of the year, it's dark in the mornings and evenings and when I think of January, I just think of dull days of boredom. Not the best way to start the year. However, this year isn't as bad as usual because of course I'm now only working part time. That means I have lots of time to spend doing fun stuff to beat the January blues. So, what did we get up to in January?

We started the year with our whole family at our holiday home on the North Coast of Northern Ireland, where we walked on the beach and generally enjoyed some time together. Later in the month, Simon, Isabelle and I went up to the coast again for a few days for a quick getaway. We really want to start using the holiday home more this year and, now I'm not so constrained with work, it's much more feasible. Simon met Isabelle and I there after work on a Saturday afternoon, however he ended up with a vomiting bug so our weekend was slightly less enjoyable than we anticipated! When we are there we walk the dogs on the beach, go to the park (although it's closed at the minute because it was flooded last year!) and go out for lunch. That's all Isabelle and I did that weekend, but it's just nice to have a change of scene.

As I am off on Monday again we have been able to start back to our breastfeeding group, which is great. We loved seeing everyone again, and meeting some new mums and babies. We also got together with our breastfeeding group friends a few other times during the month at their house or out and about, and it's so nice for both Isabelle and I to be able to spend more time with them again. We missed them while I was at work!

It's been all about books this month. Isabelle has always loved books and being read to, but this month I've noticed more than ever that she is wanting to have books throughout the day. Her favourite at the minute is The Tiger Who Came to Tea, and she can recite parts of it which makes it seem like she is reading! While she likes being read to, she also likes taking the books and 'reading' to herself, which is funny to listen to! I started my own 52 Books in 52 Weeks reading challenge, and am currently on book number 4. I am really pleased that I've started so well, and it is definitely a pleasure to be back to reading so much after dipping in and out of reading over the past few years.

There is a local gymnastics centre which runs toddler play mornings. Unfortunately, these are on weekdays so we weren't able to go from August to December, however we have jumped straight in now I am off again and tend to spend our Friday morning there. Isabelle loves the freedom to run round and climb, jump and swing from the equipment - she is weirdly strong and can actually hold herself up on the parallel bars!

After our local pool closed for refurbishments it's been difficult to take Isabelle swimming which we used to do every week. So this month I took her to another pool close by for a toddler session, which she loved. She is a real water baby and has been swimming since she was just 13 weeks old. She is so brave about it now, and will soon be a better swimmer than me!

Of course, I have been working on Tuesday and Wednesday so Simon and Isabelle still get some time together without me, and she still gets a day with my dad. He takes her to a local mums and tots which he loves, and they have so much fun together. I've thoroughly enjoyed being at work for the two days, as it's so stress free - working part time really is wonderful. I'm not looking forward to potentially going back to 5 days a week after Easter.

January has been a month of BIG expenses for us. Our boiler started leaking, and the price of a new one made my eyes water. We've had nothing but problems with the boiler since we moved in 4 years ago, however, so a new one is actually a bit of a relief - despite the insane price tag. Simon needed a new car which we also got this month. He actually got a great deal on a trade in for his old car, so his change to a Qashqai+2 wasn't as expensive as we had thought. I have a Qashqai as well, so we are now car twins!

We were plenty busy at home as well as being out and about - we painted with shaving foam and tin foil, made some thank you cards, played with chocolate scented playdough, reused our old moon sand and cleared out some of our junk in our Throw Out 50 Things Challenge.  It snowed twice  this month, so we had plenty of chances to find out that Isabelle really isn't a big fan of standing in the snow! She wouldn't have it at all! She didn't mind holding it and touching it, so we opted for some inside snow play instead.

So overall, January 2015 wasn't as dreary as usual. We've been so busy that it's passed us by in a flash, and now February is here, which holds the promise of our first holiday of the year!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Snow painting

It snowed again! Much more than two weeks ago when I posted some pictures of us out in the snow, I measured it (I know that's quite sad) at 4 inches. Nothing compared to what a friend in America has - she has 2.5ft!

My nephews and sister-in-law came over to play today and we went out in the snow for a while. Isabelle hated it. She has no problem at all touching the snow with her hands, but she absolutely refused to stand in it. I guess she doesn't like the feel of it beneath her feet - and it is a weird sensation as it crunches and compacts.

So, playing in the snow with her was a no go. My nephew, who is 3.5 years loved it! He made some snow angels and then he and I built a snowman together. A pretty poor one in fairness, and its head had fallen off before I got to take a picture!

When they went home, I decided to bring some snow inside for Isabelle to play with instead. I piled some onto the tuff spot and she enjoyed picking it up and playing with it, and we made a mini snowman inside.

I then decided to recreate an activity I saw someone post on Facebook and do some indoor snow painting. I squirted a splodge of poster paint into a takeaway box and then mixed it with some cold water to give a brightly coloured, very runny, paint.

Using our normal paint brushes, Isabelle then painted the snow with her red and blue paint. The paint seems to soak through the snow as it spreads itself and dilutes the colour. We enjoyed painting the snow for about fifteen minutes, before it of course began to melt. Luckily, we have lots more snow out in the garden, and even more falling right now, so we can paint again tomorrow. I would like to be able to do it outside....if only I could convince Isabelle that the snow wasn't so horrible to stand on!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Toddler Snacks: healthy popcorn

If it were up to Isabelle, she would eat constantly. She has 3 meals a day and yet is always asking for a snack - she is a total machine when it comes to packing away food. I've mentioned in the past that I am really fussy about what Isabelle eats as I don't like her to have processed food or junk food.

The two places I have always struggled most are with lunch and with her snacks. Mostly for snacks she just gets fruit, however it's nice to have other things to give her as well. I despise buying the toddler snacks you can get in supermarkets (the oaty bars etc) from the big name brands as, not only are they a rip off, but I just don't feel comfortable allowing her to have them. I am a bit more relaxed with what she can have now she is getting older and those types of snacks are fine when we are at other people's houses, however when we are at home I like he to have something which I know is totally healthy and which I know has only the added ingredients which I would like it to have.

Isabelle loves popcorn - my dad is a big fan so when they have their days together while I'm at work, it is a snack they regularly share. I'm not at all comfortable, however, with Isabelle having shop bought popcorn as it is either covered in sugar or covered in salt, and I can't honestly decide which is worse!

I've been thinking of popping my own for a while, but one of our lovely friends mentioned she had popped some corn for her little girl using coconut oil, and since I love coconut oil and am a big fan of how healthy it is, I decided to do the same. It gave Isabelle some great popcorn, with a hint of coconut taste and nothing else added. The coconut oil is a healthy fat, so I am absolutely OK with her having it.

To make:

- tablespoon of coconut oil
- 100g popcorn kernels

Melt the coconut oil over a medium heat in a saucepan, then add the popcorn kernels. Ensure the kernels are coated in the oil before placing a well fitting lid on top. Wait. Give the pan a shake every few minutes to ensure nothing gets stuck. It takes around 5 minutes for the popping to begin and once the popping has subsided empty the popcorn out and enjoy! I store the popcorn in tupperware boxes to keep it crunchy for when we need it.

Even better, I then made some sweet popcorn for Simon and me. While I am very particular about ensuring Isabelle eats healthily, I don't apply the same stringent food intake to myself! The sweet popcorn was so easy to make, I can't believe I had never done it before and I will definitely be doing it a lot more!

To make:

- 60ml vegetable oil
- 120g popcorn kernels
- 60g icing sugar

Heat the oil over a medium heat and then stir in the icing sugar. You can use normal sugar, however I found it 'clumps' and doesn't coat as well as finer icing sugar. Add the popcorn kernels and ensure they are well coated. Place the lid onto the saucepan and wait for the popping. Make sure you give the pan a good shake, or even a stir, every 30 seconds - 1 minute, or the sugared kernels will stick and burn. Once the popping stops, empty the popcorn out VERY CAREFULLY. The sugar coated popcorn is EXTREMELY HOT and can burn your fingers (trust me), so use a spoon to help tip it out, and leave it to cool. Totally delicious, and takes less time than going to the shop to buy some!


Saturday, 24 January 2015

52 books in 52 weeks

Did you know it's National Readathon Day?

I don't read enough. Life gets in the way and, although I love to read very much, I never prioritise it and so I find I can go months without reading at all.

I posted last year about how I was having difficulty finding time for reading, and vowed to read more. I didn't do a very good job at all, and of the 10 books in the picture in that post I only got round to reading 6 - although I did read other books along the way as well.

I've had enough now - I want to read more! So, I am setting myself the goal to read 52 books in 2015. Not necessarily one every week - which is a good job as it's the 4th week of January and I've only just started! - but 52 books by the end of the year.

The type of books I read are certainly never going to set the world on fire - they don't win awards, nobody talks about them at dinner parties and they nothing deep and meaningful at all. I read 'chick lit' - the romantic comedy stories of the book world. But I enjoy them.

I'm hoping to keep you up to date with how I'm getting on as we progress throughout the year, but don't expect any highbrow books to be featured!

I'm hoping that reading more will go hand in hand with using social media less, which is a perpetual problem of mine. No matter how many times I say I need to step back, I never seem to do so.

So here is hoping this is the key to getting me back on track! 2 books down, 50 to go. Does anyone feel like joining me?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Sensory Play: Straw Posting

I have been meaning to give Isabelle the tools for a little activity like this for a very long time, but I wasn't confident her fine motor skills would be developed enough before Christmas.

After ending up with lots of left over straws during our 50 active days challenge, I dumped them into the sink of Isabelle's play kitchen where they were soon joined by some pom poms, and they have been scooped and played with lots ever since.

However, I wanted to use them again for something a bit more meaningful and after salvaging the sprinkles jar from our chocolate playdough cupcake activity I thought I could put them together for this little activity. It's not something I gave a specific time for, it's something I remind Isabelle of at various points during the day if she looks like her interest in whatever she is doing at the kitchen is waning.

It's simple - she pops the straws into the holes of the sprinkles jar.

That's it.

Great for fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and her concentration. She also loves trying to shake them back out again and this would be a great busy bag activity to take along for a toddler, especially as it takes up barely any space at all.

Hardly earth shattering stuff, but a really simple little activity to while away a few minutes here and there and work on a little person's very important fine motor skills.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Reasons my toddler is crying...

If you've ever read the website, Facebook group or book Reasons My Son is Crying you will have seen the great posts from people about more than slightly ridiculous reasons that their toddler is crying. Here are some of my "Reasons Isabelle is Crying"...

I wouldn't let her drive the car

I gave her a yoghurt....after she asked for one

She threw something at me and I asked her not to

Because I gave her the wrong cushion

She had to get dressed

I tried to use the 'wrong' wipes

She wanted me to hid the placemat and I accidentally hid behind it instead

I asked her to step back from the oven, while it was on

I dipped one breadstick in hummus which apparently tainted them all

Her book was finished and she wasn't done reading

Because there were bubbles in the bath. Next day, because there were no bubbles in the bath

I didn't have my hat

She didn't have her gloves on (she won't wear gloves)

She touched the snow and it was cold

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Throw Out 50 Things Challenge

Just before new year, I read an article (probably on Pinterest, but I can't find it now, and have actually since found out someone has written a whole book about it!) about the 'Throw Out 50 Things Challenge' - a way to declutter your home by choosing 50 things you no longer need to throw away.

We definitely have a lot of things lying round, or stashed away somewhere, that we don't need, use or really even want. I have been putting off getting rid of some of them because other people bought them for us and I felt bad...but the time had come. Things had to go, and what better time to do it than in the New Year?

I decided not to go at it all at once, which was how I had seen it done in the article I read - they took a box and went round the house to choose 50 things right then. I simply started chucking things out when I spied them.

I started in the living room by getting rid of two figurines/statues which we had been given a few years ago and a candle holder, none of which we ever really liked. I sent those off with Simon to the shop to be sold on. Some spare invitations from Isabelle's first birthday and a stack of old magazines went out as well - into the recycling. In fact, all those things were crammed into the same place so getting them out cleared a whole section of our sideboard.

Our bathroom was next. I had somehow amassed a huge amount of Soap and Glory products which I was not using and which were actually past their use by date. There were at least 15 things in there, and they all went straight into the bin which cleared a whole shelf in our bathroom cabinet.

Simon has been moaning for ages that we have too many coats on the coat rack in our hall...and he was right. There were coats on there which I hadn't worn since I was pregnant and they were just in the way. As well as a general tidy up I cleared out four of my old coats. I did think about donating them to a charity shop, however they really weren't in good condition so they went into the bin as well.

Along the same lines were socks - I had lots of single socks and even more socks with holes in them which weren't wearable. Luckily, I got loads of new socks for Christmas so I decided to clear out the old and bring in the new.

I'm currently about half way through my 50 things declutter and I definitely see the difference already. I'm no longer annoyed by the clogged up square of our sideboard, nor by the fact that we can't hang our  coats up easily. It has actually prompted me to stop make sure I put things away when I see them. I am naturally a really tidy person, but you know when something falls behind the sofa and you think "Oh I'll get it later..." and it's still there three weeks later?! That's the sort of thing I mean!

I'll hopefully have gotten rid of 25 more things by the end of the month and successfully completed the Throw Out 50 Things Challenge. Why not join me?

Friday, 16 January 2015

It Snowed!!

(Definitely check out the very last picture!)

She touched it and it was cold....

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Sensory Play: Chocolate Playdough Cupcakes

Once again today I am linking up with the 31 day sensory play challenge hosted by Adventures of Adam - and today's sensory play material is scented play dough.

After a shaky start with stretchy playdough during our 50 day play challenge, Isabelle has developed a huge love of the squidy stuff and is always asking to play with it. The no-cook playdough I made for her at the start of November was definitely well loved but, after being poorly sealed up last time we played it had to go into the bin last week. That was perfect timing, however, to create some new scented dough instead.

I decided to make a simple chocolate scented playdough for a cupcake activity, as Isabelle absolutely adores playing with a cupcake set she received for Christmas. To make the play dough you need:

*2 cups plain flour
*1/2 cup hot chocolate powder
*1 cup salt
*2 tablespoons vegetable oil
*2 tablespoons cream of tartar
*1 cup boiling water

I combined all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stirred them together with a spoon, as the mixture is initially very hot due to the water. The hot chocolate powder both colours and scents the dough, and easily spreads throughout it as you mix. After the dough had cooled slightly, I took it from the bowl and kneaded it with my hands until I was happy with the consistency. It took less than 5 minutes and it was ready to go.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A day at work V a day at home

Now I am only working part time (Tuesday and Wednesday) I find myself sitting at home and thinking "Ahhh, thank goodness I am sitting here and not teaching Year 9....". Which made me wonder, exactly what does a day at work look like compared to a day at home? So here it is, my two types of day laid out until they converge at 5.15pm.

(*Note: this is a pretty lazy day at home! We actually rarely stay in!)

Monday, 12 January 2015

Isabelle @ 21 months

The last time I did an Isabelle update she had just turned 15 months - a whole half year ago. Of course, the changes in her since then are absolutely immense and looking back at the pictures of her from that time makes me wonder how I haven't noticed her growing up.

When I look back at those pictures she still seems like such a baby, whereas now she is definitely a crazy toddler whose baby days are far behind her.

The last 6 months have been a total whirlwind, which I posted about here earlier this week, with Isabelle spending much time with my parents while I was at work. Despite me hating the fact that I was missing out, I actually think being with them has made her come on in leaps and bounds - I think simply the difference in the way we speak and do things has really helped her to develop. So here is a little update on how she is getting along.

Pasta and apples
The park
Baby and Penny
Isaac and 'Jabob'
The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Her kitchen and pom poms
Fireman Sam
The Wheels on the Bus and Happy Birthday
Tea parties
Turning lights on and off

She is now in 18-24 month clothes and weighs around 23lbs. Her hair is getting really long, although it's still so fine that it springs up when it is dry. It seems to be getting darker again at the roots, which gives her the appearance that we have had it dip dyed! She is more slender than ever, although still has her little buddha belly!

Isabelle's movement has always been a little bit dodgy - like her mother she is not naturally graceful. However, apart from being a little bit uncertain with climbing, she has now caught up to where she 'should' be and you wouldn't know that it took her until 17 months to crawl! (She walked at 10.5months!) This is one area I have always been really worried about, so I'm thrilled she has come on so well over the last 6 months.

I don't think it would be boasting to say that Isabelle's speech is fantastic. She has a wonderful vocabulary. I couldn't count how many words she has - getting towards 400 would probably be accurate. She consistently speaks in sentences of 4 or more words and it certainly makes life interesting! She is a bossy boots ("Mummy! Sit down THERE!") but she is also the most interesting conversation partner I have ever had! You are never quite sure what is going to come out of her mouth ("Where do you think Jacob is?"...."In his well boots.") and she really makes us all laugh with the things she says and I am so proud of her speech and how well she can communicate. She talks non-stop to anyone who will listen, or if nobody is listening she talks to herself and her babies instead!
The only thing I'm not so keen on is her budding Northern Irish accent....

Eating and sleeping:
Iz has always been a pretty good little eater. She doesn't eat everything, but she eats a great selection of food and isn't difficult to feed at all. Her favourite food is still pasta and she can pack away an adult sized portion, with apples still being her favourite snack food. I think she would eat all day if we let her, and has recently started telling us "I need a snack"...even if she only had lunch 10 minutes before!
I mentioned in the last update that her nap habits had totally changed, and she was sleeping for an hour or more in the morning. I am thrilled to say that that has continued and she sleeps for anywhere between an hour and two hours each morning. She has now dropped her afternoon nap most days, and tends to take her morning nap slightly later. Back in November I posted about how she has begun to self soothe at night when she went to bed. Now she has dropped her second nap she does quite often fall asleep while she is having her milk, but she still can, and does, fall asleep on her own. Her bedtime is 7pm and on days I am not at work she will sleep in to around 7.30/8am.

Isabelle is a very sweet, gentle and affectionate toddler. She is always cuddling her babies and making sure they are ok ("It's alright baby, it's alright") and she does the same with her cousins. She loves to kiss and hug them, and absolutely adores them both! She has been very kissey lately and I frequently get some lovely kisses all over my face which just make me melt. She also loves to cuddle us, and when she is in bed with us in the morning she will throw her arm around one of us and say "Cuddle!" 
That said, she can have a fearsome temper, and isn't immune to throwing a wee hissy fit every now and again! However, I think we are pretty lucky as all I hear about from other mums is how the 'Terrible Twos' are beginning and I don't think we have that at all. Yes, she can throw a strop, but it's not happening lots and lots, so no doubt we have that joy to greet us in the coming months!

It's now only 3 months until Isabelle's birthday, and I can't wait to see how much she has changed and progressed when we get there.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Weird things Isabelle is scared of...

Isabelle is a........quirky character. She definitely has some unique personality traits which make her very special. In particular, she is afraid of some really weird things. And when Isabelle gets scared, she howls.

Here are some of the slightly more unusual things Isabelle is afraid of.

Gloves: try and put them on her and she screams. Not good as we are coming into winter and she loves to play outside

Jacob wearing a chef's hat: this caused a scream session today. Jacob had put on his chef's hat to cook at his kitchen, and she clung to the door and sobbed.

Jacob wearing his pirate outfit: similar reaction to above. Halloween was a pile of fun....

Crazy Cow: last Christmas her aunt bought her two noisy farm books, Messy Pig and Crazy Cow. She loves Messy Pig and it has been one of her favourite books for the last 11 months. Get out Crazy Cow and she goes nuts and sobs. The moo is quite loud...but not that loud...

A family friend:  only once in memory has she not screamed her head off on sight of this family friend. Very peculiar, as he is definitely not scary!

A foot measurer: we got a Clark's foot measurer off Amazon so that we don't always have to go to the shop to measure her feet and get new shoes. That was the plan anyway....

She has a whole list of other things she doesn't like either - the hairdryer and hoover are top of that list. My favourite thing is when she is slightly afrad of something she gives a little whimper then says  "No, no, I don't like that anyway", then she kind of shakes herself off and says "It's alright, just a hoover"!! She is hilarious!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

September to December: the hardest months yet

Way back in May I posted about how I was doing a little bit of sub teaching in an old school of mine and ho, even though I was only working for a few days, I was massively in awe of working mothers. At the time, I never thought that come September I would actually be a full time working mother and so couldn't have possibly imagine exactly how life would be for 4 very long months. Now I have come out the other side of it, thank heavens, I am ready to share just how bloody difficult it was!

Let me give you the basic details: a friend of mine was covering a maternity leave in a school. She got a better job elsewhere and through her I was asked to cover the last 10 weeks of the maternity leave which would be from the middle of August to October half term. However, come October half term I was asked to stay until Christmas and, somewhat against my better judgement, I accepted. On December 19th I finally finished working 5 days a week, and am now just working 2 days in the same school for a lot of complicated reasons I won't go in to.

What it boiled down to was this - from August 19th to December 19th I worked 5 days a week.

And it was hard. For so many reasons. Firstly, I am a trained Geography teacher and have only ever taught Geography. In my new position, I was teaching 4 new subjects at GCSE and A level. That comes with a lot of pressure, as you can imagine, and a lot of work. If the position had been simply geography I wouldn't have had even half the work I did. And what that meant was I went in to school earlier than I would like, stayed later than I would like, and worked at home more often than I would like. Teaching these new subjects ate away massively at my free time.

And what that meant was that the limited amount of time I then had with Isabelle was even more limited. For 17 months we had every second of every day together, we came and went as we pleased and did whatever we liked in life. Suddenly, we saw one another for an hour each morning, two hours each evening, and two days at the weekend. That is not enough for anyone. I felt like a terrible mother - I was seeing changes in Isabelle and knowing that I wasn't around to watch them progress. Seeing her do and say new things that I hadn't been the one to teach her. As she was looked after by my parents I knew she was in the best possible hands, but it still hurt so much to know that they were getting more time with her each week than I was. She came on in leaps and bounds with them, and it made me feel like I wasn't giving her enough when it had just been us.

Meanwhile, Simon was also working but was often first home. He made dinner, he walked the dogs in the mornings and, despite the initial plan, he walked the dogs most evenings as well. I felt like he was taking on so much more than he should have to. As he was off on Tuesday with Isabelle my working meant we only had Sunday as a family day. More often than not we ended up wasting the day with household bits that needed done and doing nothing interesting or fun. During the 4 months I worked I felt like we were just coasting along in a daily and weekly routine.

That is part of the reason I started up the 50 Active Days challenge with Isabelle - to make myself feel better about the fact that we never seemed to go out and do fun things together any more. I thought it would give us some things to do at home after a day at work and ways to spend time together. It worked to a certain extent, however as I mentioned in many of my posts she was just so tired after a day with my parents that she didn't enjoy the activities like I would have hoped. And then I felt bad for trying to force her to have fun when what she needed was just down time.

We saw so little of our friends, and I felt that I was missing out on watching their kids grow and missing out on giving Isabelle the opportunity to interact with children her age.

But, the absolute worst thing was how exhausted and grumpy I was. Exhausted from full time work and balancing a home life. And grumpy because I hated my job. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, and there are lots of good things about the school I work in now. However, it is very different to the school I worked in before. The behaviour is not good, the staff are not overly friendly and that led to me not enjoying it at all. So when they asked me to stay at half term I came home and told Simon and said "But I HATE IT THERE" because I did. I hated it. Yes, some of the other staff were nice enough. Yes some of the kids were OK. But I hated it. I resented that I was away from Isabelle being berated by ungrateful teenagers who pushed their luck all day.

I did agree to stay, with the idea being that I then wouldn't need to work at all in 2015 due to the extra money I would have earned. And I must admit that, much like mould, the school has somewhat grown on me. The kids have either mellowed or I have stopped caring as much (I suspect the latter), I have actually learnt the names of some other members of staff who have chatted to me (and there are a few lovely girls who started at the same time I did) and overall the whole place is not as much hated as it once was, which is why I have agreed to stay on 2 days per week.

But thank God I don't have to work there 5 days a week any more. I couldn't do it. I didn't like what it did to me, my parenting or our family. Missing out on the time with my child is not worth any amount of money or any teaching experience. Nobody else's child is ever going to be more important to me than my own - so why would I leave her all day to go and spend my time with other kids?

Without a doubt, September to December were the hardest months I have yet experienced as a parent. It was my choice to go to work and, actually, I wouldn't change that decision at all because now I know I simply cannot do it! So once again, I am left totally in awe of mothers who work full time ALL the time. You are either totally barking mad, or you are actual superheroes!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

5 activities using recycled materials

One of the best things about doing the 50 day activity challenge was finding out just how much stuff we have around the house which can be reused and repurposed (rather than actually recycled) for play items. Here are our top 5 activities using household 'junk'.

1. Ball runs
We used a variety of toilet roll tubes to build our pom pom ball run. By cutting them open and cutting notches in them we were able to create a run for Isabelle's pom poms on the patio door. Isabelle's height was a limiting factor for this activity - but taller children would be able to go higher and use more toilet roll tubes. Kitchen roll tubes would work really well for this too

2. Bubble snakes
This was one of our favourite activities and something which I know we will do for years to come. Using an old sock and a cut up water bottle, along with washing up liquid and water, we were able to make some hugely impressive bubble snakes. Using a sports cap type bottle worked best to help Isabelle blow the bubbles herself, without sucking any back into her mouth. I can't wait until next summer as I envisage bubble snakes every day!

3. Ball chute
We always seem to end up with BIG cardboard boxes in the garage which sit around for ages. This box was from the stroller we had just bought, and I cut some hole sin the top and side to create a ball chute - Isabelle dropped the balls into the holes and watched them roll out the end of the chute. Of course, we were still left with the box once we had finished playing....but at least it got a second lease of life.

4. Cardboard shape stamps
More toilet roll tube play. I used the toilet roll tubes to create stampers for Isabelle to paint with. By pinching in parts of the base of each tube I was able to create different shapes - a square and a triangle. This took no time to set up, and would be a great way to get kids to decorate wrapping paper or make cards.

5. Shredded Paper Tuff Spot
Whether it's junk mail, old newspapers or other random bits, we always have loads of scrap paper lying about the house. For this activity, I shredded some (not as much as you would think you'd need!) and laid it out in our tuff spot, along with our Noah's Ark figures. Isabelle had a great time throwing the paper up in the air, rolling about in it and making 'paper angels'.

You can find all the activities which were part of our 50 active days challenge here.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Toddler-made Thank You Cards

I mentioned in my sensory play post last week that I was planned to use the resulting marbled card to create some thank you cards for Isabelle's Christmas gifts.

I am a big believer in thank you cards and am always disappointed, and even slightly offended, if I don't receive a card for a gift I have given - especially to a child. As a result, for the last few years it feels like I've done nothing but write cards - our wedding, moving into our house, having Isabelle and then her christening, Christmas and birthday goes on and on! I am also a big believer that all thank you cards should be personalised and not just a generic thank you printed off and sent out, and think that it is even better if the cards are handmade.

After playing with our shaving foam paint last week, I remembered a great Pinterest pin I saw a while ago for handmade thank you cards and so I took the opportunity to get started on our own cards.

If you haven't read my sensory play post, Isabelle was painting with shaving foam paint. I made it by mixing food colouring and shaving foam, or poster paint and shaving foam. The paint created a great marbling effect, so once Isabelle had finished painting onto tin foil and she had wandered off, the card making began. You can find more on the actual activity here.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any plain card in the house but I remembered a stock of patterned card which I received last year and have never thought to do anything with. The flip side of this card is plain white so I decided I could use it for what I had in mind.

Taking each sheet of card, I carefully pressed it down on top of the shaving foam paint, before peeling it off and setting all the sheets of card out to dry. As the paint was simply coloured shaving foam it made the colours a lovely pastel shade. It also meant that the paint dried extremely quickly - it was dry in under an hour. The shaving foam had transferred some of it's fluffiness to the sheets of card, so to get rid of this I simply dabbed at each sheet with a piece of kitchen roll to 'crush' the foam after half an hour.

I then used the card to cut out hearts to attach to the front of each thank you card. I tried to cut each heart so that it showed a mix of colours and a little bit of white to give it that truly homemade look. You can see from the pictures that the hearts are all different sizes and are pretty rough cut - but I like to think that adds to their home made appeal! I used double sided tape to attach the hearts onto a blank white card (I bought these at The Works - £1 for 8 cards and envelopes) and then I simply wrote "Thank You" above each in thin black pen before filling each one in for each of Isabelle's gifts.

So simple to make, especially as they were actually a by-product of something else entirely! I made a whole load of extra little hearts to use in future cards as well so we are all set for her birthday as well. The marbling effect of the paint on the card was actually so pretty that I popped one of the sheets up onto our art room wall, and gave one to Granny as well.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Sensory Play: Shaving foam paint and tin foil

It's less than 2 weeks since we finished our 50 day play challenge, however before those days were up we had already signed up to take part in the 31 day sensory play challenge hosted by Emma at Adventures of Adam.

Today, I'm sharing with you the day 3 activity which is based around using shaving foam. Isabelle and I have played with shaving foam a few times before - mixed with water beadsas bath paint and as an ingredient in homemade snow - so I was excited to come up with a new way to play. You can check out Emma's shaving foam activity here, and follow along with the Pinterest board here.

As Isabelle enjoys painting so much I decided to stick with shaving foam paint, but add in the new twist of painting onto the shiny surface of tin foil.

Making the paint is so easy. I simply squirted the foam into 4 holes in our muffin tray before mixing in green, yellow and blue food colouring with a paint brush. I know from previous experience that red food colouring simply dissolves my shaving foam so, instead, I mixed red posted paint into the fourth mound of foam. This gave us four 'paints' to use.

Using our tuff spot as a base, I taped down two lengths of tin foil with the shiny side up, and we were ready to go!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Hello, 2015!

Happy New Year everybody!

How is it January already? I am still stuck somewhere back in October, I don't know where the time has gone. It's been all quiet on the blog for the last 10 days or so as I took a break from blogging and spent Christmas in Norfolk with Simon's family.

Isabelle unfortunately managed to time our arrival in Norfolk with a rather nasty case of the chicken pox, so she spent a day or two very miserable, itchy and exhausted. I say miserable, generally she was happy enough to play with Simon's family, but let's just say she was very touchy...

By Christmas Day itself, however, she was over the worst of the pox and feeling much better. We had a really quiet Christmas overall, just enjoying spending some family time together. On Christmas Day we opened Isabelle's gifts from Santa, before she got her bike from Granny and Grandad and went for a ride on it. She loves her bike - her face absolutely lit up when she sw it and she yelled "My bike! My bike!" and every time she is on it, she yells "Cycle, cycle, cycle!" It is definitely a big hit.

As well as her bike, Isabelle got a teepee, a doll's pram, a kitchen (more on this soon), a Happyland set, a wooden camera and a set of farm animals. We were also delighted to receive some absolutely gorgeous gifts as part of two secret santa givings we were part of. We got a great cupcake set and a lovely wooden clock jigsaw - both of which are two of the Christmas hits! I'm very thankful to have friends who know us so well!

The rest of Christmas was quiet in Norfolk, before we flew back home and joined my family for New Year at our holiday home at the coast.

We have lots to look forward to in the next few months - a trip to Centre Parcs, Isabelle's second birthday and the installation of a brand new kitchen.

I am most excited, however, about the change in my working pattern. I'm dropping down from working 5 days a week to working just 2! It will be lots more time at home with Isabelle and both of us being free to spend time with our friends much more regularly. At the same time, I get to keep teaching (GCSE and A level classes only from now on) which keeps my brain ticking!

Lots to look forward to, and a whole year ahead to do lots of exciting things! Here are a few pictures from our Christmas - sadly the camera died after just 1 picture (and I forgot the charger!) so they are all from my phone.

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