Friday 19 September 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - Play Dough Gardens

Got a pile of playdough going hard, crystalised and smelly in a tupperwear box somewhere?  Fear not, you need not throw it out, you can give it a second life as a play dough garden.
This was such a quick, fun and easy activity, great for enjoying the last of the warm weather.

We spent sometime gathering bits of plants from the garden; well I cut and gathered and Boris just cut and let the bits drop on the floor, but never mind, he tried.

I pre arranged the paper plates with play dough squashed onto it, then showed Boris what I had in mind just by poking some of the plant off cuts into one. 

He quickly got the idea and started making his own.

He worked fast and his plate was soon full with an array of greenery, which he invited me to sniff. 

He finished off his design by sprinkling sand over it which I felt was a delightful finishing touch.

Like a mini flour arrangement or work of art.  He even included a few stones and a pine cone in his assemblage. 

Tuesday 16 September 2014

I Diverge

Do you remember how I recently read Divergent by Veronica Roth and how I felt I identified with the idea of being Divergent, especially the way I feel my way of thinking doesn't fit in with the norm, well I was sharing these thoughts with some members of my church at my small church group.  One of the members challenged me on this idea asking if I really was divergent, he gave some examples of ways in which I conform to society's norms such as being married and having children and owning and living in a house, he said that growing a few veggies on the allotment don't make me divergent.  I wasn't offended because I have known this man for several years, and in our group we are not afraid to challenge each other, but it did make me think, am I really divergent? Or do I just like the idea of it? After some deliberation in my mind I decided that, I am divergent, and do you know what, I wish everyone else was too!  I want to use this opportunity to explain why and how:

  • Christianity - Of those in the UK who identify themselves as religious, Christianity is still the most common religion so in that sense I am not unusual, however only 15% of the population attend church at least once a month, so again I am in a minority in terms of actually practicing my faith by attending church (although admittedly I probably only manage that minimum figure).  Of course I think it would be great if everyone could experience the love of Jesus, and my Church family would be even bigger! 

  • Breastfeeding - I still breastfeed my 29 month old in the morning and evening and exclusively breastfed my nearly 10 month old till he was 6 months old and still feed him on demand now. Nationally exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months is just 1%.  I think that puts me in the minority! I am passionate about breastfeeding and volunteer for a breastfeeding charity to help women who want to breastfeed.  Studies show that breastfed infants are less sick as adults, sick adults cost the NHS money so I am willing to hazard a guess that if everyone who wanted to breastfeed but was let down by a lack of support, had been given appropriate support enabling them to breastfeed, there would be a pretty substantial saving in health costs, and possibly an increase in happiness of mothers who wrongly feel it was their fault. 

  • Full Time Mother - 66.5% of mothers work either part or full time so again I am in the minority, though only just.  But to put this figure into perspective for me personally, of my female friends who are mothers I only know of one who has not gone back to work or isn't currently planning on going back to work, so in my little world I feel very divergent in this sense, and there is definitely a societal expectation that I will be going back to work. Data indicates that 75% of new mothers would like to be able to stay home so if all mothers who wanted to stay home with their children could then that would mean an increase of 41.5% of mothers.  Possibly resulting in an increase in happiness for those mothers!

  • Vegetarian - Only 2.5% of the population are vegetarians!  Need I say any more?  If everyone became vegetarian there would be an overall increase in the health of the population, a reduction in animal cruelty, a reduction in emissions, a saving of water, and a saving of the Amazon (the Amazon rainforest is being de-forested to make way for land to plant beans and grains to feed animals which are subsequently used as meat.) link

I could go on about the ways in which I am divergent from the norm in our society, I could mention things such as the way I try to live minimally and away from commercialism, the way I try to buy organic, unprocessed food, how I had a home birth, how we use cloth nappies and co-sleep, how we recycle our plastics and do you know what?   I do like being in a minority, it makes me feel a bit special and a bit different, I have always done things to make myself feel different, whether that has been wearing slightly alternative clothes, listening to different music or eating my placenta (love people's faces when I tell them that one!) but what I would really love is for everyone to be divergent, for everyone to think outside the box, question the norm, and try to find a better way to help each other and the planet.

It's much easier to just go along with the status quo and to live in our little bubbles. It's less challenging to our consciences.  It's easy to not be connected to other people, the earth or animals and I am as guilty as anyone else for sometimes not separating my paper and plastics properly, or using my car when I could have walked (I am imperfectly natural afterall) and the point of this post isn't to say "look how great I am" or "I am so perfect" or "everything would be just dandy if you did it my way".  I am not saying that I am perfect or that my way is perfect and right for everyone, and I am not saying that the ways that I am divergent make me better than anyone else, but what I am saying is lets all think more about why we make the choices we do, are they really the best choice for us? our children? the world? Or are we just choosing something because it's what everyone else does? For me that is what being Divergent is all about - thinking twice, not to be better than anyone else but to be better than the me I was yesterday, to make my world a better place for us all and for everyone who comes after us. I am not going to stop at these little ways in which I am different, I will, with God's help, always be trying to make myself a better version of me.

Do you Diverge?  Maybe you have chosen not to have children, maybe you live in a caravan or boat instead of a house, maybe you decided not to get married and these are the ways you diverge, and I salute you for that because you are thinking twice, you are thinking outside the box and I would love to hear more about it, because, you know, as much as I like to feel unique, it's nice to not feel alone sometimes.

Monday 15 September 2014

Vegan Mushroom and Walnut Risotto

I hesitated to put "vegan" at the start of the heading, I am not (yet) vegan, but am exploring the world of vegan cuisine for health and ethical reasons, but I though that I might inspire others to include a few meat/dairy free dishes in their weekly menu and the word "vegan" helps with searches etc.  So really forget that this is vegan and just see it as a really delicious risotto. (Serves 2 adults and 2 small children)


1 medium onion,
2 garlic cloves,
1 pack of mushrooms,
250g risotti rice,
1 stock cube,
water to cover,
1/2 cup coconut water,
1/2 cup cooking wine.

Chop onion, garlic and mushrooms and fry until soft, add rice, water and stock cube, coconut milk and wine and leave to simmer until rice is tender.  Serve with green beans.

It's really tasty and delicious, and also has a nice bit of crunch with the cashews, dairy free, soy free, wheat free, but certainly not taste free!

Saturday 13 September 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - A Week of Activities!

We've been busy!  it's been a fun and activity filled summer, here are some of the things we have been doing in a bumper week of fun toddler activities. 

So our week of activities has come to an end and I really hope you have enjoyed it and found some of the ideas useful and inspiring.

Today we have our sofa slide which we have visited and re-visited many times this summer, or as Boris likes to call it, his "slippy-slide!"
Apologies for the quality of this photo and that lack of quantity, this activity was actually a while ago and I didn't think to photograph it properly because I just wanted to put it on Facebook.  (So sorry if you are a Facebook friend and you have seen this before!)

So basically what you are looking at is a slide made from sofa cushions with two big pieces of cardboard on top.  We used one piece of cardboard as a sort of sledge to slide of the the second piece. Literally hours of fun, or at least it would be if I had the energy!  Boris still needed supporting down the slide or else he slipped off the side! It was great fun, fab for gross motor skills and raising the heart rate.

So that's it folks, back to normal tomorrow, though I have really loved writing every day and hopefully with be a bit more frequent with my posting from here on in. 

Thursday 11 September 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - A Week of Activities!

We've been busy!  it's been a fun and activity filled summer, here are some of the things we have been doing in a bumper week of fun toddler activities. 

The week is nearly up but I still have another great activity to share with you and best of all it's easy peasy!
All you need is some chalk, some toy cars and a toddler with oodles of imagination.

I lined the cars up and said "ready, steady, GO!" and showed him how the cars could drive between the lines.  Then he was off!

After a while the cars adopted their own personalities, one was Mummy, one was Daddy and one was Biscuit and they had little conversations.  The cars soon left the confines of the race track and began driving round the rest of the garden!

A super easy activity which encourages imaginative play and develops fine motor skills, perfect for when you are stuck for something to do and need an activity at short notice. 

One more post in this series to come, stay tuned.  If you have any toddler activities, feel free to share them in the comments. 

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - A Week of Activities!

We've been busy!  it's been a fun and activity filled summer, here are some of the things we have been doing in a bumper week of fun toddler activities. 

Bubbles seem to never lose their fun, no matter what age, (unless you suffer from trypophobia which is a fear of bubbles!) So this summer I bought a little bubble machine so fill the garden with bubbles and to avoid me going dizzy from all the puffing!

Boris had a great time catching the bubbles with his hands, pretending to eat them and stamping on them when they landed on the patio.

I gave him a water squirter to pop the bubbles with which not only added a greater sense of fun to the activity but also helped him to improve his hand-eye co-ordination. 

We regularly get the bubble machine out both in the house and outside. It's great, crazy fun!

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - A Week of Activities!

We've been busy!  it's been a fun and activity filled summer, here are some of the things we have been doing in a bumper week of fun toddler activities. 

There is nothing like a walk in the woods, there is so much to look at smell and touch.  We often walk in woods but on this occasion I was more purposeful with out intention.  We would collect some woodland stuff and make it into a woodland/nature art piece. 

Boris got very excited about picking up different sticks and pine cones and putting them in the bag.

He looked more carefully at things and showed me things more than he normally would because he knew he would be keeping it for something special later.

We explored the beautiful light that seems to always be present in the woods and talked about how tall the trees were.  We noticed the way the texture of the ground changed and we off the beaten path to explore under, in and around the trees and bushes. 

When we got home I did have a go at encouraging Boris at join me in making some sort of hanging art piece but he wasn't interested so I just laid out the pieces we had collected, for him to explore. 

Monday 8 September 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - A Week of Activities!

We've been busy!  it's been a fun and activity filled summer, here are some of the things we have been doing in a bumper week of fun toddler activities. 

I did this same activity with Boris when he was about the same age as Biscuit so I was keen to do it again with them both to compare how Biscuit would react and how Boris would react a year on.

Playing with spaghetti is such a simple but fun sensory play experience, it is cheap and cheerful and fun to look at.

I coloured the spaghetti with food colouring after it was cooked.

It was a great activity, Biscuit essentially just sat and ate it, but I was ok with that, it was great to provide an activity which they could both take part it. 
Boris enjoyed picking up the spaghetti and throwing it around.  He broke it into pieces and mixed all the colours up. 
The activity was useful for improving fine motor skills, particularly the pincer movement for Biscuit, and was great for exploring texture, Boris also used his imaginative powers by pretending the spaghetti was worms! (By the way, the colour on the spaghetti does make a bit of a mess, be sure to use suitable protective equipment bot on the floor and your toddler!)
This is a really easy activity, doesn't take long to set up and is cheap.  Have you used spaghetti in any other ways as a sensory play tool?
Feel free to link your fun toddler activities in the comments below.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - A Week of Activities!

We've been busy!  it's been a fun and activity filled summer, here are some of the things we have been doing in a bumper week of fun toddler activities. 

I had been planning this activity for months, saw it on Pinterest and started browsing the internet for water tables. I thought it was probably the best idea ever and was going to be so much fun and so stimulating and Boris would probably play with it for hours!  Turns out (for me) this was THE most stressful (and expensive) activity I have EVER done with Boris, and that is saying something because I have done some pretty stressful activities with him.

I still think it is a great activity but I would warn you not to try it is you have a small baby who is on the move near by, he WILL want to eat the water beads no matter how much you try to distract him with tin foil!

So if you want to try this activity what you need is:

Water table (I bought this one, its expensive but a good size and has two separate sections so I think I will be versatile for future activities)
Blue water beads (I bought these)
Glass nuggets (these)
Tin foil,
Glitter (optional:

WARNING: This activity must be closely supervised, I know my toddler isn't going to put these in his mouth, but I don't know your toddler so to avoid any risks I wouldn't recommend it for children under 36 months.

I lined the water table with the tin foil which, under the water created a beautiful sparkly shiny effect. the I filled it with pre-soaked water beads and a pack of the glass nuggets.

Boris was intrigued by the water beads, he has played with them before so was quite excited about them.  

The contrast between the soft beads and the hard glass nuggets added another sensory element.

Boris kept dropping the beads and nuggets on the floor which of course Biscuit wanted to immediately eat!  So I tried to distract him with floating balls of tin foil!

I added blue glitter, but it looked a bit like bits of floating dirt, I think silver would have worked much better. 

It's a really beautiful activity and would definitely have been more enjoyable if it had just been me and Boris, but with Biscuit there is well it was a nightmare. I don't mean to sound negative but it really did get me in a sweat!  
What have you tried with water beads?  Please link below, link party fun!

Saturday 6 September 2014

Fun things to do with toddlers - A week of activities!

We've been busy!  it's been a fun and activity filled summer, here are some of the things we have been doing in a bumper week of fun toddler activities. 

Ice play - Way back in 2013 I put an ice cream container filled with water, stones, twigs and herbs into the freezer and there is sat for 12 loooong months until one hot and sunny day in August when I remembered it, got it out and smashed it to smithereens on the patio!

It looked beautiful, you could see through the ice to the objects within, suspended in frozen animation like a time capsule of the previous year.

Boris had a poke around with a trowel; this activity needs careful supervision to make sure shards or ice aren't flying near eyes. I helped him to smash it up to get the the objects inside. (I think I may have used a hammer)

Biscuit was intrigued as well and picking up the ice and pushed it around. The smell of the mint that was frozen inside was amazing!  I couldn't believe how well the sent was preserved in the ice, not only stimulating the sense of touch but also the sense of smell and taste!

A great thing to suck on on a hot day.

Do you have a back log of toddler activities?  Feel free to share a link in the comments, we can have a link party!

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Hello September, Hello Autumn!

So we have officially reached the end of summer and what a great summer it has been.  Having my other half working from home most days has been wonderful, it has meant lunches as a family in the garden, evening walks and the odd mid week day out.  The weather has been fantastic, I have been out with the boys every single day visiting playgrounds, parks, friend's gardens, paddling pools, woods and lakes.  It's been too hot for me at times (I am a delicate English Rose after all) but mostly I have enjoyed wearing sandals and skirts and sort sleeves, I have definitely loved the long days and hanging wet washing on the line to dry every day (love the smell of line dried washing) and whaduya know, we are in for an Indian summer!

But I am happy to welcome in the change of the season, bringing with it crunchy leaves underfoot, and that feeling of crispness in the air.  definitely much better to look for the positives in Autumn and Winter than mourning the loss of the summer and moaning about the negatives of colder weather and shorter days. I can quite honestly say that the only thing that worries me about the Autumn and Winter is the washing.  There is little worse on a cold wet day that a living room with wet laundry hanging in it. But while the warm weather lingers I won't worry about that little grey cloud and I will ponder on all the things I have to look forward to in the coming months - Birthdays, meeting friends, new toddler classes, toddler groups starting up again, themed weeks. This week alone holds a 7 day raw food challenge, a visit from my lovely sister and a Lion King theme.  Bring it on!