Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Baby's first sensory tub

Normally I get really annoyed when I receive a package full of shredded paper and a tiny product inside but not so this time! No, because this time my first thought was 'sensory tub!'.
Henry was 5.5 months when we first tried this but I think that even Freddy (27 months) would have loved it (if he hadn't been drawing on the walls at the time).

[This post is linked to the wonderful Living Montessori Now]

Monday, 26 March 2012

All natural homemade chocolate

Eating chocolate in our house is a special luxury and not something we take for granted because of Freddy's allergy to dairy products.

As a family we eat what Freddy can eat so if something contains milk it's a no go.  This is easy for many things but do you know how hard it is to find chocolate which does not contain (or have traces of) milk?

Well, we decided to take matters into our own hands and make our own chocolate from scratch!
But first a word about chocolate and toddlers.

Freddy had never tasted chocolate for the first 18 months of his life because we just didn't think it was necessary (and also his allergies), so he had no idea what he was missing.....until one day he found my *ahem* emergency bar of Lindt 70% dark chocolate.  Things had been faily quiet in the house for a few minutes so we looked outside and discovered this....
Thankfully this chocolate does not contain milk so all was fine on the allergy front but of course he had been robbed of his chocolate innocence.

So with the damage done we relaxed our chocolate policy and allow it on very special occasions - hence our interest in making it from scratch.

To make it we bought raw cacao nibs.  They look like chocolate but taste disgusting - imagine 150% dark chocolate.
Then they are just ground with the fancy juicer / grinder machine thing that we make our marmalade with, until they form into a smooth paste.

Then sugar is added to sweeten the bitter chocolate.  We added organic cane sugar crystals (about a 50 / 50 mixture).
It is simply served in little chunks like this on tiny saucers and although it doesn't look as pretty as a Ferrero Rocher it tastes soooo good!

I have my wonderful Mexican neighbour to thank for showing me this type of chocolate.
So this is made from 2 ingredients; how many are there on a normal bar of chocolate?

This kind of lesson is great for children to see how something can be made from scratch so easily.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Chirp chirp!

How can you not find these little chicks completely adorable??

As you know, each Wednesday I run a toddler art and craft club and this week we made little Easter gifts and cards including using these cute little chicks (that I remember from my childhood) to prepare some Easter birds nests.

This chick was my favourite because he had a wonky eye which made him even more lovable. 
I only needed 20 or so of these chicks but couldn't resist buying a box of them.  There was something about seeing them lined up in a military parade style that I found fascinating - as if they were preparing for an invasion or chick sponsored coup somewhere.
Freddy's fingers got a real workout trying to remove each one from the box.  Those little chicks did not want to be moved from their formation.
It was such a great activity for the very young because it was easy enough for them all to put their nests together completely unaided (which is extremely satisfying for a toddler).  It was wonderful to see the different variations in final product - some went minimalist with a chick in the nest, some tried to put as many chicks in the nest as possible and others just left the chicks out completely and filled the nest with shredded paper.
As for little 'wonky eye', he ended up with a friend in a nest but somehow lost his beak during the transfer.
 All of my supplies came from Baker Ross.

Friday, 23 March 2012

DIY practical life water table

I've been looking at water play tables for a while now but I can't believe how expensive they are so, as always, I set about trying to come up with a cheaper home made version.
These tables are great for all kinds of transferring activities, water play, sand play, as a pretend kitchen and sorting activities (and probably many other things that we haven't discovered yet).

There is nothing too complicated with this project other than the use of a jigsaw to cut the table. 

To make the table I bought a Sundvik table from IKEA for 30 euros - there were cheaper alternatives that probably would have worked but I paid a little extra for a nice sturdy table. 
As an interesting side note I have to say how much fun it is shopping in IKEA when you are with a Swedish person who can tell you what all of the funny names mean.  Some of them really are quite random but in this case Sundvik means a 'health bay'.

something amazing happened whilst we were looking at the instructions - Freddy coloured in his first picture! He literally went from complete scribbles to the colouring below overnight!
Henry sat in the box whilst the contents were inspected...
Hubby cut two holes into the table top after much measuring and chin rubbing.  The size of the holes was such that the two metal bowls that we bought from ASDA (for £1 each) would fit in just right.  The bowls are great because they have a nice wide lip around them but you could use a washing up bowls or plastic box just as easily.
Then the table was assembled as per the wonderful Swedish instructions..
We were obviously excited to take the table for an immediate test drive so I put some hazelnuts in one of the bowls and gave Freddy (27 months) a big metal spoon to transfer them from one side to the other.
 Which went really well....
Until he realised that he could just pick up one of the bowls and pour the contents into the other - you can't fault his logic!
But that aside the table is fantastic and we are going to have many hours of fun with it I'm sure! 

Linked up to the wonderful Living Montessori Now.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Happy half birthday Henry!

6 months old!

What better excuse could there be for cracking open a freshly pressed shirt and dickie bow tie?
When I was pregnant with Henry I used to think about how our family would change with another child; I wondered if it would be difficult to manage with a baby and an energetic toddler.  But Henry has been so relaxed, so happy and so content that we often find ourselves speechless and unable to describe just how smooth a transition it has been welcoming him into our family (although we are still struggling with some jealousy on the toddler front).

 Happy half birthday Lila Plutten!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


The Swedes are a lovely bunch and I never tire of learning about the many folk stories, superstitions and funny sayings that originate from Sweden.

One such example is the word 'Kuckelura'.

In a country that is almost the same size as California but with less than a third of the population there is plenty of space for everyone and in the north of Sweden some people live very isolated lives indeed - perhaps not seeing anyone else for months at a time.  All of this is no problem for the average Swede though as one of their favourite pastimes is 'Kuckelura-ing'.

Essentially it means to spend time by oneself in quite thoughtful contemplation or perhaps hatching some sort of grand plan.  

If you know a Swede you might say that they are reserved or perhaps quiet - there have certainly been many times in our house when I have realised that I have been having a 'conversation' with myself for hours on end whilst my husband's is blissfully unaware of my jibber jabbering!

But back to the point.  I have noticed that Freddy's Swedish streak is really coming out now and I have caught a number of these Kuckelura sessions recently.....
I wonder what he thinks about?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Cultural Exchange: Antarctica!

Here is another example of a cultural exchange package - this time from a lovely family representing Antarctica!

This is what was in the package:
  • letter and sheet with 3 part card descriptions
  • small copy of the unofficial flag of Antarctica
  • Antarctic cookbook
  • baby killer whale mini book example and a sheet to make copies
  • sheet with life stages of a penguin
  • penguin song
  • map of research stations in Antarctica
  • map of the southern hemisphere
  • sheet of vocabulary/definitions
  • food chain card
  • 'snow flakes'
  • pencil

Friday, 16 March 2012

Homemade catapult

OK so this might not be the first toy that you think of to give to a toddler but when Farfar found a perfect catapult shaped branch he couldn't resist making one.
There is a huge amount of power in this catapult (it could easily be used for hunting) so I wouldn't want to be using it to hurl rocks around, but with felted wool balls as ammunition it's lots of fun (even indoors).

Here's what you need:
  • Two rubber rings used to seal glass jars (these are very strong rubber)
  • Electrical wire
  • A scrap of leather or suede 
  • A catapult shaped tree branch
  • Wire strippers
  • A Farfar (or suitable alternative)
The branch needs to have the bark and some of the inner wood removed at each tip ready to have the rubber tied to it. The electrical wires are used to tie everything together.

The scrap of suede has two small holes cut into it.
Take the two rings and trim them so that they are half the width that they were as well as adding a slit in each.   The width of the rubber needs to be able to be placed within the cut grooves on the branch.
Tie each of the rubber strips to the piece of rubber to the suede using the electrical wire which has has the insulation removed with wire strippers.
 And use the same method to tie the other ends to the branch.
 Here's Farmor giving it a try!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Beginner crochet projects to try

I've had a few comments from people recently saying that they are thinking of learning to crochet.  So here are a few simple projects to inspire you!

All the links to the patterns and lots more inspiration can be found on my Pinterest board.

How about a pair of easy hand warmers?
And how about some gift ideas for the men in your life? 

Just in case you need further yarnspiration here are a few useful links I have found with free patterns (I'll add them to my links page too and keep that page updated).
  • Crochet Pattern Central - a huge directory of free patterns
  • Crochetville - a forum with lots of resources including free patterns
  • Ravelry - another forum but also lots of free patterns and advice
  • Crochet Spot - patterns tutorials and ramblings
  • Pinterest - if you are looking for crochet inspiration you must look here!
Feel free to suggest some more!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Henry's bath bucket

This plastic bucket (which is a storage box from IKEA) is perfect for a sitting baby to take a bath in.
I put it in front of the bath thinking that Freddy (27 months) could go in the big bath and Henry (5.5 months) could go in the bucket.

But who can resist a bath in a bucket?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Spring has sprung!

There is a real smell of spring in the air here in France and it inspired me to provide a spring related craft for the weekly toddler art club that I hold each Wednesday. 
To make this tissue paper flower in a decorated pot you need:
  • A small plant pot to decorate
  • Acrylic pens
  • Green pipe cleaners
  • Green paper
  • White tissue paper cut into 3" strips
  • A stapler
  • Cardboard
  • Green shredded tissue paper
I also always provide a selection of stickers and googly eyes with all of my craft activities because little children love them.
This is a really good project to do with a mixed age group of children because the youngest can concentrate on decorating the pots, feeding the stalks into the cardboard holes and adding 'grass', whilst the older ones make the flowers, cut the cardboard disks and pierce the holes with a wooden skewer.

The white tissue paper is just rolled or scrunched up to form a loose ball the the pipe cleaner is held up against it whilst a piece of green paper is wrapped around tightly and secured in place with a staple.  It looks fiddly but it really is easy for the slightly older children or keen adults.
 I just set everything up and the children always find something fun to do.
Click 'read more' to see some of my favourites:

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

How to add a page with a view of all posts as thumbnails

If you click on the page tab at the top of this blog called POST INDEX you will see that I have added a page which contains a thumbnail of every post ever added to this blog.

I have always wanted to do this because I find it endlessly frustrating to browse blogs easily and who doesn't love a picture!

So here's how I did it (using a combination of jiggery pokery and another tutorial):

Before you start
  • Create a new page on your Blogger Blog and give it a title.  I chose 'post index' although I had hoped to think of a slightly more cool name for it (maybe I'll change it later).
  • Open this tutorial in another web page so that you can easily switch between it and this post.
Now for the steps to follow
  • On the tutorial page mentioned above scroll down the page until you see the 'add to Blogger widget symbol which looks like this.  
  • Click on it which then opens up an option box with lots of details that you can edit such as thumbnail size etc (full descriptions are also shown in the tutorial.
  • Change the title to all posts, add your blog url and set the number of posts to a value significantly higher than the number of posts on your site. I chose 500.
  • Fiddle about with the other settings if you want but then make sure that you click on 'Grid Layout' before selecting 'add widget to my blog'.
  • You will then be shown this page saying that the widget is about to be installed but DO NOT CLICK 'add widget' (unless you want this widget in your side bar instead of on your page like I have)
  • Instead click 'edit content' so that you can see the widget's code.
  • Copy all of the code.
  • Open up your new page in the Blogger editor as if your are going to write a post but instead of selecting 'compose' in the top left part of the screen make sure that you select 'html'.
  • Paste the copied code into the page and immediately save the page.
  • Switch back to 'compose' mode and add text at the top of the page saying 'here are all my posts..' etc
  • Then publish the page!
  • Make sure that you then view the page to check that it worked as you had hoped and close any extra tabs that you now have open in your browser.
  • Congratulate yourself!

Other related tutorials
How to create a new page (an extra tab under your site header) on your Blogger Blog.

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