Cheap Crafts, Wild Weather & Curious Chickens

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my children playing with a cardboard box. I don’t know what it is about it – maybe it’s just a classic childhood activity, but my kids always seem more content when they’re inside one πŸ™‚ Sometimes they find them without my knowledge and transform them into things on their own. The most recent one was used as a pirate ship and my daughter stuck a flag onto it she made without my involvement πŸ™‚ The garden was turned into a colouring station and we had some homemade play doh that was transported out for a cookie shop afterwards.

I stocked up on some of the 79p craft packs from Home Bargains. They aren’t made to last, but that’s probably for the best, considering the amount of clutter we have already accumulated in the house πŸ™‚ The girls enjoyed decorating their own hairbands with ribbons and sequins.

Since our blackberry-picking expedition the girls have been obsessed with finding them on our walks. Every time I look at one of them they’ve spotted another blackberry bush and are collecting them in their then-stained handbag or pockets πŸ™‚ There are some in our garden too so that has kept them happy.

We had our first proper trip since before Lockdown to the library. After picking out all the books they wanted and finding a book of short stories for myself (I’m hoping there is more chance of me actually getting the time to finish them!) we went to a cafe we hadn’t been to before. I hadn’t realised they sold ice-cream and I love the window seats πŸ™‚ There was something about it that reminded me of a Turkish tea house.

At home, the girls cut out images from an old magazine so they could make their own collages. I cut out accompanying text that I thought went with what they were making. You could also cut out random words and put them together to make new sentences of your own.

I found some sand and cutters in the pound shop and put it in a tray for the girls to play with. It was the same as kinetic sand and kept them occupied for hours. I love looking in the craft and toy sections in the pound shop πŸ™‚ Then again – that’s why I’ve had to convert three of our kitchen cupboards into craft cupboards πŸ™‚ I also found some masks with elastic for the girls to colour. I find my kids seem to sit for longer to colour when they’re colouring something that serves a purpose when it’s finished :/

We went to the beach on a very windy day. The girls turned the picnic blanket into a bed to hide from the wind πŸ™‚ It was a strange kind of weather: cloudy, sunny, hot, cold and windy all at once. We had a pain au chocolat and tried to shelter from the wind. I like windy days at the beach because I like watching the waves and the sea breeze really clears your head. We kept moving to keep warm. The girls climbed on rocks, we went for a walk and they played in the playground. I love the trees that make up the backdrop of this playground. I think they have so much character and make the place instantly recognisable.

We also went to the Folk Museum for the first time in months. The sweet shop was closed but other than that, things felt fairly normal. In the printers shop a man made the girls a donkey print each. They liked watching the process and they’re always happy to get something to take home with them. I love stopping at the houses and seeing the turf fires. It makes me wish we had a functioning fireplace and that people still cooked over them πŸ™‚ There were lots of animals wandering about that day. The chickens were roaming around the farmhouse and tried to follow us inside. There were also piglets, a horse, a donkey and sheep. It made the walk more interesting for the girls. There were some people in front of us that had brought punnets for blackberry picking, so that started off the girls’ obsession with it again πŸ™‚ There are very few items of clothing of theirs left without blackberry stains on them now πŸ™‚

Sand Dunes, Baking Experiments & Cardboard Creations

After neglecting my blog for a little while, I realise how much we must have been doing since I last posted. It seems to be difficult to condense it all into one post πŸ™‚ We have been spending a lot of time at the seaside and making crafts and baking at home. I took the girls to a beach last week, early in the day, so it was at its quietest. They enjoyed walking on the boardwalk and over the sand dunes πŸ™‚ I love looking at the backdrop of mountains near Newcastle. The combination of sea and mountains is one of my favourite things πŸ™‚ The tide was out and had left lots of little puddles and channels for the girls to paddle and jump in, so they were easy to please πŸ™‚

At home, we used some of the girls’ nature finds to draw pictures from. We set up a table a bit like the one in the Ulster Museum art room πŸ™‚ We have the same chunky colouring pencils to draw with and they make it much more satisfying for some reason πŸ™‚

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I also got out an encyclopedia for kids with pictures of sky scrapers in it. I cut up some leftover party straws and gave the girls glue and paper so they could recreate structures with them. One opted for the tallest building and the other made a miniature eiffel tower πŸ™‚

I wanted to try to make polenta cake. A friend of mine made some a long time ago and served it to us with lapsang souchong tea. I really liked the combination of the two flavours. So, we made an orange and blueberry cake using polenta instead of flour. It has a grainier texture but I liked it and it felt light compared to a stodgy cake.

We have season tickets for the farm, so we have been spending a lot of time there. The girls spotted the mice nibbling ice cream cones and wanted me to take pictures of it πŸ™‚ There are also some baby mice and piglets there now. We arrived just as a lady was about to feed apples to the pigs, so the girls got to feed them and it was funny watching them eating whole apples in one bite πŸ™‚ We got to pet chicks and bunnies and went on the barrel rides πŸ™‚ Afterwards, I treated the girls to a hotdog each for lunch πŸ™‚

I have been trying some healthy snack recipes – none of which can I get the girls to eat πŸ™‚ I made carrot cake balls, using carrots, nuts, coconut, etc. I thought they wouldn’t satisfy my craving for carrot cake, but they contained all the same flavours without being too heavy πŸ™‚ But the girls immediately detected the fact they were healthy and refused to eat them.

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For their benefit (and for mine), we made some peanut butter and chocolate rice krispie buns. I can see why it is such a popular thing to bake with kids, because it skips ahead to their favourite parts (licking the bowl and sprinkles) without any of the measuring and mess (or agony for me.)

My daughter decided to make her own wands out of lolly sticks. She gave my other daughter a little craft chest filled with materials for her birthday. They have both used nearly all of it already πŸ™‚ I like the fact that they come up with their own ideas now and work away at them (even though it does result in them dragging the contents of the craft cupboard out onto the floor.)

We also made some little toilet tube horses. You have to fold them flat and cut the shape around the legs and head before folding them out again. The girls painted theirs with white and black spots, and when they were dry, we added heads cut out of cardboard and manes and tails made with embroidery thread. We also made feeding trays out of egg cartons and the girls painted water and food/made cardboard hay for them. They also made a stable out of an empty cupcake box, but they lost patience when they were halfway through painting it πŸ™‚ I cut half doors into it so they could put the horses inside and it has been the most popular toy of the week.

Finally, I gave the girls some squares cut out of empty cardboard boxes and they painted them bright colours. When they had dried, we collected nature scraps from the garden, like twigs, petals and dry leaves and they made little pictures with them. One made a little house and the other made a bug with antennae and pom pom eyes πŸ™‚

This week, we are on a nearby “holiday,” so we should have plenty of activities to share from it soon too πŸ™‚

 

Nature Bags, Gratitude Journals & Fairy Houses

I just looked at the volume of photos I have for blog posts that have never materialised and realised I’ll probably never catch up now, but I’ll attempt to anyway πŸ™‚ Last week, the girls and I found a new coffee shop near us that does takeaway coffees/you can have it at little tables outside. I’ve decided I much prefer to drink coffee outside in the fresh air anyway. I’ve done it every day since being in lockdown and it feels like you’re on holiday πŸ™‚ The girls had some hot chocolates in their little takeaway cups and felt grown up πŸ™‚ I got a vanilla latte and we walked around to see what was opening up again in our area. I love calling into the health shop too and stocking up on snacks like popcorn and yogurt covered raisins πŸ™‚

We completed the second craft in the girls’ Toucan boxes: making dyed nature bags. First, they had to put coloured tissue paper strips on foil and they painted it with water until it was all damp. Then, they pressed the fabric bag against it and it dyed it πŸ™‚ After it dried, the girls used the nature stencils to make pictures on top of the dyes. The bags came with little checklists for each season, so the girls can take them with them on nature walks and tick off the things they find along the way.

I finally ordered some sand for the girls’ water/sand table. They never show much interest in it when it’s filled with water, but they played with it all day when I filled it with sand πŸ™‚ We made mini sandcastles and they ended up burying LOL dolls and rescuing them.

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For my daughter’s schoolwork, she had to make a forest school picture, using natural materials and a dividing line to create symmetry. We got out her shell and rock collection and a skipping rope and the girls enjoyed making mirrored shell pictures in the garden for a long time πŸ™‚

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I’d been looking at gratitude journals for kids online and found a cheaper version since some of them are so expensive πŸ™‚ The girls have enjoyed filling them in at the end of the day. They are simple and encourage them to write or draw three things they are grateful for that day. I’m guessing that the more expensive versions have more prompts in them for journalling, but these are good if you just want to teach your kids about gratitude and reflecting on their day.

Apart from the Toucan boxes the girls get, I like the emails they send with suggested activities for kids in them. They sent a template this week for an origami dinosaur bookmark and I’ve decided I’m going to look for more origami animals instructions for the girls. They seem to enjoy lots of paper crafts and games you can play with just a piece of paper and a pencil.

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My friend kindly brought us some beetroot and parsley from her garden πŸ™‚ We made some beetroot crisps for the first time yesterday πŸ™‚ I was surprised that both of the girls tried them (especially since one frequently declares that she doesn’t eat any vegetables.) I think I overcooked them a little, but they were like sweet crisps so they went down well πŸ™‚

Yesterday, we made some toilet roll tube fairy houses. We just painted them with poster paints, using sponge applicators. After they had dried, we cut out doors and windows from coloured paper, adding “curtains” that I cut out from magazines. We added bun cases as roofs, but you could use anything you like. Patterned ones would look good too, or patterned paper to cover the tubes. I liked it because it required minimal preparation and you can be as creative (or as lazy) as you like πŸ™‚

 

 

Flower Diaries, Felt Mice & Messages on Rocks

Since the girls planted their little greenhouses yesterday, they’ve been keeping a close eye on them for any perceptible changes πŸ™‚ They got a little diary with the kit so they can note down changes to their plants. They’re also eager to water them every five minutes which I’m trying to intercept so their plants don’t meet the same fate as most of mine πŸ™‚

My daughter used the crate they’ve claimed as a net for paper football in the garden. She just flicked the ball into it with her fingers and it occupied her for a few minutes while I did school work with my other daughter.

We also got out the tuff tray and paints to make some cardboard bugs. It was an activity suggested by my daughter’s nursery, so we cut up some egg cartons and made caterpillars, ladybirds and spiders. After they had dried, we added pipe cleaner legs, googly eyes and pom poms to decorate them. My daughter is fascinated by insects at the moment (as long as a bee or big spider doesn’t come her way.)

We got some parcels in the post and it was like Christmas had come early πŸ™‚ I haven’t been able to get flour in a couple of weeks, so I ordered a bag online, but didn’t realise the bag would be half the size of me πŸ™‚ It seems that my baking obsession is going to continue πŸ™‚

Just as I was having a “what are we going to do now?” moment, a package arrived with a toy each for the girls from my parents πŸ™‚ Those kept them occupied for a long time. I wish my kids would play with their toys more often, and it was nice to see them having imaginary play time together πŸ™‚

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Today, we did some rock painting, as it had been suggested for kindness week by my daughter’s school. They used acrylic paints to paint pictures on one side and permanent markers to write little uplifting messages on the other side. The plan was to hide them for someone to find the next time we go out for a walk, but my daughter wrote “I love you” on hers, which I thought might make the person who finds it uneasy πŸ˜€ Afterwards, they started to paint some shells we had from ages ago. The flat broken shells actually made a good painting surface and I like to find other uses for things that are on their way out πŸ™‚

We put together a new den, brought out the paddling pool and the girls’ bubble guns and I took some time to notice what has bloomed in the garden πŸ™‚ My lillies I planted last year seem to be thriving, even though they haven’t flowered yet. There is some jasmine and the fuschia is making an appearance again πŸ™‚ The fact we are spending every day in the garden means I notice the slight changes I ordinarily would have missed. There are definitely positivies to being less busy.

We made the second project from the girls’ Toucan boxes: felt mice. They were easy to assemble and the girls made a couple each. I like the fact they include a magazine of activities in the boxes too, so it keeps them entertained for a long time. (Although my kids’ version of a long time is a short time to anyone else measuring time.)

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My neighbour kindly gave us her recipe for spiced buns. They are delicious and we devour them when she makes them, but ours didn’t work out the same. Sometimes I think the results of baking are more to do with the hands that make them than following the recipe πŸ™‚ We might just have to until the next time she makes them πŸ™‚

 

Easy Kids’ Crafts – Tea Box Houses

This is one of those crafts that don’t look impressive but that kids love making. They are quick to make, don’t involve any paint or messy glue/waiting for anything to dry and lead to hours of play. Every time we make something like this, my kids play with it for ten times as long as they ever play with their real dolls house!

Materials

Empty tea boxes/pretty patterned boxes

Coloured card/wrapping paper

Scissors

Cellotape

Glue Stick

Method

Make the roof for the house by diagonally cutting off the extra bits on the two sides that fold down to close the lid. Tape the front flap to the side flaps to make the roof. I find cellotape works better for this. Cut the back flap of the lid off so you can put toys inside. Poke a small hole with scissors and cut out squares for windows. Do the same for the door but leave one side of the rectangle attached. Fold back sharply so it can open and close like a door. Cut out little features to add from coloured card/wrapping paper. Cover door, make blinds, make a letter box, plants, door numbers – whatever you like and attach with glue.

My daughter insisted on adding her own numbers to the roof – don’t ask me why. She likes using them for her shopkins and they fit well through the door, but any small toys would do.

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