Taste the City Belfast

I’ve decided to make Saturday a day to go to free events with my kids when they are on. We live close to the city centre and the bus is right on our doorstep and we barely use it. I think my kids have finally reached the age where it is (a bit) less stressful to venture into town 🙂

Today there was a food festival thing on in Belfast and it said it was a free event with activities for kids so we went 🙂 I was surprised by what they offered for free. My kids both got their faces painted, they got to make kites with all the materials supplied and to do sugar craft designs on cupcakes.

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The kite-making workshop was good for all ages. The kids had to pick a picture to trace onto it and then colour it in before it was assembled. The girls really enjoyed doing this and it solved the problem I often have at markets of stopping them grabbing everything in sight!

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Afterwards, we sat in the sun while the girls ate the buns they had iced and we listened to live music playing in the square. The only thing I paid for was a disappointing cup of coffee and I wished I had thought ahead to bring my own!

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There were stalls selling sweets, condiments, teas, etc, and food demos, but I didn’t attempt to get the girls to sit still for them! There was a relaxed vibe to the place and it seemed surprisingly quiet for a Saturday. I love when you find things no one seems to know are happening 🙂 Especially since I don’t cope well with busy places 🙂

I had set a budget for the day so we took the bus into town instead of paying for parking and my kids were so excited they got to sit at the top on a double decker 🙂

I brought our own drinks and we got lunch for all of us from Greggs for ÂŁ3.50 and took it to the park, where the girls flew their new kites and ran off some of their energy.

After that, we went to Lush because I had promised the girls a bath bomb. They used their first one last week and were fascinated by it. I guided them towards a lavender one, hoping it would help them sleep, but that was probably wishful thinking 🙂 I got a face mask while I was there. I think even if you are trying to save money it is better to limit yourself to one treat, rather than depriving yourself of everything – it helps you to stop splurging on lots of things.

We called into Learning Space, which is a shop with educational toys and games for kids. There was a sensory story time where the lady read “We’re going on a Bear Hunt” with props the kids could play with – like fake snow to make it snow, play doh to squelch in, a tarp to hide under 🙂

At the end of the day, we looked in a bookshop. Then, I had a coffee and the girls had juice in a cafe while they did sticker books. I’m thinking about making this a little tradition of ours 🙂 I think the best kind of days with kids are ones where you have a vague plan (so you don’t end up lost for things to do/with bored, whiney kids!) but that is open-ended and you can adapt to what you feel like doing at the time/judge it by everyone’s tiredness levels. If you break the day up with kid-friendly activities and snack breaks, days out with kids are definitely more enjoyable 🙂

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Creating Calm with Kids

Today I needed a calm day. I realise that the idea of calm is incongruous with having kids, but I decided that I would try to balance the day out with activities for my kids and activities for me, to get the closest feeling to calm that I could. The last few days have been exhausting. My daughter had to get her bandage changed on her broken finger in hospital and the next morning, it fell off and the doctor refused to see her, so we had to go back to the hospital. On top of that, my other daughter came down with a vomiting bug the night before, and none of us had had any sleep. After days like that, I need to retreat and go into hibernation mode when they are over. I knew my daughter would be off school today – she’s at the stage where she is back to her normal self, but too contagious to be allowed to go in. So, we did some simple art projects and baked.

First, the girls painted pasta tubes. We left them to dry so they can thread them onto necklaces later. You can also use PVA glue as a varnish to put on top of the paint. It stretches out the pasta necklaces activity for longer. For boys that don’t want to make necklaces, you could make pasta snakes instead and thread them on pipe cleaners.
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Then, we made dried food collages. Sometimes if we don’t have card, I cut up old cereal boxes and they use them instead. It works better than paper for gluing solid items. I just set out plates with dry beans, lentils, rice, seeds, oats, etc. You get the kids to draw a large picture and then fill in the different parts of it with whatever they like. You can also do this with cut-up coloured paper, fabric remnants or string painted with a mixture of glue and paint. This activity took more than an hour and the girls didn’t get bored with it – which is rare for them 🙂 A word of warning – the clean up took a while, but it was less painful than I’d expected it to be.
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The girls watched a film for a while and I got an opportunity to have a cup of tea and write. I think it’s important to squeeze in time for your own things when you’re with kids all day. If you never get time to yourself, it’s easy to get snappy!

We made some easy shortbread. It was just three ingredients and we tried some new cookie cutters we hadn’t used before. They have cut out parts so you can balance them on the rim of a teacup. I made some babyccinos and a vanilla latte for myself and then allowed TV time again so I could drink it and write uninterrupted. It reenergises me, so when I do something else with my kids I’m able to focus more on them. Jazz helped us survive the day in the house too. I’m convinced that it cuts down on the number of squabbles over toys and creates a calmer atmosphere.

It can be hard to treat yourself as a stay at home mum, but I think the things that work best for me are taking time out in the kitchen, listening to music, lighting scented candles and wax melts, making coffee-shop style coffee, squeezing in short times to write, read or draw. You can colour alongside your kids too if you get an adult colouring book. I like using the kids as an excuse to bake too so I have freshly-baked treats 🙂 There is a youtuber I like watching called “Coffee with Kate.” She makes videos about her simple lifestyle and the creative things she does. My daughter likes watching it too, because she does cooking videos and has two children. Finding something you like to watch that your kids enjoy too is a good way to attend to your need for a break while they’re awake 🙂 At the moment, our house is a dump, and I’m just letting it go, because being with my kids and sitting drinking coffee in the midst of the mess are more important today.

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8 tips for adventures with kids

8 Tips For Mini Adventures With Kids

I was feeling inspired to write this post after a waterlogged week away with my kids. The weather was conscientiously working to spoil our holiday, so we had to be inventive with what we did. Here are a few ideas for mini adventures with kids.

1. Find little surprises in small places

My kids and I drove to what used to be a little fishing village. It was remote and had quaint little cottages overlooking the harbour. There was nothing to do there; even it’s one craft shop was closed. However, we went for a walk and found a shed that had baby lambs and sheep inside it. They were just sitting peacefully, inches from us and it ended up being a moment that stayed with my daughter. Don’t rule somewhere out just because no one talks about it or it seems like nothing significant is there 🙂

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2. Bring supplies and go out in the rain anyway

If there is torrential rain, dress for it and go for a walk in puddles. We went to a National Trust property in heavy rain and ended up having a picnic under a tree there. A room had been opened for indoor colouring for kids and we went for tea and scones and played games in a notebook I brought. It always helps to have paper and crayons with you to keep your kids entertained during an unplanned moment.

3. Collect simple items and draw them/make collages

My kids love going beach combing and  wearing wellies while they jump in rock pools. They have a little tin they keep shells in. We went for a windy walk and then retreated indoors, lit the fire and drew pictures of shells. You could do the same with leaves, flowers, pine cones. rocks, etc. You can also do rubbings, where you scribble on a page laid over textured items and teach your kids about different patterns and textures while you’re doing it.

4. Stop somewhere you weren’t planning to visit

We went to Scrabo Tower just as we were passing it one day. Some children happened to have gathered there to roll eggs down the hill. The girls enjoyed watching them and climbing up the steep hill. The views were spectacular as it was such a clear day. We found a picnic table in what felt like a quiet meadow and I had brought coffee and snacks that kept the girls entertained while they made a play house under the picnic table.

5. Eat in the garden, even if it’s cold

You can still eat outside even in unfortunate weather. It feels like a preamble to a barbecue and makes you appreciate returning to the warmth of indoors afterwards. I made hotdogs indoors and had a pretend barbecue outside the cottage we were staying in. The girls loved it and followed it with dancing outside and hide and seek.

6. Stop at charity shops in unexpected places

Sometimes the remotest of places contain the best second-hand stuff. I found two cups from the 70’s for 50p 🙂 My daughter got some blocks that she has played with constantly since. Sometimes letting kids choose an item themselves makes it more valuable to them (even if it’s only 20p.)

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7. Drive the long way

Sometimes choosing the longer route means more scenic drives and more interesting things to point out to your kids. My kids loved watching to see if the sea was rough or still, which birds they could identify and if there were any boats along the coast. Involving them in sporting things outside definitely makes them less tetchy when you’re driving.

8. Get your kids binoculars or a disposable camera

My granny did this for us as kids and we loved it. My kids picked up some binoculars for bird watching on our trip but have also been using them to look at the sea and the sky (and to spy on people in the street!)  They love spotting things in the distance and sharing them with you.

Adventures don’t have to be about travelling great distances or spending excessively. Kids always remember the simplest, cheapest thing that you just fell upon along the way.

 

 

12 Ways to Have a Budget Holiday with Kids and Your Imagination

My kids and I went away for a few days to a remote seaside village. I’d never been there before, so although all it contained was one shop and a chip van, there was still an element of adventure to our trip. I asked one of its inhabitants if there was anything to do there and their answer was “use your imagination.” That was precisely why I chose the village for a holiday: I wanted to go somewhere where my kids were forced to use their imaginations and where I was forced to limit my internet usage due to the lack of wifi. Sometimes you have to remove the easy entertainment to come up with your own ideas. Here are a few ways to make a simple holiday interesting for kids:

  1. Pick a town you’ve never been to before; even if it is local you will still get to explore it and uncover what’s there. My kids were surprised to find a playground a few feet from where we were staying, which caused a great deal of excitement. Most kids would rather find a playground with a new lay-out than visit a famous tourist attraction. At that age, it just feels like being trailed around boring places for adults and they won’t remember it anyway.
  2. Instead of eating out in expensive restaurants, get cheap takeaways, make picnics, have barbeques and buy things that your kids don’t usually get for breakfast. My kids only get the miniature boxes of cereal as a treat, but that makes it something worth getting excited about. Reserve certain items as treats so that receiving them seems like a noteworthy occasion. While we were on holiday, we had chips every day, which we never do. They are the perfect cheap holiday food because you can eat them in paper by the sea or indoors in a kid-friendly environment and each experience feels entirely different, without costing a lot. 9A3CC685-B6D7-4208-9BBB-192B48729383.png
  3. Allow more ice-cream than usual, even if it means walking to the shop to get a one pound tub instead of sitting in somewhere with a expensive sundae.
  4. Bring notebooks for your kids to keep a holiday journal. If they are older, they can write about the places they have been to and what they have done. If they are younger, they can draw pictures. My kids were drawing in their “sketchbooks” on a wall at the beach, which they enjoyed and it meant I got to sit in one place for a while, which is always appreciated.
  5. Get them a “treasure box” (an empty tin or box) and they can collect items on nature walks or at the beach. My kids really loved beachcombing. They could spend hours doing it: collecting shells and driftwood, washing them in rock pools and bringing them home to look at.6463893D-9B43-400E-862E-8F09A6A8F36D.png
  6. Go to simple places where you can let your kids just be kids. They don’t have to be expensive or impressive. We went to an abbey, which sounds like it wouldn’t interest kids, but they loved it because they could climb on walls, run across the green expanse and spot colourful flowers.
  7. Look for unusual shops that your kids would enjoy looking in. My kids are always happy to look in a second-hand shop or a book shop. They like looking at the toys or looking for used books. We found a vintage shop and I was surprised how much my kids loved looking around and finding unusual things. If you can stop your kids grabbing everything within reach they really enjoy looking in antique shops and “helping” you find things. My kids were happy to find some vintage dolls for ÂŁ2.50 each.2EDCB64C-038E-413A-B9C8-80F4740161C9.jpeg
  8. Go for cream tea together. This is another activity that doesn’t need to be expensive. Instead of getting afternoon tea, you can pick a cafĂ©, get some tea for yourself and milk for your kids and share a scone while they colour in or read a book at the table.
  9. Go on a form of transport your kids don’t usually get to use. We drove to another seaside town and went on a ferry. It cost ÂŁ2 for a return ticket on foot and it was one of the activities from the trip that made the greatest impression on them.
  10. Bring a craft activity, magazine or new book for when you are indoors. My kids got a kids’ art magazine each, which kept them entertained for hours and distracted them from their toys’ absence in our accommodation.
  11. Don’t let the weather dictate what you do. We spent most of our time on beaches, and with the aid of a pair of wellies, my kids enjoyed jumping in rock pools as much as they like building sandcastles in the summer. They pretended that rocks were trains, drew in the sand and “stirred cookies” in the water. You can still go for rainy day walks: eat a picnic under a tree and let your kids pretend its a playhouse. You could also seek out accommodation with an open fire and return there for warm drinks afterwards.
  12. Pick a less popular holiday location in the general area you would like to visit and use it as a point from which you travel to surrounding towns. Pick a time of the year when there is less demand for bookings (or plan well in advance to get cheaper prices.)

Holidays for kids don’t have to be a financial worry or so complex that they require months of pre-planning. Simple things mean more to kids and you’ll still return home feeling as rested as if you’d done something more extravagant (or as rested as its possible to feel with kids in tow.)5C4DF52A-20D9-4D48-AB5D-E536A3330545.png

 

Activities for kids to do at home

Simple Things For A Sick Day With Kids

Generally if we spend an entire day indoors it happens because we’re stuck in and not because I willingly sign up for the idea. I like the idea of having old-fashioned days in the house with my kids where the TV is off and my sanity is still intact. My daughter was off sick today and we managed to have the peaceful day that usually only exists in my completely unrealistic parenting fantasies.

Here are a few ideas of things we did that kept everyone happily entertained.

  • Since it was Pancake Tuesday I made pancakes and then let my kids choose their own toppings and put them on. Giving them little choices always makes them feel more involved and more content with whatever we’re doing.
  • I read stories to them under a fluffy blanket on the sofa. Then they can read the stories by themselves to each other or to their teddies.
  • I let them watch TV (how shocking and what awful parenting! I’m joking. They like TV, so make life easier for yourself sometimes.)
  • They made pasta pictures. I just gave them a bowl of dry pasta and they stuck it to paper with PVA glue. If your kids are older they can make pictures out of it, like houses, etc. Mine are at the stage where they just enjoy sticking the pasta on in random patterns.
  • My daughter had made bird food in a yogurt pot at nursery and we looked to see if the birds had eaten all of it, which they had. She wanted to make more, which I had no idea how to do, so we improvised with oats, peanut butter and raisins. Apparently birds love grapes so we added them as a treat. (Hopefully this won’t result in untimely death for the local bird community.)
  • It was cold so we made hot chocolate with mini marshmallows, which for some reason, appeal to them more than regular sized marshmallows.
  • We played a game where you cut up little bits of paper or card into squares, your kids ask you to draw particular objects, eg, pasta bows, kangaroos, teapots. You draw two of each object on different cards so there are pairs of them. You can let the kids colour them in, so don’t spend time on fancy drawings; just something quick and barely recognisable will do. Then you use them as cards: you set them face down in a pile in the middle and each person takes one at a time. Whoever has the most pairs at the end wins.
  • They found a kids’ make-up set they got for Christmas that I had hidden since. To be honest, the clean-up was grim but it entertained them for a full hour, which is a new record. If you are going to do this, get your kids to do it at the table with a wipeable table cloth so you aren’t cleaning gloopy glitter off every surface for days afterwards.

 

The day was actually really calm, probably influenced by jazz I was playing. I find it really calms my kids down and makes them more focused on activities if it is quietly playing in the background.

I’m not expecting a repeat of today’s calmness any time soon, but it was nice to have a relaxing day indoors for a change.