Mixed Media, Garden Play and Garlands

It’s taken me a while to get round to blogging this week. I just finished editing a book and that – that an an insurmountable pile of ironing – has been taking up all my free time (if such a thing still exists :)) This week, we’ve been spending a lot of time in our garden in the sunshine. I ordered a tuff tray for the girls and I wish I’d come across them long before now. It’s an easy way to set up contained messy play and keeps them busy for hours 🙂

This week, we made some mixed media pictures. I found some dark blue card (but you could use any colour or paint a cereal box if you don’t have any.) The girls created little scenes on them. One opted for a sunny day and the other for a rainy one, probably because she is obsessed with umbrellas and jumping in puddles 🙂 We stuck on cotton wool clouds, cut out some fabric scraps for clothes, used colour card for petals and coloured in/drew on plain paper to add details like shoes and stems on the plants etc. I think they turned out really well and were easy to make, plus it’s a good way to use up crafting scraps in your house 🙂

We transformed our living room into a mini library. We set up a desk at the coffee table with stampers and pieces of paper. The girls liked stamping the paper and then inserting them into books they were “borrowing.” They had a toy till they used too, but I always thought the thing that looked the most exciting about being a librarian was the stamping when I was a kid 🙂 One worked at the desk while the other browsed for books 🙂 We laid them out on the hearth and I gave them a little bag to gather them in. They ordered in books that weren’t available and then had them delivered from the bookcase upstairs. After a while, they got out their tea set and pretend food and made coffee, juice and biscuits like the librarian does in the real library we’re missing 🙂 I like games that encourage kids to come up with their own ideas and that they can take in all different directions that you couldn’t have planned.

My neighbour kindly gave us some dried melon seeds so we could dye and thread them to make things. We dyed half of them blue and the other half yellow with food colouring and then threaded them to make garlands and necklaces 🙂 I was surprised how vibrant they turned out and the process of threading them with a needle was so therapeutic. I like the way we are forced to not waste and use what we already have in our houses for entertainment at the moment 🙂

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We played a game where the girls had to choose a teddy to cook for. The teddies whispered into their ears what their favourite foods were. The girls then designed a meal on paper for them and then made it out of play doh to serve to them.

The girls have been dressing up for their morning walk and it feels more precious because we can only go out once. They both wore capes when we walked on the Greenway this week because they wanted people we passed “to know that they are superheroes.” They have also adopted a strange practice of carrying a book when they’re walking. I asked my daughter why she was and she said it was to keep her company on our walk (apparently she is tired of my conversation.)

I had an enormous sweet potato to use up (it was the size of a butternut squash,) so I decided to make some sweet potato and coconut soup 🙂 I just used sweet potato, coconut milk, stock and some coriander we grew from seed on our windowsill 🙂 (That will probably be the only time I ever use that sentence :)) Although, my tomato plant seems to be doing well. I don’t know if it will yield tomatoes yet, but I’m still amazed I kept a plant alive. On the other hand, my chives are looking straggly. I suppose it’s good to experiment even if it doesn’t result in anything impressive 🙂

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I found some blank stickers and the girls enjoyed designing their own stickers on them 🙂 If you have any blank labels lying around the house you could use them for a quick activity with kids. Afterwards, we made a word soup. I asked the girls to call out any words they wanted me to write down and I cut them up and put them into a bowl. They took it in turn mixing them with a big spoon and then picked out one word at a time. They laid them out on the table and we made up a silly story with them. You could do the same with pictures for smaller children or you could make a poem with them using the words and write it down and then decorate it 🙂 It seems to work best with nouns and verbs – I found any of the connecting words didn’t work as well when they come out in a random order.

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We filled the girls’ tuff tray with washing up liquid and water to use as bubble mixture 🙂 They used their bubble guns and we cut the bottoms out of some leftover party cups we had to make giant bubbles. You could use straws too, or anything you can find lying around the house 🙂 It turned into slippery paddling, so I intervened and changed it into a painting tray 🙂 The novelty of painting outside kept them amused and they used different shaped empty boxes and toilet roll tubes to make prints. If you get an old plate and put the different colours on opposite sides of it, when you dip an object into the paint, it creates multicoloured prints 🙂

The girls had been nagging me to have a barbecue, so we had an impromptu one with the things we had already in the house. I made some sausages and mushrooms and some dinner rolls. It was an American recipe and they didn’t turn out like hot dog buns but they were still nice 🙂 I made some potatoes and salad and we ate in the garden, which is the girls favourite thing to do 🙂 It actually made dinner time feel much less stressful and it felt like we were on holiday.

We turned the tuff tray into a rock pool next. The girls have a tin they put shells they’ve collected into after we’ve been to the beach, so we got that out, their nets and their buckets and spades, water cans, etc. They fished for shells and collected them in their buckets. They also found a game hidden amidst the beach supplies – that game with the ball that attaches to a velcro paddle. It’s funny how when you’re spending all your time in the house, you uncover things you forget you had. It has taught me that most things we need are already in the house, in some form, and shopping isn’t always necessary, or conducive to fun.

Slow Sundays, Orange Cake & Garden Games

I have really enjoyed the pace of today. I’ve eased back on the pressure I’ve been putting myself under, where child entertainment is involved. I’m feeling more rested because of it 🙂 I took my time over coffee this morning and read a little. I’m rereading Wuthering Heights since I can’t remember the story clearly. I must have last read it more than a decade ago. I like how atmospheric the writing is. It’s the perfect accompaniment to tea and sitting in front of  a candle burning 🙂 (especially today – with the wind whipping around the house.)

I printed off some pictures I found online for the girls to colour in. Each page states the colour of the different items of clothing the boys and girls are wearing, and it held the girls’ attention for longer than plain colouring would 🙂 My younger daughter likes to do a rushed drawing and then run away, and the added instructions kept her sitting a little longer. She enjoyed cutting the pictures out too, and presenting them to me as gifts 🙂

I also found some colouring pages on the Spar Facebook page. If you visit it and scroll down, they posted some pictures a few days ago to keep kids busy. I put on a free audio book for the girls to listen to. There are several free audiobooks on Audible for adults and children while we are in lockdown 🙂 I find it a good alternative to soothing music and it keeps them focussed on whatever they are doing with their hands 🙂

I had seen a chalk-drawn game course for kids online, so I recreated it in our garden. I drew hopscotch and other instructions to follow on the ground – zig zags, stepping stones, places to twirl. I was surprised by how much it entertained the girls. They wanted to be rewarded with a cookie upon finishing it, but after three cookies each, we changed it to jumping on the giant cookie drawn on the ground instead 🙂

The girls requested to have their lunch at the table in the garden. I made a mini fry, and they had theirs outside while I had mine in tranquility for once in the kitchen 🙂

After lunch, we made an orange cake I adapted from The Simple Things magazine. It was supposed to have caraway seeds in it, and I didn’t have any, so I ground up cardamom pods in the blender and added them instead. It worked out well and was an easy recipe to make with kids. Their favourite part is still licking the bowl and they loved painting the orange glaze on the top at the end 🙂 I made myself the foamiest coffee ever and had it in relative peace while I did some writing.

I made a roast dinner tonight and served the cake we made warm with vanilla custard we had. The girls loved the custard, but one of my daughters still refuses to eat any cake I make, unless it’s coconut or chocolate 🙂 We played some board games and turned our Sunday into something that felt a little like a celebration.