Friday, 18 November 2016

Every Monday Jessica comes home from school with a new homework theme. This week in mathematical understanding her reception class are learning about sequences and patterns. They are being encouraged to create repeating patterns with objects from home. So we have been creating patterns using lego, cotton reels and even using Oliver's cars.


Like most four year old's Jessica is well and truly excited about Christmas. I just love seeing the excitement build so we are slowly getting our Christmas on. To help with repeating patterns I created a really simple but fun after school activity using bits and pieces from our craft drawer.

I decided to make some Christmas baubles as they are fairly fast and easy to make! Firstly I traced some circles onto a piece of coloured paper using a tin can then I added some bead caps. I then cut them out and drew on different lined patterns. I used a hole punch to create a hole so that once finished some ribbon can be added. 


I raided the craft drawer for suitable things to decorate the baubles with. I picked out some buttons, sequins and foil shapes but you can really choose whatever you like. I used our oogaa baby divided plate as a craft holder as it's the perfect size for craft projects. 

On her return from school she then got stuck into creating her own repeating patterns. She chose what items and colours to use on each bauble. I helped her squeeze out the glitter glue along each line and she then stuck down all the items in her chosen order.


This activity is not only great for creating repeating patterns but also great fine motor practice depending on the size of the items you are using. I was surprised at how much concentration she had doing this considering she had just finished a long day at school but she made sure to carefully choose each item ensuring that it matched the rest of the pattern. 


Not only is this a very easy repeating pattern activity but it's also a great Christmas activity for preschoolers to create their own masterpieces.







Monday, 14 November 2016

It's no secret that I like making food fun. I especially like using cookie cutters to help create fun food extra quick. Cookie cutters are great if you don't feel able to create something free hand. I was thrilled when Eatwell UK asked me to review The Lunch Punch. 


If you have not heard about The Lunch Punch they are sandwich cutters designed to create fun designs maximising most of the sandwich minimising waste. 

They come in 5 different designs with 4 punches in each design. There is the a very girly sand wishes pack that contains a fairy, a heart, a frog and flowers. There is a critter set which contains an elephant, butterfly, a dog and a whale. There is a sweet treat set which can create ice creams, a cupcake and a birthday cake. There is a vrrrm set containing a car, train, truck and plane. Finally there is a match and munch set which contains 4 different jigsaw puzzles which is the set we are testing out. 



The Lunch Punch is thicker than a traditional cookie cutter so it allows for the easy cutting of a sandwich. It's made of food certified plastic, contains no nasty chemicals and is dishwasher safe. 


It's really easy to use and works great on sandwiches, eggy bread and toast. When using it in a lunch box with small compartments it really maximises the amount of sandwich you use ensuring you don't waste a lot. 



The Lunch Punch definitely adds more fun to lunch boxes and I can't wait to try out the other designs. You can buy them from EatWell UK by clicking here.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Jessica is obsessed with presents, well I don't blame her really. It's always nice to receive a present. She also loves picking out other people's presents and then decorating the wrapping paper! I'm too much of a control freak to let her wrap any presents, but that may be about to change!


We were lucky enough to try out some brilliant new gift wrap called Instawrap. This is a brand new product set to revolutionise the gift wrap industry. The paper contains a self adhesive glue, the same found on stamps, that allows you to lick the paper so it cuts out the need for sticky tape. It is 100% recyclable and comes in 4 gorgeous Christmas designs. 


It's such a genius but simple idea! We had lots of fun testing it out. Firstly I cut out some sheets for her and told her to choose some books to wrap. She absolutely loved this!! She instantly got right into it and found it so easy to lick the paper. The glue doesn't have any taste and is really no different to licking a stamp or envelope. She loved perfecting her corners then licking the paper to stick it down. Once she had wrapped each book she wanted to add a bow to each present. On the back of each sheet of paper is a handy how to guide and template for a bow. Again I cut them out for her but she did all the licking and sticking and made each bow. She was so precise about it's placement. 


She thoroughly enjoyed wrapping all the books and she did such a good job! I think I'll have a helper this year when it comes to wrapping presents! Instawrap is so easy to use and the creative options you can give yourself is only limited by your imagination. I can't wait to do my Christmas present wrapping this year!


To find out more about Instawrap and to buy your own click here



Thursday, 29 September 2016

Autumn has started to make a gradual appearance, it has been very subtle so far as we have had one of the warmest Septembers on record. On our daily walks we have been looking out for signs of autumn, picking up lots of conkers, yellow leaves, acorns and pine cones. 


On our walk we pass a lovely horse chestnut tree which we have spent loads of time collecting conkers. With our ever growing collection of conkers I have been looking into ways to use them up.

One of the easiest and least messiest ways to have some conker fun is to use them as marbles for painting.  I seen this brilliant idea from The Imagination Tree.


To make your own conker art you simply need a box or old washing up basin, conkers, paper and some paint. For some gorgeous autumnal colours I used brown, red and orange. 

Simply place a piece of paper into the box or bowl and then dip some conkers in paint and place on the paper. Then start moving or shaking the box or bowl as vigorously as you like. 


This is great fun and results vary depending on how strenuously you shake the box and how much paint you used. We started this sat down at the table but that was too restrictive for vigorous shaking so we then moved it onto the floor.

Oliver is not massively keen on getting too messy so he didn't like dipping the conkers in paint but he loved shaking the bowl after I placed the conkers in. 


Perfect autumn craft that is quick to set up and to clean up. Now we have some beautiful conker art to then create a new activity with!





Friday, 23 September 2016

Clinging onto the last rays of summer with this easy fun outdoor activity. Oliver absolutely loves water play and would happily play with a tap all day long! Instead of racking up a massive water bill we love setting up this fun and easy activity.


To make it cost effective just find things from around your home. We used some plastic jugs, an empty plastic bottle, an iron water beaker, some measuring cups, drinking cups and a funnel. I set this up on our outdoor water table but you can easily set this up on a table, box or even just on the ground. 


To add an extra learning element I added a few drops of different coloured food dye to different items. 


We did this on a warm day so a change of clothes were needed but you don't have to stop simply because Autumn is approaching. Invest in some decent waterproofs and wellies for the cooler months. 


If you are brave enough you can even set this up indoors. Just make sure you have plenty of towels on hand!! 


Monday, 19 September 2016

I've recently had the opportunity to review a fantastic product called Nutri Fill-it. Nutri Fill-It are re-usable food pouches suitable for smoothies, purees and yogurt.  These were kindly sent to me from Eatwell UK. As we are a house full of smoothie lovers this was a great product to test out. 



Nothing compares to homemade smoothies. You are 100% in charge of what goes in and therefore you can include all your favourite ingredients. When making smoothies I always like to make extra but I struggle to store them appropriately. So storing them in the Nutri Fill-It has been great. One of the unique selling points of the Nutri Fill-It is that it has a 300ml capacity. So while 300ml is too much for babies and small children it is the perfect size for mummies and older children. 


The Nutri Fill-It is really easy to fill and use.  It has a double zip lock at the bottom to ensure it is leak proof. Simply pour your freshly blended ingredients into the pouch, seal then use. If you have any leftovers simply pour them into a pouch and store in the fridge for a day or pop it in the freezer. Defrost overnight in the fridge or it's great to double up as an ice block for packed lunches and will be ready to drink by lunch time. 


Once you have used them just rinse them out then pop them in the dishwasher ready for next time. I love that these are dishwasher safe as any time saved doing washing up is a bonus! Nutri Fill-It contains no nasty materials and can be reused 100 times. 


You can buy these in packs of 2 in either green, pink or blue or you can buy them in a mixed pack of 6 which contains 2 of each colour. You can buy them here.


I received a free sample courtesy of Eat Well UK to review. All opinions are my own.


Sunday, 4 September 2016

love breakfast times and so do my kids. Breakfast is normally my most creative time, it always seems to come easier for some reason. Normally breakfast times are quite laid back with no time constraints so I can make breakfast quite exciting. 

All that is about to change though! Jessica starts school this week (I still can't quite believe that!) so I'm not going to have as much time in the mornings. I've figured that the best approach is to be organised so I'm listing some of our favourite breakfasts that can still be done relatively quickly!! 


Overnight Oats

The ultimate make ahead breakfast. The options for overnight oats are unlimited. As a base I tend to use for one Oliver portion 3 tbsp of oats, 1 tbsp of yogurt and a splash of milk. Then you add whatever you like, frozen berries, peanut butter, vanilla extract or raspberry chia jam perhaps. Simply mix together and leave overnight in the fridge. In the morning mix again and maybe add a splash of milk if needed. 




Banana and Blackberry Muffins 

These muffins are great as part of a quick breakfast served alongside some fruit. These are refined sugar free and are freezeable making them the perfect healthy breakfast in a hurry. Just take out of the freezer the night before. You can also substitute the blackberries for blueberries or raspberries. Find the recipe here.



Granola

We love homemade granola, it's so good and you control exactly what you put in making it more healthier than shop bought granola. We normally make granola once a fortnight as its a great breakfast for when you are short on time. Simply serve with yogurt and some of your favourite fruits. You can find my granola recipe here




Crumbly Fruity Flapjack

This is one of our favourite flapjack recipes . They can be severd as part of a speedy breakfast, snack or pudding and are refined sugar free. The fruit filling can be any berries and you can pop these in the freezer once baked. You can find the recipe here



Smoothie Bowls 

Even though summer is coming to an end there is still plenty time to make up some smoothie bowls. Smoothie bowls are a great way of using up any excess frozen fruit. Simply blend your fruit with a touch of yogurt to make your smoothie bowl. You can always add a a few sneaky vegetables in and they will be none the wiser! The toppings don't have to be fancy if you are pushed for time you can simply add fruit or some granola. The only thing that may make you late for the school run is the clean up time!!! 



Porridge Cups

I'm always looking for ways to get more protein into my breakfasts and these porridge cups do not disappoint. When filled with yogurt these are a great healthy refined sugar free breakfast. These are kept in the freezer so simply just defrost overnight in the fridge ready for the morning. Check out the recipe here



Banana and Strawberry Flapjack 

We love a good flapjack recipe and this is another one of our favourites. This recipe is naturally sweetened only with fruit but you can add a tbsp of honey if you prefer it a little sweeter. The recipe for this can be found here



Porridge Fingers

One of our all time favourite breakfasts that can be ready in under 5 minutes. You simply mix 4 tbsp of porridge oats with 3 tbsp of milk and add any fruit that you wish to include. Microwave for 2 minutes or oven bake at 180 for 15 minutes. 



Bagels

Bagels are a great speedy breakfast and a great alternative to toast. Healthy toppings include peanut butter sprinkled with some chia seeds, avocado, some cream cheese with thinly sliced strawberries or perhaps raspberry chia jam. 



Tuesday, 30 August 2016

It's no secret that we love flapjacks in our house. One of our favourite recipes is my crumbly fruity flapjack. This flapjack has an oaty crumbly crust with a delicious fruity center. 


Our favourite fruit center is blackberries closely followed by blueberries but most berries work well. 

These flapjacks are refined sugar free and are great for breakfast or as pudding. You can also pop them in the freezer as a great make ahead breakfast, just pop them in the fridge to defrost overnight.



Ingredients 

100g porridge oats
100g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
150g blackberries, mashed 
1-2 tbsp of honey 

Method 

Preheat the oven to 180 and grease a small loaf tin. Mix together the oats and flour in a large bowl then rub in the butter. Once all the butter has been rubbed in add the honey. I only tend to use 1 tbsp but it will depend on how sweet you would like it. Give it a good mix with your hands. Depending on how much honey you used the mixture should hold together but may be a little crumbly. Add half the crumbly mixture to the loaf tin, patting it down firmly. Then add the mashed berries. Finally add the rest of the crumbly mixture patting down the best you can. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden.








Thursday, 18 August 2016

Not long after I had Oliver I had a very restless 2 year old Jessica. She coped really well with having a new baby brother but I had to change her routine somewhat which then led me to having mum guilt. Once Oliver settled into a routine (can you tell I like routines!) I started looking around for suitable local activities that could also accommodate a baby. 

I came across Tumble Tots. I had seen them advertising at a local playgroup and decided to do some research. We already went to a music/creative group so I was definitely interested in something more physical. There are different classes available for different age groups, 6 months to walking, walking to 2 years,  2 to 3 years and 3 years to school age. Each age range is structured to suit the abilities of the children in that class.


arranged a trial very easily through my local groups Facebook page and off we went. On arrival I was greeted by a lovely lady called Jacky who told me what to expect from the session. In the 2 to 3 years class children start by sitting down in a circle with their grown up and participate in a warm up song. They are then divided up into smaller groups and each group sent to a different station along with each tumble tots grown up. Each station is set up differently, allowing children the chance to experience a different activity to improve and develop their balance, climbing, hand-eye-foot control and agility. Once the children have had time on one station they are then told to form a train to move onto the next station with one child being the train driver. After completing each station the session finishes with all children returning to the circle to sing another song followed by each child receiving a sticker. 


Our first session did not go very well. Jessica was too over excited and didn't understand the structure. She just wanted to climb on all the equipment whenever she saw it. She did not take direction or instruction well so it was a battle to get her to follow the structure. We struggled through the class and I was so thankful when it was finished so I could run away and never come back! Fortunately for me Jacky came over to talk to me about how well Jessica's ability on the equipment had been. She reassured me that it was not uncommon for new 2 year olds to be overwhelmed. Jacky encouraged me to return the following week to see how Jessica would get on. 

I debated about going back the whole week but after talking through the structure with Jessica I decided to go back and I'm so thankful that I did. Jessica was a completely different child, she instantly got it. She sat down nicely during circle time, waited her turn patiently at each station and followed instructions from the grown ups. It was such a turnaround! We continued to go every week during term time and she thoroughly enjoyed it. Her ability got better every session and it was brilliant watching not only her physical skills improving but also her confidence and social skills. 


Just before she was 3 she progressed to the 3 years to school age class. The structure in this class is the same but with one big difference, you no longer accompany your child. This is great preparation to help with the transition of starting school. Jessica coped extremely well with this change and I was thankful not to lug a 5 month old Oliver around in a baby carrier! Jessica was in this class for a year and a half and it really made a massive difference to her physical ability. She is much more agile than her cousin who is a year older. She can confidently climb and balance without adult intervention. She shows no hesitation in her ability. Her social skills have also thrived. While in this class she had to listen, follow instructions, respect other tumble tots, work as part of a team and support other tumble tots when they needed help. Being at tumble tots has definitely enhanced her confidence. 



Jessica has thoroughly enjoyed her time at tumble tots and I'm quite sad that it has come to an end. So while she will be busy at school come September it will be the perfect time to commence Oliver's tumble tots experience! 


Please check out www.tumbletots.com for more information and to find your local class.





Tuesday, 9 August 2016

So it's no secret that we love a good flapjack recipe. I was looking to use up some very ripe bananas and instead of making banana and blackberry muffins I thought I would try a new flapjack recipe. 


This recipe is only sweetened with fruit so the riper the banana the sweeter the flapjack will be. If you wanted to make it a little bit sweeter you could add 1 tbsp of honey. 

Ingredients 

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
150g porridge oats 
100g strawberries, washed, diced and dried
50g unsalted butter

Method 

Grease a small swiss loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180 (160 fan). Melt the butter (and honey if using) in a pan then add the to the mashed banana and mix well. Then add your banana mixture to the porridge oats and stir well until all the oats are coated. Then add your diced strawberries stirring gently. 


Place the mixture into the oven and bake for around 25/30 minutes. 


Allow to cool down for 15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.