Muddy Beginnings

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails
That’s what little boys are made of

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice
That’s what little girls are made of…..

Right?

Definitely not when it comes to my two little monsters. Having two girls I stereotypically imagined it would be all about pink and princesses, not mud and monsters! However I wouldn’t have it any other way. My daughters Ruby and Aria are at their happiest when out exploring the countryside, or serving up mud pies in the mud kitchen their Grandad made for them. When they are not out jumping in puddles, rainy days are best spent watching their favourite film Monsters Inc. in a bear cave under the dining table. Life is fun but a challenge being a stay at home mum looking after my two little wildlings, so I decided to start a blog to document some of our adventures and to share ideas (and tips to stay some what sane) with other parents. Childhood is fleeting and I hope I can make it as fun and as magical as possible, even when the tantrums and the sleepless nights drive me mad…

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Nature Detectives

In modern times kids are disconnecting more and more from the natural world. As technology rapidly advances and green spaces in cities are few and far between some kids find themselves spending a life indoors. This breaks my heart as I see how much my girls love to play outside, but we are lucky enough to live in a rural area with a big garden. We are not technology phobes by any stretch of the imagination, my monsters love to watch TV and play on iPads. However the benefits of outdoor play for kids is enormous, as the ever changing environment stimulates all their senses, and boosts their physical and cognitive development. I thought I would put together a list of a few ways we have experienced nature close up, spending little or no money.

Feeding the birds and wildlife

My dad made us a bird table for the garden but you can put food out for the birds anywhere if it is out of reach of cats and hang food in bushes or trees. The girls love to put some food out and then watch the birds eat it from the window. When we have the money we buy some seed and fat balls but I didn’t realise you can feed them scraps such as rice, cereal, porridge oats, bread, bacon rind, cheese, fruit, pastry and cooked potatoes . We also had fun tying some string through cardboard toilet roll tubes, then smothering them in peanut butter before dipping them in seed. We also have hedgehogs in our garden so we always leave a bowl of water out and occasionally leave some cat food too. My dad made them a hibernation box out of scrap wood and we’ve had a few prickly visitors in there.

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Mini beast hunting

This is great fun to do in the garden, at the park or in the woods. We turn over rocks and look in every crack and crevice to see how many different bugs we can find.  Ruby loves bugs and like to hold them all and look at them through her magnifying glass.

 

 

Days out

It can sometimes cost as much as £10 a person to visit farms, and you can double that for a zoo. So getting up close with animals is often not an option. One idea is to hunt for a free entry deer park, we took the girls to Wollaton Hall in Nottingham which is brilliant. The deer roam free in the grounds and are so used to people you can walk right up to them. Belton House have deer in the grounds too if you are local. Pets at home, or as I like to call it – the free zoo, held free workshops during the summer holidays where you could go and stroke all the animals such as rabbits, rats and hamsters. Garden centres are great too, the one closest to me (Belton Garden Centre) has lots of fish and if you pay £1 you can feed them. They also have reindeer there at Christmas time.  If all else fails feeding the ducks at the park is always a winner! DEER

Collecting nature’s treasure

This can be done all year round but autumn is definitely the best season. We collect conkers, pine cones, colourful leaves and flowers, twigs and stones. We’ve also made a nature viewing bottle by filling an empty plastic bottle with interesting things as we go which turned out quite well. Once we get our loot home we like to use them to make pictures. A good tip for little ones is to tear out some pages of a colouring book so they have an outline to follow. We’ve also made a fairy garden, conker and pine cone creatures and many more things. Have a look at some of our ideas here – Autumn Activities

 


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Scavenger hunt

Before we go for a walk I like to print off some pictures of things we are likely to spot, such as birds, bugs and plants. Then we keep our eyes peeled and tick them off as we go. When they get older I plan to make it more difficult, and it could even be a competition with the first one to spot all their items being the winner.

Feather collecting

We like to look out for interesting bird feathers on our adventures, and collect them all in a scrap book.

 

Taking part in surveys

This summer we took part in the big butterfly count by keeping an eye out for different butterflies and submitting our results. The girls got sent a certificate for their participation which they were chuffed with. We’ve also taken part in the RSPB’s big garden bird watch. There are also some lovely activities for giving wildlife a home in your garden on the RSPB website which we are going to have ago at, you can earn badges for completing them. https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/

butterfly count

Watch flowers grow

My dad made the girls some wooden planters so they could have their own little garden. They planted some flowers and herbs and have loved watering them. They also planted some sunflowers seeds which have grown into sunflowers taller than themselves which they have found fascinating.

 

Fishing

Its lots of fun to splash in the river, and if you take some nets you might be lucky enough to catch some wriggly little fish. We had a look at the minnows and sticklebacks in a plastic jar before safely returning them to the river.

 

Save the bees

If you come across an exhausted bee that is struggling, you can give them a spoonful of sugar mixed with water. We were amazed how quickly they started drinking and the girls were delighted to watch them fly away when they recovered.

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Berry picking

Not only is this lots of fun but it’s also free fruit! There are lots of bramble bushes about to pick blackberries and the girls have also helped to pick sloe berries for mummy’s sloe gin! I am no good at baking so a simple idea is to chuck the blackberries in the blender with a bit of apple juice to make a smoothie, or with some milk for bright purple milkshakes.

 

These ideas are just a few of our favourites, there are so many ways for kids to have fun outside without spending a penny (Check out some of my other blog posts for some more tips!) Nature is a kid’s playground, it inspires wonder in them and keeps them active. Fresh air and muddy boots makes for happy kids.

Pink or Blue

Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails that’s what little boys are made of. Sugar and spice and all things nice that’s what little girls are made of.

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This poem has always struck a chord with me as although old fashioned it is still symbolic with how little girls and boys are stereotyped growing up. A few days ago I took the girls shopping in Home Bargains, and they were allowed to choose some chocolate coins at the end. There was some pink ones or blue ones, the latter of which had monsters and sharks on so they both chose those immediately. I didn’t think anything of it until later that day when I was unwrapping them and I realised that this chocolate was intended for boys. Out of interest when I returned to the shop a few days later I purchased a pack of the girl coins and was little shocked when I compared the two. The boy’s coins had pictures of animals, monsters, and footballs and text such as ‘Boys only’ and ‘Wannabe a hero’ where as the girls had princesses, and fairy tale castles and text such as ‘Kiss me’ and ‘Wannabe a star’. Only boys could possibly like sea creatures and sports, and will grow up to be action heroes and save the world. Girls on the other hand should have aspirations to wear a pretty dress and wait for a prince to come along to save her. Now you may think I’m reading too much into this and you’re probably right – I am the biggest over thinker! However this kind of marketing is everywhere.

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There are boys toys and there are girls. There are boys clothes and there are girls. Kids are constantly pigeon holed into what they should wear and how they should play based on their gender. If you look down the girls clothes aisle everything is pink, sparkly and adorned with flowers and princesses. If you look down the boys clothes aisle everything is navy, grey, green and red, plastered with muscled superheroes and monsters. It reinforces the idea that boys are strong, and girls are vulnerable and in need of a protector. It is a similar view when looking at the toy aisles, the same colours explode from the shelves and the boys toys are action heroes and cars. The girls toys are dolls and cute and cuddly animals, all steering girls in a nurturing direction. There was a documentary on the BBC called ‘No More Boys and Girls’ which explored the nature of gender stereotyping. They undertook an experiment in which they dressed young children in clothes typically associated with the opposite gender. They then asked volunteers to interact with the children and discovered that they offered the children gender specific toys. When one lady observed who she thought was a girl playing with a robot, she actually removed the toy and swapped it for a pink fluffy animal instead.

girls vs boys

It is considered odd if a little boy wants to wear pink and play with dolls and if a girl wants to wear army combat gear and climb a tree. I was that odd girl growing up, a ‘tomboy’. I hated pink, and dolls weren’t of much interest to me. I was in my element outside riding my bike, climbing trees, and building dens. I went through a stage of only wanting to wear clothing that was army camouflage print, so I would look the part in my ‘spy club’.  My parents just let me get on with it, and now, I wouldn’t say I’m a so called ‘girly girl’ but let’s just say the army clothes are a thing of the past. My point is that kids are exactly that, kids. They don’t have any preconceived ideas about what they should and shouldn’t like. They just like it. They should be allowed free reign to express themselves and establish their own unique personality. Just because a child is not conforming to certain gender stereotypes does not mean they will grow up to be confused about their gender.

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I always let my girls choose what they want to wear or play with without steering them in any particular direction. My oldest Ruby loves monsters so many times we have purchased clothes and toys from the ‘boys section’. However my youngest loves to wear dresses and they both enjoying playing with dolls and watching the odd Disney princess film. They both love being outdoors getting muddy, something commonly attributed to boys. They are in their element making mud pies and interacting with bugs. A few days ago I gave my oldest a blue plate with her lunch on and she threw a tantrum, demanding a pink plate because blue was for boys. This was something she may be heard at nursery or on television. I was quick to inform her that there are no specific colours for boys or girls and she should like colours just because. After thinking about it she decided that really, she would in fact rather stick with the blue plate. I hope as they grow up they are influenced as little as possible by gender stereotypes, and make their own path free from judgement.

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Dear Neighbours

I write this, not to you specifically as I’m sure you will never read it, but I write to anyone out there who has little patience for young kids. I hear you shouting for us to shut up every time things get a bit rowdy but I choose not to reply. I also choose not to take the girls inside as I believe keeping them cooped up so you can have peace and quiet is unfair. I know, for creatures so small they generate a lot of noise. From the minute they wake in the morning to the minute they go to sleep they like to make themselves heard.  Unfortunately for you, this means that you have to put up with the noise while you are trying to sunbathe. When kids are excited, they are loud. When they fall out with their sibling, they are loud. No amount of shushing on my behalf will dampen their spirits and I’m afraid toddlers do not have volume control. Of course I discipline them and tell them to tone down the screaming but its summer, and they want to be outside having fun and so they should be.

My threenager has just upgraded to the feisty fours, and my youngest is in full throttle terrible two mode but this recent heatwave is making my girls particularly grouchy. I can’t remember a summer as hot as this and extreme heat is enough to make anyone irritable, let alone toddlers who can’t fully express themselves yet. So I have to admit the tantrums have become more frequent, and therefore the noise level escalates with it.  Sometimes I wonder what you must think when you hear blood curdling screams coming from our house. I promise you I am just trying to wash my kids hair, I’m not performing an exorcism! Everything is a battle; meal times, bath times, bed times it all feels like one big screaming match on a bad day.  I’m just trying to make it through the best I can, and I understand that the noise might drive you bonkers but try living it! Having young children is hard. You can sugar coat it with fairies and unicorns but the bare bones of raising children is a hard slog of mental and physical exhaustion. However those moments when you hear them giggling, when they cuddle you and tell you they love you and when you see their angelic little faces when they finally fall asleep after hours of protests, all that stress melts away and you realise why you are doing this. Moments like splashing each other with water in the pool and giggling and screaming with delight, moments where you bulldozed in and told them to be quiet.

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Parenting is hard enough as it is without the judgement of others.  I find it sad that instead of supporting one another, parents often shame each other instead. With the weight of the world on our shoulders the last thing we need is a negative comment or experience. Mum guilt is a concept I relate strongly with. You constantly feel bad and question every decision you make. Should I really be a stay at home mum, or should I go to work to make us more financially stable. Should I provide healthier meals even though I know they won’t eat it? Should I be stricter, and dish out harsher punishments? Should I…should I? It never stops.  Now I have a new pressure weighing down on me every time the girls start screaming. Should I give in and give them what they want so they stop screaming. So they don’t annoy you. That doesn’t teach them a very good lesson though does it?

I’ve joined online chat groups before where a parent will ask for advice and instead will be met with a wave of negative comments and find themselves ridiculed. If you don’t agree with someone’s parenting style perhaps offer constructive advice or keep on scrolling. It makes it so much harder for people to put themselves out there, not just online but in everyday life. Taking the girls out by myself is a huge challenge, as dealing with tantrums in public is next level. When one of them kicks off because they are not getting their own way everyone around seems to stop and stare like you have a child that’s out of control. Maybe instead of staring or making a nasty comment we should turn a blind eye, or offer support. Even a friendly smile and a nod of encouragement will mean the world to a parent dealing with a tiny ninja that’s screaming and Kung Fu kicking them in the face. Being at home is a parent’s safe place, where they are shaded from judgemental eyes. Where they can let the kids run free but discipline them accordingly without the worry of what anyone else thinks. When you shout at them from your garden you are breaking that protective barrier, making me feel vulnerable to scrutiny once more.

hunger games

You see something as simple as shouting ‘shut up’ can have a domino effect. You probably do it and then don’t give it another thought. However it startles everyone in the moment, and plays on my mind long afterwards. Suddenly, my safe place is threatened, and I wrestle with keeping you happy and keeping them happy. I am sorry they have tantrums and they are loud, but they are little and they are learning. They can’t cope with being over tired, or hot, or hungry. When they feel something they feel it tenfold, and struggle to channel it appropriately. Having a sibling escalates things further, as sharing toys and attention is difficult. The thing is, I don’t know you. You’ve not taken the time to get to know me and my girls happiness will always come above and beyond anything else. So you may find them playing in the garden annoying this summer, but that it is not about to change. Childhood should be about being free to play and have fun and learn. Not being constantly kept quiet indoors by television and devices. My muddy monsters maybe a little on the wild side (perhaps feral!) but I wouldn’t have them any other way.

rain dance

Quotes: Pinterest.

The Threenage Years

People warn you that everything will change when you have children but I don’t think it’s possible to prepare yourself for how drastic those changes will be. When you hold your newborn in your arms for the first time you feel a surge of emotion wash over you, a great depth of love you never imagined possible. You have high hopes for the future, and expectations of how your little bundle of joy will grow. Babies are born every day, people have more than one child, so it can’t be that hard… can it? You soon discover the answer to that question is yes, it is unbelievably hard. There are fantastic highs but also incredible lows in those wee small hours of the night when your baby is inconsolable and you feel a level of exhaustion you are convinced you won’t survive. But somehow you do, and as your baby grows they slowly begin to sleep better at night, begin to crawl, take their first steps and you allow yourself to breathe. Those long nights with a fragile and hysterical new-born when you had no idea what you were doing are distant memory and you think yes, I’ve got this. Then BAM your precious little angel turns two and things go south. You have entered the twilight zone, or as I like to call it, the threenage years

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Now everyone has heard of the terrible twos, so I was prepared for tantrums. However I was not prepared for the sheer number of tantrums and the ridiculousness of the tantrum subjects. For example, a few days ago my eldest, Ruby, had a tantrum because she was trying to blow bubbles but it was a windy day so the bubbles were appearing before she could blow the wand. She burst into tears and demanded that I stop the wind right now. No amount of explaining that this wasn’t possible was good enough and she completely lost her mind. Later on she had a meltdown because her banana broke in half, and she wanted me to stick it back together. In the same day, my youngest, Aria threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her shut Ruby in the Wendy house, followed by a tantrum from Ruby, because she had been shut in the Wendy house. These constant crazy tantrums really do make you feel like you are going insane, acting like a referee separating squabbling siblings trying to pull each other’s pigtails.

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I naively thought that by the time they turn three, it would miraculously end. No, in fact when Ruby turned three she cranked things up a notch. And at almost four, her diva strops are worse than ever. Tantrums are even harder to deal with when you throw a sibling into the mix as they are not just rebelling against you, they are fighting with each other. Ruby turned two a couple of weeks after Aria was born and that’s when things went next level. My sweet and shy little one year old suddenly would throw fits over the smallest thing, crying and screaming, throwing herself on the floor in public. She was dealing with the usual need for independence and mood swings that a toddler feels but also jealousy over the sudden arrival of her baby sister, who obviously needed more of my attention at times.  In between breast feeding my newborn and potty training Ruby, the epic tantrums were the icing on a terrifying cake that led me to spending much of my time alone while my husband was at work.  The thought of venturing out with them both was so overwhelming and I did feel very isolated. When I found myself feeling quite down, guilt would also weigh heavily when I looked at my beautiful girls. I was aware how lucky I was, how blessed I was to have healthy children who were thriving but there were times when I could have walked straight out the door and kept walking. toddler quote 6

This feeling doesn’t go away, as now they are older there are new challenges. Aria has always been a lot more laid back than Ruby, happy to play by herself and get on with things. Now at almost 2, she is beginning to have meltdowns, and the fighting and bickering with her sister is constant. The driving force of these tantrums are the need for independence, in a world they are not yet ready to handle. As language is developing they may become frustrated because they can’t express their feelings or wants or needs effectively; or they physically aren’t able to do something by themselves. Unable to control their emotions, if they feel something, such as anger or frustration, they feel it tenfold.  Once that feeling takes hold they struggle to let it go, becoming consumed with anger they lash out, cry and scream. Understanding why they have tantrums doesn’t really make them any easier to deal with, as in that moment when your toddler is looking like they need an exorcist on the supermarket floor you just want the ground to swallow you up. When you are in the safety of your own home you can deal with a tantrum by ignoring it, but when you are in public that is not always possible. When you find yourself dragging your child outside kicking and screaming and feel everyone staring in your direction you feel so inadequate, like you are unable to control your child.


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Although Ruby’s language has developed so she is now able to express her thoughts and feelings her tantrums continue. She has always been highly strung and wants constant entertainment, throwing a strop if she doesn’t get her own way. The threenager is a master manipulator. As their language develops they are able to use their new found words as weapons. One minute they are cuddling you, saying how much they love you, mere minutes later they are screaming and kicking, telling you to go away if they don’t get what they want.  These little people have the ability to mess with your emotions, knowing exactly what buttons to press. Before I had children I had never felt as deeply as I do now. I have never felt happiness and love to such a degree, but then on the flip side I had never felt anger, sadness and loneliness in such a quantity either. It is like a rollercoaster of constantly changing moods that you can’t get off to pause for breath, even in the middle of the night, when you hear a little voice shouting ‘Mummy I’m lonely’. They know exactly what to say to pull at the heart strings.

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As both my children have now entered the threenage years and things have intensified I feel like I have become more adapt at dealing with tantrums. There are still days when I feel like my head will explode but I’ve found for me, a mixture of ignorance and bribery is the way forward. When I feel a tantrum brewing I will try to nip it in the bud by giving the offender a warning. If the incessant whining continues they find themselves in the naughty corner. (A travel cot in the living room). This is usually when the full blown tantrum rears its ugly head as they realise they are not getting what they want. Once they calm down they are allowed to join in again on the condition they apologise. They also get a ‘bad’ token placed in the jar (a bottle cap). When they are being good they receive good tokens, 10 of these will get them a reward such as a magazine or toy. 10 bad tokens means no chocolate or sweets…the ultimate punishment for my girls as they live for their little treat after dinner! I have become quite well adjusted at ignoring a meltdown, my husband and I can now hold a full on conversation while blood curdling screams are going on in the background. Being out and about is another matter though, and I will happily have my food shopping delivered to avoid supermarket freak outs or treat ourselves to a take away rather than a meal out. Sometimes it can feel like you are being held prisoner by your tiny dictators but often it’s not worth the battle. When on holiday or on days out and avoiding tantrum triggers is not an option, I find I’m a lot more hard-skinned the second time around. With Ruby I wouldn’t enjoy myself because I would be on edge waiting for the inevitable, and when it happened I would be mortified and conscious of everybody’s judgement around me. Now, a public tantrum is still stressful, but I find I care less about the people around me, and just ignore the screaming. When I feel them getting restless I will bribe with snacks, but when this doesn’t work ignoring them is the best policy until we can get back to the car.  


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The way I see it is that most of those people staring will be parents themselves, and people often quickly forget how hard toddlers can be to manage.  I believe the root of Ruby’s attitude is that she is very clever, and finds herself bored easily.  She is so ready for school, and I am hoping that when she starts in September it will really help. In turn I think Aria’s grumpiness will improve, as when Ruby’s at school she won’t be fighting for my attention. No matter how hard some days are, I know deep down I will miss the threenage years, as despite the tantrums it’s a time when they truly believe in magic, and that anything is possible. It’s a time when they are torn between still wanting to be your little baby and wanting to be a big girl full of sass that doesn’t need her mummy’s help.  Tummy’s rumble and little legs get tired, the big wide world can be overwhelming and mood swings are hard to deal with. They are just discovering the world, and who they are as a person. They won’t always be this grumpy, they won’t always constantly want my attention. In between the tantrums are beautiful moments, when little sisters cuddle and hold hands, and big sister helps little sister to climb the stairs. I won’t always be sleep deprived and hear the pitter patter of tiny feet as they come to cuddle mummy in the middle of the night because they are scared of monsters. I may be driven to the very edge of sanity but I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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Quotes – Credit Pinterest

50 Ideas for outdoor fun this summer

A few weeks ago we had an unwelcome visit from the beast from the east. It was -12 and we built a snowman. Fast forward to last week and it was almost 30 degrees and the girls were playing in the paddling pool. We’ve had some crazy weather this spring and and I hope the recent heatwave isn’t summer come and gone early. I thought I would put some ideas together for cooling down and having fun in the garden this summer (fingers crossed for more sunshine!)

  1. Ice Egg Rescue – Squeeze a small toy such as a Lego figure into a balloon and then fill with water. Tie a knot and chuck in the freezer. Once frozen solid cut away the balloon and let the kids have fun trying to rescue the toy. I gave the girls some warm water to squeeze on them to help things along.
  2. Water Bomb Piñata – Fill up balloons with water then tie them up on a tree branch/washing line and then take it in turns to bash with a stick. Whoever pops it wins! Its great fun to throw water bombs out of the upstairs window onto the patio too for maximum impact.
  3. River Run – Grab some tin foil and roll it out on a slope, curling up the sides. Pour water down along with toy boats, leaves etc. to make your own river. You can also use tinfoil to make ponds or castle moats in the sandpit.
  4. Dinosaur Excavation – Bury toy dinosaurs in the sandpit or soil for the kids to discover and dig out.
  5. Mini Beast Adventure – Hunt for creepy crawlies and tick them off a check list.
  6. Nature Scavenger hunt – Stick different leaves and flowers inside the lid of the egg box, then let the kids find them in the garden and put them in the corresponding egg compartment.DSC08150.JPG
  7. What Melts? – Put different objects in a bun tray, some that will melt such as ice, butter, wax crayons and some that won’t. Leave them in direct sunlight and see if the kids can guess which which will stay solid. IMG_7037
  8. Paddling Pool Foam Party – Fill the paddling pool with a can of shaving foam for slippery soapy fun!
  9. Yoghurt Lollies – Need to cool down but no ice lollies left? Poke lolly sticks through the lids of yoghurt or fromage frais and then put in the freezer to make frozen yoghurt pops.
  10. Puddle Splashing – Even summer rain doesn’t stop play. A simple walk in welly boots looking for puddles after a thunderstorm can be lots of fun!
  11. Water Pistol Painting – Fill old water pistols with paint and then shoot paper on an easel or pinned to a wall.DSC01948
  12. Wallpaper Painting – Old rolls of wallpaper can be rolled out across the garden and become a giant canvas for painting. Use paint on paper plates to dip feet to make footprints. IMG_6846
  13. Mud Kitchen – My girls have had hours of fun making mud pies at the mud kitchen their Grandad built.  But all you need really is a few old pots and pans. They not only use mud but sand, sawdust (makes good ‘porridge’)grass, leaves and flowers.

     

     

  14. Fairy Garden – Build a miniature world for the fairy folk!
  15. Dinosaur Swamp – Along the same lines as the fairy garden, but a Jurassic world instead. We added a pond, rocks and plants. dino world
  16. Rose Petal Perfume – A classic, I remember doing this when I was kid. Collect up rose petals and put them in a jar with some water to make this nostalgic fragrance. IMG_7468
  17. Den Building – Simple dens such as a sheet over the washing line or more elaborate shelters with tree branches if you have time.

     

  18. Nature Jewellery – Put cello tape around your arm stick side up, and then add flowers and leaves to make a bracelet. You could also put around your head to make a crown. IMG_2733
  19. Paddling pool fishing – Chuck toy fish or rubber ducks in the paddling pool and then try and catch them with a net. First one to finish with the most toys wins! You could also do this with plastic letters and try to spell words with what you have caught. IMG_5259
  20. Fairy Soup – Collect together pretty flowers and leaves in a pot and then add some water to make a soup. Add glitter and food colouring to make it magical.
  21. Sticky Wall Art – Use double sided cello tape to make a sticky canvas to add flowers, feathers and leaves.
  22. Mud Tree Creatures – Add a little water to some soil to make it sticky, then mould it into a face shape on a tree stump. Add stones, leaves and twigs to make faces or other creatures.DSC02019
  23. Car Wash – Have fun driving toy cars through the mud then set up a car washing station to give them a good scrub. Tooth brushes work quite well.
  24. Animal Farm – Create a muddy patch for toy farm animals to play in.
  25. Shadow Drawing – Place plain paper on the ground and then trace the shadows from tree branches or toy animals etc.
  26. Bear Hunt – When we go for a walk in the woods we quite often re-enact stories the girls like as we walk round such as We’re Going on a Bear Hunt or the Gruffalo. We tell the story and look for the creatures. If you’re sneaky you can smuggle out a stuffed animal for them to discover. gruffalo 2
  27. Picnic Lunch – This is an obvious one but when the sun is out the girls love having lunch outside. I just throw down a blanket and they have a teddy bears tea party. picnic.jpg
  28. Nature Colour Match – Lay down different coloured card and then search the garden for things that match those colours.
  29. Birds Nests – Creature your own birds nests using twigs and leaves, and add stones as pretend eggs. This is a great one to do when the lawn has just been mowed and there’s piles of cut grass.
  30. Doll Salon – Use baby shampoo to wash all the dolls hair. Some of the girls dolls had quite tangled hair so I found a spritz of fabric conditioner and water was a good detangler. doll salon
  31. Treasure Hunts – Hide clues that lead on to each X marks the spot with some treasure to find at the end. I usually use chocolate coins. DSC05095
  32. Trampoline fun – The trampoline is one of the best things we’ve bought. It keeps them amused for ages! A good idea is to throw some plastic ball pit balls on there with them and blow some bubbles. We’ve also used leaves in autumn. Its also good to lay on to watch the clouds or stargaze at night with a blanket. IMG_0085(1)
  33. Blackberry Picking – Foraging for berries in the countryside is always fun!DSC00428.JPG
  34. Water Pistol Knock Out – Stand lego figures or small dolls on a wall. Try to knock them off by shooting your water pistol. First one to knock them all down wins!
  35.  Leaf Printing – Put some leaves on some paper and the cover with kitchen roll. Use a hammer to make an imprint on the paper. You can also put leaves underneath the paper and colour over the top to see the leaf outline. Another idea is put the paper on a tree trunk and colour over to get a bark rubbing.
  36. Ice Play – Use ice cubes to build towers and igloos. You could add pom poms inside the ice  cubes or food colouring to make them different colours.
  37. Frozen paints – Fill an ice cube tray with different colour paints and a little water. Use the frozen paint cubes to paint a picture.
  38. Animal Houses – Another good thing to look out for when out walking is animal homes such a rabbit burrows or badger setts. My girls also helped their Grandad put up some bird boxes

     

  39. Nature Art – Make pictures using petals and leaves, a good idea is to rip out pages from colouring books to stick things on. Make a petal dress for a fairy or doll picture!
  40. Leaf and flower threading – Take daisy chains to the next level by making decoration for the garden. Get a piece of string and make small holes in leaves and flowers and add them on. You could also use this method to make jewellery by tying  around neck/wrist when finished.
  41. Pebble Painting – Paint pictures or words onto rocks. I’ve heard of people leaving them in parks for other kids to find which I think is a lovely idea.
  42. Fairy Hunting – While out walking we always look for fairies. I sneakily sprinkle some glitter (fairy dust!) around tree trunks for them to discover.

     

  43. What Floats? – Try to make boats or rafts with twigs and string. Drop different objects into the paddling pool to discover what floats and what sinks.
  44. Bird Feeders – Smother a toilet roll holder in peanut butter then roll in bird seed until its covered. Use string to tie to the bird table or from branches
  45. Fairy Gifts – We have a fairy door on the tree in our garden and we often make little gifts for the fairies such as daisy chains or fairy soup and leave at the fairy door. We check back later to see if it has gone and usually we find some chocolate coins or sweets as a thank you. IMG_0329(1)
  46. Outdoor Music – Use pots and pans, Tupperware, Pringle tubes and other packaging (baby formula milk tubs are great!) to bang and crash with a stick to make ‘music’. An old baby xylophone can be pulled a part and hung up by string to be hit or left as a wind chime. Old keys work well for this too. The neighbours probably don’t enjoy this one as much haha!
  47. Outdoor Blackboard – Use blackboard paint on some wood to make an outdoor chalk board.
  48. I Spy – When on a walk list some things for the kids to spot to keep them amused. Ideas could include a feather, a flower, or a dog or buggy if in the park. When everything has been found they win a prize (those trusty chocolate coins again!)
  49. Alphabet or Number Match – Fill the paddling pool with plastic/foam letters and or numbers and draw the corresponding letters with chalk on the patio. The challenge is to scoop out the letters and then put them in the right spot on the patio.
  50. Painting With Nature – Set a challenge to paint without brushes, they have to find other things in the garden to use such as leaves, feathers and rocks. DSC01890
     

Eggcellent Easter!

We have had a lovely Easter weekend this year so I thought I would share with you some of the Easter inspired magic that we squeezed in.

The Easter Bunny

When the girls are asleep the night before Easter Sunday, a long eared, bushy tailed, magical visitor hops around our garden and hides eggs containing chocolate treats for them to find in the morning. He leaves behind magical footprints on the patio as evidence for them to discover. For this I cut out a rough stencil of a bunny shaped footprint on some card then shake over some talcum powder or flour and then hope it doesn’t rain! As we live in England and it’s pretty much always raining I usually have to  sneak out in my PJs at the crack of dawn before the girls wake up to carry out this secret mission (pretty sure the neighbours think I’m crazy!). This year Ruby decided she wanted to leave the Easter Bunny one of her Peppa Pig cupcakes that we had made (I burnt them as usual) just like she does for Santa. I wasn’t sure that rabbits are that fond of cake but I figured that he is not your average bunny so he probably has a sweet tooth, considering all the chocolate eggs he delivers. We thought we would cover all bases and leave him a carrot too, which they were amazed to discover had been nibbled on. Buddy (Our Christmas elf on the shelf) even showed up at the elf door for a Easter quick visit and a brought a couple of kinder eggs to add to the Easter egg hoard.

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buddy easter

 

Crafts

Each year I try and think of some Easter themed crafts to keep them busy (with the help of pinterest of course!). I had some eggs that were out of date so I hard boiled them and let them decorate them. Being under 5 the girls won’t be winning any egg decorating contests with their artistic talents but they had fun mixing all the paint into one murky colour and coating the eggs in it. Another fun and quick idea is squeezing some paint on paper plates and letting them use a potato masher to make egg shaped prints. To make Easter bunny prints we taped three toilet roll holders together and used them as a stamp and then Ruby drew on faces when it was dry. Last year I cut out egg shapes out of paper and they decorated them by dipping pom poms clipped in pegs and cotton buds in different colours.

 

Days Out

It’s becoming an Easter tradition to visit Little Jack’s Farm, which is a lovely little place not far from where we live (Nottinghamshire). It’s very reasonably priced and not only does it have some beautiful animals but also lots of indoor and outdoor play space to keep the little ones busy. We were also lucky enough to meet the real Easter Bunny, and after completing their Easter trail he gave us some more chocolate eggs! Chocolate fuelled toddlers in soft play is my idea of hell especially when I’m made to climb right to the top, crawl through tunnels and wade through ball pits. Now my oldest is nearly 4 she is becoming more confident to play by herself which is great, however I still found myself doing all of the above to try and stop my dare devil almost two year old from throwing herself down every slide and set of steps..upside down. (This kid has no fear!). We also found time to take the dog for a walk and do some fairy hunting. We found plenty of evidence of our fairy friends in the form of fairy dust on tree stumps (glitter!) and we even found a real pixie inside a hollow tree which we took home and added to our collection.

Easter is always a fun time of year, and we see it as a celebration of spring. The girls love to see and learn all about the baby animals and birds that are starting to be born. Ruby’s nursery is on a farm and she was lucky enough to see some sheep actually give birth and little lambs take their first steps. She was slightly grossed out and told me all about it in graphic detail, describing the babies as being ‘pooed out’ and the mummy sheep licking the ‘blood and guts’ off the baby. However she found it fascinating and it was a wonderful experience for her. I hope next year we will have lots more Easter fun and the Easter bunny will continue his visits for many more years yet, it is so magical to seem truly believe.

 

Muddy Boots and Muddy Paws

I have always had pets and I am sure I always will. In the first few years of my life we had a German shepherd called Lincoln who was my best buddy, my partner in crime, and my fierce protector. I have vivid memories of playing with him, and feeding him coco pops at my toy kitchen when no one was looking. In the last few months of his life a stray ginger cat I named Samuel Whiskers took up residence in my Wendy house, determined to upgrade to the main house despite almost being eaten by Lincoln on several occasions. The day Lincoln died he strolled in without a care in the world and laid down on the rug, deciding for us that we were now cat people, rather than dog owners. Over the years I talked my parents into letting me have a menagerie of other pets such as rabbits, budgies and goldfish and this instilled in me a love of animals that I hope that my girls will have too.

When I first moved in with my now husband there was a brief period where we had no pets. Our first home was a tiny flat that was strictly no pets allowed and it wasn’t long before I was itching to break the rules. It just didn’t feel right without a pet, the place felt decidedly empty. My husband worked at a pub at the time and one night he came home from work with a pet rat, gigantic cage and all. Apparently one of his regular customers could no longer care for it and he volunteered us to be its new owners. I was against the idea at first, thinking of the brown little creatures that scurry through the sewers. However Homer the rat quickly changed my opinion and I suddenly had a tiny best friend that would curl up and sleep in my pocket. He was such a character, he was more like a dog than a rodent. We would let him go for a supervised wander out of his cage and if he ventured too far he would come running back when you called him. One day I got home from work and was horrified to discover that his cage was open and he was nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later I found him fast asleep behind a cushion on the sofa.

homer

When the time had come to move to a house with a garden I knew I wanted to get a dog. That is when my beautiful rescue dog Judy came into our lives. She was really poorly treated by previous owners and found it difficult to trust people, but she gave me a chance and we quickly became inseparable. It is a cliché to say a dog is a man’s best friend but Judy really was. We went everywhere together -she even came to our wedding! She was the most loyal and loving dog and helped me through some really tough times. We had three wonderful years with her before cancer took her away from me too soon. It was like losing a family member and hit me pretty hard. A few months later I found out I was pregnant with Ruby and I was devastated that she never got to meet her. Not long after Judy died Holly the Jack Russell bounded into our lives. She is totally different in personality to Judy, she is bursting with energy and has so much love to give to anyone that stops to say hello. The girls love her and she is so patient and happy to have two little playmates. Not only are we dog owners we also have a tabby cat called Princess, another homeless fur baby we couldn’t say no to. It is utter chaos in our house with two toddlers fighting like ‘cat and dog’ AND the actual dog and cat chasing each other around, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! We also currently have two rescued guinea pigs named Mike and Sully after my daughter’s favourite film monsters Inc. Over the years we have had all sorts of furry lodgers from Trevor the abandoned rabbit with a wonky leg to daffy the lost duckling. There will always be room in our house and our hearts for animals in need (regardless of what the tenancy says…shh!)

me judy    wedding

holly princess

 

I believe that having animals around will be a positive influence on my girls as they grow up. Pets give love unconditionally, and will always be there with a non-judgemental ear when they need comfort. Not only that, but having a pet around can teach kids about empathy and responsibility. They begin to recognise when the pet is scared, perhaps of a loud noise or when they are hungry or need to go outside. As they grow they can help look after them by taking them for walks or giving them food. Even as young babies pets can help them socialise, and become a stimulus for practicing their verbal skills as they learn to talk. Having pets can even boost their immune system, in the same way as playing outside in the dirt. When they are exposed to microbes their bodies learn to become resistant to them.

I am so happy that my girls will grow up having little furry friends to share in their fun just like I did. Our animals are members of our family and I can’t imagine not having them with us. Seeing the girls enjoying long muddy walks with Holly or snuggling up watching a film with princess warms my heart and I hope we have many more years of happy memories to make.

      walk holly   holly ruby

 

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