Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding Crowns

We've been watching all the celebrations surrounding the Royal Wedding today and felt inspired to make some crowns as part of our own little celebration.
This is so easy and simple I barely need to explain how the children did this.  Firstly I made some basic 'crowns' by using sticky tape to join two strips of card together and then cut a zig zag across the top.  Then I gave the children a selection of things to decorate their crowns with.
They had tissue paper, sequin stars, glitter and tin foil.  We used PVA glue but you could use glue sticks.
You could really use anything to make crown I suppose.  Save cereal packets for card and collect pretty things for sticking (easter egg foil would be ideal or sweet wrappers).  If you don't fancy the mess you get with glue then just use crayons and stickers instead.
This is a good craft activity for my children who prefer a more unstructured approach.  That way they can express themselves and not be restricted in what they have to do.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Water painting

First of all I have to admit that this idea was inspired by Mr M who decided to let the children play with some old paintbrushes from his stash in the garage.  He filled an old bin with water and just let Boy and Girl get on with it.
They dived in and painted the paving in the garden, a wheelbarrow and the water and sand tray.
Boy wrote his name on the ground during the activity.
This was a really great way of letting them explore mark making but in a different environment and using different tools.  They had a marvelous time and it was all cost free!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Too busy to parent?

There are so many things we can give our children.  Amazing toys and games, DVDs, computers, expensive holidays and clothes.  You can work hard and earn enough to be able to get a mortgage on a big house and drive an expensive car.  None of these are bad things and, if you choose to give them to your children, they will smile and enjoy them.  There is nothing wrong with that.
What is the best gift you can ever give your children?  The thing they will always remember and never forget?  The thing which will develop and grow them the most?  The thing which will help them to achieve in later life?  The answer lies in something which costs nothing but means everything to your child.  The answer is YOU.

Modern life can be so busy.  We fill our days with answering phone calls, checking emails, watching TV, facebook, twitter.  We work long hours and feel the pressure to put in the extra time at the office.  We promise ourselves we'll focus on our family tomorrow or next week when we have more time but that day never arrives.
When your first child is born people tell you their childhood will go by so quickly and you know that you have plenty of time to cherish your children.  The truth is that they are right and all too quickly the baby is a toddler and then the toddler is at school and before you know it they've grown up.
I don't remember one single gift I was ever given by my parents as a child.  What I do remember are the times we spent together and the things we did.  I remember that very clearly.
If there was one single piece of advice I could give to all parents it would be this.  Spend time with your children.  It doesn't matter what you do with them, just spend time with them and as much of it as you can.  I don't know anyone who has ever said they wish they'd spent less time with their children but I know plenty who wish they'd been able to spend more time with them.

It can be really difficult to find that time in amongst a busy life and I don't want anyone to feel guilty that they can't give enough time to their children.  Sometimes you will need to work, clean, shop, whatever and that's ok.  My plea is that you try not to let those precious years of your children's lives slip through your fingers.
Here are my tips for making the most of your time with your children.

1. Try to eat together as a family - turn off the TV and talk together, find out about what has happened in the day

2. Read with your child - take time to do this everyday at bedtime and do not answer the phone whilst you are reading

3. Listen to your child - give them your full attention when they speak, get on their level and look them in the eye.  Value what they say.

4. Tell your child you love them, use affectionate touch (cuddles, holding hands, etc) when you talk to them.

5. Involve your child in household tasks.  Use this as a chance to spend time with them.  Cook with them, clean with them, do simple DIY tasks with them, involve them in shopping for groceries, gardening.  Talk to them whilst you complete tasks, teach them how to do things.

6. Get outdoors and amongst nature.  Do this even in poor weather.  Run and play, laugh, jump, splash in puddles, get messy and dirty.

7. Play with your child.  Find out what their interests are and play with them.  Sports, jigsaws, board games, make believe, messy play, whatever!

8. Use car journeys to chat with your child.  Have a conversation and enjoy each other's company whilst you are stuck in traffic!

9. Write a letter to your child.  Even a very small child will love receiving a letter from a parent.  Post it and it will become even more exciting!

10. Ask yourself if you're really too busy.  There are very few things which are a real emergency and can't wait.  Your children are only children once.  The phone call, email, work project can wait.  One day your children will stop asking for your time and then you'll regret not spending time with them when they were little.  Make the most of the years you won't get back.
Make time for your family and make the most of the time you have got.  You don't need to be wealthy to give your children a fantastic childhood.  Deprived children are not those who live in poverty (although we should work to get rid of child poverty and help those in financial need) but deprived children are those who do not have their parent's time.  Spending time with your children will give you the opportunity to develop your relationship with them, to teach them skills and the values you hold dear.  To show them the wonders the world holds and to share their joy as they discover it.  You will never, ever regret a moment of the time you make to spend with your children and they will remember it forever.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Chocolate Easter Cake

Here's a really easy cake recipe which we have turned into an Easter cake!  Ingredients: 50g cocoa powder, 6 tbsp boiling water, 3 large eggs, 50ml milk, 175g self raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 100g butter (at room temp), 275g caster sugar, 2 tbsp apricot jam, 150g dark chocolate (Bourneville is a good one), 150ml double cream, chocolate easter treats to decorate (we used a chocolate rabbit from Thorntons, truffle eggs from Tesco and some mini eggs.
You will also need: a mixing bowl, sieve, scales, an electric whisk, two 20cm sandwich tins, baking paper.  Set the oven to 180 degrees/Gas 4.  Wash your hands.  Grease and line the cake tins.
Next sieve the cocoa into the bowl.  Add the hot water and mix to a paste.  Then add the flour. baking powder, sugar, eggs, milk and butter to the bowl an beat with the whisk until smooth.
Then pour equal amounts into the tins and bake in the oven for 25-30 mins.  Take out of the oven and allow to cool a little in the tins before turning out onto a cooling rack.
Whilst the cakes are cooling you can make the fudgy icing!  Break the chocolate into chunks in a heatproof bowl.
Add the cream and then heat over a pan of simmering water until melted.  Stir to combine.
Leave the icing to cool for about 1 1/2 hours until it is much thicker.  Then warm the jam slightly in the microwave and spread over the top of the cakes.
Then cover each cake with the icing and sandwich together.
Finally decorate with Easter eggs or decorations of your choice.  We are taking our cake to eat at a family Easter lunch tomorrow.  There is still time for you to make one too!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Making Easter Nests

Here's a 'how to' for making Easter chocolate nests.    It makes 12 nests.  This has to be the simplest cooking activity.
Ingredients: 225g chocolate (we used Dairy Milk), 75 g cornflakes, some miniature eggs.
You will also need a mixing bowl, cake cases, a spoon and a bun tin is useful if you have one.
First wash your hands.  Then break the chocolate into chunks in the bowl.
Then melt the chocolate in the microwave, add the cornflakes and stir until completely coated in chocolate.
Next place spoonfuls of the mixture into cake cases and put a couple of miniature eggs on top.
Leave them to set and they are ready for you to enjoy.  These would make a lovely gift for children to give to friends and family this Easter, or just to enjoy themselves.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sunflower Race -part 2

Our sunflower race continues and with the sunny weather came the chance to transfer them to larger pots outside.
Both sunflowers have now clearly outgrown the plastic cups they were planted in.  We filled two bigger plastic pots with compost.
We planted the seedlings and gave them a bamboo cane for support.
Then we watered them and measured them for our chart.  Boy's is still in the lead but Girl's is gaining on him.  Boy's measured 29cm whilst Girl's is now 27cm.  It's still not too late to plant sunflower seeds.  Have a look at my previous post for information on planting

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Easter Imagination Kit

The Easter Imagination Kit is really an extension of treasure baskets, song and story bags, dressing up boxes and craft kits.  I've seen similar ideas on other sites and just adapted the idea slightly.  Easter seemed like an obvious theme this week so I put together some objects, toys, craft materials which I've found around the house and whilst out shopping this week.
This Imagination Kit contains, a couple of Easter animal masks, some kitchen roll tubes, an egg box, some plastic decorative eggs, pastel coloured ribbons, silk daffodils, Easter foam stickers, Easter chicks, a toy rabbit.
The idea of the Imagination Kit is to just provide the children with lots of things and let them do what they like with them.  It's to encourage them to use their imaginations and come up with some creative play ideas.  They did just that.
First Boy asked for some paper and used it with the foam stickers.  He chose only to use the blue and green ones though.  He also used some of the chicks and rabbits.  Girl watched him and played with the eggs and egg box.  Then she spent some time opening and closing the eggs.
Then Boy put the chick mask on and sang 'Chick, chick, chicken...'  Girl joined in with the actions and laughed at him.  Then she put the sheep mask on and Boy suggested we sang 'Baa baa black sheep.'

Following this Boy sorted the plastic eggs giving himself the blue and green ones and his sister the pink and gold ones.  Then they made a sort of ramp by joining the cardboard tubes together with sticky tape and sent the eggs down this ramp.
Then Girl came up to me with the rabbit toy and began pointing to her nose.  I realised she wanted to sing 'Little Peter Rabbit.'  We did this a few times and then moved on to 'Little Bunnies Sleeping.'  Boy suggested singing 'Little Chicks Sleeping' and 'Little Eggs Sleeping.'  We did both and there was lots of laughter!
The ribbons were tied around the legs of the piano stool.  Later on we read the Easter story from Boy's children's bible and then Boy asked me to read it a second time.  I intend to keep the Easter Imagination Kit out for the children to dip into whenever they like this week.