Monday, 17 March 2014

Our Week in Photographs (11)

10.3.14 - Walking the dog, making the most of this sun.

11.3.14 - Mark Making

12.3.14 - Flamboyant

13.3.14 - Cousins

14.3.14 - Football Match: Freddie Vs Mummy

15.3.14 - Bath Time with Peppa & George

16.3.14 - The best way to spend a Sunday 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Fashionable Friday (on a Saturday)

I am so pleased to be able to showcase a Summer outfit today as a pose to a dreary Winter one. I'm a huge fan of Summer and sun so I took the first opportunity to bring out the shorts!

Freddie is wearing:

Top: Mayoral at Daisy & Sam
3/4 Shorts: Levi
Shoes: Converse Hi Tops
Bibs: Part of a 3pk from Next

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Our Week in Photographs (10)

3.3.14 - Trip to the Park in the Armadillo

4.3.14 - Nice & Tidy House

5.3.14 - Water Play

6.3.14 - Playing out in the Garden

7.3.14 - The Baby & Toddler Show

8.3.14 - Mr Cool

9.3.14 - Temple Newsam in our Slugs & Snails tights

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Baby & Toddler Show 2014

Last week I'd been having a rubbishy day when I checked my email to a pleasant surprise. I'd won tickets to the Baby & Toddler Show 2014 in the Oh So Amelia Giveaway.

We chose tickets for this Friday, in Manchester. Normally these type of events are located too far from us so I was really pleased we'd won. Mr C is working so I'm taking my Mum along, along with Freddie of course.

I've never been to anything like this so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm not pregnant but I will certainly enjoy looking at all the new products and getting ideas for when baby #2 does arrive.

I'm especially looking forward to seeing theMamas & PapasCosatto and of course the Bugaboo stands as well as other lesser known brands who's products I've not tried.

If anyone else if going on Friday, give us a shout as it'll be lovely to see some fellow bloggers. 

What brands are you most looking forward to seeing?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Review: Slugs & Snails Boys Tights

I've been bitten by the whole leggings and tights for boys trend recently after seeing gorgeous Hugo over at Busy Bee Mummy Bex who epitomises cool. He's a real beauty and I love seeing what Bex dresses him in.

I prefer to support independent boutiques that are often run by Mummy's in their spare time so I reached out to the wonder that is Twitter and was kindly directed towards Itsy Bits Children's Boutique

They sell a range of children's tights for both boys and girls and they also stock the most gorgeous tutus and frilly pants! If you have a girl seriously, take a look because the girly items are TDF. 

I ordered some Slugs & Snails 'Out of this World' boys tights for the very reasonable price of £11. The deal clincher for me was that it's free P&P. I have a real aversion to paying for postage so I do try to sought out companies who offer it free where possible. The delivery was very fast and came within 2 days, free of charge. You can't sat fairer than that. 

Although this is a review of the actual tights, I think it's really important to mention that the service I received from Itsy Bits was wonderful. They were very helpful via their Twitter page and answered any questions I had promptly. 

The finishing touches were also lovely and it seemed like a lot of care had been taken into packaging the order up. They arrived wrapped in lovely tissue tied with ribbon and sealed with personalised stickers. What's more, it included a handwritten note thanking me for my purchase and offering a discount on a future order. Things like that are second to none and show an exceptional level of customer service.

The tights themselves were lovely. I really liked the design and Freddie kept pointing to the rocket ships and saying 'whooosh sky'. He certainly found them much more interesting than his usual trouser wear.

They were a lovely quality material and quite thick. We wore them on a milder day where we spent most of our time indoors or in the car but I would say they wouldn't be sufficient in colder weather. They would make an ideal additional layer when it's freezing, as it usually is and they are great for lounging in the house.

Some of the designs are quite 'garish' and suit a more acquired taste. I am a stickler for matching so we teamed them with a red cable knit jumper and navy Converse Hi Tops. If you are significantly cooler than me, which is likely, you could come up with all sorts of cool crazy combinations! 

Sizing was maybe on the smaller size although they are meant to be snug. No one wants to look like Nora Batty when pulling off rocket ship tights. 

We will definitely be purchasing more Snugs & Snails products and I'm keeping my eye out for different looks to try them with. 

* I bought these with my own money but I wanted to express my my thanks to Itsy Bits and show how brilliant the product is!* 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Our Week in Photographs (9)

24.2.14 - Poorly with Hand, Foot & Mouth

25.2.14 - Poor Baby

26.2.14 - At the GPs Surgery

27.2.14 - Getting better, warm and cosy in his new dinosaur PJs.

28.2.14 - Cake breakfast for Mummy's Birthday

1.3.14 - Mummy & Daddy rare night out

2.3.14 - Good to be back to a smiling face

Freddie's Bedroom

Welcome to Freddie's bedroom!

I'm not a massive fan of traditional toddler bedrooms and have a great hatred of cartoon character bedding and clothing. When we changed his decor, we decided to decorate in keeping with the rest of the house and add accessories that can be changed as he gets older.

I really like his room, in fact it's one of my favourite rooms in the house. It isn't very big but that isn't a problem as he only sleeps in there so it doesn't contain any toys etc. It is a real sanctuary for him and a place of peace and quiet.

The walls are magnolia which means we won't have to keep redecorating when we change the theme of his room. They are decorated with this gorgeous polka dot bunting which I bought from our local Farm Shop

The wall above his bed is decorated with Mamas & Papas Alphabet Wall stickers. You can read my review of these, here.

The vintage look board games are actually empty boxes bought from a local £1 shop.

Freddie loves his blanket and it is kept on the radiator ready for him to snuggle when he gets into bed. It is from Mamas & Papas and is lovely and soft as well as colourful. 

The room was designed around these Freya Prints which I saw in a shop and adored them. The phrases that they say are adorable such as 'You fill me with Sunshine'. So cute! I couldn't afford the prints framed as they were expensive so I bought postcards and framed them myself in IKEA frames.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Fashionable Friday (on a Saturday)

This weeks 'Fashionable Friday' is another wanted post. The summer is edging nearer and I'm beginning to tire of seeing all Freddie's maroon, navy and reds adorning his wardrobe. I'm looking forward to replacing them with lovely summer brights, especially so for our summer holiday to Cape Verde. 

Here's our first additions to the summer wardrobe:

The Checked Shirt looks lovely teamed with the green Skinny Jeans and finished off with the cool sunglasses! The Windbreaker Jacket is perfect for when it's a bit chillier and we'll be taking it on holiday with us for the airport and the evenings. I love the colour combination of this look and we'll probably add a cute straw sun hat to complete the look.

These are all available from Gap.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Books are Brilliant: Where to buy them.

We have built up quite a collection of books since Freddie was born and to add to these, we were lucky that I had a vast collection from my teacher training. 

Although I think 'Books are Brilliant', I also think they can be expensive. We have our favourite books, the ones that we repeat over again but then we also have ones that stay on the shelf forever more after one read.

Whilst Freddie is still young, I'm also worried about him ruining books with his over-enthusiasm and heavy hand, especially ones that were expensive. Try as I might to teach him to 'soft touch' (similar to petting the dog,  that doesn't work either) books and treat them with respect, it doesn't always work and we quite often end up with torn pages or chewed cardboard.

To combat this we now have two book collections; one is stored away for bedtime reading and the other is encouraged to engage with as he wishes and if that results in rips then so be it. 

To do this, I looked at ways in which we could find cheaper books which I didn't mind getting man-handled.

Often supermarkets have books on offer. Tonight I bought Peppa Pig: My Granny from Sainsburys for £2.49 rather than the RRP of £4.99. They often have offers such as 2 for £7 on favourites such as Julia Donaldson.

You can normally pick up refurbished books from numerous sellers on the auction site for much cheaper than new. I bought Freddie a selection of Sam Lloyd books at Christmas for pounds and you couldn't even tell that they'd been used. Look for sellers with good feedback for peace of mind.

Charity Shops/Car Boots
Our local charity shop sells children's books for 25p each. Bargain! For that price, I really don't mind if Freddie rips them accidentally as they literally cost pennies. It also feels nice to have donated to a wonderful cause and done a good deed.

Gumtree/Freecycle/Facebook Selling Pages
Look out for people giving books away that they no longer use. I like to give them a quick disinfectant wipe and they are good as new. 

The Library
I have just joined the library with Freddie (look out for next weeks post) and was pleasantly suprised at how different it was to when I was a child. We got lots of books out on loan and even though we can't keep them, it was a perfect opportunity to find new authors that we may enjoy.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Play Time: Sensory Baskets

Today's 'Play Time' is a blast from the past so before you're wondering,  No, Freddie hasn't been hammering the Oil of Olay, he's only 8 months in the photograph! 

We are talking about Treasure Baskets or Sensory Baskets or even Baskets of Crap as Mr C refers to them. 

They are quite simply, baskets of 'treasure' for your baby. Although before you rush to empty your family heirlooms, let me explain. They are full of items that your baby can use their sense to explore.

We first discovered the idea at our locals Children's Centre where we learnt about the Monteserri Education Theory that children learn using all 5 senses rather than just listening. It makes lots of sense if you think about it.

You can put a range of objects in a sensory box and you can even adapt them to particular themes such as nature, seaside, colours, kitchen items etc. 

Or you can do what we did and throw bits of everything in. As long as things are safe & non toxic then there's is no reason to not chuck them in. Things with different textures to touch, are ideal as they stimulate the senses. Items such as loofahs, sponge, silky material and pine cones are wonderful.

Take care to ensure that there objects aren't sharp or choking hazards to baby. Items that make different sounds provide great entertaiment and keep them amused for a long time. I'd recommend objects such as sets of measuring spoons, keys, rain sticks (homemade with a sealed beaker & rice) and hand bells.

I used one basket with around ten items in which I changed every few days as Freddie got older. I found that changing the items was like giving him a new toy every few days without the cost and inconvenience of having to shop for them.

Being a first child and grandchild, he had lots of toys but treasure baskets were by far the best.

This Article provides lots of useful information and an extensive list of items to include.

I'd really recommend making a treasure basket for your baby. It's cheap & cheerful, provides hours of entertainment as well as stimulating baby and aiding their development. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: Blade & Rose Pirate Boys Leggings

You may remember a few weeks ago that I was lusting after some Blade & Rose Pirate Leggings in my Fashionable Friday post.

Well we have some! 

We chose the pirate design from a shop that is local to us called Daisy and Sam who also sell online. The shop is lovely and the owner is extremely helpful and very friendly. They specialise in Children and Babies Clothes, gifts and accessories and ship their lovely products throughout the UK and Europe. 

We chose the Blade & Rose Pirate Leggings but they also do a range of designs such as Princess, Rabbits, Owls and Dinosaurs. They are incredibly reasonably priced at only £10. 

I originally thought that Freddie would only wear them as lougewear because they are lovely and soft as well as comfortable but as you can see from the photographs, he has wore them today with his Converse hi tops & a cable knit sweater and they look adorable. 

I don't always like him to wear jeans as I think they are quite restricting when he's trying to dash here there and everywhere but I also aren't a big fan of tracksuit bottoms. These are a perfect medium as they are fashionable but comfortable at the same time.

They also double up to provide an extra layer underneath trousers when it's particularly cold.

They have been a massive hit so far and we've had them on lots so they've already sustained quite a few washes. They have washed lovely although you are advised not to tumble dry which we didn't as I find these things bobble easily. 

We chose age 3-4 and they fit F (18months) well although he's got lots of growing room in the legs. I'd say you can get away with buying bigger as they are stretchy and they fit well but allow for growth so that they last longer.

Who says that we should restrict leggings and tights to just for girls? They are perfect for protecting Freddie's knees whilst he's attempting to get into all the things he shouldn't! 

We have linked up with #TriedTested over at Going on an Adventure.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Our Week in Photographs (8)

17.2.14 - Selfie

18.2.14 - Playing football in the park with Mummy

19.2.14 - Cheese!

20.2.14- New Old Man Pyjama's

21.2.14 - Feeding the Ducks in Hebden Bridge

22.2.14 - Flamingo Land with the Family

23.2.14 - Looking cute in Blade & Rose

Top 5 Children's Books

I have started my 'Books are Brilliant' feature this week and as luck may have it, the Share It Sundays link theme over at Oh So Amelia is 'Top 5 Children's Books.'

Our top 5 children's books are:

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

Check out my reviews over the next coming Thursday's in my 'Books are Brilliant' feature.

You can read the posts so far;

Saturday, 22 February 2014

My 2014 Bucket List.

1. Blog at least once a week.

22.2.14 - I've established a proper 'Blog Schedule' now and I am blogging at least 3 times a week. 

25.4.14 - Failed! I've been AWOL for a while but I'm beginning to get back to it now so hopefully I'll hop back into the swing of things pronto.

2. Get to my target weight at Slimming World. 

22.2.14 - I haven't yet got to target but I'm the lowest weight I've been at for a long time and I am only 14lbs away from target. I'm aiming to be there by 01.08.14 - The wedding! 

24.4.14 - After messing about with my diet since Christmas and putting a couple of pounds on, losing a few etc, I am now the lightest I've been in my adult years and 13lb off target.

3. Have a facial.

22.2.14 - Booked in for 26.2.14. 

25.4.14 - I never made my appointment for my facial so I'm still needing to book one. I actually have a gift voucher for one but I haven't got round to it! 

4. Pay off the outstanding overdraft on Mr C's bank account.

22.2.14 - Still not got round to this one although we've set the money aside from what Mr C is due so hopefully it'll be paid by end of April. We have done some balance transfers on credit cards so we are getting a much better deal on those too.

25.4.14 - DONE! 

5. Take Freddie to at least one playgroup session a month.

22.2.14 - We went to two different sessions in January & February. The second wasn't particularly brilliant but we will continue to go and see if it improves. 

25.4.14 - We have been regularly attending a Weeny Boppers session in our local community centre and I've found Freddie's confidence and social skills have blossomed greatly. Next week were starting a toddler music & dance based class and resuming our swimming lessons.

6. Begin to learn Spanish.

22.2.14 - To be completely honest, I'm not very inspired to do this. It's something that's been on my list for years and I never do anything about it. I need to have a serious think about whether we want to move abroad and if we do, I need to look into this as it'll be incredibly beneficial.

25.4.14- Even after being given a Rosetta Stone trial, I still need a kick up the bum to do this as I've not even started yet.

7. Do at least one nice thing each month which will make a positive impact to someone else's life.

22.2.14 - I think I've definitely done this. I've tried to be kind, helpful and supportive. I've offered help to a lady who was struggling with her trolley and donated some of Freddie's things to charity so far this year. 

25.4.14 - I like to think we've been doing lots of nice things for people so far this year. Today's good deed was surprising my Mum by paying for her nail appt in advance and having choccies and a card for her to thank her for being lovely.

8. Exceed my amount that I raise for charity on last year.

22.2.14 - I have been buying from charity shops and we are planning on donating money to Alder Hey Children's Charity in memory of Mr C's late sister for our wedding favours. I am also going to hold a MacMillan Coffee Morning at work again (I raised over £230 last year) and also run the Race for Life this year.

25.4.14 - We donated £25 to Breast Cancer Care.

9. Try a food I've never eaten before.

22.2.14 - Not yet. 

25.4.14 - I still haven't got round to this, any ideas what I should be trying? 

10. Visit the dentist. 

22.2.14 - This is my favourite accomplishment so far this year. I've been, twice!! I am booked in for my treatment doing in March and I'm well on my way to overcoming my phobias. You can read about it HERE and see my inspiration HERE.

25.4.14 - After 5 treacherous hours, DONE!! 

Friday, 21 February 2014

The Mum Tag

I have been tagged by Bex at Busy Bee Mummy Bex in 'The Mum Tag'. Here are my Q&A's...

1. Are you a Stay at Home Mum, or a Working Mum?

Both. I have the luxury that I haven't had to go back to full time teaching yet however I didn't want to stay at home the whole time so I work part time flexible hours at my Mum's events business. I also manage Mr C's business by doing his accounts, admin, diary management and general dogsbody too! 

2. Would you have it any other way?

No definitely not. I would like to get back into teaching one day in the future but right now, I feel incredibly lucky to have the privilege of being able to stay home and watch my baby grow each day.

3. Do you co-sleep?

No. We never have. Freddie was an incredibly content baby and slept through from 6 weeks old so we have had him a routine from then and he's always been settled in his own bed. That's not to say we wouldn't if he fed more in the night but as he never did, we had no need.

4. What is your one must have item for your baby? 

When he was a baby baby we loved his swing. He was so settled in there. We are also massive fans of Gro Company sleeping bags and in the early days, a White Noise app on our iPad! 

5. How many kids do you plan on having?

That all depends. If we have a girl next then I think we'll call it a day and our family will be complete. If we are blessed with a little brother for Freddie then we'd may be have one more. I wouldn't want any more than three though. 

6. Date night?  How many nights per month?

We try to do something as a couple at least once a month. We have the luxury that my Mum lives close by so she'll happily watch Freddie whilst we venture out. Normally we go out for a meal or a trip to the cinema. It's nice to spend time as a couple  remember who you are as well as being Mummy & Daddy. 

7. Your child's favourite TV show?

We are massive Toy Story fans in our house.

8. Name one thing you bought before having your baby and never ended up using?

We bought a baby beanbag that got used once and was then used as a baby monitor holder. It was expensive too and such a waste. We also bought lots of baby 'toys' that didn't get used as he preffered household objects such as pans & wooden spoons.

9. Your child's favourite food?

He enjoys spicy food such as curry. He also enjoys croissants, cucumber, apple slices and rice cakes. He's also partial to 'cakey'. 

10. How many cars does your family have?

We have one. We both drive but we recently traded in for a new car. As I'm at home most of the week, it didn't justify a car sat outside when I normally walk around our village.

11. Weight gain before pregnancy, during, after and now?

I don't know how much weight I put on but I went up one dress size. I have since lost three stones and 3 dress sizes.

12. Dream holiday with your kids?

I'd love to take Freddie to Lapland at Christmas. It would be truly magical. 

13. Dream holiday without your kids?

We are going to Cape Verde this Summer which will be amazing but we wanted to take Freddie with us too so it's our familymoon rather thana traditional honeymoon. We plan to go to Las Vegas for Mr C's 40th. 

14. How has your life changed since your baby's been born?

My priorities have changed. I'm less selfish and more aware of danger. I also know what it's like to love someone so much that you'd fight lions with your bare hands, and win, just to keep them safe.

15. Finish the sentence "it makes me heart melt to see..."

Freddie sleeping. Knowing he's peaceful, safe and content is the best feeling in the world. 

16. Where do you shop with for your kids?

Next, Zara, H&M and Gap mostly although I sometimes pick bits up from the supermarke too. I also love Ralph Lauren. For shoes, we love Converse.

17. Favourite make up & skincare products?

I have always wore Estee Lauder make up but I also like Rimmel for a cheaper alternative. You cant beat a good brow too and I swear by HD Brows. I'm a massive fan of baby wipes and sugar mixed with olive oil for exfoliating. One day I will find a skincare regime and stick to it!

18. Huggies or Pampers?


19. Have you always wanted kids? 


20. Best part about being a Mum?

Knowing that there's another person who's the best of you. It is my whole life and I wouldn't change a single thing. 

I tag Amy at 2boys1mum and Emma at Emma & Alfie's World.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Books are Brilliant: First 100 Words

Hiya! It’s Amy from 2boys1mum. Here's my post for your reading series. It’s called “First 100 Words”.

My little boy is 20 months. He's a whirlwind of new words and sounds and even sentences. We read together every day. Not because I think it's important (I do but I also think a balanced diet is important as I open yet another tin of beans when I'm in a hurry!). We read because he says "books" and pulls me to the bookshelf or brings me a book and climbs into my lap. He loves books and I'm so pleased because I love them too.

The first book I bought for him was about a week before he was born in a "pregnant and bored" shopping spree.  It's called "First 100 Numbers" by Bright Baby. It is a really simple book with pictures of everyday objects and questions to inspire counting. Even though there's no story, no funny characters, no lovely moral message, it is probably the book we have read the most throughout his life.

At first we just used it for making comedy baby photos and as something for him to look at because it's nice to look at.

As he got older (but still a tiny baby) we'd "read" it to him. There is no story to read. in fact there are hardly any words at all. It's just page after page of pictures of things but babies don't care what you're saying as long as you're talking to them so I think we just used to talk about the pictures. "Ooh, look at the horse, he's got ears and a nose. There's his tail, doesn't he look friendly" ... And other whitterings of a doting mother.

After a while he became really engaged in the book and there were a few pictures he could point to if you asked. The first ones were banana and tractor (both objects which are still big favourites in our lives!). It was so exciting asking him "where's the banana" and seeing his little chubby hand point to the right picture! I wish I knew how old he was at this stage but its not the sort of milestone you write down.

We have played "where's the..." with this book ever since. He knew the basics quite quickly and then suddenly (it felt like overnight) he knew every single thing in the book. I remember asking him where the clock was, thinking "I've never talked about that clock before, I don't think I ever say the word clock. He won't know what one is.." I was amazed that he was picking up words without being 'taught' them.

Now he is starting to talk we can play "what's this" as well as "where's the...". He still surprises us by coming out with words he's never said before and now with his attention to detail. He is looking at the pictures in a new way now, finding tiny details we've never noticed.

Now our love of this book has gone global now as Granny and Grandpa read it with him all the way from Florida via the magic of the iPad. It gave him a way of interacting with them and "chatting" that he couldn't quite manage with adult small talk.

Even though there is no story, this book has provided us with hours of conversation and entertainment and taught my baby way more than his first 100 words!

It has been a constant favourite throughout his life and I reckon we'll still be reading it in another 20 months! After all, we're nowhere near counting all these chicks!!...

With many thanks to Amy who writes over at 2Boys1Mum. This is a wonderful post that shows just how valuable books can be. I have ordered this book for our own collection and can't wait to read it. Amy is one of my favourite bloggers so go take a look at her blog. It's fab! 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Blogging has changed my Life.

If you are sick to the back teeth (excuse the pun!) of hearing about my journey of overcoming my dental phobia, please just turn your brain off for now as here it is again.

Today was my 'comprehensive assessment' which is in other words daylight robbery with gloves in your mouth. I've gone for a private dental practice as I felt that they'd be more patient, kind, understanding etc but my word, we'll be selling a lung to pay for my nice teeth!

I don't want to digress too far into it as that isn't the purpose of this post. I went, had the check up, didn't die (although I had my matching underwear on just in case!), didn't cry, faint, have a panic attack or soil my pants. Mum came along but I felt brave enough to have her sit in the waiting room rather than the treatment room. I feel like I've overcome the world's biggest obstacle and I am very proud. It's like a tether that was noosed around my neck has been cut and I'm finally taking a massive step in the right direction towards our future.

For someone who, less than a month ago, would rather give birth to a 10lb baby seven times a day or die a painful death than cross the threshold of a dental practice never mind have someone look at my teeth, this a massive step. 

So what changed? Why did I feel inspired to take this step? 

Blogging and the blogging community. It has literally changed my whole life.

I posted this on my Twitter and it was the first time I'd ever spoken publicly about my phobia to anyone, even my close friends, my Mum, anybody.

I thought people would think 'silly woman, get a grip' but they didn't. I was overwhelmed with support. Support from people who are in similar situations, people who are fighting other demons, people who understood.

For the first time ever, I felt like somebody got it. Women who I don't know, who I've never met. You have changed my life. You have given me the confidence to take this on and beat it.

This morning when I was in a panic, I didn't want to speak to my life long friends who I see all the time. I sought support from Twitter. I got that support straight away, from women who don't know me, but understand me. Women that have been there for me more than anyone else during this. Strangers who have changed my life.

Blogging has changed my life. It's empowered me to take on this journey and kick my phobia in the teeth (god I'm full of puns tonight!) 

So yes, I am immensely proud of myself. More proud then when I passed my driving test. More proud than when I got my degree. Almost as proud as when I gave birth. I'm doing this and I'm refusing to be held back anymore.

But I wouldn't have been able to do it without you. To all the people who've offered kind words, who've listened, who've understood;

although I don't know you. 

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. 

Play Time: Nature Treasure Hunt

This week's 'Play Time' feature is a lovely activity that we did yesterday; Treasure Hunting. It was one of the best days weather wise, we'd had for a while so we made the most of the situation with a trip to the park. 

Even though I had the pram Freddie loves to walk now he reckons he's an independent toddler so he was running off left, right and centre in a bid for freedom. I decided to embrace his energy boost (in a bid to tire him out for an extra long nap on our return)by enticing him with a Treasure Hunt. 

We used our carrier bag to collect all sorts of nature items such as leaves and twigs. Unfortunately some people lack any level of courtesy and respect for others so Freddie attempted to collect a range of litter and dog dirt! Honestly, clean up after your god damn poo machine if you have one! 

He really enjoyed collecting things although somewhat bewildered as to why I was allowing him to pick up muddy leaves. Of course, it goes without saying that full parental supervision is a must here to make sure that nothing sharp or dangerous is collected and we were armed with a pack of baby wipes and anti bacterial gel to be on the safe side.

Whilst we collected our nature items, I told Freddie all about what was what and colours,  textures etc. At 17 months he doesn't entirely understand but I love to engage him in conversation and he particularly liked pretending to be a dog when he collected his sticks. 

The good old blighty weather didn't stay fine for long so we ventured home where we made a nature picture.

I emptied all our findings out onto the mess mat and we had a look at them all over again. I dried them off the best I could and we picked out our favourites. 

We used Pritt Stick to stick them down onto foam card and then used our Early Learning Centre paints to paint over them. Freddie got confused at this point and thought we were Bath Painting again so quickly decided to paint his feet! 

Of course activities like this don't last very long when it's with toddlers. Freddie doesn't have the greatest of concentration spans but the Treasure Hunt itself was a great way in which to keep him entertained and get him out of the house.  It was also free which is always a bonus.

For older children, you could set up a Scavenger Hunt where you provide them with a checklist of things to find. 

For babies, I'd recommend a nature inspired Treasure Basket although it may be advisable to use clean things from around the home rather than objects collected from the park.

I hope you've enjoyed this week's 'Play Time'. Where do you get your play ideas from? 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Guest Post: The Swan Project

Today, as part of my Books are Brilliant feature, I have a guest post from The Swan Project discussing reading in her household. Her blog is wonderful so please do go over and take a look after you've read her post. 

A love of reading is something my husband and I really wanted to pass onto our children, although in all honesty I haven’t read a “proper” book since they were born. Although I’ve always known that books are a learning tool I didn’t anticipate how much they help toddlers learn and develop.

 There is a 15 month age gap between my children and prior to my son being born we didn’t have a regular reading time for my daughter.  We read to her every now and then and she had access to books at nursery but we never really made a special time for it.  Bedtime then was bath then bottle whilst we changed her (to keep her still), brush teeth then into her cot.  Post number 2 coming along it all changed and without a doubt it changed for the better.  Obviously at the end of the day they were both tired and both wanted attention to I switched to feeding the baby on our bed and reading books to my toddler at the same time, once he was old enough to bath with her we then all sat on the bed after bath time and read together. I have previously blogged about how this is without a doubt my favourite time of the day as we’re together as a family and teaching things to our children.

Most of our bedtime books come from the library although we do have a vast collection of books at home.  I think for sanity’s sake it’s nice to have a change!  When we first started this routine we found books like “That's not my... car, tiger, fairy etc” were brilliant for her age (around 18 months), there were things to touch, point at, find (the mouse that is hiding on each page) and suddenly you find yourself going from just reading a book to asking questions about the book and this is where I was surprised about how much they learn. We went from just reading a book to asking our daughter lots of questions such as pointing to where certain animals were, then getting her to repeat their name, then what sounds they make etc, I really didn’t expect her language skills to improve so much from our bedtime reading! One of my favourite times was when my husband taught her what crocodiles do; “snap, snap, snap” along with hand actions! Seeing them do this together was so sweet and I could also see the immense pride that my husband felt knowing he had taught her something that night.  It’s so good for their bond having these moments where you know that they have just learnt something.

As the children get older the books that are appropriate for them are changing.  My son is now 9 months so we get some touchy feely books for him and tell him what animals there are on the page etc and my daughter, now 2, has some books with a bit more of a story in them although sometimes picking these up from the library can be hit and miss as sometimes they are too advance / too long and sometimes the books are too young! But we still read them and ask questions etc and she’s still learning from them all the time.  Over the past few months I would say our favourite books have been the “That's not my...” series, Dear Zoo, Spot and Maisie books and I have to confess to immense pride when we go into the library and she shouts “Spot Mummy!”, “Mummy, Mummy, it’s Maisie!”.  We also have some Julia Donaldson books in the house and of course the Gruffalo is read but my favourites are actually Monkey Puzzle and Tiddler as they are brilliant stories, we read these ones again and again! We have also found some Julia Donaldson sound books which are really good for 2 year olds as they recognise the symbols and press the correct buttons, I love books where they can interact like this and find that it keeps their attention a lot longer.

It does feel like we’re passing on a love of books to our children which hopefully will continue for many years.  Having the bedtime routine we have has been really rewarding for all of us and our family bond as well as having the benefit of teaching new things which I think is something we can be proud of.  As parents you learn that nothing stays the same for long but hopefully we can keep this routine going for many years.... Here’s hoping anyway!!