3D Christmas Tree

I wasn’t feeling particularly motivated to do much today after decorating late last night so wanted something easy to so with the kids. It started off with me just cutting out a couple of Christmas tree shapes for them to decorate, but ended up as fab 3D trees! Here’s what to do:

Firstly,cut out two basic tree shapes. I use the guide from the Usborne book that I reviewed and used to make the advent calendar yesterday – fold a piece of green A4 paper or card in half, with the longest edges meeting and draw a diagonal line from the top of the fold to the outer corner to make a triangle shape.


Then cut along the line. To make the branches snip little triangles out of the open side


When you open it out it should be a Christmas tree shape. You need two of these. Then, you need to glue the left hand side of the fold on both trees and stick them back to back


You now have a 3D tree!

Because I wanted something relatively low mess and low adult input I just gave Harrison some metallic star stickers to decorate it with, and my large circle punch to punch circles out of Christmassy paper. My punch was a throwback from when I used to make cards. It’s fantastic but a normal hole punch would be ok, just smaller circles. You could decorate with glitter, sequins, ribbons…anything!!

Here’s our finished tree



Advent Calendar

Today Harrison was much more interesting in helping (hindering?) his dad decorate the living room and Alex was a little grotty from his MMR jabs yesterday so we didn’t do much child – involved activity today, although just before bedtime Harrison decided to draw a picture of a monster!
I decided I wanted to have a go at making something for them, and when I flicked through the ‘100 Christmas Things to Make and Do’ from Usborne I found the perfect thing: an advent calendar.
They both have chocolate advent calendars from my mum but I love the idea of a handmade one.

Firstly, get a piece of cardboard, & cover it in some red paper. Fold a sheet of green A4 paper in half for the tree, with longest sides together. Draw a diagonal line and then cut along it, cutting some small triangles out on the open edge to make the branches


Stick a piece of white paper across the bottom for snow and then stick the tree on


Cut out shapes (I did circles, squares & triangles) to make the doors. I included Christmas Day so needed 25 of them. I also did them various shapes and sizes. Spread some glue on one edge of the shape and stick it on to make a door.


I stuck some little bauble stickers behind each door, but you could draw pictures or stick some cut outs there. Then to finish it off, use a felt to write the numbers on the doors.

And there you have it – a homemade Advent



‘100 Christmas Things To Make and Do’ : a review

After reading my review on the fantastic ‘That’s Not My…’ series, the PR people at Usborne asked me if I wanted to review a Christmas activity book. I jumped at the chance. How could I turn down 100 Christmas activity ideas?!

When I received the book, it was a lot smaller than I anticipated, as most activity books seem to be A4 sort of size. This is great ‘flick through’ size. I fell in love straight away with the colourful pages and clear step by step instructions. Each instruction comes with a picture which is brilliant for kids ( and adults like me!) who need the visuals.

None of the activities appear over complicated, but just challenging enough to be interesting. It’s perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, and if I put my teacher hat on, I can see it being great if you want 30 primary school aged kids working on an activity independently! All of the activities use materials and equipment that most parents will already have at home so no expensive shopping trips to buy all the bits. The only thing I would say is read the whole activity through first to check you have all the bits as there is no ‘you will need’ lists.

The variety of activities is fantastic. There are pictures, decorations, advent calendars, wrapping paper, cards and even some lovely simple Christmas recipes – great for getting kids in the kitchen!

My only criticism of the book is that it doesn’t stay open which might get a bit annoying if you’re referring to it whilst you’re doing the activity. Perhaps making it spiral bound would help that but otherwise you may want something to hand to weigh the pages down whilst using it.

I can’t wait to get stuck in and try out as many as possible before the big man in red visits. It’s already full of post it notes for the ‘must do’ activities. Going to have a go at the advent calendar tomorrow!

Keep your eyes peeled for lots of
activities from the book, and check out my Facebook page activities 4 Kidz or follow me on twitter @activities4kidz for more ideas!

‘100 Christmas Things to Make and Do’ is published by Usborne and is available from Amazon and other bookshops, RRP £7.99

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.




Cooking with Kids

I’m not a natural cook. I’m definitely more of a ‘stick it in the slow cooker and hope it’s edible’ kind of girl. However, I do enjoy cooking and so does the other half so we take every opportunity to get the kids involved in cooking.
Cooking with kids, especially two toddlers can sound like a daunting task but it needn’t be. With a little bit of preparation and lots of patience it can be a brilliant and rewarding experience, and a fantastic way to bond with them and make them feel useful.
It’s also an amazing learning and development opportunity.

It teaches:

Numeracy skills – ordering, counting, weighing, measuring, timing
Literacy skills – reading recipes, new vocabulary
Fine motor skills – mixing, stirring, pouring, scooping, cutting
Bi-lateral coordination – understanding how to use both hands together to do a task
Sensory development
Learning about food, where it comes from & healthy diets

My youngest isn’t quite 13 months and my eldest is 2.5years so when they ‘help’ it does get rather messy but there’s so much they can do!

Basic skills

Mixing (mix was Alex’s first proper word at ten months!)
Putting mixtures into cake cases/tins
Spreading icing on cakes/biscuits
Cutting (bananas are great to teach cutting skills with)

You could do simple things like buy ready made fairy cakes or biscuits and use squirty or spreadable icing and all the fancy edible decorations you can but these days!

Smoothies are another great thing to do & a great way of getting fruit into their diet. You just need milk and fruit (bananas, strawberries, blackberries & raspberries are all lovely!) and a scoop of ice cream. The fruits are usually easy enough for kids to cut up or break up and plop in. We love making banana smoothie with chocolate ice cream. Harrison loves pressing the button on the blender and watching it all whiz round.

Building pizzas

Most kids love pizza, but instead of buying one, buy (or make if you’re very clever!) a pizza base and spread on some tomato ketchup or purée, sprinkle on some grated cheese and let them loose! Provide little lots of toppings – chopped meat, peppers, mushroom, pineapple chunks, sweet corn etc. You could even make face pizza!

You could do the same with wraps. My two aren’t massive sandwich fans but love wraps so I give them a wrap and then let them choose their own fillings from bowls of grated cheese, ham, salad etc, and put them together (maybe not so much Alex just yet!)

A couple of months ago my friend sent me a link to a great idea which we tried. Unfortunately I can’t remember the original link to credit them.
Basically we used mini Milky Way bars and stuck smarties on with icing to look
like wheels, then stuck a mini gingerbread man on top. Great fun to make and even more fun to eat!

It goes without saying that safety and hygiene is super important.
Encourage kids to wash their hands before they start and tie long hair back. Talk to them about the dangers of hot
cookers, sharp knives etc. If appropriate, teach them how to handle sharp kitchen equipment sensibly. And of course, never leave them unattended, not even for a second. That’s all it takes for an accident to happen!!!

I will leave you with links to some basic recipes that are great for kids!


chocolate cornflake cakes

fairy cake

gingerbread men



Baked Potato Mummy has also written a post about cooking with little ones – check it out here.


Handprint wreath


Fairly quick and simple!

I painted the kids hands with green paint and got them to do as many handprints as possible on green thick paper/card. I was going to get them to do a wreath each but we ran out of green paper and it didn’t look as good on white paper. I cut the middle out of a paper plate and got the kids to sponge paint it green, then cut out the handprints, and used a glue stick to glue them onto the plate. I then attached red pom-poms for berries using a glue gun (kept falling off with glue stick!).

Quick, simple and looks fab!!!


‘That’s Not My…’: A review

I love reading. To me, there’s nothing more calming and magical than losing myself in a book. As a teacher in ‘life before kids’, I also understand the importance of installing an early love of reading. Babies and toddlers are like sponges – get them into books & you’ll help them for life! My boys love reading and have literally hundreds of books. I’ve actually been banned from buying any more (although I’m a master of sneaking them into the bookcase!).

Some of out favourite books are the ‘That’s Not My…’ touchy feely books by Fiona Watt, and published by Usborne. They are the perfect books to start off a child’s library and get them interested in books. We have quite a collection and still have many more to collect!
Our first one was ‘That’s Not My Puppy’ which was a gift when Harrison was born. When he was two or three months old I sat with him and read the book to him, rubbing his fingers over the different textures. He loved it and so our collection started.

These durable wipe clean books are perfect sized for little hands to hold and touch. They’re bright and colourful – a must for any children’s book. The story starts on the front cover and had the textured patch – a perfect way to grab interest’. Each double page of these board books have the textured patches (rough, bumpy, fluffy, smooth etc) which helps with sensory development and speech and language. They’re brilliant for encouraging new vocabulary. The text is big, clear and simple and babies and toddlers will love the repetitive phrases.
The patches are a generous size to help develop fine motor skills.
At two and a half years old I’m not sure how much longer these books are going to hold Harrison’s interest. He still loves looking at them and sharing them with his brother but his vocabulary range is now beyond the books. At 13 months though, Alex is the perfect age to enjoy these books and I’m looking forward to sharing them with friends in the future.



I didn’t receive anything for this review, these were books we already owned and loved.


Rainbow Rice Sensory box: an invitation to play

After the success of our lentil sensory box last week I was looking for a new material to try. Rice popped into my head. How could I make this more interesting? White rice is a great material for exploring texture but a bit boring visually. After doing a bit of thinking I decided I would have a go at colouring it & making ‘rainbow rice’.
Google threw up a few suggestions on how to make it but most used rubbing alcohol, which I wasn’t keen on using. Alex still tends to try eating everything and I didn’t really want him putting chemicals in his mouth. I finally came across a recipe from Learn to play at home which I had a go at.

You will need: rice (quite a bit, I used 2kg), white vinegar and food colouring.

I’ve struggled to find food colouring. Our local Tesco – which is one of the big superstores – doesn’t stock it which I found strange as they have just about everything else! Apparently there’s not much demand for it anymore as people tend to use ready made icing. I had a strange look off the woman when I said I wanted to dye rice with it! Anyway, my mum managed to get me some from Sainsburys who only had limited colours, so for now I’m limited to pink, red, yellow and any colour I can make mixing them!

Back to the rice…in two cups of rice I used a couple of capfuls of vinegar. Too much and it will stink & go a bit soggy. Mix it in and them add a few drops of colouring. How little or how much you use depends on the depth of colour you want. I wanted it quite vibrant so added quite a few drops!! Give it a good mix – you might want to do this in an old bowl or tub and don’t use a wooden spoon like I did (although I do quite like my pretty pink wooden spoon how!) as it stains!!
Then you need to leave it to dry. Spread it out in on a tray. Try and spread it out thinly as it won’t clump up and is quicker to dry. I left it a couple of days to make sure it was 100% dry. I was worried it would run off on hands and material and stain but it doesn’t – I think as well as preserving it the vinegar helps the rice to absorb the colour really well.
I put the rice in lines of pretty colours (pink, yellow, orange & red) to encourage discussion about colours in our clear box. Didn’t get time to look at the colours as they were so excited they dug straight in! I’d put in some scoops, spoons, tubs, bottle lids & ice cube trays. They scooped, shovelled, poured, mixed, stirred and ran their hands through the rice (try it – amazingly therapeutic!). It did spill out onto the mat as they were so excited but they had plenty of fun using their dustpan set to clear it up at the end.

The rice should last for quite a while if kept in a sealed container. We’re going to have a go at using it to make some lovely pictures this week!

Have a go!!

Rach x


For the Kids Fridays at SunScholars.com


Sensory Play: what is it and why is it important?

I asked this on my Facebook, Instagram
and twitter (I’m social network obsessed!) and got lots of interesting ideas and answers:

“When we use sensory description in narrative writing, we tell the students to take a mental snapshot of a person/place & then describe it…presumably sensory play would be activities that appeal to one or more of the child’s senses?” (Clare)

“stimulates one or more of the senses” (Becki)

“Lights, music, colours, textures, smells, treasure baskets, songs, explore, magical!” (Gillian)

” Letting baby explore and learn. The messier the better!” (Jade)

Sensory play can mean a lot of things, but ultimately, it is any type of play that engages one or more of the senses.
My sons are aged 13 months and 2.5 years. They’re typical little boys and love their toys. However, like most kids that age, they have the attention span of a gnat. That is until we do sensory play. They love it!
I’m quite new to this sensory play idea. My first experience of it was at a Sure Start stay & play group I took Harrison to as a baby. They had a sensory corner with chiffon-y drapes, mirrors, light up bubble tubes & fairy lights which the kids loved. I ended up buying some fabric from the market for Harrison (and then Alex) to play with, and they’ve both seemed really calm after playing with it.
They also did more messy sensory play. They would have ‘tuff spots’ (the big tray thingies that builders use!) with jelly, cold custard, spaghetti, yoghurt etc in, which they encouraged the babies to strip down to nappies and get messy in. I was horrified! Why on earth would I let my lovely clean little baby roll around in wellcustard or jelly?! It wasn’t until a few months ago when I discovered Pinterest I found out about the different types of sensory play and the benefits it has.

What are the benefits of sensory play?

It helps kids to develop their language skills and new vocabulary. Harrison has surprised me with lots of words when doing sensory play – gooey, gloopy, slimy, slippy, wet, dry, shiny, fluffy, rough and smooth being just some of his favourites!
It also helps them to develop social skills – they have to share materials ab equipment . Fine motor skills are honed – they mould, pour, scoop, dig, sift and sort amongst other things. Dramatic play can happen – our lentils become cakes, the cloud dough is sausages. Sea shells are cups. It allows their imagination to go wild, as only a child’s would.
These are just a few benefits. Children and adults with special needs often benefit especially.

What is a sensory bin?

A sensory bin is where the materials and equipment needed for sensory play are contained. The materials should encourage children to explore, discover, create and use as many senses as possible, whilst having a lot of fun!

How do I do a sensory bin?

I always start with a ‘theme’ to give a tiny bit of structure. The theme can be very loose if you want. Some ideas: Halloween, Christmas, Easter, seaside, autumn, dinosaurs, animals, under the sea, weather, bugs, garden, jungle, transport, weather…. The list could go on, only limited by your imagination!

You then need some sort of ‘bin’ or container. We use a large clear plastic tub from Ikea with a wipe clean mat underneath. I’m going to get a ‘tuff spot’ after Christmas if I can work out where to keep it! If we do it outdoors we use the kids water/sand table.

Then you need the materials and equipment. I always use a ‘base’ material which is the main sensory aspect and quite often the messy bit. Some ideas: lentils, rice, cold cooked spaghetti, dried pasta, dried beans (although my friend has used baked beans!!), jelly, shaving foam, ground coffee, playdoh, cotton wool, oats, seashells, water, water beads, bubbles, leaves, pinecones, silly string, shredded paper, feathers….
It goes without saying but always supervise and watch out for allergies, inhalation and choking hazards!!

Then you need to add accessories – spoons, scoops, sieves, plastic animals or figures, toy cars, plastic tubs, cups, gunnels, shovels, whisks, cookie cutters..,all depends if you have a theme as to what you could put in.

The final step – let the child play. Let then explore. Let them be creative.

“You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom, and it blossoms through play” (Kyung Hee Kim, 2011 in ‘The Creativity Crisis)’

Let them explore their senses, and most of all, let them have fun!


Gingerbread play dough

I love gingerbread. Sometimes I think
I love the smell even more. I love play dough. I absolutely HATE the smell of it, and it always seems to linger on our hands. So….I made gingerbread scented playdough!! I mooched on Pinterest to find recipes, and found a few, but as usual I didn’t have some of the ingredients, so I adapted it, & it worked 🙂
Turned out a lovely ‘gingerbread’ colour, perfect for Christmas, and smelt amazing. Not exactly edible though as there is quite a bit of salt in it which we all know is bad for you!!

1.25 cups of flour (I used plain flour)
0.5 tsp mixed spice (original recipes said all spice but I figured this might be similar/the same)
0.5 tsp cinnamon (recipe said nutmeg!)
0.5 cups ground ginger
0.5 tablespoon cream of tartar
0.5 cups salt
1.5 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup water

Combine all dry ingredients in saucepan. Add water & oil. Stir over low heat and continue stirring until dough – like consistency. Knead until smooth & consistent.

You can substitute the spices for a couple of teaspoons of cocoa powder to make (non-edible!) chocolate scented dough. Yummy!!!

activities 4 kids