Thursday, 30 August 2012

This week: moving boxes

As you read this, we are most likely loading up or unloading our many moving boxes as we move into our new home. The last few weeks have been a steady stream of packing, clearing out, filling more boxes, trying to get more empty boxes to pack.....

It's a busy time as you can imagine but there is one great thing about the moving boxes. Children love a box. Both my 10-month old and my 3 1/2 year old have had loads of fun playing with the boxes and I expect they will do so again at the other end as we unpack them in our new home.

Just an empty box is exciting enough but then putting things in to be tipped or taken out is always popular or getting inside the box when it's a really big one is even better! I haven't had any time to do anything creative with them but of course the options are endless when it comes to cardboard box crafts.

Is there anything in particular you like to do with an empty box for playtime fun with your little ones?
photo credit

Monday, 27 August 2012

Children's books about moving house

My son has always enjoyed and seemed to benefit from books that talk about experiences he is about to go through - moving into a big bed, potty training, starting nursery, becoming a big brother.... Part of it is because he really loves being read to and maybe as a result, the medium of a story helps him to take in the situation and better understand it.

So, I naturally looked for some books on moving house to help prepare him for our forthcoming move. I chose two that had good reviews and they are pretty good. He has been asking for us to read them over and over, which I take to mean he is enjoying them and that's the main thing.

If I had to fault the books I bought it would be on the same two points. They both talk about the two children in the story having their own rooms instead of sharing a room when they move. My son and daughter will continue to share a room in our new house and so my husband and I skip over that bit when reading it. They also both conclude with the family's new neighbours bringing round cake and other such welcoming treats, which lovely an end to the story as it is, I'm not so sure it's very realistic. I have baked brownies and taken to new neighbours once but we had a mutual friend so it was a slightly special case. I've never once received a welcoming anything when we've moved into a new home.

Anyway, the books are fun and do a good job of bringing up some of the usual concerns a young child might have when moving - like what'll happen to all their toys, will they make new friends?... Additionally both books have stickers which is always a bonus for toddlers!

Have you moved house since having children and do you have any other moving house book recommendations for young children?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

This week: Treasure baskets

This is probably old news for most of you but I have only just discovered treasure baskets for babies. I had heard of them but didn't really know what they were. Earlier this week we were at a local playgroup where they had a treasure basket out in the area for babies and my daughter loved it. They had put all kinds of random objects with different textures inside a basket and she was fascinated by them.

I am now inspired to create my own at home. A quick search online has given me lots of ideas of items to put insde a basket and of course these random objects can be easily found around the home or outside.

Here are a couple of blog posts with photos and suggestions of treasure basket contents in case you too fancy making one for your baby:

The Imagination Tree - Baby Treasure Basket - 12 months
NurtureStore - Treasure Baskets for Babies

Have you made a treasure basket for any of your children when they were babies? Were there any particular objects that you found they enjoyed more than others?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A vegetable victory

I made cauliflower pakoras the other week and to my delight they were gobbled up with glee by my son who ordinarily refuses any cauliflower dish. I don't count them as hiding vegetables because if you bite into one, you can see the white cauliflower floret. Just out of interest and to test whether my son had come around to cauliflower, I made a cauliflower cheese this week. My son did not like it!

So, I will be making the pakoras again and in case you want to try them, I am sharing the recipe from River Cottage Veg Every Day! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:

  • 1 medium cauliflower - cut into small florets, discarding nearly all the stalk.
  • Sunflower oil for frying
For the batter:
  • 150g gram flour (chickpea flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsps ground cumin
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • A good shake of cayenne pepper
Make the batter by whisking all the ingredients together, getting rid of any lumps. Slowly whisk in 175ml cold water or a little more if needed until you have a batter the consistency of double cream.

Add the cauliflower florets, turning them in the batter to coat thoroughly.

Heat about 1cm depth of oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Place spoonfuls of the battered cauliflower in the pan, not crowding the pan.

Cook for about 2 mins until crisp and golden on the base and then turn over for another minute or two.
Drain the pakoras on kitchen paper and serve.

Hugh accompanies the recipe with a tamarind raita, which sounds lovely but I skipped it. We ate these as they were but I might dip them in natural yoghurt too.
What vegetable victories have you had with your children, where you have found a way to cook a disliked vegetable in a way your child enjoys it?
photo credit

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Making tidy up time fast and fun

It's the end of the day, your little one is getting tired and possibly a bit fractious but the living room looks like a bomb's tidy up time! If your child is anything like mine, the mention of tidying up might elicit moaning and groaning and it can be a real challenge to get them stuck in to picking up and putting away their toys. Even if you get them to pick up one toy to put away, the whole job can take way too long and everyone is fed up during the process!

In just the past week, since the news of our impending move, my husband and I have been doing a lot of extra clearing up and cleaning, as we sort stuff out to pack or get rid of. We are also keeping our flat in a more presentable condition than normal in case we get a call that someone wants to come and view it. Interestingly, I've noticed that our three-year old son has in turn been tidying up a lot more often throughout the day and being pro-active in putting things away when I ask him to.

With that in mind, I started thinking more about tidy up time and how to make it more fun and less of a battle, to get the job done quickly and easily. Here are some suggestions:

- Lead by example. As demonstrated by my son, it helps if they see you regularly tidying up. Children always enjoy imitating adult behaviour and activities.

- Sing a tidy up song. My son used to go a music class where they finished with a tidy up song, whilst tidying up the instruments etc. He was taught another one at nursery so we have a couple to choose from. If you don't know one, make one up! It lightens the mood and helps keep parent and child more relaxed.

- Make it a race or a game. Especially when we have something like lots of Lego pieces to put back in a box, I often make it a challenge to see who can pick up the most and most quickly. When my son sees me hurriedly grabbing handfuls and putting them into the box, he does the same and the job is soon done.

- Talk about what you'll do after you've tidied up. My son loves his bedtime stories and really looks forward to them. Reminding him that we can start the stories as soon as he's tidied up really helps encourage him get it done quickly.

- Give praise where it's due. Remember to give the recognition owed when they do tidy up without any fuss and it will help encourage them to adopt a good attitude towards it all the more. Be enthusiastic about their good efforts, give big hugs and kind words and they will feel rightly pleased with themselves :-)

How does tidy up time happen in your home? Do you have any tricks or tips you employ to get your children clearing up effectively and happily?
photo credit

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

This week: busy!!

In a somewhat sudden turn of events we are moving house at the end of the month. With just over two weeks to pack, organise, clean and clear-out, my blogging time is severely limited! Hopefully I can share some tips on managing a move with two little ones once we get through this but in the meantime, my posts may be a little sporadic.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Jam jar lantern

Here is another super-simple craft to do with your toddler. Materials needed are very few:

1 clean empty jam jar
some scrap paper (plain or patterned)
2 pipe cleaners
random bits for decoration (small coloured paper shapes, stickers etc....)* optional

Cut your scrap paper to a suitable height and length to wrap around jam jar.
Your child can draw on it first if they'd like, instead of later adding decorations.
They glue the back of the paper, stick it around the jam jar and if adding additional decorations, stick those on.
Attach one pipe cleaner to the other to form a handle and then wrap the other around the rim of the jar. Tie to secure.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Easy peasy paper plate spider

I enjoy looking at and admiring craft blogs. I'm not especially artistic but I've always liked art and craft stuff and thought I'd be the kind of mum to do such things with my children. And I do, but not as often as I'd imagined. I have all these good intentions of preparing materials the night before, ready to do a fun craft project with my son the next day but it never happens!

While on summer holidays I decided we needed to do a few simple art activities at home on our quieter days when we're not out and about or having play dates with friends. I ordered a couple of crafty items and have been saving empty egg boxes and the like with the hope of transforming them into something creative.

I plan to feature a few of the things we make on here, just to show you that with very limited adult ability and basic materials, you can create something decent! I think it's important to remember that it's the making that is most of the fun in these types of activities and a young child will probably not be too fussed on how 'perfect' the end result looks! Experiment, have fun, expect to improvise and don't worry about the mess, you may just find you enjoy it too!

Onto our 'easy peasy paper plate spider'....We made it with the following:

1 paper plate
Black paper / black paint
White crayon
3 black Pipe Cleaners 

I cut the outer edge off the paper plate and set aside.
Rather than get paint out, I opted for cutting out black paper to cover the paper plate. My son drew around the paper plate on the black paper while I held it down.
I cut out the circle of paper and he glued it onto the plate.
(Alternatively, your child could simply paint the plate black and leave to dry)
Using the discarded edge of the paper plate, my son drew two circles for eyes and stuck these onto the spider.
With a white crayon, he drew a big smile.
My son cut the three pipe cleaners in half and cut pieces of tape (obviously all with my supervision) so we could stick the pipe cleaners to the back of the plate, making three legs each side.
That's it! We also cut a piece of string and stuck to the back at the top so he could dangle the spider and run around with it more easily.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tea for two: cooking for baby and toddler

Since my baby daughter moved into stage two of weaning, it's made mealtimes a lot easier to plan and coordinate with what the rest of the family is eating. I've called this post 'cooking for baby and toddler' but really it's cooking for baby and the rest of the family, as we all eat the same generally.

However, I wanted to talk a little about our eating routine for baby and toddler, as sometimes mealtimes can be a challenging part of the day and especially dinnertime, when everyone is getting tired. I will also give some meal suggestions that are easily adapted to something a baby from around seven months could eat.

My daughter (she's 9 months old now) had been eating her dinner at 5pm and my son would eat his at 6pm, when I would often be feeding my daughter the last bottle of milk for the day. Then just this week I decided to move my daughter's dinner time half an hour later and my son's half an hour earlier so they can eat dinner together. It's made such a pleasant difference!

My son loves eating dinner at the same time as his little sister and I'm sure she enjoys getting to watch her big brother eat while she does too. For me, it makes that time of day calmer and while my daughter is happily eating, it's easier for my son and I to chat.

Stage two of weaning is when you start to introduce texture into baby's food and a great way to do this is by incorporating grains with pureed or mashed vegetables, beans, lentils etc. Here are some family meals that you can easily adapt for baby:

Risotto - I made butternut squash risotto recently. I chopped and roasted small chunks of the squash to add to the arborio rice once it was nearly cooked. For my daughter, I steamed and pureed some of the squash and stired it into the cooked rice.

Quinoa / couscous with roasted veg - again, simply mash or puree the vegetables for baby and stir into the quinoa / couscous.

Dips  - this is a lunch favourite for us at the moment. We all eat the same dip (this week's was a butter bean and tomato dip) so it makes life very easy. My son and I will dip in things like carrot, cucumber, pitta bread or toast. My daughter will have the same but without the crunchy carrot and I'll give her the inner part of the cucumber with no skin.

Omelette - neither of my children liked scrambled eggs when I first tried them and at a guess I'd say the texture is a bit odd compared to the other foods they are used to eating early on. My son loves them now of course and no doubt my daughter will in time. So, I choose to make omelette instead as a way to eat eggs and it goes down well. I grated carrot, courgette and cheese into one I made this week and served with new potatoes.

Pasta -  a perennial favourite amongst children, pasta is another quick easy meal to prepare for the whole family. Make a sauce of your choice, maybe take some aside and blend for baby and then cook smaller pasta shapes for baby too.

Rice and lentils - you could make a lightly spiced dahl or just a simple lentil mixture with finely diced onion, carrot, celery, some chopped tomatoes and herbs. Blend the lentils for baby and combine with the rice.

What family meals do you like to make that are easy to adapt for baby too?
photo credit