Catch A Falling Leaf

The end of the summer is coming, and pretending it’s not so doesn’t do anything to stop the impending doom winter. I think we may have some exciting plans up our sleeves for this winter, but I’ll have to see how it all pans out before I start sharing. In the meantime, we’re carrying on with our #50things and well on target to get through a lot, if not all of it, this year.

Earlier this year we went to the Whipsnade Zoo for a family day out. It was an early spring day, and the air was thick with cherry blossom scent. Yes, cherry blossoms aren’t leaves, I know, but hey ho, the skills are the same. Catch A Falling Leaf

There’s something about standing waiting in anticipation, spotting a leaf – blossom – jumping into action, grabbing, missing, catching that can’t but make you feel 5 years old. There’s nothing you can do but laugh, and giggle, and shout as you wait and act. The feeling of success as you finally clutch that foliage in your hand.

It’s a great way to burn energy, and to laugh together, play together.

It also costs nothing!

And while catching spring blossoms is imbued with the hope of warmer days, catching autumn leaves are indicative of chestnut roasting, mushroom foraging, and berry picking – there’s nothing not to love.

And while you’re having fun, the kids are learning hand-eye coordination, action and reaction and that mama can run and laugh and play too.

Get out there this autumn, and chase the leaves.


We’re completing  the National Trust’s #50Things campaign because, well, it’s great. This was number 33: Catch a Falling Leaf on their list. You can see the full list here.

Literature To Crafts: The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

It’s been absolutely ages since we’ve had a chance to read a story and do crafts from it, but the opportunity presented itself today and I grabbed it with both hands.

A few weeks ago we were going to make an ocean diorama, so we painted out a box in shades of blue and green. Our plans didn’t quite work out – my girls aren’t fond of colouring, what’s that about? – so we abandoned it, but I still had the box, in hope.

We read The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile by Margaret Wise Brown (currently £5.16 at Amazon UK/$7 Amazon US), which is a story about … well, endurance, I guess, because I couldn’t really find many other lessons in it. But endurance is a valuable skill and in this story, the fisherman search high and low for a fish with a ‘Deep Sea Smile’. They don’t find one for ages, but come across many other fish in the meantime: there’s one with a strong jaw, one with an electric tail, one with eyes on sticks, one with terrible claws and even one with a laughing eye.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

The ability to see something through, in this case finding the fish they were looking for, is valuable, and uncommon in our quick-win society, so I think it’s a great life skill to talk about.

I also love the illustrations in this story. They are done by Henry Fisher, and if I was to have a book illustrated, I’d love him to do it. They are so beautifully done. The pictures don’t really do it justice – especially the electric fish (second on the right below).

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

To bring our book to life, I cut the parts of the fish from coloured paper, and put the different parts of the fish together in piles so the girls could ‘build’ their fish from the given parts.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

I must say that I love our finished product. In all honesty I’m  not always ‘yay’ about the crafts we do, and we’ll keep them on display for a while before letting them ‘disappear’. I really do like this ocean diorama though. I have no idea where we’ll keep it, but it’s cute, bright, colourful and the fish are so friendly and fun.

It’s a great reminder of the story, which the girls thoroughly enjoyed.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

*We received this book as part of the Parragon Book Buddies program. You can find Parragon Books on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can find this book on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here.

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Skills - Learn to Read Skills - Imagination Skills - CreativitySkills - Fine MotorSkills - Hand Eye Coordination

{Nature Crafts} Pinecone Garlands

Thursdays are very busy days for us, as we have any one of three and sometimes four things going on on a Thursday. It means we don’t really do much at home, most days. Today, however, we had spent some time in the forest this morning picking up tiny pine cones, so after dinner and before bath time, Ameli and I made some pinecone garlands. 


We got into daddy’s toolbox and found a whole variety of eyelet screws*. 


We chose the small ones, and set about screwing them into the tops of the pine cones. The pine cones are still soft and moist, so Ameli was able to help screw them in.


Before threading them with a pretty ribbon – not quite festive, but seasonal, let’s say!


We made the garland in the top picture, and then Ameli wanted one for her room, so we used the last bit of ribbon and made a straight garland with a bell at the bottom for her curtain rail. She loved it so much, she couldn’t wait to hang it up herself.


It thrilled me that she was so excited about a nature craft, especially one that was as quick and easy as this one! 

{PlayLearning} Autumn Sensory Boxes

I do love Autumn in England. It is incredibly beautiful. We seem to have skipped Autumn, as far as temperatures are concerned, which is unfortunate, as Autumn sunshine mixed with reds, browns, yellows and the remaining greens are one of nature’s treasures, in my view. I’ve started doing Autumn appreciation activities with the girls, and our Season Tree now hangs on our ‘school board’ where all our current arts and crafts go every week.20130918-163934.jpg

Today I had an unexpected  home day due to a bad night with little Aviya and the case of the persistent molars so I thought I’d share our Autumn themed sensory play boxes with you.

A few weeks ago a friend and I joined forces and made a whole lot of Autumnal play rice – we use vinegar instead of alcohol – in a range of colours. I think it turned out beautifully!


With the help of Amazon and glitter, our Autumn Rice Box turned out like this:


We bought leaves from Amazon (48 Autumn Leavesand artificial flowers from a local shop. You can find similar ones on Amazon  ( RosesArtificial Flowerstoo, and turned a pot of gold glitter out over the whole lot – this turned out to be Ameli’s favourite part. I had thought to use red glitter, but decided that would be more Christmassy and I’d save that for the Christmas box.

Children are interesting creatures, to say the least. With Ameli around, Aviya will get knee deep into the play rice and love it. When she’s on her own though, she cant spend a good 25 minutes with her Autumn nature box. It looks sparsely populated, but she does really well playing with the pine cones, acorns and leaves.


I decided to add a new dimension to the nature box – smell – and added some whole nutmeg and cinnamon sticks to the mix. I’d say they’ve gone down well too!


Do you have an Autumn Sensory box? Pop them on my Facebook wall. I’d love to see what you’re doing to celebrate Autumn or Fall!

{Playlearn} Learning About Different Art Forms

This week’s Summer Camp at Home theme was to do with Arts and studying different art styles. I very quickly found Ameli just wasn’t interested in that kind of, or level of, learning, just yet, so I had to adjust what were were doing pretty much on the fly.

I was a little concerned initially about what we’d do for the week, but it all came together quite nicely in the end. I decided to take it right back to basics, and Ameli really did well, I thought.


Ameli has been drawing for a while now, and it’s been such fun watching her go from random squiggles and lines, to colouring in all over a page, to bringing it within the lines, and now, this week, her very first ever family picture. It’s remarkably lifelike and I’m pleased to say we all seem relatively normal in her mind’s eye.



Inspired by Summer Camp At Home’s plan for the week, we made window paint. I tried to get Ameli to make the circles, but she wasn’t interested and in the end, I just let her paint. She had fun, and that was the aim of it, after all.  Mix equal quantities of paint with dishwashing liquid, and it makes a really easy to apply, easy to wash off window paint. It looks quite light in the application, but dries in a darker, bolder colour.


Art instillations and sculptures:

There’s a big Rhino sculpture exhibit in Southampton at the moment, so a friend and I packed the kids into the car and went off in search of some Rhinos. It was a lovely day out, and we saw loads of Rhinos. The kids loved spotting them, and where appropriate, I had very basic discussions with Ameli about the art ‘techniques’ employed – like circles, shades, and so on.


(Reverse) Ice Sculpting

It’s been unbelievably hot around these parts this last week, so I thought the ice sculptures that have been floating around Pinterest for some time might be a great idea. I don’t know who first came up with this, but it’s been a hit on the web. My girls do seem a bit young, really, because they enjoyed it at first, looking at how fast the salt melted it, and whether being in the sun or shade made a difference, but they lost interest about halfway through. Never mind, we’ll try again another time.  They used butter knives, front and back, to see which ‘chiselled’ better too.


I enjoyed it though, and look forward to them trying it another day again. 20130722-085138.jpg

Card Making: 

We had a birthday party to go to on Saturday, so making the birthday card seemed like a great activity to go with a week about different art (and craft) forms. A while ago I bought a pack of A5 card stock on Amazon*, and that’s been really useful. Every time we have a birthday party coming up, I grab a card and get Ameli crafting. Another fabulous idea here is making cards using water beads



An art form that is oft’ used here, is photography, and Ameli has had her own camera* for a while now, but it’s fair to say she’s still learning and we’re certainly not pressuring her on any part of it. Here she was taking photos of anything and everything, including funny pictures of her own face. When I have a chance to link up to the printer, I’ll print a few out for her to hang up in her art box.


That’s been our week of exploring different art forms. I don’t know how much she’s ‘learned’ as such, but she’s had fun, she’s asked questions and she’s been involved. She’s happy, I’m happy.  We do love playlearning.

What arts do you practice with your children?

*affiliate link. if you buy through this link, I will receive a percentage as commission. You do not pay any more than going through a non-affiliate link. The only difference is how much Amazon keeps. Thank you in advance for supporting us and helping me pay to keep the blog going!

8 Activities For Improving Fine Motor Skills

For three years now, I’ve not posted on things that I assume everyone else would assume to be boring.

Then a few days ago I was speaking to a mother about fine motor skills and how her daughter’s were under developed. We spoke for a while about what fine motor skills were and what you can do to encourage their development.

We do loads of little activities specifically aimed at fine motor skill development, while having fun, so I thought I’d share a few from the last 12 or so months with you.

If you don’t know what fine motor skills are, they are the small movements that occur in the hands, wrists, fingers, feet, toes, lips and tongue. They are the smaller actions that occur such as picking up objects between the thumb and finger, using a pencil to write carefully, holding a fork and using it to eat, and other small muscle tasks that we all do every day.

Activities that use, promote and enhance them involve picking, up, putting in and pouring.

Here are a few:

Ice cream sticks in a narrow bottle neck. My 14 month old loves this one.

Picking up small objects, like stones. Arrange from large to small or dark to light. (Keep an eye on smaller children so they don’t swallow them. )

Pour pompoms from cup to cup.

Pick them up and sort them by colour or size.

Stickers are perfect for fine motor skills. Picking the sticky backing from the foam bit.

Coloured rice. It’s all fun, but the clean up is where the pincer grip really comes into its own.

Threading is great. It requires concentration, and has the reward of ‘jewelery’ at the end.

Stacking. That’s great fun, especially in the knocking over. But again, balance, concentration – excellent development. 

What do you for fine motor skill development? 

Learning Points:

Rainbow Rice For Sensory Boxes

We had a pretty rough day around these parts, but if you look at the photos, you wouldn’t know it. Ah, if my real life looked like my photo stream, that would be just great. Oh well.

Our jar of rainbow rice from last year has pretty much run out, so it was time to make some more rainbow rice. I bought a cheap 3kg bag of rice, and Ameli and I set out to colour them.

Rainbow Rice

We separated the rice into five bowls, and poured a table spoon of vinegar into each. We added red, blue, green and yellow food colouring to four bowl, and added blue and red to another, to make purple.

We then set about mix, mix, mixing, before leaving it overnight to dry.

This morning I poured the rice into our new rice tub, and popped in the playdoh toys.

I seem to be really struggling with mess at the moment, so rather than put the rice in the house, I put it outside on a plastic sheet so that any spillage could be poured back into the tub, but the girls were still free to pour, spill and mess.

In a couple of days I’ll put some cars and trains in, and I also have some stars and other stellar objects that will make for fun play.

One of the bonuses of sensory boxes is that children use all their senses to really get into it, so it’s fun and play, but also development. I love when my children learn through play and I love how a sensory box turns them into little explorers.


 Learning Points:

Busy Bags: Threading And Lacing

This is part four in a series on busy bags. For more information on what busy bags are, and for some ideas on bought contents for easy busy bags and more handmade ideas, read past posts in the series

Threading and lacing are fantastic activities for little people. The good thing about doing these home made is that you can make as many shapes as your heart desires, and your options are limitless. I just worked on basic shapes, but you can cut out the characters on cereal boxes, or use one of the free printables online too.

Your toddler can thread the holes around the outside, and as they become more confident, you can get them to skip holes or go criss-cross in patterns. We used pretty gold string, but you may find it easier to use a shoe lace that has the aglet (plastic bit) attached.

You will need:

  • Card – either basic shapes, cut outs from grocery boxes or downloaded printables
  • String – a shoelace would be good, but we used pretty gold string
  • Hole Punch – for the holes, obviously

How to Make It:

Cut out your shapes
Punch holes all the way around the outside
Tie a piece of string to one hole, then trace the outline of the shape with the string, then double it and cut it
Place it in a busy bag, ready for little fingers to thread

Check back next week for more Busy Bag ideas. You will need stickers with at least two matching pictures and matching cards.





Bought Busy Bag Ideas

This is the second in a series of posts on Busy Bags, toddler activity bags. In The Low Down On Busy Bags, I share what they are, how they work and how we store them. 

Most of my busy bags are made up from scratch, but there have been a few that we were better suited to bought items.

1. Books

Most pre-made games and activities can be made into busy bags

You can find really cheap children’s board books (US link here) if you look in the right places. These are small sized so they can fit into a Busy Bag.  I have thought to put one book in a bag with props that go with the story, but haven’t gotten that far yet. A story about a red balloon that goes up, up, up and away – My Red Balloon* (US link here) could include a red balloon ( or a few for reuse!) that can be inflated for the story and played with for a while after. You can go a step further and include a bear, rabbit, polar bear, penguin and  giraffe toys in the bag to help bring the story to life.  The child can then act out the story after you’ve read, or simply play with the items. Remember to return it all after play and before opening the next bag though!

2. Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk (US link) is great fun, because it simply washes off.  It’s probably still best used outdoors, and provides a great excuse to get outside and soak up some winter sun. It works on blackboards too, but I think it’s a thicker chalk otherwise it’ll run out on the ground faster. Remember if you buy a big tub of it not to give all the pieces in one go. Three or four to a busy bag work just fine. Save the rest for gifted busy bags, a busy bag swap or just to replace used up ones later.

3. Construction Games

We used ItsiBitsi construction rubbers – circles with cut out bits that you slot in to each other to build designs. I cannot find these online anywhere, but it’s a similar concept to the Galt First Octons (US link to loads of different fabulous looking construction kits). These can provide hours of entertainment in 10 – 15 minute slots. Once again you can buy one large set, but you don’t have to put them all in one bag, they can be split between bags.

4. Play Foam

Play Foam (US Link) is an alternative to Play Doh. It is less messy and doesn’t smoosh into your carpets. It’s not the most ‘natural’ of products, but at least it’s non toxic. You can make and mould and play with it more or less like dough. The kids like it, and yes, I do sometimes find some in Aviya’s nappy, but she’s survived it. As you can see, I only included two colours in the busy bag because this is a bag for when I’m busy and need something that occupies the girls – I do not want to spend hours cleaning up once they’re done!

5. Colour Sorting

There are so many different colour sorting activities you can do with your toddler, but I particularly like this one, because when you’re done with colour sorting, you can use the stacking cups for water play, in the bath, in the sand pit, colour mixing (using food colouring) and all sorts of things. You can also use the stacking cups (US link) as intended and pass them down to your baby for stacking. In this game, you need to provide pompoms (US link) in the same colours as the stacking cups and laying them all out in front of the little one, you get them to sort the colours. As they get older, you can also use this number for counting, or you could use both the pompoms or the cups themselves for a lesson in size.

The main thing with these busy bags is to buy stuff on sale, buy them when you see them cheap and split the contents into different bags so you can mix it up from time to time. Or if you can, join a busy bag swap, or start one with your friends. It works out a lot cheaper if you buy in bulk, and make a bunch of bags, then swap with someone else who’s done the same.

What have you bought to make up ‘bought’ busy bags?