The Many Uses of Lego

The Many Uses of Lego

Lego has been around a very long time. You will be hard pressed to find a person who hasn’t at least heard of the dynamic and ever loved toy that is suited for adults and children alike. In our house, Lego is something that we all engage with. For my children, they spend hours building, breaking, and rebuilding whole worlds in which their imaginations are let loose. For me and my husband, we have unlocked a whole new vocabulary of words we spout when we stand on said Lego creations, which are often scattered all over our house. As hard as it may be to find a child who doesn’t love Lego, it would be harder to find an adult who hasn’t stood on Lego without swearing like a sailor. That said, you cannot deny the amazing possibilities that come with Lego. Although it can be expensive to buy large sets, there are some very reasonably priced packs that can be worked and re-worked into a variety of different things. In this post, I share a range of things that you and your children can do with Lego. All of the ideas given are things that me and my own children have enjoyed doing. I hope they inspire you to try new things with your Lego sets. 

Boat Making

This was a great activity, that usually turns competitive in our house. Through the summer, we filled a small paddling pool and had a competition to see who could build the best boat, we started using recycled junk, however this quickly turned into a Lego building activity. This is great for hot days and water play. HOWEVER, you do not need to wait for the sunshine to play boat building. One of our favourite ways to play is to tape some paper down onto the floor and draw a river. The kids build their Lego boats and use their imaginations to create stories on the river (sometimes all afternoon). The Master of Mischief usually brings in bad guys, dinosaurs and a whole host of other toys to play on his Lego boat river. Regardless of how or what your boat looks like, this is a great way to encourage imaginative play.

Bridge Building

This activity idea often ties in with our boat making, bridge making is an excellent STEM activity that gets your children thinking about ways to construct a sturdy bridge. Again, you can stick a sheet of paper down and draw your own river. You can colour it blue for water or get creative and colour it green for slime, or orange and red for lava. Encourage your children to think of creative things to build to get their toys safely to the other side. The Master of Mischief really enjoys this activity and he has come up with so many innovative ways to construct his bridges.

Ring Toss

This was a game that we built on a rainy afternoon while we were bored. After making it, we somehow ended up playing for almost an hour and a half. All three children got involved. One of the reasons I liked it so much was the sheer simplicity of it. It was a small tabletop version of the beloved garden game which took no time at all to put together. We used pipe cleaners to make the rings for tossing. You can buy a pack of pipe cleaners from most craft places or cheap shops with a craft section. I bought ours from Poundland. The game was great for promoting hand to eye co-ordination, fine and gross motor skills, patience, and turn taking. I often find that the simplest ideas are the most fun.

3 in a Row

Another tabletop game that you can create from Lego is three in a row. This game is more commonly known as noughts and crosses. I have found over the years that my children can fill a whole notebook playing this game. I wanted a version that used less paper, so here we are. All you need is a small base piece, some dividers, and two different colours of small square bricks. Both of the girls have loved playing this. It is another great way to promote cognitive development and turn taking.

Lego for Teaching Fractions

I am sure that within schools they have a vast range of classroom resources that they use when teaching. For us though, Lego has become an invaluable tool while we have been home schooling. The maths work that we were receiving for Little Fairy and Kiki was all based around fractions. Trying to explain the whole concept of fractions, equivalent fractions, how one fraction can be the same as another was becoming tricky (pizza and pie will only get you so far). Lego became a great way to visually present the different kinds of fractions as well as allow the girls to add and subtract fractions. The different sizes of the pieces and the colours made it so much easier to explain and visually represent.

Symmetry

This is an activity that I have used for all of my children. You can make your patterns as simple or complicated as you like based on the age and ability of your child. We have used a medium sized Lego base which I split down the middle. I then made a pattern on one side and gave the Master of Mischief the blocks to recreate the pattern on the opposite side. It was a great activity which gave him a hands on approach to learning symmetry. As your children get older, you can make the activity harden by creating a more intricate and complex design for them to copy. If like me you have two children close in age, ask them to create a pattern and then swap and see if they can complete each other’s design. Meanwhile, you can put your feet up with a nice hot beverage (maybe a biscuit) and relax knowing your children are playing nicely and learning while they do it. 

There are likely to be a million more uses for Lego, these are just a few that we have enjoyed. If you have any special uses for your Lego that I can use with my children, please do share them. We love building with Lego and I hope that these ideas can motivate you to think and build outside of the Lego box.

Until next time…

Hannah XO.

Books! Books! Books!

Books! Books! Books!

Reading is a tradition as old as time. There are so many benefits to reading to your children and encouraging them to read to themselves, to you or even just to their toys. Reading to little ones, even in infancy, helps with cognitive development, language acquisition and literacy skills. Another area that stories and reading can encourage is that of imagination and creativity. Books, fact or fiction, give you an opportunity to get lost in another world, learn something new or be transported to different places with different characters. There are just so many wonders that reading provides.

Sitting and reading to your children is a beautiful way to bond. Spending time with your child and sharing stories, be them old or new, provides such a wonderful opportunity to forge a strong and lasting relationship. Setting up regular reading time provides children with a specific moment of their day or week that they can cherish. It can be at any time, you might wish to read to your child at bedtime, bath time, or every Sunday afternoon. I read to my son every night before bed, and I try to read with my girls (who are 8 and 9) once a week. They read independently almost daily. Participating in a regular and shared event that your child can look forward to is a fantastic way to build trust.

Since mine were babies, I have read stories to them, some traditional, some not so traditional. I remember one evening years ago when I was really struggling to settle my daughter, I read her the OK Magazine. She was only a baby at the time, the words didn’t particularly mean anything to her, but the soothing sound and tone of my voice as I read OK’s January 2011 edition cover to cover were enough to settle her. It was also nice for mummy to catch up on some celebrity gossip.

There are millions of stories out in the world waiting to be discovered. One of my favourite quotes is by an author named Kate DiCamillo who says “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, or a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”

Reading is a gift, and in this blog post, I offer a list of books that I have shared with each of my children. As my children are of differing ages, they read different things. I have split the list into top 5 for younger children and top 5 for an older crowd.

If you ever get the chance or see them in the shops, give them a try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If you do ever read them or share them with your children, I hope that the stories can bring you as much joy as they have brought me and my family.

For those with younger children, you might enjoy…

Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare! (Steve Smallman)

One of the first story books I shared with my eldest daughter that she really engaged with was ‘Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare!’. It has a great tempo and is really easy and fun to read. In fact, I could probably recite the whole thing without needing to even see the book (that’s how much we read it). It’s a great story for young children and has been a bedtime favourite in our house, first with the girls and then with the Master of Mischief. Although not a long story (which makes it an even better bedtime choice) it’s an upbeat tale that you can put plenty of character voices and enthusiasm into.

Giraffe’s Can’t Dance (Giles Andreae)

This is a great children’s story. It is fun, light-hearted colourful and reads like a dream. The actual story is also great for confidence building in children, as it starts with everyone telling poor old Gerald the Giraffe that he can’t dance and ends with him learning to dance to a different song. It is a feel good, can-do type story. The rhyming of the text flows really well which makes it fun and easy to read. It’ll definitely leave you with a smile. All three of my children have loved it.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen)

This is a fantastic story, which is now a made for television special. The repetition through the pages will likely mean that your little one will join in reading with you. I know that when we read this, the Master of Mischief says more of the words than I do (which is lovely). From the first line of the story children are swept up into the adventure. My children have always enjoyed large scale role play and this story fits right into that. After we finished reading it, we built our own bear cave under the dining table. It was great fun and kept the kids busy for hours.

Mr Men and Little Miss Series (Roger Hargreaves)

The Mr Men collection has been around since the 70s with the Little Miss collection joining in the 80s. The whole collection is enjoyable. My son has a range of the stories, however his favourite by far, is Mr Tickle and the Dragon. This is a story we quite often read at bedtime. The fun and colourful characters are great for young children. They are also great for initiating discussions about the characteristics they display.

Mr Wolf and the Enormous Turnip (Jan Fearnley)

This was a book that my son chose from the shop while we were out one day. It has quickly become a firm favourite. When we bought it, I didn’t realise that it was actually one in a series of Mr Wolf books. The enormous turnip edition is fabulous for reading to your children although, like me, you might actually find yourself laughing at parts. With a fun mix of characters, it’s a great chance to bring out the silly voices. Perfect for cuddling up to enjoy together.

For those with older children, you might try…

The Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton)

This is a classic story; I read the series when I was a child and I was so excited to share them with my own brood. If we’re ever a bit bored or stuck for something to do, we’ll read a few chapters of this together. It’s definitely a reading book, there aren’t many pictures so it’s something that I share with the girls more than the Master of Mischief. It doesn’t really hold his attention for long. From our experience, it’s better suited for an older reader. The characters are fun and a bit wacky and the adventures that the characters have are great for allowing children to escape into their imagination for a while.

Matilda (Roald Dahl)

This is probably my all time favourite children’s book. I have shared this with my daughters from a very young age. Many people will know the story from the 1996 film Matilda. The movie is one that I thoroughly enjoyed throughout my own childhood; you just can’t beat the book though. The story is inspiring for children and adults. Roald Dahl uses his creative imagination to keep your attention. Even parents will like this story. It’s a great one to share.

Disney’s Twisted Tale Collection (Various Authors)

These Disney books are genius. The twisted tales are an anthology series based around the alternate “what-if” spins on family favourite Disney films. My eldest daughter is absolutely obsessed with them. The one she is currently reading is the Once Upon a Dream which poses the question on the cover of ‘What if the sleeping beauty never woke up?’. They are darker twists on what are usually such happily ever after tales. These stories are great for older children (or adults if, like me, it piques your interest to experience your childhood memories with a bit of a darker twist).

Percy Jackson Series (Rick Riordan)

The Percy Jackson series is terrific for children who enjoy reading action and adventure stories. It’s better suited for older readers; however, my eldest daughter has been slowly working her way through the books since age 7. The series of books written by Rick Riordan are fantastic fantasy-adventures based on Greek mythology (something Kiki is deeply interested in). It follows a group of ‘demi-gods’ (who are the half-human children of the Greek Gods) as they set out on a number of thrilling and enigmatic quests. A definite must for heroic and thrill seeking readers.  

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women (Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo)

My youngest daughter was given this book by my grandmother. It is a collection of stories about inspiring women throughout history. The book is written for children aged 6 and up. The stories introduce the reader to 100 remarkable women and their extraordinary lives and achievements. You can read about women from all walks of life and throughout history. Women such as Amelia Earhart, Frida Khalo, Coco Chanel and Michelle Obama are all featured, as well as 96 more.  This book has been a beautiful gift for my daughter. The underlying message (or certainly what Little Fairy took from the book) is that no matter who you are, with self-belief, you can overcome and achieve.

All of the above books are ones that we have shared together and that my children have enjoyed. Encourage your children to read. It will open their imaginations and allow them to explore worlds of possibility.

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary”

Jim Rohn

Until next time..

Hannah XO

My Experience with Mum Guilt

My Experience with Mum Guilt

I’ve been really nervous to write about my mum guilt. I wanted my blog to be all positives, all the time. In reality though, that isn’t a true representation of my experiences or of motherhood as a whole. Truthfully, lately I have been feeling overwhelmed with life. We have been in lockdown since the end of March, and as the start of July is looming, I feel like my lockdown optimism has reached it’s limit. Home schooling has lost momentum, my children are missing their friends and their teachers, I’m missing my friends and my teachers. All the little jobs I had to do at home have been done, and for the first time in the history of my household, the washing baskets are empty. It feels like as a family, we have moved into a state of simply existing, rather than living. I’ve been suffering more over the past few weeks with mum-guilt. I’m sure that I am not alone in feeling this way. The world is a big place, chances are at least one person out there will understand how I feel. So here we go, settle in as I share my personal experience with mum-guilt.

As a mother, no matter what style of parenting you chose, you will have undoubtedly felt mum-guilt at some point. For me, since the day my eldest daughter was born, I’ve had some feeling that I could be doing better. Some days, the negative thoughts about my parenting practices are inescapable.

Truthfully, it doesn’t need to be anything severe to trigger my mummy guilt. It can be something as simple as, I don’t serve vegetables at tea-time and I instantly feel like I’m neglecting their health. I might swear in front of them (I definitely do. All. The. Time) and boom I’ve ruined their childhood!

Media, society, other parents and even family seem to set enormous expectations about what motherhood should look and feel like. The best comparison I think you can make is to liken motherhood to a snowflake. No experiences are identical. I don’t know this as a fact, there might be two women out there who have had identical experiences. I doubt it, but you never know! For me, having had three children of my own, I know that each pregnancy, birth, and post-natal experience has been different. So why do I spend so much time trying to live up to something that is unique to each individual and to each child?

I have always tried so hard to get everything right as a mum. It has become normal practice to measure and compare myself to other mums, celebrity parents (which is completely unrealistic I know) and to try be on the ball all the time. At any one time I seem to have 50+ things swirling around in my head. How quick are their feet growing? Do they need new shoes? Do I have enough food in for the week? Are school uniforms washed? Did I sign and return the school form that has been stuck to the fridge for a month? Did I pay the nursery bill? Does their bedding need washing? Has the Master of Mischief wiped his arse properly after doing his fifth shit of the day? Are the girls managing their homework? Have they eaten enough fruit this week? Are they eating too much fruit? Are their teeth going to fall out? Are they happy? Trying to get everything right all the time is impossible.  

I try to live by the mantra that I am a good mum who is doing her best and has her shit together. Although the final part of that statement might not be quite true. Some days my shit is definitely not together. Some days I’m not even a hot mess, I’m just a mess! That said, my children are healthy, well-behaved (most days) and they do pretty well in school. That should be enough. So why isn’t it? Why do I constantly feel like I’m failing at the one thing women are apparently meant to thrive at?

As a student, I have deadlines and exams and days where I am so tired from my own classes that I genuinely cannot be arsed being a mum! Just admitting this gives me a knot in my stomach. I shouldn’t admit it. As mum’s we aren’t allowed to admit that motherhood isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Fact is though, being a mum is bloody difficult. Obviously, the rewards far outweigh the struggles, but it doesn’t make the struggles any easier to deal with.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to put my voice and my feelings out into the world, I don’t believe that I am alone in feeling the constant guilt associated with motherhood. So I say to anyone, whether you’re a first time mum with a new born or a seasoned mummy with a tribe of little warriors, if you’re feeling the same, you are not alone.

My eldest turns 10 this year and I still struggle to balance my mum-guilt feelings. Over the past decade though, I have taken some steps to change my approach to it. I used to feel immense shame over wanting time for myself. I felt like I was so lucky to have been blessed with children so all of my time should be spent on them or with them. Nevertheless, my 9 years and 7 months as a mum have taught me that in order to be the best for my children, I need to set aside time to be away from them. For me, that time is 5am. I set my alarm and I go downstairs before anyone else in the house is awake. I enjoy a hot coffee and make a list for what I need to do for the day. I make that time my own and it sets up my day. Whether your release is early morning or late at night, find yourself half an hour in the day and just enjoy it. Practice yoga, eat some chocolate, read, meditate, take a shower, do whatever you enjoy doing and do it for yourself.

Another aspect of dealing with mum-guilt and quite possibly the best advice I was ever given, is to let go of perfect. It doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a perfect mum or a perfect child or a perfect motherhood experience. If you’re trying to achieve this, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Acknowledging that some days are shit and your kids will drive you crazy and you might shout is the best way to build resilience to the guilt. For me, it is the imperfect moments that are a true reflection of motherhood.

Until next time…

Hannah XO

Father’s Day: A Sprinkle of Last Minute Magic

Father’s Day: A Sprinkle of Last Minute Magic

Father’s Day is a day dedicated to celebrating and honouring fatherhood and the paternal bond. Not all people celebrate it. Then there are those who go all out celebrating. Some will go above and beyond, showering their fathers with personalised gifts, fancy breakfast foods, family meals, balloons, you name it. Our family falls somewhere in the middle. I don’t plan an elaborate event. My husband isn’t one for fuss, he’s a pretty chilled out dude who dislikes being the centre of attention. However, he does a lot for our family. He loves, protects, supports, and encourages all of our children. He should be celebrated. That said, I am not the most organised when it comes to planning ahead. I also get so frustrated with the fact that one any other day of the week a pair of socks will cost you £1.50 yet bang ‘World’s Best Dad’ on it and you can instantly charge £5 a pair, it’s ludicrous! So, if like me, you are unorganised and reluctant to spend ridiculous money, fear not, I have you covered. Here I share a list of ideas to work some of that last minute magic and celebrate dad in a budget friendly way!

Baking

There are a range of budget friendly recipes to be found. One that goes down particularly well in our house is Rocky Road! It requires few ingredients and is easy enough that you can get the kids involved. You could serve these as an afternoon treat for Dad or box them up and give them as a gift. Check out the recipe on the link below.

https://budget-mum.com/2020/06/19/rocky-road/

Framed Photo

This is a cheats gift in the sense it costs very little but almost always brings a big smile to the face of the receiver. If you have managed to capture a special moment between father and child(ren) on film, then print it and pop it in a frame. Many supermarkets now have photo printing equipment and a single picture is pretty cheap to print. You can pick up frames in a range of sizes from places like Poundland, Home Bargains or B&M. If you don’t have a photo of your children with their dad, simply frame a photo of the child(ren). This is also a good gift for the Grandads (if you like to celebrate those guys too!)

Gift Vouchers (Homemade)

These are an awesome gift for dads. Great for if you have older children. You can create vouchers for all kinds of things. Here are some examples:

  • Washing up: Get dad out of chores for a night and get the kids to wash up the dinner pots.
  • Weeding: One job my husband hates but always gets tricked into doing is weeding our garden. If your kids are old enough, get them pulling up the weeds and give dad a free pass.
  • Dad’s choice on the TV: Rightly or wrongly our children predominantly rule the TV at points of the day. Give dad a voucher that gives him total control over what is on the box for the day. (I’m sure it’ll come in handy if there are sports to watch)
  • Kids go to bed early: This is a good one for both parents, it’s a voucher promising that the kids will go to bed earlier, giving you some extra adult time.
  • Uninterrupted gaming time: If dad is a gamer then this will go down a storm. My husband is an avid Playstation player, although he is usually interrupted by our children either asking for a go or just generally disrupting what he is doing. I know that uninterrupted gaming time means the world to him and costs me nothing!
  • Extra sleep time: What parent doesn’t want an extra hour or two in bed! This one is always a winner!
  • Family game night: This is a great voucher for families who are usually so busy they can’t find time to spend all together. This voucher means you make the time. Bring out a board game or sit and do some quiz questions. Time together as a family is always well spent!

Breakfast in Bed

This is always a hit. The is nothing nicer than an extra hour in bed and waking up to a tray of coffee (or tea) and a plate of food. Whatever breakfast you make your dad, serving it to him in bed makes it 100 times better! One of the best twists on a traditional bacon sandwich is a bacon naan. My husband loves them. It was something we discovered on a weekend away for our first wedding anniversary. I recreated it at home for his birthday and it worked really well. It’s now my go to breakfast treat for him. Check it out here.

https://budget-mum.com/2020/06/19/bacon-naan/

Homemade Cards

Nothing says Father’s Day better than a home made card. It’s usually something that children will make in school. Just because it’s lockdown, doesn’t mean the tradition can’t continue. Grab some pens, crayons and some paper and let your little ones creativity come alive. For the older ones, you could even have them write a poem or a special note to stick inside.

Homemade Keyrings and Magnets

I recently found excellent offers on Amazon for ‘make your own’ keyring and magnet craft packs. The keyring pack included 8 keyring frames and 16 pieces of pre-cut paper that inserts into the frames. I had my children design and create their own

Dad Bag

If you want to splash out a bit, try filling a gift bag full of dad’s favourite food and drinks. You could buy him his favourite crisps, sweets, pop, and chocolate. If you have a few extra pounds to spend, you could even buy him a DVD or a book to enjoy with all of his treats. Just make sure it’s for dad only.

All About My Daddy

This is a great activity to do with younger children. You can write out a series of questions about Daddy and write down their answers exactly as they say them. The results are often hilarious. This is also something that you could do every year. Make sure you keep your answers and add them into a folder for Dad to read over as the years go by and see how much the answers change.

Home Schooling: A Survivors Guide

Home Schooling: A Survivors Guide

As a degree student currently studying young children’s learning and development, I feel lucky that I have 3 children of differing ages at home. If I were a scientist, it would be like having 3 small lab rats. The only difference is that lab rats won’t ask you why green is a colour at 5.30am. As I work my way through the degree, I’ve found myself witness to theory in practice. I’m lucky to be able to see the theories we study unfold amongst my own children at home. As well as that, I can apply the techniques I am learning straight into practice and discover for myself what works and what doesn’t work for both me and my children.

So, when the country went into lockdown months ago, I decided to seize an opportunity and really throw myself into the whole home schooling experience. Well, what a rollercoaster it has been. My children being of differing ages created a problem straight away. My girls are aged 8 and 9 and while these ages are ideal for a home-schooling adventure, the 4 year old Master of Mischief became somewhat of a spanner in the works. As the girls were practicing times tables, he was charging around them in a cape. While the girls wrote letters and stories he was roaring like a T-Rex at the top of his lungs, you can see the pattern emerging.

The first week of the home-schooling was complete chaos. I had planned what activities we would do, however, I had neglected to factor in how to split my time between the girls and their academic work, and the energetic pre-schooler and his play. The other thing that really seemed to set me back was my resources. Before the lockdown, the Master of Mischief was in nursery 5 days a week. His entire routine was built around a free flow play environment, constant stimulation with amazing equipment and nursery staff on hand for any given thing. In lockdown, this is something that I didn’t have the time, space or funds to recreate.

After a little cry and a big glass of wine, I set about creating some at home activities that would be educational and stimulating for a four year old (for as little cost as possible). Websites like twinkl.co.uk have some amazing free resources for parents to download. They cater to children of all ages. I also put together a few enjoyable and stimulating activities with basic things I had at home, coupled with a few supplies I picked up from Poundland. I’ve listed a few of these below. They are great to whip out if the weather keeps you in and have helped me through numerous ‘mummy I’m bored’ moments.

Size Ordering

I found this activity on Twinkl (which is free). It is great for teaching my son ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ and he enjoys ordering the images and counting how many of each animal there is. Another activity that he has enjoyed is creating pictures with all the animals. Not quite what was intended, but it has been fun and engaging all the same. It is important that children are allowed to change and explore within any activity. I was amazed when he started positioning the cut outs to make a picture, it’s something that hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Number Sorting

I managed to but a pack of number fridge magnets from Poundland when I last went shopping. We only have a small fridge, so I also bought a baking tray. This activity cost £2 to put together and is extremely effective. It helps with ordering numbers as well as simple addition and subtraction (maths symbols are included in the pack of magnetic numbers) It is cheap and educational and was very well received by the Master of Mischief.

Small World Dinosaur Swamp

At the moment, to say my little boy likes dinosaurs would be an understatement. It is a borderline obsession, an intense interest at the least. So he has really engaged and enjoyed this activity. It was a simple under bed storage box with a couple of handful of chippings, a few scoops of mud and a cup of water. Boom, we had a swamp! He found and added sticks and leaves to create his own jungle and then filled it with dinosaurs and diggers. He played for an insane amount of time in this. It was messy (oh so messy!) especially with all the wet mud. The imagination that came from it though, was well worth the clean-up. You can substitute the dinosaur toys for anything which means that this activity can be catered to the likes of any child. You may wish to create a farm instead of a swamp and fill your mud with pigs. You could also use larger rocks in the mud as ramps for cars creating a ‘dirt track’. The possibilities are truly endless.

Dinosaur Bath

This activity follows directly on from the previous. After spending a long time playing with the dinosaurs in the mud, they needed a bath. We filled a medium size storage box with warm soapy water. After covering his dinosaurs in mud, the master of mischief thoroughly enjoyed cleaning them all off. He used a spare toothbrush to scrub all the mud off. As he was playing, we talked about how important it is to keep clean. Again, this activity can be tailored for any toy. You could even skip the muddy part and just give your little ones some plastic plates and cups to wash. Nurturing their independence and imagination is really important at this stage. Doing it without having to spend any money is a massive bonus!

These activities have really helped keep the Master of Mischief ticking over. When he is not engaging in free play with his own toys, he is playing with one of these structured (homemade) activities. It seems to be a good balance. The steps I have taken over the past couple of months have really worked to our benefit. We have managed to get through this far without spending a fortune on expensive toys or equipment. I hope that some of the ideas and tips I have shared can help you too. I hope everyone is staying strong and coping to the best of their ability during these difficult times. Remember, we are all in this together.

XO Hannah

Five Activities My 4 Year Old Loved That Cost Me Next To Nothing!

Five Activities My 4 Year Old Loved That Cost Me Next To Nothing!

One of my main passions as a mum is to make sure that my children are learning and developing but having fun while doing it. My other main passion is to spend as little as possible in the process. Running a five person household (or any household) on a low income is difficult. Entertaining any child, let alone three is also tricky, especially when it’s three days before you get paid, you’ve covered the bills, done the weekly shop and you’re left with exactly £9.78p to your name.

Fear not my fellow penny pinching parents. Here I share five activities that I have done with my children that have ticked all the boxes. They are fun, they are educational and most importantly, they cost next to nothing to do.

WATER PAINTING

This is a great activity for a sunny day when you hear the dreaded words of ‘I’m bored’. It is fun for all and all you need is a cup of water and a paint brush. You can improvise a bit if you don’t have a paintbrush, just chop up a kitchen sponge and use a peg for a handle (you don’t need the peg). Either way, a sponge is effective. All you need to do is give the kids a cup of water and off they go. You could get them to paint a patio surface, fence, or pathway.

SHADOW DRAWING

This is a fun activity which can be done outdoors or in. If you want to use the sun to create the shadows, you’ll need a nice clear day. If you use a torch (or a lamp) you can do this activity anytime. Find a toy that you want to use as your silhouette, for the master of mischief, this was dinosaurs. Position the toys on the paper and shine the light on them to create the shadows. Ask your little ones to draw around the shadow. We also swapped roles, so Teddy held the torch and I drew around the shadow. The activity led to all kinds of conversations about which toy made the biggest shadow and how the shadows changed when the torch was moved. Lots of learning, lots of social interactions and lots of fun.

DINOSAUR DIG

This is so enjoyable that even my older two got involved. You do need some ingredients, but you will likely have them in the cupboard and even if you don’t, you’ll be able to pick them up from Poundland or any cheap and cheerful shop. All you need is baby oil and plain flour. Honest – that’s all!! The measurements I used were 1kg plain flour mixed with 240ml of baby oil. Pop it into a big bowl or plastic box and mix both together. It makes a really soft sand. Once I’d made the sand, I buried the Master of Mischief’s dinosaur toys in its and gave him a paintbrush to ‘excavate’ the toys. The sand can be used to shape and mould however your children wish. It’s a great sensory activity that is cheap to create, smells nice and best of all makes very little mess.

ALPHABET PEGS

This is a relatively new activity that I have recently tried with my little boy. I was a bit sceptical that it would hold his attention however, I was delightedly surprised. It is a great way to encourage letter recognition. Again, you need a couple of things for this. Pegs, a marker pen and come card. As always, it’s nothing that can’t be found in a local Poundland or Home Bargains type store. I managed to pick up a pack of pegs for 99p at Aldi. I had some coloured card left over from an art pack Little Fairy got for her birthday, but if you don’t have coloured card and don’t want to buy it, just cut up a cereal box and use that. Write a letter of the alphabet onto each peg and then across the card, write out the alphabet. You can create a few different activities within this activity. You could remove all the pegs and get your child to match up each letter to it’s correct place in the card. Another way to play is to write out simple words and have your child find the correct letters to make the word. We sat and made the sounds of the letters. We also looked at the order the letters went in (yes, we sang the song, yes, I sounded like a bag of cats!) We also went through and thought about a different word that starts with each letter of the alphabet. It was an activity that lasted much longer and was better received than I had anticipated. It felt like a win!

MASKING TAPE TIGHTROPE

Masking tape is my absolute favourite resource for the kids. The amount of fun we have had from one roll of masking tape is insane! For this activity I wanted to develop the Master of Mischief’s movement skills, so I marked out some different patterns on the floor with the tape and he had to move along them in a ‘tightrope’ style. I encouraged him to move fast and slow using tiny mouse steps and big elephant (or T-Rex) stomps. Once he had enough of the movement game, he started lining his toys up across the tape, which brought us into a whole new game, developing new and different skills.

“Play is the highest form of research”

Albert Einstein

I feel like I could sit and type all day about the different things you could do within each of these different activities. I love playing!! (mainly because it is more fun than putting washing away), I also love that not every game or activity has to cost a fortune or require batteries. The interactions between you and your child during play are so important to their development, so put down the phones, accept that the dishes can wait and just play knowing that each time you do you are giving your child exactly what they need.

XO Hannah

Joining The Club!

Joining The Club!

Joining the club

So here I am. I sat and wrote and re-wrote my first post for this blog multiple times. In the end I decided a simple introduction to who I am and why I’m here would be best. So, without wanting to sound like this is ‘mums anonymous’ My name is Hannah and I am a mum. I’m actually a mum to three (four if you include the husband).  My eldest daughter is 9 soon to be 10. We call her Kiki, her real name is Caitlin, Kiki comes from the time my son was learning to talk, he struggled with the pronunciation of Caitlin so dubbed her Kiki, which stuck, so it is now and possibly forever will be her name. The middle child, who we call Little Fairy (real name Freya) is everything you would expect a fairy to be. At 8 years old she is a perfect balance of beauty and sass. My youngest is known as many things. Teddy is his ‘day name’, Edward is his ‘you’re in trouble name’ and Master of Mischief is his pseudonym, he is a four year old force of nature. A loveable bundle of trouble who pushes my patience just past the limit, while at the same time making my heart sing with joy. Together they are mine, I cooked them, I birthed them and for almost a decade I have given my all to raising them.

A bit about me. Since becoming a mum I have tried my hand at a range of things. After gaining an early years diploma straight from school I fell pregnant with Kiki quite young, so was unable to go onto university to become a primary school teacher, which had always been the plan. During my initial parenting years, I took up part time office work, I did a brief stint in the care sector and I dabbled in hospitality. Nothing ever felt like the right fit though. I struggled with finding something I was passionate about. I loved spending my time with my children and my enthusiasm for their development along with my early years training gave me the knowledge and creativity to provide them with fun and imaginative ways to learn. As they got older and started school and nursery, I felt lost. So, with the support of my husband in 2018 I returned to education. I initially studied psychology and sociology to give me the qualifications I needed to get me onto a degree course, which I started last year. I have just completed (in COVID-19 lockdown) my first year of studying for a BA in Young Children’s Learning and Development.

It has been tough striking a good balance, especially financially. While I was finding my feet as a student, mother, wife and woman, I found that although there are some absolutely amazing mummy blogs out there (which did get me through some tough times) there weren’t any that fit my situation. It struck me that there are so few examples of realistic and achievable ideas or outlets for the masses of people who struggle financially. Being an ‘old’ student (I’m 29 – so not old in human years, but in student years, I’m practically a fossil) trying to build a better life, feed and entertain three children, and create a happy home on a low income hasn’t been easy. So, I decided to create this blog as a space to share my experiences, my tried and tested financially friendly activities, affordable and family friendly recipes and anything else I discover along the way that works to keep the family happy, without breaking the bank.

As parents, we are in this together. To those still reading, I hope that this is the start of a beautiful journey and that you can all share your ideas and experiences with me.

XO Hannah.