This Is Halloween!

This Is Halloween!

Halloween, whether you love it or hate it, is everywhere.

Each year it gets bigger and more ridiculous.

Would you believe I saw a Halloween Advent Calendar in the supermarket last week? The world has gone mad!   

Despite my shock at the items on sale and annoyance at the cost of them, I am usually 100% down for the spooky season. My plans are only ever hindered when my Halloween hating husband steps in. His opinions are firmly rooted in the thought that it is an American holiday, it doesn’t have the same ring in the UK and that trick or treating feels like begging. I can’t say I disagree with everything he says, but to me, it’s a good excuse for a bit of spooky fun with the kids.

Although trick or treating is not something we have ever done (that definitely doesn’t have the same feel where we live), I’ve always found other ways to have Halloween fun. With 2020 going into the books as the year that it all went wrong, we have decided to lean into the spooky season more than ever before.

We have decorated with hanging bats and spiders (which I keep thinking are bloody real!!). We are going to be doing spooky baking, pumpkin carving and face painting. Halloween night (while maintaining our rule of 6) we have invited a little friend of the girls over for a freaky film night.

I honestly feel like this year more than ever, the kids need to have fun at every opportunity. The differing rules in differing areas are keeping us apart from family, we’ve missed birthdays and celebrations. Even school is now different from what they recognise.

So, if you are with me in thinking that the kids need some fun, this post shares a few ideas on how to inject a bit of Spooktacular merriment into your Halloween weekend.

Decorate

We’ve found loads of small, cheap Halloween decorations in places like Poundland and Aldi. Even some of the bigger named supermarkets have some affordable decorations.

Normally I refuse to spend a fortune on decorations; however, my one splurge this year has been a fall leaf garland. I bought it from Amazon for £12.99. I wanted to give the living room an autumnal vibe, and the 2 pack that I bought were beautiful. I was very impressed with the quality, and I love how they look.

To take the house from an autumnal abode to a haunted home I bought some extremely cheap Halloween additions.

Spider Webs £1 (Poundland)
Halloween Sticks £1.49 (Aldi)
Orange Battery Lights £2 (Poundland)
Mini Squash 49p each (Aldi)

Hanging bats, spiders webs, mini pumpkins and something that was literally labelled as spooky cloth have all been purchased for as little as £1 each. You can go as big or as small as your budget allows. I gave myself £8 for Halloween tat. Watching the kids and their giddy reaction to hanging the decorations and spreading web all over the house suggested that it was probably the best £8 I’ve ever spent.

Pumpkins

I have heard so many parents complaining recently about the clean up that comes with pumpkin carving. You are my people. I see you!  

Some parents are so on the ball, they collect the seeds of the pumpkin and roast them for healthy snacks or use them for sensory activities. Unfortunately, I am not that mum! To me, the inside of a pumpkin is sticky, slimy and stinky and while I bow down to those who can utilise every bit of the fruit, this is one thing I am happy to sit out on.

Having personally tried pumpkin and trying to feed it to the family on more than one occasion, I can safely say it isn’t to our taste. 

So, if like me you are a pumpkin waster, fear not because bin bags and masking tape are the answer.

Before you start with the hollowing and carving of the pumpkins, cover the table you are using with the bin bags taping the edges down so that no surface is left exposed. It’ll look a bit like a scene from Dexter, but it makes it so much easier when it comes to clean up. You can just peel the bags off and your table should be pumpkin free. 

Decorating pumpkins is such a good laugh. It is something that everyone can get involved in and I love seeing each of the kids personalities pour into their designs.

Pumpkins can be bought from supermarkets for really reasonable prices. If you are lucky enough to live near a pick your own pumpkin patch, I would imagine that this would make a great day out. Regrettably, it’s something we are yet to experience. Perhaps next year once the world has calmed down a bit, it is something we can finally do. For now, though, it’s little pumpkins from Aldi for us.

Check out this year’s designs.

Bake!

If in doubt, bake it out. Baking is such a fun pass time for children and Halloween is one of the best times to bust out the baking gear.

Cakes, biscuits, krispies and bark are some of the easiest yet most versatile things you can do. The ingredients are cheap and the recipes simple.

Some of my personal favourites for Halloween are shattered glass cupcakes and mud pit bark.

Recipes for a host of delicious treats can be found in the link below.

https://budget-mum.com/category/treats/

Dress Up

There is never a better time of year than Halloween for getting creative with the make-up. Even if you don’t go out, it’s so much fun face painting and turning each other into spooky creatures and creepy characters. Over the years my children have enjoyed being all kinds of twisted things, from a slashed up red-riding hood to a creepy clown. It’s the time of year to let the dark side of your imagination run wild.

So, while we’re talking about ‘fancy dress’ I must ask; does anyone else get frustrated with the cost of the costumes? Or is that just me?

The outfits in the shops are usually priced at £10-£12 EACH! (and that’s the cheaper end)

With three children to include in spooky dress-up fun, the words ‘F that’ are quietly muttered.

To get around this, for the past few years I have made tutus for the girls using a tulle fabric that I purchase for £1.50 per metre and a strip of elasticated ribbon for £1 per metre. The fabrics come in a range of colours so you can match the tutus to most costume ideas.

Simply cut the fabric into strips and tie around the ribbon. So easy, so effective!!

Below are some of the looks we’ve done through the years.

Wicked Witch
Slashed Red Riding Hood
Cracked Doll
Death Clown

Snuggle Up Spooky Style

Depending on what area you live in, trick or treating this year is a no-go. Every year for us is a trick or treating no-go. It’s not something me or my husband are comfortable with, particularly in our area. Where we live is full of retired or elderly country folk. The last thing we want is to be held responsible for scaring dear old Gladys to death. It’s a small village and blame travels quicker than news. We do, however, always buy sweets for anyone who does decide to brave trick or treating.

Every year instead of trick or treating, we have a themed movie night. It is so much fun sharing our favourite (family-friendly) horror movies with our kids. We go heavy on the snacks with popcorn, crisps and homemade treats (see above links). This year we have been lucky enough to borrow a projector. This has made our spooky viewing bigger and better than ever before.

This year, try busting out the blankets and cuddle up together for a family fright night.

See below for our Top 10 favourite (family-friendly) Halloween movies.

  1. Hocus Pocus (in my opinion THE greatest Halloween film of all time! – it’s my favourite)
  2. Wallace and Gromit. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  3. Coraline
  4. Monster House
  5. The Adams Family & The Adams Family Values (a fabulous choice for a double feature)
  6. The Haunted Mansion
  7. Hotel Transylvania
  8. The Burbs (better suited for older children)
  9. The Witches
  10. Beetlejuice

As a bonus suggestion, you won’t go far wrong with The Harry Potter series (obviously)

So there we have it, some simple and inexpensive suggestions for how to keep it creepy this Halloween. I hope everyone has a spectacularly spooky time while staying safe and following the rules.

Let me know what your Halloween traditions are in the comments and if you try any of the ideas out tell me how it goes.

Until next time..XO

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.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Soup

This is a soup-er dish to make. It is easy to do and is packed with hidden veggies which is great for the kids. We served ours at tea time with a big salad and homemade crusty bread. We had the leftovers for lunch the next day. This dish is definitely a household favourite!

You Will Need

4 red peppers (halved and de-seeded)

1 white onion

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

1 courgette

450ml vegetable stock

2tbsp olive oil

2 tsp garlic granules

½ pack goats cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Rub the chopped and de-seeded peppers with the olive oil and roast in the oven on a medium heat for 30 minutes (or until they are tender)

Dice the onion, celery carrot and courgette and in a large pan lightly fry all of the chopped vegetables with the garlic.

Once the veg is softening add the vegetable stock and simmer.

Remove the peppers from the oven and add to the pan, stirring well.

Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and using a hand blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.

Add the goats cheese and stir well (until the cheese is mixed through)

Return the soup to a low heat and simmer until it reaches a suitable eating temperature. Make sure not to boil the soup.

Season to taste and serve.

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to include the cheese, try adding some tomato puree to the soup for extra flavour.

If you don’t have a hand blended, simply allow to cool slightly and add to a smoothie maker or large blender to whizz into a soup. Return to the pan after and heat to a suitable temperature.

Soup is a great way to sneak extra veggies into your child’s diet without them ever knowing. Add as much or as little as you want to your soup base. If you feel you are veering into veg soup territory, increase your pepper count accordingly to balance the mix and keep your pepper flavours nice and strong.

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

Sausage and Mash Volcano (with lava beans)

Sausage and Mash Volcano (with lava beans)

A fabulous novelty twist on the classic bangers and mash. This is sure to impress even the fussiest of children. You can substitute the sausages for a vegetarian alternative to fit with any or all dietary requirements.

Sausage and Mash Volcano

You will need

1 pack sausages (whichever flavour is preferred)

500g potato (peeled and chopped)

2oz butter

1-2 tbsp milk

420g tin baked beans

Method

Peel and chop potatoes and place in a large pan of water.

Over a medium heat bring to the boil and cook potatoes until soft.

Cook the sausages as per the packet instructions.

Once the potatoes are cooked, let them cool for 3-4 minutes (or until the steam has evaporated, wet potatoes make soggy mash – nobody likes soggy mash!)

Mash the potatoes with the butter and milk and continue mashing until you reach your preferred smoothness.

Spoon a mound of potato into the centre of your plate.

Slice the sausages down the middle and begin propping them against the side of the mash potato mound, leaving space at the top for your lava.

Heat the beans and spoon into the open space at the top of the ‘volcano’

Enjoy!

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to use beans or you find you have a bean-less cupboard you could use gravy for your lava or if you want to your lava a bit fancier you could use mixed beans in tomato sauce (Aldi do a fantastic mild mixed taco beans which my littlies love!)

If your littles ones are on the fussier side and beans (baked or otherwise) or gravy is a no-go, you could just squirt some red sauce in there and you’re laughing all the way to an empty plate. 

Also, you could go really wild and add some broccoli trees to the base of your volcano or cut out some dinosaur shapes using biscuit cutters and some red, green or yellow peppers.

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