Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Crafternoons/02

Isn't that moment wonderful? The moment you head to do the weekly shop and spy the tight green bundles of promise that are daffodils. It's a little sign that Spring is on the way, that the days will soon be getting longer and the temperatures will be rising. With our first few bunches of daffodils, I've enjoyed showing the tightly closed buds to B and then checking with him each morning to see them burst forth in colour. He now has a little 'explosion' hand gesture which he uses to refer to daffs. We made this little bunch of daffodils from an old egg box, but of course you could paint them any colour to create roses, tulips and the like, perhaps as a Mother's Day gift.

The Tools:
  • An egg box
  • Scissors
  • Paint & brushes
  • Coloured card
  • Pencil
  • Straws
  • PVA Glue
  • Colourful tissue paper
  • A kitchen skewer or sharp pencil

Part 1: Cut the egg box up so that you have six little cups. Paint these and then leave to dry.
Part 2: Screw up balls of tissue paper and use PVA glue to stick them inside the egg cups.
Part 3: Cut out petals from coloured card (I got B to paint these with yellow paint too which made them rise up at the edges like real petals).
Part 4: Paint the bottoms of the egg cups with PVA glue and stick the petals on. Use a kitchen skewer or sharp pencil to pierce through the petal and bottom of the egg cup. Push a straw through the hole. Place the flowers in a vase and leave to dry.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Small Changes

I've been home a lot with B recently, taking my turn with the child care whilst Mr B works hard. This is how it goes with us and our freelancing lives ... one works hard whilst the other looks after B, then we swap. Spending lots of time at home always makes me start itching to make changes. All that time staring at our home from ground level makes my brain start whirring with the little tweaks and alterations we could do. This weekend, in a small frenzy of change, we made additions to two walls. Both are in redundant corridor locations so these extras have given them a new function.

First up was the wall underneath the stairs which we've painted with green chalkboard paint. We bought the paint online from Fred Aldous (they have about ten different colours) and one small pot was more than enough for two coats of sumptuous colour.
When B first drew onto the wall, he was so excited and kept exclaiming "Wow". Now we just have to try and teach him the tricky rules about what walls and furniture you can't draw on and which you can! I also made this little bag to hold the chalk and duster as the hallway is too narrow to have a pot or box for them.
On a recent girly weekend in Lewes, I came across these awesome sheets of wrapping paper in the shop Wickle for £2.50 a pop. I bought these two (along with a vintage map of the world) and found the perfect spot for them in the little alley leading into B's bedroom. Hung at toddler height with some washi tape, B regularly takes my hand and leads me to sit in front of them and look at the "mammos" as he currently calls animals.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Crafternoons/01

Here in the Biddle household, we are all huge fans of Mr Tumble and the CBeebies show Something Special. We all sit down together to watch a daily episode on the iPlayer and we're all smitten with Justin and his lovely, gentle manner. Plus we've all been learning makaton sign language from it including B who has a number of signs now to help him communicate. Who needs to shell out loads of money on Baby Sign classes when you can watch Something Special and get classes for free?!

So when I spotted the Something Special magazine in our local newsagents I couldn't resist, not least because it came with a free Tiny Tumble. So we decided to build him a little house. Now this project was very much a 'make it up as you go along' enterprise and consisted of the following plan: paint a box yellow, stick spots on it, call it a house. But in case you want to follow some slapdash instructions to make your own spotty house, here's roughly what we used and did.

The Tools:
  • A cardboard box or two (we used a Dorset Cereals box and an iPhone case box)
  • Plain paper (we used brown kraft paper but I wished I'd used white instead as the paint would have been more vibrant)
  • Spray mount
  • Yellow poster paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Spotty stickers
  • Washi Tape

Preparation: Using spray mount or another glue, cover your card board box/es with plain paper so that you don't have to put on three layers of paint to cover up the labelling.

Part 1: I helped B to paint the boxes yellow, then we left them to dry.
 
Part 2: Once dry, I stuck the little box inside the big box with tape and cut a little door. Then I helped B to put spotty stickers all over the house. Noticing that the edges of the backing paper were coming loose, I then popped a few strips of stripey washi tape in strategic places to make the house more hard wearing.
And we're done ... B loves putting Tiny Tumble inside the house, closing the door, then counting 1, 2, 3 before calling for Mr Tumble. He also decided that Tiny Tumble should drive a 4x4. It's very sweet indeed. Happy home making x
 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Family Theatre Festival

Here in Bath we are so incredibly lucky to have one of the best dedicated theatres for young people in the world on our doorstep. The Egg is part of the Theatre Royal Bath and opened about six years ago, offering performances and creative opportunities for children and young people from birth through to late teens. The Egg is one of the reasons we moved to Bath in the first place - I always thought that if a city could support such an amazing resource, it would be a place worth spending time in. The lovely cafe is always full to bursting with prams, toddlers and breast feeding mothers. The shows are always worth a look for their imagination and variety. And this week is the Family Theatre Festival.
We've seen three shows so far. On Sunday, I saw Prime - a thought provoking piece about bullying from the Netherlands. And today, the little one and I saw two fabulous shows. First up was The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Bootworks Theatre Company. Based on the story by Oliver Jeffers, one adult and one child sit in a little black booth whilst the company perform the tale using puppets and mask through three little windows. It's five minutes long and was one of the best ways to spend five minutes I can think of. We both loved it. Here's a little youtube clip about this utterly charming show.
The second show of the day was Sensacional where children aged 18months to 4years get dressed up in little white outfits and then explore a giant floor mat onto whilst colourful, moving images are projected onto the floor and onto them. It was a joy to watch this handful of tiny audience members exploring and making their own 'play'. B was a bit wary of this show at first but by the end, he was running across the mat with glee.
The play we're most looking forward to seeing at the festival is The Queen's Knickers, adapted from the picture book by Nicholas Allan by our very own Mr B with B's Godfather. Telling the story of the day the trunk containing all the Queen's knickers go missing, we can't wait to see what B's Daddy has been up to as we've heard all the weird and wonderful music he's been making in his little attic office. If you fancy seeing The Queen's Knickers, it's at London's South Bank Centre next week and then back to The Egg again in the week commencing 26th February.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Crafternoons: A Series

Out of nowhere, B has suddenly taken an interest in craft. He's had colouring pencils and paper lurking on the little table in his bedroom for months, which every so often, we'd got out to try and encourage him to use but to no avail. He'd scribble for about three seconds and then move on to something else. Until about a fortnight ago when colouring (or 'coolerin' as he says) suddenly became one of his favourite things. Now the pencils and the felt tips are brought out on a daily basis. He loves to make dots and squiggles, and points to all the different colours wanting us to name them for him (he says everything is blue when we ask him).
In order to capitalise on B's new found love of art, I've been coming up with lots of crafty activities for us to do together, especially on rainy days. I find my patience runs out pretty quickly with lego and train set construction, and yet I can mould a bit of play doh for ages. So it's a way to keep me entertained too! And as I'm always so inspired by other peoples blogs and Instagram feeds (my friend Mrs Carkeek is especially good at dreaming up craft activities) I thought I'd share the gluey, painty messes we come up with in the Biddle household. So welcome to my new series: Crafternoons. 
Before the series starts properly, I thought I'd share my recommendations of craft materials to have stashed away at home, ready for a sudden art attack with a toddler. (I know this is probably a really obvious list but hey ho I'll carry on anyway). I got most of my materials here in the UK from the supermarket, The Works and Poundland, with the odd thing from Rymans too. 

  • Multi-coloured card
  • Multi-coloured tissue paper
  • Stickers - stars and spots are hugely useful. For toddlers, get the biggest ones you can find as small ones are tricky for their little hands to cope with
  • Poster Paints - I bought the primary colours red, blue and yellow, as well as some white, figuring I could then mix up colours as and when they are required (I wouldn't bother with the specialised finger paints - they are rubbish, watery, and my toddler at least doesn't seem to enjoy getting his hands dirty so they are a waste of money)
  • PVA glue
  • Colouring Pencils / Felt Tips / Crayons (we love the chunky Crayola Beginnings ones)
  • Chunky Paint Brushes
  • Non-spill paint pots (and we've been using recycled pots and jam jars too)
  • Chalk
  • Shakeable glitter
  • Pipe cleaners / straws / pom poms / goggly eyes / big sequins / lolly pop sticks, etc. All the things they sell in little clear plastic bags for about 50p a pop.
  • Useful recyclable materials like toilet roll insides, yoghurt pots and small cardboard boxes
  • Play Doh. Again, don't both with the baby friendly stuff - it's too chalky to be of any use. And I know I could make some myself by following a pinterest tutorial but quite frankly I can't be bothered and love the smell of the shop bought stuff!
  • Spray Mount - not for them to use, but for you to use in preparation. It's a great thing to have around the house
  • Brown and white paper
  • Child friendly scissors (for when they are a little older)
  • Sticky Fixers. Completely stealing this idea from Mrs Carkeek, they are a great way to stick things like goggly eyes to wooden spoons as they're more hardcore in glueyness than pva. 
  • An old piece of vinyl tablecloth for crafting on top of. Of course you could use sheets of newspaper but we've found that the tablecloth isn't absorbent and all the paint wipes away in an instant.
  • An apron. We're using one of those with long sleeves like putting a jacket on backwards left over from weaning and early eating.
The two things we've discovered we really need to work on in ourselves are patience to let him do it himself, even if it isn't as neat as we might have liked, and staying sanguine when there's mess as it all cleans up in the end. Although the early signals are that B's as concerned about tidiness as his parents!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Little Helper

One thing I find completely adorable about B at the moment is how helpful he likes to be around the house. I'm sure it's the same for most 20 month olds but it's so darn cute. He helps us unstack the dishwasher, specialising in the cutlery which he hands to us piece by piece, naming each one as it comes, "Poon, knyfe, fawk". 

When baking, he likes the occasional stir but then he's more than happy to stand at the sink 'washing up' for ages whilst I get the rest done. And despite owning a gorgeous dinosaur covered Cath Kidston apron from his Godmother, he always insists on wearing my tattered, vintage 60s floral apron instead!
B loves a washing machine. He loves to twiddle all the knobs and dials, and he places his forehead on the door whenever it is on a fast spin to feel the vibrations! And the concentration he shows when attempting to hang a sock carefully on the wash stand is adorable. Here he is, very proud of getting the spotty sock to stay on the rung.
You'll see that lurking in these photos are some Ecover Zero products which I was kindly sent by the nice people at Ecover to test out. It's ages since I bought anything by Ecover as I found in their early days, the washing up liquid just didn't get very soapy which was a bit useless. It's no good saving the planet if the product doesn't do what it's supposed to. But we've really loved the new products, especially the washing up liquid. It now works up a wonderful lather, cleans brilliantly, and best of all, it's great for Mr B's hands. He often suffers from eczema and he'd had to invest in a pair of marigolds to stop his hands getting really dry and sore. But since using the Ecover washing up liquid, the rubber gloves have been banished to the cupboard under the sink as it's been so super gentle on his hands. He even remarked 'you should blog about this' so that's high praise indeed!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Finger Puppets

It was the first birthday of B's little friend Phiney not long ago, and knowing that her Mama loves handmade presents (check out the utterly awesome gift Phiney's Mama and Papa crafted for her here) I ran up this little draw string bag out of nursery rhyme fabric in which to hold a new stash of finger puppets. Finger puppets are such a great gift for one year olds. B's lost interest in them for the moment but he was obsessed with them for ages. He kept popping them on his little fingers and making lots of animal sounds around his first birthday. Finger puppets are now one of my go to presents for one year olds. My other top favourite presents for one year olds are books (of course), tea sets and funky dinner plates (B got this one and this one for his first birthday). 
To go with Phiney's finger puppets, we gave her these Stella McCartney merino wool leggings which I found for a bobby bargain in the TK Maxx in Stoke. B got a couple of Stella bargains too - gotta love TK Maxx! We're just gutted that we missed Phiney's party which by the look of the pictures was ace and featured one mightily impressive cake. Happy Birthday little Phiney.