Imogen at 6 months

imogen-6-months imogen-6-monthsWe’ve hit the half year mark!

2weeks+1month imogen-2+-3-months imogen-4-+-5-months

There is so much going on right now: she has started to eat solids, we’ve moved her into her own room into her cot and she is desperately trying to crawl. She is often WIDE AWAKE for a couple of hours in the middle of the night trying to put her new found skills into practice. She is sleeping about as well (or about as not so well) in her cot as she did in our room. Invariably she ends up back in our room at some point during the night at the moment.

sitting up BLW banana

She enjoys eating and is having 3 meals a day now. Like with Seren, we are mainly using a Baby Led Weaning approach though we do spoonfeed porridge and yoghurt, letting her grab the spoon and put it into her mouth and play with it too. Her favourite foods at the moment are toast, avocado and yoghurt.


She has always been a wriggler, nappy changes are a battle of wills, but she is refusing to lie down now (see the out takes above from her monthly photo shoot!). So, we’ve ditched the playmat and purchased a playnest to help her sit up and she does little press ups on the side too.

Her upper body strength is building and she gets up onto all fours, desperate to crawl. She rocks backwards and forwards and gets upset that she can’t quite work out how to do it. I’m convinced it won’t be long now.

We’ve started another course of swimming lessons and tried out a Gymbabies group. She came with us to the Bonfire Night fireworks and enjoyed the show! She’s had her first visit to see Father Christmas (he gave her a teddy bear) and is mesmerised by the Christmas lights we are starting to see more and more of!

Imogen at 5 months

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Ideas for Advent

ideas-for-adventSo, it’s only 2 weeks until the start of advent! I’ve been scouting for ideas of what to do this year. Last year we did a different Christmas book every day (mostly ones we had already) plus a traditional picture based advent calendar. This year we have another advent calendar and I picked up a set of 24 little gift bags from IKEA a couple of weeks ago. I’m reluctant to give presents or chocolate every day though and I kept coming back to ideas I’d seen around the web of an “activity” based advent countdown so we are going to do similar. As Seren can’t read I’ve been sorting out photo based clues to put inside the numbered gift bags. So far I’ve got:

Things to do at home:
Bring out our Christmas books on Day 1, this might turn into a treasure hunt whilst I’ve still got festive enthusiasm
* Make a duvet den and watch a Christmas film on Day 8 (possibly repeat if something else falls through or we get ill)
* Christmas crafting (I bought a jumbo Christmas craft set from Sainsbury’s) on Days 10, 16 and 19 and with leftovers for back up activities
* Make salt dough decorations on Day 11
* A Frozen inspired cloud dough sensory adventure spread out over Days 16 and 17
* Help mummy make or bake (TBC) on Day 20

Getting ready for Christmas: 
* Paper and glittery pens to draw a picture for Father Christmas (letter alternative) for Day 2
* Decorate the Christmas tree for Day 7
* Make reindeer food to sprinkle on Christmas Eve on Day 21
* Receive letter back from Father Christmas on Day 23
* Christmas PJ delivery on Christmas Eve

Christmas outings: 
* Carol service on Day 3
* Christmas cookery activity on Days 4
* Trip to Father Christmas on Day 5
* Shows booked for Days 6 and 22
* Various parties on Days 13, 15 and 18
* A festive visit local attraction Forty Hall on Day 14
* A neighbourhood walk to look at the Christmas lights outside people’s houses as another back up plan

What are your ideas for advent?

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The garden in November

the garden in novemberUp to this week we’ve had a lot of bonus time in the garden this autumn what with all the lovely, mild weather we’ve had. Some of our summer plants are still going strong too, such as the fuchsia.

the garden in november the garden in novemberGenerally things have died off though and there are a thousand autumn leaves from the surrounding trees covering the ground. I managed to spend an October afternoon clearing up, cutting back and planting bulbs for spring. Andy’s parents gave us a bag of 150 tulips as an anniversary present and we added daffodil, allium, hyacinth and crocus bulbs to that. I planted them in layers in various pots and hanging baskets, much easier than trying to get them down deep enough into the flower beds. We’ll probably add some of them to the beds when they bloom in the spring, I know we have other bulbs in there somewhere, but who knows where they are and which ones will flower!

the garden in november the garden in november

I planted some bargain winter plants into some of the pots; cyclamen, heather, ivy and ornamental cabbages. I covered the rest of the pots with netting to deter the opportunist squirrels (Seren is on squirrel watch). We haven’t had cyclamen and ornamental cabbages before so it will be interested to see how long they last but I’m enjoying looking at them through the rain when I’m having my morning coffee and tuning out the chaos inside the house.

The Garden In July

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Monkey Music

monket-music-whetstoneLast month I wrote about my experience of baby groups and how it was time to start trying some new groups with Imogen. The lovely Amy who runs Monkey Music classes in High Barnet, Whetstone and Mill Hill, invited us along to try out one of her Rock’n’Roll sessions aimed at babies from 3 months upwards. I hadn’t been to a full Monkey Music session before though Seren and I enjoyed party entertainment from a different Monkey Music teacher last Christmas.

Monkey Music was founded by Guildhall School of Music & Drama graduate Angie Coates back in 1993 when she couldn’t find the type of music group she wanted to take her own children to. It has grown up to become a much loved nationwide pre-school group, winning prestigious national awards such as the ‘Best Toddler Development Award’ in the What’s On For Little Ones Awards.

Did you know that the ear is the first organ to develop fully in the womb, enabling babies to take comfort in the sound of their mother’s voice at just 11 weeks gestation? Monkey Music’s Rock’n’Roll baby classes encourage the instinctive musicality that babies are born with. During each class the babies and adults are engaged through gentle songs and absorbing activities designed to aid development.


Amy enthusiastically welcomed Imogen and I to the class and we found a spot on the mat near the front. The class size is around 12 and the other mums were friendly and welcoming too. Many of the babies were wearing their Monkey Music t-shirts, which I’ve never seen at a baby group before. The class started with the Monkey Music ‘Hello’ song with us all singing hello to each of the babies and waving at them in turn. Even though Imogen was possibly the youngest baby there, she beamed at everyone when it was her turn. It’s lovely to see the babies socialising in this way and I could tell that the babies who attend the session regularly enjoyed waving at their friends as well as newcomers.

Amy guided the group through a range of energetic musical and sensory experiences; catchy songs, bubbles, scarves, percussion instruments and movement. Imogen adored cuddling up to one of the pink and yellow cuddly monkeys and also holding on to the little maraca she was given to shake. Well, she mainly liked eating that (Amy reassured me that the instruments are regularly cleaned!) but I could see how she would enjoy playing with the different instruments as her motor skills develop. Amy came round to each of the babies shaking a rainmaker which captivated Imogen, and reminded me to get out one that we have at home.

monket-music-whetstone monket-music-whetstone

Towards the end of the session, Amy spread out a silky throw that the babies could lie on or hold on to.  Imogen enjoyed another cuddle with the monkey and watched as the bubbles Amy blew fell towards her.


The sessions last for 30 minutes which is the perfect length of time for little ones.  As I mentioned, I think Imogen was one of the youngest there but the class was energetic enough to hold her attention and I can only see her enjoying it even more when she can sit up unaided and have more fun with the instruments.

As well as Rock’n’Roll, Monkey Music offers sessions for toddlers from 12 months+ (Heigh-Ho), 2-3 year olds (Jiggety-Jig) and 3-4 year olds (Ding-Dong). The activities are tailored towards each specific age group and at Ding-Dong level, the children advance to read simple music notation.

Amy offers a free first session (I think most Monkey Music classes do) after which you enrol for a term of classes if you want to continue. Class costs vary, Amy’s classes work out at £7.50 per session plus an initial one-off fee of £17 to join the Little Monkey Club (your little monkey gets a t-shirt and CD as part of their Welcome Pack!).

Monkey Music runs sessions at over 200 venues across the country. Find one near you.

Imogen and I were invited along to a free session to review Monkey Music’s Rock’n’Roll class. All opinions are our own. 

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The Ghost of Halloween at Lee Valley Park Farms

halloween at lee valley park farmsWe headed up to Lee Valley Park Farms again last Sunday, this time with daddy in tow too. After our lovely visit in August, I snapped up discounted entry tickets via Littlebird thinking it would be good to go one weekend. But we’ve been very busy and the weekends have rolled by and all of a sudden, the tickets were about to expire. On the last day we could possibly use them, the morning started with heavy, heavy rain and grey skies. We very nearly canned the trip and were prepared to waste the tickets, I wonder how many people snap up offers on discount websites and never use their vouchers? I’m guessing quite a lot! Anyway, we decided we might as well go and Seren could at least spend some time in Bundle Barn, the soft play area.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farms halloween at lee valley park farms

So there we were, in the rain, us, a couple of others with Littlebird tickets and a birthday party group. It was ghostly. The farm was nicely decorated for Halloween though and during half term, the previous week there had been special Halloween activities on but these were no longer running. The story telling guy was still there (from the Roald Dahl Museum no less!) but he wasn’t doing his show due to the lack of an audience. Boo.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms

Andy and I did enjoy a lovely hour of peace while Seren played in Bundle Barn, Imogen was asleep and we sat and drank our warming homemade soup. After a while, the rain eased off and Seren was keen to find some animals so off we went.

We saw the pigs in their pens. Did you know that nursing piglets always use the same teat? No, I didn’t either.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farmsThen the fish, reptiles and rodents.

halloween at lee valley park farmsThen back outside for the chickens. And the dinosaur. Apparently chickens are related to dinosaurs, I don’t remember seeing that last time and wondering if the new developments they are advertising will be dino themed?

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farmsAnd then a whistlestop tour of the sheep and goats as Seren had spotted the play area.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farmsMaking the most of the dry weather, she played in the sandpit and on the combine harvester whilst I had a cuddle with my teddy bear.

halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farms halloween at lee valley park farms P1100032 halloween-at-lee-valley-park-farms deemed the Hilltop and Alpine Adventures too wet to play on and headed back down to the cafe for coffee and witch cake. Stopping to say hi to the guinea pigs and rabbits first.

halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farms halloween at lee valley park farmsWe bumped into a family we know on the way out. They were just about to walk across to see the cows. I thought you could only get Tex the Tractor to see the cows, which we’ve never managed, I didn’t realise you could walk. Next time!

Lee Valley Park Farms are now closed for their winter break. They do open for 2 weekends in December when Santa visits and then re-open on the 14th February 2015

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Our Halloween | 2014

halloween-2014 littlestarandme.comAfter a lacklustre Halloween last year due to early pregnancy (though we did get to see Imogen for the first time, my 12 week scan was on Halloween!) I was ready to celebrate this year. We had a few friends round for Halloween fun; play dough monster making, Pass the Pumpkin, Pin the Tail on the Cat, mummy face painting and lots of unexpected play in the garden. We ate scary face pizza, worms in green gunge and a lot of cake. Seren and her friends had a lot of fun giving sweets to the Trick or Treaters who knocked on the door. Though she is a little dismayed that the treat tub is empty this morning but she has switched on the battery tea lights in the pumpkins again. We’re snuggled watching Room on the Broom and saving our energy for Bonfire Night fireworks tonight. I love this season!

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I hope you had a spooky Halloween!

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Pre-schooler Books for Autumn

preschool books for autumn littlestarandme.comIn my Autumn List post I talked about tackling the toy and book mountain and putting some away for future use. We are getting there with the toys but have sorted through Seren’s books and chosen 25 to read over the next month or so (before the Christmas ones come out!). These are:

preschool books for autumn

Halloween books: Meg and Mog (Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski), Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler) and Charlie and Lola: Boo! Made you Jump! (Lauren Child).

preschool books for autumn

New birthday present books: Oliva and the Fairy Princesses (Ian Falconer), about a pig who doesn’t want to be a pink princess like all the other princesses; The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams), we’re reading this bit by bit; WOW! Said The Owl (Tim Hopgood), a beautiful book about colours.

preschool books for autumn

Number books: a shape sorter one and one inspired by The Gruffalo along with the brilliant Toddler Treasury book. We’re focusing on counting and number recognition at the moment.

preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn

Autumnal (leaves, woodland, moon and stars inspired) books: The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler), Seren has gone back to The Gruffalo after it inspired the Crafty Chefs session we went to recently; Superworm (Donaldson and Scheffler again); We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen); Gruff the Grump (Steve Smallman and Cee Biscoe); Moon Rabbit (Natalie Russell), Goldilocks and the Three Bears; The Gingerbread Man; How To Catch A Star (Oliver Jeffers); George Catches A Cold (from Peppa Pig) and That’s When I’m Happy (Ben Shoshan).

preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn

And some others: Spot Loves His Friends (Eric Hill), Seren is hugely in to the concept of friendship at the moment; Dinosaur Sleepover (Pamela Duncan Edwards), sleepovers are another favourite thing; The Little Mermaid, another favourite thing is mermaids, her next birthday party is going to be mermaid themed apparently; Each Peach Pear Plum (Janet and Allan Ahlberg) and Mister Magnolia (Quentin Blake).

We rotate the books and Seren picks two to read before bed. It’s definitely more helpful and less overwhelming to have a small-ish number out at one time.

Books Lately | Seren aged 2.5

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Autumn Hand Print Tree Play

autumn sensory - play dough and handprint treesI mentioned last week that Seren and I had been working on an autumn sensory project. My plan is to bring the pieces together in a big sensory tub in the next week or so. It makes me so much more motivated to do little craft projects with her knowing that there is an end purpose!

The first step that we took was to paint a large piece of paper (using one of the rolls of drawing paper from IKEA) in seasonal colours. We had collected some leaves from outside and used them to guide us in choosing paint colours. I asked Seren what colour paint we should use, she immediately said “pink and purple are my favourite” (it’s almost like she has been conditioned to say that!). We talked about what colours the leaves were and eventually choose yellow and red then also mixed orange and brown. We free painted on the paper and watched as some of the colours mixed again. I forgot to take any photos of that but we also did a fingerprint autumn tree which I remembered to photo! I might stick that on the lid of our autumn sensory tub.

autumn sensory fingerprint leaf painting autumn sensory fingerprint leaf painting

When the paint was dry we drew round Seren’s hand, then she asked me to draw round mine too, I wasn’t going to do that initially but pleased I did as we now have different sized handprint trees. Then using the handprints as a template, we cut out a few more too and painted them on the back in the same autumn colours. When they were dry we sandwiched them onto a craft stick using PVA glue and then we had our trees!

autumn sensory handprint trees

I made some bright green play dough, using this recipe and rolled it into balls.

green homemade play dough

Seren enjoyed squishing it to make a hill shape then she stuck in our trees and some pasta shapes too.

autumn sensory handprint forest autumn sensory handprint forest autumn sensory handprint forest

As per usual, Seren took things off in her own direction and decided to play ‘Peppa Pig World‘.

peppa pig world play peppa pig world playThe bright green play dough is a very similar to the green colour used on Peppa Pig. We found a little Peppa and some other little bits from party bags to stick into the play dough and she played ‘digging for treasure’.

See our Autumn Salt Dough Leaves

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Think, Stop, Look & Listen

road-safetyWe went to a Road Safety session at our local library yesterday, put on by kids’ music duo Munchkin Melodies and it was fantastic! Seren is pretty good at following our road safety rules but does have the odd blip, especially when she is with one of her friends (because if there’s more than one of you you’re invincible oh yes).

As the session was a freebie I wasn’t sure what to expect but when I turned up to see Caroline and Mike from Munchkin Melodies setting up with their puppets and guitar I was impressed already. The session started with a little Q&A covering what the children already knew about road safety, what things they might see on the roads and what happens if they walk into the road without looking, that sort of thing. It was the first time I’d seen Seren in that sort of “classroom” environment and I was pleased that she confidently called out some of the answers including saying that cars might squash you (which is what I tell her). She also volunteered extra information, telling the group that she had been on a bus with nana and grandad!


Caroline introduced the children to the concept of Think, Stop, Look and Listen (I remember Stop, Look and Listen from primary school in the 1980s, Think sounds like a sensible addition) and used signing for the phrase as well (children love actions!). She then brought out the puppets, including Billy and the loveable Dazzle the Dog wearing his reflective yellow scarf and told a story about their trip to the park with lots of road safety messages built in.

road-safetyThen we sang songs such as “Twinkle twinkle traffic light, standing on the corner bright, red means stop, green means go, amber very very slow…”. Out came the instruments, parachute, scarves (red, green and amber ones) and other props to test the children’s understanding and remind them of the key messages.


At the end we were given a reflective disc to hang from Seren’s coat, a ‘Be A Safe Pedestrian’ story booklet with stickers and colouring and a CD of the stories and songs from the session.

It was an engaging workshop and Seren paid attention for about two thirds of it which isn’t bad for her age. I’ll definitely take her again when we get the opportunity. She did spend the afternoon telling Imogen that she needed to Think, Stop, Look and Listen (not necessarily in that order) so at least some of it has sunk in!

If you are local to us then there are two more sessions at Enfield Town Library on Thursday 30th October (call 020 8379 8392 to book). Hopefully they will arrange more in the future too. If you are further afield then I would check out whether Munchkin Melodies bring their Road Safety roadshow to your area or whether your council or library offer something similar.
Munchkin Melodies on Facebook

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Autumn Salt Dough Leaves

autumn salt dough leaves Seren and I are working on an autumn themed sensory project at the moment. We are pulling together a sensory box, something a bit like this and we’re making and collecting various bits and pieces for it. Last weekend we made some cinnamon salt dough leaves using this tutorial from The Imagination Tree. We made up the dough together and Seren helped by mixing the dry ingredients. I told her we were making salt dough which is like play dough though it seemed a bit like we are making biscuits. She told me that you shouldn’t eat play dough as it will give you a tummy ache! We split the dry mixture into 4 separate bowls then I added the gel colours to hot water one by one and then added this to the dry mixture. I wanted to do this myself as I know how intense gel colour can be after ending up with black icing which was suppose to be lilac. You really only need a tiny bit! We started with yellow, then mixed yellow with a dash of red to make orange, then red on its own and finished by mixing red, yellow, green and purple to make brown. We had a good chat about colour mixing though I don’t think she understands this concept yet.

autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves

When the balls of salt dough were formed, we both rolled bits out until it was around 5cm thick and cut our leaf shapes out. Seren still needs help with this but not as much as she did a few months ago. We talked about the colours, about the cinnamon smell and which trees the different leaves came from. We looked out of the window at the different coloured leaves we could see on the trees and compared them to our salt dough leaves.

autumn salt dough leaves

Our hands became super salty and I had to keep washing them before seeing to Imogen as she chews my hand quite a lot. They also picked up some of the colour but this washed off easily!

autumn salt dough leaves autumn-salt-doughWhen we had 2 trays of leaves, I got some cocktail sticks to draw veins in them and put holes for hanging up into some of them. Seren wanted more sticks to draw and play with and went off piste at this point. She told me she was making a birthday bicycle and that the sticks were candles and we had to sing happy birthday to all the children.

autumn salt dough leaves

She wanted to put the leaves into her play oven and I let her do this for a while whilst our dinner was cooking before putting them into the real oven to dry out. I’ve varnished the decorative ones with clear nail varnish but the rest are for Seren to play with. She has enjoyed pretending they were porridge this morning, cooking them on her play hob and putting them in a bowl to pretend to eat.

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