Frozen Inspired Small World Play – Advent Days 15 + 16

Frozen inspired small world playOn Tuesday I asked Seren if she would like to make some snow for her polar bear. She did, so we went to the shop for a magic ingredient (cornflour). I had wanted to make the snow (snow dough using this recipe from The Imagination Tree, we made a double quantity) and surprise Seren with it but I hadn’t realised I needed cornflour. But hey, a trip to Waitrose is a bit of a treat for Seren, as I completely avoid taking the children to supermarkets if possible. We made up the snow dough using olive oil and edible glitter (in case baby Imogen gets her hands on it and decides to wolf down a handful) and I used our food mixer to make sure it was well mixed in.

Frozen inspired small world playThe snow dough does smell of olive oil and looks a little yellowy, I would use baby oil if I had older children (it’s dangerous if ingested) though perhaps the addition of a drop peppermint oil would be nice too.

Frozen inspired small world play Frozen inspired small world playAnyway, the texture of the snow dough is mouldable and fantastic! We put it into the clear plastic box we used for our autumn sensory tub and Seren (and I) enjoyed making snow balls and patting the mixture down into silver shiny cake cases. We also added the white sparkly clay decorations we made last week (though these are now a bit chipped so are probably too delicate for play), a pine tree cake decoration and some clear plastic spoons.

The next morning Seren woke up to a new miniature Olaf (the snowman from Frozen) sat on top of some Christmas decoration snowflakes on her dressing up box. Then on the windowsill on the way down the stairs, Sven the reindeer sat on top of some more snowflakes! Anna and Kristoff were on the kitchen worktop then Elsa herself with Hans in the box of snow on the kitchen table! Although we’ve done plenty of outings and nice activities, the characters were the first physical advent gift.

Anyway, the texture of the snow dough is fantastic. Anyway, the texture of the snow dough is fantastic. Frozen inspired small world playWe put all of the characters into the box along with the snowflakes, I had already slipped some of the packaging that the characters came in into the box as a background. Seren enjoyed an hour or so of playing with them and making up little stories and dialogue.

Frozen inspired small world playShe was disappointed that Elsa and Anna couldn’t come out with us on an adventure but we decided it would be better for them to stay at home. She has played with the characters out of the snow today and played with the snow separately, using spoons to fill up cups and jars. We are going to keep the snow dough box out for the next week then it will magically disappear though the snow (if it lasts that long) may become footprints on Christmas Eve…

Advent Days 11-14

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Little Star and Me on Facebook!

FacebookTa da! I now have a new Facebook page for the blog! It’s something that most blogs seem to have these days and I didn’t want to do one for ages as, quite frankly, I spend enough time on there. But then I get a lot of information, blog posts and updates on baby groups etc from there too so if that’s how you keep track of stuff then please head over to my page and Like it! Or just head over and Like it anyway, I only have a handful of followers at the moment and the more the merrier.

Facebook – Little Star and Me

(I’m also on Twitter – Twitter – Little Star and Me, Instagram – Instagram – Little Star and Me and Pinterest – Pinterest – Little Star and Me too!

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Advent Days 11 – 15

We had a social few days and did some crafting and baking too!

christmasparty

Day 11 – Christmas Crafts 

countdowntochristmas countdowntochristmasOn Day 11 we went to a very festive Tumble Tots and followed by a playdate and Christmas crafts. Seren and her friend Rosie made Christmas crowns and later on Seren and I made decorations using white clay (air dry stuff), glitter and biscuit cutters.

Days 12, 13, 15 – Parties

countdowntochristmas christmasparty christmasparty christmasparty On Day 12 we had a pre-Christmas lunch with friends and on Day 13, Seren had a cinema birthday party in the morning and we all had a Christmas party in the late afternoon. On the 15th we went to the Christmas party of a toddler group we go to, met Father Christmas again (gosh, he has been busy!) and followed that up with lunch and mulled wine for the mums (win, win, win!).

Day 14 – Forty Hall

fortyhallfarm fortyhallfarm fortyhallfarm christmasbakingOn Sunday we went up to Forty Hall Farm for their wreath foraging and making session. We ditched the foliage foraging though in favour of saying hello and Merry Christmas to the farm animals and a walk around the grounds. Then we made sausage rolls when we got home. We made cut jam tarts with the leftover pastry, Seren was in charge of the pastry flowers!

Advent Days 5-10

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Advent – Days 5-10

countdowntochristmasWe went off the boil with our advent countdown last week, most of us were ill with colds (plus conjunctivitis for me, lovely!) and I think Seren was starting to get a bit ‘over’ Christmas too, so we calmed things down a bit. Much excitement before then though…

Day 5 – Visit to Father Christmas

countdowntochristmas countdowntochristmas countdowntochristmasYes another one, this was our ‘proper’ visit and daddy came along too. We went to Van Hage, a garden centre in Hertfordshire that does special events quite well. They have a few farm animals and also an ice rink and carousel for the festive season. You get a half an hour window when you book to see FC, so the idea is you don’t wait longer than 30 minutes. You don’t have to book, but if you don’t then you have to wait for all the pre-booked people to go in first so I guess you could be waiting quite a while! There is festive scenery to look at in the queue and once near the front you can chat to a very friendly elf who was giving our ‘high fives’. Father Christmas was chatty too, we spent a good 5 minutes in with him, probably a little longer. The girls came out with a little Barbie toy for Seren <rolls eyes> and a little board book for Imogen.

Day 6 – Frozen Sing-along

countdowntochristmas

On Saturday we braved the cold (“Elsa has been here” Seren said as I de-iced the car) to go to local theatre, The Dugdale, to watch Frozen karaoke style. So about a hundred girls dressed as Elsa, a few Annas, a few boys and a lot of weary mums drinking coffee and nodding at each other in solidarity. It took a few songs for the audience to settle into singing and Seren did look at me as if I’d grown another head when I sang (embarrassing mummy? Me?). We were sat right at the front and I struggled to get Seren to stay on her bottom, she kept wanting to get up and walk towards the screen. At the end, a real-life-grown-up Elsa and Anna came out to chat to the audience and sing Let It Go. The  children could then come down to the front and sing too before photos with the princesses on our way out.

Day 7 & 8 – Decorating the Tree

countdowntochristmasThings were starting to unravel a bit by Sunday, with illness and a bit too much over excitement. Andy bought a beautiful tree and it took us 2 days to decorate it. Seren wasn’t that interesting in putting the baubles on (despite me singing ‘it’s decoration day!” to the tune of “it’s coronation day!” from Frozen) but then delighted in taking them off and marching round with them in her shopping trolley. I may have had a cross word or two about that. Now she enjoys pointing out the ‘matching pairs’ on the tree.

Day 10 – Feed the Birds

countdowntochristmas countdowntochristmas countdowntochristmas countdowntochristmasWe completely missed Day 9. But by Day 10 we were getting back into it and decided to make up some bird seed cakes to feed the squirrels birds with. We mixed bird seed with melted suet and then packed the mixture into coconut shells (bought in the summer as bird feeders but now empty) and cardboard ice-cream tubs. We talked about what birds eat and how there isn’t as much food around in winter. After we hung them in the garden we watched as the squirrels, magpies and pigeons feasted. I’m still hoping we will spot a robin before Christmas!

Advent Days 1-4

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Getting My Christmas Craft On

Christmas Wreath Making I mentioned last week that I had manage to carve out some “me time” and escape for an evening’s Christmas Wreath workshop. A couple of weeks ago I also attended a Christmas Craft Corner class run my friend Cher one Tuesday morning, Imogen came along too and,  thankfully, mostly slept or was content in a highchair with a toy (juggling babies and PVA glue is not ideal!). Cher has put together a tree decoration workshop where you make 3 different decorations: 1) a decoupage type decoration using music sheets, a bauble and ribbon, 2) a sewn ribbon tree using ribbon and beads 3) a stuffed felt robin.

christmas-craft-corner christmas-craft-corner

The decorations were relatively simple so wouldn’t terrify craft newbies and I loved using skills that had been neglected for a while. It was a real treat to sit, make and drink coffee for a morning. Now, if only I had more time to make several more decorations at home, well there’s always next year!

christmas-craft-corner christmas-craft-corner

Cher is hopefully running a couple more craft sessions before Christmas though her little boy is poorly at the moment so keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates and details. Get well soon Dylan!

Then last week I did the Christmas Wreath Workshop at new crafting studio in Southgate, Hang Out The Bunting. The workshop was led by the lovely Migle from Your London Florist. We really did get to assemble the whole thing too, no shortcuts! We started with a wire ring that we packed with moss and wrap wire tightly around that to keep it in place.

Christmas Wreath Making Christmas Wreath Making Christmas Wreath Making

This formed our base and helps to keep the wreath hydrated. Apparently moss was used before floral oasis came onto the market. My hands were filthy after this part, I really missed the baby wipes that I carry round 99% of the time!

Christmas Wreath Making

The next stage was to add in foliage from a selection of pines and twigs. Migle explained that wreaths made a few weeks before Christmas need to use hardy, woody foliage that will last until Christmas Day. Wreaths made a week before could use more fragile foliage such as ivy and eucalyptus. All of the newbies, including me, added in too much foliage which took a long time and made for quite dense and heavy wreaths! After that part we took a break for some mulled wine (served in vintage cups) and festive treats.

Christmas Wreath Making

Then it was the embellishment stage, we could choose from a mixture of pine cones, cinnamon sticks, dried fruit and chillis, gold leaves, ribbon and spray paint.

Christmas Wreath Making Christmas Wreath Making

Having added a lot of foliage at the middle stage, I opted to keep things relatively simple with pinecones, dried lime and chillis (Andy has called this a Thai inspired wreath!) and a red ribbon to hang it.

Christmas Wreath Making Christmas Wreath Making Christmas Wreath Making

See Hang Out The Bunting’s website and Facebook page for details of more workshops.

I have an enormous sense of pride when looking at my tree decorations and wreath and if I don’t get chance to make anything more this Christmas, I’ll still be very happy.

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Advent Days 1-4

Here’s how we are doing with the Advent activities I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I’m largely sticking to my plan at the moment.

Day 1 – Christmas books

children's christmas books

When Seren went to bed on Sunday night, we took out the autumn books from her room and replaced them with her Christmas books and also stuck an advent calendar up on her wall. She was so excited when she woke to find the books at 5am that she came to show us (silly idea mummy!). I found her asleep on top of a book at 7.30am. We did a “book a day for Advent” last year so we have plenty of Christmas books! Our favourites at the moment are: Noisy Touchy-Feel Santa by Usborne, The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg and The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson. The That’s Not My Santa and Reindeer books have been passed on to baby Imogen and here she is enjoying Peppa Pig’s Christmas Wish.

children's christmas books

Day 2 – Letter to Father Christmas 

letter to father christmas

I wrote and decorated an envelope to Father Christmas and left this in Seren’s room with a blank piece of paper and some crayons. Again she woke us at 5am to show us! I think she thought that Father Christmas had been. In the (proper) morning I asked her what she wanted to write to Father Christmas and wrote it down for her. She’s still very concerned that he might get stuck in the chimney. She asked for a Sophia the First playset and thought that Imogen might like a Merida from Brave playset (!), as well as a dolls’ house (a little prompting from me!) with a baby doll in it. And the BIGGEST tree in the world with presents underneath. She wanted him to know that she has been good…

Day 3 – Carol Concert 

father christmas father christmas

It’s an annual tradition that we go to the Hall Users Carol Concert at nana and grandad’s church. The community who uses the church hall take turns to ‘perform’, the North London Brass Band plays, the Bible Study groups lead prayers, the playgroup do a couple of little songs as do the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides. Father Christmas makes an appearance too and Seren likes to see the church decorations and the giant tree. As soon as we got to the church Seren made a beeline for the little chairs at the front and sat with a couple of the playgroup girls declaring them to be her new best friends. She kept sitting with them as more of the playgroup arrived (she doesn’t know any of them) and was given a santa hat to wear like the other children and even followed them on stage to perform! She didn’t know the songs but stood at the back (looking slightly bewildered!). I have to admire her confidence! She enjoyed meeting Father Christmas again and Imogen got a bit closer this time.

Day 4 – Mince Pie Pop making at Crafty Chefs

mince pie pop making at crafty chefs mince pie pop making at crafty chefs mince pie pop making at crafty chefsYesterday we went back to see Ailsa at Crafty Chefs to make Mince Pie Pops! Seren enjoyed cutting out shapes from pastry and assembling the Pie Pops onto a lolly stick. She enjoyed eating both of them when we got home too! Whilst the Pie Pops were cooking Ailsa read The Night Before Christmas to get us all into a Christmassy mood.

christmas wreath making

I’ve been lucky to get some ‘me time’ too and went on a Christmas wreath making workshop last night! More on that another time.

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A Birthday Party at Godstone Farm, Surrey

godstone farmSeren and I nipped round the M25 for a birthday party at Godstone Farm a couple of weeks ago. Now that Imogen is older, I’m trying to do more things with Seren just the two of us. And as Seren is now potty trained, I think we had our first ever outing together without a change bag! She was fascinated by my regular handbag.

Godstone Farm is set in the scenic Surrey Hills just a few minutes drive from the M25. It prides itself on being interactive and having a wide range of animals and play facilities.

We haven’t been to a party at a farm before, I can see it being something we might do in the future – who doesn’t love a farm visit?. After we all arrived and met at our designated party barn, the party set off to explore the farm. Which in Seren’s case, meant running round like a chicken, excited to be with good friends.

godstone farm godstone-farm

We did spend quite a bit of time in the Animal Handling Barn, home to various rabbits and chickens which the children could stroke and hold. Seren adored sitting with a rabbit on her lap.

godstone farm godstone farm godstone farm

After vigorous hand washing, we went over to the main farmyard barn to see the cows and pigs. There were baby pigs younger than Imogen!

P1100376 godstone farm godstone-farmNext there was more running! This time to a Look Out Tower to get a good view of the sheep and alpacas.

godstone farm godstone farm godstone farm

After a play on the ride-on cars we went inside to the Playbarn for soft play. The Playbarn is huge with a sizeable dedicated area for little ones and a more adventurous area for older children. There are a couple of very tall slides, one of them is practically vertical! After the kids had worked up an appetite it was time for party food and cake – Seren opted for sausages and chips. Look at the amazing ladybird cake the birthday girl’s mummy made!

godstone farm godstone farmAs ever, there was much more at the farm that we didn’t get to do or see, more animals, play areas and a Dino Trail. Father Christmas is also visiting during December!

godstone farmGodstone Farm, Tilburstow Hill Road, Godstone, Surrey, RH9 8LX
www.godstonefarm.co.uk
The farm is open all year round. 

See also: Willows Farm, Lee Valley Park Farms and Surrey Docks Farm.

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Autumn Sensory Tub

autumn sensory tubAfter completing our salt dough leaves and handprint autumn trees, I put together a sensory tub for Seren to play with. This was filled with brown rice and orange lentils and we started out by putting in a little wooden farm set, our salt dough leaves, paper leaves, leaf cutters, conkers, a little scoop and bowl. This has evolved over the last month to include: a little toy car, a little seaside spade, pinecones, a bus driver and various play food items (Seren likes to feed the pigs with tomatoes). It’s been an endless source of imaginative, small world and sorting / scooping type play and has been a permanent fixture on our table.

autumn sensory tub autumn sensory tub autumn-sensory-tub autumn sensory tub autumn sensory tub autumn sensory tub autumn sensory tub autumn sensory tub autumn sensory tub

This has meant that I’ve spent a lot of time sweeping up bits of lentils and rice but the hours of enjoyment this has given Seren has been worth it (just). This would be a great activity to do outside in warmer months! I think we might have one last play with this box then it’s time to put it away as we are going to put together a snow themed sensory tub next week!

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Weaning Adventures Part 1

Baby Led WeaningImogen has been eating solids for nearly a month now! She started by lunging at my food and gumming at my toasted teacakes and banana and now she’s having 3 meals a day. Assuming we remember to feed her that is, poor 2nd child.

We follow a ‘Baby Led Weaning’ approach here with a bit of cheating. The term Baby Led Weaning (BLW) was coined by Gill Rapley and essentially means allowing the baby to self-feed finger food from the outset of weaning. The benefits are supposed to be that the baby learns to chew before they swallow and that the technique allows the baby to control the pace of mealtimes and whether they want to eat something or not, making it a more enjoyable experience for them. They are allowed to play with the food as well, exploring textures and practising their motor skills. In my experience, it can feel a little limiting to start with regarding what the baby can eat (especially when out and about), potential choking is a worry plus it is MESSY! But, by 9 months old Seren was eating the same food as we were and as she was self-feeding, we could get on and eat our meals too instead of spoon-feeding her.

We started off by offering Imogen finger sized sticks of roasted or steamed vegetables (sweet potato, carrots and parsnips went down well), whole pears peeled and pieces of banana. It’s impressive how much a baby with no teeth can gnaw away at the pieces of food!

BLW banana

Mealtimes look a bit like this:

Breakfast: A few Ella’s Kitchen ‘Round Ones’ cereal bits on her tray to keep her going before banana porridge. Here is where we deviate a little from the BLW approach in that we spoon-feed porridge. There is a way of BLW spoon-feeding where you pre-load the spoons and hand over the spoon to the baby but we aren’t doing that yet. We do follow Imogen’s pace though and pay attention to signs that she has had enough. We let her grab the spoon and direct it to her mouth or grab at the porridge to squish between her fingers.

Lunch: Is very often toast based with either cream cheese or mashed avocado on top. She tends to eat the topping and suck the toast. She might have a baby yogurt or fromage frais (she LOVES these) afterwards, again this is spoon-fed.

Dinner: So far we’ve tried roasted vegetable fingers topped with cream cheese, mashed potato topped with grated cheese and sweetcorn fritters (this recipe omitting the salt and spring onion) cut into fingers. She has tried bits of fish and chicken when we’ve had it for dinner. Followed by banana or pear fingers.

We aren’t really doing snacks as we are still fitting in plenty of milk around mealtimes.

As I mentioned, it is VERY messy. I’m going through an impressive amount of wipes, Milton spray and Napisan (to get the stains out, though I do usually use a plastic bib, despite what the photos above show!). Her highchair is the very-easy-to-clean IKEA Antilop. Under this we put a clean wipedown tablecloth on the floor so any food that is dropped on it (accidentally at the moment, though I remember that babies are fascinated by gravity when they get nearer to 1) can be given back to her.

I’m collecting BLW recipes on Pinterest, if you have any good ones please let me know!

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Dolls House Renovation

Dolls House - BeforeAndy and I have set ourselves a little December challenge, transforming this Dolls House for it to become Seren and Imogen’s main Christmas present. I picked up the house at a vintage shop some years back (pre-kids, just for myself!) but it’s been languishing in storage for a while now. Seren knows there is a ‘little house’ in the shed out the back so I guess this needs to look sufficiently different by the 25th as if it’s come straight from the North Pole.

Dolls House - Before Dolls House - BeforeWe are planning to keep it simple with a lick of paint and some wallpapering. I imagine the house will have some heavy use over the next couple of years so there is no point coming up with anything elaborate (which is just as well!). I’ve been searching online for inspiration and trying not to get too carried away.

Dolls-House-InspirationClockwise from top right: Apartment Therapy; Craftiness is not Optional; A Beautiful Mess; Hometalk (Holly@Life as a Thrifter)

There are more ideas on my Pinterest board: 

As much as I would love to spend hours making furniture (like they used to on Blue Peter in the 1980s, remember that?) or spending £100s on buying miniature versions of modern design classics, I’ve picked up a set of furniture and dolls for £15 in ASDA that is more suitable for toddler play.

Now, just to get the 3 year old out of the house for long enough to complete our project and hope we’re not panic buying in Toys’r’us on Christmas Eve! Watch this space.

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