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New Year’s Resolution: learn foreign languages!

little girl writing and learning foreign languages

Who made a New Year’s resolution this year?I’ll be honest and say I don’t really believe in them myself. Plus, if all the articles on the subject are to be believed then most of us would’ve given up on them by now and January is barely halfway through! But: if there’s one resolution that I do believe is worth the effort, for yourself and for your kids, is to try learning a new language!

It may seem daunting, especially as you get older, yet there are loads of reasons why you should consider learning a foreign language at any stage of your life, and plenty of different learning methods to help. It’s always a good time to take up a new language!

It is true that English has become this century’s “lingua franca” in business, and in other fields. Everywhere you go, you are likely to maybe find someone who speaks English albeit sometimes a very hard to understand English, according to how well they master this language or their native language.

I would argue however that the English spoken today, has become a version of poor American, due to the massive influence Hollywood films have had over the past century and it has intruded into various countries.

When I lived in France I was often amazed at how some English words entered the French vocabulary (such as “le parking” – for car park used in day-to-day life,  or “le camping”) and with more appalling adoptions in the corporate world, such as “forcing” – to force something or someone into something, “burn-out”, “conf-calling”, “debriefer”, “brainstorming”, “personal branding” and so on. Not entirely sure if l’Académie française is over the moon with those.

How learning a new language improves your brain

Less risk of developing dementia

Research has shown that people who’ve learned foreign languages have less chances of developing dementia later in life.  I’ve seen the ugly face of dementia in hospitals, it deprives people of their humanity and dignity. Some people even forget the names of their loved ones, which is heartbreaking. I am personally in favour of doing anything to beat that, whether it is running or playing memory brain games, playing the piano or learning another language!

You’ll have a bigger brain!

Anytime you learn something new, new connections (or neuronal pathways) are created in your brain, which in turn contributes to enlarging your brain.  According to research, if you learned a language, your brain networks are better integrated, and they’re more flexible and allow for faster learning.  The faster those connections are the more efficiently they can work together as a network!

You’ll think more logically

I am biased here, because I loved logic in high school (oh such joy to determine if a sentence is true or false, if the conclusion inferred is therefore valid or not!) and logic is closely linked to semantics (the meaning of words and how sentences are structured). However, geeky arguments aside, developing the more logical side of reasoning allows people to make more rational decision, based on facts and evidence – which in today’s divided world is a plus!

Why is it important for kids (and not just) to learn a new language

Exploring and understanding new cultures

When learning a new language, you’ll be exposed to differently ways of thinking and doing things. Each culture has their own rituals and collective way of thinking. It is said that British people are very insular and their humour is unequalled (I agree, I love British comedy it is what attracted me to this country and civilisation). French people’s humour is somewhat different – a lot of the times directed at others, as self deprecation doesn’t really exist in this culture. It is a much more expressive humour, based on irony and gesture.

During University, I was an Erasmus student from Eastern Europe, studying in France and later on in life I moved to the UK. While very nostalgic for our habits at home – mostly related to certain types of food consumption at Christmas and Easter, or missing my friends and going out with the, – I always felt very lucky to be able to discover other types of food in France, other ways of being and behaving in England and I always felt personally enriched by those. My horizons expanded a lot and I am hoping today to be a more balanced person due to this as in being able to see more than just one side of a story.

Relating to each other

I mentioned above that learning languages let us discover new cultures. This in turn contributes to developing more understanding and empathy towards other people, other behaviours that might not be like ours or other cultural norms. Which leads to more tolerance and more acceptance of differences.

Research has also found that people who speak more than one language develop a higher tolerance to ambiguity and unexpected situations. How does this work? Well, during a conversation between let’s say a native speaker and a non native speaker, if a word is not known by the latter, they will carry on the conversation by inferring the meaning from the context (they won’t stop the conversation saying “oh I do not know this word, I’m completely lost”). What this means then is that people who have this high tolerance to ambiguity and unexpected situations have higher resilience levels against anxiety and stress. And we all know how precious mental health is.

Improved job prospects

If you work in an office, in a firm with several locations abroad, you might have been in a situation where you had to attend a teleconference with your Spanish, German and Japanese colleagues. And all of a sudden the Spanish stop and giggle about something between themselves in their own language. Well, if you know one of those languages you’ll have an advantage over some of your colleagues, in that you’ll understand what the giggles are all about! If you worked with Japanese people you’re also likely to have committed one or more cultural no-no’s in their world (for example, in Asian cultures, the word “no” doesn’t seem to really exist – especially when asked by a superior to do something).

It goes without saying that being able to put a foreign language under “Languages” in your CV will improve your employment prospects. Not just because may work for a  company that operates in a different countries but it also demonstrates higher intellectual abilities to a prospective employer.

Once in a job you may also have better chances for mobility (i.e. being sent abroad as an expat – which usually comes with great perks!).

So don’t rethink that New Year Resolution to learn Japanese just yet!. Plus you can make it really fun and involve your child and learn together. We have  an amazing vendor called Lil’ollo in our directory, they sell a range of printables, maps and cards to help your children learn languages in a fun way – and adults can benefit from this too and learn with their kids.

I would love to hear from people who started on a new language this year. As for myself, I have given myself to learn Spanish as I may embark in a new professional adventure outside Rainy Days Fun.

A bientot, Hasta luego, Ciao, La revedere, さようなら !

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These Christmas crafts are so cool, you’ll want to make them!

pink christmas tree on a red background

Can you believe it’s less than a month until Christmas? It doesn’t seem all that long ago that we were welcoming in the New Year, does it?

For all the joy of Christmas and the wonder of the season, it can be a stressful time too – especially when it comes to finding the right gifts. With all the Christmas music in shops, decorations and ‘sale’ ‘sale’ ‘sale’ ads, it can all get a bit overwhelming and tricky to find something personal.

I’ve often found that a personal, homemade gift, lovingly made with the kids, makes for a lovely, heartfelt a gift.

We’ve rounded up in the post some brilliant and easy to make Christmas crafts that can also make great keepsake gifts for friends and families :

Fingerprint snowmen ornaments


Snowglobe with men shaped from fingerprintsVia Hative.com

This craft drew my attention as it is really easy to make and can make some normal baubles truly stand out. All you need are some plain baubles, some white paint and some felt to make the scarves for the snowmen. Ask your child to cover their hands in white paint (this should really entertain them!) and to hold the baubles. In order to create the snowmen, draw some eyes, noses and mouths. Use some felt to make their scarves. You can also draw some snowflakes.

Paper plate Santa

Paper place with cotton balls Santa face

Via Acultivatednest.com

This is a classic craft activity, very inexpensive and fun to make. It takes some time to make, for the paint to dry as usually paper plates need more than just one coating to look nice, as we discovered when we first made our paper plates froggies.

All you need is some paper plates, cotton balls, and paint (red, orange, pink, white and black), and either some glue or a hot glue gun.

Start by painting the plate orange – leave to dry then repeat. Paint the nose, the cheeks and the eyes. Again leave to dry. Carefully glue the cotton beads onto the bottom of the plate to form the beard.

Paint the top half of the plate red, then after it is all dry, glue some more cotton balls to make the hat.

Christmas cards for Dad

christmas card for dad

Via Craftymorning.com

Melt Dad’s heart by helping your little one deliver a home made card this winter! All you need is some card stock paper, glue, a pair of scissors and silvery glitter glue.

Fold a piece of white card stock paper in half. Draw a bubble letter “D” on a piece of red paper and cut two out. Make a triangle for the Christmas tree from the green paper.

Add a yellow star, tree stump, and some decorations with the glitter glue.

Sponge Painted Christmas Sock

Sponge Christmas orange sock

Via Easypeasyandfun.com

You will need:

  • two sheets of red card stock paper
  • sponges in different shapes (you can also cut a kitchen sponge into various shapes – square, rectangle, triangle)
  • colours
  • wool
  • single hole puncher
  • scissors

Draw a shape of the Christmas sock on the red paper and cut it out – making two identical socks. Put one over another and start punching holes along the edges. You can decorate the sock by stamping various shapes, using various colours. Let the kid make this as unique as they wan’t to – and we all know the more, the better!

Once the socks are decorated place them on on top of the other and lace with wool to hold them together.

Now fill it up with stocking fillers and sweets!

Handprint Christmas tree

Handprint Christmas tree with baubles

Via Pinkieforpink

This is very easy to make, a bit messy and will make a brilliant card for family as well. All you need is some white paper, paints and little hands and fingers. Use the hand prints to make the  tree branches with green paint. Paint on the trunk and star. Once the tree is dry  you can either use finger prints or brushes for the lights.

Pine cone garlands

Pine cone DIY Christmas garlands

Via UKCraftblog.com

This is a very nice decoration that will fit around a fireplace. The tutorial in the picture is pretty self-explanatory, all you need is some pine cones (a lot, of them!), some white paint to make the snow frost and red wool.

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What to do if it rains at Christmas?

Little girl enjoying a sleigh ride. Child sledding. Toddler kid riding a sledge. Children play outdoors in

Although we’d all love for Christmas to be snowy and white let’s be honest: we’re in the UK, so the chances that it will be a rainy Christmas rather than a white Christmas are….quite high.

But don’t despair.

You can put on your wellies and work off some of that turkey and Christmas pudding with a walk and some puddle jumping or you can also try some fun indoor activities for the whole family. These activities are simple, don’t really require hours and hours of preparation (we love simple but fun ideas!)

Make some handmade snowglobes

These are easy to make, will look cuter than the generic ones you can buy in shops and can also make cute gifts!

hand made snow globe with Lego Santa toy and tree inside
Source: Pinterest

You will need:

Glue the toy onto the inside of the jam jar lid using the glue gun (first of all, this is only a job for the adults and not the little ones, second of all you will need a LOT of hot glue as the little ones might do some serious shaking on it).

Make your own transparent baubles

plastic christmas bauble with john snow lego figurine inside
Source: Pinterest

This activity requires a bit more than everyday ordinary supplies, but the result is quite spectacular. The beauty of this activity is that you can use anything to fill up your bubble just like the snow jars activity:  small figurines, Lego toys etc. But for this activity we will use pine cones and glitter, to give the baubles a Christmassy feeling.

You will need:

First of all protect your table, use an A4 sheet of paper and put the pine cone on top. Spray your glue all over the pine cone.

Afterwards just add glitter a bit everywhere on the pine cone. This will make it look really Christmassy and festive. The more glitter the better!! You can add some glitter on your cotton too!

Add the cotton in one of the halves of the plastic bauble, then add the pine cone on top. And there you go you have a very pretty and personal Christmas bauble!

Make a simple paper chain

colorful homemade paper chain on black background

The first time I ever made one of these was in nursery and needless to say I’ve been loving them ever since!

All you need for these:

Using the ruler and the pencil draw equal sized rectangles on the patterned paper, around 3×9 cm depending on how big you want the links.

Cut out the links making sure to keep to the guidelines.

Fold the first paper chain to form a loop and glue the ends into place, overlapping them slightly. Thread the second piece of paper through the first loop, and glue the ends. Continue to thread the paper pieces through to the last loop to create the chain, making sure you alternate the colours (or the papers) for each loop. If you are making a long chain you might find the whole process quicker, if you use a stapler. The staple might be visible, but it doesn’t matter when you’re having fun (and you want to save some time!).

 

Try an indoors winter sport

Is there any time of year more perfectly suited to ice skating? If you’re in Kent, you can pay Silver Blades Gillingham a visit and show off your skating loops and jumps (or take a course if you’re not at ease on ice). Why not give bowling a go or you could also try some cookery classes, such as sushi making with Sushi Queen, or chocolate making classes with the Kandy Factory or Cooking classes for kids with Food Sorcery.

Bake gingerbread Christmas cookies

christmas gingerbread men cooking

This is a classic and fun for all family. Kids will enjoy decorating these, once they are baked (and certainly eat them).

This recipe makes about 20 biscuits, it takes 25 minutes to prepare + 10 minutes to decorate and cook for 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter
  • 100 g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 325 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • Writing icing to decorate.
  • Cookie decorating cutters

Method:

Preheat the oven to 170C , gas mark 3. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a pan, then remove from the heat.

Sieve in the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger. Stir together to make a stiff dough.

Roll our on a lightly floured surface to 5 mm thick. Cut out about 18-20 gingerbread men and bake on 2 large lined baking trays for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Decorate with icing to add eyes, noses, mouths etc.

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You’ll love science again with these easy activities!

Crazy scientist. Young boy performing experiments with battery and small lamp.

There is something incredibly cool and satisfying about a good science experiment (that also works the first time!).  It is also a great way of teaching children about the phenomena surrounding us and nature through easy explanations about motion, chemical reactions, optics and sound!

My science education was purely theoretical and very closely connected to maths. Needless to say that because of that and the lack of experiments in classrooms, I never had the right mindset for science and I could never quite make the link between the very abstract equations and real-life phenomena.

So I am always very happy to rediscover science through experiments with my son – who is already very fascinated with motion, cause and effects – and  love seeing how these discoveries feed his bright and inquisitive mind.

Rainbow Paper

rainbow paper science experiment

Via ScienceKiddo.com

In order to achieve this beautiful rainbow effect you will need:

  • A bowl filled with water
  • Clear nail polish
  • Small pieces of black paper

How to make it:

Add 1-2 drops of clear nail polish to the bowl of water. Watch it disperse over the surface of the water.
Quickly dip the paper into the water. Let it dry on a paper towel.
Once it is dry (this only takes a few minutes) tilt the paper in different directions to see the rainbow patterns appear. Hold it next to a sunny window for best results.

The science behind it:

The rainbow colours you see are caused by thin film interference. You will notice that the colours on the paper change as the you tip the paper back and forth. This happens because light hits the paper at different angles as you tip it!

You can also try to make a rainbow with a used compact disc – and explain light refraction to your children this way.

Glow-in-the-Dark Flowers

glow in the dark flowers

Via Funathomewithkids.com

Apparently if you soak a flower in tonic water, it will glow in the dark! Who knew?!

What you’ll need – is some flowers and some tonic water. You can dip your flowers in and check if it worked! There are several ways to do this, such as soaking them upside down and keeping the stems fresh by wrapping them in a moist towel. Another alternative for the tonic water is highlighter water. The highlighter water might require a bit more effort to make but it’s all in the name of science! The highlighter water is made by opening the highlighter pens (by any means you can carefully without hurting yourself) and pulling out the centre. If you ran water through it you can squeeze out the dye. The more concentrated you can make the highlighter water, the brighter the resulting flowers.

Heat Sensitive Colour Changing Slime

Heat Sensitive Colour Changing Slime

Via Leftbraincraftbrain.com

You will need:
1/4 cup white school glue
1 Tablespoons water
3 teaspoons Thermochromic pigment
1/4 cup liquid starch
Food colouring

Now Thermochromism sounds fancy, but it is quite simple, as it is a pigment that changes colour according to temperature. It is exactly the same pigment that is used in those mood rings that some of us had as teenagers 🙂 or in the green lipstick that becomes a dubious shade of pink.

Decide on your colour scheme for the slime as the colour of thermochromic pigment will be the colour of the slime when it is cold. Then pick an alternating colour of food colouring for the hot colour.

Pour 1/4 cup glue into a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon water and stir until combined. Add 5 drop of food colouring and mix well.Then add 3 teaspoons of thermochromic pigment and mix until uniformly distributed.
Add 1/8 cup liquid starch and mix until thick and slimy. Then knead the slime with your hands and return to the starch mixture for another mixing. This step is important because it makes sure there’s no unmixed glue hiding in the centre of your slime ball. If slime is still sticky, add additional starch, a little bit at a time, and knead until not sticky anymore. Most batches will use almost all of the starch.
Store slime in a glass or plastic container with a lid for up to one week.

Shape Animals Inspired by the Gruffalo

Shape animals from the Gruffalo story

Via Theeducatorsspinonit.com

I love this activity as it combines both science (maths, geometrical shapes) AND the love for literature and reading! All you need is some paper and imagination, to make the animals in The Gruffalo book, and teach your kids about various shapes such as rectangle, oval, rounded shape etc.

Cloud in a Jar

cloud in a jar experiment for kids

Via Schoolingamonkey.com

What you need for this is experiment is a clear glass, food colouring (preferably blue) and daddy’s shaving cream!

Fill the glass with water and fill the top of the glass with white shaving cream. The more cream you add, the thicker your cloud will be, but the longer it will take for the food colouring to penetrate the cloud layer.

Have the child(ren) drip drops of food colouring into the “cloud” one at a time. It will take quite a bit of time for the “rain” to come out of the cloud.

After a while, the drops will seep through the shaving cream and it will look like it is raining in the cup!

The science behind this experiment is that the shaving cream cloud represents real clouds. When real clouds become too heavy with liquid, just like the food colouring became too heavy for the shaving cream to hold, they rain.

You can use this activity to talk about the cycle of weather and how the cloud in a cup is different from real clouds and where the water comes from and why it evaporates.

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These butterflies will warm your heart up in winter

dark butterflies with colourful spots of tissue paper

This is quite an easy craft to do, and one that both parents and little ones will enjoy.

Tissue paper offers so many possibilities – such as creating these amazing candle jars and these tissue paper butterflies are another great little craft activity.

We made ours some time ago and our butterflies are still displayed on the doors leading to our conservatory. The colourful spots of tissue paper act like stained glass, letting the light through and giving a darker room a merry feeling.

You can also make different shapes – butterflies, hearts or more traditional stained-glass like windows. The brightly coloured pieces will look great glued back against a darker coloured shape of paper.

What you will need:

cat playing with pipe cleaners and supplies used for butterflies

Step one: create the butterfly template

Depending on your abilities or mood, you can skip this step and draw freely on the cardboard paper.

We just drew a very simple butterfly with two larger wings and two smaller ones placed underneath.

You can draw other shapes too, such as hearts, or even a window shape. Place your template on the piece of black paper and draw around it using the white pencil (this is to make the butterfly shape easier to see)

 

butterfly shape traced with white on paper

Step two: cut out your butterfly

Use the scissors to cut out the butterfly shape. If you are making more than one butterfly, you may want to try cutting out all the shapes at once before cutting the holes and sticking the tissue paper. We enjoyed drawing them individually and cutting them separately, as some butterflies were smaller and some were bigger.

black cardboard paper butterfly shape

Step three: draw shapes

Using the white pencil, draw rounded shapes on the back of the black paper. Use scissors to carefully cut out the shapes which will form the holes for the tissue paper. We drew various round and oval shapes of different sizes.

Step four: Finishing

Cut out piece of tissue paper that are just slightly bigger than the openings you created in step three. Glue them to the back of the butterfly shape. Use only a tiny amount of glue as too much will cause the tissue paper to get wet and tear. Finish the butterfly with two pipe cleaner antennae attached with bobs of glue or with tape.

colourful paper butterflies against window

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Ever wondered what it’s like in Little Street?

Red fire truck at Little Street

For those of you who haven’t heard of Little Street, they’re an imagination based play centre with multiple locations in Kent and Surrey.

As we live in Maidstone, and it is one of our son’s favourite places, we decided to pay Little Street a visit again and to describe our experience to other readers.

Before you go, make sure to book your session!

Once you arrive, you’ll be asked to take your shoes off – so that the place is kept as tidy as possible and little ones can run about safely.

Little Street is like a mini town with 7 areas: Starlets, Police Station, Klien Construction, Little Savers, Little Learners, Chicco’s Cafe and a Picnic area.

What my son loves to do first is jump on the little cars. For some reason, he calls one of them “his GPS”.  The little cars are usually around the massive fire engine which seems to be a favourite for all the children:

Big red fire engine at Little Street

He then likes to head over to the construction site and play with the digger and the “stones”. They might look real enough but, of course, they’re made of foam.

Boy playing with a digger and foam stones at Little Street

The Little Savers market place is a favourite for all the children. The till though might be the slowest in the world: expect long queues :p ! It’s great watching the little ones interact with each other and trying to imitate the adults with one of them behind the till and another one handing them the goods, knowing that this is what you’re supposed to do when buying stuff at the shops.

Market with plastic goods in Little Street

You can either chose to carry on visiting the rooms in order (very unlikely) or hop from one room to another with excitement. Don’t run too fast in “traffic” or you might end up behind bars, in the police station:

little street police station

After all these adventures, graciously accept a coffee (imaginary too) made by your toddler in Chicco’s Cafe, or have a rest on the benches in the Picnic area.

toddler sitting in chiccos cafe in little street

You might feel a little sick after all this cake, so pop over for a brief consultation at the doctors where you’ll be cured in an instant of all those diseases (whether imaginary or not!)

toddler at the doctors in Little Street

The whole experience wouldn’t be complete without a show, so, if your children feel like it, they can dress up as their favourite superhero, put on imaginary make-up and even perform a play for you!

toddler playing in the make up theatre room in little streetLittle Street also has a cafe area where parents can sit down for a rest, while the little ones run about. I must admit I am impressed at the precision with which the staff remember exactly where every tiny toy comes from and the speed with which these are put back where they belong, after each session!

We’ll definitely be back.

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Give a new life to your pegs in the shape of spiders!

Pipe-cleaner-spiders

My son and I were stuck indoors the other day because of illness and rain. So as we were running out of ideas and suffering from cabin fever, we decided to give the idea of making spider pegs with pipecleaners a try with a few supplies that we had at hand.

This is an easy craft that would enchant children of various ages and abilities.

What you’ll need:

supplies for spiders

Step one

Using the felt tip pens colour the spider’s bodies. Colours that complement each other such as a darker and a lighter tone are always best. Leave to dry for a bit.

coloured peg

Step two

Push the pipe cleaners through the pegs. Bend them so as to form legs bent towards the front and towards the back. Tell your cat that it’s not for them to play with!

cat paw holding the spider's pipe cleaners

Step three

Add your eyes and voila: you have your cute sassy pipe cleaner spiders!

spider peg with yellow pipe cleaners as legs

spider peg with blue pipe cleaner legs

three spiders with pipe cleaner legs

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How to turn the eternal whinge of “I AM BORED” around!

bored child

This is a guest post blog from our friends at Little Whizz .

Let them be bored they say, and YES, it is true it is important to let our children figure things out for themselves. Being bored has many advantages, such as building their creativity and imagination, but the one quality that stands out, by far, is that it makes them self-reliant.

BUT it’s hard isn’t it, to watch them lying around whinging every 5 minutes about how miserable their life is, because they’re BORED!! Especially if you are a WAHM mama like me, who is also a SAHM and a hubby who works the most antisocial hours or worse if he’s FIFO like some of my friends.

So today, it’s the weekend and I’d spent the whole morning with the kids at sports and then some time at the park. I tried to be ambitious and get some work done in the afternoon while bub napped (yup, it’s a miracle he actually napped for 2 hours for a change). But just as luck would have it, my older son decided he had NOTHING to do, and so began the WHINGING!!

He was so ‘BORED’ that he decided to take off all his clothes and pretend he was the King from “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. It took ALL my will power and more to ignore him carrying on. And that’s when something amazing happened!!! The house was quiet (and we Mums know that never happens, and when it does you better run because they’re up to something) and when I went to check, I found him doing this…

how to deal with boredom
Building his ‘Kingdom City’ he said, a hospital with a helipad, his school, a police and fire station and of course a ‘fixing station’.

It is so easy to give in to the situation sometimes, and either, give them screen time or go and ‘play’ with them. I know I’ve done it more times than I care to remember. But, we’re not doing anyone any favours, it’s just a quick fix like putting a Band-Aid over a gushing garden hose pipe! We need to teach them to find ways of entertaining themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it is important that we spend that one on one time with them, but they also need alone time, to learn, explore and more importantly just BE. Take the opportunity of this boredom to guide them, rather than rushing in with a ready-made solution.

So, here are my top 5 ideas that worked best for me when my kids complain about being BORED:

  1.  A Torch: Hand him/her a torch and ask them to go on a treasure hunt around the house! Kids LOVE going on adventures and exploring, you’ll be amazed at the ‘treasure’ they find under the couch, wardrobes and in nooks and crannies you didn’t even know existed in your house.
  2. Obstacle course: My son goes to a multi-sport class every week and his favourite part is the last 10 minutes, when they do an obstacle course. I always suggest this when he’s ‘bored’ but has oodles of energy and they can do this indoors and out (depending on the weather). He loves it as he gets to do it all from scratch, including building the course. I’ve been pretty impressed with the things he comes up, with like using chairs as bridges to crawl under and using his play mats to hop on. If it’s a nice day, they can do this in the garden, again my son gets really creative and uses his bike, scooter, hose pipe and garden chairs to build his course. There’s no better way for them practicing those gross motor skills!!
  3. Good Ol’Blocks: Build your own world within your world, well that’s what he did today, using a whole lot of imagination and creativity!!
  4. A Magnifying Glass: Looking at a line of ants or even the different plants in your garden, opens their eyes to the grandeur of the little things in life. There is so much we could all learn, if we just slow down and learn to be still every once in a while.
  5. Books: My son (4yo) isn’t reading by himself yet, but often I find him lying on the floor lost in his books for ages!! He has memorised all his favourite stories and ‘reads’ (I use this term loosely, I really mean narrates from memory:) them to himself and often makes up his own version too!

With Kinder/school, sports and music activities, swimming classes and playgroups etc, our weeks and lives are very FULL. Though these activities are vital for their cognitive and physical development, children need time to SWITCH the noise and constant bombardment OFF and learn to connect with themselves, their feelings and their thoughts.

A time for introspection. I know you’re thinking, this sounds like a bit much for a child. But if not now, then when? Why only children?! Some quality time spent internalising would do wonders for us adults too!

When we let them figure things out for themselves it allows them to be curious, explore, take initiative, invent, discover, concentrate and above all makes the self-reliant!! So next time you hear the words “I am BORED”, choose to use it as an opportunity to raise a more resilient and independent child.

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5 of The Best Cabin Fever Busting Ideas for Kids

Little boy behind the window in the rain, looking sad

You’re stuck in the house with your little one. They’re getting over a nasty bug but but can’t yet go to school, or you’re stuck indoors because for the last few days it’s been raining like it’s monsoon season and your weekend plans have been rained-out and you’ve started to hear the dreaded “I’m bored”…. Sound familiar? And a bit like a nightmare? Don’t panic; we’ve compiled some of our favourite indoors activities that will keep you all entertained:

Mission Impossible Obstacle Maze

What Moms love Obstacle Maize
Obstacle Maize: Source What Moms love Pinterest

For this activity you can use either Crepe Paper  or this cute, London-themed Washi Tape.

Create an intricate maze in either hallways or door frames for your children to work their way through. Put the tape up high and down low, forcing them to step over and crawl under at various points. A great, fun activity for the little ones while you put your feet up – though before you know it, they’ll be asking you to keep making another one for them.

Have an indoors snowball fight! 

With DIY snowballs of course!

Indoor Snowball Craft
DYI Snowball craft: credit A Parenting Production

These are easy to make and you can have snowball fights in the comfort of your home, without runny noses, cold feet, wet gloves or snow all over your sofa!

You will need:

How to make the snowballs: 

1. Cut a notch an inch wide and a couple of inches deep on one of the short sides of your cardboard.

2. Wrap your wool around the cardboard over the notched end. The number of times will depend on the thickness of your wool. Cut the end once you’ve wrapped your wool around the cardboard enough.

3. Cut a length of wool from the main roll to use as a tie, about 8 inches or so. Using the notched area of your cardboard wrap the string around the centre of the bunch of wool a few times cinching it down into an hourglass shape. Make sure to cinch it tightly and tie a knot.

4. Once your tie is in place slide the looped wool from your cardboard. Once it’s off it will look a little like a bow.

5. Cut through the looped wool on both ends. Cut down the centre of the loops as best as you can. Cutting the looped ends will give you a rough pom pom or ball shape.

6. After the loops are all cut down the centre fluff the ball a bit to help set the yarn in place and then trim the ends to give your snowball a nice evenly round shape.

Paint with ice!

ice popsicle painting
Ice lolly Painting: credit Easy Peasy and Fun

All you need is:

  • 1 cup of water
  • Red, yellow, green, and blue food colouring (or any colours you like!)
  • Short lolly sticks
  • Ice cube tray

Tips: add just a tiny bit of food colouring to the trays and mix well. Place a lolly stick in the tray and leave around 6-7 hours to freeze or overnight and lay a newspaper on the table before you paint as the newspapers will stain!

Learn Origami

Origami is one of our favourite activities here at Rainy Days Fun.  It’s non-messy, it improves skills such as concentration, fine motor skills and even mindfulness in both adults and children.

We have a few books about the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, we thoroughly reccomend Easy Origami for Children .

You will also need some origami sheets to make your own pieces of craft.

Or you can also buy a ready made Origami kit with paper and instructions, from Creativity for Kids

Make paper indoor umbrellas

DYI Rainy Day paper plate umbrella
Credits: My Teens Guide

We loved this project as it is really easy to do with very little supplies  – you just need some imagination.

You will need some pipe cleaners and cupcake liners, blue cardboard paper, tape, some blue paint colours and either a sponge or a brush (or a sponge brush!).

Check out our other boredom buster ideas and if you liked this article, subscribe to our newsletter for more ideas:

 

Easy activities to do with autumn leaves

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves open a myriad of opportunities for little ones to get acquainted with nature and its multitude of colours and to use their imagination.

You can try and extract colours from autumn leaves and also give them a new life as hedgehogs, use them to decorate a frame of one of your paintings or to actually be part of a painting and make them a sort of a 3D form of art!

1. Leaf Hairstyles

This is a very creative idea, that will make use of your children’s creativity. You can either download printables on this website or you can ask your children to use their imagination by first drawing various human silhouettes and imagining different hair styles of various colours.

2. Laminated leaves

If you have a laminating machine, you can keep the leaves forever, or for as long as you want, and create various items with them. You can, for example, after you have laminated them, make a whole in one end, using a hole punch, then insert some string in the holes and create a beautiful autumnal garland.

Or you can stick some googly eyes on them and make them into different shapes. We used ours on a scrap book with souvenir pictures of our son. If you don’t have a laminating machine, you can use cling film. Put a few leaves in between two sheets of cling film and you can then put this on a window to make a very nice autumn decoration.

laminated leaves garland
Source: Pinterest

Laminated leaves in a scrapbook

3. Ghost leaves

This is very easy and spot on for Halloween! It makes a very nice decoration for Halloween that your kids can get involved in. All you need is (obviously) leaves, some white acrylic paint and a paintbrush, a black permanent marker and a string – if you want to put them in a garland.

Begin by painting the leaves – usually putting two coats of paint will do the job. Leave to dry, then paint the eyes and the mouth. In order to make the garland, tie the ropes to the stems of the leaves and there you go! Ready to spook up your neighbours!

Our Favourite Movie Rain Scenes

couple hugging on sofa watching films

When was the last time you saw a film and it drizzled? It never seems your favourite movie characters get caught by a quick rain shower. It would seem that when it comes to movies, it never rains but it pours. Rain has been used for symbolic cleansing, amping up the drama or adding some extra steam to a heated bit of on-screen passion.

We’ve put together a quick list of some of our favourite rain-soaked scenes and would love to know yours.

Blade Runner

A visual masterpiece which received something of a muted reaction upon release waaaaaay back in 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner reaches its climax with one of the most famous soliloquies in the history of cinema, delivered and largely improvised by Rutger Hauer as the rain hammers down.. “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

The Shawshank Redemption

Another classic that faired surprisingly poorly upon initial release. The escape sequence which sees Andy Dufresne crawl through “five hundred yards of s**t-smelling foulness” to emerge into the pouring rain and be washed clean is an undeniably euphoric and classic piece of cinema with Andy smiling as only a falsely-imprisoned man experiencing freedom can.

Spiderman

With all the comic book adaptations that have followed and the multiple re-castings of everyone’s favourite web slinger, it would be easy to forget 2002’s Spiderman were it not for the one scene that gets shown most of the time – that famous upside-down kiss in the rain. Of course, if we’re talking famous kisses in the rain there’s also Four Weddings and a Funeral. Or the ending of Breakfast at Tiffanies or…

Jurassic Park

Its effects might not seem so cutting-edge now, but in 1993 Jurassic Park was a real game-changer and Spielberg made full use of the rain to amp up the tension and terror in this scene. Power to the electric fences is down, the guided cars are stalled inside the dinosaur enclosure and the rain is hammering down as we first encounter the T-Rex with fogged up windows hampering visibility, mud and puddles making running away treacherous and hard going…

Back to the Future 2

10:04 p.m. on Nov. 12, 1955, a lightning strike hits the Hill Valley Clock Tower and, in Back to the Future – generates the 1.21 gigawatts needed to send Marty McFly back… well, to the future. But in the timeline crossing sequel, in another part of town, the present-day Doc is inside the DeLorean when it’s struck by lightning and he vanishes in a flash leaving Marty stood alone as the rain starts to fall….

Forest Gump

In a film stuffed with classic scenes stuffed from opening to closing credits, this one often gets forgotten but it would seem Forest Gump’s Vietnam War experience was pretty much a wet one. “One day it started raining, and it didn’t quite for four months..”

The Blue Umbrella

Is there any film company out there as good at trashing our emotions as Pixar? Have you seen the first 10 minutes of Up?! Visual masters that they are, the folks at Pixar can create truly beautiful and poignant scenes and The Blue Umbrella short film is a joy to watch.

Singing In The Rain

Of course, there’s few more iconic rain scenes in film than this one – surely the most famous scene to take place against the rain? There’s so many myths about this one too – that it was filmed in one take, that there was milk mixed in with the rain to make it more visible… but no; the filming took three days, Gene Kelly was running a fever throughout, would get so soaked that his wool suit would shrink during filming and it’s strong back-lighting that makes the rain so dramatic and iconic.

Well, these are ours – what’s your favourite cinematic rain scene? Tell us in the comments below.

Make these 7 easy Halloween sweets and crafts this autumn

Halloween pumpkin head

Halloween and the end of the year  celebrations in general can feel like a bit of a headache. Children can quickly overdose on sugar, and parents can easily get overwhelmed with the multitude of sweets and crafts and costumes to make. But let’s not get too scary, we’re here to help with some of our favourite ideas to help keep it all fun and easy. While we’re not big fans of the white stuff (sugar!) in this household, a little every now and then can’t really hurt, especially during festivities.

Easy Halloween crafts

Pumpkin sweets holder

candy treat or treat pumpkin

This is a perfect craft if you want to introduce your children to pumpkin carving and if you’re not a pro at carving yourself (those faces can be surprisingly tricky to get right). Start with a small pumpkin and carve a simple word for example, like “boo!” or “scary”.

You will need:

  • Old newspaper to collect the seeds
  • Small pumpkin
  • Large spoon
  • Sharp knife
  • Sweets

Lay the newspaper on a flat surface. Slice the top off the pumpkin and scoop the flesh out with the spoon (as much as you can of it!).  Spell out words such as “Boo” or “Trick or treat” or you can even try your hand at carving a simple face with two eyes, a nose and a mouth, carving out the flesh to leave clear holes. Once ready, fill the pumpkins with sweets.

Pumpkin seeds are apparently very rich in nutrients and minerals such as magnesium. You can roast them by spreading them in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes to dry them out.  You can also mix the seeds with some olive oil, salt and maybe some spices if you wish.

Pumpkin bag

Hobbycraft pumpkin bag

You will need:

Using your scissors carefully (especially for the little ones) cut 2 equally sized pumpkin shapes from the orange felt. Nothing too complicated, just a rounded shape with a stem. Paint some orange lines on one of the pumpkin shapes and leave to dry. This will be the front of your pumpkin bag. Take the black felt and cut out 3 triangles for the pumpkin eyes and nose and a half-moon shape with two small triangles cut into it for the pumpkin’s mouth. Arrange these on the pumpkin shape and glue them in place.

Tie a knot in each end of your rattail cord – this will become the handle for your pumpkin bag.

Use a running stitch to join both sides of the pumpkin bag with your purple thread and stitch the cord securely at each side. Leave an opening at the top of the pumpkin bag for those treats!

Personnalised Witch hat

You can buy ready-made witches hats pretty much everywhere these days, but it’s great fun to exercise your children’s imagination by decorating them.

You will need:

Using the scissors cut star and moon shapes from the foam then remove the back and attach them to your witch hat! Presto! You have your own personalised witch hat!

Delicious Halloween sweets

Scary biscuits

Halloween biscuits

You will need:

  • 125 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 medium egg
  • 250 g plain flour
  • Small amount of sugarpaste in orange, black, green and white
  • Halloween assorted cookie cutters
  • Baking trays lined with baking paper

Heat the oven to 160 / gas mark 3. Mix together the butter, sugar, mixed spice and a pinch of salt, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg, then beat in the flour until the mixture binds together to form a dough. If the dough is very soft, wrap it in a plastic bag and chill until it’s firm enough to roll out.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface to about 3 mm thick. Using the halloween cookie cutters, cut out shapes from the dough. Lay the shapes on lined baking trays. Bake the biscuits one tray at a time, in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies start to turn golden at the edges. Remove from the oven.

While they’re cooking, knead the sugarpaste to soften it, then roll it out on a work surface dusted with icing sugar. Using the halloween cutters, cut out the same shape as the biscuits. Place them on the hot cookies so that the heat  sticks the sugarpaste on. You can add extra details with contrasting colours of sugarpaste. These can be stored for up to a week (but are best consumed fresh – which is great news for the kids!)

Toffee apples

tofee apples for halloween

This is a very easy one that your children will love.

You will need:

  • A few Braeburn apples – around 8 or as many as you wish
  • 500 g Demerara sugar
  • 75 g unsalted butter
  • 225 g golden syrup
  • 2tsp white vinegar

Wash and dry the apples. Insert a wooden stick or fork through each core. Heat the sugar, butter, golden syrup, vinegar and 150 ml of water in a pan, stirring until the sugar dissolves then let it boil until the mixture becomes toffee. To check this, drop a little of the mixture into a glass of cold water – if it instantly hardens, you’ve got toffee.

Dip each apple in the toffee and twist. Let any excess drip off and leave to cool on a sheet of greaseproof paper.

Meringue ghosts

Funny meringue ghosts for Halloween party

You will need:

  • 150 g egg whites
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 50 g dark chocolate melted
  • Large piping bag
  • 1.5 cm plain piping tube
  • Small disposable pipping bag
  • Backing trays lined with baking paper

Heat the oven to 120 C / gas mark 1/2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Slowly add about half the caster sugar, a spoonful at the time, whisking well after each addition, then whisk in the remaining sugar. Spoon the mixture into the large piping bag fitted with the plain piping tube. Pipe ghost shapes onto the baking trays. Bake the meringues for 1-1 1/2 hours or until they have dried out. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool in there.

Fill the disposable piping bag with the melted chocolate, cut off the end of the bag to create a small hole and pipe faces on to the meringues. Leave the chocolate to set before serving. These can keep for up to two weeks but they might not last that long!!

Cake pops

Cake pops and cup cakes decoration for Halloween

For mumified cake pops you will need:

  • 300 g shop-bought chocolate sponge cake
  • 150 g milk chocolate
  • 300 g white chocolate
  • Black writing icing (or any colour you fancy)

Place the cake in a large bowl and break it up into small pieces. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave on low until smooth. Add the melted chocolate to the cake pieces and mix together until combined. Roll the mixture into small golf-ball-size balls in your hands and place on a palate. Push a lollipop stick halfway through each cake ball and freeze for 20 mins.

Melt 200 g of the white chocolate in the microwave on low and once smooth remove the cake pops from the freezer. Dip each cake ball in the melted chocolate and return to the plate to set. Melt the remaining 100 g of white chocolate and spoon into a piping bag. Run the piping bag over the cake pops in a zig zag formation to make look like bandages. Place two poppy seeds or use the black writing icing to make eyes and allow to set once more before serving.

You can also make cake pops with various decorations such as skulls, pumpkins or spider webs.

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10 Simple Boredom Busters for a Boring Rainy Day

child home made mask

Turn the kids bed into a pirate ship

Do your children make their beds in the morning? We’re willing to bet they don’t, especially at weekends. So, on a rainy week-end, when everyone wants to lay in their pyjamas a little longer, why not embrace it, create a pirate ship right in your child’s bed and play a little pirate game. First name your ship, something like The Deceitful Eel, the Flying King or the Good Squid. Then make a team of crew mates – with dolls, toys and teddies and give them names : Hysterical Darius Scarr, or Sweatin’ Benjamin Sparrow. Take the top sheet and throw it over the headboard to make a sail. Make sure everyone – the captain, the crew members are on the bed, ensuring that they are not eaten by sharks (remind them of the shark at regular intervals).

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You can make these amazing candle jars with just tissue paper

multicoloured candle jars

When long rainy autumn days and evenings start hitting, days become shorter and more boring you’ll wonder what you can do next that can be entertaining both for your child and for yourself, as a parent. A good way to not give in to the moody blues of rainy days is to actually get absorbed in making something. Recycling your material to transform it into arts and crafts is also highly rewarding as you give a new life to your unwanted stuff.

This craft is perfect for children from 3 years old and up as it doesn’t require too many skills. It’s also a great occasion for family bonding as the parents dive in. And who knows; maybe once you’ve finished making it, you’ll have a really good piece of decoration to display proudly in your home! The cheerful colours of the jars as they’re lit up will warm your heart up!

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10 Hidden Gems in Kent

Sissinghurst Kent

Kent, the Garden of England, is a popular destination for tourists from both abroad and visitors from within the UK. From historic castles to world-famous zoos and cities there’s plenty to do but there are many a great attraction that aren’t quite so well known. We’ve put together a quick selection of ten hidden gems in Kent, some of the area’s best kept secrets, that are well worth a stop for those visiting the county and for those families who live in Kent looking for a family-friendly day out.

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A memorable day trip back to the time of the Romans

Bath crescent

I’ve always been fascinated by the Roman civilisation. Granted the history classes in school didn’t quite resonate with me, with rigid dates and battle facts , and I found Latin class excruciatingly difficult. But there was always something fascinating about Roman ruins; the buildings, the mosaics, the fact that they seemed to have led such a luxurious and lavish life style.

ad astra per aspera

One of my favourite novels through University was Marguerite Yourcenar’s ‘Memoirs of Hadrian‘. Amongst other aspects, this novel naturally depicts the past and somehow humanises these figures from Roman history that are mostly just statues to us these days.

I was interested in everything else that surrounded the Roman civilisation when visiting Roman ruins whether it was a mosaic in Constanta – Romanian harbour town by the Black Sea, the Roman villa in Lullingstone, the magnificent Via Apia in Rome or most recently Bath. In Lullingstone for example I loved seeing a piece of tile with a cat footprint on it, as the cat – typical feline – didn’t wait for the mix to dry and stepped in it, leaving evidence of it’s stubbornness that’s lasted 2,000 years.

So recently we decided to visit Bath, which is the ultimate “Roman” relic in the Anglo-Saxon English world. The weather wasn’t quite with us, but we live by the “Don’t let the rainy days spoil your holidays” mantra.

Bath street

I was immediately astonished at the architecture in Bath, houses there looked much more….Italian or French with a strange British twist, rather than ‘British British’ – in that they were taller, made of stone rather than brick, with cobbled streets and the gardens we could just about glimpse in the back gardens seemed luscious, almost Mediterranean.

Because Bath is quite a small town, and we didn’t have much time ahead of us we headed straight towards the Roman baths for a visit. We weren’t disappointed.

Roman BathsI didn’t know quite what to expect, as I thought initially that the baths would only be a pool of water, but there was much more to it inside, and we all learned a lot.

I had to wonder though what went through those Mediterranean Latin soldiers minds when they arrived in this rainy land of Saxon tribes, thousand of miles from home, that made them think “we’ll have to make it our own. Let’s make a lavish bath!”.

The fun legend says that one of the later Roman emperors was asked by a barbarian chieftain why he bathed once a day. The emperor answered in apologetic innocence that it was because he was too busy to bathe twice.

Around 43 AD, the Roman armies landed on the south coast of England with the aim to conquer the “more civilised” south-east of England. They were quite respectful to the gods and goddesses of those they conquered. The Iron Age local tribe believed the hot spring was sacred to the Goddess Sulis hence her Sacred Spring stayed while the landscape around began to change as the Romans, in very typical fashion, started colonising and trading.

In 60 AD a rebellion broke out, led by the British Queen Boudica – it was so violent that by the end of the rebellion the province lay in ruins. It took ten years to repair damage that had been inflicted in just a few months and it is thought that it was probably during this period of reconstruction that the Romans decided to turn the native sanctuary of Sulis into a curative establishment.

Roman bath model

So the Romans started building the baths, with very precise and elaborate systems of channels in order to tame the spring of hot water.

The excavations and archaeological diggings revealed a lot of details and were able to reconstruct what those Baths might have been like.

The Baths were elegant yet simple, with chambers for massage and relaxations, several broad walkways paved with white hard lilac slabs and alcoves. The pool was 1.5 meters deep and the hot spring water flowed constantly into the Great Bath – the water level being maintained by a bronze sluice. There are still some impressive pieces of Roman engineering at work, such as the very noisy arched overflow of water. They also had elaborate heating systems under the floors in what I imagine would have been the Roman equivalent of the “changing rooms”.

arched overflow roman baths

We also saw Roman artefacts that gave an idea life at the time, such as jugs, jewellery, coins and even tombstones. The building also hosted a temple for the cult of Minerva as, faced with the spring sacred to Sulis, the Romans may have thought that this Sulis was the equivalent of their own Minerva.

After the visit to the bath we strolled into town for some sightseeing and found the famous umbrellas in the Town Centre – what a brilliant idea to shelter people on a rainy day!

Bath umbrellas

We also strolled along the river Avon and admired the boats turning beneath the Pulteney Bridge and the elegant Royal Victoria park.

We had a wonderful and unforgettable visit to Bath. The landscapes were beautiful as we descended the Avon Valley to Bath and this town is one of the most charming in Britain. Thoroughly recommended to all looking for a little slice of history and a fun day out in England – there was plenty of interest even for our little one who referred to the baths themselves as “amazing”.

Bath River Avon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have hours of pirate fun with this easy to make paraphernalia

pirate map trial

Little ones love pirates and the idea of adventure, but rain can pretty much put a stop to plans of venturing outside for fun, especially during the summer holidays. But don’t let the rain spoil your holiday. What if I told you that you can have hours of indoors fun with a little imagination and very little material?

You can make a pirate hat and a map for a treasure hunt. Use a jewellery case and some chocolate coins or costume jewellery as treasure. You can also use old clothes to make a pirate costume.

This activity combines both the fun of arts and crafts through paper folding and drawing, imagination via costume making, treasure hunting and some exciting indoors (and outdoors) adventure.

Pirate hat

This hat is easily created by folding a black piece of paper and decorating with a skull and crossbones.

For the hat you will need :

  • 1 piece of A2 black paper (the bigger the piece of paper, the bigger the hat)
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • White paper

Lay the paper on a flat surface with the sort end facing you. Fold the paper over itself along the long side like a book and press flat.

Folding the pirate hat paper

Spin it around 90 degrees and fold the longest piece on itself again. Open it up and flip it back so that the loose ends are facing you. Fold the corners down to make the hat shape.

hat folded corners

Then fold over the bottom edge up to meet the bottom of the triangles. Turn over the hat and repeat. Use some glue to make sure the hat is held together.
To decorate you can draw a skull and crossbones (or use a pirate rubber stamp and an inkpad if you have one) on a white piece of paper. Cut them shaped as badges and glue them on the front of the hat for that pirate-y finish.

pirate hat and treasure

 

Treasure map

You can create an antique-effect treasure map using tea, water and a piece of paper.  You can draw an imaginary island or your back garden – either way children will use their imagination and will have hours of fun with their friends.

You will need:

  • 1 piece of white A4 paper
  • 1 teabag and water
  • Sponge
  • Paint brush and coloured paints
  • Fine black pen

Tear all four paper edges to make them slightly rugged and uneven. Make some tea and leave the tea bag in the water until it becomes dark brown. Make sure it’s not boiling hot! Dip the sponge into the tea and then dab all over the paper to stain it and leave the paper to dry. If you want the paper to be a darker shade, repeat.

For an even more enhanced antique effect, you can use dark brown to pain the edges of the paper, then leave to dry.

For finishing touches use your imagination to draw an island, palm trees, fish. Don’t forget the position of the treasure and to add the clues!

pirate map

 

You can also draw a map of your home, similar to a plan and put different sets of clues but each ending at the same final location. The easiest way to set up the treasure trail is by working backwards. Begin by placing the treasure in the final spot, take the clue for this location and hide it in another chosen spot. Keep doing this for all the clues until you are left with one. This will be the starting clue you give to the treasure hunt players.

Pirate suit

You can use a pair of trousers and just roll them up just below the knee with an old shirt (the more ragged the better).
If you are really in the mood to make costumes, you can convert an old pair of trousers. To convert these, if you don’t mind getting rid of them, cut the legs at an angle, with the long, tapered end facing out.
The cut will look like a long triangle from the side. Cut through the middle of this triangle up to just below the knees. Then tie the two ends of each legging.

And this way, the whole gang is ready to find the hidden treasure! Use chocolate coins or some piece of jewellery in the hidden treasure.
Happy treasure hunting!

 

Our First Pumpkin Carving Adventure…

Traditionally Halloween is not something we’ve really gotten excited about in our house.  But as our son has now reached the age where such things become the centre of excitement (we blame his playgroup) there was no getting away from it. Every time we went near a supermarket he’d cast glances toward the pumpkins on display and start asking if we could buy one. There was no getting away from it.

So, after initially hoping to get a few groceries we ended up coming away from our local supermarket armed with a couple of pumpkins (despite toddler entreaties to buy more) and zero clue what to do with them.

Of course, the Internet had the answer; there’s an abundance of sites out there with guides like “How to Carve the Perfect Jack O’Lantern” or how to accomplish “A Spooktacular Pumpkin Carving”… all done by experts and looking like it.

Here’s our first tip – if you’ve never carved a pumpkin before DON’T look to Instagram for inspiration; those amazingly crafted works of vegetable sculpture will only make you feel out of your league as you stand there at the table armed with a vegetable knife and bowl for the innards.

So, here’s what you’ll need for a standard pumpkin caving:

1 Pumpkin – the larger the better as carving smaller pumpkins can get tricky
1 Tea light
Table Spoon
Sharp Serrated Knife
Small Serrated Knife

Step One

Choose a pumpkin – the larger the better as carving the smaller ones can prove tricky with less space for the features – and use a sharp serrated knife to cut off the crown.  Try and cut this as straight as you can or, like ours, your finished pumpkin may end up looking like it was given a lobotomy by Stevie Wonder.

Step Two

Grab a table spoon and get scooping – all the seeds and fibres need removing. Use the spoon to remove some of the pumpkin’s flesh too.  TIP: the more flesh you remove the better,  the thinner the pumpkins ‘skull’ is the easier the carving will be so get at that flesh like a frenzied piranha.

To be honest there’s not a whole lot of point doing anything with the seeds and flesh other than lining the bin. Given how most of them end up during October I’ve got a sneaking suspicion they’re not harvested for taste.

You’ll possibly need a hoover / broom at this point too should your helper have been as enthusiastic as ours in throwing away from those pumpkin seeds. Oh, and to wash your hands – the inside of a pumpkin is not the most pleasant of aromas.

Step Three

With your marker pen draw an outline of the face you want on your pumpkin then, with a small serrated knife, cut out the eyes, nose and mouth. Always remember to cut away from you in case the knife slips and to ensure that little ears aren’t paying too much attention when you do….

Step Four

Place the tea light inside the pumpkin, light it and pop the crown back on your Jack O’Lantern’s head and… voila!

For a first go we were pretty proud of ours. They’re not likely to win any beauty contests but we had a whole lot of fun making them and our little one loved the whole process and, cheesy as it may be, that’s what counts, isn’t it?

We hope you have a lot of fun carving your Jack O’Lantern and have a great Halloween. Don’t forget to let us know – in the comments below or on facebook – how your pumpkin carving goes and subscribe to our newsletter for more great fun activities and places to visit on rainy days.