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We built a zoo…

Inspiration often strikes when we have a billion tonnes of recycling to use up! After so many trips to IKEA recently, we have a serious surplus of cardboard. Whilst we always recycle, it seemed like a shame for these huge canvases to be immediately consigned to the yellow bin.

With another baby on the way, I’m not as up for massive messy projects (literally really, since I can no longer hoist myself off of the floor!) so we made use of the dining room table to make ourselves a zoo. This project was inspired byDiscovery Table Week 8: Zoo! Continue reading We built a zoo…

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Fishes in the water, fishes in the sea…

Do you ever just get inspiration from totally random objects? This is exactly what happened here!

With a surplus of cardboard thanks to a recent IKEA binge, I had been desperately wracking my brains on how to use it. Then I noticed the fish themed ice cube tray lying on the draining board, waiting to be refilled and the idea sparked. So here is our fish pond… Continue reading Fishes in the water, fishes in the sea…

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Hot Air Balloon Craft

Big balloon, big balloon Bigger than the sun and moon. Flying high In the sky Fly, fly and fly and fly!

I’m pretty sure that all parents know the Peppa Pig song, right? If not, I promise that as soon as you listen to it, it’ll be stuck in your head for an eternity! It was well and truly on rotation after a trip to the Canberra Balloon Festival, which takes place every March.


Up early to watch the balloons from the National Arboretum in Canberra

After an early start on Canberra Day, we decided to get our craft on. The original idea was to do a paper mache hot air balloon, but after failing to find a single balloon in the house, we went for option B instead.

You will need:

  • Paper lanterns -ideally in white, but we just used what we had!
  • Non-toxic acrylics
  • Paint brushes and sponges
  • Chenille sticks
  • Disposable coffee cups
  • White thread
  • Sticky tape or pins


Step 1: Set up an invitation to create

Our lanterns were left over from a Star Wars themed party, but white would probably work better.

With four of us crafting, I set up the large dining room table with an assortment of paints and brushes.


Step 2: Get busy with the paint!


The beauty of this craft is that you can get a range of age groups involved. We had Zoey (2) crafting side by side with her Nana. The key is to make sure you are using non-toxic paints!

Note that the kids don’t have t-shirts on. Acrylics don’t tend to wash out of clothing so it’s best to either leave them off or wear a smock. 

Harrison went for a blue and red ‘Japanese’ theme (he loves his Japanese lessons at school) whilst I created random splodges with a sponge.

Step 3 – Leave to dry

hot air balloons 2.jpg

Our balloons took most of the day to dry. Afterwards, we punched holes into the tops of disposable coffee cups then attached chenille sticks so that they hung from the lanterns:

Taking Timmy the Sheep for a ride in the balloon!

Finally – display your craft!

hot air balloons

This is the kind of craft that could potentially take up a lot of room in the house, so we made it part of our new play space instead. Because the lanterns are so light, we were able to use white thread attached with sellotape.

Want more?

Check out the following posts:

Our New Play Space

Why Mess is Best

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Why Mess is Best

Parents! I am writing this article mainly to persuade you to embrace the mess. Our modern lives can be chaotic: full-time work, chores, play dates, extra curricular activities. We humans are time poor: all of this can mean that additional, purposeful mess can be extremely unappealing!

BUT, I implore you to give in to your inner child and celebrate creative mess making  with your kiddos. In our household, at least twice a week, we give in to the gloriousness of creative play. We use paint, flour, rice, grains, sand and water (although not all at once!) to explore the senses through play*.

Sensory play is beneficial for your child’s development. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It helps to boost brain development via the nerve connections.
  • It boosts language skills, cognitive function, problem solving skills and social interaction.
  • It helps children to explore the world around them.
  • It stimulates the core senses.
  • It helps with development of both fine and gross motor skills.
  • It can help to calm anxious children.
  • It enhances memory function.

But if the mess makes you stress, here’s some advice:

  • Start off small. Don’t attempt a grand ambitious project if this is your first time with messy play. For example, try finger/ hand painting in the confines of the highchair.
  • Go outdoors if the weather allows.
  • ️ Choose the kitchen or bathroom for activities so you are close to the sink!
  • ️Always keep baby wipes on hand for the initial clean up – they are magic!
  • ️Invest in a giant paint tray/ tuff spot tray or use plastic sheeting to catch any spills
  • ️Close any doors to avoid an escapee (I speak from experience here! )
  • ️Choose old clothes or just a nappy if the weather is warm – the nappy is for the toddler, obviously not yourself!
  • ️If in doubt, use washable non-toxic paint and ‘taste-safe’ items

Some ideas to try:

Whipped cream and food dye…

messy art 5.jpg

Tip: put the mixture into muffin tins so that its more contained. This is a great one for younger ones to try!

Shaving foam and food dye…

messy art

Tip: the less food dye you use, the easier it comes off the skin!

Liquid watercolours and pipettes…


Tip: Use only a tiny amount of watercolours to water if you’re worried about the clean up!

Items from the kitchen…

small world 3


Tip: Use unwanted items rather than making a special trip to the supermarket. Click here for more food-based play ideas. 

Printing with food…

food or messy art.jpg

Tip: use up old fruit or vegetables by turning them into a stamper. This print was created using orange halves. 

Craft materials…

craft materials.jpg

Tip: use older craft materials (such as the shredded tinsel shown here) and give them a new lease of life!

Paint with leaves…

autumn painting 2.jpg

Tip: both leaves and feathers make for great painting tools!

Get wet…

ocean 4.jpg

Tip: whilst this is the easiest to try, stick to outdoors or even the bath/ sink to minimise mess!


Happy playing!

Sian x

*Note: It goes without saying, but please make sure your child is developmentally ready before trying these ideas! Don’t use small objects if they have a tendency to put everything in their mouths and never ever leave your child unsupervised whilst they play!




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Derek the Dragon

As a general rule, I don’t plan out my crafts. I have really tried to be organised and plan months in advance but I think my years as a primary school teacher entirely put me off a planned approach to being creative! To me, part of the beauty of creativity is being inspired and just going with the flow. Take Derek the Dragon here, he was created because I came across some rather magnificent dragon googly eyes in Riot Art & Craft. 

If you want to make your own, please use this post as a guide rather than a definitive ‘how to.’ You may have different recycled materials at hand which will change the shape.

As you may know by now, we are big fans of recycled crafts and if you’re a parent of young kids, I really encourage you to keep anything that might be useful. Derek here is made from a nappy box, an empty washing powder carton, that random ridged packaging that electrical goods usually come in (in this case a blender!) and two takeaway coffee cups!

Derek was a time consuming build, so I recommend you make him over a weekend or during the school holidays. You’ll definitely need time for paint to dry and glue to set!

dragon 3
Can you guess which flag Derek is based on?

To make your own dragon:

  1. Assemble all of the boxes/ materials you want to use to see if they work. My original idea didn’t quite fit so I had to use other resources.
  2. Whilst Derek was painted then glued, i’d recommend assembling with masking/ gaffer tape first (our little low-temp glue gun didn’t quite hold up his weight!)
  3. Once you’ve chosen the base colour of your dragon, use foam dabbers for quick coverage.  We actually used 3 different colour reds to give Derek a more mottled look.
  4. Leave to dry and paint again. Depending on the type of box used, you may need to paint the base colour again – if not, go onto the next step!
  5. Choose some complimentary colours to stiple over the top. We selected greens and golds for Derek.
  6. Attach eyes, horns and other loose parts with a glue gun.
  7. Choose details like the box lids to create the dragons frills (a craft knife is a good option here.)
  8. Stare wondrously at the magnificent creation you’ve made!


If you’d rather bypass the words, here’s a general photo guide…

dragon 5
We used the flaps of the nappy box to create frills. A craft knife or decent pair of scissors is a must here!


dragon 2
Derek was made from 3 boxes of various sizes which were stuck together with a glue-gun.


dragon 4
Over on Instagram I did little hint in my stories, but this also shows the colour build of red base and green/gold overlay.


If you make your own version of Derek, I would LOVE to see! Either post in the comments below or tag me in on Instagram/ Facebook.