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Baby Play at Christmas Time

Baby Elliott is absolutely fascinated with Christmas! He gravitates towards the Christmas tree almost every minute that he’s awake in an attempt to pull at tinsel and explore the shiny baubles.

To help him explore the wonder of Christmas safely, i’ve set up a number of activities for him recently and thought that you might like to try them too…

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Easy Peasy Rainbow Rice

Rainbow rice is a wonderful way to introduce sensory play to your toddler. It’s both cheap and easy to make, yet will provide hours of fun. We first started making this with Zoey when she turned one and we felt confident that she wouldn’t just eat the rice! Continue reading Easy Peasy Rainbow Rice

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How we’re raising readers

There have been a lot of articles recently on how to raise readers so I thought i’d add my two cents to the pile! Harrison loves reading right now, but it hasn’t been a straightforward journey. Reading is a subject that is close to my heart: I studied the subject of boys and reading engagement for my Masters assignment whilst training to become a teacher. Some of that insight helped me with Harrison’s own reading journey, but it’s also been trial and error both in the classroom and at home.

Start them young:


I bought Harrison his first book when he was just a few weeks old. The husband thought I was crazy: how is a baby who barely opens his eyes able to engage with a book? Anyway, I persevered and read the black and white ‘Animal Sounds’ book everyday. Eventually Harrison was able to take an active interest, helping me to turn the pages and even point to the animals. In time, he moved onto mimicking the animal sounds and naming the animals themselves. Books have a direct impact on language development. Perhaps more importantly, sharing a book is a really lovely way to spend time together.

Read daily:

dear zoo 2

This comes in many forms: read to your child, share read a book or  let them read to you. Also, show them good reading behaviours by engaging in a good book yourself. Children will quickly catch on if you don’t read, but are asking them to! Now you might simply read one book, one time through but if mine are anything to go by, you’ll find yourself repeating Dear Zoo or The Hungry Caterpillar several times over. Young children love the repetition and this also helps them to learn.

Read a bedtime story:

bedtime story


I guess this really links in with the above, but read your children a bedtime story until they no longer want one. Your kid will love this special time with you and it’s also a brilliant part of the bedtime routine. A comment from a 7 year old boy I interviewed for my MA will always stick with me:

‘My parents say i’m too old for a bedtime story. I miss that time.’ 

I honestly felt heartbroken. I found it pretty hard not to dissolve into tears right in front of him. Now i’m not actually judging his parents here: they must’ve genuinely thought he was too old – perhaps he was an excellent reader and deemed independent enough to read by himself? However, I resolved to always read a bedtime story to Harrison unless he told me not to.  Currently we are reading our way through the Michael Morpurgo back catalogue.

Share read:

captain underpants

When your kids are older, start to share books with them. By this I mean read a page / paragraph each or take on the roles of different characters. This can make reading, for emerging readers in particular, much more enjoyable. By becoming characters (through expression of voice), emphasising particular words and even stopping for punctuation, you are providing your children with the skills to read aloud. There may be days when the kids come home from school exhausted and reluctant to read so instead of pushing a reluctant reader, you can try the shared technique.

Forget about levels:


Seriously, it’s the best approach to surviving those early years. Admittedly I was a little preoccupied with Harrison’s levels when he first started school (as a year 6 teacher I was all about data for a while), but when we eventually abandoned home readers in favour of his own choice of books we all had a much more enjoyable time of it. Ironically, it was when Harrison started school that he got turned off reading. He didn’t get phonics (he still doesn’t use the strategies despite being a really fluent reader now) and absolutely HATED the levelled readers. Hardly surprising since most were published in the 1980s! That being said, please communicate any worries you have over reading with the class teacher.

Hand the power over:

book choice
In our favourite bookstore: Harry Hartogs

Let your child choose the book. Visit the library or go to the bookstore, but let them have the ultimate power. I once saw a man shout at his son and get completely furious all because he disapproved of the book choice. Now if that’s not a way to turn off a young reader, I don’t know what is! Now that’s not to say you can’t influence the choice at all. You could get them to choose between three or even check suitability by asking them to read a few lines first. If the book would currently be too mature or too difficult you could always try saying ‘That’s a good choice but lets leave it until you’re a little older’ or ‘That book looks wonderful, we’ll read it as our bedtime story.’

Join the local library:

neon leon
Neon Leon was BRAND NEW from the local library. It’s one of our favourite finds so far.

Once your kid gets the reading bug, they’ll get it full on! If you’re not careful you’ll be bankrupt within a few weeks, so sign them up to the local library. Most libraries are tragically underused, meaning you’ll also be doing your bit to save them! You will not believe the amount of brand new books we’ve picked up from the library recently. The pressure is off to a certain extent too because it doesn’t really matter if they don’t like the book either.

Make reading relevant:

Exploring Asia before a recent visit to Singapore.

Don’t ignore the  non-fiction. Going on holiday soon? Bring out the atlases and world maps. Just been on a visit to the zoo? Check out some books on mammals. Is you kid asking some random question about the weather? Try browsing through books rather than immediately reaching for google. You’ll also be teaching some great research skills! On a recent holiday to Britain, we got out all of the travel book we could get our hands on.

Find a series or genre and run with it!

bad guys
Harrison has read and re-read this series countless times.

The first book that Harrison read all by himself and LOVED? Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey. He quickly worked his way through the entire series, then the Weirdo novels by Anh Do followed by Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Treehouse books. The common theme is that they’re all hilarious (to an 8 year old) and most importantly, still contain illustrations. Never underestimate the power of illustrations – it doesn’t mean the book is too easy but it does certainly help young readers to engage with the book.

Turn books into art projects:

This Mog mask provided hours of entertainment!

Engagement through art? Yes please! Sometimes you just need another avenue and themed weeks or projects are a great way to do this. When we focused on ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ one week, both kids (aged 18 months and 8 years) got so much out of it. Not feeling confident directing this kind of project? Try KidArtLit’s beautiful monthly boxes. or follow along on Instagram for beautiful ideas.

If all else fails, try another way:

e reader
Older readers can find e-readers more engaging

I fully believe that this should ONLY be used as a last resort, when you’ve tried all of the above and more, but if your kid is still hating on books, try an e-reader. I would only recommend this for older children because I think that ‘real’ books should be used in the early years (i’m also not a fan of reading apps on iPads).  However, full transparency here, I do have a Kobo and I absolutely love it!

Please remember that these views are entirely my own: the observations are from my own experiences as a parent and teacher and the studies I have done around boys and reading. A summary of that research will be available here soon. If you have any concerns around your child’s reading, please contact the class teacher first, especially if you suspect dyslexia might be the cause of your child’s reluctance. If you have any extra input on raising a reader, please comment below as i’d love to hear from you! 🙂 



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Before you throw that away…

Before you throw that carton away, what could you make with it? In celebration of Earth Day, here’s our invitation to make and play with the stuff you’d usually just throw away.

There are so many items that we humans must recycle or bin on a daily basis. Instead, put your creative caps on and get crafty.  We’re lucky enough to have a whole kitchen cupboard dedicated to coffee cups, egg cartons and plastic bottles.

The recycling cupboard on one of its more organised days!

Here are a few suggestions on what you can make.

Carton Castle

Materials used for the carton castle 

Made entirely from cardboard packaging, this castle is still going strong a few months later. The seven year old is obsessed with all things knights and castles so when I saw this packaging (in my mind it resembles a portcullis), I knew that it would make an ideal castle. Sometimes you just need to be a little bit creative with the way you view the raw materials!

We painted it with grey and brown acrylic, along with some glue and glitter. All the parts are loose, which means that the seven year old can redesign his castle whenever he wants.

Sensory Bottles

We made these sensory bottles for Valentine’s Day.

These are one of my favourite things to make for grisly toddlers. Otherwise known as ‘calm down’ bottles, they certainly do the trick when other toys fail.

All you need is a plastic bottle (pictured is a plastic Voss bottle), a couple of tablespoons of glycerine, water and glitter.

Fill the bottle up half way with water, then add the glycerine and glitter into the mix. Add more water to just below the top and screw on the lid. Give the bottle a little test to see if you like what you’ve made before gluing the lid shut. Simple!


Food Pouch Flowers

Daffodils made from lids for Saint David’s Day

If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably have billions of food pouch lids from baby food. We’ve kept them all and they’re great for making pictures, fine motor skills (threading) and counting too. In fact, this has just given me material for another post!


Paper Plate Masks

A bear mask made entirely from recyclables

We usually have way too many paper plates left over from birthday parties – we discovered that they make really cute masks. This bear mask was made from a coffee cup lid and scraps of card. All we did was dab a mix of various brown acrylics onto the mask and stick everything together with craft glue.

We had great fun running around The National Arboretum one sunny Sunday afternoon, pretending we were going on our own Bear Hunt!


octo update
Happy little octo-cups!


When I forget my Keep Cup (naughty!) I try to make myself feel better by holding on to the coffee cups. One of the activities we tried during an ‘Under the Sea’ themed week was to paint and craft the coffee cups into octopus – or octo-cups as we decided to call them.

These cute little octo-cups are a great way of developing fine motor skills (using scissors and glue) with a little bit of creativity thrown into the mix!

Shoe-box Studio

A collaborative animation filmed inside an old shoe box

If you’re feeling completely ambitious, try making a shoe-box animation studio. We’ve made a few mini films now, which despite their short duration, have taken entire days to make (great for rainy days). We’re new to YouTube, but you can check out one of our films here  There’s plenty of free apps that you can download to make a stop-motion animation – no expensive equipment needed at this level!


I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about our suggested ideas. Parenting is an expensive business, so we love to save money by reusing household items wherever possible. Check out our Instagram feed for daily updates on what we do at home – there’s often a recycling element to our activities!

Please comment below to let me know what you think of our ideas or even send me photos of what you’ve tried yourself! 

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Nature Walk Activity Guide 

Nature walks are one of our absolute favourite things to do as a family: they boost well being, provide an easy way to spend time together as a family and as an added bonus, are completely free!

Continue reading Nature Walk Activity Guide