Tuesday, 19 August 2014

DIY newborn photo shoot

I'll start off saying I am not a professional photographer at all, I'm just an amateur who enjoys taking pictures, especially of my babies :)

When Doof was born I spent the first few weeks in a hazy fog of endless feeds, no sleep and general first-time-mum-trying-to-make-sense-of-it-all. Sure I took lots of pictures but 99% were on my iPhone - nice but nothing special.

Photos from Doof's first week - lovely memories but not exactly technically great!

Since then we got a DSLR and so this time round I decided to try and take some better quality photos...

There is loads of information available online - I read this blog which had some really useful tips (but was a bit more serious/involved than I was planning to be):


Equipment and timings:

-         selection of 'backdrops' (dark blue towels, white embroidered bedspread, patterned giant muslins)
-         blankets & muslins
-         hats and cuddly animals that Is had been given as presents
-         beanbag
-         chairs (to hang backdrops off)

Not exactly high tech equipment!

I used a DSLR camera with a 50mm lens (so I mainly played around with the depth of focus). Most of the pictures I took in the evening - definitely not the best time if day light-wise but definitely the best if you have an active toddler running around the rest of the time!! So because of this I used a flash but with a diffuser so the light wasn't too bleaching.

The advantage of taking the pictures myself was (cost aside obviously!) I took the photos over several days - just doing 10-15 minutes of prep and shooting a day, dependent on when she was at her most sleepy.


So below are some examples of shots I took, with various props, backdrops and coverings. 


The main poses Is did were on her tummy and side-lying. She didn't really want to do any others and I wanted natural looking pictures and definitely didn't want to force her into any positions she didn't want to be in. 

Prone and side-lying positions on a variety of backgrounds/drops


Think about shooting from different angles. I just experimented and tried lots of different views. Some looked good, others not so much. That's the joy of a digital camera - you can just delete the shots you don't like!

She was in the same position but I just moved around her
The top and bottom pics were taken without moving her position, whereas the middle one was taken after I repositioned post-feed


You don't need to go crazy buying props etc. I just had a rummage around and used things we already had at home. two of the hats were knitted by a friend (one for Doof and one for Is) and the other came from Baby Gap. The two cuddly animals had been given to Is as presents so I thought it would be nice to include them in some pictures. 

Modelling Baby Gap hat

Her new monkey is about the same size as her!

Cuddling her rabbit - a bit more classy than Doof's collection of muslins!

Play around with different areas of focus. It's really easy on a DSLR to change the focus depth so just have fun seeing what looks good.

In the top pic the focus is on her hands, whereas in the bottom one it is on her face


Make sure to get some detail shots too. Their hands and feet don't stay this tiny for long! And these shots can look beautiful in black and white so try converting some.

Clothing vs nakedness

Even though all the professionals like babies to be naked I didn't strip Is off for several reasons:
- our house isn't warm enough and I couldn't find the portable heater
- it took away the spontaneity of taking the photos as if she fell asleep after a feed, she would definitely have woken up if I faffed around trying to undress her
- poop and wee would have been guaranteed to end up everywhere
But the bottom line is I don't think babies need to be naked to get cute photos. Sure, put them in an outfit you like, but I think naked pictures can look a bit forced whereas clothed ones look a bit more natural.

Extra special things

Think about anything very precious you have which you might want to include. Is' granny died a few weeks before she was born and so sadly never got to meet her. So I included one of her bracelets in some shots and was really pleased with the result.

"Different" shots
And lastly, not every photo needs to be of a peaceful sleeping baby. I took this one just as she woke up (just before I stopped shooting and fed her!). I think it is quite sweet :)

She only cried for a second but I managed to capture it!


So there it is - Is' first photo shoot :) although the pics definitely aren't professional-standard I'm really pleased with how they turned out. The only shame is it's impossible to have yourself in the pictures too.

I'd love to hear any other tips people have or if you try doing this at home yourself :)

Friday, 8 August 2014

Sensory bags

As I'm currently overdue with baby number 2 I've been looking for slightly more sedate activities to do with Doofy. So this week we've made a few sensory bags - easy to make and very non-messy (as long as they don't burst…!!).


1. Gel bag

Gel bag ingredients and final result

 What we used:
2 tubes of hair gel (meant to get clear gel but bought blue by mistake - it didn't matter though)
1 large ziploc bag
Duct tape
Selection of different shaped buttons, sequins and glitter 

Details from inside bag

This is the first one Doof played with and he was quite fascinated by it. He patted it, squished it and scrumpled it up into a ball. I then showed him some of the different objects inside and he loved trying to find new things - we were both very excited when he managed to find the star button that was hidden in a particularly deep pocket of gel!

Doof enjoying his first play with the bag


2. Foam bag

Foam bag ingredients and final result

What we used:
Shaving foam
Red and blue food colouring
1 large ziploc bag
Duct tape
Small silver baubles (used in cooking) 

Initial squidging of the foam - before it turned to grey mush!

This was the least successful bag. I filled it with foam and then made 2 small pockets of food colouring – the thought was that Doof could then squidge them all together and create coloured foam inside the bag. However I think my mistake was adding the silver baubles as when Doof played with it (it was the next day so maybe that was another problem?) the foam instantly turned to a greyish mush and the quite quickly lost its original “bounciness” that had made it feel so nice when first made. So if I make this one again I will definitely leave out the baubles and might also try it with a single colour first. Or maybe make coloured shaving foam outside the bag and then add it to the bag after…


3. Paint bag

Paint bag ingredients and final product

What we used:
Different coloured paints
1 large ziploc bag
Duct tape

I only had 3 colours to hand when I made this bag (all our cool neon ones were in Doof’s room and he was asleep so I wasn’t chancing waking him!) so it’s not the most exciting colourwise but Doof still enjoyed squishing the colours together and they made quite a nice orangey/green after mixing. I also added a few of the silver baubles to add a bit more texture to the bag.

Doof especially enjoyed stamping on the paint bag!

How each bag looked after it had been played with - you can see the middle foam one was definitely the least successful!

So there you go - three non-messy bags which toddlers can enjoy playing with time and time again (although the mixing will obviously happen mostly during the first play). Doof’s favourite is definitely the hair gel one – I think because it is the most “full” and so feels very soft and squidgy, like a gel cushion. It also feels really cool which is great in this weather!

Have you made any sensory bags with your kids? Or I’d love to hear any other ideas we could try?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

What Doofy loved - July 2014

Here is what Doofy loved this month...

1 - Eating his first grown-up-sized watermelon slice
2 - Cooking breakfast for everyone
3 - Blowing bubbles
4 - Playing with his grandparents' dog
5 - Getting soaked at the Diana Memorial Playground
6 - Shaving foam messy play
7 - Water play in coloured tubs
8 - Glow painting

If you want to do your own "What baby/toddler loved" then link up with Rachel @dinkythinks - you can see her latest post here :)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Water play

So the weather is hot hot hot at the moment and Doof is spending a lot of time outside - with water play being the perfect antidote to the soaring temperatures. Here are some of the things D has enjoyed in the last 2 weeks:

1. Bucket play

We did this when D was at his grandparents house as space and equipment was limited (see HERE for other creative play ideas we did when away from home). It was super simple - just filled up a large tupperware with water, collected an assortment of plastic animals together and then let D play. I love watching him enjoy such simple activities - he had so much fun just splashing in the water, making the animals go for a 'swim' and trying to balance them in the boat.

 2. Paddling pool

Everyone enjoys a nice cool paddle when they're hot. Doof is no exception. So we filled up his pool, put in some balls, scoops and animals and let him play and cool down at the same time.

3. Coloured water

We've had lots of fun using our "color dropz" in the bath (see here) and when I saw this post on Two-daloo's blog I thought we had to try using them in outside water play too.

The set-up was really easy - I filled 3 large plastic boxes with water, added a different colour dropz to each tub and then added corresponding colour plastic balls from our ball pit. Doof was very excited to see the different colours and I'd definitely recommend using see-through tubs like we did so they can see the colours easily. As well as the obligatory splashing and pouring, D enjoyed picking the balls out of the water and then posting them over the fence. He even managed to straddle two of the boxes with one foot in each (proud mummy moment!). 


This is quite a nice activity to set up at the start of the day and then just leave in the garden so it can be re-visited on several occasions. I only put the boxes out at around 3pm and Doof still played with them on 3 separate occasions before bed so next time I'll definitely make them in the morning instead.

4. Water slide

This is definitely one of Daddy's favourites and Doof loves this soooo much too. You do need a hose and a garden with average-good drainage so ours lives at grandparents house for us to use there. 

Initially we set it up on a slight slope so it acted like an actual slide. However D wasn't very interested in sitting and sliding (probably because the water was coooold and not that nice to sit in!) but he did really enjoy playing in the sprinklers and setting up plastic tubs to collect the water.

The next time we set it up on the flat and showed Doof how he could run along it whilst getting showered with the sprinklers. He LOVED it - after each run he would frantically sign "more" and run back to the start! We held his hands for each run as it was way too slippery for him to do on his own so we got lots of exercise too :) it was so cute hearing him say "ready steady go!" before each run.

What water fun have you had with your little ones recently?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Toddler cooking (3)

It's been a while since our last cooking post, a combination of finishing work pre-maternity leave, family illness and a new found obsession with messy play means I've been a bit distracted. But anyway here it is... 


Pizza krispie slices

I first saw this recipe on Nurturestore's blog where they made snowmen krispies. I thought Doof would enjoy making various different animal shapes instead, especially as he is really into making animal noises at the moment. However keep reading for why it mutated into a pizza...

Toddler age: 20 months

Ingredients: rice krispies, mini marshmallows, unsalted butter, icing/sprinkles to decorate

Equipment: mixing spoon, plastic bowl, saucepan, cake tin (we used a round one), baking paper, sharp knife

1. Weigh out 120g rice krispies and set aside
2. Melt 25g butter in a saucepan and mix in 150g mini marshmallows
3. Take off the heat as soon as the marshmallows have melted and pour into a plastic mixing bowl
4. Immediately pour in about ¾ of the total rice krispies and mix until they are all coated with marshmallow mix. Slowly add more rice krispies as needed
5. Spread mixture into a cake tin lined with baking paper and put in the fridge to set (we left it for an hour)
6. Remove from fridge and decorate with icing/sprinkles
7. Peel off baking paper and use a knife to cut into ‘pizza slices’

We kept the slices in an airtight container and they were still nice and chewy 2 days later.

What did Doof enjoy doing?
- pouring the rice krispies into the weighing scales and then transferring them between bowls
- patting down the mixture into the cake tin
- carrying the tin to the fridge and finding a shelf to put it on (love how he enjoys doing the most simple things!)
- decorating! It was the first time he had used the icing tubes and once he got the hang of squeezing them he went to town with all the different colours. And may have also worked out he could squeeze them and then suck the end…. hmmm…

What was Doof not interested in or unable to do?
- I did not let Doof be involved in the melting of the butter or the marshmallows (I think he’s still way too young to be allowed to cook near the lit hob) and neither did I let him cut up the krispie ‘pizza’ as it was quite difficult to cut and so I had to use a very sharp knife
- he tried to mix the krispies into the marshmallow goo and gave it a good try but it was actually quite tricky to do so I had to take over in the end (and even I struggled to mix them properly!)

This was actually much more tricky to make than I thought it was going to be – the melted marshmallow goo was very sticky and so nearly impossible to properly mix the krispies into. It also set much harder than I thought it would and so the original idea of making animal shapes (using cookie cutters) from a giant krispie square had to be abandoned in favour of a pizza. Next time I will make it with a bit more butter and add in some golden syrup to try and make the marshmallow mixture a bit more manageable. I’ll also spread it much thinner in the pan (I’d spread the amount of mixture we made across 2 pans rather than just one so it is about 1-1.5cm deep) so it is easier to cut after it has set.



So this is a bit of a cheat recipe but we're staying with grandparents at the moment and so have minimal time/space/equipment to make anything properly. But I still want Doof to have fun in the kitchen as he really enjoys cooking. So we made* croissants yesterday morning. 

* in reality this means we opened one of the fresh cans of dough, unrolled the dough, tore the sheets apart and rolled them up into croissant... So, clearly not a proper recipe, but ticked all the boxes of being easy, simple, something fun for Doof to do and with the added bonus of freshly cooked croissant for everyone's breakfast :)

Toddler age: 21 months

Ingredients: ready roll croissants (we used Jus Rol ones)

Equipment: baking tray (told you it was simple!)

1. Open can and unroll pastry
2. Tear along perforations to separate each individual croissant
3. Roll each 'triangle' into a croissant shape and place on baking tray
4. Place in oven and cook according to instructions
5. Enjoy fresh hot croissants :)

What did Doof enjoy doing?
- tearing along the perforations to separate the croissants
- rolling the individual ones up 
- arranging them on the baking tray
(he also enjoying squishing them out of shape and stretching them but we'll gloss over that... Lol)

What was Doof not interested in or unable to do?
- I had to open the can and take out the initial lump of dough
- he also needed some encouragement to stop playing with the dough when it was time to cool them!


You can see our previous cooking posts here and here and I'd love to hear about any cooking you do with your toddler :)

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Creative play (4) – travel version!

Over the last few weeks we have spent a lot of time at Doof’s grandparents’ house as his granny was very sick. Travelling up and down in the car with a travel cot, buggy, clothes for all of us, hospital bag in case I went into labour…. You can imagine there was not much room for toys! So we tried to think of some easy and slightly different games Doof could play which were still fun and/or messy but with minimal equipment/set-up etc needed


Here are the top two he enjoyed the most:

1. Daddy-O

I have to give full credit to my OH for this game – he even devised it while letting me have a lie-in :) #winwin

What we used
- a kitchen roll holder (handmade by me aged 10!)
- collection of napkin rings (would definitely advise against using any of the family silver ones… ours were made of plasticy/woven material so they couldn’t break or hurt anyone if D ate them/threw them etc)

You can probably guess what to do. Drop the napkin rings onto the pole and take them off. And drop them again and take them off. Repeat infinite times (if you are a toddler!).

Add in a wine-cooler and the game can carry on for even longer!

The joy of this was the simplicity – everything needed was from his grandparents’ house – but yet it still occupied Doofy for about 20 minutes the first time he tried it. And then he kept going back to it over the next few days, ignoring all his more brightly coloured/flashing/noisy toys!

2. Travel messy play

I love doing messy play with Doof and so even though we were going to be away from home I wanted to be able to do something with him. The main criteria I had was it had to be light and easy to transport (so no rainbow rice), needing minimal equipment and a simple set-up (so no multi-coloured oobleck).

What we came up fitted the bill perfectly. Everything needed fitted inside the tub for easy transport, set-up was less than 5 minutes and even better it all doubled up as a snack!

What we used
- packet of angel delight
- rice krispies
- assorted plastic animals
- tupperware box with lid

I made up the angel delight as per instructions (haven’t made it for yeeeears but it is super simple and was ready to use in 5 minutes) and then half-filled the tupperware with angel delight (the sea) and half with rice krispies (the island). I then set it on the floor and put the plastic animals beside it. Then it was time for Doof to explore…

The first thing he did was put the boat into the ‘sea’ so he obviously understood what I had been trying to achieve! Then he methodically put the animals in one by one, watching as they all got pink gunk on their feet and then their bodies as he slowly submerged them.

He has eaten rice krispies before so quickly started sampling them and then tasted small bits of angel delight. We did this play quite soon after his tea so I knew he wasn’t super hungry and so therefore unlikely to eat vast quantities (and so not sleep later on!).

He played with this sensory tub for about 15 minutes which is pretty good for his attention span and enjoyed getting his hands messy. I then put the whole tub in the fridge ready for use again the next day (I probably wouldn’t use it much beyond that).

Even though I thought this was pretty quick and easy to make up, to make it even simpler next time I might use yoghurt (e.g. a big tub of plain fromage frais) instead of angel delight.


Have you done any creative or messy play while away from home or on holiday? We're going to the States for a couple of weeks in a few months time so would love to hear other ideas/suggestions :)

Monday, 21 July 2014

Clock update

So how did we get on during the first week after implementing the clock (link)…?

Thursday (morning 1) - change set for 5.35am
4.40 awake, teething. Gave gel and drink. Settled back to sleep but remained a bit unsettled. 
5.15 awake and wanting to get up. Doing milk sign and all done sign. Did keep looking at rabbit (still sleeping). Put a book and toy in cot with him.
5.25 I sat in chair away from bed and he suddenly lay down (on top of all the toys and books! Oops) and went to sleep!
5.31 D started playing with wooden Noah's ark but didn't make a fuss to get up and stayed lying down
5.37 rabbit has changed but he's still lying down and hasn't noticed!

Friday (morning 2)
 Rabbit ‘woke up’ at 5.35. Doof called to get up at 5.37. Enough said :)

Saturday (morning 3) - now at grandparents house so new environment and in travel cot... Change set for 5.45am
4.50 D wakes up, signs that he wants to get out of bed. Show him rabbit sleeping and say too early
4.50-4.55 lots of fussing
4.55-5.05 hurrah quiet lying/sleeping
5.05-5.15 more fussing, signing he's hungry, signing for milk
5.15-5.25 hurrah quiet lying/sleeping
5.25 now he's very cross and crying even though I'm in the room with him. Put a book in bed with him and show him rabbit still sleeping
5.35-5.43 hurrah quiet lying/sleeping/book pages turning
5.43 bah he wakes up and rabbit still has 2 minutes of sleeping left... Manage to distract him with kisses through cot bars and then YAY the rabbit is awake and we can all get up!!!

This morning was really difficult. He kept looking over at the rabbit, understood rabbit was sleeping as he would say "sshhhhh" but he still wanted to get up. To be fair to him we were in a completely different environment. Anyway if we could cope with nearly an hour then hopefully can't get much worse than that...

Sunday (morning 4)
Pretty unsettled from 1.30 on and off. Awake at 5.15. Intermittently settled for few mins between 5.15-5.20. Cross between 5.20-5.35. Then at 5.35 fell asleep to 6.22!!!!! YAY!

Monday (morning 5)
Woke up at 3.50 for a drink. Then back to sleep until 5.55. Rabbit already awake - woohoo!

Tuesday (morning 6) - change set for 6am
Woke once in the night for a drink and then awake at 6.10

Wednesday (morning 7)
Woke once in the night for a drink and then awake at 6.15


Whenever D wakes up now he looks at the clock to see what the rabbit is doing - and either says "sshhhhh" if the rabbit is sleeping or makes his noise for a rabbit if its awake. I think the clock has definitely helped (a) him understand when it's time to get up and (b) us to have an end-goal in site when he wakes up early. It also acts as a good wind-down tool when he's going to bed. 


So far we highly recommend it!!

PS this is completely unsponsored etc etc, we just bought the clock in a desperate bid to get some extra sleep :)