Monday, 30 March 2015

A week of Elmer


Everyone loves Elmer, right? What's not to love? He's cute, multi-coloured, friendly and even teaches children to be happy being themselves, even if that means being a bit different.
 
So when we started Toddler Book Club he was an obvious choice for the first book :)
 
But we love him so much we decided to do a whole week of Elmer-based activities... And here they are, all 7 activities :)
 
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Face painting
 
I saw this idea on Meri Cherry's blog and D loved it! It must be the most simple face-painting to do but still looks super cute and definitely got us all in the "Elmer" mood. D actually ended up asking for his face to be painted on several occasions during the week and even got upset when he realised that his usually-messy-spaghetti-bolognese-eating was going to mean I'd end up wiping some of Elmer off and refused to eat it!
 

 
  
Yoghurt painting
 
I blogged about this here earlier in the week and highly recommend trying this as we had a lot of (messy) fun with this activity.
 

 

Rainbow platter
 
I wanted to include one Elmer-related snack and this one was so popular that I'm definitely going to repeat it/variations of it. Although not as Elmer-like as some of the other activities, it is multi-coloured like him and that's the connection ;)

 


This was great to do with a toddler - D helped with the cutting/chopping and then we talked about each colour as he laid them all on the platter. It was also great for talking about prepositions "behind" "on top of" "next to" and of course for singing the rainbow song (which he learnt in nursery last month). D was so proud to have helped with the preparation and I think felt very grown-up being allowed to help himself from the large selection. Over the course of the day he slowly ate nearly everything (he had some help from another toddler friend) - the only things that got left were some orange pepper slices and cucumber. Not bad going :)
 


I loved how quick and easy this was to throw together (less than 5 minutes) and that D could then help himself when hungry. Usually he regularly asks for snacks and would turn his nose up if I tried to give him some tomatoes! But this worked a treat - next time I'm going to add in some cooked broccoli and a few other vegetables that he isn't usually so keen on...
 
 
Paint-your-own Elmer
 
This was done as part of Toddler Book Club (read more about it here) and nicely illustrated that even very simple things can be fun.
 


 
Milk-paint Elmer toast
 
We painted toast before for Valentine's Day and this was an obvious Elmer-related thing to do with all his different colours. Although I only made 6 colours (and the orange one looked a more dubious brown...). But anyway, D had fun painting and the toast was delicious :)
 



 
Milk carton elephant
 
How cute are these?!
 

   
I'd never thought to do anything with all our used milk cartons before - crazy when we seem to get through 50 gallons a week! - so this was the perfect craft as they make brilliant elephants.
 
We collected a few different sizes and did a "base coat" in the primary colours. Next I gave D some coloured paper squares, some sticky felt and a pritt stick. He loved choosing which colour to use next and gluing is always a favourite activity! He may not have quite got the patchwork effect spot on but I think they look great and we're all done by him :)
 
 


This is a great activity to do after your milk paint toast obviously ;)



Plate painting

 
This was the one activity that required a bit more planning and more adult input. But D still loved doing this and I think the end result is great :)
 
First I got a plain white plate (thanks Ikea!) and drew an outline of Elmer in pencil. I also drew a very rough patchwork of squares, just to help remind D about choosing different colours. There's no problem doing as much drawing in pencil as you like because as soon as you put it in the dishwasher all the pencil marks will disappear. Then I drew around the outline with a dark blue ceramic pen (you need to use the right pens or your drawing won't 'set' properly).
 
 
Next D coloured Elmer in. I tried to give D as much freedom as possible (after all the whole point of the activity is for him to have fun, whilst learning a new skill, talking about colours and practising his fine motor skills) and you can see the patchwork squares are definitely toddler-work rather than by a perfectionist! But when he went over the outline by mistake, or did a massively over-enthusiastic scribble (happened surprisingly rarely!) then I did remove the paint (very easy to do when still wet).

We had a pack of 5 ceramic paints from Tiger and we did a different colour each day - this was a very easy way to do it as then each colour had dried from the day before so he couldn't smudge them or mix them together and make Elmer all brown!
 
 

There were a few little bits left uncoloured at the end which I coloured in with our oil-based sharpies (the pink and light purple bits) and I went over any bits of the outline that had been coloured in. Then I baked it in the oven (90 mins at 160 deg C) and this was the result:
 

I love it! And more importantly so does D :) don't forget to write your child's name and the date on it if you make one - I wrote it on the back.
 
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So there you go, 7 activities around Elmer. You could do one a day for a week or have a crazy elephant day and do them all at once! I'd love to hear if you do any of them, or if you have any other Elmer-themed things we could try :)
 
 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Some new Munchkin products... (review)



We were recently sent a couple of things to review by Munchkin - we already have lots of their toys (and previously reviewed their Undersea Explorer and Caterpillar spillers stacking cups) but we were very excited to be given a sneak peek and trial of some of their new ranges :)

Squirtin’ Farmyard friends
(8 animals per pack, RRP £9.99)


What's not to love about bath squirters? They are an essential part of bathtime for us and what I like about these ones are that they are *not* ocean/nautically themed... Is it just me or can you only buy squirters that are fish/octopuses/ducks/frogs etc?

So excited and they weren't even in the bath yet!
Well now you can have farm animals instead - much more fun practising all their noises with your toddler (have you ever tried explaining what noise an octopus makes?!) and for a bit of variety all the actual squirters are in different places (sounds obvious as all the animals have their mouths in different places…). Cue endless entertainment when you squirt your toddler unexpectedly because he's expecting the water to come from somewhere else!

Bathtime fun :)


Both D and Iz love these animals and at least 2 or 3 come in the bath every night. Aside from the regular squirting use, they have also been used as teethers (by Iz), during target practice and in “jelly on a plate” games (will make sense to any parents who’ve taken their babies to swim classes!)…

Wibble wobble... jelly on a plate...
 
Squirting the octopus' mouth
I'm also looking forward to using them in water/ice small world play and putting them in our paddling pool in the summer – so much fun to be had! :)

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The Miracle 360o Sippy Cup
(RRP £4.99, capacity 10oz/approx 300ml)

This cup is genius and I love the concept! You sip from the edge like a regular cup but it is 100% leak and spill proof (which we have rigorously tested!!). The absence of a spout means it is better for growing teeth and the design means you can drink from anywhere around the rim.

 
We’ve tried lots of other brands“no spill” cups before but either they do spill or they have complicated multi-part valve systems with small pieces that you have to take apart to clean, which at best are fiddly or at worst get lost rendering the cup useless… This cup however has just two large parts to the lid – one clips on top of the other and they both then screw onto the body of the cup. Easy peasy to both assemble and clean :)

D demonstrating how to use it

Unfortunately at the moment I think this cup is right in between D and Iz’s age. D could happily use it (and actually asked to have his water in it today) but at 26 months he is already capable of drinking from an open cup and I think he did use a slightly different drinking action with this cup to a normal cup. The cup is marketed for 12 months up but I tried it with Iz to see what happened anyway. She made quite a good go of it but overall the cup is a bit too big for her and she struggled with there being no handles (note – Munchkin also do a sippy cup in this range with handles which is designed for 6 months and up – I think Iz would be much better with that cup). I will definitely get this cup back out for her in a few months though.
 
Iz hasn't quite got the hang of it yet...

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Deluxe Snack & Drink Pod
(RRP £12.99)

We’ve always got by without a snack holder before (and only had the occasional incident of rice cakes tumbling onto the pavement…) but now D is a bit older and I am usually juggling Iz at the same time, I thought somewhere that he could store his snacks and drink within easy reach surely had to be a winner?


 And we found this one great. You can quickly and securely attach it to any bar or pole (usually the side of the buggy) and the design is very clever – once on it is pretty impossible for your toddler to take off as the release button just turns and turns without anything happening (tip for grown-ups – you have to push in and twist at the same time). Initially I was worried that it wouldn’t fit well on our buggy because of the slanty handles (we have a bugaboo bee) but it was fine.

(it was Red Nose Day when I took this photo...)
You can choose to either have it facing into the buggy or facing out (which would make your buggy slightly wider). We nearly always use it facing in, although this does mean there is slightly less room for D to get in/out of the buggy. But then it only takes a couple of seconds to take the pod on and off so it’s not a big deal.

D loved being able to help himself to his drink when we were on the move and he’s always excited to see what snacks are hiding in the snack pot. I like that the snack pot is not inbuilt so you can remove it for easy cleaning and filling with snacks, and also use the section of the holder for other things (so far it has held D’s gloves, his nursery report card, some plastic animals and Iz’s hat…).


I don’t trust Iz to help herself responsibly yet so when she’s riding in the buggy I just move the pod higher up and then I stay in control of her snacks ;)

Iz's rice cakes are safely out of her reach ;)



And most importantly? This frees up the Velcro bottle pouch we have attached to the handlebars for my drink ;) woohoo!

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We were kindly sent all these products to road test for the purpose of reviewing but above is what we honestly thought. The squirty animals and snack pod are in pretty much daily use and I'm going to bring out the cup again once Iz is a little bit older :)


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Toddler Book Club - session 1 "Elmer"

I've recently started a "book club" for toddlers in our home (you can read more about how it works/the schedule here) and would love other bloggers to join in - so if you fancy reading the book and then doing a related activity (either what we do or something different), let me know.

If you'd like to join in without blogging just leave a comment, or if you blog about it, give me your URL and I'll update the post to include your link :)

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ELMER

Preparation the night before :)

We love Elmer the elephant (you can read more about how much and why in this post "A week of Elmer") - not only does the book have a lovely message, but the illustrations are bright and colourful and the jungle scenes are full of animals to talk about/copy noises etc.

Elmer is a multi-coloured elephant who gets fed up with being different. He tries to disguise himself so he fits in with the herd better but soon realises that standing out from the crowd isn't always a bad thing.

Snack: Rainbow platter
You can see more details in this post but here was the snack before the kids demolished it :)


Activity: Elmer painting 
This craft was super simple. I printed off an Elmer outline and then drew a few more with a Sharpie, laid out some paints and crayons and we were all set. As D is still a bit little to draw proper lines, I drew a rough chequerboard on Elmer in pencil - not that he stayed inside the lines at all but they acted as a prompt for him to think about different colours and what to put where. D really enjoyed this and did a mixture of paints and crayons and even came back to it later in the day to add some more details to it!



How did it work?

Not bad for our first session I think :) D was a lot more interested in listening to the story and doing the activity than the other toddler (we only had 2 this week). I'm not sure if that was because he knew the story, because it was me reading/setting up the activity or because it was being held at his house (and the other little guy was too distracted by all the new toys in our house!). 


But we survived 2 toddlers, a crawling baby and a rolling baby... and had fun with Elmer along the way. D even insisted on having his face painted again to really get into the mood :)


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At our next book club we're reading "The Cat in the Hat". If you've done any Elmer-related activities I'd love to hear below. Or if you're planning to join in next time it'd also be great to hear from you :)

Monday, 23 March 2015

How to make tummy time fun... and sociable


And get your baby to create their first masterpiece at the same time :)


To be honest having strict "tummy time" doesn't really happen here anymore as Iz can roll whichever way she wants but she definitely prefers sitting or lying on her back so I'm always looking for ways to make her enjoy being on her tummy more.

This play has a super simple set up. Just place a piece of paper in a ziplock bag, squirt in a few blobs of paint and tape it to the floor/mat/whatever - I used our tuff spot (although think it probably wasn't the comfiest surface for tummy time!). That's it :)


What's he doing?

Smooooosh the paint

Ooooo paint circles

Crikey, he's still going strong....

Iz and D both really enjoyed this activity. I loved how she watched to see what he was doing. And he had so much fun talking about the colours, mixing them together and then tracing different shapes in the paint (he's just learnt shape names in the last few weeks). I was actually surprised at how long this kept D's attention and he even went back to it twice more later in the afternoon.
 
Busy busy busy

Love watching them interact together


Stamping is just as fun
 
And at the end you can carefully peel back the plastic bag, let the paint dry and there you have it, your baby's first masterpiece!


So proud of Iz's first picture :)
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It's not always easy for toddler and baby siblings to do exactly the same activity so I loved watching them side-by-side doing this. Have you got any ideas for play that could involve them both? I'd love to hear more suggestions :)

Friday, 20 March 2015

Music play



This is the third in my baby sensory play series - this is the noisy one :)

You can read my other posts here:
Ball yoghurt painting
Ribbon play for babies

Do you have a budding rockstar?


It also has the simplest set-up and you won't need to buy anything at all!

What you need:
- Collection of saucepans, plastic bowls, Tupperware containers
- Wooden spoon,metal spoon plus anything else you fancy 
- A baby

That's it. Surround your baby with your homemade drumset and you'll be amazed how long they stay playing for :)
 
Bang bang bang

Oooo this one makes even more noise!


Loving the whisk :)

It's me!!!


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Have you made musical instruments with your little ones? That's our next plan - to make some homemade shakers and string instruments :) 

Who needs expensive toys like this?! (this was at our hairdressers!)