Thursday, 30 December 2010

Cooking for Kids: Stilton Mushrooms on Toast

One of the nicest things about being in the UK is the large choice that you get in the supermarket.  It was something that I totally took for granted until my husband was working in the Netherlands and we spent school holidays there with him.  Stilton is the most famous blue English cheese but I have yet to find it in either Germany or the Netherlands so as a result I usually buy a wedge when we are here.  Luckily for me this was sitting in the fridge when I needed a quick supper and was watching Nigel Slater with his Christmas Suppers on iPlayer.  This is my adaptation of his recipe which you can find here.  He suggests serving this with rice or as an accompaniment to steak - we just had it simply on plain toast.  Delicious.  This amount would have served 2 (or one very hungry mum with Dad having a taste now and then ;)  )

approx 300 g of button mushrooms, sliced
dried thyme
200g Stilton
50 g  pinenuts
toast to serve

Fry the mushrooms in the butter until soft.
Sprinkle over a pinch of dried thyme whilst they are cooking.
Crumble over the Stilton and pinenuts.
Allow the Stilton to melt into a creamy sauce.
Serve on toast.
About 10 minutes start to finish!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Activities

Snowbound this week as the UK has the worst weather for over a century.
Having flown in from Amsterdam last week we found ourselves stuck in a house with very little in the way of food or craft stuff but here is what we have managed so far....
Luckily I stocked up on cheap craft kits when I got the chance and stashed them away
we did

sticker mosiacs (sort of painting by numbers using stickers)

scrape art postcards

heat fuse bead ornaments

foam and sequin decorations


we also used the foam templates to draw around then paint

B's ended up totally brown where he mixed all the paint together - then he decided the templates needed to be decorated as well.

paper chains

and Christmas cookies
Heres wishing you all a merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Party Games: Paper Plane Attack

My littlest is 3 at the beginning of January and so we have been thinking about birthday parties past and present.  One of the games that we played at the last party we had at our house was "paper plane attack" and all the kids involved found it an absolute blast.
You need enough kids to divide them into two teams and a fairly big space to play this in.
Put some kind of barrier down the centre of the space (we used a line of chairs).
Give each child two pieces of paper and get them to make paper planes from them.
When everyone has two planes divide the group into two teams one each side of the barrier.
You have one referee who has a watch to time 1-2 minutes.
When the referee says go everyone throws their planes over the barrier towards the other team.  You are allowed to pick up any planes that land on your teams side of the barrier and throw them back.
When the time is up the winning team is the team with the least number of planes on their side of the barrier.
Have lots of rounds to decide the overall winning team!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Fine Motor Skills: Pipe Cleaner Threading

Threading for beginners with  large bore beads and pipe cleaners.  This was supposed to be an activity for B but proved to be a hit with everyone.  I now have three lovely new bracelets.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fine Motor Skills and Scissor Practise: Playdough and cotton bud hedgehogs

Thanks to A for this activity!  He appeared with the first one in his hand and R and B immediately wanted to make their own.
 This is A's

B decided to join in
This is his first one
R decided that she wanted her spines short so cut them in half
B then decided that he wanted his cut with the scissors - especially if he got to do the cutting.  Soon we had a small hedgehog family.

Friday, 10 December 2010

File Folder Games: Number Train

Onward with the battle to get B to count!
I found a really colourful train to print out from here.
Next I loaded it into a paint program and set to work.
I wanted to print the first set of carriages with just the numerals 0-9 on them.  These were to be stuck in the file folder.
Then I printed an identical set to allow one-to-one corresponding matching of numerals. They were laminated for durability as usual.
Then we printed another set and stuck "cargo" in the carriages before laminating; you could use just dots to make it more basic but I figured my anti-number son might like something a little different.  BTW sequins are OK to go through a laminator. (I only discovered this thanks to a video by Shelley over at if you haven't found her site already head over there as there is lots of stuff for free as well as resources to buy)
We also printed a third set to use much later with the numbers in word form.

So much for the plan.
Here is the first version finished.

Although it will do for now I am not happy with the finished graphics.  First my printer ran out of yellow so the colours are not as good as the original graphic.  Also I printed out the graphic to fit an A4 page and it is pixelated. Finally it is a little boring really I want to add some rails and some scenery.  (Stand by for the revised version in the New Year if I get a chance!)
B loved helping to stick the trains together.  Then my number hating son put the pattern recognition skills he has learnt over the last few months to good use and before we could even play it once he noticed the patterns were numbers "No Counting!" and off he went!
Better luck next time I hope!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Numbers and Counting: Can you drink with...10 straws?

We took the opportunity of B wanting a bottle of juice with a straw to sneak in some counting practise.  I think the sheer absurdity of it made him go along with this but he had a whale of a time. 
I started off with one straw and said "Can you drink with one straw?" and counting it.  I then repeated this until we got to 10 straws. "No counting!" didn't come up at all for once as he was so busy giggling.

Letter C: C is for Caterpillar: Counting Caterpillar

As an attempt to get my anti-numbers 2 year old to do counting we have been trying to do "different" ways of counting objects.  Since he loves animals and has a compulsion to match things  I created this caterpillar with 10 body segments.

The idea obviously is to put one manipulative of your choice in each body segment.
So far so good, then Mummy had to go and count them "No Counting!" and everything hit the floor - back to the drawing board :)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Fine Motor Skills: Clay and Playdough

A had a disappointing accident at school this week.  On the way out of the building he got caught in the general hometime scrum and dropped the snail that he had made from air-drying clay.  Cue one very upset boy!  On the basis that it would also give B a new experience I treated the kids to one pack between the three of them.
B decided that he needed to make an "occapus" because that was the picture on the pack.  I rolled out the sausage shaped legs and B joined them together and made the face.

A remade his snail on a skateboard (it is an homage to "Eric" the skateboarding snail in Snailsbury Tails childrens cartoon series on CBBC).

R made two snails by using coils although these didn't survive being examined by B :( 

 B then decided that he wanted to make a snail like his brother and sister so we made some playdough.
We followed the recipe at Prekinders which used boiling water rather than heating the dough in a pan - much easier than others I have tried.
In the end though we used trucks,cars and dinosaurs to make impressions in the playdough instead
and used cookie cutters to cut out shapes
Of course the playdough gets put aside to use another day for counting games and spelling mats.

File Folder Games:Cartoon Animals

Inspired by the file folder games we downloaded yesterday from Preschool Printables R decided to make another one for B herself.  She set to work armed with her favourite silver gel pen and wrote out letters of the alphabet cutting them out as she went.  Then the pieces mysteriously disappeared.  Was it the terrible two year old or his paper munching brother who was responsible?  Some mysteries will remain unsolved forever. To salvage the situation we downloaded the animal flashcards from here and made an animal matching game instead.

B loved it just as much as the ones yesterday.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Shapes: ship shape file folder game

Free resource to download from Preschool Printables
Ship shape file folder game - match the shapes on the sails.  Could also be used as part of a transport/boat theme.

Shapes: ginger bread man file folder game

Free resource to download from Preschool Printables
Gingerbread man matching game - match the buttons; teaches circle, diamond,heart,oval,rectangle, square,star and triangle.  Of course this could also be used as a resource with the gingerbread man story or (at least here in Germany) as a Christmas themed resource as the shops are full to the brim with gingerbread themed stuff at the moment!

B found this one quite easy to match the shapes but didn't know the names so we are reinforcing the shape names and ignoring the colours when we use this.

Letter B: B is for beans

We did quite a lot of things on the B is for beans theme whilst the bigger kids had their halfday of school on Wednesday.
1.We stuck beans on a B.  Good for fine motor skills.

We used a glue stick for this one as I know B likes to use this as it is the glue used most often by the bigger kids - not today though as you can see from the number of beans we actually managed to get onto the paper.
2.We counted the beans and stuck them on.

This was more successful as I put dots of PVA glue onto the paper and B matched the beans to the dots.  Then I made the mistake of getting him to count them "Not counting" is the favourite chant we get whenever we do this.  Yep I have a 2 year old who can recognise most of the lowercase alphabet but can't count to 10!
3.We made a bean sensory box.  Biggest hit of the lot but we were going for a mini-meltdown by this point so no images.  You know what a sensory box looks like anyway right?
4.We used two types, beans and lentils, and (tried) to sort them into big and little.  B just wanted to use the bowl with them in like another sensory box activity so we went with the flow.

Some days you just have to pick your battles ;)
When we had finished R noticed this pattern on one of the beans - all totally natural, no cheating I promise!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Christmas Traditions: Sinterklaas

One of the interesting things about being an internationally based family is seeing how other countries celebrate our own familiar festivals.  One such festival is Christmas. In the UK Christmas Day is the major feast day Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children on Christmas Eve (24th December) and they are placed under the Christmas Tree (or in a stocking hung on the foot of the bed).  This is I suspect largely the same as the US and most of the rest of the world; however in the Netherlands (where my children are now at school) it is slightly different.
In the Netherlands Christmas Day itself is a rather more muted occasion and children celebrate earlier on December 6th at Sinterklaas.
Sinterklaas celebrates the patron saint of Amsterdam, St. Nicholas; and as the similarity in the name suggests is thought to be the basis for Santa Claus.  On Sinterklaas Eve (5th December) children put their shoes next to the fireplace with some carrots or hay inside.  During the night Sinterklaas and his assistant Black Peter arrive from Spain in a steam boat and he travels round the country on his grey horse leaving presents in the childrens shoes.  Traditionally all the family members get a chocolate in the shape of their initial together with a poem.
What all this means practically is that the shops are now full of people buying presents ready for Sinterklaas Day in the way we usually find in mid December in the UK.  We were told by Dutch friends and colleagues that if we wanted to get the chocolate letters we had better do it by the 15th of November or they would be sold out!  Toy shops and shopping centres are selling out of this years "must have" toys now and panic is setting in for those parents who can't get the only thing that their little darling wants due to the potent mixture of peer pressure and advertising.  We spent the entire day yesterday scouring the shops for "Paul Frank" stuff which is the only thing R's classmate put down on her Secret Santa Wishlist.  Not a good thing to do with three children and a husband on a Saturday.
Normally of course we are also in the middle of our own shopping panic but this year we are able to sit back and laugh about the whole thing (aside from yesterday!).  The shops will all be stocked up again in between Sinterklaas and Christmas Day and we get a more relaxed time because everyone else has already pushed the boat out in early December.
So there you are- just when you thought you knew Santa Claus; he comes from Spain not the North Pole; he comes in a steam boat not a sleigh; he rides a horse and doesn't have reindeer; he has a human helper not elves and he comes on December the 5th not the 24th to do his deliveries; so close but yet so different. I wonder how many other countries celebrate Christmas in a different way?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Letter T is for Transport: Transport matching cards

Like the majority of little boys B is obsessed with cars, planes and trains.  Today we printed out some cute matching cards from activity village (you can find the pdf here) and laminated them to make them more durable.

We printed two copies of the page so we could play a couple of games.
First we laid out one copy of each picture on the sofa and B was handed the other cards to match the pairs. (This of course could be done as a file folder game)

Then R and I played Memory. We started with all cards the face down and the players take it in turns to turn over two cards - if they match you keep them if not turn them back; player with the most pairs at the end wins.
Finally the cards could be used for a transport themed game of snap.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Halloween Activities to Download

Completely off the handmade ghosts; decorating pumpkins and other crafty type activities these are the printables that we downloaded to use this week with the halloween theme.

Activity pack that contains loads of stuff to make and do some inside some outside - you have to have this one emailed to you but it is free.
Scavenger Hunt to do in your local woodland
Halloween wordsearches and other like printables from
Halloween printables from Ben and Jerrys - we used the bone maze

Loads to do and not a Trick or Treat in sight.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Cutting and Sticking: Leaf Wreath

Paper plates make the perfect thing to stick objects on to make a wreath.  We made ours using leaves cut from paper but we could have used real leaves (Germany isn't big on the poop scoop as a result I am not big on using anything from where people walk their dogs! - parks and pavements included; we have already come a cropper in the three months we have been here -yuck!).  It also gave us the opportunity to practise scissor skills, something A as a left-hander needs.
I put together a page of leaf outlines (cut and paste from and printed these on plain "autumn" coloured paper as well as white paper so the kids could do their own colours.  The yellow went down especially well with A for whom this has become an all time favourite colour ever since he found out it was the favourite colour of his best friend Rebekah.
All the kids had to do was cut them out and stick them on.

We made a chain of wreaths so they could all hang on the front door, that was infinitely more fair than banishing one wreath to the garage door and the other round the back of the house.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Halloween Crafts: Handprint Ghosts

Countdown to Halloween so we made some decorations.  We could have made these using handprints in white paint but since B can't be persuaded to put even a finger into paint we opted for drawing onto paper instead.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Paper Craft: Fashion Flip Flaps

Most little girls fancy themselves as a fashion designer at some point - usually round about the time that you are standing in the clothes shop and suddenly everything is "Yuck!"
If your own little miss wants a fashionista moment as R did recently this is the ideal make to keep them happy without hitting the clothes shops;

courtesy of "Art Attack".

Here is R's version...

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Card Games: War

Number of players: 2
Deal the cards equally between the two players.  The players keep their cards face down.
The players turn over the top card from their pile at the same time.  The player with the card with the highest value gets to keep both the cards.  If the cards are the same face value then the cards remain where they are and the next card from each pile is turned over.
The winner is the person who collects all the cards.  (Note: since this is a game of luck rather than skill it is good for younger players but you may want to impose a time limit rather than play until one person gets all the cards as it can take a long time)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Card Games: Blink

Number of players: 2

Deal the cards out equally between both players.  The players are allowed to look at their cards but keep them hidden from the other player.
The first player puts down any card to start the game.
The players then take it in turns to put down a card that is either the same face value or the same suit.  If a player can't lay down a card the other player takes their turn.
The winner is the first person to put down all their cards.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Card Games: Nose

Number of players: 3 or more

For each player take four cards with the same face value from the deck.  Discard the remaining cards.
Shuffle the cards and deal four to each player.
The players are allowed to look at the cards in their hand.  The object is to end up with four cards of the same value.
All players have a go together.  Each player chooses one card to pass to the player on their left.When everyone says "1,2,3 pass" all the players put the cards face down on the table and pass them to the left together.  This is repeated until one player ends up with four cards with the same face value.  The player with the four cards puts their finger on their nose, all the other players have to do the same.  The last player to put their finger on their nose is out of the next round.
Before second and subsequent rounds remove four cards of the same value from the deck.
The winner is the player who gets four cards of the same value in the last round.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Card Games : Go Fish

Easy game for under tens but they may need somewhere to "hold" their cards so they can see them all - we put them face up on the table and use a book as a shield to stop cheating!
Number of players: 2 or more
The object of the game is to collect sets of four of each value of card.  The winner is the player with the most complete sets of four.
Use the whole pack of cards.  Deal four cards to each player.  The rest of the cards are placed face down in the middle.
Each player looks at their cards throughout the game without showing them to the other players.
The first player looks at his cards and chooses a value of a card that is the same as one in their hand.  They then choose another player (not necessarily the next immediate player) and ask if they have any cards of that value.  If that player has any cards of that value they hand all of them over and the first player gets another go. If they have no cards of that value they say "Go Fish!" and the first player takes a new card from the pile.  It is then the next players go.
When a player collects four cards of a particular value they remove them from their hand and place on the table next to them.
The game is over when all the cards have been removed from the pile.  The winner is the player with the most sets of four cards.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Card Games : Nines

Number of players: 1

Remove all four 10's from the deck before start of play
Deal three rows of three cards face up (nine cards in total).  Place the rest of the cards face down.
The aim of the game is to get rid of the pile of cards.
 Looking at the cards face up find combinations of one or more cards that add up to nine.  (Number cards are taken as face value, king+queen+jack (one of each of these) are taken as a nine.)  Cover each card in the "nine" with a new card from the pile.
To win the game get rid of the whole pile.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills:Bubble Wrap

Is there any kid in the entire world who doesn't like popping the bubbles in bubble wrap.  We bought a new oven this weekend (pizza on the menu again after 6 weeks waiting! Yey!) and of course it was swathed in bubble wrap.
A, R and B all wanted to get hold of it and pop the bubbles but it was B who got to play with it longest in the end.  He tried popping the bubbles by squeezing them between his fingers but this didn't work too well.  His preferred technique found from empirical observation was to place it on a flat surface (like the floor) and press down.
All good fine motor stuff but gross motor?  If you have a big enough roll of bubble wrap put on the floor and walk, run, jump, hop,skip, dance, crawl and anything else you can think of to burst the bubbles, no fingers allowed. Even better if you have more than 1 piece then you can make it a contest.  Manic but fun!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Recycling Crafts:Windsock

The wind has definitely decided that it is Autumn and is blowing for all it is worth - it's almost like being back in the UK.  This was a quick weekend craft make to take advantage of the weather.
You will need:

large plastic bottle, ours was about 1.5 litres
ribbon or string to hang the windsock up
plastic carrier bags

Cut the bottle into rings each about 4-5 inches high.
Take a hole punch or pair of scissors and make two holes in the top edge of the bottle opposite each other.
Cut a length of string or ribbon and tie each end to one of the holes to give a hanging loop.
Punch holes around the bottom edge of the ring.  We did eight holes (even number) to be able to use two colours.  How many holes you use will depend on how big your bottle was to start with.
Cut the bags into strips and poke through the punched holes, tie each one with a double knot at one end to make a long tail.  All of this is good practise for little fingers.
Hang somewhere it can blow in the wind.