Monday, 28 February 2011

March the First - St David's Day Activities

What do St Patrick, St Andrew, St George and St David have in common?  Obviously from the names you can guess that they are all saints but did you know they are the patron saints of the countries making up the UK and Ireland?  Patrick for Ireland; Andrew for Scotland, George for England and David for Wales and each of them has their own day in the calendar.  The most celebrated globally has got to be Saint Patrick, the American staff at the International School in Stuttgart went all out last year when we were there; face paint, themed activities etc. ; but Saint Davids Day - not a mention.
One of the things I like to do is (try!) and fit in whatever activities we are doing with calendar events.  With things like Christmas this is really easy but for other occasions it needs a little resourcefulness.  So here is our list of possible activities all themed around Wales, dragons, leeks and daffodils and the colours white, red and green.  If you do try any of them let me know how it goes!

St Davids Day at Activity - lots of ideas and printables
More resources at DLTK Kids -crafts and colouring
Visit Wales has pages for making a dragon, daffodil or Welsh flag
ichild has some nice printables for older children
Filth Wizardry has some nice stuff about Wales and a craft as well
Clever Toddler has some ideas for younger ones.

My own cunning idea is that the traditional Welsh costume (for girls) has a hat that looks pretty similar to those pilgrim hats that you see in every kind of activity/craft page around thanksgiving.  Maybe its just me but I think so...
So I intend to adapt some of the things I have bookmarked from earlier in the year.  

Incidently the costume above is part of a historical publicity stunt during the 19th century - in reality the costume worn in Wales was not really so different from what the English wore.  But during the 19th century one Lady Llanover who had a stately home (Llanover House)  in South Wales had her employees and tenants dress in a standardised costume and she popularised Wales as a tourist destination.  It must have been a resounding success because this is now recognised everywhere as the National Costume and children in Wales dress like this to go to school on St Davids Day.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

See Trace Make: Colours

More See Trace Make sheets for future use.  Colours are something that B has off pat (most of the time - purple and pink still get confused) but these are for his brother to learn to spell and will then be passed on down.  A really doesn't like writing,or worksheets, but these sheets fool him into thinking that he is doing something babyish (and therefore easy so he doesn't run the risk of not being able to do it), and the make part of the sheets is a good idea for spelling without writing.
Anyway here are the links to the pdf files for you to download the sheets should you want to!


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cooking for kids: Smartie Cookies

Easy throw it all together recipe that contains no eggs.
100 g butter
100 g sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup or honey
150 g self raising flour
85 g Smarties (or any other sugar coated chocolate beans)
Throw everything together in a bowl and mix to form a soft dough (if mixture is too dry then add a tbsp of milk).  Place heaps of the mixture onto baking trays lined with parchment; use a teaspoonful for each heap for standard size cookies (we prefer to use a dessertspoon and have giant cookies), space well apart as they spread as they cook.  Bake in the oven (Gas Mark 4/ 350F/180C) for 12 minutes-18 minutes until they are golden brown.
Take cookies out, they should be really soft, allow to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes to firm up a little.  Put cookies onto a cooling rack – if they are too hard and they break as you remove them from the tray pop back into the warm oven for a minute to soften again.

Science Sunday:Homemade seismograph

R had to make her own seismograph for her homework this week and it was so cool we thought we would share it here.
To make our seismograph we used:
A strong cardboard box
a plastic cup/yogurt pot
weights to put in the cup (we used marbles)
a pen
sticky tape
paper to record you tremors
Put the box so the front is open.
In the top of the box make a hole for the wire.
Take the cup, make a hole in the bottom for the pen, secure with tape.
Punch holes in the top of the cup so it can be suspended with the wire.
Weight the cup with the marbles or whatever you are using.
Tie the wire to the cup and feed it through the hole in the top of the box.
Arrange the wire so that the pen at the bottom of the cup just touches the bottom of the box and knot the wire so it stays at this height. This is the tricky bit. The pen will draw on the paper as the box moves, if the pen drags on the paper it won't work so well so take some time over this.  Finally put some paper in the bottom of the box under the pen.

There you are, your own seismograph.  The only difference between this and the real thing is that the real thing has a roll of paper that moves at a known speed so you can tell how long tremors last and how far apart they are.

How it works.  The weighted cup at the end of the string acts like a pendulum.  It is free to swing independently of the supporting box; sometimes this is called being "isolated".  Because it has been weighted and is heavy it is difficult to start it swinging, it has a large "inertia".  When the support moves the pendulum tends to stay still and so you get a movement of one relative to the other which is recorded by the pen.

Unless you are very lucky (or unlucky depending on your perspective) it is unlikey that you will be able to test this with a real earthquake so try placing the box on the floor and then jumping up and down, put it on the back of your bike, walk and then run across the room etc.

For more Science activities check out Science Sunday with Ticia over at Adventures in Mommydom

Science Sunday

Sunday, 13 February 2011

How to make a Chicken Curry

We have never been much of a family for takeaways.  I know that some families have a weekly take-out night; my parents-in-law used to have fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop every Friday for decades (even now though the shop itself has closed they have the equivalent from the supermarket freezer section) but our family - not really.  Maybe it is because I am too much of a skinflint- or because I'm too lazy to drive to the takeaway, I don't know.
One thing that we used to treat ourselves to though was the occasional curry from the local Indian restaurant.  Curiously enough in these days of globalisation it has been something that has been very hard to find outside the UK.  Maybe it is linked to a colonial past but even in the market town in Dorset where we live there is a wide choice and the supermarkets are full of ingredients to make your own. Not that this was something we appreciated until we lived outside the UK for any length of time!
In the Netherlands (which has a similar seafaring tradition) they also have "traditional" ethnic dishes that have become national favourites - Bami Goreng being one example; but they are more Indonesian than Indian.
In Germany we have yet to find a takeaway that stands close enough to the flavour shelf.  Our local Chinese has dishes that taste exactly the same regardless of the ingredients they are made from; I don't even know how that is possible.  Stuttgart was better because of a larger International population but even there you had to go to specialist shops to get what you wanted and we didn't really get to grips with the best places to go in the relatively short time we lived there.

The one thing we have tried to do whenever we go home is to go to our favourite Cornish Pasty shop for lunch (it is right next to a huge supermarket so we go there whenever we go shopping for pretty much anything) and to order at least one takeaway for OH and I.  Last time although we managed to get the pasties, much to the childrens relief, but we missed the takeaway.  We have several Indian cookery books but none of them seem to give the same flavour.  In a fit of homesickness I bought this book - The Curry Secret by Kris Dhillon from  At around £3.50 and delivered straight to my Kindle I didn't even have to wait for the parcel to arrive.
The next step was to find out what I needed in order to make the quintessential chicken madras curry.

This is when I hit the first road block.  You have to make a "master sauce" first.  This seemed like a very unlikely set of ingredients;for stage 1 just onions, garlic, ginger and salt.  Where were the spices? Also, when I read the entire recipe, this was partially blended and boiled for 40-45 minutes, cooled and blended, then some other ingredients added and boiled and skimmed for 20 minutes more; then the chicken cooked separately;then the whole thing assembled and cooked again.  Not a exactly the kind of thing you can rustle up for tea in between homework time and bathtime.  I nearly gave up the whole idea entirely.  The thing that saved it though was that I mentioned it to OH and he decided to take over.
One good thing is that living right slap bang next to the border between the Netherlands and Germany is that you can shop in either country.  It is strange when shops are only half a mile apart but very different in the style of food they sell.  In this case it was all to our advantage as the Netherlands sells herbs and spices and things like root ginger.  So the following Saturday, armed with a shopping list that consisted of large quantities of onions, ginger and garlic, OH headed off alone across the border.  This shows you how much he wanted this curry, normally he would rather amputate an arm rather than go shopping; OK I exaggerate - but not by much!
Next step then was to slice the onion mountain, blend the garlic and ginger and throw it all into a pot along with salt and one and a half litres of water and simmer it all together, with the lid on, for 40-45 minutes.  Having read some of the Amazon reviews about the book we knew some people said this smelt awful.  But in our naivety we thought how bad can it be? We like all these ingredients and use big quantities of onions and garlic especially.  Wrong.  It started off OK but by the halfway point it smelt really bad, even with the extractor fan on full.  Then there was the colour.  What began as basically pale yellowy water turned a kind of green with a hint of blue to the sliced onions.  How was anything that colour going to taste good?  Even when it was blended (which was a mammoth effort in itself as we only have a minifood processor that will blend less than a cupful at a time) it looked a kind of khaki green.  Still highly dubious we decided to split the couple of litres of the newly christened "green sick" into 4 bags and put it in the freezer.  
One week later we plucked up the courage to continue the saga.  The next things that had to be done were to finish the master sauce (adding tinned tomatoes, turmeric and paprika); cook the chicken breast (with turmeric and a little of the aforementioned "green sick"); and then make the curry itself which needed our own garam masala spice mix amongst other things.  In the middle of a hail storm we bundled the kids into the car and headed into the Netherlands.
First stop was to buy a grinder to grind up the whole spices.  Cost about 25 Euro.  Then the fresh herbs and spices.  To go with the turmeric, chilli, cardamom and cumin we already had we bought coriander seeds,cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon,bay leaves, nutmeg, fresh coriander, fresh tomato and fresh fenugreek.  
Amazingly we were able to get everything except the fresh fenugreek.  Cost for these was about 16 Euros.  We then added some chicken breasts to the shopping basket - another 8 euros.
Then we went home and discussed how to turn this into a curry.  The problem was the curry sauce.  We had been left with 4 lots of "green sick" plus a little over. The master recipe said this was enough for 8 servings.  The master recipe then added a small tin of tomatoes for the next stage.  That's one small tin of tomatoes in a couple of litres of liquid.  I held to the "follow the recipe and see how it turns out" approach, OH maintained that it should be 1 tin of tomatoes for 4 servings.  In the end we decided that for 1 pint of the green stuff we would add half a carton of passatta (left over from preparing pasta for the kids) and we could always change the amount if we ever cooked it again.  There then ensued half an hours cooking, stirring, skimming etc whilst OH prepared it with a very sceptical expression on his face.  I have to say at this point the smell was still not right - or the colour.  Cooking the chicken breast also happened alongside with the resulting chicken turning a yellowy greeny pale turmeric colour and the juices that had come out of the chicken being discarded (but that's where a lot of the chicken flavour is, are you sure?).  Now we were (finally) ready to assemble the final curry. At this point we still didn't really fancy eating this.  It still smelt bad,  the colour of the separate ingredients was not right, the sauce looked too thin, but OH soldiered on.  In went oil, the green sick with tomatoes, the garam masala, more spices and the cooked chicken.  At this point the miracle happened.  In the five minutes that it was cooked and stirred the sauce turned a gorgeous mahogany colour and was thick and glossy, the fresh herbs and tomatoes sprinkled on and it looked fantastic.
The verdict. Uitstekend! (as they say in the Netherlands).  From such unpromising beginnings it was spot on. It was well worth every penny of the about 50 euros that it cost us and we still have enough left over for a meal today, "green sick" for another 6 meals for 2 and garam masala for 12 recipes worth.  OH's comment "I never need to buy a takeaway again!"

Saturday, 12 February 2011

See Trace Make Resources: Animals

Being a kind of "go with the flow" activity kind of Mum I have lots of stuff that is prepared ready to use.  Some of may never see the light of day to be honest, but it is nice to have something to hand if B or one of the other kids picks up an idea and runs with it, nothing stops an interest stone dead like having to stop and make something to carry on.  
The result of this is that I have started to post resources as I prepare them - with no words of how well the kids like them because often they have yet to be used. My OH doesn't like this of course he prefers the posts with words!  If you would like to share them for use with your kiddos feel free, that is why they are here.  The graphics I have used are from a site that lets you use and adapt clipart images so long as they are for personal/educational use only, they are not owned by me and any resources made from them should not be offered for sale.
As a reminder of how to use these sheets see the initial post here.  To download any of the files for your own use click on the animal name to be taken to a download for the pdf.




Thursday, 10 February 2011

stArt- Owl Babies

Owl Babies is a beautifully illustrated story about three baby owls who wake up one night to find their Mummy is gone.  It is a lovely gentle story about separation and how it is OK in the end.  It is not too wordy but has a repeating chant of "I want my Mummy said Bill" that the kids love to join in with.
This book has special place in my heart because when A was 3 it was his favourite book (aside from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories of course!). We bought it when he was having trouble being left at Nursery School in the hope that it would help him learn how to separate from me (it didn't, but that is a whole other story) and he requested it every night for months on end.  B was introduced to it once or twice but has only recently developed a long enough attention span for me to get past page 2 in any of our books!  This morning however B and I were woken up at 2 a.m. by A and could not get back to sleep right away so we crept downstairs to read a book or two to try to get B to sleep.  A meanwhile went straight back to sleep in B's bed - typical!  The book B chose was Owl Babies.  Not only did we have it in the early hours but throughout the morning he kept bringing it back to me again saying "Bill lose Mummy! Read it! Read it!" so we temporarily abandoned our plans for using valentines based stuff and switched to owls instead.
The first idea I had was to use a toilet roll and cover it with feathers and stick on eyes and beak for an owl face; I must have seen this somewhere at some point but I can't for the life of me think where... anyway, the feathers are conspicuous by their absence from the craft box so I decided that we would do some shape cutting and sticking instead.  Using the template from First School found here this is what we made.
Come to think of it this could fit in with a Valentines theme since it is made from heart shapes.  Ours is a night time picture because the story takes place at night and it is definitely Mummy Owl because she is flying.  B was OK about  putting the glue on the shapes but didn't want to make the picture, that's what happens when your big brother wakes you up at 2 a.m. I guess!  When we get a chance we will add more owl themed stuff (see trace make etc), until then this was just a quick morning project - hope you like it.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Letter R: r is for rabbit: See, Trace, Make

Download the pdf from here

letter A: a is for apple: See, Trace, Make

Download the pdf from here

Letter C: c is for car: See, Trace, Make

Download the pdf from here

Letter p:p is for panda:See, Trace, Make

Download the pdf from here

Letter f: f is for frog: See, Trace, Make

Download the pdf from here

Letter l: l is for ladybug: See, Trace, Make

Just so those who call these insects ladybugs don't feel left out!

download the pdf from here

Letter h: h is for horse: See, Trace, Make

Download the pdf from here

Valentines resources

Since this is the next "big day" on our calendar we have been looking for things to fit in with this theme.  The first thing we found was a fantastic unit from Michelle at  musings of me
This is over 7 MB and 154 pages (I am totally out of ink now! ) and includes:
Hearts and Arrows upper/lower case letter match
See, Trace and Make cards
3 part cards
Scissor skills
Counting mat
Lacing card
Size sort
Pre- Writing
ABC order
Visual discrimination
Read and color
Missing numbers
Magnet/counter page
Fill my heart game
Heart size sorting mat
Heart count and cover game
Letter V sorting
Greater/Less than numbers
Number writing practice
Alphabet writing practice
Conversation heart sorting/graphing
Teddy Bear measuring
Count and Place cards
Mailbox drop activity
Number Clip cards
WOW! if this doesn't keep us busy this week then nothing will.
2 Teaching Mommas is also hosting a valentines unit - the sneak peek post is here but they promise more this week
Confessions of a Homeschooler also has lots of activities as part of her letter of the week curriculum with V is for Valentine.
That's our plans for the next week (or so) but there should be plenty of opportunity for art and craft stuff as well.  Check back to see how we got on.

Spelling: See, Trace, Make

I first found these activities as part of the valentines unit at musings of me.  The activity consists of a sheet divided into three sections:

See - the word and the picture
trace - with your finger or a pencil/pen to learn the pattern of the word
make - make the word with magnetic letters, foam letters, bottle tops, letters cut from magazines or newspapers, whatever you have


Here are links to some of the activities we have found so far and a few of our own although we will also be adding more as we make them.
Valentine themed cards (p20-26 inc of a 154 page pdf to download)
Numbers 1-20
Reindeer card on p6 of the pdf
winter themed words p11-20 inc. of the pdf

Sunday, 6 February 2011

3 part cards -a montessori style resource

3 part cards are a way of introducing vocabulary and sight words to young children.
For each word you want to introduce you have:
a card with a relevant picture and the word underneath- this is the master card
a card with just the picture
a card with just the word

The idea is that the child finds the matching picture and word cards to recreate the master card.
For a more accurate description of use in a classroom setting go here for the expert ;)
For older kids the picture part of the 3 part card system can be replaced by a written definition.
Here are some of the sets we have found around the web;

Butterfly lifecycle
Herbs and Spices
land,air,water and fire
Living and non-living
Valentine themed cards (p 27 and 28 of a 154 page pdf from musings of me)
In due course I am hoping to create my own sets which I will be adding to the resources label on this blog as we go. If you know of any others that can be shared let me know.

Cutting and Sticking: mosiac

One nice thing about moving into a new house is it gives you the opportunity to rediscover all those books and toys which had been pushed to the back of the cupboard.  One such set was a "Crafty History" group of books that I bought in a sale a few years back, put into the cupboard and then overlooked completely.
R re-discovered them in our new house and was immediately taken by the Roman history one where they make their own mosaic with cut up bits of paper.
Ours is a group effort using coloured paper from our craft stash and the side of one of the bigger cardboard boxes from the move as the base.
First I drew a simple daisy's pattern and then the kids and I filled it in (R deserves the prize for most of the work).
We didn't have black paper for the bumblebee stripes so we used black paint and improvised a square stamp but it didn't really work too well so we switched to a brush and decided to use paint for the sky and grass as well.

Letter r: r is for rabbit: Magnet Page

Our own lowercase r magnet page in honour of the start of the Year of the Rabbit. Download the pdf from here.
If you would prefer an upper case one then get it from here courtesy of the Home Grown Hearts preschool letter R page.

Using Magnet Pages

One of the things I have been using a lot with B has been magnet pages, even to the extent of creating some of our own for lower case letters where we couldn't find others on the web.  My OH, who keeps up with what his children are doing whilst he is at work by reading the blog, sat there the other day and said "What is a magnet page?"  I don't know who first came up with the idea but I first came across magnet pages on the Make Learning Fun website when I was looking at colouring pages for the alphabet last year for B.  From there you know how it goes, once you see it for the first time you start seeing them everywhere!
Magnet pages are pictures of letters, numbers, or shapes that have circular blank spaces.
The idea is that the child can fill in these blanks.  The original idea (and why they are called magnet pages) was to use a cookie sheet under the paper and the round magnets that you get for magnetic memo boards like the ones in the Amazon ad to the left but here are the things we have used with them:

  • circular magnets (I have to admit ours were from a much cheaper source; Euroland!)
  • fridge magnets
  • paint dauber
  • paint and brush
  • pom poms
  • plastic bottle tops
  • coins
  • small stickers
  • sequins and beads (glued on)
  • counters

Basically anything that is small enough to fit in the circle works, the idea is to introduce your child to the shape of the letter/number/shape without actually writing it.  One of the cutest things I have seen used with them is magnetic pom poms.  These were invented by Erin over on Home Grown Hearts- a fantastic blog which seems to have died a death as it has not been updated since last summer.  Whilst I would love a set of these for B I know that A, even though he is 7, would put them in his mouth as he does everything else; so not a good idea unless your little one is over this stage.  If you would like to see which magnet pages I have created or used check out the label on the right - it gets updated often!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

stArt - Oscar and the Moth- KS1 Science

Oscar and the Moth by Geoff Waring

Oscar is a kitten who meets various animals who teach him about the world in this science story series for young kids by Walker Books specially designed to support the ideas introduced for KS1 Science (4-7 year olds).  In Oscar and the Moth he meets a moth who teaches him about why we have night and day, how some creatures make their own light and how we make shadows by blocking light.  Luckily for us the IPC (International Primary Curriculum) unit that A is doing at school at the moment is "Day and Night" so he was able to take it into school to share with the whole class.

Here are some of the things we did to support the book:

  • Some animals like the moth are nocturnal others are diurnal.  We did an animal sort and stuck the pictures on the day background or the night background.  We also used the colouring pages on the Nocturnal Animals listing at Enchanted Learning, each page has a lot of extra information about the animals for older students.
  • We made our own constellations on black paper using stamps and paint
  • We went on a light hunt.  Arm yourself with a digital camera and go for a evening walk whilst the nights are dark. This is one we actually did last year when A was in Senior Kindergarten - we were able to go to the Christmas Market in Stuttgart and look at the the lights on the stalls but there should be other things to look at that make light even around your own home.
  • We did a treasure hunt in the dark. Make your room as dark as you can find a favourite teddy or stuffed toy using a torch to see by.
  • Shadow puppets.  Retell a favourite story or make up your own using shadow puppets.  Any silhouette cut from card and mounted on a straw works. 
  • Nocturnal animal wordsearch for the older kids- here's one I made earlier
  • Online match the dinosaur shadows game.
  • shadow match game on a back to school theme - sorry don't know who this is by since it is on a free file sharing site - if you know pass it on so we can give due credit.
So there is what we have been up to this week.  For other arty projects linked to books don't forget to check out

Tuesday, 1 February 2011