Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Baby Sensory Toy Box

Ivy has reached an age now where she's really interested in everything around her.  I decided that it was time to put a few things together in a little discovery box for her senses.  I wanted to include some things that were visually interesting, that made sounds, and that had different textures to stimulate all of her senses.

I chose a few things that we already had in the house, these were toys of Ethan's or other items from around the house.  A sensory or discovery box needn't be full of new and fancy things, just items that a baby will be able to explore.  I have included:

Ivy loves all of these items on their own, but she was really happy to have them altogether.  She went through each one at a time, shaking it around and exploring it in different ways (usually by putting it in her mouth.) I was able to leave her on her tummy for a little while exploring on her own, and then when she tired of that I took her into my lap and we looked at each item together.  This is a great activity for a baby before learning to sit, as all of the toys can be examined whilst on their tummies or their backs.  Now that Ivy is sitting, I am able to leave the toys in the box and she can take them out one by one to play with.  This is just the start of her sensory and discovery box days!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Happy First Birthday Prince George

It's a very big milestone for a certain royal baby today! As you may have noticed, we love to celebrate special occasions around here. So I wasn't really surprised that when I told Ethan that it was Prince George's birthday, the first thing that he asked was "Can we bake him a cake?" Well, how could I say no? So we decided that even though he's not here, we'll have a little party for Prince George!

When Prince George was born last year (or 'the royal baby' as he was known then) we were very excited.  We sat by the television waiting for them to come out of the hospital so that we could have a glimpse of the baby.  Ethan was really into it as well, I read him a royal fairytale  and he excitedly watched on tv, pointing and saying 'the baby, the baby!' Which he then continued to do every time that they replayed those scenes on the news for the next few days.  We even got the Royal Baby Happyland set for him to play with (we haven't yet bought the Happyland Royal Birthday set, but I'm sure that we will pick it up soon).

So today we made Prince George a cake, in the shape of a crown (because he is a Prince afterall, and that's what Princes wear).  It's just a simple layer cake, we iced the bottom layer then cut a hole out of the middle of the top layer to make it look like a crown.  From the middle part that was cut out I made a few triangles to make the crown shape.  It didn't turn out quite how I envisaged it, as Ethan wanted to do it all himself (he's very independent these days) and because it's a hot day and the icing was melting.  Hopefully it does look a bit like a crown though, and I doubt that the Prince would mind really.  The most important part is that Ethan had fun mixing up the ingredients to the cake, and lots of fun decorating the cake!

We also made Prince George a card in the shape of a crown (which Ethan happily decorated with George Pig stickers, because his name is George as well!)  Now we just have to find a way to get it to him!  Ethan seems to think that Prince George will be coming over later to eat some cake, and I can't quite get him to understand why that's not going to happen!  So if anyone happens to be a friend of a friend of the royal family, please let them know that Ethan and Ivy made Prince George a cake and a card, and that we wish him a very Happy First Birthday!

* This post was written in partnership with iCandy.  For more information about our collaborative posts please click here *

Monday, 21 July 2014

Monski Mouse's Baby Disco Dance Hall - Review and Ticket Giveaway

We took Ethan and Ivy to Monski Mouse's Baby Disco Dance Hall, a retro baby disco yesterday.  It's currently on at the Southbank in London, but tours around to different locations as well.  It's a very unique experience, aimed at children under 5, and it's not your typical baby disco nursery rhymes and pop music.  The DJ (Monski Mouse) and her dancers are dressed in vintage style, and playing music that the parents are much more familiar with than the children!  They throw a few songs that the kiddies love in there (like sleeping bunnies) amongst the ones that are more fun for the adults (like getting the kids to crawl around and meow like kittens to 'Love Cats' by The Cure).

Ethan loves music, so he happily danced and followed along with the actions to the songs.  He even brought Daddy along in a conga line!  There was a baby area with cushions for even the smallest little boogie babies to take part.  Ivy was mesmerised by the lights and the music, she was happy to have her own little dance party on the cushions and being carried by us as well.

The disco is on for a few more shows at the Southbank - 27th July, 24th August and 7th September.  If you'd like to book tickets you can do it directly through the Southbank Centre website.

If you would like to win tickets to one of these shows, you can!  Enter here for our giveaway of a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children under 5) to the baby disco:

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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Love2Read - My Baby Sister - Book Review

We love books, we love photos, and we really love personalised books, but a personalised book with photos? Wow, that is just perfect for Ethan!  He absolutely loves looking at photos of himself and people he knows.  We were offered the chance to review a book from Love2Read so of course we jumped at the chance.  I chose the book titled My Baby Sister... but there are many different titles to choose from and personalise in different ways.

Ethan was very excited when the book arrived, he couldn't believe that there were photos of him and Ivy in a real book! He loves to sit and look at all the photos together, he even shows them to Ivy and tells her about what they were doing then.  It's so cute and it will be a keepsake for years to come, it's such a terrific idea.

* This is a review post, Love2Read sent us this book to review and write our honest opinion about.  For more about my review process please click here *

Friday, 18 July 2014

10 Fun Ways to Keep Kids Cool on a Hot Day

We're in the middle of one of those funny London heat waves, that get a bit unbearable because we're just never prepared for it.  We recently moved into a house with a garden, but last summer we were in a flat, which made it even more difficult to keep cool on days like this. 

So, here's a list of our favourite ways to keep babies and toddlers cool on a very hot day, whether you have a lot of space or no space at all.

1. Swimming 

We are lucky enough now to have room for a bigger paddling pool in our garden, which both Ethan and Ivy can sit in, and we can put lots of toys for them to play with in there too.  Last year we went searching for a park paddling pool, found one a bus ride away, but got there to find it was being repainted!  So we had to use a tiny paddling pool that I bought from a pound shop, and I set up in the communal garden on a boiling hot day just to give Ethan a bit of a chance to cool down.  In London there are a lot of parks with paddling pools for the kids, you just have to check your borough's website for more information (but call ahead to make sure it's open!)  Of course you can also go to your local swimming pool for a proper swim.

2.  Run through the sprinkler

Yet again we are very fortunate this year to have the space, but unfortunately our water hose isn't working!  So we'll have to do some improvising yet again.  But if you do have a working hose, you can get a fairly inexpensive sprinkler and hook it up for hours of fun play.  Last year we went to  a play group and they had their sprinkler going on hot days, so that worked well for us too.

3. Water park

It isn't as common in London (but again have a look on your borough's website to see if there are any), but while we were on holiday in Canada we went to a fantastic Splash Pad, and there was a great Water Playground in Berlin that we went to as well.  The other option is to go to a big water park, like the Duplo Valley at Legoland in Windsor (it's on our list of places to go this summer!)

4. Water games

If you are short on space, you can't go wrong with some simple water play with a bucket and sponge.  Ethan can keep himself busy for ages playing with a few really basic things that you can find around the house and fill with water.  He also really enjoyed painting with water, it's like messy play, but then it dries and it's not messy at all!

5. Water battles

Another idea if you don't have a great big garden or other water play accessories, it to just use a few simple spray bottles (the kind that you would water plants with) to have a water fight.  You could even bring them to the park and chase each other around spraying and cooling down at the same time.  (Of course you could use water pistols, but personally I'm not a fan).

6. Ice play

I love to freeze little toys in ice to make surprise ice cubes for Ethan to play with.  They last for ages and keep him nice and cool as they melt.  I also just saw this fantastic idea to make frozen ice castles from sand castle moulds on Kids Activity Blog (like from the movie Frozen) so I've got one in the freezer ready to play with this afternoon!

7. Play tent in the shade

If it is just too hot to run around (or if your child isn't as fond of water as mine are) then you can always just set up a play tent in the shade.  We like to have a reading tent, or to bring out cups and saucers for a tea party.  If you don't have a play tent, you can make one out of a clothes horse, like they did over at 2Littlefaces.

8. Eat ice cream!

What better excuse than a hot day to eat lots of ice cream!  We made some ice lollies yesterday in anticipation of the heat today, so we'll be eating those too!

9. Go to the beach

If you're lucky enough to have a beach nearby, I can't think of a nicer way to spend a hot day. For us there isn't a proper beach, but we do have a lovely play beach we can go to (just sand there, no water).  On a nice weekend we love to go to Brighton, but it can get very busy.  If you want to go further afield there are countless beaches in Cornwall that we love, and they don't all get as crowded as the ones closer to London.

10. Go somewhere air conditioned

Well, if it's really that bad and you've had just about enough, you can always escape to a mall (we love Westfield) or a museum for an air conditioned oasis!

Here's a few supplies that you might need if you want to cool off in the water (affiliate links):

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Simple Tummy Time Mat

Now that Ethan has started nursery, I've been able to take Ivy to a few different baby classes.  I take her to a lovely music class and to Gymboree.  She absolutely loves both classes, I think that she's just very excited to be going to activities that are just for her, and to be able to see other babies her age.  She's also at such a great age, since learning to roll over she is enjoying tummy time more and she's trying to sit up on her own more as well.  I've picked up lots of great tips, and been reminded of many things that I did with Ethan when he was 5 months old.  When we went to Gymboree for the first time last week Ivy had her longest tummy time session yet, she was so happy to be face to face with all of the other babies and have her senses stimulated by all of the different equipment.

Some of the things, like a large baby safe mirror on the floor or fibre optic lights are fantastic, but not things that are easy to try around the house.  However, one of their brilliant ideas that Ivy loved and that we could easily get to use at home, was to have a foil emergency blanket under the babies on their tummies.  They are very easy to find and quite inexpensive as well.  Ivy loves anything crinkly, so it's perfect for her to happily grab and squeeze noisily while she's on her tummy.  She is completely distracted by it and seems to forget that she's even on her tummy, it's an incredible material (I see future craft projects using it in our future too!) and she just loves to play with it.  Her neck muscles have become so strong, she's much steadier when sitting now as well, I don't think that sitting unaided will be far off!

Obviously this material isn't intended for use by babies, because of safety risks, so please do keep a close eye on your little ones when using it.

* This post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Making a Rocket Ship

You know when you get a box and you just can't bear to throw it away (or recycle it) because it's just meant to be something else?  Well, when I saw this box I immediately knew that it had to be a rocket ship.  It's a cylindrical box that lifts open, and I know that Ethan will love opening and closing it to put little people in.  Of course he would have been happy to play with it as it, but I wanted to decorate it.  I knew that I needed to make it quite robust though, so that he could play with it and not worry that bits would be falling off.  

We used lolly sticks / popsicle sticks to go around the rocket ship.  They're colourful and fun, but should also stay on quite securely if we use enough glue.  It's a great exercise for Ethan in spreading the glue along each stick and placing it alongside the other sticks.  It look a great deal of focus and concentration, but he was very committed and patient.

About half way through sticking on the sticks, Ethan suddenly decided that the rocket needed a door!  Why didn't I think of that?  I love that he's really starting to take part in the creating and planning aspect of our projects.  So we looked through our art drawers and decided to make the door out of card and use markers to decorate it.  We drew the window and the handle together, and then he coloured the rest.  When the lolly sticks were all in place, we talked about how to make the top of the rocket.  He said he wanted it to go really high, so looking through our art drawers again, we chose a green foam sheet for the top.  I cut in into a circle shape, then cut a slit halfway up to make a cone shape.  I don't think that it was quite tall enough for Ethan's liking, but it will do.  Then we glued it on together, and Ethan found some stickers to decorate it with.  Maybe not our most impressive looking craft, but I love that Ethan did most of it himself, and that he'll be able to properly play with it now, and fly his toys off to the moon!