December 20, 2010

Sock Snowmen

Says one snowman to another: "Do you smell carrots? " :)

Sometime in the 1990's, a local shop here in South Africa sold the terrific American Parents magazine and I use to love buying them. One of my favourite copies was a December issue that had the most amazing Christmas crafts in it. I don't ever part with such great inspiration and ideas, so these have been safely kept in one of my many art-and-craft flip files for all these years! These very sweet snowmen are one of those crafts.

Little One has amused me so, by saying that they are "cool" (which they are:)) and "key-ute"! But, each time I leave him alone with them, he rips off their noses!

Hope you are having a great Christmas week.

PS. I'm linking this to  

December 14, 2010

Pipe Cleaner Teddy Bear

I found this Teddy Bear tutorial a few years ago at my local craft shop Joh Se Winkel. Now having the blog, I just couldn't resist sharing it. So here is the tutorial and pictures:

Take one pipe cleaner (the thicker, fluffier ones work better) and cut off 6cm. These are the ears. Then cut off 10cm (the arms). You will be left with 14cm (the legs).

Bend each end of the 6cm piece to the middle and then do the same for the 10cm piece and the 14cm piece. After bending the 14cm piece, bend it down into the shape of an upside down "V".

Take the second uncut pipe cleaner and make a tiny loop at the top. (It looks like a long walking stick). Put the ears into the loop and fold the pipe cleaner twice over the middle of the ears. Then continue folding the pipe cleaner over, but once to the side (of the middle) and then to the other side. You have now created the face. If you lift the ears, the little face will show.

Put the arms under the chin and put the legs directly under the arms. Bend the remaining pipe cleaner over the legs and over the one shoulder and then repeat over the other shoulder until the pipe cleaner is finished. Tuck the end of the pipe cleaner in somewhere. Lastly add the eyes and nose carefully (otherwise there is glue all over the face) and dress as you please! :)

I made some teddies today with some eight year old friends and they managed to get it right (with just a little help). So this is a nice fine-motor activity for older kiddos.

I hope you found this easy to follow and will be making some of your own.

PS. I'm linking this to: 

December 11, 2010

Christmas Cards Cont.

 Some more Christmas Cards...the children did join in for one or two this time around, but I think I still enjoyed the making of these the most. These were definitely easier to make than the fabric and buttons cards (to see those, click here).

Some more Christmassy crafts coming up this week, so stay tuned!

December 9, 2010

Christmas Cards

I love making and giving homemade Christmas cards, but I must admit that in the last few years I have resorted to store bought cards. I decided that this year would be different and so made these. I had intended for the children to be involved, but Big One wasn't in the mood and the fabric and buttons were a bit finicky for Little One, so I made them without the kiddos. I like how they turned out.

I will share another round of Christmas cards...hopefully kiddos included!

PS. I'm sharing this at
Show and Tell @ ABC and 123

December 5, 2010

Chocolate Play Dough!


I have never much liked store bought play dough. I think it's the smell of it that mainly puts me off. But year after year I have continued to buy it, never considering making any of my own. I have always thought that there would be far too much work involved. How wrong could I be! I first tried a no-cook recipe, as I tend to avoid the stove at all costs, but it wasn't very successful. I then came across this recipe at My Montessori Journey (via Counting Coconuts). What a pleasure to make! And it's just the best playdough to play with! This, pictured here, is my second batch and as you can see I decided to be a little adventurous. I made two batches with different amounts of cocoa added (10ml and 50ml). Little One tried to eat it a few times, but a taste or two of the salty doughy mixture and he spat it out very quickly!

I recently spoke to some girlfriends of mine who have never made play dough either. This one is especially for you ladies. Have fun!

PS. To keep your dough lasting well, store in an airtight container in the fridge.

PPS. I'm linking this to  Show and Tell @ ABC and 123.

{Added at a later date:  A nicer and easier play dough recipe (in my opinion) found here.}

December 3, 2010

Christmas Sensory Box

The first advent calender surprise for my kiddos was this sensory box. It was very much inspired by the amazing sensory tubs of Mari-Ann at Counting Coconuts . I used a nice rectangular plastic container (available form the local plastic shop), coloured rice, ornaments, nicknacks from my Christmas decoration's box and some yummy Father Christmas chocolates.

To colour the rice, I simply took dry uncooked rice and slowly added red food colouring. I mixed it thoroughly and when I was happy with the colour, let it air dry in the bowl. I have read on the net about oven drying coloured rice, but this worked very nicely and I didn't have to go near the oven :). Thanks Trudie for the tip.

The baubles were carefully selected to teach some new concepts: shiny and dull (or matt), big and small, as well as silver and gold. I intentionally used different textures is a sensory box after all! So there is hard and soft items and I included plastic, wood, wool, fabric and paper! The tinsel tickles (tactile), the chocolates smell (olfactory) and taste yummy (oral), the small bells ring (auditory) and the whole box provides lots of visual stimulation. The rice is, of course, also part of the sensory fun and by adding a spoon and cup, lots of scooping and pouring can happen. Having said all this, the trick is to spend some time with your child playing with the sensory box. Little One loses interest quite quickly, unless I join in on the fun. I must add that even Big One enjoyed this box.

I need to warn you, this gets messy! I am trying to teach Little One to keep the rice in the container, but it's difficult to really enjoy this activity without a bit of mess. To keep me sane, 'cause I'm a bit of a neat freak, I have a Dustbuster. Pick n Pay sell an AEG model for R189. I think this is the best money I have ever spent!

Happy playing till next time :)

PS. “Come over to play at the Childhood 101 We Play link up”

November 27, 2010

Matchbox {Magnet} Advent Calender

With December only a few days away,  I have just finished making our advent calender! I took matchboxes and covered them with a fun stripy wrapping paper and then added embellishments that I had from pretty gift tags and cards of Christmas's past. I then added magnets to the back of them so that they can stick to the fridge. Our fridge is metallic in colour, so I added a sheet of white cardboard as a backdrop.  I think the result is very festive :)

Inside each box is a happy Christmas message or a message describing a surprise. The surprises vary from  sweets to a happy event/outing to activities planned for the day. Big One LOVES the daily surprises and I know Little One will feed off this excitement. I'm predicting that he will probably be asking me to open these little boxes more than once a day in the hope of more fun! 

November 23, 2010

Georgie's Picks {Cakes}

Today I'm going to combine three things I really, birthday parties and cakes! Oh, I just LOVE photographing birthday cakes and eating them too, of course! :)

Here are some wonderful cakes that I've photographed over the past year. Wherever I could, I have given credit to the baker (all Cape Town based) and provided the contact information for you.

Don't you just love the use of NikNaks for the Lion's mane! 
This was baked by a lovely friend of mine, for her son's second birthday.
(Cezanne bakes beautiful wedding cakes. If you would like to see more, visit her website at designer cakes by Cezanne

This AMAZING Handy Manny cake was baked by The Chocolate Moose.
(Click on the link to view their website and some more amazing cake creations.)

This is the top tier of a very pretty two-tiered fairy cake!

Red, white and blue is one of my favourite colour combinations!
Love this one!

I also love this turtle!  I think the colours of the cake are just awesome against the blue background.

And last, but not least, to view a super Frogs and Polka Dots cake, that was made for Little One's second birthday, click here.

This was so much fun to compile, I think I'll do another some time!
Till next time.

November 14, 2010

Go get 'em

Where are all the educational toys packed in your home? All those puzzles and games that require you to sit down with your kiddos to play. Up somewhere, out of reach (to avoid little one's mixing up puzzle pieces and ruining nice cards)? I'll admit, that's where ours have always been packed...out of reach of little hands! Many of the boxes are still in great condition and the pieces all there and intact, but I ask myself, have these really been played with? The truth is, these toys have been packed too far away. I have the best of intentions, but somehow they just stay up there, packed away nicely in the top cupboards.

So recently I decided to pack all the age appropriate educational toys at the very bottom of the easy reach for both me and my toddler. I'm really hoping to not go into his room and find all the boxes emptied out onto the floor!:) What I'm hoping for, is that by being more accessible, we will use these toys more often.

One such wonderful educational toy that I want to share with you, is made by a very well-known South African brand, Smile Toys. It's called Quartet and pictured here is the colour matching puzzle. The box also includes shape matching, animal homes and missing parts - all two-piece puzzles. I have been doing the colour matching puzzle with Little One since our recent focus on learning colours and also included these puzzle pieces in our buckets of colour. (In case you are new here, I recently did ten Colour Fun posts. To see all colour posts, click here.)

So if you haven't done it yet, go get those toys down, close at hand and ready to play!

November 11, 2010

Bean bag shapes

When I saw these super bean bag shapes over at Fun with Little Mouse, I loved them! I just happen to be lucky enough to be friends with Trudie, so when I mentioned how much I liked them, she very kindly made a set for Little One. How sweet is that :).

On the photograph these look deceptively small. They are all about the size of my open hand, made from felt and filled with lentils. I had to share them, because I think that these would make a super Birthday or Christmas gift.

Thanks again Trudie!

November 7, 2010

Can you spot Spot?

Inspired by Adam's Superhero Softies, I have been looking at revamping some of the soft toys in our home and have a few ideas up my sleeve!

If you are South African, you will probably recognise these very cute little labrador puppies. A few years ago you could collect them when you purchased a certain brand of toilet paper. I have kept these little pups all this time...they were just too cute to part with!  Anyway, I recently realised that they look just like the character Spot. All they needed were, well a spot or two, and that little brown tail of course! So I took some brown felt and made the necessary additions. This little one that you see photographed was given as a gift with a Spot book to a little friend.

Little One has been a huge Spot fan since about 18 months of age. I think that these are terrific books for tots, particularly for language acquisition.

I was thinking, this makes  for a lovely Birthday or Christmas gift...adding a personalised soft toy to match a book.

Till next time...

November 2, 2010

World in a Box

After our trip to the aquarium, I thought it would be a great idea to create a small sea world for Little One to play with. I took a rectangular plastic container (found at my local plastic shop), blue paper, bubble wrap (available at the post office) and sea creatures. I lay the blue paper at the bottom of the container and placed a sheet of bubble wrap over it. I then cut some bubble wrap into longish strips, which represented waves and water and I added sea creatures and some divers. And there you go...a mini sea world! What is it about something in miniature form that is so appealing?

The idea was to make something quick and easy; something that every mommy could make without too much fuss! I think I achieved that :)

I just LOVE this picture!

The inspiration for my "World in a Box" came from from two super talented ladies! The Pink and Green Mama (MaryLea) calls it Fun in a Box or Sensory Boxes, while Mari-Ann at Counting Coconuts, is just about famous (I think) in Blog World for her amazing Sensory Tubs. Be sure to pop on over and check out their wonderful creations.

As you can tell from the pic, the mini sea world was a hit. It was also great to reinforce some of the sea creatures that we had seen at the aquarium. 

I hope that I've inspired you to create some little worlds of you own. Do come back and tell me if you do.

PS. Cellophane could also be used instead of the bubble wrap. It would give the box quite a different feel.

October 30, 2010

A visit to the Aquarium

We had a WONDERFUL outing to the Two Ocean's Aquarium in August. (I know, I'm a bit behind with posting :)) I thought at the time that Little One was ready to enjoy the experience and I was right. Fun was had by all...even Daddy. I also had a field day with all the photo opportunities and I think I frustrated my family a little as I was always trailing behind.

So here are some pictures of our outing. 

I just loved the tank  with the clownfish. You can crawl in at the bottom (it was a tight squeeze!) and sit in the middle of it. This was a big hit with both children (and me!). I was so focused on the clownfish, that I didn't even notice the hermit crab until I looked at the pictures. Can you spot him?

This is one of my favourite pictures of the day. The sea anemones. Aren't the colours just amazing?

This is one of the smaller shark tanks. I know that the pictures are a little dark, but I was determined to not use my flash at all.

This is the biggest tank and there are huge sharks and a giant loggerhead turtle swimming around in it. I haven't put in a photograph, but there is a semi-tunnel, which is a real treat to walk through.

 Just a little ol' turtle.

A friendly seagull that was after any scraps from lunch.

While we were there we also caught a terrific puppet show, saw sea horses, giant spider crabs, jellyfish, rays...and so much more. If you are ever in Cape Town, this is wonderful outing for the whole family.
To visit the aquarium website, click here.

(PS. My only gripe with the day, was my concern about lack of railings in the pelican exhibit. There is a boardwalk and fairly deep water on one side of it. Little One headed straight for the edge, and I strongly feel that there needs to be some kind of railing or sign warning parents of the danger. I emailed the aquarium and voiced my concern about the matter. They have responded and said that they would consider both options and I'm waiting to hear from them for further news in this regard.)

October 26, 2010

Adam's Art Spot : Superhero Softies

This is Adam's (a.k.a Big One) spot for sharing some of his creative ideas. He needed my help with this one, so the handiwork was done by me.

The request was for superhero soft toys, so the suitable candidates were picked and we set to work!  We decided on a design for the masks, drew it onto craft foam (after measuring our superhero's faces) and then cut them out. I then used elastic from some old birthday party hats to tie the masks on. (I used a toothpick to pierce the hole on the side of each mask.) String would also work just as well as elastic and would probably be easier to use. I found the elastic to be finicky.

For the capes, I cut out a very basic long triangular shape from felt and tied it around each toy's neck with string. Once again using a toothpick to make the hole in the felt. 

And there you go...Superhero Softies! I think they are so cute and it got me thinking about how easy it would be to revamp some old soft toys and give them a new look. Have you ever revamped a soft toy? If you have, please do share. I would love to hear about it.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more of Adam's super ideas, you can do so here.

PS. I'm linking this to two amazing blog parties, Show and Tell @ ABC and 123 and Tot Tuesdays at My Delicious Ambiguity.

October 24, 2010

A Parenting Philosphy

Most of my post university training has been in the field of play therapy. I have attended many play therapy courses over the years, but one that really stands out for me, was a course by Garry Landreth, a child-centered play therapist. Child-centered play therapy is, as Garry puts it, a philosophy for living one's life in relationships with children. It is for this very reason, that I feel compelled to share some of this philosophy with parents.

Garry wrote a wonderful book called Play Therapy-The Art of the Relationship. The last time I read it, was probably before I became a parent. I have recently read it again and it has been so enlightening to look at the philosophy through parent eyes, rather than merely therapist eyes. Something that I want to share with you is what Garry says about how children should learn through play therapy. (I must mention, that when he refers to play therapy, he is referring to child-centered play therapy.)

He says this:
  • Because children are allowed to be fully themselves, with no criticism, suggestions, praise, disapproval or any efforts made to change them, they learn self-control and responsible freedom of expression.
  • Because children are respected and not evaluated, regardless of their behaviour, they learn to respect themselves.
  • Because all their feelings are accepted and understood, even the intense ones, children learn that their feelings are acceptable.
  • Because they are allowed to express their intense feelings, they are able to learn how to responsibly control their feelings.
  • Because children are allowed to struggle to do things for themselves, they learn to assume responsibility for themselves and to discover what that responsibility feels like.
  • Because children are allowed to figure things out for themselves and to come to their own solutions to problems, they learn to be creative and resourceful in confronting problems.
  • Because children are allowed to control their own behaviour (within the careful use of therapeutic limits) and can make their own decisions, they learn self-control and self-direction.
  • Because they are accepted just as they are, with no conditions, they learn, at a feeling level, to accept themselves as being worthwhile.This is significant in the development of a positive self-concept.
  • Because no choices are made for the child, they  learn to make choices and to be responsible for making their choices.
Even though Garry is talking about a play therapy relationship and not a parenting relationship, when I consider these learning outcomes, I  wonder whether I'm successfully facilitating this kind of learning in my role as parent. I am fully aware of the fact that parenting is not therapy and that the therapeutic relationship described by Garry is a unique one, but I choose to uphold these principles in my relationship with my children, to the best that I can. 

Yes, I do praise; I do evaluate; I make suggestions; I disapprove! But reading this is just such a good reminder of the respect we should have for (our) children! I certainly want my children to have the kind of personal acceptance and self-respect that Garry refers to; and, to be resourceful problem-solvers and to take responsibility for their feelings and their choices. I choose to concentrate on these desired outcomes, using these principles to guide me as I fine tune my own parenting philosophy. 

Shoo, I know this has been a mouthful. Now I would love to hear what you think. 

Reference: Landreth, G (1991). Play therapy The Art of the Relationship. Bristol, USA: Accelerated Learning Inc.

October 20, 2010

I dare you!

 Paint with your Tot!

 Garden with your Tot!

 Bake with your Tot! 

And, I dare you, let them do the dishes!

Isn't it awesome to think that you can do all these activities with a one and two year old! It always amazes me to think of how much they grow from one to two.

So I dare you...go brave :)

(PS. Little One's age in these photos...just for my own records really...painting 23 months...baking 25 months...gardening and dishes 24 months)

October 18, 2010

5 Books Feature

I don't think I have ever told anyone how much I like reading book recommendations. It's true, particularly lists of recommended children's books. Now one such place where I can read book recommendations to my heart's content is a blog called  Silly Eagle Books and I want to share a little about it with you today.

Vanessa (the author of this lovely blog) has many lists of favourite books for babies, tots and children. I really like her list of best bedtime books and of books with your little girl's name in. (I can't wait to see her list with little boys names). She also sometimes features a favourite author, like the Eric Carle post here.

Vanessa has a passion for vintage books in particular and since reading her blog, I look at older books with a new appreciation and perspective. For Little One's birthday, I purchased a number of books that I would previously not have given a second glance. Probably the best example of this, was my purchase of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. I took a chance and even though I had not read it before, I ordered it from Loot. Even when it arrived in the post, I was puzzled as to what all the fuss could be about. Well, a few reads later and this is now the first book requested at every bedtime. Little One (and I) just love reading it. There seems to be a wonderful comfort and peacefulness in the words, rhythm and rhyme of this book. It's a great buy for a one or two year old.

Vanessa has also really inspired me in how she uses books to decorate...books as art.  She inspired this bit of "Art" in Little One's bedroom.  I bought this old, badly damaged Noddy book at a second-hand store for next-to-nothing. I then painted an old broken frame and put the Noddy book cover inside as the picture! I think the title of the book is so apt  for the life of a toddler and in my mind I often think of Little One's name in place of Noddy's :).
A little while ago, Vanessa asked me (and some other book-loving bloggers) to share a list of any five books. I was thrilled to be asked and offered a list of favourite books for babies and toddlers (more than five actually). So I hope you will pop over and see what I recommend. And while you are there, check out some of Vanessa's wonderful crafts and those book lists of course :).

October 15, 2010

Colour Fun #10 - Teddy Dress-up

Colour Teddy Dress-up was inspired by this dress-up teddy at mama smiles blogspot.

I used a little wooden teddy puzzle as my template (a teddy cookie/play dough cutter could also work well). I then cut out tops and bottoms from a variety of colours and told Little One that we must dress teddy, because he is cold! 

This is the first felt toy that Little One has shown any genuine interest in, so I am thrilled! What I didn't realize, was how difficult it would be for him to place the t-shirt and shorts correctly onto the teddy. He tried hard, but I had to assist him with the placement, so this was good fine motor practice too.

Till next time.

PS. I'm linking this to Tot Tuesdays and Show and Tell.

October 10, 2010

Colour Fun #9 - Buckets of Colour

Do you know that your child will remember anything that is correctly associated, anything outstanding, and anything that is appropriately repeated. This wonderful information is from Tony Buzan's book, Brain Child, one of my all time favourite parenting books. Tony Buzan calls a baby's brain, "a gigantic association machine". Another great bit of information to know about, is that memory is enhanced by the more senses that are involved.

Now the idea behind buckets of colour, was to create a fun memory and association with each colour represented.  I prepared all the buckets ahead of time and included items such as balloons, play dough, finger paint, bubbles, whistles, threading toys, plastic animals, stickers, bean bags and sweeties. Originally the plan was to have only small things in each bucket, so that I could close the bucket and take it along anywhere if I wanted to. Truthfully though, I added bigger things, like a flute and real fruit, which obviously didn't fit into the buckets.

I must say that these buckets became so much more than just colour fun. There was counting (3 little green frogs); numeracy (cutting the play food in half); imaginative play (play dough snakes eating the play food); fine motor skills (using the stickers and threading); body parts (sticking the stickers on body parts); gross motor activities with balloon and bean bag fun; sensory play (painting, smelling play dough, eating ice cream); language enrichment ("lets decorate our bucket with the stickers"); and, identifying shapes. For the colour "green", for example, we took our green bucket outside and had a "green" picnic on the grass. We sat on our green picnic blanket, ate a green apple and played with our green toys!

For lots more colour activities, pop on over to My Delicious Ambiguity, a wonderful blog with lots of tot activities. Jenn has a whole collection of colour activities posted here.

PS. I'm linking this to Tot Tuesdays and Show and Tell.
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