Thursday, 8 April 2021

It's what's inside that counts...

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One thing's for sure, we've all had to spend a lot of time at home over the last year or so. Whether you've managed to get round to completing that decorating you never had the time for previously, finally finished your garden project or simply cleared our some clutter to make way for home working, everyone's been making the most of their space and trying to make it work for their bubble. I've rounded up some of my favourite, fast interior design tips that could help you get started on making your home somewhere you love!
  1. Colour Pops

I love bright colours and usually have something cheerful as a focus point in each room. Think shutters or blinds, a quirky piece of furniture or a feature wall. If there’s a dress colour you love, why not take it along to a DIY store and get some colour matched paint? If you already own a fabulous, bright lamp shade, start there! Why not use design bundles craft patterns to upcycle things you already own, colour pops don’t have to be expensive.


 
  1. Gallery Walls.

How many of us spend our days taking photos of our children, families and the world around us, only to leave them trapped in our laptops? Or perhaps you’ve had professional photos taken, but don’t have them on display yet. I love seeing photos of our adventures wherever I am in the house and it’s so lovely to have reminders of how tiny the kids were! Frames can be identical or you could use frames of different colours and sizes that you may have lying around the house already, it’s what’s inside the frames that counts.


  1. Typography Prints

Prints can make the world of difference to a room. Using Design Bundles tattoo lettering font, you can create your own, bespoke inspirational quotes, type up your favourite song lyrics and design name prints or birth announcements for your little one’s bedroom. Our favourite of the fonts is ‘The Bearded Sailor’, you even get the option to preview your text. 


How you frame your prints is up to you, print at home and pop them in a frame you already have, upcycle a frame from a charity shop or order a larger print online with a custom frame, it's totally up to you.
  1. Wall and Window Stickers

This is an inexpensive way to brighten up any room, without committing to a whole new colour scheme. Stickers can easily be added to existing decor and changed as your child grows or when you want to change the theme of your room. Window stickers offer even more flexibility, as they can be removed and reused easily, so they can be changed each season or in line with special occasions such as Christmas, Easter and even birthdays!


 
  1. Fun and Functional

Have fun decorating and furnishing your home, but make it functional. Think about who will be living in and using the rooms in your home and take it from there. Why not create a breakfast/snack station in your home so that the children can be independent at mealtimes and help themselves to snacks at agreed times. You could even label the shelves or boxes using the design bundles fonts, to help everyone find their way around. Choosing your favourite or really interesting pieces for your most used rooms is a great way to ensure that you get to enjoy them often. 




Think about how you can set out your furniture so it can be accessed and used as intended. Set up inviting areas for reading, a book nook can offer a much appreciated sanctuary in a children’s playroom and a reading chair can do the same in an older child’s or adult’s bedroom. There are some beautiful reading inspired quotes you could add too. Make children’s areas engaging and be sure to set things up at an appropriate height. 

 
Whatever your budget or time constraints, hopefully you've found something to spark ideas and help you kick start your interior design efforts.




Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Ready for a close up...

 AD: Gifted

A cardboard microscope... surely that won’t work? Well, I’m here to tell you that it totally does! With plastic free packaging and pieces made from sustainable cardboard and no need to use glue or other fixing materials, not only is the Build Your Own Microscope an incredibly clever creation, it's also kind to the planet.


 
The box states that the microscope is suitable for ages 8 years upwards, but Ace (5 years old) really enjoyed helping me put the pieces together. Each part is labelled in alphabetical order, so it was easy for Ace to find which piece came next, although he did need help with slotting them in place securely.


Ace's favourite part was putting together the cam and gears, he couldn't stop turning them and was amazed that moments before, they were just bits of flat cardboard!


I am so impressed that all the packaging and leftovers are cardboard and therefore recyclable at the kerbside. This makes a HUGE change from layers of plastic packaging and awkward ties that some toys come wrapped in. 


Once assembled, the microscope is really sturdy and has easily interchangeable trays for examining different types of materials (depending on whether your chosen specimen is translucent or opaque). 

I will say that the age guidance of 8 years old is probably about right for actually using the microscope, as Ace's little hands found adjusting and looking through the lens at the same time quite tricky. Honey (almost 8) needed a little practise, but with a bit of patience, we were able to get a brilliant view (30 x magnification) of some treasure from our walk, including grains of sand, a feather, a rock, a leaf and a daisy! All in all, I would say that this is an excellent, sturdy, educational toy that ticks so many STEAM boxes both during and after construction.


If you visit the Build Your Own Kits website, you purchase this microscope for £16.99 (delivery is free) and you can also download a set of free 'Fact and Find' cards, which are the perfect starting point for your mini scientists to begin taking a much closer look at the world around them.





Monday, 8 March 2021

Painting the town red... and orange and yellow...

Ad: Gifted Paint Sticks

Do you ever say no when your children want to break out the paints? Are you put off by the mess and tidying up involved? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then read on!


Before: Paint, palettes, brushes, water pots. Maybe some newspaper or a table cloth to protect surfaces.


After: Paint sticks.

All you need for 'no mess' painting!

Little Brian Paint Sticks are so quick and easy to set up, these fab little sticks can be picked up and put down like felt tips, with no need to clean anything when you change colours. My children have had these out every day since the box arrived and I haven't had to get involved in the set up or tidy up once (obviously I was happy to get involved in the painting ;-)


The sticks work just like a glue stick, simply remove the lid, twist the bottom to reveal more paint and twist again to take the stick back down once you've finished. 


 

With classic, day glow and metallic options in the bumper pack, the colours are surprisingly vivid and can easily be layered for heavier coverage. You can also use the paint sticks with a little water if you want to create washes or mix your own colours.


If your little one prefers a larger canvas, Little Brian Paint Sticks are water based, so they're fab for painting on windows and tuff spots too as they can be wiped off with a damp cloth. While it does say on the packaging that the paint may stain clothing, the paint came off Ace's leggings without any rubbing, so I am taking that as a good sign!


The Little Brian Paint Stick Bumper Pack (24 paint sticks) is currently retailing for £13.33 on Amazon. For activity inspiration, head to the Little Brian website, where you will find some free spring downloads. These include Mother's Day cards, Thank you cards (perfect for teachers as many children head back to school this week) and Easter pictures.


Happy painting everyone!


Honey wears.. Apron by Emma Bridewater










Saturday, 20 February 2021

Let’s take this outside...

Outdoor learning is something we do a lot, it’s our go to when indoor home school isn’t working, when we need a break or just when we’re out on a walk anywhere and an opportunity presents itself. One of the most common questions I’m asked is ‘how do we take home learning outside?’ Here are a few of my thoughts on that.

Stories round the camp fire. 


This could be a real camp fire or a pretend one like the one Honey made at our local nature reserve recently.



The stories could be ones you make up on the spot, you could take a favourite/outdoor themed book with you, or you could bring a story they’ve written as part of their home learning. As you read, stop and ask questions about the story and relate it to what you can see or hear around you. Which trees are wide enough for Max to hide behind? Can you spot anywhere that would be perfect for the wild things to take shelter if it rains? Stories are amazing, they can take you in so many different directions after you’ve finished reading them. Next you could...


Build a den


There are some super science links surrounding which materials to use, asking children to think about how they could make their den waterproof or give it a more comfortable floor for the wild things to lie on. 



You could also discuss different types of home at this point, do they know what flats are, what makes a bungalow special? Do they know that some people live in homes that can move, like caravans or narrow boats? From here they could...


Make a nature picture


Ask the children to use whatever they can find in the woods/on your walk, to make a picture of their home or themselves. Talk about the size and shape of the materials that could be used for each section. Do they need to find sticks that are longer than the ones they have? Can they find sticks of an equal length to make a house roof? Can they find a nut or stone that’s a sphere shape to make their eyes? While they’re thinking about themselves, why not...


Have fun with some role play


Perhaps you’ve got a wannabe vet in the family, or a little person who aspires to be a mechanic. Their den could become a surgery or garage. Little ones usually come up with amazing ideas for role play, much better than my ideas, but you could suggest that they find things in the woods that will help them do their job (this usually involves a great big collection of sticks, which can act as tools/instruments). Ace’s favourite is when we draw a racetrack on the woodland floor (move leaves out of the way with your wellies) and then commentate as he races around the track, zooming under bridges (tree branches) and making pit stops for more fuel or spare tyres. 



He even has a leaf podium for when he wins a race (spoiler alert, he always wins). If they’re ready for something a little calmer after all that racing about, I suggest... 


Secret English and secret maths


Use sticks and stones as a substitute for base ten and practise counting in tens or make up addition and subtraction stories together (eg I had 3 sweets and Mummy gave me 2 more, how many do I have now?)



Find sticks that look like different letters and name the sounds or build words using them. If there aren’t any conveniently shapes sticks around, lay stones or smaller pieces of twig on the ground to form the letters you want.


Use your senses to think about what you can see, hear, feel, smell (maybe not taste, unless you have snacks or your a fungi expert). Describe where you are and talk about synonyms for the words you come up with (eg That tree is tall, could become, that tree is gigantic, massive, towering etc). Finally remember...


It’s ok not to know all the answers


What’s this flower called Mummy? Is that a beech tree Daddy? Being outside in nature invites A LOT of questions and as much as I love being outdoors, I have no idea what things are most of the time! We now keep a set of I spy books in our adventure bag, so we can look up trees, plants and cloud formations where ever we are. There’s also a wealth of spotting sheets and outdoor resources on The Wildlife Trusts website and the RSPB site too. Lots of their resources are printable, so you take take them with you, or just take a screenshot with your phone if you don’t fancy carrying bits of paper around with you. Failing all of that, ask them to take a photo or draw a sketch so you can look it up (or Facetime Grandad) when you get home!



With the countdown on for the children to be back in the classroom, we will be taking every opportunity we can to explore the world around us and watch the seasons change. If you’re lucky enough to have a toddler or preschooler, all of these activities can be adapted to their level and used any time you’re out and about.


Have fun and please tag me on Instagram (@stephloveshoney) if you try any of these ideas! 

Saturday, 13 February 2021

6 of our most used phonics resources...

Disclosure: I have kindly been gifted a year's subscription to the Time for Phonics website, in exchange for mentions in my blog and on social media. All other resources have been paid for myself. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I used to be scared of reception children... yes really! I LOVED working in Key Stage 1, but my only experience teaching in reception was one incredibly exhausting half term covering for a teacher who had been seconded to another school. I just didn't 'get' reception. Fast forward 7 years, I became a Mum and just like that, it all made sense. I saw why it was so tiring and I saw why it was absolutely, 100% worth it! One of the most amazing things about the early years and key stage 1, in my opinion, is phonics. Watching them unlock the magic of reading is like nothing else. I've rounded up a few of my favourite phonics resources that are perfect for home schooling and that you can carry on using in fun and engaging ways once the children are back at school...

1. Phonics Dice

This Cheltenham based, small business is still fairly new, but they're doing great things already. They started with dice and moved on to discs, puzzles and they even have a board game out now! We have the phase 2-5 dice and we use them to introduce new sounds, as well as to revise those Ace has already learnt. There are lots of games you can play with the dice. Ace likes using them for I spy, but we also use them to initiate scavenger hunts (find something beginning with /sh/, bring me something that has the /oo/ sound in it) and play phonics Jenga! 

2. Play Makes Sense Phonics Activity Cards

The activities on these cards have been buying me time recently! I tend to set one up in the living room and then when Ace has finished his main home learning jobs, he can go off and occupy himself while revising previously learnt sounds. This leaves me free to help Honey if she needs me. Each card has an activity idea, a short list of what you will need, easy to follow instructions and a word bank. A little bird tells me that phase 4 cards are coming soon, which we are very excited about! 

3. Time for Phonics

Time for Phonics is a new website offering fun phonics games, it's the sister site of well established educational blog and website Mrs Mactivity. The games have been designed by a teacher, who found that her daughter didn't want to engage with some other phonics games on the market. 

Ace loves the fun settings and characters and really enjoys playing the games. Once he had been on the website a couple of times, he found it easy to select the correct phase and pick a set of sounds to work on. You can access the site on a mobile, tablet or computer, we have tried all three and haven't had any isses. Currently, you can sign up for a 30 day free trial and it's £10 per year after that. 

4. Ruth Miskin Cards 

I've used these ever since I started teaching and have recently bought a pack to use at home with Ace. He responds so much more enthusiastically to 'real' phonics lessons, compared with watching videos (although Mr Thorne and Geraldine do give me a run for my money). The cards have a grapheme on one side, eg /aw/ and a short, easy to remember rhyme (eg /aw/, yawn at dawn) on the other side. They can be used for speed sound practise, putting sounds in groups, introducing new sounds and we also use them in conjunction with our phonics dice and magnetic letters to build words and captions.

5. Blackboard or Mega Sketcher 

Our blackboard is in the garden, so the kids get a bonus shot of fresh air whenever they use it! Using chalk is great for building fine motor skills too. It's fun for children to practise their writing in a range of ways, especially when the stakes are low and they can easily rub out or change what they have written.

6. Magnetic letters

These are great for letter recognition, understanding the difference between upper and lower case and matching upper and lower case pairs. You could ask your child to point to a letter and say the sound it makes, build a word or sentence, create a caption or practise their spellings. Children love that these letters are portable, they can build words on the radiator or fridge and don't have to be chained to the home school table (metaphorically speaking of course)!


So if you're looking to sneak some extra phonics into your play or your home school day, hopefully this list has given you some food for thought!

Ace wears.. pyjamas from Next.


Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Pump it up...

The first lockdown saw us exploring our town more than ever before. For the first few weeks, we stepped out of our front door and headed into the countryside, there were so many footpaths we had never walked before and so many beautiful views we’d never even glimpsed!

Alongside our walks, we also took to our local streets and cul-de-sacs for bike riding practise. Both children were confident riders, but most of their experience had been in parks, so we wanted to teach them to navigate crossing roads, watch out for pedestrians and negotiate other hazards. Once we were happy that they’d mastered those skills, we started to roam further afield, trying to stick to cycle paths where possible, but thanks to the quieter roads we could also teach them how to ride safely on the road, when we needed them to.

 

One of the best places we’ve cycled to in Cheltenham is the BMX Pump Track at Burrows Field in Leckhampton. Children and adults alike, can use the track to hone their bike skills, improve their fitness and most importantly, have fun!


Currently, there are social distancing reminder signs by the track, it’s the perfect activity for kids to meet up without the temptation of huddling together!

 

If you’re not up for cycling there, there’s a small, free car park at the edge of the field (next to Broadlands Pre school). There’s also lots of grassy space around the track, perfect for meeting up for picnics at a distance.

 

We arrived at the track at around 11am and as lunchtime came and went, it got quite a bit busier, so I’d suggest heading down there early if it’s your first time, giving your children chance to get to know the lay of the track. There’s a really helpful sign next to the entrance, explaining the skills you should master before taking on the track, as well as covering track safety and etiquette points.

 

As well as other newbies like us, we saw toddlers on balance bikes bossing the track, older children who had clearly been practicing for years and adults who effortlessly navigated the track. Despite the range of ages and abilities, everyone was polite and respectful, giving the smaller children space and nobody laughed or made comments when wipeouts inevitably happened. 

Both our children (4 and 7) had an awesome time and spent the cycle home planning their next trip!


If you fancy giving it a try, you can gain access to the track via Moorend Grove. The postcode is GL53 0HB.





Honey and Ace wear... Cycle helmets (don't get on a bike without one).







Monday, 31 August 2020

We're Going Camping in a Camper Van...

Disclosure: We were give a discount on Hartland's hire fees in exchange for Social Media coverage and honest feedback to the Cheltsea team.

Our Cheltsea story started in July 2020, when we booked our first ever camper van experience! We are seasoned campers, but fancied something a little bit different this year. A VW camper is something we have often talked about and lusted after, but we are not in a position to buy one (nor do we have space to park one), so we were really excited to get going! 

As our holiday approached, we exchanged emails with the Cheltsea team, arranging details like which awning we wanted to hire and booking me in as an extra driver. We didn’t tell the children about the holiday until the van was parked on our driveway and we had packed it up. It was so much fun planning everything and imagining their reaction and Cheltsea did everything they could to ensure that our surprise had maximum impact!

Hartland and the Drive Away Awning.

Once we had shown the children the van and established that we were free to roam in it for the next four days, we headed straight for our favourite place, Woolacombe. It’s been a special place for my husband for many years and I have shared his passion for the place over the last 10 years, we even got engaged there in 2011! 

 

Van life is a little different to camping, some differences we loved and others not so much, but it’s all down to personal preference! Here’s our top three perks of van life:

 

1.   You get your very own mobile changing room and kitchen! We made packed lunches in car parks, ate takeaways overlooking the sea and used the van to change in and out of wetsuits.

  2. The cool. Hartland is very cool. There’s no way you can lose this van, even in a car park full of campers! Its distinctive colourway appeals to my love of bright colours and is a great change from the usual block colours.

3.  Setting up is fast, even faster if you’re travelling light and don’t need an awning! If you’ve  

     been organised and kept your bags etc tidy, you can pack away quickly too.

 

When we go to Woolacombe, we usually stay at Easewell Farm in Mortehoe. It’s part of the Woolacombe Bay group and we love it there because it’s nice and quiet, but you also have access to their bigger, busier sites (should you wish to visit them), which have more facilities and evening entertainment. We don’t normally go down there in the summer holidays and unsurprisingly, Easewell was full this summer, so we booked Woolacombe Sands as we have friends who have stayed there and recommended it.

 

The main difference between the two sites, was proximity to town and therefore, the beach. Woolacombe Sands is the closest camp site to the beach and there’s a lovely foot path which leads you there in around 15 minutes.

 

Our few days away were a blur of exploring beaches (we loved Grunta and Combesgate this time), walking, bodyboarding and enjoying delicious food. Shout out to Fudgies for their incredible pasties and sausage rolls, Big Chief for their wonderous waffles and ice cream and Woolacombe Bay Pizza Co for the obvious!

We loved being back in Woolacombe and loved our first foray into van life. We look forward to making more camper van memories in the future! 


P.S. If you sang the title, you are my people! ;-)


Honey and Ace wear... T- Shirts tie dyed and printed by AMG Cre8tes




It's what's inside that counts...

AD| Paid Post| With Design Bundles One thing's for sure, we've all had to spend a lot of time at home over the last year or so. Whet...