Monday, 25 May 2020

Secret learning...

There are so many brilliant activities out there for keeping little ones entertained at home. My main sources of inspiration are Pinterest and Instagram, I'm forever taking screen shots of activities I like the look of or think I can adapt for my own children. Often, the activities are just for fun, but there are nearly always learning opportunities to be found if (like right now) you want to draw them out.

A few weeks ago, we criss crossed the patio with masking tape and used pavement chalk to fill in all the shapes we created. While we worked and after we had finished, we chatted a lot about shape. This is just one example of how you can create learning opportunities during a game or activity.

Set Challenges
Find a rectangle and colour it yellow.
Colour the smallest shape blue.
Jump on a triangle.
Throw a stone onto a rectangle.

Ask Questions
How many triangles can you see?
What is this shape called?
Can you see anything else in our garden that is square shaped?
Can you see any more rectangles?
How many sides does this shape have?
How many corners does this shape have?
Can you see any letters in our pattern?
Can you see any numbers in our pattern?
Which shape is the biggest?
Which shape is the smallest?
How many different shapes can you see?
How many shapes are there altogether?
Which shape has the most sides?

Ask Trickier Questions (depending on age or stage)
Can you see any symmetrical shapes?
Are any of these shapes squares? Why/why not?
How many right angles can you see?
What is the length of the sides of this triangle?
Which shapes are regular?
Which shapes are irregular?
Which angles are acute?
Which angles are obtuse?
Can you name some 3D shapes that have rectangular sides?

So you see, home school doesn't have to be worksheets every day, there are loads of activities you're probably doing already that you can find learning opportunities within. Let me know if you have a favourite activity with added 'secret learning'!

P.S. Aside from all the learning that took place, these photos also lead to me cleaning our patio due to how grim it looked here! I spent a happy hour scrubbing the slabs using a cream cleaner, water and a stiff bristled broom (another hack seen on Instagram) and we were all amazed by the results. It feels like we have a new patio!

Honey wears... Tutu by Candy Bows

Friday, 24 April 2020

One mans trash...

We are currently feeling very grateful that we are allowed to leave the house each day for a walk or a bike ride around our local area. We have rediscovered footpaths we haven't walked down for 10 years, discovered places we've never been before and realised that our children can walk a lot further than they let on, especially if they have a challenge to keep them occupied!

Here are some examples of the fresh air challenges we have given the children recently. All of them can be made quickly and easily using things from your recycling box and home. Text in blue demonstrates an English link (EYFS/KS1) and text in red demonstrates a maths link, just incase you're looking for ways to sneak a spot of learning into your fun!

1. Treasure Hunt

A cardboard rectangle.
A felt pen or marker pen.
Double sided sticky tape.

You can differentiate the task depending on your child's stage. Ace loves letters and numbers and is absolutely loving sounding out short words, so I used sound buttons to help him read some of his clues independently. I also specified some quantities, so he could practise his counting and so that we could ask him questions such as 'how many have you got?' and  'how many more to make 5?' For Honey, I suggested that she could try to make her blades of grass the same length and I also used synonyms for some of the words on Ace's board so that we could talk about vocabulary choices.

I was wearing a gilet, so I peeled off Ace's tape and put it in my pocket as we went along, but you could peel it all off before you begin and then leave the rubbish at home.

2. Nature crowns

Packaging paper.
Sticky tape.
Double sided sticky tape.

We used string to measure Honey and Ace's head circumference, then cut a piece of packaging paper to size for each of them. We then spread the paper out on the table and added strips on double sided tape. Finally, we used normal sticky tape to secure the ends. As we were walking, Honey and Ace chose flowers, twigs and leaves they liked and added them to their crowns. Ace was thrilled to find some pink tipped daisies and loved blowing the dandelion clocks, while Honey tried to make her crown a sea of different colours.

3. Bunting

Packaging paper.
Toilet roll tubes.
Felt pens.
Stampers (optional).

This one isn't something to take on a walk with you, but my children love seeing bunting whenever we go out, so we thought we would make some of our own. First cut the paper into a row of even triangles leaving a strip at the top so that they all stay together (you can make your strip whatever width you like). Then use your toilet roll tubes to stamp circles/ovals, depending on the shape of your chosen animals. When the paint is dry, use your felt pens to draw eyes, noses, legs etc as appropriate for your animals. Finally, use pens or stampers to add wording (if you want to). We made these for Easter, but you could make them for lockdown birthdays/anniversaries/just because!

4. Clipboard

A cardboard rectangle.
A large paper clip.
A blob of Bluetac.
A felt pen or marker pen.
A pencil.
Rectangles of packaging paper.

I made a couple of little clipboards for Honey and Ace, to add a twist to our daily walk. On our walks, we noticed that lots of people had drawn and coloured rainbows or left bears in their windows to brighten other peoples' days. A couple of times, we tried to keep count of how many we saw, but we kept forgetting our total! I drew a simple table on to a piece of packaging paper and off we went, keeping a tally of the things we saw along the way. We stopped to count our running totals (in 5's and 10's) and then found the difference between the totals once we got home. You could also use the clipboards for indoor or outdoor sketching, or for making lists of trees, flowers or types of cars you see while you're out and about.

5. Nature weaving

A cardboard rectangle.
Elastic bands (you could use string instead or cut lines straight through the cardboard).

Finally a use for all the elastic bands out postman has dropped over the last year or so! Ace's set himself a goal of finding sticks shaped like different letters, he managed I, y and t. Honey wanted to find things that were exactly the right length to fit widthways on her weaving board.

Honey wears... Gryffindor scarf by Nanna
Ace wears... Flower crown by Ace

Monday, 13 April 2020

Get out (while you can)...

There's nothing that can't be solved by getting outdoors, well very few things anyway. If tensions are running high, simply opening the back doors and pouring the children into the garden can work wonders for everyone's mood. Often, a walk to your local parkland is in order (obviously avoiding play areas at the moment) and sometimes an adventure further afield is called for! 

A couple of years ago, we explored lots of our local National Trust properties, which included meeting up with friends and family for woodland walks and this year (after lockdown), we are joining Historic Houses, so will be doing more of the same I'm sure. We love getting outside whatever the weather and having the right kit is crucial to make sure that it can happen.

A Comfortable Backpack

I love the Vans Realm Backpacks and we have a few in the house! They were the perfect size to carry our sling, potty, spare clothes and some snacks when Ace was smaller and now I use mine to carry snacks, drinks, spare clothes and all manner of adventure essentials, including our Scrunch buckets and spades, binoculars and compass. Honey used to take hers to the childminders and has used it as a school bag for the last few years, so it's been worth the initial outlay.

A Travel Potty

While a nature wee is a common occurrence when out in the countryside, sometimes when they're first potty training, little ones can announce the urgent need for a number 2 at any time! Although it's not something we need to carry around with us anymore, we used and loved My Carry Potty with both Honey and Ace, you can read more about our potty training experiences here (Honey) and here (Ace).

Waterproof Outerwear

A warm, waterproof coat is worth its weight in gold. Things to look out for include, a hood that stays up during the wind and rain, upright pockets so that gloves don't fall out and a warm lining. We love the Puddle Buster coats from Frugi and also have warm, padded coats from Mountain Warehouse for chilly but dry(ish) days. For warmer days, I carry a lightweight, parkway waterproof for each of them, in our backpack.
Waterproof trousers or dungarees are key too. Not only do they keep little bottoms dry when they're sitting on the sand (or in a puddle), they also provide a valuable extra layer to protect from chilling winds. Our favourites are from Mountain Warehouse and Grass & Air and our tip is to wear them over the top of wellies instead of tucked in, as this helps keep wellies dry inside too!

Waterproof Gloves

My children love to pick up sticks, stones and other treasure on our walks. If we're on the beach, they also love to build sandcastles and climb rocks. All of these things are fine during the warmer months, but when you're out in the wind and rain, little hands can get very cold and when they're cold there's whinging and when there's whinging, nobody has fun! Mountain Warehouse come up trumps again here, we rate their ski mittens and gloves and love that the elastic cuffs can be tucked into sleeves to keep out the weather.

A Cosy Hat

Everyone's Granny ever used to tell them that '10% of your body head is lost through your head', so a decent hat is an absolute must! We love Little Hotdog Watson hats because they're water resistant, have a cosy, thinsulate lining and are even reflective for those darker days. My favourite things about these hats is that they can be fastened underneath your chin so they don't blow off your head and also the they are not too bulky, so can easily be worn under a hood for double warmth! They also do amazing summer hats which have SPF and mosquito repellent built in, they're worth every penny.

Appropriate Footwear

Cold extremities are the absolute worst on an outdoors day. I've already mentioned the importance of keeping fingers warm, but keeping toes warm is essential too! Recently, I was lucky enough to win our family a set of Warm Wellies and I can honestly say that our recent winter holiday to Devon was the first time EVER that my toes have stayed toasty all day while wearing wellies. I have tried countless different sock combinations previously, as well as welly liners and have always ended up with freezing toes. The Warm Welly Company make neoprene lined wellies, which keep my feet warm and dry while only wearing my normal day to day cotton socks. To say I'm impressed is such an understatement! 

At the moment, the children's Warm Wellies are too big for them, so they have tall wellies (so they can wade in deeper puddles without water cascading over the top) and insulated, moisture wicking welly socks, which seem to do the trick judging by the lack of wet feet complaints! For tall wellies, we rate Muddy Puddles and Mountain WarehouseFor warmer days, unlined wellies or hiking shoes can save the day.

Spare Clothes

When the kids are kitted out in full wet weather gear, we don't carry spare clothes in the backpack anymore, but we do tend to keep a full set of everything back at the car just in case. The one time we didn't do this recently, Ace decided to go for a swim in the sea (in february) and water went down the neck of his coat (brrrrr). He had had to wear my jumper until we could raid the local charity shops for a more appropriately sized one!

Wet bag

We keep the wet bag from our brief foray into cloth nappies in our backpack which is great for making sure wet clothing stays away from the rest of our things. Bags for life and Ikea bags are also great to keep in the car boot for containing wet garments and footwear.

So if you've broken up the fourth fight of the morning, ended up in an argument about whose turn it is to pick a film or found chocolate smeared on the sofa, get out. Draw chalk rainbows on your patio or path, practise your ball skills in your garden or explore your local area and make the most of your government sanctioned period of daily exercise. Breathe in, breathe out and enjoy the fresh air, I guarantee it will make everyone feel better.

*Everything mentioned has been bought by us (apart from our Warm Wellies, which were a Facebook giveaway prize). I have linked our most useful buys so you can find them easily if you're looking for anything similar, none of the links are affiliate.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

What a waste...

It was Anne-Marie Bonneau (aka Zero Waste Chef) who wrote "we don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." 

She's right isn't she? As a family:

1. We have two cars (one petrol, one diesel).
2. Since moving out of town, I use my car every week day and some weekend days (as opposed to approximately 3 days per week when we lived closed to town).
3. We have a tumble drier and a dishwasher.
4. We don't often cook from scratch.
5. We eat a lot of meat.

However, having said all of that...

1. Our cars were chosen with good fuel economy and low emissions in mind (this is a lie, I chose mine because it was pink, the other things were a happy coincidence). We also use my husband's car for our family holidays, so while it's not 'trains over planes', our carbon footprint is lower than if we were flying abroad each summer.

2. We only drive half of the school run each time, parking near our old house and finishing the journey on foot/bike/scooter. We also try to do errands while we are out in the car, so we aren't making extra trips.

3. We hang our washing out during the summer months, so the tumble drier gets a break.

4. We recycle any food related cardboard, jars and tins we use and our local supermarket recycles plastic bags, from frozen vegetables and the like.

5. We have started choosing some things from the vegetarian freezer during our weekly shops and have found quite a few alternatives that we will definitely keep eating.

If zero waste sounds like too much to take on, here are some of the ways we are trying to reduce our impact on the planet, maybe some of them could work for you too.

Nom Nom Kids
We first started using Nom Nom Kids reusable pouches for purees and yoghurt when Honey was tiny. Since then, Suzanne has added larger pouches, snack bags and sandwich bags to her repertoire and we have bought and used every single one of her products. They are a daily feature at snack times and in our packed lunches (even I use them) and they have helped us save hundreds of sandwich bags/pieces of clingfilm from going to landfill.
A sea of Nom Nom
One of my favourite ways to use the snack bags, is to portion out larger bags of crisps, biscuits etc so that they last longer and so that only one single use packet has been used. Often, the kids will share a bag of Quavers or Mini Cheddars without even realising, whereas they would usually eat a whole packet straight from the original bag.

Saved from Landfill
Although we try to cut waste where we can, my tendency towards time and effort saving foods inevitably creates rubbish. Since we moved to a larger house, we have started recycling crisp packets, kids snack wrappers, biscuit packets and so much more. In our neck of the woods, a local lady and her trusty helpers work tirelessly to sort, pack and send the different waste categories off for recycling via the Terracycle scheme. All the money they raise goes to the charity Kicks Count and all the waste they sort DOESN'T go to landfill!

For a full list of what can be recycled via Terracycle within Gloucestershire, click here. To stay up to date and to find out where your nearest collection hub is, join the Facebook group Recycling for KC - Cheltenham and Gloucestershire.

Kerbside Recycling
In our area, we have recycling boxes for plastic, paper, tins and glass and a bag for collecting cardboard. The list of things that can be put in our kerbside boxes can be a little bit confusing, with different sources contradicting each other, but recent additions include dead batteries, aluminium foil and aerosol cans. As the street we live on is fairly narrow, a smaller lorry is usually sent to collect our recycling fortnightly, so we don't worry too much about sorting within the boxes. At our old address (just down the road), a truck with compartments for each waste type collected the recycling weekly, so we sorted within the boxes to make the refuse collectors' jobs a bit easier.

Since moving house a year ago, we also have a food waste bin for the first time. Tea bags, coffee grounds and the occasional toast crust make their way into the food bin before the day even begins, add egg shells, potato peelings and floor snacks and our little bin is often quite heavy by the end of the week.

Recycling Centre
In our old house, we designed everything to take up the least amount of space and while we had plenty of room for bins and recycling boxes outside, inside was a different matter. Now that we have more room to store the boxes, we have also started recycling juice cartons and because we will be going to the recycling centre anyway, we save odd bits of wood (like lolly ice sticks), scrap metal (85,000 Ikea allen keys anyone?) and we also take the leaves that fall onto our lawn, when one of us can be bothered to collect them up!
Ace loves helping at the tip!
Eco-Able is the brainchild of the lovely Danielle, she has curated a marketplace full of fabulous alternatives to single use. She is a stockist for the aforementioned Nom Nom Kids bags and pouches, as well as many other products that can help you on your way to planet friendly living. Here's our Eco Able top five:

Playdough - Their eco friendly, vegan play dough comes in a cute, metal tin. The colours are gorgeous and the consistency is lovely, it's perfect for modelling, and also great for chopping, rolling and mark making. The sets come in a handmade, reusable fabric gift bag, with 25p from every sale being donated to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. The tins are really pretty too and I can think of loads of uses for them once the play dough comes the end of its life (e.g. refill with more play dough or wash and use for storing hair clips etc).

Goats milk soap - According to the blurb, unprocessed goats milk helps to get rid of dead skin cells, making it perfect for shaving and moisturising. I have been using the plain goats milk bar for a couple of weeks now, instead of shower gel and my skin is lovely and soft.

Soap saver - This little pouch not only helps keep your soap together (thus making it last longer), it is also a fabulous alternative to a plastic shower puff. Oh, and it encourages your soap to dry out between uses so it isn't all slimy next time you need it!

Reusable wipes - We used reusable baby wipes part time when Ace was in nappies (I never got my head round using them out and about) and since he potty trained, we have sold the boxes, but kept the wipes for mopping up spills, wiping faces and even cleaning the bathroom. Eco-Able stocks cute, colourful wipes which are made from fabric off cuts and sewn together using left over pieces of thread. They are backed with super soft flannel, making them perfect for little (and big) faces and they also come as rounds which are ideal for removing makeup (I have even sacrificed one of mine for removing nail varnish, which has eliminated the need for any single use cotton wool in our house).

Reusable cups and water bottles - I don't drink tea or coffee (which is apparently very strange for a teacher), but I do genuinely love water! From the age of 16, I worked as a lifeguard and spent a lot of time on very warm poolsides gulping back litres of water per shift, to stave off dehydration. A reusable bottle was essential, but I also used to buy bottled water whenever I was out shopping. These days, I carry reusable water bottles for myself and the children most of the time. When we go out for the day, it's as natural as packing my purse and my keys and I can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of mineral water.

Buying Pre-Loved 
If we want or need something, my first instinct these days is to search for it on Facebook Marketplace, in a selling group or on ebay. Buying things preloved and locally has saved us a lot of money over the last few years and the pre loved marketplace has also allowed us to move on unwanted items of our own and earn some money in the process.

So although we aren't perfect, we are trying and we will keep trying. The kids are on board and we regularly have conversations about how we can look after our planet a little better and they get involved in all our efforts, taking many onboard with gusto... apart from giving up Happy Meal toys... On the rare occasions we visit McDonald's, these are still seen as a huge treat. Here's hoping McDonald's and other companies offering similar, plastic tat, will come up with more Earth friendly alternatives in the not too distant future.

*Although we were kindly gifted some items from Eco-Able, all thoughts and opinions within this blog are my own.

Ace wears... Hat by Little Hotdog Watson

Sunday, 26 January 2020

In the hood...

When I take Ace swimming, the trickiest part, is having my own shower in the short window of time between Ace finishing his shower and Ace getting really cold and needing my attention! The new hooded towel from Tiddlers and Nippers has given me the gift of time! 
As soon as Ace is showered, he pops his towel on, finds a dry patch of floor (or his swimming float) and sits singing to himself while I wash my hair. He doesn't shiver anymore and he's no longer moaning at me to hurry up! By the time I'm changed, Ace is dry (including his hair), so I can help him get changed and pack his bag ready to go home. Ace can put his towel in his swimming bag by himself as they fold down really easily and nice and small, leaving room for his wet swimming gear too.

Ace wears the small sized hooded towel and it's a great size on him. There's plenty of growing room (he will be 4 in March).

Honey has the larger hooded towel and again, it's a great size on her (she will be 7 in May). She showers independently at the pool these days and this hooded towel hangs waiting for her to slip on when she's finished. She loves it because it leaves her hands free for carrying her 3 in 1 swim wash and her Tangle Teezer and it also means that by the time she's dressed her bottom half, her hair is dry and doesn't get her top all wet. 
If you like the sound of these towels, you can buy one here (affiliate link). Here are all the finer details (taken from the Tiddlers and Nippers website):
Small 2-5 Years / Large 5-10 Years kids travel Hooded Poncho Microfibre/ microfibre towel / High-performance & lightweight
Both super absorbent and amazingly compact. Our microfibre children's hooded towel is Ideal for days out with the kids, trips to the pool and beach, or family holidays where luggage space is at a premium.
Tiddler kids travel hooded towel - Clever microfibre technology dries up to x4 faster than standard towels. Say goodbye to heavy, sopping wet towels!
> Quick drying, super absorbent 
> Large size - generous dimensions - 66cm width  x 77.5cm each side = total length 155cm

> Small size - generous dimensions -  61cm width x 60cm each side = total 120cm
> Absorbs up to x4 times more water than a standard towel.

> Made with a durable, high-frequency, moisture-targeting weave.
> Features a heavy-duty hanging loop on back of hood.
> Comes in a compact carry pouch 
> 220gsm Microfibre for both softness & comfort.
> Antibacterial action - Machine wash and hang to dry.
>Available in pink, blue and grey, with contrasting same colour stitching.
* Although we are Brand Ambassadors for Tiddlers and Nippers and have previously been gifted items from their range, I bought these towels myself. As always, all thoughts and opinion are my own.
Honey and Ace wear...Hooded towels by Tiddlers and Nippers

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Christmas... There, I said it. The decorations and music are creeping in and the schools have started rehearsing for their nativity plays. I am not a massive fan of the consumer side of Christmas, but what I do love are useful, practical gifts that can be used year round! 

Honey and Ace love bath time, there's something about water that can diffuse any situation and bring harmony to even the most fraught evening. We have used Child's Farm products since Honey was tiny and have been brand ambassadors for them for around 5 years. We are particular fans of their rhubarb and custard 2 in 1 hair and the latest, seasonal addition to the Child's Farm collection, their delicious smelling satsuma hair and body wash. The packaging is gorgeous and it would make an awesome stocking filler, something fun yet functional that won't be lost or broken by 1st January.
Child's Farm products are formulated to be gentle on eczema prone skin and are approved by dermatologists. Child's Farm source the highest quality, naturally derived ingredients and essential oils, to produce a range of bath and shower products for the whole familyHere are a few of our favourite bath time activities which can all be enhanced by using your favourite Child's Farm products! 

Ice block rescue mission - Freeze plastic animals or dinosaurs in blocks of ice (I use empty, washed out takeaway tubs as containers). Run a nice bubbly bath and give the ice blocks to your little ones so they can 'rescue' the trapped creatures.
Coloured ice cubes - Use a drop of food colouring to turn water your desired colour/s. Pour the water into ice cube trays and freeze. Run a foamy bath then give the ice cubes to your tiddlers to drop in the water. As the cubes melt, the water will change colour. Older children might like to explore colour mixing using cups or jugs to melt different coloured ice cubes together. I hardly used any bubble bath for this one so the colours would be more visible.
Pouring - So simple, yet so much fun for children! Pop a range of containers in the 
bath at bath time and watch them create bubble ice creams (satsuma flavoured, naturally), make bath time soup and more than likely, pour water over each other!
Dinosaur bath time/car wash - Tell your child to choose some of their plastic animals, dinosaurs or toy cars to take into the bath with them. Give them a sponge or flannel to clean their toys.

Bath Flutes - Ace was given a set of bath flutes when he was a baby and they have been used regularly ever since. You fill them up to different levels and each one can then be used to play a different note. There's lots of fun to be had trying to play nursery rhymes or favourite pop songs! 

As Honey gets older, she is becoming more independent and often has showers instead of a bath. The Child's Farm bottles are easy for her to open and squeeze onto her hands or sponge by herself, without wasting loads, plus they don't sting her eyes. 
If you'd like to try the new scent, you're in luck! Child's Farm have offered to send one lucky reader their own bottle of festive satsuma bubble bath. To be in with a chance of winning, head over to Instagram (@stephloveshoney) and look for the photo below on our grid. Comment with your answer to the following question: What's your favourite thing about Christmas? 
*All thoughts and opinions within this blog are my own. I won our satsuma bubble bath in a Child's Farm giveaway. I am a brand ambassador for Child's Farm but do not gain commission from sales of any of their products. The 2 in 1 hair pictured was purchased by myself from Boots.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

While baby sleeps...

Originally posted on Cheltenham Maman's Blog, I am reposting here so my words are not lost once her site closes next month. Wishing you the best of luck for the future Kate, thank you for the memories! 

22nd January 2018

As many of us know, when you have a second child, managing your first-born becomes a whole different ball game! Rare are the days of sleep while the baby sleeps, as their older sibling needs and deserves your time and attention. Honey has always been good at occupying herself, but while I was pregnant, we encouraged her to engage with more independent activities so she’d be prepared when I was flying solo and needed to turn my attention to feeding and nappy changing instead of concentrating on her full time. 

In the early days after Ace was born, I was a huge fan of pre-prepared craft activities, even better if the activities had a purpose such as a card for someone’s birthday or a thank you picture (love a bit of multi-tasking)! I made up or bought little packs for Honey to create cards and pictures with and set up an easy access craft cupboard so she could go and get them by herself if a feed was taking a particularly long time.  

Colouring in and activity books were and continue to be so useful, especially ones that are small enough to pop in the changing bag with a small pack of crayons, that way, they’re ready to whip out if you need to make a pit stop to feed baby while you’re out in town. We also keep our library card in the changing bag, the library is a great place to take a toddler while your baby is napping in the sling or buggy, as it’s such a quiet, calm environment! 

Stickers are the one. Oh my goodness, the many, many, many hours that Honey has spent ‘stickering’ cannot be counted. It started when I was pregnant with Ace and had really bad morning (all day) sickness for months. We bought Honey a wedding sticker book to help prepare her for an upcoming family wedding and also to buy me some lying on the sofa time! Since then, she’s had just about the whole range of Usborne sticker dolly books, which have kept her occupied for a cumulative total of 9732 hours. They have also been great for her fine motor skills and have broadened her general knowledge thanks to the wide range of subjects they cover. 

Whether we like it or not, our children are growing up in a digital age (that’s a whole other blog post) and personally, I choose to see it as a blessing that there are channels and apps that have been purpose built to reinforce our children’s play. If I need to get on with something, Honey loves using the CBeebies Storytime app to help her read stories to her class full of toys and imaginary pupils, the Bee-Bot app to make treasure maps for her pirate Lottie doll and loves playing the Go Jetters game on the CBeebies website.  

Once Ace began to have longer naps, Honey and I found bigger chunks of time to spend together. Although we love to play, sometimes there are also things that need doing during those precious hours when your youngest is asleep. This is where you can multi task, by getting your toddler to help you with chores, youre getting to spend time learning and chatting together while getting some jobs out of the way. Honey is a dab hand at emptying the dishwasher, washing up and transferring the washing from the washing machine to the tumble drier and once that’s all done, there’s usually plenty of time left for a spot of Play Doh or Bug Bingo!

We have always kept downstairs books and toys in an easy to access storage unit and Honey often spends the few minutes it takes to put Ace down for his nap upstairs, tidying up then settling herself down with her chosen toys or activity. During the post Christmas sort out, I also realised that there were so many toys up in the kids bedroom that rarely saw the light of day because we’d forget they were there, so Honey and I created a toy menu. If she wants to play with something from upstairs, she can choose from the list and comes up to get it when I go up with Ace.

Now that Honey has started school, she loves any opportunity to show off her writing skills so we capitalize on this by using some nap times to plan adventures together. Honey uses her sounds to write lists of things she would like to do, this can range from wanting to light a candle or making a list of baking ingredients, to planning a camping trip and everything in between. 

Sometimes, Honey has homework or reading to do, which she loves and she often creates her own extension activities, which usually unfold on the floor while the baby sleeps! This can be giant story maps (a great use for the totally excessive Amazon packaging paper) based on a book she’s been reading or using magnetic letters to spell tricky words on the fridge. She also adores cutting up old magazines and catalogues to make scrapbooks and collages. 

As well as spending time with Honey and getting plenty of chores out of the way, I sometimes use the time to work with Honey to set something up ready for after Ace’s naptime. It can be something simple like dragging out the road mat or building a cool train track but occasionally, we do something crazy like put a box in the garden and throw in the finger paints (the smiles and giggles totally cancel out the extreme mess on this one).

Speaking of the garden, don’t forget about it, even in winter as it can be a really valuable space. While we don’t tiptoe around while Ace is asleep, he undoubtedly sleeps for longer when he has a bit of peace and quiet! This is where the garden comes in, we can draw on the outdoor blackboard, have a tea party in the playhouse or use the time to practice the skill of moment which might be scooting, hula hooping or bike riding depending on your child’s stage. 

Fiddly toys that aren’t baby friendly can come out during naptime without fear of anybody choking. Hama beads are a favourite here, it can take a whole nap to place the tiny beads on those boards and boy do we have some funny and random conversations while we ‘work’. 

I could go on all day, the possibilities really are endless but instead, I’ve put together a Pinterest board linking to some of activities mention (and a few more) incase you fancy trying anything outI’d also love to hear what you guys get up to while the baby sleeps, so please do comment on the post or get in touch via social media!

A Guest Blog from Steph Gore
About Steph

Steph lives in Cheltenham with her wonderful, paramedic husband and two gorgeous children. She is a primary school teacher and also loves to blog about the places and products that her family enjoy.  She adores organising and fully believes that you should never put off anything until tomorrow that could be done today! If you want to say Hi, Steph would love you to follow her on FacebookInstagramTwitter or over on her blog, which has recently been nominated for the Cotswold Blogger Awards

Secret learning...

There are so many brilliant activities out there for keeping little ones entertained at home. My main sources of inspiration are Pinterest...