Sparham Pools

There are so many beautiful places right on our doorstep that our children adore. As a mother of six it’s about economising and making our own fun and this is an excellent example.

Sparham pools (located just into Lyng) is a wonderful nature reserve that consists of a walk of around a mile (it takes us about 45 minutes) with gorgeous scenery and wildlife. The walk to the pools is an adventure for the children over the bridge past the mill with the expanding fields and valley laid out before them. You can extend the walk all the way to Lenwade (which is around a 4 mile return walk) along the Wensum Way and see the young lambs running free, eat the sublime Fish and Chips (as long as you remember the correct opening night) and walk off all those calories on the way back. There is some off-road parking if you’re not lucky enough to be able to walk there but the walk isn’t suitable for buggy’s so get your carriers on if you have a little one.

During past walks the children have been lucky enough to see deer, herons, swans and even an adder slithered between us. There are little boardwalks over some marshes, jetty’s into the pools and all these things inspire the children’s imaginations.  We’ve taken picnics and the children have paddled in the shallow water. There are cows grazing with warnings clearly marked.  You can take dogs, but there are parts where they must be on a lead.

It’s brilliant to see the children outside taking in all that nature has to offer reaping the benefits of fresh air and exercise, having them use their imaginations and the time and opportunity to chat.  So if you have a spare hour, take a walk and enjoy this local beauty spot, you will not be disappointed.

Valentines Stick Arrangement

February is the month of love and with almost no cost you can make a lovely wrapped stick arrangement.  This activity is a great excuse to explore the woods to collect sticks.

This is a really easy activity to do and the beauty of it is that because the sticks are all different shapes and sizes it looks really effective

You’ll need:-

  • sticks (at least as thick as your finger);
  • red & pink wool;
  • scissors;
  • cardboard.

Start by tying the wool at the end of the stick then begin winding the wool around the stick until you’re happy with the section (about 1″-2″).  Tie and cut off and repeat with the next colour.

Add some cardboard hearts to the sticks and them put them in a vase or jar.

The children really enjoyed winding the wool around the sticks.  Some were wound more carefully than others, but that didn’t matter because they all looked great.

Happy Valentines!

Bunchems – They are actually really good!

My heart always sinks a little bit when the children see an advert for a toy on the TV and then declare that they want it.  The fact that they see the same things in every advert between programmes on a daily loop, obviously has nothing to do with it!  They are usually expensive, break and never actually do what they say on the box so end up being thrown away or never played with.

Bunchems was one of the things that the children said they wanted over and over again.  I have to be honest, I just ignored them!  Father Christmas however, had other ideas.

Felix (5) ended up with the Bunchbot Craft Kit.  When he asked if we could build something I have to be honest I wasn’t the most enthusiastic mum.  We sat down at the table and began building animals with mini plastic pom poms!

It was brilliant!!!!

Easy to follow instructions to make animals (the octopus is my favourite) made it perfect for Felix to do whilst I just provided a helping hand picking up the pom poms when they fell on the floor!

We sat making, taking apart and remaking creations for hours.  They all worked, they looked like what they were meant to be and they didn’t brake.  It was something that he could do on his own (although he loves having an assistant to separate colours) and he is so pleased when he’s made something.  One of the best things is that the pom poms can be reused and don’t lose their shape.

It’s not just for younger children either as we’ve all been sucked into the Bunchem bubble and have had hours of fun.  You can buy more Bunchems separately if you want more to keep your masterpieces from being dismantled.

So if you’re looking for a non-messy fun craft that is relaxing (I know!) that actually works for your children then Bunchems are for you!

 

 

 

*Affiliate Link – I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk

To Buy The “Tat” Or Not?

With Christmas only just over 8 weeks away you can’t escape the Christmas gift guides and adverts on the TV.  For children the excitement of Christmas is all about the magic of Father Christmas and presents.

Our children need nothing but want everything and anything that pops up on the TV or they find in the Argos book.  We still have 3 of the children’s birthdays before Christmas and New Year and in the past I have found myself buying things just for the sake of having something they could open.

It was recently my daughter’s birthday and there was nothing in particular that she wanted and I was really stumped on what to buy for her.  Again, she just wanted things to open but I didn’t want to add to the mountain of plastic tat that we already have.  And it’s not cheap either!

In our family we always put more emphasis on birthdays than Christmas so always spend a bit more on their special day than at Christmas.  I decided to be practical and bought clothes, stationery and arty things, a new reading book, a night light and gave her some money.  She’s old enough to know the value of money and would enjoy a shopping trip, just her and either me or Mr H to get exactly what she wanted.

 

 

For Christmas I am going to be sensible, yes they’ll have things to open in their stockings but they will only have one main present.  Presents for nieces and nephews will be useful and not toys.  I love it when the children get PJ’s that they can wear for months rather than a toy that gets lost under the mountain of tat, or a book they can read over and over again.  Things to use outside in the garden are a great idea too or a board game to play together as a family.

Over the years, with an ever growing family we have had to become clever about what presents we buy, they have to go somewhere and the house is only getting smaller as these little people get bigger.

What are you buying this year?

 

He’s Going To Be 1!

In the last 11 months we have not only become welcomed our sixth baby, but have also moved house and taken our first aeroplane trip as a family of 8 amongst many other day-to-day dramas.  It’s not surprising that time has flown by as we are so busy but I still find it hard to believe that in just under 3 weeks, my little man will be 1!

As we have quite a few toys already, I’ve been thinking about what to buy for him.  I want to get something special as it’s first birthday but also something that we haven’t already got.  So here are my favourite ideas:-

Grimm’s Rainbow

 

grimms

How great is this?!? I’ve had my eye on this for a while now, it would look wonderful in Milo’s room.  The possibilities for creative play with this are endless, they can be used as tunnels, fences, bridges, shelters or just stacking them.  This is definitely something that Milo can continue to use as his grows.

 

Wooden Shape Sorter

wooden colour shape

Milo loves putting things in and out of boxes and stacking blocks.  This teaches numbers, shapes and colours and helps develops fine motor skills.  Wooden toys look lovely and last really well.

 

Handmade Car Walker

car

Milo is pulling himself up on anything and cruising along the furniture.  He needs a little bit of help steadying himself and what better way than with a red car, perfect for any little boy!  This is great as he can fill it with blocks and toys and use as a trolley as he gets older so isn’t just a walker and looks really cool.

 

Teepee

teepee

This is absolutely gorgeous and something that could be used for several years.  He’s maybe a little bit too small to use it to it’s full potential at the moment.  A quiet space for reading, hiding and playing in, a space for imagination to grow.  We often build dens in the garden but this is something that would look fantastic in Milo’s bedroom.  A great hideaway for a little fella.

 

A Memory Box

memory box

This isn’t something that I’ve done with any of my other children but I actually wish I had!  Close family and friends can write a letter to Milo for him to read when he’s older (maybe 18?)  I know that the children would love to do this.  He would know how much he was loved when he was too tiny to remember and God Forbid that if anyone isn’t around when he is older, he will have a lasting memory of them.  You could also add a newspaper from his birthday, photos, an about the day the weather etc, what we did.

What are your best 1st Birthday present ideas?

 

Autumn Lanterns

It is well and truly Autumn now, the leaves are falling from the trees and are beautiful, rich oranges and reds. This time of year is perfect for walks in the woods and collecting leaves, which are perfect for crafts.

Autumn Lanterns are great for the children to make and look beautiful when they are lit.

You will need:-

 

Mason jars or empty jam jar;

Mod Podge (a glue and a gloss) available from craft shops;

Tea lights or battery operated fairy lights;

Leaves (bring them indoors and let them dry out).

  • Make sure your glass jar is clean and then begin to stick dried leaves on the outside of the jar.  I found it much easier to use PVA glue to stick the leaves down and then painted over the top with Mod Podge.
  • Leave gaps between the leaves to allow the light to shine through.  Once you have covered the jar with leaves, paint over all the whole jar with Mod Podge.  This will ensure the leaves stay put and give a lovely glossy finish.
  • Allow to dry overnight.
  • Add tea lights or fairy lights and let the light shine!

 

Marshmallow Play dough

I can’t tell you how excited I was to find this recipe for marshmallow play dough – yes that’s right a play dough that is made from marshmallows, and that you can eat!

As a parent I have spent many days playing play dough and then finding it all over the furniture and picking it out of the carpet. We’ve made our own before, you know the salty one that smells a little bit odd? It was great because I could throw it away when the children mixed it together and made a lovely brown colour.  I’m sure I can’t be the only parent that spends all their time saying “don’t mix the colours together!”.

This recipe couldn’t be simpler; a jar of Marshmallow Fluff (you can melt marshmallows but this is easier!) and 250g icing sugar!

Empty the marshmallow fluff into a bowl and add the icing sugar (I added 1 cup at a time).  It’s very sticky, but keep mixing until it makes a non-sticky dough.  If you add too much icing sugar and the mixture is too dry you can add a few drops of oil.  I found I didn’t need to do this.

It was a lot easier to use your hands once you reached a semi-formed dough.  You can use food colouring to change the colour if you want, but remember this will make the dough wet again.

 

Any Bake Off fans may remember that Candice made this as a fondant roll out icing for one of her cakes and this recipe would be great for that too – It is quite sweet but very pliable and tastes lovely!

The children did a combination of playing, eating and icing biscuits with the dough and really did enjoy doing something a little bit different to standard play dough.

 

 

 

Asda – Good Living Magazine

As a larger family it’s difficult to have a day out for anything less than £50-£100 so when we were challenged by Asda to discover free or cheap activities (that please all the children) to do over the summer holidays we leapt at the chance.

The aim of the article was to show that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep the children entertained and happy over the holidays.

We had a very busy, fun filled week fitting in as many craft activities and trips out as we could.

We’re members of the National Trust and English Heritage so days out to any of their sites are free to us. We live close to Blickling and Felbrigg Hall so these were a must. Beautiful walks, gardens to explore and a wander around the house.

Lots of restaurants have offers on during the summer holidays where children eat for £1 or even free (with every paying adult) including Jamies Italian, Frankie & Bennys and Pizza Hut and these are well worth checking out for a great deal on food.

We visited Castle Acre with a picnic and the children loved exploring the old ruins.  We took a trip to Norwich library for a free drop-in activity and Norwich Cathedral for a free guided tour.

 

We got the craft box out!  There are lots of things to make and do with things recycled from around the house.  We made egg box boats which we then floated in the paddling pool.

We baked and decorated biscuits, made shaped wax crayons and painted magnets for the fridge.

 

I think the best thing we did was build a wig wam in the garden.  It was lovely for the children to sit in and relax, even the rabbit made it in.

 

IMG_0186

Like most parents, the summer holidays can be daunting trying to keep all the children happy.  Being creative and doing simple things can be just as enjoyable, if not more so, than an expensive day out.  There really are some wonderful things to do in and around Norwich.

Check out the August issue of Asda’s Good Living Magazine to see what activities were used in the article and get some ideas for the last week of the holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

Car Boot Bargains!

I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t like to get a bargain and I have to confess that I am a secret car boot lover.  This time of year is car boot season and I love nothing better than a trot around a packed field full of car booters and their wares at the weekend.

You never know what you are going to find and half the time you don’t even know you needed or wanted it until you’ve found it!  Think of it as Ebay without the postage and packaging costs.

Now, I am quite a snobby car booter, I only buy good quality things in excellent condition (because why would you not) but believe me there are people who sell things that are only fit for the bin! I usually suss out the seller,  you can instantly tell what sort of things people will be selling and whether you want to buy them from first impressions.

So I thought I would share with you my best bargains from this weekend.  This is probably my favourite find – A brand new Boden dress for £4!  I’ve got a Christening to go to in October and this will be perfect.

img_1034

Baby clothes are also great on a car boot (if you find a decent stall) as they are barely worn, so practically brand new.  We all know how quickly baby’s grow.  I normally find more girls clothes than boys, but you only need one good stall to find some lovely things.

I paid £1 for the Cath Kidston top and £0.20p for the John Lewis dungarees – Bargains!

I love reading, and there are always books to buy from as little as £0.10p each, as well as children’s books galore.

img_1036-1

I paid £0.30p each for the children’s books.

BE WARNED – It can be a dangerous place to take your children -you will end up with more toys and soft toys in your house as they seem to be magnets to them and sometimes they even want to buy things you already have at home!

The Best Breakfast

Every school holidays we try and go out for breakfast together, we always head to the same place – The Premier Inn! It’s great, children eat for free (up to 2 children for every adult) so we pay £17.98 for 6 of us and then an extra £4.00 for the extra child – how good is that!?!

And the best bit is, it’s all you can eat buffet! There is everything you can think of from fruit, yoghurt, pastries, pancakes, full English, toast, crumpets, cereal and it goes on. It’s all fresh and tastes good too! There’s a Costa hot drinks machine where you can have unlimited coffees or tea and fruit juices. And again for us (family of 8) it only cost £21.98!

If you are a larger family I’d definitely recommend going here, we fill up on breakfast and then normally don’t feel hungry again until tea. Today after breakfast we headed to Amazona Zoo and we didn’t spend a penny on food/snacks as no one was hungry – great, hey!

Bearing in mind just how much food children can eat, this has got to be the best value for money I’ve ever come across – and best kept secret!