Three Penguin Craft Activities

Penguins are synonymous with the cold and, now that winter is here, they make the perfect theme for a seasonal craft activity. Jemima and I decided to create three different types of penguin.

1. Potato Print Penguins

This was a really fun activity. It was easy to do and you could adapt it to create as many penguins of different shapes and sizes as you like. We decided to make a little family of penguins: a mummy, daddy and baby! First of all, cut a suitably-sized potato in half and cut handles so it is easier to pick up. We used a larger potato for the adult penguins and a smaller one for the baby.


Dip the potato in black paint and print onto the page.


When this has dried, cut a smaller potato in half and print a white circle on top of the black one.


Finally, add in eyes (either painted or you could use stick-on goggly eyes), an orange beak and orange feet.


This year, we used our penguin design to make our family Christmas cards. We scanned it onto the computer and then uploaded it to to create our cards.

2. Paper Plate Penguins

Begin by painting the back of a paper plate black.


Jemima had lots of fun painting paper plates!


When this has dried, turn your paper plate over so the white section is facing upwards and fold in both sides and the top. Glue or staple into place. I used pva glue but I had to put a book on top of the folds while it dried so that it stuck in place properly.


Using orange sugar paper or card, cut out a beak and two feet shapes. If you are making several, it’s a good idea to use your first as a template so they are all the same.


Glue these onto your plate.


Finally, draw around a small circular shape (I used the lid of a Pritt Stick) onto white card for the eyes, and then a smaller black shape (I used the top of a Sharpie marker pen). Glue the black circles onto the white.


Finally, glue the penguin’s eyes into place.

This is a fun family activity, and your children could make one each! Jemima enjoyed helping me with this, and when she is a little older she will be able to make one all by herself!

3. Toilet Roll Penguins

These are easy to make and look fabulous as festive decorations in your home. Begin by painting your toilet roll tube black, leaving a large section for the penguin’s distinctive white breast.


Once the paint is dry, paint your penguin’s breast white. Also paint two white circles for eyes.


When this has dried, paint on an orange beak and add black pupils to the eyes.


Cut out wings for your penguin using black sugar paper and feet using orange sugar paper. Use the first one you cut out as a template for the others.

Stick the feet on the bottom of the penguin using sellotape.


Finally, stick on the wings using glue.


These were super fun to make and Jemima loves playing with her penguins!

We hope you have lots of fun creating these festive penguins! I would love to hear how you got on.

Trash 2 Treasure

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Chiddlers’ Hour at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

On Tuesday 24th November, Jemima and her friend Georgina went to Chiddlers’ Hour at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Bucks. It was an hour-long session based around the story of the BFG. The class was for 0-3 year olds and consisted of 30 minutes of storytelling followed by 30 minutes of craft and play.

Lots of cushions and rugs were laid out on the floor to ensure that everyone was comfortable. The parents and children sat in a large circle. In the middle of the circle were lots of toys and stuffed animals: plenty of exciting things to keep little ones entertained.


There was a very friendly atmosphere. At the start of the session, we went around the circle and each child was introduced by name and welcomed. Isy, the leader of the session, introduced us to the BFG and produced a large, laminated and colourful version of the story.


She read it aloud, making sure that everyone could see the pictures and text.


The session was imaginatively planned, and the story was interspersed with topical songs, which were often well-known nursery rhymes with the words changed to suit the story. For example, we sang ’10 dream bottles’ to the tune of 10 Green Bottles. At this point, Isy produced empty little plastic pots and trays of pom poms, tissue paper and other treasures, and the children were given the task of filling up their ‘dream jars’ (the plastic pots).


Later in the story, the children were given little cardboard rectangles, each filled with a sheet of coloured plastic to look through, which recreated the dream world of the story.


When the story ended, there were several different activities on offer: children could colour in their own dream jars, play with a selection of musical instruments or choose to continue playing with the dream rectangles or other toys on offer.


Jemima and Georgina loved the session and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an imaginative and creative introduction to Roald Dahl’s stories.


Chiddlers’ Hour takes place weekly at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and covers a different story each session. To find out more, click on this link:


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Happy Toddlebike2 Launch Day!

This morning the Toddlebike2 is officially launching in the UK. Several toddlers were chosen to take part in the launch event and we are thrilled that Jemima is one of them! She was given the important task of testing out the Toddlebike2 in advance of the launch and we are excited to have the opportunity to review it.

Two weeks ago, a huge parcel arrived in the post for Jemima.


She couldn’t wait to open it …


… and get her hands on her brand new Toddlebike2!


The Toddlebike2 is suitable for toddlers aged 18-36 months and is a pre-balance bike. It is available in three colours: Racing Red, Midnight Blue and Pinky Pink. We opted for Racing Red.

Jemima took to her Toddlebike2 straight away and immediately got the hang of moving forwards on the bike.


It is easy to steer and she was able to manoeuvre easily around the room. Initially, she preferred to sit on the cross-bar but soon learned that she could still grip the handlebars while sitting back in the seat.


She found it tricky to get on and off the bike by herself, but her confidence in her ability to do this has really improved.

One of the appealing features of the bike is that it is super lightweight, weighing approximately 0.8kg – around four times lighter than most balance bikes. Jemima immediately set about testing out this claim for herself and found that she could lift it with ease.


This means that the bike is easily transportable, and it was simple to pop it under the buggy/clip it on with a buggy hook to take to the park, although since the temperatures have dropped we have not been able to use the bike outside as much as we would have liked. Jemima toppled over a couple of times while getting used to it, but the bike is so light that she was able to get back up easily and lift the bike into an upright position by herself.

The Toddlebike2 is very hard-wearing and can be ridden on a range of terrains from mud and grass to carpets. We’ve taken ours out into the garden and Jemima has enjoyed steering it around.


Even better for mummies, it is also very easy to clean!

The Toddlebike2 has quickly become one of Jemima’s favourite toys. It has really helped to develop her confidence on a bike, and she can move quite quickly on it, so it is great to take out on short trips. It’s helping to build up her independence, as she can use it at times when she would usually go in the buggy.


The Toddlebike2 comes with a three year guarantee and can be bought at John Lewis (£23.95) or on Amazon (£24.95).

We would highly recommend the Toddlebike2 to anyone looking for a sturdy, safe and fun first bike for their little ones. It would make a perfect Christmas present for your toddler!


Thank you to the wonderful Jo Hockley for letting us try out this fantastic product and we wish you every success with the launch!

Romanian Mum
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Homemade Christmas Tree Decorations

Well we’re now into the last week of November and that can only mean one thing… Christmas is coming! This will be Jemima’s second Christmas and her last as an only child: in just 12 weeks her baby brother will be here. I love getting things ready for Christmas and what better way to start than with some homemade Christmas tree ornaments?

We made four salt dough ornaments. These are great mementos to keep year after year. Last year I made some with friends from my post-natal group to mark our babies’ first Christmas and it was a lovely thing to do together.

Making the salt dough

The first thing we needed to do was make the salt dough. We used the following recipe:

1 cup salt

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup water

Mix the ingredients together and knead. Then sprinkle some plain flour on your work surface and roll the dough out. You should have enough to make 4 ornaments. Jemima and I made two snowman fingerprint ornaments, a Father Christmas handprint ornament & a snowman footprint ornament. Once you have created the shapes of the ornaments, bake them in the oven at 180-200 degrees for 2-3 hours.


1. Snowman Fingerprint Ornament

Roll the dough out and cut it in a circle using a circular cookie cutter or the rim of a glass. Your toddler can then poke their finger in 3 vertical spots to create the shape of a snowman (see photo above). Use a pencil or straw to poke out a hole at the top. Bake as described above and leave to cool. Paint the whole ornament with blue acrylic paint. I needed two coats of this.


Once dry, paint the snowman, ground and snow white. Choose another colour of paint for the scarf. Use brown paint for the arms and hands, and paint on the snowman’s nose, or use an orange marker pen. Finally, use black paint and a fine brush, or a permanent marker, for the eyes, smile and coal buttons. Paint the ornament with a layer of Mod Podge using a foam brush to add a nice shine. Finish by tying a pretty ribbon through the hole and hang on your Christmas tree!


2. Father Christmas Handprint Ornament

Roll the dough out and let your toddler press their hand into the dough to leave a clear handprint. Cut around the handprint and use a pencil or straw to poke out a hole at the top. Bake as described above and leave to cool. Paint the whole ornament with white acrylic paint. I needed two coats of this.


Once dry, paint Father Christmas’ hat red and his face light pink.


Use a permanent black marker or fine brush and black paint to outline the bottom of the hat and his beard. Draw or paint his eyes, nose and moustache and you have a lovely Father Christmas ornament! Paint the ornament with a layer of Mod Podge using a foam brush to add a nice shine. Finish by tying a pretty ribbon through the hole and hang on your Christmas tree!


3. Snowman Footprint Ornament

Roll the dough out, pop it on the floor (in a container/on a large chopping board) and let your toddler press their bare foot into the dough to leave a clear footprint. Cut around the footprint and use a pencil or straw to poke out a hole just underneath their heel. Bake as described above and leave to cool. Paint the whole ornament with white acrylic paint. I needed two coats of this.


Once dry, use blue paint to paint around the shape of the foot and toes. Choose another colour and paint your snowman’s scarf, then paint in the brown arms and hands. Use a permanent black marker or fine brush and black paint for the eyes, smile and coal buttons, and use an orange marker or paint for the nose. Paint the ornament with a layer of Mod Podge using a foam brush to add a nice shine. Finish by tying a pretty ribbon through the hole and hang on your Christmas tree!


These ornaments are so special, as each year they will evoke memories of my daughter at this age (18 months). I hope you enjoy making some Christmas ornaments with your children, too. Older children could have lots of fun decorating these themselves.


I am so excited to announce that my Christmas salt dough ornaments will be featuring in the Wren Interactive Advent Calendar Campaign #24daysofwren.  You can check it out here:

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Right From The Start

The Importance of Singing

From the moment they begin to hear in utero, babies respond to sound. One of the very first sounds they learn to recognise is their mother’s voice. It has been proved that a newborn baby will recognise and show a preference for his mother’s voice over any other.

Nursery rhymes, lullabies and action songs are passed down through the generations in every culture. Singing to your child benefits them in so many different ways, and musically speaking, will teach them the basics of pitch, rhythm and harmony. Music is a vital part of communication and aids a baby’s speech and language development. It doesn’t matter if you hate your singing voice; to your baby, there is no nicer sound!

Jemima loves being sung to and has recently started to sing back a simple melody. She enjoys trying to replicate action songs. Her favourite nursery rhyme at the moment is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and she likes to hold her hands high above her head opening and shutting her palms to replicate the stars!

First Tuned Instrument Recommendation

Babies and toddlers love creating sounds. There are a host of tuned first instruments for toddlers on the market. I would highly recommend the Studio 49 Orff Schulwerk Glockenspiels or Xylophones. These instruments are all made to a very high standard, beautifully tuned and have a lovely tone. They are specifically designed to help children to develop their musical skills and are often used in schools.

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Homemade Instruments

Of course, it is also great fun to create your own instruments, so Jemima and I decided to spend an afternoon making three different ones.

1. Sensory Shaker

This is simple to make and Jemima absolutely loves it. Take an empty water bottle. You can fill it with dried rice/pasta/beans: something that will make a satisfying noise when the bottle is shaken. I also added some coloured pom poms so the bottle looked exciting when shaken. I added some ribbons to the lid so that these would fly around when the bottle was shaken, adding more of a visual element to the shaker. To do this, pierce a hole in the lid using a skewer/drill/corkscrew. You will need some thin ribbons in whatever colours you like. I threaded them through the hole and then tied them in a knot. You may find it easier to sellotape the ends of the ribbons together and thread them through like that.

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Firmly attach the lid to the bottle, and your toddler can have lots of fun playing with their sensory shaker!


Jemima has been playing with hers at every opportunity and she loves shaking the bottle so it makes a really loud sound and the ribbons fly everywhere.

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2. Paper Plate Tambourine

Turn two paper plates over and let your toddler decorate them. They could use paint, crayons or stickers. I gave Jemima some foam stickers to stick on her paper plates.


Once your toddler has finished decorating the plates, turn them over and put some dried rice or beans onto one of the plates.


Then staple or sew the plates together around the edges so that they are secure. I also added some wool around the edges for a more visual effect. To do this, simply make a hole in the plates, thread the wool through the hole and double knot it. You could use ribbons instead of wool if you prefer.


Jemima enjoyed playing with her tambourine.


3. Rattle-drum

This takes a little more effort to make, as you have to do it in several stages. I have written the instructions in bullet points to make them easier to follow.

To make this instrument you will need:

Some cardboard
Two pretty beads, or conkers would do
An unsharpened pencil/ stick/piece of wood of a similar size to a pencil
Paints and paint brushes

  • Firstly, take a large piece of cardboard and draw around a bowl twice to create two even circles.


  • Cut out the circles and then you and your toddler can enjoy painting them however you like. We chose to paint a star on a blue background, and used a star-shaped cookie cutter for the star template.


  • Once the paint has dried, tape a long piece of string along the middle of the back of one of the circles. Ensure there are equal lengths of string left on each side for you to eventually attach the beads.
  • Next, cut out 14 1-inch cardboard squares.
  • Take 2 of your cardboard squares. Tear the top layer of cardboard off of each square. Glue one of these squares right in the middle of your circle so the ridges are perpendicular to the string.


  • Glue the pencil onto this square, then glue the other square that you prepared earlier on top of the pencil.


  • Glue cardboard squares along the line until you get to the edge. These need to be layered 2-3 on top of each other so they are approximately the same height as the pencil.

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  • Glue your other cardboard circle on top so that the circles are aligned. Wait for the glue to dry.
  • Securely attach your beads to each end of the string. I used a reef knot. You can also put a little glue on the knot to ensure it is secure. Make sure that the beads are an even length apart, and are able to hit the sides of the drum but not each other!


  • Once all the glue is dry, pass the rattle-drum to your toddler!


These suggestions are just a starting point. There is so much that you and your toddler can enjoy doing with music, and I would love to hear more about how you make music together at home!




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Ladybird, Ladybird

One of Jemima’s favourite books is What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson. For anyone unfamiliar with Julia Donaldson, she was the Children’s Laureate from 2011-13 and has written a host of children’s books, her most famous arguably being The Gruffalo. We discovered her books when Jemima was still a small baby and they were an instant hit, thanks to the wonderful rhyming text and imaginative storylines. Jemima particularly likes What the Ladybird Heard because of the different animal noises and the vibrant illustrations by Lydia Monks. On every page there is a small, sparkly ladybird, and Jemima enjoys finding and pointing to her while we are reading.

Inspired by the book, I created some ladybird-themed craft activities for Jemima.

1. Potato Printing Ladybirds

To prepare, I cut a potato in half then scooped out several small circular holes to create the distinctive spots on a ladybird. I used the pointy end of a potato peeler to do this.


I also cut out a ‘handle’ to make it easier to hold the potato.


I poured some red paint onto a paper plate and Jemima had lots of fun dipping the potato into the paint and printing ladybird shapes onto the paper.


We used black sugar paper so that the red paint would really stand out. Also, it would have been tricky for Jemima to separately paint in the black spots at her age (17 months), so this solved the problem! Jemima loved this activity and I would highly recommend it for any toddlers of a similar age.


2. Egg Carton Ladybirds

This activity requires parental help and takes a little longer to complete, as you have to wait for the paint to dry, but it is worth the effort to create your very own little ladybirds!

You will need:
An egg carton
Black pipe cleaners (for the ladybird’s antennae)
Black pom poms (for the ladybird’s head)
Goggly eyes
Red paint
Black paint/marker pen/circular stickers (for the ladybird’s spots)

Cut the cups out of the egg cartons.


Paint each of the cups red and leave to dry. For a sparkly ladybird, you could add some red glitter or use red glitter paint.


Once the cups are dry, add black dots. You could use a marker pen, black circular stickers or black paint. Next stick or glue the goggly eyes onto the black pom pom.


Cut some black pipe cleaners into about 4 cm long strips and bend them into “L” shapes for the antennae. You will need two strips per ladybird.


Finally, glue two pipe cleaners and the pom pom onto the red body, and your ladybird is complete!

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3. Ladybird Sensory Box

Next, we needed to create somewhere for our ladybirds to live!
For the base of the sensory box, I used white rice that I had dyed green to give the illusion of grass.

To dye the rice, I used the following method:
• Pour 500g uncooked rice into a plastic container which has a lid.
• Add green food colouring and 1 ½ – 2 tsp of white vinegar.
• I also added a few drops of lavender oil to eradicate the smell of vinegar.
• Pop the lid on and shake the container to evenly distribute the colour.
• Finally, tip the rice mixture onto a baking tray/into a roasting pan, and leave to dry for at least 24 hours. It actually took longer than this for my rice to dry, so I put it into the oven on a low heat for about an hour to speed things up.
• Once dry, the rice can be used and re-used. Just make sure you store it in an air-tight container.


Once the ‘grass’ was dry, I added the egg carton ladybirds, some pine cones, fir tree twigs and conkers to the box.


Next to the box I placed some containers, a mini muffin tray, a little plastic spade and a rake.


Jemima had lots of fun with this activity but it was rather messy, so I would definitely advise you to put down a large tablecloth/old sheet on the floor to catch the rice. Jemima spent most of her time picking up the rice and letting it trickle out of her hand into all the different containers.


4. Ladybird Music

The perfect accompaniment to our activities was Marienwürmchen (meaning ‘Ladybird’) by Brahms from Seven Children’s Songs:

This song is in German and was written in 1857. The lyrics of the song are similar to those of the old English nursery rhyme, Ladybird, Ladybird:

Ladybird, sit on my hand -
I will do you no harm.
No harm shall come to you;
I only wish to see your colourful wings:
your colourful wings are my joy.
Ladybird, fly away,
your house is burning, your children are crying
so much, so much.
The evil spider is spinning her web around them;
Ladybird, fly home,
your children are crying so.
Ladybird, fly to the neighbour's children,
They will do you no harm.
No harm will come to you:
they only wish to see your colourful wings,
and greet them both for me.

We hope you and your children have lots of fun creating some ladybirds of your own and you enjoy these activities as much as we have.


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Autumn Foraging

Over the weekend, we had a fantastic outing to Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire ( The grounds were bright with autumnal colours; we were surrounded by splashes of red, gold and amber. Inspired by the beautiful scenery, we collected some pretty leaves, conkers, pine cones and twigs covered in lichen.

It was lovely to bring a little bit of autumn into our house so Jemima could explore these interesting things in more detail.

1. Sensory autumn box

A sensory box is a safe and simple way for toddlers to explore new ideas and objects. This was extremely straightforward to set up. All you need is a plastic box, or a cardboard box would do. I filled the base of the box with bird seed, but you could also use rice, popcorn kernels or sand. I put in some of the leaves, pine cones, twigs and conkers that we had collected at Waddesdon.


Alongside these, I added some little toy containers, a funnel, a bucket and a little plastic spade.


You could also add a few cinnamon sticks to stimulate your child’s sense of smell. Pop the box on the floor on top of an old sheet/splash mat and your toddler can have lots of fun exploring! Jemima began by sorting all the pine cones into the bucket.


But her favourite thing to do was to play with the bird seed and transfer it into the different containers.


I actually added three more little bowls of various sizes for her to use.


Jemima loved this activity and was happily absorbed for over an hour.

2. Leaf hedgehogs

Next, we decided to use some of the leaves we had collected to create some foraging creatures of our own: hedgehogs! This is a quick activity to set up. Draw a hedgehog shape onto some brown card or sugar paper. Cut out the hedgehog. To make several identical ones, use the first as your template.


Your toddler (guided by you) can then stick some leaves onto the body of the hedgehog, pointy sides at the top to emulate prickles.


To finish, simply draw the eyes, nose and mouth onto the face of the hedgehog using a black marker pen.


Jemima enjoyed sticking the leaves down, but I think that an older toddler would probably get more out of this activity, as they would be able to do more of it themselves.


3. Conker Caterpillar

We were lucky enough to find some nice conkers at Waddesdon, which were perfect for our next craft activity. To create conker caterpillars, simply make a hole through the middle of the conker. You can use a skewer, scissors or even a drill. I used a skewer. Then, grab some pipe cleaners. You will need to twist the end of the pipe cleaner to stop the conkers from falling off and also to avoid the sharp end from hurting your toddler. Then your toddler can have lots of fun practising his or her fine motor skills, threading the conkers onto the pipe cleaner.


I put a little bit of sellotape around the top of the pipe cleaner to protect Jemima’s fingers from the metal tip and also to make it easier for her to thread the conkers. When enough are on the pipe cleaner, you can remove the sellotape and twist the other end to secure the conkers. Then simply stick two goggly eyes onto the first conker to make your very own conker caterpillar!


Jemima found the finished product fascinating and enjoyed playing with it. She managed to pull the goggly eyes off very quickly though, so this is something to watch out for.

Next time you and your children are out and about enjoying the autumnal surroundings, don’t forget to collect some treasures of your own. We hope you enjoy recreating these activities. Happy foraging!


Life Unexpected