Homemade Easter Cards

easter chick

This year, I thought it would be lovely for my toddler to create some Easter cards to send to her relatives. As she is not yet two years old, I wanted to create cards she could decorate by herself. The instructions for each of the three designs are written below, so please feel free to try them out with your toddler. All are simple to set up and quick to make.

Potato Print Easter Eggs

Cut two potatoes in half. Turn them over and carve little handles to make them easier for your toddler to pick up and hold.

Create different designs for each ‘egg’. To make the lines thicker, I first cut them with a knife, then went over them with the point of a potato peeler.

Once you have made your potato Easter egg designs, pour four different colours of paint onto paper plates, one for each different design. Fold a piece of A4 white card in half and let your toddler print the egg designs onto the card.

Tissue Paper Collage Easter Egg

This card is super simple to create. Begin by folding a piece of A4 paper in half and then draw an oval shape along the fold.

Cut it out and then unfold the paper to reveal your egg shape. We made two of these.

Next, tear various colours of tissue paper into little pieces and put into a paper bowl.

Allow your toddler to cover the egg shape in glue and then stick the multicolour tissue paper onto the egg.

Fold an A4 piece of white card in half and stick your Easter egg collage onto the front.

Baby Chick Easter Card

This card is very quick to make. Begin by folding a piece of yellow card in half. Take a large glass or a bowl and draw around it, ensuring that part of it overlaps the fold.

Cut out around the shape to create a circular card.

If your toddler is old enough (mine isn’t!) give them a pair of toddler scissors and allow them to make small cuts around the outside of the card to give the illusion of feathers. You may wish to do this step yourself.

Finally, your toddler can stick goggly eyes and an orange beak in the middle of the yellow circle. Alternatively, these could be drawn or painted. We used an orange piece of sticky foam for the beak.

my toddler managed to make these cards while her three-week-old brother was peacefully napping!

We hope you enjoy making these designs and would love to hear how you got on. Wishing you all a happy and restful Easter!

Toddler Art and Craft Activities for Valentine’s Day

toddler hands heart

Valentine’s Day is an important event in our house. This year, I decided to create some toddler-friendly Valentine’s Day art and craft activities for my toddler. All of these would make fantastic homemade Valentine’s Day cards.

Tissue Paper Heart

First, cut a heart shape out of A4 paper or card. The easiest way to do this is to fold the paper in half, draw half a heart and then cut it out.

This ensures that both sides of the heart are even. Next, tear some red and pink tissue paper into small pieces and put into a paper bowl.

You may wish to cut each piece of tissue paper into a heart shape, but we found torn up bits worked well. Finally, hand your toddler the paper heart, the Pritt Stick and the bowl and watch as they have lots of fun sticking the tissue paper onto the heart.

my toddler loves using glue so she thoroughly enjoyed this activity.

You could stick this heart onto a piece of A4 card folded in half to create a beautiful handmade Valentine’s Day card, or you could keep it as it is.

Foil Painted Heart

For this activity, give your child a piece of foil about the size of a piece of A4 paper and allow them to paint it with pink and red paints.

When it is dry, cut out a heart shape using the method described for the Tissue Paper Heart activity.

Carefully stick it onto a piece of A4 card folded in half to create a pretty and original Valentine’s card.

Painted Letters

Give your toddler a piece of A4 paper, some pink and red paint, paint brushes, stamps and any other painting utensils you have, and allow them to create their own special piece of artwork.

my toddler loved doing this so much that she covered about 5 sheets of A4 paper.

However, she did get quite messy in the process!

When the paintings are dry, choose one and cut out the letters ‘LOVE’ (or another appropriate word) from your child’s painting. Finally, stick the letters onto a piece of A4 card folded in half to create a personalised Valentine’s Day card for a loved one.

Alternatively, you could get your toddler to paint straight onto a folded up piece of card. This was my favourite of my toddler’s paintings and we have kept it to pin up as we thought it was so lovely:

Love Heart Cookie Cutter Printing

This is a simple and fun activity for your toddler. You will need heart-shaped cookie cutters.

If you do not have these you could always cut some potatoes into heart shapes to print onto the page. Pour pink and red paint onto paper plates, then your toddler can dip the cookie cutters into the paint and print onto the page.

We hope you all have a Happy Valentine’s Day this year, however you may be celebrating. Please let me know how you got on if you made any of these for your nearest and dearest.

Create Your Own Reindeers

raindeer

Reindeers are a fun and exciting Christmas decoration for your children to make.

You will need:

One toilet roll tube per reindeer
White card
Pencil
Sellotape
Scissors
Brown paint
Black marker pen

Begin by marking out in pencil where you want the 4 feet to go at the bottom of your toilet roll tube. Once you have done that, cut out an arch shape between the feet. Use this arch shape as a template to cut out the other legs.

Cut approximately the top third off the toilet roll, keeping a longer neck for your reindeer.

Draw an oval shape for the reindeer’s head onto your piece of white card. Draw two fairly large ear shapes about a third of the way down. Eventually you will want to fold the head along the ears in order to attach the antlers so bear this in mind when drawing your head. If you are making more than one reindeer, then use the first head shape as a template.

Paint the toilet roll tube and head with brown paint. Leave to dry.

To make the antlers, fold the piece of white card as below:

Draw half an antler shape along the fold.

Cut it out, then unfold the card to reveal the complete antler. Use this as a template for the second antler.

Add the eyes and nose using a black marker pen.

Fold the head shape along the line of the ears and cut two small slits for the antlers.

Slot the antlers into the slits and sellotape in place.

Using the sellotape, stick the head onto the reindeer’s neck.

my toddler and I had a lot of fun making our reindeers and they make fantastic festive decorations. If we were making them again, I would use a lighter brown paint, as then the eyes and mouth would show up better. We hope you enjoy making these with your children. You could put them up around the house, or make a small hole in them, add a pretty ribbon and hang them on your Christmas tree.

Homemade Christmas Tree Decorations

christmas tree

Well we’re now into the last week of November and that can only mean one thing… Christmas is coming! This will be my toddler’s second Christmas.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. my toddler 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.

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!

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!

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.

Right From The Start

child playing recorder

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!

my toddler 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.

Homemade Instruments

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

Sensory Shaker

This is simple to make and my toddler 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.

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

my toddler 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.

Paper Plate Tambourine

Turn two paper plates over and let your toddler decorate them. They could use paint, crayons or stickers. Use 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.

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
  • Glue
  • An unsharpened pencil/ stick/piece of wood of a similar size to a pencil
  • Paints and paint brushes
  • String
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.

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!

Ladybird, Ladybird

Ladybirds

One of my toddler’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 my toddler was still a small baby and they were an instant hit, thanks to the wonderful rhyming text and imaginative storylines. my toddler 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 my toddler enjoys finding and pointing to her while we are reading.

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

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 my toddler 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 my toddler to separately paint in the black spots at her age (17 months), so this solved the problem! my toddler loved this activity and I would highly recommend it for any toddlers of a similar age.

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)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

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!

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.

my toddler 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. my toddler spent most of her time picking up the rice and letting it trickle out of her hand into all the different containers.

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.

Three Penguin Craft Activities

Penguins

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

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 http://www.snapfish.co.uk to create our cards.

Paper Plate Penguins

Begin by painting the back of a paper plate black.

my toddler 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! my toddler enjoyed helping me with this, and when she is a little older she will be able to make one all by herself!

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 my toddler 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.