Well, you may well know by now that I (Ruth) am an English teacher and am passionate about reading and especially getting children engaged in books and reading from a young age. You may also know that both Loretta and I have really rather active little mites who, although they both enjoy books, are often in need of activities that burn off a little more energy than reading, so I gave some thought to the matter and when we met up with the kids, we went on a bear hunt…
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The BearCub is really into cooking lately and I’m not one to discourage culinary skills in a man! We do a lot of ‘play’ cooking and he loves creating me weird and wonderful meals to pretend to eat. However, when he really wants to get messy and do the real thing I send him to aunty!! My sister lets BearCub do everything I would never let him do: unload the dishwasher, play guitar (a real one), rearrange her cupboards and cook with ‘real’ food!! I guess that is what favourite aunties are for! Well last time she let BearCub lose on her kitchen they made some actually really delicious cakes and when I asked her about it she told me she found the recipe designed for kids to really get involved and do most of it themselves – which of course BearCub loved. So I thought I’d share it. It’s great to find kid friendly recipes and always a bonus if the result is edible!!!
The recipe is from Cook UK and it really is a cake recipe that your kids can make with minimum supervision. They promise that, “Children will enjoy making the cake mixture and seeing it turn into small cakes within half an hour” and my sister says it’s true. Furthermore the site has sections where it says which parts you need to do and which parts your child can do by themselves so they can really feel ownership of their creations:
For the cakes
2 medium eggs
110g / 4oz self-raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
110g / 4oz butter (soft)
110g / 4oz sugar
170g / 6oz icing sugar
85g / 3oz butter (soft)
3 drops of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of milk
12 Cake Cases
THE ADULT: This recipe is a lot easier if the butter is soft.
YOU – Pour all the ingredients for the cakes (not the Butter Icing ingredients) into a bowl and start off the mixing.
Preheat the oven to 170 C / 325 F / Gas Mark 3.
YOUR CHILD – Continue mixing until all the ingredients are well mixed together.
Use a spoon to fill each cake tin about half to two thirds full with cake mixture.
YOUR CHILD – Place the filled cake case on a baking tray. A flat tray is fine but if you have a bun tin with cake case holes, all the better (click picture on right to enlarge).
YOU – Place the baking tray in the pre-heated oven (170 C / 325 F / Gas Mark 3). Put it in the middle of the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
Do not open the oven door for at least 20 minutes. If you do, the cakes may well collapse. They are cooked when golden brown.
YOU – Use a sharp knife to slice off the top part of each cake. Click the picture on the right to get a better idea of the size of the slice.
Cut the sliced off cake into two, these will be used later to form the wings of the butterfly.
YOUR CHILD – Place all the ingredients for the butter icing in a large bowl and stir for about five minutes until all the ingredients are well combined.
YOUR CHILD – Place about a teaspoon full of the butter icing on top of each cake. Then push the “wings” into the butter icing.
More decorations can be placed on the cake depending on what is available.
If you’ve been trying since yesterday’s Silent Sunday (billed as a trailer for today’s post!) to work out what I’m posting about today, you need wait no longer! I know that we want to ensure that More Than A Mum doesn’t become too London-centric, but I have to tell you about an amazing local place today.
Today, munchkin, Daddy and I visited a hidden gem. We went with friends to the Harlington Locomotive Society’s Mince Pie Run.
I’d not been to the Harlington Locomotive Society before, but the website promised mincepies and Santa, and what more could you want on the last Sunday before Christmas?
It turned out that this visit was one of the best child friendly days out that we could have asked for. For 40p a ride (toddlers are free but have to be accompanied), we tootled round a track pulled by minature steam and diesel trains, reaching a giddy 6mph.
Trains pulled between 1 and 3 carriages behind them and each carried three or four people. Each train had a driver and a guard and it really was good fun powering round the track with your feet dangling a few feet from ground.
The trains are cared for by a team of chaps who obviously love their trains and love introducing them to the public. Judging by the number of people there, they are definitely doing a good job.
And, what of Santa? Well, he was there too. He arrived, went on a quick journey round the track ringing a bell and then sat in the tearoom. Munchkin and her friend popped to see him and let him know what they would like for Christmas. He promised to see what he could do and gave them each a sweetie.
Altogether (including tea/coffee for the adults and biccies for all round as well as 2 rides each and Santa) we spent less that a fiver and we spent two hours enjoying ourselves, in spite of the cold. There were all ages there, from babes in buggies to older primary aged children with Mums, Dads and Grandparents.
All in all, I’d highly recommend a day out at Harlington Locomotive Society. Unfortunately, there are no more mince pie runs, but there will be open days through out 2012 and you can organise children’s parties there too.
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OK so it’s a bit of an ambitious title, but it’s a work in progress! Over the last few months I have discovered that it is important to meet with old friends in very different locations to those we used to. Having lived in various locations across the country and having friends spread far and wide, I have often met friends ‘half way’. We used to meet for spa days and meals, now with so many of us having kids in tow, the usual location is a park or during these winter months, a soft play. So now that I have met people in a range of locations I thought I would share my experiences with you.
Starting close to home, friends and I have the choice of 3 local soft-play centres. My favourite is the Osterly garden centre. It has a small, very clean, soft play at one end of its excellent cafe, so you can sip an Earl Grey and munch a yummy cake whilst little monsters run riot. It also does excellent kids meals and all day picnics, and because it’s a garden centre, not a dedicated soft-play, the entry is free. The next choice we have nearby is Snakes and Ladders in Brentford. This is a paying soft play, but it is much bigger and suits both older and younger children with a specific 2-5’s section and ride-ons. There is no upper age limit, but a height limit of 4’ 8’’. It is a bit frayed at the edges and the food is uninspiring, but hot and reasonably priced. Munchkin, Bearcub and their little friends with birthday’s around the same time had a joint 2nd birthday there this year and it was a good venue for this. The third option is Heathrow Gym, which is I am told is very good, but haven’t visited yet… TBC!
Around the rest of the country
Rugrats and Halfpints in Banbury: We went here to meet with friends from Birmingham. It was about an hour from West London and about an hour from Birmingham, so perfect distance. It was also really close to a lovely park so in the afternoon the kids had an outdoor run around too. It is large and clean and had a very good cafe. It cost £7.50 for a child including a hot meal and drink and adults were free, but there are loads of other options and deals and if you’re local there’s a membership scheme. The kids played happily for hours and it had excellent baby sensory sections and ride-on toys. It had both large and small soft-play sections and was not averse to grownups going in with the kids to show them the ropes first time round (as long as you take your shoes off). It is aimed at children from birth to 8 and I think it definitely has something for all.
Creepy Crawlies in York: We were staying in York with friends (you may have read the post about the York Railway Museum a few weeks ago) and needed something to keep munchkin entertained. They had taken so other friends with a 9 and 6 year old a few weeks previously, and themselves had a month old, so again this is suited to a wide age range. The most noticeable thing about this one was it’s size. It’s HUGE! It is in a factory unit and has a massive soft play area, with toddlers’ and bigger kids’ sections. The Adveture centre (as it call itself) it caters for up to 16yrs old and the outdoor section has things suitable for adults too. There is a sand pit, adventure playground and animals. They also have highwires and an eco skate rink. Oh and a kids hairdressers – this really is an everything under one roof kind of place. The cafe was really nice too – if you need another reason to visit this one!
Cheeky Monkeys in Cheshunt: This was another half way house meeting point and provided a place about an hour from us in West London and a friend in Ipswich. It was good value and really friendly. When we first arrived I was a little confused as the building looks like an old scout hut or village hall, but inside it is small, but clean and well looked after. There is a sliding scale of prices from £5.50 to £2 dependant on age for 90minutes, though when we arrived, we were told the time limit is only enforced if it is really busy and they also had a £1 off deal. There is a small under 3’s section with a wendy house and some baby gym equipment as well as the usual small soft-play things. There is then a larger play-frame suitable for older kids. There is a cafe with food and drink. It has a children’s hot menu with the usual sausage beans and chips, style meals and then there are sandwich options, jacket potatoes and paninis. All at very good prices.
These reviews are all unsponsored.
So there is my work so far – are there any near you that you would recommend? Either write about them in a comment below, or send us your brief reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title SOFT PLAY and we’ll pop them up on the blog. The only requirement is that you state if you work for the centre or have been incentivised to write the review.
What ever you have in the house! The only must-haves are puff pastry and oil.1 quarter of a pack ready-roll puff pastry2 stips red pepper cut into small pieces2 stips green pepper cut into small pieces2 strips yellow pepper cut into small pieces1 chestnut mushroom cut into small pieces4 slices chorizo2 slices courgette cut into small pieces50g grated cheeseSmall amount of oilSmall amount of plain flour for rolling out
First roll the pastry out into a square about 20cm.Divide square into quarters and score around each square about 1-2cms in from the edge.Then load the pastry with goodies! Try to keep food inside the scoring as the pastry outside will rise.Pop in the oven for about 10 mins at 180 degrees C.
You may well know that we here at More Than A Mum are based in London, however we are keen that this blog doesn’t become London-centric. Today’s blog post therefore is based in York.
We went to York to visit friends and 4 hours after we left home, we knew that we’d need a good active diversion for Munchkin once we arrived, so we took her to the National Railway Museum.
We arrived at around 11am and headed to park the car (top weekend tip: park in the railway car park for £2.50 all day instead of the museum car park which cost £9). The museum is free entry, so like the last ‘Toddler Friendly Museum’ post, you can spend as long or as short a time as you want there without feeling short-changed.
First, we headed to the Station Hall and wandered round the trains – well ran, full pelt with excitement for Munchkin! Half way round the hall, we stumbled on an old goods carriage which had been turned into a venue for the Aesthetica Short Film Festival. We sat and watch three lovely short films, beautifully artistic, thought-provoking and fun for all the family.
We then headed outside for a play in the play area and a ride on the miniature train (50p per ticket). Munchkin loved both, despite it being a cold and damp day.
Next, we popped to the restaurant for lunch; a good choice, with 3 out of 4 adults opting for the warm pork, apple sauce and stuffing bun and one for the cream of curried butternut squash soup with a roll. Munchkin had a kiddy’s picnic meal. Reasonably priced and sized portions.
Finally we headed into the great hall and looked round the engines and exhibitions. Munchkin’s favourites were the Japanese Bullet train (“that one looks like a plane, mummy”) the interactive announcement and jigsaw exhibits (“the train now leaving the platform goes from my house to Grandma’s”) and the film about women and the railways. (I think the final one may have had more to do with the swing music than some budding feminism on Munchkin’s part!).
All in all, we’d highly recommend the National Railway
Museum for all the family.
I hope that one or two of you had a go at the treasure hunt over the last couple of days. I don’t know about where you are, but we have had glorious sunshine over the last few days and after the wash-out summer, it’s been nice to get out and do things with the kids, so we took munchkin and bear-cub to Kew Gardens with some treasure hunt sheets to see how it worked with two…
Often when we visit Kew, the kids want to head straight for Climbers and Creepers, the indoor play area, but today we wanted to get them to explore outside as we didn’t want to miss the beautiful sunshine! Bring on the treasure hunt.
To ensure at least one child was onside, munchkin and I created the sheets together. She helped to choose pictures for the sheets, which also provided us with another activity, and we personalised each one with the kids’ names and headed to Kew.
First we popped to the Princess Diana Conservatory and looked at plants and fish – which promted comments such as “the crabs are behind the glass” from the munchkin and “can I put my finger in the water with the piranha” from bear-cub! Then we headed outside for the treasure hunt.
One sheet each (see below for link to printable sheet), one bag each and we Mummies were able to sit chatting while toddlers ran off together, (sometimes even holding hands and often calling to each other, searching for their treasure!) When they got confused, they’d head back to us and we would look in their bags, and chat with them about what they’d already found and then direct them to a good area to look for the next thing. It really didn’t take much effort on our part and it extended our time for chatting and catching up no end.
After the kids had completed their treasure hunt, it was time for a snack then off to look at the ducks, but throughout the little treasure bags were gripped tightly in their hands and then after a picnic lunch they headed off to find their own treasure, proudly bringing back fir-cones! Back to nature, little ‘uns!
Did you have a go at the treasure hunt? If so, let us know how it went. If not, why not print one off today and have a go?
R and L