family fun

Bear Hunt

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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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Saturday is Caption Day #hobbies

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Toddler Star Gazing
Getting involved in Daddy's hobbies.

Butterfly Cake recipe that children can make

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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:

INGREDIENTS
For the cakes
2 medium eggs
110g / 4oz self-raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
110g / 4oz butter (soft)
110g / 4oz sugar

Butter Icing
170g / 6oz icing sugar
85g / 3oz butter (soft)
3 drops of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of milk

12 Cake Cases

COOKING METHOD

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.

New Year’s resolutions for children?

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The New Year means new beginnings for many and an opportunity to start again, set some goals and make some changes.  These very often take the form of New Year’s resolutions for adults.  But what about children?  Is it a good idea or even healthy for children to have a set of New Year’s resolutions?

I must admit, personally I change my mind from year to year with regards to resolutions.  In some ways I think they can set you up for inevitable failure, in other ways I think it is good to have something to aim for.  I guess as long as you don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t reach your goals than they can be helpful guidelines.

Anyway, I came across an interesting American article about New Year’s resolutions for children.  It quotes American pediatric psychologist, Stacy Flowers.  She says, “The New Year is a fresh start and it’s a great time for families to take a look at the past year and see where they can make improvement. For children and teens, making resolutions helps with self-discipline, goal setting and, when they are successful, improves self-esteem.”

I was skeptical at first but as I read on I felt Flowers had some interesting and helpful points.  According to Flowers, parents can play an important role in helping their children decide on goals and successfully meet those goals in the coming year:  “The first step is knowing your children. What areas can they work on? Where can they improve? Where will they see the biggest benefit?”

The key, according to Flowers, is to come up with manageable accomplishments that are personally meaningful to your child. These accomplishments will vary greatly with age.

However it’s all very well setting goals but how on earth do you get children to keep them?  Flowers suggests,

“Young children might benefit from charts and stickers to document their progress and accomplishments. Older children and teens can utilise calendars or electronic documentation of their achievements. Parents can also use age-appropriate rewards to recognise their children’s successes.  No matter how old you are, it feels so good to get something crossed off your list, and the absolutely best way to change behavior is to reward it instead of punish it.”

We, as parents, don’t get let off the hook in the article either.  Flowers says if children are making resolutions, their parents should be as well.  She says, “Those goals should be shared with the children so they are aware of what their parents are hoping to achieve. That actually makes it fun for the children. They get really excited when they can point out something their parent isn’t doing right.”

Flowers concludes that, “Everybody has something they need to work on, so resolutions can become a family tradition.”

After reading the article I felt that if nothing else it would give me a chance to approach and tackle some of the ‘difficult’ behaviour my son has made a habit of over the last year and I can set some goals that I know he’ll relish keeping me accountable to.  It could actually be fun! What do you think?

L

Harlington Locomotive Society

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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?

Excitement riding high

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.

6mph on a minature train, is quite fast!

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.

Daddy and munchkin on the train

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.

Train maintenance

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.

Santa

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.

Crowd at track
The crowd viewed from the train

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.

R

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Snap Slappers #4 and Country Kids combo!

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I’m combining photo posts today – I hope that’s OK Five Go Blogging and Coombemill

Today’s post therefore is a Picniked Country Kids – I like to live dangerously!

So this shot was taken on Hampsted Heath and in the first incarnation it is  Daddy throwing daughter up in the air

After a wee doodle though, it becomes a “Choose a Child” conveyor!

Thanks to Snap Slappers and Country Kids for inspiring me this week!
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Five Go Blogging Snap Slappers

Soft Play Reviews: A Tour of Britain

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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 morethanamum@gmail.com 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.

R