It never fails to amaze me that with kids, most of the time, simple things are the best. Last week I got a new toy – a lovely big food processor. This meant Monkey als got a new toy – a lovely big cardboard box. He had so much fun in there and just made me laugh so many times throughout the day.
To start with it was a den – I love his cheeky face poking out
Then I laughed out loud to see his feet poking out the top when it was a bed
It was a bus for a while
Then he had so much fun making it a den again this time with just a blanket over the top and playing peepo.
Especially when the box then fell over with him inside!
Then LM had to get in on the action – she wasn’t quite as sure about being covered with the blanket
Then it became a climbing frame (it was getting a bit squished by this point)
And finall a great hiding place (can you see his fingers on the top? The only clue I had to where he was lol!)
You may have seen that we have just had a very lovely holiday in Dorset. We have been house sitting for just over a week for some friends of ours who live in a very cute, quaint little country cottage. It is picture postcard pretty but also a little run down with cracks in walls and damp ceilings and TONNES of spiders!
It is also in the most gorgeous setting, on a farm in the middle of the countryside. The farmer’s (massive) house is nearby along with a few holiday cottages they rent out but otherwise it is just surrounded by fields, trees and rolling hills.
Being on a farm there are lots of animals around too, cows, horses, sheep, dogs, a”barn cat” who is a mouser that lives in the barn. She’s also about 1010 yrs old, very gentle and so good with the kiddies! The little ones have loved stroking her and even when LM has gotten a little over excited and pulled her fur (eek) she has barely flinched! Lovely pussy cat.
We had the real extremes of weather, from blazing sun to torrential rain and we obviously had some highs and lows. Some highs of the trip include gorgeously sunny days out to the coast and on steam railways to castles (posts about those to follow) and actually a wonderful day at Stonehenge which was in parts disastrous but also lucky and just good fun, despite being a very wet day! More of that to come in another post.
We did have some lows too, including the most disastrous trip to the beach ever. I was on my own with the kids while hubs got his head down to do some work and as the forecast was for sun headed to the beach. It rained a little on the way but hoped we were headed to blue sky. I had researched and found what I thought was a sandy beach not too far away. Then we arrived and saw this mountain of stones at the edge of a completely stony beach.
Walked around a little and could find no sandy beach so at the lowest point I could find proceeded to make a few trips up and down the hill of stones to get me, 3 bags, buggy, both kids and a wind shield onto the beach. Only to be faced with an evem steeper decline on the other side of the hill towards the sea.
LM decided she didn’t like the noise of the sea so I didn’t want to get any closer, though it was blimmin windy at the top of the hill! I started to set up the wind shield,and the heavens (which had been darkening but I had been ignoring in my task of just getting up the hill) opened. So we ended up huddled behind the windshield, both LM and Monkey crying because they were cold and wet,trying to eat a picnic. Then the rain stopped, a few more trips back down the hill later, more screaming from the kiddies,and I packed them back in the car. Disaster!! Talk about best laid plans!! My feet hurt so much after all the running up and down the stones barefoot (my flip flops made it even worse so had to go with bare feet) and that was by far the low point of the week.
Some of the best bits though were seeing my kiddies having a whale of a time on the playpark on the farm (which had an awesome boat swing that I want to get for our swing at home) and just in running around the cottage garden.
Oh and watching Monkey jumping in muddy puddles on the very wet days!
Lots of happy times and though hubs was working a lot of the time we also got a lot of time together as a family which has been very lovely. By the end I both didn’t want to leave and get back to normality, but was also looking forward to getting home and our creature comforts, family and friends.
Right, I have been meaning to write a post about this for aaaages! Bringing up kids costs a lot of money and there are so many toys out there in addition to the things you actually need. But I have found that as he has got older Monkey has basically been interested in anything and everything. He doesn’t differentiate between toys and other objects, everything for him is a toy and another opportunity to learn.
So I thought I would share some of the things that Monkey plays with from around the house, making for cheap alternatives to toys. I would obviously like to note here that any containers etc. have been washed out and he is supervised at all times with these toys to prevent (as much as humanly possible) any random injuries! Also, he has never come to harm with any of the following. He does however trip over his feet a lot (3 times in the last 2 days, quite a collection of bumps and bruises!).
Basically a cheap musical toy as monkey likes the way that they jingle around. Keys work in the same way although I know keys can link to worries over cleanliness and sharp pointiness whereas our measuring spoons are nice and clean and rounded. He also likes Granny’s measuring cups, more for banging and stacking though.
Empty water bottles
For some reason monkey loves empty plastic bottles. He likes squeezing them to hear the funny noise they make, he likes waving them around and he likes banging them on the ground. Honestly, endless fun with just a simple empty plastic bottle!
Empty toiletry bottles
His favourites include old empty roll on deodorants (sanex ones and he has not once tried or figured out how to take the lid off or anything), and an empty baby bath wash bottle. Basically the same as empty plastic bottles, they are good for waving around and banging!
Old remote controls
Monkey loves to push buttons, so old games console remotes and old tv/dvd remotes are a fave. So much so we have to hide the ones in use in a high place so that he can’t get at them and do funny things with the tv etc.! If you have old ones at hand (with batteries removed of course) they can be a great distraction! (Yes he is sitting in a canvas box in the first pic :))
Not sure what it is says about him but monkey loves playing with one of my old purses and one of my clutch bags. The clutch bag he can waggle around and it is pretty sparkly and seems to entertain him and the purse is a three fold wallet so he likes opening and closing and generally just fiddling about with it.
A pack of cards
I was given a present of a pack of cards titled ’50 things to do with your baby’ and I got a few good ideas from them, but they have been particularly useful lately as he loves holding them in his hands, trying to put them back in the box, folding them in half, trying to clap them together… honestly a million different ways. I am sure a normal pack of cards would work just as well, though I guess it would have to be one you didn’t mind getting a bit destroyed!
Of all shapes and sizes. He likes banging on an empty cereal box like a drum. He likes sitting in and being pulled around in a bigger, stronger cardboard box. We have cut up a box holding baby wipes, and put doors in it for him to put things in and take things out. I know this one won’t be news to anyone but cardboard boxes are great! Although when he was in full on teething he did manage to gnaw a big chunk of cardboard off the side of one he was sitting in!
Brown paper wrapping/padding stuff
Not sure what to call it, but as you can see in the picture it was a length of brown papery card that was used as padding from someone like amazon or something. Monkey was entertained for ages, waving it around, like the noise and just experimenting with pulling it in various directions. Was really funny to watch.
Monkey loves Tupperware. He likes trying to put the lids on and take them off. He likes putting things in and taking them out again (particularly his food at meal times, in between bites). One of the weaning pots we have has a lid which is joined on one side, so he has great fun waving it around so the lid flaps about. Tupperware also bangs very nicely
A shoebox or similar
One of my friends gave us some baby presents in a gorgeous storage box type thing and at the moment we are using it for playtime as a what’s in the box type of thing, which is great fun and we vary what is in there. Many of the above items go in there and sometimes things he hasn’t played with before like ribbons or dried pasta etc. Just for some fun exploring. A shoebox with a lid would work just as well!
There are many many more things that monkey picks up around the house as he is busy learning about the world and everything in it! he was busily engrossed in one of my emery boards the other day, and earlier he pulled a dirty sock out of his laundry basket and was waving it around! He loves to play with the stones on our gravel driveway and to pick daisies in the garden (I have to make sure he doesn’t eat either!) . So I guess my point is that in addition to all the toys that he has, he learns a lot just from general bits and bobs too.
During the process of deciding whether to be a stay at home mum we went to look at a very lovely nursery, and while it was supposed to help me feel confident about going back to work, all it really did was make me think that I should be trying to do more things with Monkey.
I want to get creative with some of the things I do with him so again I turned to my trusty friend Google and started looking at other blogs with ideas for things to do. I particularly wanted to know more about finger painting and find a recipe I could make at home easily that would be ok if Monkey ate it. He puts EVERYTHING in his mouth so being edible was a key feature for me. I found the lovely blog of Rainy Day Mum and her recipe for finger paints, which can be found here.
Now as Monkey is only 9 months old I know that he would be unlikely to actually paint anything but I thought it could be a sensory experience for him, and if food or water spills on his highchair try he loves swirling around so I thought the same could possibly happen with paints.
To make it a bit more fun I decided to invite a friend over with her little girl who is nearly 2 – I thought then that if Monkey hates it at least someone will enjoy my efforts! I also had a day where I had to stay home to wait for a delivery of a lovely new dresser for the dining room so thought it would be the perfect opportunity. Hubby and I tidied up the conservatory (which has mainly been used as a junk room since we moved in 10 months ago) heated it up and designated it a messy play area, with a really old rug on the floor and an old table.
I made the paints with the following ingredients:
1 cup Corn Flour (Corn Starch)
1 cup Cold Water
3 cups Boiling Water
Liquid Food Colouring.
Mixing the corn flour with cold water first then gradually adding and mixing the boiling water before putting the mix into a pan to heat gently. (More details here) It starts off almost milky in consistency then as it heats up gets quite gelatinous until it is thick and gloopy. As per Rainy Day Mum’s instructions I then emptied it into some baby food jars and mixed the colours. you really don’t need a lot of food colouring to get bright colours (although as you can see the green food colouring I used was a bit of a swamp green!)
I did this a few days before the painting and I’m not sure if I made a mistake in making it (which is why I have no given detailed instructions – don’t want anyone else to get it wrong and repeat any of my mistakes) but it was very solid, I guess like the consistency of jelly after a few days in the jar…. maybe it just needed some more vigorous stirring but who knows. With two little ones chomping at the bit we just wanted to get them started, and it still kinda worked!
Monkey basically looked at the paints and prodded them slightly with a very cute but disgusted impression, then began begging to be let out of his highchair. My friends little girl didn’t want to use them as finger paints but was very happy to paint with them using the brush I was trying to stir the paints with. We decided to try monkey with a brush to see if that would help him, but that just went into his mouth and I thought as that was definitely not edible, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.
So monkey came out of his chair and after a bit of a cuddle (he is still very clingy at the mo) he was quite happy sat on the floor playing with some paper – basically just waving it around in the air. Simple things eh? My friend’s little girl however had a whale of a time and produced some wonderful artwork :).
Although the paints were not the consistency I thought they would be it was definitely worth a try and not a total wash out – will definitely try again when he is a little bit older. For now I’ll just let him swirl water and food around on his tray.. and occasionally give him a piece of paper to wave around!