Friday, 25 February 2011

Now he is Six

Preparations for our son's sixth birthday party began in earnest two days ago, but planning began way back in January with Buddy's Big Idea.

We had a meeting where we put all his party ideas down on paper. We were so impressed by his vision and enthusiasm that we decided to say yes to as many of his suggestions as we could - especially those which might be realised with little or no expenditure.

And so a couple of days ago we decorated our home with colourful paper, cheap sheeting fabric and whatever else we could find around the house to create a world for the guests at...

Buddy's Birthday Explorer Party.

The living room became the jungle with a cave under the table, and in this cave was a sleeping bear and a treasure box with lights (a very important detail, it had to have lights).

The hall was transformed into the savannah, the master bedroom a lions' den and the children's room became a mountain peak. Buddy and Daisy made the signs, including one for the loo.

When everyone arrived for the party (10 children in all) they each received a map and we began exploring.

First we followed a spider's web from the jungle up to the lions' den. Here we found a parcel which we had to pass around and unwrap layer by layer to get the next clue and to recover the lost jewels (actually marbles).

Our next clue led us to the mountain peak where each explorer had to hide one of the jewels in a vehicle they created from Lego. This kept them all busy and calm for at least twenty minutes.

The next clue set them off on safari; pictures of wild animals had been sticky-tacked all over the walls of the house. Nearly all the animals were found and collected - eventually.

Next we were back in the jungle with some loud music. Stickers were given out for explorers who gave us their best dance moves and for those who could keep as still as a statue when the music stopped. This wild game got us really close to the cave and to the treasure.

Then the birthday boy and Arnie (who had collected the most stickers) were chosen to go into the cave and turn on those lights...

Don't wake the bear
Yes, there's a treasure box in there!

Much scrabbling and screaming later the treasure box was brought out of the cave and dramatically opened. Finally everyone got some well deserved loot; toy snakes and tiaras, puzzles and sweets came tumbling out of the box and disappeared in a flash.

Then our very hungry explorers had lunch; bush tucker sandwiches, crocodiles - cucumber, bamboo - celery sticks, snakes - carrot curls, stick insects - Twiglets, grubs - mini bread-sticks, quick-sand - houmous, tropical fruit - pineapple, coconut and melon, beautiful butterflies - cupcakes, and a giant caterpillar - Buddy's birthday cake (thank you, Sainsbury's).

A game of sleeping lions and more wild dancing signalled the end of the party. Everyone left with with animal stickers, more Twiglets, a pouch of marbles and of course, a slice of caterpillar cake.


We are really exhausted of course, but think our efforts to give Buddy a great party have been absolutely worth it. He has a post-party glow about him today and I love that he keeps telling everyone,

'Do you know? I'm now officially Six.'

That sounds like one satisfied customer to me.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

One year on...

As it was Valentine's Day yesterday we played our game of hunt for hearts and made sweetheart art with our findings. It was very interesting to see how, one year on, my children's treasure hunt tactics and arty endeavours have developed.

Once all the hearts had been collected they counted and sorted them enthusiastically. Buddy casually scattered his hearts on the card (as pictured above) to make sure every single one could be seen and therefore counted. And this year he even applied glue to each one - all 21 of them. Daisy on the other hand, went for a more extreme interpretation of the rules this year; piling the hearts on top of one another (pictured below) so that they could still - according to her - definitely be seen.

I love them both!

They each received some mini baked pretzels and a ribbon as a prize. We used these to make some edible heart necklaces which vanished during the next 20 minutes during an extensive (and crunchy) game of hide-and-seek.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Happy heart art

Here's a lovely Valentine's themed activity for younger children. It starts with a high energy party game - a twist on the classic treasure hunt, and ends with lots of making and sticking to win prizes.

Treasure hunt for hearts

A little bit of preparation is needed before starting the game.

You will need to:

1) Collect scraps of decorative paper to make the hearts for the hunt - I stuck to a theme of gold and red, as pictured above. Include newspaper and wrapping paper if you like.

2) To make lots of different sized hearts quickly, cut the paper into squares of various sizes; you'll need at least 30. Put a few similarly sized squares together and fold in half. Then draw half a heart on one side - the centre of the heart towards the fold. Cut along the drawn heart outline and then separate the satisfyingly symmetrical heart shapes.

3) Now hide - well, put - the hearts all around your home (use sticky tac if you want them on vertical surfaces).

How to play:

1)Provide everyone with a basket or box and send them off to find and collect the hearts.

2) When all the hearts have been found, provide each player with a large piece of card. This could be covered in foil or plain wrapping paper, whatever you have to hand to make an attractive background.

Create heart art:

3) Now to count up those hearts. To do this, get them to stick their collected hearts over their background card. We used a glue stick rather than gloopy PVA to avoid too much mess.

4) They can do this just how they like, but the hearts should be arranged so that every heart can be seen and so counted. If they put a heart on top of another that's OK but it should be a smaller heart so both can be seen.

5) Lots of prizes can be given; for the most hearts collected, for finding a shiny heart, or a patterned heart etc.

We played this last year and my children - three and four at the time - really loved it. I knew they'd like the treasure hunt part, but it was great to see them so enthusiastic about selecting, comparing, counting and arranging their hearts before sticking them to the card.

We'll be playing it again tomorrow of course. Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sweetheart biscuit baking

My five year old says, 'Valentine's Day is when you can love the people you love even more.'

Last Valentine's Day we made these scrumptious sweetheart jammie dodger biscuits; they certainly went down a treat, knocking spots off the shop-bought variety. And they were amusingly large due to the big cookie cutter that was randomly selected to make them.

To make these lovely sweetheart biscuits (based on Annabel Karmel's recipe)

You will need:

A batch of chilled basic biscuit dough, made with approx 300g plain flour
1/2 jar of jam
90g icing sugar
60g soft butter
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

How to make them:

1) Heat the oven to 180c.
2) Roll dough to about 5mm thick.
3) Cut out circles with a 6cm cutter (or larger for giant biscuits) and arrange on a lined baking tray.
5) Cut hearts from half the biscuit circles. We made our cutter by folding a 6cm strip of card into a heart shape and fastening with sticky tape.
6) Cook the biscuits for about 12 minutes or until golden and then leave to cool.
7) Make the butter icing by beating together the remaining ingredients - except for the jam.
8) Spread the butter icing over just the whole (not the hole) biscuits.
9) Drop a dollop of jam on top of the icing and then place the heart biscuits on top.
10) Dust with icing sugar for a final flourish.

A delicious way to show the people you love just how much you love them - especially if, like us, you scale up those traditional dodger dimensions!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Just playing...

..from the moment they woke up until it was time to go to sleep.

It was Teddy Tommy's birthday apparently, so that meant playing shops (to buy his presents)...

Making him a birthday feast with home-made glittery play-dough...

And hosting a birthday tea party.

There was hard work at the car-wash (well, scooter and bicycle-wash)...

And help with essential bike maintenance before our ride... the perfect spot for some rock hopping...

... and stick and stone collecting for mummy (why, thank you!)

There was bubble blowing...

Star Wars spacecraft design...

..and some galaxy-defending.

We had sticker-sticking whilst singing 'Somewhere over the rainbow'...


Playing spy and princess music on the keyboard...

...and, once they were in bed and should have been asleep, they told me what they planned to play tomorrow.

Happy times at home then. I cherish days like these.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Grey Paris, gay Londres

I've just had an I-can't-believe-I'm-that-old birthday and am in the grips of a mutating cold that's simply refusing to go. Our recent sans enfants trip to sub-zero temperature Paris was lovely but I felt so ill I certainly didn't make the most of it, and so returned feeling rather sorry for myself. Everything seemed so very old and so very grey.

What I needed was a good dose of my children to take me out of my sombre mood, but I also needed them to be calm and quiet so I could convalesce on the couch. And bless Daisy and Buddy, they really got that. Buddy mostly read and played with the Lego, and Daisy decided to play hairdressers.

She started with Daddy's hair. I was instantly cheered just by watching them both in the salon; her careful and fastidious brush work, her little hands smoothing Daddy's curls, and hearing her small voice instructing him to sit forwards or keep still or close his eyes while she sprayed water onto his head. He was a good customer too. He tolerated the avant-garde style she'd given him - not quite as outrageous as the picture currently on the Paris Metro Map below - and looked appreciatively in the mirror with barely a giggle.

Then it was my turn. And since I'd decided to take a bath, Daisy the hairdresser said she would wash my hair for me. I should point out that by this time she'd dressed up for the part - she was now in a rainbow-ribbon skirt and had fashioned an Alice-band into a headdress loaded with multicoloured feathers.

And so it was this colourful vision of a girl who shampooed and conditioned my hair with all the patter of a professional, who then brushed, styled and clipped it up to her heart's content with her favourite sparkly accessories. She even found my hairspray to fix the whole look. *cough, splutter*

And, at last, I began to cheer up. Not in gay Paris - but at home in Daisy's Beauty Salon with her crazy hair-dos and rainbow-coloured clothes. How could I not?