Community projects, competitions and reward schemes for children to join in with from home

Hands up if you’re a parent looking for ways to entertain your children at home right now?

Fortunately there are lots of groups that have been quickly set up on Facebook sharing ideas and lots of people offering activities through online channels such as YouTube – we’ve been one of the thousands of families who’ve been joining in Joe Wicks’s The Body Coach 9am workouts for example.

Whilst learning for learning’s sake is never a bad thing and there are lots of sites that have been incredibly helpful in opening up their resources to all for free for at least a limited time, if your children would like to do something that might give them a much needed sense of community, a specific purpose or tangible achievement then here are a few ideas…

Rainbows and teddy bears
One of my favourite schemes has been people decorating their windows to cheer up their neighbours or families on their one period of exercise a day to spot.  In our area its mainly rainbows with a few teddy bears added too (so children can go on a bear hunt) but there are also a variety of lists circulating that see the theme change every few days (animals, funny faces and so on) ensuring regular new craft projects for your little ones.  We used crayons, stickers, paint, balloons and stones for ours and then had a walk around our area to sample the creativity of other households and there are some fabulous creations people have shared via social media too if you want to be particularly inspired.

“Our local community are putting Teddy bears in the window for a ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ trail for those who are walking dogs, still heading out to work etc” says blogger Sarah Anguish who writes at www.boorooandtiggertoo.com.

ele#Hometasking
When it comes to uncovering the nation’s creativity you surely can’t beat joining in with Taskmaster’s #Hometasking challenges?  Alex Horne is setting about three challenges a week and then it’s over to Greg Davies (via a horde of helpful viewing minions I’m sure) to choose his favourite attempts to complete it.  So far the challenges have been to throw an A4 piece of paper into a bin, to host a “night out” in your bathroom and to make a dancing elephant.  All tasks are obviously meant to be completed in your own home or garden with materials you already have – take a look at #hometasking on Twitter for more information and prepare for all the weird and wonderful a nation left twiddling their thumbs can provide.

Newark Book Festival Competition
With three age categories – under 10s, 11 to 15 and 16+ – this is something all the family can take part in too.

For 2020’s competition, Newark Book Festival is taking its inspiration from the little manuscript made and written by Charlotte Bronte when she was only 14 years old that sold at auction in Paris for £666,970 in November 2019.  Dated August 19th, 1830, it is no bigger than a matchbox and is packed with stories, pictures and advertisements.

MiniManuscript

Using materials they have in their own home, the festival wants its entrants to make their own little book too.  Imaginations are encouraged to “run wild” but it must be handwritten/sewed, measure no more than the size of a playing card (3.5inch x 2.5inch) and have a maximum of 10 pages including the front and back cover.

The deadline has currently been extended until mid June, entries are to be kept at home for now and the festival will announce when drop off points/postal entries are open.  Find out more here.

grasscaterpillarNational Children’s Gardening Week Competion
If your children are particularly green fingered then they might want to join in with the National Children’s Gardening Week Competition if you have some grass seed to hand.  The promotional week normally runs at the end of May but it’s website has a page of ideas for Things to do that you might want to have a look at now.  One of those ideas is to grow your own grass caterpillar and these windowsill friends are the basis for the competition that opened on March 26th and ends on April 30th, 2020.

PawprintFamilyPawprint Badges
If your little Beaver is missing his or her regular achievement badge fix then they (and their fellow scouting/guiding group members) can still work towards them at home and our group leader has even sent us a couple of suggestions and ways to record their efforts already.  However there are also online alternatives such as Pawprint Badges that are open to all.  I’ve come across these before and always meant to look into them and, guess what, now I have the time.  There are lots of different badges and challenges, I think we might start by looking at the St George’s Day badge ahead of the patron saint’s day next month.

bluepeterBlue Peter Badge
Beth Law, who writes at www.twinderelmo.co.uk, suggests trying for a badge that might provide adults with a bit of nostalgia too.  “They can try to earn a Blue Peter Badge by doing different tasks such as drawing or crafting.  Us parents can take a walk down memory lane as a Blue Peter Badge was the ultimate prize when we were kids.  A great way to get your kids motivated as they will hopefully receive the coveted badge for their efforts.” 

Children’s University
ChildrensUniversityAnother scheme I’ve been meaning to look into for a while is the Children’s University, a national charity that is administrated through lots of local hubs.  Children’s University “believe in limitless learning beyond the classroom” and many of your children’s normal extracurricular activities could count towards their graduation but, of course, like most other providers in current times they have launched a special Covid-19 page with lots of suggestions for home and online activities.  I’ve already been in touch with our local corodinator and, whilst for obvious reasons she can’t send us out our passports yet, she’s happy for the minis to start completing activities and us to record their completion codes and colours so we’ll “be well on the way to collecting 30 stamps to graduate” when everyone can return to their offices.

Blogger Challenges
As well as giving lots of helpful suggestions, bloggers themselves are stepping into the breach and coming up with their own challenges too.

Blissful Domestication‘s Kerry Dawson says “I’m running an online craft challenge for kids.  Mainly in a Facebook group but you can also sign up on my blog for emails and a checklist. Originally it was an open ended challenge but I’m running a mini version of it over the next 12 weeks as I complete it with my own kids.”  Click on her blog post 50 Crafts to try before you’re 10! and find the original post with its Coronavirus update where you can sign up to her emails or join the Facebook group.

Louise Jemma, who writes at Thimble and Twig, is running an outdoor Doorstep Nature challenge in a Facebook group with a friend.  Every day in April in their Wildling Explorers Facebook group they’ll be sharing how each of their nature-inspired ideas work.  Click here to find out more.

Do you know of any other schemes or competitions little ones on their extended Coronavirus breaks could take part in?  Let us know in the comments below or email me at hello@theminimalpi.co.uk and I’ll add them to this list and you can be safe in the knowledge that lots of parents will be saying a big thank you to you for sharing!  

Enjoy festive family fun whilst picking out presents

FandGParents will be trying all sorts of different ways to complete their Christmas shopping once again this festive season.  Alongside finding further childcare to keep them well away from the excitement of decorated and overheated stores to ordering everything online, mums and dads can also choose to attend an event that concerns itself as much with the enjoyment of its little visitors as it does with the selection of presents their grown ups have to choose from.

The Lincolnshire Food and Gift Fair is returning to the Lincolnshire Showground this month.  With more than 8,000 people expected to attend, advance tickets for the Saturday, November 30th and Sunday, December 1st event are now on sale.

Doors are open from 9am to 4pm on both days to allow customers to browse the more than 150 exhibitor stands showcasing the county’s finest foods and unique gifts but there will also be plenty of activities to keep little ones busy.

Cookery workshops hosted by 42nd East Bakehouse, a reindeer food bar, pet bandanas designing workshop with Zukie Style, Christmas pottery painting with The Little Pottery Studio, willow weaving with Lincolnshire Willow and storytelling from Lincoln Performing Arts Centre will all be waiting to help mini participants to start their festive fun.  Hobbycraft Lincoln will also be giving children a chance to make festive wrapping paper and design their own Christmas cards.

Jayne Southall, CEO at Lincolnshire Showground, said: “Preparations are well underway for the Food and Gift Fair, and we are getting ready for this year’s Fair to be the best yet! It is a fun festive event to suit all ages and tastes, including foodies, families and Christmas shoppers and is guaranteed to get everybody in the Christmas spirit.

“Visitors will be able to sample the best of Lincolnshire produce, including famous pork pies, speciality cheese, wine tasting, locally distilled gin, chocolate, fudge and much more.

“There will also be free activities for children including hands-on-crafts, Christmas storytelling and baking activities and we also have a few more surprises rolled up our sleeves!”

Tickets for the Fair can be bought at £5 each (plus postage) in advance and are £6 on the gate.  Under fives go free when accompanied by an adult.

Visit www.lincolnshireshowground.co.uk/whats-on/event/foodandgift19 for more information about #FoodandGift19 or call 01522 522900.

An elephant, a Froojamaflip and SuperKitty

Newark Book Festival 2019

Hands up those who had lots of fun at the annual Newark Book Festival last weekend – we certainly did!  And we’ve been heads down with hands busy turning pages ever since re-reading our new addition to the mini’s home library, SuperKitty by Hannah Whitty and Paula Bowles.

With Luke and Daddy at Beavers camp for the weekend it was just us girls that took the bus and train to the Nottinghamshire town to enjoy lots of literary activities.

On Saturday, there was hula hooping, singing, Maisy Mouse meeting and ear-wearing, SuperKitty storytelling, drawing, mask making and face painting.

On Sunday, there was an elephant!  And there was a person made out of fruit and vegetables!  There was painting, octopus crown making, a ball pool, sand pits, a hot air balloon trail, Paddington Bear craft and, of course most important of all, there was ice cream to finish the weekend off with.

As well as a boost to her desire to be able to read all the words herself, Willow also came away from the festival talking excitedly about vegetables thanks to Fred and his friend Froojamaflip.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped us get the pushchair on and off trains and up and down steps in Newark and to all the lovely festival volunteers who helped this very directionally-challenged mummy.

Next year’s festival dates are July 10th-12th, 2020. 

Do you know a mini crocodile fan?

A few days after finding out Willow will be in Ladybird class in September we found out that Luke will be in Crocodiles when he moves up a year.  So now I have added green paint to our craft shop haul of all things red and black.

CrocodilesPegsWhen considering crafting crocodiles my first thoughts are to start collecting egg boxes but, for Kerry from Blissful Domestication, it’s wooden pegs, green pipe cleaners and googly eyes that make her shopping list in order to make her Peg and Pipe Cleaner Crocodiles – and the peg’s action make the completed reptiles eminently snappable!

Having bought several new ladybird books for Willow, Luke was quick to insist he should also receive some appropriate new reading material.  We already had I Love Crocodiles: First facts and pictures by Steve Parker and Steve Roberts as well as stories such as Open Very Carefully: A book with bite by Nick Bromley and Nicola O’Byrne and Alan’s Big Scary Teeth by Jarvis.  We’ve had Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile recommended to us several times and the titles we’ve chosen to add CrocodilesDentistto our home library so far are Could a Crocodile Play Basketball? and other questions by Aleksei Bitskoff and Camilla de la Bedoyere and The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water by Gemma Merino.

Another title featuring the scaly creature that Jane from Hodge Podge Days recommends is The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi.  Describing it as “a lovely, easy to read story with lots of repetition” Jane found it “full of simple humour and empathy” as both titular characters learn to be brave and face their fears.

CrocodilesSealifeFor Rainy Day Mum’s Cerys it’s all about finding more life-sized versions of the animal, whether it be wooden sculptures in Rendlesham Forest when on Scavenger Hunts with Toddlers or similarly tame ones that provide a safe photo opportunity at Colchester Zoo (World Animal Day Blog Hop).  But the highlight of their visit to Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary saw her son finally came face to face with one of the centre’s three very alive crocodiles, “luckily through a sheet of glass”.

What is your favourite fact about the many-toothed creature?  Let us know in the comments below.

Crafts and activities for your little ladybirds

It’s that time of year again when we already start to think about the start of the new academic year that September will bring with it even before we’ve had the chance to start the July that will say goodbye to this one.  It will be a big one in the Malpi household as Willow will be joining her older brother at school for the first time and she’s just found out that she will be in the ladybird class.  Cue all things red and black spotted being celebrated in our house and who better to ask for suggestions around the coccinellidae subject than fellow bloggers…?

The striking colours and pattern of the most well known of their species lends itself eminently to craft projects – add red and black paint to a few children’s craft box staples such as paper plates, toilet paper tubes and eggboxes and the greenfly in your back garden will soon be thinking the leaves are greener on the other side of the fence.

LadybirdInspirationEditAngela, who writes at The Inspiration Edit, and Wendy, from Daisies and Pie, just use card and LadybirdPaperLooppaper for their creations.  Angela includes a downloadable template as part of her Easy Preschool Ladybug Craft and Wendy includes a quick video demonstration of her Paper Loop Ladybug Craft.

ladybirdnumbersAnother blogger offering a free printable as part of their suggested activity is Louise from Messy Little Monster.  Download her printable number leaves, add 10 red bottle tops and a black sharpie pen and you can recreate her Learn to Count Ladybird Craft and send your children on a number hunt.   And, if your messy monster is too mini to take part in the hunt quite yet, you could try out Louise’s Ladybird Baby Footprint Keepsake instead.

LadybirdPlateBlissful Domestication’s Kerry shows us How to Make a Paper Plate Ladybird utilising a split pin and Being Mrs C’s Penny’s How to make a simple paper plate ladybird which uses the back of the plate for its domed effect was inspired by a re-reading of Lucy Ladybird by Sharon King-Chai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hadn’t heard of King-Chai’s story of a ladybird in search of her spots before but have now ordered one along with another book I’ve come across thanks to writing this post – Tales from Nature: Ladybird.  Laura, of Laura’s Lovely Blog, reviews it in her Beautiful Board Book for Babies article where she praises it for showing “how ladybirds camouflage from birds and how it hatches its eggs… It’s great for young children and babies with the colourful, bold and engaging pages.”

LadybirdPosterOne book my minis are definitely familiar with, however, is Julia Donaldson’s What the Ladybird Heard and so are Crafts on Sea‘s Kate’s children.  Her posts include a What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday Paper Plate Craft that includes a secret message hidden under her wings and a What the Ladybird Heard Wanted Poster.  Younger siblings can also create their own minibeast makes using Kate’s (cotton bud) Q-Tip Ladybird Craft for Toddlers.

In Our Spring Activities, The Queen of Collage’s Helena tells us “We’ve recreated the farm that the ladybird in What the Ladybird Heard lived on, viewed the Bad Tempered Ladybird on Youtube which would be great to introduce time”.

LadybirdReelIf Donaldson’s quiet hero captures your mini readers’ imaginations then check out Jenny’s reviews of the sequels on her blog The Gingerbread HouseWhat the Ladybird Heard Next sees crafty robbers Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len out of jail and heading back to the farm with another cunning plan to cause trouble and What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday finds the thieves in London planning to steal a monkey from the zoo and use it to pinch the Queen’s crown.  Jenny also uses some painted ladybird and bee stone counters in her How to make a simple cable reel blackboard noughts and crosses game.

LadybirdGemFor more rock painting inspiration take a look at Gem’s Painting Rocks and Pebbles on Childsplay ABC which also includes bumble bees and her son’s smiley faces.

Gem also pointed me towards the lovely A guide to British ladybirds – in pictures article by Beatrice Sayers in 2013 on the Guardian website.  “The UK Ladybird Survey has found 26 species that are readily recognisable as ladybirds.  Here are some of the common ones, the colourful ones – and alien invaders”.

Ladybird12

If all of those ideas aren’t enough to keep us going over the summer holidays and fill her bridger scrapbook then we might head over to read Rainy Day Mum’s suggestions.  Cerys’s Ladybird Crafts and Activities include buttons, egg boxes and fingerpainting as part of projects making sun catchers and pegs and she even outlines What to plant to encourage ladybugs to make sure your little ones have real examples of the beetles to compare their creations to.

LadybirdFlowerPotPerhaps you could even start some of the plants off in an appropriately attired flower pot as Jane from Hodge Podge Days has designed in Crafts: Make Your Own Ladybird Flower Pot.

What a lovely way to finish #30DaysWild too!

Educational, fun and easy ways to inspire children to connect with nature

IMG_6479“Inspiring children to connect with nature” is the strapline adopted by children’s activity subscription box company Mud + Bloom.  It’s definitely an aim we can get behind and the minis were really pleased to be given an April box for review.

As well as educational and fun, Mud + Bloom’s website promises that its monthly gardening and craft activities aimed at ages 3 to 8 will be easy – “The boxes will be delivered to your door with all the seeds and materials needed for the gardening activity – there’s no need for you to have a garden or tools” – but I still worried that I would find some of it difficult to carry out with the minis.

So, when one of the first activity cards I read was “Watch a… Puddle disappear”, I was quite relieved.  Helping children to “see how water turns to vapour and disappears when the rain stops and the sun comes out” and accompanied by a water cycle diagram, the chalks required to draw round the edge of a puddle were included in the box.  It’s a perfect example of one of Mud + Bloom’s tasks – yes easy, educationally effective for both visual and physical learners and with a resource (the chalk) that could be used multiple times for the same task or also in other ways.  I had pictured us going on to make various patterns or drawings whilst waiting for our puddle to shrink but, despite being the month famed for showers and the simplest of the activities, it’s the one that we haven’t yet had the chance to carry out.

The card daddy and Luke started out with was “Grow your own… Wheatgrass”, four compost pellets and a packet of wheatgrass seeds were provided, you just needed to find a small plate to spread and sprinkle them on – “All seeds are certified organic and biodynamic. We also provide organic peat free compost pellets in each box, to enable our subscribers to get planting immediately.”

Next I tackled the craft project “Make your own… Water cycle bracelet” with Luke and Willow.  I loved the idea of this – Luke learns best with physical action, threading is a great fine motor activity, I think the water cycle is a particularly compelling subject due to its various very different states and Willow is always interested in anything involving jewellery – and with Step 7 being “make another bracelet for a friend” there was enough beads and thread provided to one bracelet each (we were gifted a single box but sibling boxes are also available).   The task did seem to very much do the trick with both Luke and Willow recalling what step in the water cycle each colour bead represented as both were firstly threaded and then played with when on their wrists.  The beads supplied for this however were far too small for my minis’ little fingers – Willow did persevere and manage the first bead but then I had to help with all the rest.

As well as showers, April brought us Easter this year and the next card we picked was “Make you own… Batik eggs”.  The idea of this immediately appealed to me again as it reminded me of a previous cyanotype printing activity we enjoyed.  We started by heading into the garden to collect some small leaves, flowers and grasses before wrapping them around some eggs in the muslin cloth provided and then boiling them in a pan with onion skins in.  It obviously sparked Luke’s creative imagination too as he was very quickly coming up with different ideas of what materials we could use to try for different effects.  Whilst we tried getting him to concentrate on following the steps as written for our first go he’d be glad to know that Step 9 is “You can reuse the muslin cloth, should you want to make more!”  Even Faith liked this activity as she got to enjoy the culinary results of this one after we’d finished admiring the aesthetic ones.

A few days later and it was time to scatter the organic Nantaise 2 Milan carrots seeds provided in the box.  We are fortunate to have a garden but they could also have been planted in a deep grow bag, container or pot.  Hopefully in a couple of months we shall have some “sweet and crunchy” orange veggies to enjoy at dinner!

As well as seasonal gardening and crafts the box also include nature news, a quiz and a spotter sheet, all of which have been created by qualified teachers and support the national curriculum with influence from Forest School, Steiner and Montessori education.

For the first time since they’ve been publishing their boxes there was an accidental omission on one of the cards but the benefit of it being a subscription service meant that they were able to contact all their readers to correct it.

Sign up now and your May box will include pressed flower bookmarks, poppies, bark and leaf rubbings, sweetcorn and bee spotting.  If they sell out of May boxes before you have time to click then you’ll start with June’s instead – perfect if you’re planning on joining in with the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild.

You can subscribe from month to month at £9.95 per single box (£12.95 for a sibling box) or commit to six month or 12 months at discounted rates.  Gift subscriptions are also available.

Find out more at www.mudandbloom.com 

*We received the April single box for free in order to review the subscription service.

What does the colour grey make you think of?

#Blogtober18: Never Doing That Again!

Recently I attempted to enter a competition which challenged entrants to pose as the Lincoln Imp.

I gathered together some craft supplies – including buying a rather generous amount of grey felt because the shop didn’t sell that colour in individual squares – and, together with a bit of brown craft foam, I sewed a headband with imp ears and horns ready for my mini ones to wear for a photo on Lincolnshire Day (October 1st).

Problem was it turned out that you were supposed to post your photos before that day so that the organiser could use them on the day itself…

So, not only did the missed deadline mean I could I not even enter, I was also left with a lot of spare grey felt (just the one shade), not a colour that I had an idea for another project for.

Fortunately there are a lot of creative bloggers out there so I asked one or two if they could think of any ideas.

Tilly from Buddy and Bean suggested “bunting and garlands in various shapes” and Katie from Mum of 2.5 proved she’s a mum that lives in the UK by thinking of “clouds for a cot mobile”.

Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary also thought of decorations saying “I made felt birds as tree decorations a few years ago and I still use them now. Draw yourself a template and use something like cotton wool as wadding. Would look really effective if you had lots of them.”

“A wonderful bookmark with yellow polka dots or a wolf brooch” came to Becky of A Beautiful Space‘s mind which inspired me to think of perhaps making a big bad wolf to go in a story sack for The Three Little Pigs.

Becky’s boys clearly have a very creative mum.  Writing at Raucous by Nature, she has previously made her “son a Kristoff from Frozen costume using grey felt” which would certainly be an answer to the volume of the material I’ve found myself left with.

And Sam Curtis is obviously already planning for events later in the year with her lovely present idea – “the obvious thing to make is either an elephant, or a mouse?  Or both?  The elephant would obviously have to look terrified at the sight of the mouse…  Totally perfect for Christmas gifting, especially if you printed the Twas the night before Christmas poem off, to go with it”.

If you had an abundance of grey felt what would you make?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.

#Blogtober18