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.

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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

 

Santa’s Workshop has an extra touch of magic this year

The Lincolnshire Food and Gift Fair 2017

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If Christmas itself and the chance to catch a glimpse the man in red aren’t magical enough for your children then the Lincolnshire Showground has arranged for an extra spellbinding attraction at the Santa’s Workshop at Lincolnshire Food and Gift this year.

The Magical World of Fingley, a series of five children’s novels, will be bringing two of its pixies, Astoria and Nixie, to the event taking place on December 2nd and 3rd and they’ll be helping younger visitors to enjoy colouring, crafts, reading, writing, storytelling and treasure hunts.

There will also be a range of Christmas crafts for children to have a go at and Super Chefs will be helping them decorate their own festively-shaped pizzas.

Lincolnshire Showground CEO Jayne Southall says “Christmas is all about family and we’re keen to ensure that the Fair celebrates everything that is great about Lincolnshire by offering something for everyone.  Children love the magic of Christmas and we are delighted to run the Santa’s Workshop for a second year following its popularity last year, and to welcome The Magical World of Fingley.”

The fair is open from 9am to 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets are £5 in advance, £6 on the door, accompanied under 16s and parking are free.

Find out more on the Lincolnshire Showground’s website.

F is for Faith (…and fuchsia)

IMG_9579Every mother knows that her own children are gorgeous but it’s always nice to hear it confirmed by other people too.

And it was lovely to hear that a photo I shared of Faith on @TheMiniMalpi Twitter account caught the attention of the artist behind Bertie Bear Button Art and Crafts.

Designing and hand making personalised artwork with buttons, Sarah from Kirton Lindsey in North Lincolnshire, offered to send Faith her own individually designed initial art frame and, as you can see, she was very pleased with the finished piece.

The idea appealed to me for several reasons – I love words and letters, button is a term of endearment I often use for all three of my minis and it’s always lovely to have something personalised and individual appropriate to your unique child.

And the frame lived up to those expectations too.  The natural wooden frame can be freestanding or hung on a wall and came very securely padded in a mailing box surviving two deliveries in our case as a neighbour was kind enough to receive it for us when we missed the postman.

The mix of buttons sizes, shapes and shades is lovely and I like the 3D dimension to the nature of the craft.  I think most parents would love the heart button but, as Faith is currently waiting for a heart operation, it has extra significance to us and I like its prominent placing.  There is a bow button, flowers and the butterfly would definitely currently be a winner with Faith’s older sister.

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The frames currently come in either pink or blue.  I’m quite a fan of using other colours too and Sarah says this is something she’d consider in the future although it’s understandable why those two colours are the mainstays in her button stash.  Plus when I was trying to think of a colour that begins with f as well I just came up with fuchsia anyway!

I’m sure it will make a lovely feature to her bedroom wall for years to come.

As well as initials, Sarah’s designs also include a family tree, ballerina, heart, the words home and love and an apple perfect for a teacher thank you present.  Find out more at Bertie Bear Button Art.

If you’d like a unique letter button frame made for your mini one or would like to buy any of her artworks as a gift then Sarah is offering The Mini Malpi readers 25% off their order.   Use the code THEMINIMALPI25 in her Etsy store at to claim your discount.  And we’d love to see your photos of your little one with their own art piece too so don’t forget to tweet us @TheMiniMalpi.

When in Sleaford…

The promise of free family-friendly outdoor art activities prompted us to make sure our snack bag was packed copiously full and hit the road to Sleaford this morning.

As part of the nationwide #getcreative weekend, ArtsNK were offering visitors to The Nettles the chance to try their hands at willow weaving and cyanotype printing.

Despite arriving in the Lincolnshire town early we almost didn’t make it to the green artspace in time.

That’s because we decided to just pop into the National Centre for Craft and Design (NCCD) to use up the time and ended up still being there more than two hours later.

Straight away Luke remembered visiting the NCCD before – we’d used it as a fun place to break up a journey to Boston Hospital in December ahead of his grommets operation – and he remembered that it was just him, mummy and daddy that came that time and was eager to take the lift to the top of the building again.

The lift wasn’t the only engaging attraction on either trip though.  Last time we spent time trying our hand at a threading activity alongside their tapestry exhibition.  This time the exhibits upstairs saw us darning socks and those downstairs exploring the art and science of 3D printing and designing our own funky glasses as well as hunting letters on an Easter trail over all floors.

After a quick pit stop in the NCCD’s lovely cafe (negotiating our way past the shop’s breakables and a little disagreement over sharing some toy wooden ice creams) we finally made it to The Nettles with minutes to spare and are very glad we did.

The cyanotype printing activity proved very engaging for both Luke and Willow.  Willow enjoyed collecting daisies and grass to create her picture with and continued to do so even after the picture was finished and dried.  Luke enjoyed the whole process of producing the image especially  when the paper was put into the water.  And mummy really liked the blue colour and how pretty all the finished pictures are.

Willow seemed to forget she’d just had lunch at that point and, while she helped herself to the snack bag, Luke had a go at weaving a willow fish.  He’d waited very patiently for his turn here, testament to both how intrigued he was to have a go and also to the activity’s outdoor setting (although he did also discover a use for a dock leaf today too).

The event was planned to celebrate the launch of the When in Sleaford… Arts & Heritage Trail Map which includes a children’s sticker trail.  Linking up the NCCD, Sleaford Museum, Cogglesford Mill and Navigation House, the trail takes you across the town finding a series of bronze roundels created by artist David Mackie that celebrate different aspects of Sleaford’s heritage.

IMG_3743The earlier excitement, gloriously warm weather and lack of buggy meant we didn’t quite make it round all of these with our mini walkers but they were keen to spot the roundels we did and it’s definitely planted the seeds of another trip back to the picturesque riverside place for our sticker fans.  Hopefully mother nature will smile on us as widely then too!

Click here to find out more about When in Sleaford