Toddler activities

Baking with a toddler for Valentine’s Day

Something pretty amazing happened in our house last week. Wait for it… I did some baking! With the toddler! Twice!

Baking with a toddlerFor me this is pretty much reaching the pinnacle of domestic achievement. I am one of those people who loves the idea of baking but the reality is that I’m not a very confident, or patient, cook so it rarely happens. And throwing a toddler into the mix (not literally, that would be cruel!) when trying to create anything edible is a whole new ball game. But I did it and, amazingly, it was a success. Enjoyable even. I could almost high-five myself as I type!

Ok so our first culinary creation, made last Monday, did use a packet mix and was one we’d done once before but it was a great confidence builder – for me not the toddler! Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle Cup Cakes went down well with Little Miss the first time we made them and the ready-to-go dry mix does make everything so much quicker. It’s an ideal option when time is a bit tight and I would definitely recommend them, especially if you’re new to the joys of baking with a two-year-old. Mine is now starting to learn the art of waiting for food to cook but the first time we made them she kept asking ‘are they ready yet’ from the moment I tore open the box! Start simple I say.

Having emerged from that baking session unscathed I wanted us to make something a bit special for Daddy for Valentine’s Day. My husband is a whizz in the kitchen and pretty much does all of the ‘proper’ cooking for us. I’m great at sticking things in the oven, reheating stuff or putting on a pan of pasta or veg but that’s largely where my talents end. So me doing baking for him is something that shows a bit of thought and effort on my part. I hope.

And what says ‘I love and appreciate you’ better than a batch of handmade gingerbread hearts, lovingly made and decorated with a toddler who may have licked the icing on several of them and coughed over the rest?!

On a serious note though, I do want Little Miss to learn how to prepare food properly. I want her to enjoy being in the kitchen and to grow up feeling more confident than I have about cooking. And I want us to have fun together. Our two little baking sessions have been as much about me learning as they have her. I want to get better at this sort of thing and set a positive example. I have happy memories of making fairy cakes with my own mother.

So we made gingerbread. Little Miss enjoyed helping to weigh all the ingredients out with me. She loved smelling the ginger and cinnamon and stirring things in. I refused her request to ‘do the egg’. I’m not ready for that! And she did keep spilling the mixture everywhere and I kept sweeping it back into the bowl only to have to do it again seconds later. But she was happy, engaged and entertained for a good hour or so.

I’m pretty sure her wandering fingers interfered with our electronic scales at some point though because let’s just say that when I came to start rolling out the dough we had a few ‘issues’. The old me would have panicked, chucked the lot in the bin in a huff and gone to the shops but now I couldn’t let me little girl down by giving up. So I took a deep breath, took a punt on rectifying it and hoped for the best. I had no idea quite how what we put in the oven was going to turn out but, as luck would have it, it emerged perfectly edible. Tasty even.  Another lesson learned.

While our biscuits were cooking, it was lovely to watch Little Miss playing with the leftover dough. She was very protective of it and divided it up into little pieces, talking to herself about making cake for her dolly. So cute!

We then made up some pink icing and got all the sprinkles out of the cupboard for some serious decorating. And voila!

Gingerbread hearts

And I was brave enough to do all this on Friday 13th!

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Categories: Toddler activities | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Baking Peppa Pig cup cakes…

Baking Peppa Pig cakes

Two of my toddler’s favourite things in life right now are Peppa Pig and cake so when I spotted the Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle Cup Cake mix pack in Tesco a few weeks ago I suspected I might be onto a winner!

I’ll confess now that I’m pretty *coughs shyly* underwhelming when it comes to cooking. I once managed to burn fried eggs! Our family is very well looked after most days by Daddy chef. I lack confidence in the kitchen and as a result my inclination is to steer well clear whenever I can.

But I don’t want to be like that and I certainly don’t want it to rub off on Little Miss. And, when I’m in the right mood, I do secretly enjoy a spot of baking. Everybody loves cake and there’s generally less to go wrong with sweet compared to savoury! Less chance people could get sick if I screw up!

Peppa Pig cakes pack So, keen to give Little Miss her first foray into home baking – and perhaps just a little bit inspired by Great British Bake Off mania – I snapped up the Peppa mix for a bargain £1.69.

The pack does only make 12 cakes, meaning the fruits of our labour were never going to last very long in our house. But the ease of using the mix and time it took were perfect for a toddler and even I found the simple recipe relatively stress-free.

We made the cakes while Little Miss’s baby brother slept and the whole activity took less than an hour – and given that Little Miss wanted to know when she could eat the cake within seconds of me first opening the box, this was important!

All the key ingredients are there for you and ready to go, meaning no fiddling around weighing everything out. You just need to add water and an egg and then you’re ready to unleash your child and a wooden spoon to mix it all together – until they get tired, which invariably they do after about 30 seconds! We then used an electric hand mixer to finish it off.

Peppa Pig cakes mixing

The mixture is then ready to spoon into the cake cases, which Little Miss loved setting out on the baking tray at the start, before going in the oven.

About 15 minutes later they came out and we left them to cool, amid much protest from my hungry little cooking partner, while we made the muddy puddle chocolate icing – which Little Miss lovingly sneezed into as well as constantly dipping her fingers in and eating while I tried to stir it into the right consistency!

Once ready, you then simply splodge a dollop of icing on each cake. As you can see my dollops varied quite wildly in size!
Peppa Pig cakes making muddy puddle icing

Muddy puddles in place, you then finish off with one of the Peppa printed sugar decorations on the top – or ‘stickers’ as Little Miss called them.

Finished Peppa Pig cakeAnd voila! You’re done. The cakes are fairly small in size, an ideal portion for little ones but gone in one bite for some greedy adults (who will remain nameless, ‘Daddy Pig’). This adult thought they were pretty darn tasty too!

Overall, I’d say our first little cooking activity was a bonafide success, much to my amazement. Yes, it was a very simple pack mix but it’s given me confidence to try other things in the future and hopefully get Little Miss interested in cooking from an early age.

And finally, of course, Little Miss got to eat her our handiwork. I think her face probably says it all. Yum!

Peppa Pig cakes yum

Categories: Toddler activities | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Our summer book exchange: fun with Elmer the Elephant

Elmer bookIt’s been a very busy few weeks, so we’ve not read anywhere near as many books as usual. In case you missed it, there’s a new man in our lives… the lovely Little Mister was born on 1st July (you can read more about him here!). But while we were eagerly waiting the late arrival of our second bundle of joy, Little Miss and I did manage to take part in the Love Books Summer Exchange.

Love Books Summer Exchange badgeHosted by US blog The Educators’ Spin On It, this fab exchange sees parent bloggers paired up to send each other’s child a picture book and accompanying activity. We were teamed up with Adventures of Adam and it was great to also discover a new blog I hadn’t read before that’s full of toddler play ideas – I’ll definitely be a regular reader from now on.

Little Miss was thrilled when our parcel, complete with rainbow-coloured tape on the box, arrived. I’d forgotten it was coming as well and given how heavily pregnant and tired I was at the time, it was a very welcome distraction!

Book exchange parcel arrives

Inside we found the original Elmer book by David McKee along with everything we’d need to make and decorate our very own milk bottle elephants for the ‘Elmer’s Day’ parade that’s part of this much-loved story. We’ve read a couple of different Elmer books in the past, so Little Miss was vaguely familiar with the character, but we’d yet to read this one which is the very first story about the colourful patchwork elephant. First written in 1968 and published since 1989 by Andersen Press, the book has been celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has sold millions of copies around the world, being translated into many different languages.

Elmer activity kit

Little Miss loves elephants and painting so the package was an instant hit with her. And that was before she realised there were also stickers included. She absolutely cannot resist stickers!

I’ve always had a soft spot for Elmer too so was very pleased we’d now have the original Elmer book at home. I love the message behind the story – that it’s ok to be different and changing yourself to fit in with the rest of the herd isn’t the way forward. The book sees the brightly coloured Elmer paint himself grey to try and fit in, only to find it’s not much fun when the other elephants no longer recognise him. It’s not long before Elmer’s vibrant personality bursts to the fore again and his true colours are revealed once more when rain washes the paint off. The other elephants declare that this day will become known as Elmer’s Day and every year they decorate themselves for a special parade in his honour.

We read the story one night before getting started on our Elmer activity the next day. Emma, the mum behind the Adventures of Adam blog, is a trained primary school teacher and the activity she shared with us used to be a favourite for her classes. She’d sent us two plastic milk bottles to make our elephants from – a big six-pint one and a little one-pint one to make a cute baby. The baby was already cut out for us and I just followed the lines on the big bottle to cut out an elephant shape. As you can see from the pictures, it’s really simple to do – these bottles just happen to be the perfect shape to make elephants from, with the handle of the bottle making the trunk!

Little Miss was intrigued to see the big elephant taking shape and then couldn’t wait to get her hands on the paint brush to decorate him. We added a bit of glue to the paint, as instructed, to make sure it stuck to the plastic.

Elmer activity collage

As you can see, she initially went for a multi-coloured effect, similar to Elmer himself, although as more and more paint went on a dirty-purple became the dominant theme. This amused me since our elephant became closer to the standard elephant shade that Elmer tries to achieve in the book before realising he’s better off as he is in all his technicolour glory – of course, the irony was lost on a toddler!

We left the paint to dry overnight before letting Little Miss loose with the fab foam stickers included in our package. I hadn’t seen these before but quickly tracked down another pack in the supermarket as they proved so popular. Adventures of Adam had also included tissue paper as another decorative option, which could be stuck on in a collage effect. As you can see from the picture below that we were sent with our activity instructions, the artistic scope is endless!

Elmers Day Parade elephants

With the stickers on, we decided our two elephants were complete. We didn’t get around to it but you could also add eyes, either using some boggle-eye stickers or by just drawing them on. You also have the option of adding ears and could paint a layer of glue over the top of the finished elephant to make it smooth and a bit waterproof.

Finished elephants

We had a great time taking part in Love Books Summer Exchange – it’s such a simple idea but so rewarding. I really enjoyed putting together the package we sent, based around the Big Yellow Digger book, and you can visit the Adventures of Adam blog to see how they got on. And, of course, it’s always lovely for a child (and this big child too!) to get a surprise parcel to open and play with.

The milk bottle elephant is a great activity, so easy to do with a toddler, and one I’m sure we’ll repeat in the future. I’m a bit of a fan of making animal models from those simple household items that otherwise just pile up in the recycling – you can also see our forays into the world of toilet roll tube creatures here!

To see some of the other book and activity ideas from the swap visit the Summer Exchange Pinterest Board.

Categories: Baby bookworm, Toddler activities | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Fun with fishes toddler craft

The weather forecast for last Thursday was, for want of  a better word, pants! So, knowing the toddler and I would most likely be holed up in the house all day to escape the perpetual downpour, I decided to do something drastic – I planned a craft activity the night before!

For those parents who are super organised I appreciate this is no big deal. For me though, sorting a creative activity that’s a bit more involved than getting the colouring books out has been on the to-do list for weeks. So I decided that rather than get wet outside, we would instead have fun with some fishes!

Fun with fishes toddler craft

To help me with the task in hand I’d taken to Twitter, where 30 Plus Mummy helpfully pointed me in the direction of Activity Village, a fab website full of free activities, printables, crafts and game ideas for parents (and teachers). It’s been a great discovery. You can search by theme or keyword and there are materials to tie in with popular topics, holidays, special events and seasons. Here I found a set of fish templates which I downloaded and then printed onto coloured card and cut out ready for us to paint and decorate in the morning.

Fish templates ready to goThe great thing about templates is that once you’ve got them sorted the next bit is really easy… you just get the paints and sparkly bits out and have fun! And the shapes are always much more appealing to Little Miss than a plain sheet of paper. Note to self: must make more use of printable templates! Activity Village has a whole section devoted to templates, there are loads to chose from including plenty of different animals.

Painted fishSo the next day, while the heavens opened, we got stuck in to painting our new fishy friends. Once Little Miss got bored of the painting we let them dry as we washed up the pots and brushes – always a key part of the painting activity as it gives her the perfect excuse to spend half an hour playing with water in the sink, one of her favourite things. This is fine by me as it keeps her happy and occupied!

Finishing touchesAfter that our fishes were ready for us to add some final flourishes and a bit of sparkle. You could use glitter if you’re feeling brave – I couldn’t face the mess! Or instead use stickers. Little Miss absolutely adores stickers so the compromise worked well for both of us. We also stuck on some all-important boggly eyes so our fish could see where they were going.

We then got a cardboard box and put coloured tissue paper in it to make a home for our fishy friends. Fuzzy pipecleaners added to our little aquarium. If I’d thought about it the night before we could have printed off a greater variety of sea creatures – like this crab and maybe a seahorse or a turtle! Little Miss then decided to join the fishes in their aquarium and add even more stickers to the mix!

Cardboard box aquarium

So there you have it, a very easy and simple activity that kept us both out of mischief for the best part of a wet morning!

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Categories: Toddler activities | Tags: | 19 Comments

Easy Easter chick cards…

Easy Easter chick cardsToday it was back to full-time Mummy duties, having finished work for the next week and a half (yay!) and I was itching to do some crafty activities with Little Miss. My Pinterest boards have been brimming with ideas for weeks but I just haven’t got round to putting any of them into action. But with it being Easter weekend and visits to and from grandparents on the agenda I thought it would be nice to make some cute cards for them. I must admit that making cards is something I enjoyed doing before Little Miss arrived so it’s so nice to be able to do it together now.

Since Little Miss loves hand painting I decided to use this to my advantage and base the design on that. So the first step was to get the yellow paint out (and restrict her access to any other colour until this part of the process was done!) and get our hands in it. Being a typical toddler, today was the one day when I actually had to coax her to put her fingers in at first – usually she’d be straight in there whether I liked it or not! But we got there in the end. Once the hand prints were done I quickly whipped them out of the way to dry while Little Miss carried on playing with the paint.

Then later on we decorated them, sticking on the googly eyes, coloured foam beaks and cutting out feet shapes – obviously Mummy did this bit despite Little Miss being desperate to give the scissors a go! Then came Little Miss’s favorite part, adding various spring-themed stickers from Mummy’s craft box. It was an effort to drag her away and avoid sticker overkill!

Crafty bits

The eyes and foam shapes were bought from The Works – they do a fab range of kids craft essentials, selling various bits and bobs. Most of their packs are 99p and usually they’re on a three for two deal, a real bargain. I’ve also recently discovered that Wilkinson stock some great, cheap art and craft bits, like card blanks, although today I just folded pieces of plain white A4 card.

So there you have it, our cute little Easter chick cards. Hope you like them!

Chick Easter card

Creative Challenge

 

Categories: Toddler activities | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

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