Mummy's Munchkins

Family Life Our Way

Book Review: James and the Birthday Balloon.

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Food for Thought Friday – Kindness & Snow

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Themed Nights In – Making Family Time Special

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A Moment in History: The Vyne

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Reviews

Book Review: James and the Birthday Balloon.

By on April 5, 2018

Our first book review...

One thing I love about children is their innocent honesty so who better to ask to review a children's book than the children themselves?! And my children were certainly not backwards in coming forwards when I asked their opinion of James and the Birthday Balloon!

The faces are too creepy! I like pictures that look like they have been drawn.

I shared this book with my four children (10, 7, 5, 4). I understand that Nicola J Rowley, the author, aimed to target this book at ages 3 - 7 years and I have to say she is spot on. My 10 year old son showed very little interest while the others were positively engaged once we'd got started.

Initial Thoughts

When I first received the book my initial thought was it looks a bit like a school reading book and I have to say this look doesn't make it very inviting, but that is only our opinion. It was because of this that my children weren't keen to sit down and read it, but as the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover, so I was excited to give it a chance.

My daughter, 7, criticized the front cover and the pictures saying the children's faces were too creepy and she prefers illustrations that look hand drawn as opposed to computer images.

I initially read this to my younger daughter, 4, and the reaction was good. She loves a story and this was no exception. She stayed focussed throughout even though there was plenty of background noise from her siblings.  I later shared it with all four of my children as a bedtime read.

The Story

James and the Birthday Balloon is a well written, lovely, uplifting story

James and the Birthday Balloon is a well written, lovely, uplifting story about the friendship between James and Ruby, and how one small act of kindness can make the world of good. When Ruby hurts herself James is there to help and he does his upmost to try and make her smile.

It is Ruby's birthday and James is her best friend.

At Ruby's birthday party a 'balloon man' blows up and gives both James and Ruby a balloon each. My children were not happy with this! They thought it mighty unfair that the other party guests missed out. Seeing as it was Ruby's birthday they believed that Ruby should have been the only one to receive a balloon OR that all the children should have been given one. James receiving a balloon simply as a best friend right didn't sit well with them!

They do say children are the best critics!!

Sadly Ruby has an accident and ends up in hospital, which in itself sounds rather traumatic for a child's story but it is how James tries to reassure her and what he does when he visits Ruby that makes this story a touching one. I won't of course, give the ending away but I will say the moral of story is a beautiful positive message that is picked up on by both adults and children.

Special Feature

The book came with a special feature - a free audio, read by TV's Dr Ranj. All you have to do is scan the QR code on your phone.

I use the term 'all' lightly.

I am not the most technically savvy person and I struggled with this. It involved downloading a QR code scanning app, which on the face of it doesn't seem complicated, until it didn't work properly! I downloaded one that had tonnes of reviews assuming it would be the best. Ha! We all know what assuming does... makes an ass out of you and me! Anyway all was going fine until I scanned the code, was taken to a website and then had to download another app called Dropbox. I was starting to get out of my depth! It then wanted me to sign in/up but I wasn't sure what exactly I was signing up for so I swiped up to close the apps and tried again.

I downloaded a second QR scanner called QR Reader and was taken to a link via Dropbox (I think!) and ta-da Dr Ranj's voice started reading the story to us.

Now I have it set up, this little extra is absolutely brilliant and the children also approved of the audio book.

To those who are a little more technically savvy I'm sure this won't be quite the task it was for me!

To Conclude

Overall, this book is a pleasant and enjoyable read. The audience experiences highs and lows with James and Ruby which is followed by a touching message at the end. And the audio feature, once I could fathom it out, is great. Definitely worth a read.

Extra

The author, Nicola J Rowley, has gone the extra mile with book as it supports the Evelina London Children's Hospital with every sale that is made.

For every copy sold, £1 is going to raise vital funds to help support Evelina London Children’s Hospital, which provides care and life-saving treatment for children in south London and beyond.

To purchase your copy you can do so here on amazon! Paperback and Kindle versions are available.

If you have read this book we would love to hear what you thought as well. You can let us know by commenting below, or heading over to our Facebook page or Instagram and use the hashtag #JamesAndTheBirthdayBalloon

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Family Fun | Rainy Day Activities

Themed Nights In – Making Family Time Special

By on February 27, 2018

Just a quick post from me for today to give you a few ideas of some fab family themed nights in - very apt for this bitterly cold, snowy winter we have got here in the UK; I hope you are all managing to keep warm!

It seems that families these days have less and less time to spend together. We are so busy with work, school runs, kids homework and various extra curricular activities, that run several times a week at multiple locations, that we barely have time for ourselves. Let alone finding time for quality family time!

So to help you out a bit with creating family time I have put together a small list of themed nights in. This list is by no means limited and I would love to hear of your ideas if you do anything different to us.

Movie Monday

We actually do movie night on a Saturday. We choose a film as a family and watch something that we all agree on. If we find ourselves in a situation where we don't all agree, then we go with the majority.

Takeaway Tuesday

If you are on a budget this could be quite expensive. So as an alternative you could do this once a month OR buy the 'cook-at-home-takeaway's' you can find in the supermarket. These are a fun, more affordable option.

Story time Wednesday

Choose a chapter book and sit together as a family and enjoy a good story. Books by David Walliams or Roald Dahl are great options for the varying ages in a family.

Find some below...

Cooking Thursday

For as much as I love preparing a home cooked meal from scratch, this can quickly become a stressful task. To avoid the stress plan your meal when you do the weekly food shop, making sure you have all the ingredients in, get organised before you call the kids to the kitchen and make sure you know who you want to do what task.

Games Night Friday

This can be literally be anything; board games, cards, hide and seek, Pictionary, charades and so much more. I love games night and my lot really look forward to it. Last Friday we played cards - Go Fish and when I woke up Saturday morning my boys (9 & 5) were sat up to the dining table playing Go Fish. You'll probably think I'm daft but I felt so proud - you may have seen my post about it on my Facebook page

So there has it, a few ideas for you lovely people to spend some time just once or twice a week together as family. These all make awesome rainy day activities too. The difference it has made for us is brilliant 🙂 You should try it.

NB - This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links, I may earn a small commission but at no extra cost to you. 
Featured image sourced from Google images.

 

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Days Out | National Trust

A Moment in History: The Vyne

By on February 23, 2018

If you're a regular reader you may have worked out that I like to do activities and outings on a budget. Mainly because there are 5 of us, sometimes 6 if Daddy comes too, which quite often means a hefty price tag. Therefore during school holidays I like to make the most of any annual memberships that we have. One of which being the National Trust and this time I am here to tell you about The Vyne and how you and the kids can make a mark in history.

We have visited a few National Trust locations and I have written a couple of posts reviewing our visits. Firstly I wrote about Bluebells in the Woods and the English Countryside which you can visit at Hinton Amper, as well as A family day out at Mottisfont. Both of which are in Hampshire.

17th century summer house

I particularly love this membership because it give us a chance to leave the city and become submerged in some of the most beautiful countryside the UK has to offer, it gets the children outside in nature instead of glued to a screen and we get to soak up some amazing history.

This time round, not only did we get to soak up some history but we got to leave our mark in the history book too! And the good news is there is still time for you to do the same!

The Vyne

I had decided before the half term that I wanted to spend some time with the children in a forest / woodland type place but the beginning of the week we had so much planned in the way of dance festivals, dentist appointments and a play date with our bestie who lives miles away from us, that the woodland walk had to wait until the end of the week.

I was originally drawn to The Vyne because of the woodland walks it has to offer but after a quick google search (what we would we do without google these days?) I soon realised our day here could be much more special.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. The air was fresh but not cold. It really felt like spring was on its way.

On arrival we were asked if we wanted to take part in the 'lost tapestry trail' which was fab for the kids. A picture of a tapestry which is in the house has been printed and laminated then cut into 12 puzzle pieces. The pieces were placed in bird boxes around the grounds and we were given a map of their location. Not only was this treasure hunt type activity fun but it was brilliant for developing the kids map reading skills. Plus we get to go home with a puzzle!

Two of the bird boxes were empty but at the end of our day when we were heading back towards the carpark, we checked the boxes again and found they had been refilled. Allowing us to collect up all the pieces . Or so we thought... we ended up with 12 pieces but two of them are the same! Hey ho; you win some and lose some. It was fun nevertheless and we laughed a lot when we realised.

Tapestry Trail - The box was empty! Luckily on our way back round as we headed home the box had been refilled allowing us to collect all the pieces.

On the way round the trail we came to the house. The National trust are in the process of restoring The Vyne's roof due to extensive storm damages in 2013. The job is huge. And this is where you get to leave your mark in history.

The Roof

We saw people forming an orderly queue so me with my typical British ways joined the queue! We were queuing to go up on the roof and see first hand the restoration works going on. The children and I were given high vis jackets given a short safety briefing and were directed to the lift or stairs. The children were also given a task to look out for the Lego Workman pieces that had been placed around the roof - a great task to keep the younger children occupied on a building site.

Amazing to see all the work going on - we really felt like part of the action.

Both the works going on and the views from the roof were breath-taking. You get to walk round the whole roof and there are Perspex openings that are eye level for children so they can see what is happening without parents lifting them up and over the edge! The re-building of one of the chimneys has stuck with me. It was leaning like the Tower of Pisa but has totally restored. It has been rebuilt with new materials and reinforced to prevent future storm damage yet looks exactly the same as the original.  It really is a must see.

Leaving your mark in history

On the way back out you are able to Tag-a-Tile. There is a recommended donation of £5 to do this but any donation is welcomed and appreciated. This is where you can draw on, write on or a sign a tile that will be going up onto the roof.

Master E and Little P decided to share a tile, while Master A and Miss O wanted a tile of their own. Donations can be put in the jar or can be paid on the front desk.

Putting our mark on Great British history.

Once our tiles were completed we put them into a wheelbarrow with other signed tiles and were told they would be on the roof the very next day!

Last Chance

There is still time for you to see the marvellous works going on and the views from the roof, as well as tag-a-tile of your own. BUT you only have until 28th February 2018.

 

To find out opening times, prices and the location of either The Vyne or any other National Trust place I have mentioned please visit The National Trust website.

NB: I am NOT paid to write for the National Trust. I am just a member who is very pleased with what I have seen so far and therefore want to share the love by writing honest reviews.

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Quotes

Food for Thought Friday – Vibes

By on

I have moved 'Midweek Inspiration' to 'Food for Thought Friday'. This gives you, my reader, a chance to reflect on the week that has just passed and to look forward to the week ahead, with a fresh pair of eyes.

Last week while at The Best You Expo (a huge personal development event) a lady came up to me and handed me some cards which contained 'messages from the universe' on them. She asked me to shuffle them and choose one at random. This was what I pulled out...

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Mindset, Mental Health and Wellbeing | Parenting

Mum’s Confessions : “How Do You Do It All?”

By on February 19, 2018

How do you do it all...all of the time?

This is a question I am asked a lot. And I mean a lot. I often hear "I don't know how you manage it" and "how do you it? I struggle with one". I normally answer with "I just do" or "I don't have a choice, I just have to" and I am flattered people think I do such a good job of bringing up four children while running a home and working as well. However, there are often times when I feel like a cheat and a fraud because often I do NOT do it all, all of the time. This is Mum's Confessions...

Mum's Confessions

Washing up - There are many a day that pass where the dirty dishes are sat piling up. Quite often the washing up from tea time is still on the side when I go up to bed and the breakfast bits are still there after work when I'm cooking dinner.

Laundry - This is bane of my life. I thought it was a nightmare when I was a stay at home mum. Ha! I knew nothing. Now I am back at work there is never any time to get six people's dirty laundry cleaned and dried. I find myself trying to cram 4 washes into one day and end up with a huge pile of wet washing with nowhere to dry it. It then starts to stink and has to be washed again anyway!

Homework - For as much as I try to instil into my kids that this should be done as soon as they get it. 1) because what you have just learnt is fresh in your mind and 2) its done and out the way so you can enjoy the rest of the weekend...I find us sifting through school bags on a Sunday afternoon and all getting together in a panic to complete said homework as a team effort in a bid to create something that is worthy of showing a teacher!

Reading - We all know the more we read with our kids the better but the pressure that is on us mums & dads to not only find a spare 20 mins per child, per day (which is over an hour for us) but to remember to fill in the 'reading passport' so your children can get a certificate is almost unbearable. There's times I feel like a terrible Mum that appears not to care about my children's reading ability but actually most of the time, I just don't know my arse from my elbow because I'm so bloody busy.

Birthday Parties - If we have missed one we have missed truck loads. Not because we don't want to go or because my littlun doesn't like your littlun, just that its the 16th thing written on the calendar for that day alone and I've over looked it.

Bath time - I have a perfect little bedtime routine for this...I'm lying. I don't. Bath time can create a number of issues...for the younger ones it can often mean 1001 toys & 3 hours in the bath or a screaming fit and a flooded bathroom. And for the older ones its either too much of a hardship or they spend an hour in the shower refusing to get out...or both, which when you are on a water meter you could really do without! Oh, and no, they don't have a bath everyday - I could not go through the trauma daily!!

So you see, I don't do it ALL, ALL of the time and that is perfectly ok. I can almost guarantee that I am not the only one with a list of Mum's Confessions. The message here is not to compare yourself to others. Granted, that is so much easier said than done and it absolutely goes for me too, but what you see in front of you is quite often just the tip of the iceberg with no knowing of what is going on behind the scenes.

***

Do you have any mum confessions? Go ahead, comment below or feel free to share over at Mummy's Munchkins Facebook page I'd love to hear from you.

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Creativity & Crafts | Family Fun | Learning Through Play

Kids Arts and Crafts: Blow Paint Volcano

By on February 14, 2018

"Mummy can we make something from my book?" Master A came to me with his Usborne Activities Dinosaur Things to Make and Do book desperate to make a volcano painting; he is dinosaur mad. He loves them and he loves making a mess so the two combined is just perfect! As it is half term and its raining (surprise surprise) we have plenty of time to spend indoors having fun. So we turned to page 12 in his book and a dinosaur volcano painting is exactly what we made, as well as a valentines related kitchen activity but I'll tell you about that in a different post.

Volcano Painting

Here are the step by step instructions and a video for how to create the volcano painting.

What you need

  • orange paint (if you don't have any you can improvise like we did - we planned to mix red and yellow, before we learned we didn't have any yellow paint either! So instead we mixed red and gold and tiny bit of white to get the orange colour for our lava).
  • black crayon or in our case a sharpie
  • paintbrush
  • straw

 

How-To

  • Mix your paints if you don't have any orange
  • Draw two thick lines for the sides of the volcano
  • Scribble between the two lines at the top to create the crater
  • Blob your orange paint at the top of the crater
  • Use the straw to blow the 'lava' up from the volcano like it has exploded
  • Run some orange paint down the sides of the volcano
  • Then we painted a Dinosaur sponge green and dabbed it on at the bottom of the volcano

 

Video

Learning Opportunities

As a registered childminder and a teaching assistant I often look for areas of learning in the activities I do with my littluns and this painting exercise was no different. This task is inclusive but by no means limited to the following learning areas I have identified.

Physical Development: Hand-eye coordination, control and movement is developed with an activity such as painting.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Having confidence in their ability, as well as understanding and delivering appropriate behaviour for the task, i.e. for this task - not jumping around throwing paint every where.

Literacy: Reading and following instructions

Expressive arts: Exploring and playing with a range of materials. Learning and mixing colours.

So as you can see a simple task such as painting a volcano is not only fun but provides great learning opportunities too!

Go on, give this one a go. Its great fun and took all of 10 minutes with limited mess! I would LOVE to see your paintings over on my Facebook page 🙂

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Family Fun | Seasonal

Valentines Lunch – A Kids Special

By on February 10, 2018

This year I have decided to do something that little bit extra special for my kids for Valentines Day: A Kids Valentines Lunch.

Despite the fact they thoroughly enjoy making cards, they are of an age where they are either too young or too cool to be giving or receiving cards from anyone.

So to make the day, which falls during half term this year, a bit more special I have decided to make them a valentines lunch.

I will be setting the scene by laying the table with a red cloth, setting their up places with charger plates and popping an artificial red rose in a glass in the middle of the table.

On the table they will each find a menu that I have created, with 2 choices on it (I am yet to decide these) and they will be able to order their meal from me.

After this I will cook and serve their meals followed by a dessert of their choice.

The aim of this is to make them feel special, wanted and appreciated. My children often hear me telling them I love them but this is a chance to really show them, in a fun and creative way.

A lot of us are busy with this or that, so why not use this opportunity to make some memories by serving up a special Valentines lunch for your children?

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Creativity & Crafts | Family Fun | Rainy Day Activities | Seasonal

Love heart paper chain wreath

By on January 25, 2018

Wreaths aren't just for Christmas...

I started this activity with the intention of making a paper chain, after seeing it on Pinterest but the finished product turned into a wreath and we love it. This is a fun, simple and effective craft that is suitable for ages 6 + (with a bit of help from a grown up with the stapler) ad a perfect rainy day activity.

Like most of the home crafts we do at home this was done on a budget. In fact there was no expense at all as I only used materials that were available to me at home already.

 So what do you need?

  • Card
  • Scissors
  • Stapler

Yep that really is all you'll need!

As shown in the pictures below I used fancy patterned card - this was a pack of various different designs that I have had in the cupboard for years. Yep years. I just haven't come up with anything to use it for.

You can get packs of card like this from most craft stores. I imagine I got this from Hobbycraft.

How to make the wreath:

Step 1) Choose your card and cut it into strips like so...

Step 2) Staple two ends together and gently bend the edges over, without folding the card, to make a love heart shape. Hold in place and put two more strips of card either side of the point and carefully staple together. As shown in the pictures below...

Step 3) Keep repeating this until you are happy with the length of the chain. Once happy, you can gently bend the chain round into a wreath shape and staple the point of the last heart into the dip of the first.

And there has is. A love heart paper chain wreath...

This is a really effective craft and you can have lots of fun with colours. We chose the stereotypical valentines colour of pink to represent love (awww)! Master E, who is almost 10, enjoyed participating in this and that is saying something! He is normally way too cool to join in with such activities!

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did 🙂 x

 

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