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Teaching children emotional intelligence – the ability to recognise and understand emotions

Happy and Sad cards

Teaching a child about to understand their emotions is a challenging task, when it comes to a child with autism the struggle can be even harder. Learning to recognise and regulate emotions is not easy. In fact as an adult we are constantly adjusting ourselves so our expectations of children should be set lower. You might wonder where you begin. I am sure there are many different methods I wanted to share with you what has worked for us.

The Basics – where to start with emotions

You can start with two basic emotions, Happy and Sad. With Ariella we were struggling badly with communication and understanding which then was leading into challenging behaviour. On recommendation of A’s private occupational therapist at the time, we were introduced to a red and green card visual.

Red and Green – Feelings cards

The plan was that both us and nursery would use a consistent approach. When we saw that A was sad (or a variant of that emotion like angry) we would show the red card and say “A is feeling red, sad/angry”. We would then ask her to try and calm herself down and let us know when she was ready to play again and “Go Green”.

You can use this same approach with your child to introduce basic emotions, green – OK/Happy and red – stop/sad.

In Ariella’s case we waited until she had calmed down and showed her the green visual and said “Are you ready to go green? Happy?”, or “Are you ready to play again?”. It took a very short time before she had picked up this system and was able to say “A is RED”. I knew she had great capacity to memorise visual content but I was astounded to hear her using it in context the very next day.

It might take longer for your child, you might have to adapt the wording that you decide to use depending on their personality and their abilities. However It is a great way of starting off understand of very basic emotion. It was the very early journey of learning emotional intelligence and from which we have been able to expand.

Example cards

You can download a copy of the red and green card here. You can print them and bind them, it’s worth carrying them around with you so that they can be used at every opportunity.

Expanding on the basics – other emotions

Rather than moving straight onto new emotions we focused on self regulation, it would be much more motivating and practically useful for A to recognise her emotion is “Red” and know that she can bring herself back to “Green”. To do this we started with another suggestion from A’s therapist, using a wheel. With this A understood the benefit of being able to identify her emotions for both of us.

The wheel has been quite good as it starts to expand on the middle ground between happy and sad but is still very simple. You can apply this method with your own child too!

Early years – self regulation wheel

Emotional self regulation wheel

You can start with a simple wheel, red to green. I’ve created a template which you can print off below, I recommend you laminate the sheet and the arrow and use some paper fasteners to attach the arrow.

It may take some time for your child to pickup on this approach but once the first basic emotions are locked down it should be easier to introduce and expand on these.

Self regulation actions for young children

To compliment this I would recommended self regulation calming actions which you can download here. These help suggest actions that your child can do to calm down, it’s easy to tell a child to calm however offering practical solutions that they can do alone shows how to actually achieve this.

I recommend you print and laminate this red action card which you can use with the wheel/gauge. You can say “A you are feeling red/sad/angry, what can we do to calm down?” and list each action explaining. I use these when A is very upset and past the point of verbal communication still now, regardless that she knows how to do each of these the prompt is often enough to remind her to self regulate. When they have calmed down you can move the gauge/wheel to green again.

If you have an older child whom has mastered this skill already then moving on to a mindfulness app like Calm for children would be useful. It is supported on both iOS and Android devices and offers some lovely calming stories, meditation and sleep methods.

Calm

Image result for calm logo

iOS & Android

“Calm is the leading app for meditation and sleep. Join the millions experiencing lower stress, less anxiety, and more restful sleep with our guided meditations, Sleep Stories, breathing programs, masterclasses, and relaxing music. Recommended by top psychologists, therapists, and mental health experts.”

The downside is there is a subscription for the service but I use this app myself and I find it very valuable.

The Calm App screenshot

Exploring other emotions

Introducing new ideas and new information has to be highly motivating, over the last year we have noticed that A has quite an interest in photos of herself. She enjoys cause and effect also, we wanted to combine both of these things together in a way that could be used to help her learn what her face looks like when she is feeling different emotions.

We decided to use our phones but you could use a mirror. Our iPhone has the ability to map your face to Emoji’s, A will sit and do this for a long time. We can model what faces look like and describe the emotion when asked “Can you show me happy?” and so on it helps her learn that this is a happy face.

Introducing dramatherapy

Recently A has begun dipping her toes into dramatherapy, if you have yet to come across this branch of therapy it is defined as…

Dramatherapy is a type of psychotherapy using the art forms of drama and theatre. It is one of the Creative Arts Therapies which include, art, music, drama and dance/movement. … Dramatherapy sessions offer a space to express feelings and enhance spontaneity using various methods including play, storytelling and movement.

http://www.dramatherapist.net/what-is-dramatherapy

In short sessions are the perfect place for A to express her thoughts 1:1 with a trained therapist, to give you an example. Throughout the week we might have a worrying situation pop up for A, a new fear or a happy situation that becomes quite fixed in her mind.

These sessions allow her to explore and talk about that incident. An example, when a fire alarm went off while she was at nursery and she was very distressed. We can relay this prior to the therapy session directly to the therapist and they can bring up this memory and coordinate their props.

Visualising the internal

During this particular session A was able to draw the scene, which is the first time we’ve seen such a descriptive image produced. Usually her art is quite abstract, she was able to label that the “dots” were the noise of the alarm and describe how she felt.

You could explore emotions through art with your child, it doesn’t have to be in a professional setting but I do think it has been helpful to build a safe relationship outside of the family to discuss emotional wellbeing.

A's drama therapy drawing

It’s useful to talk around these incidents so that positive reinforcement can be built in, another example working on balloons. A was quite frightened of balloons due to a popping memory at a party last year, since a therapy session and discussing this with balloons – playing with them and seeing that they can be fun and that popping is okay. A’s favourite item this week is her balloon which she took home from therapy.

Hopefully you can see how this therapy is rather beneficial in exploring situations that occur and how the child feels in that situation. However to do this they need to understand and be able to link emotions to events, so you might now be wondering other than the emoji face mapping how else did we achieve this?

How are you today visuals

Emotion visuals girl

We have a visual “How are you feeling today” chart which I’ve created my own version of you here. You can download it if you need for your own uses, print, laminate and buy sticky velcro (both sides). One side attaches to the chart and the other to the visuals.

You’ll need to cut around each visual feeling/emotion. I think this is really helpful up on the fridge, you could add some sticky magnets to the back of your chart to do this or just use any kind of sticky tac.

Emotions visuals for Boys
Feelings book

I hope that all of the above will help you begin to discuss and make emotions part of your daily discussions. If your child enjoys reading or looking at books there are some wonderful options, How are you feeling today? by Molly Potty and for an older child Feelings by Libby Walden.

Social Stories

In addition to books and visuals you can also make your own social stories, the more custom made the better. As an example when we were experience some aggressive outburst or an increase in hitting, biting others we introduced a social story about biting.

Within the story it showed a person biting and how each person felt about it as well as the impact of that action, it is a good way of showing children that their actions have an effect on others.

Many books have social stories written into them to help all children understand this, we also used “Hands are not for hitting” book which worked very well for A. They have a “Teeth are not for biting” also but I have not checked this one through.

These books explain to children all the ways in which they can use their teeth or their hands while discussing the emotional impact of their actions, we have found this really effective.

If you need help creating visuals then you can check out my blog post here and if you are interested in ways to manage challenging behaviour you can also check out my post here.

I really hope that the above helps you navigate emotions with your child, as ever please do let me know your thoughts!

Arts & Crafts Special Needs

Where to start with visuals

When we first started adding visuals into our home I found the process was quite overwhelming and time consuming. I was rather resistant to starting the process and at first it didn’t seem like they were helping much, but I was very mistaken about that. Now that our weekly rhythm during term time is mostly the same I do not have to always use visuals with Ariella, she has memorised the day and I can use them during days that change, on weekends or if I want to communicate something to her while distressed. When she is particularly unwell or struggling it’s good to revert back to a form of communication which helps her understand and we benefit overall as a family despite the extra work initially.

I think to start with it’s worth investing in a few pieces of equipment and if that’s not possible then borrowing at least a laminator would save you a lot of money in the long term. With all the resources at home to create your own visuals a large portion of the hard work is done and it is a little easier to be proactive on the fly to prepare yourself for some outing the next day. I have definitely sat in the late evening laminating resources that I should have prioritised weeks ago.

Where do I start?

If you think visuals might be able to benefit your child then I would recommend you start with gathering the following items:

  • A laminator – you can buy one of these from Amazon online and store it simply in your home. They do not take up a lot of space and can be quite reasonably priced. This is the laminator that I have chosen to purchase, the Text A4 from Amazon.co.uk.
  • Laminating pouches – whether you decide to purchase a laminator or borrow one these will be crucial and again it’s worth having a good stack stored. Just be sure to purchase ones that match the paper size of your laminator, I picked these H&S pouches from Amazon.co.uk
  • A printer – you don’t need one of these but unless you want to be wandering out to use a public printing service or happen to have resources already printed then it’s very convenient
  • Velcro both sides – you’ll need some method of sticking the visuals and my preference is Velcro. You can buy this online too just make sure your reels have both the fluffy and the scratchy sides together as you’ll need both.
  • Card – white card is preferable, to print onto but if you want to make coloured pieces that’s okay too.
  • Blutac – you’ll need something to stick them up on the wall with and I found this the most useful. It does seem to leave marks on the wall so if you prefer something else then use that but be mindful about where you want to store and utilise your visuals.
  • Scissors – you will need a good pair of scissors to cut out your laminated cards.
  • A hole punch – if you want to put your visuals on a little ring then you’ll need one of these to make holes. It’s a good thing to have anything as so many visuals benefit from having some kind of string based attachment for ease.

Making visuals

My journey of accepting visuals into our daily life started with a very kind hospital nurse who made a visual timeline for Ariella to use in hospital. It followed a very traumatic period and Ariella’s anxiety in hospital was rife. I was skeptical about the benefits of using visuals when she could understand verbally my requests but in times of anxiety having the visual instructions and understanding what to expect has greatly helped her overcome her fears.

I would start with a website called Twinkl, used by many teachers and it’s a great resource for free visuals. I would start with downloading this free pack of visuals for home which you can print and then laminate.

  • I would start with downloading this free pack of visuals for home which you can print using your printer or borrowing a printer.
  • Once printed take your laminator and laminator the entire sheets using laminator pouches.
  • Cut around each card leaving a little edging.
  • Cut small sections of velcro and stick to the back side of cards.

Using the visuals

Next you need somewhere to use these newly created visual cards, you can make an easy visual timeline to adhere these too by following these steps:

  • Using a sheet of A4 card cut out long strips of card, preferably white or yellow. Use a colour that is non offensive to your child. Make sure they are wide enough to fit the visuals onto in a line left to right.
  • Place the long strips into a laminator pouch and laminate them
  • Cut around the laminated card strips leaving a small edge to keep them sealed in.
  • Using tape stick the pieces of laminated card strips together, you can make as long as required.
  • Take the other side of the velcro, opposite to whichever you have used to velcro the card and stick a long line of this in the middle of the laminated card strips.
  • You can now stick this up on the wall, either from left to right or you can use from top to bottom depending on how your child prefers to read a visual timeline.

After some time you may find storing the visuals can be difficult, for a long time I had all the cards on little ring binder rings but we have recently improved to a much more sensible storage method. After attending a workshop with Lets Talk Visuals our visuals are now stored in a folder like below which was kindly made for us. It allows Ariella to find the visuals herself and Bing is a highly motivating interest of her’s at present.

It is really beneficial to use motivating subjects with children who have additional needs or ASD, it engages their interest, lowers their anxiety and you are more likely to get a more positive response. I have found that Ariella immediately took to this new method of storing our visuals and I have now received some new toilet visuals which I aim to introduced this coming Summer. Our first attempt at toilet training didn’t quite work out as planned, so I look forward to showing you these soon!

I also used to use a smaller timeline strip for carrying visuals out and about, using a typical now and next approach. To replace this Lets Talk Visuals has created a folding timeline which works much better for storage as you can see. Ariella has a wonderful memory so I wanted up to five tasks, but you could request just three or whatever you feel is appropriate. If I feel Ariella is struggling with transitions I can fold down 4 & 5 showing her just 1, 2 and 3. I modified it slightly and place velcro on the back to store my visuals for the day so I have everything I need. It’s also tailored to be highly motivating to Ariella with Bing characters. I would highly recommend you go check out Let’s Talk Visuals if you are finding the process of moving to visuals daunting.

Now and next, expanded to five options due to A’s memory. Folding and portable for my bag, I’ve added velcro to the back so I can stick visuals for storage also.

Now that you know how to make some basic visuals I’ll be expanding on this further in future blog posts, we use visuals in a variety of ways. Some of the current methods are for toilet training, teaching emotions and learning early years self regulation. If these are some topics that are you are interested in hearing more about check back soon or like me on Facebook for instant updates for future blog posts.

Being Mum Featured Lifestyle Parenting Reviews

The Bugaboo Donkey2 – Duo

When it was clear that Ariella was not going to be able to hold on to a sibling board I began my search into the world of double prams/strollers/buggies. I struggled at first to decide which pram would suit our needs best and switched between all sorts of makes and models. To settle the matter I made a rather large comparison list, comparing the essential features for us. Firstly seat weight limit,  then seat height, overall weight of the pram, width, cost, fold and finally features (particularly parent facing options).

 

Some of the runners up were the Mountain buggy duet was a close runner up alongside the Baby Jogger City Mini double. However when looking at the prams in person I was won over by the unique ability to make the pram smaller that the mono version of the Donkey2 provides. Ariella will be increasing her nursery or preschool hours soon and there will be more days where I will want to take just Sebastian out without her. The Bugaboo Donkey although it was not the top contender for seat weight or the highest seat limit it seemed to be a good compromise all round for both children. Offering comfort for both rather than the newborn receiving a worse deal in terms of either a narrow carrycot or non parent facing position.

Sibling love – Bugaboo Donkey2

S riding in Mono mode

When the Bugaboo Donkey2 Duo arrived I had to compile it, it came in a multitude of boxes due to the custom fabric options. I chose the Grey Melange premium fabric option for everything because I really love grey, but there are so many to pick from and combinations. I found it pretty easy to put together however and soon enough the pram was up in my front room, which is when I realised I’d want to take it outside. Luckily for me folding it down is a breeze and carrying it was fine, I don’t know if that’s because I’ve been conditioned to carry heavy weights – carrying A for so long!

First thing I did was try and put all the pieces down into the boot, with one piece setup with the carrycot fabrics and the other the seat fabric it fit really well into our Range Rover. If you happen to have a smaller boot I would recommend you go visit a store that stocks the Bugaboo Donkey2 to clarify it does indeed fit. With the carrycot now in seat form both seats stack on top of each other where the carrycot is in the photo below.

Fits nicely into the boot..

I have been delighted to own the Bugaboo Donkey2, it pushes with ease even though it has a heavy load most of the time. With two children and the lower storage area full you would not notice unless perhaps pushing up an incline in which case it makes this easier than our previous option. The carrycot has ample room for a newborn, at three and a half months old Sebastian still had plenty of space to grow into the carrycot. Although this should be the case, guidelines recommend up to six months most carrycots are our grown long before this time. 

I feel this is due to the fact that Bugaboo use the same frame for the carrycot as the seat, changing out just the fabrics so you get a really long frame and thus a nice long carrycot. Space isn’t compromised however you do need the boot space to store such a carrycot (there is the option to remove a few pieces to compress but that seems impractical using the pram day to day). The fabrics entirely are of beautiful quality and materials, it feels very well durable and I love that I can completely remove them to wash at home.

The versatility is perfect, when in duo mode it fits through every door I’ve ever tried. When in mono mode it feels like just a little wider than “normal” but is not restrictive at all and the extra shopping bag space makes for a great option. It is a donkey though, certainly looks a beast next to the baby zen yo-yo we have for when we want to travel light, but we also have taken the Bugaboo Donkey2 with us many times across the UK to visit family just fine.

While travelling with the carrycot we used this as a cot and that made our load even lighter. Bugaboo carrycots are really spacious and the basic mattress is comfortable enough to sleep on if you don’t want to buy an independent mattress option. Rather than buying a fitted sheet I made use of the huge Aden and Anais muslins we were gifted as a base sheet which worked just as well. I was really impressed that the carrycot frame turns into the seat with a quick change of fabrics, most of my friend’s children had long out grown their carrycot before we did. I really do feel given the price of the carrycots normally this made the cost much easier to accept!

Now the Bugaboo Donkey2 is fabulous as S parent faces (please excuse the grub he is enjoying a lovely snack) and Ariella faces the world which is familiar to her. But they can look at each other and often will touch hands or amuse each other, any parent of two children will know how much that interaction between siblings breaks your heart to watch. As S has become more interested in the world I can choose between facing out or facing me, not normally an option for most double’s. Everything is really easy to adjust with their white button system.

Ice cream?

Bugaboo have added a few extra things with the latest version, new fabric options firstly. The side shopping basket used in Mono mode now comes with a fabric cover and can hold a heavier weight, very handy when it rains as it protects your shopping well. The wheels are now foam so no longer do you have to worry about pumping up air, I think that might have put me off a bit – as well as this the suspension has been upgraded. No complaints here on that one!

If you aren’t sure about it you can always buy the Mono and should you want to extend to a second child buy the expansion of the extra seat. I really love this option as it allows the Bugaboo Donkey to grow with your family. You could even extend it to include a third child by adding on a sibling board/seat later. The versatility of the stroller I felt really pushed it to the next level and when you consider the price being able to keep the stroller as your family grows becomes quite cost effective.

Graduated to the seat fabric
Ariella with her snack tray accessory, such a great idea

Now to the main negatives:

  • The size – I think the obvious issue is it’s a big pram there is no disguising that fact but I’d also say any double is really. I had real genuine worry about getting around with a double pram day to day, living in a small market town with little paths but I have had no issue with this at all. The other main downside is the larger fold, you do need to go check out your boot space, Mamas and Papas usually have the pram in stock so you can go trial that out (do ring ahead to check!).
  • Rain covers –  I don’t really like the rain covers that much, they are quite annoying and fiddly – I preferred the Stokke Xplory rain cover which just was on elastic where as the Bugaboo covers have a velcro in the middle you join together. You are supposed to be able to fold them down into the neat little package they come in using the velcro but i’ve yet to figure out how to achieve this unless it’s a really hot day and the plastic is much more pliable.
  • Cost – It’s really very expensive, when you take the base unit plus the accessories but if it’s within budget it’s well worth the plunge in my view, plus if you buy it with your first child and use it as a single with the option to expand later it seems very cost effective. The quality of the pram and the accessories is really good, I think there is quite a reasonable market for resale later too.

With all of the above said I really can’t fault the Bugaboo Donkey2 much at all. It’s great they have done a fabulous job with it and I love ours! 

For your amusement, don’t always take the way a shop puts the boot space test run in your boot at the best method. Only those well established at Tetris are qualified to work out how to put a Donkey in a boot.

*All of my reviews are my own personal opinions and I have no affiliation with any other the brands mentioned above.

Reviews

Baby Zen Yoyo+ Stroller Review

When trying to decide on a compact, folding, lightweight stroller for our travels I found that there were many to choose from. The BabyZen Yoyo+ stood out as my favourite and I’m so pleased to be able to write my thoughts on it here. One of the winning factors of the Yoyo+ being that is fits into aeroplane hand luggage and we should be allowed to take it on board with us. Flying to the Maldives we found the included use of stroller in Dubai airport (when flying with Emirates you can just pick them up at the airport and use them) a brilliant idea, ditching it at the end just as we boarded that to be able to replicate the same only bringing it with us will be great.

Main Features

  • Fits into overhead aeroplane storage when folded – H52 x W44 x D18cm
  • It has a shopping basket which has been made a little bigger in the latest models
  • Four wheel suspension
  • The fabrics can be washed
  • The canopy has a UPF of 50+
  • Comes with a rain cover
  • It’s a very tall stroller with the handle bar at 106cm
  • Only 6kg in weight, so very lightweight
  • Can be used from newborn with the newborn nest (which you buy separately) although without its suitable from 6 months – a weight of 18kg
  • Comes in a multitude of colour choices, I picked grey
  • Can fit car seat (with additional attachments bought separately) – Cybex, BeSafe and Maxi-Cosi Pebble and Pebble Plus all compatible
  • One handed fold

When it arrived it came in two separately boxes, one fabric pack and one frame – immediately I knew I was in for an assembly job and crossed my fingers there would be some reasonable instructions to follow. The instructions were mostly visual which is a shame but after a little while I managed to put everything together, the stroller felt very stable and sturdy which was nice. The stroller comes with a rain cover included and a travel bag to place the stroller in once folded down. These were nice little touches, you can pay extra for a few options like a sun shade fold out umbrella, drink holder, car seat adapters, footmuff, mosquito net and the newborn nest. When folded down it has a handy strap attached which makes carrier it very easy, it’s very light and I was really pleased at how easy it was to fold.

The wheels have a little suspension to them which will be great for travelling as sometimes you do have to go down little cobble streets and you don’t really want them to feel every bump – particularly if they are happily asleep! Certainly not designed for off-road terrain but provides an extra buffer. Speaking of sleep the stroller has a great recline which can be done with a strap at the back of the stroller. It’s not the easiest method I’ve seen on a compact stroller but it’s definitely okay.

One of the big advantages I feel is the height of the handle bar, we picked the Stokke Xplory as our main travel system when Ariella was born because it had a really great height to it you can check out my review of it here. The BabyZen Yoyo+ also is very high compared to other compact strollers and is ideal for any taller parents, coming in at 106cm it’s quite reasonable and comfortable to push.

 

Price wise you can buy the BabyZen Yoyo+ for £369, the additional newborn nest is £155 extra and if you want to add car seat adapters you’ll need to buy them at £39.95. It’s certainly not the cheapest foldable compact stroller on the market but it’s very stylish and has a tiny fold, so it’s ideal for those looking to travel with it. The quality does seem to reflect the price too, it certainly feels like it’s been designed well and considered fully. The padded seating is really thick and looks comfortable to be sitting on and there is a safe five point harness with shoulder straps to click them into, a single button releases the harness so it’s very quick to get a child out of.

Image from BabyZen official website

The downsides to the stroller in my view is that the handle bar does not have adjustable sizes, if you are shorter than you may want to consider something else unless you are happy to hold it lower down. Also it does not have a bumper bar and the footrest is not adjustable. Finally the brake while functionally is excellent, it’s a little small – I think if you were using the newborn setup then it would be quite hard to see. It would also be great if it just came ready made, but I guess that wouldn’t be as efficient and maybe then there wouldn’t be such a large range of colours to choose from.

I definitely feel like the BabyZen Yoyo+ holds itself proud within the compact travel stroller market, it caters from birth to childhood and if you are looking for a travel stroller then this is the one! I can’t wait to roam the street of Barcelona with it. Perfect!

Updated Photo – Ariella in Barcelona!
And in Winter time, in England
Arts & Crafts Being Mum Being Productive Featured Lifestyle Parenting

Ariella’s 2nd Birthday Party – Woodland Themed

It’s been a little while hasn’t it? I’ve been writing things slowly, drafting posts since we came back from our holiday but it feels like we stepped right into plans for Ariella’s birthday party. I sent the invites out ahead of time before we went away, thank goodness! But even with that we had plenty to organise, make and do. The invites were bear themed, from an Etsy store (JenTbydesign) and so we took this and ran with it – following with a Woodland theme for her second birthday party.

I found the design for these simple birch trees on Pinterest, I used IKEA paper and some water paints. It was really therapeutic to make them during nap time, I do enjoy painting and I had forgotten how much fun it can be. Plus you can use up the rest of the IKEA paper on a roll for other crafts or else attach it to an easel for drawing on.

Birch trees made out of paper

Also I ordered a set of woodland printable party decorations from another Etsy store (Kudzumonster) and printed them at home onto card. You’ll see quite a lot of things purchased from Etsy, it’s my favourite place to order custom items and I find the pricing much more reasonable than Notonthehighstreet.

One of the birthday banners

Many evenings spent cutting around woodland hats

Much like Ariella’s 1st birthday party I wanted to incorporate some paper decorations again, this time I had a custom order made on an Etsy store (DECOPOMPOMS). In hindsight I could have made these myself but they were made perfectly and it would have taken me a lot of time. I love the colours and variety of sizes, the honeycomb decorations were particularly lovely dotted around the ceiling. I attached them using some 3M Command ceiling hooks in the understanding that they come off without leaving a mark (I’ll let you know!). EDIT: Yes they came off, one snapped and left a mark which I’ll have to paint over but the rest came on great.

Setting up the pompoms!

An hour before the party!

We had a few children coming to the party and I wanted to make sure there were a few activities for the children to do. We started with planting sunflower seeds, tagging them with the children’s names and wrapping them to take home. I hope they grow but we will see! I also picked up some woodland animals for them to paint too from Hobbycraft and we had a big woodland colouring wall for the children to decorate.

Planting sunflowers!

Our two tiered woodland themed cake made by The Cake Revolution. Chocolate cake with Oreo buttercream and Raspberry and white chocolate cake with lemon butter cream on top. Seriously delicious!

A fabulous sunny day, Frankie the bubble fish is in full swing blowing bubbles all day long in the garden.

Giant woodland colouring poster from CaptainCookieCrafts an Etsy store. I cut it in half it was so big!

It was a brilliant party, Ariella coped marvellously and wasn’t at all upset with all the party guests around her. Previous group gatherings have resulted in her having a big meltdown, so this was amazing. The next day (her actual birthday) we opened her presents together as to not overwhelm her too much and she fell asleep half way through – as it turns out she was then sick later in the day so I think she had too much rich food! We were very lucky with the weather, it was a fabulous weekend and the warmest weekend of the year that I can remember. I really couldn’t have asked for a better day for her, she was on top form and everyone in high spirits enjoying a beautiful day evening a hyggelig during the after party once Ariella was asleep.

The next day she also started walking one-handed again which she has refused to do for a long time and she took a couple of steps alone. I just know she is working towards walking independently as she keeps testing the water by letting go briefly when standing up. We’ve had physiotherapy weekly for the last couple of weeks too which has in my view really helped (as well as the body wrap and shoes).

Being Mum Featured Food Lifestyle Parenting Weekly Update

The last few days before Christmas

These last few days are mad, everyone running around trying to tie up loose ends before the big day. Looking for some kind of resolution in the chaos of the whirlwind so that you can just relax and chill out with family and friends on Christmas day. For that reason I decided not to book our calendar up with much during the run up, we already have Hydrotherapy (or so I thought – duh broke up for Christmas) and Physiotherapy on Thursday. This gives plenty of time to finish anything last-minute jobs and tasks, such as post parcels, write last-minute Christmas cards from unexpected sources, buy the last few presents (then subsequently be in for their delivery).

With that in mind we wandered to the park Monday (with firm instruction from any couriers to leave our packages in our preferred safe place). It was a really wet day out so Ariella wore her all in one waterproof which given the other parents were having to dig deep to find something to dry off the playground proclaiming loudly “Mummy forgot your waterproof” I think it was a good call, this normally does not happen for me! Without the fleece liner in it’s actually pretty mobile, you can easily fold it down to fit in a handbag. This is why Polarn o Pyret market it as season variable (perfect for our unpredictable weather here).

Lunch this week I wanted to try a few different recipes as I was getting quite bored with the same combinations. I found a recipe online for Lemony Fish Bites, a simple method which if you have covered things with bread crumbs before you’ll recognise. If you want to give them a try yourself I’ve linked the recipe above, Ariella liked them. I think they were surprisingly easy to do as the Cod I purchased had the bone removed and also the skin had been removed already. This meant that really it was just a matter of dipping in each bowl and then frying. I’m sure you could bake them if you preferred rather than frying.

I don’t know why everyone seems to do this but the Christmas deadline really makes you want to clear out any old jobs that have been sitting around for a while. One of which was sorting through Ariella’s outgrown clothes. This is something that I used to have to do a lot more frequently than I do now, when she was outgrowing clothes sizes from Newborn/One Month, 1 – 3 months, 3 – 6 months, 9 – 12 months, 12 – 18 months then 18 – 24 months. The first few months it felt like she had just arrived and we were already shipping out her clothes from the drawers. I remember fondly keeping back  few outfits that had sentimental value to us and selling the rest for another parent to enjoy on Ebay. You really don’t get much for the clothes, even the designer clothes online but It felt reasonable to give those clothes a use.

I had stored up things from over a year ago, Christmas 2015! Probably 9 – 12 months onwards. We are now in the 2 – 3 year range, although some things from 18 – 24 fit fine still but I won’t buy anything in that current range now. We are keeping all of this though, I feel that any other siblings should have their own newborn clothes so that they too can have a special box of memories of things I identify as “theirs”. Ariella’s drawers now look as they did long before her arrival, neat, tidy, organised. This pleases me, I do love an organised home as I feel it gives me the ability to hold an organised mind. I must try harder to keep this so!
On Tuesday we needed to play Postman, I had a few parcels to send and thankfully everything arrived in time to do so. I think I may have mentioned in a previous post that this year two of my deliveries (although it’s now looking like three) have gone missing? The rest of the year I can’t even think of one time that my parcel has wandered off. Picture me with a huge parcel in my hands, two parcels in a big side hold shopping bag and Ariella strapped to my front in the Tula as I walk down to the post office. If someone had been around to take my picture I would have asked them to! It was all in the careful knowledge that my efforts would be rewarded with a foot long sandwich from Subway after.

Tuesday afternoon there was a chill in the air, but we decided to catch up with one of my friends and her son at the park and to check out how the birds were getting on.

I forgot to say another job on the list of tasks was building the IKEA kitchen that is our gift to Ariella for Christmas. I wanted it pre built as there was little point in wrapping it, so for now it’s hidden in the Study, I’m so pleased with it. It took some time to build even with the two of us doing it, but it’s a great height for Ariella and I’m sure she will enjoy it for years to come. If you are still looking for ideas for your toddler at Christmas please check out The ultimate Montessori gift guide on Fridabemighty.

Wednesday I thought we had Hydrotherapy in the madness of all the letter’s I receive I had just auto pilot entered a lump of dates into my calendar on my phone. We didn’t have it, which I realised when we got there and were told it wasn’t on today. But never mind, the trip out settled Ariella and when we got home she had a major nap. She had been really unhappy all day, it was only during the evening that I noticed she has some more teeth coming. Finally the gaps between the front and back teeth are starting to fill out, but it explained why she was grumpy and why she had started to expect her milk and bottle again.

We don’t have any of the bottles in the kitchen anymore, so we haven’t given in at all with this. I’m sure once those teeth are through she will be back to her normal self. In the afternoon we baked some mince pies! I didn’t make my own pastry, I could say this was because it’s quicker and yes it definitely is in my view. But it’s mostly because every time I make my own pastry it looks like some of rerun of the days where I used to make play doh food (or my mum’s home-made version of it). I loved doing this with Ariella, it really did make us feel very festive and set the mood for the rest of the holidays. Little hands can really help with cookie cutters, when she got bored she could go off while I finished up. One thing she made sure of was that she got a taste straight after they came out the oven!

Today we had Physiotherapy as expected! It went really well, Ariella is making progress and progress is always good! We have a few things to concentrate on, lots of work with standing and sitting. At the moment Ariella isn’t able to reliably get back down from standing, so we will work on getting in and out of this position with her and hopefully by our next appointment things will have progressed again. Our physiotherapist is going to be running a few of the Hydrotherapy session so it will be good fun to see her more regularly!

Tomorrow I have not one single thing in the calendar booked in. Blissful!

Arts & Crafts

Getting Crafty – Snowflake Ornaments (you can do with toddlers!)

I love Christmas and this year now that Ariella is older I wanted to incorporate her crafting time with Christmas too. Making an ornament seemed to be the perfect solution as Ariella still does try and put certain things in her mouth. The instructions really are left for you to setup with a quick fingerprint from them, this was perfect for Ariella. Once I had made one with her I knew that these would make excellent keepsakes for the rest of the family, we soon set about making more ready for Christmas.

These ornaments are made out of polymer clay that is baked in the oven to harden then painted with acrylic.

You’ll need –

  • Polymer clay – I used a white clay as in the original instructions, but you could mix it up with any colour and make different shapes to suit your theme
  • Themed cookie cutters, what ever you fancy. The example is with snowflake ones but you could go for gingerbread men, Christmas trees, present shapes.
  • Some kind of poking device, the original guide linked below recommends a straw but I had great luck with a wooden skewer as I could control the size of the hole better. Depending how big your cookie cutter is you may not want the same sized hole.
  • A little plastic rolling pin, something like the Playdoh ones will do
  • Gold Acrylic paint, you could use any colour if you would like to.
  • Paint brushes, definitely you will want some small ones for painting inside the imprints left by the rubber letter stamps and the finger print hearts.
  • Gold paint pen, I used a sharpie.
  • Ribbon, whatever would suit your theme is fine
  • Baking paper – the guide suggests foil but I actually found baking paper was less sticky.

Acquiring all the various pieces is the only downside, clay, paint, brushes, letter stamps, ribbon, permanent markers it does definitely require quite a few things. Probably best to visit a craft store or go online to find all the items. I found the Fimo clay quite hard, you need to warm it up by kneading it a lot but once that part is done then it was very easy to roll out. Ariella when we made these was still putting things in her mouth a lot, so I rolled it out and pressed the clay using the cookie cutter. Then laid it out ready for her on her table, she did her finger print heart under close supervision.

Once you’ve stamped out your child’s name using the rubber letters then it’s time to pop them in the oven, I decided to go with fifteen minutes which was perfect. The oven stinks after by the way, but it soon disperses just don’t go putting your nose near the door when you open it. Let them cool and they should be suitably solid, at which point you can then crack out the paint and brushes to start getting really creative. Something to do while they are napping as it’s not a toddler friendly painting activity. Once everything is dry then tie the ribbon in place and it’s ready to either put on your own tree or box up for gifting.

All wrapped up

I wrapped the little gems in some boxes which were wide enough but also shallow with some tissue paper inside to keep the ornament safe while in transit and tied up with a festive ribbon. I then packaged them with parcel paper and once ready posted them.

If your toddler is less likely to put the clay in their mouths they could help you knead the clay with the little roller. Alternatively you could try making them from salt dough.

You can find the instructions to make these yourself here at Cutesy Craft’s website.

Being Mum Food Lifestyle

Wagamama & Children

Today’s morning activity with Ariella was supposed to be “Animals and Biology”, great I thought I shall just take her to a local farm. She has some Holtztiger wooden animals which I get out along with her Melissa and Doug wooden farm puzzle normally but I thought it would be great to take her to see REAL animals.

If you have never come across the Holtztiger brand I highly recommend it, their’ pieces are crafted in Europe handmade from native maple and beech wood finished with quality wood stains. They are absolutely BEAUTIFUL and you can add to your collection so they make great birthday and Christmas presents. Ariella started the day pretty slowly, as anyone watching my Instagram will have seen.

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Arts & Crafts

Autumn sun catchers, when Pinterest is your new best friend

Quite a few months into the summer I started thinking about ways to keep Ariella entertained once the weather turned. Pinterest has some super ideas for this purpose so I set about sticking a virtual pin in all my favourite ideas, ordering a huge amount of crafting material online and hoping that Ariella might not put them all in her mouth.

This Autumn sun catcher did make it to completion, she definitely put a few bits in her mouth but I would like to imagine that somewhere between learning to stick things down and me telling her repeatedly “Not food!” this little mini seasonal project played some part in her learning not to put everything in her mouth this week.

It’s a relatively simple set using contact paper, coloured cellophane, black card and twine. Most of the setup work is done by yourself, preparing the table is key – good luck trying to tape down sticky paper with a toddler in view. We encorporated a leaf per a week during our crafting/arts afternoon, meanwhile they hung in Ariella’s art display but soon enough I had plenty to string up in the window using twine and a pin (funny enough) to make the hole.

This was a good fun way of introducing Ariella to crafting and without -too- much mess.

You can find the original pin here

Being Mum Being Productive

Her 1st Birthday Party

I think most people realise that very few children (hey you never know right?) remember their first birthday party, generally speaking the party is more for the family and the parents to celebrate one whole year of life, the momentous event that occurred exactly 365 earlier. It’s nice to celebrate that fact with a bit of effort and hopefully some nice pictures to show later. I was therefor pretty excited to be hosting a neat little party and I must say some of the things you can get hold of for babies parties – just adorable!

For Ariella’s birthday I started where I always start when I’m planning an event or an idea, Pinterest. Starting with a theme or at least a set of colours is a great plan and worked well for me. I always find consistency is key, so we had neat little invites designed – first impressions always good sets the day. For Ariella I picked mint green, baby pink and gold I then tried to incorporate this into the plan of the room later. Along side this picking the type of day was important, given the more casual feel we went with a tea party theme.

So I had my theme and my colours, I probably should have put a bit more effort to plan ahead as many things were definitely rushed and I feelLate night hangings had I put in more effort prior to the run up then I could have created something even more interesting. But I did know one thing, I wanted to make the cake or at least one of them. I’m really no baker but it was great fun, I probably tried about three times and I’m happy to say the test runs were eaten by myself and my husband. I’m not sure that’s such a good thing for us but at least he was happy to put in the effort to hide the evidence of my poor attempts.

Given I had decided on a tea party theme, it was only fitting that I scout out a few items that fit. So I procured my first cupcake stand, along with a neat modern looking cake stand which I knew I could use again once her birthday was over. I really wish we could have had her birthday in our new home but the timings just did not work out and we had to have it a much less open, sociable space. I think we coped ok, I decided to opt for a food coffee table as the kitchen was on a different level to the living area (seriously really hard work when you have small hungry little ones to feed). Anyway I was pleased that the items I had bought were in most part reusable elsewhere which I think it’s a great idea if you can manage it. I kept the little paper decorations too as I think I can make use of those for a summer garden party later!

IMG_6530I picked the cake from a recipe online by Simple Bites, although Ariella had the full blown sugar edition which was pretty funny since she had only had a single spoon of nutella up to that point. I’m sure if you are a baking goddess you’d be able to whip this baby up in no time however for me, a challenge! I didn’t add my ah hem “concentration” face while trying to ice the bad boy because frankly it’s just not pretty. But I can assure you there was serious cake pressure going on.

Birthday bannerBack to the main event, the first birthday party it was lovely and it was very casual and had a short guest list which turned out to be a great number for the room. Ariella wasn’t overwhelmed unlike Christmas and was able to be an absolute diamond for the day. She had just started to stand up much more reliably which was a great party trick and opened her for some nice dance moves.

Food wise I opted for some great backup sweet treats from The English Cheesecake Company for the cupcake stand these went down great. Little cheesecake cupcakes, I knew if the cake I was making went badly wrong then these were sure to be a crowd pleaser.

I hadn’t expect the day to hold so much significance to me, after her first birthday she seemed suddenly older than before. I don’t know exactly why, whether it just happened to correspond with her development but all I know is that after one year over night she had transitioned from baby to toddler.

Birthday Girl
I took a little time to decide on her outfit in the end I opted for a dress which I think she really liked, as much as she can tell me anyway but it was soft and she generally speaking prefers to wear soft materials. Again it was something she could wear in the months that followed and was season appropriate. I had to take a bit of a guess on the sizing because Ariella is so tall, part of it I think was just luck and helpful overestimations on my part. I really don’t like making wasteful purchases where I can help it, even the table runner was used in our new kitchen and matches perfectly with the feature wall.

The cake decorated!
I’m eagerly looking forward to her next birthday party which oddly does not feel like too long away! It was lovely to celebrate the day she was born and a great reminder the year before.