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Plenty of ideas to keep little people entertained during all the seasons in England

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
  • 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
  • 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.

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).

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.

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