Messy yoga parent and child event!

Calling all messy mums and active young ones!

Yoga. Messy Play. Stories. Fun!

After the success of our last Messy Yoga event, we would like to warmly invite you all to our next one! Come and join us for some fun movement and mindfulness through yoga, storytelling and some messy play. 

  • The GRUFFALO - interactive story with yoga poses
  • FLOW YOGA – for grown ups
  • MESSY PLAY – Woodland fun including a Gruffalo small world

Pull up a mat, parent and child together, and join in with our Discover & Be / WiggleBums / Lushtums collaboration.

We will be sharing the fabulous story ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson.  This will be fun and interactive with yoga poses so you can enjoy connecting with your little ones through practising together.

Pause for some refreshments and then while your little ones get stuck into some messy play, you can enjoy some ‘Flow Yoga’ for grown ups. 

Messy play includes: sensory activities, a craft to make and take home and a small world to play in.

We will close by playing instruments, singing familiar songs and a few new ones too. 

Who: This is suitable for children from approximately 2-5 years old and grown ups of any age. 
Where: The Old School, Cuckfield
When: Saturday 20th January
Time: 2.00pm – 3.30pm
Price: £25 per mat (for 1 parent and 1 child together; sibling discount £8 per extra child) 

EARLY-BIRD DISCOUNT £18 (book and pay before December 15th)

Places are limited so please contact Sheila to book a mat, either by phone on 07980 565632 or by email:

You can also book by using the PayPal button below (NB: the price is £19 when paying by PayPal). Once you have paid using PayPal, please email Sheila with your name as it is not always clear from the PayPal information. Thank you!


Getting messy with it: in-between days



This is an odd time of year, I think, as the end of Autumn blends in to the beginning of Winter. All of the excitement about Halloween (intense for the kids) and bonfire night (intense for me) has faded, I refuse to acknowledge Christmas until 1 December and even though Black Friday is an awesome time to buy a telly, we do not have the luxury of the extra Thanksgiving holiday to focus on. School slogs on; Nancy is learning to read and is excited but EXHAUSTED (woke up every hour the other night to wail, "I'm so tired!". I loved it). Sam has developed an almost medical aversion to the school run which, unfortunately, is not treatable with modern day medicine (nor apparently with bribes, or anger, or sympathy). He has, however, suddenly mastered colouring in and has developed an almost Picasso-like persona, with a pen permanently in hand, and hours spent, tongue sticking out, diligently colouring in ballerinas in the books Nancy lets him use and Kit can say "duck" (almost definitely) and "bear" (sort of) and can fake-cough on demand, which in my view really goes above and beyond expectations at 13 months old.

During half term we visited The Book Nook in Hove, a gorgeous little bookshop and café with a pirate ship in it (just to manage your expectations - a small, wooden boat-like structure easily interpreted as a pirate ship by young minds rather than an actual mode of transport for swarthy sea-based criminals) where the kids can play and read the large array of books whilst you drink coffee and eat delish brownies. The shop is 3 minutes from a lovely stretch of beach with good-sized patches of sand, where we decamped and played around for a couple of hours afterwards. We took packed-lunches and were very lucky with the weather but there was a nice-looking café literally on the pavement between the beach and the bookshop, so it is an easy, fun morning in any season.

One little thing that I'm glad we did this Autumn was buying a roll of sticky-back plastic in September; we stuck it to one of the windows in our conservatory and then stuck all the beautiful leaves we collected as the trees turned behind it. The sun shone through them and it was beautiful; they all slowly turned brown over the coming weeks (yes, okay, I haven’t got round to taking them down so now I just have compost splattered up against my windows - a perfect allegory to my previously mentioned gap in the seasons) and I also bought a book of leaves (one of many examples that you really can buy anything these days) from The (good old) Book People for £2.99 and the kids spent some happy (i.e. quiet) times identifying them as well so it was all positive. I suppose if I stretch my small, tired brain I will be able to come up with some festive takes on this plastic against window theme and if I come up with anything good, I will let you know!

My book recommendation this week is easy peasy lemon squeezy (ie not difficult difficult lemon difficult for any In the Thick of It fans). The book Nancy picked in The Book Nook (they picked one each as a treat) is called 'Rosie Revere, Engineer' by Andrea Beatty and David Roberts and it is completely lovely and brilliant. It is about a little girl that really wants to be an engineer (surprise twist!) but when she shows her first big invention to her uncle, he laughs at her and she is demoralised. The arrival of her great-aunt gives her the inspiration and encouragement to keep trying. It manages to concisely combine being a lovely feminist story (a whole page devoted to ground-breaking women aviators, obvs great for Nancy) as well as thought-provoking about perseverance (perfect for "I can't do it" Sam). I have subsequently been tipped off to two others by these authors 'Iggy Peck, Architect' and 'Ada Twist, Scientist' which will definitely be in stockings this year. It occurs to me that when I blog again, December will nearly be upon us and I CAN'T WAIT! Happy middle of November y'all.

Christmas Extravaganza 2017!

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We're back with our hugely popular Christmas Extravaganza, which takes place in Haywards Heath on Monday 18th December. We'll be offering our usual fantastic selection of activities, including Christmas crafts,  festive biscuit decorating, making reindeer food, dressing our Christmas tree, a fab song time at the end, and loads more! Confirmed so far are:

  • Explore a magical small world frozen kingdom
  • Build your own cheeky snowman from cloud dough
  • Combine ice and paint for some chilly messy play
  • Decorate some scrummy Christmas biscuits
  • Create a beautiful winter tree 
  • Meet some snow-loving animals
  • Mix up a crucial feature of Christmas Eve: reindeer food!
  • Make a superduper snowman decoration to add to your Christmas tree
  • Help us to make pretty paper-chains
  • Dress up in our fabulous festive wardrobe
  • Swim with some perky penguins
  • And, of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without some songs and we'll be sharing some fantastic festive tunes with you!

When: Monday 18th December, 10-11.30am

Where: Wesley Hall, Methodist Church, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath

Cost: £8.50 in advance (or £9 via the PayPal button below)


£5 sibling flat rate both in advance and on the door

Everyone is welcome although we are limited to 50 spaces to prebooking is advisable to avoid disappointment. Please note that we do not offer free tasters at this event.




The Importance of Creativity in Children

by Alison from TinyLand

These past weeks I have been fortunate enough to meet some very clever and inventive mums who also run their own business.  It's inspiring to be around women who have achieved so much, all whilst changing nappies and nurturing their children.  There have been some funny moments in cafes trying to communicate while our toddlers are climbing or needing a nap!  It's great to be in company!

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During this time I have been asked by a few people to write for them which is a real honour because, essentially, we write what we think and it comes as a surprise to hear people are interested in what I've got to say or think at all! 

I've been thinking as I develop new art materials, what sort would be of benefit to children?  And how do children play and create?  What do they get out of it and how can I increase the play or creative value of my products?  This has led me to research and explore the reasons why creativity in children is so important. 

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Obviously being creative means being able to express yourself and this is no different for children.  As children are also learning about their environment and the world around them, they are able to explore with such freedom.  Have you heard an adult say "I don't know how to draw"?  This is because, by this point in their life, they have applied a standard or specific skill to drawing. Luckily, however, young children have not yet learned to judge or criticise. They are simply doing what comes naturally to them.  Mimicking their environment through drawing it, or playing mum by making pretend food in the mud kitchen with play dough. (Click here to see some Gluten Free Organic play dough from Tiny Land).

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Being creative is an opportunity to change what is in front of them, to match what they like or feel.  For example, that blank piece of paper could become a pirate landscape or treasure map! Or that dough can become a princess's castle for dolly.  With adults generally calling the shots, it's a great opportunity for children to be the master of his or her world! A therapist can use play and creativity to discover what a child is feeling.  A wide range of materials and activities enable children to try out new ideas and problem solving.  Discover and Be ensure they meet every child's needs by having lots of different areas exploring textures, mediums and even singing to live music at the end! 

Aside from the physical development of children, their sensory learning and motor skills, play can become therapy when it is creative! 


TinyLand provide organic, vegan and eco-friendly arts and crafts supplies.

Getting messy with it: half-term joy, contented cooking, paint time and messy yoga




Half term is here! I am sure many of those with older kids look forward to this with a degree of trepidation but we are early enough in our school experience that I have been counting down the days until life returns to normal and my girl is my own again, even though it does require my participation in a great deal of high pressured colouring ("INSIDE THE LINES MUMMY"), listening to her singing all the songs from Trolls repeatedly, through a microphone, and answering questions such as "Why is space called space?"

It is a relief to be done with that first transitional half of term and, although life still has a Nancy-sized hole in it, it has been interesting and enjoyable changing the pace and direction of things with just the two boys at home. We do a lot more cooking, something Nancy was never particularly interested in, but that Sam loves and will actually see through to the end rather than tipping everything out on the counter, weighing a few ingredients, licking the spoon and wandering off. In an ode to the season, we knocked up a batch of pumpkin soup today (recipe from the BBC website - he cut up the pumpkin, onions, leek and smashed the garlic, stirred it, poured in the stock and the cream), and it was delicious. He loved the fact that the huge orange pumpkin was transformed in to the smooth soup, and devoured pints of it. I am hoping him to get him up to the stage where he can cook tea occasionally. I don’t know about anyone else, but minutes seem to pass until it is that time of day AGAIN where thoughts have to turn to what to make for tea. My kids are relatively unfussy but there are still important politics to be considered. Nancy's favourite things are rice, prawns and mozzarella cheese. Sam and Kit eat basically everything in the world except those three things (this CANNOT be a coincidence, surely?!).

Painting is also a passion and, whereas Nancy was always quite inspired by a project (hand print animals, fairy palaces with glitter etc), Sam is less inspired by Pinterest and paints (1) a snake wrapped round a whale (2) himself. Every time. In that order. I just put down a huge mat, open the paint for them, make a coffee, and sit back for 20 minutes, enjoying the fact that no one wants or needs me, until they suddenly don’t like being covered in paint and call to be carried like princes up to a bath that they immediately dye brown.

A few weekends ago we went to the Discover and Be/Wigglebums messy yoga event and absolutely LOVED it. I am not saying this just because I am obviously a big fan of all things Discover and Be/Sheila, but because it was a genuinely original event (which is quite a big shout after 5 years of baby-related-things) and completely refreshing and enjoyable as a result. The kids loved doing the yoga (Sam calls it Yoges, and is about as flexible as King Triton (niche Little Mermaid reference there; he is not at all flexible)), and then they got completely stuck in to the messy play stuff whilst I did an ACTUAL TWENTY MINUTES OF PROPER YOGA. Uninterrupted. And drank hot coffee. And then we all did some singing and went home. As we left, Nancy said, "Please can we go to all of these yoga parties mummy?" and the answer is definitely yes!

Brilliant news in our lives is the recent arrival on to the shelves of You Choose in Space by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart. The original has actually had to be re-purchased in our house as the first was read so much that it literally fell apart so a new version has re-invigorated all of us and has loads of really crazy and cool choices to make. The space food and the mixed up animals in particular are opinion dividers! If you are a fan of the first, you will enjoy the second.

Autumnal question of the week from Sam: "Why are bonfires called bonfires instead of fires?" Answer: Thought to come from 'bone fires', where the Celts burnt animal bones to ward off evil spirits. You're welcome.

The Book Activist reviews: What's Next Door?  by Nicola O’Byrne

There’s a cranky croc in this book and he needs you! Can you help Carter the crocodile find his way home?

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Carter can’t find his way home in this lovely story with a wonderful interactive narrative. He tries all sorts of doors with help from the reader, leading to the ocean, snow covered land and even the desert! He’s a little bit cranky so the little animals joining Carter on the way must watch out for his teeth! But it’s the reader who has to think very hard and use their imagination to help find Carter the right home.

What’s Next Door? is a sweet tale about finding home, featuring Carter the crocodile who we first met in Open Very Carefully. With die-cut pages and colourful illustrations and a totally engaging narrative, young readers will love being involved.  From creating the ‘doors’ with their fingers, tipping the book to help Carter on his way and even some clapping, What’s Next Door? is fully interactive and bound to have your little ones asking for it again and again.  

Find out more at

Buy a copy here.

Victoria Dilly
The Book Activist


Getting messy with it: good day Mrs Sunshine!



So today my baby boy turned one.  In a strange biological anomaly, this anniversary appears to have come around in significantly less than a year (I'm not sure how long it feels since he was born… four months? Six? Whatever, certainly not a year).  First birthdays are always bittersweet I think, as they do mark the end of that year (supposedly) of complete baby-ness. Which this time round I have uncomplicatedly loved. It's been a year of three children under the age of five which could have been a nightmare but was actually bloody brilliant.

Kit has been a wonderful baby, and has made my life as easy as he possibly could. There was the dark period of six weeks of middle of the night pooing, and this incredibly loud roar that he whips out at teatime when he is not being fed quickly enough, or wants something off someone else's plate. There is his uncanny ability to change the settings on the washing machine and tumble dryer, whilst they are mid-spin. He has eaten a few tiny, vital pieces of lego, meaning several sets cannot be put together perfectly anymore, and buried nearly all the coins from our plastic till in the flowerbeds. But other than these small things, which have only added to the tapestry of our already chaotic lives, he has made everything better by his being here.

For me, and for most people I know, having my first baby was an incredible experience which I loved but also involved a lot of sitting on the sofa in my pajamas crying and wondering what on earth I had done to my life. My husband was still going up to London every day on the train (a commute we used to do together, reading our books and chatting about our days - so civilised!) and going out for drinks with friends after work sometimes and reading the paper, and talking to grown-ups etc etc and although I loved being at home, and being with Nancy, it could be lonely and confusing and exhausting. Fast forward four years to Kit and my life had changed so completely that he just slotted straight in and further justified the brilliant chaos that is our house. Nothing was scary or unknown - in fact all the bits that had been first (and second) times round were stages that passed so quickly and I found myself actually appreciating them, knowing how soon this little human would change and grow up before my eyes.  And now suddenly he is walking and clapping and deliberately doing things to make people laugh and trying to duff up his siblings and I have had to get a kitten in order to have another baby in the house!

Mrs Sunshine arrived last weekend and is unbelievably sweet, bolshy and brilliant. I am still very much mourning the loss of our old, lovely, free life before the shackles of the school run. Nancy is very happy at her gorgeous village school and it is HORRIBLE!! I miss her. The boys miss her. And then she comes home from school and is exhausted and the focus is all on quiet and calm and early dinners and getting her into bed as early as possible in a vain attempt to stave off the all-encompassing tiredness that is the inevitable side-effect of this huge life change. But the kitten has provided a much appreciated focal point for cuddles and games and interest and luckily she and Nancy are firm friends already. Thank goodness for Mrs Sunshine!

Sorry if this post is a bit introspective and glum sounding. We are excited about Autumn and all the loveliness that comes with it. We have been twice (once today for Kit's birthday) to the gorgeous little soft play Treehouse Café on Sussex Road in Haywards Heath, and would really recommend to anyone with pre-schoolers. It is clean and pitched perfectly at tots from crawling age to clambering (both Kit (supposedly one, as discussed) and Sam (3) absolutely loved it and spent a good hour playing very happily), which I think is the age that is quite often fobbed off at big soft plays. It does good coffee and yummy food and is actually quite a civilised place to meet a friend. Plus, lovely Discover and Be started again this week and is a treat that Sam and I look forward to at the end of the week. And Nancy, Sam and I are going to the Wigglebums/Discover and Be joint yoga/messy play event on Saturday, which we are excited about.  The chance to stretch and play and be silly and messy all together sounds awesome. I think there are a few spaces left if anyone fancies it, so do contact Sheila.

My book recommendation this week is easy peasy.  Months ago we got Plunge into the Pirate Pool by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves from the library and all enjoyed it so much that we have had it out again several times since. In a recent Book People flash sale, I got all six in the series (Supermarket Zoo, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Welcome to Alien School, How to Save a Superhero (my favourite), How to Catch a Dragon and How to Win a Monster Race) and they are all BRILLIANT. All about the adventures that a little boy called Albie gets up to in his imagination, with gorgeous colourful illustrations. I love them, which is lucky, as the kids ask me to read them over and over again.


Date for your diary: messy yoga for parents and children

Messy Mums and Active Young Ones: we would like to warmly invite you all to our first messy yoga event!

Come and join us for some fun movement and mindfulness through yoga storytelling and some messy play. 

Pull up a mat - parent and child together - and join in with our Discover & Be / WiggleBums collaboration. (You are welcome to bring your own mat and blanket if you wish, but we have some too).

We will be sharing a fun interactive story with yoga poses so you can enjoy connecting with your little ones through practising together.

Pause for some refreshments and then get stuck into some messy play, including sensory activities, a craft to make and take home and a small world to play in. While the children are busy playing there will also be a chance for the grown ups to do some yoga flow if they want to. We will then play some parachute games and finish off with music, singing and sign language. There may even be a little surprise at the end! 

Please note this is an interactive, sensory session. Children are not expected to sit still and be quiet! They are welcome to move around and be actively involved in the story session and, of course, during the messy play too.

Who: This is suitable for children from approximately 18 months - 5 years old and grown ups of any age. 
Where: Wesley Hall, Haywards Heath
When: Saturday 7th October
Time: 2.45pm - 4.15pm
Prices: £25 per mat (for 1 parent and 1 child together; sibling discount: £8 per extra child ) 

Places are limited so please email us to book a mat, call Sheila on 07980 565 632 or use the PayPal button below (please note there is a £1 surcharge for PayPal payments to cover the cost of the transaction). If booking by PayPal, please also drop us an email to confirm the name of the parent and child(ren). Thank you!


Getting messy with it: hanging out with Daddy Pig and a monumental home visit

The latest instalment of fun family life from our messy mummy Lucy...

The latest instalment of fun family life from our messy mummy Lucy...

So life at the moment is dominated (for everyone with children over the age of four) by the beginning of the school year.  One by one, over the last week, most of our best friends (the ones that didn’t start last year) have made the big jump into the world of formal education and done brilliantly.  Nancy starts on Tuesday.  Much has been written and shared on social media about the emotional uproar connected with this move so I won't bang on about it here but I am heartbroken about it.  My life without her with me 24 hours a day seems incomprehensible. Driving places without her little face chatting away at me in my rear view mirror!  Lunchtimes not spent colouring in and eating exactly the same formulation of ham wraps every day! I can't bear it.  She has been doing two days at nursery since February but the beginning of school heralds the beginning of the next phase of her life - her own thoughts and experiences and friendships and decisions separate to our little bubble and, although she is more than ready for it, I am most definitely not.  But, like all heartbreak, I know this too shall pass.  A new normal is coming for all of us and I am sure that it will be lovely.  

Having said that, it all got off to a rather inauspicious start.  It was 9 am, a time of the day that usually finds us all lounging on the sofa watching cartoons in our pyjamas. But not today. The house was tidy (positively gleaming), we were all dressed, Nancy had been on the lookout at the window for 15 minutes… it could only be the much anticipated home visit by the lovely reception teacher.  At the exact minute she was due to arrive, Sam vomited over EVERYTHING… me, sofa, carpet, cushions, himself.  It is literally the first time in his whole life he has ever been sick.  With this unexpected eruption, I felt he was expressing quite succinctly how we all feel (except Nancy, who can't wait) about the forthcoming changes. To be fair, he was laid low by a horrible bug for the ensuing 48 hours but, nevertheless, the timing did not go un-noted.

On a cheerier note, once Sam was feeling better, we headed down to Southampton for the day. We visited Peppa Pig World to make the most of the few days we have left of freedom with our pre-schooler during term time.  It was BRILLIANT.  I have only ever heard good things about it (clean, well run, very sweet, etc.) and it did not disappoint.  All five of us (obviously husband took a day off for this excursion… no better reason, surely?!) loved it.  It poured with rain all morning, but the weather could not dampen our spirits.  It is expensive, and far away, but for any Peppa fan (or anyone with a heart, really), I really do recommend it.  On advice, we took our own picnic and were glad we did, as the food looked very expensive and pretty bog standard, but everything else was great (baby changing in both men and women's loos, bottles of formula sold in all the cafes, actual ducks in all the picnic areas as a nod to the perpetual visitors in the cartoon, classic Peppa related banter between parents in queues for rides).  A day ticket includes the rest of the park, too, which looked to have some cool rides for bigger kids (although I would defy kids of any age not to love the Mr Dinosaur ride in PP World itself - my husband and I would still be going round now if the kids hadn’t moved on to something else).  

I must also recommend a book we had out from the library this week that we all loved - A Patch of Black by Rachel Rooney.  It is such a sweet, magical book, about a mum telling her little girl about all the things that the dark might have in it, including a chocolate money tree, a hammock swung by jungle animals... just lovely things that really sparked the kids' imaginations and would be perfect for any kid that is scared of the dark.  Mine aren’t, but we read it every night anyway. Another recommendation for anyone with a Lego fan in their house is Lego Masters, a great programme on Channel 4 where incredible Lego geeks build the most amazing things!!  We have all watched this programme quite enraptured (did you know there are 80 Lego bricks for every person on the earth?! Most of them are stuck between the tiles in our kitchen) and turned it off inspired to build!  It's finished now, but you can still get it on catch up.  Do it!

Discover & Be pop-up party of the summer - especially for Heart FM Sussex and Global's Make Some Noise charity

As if by magic, we popped up (with our millions of bags) at Q Leisure in Albourne last Friday to do our messy bit to raise money for *Global's Make Some Noise charity. We were honoured and excited to be part of Heart FM Sussex's Family Festival in a Day, organised and hosted by Heart's dynamic breakfast show trio: Jack the lad, Nicola and Tom.  

The event (the first of its kind in Sussex), was a huge success from start to finish - big applause to the show's producer for ordering in stunning weather! 

There were inflatables galore, a tea cup ride, an assault course (with bling medals - very significant so said my boys!), entertainers, magicians and a host of amazing activities for intrepid over 8s, from axe throwing to go-karting to inflatables for big kids and of course US - it was a fabulous day for everyone! (Entry for under 8s, by the way, was FREE.) 

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We were entertained by Jack and Tom's fabulous band 'jukebox live' which made packing up a WHOLE lot easier and we met some lovely families who embraced our mini beast foam, sweet smelling gloop and cereal small world whole-heartedly! As you can see from the images, everyone wanted a piece of the face paint action. The glitter came out full throttle - we had tigers, zombies, flower fairies, pirates and a good few Batmen to boot. And all for a wonderful cause! 

*Please do check out Global's 'Make Some Noise' - they act as an umbrella charity for lots of local charities - many of whom hold special significance for the people of Sussex. 

Getting messy with it: National Lust - why everyone needs a bit of National Trust in their life

The latest instalment of fun family life from our messy mummy Lucy...

The latest instalment of fun family life from our messy mummy Lucy...

I should put it out there straight away that I am a really big fan of the National Trust. I genuinely struggle to imagine how I would have made it through the last five years without it. Partly it's because I am both a history geek and a fan of the outdoors, but also for the opportunity it provides to be a very lazy parent, whilst feeling really quite smug because your kids are getting fresh air/learning about things. Picnics on the lawns of houses significantly nicer than yours, roaming estates with endless stuff to climb on/build/run on/fight with, fascinating houses/ruins to explore... and it all feels like it's for free. I know it's not*, but once you've joined you can just waltz up to all these amazing places and take advantage of it endlessly, so it FEELS like it's free, which is part of the beauty.

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Wakehurst, Nymans and Sheffield Park are old and extremely good friends of ours and we spend a great deal of time at all three. Bodiam Castle is an occasional, and much loved, treat (I still possess a blue visor cap from my youth that says 'I heart Bodiam' on it, just so you can get the picture of what you're dealing with here). But in the last few weeks we have branched out and done day trips to Batemans and Knowle (both about an hour away… I know! I'm basically Ernest Shackleton) and both have been absolutely brilliant days.

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Batemans, home to Rudyard Kipling, is a gorgeous, interesting (and incredibly moving, I think) house and the kids loved it - especially his amazing study (with a rug made out of a real life wolverine! Sam was terrified/obsessed) and the original, quite scary pictures of The Jungle Book animals. The kids asked the Nat Trust volunteers loads of challenging questions ("Excuse me, why was he not scared of that rug? Was he very brave?") and enjoyed exploring the beautiful gardens and it was very good, fun day. Knowle provided a gorgeous day of running and climbing and camp building and deer spotting (the kids, obvs… the mums drank coffee and ate brownies and sat on logs… EASY PARENTING!) and was definitely worth the drive. I highly recommend both.

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Other than these excursions, we have really just been pottering around. I am reluctant to be more than ten foot from Nancy at any point as we are on a literal countdown until she deserts my nest and goes off to build her own life in reception (I CAN'T BEAR IT), so I have basically just been following her around and telling her how much I love her, whilst she ignores me and goes about her business.

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In terms of books, we have been all about the Mr Men recently. We have had the box set of Little Miss for ages (a great deal from The Book People) and the children are endlessly fascinated by them, so I treated us to a box of 20 of the Mr Men when they, too, came up on offer. I remember enjoying them when I was little but the kids never tire of them! They are funny and silly and also pretty cool for increasing understanding of good words (i.e. stubborn, fickle, topsy-turvy etc). Plus they have kept me amused by the chat they inspire (For example, Nancy: "Mummy, is it fair that even though Mr Mean has learnt his lesson and isn’t being mean anymore, that everyone still calls him Mr Mean? " Me: "You're right, Nance, what do you think he should be called?" Nancy: (Long pause) "Bob".)

* Just had to look up the price because I joined when I was TWENTY FOUR because I am a massive loser. It's just under a tenner a month for family membership.

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Getting messy with it: have you seen my marbles? I think I left them on holiday… (and can I go back and get them?!)

The latest instalment of fun family life from our messy mummy Lucy...

The latest instalment of fun family life from our messy mummy Lucy...

I have been a bit unsure about how to start this blog - difficult to just start writing about your everyday life for people to read and understand without sounding like a bit of an arse. But this week has been a thought provoking one for me; we are seriously lucky in that my husband's business gives him a couple of extra weeks off every five years, so we took an extra-long holiday in France. We returned on Sunday night and I have really felt as though I have had to re-train myself into lone parenting. It is a strange concept, having done this stay-at-home-mum malarkey exclusively for almost five years, to think that bumbling through life with small children actually involves a skill set, but this week has really bought home to me that it does, and that, after a month off, I am rusty!

I don’t know about you, but certainly in our house, any significant excursion (holiday, weekend away staying with friends, a couple of days at the in-laws) always results in a couple of days of odd behaviour (from all of us, to be honest) once we get home, and a subsequent shifting of attitudes and routines to get over it. This week - after weeks spent with both parents, basically naked (them not us) either in the sea or by the pool, eating French bread, tomatoes and cheese almost exclusively, not caring about bedtimes and naps etc - has been no exception. On Monday evening, my husband came home at 8pm (UK bedtime has previously been 7) to find the house in complete chaos (I'm not just chucking those words out there - I mean all-encompassing bedlam), all three children in the middle of the kitchen floor, naked, fighting over Duplo.

Since then, I have gradually clawed it back. Sam has refused to wear shoes all week ("they make my toes feel funny"), Kit did a wee in the middle of the kitchen floor that went undiscovered for several hours until I slipped on it and nearly broke every bone in my body (surely one of the more depressing ways to do that), the piles of laundry have risen and depleted but possibly more the latter towards the end of the week. All of this is fairly standard, to be honest. The difference this week has been me. Four weeks of having my husband around has spoilt me into losing the patience and flexibility that I believe are required to parent three small children without slightly losing your marbles (both literally and metaphorically).

The constant "mummy"s, the vying for attention, the requirement to play a Queen sitting in a café run by a pirate and the Mayor of London (a current obsession) ordering jam sandwiches, whilst trying to build a Lego lighthouse and stop the baby eating a bag of croutons that was at the back of a cupboard in the kitchen (the contents of which are partly lying on the kitchen floor, partly on display in the 'café', partly being eaten by the dog), whilst also ploughing through the washing and unpacking has been hard! I have snapped, and counted to ten, and hidden in the loo a great deal more than I normally do, and gone to bed feeling frustrated and exhausted.

Then this morning, Sam asked me "Why have you been cross all day since the holiday house?" which is very unfair, as I really haven’t been THAT cross, but it made me feel sad. So I dropped any attempt to unpack and sort, and we headed to the woods where, as usual, everything fell into place. The kids took off, stopping only to examine odd wildlife, ask incredibly complex questions about the natural world that I don’t know the answer to and snaffle the one ripe blackberry in hedges filled with thousands of green ones. We paddled down a stream, built a pretty good fort and collected sticks and it was all very easy and made us all very happy. Back home, huge lunches were consumed, and good naps were had, and then my mate came over with her three girls and we enjoyed a cold beer and supervised the kids as they took 45 minutes to make a stir fry* that would usually take 10 mins to prepare, but which they enjoyed and made them quite proud.

So I think we have finally, five days later, arrived back at (our) normal. It is easy to get bogged down with the chores and the re-establishing of routines that are the inevitable part of returning home from time spent elsewhere but actually I think just slowing down and letting everyone do what makes them relaxed and happy (whether it be walking around with no shoes on for a couple of days, spending a few hours on the sofa reading forgotten-about books, catching up on cartoons, or getting covered in mud in the woods) gets you to the same place, if a little more slowly and chaotically! Plus, I will go into next week feeling more aware of the skill set that I, and all my fellow parents, have to build up to attempt to nail this random, messy, crazy job that is parenting.

*From the original Ella's Kitchen cookbook, if anyone is interested - the Sweet and Sour stir fry. It's really tasty and great for the kids as there is loads of chopping and an easy sauce for them to mix up.


Getting messy with it: blogger mummy Lucy invites us to share the good, the bad and the downright messy musings of everyday life as a mum of 3 kids under 5.

Right, hello! My name is Lucy and I am a mum of three kids (and a scruffy dog), living in West Sussex. I am obviously many more things than that (a bit of a loudmouth, a total show off, a complete, obsessive bookworm, an over-user of superlatives and a lover of everything booze and biscuit related - either together or separately - not fussed). I am also someone that used to have a really cool, all-consuming job in London which I loved completely and gave up after a year of maternity leave with my first baby, having totally expected, when I left it nine months pregnant, to return to it, all guns blazing.

My gang now are Nancy (4), Maggie (4, but 28 in her years and very hairy), Sam (2 - he would want me to point out that he is very nearly 3) and Kit (9 months). They are all completely gorgeous and well behaved and hilarious when they are not filthy, running around like savages and beating the crap out of each other, pretty much like all kids the world over, but I have to say I am particularly partial to them.

When Nancy started going to nursery a couple of mornings a week, I was inevitably bereft. But Sam and I started going to a new messy play session in Cuckfield called Discover and Be, and we loved it! The first session we attended was dinosaur based and Sam just couldn’t believe the messy, interesting, fun stuff in front of him (just him! no Nancy!) PLUS there was a book he loved read out loud and singing at the end. We do quite a lot of crafty-type things at home, but every week there were always things that we had never done/he had never seen. Immediately it was his favourite thing and he (we) looked forward to it every week. We went regularly until he started nursery on Friday mornings himself, and during that time got to know Rhiannon and Sheila - both still two of Sam's heroes! I admire and believe in everything Discover and Be is about, so I was really pleased (and surprised!) when Rhiannon got in touch to ask if I would write a regular blog about the messy shenanigans I get up to with my little wolf-pack.

The purpose of this blog, I guess, is to share with you some of things we get up to, out and about and at home. We usually end up covered in mud, or dirt, or paint, or glitter, or all of the above and don’t generally achieve very much, but after four years of solid messing around, I have found quite a few cool things to do in our local area that new (and not so new) mums might enjoy reading about - and I am always keen to find out about new ones, too! Due to the geeky bookwormishness (not a word?!) mentioned earlier, I thought I might let you know what books (both library and our own - I am almost a shareholder at The Book People, who do amazing deals on kids books) we have been loving each week as I go along, too, and any recommendations from other readers will always be very welcome!

Discover & Be at home: pirates

Ahoy matey! Avast ye!

If you’re keen to recreate some sea-faring adventures at home - similar to those we enjoy at our messy play sessions - we’ve got some fun and creative ideas for you to try.

First up we have these super fun wooden party spoon pirates - don’t they look great?

Not only are they fun to make but they’re perfect for using as puppets, for a spot of role playing. Obviously you’ll need some wooden spoons - in this case, I Heart Crafty Things have suggested wooden party spoons as opposed to a regular more heavy-weight wooden spoon - but the other materials you’ll probably have at home. We’ve picked this idea because it ties in with our pirates theme but you could adapt it to make fairies, animals or whatever takes your fancy!

How about trying your hand (get it?!) at this hand print pirate. Great isn’t it?

You’ll need some paint and brushes to create these little masterpieces, and some paper of course. There’s the opportunity to personalise your pirate with stickers or a different expression. Here’s Fun Hand Print Art Blog’s instructions.

We always like a paper plate suggestion and here’s a great pirate inspired one from Life as a Mama.

There’s no instructions with this one but you can hopefully see how to go about making one with a spot of paint, some coloured paper and a little bit of creativity!

Toilet roll tubes play a great part in our crafting activities too - don’t ever throw them away! This double act of a rather friendly-looking pirate and cute parrot is great fun to make.

It can be a little fiddly for younger hands but older children get some (supervised) scissor practice in. What do you think? This one comes from MollyMooCrafts.

And why not extend the fun to include bath time?

These cork pirate boats, made from three corks and elastic bands, float beautifully and you can personalise the sails so if you wanted to make a fleet of rainbow coloured boats, the choice is yours! Red Ted Art have come up with this fab idea.

A hat is always popular, and this pirate hat idea would be perfect for a pirate-themed party or just a spot of role playing at home.

You’ll only need a few materials, all of which you might have already. Take a look at Sand In My Toes instructions and get making!

If you’d like to focus on a sensory activity, we like this pirate sensory bin.

It’s got lots of great textures and colours included, and is easy to recreate using things you’re likely to have at home. Don’t feel you need to replicate this exactly! If you’ve not got black beans to hand, or can’t get hold of any, you can use any dried beans, or lentils you have. This example from Counting Coconuts has pirate figurines but these aren’t necessary if you don’t have any. The booty and treasure are what makes this so attractive so dig out any old costume jewellery or left over foreign currency and see what you can come up with!

Of course, all this creating will make landlubbers hungry! This clever little snack using circular cheeses, is great fun.

It comes from Party Ideas UK but we don’t think it needs to be restricted to parties!

For the end of the day or other quiet times, how about some pirate-themed reads?

Ten Little Pirates by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty is a super book for helping to learn numbers and has lovely illustrations.

It also comes in princessesmonstersdinosaurs and a festive elves version.

For those still in nappies, you can plan ahead with Pirate Pete’s Potty by Andrea Pinnington.

aa pirate pete cover.jpg

It’s a great tale with, of course, the idea that it will introduce the idea of potty training in a fun way. If you’d rather have a girl version, it comes as Princess Polly Potty too.

If a good story is what you’re after, The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle, should hit the spot.

aa pirates next door cover.png

It’s all about a pirate family who have quite an effect on the town they move to. The book has some beautiful pictures including an impressive gatefold.


Discover & Be at home: Supertato

We've read Supertato as part of our sessions before, and we thought we'd share some Supertato-related activities with you.

How about starting with using veggies for printing? This is a great way to use potatoes and carrots for mark-making.

This idea comes from MeriCherry and should be easy to try at home if you’ve got some potatoes lying around. You can be as creative as you like (or can manage!) when making the stamps so why not try different shapes which can help with learning to recognise triangles, squares, circles, etc. Plus you end up with some great artwork!

We do love our themed-play dough and no vegetables would be possible without mud, so here’s a recipe for mud dough from the appropriately named blog Sow Sprout Play.

Yes this is a messy one, so be prepared with old clothes! The sensory aspect is also most enticing!

This is another great sensory activity and an antidote to the muddy mess: veggie scrubbing.

Prekinders use a special sensory table but a washing-up bowl or accessible sink/bath would be just as good. It gives children the chance to explore the different shapes of vegetables and also understand where vegetables come from. Nowadays it can be tricky to find mud-covered vegetables so that may be your only challenge with this activity!

This activity is another one that can help children to understand the growing process behind vegetables:

Laughing Kids Learn show how us how to grow a carrot top, an activity which requires some short-term patience whilst the carrot sprouts. However, it’s great to see the changes each day and may even encourage vegetable-consumption in fussy eaters!

If you’ve got Lego/Duplo, or any other brick-building set, at home have a go at building your own fruit and veg.

These instructions come from Lego themselves and show what you can you create although it might be fun to try out some ideas of your own (especially if you’re limited by what bricks you have!).

If you enjoyed the story of Supertato, you may well be interested to know that there’s a sequel! Supertato Veggies Assemble is Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet's follow-up and is just as fun as the original. Check it out!

To contrast with the new story of Supertato we thought it would be nice to include a couple of classics: Jack and the Beanstalk and The Enormous Turnip - both stories you’ll probably remember from your childhood.

These versions are from Ladybird and feature bold, colourful illustrations, ideal for younger readers. They’re part of a series so if you have a particular favourite classic story, chances are you’ll find it here.

Have fun!

Win a fantastic prize from Tiny Land

(NB: the prize draw has now closed, but keep your eyes peeled for future competitions!)

We've three great prizes on offer as part of our competition: just book a place at a Discover & Be session for the September half term and be in with a chance of winning!

We recently featured another prize donator, The Beauty Box in Haywards Heath, and here we'd like to introduce you to Tiny Land who sell organic, plant-based mud kitchen materials, and arts and crafts.

Tiny Land is owned by Alison White who is a mum of two fun-loving boys ages 4 and 2. It's based near Ashdown Forest where much of the inspiration for the products come from. They sell natural, organic and 100% gluten free messy play and art products including plant-based crayons and play baking sets which are fantastic for mud kitchens! They include play mix, play cream and play sprinkles and all are plant derived.

The prize on offer as part of our competition is the Rainbow organic, gluten free scented dough pack. It's 100% naturally coloured and scented with plant extracts and essential oils. Red is strawberry, orange is mandarin, yellow is lemon, green is lime, blue is chamomile and lavender is... lavender! It retails at £19.70 and has a bonus free shimmer white dough scented in vanilla. All ingredients are food grade and completely safe for little ones. The recommended age is from 12 months up. Check out the website for the other beautiful and fun products on offer.

Discover & Be at home: rainforest

We’ve got some great rainforest activity ideas for you to try at home with your baby, toddler or pre-schooler, as well as a few book recommendations. Read on…

Who doesn’t love a bit of icky slime to play with? Check out this jungle version…


Buggy and Buddy blog do warn that you’ll need to be prepared for the mess but with the better weather now here (sometimes!), why not head outside? This is fun to make and even more fun to play with. Add in some jungle animals and the role playing and sensory aspects come into their own. Enjoy!

Those children old enough to be thinking about numbers will enjoy this frog counting idea.


There’s a little bit of adult prep before you can get going but, as you can see in these instructions from Early Learning Ideas, it’s all pretty simple. If you want to be totally on-theme you’ll need to get yourself some plastic frogs, but you could change this depending on what plastic animals you have at home (if dinosaurs are your thing, you could change the lily pads to boulders, for example). The water beads suggested in the blog add a sensory element to the activity but aren’t essential for the number-learning aspect. Like with all these activities, you can take the core idea and adapt it to your own favourite topics or what equipment you’ve got at home.

This banana leaf sewing activity from Mamacita Spins the Globe is good for hand-eye coordination and, given the inclusion of a needle, might be better for slightly older children.

It can introduce the idea of sewing and also gives more practice with scissors. Try different shaped leaves or stitches to mix it up a bit.  

Our final activity relates to one of our book suggestions: it’s a chameleon painting idea as in Eric Carle’s The Mixed Up Chameleon.

This is super simple but very effective. All you’ll need is a zip-lock plastic bag, a permanent marker and some paint. There’s no limit to the colours you can use and you can use specific ones to illustrate how mixing some colours come up with others (and not just a uniform brown!). Thanks to Munchkins and Moms for this idea.

And so on to our books. This week we thought we’d focus on one author as he’s prolific, iconic and has, rather conveniently, produced several books featuring rainforest animals: Eric Carle.

Many of you will know his The Very Hungry Caterpillar but he has a whole host of attractive and fun books to his name.

We’ve already mentioned The Mixed Up Chameleon but we’d also recommend checking out The Very Busy Spider and The Very Lonely Firefly. All Eric Carle’s books are illustrated with this unique bold and colourful style, and all have a positive message underlying the story. We’ve suggested these three but - can you believe? - there are over 80 titles of his to choose from!  

Win a great prize from The Beauty Box in Haywards Heath!

(NB: the prize draw has now closed, but keep your eyes peeled for future competitions!)

Hopefully you will have seen details of our competition to win one of three great prizes, if you book a place at our sessions for September. First prize comes courtesy of a fab local business, The Beauty Box in Haywards Heath and its owner Sinead.

Well-known to the local area with over 10 years experience in the beauty industry, Sinead uses her expertise to provide luxury treatments at affordable prices. The Beauty Box offers a range of treatments, welcoming both male and female clientele. Using award winning Neal's Yard organic Remedies (which will features in the great prize we have on offer!). 

Treatments include facials, massage as well CND manicure / pedicures. There are also tailored packages for the expectant mother. Men's therapies are also available, from back and chest waxing to massage and skin care.

Sinead takes enormous pride in her dedication towards the running of The Beauty Box, and thrives to ensure a high quality experience for every client. The Beauty Box is located within Marc Pearl (recently renamed from Easicuts) ladies' hair salon in Haywards Heath.

Gift vouchers are available to purchase within the salon and a loyalty scheme has recently been launched.

So just book a place at a Discover & Be session for the September half term before the 31st July 2017 and you'll be in with a chance of winning either a 60 minute Neal's Yard facial or massage, a half term of Discover & Be sessions or a goodie bag courtesy of Tiny Land.

Meet a mum: Amy King

Our community of parents, carers and, of course, children is what makes Discover & Be thrive. To celebrate our Discover & Be friends, we're starting a series of blog posts where you'll find out a little more about one of our parents or carers. First up, we meet Amy King from Haywards Heath.

"I moved into the area last year with a new baby and was excited to start meeting other new mums and join local groups.  When I heard about Discover & Be I couldn’t wait to join.  We both thoroughly enjoy the sessions and it’s so rewarding seeing my son's confidence grow as he learns to explore the miniature worlds, themed activities and especially the music and story time.  I’ve been working at the Victoria and Albert Museum for the past 15 years and love being in creative environments, so Discover and Be is just perfect for us."

When Amy is not on mum-duty, she is an Assistant Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  She works in the Theatre and Performance department looking after the permanent galleries and the photographic archives.  Having moved into the area just last year she’s been bringing her son to Discover & Be since the autumn.

Amy moved to Haywards Heath two weeks after her first baby was born.  Moving so soon after a baby's arrival is not something she would recommend, but she tells us she is so glad she made the move to this family-friendly town.  Amy has been at the Victoria and Albert Museum for over 15 years, in that time she has worked in the British Galleries, National Art Library and most recently has pursued her passion for drama in the Theatre and Performance department.  She now works with collections as diverse as Victorian marionettes, designs and costumes by Picasso and Mick Jagger's jumpsuit! 

Nice to meet you Amy!

Are you a Discover & Be mum/dad/carer/granny/grandad? If you'd like to feature in our interview slot, just drop us an email.

The Book Activist reviews: Early Learning at the British Museum – ABC and 123.

British Museum Early Learning books 1

These two fantastic board books have just been published by Nosy Crow in collaboration with the British Museum as part of their new range for children aged 0-12. A whole lot more than your average counting or alphabet book, each one celebrates the wonderful artefacts that can be found at the museum.  

British Museum Early Learning books image 2

As well as teaching children number sequences, letters and words, they show some of the amazing objects that make up the museum’s collections. The lovely colourful photographs celebrate many cultures introducing little ones to the idea of the similarities and differences we share. 

British Museum Early Learning alphabet book

A helpful index at the back of the book shows where and when each item is from.  Children and adults alike can marvel at the wonders of the world and learn even more by using the QR code at the back of the book to visit the website – or perhaps even plan a visit to the museum itself!

A great opportunity for early learning and encouraging curiosity, these are well worth adding to your little ones bookshelf. Find out more at

Victoria Dilly
The Book Activist
May 2017