Getting messy with it: science for sceptics



In the blink of an eye, the Easter holidays are looming large (this blog has really hammered home the incredible speed of passing time - weeks seem to disappear!).  The seeds we planted at the time I last wrote are now little plants, the allotment is officially ours (gulp), my girl is on her last legs with end of term tiredness.  There have been Easter bonnets, and dog walks without coats on, the crocuses are out, the farms have lambs, I have turned 36 and we are starting to receive chocolate from all activities/teachers/people that come over.  It's a good time of year!

Something cool I have been meaning to recommend is a bit of kid science.  Father Christmas gave Nancy a kit for Christmas (I THINK he might have got it from Amazon, though - don’t want to give away his secrets) and it has provided us with hours of entertainment.  I was crap at science at school - couldn’t get my head round it at all, and therefore just really couldn’t generate any level of interest in it. Give me a pack of crystals, some kitchen towel, some food dye and a 5 year old, though, and it turns out I am in my element!  The one we have got is the Rainbow Lab by Galt, but I will definitely be investing in some others in the future. The crystals are brilliant (and justify the goggles so absolutely worth it), but actually it is the really basic stuff that had us oohing and ahhing (take a piece of filter paper - £3.99 for a pack of 350! You won't regret it - scribble along the bottom with a felt tip - any colour, but purple and black were the coolest I think - tuck it in to a bottle of water, and watch the colours separate up the paper to create a rainbow of all the elements of the base felt tip.  It's very cool!), and so I also bought 101 Brilliant Things for Kids to do with Science from the good old Book People and I am definitely going to try a few more basic things like that over the holidays. That is an extremely long sentence, I know, but hopefully you stuck with me until the end.

For anyone on Instagram, I hope you have already discovered The Dad Lab.  He is a guy with two (very sweet) sons that do cool experiments and crafty type science and they have given me some good inspiration for things to do on rainy days with the kids over the last year, usually with stuff that you have lying around the house.  I have also signed up for a free trial of a Toucan box (, describe themselves as a flexible subscription box encouraging crafting, creativity and learning in children) pre-Easter, so I will let you know how that goes. If anyone has experience of them and would recommend them as a fixture in our house, please do let us know!

I can't actually believe that I haven’t included The Pirate Cruncher by Johnny Duddle as a book recommendation yet.  It has been SUCH a key book in our house for a year now, and not a week goes by where we don’t read it (and listen to it in the car) at last twice.  It's SO good. I can't even really tell you what makes it so great, because it's all about the twist at the end, which makes you go back over the whole book and see it from a completely different angle.  My daughter loves it (nearly) as much as my pirate-obsessed son. We also love The Pirates Next Door by the same author (and a sequel has just come out!). They are good books, for pirates and land-lubbers alike. 

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5 Reasons Why Singing is Good For Children

Singing plays such an integral part in our children’s early development – but it doesn’t have to stop there!  Singing is essentially an aerobic activity that boosts oxygenation in the bloodstream, increasing mental alertness. Experts also believe that the variety of skills needed for singing, including coordination and listening, help develop the brain.  In short, singing is good for our children on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start!

1       Singing is food for the soul

 One of my best memories as a music teacher is of watching happy pupils skip out of my classroom, glowing and smiling after a singing lesson, saying, “That was such FUN, Mrs Harman!” It is a great feeling knowing that your pupils have been actively learning and training the brain but that they’ve been having lots of fun in the process!

The very act of belting out our favourite song sends a rush of endorphins through our body, leaving us feeling uplifted and generally in a much better mood.  This can only be a good thing for children, particularly when mental health issues regarding school children are on the increase and there is more pressure to ‘succeed’ at school.  Which brings me to my next point:

2.  Singing reduces stress levels and gives the body (particularly the lungs) a great work-out

Singing delivers a host of physical and emotional benefits, including increased aerobic exercise, improved breathing, posture, mind-set, confidence and self-esteem. Interestingly, researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that choristers’ heartbeats synchronise when they sing together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga.


“Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these,” says study leader, Dr Björn Vickhoff.  “It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.”  Singing can be a great way of releasing tension in your mind and body and erasing the stresses of the day. 

In my singing lessons, I teach children the importance of breath control and deep breathing.  I think that it’s important for children to learn how to use their breath to help manage difficult situations in which they may be feeling anxious, worried, or to help deal with pain if they are hurt in any way.

I also teach children to use their whole body when they sing, as this is hugely important. We talk about using our core muscles to breath correctly and to focus all our energy into producing a great sound.

3. Singing boosts confidence and self-esteem

For children who are shy or need a confidence boost, singing can be a great way of channelling energy and expressing feelings and emotions. In singing lessons, pupils explore performance techniques and stage presence so that they feel more equipped to deal with adrenaline rushes and nerves when singing in front of an audience.

4.  Singing with others is fun!

The great thing about singing is that it is so accessible as an instrument!  Your voice is with you everywhere you go. Whether you want to sing on your own, in the car with your family or with your friends in the playground, singing can be done anytime and anywhere and instantly makes you feel like you’re part of a team. Learning to work together in a group or choir can give children a sense of collectiveness and can help children make friends.

5.  Singing focuses the mind and feeds the brain

Singing nursery rhymes and simple songs teaches young children how language is constructed and assists with the acquisition of language. Singing songs with your child and encouraging them to listen to a variety of song genres will encourage them to explore and develop and awareness of tone, pulse, rhythm and pitch. These music elements can be learnt and explored further in our fun and engaging singing lessons.

Learning the lyrics to songs is a great way of exercising a child’s memory and regular singing can help with language and communication skills.  When speaking about his childhood, multi-award winning singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran explains how rapping to Eminem helped him over-come an acute stutter.  Singing can also be used as a creative and fun way to increase enjoyment and achievement in subject areas where children normally struggle. There are some wonderful educational apps out there such as Maths Rockx, which focuses on teaching times tables through song.

To quote the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald, “The only thing better than singing – is more singing”.

How do I get my child to sing?

Not sure where to start?  Here are a few ideas!

  •       Sing in the car / with the radio on full blast!
  •        Make playlists of your favourite songs as a family
  •        Book some fun and engaging singing lessons
  •        Encourage your child to join a choir or performing arts group (there are so many to          choose from!)
  •        Help your child start a band
  •        Buy a karaoke kit such as ‘Sing Star’
  •        Encourage your children to put on ‘shows’ for the you and your family
  •        Have fun with your child making up silly songs you can sing together

We Can Help!

Whether you are looking for way to bring singing and music into your child's life through lessons or you want to nurture a clear interest in music your child already has get in touch and let our team help. Our fun and engaging lessons allow children to enjoy learning to sing rather than being forced to do so. We even offer child and parent sessions if you have always wanted to learn to sing too!

Get In Touch today to find out more!




Eggs-cellent Easter Event, all in aid of Time 4 Children!

Join us for our fantastic Easter Event on Monday 26th March from 10am - 11.30am at the Methodist Church in Haywards Heath. We'll have Easter activities and fun galore for you, as well as the chance to spend a few pennies in aid of Time 4 Children on a tombola, guess the name of the teddy or perhaps a cake from a local supplier! All proceeds from ticket sales will also go to Time for Children.

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Tickets are just £10 per child (£6 for siblings), and places are limited. Previous Easter and Christmas events have sold out in advance, so do book early to ensure your place. All profits from the day go to local charity Time 4 Children, a charity which aims to increase the emotional wellbeing, self-confidence & self-esteem of emotionally vulnerable children between the ages of 4 and 12 in the mid-Sussex area.

What have we got in store for you?

  • A fabulous farm small world
  • Help us make a beautiful blossom tree
  • Splash around in our duck pond water play
  • Enjoy some squidgy, wiggly spaghetti worms
  • Plant out some veggies in our mini allotment
  • Care for cute chicks and seeds in our sensory tray
  • Design your own Easter egg for our amazing tree
  • Make your own adorable Easter chick card
  • Help hatch eggs in our giant bird's nest
  • And loads more!

You can book at a session if you're an attendee, or book online using the PayPal link below. Please be sure to state your name clearly on the details so that we can find you easily on our attendee list.

Select your tickets below (you will need to add them one at a time if including siblings so you will get taken to a shopping cart screen and will then need to click the 'continue shopping' link):

Getting messy with it: managing multi-taste mealtimes!



Half term has been and gone, and it was a good one.  A trip to Godstone, a rainy morning at Nymans and a gorgeous day in the sun at Southwater Country Park (I just bloody love Southwater. It is so brilliant, feels a bit like being on holiday and is completely freeeeeee!!) and the rest of the time just muddling around, mainly in our pyjamas.  There was a LOT of eating.  Especially because I have done some proactive parenting (rare) which has been (so far) at least partially successful (rarer)!    

Both boys eat basically everything with a few specific exceptions, which is fair enough.  Nancy is unfussy about basic ingredients; really good with all veg, fish and meat.  She is not good, however, with combined dishes.  She loves pasta, beef, tomato, mushroom, pepper, cheese but will not touch a lasagne.  Mince is her enemy, any kind of pie her worst nightmare.  She is not really a fan of any kind of sauce that is not on pasta.  Thus cooking in our house, because she is the oldest, has always been focused around separate dishes, such as sausages, fish, chicken with a separate carb and a pile of veg, or pasta.  And a few weeks ago, I finally got completely bored of it, and realised that I have been denying the boys more hearty dishes that I knew they would love.  Plus batch cooking makes things so much easier and I longed to make a shepherd's pie and a curry on a Sunday to whip out mid-week, without having to start from scratch after school.  

So I introduced a Tasting Jar (decorated by Nancy and Sam of course).  I briefed the kids that twice a week I would make a dinner that they don’t normally have and for every meal completely finished they would get to put five pieces of pasta in the jar.  For a proper taste (five proper bites) they get to contribute three pieces.  If they eat less than that, nothing.  The incentive is that once they fill the jar, they get to go the charity shop (their choice!) and pick a toy each.  It has worked pretty well!!  Dishes conquered so far are spaghetti bolognaise, chicken curry, fajitas with all the trimmings and lasagne.  They have been quite inspired by it, and keen to be involved in the cooking and it has all been pretty positive.  I got the idea from my friend Emily who did the same a few years ago with her Oli, and is one of those people who just smashes motherhood (life, really) in seemingly effortless style - always worth storing away nuggets of advice from mates like that!   

Before the snow (!), we planted our seeds to grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs and sweet peas on the sunny windowsills of our conservatory, something we do every year and the kids love; monitoring the growth of the little seedlings, taking the watering VERY seriously and then very proud and possessive of every piece of produce!  It is all so sweet and wholesome that I have added our names to the list for an allotment this year so we will hopefully extend our planting and growing a bit - I feel like the gaining of an allotment might actually be the final step to becoming a real actual grown up!?!?   

My book recommendation this time is a library one we have really enjoyed, and I actually read to Nancy's class for World Book Day (theme: fairy tales).  It is called Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights by Steven Lenton.  It is a silly, funny rhyming book which turns the traditional fairy tale on its head and (look away if you don’t want a spoiler) ends with the Princess sorting out the dragon problem because the knights can't.  It concludes with "Girls are clever, tough and bold and brave and strong and true.  We're just as good as boys, you know, we can be heroes, too".  And it has the word nincompoop in it.  What's not to love?! 

Messy yoga: it's back!

We're back on Saturday 12th May 2018 with our parent and child messy yoga event. Join us for 90 minutes of fantastic yoga fun (some shared, some parent only) as well as a host of messy play activities. It'll all be based on an inspiring theme which we'll announce details of shortly. Watch this space (or sign up to our email newsletters).


The event takes place in Cuckfield at the Old School from 2-3.30pm. A mat (which includes one parent and one child) is £26 plus £8 for any extra siblings.

You can download a booking form here and if you've any questions, give Sheila a call on 07980 565632. If you'd like to book your place via PayPal, please use the button below and email your details to us.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Getting messy with it: bring on Spring!



It’s already February!  The crocuses are out!  My house is filled with little daffodil bulbs!  I keep hearing whichever little bird it is in hedgerows that sing in Spring-time!  It is nearly half-term!

This first half of term has slipped by in an instant, and has seemed easier than last term.  There was the week in the middle when I sprained my knee playing netball (was on the court for literally 15 seconds and have been limping ever since) and Kit was letting me sleep in short 20 minute bursts in-between lying on my face but other than that it has zoomed past.

Sam is properly settled at nursery now, and it is so lovely to see him with his own new little gang of mates, who know him only as Sam rather than Nancy's little brother, and to watch him with them.  To any parents reading this with a new younger (second) sibling (god knows what happens to the third), it is worth getting through all those hard early stages of dual bedtimes and bath times and one wanting to walk and not being able to and the other being able to walk and wanting to be carried (good times!!!!) just to watch the second one become their own person in a few year's time.  A classic Sam chat at home is:

Me:  Sam, what do you want on your toast?
Sam:  Nance, what are you having?
Nancy:  Just butter.
Sam:  Just butter please.
Me:  You don’t like it with just butter.  You never eat it with just butter.  Express your own opinion!! Be your own person!  Opt for peanut butter! Marmite! Jam! Anything! The world is your oyster! Don’t go for butter just because Nancy chose that.
Sam:  Butter please (followed by ensuing 2 minute meltdown at unfairness of not being allowed butter followed by subsequent leaving of toast because he doesn’t like just toast and butter).

But Sam at nursery by himself is a bit bossy, has got some mates with whom he is a bit cheeky and makes all his own choices at lunch and loves them!  So it is a good, and fascinating, time for him, and for me.

Back at home we have been doing a lot of pottering around, as usual.  A lot of puzzles.  A lot of watching of Captain Underpants (AMAZING, watch it this weekend if you haven’t already) and a lot of trying to teach Kit to jump (just as good for a laugh as Captain Underpants).  I have got a couple of painting recommendations.  One we came across by accident, really, following a conversation about where colours come from (!!).  We just used a white china plate and started mixing - the kids found it really satisfying to put the two different blobs of colour in the middle and then swirl them round until the whole plate was a different colour entirely.  The lesson properly stuck - even my three year old can now list how each of the secondary colours are made up.  It's easy and fun and any of the poster paints kids use just wash off china under the tap.  Having said that, my friend Lucy has since introduced me to paint sticks - glorious and wonderful things!! They are painting without palettes, brushes, water, and that bit at the end (which I always find particularly soul crushing) where they hold the finished piece up to show you and all the paint runs down the page.  These paint sticks are like crayons but they are paint and they are MESS AND FUSS FREE.  And the kids bloody love them!  They use them for hours, creating stacks of stick-on-the-wall-worthy paintings.  And they come in metallic colours, too. Boom.

Book recommendation was given to us by a friend for Nancy's birthday and I am not exaggerating when I say we have read it at least twice a week since October - we all know it basically off by heart.  It's called This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe and it follows seven different kids in different countries (Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia) and details what they eat, where they go to school, what their bedrooms are like, what they do for fun etc.  It's all diagrams but there are photos of the real families at the end and it has really inspired and fascinated the kids.  Since Nancy has started writing (phonetically, non-stop) she fills reams of paper detailing the minutiae of her day because she wants her life to be the English section in the next one.  WATCH THIS SPACE ("I wak up in my bed and go doon and eat choclit hoops and wach teevee").

Anyway, let's head in to Spring with a bounce in our step and a paint stick in our hand, one muddy puddle at a time.  TRA LA LA!!!!*

*Captain Underpants reference

Discover & Be at home: Valentine's Day

With love in the air this week, we thought we'd celebrate with our suggestions of activities to try at home, and our book recommendations too.

We like this idea as you could adjust it once Valentine’s Day is gone, and simply create a beautiful leafy green tree in the Spring, perhaps complete with pretty blossom.

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Or come Autumn, you could change the colours to reds, browns, yellows and oranges to reflect the changing seasons. First off though, try the pink and red heart version from Easy Peasy Fun blog.

We featured a Valentine-themed sensory experience at our sessions last week, and here’s a slightly different twist on a similar idea.

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Fun with Mama blog have used lots of coloured rice, as well as bits and bobs from around the home, so it’s quite likely you’ll have similar items around the home.  If you don’t this year, perhaps start saving things you might find useful. 

How about an easy craft idea that will be enjoyed afterwards for a spot of dressing up?

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Get your hands on some pipe-cleaners and make yourself some love goggles! These are a fun activity for small hands, and you don’t have to stop at hearts. Shaping pipe-cleaner different shapes is good the imagination and fine motor skills, and if you use them for printing with paint you can have a messy session too! Thanks Makes and Takes blog for the idea.

And if mess isn’t your things, try this no-mess heart painting idea.

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 Sunny Day Family blog give us this idea, which could be used to make the basis for cards (and not just Valentine’s ones). You’ll probably need to think ahead as you’ll need a jar or something similar, as it’s this that contains the mess. It’s a neat (excuse the pun) little idea which has a fun element of surprise as you never know how your painting will turn out.

Our last activity are these beautiful paper plate love birds:

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Aren’t they pretty? It’s all about how you cut the paper plate with this one. Arty Crafty Kids blog suggest using pipe-cleaners for the legs so it might well be worth investing in some this week!

There are lots of lovely books about love including Guess How Much I Love You which we read at our sessions this week.

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Love by Emma Dodd is a beautifully illustrated book, and is part of a series all of which focus on animals and emotions. This sweet book is rather biased towards a child’s love for its mother (rather than its father, for example) but it gets away with it!

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books are always popular so we thought it would be good to feature The Scarecrows’ Wedding.

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This is a story of love with the compulsory happy ending, written in rhyme and accompanied by fab illustrations. Definitely one for your growing library!

On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman is a super story of how special we all are, children, parents and family members alike. This book is not only one to enjoy at home, but also to give as a gift.

It's available as both a board book and a paperback so suitable for the youngest of readers.

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Getting messy with it: happy new year!



Well, Happy New Year!  It seems crazy that six weeks have gone past since my last post.  Six weeks of doing nothing, really, and having a lovely time doing it!  Towards the end of term we just snuggled down and did nothing in order to get Nancy over the finishing line of her first term, which we did, just about.  It literally took her a week to get over it; cough, cold, random three days of walking around unable to put her heels on the ground (a state of affairs that for a first child would no doubt have generated much angst but with three of them in the picture was just put down to a virus and added to the list of random child ailments we hadn’t considered and couldn’t do anything about).  Since then we have had the glorious Christmas week of nothing except sitting around in our pajamas eating turkey-related meals and Quality Streets, watching films and playing with new toys.


In terms of pro-active things we have done that I could recommend it is slim pickings, unless you count eating so much you can't do up your jeans and really enjoying the CBEEBIES stage version of The Snow Queen.  A little tip that my kids have enjoyed for a couple of years now is that I always keep the previous year's Christmas cards to bring out if anyone starts to get restless; I give them a pair of scissors and some glue and suggest that they make a collage for a person of their choice.  Christmas cards are so lovely it seems like a fitting way to use them, the kids love fighting over the best ones and all the snipping and gluing and whoever they choose to give them to always seem pleased (as long as directly related to them obvs).  

Something we discovered this Christmas (and I know my friend Vicki will be reading this and shouting "I TOLD YOU ABOUT THIS AGES AGO YOU FOOL") is cupcake mix!! Another morning when it was lashing with rain outside and we had watched the Hey Duggee featuring Stick (a modern day masterpiece) several times, we decided to have an indoor picnic and I remembered that I had been bullied in to purchasing Frozen cupcake and Transformer cookie mix in Sainsburys several weeks previously (not by Vicki, I should add).  It was cooking with children without all the flour (terrible business), but with the egg cracking (the real purpose of any cooking adventure).  And they were yummy!  They are definitely not high in nutritional value, but I am no Gwyneth Paltrow (!!) and have no shame in recommending them highly for kid entertainment/really quite yummy results.

We also went mad and took all three of them skating.  I had big plans to go to Brighton for this milestone before Christmas but it all seemed a bit too much effort and a friend told me about Tulleys Farm (unchartered territory for us, rarely, as we are BIG farm-goers).  We went on December the 30th and, whilst the whole farm had an odd abandoned atmosphere post the big Christmas spectacular (which by all accounts is very impressive), the ice rink was nice and not over-crowded, the staff were lovely and the kids really enjoyed it.  Plus, there were dodgems next door (and a bar serving mulled wine). A very nice way to spend a post-Christmas afternoon.  It was pricey, but I think skating is at this time of year and it was definitely an activity the kids will remember for a long time and I loved - I should point out that my husband refused to put on a pair of skates so I wobbled my way round for 40 minutes bent over at 90 degrees and am really only over it now, but at least it ticked the box of physical activity like nothing else in the last couple of weeks.

And now it is 2018.  It's going to be a good one!  I refuse to think about it as the year that Sam starts school until at least September 1st.  I hope that it is a year of fun things, yummy food, plentiful wine, good books, lots of time splashing around outdoors, plenty of time larking around with our mates and family and good health.  My new year's resolutions include more candlelit breakfasts (I miss our advent candle, a very special way to start a day) and more moisturiser and water (am getting old).

Oh yes, book of the fortnight (okay, festive period).  For anyone in to pirates, we have loved Pirates Magnified by David Long, a gorgeous book that comes with its own little magnifying glass which you use to search the beautiful, heavily populated illustrations for particular items and particular pirates. A MASSIVE hit with my son.  Father Christmas also bought The Ugly Five, Julia Donaldson's new one, which we have all really enjoyed and made me a bit emotional on first reading after a large glass of wine.  

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) 

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 £26 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.