Getting messy with it: beads, Biggleton and books



This is the last term I have with Sam at home and so we are really doing whatever he wants on the three days a week he isn’t at nursery.  A lot of the time what he wants to be doing is playing knights and pirates with his Playmobil or up to his elbows in Playdoh, which is easier as both he and Kit will play it together for hours (unlike the Playmobil where Kit normally takes the hair off all the pirates, loses it and then takes great delight in unfurling the castle drawbridge at vital moments in the battle leading to general bad feeling(!!) between the brothers).  

Ages ago I saw something on Pinterest that involved colourful little glass beads (£4.79 for a pot of 100 on Amazon) and pasta - obviously the actual pin suggested complicated architectural Playdoh structures (fairy gardens?) which we have never bothered with but a year on the pot of beads and pasta are still brilliant tools in our Playdoh sessions, especially for Kit, whose little fingers love the tactile nature of pushing them in to the squidgy Playdoh.  Something different to do, if you haven’t already, easy and cheap. Also, Hama beads. Only just come across them. LOVE THEM. No use fannying around with the little packs - have invested in a pot of 10,000 with lots of different boards and both big kids will sit for ages doing it and they actually look really cool once ironed in to formation.

Something that is lovely about having multiple children is the making of new friends through the second (and maybe, hopefully, the third?!) one as well as the first.  Sam has developed a complete bro-mance at his nursery and as luck would have it his best mate's mum turns out to be a legend. So we are having new adventures together and it is lovely (although I still try to avoid Nancy's favourite places out of guilt and I still feel the need to explain to everyone I meet that I have a little girl as well -  I wonder if/when this will pass?!). A few weeks ago we went to Adventure Avenue in Burgess Hill. It was great. It's not big - fundamentally just a room with 8 different sections (supermarket, vet, doctor, camping site, hairdressers, band, cafe and building site) but each one is really well equipped, there is lots of extra dressing up, it is bright and colourful and I think the smallness of it makes it all very approachable and easy. We were there with four boys (4, 3, 2 and 1) and they were all completely stuck in for an hour and a half.  Sam and his mate spent as much time playing hairdressers (more?!) as they did dressed up as policemen and builders and Kit spent longer in the supermarket than I do for my weekly shop. PLUS we had deeelicious cupcakes and coffee in the café (in which there is a fire engine of course). I took Nancy (and the boys) back there a week later for a party (of reception age children) and she loved it, too. My kids called it Biggleton, and any homage by them to that CBeebies classic is recommendation indeed.

I have got a CD recommendation as well as a book this time; we love an audio book in the car and, having accepted there is a limit to the number of times I can get everyone to listen to The Greatest Showman soundtrack, I saw The 13 Storey Treehouse box set on The Book People.  It comes with the whole set (26, 29 52 and 65 Storey Treehouses) and it is SO RANDOM. It is based on books by Andy Griffiths and it involves every single random thing you can think of from cheese eating sharks to talking hands to wooden headed pirates… it is difficult to describe but the kids are completely riveted and listen spellbound for any lengthy journey.  Sometimes it can be VERY irritating but let's face it most of us are prepared to suck up a bit of background irritation for a quiet car journey!

We absolutely loved (love) The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb, it is SO gorgeous and moving.  So I was very pleased to see a new one by this duo out in Waterstones last week, The Everywhere Bear, about a class bear that falls out of the bag of the little boy who was looking after him (THE HORROR) and all the adventures he quite literally gets swept in to before (plot spoiler) he ends up back with his class. It is lovely.  We have read it every day. Another lesser known Donaldson (the Dickens of our generation?!) I found in a coffee shop and very much enjoyed reading to the boys is The Magic Paintbrush, which tells what I think is probably an ancient tale of a little girl withstanding the corruption of a greedy, powerful Emperor. It's very good, and I have gone five years without being aware of it so thought I ought to recommend in case I am not the only one.

Getting messy with it: allotment love-in



Well we had a lovely Easter holidays, and one of the things that I was thinking about at the end of it is how ridiculously lucky we are to live here in mid-Sussex in terms of fun child-rearing opportunities.  We had a brilliant afternoon in the mud kitchen at Wakehurst, a day jumping in the hay bales at Middle Farm, a fantastic day at Chartwell (had never been but one of my absolute faves), an Easter egg hunt at Borde Hill, and plenty of playing in the local parks and woods and, with my much-used National Trust membership and my slightly more extravagant Borde Hill Membership (we love it there and so nice to be able to take the dog too), none of it cost an arm and leg.  Plus the mornings lounging in our pyjamas watching films and NOT doing the school run didn't cost anything at all!

So the big topic in our family at the moment really is the allotment.  It is my new happy place. I LOVE it!! It is so peaceful* and pretty there and I love the feeling of being amongst all the different plots that people have put so much work in to, packed with lots of fresh fruit and veg and flowers.  I have become a total allotment geek. And the good news is that the kids are on board (so far - for no more than an hour at a time, and with at least a week between visits)! Sam in particular loves to dig and as our plot has been untouched for three years there is a lot of it to do.  We take fold up chairs down there so that anyone that gets fed up can just sit and colour/snack/shout abuse at the rest of us but actually generally they are all really enjoying pottering around/digging/searching for worms/throwing earth at each other. We have planted carrots, onions, beans, sprouts and sweetcorn and have got big plans for raspberries once we have dug enough of it over.  The fact that I have now got Gardener's World on series link and that I sometimes TAKE NOTES WHILST WATCHING IT says a lot about my swift transition from general loser to specific allotment loser and I am embracing it wholeheartedly.

*Obviously when I say peaceful I mean until the five of us (plus dog) come trooping in shouting and crying and howling and dragging tools (and that's just me and the husband) and in general shatter the lovely calm lives of all the lovely (and very accepting and supportive) people that escape down there to do some gardening and get away from it all.

We haven’t read any new books that have stood out over the last couple of weeks so I will recommend an absolute favourite of ours for years now, which is the Kitty Lacey series by Abie Longstaff.   My friend Susie gave Nancy 'The Fairytale Hairdresser and Sleeping Beauty' for her 3rd birthday and it was an instant favourite. We have collected all of them over the years (Eeek! Just looking on Amazon and they have got a Princess and the Frog one coming out soon) and Nancy and Sam both love all of them completely.  Kitty is a hairdresser in a world populated with all the fairy tale characters, who approach her for hair styling and answers to their complicated life problems, which she inevitably solves with kindness for a happy ending (i.e. princess getting the prince) all round. 'Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls' it is not, but it is packed with lovely colourful pictures that the kids like spotting the different fairy tale characters in and the stories are cleverly woven around the old ones the kids know by heart.  We often give them as birthday presents on my kids suggestion because we enjoy them so much.

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