After school fun – Shape Sticks

I am going to be bringing you a new regular feature here at The Mad House, After School Fun (thanks to the Evil Overlord for making me a snazzy badge!).  During the summer my boys who are seven and eight tend to play out after school.  There is lots of cricket, football (soccer) and bike riding, but with the clock change coming and winter on its way more and more they need indoor activities to keep them occupied after school and to stop them fighting and to try and keep them away from the dreaded screens that they love so much! jen4 They need things that can hold their attention, but do not need too much thought, especially come the end of term when they are running on empty. So I have decided to come up with #AfterSchoolFun ideas.  I am going to blog them regularly and then once a month open a linky for other people to share their blog posts too.  I would also love for you to hashtag any images you might have on Instagram or twitter and I will make sure I share them with my followers. shape sticks To start things off my boys have both been looking at shapes at school, so I thought we would make our own Shape Sticks and have some fun with them. Materials:
  1. Lolly Sticks (we used coloured ones), but Jumbo ones would be great
  2. Self adhesive velcro dots (I had to cut ours in half (but they would be the perfect size for jumbo ones)
  3. A storage container.
Method:   I doesn't get much simpler than sticking the velcro dot on the end of the stick and letting the adhesive stick for 24 hours before playing with them. Things to do: I think it really depends on the age of your children, but this would be a great way to introduce shoes by coping ones that you have already done and taken photographs of of even using certain colours to make certain shapes. My boys are at the stage that they have been using them without an instruction sheet to make regular polygons and also to discuss and measure their angels.  Math is fun has a great section on geometry.    You can download my Regular Polygons sheet for personal use. regular polygons after school fun Other ways to use craft sticks  I adore these craft stick magnets, which Craftulate made.  They really add another dimension to shape making and using your craft or shape sticks.  You can use your craft sticks to help with maths like Powerful Mothering or put them in a Busy Bag and attach them with blue tac  just like Baes in Deutschland did.  I adore using them as a craft item and the idea of contact paper and craft sticks is fab. There are lots of other sites with some great ideas for shape sticks including Rockabye Butterfly's Montessori shape activities, Living on a Lattes Friday Activities and A, Bee C Preschool's Building Shapes.  If you want to make a set of shape sticks as a gift then Tried and True has a great free printable to make labels and worksheets.
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Discover the savage world

We have so many books in the Mad House that we had to buy a new book case for Mini's bedroom last week.  Not that I am complaining.  I love that he is a book worm and I really wish that Maxi would have the same relationship with books that iIni does. Both the boys really love "fact" books and they are great for encouraging boys, who can often be reluctant readers.  We are fans of Miles Kelly Publishers and have received and bought books from them before and they sent is the new Discovery Channel Discover the Savage World book to review and also set us a couple of challenges too. Firstly the book.  Well it has been a huge hit as it is filled with deadly destruction and fierce forces, so perfect for the minimads.  We also have the two other books in the series in our library Discover the Extreme World and Discover the Awesome World.  It is filled with exciting facts and information in such a way that they are bite sized and really easy to read and enjoy.  It perfectly captured my boys imagination.

Our Savage Challenge

We were challenged to eat some grasshoppers.  Did we managed it?  Take a look at our video to see!

Will You Take The Savage Challenge?

Now for the really fun part. You’ll be delighted to know that your challenge is much more manageable than ours. All you have to do is join in with a photo, inspired by the daily prompt. Today’s prompt is “Animal.” Simply post your image on Facebook or Twitter, with the hashtag #worldgonewild and Miles Kelly will find it or you can tag  Miles Kelly on Facebook, or on Twitter. At the end of the blog tour, they will add all the photos to Facebook albums, and ask people to ‘like’ their favourite photos. The owner of the photo with the most likes will win a Miles Kelly book bundle, containing books of their choice, worth £100. So I let the boys lose with the camera and told them to capture an animal picture and ............................................. worldgone wild I also have 5 copies of the book to give away on the blog. Just enter using the Rafflecopter form below. In the meantime if you head over to the Miles Kelly Bookshop and use the code BLOGTOUR01 you can get 10% off any book until the 21st November 2013. a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Learning by example

I have been know to fall in to the "because I say so" trap on many occasions, but am learning as the boys get older that they learn so much better and more when I set them an example. I meed to get passed the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality and start setting a good example. oral b One of the ways that I actually do this is by ensuring I brush my teeth at the same time as the boys.  There are huge benefits from me doing it as the same time:
  1. I ensure that they brush it for the full 2 minutes
  2. They see me taking care of my teeth
  3. I can make sure they spit not swallow
  4. I can see if their gums bleed
My teeth and gums are hugely important to me as I am aware of how they can deteriorate due to the medications that I take, which is why I try to take good care of them. I have blogged before about the fact that Mini's teeth are showing their first signs of decay and how we are now on the Dentist's quarterly visit list. I have been making a concerted effort to improve the boys brushing and both the boys use a sonic toothbrush, just like both MadDad and I do now thanks to the Oral-B Triumph 5000 I have just been sent. We all love the wireless timer, which means the boys can see exactly how long they have been brushing for. (We used to use an egg timer).  I would never has considered spending that much on a toothbrush, however, you know that feeling you get when you run your tongue over your teeth after you have been to the hygenist?  Yes, that smooth one, well I get that all day and every day with my new Oral-B Triumph 5000! One of the things that has made the biggest difference for all of us is introducing disclosing tablets on a Sunday evening.  These are small purple tablets that we chew and they dye the plaque on our teeth a purple colour, which gives a visible image to concentrate on.   You can even get ones that show both new and old areas of plaque.  The light areas show new and the dark areas olds.  They cost around £2.30 for a pack of 20, which I think are great value and well worth adding to any cleaning routine. 20 teethbrushing tips Tips for encouraging children to Brush their teeth
  1. Get a 2 minute egg timer – you can get these at the dentist – so your kids know how long to brush for!
  2. Let kids pick their own toothbrush – they will get really excited when it comes to brushing their teeth with the toothbrush they have picked!
  3. Get your kids a (robust) mirror – they can make silly faces in it and watch themselves brushing
  4. Play their favourite song while they brush to the beat – as most songs last two – three minutes it’s the perfect length
  5. Brush your teeth at the same time – kids love to copy mum and dad!
  6. Get an older family member to surprise your kids with their false teeth and a story about how theirs fell out – always a good incentive to get kids brushing!
  7. If you have more than one child, turn brush time into a competition – the one who brushes the best gets to pick the bedtime story!  Don’t forget to alternate the ‘winner’ though!
  8. Tell your kids that the Tooth Fairy pays out less for decayed teeth – this will get them brushing better!
  9. If you have an older child, get them to teach their younger sibling how to brush – this makes it fun and also reinforces good brushing tips for the elder one.
  10. Let your child brush their favourite toy’s teeth – they will soon pick up how to do their own!
  11. Sing “Brush, brush, brush your teeth, gently to and fro, up, down, side to side, teeth so clean they glow” to the tune of “Row row row your boat” – it’s a great brushing rhythm!
  12. Give your kids a gentle scare by showing them pictures of people with bad teeth – or even your own – so that they know why they need to brush!
  13. Make three animal faces for brushing: tiger teeth (together), hippo mouth (mouth open) and snake tongue (to brush tongue). It makes it more fun and gets their teeth in the right position.
  14. With older kids, establish the link between bad brushing and bad breath – they will soon cotton on to this!
  15. Get your kids to brush with disclosing tablets once a week – they will love the surprising effect and it can become a challenge to see who can get their teeth white the quickest!
  16. Play ‘dentist’ with your kids – put them in a chair, inspect their teeth while they brush and provide a running commentary while they are doing so!
  17. Reward charts with stickers work very well – once they have reached a certain number they can get a treat which is a great incentive!
  18. Let your child ‘brush’ your teeth too – they are more likely to let you brush theirs if you can take it in turns!
  19. Give your kids 1p in a piggy bank every time they brush properly – 2p per day adds up to £7.30 a year!
  20. Let your kids be independent!  You will need to brush their teeth at the end but letting them do it first makes them feel very grown up and it’s good practice!
Disclosure: I was sent a Oral-B Triumph 5000 in exchange for this post
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Make a newspaper wig

Inspired by fabulous children’s book Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.  So this post is an entry into the #Tots100Seawigs competition in association with  we decided to make our own newspaper wig, which is our seawig. seawig We started by blowing up a balloon and sticking strips of torn newspaper to it, which was sticky and messy fun.  But we made a fatal mistake..............  Once we popped the balloon our wig's headpiece shrunk, making it impossible to get on our heads! We also had a go at curling the newspaper, but kept ripping it instead! But, we had a really fun hour making it and would love an illustrated family portrait.  So fingers crossed. jen4  
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Words on a Wednesday – Choose Joy

choose joy   My mantra for 2013.  We all need reminding every now and then and looking at this beautiful piece makes me smile everyday. Choose Joy artwork from Pen and Paint.  I love mine and am never disappointed by anything Lindsay makes.
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After school fun – Lets be a spy and how to leave a secret message

The boys were tasked with putting Spy Gear's secret agent products to the test, so we decided to turn it into an afternoon of fun after school and to also learn how to make secret writing and invisible ink! secret messages I have had this fab infographic pinned for a while and wanted to give it a go with the boys.  We used the lemon method and it did work, but I wouldn't let the boys heat the paper over a naked flame, which meant that I had to be involved, so we were looking for a more child friendly method when I remembered our wax relief painting and decided to give it ago with a white crayon and a candle and some watercolour paints and it was a huge success. Not only could the boys write their own messages, but they could find out that they were on their own too.  It is so simple, the wax leaves a protective layer on the paper that the paint does not adhere too, therefore, revealing the message.  Like magic. If you have older children then you could perhaps try the methods involving heat. How-To-Invisible-Ink-Infographic-610x922 So on to the Spy Gear kit we were sent.  The biggest hits were the Stealth com walkie talkies as they didn't need to use their hands.  They loved these and have been played with a lot.  They go in to their bedroom and communicate.   Mini caught me out with the Micro Agent Motion Alarm as he put it in his bedroom, so when I went in it set the alarm off.  He is very protective of his room and all his books and hates people going in it, including Maxi's friends when they visit, so this was one of his favorite items. The  Night Goggles have come in to their own now the nights are getting darker and Mini can even use them over his prescription goggles.  The Spike Mic Launcher did not survive Alvin and was an early casualty of #MadPup!  Both boys like the Field Agent Spy Watch, but found it difficult to put on themselves. Overall the Spy Gear stuff is great and I can see us getting a lot of play out of it. Spygear  
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Apple printing and apple eating!

Today is apple day and we are celebrating it in the mad house, by apple printing and eating delicious apple pie and the last two apples from our tree.  When we moved in to our new build home 7 years ago one of the first things we did was plant an apple tree and a pear in the garden.  We have watched over the years as those trees have grown and developed just like our children and watched the joy on the boys faces when the apple bears fruit (the pear never has, yet.........). apple printing Collage We were contacted last week by Waitrose and sent a deep filled pie recipe, which we are having for dinner tonight.  Chris from Thinly Spread has blogged the deep filled apple pie recipe, so I am not going to repeat it, but I am going to share my Mum's dutch apple cake recipe. dutch apple cake
Dutch Apple Cake
This cake is delicious served warm with ice cream, but also cook the next day as a sliced cake with a nice cup of tea
  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 125 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 175 g caster sugar
  • 85 g butter
  • 75 ml milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Line the sides and base of a 20 x 20cm square cake tin with parchment paper. This is key otherwise your cake will stick.
  2. Whisk the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until the mixture is thick, I use my stand mixer for this.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the milk, then pour onto the eggs, whisking all the time. Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin..
  4. Arrange the apple slices over the batter and bake in the oven for ten minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180C/gas 4 and bake for a further 20–25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
  We want to say thank you to Waitrose who are going to send us a new apple tree for the garden and for all the new recipe inspiration for using our British Apples. apple print thankyou cards Disclosure: I was sent a £10 Waitrose voucher, a children's gardening set and will be getting an apple tree in exchange for this post.  
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A space party for an out of this world parents evening

It was parents evening at the school this week.  Safe to say we walked out of the school with the biggest grins on our faces.  Mini's conference was exceptional and he is coming on in leaps and bounds and his English work is fab (probably down to all the reading he does).  Maxi is too steaming ahead, but we are going to have to have a conversation about effort as at the moment he is applying minimum effort to get the desired outcome (Hey I guess that is a typical eight year old boys thing). space So we invited the boys friends to celebrate with them thanks to Birds Eye's new Chicken Space Shapes.  This was a real treat for my home cooked boys, who could not remember the last time they had chicken nuggets let alone space shaped ones made from 100% chicken breast! So thanks to Birdseye for supplying the space things and vouchers to feed my gang and their friends.    You can find out more about them on the Birds Eye facebook page and yes we had empty plates! But thanks to the Minimads for doing well at school.  I hope that I always come out of parents evenings feeling such pride.  
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Perfect presents for the man in your life and a giveaway

I adore my husband.  I have spent nearly  half of my life with him and I hope to grow old with him by my side.  As the years have past I have learned lots about him and also lots about my gift buying for him.  Never buy him clothes.  I buy what I would like him to wear rather than what he really likes to wear!  Times have changed and when we were younger and have duel incomes he really wanted for nothing.  If he saw something he liked then he would buy it for himself, but now we have little spare cash and he actually has a wish list again, which makes present buying much easier. He will turn 47 when we are in the US and my brother and sister in law are giving us the gift of time.  Yes we are going to have an evening out on our own without the boys and this will be the first time since Mum died that we have had the pleasure of each others company without our sidekicks.  Other things on his wishlist are: Fatface Lounge Pants 44057_default_medium Hubby loves the weight of Fat Face PJ bottoms.  They are his go to pants and they last and last.  He has some that are eight years old.  Yes at £35 they are rather expensive, but per wear they are great value. A Tie Slide Now don't tell him, but this is what I have bought him for his birthday.  He wears a suit everyday for work and he has a couple of slides (one gold and one silver) which he cherishes and I took my watch to the local jeweler to have the battery changed and saw this sterling silver slide and got it put aside for him earlier in the year.  I know that he will wear this and think of me.  The only other jewelry he wears is his watch and wedding ring. Slippers slippers These are not just any slippers, these are the royals royce of slippers provided by Canterbury Sheepskin.  They are hand made by a team of artisans in its Redwood factory in Christchurch, New Zealand.   Normally he would wear a pair from Clarks and they wouldn't last.  The Chris Slippers that he has are £74.06 and are superbly made.  What is remarkable is the removable and replaceable insole unit that means the life of the slipper can be extended over several winters.  He actually can not wait to slip his feet in to his slippers once he gets home from work.   All boot styles and slippers can be viewed on their website or you can purchase products via their webshop. Kelly Kettle medium_kelly_ket_4bb0f4ce6633a What man or boy doesn't like fire.  MadDad has been lusting over a Kelly Kettle for a couple of years now, especially when watching Maxi play football at the weekend.   This will certainly be on his christmas list and I hope he is delighted when he finds out this is what we have bought him for Christmas.  Giveaway. The lovely people at Canterbury Sheepskin are offering a reader of The Mad House the chance to win a pair of the following slippers. 1340-Casey CASEY SLIPPER £81.72 The Casey is a premium slipper that can either be a Women’s slipper (sheepskin collar turned down) or a unisex slipper (sheepskin collar turned up to keep your ankles warm). It is a supremely well made slipper that is very well designed, providing great comfort its wearer. The natural rubber sole is both hard wearing and non-slip. It has a removable and replaceable insole unit (see slipper insoles) that means the life of the slipper can be extended over several winters, giving a great value, high quality slipper!
  • Sheepskin slipper
  • Genuine sheepskin upper and inner sole with 15-17mm wool pile
  • Feature turned down wool collar (can be worn up or down)
  • Side-stitched rubber sole
  • Cushioned removable sheepskin insole
CHRIS SLIPPER  £74.06 CHRIS SLIPPER £74.06 The Chris slipper has been around for a long time and sells in volume all over the world. It’s a supremely well made unisex slipper that is very well designed, providing great comfort to its wearer. The natural rubber sole is both hard wearing and non-slip. It has a removable and replaceable insole unit (see slipper insoles) that means the life of the slipper can be extended over several winters, giving a great value, high quality slipper!
  • Sheepskin clog
  • Genuine sheepskin upper with 15-17mm wool pile
  • Side-stitched “rublite” sole
  • Cushioned removable sheepskin insole
MEL SLIPPER £63.84 MEL SLIPPER £63.84 The Mel is Canterbury Sheepskin’s most popular women’s sheepskin slipper that can be used indoors and also for a short trip outdoors. It has a soft PVC sole and a luxurious wool collar that can be worn either up or down.
  • Sheepskin slipper
  • Genuine sheepskin upper and inner sole with 15-17mm wool pile
  • Feature turned down wool collar (can be worn up or down)
  • Turned through soft P.V.C sole
a Rafflecopter giveaway Please note that taxes and any applicable import duties are the responsibility of the winner.  The charges I paid for my slippers were £18.40.
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A home made dream catcher made my Mini

Mini has had a lot of upheaval in the last month at school.  His classroom flooded and he has spent the last four weeks in other classrooms before getting a semi-permanent base in a year six classroom whilst they were bused to a nearby senior school. dream catcher Not only did two years classrooms flood, but the library and ICT area also flooded.  The dining hall has been turned in to a storage area and the school has been unable to serve warm meals.  All this uncertainty has resulted in a very anxious Mini.  This partly shows by him being filled with bravado and the other side with issues sleeping. So in addition to working on stopping him being a reluctant sleeper and doing things to prevent nightmares, we also made a dream catcher together.  When I say we, what I mean is I held the tape and chatted to him whist he made his own dream catcher. We used, some wood from a plant in the garden with tape to make into a circle (ish) and then mini used rope to tie round it.  He then strung some pretty beads on to string and attached them. Whilst he concentrated on making the dreamcatcher we talked about their history and all the things that have been worrying him.
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