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Easy activities to do with autumn leaves

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves open a myriad of opportunities for little ones to get acquainted with nature and its multitude of colours and to use their imagination.

You can try and extract colours from autumn leaves and also give them a new life as hedgehogs, use them to decorate a frame of one of your paintings or to actually be part of a painting and make them a sort of a 3D form of art!

1. Leaf Hairstyles

This is a very creative idea, that will make use of your children’s creativity. You can either download printables on this website or you can ask your children to use their imagination by first drawing various human silhouettes and imagining different hair styles of various colours.

2. Laminated leaves

If you have a laminating machine, you can keep the leaves forever, or for as long as you want, and create various items with them. You can, for example, after you have laminated them, make a whole in one end, using a hole punch, then insert some string in the holes and create a beautiful autumnal garland.

Or you can stick some googly eyes on them and make them into different shapes. We used ours on a scrap book with souvenir pictures of our son. If you don’t have a laminating machine, you can use cling film. Put a few leaves in between two sheets of cling film and you can then put this on a window to make a very nice autumn decoration.

laminated leaves garland
Source: Pinterest

Laminated leaves in a scrapbook

3. Ghost leaves

This is very easy and spot on for Halloween! It makes a very nice decoration for Halloween that your kids can get involved in. All you need is (obviously) leaves, some white acrylic paint and a paintbrush, a black permanent marker and a string – if you want to put them in a garland.

Begin by painting the leaves – usually putting two coats of paint will do the job. Leave to dry, then paint the eyes and the mouth. In order to make the garland, tie the ropes to the stems of the leaves and there you go! Ready to spook up your neighbours!

Our Favourite Movie Rain Scenes

couple hugging on sofa watching films

When was the last time you saw a film and it drizzled? It never seems your favourite movie characters get caught by a quick rain shower. It would seem that when it comes to movies, it never rains but it pours. Rain has been used for symbolic cleansing, amping up the drama or adding some extra steam to a heated bit of on-screen passion.

We’ve put together a quick list of some of our favourite rain-soaked scenes and would love to know yours.

Blade Runner

A visual masterpiece which received something of a muted reaction upon release waaaaaay back in 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner reaches its climax with one of the most famous soliloquies in the history of cinema, delivered and largely improvised by Rutger Hauer as the rain hammers down.. “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

The Shawshank Redemption

Another classic that faired surprisingly poorly upon initial release. The escape sequence which sees Andy Dufresne crawl through “five hundred yards of s**t-smelling foulness” to emerge into the pouring rain and be washed clean is an undeniably euphoric and classic piece of cinema with Andy smiling as only a falsely-imprisoned man experiencing freedom can.

Spiderman

With all the comic book adaptations that have followed and the multiple re-castings of everyone’s favourite web slinger, it would be easy to forget 2002’s Spiderman were it not for the one scene that gets shown most of the time – that famous upside-down kiss in the rain. Of course, if we’re talking famous kisses in the rain there’s also Four Weddings and a Funeral. Or the ending of Breakfast at Tiffanies or…

Jurassic Park

Its effects might not seem so cutting-edge now, but in 1993 Jurassic Park was a real game-changer and Spielberg made full use of the rain to amp up the tension and terror in this scene. Power to the electric fences is down, the guided cars are stalled inside the dinosaur enclosure and the rain is hammering down as we first encounter the T-Rex with fogged up windows hampering visibility, mud and puddles making running away treacherous and hard going…

Back to the Future 2

10:04 p.m. on Nov. 12, 1955, a lightning strike hits the Hill Valley Clock Tower and, in Back to the Future – generates the 1.21 gigawatts needed to send Marty McFly back… well, to the future. But in the timeline crossing sequel, in another part of town, the present-day Doc is inside the DeLorean when it’s struck by lightning and he vanishes in a flash leaving Marty stood alone as the rain starts to fall….

Forest Gump

In a film stuffed with classic scenes stuffed from opening to closing credits, this one often gets forgotten but it would seem Forest Gump’s Vietnam War experience was pretty much a wet one. “One day it started raining, and it didn’t quite for four months..”

The Blue Umbrella

Is there any film company out there as good at trashing our emotions as Pixar? Have you seen the first 10 minutes of Up?! Visual masters that they are, the folks at Pixar can create truly beautiful and poignant scenes and The Blue Umbrella short film is a joy to watch.

Singing In The Rain

Of course, there’s few more iconic rain scenes in film than this one – surely the most famous scene to take place against the rain? There’s so many myths about this one too – that it was filmed in one take, that there was milk mixed in with the rain to make it more visible… but no; the filming took three days, Gene Kelly was running a fever throughout, would get so soaked that his wool suit would shrink during filming and it’s strong back-lighting that makes the rain so dramatic and iconic.

Well, these are ours – what’s your favourite cinematic rain scene? Tell us in the comments below.

Make these 7 easy Halloween sweets and crafts this autumn

Halloween pumpkin head

Halloween and the end of the year  celebrations in general can feel like a bit of a headache. Children can quickly overdose on sugar, and parents can easily get overwhelmed with the multitude of sweets and crafts and costumes to make. But let’s not get too scary, we’re here to help with some of our favourite ideas to help keep it all fun and easy. While we’re not big fans of the white stuff (sugar!) in this household, a little every now and then can’t really hurt, especially during festivities.

Easy Halloween crafts

Pumpkin sweets holder

candy treat or treat pumpkin

This is a perfect craft if you want to introduce your children to pumpkin carving and if you’re not a pro at carving yourself (those faces can be surprisingly tricky to get right). Start with a small pumpkin and carve a simple word for example, like “boo!” or “scary”.

You will need:

  • Old newspaper to collect the seeds
  • Small pumpkin
  • Large spoon
  • Sharp knife
  • Sweets

Lay the newspaper on a flat surface. Slice the top off the pumpkin and scoop the flesh out with the spoon (as much as you can of it!).  Spell out words such as “Boo” or “Trick or treat” or you can even try your hand at carving a simple face with two eyes, a nose and a mouth, carving out the flesh to leave clear holes. Once ready, fill the pumpkins with sweets.

Pumpkin seeds are apparently very rich in nutrients and minerals such as magnesium. You can roast them by spreading them in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes to dry them out.  You can also mix the seeds with some olive oil, salt and maybe some spices if you wish.

Pumpkin bag

Hobbycraft pumpkin bag

You will need:

Using your scissors carefully (especially for the little ones) cut 2 equally sized pumpkin shapes from the orange felt. Nothing too complicated, just a rounded shape with a stem. Paint some orange lines on one of the pumpkin shapes and leave to dry. This will be the front of your pumpkin bag. Take the black felt and cut out 3 triangles for the pumpkin eyes and nose and a half-moon shape with two small triangles cut into it for the pumpkin’s mouth. Arrange these on the pumpkin shape and glue them in place.

Tie a knot in each end of your rattail cord – this will become the handle for your pumpkin bag.

Use a running stitch to join both sides of the pumpkin bag with your purple thread and stitch the cord securely at each side. Leave an opening at the top of the pumpkin bag for those treats!

Personnalised Witch hat

You can buy ready-made witches hats pretty much everywhere these days, but it’s great fun to exercise your children’s imagination by decorating them.

You will need:

Using the scissors cut star and moon shapes from the foam then remove the back and attach them to your witch hat! Presto! You have your own personalised witch hat!

Delicious Halloween sweets

Scary biscuits

Halloween biscuits

You will need:

  • 125 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 medium egg
  • 250 g plain flour
  • Small amount of sugarpaste in orange, black, green and white
  • Halloween assorted cookie cutters
  • Baking trays lined with baking paper

Heat the oven to 160 / gas mark 3. Mix together the butter, sugar, mixed spice and a pinch of salt, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg, then beat in the flour until the mixture binds together to form a dough. If the dough is very soft, wrap it in a plastic bag and chill until it’s firm enough to roll out.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured work surface to about 3 mm thick. Using the halloween cookie cutters, cut out shapes from the dough. Lay the shapes on lined baking trays. Bake the biscuits one tray at a time, in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies start to turn golden at the edges. Remove from the oven.

While they’re cooking, knead the sugarpaste to soften it, then roll it out on a work surface dusted with icing sugar. Using the halloween cutters, cut out the same shape as the biscuits. Place them on the hot cookies so that the heat  sticks the sugarpaste on. You can add extra details with contrasting colours of sugarpaste. These can be stored for up to a week (but are best consumed fresh – which is great news for the kids!)

Toffee apples

tofee apples for halloween

This is a very easy one that your children will love.

You will need:

  • A few Braeburn apples – around 8 or as many as you wish
  • 500 g Demerara sugar
  • 75 g unsalted butter
  • 225 g golden syrup
  • 2tsp white vinegar

Wash and dry the apples. Insert a wooden stick or fork through each core. Heat the sugar, butter, golden syrup, vinegar and 150 ml of water in a pan, stirring until the sugar dissolves then let it boil until the mixture becomes toffee. To check this, drop a little of the mixture into a glass of cold water – if it instantly hardens, you’ve got toffee.

Dip each apple in the toffee and twist. Let any excess drip off and leave to cool on a sheet of greaseproof paper.

Meringue ghosts

Funny meringue ghosts for Halloween party

You will need:

  • 150 g egg whites
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 50 g dark chocolate melted
  • Large piping bag
  • 1.5 cm plain piping tube
  • Small disposable pipping bag
  • Backing trays lined with baking paper

Heat the oven to 120 C / gas mark 1/2. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Slowly add about half the caster sugar, a spoonful at the time, whisking well after each addition, then whisk in the remaining sugar. Spoon the mixture into the large piping bag fitted with the plain piping tube. Pipe ghost shapes onto the baking trays. Bake the meringues for 1-1 1/2 hours or until they have dried out. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool in there.

Fill the disposable piping bag with the melted chocolate, cut off the end of the bag to create a small hole and pipe faces on to the meringues. Leave the chocolate to set before serving. These can keep for up to two weeks but they might not last that long!!

Cake pops

Cake pops and cup cakes decoration for Halloween

For mumified cake pops you will need:

  • 300 g shop-bought chocolate sponge cake
  • 150 g milk chocolate
  • 300 g white chocolate
  • Black writing icing (or any colour you fancy)

Place the cake in a large bowl and break it up into small pieces. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave on low until smooth. Add the melted chocolate to the cake pieces and mix together until combined. Roll the mixture into small golf-ball-size balls in your hands and place on a palate. Push a lollipop stick halfway through each cake ball and freeze for 20 mins.

Melt 200 g of the white chocolate in the microwave on low and once smooth remove the cake pops from the freezer. Dip each cake ball in the melted chocolate and return to the plate to set. Melt the remaining 100 g of white chocolate and spoon into a piping bag. Run the piping bag over the cake pops in a zig zag formation to make look like bandages. Place two poppy seeds or use the black writing icing to make eyes and allow to set once more before serving.

You can also make cake pops with various decorations such as skulls, pumpkins or spider webs.

*Rainy Days Fun may earn a small commission for links to any products or services from this website.

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A rainy and enjoyable September holiday in Romania

Hunedoara castle in Romania

You may have noticed that there’s been a bit of a space between posts recently – we’ve been away, taking a slightly later holiday this year to visit my home country, Romania.

Our little one has been exploring with us from a young age and is now a seasoned traveller so we’re lucky when it comes to flights and long car journeys so we took the opportunity to hire a car and get out and about.

Having overcome his initial nerves at driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road my husband quickly go to grips with driving in Romania and we headed out for our first destination: a small town called Orsova and the Danube with a gorgeous view across the river to Serbia on the opposite banks.

driving through Romania

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10 Simple Boredom Busters for a Boring Rainy Day

child home made mask

Turn the kids bed into a pirate ship

Do your children make their beds in the morning? We’re willing to bet they don’t, especially at weekends. So, on a rainy week-end, when everyone wants to lay in their pyjamas a little longer, why not embrace it, create a pirate ship right in your child’s bed and play a little pirate game. First name your ship, something like The Deceitful Eel, the Flying King or the Good Squid. Then make a team of crew mates – with dolls, toys and teddies and give them names : Hysterical Darius Scarr, or Sweatin’ Benjamin Sparrow. Take the top sheet and throw it over the headboard to make a sail. Make sure everyone – the captain, the crew members are on the bed, ensuring that they are not eaten by sharks (remind them of the shark at regular intervals).

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You can make these amazing candle jars with just tissue paper

multicoloured candle jars

When long rainy autumn days and evenings start hitting, days become shorter and more boring you’ll wonder what you can do next that can be entertaining both for your child and for yourself, as a parent. A good way to not give in to the moody blues of rainy days is to actually get absorbed in making something. Recycling your material to transform it into arts and crafts is also highly rewarding as you give a new life to your unwanted stuff.

This craft is perfect for children from 3 years old and up as it doesn’t require too many skills. It’s also a great occasion for family bonding as the parents dive in. And who knows; maybe once you’ve finished making it, you’ll have a really good piece of decoration to display proudly in your home! The cheerful colours of the jars as they’re lit up will warm your heart up!

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10 Hidden Gems in Kent

Sissinghurst Kent

Kent, the Garden of England, is a popular destination for tourists from both abroad and visitors from within the UK. From historic castles to world-famous zoos and cities there’s plenty to do but there are many a great attraction that aren’t quite so well known. We’ve put together a quick selection of ten hidden gems in Kent, some of the area’s best kept secrets, that are well worth a stop for those visiting the county and for those families who live in Kent looking for a family-friendly day out.

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A memorable day trip back to the time of the Romans

Bath crescent

I’ve always been fascinated by the Roman civilisation. Granted the history classes in school didn’t quite resonate with me, with rigid dates and battle facts , and I found Latin class excruciatingly difficult. But there was always something fascinating about Roman ruins; the buildings, the mosaics, the fact that they seemed to have led such a luxurious and lavish life style.

ad astra per aspera

One of my favourite novels through University was Marguerite Yourcenar’s ‘Memoirs of Hadrian‘. Amongst other aspects, this novel naturally depicts the past and somehow humanises these figures from Roman history that are mostly just statues to us these days.

I was interested in everything else that surrounded the Roman civilisation when visiting Roman ruins whether it was a mosaic in Constanta – Romanian harbour town by the Black Sea, the Roman villa in Lullingstone, the magnificent Via Apia in Rome or most recently Bath. In Lullingstone for example I loved seeing a piece of tile with a cat footprint on it, as the cat – typical feline – didn’t wait for the mix to dry and stepped in it, leaving evidence of it’s stubbornness that’s lasted 2,000 years.

So recently we decided to visit Bath, which is the ultimate “Roman” relic in the Anglo-Saxon English world. The weather wasn’t quite with us, but we live by the “Don’t let the rainy days spoil your holidays” mantra.

Bath street

I was immediately astonished at the architecture in Bath, houses there looked much more….Italian or French with a strange British twist, rather than ‘British British’ – in that they were taller, made of stone rather than brick, with cobbled streets and the gardens we could just about glimpse in the back gardens seemed luscious, almost Mediterranean.

Because Bath is quite a small town, and we didn’t have much time ahead of us we headed straight towards the Roman baths for a visit. We weren’t disappointed.

Roman BathsI didn’t know quite what to expect, as I thought initially that the baths would only be a pool of water, but there was much more to it inside, and we all learned a lot.

I had to wonder though what went through those Mediterranean Latin soldiers minds when they arrived in this rainy land of Saxon tribes, thousand of miles from home, that made them think “we’ll have to make it our own. Let’s make a lavish bath!”.

The fun legend says that one of the later Roman emperors was asked by a barbarian chieftain why he bathed once a day. The emperor answered in apologetic innocence that it was because he was too busy to bathe twice.

Around 43 AD, the Roman armies landed on the south coast of England with the aim to conquer the “more civilised” south-east of England. They were quite respectful to the gods and goddesses of those they conquered. The Iron Age local tribe believed the hot spring was sacred to the Goddess Sulis hence her Sacred Spring stayed while the landscape around began to change as the Romans, in very typical fashion, started colonising and trading.

In 60 AD a rebellion broke out, led by the British Queen Boudica – it was so violent that by the end of the rebellion the province lay in ruins. It took ten years to repair damage that had been inflicted in just a few months and it is thought that it was probably during this period of reconstruction that the Romans decided to turn the native sanctuary of Sulis into a curative establishment.

Roman bath model

So the Romans started building the baths, with very precise and elaborate systems of channels in order to tame the spring of hot water.

The excavations and archaeological diggings revealed a lot of details and were able to reconstruct what those Baths might have been like.

The Baths were elegant yet simple, with chambers for massage and relaxations, several broad walkways paved with white hard lilac slabs and alcoves. The pool was 1.5 meters deep and the hot spring water flowed constantly into the Great Bath – the water level being maintained by a bronze sluice. There are still some impressive pieces of Roman engineering at work, such as the very noisy arched overflow of water. They also had elaborate heating systems under the floors in what I imagine would have been the Roman equivalent of the “changing rooms”.

arched overflow roman baths

We also saw Roman artefacts that gave an idea life at the time, such as jugs, jewellery, coins and even tombstones. The building also hosted a temple for the cult of Minerva as, faced with the spring sacred to Sulis, the Romans may have thought that this Sulis was the equivalent of their own Minerva.

After the visit to the bath we strolled into town for some sightseeing and found the famous umbrellas in the Town Centre – what a brilliant idea to shelter people on a rainy day!

Bath umbrellas

We also strolled along the river Avon and admired the boats turning beneath the Pulteney Bridge and the elegant Royal Victoria park.

We had a wonderful and unforgettable visit to Bath. The landscapes were beautiful as we descended the Avon Valley to Bath and this town is one of the most charming in Britain. Thoroughly recommended to all looking for a little slice of history and a fun day out in England – there was plenty of interest even for our little one who referred to the baths themselves as “amazing”.

Bath River Avon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have hours of pirate fun with this easy to make paraphernalia

pirate map trial

Little ones love pirates and the idea of adventure, but rain can pretty much put a stop to plans of venturing outside for fun, especially during the summer holidays. But don’t let the rain spoil your holiday. What if I told you that you can have hours of indoors fun with a little imagination and very little material?

You can make a pirate hat and a map for a treasure hunt. Use a jewellery case and some chocolate coins or costume jewellery as treasure. You can also use old clothes to make a pirate costume.

This activity combines both the fun of arts and crafts through paper folding and drawing, imagination via costume making, treasure hunting and some exciting indoors (and outdoors) adventure.

Pirate hat

This hat is easily created by folding a black piece of paper and decorating with a skull and crossbones.

For the hat you will need :

  • 1 piece of A2 black paper (the bigger the piece of paper, the bigger the hat)
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • White paper

Lay the paper on a flat surface with the sort end facing you. Fold the paper over itself along the long side like a book and press flat.

Folding the pirate hat paper

Spin it around 90 degrees and fold the longest piece on itself again. Open it up and flip it back so that the loose ends are facing you. Fold the corners down to make the hat shape.

hat folded corners

Then fold over the bottom edge up to meet the bottom of the triangles. Turn over the hat and repeat. Use some glue to make sure the hat is held together.
To decorate you can draw a skull and crossbones (or use a pirate rubber stamp and an inkpad if you have one) on a white piece of paper. Cut them shaped as badges and glue them on the front of the hat for that pirate-y finish.

pirate hat and treasure

 

Treasure map

You can create an antique-effect treasure map using tea, water and a piece of paper.  You can draw an imaginary island or your back garden – either way children will use their imagination and will have hours of fun with their friends.

You will need:

  • 1 piece of white A4 paper
  • 1 teabag and water
  • Sponge
  • Paint brush and coloured paints
  • Fine black pen

Tear all four paper edges to make them slightly rugged and uneven. Make some tea and leave the tea bag in the water until it becomes dark brown. Make sure it’s not boiling hot! Dip the sponge into the tea and then dab all over the paper to stain it and leave the paper to dry. If you want the paper to be a darker shade, repeat.

For an even more enhanced antique effect, you can use dark brown to pain the edges of the paper, then leave to dry.

For finishing touches use your imagination to draw an island, palm trees, fish. Don’t forget the position of the treasure and to add the clues!

pirate map

 

You can also draw a map of your home, similar to a plan and put different sets of clues but each ending at the same final location. The easiest way to set up the treasure trail is by working backwards. Begin by placing the treasure in the final spot, take the clue for this location and hide it in another chosen spot. Keep doing this for all the clues until you are left with one. This will be the starting clue you give to the treasure hunt players.

Pirate suit

You can use a pair of trousers and just roll them up just below the knee with an old shirt (the more ragged the better).
If you are really in the mood to make costumes, you can convert an old pair of trousers. To convert these, if you don’t mind getting rid of them, cut the legs at an angle, with the long, tapered end facing out.
The cut will look like a long triangle from the side. Cut through the middle of this triangle up to just below the knees. Then tie the two ends of each legging.

And this way, the whole gang is ready to find the hidden treasure! Use chocolate coins or some piece of jewellery in the hidden treasure.
Happy treasure hunting!

 

What will vinegar do to a simple egg?

egg experiment
This is another fun experiment and we all had lots of fun watching the egg grow and seeing how big it can actually grow. However be aware that this experiment takes more than just one day. It’s fun to watch the egg shed its shell and grow.
 
You will need :
  • An egg
  • A glass
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Optional – food colouring if you want to turn it a different colour.
Place your egg gently in the glass, then pour enough vinegar over to cover it. You’ll notice bubbles starting to appear all over the shell. This means the shell is starting to dissolve.While it starts dissolving straight away it takes a while for the shell to dissolve completely.
Egg Vinegar Experiment
Day 1: Shell starts dissolving and carbon dioxide forms on the shell
 
Leave the egg in the vinegar for a day, then rinse it off and replace the vinegar with fresh vinegar. The egg should have shed most of its shell and already become slightly bigger.
 
By the end of day two ours had completely shed its shell and almost doubled in size.
Egg in vinegar without shell
Day 2: Whoa, no more shell!
 
To make the egg even bigger you can place it in a glass of water and leave it overnight. Try adding some food colouring to the water and you can pretend it is a giant alien egg!
Giant egg without shell
Day 3: squishy giant egg – the pale blue hue is given by the food colouring.

And now for the science bit:

When bubbles form on the shell, this means the acetic acid in the vinegar is reacting with the calcium carbonate in the shell and releasing carbon dioxide gas.
When the egg becomes bigger in water, this is because the shell is semi-permeable which means it will let through some water.
toddler holding egg without shell
 
Out of curiosity, after the experiment, we popped the egg. It took a mere touch of the knife and the egg burst (make sure to put it in a bowl though to avoid mess). The egg yolk and the egg white still remained concentrated together while water and vinegar spread throughout in the bowl.
Let us know in the comments if you tried this experiment? We tried adding some good colouring to make the egg blue and it turned a very pale blue.
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