These butterflies will warm your heart up in winter

dark butterflies with colourful spots of tissue paper

This is quite an easy craft to do, and one that both parents and little ones will enjoy.

Tissue paper offers so many possibilities – such as creating these amazing candle jars and these tissue paper butterflies are another great little craft activity.

We made ours some time ago and our butterflies are still displayed on the doors leading to our conservatory. The colourful spots of tissue paper act like stained glass, letting the light through and giving a darker room a merry feeling.

You can also make different shapes – butterflies, hearts or more traditional stained-glass like windows. The brightly coloured pieces will look great glued back against a darker coloured shape of paper.

What you will need:

cat playing with pipe cleaners and supplies used for butterflies

Step one: create the butterfly template

Depending on your abilities or mood, you can skip this step and draw freely on the cardboard paper.

We just drew a very simple butterfly with two larger wings and two smaller ones placed underneath.

You can draw other shapes too, such as hearts, or even a window shape. Place your template on the piece of black paper and draw around it using the white pencil (this is to make the butterfly shape easier to see)

 

butterfly shape traced with white on paper

Step two: cut out your butterfly

Use the scissors to cut out the butterfly shape. If you are making more than one butterfly, you may want to try cutting out all the shapes at once before cutting the holes and sticking the tissue paper. We enjoyed drawing them individually and cutting them separately, as some butterflies were smaller and some were bigger.

black cardboard paper butterfly shape

Step three: draw shapes

Using the white pencil, draw rounded shapes on the back of the black paper. Use scissors to carefully cut out the shapes which will form the holes for the tissue paper. We drew various round and oval shapes of different sizes.

Step four: Finishing

Cut out piece of tissue paper that are just slightly bigger than the openings you created in step three. Glue them to the back of the butterfly shape. Use only a tiny amount of glue as too much will cause the tissue paper to get wet and tear. Finish the butterfly with two pipe cleaner antennae attached with bobs of glue or with tape.

colourful paper butterflies against window

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Give a new life to your pegs in the shape of spiders!

Pipe-cleaner-spiders

My son and I were stuck indoors the other day because of illness and rain. So as we were running out of ideas and suffering from cabin fever, we decided to give the idea of making spider pegs with pipecleaners a try with a few supplies that we had at hand.

This is an easy craft that would enchant children of various ages and abilities.

What you’ll need:

supplies for spiders

Step one

Using the felt tip pens colour the spider’s bodies. Colours that complement each other such as a darker and a lighter tone are always best. Leave to dry for a bit.

coloured peg

Step two

Push the pipe cleaners through the pegs. Bend them so as to form legs bent towards the front and towards the back. Tell your cat that it’s not for them to play with!

cat paw holding the spider's pipe cleaners

Step three

Add your eyes and voila: you have your cute sassy pipe cleaner spiders!

spider peg with yellow pipe cleaners as legs

spider peg with blue pipe cleaner legs

three spiders with pipe cleaner legs

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Our First Pumpkin Carving Adventure…

Traditionally Halloween is not something we’ve really gotten excited about in our house.  But as our son has now reached the age where such things become the centre of excitement (we blame his playgroup) there was no getting away from it. Every time we went near a supermarket he’d cast glances toward the pumpkins on display and start asking if we could buy one. There was no getting away from it.

So, after initially hoping to get a few groceries we ended up coming away from our local supermarket armed with a couple of pumpkins (despite toddler entreaties to buy more) and zero clue what to do with them.

Of course, the Internet had the answer; there’s an abundance of sites out there with guides like “How to Carve the Perfect Jack O’Lantern” or how to accomplish “A Spooktacular Pumpkin Carving”… all done by experts and looking like it.

Here’s our first tip – if you’ve never carved a pumpkin before DON’T look to Instagram for inspiration; those amazingly crafted works of vegetable sculpture will only make you feel out of your league as you stand there at the table armed with a vegetable knife and bowl for the innards.

So, here’s what you’ll need for a standard pumpkin caving:

1 Pumpkin – the larger the better as carving smaller pumpkins can get tricky
1 Tea light
Table Spoon
Sharp Serrated Knife
Small Serrated Knife

Step One

Choose a pumpkin – the larger the better as carving the smaller ones can prove tricky with less space for the features – and use a sharp serrated knife to cut off the crown.  Try and cut this as straight as you can or, like ours, your finished pumpkin may end up looking like it was given a lobotomy by Stevie Wonder.

Step Two

Grab a table spoon and get scooping – all the seeds and fibres need removing. Use the spoon to remove some of the pumpkin’s flesh too.  TIP: the more flesh you remove the better,  the thinner the pumpkins ‘skull’ is the easier the carving will be so get at that flesh like a frenzied piranha.

To be honest there’s not a whole lot of point doing anything with the seeds and flesh other than lining the bin. Given how most of them end up during October I’ve got a sneaking suspicion they’re not harvested for taste.

You’ll possibly need a hoover / broom at this point too should your helper have been as enthusiastic as ours in throwing away from those pumpkin seeds. Oh, and to wash your hands – the inside of a pumpkin is not the most pleasant of aromas.

Step Three

With your marker pen draw an outline of the face you want on your pumpkin then, with a small serrated knife, cut out the eyes, nose and mouth. Always remember to cut away from you in case the knife slips and to ensure that little ears aren’t paying too much attention when you do….

Step Four

Place the tea light inside the pumpkin, light it and pop the crown back on your Jack O’Lantern’s head and… voila!

For a first go we were pretty proud of ours. They’re not likely to win any beauty contests but we had a whole lot of fun making them and our little one loved the whole process and, cheesy as it may be, that’s what counts, isn’t it?

We hope you have a lot of fun carving your Jack O’Lantern and have a great Halloween. Don’t forget to let us know – in the comments below or on facebook – how your pumpkin carving goes and subscribe to our newsletter for more great fun activities and places to visit on rainy days.

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!

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.

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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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How To Make Play Dough at Home

Finding indoor activities for the kids to do can be hard. By day two of the winter holidays you are wracking your brain for fresh ideas that are going to last longer than 5 minutes.

For decades, kids have loved the fun of play dough. We played with it as kids and our parents before us. It‘s amazing how such a simple play tool can get hours of enjoyment.

The even better part about all this is you can make play dough at home!

The bonus of hand making your play dough instead of buying it is 1. To save you money and 2. It keeps the kids occupied for even longer while you make it. Making play dough with the kids is also a great way to get them involved. At after all, what’s the worst thing that can happen right!

Making your own play dough also gives you scope to use your imagination and make sensory play dough. Why not try adding in some glitter or even rice for a textured feel for kids learning the difference between rough and smooth.

In case you are wondering, making play dough is super simple and it doesn’t even need to be cooked. You will have all the ingredients sitting in your pantry, so when the need for play dough arises, you are sure to have it covered.

Here is a tried and true recipe to make play dough at home.

Play dough is usually made out of 5 – 6 staple ingredients being flour, salt (acts as a preservative), oil, water, cream of tartar (can be made without it) and food colouring. Yep, that is it! Non toxic play dough that could even be eaten (although not recommended!)

If you don’t have cream of tartar, not to worry, you can make your play dough without it. All it does it helps your play dough to last longer. Recipes without cream of tartar usually have extra salt to preserve it a little longer.

Here are two play dough recipes we love and they are super simple to make. Which ever recipe you use, the method is the same.

Play Dough with Cream of Tartar:

  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 2 – 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp food colouring
  • 2 tbs cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water

Play Dough without Cream of Tartar:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 60ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil
  • food colouring
  • 250ml (1 cup) water

Mix the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Make a well in the centre and add your oil.

Add your food colouring to the water and gradually add the water in ¼ at a time to make sure it isn’t too sticky.

Knead the dough on a floured board until the stickiness has gone. You can add extra flour if needed. This is a great job for the kids to do as well!

Voila! Play dough that is ready to play with.

To store your play dough, place it in an airtight container or plastic zip lock bag. You can store it in the fridge for longer keeping.