Sunday 29 June 2014

Prayer mat craft


So today was the second day (or was it the first day?) of Ramadan. There was a bit of confusion over the start of Ramadan due to the moon sighting and calculations being different in different countries. As a Turkish family, we went with the Turkish calculations, making this the second day of Ramadan.

Ramadan is an exciting time of the year. I dread it and look forward to it at the same time! I worry I won't be able to fast, I worry about being tired and hungry but, on the other hand, the atmosphere is great, it's electric! There's a great feeling of excitement amongst the Muslim community as people become more aware of religious duties and expectations. They take time out to read Quran and spend time in religious reflection.

D has started to get into the Ramadan spirit since we read about the Ramadan Moon a few weeks ago. She has been eagerly awaiting it and wanting to look out the window and see it over the past few days. Unfortunately, due to the cloudy weather, she has not seen it yet but inshallah she will be able to see the moon at some point over the next few days.

This year I really want to make Ramadan special for the kids as D is now old enough to understand what it is about. I am planning to do lots of arts and crafts with a religious feel, read lots of stories and start to listen to the Quran.

Here is out first Ramadan craft - a prayer mat made of scrap pieces of fabric. First I cut a rectangular piece of fabric and the kids stuck it on some white card. Then a cut some pieces of fabric in a contrasting colour to decorate the mat. D helped to cut her pieces of fabric and also added a bit of extra sparkle with some sequins.


This is R's prayer mat, he needed a lot of help from me to stick the pieces in the right places and insisted on it being blue!


This is D's prayer mat which had to be pink of course!


Wednesday 25 June 2014

Fish bathtime game

Find the fish pairs


Having just received our new Fun Fish Counters, the children were eager to use them. I filled the bath and chose pairs of fish (there are 5 of each type of fish) to throw in. To top it off, a splash of blue Liquid Watercolour made the water all the more inviting. R was ecstatic to see the bathwater his favourite colour and impatiently began to scoop around in the water before he even got in.

The children enjoyed scooping around the bottom of the bathtub trying to catch the fish. They placed their caught fish on the side of the bath and began to excitedly match the pairs. The vibrant colours of the fish are eye-grabbing and really brightened up the bathroom. With the wide array of colours and shapes as well as the learning potential (matching pairs, grouping into sets, counting), these fish are bound to be a firm favourite for a long time to come!



Monday 23 June 2014

Animal match activity tray

Animal match activity and a short introduction to the Montessori method      


For the last year I have been looking into the Montessori method, a holistic approach to education that aims to develop the whole child. I am no expert and still have a lot to learn but I aspire to use this approach more in our day to day life.

Maria Montessori was the first female doctor in Italy and spent a lot of time observing children to find out how they learn and how educators could help them to reach their full potential. She established schools in Rome for disadvantaged children and this became an opportunity for her to develop her method of  teaching. This method is now known throughout the world and many are realising the benefits of a method that recognises the importance of self-motivation and independence in learning. Montessori saw the ages of birth to six years as a critical period for learning where children have the greatest capacity for learning.  


Both my children are in this critical period of learning at the moment and I realise the important of giving them opportunities for learning everyday and everywhere. Montessori talks about setting up activities for children to do on trays. I like this idea as it keeps the activity contained (most of the time) and gives the children a manageable area to work in. Ideally, trays should be set up and available for children to use at any time they wish. However, my children have not yet mastered the skills of tidying up (something we are working on but really difficult with a toddler!) so I don't normally leave things out for too long. I usually set up these activities on trays when I know we have a bit of free time.

I love the way Montessori promotes independence in young children, suggesting they learn practical life skills with activities which can be set up on trays. Practical life trays can include activities such as peeling carrots, polishing mirrors and scooping and pouring. However, I also like to make activity trays for a wide range of activities.

This activity is one I have seen a few times on various websites. I have packs of animals cards and a variety of little animal figures so it only took a few minutes to set up. I set up 2 different trays, one for D and one for R. The aim of the activity is to match the 3D figure to the 2D picture.


This activity helps to develop a number of important skills. When children do an activity like this, it enables them to understand the picture is a representation of a real object. This skill is termed symbolic representation. As you can see, the pictures here are not exactly the same as the real objects (they are not photographs). This tests the child's ability to think about the distinct features which the object and picture share. It is a way of testing their reasoning skills as well as building their knowledge of different categories. Visual discrimination skills are also needed for this kind of activity. So many benefits to what would, at first, seem like such a simple activity!



Friday 20 June 2014



Recently, I managed to acquire an old fashioned set of weighing scales, well-used and slightly rusty, but they still have plenty of life left in them. There's something quite lovely about owning something vintage with all that fascinating history to wonder about. 


My mother has a set of these type of scales and it is what I grew up using and learnt to measure ingredients for baking on. I've always wanted some so when I saw them advertised I knew I had to snap them up. I bought them home and the children were as excited as I was to try them out. I asked the children what they would like to make and their immediate response was cupcakes, of course!

My children absolutely adore cupcakes, and not just eating them. I like to get them involved in the whole process; making the batter, filling up the cupcake cases and, best of all, making the icing and spreading it over the slightly cooled cakes and pouring the sprinkles on the top! They love to pour the ingredients into the bowl and stir everything together with their big wooden spoons. We learn about weighing the ingredients, numbers and balancing, which is a lovely introduction to simple mathematics. I just love it when learning can be fun!


Ingredients for batter:

4 oz (100g) butter
4 oz (100g) castor sugar
4 oz (100g) self raising flour
2 eggs

Ingredients for icing:

Icing sugar
food colouring
sprinkles (optional)

1) Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2) add the eggs one at a time.
3) Add the flour and mix.
4) Spoon into cupcake cases.
5) Bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes.
6) Ice once cooled.


Tuesday 17 June 2014

Patterns with beads


Threading beads is a great activity that will keep children as young as toddlers happily entertained. We have these wooden beads which both children love to play with. D loves to make necklaces and bracelets and R, at 25 months old, is just satisfied to get a few beads on the string!


We often use pipe cleaners to thread the beads onto rather than the laces that come with the set as this is easier for younger children to achieve. Today I decided to use the beads to make a pattern matching activity. I put rows of beads on pipe cleaners, and then invited D to replicate the pattern on another pipe cleaner.


Copying a patterns is a great way of introducing children to early maths skills. It helps them to recognise order in the world and is the basis of later skills such as multiplication.


D really enjoyed this activity and managed to reproduce the patterns quicker than I thought! I will have to give her a few more to do next time.

U, me and the kids

Monday 16 June 2014

Spelling with wooden letters

This activity is such a simple one. Simply write some words on a piece of paper and give your child some wooden letter. Your child can then make the words with the wooden letters. This is a great early literacy activity which introduces children to simple, short words. 

D had great fun doing this activity. I am starting to teach her to read so we talked about the sounds the letters make individually, then how they joined together to produce the words. She enjoyed sounding out the letters and producing the words. She became excited when she realised she was reading!

Make this a bilingual activity by spelling words from another language!

We used the wooden letters from this set:

I also found a set of wooden letters without the spelling boards:


Wednesday 11 June 2014

Wild Garlic


We regularly go to the woods near our home for a walk and play in the muddy stream. I am a firm believer in outdoor play and try to take my children outdoors to play and explore as much as possible. Unfortunately, the grey and wet British weather does not always allow for such outings as much as I would like. It is fine and even fun to go out in the wind and rain some of the time, in fact, the children adore splashing in puddles - just try and stop them! However, I much prefer going out in the sunshine. There's just something about seeing the sunshine that puts a smile on my face.

During a recent trip to the woods, I picked some wild garlic. I had never used wild garlic in cooking before but knew it was edible and was intrigued to try it. I took a bucketful home and set to work searching for some recipes. Here is what I made...

Garlic butter

This was super easy and quick to make. I softened some butter for about 20 seconds in the microwave, chopped up some wild garlic, then combined the two. 



Next, I placed the garlic butter on some grease proof paper (baking parchment), rolled it up into a sausage shape and placed it in the freezer.


Now whenever I want to make garlic bread I can just cut off some slices of garlic butter. You can also cut off a slice and add to other recipes too.

Wild garlic soup

I found a recipe for wild garlic soup on the internet but changed it slightly to use up what I had on the fridge. Here are the ingredients:

Wild garlic
Vegetable stock

1) Fry the onion.
2) Add all the other vegetables and fry for a few minutes.
3) Add the vegetable stock and simmer for about 30 minutes.
4) Blend until smooth.



Chicken, red pepper and wild garlic enchiladas

Fajitas are a favourite of mine that I've only recently started making from scratch. I've made them with many different ingredients before and, since I had an abundance of wild garlic, I decided to add it to the fajitas. The result was delicious!



Chicken breast
Red pepper
Wild garlic
8 Tortilla wraps
Grated cheese (I used cheddar)
2 cartons of passata
1 or 2 chopped garlic cloves

To make the filling

1) Fry the onions.
2) Add the chicken and fry for a few minutes.
4) Add a teaspoon or two of cumin and stir.
3) Add the peppers and wild garlic and fry for a few minutes.


To make the sauce

1) Fry the garlic in some oil.
2) Add the passata and stir.
3) Add a teaspoon or two of cumin, stir and simmer for about 5 minutes.

(I have made the sauce with chopped tomatoes before. Once cooked, I blended it to a smooth sauce)

To assemble

1) Place the chicken mixture in the middle of a tortilla.
2) Drizzle with the sauce and add a sprinkling of cheese and roll up.
3) Place in a baking dish that has been covered with a thin layer of the sauce.
4) Repeat with the other tortilla wraps.
5) Finally, spread the remaining sauce over all the tortilla wraps in the baking dish.
6) Sprinkle with more cheese.
7) Bake in the oven for 20-30 mintues.



Have you ever cooked with wild garlic? What did you make?


Sunday 8 June 2014

How our chicks have grown!


This is a post for all the chicken lovers! Some photos of our chicks. It's amazing how they've grown in the past 2 months since we brought them home.







D feeding the chickens.


My husband and children love watching the chickens!

Here are a few pictures of our newest chickens.






Our first eggs!



We are still trying to work out which of our chicks are male and which are female. Can you tell from the picture?


Wooden letters and coloured rice sensory tub


I often put together sensory play tubs for the kids to explore. For this one I used some coloured rice which we made about 6 months ago. We keep it in a plastic container and the children love to play with it. They often use spoons to scoop it up and pour it into bowls. This time I decided to add some petals and some wooden letters to encourage literacy development.


Coloured rice is not difficult to make. All you need is a bag of rice and some food colouring. Put both ingredients in a zip lock bag and mix until all the rice has been coated with the food colouring. Then, thinly spread the rice on a tray and leave to dry overnight. Store in an airtight container and it will keep for months, perhaps even years! We have been using ours for at least 6 months now.


I gave the children some kids size kitchen utensils to use and also our favourite Learning Resources Sorting Bowls (Set of 6). The children practiced their fine motor skills using the utensils to scoop and pour and the tweezers to pick up the objects. These actions are performed by using the vital pincer grip movement, a skill which develops between the ages of 9-12 months and is crucial for skills such as feeding oneself, holding a pencil and fastening closures on clothes and shoes.

The children began to separate all the different items, placing the petals together and pouring the rice into the sorting bowls. The letters got scattered all over the floor and did not end up being sorted by colour into the different bowls, which is what I had intended, but that's fine. With an activity like this, I like to let the children play the way they want without too many interruptions or suggestions from me. So, I set up the activity, invite them to play and sit back and watch the mess (it usually get's quite messy) occur!



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