Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Making memories: The best creative activities for your little ones across the UK

Some of the best bonding experiences you can have with your children come from making things at home, mixing and decorating cakes, collecting leaves and creating a collage or putting down newspaper and getting out the poster paints.  But, there are times when you simply can’t face clearing up the mess afterwards. That’s why incorporating a creative session into a day out or a holiday can be so much fun for everyone. Here are just a few of the best workshops taking place this spring and summer around the UK.

Make your own

While it can sometimes be tricky to enthuse children about helping you in the kitchen, signing up for a cookery course together can instil them with a love of cooking along with giving them the confidence to create their own dishes. Jamie Oliver has a clutch of cookery schools across the country. At Jamie’s two London and one Brighton school, there is a an option, for 12 to 16-year-olds, to make pizza dough from scratch before rolling it out, topping it and putting it into the wood-fire oven to eat at the lesson. Or for younger children, you could join the Focaccia-making course, learning to knead and prove the bread before topping it and taking it home with you. Jamie’s Ministry of Food in the grounds of Alnwick Garden is a good option for those living or holidaying in the north as you could combine a family cookery session with a trip to the child-friendly gardens with their ride-on tractors and fountains.

Where the art is


On a rainy day, nothing beats getting out the paint pots and creating a mini masterpiece. But rather than staying at home, many of the country’s top art galleries hold workshops where you can create your own works of art in the shadow of some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. London’s National Portrait Gallery has a series of portrait workshops in the pipeline, including creating a shadow portrait of your family or you can make animated characters of yourselves. Or try Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery where sessions include kite-making workshops.

Good clean fun


Wales’ Margam Country Park has some 850 acres of parkland, ancient monuments and wildlife havens to explore. Throughout the year, the park has a packed calendar of events and the Easter holidays are no exception. Activity sessions include making soap socks to fit in your soap so you can tie it to the tap or to use up all those little pieces of soap that you would usually throw out. Or you could join in the Easter Monday Family Fun Day, taking part in circus workshops and stocking up on materials to take home in the craft and gift fair. Parkdean’s Trecco Bay caravan park is just a 15-minute drive away so you could combine a day out at the country park with a holiday exploring the beautiful coastline at Porthcawl, keeping any crafty bits and bobs you buy for any rainy days in the caravan.

Studio time


One of Northumberland’s most unique holiday sites, Pot a Doodle Do, offers the chance to combine a stay in a wigwam with a day of crafting. You can try your hand at painting personalised ceramics, creating a mosaic or glass painting before lighting your campfire for an al fresco dinner, then bedding down for the night in a wooden wigwam. It usually takes a couple of days for your artwork to be ready to take home, so it’s an excuse to enjoy a longer holiday, taking in some of the sights of the breathtaking Northumberland coastline.

A glass act


One of the world’s best glass-making centres, the National Glass Centre in Sunderland showcases incredible creations and you can watch some of the most talented craftsmen and women in the industry giving glass blowing demonstrations. But, there’s also plenty of hands-on entertainment. Drop-in activities include creating an Easter-themed masterpiece, glass painting or creating a butterfly mobile. Sunderland sits near some of the North East’s breathtaking stretches of beach, so you could combine a city trip with some bucket-and-spade fun. For little train fans, The Pullman lodge, with its centrepiece of three original Pullman carriages from the Orient Express, makes for an unusual accommodation option.

Whichever activity you choose with your little ones, you’ll be able to enjoy some quality time together, making something which will adorn your mantelpiece or wall for years to come. 

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Monday, 14 April 2014

10 Fun Activities To Support Children's Mark Making

It can be an exciting time when your child starts to describe their own drawing as having a meaning. This is known as 'mark making' some thing that I have found Little Man is reluctant to do. This stage in children's development is all about starting the journey towards being able to write.

Mark making is a wonderful way of giving children an outlet for expressing their ideas, feelings and creative side. By providing your child with a variety of mark-making opportunities you can help them in perfecting these skills. 

Here are ten of our favourite play activities which have worked wonders to encourage Little man to give mark making a try.

Starting with larger movement helps children develop their gross motor skills and control, gaining confidence before trying to master fine motor skills. Activities such as using side walk paints can make a good start. Allowing children to make marks on a big scale and tell stories through their art.

Using large washing up brushes and paint brushes children can make large movements and marks through brushing the floor or cleaning toys.

Malleable play is another way you can encourage mark making. Little man loves play dough we usually have a new batch every week for him to play with and this tends to be his way of being creative as his not crazy about drawing or using paints.

If your preschooler is keen on painting or drawing this can be a fantastic way to encourage children to make marks. Simply using a variety to tools can make a range of different marks for them to explore pattern and the affects they can make.

Mono printing is one of my favourite activities for mark making. If you do not want too much mess or would like to leave this out for children to explore for them selves you can put the paint down and cover it with cling film which is tapped down. I prefer the messier version as you can create some beautiful prints together.

Last summer we had fun testing out crazy soap as a play material. The children had an amazing time playing with it and the activity ended with a great opportunity for drawing pictures and words in what was left.

This activity was always one of P's favourite as she was learning to draw and I must admit it's one I really should dig out again for Little Man to try. Making marks in a sand or salt try like this great one from Nurture Store makes an exciting change to pens and paper.

Need to do a spot of shopping? While writing your shopping list encourage your child to write their own for the trip. When you get to the shop have a look at the different labels and words surrounding them. Children will start to recognise words such as the name of the supermarket through your discussions and the patterns and colour's in the shop's branding.

Creating your own treasure maps is a nice way to stretch children's imagination and encouraging them to make their own sketches and observe the environment around them.

Whether they are indoors or outside children love to use clip boards and paper. It's an instant invitation for mark making and a great tool for any role play activity.

So there you go 10 different ways to encourage mark making in your home or setting. I hope you have fun discovering all the little drawings your preschool will be leaving you and feel free to share them with me on Facebook or Instagram

Friday, 11 April 2014

Summer of Fun In Dublin

Collaborative post with Travelodge

World famous for its ‘craic’, Dublin should be on everyone’s list of places to visit before they die. And even if you’ve been before, this city that combines old and new so beautifully, is well worth returning to again and again, especially in the summer when it’s alive with special events and festivals. The Travelodges in Dublin are a great base for exploring this fantastic, welcoming town.

Taste of Dublin: 12th-15th June

The perfect special treat for the gourmet in your life, this boutique style festival devoted to all things delicious, is held in the lovely green surroundings of Iveagh Gardens. Twenty of the town’s best restaurants will be showcasing their wares alongside countless producers.

Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival: 14th -24th June

Dublin’s annual gay pride festival culminates in a huge, colourful parade that’s a brilliant spectacle to take part in or just watch from the sidelines. In fact, it’s become such a massive event that it’s second only to the St Patrick’s Day parade in size.

Street Performance World Championship: 11th-13th July

The great thing about being on holiday is that you have time to stop and look at things that interest you as you wander around. So if you’re in Dublin in July, you’ll have plenty of time to stand and marvel at the myriad talented performers at this free festival in Merrion Square.


Massive Attack, Rudimental and Bastille are just some of the acts headlining at this year’s Longitude festival in Marlay Park on the outskirts of Dublin. There’s no camping so you don’t need to feel guilty about heading to a nice clean hotel bed at the end of the night.

image source:  http://longitude.ie

This summer Dublin really does have something for everyone so it’s time to get online and start planning your trip. 
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