No Mess Shake-It-Up Mother’s Day Art

I must admit, now I’m at the tail end of this pregnancy (35 weeks!) I’m finding it harder and harder to motivate myself to find fun new things to do with the Monkey. However, it’s Mother’s Day coming up at the end of this month (of which I am painfully aware, since it will be my first!) so I really should do something crafty for the Nanny’s. 

After racking my brain for a new technique we could try, I decided to stay simple and mess free. Noah LOVES shaking things at the moment; musical instruments, blocks, boxes – anything at all that he thinks may make a noise is getting vigorously shaken back and forth whilst he wears the cutest little grin. So let’s use what he’s good at!

In my teaching days, I’ve done many a jigsaw piece craft, and I love them paired with the line ‘I love you to pieces.’ So during a nap, I quickly sketched out two puzzle pieces (one for each of his Nannys!) onto card and cut them out.

Then, I gathered my materials. A selection of paint (I just used my normal bog-standard acrylics), some baking beans and a tupperware tub with a lid that clips on nice and firmly! 

Next, I blu-tacked the puzzle pieces to the inside of the tub. I squeezed a drop of each colour into the bottom, and then dropped in a layer of baking beans, enough to cover the paint. I secured on the lid, and we were ready to go!

Once he’d woken up and had a bottle, I handed the tub to Noah, and let him do his thing. With Bunny and Fox helping (of course!) he shook, rolled, and banged the tub across the floor. He loved the sound of the beans clattering around! I did wonder if an extension to this activity may be to add some cheap jingle bells (I have some loitering around) but actually on this occasion he was having enough fun with just the noise from the beans.

Look how happy he is! And note; no paint on my lovely carpet haha. I could see at this point that the colours were mixing to create a bit of a murky brown in parts, however he was having so much fun and this is process art, so I let him carry on until he was bored.

The only clear-up required was to gently pull out the card and set it aside to dry, whilst filling the tub with warm, soapy water to soak.

Once the paint had dried on the puzzle pieces, I simply stuck them onto the front of some more white card, folded and wrote my (I mean, Noah’s!) message. For extra involvement and future nostalgia, I may get him to pop a squidgy handprint on the inside before sending. Happy crafting!

TOP TIPS: Make sure the tub you use for this activity can be easily picked up with little hands! Or else you might find they get frustrated quickly ūüėä

Where to Take Your Baby in Worcestershire 

Weekends are an absolute bug bear of mine at the moment. So often Jim and I decide, ‘we’re going out for the day!’ And repeatedly, 2 hours later, we’re still in the lounge utterly stumped about where to go! It just doesn’t feel like there is much out there to do with babies! Especially now Noah is at the stage where he’s not going to be content for hours on end in a carrier or pram.

But there are some places we’ve found that we absolutely love – and most importantly, so does Noah!

Studley Garden Centre – The Soft Play Barn. 

Just a few months ago, Studley Garden Centre made the really smart move of opening up a Soft Play Barn for little ones. And we love it! It has soft play over two levels for older children, and a ‘crawler’ area for babies and toddlers. I took Noah here for his first ever soft play experience at about 5 months old, and he’s always had a fab time. It’s nice and clean, with lots of bright colours and very safe. There’s a Pizza Cafe (what’s not to love?!) and best of all, under 1s go free. 

The Artrix Arts Centre, Bromsgrove 

An arts centre, really? YES! The Artrix has a lovely little cafe open daily (except Sundays!), and they have a small soft play area for babies and young toddlers. I would never have thought to investigate somewhere like this, but the cafe serves lovely fresh food, and the soft play area is perfect for our needs. It’s only small, but free, and it’s kept in immaculate condition. It’s been a favourite spot of ours to head after baby group for lunch and a play – I love how open it is, and how there’s no danger of older children accidentally knocking the little ones. It seems to be a bit of a hidden gem so I’m almost reluctant to even mention it here but I adore it, and they offer lots of events and shows for families too.

Sanders Park, Bromsgrove

Obviously, parks are a good option if the weather is nice – however when you have a young baby, there is often very little for them to do! Sanders Park is fab though. They have a lovely big playground with loads of equipment, and best of all for babies there are lots of different types of swing, so it offers more than the bog standard infant swing. There’s so much to do, that even on a busy day you aren’t stood coveting a piece of equipment never able to actually use it! There is also a cafe that serves hot and cold food, and TOILETS! So many parks don’t have facilities like this and it’s invaluable with a baby that might need a change or feed. The park itself is beautiful to walk round as well. Bonus! 

Umberslade Farm, Tanworth-in-Arden 

We first took Noah here when he was about 3 months old, then again a few weeks ago at 9 months. It is a gorgeous farm, with loads to see, and they do all sorts of things for older children to get involved with like bottle feeding lambs and calves, and horse rides. They also have a small animal area where you can hold and pet chicks, rabbits, guinea pigs etc. Even at 3 months old, Noah was looking at the different animals, and last time we went he was even more engaged. There’s also a play barn with soft play and egg splat canons! And some lovely sensory bits and pieces. In case that isn’t enough, there’s two outdoor play areas too. We loved our last day out so much that I ended up buying myself an annual pass for less than ¬£30 which means I can take Noah and bump (when he gets here) as much as I like this year! Absolute bargain.

The National Sealife Centre, Birmingham 

Ok, so not for ‘every day’ as it’s obviously a lot more expensive than my previous options, but we LOVE the Sealife Centre. We first took Noah at 5 months old because I was convinced he’d love the colours and lighting and I was right. He was mesmerised and so calm throughout, it’s an ideal atmosphere for babies. We’re planning on taking him again (and the new baby..!) on his first birthday in April – I can’t wait to see his face! 

National Trust Properties 

As a family, we love National Trust Properties, and we’re lucky to have quite a lot around where we live! We’ve had membership for years, which is really good value, and under 5s are free. The grounds are beautiful to explore, and they nearly always have a cafe with lovely fresh food to sit with little ones. The houses are wonderfully interesting too, but we don’t always go round when we have the pram etc or if Noah isn’t in the best mood. I can’t wait for the weather to pick up this year and take the boys for picnics! And once Noah’s on his feet, there’s usually play areas for the kids too. My favourite ones near us are Coughton Court, Charlecote Park, Hanbury Hall, Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House.

There really are some beautiful spots round here, we are very lucky!

If anyone reading this has any other suggestions for days out with babies, please PLEASE let me know! You can never have too many options, and I’d love to try out some more! 

Multi Coloured Spaghetti Play

Right now, Noah is teething. And he’s teething badly. My usually happy little chap is irritable, tired and just not himself at all, making him extremely difficult to please. So I pulled out the big guns – spaghetti play.

It’s well known that babies and toddlers love spaghetti play. When cooked and cooled it has a lovely texture, slimy and sticky, which really stimulates their senses. I decided to go the extra mile and dye it as well, giving it some additional visual stimulation.

Firstly, I cooked some spaghetti, then drained and let it cool a little. Then I added enough vegetable oil to coat it, and split it into 5 bowls. Now, once I began the next step I did panic a little wondering if I was going to stain my lovely bowls – but they were absolutely fine after a quick rinse. However it may just be less stress-inducing all round if you just use plastic containers! To each bowl I added a few drops of food colouring and gave the pasta a good stir.

I then left the spaghetti to dry out a little, and to really soak up those colours. After about 2 hours I realised there was still loads of excess food colouring on the strands, so I gave each colour (one at a time, to prevent colour bleeding!) a rinse with cold water through a colander. 

In the interest of honesty, when I rinsed off the orange pasta…pretty much all of the colour rinsed off with it and I was left with basically it’s original state. I have no idea why this happened, but I decided just not to use it. Luckily, the others remained bright (I had horrible visions for a moment of creating some sort of cold, rainbow coloured pasta salad just to avoid wastage and imagining what Jim would say when I presented it to him for dinner brought me out in a cold sweat!).

I combined all of the successful spaghetti in a tupperware tub and was ready to go.

For this activity, I decided whilst it may not be mess free, I could at least CONTAIN the mess, so I stripped Noah off and plonked him in the bath. In went the multi coloured spaghetti and his bath stacking and pouring cups, and I let him begin exploring!

He had a blast! He looked at me like I was crazy for a few seconds there at the beginning, but in no time at all he was grabbing, sifting and flinging it behind him, putting bits into the cups and pulling them back out again. 

This was by far the most successful activity I have done with Noah so far. At 9 months old, attention span can be fleeting, but he was happy in here for nearly an hour! And once he’d begun to tire of it, he realised it was edible too.

As you can see, the dog had already sussed this part out – he spent the entire duration sat next to the bath in hope that he’d get a turn! 

Once we were finished, it was as simple as hosing him down with the shower head and scooping the left over spaghetti back into the tub. I imagine you could use it again another day if you wanted- but I wouldn’t leave it too long as it is food, and Noah had been in there so long with it that it was mostly broken up, trodden down and a bit mushy. 

I’m definitely counting this one as a success – my poor grumpy boy didn’t grumble once the whole time! A perfect distraction. 

Quick and easy Sensory Bottles

This afternoon my Amazon delivery of plastic bottles arrived, so I decided to knock Noah up some sensory bottles there and then! I haven’t yet met a baby that doesn’t love to explore these, and the process took just 5 minutes with items from my craft bench.

These are just 100ml plastic bottles – the perfect size for small hands, however I have in the past used empty water bottles – so just use whatever you have to hand. I half filled them with water, then poured in a selection of crafty items I thought might look mesmerising in the end product.

As you can see, I chose fluffy pom poms, sequins, googly eyes and two different GLITTERS! All of these items were purchased from Hobbycraft, they have endless choice and packs like these are often just £1 each!

Then, I filled to the top with baby oil (you can also use glycerin if you’re more likely to have that floating around your kitchen going spare!). On go the lids, nice and tight – if you’re worried about spillage though a little squirt of superglue on the lid works a treat, and that’s it! So quick, so easy, so fun.

Noah took a special liking to the gold glitter and the sequins – little magpie. He loves a sensory bottle!

It occurred to me whilst he was exploring that these might actually be a nice addition to the light box – so I scooped him (and them!) up and we went upstairs to try it out.

Look at his little face!! In awe, bless him.

If you missed my previous light box post, you can find it here.

My DIY Light Box and Sensory Blocks 

This week I finally got round to doing something I’d been wanting to do for AGES! As a Primary School teacher who has worked in reception for several years, I have dreamed of owning a light box. Light boxes provide endless opportunities for learning, from babies to older children. Plus, they are just gorgeous. But they are SO EXPENSIVE. So why not make your own?

After lots of googling and Pinterest-ing (total addict over here!) I found this fantastic tutorial from The Imagination Tree. This blog is incredible, for all sorts of ideas Рdefinitely check it out. I bought a see through plastic storage tub from Hobbycraft and a pad of A3 tracing paper, armed with that and a roll of sellotape I was ready to go!

After taping a couple of sheets of tracing paper to the underside of the box lid, all I needed to do was put a string of fairy lights inside. I bought a cheap string of 100 from Amazon, but you could easily use those christmas tree lights that are sitting untouched up in the loft! My are mains operated so I just let the wire trail out and can plug it in whenever I need to use it (the box lid still goes on fine). Et voila! Ready for action.

We’d had a lazy day where we hadn’t left the house, and by late afternoon Noah was getting a little grizzly so it seemed the ideal time to try out our light box. For Christmas I had bought him the absolutely gorgeous Wonderworld Wooden Rainbow Sound Blocks (they can be purchased from Amazon) which seemed like the perfect thing to use for our first session.

Aren’t they fabulous? The colours looked incredible against the soft light from the light box, and each block has a different sound when shaken. Noah absolutely adored shaking them and banging them together. There are great learning opportunities for building and shape and colour recognition too.

To maximise the effect, we drew the blackout curtains, turned all the lights off, and I popped on Noah’s favourite lullaby CD to make it a truly relaxing, multi-sensory experience. He was mesmerised, and I can’t wait to explore different uses in the weeks and months to come.

Valentine’s Tape Resist Art

Now to be honest, I’m not a huge follower of special days like Valentine’s. Usually, me and OH just exchange a store bought card and go about our day as normal! However, this year I decided it would be a good excuse to do a little crafting with Noah. But what to do?

Noah is 9 months old. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, goes in his mouth right now. So it had to be something safe, but something he would get some sensory value out of. So I started thinking, and decided to combine two separate ideas to produce our art.

The best idea I’ve come across for painting with babies is the cling film or sandwich bag approach. I first tried this when Noah was 4 months old. You take some paper/canvas squirt some dollops of paint on, cover in cling film or pop in a sandwich bag, and just let your little one mash away. The sensation of the paint squishing about under the plastic is lovely, and it’s completely mess free!

So for this project I decided to use this technique, but combine it with tape resist art. There are some lovely ideas for this across the Internet, mostly for slightly older children, but in this instance I decided to use heart shaped stickers on canvas.

These are flat A5 canvases, bought from The Works  (6 for just £2, what a bargain!) and very cheap gold heart stickers I got from Amazon. I chose to use canvas in this instance as I knew the stickers would come off with relative ease, which is necessary later in the process.

All I needed to do next was sit Noah in his highchair, dollop some paint on the canvases, and pop them in a sandwich bag. I use the zip lock ones to really contain the mess. Be generous with the paint! Then I let him loose.

Once he had finished squidging, poking, mashing and bashing I gave him the next bag until he had had enough.

I took them out of the sandwich bags, popped them on a wire rack to dry, and took Noah back into the front room to play – no other clean up required!

Later that evening, once the mini monkey was in bed, I took a pair of tweezers and gently removed each of the heart stickers from the canvases. They came away really easily, and here are the results!

I love them! The hearts really stand out, and having made 3 I can keep one for us here, and give one each to both sets of grandparents. I’ll let him hand them over, he will charm them more than he already has! So pretty, and so, so simple.

*I used normal acrylic paint for this project, and it dries with a lovely textured effect.