Chef Arlo

Did you know that daddy is a chef! At 21 months it’s about time that Arlo started learning a trade and so daddy picked up a packet of Pastry and set up an invitation to play on the kitchen table (apparently this is also called “mise en place” and is quite a professional set up.

Basically he chopped up lots of ingredients and set them up in little dishes ready for Arlo.

First of all they spread the included tomato sauce all over the dough base which they rolled out onto an oven tray.

Then they chucked on a mix of ingredients which work well together – leftover chicken, sliced red onion, peppers and cherry tomatoes along with chunks of mozzarella.

There’s no set way to do this – everything just got chucked on and then daddy sprinkled on some herbs and popped them in the oven for just shy of 15 mins.

These tasted delicious and the activity kept Arlo amused for quite a while. Lots of interaction with daddy and chatter about colours, vegetables and food items.

Have you tried cooking with your little one yet? Share some of your ideas in the comments – we would love to try them out!

West Midlands Safari Park

This week we visited the safari park – Arlo is learning new sounds and animal names every day and we’re really keen to encourage this whilst he seems so interested.

The challenge is there’s only so many animals you can see on a day to day basis “in real life” and I’m getting a bit bored of ducks and dogs.

We do as much as we can in terms of books, toys and the dreaded you tube clips of animals but there’s nothing better than an in the flesh experience and the Safari Park is right on our doorstep!

(I designed and made this little busy bag for all the animal toys)

So off we went with a bag full of snacks for Arlo and two cartons of animal feed- and of course he was delighted – it was enough to be allowed to come to the front of the car – he found the radio volume control immediately, but then he realised that there were some huge animals wandering very close by. He kept pointing, and saying “look” – he soon figured out that the animal feed bought the animals closer so he kept reaching into the box to pass some over to daddy and was brave enough to try himself a couple of times.

The safari park itself is extremely well maintained. An adult entry ticket is £24 however this also entitled you to a free return visit. Under 3’s are free and I thought this was fairly reasonable.

After the safari experience we parked up and walked into the grounds, visited the dinosaur exhibition and saw the penguins – we fed the lorikeets (£1.50 for a cup of nectar).

There’s a full schedule of animal encounters in the grounds every half an hour – we went to feed the hippo’s some cabbage before Arlo fell asleep for his nap, so we will revisit to meet the meerkats and lemurs.

We’ve picked up quite a few new animals from the gift shop to put in our busy bag on the way home.

Arlo seems to absorb all of the information from a day trip and we do try to utilise the opportunity – At home we ask him “what noise does a tiger make” or “what colour is a tiger” and he tells us the answers and he is also able to identify and pick up animals we ask for from a selection of animals spread out. Now we’re working on separating a donkey from a zebra and trying to figure out different noises to make for all the big cats.

Magic mess free painting

I can’t remember where I first saw this idea – probably a Pinterest board or another mum blog but it’s certainly one worth sharing!

We love mark making – I used to be happy with paint when we had laminate flooring and Arlo didn’t move quite so fast but with cream carpets and my little Usain Bolt on the loose this is the next best thing!

It’s a sheet of magic paper used to practice Chinese calligraphy. You use water instead of paint and it turns black on contact.

I gave Arlo and cousin Paloma sponge brushes and little pots of water and let them play – and it occupied them both for about 20 mins.

The paper clears once dry and you can re use it over and over again. It probably takes about 15 mins to dry completely so it’s something you can keep coming back to.

Paloma was quite delicate and happy making more intricate lines immediately whereas Arlo too a while but as soon as he figured out the water made the marks he started pouring it and splashing and patting with his hands

This magic paper is from eBay and cost me £5.50.

We have also tried the aqua doodle which is £15-20 from most high street retailers and creates colourful patterns but is often out of stock and also the Melissa and Doug “wow” books which are about £5 on Amazon which are great options for “on the go” (we’ve used them for travel and also at restaurants). They all share the same principle and I’ve noticed a definite improvement in the way Arlo does make marks and handle brushes and his utensils.

Creating a masterpiece

I thought I’d share a quick “how to” – this is such a simple idea, and if you get a couple of the steps right you can create something to treasure forever.

First things first – head to The works for your materials. You don’t need to spend huge amounts on things for arts and crafts, and their basic canvases come in all shapes and sizes.

You will need:

  • A canvas
  • Masking tape
  • Paints
  • Brushes

To get going use the masking tape to mark out something on your canvas – a name, a shape or just some random lines. We’ve tried hearts for gifts, a sunshine, initials etc – there’s no limits.

Now here’s where to focus – only put down one colour at a time to begin with. Use small amounts because it goes a long way. Try and stick to one colour per brush – this helps to stop everything becoming a brown mush.

The paint is going to get everywhere – just let it go! I use water based paints which do come off everything and I put something down, a tarpaulin or an old towel and have a pack of wipes to hand.

Here I’d just added the yellow – the order you place the colours is important – obviously Arlo doesn’t know about the colour wheel at this stage but we do – keeping red and green separate helps. It’s never going to be “perfect” but that’s the beauty of it.

Arlo was almost 14m when we did this activity and you can see in the video clips just how much he enjoyed himself. We spent about 45 mins painting and chatting about all the colours. Yes he did try and eat the paint brushes and we did make quite a lot of mess but he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The final thing to remember is to be patient with your finished piece. Don’t peel back the masking tape until the paint is dry. I left ours in the sunshine whilst Arlo had a splash around in the bath tub.

And voila – this little canvas takes pride of place in my front room.

Have you tried this out? Do you have any ideas for creative projects I could try at the weekend? Share your experience in the comments