Pine cone elf and snowman craft activity

This little choir of pine cone elf craft characters was really simple to put together and makes a beautiful little Christmas choir display.

You will need:

  • Pine cones
  • Wooden balls
  • Scraps of felt
  • Scissors
  • Double sided tape
  • Needle and thread
  • Glue
  • Bells
  • Pens to add features

First things first plan ahead and stick your wooden balls to the top of your pine cones with a strong wood glue. Once dry you can begin to dress your little characters.

For feet on our first elf I used a heart shaped piece of cardboard as a template and base to glue felt to. This worked for two of the pine cones but of course a couple just wouldn’t balance and so I used a strip of felt to tuck in to the hollows of the cone and make dangly legs with boots for our Santa Elf.

The hats were made from awkward corner scraps rolled in to a cone with a little stitch to secure a jingle bell. We found using double sided tape instead of glue worked well to stick the felt together as we are too impatient to wait for glue to dry.

Our snow man has a pom pom instead of a jingle bell and his little plaited scarf was put together with a few thin strips. Our little fairy has a triangular bonnet and matching scarf – the beauty of this craft is you can play with the shapes of off its and scraps you have to make something truly unique.

Adding a few simple facial features with a pen brings them to life and there we have an easy Christmas craft for kids to try out this week. Let us know how you get on by tagging us on social media

The age of Aquarius – 2020 the year attitudes to technology for children changed

It’s 2020 and people have been talking and singing about the age of Aquarius for a long time, but this major cosmic event is finally about to happen. Wether you believe in astrology or not, the changing of an astrological age seems to affect civilisation and cultural tendencies (according to Wikipedia anyway).

This makes me think about myself, Arlo and our future. I sat watching him yesterday as he dished out some orders to Alexa… it’s entirely natural for him to interact with technology like this, back when I was three years old computer games were still on cassette tapes. I can still hear my mum telling me that my eyes would turn square if I watched too much TV.

It’s a crazy world in which we now live and finding the balance as a parent with how much tech to allow children to access is a challenging conundrum. There’s so much debate about screen time, not to mention all of the other aspects of parenting and there’s some parents who love to tell your their children don’t have any access to tech at all, but on the other hand there’s people like me who don’t want their children to get left behind.

As the year draws to an end it’s time now to reflect and look forwards. We live in a world where my year old can literally use a machine to access every song ever created using voice commands and even the kids version of YouTube and our tv remote control have the same functions so he can find anything he can pronounce from the comfort of our own home.

When he asks questions which begin with “why?” – I can not only look up the answer but find an age appropriate video to show which animal is “the biggest in the world” – not to mention that technology enabled me to wrk from home for the entire year. There is no limit to the opportunities technology such as that provided by IVS can provide.

Over the summer when lockdown meant that all the schools and nurseries were closed I turned to technological resources to enable me to occupy Arlo whilst balancing my working from home commitments. I never thought I would be the type of parent to give a three year old a tablet but here I am singing their praises. I’m not an expert in phonetics for example, and this is the way kids are taught to read and recognise sounds – which is totally different to my experience thirty years ago. Several Apps and online resources helped me to learn myself how to support Arlo’s learning.

Then there’s social media and blogging….. without technology I wouldn’t know where to begin. I have to credit Pinterest for providing many of the awesome play ideas and activities we have tried this year. Social media allows people to share and of course interact with other people and this year when the world fell apart it was technology which enabled us all to stay together – I have a strong feeling that the foundation blocks for building our new normal will be technologically based.

Visiting Santa and the winter barn workshop at Attwell Farm Park

I’ve been wondering for a long time how it would be possible to visit Santa this year in the midst of a pandemic. For a day I completely forgot about the virus and managed to relax and enjoy a magical experience with Arlo.

The winter barn workshop is a ticketed event, and for the price your child is invited to work with the elves to decorate an ornament, write a letter to Santa and create some reindeer food too. The elves are extremely patient and friendly, making sure to keep the magic alive and taking the time to have conversations with each individual child preparing them for a meeting with the big guy and stamping a passport as you complete all the activities.

You can arrive up to an hour before your ticket slot and explore all of the features of the farm. I originally booked for just myself and Arlo but daddy was able to come along at the last minute and so we added him to our booking by calling ahead and paying on the door. As per most places the guidance is up to six people from one household per booking.

It is slightly strange being in one of our favourite places when it’s so quiet but it felt like we had the run of the place to ourselves. Our favourite thing at Attwell farm is the gigantic bouncing pillow and this is closely followed by the indoor and outdoor play areas and the “real” fire engine. The place is spotlessly clean (as always) and it’s easy to maintain distancing as it’s such a big space and not overly booked in with guests.

We went exploring the grounds to find all of Santa’s reindeer, meeting the emus, geese and chickens before feeding the goats in the outdoor barn – we had included animal food in our booking but you can add this at the door and buy extra too.

A few minutes before our Santa time slot we head inside to the “North Pole” – we waited a few minutes next to singing reindeer serenading us with “jingle bells” before being ushered in to see Santa by another Elf. We were so busy checking the nice list that we didn’t realise Santa was sat behind us.

As he coughed we turned around and we’re invited to sit on bales of hay and have a chat. Arlo was absolutely mesmerised and Santa was extremely relaxed and patient, referencing all of the details I had included during the booking process and we didn’t feel at all rushed. This was the best Santa experience we have ever had and Arlo really and truly is a believer.

As a special treat Arlo was invited to sit on Santa’s special chair before heading to the toy shop to choose his own gift from a selection of favourites – Arlo liked to take his time with this and the elf didn’t mind at all. Once our visit was complete we had the time to sit indoors, and let Arlo enjoy the soft play area too.

Attwell has a gigantic Christmas tree as well as a sleigh and plenty of spaces to take some festive pictures…. we also have to give a shout out to the additional food items on the menu – the praline brownie was delicious! We had a lovely day and we can’t wait to come back.

Due to popularity of this event tickets for the full experience in the winter barn are sold out but they have added additional slots for the Santa visit which includes a toy – check out their website here

Umberslade Farm Park Pony Experience

We find ourselves in the midst of tier three right now just before Christmas and many of our planned activities have been cancelled. I’m heartbroken for all of the businesses struggling right now amidst the chaos of 2020 and am also delighted to see places such as Umberslade Farm try to make the most of things.

During the summer we visited and went on a 5k trek around the grounds and I noticed recently they are offering a one hour toddler pony experience for £35. This is a completely unique experience and I haven’t managed to find any horse experiences in Birmingham for children Arlo’s age and he is animal mad so of course I jumped at the chance to book this up.

The £35 booking fee is for the entire family and this can include up to six people. I organised this for a day we would be taking care of Paloma, and they both loved every second. Prior to arrival Charlotte had sent us an email to remind us to wrap up warm and prepare for mud. The thermometer was reading just one degree today but we set off out for our trek regardless.

Just before we met Charlotte at our agreed time slot we had a chance to grab a drink from the cafe and a quick run around in the park. The pigs were also nearby to say a quick hello and then it was time for our experience to begin. Charlotte led us to the main barn, the goats we had fed when they were tiny back in February were jumping up to say hello, as were the donkeys…. the llamas looked like they could take or leave us if I’m honest and as we walked past their fluffy turned up noses we met our pony for the first time.

Peppa our beautiful white pony was chosen by the kids because she looks just like a Unicorn. Charlotte gently encouraged Paloma and Arlo to take the reigns and lead her out of the barn and across the yard to a stable where we got properly acquainted. We were the only family and so had the entire place to ourselves, which meant the kids got a really special experience.

Peppa was given a good brush and then dressed with her boots, saddle and matching bridle – this experience enabled the kids to get up close to the pony, and so by the time it came to put their helmets on they were feeling extremely confident and rearing to go.

It was Arlo’s turn first to leave the stable yard on Peppa and head to the bottom of the famous Umberslade estate drive, we walked along chatting away happily together before we paused for a swap, and Paloma then got in the saddle to take the lead on the trek up the hill through the muddy puddles – eventually we discovered a breathtaking view just in time for the sunset.

We had a chance to take some pictures together at the top before changing for the kids to take a second turn each riding as we head back retracing our steps. Peppa seemed delighted to splash through all the muddy puddles and walked faster back because she knew she had a carrot to look forwards to. Having the chance to view the estate from this vantage point at sunset was just magical.

We returned back to the yard safe and sound at the end of our hour and said our goodbyes to Peppa, both Arlo and Paloma were entirely overwhelmed and sat in the car all the way home chatting about their experience. We had such a beautiful time and we really hope that we can come back and continue to visit Umberslade and all of the other animals in the not too distant future.

December is sold out but keep an eye out on their Facebook group and website for updates

Clay heart ornaments

This is the last of my clay ornaments. I was challenging myself to see just how many things I could make from one single pack and I surprised myself! We managed to end up with quite an array of things.

You will need:

  • Terracotta clay
  • Cookie cutters
  • Wooden skewer
  • Alphabet stamps
  • Twine

These start out in the same way as all of our other crafts – rolling out the clay and using cookie cutters to make shapes.

The unique touch to these decorations is using little alphabet stamps to press in words to the clay whilst it’s still wet. We went for festive phrases such as joy and Noel as well as adding some names and initials so we can use these as gift tags and table settings.

Just like all of our previous clay projects, leave these to dry in a warm place for a couple of days and turn them occasionally. I loved how rustic these looked and so we left them as they are and added twine – but you could paint / decorate these to match your decor.

Check out some of our easy Christmas crafts here

A North Pole Breakfast

I don’t know when this even became a thing but I love it. Arlo is an only child so I didn’t want to go totally insane (for once) but we had a lovely start to our day in the front room with this little collection of festive themed children’s snacks.

What better way to mark the arrival of our new house guest than with a breakfast fit for elves!

To start we had chocolate spread on toast – cutting the tree shape out with a cookie cutter and then adding a few sprinkles – I think we will repeat this one a few times through the month…. the magic sprinkles make everything taste wonderful apparently and it’s easy to mix this idea up with different shapes and spreads.

Our mini donuts were simply dipped in icing and then a big jar of sprinkles – I wouldn’t normally pop this kind of food on a breakfast but it was a special occasion…. next time we do this is will be for an afternoon tea or movie night.

Snowman strawberries …. Sliced and then stacked with white marshmallows with a little icing – another elf sized treat for the North Pole breakfast and this one was the first Arlo decided to tuck in to. I think we’ll be repeating this one and trying our more festive fruit snack ideas too.

The reaction from Arlo was entirely worth it and he’s totally prepared now to be good throughout December knowing that Santa is on his way.

Writing a letter to Santa

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We have just come home from a little expedition to the postbox and I feel as though the countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun. We started this morning with the elf arrival and a Northpole Breakfast – I wasn’t sure how Arlo would react to it all.

He was slightly overwhelmed if I’m honest but I’m enjoying the concept of the elf watching him and telling Santa when he has been good – it’s going to work wonders! We introduced our elf in a hot air balloon which I purchased from a local business – Inflation Creation Events

We’re working on a project with Design Bundles on Instagram and so have been sent lots of different festive themed activities to complete with our Elf and the first one we started with was writing our letter to Santa.

Arlo took this task very seriously and got to work – insisting on using red and green colours to complete his picture. Along with his little Santa pen I gave him a little help to fill in the details and then we popped our letter in to an envelope and addressed it to Santa.

Royal Mail have an address for Santa and if you write a letter before 11th December and pop it in the post with a stamp then there’s a chance you will get a reply. So of course we went out for a walk, purchased a stamp and popped our letter in the postbox and sent it on its way.

Arlo doesn’t know this yet but I have already ordered him a letter here from Santa ready to give to him in the next few days which has been sent to us from the Lapland Mail room

This lovely letter arrived shortly after I completed a simple online form – prices start from £8.95 and include a personalised letter, some festive themed activities and also a Certificate to confirm that you’re on the nice list.

I can’t wait to open all of this with him, we are entirely absorbed by the Christmas spirit here and having the best time together at home. I think we might have to put the Christmas tree up next!

Easy Christmas garlands to make

Adding a Garland to a little space in your home adds an instant festive touch and I have two ideas here which are simple and make the perfect little feature.

Felt holly and Berry Garland

You will need:

  • An A4 sheet of green felt
  • An A4 sheet of red felt
  • Scissors
  • Holly Leaf template
  • Circle template
  • A needle and thread

The process is super simple – and you know I love an easy Christmas craft. Once you have your template – simply trace and cut your leaves and circles from felt. This is something you can really take your time with, and let the older kids safely develop their dexterity skills. Alternatively you can fold your felt and cut out a few at a time.

Then take your needle and use a simple running stitch to thread through it all. I use this stitch because it’s again a super easy craft activity for kids and it’s also easy to adjust the position of the leaves and berries as you hang it in place.

Clay star Garland

This is another of my clay Christmas craft projects and again really simple. I can’t quite believe how much I have made from one pack of clay! As per all of my other clay projects – these all begin by rolling, cutting and drying clay. I made ten stars (one went on the Christmas tree) but I wish I’d made twenty!

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Once the clay was dry I used a chalk pen to colour them bright yellow on one side and then threaded these on to a candy cane twine and knotted them about 7cm apart. This little set has been draped across various centre pieces to add a splash of colour.

Robins appear when angels are near decoration

Here are two more of the cutest additions to my clay craft projects. If you’re following me on social media you can see that I set myself a challenge of seeing just how much I could create from one pack of clay…. and so far we have shared instructions for a Christmas tree decoration and also a ginger bread man Garland – everything started out life in the same way. I have lots of really easy Christmas crafts for you to try out which are pintrest worthy and make great DIY gifts

You will need:

  • Clay
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters
  • Tools for details
  • Paint
  • PVA glue
  • Gold leaf
  • String

So as before roll out and press your clay in to shapes and leave them in a warm place for a couple of days to harden. Make sure you poke holes to hang your string. This is an activity which we have come back to several cold afternoons – each time we pick one or two shapes to decorate from our dry pieces and spend hours crafting.

We painted our robins with red paint for their iconic chest and then added a dab of white and black paint for eyes…. the natural terracotta lends itself really well for this project but we felt like these needed a little extra oomph and after a rummage around the craft cupboard I found the gold leaf we used previously on the pinecone star

So of course we applied this carefully to the edges of the robins with PVA glue before adding natural twine to hang them up…. this beautiful pair of robins is being sent to Arlo’s nanny and grandparents because they have made acquaintance with a lovely Robin who comes to visit them every day just like we do here and it reminds us all that even though we can’t be in the same place right now we are always in each other’s thoughts.

I have lots of other Christmas crafts for kids for you to explore on my blog – let us know if you try any of these out!