Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Bring Favourite Children's Stories to Life

Do your children have a favourite book? I'm a big believer in 'if children have an interest, follow it, extend it and challenge them.' It probably comes from my background in Child Development, but I love finding ways to extend their interests, especially with things like stories and movies. 

I call it 'story-stretching'.

children stories, Julia Donaldson, story stretching, A stretch and a squeeze

Over the years, I've been a huge fan of Julia Donaldson's books. 
I mean, who doesn't love The Gruffalo?? 

My eldest really loved Stick Man when he was little, and Monkey Puzzle was one of my favourite stories to read to the children when I was an Early Years Teacher. 
So it's no surprise I love sharing them with my youngest now too.
children stories, Julia Donaldson,monkey puzzle, reading

There is a world of possibilities to bring the magic of a story to life, here are a few we've tried recently:

Extend their Imaginations 

After reading A Squash and A Squeeze, a rhyming story involving farm animals, it led to lots of chat about animals; where they lived, what noises they made etc so I created this farmyard small world play in the tuft spot using cereals. Taylor loves imaginative role play, so he really enjoyed playing with the animals. He enjoyed setting it up with me, crunching up the Weetabix and then stamping the animals through the cereal. Sensory play is crucial to brain development so I love finding new ideas to explore different textures through play.
children stories, Julia Donaldson, story stretching, sensory play, farm, small world
children stories, Julia Donaldson, sensory play, farmyard small world,

Play Games

We love The Gruffalo, so when I found this Pairs Card Game, I snapped it up (no pun intended!) as knew the familiar characters would help keep Taylor's concentration. The cards contain lots of different animals from the story so it was fantastic for building on his knowledge and understanding of animals as well as improving memory skills.
children stories, Julia Donaldson, memory game, gruffalo
children stories, Julia Donaldson, gruffalo, memory game

Go See it Live!

We recently visited our local theatre, the Curve, to watch Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, a live adaptation of Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler favourites ‘Tiddler, Monkey Puzzle, The Smartest Giant in Town & A Squash and a Squeeze.' 

Taylor had previously visited the theatre before, to see another Julia Donaldson show, What the Ladybird Heard which had a bright and colourful backdrop that really kept his attention. So seeing the simple set up of two step ladders, a plank of wood and a table, I was intrigued by how it would develop into a highly visual production for little ones. But as soon as the three actors, Anna Larkin, Alex Tosh and Maryam Grace (images are of previous cast) entered the stage with bags stuffed with props which were to be bought to life throughout the performance, the fast-paced show quickly pulled us in. 

children stories, Julia Donaldson, tiddler live, tiddler and other terrific tales,
children stories, Julia Donaldson, tiddler live, tiddler and other terrific tales,

With everyday items being transformed into animals, very inventive staging and a little imagination, the stories are recreated perfectly and the whole production is very cleverly put together from start to finish. 

The cast are truly talented; singing, dancing, playing instruments, storytelling with clever puppetry and generally keeping the whole family entertained and transfixed throughout the whole 60 minutes. Everything was so professionally done, from the quick costume changes and how they used the props to change up the set whilst moving into different stories and scenes. Changing biscuit tins and books on a table into little houses in a clever switch up of stories. And the underwater scenes using torches, shadows and waterproof coats were beautiful, but I won't ruin it for you, you need to see it to believe!

children stories, Julia Donaldson, tiddler live, tiddler and other terrific tales,

children stories, Julia Donaldson, tiddler live, tiddler and other terrific tales,

Taylor loves being on Mini Blogger duty, and when asked for his thoughts following the show, he said: 'My favourite part was when the Monkey found his Mummy... and I loved when the Giant's trousers fell down and we could see his pants, that was funny!'

We really loved it, we sat together dancing along, gasping as random items were turned into animals, giggling at the funny parts and ... seeing your children smiling away, singing along to the repetitive and catchy rhymes (which he's still singing now, a week later!) is just magical!

Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales is on tour until the end of August, check out the tour dates at tiddlerlive.com, and if you're local to Leicester, check out the Curve for some fantastic family favourites this Summer.

We received complimentary tickets to see the performance

Please Note: The current cast members are not of those in the press images included

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#DreamTeam. //  My Random Musings


Sunday, 24 June 2018

Date Ideas for You and Your Teen Son

I read an article recently about the importance of one-to-one time with teenage boys. Boys crave attention from their parents, particularly their Mum.

When my eldest was young, we spent so much time together. 
He was an only child for 10 years, he was very much spoilt, materialistically as well as with my time.
So when siblings arrived, so did a little jealousy. 

Since starting Secondary School and hitting the teenage years, his behaviour and attitude have been difficult. And the majority of the attention he gets from me isn't good attention. 

But I've realised that we need to spend regular one-to-one time together.
He may be 14, but it's important to keep that mother/son bond strong.
It shows them they're important, which boosts their self-esteem. There is no sibling rivalry or fighting for attention, for a short time you're all theirs! It gives the opportunity for them to open up if they need to.

mum of boys, teenage son, mum son date nights

Here are a few Date Ideas for You and Your Teen Son:

1.  Ice Cream Date
All kids love ice cream right? Whatever their age.
Head out to an ice cream bar and chat over waffles and chocolate sauce!
Let conversation flow naturally.

mum of boys, teenage son, mum son date nights

2. Movie Marathon
Let them choose a couple of films, or even better, choose one each for the ultimate compromise! 
Remember not to talk about chores, their bad grades or behaviour, just enjoy each others company.

3. An Adventurous Road Trip
Pick a place on a map, within reason. Or head to the train station and buy a ticket to a destination on the board and go exploring. It's fun, it's different and there will be something for children of all ages to do. It makes for some fantastic Insta material, which most teenagers love!! 
We've done something like this a few years ago, we called it Magical Mystery Day
I think I'm going to have to re-name it something a bit more grown up nowadays, maybe an Insta Adventure!!

mum of boys, teenage son, mum son date nights

4.  Visit the Theatre
My 14-year-old and I recently headed to the Curve Theatre for a theatre date! 
We saw Mischief Movie Night - a completely improvised movie live on stage, produced by the Mischief Theatre; the creators of The Play That Goes Wrong, which I'd heard so many good things about, so I was really looking forward to it. 

mum of boys, teenage son, mum son date nights, theatre, curve Leicester, mischief movie night, mischief theatre

The idea behind this quirky, cleverly thought out show is for the team of 8 actors, headed by producer Jonathan Sayer, to create a completely improvised movie, based on the audience's choice of genre. 
After shouting out a few genre and topic ideas, it was decided that our movie would be a sci-fi / romantic comedy ensemble, featuring... dinosaurs! And after a member of the audience aptly named the movie 'Mars, Actually' (I know right, legend!! ;) ), the actors got to work on stage. 

mum of boys, teenage son, mum son date nights, theatre, curve Leicester, mischief movie night, mischief theatre

From start to finish, both myself and Bradley were giggling away. There were moments I couldn't catch my breath, it was a hilariously brilliant show complete with brilliantly timed directors cuts, rewinds, playbacks and more from director / narrator Jonathon who would stop the movie abruptly, shouting 'PAUSE!' at the most perfect moments, which Bradley found fantastic! 

The mixture of comedy, improvised acting and musical aspects all tied in beautifully and was so cleverly done! 

mum of boys, teenage son, mum son date nights, theatre, curve Leicester, mischief movie night, mischief theatre

It was most definitely the FUNNIEST theatre show I have ever seen and made for the perfect date night with my teenage son! He wanted to book tickets for the rest of the week! And with a different show each night, I'm confident every night would have been fantastic.
We'll definitely be making the theatre a regular location for our date nights, and checking out the Curve Theatre for more fantastic shows for us to enjoy together. 

The teenage years can be difficult, for both of you.
It's so important to create new memories together and keep the lines of communication open.

Do you have any ideas for Mum / Son date night to share?

*Theatre tickets gifted to us by the Curve for the purpose of this post

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

How to Survive Half Term Like a Pro

It's THAT time again, that time every six weeks where the kids take over the house, the food cupboards remain empty (even though you're sure they were full yesterday!) and the kids wrestling could put John Cena to shame. 

Follow my guide on how to survive half term, stress-free...

half term, survive half term, children, family, days out

Plan in advance. 

If you're going to be at home with the kids this half term, get planning. 
Google activities happening in your local area. 
Check the weather and plan around it. 

Visit somewhere new.

Go on an adventure! Go exploring!
Get out and about, visit a new park, a woodland area or a trip to somewhere you haven't been before. Best of all, it's FREE.
A few years ago we did something we nicknamed 'Magical Mystery Day' where we wrote down the names of all the towns in our region, picked one out of a hat, jumped into the car and headed for an adventure! It was such good fun and you can never run out of options, the World is a BIG place!

half term, survive half term, children, family, days out
Have a Theme Day

Let the kids take over!
Allow them to choose a theme for the day, whether it be a Pirate Day, a Pink Day, Under the Sea Day, a Superhero Day... it's a great idea for the kids to feel in control, and a good excuse for the whole family to get involved, communicate together and for everyone to have input.

Get Messy!

After working and training in child development for 16 years, I'm a big advocate for messy play!!
Young children learn best through unstructured, exploratory play. Experimenting with different materials and textures promotes curiosity, knowledge and builds on their senses. 
Take a roll of old wallpaper and make paint footprints.
Go hunting in the cupboards and make a small world village; shaving foam, porridge oats, lentils? 
If the weather allows, chalking on the pavement or water painting on the fences is great fun for little ones. 

Go crazy. Get messy!

half term, survive half term, children, family, messy play

Explore Local Events

Check out your local shopping centres to see if they have any fun events planned to keep the kids entertained. 

Last week, Taylor and I visited our local shopping and leisure centre Highcross Leicester where hands-on science workshops were being held. Little Labs held a number of FREE interactive workshops and demonstrations involving an expert team of scientists who led the children on a journey of creation and discovery, allowing them to learn about science in an educating and entertaining way.

half term, survive half term, children, family, days out, Highcross, Leicester, Little Labs
half term, survive half term, children, family, days out, Highcross, Leicester, Little Labs

Taylor put on his lab coat & goggles and took part in some bubble popping, sherbet making, dry ice blowing fun!

We took part in two different shows; an interactive workshop and then a demonstration. Both were fantastic, really interesting and children orientated. Taylor got to make some sherbert, enjoyed attempting to make some giant bubbles and watched some really entertaining 'tricks'. 

half term, survive half term, children, family, days out, Highcross, Leicester, Little Labs
half term, survive half term, children, family, days out, Highcross, Leicester, Little Labs

In between the shows, we took a walk around the shopping centre, stopped for a drink and a yummy doughnut at Krispy Kreme (well Taylor did, Mummy was good as she was Shredding!!), did a bit of shopping; choosing a new t-shirt in FootAsylum for Bradley, a Father's Day card for Daddy in Clintons Cards and of course, we had to go on every single coin-operated ride on we came across in the centre!! (just my child??)

And after the shows, we headed to Frankie & Benny's for some lunch. 
Highcross has a huge range of delicious places to eat, perfect to finish off a family day out. Frankie & Benny's has a fantastic children's menu offering a main, 2 sides, a dessert and a drink for just £4.99. Although very busy with it being Half Term, we were well looked after, we didn't have a wait very long for food and the food was perfect!! 

The Highcross PLUS app has some fantastic offers on at the moment, we'd planned on treating ourselves to the 'Buy 2 Pretzels Get 2 Free offer' at Auntie Anne's but we were far too stuffed after the meal!! 

half term, survive half term, children, family, days out, Highcross, Frankie & Benny's, food

half term, survive half term, children, family, days out, Highcross, Frankie & Benny's, food

Parents, you've totally got this. 

It's totally acceptable to snuggle up with some popcorn and watch The Greatest Showman at least twice ;) And don't forget to take some time out for you too, Mama!! 

half term, survive half term, children, family, days out, Highcross,

*We were invited along to watch the Little Labs workshops 
& offered complimentary meals at Frankie & Benny's 
for the purpose of this post.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

Family Film Time with Sherlock Gnomes

family, cinema, Sherlock Gnomes, film, Showcase Cinema

As a single Mum of a pre-schooler and a teenager, it can often be difficult to find things to do as a family, that both boys will enjoy. But one thing we do enjoy is film time.

Paramount Pictures' Sherlock Gnomes hit the cinemas at the end of last month. 
The boys and I were invited along to an Exclusive Screening of the family friendly sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet. 

family, cinema, Sherlock Gnomes, film, Showcase Cinema

family, cinema, Sherlock Gnomes, film, Showcase Cinema

So we headed down to our local Showcase Cinema de Lux for a Mummy / Son date. 

Armed with our snacks, chocolate coated popcorn (Yes really!!) and Tango Ice Blasts (have you even been to the cinema if you didnt have an Ice Blast?!) we got comfy in our seats ready for the film. 

We love Showcase; the seats are huge and super comfy, lots of leg room and there's a touch of luxury in every theatre. 

family, cinema, Sherlock Gnomes, film, Showcase Cinema

family, cinema, Sherlock Gnomes, film, Showcase Cinema

Sherlock Gnomes is the perfect family film to entertain all ages! 

James McAvoy and Emily Blunt return to their roles of Gnomeo and Juliet, joined by a few new voices; Mary J Blige, Micheal Caine and Ozzy Osbourne, with Johnny Depp taking the reins of Sherlock himself.

The gnomes are back for a whole new adventure in London.

Whilst getting their new city garden ready for Spring, they discover that garden gnomes all over London are going missing. 
After returning home to their garden one day, to find their family and friends have been kidnapped, Gnomeo and Juliet set out on a comedy filled adventure, alongside famous detective and sworn protector of London's garden gnomes; Sherlock Gnomes and his sidekick Watson who lead the investigation to solve the mystery of the missing gnomes.
With lots of life lessons within the film, such as not taking people for granted, the film was a fantastic all-rounder for all ages to enjoy. 

Sherlock Gnomes is currently being shown at Showcase Cinemas

family, cinema, Sherlock Gnomes, film, Showcase Cinema

Exclusive Screening tickets gifted to us for the purpose of this review
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