Cat Themed Children’s Party Ideas

IMG_5562.jpgMy daughter wanted a cat party for her eighth birthday.  I hosted a dog themed party for a friend’s daughter a few months ago, so we re-used some of the ideas and added a few new ones.

For their arrival, each child had a pair of cat ears and my eldest drew noses and whiskers on their faces.


The food was simple. My daughter asked if they could have tuna fish sandwiches and I cooked a pizza cut into triangles to look like a mouse.  We had cheese triangles with slices of cheese string for mouse ears and tails and strawberries with strawberry lace tails. My daughter baked cat shaped cookies and cupcakes with paw prints made from M&M’s and Minstrels (British chocolates that are bigger than M&M’s). Goldfish and other snacks completed the ensemble.

Plain, black plates were decorated with cat ears and  faces and whiskers  drawn on black paper cups.



One of the parent’s commented that it was the calmest party they had ever seen, as the group of mostly girls settled down to crafts.

  • First they coloured in wooden cat masks from Michaels, which gave us time to wait for everyone to arrive.


  • Once everybody had arrived, we made cat faces with polymer clay.  At the dog party we made dog faces into necklaces but this time I decided to turn them into fridge magnets by attaching magnetic tape.


  • Finally we made pipe cleaner cats.  The pipe cleaner was coiled around a finger, leaving  a piece for the tail. Pom pom heads were attached and ears and faces added.




The first game was a magnetic fishing game.  I made a fishing rod with a magnet attached and cardboard fish, labelled with numbers and a paperclip attached. Each guest caught a fish and then were handed a package with a corresponding number.  Inside the package was a cuddly cat and a certificate for them to adopt the cat and take it home.

img_5577-2Pass the Parcel

Pass the parcel is a traditional British party game and one of my kids favourites.  A gift is wrapped in multiple layers and passed around a circle.  When the music stops the child holding the parcel unwraps one layer.  Inside each layer was a cat themed action that the children had to perform, if they performed it correctly they received a treat.  The child who unwraps the final layer wins the gift.

pass-the-parcelMusical Cat Beds

Following the same rules as musical chairs but using cushions as cat beds.  When the music stopped, the children had to find a cat bed to sit on. Each time one cushion was removed.  When a chid was out, I let them choose a sweet from the bag and the winner chose a larger prize from our goody bag.

Silly Races

We played this game at the dog party and it was a big success, so decided to use it again.  Two bowls with a small amount of chocolate cereal are placed side by side (the cereal looks like pet food).  Two children race each other to see who can finish the cereal first, by only using their mouths.  The winner received a prize from the goody bag and the runner-up a sweet treat.


The second silly race, was to push a ball of wool/yarn across the floor to the finish line, using their nose.  Some children worked out very quickly that if they gave it a significant nudge, it would roll a long way.

Pass the flea

I found a glow in the dark bug to act as our flea. This was an adaptation of hot potato.  The children pass the flea quickly around the circle to music. When the music stops, the child holding the flea is out.  The last child left in, is the lucky cat not to catch fleas and wins a prize from the goodie bag.

The party was a great success – I think the birthday girl would agree.


Home All Day with a Preschooler? How to Make it Through the Day.


wp_20130204_001Before my second child was born, I used to feel sad that my eldest didn’t have a sibling to play with. I don’t remember finding it particularly difficult to find things to fill our days though. I didn’t have one child at home for another seven years, this time the experience was very different. As the youngest child, my daughter had never spent any time without her sisters. She is a very easy going child but suddenly seemed at a loss. She wanted to know what we were doing and constantly asked me to play games with her, unless I put the television on (and then I felt guilty).  This was a new experience for me and it took me a while to navigate.  If you are in a similar situation, you may find some of these strategies helpful.

Home alone with young kids all day: 6 strategies for success.

Roald Dahl Inspired Clothing from Boden


Image credit: Boden US

It isn’t often that I feel compelled to write about a product I haven’t tried out for myself, but when this new collection by Mini Boden popped into my feed yesterday, I was so excited, I had to share it.

To mark Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, Boden have created a limited edition children’s clothes range, inspired by Roald Dahl’s most loved books.  Every piece in the Roald Dahl collection is beautifully thought out and the attention to detail is exquisite.  I’ve always loved Boden clothes. I don’t often buy clothes in this price range for my kids but this range would make extra special Christmas gifts for my kids and our friends and family.

I showed them to my twelve-year-old. She loved the Fantastic Mr Fox gloves and the Matilda dress. With its book themed lining, this would be perfect for her but sadly she is too tall now for the children’s range.


Image credit: Boden US

We also loved the ingenious design of the golden ticket sweater with its sequined logo that can be swiped to change colour. It is even machine washable!


Image credit: Boden US

My eight year old loves the girlie, sparkly rainbow drops dress.


Image credit: Boden US

“How is it a Roald Dahl dress though?” she asked. “It is meant to be like lots of tiny sweets”, I told her. “Ah, I get it now.” she replied,” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

We are currently reading The Twits, so my six-year-old and I loved the Twits inspired sweaters.  My personal favourite is Mr Twit, I love all the little details poking from his beard.


Image Credit: Boden US

The one item that really caught my eye though, is the BFG inspired cape coat.  Throughout my college years I always longed for a full length cape (I think as a literature student, I saw myself as a romantic poet, or maybe the French Lieutenant’s Woman).  I never had one, but this coat brought it all back – I so wish they made one in an adult size! I love the lining depicting a London landscape, if I were a little girl again, I would treasure this coat.


Image credit: Boden US

Now all I need to do is start saving and keep hoping that one day they’ll make Roald Dahl inspired adult clothes too. Take a look at the collection. Which are your favourites?  Sadly, for my British readers, the collection is only available in the United States but browse this visual spectacle anyway; they are guaranteed to make you smile.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  All recommendations are personal and no payment or goods were received for writing this post.  Boden US granted full permission for use of images in this post.

An Introduction to Chalk Pastels


This year I am teaching art to Kindergarten and 2nd Grade.  Since I don’t know many of the children, I chose a simple project for the first lesson, so I could assess the children’s level of skill.

Kindergarten art is really about exploring materials. I like to give them a chance to investigate new materials, teach them a few skills and create a product that is as open-ended as possible. Today I introduced the children to chalk pastels, as they are easy for little fingers to use and can be used in many different ways.  Most of the children hadn’t used chalk pastels before.

To begin we talked about blending and what blending meant.

It means mixing two things together ” said one child.

I showed them how to blend different shades of the same colour, from light to dark by drawing lines using the side of the chalk pastel, one underneath the other and then blending in a circular motion with their finger. We thought that these techniques could be used for pictures of sky, water or rainbows.


I also demonstrated how to blend colours by putting one colour on top of the other and the children went off to see how many different colours they could create.

I showed them other ways they could use the pastels.  Making circular shapes and mixing two colours and using dots to make patterns. The children tested these out too.  Some children experimented with different colours in circular motion. Which colours look like the sun and which colours look more like a moon?  One child drew a car and we talked about how blending the wheels in a circle might make it look like it was moving.

Mine looks  a bit like smoke” said another child.

The final part of the lesson was to create a picture of their choice using some of the techniques we had tried.  I made some suggestions based on some of the things we had been talking about.  A sky with a sun or a moon, perhaps fire and smoke, a rainbow, water , trees and flowers or they could draw shapes and blend different colours inside the shapes. The instruction was to create a picture we could put on the board, not just a mass of blended colour.  For some this was difficult, but once they had a blended background we encouraged them to put shapes or drawings on top.


I think they turned out really well but most importantly,they had a lot of fun and hopefully  will explore chalk pastels further at their art station during free choice.



The 2nd graders who are already familiar with chalk pastels, created a project using a chalk pastel frame and a watercolour moon with silhouettes, from an idea by elementary art fun.


I love how they turned out, especially the vibrant colours of the moon  and chalk pastel blending to create a spooky effect.





I think they would look even better displayed on a window with a light behind them.




Picture Books for Children Who are Afraid of the Dark.

Fear of the dark is fairly common amongst young children. It often arises around the age of two or three when their imaginations develop and they begin pretend play.  Often, children become fearful about what might be lurking in the darkness but sometimes it is also tied up with other anxieties.

Sharing a book is the perfect way to invite a child to talk about their fears. Children’s fears are real so it helps to listen to them and work out strategies for alleviating fears together .  When my daughter was young, she developed an extreme fear of darkness, so bad that she would cower and cry if I left the curtains open as it was getting dark. It turned out that she had very poor eyesight but was too young to articulate it.  When it was dark, she could barely see anything at all.  Once her eyes were tested and she wore glasses, her fear was more manageable.  She still gets scared sometimes when she gets up in the night, but having a night-light by her bed (preferably one she can carry) helps a lot. When her fear was at its height, sharing stories helped a lot. I even wrote a book just for her, about a magic elf that she could call upon whenever she was scared.

Fears are helped when children can talk to you about them and what better way to start a conversation than reading a good book together. Below are some of my favourites; let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions.

  1. The Moon Inside by Sandra V. Feder, illustrated by Aimee Sicuro

This new title, is the story of Ella who grows more comfortable with darkness as her mother gently encourages her to appreciate  nature’s night-time wonders. Ella’s favourite colour is yellow and she feels sad as the yellow disappears at dusk.  The illustrations move from an indoor world of yellow, black and white to an outdoor twilight of green, red, blue and oranges.  Ella looks and listens as she explores with her mother and finds many beautiful things. She finally decides that if she leaves fewer lights on inside, then she can experience the glow of the moon from her bedroom.

Talking points for children

  • What can you see at night?
  • What can you hear at night?
  • Does it feel darker inside or outside?
  • How does it feel to look out of your window at night?
  • What would happen if we didn’t have night? What would you miss?

2. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Lazlo is afraid of the dark but the dark usually lives in the basement. That is until one night when the dark, in its personified form, enters Lazlo’s bedroom and takes him on a journey through the house to the basement. Once there, the dark shows him  a drawer where he finds night-light bulbs and Lazlo and the dark live in harmony ever after.  This book combines sumptuous, descriptive text with pictures that show the stark contrast between the shiny blackness and the light of the flashlight.

Talking points for children

  • What does dark look like?
  • What does dark feel like?
  • What can we do to make the dark feel different?

3. Can’t you Sleep Little Bear by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Barbara Firth

This timeless classic tells the story of Big Bear and Little Bear. Little Bear can’t go to sleep because he is afraid of the darkness all around. Big Bear brings lamps of different sizes to help Little Bear, but he is still afraid.  When Little Bear still can’t sleep, Big Bear takes him outside to see the light of the moon and stars. Finally convinced that he is safe, he falls asleep in Big Bear’s arms, in front of a warm fire.  If comfort food came in book form, this would be it.

Talking points for children

  • What helps you when you can’t sleep?
  •  Why aren’t grown-ups afraid of the dark?
  • How do you feel when you look up to the sky when it is dark?

4. The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson, illustrated by Paul Howard

Another timeless classic, this time in early chapter book format.  Plop is a barn owl, but unlike all of his friends, Plop thinks the dark is scary.  Each chapter deals with a different aspect of darkness as Plop learns  through his many adventures, that dark is exciting, kind, fun, necessary, fascinating, wonderful and beautiful. This is a perfect read-aloud book for young children.

Talking points for children.

  • Why do you think dark is fun, fascinating, beautiful etc.?
  • Can you think of other adjectives to describe the dark?
  • Have you ever been convinced by someone else that something you thought was scary wasn’t actually that frightening at all?

5. I’m Coming to Get You by Tony Ross

I first came across this picture book as part of a children’s literature module back in my student days and it is a personal favourite. Though not strictly about a fear of the dark, it is a book about putting fears into perspective.  As a creature from outer space hurtled towards Earth, it warns Tommy , “I’m coming to get you”.  Tommy  searches for it as he goes off to bed but can’t find it. In the morning, the monster gets ready to pounce, only to find that he is smaller than a matchstick in the human world.

Talking points for children

  • If you could squish one fear with your shoe, what would it be?
  • What things are you scared of that might in reality be more frightened by you?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

The Making of a Harry Potter Fan’s Holiday – Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Diagon Alley

My twelve-year-old placed the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio tour firmly at the top of her list of places to visit when we were in the UK.  Following our visit to the Dr. Who Experience her younger sisters were more cautious.  Friends who had visited previously, assured them that it was amazing and not a bit frightening but I’m not sure they were totally convinced. Of course, their friends were right, it wasn’t a bit scary.  You are taken on a journey to see how the film was created and  seeing the special effects behind the film alleviated all their fears, especially seeing how tiny the dementors are in real life.


Warner Bros Studio Tour is located North of London so we stayed nearby at North Hill Farm. As a family of five it can be difficult to find hotels and B&B’s that allow us to share one room.  The family room at North Hill Farm slept five and was perfect for all of us.

Excitement mounted as we drove into the car park and saw the signs and statues outside.  All visitors require advance booking with timed slots and this allows for a wonderful experience where you never feel overwhelmed by crowds and everything is easy to see without queues.

Hogwarts great hall

I have to admit to feeling a little emotional watching the introductory film and completely awestruck when the doors opened onto the great hall. Groups are led by a guide into these first two sections, while the rest of the tour is self guided.

audio tour warner bros studio tour

As a Harry Potter geek, my daughter listened to the audio tour.  I knew she would appreciate facts and figures but without it most exhibits have a guide or video screen telling you more about it.  My seven-year-old was enraptured by the talk at the wig stand and delighted in telling me stories about Malfoy’ wig.

There are plenty of exhibits young children can interact with from making magic to wand workshops and riding on a broom. The guides were so good at encouraging the kids as seen in this video clip.

Next stop Platform 9 3/4. Inside the Hogwarts Express, the carriages move through the movies in sequence , decorated with appropriate props.

Platform 9 3/4

This takes you to the outside lot where you can sample butterbeer or butterbeer ice cream. The detail in Privet Drive is wonderful, each certificate on the wall depicting Dudley’s pointless achievements.


The final lot features special effects, illustrated by a series of clever videos and the art of Harry Potter.  The tour ends with a surprise that truly takes your breath away, so I’m not going to offer any hints to spoil it.



There is so much to see at the Warner Bros. Studio tour. I would plan to stay at least three hours and allow extra time  for shopping. There is a lot of exclusive merchandise and entry to the shop is not permitted without a ticket for the tour.  We found some cool stuff although sadly I ruined my husband’s Slytherin Quidditch top with bleach after he had worn it once.  Looks like I have the perfect excuse to return some time. If you visit the café, the kids lunches come in this really cool knight bus box.

knight bus lunch box

There was never a complaint from any of the kids that they had seen enough, the whole experience was utterly engaging and we wouldn’t hesitate to return.  If you are looking for a full, well organised and good value experience I would put this top of your list. When I asked the girls what their favourite part of our trip was, the unanimous response was Harry Potter!  In case you need further confirmation, just look at these faces.

happy childrenimg_2125-2

Disclaimer: No payment or complimentary tickets were received for writing this post.



Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical



I took a blogging break this summer to concentrate on travelling with my family and now I am back, I have lots to share from my busy summer.  Today is Roald Dahl day and would have been Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to share my thoughts on the West End musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This was our first visit to London with the children.  We only travel home every few years, so we wanted to show them the sights and experience a West End show.  To be honest, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t our first choice of show and we arrived with a little uncertainty.  We couldn’t have chosen anything more memorable or spectacular.  From curtain up it was visually mesmerising.  Costume and set design were out of this world and totally lived up to the company’s aim to astound the audience.

Roald Dahl’s original story was preserved throughout but was cleverly tweaked with  modern touches. The children were characterised perfectly and wonderfully portrayed by the cast.  My kids spent time discussing who they would like to play;  ballet dancing Veruca Salt, video game obsessed Mike Teavee or Violet Beauregarde the acrobatic child star. The parents were also brought to life in quirky and interesting ways.

Directed by Sam Mendes, this is the first stage adaptation in 50 years and completely surpassed my expectations.  We all came out of the theatre feeling a little emotional. We had clearly witnessed something  unique and special.

If you get a chance to see it before it closes at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 2017, I highly recommend it.  Don’t despair if not, a UK tour is coming soon and for US audiences, the Broadway production will open in 2017.

Disclaimer: This is a personal recommendation, no monetary compensation or complimentary tickets were received for writing this post.


Play, Early Education and more…

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