Category Archives: review

The Queen is Coming to Tea: Book Review

 

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Disclaimer: Links to the book title are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase the book from my recommendation I will receive a small financial incentive.

The Queen is Coming to Tea by Linda Ravin Lodding, is a sweet book that children who love to play at tea parties will adore.  My girls love to grab a blanket, turning it into a  royal cloak and lay out all their cuddly friends for tea parties. As such, they loved this story about a little girl travelling around the world to gather essential items for the Queen’s tea.
Ellie finds out the Queen is coming to tea and with her best friend, Langley the Elephant,  travels to Paris, China, Italy, and New York to make sure they have everything they need for tea with the Queen. But will the Queen patiently wait? And what exactly will be waiting for the Queen?

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I love the bright colourful illustrations by Constance Von Kitzing, but they may be a little too pink for some boys to enjoy.  The illustration of Ellie’s playroom gives clues as to where Ellie’s ideas about gathering items from around the world came from. I liked this insight into the child’s imagination.
The Queen is Coming to Tea would be a great book to read aloud and inspire play and learning.
You could..

  1. Prepare tea and cakes for the Queen using play dough or clay or outside in a mud kitchen.
  2. Bake cakes, or traditional British teatime treats like scones, biscuits and cucumber sandwiches and prepare a tea party or picnic.
  3. Watch footage of real royal events like the Queen’s coronation or a royal wedding and plan your own pretend street party. You could make flags and bunting, make posters or invitations, play games or have races and dance to music.
  4. Taste or smell different types of tea. Which country do they come from? Which is your favourite? How do the leaves turn into a drink? investigate with loose leaf tea, tea bags, warm water and tea strainers.
  5. Make a graph or tally chart of the children’s favourite types of tea.
  6. Could you make tea from herbs or leaves you find in your garden? These could be real or pretend.
  7. Give the children tulle, paper and plastic bags and scraps of material. Can they design an outfit fit for tea with the Queen.
  8. Are there any people from your community who have been invited to tea with the Queen? Perhaps recipients of MBE’s or OBE’s. Invite them to come and talk to the children.
  9. Further investigate some of the places featured in the story – perhaps some of the children have visited them.
  10. Practice squeezing lemons or perhaps try this fruit tea recipe
    Peach Mango White Iced Tea RecipeIngredients:
    4 Cups Water
    3 White Tea Bags
    1 Peach
    ½ Cup Chopped Frozen Mango
    1 tbsp sugar plus Sugar to TasteInstructions:
    Boil the 6 cups of water; remove from heat
    Steep the tea bags about 5 minutes; remove bags and allow tea to cool to room temperature
    Add chopped peaches and mango to a mixing bowl and mix with sugar; let fruit soften
    Place fruit in pitcher and pour cooled tea on top; add sugar to taste and stir

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Giveaway

For a chance to win a copy of The Queen is Coming to Tea and a porcelain tea set enter the giveaway below. The closing date is August 6 2017.

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Growing Friendships: A Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends (Book Review)

Disclaimer: Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase this book based on my recommendation I will receive a small payment. All opinions are my own. I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Most kids will encounter friendship challenges at one point or another. My family is no exception. Moving countries was a big challenge. The girls needed to find a new set of friends amongst groups of children who had already formed friendships. Sometimes they felt different to the children here, they didn’t want to play the same games or they were interested in different things.  A year group that is very boy heavy made it hard for one of my girls to form strong friendships and she longed for a best friend.

Even for those who make friends easily, keeping a strong group of friends isn’t an easy task.  Children want to fit in but getting along with friends is complicated.

Psychologist Eileen Kennedy Moore and parenting and health writer Christine McLaughlin  wrote this book to help children learn the essential skills for building and keeping friendships. Growing Friendships, A Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends helps children make sense of their social world through practical examples and humourous cartoons and simple exercises.  You could read it section by section or dip into the current issues your child is facing.

My daughter said she enjoyed reading the challenges. She liked that they were presented in cartoon form so that she could read through them quickly but also read the advice about what to do. I totally agree, the book isn’t heavy at all and is presented in a chatty, interactive style and a warm, non-judgmental tone.

growing friendships

We also read the book together with her younger sister. It was a good opportunity for them to talk about the things that happen between friends at school. My youngest beamed with pride as she told me how a friend had wanted to play with her, but another friend had a club that she wanted my daughter to be involved in – they invited the other friend to join  and all played together.

The layout and language of the book are particularly child friendly. The book begins by explaining how to greet people and build common interests to build friendships. It then examines reasons people may not want to be friends with you like being silly and not knowing when to stop, showing off or bragging, and always needing to be right. It gives simple practical tips on how to change those behaviours and deal with emotions.

As a parent we often hear stories about kids who are mean – I love these tips for reframing.IMG_1666

The book is full of practical examples like this. There are sections relating to the challenges of larger friendship groups, bullying, and moving beyond conflicts and each one gives children examples of the right things and wrong things to say.

As a parent I see it as a wonderful tool to help discuss the social challenges my children face and give them tools to help.

As a teacher, I think this would be a perfect book to share with children. Teachers will  clearly recognise the things we hear children talk about every day and that sometimes make us tear our hair out, this could be a way to stop and discuss issues with the class and a helpful reminder for when those scenarios occur in the future. You could display some of the important messages around the classroom.

I wish I’d had this book when I was a child. It’s not easy to know what to say as a shy kid and to be honest some of the tools in the book are also helpful as an adult.

growing friendships

I love this book and I think it is perfect for any child, whether they are having problems with friendships or not. As much as we all want our kids to have friends, it is equally important that they are good friends. This book helps children see that kindness is the key to friendship.

Growing Friendships is available from 18th July 2017.

Growing friendships a kids guise to making and keeping friends

Washed Ashore at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

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If you read my previous post about our art project made from recycled plastic you will know that the inspiration for ‘swimming through plastic’ was the Washed Ashore Project.

shark sculpture made from plastic washed ashore

Washed Ashore, is the brainchild of artist and educator, Angela Hazeltine Pozzi, who distressed by the volume of plastic washed up on her beloved Oregon beaches, decided to take action. Pozzi, along with a team of volunteers, created giant sculptures made entirely from the rubbish they found on the beaches. Each sculpture is designed to educate about plastic pollution in our Oceans and encourage a change in consumer habits.

turtle front

Ten of the Washed Ashore sculptures are at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium until October 21. Last weekend we finally got a chance to see them.

At the entrance you will find Gertrude the Penguin.

gertrude

Each sculpture comes with an I spy activity, urging visitors to find objects hidden within. They range in difficulty from plastic bottles (of which there are many) to tiny toy cars and cell phones. The girls loved trying to find the hidden objects. It encouraged them to examine how the sculptures were made.

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The displays also share facts about plastic pollution in our oceans and the dangers to animals within this ecosystem.

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Outside the aquarium are Weedy the Sea Dragon and friends.

Washed ashore sculpture sea dragonWeedy the sea dragon

 

fish made from plastic washed ashore

Octopus made from plastic

 

Seal made from plastic washed ashore

My favourites are at the back of the aquarium. I love the detail in the coral reef and walking underneath the plastic bottle jelly fish.

coral reef sculpture washed ashore project

coral reef made from plastic trash

coral reef made from plastic trash

jelly fish made of plastic bottles

The theme of plastic pollution is present throughout the zoo. The marine exploration centre has many activities encouraging visitors to learn how to be more responsible in our plastic consumprion and creative ways of using non-recyclable plastic, like these botte tops with magnets attached for creating pictures.

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The zoo’s new Wild West show, shares a clear message of Refuse, reuse and recycle and the shop and café no longer use single use plastic, including plastic straws and cups.

Washed Ashore
Finding out more about plastic pollution
Once you have seen the sculptures, there are plenty of other things to see. If you haven’t been to Point Defiance before, it has a strong focus on marine animals and an aquarium full of native species and others from warmer climates.  Who could resist this little guy?

You can stroke a stingray, anemone or starfish, watch puffins, walruses, seals and polar bears from above and below, ride a camel or hand feed birds.

The marine discovery center Point Defiance Zoo aand Aquarium

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Our day out really helped the kids think about the things they throw away and the effect it has on the environment. If we were a little closer, I’d love to check out some of their summer events.

 

Meeting a Dragon & Treasure Hunting at Caerphilly Castle

caerphilly castle

It has been a year since we took an amazing trip home. We had a long list of places and people we wanted to visit and top of the list for our stay in Wales was a castle. Growing up in Wales, I took it for granted that my kids would get to visit historical sites with school. Now, I need to pack all the things they can’t experience here, into our visits home.

caerphilly castle

Top of our list for our week in Wales, was a castle. There are so many castles in Wales it was difficult to choose the right one. I considered Castell Coch and Cardiff Castle, but eventually went for Caerphilly Castle, as it was the most traditional of the 3.  I wasn’t certain if it would be too ruinous or if there would be enough there to entertain the kids. As it turned out, it was the kids favourite day out in Wales.

They couldn’t wait to get to the castle as we walked towards it and when they were greeted by Dewi the real Welsh dragon, at the entrance, their excitement mounted.

dragon at caerphilly

Dewi, who first arrived at the castle on March 1st 2016,  is a star attraction at the castle. This May, he flew to Caernavon Castle, to join his sweetheart Dwynwen.  Dwynwen soon  laid two eggs. The eggs hatched into baby dragons Dylan and Cariad, on May 26th and are now taking on summer adventures across Wales. The dragons are an integral part of  Visit Wales’ 2017 Year of Legends, inspiring visitors to discover Wales’ rich folklore. Dewi has returned to his home at Caerphilly.

cadw dragons

Where can you meet Dwynwen and the baby Dragons?

12 -25 June Raglan Castle – Dwynwen and the baby Dragons.

27 June – 9 July  Tretower Court

11 – 30 July  Kidwelly Castle

1 – 13 August  Harlech Castle

15 – 28 Aug  Beaumaris Castle

Treasure Hunting

Included in the admission fee (£23.70 for a family ticket admitting 2 adults and up to 3 children under 16)  was a treasure hunt activity. The children visited every part of the castle looking for information to answer to clues that would lead them to the treasure.

caerphilly castle

We descended spiral staircases.

stairs caerphilly castle

Walked along balconies.

treasure hunt

through dark corridors

castle coridoor

and explored the grounds for clues.

caerphilly castle

After hours of fun (and a few painful feet from new shoes) we found the treasure.

kids activities caerphilly castle

The children exchanged their treasure hunts for a special prize in the gift shop. We admired the view and said our goodbye’s to Dewi, before heading home.

view from Caerphilly Castle

What is a Dangle?

Disclaimer: contains Amazon Affiliate Link


My kids are captivated by this book, The Art of Drawing Dangles. I’d never heard of dangles before, so what is a dangle exactly?

Dangles, are a from of embellishing lettering by adding charms and patterns that dangle for the letters or shapes.  If you love pattern, design or intricate colouring, you will love dangles.

gymnast dangle
gymnast dangle
At first, I thought dangles looked complicated, but my 6 and 8 year old latched onto the book immediately. They followed the step by step designs and used them as inspiration for their own letter designs, patterns and pictures.  Some they coloured with gel pens and watercolour pencils.

dangle letters
Dangle letters by 8-yr old

My 8-year old exclaimed,
“I love drawing dangles. I just like drawing random shapes that don’t mean anything but look nice. I don’t do their designs (in the book), I do my own.”

To be honest, I’m completely blown away by their creations. These were created within the first few days of using the book; I’m excited to see how their skills and creativity will develop with practice.

dangle design by 6 year old
Heart design by 6-year old.
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Family Friendly Spaces: The Container Park Las Vegas.

container park by dayOn my recent trip to Vegas, I was surprised at the number of people trudging the strip with young children in tow. Though there are things for kids to do in Vegas, museums, shows, the Bellagio fountains and lounging by the pool, I’m pretty sure my kids would soon tire of walking up and down the strip.

If you visit Vegas with kids and want to get away from the strip, the container park is an exquisitely designed haven in the heart of downtown Vegas.

container park vegas

 

The container park as the name suggests, is fashioned from shipping containers. The 3 storey’s of shipping containers are transformed into shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.  The container park was built as part of a drive to transform Downtown Vegas and provide affordable spaces for new and small businesses.

container park

For the kids, there is a wonderful independent toy shop, Kappa Toys  whose  owner  is clearly passionate about toys.  I spent a long time in there choosing a perfect gift for my kids.  Another favourite was the vintage clothes shop, Vintage NV. We ate a delicious brunch  at The Perch, on the 2nd storey overlooking the rest of the park .

The Perch
The Perch

Below the Perch, is an open space with a stage, building materials and chalk boards for the kids.

The play and stage area container park
The stage and play space with comfortable seating for adults

In the centre of the park is a huge, well thought out, children’s playground and outside the playground is another small stage for children’s activities.

 

By night the container park is transformed into a civilised eating and drinking area, where people sit quietly at the wine or whiskey bar. It shuts down at 11pm so doesn’t attract a rowdy crowd.

container park by night

One of the highlights of the container park at night is the animated praying mantis that blows flames in time to music.

I loved the container park, I think every city should have one.

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New Books to Inspire Family Crafts

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My family love to create things together but sometimes we need a little nudge of inspiration. These 3 new books from Quarto books  are perfect to inspire ideas that will take us through the summer.

Stick it to ‘Em

Stick it to ‘Em is your invitation to create customized stickers. With just a hint of silly irreverence, this guide includes a list of colorful art tools in addition to easy drawing and lettering techniques and step-by-step tutorials, all designed to get your cheeky creativity flowing. You’ll then be treated to more than 35 pages of stickers, including a selection of fully designed styles to use any way you like, a variety of stickers to color in, and blank stickers to create your own.

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This one was my teenage daughter’s favourite. The beginning of the book teaches how to design stickers using water-colour and she used this as inspiration.  She also took some of the ready-made stickers to decorate her laptop.

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My younger girls liked the stickers that you colour in but may very well be inspired by their big sister’s creations. Some of the slogans on the ready-made stickers are not really suitable for young kids. Though they are meant to be sassy, a few refer to drinking or have acronyms I wouldn’t want my children using, so choose your stickers wisely if you have younger children.

Hand Lettering A-Z

Hand Lettering A to Z is a fun, hands-on book in which artist and calligrapher Abbey Sy presents her creative lettering and invites artists from several countries to contribute alphabets of their own–all unique, all hand drawn. Each alphabet is paired with a collection of phrases to show readers different ways to use the lettering and have fun with it in different languages, including French, Spanish, Irish, Swedish and Portuguese. Readers can use the phrases when making cards, gifts, or embellishing their journals. And unlike calligraphy, hand lettering does not require disciplined study. Hand-drawn lettering is meant to be personal and original, so even beginners can dive in.

 This one is really useful for us. My kids love to make signs and last year we made some for the garden.

Bee Friendly sign

Lettering isn’t always easy without a stencil but this book has given us inspiration to try new ideas and enhance what we have already tried. My 8-yr-old looked through the book and was a little confused as to how we could use it. We went through it together and I explained that the book shows you how to make different fonts step by step and how to add designs to create your own. She tried out a few in black and white to experiment.

hand lettering

 

Mom & Me Art Journal

This full-color art journal for mums and kids to colour and draw together in is designed to be a sharing experience. Mum and child can write each other letters, draw what scares them, imagine what they want to be when they are grown up, color a scene using only one favorite color, whatever their imaginations lead them to.

Mom and Me: An Art Journal to Share is filled with fun hand-lettering and artwork from Bethany Robertson along with creative prompts from licensed art therapist Lacy Mucklow. Mucklow offers up the best ways to communicate with a child through creating together; how to start an open conversation with your child; questions you can ask that will help generate thoughtful responses; and how to tailor the quality time so it’s still fun and engaging for your child.

I love the concept of this book and the activities inside are really well thought out. My 8-year-old said she couldn’t wait to share it with me.  If I could change anything, it would be the title. Aside from my purely personal dislike of the word mom, I feel that this book is excluding dad’s thus I would have liked it to have been entitled Parent & Me. Perhaps there is a dad version on the way?

The book is designed to be used flexibly.  Topics may be chosen based on issues encountered within your family or simply as a springboard for talking.  Children often find it easier to express feelings through drawing or writing, so the book encourages parents to share experiences together. There is no right or wrong way to use the book. As a mother of 3 children of different ages and very different needs, I think I would spend time individually with each of them but also copy the pages and work with all 3 of them together so we could share different points of view. I also think this might encourage teenagers who might not want to share, as they guide and support their younger siblings.  In a similar way I think some of the activities would work really well in a classroom.

The section on feelings has activities like drawing what makes you happy, sad and angry. These could be appropriate for any age group. Some activities, like drawing your inside and outside self  may be a little abstract for younger children or may need illustrative examples and discussions to explain. Allowing time to talk and share ideas is an important element to this book as I feel some of the concepts are difficult to express, particularly  the in the moment section. I would start with feelings and/ or imagination, particularly with children who worry about presenting their ideas.