Easter · Food

Mini Egg Chocolate Bark for Easter

It’s that most wonderful time of the year again when mini eggs are back in shops and are being aggressively promoted by the supermarket when I do my online shop because I’m still avoiding any mingling, pandemic style.

Pastel coloured mini eggs set in marble swirled chocolate bark and decorated with sweet violets
I love the pastel colours of the eggs set against the marbled chocolate bark

I’ve always loved mini eggs, their pastel colours and sugar crunch seem to signal that Spring is indeed here, almost as surely as the Spring flowers sprouting in the garden. And my goodness, hasn’t winter felt like a slog this year? Home school and work and the sense of captivity left me feeling so burned out, so even though it was a little early for Easter chocolate bark, I wanted to make something celebratory for the children to come home from school to, so Mini Egg Easter chocolate bark it was, sprinkled with some of the sweet violets that are growing like a defiant little carpet in the back garden.

Making chocolate bark is very easy, and this Mini Egg Chocolate Bark for Easter only took about twenty minutes. It’s easy to adapt to different tastes, and so simple that I’d feel confident making it with my children.

To make Mini Egg Chocolate Bark you will need:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 80g pack Cadbury mini eggs/similar with sugar shells
  • A flat baking tray/large brownie pan
  • Greaseproof paper

How to Make Mini Egg Chocolate Bark

  1. Break the dark chocolate and milk chocolate into the same bowl and set over a larger bowl of boiled water, allow to melt. If you like your chocolate sweeter, you can use plain milk, I found the mixture of the dark and milk gives a stronger colour for the marbling and stops the bark getting too sugary when the eggs are added.
  2. In a separate bowl, break up the white chocolate and melt.
  3. While these are melting, bash the mini eggs so you get a variety of shapes. Chop some in half so you have larger pieces. Reserve.
  4. Stir the dark and milk chocolate mix until it’s fully melted and completely silky, then pour this out onto a greaseproof paper covered baking tray, spreading until it’s thin.
  5. Before the dark and milk chocolate set, drizzle the white chocolate in rough stripes over the mix, then use a fork, skewer or cocktail stick to gently swirl into a marbled pattern.
  6. While the chocolate is still soft, stud some half mini eggs across the mixture, then scatter the shattered sugar shell pieces across the mix. If you were feeling like Willy Wonka, you could scatter some crushed parma violets into the mixture to add some zing.
  7. Allow to set, then remove from the greaseproof paper and snap into pieces as you see fit.
  8. I added some sweet violets to mine to serve, but if you’re adding flowers to food be sure that you know what they are, know that they are edible and know that they’ve been grown away from pesticides and animals.

Crafts for Kids · Home School · painting

Watercolour Planets, An Easy Space Activity for Children

My 5 year old has been learning about space this term and she’s fascinated so we’ve been watching loads of videos from the International Space Station on Youtube, building rockets and making papier mache planets, which is great, but when I have her little sister at home for home schooling as well, I sometimes need a space craft for preschoolers as well as the early years primary range, so we’ve been making these watercolour planets and sticking them in our black paper galaxies.

To infinity and beyond! Space exploration is easy when you can make your own interstellar map from watercolour planets

Watercolour planets are a really simple watercolour painting activity for kids, and they’re a great way for teaching children different watercolour techniques. They can experiment with different ways of mixing watercolours on paper, be it in dry, heavily pigmented lines which give the final planets a geode type look, or seeing how wetter paint mixes to create new colours and softer blends. With our watercolour planets, we experimented with tipping salt onto the wet paint to soak some of it up for a random, textured finish. We used sharpies to create our distant stars because my daughter is obsessed with them and was desperate to use the silver, but you could also use paint spatter acrylic which would look really cool and would introduce another technique.

When our watercolour planet paint experiments were dry, we just drew around them with circles and stuck the watercolour planets on black cardboard to create our galaxies, before sticking on a paper rocket ship that we drew after watching this really simple, easy rocket ship drawing tutorial from Mister Brush as part of one of my daughter’s school lessons.

Do you have a favourite space themed craft activity?

Crafts for Kids · Mindful Crafts

Our Mindful Happy Memory Gallery Wall

This week marks the start of children’s mental health week, so I’ve been thinking about mindful crafts for kids. Children’s mental health is a topic of huge concern for parents with children who have been isolated during the pandemic lockdowns, and so I wanted to find a mindfulness activity which reminded the kids that even in the face of everything that’s going on in the world, we’ve managed to make some happy memories and that they are very loved.

Yeah, I need to change the top knobs on the wardrobe but keep forgetting when I don’t have the kids climbing me!

We’ve been using our printer a lot with home schooling, but I decided we should have some fun with it by going through my photos for 2020 and printing their choice of photos from 2020 that made us feel happy and talked about why they had been happy memories. Then we chose some bright backing cardboard, cut the photos out and the kids went wild with washi tape, sequins and glue. All of our sequins are jumbled up in a big cardboard box and sifting through them is basically a sensory activity in itself.

This is a great mindfulness activity to do with kids of mixed ages, because it can take as little (perfect for toddlers with short attention spans) or as much time as they want. They are free to choose whatever memory and designs are meaningful to them so they get a sense of ownership and their self as they work on it. It also has the bonus of being free to low cost, because if you have a printer or photos printed already, you can easily do it with things you already have in the house.  And now we’ve made our happy memory photo frames, we have used them to brighten up the plain wardrobe in the children’s room which makes the room feel a little brighter and more cheery. Our gallery wall is still a work in progress, but the kids are really excited about their decorating project and keep suggesting memories that we could print photos of to add.

Do you have any tips for crafts which help boost children’s self-esteem and mindfulness

Crafts for Kids · Home School

Teaching Number Bonds through Playing with Conker Mites

Is anyone else home schooling because of coronavirus lockdowns at the moment? Last week I was revising number bonds to ten and number bonds to twenty with my five year old and we were both ready to tear our hair out. She’s pretty good at maths, but when you combine tiredness with the idea of needing to “know” number bonds to be able to answer questions without a number line then she got a little fed up.

So I had an idea to make a game of it with the crafter’s secret weapon…. goggly eyes.

The conker mite, a secret maths teacher

We had loads of conkers left from the children’s Autumn foraging, so I painted their white marks (I think of these as being a bit like the conkers’ belly buttons from where they were joined to the shell) completely white with acrylic paint, let this dry and then wrote the numbers 0-10 on them with coloured sharpies (I made two fives, as five and five make ten so I needed them for the number bonds). I used matching colours for the numbers which bond to make ten, so zero and ten, nine and one, eight and two…. you get the picture. Then I hot glue gunned some goggly eyes onto each one, and introduced my daughter to her class of conker mites.

Number bonds to ten on the conker mites, with colours coordinated for the various number bonds

Being five, my daughter is really interested in ideas about friendships and school routines, so I told her that her class of conkers needed to be put with the correct partners, their best friends who helped them add up to the number ten. She thought the conkers were adorable so was chatting very nicely to them as she quickly made up the number bonds to ten, we then popped them in a container and picked them at random to practice general addition which sometimes involved number bonds to twenty, but always allowed us to consider different way to approach addition and subtraction problems. She found this activity a really fun way to practise her number bonds without the pressure of formal learning.

Conker mites lined up ready to help out in any maths lessons, just in case a number bond was needed

I was really surprised how popular the conker mites were with my children. As soon as my two year old came home from nursery, she wanted to play with the conker mites as well, and while she’s too young to worry about number bonds, they were a great way to introduce her to numbers and sequencing while practising her counting.

Clothes Crafts · Crafts for Kids

Valentines Custom Stencilled T Shirts for Kids

My sister told me a story about my niece’s school at Valentine’s Day last year, which saw parents sending their kids to school with bouquets of red roses, teddy bears and chocolates for their best boy or girlfriends. While it’s nice to give the kids something to celebrate, there are plenty of Valentine’s day ideas for kids that don’t need you to turn them into mini-adults. I’m doubly interested to find quick Valentine’s crafts for kids – especially those that are suitable for pre-schoolers and toddlers – because we celebrate St Dwynen’s Day, the Welsh Valentine’s Day at the end of January, as well as the normal global love fest in February.

This year, when racking my brains for Valentine’s Day Ideas for kids that my five year old and two year old would be able to do together, and that I already had the things, I came up with the idea of making these cute stencilled custom kids t-shirs. With only a little set up from me, both of my daughters were able to get stuck in to this quick Valentine’s craft activity, which left them feeling really proud of the t-shirts that we had to show off in messages to all the family.

That’s the beauty of a quick kids craft that turns out well, it gives the children such a boost at their own accomplishment. Everyone needs their little wins at the moment, and craft therapy is such a key way for us to do this in my house at the moment!

While this was thought up as a Valentine’s day custom tshirt craft for kids, the technique could easily be adapted to customise all sorts of kids things, and grown up things too!

To make your custom kids love heart tshirt you will need:

A clean dry t shirt (old ones are fine and this is a great way to cover a stain)

Sticky back plastic

Washi tape

A pencil or pen

A craft knife

Fabric paint (this is an initial investment but we’ve used our set for loads of things)

Paper

How to stencil your kids t shirt with a custom design:1. Make sure that the t shirt is clean, dry and ironed

  1. Cut a piece of sticky back plastic to the area of the t shirt you want to cover with your design. If you’re doing this with really young children, it’s a good idea to cut the sticky back plastic on the large side and mark where the front of the t shirt will be to prevent spillages over the edge of the plastic (yes, I did learn that the hard way!)
The washi tape keeps the sticky back plastic flat and steady while you use the craft knife to cut out your design

2. If your sticky back plastic has come from a roll, use the washi tape to stick it flat on a cutting board (thick newspapers will do if you don’t have one, just make sure your craft knife won’t damage the surface beneath) and draw out the design for your stencil. When you’re happy with this, cut it out using your craft knife.

3. Remove the sticky back plastic stencil you have made from the cutting mat and peel off the backing paper before sticking this on to your tshirt. I find it easiest to stick down an edge and work across to stop the stencil sticking to itself. My five year old helped with this step, but my two year old had to make do with watching.

Check the position of your stencil on your t shirt before removing the backing, make sure you’re happy with this as it will control the print of your design

4. Put a piece of paper inside the t shirt in case any of the fabric paint goes through the top layer of fabric to the back. I also folded the arms out of the way and stuck them back with washi tape to stop them getting paint spattered as my children created!

The fabric paint can stain so it’s best to do this craft in old clothes on easy clean surfaces

5. Using a paint palette or some other suitable container, squirt your selected colours out to allow your children to choose from them. I gave my children a cork to stamp the fabric paint with, but you could use anything really. My fabric paint has the texture of thin PVA glue so I didn’t want to damage a paintbrush.

With a little adaptation this is a quick and easy craft that toddlers can join in with too, and they’ll feel very grown up making their own Valentine’s Design t shirt

6. When the children have filled out their stencil, put the t shirts aside to dry according to the timings on your fabric paint before carefully peeling the sticky back plastic stencil away from the t shirt to reveal their printed designs – my kids loved this reveal so much it reminded me of the makeover programmes I used to watch in the 90s!

This quick craft was great from making custom kids t shirts, and I’m looking forward to trying the technique out with them again to make other things. I think this would be a really nice Valentine’s day craft to make presents for cousins or relatives.

Crochet

How to Crochet an Infinity Toddler Scarf

The cold weather has finally hit us in the UK this winter, and I realised that my two year old could really do with a scarf when we’re playing in the garden. I don’t know about you but I’m really picky about scarves for very young children, I don’t want a toddler scarf with any loose ends that can catch, and any toddler scarf has to be an itch free scarf because I hate itchy scarves and I don’t want anything irritating the delicate skin on my toddler’s neck.

It’s impossible to photograph this child without her blurring, she moves so fast, but you can see the toddler scarf!

After browsing loads online (because we’re in Tier 4 at the moment) I decided that the best thing to do would be to crochet a toddler infinity scarf, or what I used to call a snood! That way I would get a toddler scarf with no loose ends, and I could control the feel of the fabric so she didn’t get any skin irritation from it.

I chose Lion Brand Dream Maker Yarn in Dreamy to make the scarf, as it is a tubular yarn with a chain construction (so no itchy fibres to snag on skin) and the acrylic and nylon blend meant that it will wash well when she inevitably decides to dive in a puddle on our walks! Two balls made the perfect sized toddler scarf which I measured against a snood belonging to her older sister to get a good fit. For reference, I used a 6.5mm crochet hook, and the balls were 100m long each, so you’d need at least 200 meters of a similar sized wool to create a similar scarf.

To make an infinity toddler scarf, you need:

  • 200-300m chunky yarn
  • Crochet hook (I used 6.5mm but match this to your chosen yarn)
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needle (optional if you crochet the scarf closed)

I didn’t use a pattern for this, and just freestyled a mixture of single and double chain crochet stitches to add texture measuring against my older daughter’s scarf, but if you want to make a similar toddler scarf, I’d say that you’d need to chain about 60cm in your first chain and keep your follow up chains roughly the same length, building this up until you have a long crochet rectangle which is about 60cm x 26 cm, you can then join the edges together with a chain of crochet (which is the method I used) or stich them together using a tapestry needle.  

“Looking good in my crochet toddler snood!”

Toddlers are all different shapes and sizes, so I’d recommend bribing them with a treat after a few rows to let you check the fit of the rectangle length going over their heads – better to adjust the size of the scarf at a very early stage than have to unravel half of it when you decide the first attempt is way too big which is what I did!

Christmas Crafts · Crafts for Kids · Paper craft

Five Minute Paper Snowmen

We may not have snow this Christmas, but allow me to introduce you to our choir of paper snowmen which we’ve had great fun making.

I’ve got a bit of an obsession with paper snowmen. When I was little my grandmother had this really cute paper snowman with a paper honeycomb ball body that would get unfolded every year, and in hindsight I was probably a complete nightmare to keep away from it, constantly poking at the poor thing. I’ve been trying to find one like it now that I have my own house, but I’m always really keen to try making some kind of paper snowman every year until I manage it.

I came across some really cute 3D paper Christmas trees on Hattifant’s blog recently and had great fun making loads with my daughters. She has a free printable that makes it really easy to get the base angle right so they stand up properly, and it’s a lovely craft for children who are working on their scissor skills. All you need is paper or thin card, a ruler, a pencil and some scissors, then pen to decorate. I used this basic layout to make these snowmen, and my oldest daughter had great fun designing hats and scarves for the different snowmen, while my two year old enjoyed colouring them all purple. Whatever floats your boat!

The trick with the snowmen, and the Christmas trees, is to get the angle of the base right so that they’ll have a fairly stable base. I made mine from thin card as it stands up better than paper, though paper is fine if you don’t make them too tall so they get floppy. Then you just cut out from the paper folded in half like a paper doll, and cut “ribs” through the center which can be folded out in opposite directions to support the 3D shape. Scoring gently through the middle and along the edges of the triangle as shown in the picture makes it easier to fold out the snowman neatly.

Christmas Crafts · Crafts for Kids

Easy Christmas Tree Hat for Kids

Is there anything to match the sinking feeling you get when you have a last minute email from your child’s teacher saying they need a last minute item or costume for an event at school? For me the latest was a Christmas tree hat for their celebration Christmas lunch, and with it being 2020 we couldn’t grab something from the shop. Also my five year old has decided that it’s her goal in life to be extra, so she wasn’t going to wear a nice cardboard and stick reindeer head band like we’d made in previous years.

Christmas tree hat, can double as a homemade mini Christmas tree when not in use

Cue a scrabble to make a hat from stuff we already had in the house, something that looked cool but was also led by my daughter. Enter, the Christmas tree hat, which looks jazzy but is deceptively simple, with a little help from me, my daughter managed most of the steps pretty independently.

To make a Christmas Tree hat you will need:

A3 thin cardboard (we used green but your Christmas tree could be any colour)

A long piece of tinsel (again, we used green but any colour could work)

Sticky tape

Tacky glue

Pencil

Scissors

Ribbon

Decorations (we made a star with gold cardboard and a pipe cleaner, and wrapped a length of string with felt Christmas shapes and jingle bells for baubles, but ready made pom poms with tacky glue would work really well I think.

How to make a Christmas Tree Hat:

Step 1. Roll your A3 cardboard into a cone shape, leaving a hole at the top to poke the tinsel through. Check the fit on the head that’s it’s intended for, then sticky tape into shape. Trim the edges for an even cone.

Step 2. Using a pencil, poke two holes on opposite sides of the hat and thread ribbon through. This will help the hat stay on when the tinsel and decorations added, as the extra weight can make it slippery. Heavy is the head that wears the Christmas crown.

Step 3. Poke the end of the tinsel through the hole in the had and sticky tape into position to secure.

Step 4. Spread tacky glue on the cone in sections working from the top of the hat to the bottom and wrap the tinsel around the hat to create the effect of branches. If you have a shorter length of tinsel you could go for a spiral around rather than full coverage. Sticky tape inside for a secure finish.

Step 5. When the tacky glue has dried, add your decorations. What you add will determine how you secure it, but with the star, we inserted the pipe cleaners inside the hole at the top of the hat and sticky taped the pipe cleaner inside to help the star stand upright on the Christmas tree hat. We threaded the felt shapes and small bells onto Christmas twine and wrapped around in the same way as the tinsel, securing at the bottom with sticky tape.

And voila, a very sparkly Christmas tree hat

This only took around half an hour to make using materials we already had, so I’d definitely recommend giving it a go as a last minute Christmas craft.