A dozen roses in watercolour markers and black pen

I got a B in my O Level art, I painted a magpie in a bird’s nest, I think the prompt I chose was ‘an intruder’ and I remember being mightily pleased with my efforts. I often wish I had taken art further but truth be known, at 17 I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do.

Although being creative has never left me, I never really settled down to paint or draw again and always found myself saying, ‘Im no good at art.’ This gave me the perfect excuse to not even try. Plus it seemed, everyone was so much better at it than me, I would just ridicule myself if I tried, I would be uncovered as a dud artist the minute I put pencil to paper.

For years, my desire to draw and paint was squashed and forgotten, stuffed in an unused filing cabinet in the recesses of my mind.

Then a couple of Christmases ago I was given an adult colouring book. I was delighted and treated myself to a lovely set of pencils with a drawstring holder to keep them in. I spent time filling in the intricate designs and confess to still having lots of pages to complete! I quickly realised that I loved colouring in but, halfway through the picture I was getting bored with the repetition and blankness of mind. Although great for thinking time, the only creativity I was getting was choosing colours or blending them to my own choice.

I needed something more.

The following year I bought a copy of The Year Of The Doodle… 365 pages with a daily prompt to doodle. I didn’t get very far. Something was missing and I wasn’t getting much enjoyment from the book.

draw every day draw every way

Whilst surfing the internet for the umpteenth time towards the end of last year in search of novelty stocking fillers, I came across an intriguing book called Draw Every Day Draw Every Way. A book that focused monthly on different areas and gave daily prompts for pictures to draw. What’s more, each month uses different materials so you get to use a lot of different techniques and discover your own art.

I bought two copies, Alice said she didn’t want one, and Bessie and I sat down to have a go at the first section in the book – a month of nature.

To start us off I find some images online and screenshot them to use as a reference for shape and colours. By the time we were halfway through the chapter Alice asked if she could have a book too seeing how much we enjoyed the process.

dragonflies - Bessie

It hasn’t been plain sailing, I have had a couple of prompts I really disliked and Bessie cried a bit over ‘A dozen roses’ … “A dozen?” she yelled at me making clear they were way too many. I told her to just do one and cross out the prompt which she did and she was happier with that, her confidence restored until next time.

I think we may have found something good here, I see others showcasing their work on Instagram and we take a look at them for inspiration too @Joglassjo for example has shown us how to add fabulous backgrounds to our images. Even though we don’t draw every day, this book with its lovely prompts have got us drawing more often and trying things we would never have thought of, like a dozen roses or one…

Watch out for our work on our Instagram channel too.

draw every day draw every way

 

National chocolate cake dayThis is just what you need in January to beat away the cold and dullness of the first month of the year – National Chocolate Cake Day!

Who knew?

Num Noms got in touch and asked if we’d like to do a spot of chocolate cake baking to celebrate the day which, of course we replied yes to! They sent us through a Series 4 Deluxe set plus a couple of Mystery Pots. Before we go any further, let me explain what Num Noms are…

Num Noms Deluxe

The Nums are hollow characters made out of a soft rubber material in bright colours with faces and a very close resemblance to cakes. Noms are the inner bits that fit inside and can include a variety of characters like nail varnishes, lip glosses or motorised characters. The beauty is you can change the Num as often as you like.

The twins were delighted to receive the Num Noms Series 4 Deluxe set and spent ages playing with them and sorting them out in their bedroom. The mystery pots are a great idea as they are an economical treat with a lovely Num Nom inside.

Num Noms Series 4 Deluxe

National Chocolate Cake Day

Now let’s get back to the chocolate part of this post …

Num Noms sent us through two Bake in the Box chocolate cakes and lots of ideas to decorate with. I must say, I have not seen the Bake in the Box before and it is a perfect product to entertain children and not end up with a whole kitchen to clean!

National chocolate Cake Day baking

The ingredients come in a sachet which you pour into the box and simply add milk. Stir it all until a smooth mixture forms and bake in the oven.

Bake in a box chocolate cake

Once cooled you can eat or decorate.

As you can imagine the girls had great fun making, baking and decorating their chocolate cakes. I would definitely recommend the Bake in a Bo cake as a great baking project with the children and judging by how much my two love their Num Noms, I’d say they make an excellent gift too.

Disclosure: We were sent the Num Noms Series 4 Deluxe box and a couple of Mystery Pots for the purpose of this post. All opinions are our own.

Best books for children

Books are always the best gift for anyone. If you’re stuck for somebody’s present there will be a whole shelf of books to choose from that they will thoroughly enjoy. Reading has always been very important to us as a family and right from the start books have been present in the girl’s lives. As babies, they had fabric books and as they have grown, so has their passion for reading – something I am keen to continue to encourage. I make sure they always have a choice of books of all different types to choose from and encourage them to read at every possible moment.

Harper Collins sent through a collection of their top books for children and asked the girls to make a video including their thoughts on each book which you can watch below…like most 9-year-olds my two want to have their own YouTube channel which I shall be setting up over the Christmas holidays for them but in the meantime, you can watch their first work on my YouTube channel.

Books for children

I think you will agree that there are some fantastic titles which are sure to intrigue even the less focused children by pulling them into some great stories and taking them on an unforgettable journey. I must admit, I shall be dipping into some of them myself!

Here is a handy list of the 2017 best-selling books for children included in the box, all of which you can find on the Harper Collins website and all of the best bookshops.

Books for under 5s

Bing’s Christmas Wish – Amanda Hepworth

Kevin – Rob Biddulph

Sunk – Rob Biddulph

Boogie Bear – David Walliams

Here we are – Oliver Jeffers

Books for children 5 – 7

Paddington Movie books

The Grotlyn – Benji Davies

Books for children 8 – 12

Geek Girl – All Wrapped Up – Holly Smale

Toto – Michael Morpurgo

Paddington 2 – Anna Wilson

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Birthday Boy – David Baddiel

Bad Boy – David Walliams

Here are our other children’s book reviews as we’d thoroughly recommend any of these too.

Kaspar Prince of Cats

Top books for tweens

The Grinch who Stole Christmas

Disclosure – We were sent a box of books for the purpose of this post, all opinions are our own.

how the Grinch stole christmas

‘Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more’ 

There is a tiny part of me that completely resonates with the Grinch. Like him, I too raise my eyebrows at people who put their decorations up way too early (the first of December is early enough) and people who seem to buy every single product out there to give their loved ones at Christmas, overkill. In fact, the Grinch is one of my favourite Christmas books and films that I enjoy watching on the run-up to the big day.

This year, The Grinch is celebrating 60 years of being one of literature’s most iconic seasonal characters and Mari’s World has been chosen to be one of the Grinchmas bloggers – an accolade I am incredibly proud of.

Harper Collins has put together a fabulous Grinchmas hub full of wonderful Grinchy ideas and I decided to make a Merry Grinchmas door wreath to add to their pot of Grinchmas fun. Don’t panic as it really is quite simple, you should know by now that if I can do this – then anyone can!

How to make a Merry Grinchmas door wreath

merry grinchmas door wreath

What you’ll need

1 polystyrene ring
Dark green tissue paper
Assorted coloured ribbons
1 large green bauble
Red Felt stars
Light green deco mesh
LED lights
Card for the sign
Red and white pipe cleaners for the candy canes
Box of pins

  • Start with the polystyrene hoop and cover it with dark green tissue paper.
  • Wrap a red and white ribbon around the hoop until you are back where you started.
  • Wrap a string of LED lights in the same way and secure the battery pack with a tight knot that will enable you to get to it and change the batteries as and when required.
  • Glue on the felt stars and add bows made from assorted ribbon (mine are in gold). These can be pinned in place.
  • Take the large green bauble and draw on the features of the Grinch with a permanent marker. I started with the nose and eyes. There are plenty of drawings online to work from. The yellow eyes were painted using a nail varnish! Hang the Grinchtowards the top of the hoop and pin the ribbon or string in place to prevent it moving.

merry grinchmas door wreath

  • Cut large strips of the deco mesh and roll holding it tight in the middle, tie the middle with two kinds of ribbon to hold firmly in place. I used the red and white ribbon plus a snowflake version. Pin your deco mesh bows across the top.
  • Using red and white striped pipe cleaners form a couple of candy canes and glue into place.
  • Lastly, take a piece of cardboard and with a pencil, draw on the Merry Grinchmas and the small arm with the bauble. I found lots of examples online and copied directly from one of them. I then painted it and glued it in place on my door wreath.

merry grinchmas door wreath

What do you think?

I am really pleased with it and I shall hang it in our classroom from the 1st December.

Talking of classrooms, I’ve taken a look at the Grinch Classroom Lesson Plans too on the Grinchmas hub and I think we can have a lot of fun with them. Do pop by and take a look, you can have endless fun Grinchifying yourself like this…

Mari Grinchified

 

There are some wonderful ideas on how to grow your heart three times bigger, activity sheets to download and a 12 days of Grinchmas to join in too.

Reima Go kidventure map

“Mum, can we take a look at our Kidventure Challenge progress on your phone?”

I know a lot of children that have asked for Fitbits which I have to admit, I found really odd to start with. But the more I think about it, the more I can see it from a child’s point of view … it’s a competitive thing. Look how much I walked today! And let’s face it, in today’s sedentary tablet world the more we can get them up and out the better.

Having said all of that, the twins still don’t possess their own fitbits. Which is a good thing as Reima got in touch recently and asked if we’d like to review their latest multi award-winning project, Reima Go Kidventure Challenge.

Reima Kidventure Challenge

Reima outdoor clothing for kids

Reima is a Finnish clothing company that specializes in comfortable and stylish outerwear for children. They’ve been making clothes for all the family since the 1940’s and as they stepped into the new millennium, they chose to focus entirely on children’s clothes and perfected their range from 0 – 12 years old.

In 2016, they took their product one exciting step further and introduced Reima Go which has won many awards for innovation, design and user experience.

ReimaGO sensor

Reima Go is a sensor that sits in the child’s clothes or on an arm strap and logs all of the activity that takes place every day. It has been created with kids in mind and allows parents to keep track of their movement via an app on their phone.

The sensor, created together with Suunto, turns on when your child starts moving and stores the intensity and duration of movement. It is very sturdy and waterproof plus it has a long battery life.

As the children move around and play they can check later on the app, that their movement has turned into energy for the game character and they can power through exciting new worlds. The more they move, the more rewards they get.

#REIMAKIDVENTURE

Reima Kid Adventure globe

The company mission is to “encourage children to discover the joy of movement” and the next step was to come up with a challenge to inspire children and grown-ups to get moving more! The challenge, set together with Visit Finland and Ruka Kuusamo, is to collect 1 million active hours from children all over the world

The benefits of movement

Whenever I ask the girls to put their tablets away I get groans of despair and more fequently, ‘I’ve got nothing to do!’ Of course you haven’t because you’re not using your imagination! It takes some careful discussion and some persuasive arguments but once they are convinced, they love it which just proves to me how important it is. Push through the initial argument and get them up and out.

If you’re stuck for persuasive arguments, here’s a few ideas to try on them to create their own Kidventure

  • A trip to the local park or playground is always a huge winner with my two.
  • Walk the family dog. I like them to think they are responsible for Baxter too and walking at weekends as a family is vital for him.
  • A walk on the beach searching for treasures brought to shore by the latest tide.
  • Put the tent up in the back garden and watch how much stuff they take out (and that will need bringing back in!)
  • Set up a gymnastics mat on the grass with cushions, mattresses from sun beds, blankets and anything to soften the blow a bit.
  • Get the bikes out and take them on a cycle ride, make sure you trace the journey to show them after.
  • Rollerblades, skating rinks, ice skating. All fabulous ways of getting children moving and having lots of fun.
  • Climbing walss – this will be our next challenge.

Our Reima Go experience

Reima Kid Adventure globe

As mentioned above, there was a lot of excitement when the activity sensors arrived and they wanted to start them up immediately and get going. My first thought was, ‘How long before they lose them?’

The sensors are small black discs about the size of a 50p piece and are designed to fit into the Reima outdoor clothes in specially designed pockets. Not having those jackets, the girls decided to keep them in their school shirt pocket. One week later and one has already been lost. It was on the day they had a swimming lesson so I am hoping someone has found it and handed it in.

I think it would be a great idea to make them into a wristband and that way you would have to take it off to lose it. I would also recommend sticking a name tag on them, firstly to differentiate whose is whose and secondly, in case one gets lost.

We downloaded the app on my phone which meant all daily checking had to be done on my phone. They did want to download on their own tablets – which would have been a better idea and given them more control over the games and challenges but it requires my email address. I was a bit worried it might be linked to sales and so I have said no.

Win a Trip to Lapland

Reima are offering a holiday to Finland for the whole family to be in with a chance to win here’s what you have to do.

  1. Post a blog post, vlog or share on your social media: Why is kid’s physical activity so important? using the tags #millionhoursofjoy and #reimakidventure
  2. Tag three friends on Facebook or Instagram who might like to join in too. Link your post to #millionhoursofjoy challenge campaign page www.reima.com/kidventure and ask your followers to donate their kids’ activity hours to the global challenge.
  3. Register your post here to be in with a chance to win https://www.lyyti.fi/reg/Reima

Disclosure: We were sent a lovely Gift bag by Reima for the purpose of this post and included were two Reima Go Sensors. All opinions are my own.