baby and toddler activities, Lists

10 simple toddler crafts and messy play

It feels like there are loads of articles and daily inspiration full of ideas to help you and your kids get through lockdown. On one hand, I apologise for adding to the list. On the other, I’ve shared stuff I’ve found easy enough for crafting novices like myself to try.

This quick top 10 is based around activities which are engaging and fun for toddlers, and which (mostly) use stuff you would have or gather in the house.

paint-rainbow-lockdown-nhs-toddler-craftRainbow making

You’ve probably done this one already, displaying it proudly in the window in support of our fabulous key workers during lockdown. But who says you need to stop at one? We’ve made more for grandparents and there’s always the option to post some through your neighbours’ letterbox, or create some rainbow greetings cards to cheer up some family and friends. Another way we’ve managed to make rainbows is to get creative with some chalk rainbows on the pavement to bring a smile to those out on daily exercise. Obviously the rain washes it off, which is an unfortunate common occurrence in Scotland, but that’s just an excuse to get out and do it again with your toddler!

Loo roll superheroes
If you were one of those panic buyers at the beginning of this pandemic, you are well sorted. If not, you probably have the goods in your recycling bin that may or may not have been emptied by now. The basics needed here are loo rolls and crayons/pens/paint. However if you’re feeling fancier, why not add some crepe paper capes, pipe cleaner limbs and some googly eyes, pompoms and more if you have them. Superheroes aren’t the only characters you can make either – some families have made their favourite football team in loo rolls. Others have made loo-rock-and-roll bands.

Painted-stones-messy-play-craft-toddler-activities

Painting stones
We are lucky enough to live close to a park, so stones are easy to come by. Whether it’s from the garden, park, beach or anywhere else, good, chunky stones are great fun to paint. We painted minions on ours, and housed a particularly large one outside our front door like an ornament, but there are infinite ideas on what you can create and do with them – your imagination is the only limit! I have seen other people create the characters from Monsters Inc and other kids’ favourite Disney films, painted animals and much more. Other ideas for what to do with them include placing them in an area of your garden, leaving in gardens for friends/neighbours/family and we have even seen painted stones appear in the park with the instructions to re-hide them.

bird-feeder-simple-toddler-craftBird feeder
Another really easy make, taken from an infographic shared by Scottish Canals. There are three difficulty options, which you can choose based on your child’s age and ability (or, if you’re me, your own creative abilities!). We enjoyed making one with an apple and it’s handy if you have fruit which is getting past its best, as fruit is ripening quicker in the warm weather at the moment.

Butterfly feeder
Again this has come from an infographic shared by Scottish Canals. It’s really simple and uses an old glass jar (we always seem to accumulate these from pasta sauces, jams and even dips jars) along with some cotton pads, sugar, water and basically anything brightly coloured you can decorate with.

Flour drawing
If you’ve been one of the lucky ones able to get hold of a bag of flour (or maybe you were more than a lockdown baker and had a stash anyway) this is a fairly easy lockdown activity. All you need is flour – any kind will do – and a baking tray, or any other sort of tray really. You can use paintbrushes or wooden spoons to give your child something to draw with, or let them go wild with their hands, creating their own Art Attacks in the flour. If they’ve mastered it, why not get a straw and show your toddler how to blow the flour to make more masterpieces?

simple-crafts-for-toddlers-messy-play-pin

Loo roll flowers
Since we’re all a fan of loo rolls these days (heaven knows we’re using more at home 24/7!) why not make some loo roll flowers too? This really simple one involves a grown-up cutting around 1-1.5 inch lines upwards into the loo roll all the way around. The more lines, the more petals your flower will have. Choose which colour you’d like your flower to be (or choose multiple colours if you have numerous loo rolls!) and squirt some out into a large circle on a plate – paper plates are ideal in size if you have them. Fold all the lines on your loo roll out so they are at right angles (or close to right angles) then dip into your chosen paint colour and print onto paper. Use a paintbrush to make the inner circle yellow and voila, you have a flower!

Handimals
You may know them as something else, but I love the term ‘handimals.’ These are essentially animals made from handprints, with added Sharpie and imagination. For example an upside down orange or brown hand print can easily be turned into a cheeky monkey by adding some facial features, whilst an orange hand the other way could be a lion with a big mane. If you’ve got googly eyes lying around, why not stick them on too for added fun. And if you’re feeling adventurous and imaginative (and are up for more mess!) then why not do ones with footprints too?!

Playing-with-rainbow-rice-indoor-toddler-craft-activitiesRainbow rice
We found this one on Made For Mums – which has LOADS of great ideas of things to do and interact with every day – and it’s surprisingly easy to do, as long as you have rice and different coloured paints! They suggest adding rice and paint (or food colouring) into sandwich bags – a separate bag for each colour you use – and shaking until all grains of rice are covered. We didn’t have sandwich bags so just used some old poly bags that were past their best for shopping and they worked just as well. Once the rice is covered, you need to lay it out until the paint dries. Then add all the colours to a big baking tray or similar, and let your child go wild with the colours and textures.

Marble painting
This one is a bit messy but fun. For this you need a baking tray (or other deep tray like a big lasagne dish), some paint, paper and some marbles. In the absence of marbles why not use bouncy balls, toy cars or anything round and/or on wheels. Lay the paper down on the tray and add some splodges of paint at random. Then roll your marbles along the tray – the momentum should carry them through the paint – and make some crazy works of art!

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baby and toddler activities, festivals and events

Ardardan Scarecrow Festival

We love Ardardan Estate for a visit on a (dry) day, so we are super excited to go to the scarecrow festival this weekend.

I’d never heard of a scarecrow festival before, and if it wasn’t held at Ardardan I’m not sure how appealing I would have found it. I had visions of multiple scarecrows being burned guy fawkes style – thankfully my macabre imagination was wrong!

The festival is a community celebration, with local groups, schools etc. Creating and sending in their own scarecrow to be displayed over the weekend. No burning involved!

The scarecrows entered are then dotted around the woodland trail on the farm, which is a nice wee walk with a toddler on a regular day, never mind when there are fun and fancy scarecrows to spot! The whole community involvement is something I really like, knowing that time and effort has been put into each scarecrow by those groups who have entered, whether a primary school class, community group or workplace.

In addition to magnificent scarecrow spotting, the farmer’s tractor Archie will be out taking people on tractor rides at set times throughout the day. There’s a cost of £4 per person to go on the ride but I imagine it would be worth it for the full farm experience. Although there’s no option to book and pay online, you’re advised to call the team at Ardardan to reserve a space.

Younger kids will have a ball with inflatables in the walled garden area, which also comes with a charge of £4. Fingers crossed the weather holds up to be able to make the most of this!

All of Ardardan’s staple farm shop, tea room, garden store and trails will be open and available as usual. From duck racing to fresh farm shopping and home-made cake-eating, it’s an autumn event I’m really looking forward to. Stay tuned for scarecrow pictures after the event – or check out my Instagram story on Sunday!

Oor-wullies-big-bucket-trail-wee-wullie-riverside
baby and toddler activities

Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail

What exactly is Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail I hear you say?

Well it’s pretty self explanatory but for anyone outside of Scotland, Oor Wullie is a beloved character, part of The Broons, who appeared in the eponymous comics in newspapers for years. A household name in Scotland, Oor Wullie has his own annual and range of merchandise, and is undeniably recognised for his dungarees and bucket seat.

Oor-wullies-big-bucket-trail-glasgowThe Big Bucket Trail pays tribute to that iconic version of Wullie on his bucket, in the first ever national public trail. 200 sculptures have been created and spread throughout Scotland’s main cities; Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness, all in the name of charity. Each region has its own select charity which the statues are raising awareness and funds for. Local to us, it’s Glasgow’s Children’s Hospital charity.

The idea of the bucket trail is that it’s a free, mass participation event that anyone can take part in, whether you aim to collect them all, or just enjoy adventuring out to see which ones you happen upon. Conversely it’s also about art and communities, as many brilliant artists have designed a Wullie for the trail, as well as numerous nurseries, schools and community groups creating their own Wee Oor Wullie’s.

There are 56 of the main Wullie sculptures in Glasgow and the surrounding area, so needless to say we didn’t capture them all. However it’s a fun game to play with your toddler and absolutely free. You can pick up a free copy of the map at selected Wullie locations, or you can download the free app, which contains the app, counts your collection and also offers rewards for unlocking certain Wullie’s along the way.

We didn’t download the app, as with a toddler under 2 we weren’t sure that 1) he would even like the sculptures or 2) would want to walk all that far as some of them are spread out. We managed to see some of the little ones in Braehead Shopping Centre and the Riverside Museum, and had fun walking through Edinburgh during the Fringe trying to find some big and wee Wullie’s.

I would say that this is an ideal activity for the whole family, and that if you want to collect them, maybe take a buggy with you in case of tired little legs.
Given more time, and a little planning, we would have probably tried to do the trail purposefully rather than happening upon it. And maybe if Travis was a little older we would have visited further afield to try and find Wullies. (If he was older he may also have posed nicely for a photo rather than screaming no and running away, but that’s another story!).

The Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail is highly recommended, as it ticks all the parent boxes. Firstly, kiddos are outside in the fresh air (mostly), burning off energy walking to find the sculptures. Secondly, each sculpture has a different design, many with things to spot and talk about with little ones. Thirdly, each sculpture comes with a backstory behind it, so you can learn more about the design, the artists and so on. Finally, the trail raises funds for a children’s charity, which you can’t really contest as a parent (why would you though).

Sadly, the trail comes to an end on 30th August, so you’ll need to be quick if you want to get out and spot some. However, there will be a big farewell weekend from 13th-17th September in each city, so you can see all the Wullie’s from that section of the trail at once. Tickets are free but there are limited numbers for certain time slots, see the Oor Wullie website for more on this.

lamont-farm-free-things-to-do-with-toddlers
baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Lamont Farm

Lamont Farm is a wonderful charity farm project in Erskine, about 20 minutes from Glasgow city centre. It’s a city farm, so it’s in a much denser space that your regular rural sprawling hectares of farmland.

That’s not to say animals are boxed in on top of each other, it’s just that there aren’t massive fields with hundreds of sheep or cows in them. Yes they do have some of those animals at Lamont Farm, but to a far lesser quantity, and you might find a horse sharing a field with a llama or something.

The project itself is half typical farm life and work, half rehoming other animals, so on any given visit you might find your typical sheep and pigs, but also a bearded dragon and guinea pigs. Volunteers work hard to ensure the welfare of all animals, and not only give up their time to look after all creatures on the farm, they also offer guided tours for visitors.

 

The basics

As a community run project, Lamont Farm is completely free for all to enter, however there are donation buckets on the gates as you enter and exit. All donations go back into helping the running of the farm and continuing to look after the welfare of the animals. If there was ever a farm you wanted to visit that wasn’t out for commercial gain, or where you wanted to be sure the animals were treated properly and not like a production line, then this is the place.

The farm area is quite small, so it’s not a problem to visit without a pram/buggy. If you have smaller children unable to walk yet, there’s definitely room to get a pushchair in, however, there might be some areas you’d have to leave a buggy outside, such as the reptile shed. The location is quite easy to drive to, but there’s no set parking (it’s just on-street) so that’s something to consider when you’re visiting.

What to expect

Nothing like your average school farm visit, Lamont Farm is a city farm, so everything is in much closer proximity. Around the yard and stabling areas, the ground is all concrete so easy to navigate with a pushchair. Despite being concrete, wellies or boots are still advisable as even in nice weather, the volunteers at the farm may be cleaning out stables, rabbit hutches etc, and hosing things down which means puddles and muck are to be expected even on the sunny days!

My advice is to expect the unexpected! There are ponies, goats, sheep and a massive pig for those interested in typical farm life, but the uniqueness of Lamont Farm is really the rehoming and taking care of all the other animals. As the point is to get animals to a stage where they are rehomed, you might not see the same animals on a second visit. Similarly, as they take in rescue animals, you might find some new friends on a second visit.

Volunteers at the farm offer guided tours which are really interesting and allow you to find out more about each animal. Not only do you get to hear about how each animal came to be on the farm, and what they are like, you also get the opportunity to handle many of them. From rabbits, gerbils and guinea pigs to bearded dragons, snakes and turtles, it makes for a really interesting experience!

In addition to all of the animal fun, there’s also a play area for kids (it’s definitely for smaller kids), with the likes of red and yellow cars, slides, seesaw toys etc. There’s also a little tiny pig that gets to run around in the play area too, so you might be fighting him to go through the tunnel!

Within the play area, there are a couple of picnic benches, and the farm sells juice and snacks, ice lollies etc so you can enjoy a wee snack break there too. There are toilets, including baby-change facilities too, so it ticks all the boxes of all the necessities of an afternoon out with a toddler.

Unlikely mum verdict

I found this farm an amazing day out not only for my little man and his best friend who we brought with us, but also for myself! It was great to hear volunteers so passionate about the animals and what the farm is all about. Equally, it was lovely to be able to hold some of the animals, and let the kids try the feel of a tortoise, or pet a pony for example. I wasn’t brave enough to hold a snake or anything myself but that’s also an option!

I love the idea that not only is this a visitor attraction where you can learn and interact with animals, you could also adopt one or even end up taking one home! Not that we have room for a pet, but if we did I would consider rehoming from there as they do such a great job ensuring the welfare of the animals. Plus, even if your not a kind of pets-in-your-own-home kind of person, there’s always the fact that when you revisit, you might find some new and different animals, or find out that an animal you handled before has finally found their forever family. Additionally, you can sponsor an animal and visit it, and volunteer as if it were your own pet that just doesn’t live with you. A perfect way to introduce animals and the idea of care for pets to kids, without the additional mess and cleaning required at home!

I didn’t expect there to be a play area and juice etc available so I was pleasantly surprised by that. The kids had an absolute ball petting animals, chasing geese and playing in the picnic and play area. It’s definitely a good afternoon out for the family.

Main points

  • Free
  • Animals to be rehomed
  • Picnic area
  • Animal handling
  • Not suitable for young babies
  • Changing facilities available
  • Easy to explore without a pushchair

lamont-farm-free-toddler-activity

 

Did you enjoy this post? Check out more free activities and attractions for toddlers

baby-toddler-swimming-lessons
baby and toddler activities, Mother and Baby classes

Baby and Toddler Swimming Lessons

One of my favourite all-weather activities for Travis is his swimming lessons. We’ve taken him since he was around 5-6 months old, and he absolutely loves it. Having grown from the baby classes into the toddler classes, it’s easy to see progress in terms of his abilities in the water, but also his confidence in water and his ability to listen and follow instructions.

Why swimming lessons?

If there’s one thing I could recommend to new mums looking for things to do with their little babies it’s this. There are so many benefits of this for mum and baby. Remember when the midwives gave you information on water births and they spoke about babies being surrounded by water when you carried them? That’s a main reason for starting swimming lessons so young – babies grew surrounded by water, so it’s something they are familiar with.

If, like me, your newborn absolutely hated bath time to begin with, swimming lessons are a way to combat that. Sure, they may scream the pool down the first couple of times (Travis returned to doing this again last week, despite swimming for a year!) but that’s only normal until they get used to the water. The lessons involve simple things like pouring water over different parts of your babies body to get them used to water whilst learning body parts too.

Other great reasons for booking a block of lessons are that it helps you create a routine with your child, going at the same time every week, whilst encouraging mums and babies to get out and see other mums and babies. As mum is going in the water too, it helps you get some gentle exercise (and not so gentle as your baby grows into a 2.5st toddler!) as you bounce your baby and guide them through swimming techniques.

Selfishly, I’ve also always found that it’s quite tiring on Travis, so it means he usually goes for a nice long nap afterwards – a godsend if mum is in need of some rest too, or just a hot cuppa in peace!

What do lessons involve?

As well as pouring water over the body, there’s time to splash, time to kick, and time to play at the end too. As your baby becomes more confident in the water, your instructor will show you how to hold baby to get them to move as if they were swimming. This encourages their motor skill development and invokes the urge to kick in the water. Your instructor will also guide you on dunking your baby underwater. Believe me – this is far more traumatic for mums than babies the first couple of times! In fact, I actually chickened out and only put Travis in up to his neck the first time.

There are usually songs or nursery rhymes to accompany most things you do, so you get that repetition and association that’s key to babies’ routines.

Depending on how well your baby adapts to and enjoys the water, your instructor will introduce floats and various different moves, such as lying your baby on their back and guiding them across the water. Like with everything, every baby develops at their own pace so there’s no time or age limit on anything really.

The toddler lessons involve more floats and swimming – and sometimes even letting go of the floats to watch your little one go! Plus there are opportunities to “catch treasure” by encouraging your little one to reach under water to bring out toys and (toy) coins that are placed on the steps of the pool.

How soon can I book swimming lessons?

The advice from health visitors is to wait until after your babies’ first round of jags. I think this is probably due to the fact that swimming pools and changing areas can be a breeding ground for germs.

However, after your baby is 8 weeks old, you’re free to book onto the next set of lessons. The lessons in our local pool (Ready, Steady Splish and Ready, Steady Splash) run in blocks of around 8-10 weeks to coincide with school term time. This might mean you have to wait a few weeks longer than planned to start, if there’s currently a block in the middle of running.

The only downside of blocks running like this is that there are no lessons during the 6 week summer break, but if your child has started before this then I’d strongly recommend taking them for a little splash during the holidays so they still remember the pool.

How much do lessons cost?

The price very much varies from area to area, and depends if you chose to go with a brand of swimming instruction (such as Water Babies) or stick with your local council pool offering. I’ve heard that some big brand name classes can cost upwards of £70 for a block of just 8 lessons.

Our Ready Steady Splash classes are run in the local council pool, and a block is usually between £28-£35 a time. The cost is dependent on the number of lessons per block, and other factors such as bank holidays within the block. This tends to affect us as Travis’ lesson day is a Monday, but most pools offer a variety of days and times to choose from.

What should I bring to swimming lessons?

As you would for swimming yourself, bring a costume and towel for each of you. There are costumes with in-built flotation devices/materials for kids, but it’s entirely up to you if you want to pay extra for this or just buy a simple all-in-one or two piece. As Travis has gotten older, I’ve found a two piece trunks and top set is much easier to get on and off a wriggly toddler than an all-in-one.

Swim nappies are other essentials, as nobody wants to be swimming alongside a poo! At first I was so paranoid, I used a disposable swim nappy with a cloth swim nappy on top so no accidents could leak through! However just one is enough, whatever your preference!

If you can, I’d recommend buying some travel-sized toiletries to keep in your swimming bag, with baby wash and Aveeno cream at the top of our list. Travis has quite sensitive skin which is prone to eczema in the folds so a slather of Aveeno after swimming keeps this away. And of course, be sure to pack the usual nappies, creams, wipes and spares just in case!

Finally, I’d recommend a snack/feed or toy to keep them occupied while you dress yourself. Unless of course you have another parent, relative or friend on hand to help for that bit!

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