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baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire

One thing I love about where I live is the amazing community spirit. It mat be one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, but what we lack in our pockets we make up for in kindness and good spirits.

The latest example of that is the Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire initiative which was recently started by a local mum. Having seen something similar in another area, she decided to bring the idea to our neighbourhood which has got everybody in the community spirit.

What is Look for a Book West Dubartonshire?

According to their Facebook page, it’s a thrilling activity for families which injects fun and excitement into reading, by combining it with hide and seek. Essentially, children are invited to hunt for books around the local area, which have been hidden by other children. Books are hidden in parks, at the school gates, in the leisure centres and local cafes and anywhere that makes a good hiding spot really.

Each book is hidden with a cover note from Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire, saying congratulations on finding the book, and encouraging finders to read and keep, pass on or re-hide the book once they have read it. Finders are also encouraged to hide their own books for other boys and girls to find.

The power of social media is what really drives this fun game – clues as to where books are hidden are shared in the Facebook group and conversely parents share pictures of their happy children who have found books. The cover note with books strongly encourages the use of social media to share findings and be part of this community game.

Taking part in Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire

Its really easy to take part as all you need is a dry day to get outside and get hunting! We looked on the Facebook group to see if any books had been recently hidden nearby, and if any clues had been shared. This game is so popular in the area that books can literally be found within 15 minutes of a clue being shared online.

Unfortunately we haven’t found any books yet (though not for lack of trying!) But we did take part and hide some books locally. The cover sheets to accompany the books are available to print online, and most of the local West Dunbartonshire libraries have stocks of the cover sheets and plastic wallets to keep books dry. We just did it the old fashioned way and wrote our notes by hand.

We picked our spots and set off to hide some books from our bookshelves which Travis was no longer interested in. At this stage in his life, I’m too scared to give away some of his more loved books to others (if we don’t read Mr Happy at Sports Day every bedtime, I think his world would implode) but a lot of the participants have given away some of their favourite books, and well-loved ones that they have grown out of. Others have bought books especially to hide, though there’s no obligation to do that.

Free fun for all the family

The best part about this initiative is that it’s all-inclusive. There’s no cash barrier and no age barrier – books are hidden for all-ages from baby books right up to YA fiction. If your child finds a book and you/they think it doesn’t suit age or topic-wise, then you’re welcome to re-hide it for someone else to find, whilst you search for another to read. Additionally, the only ask is that you hide books back – this can either be the same book you found, or a book your child already owns. Either way, this costs you no money to participate in, and you get to enjoy two activities with your child – getting outdoors on a book hunt, and enjoying story-time later.
This has honestly got to be one of the best uses I’ve seen for social media and one of the quickest-adopted community schemes (RIP chain mails) in my area and I’m so thankful that we can take part. If you’re reading this and you’re not from West Dunbartonshire – why not set up your own Look for a Book game in your area?
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baby and toddler activities, Parenting

5 Free Activities for Toddlers

At this time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to have a mix of indoor and outdoor activities on-hand to keep your toddler amused and learning. The list of things you can pay to take your kids to, or things you could buy to amuse them is much vaster than this. However, unless you’re a millionaire it’s just not practical or possible to fork out every time your kid is bored or needs some stimulation.

Here are 5 go-to activities that cost nowt, but will keep your child amused, active and learning.

Feed-the-ducks-toddler-activity1 Feed the ducks

Maybe I’m showing my age, as maybe it was something to do with Rosie & Jim, but I always loved going to feed the ducks as a child. Watching all the ducks come up for bread, sometimes getting a glimpse of little baby ducks and feeling a bonus thrill if swans or geese dropped by was often enough to make it fun. However if you feel like making it more of an educational experience, why not count the number of ducks and swans with your child, or point out the different types of birds that are feeding.

2 Playpark

Failsafe option every time. Playparks are always a winner, as kids never seem to get bored of swings or slides! Plus, playparks these days seem to be getting more and more impressive by the minute – flying foxes are all the rage in my neck of the woods! That’s not to mention the elaborate climbing frames, sandpits and trampolines that have become more commonplace in playparks. Usually there will be other kids around in the park too, meaning your toddler can enjoy playing with other kiddos too.

Playdate-toddler-activities3 Playdate

If there’s no other kids at the park, why not get in touch with a mum friend and arrange a playdate? I’ve already written about how much of a saviour playdates are, but don’t just take my word for it, experience it for yourself! Whether you go to their house, they come to you, or you meet in the playpark (weather permitting!), there are loads of benefits for mums and toddlers.

Messy-play-crafts-toddler-activitied4 Messy play/crafts

The same toys and the same cartoons in the house can get boring and repetitive after a while, and your little one might need some more stimulation after a while. If the weather is putting a dampener on any outdoor activities, why not get the crafts out or make some messy play? This doesn’t have to involve buying loads of craft material in – I bet you have plenty of items in the house that could be used. From basic colouring and drawing, to experiencing shaving foam, soapy bubbles and other interesting textures, your household items could become a great hub of crafting and messy play for an afternoon!

5 Bookbug

Another activity which I think is great for babies and toddlers is Bookbug. Run in Scotland in local libraries, Bookbug classes last around 45 minutes and consist of story time, rhymes and play. The aim is that parents and children will also check out books for their child and encourage reading from an early age. Classes are suitable from birth until around three years old, and take place weekly throughout term time. You can find out more about this great free activity in my Bookbug Week 2018 post.

5-free-toddler-activities

the-missing-girl-novel
mum life, Mum time, Reviews

Book review: The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana

I don’t think I’ve written a book review since I was at high school, and even then it was reluctantly written as part of my higher coursework. I absolutely used to love reading when I was younger, and loved nothing better than a book that got under your skin or into your heart. However I didn’t always feel like I could put into words the amount of enjoyment from any given book.

the-missing-girl-novelI’m giving it a go now, as a book hasn’t gripped me as much as Jenny Quintana’s The Missing Girl in a long, long time. Part of that might have something to do with the fact that I’ve not read at this rate in a long time either, but I digress!

The debut novel by Quintana is a mystery, unfolded by Anna Flores, sister of a missing girl. The basic premise is – without giving away any spoilers – that a pre-teen Anna dotes on her older sister Gabriella. She seems well liked in her local village, and is the most beautiful girl ever, according to her younger sister. As the title suggests, one day Gabriella goes missing, simply disappearing without a trace.

30 years later, the girls’ mother passes away, and Anna makes a return to her hometown to bury her mother and hopefully dig up some clues and solve the mystery as to what happened to her sister back in 1982. After a lot of suspicion, possibilities and theories, the mystery is finally solved at the very end.

There are quite a few things I love about this book, both in terms of the actual plot of the story and the way it was written. Quintana opted for a split chronological narrative, with chapters alternating between 1982 and 2012. This adds to the tension as you know that at some point 1982 Gabriella is going to go missing, but you don’t know the how’s and the why’s. Similarly it helps build up a better character picture, as you almost feel like you’re reliving the memories with Anna.

The other thing that I really enjoyed was how the story was completely told from the viewpoint of Anna Flores. This meant Quintana hopped between the thoughts, feelings and understandings of the situation as both an adult and a 12 year old girl. She captures the essence of a pre-pubescent girl perfectly, giving an insight as to how a young girl in the 80s perceives everything from relationships between family and friends to understanding arguments and reasoning.

Considering I’ve not been much of a reader in the past decade (I blame uni textbooks, they were enough to put anyone off), I genuinely couldn’t put this novel down. I devoured it in just 2 weeks, which when you consider I also have a demanding 4 month old baby, is some testament to the author. Completely gripping to the last page, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a book that keeps you on your toes and guessing every possible theory.

I read the book via Kindle, as it was on a special offer at the time, but the book is also available in paperback, audiobook and hardback. For more about Jenny Quintana, you can find her on Twitter.