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Aquariums: The Perfect Family Day Out

3 Nov

Cow Nose Ray

Many thanks to Blue Reef Tynemouth for this guest post today:

Aquariums: The Perfect Family Day Out

The chance to discover a new world beneath the ocean and to explore what really happens under those waves – visiting an aquarium with the family is the perfect adventure out. You and the little ones are set for an exciting day full of creature facts and underwater fun. It’s not all about making a splash though, here’s the top three reasons why visiting an aquarium is the perfect family day out…

1. Fintastic Learning

Aside from seeing beautiful, colourful creatures up close, it’s a great learning experience for all. For the little ones it’s a great way to experience visual stimulation, which helps to increase their cognitive development.

Teaching the kids about different creatures and their various underwater habitats will help the whole family increase their knowledge on the aquatic world. We all learn differently, and aquariums appeal to all types of learners, whether they’re visual, auditory, or tactile learners – aquariums have it all.

Visual learners will be attracted to the exotic creatures and the shimmering colours which bounce off the water’s reflection. Auditory learners will love the guided tours and talks – not forgetting the daily feeding sessions where they’ll be able to find out all about creature feeding habits. Tactile learners will relish the fact that they can interact with displays, especially at rockpool encounters – we guarantee the parents will love the hands-on features too!

It’s not just the family’s knowledge of the creatures of the deep blue sea that will grow, either. Get ready for an influx of new words, which are usually nestled away under the waves. Think of all the creature names, the habitat names, and brand new conservation words that you and the family will learn. You’ll leave the aquarium as a walking ocean encyclopedia!

2. Waves of Fun

Are you ready to ride the waves of fun? Taking the family to an aquarium definitely provides splashes upon splashes of excitement. Creatures that you’ve only seen on TV are about to become reality. Still looking for Nemo? Not anymore, because your favourite fishy creatures are waiting to meet you.



Scientists and researchers have noted the stress-reducing powers of aquariums – for you and little ones. Whether it’s the sound of water, the colourful fish, or the mellow vibes – aquariums are a great place for the whole family to relax and unwind.

As the cheeky fairy Tinkerbell once said “imagination has no age”, and she couldn’t be closer to the truth! Aquariums help to inspire minds and let imaginations swim free as you’re transported together into an underwater world of mystery.

3. Conservation Care

The main purpose of an aquarium is to contribute to the protection and conservation of marine life from threats and harm. The majority of aquariums run conservation programmes to help protect the oceans and creatures, so you can involve the family in marine conservation.

Visiting an aquarium helps to demonstrate to kids from a young age that oceans are beautiful and important and promotes in them the sense of appreciation for the weird and wonderful creatures that live in our waters. Aquariums give you a great opportunity to teach the family about conservation and our employees – known as aquarists – are always on hand to give you advice and conservation tips.

Not only will you and the family meet fascinating creatures, you’ll also have the opportunity to learn vast amounts about marine biology, conservation, and all things ocean-related.

Whether it’s raining or shining, aquariums are the perfect family day out! So, what are you waiting for? Swim on over to your nearest aquarium and immerse yourself in the deep blue sea!

Many thanks to Becs Christofides for providing this post. We have enjoyed many visits to our local aquarium. Have you visited one lately?


Teaching children budgeting and money saving

17 Sep

At 9 and 6 years, our children are now at an age where they have some concept of ‘earning money’. We recently introduced pocket-money, in return for small jobs around the house. They help with dusting, vacuuming  and generally keeping the place tidy. It is still a struggle getting them to ‘muck in’ but the chance to earn some pennies has definitely been an incentive.

They are very good at saving their money rather than spending it. We have always tried to encourage them that it is better to save up for something special rather than spend money for the sake of it.

Budgeting is one of the many things that our children need to learn on the road to adulthood. Here are some painless ways in which we can do this.

Teach them the value of money. Talk about how much things cost, even things like holidays. Also talk about how you have to work hard for money and how you need to save just as hard to be able to pay for nice things.

Show children how to earn money. Giving them the chance to do simple chores in return for pocket-money is a good introduction. We have a poster which shows how much each job pays. They know that the bigger, more difficult jobs will pay more money.

Let them make decisions regarding their money. I say this hesitantly but they need to do this to some extent to be able to learn the consequences. If they blow all their pocket-money on sweets it is going to take them a long time to save up for that DVD that they wanted.

Have a fun place to save. Thomas has a Star Wars R2D2 Talking Moneybank
which makes noises every time you put pennies in. He loves it and every time he has money it always goes in here. You could also make your own piggy banks or decorate ready-made ones as we did.

blank pigs

Piggy Bank by Lily Age 9

Piggy Bank by Lily Age 9


Thomas' "Super Pig" design. I'm still finding glitter in the carpet!

Thomas’ “Super Pig” design. I’m still finding glitter in the carpet!

The bonus with these piggy banks is that they were decorated with bits and pieces that we had around the house. Another money-saving lesson there!



Autumn crafts and fun!

3 Dec

I LOVE autumn! I know my husband thinks I’m crazy but I do! I love Bonfire Night and Halloween, I love kicking up the leaves on a cold crisp day and I love to see frost glistening on the ground. I also love autumn crafts and there seem to be so many for this time of year. Natural materials are in abundance and we always have a collection of pine cones, various nuts and leaves scattered around the house in autumn.

We have been really lucky with the weather and have been getting out and about so much. Probably too much as the housework has been neglected. But as the song goes.. you’ve got to make hay whilst the sun shines! We recently went to a Christmas Fayre at Saltram house, it was a gorgeous sunny day and we were in T-Shirts!

leaf play 2

leaf play

If you are looking for simple autumn crafts then glittery cones are about as simple as you can get. You can either use glitter glue or use PVA glue and then sprinkle with glitter. It is best to bake your pine cones at about 160 degrees for 20 minutes. This will kill any little bugs that you can’t see and dry out any resin.


For Christmas, these lovely pine cone fairies are so sweet and look lovely hanging on our ‘twig tree’ each year.


I have been wanting to try these clay leaves for some time. Again, they are really easy to make and I think quite effective. I let the children decide how they wanted to decorate them. I did have to bite my tongue as I was really hoping for some nice red/orange autumn colours but they had other ideas! Still, I think they look lovely and they are very proud of them.

finished leaf 2


finshed leaf

To make the leaves we used air-dry clay. Pick some leaves that have some good thick veins on them. Place the leaf with the veins facing downwards into your clay. Then take a rolling-pin and roll this over your leaf a few times. You need to press quite firmly to ensure the print transfers to the clay.

rolling pin

leaf print

leaf print 2

When you have your outline, cut around the outside of the leaf print with a craft knife. Place the leaf inside a small bowl with some cling film between the clay and the bowl. This will allow it to dry with a slight curve to it and will ensure that it does not stick to the bowl.


When your leaf is dry, paint it with acrylic paint and then give it a coat of PVA glue to make it nice and shiny and to preserve the paint. I picked some fresh new leaves so that they could copy the colours.

leaf colors

Thomas and Lily added a touch of glitter which I think looks just like frost. We used the Extra Fine Glitter for this.

It is quite expensive but you don’t need very much of it and it really does come in useful for so many crafts.

finished leaf 2

I think I might have to make my own now in some nice autumnal colours!

For more autumn craft ideas, check out this earlier post.

Painted Driftwood Wind Chimes

14 Mar


We have been busy scouring the beaches for drift wood and other interesting items lately. The storms have washed up so much flotsam and jetsam, it is quite depressing when you think how much rubbish people throw away instead of putting it in the bin.

Anyway, we found some lovely smooth drift wood which we brought home after our last visit.Lily and Thomas put it to good use making pretend campfires, swords and bows and arrows.. then we decided to paint it and turn it into a nice Eco wind-chime.

We initially started to paint them an aboriginal way, using lots of little dots to make up a picture. Lily did this in school last year and loved it. I left the children to it and the driftwood soon became animals. We had a lizard, a tiger a whale and a robin to name a few. We used acrylic paint so hopefully these will last a good while.

We have hung it in the apple tree and it makes a very subtle noise when blowing in the wind. The children love it and of course it was all their own work so they are quite proud!




With spring in the air, we painted these outside and made the most of the warm sunshine. The blossom is on the trees and plants  are starting to appear through the heavy, wet soil. A few more days like this and it should soon start to dry out. If you fancy getting outside and doing some nature-inspired painting, why not enter the Center Parcs Challenge at the same time? You could  win a family holiday, just go to the challenge page to find out how

Handmade Gifts on a budget

18 Jan


I couldn’t blog about this leading up to Christmas because some of these gifts were for lovely family members that read my blog! The children and I spent lots of time making gifts this year. It was probably October when we started. They have both really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of making these gifts and they were very proud to present them on Christmas Day.

Soap-making is very simple and you can read my previous post with instructions here. This year we added a few ingredients to make different types of soaps including Oats and Honey, Lemon and Poppy Seed and my favourite – Lavender Soaps using essential oils and dried Lavender flowers.


soaps 3

We also made some bath salts scented with Lavender essential oil. I think they look pretty lovely and I can vouch for the fact that they smell pretty good too. We used food colouring to make some in Christmas colours. We layered these to look a bit like a candy cane! Topped off with a Christmas ribbon I think these would make a nice gift all on their own.



It is very easy to make bath salts. The main ingredient is Epsom Salts which you can buy in large quantities online.  Whilst you can add other ingredients like Sea Salt and Baking Powder, this is really not necessary. We added some peppermint essential oil for an ‘invigorating and refreshing’ blend and Lavender oil and flowers for a more relaxing blend. They smell gorgeous and you just add a couple of tablespoons to your bath.

There are lots of benefits to bathing with Epsom Salts.  They relax the nervous system, relieve aching limbs, coughs and congestion and remove toxins from the body.

We made our gifts into hampers. I collected some suitable boxes that were due to go in the skip at our local garden centre. There’s no need to splash out on expensive wicker baskets. Just wrap your boxes in a nice wrapping paper and use clear cellophane to cover the top. I chose some other bits and pieces to go in the boxes. These included candles, hand cream and nail brushes.  We also included a little salt dough pot that Thomas made. He loved painting this and covering it in glitter and I think it is perfect for storing rings or earrings. Next year I think I may try to make our own hand cream and candles!




Recycled craft – little places for little things

18 Oct
Little places for little things

Little places for little things

My daughter has a lovely collection of little fairies, trinkets and other ornaments that she has been given over the years. They take pride of place on her shelves, along with a vast selection of aged Enid Blyton books and dusty cuddly toys. This means the ornaments often get knocked off the shelves and also they are within easy reach of her younger brother’s sticky little fingers. I decided she could do with somewhere special to keep these ornaments, to free up space on the shelves and keep them safe.  Being a thrifty mum, I didn’t want to spend much money on this and I turned to shoeboxes for a space-saving solution!

This is what I started with. Basically a collection of shoeboxes and cereal boxes.


I glued some of the boxes together using a hot glue gun. I also used some white masking tape to add a little more stability. The next stage looked like this.


I then used pieces of quite thick cardboard to make some dividers for the shelving. Again, I secured these with white masking tape. I also used the masking tape to make sure that there were no gaps between the shelving. When the shelving and dividers were all in place I used papier mache to cover everything. I did about 3 coats of papier mache (the children enjoyed helping with this). I started off using a traditional papier mache paste. To do this mix one part of flour with one part of warm water. When it is smooth and you have got rid of any lumps you can pour it into another four parts water.  Heat the mixture, stirring constantly until it boils and thickens. Leave it to cool before you use it. You can store this for a couple of days in an airtight container.

The children didn’t really like using the papier mache paste so I did the last two coats using a watered-down PVA mix.  This was much less messy for the children and resulted in less complaints about having sticky, gooey fingers!

without paint

Completed shelving, just waiting for the paint!

Finally, I applied three layers of paint. This was just a normal matt emulsion which came from our shed. The remains of some decorating project years ago.  I left each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next one. I’m quite happy with the finished result. It looks a bit wibbly wobbly,  (due to the fact I didn’t have boxes of the same size) but I think this is part of it’s charm.  This custom storage basically cost me nothing… result!

Little places for little things

Little places for little things

Do you have a favourite recycled craft you can share with us? We love to see what people have made and are always looking for new ideas!

Autumn craft – Acorn People

9 Oct

P1020620 (2)

I love these little acorn people.  They are so simple to make and can be put together with minimal cost or effort. We collected the acorns on our recent woodland walk and we already had everything else in our craft box.

You will need:

Acorns including the hats!

Wooden beads

Glue gun

Felt scraps

Glue a wooden bead to the top of an acorn and then glue a hat onto the top of the bead.

Cut a scrap of felt into a scarf shape and stick this around your acorn.

Draw a face onto the wooden bead and you’re done!


The children have had lots of fun with these and have already made them some little beds!