My Lovely Daughter

We had a bit of a windy night the other day, and our hammock swing had got caught up around a branch in the tree. I looked out of the window today, and this is what I saw…

There she sat, thinking about life, having moved the slide, climbed up on to it (and knocked it over), in order to reach the swing.

She was literally dangling, way above the ground.

I have no idea how she thought she might get down – but I guess that’s just one of the typically mad things she tends to do!

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Tasty Treats For The Birds

Our final activity on sunflowers with the preschool kids – making bird food (using sunflower seeds as one of the ingredients).

We melted some cheap fat (vegetable shortening in the U.S, lard in the U.K), and poured it in to muffin moulds, then the kids helped to spoon in the bird seed. After this we lay the end of a piece of red wool in each mould.

We also tied red wool on small pine cones, spread them with peanut butter and rolled them in bird seed.

And spooned melted fat over larger pine cones, then poured bird seed over them, and tied on a piece of red wool.

When finished we left them all outside to cool and harden (this took about thirty minutes), we popped them out of their moulds and they looked like this…

And it was then time to hang them on the tree…

…. and I’ve already seen the birds enjoying them!

After measuring with sunflowers, making a sunflower collage and making sunflower seed bread rolls, this was the last activity in our sunflower project for preschoolers.

A Super ‘Super Mario’ Party!

When Leon said he wanted a ‘Super Mario’ themed birthday party, a small voice inside me shouted “help”!

Not being one who is overly keen on computer games, and who tries to keep them to a minimum, it was a tricky theme for me. However, ‘Super Mario’ is really a very sweet game, about a couple of Italian guys (Mario and Luigi) who cross many adventures to try and save Princess Peach, who herself has been locked in a castle by the monster Bowser. A fairy tale really. And I would be telling fibs if I didn’t admit to having played (and enjoyed) a few hours of the game myself when I was in my twenties!

However, living in Sweden, where party paraphernalia is at its minimum (unless you want ‘Winnie The Pooh’ or ‘Disney Princesses’), and incredibly expensive, we knew we were in for a lot of preparation….

And as it happens – we succeeded in not only giving our son a ‘Super Mario’ birthday party – but a SUPER one at that!

The party started with individual tasks to complete, in order to save the princess….

Translation of competition….

1. Balls & Cans – 3 balls. two tries each. 1 point for every can that gets knocked down.

(Just save and clean out some old food tins)

2. Balance Skills – 5 points for the planks, 5 points for the tree ropes, 5 points for the bell.

(Using tree stumps and planks of wood)

Cross the rope bridge (harder than you may think!)

And ring the bell hidden in the tree!

3. Catch the stars – 5 points for yellow. 10 points for white.

'Super Mario' stars printed from the internet, and laminated, then hidden around the garden - with obviously more yellow than white!

The child who totaled the most points altogether won Princess Peach (whose small figure we managed to find in a toy shop!).

Next it was time for food….

'Super Mario' party ware, the table sprinkled with gold star confetti...

After the usual pizza and hot dogs, it was time for cake. Not your average cake however – a plateau of ‘Super Mario’ cakes…

Green mushroom cakes, pink mushroom cakes. and question mark brownies. I got the idea for these cakes from here, but changed mine slightly by putting tiny pieces of marshmallow on the mushrooms for the spots on the top, and omitting the eyes. I also just wrote the question marks on shop bought brownies with cake writing tubes.

I had attempted the brownies, but they came out rather chunky to write on (though delicious), so I simply printed out and cut out tiny pictures of Mario and Luigi, and popped them on the butter icing – and told the kids not to eat them!

Maya also made the cake – a big heart shape with sprinkles on – not ‘Super Mario’, but she loves her brother!

After some free play, with ping-pong, the marble game, lego, some ‘Super Mario’, and a very successful obstacle course built out of cardboard bricks for the remote controlled car…

…. it was then time for the treasure hunt!

Richard split the kids in to two teams, the MArio team, and the Luigi team, and using a map of the garden the kids had to find the first clue. Each clue was hidden in a plastic pot and written on a treasure map type of paper. and each pot contained a plastic gold coin, on which was a number. The kids were also given a little wooden treasure chest for each team, in which to put the gold coins – and figures of Mario and Luigi.

The Mario team

The Luigi Team

After following clues which led them to other clues (and coins) throughout the garden, they had to figure out where the treasure chest was hidden (a large plastic box). Each container was chained up, and could only be opened by knowing the combination code to the lock – the code was the total sum of the numbers on the back of the gold coins!

And what was inside the treasure chests? The party bags!

(Again using Mario print outs from the internet on paper bags)

And what was inside the party bags? A ‘Super Mario’ colouring page, a ‘make-a-Mario’ card craft, a ‘Super Mario’ key ring and some ‘Super Mario’ plasters, some mushroom sweets and some chocolate gold coins!

A party with a lot of preparation – but well well worth it!

Fun With ‘There’s An Alligator Under My Bed’

This week we looked at ‘There’s an alligator under my bed’ by Mercer Mayer.

The reason I chose this book was partly because of Alfie’s love of animals, and partly because he had a friend to play, who I thought would also love this book – it’s quite a ‘boyish’ book – and seemed to suit the both of them very well!

After reading the book a number of times, we used blue and yellow paint to make green, in order to paint the alligators I had drawn for each of them.

When the alligators are dry I ‘m going to staple them together, leaving a hole which I will fill with newspaper, before stapling it up, and then hanging it up in the play room – a hanging sculpture if you will!

I then set out a number of non-slip bath mats (some previously bought for yoga mats!), and a wooden plank raised with books. I didn’t give the kids any instructions, and just left it to see what they would do.

Since putting it out (on Monday actually), it has been an endless source of fun and games – not just for Alfie and his friend, but for the pre-school group, as well as for Leon and Maya. The kids have been alligators and sharks and monsters, and the mats and plank have been moved around, with extra cushions added. Mainly it has become a sort of obstacle course, where if you fall off you are eaten by the alligator – both with and without the use of music.

Here Maya and Alfie show an example of a game in motion…

We’ve also set out an alligator swamp, with green water, stones, sticks, leaves and alligators. The poor Prince, bless him, had to get away from the alligators fast! Luckily he had a raft nearby, which fortunately floated, and was able to use the stones as stepping stones to escape….

It was interesting to see that the more water that was added to the activity, the more the activity became a floating and sinking experiment, with all the bits and pieces which were added to the tray to help the poor Prince escape!

And finally, it all ended with a green snack (because of course, the alligators we painted turned out green)….

…. so there you have it – a little art, a little science, a little food and lots of role play!

Yummy Sunflower Seed Bread Rolls!

That’s what we made today!

And here is the recipe we used – but we also added our own touch – we put half a sausage in the middle of each roll!

What a delicious lunch it turned out to be….

…. with a little salad, and a little tomato ketchup to dip the bread into.

This is our third activity on sunflowers with the preschool group, and it’s been just fantastic – can we stretch it another week?

I think we can!

(As you can see Maya is in the picture and Alfie is not – both children were there, but at this point Alfie was washing up!)

Buckets Full Of Gold

Leon and Maya enjoyed rowing the boat over to an island with their auntie…..

On reaching the island they started looking….

But for what?

For GOLD!

And look – Leon has found some…

And soon they had buckets full…!

Yes, that’s right – buckets full of ‘gold’ coloured mushrooms…

‘Kanterella’ we call them in sweden – and these ones are edible!

Dolls Win Sweden’s Election 2010

So my pedagogic husband took it upon himself to teach the kids all about the importance of voting today!

With Sweden’s election happening , he was quick to put up some pictures of the members of the main Swedish political parties, and to give the kids a briefing…

Will it be any of the left wing parties?
Or the right?

Strangely enough he didn’t go in to details, but instead we set up two seperate parties – the ‘Pappa Party’ and the ‘Mama Party’…

So what did the ‘Pappa Party’ offer?

More peculiar dinners, more Beatles music, five minutes extra reading time in the evening, and better Saturday sweeties!

And the ‘Mama Party’?

More crafts, singing together, desert for dinner every night and more exciting packed lunches!

But, suddenly, out of the blue, came another, Independent party – the ‘Bella Party’ (brown baby), set up by Maya…

So what does Bella offer?

All dolls go for a walk, go to a play place every Saturday, promise to build a car for dolls, and go on fairground rides!

And the vote is on….!

Bella? Pappa? Mama?

The kids were given three ballot cards (as above), and had to choose which one to vote for, and put their vote into the box…..

Hmmmm … the choice is hard…..

Leon helps Alfie to decide, while Maya thinks it over seriously…..

And the winner is……

‘ THE BELLA PARTY!’

And so it was, that the dolls took over Sweden…..

(This was a little difficult to categorize, and although ‘every day’ it is not, I could think of no other!)

HOW many mushrooms?!

In a land such as Sweden, where the seasons are so apparent, and the nature is so untouched, there is usually an abundance of wild food to forage.

This year, due to the very long dry summer the blueberries are scarce, but having rained massively for the last two weeks (and though it may be very very cold, and very very dark in Sweden, we don’t usually have a huge amount of rain), we have something else growing everywhere.

Mushrooms. Toadstools. Fungi. Whatever you like to call them. And they sprout up overnight. No wonder they are seen as magical.

Here are just a few to be found in our garden right now…

So, yes, as you can see, a whole rainbow of mushrooms!

But are they edible? No, they are not!

Now, since living in sweden, Leon and Maya have learnt never to touch unknown wild mushrooms, and they both can identify the more common and edible wild mushrooms. Indeed last year Leon even went mushroom picking with his class at school, and then learnt how to cook them.

But the ones above are mostly poisonous, and however pretty, with a two year old and his friends wandering around, they must go!

Watercolour Project 3 : A Sunset

I saw this project on ‘Let’s Explore’ and I knew immediately it was the one for us! Why? Because firstly, it would look fantastic , and secondly, it would be easy to do – even for different ages.

Simply by painting the sunset using our watercolours (and this time on real watercolour paper – Wow! What a difference!), then while leaving it to dry, cutting out house shapes from black paper, and sticking on windows from yellow paper.

And these were the results….

I love them! And they look even better in ‘real life’!

Multi-Coloured Cookie Dough!

I had a lovely activity planned for Alfie this morning, but he got trapped in play-dough heaven, and there he remained for most of the morning. After making cakes, rolling balls, mixing colours and learning how to use the rolling pin and the cutter, I noticed how he became incredibly involved in ‘piling the colours’. He just loved it!

Choosing a colour, flattening it, and adding it to the pile….

This muti-coloured pile reminded me of something I had once seen at the mega-talented ‘Filth Wizardry’s’ blog…. and as Alfie had originally taken out the cookie cutters, cake cases, candles and a timer, intending to do some baking (it was a lazy mummy who suggested the play-dough), I thought we would give it a go…..

I had not anticipated the two year old’s need to eat the cookie dough, and this certainly got in the way of the original intention (of piling the multi-coloured dough in to the cake tin in the same way he piled the play-dough), but we got it done in the end…

And a very proud and excited two year old took it to the oven….

And now it is out of the oven, cooling down, waiting to be popped in to the mouths of the many children in the house…

…. looking pretty much like I thought it would!

Note : As mentioned in ‘Filth Wizardry’s’ blog above, we made a regular cookie dough, separated it into four parts and added a food colouring to each part (purple, blue, green and red). However, unlike American food colouring, the Swedish food colouring does not appear to be as strong in colour – but I guess that’s supposed to be a good thing?! 🙂