Five Autumn Printables for Preschoolers

I think every year I stay in the UK, I love Autumn all the more. Now that my three-year-old notices the little changes that herald in a new season, we’re really celebrating it. Here are a few of the Autumn printables we’ve enjoyed recently, courtesy Twinkl.

Numbers 0-20 on Autumn leaves
(pictured above)

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Autumn playdough mats

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Autumn display photos

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EYFS Messy Play Recipe Card Autumn Leaves in Mud

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Bread recipe sheets

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Autumn leaf sequencing worksheet

It amused me that when my mum (who lives in Trinidad) suggested I have a look at Twinkl for preschool ideas I could surprise her by saying that they’d actually given me a year’s subscription to review on this blog. Clearly, such is the reach of Twinkl!

The resources on there seem to just go on and on – they’re so extensive. They are organised by subject, theme and educational stages (early years, Key stages one and two and SEN). There’s also a pretty vibrant forum on there – a great resource in itself.

I’ve been having fun with my laminator and Talitha’s loved just about every activity we’ve tried. I’m so looking forward to using some of their Bonfire night and Christmas resources. It suits my needs as a parent and my mum’s as a teacher.

Anyhoo, do you have any fun plans for this Autumn?

Greek Myths re-imagined for toddlers – book review and giveaway

How cute are these Mini Myths books? When Abrams & Chronicles Books asked if I’d like to review them, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

I loved the idea of children getting a (very) early introduction to the classic Greek mythology. It’s foundational to Western literature, after all.

But could complex and somewhat terrifying stories like those of Pandora’s Box and Hercules’ Twelve Labours really be re-imagined for toddlers?

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Three-year-old Talitha and I love these books. She requests them over and over and I’m happy to read them repeatedly. She even asks me to read the section at the end which tells the original story in full.

In Be Patient, Pandora, Pandora is rei-magined as a mischievous tot who opens a box of cupcakes her mother tells her not to. When the contents come flying out, only one with a heart remains, symbolic of hope.

Using humour that young children immediately get, the book goes to the heart of the myth’s message. The same can be said of Play Nice, Hercules.

Instead of killing his whole family (eek!), Hercules wrecks his sister’s building blocks. As he helps her put them together again, those familiar with the story will notice that each block bears an image representing one of the labours Hercules had to accomplish to redeem himself.

In fact, when we’re reading the story in full, Talitha loves to identify a block for each labour.

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Play Nice, Hercules
and Be Patient, Pandora, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli are truly beautiful and imaginative hardcover books. I’d love see Holub and Patricellis’ take on more of the ancient myths in future.

Abrams & Chronicles Books is giving away three sets of these books to readers of this blog. To be in with a chance of winning, tell me what your favourite Greek myth is and enter the Rafflecopter widget below. If you’d like to purchase your own copy, the books retail at £4.99.

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Giveaway ends 12.00am on October 2nd 2014. Open to UK residents only. Entrants’ email addresses will be passed on to the Circus Queen newsletter – you can opt out at any time.

Vanilla Salt – a book review and giveaway

You might remember that one of the items on my summer bucket list was to read five novels before Autumn officially starts. I’ve only read one so far, so I’m rather behind but one is better than none!

I’ve just read Vanilla Salt, a first novel by Iberian chef Ada Parellada.

Admittedly it isn’t my style, really, and the translation felt clumsy to me but what a fun romp. What’s more, it’s full of powerful culinary descriptions that reveal where the author’s true passions lie. Alex is a fiery an opinionated chef (think Gordon Ramsay with a lot less charm) whose restaurant is going out of business because he’s alienated his customers, critics and employees. Annette is an explicably sweet French Canadian who is an enthusiastic social media foodie. She comes to apprentice in his kitchen for an experience and certainly gets one.


To win a copy of Vanilla Salt, enter the Rafflecopter below and tell me how you find the time to read.

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Alma books sent me a copy of Vanilla Salt and are fulfilling this prize.

UK residents only

Post listed with Loquax and The Prize Finder

Fabric glue bunting

It really is no secret that I’m not that into sewing. It’s something I aspire to take up in a big way, hopefully in the near future. In the meantime, anything no-sew is a win, especially if it means three-year-old Talitha can join in.

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This month, Bostik sent us their Sew Simple fabric glue, along with some fun bits and pieces from Craft Merrily to try our hand something for the Bostik Family Craft Bloggers Network challenge. We decided to make bunting.

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We took a piece of leftover curtain from Talitha’s room, we took turns using a glass to trace circles on it and I cut them out with pinking shears.

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I traced the butterflies using a cookie cutter on felt and cut them out as it was a bit of a fiddly job. Talitha stuck the butterflies and buttons on and I helped her attach the circles to a piece of twine. Then we mounted the bunting to her bedroom door, which she’s pleased about.

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What would you make with fabric glue?


Moosicology – a learning tool review

“Sing the quaver song, Mummy.”
“I don’t know the quaver song.”
“Yes you do.”
“Umm… Quaver racing, quaver racing, crotchet racing too.”
I find that I do, in fact, know all the words. I’ve obviously been taking in more of the Moosicology CDs than I realised.

Moosicology is home resource that teaches children 0-7 years old the foundations of music theory in an extremely creative and rather fun way. It comprises a book for the kids to look at, CDs to listen to and a grown up guide which explains the rationale behind the course and gives ideas on how to support your children while they explore the materials.

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For us, it’s involved Talitha doing her favourite things: looking at a book while listening to music (I’m pretty sure she thinks every album should come with a book), memorising songs and dancing. Ophelia and I will often join in by playing with legs and gently tapping on tummies.

Music theory comes alive through characters, stories and songs which illustrate concepts. I’m recognising things that I painstakingly learned long ago. Talitha is gobbling it all up and requesting it again and again. Of course, she doesn’t know what she’s learning so it’ll be interesting to see if it makes learning music later on easier for her.

I first heard about Moosicology in an article my in-laws snipped out of The Times for me. The premise was that actually learning music before the age of seven carries a lot of benefits for children’s brains. I haven’t looked at any studies behind it so I’m not about to argue for it but the package was mentioned. It sounded like fun and, I felt, was pretty reasonably priced at £67 (it’s now available for a limited time at £47, I’ve just seen).

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I contacted Moosicology on the off chance that they might let us review it and they did! So that was Talitha’s main birthday present. She loves it and I’ve been so impressed by how cleverly conceived and beautifully executed it all is. I’m looking forward to seeing whether she will start recognising musical concepts and whether there will be any long term effects for both of them.

For now, exposure and enjoyment is enough. Considering that she plays it almost every day, we’re certainly getting both in good measure.

Summer Bucket List

I do love a to-do list. Just not the chore kind. Those lists depress me. A list of fun things to do this summer, though? That I can get excited about. Since we actually managed to do everything on our slightly insane Advent Calendar, I thought we’d try a summer list and see how we fare. So, here goes. Autumn officially begins on September 22nd so that gives us nine weeks of summer. Nine weeks, nine goals? Let’s round it up to ten.

1. Go on an open-top bus tour of our home city
Talitha has been intrigued by the red Bristol sightseeing buses and keeps asking if we can go on one soon. I’d actually really love to do it because despite having lived in Bristol for four years, I feel that I know very little about the city. I always wished I’d done on of these tours back when we lived in Brighton. Maybe we’ll do that one day yet too. Years ago, I sat on the top level of one of these with a friend in Belfast. It was an interesting experience both because of the city’s fascinating history and the fact that it rained pretty much the whole time.

2. Read five novels
Nothing says Summer for me like ignoring my responsibilities in favour of a page turner. I’ve become so lame at reading fiction lately, though, and I’m desperate to fix that. I’m kind of hoping I manage to read more than five but better to under-promise, right? Wish me luck and recommend a good read.

3. See an outdoor children’s play
We’ve been taking Talitha to the theatre since she was 18 months old and she has loved it every time. I’d really rather go see some open air Shakespeare but am accepting that that might be a bit hit-and-miss with Ophelia unless we leave her behind so it might be a safer bet to go for something we’ll all enjoy together.

4. Make blackberry jam
The brambles in our garden (well, the mental overgrowth behind our garden which is taking over our garden) are heavy-laden. I picked a few thinking, “hey, free fruit” but a friend mentioned making jam with hers so now I’m possessed by the idea. We will do it!

5. Build a tepee
I saw a tepee in – I think it was last month’s – Country Living and thought it would be so sweet to make one for the girls to hang out in in the garden. Anyone who knows me well knows that this isn’t the kind of thing that comes naturally to me. I will give it a bloody good go, though. Kids are forgiving.

6. Go on a bug hunt
I tried to make a snail I picked off the courgette plant the other day sound the most alluring thing to hold but my three-year-old wasn’t even slightly interested in touching the thing. She is interested in crawlies but only from afar. I’m hoping that a bug hunt might get her to take a closer look.

7. Barbecue on a beach
We’ve had a LOT of barbecues so far this year but none of them on a beach. So, it needs to be done.

8. Make ice cream
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making ice cream and now I have the perfect opportunity. My brother and his wife left their ice cream maker with us while we’re moving house and not a day goes by that Talitha doesn’t ask me if we can use it! I’m fully expecting this to be something of a disaster.

9. Go wild swimming
I was going to put visiting the outdoor swimming pool in Portishead on this list since we planned to do it last year but never got around it. Laurence suggested we give wild swimming a go, though, and actually that sounds more bucket list worthy. I will still try to make it to Portishead though.

10. Set up nine outdoor art activities
I’ve been trying to commit to encouraging Talitha’s process art. Mostly it’s involved leaving materials around but I do find that I need to plan ahead to make them inviting, even if it just means clearing the rubbish off her table and laying out some pens and paper. I’m hoping to lay out a few open-ended activities that require a little more forward planning and just see what happens.

So, that’s our list. I’ll let you know if we actually manage it all. What’s on your list?

Winnie the Pooh Party

Talitha turned three last month and, after flitting from Gruffalo to angel to dinosaur themes, she settled on a Winnie the Pooh birthday party. This was the first year she understood birthdays, so it was exciting all round.

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Our friend Helen, from Cat’s Whiskers Face Painting in Bristol, generously offered the main attraction. I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it – she was so quick and accurate. She also made the amazing Eeyore balloon pictured above.

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I grabbed some printables off Disney and Disney Baby to make a colouring wall and stickers for the party bags and snack boxes. The printable for the Winnie the Pooh Happy Birthday banner is from Peonies & Poppy Seeds.

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A few finishing touches came from charity shop bits and a heck of a lot of balloons, mostly blown up by my father-in-law.

Winnie the Pooh Birthday Party

We put our camping tent up in the garden with a paddling pool and a couple hundred ball pit balls. The idea was that there’d still be a doable outdoor activity should it rain.

As it happened, it was ridiculously sunny and after sitting in there to moderate a game of pass the parcel, I have no idea how they managed to spend so much time in it! It was boiling.

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Talitha was holding on to the promise of a Winnie the Pooh cake. I almost lost my mind making her a Hungry Caterpillar cake last year and that was just for the family! So I considered buying a printed rice paper topper or just putting a little figurine on top. In the end, I decided to bite the bullet, taking this pin for inspiration.

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The day before, I was cursing myself for a dodgy bake job and an icing disaster in the making but it somehow worked in the end. It happens that we’ll overlook most things with copious amounts of royal icing. And, actually, the gluten-free, dairy-free lemon experiment beneath the icing turned out so well I’ll be making it again.

Thanks so much to all the family and friends who came and made Talitha’s third birthday party the celebration we’d hoped it would be. It is so precious having you in our lives.

A Winnie the Pooh party

PS: Thanks to my bro and Laurence for taking these photos. I was a bit preocupied…