Ten Charlie and the Chocolate Factory activities for younger children

This post was originally published in November 2015. It reappears here in collaboration with million eyez.

We’ve just finished a happy romp through the wonderfully bizarre world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Having realised from page one that this chapter book was going to be a hit, I gathered a few ideas for activities we could try alongside it. For my four-year-old, it was delightful to dig deeper into the experience of the story. For my 21-month-old, it meant she didn’t keep trying to pull the book out of my hand or take me some place else.

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Make a family tree
The book opens by orderly naming the people in Charlie Bucket’s family. I’d been wanting to do a family tree for a while so we took the opportunity to print out photos, cut and stick them and draw lines to show relationships. I helped Talitha with ours but she went on later on to draw Charlie Bucket’s family tree on her own.

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Sweetie Swoop game
We’ve been having fun with the whole sweetie theme by playing a board game called Sweetie Swoop which Talitha got for her birthday this year. It nicely accompanies chapter 11 where he goes into the sweet shop. It’s such fun. In general board games and card games are a brilliantly easy way to develop maths skills while doing something together that we both enjoy.

Drink hot chocolate
When you finally make it inside the chocolate factory, meeting the chocolate river calls for a drink. Preferably one offered in a cup by Mr Willy Wonka and not risking falling in!

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Make playdough sweets
Most of the time we read, we got out the playdough. Talitha made playdough sweets and both girls generally had fun squishing and making while listening to the story.

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The Inventing Room
This was an idea I came across on The Imagination Tree when looking for birthday party ideas. I put together an “inventing room” the night before which was the source of much excitement and creativity. I wish I’d taken more pictures because she got the stapler out and put together some 3D sweets later in the day.

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Make real sweets
Of course, who can read about all these amazing sweets and not want to munch something sweet. Better yet, make some! We tied this in with learning about Diwali by making coconut barfi. They were too sweet for the girls, though, so I wonder if we should have gone for biscuits in sweetie shapes instead.

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Play with fizz
All the experimentation you observe in the Mr Willy Wonka’s factory certainly tickles the imagination. The science fiction elements of this book are the bits that shine brightest. Talitha was quite taken with the fizzy lifting drinks that make you float upwards unless you burp to come down again. Inspired by this fizzy fun experiment, we got the muffin tin out and had a messy go (should have put a tray underneath as suggested in that post, mind!).

Here are few more ideas I came across but we didn’t get around to:

Make lickable wallpaper
Pipe cleaner lollipop craft
Chocolate play dough recipe

Do follow my Learning to Love Words board on Pinterest:

Follow Adele’s board Learning to Love Words on Pinterest.

I’d love if we could share our ideas on how to help kids get into books and this million eyez Photobox offers the perfect medium. With million eyez you can start a photo box in a topic to receive authentic photos you can’t find, just as I’m hoping to do here, curating, communicating and organising to cleverly crowd source what you need. Just upload your photo of your literary kids activity, whether it’s a dress up, craft, baking, creative writing prompt or invitation to play. Let’s inspire each other!

via million eyez

If you’re a blogger, you can also enter million eyez’s amazing giveaway to win your own Olypus PEN camera here!


Baby X and other fiction must-reads: review and giveaway

I get a little worried when people ask me to review books here. What if I don’t like them? What if I never get to them because I take an extremely long time over the simplest tasks nowadays? Yet here I am, with a review and giveaway of fiction you really shouldn’t miss.

The former hasn’t been a concern when offered books by independent publisher, Mother’s Milk Books. I’ve been repeatedly stunned by the quality of the work emerging from such a small operation, running out of founder Dr Teika Bellamy’s home. Unfortunately, I have taken a long time over this review.

The reading actually mostly came quickly. I consumed Rebecca Ann Smith’s Baby X in one go, breathlessly reading it over the course of a week, starting the day after Delilah was born (would you believe?!). It was a welcome companion as I bedded in with my newborn. Thriller meets medical ethics wouldn’t have struck me as an apt choice for exhausted postpartum reading but the driving force alive in this book wouldn’t let me let go.

The story takes us through the conception, gestation, birth and kidnap of the first baby grown in an artificial womb. Chapters flit between the perspectives of three women: Alex Mansfield – the genius doctor overlooking this landmark medical feat, her research assistant Dolly and Baby X’s expectant mother, Karen.

So much energy, heart and research has gone into this book. The science underpinning it appears thorough and the story raises genuine ethical questions about egg donation and about the future of reproductive medicine. Karen’s losses and struggles to conceive are utterly agonising and the bond she forms with Baby X does not feel at all contrived. Smith has here written pain and love in terms we can all access.

Alex’s story of bonding with this baby with she has artificially grown is surprisingly touching and relatable. She finds herself emotionally invested in the project, psychologically and even physically connecting with this history-making baby. As I read him, book in one hand, Baby X felt as real as the newborn I was nursing and cuddling to sleep.

I can scarcely believe this is Smith’s debut novel, it’s that accomplished. I’m looking forward to her next work and, also, someone needs to bring Baby X to the big screen, OK?

I took a bit longer over the second in the series of The Fantastical and the Forgotten, edited by Teika Bellamy, but only because I prefer to digest short stories like these an evening at a time, preferably with a bath or as a last thought before bed (a grown up’s bedtime story, if you will). However, I felt it made for such compelling reading that I actually gave my copy to a writer friend of mine and bought myself another copy. I’ll soon be buying the third instalment too.

The collection consists of eclectic rewrites of fairytales and mythology for adult readers, bestowing new meanings on familiar tales or introducing haunting new stories. They ask searing questions about where we come from, how we love and who we are. Themes of motherhood and femininity are recurrent but neither have to be your experience for these stories to inhabit your imagination or feed your mind.

Finally, I’ve recently enjoyed Alison Lock’s debut fantasy novel Maysun and the Wingfish. Towards the end, I wondered what it might be like to read it aloud to my eldest daughter (though it may be a little too exciting for her just yet), both because it’s really aimed at a younger audience and because the text carries the sense of an oral tradition, in keeping with the tribal world it depicts.

This is an ecological fairytale about people living at odds with and desperately seeking to survive in an environment that has grown increasingly menacing toward them. A young girl, Maysun, has been chosen to lead the way to restoration but her path is littered with danger.

The foundations of this world are convincingly laid. Animals come alive with character and the images throughout are remarkably alluring. The novel carries an almost poetic quality that makes it enjoyable reading for anyone.

Mother’s Milk Books is offering Beautiful Tribe readers a chance to win a copy of Baby X and The Fantastical and the Forgotten.

To be in with a chance to win, comment on this post, telling me how you make time to read, whether it’s a few hurriedly snatched minutes or a decadent session of hours, and enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Ten things that happen when you’re tandem breastfeeding

Despite the universal-sounding title, this is just how it’s gone and is going for me, breastfeeding older and younger siblings at the same time. The first thing you learn when you start asking other tandem breastfeeding mothers about their experiences is that nothing is exactly the same for everyone. No one can predict how they’re going to feel or what they’re going to need to do. We can share ideas and offer solidarity but there’s no roadmap, no rulebook.

I tandem breastfed for sixteen months the first time around, until my eldest, Talitha, was four years old. Who knows how long we’ll get to this time but I’m now breastfeeding both three year old Ophelia and her nine month old baby sister, Delilah.

I know how crazy this sounds because, believe me, I never expected any of this. Until I met mothers who were tandem breastfeeding, I didn’t know it was possible. It’s not something I held up as an ideal or hoped to do, even when I fell pregnant the third time around. It just kind of happened. Each time, I had a toddler who still needed to be breastfed while also finding myself pregnant, which brings me to the first thing that happens when you’re tandem breastfeeding.

You discover it starts before the baby is even here.

The sore nipples. The disappearing milk. The sickness. The breastfeeding aversion. Already you are sharing yourself between the child at your breast and the one growing inside you. It happens sooner than you expect. Already they are in tandem.

It looks like it will happen. Like it won’t happen. Maybe it will happen.
I wrote a whole post about how I thought Talitha was weaning. I went through the range of emotions over this. She didn’t. And you know, I did it all again when it was Ophelia’s turn too. Except I really, really thought she’d wean in pregnancy. And I felt irrationally guilty because it felt too soon. But then she didn’t either!

You start to wrap your head around the possibility.

At some point, after wondering, “would we, wouldn’t we?”, it was evident that yes, this really was happening. I most likely was going to be breastfeeding my older and younger kids simultaneously. I borrowed and scoured the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing from Bristol La Leche League.

You have all. the. questions.
Is my nursing aversion normal? (Yup!) Will it go away when the new baby comes? (Certainly for the baby) Will I make enough milk? (All being straightforward, more demand = more production) Do I have to worry about the baby getting enough colostrum? (Nope! As long no issues on the baby’s side) Who feeds first? (Probably the baby but it doesn’t have to be a rule) What if one of them has a cold? (It’s good your milk’s going to get fighting it – they’re probably sharing the germs anyway) WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE? (Sorry, no one can help you there!)

You fumble with positions.
You see all these photos online of mothers peacefully breastfeeding their two together. I persevered a bit more with it with Talitha and Ophelia but it’s never really worked for me. I find the experience of breastfeeding two at literally the same time utterly overwhelming from a sensory point of view. It makes me want to throw things.

I saw a photo the other day of someone tandem breastfeeding on her side with her baby lying on top of her toddler. It looked so lovely. I might try that out of curiosity and because it would give all three of my kids the giggles but, realistically, we have a one at a time deal going here.

In the earliest days, I could never latch the baby well enough with the older one in the way or coach the older one on where to go without the baby slipping off so it was a no-go from that perspective too. I know breastfeeding together absolutely works for some but I’m not alone in finding it really tricky.

You hit a sweet spot.
The older one holds your breast to “feed the baby”. They hold hands while breastfeeding together. You reconnect after a difficult toddler day with a simple breastfeed. You find a way to get them both to sleep.

You hit a hard place.
Your older child finds it hard to share. Your nursing aversion, though not an issue with the baby, hasn’t gone away with your older nursling. You navigate impatience, theirs and yours.

I’ve had to insist that we reserve breastfeeding the older child to when I have another adult around, in case I need someone to hold the baby. This isn’t how it works for everyone but it’s something I find takes the pressure off the situation.

Sometimes it’s hilarious.

Breastfeeding has acquired a new dialogue these days. My older two sometimes give me a replay by laughingly pretending to breastfeed each other.
“OK, we’re going to need to stop now.”
“But I want MUH!”
“It has to be nice for both of us.”
They obviously find it amusing, which makes me feel better about needing to call the feed to an end most of the time.

Your younger baby gets possessive.

Delilah isn’t there yet but I remember Ophelia hit a stage where she was absolutely unwilling to share me with Talitha. She would try to pull Talitha off me if I was breastfeeding her and needed to be distracted.

People ask when you’re going to wean your younger baby

You smile to yourself. Little do they know…

All of a sudden it’s over.
In a sense, Talitha’s weaning was a long time coming. Well, obviously, it was as she was four years old but I mean she was gradually breastfeeding less and less frequently. And then that was it. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t known the last time was the last time. That was that.

I also didn’t know I’d one day do it again.

More blog posts on this topic:
Tandem breastfeeding – the early months
Things I’ve learned while breastfeeding through pregnancy
How weaning happened – the end of our breastfeeding journey

Information on tandem breastfeeding:
Pregnant and breastfeeding? – an La Leche League Great Britain resource on breastfeeding while pregnant and tandem breastfeeding.


When a home replaces period timber windows with uPVC

We live in an old house. Our cottage dates back to the late 1800s and I still haven’t wrapped my head around that history. When we were house hunting, we really didn’t know what we were looking for so checked out bungalows to new builds to period homes. It quickly became obvious that we were both drawn to “character properties” and, while we just wanted to buy the right place, we’d prefer an older home if possible.

Now that we’re here, we’re at the starting point of learning to live well in and care for our little piece of history. We’re discussing tricks to reduce condensation, how to let the house breathe, how to maximise energy efficiency and whether we might update some of the windows flagged up by our surveyor as a potential fire hazard. The house already has uPVC windows but the ones in the middle floor only open a flap so they’re the ones concern has been expressed about and that we’d be looking to replace.

Certainly, we’re appreciating the benefits of uPVC and the drawbacks of timber having lived here for a couple of weeks, especially as we looked around another period home which had not replaced its period timber windows. Our new windows make the house warmer, quieter and better insulated, all surprisingly so for a cottage in the countryside. The glass is also a lot less likely to break. Our front door has a wooden frame and I must admit the rattling panes set us a little on edge, imagining one of the children running through it.

Our uPVC windows don’t at all detract from the quaint style of the house so we’d be looking for a similar match for the middle floor set. In the event that it is confirmed that we need to update the windows quickly, a look through Rose Collection sash windows offers us three options: UltimateRose, HeritageRose and CharismaRose. Each includes a timber effect sash so by going with one of these options we could even restore some of the house’s historical character if we wanted to. There’s definitely no compromise on style there.

We’re still unpacking boxes and finding places for things to live but it’s something we will have to give more thought sooner rather than later. Like so many things, hey?

Brought to you by Rose Collection


What I learned when we moved

You might have guessed by the blogging hiatus that we finally moved into our new house in Cornwall. It’s been two weeks, in fact. The general chaos and the lack of internet meant that I just about managed a few updates on Instagram.

Other than that, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in mystery boxes, plodding through that stage where the house looks worse before it gets better. Finally, it’s got better. We are starting to settle and from even before we got unpacking, this has felt like home.

There’ve been a few surprises in it all and I don’t just mean the literal rubbish we accidentally moved with (and yes we did).

For a start, I was caught off guard by my need to mourn Bristol the moment we left it. I believe now that this was a natural and necessary part of the moving process and I’m grateful that we got to do it while in temporary accommodation in stunningly placed Crantock.

I’ve been similarly amazed at the gusto with which I’ve thrown myself into life here so far and how genuinely excited I’ve been about it all. I’ve never driven this much or been this adventurous about where I’ve taken the children on my own (this might explain why I got the car stuck in deep sand in Porthtowan last week and had to literally be dug out by kind strangers!). For years I’ve been pretty pathetic when it comes to meeting new people, allowing others to take the initiative but it’s as if I’m being released by the decision to be more intentional.

Moving cross country with a family has made this the most pressured of our moves but, in a sense, it’s been easier than any other I’ve made. Maybe it’s down to being that bit older or that the kids give me a convenient way into meeting people or even just a deep peace about this being where we’re meant to be in this season of our lives.

We were forewarned that moving can affect children in unexpected ways but we still needed to remind ourselves and each other that this is why they were waking up, why they were having nightmares, why they were regressing to younger behaviours.

Reminders helped us to re-baby them, to try to be understanding, to find ways of reassuring them. Feeling stretched by being so long in an in-between place, far from where our eventual destination was, we kept needing to be reminded.

A friend at church today asked whether we feel like our nomadic life is behind us and that’s an astute description of where we’ve been not just for two months in Crantock but from the time we decided to move here when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Delilah. Feeling unsettled certainly has affected my parenting, sometimes in ways I wish it hadn’t.

Yet they have adapted so well, our five and three year olds. Talitha talks about old friends and was brilliantly excited about the birthday party we went back to Bristol for a couple of weekends ago. Already she’s making new friends here too.

Ophelia is also starting to play with other children and talk about them. She is starting to develop friendships. The friendship between the sisters has really kept them going through this time of unpacking and distracted parenting. Still, they’ve needed us and it’s been hard to get the balance right between trying to get stuff done so we can get back into a life rhythm and making sure that that pursuit doesn’t take over our lives. I won’t pretend I’ve even mostly got that right. Who knows, aye?

They’ve also been such a help to me with Delilah who is going through an extremely clingy phase. They’ll sit and play with her or show her books while I sit her down for the few moments she’ll tolerate it. Upside to the clinginess and Delilah not crawling yet – we’ve been able to sort a lot of the house out without worrying about her getting into all sorts.

Something that’s shocked me, though, and not in a good way, is how controlling I become when I feel out of control. I knew this about myself before but the stresses of this move have really thrown focus on it. There is such a burden on my heart to make sure I don’t take this out on my family. But I do. I’m working hard on it but I know it’s a process rather than something that can be quickly fixed. It’s going to take a lot of slowing down my responses to situations and continually reflecting and asking why I’m doing what I’m doing.

If anything, rediscovering this reminds me that I can’t do this without the help of the One who parents me so gently and isn’t at all controlling. I’m finding that moving out of the familiar is giving me fresh spiritual avenues with God appearing in places I did not expect.

We originally weren’t supposed to move until next month but the quick sale of our house in Bristol and the struggle of Laurence driving down to Falmouth every week sped the process up. With Spring now in the full swing and Easter on its way, we couldn’t have better timed warming into a new place.

I’ll do a house tour, room tours or something similar at some point but we’ve only just managed to clear the floors. Although maybe there’s something in sharing the mess so we all remember we have chaos in common?


When my second child turned three

Ophelia’s birthday was last Friday. Somehow she’s three?

Actually, it make sense that she’s three because the language explosion she’s gone through in the last few months has caught us off guard. I’ll admit I was starting to wonder whether we should get her hearing checked but now she’s coming out with memories that make me realise she’s understood lots more than she could communicate for a long time.

The third birthday is exciting because kids are starting to understand what a birthday is about and that they’re getting older.

I get doubly emotional at Ophelia’s birthdays because it’s not just “oh my, she’s growing so quickly!” but I have my older child Talitha for perspective on Ophelia’s age and no way was Talitha so little at three! Except she was.

Laurence’s parents came to stay for the birthday weekend and we went to the seal sanctuary in Gweek, which was such a treat. It sounds like they’re doing some pretty cool work there and you get lovely rural views of the Helston river, which is still a bit of a shock having come from living in a city.

Not having any of the right equipment and generally finding making wheat and dairy free cakes a bit of a mission, I bought a supermarket “free from” cake which Ophelia chose, along with a few sugar pirates to put on top. You know what? I think she was every bit as delighted with it as she would have been with an elaborate, handcrafted affair. Kids really don’t need much.

We took it to The Beach Hut overlooking Watergate Bay to round up the treat. The whole weekend turned into a celebration of her birthday, with one of her godparents coming to stay after her grandparents departed. It got me thinking about how important it is for children to have other adult figures in their lives, that wider family.

Having them is valuable for me too because after a long hard slog, finding myself struggling with motherhood, I got to see others having fun with my children and it reminded me that I could have fun with them too. In fact, the weekend gave me a series of highs which I’m treasuring up, hoping they’ll help carry me through for quite some time.

Age three seems like a move beyond the toddler-toddler stage. Seeing Talitha and Ophelia play, I know I have two children now. There have been a few times this week when I’ve thought, “Gosh, we really can just all hang out now.”

Lovely Ophelia, who dances all the time, who loves to shout and balance on things. So often so fearless, you surprise us every day. You make us laugh. You challenge us. You are sensitive. You are fiercely affectionate. You’ve perfected those cuddles. We are loving getting to know you, our wild three year old.


100 ways to home educate – How we do it

I volunteered to join in with the 100 Ways to Home Educate blog hop with gusto but now that I’m sitting in front of my computer, I’m left thinking, “But how do we do it?”

I’ve been really reluctant to talk much about this in anything but vague terms, partly because it’s ever evolving. As the girls develop, as I read and learn more, as our circumstances change, home education looks different in our family. So I suppose that openness to change is a defining characteristic of our approach. Talitha is five and a half, Ophelia is three years old and Delilah seven months old. Obviously, Talitha is the only one who’s of compulsory school age.

I can’t claim that we are unschoolers. I do offer activities using resources I’ve assembled and often have a plan for our days, even if loose and flexible. At the same time, I don’t force anything (though I might encourage) and I’m not particularly bothered if the day takes an entirely different shape to the one I imagined. The majority of my children’s time is taken up in free play and independent creating. Some would probably call us eclectic or maybe semi autonomous.

Certainly there’s been no typical week here for quite some time. Between Delilah’s birth seven months ago,  Laurence splitting his weeks between our home in Bristol and his work in Cornwall two weeks after, our trip to Thailand in December, packing up the house and moving in January and the last six weeks of getting to know Cornwall but staying in temporary accommodation a fair way from where we’ll be – well, the rhythms are all over the place.

Still, a few things remain constant. We spend some time each day reading. I read to them a mix of books I’ve chosen and books they have. There’s always a chapter book in there for Talitha (we’re reading Finn Family Moomintroll), picture books for Ophelia and Delilah and a Bible story. Everything else is ever changing. They might ask me to read a few pages from a Wildlife Trust magazine or an Usborne non-fiction book (space, volcanoes and Ancient Rome are current favourites), for instance.

We’ve come to really enjoy this dedicated time reading together. Though I do most of the reading, Talitha will sometimes ask to read to us. Ophelia also “reads” to us, keen to attempt anything her sister is doing.

The other constant in our days is time outdoors. Wanting our children to have masses of  outdoor play was a big motivator in choosing to home educate so we try to get outside every day, no matter what the weather is doing. We loosely follow a Charlotte Mason inspired nature curriculum mainly to give me ideas of things to notice since, having only lived in the UK for just over a decade and having a rather indoors childhood myself, British seasons, flora and fauna are all still new discoveries to me.

Some days Talitha might do workbooks or play Mathseeds or Reading Eggs on the computer. We play card games or she builds structures with various manipulatives (we have a Spielgaben set and cuisenaire rods) or Duplo and we talk about patterns, numbers and how to work stuff out. She loves writing out sums and testing me on them. If she has a question I don’t feel I’m answering well enough, we sometimes look at Khan Academy online to see how they’ve explained it. We were using a free maths curriculum for a while but, though she enjoyed it, I found it too labour intensive. At the moment, this interest-led approach is working well for us. Numbers naturally pop up everywhere in life, whether it’s telling the time or working out how much pocket money she has left. It’s amazing how much kids learn just by having an attentive adult on hand to chat things through with and the time to work on problems at their own pace.

Similarly, writing is child led. She loves to write lists and letters. I often find pictures and sentences related to something we’ve been reading about or something happening in her life. She’s been asking to learn cursive so I’ve started to introduce it using a printable from Twinkl and I can see that it might help her grow more confident with her spelling since she’ll be able to follow the shape of the word. Neither spelling nor cursive are things I’d be inclined to even mention right now so it’s interesting that she’s taken such an interest in them.

In terms of topics, we tend to be led by what either of the girls are showing an interest in. I jot down questions in the notes on my phone and remind them about them when it makes sense. Often something will emerge from an experience or a TV show. We went to a planetarium show back at half term and we had a book about space so we’ve wound up looking at videos and reading stuff off websites about the solar system. We talked about the recently discovered solar system with planets similar to Earth when the news broke.

We’re still finding our way with groups here in Cornwall but so far we’ve done one or two home ed groups a week and met up with friends outside of that, which is pretty much what we did in Bristol too. Talitha was doing ballet and swimming in Bristol and she’s asking to get something similar started again but I’m conscious that we need to move into our new house first and just get a bit settled. Also, at three, Ophelia might like to try something low structure too.

No doubt our approach will morph with time. They are so little yet. And I’m sure Ophelia’s path will look quite different from Talitha’s as we can already see that they’re quite different people. For now, this is a little look at how we’re gently dancing together.

Check out the days and ways covered so far on 100 ways to home ed and see the linky below for new ones added in the month of March.