So February is the month of love… Valentine’s day falls bang in the middle of it. While for some it might be a silly marketing ploy, it is nice to stop and think about the people we love, those that love us and those we have loved and lost. Valentine’s day may look a little different in your house now that you have kids in tow. It’s no longer so easy to just head out the door for a date night. Whatever you do or however you are celebrating cupid’s day, what is important is love.
At Dotty Fish we have just finished celebrating all things colour. We looked at our shoes and thought it would be fun to showcase all the different colours on social media. It was so lovely seeing all the bright colours together on Instagram. In the same vein we are celebrating all things love. This often means pink, red, hearts and flowers. Sorry boys but while we love you, navy blue just doesn’t scream valentine’s day quite like our pastel pink hearts! Our clever operations manager has shown us all how to fold origami hearts. Keep an eye on our Instagram Stories as we have a little how too guide so you can join in the fun too.
February also means half term here in the UK. A week off school to break up the term and recharge those batteries – or deplete parent’s batteries (and bank balances!) depending on your point of view. It is lovely having a break from the routine and the school-run but it often poses some challenges. For those parents who don’t have older children and no school run it often means the activities they rely on stop for a week. Rhyme time isn’t on, playgroups close and a week can feel like a long time with a restless toddler. We are here to the rescue with some fun craft ideas inspired by our own designs.
When designing new shoes in the office it can often feel a bit like play time. We have fun with colours and shapes and have been known to make paper flowers or other bits to figure out what will work well on a shoe.
Biscuit decorating is an old favourite. You may even be brave enough to make the biscuits yourself with your little ones. They love mixing, measuring and cracking the eggs. If this is a step too far then it is still great fun to decorate store bought biscuits. Getting the icing in little tubes may seem like a great idea but they can be very hard for little hands to manipulate. Making a simple water icing and allowing them to use a spoon to drizzle it all over their biscuit is lots easier and less frustrating – it is also messy so be prepared. Licking sticky fingers and eating all the toppings as you go along is part of the fun.
We used a unicorn cutter and colours inspired from our warm knitted Dreamy Unicorn Leggings. The yellow and pink look so fresh and inviting. Hundreds and thousands and glittery stars finished them off perfectly. The recipe can be found on on our Pinterest board. They are delicious – we know because the whole office taste tested them!
The top sellers for last year on our website where Fire Fire, Pitter Patter Panda and Blast Off Rocket. We love a bit of transport inspired designs at Dotty Fish. Why not get the recycling bin out and do a bit of junk modelling? It is lovely to see their imagination take flight. With a bit of masking tape, some glue, pipe cleaners and kebab sticks a humble milk bottle or egg box can be transformed into a car, bus, fire engine or rocket ship. My 10-year-old still loves turning a bit of old recycling into all sorts of things – little engineers and designers of the future can have fun building working models.
One of the best things about junk modelling, besides the fact that it is free, is that there are no limits. No pictures to copy or colours to make it a girl or boys toy. No matter what age this is a great activity, if you have older siblings they can get involved too. Babies can simply bash boxes together or stack them while older toddlers can glue and stick to their hearts content. Young kids get really excited when they can play with the car they have just made. They feel a real sense of achievement when they have a final product that they have built themselves.
Hand painting fun is simple to do with very young babies and toddlers. The act of painting their hands or feet can be quite fun in itself as they react to the feeling of paint and a brush on their sensitive skin. Little fingers will naturally close if you try and paint them so getting that first hand print can be quite tricky! If you have ever tried it at a paint your own pottery studio you often have an upset baby on your hands afterwards!
Hand-prints can be turned into just about anything with a little bit of imagination and a search through Pinterest. We used our Flutterby Butterfly shoes as the inspiration but instead of using all pinks and purples we decided to use bright colours. You will need a very co-operative toddler or child for this but it does look cute. Capturing those first few years in hand-prints can be really sweet. But be warned, when your toddler is a little older they think painting their hand is allowed. They can get a bit carried away and paint their arm, tummy, legs… you get the picture! Many a parent has been caught out leaving a toddler for two seconds happily engaged at the paint table while they change baby’s nappy only to return to chaos and paint everywhere. (Can you tell this may have been me in the past?)
We also made cut out hand-prints and turned them into Dotty Fish puppets. This is great for older children as cutting is one skill we are less and less likely to allow them to try. The fear of cutting themselves has meant that cutting is something that children rarely get to do anymore. Reception teachers often say this is something they wish kids had more practice at before starting school. It develops their muscles in their hand and uses both sides of the brain cooperatively. It also requires their eyes to track the movement of the scissors and encourages bilateral co-ordination. This simply means that each hand is performing a different task at the same time – one hand is holding and moving the paper while the other is cutting.
To help children learn to cut start by snipping things like play dough. Straws are also a good one to snip. Another way to help develop this skill is to encourage them to tear paper first, this helps them develop that bilateral co-ordination that is important when cutting. Wrapping a bit of coloured tape around the thumb hole so they know which hole to put their thumb in is also a handy tip. A quality pair of children’s scissors also helps – we all know the frustration of trying to cut with a pair of scissors that simply doesn’t work properly.
Play dough is another great activity to keep kids busy. There are lots of things you can do with play dough that extends beyond simply rolling it out and cutting out shapes. Adding things like scissors, straws, cupcake cases and muffin tins to the play dough table can totally change the way kids play with it. They can snip the straws and put it into the play dough to make monsters or hedgehogs. Cupcake cases and muffin trays means they start to make play dough cakes and cookies. Dinosaurs, animals and cars can all be added to make tracks and marks in the rolled-out play dough. The ability to roll it all up and start again is great.
Here is a simple no-cook play dough recipe that I have been using for years.
2 cups plain flour
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup of salt
2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup boiling water (may need a little more)
Gel food colouring (you can use liquid but I like the depth of colour you get from gel)
Mix everything together quickly. I add a teaspoon of glycerine to make it shiny and silky, but you don’t have too. Turn it out and kneed it until it feels stretchy and smooth. You can also add a dash of peppermint or vanilla essence to make it smell nice but be warned this can make little ones think they can eat it! You can mix up a batch and then divide it into 3 or 4 balls and colour each one separately. This play dough keeps in an airtight container or Ziplock bag for ages. The more you play with it the better it gets!
All these craft activities are great for indoors but as we all know a cooped-up toddler is no fun! They need to get out and get moving. A trip to the park for a run around and some fresh air is essential to keep your sanity. Half term is the perfect opportunity to try a park further away. If you are out for a walk, then simply changing your usual route can be a whole new adventure for a toddler. While out and about my buggy used to get loaded up with random things that the kids collected along the way. Stones, sticks, leaves and pine cones all found their way into the bottom of the buggy or a coat pocket if the buggy wasn’t with us.
Our new moccasins were the inspiration for our woodland creature craft. Their earthy colours make us think about woodland walks and nature in general. We have turned a little play dough ball into a cute hedgehog. This can be done with salt dough too. You can also do this using leaves and a little hedgehog face picture or turn a pine cone into a hedgehog. This has got our designers thinking and they are playing around with ideas for a friend for Freddie Fox! If we did a new woodland design what would you like to see? We love hearing your ideas and feedback so keep talking to us on social media.
That is half term sorted with lots of craft ideas for valentine’s day and beyond. Playing is such a vital part of childhood. It is how our children learn and as parents we can do lots to facilitate this with less emphasis on toys and more emphasis on imagination. The Early Years is such an important stage in a child’s development and if we can extend their natural curiosity and wiliness to learn at this age, we give them a head start in the world. Our children do this naturally and it is so much fun sitting down on the floor and playing with them.
We need to make time to play with our children but we need to balance this with teaching them to play independently and being comfortable on their own. Yet another tricky balancing act of parenting. So don’t worry if you are relieved to have a few minutes to yourself while your little one is engaged with the dinosaurs stomping through the play dough! Share your makes and bakes with us on Pinterest, Face Book, Twitter or Instagram – we love seeing them all.
Happy Half Term,
The Dotty Fish Team