10 Fun Activities to Do with the Kids This Winter

Winter can be a tricky time to be a parent. The weather is often poor, the days are short, and money can be a little bit tight after Christmas. So, what are you going to do with the kids at the weekend or during a half term? Well, here are ten fun activities you could try to stave off a serious case of cabin fever…

  1. Go on a treasure hunt

Fresh air is the perfect remedy for children who are feeling little cooped up, so head out into the great outdoors having devised a ‘treasure hunt’ of sorts. Make them a checklist of things to find, such as a spider’s web, a bird’s nest or a frost-laced leaf.

  1. Do some baking

Kids love to help in the kitchen, and getting them involved in a spot of baking is a great way to develop their confidence in the kitchen and start teaching essential life skills. Whip up a batch of muffins (they’re pretty forgiving if your little helpers are a bit heavy handed), or help them make some gooey chocolate chip cookies. Delicious!

  1. Walk along the beach

If you’re lucky enough to live near the coast (or want to bundle in the car for the weekend), why not head out to the seaside? A blustery winter’s walk on the seafront is great fun, and the kids will enjoy leaning into the wind and watching the waves crash on the shore. Treat yourselves to fish and chips after and remember to take photos to capture those happy memories.

  1. Build a snowman

With any luck winter brings a dusting of snow for the kids to enjoy, so if you happen to see any settling where you live, head straight out to build a snowman. Little ones might need some help to roll the snow, and children of all ages will love rummaging round the house for carrots, scarves and pieces of coal (or failing that, small potatoes) to make the snowman come to life. Just make sure you’ve kitted the kids out in warm stylish clothing before they play in the snow – a warm coat, a sturdy pair of wellies and a pair of gloves are essential items if they’re going to enjoy themselves.

  1. Make a winter campfire

Children love to watch a fire crackling as much as adults do, so why not build a winter campfire in your back garden? Be sure to build your fire safely, and then pull up chairs for some quality time as a family. You can swap stories, toast marshmallows and sip hot chocolate together.

  1. Build a fort

Remember how much you loved building forts when you were little? It’s a lovely thing to do with the kids, so sacrifice those just-washed bed sheets and drape them over the arms of the sofas. Pull in some pillows, add a string of battery-powered fairy lights and let the kids camp out there for the day. They can play games, eat their lunch in there and perhaps even take an afternoon nap…

  1. Play in the forest

It’s impossible to get our kids off their computer screens entirely, but you can certainly get them using their imaginations outdoors if you suggest a stroll through the forest. Encourage a bit of imaginary role play: wizard wands have been fashioned from many a twig, and a good branch doubles as a sword to do battle with any roaming dragons or bad guys…

  1. Have a dance party

Having a boogie round the house is a great way of exercising and improving everyone’s mood: no mean feat in the depths of winter! Find a good playlist, turn up the volume and encourage the kids to let loose. You can always throw a game of musical statues into the mix if you want to keep them at it for a little while longer.

  1. Host a film festival

There’s nothing nicer than being tucked up inside on a rainy winter’s day, so why not watch some films together? Add an extra element of fun by theming the films around food – a particularly good trick if you want to get your little ones to try a new dish. For instance, serve steaming bowls of ratatouille while watching the Ratatouille film, or tuck into spaghetti and meatballs while watching Lady and the Tramp.

  1. Get crafty

Finally, there are thousands of craft ideas to do with children if you look online, but one that’s particularly fun and requires little in the way of materials is this one. You’ll need basic supplies such as paper plates, paints, glue and elastic (all of which will be available at a well-stocked supermarket for instance), and so long as you don’t mind the kids making a bit of a mess, you’ll keep them entertained for hours.

So, which of these fun ideas will you be doing with the kids this winter? Let us know!

Featured Post: Don’t forget the dinner: Get your Christmas Day plans in order

What’s your Christmas Day routine? Do you get up nice and early to see if Father Christmas has deposited some presents down your chimney? Do you welcome relatives around to exchange presents? Is there a festive playlist or film that tickles your fancy? Do you never go without seeing the Queen’s Christmas message?

Whatever your day looks like, there’s one thing you simply cannot afford to forget – the dinner. This is a showpiece moment of the biggest day of the year – the time you and your family stop, gather together and tuck into turkey and all of the trimmings.

No pressure then.

How do you ensure that everything goes well? The key thing is to have a plan in the first place, one that can guide you through exactly what you need to do and when. Look no further than this one, from the team at AO.com, which can ensure that you have no Christmas catastrophes in the kitchen…

The Step-By-Step Christmas Dinner Cooking Guide
Provided by AO.com

Featured Post: Why vintage diamonds are worth the high price tag

One of my interests in my day job as a museum curator is costume. I spend a long time looking at dress and jewellery and I’ve really enjoyed including costume in various exhibitions. From suffragette jewellery in an exhibition about the Edwardians through to beautiful Ancient Egyptian inspired jewellery in an Ancient Egypt exhibition. 

A friend of mine collects vintage jewellery and is always telling me about the amazing finds she makes. Until fairly recently I was astonished to find out how much cheaper it is than new jewellery. Its actually well worthwhile buying a piece just for the diamonds which you can then have made into an item of your choice. I’ve been sent some information about vintage diamonds which I thought was of interest, because, you know, Christmas is coming and its not all about stuff for the kids is it!

 

Vintage diamonds are worth the price tag because they were not mass produced when first designed and made and the cuts are unusual compared to modern diamond cutting techniques. Vintage diamonds were generally cut by hand, which means no stone is the same and offers a uniqueness to a piece of jewellery that you will not find anywhere else.

However, these irregular shaped diamonds were once rejected or downgraded by specialists but are now revered and used as a symbol of authenticity when it comes to vintage stones. They allow us to hold on to a little piece of history in the form of something beautiful we can adorn ourselves with or have on display.

Vintage diamonds are also worth the price tag because they come with a story. In the 1900s wealthy families would travel and collect diamonds from countries they visited, which they would then have made into stunning pieces of jewellery to show off at extravagant parties. These pieces are then handed down throughout the generations, gaining in value and exhibiting a variety of cutting styles as methods were adapted and refined over time.

Diamonds owned by a famous person for a long time are also very popular. Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond jewellery was sold for an incredible $137 million at an auction in 2012 while a ring supposedly owned by child star Shirley Temple was auctioned for between $25 million and $35 million but failed to sell.

Lab grown diamonds are more common than ever now in the diamond jewellery market and their presence could be encouraging a push towards authentic diamonds as buyers wish to hold onto the craftsmanship that went into their creation. It’s safe to say, vintage diamonds will continue to attract investors, gain value as the years go on and will be put up for auctions over time where the highest bidder will take home a slice of history to share with others and hand down to future generations.

Featured Post; How to Make Your Family Car Greener

 

car1There comes a time when you need to ditch your current car. This has literally just happened to me as the cam shaft has broken on my trusty Zafira. It comes at quite a good moment in many ways as I have been considering ways to make my motoring cheaper and greener. We’ve decided to go down the route of leasing a low co2 emission car.

It’s well documented that cars are a major contributor to environmental pollution. Legislation in terms of city congestion charges, vehicle excess duty rates and the advent of alternative power such as electric is designed to minimise the effects of fossil fuels. While diesel was considered the better environmental option when the focus was purely on CO2 emissions, there has been something of a backlash in the light of concerns over the particulates emitted by diesel engines.

There are lots of ways which you can save some cash and make sure your car is as environmentally friendly as possible. I’ve been sent the following suggestions which I will definitely be taking on board (excuse the pun!)

Regular maintenance

Keeping your car in tip top condition will help. Regular servicing at a competent and trustworthy garage includes the replacement of items such as air filters; a new, clean one helps burn less fuel so the car runs cleaner.

Your fuel consumption could be around 25% less with regular tune ups, emissions checks and regular servicing.

Check tyres – wrongly inflated tyres, especially under-inflation, causes a car to burn more fuel due to the extra resistance under inflated tyres exert. Regular surveys undertaken by Michelin revealed over 60% of cars on the road had incorrectly inflated tyres, causing the emission of an extra 538,000 tonnes of excess CO2.

Your driving technique – criticising someone’s driving is akin to heresy in some quarters, but many of us could drive more economically. Here are a few pointers:

  • Anticipate more – sudden braking as opposed to natural slowing down wastes fuel (braking effectively wipes out the amount of fuel you’ve used to build that momentum).
  • Use high gears – change up in good time and drive in the highest gear possible, but don’t let the engine labour.
  • Excess weight – remove items from the car you don’t need for that trip; riding around with your golf clubs in the boot all week wastes fuel over time.

Change cars – an extreme step you may think, but it could be worth considering especially if yours is ageing and something of a ‘gas guzzler.’ Maybe your running costs are expensive in terms of fuel, maintenance and tax so a newer, more fuel efficient, environmentally friendly model could be worth considering.

There are various ways including leasing (both for business and personal users) to put a new, cheaper to run and greener car on your driveway at a reasonable cost.

Your car use – can you use your car less? Perhaps you could combine smaller trips into one? Maybe sometimes you could bike or walk to work or share lifts with others on occasions? Combining, say, a trip to the supermarket on the way back from work is better than taking a separate trip where your car is starting from cold.

Overall, shorter trips should be minimised as far as possible. Your car is less efficient as it’s not running at its optimum temperature so uses more fuel, and shorter trips cause faster wear and tear than longer ones.

Car equipment – when driving, try to use the minimum in-car equipment you can; air conditioning increases fuel consumption as do electrical items such as heated rear windows and lighting. Switch them off when possible.

Plan trips – getting lost and wasting fuel on dead adds to your carbon footprint, so plan trips as far as you can using maps and keeping your sat nav mapping up to date.

Greener is possible

With just some basic steps, not all of them even costing money, you can at least make your present car greener to help the environment.

 

 

Featured Post: How to attract birds into your garden

Its a really good idea to try to give children as many opportunities as possible to interact with wildlife. This is important for their mental well-being, to enable them to appreciate and gain an understanding of the environment and also simply to learn about different types of birds. We love to experiment making bird feeders and wildlife friendly things for the garden.

In terms of feeding birds we have a bit of a hit and miss relationship in our household. I must admit that we don’t really want to attract lots of pigeons and we have to be careful about attracting the ‘tamer’ birds like Robins as our cat is a fearsome predator.

I’ve been given some top tips on  how to attract three specific types of birds in to your garden.

Dunnocks

Dunnocks are small and inconspicuous birds that reside in gardens across the UK with a preference for staying close to the edge of flower beds, bushes and hedges. They’re renowned for their shuffling, almost nervous gait, preferring to creep along the edge of vegetation rather than be out in the open.

Food for dunnocks: As well as eating worms, spiders and insects, dunnocks will be grateful for seeds provided in bird feeders – especially in the winter when food on the ground is more scarce. It’s worth remembering, however, that they do prefer dense cover when they’re eating.

So, if you want to attract them into your garden, make sure you position your bird feeder on the fringe of a thick hedgerow or close to a patch of vegetation. Dunnocks will eat fine seeds such as millet, and will be likely to visit your garden if you provide them with crushed or grated nuts.

Greenfinches

Greenfinches are frequently spotted all over Britain – in country gardens and urban gardens, in farmland and in parks. As they’re often found close to woodland and hedges, the only place you likely won’t see them is in an upland area without trees or bushes.

Food for greenfinches: Greenfinches will eat bird seed and insects. They’re not fussy, but they do particularly like peanuts and black-oil sunflower seeds. During the winter, they’ll happily take whole nuts and seeds from your bird feeder to bulk out their diet, but watch out – they’re sociable and will squabble with other birds at the feeder if there’s something they want!

Just be sure to avoid any seed mixtures that contain dried rice or dried beans – only larger species can eat this kind of seed, and therefore it isn’t suitable for a bird the size of a greenfinch.

Goldfinches

Goldfinches are beautifully coloured birds with a bright red face and a patch of yellow on their wings. You’ll find them all over Britain, except for in the far north and west of Scotland. Their highest numbers are generally recorded in the south of England.

Food for goldfinches: In the summer, goldfinches will eat insects and seeds, but in the winter they’ll rely on your bird feeder to help support them through the colder months. Goldfinches will eat most types of seed, although they’re very partial to small, black nyjer seeds. The high oil content of this food makes it attractive to goldfinches, but bear in mind that you will need a special type of bird feeder if you want to supply it. Nyjer is a very small seed and will need a dispenser that is capable of administering the right portion sizes.

If you’re looking for more information then there are lots of resources on line including the RSPB (of which we are members) website which has lots of fab information.