Friday, 19 May 2017

Fighting the Clutter and Simplifying Play

I've never been the tidiest person, but recently the amount of mess in my house has been getting me down. I was getting dragged into a 'my house isn't big enough' mentality, feeling sorry for myself, when actually the real issue is that we have too much stuff.


The amount of toys our kids have has been an issue for a while - even when Eleanor was a toddler, we already felt like we were drowning in toys. So of course now we have two, it's almost impossible to keep up with the sheer amount of stuff they have.

The thing is, they hardly play with it. Especially Eleanor. Whenever she complains about being bored I'll reel off a list of all the things she could do, but of course she's not interested. And Ezra will happily drag all his toys out of his box then proceed to play with the nearest non-toy item (preferably a dangerous one). I honestly think that the more toys a child has, the more overwhelming they find the choice and the less likely they are to play.

Alas, I think it is too late to get Eleanor on board with the 'less is more' message. But Ezra, being unable to speak and having a shorter attention span, can be merrily forced to go along with this as long as he doesn't see me getting rid of his stuff.

So, one nap time, I emptied out all his toys on the floor.


Yeah. What a mess, eh? No wonder it took me so long to tidy every evening, and no wonder he didn't seem to play with anything - there's just too much going on. So I set to work sorting through the mess.

I piled up all the cuddly toys - he hardly plays with these at the moment so I selected just one for him to keep, a little jingly Peter Rabbit toy. I fished out anything that wasn't actually his, as Eleanor's stuff had snuck in a little. I chucked away one particularly battered toy that we'd had since Eleanor was toddler and was past it's best. I found all the teethers and put them to one side to wash. And I weeded out any toys that I thought he was a bit big for.

I ended up with this.


These are the toys that he will actually play with: a bead maze, his toy kitchen and play food, a shape-sorting bus, two push-along vehicles, a shaker, stacking blocks, soft blocks, a jingly ball and the aforementioned Peter Rabbit toy.

Most of the rest has been shoved in a bag for now and when we get chance we'll go through it and decide what to keep for when he's older and what can go to charity. The teethers are still awaiting cleaning, and will be kept somewhere safe so they can actually be used for their purpose rather than as toys.

I did this three days ago, and he doesn't seem to have noticed the sudden lack of stuff. But he does seem to be taking more interest in his remaining toys now he can find them more easily. And it's quicker to tidy everything away at the end of the day. Win win!

Have you found that less is more when it comes to toys? How many toys do you think your child 'needs'?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

'Rhyming Stories: Pip the Dog and Freddy the Frog' by Axel Scheffler

Another bookish post for you this week. In my mission to get Ezra reading books instead of ruining them, I've started getting down to the library more regularly. Last week we picked up this lovely book:

I love Axel Scheffler's illustrations - well, who doesn't? - and I really enjoy reading rhyming text so this is right up my street. It's also a really good choice for Ezra as the two short stories aren't too overwhelming for him - much as I adore them, he's not ready for the Donaldson/Scheffler stories yet.


Ezra's favourite of the two stories is Pip the Dog. Mainly because he thinks it's funny when I bark like a dog!


I'm happy to make silly noises in stories if it gets the kids engaged, and there are plenty of opportunities to practise my dog impression in this story. I'm still working on the difference between a happy woof and a sad woof, but I don't suppose Ezra's that bothered!


He seems less keen on Freddy the Frog - obviously my croaks aren't as funny as my barks - but it's still a sweet little story. There's no real plot to either story but then little toddlers aren't going to follow one anyway, so it's nice to just enjoy the rhymes and descriptions at this age.


Freddy the Frog is a good one to read with your little one on your knee, as then you can bounce them up and down to join in with the race! As I mentioned in my last post, I'm on the lookout for books that you can do actions to, so this is another fun one!

We've both really enjoyed this book - it's colourful, cheerful and gives opportunities for giggles with funny noises and bouncing about. I spotted another 'Rhyming Stories' book while at the library so think I'll be picking that up next week!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.


Read With Me


Laura's Lovely Blog

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

'Clip Clop!' by Nicola Smee

I haven't done a post about what we're reading recently. Eleanor is now a very independent reader (and reads the same books over and over) so I don't have much to say about her reading habits these days. And Ezra is in full-on book devastation mode so I'm ashamed to say I haven't been reading much with him.

Except for one book.


As you can see, this book hasn't escaped his destructive powers entirely, but a slightly bent and nibbled front page is nothing compared to some of the havoc he's wreaked. (I've even had to throw books away - sob!) I think he's sparing this book because he loves it so much!

It's a really simple, short story, perfect for older babies and younger toddlers.


This book is absolutely made for bouncing a baby along to. Every parent has played horsey one time or another, and this story gives you lots of opportunity to make your little one giggle.


The rhythm of the text encourages you speed up your bouncing until ...


This is Ezra's favourite page - I lean back for the HALT and forward for the fly and his face lights up every time!


I love the playful ending - anticipating the child asking for another read of it! Although Ezra is too young to say 'again' himself, he will often turn back to the first page, indicating he wants another 'ride'. It's so short and fun I'm more than happy to do a repeat reading.

I'm now on the lookout for more books that encourage actions - any ideas?

I'm linking up with Read With Me hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.




Read With Me

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Review - FotoJet Premium photo editing and collage

You may have noticed my header's changed. I've been undergoing the slow (for me) process of prettifying my blog but I'd been putting off the header. Photo-editing is not my forte at all and I was really worried about doing a bad job of it.

Then FotoJet got in touch to offer me a chance to try out their Premium account. It felt like the universe was telling me to get on with that header once and for all!

So, what do you think to the header? Nice, isn't it? It may not look like much, but to me it was a real challenge! I started out with this photo:


I uploaded it onto the FotoJet Edit section and resized it so it would fit my blog template. (Unfortunately a Blogger-specific header wasn't an option in the Design section, but there were lots of options for social media headers and posts.) It was pretty straightforward to do this, even for a novice like me.

I then set about adjusting the photo a little to make it a little less washed-out. The free version of the website does have some pre-set effects that you can apply, but I thought I'd try out the Advanced features for a more customised look.


After I'd played around with the different settings until I had the look I wanted I added the text. I wanted a clean, fuss-free font so used one of the free options, but there are loads of fancy fonts that are exclusive to the Premium account if you feel like being more creative.


After a bit of playing around I got the header you can see above - not bad for a technophobe, eh?! Just a shame there's nothing that can be done for Eleanor's weird photo pose ...

Overall I found the Edit function really straightforward, so I decided to get adventurous and use the Collage function for my next project. Eleanor is having a half-birthday next month (on account of her birthday being so close to Christmas) so this was a great opportunity to get her invites done.

In the Collage section of the website, there are lots of templates for different occasions, including some lovely invitations. I chose this one, which is only available on the Premium account:


I added a photo of Eleanor (from her actual birthday, just to confuse people even further) and used the effects to brighten it up.


I then edited the text - changing the font and positioning very easily - to include the party's details. I didn't screenshot that bit as obviously I don't want the whole internet knowing when and where the party is, so you'll just have to trust me that it looks great!

I was very impressed with how easy to use the FotoJet browser app is and would recommend it to anyone who needs to do photo editing or graphic design but doesn't know where to start. Whether you're a blogger setting up headers or you need to make a really eye-catching invite or flyer, this app will help you through all the tricky bits. The Premium features are very useful to have, especially if you want to fully customise your work or have a very particular design in mind.

If you're interested in giving FotoJet a try, check out their website where you will also find information on signing up for a Premium account.

DISCLAIMER: I was offered free access to a FotoJet Premium account for the purposes of this review, however all words and opinions are my own.