Sir Scallywag and the deadly dragon poo

wp-image--447836966 We love Sir Scallywag. Jumbles chose to go dressed as him for World Book Day this year. Wearing cardboard armour and clutching a “golden sausage”. In this, the second Sir Scallywag tale, all of the Knights lie around all day, and so are in no condition to defend the castle from attackers trying to steal the King’s sweet machine by catapulting dragon poo at them. Thankfully, 6 year old Sir Scallywag saves the day.

I have been wanting to do some sort of wood project with the kids for a bit, we’ve hammered nails into scrap wood, but I wanted to try something where we create something. A catapult seemed perfect.

Please excuse the meadow look of our garden for this project, it went a bit long without being mowed. You’ll be pleased to hear that it has since been remedied and no small children or animals have been lost in the grass.

You will need:

Thick elastic band


I thought it would be more interesting to use wood we have found on walks, rather than manufactured wood. We had a small collection of branches and sticks in our shed, so we sorted through looking for something suitable.

I’m sure there are much better ways to create a catapult than we did, so gather the materials and just give it a go, but I’ll provide instructions for making our very basic model in case you need inspiration.

First cut your wood to size. This wasn’t actually necessary, but it’s fun, so we randomly sawed some wood after we’d finished. Please be very careful doing this, I couldn’t take photos as I was keeping them safe.

You need a nice wide piece of wood to use as your base. Then you need a forked piece you can attach to that, to create a fulcrum. Finally, you need a long piece of wood to act as your throwing arm.


The main woodworking bit is just to attach the base and fulcrum together. Which can be done entirely using string,  but so they could do some hammering, we attached it by hammering nails and threading string around it using the nails to anchor it.


Once the 2 pieces are attached together, you simply place the throwing arm in position and secure it with a thick elastic band. You want as steep an angle as possible for your throwing arm.


Obviously, I’m not about to start letting the kids fling poo, or dangerous projectiles, we used little shaped rubbers. We did try natural materials, but everything was too light and wouldn’t fly far. The balls we had were too large to sit in the little broken bit at the end of our throwing arm, which incidentally makes a really helpful basket, so don’t cut the end of your throwing arm, snap it,  so it has a little ledge.


Place your projectile on the end of the throwing arm, push it down as far as you can, right down to your base. Then release, if built correctly, the arm should fly back up, throwing your projectile forwards. We didn’t get massive distances with ours, but we had a lot of fun.

There is another book that might lend itself even better to this project, which is “The marshmallow incident” but I can’t get hold of a copy. In this, a war is waged using marshmallows, so I’m assuming that they use a catapult. Marshmallow projectiles would probably  work quite well.

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Just one more – Making ice cream in a box

61IEePofvoL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_In this book, Ruby always wants “just one more.” Eventually she learns that you can have too much of a good thing.

The important feature in selecting this book, was not the life lesson, but the ice cream! If you can’t get hold of this book, any book featuring ice cream will do.

This is a great science activity for kids of any age, though the younger the children, the more of the shaking you’ll have to do for them (though, you might also get to eat more of the ice cream yourself).

You will need:

A large watertight lidded container (or you can use a large ziploc bag)
2 small, good quality freezer bags
8 tbs salt
Milkshake powder (or flavouring and sugar)


Making ice cream:

Make up 1/2 cup (150ml) of flavoured milk. Or add sugar and flavouring to milk.

Pour mixture into a small freezer bag, seal well, removing air. Put it inside a second sealed bag, in case of leaks.


Smash up your ice cubes! This step is not strictly necessary, the experiment works with large ice cubes, but smashing them creates more surface area for quicker salt action, and more importantly it’s fun. Jumbles had been completely disinterested in this project until that point, then suddenly he wanted to join in. Wrap the ice in a tea towel so that ice shards don’t go flying everywhere, then bash with a rolling pin.

Tip the ice into your large container or bag until it’s half full. It turns out I didn’t need anywhere near as much ice as I’ve been prepping over the last 2 weeks.


Add a lot of salt to the ice (8tbs or more)
Place the bag inside the container of ice, close the lid.


Wrap container in a teatowel (it’ll get very cold) and shake. It was a bit heavy for Bean, so I got her to roll it around on the floor. This step takes around 10 mins, Bean got bored after approximately 1 and Jumbles had left once the bashing ended, so this was left entirely to me.

Remove the bag from the container, our outer bag had opened, so I was glad I double bagged. Rinse off the salt before opening.

Open and dish up

Depending on the age of your children you can decide how to explain the science.

For Jumbles (nearly 6) and Bean (4) I just said: “The ice helps to make the milk mixture really cold, the salt speeds it up a bit”
An explanation for adults/older children can be found here


Buy “Just one more” from Wordery (affiliate link)

“Just 1 more” read on Youtube (not a great reading unfortunately)

The Giving Tree

givingtree.jpgThis is a classic tale of selfless love, or learning to be satisfied with what you have, depending on how you view it. The tree, who selflessly gives is happy, the boy as he grows and wants more, becomes increasingly unhappy.

This activity came about due to me having a surplus of sawdust, and thinking, because I hate waste, that there must be something I can do with that, and indeed, google revealed a variety of different recipes for sawdust clay. So I looked at the simplest few and decided to make my own version.




up to 1 cup Water20170816_093609
1 cup flour
1 cup sawdust

Make a paste of flour and water (just mix them together as if making papier-mâché, don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy).

Add sawdust (wear mask to avoid breathing it in) and mix well

It will probably be too sticky, add more flour and sawdust and knead until it’s a dough-like consistency.

20170816_095649.jpgUse the clay to make models, just as you would with playdough. We used cutters and silicon moulds to shape things. We decided to try to do some jewellery, so put holes in the top of most of our creation.

To make beads:

20170816_102710Take a small piece of clay, roll it into a ball between your fingers, poke a cocktail stick through the middle of the ball. Then holding the cocktail stick, not the clay, roll the ball back and forwards on the table, the hole will expand and the bead will elongate.

Once you have finished your creations, place them on baking trays and if you’re lucky enough to have an airing cupboard like me, leave them in their for a few days, otherwise bake on a very low heat for a few hours, or leave out in the sun/over radiators.


Once dried, you can remove rough bits using sandpaper. Then, paint your creations using kids’ paint. Jumbles didn’t fancy painting his, so he coloured his with felt tip pens, which worked fine, though the coverage was a bit less.

If you made beads, painting them on the table can be tricky, thread them onto beading cord and string them up, either hanging down from something, or what we did was fill 2 empty bottles which had handles with water to weigh them down, then tied the cord to the handles so that the beads were suspended in the air. Make sure you have paper beneath to catch the drips, but it will stop the beads sticking to the paper. They may stick to each other a bit, but I found you could pull them apart easily once dry.


Once the paint is dry, varnish them with watered down PVA glue (2 parts glue to 1 part water). Bean wasn’t happy with the sparkle level, I’d said the PVA would make them shine and obviously it doesn’t when wet, so I added some glitter to the glue, so she was painting sparkles onto them.




Affiliate – buy “The Giving Tree” from Wordery (free worldwide shipping)

Watch the Giving Tree on Youtube

Garden Camping


This week Jumbles and Mr Monkey Juggling, headed off on a Dads’ and kids’ overnight camp that Mr Monkey organised for church. We deemed Bean to be a little young, plus as Daddy would be busy organising everything he’d struggle with 2 kids of his own. So Bean was a little left out. We did have some fun crafting while they were gone, but decided to do some camping in the garden when they got back (it rained a lot while they were camping,  so we waited for a better day).


I was surprised at just how long garden camping kept them entertained for. We read “Maisy goes camping” (If you want a different camping book to read, check the links, there’s a lot available on Youtube), I put up a beach shelter and rocket tent, plus some cushions and let their imagination take the lead. I’m completely rubbish at role play, so letting kids lead is necessary at our house, but it’s also good for them.

Hopefully your kids will be creative, but if you need some ideas, this is how we spent around 3 hours:


  • Watching a show at the cinema – unsure of the logic here, but Jumbles and I were eating imaginary popcorn in the tent, watching Bean perform a film on the trampoline, the film consisted of her singing “Moana” while jumping.
  • Exploring the moon. – this took ages and was the most fun as it involved “flying” in the rocket tent, then landing and setting up base camp in the purple tent. The rocket tent is getting a bit battered from 3 of us rocking around Star Trek style.
  • Lunar picnic – If planned in advance I might have come up with appropriate food, but we just ate sandwiches and fruit outside
  • Lunar colonisation – they were unimpressed at my attempt to steer their play into a bit of gardening. I did manage to pull up a few weeds though, and they did go looking for lunar fruits to pick, but we’d already harvested everything except for a few blackcurrants
  • Nap time – they don’t nap anymore, but there was a short period where we pretended to sleep in the tent and I genuinely thought 1 of us might nod off. This was my favourite part, the few minutes of peaceful snuggles was worth the pain of all of their weight coming full force onto me on their knee or elbow occasionally.
  • Stories in the tent – mine love stories anywhere, but it’s nice to do them outside occasionally.

    I got the fire pit out, but in the end didn’t use it, as we didn’t have marshmallows or anything, and I decided we’ve had a lot of fires lately (we’ve been trialling a sort of “Forest Church” activity for families), so they probably didn’t need another.

    On this occasion I didn’t want us to properly camp out, because I had things to do in the evening, so I didn’t put up one of the proper tents, but that’s definitely the plan for another time.

    Affiliate Links for camping books:

    Buy “Maisy goes camping” from Wordery (free worldwide delivery) – Simple story, a bit young for my 2 now, but they still enjoy it. Maisy and her friends all go camping, but can they all fit in the tent?

    Buy “Bailey goes camping” from Wordery (free worldwide delivery) – very relevant story for this situation, the older siblings have gone off on camp, leaving Bailey at home missing out. So his parents make a camp for him at home, making a sheet tent,  toasting marshmallows, going on a bear hunt.

    Buy “Scaredy squirrel goes camping” from Wordery (free worldwide delivery) – I really like the Scaredy squirrel books, with the ridiculous things he’s scared of, and the labelled diagrams detailing his plans for getting what he wants whilst avoiding perils. Plus, in each book he learns that it’s better to enjoy life close up, than view it from afar.

    All 3 of the above books can be watched on Youtube, just have a search.

    Bucket filling

    bucket.jpgFirstly, yes I’m still here, sorry that it’s been 6 months. I’m not good at regular blogging.

    Today I’m bringing you a picture book that’s much more of an obvious moral lesson than usual.

    The concept here is simple. Everyone has an invisible bucket which they carry around with them all the time. When you treat people kindly, you are filling their bucket, being unkind dips into their bucket. I like how it covers the fact that people often dip because their own buckets are empty, and they’re trying to gain happiness by taking from others, but that when you dip like that, actually you end up emptying your own bucket, you can’t fill your bucket by dipping, you fill your bucket up, by filling other people’s buckets. We got this book at Christmas, and have read it repeatedly, both children (3 and 5) understood it straight away and we have started referring to kind things as filling people’s buckets. There is a video available on youtube (check links) so you can enjoy this book even if you can’t find a physical copy.


    Activity 1 ( buckets)

    The first and most obvious activity was that I got each child a bucket (I bought candyfloss buckets, it was cheaper than buying a bucket). They decorated them using sharpies. Though you could also glue pictures on. We have then been using these in an ongoing way, where if someone does something that fills someone else’s bucket, I write it down and place the note in their bucket. Showing that as they fill other people’s buckets, their bucket fills up. Personally, I’m not planning on rewarding them or anything, we are just using the buckets as a visual representation of how their bucket fills when they are kind to others. They are very happy at how full their buckets are getting, and I do notice them trying to be kind. You could also write uplifting words and pop these in their buckets too. If you want to make it more interesting, or have very large buckets, write on wooden blocks/lego or similar.

    Activity 2 (Scratch art)


    White card

    Bright crayons or pens

    Acrylic paint

    Washing up liquid

    Cocktail stick

    This is a great craft, which is loads of fun to do, but also creates some beautiful little cards to give to people to fill their buckets.

    First cut out a few shapes, we did hearts because they are nice and easy, you can even draw round a biscuit cutter to get the shape right. You can do the shapes whatever size you like, but I find biscuit size to be nice and manageable for getting them covered in colour.

    Use brightly coloured pens or crayons to completely cover the shapes in rainbows of colour. Try to get kids not to just colour each heart in one solid colour. Or if they do, make some yourself, and see it as an experiment.bucket hearts.jpg


    Mix acrylic paint with a squirt of washing up liquid, measurements don’t need to be exact, I used a little more paint than liquid (I did experiment with poster paint, it doesn’t work well).

    Paint thickly over the hearts and leave to dry (some may need a second coat)

    Scrape patterns using cocktail sticks (or if you’re like Jumbles, 5, just scrape as much of the paint off as you can).scratch.jpg

    Give the hearts to people to make them smile. Maybe write notes on the back, or stick them on red card to make a greetings card.

    Why not come up with your own ways for you and your kids to bless friends, family or neighbours. Perhaps bake some cakes and take them to neighbours? Or buy some toys and food and donate them to the food bank.

    There is a second book (How full is your bucket? For Kids) about bucket filling, which can help to build on this book, by giving the story of a boy and his interactions. This is perhaps even more helpful for kids than the original book, so do have a look at that as well in the links section. However, I think that it’s useful to read the original book first to explain the concept.


    Affiliate – buy “Have you filled a bucket today?” From Wordery (Free worldwide delivery)

    Affiliate – Buy “How full is your bucket? For Kids” From Wordery (free worldwide delivery)

    Video of “Have You filled a bucket today” being read

    “How Full is your bucket? For Kids” video story

    Official bucket filling website, with free resources

    I am an artist (Marta Altes)

    iamanartistThis book does need to come with a word of warning, which is that the day after we first read it, Bean (3) drew all over our bedroom wall. That may have been coincidence, but the book is about a boy creating works of art using every day materials, and his house as a canvas, so I suspect it gave her ideas, and I caution you to be clear with your kids about the need for permission before they create anything into art, and perhaps keeping art supplies out of reach when you go to the toilet. Thankfully for me, her chosen medium was chalk and it wiped straight off, phew.

    The book does a great job of letting kids see outside the limitations of art being pictures drawn on paper. Encouraging them to use their creativity more.

    Our linked activity was sculptures using polystyrene and cocktail sticks (toothpicks). This is such a satisfying activity. The act of poking cocktail sticks into polystyrene is a great standalone activity, which we’ve enjoyed before, but I thought it might be a fun progression to try to make sculptures. Obviously, as with many of my activities, reading the book isn’t necessary, it’s just a good way to incorporate literacy into everything and encourage a love of books.

    I put out polystyrene (saved from packaging), scissors, cocktail sticks and felt pens. However, you could provide other materials, tissue paper, sweet wrappers, etc, there’s no rules, the idea is to create something original. Simply poke a stick into one piece, at any angle you like, then push another piece on, either pushing down all the way, to leave the two pieces stuck together with no gap, or just pushing it partway on, to have the pieces on stalks.

    Bean was actually at her Nana’s while we did this activity, so she missed out. Jumbles was a bit ill, so couldn’t go, and wanted to do some activities just with me, so I was coming up with things that didn’t take too much energy for him, but also didn’t just involve him staring at a screen all day.


    My original thought was that our sculptures would be abstract, e.g my model to the right. However, Jumbles wasn’t impressed with my attempt, and was much more keen on trying to make representative models. This is actually very tricky, cutting polystyrene with kids’ scissors is hard to do accurately. Jumbles tasked me with the cutting, after he’d tried for quite a while to cut the largest block in half. I stuck with cutting shapes out of the thinner sheets, and letting him decide what to do with them. Though I did make some claws to order.

    We made a Pterodactyl and Yoda (hopefully you can tell which is which). We’re hoping to colour them in another day. Felt pens do work, as you can see on Frank (I tried to name the pterodactyl Terry, but Jumbles said no) though little bits of polystyrene will fly off.


    Safety warnings:polystyrene-sculptures-yoda

    1. When pushing pieces on, try to stop children from pushing directly over where the sticks are, or they will poke their hands.
    2. The warning we have broken – Ideally, don’t have any uncovered sticks, as they’re quite sharp if a child decides to touch the sculpture. However, Jumbles decided that he had to have spikes on his pterodactyl, and I decided that the risk was worth it to allow his creativity.
    3. Tiny bits of polystyrene will ping around the room when doing this, so keep it in a room away from very small children or pets, who might eat them.


    21 Picture books about art on “No time for Flashcards”
    Buy I am an Artist from Wordery (Affiliate link – free worldwide postage)

    Whatever Next (Rocket party)

    whatever-nextThis is a great book about using your imagination, where baby bear goes on a space mission in a cardboard box.

    Jumbles had got it into his head that he wanted a nighttime, space party with fireworks for his 5th birthday. As his birthday is just before bonfire night, we decided this would probably work quite well, so we went for it.

    I must confess that we didn’t actually read the book during the party, the party was controlled (or possibly not all that controlled) chaos, with far more children than was probably safe to squeeze into our house, plus their parents, getting them all in one place long enough to listen to a story didn’t seem possible. I am not even sure if the party was fun, I was too busy running around organising things, but I got a lot of people saying they loved it, and we had a lot of fun practising the activities in advance, so I do know they work.

    So, if you want to do an after dark party, or just want to try out some fun rocket activities, here we go, we did 5-6:30, with dusk being 5:45 on the night, so that arrivals and initial activities were all done in the light:

    Starter activities:

    Kids will always arrive at different times for a party, mostly they just ran around the garden, playing randomly, but I like to have a few easy activities for the kids as they arrive:

    Biscuit icing – Premake some rocket biscuits, provide icing, sprinkles etc. This was perhaps a bit more effort than necessary, due to me not having a rocket cutter, so cutting rocket shapes out using a greaseproof paper template.
    Junk modelling – Provide lots of tubes, boxes, bubble wrap etc. and ask kids to create rockets.
    Lego competition – Nice simple one, just leave out the lego on a table, and ask kids to make space related models, provide a prize for the best one ( I always just have a bag of prizes for kids to pick from).
    Drinking straw rocket: For a 5th birthday party, kids needed help with this activity, and only a couple gave it a go. However older kids could do this themselves and have a competition. It’s a nice simple rocket that goes onto a straw and is propelled by blowing. You can get the instructions and template  here (External link) If I was doing this again, I’d probably put the sheet and a straw in the party bags, instead of having it out as an activity.

    Bottle Rockets:

    This is the most fun thing, when practising it, Bean and I just couldn’t stop, we used up all of the vinegar in the house (and I keep quite a lot in stock generally) doing multiple test runs. You can pick different propulsion methods:

    Diet Coke and mentoes
    Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda
    Pressure (water in the bottle, cork in the neck, bike pump to build up the pressure).

    We used the vinegar and bicarb method:

    20161012_090159.jpgYou need a bottle with a sports cap, or a bottle and a cork. Some sort of launching platform to hold the bottle in the right place, either tape legs onto it (pencils or straws) or use something like a mug or large yoghurt pot. vinegar, bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda), toilet paper

    1. Add vinegar into the bottle, up to the bottom of the label is about right.
    2. Create a “fuel capsule” this is about a tsp of bicarb of soda wrapped in a sheet of tissue paper (to give you time to put the lid on before the bicarb reacts, you can also use a small piece of cling film)20161012_090245.jpg
    3. Go outside now!
    4. tilt the bottle slightly so that you can place the fuel capsule inside the neck without it going straight into the vinegar.20161012_102809
    5. Place the lid on tightly (or push cork in)
    6. Tip so that the capsule drops into vinegar
    7. Shake vigorously
    8. Place upside down in your launch area and stand back20161012_103009




    Sometimes the tissue of the fuel capsule gums up the sports cap, leading to failure to launch. For this reason I switched to using corks, when it will work every time. It’s also quicker to put the cork in than to try to tighten the lid.20161025_200240.jpg

    Whilst we had loads of fun practising this, I must be honest, at the party we had some issues. The kids were a bit too close to the firing area, so to ensure that they weren’t hit by the rocket, I held the launching pot at an angle pointing away from them, in all of our test runs, the rocket shot high in the air, and travelled a couple of metres across the garden. At the party, we lost the rocket, it didn’t go as high, but shot over the garden fence, and across a couple of gardens. Quite exciting, but not quite to plan, and a couple of the kids got sprayed with “rocket fuel” (just vinegar, so not harmful, but it did upset one, as typically it sprayed the child who hates mess of any kind).

    Initially, I had planned to get them experimenting in small groups with their own rockets, but we left it as it was a bit too chaotic. To do this best, I’d recommend smaller groups. It’s great with 1-6 children.


    Keep it simple – We just did hot dogs (but proper sausages, not hot dog sausages, as many kids don’t like them) and crisps. Precook the sausages in the oven, then bung them on the barbeque for a bit if you want. Provide rolls and sauce. Hardly any leftovers, and not loads of hassle.


    Definitely the best bit of the party, after it got dark, we lit a fire (we used a fire pit, to help keep it safely contained). In small groups, the kids toasted marshmallows over the fire. We also had some sparklers and a few small fireworks. Obviously you need to be very aware of health and safety for this, we had parents present, which helped and hubby is forest school trained, so used to teaching kids fire safety. Some left at this point as they weren’t keen on fireworks, others watched from the relative safety of the conservatory, or decking for the braver few. Again, for sparklers, we limited it to 2 kids at a time, with gloves on and high levels of supervision.

    Party favours:

    Buy mini keyring torches very cheaply and give them out when it gets dark. They spent ages just running around in the dark with them.

    Apology on lack of activity pictures:

    Sorry, for obvious reasons I can’t post pictures of other people’s kids online, so have no photos of the fire etc. Actually, we didn’t manage to get many good pics as we were too busy running things. I have tried several times to get a good photo or video of the bottle rocket, but have given up now, hubby is unco-operative and won’t take a pic and I can’t launch and hold the camera in time. Trust me though, it’s great fun and you should do it.

    Rocket cake:

    In case anyone else is tasked by their child with making them a rocket cake, I thought I’d post how I did it, as it was surprisingly simple and reasonably effective:


    Make a cake in something oval (I used a casserole dish) either make 2, or one thick one and slice through and add buttercream and jam to the middle to sandwich together.Cut off the bottom of the cake and cut that piece in half, place them on either side as fins. Cut the ends off ice cream cones, push them into the flat edge of the cake to make boosters.

    20161025_141515Cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream or jam, to stick the icing to.


    Cover the cake but not the boosters in white ready to roll icing.


    Cover the boosters in black icing, I made flames using red icing, but you could probably do something more effective, I wasn’t too pleased with that bit. Add circles for windows (you’ll note I later decided they needed borders, and made slightly bigger circles from green icing) and cover the fins in green.

    20161026_103333Add a coloured nose cone, cover a baking tray in black paper and stars. I added strawberry laces on the borders, which made a massive improvement and suddenly made it seem finished. Thanks to Julie for the suggestion!


    Buy “Whatever Next” from Wordery (Affiliate link – free worldwide postage))

    Drinking Straw rockets (External links)