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)

006 and a bit (spy messages for learning to read)

006-and-a-bitSo, Jumbles (nearly 5) started Reception (first year of school) just over a month ago. He’s loving it, I don’t agree with homework at primary school, so was all set to refuse to do any. Except he keeps asking to do it. Well, I didn’t want to just sit and play with the flashcards he got sent home with, so we’ve been shaking it up a bit.

So today’s post is really a reminder to think outside the box if you’re given lists of words to practise or other similar homework:

balloon-sight-wordsWe are focusing on red “tricky words” this week (the ones you can’t sound out phonetically).

Game 1: Balloon Bash

(Unrelated to our chosen book)

Write pairs of words on balloons and play matching pairs. I matched colours as well as words (e.g. writing “said” on two yellow balloons) so that Bean could join in by matching colours. The only problem was, we had more words than colours, and it was annoying Jumbles when Bean matched balloons which weren’t word pairs.

You could also do this game with letters of the alphabet, or phonemes, start with just a few letters (pick the ones in your child’s name) and do 2 copies of each.

Game 2: Spieswax-resist

Read any spy book. 006 and a bit is a great, simple picture book about Daisy being a spy. Jumbles has loved it for a while.

Ideally pre-prepare some spy messages and hide them for your child to find. It adds to the spy game if they don’t see you creating the message. Plus, it can take a while to create the secret message, it’s best to do it when you aren’t being interrupted, yeah, you know, in that time when the kids leave you alone to get all of your jobs done (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha..) I managed to do mine with Bean sat pulling at my arm (she’s actually in preschool for 6 hours a week now, but I tend to book in appointments, meetings etc in that time) but you know, if you can create mystery, do try. Jumbles was at school, so it was a surprise for him.


Obviously, there are many different ways to do secret messages, but one very simple way is to use cheap white candles (I have lots from a previous activity I ran years ago with church) to write your messages, then felt pen to reveal them. I used some of his practice words to write a sentence (“She said yes to the dog but no to the cat” this lead to questions about why she said no to the cat, so maybe think out your sentence better – now I’m sitting here writing it up I realised I missed a trick and could have had the message send him somewhere to find a prize e.g. “she said go to the red box” though that wouldn’t have been as many tricky words). For Bean (3) I just wrote her name for her to reveal (I’ve faked up one with her nickname, to avoid putting her real name on here).

Our secret messages led to a simple spy game, with Jumbles and Bean hiding the messages they’d made for me to find before I could colour and reveal them.


Basically, just have a play with candles, paper and pens, keep yourself and the kids entertained for ages. You can also use paint over the top, instead of pens, but I wanted a quick drying idea today.


Buy 006 and a bit from Wordery (affiliate link)



Monkey Puzzle (DIY scratch cards)


This activity is so much fun and has so much scope for doing different things. Basically you’re making homemade scratch cards, so you can cover up whatever you want to.

Monkey puzzle is a fun rhyming book about a butterfly helping a monkey looking for his Mum. She keeps taking him to the wrong animal based on his descriptions (e.g. when he says her tail coils round trees, she leads him to a snake). The end has him happily reunited with his Mum.

You need:

This sheet of characters from the book
Shire seal (aka contact paper/sticky backed plastic)
Liquid soap
Acrylic or poster paint


Mix a small amount of liquid soap (washing up liquid or hand wash works) with about twice as much acrylic paint (according to US websites, tempera works too, but I tried with homemade tempera – egg yolk and food colouring- and it didn’t work, I think commercial Tempera might be the same as what we call poster paint).
Paint your mixture onto shire seal (aka contact paper aka sticky back plastic)
Allow to dry
Add more layers until it is totally opaque
Cut into small squares, each one just large enough to cover one of the characters.
Peel off the backing of each piece and stick one over each piece, paint side up.

Alternative method:

You could also stick the shire seal to the sheet first, then paint squares directly over the pictures.

Give your child(ren) a coin and ask them to scratch the paint off one square at a time to see if they can find the monkey’s Mum. The set up is a lot more time consuming than the activity, but it was so much fun scratching off to see what they’d uncovered.dscn5003.jpg

The only point I’d make is that there’s a lot of set up, it took 3 or 4 layers to make it thick enough, and you have to be gentle or you can accidentally scrape the layers off when taking backing off.. So, set it up somewhere it can easily be added to through the day.

fb_img_1466886871250.jpgI’m not usually a fan of worksheets, but decided to try out some much more fun ones than normal for numeracy or literacy, with the answers covered up: I did a reading one, where the picture of the word is covered, alphabet, where initial letters are covered and counting one with the numbers covered, scratch to reveal if you’ve worked it out right or not.


Buy monkey puzzle from Wordery (affiliate link)

monkey puzzle character sheet

Squash the spider (or any other spider books)

tmp_30924-51zSq9VRCBL._AC_UL160_SR160_160_-1196575581This is a fun book in which a spider jumps out to scare people and everyone yells “Squash the spider” till someone actually goes to squash it and the boy rushes to save him.

This is Jumbles’ favourite spider book, so when I said we were doing a spider web activity, he asked to do this book. Really, a much more relevant book for spider webs would be either: tmp_30924-the_very_busy_spider-1692918224

“The very busy Spider” by Eric Carle, where a spider busily spins her web.


tmp_30924-5196BV5PG9L._SX258_BO1_204_203_200_-1496882885“Incy wincy Spider” by Keith Chapman and Jack Tickle – a beautiful book which creates an adventure for Incy wincy spider, the whole book is written to the Incy Wincy tune, with the spider being flicked around the farmyard. Each page has a raised, glittery spider’s web trail to trace, and the final page has a big silver web. Though Jumbles (4) is probably getting a bit old for this one, he still enjoyed tracing the trails today.

The activity:

You are basically going to make a large spider’s web, you need masking tape and some sort of frame to attach to. We used our mini trampoline, you could also use chair legs, a clothes airer, anything really.

FB_IMG_1463082252330Start by pulling out a large length of masking tape, attach one end to you frame, then twist it to make it into a long strip with the sticky side on the outside, attach it to another point on the frame, then continue, rolling the tape and making new lines across the frame, once you have a base network, start criss weaving your thread under and over. This gets very tricky as it will stick to the bits you’ve already made, but if careful, you should be able to pull it apart. Jumbles was able to help initially, even with the weaving, but once it got quite dense, he couldn’t do it anymore. My web wasn’t exactly beautiful, but it was good enough for us. If you want it neater, prep it overnight while the kids are in bed, but I liked including them in the setup, and the weaving is good motor skills practice for them.FB_IMG_1463082258872

Once you are happy with your web, give your child some “flies” to throw at it. We used coloured pom poms and scrunched tissue paper, as I thought the finished effect of colour would look nicer than black blobs, but you can choose whatever you like, it just needs to be something light enough to stick. Jumbles loved doing this, but Bean (2.5) was less bothered. She stuck a few on, then wandered off, so maybe this is an activity for over 3s. FB_IMG_1463082275737

We just enjoyed playing around, throwing the flies, but if your kids are competitive, you could probably make a fun game, give each child a different colour of flies and see who can stick the most to the web, or try throwing from further away etc as you can see from our photo, we threw from very close.FB_IMG_1463082264496

Affiliate links to buy Spider books:

Buy Squash The Spider from Amazon (affiliate link)

Incy Wincy Spider

The Very Busy Spider

What the Jackdaw Saw (deaf awareness)

61tQRblRM-L._SX258_BO1_204_203_200_Rather irritatingly after deciding to learn some sign language with the kids and blog about it, I thought I’d see if there was a deaf awareness week, so that I could schedule it for then. It turns out I’ve literally just missed it, so sorry that this post is just over a week late!

Anyway, this book is written by Julia Donaldson, with a group of deaf teenagers. She’s written two books, that I know of, aimed at raising awareness of deafness. The other is “Freddie and the Fairy”, which teaches the importance of speaking clearly, looking at the person, and not covering your mouth. This book (Jackdaw) introduces British sign language (BSL) teaching a few signs through the story. This post is all about BSL, so if you live in a country that uses a different sign language, my apologies, but you could find signing apps for your country and still do the activities.


Learning signs from pictures can be tricky, it’s much easier to watch someone signing. So download a sign language app. I used Sign BSL  a very simple app, where you search for the word you want to sign and it shows you a list of videos of different people signing that word. Some of the people are more animated than others, try to avoid the really dull ones for your kids! Do check what they’re signing though in the text under, sometimes they’re signing a related word to what you searched for.

Before you read the book, double check that you can sign all of the featured signs in the book, either using This youtube clip of the signs, or by searching for the signs in your app.

As you read the book, sign the words with your child as it teaches you. If your child is showing interest in knowing more, as Jumbles was, open up the app and ask your child what they want to sign. Practice together with your child. Remember, when signing you still say the word at the same time. Your child is likely to want to know how to sign their name, so potentially learn to finger spell their name beforehand, as learning the whole alphabet might be tricky. I thought Jumbles might find his name tricky, but he enjoyed doing it and remembered some of the letters later.


Learn together the signs for various objects around the house. Play a scavenger hunt. Sign things for your child(ren) to race to collect. Have your child challenge you to find the things they sign.

Suggested items:

Apple (note, in the first video on sign BSL, she is signing an apple computer, so pick a different one to watch!)


A great way to learn signs is through songs. Check youtube for loads of BSL songs, maybe your child’s favourite is there. Or check out Cbeebies BSL nursery rhymes

links to apps/videos:

Sign BSL – search for words, see videos of those signs.

“What the Jackdaw saw” signing video

Cbeebies BSL nursery rhymes

Free online BSL course (for adults, putting it here in case you’re interested in learning more yourself)

Affiliate links to buy from Wordery (free worldwide shipping):

What the Jackdaw Saw

Freddie and the Fairy