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

Ketchup on your cornflakes (Nick Sharratt)

ketchuponcornflakesWow, sorry that it’s been 3 months since I last blogged, no excuses, I just haven’t got round to it. Anyway, I thought after a long break I’d do a nice easy activity, based on one of our favourite books.

This book is a split page book, where you turn either the top half of the page, or the bottom half, to create different funny combinations. e.g.octnov2015 043

“Do you like ketchup on your apple pie?” “Do you like a duck on your head?”

The set up for this activity is simple, just select as many of the “ingredients” from the book as you are comfortable with, put them out in bowls, cups etc. Then give your children a container for mixing.

Read further down for the boring bit of what I actually put out, but now, here’s the more interesting discoveries:octnov2015 054

Do you like ketchup on your cornflakes?

Yes. Yes they do, very much apparently.

Do you like ice cubes and milk on your toast?

Yes, that too, soggy toast is apparently delicious.

Do you like jam on your chips?

Yes, again, this is a tasty choice.

Do you regularly turn your noses up at a lovely nutritious homecooked meal, only picking at bits of it, then when you got to mix random disgusting combinations together in a messy play tray, eat loads of them as if you had been starved?octnov2015 066

Yes, that is precisely what they did.

Naively, I believed that by doing this activity straight after dinner and pudding, they would not eat the foods. So ensure you use clean containers and only things you’re happy for them to eat. I’m so glad I didn’t let them have the salt or toothpaste, which I intentionally left out.

What I added:

Ice cubes
Water (as my kids don’t drink lemonade, we generally say “water” or “drink” on the lemonade page
Old toothbrush

Things I didn’t add, but could have:

Apple Pie
A wooly hat
Rubber duck

This activity was planned and set up in about 2 minutes, when the kids were quite hyper and I thought they needed an activity after dinner. These were the things I just had available.
You could also add new things, that aren’t in the book.

This was really fun for them, Jumbles (just turned 4) loved mixing the things together to make a weird mush, plus taste testing everything. He was quite careful in picking what he would add next to the mix. Bean (2) mainly liked crushing the cornflakes and dripping ketchup on them. I think next I’ll let them choose weird things from the cupboard to add into their odd combinations.

If you like this book, you’ll also like “Accidentally on purpose” another split page book by Nick Sharratt.

Borrow “Ketchup on your cornflakes” from your library
Buy “Ketchup on your cornflakes” (Wordery affiliate link)

Shark in the Park (Nick Sharratt)

sharkparkNot to be confused with the inferior Usborne phonics book of the same title (apologies to that book, but this one is outstanding); This is one of my favourite books for reading with young children, it works well both with individual child and with groups.

The basis of the story is that a little boy is in the park looking through his telescope, he keeps thinking he sees a shark through it, but it always turns out to be something else, not a shark’s fin. This is done through holes in the pages, so first you just see a small part of the picture, which looks like a shark’s fin, then you turn the page to reveal the big picture. The book works for quite a wide age range, from toddlers who just love putting fingers in the holes in the pages, to primary school kids, who get what’s going on and love spotting the shark that Timothy misses at the end.

When telling the story, I always get the children to use their hands to make a telescope over one eye, then as we do the “He looks at the sky, he looks at the ground, he looks left and right, he looks all around” bit, I get them all looking in the right directions.

As kids get to know the book, they will start to join in on the “Shark in the Park” bit. Encourage this, pause slightly and make it obvious when it’s time to say it.

The book has bold illustrations, it’s funny and has a great rhyme, which flows well, though children will chime in shouting “bird” instead of crow if they aren’t old enough to understand that it has to rhyme (and quite long after that actually).

I have done an activity for this in the past, when I used to work in libraries which was a simple character hunt in the park, I photocopied pages of the book, with the peephole page covered over them, so children run around the park searching for “sharks” they can only see if they are sharks or other things (crow, Dad’s hair, cat etc) once they lift up the top cover to reveal the full picture. Hiding sharks in the park is a great fun thing to do and should probably be the activity you take from this blog entry, unless you want to spend a lot of time struggling over bits of plastic and tubes and producing something that is not overly impressive and only keeps the kids busy for 10 minutes. If that sounds your cup of tea, then read on!

This time, I decided to make telescopes as our first activity. Now, it’s very easy to make a telescope for a young child, you get a kitchen roll, or the inner from cling film or wrapping paper or something, you tell them it’s a telescope, you get them to decorate it, they’re completely happy. For some reason though, I didn’t do that, I decided to try and be clever and make a telescope that actually folds the way a telescope does. This took ages, both kids got very bored and I ended up making it entirely by myself and it resulted in something that looks, not that much like a telescope, but Jumbles was pleased with it (though completely unimpressed by the fact that it closes up, and in fact being no more pleased with it than if I’d handed him a cardboard tube). I have decided to blog anyway, and maybe someone out there will be impressed with my effort, if not the result.

I used 3 different diameter tubes, cut to around the length of a toilet roll. Then I cut circles about a cm wider than each tube from a plastic milk bottle.sharkinpark (4) sharkinpark (5)I fringed the outside and the inside of the circles, being careful not to cut through. Then stuck the circles onto the ends of the tubes, the fringing on the outside just helps it to bend round and stick onto the tube, the fringing on the inside is to help it to grip the tube that slides inside it. This is the really fiddly bit, trying to get the circles stuck on and ensuring that the middles are fringed enough that the next tube can slide through it. I am sure there are countless easier ways to make the tubes slide within each other, but this was the only way I could think of. When it’s actually finished, the sliding mechanism is really satisfying.

Once all three tubes had the plastic on, I used parcel tape to properly secure it. sharkinpark (6)The plastic actually helps to add dimension to the telescope in the areas where Timothy’s telescope is coloured yellow. You will note I’ve also added some string. I did this so that the telescope couldn’t be over extended, I taped string through the inside, securing it at the end, so that you couldn’t pull the 3 parts apart. sharkinpark (16)It didn’t work very well, the tape is not strong enough to stop someone doing that and so it ended up with the string flopping down inside blocking vision after it had been pulled wrongly, so I wouldn’t bother with the string again. Just put it back together every time it gets pulled out too far.

After the telescope was complete, I covered it with white paper, so that Jumbles could decorate it, he never did. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by that, it was clearly my craft, not his! He did enjoy playing with it though. I think maybe it looked better before I put the white paper on.

sharkinpark (11)Just to prove that it does indeed telescope in and out, here is a pic of it closed:

I’m convinced that this method for creating a telescope could create a fairly realistic looking toy if executed by someone with more patience and better crafting skills. If anyone wants to have a go I’d really love to see your results. However, I am now rethinking using this as a craft activity for the 4-6s that I’m leading in our church’s summer club, which is why I was making this prototype.

Anyway, once I’d made the telescope, the idea was to look through the telescope at things and try to guess what they are from just a small part of them. This is quite tricky, because obviously your child will just use his other eye, unless you cover it up, but that is often disliked, your other option is to utilise the method of the book and obscure most of the item using a piece of paper or such like. In the end, I had taken so long to make the telescope, I couldn’t really be bothered to come up with an inventive way to view small parts of things, so we just ran round with the telescope looking at things and pretending to see sharks. If you want to do a bit more. Why not prepare a few pictures of just a small section of a well known object and get them to guess what it is, enlarged is even better. I’m thinking something like this: Extreme close up quiz

There is a sequel to this book “Shark in the dark” which is the same premise, but Timothy is looking out of his bedroom window at night time and sees things that he thinks are shark fins, sadly as is often the case, the sequel is not as good as the original, the rhyme doesn’t flow as easily. However, that is partly made up for by the fact that it is glow in the dark.

External Links:
Buy “Shark in the Park”
Borrow “Shark in the Park”

Carlo Likes Reading (Jessica Spanyol)

carloI wasn’t too sure about this book, but Jumbles really liked getting me to read all of the labels and then I thought the logical extension would be to label things in the house. Jumbles loves asking what things say and pointing out words when we see them. He’s not reading yet, but has a love of the written word, so it makes sense to surround him with words as much as possible.

So, I thought of simple words that would be good to make labels of, you could then just label everything yourself, but I think getting the kids to put the labels on the right things makes more sense. luggage tag page1luggage tag page2You can do as many labels as you like and might choose different things than we did.¬† I was thinking of every day items, some of his favourite toys etc. you could also do labels for children’s names and Mummy and Daddy.

luggage tag3If you just want to use the same ones as me, I did them as pictures so you can just print and cut them out (they are set to print 9 labels on an A4 page, I apologise if you’re in the US, I believe your paper size is slightly different, so you may have to adjust).

carlo 001Warning, if you ask your child what to label, you may find s/he suggests quite complicated things to be labelled, so I’d definitely recommend that you do a few simple ones first, all of Jumbles’s suggestions were specific lego models e.g “flying bad cop car” I managed to get him to choose single word items eventually, the third set of labels are his choices.

Once you’ve printed, simply cut them out, punch a hole in and thread string through, then run about the house with your kids, labelling things. I’m not sure how necessary the string is, with a 1 and 3 year old, they weren’t going to tie the string themselves, Bean mostly wanted to eat the labels. Jumbles just balanced them on things, or sometimes tucked the string in.

External links:
Borrow “Carlo likes reading”
Buy “Carlo likes reading”

Robot Rumpus (Sean Taylor & Ross Collins)

robotrumpusThis is an entirely child chosen and led activity. Jumbles is starting to get into this whole doing an activity based on a book thing, yesterday when we were at the library he chose his books and really liked this one, we had to read it twice in the library and again as soon as we got home. Then he insisted we did an activity on it, he wanted to make robots. Thankfully, making robots seemed fairly easy. Though I’m not sure I did quite the scale he had in mind, he was talking about giant robots for us to get inside, but whilst we have a lot of giant boxes, that is due to the fact that we are imminently moving and I didn’t really want to sacrifice any of them, maybe we’ll do that after we’ve moved. So for now I made him rummage through the junk modelling collection, which is great as we could really do with chucking it all in the recycling before we move.

robot (3)Anyway, for robots, boxes and tubes are perfect. I was quite pleased, Jumbles selected everything that he wanted to use, choosing yoghurt pots for feet, tubes for arms, and deciding to repurpose a creation that he’d made at preschool to become the robot’s head, I have no idea what the thing from preschool was originally, and Jumbles doesn’t seem to know either. I quite wanted to add dials using some of the lids that we’ve been collecting, but he didn’t want to. He glued the boxes together with PVA, but I wanted it to be playable with immediately, so I reinforced the joins with parcel tape. I was then hoping we could do some papier mache over the top of the whole thing and paint it. However, Jumbles said he loved it just as it was and didn’t want to do any more to it. He has named the robot Emmet (after Lego movie Emmet) and zoomed him around all evening (apparently the feet are rocket feet).

Robot making is such an easy and fun activity, even for kids like Jumbles, who aren’t that keen on craft, we did this after dinner, while Bean read books with Daddy, it took about 15 minutes, but led to a long play session with the robot. You could make mini robots, giant robots, whatever. Just remember, it doesn’t matter what the finished robot looks like, my gut instinct is to try to make crafts look realistic, but it is much more important to let your child have ownership of it. He probably had a lot more fun with his robot that if I’d made it look better, not to mention that he’d have had to wait for it to dry overnight if we’d done papier mache on it.

As to the book itself, I didn’t think it was anything remarkable, but obviously Jumbles enjoyed it, but any robot book would be fine.

Oh, also, while you’re doing this, why not try pretending to be robots, this is something we do as a family a lot, sing songs as robots, do robot walking etc. very amusing to small children.

External Links:
Borrow “Robot rumpus” from your local library
Buy “Robot Rumpus”

“Biscuit Bear” by Mini Grey (or Use The Gingerbread man)

biscuitbearChoosing this book is a bit odd really, as there’s no reason why you wouldn’t do this activity with the Gingerbread man. However, this is the book we used, so it seemed dishonest to write it up as the Gingerbread man.

The story is about a boy who makes a bear shaped biscuit and decorates it, every time he tries to eat it his Mum stops him (it’s too hot, it’s nearly dinner time, he’s just cleaned his teeth). So instead of eating it he goes to sleep with it on his pillow. Then Biscuit Bear gets up while he’s sleeping and has adventures.

Blogging this is a bit silly really, because it’s just such an obvious activity. However, I was quite excited that Jumbles actually asked to do baking, he normally refuses, but we’d read this book earlier in the day and he wanted to make some biscuit bears himself. Plus I thought it’d be a chance to share my favourite easy biscuit recipe. I love this recipe for a few reasons:

1) Unlike gingerbread, you don’t need an egg – I’m not too worried about the kids eating raw egg anymore, but often we are unprepared and have accidentally used all of the eggs when we decide to bake.

2) These biscuits don’t spread when you bake them, so they keep the shape that you were aiming for. We use cutters, but we also love using chocolate moulds, I have a collection of interesting shaped ones, our favourites being the lego man moulds. We do make gingerbread a lot, but it does spread quite a bit.

3)There is nothing complicated to do, you just mix everything together

Easy non spreading biscuits:
150g plain flour
50g caster sugar (or whatever sugar I can find at the time)
100g marg (butter tastes nicer, but it’s much easier for kids to rub marg in)
Optional flavouring, this time we used a big squirt of butterscotch flavoured syrup, but you can add vanilla, cocoa, choc drops, raisins, nuts etc.

1. Rub the main ingredients togetherduckmuck 005
Yes, that really is it, you can then just roll it into a ball and break bits off to bake if you like.

2. Add optional flavours

3. Squash into a ball. Then roll out flat.

4. Use cutters or chocolate moulds. If using moulds, just push the dough into the moulds, then either bake in the mould, or turn out onto a baking tray, they should stay intact.

5. Bake at 170/Gas mark 3 for 15-20 mins

6. Cool

7. Decorate – the method used in this house is to make a few bowls of coloured icing and spoon it over the biscuits, while not very secretly also eating lots, then pour an entire packet of sprinkles on topduckmuck 008. I also tried this time with a couple of cocktail sticks, for adding detail, this didn’t really work, but Bean liked poking the icing with hers.

You may note in the photos that Bean was not involved in the baking, I did feel a bit guilty about this and did baking with both of them a few days later to make up for it, at the time Mr Monkey Juggling and I had decided to take a child each for an hour. She rejoined us for the icing. I have to say though, baking with one child is much less stressful than having both of them, I am not very good at baking with them both, it all tends to get a bit hectic.

After you’ve made your biscuits, you might like to do some imaginary play with them, we just ate them though.

External Links:
Borrow “Biscuit Bear” from your local library
Buy “Biscuit Bear”

“Duck in the Truck” by Jez Alborough (Rainbow muck)

ducktruck This book has been a firm favourite in our house for the last couple of years. It’s actually grown on me, simply based on how much the rest of the family love it. It’s just this book everyone loves, not the rest of the Duck series though. The story is that a duck is driving home in a truck, the truck gets stuck in the muck, various other animals come along and try to help. The book is a very simple rhyme, with vivid illustrations and good use of humour.

This was a bit of a spur of the moment activity, we had just read the book and had a bit of time to kill before dinner, then I remembered that I had some rainbow smash in the fridge which I made as edible paint for a toddler group a couple of days ago and I figured it would work as muck.

Rainbow Smash:

For reasons I don’t quite understand, duckmuck 014whenever we go camping I buy a packet of emergency Smash (instant mashed potato), we never actually eat it, as we don’t really like Smash and can cope without having mashed potato while living in a tent. So anyway, I often have a packet sitting in the back of the cupboard going out of date, and periodically find a sensory play use for it.

You can play with the dry powder, with scoops and water, this is great fun as the kids can see the changes. However, this time we didn’t do that, as I already had batches made up. Either leave it as it is, or add a few drops of food colouring, it colours up really nicely and can then be used simply for exploring texture etc. Or can be used to do paintings.

On this occasion we did one of Jumbles’s favourite activities. Driving cars through something mucky. Now of course, you could just use real mud, or compost, for a more realistic muck to get the toy cars stuck in, but coloured muck adds a bit of interest and has the advantage of being edible, I don’t really like Bean eating too much mud (duckmuck 023she sneaks quite a bit in).

Jumbles was retelling the story without prompting as he played with the car in the muck. I also laid out some paper so that they could paint with the cars on the paper if they wanted, they didn’t really use it though.

Carwash:duckmuck 027
After playing with the cars in muck like this, you might simply clear everything away, but you’d be missing out on possibly one of the best and simplest activities. Simply bring a bowl with a small amount of soapy water and a couple of cloths or brushes (old toothbrushes work well) out and let the kids wash the cars. It saves on clean up for you later and they have fun, Jumbles asks to do car washes quite often, even if we haven’t got his cars dirty.

 External Links:
Buy “Duck in the Truck”
Borrow “Duck in the Truck” from your local library