Rainy Day Worksheets
Making your own personalised worksheets doesn’t have to be hard work or leave you wanting to throw your computer out of your window. I discovered this website ages ago and it’s now my favourite place to make my own; or get the kids making their own worksheets and crossword puzzles. On a rainy afternoon when you’re trying to prize them away from the games consoles colouring just doesn’t cut it most of the time and board games take too much parental input. These worksheets they can do on their own. I have a pre-printed stash hidden where they can’t get wasted on sunny afternoons.
Using A to Z Teacher Stuff you can make your own word search puzzles using their online generator. It’s a really simple process, taking just a few clicks. Instead of a generic and often very boring themed word search your children can create one in a subject that interests them. Football and Shopkins are always popular subjects in this house!
I was most excited about this application! I had fun making an Arsenal themed crossword for Boy1. Couldn’t resist adding in a clue about their recent defeat to Swansea though. That one probably won’t be popular. As well as printing out the crossword puzzle you can also print out the answers. Perfect for those of us with dodgy memories. And because you are making up the puzzle you can tailor it to subjects they love and to their stage of learning.
Word Shapes Worksheet
I wasn’t sure what this was for first of all but it is a really good activity sheet. The boxes are sized according to the size of the letters – which threw me for a split second and makes them look a little untidy. It does give a big clue to the kids though that a tall or long letter is needed. I made one based around football (can you get a theme going here!) To be honest the word searches and crossword puzzles are much more popular with my children, they did like these worksheets just not as much.
Handwriting Practice Worksheets
There was a mixed reception to these handwriting worksheets. My 9 year old moaned at doing them because they are babyish. My 5 year old loved them. Especially when she got to create her own. I must admit I wouldn’t routinely use these for my older two children, but when Boy2 is at the stage of learning to write I’m sure I’ll produce a few in characters he likes. My eldest is left handed and I do wish I’d found this website years ago. However, I’m not sure he would have used them even then, he hates handwriting.
Try these sheets yourself and visit the tools section at A to Z Teacher Stuff. Have fun! If you liked them then let me know by leaving a comment below. For more ideas on useful websites that I love, why not read my blogs about my favourite places to download children’s activity worksheets or Twinkl reading worksheets.
She doesn’t actually do it. Would look a bit silly with an Amazon Echo Dot walking them to school and I’m not sure how successfully it could push the buggy. But, after years of being late and in a rush I had a lightbulb moment. Why not use Alexa? Since I’ve started setting timings on her it’s helped me and more importantly my two slow coaches to know when they should be getting dressed, brushing their teeth and turning off the bloody tv. So, here are my tips to make the most out of Alexa and how she can help you maintain some control in the mornings.
This is in no way a sponsored post, I was bought an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas last year but the Amazon links within the post are affiliate links. If you purchase through Amazon using them I receive a small commission from Amazon (that costs you nothing).
Alexa’s alarm function is what I use most. You can set multiple alarm times! I have 4 alarms that go off. The first is at 8am for breakfast must be finished by then. The second at 8.15am; that one is for me to make sure the uniforms and lunches are finished and to tell them to get dressed. 8.30am is the stop what you are doing alarm, for me as well because I have to get Boy2 dressed in his coat and put into the buggy about now. The last one at 8.40am is brush your teeth, put your shoes on and fetch your bags. I don’t set an alarm to leave the house….
I set reminders on Alexa. I always schedule these for first thing so they are on my phone as I leave the house. My memory is terrible, I’m always forgetting to do things and to go to appointments so this is helping. Couple that with a second calendar on my phone for when I am out and about and it is supposed to be a foolproof system. Perfect for dress up days or days you need a packed lunch for school trips. Go to the Amazon Alexa app and select the reminder option and add in your reminder details. So far I haven’t linked Alexa up to my Apple i-Cloud. One step at a time hey. Eventually everything from Alexa will be sent to my phone.
Alexa To Do List
Like the calendar function you can announce jobs to Alexa or type them into the Alexa app. When you can’t remember what you are supposed to be doing instead of sitting down reading Mumsnet just ask her “what is on my to do list” and she tells you. Happy days! I have also found buy sweets added on by a certain child of mine before now.
I don’t like silence in the morning. I’m always pretty grumpy I need music to get me singing and give me the mental strength to deal with the arguing over Rice Crispies. alexa can control your Amazon music subscription or you can ask her to tune into your favourite radio stations.
If you have an Amazon Echo device try these four functions and see if they help to streamline your morning. There are loads of other useful functionalities but these are my school run go-to’s. I might even be able to trick people into thinking I have become organised. And yes, I’m still late some mornings.
So my littlest is soon to be one. I’m not entirely sure where this year has gone. It feels like it has been lost in a haze of sleepless nights, endless feeds and a depressive fog. But it’s also been lost to first smiles, learning to move and clapping hands while babbling nonsense. Boy2 is unrecognisable from the baby who was handed to me in the hospital. He is such a happy beautiful little boy. He already shrieks and has one hell of a tantrum if he isn’t allowed to touch the electric sockets or the burglar alarm. But how awesome are the changes that occur just in that first year? From being able to do nothing but cry, eat and poo to feeding themselves and crawling/walking.
We’re going to have the usual family tea party on his birthday with the usual party treats. Recently I’ve seen a lot of pictures on Instagram with first birthday cake smashes. It might just be me, but the thought of washing ground-in cake out of my son’s hair is not the way I want to celebrate his first birthday. I think it’s a wonderful idea for other people’s children because the pictures can look really cool. The one thing I haven’t got around to yet is having his fingerprint cast as a silver charm. I’m writing this thinking I really need to get on with it before his first year has totally disappeared.
If you are looking for good quality licensed character birthday supplies then Toy Infinity can help you. I stock a range of first birthday party accessories in a variety of themes. We’ve gone for the animal theme set. And before the genderless arguments start, it is always blue or pink that sells. It’s not worth stocking any other colour because I get stuck with it and end up selling at a loss on EBay. Anyway, I never buy the pink things I buy blue for The Girl every time as it’s her favourite colour.
However you celebrate the first milestone, celebrate it with family and don’t forget to take photos like I always do! For more birthday party ideas have a look at the birthday party ideas category for posts like this Star Wars one!
Happy birthday to me
Yes this blog is two years old. It is a birthday blog post! Toy Infinity is now entering the realms of tantrums, potty training and the desire to have everything that everyone else has. While I hope it avoids the naughty step too often over the next twelve months, I have no doubt that at some point it will spend two minutes thinking about whether it is sorry. Last year was a good year and a great learning curve.
While the blog is still child focused on toys and activities; it has also grown into other subjects around motherhood and parenting. We all have experiences that are useful to share. Knowing how I’ve turned to Google to solve some of my questions I blog in the hope someone might find it useful. Blogging can be very cathartic I have a lot of posts written that I have never pressed publish on, and maybe never will. Maybe 2018 will be the year I become more honest in print? I’ll have to look back in December and see if I was true to myself in that sense. Anyway, I’m digressing.
So What’s New?
As well as the blogging I’ve started extending into my other online love of e-commerce. When I decided to start Toy Infinity, my idea was based around e-commerce originally. Then I discovered blogging. That changed my focus. For 2018 I’m taking it back to my original plan a bit more. At the moment it’s just affiliate links to Amazon UK but eventually my online shop will expand into other areas. Why am I doing this? I buy and use a lot of child related stuff. I blog about craft and baking ideas. If you like what you read about, it makes sense to be able to buy it easily without having to navigate away from my page. The shop looks tidier than a lot of affiliate links in posts. The links will still be in each relevant blog post but also in one collective place too. Affiliate links mean I am paid a small commission by Amazon, which helps fund Toy Infinity and keep it going.
Thanks for reading with me. I look forward to my next birthday.
Plastic Free January
Blue Planet 2 highlighted the major problem plastic is to our oceans. How plastic trash is infiltrating every corner of our waterways and oceans. That fish and marine mammals are dying from our obsession with all things plastic. Those images have shocked me into trying to change my buying habits; avoid plastic and think more about recycling.
If you’re in any doubt spend five minutes watching this video from the BBC on Facebook. It shows the harsh reality of what rubbish is floating in our oceans.
Wales has a target of zero landfill waste by 2050. Currently we are second in the world for leading recycling, only behind Germany. The Welsh Government is doing great things on the eco front. With the news yesterday that China is banning the import of plastic waste, it will become even more important to recycle plastic and avoid more needlessly ending up in landfill.
Can You Avoid Plastic at the Supermarket?
I will try not to rant. I can only promise to try though because my first attempt at this in a supermarket was a bloody disaster. You can read about the campaign plastic free July, which was my first attempt. Ask yourself. Why? Why does everything come in plastic containers or with a plastic bag around it? It was much harder than I imagined to avoid plastic packaging. I’m trying again this new year.
- All fruit is in a plastic sealed bag or a bag and plastic container. Even if you avoid the pre-packaged items they give you… Yes you guessed it; a plastic bag to put it in.
- The situation is no better with vegetables. Apart from the big sacks of potatoes they are in a brown paper sack but I can’t lift those!
- Why not change the fruit and veg to strong paper packaging? Forget the pre-packaged stuff, select you own and put into a paper bag.
- Butter – your choice is plastic or unrecyclable foil. I stuck with plastic in the hope it might be recycled in my locality.
- Milk – only plastic.
- Bread – all plastic bags. Even some bakery product in paper packaging had plastic windows.
- I chose cleaning products with the recycled logo on the bottles but whether they do actually get recycled I don’t know.
- I bought a massive bag of pasta to reduce the amount of plastic wrapping I was throwing away, and then stored it in Tupperware. Tupperware is made of plastic. A face palm moment on my behalf.
- If you shop in a supermarket it is nigh on impossible to avoid plastic packaging.
- If supermarkets had to pay to recycle all that packaging I bet they would find an alternative pretty damn quick.
So I hang my head in shame!
So I have failed this week. My only positive was I remembered my carrier bags so didn’t have to buy anymore of those. What shocked me most was the fruit and veg aisles – very few products are not packaged in plastic.
I’m trying something different with my food shop next week. I’m going to the nearest small high street to where I live. I am only going to shop there, so local butcher, green grocer, pound shop. That way I should be able to reduce the amount of plastic packaging I’m taking home.
But if that is what it takes how difficult does that make it for working people? Those who might not get to the small shops before they close.
I’ll keep you posted on my small business attempt to avoid plastic packaging! Continue reading 10 Things Only People Trying to Avoid Plastic Packaging Will Understand
Happy New Year
I don’t generally do New Year resolutions because I’m pretty crap at sticking to them. This year I’m setting myself goals instead. Things I would like to achieve. I’m only going to aim for things that I think I can achieve. No point in giving yourself unrealistic resolutions and failing at them that was what my twenties were about. In my forties I’m more of a realist.
Goals I Want To Achieve
- My biggest test is running. For too many years I’ve told myself I can’t do it. In December I tried. You know what? I can do it. So my biggest goal is to run the Cardiff 10K in September. I can comfortably run 2.5K already so that should be achievable.
- Lose a bit of baby weight from my middle. I’m hoping the running will help with that.
- Gym twice a week for fitness goals.
- Healthy eating. Now breastfeeding has stopped I am no longer craving the high fat food I was so this should be easier. It will hopefully minimise my IBS symptoms too.
- Blog regularly.
- Mental wellness. Spend time working on mindfulness and mental health. By the end of the year I want a strong body without neglecting my mind. In 2018 I hope to come off the Sertraline and have beaten this PND.
- Photography. To do that course and improve my composition.
Goals I Want To See
- To encourage my children outside more and do more family walks, something we have neglected in 2017.
- To hit my blog goals that I missed at the end of 2017.
- My two eldest children to get more swimming badges.
- My youngest to carry on being the mischievous whirlwind he is.
I Don’t Believe in New Year New You
But I do believe in good health. My family is complete, now is my time to strengthen my body because let’s face it pregnancy is hard. This year I’m not dieting, but showing my children that health and exercise is more important than weight.
Coding for Kids
Computers are everywhere. We think nothing of handing a smart phone or tablet to a child to entertain themselves with. Computers are used in education every single day. I don’t have a clue about what goes into making these programs or how computer programming works. This is why I’ve decided to use a Raspberry Pi to learn coding along with the children next year. To make it sound slightly more exciting I’ll be billing it to them as the 2018 Quest for Coding.
I can pretty much guarantee that after 10 minutes of typing one of them will be bored. I have some great memories of being a teenager with our Amstrad CPC464 massive bulky home computer. We had this book of programmes that you would type in and could save onto tape. Yes tape. No hard drives there I don’t think. You’d get to the end of 4 pages of typing code and hit run and it would tell you there was an error somewhere. It wouldn’t tell you where. You had to go through each line one by one looking for the typos. But the satisfaction of getting the game to work eventually has stuck in my head. I didn’t realise that it was my introduction to programming. I didn’t think about that at all.
So along with the Raspberry Pi we’re going to look at Minecraft. I don’t get that either as I’ve blogged about before. But apparently, you can learn something useful from it so I’m prepared to give it a go. Lifelong learning is often thrown about carelessly. I use a computer and various programmes for blogging and the YouTube videos (when we do them…) so why not take it a stage further? I’ve already started learning html to make creating this website more unique to me and less about sticking with the template design.
The realist in me reckons on December 31st 2018 I will feel guilty for not having achieved any of the above though. It will be like my New Year’s Diet probably….
STEM Stocking Fillers
I’ve blogged about craft stocking fillers before. This time I haven’t set myself the £5 budget but nothing will be super expensive. It’s the stocking at the end of the day. As they get older I like to try and get toys and things that will encourage a bit of independent learning or play. I’ve put together a list of my favourite stocking ideas past and present to give you some inspiration. Or not!
All of the Amazon links are affiliate links so I will earn a small commission if you buy through them. Other retail links are just normal links to ideas that I like or have used with no financial reward for me. If you shop through the affiliate links with Amazon thanks for supporting Toy Infinity, I really appreciate it. I hope you like my ideas.
STEM Stocking Ideas
- Measuring Kitchen items. Go to your local pound shop for these. Measuring spoons were a massive hit, not just for cooking but bath time as well.
- Tape measure. A retractable one is best. What child doesn’t love to measure stuff?
- Sudoku. My eldest loves Maths. I’ve got him a Sudoku book this year.
- Bug hunting kit. Again, go to a pound shop for these. My children still love theirs. Failing that a plastic magnifying glass is great fun.
- Most shops sell the maths and science activity books to suit the educational stage your child is at.
- Make up your own science experiment kits like this idea for colourful celery or a weather inspired experiment. It will cost you pennies.
- For small children under the age of three there are lots of STEM options. How about a shape sorter? That’s actually teaching them valuable engineering skills.
- Wooden number puzzles. Look in your local pound shops for these.
- Beads and string! A fun way to learn counting by making your own necklaces and bracelets. Getting them to knot the string helps finger control development too. Both of my older children loved threading beads.
- Moon sand. Now I hate this stuff. It will never appear in any stocking I fill. But, it is a good construction toy. It’s just so messy…
Slightly More Expensive Ideas
Maybe you want one big item in there. These ideas cost slightly more but have the same Science Technology Engineering and Maths theme.
- These colour mixing glasses look really cool. Due to the small parts they’re only suitable for children aged 3 years and over.
- How about a solar robot? Build 6 different models including Solar Revolving Plane, Solar Windmill, Solar Plane, Solar Airboat, Solar Puppy, Solar Car. Best of all being solar powered it will never run out of batteries!
- At £18 this is probably not a stocking filler but I love these magnetic construction kits. Of course you could buy a smaller kit or shop around to find one that suits your budget.
- The Entertainer have a really fun looking T-Rex excavation kit for pre-order with guaranteed delivery for Christmas. We had a similar kit and it was extremely popular. I can’t find the exact one we had. Let’s face it most kids love digging!
- I can’t forget the most popular engineering toy ever… Lego! You can get small Lego kits for a few pounds or splash out on a bigger set. This jungle buggy set 60156 is a great set and less than a fiver at Amazon. Every stocking every year has some Lego in it in our house.
My Favourite STEM Toys
This year I’m concentrating on capacity. Boy1 is in year 4 and studying volumes and capacity at the moment and The Girl is year 1 and starting to learn measurements. They can have fun outside in the warmer weather with the measuring items they will have this year. A lot of the toys you buy your children have an overtone of science, maths, engineering and technology to them. Let’s keep learning fun for as long as possible….
I believe in cheap and cheerful with the Elf on the Shelf. He doesn’t have any cool outfits or amazing elf accessories to do these wonderful Pinterest set-ups. But wait a minute. If I had an unlimited budget for all things Elf what would I buy? Well this blog post is exactly that. My favourite Elf items that I will probably never buy.
- Scout Elves at Play. With 15 Elf sized accessories this would be a great starting point to some non-tacky looking Elf set-ups. Although it doesn’t come with an elf there is a book that gives 100 Elf Ideas. That’s the hardest part of Elfing. Thinking of what to do next. Thank goodness for Pinterest!
- Elf Superhero outfit. I’d never be able to get him to pose like the packet picture; but how cool is this? Every kid would love this first thing in the morning. There could be all sorts of rescue and brave hero style scenarios. My set-ups with Elf battling Darth Vader would look much better if he was dressed in this!
- Elf Sweet Shop Set. When Edward the Elf plays with food in our house he doesn’t have any cool props. He’s just sat next to it. I’d love to get him looking like he has been making or eating it. Even teaspoons are too big really. Boy2’s weaning spoons are a better size, but the handles are too long.
- Scout Elf Letter to Santa Kit. This shrinks your letters to Elf size. Do I need to say anymore?
- Complete set. If you haven’t ever had an Elf but like the idea. This set gives you an Elf-sized bed and swing but it also includes an Elf.
Where for art thou Elf?
All the above accessories come in at under £20 (price correct December 2017). The Scout Elf himself retails for around £30 but you can get all kinds of cheaper options. Buy one that suits your budget. As well as Amazon, there are a lot for sale on Ebay.
On the high street The Works had some brilliant Elf accessories for only a couple of pounds. I did buy some Elf glitter dust and an Elf washing line from there this year. Do you need Elf ideas?
The external links are Amazon Associate links. If you click through and buy from Amazon using them, I will receive a small commission. It helps fund Toy Infinity.
Elf on the Shelf Ideas
This is the first in a series of blog posts with ideas for Elf on the Shelf antics throughout December. If there are printables that I’ve made involved then follow the links in the post in order to download them and print them at home. I hope they give your children a smile like they do mine. I’ve been doing the Elf on the Shelf since 2013. My eldest two have been talking about Edward coming back for a couple of weeks.
There are a whole host of board game inspired scenarios that you can do for each day. If you do a few of them that could be up to a week of movements with very little thought. Let’s face it when you remember at midnight that you haven’t moved the bloody Elf then very little thought or work to find props is a bonus! Certainly every day in our December doesn’t look like a Pinterest scene of Elf perfection.
One of the most successful! I love Twister (not so much after babies, you know the pelvic floor isn’t what it was), the kids love Twister, why shouldn’t the Elf? Download my Twister printable to use at home. It’s A4 sized. Use blu-tack or double sided tape to stick Elf on. Even better get Barbie and Ken involved too! Elf Twister.
Any card game like Uno are a great set-up idea. Select their favourite toys from the toy room and deal out the cards as though they are playing.
They have to play Pie Face. Or Splat if like us, you have the cheaper pound shop version. Try not to get any squirt cream or whatever you use on his hat because then you have the issue of washing him afterwards. We only got Splat last year so I’m looking forward to using it in some set-ups. Elsa is definitely getting used.
Our Elf doesn’t play Chess properly. He lies in the middle of the board like a toddler having a tantrum. We have a Mario Nintendo chess set which is really colourful and goes with the Elf craziness well. It’s always fun to add in a little Bowser craziness too.
Take their favourite game with the smallest pieces and put them into a balloon and then blow it up. Hang them from the ceiling with string and write a note on each balloon from the Elf gloating because they can’t play it. If I could put Top Trumps cards in them I would. I seem to spend hours playing Top Trumps.
We recently reviewed Randomise. The Elf and his friends enjoyed playing it overnight. I’m not impressed without his drawing skills though….
So there are a few ideas for Elf ideas with the board games you have in the home. If you use the Twister printable I’d love to see a picture!
Happy Elfing x