50 Fantastic Stocking Fillers for Boys – Part 1

50The countdown to Christmas is on. I’ve been giving Santa a hand and have come up with this list of 50 stocking filler ideas for boys. We won’t discuss how much I spent during the course of researching this article, but let’s just say if my boys aren’t happy on Dec 25th then I will be cancelling Christmas next year!

I started with the intention of putting all 50 ideas in one blog post, but it was too massive so here is part 1. Part 2 will follow.

1. Coloured USB cables for charging iPods. eBay 99p

2. Matching (or contrasting) wall plug for USB cable 99p from eBay

eBay 99p

3.Universal Power Bank

4. Balloon power boat

£2 Tiger (www.tigerstores.co.uk)

5. Wind up torch

Wind up torch £4 Ikea

6. Vintage camera mobile phone cover

£1.99 Amazon.co.uk

7. PacMan mirror

£4.99 Amazon.co.uk

8. Sunkist Camper Van

£6. Wilkinsons

9. Hexbug Nano

£4 The Entertainer (sold individually)

10. Toothbrush timer

£2.75 eBay

11. Chocolate calculator

£2.99 Findmeagift.com

12. Gross Cheques

99p The Book People

13. Blood bath shower gel

£4.99 at Prezzybox

14. Jumping frogs

£1.50 Hawkins Bazaar

15. Felt tip pens

£1 Tiger

16. LEGO Minifigures series 12

£2.49 John Lewis

17. Chocolate medal

18. Cosy fluffy slipper socks

£4 for two pairs Matalan

19. Superhero boxer shorts

£2.50 Sports Direct

20. Super Mario racing car

£2.99 Home Bargains

21. Terry’s Chocolate Orange

£1.50 Wilkinsons (currently £1 at Asda)

22. 100 Things You Will Never Find

£5.99 The Works

£5.99 The Works

23. Training football

£3 Sports Direct

24. Drinking straw glasses

£1.99 Findmeagift.com

25. Despicable Me Minion vinyl wall stickers

Click here for 50 Fantastic Stocking Fillers for Boys – Part 2


How to Choose Age Appropriate Chores for Kids

Do your children do chores? Mine do, though not without a degree of grumbling. It’s rewarding to see them becoming more competent as they get older, knowing that while they many not want to do household tasks (who does?!) they are able to. Here is a gorgeous graphic from Funifi showing suggestions for age appropriate chores for children.

Graphic via http://www.funifi.com

Age Appropriate Chores for kids Do You Have Trouble Setting Age Appropriate Chores For Your Kids?


Looking to Entertain the Kids? Check out Techniquest in Cardiff Bay!

If you are looking for a great family day out in Cardiff you can’t go past Cardiff Bay. The Bay has something for any day of the year and while the parks are better in the sunshine, Techniquest is the best place to take a full-of-beans five year old when it is bucketing down and you can’t face another session at soft play. That’s what we did yesterday when a week of enforced indoor play due to rubbish rain and various family visiting commitments meant any outdoor time had been limited to a half and hour here or there in between rain showers.

What is Techniquest?
Techniquest is a science museum for kids. It is packed with dozens of activities to let them play and explore everything science-y without feeling remotely like a lesson. In short, Techniquest is FUN but don’t just take my word for it, check out the smiling faces on their video
I haven’t been to Techniquest for a few years. At ten, my oldest is now too old to enjoy it like he used to, and the last time I went my youngest, who must have been about three, got bored after an hour or so which, when you’re spending £7 and adult and £5 for children over 4, is not great value. Yesterday was a different story. As soon as we’d put our wristband on he was off bouncing from one activity to another like a pinball before settling down a little and getting into the levers, bubbles, plungers and puzzles that make up the ground floor.

One of the nicest parts of Techniquest is the staff. They are all so friendly and helpful and really seem enthusiastic about working there. Many are pretty young and are comfortable talking to kids and answering questions. 

After spending an hour playing with everything from magnets to locks, lights and lungs it was time to head to the Science Theatre for the Bubbles and Blasts show. Now, I remember this show from previous visits and my youngest loved it just as much as my oldest had. What’s not to love about massive bubbles and watching stuff explode? After the show, which runs for half an hour and is quite interactive, it was back to the water part before spending time upstairs. All in all we were there for a good two hours before impending closing time and rumbling tummies drove us to the massive choice of restaurants around Mermaid Quay where we settled on Wagamamas for the “chomp sticks” (him) and speed of service (me).

Nitty Gritty 
Getting to Techniquest is easy whether you drive or take the bus or train to Cardiff Bay. There are also bike racks which I imagine are popular in summer because there are always families cycling around Cardiff Bay’s parks and paths. The Mermaid Quay carpark is directly across the road (pay and display) or you could also park by the Millennium Centre (pay when you exit) and walk the 10 minutes or so.

It is open every day from 10am (9.30am on some mornings during term time) with entry for adults costing £7 and children (4-16) costing £5. Family tickets are cheaper. We had such a good time yesterday I invested in a season pass. Because the cost of entry was refunded it worked out to be great value. You can find out more about the Friends Membership Scheme, which includes lots more than just free entry, here. I am not sure how many times we will go over the next year but I am certain it will be at least twice more so I’ll make a saving. If you want to see one of the Science Theatre or Planetarium shows make sure you book when you’re paying to go in. They are popular and fill up fast. One word of warning: do not go to Techniquest if you have a headache because it is loud in there. The massive open space coupled with loads of chattering children and dozens of noise-making activities (especially the musical ones upstairs) is not the environment to be if you are feeling a little delicate.

Cardiff Bay Attractions
While Techniquest is not a full day out, Cardiff Bay itself has plenty of other attractions, including several great parks, plenty of restaurants, the Doctor Who Experience, and boat trips. The Norwegian Church has a lovely cafe and often some sort of exhibition upstairs, and the Millennium Centre regularly runs free entertainment in school holidays and on weekends. It’s common to see families cycling and scooting on the flat wide path that circles the bay. Find out what’s on in Cardiff Bay here.


Elf on the Shelf… ish

My five year old son is, well, five, so I thought that Elf on the Shelf might be an extra carrot/stick in my December parenting arsenal. When I investigated the cheapest I found was around £25 and I am far too tight to pay that for something that looks like this:

So I shelved (sorry…) the idea until I was in the pound shop last week and I discovered these beauties. I think you’ll agree that they could practically be twins – in the freaky sense, anyway.

Son was sceptical about the origin of the “elf” but the beauty of him being five is that he is a die hard Santa believer and when he suggested we get rid of it I said we couldn’t possibly because Santa had sent him. It’s kind of working in that he’s a little freaked out but I’m sticking with it because he hasn’t had a nightmare or anything and any way I can get someone else to be the bad guy “do you want the elf to tell Santa?” is a way I can stay looking golden.

He’s on a high shelf which would require a chair to get to, but this is how I frequently find him

If you get a chance you definitely need to google Elf on the Shelf related blogs. Some parents really get carried away, some totally tongue in cheek and others really creative and funny, like Lil Blue Boo’s

Reindeer Gingerbread Men

Check out my cool reindeer bickies made from upside down gingerbread men! They’re in plastic bags because I made them for the school Christmas Fair/Fayre (never sure on the spelling of that one). Copied from Inspired by Foodie Quine (awesome foodie blog – check it out). I was so impressed with how easy they were. I tend to make more cakes than biscuits and I’m still a bit hit and miss with the temperature sometimes on my new-ish oven, but I used this recipe from CookUK and it was a doddle. I did muck around with the spices using 1tsp of ginger and 0.5tsp of cinnamon.
I also tried making snowmen with the bickies turned the other way around but they looked like something you’d see on Cake Wrecks so my kids made short work of them.The recipe is easy and foolproof enough to do with the kids and icing anything is always great fun (unless it’s the cat, in which case I don’t recommend it).

What You Truly Can’t Live Without This Week (… or not)

Haven’t had a “random likings” for a while. Here are some bits and pieces I have seen on my online travels.

1. Leopard print Converse
I saw these ones at Office

 …but when looking for a suitable pic to use I found these ones in the States with a zip, with just a leopard tongue.
Then there are these sparkly beauties for those who think leopard print isn’t enough on its own, and that it could use a little bling

I, however, am a woman of simple tastes and the top pair have been added to my Christmas wish list.

2. Folding Water Bottle 

This one came thanks to Mrs Thrifty when she posted about her favourite Money Saving Handbag Essentials.  I thought it was a great idea and ordered one for myself. Anything that reduces the amount of crap I seem to forever be lugging in my handbag is a good thing and this has proved to be great.

3. Arthur Christmas!

Not exactly random as this has been on my radar for a while and I pre-ordered it last week. I loved Arthur Christmas and have been waiting for it to come out on DVD so it can be added to my growing collection of Christmas films. It’s currently £9.99 at Amazon but am sure it will be on offer in the supermarkets as well.

4. LEGO Sweets
You can tell what direction my online searches have been heading recently – first Arthur Christmas and now LEGO sweets.You can get these from various online retailers including Sweet Greetings and Amazon (I love browsing all the imported sweets and food on there!) But look at these awesome gummy LEGO sweets.
Unfortuately you can’t buy them but if you want to make them the instructions are at Sweet and Nerdy.

 If you were keen then you can either make a silicone mould or buy one from eBay. Actually, while I was searching I turned up this gem: a Hans Solo in Carbonite mould so you can munch him in chocolate, jelly, ice – whatever takes your fancy.


Easter Crafts for children that won’t drive you nuts

Easter is a great excuse to bust out the and glitter and let your children embrace the power of pastel paint. My criteria for a good craft activities are:

  • something that can be consumed or given away
  • where the process is at least as important as the end result
  • doesn’t cost a fortune and preferably uses things I already have
  • nothing that will hang around shedding tissue paper or glitter
  • is not an Easter bonnet, which I hate with a passion.

Easter Cards
This pretty much covers every criteria because even if they do shed tissue paper and glitter, they are given away and therefore won’t be doing it in your house (encourage kids to make them for grandparents and teachers, rather than immediate family members.)
As well as making rectangle cards, cut some into egg or bunny shapes for decorating. If you are stuck for inspiration, Disney Family Fun has some free printables. If you want to push the boat out a little, Etsy is good for ideas, like these free printables from Peace Heart Cupcakes

Spring collages – using whatever colourful scraps you have. Maybe draw (or print) an outline of an Easter picture and let children ‘colour’ it by gluing things on it. Could also be used for cards.

Daffodils encapsulate the sense of spring completely and are perfect as an Easter craft. To make these we used cut up egg carton, yellow and green paint, gold, silver and green glitter, tissue paper cardboard and drinking straws. Paint the egg carton pieces and sprinkle with glitter while still wet. Cut leaf shapes from cardboard, paint and glitter. When dry, put a hole in the bottom of the egg carton (I use a scalpel) to feed the drinking straw through. Make a slit at the base of the straw with said scalpel to slot the leaf in. Scrunch up a little tissue paper and glue into the centre.
Don’t feel restricted to daffodils though. Egg cartons are also great for tulips, or any type of flower your child’s imagination cares to create.

Egg blowing and decorating
We used to do this quite a lot as children. Use a thick  needle to poke a hole in the broad part of the egg (which as the air pocket). Push it in far enough to break the yolk and jiggle it around a little. Then make a hole at the pointy end, bigger than the first. Blow through the broad end (over a bowl) until as much of the contents as possible are out. Flush the shell with running water through the large hole and shake. Repeat until you’re sure it’s clean, because raw egg doesn’t smell very nice after a while.

Once the eggs are dry you can decorate them any way you like, using paint, glitter, ribbons, feathers, anything. Glue on a ribbon loop and use to decorate an Easter Tree.

Bake and decorate an Easter cake
Possibly my favourite activity here and a good use for the contents of the blown eggs. A normal sponge is great, or you could try a traditional Simnel Cake. If you are going to do this it may be wise to blow the required number of eggs for the recipe into a separate bowl so you know how many you have.

Simnel cake recipe
(from UKTV food, not my kitchen)

Chalk drawing on pavement or walls – tail target and water pistol shooting
Drawing with chalk on outside walls or pavements is a great activity for kids. Draw a large rabbit outline in chalk, making a large round tail target. You can leave it like that, or have co-centric rings with scores in them for older children. Fill up the water pistols and let them loose.

Chocolate eggs
Ok, you might have to buy things for this but giving homemade eggs is  a really nice thing to do, especially as you can customise them. Moulds are widely available from Lakeland, Hobbycraft and other hobby stores. Use paste food colouring to tint melted white chocolate pastel shades, either to make eggs or decorate them. Glue sweets to the outside with melted chocolate, or fill hollow eggs with something yummy before sealing.

Easter basket
And finally, something to put all your goodies in. Print or draw a template on an A4 sheet of cardboard. Wilkinsons has a packet of 8 for £1, which come in bright and pastel colours. Disney’s site has a template for a woven style basket here. Craftscope have the more traditional template here. I remember making these in kindergarten. Fill with shredded tissue paper and all your Easter goodies, or use for collecting finds on at. Easter Egg hunt.