Our summer book exchange: fun with Elmer the Elephant

Elmer bookIt’s been a very busy few weeks, so we’ve not read anywhere near as many books as usual. In case you missed it, there’s a new man in our lives… the lovely Little Mister was born on 1st July (you can read more about him here!). But while we were eagerly waiting the late arrival of our second bundle of joy, Little Miss and I did manage to take part in the Love Books Summer Exchange.

Love Books Summer Exchange badgeHosted by US blog The Educators’ Spin On It, this fab exchange sees parent bloggers paired up to send each other’s child a picture book and accompanying activity. We were teamed up with Adventures of Adam and it was great to also discover a new blog I hadn’t read before that’s full of toddler play ideas – I’ll definitely be a regular reader from now on.

Little Miss was thrilled when our parcel, complete with rainbow-coloured tape on the box, arrived. I’d forgotten it was coming as well and given how heavily pregnant and tired I was at the time, it was a very welcome distraction!

Book exchange parcel arrives

Inside we found the original Elmer book by David McKee along with everything we’d need to make and decorate our very own milk bottle elephants for the ‘Elmer’s Day’ parade that’s part of this much-loved story. We’ve read a couple of different Elmer books in the past, so Little Miss was vaguely familiar with the character, but we’d yet to read this one which is the very first story about the colourful patchwork elephant. First written in 1968 and published since 1989 by Andersen Press, the book has been celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has sold millions of copies around the world, being translated into many different languages.

Elmer activity kit

Little Miss loves elephants and painting so the package was an instant hit with her. And that was before she realised there were also stickers included. She absolutely cannot resist stickers!

I’ve always had a soft spot for Elmer too so was very pleased we’d now have the original Elmer book at home. I love the message behind the story – that it’s ok to be different and changing yourself to fit in with the rest of the herd isn’t the way forward. The book sees the brightly coloured Elmer paint himself grey to try and fit in, only to find it’s not much fun when the other elephants no longer recognise him. It’s not long before Elmer’s vibrant personality bursts to the fore again and his true colours are revealed once more when rain washes the paint off. The other elephants declare that this day will become known as Elmer’s Day and every year they decorate themselves for a special parade in his honour.

We read the story one night before getting started on our Elmer activity the next day. Emma, the mum behind the Adventures of Adam blog, is a trained primary school teacher and the activity she shared with us used to be a favourite for her classes. She’d sent us two plastic milk bottles to make our elephants from – a big six-pint one and a little one-pint one to make a cute baby. The baby was already cut out for us and I just followed the lines on the big bottle to cut out an elephant shape. As you can see from the pictures, it’s really simple to do – these bottles just happen to be the perfect shape to make elephants from, with the handle of the bottle making the trunk!

Little Miss was intrigued to see the big elephant taking shape and then couldn’t wait to get her hands on the paint brush to decorate him. We added a bit of glue to the paint, as instructed, to make sure it stuck to the plastic.

Elmer activity collage

As you can see, she initially went for a multi-coloured effect, similar to Elmer himself, although as more and more paint went on a dirty-purple became the dominant theme. This amused me since our elephant became closer to the standard elephant shade that Elmer tries to achieve in the book before realising he’s better off as he is in all his technicolour glory – of course, the irony was lost on a toddler!

We left the paint to dry overnight before letting Little Miss loose with the fab foam stickers included in our package. I hadn’t seen these before but quickly tracked down another pack in the supermarket as they proved so popular. Adventures of Adam had also included tissue paper as another decorative option, which could be stuck on in a collage effect. As you can see from the picture below that we were sent with our activity instructions, the artistic scope is endless!

Elmers Day Parade elephants

With the stickers on, we decided our two elephants were complete. We didn’t get around to it but you could also add eyes, either using some boggle-eye stickers or by just drawing them on. You also have the option of adding ears and could paint a layer of glue over the top of the finished elephant to make it smooth and a bit waterproof.

Finished elephants

We had a great time taking part in Love Books Summer Exchange – it’s such a simple idea but so rewarding. I really enjoyed putting together the package we sent, based around the Big Yellow Digger book, and you can visit the Adventures of Adam blog to see how they got on. And, of course, it’s always lovely for a child (and this big child too!) to get a surprise parcel to open and play with.

The milk bottle elephant is a great activity, so easy to do with a toddler, and one I’m sure we’ll repeat in the future. I’m a bit of a fan of making animal models from those simple household items that otherwise just pile up in the recycling – you can also see our forays into the world of toilet roll tube creatures here!

To see some of the other book and activity ideas from the swap visit the Summer Exchange Pinterest Board.

Categories: Baby bookworm, Toddler activities | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Introducing our new arrival… not-so-little Mister!

Regular readers may have noticed this blog has been pretty quiet of late. Well, behind the scenes I have in fact been rather busy… growing and now looking after a new addition to the Mummy’s to do list household! I’m thrilled to finally be able to introduce the lovely Little Mister, born on 1st July, weighing a not-so-little 9lb 8oz.

Little Mister collage

Unlike his early bird big sister, who conveniently timed her arrival two days ahead of schedule, our latest bundle of joy kept us waiting more than a week over his due date. But although I felt far more uncomfortable for the last trimester of this pregnancy, I was at least blissfully unaware quite how big he was and had a relatively calm (as far as these things go!) and quick natural delivery. I’d been due to be induced the day after he arrived so big cheers for the midwife that did my third sweep when I was getting really desperate!

So, we’re now back in newborn baby mode, only this time with a curious toddler in tow which can only add to the fun and games. Little Miss has so far taken it all in her stride and says she loves her little brother. She is very intrigued by it all. The latest source of wonder has been the new belly button that emerged from what she called his ‘sore bit’. And she’s been very keen to help where she can, like bringing him little toys and undoing the poppers on his babygro when his nappy needs changing. We’ve been so proud of how well she’s adapted so far. Mummy and Daddy, meanwhile, have had to get used to the technicalities of changing boy’s nappies! I’m still learning the art of this one!

Clearly I kept the news of my pregnancy under wraps on this blog. At times it was tempting to spill the beans but I decided to hold back. Before Little Miss was born, we lost our first baby five months into the pregnancy. Naturally we were devastated and unfortunately it forever changed the way we would experience our subsequent pregnancies. While we have been totally blessed since then, with two healthy babies, each of those long nine months has been fraught with fear that something could go wrong. Hence, my reluctance to share until now.

But let’s not dwell on that… this baby is finally here, Little Miss is now a big sister and our family adventures as a foursome are just beginning. Life is great – even on just a few hours sleep a night! And on that note, I’d better get to bed!

Categories: Baby steps, Motherhood, Mummy memories | Tags: , | 15 Comments

300 Picture Books Challenge #24 and 25

I’m playing catch up with this post! This last week we discovered Jez Alborough’s highly entertaining Duck in the Truck series of books, which Little Miss loved – to the point that I had to hide Ssssh! Duck Don’t Wake the Baby, having been begged to read it three times in a row before 8.30am!

Predictably enough, there’s another Maisy Mouse book added to the list which, as always, went down well and I Love My Daddy has also been very popular, much to my hubby’s delight!

On a personal note, I enjoyed rediscovering the classic fairytale Puss in Boots, having completely forgotten the story – and Little Miss was very amused by the fact that it stars a cat wearing boots since she’s always had a shoe fixation!

So our current total now stands at 223 different books read so far this year. You can see what we’ve been reading and follow our latest progress on our Pinterest board.

300 Picture Books Challenge Weeks 24 and 25

Find out more and join in with the 300 Picture Book Challenge over on the Child Led Chaos blog.

300 Picture Books badge

Categories: Baby bookworm | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brum, brum… buying a new family car

Finding a new family car has been a major item on the ‘to-do’ list over the last couple of months. We’d had our trusty old blue Renault Clio for almost seven years and been outgrowing it for some time now – the bigger Little Miss, got the smaller the car seemed and trying to get a wriggly toddler in and out of a car seat when you’ve only got two doors (I refuse to say three, the boot is not another door!) was starting to become a Krypton Factor-esque challenge (I’m an 80’s child, I actually loved that show).

Boot space, or lack of, was also an issue. Our Baby Jogger City Mini always fitted in fine (one of the reasons we chose it) but it didn’t leave much room for anything else – a couple of bags of shopping or a travel cot and weekend holdall were about the limit. When we went on holiday last summer we stacked most of our haul into the back seat next to Little Miss and my parents – who luckily came with us (and paid for it!) – had to take a fair bit of extra luggage in their car.

Aside from size mattering, Roo, as we affectionally called the Clio, was also starting to feel his age. In car terms he was an elderly gent, with more than 100,000 miles on the clock and a decade’s driving under his belt. Keeping him on the road was starting to cost more than he was worth.

Buying a family car

So we went on the hunt for some new wheels, spending every weekend for a month or so checking out the local car show rooms and spending our evenings reading up online. Here’s what we learnt…

Start with a wish-list

Knowing what we wanted made it easier to narrow down the search. Our must-have list included four doors, a decent sized boot and the ability to fit two car seats plus the occasional adult across the back seats. My husband is tall so the space between the front driver seat and the car seats in the back was also a factor for us. Ideally, we also wanted a higher driving position than the Clio and, while we knew a bigger car would always be more expensive to run, we didn’t want to go completely over the top and end up with a something that would cost us a small fortune. And on top of that reliability and a good safety record were, of course, front of mind.

Used v new 

When I say we got a new car, I actually mean new-ish. While we hadn’t discounted the idea of buying new at the start of our search, in the end the kind of car we needed was out of our price range new. That said, we did see some seriously tempting deals – such as chunks of money off or 0% finance. Dealers will work much harder to try and tempt you to go new so it could work in your favour. But there is the inevitable downside that it loses value as soon as you drive off the forecourt.

We also discovered the option of buying a pre-registered vehicle, which can be a good compromise if you really want an almost-new car. Pre-registered cars are pretty much brand new but much cheaper because they have already been registered to one owner, usually a car dealership.

Basically, the dealers buy certain models as a way of ensuring they meet or exceed their sales quotas. It means they take the hit in terms of the initial loss of value but does mean that you effectively become the second rather than first owner, which could in turn affect future resale value for you.

The big downside is that you’re restricted to whatever pre-registered vehicles happen to be available and we found these tended to be the less popular models. For us, the choice was just too limited. But it’s worth considering.

Car keysGood things come to those who wait…

It was worth setting aside time to go and try lots of different models. Our favourites changed on a weekly basis and what we first thought would be the best choice for us definitely wasn’t in the long term. And if you’re looking at used cars – which is what we went for in the end – then new ones come on the market all the time. By being patient you can end up with a nicer, low mileage option at the right price. We ended up going for a three-year-old Ford C Max with one previous owner and just over 6,000 miles on the clock.

Test your car seats

Take your car seats with you and use them for a test drive. One salesman swore blind that another family had fitted three car seats across the back seat of a particular model. Maybe they had much smaller seats than us but we were only aiming for two car seats and enough space to squeeze in an adult and found it was never going to happen unless the adult was some kind if contortionist!

Another reason to test the car seats out is so you can see the position your child will be in. In some models we found Little Miss was much lower down and couldn’t really see out of the window. For her this would be annoying as she’s a nosey sort but also we suspect she may be prone to travel sickness so not being able to see out could make this worse. And the last thing we want is a new car being decorated with vomit!

Online research is really useful

Yellow carWe found the Which site invaluable. Here you can read detailed reviews and reliability ratings for loads of different models. We found it really useful for sussing out what was what and also finding ideas for other models to take a look at based on the kind of thing we already had in mind.

You can sign up for a one-month trial for just £1 then cancel your subscription once you’ve read all you need to.

But you don’t even need to sign up to read their Top 10 tips for buying a family car, which is a great starting point. The AA Car buyers guide is also worth a look.

Car sales men can be a strange breed!

At least the ones we saw were (and we didn’t encounter any ladies at all). There was the nice guy with the unnaturally orange tan – we never worked out whether he’d genuinely been away or if it was out of a bottle.

There was the younger lad who asked if our two-year-old could walk and talk yet, when she’d clearly already made her presence known in the showroom! He was then so desperate to please that when my husband rang to chase some details and mentioned that he’d already left a message he offered to hang up there and then, find the missing message, listen to it then call back again rather than just answer his questions there and then!

Then there was the guy that looked at me as if I’d landed from Mars when I asked if he had a printed list of details for the cars he was trying to sell us. Surely an obvious request?!

Red car Tips from other parents…

As well as our more official online research, I also took to Twitter to see if any fellow parents had any helpful advice. Of course they did…

Life with Munchers @Meandmymunchie, who has handily worked for VW, offered the following fab advice:

- Light coloured upholstery is a no no! Leather upholstery is easier to clean, however you can get a Supaguard treatment for cloth which will make it more water resistant.

- Colour… it can get hot in summer, so stick to light coloured cars (whoops, we ended up with black!).

- Check your buggy/pram fits in the boot easily and still allows room for shopping.

- Check the car seat fits (she had to buy a new one).

we3threeblog @we3threeblog said:

Use the DVLA website so you can check when work’s been done and if it’s ever had serious faults etc.

BloggerMumma @BloggerMumma said:

Look for a ‘green’ car they chuck out less co2! They are also lower on road tax and insurance so cheaper for your bank balance.

Stone Bridge Hair@StoneBridgeHair says:

If you can get separate chairs for everyone, that is brilliant. No “Mu-u-um, he’s breathing on me…!”

Yummyblogger @yummyblogger

Recommends the Confused.com guide to buying a family car

Categories: My 'to-do' lists | Tags: | Leave a comment

Not my six-month blogiversary…

I meant to write this post back in April. But, evidently, I didn’t. Then I really meant to crack on and write it last month. I even started a draft, honest! But I never finished it. Then I absolutely meant to do it last week but… you guessed it, such has been my ‘to-do’ list lately. For reasons that hopefully will become crystal clear very, very imminently (pleeeease!), I’ve had rather a lot on my plate recently so have had to take a step back from the blog for a bit. But last Wednesday Mummy’s to do list turned eight-months old and I didn’t want to let it slip by yet again without mention.

Getting this blog started is one of the best things I’ve done over the last year. For once, I’m Eight months a bloggeractually quite proud of myself and I’m really looking forward to giving it a bit more attention again very soon. It’s been a great way to connect with lots of like-minded people out there – thanks so much for reading! I love the fact that I’m able to record little details of our family life that might otherwise get lost or forgotten over time. And I’ve loved learning lots of new skills along the way.

Back in April I finally got around to buying my own domain name, so for the last two months I’ve officially been Mummystodolist.com. At some point soon I hope to polish up my design too and maybe at some point (gulp!) I can even take the plunge and go self-hosted but I’m not feeling quite that brave just yet.

So what have been my most popular posts so far?

Top ten posts (excluding about or main home pages):

1. Twin your toilet

2. Fun with fishes toddler craft

3. Help change children’s lives on World Book Day

4. Toddler art: painting a hand print rainbow

5. Ten tips I learnt from reading I Don’t Have Time to Write

6. Really easy toilet roll crafts for toddlers

7. Easter gifts from nursery

8. As you turn two

9. The joys of toddler singing

10. Celebrating World Book Day

Personal favourites

Crafts, books and milestones all feature strongly on the list. Some of my other personal favourites have been those funny little toddler tales like The one where the toddler gets naked!, ‘Toddler says no! and A tale of two potty triumphs – sadly, we’re still stuck at only four potty triumphs and lately Little Miss has developed a dirty little preference for holding on and weeing in the bath! Needless to say we are trying to discourage this. Toddlers have such double standards – she can be such a fussy little girl when she wants to be!

I’ve tried not to get too hung up on stats but it is always nice to see the monthly figures heading in the right direction as I’ve got more experienced at this blogging malarkey. Back in March I put myself into the Tots 100 and have been pleased to creep up the charts since then. I’m nowhere near the celebrated 100 yet – but, hey, almost breaking into the top 800 isn’t too bad is it?! Maybe one day!

Linky love

One of the great revelations of the last few months has been the number of great linkys out there. I had no idea what they even were before the start of the year – the word was one of those mysterious blogging terms I had to decipher. But since then I’ve really enjoyed taking part and have found they’re a great way for new bloggers to share posts with new readers and in turn find some fab new blogs to read as well.

I’ve especially enjoyed Word of the Week over on The Reading Residence, the 300 Picture Book Challenge with Child Led Chaos and Magic Moments over on The Oliver’s Madhouse. Mini Creations on Kid GL Loves and Let Kids Be Kids have been great for sharing craft ideas. And Share with Me on Let’s Talk Mommy, the Mad Mid-week Blog Hop on Super Busy Mum, Post Comment Love on Verily Victoria Vocalises and Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog Posts linkys are all, er, quite brilliant and well worth a look if you don’t already know them.

Well, I’d better crack on with the rest of that to-do list now. Who knows, I may even get another blog post done today!

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Pic credit: Keerati/freedigitalphotos.net

Categories: Blogging | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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