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Friday, January 24, 2020

DIY heart wall hanging

We have a wall in our living room that is known as the craft wall because we use it to show off all of the craft, paintings, drawings etc that the girls have made. We usually theme the display and add to it as they make more pieces and then change it over when a new holiday comes along. It was recently full of Christmas drawings and paintings and now we're switching it over to a Valentines display. Usually it's only filled with the girls masterpieces, there's never a shortage of fabulous artwork to hang because they create something nearly every day, however this time I decided I'd get my crafty mum hat on and make a heart wall hanging myself. I did it in secret at night while they were asleep so it was a surprise and my 2yr old now tells me every morning wow mummy look that you made it pretty as soon as we walk downstairs. I think I might move it into their bedroom once we take down our Valentines craft wall.

It was super simple to make and can be used as room decor, a valentines gift, or just for display. It can also be made by preschoolers pretty easily if you sub out the hot glue for sticky tape. The best part about this heart wall hanging is it was completely free!

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- A thin branch
- Paint chip cards
- Bakers twine or jute string
- Heart cookie cutter
- Hot glue gun
- Scissors
- Pen

When I decided to create a heart wall hanging I simply looked through my crafting stash to see what we already had at home. I came up with the design based on the materials we had on hand, so this craft didn't actually cost me anything to make, except time. If you don't have everything on hand though you can get most of it for free or relatively cheap.

The girls love to collect sticks and small branches every time we go outside so I had a collection readily available, but if you don't have any a quick walk to the local park is all you need to find the perfect branch. I chose ours because it was thin, so not too heavy, and I liked its character. Plus the small twig ends sticking out provided a good anchor point for the string.

To make the hearts themselves I used some red and pink paint chip cards I already had. If you don't have any take a trip to Bunnings, or your local hardware store and you should be able to get them for free in the paint aisle. The girls always take some each time we go because they're such a great resource and there are so many cool paint chip crafts, we'll never run out of ways to use them. You can always use coloured cardstock for the hearts as well if you don't have any paint chip cards available. Hot glue guns can be found relatively cheap at local dollar stores and craft shops or online at Etsy or Catch {AU}.


1. Use a heart shaped cookie cutter or playdough mould to trace heart shapes on the back of the paint chip cards. I did this on the back so the pen lines wouldn't be visible on the coloured side of the finished product. Try to fit as many hearts as you can onto each paint card. Mine were square cards and I managed to fit 6 hearts onto each one.

2. Carefully cut out all the hearts with scissors.

3. Cut 3 similar size pieces of jute string. Tie them individually onto the branch. They can be tied in any position you like, I just evenly spaced ours out. Don't worry if they don't end up hanging at the same length once the knots are tied {it just makes it look more rustic}. If you don't have jute string you could also use bakers twine, fishing line or any string/ribbon you already have.

4. Turn the hanging over to attach the hearts to the string. Remember it's now backwards when you're attaching the hearts if you had a specific colour order in mind. Attach the hearts one at a time by placing the heart upside down so you can't see the coloured side. Apply some hot glue to the heart and then hold the string into the glue until it's dried. Attach each heart in this way to various spaces on the string. I chose to do ours in colour order from dark to light and spaced them at similar heights across each string. It could also be done with the colours all mixed up, haphazardly spaced, or even colour patterned. The design is completely up to you. If you have younger children and they want to help assemble the hanging you can always use tape to attach the hearts instead of hot glue.

5. Once the glue is all dried attach another piece of string to either end of the branch so it can hang to the wall.

Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. 
Monday, January 20, 2020

10 Easy DIY Valentines Day crafts for preschoolers

Valentines Day doesn't have to just be for adults in love, it can also be a great reason to get preschoolers crafting and thinking of others. These easy diy valentines crafts all make great classroom activities and can be used as cute valentines gifts for friends at school or kindy, or for mum and grandma. They're a great way to celebrate the joy of friendship and show others how much they're appreciated.

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Melissa from Fireflies and Mudpies has created an adorable template for these cute diy heart buddies. Print off the template and colour however you like with watercolour paint, crayons, pencils or pens and then follow the tutorial to add pipecleaner legs and arms. Add some googly eyes or sticker eyes and you have a cute little heart buddy friend. Head to Fireflies and Mudpies to get the template and other creative ways to turn these heart buddies into Valentines Day cards.


How cute is this little love bug?! This would make a great classroom activity and the love bugs could be used as valentines gifts too. To make these all you will need is toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaners, coloured paper, googly eyes, washi tape and beads. Get the full tutorial and see even more fun love bug designs over at Red Ted Art.

Toilet paper love bug craft for preschoolers


Create a cute textured heart by recycling materials already on hand at home. All you need is some cardboard {e.g. a cereal box} and any fabric, ribbon, felt and even paper scraps that need using up. If you're a craft material hoarder like me you should have all of these materials already. See the full tutorial over at Best Toys 4 Toddlers and get crafting. These could also be used as Valentines Day cards by writing on the back or sticking them onto some folded coloured cardstock.


Want to decorate your own cards but you don't have a heart stamp? No problem, make your own diy heart stamp with some pegs, foam hearts and hot glue. Visit Natural Beach Living for the full tutorial.


Whip up some cute heart shaped DIY chalk using plaster of paris, water and colouring. These cute little heart chalks will entertain the kids for hours and could also be used as a cute Valentine's Day classroom gift. Find out all the details at Oh The Things We'll Make.


This cute yarn heart is really simple to make. You'll only need a paper plate, yarn {wool} and some glue. Head over to About A Mom for the full tutorial.


Create a cute homemade necklace or keyring with these simple diy fingerprint heart charms. You will need some white polymer clay and acrylic paint to decorate. Thread them onto some string for a cute necklace or add a split ring to create a keyring. These would make great Valentines gifts for mum, grandma, teachers or classmates. Head to Kitchen Table Classroom for the tutorial.


Do you have a heap of broken crayons hiding in pencil cases and drawers of your house? Don't throw them away, use them to create these diy conversation heart crayons. Melt them down in a conversation hearts silicone mould and you have cute functional Valentines Day class gifts, or simply keep them for home. Visit Mom Junky for a full tutorial plus a printable idea to add if using them as a gift. These can also be made without the words by using basic silicone heart moulds.


These DIY sticky heart cards are easy for kids to make using cardstock, tissue paper and contact paper. They're also a great fine motor workout while scrunching and sticking the tissue paper and provide scissor skill practice so would be a great classroom activity. Read my full sticky heart card tutorial here.


Create a unique Valentines gift by painting heart shaped rocks. Search your garden or local park for triangle or heart shaped rocks and then follow the tutorial at I Love Painted Rocks to decorate them with cute heart paintings. Choose from 11 different designs, or create your own.

Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. All craft images featured within this post have been used with express permission from original authors.
Friday, January 17, 2020

Australian animal small world play tray

When my big girl started at school I noticed  there was an abundance of gum leaves, tiny gumnuts, flowers and sticks always strewn across the paths thanks to the wind. I love using nature in our play so I immediately had a brainwave to set up an Australian themed small world play tray. So I collected a few bits and pieces with my toddler on the way home and set up a surprise play tray for her big sister.

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- Play tray
- Australian animal figurines
- Coloured rice or edible dirt
- Gumnuts, sticks, flowers, rocks etc
- Wood slice or small chopping board
- Blue play silk

I like to set up most of our small world play in a tray because it gives the kids a defined play area and the high sides help to contain the mess {most of the time}. Using a tray also means it's portable and can be set up in any room, or moved up high away from tiny hands. It can also be taken away and brought back out later, for example if the kids are being too messy I'll remove it then if they want it later I'll bring it back out. We use the Kmart drinks tray but similar trays can be found at other homewares stores in the kitchenware section.

Being a nature based play tray most of the items needed can be foraged from the backyard, local gardens or parks. When we set up any type of nature play I usually give the girls a small wicker basket and we go on a nature treasure walk and collect bits and pieces that have fallen near footpaths near our house. We love collecting interesting leaves, sticks, small logs, gumnuts, flowers and seedpods. For this play tray all our nature items were foraged except the dried lotus pod which I already had at home.

I don't like mixing dry and wet sensory materials in the same small world because I prefer to reuse all our sensory materials. So in this case because I used coloured rice and natural wooden elements, I used a blue playsilk for the river, rather than water. I also find rice is easier to clean up than dirt or cocoa which is why I opted to use rice as the dirt base. However, you could definitely use edible dirt or even real dirt for this small world, it all comes down to personal preference and how messy you want things to get! If you're worried about it getting too messy set up an old sheet underneath the tray so clean up is easy {a stick vacuum comes in handy too} or simply set it up outside.

There really are no rules when it comes to setting up a small world tray. I usually start by working out where I want the ground sensory base/s to be then start building it up by adding the other elements {gumnuts, sticks, leaves etc}. If I'm using taller bits of branches as trees I'll put them towards an edge of the tray so they don't get constantly knocked over. I also use rocks or sticks to separate different areas like the water and dirt so the spaces are obviously defined at the start of play, however it all ends up a mess once the play starts anyway. Lastly I add the animals to wherever they look right. Basically just jump in and start placing things where you think they'll look good and move them around a few times until you feel it looks right {or at least similar to the idea you have in your head}. The kids are going to have their own ideas and make up their own stories while playing, the small world is just a starting point for their play.

For this small world I used our koala, platypus, tortoise shell butterfly and bearded dragon. I put it together quickly and these were the first of our Australian animal figurines I grabbed. We also have a kangaroo, ostrich, wombat and cassowary that could be used as well. All of our animal figurines are collecta brand, but their are similar ones available from Schliech.

This small world can be used to teach different Australian animal facts like animal names, different animal habitats, what they eat and different types of animals {mammals, marsupials, insects}. It's also a great bookish play activity after reading books about Australian animals like The Very Hungry Caterpillars Australian Friends. Of course it's also great for imaginary play. 

For more small world play ideas using animal figurines see our rock pool small world and animal figurine play ideas post and check out our animal play ideas pinterest board.

Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. 
Tuesday, January 14, 2020

12 picture books to make starting school easier for children

Starting school is a time of massive change and upheaval, and not just for the children heading off to school. There's new places to be, new routines to learn, new people to meet and new friends to make. All of that can be a little bit daunting for both parents and kids. Us adults are pretty good at coping, or at least pretending like we have it all together, but our little people sometimes need help to manage big feelings and emotions.

Will the other kids like me? Who will my teacher be? What will my classroom look like? Where is the playground? When do I get to go home? Why can't mum stay with me? There's so many questions and so many changes children have to work their way through. I've always been a big believer in books helping explain feelings, experiences and complex ideas to children, so it's no surprise we used picture books to help my daughter with the transition to school when she started prep. With another school year on the horizon I've put together a list of picture books that are great for helping children with the start of school, whether it be the start of kindy, prep, foundation, primary school, or changing to a new school, there's books for everyone {even the ones who definitely don't want to go to school}.

12 picture books to help make starting school easier for children

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FIRST DAY | Andrew Daddo

A really popular book here in Australia to calm the nerves about starting school is First Day, by Aussie actor and author Andrew Daddo. Are you ready? It'll be fun! You'll make new friends. New BFFs! You might have to be a bit brave ... It's the first day of school, but who is the most nervous about the big day? Daddo has captured how the first day of school feels for children themselves and also for us as parents. This one is a great read for preparing the whole family for the transition to big school.

MADDIE'S FIRST DAY | Penny Matthews

It is Maddie's first day of school and she has everything ready - her uniform, shoes, socks and hat. But there is one special thing that Maddie can't leave behind - her blanky! The excitement of the first day of school, new experiences and making friends are the main themes for this book. Matthews focuses on moments throughout the day that might seem small and insignificant to adults, but are extremely important for children.


On my first day, I will meet new friends and learn new things... What about you? Whether big or small, feathered or furry, the first day of school can be a lot of fun! Using cute illustrations of different animals, My First Day at School captures the fun of learning and making new friends at school.


Tim, Hannah, Sunita, Joe and Polly are all off to school for the first time. Would you like to meet them and see how they go? There are new friends to make, fun ways to learn, and lots of different things to discover. Starting School focuses on the different experiences and feelings of the five children as they begin school for the first time. Each page focuses on a different area of the school and experience from the day such as making friends, snack time, the playground and in the classroom.

THE DAY YOU BEGIN | Jacqueline Woodson

There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. The Day You Begin is a great book about overcoming nerves and celebrating what makes everyone unique.


It's not just children who are going to school for the first time that may be experiencing some nerves. Kids who are changing to a new school will be facing the exact same fears as if they were starting school again for the first time. Similarly, some children get really anxious about starting a new grade at school after a long holiday break. Will their friends be in their class? Will they make new friends? What will the teacher be like? The start of the school year can be a daunting time even for seasoned school kids. The following books are really good for kids who are transitioning school, or moving up grades.


The Night Before First Grade follows Penny as she prepares for her first day of Grade One with her best friend Jenny. She's full of excitement as she knows she'll have her best friend by her side, but then not everything goes to plan. Fun rhymes and cute illustrations show how Penny overcomes her nerves and makes the most of the situation. This is the perfect book for children moving into first grade, especially if their best friend won't be in the same class. It's also great for any country where the school year starts in summer.


What happens when you're super excited for the new school year with all your friends, but when you get to school none of them are in your new class? Your tummy bubbling away with excitement suddenly starts squelching doing cartwheels. But it's not all bad, now there's a bunch of new friends to make and at lunch time the playground will be full of old friends too. Old Friends New Friends is a great book about being brave and has a lot of coping strategies for children when they're faced with unexpected change.


Some kids will be so anxious, or just completely disinterested, that they flat out refuse to go to school. To help them with starting school, or going back to school, try these picture books below. All the main characters start out refusing to go to school for various reasons, but they may convince your kids that school is fun after-all.


Let me start by saying this book is hilarious! Pigeon thinks he knows everything so why does he have to go to school anyway? The Pigeon Has to Go to School starts out with all the what if's pigeon thinks might happen at school. What if he doesn't like it? What if the teacher doesn't like him? I mean, what if he learns TOO MUCH!?! The hilarious illustrations and sarcasm will have kids rolling around with laughter, and by then end they'll probably want to go to school too. If you want even more laughs, check out all the other Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

I DON'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL | Stephanie Blake

I Don't Want to go to School is the story of Simon the super rabbit and he won't go to school. No way! But, after his first day of school he changes his mind and there's no way he wants to go home. This is a good picture book particularly for little who boys who may be trying to hold in the fact that they're anxious to go to school.

DEAR TEACHER | Amy Husband

Dear Teacher is a hilarious collection of letters from Michael to his new teacher Miss Brookes explaining why he can't go to class. From traveling to the pyramids of Egypt to getting attacked by pirates and going to the moon in a rocket ship, each letter is increasingly outlandish and covered with Michael's incredibly funny sketches from his many adventures. When Michael's teacher writes back telling him how sorry she is he'll miss all of the exciting school activities planned for the year, Michael realises all the fun he'd really miss out on.


Not all picture books about starting school focus on the child's experience, some very cleverly convey messages about being nervous, learning new routines and making friends from the perspective of someone else.


It's not just kids who are anxious about starting school, the teachers will be too! With a class full of new little people to get to know your teacher may be just as nervous as you. How To Get Your Teacher Ready is an instructional style how-to book that gives students plenty of ways to help make the teacher feel welcome and ready for the year ahead. This adorable book shows children how to harness their nerves and handle situations that may go wrong. This book is quite long compared to others so would be great for kids who might be going into older grades, or who are nervous about going into a new class.


It's not just school kids and teachers who get nervous about the first day of school... the school is nervous too. School is used to it just being him and janitor, but now he has to meet teachers and children too. What will the children do? Will they like him? School's First Day of School starts out a bit rough, but then he learns new things and realises it's not that bad being a school at all.

Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. All books purchased from Book Depository come with free worldwide shipping.