Back to School – German Style

25 08 2015
Back to School - old skool

Back to School. Old Skool

I think I’ve only just got the hang of my eldest going to school and suddenly, the middle one is due to start next month. Not sure where they time’s gone but this afternoon, it’s gone on sorting out some back to school ideas. We’ve been journeying around the globe with activities for a while now (more ideas to follow when I negotiate time outside of being a mother to add more!) and Germany has a tradition of Kindercones or Shultuete (there appear to be multiple spellings) but the principle is the same. Children starting school get give a cone full of goodies to make going back to school sweeter.I found some guidance at Red Ted Art on what they mean and how to make one here:  but instead of making my own paper, I bought two of those posters you find in places like The Works for £1.99 each. Much easier than sticking paper together, or covering a cone with wrapping paper, like I’ve seen on other sites. Plus the designs were already relevant to going to school.

You will need...

I found that I could use a wipe board marker on the cardboard so drew a curve using a piece of string held in the corner, whilst tied to the pen and wiped it off once I’d cut it. Probably unnecessary as the line would have been covered up eventually. An elastic band helped hold it together and I used tape to stick it down. A couple of staples at the top made sure it stayed together. I never trust glue when there’s some kind of force involved – like a piece of cardboard trying to unroll!

I glued tissue paper around the top – taped it both inside and out to make it look neater, but I’m not that great with neatness so there were wrinkles and stuff. And then I added some back to school treats.

Inside the cone

Inside the cone…

I tried to include as many German items as I could to keep it authentic. Basically – that meant including Kinder Eggs, Kinder Bueno bars, Kinder sweets, Smarties bought in Lidl that have German phrases on them and Haribo sweets. Thank you Lidl for selling so many German sweet brands at such a reasonable price!!DSC_0036

The rest of the cone includes a selection of school items such as fountain pens (LBM is being encouraged to use one next year), scented pencils and one with timetables on, stickers, scissors, glue, mini lunchboxes and socks. And a peashooter! I’m wondering whether they’d risk taking that to school…The goodies inside...

It turns out, after a bit of research, that Fimo modelling clay and Playmobil are German companies and a search on eBay resulted in me finding a Playmobil set for each of my boys with children carrying Shultuetes. I was probably more excited than they’re going to be, but the link was too great to pass up. I’ve also ordered a Playmobil “traditional German family” and some Vikings but they’ve not turned up yet so aren’t in the pictures.

Playmobil with a Shultuete

Playmobil with a Shultuete

I’m not just going to give them their cones though. They’re going to have to go on a detective hunt around the house (the Black Hand Gang books by Hans Jurgen Press were one of my childhood favourites and I’ve passed that enjoyment on to my eldest. It fits in nicely that he was a German author) and I’ve written them a story that links to some Grimm tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and The Elves and the Shoemaker. I was also lent a book in German about a little girl’s first day at school. My story all fell into place and I’m looking forward to reading it to them and sending them around the house to find the relevant books and the clues hidden inside until the discover their Shultuetes.

Detective Hunt Kit

My Kindercones are now hidden under the bed (with the youngest due to get a bag of goodies for himself but without the scissors, fountain pens and school socks) and maybe, just maybe, these will help me come to terms with the fact that I’m only going to have one child at home whilst his two big brothers continue to grow up. Weep weep, sob…

My Kindercones

My Kindercones


Mexican Fiesta

26 07 2015

Let’s celebrate the beginning of summer. Well, one sunny day anyway…

Summer now isn’t how I remember it as a child. I remember sunshine and playing in the garden, lying on grass and listening to bees buzz around the flowers. I seem to have forgotten the rainy days unless they included a rainbow. As an adult, this summer seems to be nothing but rain and very little rainbow!

So, to overcome the dreariness of first full week of the school holidays (a month’s rain fell on Friday!) and make good use of the only sunny day, I created a Fiesta. It’s been planned for a long time – I just needed the sun to shine, for people to be available and to put everything together. And when I say planned, I bought the pinatas in the sale in January so I’ve been hoping for sun for a long long time…

Fiesta Invitation Fiesta Envelope Fringed envelope
















The invites had a fringe and flower made from crepe paper. Inside was the invite, a Lucha Libre paper toy, confetti and a moustache.

If I’d had girls I would have included a Frida Kahlo doll like this one…




The decorations included Papel Picado and flowery bunting. Paper fans, balloons and honeycomb decorations completed the look I wanted. As I said, the pinatas were bought in the sale in January and have been living in our loft since then. Not easy to hide around the house.




Pinata FillersParty Atmosphere The Pinata was filled with sweets, lollies, party poppers, sherbet sticks, water balloons, sound makers (what are they actually called?!), stretchy lizards, rocket balloons and confetti. The pinata was for all party guests to play with but I also created little gift bags just for my three as something to go with their lunch burrito. They included a pencil which had Lucha Libre type masks on it, touchable bubbles, a stretchy lizard, sound maker and a day of the dead keyring. I secretly want those for myself…

Gift Bags










Gift Bags

















Their dad bought them a Burrito from Mission Burrito before the Fiesta started, so their lunch bags included a burrito, Jarritos drink, a straw, bubble gun, beanie baby (iguana or a chameleon) and their gift bag and a handful of tortilla chips.




I designed a couple of chalkboards to advertise what was going to be happening. Note the lack of date or time. I couldn’t trust what day or what time was going to be free of rain! It turned out to be all of Saturday. Yay!

Fiesta chalkboard Bebidas













Our bouncy castle was turned into a Lucha Libre wrestling ring with capes and masks adding to the thrill of bouncing around and slamming your brother into the mat! There were thumb wrestling tattoos and the blue prize bags came from a website called Viva La Frida
Lucha Libre

Lucha Libre


















I included some games like Buckaroo and Pumpaloons to give it a Fiesta feel and if there were any children who weren’t entertained enough by bouncing, hitting, stamping or kicking there were some quiet crafts in the form or paper flowers and bDSC_0280ird finger puppets. Buckaroo














The pDSC_0167inata was great fun with everyone taking a turn starting with the smallest first. When it was eventually broken open they were each given a named paper bag and told to collect three things only. There were quite a few prizes that were left over, so once the latecomers had been given their bags, the rest was shared out. Giving them a bag each and a limit ensured that everyone got a fair share rather than any greedy grabbing!


We also had some dressing up bits so when the kids sat down to eat quesadillas, they made it very bright and colourful with their mini sombreros and glasses frames.
Dress Up









The Fiesta was fun for children and adults alike. The sun finally shone, the garden looked like a rainbow and when it eventually got dark and the remaining children needed to wind down after a day of excitement, there was a choice of DVDs. Today the weather has returned to wet, cool and windy so I think I’m going to put on the Book of Life DVD and wrap up under the duvet with the kids. I’m hoping though, that when my children look back to their childhoods they remember the days full of sunshine and rainbows, not summers under duvets watching TV!Ay Caramba!

Bird Nesting Bags

31 03 2012

I found an idea on Familyfun which involved creating a bag of material for birds to make their nests with. It’s another activity from our Easter discovery box. Even though the birds near us didn’t bother eating the fat balls we left out for them at Christmas (they left them so long that some of the seeds actually started growing) I’m still feeling charitable so we decided to make them some bird nesting bags. We decided to help local birds but not the ones right on our doorstep, who appear to be overfed, so both sets of grandparents have been given a bag for their gardens.

INGREDIENTS: Two netting bags, some ribbon and wool, nesting material purchased cheaply from eBay, blunt needle and a small willing child.

METHOD: Let child stuff materials into the bag – a drawstring one like the first one is easy. The second one was a recycled sweet potato netted bag. We had to sew it together with ribbon which was a great fine motor experience on something really easy to sew up. Make sure you have something to hang it on a tree.

And finally deliver to delighted grandparents. They were excited to receive something so unusual. I’m still wondering if the birds will bother to use such a useful and ready made source of nesting material or if they have another interior designer they use every year. Maybe the birds around here are too proud for handouts, have great work ethics and want to support their own families. We will monitor the bags over the coming weeks and find out!

Nature Discovery Walk

31 03 2012

LBM’s Dad is home for the weekend (he’s working away during the week and only home at weekends) so doing something as a family was always on the cards. BJJ’s suggested going to the park. Twice. No interest on the part of LBM. Mmm, how to get him out of the house? A Nature Discovery Walk. Within seconds of the suggestion he was sorting out his magnifying glass, tweezers and a bag to carry it all in. Getting the rest of us together took longer. One of the activities in my Easter discovery box included a nature palette which could be used to search for different coloured signs of spring whilst out and about. I added that to the bag and we were off. Collecting things on a walk like this does involve trying to encourage a recently turned four year old not to pull up flowers. It doesn’t always work hence the daffodil we collected for yellow. On the whole though he picked up fallen twigs and leaves as well as flower heads that had fallen off already. He loves using his magnifying glass (which he held against his eye as he walked along. Very Sherlock Holmes) so we spent a lot our our walk looking at nature up close and searching for ants. They weren’t out in the cold weather so we had to make do with just finding plant life.

When we got home LBM and I sorted our find. I left out matching colours of paper and let him choose how he sorted things. The daffodil was originally sorted onto the green page because it had a green stalk but when he reviewed how many things were on the yellow page he changed his mind. As we were discovering things we tried to name everything we had found (many items were called hyacinth by LBM who’s obviously paying attention to the spring flowers on offer!) My knowledge of exactly what we’d picked up was a bit limited on some things so I decided that would could become botanists and name the collected parts by ourselves. It’s amazing what children can come out with when you start discussing what something looks like in shape and texture. “Pip Pipes” does explain the stamens on blossom incredibly well as does the more unusual “Octopus Bims” for the individual flower heads found on a hyacinth. “Loony Moon” described the tiny craters visible on a piece of lichen.

My eldest son is a much more investigative, creative child so getting him out into the park did involve something a little bit more interesting than the swings and slides. The park is no problem for BBL though who has recently taught himself to go down slides backwards (he’s 14 months). He decided head first on the big slide was just as cool today. Glad Daddy was there to catch him. I can only hope that BBL finds a Nature Discovery Walk as attractive in the future. I suspect though that I’ll be having to deal with him finding the only poisonous plant in the area.


























Easter Discovery Box

27 03 2012

Easter is coming and I’m getting fat. Well actually I’m not as I’ve been walking to and from school and preschool three times a day so it means I can eat the children’s Easter eggs without any guilt and during the brighter lighter evenings we’ve been having! Brilliant.

I thought this was another opportunity to get all the Easter things out and put them into the Discovery box for LBM and BBL to explore. The Easter books aren’t read much the rest of the year so it’s great to have them all in one place and make sure they do get read – they include ones about bunnies, eggs, spring and farms as well as the Easter Story and a factual book about Easter and it’s traditions. It’s sort of combined with spring too as there are some activities to do that include making or doing things for the outside. This box includes:

A Djeco egg and chicken memory game

A recipe for bird’s nest cakes which will use up the desiccated coconut in the cupboard

A nature palette where we can go and look for spring colours on our walks as the daffodils and blossom start showing their colours.

Some seeds and grass to grow including vegetables and flowers.

Easter decorations including signs, tree ornaments and an egg shaped lampshade.

Chocolate because I like Easter egg chocolate more than any other. I think it’s the thickness I find so appealing.

Nesting material for birds which we will put into a netted bag and hang up in the Grandad or Grandpa’s garden for them to decorate their new nests.

And finally – the ingredients for an egg sensory box. I had looked into imitation grass but the one I could find was rather pungent and would have been an overpowering and unpleasant sensory experience. In the end I found some wool in the Tiger shop and we cut it up into smallish pieces and put it in the box with some coloured eggs from Poundland. Inside each egg was either a small chick or an animal candle and BBL had such a great time learning how to pop the eggs open and find out what was inside. He ended up loving one yellow chicken so much it started to get misshapen and greasy with all his fingering. At the moment there are no plans to take him to a farm to meet the real thing because I fear they wouldn’t enjoy the experience as much as him!

I really love this idea of putting everything together in one place. It creates an ever changing set of things to look at and brings a range of activities, toys, puzzles and games together in one place. It also means it’s much easier to find the chocolate when I want it…


Octonauts Alphabet

19 02 2012

LBM seems to be like every other child who’s three and really likes the Octonauts. I’m all for building on this interest because it’s one of the best TV programmes for his age group and means he can identify exactly what kind of sea creature it is – “No mummy it’s not a shark. It’s a Lemon Shark”. Admittedly none of us can pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua’a but we’re working on it! A long time ago I started to develop picture and word alphabets that were linked to a theme and things that children are interested in. A personalised alphabet helps with letter recognition, vocabulary and makes learning relevant. I’ve made alphabets in the past for other children including a Star Wars and a Cars one. I love how films frequently have characters with names that begin with the tricky letters – searching around to find characters beginning with V, Q X and Z are so easy it’s almost as if the creative team behind every film approach character naming by going through the alphabet. Handy!

Anyway – I have created an Octonauts alphabet for LBM to help develop his vocabulary and learn his letters. Some of them aren’t strictly linked to the letter (like the Gups but he wanted to include all of the Gups and I couldn’t fit them all in the box for G.) So far we’ve just used them to talk about the pictures and link the sounds to letters i.e.” B is for…? Barnacles. Can you hear the B at the beginning? “kind of thing. I’ve hopefully attached the links here so you can print them off yourself and share them with any Octonauts fans. If anyone also knows which episodes have Peso playing his xylophone please let me know so I can get a screen shot of it. Finding the image in one of the original books was the best I could get!

3D Chalk – you have to see it to believe it!

12 02 2012

I didn’t really believe this could be true until we tried it this morning. I bought a Crayola outdoor chalk set with 3D  glasses. It’s half price in the Early Learning Centre and I admit even paying half price for some 3D chalks seemed expensive. I had planned on going outside and drawing on the car park and it’s lovely clean tarmac but it was raining (and cold). Apparently that’s more helpful for when you want to clear away any drawings! Black paper works just as well though. We drew some pictures using the chalk and following the instructions to make 3D shapes that worked and it was a great lesson in understanding depth perception. LBM had been wearing the glasses whilst I got dressed this morning (helpfully commenting that my skin looked funny. Mmm maybe I’ll lock the door next time). He spent a while looking at different things around the house like lights which become rainbow rimmed and a pair of scissors that really did become strange looking and as if they were floating.

The chalk pictures were amazing though. A red centre with a blue border really jumped out when you put the 3D glasses on and LBM reached out and tried to pick it up. We did something similar with a circle with a yellow border and a green centre and the frame looked as if it was jumping out. On both occasions it tested both our powers of understanding! We ended up drawing a rocket (well I did) but LBM added the window and then shooting starts which criss crossed through the rocket. Watching him draw whilst wearing the 3D glasses was interesting too because the stars  and rocket overlapped each other. I have to admit to needing to do a bit of research now into the differences between 2D and 3D so I can explain why. That’s the best bit about kids though – they ask you why and sometimes you just don’t know. I’d recommend these chalks though because they have scientific as well as creative value and there’s loads of colours to use. Can’t wait for it to stop raining and warm up now.