Great makes for kids and with kids.

elf on the shelf 14
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Elf on the shelf.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this link or any other on this blog, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support. TMIM XX

What is the Elf on the Shelf?

Elf on the Shelf is an American tradition which is becoming more and more popular in the UK. We have had our Elf for about 8 years. The Elf is a North Pole Scout Elf who ‘arrives’ at our house on the first of December. He has come to keep an eye on the children’s behaviour in the run up to Christmas. Every night he goes back to the North Pole to report on the children and each morning when the children wake up he is in a different place. Our kids are getting older, but each year they tell us that they are NOT too old  for the Elf. His last day with us is Christmas Eve.

If you would like to buy an Elf, you can get male and female Elves with different eye and skin colours. They come with a book which explains their job. One of the most important things is that you give your Elf a name. Our Elf is called Fizbee Tinkletoes.

Ideas for the Elf on the shelf…

For the first week or so it is not too hard to think up ideas of amusing places to have the Elf, but as the days and then the years go by you have to be more creative. If you are just starting out with your Elf or would simply like some inspiration, I have gathered a set of pictures over the years of the sorts of things that Fizbee gets up to….

What does Fizbee get up to?

Elf on the Shelf rules…

You may have noticed that Fizbee is always downstairs in our house. Our kids did not like the idea of waking up to find him in their rooms – a little bit scary, so we agreed that he would not go into bedrooms. You will have to decide on the rules for your Elf to suit your family.

I hope that these pictures have given you some helpful ideas for your Elf, whether it is your first year or you’ve had your Elf for years.

Let me know what your Elf gets up to. Leave a comment or message me on my social media.

Happy Elf on the Shelfing.

The Made It Mum. xx




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Christmas Cookies

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support. TMIM xx

Are you looking for a great recipe for Christmas Cookies?

We are nearly in November and so my thoughts are turning to Christmas. I love the Winter and all of the celebrations – great family times. This week I have baked cookies with the kids and used Christmas cookie cutters. We have used a great cookie recipe from Annabel Karmel’s, Children’s first cook book (page 30). If you made my Halloween cupcakes, you will know that this book is my secret weapon! It makes me look like I can actually bake.

Christmas Cookies – Ingredients:

For the basic cookie dough you will need:

  • 300g/10oz of plain flour, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 150g/5oz caster sugar
  • 250g/8oz soft butter, diced
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I don’t put this extra salt in – I use slightly salted butter instead)

christmas cookies ingredients

Christmas Cookies – Method:

Christmas Cookies – Making the cookies.

Christmas Cookies – decoration:

The world is your oyster when it comes to decorating these cookies. You could cut out fondant and stick it onto the cookies and add lots of sparkle. Maybe you could make icing by mixing together icing sugar and water, adding food colouring to make any shade that you like. We like to keep it simple. When we decorate cookies I just get out the writing icing and the kids just go for it. You will see what I mean when I put our Christmas cake recipe on the blog in a few weeks.

What is most important is that you have a fun time with your kids. You can be safe in the knowledge that this is an idiot-proof recipe. As I sit typing in the dining room, I can hear the kids making happy yum noises as they scoff cookies in the kitchen!

Christmas Cookies for Christmas Eve:

Ready for Santa and Rudolph.xx

We always leave cookies or mince pies for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph and a little single malt to keep Santa warm on a cold night.

I love this cute Christmas tray.




I hope that you give these cookies a go – you won’t regret it. They are yum. Let me know if you do either by leaving a comment or contacting me through my social media channels.

Happy Baking

The Made It Mum xx





winters tale
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Special books to share with your children.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links to books on Amazon. If you click on one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support. TMIM XX

Are you looking for a special book to buy for your children?

You all know how important reading is to me, both personally and professionally. Reading is our SUPERPOWER. In previous posts I have suggested picture books and books to read with children of different ages.

In today’s post I would like to share some of the special books that we have enjoyed over the years with our own children.

Robert Sabuda books.

About ten years ago we took our children to Manchester to the Lowry. Our children are artistic and loved the gallery. There was a special exhibition of pop-up books. The children took part in activities making their own pop-up structures. This was the first time that we had seen Robert Sabuda’s amazing books. Over the years we have purchased Sabuda books for our own children and as gifts for friends – they are magical.

Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum and Robert Sabuda.

This was the first Sabuda book that we bought – it is really magical. I love the Emerald City with the little green spectacles to wear and the balloon which twirls beautifully on the page. Robert Sabuda is a genius of pop-up.

Sharks and other Sea Monsters by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.

When John was very small he loved everything to do with the ocean and for a long time he wanted to be a Marine Biologist. The fish were his friends. Nowadays, he is thinking he would still like to work with animals, perhaps as a zoo vet. Sounds like a great plan. This book was bought for John – he was 3 when we ordered this book. It has the most amazing pop-ups of sea creatures. As you can see in the picture below, the detail is amazing.

pop up shark

Winter’s tale by Robert Sabuda

This book is a beautiful pop-up with Winter scenes. All of the animals are white and snowy. It made a wonderful Christmas book for our children. There is even a little light in the cottage. It is so beautiful. I have taken this book into school over the years and the children in my class have always loved it.

Alice in Wonderland – a pop-up adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s tale by Robert Sabuda.

I bought this book for my friend Nat, who loves all things Alice in Wonderland, as a wedding gift. She was thrilled with it. The most amazing pop-up is the one where Alice is falling down the rabbit hole. Robert Sabuda is a fabulous paper-engineer. I would recommend Sabuda books as gifts, they are so unusual – your family are sure to love them.

Polar – a photicular book by Dan Kainen and Carol Kaufmann

polar book

We first saw these Photicular books last year when we went to Whipsnade Zoo. They are amazing and I have don’t really understand how they work. It must just be magic. The waddling penguins are amazing. I bought this one because we were working on Polar regions at school. My class loved the chance to have a look at the book. As you turn the pages it looks like the photos are moving – very Harry Potter! There are other books available in the series depending on the interest of your child.

Atlas of Adventures by Lucy Letherland


We have always liked to use our imagination and this book really help to ignite discussion. In Atlas of Adventures, there are fantastic maps and illustrations. We have discussed that we would like to go and see the Northern Lights and stay in a glass igloo or visit different continents. You and your children could let your imaginations run wild on the maps in this extra large book.

Animalium (Welcome to the Museum) by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott.

I have used this book at school and at home. It is made from the different branches of the tree of life. It has been a great support in class as there are amazing pictures of all kinds of life. My own children have always enjoyed this book too. It is like a virtual museum. We love this book.

The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood book by Steve Alton, Nick Sharratt and Jo Moore.

icky sticky snot and blood book

Kate has always loved this book as it is totally yucky! When she was younger, she thought that she might like to be a surgeon. She has always enjoyed watching medical programmes. We have always loved the art of Nick Sharratt and this makes this book great fun. There is a huge pop-up nose with bogies, lungs and  looks inside the body. Again, I have used this book in school and it shares great information in a fun way. All children love gross facts and pictures!

I could not find the link to the same edition that I bought on Amazon. There are other editions available.

Egyptology: Search for the tomb of Osiris (ology series)


Eleanor loved these -ology books when she was younger. We also have Wizardology and Pirateology. They have lots of facts and maps. There are letters and sketches which make you feel like there is a mystery to be solved. You are like Indiana Jones. Eleanor has always had a passion for History. She read all of the Horrible Histories books and can tell you amazing facts.

I remember one wet August at Caernarfon Castle in Wales, Eleanor was about 9. We were in the shop along with a troop of Scouts. The Scoutmaster asked if anyone knew the order of the Kings and Queens of England- if they did they could have a pound. Eleanor sang him the Kings and Queens song from Horrible Histories and earned herself a pound! This precious-looking book will be a big hit with your History-loving child.

I hope that you find something in today’s blogpost that will excite your children or grandchildren. Sharing books is one of the most important things that we can do to help our children. What are your favourite special books? Do you have a favourite author to read with children?

Let me know what you have read. Leave a comment or message me on my social media channels.

Happy reading

The Made It Mum xx

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Made it - kids

Great books to read with kids – 9-11 years

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this or any other links in this post, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I use the links that I recommend, which is why I am happily an affiliate. Thank you for your support. TMIM xx

Looking for great books to read with your kids?

Between the ages of 9 and 11, you really want to encourage your child to read independently. They could now be reading to you at bedtime. It is so important to still listen to your child reading. They should now be fluent with the mechanics of reading words. This is the next step – listen to your child read and ask them questions about why characters act in different ways and what they think will happen.

Fizzlebert Stump books by A F Harrold.

These are very different books.  We loved the first one – Fizzlebert Stump – the boy who ran away from the circus and joined the library. The books are based on the adventures of Fizzlebert, who lives in the circus with his parents. He gets into some real scrapes. We have also read Fizzlebert Stump: the boy who did PE in his pants. These books are funny and exciting and I know that your children will love them. If you read this book and enjoy it, there are more books in the series.

Ruby Redfort by Lauren Child.

Eleanor loved the Ruby Redfort books when she was 9 or 10. She moved onto these after the Clarice Bean books by Lauren Child. As a family, we have always loved anything Lauren Child – Charlie and Lola, That Pesky Rat, Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton Trent.

Ruby is a child detective and super intelligent girl, and really empowers the reader to think that they can be anything they want to be. She outwits adults with her friends and solves dastardly plots and plans.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

This is another series which Eleanor really enjoyed. She liked reading about the teenage criminal mastermind, Artemis. In the first book he holds a leprechaun to ransom for fairy gold. These books are full of twists and amazing action – lots of fight scenes. It is great when your child gets into a series of books, they are excited when they finish one and eager to start the next one.

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

This is one of my favourite books and one that I use when teaching about World War 2. This is a book about a group of children trying to escape from Poland, travelling through Europe in dangerous times. The children in the book grow as a group and are strong enough to make this amazing journey. I consider this book a classic.

Billionaire Boy by David Walliams

I couldn’t make a list of books for children without adding one by David Walliams. My own children and the children in my class enjoy the comedy of David Walliams. Billionaire Boy is about a boy called Joe who is rich beyond his wildest dreams. What he wants more than anything though, is a friend. If your child enjoys Roald Dahl books they will love David Walliams.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson.

I have read Eva Ibbotson books to my own children and to my class over my years of teaching. Journey to the River Sea is an exciting story about a young girl called Maia, who is sent to live with family in Manaus on the Amazon. She meets a mysterious boy in the rainforest and the adventures begin. Eva Ibbotson writes in a magical way. You can visualise the jungle from her vivid descriptions. Other great titles by Eva Ibbotson include The Dragonfly Pool and The Star of Kazan.

Tin by  Padraig Kenny

This is an unusual book telling the story of a world where there are ‘real’ people and mechanicals used as servants. In this story Christopher a real boy discovers a secret after an accident and goes on an adventure with his friends to find out the truth about his life. This could be read by a confident reader of 9 or 10, but some of the ideas within the book are complex and may prompt questions about life! I always read books before my children at the age of 9-11 so that I knew what they were going to experience.

Street Child by Berlie Doherty

When I teach about Victorians, I use this book in class. This beautifully written book tells the story of Jim Jarvis. In Victorian Britain, Jim is left all alone when his mother dies and has to try and survive difficult times. This story is based on the boy who inspired Dr Barnardo to found his children’s homes. The book is full of adventure and will keep your children gripped as you read it.

Stormbreaker  (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz.

This is a series of books that John really enjoyed reading in Year 5 and 6 (aged 10 and 11). I would suggest that you read these books with your child. Alex Rider, a 14 year old boy,  is forced to join MI6. He sets off to solve a crime and is soon in terrible danger. These are real page-turners, full of excitement and adventure. Some of the scenes are quite violent – John really enjoyed this. We read the books before he did so that we knew what he was reading and could discuss them.

I could go on and on. My children loved the Harry Potter books, Holes by Louis Sachar and anything by Michael Morpurgo – especially the Butterfly Lion and Kensuke’s Kingdom.

What are your favourite books to read with children aged 9-11?

Let me know what you like to read? Have you found a series of great books? If you read any of the books that I have suggested, please let me know. Message me on my social media channels, leave a comment or email me.

Happy reading

The Made It Mum xx

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Made it - kids

Great books to read with your kids – 5-9 years.

Please note – this post contains affiliate links to Amazon. If you make a purchase through any of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I use all of the recommendations I make myself, which is why I am happily an affiliate. Thank you for your support.

Great books to read at bedtime.

We read to our children every night from them being tiny babies. I still read with John, and all of our children enjoy reading. This selection of books is for children aged 5-9. They can either be read to your child at bed time, or if your child is a confident reader, then then can read them to you. It is always a joy to share a good book. 🙂

These books are some of our children’s favourites that we have shared over the years.

The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy.

We have read these books with all of our children. John and I enjoyed each of these stories about Mildred Hubble’s exploits at Miss Cackle’s Academy for witches. It doesn’t matter how hard Mildred tries to do the right thing, she always ends up in a pickle. These books are great for young children to read themselves. We liked reading books that came in series when our children were younger, as you will see from some of our other choices. If you have not read any of the Worst Witch books with your child before, I am sure that you will find them delightful.

Danger is Everywhere – David O’Doherty and Chris Judge

If you are looking for some fun reading at bedtime, then this is the book for you. Not only have I read this to my own children, but I read this and the sequels to my class. All the children that I have read this to have loved it. My class really enjoy the silliness. The book is ‘written’ by Docter (yes, DoctER Noel Zone – the world’s first Dangerologist) who tells you how to avoid danger in situations that you never knew were risky. Watch out for the page 9 scorpion!

How to train your Dragon – Cressida Cowell

We love the antics of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the third and his friends. This is another of our favourite series of stories, featuring the young Vikings and their dragons. Eleanor and John really enjoyed these books, we read them  several times. They were quite amused when we watched the film and realised that is was nothing like the books. We always say that the books are better. These have been family favourites for some years in our house. We also listened to an audio version of the book in the car,  narrated by David Tennant which was excellent.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Grace Lin

This is a book full of magic and wonder. Read the tale of Minli and her friend Dragon as they try to change Minli’s fortune. They journey to visit the Old Man of the Moon in this story which reminds me of The Wizard of Oz. The book is set in China and is interwoven with beautiful art work and Chinese stories and myths. I am working on this book with my class at the moment and they are loving it. I read this and the follow up books, When the Sea turned to Silver and Starry River of the Sky to my children. They were magical bed time stories.

Podkin One Ear – Kieran Larwood

These are more recent reads. In fact the third book in this series only came out in September. We like fantasy stories and these books are about a world where rabbits live and walk on two legs. They live happily in tribes until the arrival of the Gorm – a dangerous tribes of rabbits who have merged with metal. You and your children will be drawn into the world of magic and friendship of Podkin and his family and friends as told by a wandering Bard. I know that you’ll love these as much as we did.

The Polar Bear Explorer’s Club

We read this book when I was teaching John about the Arctic and  Antarctic in class. It is a great fantasy book. What would you find if you went on a Polar exploration? You will learn never to trust a frost fairy and of course – keep an eye out for carnivorous cabbages. This book chronicles the adventure of Stella Starflake Pearl and her friends. The art work in this book is stunning. We loved it so much that I have the next book on pre-order. We can’t wait for it to come out in November.

I could have kept going and going. Other favourites of ours have been the Daisy Books by Kes Gray, The Horrid Henry Books by Francesca Simon, Pippi Longstockings by Astrid Lindgren, The Diary of a Killer Cat by Anne Fine and of course, anything by Roald Dahl.

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut of reading the same books. I hope that this post has given you some inspiration for new books to read with your children. These would make great birthday and Christmas gifts for children and grandchildren. Let me know if you read any of these books. Did you and your child enjoy them? What books would you recommend?

Happy reading,

The Made It Mum xx



places to visit pick a pumpkin
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Spooktacular places to visit with kids.

Halloween places to visit with kids

Halloween is nearly here, and is one of our favourite times of the year. As we are both teachers, we are lucky that we are all on holiday at the same time. We always look for great places to visit in October half term – have you visited any of these places? We always have great fun when we go out for the day, sometimes we stay over and even one night away from home feels like a holiday to us.

Visit with kids – Halloween Days at York Maize Maze

For the last three or four years we have visited the maze. It is open in the Summer with an amazing themed maize maze. It then reopens just for October half term with a Halloween theme.

The day time activities are great fun for all the family – you will need your wellies on. There is still a section of the maze kept for a haunted maze treasure hunt as well as a pumpkin carving competition. The children can have a pumpkin and take it home – we carve ours at home so that we can take our time. There is the tractor trailer ride with crows spraying water – my children have always loved this.

Take time to visit the Halloween themed shop and play on the park and slides. We usually stay for 3 or 4 hours. You can take your own picnic but you can also eat great burgers and hot food.

What else can you do there?

One of the parts of the day that we really enjoy is the spooky sort of pantomine that they do. The cast are great fun and there is always a huge inflatable corn involved!

For those with older children, the maze runs a live action horror event for ‘teenagers and adults that should know better’ called Hallowscream. This is not something that we have been to – but if you like to be scared, it might be something you would enjoy!

I know that we will visit the maze at Halloween again this year. It is always a great time and a really fun place to visit with kids.

If  you would like more information, visit the York Maze website by clicking the link below.

Visit with kids – Chessington World of Adventures

We have visited Chessington a few times, and as it is a three or four hour drive we have always stayed over. There are two hotels at Chessington – The Safari and the Azteca hotels, and having just checked out their website, you can also go glamping too. That would not be for me – my idea of camping is looking at the campsite from my hotel room!

The rides at Chessington are great for all the family, there are height restrictions on some rides, but your younger children can ride more here than at some other theme parks, because of this there are not so many big thrill rides.

There is definitely enough to do for two days. If you stay over, the park opens early and then you can usually get on your favourite rides before the gates open for day visitors. For my kids, it is the Vampire ride that they always go for. We really like the Wild Woods Area.

If you don’t like too many rides, there are lots of other great activities. We enjoy the zoo and the Sea Life centre. Capybaras are one of my very favourite animals – they have a gorgeous group of them at Chessington.

Halloween at Chessington.

This year at Chessington, for Halloween, they are promoting ‘Howl’o’ween’ on their website. They have different activities based on the age and scare level that you wish. Their 4 bat-rated attraction is ‘Creepy Caves unearthed’ or for those who scare easily and prefer something a little sweeter, there is the Trick or Treat Wood.

These are new attractions, which we have not visited – hmmm…. what could we do this half term??!! Check out their website for more details.

Warner Brothers Studio Tours: The Making of Harry Potter

We love all things Harry Potter! The whole family have read the books and watched all the films. We have visited Warner Bros Studio Tours twice, it a great place to visit as it is so different from anywhere else.

It is about a three hour drive from home. Last time we visited, we stayed over in Watford, a blast from the past of my University days. On the way down we visited Whipsnade Zoo and the day after, we went into London and visited the Natural History Museum. We like to cram a lot into our visits.

This place is amazing. If you are even a bit of a fan of the Harry Potter books and films, you will LOVE IT! The last time we visited they had opened the Forbidden Forest which I thought was very cool and atmospheric. John is doing his best scared face in the pictures!

I really enjoy Diagon Alley and all of the special effects and Art Work from the films. The shop is amazing and you could buy everything for your first term at Hogwarts. It is very pricey, you may need to hold you breath when you pay.

We like to buy the sweets and imagine that we are on the Hogwarts Express. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans are always fun and the huge Chocolate Frogs are a great sweet treat.

For Halloween this year, they have a Dark Arts Special Feature from 28th September to 10th November. If you fancy your chances against a Death Eater – this could be the place to visit!

Alton Towers – Scarefest!

My kids and Phil love thrill rides and so we visit Alton Towers a lot, especially as it is only about an hour away from home. Our favourite time to visit is for Scarefest at October half term. The pictures above are from last year when we stayed over in a Splish Splash room.

We loved the theme of the room and John and Kate enjoyed the yellow submarine bunk beds and of course the massive yellow duck! The huge bed you can see in the shot is themed as a bath, it was great fun, but not the most comfortable bed that I have slept in! The bath is massive and if you stay in this room make sure to try it out.

Theme parks at night.

The exciting part of visiting at Scarefest, is being in the park at night. It is a different experience to ride rollercoasters in the dark. On the way down to Smiler and Oblivion, you walk through the Freak Show, complete with smoke effects and live action Freak Show actors. They really are quite freaky and they come and talk and perform in front of you!

Special Halloween attractions.

There are scare mazes to visit with different scare ratings and a new one for this season. We have not visited these – Kate and I don’t really like being scared. I think that Phil, John and Eleanor would enjoy it more.

For smaller children there are cute characters – we always find it amusing that most of the characters have spooky names but there is one that is just called Phil!


The evening entertainment in the Alton Towers hotel is great. We have stayed in this hotel, Splash Landings and also in a Woodland Lodge (Hobbit House) in the Enchanted Village.

They have a spooky themed cabaret with great singers and musicians. It is great to relax after your first long day in the park and before day two – you will walk miles! The restaurant is very good. It was interesting at breakfast the next morning how many adults were eating from the children’s breakfast buffet of pancakes and tater tots! Yes, including us. 🙂

If you visit for Scarefest I know that you will have a great time. We like to have fun wherever we go – we can be daft even just getting in the lift – where they have spooky music. People do look at us a bit strangely when we are doing scared faces as the doors open!

For more details on Scarefest, visit the Alton Towers website.

Places to visit….

I hope that this post has given you some great ideas of fun places to visit with your kids this half term. Currently, I am writing an ebook of places to visit with kids in the UK. It will have to have a special Halloween section!

places to visit with kids

If you visit any of these places, please let me know. You can leave a comment, email me or contact me through my social media channels. Happy Halloween.

The Made It Mum xx


picture books
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Great books to read with your kids – Picture Books

Looking for great picture books to read to your children?

This post contains Affiliate links to Amazon. I have included links to purchase these books if you wish, simply click on the picture.

We have read to our children every day since they were born. I still read with John, but not so much with the girls as they are 14 and 15 now. We do still discuss books though and everyone had great ideas when I said what today’s blogpost was about.

They had so many ideas, that I decided I would have to split this post into age groups. For today, we will start with picture books. It is so important to read and discuss books with children from an early age. As we say in my class, reading is our Super Power. It increases vocabulary and allows us to experience things through the eyes of other people.

Great picture books for babies.

When Eleanor was a very small baby, the standing joke was that she literally loved to eat books. She really did. My first choice is one of our very favourite books and was very tasty according to baby Eleanor. This is a book that I buy for people when they are expecting a baby.

Hippos go Berserk – by Sandra Boynton.

This book is great on so many levels. It rhymes, which makes it flow when you are reading it aloud, it has counting, which we love, (Phil is a Maths teacher) and the illustrations are fantastic – so cute. I won’t spoil it, but the middle page is my favourite.

Chocolate Moose for Greedy Goose. – By Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt

 Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt have written some great books. This is one of our favourites. Again, this has a very strong rhyme scheme. Your children will learn what each of the different animal characters say easily. It is a great book to share. I think my favourite line is – ‘Macaroni,’ says Shetland Pony. I don’t know why, but ‘we always sing that line. A great read.

Ness the Nurse – By Nick Sharratt

 Another Nick Sharratt book, we love his illustrations. Baby Eleanor loved this tasty book too.

‘Ness the Nurse has a nice kind face, she’s got ten plasters in her case……’ and yes, counting again. Counting down from ten to one this time. When we were chatting about this one as a family, I think that Phil could more or less recite the whole book. A real family favourite.

Picture books for up to 5 years old.

I say up to 5 years old, but I still read these books at school. All children love picture books. When we have Buddy Reading once a week, the older children prepare a picture book and questions for their Buddy.

You choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt.

 Yes, I know, another one illustrated by Nick Sharratt. This is a fantastic book because it starts lots of discussions with your little ones. It has pages with lots of choices of modes of transport, beds, shoes…. and you and your child get to choose the ones that you would like and say why. My children used to love the beds page and the family page. They would often choose pirates to have in their family. Oo-ar! It’s a lot of fun and more interactive for your child than some books.

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs- By Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto.

 When I was finding the link for this great book, I found out that there are lots of new books in the series and had to resist ordering them all… ha, ha. There are great characters in this story. I always read the teacher with a Scottish accent. She must be the most unobservant teacher ever ….. she doesn’t seem to notice that several of her class have disappeared on an adventure. My other favourite character is the Pirate Tyrannosaurus Rex – to me he should sound like he has a heavy cold and belongs on Eastenders!!!

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks: The really frightful night by Kristina Stephenson

We love books with flaps. What I really love about the Sir Charlie Stinky Socks books is that things are not always as they seem. The characters who should be the ‘baddies’ are not always the ‘baddies’. Sir Charlie Stinky Socks often sorts out the problems by being kind and everything works out in the end. We all like a happy ending at bedtime.

Winnie and Wilbur at the Seaside.

 What could be more normal than a witch spending a hot Summer’s day at the seaside? Again, Winnie is always Scottish when I read this book. A lot of my characters are Scottish, that, Welsh or Liverpudlian. My best accents!!  We love the part of the story where Winnie’s broomstick is washed out to sea and how much Wilbur hates the water. This is a cracking read.

Hubert Horatio by Lauren Child

We are big Lauren Child fans and have many books written by her, from Charlie and Lola books to Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort books. We love her illustrations. This is one of our favourites. I also love ‘That Pesky Rat’. In this book, Hubert Horatio, who is a child genius and his friend, who is also a child genius, have to save the family fortune that his parents are so good at spending. Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton Trent never gives up and his family are all happy in the end.

Picture books as gifts.

I always buy picture books for friends who are expecting babies – usually Hippos go Beserk. Nothing is more special than the joy of sharing a book with your child. I always love to read things that make my children laugh. The sound of little children laughing is priceless.

I hope that these few books have given you some food for thought and ideas for gifts. Any of these would be perfect Christmas or birthday gifts.  I could have kept going and going. I am a pushover for buying books, and spend happy hours in book shops and browsing online. Our bookshelves are at bursting point, 2 and 3 books deep, but to me, books are like friends. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them.

What are your favourite picture books? There were lots that I didn’t fit in like ‘Wild About Books’, ‘On a tall, tall cliff’ and ‘The HIghway Rat’. Let me know what you like to read with your children or grand-children.

See you soon

The Made It Mum. xx

Made it - kids

Halloween printables

Having a Halloween party? Download these free Halloween Printables?

As the days get more Autumnal, my thoughts turn to all the great things we have  to look forward to. As a family, this is our favourite time of the year. We love Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas. These are all times for family fun and festivities, for keeping warm and sharing good times with friends. Here are some ideas and FREE Halloween printables for a great Halloween party. I’ll help you to have a SPOOKTACULAR time. 🙂

Where do you start when planning a party?

Think of the theme for your party first and then the rest of it should fall into place. Check out these FREE Halloween printable invitations for inspiration.

halloween invitation batty  lose your head invitation  halloween bones invitation

haunted house invitation

Halloween printable themes.

As you can see, I have a very ‘corny’ sense of humour. You could use one of the themes from the Halloween printables for your party, or you could make up your own. You could have a ghost theme perhaps and make more ‘spooktacular’ jokes. Perhaps, you could have a vampire theme and talk about people dropping in for a ‘bite’ or you could be werewolves and have a ‘howling’ good time. I think that shows how truly terrible my sense of humour is!!

Halloween decorations

large spiderSo, once you have sent out your invitations, you will need to start thinking about decorations. Last year, we were really impressed by the ranges in the budget shops near us. Poundland and B and M Bargains had large ranges at great prices.

We bought some great bits from the supermarkets too. I think that John bought this long-legged spider for £5 and it created a big impact. Here are some more of the decorations that we made and used last year.

spiders made of pipe cleaners

severed hand sweets


These pipe-cleaner spiders were really effective. When we used the eye-ball lollies, they really took on a character of their own. I made some with two lollies, but I preferred the one-eyed spiders.


These ‘handy’ party bags were a great find – I was going to make these with latex gloves. The ones I found even had finger nails. Kate enjoyed filling them. I like that the lollipops look like finger bones.


sweet glassesThese drinking jars only cost £1 and were themed for Halloween. We bought Halloween-themed sweets to go inside them. My children love these jars. They are great for having by the bedside, rather than having a cup or glass as they are less likely to be spilled. There is the added bonus of course, that I filled them with sweets. What a great gift at the end of a Halloween party.

Halloween Pinterest board.

I am very much a visual learner and work well when I have a picture to go from. Take a look at my Halloween Pinterest board. You’ll find lots of inspiration from great pinners.

Halloween party food

In my next blog post we will think about food for the party. I will make some super easy cupcakes and decorate them with orange buttercream. Everyone loves a cupcake, and honestly, if I can make them – anyone can make them, I am not the Queen of Cooking! ;-). I will show you how to make my famous ‘Severed-head Steve’ as my children call my Halloween Watermelon – I first made him for John’s fourth birthday.

I hope that you enjoyed this post. Get clicking on the FREE Halloween printables and come back for my Halloween Food blog on Wednesday.

The Made it Mum xx



Free Unicorn Printables blog cvoer
Made it - kids

Free Unicorn Printables

Are you having a Unicorn Themed Party?

Unicorns are all the rage. Children and adults love them. If you are having a children’s party, then you may be looking for some great ideas and FREE Unicorn printables to use. Look no further…

In previous blog posts my kids and I have made various Unicorn-related items which would be perfect for a Unicorn themed party. If you have not seen them already, take a look now:

Uni-corn is a tasty treat for your guests, they can even make it themselves. What is important to remember is that this is what you would feed your pet unicorn. If it is good enough for unicorns, then it is good enough for me. 😉   Uni-corn

Unicorn bark would be great for putting in gift bags.  How delicious does this look? It tastes as good as it looks! This would have to be made before the party, so that it had time to set. It is a quick and easy recipe and was great fun to make with my children. They didn’t mind eating it either!


Fluffy Unicorn Slime  will make you the coolest parent in the world. Yes, it’s true. Children are really into Unicorns and they love slime. If you put these two together, then you have hit the jackpot. This will have to be made before your party and you will need some small airtight pots to send it home in. Do not allow your guests to eat their slime!

Fluffy unicorn slime 

Free Unicorn Printables.

Now you have some ideas for the sorts of treats and toys that you could make for your party, there are a few other things that you will need. This is where my Free Unicorn Printables will help. Click each of the pictures to link to a downloadable PDF file, which you can then print at home.

Free Unicorn Printable Invitations. These invitations are A5, with 2 fitting on an A4 sheet of paper. On print properties I print borderless so that the whole invitation prints. You will then need to cut them in half. You will need to fill in the details for your party.

shy unicorn party invitation     unicorn party invitation

 bright unicorn invitation  blue unicorn party



When we were making Unicorn items before, I gave away a great free Unicorn printable poster. Click the picture to download the PDF. Again, these would be good in party bags.

be a unicorn in a field of horses

Free Unicorn Printable Thank you notes

After a party it is great to send Thank you notes. With these Free Unicorn Printable Thank you notes, you can match with the invitations above. Each PDF has one Thank you note on it. These would look great printed on good quality card. You will need to cut them out and fold them before writing your message inside.

thank you card sparkle unicorn   thank you card bright unicorn

         thank you card blue unicorn   thank you card stars unicorn         

There are lots of great products that you can make. For more ideas you can take a look at my Pinterest Page as I have a great Unicorn board. Click on the link on the right side of the page. Alternatively, watch the videos on my Youtube channel that go with these makes.

I hope that these Free Unicorn Printables are useful and would love to hear about your Unicorn party. Who was the party for? Which of the printables did you use? Did you make any of the food?

Have fun and come back soon.

The Made It Mum xx


yellow submarine
Made it - kids

Days out with the kids

So, we’ve nearly come the end of the Summer holidays – those last few precious days … if the kids are bored and you’ve run out ideas for where to go and what to do, here are a few ideas for days out with the kids. These are places that our family has visited this Summer and enjoyed. We live in Derbyshire which is in the Midlands.

Days out with the kids – Historic sites

Newstead Abbey – Nottingham

newstead abbey exterior



We visited Newstead Abbey on a wet Sunday a couple of weeks ago. This was our first visit to Newstead Abbey and we all really enjoyed it.

We arrived at about 10.30 and paid for parking – £6. We worried about not having cash, but the attendant on the gate was very helpful and said that we could use a card machine. He told us where to park and gave us a map of the grounds.

The gardens

newstead abbey japanese garden   newstead abbey water liliesThe gardens were beautiful. There was a lot of water at Newstead Abbey. We loved climbing behind the waterfall and the stepping stones in the Japanese garden. Our picnic lunch  was eaten on a bench over-looking a lake with water lilies. On days out we often take sandwiches with us as feeding a family of five can be expensive! There is also a cafe where you can get sandwiches, cakes and hot food.

Through the walled garden there was a playground where the children had a happy half an hour. After that, we explored the rest of the garden.

newstead abbey waterfall

The house.

We didn’t know anything about the history of the house. The volunteers in the house were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and shared lots of great information. The house had been owned by the poet Byron. There were lots of interesting insights into his life at the house. There was also a fantastic ‘hands-on room’ where there were puzzles, games and dressing up costumes. John rebuilt a 3D skull jigsaw.

This was our first visit to Newstead Abbey – but I am sure that it won’t be our last.


For more details on visiting Newstead Abbey, click the link below.

Days out with the kids – Parks

millhouses trim trail

Millhouses Park – Sheffield

We love  Millhouses Park and were regular visitors when our children were smaller, when we lived in Sheffield. This park just gets better every time we go. We still visit at least three or four times a year.

What can you do at Millhouses?

There are tons of facilities at the park. We enjoy the outdoor gym equipment. There is a skate park for older children and a little ramp course with smaller ramps for younger children.

millhouses outdoor gym

As you walk to the main park where the swings are there is a wooden fitness and balance trail. There are plenty of swings – which my children  always spend a lot of time on and some climbing frames and a climbing wall.

Further on is a water play area just before you come to the boating pond. There are often people with remote control boats and you can take a spin on Swanboat with your family. Next to the pond is the cafe – we have had many a chip butty on wet days in the park!

millhouses swan boats



There are tennis courts and plenty of open areas for riding bikes, playing with a ball or flying a kite. This is all by the side of a beautiful river. We usually manage to have a little ice cream as well.

How much does it cost to visit Millhouses?

You can have a great visit to  Millhouses without it costing the earth – there are lots of places to sit and eat a picnic.

I am sure that if you go to Millhouses Park you will have a great time. For more details,  visit their website by clicking the link below.


Days out with the kids – City visit


museum of liverpool

We visited Liverpool, for the first time, earlier this Summer and enjoyed it so much that we have booked an overnight stay. We also booked tickets for Chester Zoo for the next day as it is only about 40 minutes from Liverpool.

Our visit.

We arrived late in the morning and parked across from the Albert Dock.

sgt pepper suits

We decided to visit the Beatles Story exhibition first. This is great for Beatles fans. We bought a family ticket which was quite expensive at just over £50. We were all given headsets for the audio tour. I’m not a great fan of audio tours though as I think they stop people talking to each other. The headsets did have interesting extra information about the exhibits and videos.

We really liked the reconstruction of streets and the Cavern club and the children liked the Yellow submarine. I think that if you didn’t have the audio tour, then your visit would be much shorter.

yellow submarine

After The Beatles Story, we had lunch. There are lots of bars and restaurants all round the Albert Dock area. You are spoiled for choice really.


What else is there to do in Liverpool?

Also on the Albert Dock is the Liverpool Tate Art gallery with lots of free and some paid exhibitions to view. We liked the modern art and reading the stories behind the art works, but our children are a bit older and they like galleries. There are some great pieces of art outside on the Dock too – like the Ship’s cat and some huge rats!

liverpool art

If you like ships, then there were boats that you could go on and see what it was like on a modern sailing ship below decks.

Our final destination on this visit was to the Liverpool Museum on Albert Dock, where we were greeted by a local brass band playing in the large entrance hall.

It was a beautiful building and we enjoyed looking at the exhibits documenting Liverpool’s history. They had an excellent Beatles section, where Phil stunned everyone with his karaoke version of Imagine. A small boy stood next to me with his mouth wide open! It must have been amazing! 😂

We had great fun in the hands-on toys exhibition playing Mastermind ( a game from the 70s) and Etch-a-sketch. In the picture, John and Kate are attempting to play chess with an all white chess set.

We felt like we had only scratched the surface of what Liverpool had to offer and can’t wait to go back.

If you would like more information about visiting Liverpool, please click on the Liverpool tourist information link below.


Where else might you like to visit?

These are just a few of the visits that we have made as a family of five this year. We like to go out somewhere every couple of days in the holidays and most weekends with our children. I am currently writing an e-book with lots of great places that we have visited as a family. This beautiful picture was taken in the church at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Coming soon …

places to visit with kids