So thirteen yeas on, and struggling to find original birthday party ideas?
Firstly, what? A mother of a teenager?
Now I’m over that… I still have to bake a cake and organise some fun because even though he’s thirteen now, he’s still my baby and expecting to be pampered! So I’m handing the blog over to him to tell you what we got up to….
THIRTEEN YEAR OLD WRITES:
“last weekend for my 13th birthday I went to to Delta Force‘s amazing paintball experience with my friends. I went having heard about how epic it was from my younger 11yo brother as he had been for his friend’s birthday.He described it as one of the ‘best experiences ever’, and when I got there it totally lived up to my expectations. It even surprised my Dad at how fun it was to run around splattering people with bright paint. We went to six different areas and played two games in each of them, my personal favourite was the Berlin Wall where there is a massive wall and sniper towers on each side. We played capture the flag witch was fun and really exhilarating (and my team won!)
I also really enjoyed speed-ball which was a barren wasteland with only barrels to protect your team; speed-ball was a ‘last man standing’, and although our team lost it was really funny because my dad threw a paint bomb (for 18s and over only) into a building and sparks came out through the window then a wave of red paint and finally a long trail of people trudged out of the building covered head to toe in paint.
With or without the paintbombs, Delta Force is an amazing paintball facility were you can experience hours of tireless fun and I would really recommend it to everyone. :D”
It’s quite some organisational feat – and located in some beautiful countryside… I had a chat with the venue manager in Surrey, he told me that Delta Force entertain over 600,000 kids each year!
There was a good mix of boys, and girls playing on the Saturday morning, from age 10 up, and for smaller kids, they offer mini ball at selected centres for kids aged 8-10 years old; featuring lighter, less powerful equipment and halved playing times – all in all a great day out, if a little wet and muddy! Nobody seemed to mind the weather though, and they can’t wait to go again!
Anyone who knows me, knows what a massive fan I am of Jennie Maizels…
I became aware of Jennie’s iron-on patches when I was working with Green Baby – so quite a while ago now!
So when I found a love for instagram, I was delighted to catch up with Jennie again and to tell EVERYONE I knew to take a look at her fabulous visual sketchbook holiday diaries.
Recently I have started a weekly instagram photo challenge #sgiew (more on that here)and asked Jennie if she would be a guest judge – we were delighted when she agreed, and I asked her to tell us a bit more about herself and her new #sketchbookclub:
We asked Jennie what had influenced her early days as an artist:
Jennie: I grew up just outside London, my parents are both Artists too, so it was a very creative childhood (we didn’t even have a TV!). Growing up with two artists could not help but inspire me. My parents run the Outsider Art Magazine, Raw Vision
My father is also an art collector, so our house was crammed with sculptures, paintings,
murals and mobiles. I cannot think of a more creative environment. My parents receive
coach loads of visitors who wish to see my father’s amazing Outsider Art collection, so I
feel very privileged to have grown up surrounded by such inspiration!
I am very lucky, I live in heart of the beautiful Hampshire countryside in a village called
“Braishfield’ with thatched cottages and a village pond. It is classically English and we love
it! I have a studio on a remote farm, it’s incredibly peaceful but very hard to find, we have
to string up balloons and signs every time we have a visitor so they can find us.
Primarily I am an illustrator but I also hold online courses and run my small business where we supply my Pop-Up Books, Stationery and Iron/Stick-on Patches to the world…
My studio is crammed full of sketchbooks, paint and of course pencils. I have always had a real love affair with coloured pencils and keep them in colour coordinated tins, I use a
brand called Prismacolor that I have shipped from the States, so I have a vast collection!
Sketchbook Club started as a result of my complete obsession with Sketchbooks.
I keep prolific holiday journals, I find them so absorbing, relaxing and fulfilling, I now can’t
go on holiday without completing one.
I am a complete Instagram addict, I love how it connects people, an instant snapshot of
what people are up to, both creatively and domestically, I find it fascinating. (it also appeals to my nosiness!). Illustration can be quite an isolating profession, so being able to show the world your work in progress is incredibly positive and a great way to gauge future reactions to your published work.
It was through Instagram that Sketchbook began. I was posting images of my holiday
journals and also of the work I was teaching in my Sketchbook Club here in my studio and
was overwhelmed by peoples responses. This lead to an huge demand to hold an online
version, so the Online Sketchbook Club was born.
It’s been absolutely amazing, so fabulous to see the community growing. Each module has a hashtag so people can show/comment/advise etc. on pieces of work. Have a look at the first model #SketchbookclubHouses and you’ll see what I mean.
I actually get quite emotional when I scroll through the feeds, I can’t believe so may people
are taking part!
Sketchbook Club Course two is launching in a few weeks and I can’t wait to see what
people create from it.
I truly believe that given the right tools and guidance, anyone can draw.
It is all about having the fear of the blank page taken away, I never start to illustrate without knowing what I am about to draw, you wouldn’t bake a cake without a recipe, or play the piano without music, so I don’t see the difference. I am just giving people the ‘recipe’ to create something they will be enjoy creating and be hugely proud of.
I have kept sketchbooks since I was a little girl and encouraged my children to do the
same. there is something a little bit magic about them. No pressure (just turn the page and
start over if you are not happy), portable (I never leave home without one) and completely
People who have literally never drawn before, have got involved with my Sketchbook Club
and are now drawing as their main crafting hobby. It fills me with indescribable pride and
makes me happier than I have ever felt before in my career.
September means birthday cakes in our house, and every year the boys put in their requests for party fun and cake style and flavour… from a Star Wars themed Yoda, to a Dragon (same food colouring, so that was OK!) through to your standard Lemon Drizzle Cake… This year however, the party request was for trampolining, ‘free jumping’ and his OWN chocolate cake recipe! So 10yo-soon-to-be-11yo spent the evening before his birthday MAKING and BAKING his own cake, and a quick dash for some Maltesers in the morning, decorated it himself before we bundled five of his friends off to Acton for some bouncing action over at Oxygen FreeJumping. Well, we couldn’t be more impressed – all of us (five boys, and two mums) LOVED it – we started off with a game of dodge-ball – this was a great introduction, as we weren’t quite sure where to try first – the Oxygen FreeJumping staff were lovely and organised a game, explaining the rules, so we got stuck straight in! And guess what? I won!The design of the venue is stunning, the bold bright blues and yellows are really striking – loved the strong graphics – this place really IS jumping.
The boys’ absolute favourite activity was the Gladiator style jousting area over a large pool of blue foam… they spent AGES battling and giggling, and tumbling into a pit of spongy foam blocks.
I personally loved bouncing on the trampolines around the basketball hoops, probably because a simple bounce helped you score with EVERY throw!
Every participant wears a pair of ‘jumping socks’ which caused some amusement, and then delight that they got to keep them – and it was great to see the kids having such a brilliant time on the expanse of trampolines – we so want to go again!
A big thank you to the team at Oxygen FreeJumping, for their fabulous facilities, great family fun, and to the cafe staff who also made us so welcome with great coffee too.
Well we timed that badly, last minute booking of a B&B near Romsey for a friend’s birthday party and I find that every SINGLE room is gone already…. aaagghhh…. so I asked colleagues if they could recommend somewhere – and Premier Inn was suggested as an option. Phew, they had a room! And it was perfectly located for the party – just a 10 minute taxi ride away – spot on! The room was lovely, really nice decor, welcoming efficient staff.
So we jumped in the shower and dashed out for something to eat at a pub suggested by local friends, the three tuns – fab food, can highly recommend. At the end of a LONG but fun evening with friends, we returned to the comfort of our room at the Premier Inn – the bed super comfy, and sooo quiet – they have a designated ‘quiet zone’ which was most appreciated – such a good night’s sleep!
Breakfast the next day was a relaxed affair, with veggie sausage options as well as muesli, fresh fruit, organic yoghurts, and soya milk for the coffee. Couldn’t fault the food!
Now, we went without the kids this time, however, we noticed a LOT of families were staying at the hotel too, and it transpires that this is the perfect hotel for an overnight stop on your way to Paultons Family Theme Park, the home of Peppa Pig World – who knew?!
Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company Plate Pledge
You may have previously read my Kids Company article for Britmums – and I have been lucky enough to meet Camila Batmanghelidjh on a couple of occasions – She is an amazing and awe-inspiring person.
Every week, thousands of children rely on Camila’s charity Kids Company for their main meal of the day. They come to be fed, to learn how to cook, and to find a safe place to be a child. Cooking together and meal-planning, has been a really important time for my children and I, and we often find time to bake the odd cake together even now with all of the homework they seem to have as they get older.
We were reading Jay Raynor’s article in last month’s Observer and the statistics still astound us – that today through Kids Company’s centres in north and south London, Liverpool and Bristol, they now support 36,000 children and provide 3,000 meals a week. Of those children, 85% rely on Kids Company for the main meal of the day. “We find children coming to us with quite severe issues of malnutrition,” says campaigns director Laurence Guinness. “We have toddlers with rickets, 10-year-olds who look like seven-year-olds. When you see adolescents looking skeletal you understand why they join a gang.” “There is no responsible adult caring for these children. There’s a gaping hole in the safety net. There is no allocation of resources to the lone child.”
My 10 year old son has pledged £2 today to the Plate Pledge – he asked me to type: “This is from my 10year old son – who today cooked a fish supper for our family and baked and iced a cake. He is giving £2 from his piggy bank towards a healthy tasty meal for another child tonight.”
As well as having the privilege of meeting Camila, I have also been lucky enough to work with some amazing beautifully minded brands, and I was very proud to read this little note from Camila and Kids Company last week:
“We are delighted that 1 Two Kids has decided to continue its support of Kids Company through the Sophie La Girafe Baby skincare range in the UK and Republic of Ireland. It is wonderful to have this support for our 36,000 vulnerable children, young people, adults and their families,” says Camila Batmanghelidjh CBE.
Kids Company recently launched a challenge to pledge support for a further 580,00 meals for these children – so far, with donations from as little as £2 each, equivalent to a plate of food to help make a hungry and vulnerable child happy – they have reached an amazing 549, 833 – to reach their TARGET: 580,000 visit kidscoplatepledge.org to learn how you can help too.
Piper – a Minecraft toolbox for anyone to create and invent with technology. Build electronics. Invent power-ups. Create the future.
So – the kids were pretty excited last week to hear from Mark at Piper all about their fabulous new toolbox for budding engineers who happen to like Minecraft!
As a family we tend to use ‘screentime’ as a reward at the end of the week, for best behaviour, and finishing homework without it being an excruciating teeth-pulling exercise. Minecraft is their favourite ‘go to’ game, and without further ado, read what our 10yo thought of Piper, and then watch the video!
In short, my son, 10yo RB says this:
“Minecraft toolbox – Build electronics with Piper. Piper is brilliant for seven and ups. I think it is really awesome because the instructions are in the game so it would make children and adults interested in making things outside of the game. Minecraft is a good way to get people that like Minecraft to play it. It will make a brilliant Christmas or birthday gift. It will entice people to play because it is easy to build so you can get started really quickly. Raspberry Pi is what all of the software runs on. Raspberry pie is a mini computer if you’ve got all the right equipment and gadgets luckily all of that comes in a really well made wooden box. The screen comes readymade and all fits in.
There are ten action-packed levels to complete in the game. You have to make your own buttons and fit the wires in the right places. The mouse comes with the box so you can look around.
There are lots more interesting exciting things about the game but they are for you to find out.”
RB Age 10 says – “NOW watch this video!”
How it works:
– First you assemble the wooden toolbox and connect it with the Raspberry Pi 2, a 7 inch LCD display, a power bank, and an assortment of electronics.
– Once assembled, you enter a Minecraft adventure map viewable on the LCD screen.
– Your Mission: guide a robot to rescue astronauts on a foreign planet. The robot’s hardware is damaged on the way over, and you have to build it in real-life to control the robot in the game to save the day!
How this educates kids:
– Each gadget you build gives you a special power-up and progresses you through the game
– First build the controller to navigate your robot. Add switches to activate hidden bridges and doors. A row of lights to serve as a proximity sensor and more.
My little blonde boys are both incredibly fascinated by the Orient, and at the beginning of every year are keen to go to Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. We are lucky enough to be close to London’s Chinatown and a couple of years ago they bought some rather lovely window clings, graphic and colourful, but really too big for their bedroom windows in our Edwardian house.
So this year, we came up with a fun way of making their own, from a template I created here (and if you click here and here you can download and print these Chinese New Year printables yourself too).
You will need:
1) Print off the Chinese New Year printables template here and here
2) Packet of Sharpie Pens (*which you can get here in the UK and here in the US)
3) Pack of Clear CD wallets or any plastic stationery sleeves
4) Blu tack
1) once you’ve printed off the Chinese New Year printables template, blu tack the clear plastic cd wallet into position over the graphic and start tracing around the illustration with a black sharpie pen.
2) Then simply colour in with a selection of reds, yellow, oranges. Or if you fancy a change, try a range of greens and blues – that looks great too!
3) When you’ve finished, take the CD wallet and blu tack it to the window! voila!
To watch a video of how we did these Chinese New Year printables, pop over to Red Ted Art’s YouTube channel here where we have made a guest appearance (again!) showing you how to do this, you’ll notice that I got bored with the colouring in bit, and Maggy had to take over… as a Chinese inspired art project however, both of my boys LOVED doing these, and it kept them busy and quiet for AGES!
10 yo specifically asked for a sheep… as it IS year of the sheep!
Lucky Boy! He’s next on the list for a room makeover, and has very strong ideas himself of how that might look!
Room Makeover for boys
He’s always had the biggest room – and it’s been the shared ‘playroom’ for the two boys, however, with more and more homework and less time to play with ALL of their toys, we thought it would be a good time for a bit of a de-clutter.
He has a great cabin bed already, so we’re going to give that a lick of paint, and although we have watched a great video on youtube, with a ‘space up’ bed which opens up to store your clothes and books – I’m not sure we’re quite ready for that yet!
So we’re planning a room makeover for boys refresh with some fab brick patterned wallpaper, love the look of this white loft brick wall mural on one wall, and a chalkboard on another – using blackboard paint, and some fun cupboard handles to hold the chalk!
He really rather likes yellow too, so we’re on the hunt for an anglepoise lamp – and an Alarm Clock is a must – He struggles with the mornings!
He also has a sofa bed in his room, which we’re going to keep there, it’s ideal when unexpected guests arrive, and he bunks in with his brother – so we’ll add a few scatter cushions from new Finnish designer Nora instagram.com/projektityyny to tie it all together – His brother has plans for his own room too so watch this space!
The boys just love a paper craft, and we can thank our lovely friend Maggy for that (she told me to say that…) – Maggy taught them how to make origami paper boats when they were very little, and now at 10, the youngest is forever making Ninja Stars, Jumping Frogs and Paper cranes – and now his latest, the Traditional Paper Star.
For this lovely origami traditional Paper Star you need 14-15 square origami sheets, of various colours (we tried to persuade him to make them in Christmas colours, however, he is ‘his own man’ and went with these colours!) It literally only takes minutes to learn how to make this!
Fold each piece of paper to the long triangular shape, follow the youtube instructions linked here… demonstrated by the lovely Maggy from RedTedArt… and insert one into another until you join the first with the last to create this star shape – how lovely, we’ll be hanging this creation on the Christmas Tree next weekend!