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  • Dreaming Of A White Christmas? Top Snow Play Alternatives

    There’s plenty on the blog about sledges, winter play ideas and snow-based fun, so we thought you’d be all set this December for icy activities. And then we saw the weather forecast.

    The long anticipated white stuff doesn’t look like it’s putting in an appearance anytime soon. For young children addicted to Frozen and conditioned by movies to believe it isn’t Christmas without a blizzard, this may come as a crushing disappointment.

    We can’t squeeze snow from the clouds, but we can help you cushion the blow with these top ideas for faking that wintery wonderland feeling.

    #1 Marshmallow Snowballs

    Marshmallows make a great snowball substitute. You can keep it simple by giving each player a small bag of fluffy marshmallows and letting them go all out. Or for older children (and adults, who will definitely want to be in on this game) set up a dodgeball-style game, where anyone hit with a marshmallow or has their throw caught, switches to the other team. Regardless of how you play, set a rule about not aiming above the shoulders. These are soft and fairly painless, but anything hitting you in the eye hurts so is best avoided.

    #2 Or Paper Snowballs This is a top game to play on Christmas afternoon. Take all that leftover, ripped, screwed up wrapping paper and put it to good use. Assign each player a stack of paper and allocate a set amount of time (5 or 10 minutes for them to create their own paper snowballs). Then let the mayhem begin.

    #3 Make A Snow Scene This is best done in a large tub, old splash pool or a water play table. Use some cheap bars of soap and grate to create realistic snow. Add dolls and action figures, those around 5 inches tall work best, to create a snow scene. Then your children can play in the snow on a small scale. #4 Fake Snow Sensory Bin This one also calls for a tub or similar container. Mix 3 cups of bicarbonate soda (you can buy it by the sack load online, much cheaper than buying from the baking aisle), with ½ cup of cheap hair conditioner to create fluffy, squishable, moldable snow. Add arctic creatures, and glass pebbles or marbles that have been cooled in the fridge to create a multi-sensory experience.

    #5 Sledge On The Beach Thanks to the long and slender nature of our island, a good number of our readers are positioned near to the coast. If your children are desperate for a sledge ride, and you have good upper body strength, head to the beach. You should be able to pull a sledge along the sand provided it is dry and not too stony. To really tire them out, get your children to team up and pull you along.

    For more fun and festive blog posts, go to the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

  • Creative Ways To Make It Look Like Santa’s Been In Your Garden

    In an ideal world, the Night Before Christmas, we’d receive a heavy sprinkling of snow, thus providing the perfect canvas upon which you could create plausible Santa footprints.

    But we all know that’s not going to happen.

    A genius idea I have seen on Pinterest shows snowy white footprints inside the house. Carpet powder (you do the shake n vac, to get the freshness back…) or talc is dusted around a wellington boot, giving the impression snow has sprinkled from Santa’s footwear and onto the floor.

    It looks magical.

    But alas is deeply flawed.

    If there’s no snow outside, how did Santa manage to bring snow inside.

    If he picked up the snow on his boots at the North Pole, why didn’t the heat from his feet cause it to melt.

    If the snow was sprinkled on the carpet by Santa visiting at midnight, why hasn’t it melted 6-7 hours later when the central heating has been on all night.

    So as festive as the sprinkled talc may look, it’s not fooling anyone over the age of 3. Worse still it’s likely to generate a whole load of questions you are just not ready to handle yet.

    In a bid to bring the presence of Father Christmas to our back garden, I have been on a research mission.

    Here are the top three clues to search for in your back garden, that prove Father Christmas has paid you a visit.

    #1 Mud. Lots Of It The ground is wet. Reindeer, a sleigh and a portly gentleman in wellie boots is sure to leave some lawn damage. For an authentic Santa landing use an unloved mug, turned upside down, to make hoof dents in the lawn. Then turn it the right way up and drag two lines about 5 feet apart, running backwards from the hoof prints to show where the sleigh landed. A nice scraping of mud on the back door mat will prove Santa was courteous enough to wipe his feet before coming in.

    #2 White Fur Trim Father Christmas is a jolly fellow, who likes to play as much as any child. If you have a climbing frame or swing in your back garden, chances are he had a little frolic on it before re-boarding the sleigh. A little white fluffy material caught at the top of the slide, or on the swing chains will be just the evidence you need to show your children.

    #3 Carrot So you put a carrot on the kitchen table, next to the mince pie and glass of milk. In the morning, there’s just the top left, proving beyond reasonable doubt that Rudolph has enjoyed a delicious snack. Wrong! Firstly, the reindeer are not coming in your house to eat. The carrot must go out to them. So why would Santa come back in the house, to put the leftovers (by now covered in reindeer dribble) on your lovely clean plate. Secondly, have you ever seen how messy it is when a reindeer eats a carrot? Make up some reindeer dribble with a little cornflour mixed with water, then add a sprinkling of carrot, and splosh onto your patio to recreate a realistic reindeer dining experience.

    For more fun, festive and frolicking ideas, check out the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

  • Eerily Educational Halloween Crafts

    Halloween isn't just about scaring yourself silly, and stuffing your face with sweets. It's a good opportunity to motivate children to learn through crafting.

    Get them engaged by saying you need help making preparations for Halloween, and don't mention that these activities are educational.

    Pumpkin Hammering

    Why oh why do we persist on carving our pumpkins?

    Reasons why I hate carving pumpkins: * It looks really dangerous with those knives; * It is so messy; * Every year the pumpkins look the same as it's hard to be artistic; * I usually end up doing the carving myself as the children get tired.

    There are many alternative ways to decorate a pumpkin, including sticking on gems, and painting it, but my favourite method involves a hammer.

    You can use a regular pin hammer, then knock in drawing pins, golf tees, or even small picture nails. It's best to outline a face using felt-tip first, then hammer in the pins wherever they are needed. This is much easier than carving, a great stress reliever, and children never get bored of using hammers.

    Giant Spider Web Lacing

    Give the children a ball of wool each, and ask them to lace a spiderweb out in the garden by weaving in and out of the climbing frame, or whatever large play equipment you have available.

    Use different coloured wool for each child to make it easier for them to keep track of their web.

    Give An Anatomy Class

    Draw out a huge picture of the human body, a make cut-outs of all the vital organs, and large bones. Ask the children to identify what the body part is, and whereabouts in the body it should go. Once the body is completed it can double up as a Halloween wall decoration.

    Play Dough Pumpkins

    Play dough is great for developing fine motor skills in young children. Make play dough pumpkins with balls of orange dough, and a cut out green stalk for the top. Alternatively use pipe cleaners as legs to make play dough spiders. For added fun and sensory stimulation, sprinkle some glitter into the dough before you start shaping it.

    Spaghetti Spiderwebs

    Cook spaghetti in coloured water, drain, then remove to cool. Once cooled dip each strand into a pool of PVA glue then arrange on a piece of greaseproof paper to create a spiderweb. Once the glue has dried you will be able to remove the paper, and hang the spiderweb as a decoration.

    Freaky Footprints

    This is a craft that even the youngest family members can enjoy.

    An upside down footprint looks spookily like a ghost. Paint the kids' feet white, then ask them to step onto black paper. When the paint is dry just add googly eyes and an open screaming mouth.

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