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Play at Home: Sensory Treasure Boxes

Sensory Treasure Boxes

I knew that having kids would unleash the arts and crafts lover inside me. Pasta shapes, glitter glue, pipe cleaners, PVA – I love all that stuff. Give me some yarn to make a pompom and I’m in heaven. I told you all this sensory stuff was as much for my benefit as the twins’ a couple of weeks ago and I really meant it.

So, while I got out and about to classes pretty early after the babies were born (so important in keeping me sane!), I missed a spot at the local Baby Sensory class because it’s always in such high demand and of course we needed two spaces. The course was on my hit list during pregnancy thanks to my sister’s recommendation but our local area is mummy central so you gotta be quick off the mark. We did eventually start in July, so all was not lost, but in the meantime I wanted to do a bit of sensory stuff at home with the girls to get them started. I put these boxes together at 8 weeks, having seen some similar ones on Pinterest and having read all about the benefits in the only parenting book I bothered with – The Gentle Parenting Book: How to raise calmer, happier children from birth to seven by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. 

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Treasure Boxes (often called baskets) are just simple containers filled lots of objects for little ones to feel and explore. Apparently a treasure box with some natural bits in is best, because while bright, clashing colours and manmade textures are stimulating, studies say that babies and small children actually respond better to and learn more from natural materials and muted colours. From my research, I concluded that mix of everyday objects and a few things a little out of the ordinary should do the trick nicely. 

In simple terms, kids learn through their senses, so treasure boxes provide a wonderland of things to look at, feel, smell, listen to and taste. The stimulation they get from what they play with helps them make connections in their brain and gives them an opportunity to learn and remember, applying what they’ve learnt to their experiences going forward. Studies say that watching a baby play with a treasure box gives us an insight into how their physical, cognitive, emotional and communication skills are developing. Putting items in twos and threes is also proven to help develop numeracy skills. It’s advised that as adults we leave them to it, so when the girls and I get these out, I just offer help when it’s needed – that way they can learn to rely on their instincts instead of being spoonfed.

Nina’s Box:

– a handful of coloured feathers
– a small measuring spoon
– a cork
– half a sponge
– a pompom
– a wooden dinosaur
– pasta shapes
– a foam “N”
– two pipe cleaners – one glittery, one plain
– a pebble from the beach where Grandma & Gramps live
– a string of pompoms
– an interesting ribbon from a gift

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Ada’s Box:

– a handful of coloured feathers
– a measuring spoon
– a cork
– half a sponge
– a pompom
– a wooden dinosaur
– pasta shapes
– a foam “A”
– two pipe cleaners – one glittery, one plain
– a shell from the beach Grandma & Gramps live
– a string of pompoms
– an interesting ribbon from a gift

Our boxes are Wham Boxes from Staples (£5.29 for 4) and the initial letter stickers for the box lids were found by the checkout in Topshop!

For me, it was important that the boxes I made for Nina and Ada were slightly different. We try never to match the girls, as we’re keen to help them develop their own personalities and independence as they get older (especially now most school separate twins into different classes from Reception). Where possible I always pick different colours for them, and if possible a different design (like with the dinos). When the twins play with these together they interact with each other and borrow items from each other’s boxes too – double the fun. It’s great to watch them discovering each other as well as the stuff in the boxes!

Sensory Treasure Boxes

Examples of other stuff you could add to your box:

– pine cones
– conkers
– cloth or fabric scraps
– leaves
– fruit
– keys
– bells or shakers
– hair rollers
– scrunchies
– comb
– toothbrush
– rubber duck

and loads more… get creative! I find it’s best to get these out when the girls are fed and rested, to maximise the time they spend playing. Obviously some of the bits are small so they should never play with these unsupervised either. If you get boxes which fasten tightly, they’re great to travel with too and can provide up to about an hour of quiet time when you’re out and about.

What do think? Fancy giving it a go? Let me know how you get on in the comments or over on Twitter @whipuntilfluffy. Happy playing!

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

So now Halloween is over, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas right? I know, I know… eye roll. It’s weird for me to get festive anytime pre-December 1st, but a few weeks ago I was invited to spend a bright but crisp Sunday afternoon with Katie Laura Flowers in Harrogate, to discuss wreath making and Christmas decorations. My first thought? Oh god, not yet. But it turns out I really rather enjoyed myself. Plus, it pays to get ahead with these things. After a few hours I had well and truly slipped into the festive spirit, and picked up a few new skills too.

I must say, wreath making has always somewhat appealed to me. I love the way they look, whatever they’re made from, and I even bought a foam ring from Hobbycraft last year, to put some of my artistic ideas to canvas, so to speak. It never actually happened, and the ring stayed starkers all winter long, giving me a slight pang of guilt every time it caught my eye.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura FlowersWreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

After my workshop with Katie, I honestly think I’ll make a wreath of my own every year. The whole process was surprisingly easy and, like with most arts and crafts, I found it extremely therapeutic. I zoned out of my busy brain and sipped on tea for a few hours, chatting away to my blogger friends. I left Katie’s gorgeous studio feeling significantly calmer and with something pretty awesome to carry home in my (extremely grubby) hands.

We started with a wire frame. Katie recommended this, and always works with them herself, because they weigh less than the other options. Better for hanging, see. We wrapped flexible floristry wire all the way around the frame in a zigzag pattern. This provides a good framework for your foliage, preventing fall out, keeping everything solid even when your wreath is upright. Ever the perfectionist, I wove mine pretty tight, though I was told this wasn’t necessary and I took at least ten minutes longer than than anyone else. I felt pretty proud though.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

After winding the wire, we kept it attached and began gathering greenery. We clipped off larger strands and bunched a few together to create a little posy. Katie taught us lot of clever tricks, like putting bushier plants towards the back to make others stand forward, giving your wreath a voluminous shape. We attached each posy with a few more loops of floristry wire to secure it. We kept adding small posies, working in a clockwise motion around the ring, each new posy on top of the next. Tips here include making sure you cover the width of the frame, working outwards – the wider the leaves reach outside of the loop the better, really. What you’re after is something really full and bountiful, and not necessarily perfect symmetry either.

After the green base layer was complete, we dotted in flashes of colour. This is when an artistic side really comes in helpful. The urge to place bundles of colour at regular intervals around the ring is strong, and taking a more relaxed, and (dare I say it) random, approach is key. I played around with mine for a while, and though there was loads on offer, I chose to keep it pretty simple with skimmia and a little statice, along with that Christmas staple – berries!

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

What was really great about the workshop is that we used a lot of materials that can be found in your garden or local area. Be sure to check up on the rules for wild flower picking in your area, but if you look in the right spots, there’s no need to spend any cash apart from the minimal costs of the ring and wire. If in doubt, you can always head to your local florist. They should have all the basics, even if it’s not out on display, so make sure you ask!

We used a mix of fresh and dried foliage, and the glorious thing is that everything fresh will dry well too. That means you can hand your wreath for months if you like, without it starting to look a bit dodgy. It might even look better. If you keep it inside, just mist it every now and again to keep it fresh.

Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers Wreath Making with Katie Laura Flowers

If you live anywhere near Harrogate, I’d really recommend Katie’s workshops. There are currently two options on offer. The wreath making workshop lasts a few hours, and like me, you’ll craft and leave with your own Christmas wreath. This would be awesome for a pre-Crimbo treat for mums and daughters (or fathers and sons!), a fun activity with friends or even a festive hen-do. Katie has a huge breadth of knowledge – from facts about the type of plants to use, to showing you how to wire-in delicate succulents to make your wreath that little bit different. This workshop costs £55, but mention me when you book and you’ll receive a 10% discount, taking it down to a bargain-tastic £49.50. Each class last three hours, includes fresh materials, coffee, tea and nibbles. They take place on 29th November and 7th December. You can also attend a simple step-by-step demo. These will set you back £20, include tea, coffee and nibbles, and are happening on the 18th and 30th November, and 2nd December.

This class suited me down to the ground. I’ve always fancied a bit of floristry and this really whet my whistle to try some more at home. I nearly always have a fresh bunch of flowers on my kitchen island, but I tend to buy cheap. Intricate arrangements and displays seem so out of my price range, but this workshop really convinced me that I can try some myself, without spending a ton of cash (hey, we can’t all be Elton John, ok?)

Have you ever tried your hand at flower arranging or floral crafts? Got anything exciting planned for the festive season?

Disclaimer: I attended a workshop at Katie Laura Flowers free of charge, thanks to an invitation from Emma. This hasn’t affected my opinion at all, I loved my experience of wreath making.