Homemade Blackboard

Chalkboard paint

Here’s a fun project that instantly provides a new kids’ art area and hours (years!) of fun. The first post of a mini-series for these cold, damp days about arty indoors stuff.

If you’ve a patch of wall or cupboard door you don’t mind sacrificing, all you need is a tin of blackboard paint. Otherwise, you can make your own blackboard and put it up somewhere.

Chalk drawing is nice and communal, easily cleaned off surfaces and children with a plain damp cloth and is environmentally friendly (no disposable plastics, no paper waste). What’s not to like?

2018-02-09 09.29.05
Homemade MDF chalkboard attached to the end of a kitchen unit

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Discover Book Swap 2018

Fed up of reading the same books to your toddler night after night? Need some new stories?

This Saturday, 10th February, you can take part in Discover’s annual book swap which takes place at locations across London (you can see them all on this Google map).

Here are just a few places you can go locally to swap books – The V & A building Victoria Park, the Childhood Museum, Stratford Library, and Discover Children’s Story Centre.

The Victoria Park event looks good. It also includes an art session. It’s free, so just turn up 11am-2pm.

Details here.


Toddler-friendly swimming

In spite of the coughs, colds and runny noses, swimming is a reasonably frequent winter activity for us – mainly because it’s a good way of burning up energy when going outside is unappealing.

Leisure pools are a good option for toddlers as they have warm water, slides and shallow pools that little feet can walk into. That’s much more fun than relying on mum or dad or floats to take you where you want.

I know of two leisure pools in striking distance of east London. I wrote a post about the one at Woolwich, the Waterfront Leisure Centre, 18 months ago.

The details are here.

Re-reading the post, those first impressions still hold after a second, more recent, visit. There are just a few things to add:

1. The carpark has closed, but there are signs directing you to alternative carparks.

2. I did mention it last time, but I’m going to say it again, the changing rooms are really annoying. Whether you change in the family area or the regular changing rooms, you have to carry all your clothes to another area where the lockers are. If you manage to carry a not-yet-walking toddler, your clothes and theirs, on your way to get changed after your swim, and somehow manage to be anything other than cold, annoyed and wet, you are a better person than me. (I suggest taking a big bag with you – like an IKEA carrier if you’re to stand any chance of keeping your clothes dry through that process).

3. The area around the Waterfront Leisure Centre is undergoing a lot of development, which – on a sunny day – means there’s a chance to combine a swim with a walk along the river with a trip to a farmer’s market or a cafe at RARE (Royal Arsenal Riverside Explore). You may also want to check out the local museum, Greenwich Heritage Centre.

Coming up next – a post about Leyton Leisure Centre.

Canary Wharf Winter Lights – last chance

If you haven’t yet been to the Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival, you’re running out of time. It ends tomorrow, Saturday 27 January 2018.

All the details are here.

A sneak preview of what you can see around the Crossrail station is here.

And here’s what you’ll see if you head to Canary Wharf tube station.

It’s Friday – hurrah!

Diary dates

Did you know the British Museum has monthly activity sessions called Little Feet for under fives? I did, but I’ve never been despite being a big fan of the museum and having a membership I haven’t used for years.

My problem is I find it impossible to retain random dates in my sleep-deprived head and Little Feat seems to be held fairly randomly.

So, as much as for myself as for you, here are the Little Feet dates for the next three months. As the first date is four days away, it’s possible I might remember this one…

  • Friday 26 January 2018, 10.30am-12 noon – Little Feet: Celebrate China Room 33
  • Friday 9 February 2018, two sessions starting 10.30am and 12.30pm – Little Feet: Explore Your Senses. Studio, booking required (when I looked, it said it was all booked but it might be worth enquiring about returns).
  • Thursday 29 March 2018, 10.30-12 noon – Little Feet: Happy Feet. Studio, booking required.

All sessions are free.

To find out more, and keep track of other events at the British Museum, click here.

Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival

The Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival 2018 is on now (until Saturday 27 January).

Here’s a post I wrote a few days ago with all the details.

And below are some photos.

As we discovered, it’s worth a visit whatever the weather because, if it’s raining, there’s a large number of installations under cover at the Crossrail station and you can always make another visit to see the rest.

If lights are your thing, don’t forget there’s only one more day to view the Lumiere festival at sites around central London (details here). There are some lovely looking things, but central London in the evening with a one-year-old and a four-year-old isn’t for me right now…

This one was my favourite…


Lights at the end of the tunnel

No 31 Intrude Amanda Parer (from canarywharf.com)

Just what we need during these post-Christmas, grey, gloomy days – light!

Tomorrow sees the start of the Canary Wharf Winter Festival which, in previous years, has been a great hit with everyone in my household from the youngest to… er… me.

It runs from Tuesday 16 to Saturday 27 January 2018 and it’s free. There are as many as 33 light sculptures (often combined with music/sound) located throughout Canary Wharf. In my experience, here’s the best way to enjoy some or all of them.

  1. First download the map here.
  2. Work out what you want to see and a route that lasts a toddler-friendly period of time

For me, that means not seeing all the sculptures. Or not in one visit anyway. I tend to look for ones that are interactive, big or interesting in another way. I’ve only had a quick glance through the programme, but here are some that stand out.

  • No 1 – Sonic light bubble. Just look at it!
  • No 10 – Pixels. Illuminated blocks you can build with.
  • No 31 – Intrude. Giant rabbits? I don’t need to know anything more. I’m there.
  • No 32 – Sunlight graffiti. Make graffiti using light – yes, okay then.

Make your way to Canary Wharf as darkness falls. (From about 5pm – it’s extra fun for toddlers to be out ‘late’).

There are a whole ton of places to eat or pick up snacks (For more info, click here).