Category: General

I have always enjoyed watching the birds in the garden. As a child my grandfather gave me a book about birds so that I could read and learn about those I saw.
When I moved into my own home after getting married, my dade me a wooden bird table with a roof we only put out stale bread really, but managed to attract a few passing birds.
I really became interested in feeding garden birds after I suffered a stroke which has left me disabled, I spend a lot of time sitting in an arm chair beside a window, which overlooks the back garden. Unfortunately the garden is too low for me to see the ground while sitting, so my clever husband made a bird table at the right height

 

This has been wonderful for me to see wood pigeons, starlings, sparrows, black birds and a robin who frequently visits to feed on the died fruit and seeds that we supply.
He has also hung feeders containing peanuts and sun flower hearts from the garage roof that I can look at.

The biggest success, however is a gift I received from an elderly relative of a fat ball holder, the starlings can’t get enough of this. I heard on Spring-watch that there are a shortage of home bred starlings, I think that I have them all on my feeder as I recently counted 15 young fledglings feeding at once.


When I was a child minder I helped the children to make bird cakes from seeds , nuts and suet mixed together with melted lard and packed into yogurt cartons, left to set and then we hung them from a tree near the playroom window. The children enjoyed monitoring which types of birds liked to feed from them, it was mostly blue tits.

We also have a plastic bird table on the lawn which has water available for the birds to drink or bath in, we let the water go green as this encourages insects giving the birds natural food as well.


My husband has fixed a nesting box for the birds where I can see it, we have witnessed the odd blue tit going inside to investigate but up to now nothing has nested in it which is a shame as he has rigged a camera inside so that I can see anything that develops. I will keep hoping!
If you would like to attract birds to feed in your garden place the food somewhere safe away from cats, also refrain from throwing food onto the floor as this may attract rats rather than birds.
HAPPY BIRD WATCHING!
As always questions/comments are welcome
Karen
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This weeks post goes back to 2004, I was working as a very busy registered child minder and loving every minute of it.

I lived within walking distance of a park, but more often, than not, would drive the children roughly 10 miles to the next town where there was an amazing park complete with a paddling pool

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The little equipment it had was so old, that my mum had a photo of me, as a child, sitting on the same sea-saw ( I was 43 years old!).I was sitting in the park, one day,with another child minder, discussing how wonderful it would be, if the council would upgrade our park. I decided that it wasn’t any good to just complain, but I needed to do something AND I DID! I put together a petition the next day…

I began by just asking friends and neighbours to sign and everyone, I asked, spurred me on, saying it was a brilliant idea.

Next I  contacted the local papers and radio. It snowballed like crazy. My first letter was published in one paper and I was featured on the front page of another. Myself and the children were becoming quite famous. I must point out, that I did obtain written permission from the child minded children’s parents, before any of this went ahead.

One day, I received a phone call from the local television company asking if I would appear on their news programme, at first, I thought it was my husband, playing a prank, but quickly realised it was for real. I arranged to meet with them, in half an hour, at the park, for filming. Thoughts of, what shall I wear?and I need my roots colouring, went through my mind, but, in reality, I ran a comb through my hair, put on some lipstick and made a dash to the park. When we arrived the camera man, asked me to approach a lady and ask her to sign the petition, while he filmed. I seemed to turn into a wooden top ( a children’s T.V.  programme, where the characters were made of wood and therefore, had stiff joints)

After filming, we walked home, collecting more signatures on the way. Sitting down, later that evening, to watch the news, I felt sick, what if it looked terrible? but luckily, it was great, I came across well and the children loved seeing themselves on television, except for, my 12 year old son, who was not impressed, when he was shown. on the roundabout, with a girl!

The council, said, soon after, that the upgrade would happen, but then came up with one excuse after another and it was looking more unlikely. I then decided to step it up and along, with some other child minders, we came up with a slogan. B.U.R.P. Battle to upgrade Rock Park. I printed loads of posters

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and handed them out to the public, who displayed them in house and shop windows, on garden gates and in cars, one man, was even seen with one attached to his push bike saddle.

Next, I organised a get together to hand over my petition, to councillors, outside the civic centre. In total, I had collected over 2,400 signatures and it was tied altogether with a red ribbon, as I proudly handed it over. Of course, the media, were there, in force I had also asked members of the public to join me to make a sort of demonstration. I must admit, I did have nightmares, that no one came, but needn’t have worried, as over 150 parents, grand parents and children came, we had made placards to hold, saying, UPGRADE OUR PARK , WE WANT SOMEWHERE DECENT TO PLAY, and such like. We then marched in a circle, with me as the leader, followed by the children, chanting ” What do we want?”

” A new park!” ”

When do we want it?”

” Now!”.

One of the radio stations recorded this, for their news bulletin,the next day . A few older children, also stood on the pavement, with signs, asking passing traffic to hoot if they agreed, this sounded great too.

I am happy to report that in October 2007 the new play park was officially opened, I was invited along with some of the children that had helped,

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< unfortunately, I became ill in February, so have had to give up my beloved child minding and haven’t been able to use the park, as I had planned, although I am informed, that local children and their parents love it. Hopefully, one day, I will recover enough to child mind again and will use ‘Karen’s park’ , as it is now known.

As this story shows, if you feel passionate about something and get enough people together, a lot can be achieved. We never got the paddling pool, so families, still travel 10 miles, for that enjoyment, but the equipment, in the local park is now wonderful.

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As always, any questions/comments are most welcome.

Karen

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Karen

 

The subject of this weeks blog, is a suggestion, from Erika; thanks Erika.

Before I start, I want to point out that I am very bias towards child minders (as I worked as one, for 14 happy years, only giving up due to ill health)


Child minders usually work alone, in their own homes and many have their own children.

My personal feeling is that babies are better with a child minder, than, say, a nursery setting, as a child minder is in a home enviroment and the adult to child ratio is a lot lower. It was one under one, three under five and six under eight  in my day. Child minders also cover a wide age range, usually birth – 14 years, so your child could stay with a child minder for many years, including before and after school and during school holidays, if necessary.

Most of my work came from word of mouth, so ask around at your child’s school. toddler groups, etc. if anyone knows of a good child minder.. Health visitors are also a good port of call, or contact Ofsted for a list of registered child minders, in your area.

My advice, would be to visit several before making your decision. Although all childminders, follow strict Ofsted rules and regulations, we are all quite different from one another and you need to find one that is on ‘the same wave length’!

Initally you will need to make phone contact. to check on vacancies and then make an appointment to visit.I used to try to interview prospective parents, during the day, while I was working, if possible, to give them the feel  of my setting while it was in use.

During the visit, parents should be shown, the registration certificate ( ideally this should be on display), insurance document, details of policies, Ofsted reports, first aid certificate and other qualifications gained, she should also explain about things like accidents / inicidents and make out a contract, if you decide to go ahead,so every one is clear about every thing ( like fees, arrangements for non attenance etc.)

Questions to ask the child minder are  how is behaviour managed? will there be extra fees for outings or  meals? ( or should a packed lunch be provided) what happens if a child is taken ill during the day,ages of other children who will be at setting at the same time, etc.

My last piece of advice is to go with your gut instinct, if it doesn’t feel right look else where. Most of my child minding parents told me that they knew when we first met, that I was right for them and their offspring. I have made some life long friends from both parents and children from my time as a child minder.

As always questions/ comments are welcome.

Karen

 

 

I have been a horse lover for as long as I can remember always hoping to get my own( read more about this in my e book Equestrian dreams available to down load from Amazon) so when a friend asked if I would like to assist with bathing her horse I jumped at the chance.

I started by wetting Luke a 16.4 hand bay gelding with the hose pipe, his owner Michelle  did the high parts that I was unable to reach from my wheel chair, next I rubbed the shampoo into the lower parts

 

Luke is an amazing horse and wasn’t phased at all by the ‘silly woman’ who was attempting to wash him from a sitting position! I then rinsed off the shampoo using the hose again

, then a sweat scraper enabled me to remove the excess water,

as it was a warm day he was fine to be left to dry off completely in the sunshine.

Finally as a thank you I fed Luke some carrots and planted a kiss on his nose.

I would like to say a big thank you to Luke’s owner, Michelle Clayton for letting me experience a fantastic morning at the stables and to my sister, Kim Watts who not only accompanied me but also took the photos. I have written an earlier post on my experience of riding for the disabled.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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This weeks post is going away from my usual topic of parenting/child minding tips and advice.

Recently I have been fortunate in that I have managed to lose a stone in weight quite quickly and when a friend asked how I had achieved this I decided to blog about it.

I have never had a weight problem before, in fact, when I was in my 20’s  I was at the park with my children on a warm day wearing shorts and a cropped top, I came across a work colleague who stopped to chat  then he said, “The word Gandhi comes to mind, Karen” I knew that I was on the slim side, but was I that skinny! This is a picture of before I gained weight

I suffered a major stroke 10 years ago and add to the fact that I was getting older the pounds and then the stones crept up on me.

I will admit to comfort eating too. My husband who also became my carer would reward me with a chocolate bar or cream cake when he thought that I had tried hard at my physio exercises, this became a joke that I shared with friends, if he gave me grapes with my morning coffee he wasn’t overly impressed but if I was given a slice of cake or biscuits he was pleased.

In February of this year I had a fall which happens occasionally  and usually my ‘super Geordie’ husband  would pick me up and put me back on my feet  ( I am unable to help myself as I have very limited use of my left hand side) on this occasion when he attempted to lift me he kept repeating ” How much weight have you put on?”

It was then that we both realised that something had to be done, as if he was unable to lift me we were both in trouble. I was brave and got onto the scales the next day, this was a challenge  I wear a splint for support on my leg for standing and walking so once Alec had put this on I held onto the window sill for support stepped onto the scales and then let go for a few seconds while he checked my weight

, I was 13 stone I have never been more than 10  even though my three pregnancies.

I didn’t follow a diet as such I gave up the comfort food and snacked on fruit  I ate brown bread rather than white and replaced semi skimmed milk for skimmed, which didn’t really taste that different. I also had salads and if the rest of the family were having chips I had pasta or rice  I was encouraged  by my sister when we went out for our weekly coffee together to have a small white coffee rather than my usual latte.

As exercise if difficult I attempted to walk a little more. I wear a splint on my left leg and use a tristick

so when I walked to the toilet at the end of our hallway I would walk back to the living room  and then turn around and walk back towards the toilet again doubling my usual walk I called this my roundabouts my leg muscles ached for a few days but they soon adjusted to it.

When I weighed myself a week later to my amazement I had already lost half a stone I was so surprised that I stood on the scales again an hour later to double check that it was true, which it was. that gave me a real boost and more willpower On average I tended to lose 2llbs a fortnight. I still allowed myself a weekly treat of a piece of battered cod from the fish and chip shop, usually I would have had a portion of chips but figured fish was less fattening even with the batter.

I was beginning to receive lots of positive comments from friends and family which gave me more incentive to carry on.

On 4 May when I stepped onto the scales I had lost the magic stone. If I can manage to lose weight I believe that anyone can all you need is willpower and encouragement from family and friends.

My challenge is now going to be  to not let it creep back on.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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A second light hearted post this week with an aim to hopefully make everyone smile.

One of the many things that I miss since having to give up my beloved child minding is hearing the funny innocent things that children often come up with, luckily I still see many children and these antidotes come to mind.

A friend of mine told me  that her partner who has longish greying hair was waiting for his order in the local fish and chip shop, there was a boy of about 6 watching him. He heard the child whisper to his father, “How do we know that man, who is he?” to which the dad replied, “I don’t think we do.” The boy kept on looking at the stranger then he suddenly blurted out, “Dad, I know who it is, it’s Jesus!”

A neighbours child came to visit  and told me that her auntie was having a baby and had seen it on the baby scan

When I asked if she knew if she was going to have a little girl or a boy the child replied, “How can the doctor tell the difference?”

This girl had a brother so I thought she would understand when I said that boys have something that girls don’t.

“No, Karen, you have got that wrong, girls have something that boys haven’t,” she insisted “long hair!”

Along similar lines, when my sister had her second baby , a boy, her elder daughter kept asking about his ‘extra’ bit, her mother told her that all boys and men have one, to which she enquired as to if daddy has one, then much to my sister’s embarrassment while they were out together a man walked passed them, my niece said rather loudly , ” mummy, has that man got a willy?”

I would love you to share your experiences of the wonderful  funny innocent things you have heard from the mouths of babes by leaving comments.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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Whilst child minding; I often heard the children say funny things. Once, whilst I was covering a topic on healthy eating we were making fruit kebabs and I asked “Where do grapes come from?”

A 4 year old shot up her arm and told me “I know Karen; Tesco!”

On another occasion; while walking through the park in the Autumn, a child noticed the leaves falling from the trees. He innocently asked me “Does the Gardener stick them back on with Blu Tack in the spring?”

On a similar subject; I was sitting in the waiting room of the hair dresser with my own children, when my youngest asked what the colour sample hanging on the wall was. I explained it was showing the different colours you could have your hair. He piped up with “Does the hair dresser stick them on with Blu Tack?” The whole salon went into a fit of giggles!


Back to Child Minding again; I had an 8 year old girl, who the younger ones looked up to. One boy said to another girl that he was going to marry her when he grew up. To which the girl said “You’re not; I’m going to”

“Don’t be silly” The boy said “Girls can’t marry Girls”

“Well then” she came back with, “I’ll get a magician to magic me into a boy and then I can!”


My all time favourite was when two children were discussing weddings; as one child had recently been to his Aunties Wedding. The girl instructed the boy ” When you grow up you have to marry me.”

“I don’t want to get married!” was his reply.

“You have to!” she told him.

“No I don’t, I know more about it than you do!”

Not wanting to be beaten; she answered “Well, I know more about prisons!”

I still haven’t worked out what she meant…


My eldest son was chatting to a 4 year that I was child minding that day. The boy was telling my son about two boys named Connor and George.

“Whose Connor?” my son asked.

” George’s friend.” replied the boy.

“Whose George?” asked my son.

You guessed it… “Connor’s friend!” came the reply


Other tales I have heard are;  two school boys were chatting about sports day, one asked the other “Why are you such a fast runner?”

“It’s in my genes,” he replied.

“Wow! Where does your mum buy them? I’ll get the same ones.”


Whilst having a drink, a father asked his daughter ” Do you know where milk comes from?”

“Of course I do; the fridge!”

After explaining that it comes from cows, she added  “And strawberry milk shake comes from pigs; because they are pink!”


Back to child minding again. A child was about to bite into a plum, when I said “Let me take the stone out first.”

He asked “Why did you put a stone from your garden in there?” Certainly made me chuckle!


As always, questions/ comments are welcome. Maybe you have a funny child saying to share?

Back in 2004 I launched a campaign to get the out dated play equipment in Rock park, Barnstaple up graded. I have now been made aware of a campaign to save Westacott park.

Westacott park is a small park on Westacott Road in the Whiddon valley area of Barnstaple.

When I lived in Whiddon valley (many years ago) I used this delightful park on a weekly basis, taking  not only my own four boys; but also the children I was child minding, at the time. This green space  in the centre of a housing estate is enjoyed by child minders, workers on their lunch break, the elderly and of course; families.


The council  are now looking to build a road through this area; to access more housing, meaning that the play park and football pitch will be destroyed. The council state that it would be too expensive to use the main road  and that cutting through the park area is the most cost effective.


A group of Whiddon Valley residents; headed by Marcella Priest Roberts,Jilly Thomas Wheatley and Emma Cullen Lerwill have started a campaign to try to save this beloved place. Louise Hedges has started a facebook group called “Westacott Park  ‘SAVE THE PARK’ ‘NO THROUGH ROAD’ and also have a profile on Twitter.


Melanie McKenna; a child minder at “Melandrew Daycare” contacted a reporter of the local paper who made a feature of the campaign.


This has been going on for several years now; the residents of Whiddon Valley are not only concerned about loosing their park which was stipulated as a designated green area when the original plans were drawn up, but also that an increase in traffic and fumes could harm their children and pets.

There is a petition in place to save Westacott Park. I have now, just been notified the residents have been informed that the planning for the new houses and road have been refused, This doesn’t mean that the war is over; as the council are going to re submit new plans. For now though; the park is safe. Please help by signing the submitting an objection; you can do this by clicking here: http://www.savewestacottpark.org

For as long as I can remember; I have always wanted my own Horse. I wished for one every time I blew the candles out on birthday cakes and asked Santa for one each Christmas. I even came up with an idea that if I married a rich farmer when I grew up then I would get my horse. Years later, I mentioned this to my son, to which, he replied ”Oh, mum, you ended up with dad!”  I think I did extremely well there… but still no horse.


When I was a child we often went as a family to “Westward Ho!” beach. We were excited to discover that there were donkeys there giving rides. Surely a donkey is similar to a horse; isn’t it? My sisters and I approached the donkey man who we later found out was named Pete and asked him if we could help with his donkeys. He agreed; after all, this meant that he could sit back in his deckchair, topping up his tan whilst we did all the leg work. He still took the money and would lift the children onto a donkey.

One day, we arrived at the beach before the donkeys. The tide at Westward Ho! comes right up to the pebble ridge leaving no sand; so the times the donkeys worked depended on the tide times. This worked in our favour; as when the donkeys arrived in the converted horse box it meant we could also help to tack them up (put on the saddles and bridles) meaning being able to spend even more time with them! We then walked the donkeys over the pebble ridge; something that had to be seen to be believed, many tourists took photos of this.

Once on the sand; one of us (often me) would take an empty bucket and go in search of fresh water; the nearby amusement arcade were happy to supply this. We then waited for children to come for rides. If my memory is correct it was 50p a ride. We basically lead a donkey each a short distance along the sand, turned around and went back. Pete owned 13 donkeys in total and I must say they were extremely well looked after. The reason he had so many was so that he could vary which ones he used; giving them a day off from time to time, as he only used 3 or 4 each day. They all had their own characters; my favourite was a donkey called Crumpet.


Donkey Derby

We also attended many Donkey Derby’s. because we knew the donkeys so well; we worked out that  if you were given the best donkey and managed to stay on then you would likely win. Sometimes there was a tote where visitors to the donkey derby were encouraged to place small bets on the donkeys and riders (profits went to local charities) We used to make bets using our pocket money and knew that if a child had their own riding hat; rather than one supplied by the event, it usually meant that they knew how to ride and therefore if they were given a fast donkey they would likely win. We came away in profit more often than not!

Pete made sure that we got the best donkeys for our races; as a reward for all our help at the beach. Other riders who didn’t help complained, once that we were being favoured, so the organiser decided that he would allocate the donkeys to riders rather than Pete. A slow donkey named Lucy was chosen for me; however, when I given was my donkey to get on Pete gave me a sly wink. Once mounted I leaned forward to pat Lucy’s neck. It was then that I realised why he had given me a wink; I had Crumpet, my favourite and fastest donkey! To the untrained eye Lucy and Crumpet were identical until  you stroked them; Lucy had been used to pull a cart before becoming a beach donkey and therefore had a muscly neck. Once again I won my race  and as the organiser had thought he had chosen my donkey there were no reasons to suspect foul play so we were never questioned again. I would now like to apologise to any child  who was beaten by myself, but that’s life and you can’t win them all!


Sadly, I never did get my horse; but spent several happy years riding other peoples horses. I suffered a major Stroke ten years ago and had to give it all up. I am hoping to have a go at riding for the disabled next year, so watch this space.

Living in north Devon; I am very fortunate to have some wonderful coastal and countryside walks on my doorstep.

Many years ago now; when my boys, were of school age I decided that we would go on a cycle ride together to a lovely place called Fremington Quay. The weather was pleasant; without being too warm and it was the school holidays so we set off for the Tarka Trail  which is approximately 30miles in total; of course we had no intention of going no more than a few miles! The Tarka Trail is traffic free and follows the path of a disused railway line. It is named after the book about an Otter called Tarka. We accessed the cycle path from home by using a few quiet roads; so it was a safe route. Once on the Tarka trail we were met by some fantastic views.

It was all relatively flat; so we could enjoy the scenery as we cycled. After roughly three miles we arrived at Fremington Quay Cafe; where we stopped for some refreshments. The cafe has bike racks provided so we locked up our bikes and sat outside the cafe looking at the fantastic views across the estuary. I was good in only having a coffee; the homemade cakes were looking wonderful though!I have also heard from several friends; that the breakfasts they serve here are to die for! The cafe building is an old railway station and has been wonderfully restored and also now houses an historical centre; there are a number of tables available inside too but most customers tend to be cyclists or dog walkers and choose to sit outside (weather permitting.) Whilst I enjoyed my coffee the boys had soft drinks and an ice cream; they then asked if they could go across the path, to a wooded area on their bikes without me. As I could still see them from my picnic bench I agreed. They disappeared from sight very briefly when they cycled up a bank, but I could hear them laughing.

After a short while they headed back towards me and i noticed that my youngest was walking along side his bike rather than riding it. As he became closer I could see that the brake cable was tangled around the handle bars! My middle son explained that when they were ready to head back to the cafe he had suggested to his younger brother that he push his bike down the hill; rather than risk falling off if he rode it down, to which Adam (my youngest son) literally physically pushed it down the hill; causing it to fall at an awkward angle and get the cables twisted! My first thought was how was I going to be able to get us all home. Luckily, there were some older boys doing stunts on their BMX bikes nearby. They were showing off a bit really and I realised that some of the elderly customers were a little annoyed by this. I approached the boys and asked if any of them would be willing to help a mother in distress who knew nothing about bikes. Two of them were really helpful; fixed the bike in no time and we were able to ride home with a tale to tell.


Sadly, I am now disabled, after suffering a major stroke; I still regularly visit the cafe at Fremington Quay with my sister; we take an alternative route along the road. I sit in my electric wheelchair and Kim walks along  beside me. The cafe is very disabled friendly; so this is a time we can both enjoy together.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to keep children amused doing art and craft activities.

When I was childminding; I used to use the back of junk mail (which is often blank on the reverse) as drawing paper. The inside cardboard of cereal boxes is great to use for painting. Put an old adult shirt over clothes for protection. Another tip is to buy paint brushes from market stalls; rather than specialist shops.

I used to keep old magazines, holiday brochures and greetings cards for the children to cut pictures from as well as egg boxes, yogurt cartons, cardboard tubes from kitchen and toilet rolls and plastic milk bottle tops for junk modelling; which can be painted the following day when dry.

My husband said I never threw anything out (which was pretty much true) as a ribbon from a gift can be used for weaving or making a collage. Once I even purchased a feather duster in a bargain store and stripped the feathers for a collage!

My biggest success was making treasure boxes at Christmas, which the children loved.

Give each child an empty shoe box (most shops will gladly give these away at no cost) encourage the children to decorate with pictures (I supplied these from the previous years Christmas cards) and stickers; bought cheaply from a bargain store. Later use a solution of two parts water, one part PVA glue mixed together to cover the box. This not only helps the pictures to stay put; but acts like a varnish.

When I was a child minder I used to use these boxes to put all the ‘bits and bobs’ that the children made in the run up to Christmas and let them take them home on Christmas Eve. (I usually added some chocolate coins and a small gift too)

Brass rubbing is another easy and cheap activity; you can buy purpose made plastic templates, but many household objects can work too for example; coins and keys. I’ve even used the product name on white goods, which is usually textured. On dry days why not try brass rubbing the bark on trees and collect leaves to take home and use later?

Bags of felt off cuts can be purchased cheaply and as felt doesn’t fray; it’s great for making items such as egg cosies, needle cases and even a glasses case.


Why not have a go at making some playdough? All you need is

1 cup of flour( the cheap value range is ideal)

Half a cup of salt,

2 teaspoons of cream of tartar

1 cup of water (add food colouring to this and it won’t stain later)

Put everything into a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until it forms a dough; BE SURE TO LET IT COOL BEFORE GIVING TO CHILDREN. Add rolling pins and pastry cutter shapes and let them have fun.

Older children may prefer salt dough; which is just as easy to make and as it doesn’t need cooking they can help to create it

1 cup flour

1 cup salt

Half cup of water

Just mix it altogether using your hands.

Leave creations in a warm room for a few hours to harden.


I hope these ideas have provided some food for thought.

HAVE FUN GETTING CREATIVE.

As always questions/comments are welcome and I will respond as soon as I can