Make your own Driftwood Christmas Decorations

 

This year we are spending our Christmas at the beach, it inspired me to make some beach themed Christmas decorations.  I have always loved how people create beautiful decorations out of driftwood and this year since Alex is a bit older and likes to do crafty things as well I thought we would give it a go.

So today I will show you how to go about making a driftwood Christmas Tree and a Twig Star.  But before we head into that I would just like to say a big thank you to the Kiwi Mummy Bloggers Group which I have joined up with to bring you 12 Days of Christmas – A Blog Collaboration by Kiwi Mummy Bloggers. More info at the bottom of this post.

On Tuesday morning after dropping Frankie at care Alex and I headed off the beach to find driftwood. When looking for driftwood for your Christmas tree, try finding flatter pieces that are going to join snugly into each other and also of similar thickness.  It may even be good to set the tree out on the sand once you have gathered your pieces so you know you have enough of the right shape and length.  You will also need to find a piece that will be the backboard or the trunk of your tree.

Driftwood Tree

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There are many ways to make a driftwood tree, but this way you don’t have to use a drill.   You will need to purchase a good quality super glue or Epoxy glue from the likes of Mitre 10 Mega or a hardware store.

To make the Tree:

  • Place the piece of driftwood you will be using for the trunk of the tree.
  • Next place each piece of driftwood on the trunk from the longest at the bottom of the smallest at the top.   Try and fit the pieces into each other.
  • Once you are happy with how the pieces join together, slowly remove each piece starting from the bottom and glue the back to the trunk, making sure they fit together snugly.

 

 

  • Leave to dry as per glue instructions
  • Decorate with natural treasure such as mini seed pods and pinecones, natural buttons, shells or you may like to add mini lights and sparkly decorations.

You can tie the top of the driftwood if you are going to hang or place in a small container to have a standing tree.

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Twig Star

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For this star I used some branches from a tree I had pruned back and left to dry in the woodshed.   It’s important that whatever wood or branches you decide to use that they are as straight as possible and all the same length.  You will also need natural twine, bakers twine or Washi tape.

 

To make the Star:

  • Set the star out on a flat surface.
  • Once positioned, carefully glue each piece at the point
  • Leave to dry as per instructions
  • At each point, wind twine around the ends or use Washi tape.
  • Tie twine to a point on the star and hang.

These stars look great on the Christmas Tree or hung around the house.

While I was making my decorations, Alex also made some decorations, using the driftwood, I just helped him with the glue as Epoxy glue isn’t forgiving.

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I hope you have fun creating some driftwood and twig decorations and if you need more inspiration head over to Pinterest.

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Have you been following the Kiwi Mummy Bloggers 12 Days of Christmas? Yesterday  Caroline from Caroline Larnach Handmade blogged about making handmade Christmas stockings and decorations for Baby’s First Christmas and tomorrow we have a post on Christmas on the road from Julia over at @Parentalmisadventures.

Be sure to check them out.

Happy Christmas Everyone

Becks 🌲🌲🎅

 

 

 

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Christmas Family Traditions and Rituals

I love this time of year, Christmas is coming and the excitement is brewing with all the decorations, lights, talk about Father Christmas and summer holidays.

In the past, I have always found the month of November stressful. Before Frankie was born I worked in a role where I had a very large scale event on at the end of every November, so I never thought about Christmas until December. Then the three weeks of lead up just seemed to go in the blink of an eye. It always made me feel sad, because I wanted to feel Christmas, feel the excitement, the celebrations but it all went so fast and then boxing day was here with hangovers from indulging in too much sugar, food and alcohol.

Since having children I knew something needed to change, to make the lead up to Christmas a special time. It’s meant to be a time of fun and happiness, not a time of stress and hurriedness. In this day an age where seasonal celebrations are easily lost to material consumerism, I think it’s important to let my children feel what Christmas is all about, just like the memories that connect me with this time of year (fluffy pudding, pinetrees, my cousins visiting, the beach, Griffins sampler boxes with pink waffer biscuits, my nana cooking a ham in the old copper, eating raw pavlova mixture, and retro Christmas decorations) These things all fill my soul up with happiness whenever I think about them or see them. I hope to help my children create their own memories that will last for years to come and they to can connect the smells, the food, family time, the beach and everything else that Christmas is about for our family and feel that same sort of happiness.

When creating rituals/traditions you do each year, I think it’s important to make sure they work for your family. Don’t try and do everything that is fashionable at the time, because it just leads to more stress and consumerism. Take your time and enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas. Below is what we do in the lead up to our Christmas. It’s simple rituals that create warmth and comfort for our family.

Christmas Advent House

Before I had children I found a beautiful Christmas advent house in a local store. My husband and I have used it every year since, and before children, we gave each other random little tidbits throughout December. Once Alex turned two we started the traditional countdown with him and this year Frankie will also be old enough to follow along.

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Christmas Advent House

The little doors of the house are opened up each morning and there is a little gold chocolate coin waiting behind the door. The house plays a Christmas carol and the little characters move while the lights in the snowy street glimmer. It really is a pretty sight and why I instantly fell in love with it.

There are so many different advent calendars our there, especially ones that can be used each year which in my opinion is part of creating the memory. Check Pinterest for inspiration for making a homemade calendar.

The Christmas Tree

When we were children, getting the Christmas Tree was probably the highlight of the whole lead up to Christmas ( apart from eating raw pavlova mixture when my nana made the pavs). Dad, my brother and I would jump into the farm truck and drive down the road to go ‘Christmas Tree Hunting’. This was back in the 1980’s and I am sure most people back then flogged a small Pinetree off the side of the road. I do have funny memories of dad telling us to lie down or he would be hiding behind a small tree as a random car drove past. I also have the funniest memory of going ‘Christmas Tree Hunting’ with my friends to find a tree in their van, the tree ended up standing up with the top outside the sunroof and we drove down the road singing Christmas Carols at the top of our voices alongside the tree (heads popped outside the sunroof). We had a few interesting looks from a couple of the neighbours. Those were the days when you could do that sort of thing.

However, you decide to find, or buy your Christmas tree, make it into an adventure. The adventure is all part of creating a lasting memory.

Alex loves decorating, he has already decorated part of his bedroom with some Christmas decorations. This year we have also made a number of decorations and I try and buy a new decoration for the kids each year. This year they each have a cute mini knitted Christmas cracker that I purchased at our Kindy Mums Christmas market.

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Our handmade driftwood decorations.

Christmas Candles

This is something I started last year, it’s a take on a Rudolf Steiner and Christian tradition of lighting a candle for the four Sundays before Christmas. We have actually started this tradition early this year as I bought some beautiful candlesticks at a market and as soon as Frankie and Alex saw them, they thought we should light them at dinner time. So each evening meal we light the candles and have them sitting at the dinner table with us. Candles just make dinner times extra special, and it’s a nice way to shift from the busyness of the year to slow down to the lead up to summer and our holidays.

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Our Christmas Candles

Along with these special traditions for our family, we will go for a drive to see the local Christmas lights and we have a lovely Christmas grotto that I have taken Alex and Frankie to see Father Christmas. Our Christmas Day’s are rotated each year between our families so that we don’t have to rush from one place to another on Christmas Day and can enjoy feasting, drinks, way to much sugar and watching the kids have fun.

I would love to know what some of your family traditions are or memories that stand out from your own childhood or maybe something that you are going to start doing this year.

Have a fun filled and magical December.

Becks 🎄🎄

Elderflower Cordial – Essential Summertime Drink

Mid to late spring is Elderflower season.   These beautiful flowers make the most amazing cordial and it is very simple to make.  Elderflowers are everywhere, once you know what you are looking for, you will spot the trees all the time.  Usually growing along the roadside, near rivers and parks.

 

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Foraged Elderflower

 

Before you head off to find Elderflowers it’s important to know that the Elderberry plant is poisonous.  I don’t want to scare anyone away from making your own cordial but it’s something you should know, and something I wasn’t aware of until I had made my first ever batch last year and had to throw it out.

The leaves, stems and unripe berries of both red and black elderberry species contain cyanide-inducing glycosides which can cause a toxic buildup of cyanide in the body. When using elderflowers, be sure to remove them from all but that smallest stem attachments to keep these toxins out of your food.

When collecting Elderflower, collect the bright white and open flowers.  If they are turning yellow or cream leave them on the tree as they are past their best and not something you want in your cordial.

 

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The flowers on this flower head a nice and white.  However, they still have unopened flowers.  I would leave this flowerhead on the tree.

 

Once you have gathered your Elderflowers for your cordial you will need to take the flowers off the stems.   the easiest way to do this is using your fingers or a fork and gently push the flowerhead into the bowl. See below.

 

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Using a fork to remove the flowers from the stalks.

 

To make your cordial, you will need:

  • 1k  sugar
  •  6 cups boiling water
  • 3 medium lemons, washed
  • 30 large Elderflower heads
  • 55g citric acid
  • one large glass or ceramic bowl or jar
  • sterilised bottles

Preparing your cordial:

  1. Place the sugar into a large bowl or jar ( I have used a very large pickle jar).     Pour the boiling water over the sugar and stir until all the sugar has dissolved, leave to cool.
  2. Peel the rind of the lemons with a peeler and add to the sugar water.
  3. Slice the lemons into thick slices and add to the sugar water. Add the citric acid and stir, then finally add the flower heads to the sugar water and stir again.
  4. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to steep for 48 hours. I usually give it a gentle stir after 24 hours and have a taste.

After 48 hours you are ready to bottle your cordial.

  1. Sterilise bottles in the oven or in a pot of boiling water
  2. Remove lemons from the cordial, strain the cordial through a clean fine muslin cloth into a clean bowl.
  3. Using a funnel, fill sterilized bottles, seal and store in a cool, dark place.   Once opened keep in the refrigerator.

This cordial is delicious diluted with still or fizzy water.

 

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The finished product, ready to drink or give away as a gift.

 

 

I hope you enjoy making your own Elderflower cordial.

Becks 🍹🍹

Kidsplaynz’s Top FIVE recipe book recommendations

It’s nearly that time of year again, officially 97 sleeps till Christmas, well there may be less depending on when you read this blog. But it’s that time of year when we need to organise ourselves to buy presents or hand over our Christmas wish list.

One of the things that is always on my Christmas wish list is recipes books, I love them! The only thing though is when you buy or request a recipe book you want to know that you are actually going to use it and it’s not going to sit on your bookshelf collecting dust. The best recipe books are the ones that are dog-eared, have some writing in them, flour dust and a bit of chocolate cake mix staining the pages. If your recipe book looks like that, then you know it’s a good one.

I post a few pictures of food and cooking on my social media sites and I often get asked to share recipes, obviously, I can’t share a recipe if it’s from a cookbook but I can share with you which recipe books are my go-to books that I use on a weekly or monthly basis. You can then confidently add them to your Christmas Wish List or buy them for family and friends and then ask to borrow the book back. Cheeky Yes!

I love cooking with ingredients that won’t break the bank and that I can find in the supermarket or by just going down to Vetro in Ahuriri which stocks most speciality items. Also, my family needs to like what I make. No point making something for dinner with a bunch of funny ingredients when no one else in the house is going to eat it, including me. I made buckwheat pizza bases once, juso you know, I gave the packet of buckwheat flour away and we didn’t have pizza for tea that night!

So here we go, in no particular order, my top FIVE cookbooks that I use on a regular basis – husband and child-friendly.

Chelsea Winter – At My Table

This was Chelsea’s first ever book she put out after winning Master Chief and even though her books are more sophisticated now this one is still a gem. It’s full of family recipes with a Dutch influence, think Olie Bollen and Dutch Apple Tart from Chelsea’s Oma. I often refer to this book to make biscuits, quick dinner recipes to the crowd-pleasing Lemonade Scone which whenever I make them I always get compliments on how delicious they are. The Pork with Raisins, Fennel and Pancetta has me drooling, it is a winner! Ekk I think I am going to have to add that to next weeks menu planning.

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Chelsea Winter – Homemade Happiness

Another book by Chelsea Winter. I think this one is actually my favourite book by far and I think it comes down to the Custard Square recipe! Who would have thought that Custard Squares would be so easy to make, and if you use the Lewis Road Caramel Milk instead of regular milk it takes it to the next level. Again this book has easy family dinners, more biscuits and cakes and lunch items for the kids. Our favourites in this house are the Mince and Cheese Pie, Chicken Fettuccine, Chelsea’s Apple Pie oh and the Giner Kisses, taste even better the next day, if they last that long!

Unna Birch, The Forest Cantina – Home

I bought this book recently and wow I have not been disappointed. Again this is one of those books that takes easy meals to the next level. I also love the fact that Unna self-published this book. You will want to leave Home out on your coffee table, it is so beautiful, the layout, the styling and you want to feature a grazing table at your next Party. Also included at the back of the book is a guide for growing your own vegetables, looking after chickens and your own beehive.

My favourite go-to recipes in here are the Banana Bread, this is delicious and so simple to whip up. Other favourites include the Homemade Falafels with Homemade Picked Onions and the Lemon Pie is my Alex’s favourite, I have lost count on how many times he has asked me to make him Lemon Pie in the last three months.

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Essential Volume One – Annabel Langbein

Earlier this year I was given Essential by Annabel Langbein for my birthday. This is a volume of all Annabel’s best savoury recipes from over the years plus new recipes as well, everything is in one place. It’s a huge book and I don’t think I have actually looked at all the pages yet. I made dumplings for the first time the other week and it has loads of my favourite throughout. If you know Annabel’s books this volume also includes her popular fridge fixings which is perfect for the upcoming summer months. My personal favourite to have in the fridge and stored away is plenty of Tomato Kasandi.

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A Free Range Life Annabel Langbein Issue Four

This isn’t so much a book but a large style magazine. This is definitely the best foodie magazine/annual I have ever bought. It focuses on using Autumn and early Winter vegetables and fruits to make snacks and light lunches followed by hearty mains and comforting desserts. My favourite section is the Sunday Sauce – make up a large tomato base, portion it and freeze and then use later by adding a few different flavours to make Mexican, Chinese or Greek. There are ten different ways to use the base sauce. Another favourite and something I make quite a bit is the leek and ham tart.

This is my line up of favourite recipes books. Do you have any favourites to share, let me know in the comments or on our facebook page.

Becks 🥣🥗🥨

Daffodils at Taniwha – A ‘Must Do’ this September.

It’s crazy isn’t it, that we often miss visiting interesting places in the area that we grew up in for various reasons. We may have driven past such places and thought, I must stop in there one day, and it just never happens. Or sometimes you don’t even know something exists until you have children and you see your home area with fresh new eyes. This is something I am finding out with Central Hawkes Bay. I grew up there, but there are so many places I have never visited until now.

For the first time this past Sunday, I visited the Taniwha Daffodils and what a beautiful place it is. Yes, I have driven past many times and thought to myself I must visit, but it wasn’t until last Spring when some friends posted pictures online that I really thought I should visit and I wasn’t disappointed even on a cold cloudy spring day this place is stunning.

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Looking from the car park back towards the front gates.

We arrived early hoping to avoid the crowds, but once we arrived we saw that the place was so big that there is space for everyone. Alex and Frankie immediately headed for the courtyard where there are seats, gravel and Tonka toys. We decided to sit and have a coffee while the kids were quite contented played in this area and the fact we were the only ones using it at the time. There is a cute little coffee counter serving Hawthorne Coffee, Tea, Barkers Juices, Rush Munro’s Ice Cream and a few sweet treats. If you are coming along for the day, make sure you pack a picnic lunch and snacks for the kids though.

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Court yard and seating area.

Once we had finished our coffee we grabbed our buckets and headed off to pick daffodils. There are paths that wind around the park, over bridges, past lakes, swings and tree houses. Make sure you do venture right around because there are so many beautiful hidden spots that you will find.

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Sign posts pointing the way to a Crocodile Infested Lake

There are over a hundred different varieties of daffodils to pick, my favourite being the one pictured below. If anyone knows the actual name of it please let me know, because I would like to plant some bulbs of this variety in my garden. They are so sunny and happy looking.

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My favourite!

Highlights for Alex and Frankie were the beautiful White Swans (feature photo) and the Crocodile infested lake, (we will keep that as a surprise).

Once you have wandered through the park and picked enough daffodils, head back to the administration area where your Daffodils are wrapped in cellophane. 30 flowers for $5.00. Proceeds from these go to the chosen charity – Plunket.

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Wandering through the Daffodils

If you have not ventured down to the Taniwha Daffodils in Central Hawkes Bay, this is a definite must do this September and if you have missed out, write it in your diary for next year or follow Taniwha Daffodils on Facebook to get updates for their 2018 season.

A couple of things to remember if you are heading down to CHB.

  • Pack warm clothing, the Takapau plains can get quite cold with spring winds whistling down from the snow capped Ruahines.
  • Gumboots will make your walk more fun.
  • Take a picnic lunch or snacks
  • Cash is best but they do have EFTPOS available.
  • A camera, I sadly only had my phone camera and very much regret not having my camera.

Check out all other details on Facebook or their Website.

Directions as per link. Taniwha Daffodils

Becks 🌼🌼

Crate Wonder Review – Watch your child’s imagination come to life.

This week we have been lucky enough to review a loose part crate from Crate Wonder.   I found Crate Wonder on Facebook, I loved the crates they sell and their philosophies are in line with my own philosophies of play.  Owners Kelly and Bianca work in childcare and are passionate about heuristic and open ended play and it shows through the items that they have selected for their loose part boxes.

‘Architect Simon Nicholson used the term “loose parts” to describe materials with varied properties that can be moved and manipulated in many ways. He theorized that the richness of an environment depends on the opportunity it allows for people to interact with it and make connections. Early childhood educators have found this to be true and have documented the vast learning that can occur when children are able to invent, create, explore, and rearrange loose parts’

Many people still think that open ended play, loose parts play is only intended for times when children are in Kindergarten or at Daycare, but the fact is loose parts can be found and used anywhere.   I find that my children play with loose parts for longer and over more days than they would just a regular fast food style toy, that usually ends up dumped in a toy box that is usually tipped out on the floor of my child’s bedroom when they rummage through to find something and it’s never, ever used.

Our Crate Wonder consisted of a number of wooden, metal, plastic and natural items.   When I first introduced the kit to Frankie (as Alex was at Kindergarten) I only set out a few items.   I didn’t want her to feel overwhelmed by having everything out at once.  I had the wooden cup holder set up and the wooden and metal rings placed to the side, along with the napkin rings.    Interestingly I thought she would have made a bee line for the rings and place them on the cup holder, however she didn’t, She lined up the napkin rings and then placed the wooden rings over top.   This has been a reoccurring theme when she uses the loose parts. Lining up and stacking.

 

 

 

Over time she has decided to hang items on the cup holder.  Firstly she will place the metal rings, then the wooden rings and then she hung the plastic chains.  She did try and place the chain loops onto the cup pegs but they did not fit.  This could have become frustrating for her, but she found other ways to hang them on the pegs and display them on the bottom of the cup holder.

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Frankie and Alex decorating the Cup Holder

 

Alex has spent a lot of the time incorporating the parts into his pretend play.   He is at a very creative stage and builds items he needs from all sort of loose parts.   The chains were used to make foot ascenders that arborist would use to climb trees.   They were also incorporated into games where they could be used as handcuffs.   He would also use the items with many of our own loose parts including selotape and string.

For Fathers Day the whole loose parts set was used to create decorations for dads present.   This was an ongoing decoration that has stayed together and been dismantled and remade over two days.

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Although an adult may think this is just a pile of items, so much care and though has gone into the making of this Father’s Day decoration for their Dad.

Crate Wonder has a number of kits and individual items ranging from $3.00 items through to resource kits at $120.00, which I think is very reasonable.  I love that it is a one stop shop for busy working parents or childcare centres who don’t have time to hunt out indivual items in shops or online.

What I love so much about Crate Wonder is that the sets are so well thought out.  Having used a number of bought Heuristic Play sets with my children, I found that this set could easily grow with my children’s development and imagination.   Both Alex and Frankie have had a lot of fun using the set over the past week, both using the items but exploring and building in their own way.

The most used item in our home would be the wooden cup holder, which has been used as a decoration tree and included in all constructions and play.

For further information please check out the Crate Wonder Website and Facebook Page.   We will also have a giveaway on our Facebook page in the next few days, so please keep an eye out for that.

 

 

 

 

Happy Building and Creating.

Becks 😊

Logic will get you from A to B.   Imagination will take you everywhere.   Albert Einstein.

 

 

How to make: Simple DIY Eye Spy Jar

We all have that container of interesting objects, screws, ties, metal things, we can’t throw because one day we may just remember what they are off,  and everyone has a jar of Kinder Suprise Toys or something collected from the supermarket or gas station that the kids play with for all of five minutes before tossing aside but will dearly love the moment it is seen to be heading to the rubbish bin.

So instead of throwing these little items away, I made up an Eye Spy jar for Frankie, which Alex also enjoys playing with.   Eye Spy jars are so simple to make, and you should have everything you need in the cupboard.

I also find it quite therapeutic moving the jar around to see what toys I can bring up to the side of the glass. For older children, you can take a photo of the items that you pop into your jar.  Print the photo and see if they can find each item in the photo.  Below I will take you through a few steps to make a very simple eye spy jar.

What you need:

  • A Jar or bottle, glass or plastic.
  • Rice, if you don’t want to use rice,  dry sand also works well.
  • A collection of small toys and things such as safety pins, bread bag ties, screws, buttons, small colourful toys, bouncy balls or coins are just some ideas.
  • Clear Packaging Tape
  • Scissors
  • Paper and Pen

Find a suitable jar, I have used a The Collective Pot Set Yogurt Plastic Jar, which is perfect as they are large and plastic so it won’t break if accidentally dropped and you can also squish them, which is perfect for moving the little toys around.   21121953_10154596110426599_445225108_n

Remove the labels from the jar, and easy way to do this is using equals parts oil and baking soda mixed together to make a paste and then use this to remove the film left by those hard to scrub stickers.

Collect your selection of little toys and bits and bobs.   Take a photo of the items if you are making this for older children so they know what they are looking for.  You can also write down what is in the jar and use it in the same way.

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1/4 fill the jar with rice or sand.   I did this over another container so it didn’t go everywhere or you could you a funnel if you have one.

Place a few toys into the rice, pushing some down into the rice.

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Continue to layer the rice and toys until you reach the top of the jar.

Leaving a small area at the top so that the rice and toys can easily move around when the jar is sealed.

Secure the lid well.   If you are using a jar similar jar to the one we used you will need to secure it with clear packaging tape or glue.  The last thing you want is busy fingers removing the lid spilling rice or popping small objects into their mouths.

And there you have it, one very easy to make Eye Spy Jar.  You can refresh the jar with different toys over time as well.

If you want to see more posts from KidsplayNZ, follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

Becks 😀😀