Johanna Basford – Adult Colouring Monthly Diary

Lately, I picked up a hobby – colouring. All day long I’m sorting out our paperwork and generally being bossed around by a toddler to play with cars and trains. When night falls, all I want to do is something that allows me to shut everyone out for a while and just concentrate on one thing. Hence I thought I’ll give adult colouring a try and so far I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s addictive. 

Despite it being the digital age, I never quite got into the habit of taking notes on my smartphone or set reminders on it. I’m old-fashion in the sense that I still rely on physical planners and calendars. I’m really pleased to find Johanna Basford’s 16-Month Weekly Colouring Planner on Amazon. It’s just so pretty and has illustrations from 3 of her books.

As a student, I was obsessed with stationery, especially pens. I love colour coding my notes. It made studying a lot more fun. I’ve never coloured with pens so I thought I’d give it a try after seeing examples of beautiful pictures others have shared online. 

Initially I wanted to do just ONE illustration per week, but I got addicted. I’m stuck to the desk for hours each evening! 

Here are some of the pieces I’ve completed.

I find it so hard to stray away from what is perceived as a “usual” colour for an object. However I try to experiment with different colours because art isn’t merely black and white. Who is to say leaves can’t be blue? 

End of Summer Water Play Season

We have unfortunately come to the end of  Frankfurt’s Water Play season in mid-September. If the weather forecast is anywhere near being accurate, yesterday would probably be the last warm day of 2016. It has been a rather lovely summer compared to the unbearable heat wave we had in 2015 which lasted for weeks and weeks. 

This year we’ve taken whatever opportunity we had to bring Theo outdoors to play. That’s because he wasn’t even walking last summer so it was still fairly easy to go after him. But now that he’s active, there is a constant need to burn the energy he has. 

With Autumn round the corner, we’ll have to be a little more creative with our playtime. As much as possible, I prefer him to play outdoors. Fresh air always does both parents and child more good than harm. I’ve prepared his Autumn/ Winter outdoor play outfits so it doesn’t really matter if he gets a little messy. From this weekend, he’ll also be back at Music Together for “music lessons” which he really enjoyed a year ago. 

As much as possible, I would like to do activities he enjoys together with him before baby number 2 arrives. After all, once number 2 is here, it would be divided attention most of the time. 

No Mess Splatter Painting

While looking for painting ideas for toddlers, I came across multiple no mess splatter painting which I thought was interesting so I gave it a try. Apart from it being a craft activity, it could also be used as a shaker while toddlers dance along to their favourite tunes. It could perhaps also be a sensory bottle. Rather multi-purpose, don’t you think?

Using a regular coke bottle, I dropped tiny bits of paint in it. Then I added green beans and a good quality 190g paper. 

Next, secure the cap and hand it over to the toddler to splatter the paint.

Theo had little interest in shaking the bottle though. So it ended up being some sort of therapeutic activity for me as I stood alone in the kitchen and gave the bottle a few hard shakes. 

I’m quite pleased with the result. It gives a distressed sort of effect which is rather pretty, I thought. Perhaps some kid out there will be more interested in this than mine! 

No Mess Autumn Colours Canvas Painting

We have been doing lots of messy painting over the summer holiday, hence for a change, I thought we will do a non-messy one. 

Sticking to the current Autumn colours theme, I used a cheap canvas which I got from Lidl a couple of weeks ago. After putting paint on it, I wrapped the canvas with cling film a couple of times to make sure that it wouldn’t tear. 

Initially I thought Theo would just use his fingers to spread the paint out. But he was very eager to use his toy vehicles. Thankfully the canvas has been wrapped because he wanted to use his favourite bus that his Aunty got him last Christmas. 

Yes, full concentration when “painting” with vehicles. That is probably the only time you’ll find him still and quiet. 

Here’s the finished artwork. 

Autumn Colours Painting Activity

With temperatures hitting almost 30 degrees Celsius everyday and clear blue skies, it feels like summer is here to stay. However I’m sure we’ll soon be hit by cold winds and wet weather as soon as we’ve acclimatised ourselves to the heat. 

I like the colours of trees in Autumn, orange, red and brown. It can be a little wet on some days, but those days are great to stay in and indulge in comfort food such as soups and rich stews. Hence I picked orange, yellow and red for Theo’s painting activity because I’m eager to jump into Autumn! 

He was not interesting in painting with brushes or sponges. Ever since I let him paint with cars, that’s all he ever wants to do. He did however find it interesting to use foil to paint so that was something new but it didn’t hold his interest for very long. Back to cars!!! 

I find it important to ask open ended questions when he’s painting or drawing. Instead of asking “Is that a dog?”, I would ask “What are you painting/ drawing?” I suppose that leaves it to him to decide what he’s actually working on instead of me planting ideas in his head. 

According to Theo, this is a painting of “flowers”. I sometimes feel like I lack the creative mind and openness to see things from his perspective, so when he said “flowers”, I was quite taken aback. “Huh? Where are the flowers?” I thought to myself. 

Road Safety Activity for Toddlers

Everyone says once babies or toddlers start walking, they’ll be everywhere and they’ll be a handful. For us, it meant a lot when Theo took his first steps. Having clubfoot doesn’t prevent kids from walking but still, it was a major milestone that he achieved in his own time – at about 19 months old. 

True enough, once he started, we couldn’t quite stop him. I’m not sure if he actually knows how to walk because he RUNS everywhere. He wanted to be out of the buggy to explore and we thought it was best to introduce him to traffic rules. Even when he was just a newborn, we made it a point to follow traffic rules even though Theo wouldn’t be aware. It was just good practice for us to get into so we can teach Theo those rules when he was older. 

It is tough work getting toddlers to follow you wherever you go so we had to be very firm. There is no negotiating when it comes to road safety. Either he held our hands when crossing roads and not running onto the roads, or straight back into the buggy he goes. He could scream and cry but he soon learnt to pay attention to road safety and is 95% of the time compliant. 

As a mega huge fan of everything with wheels, road safety activities are a hit with Theo. I prepared materials to make a traffic light to teach shapes and colours and he got to stick the mini squares to match the colours and the vehicles stickers too. 

Subsequently, I drew the red and green men which I thought was important for Theo to recognise. Whenever we encounter a crossing, we’ll ask Theo if it’s a red or green man and if it’s safe to cross. The whole point of this is to make him aware of the lights, the rules and what he can or cannot do. 

Road safety is a rather important (serious?) topic but with stickers in hand, it becomes a fun activity to keep him occupied for some time. 

Cloud Dough Sensory Play

Before the summer holidays come to an end, I wanted to do more activities with Theo at home before he starts his new Kita (playgroup). As the weather has been unbearably hot and humid for me lately, and Theo tends to break out in bad heat rash if he stays out too long in the sun even with sun block, a home based activity suited us best.

As far as I can remember, Theo has always been obsessed with putting toys in his mouth. He is getting better these days  when it comes to sand play, but inevitably he’ll still get sand in his mouth. Hence I’m reluctant to get play doh for him even though I know he plays with it at Kita. But again, he eats sand and paint at Kita, just not when I’m around to scream “Noooooooo!!!!”. 

Therefore, I was glad to learn about Cloud Dough which is homemade dough that is safe enough for kids as long as you DO NOT use baby oil. I substituted it with cooking olive oil.

This homemade dough requires only 2 ingredients, flour and oil. Generally, 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of oil will give you a good texture to play with but you can adjust the measurements accordingly depending on how much dough you need. 

The texture is really soft and fluffy yet it has enough strength to keep its form when molded. Theo enjoyed running the dough though his fingers and pretending that his digger and truck were digging up the road. 

I used our Fisher-Price shapes as molds. Theo caught me by surprise when he pretended that the different shapes created were little cakes. It only shows how often he’s seen me digging in in a piece of cake! 

This activity occupied us both for at least an hour. He could have gone on longer but at that point he just wanted all the dough, which he calls sand, on the balcony floor so he can roll vehicles through it. I wouldn’t have mind as much if we didn’t have a neighbour downstairs. In the end I convinced him to have a bath and wash all his toys that he used for the activity. He enjoyed that responsibility so I had the luxury of just sitting in the bathroom next to him while he scrubbed away in the tub. 

We both had a great time and I didn’t have to wash up. What’s there for me to complain about, eh? 

Messy Painting with Cars

Don’t be put off by the “mess”. Painting with cars turned out to be a rather peaceful time spent with Theo. I just got all the materials AND bath ready (when he was about done) in advance and it was pretty fuss-free. 

It was basically free play. I let him express himself however he wanted and let him mix the colours, choose where to “paint”, and what medium he wanted to use (be it a brush, truck or car). 

Theo loves Peppa Pig and puddles but the weather has been extremely hot these days so he pretended that the cars were splashing through colourful muddy puddles. 

I knew he would get fingerpaint ALL OVER himself so I was prepared to NOT be a control freak. He wasn’t interested in eating paint and even if he did taste it, it was purely accidental since paint was all over his face by the end of the activity and he said it tasted yucky. I felt so happy because he kept telling me how much fun he was having while painting.

I bought from drawing paper from the supermarket but thought they weren’t actually very good for painting. They were rather thin compared to the ones I used as a kid back in Singapore. So after Theo painted the same area multiple times, it tore. I’ll definitely try to get drawing rolls (those that go on an easel) for future purposes. A HUGE sheet of paper is more fun than sticking 16 small sheets of thin paper together. #inexperienceCraftywannabeMummy

Here’s his finished piece of artwork all done by himself! I love it!!!! 

Painting with Lemons

At 9am on Saturday morning, Theo was ready to put on his shoes to go to the playground but we weren’t. My eyes were still half closed because which mum gets sufficient sleep, right? We told him he had to wait for us to get ready before heading out so he said he wanted to do some painting instead.

I had some lemons which I thought would be great to use to “teach” him about circles. 

But of course, he found it more fun to slide the lemons around on the paper. And we ended up with…..

Shocking!!! But oh well, as long as he had fun while painting and wasn’t rushing us to get out of the house. 

Build a truck – Shapes Activity

In the recent weeks, Theo has taken interest to learning about shapes. Prior to him taking interest in learning, it was futile for us to “educate” or “drill” concepts into him. So we thought “oh well, he’ll want to learn when he’s ready whenever that may be”. You can imagine how thrilled we were when he started asking questions such as “What’s that?” while pointing out to different shapes. 

Therefore, I looked up on Pinterest for activities that will keep him interested in learning instead of just using wall charts or flashcards and constantly drilling information to him. 

Here’s what I came up with. I did the top truck to give him an idea what he is supposed to do. I introduced him to the shapes – circle and square. I didn’t want to have more than 2 different shapes in one activity as I want it to be simple. 

Full concentration! He was very happy to have “built” a truck. I didn’t expect him to repeat after me when I told him what the shapes were.

That’s the final product. He can’t quite arrange the shapes to fit within the lines accurately yet but really, I don’t expect him to. So here’s Theo’s wobbly truck. 

Dinosaur Biscuits (Cookies)

Using BBC Good Food Basic Biscuit Recipe, we made some dinosaur footprint biscuits this afternoon. 

I didn’t expect how difficult it was to get a 2 year old to NOT over stomp dinosaurs on the dough. But it didn’t matter, after all the forceful stomping around, I just went back to the kitchen to modify bits that would have burn in the oven. 

Theo was very excited and kept picking up the dough to eat despite us stopping him. 

When we were done, we roared into the camera. 

Here’s my little man enjoying the finished product. He was so proud of himself. 

Dinosaurs Ice Excavation 

The dinosaurs need some help from Theo as they are trapped in the Ice Age! What tools does he need to excavate them?

1. Wooden spoon

2. Metal spoon

3. Paint brush

4. Salt water in a spray bottle

5. Small craft hammer

First I filled an ice-cream box with about an inch of water and put 6 dinosaurs in. After it has frozen, I placed another 6 on top of it and covered it with water, making sure there was space for water to expand when it’s frozen. 

Initially we thought we would leave the hammer to the last resort because we didn’t want to be “hammered” by a 2 year old whatever intentions he had. But he wasn’t fussed about it actually as he was having more fun spraying salt water at us (mostly) and the dinosaurs. 

We had to bring this activity outdoors as it was a lot warmer than our cool apartment. If we were to do this in winter, I would freeze the dinosaurs in smaller containers instead and do this activity indoors. 

He was very careful with the small craft hammer, thankfully! I was also surprised that he managed to hammer the ice with great accuracy! Hurray to refining motor skills! 

We also tried smashing the bits of ice to break them into smaller pieces. Throwing is often something we frown upon in our apartment so Theo was happy he got to throw ice outdoors for a little while. Everything seems to be amplified in apartment living which is annoying! 

Yay to excavating the first dinosaur! 

It took about 30 minutes (with our help) to excavate all 12 mini dinosaurs from the Ice Age. 

When we got home, I read to him one of his favourite books, “Dinosaur bites”. 

This activity wasn’t too time consuming to prepare, neither was it too much of a hassle to do and needed just a little supervision depending on what sort of tools you use (be careful with the hammer). 

We had a great time together as a family doing this together and tomorrow, we’ll continue with another dinosaur themed activity. 

Oberwaldhaus, Darmstadt

To celebrate Singapore’s 51st Birthday this year (9th August-National Day), a group of Singaporeans and our families met up at Oberwaldhaus in Darmstadt. Easily accessible via Bus F from Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof, I am so glad to have been introduced to this beautiful park. 

Surrounded by plenty of luscious greenery, a lake where you can rent a boat for, a mini golf playarea, pony rides and a playground, the park has lots of offer for families of different ages.

Blessed with warm rays of sunshine, we were fortunate to secure a shady spot for the picnic. 

It was great meeting old friends and seeing new faces. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long as we had a train and bus to catch to get back to Frankfurt. However, it’s always nice to have a good catch up with the rest, enjoy each other’s food and company. 

Nature Scavenger Hunt for Toddlers

We love going out on walks as a family. To begin with it was stressful because Theo had no idea about traffic rules and refused to hold our hands for his own safety. But after a month or so of constantly educating him about the “red man”, “green man”, traffic lights, zebra crossings and the mandatory need to hold our hands when crossing the road, he’s a much better toddler to bring out without a buggy now. 

To kick start our summer holidays together (spent at home by the way), I designed a Nature Scavenger Hunt based on ideas I found on Pinterest. 

Depending on the age of the child, I think 5 objects is just right for a 2 year old. 

I put the piece of paper in a zip lock bag because I didn’t want him to crush it all up. This means we can easily reuse this activity in the future. Well, it’s also because I don’t have any laminating sheets at home. 

1. Stick found

2. Dandelion seed head

3. Red poppy

4. Spot the bee

5. Last but not least, green leaves

Theo really enjoyed this activity. We prompted him along the way to help him spot smaller objects. I also find it very educational as we could use this activity in line with books about nature and his favourite Bee Man book. 

There are many scavenger hunt activities such as colours, transportation, animals etc that can be done so this can be tailored to suit the interest of the child. 

Shoebox Craft – Carpark

Theo is absolutely MAD about cars. Recently his love for them has gotten even bigger – only wears tops and bottoms with cars or buses on. What service have I done to myself for getting him plain trousers for Kita?!?! 

He hasn’t got a toy garage to play with but he’s very happy pushing cars on tables, carpet and the floor. The boy doesn’t know what he’s missing since he hasn’t got it. Ha! Apart from Ah Ma (my mum) spoiling him during her one-month visit, our general rule is to only get him gifts for Easter, birthday and Christmas. The odd €2 hot wheels cars are great as rewards but we personally like the thrill of opening presents only on special occasions. 

I have a couple of shoeboxes lying around at home and thought it would be a waste to not do anything crafty with them. So I looked up on wonderful Pinterest for ideas and made him a garage.

It came as a surprise for him as he was out for a walk with his Papa when I made this. He absolutely loved it and played with it for hours! 

He enjoys pushing cars through the holes and peeping through them when the box is closed. I’m just really glad that he had so much fun playing with something I made randomly for him. 

I drew an ice-cream shop, cars toy shop and hospital in the box and Theo gets to decide where the cars are going. Of course they’re always going to the toy shop to get more cars! 

Goetheturm, Waldspielpark

As you’ve probably realised, we’ve been making good use of the summery weather here in Frankfurt by enjoying all the greenery around us. The husband gets his exercise, the boy gets to burn his endless amount of energy and I get to enjoy a moment of serenity.

We don’t live too far from Goetheturm in Sachsenhausen but it isn’t till this summer that we visited it with Theo. Children do bring you to places, don’t they? 

Although it was a blistering hot day, being in the forest made us feel a lot cooler as the green trees offered us lots of shade. 

This is the playground nearer the car park. Goetheturm has another playground where the BBQ pits are but I thought that was more suitable for older children. 

The swing is probably one of Theo’s favourite activities at the playground for now. This boy knows no fear and loves being pushed really high up into the air. 

He also insisted that Dan went on the slide. 

We’ll definitely organise playdates with Theo’s friends at Goetheturm next time and bring a picnic. There is ample space for kids to run around and have fun. Even if the kids aren’t in tow, I imagine it’s a fabulous place for a good long walk or a jog too. 

Schwanheim Waldspielpark, Frankfurt

It takes a while getting used to most services being shut on Sundays in Germany, but once I got used to it, I LOVE it. I appreciate the fact that on Sundays we get proper family time – not distracted by running errands and shopping. 

One of my favourite things to do on such a Sunday is to go to a park. Despite being a concrete jungle, Frankfurt has a handful of green spaces to relax in and Schwanheim Waldspielpark is one of them.

In the summer, the waterplay playground is the highlight for families. We do (un)fortunately get very humid summers in Frankfurt so such playgrounds are great for cooling us down. 

It wasn’t quite 30 degrees Celsius when we were there but Theo enjoyed himself running through the water and splashing around. 

I reckon his favourite thing to do then was to hold Dan’s hands to run through the water repeatedly. I can’t wait to bring him back to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay waterplay again! 

For those who aren’t fussed about the playground, the trails there are also gentle for most people. The terrains are  fairly smooth and flat. 

It’s definitely a great place to chill and be away from the hustle and bustle of city life. There is also a small but very interesting tram museum and petting zoo next to the tram stop. 

Djeco Fingerpaint for Toddlers

Last week, I finally got Theo some fingerpaint. He has been “painting” at Kita and seem to enjoy it so there is no reason why I shouldn’t do the same with him at home for the fear of mess.

I wanted paints that won’t stain clothes and fingers and are super easy to wash. So I walked into a local boutique and bought some Djeco fingerpaints. 

Each pot is 100ml so they are fairly huge and will go a long way. 

It’s almost impossible to make him wear a bib so you can imagine that a paint that doesn’t stain clothes is top priority on my list. Yup, I choose my battles to fight with  Theo. 

We did some hand-printing and I think the colours came out quite nicely. When switching colours, I didn’t even have to wash his hands. I just used a damp cloth to wipe them and we were ready to paint his hands another colour. It was super washable! The white cloth was stainless after I put it for wash in the washing machine too. 

Theo really enjoys fingerpainting. He loves banging his palms on the paper and seeing the effects he’s making. 

This is a great activity for us to teach him colours and it also helps refine motor skills as he gets to paint his palms himself. 

I’m definitely looking forward to doing more painting activities with him over the summer holiday. 

Western-super-Mare Beachside

I love going to the beach. Many of my childhood memories were of me having a splendid time with family by the seaside in Singapore, usually with lots of good food too. As a teenager, I went to the beach often with my friends to play volleyball, kayak or swim in the sea. The scent of warm sea breeze, soft sandy beaches and sounds of crashing waves relax me. Unfortunately, I live in the center of Germany now. Nowhere near the sea. Even when we lived in Oxford, we were nowhere near the sea. 

So when my sister-in-law asked me for holiday ideas during our last trip back to England, I said I wanted to visit the seaside. And off to Western-super-Mare we went which was less than an hour’s drive away from Taunton where we rented a holiday house. 

It was the first time ever that I wore a cardigan to the seaside. Who does that, right? Thankfully, the weather was on our side and it got really hot. 

I’ve not been to many beaches in England but the sand on Western-super-Mare was really soft. It’s not grainy like the beaches I’m used to in Singapore. Actually, the sand reminded me of sand dunes in Perth, Australia. Yes, super fine! 

It was low tide when we visited so I didn’t actually get to see the sea which was very far out. But the whole feeling of being by the seaside was a happy one.

The kids had a fabulous time at the beach. The adults built them a huge aeroplane, castle and mini-car to sit in. Theo especially liked to eat sand just to annoy me.

One of the things I really enjoyed was eating fish and chips on the beach (next to the sea aquarium too!). That was perfect! 

Theo’s 2nd Birthday

This year, Theo’s really fortunate to spend his 2nd birthday with his Grampy, Aunties, Uncle and little cousins in England. We tried to keep it as simple as possible because we didn’t want to overwhelm him but still, he fell asleep before lunchtime. Good for us though since we managed to have our meals in peace.

He enjoyed the plate of sausage and mash. Turning 2 is so much different to when he first turned 1 and was absolutely clueless about what was happening. At least this time round he was more excited about getting presents and birthday cake.

He was very pleased with the Disney Pixar Cars card that his Auntie made specially for him. You can have a look at all her beautifully handcrafted cards here

We bought this Peppa Pig car cake for £10 at Sainsbury. I’m always impressed at how easily you can get delicious and pretty cakes from most supermarkets in England for a decent price. I thought it would be extremely sweet given the icing but it turned out alright. 

2 years old seems like a huge milestone to achieve. I’m really proud of Theo! In the second year of his life, he learnt to walk, talk, run, kick a ball, attends playgroup full-time, got more independent etc. The list goes on and on. They seem really trivial to us, but it’s a big deal for the little ones. 

As we move on to proper toddlerhood, I hope that Theo continues to flash his infectious smile to those he meets, be as healthy as possible and knows that he is my everything. 

A blog on my three greatest loves – family, food & travels

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