5 More Rainy Day Activities To Keep Your Toddler Entertained | Just Add Ginger

The last time I wrote a post like this, Eric was 17 months old and just entering proper toddlerhood. Now he is nearly 24 months (or 2 years) old and my lord a lot has changed. I have a walking, (nearly) talking, tantruming, opinionated little sasspot on my hands who is on the go from first thing in the morning until he is literally so tired he can't keep his eyes open anymore. 

Being pregnant with baby no.2 has also altered things quite a bit. Some days I've barely had enough energy to get dressed let alone leave the house so I've really had to think on my toes when it comes to how to keep Eric entertained. 

So I call these 'rainy day activities' but really they are activities for rainy days, days when you need to get things done around the house or days when you just can't be bothered (let's face it we all have them as parents.) And hopefully when you are sitting there ready to tear your hair out and internally screaming "what are the bloody hell are we going to do today?"  these will help spark an idea.

little boy with blonde hair looking at the camera

Puzzles and Games - I don't know how it happened, but Eric is really, really good at puzzles! You know - those ones with pieces that fit in to their corresponding shapes on a board. He will power through one of those in a couple of minutes, so now I am trying (emphasis on the trying) to get him into games. That is...if he sits still long enough! 

Puzzles and games are great for a number of different reasons. They promote motor skills, understanding, communication and vocabulary and are also great if you need a good sit down, quiet activity to do pre or post nap. 

On a recommendation I am going to start building an Orchard Toys collection of games and puzzles but there are so many other great brands out there that cater to your child and their age / abilities. 

Colouring In - As crazy as he is, colouring in (and stickers) are a big hit with Eric. He will take himself off and mark make in his colouring book (or my diary) for ages and be happy as a clam. 

You take your wallpaper into your hands the minute you hand over a crayon to a toddler but there are some other great alternatives should you not want your living room to turn a different colour. There are mess free colouring books, aqua doodle mats and I've even seen colouring pads that do something similar.  

Again, colouring in works on different areas of development (fine motor and communication are but two) and gives the chance for you to talk to and interact with your child (although Eric doesn't like it if you try and colour with him.)

Soft Play - Yes, I said it! Soft play. Sometimes you just have to. Great for rainy days (and days when it's just too warm) there are some great ones out there you can take your little ones to.

I'm so funny when it comes to places I feel comfortable taking Eric but there is a play centre near us which I've started to call my 'safe place'. It's exclusively for under 5's, is very open plan, and you can see your child from nearly any angle. There is also a baby section for little ones under 12 months so ideal for if you have two or more small children with you. And I just love it. 

Play centres like this are great because they encourage social skills and independent play. Plus there's usually the option to buy a coffee if you are really struggling. So yes, I said the dreaded 's word', but if you find a good one to go to, they will honestly be a lifesaver!

little boy with blonde hair looking at the camera

Read and Sing - This is perfect for if you have a little chatterbox on your hands but also for if your child is still working on their speech. Having time set aside to sing songs or read with your child is great for bonding too. It gives a great opportunity for cuddles, snuggles and quiet moments with your child that you may otherwise not get during the day.

With a really active toddler I have specific points in the day where I know these activities are more likely to succeed. We have a 'biscuits and bed' before his nap in the morning where I will read 2-3 books to him and sometimes sing some songs. Then during the day I will intermittently start singing songs I know he likes (Five Little Monkeys, Wind The Bobbin Up and If You're Happy And You Know It always go down well.) We will often have music or an audio book on as background noise too. At night, we have The Gruffalo as that is his (what I call) 'sleep cue' story.

Repetition is key when it comes to songs. It also helps if you get really involved and enthusiastic too. Even though Eric isn't talking yet if I start singing a song he knows he will join in with actions. And it's the same with stories. The Gruffalo is his favourite book and when I describe the features of the title character, Eric will point to each place on himself.

Movie Time - Because sometimes you just have to. 

Yes, screen time isn't always encouraged but for those days when you have made it through to the afternoon and you are at the end of your tether, a film or TV show can allow you some precious moments to make a coffee, eat something and take a deep breath ready to carry on. 

Sharing My New Secret Snack Weapon - Popcorn Shed Review* | Just Add Ginger

AD || Gifted

As a mum my days are often spent on a continuous loop of feeding, cleaning and entertaining my child. Honestly it is ridiculous how much food my little boy eats, and nearly all of it is snacks. A bloodhound for anything sweet I daren't go near him with anything that even marginally resembles food because he will seek it out, throw it at me, then give me those cute, puppy dog toddler eyes at stare at me until I give him some. It is a nightmare. 

image shows a flat lay of popcorn shed products and artificial flowers

It also means I'm often left going hungry, sneaking off to the kitchen whenever I can to hide in the pantry and eat something myself. And even though I don't have a lot of time, this is where I choose my snacks with care. Because even though I sometimes do have to scoff them within a matter of seconds, I still want them to be tasty.

You know me. I am governed by my sweet tooth and if ever I have the chance to try something new I am there. And Popcorn Shed was definitely no exception to that. One of my biggest guilty pleasure is a big bowl of popcorn in the evenings so the minute I was offered the chance to try some of Popcorn Shed's flavours I signed up without even drawing a breath. 

image shows a flat lay of popcorn shed products and artificial flowers

A home-grown and family-run business, Popcorn Shed is a popcorn brand with a punch. Using artisan cooking methods their snacks really bring it when it comes to flavour and texture. Offering flavour combinations I'd never even thought of and with added texture in the form of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate the days of rubbery, lack-lustre, polystyrene-like popcorn are a thing of the past. 

Now I'm not going to lie to you. When I first saw some of the flavours I had been sent I thought 'really, are you having a laugh?' I mean - cheesy popcorn? Really? Really? But giving it the benefit of the doubt I gave it a go (this was the Sweet Cheesus variety) and oh my god.... it really does work! And who would have thought it? Mixed together with the super sweet pieces it was an absolute dream flavour combination. So that's something to bear in mind. Yes some of the ingredients sound a bit bizarre, but Popcorn Shed really know what they are talking about.

close up image of a bowl of popcorn and popcorn shed products

image shows a flat lay of popcorn shed products and artificial flowers

Aside from the flavour we also need to talk about the packaging. Available in either handy grab and go size bags, 80g sharing bag "shed" or kilner style plastic jars Popcorn Shed definitely stand out with their brightly coloured designs, bold typography and cute graphics (the 'sheds' come with fully recyclable cardboard shells too). You definitely wouldn't miss them on a supermarket shelf and even their colour choices pay a little homage to the flavour the packet contains. 

pinterest friendly image of popcorn shed products and a bowl of popcorn

Gluten free, made from all natural ingredients and bloomin' delicious to boot my favourite flavour so far has to be the Pop 'N' Choc (three guesses as to why) but I have enjoyed every variety I've tried so far. So much so that I am having to really stagger eating the packets I have left because quite honestly I don't want it to end! I'm even tempted to order one of the big jars for Eric's birthday party just so that I can spread the popcorn joy and introduce more people to the brand. 

But when it comes to my secret in-house mummy snacking....these are definitely something I will not be sharing with my child.

* I was very kindly gifted a selection of popcorn from Popcorn Shed to review. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer.


5 Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following | Just Add Ginger

I'm a big advocate of shopping small, independent business and supporting local talent wherever possible. In place of browsing high street or big online stores for things to buy I would much rather look on Etsy or Instagram. 

With all this in mind I wanted to sit down and share the love of some of the accounts that I'm really enjoying and places I just love to shop. Yes a lot of them pertain to a similar theme but I am living that mum life nowadays so these are the places I enjoy browsing the most!

stock flat lay image of a coffee cup, laptop and business papers on a desk

Bear and Rose | @bearandrose

I first stumbled across Bear and Rose on Etsy. I was on the search for a little name plaque for Little One and there they were. Stocking the sweetest range of bespoke personalised and decorative pieces that would be gorgeous for the home, wedding and children's bedrooms alike I want to add pretty much everything they stock to our house in some way. If you like a little touch of the rustic or Scandi then this is definitely the account for you! 

The Monochrome Baby | @themonochromebaby

The Monochrome Baby also have an online store where they sell clothing items for adults and children who - as the name would imply - have an appreciation for monochrome items. Their Insta feed is a curation of styling inspiration and outfit ideas and looking at the photos just makes your heart melt. Have a baby or are looking for something a bit more original to buy as a gift for someone you know? I'd definitely give them a follow.

The Enchanted Maple | @the.enchanted.maple

I actually went to school with the lady who runs this account so I am pretty invested in following her and advocating her work. Again, The Enchanted Maple can be found on Etsy too and with everything that is sold you can just tell how much love and thought has been poured into it. From reading pillows to greetings cards and keepsakes it is the definition of a home-run business and all the items are just so sweet. The Enchanted Maple is the perfect place to look if you are after a gift that is that little extra bit special - just scroll through their feed and your bound to spot something you instantly covet.

Books for My Toddler | @booksformytoddler

Like with The Enchanted Maple I know the lady who runs Books For My Toddler. A teacher and reading advocate her feed is full of not only book recommendations but daily tips and ideas for how to incorporate reading into part of your everyday routine. All of her ideas are easy to carry out or put together and add a bit more structure to story time (which as a stay-at-home mum I've found a godsend.) I have put it to this one that she should start a blog with all of her ideas so hopefully one day I'll be singing the praises of that too.

Tinypix | @tinypix.co

My latest Etsy discovery and one that I immediately fell in love with Tinypix sells the most beautiful prints that would look stunning in any child's bedroom or nursery. Their Instagram feed is the epitome of decor inspiration for me at the moment (we are undergoing a few home improvements and doing some redecorating). I've ordered two prints from them already and will more than likely be ordering more once our back bedroom (where Eric is moving to) is painted. Everything they sell is created in calming colours and serene tones so are ideal no matter what your decor preferences (or that of anybody you are buying for) are.


What My Toddler Reads | Just Add Ginger

Even from a very young age I've made sure Eric has been exposed to books. Whether it's sensory books, ones with touchy-feely bits or books from my own childhood, reading has been a big part of playtime for us. 

flat lay photograph of a selection of children's books, toys and a carved wooden name sign

Now that he is older his attention span it's a lot easier for us to sit down and read books together. And he now actually expresses interest in what he wants to read. He has a strong opinion. He will indicate to the book he wants us to look at or bring it over to me. And at nap time (the portion of the day when we do the most reading) we are so set in a routine that he can anticipate what story is coming next and will get giddy and excited as I read / recite them to him.

Even though Eric has quite the collection of books already that we do rotate weekly, here are the ones that have currently made their place in his firm favourites. I've picked a selection from his paperbacks rather than board books or hardbacks purely because the latter are the ones he has constant access to so will look at more independently. These however, we tend to just read together as they are a bit more advanced for his age.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

If you want Eric to know it's time to go to sleep then read him The Gruffalo. It is such a strong part of our nap time ritual that I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon. He knows this book like the back of his hand and although he can't read along, he recognises what part we are up to depending on the intonation I use. I put on a voice for each of the characters and really get into acting this one out with facial expressions, hand gestures and alternating pace and tone of voice. And Eric loves it.

The story is great for repetition and the illustrations by Axel Scheffler are just beautiful - perfect to talk through with little ones who are more advanced with their speech. There's also a lovely little BBC adaptation that makes a great accompanying watch which I put on for Eric if I think he needs to calm down before bed.

A Bun For Barney by Joyce Dunbar

This was one of my childhood books and I now think that it is unfortunately out of print. But it is a lovely, lovely book. Again this is one of the books that is a part of our nap time routine but one that I don't always use and therefore is less familiar a sleep trigger for Eric. 

The story is fabulous for counting and it even has a sweet moral about self-assertiveness to it. The illustrations by Emilie Boon are very sweet and probably one of the most stand out features I remember as a child. They are done in such a way that your child can anticipate the next part of the story and are a great talking point.

Cat's Cake by Richard Fowler 

Again this is another book I've passed down to Eric from my childhood collection and it really shows. I loved this book so much when I was younger that some of the pages are being held together by sellotape that is about 25 years old. I absolutely  adored this one and now Eric does too. 

It is not as strong on the educational front but the story is engaging and easy to follow and gives mew lots of opportunities to put on voices and capture Eric's attention. Out of all of his paperback books this is probably the one he brings me the most to read outside of nap time (I keep all his paperbacks in his bedroom). 

The Happy Families Series by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Once again. these used to be mine. However you can still buy the Happy Families books (mine are just much earlier editions). I chop and change the stories out if the collection so that we are not stuck in the same old cycle of books but Eric will contentedly sit and listen to all of them pre-nap. Short and sweet, these stories are perfect if you want a five minute read before bed or while your little one is in the bath or in need of some quiet time. From time to time Eric will bring me over one of these to read to him (I think this is based on the colour of the cover rather than the story though) but because he is not as used to hearing them he won't be as entertained for as long.

I'm a big fan of the Ahlberg books and this series is no exception. I used to have the stories on audio cassette as a little girl and now I've got the CD on pre-order from Amazon for Eric (we are big on audiobooks for car journeys or during independent play) and I can't wait to hear how they are narrated this time round.

flat lay image of children's books and toys.

What books does your child love to read? Are there any titles or authors I should look out for? Let me know in the comments.


5 Steps Towards A Calmer Pregnancy | Just Add Ginger

It has been one of my biggest goals this pregnancy to stay a lot more relaxed. But so much going on every day, a toddler to chase after and hormones raging around my body this can be really difficult. However, I've connected the dots that they more time I take to concentrate on myself - even if it's just for five minutes - the less anxious or stressed I feel and the more I actually enjoy being pregnant. 

redhead woman laughing and looking off camera

Taking care of yourself at this time in your life is so important, and with that in mind I wanted to share five things I have been doing that help me switch off, unwind and feel a lot more at ease.

1. Hypnobirthing. 

This is something I started looking into when I was expecting Eric but never fully embraced. This time round I'm taking it more seriously. I'm feeling okay at the moment but I know the more I head towards labour the more wound up I'm going to be. So I'm doing all I can now to make sure I stay as calm and prepared as possible. I decided to invest in The Positive Birth Company's Digital Pack and oh my god it is amazing. I'm learning so much about my body and listening to the affirmations and guided breathing techniques is an instant way to help me calm down. If there is ever a night I'm having trouble sleeping I'll plug in my headphones and watch / listen to a few of the course's 'lessons'. Siobhan's voice alone is just so relaxing and within a couple of minutes I'm drifting off to sleep.

The course is great for birth partners too and I've already signed Ryan up to do the course with me. Because if he understands pregnancy, labour and birth a bit more, the more understanding he will be and be able to support me in my journey to ultimate calm.

photo shows a pregnant woman standing outside and looking off camera

2. Step Outside.

I'm a strong believer in spaces carrying energy and often, if I'm feeling particularly stressed (or grumpy) I know a change in environment is needed. And one of the best ways I gain clarity is by going outside. On the daily this could be opening the french windows and playing with Eric outside, or, if it's the weekend, it'll be going on a walk, or out for a coffee, or to feed the ducks. Simply getting out the house gives me the head space I need to get over a bad mood, refocus my mind, and forget what it was that was irking me in the first place.

3. Keep Talking.

One of my biggest failing last pregnancy was that I didn't speak up. I didn't let people know how I was really feeling. This was mainly because I thought I should be happy and grateful to be pregnant, which of course I was. But this did not detract from the fact that I was also terrified. A midwife I spoke to recently said it sounded like I had been 'traumatised' by things in my last pregnancy and I agree with her. 

So now I am talking. I'm open and honest and truthful, no matter how crazy I think I sound. If something's gotten under my skin I tell Ryan about it at the end of the day and if it's baby related I know my midwife is a text or call away from giving me advice. I cry if I want to and do you know what? It really, really helps.

4. Make Some Room For 'Me Time'. 

A cup of tea, an undisturbed bath or half an hour catching up with your favourite TV show....whatever you loved to do to unwind, now is the time to do it. You deserve it. With all the stresses and strains day to day life can bring it is really important to pencil some time into each day to have a breather, put your feet up and focus some energy completely on yourself. 

For me, it's catching up on YouTube, having a hot shower with my Spotify playlists blaring out or just taking my mum hat off for an hour or two and letting Ryan take over. And yes sometimes I have to force myself to do these things or admit that I need some time to myself, but once I do I feel heaps better. 

5. Do What Makes You Happy.

Tuning in to what our bodies are trying to tell us is definitely really important. And whereas this can be about if we're feeling under the weather or concerned about anything it's also about being aware in other ways. Fancy that chocolate bar....eat it. Feeling constipated....eat some greens. Getting tired.....have a rest. Social media getting your down...have a digital detox. Now more than ever is the perfect time to really think about things that are making you happy and things that just aren't. Be selfish and put yourself first. You are okay to do that sometimes. 

This time round I'm being a lot less hard on myself. I'm unapologetic in my thinking about myself and I will quite happily switch off from the wider world if I need to. I indulge in food that makes me happy, I am honest if I need five more minutes in bed, and firm when I need help. I exercise when I can and don't punish myself if I just can't be bothered. I have house days with Eric if I have no energy and eat healthily if I feel I really need it. And mostly, I'm true to how I'm feeling. 

five steps towards a calmer pregnancy - pinterest friendly image

Pregnancy is such an unpredictable journey and there can be obstacles that you never dreamt of coming across, but if you put a few simple steps in motion to implement to when you are feeling overwhelmed or scared or stressed then I think you are on the right track to a more relaxed experience. 

What are some of the things you do to keep calm? Is there anything you think I should try? Let me know in the comments. 


Why I Left | Just Add Ginger

Before the end of last year I thought that all my erratic vanishing from the blogging world was over. However, that was before we found out some exceptionally big news in the Autumn. 

If you haven't guessed already or seen my announcements on social media then SURPRISE - Ryan and I are expecting again. Our second little precious bundle is baking away and due to arrive in the summer. 

close up of redhead woman standing outside and looking off camera

We had been thinking about when we wanted to try for a second baby for a while and whereas I was so excited for Eric to have a sibling I was also so confused about what it meant for me as a parent. I mean - going from zero to one baby is one thing, but then one to two.... WOW! Add to that my one-handed approach to all things parenting and I would instantly be outnumbered. 

It also came down to the fact that Eric isn't talking yet. Now I'm not putting pressure on him but out of all of his little friends he is a tad behind on uttering those first precious words. They are coming. Just slower than I thought But then what he lacks in speech he makes up for in motor skills and movement. He doesn't ever bloody keep still. A whirlwind of independence and energy he forever keeps me and Ryan on our toes and only really stops when he is sleeping. In terms of toddler, he requires a lot of attention. 

pregnant woman standing outside looking down and cradling her bump

But then one day I think it hit me that no matter what gap there was in between babies there were always going to be obstacles. And I wasn't going to let that hold me back. So come the Autumn Ryan and I knew that we were ready and as before we made no plans to try. We were just going to see what happened. 

Finding out I was pregnant this time round was a whole different kettle of fish. I didn't think I was but then after doing a pregnancy test that made me think I was going insane (you can hear more about that in my YouTube announcement video) I found myself taking another one when I was alone in the house and having a little freak out on the toilet.

It was all very exciting but I needed to take some time out and gather myself. With my previous pregnancy being a bit choppy I wanted to take proper care of myself and approach everything with optimistic caution. I suffered quite badly with feelings of anxiousness after giving birth to Eric (I think everything that happened during the pregnancy caught up with me) and I just didn't want to let that happen again. I needed to practise some self-care.

So that is what I have been doing. I've been taking care of me. There have been lots of naps, extra scans and hospital appointment. There have been lots of tears, cuddles and squeals of delight. And I'm doing so much better than I ever thought I could. 

But now I am back. I'm slowly stepping foot back into the blogosphere and starting to play catch up with myself. I've missed blogging so much - even just sitting don writing this post my fingers have never felt so happy. My mind is buzzing again and creativity is flowing. And it feels amazing.