Tips for Visiting the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour

The entrance to the Harry Potter studio tour in Leavesdon, UK
The entrance to the Warner Bros. Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour, UK

This week we took G-Man and friend to the Harry Potter studio tour as his birthday treat. This was instead of a party – hurrah! We had a great time geeking out on all the amazing Potter film artefacts and sets. Especially, I must confess, us grown-ups in the group. It’s a fantastic experience that, despite the horrendous cost, I definitely recommend.

It is also one of those places where a bit of research and prep beforehand really pays off. This is especially true if, like us, you are taking young kids. So here are my top tips for avoiding misery, saving money and making the most of a family trip to the Making of Harry Potter studio tour!

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Steampunk-Victorian Chic Bathroom Makeover!

After seven years of living with the grottiest bathroom on the planet, we’ve finally managed to update it – huzzah! ​Now I realise this blog isn’t really about interior design, but I was so excited I had to share it.

Little girl in bright bathroom with colourful floor and cupboard.
A colourful and fun take on a steampunk bathroom.

Yes, it was bad. Oh so very bad. Nasty dark green tiles on every wall, wrinkled linoleum, a mouldy bath and cracked sink.  Not to mention manky old exposed pipework sticking out of the wall over the bath taps. Yuk…

It’s amazing what you can live with (seven years!!), but now we finally have a beautiful, fun, funky and actually rather peaceful bathroom of our very own.

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Roald Dahl Scarecrow Festival

Every September, members of our local community are invited to make and display a scarecrow for the annual festival, and then everyone troops around all the houses looking at what we’ve all done. It is a whole heap of fun, and also involves a stop for tea and cake at the local Community Orchard, making it even more fabulous.

This year’s event was only a few days after what would have been Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, so of course our scarecrow had to be Roald Dahl themed!

Mike Teavee inside TV set - Roald Dahl scarecrow
Mike Teavee – first person to travel by television! Or should that be Wonkavision?
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How to Make Willy Wonka’s Hat…

I’ve been making a few odds and ends with the kids over the holidays in preparation for this September’s Scarecrow Festival (yes, I know it’s still only August!). Last year I managed to rope in friends on my street to do Alice in Wonderland scarecrows.

This time our scarecrows will be characters from Roald Dahl’s books, in celebration of what would have been his 100th birthday. I’ve got grand plans for our tableau (which will be a character and scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and one of the things I wanted to include was Willy Wonka’s iconic hat, laid casually on his desk as if he’d just popped away for a moment.

Instructions for a DIY Wonka hat like Gene Wilder's
You only need cardboard and glue for this quick but impressive make – soon we’ll all be rockin’ Wonka Hats!

Making the Willy Wonka hat turned out to be surprisingly easy – read on to see how I did it!

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Star Wars Party Games That Won’t Trash Your House

ideas for a star wars party for kids
You can have a fantastic, fun-filled Star Wars party in your home without disastrously epic lightsaber battles and kids in permanent hyperdrive… Here’s how we did it!

G-man’s birthday this year happened to coincide with the release of arguably the most anticipated film of the century – Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And since we’re all big Star Wars fans here, he absolutely had to have a Star Wars party.

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Our Top 10 (or 11) Favourite Play Food Toys to Buy

Our kids love playing with their toy kitchen (yes, it is the ubiquitous Ikea Duktig play kitchen; and no, it has not, alas, been pimped).  Over the years we’ve amassed a fair few bits of play food to go with it – some inherited, some gifted, a few picked up in the sales.  But if we could do it all again, these eleven sets are the ones I’d make sure to get!

11 best toy play food and accessories
These are our top choices for stocking up a play kitchen!
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Help your child practice their scissor skills with a Nature Snip Box!

Handling scissors correctly is a difficult skill to master, and so we try to practice every chance we get. In the house, we have a “snip box” full of different scraps to cut up, following patterns and lines or just snipping away.

But sometimes we like to take our scissor skills practice outside, to try our hand at cutting things we find around us while exploring in the sunshine.

Creating a Nature Snip box takes absolutely no effort at all – in fact, the kids do pretty much all of the work!

scissor skills practice with leaves
Practice scissor skills with garden cuttings!
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Make Toy-Food Mushrooms Out of Stuff You Already Have!

Our kids love cooking up meals in their play kitchen, and one of their greatest pleasures is mixing up the ingredients.

 We’ve had great fun stocking their kitchen with all sorts of little bits and pieces that can be stirred in a mini cooking pan with a handful of other things; pompoms for meatballs; soy sauce fish containers for, er, fish; strands of wool for spaghetti, and so on.  I’m always on the lookout for new things to include!

The other day I had an absolute brainwave, and came up with this easy-peasy, quick, and essentially FREE way to make these fabulous play-food sliced mushrooms.  Want to make some DIY play food too?  Read on!

make play food sliced mushrooms out of wine corks
Make the kids some sliced mushrooms for their mud kitchen, out of just a handful of wine corks!
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Puddle Jumping

There is magic in puddles that seems to call to all children. In the rain, or after, it’s a rare child who can resist the urge to stomp, splash, swish and splatter through them, regardless of whether or not they’re wearing their wellies. It’s a well known kid fact that it’s really not a successful puddle jump if you don’t come out of it with soaking socks.

Playing in puddles is one of those great activities that requires little or no preparation – other than pulling on those wellies and a rain mac – and most of the time my kids are happy to play in them without interference from me. Should puddle ennui set in, though, we can always find further fun with these simple alternate games.

child jumping in puddles
Puddle Jumping – just one of many simple games to enjoy on rainy days!

Puddle Prints

After the rain has stopped and the pavement starts to dry out, try making wet footprints from puddle water. We love making footprint trails to follow, patterns and even letters and words using puddle water as paint.

Puddle Dancing

We are big fans of ‘Singing in the Rain’, and twirling our umbrellas in a Gene Kelly homage. There are a ton of other rain related songs and nursery rhymes to try if 50’s musicals aren’t your thing – classics such as ‘it’s raining, it’s pouring’, ‘raindrops keep falling on my head’ and ‘I Hear Thunder’; but don’t forget the many pop songs too – the chorus to Rihanna’s Umbrella song, for example, is one of our favourites and another good one for umbrella dancing.

Cloud Busting

Both our kids were awed by the admittedly awesome video for Kate Bush’s song ‘Cloud Busting’, and since watching that, another favourite game of ours is to play with making the weather. We catch reflections of clouds in puddles, and smash them to pieces with big, splashy jumps. We’ll also twirl them into tornados by spinning round and round, or make the rain fall with a rain dance. G-Man likes to raid the kitchen to borrow the hand whisk, which he insists is his very own cloud making machine.

Puddle Vaulting

Not got rain shoes on? Play another of our favourites, the Puddle Vaulting game. Jump over each puddle, making sure not to make a splash. Amp up the peril by filling the puddles with sharks, piranhas, water goblins, or lava. Whatever you do, don’t get wet!

Puddle Boule-ing

We sometimes use the boules set, or pebbles if we’re out and about, and then stand back to toss them into the puddles. We like to see who can get their pebble closest to the target, or who can make the biggest splash! We also love trying to count the ripples as they spread, and tossing several at the same time to make beautiful overlapping patterns.

Puddle World

When the puddles are in the garden, we turn them into landscapes by drawing around them with chalk and adding props like mini dinosaurs or farm animals. Draw a red chalk border, and the puddle becomes a Martian lake; yellow or white can be a tropical beach or a desert oasis. Natural elements like rocks, twigs and leaves make great scenery. Muddy puddles are perfect for Peppa Pig and friends.

Puddle Regattas

Who can play with water without floating something on it?  Not my kids!  Leaves, sticks, feathers and flowers – all sorts of found-things have been set adrift on puddles by my guys.  We’ve even made paper boats, twig rafts and cork ships to try out on the bigger puddles.

These are just some of the things that we’ve done on wet days, and every rainy day excursion with the kids leads to them creating new games and imaginative play – I’m constantly amazed at their inventiveness.  So don’t let grey days trap you in the house and get you down; get on your wellies, wrap up warm, and go have some fun!

Why & How to… Treasure Baskets

What are treasure baskets, and how do they benefit our children? In my own experience, treasure baskets are one of the most valuable experiences we can offer our babies, so here is a brief explanation to help you get to grips with these ideas, and some practical tips on getting started!

why and how to give your baby a treasure baskets
Treasure baskets – simple to put together, but one of the most rewarding things you can do for your baby. Find out why and how here!
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