Before the boys came home, I remember reading (though, I cannot find it again now, if it rings a bell with anyone, please let me know) that traditions could be beneficial in creating a family bond with adopted children.
I took this on board and quickly established firm traditions in our home.
Some are pretty common, like birthday cakes in requested shapes. Some are a little more personal to us, like staying up all night to watch the results of a General Election (we’ve had two so far, since becoming a family, but the boys cheerfully tell people that this is what we ‘always’ do).
In the run up to Christmas we have hit prime tradition time, so, I thought I would share some of our Christmas time traditions. Over the years, we’ve established ways of handling Christmas that seem to help keep everyone calm.
December 12th is St Lucia’s Eve. Every year, I put a crown of candles on my head and take a tray of snacks upstairs to the bedrooms in the middle of the night. It’s not something my family did as a child. It’s not a particularly common tradition anywhere, not even in Scandinavia where services in celebration of Saint Lucia are widely held. It does involve a midnight feast, though, and that makes it a winner with the boys. It is, I’m told, one of the best things about our family.


(Somehow this sight waking them up has never terrified the boys, nor caused a house fire!)

For our first Christmas, we were concerned about over stimulating the boys, do we held off as long as we possibly could and began our tradition of not decorating the house until Christmas Eve. After the children are in bed, we put up the tree, so the first time they see it is Christmas morning.
That first year, the boys didn’t want to ask for anything and were very worried about whether they were ‘good enough’ for presents. Eventually, I cracked and said (about a week before Christmas) “we’ve already bought you the bikes you wanted, they’re in the loft.” Luckily, that turned out to be the right thing to say! They calmed down and we started a new tradition. Each year we agree on the present they really want and I assure them that I have bought it. The rest of their presents are a surprise.
In the run up to Christmas, I make a big meal plan to cover the entire holiday period. We all plan it together and everyone gets to pick at least one meal. Food is incredibly emotive for our boys, so we tend to keep them informed about the meal plans, but the Christmas plan is the longest one we make. It lasts from Christmas Eve till Epiphany, and includes lots of reliable favourites.
Christmas Eve we always have leek and potato soup for tea. We keep the day very calm and bedtime normal. We hang stockings away from bedroom doors, partly because Eldest is a very light sleeper (the tooth fairy also leaves money quite a distance from his room), and partly because the idea of Father Christmas scares Middly a bit.
Christmas Day follows a rigid schedule, which is key to keeping everyone as calm as possible. Of course, we use routines for most things here, it seems to suit us well.
We get up and open stockings on our bed. Then we eat breakfast and go to church. After church, we have a drink and a snack. I put a few things in the oven. Then we open presents. After presents, we eat lunch (always the same traditional roast with a chicken and a big cut of gammon for them, a nut roast for me). After lunch, we have a walk.
We see family on Boxing Day and always eat Leftover Pie made with filo pastry.
Since the end of the festivities can be hard, we stretch the presents out a bit and celebrate Epiphany as well, leaving gifts in the children’s shoes as the decorations come down.
I’d love to hear any tips you have on making Christmas a time of peace and joy in your house.


Science Club – PH, Acids and Bases

PH: Acids and Alkalis.

Arrival Craft:

Paper volcanos.
Very simple craft. We stuck tissue paper into toilet rolls to make them look like erupting volcanoes.



Start steeping red cabbage.

There are lots of different ways to describe how one thing is different from another.

Apple juice and water are both liquids, but what makes them different?

Apple juice and Vinegar are both brown liquids, but what makes them different?

One of the differences that chemists talk about is PH, that means whether something is acidic or alkaline. Do you know anything that’s acidic? Do you know anything that’s alkaline?

An easy way to test is by using universal indicator paper, it goes different colours depending on the PH of whatever it touches. Colour in your PH table.

Acid or Alkali Guessing Game. Acid comes from the Latin for sour and alkalis taste bitter (you shouldn’t taste everything to find out what it is, though!) Have a selection of liquids, ask the children to guess what colour they will make our universal indicator paper. We used milk, vinegar, bleach, apple juice and coke.


Individual Task:

When we put an acid and an alkaline together they react.

That’s why bath bombs fizz! Baking Soda is alkaline and Citric Acid is acidic, when they dissolve in the water, they mix and fizz.

Children can add a small spoon of cornflour and a small spoon of citric acid to two small spoons of baking soda, then add a flavouring and mix it together with a small spoon of almond oil.


Gather Together for the Conclusion:

Try and remember which was the acid in your bath bomb and which was the base.

Does anyone know the chemical name for water? Look at the molymod kit.

This is what happened: acids ‘donate’ or let loose a hydrogen ion in water, bases ‘donate’ an OH ion. These make water together, and a salt, and carbon dioxide.

I gave the children circles of paper and pegs so they could copy what I was doing with the molymod kit. Lego would work equally well.

Who’s heard of carbon dioxide before? It’s something we breathe out, isn’t it? At room temperature it’s a gas, that’s why we see bubbles when we put our bath bomb in water, the gas is escaping from the liquid.

The strength of the reaction depends on the strength of the acid and the base.

If we want to make a volcano display, which acid should we mix with the baking soda?

Volcano experiment.


Active Science: Act out the neutralisation of Hydrochloric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide.


Optional Extensions:

  • Make red cabbage ph indicator, all you need to do is steep red cabbage in boiling water, then retest our chemicals to see how easy it is to read.
  • Guess what water will be after we dissolve one of our bath bombs in it. Try and see if we were right.


I gave the children some universal indicator paper to take home, because it’s fun to test the pH of various things around the house.

Science Club – Measuring and Maps

Measuring and Maps Week



Arrival Craft:

Make a simple sextant, we’ll have a couple of ready-made ones for toddlers to colour.

I cut paper plates in half, and drew degree measurements on, using a protractor.
The children stuck a straw along the bottom edge to use as a view finder. They stuck string in the middle with a penny sellotaped to the end, to act as a weight.
Sextants are used to measure the angle of things, this can – with a bit of maths – determine where you are if you look at the north star. There’s a nice guide to using a sextant here. They can be used in the day, but these paper ones don’t have mirrors, so please don’t sight the sun with them.
We used ours to measure the angle of elevation of the light in the hall for practice.
Line up the sextant so you can see what your chosen object through the straw. Ask a helper to read off the angle the string is passing through.



Show a range of measuring devices. What would we use to measure the height of: a person (tape measure), the length of a toy car (ruler), the length of the room (trundle wheel)?

How would we measure a wiggly line on a map? (we could use a piece of string)

Let’s measure the length of this room in children. Everyone stand in a line and hold hands, how many children long is this room?

Are ‘children’ a good unit of measurement? Why not?

Before tape measures were easily available, people used to measure things with their bodies. Your wrist to your elbow is called a cubit. If you take a step, you measure the heel of the front foot to the toe of the back foot, that’s your pace. Would it be easier to measure the length of the room in paces or cubits?


Individual Task:

I made simple worksheets for the children to fill in, you can download them here: YouAreTheMeasure

Using tape measures, children measure their own cubit, foot pace and hand span.

Bigger children compare their measurements to the standard cubit.

Biggest children work out how long the room is in their personal cubits.


Gather Together for the Conclusion:

Play “Where’s Wally?”. Sometimes it’s hard to find one part of a big picture.

We use grid references to help us find things on a map.

Guess where the treasure is (make a big map of an island, draw a grid reference on it, get all the children to guess which square hides the treasure, when everyone has guessed, reveal the answer).

Show the Beebot map and program the beebot to move around it.
You can get a Beebot here, or just skip this bit!


Break for drink and snack


Active Science:

Play North, South, East, West.
Appoint one wall to be North, one South, etc.
When you call ‘North’ the children run the that wall and the last child there is out. Keep calling directions until all the children are out.
If the children are really good at this game, add in ‘North East’ etc. Or even ‘South South West’!


Optional Extension:

Map worksheets or games, we have a few map themed board games which I took along.

Beebot challenges




Science Club – Sprouting Mung Beans

This week required a bit of preparation.
Starting a week before, I soaked mung beans overnight, rinsed them and put them in a plastic cup, with a sheet of kitchen towel held over the top with an elastic band. I kept my cups in a cupboard, rinsing them once a day to stop them rotting. I started a new cup sprouting every day, so that I had a sequence of seven cups of beans at various stages of germination for the children to look at.

Sprouting Mung Beans Week

Life Cycle of Plants


Arrival Craft:

Life cycle of a plant paper plates.
I gave the children two paper plates and a split pin each. On one paper plates they drew a seed being planted, sprouting, a flower growing, a new seed being produced.


They cut a quarter out of the second paper plate, lay in on top of the first plate and joined them together with a split pin. They now had a simple model of a plant’s life cycle.



Put plant life cycle pictures in order.

Has anyone grown plants? Talk a bit about what they saw.

Explain that we are going to sprout mung beans, find that on the plant life cycle.

Show the ‘ones we planted earlier’ beans and put them in order: Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Individual Task:

Rinse mung beans, put them in a plastic cup, put lid on cup.


Gather Together for the Conclusion:

Using some of the mung beans we’ve already sprouted, we can make a salad for everyone to try.

Dissect a flower together.
I cut up a rose and talked the children through the parts, sticking them to white paper and labeling the stem, leaf, petal, stigma and anther.
We passed the flower around and noticed the stickiness of the stigma, and talked about why it might be sticky (so pollen sticks to it).
Middly made a big poster at home, showing the parts of a flower, we compared this to what we could see.

We used post it notes to label the parts of the flower.


Break for drink and snack


Active Science:

Pollination game.
I set out four buckets, each holding a selection of coloured building blocks, all the reds in one bucket, the blues in another etc.
I asked the children to pretend to be pollinating animals (they picked bees, butterflies, moths and bats). The children ran around the buckets picking up the blocks and dropping them into other buckets.
After a few minutes, I asked the children to stop and we looked at what had happened to the buckets. Some buckets had a mixture of coloured blocks – these would have been fertilised plants. Other buckets had no blocks left – just as some plants might not be successfully fertilised by animals. Some blocks ended up on the floor, just as not all pollen picked up by animals reaches another flower.


Optional Extension:

Dissect their own flower.

The children used our big poster and my example to dissect their own flowers.