Our adventure started off with a Gingerbread house kit that we found after halloween in Tesco for £1.50 & a large box we had from the delivery of a new kitchen appliance…
We decorated our gingerbread house during the week and used our box to make a giant gingerbread house..





IMG_4840-0.JPGwith our gingerbread houses, some hot chocolate, sprinkles and cream, we headed to the woods..

IMG_4837.JPGwe whipped up our cream with a splash of green food colouring..

IMG_4838.JPGwe added our sprinkle decorations to our hot chocolate Christmas trees…we used whipped cream that didn’t stand up very well, you could use normal squirty cream for snow covered trees and use sprinkles and strawberry laces for the decorations..

IMG_4832.JPGthey went down a treat..

Noah decided to have his in the gingerbread house..

IMG_4855.JPGat this point the 9 & 10 year old were arguing and bickering and finding fault with each other so much that they were pointed in the direction of the car to watch from afar so that the little ones could enjoy the trip without having focus constantly taken away :-/
So, as the smaller ones enjoyed their drinks I set about hiding hanging chocolate Santas in the trees…

IMG_4835.JPGand they set about finding them..



IMG_4851.JPGwith their Santas found we left them to play and explore whilst us olds drank our hot chocolates 🙂


IMG_4849.JPGthen it was time to dig into our gingerbread house!



IMG_4845.JPGa quick last minute search for any last Santas and once we were happy we’d discovered them all we headed back to the car…

But we missed one which I took just for me 😉



IMG_4787.JPGThe kids can’t wait to open their advent calendars, hung on the wall and idolised over for a week before advent and counting down the days til the first window can be torn at….
We decided that we wanted to make the first day of advent a little special and to give the kids a little bit of thinking time to help them gain a little appreciation of the things we have.
So we head out to find a beautiful spot to watch the day begin as we open our first window…..come rain, shine, frost or snow, our tradition is to start our advent being thankful for all that surrounds us.

Last year was a cold, frosty but beautiful morning as we pulled ourselves out of bed, filled a flask and headed for the hills under predawn moonlight..

This certainly beat sitting on the sofa and tearing at 1st window of December…









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IMG_4765.JPGWe drank hot chocolate as the day began and ate our chocolate in the company of a beautiful morning 🙂


IMG_9317.JPGWe made our own Christmas Eve jarmie tops, we used a packet of (felty type) dishcloths from Poundland and some white tshirts, we cut out our designs and glued them to the tshirts using all purpose glue suitable for fabric. We finished with googly eyes and some fur from an old teddy for Santas beard. You could use felt from a craft shop and fabric glue but this works just as well and was super cheap 🙂 (not sure how they will fair in the wash but for under a £5 for all materials for all 3 it doesn’t really matter because they were completely made with love)
Here’s how it went…







The kids loved their PJ and were proud of what they had made 🙂


Exploration starts for babies from the second they are born…try slowy poking your tongue out at your new born baby and watch how they mimic you….
They are born with wonder, intrigument and an eagerness to have their senses tantalised.
So here’s our tried and tested ways to get the smallest members of the family involved in a hands on way right from the beginning….

At a few months i sat Noah in his bumbo chair with a piece of tin foil to explore. (obvious supervision is required so it is not eaten)
Mila & I made a discovery sparkle bottle for baby Noah. We used an old plastic bottle which we filled with sparkly bits, bits of foil, glitter & hazelnuts…we then filled with water & glued the screw cap on.

We just filled a polly pocket (or zip lock bag) with paint, sealed it and taped it to the table by placing sticky tape around the edges. Squishy fun!

Baby Noah is now able to sit in an upright bath seat which enables us to start on sensory/discovery water play.. we used old milk cartons that we made holes in as squirty bottles. The smaller the carton then the easier for the baby to handle.

I used a baking tray because it had small sides so it was easily accessible for baby Noah, I attached a piece of double sided sticky tape to the underneath to stop the tray being knocked off his high chair. I then whisked up some bubbles using baby ‘no tears’ shampoo & scooped it into the tray for him to explore.

Mirror sensory play. I gathered up everything I could find that was reflective or shiny, mirrors, spoons, ladles, biscuit tin lids, shiny gift bags, tin foil covered apples & saucepans, I placed Noah’s playmat in front of the shiny dishwasher & let him explore. He loved it.

Today we did edible painting with baby Noah using custard powder made up with Noah’s baby milk. Messy & fun.

We had some sensory exploration with a tray full of wiggly wobbly jelly in the bath.

I put baby Noah by the window so he could discover the rain. We then went into the garden so he could touch the wet bushes.

Initial responses when your baby gets hold of the baby wipes is to quickly take them off of them to avoid mess & wastage…. but this can be a mesmerising activity of discovery for your little one. Let them dig in, you can always push them back in the packet.

Window squidge…I put a few squirts of different coloured paint into a ziplock bag, I then used sticky tape to stick it to the window. I put baby Noah in his baby chair in front of the window so he could squidge the paint around in the bag.

I put 2 balls in a large bowl & let baby Noah chase them around

Salt dough hand prints….We mixed together 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of plain flour, 3/4’s of a cup of water & 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil. I rolled out the dough & then firmly pressed baby Noah’s hand into it to form a handprint. I then put it in the airing cupboard on greaseproof paper to air dry…..with supervision I let baby Noah squidge & play with a large chunk of the dough….this was my first attempt at making salt dough x

I put baby Noah (6 months) in his baby chair in the bath and gave him a chocolate mouse to explore. He had a very messy but tasty and enjoyable time. Prepare to get splashed with yumminess.

I used an old plastic food tray, made up some jelly (using about 60ml additional water) & placed a few of Noahs toys in it, i left to set in the fridge overnight. I took it out of the fridge a few hour before play so it was not too cold for him. I put him in his high chair & let him dig in…Mila (3) loved joining in too. You can buy packets of jelly at supermarkets for around 12p.

Noah was let loose with a bowl of flour. Here’s a taster before it all got a little ‘explosive like’, he loved it…..

I used a few table spoons of corn flour mixed together with water until a gloopy consistency was formed. I gave baby Noah (7 months) & Mila some spoons and let them play, mix, touch, feel and explore the gloop. I ran out of corn flour so ended up adding plain flour to the mixture (because thats what i had in the cupboard) this made it quite sticky…. They both ended up in the bath after this messy activity.

I boiled some potato & courgettes until they were soft, I mashed the potato but left the courgettes whole. I placed baby Noah (8 months) on an old sheet, I gave him the bowl with a wooden spoon and let him explore, Mila (4) also loved getting her hands stuck in

‘Frozen balloon sensory’ We filled up balloons with water & then put them in the freezer, once frozen we took them out & placed them in a warm bath for baby Noah to explore, we left some in the balloons and took the balloons off of some to reveal the ice balls.

‘BABY SAFE MOON DOUGH’ I mixed 1/2 a cup of olive oil (you can use sunflower or vegetable oil) with 4 cups of plain flour, it formed a crumbly type dough that could also be moulded, I put it on a tray & let baby Noah get stuck in…it was messy but easily swept up.

Yogurt painting…just as a few drops of food colouring

Baby Noah discovered the forest floor & explored.

if your little people are too small to be out in the cold snow then bring the snow in! A huge snowball on a tray was gratefully excepted by baby Noah…. even though he tried his best to eat it.

‘WATER PAINTING’ Noah, 11 months had great fun but it was also much enjoyed by Mila’ 4. We used a large piece of cardboard and water to paint, we had a large pan of water and thick paintbrushes that we used to ‘paint/wet’ the cardboard, once dried we could start all over again.

This morning whilst Baby Noah (11 months) shouted for his breakfast I gave him a roll of sticky tape, scrunched up in a ball with a few bits torn off & some put on his high chair table and a long bit left hanging off the roll kept it him amused for nearly 15 minutes whilst I had a cup of tea…. Why did I not discover this years ago?

FREE REIGN GARDEN EXPLORING (baby activity)… Under our watchful eye we let baby Noah (11 months) explore the garden of his own accord. He had a great time & scrubbed up well.

‘Discovery bottles’ we used old bottles which we filled ith different kinds of things for baby Noah to discover. Pasta, Cotton buds, tin foil, pipe cleaners, soapy water & rice. We put a bit of glue in the screw cap so Noah couldn’t take the tops off. He loved playing with them.

The sun came out today so we got the paddling pool out, we used a can of shaving foam to create a messy playtime for baby Noah (11 months) & Mila 4. They had a great time squishing & sliding & mixing shaving foam pies. Supervision is recommended for babies so they don’t eat it although the foul taste soon deterred Noah…

‘FLOWER SENSORY BOTTLE’ We filled an empty bottle with flowers & water to make a colourful bottle for baby Noah, we tightly secured the cap and put a piece of material over the top held on by an elastic band.

We made up some jelly and put it in the freezer overnight, when we took it out it was hard but still had quite a soft & squidgy consistency, we also filled ziplock bags with water and a drop of food colouring, Mila liked experimenting by making holes in the bags and watching the water leak out.

Pots and pans to bang on.

IMG_4719.JPGwe made a beach sensory bottle

We placed the paddling pool in the kitchen and gave baby Noah his birthday cake along with some cake ingredients to explore…

MATERIAL DISCOVERY BOX. I used a cardboard box which I cut a hole in the top of & then filled with strips of old material, Noah loves to pull baby wipes from the packet or trash the box of tissues given half the chance so this really kept him amused.

IMG_4722.JPGPERSONALISED BOARD BOOK. I printed out some pictures of Noah and used sticky tape to stick them into an old board book. I made sure the tape covered the whole picture so it made it waterproof from dribble clad little fingers… He was intrigued to see photos of himself & his siblings in his book.

Indoor swimming.
Activities don’t always go to plan….After a long restless night on the Calpol Noah found an alternative use for todays activity, I made a simple sensory paddling pool with strips of tin foil & paper fishes for him to explore in the warmth of the lounge, whilst I cracked on with the housework he dragged his blankie in, tossed everything out, snuggled down & went to sleep….

Chilling at the beach whilst Noah plays in the sand, the kitchen is a pleasure to be in this afternoon…

Paint bag…
I used a transparent bin liner which I squirted paint into, I then folded the open end and sealed with tape. I placed it on the floor & used sticky tape to stick all the sides to the floor. Noah enjoyed his mess free squishy playmat. You could alternatively tape it to a window for a giant hands on squishy sun catcher.

Discovery bottles.
An easy, free and effective way to entertain the littlest members of the family. Simply fill plastic bottles with water & small items and glue on the lids securely.

A simple activity that kept Noah busy & concentrated, we used a cutlery container turned upside down. A colander would work well too.

Spaghetti messy sensory play’ we cooked some spaghetti & then cooled it off in cold water and placed it into a container. We sat baby Noah on some old towels and let him explore the spaghetti, he loved it. (A packet of value spaghetti only cost approx 40p)

IMG_4729.JPGBall bit path… Another use for those ball pit balls that are kicking about… Noah loved holding the balls under the water and watching them pop back up with a splash!

IMG_4730.JPGmake some masking tape roads & tracks

IMG_4735.JPGmake some tunnels

IMG_4733.JPGmake a den

IMG_4736.JPGhold some bugs.

IMG_4739.JPGuse a large box to make a small world..

IMG_4740.JPGtake your time 🙂

IMG_4732.JPGexplore some bubbles..

IMG_4741.JPGexplore the rain..



✨Last year we discovered an elf.
We’d headed to the woods to decorate some Christmas hanging biscuits to hang in the trees for the woodland animal to nibble on.
We heard about how Christmas sleigh pulling reindeer practice their flight skills in the woodland in the run up to their big job for Santa on Christmas Eve….they are very elusive but we thought we’d go and see if we could catch a glimpse…
We decorated our biscuitsIMG_4684.JPGand hung them in the trees for the elusive reindeers..

IMG_4685.JPGand although we didn’t catch a glimpse of the Christmas reindeer we did find some sparkly poo which we were convinced was evidence that the reindeer had been there! (I mixed plasterscine with glitter and dropped it whilst the kids weren’t looking..shhhh)

IMG_4680.JPGand then we found her!


IMG_4683.JPGwe reached her down and took her home….we knew nothing about her, where she had come from and what she was doing in the woods…..but we were soon to find out…


IMG_4679.JPGThe next day we visited Santa at Clearwell caves and as we were leaving his grotto we noticed a present under his tree addressed to ‘Mila’ (left there secretly by me!)

IMG_4674.JPGwe took the present home with us and opened it..

IMG_4676.JPGit contained a wishes jar to fill with festive wishes..and a letter from the North Pole explaining that the elf was a Christmas woodland elf and had been in the woods helping the sleigh reindeers practise for Christmas Eve when they got disturbed….The elf had got left behind!


IMG_4673.JPGthe elf would be staying with us until the reindeers returned on Christmas Eve.
We soon found out that the elf was called ELFINA after we awoke one morning to discover she was crafty elf..




IMG_4614.JPGWe arrived home one day to find she had transformed the bathroom into a Christmas grotto!



IMG_4647.JPGshe even turned the breakfast milk into a yummy hot chocolate treat..

IMG_4623-0.JPGwe think they must have been missing her at the North Pole because we stumbled upon a ‘LOST’ poster whilst we were out walking..

IMG_4625.JPGand then one night a very interesting thing appeared under the Christmas tree! It was a North Portal…

IMG_4627.JPGit turned out that the portal was a direct link of communication between the North Pole & Elfina..

IMG_4643.JPGwe awoke one morning to find the beacon of light inside…a light to guide Santa to Elfina on Christmas Eve and take her home..

IMG_4628.JPGElfina made herself at home in the meantime..


IMG_4629.JPGshe even issued he kids with a behavioural notice one morning

IMG_4621.JPGand gave them a warning that they may get coal…..which they did

IMG_4622.JPGwe found her at the beach one day with a thinking bottle for us..(This was on the anniversary of the death of a sibling)


IMG_4672.JPGand we found her on Milas coat peg at school!

IMG_4633.JPGshe had lots of festive fun with us and was quite pesky but lovable



IMG_4632.JPGshe even got others involved in her peskiness…

IMG_4620.JPGwe woke up Christmas Day to discover Elfina and had gone and only the Portal remained…but she had left us a very special package


But it wasn’t the last we saw of Elfina, she regularly pops back during the year, appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye…she came at Easter..




IMG_4687-0.JPGshe visited whilst I was in hospital


IMG_4613.JPGand she pops back leaving presents every now and them…she left ballet shoes

IMG_4688.JPGone night she even appeared with a pack of cards from the North Pole with Milas design on it! (I photocopied a drawing she had made after she went to bed)

IMG_4604.JPGshe fleets in and out of our home..
✨We woke up today and she was perched on a tree in the garden which was full of Ferrero Rocher!

IMG_4669.JPG✨💖🎄❄️It’s lovely having Elfina around…
✨You can follow more of her adventures & antics with us along with bucket loads of childhood magic on facebook…please come and see us!


IMG_4588.JPGWe made a Olaf Snowman lamp using a paper lamp that cost £6 from Ikea & some paper cut outs…
It was also a great excuse to let the 9year old lose on some flat pack experience.
Here’s how we did it..

IMG_4594.JPGEden set about putting together the lamp..


IMG_4589.JPGwe then cut out some features and simply used Blue Tac to stick them to our lamp…(that way we could remove them and used the lamp as normal again!)

It turned out fab!!



IMG_4582.JPGThis week we’ve been decorating in the house & whilst doing so Noah, 2, took a fancy to a couple of snow globes unearthed on the shelves, unfortunately as much as he loved them they were glass so not suitable for his chunky, not so nimble toddler hands.. So after several meltdowns because he couldn’t have them we decided to make him his own.

We used a much safer plastic container with a screw too, his digger toy, a hot glue gun and some fake snow that cost £1 for a huge bag from Poundland.

We washed out and thoroughly dried the container and then used the glue gun to stick the digger to the container lid…we used ample glue.

IMG_4593.JPGwe then put a table spoon of fake snow in..

IMG_4583.JPGwe filled with water and screwed the lid on tightly adding glue around the seal to make it extra water tight..

IMG_4581.JPGit cost us £1 to make and was super for his toddler hands 🙂



IMG_9234-0.JPGWith the end of autumn nearing there are so many beautiful coloured leaves falling..with this in mind I decided to head out with Noah to collect some for some leaf art..

IMG_9247.JPGit didn’t take us long to find some stunningly coloured leaves..


IMG_9243.JPGwe got loads !

IMG_9244.JPGwe found one that reminded us of the hungry caterpillar..

IMG_9245.JPGwe had so many leaves we had to find something else to carry them..

IMG_9242.JPGwe took our leaves home and laid out an old sheet on the kitchen floor..

We set about bringing our leaves to life again..


IMG_9238.JPGWe finished our picture and decided it looked like Mary Mary quite contrary…

IMG_9237.JPGSo we found ourselves a Mary!!

IMG_9236.JPGand a Noah 🙂

IMG_9235.JPGbut just like Autumn out small slice of Summer soon dispersed…



So we made a list and we checked it twice! Here’s our list of 101 frugal or free, magical memory making Christmas ideas as put together by our followers!! Well done to everyone who contributed with ideas…










We hope you like our list! Please share it if you have found it helpful…

You can find more magical ideas to keep the kids entertained & ensure their childhoods are full of magical memories that don’t cost the world and last a lifetime at FAMILY DAYS TRIED & TESTED


IMG_4458.JPG We headed to the beautiful Castell Coch in South Wales. An enchanting Cadw fairytale castle nestled in ancient hillside woodland, this was the perfect setting for us to do some dragon hunting.
When we arrived we were greeted by the most magical castle ever, beautifully exuding under a blue dappled sky…

We checked out the castle, walking around it and exploring the moat before heading in..

Inside was magical..




IMG_4448.JPGWe came across a magical wand and witch hat! We’d heard about the dragons that roam in the woodland surrounding the castle and the magic cast to turn the fire breathing ones to wood…we thought we could use the wand and hat to head out into the wood to cast protecting spells within the autumnal trees…

IMG_4446.JPGso we finished exploring the castle..




<img src="https://familydaystriedandted we caste a spell within the castle walls to keep it safe in our absence

IMG_4472.JPGand cast a spell over the castle as we left.

IMG_4473.JPGthe woodland was beautiful and basked in Autumn sun as we headed in search of dragons…

IMG_4462-0.JPGwe came across a sign on a tree as we went further into the trees..

IMG_4502.JPGand we found a magical leaf floating in the air….it was caught in a spiders web thread but was high enough for the kids not to see….. It floated on the enchantment that filled the air…

IMG_4464.JPGwe thought we may be getting closer to the dragons lair as we caught lots of dragons breath prickles on our clothes as we walked through the trees…if a dragon breathes fire within an enchanted wood it turns to prickle balls that fall to the ground and prevent the dragon from landing….this deters fire breathing dragons.

IMG_4463.JPGbut it did not deter us..

IMG_4466.JPGwe explored some more and were brave..there was plenty of evidence of dragon battles with trees pushed from the ground.


IMG_4468.JPGand then right there on the woodland floor we discovered a dragons egg!! Right at our feet..

IMG_4501.JPGwe decided to take it with us as we didn’t want a baby dragon roaming in the woodland! Imagine what could happen should it hatch and it be an inexperienced fire breathing dragon?! ….we took it for the safety of the castle.
It was glistening and rather beautiful.

IMG_4506.JPGwe abandoned our search for the wooden dragon after deciding our best option was to head back to the castle as the sun started to descend as we didn’t want to get caught in the woodland under the cover of darkness.
We arrived back to find the castle covered in shadow..

IMG_4441.JPGwe cast one last spell over the castle to restore light and left our wand and the dragons egg at the castle door before we left…

IMG_4460-0.JPGour visit to Castell Coch was truly magical…

There is a wooden dragon sculpture on the trail at Castell Coch but we arrived late in the day and never made it to the Dragon once we’d stumbled on the eggs and the day started to disappear…we will return another day bid to find it. But here’s proof that it’s there..


We are very lucky to be Family Faces for CADW which enable us free entrance to their sites. Please check their webpage for more detailed information regarding opening times and admission fees.
The woods surrounding Castell Coch are free to roam with only a small car parking charge required.