How To Make Potato Printed Thank You Cards

I try to send thank you cards for gifts whenever I can. I think it’s an important thing to teach the preschooler and this is the first year she’s really understood that you need to say ‘thank you’ for things you are given.

When it came to thinking about thank you cards last year I had an 8 week old baby, along with a toddler, and so it was a job that stayed on my ‘to do’ list until at least April when I gave myself permission to stop stressing over it and just forget it for that one year.

Which made it even more important to me to get it done this year.

I knew that I wanted the preschooler to be involved so I thought that some potato printing would be ideal. It’s not too messy (honestly), and would hopefully produce a good result.

I saw somewhere on Pinterest last year a lovely idea for potato printed penguins, and modified this for my own idea of a robin.Potato Printed RobinWe used a larger potato, and mixed some paint (we only have red, green and blue) to get a brown (ok purplish) colour (must buy some yellow or actual brown paint soon!) She printed all 12 cards then left them hung up on our number line to dry for 24 hours. Then we used a smaller potato for the red breast and she printed over the top of the brown. Again, they were left to dry before I completed the picture with a googly eye, beak and legs and she wrote her name inside each one.Potato Printed Robin

I think each bird has turned out to be a little character and I love that they’re all slightly different. They’ve been well received by family and friends and I’d definitely recommend this as an activity a 3 year old can do fairly independently and be proud of the results.Potato Printed Robin

Have you made home made cards? What could I do differently next year?

Our Christmas Elf: Week Three

Already we’ve found ourselves at the final week of our Elf’s Christmas activities! Weeks one and two went by quickly, and if it’s even possible these past few days have gone even faster and so we’ll find ourselves saying goodbye to Twinkle soon. But before we do, here’s what he got up to last week:

December 15th

Christmas Elf in a boot

Twinkle’s found a warm and cosy spot in one of the preschooler’s furry boots. As these are kept in the cupboard under the stairs it took her a LONG time to find him, but she loved it when she eventually did! Success!

December 16th

Christmas Elf and minion bananas

I saw this idea on Pinterest and knew I’d have to try it! I think it turned out pretty well, and the preschooler recognised they were minion faces, but Twinkle didn’t half get a telling off for her for drawing on the fruit! Bad Twinkle!

December 17th

Christmas Elf and pantsThere’s always a basket of washing around the house somewhere, and Twinkle’s taken advantage today and tried on some clean underwear. Again, he got a good scolding from the preschooler about this. Before she then showed him how to wear pants on your head properly of course…

December 18th

Christmas Elf and Gruffalo

The elf has made good friends with some of the other toys since he arrived, and today he was found sharing a glass of juice with the Gruffalo. No idea what they were chatting about though.

December 19th

Christmas Elf acrobatics

I was actually trying to get him to sit on the toilet roll as a swing here, but because he kept falling backwards he unintentionally became an acrobat. An easy one to find and another hit! I think she’s getting used to him now, we haven’t had tears in a while!

December 20th

Christmas Elf in the microwave

The preschooler was given a play kitchen for her birthday a few weeks ago, and uses it every day so it was a natural place for Twinkle to hide. He had a toy cake with him in the microwave.

NB. NEVER microwave your Elf…

December 21st

Christmas Elf in the fridge

Another one that took a while to find, hidden in the fridge with the toddler’s gloves. The preschooler wanted to join in the fun after finding him today, so she put the gloves on his feet and placed Twinkle inside the wok, closing the drawer. And that’s where he stayed for the rest of the day!

December 22nd

Christmas Elf on the toilet

Another one I pinched from Pinterest. I wasn’t sure she’d get it, but as she shouted ‘he’s done a poo!’ when she saw him she definitely did. Then she ate the chocolate chip…

December 23rd

Christmas Elf and toilet paper

Twinkle’s been messing with the toilet paper! Easy to set up and she loved this one!

December 24th

Christmas Elf on the curtains

Just hanging about near the curtain pole. Found pretty quickly despite being high up.

We’ve really enjoyed our first year of elf activities. There have been some unexplained tears but on the whole the preschooler has enjoyed Twinkle’s escapades and is sad to see him go when he leaves with Father Christmas tonight. Au revoir, Twinkle. See you next year!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

Our Christmas Elf: Week Two

I had slightly more ambitious plans for our second week of Christmas Elf’s activities than last week. But with the toddler on his second week of gastroenteritis, more often than not I’ve headed up to bed, and only once I was finally comfortable with the little man snoozing next to me, realised that I’d forgotten to move Twinkle, so it’s been another week of easy stuff!

And it hasn’t mattered one bit. The preschooler has enjoyed most of what she’s found him doing this week. So here’s our second week of Christmas Elf activities:

December 8thChristmas Elf in a boat

This one took the toddler ages to find, as he was hidden in the sink of our downstairs toilet, enjoying a gentle boat ride. This. Was. Hilarious.

December 9thChristmas Elf at the top of the treeHe’s getting to know the angel at the top of our tree today (no, not like that!) Easy to do as I was awake before the preschooler was, and even though the tree is in our lounge it took her a while to find as she wasn’t expecting to look up!

December 10th

Twinkle’s made a tower out of the sofa cushions and is lying on them. I was so late doing this I didn’t even take a picture, so you’ll have to just use your imagination…tricky I know. Oh, and she cried at this one. Answers on a postcard please.

December 11th

Christmas Elf and jigsawTwinkle is enjoying a brain workout with the toddler’s Thomas The Tank Engine jigsaw.

December 12th

Christmas Elf in the tumble dryerTwinkle’s investigating the tumble dryer. Again, easy to do when the preschooler woke early and I’d forgotten to move him. And this one was also hilarious!

December 13th

Christmas Elf on the lightHanging from the uplighter. I’d tried to get him hanging from the main light but he wouldn’t stay on, and this worked perfectly. Easily found by the preschooler too, and he stayed there all day.

December 14th

Christmas Elf on the advent calendarThe first thing the preschooler wants to do when she gets up is check the advent calendar, so it’s a natural place to find Twinkle. Plus he was near the empty pockets, so no worries that he’d nabbed any chocolate…

I’d say even with my lack of preparation (I had a huge list of possible activities and set ups, a lot of which required a bit more effort than these) our second week has been pretty successful. It’s turning out to be hit and miss whether she loves what he’s doing or cries at the sight of it. I’ve yet to work out the criteria for a successful find! Bring on week three!

Are you still going with your elf? Any quick wins I can pinch?

Review & Competition: Baker Days Personalised Cakes

I consider myself to be quite the cake connoisseur. I ate more than my fair share when I was pregnant and I know my quality cakes from the less desirable ones. It wasn’t a pregnancy craving, I just knew I could get away with it. It’s probably why my two love cake so much, it’s built in to their DNA.

So when Baker Days were looking for reviews of their personalised Christmas Letterbox Gift Cake I couldn’t say no! And if you’d like the chance to try one yourself then you could win one in my competition!

The first thing I want to say is just how quickly it arrived! I sent them my order on Wednesday afternoon and on Friday morning, this arrived through the letterbox!


Having never received a cake though the post before, I couldn’t wait to open it and see what was inside!


The cake itself is extremely well packaged, coming in its own perfectly sized tin which itself fits just right into the box. There’s no chance of the cake being moved around much in transit, which means it should arrive in excellent condition.

The inside of the box also contains all of the important ingredient information that you might need. And you also get a little gift with the cake, in our case this was a perfect child-sized Christmas cracker!


The design I chose was a cute Christmas image on top of a vanilla sponge, and I asked for the little ones’ names to be included. I think it turned out fantastically, and if you were giving this as a gift you’d be really pleased with the quality. And to be honest, we couldn’t wait to try it out.


The preschooler’s declaration once she’d taken a bite said it all:

“Mmmm, soft!”

All of us agreed! Both the cake and the icing are really soft. It tastes very fresh and was totally delicious. You really would think this was a freshly homemade cake.


At 5 inches squared the cake is recommended as 3-4 portions. Maybe we’re stingy but all 4 of us had a piece and there was just under half left over!

So I put it back in the tin and resisted eating any more for 3 days (oh my, the willpower needed!) then tried another piece. It still tasted very fresh, so keeps really well. Baker Days say that their cakes will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks if they are kept in a cool dry place (not the fridge).


Baker Days have designed a really lovely product with their letterbox cakes. If you’re looking for a Christmas gift then it’s certainly something different! Pop over and visit them on Facebook or Twitter for all of their latest news and product information.

And even better than being able to try one myself is that I now have a competition open for one lucky person to win a free cake too! One of these cakes would make a lovely gift for someone, or a nice treat for yourself! What you do with it is up to you! Just head on over to my Facebook page to enter.

Competition Rules:

  • Leave a comment on this Facebook post letting me know which of the Christmas Letterbox Cakes you would like to win! You can personalise your cake too!
  • Liking the post or Living With The Mess’s Facebook page isn’t a condition of entry, but is always appreciated!
  • The comments will be numbered in the order they are posted and a random number generator will be used to select the winner.
  • The winner will receive one 5 inch Christmas Letterbox Gift Cake in a design and flavour of their choice.
  • The competition is open to residents of the UK and Ireland only.
  • Competition closes at 9pm on Sunday 13th December.
  • Winner will be announced on Monday 14th December.
  • One entry per person.
  • Good luck!

Disclaimer: I was sent a cake from Baker Days free of charge for the purposes of this review. The review and opinions are all my own.

Family Fever

Our Christmas Elf: Week One

I have read so many conflicting opinions about the Elf on the Shelf over the last week! It seems to be the Marmite of Christmas activities.

For us, as the preschooler has just turned 3, this is the first year that Christmas really means something to her, and so I wanted to start establishing our own Christmas traditions. I liked some of the aspects of the Elf on the Shelf and thought we could take that and do our own thing with it. I bought an elf from Elf For Christmas (the original Elf on the Shelf seemed a little too creepy for me!) who came with a whole pack of useful accompanying items, such as reward stickers, a sign to warn others that an Elf is living here, and arrival and departure letters. However, I’m not using any of these this year, and have kept them safe for another Christmas (I will find them again, honest!)An Elf For Christmas

My only aim for using our Elf is to create a little bit of magic in December, and the build up to Christmas. Ours hasn’t come to spy on the children, he’s just here to see the things they like to do and to report back to Santa so he knows what they’re like. He does like to create a bit of mischief, but nothing too drastic. So here’s what he got up to this week (I think I’ve used up all of my easiest ideas already!)

December 1st

Our Elf arrived along with a letter explaining why he had come to visit. The preschooler needed to give him a name, she settled on Twinkle. Easy first day!

December 2nd

Elf loves photography

Twinkle’s been doing a spot of photography, The preschooler took a look through the pictures and found a few he’d taken of her cuddly toys, along with a couple of elf selfies! Thankfully she thinks this is funny, so day 1 is a success!

December 3rdElf with stickersTwinkle has been having some fun with her precious stickers (I still have a gazillion of them leftover from when I was a teacher). She completely burst into tears when she saw this, and I thought I’d scarred her for life. Fortunately, a bit of gentle persuading about how silly Twinkly is brought her round and she helped to remove his stickers and stick them back in their rightful place, on herself.

December 4th

Elf with Duplo

The elf has found the Duplo! This one went down well, which I’m glad of as it took me a while to set up as he kept falling over.

December 5thElf with a biscuit

He’s found the toddler’s biscuits. She promptly announced the biscuit was hers and had eaten it before I’d noticed!

December 6th

Elf makes a paper chain

I thought it would be good to start getting her involved in more Christmas activities, so today Twinkle had begun a paper chain for us to finish.

December 7th

Elf reading to the toys

Today he’s been perusing the book shelf and has a captive audience for his story. She LOVED this and went to sit with them, pretending to listen to the story!

All in all our first week has been a success. Mostly because I’ve actually remembered to set him up each night! Check back next week to see if I can keep it up…

Review: Nemo and Giraffe by Lee Hunter

I was recently contacted by Lee Hunter, an aspiring children’s author, to see if I’d like to review her book Nemo and Giraffe. I’m always on the lookout for new books for the preschooler to read so this review was a no-brainer for me!

Lee has done incredible work to get her book to this point. Firstly, you know, actually writing it! Then gaining funding from a Kick Starter campaign to have it beautifully illustrated by the very talented Lindy Damen, and then stocking it on Amazon in both a paperback and Kindle version. All whilst being a full-time childminder!

Nemo and Giraffe tells the story of a cat and a toy giraffe, who have been best friends since Nemo was a kitten. Nemo is an indoor cat, has never been outside, and doesn’t like loud noises and new faces. But with Giraffe at his side he is happy.

NemoandGiraffeCoverLee explains:

The aim of this book and series is to help young children form positive relationships with cats and all pets and to learn how to care for them from a young age. It also strives to teach valuable life lessons including friendship and to also promote animal rights and welfare. I believe that if children can understand and be aware of the appropriate treatment of animals at a young age it can stay with them and benefit them throughout life.


My preschooler certainly enjoyed reading the story. She herself is very sensitive to loud noises and could identify with this characteristic of Nemo’s. At 23 pages it’s a good length and there is just the right amount of text on each page. The gorgeous illustrations complement the story well and helped her to understand what was happening.

reading Nemo and GiraffeLee hopes that this book will be just the first in a series that she has planned. I think my preschooler would love to read more books featuring these two cuddly characters!

If you’d like to get a copy of Nemo and Giraffe for yourself the Kindle or paperback version are available on Amazon here.

You can find out more at their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclaimer: I was sent a digital copy of the book free of charge for the purposes of this review, although the review and opinions are my own.

The Preschooler Apps On My iPad

Kids and technology can be a sticky subject. Some people are happy with their little ones getting screen time, some people aren’t. I fall in to the first category. I love using technology myself, it’s a huge part of my job and my everyday life, and I am happy for my preschooler to use my iPad whenever she asks for it. Currently that’s about 2/3 times a week, and I doubt if she uses it for more than 15 minutes at a time. I’ve never restricted her use of it, and it’s not something she gets rewarded with, she just sees it as another toy to use, like her jigsaws, ball and craft box.

She will be turning 3 on Saturday and I’m really proud of how well she can use the iPad. I think technological skills are important to have, and I love that I don’t have to help her do anything (unless one of the apps freezes on her) so it’s ideal for independent quiet time when I’m tied up with the toddler.

So I thought I would share her favourite apps at the moment.


CBeebies Storytime contains an ever changing range of stories. Each one can be read aloud or the user can read it themselves. If you select the read aloud option, then the words are highlighted as they are read which is a great first step for connecting the sound of the word to what it looks like.

The stories are animated too, and there are often areas to tap on to make actions happen.


CBeebies Playtime also changes regularly, with activities related to different shows on the channel, such as Alphablocks spelling games and Something Special painting activities.

If you have more than one child using this app they can have their own profile which will remember the activities they have completed.


There are quite a few Lego Duplo apps available. Most of them involve a story without words, and you make the action happen by tapping on various areas of the screen. The preschooler likes that she can see the Duplo pieces on screen that we have at home. Just be warned that the music in these is very infectious and won’t leave your brain for days…


Gruffalo Games is one of the few apps that I actually paid for. We love The Gruffalo (who doesn’t?!) and the app has 6 games within to play.

  • 3 In A Row and Snap which you play against the Gruffalo himself (and he doesn’t let you win easily!)
  • Nut Catch where you are the mouse catching the falling nuts and avoiding the bugs and leaves which lose you a life.
  • Marching Bugs which is a sequencing activity that gets progressively harder.
  • Jigsaw contains 6 puzzles with 4-25 pieces
  • Match Me where you find matching pairs, sometimes these are pictures related to the story, sometimes they are numbers, and it’s all timed so you can try to beat your previous score

Some of these games are too hard for her to play right now but she will grow into them soon.


Sarah & Duck is another app that I paid for, but it is now firm favourite of hers, she returns to it time and time again. Again you can set up user profiles so that more than one child can use it, and for each of the 5 activities there are three difficulty levels to progress through.

  • Hide & Seek where you are Sarah and need to find where Duck is hiding.
  • Kite Maker lets you build and design a kite.
  • Kite Flight uses the kite you made and you move it around the screen to collect the raindrops and avoid the leaves.
  • Feeding the Ducks is a matching activity where you feed as many ducks as you can with the type of bread they want.
  • And Puzzle Maze where you guide umbrella around the puddles back to Sarah and Duck.

So those are the preschoolers current favourite apps. Does your child use apps? Feel free to share with me their favourites!


Review: Wilko Bumper Craft Kit

The preschooler was kindly given some money by a family member last week and so after our trip to the library on Tuesday we headed into Wilko to see what was on offer. It didn’t take long for her to choose the Bumper Craft Kit to bring home.

Wilko Bumper Craft Kit

It’s labelled as containing 700 pieces, and once you open it you can see that you really do get a lot of stuff! I’ve rebagged everything here due to my need to keep things tidy, and some has been used already as she couldn’t wait to get started, but you can see what you get.

Wilko Bumper Craft Kit contents

Pipe cleaners, coloured sticks, furry balls, glittery shapes, felt letters, foam shapes, goggly eyes, a little tube of glue and (best of all) a box to keep it all in! I think I’m right in saying you can buy all of the kit without the box, so refilling it will be easy and cheap. And I’ve also added to it with random bits of craft stuff that we’ve had left over from other projects that had nowhere to live.Using the Wilko Bumper Craft Kit

She couldn’t wait to get going with it once we got home, and the first thing she wanted to try and do was recreate the monsters that are on the cover of the kit itself.

We’ve had an old cardboard box from our last nappy purchase lying around for a couple of weeks. It’s been used as a train carriage, a car and then a chair. Then it broke. So it got flattened out, used as a colouring board and was then perfect for cutting up.

She’s almost three, and like most children her age she wants to be independent so cutting out the shape of body and then snipping up the pipe cleaner to make legs was the only involvement I had. I then left her to it. The only instruction I gave her was to get out the pieces she wanted to use first and try and put them on the body to see where they would go before sticking them down.


She spent nearly two hours using the kit (and you can see it kept Daddy busy too!)IMG_4816

The little tube of glue included is great as it is small and therefore perfect for little hands. It wasn’t hard for her to get the glue out at all. The bad thing about this is that it runs out pretty quickly, and because it’s small its very tricky to refill.

Overall I love this craft kit! I can see it being used over and over again, there’s certainly enough in there that she can make many different things before I need to replace any materials.

We now just need some inspiration for what to create next! Share with me your craft ideas please!

Name Recognition Activity

The toddler asked to play a letters game yesterday, so I thought I could do another activity with her that would help her to know her name better.

Firstly we had another go at the Photo Name Puzzle from a couple of weeks ago. She’s really quick with this now, and she’s quite picky about getting the ‘i’s the right way round too. Even if I say it doesn’t matter she’s not happy until the picture is right. After it was done I asked her to count how many letters there are in her name. I then wrote each letter on a separate Post-It note and asked her to sit in her play tent while I hid them around the kitchen (there’s no way she would ever shut her eyes while I was doing this so her tent is the perfect place to go!)

I made sure the notes were stuck at her eye level so she’d find them easily, and asked her to bring each one back to the table once she’d found them. Once they were all collected she then rearranged them into the right order, using the photo puzzle as a prompt.

photo 1The second time she did it she found the ‘a’ first and when she brought it to the table she put it right at the end. Then she found the ‘l’ and I realised she was trying to put them in the correct places as she was discovering them so that she didn’t have to rearrange them afterwards. Then the third time she went round the kitchen looking for them in order, and ignoring one that she found if it wasn’t the next letter she was looking for! This was with no prompting from me at all.

After three goes she wanted to write the letters herself, so I gave her some notes and she had a go. She’s already pretty good at the ‘O’ and ‘l’ (she knows them as a circle and a stick), the ‘v’ is upside down and the ‘a’ is really tricky, but she loved trying it. Then she went round and hid them all herself (mostly on the inside of cupboard doors).

Then it was time to play something else. I’d say she spent about 15 minutes on this altogether, and I know she understands the order of the letters in her name now.

Its a really easy activity to set up, and hunting for the letters makes it lots of fun! What other activities do you do to help your preschooler get to know their name?

National Children’s Hour

In the days before children, the clocks going back to GMT in October would mean an extra hour in bed. As if I didn’t get enough sleep already, an extra hour added on to my Sunday lie-in!

Now with a toddler and baby, the phrase ‘lie-in’ has sadly been redefined to refer to any day when I get the luxury of staying in bed until at least 7am. And young children definitely don’t understand the concept of the clocks changing, so on October 25th we will have a whole extra hour awake with the children.

Action for Children are celebrating National Children’s Hour, this extra hour we get when the clocks change, by asking parents to unplug their gadgets and have some old-fashioned fun with their children, and we’ll be joining in!National Children's Hour

I’ve taken a couple of ideas from the science section of their great activity pack and we’re planning on exploring what happens when you mix baking soda with vinegar, followed by playing with milk, food colouring and washing up liquid. I saw the milk investigation on YouTube a few weeks ago and have been meaning to give it a go with the toddler, so this seems like the perfect chance!

Why not get the pack and plan an activity for your extra hour too?