Author Archives: theMegaDad

Happy (Chinese) New Year

person eating using chopsticks

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tuesday the 5th of February marked the start of the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. The Chinese Zodiac symbols means that this is the year of the Earth Pig too. I decided to mark this event with a Chinese themed dinner and games with the Things so that hopefully they learned a little bit about another culture and we had some fun at the same time. The plan was quite simple, have a nice dinner together and then play some relevant games all around a Chinese New Year theme!

What actually Happened

First things first was dinner! The Things have pretty good palettes and will eat a good variety of dinners but they do like what they like so we had some discussions/debate about what dinner would work best. The agreement was 2 different forms of chicken stir fry (sweat and sour and one lightly fried in soy sauce)  accompanied by fried rice and some fortune cookies for after. We all agreed that everyone had to give chopsticks a try for eating their dinner too. Things 1 & 2 did pretty good with that bit but Thing 3 just decided to use hers as a harpoon to hunt the chicken in her bowl. At least she ate it though!

While we were eating we worked out the zodiac animal for the year they were all born. Things 1 & 2 were very pleased with being born in the years of the Tiger and the Dragon and found it hilarious (and very apt) that Thing 3 was born in the year of the Monkey!

After dinner it was time for some games. First up was Chinese Ball. With all of us in a circle we through a ball to each other and the recipient had to catch it while those either side held up their arm nearest. The aim is to surprise someone so they don’t catch it or catch someone out for not putting up the proper arm as the ball whizzes from person to person. They really enjoyed this and it got nicely competitive!

Our second game was Catch the Dragon’s Tail or “Deathmatch Conga Line” as I will always remember it. Basically you form a line with your arms on the shoulder of the person in front of you. The person at the very front has to try and catch the person at the very back and those in the middle can turn to try and stop them but you can’t break the line. They really loved this one and had great fun destroying every room we played it in as they charged about after each other. Thing 3 didn’t really know what was going on but she couldn’t stop laughing as the conga line dragged her about the place.

Things Review

This was a perfect way for the Things to celebrate Chinese New Year and they definitely got involved. It’s a fairly specialised activity though and although we can always play the games whenever we want wrapping it all up into a Chinese Near Year activity day isn’t going to happen much more than once a year. With that in mind the Things give it a solid 3 out of 5

Conclusion

Cheap, easy and incorporates the Things favourites of food, games and being funny at the dinner table. A lovely evening together.

Juicy!

A lot of the indoor things we’ve done over the last 6 months have definitely been driven by Thing 1 and the activities she likes to do (making slime, baking etc.) so I was keen to try and come up with an activity that was similarly kitchen based but would appeal to Thing 2. If it worked it meant we always had a repeatable activity that he enjoyed that we could all do together. Thing 2 is an avid footballer and he loves a bottle of Lucozade sport on match days and training so we decided we would try and make our own DIY isotonic sports drink for this activity!

footie

What actually happened?

Before we could get into the making, I tried to explain to the Things about why people use isotonic sports drinks. My explain went something like this:

“So when you do lots of sports and exercise…”

Thing 1: “Like my gymnastics?”

Thing 2: “Like my football?”

Thing 3: “I WANT TO BE A FIREMAN!”

“Yes for all those activities you need to make sure you body has enough fuel to give you the energy you need to do well. Isotonic sports drinks have sugars and minerals added so that your body can quickly turn that into energy and you don’t get tired as quickly. Thats’ also why exercise is important because it helps turn any excess sugar into energy and why if you eat too much sugar your body can’t turn it all into fuel and it gets stored as fat instead”

Thing 1: “So if you eat too much sugar you get fat?”

Thing 2: “So all fat people eat too much sugar”

“ehhhhmmmmmm…”

Thing 3: “I’m GONNA BE A FIREMAN AND HELP PEOPLE!”

“That’s right, firemen help people, you’ll be a great fireman!”

So quickly moving away from the body shaming aspects of sports nutrition we got straight into the making! The BBC had a great page on sports drink recipes so we opted for a blackcurrant flavoured version of this one:

 

  • 50-70g sugar
  • One litre of warm water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200ml of sugar free squash
  • Mix, cool and drink

 

It is obviously a very simple recipe but it was a good one for 6 year old Thing 2 to do as he was able to do all of it himself with minimum help/supervision. For some reason spooning sugar into our large bottle of juice was his favourite bit and he couldn’t help but crack up laughing with giddy excitement!! Once it was all mixed together we put it in the fridge with agreement that he could have it with his breakfast the next day!

Things Review

We’ve done this activity twice now and the second time Thing 1 was desperate to be as much involved as Thing 2 and it was a simple enough recipe and process for Thing 3 to be part of. They all liked the taste of the juice too so all in all it was a good 1 hour indoor activity for everyone to partake in with the added bonus that we made something for them to drink too. Totaling in at a healthy 4 out of 5.

Conclusion

Super low cost activity with things that most folk will have already in their kitchen. It also has good undertones of eating healthy and why good nutrition is important so we were having fun and learning too. Definitely going to be a regular activity for the squad.

Dinner Time is Family Time

Sitting together at the dinner table with kids can be a challenge and the Things are no exception. I’ve made it our goal that whenever it’s meal time, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner we sit and eat together. Its a chance for the four of us to talk and importantly, in this era of always on devices, just be present with each other. Now lets not kid ourselves here, it isn’t always an ideal little family moment, there are arguments and tears (sometimes the Things cry too!) but this post is all about how we’ve evolved feeding time to be a fun activity in itself

So what actually happened

Eating together means we really need to eat the same thing so it can be served all at once. There’s obviously cost benefits to making the one meal for the four of us too. Thing 1 has recently shown a knack for cooking and that’s added another dimension to our dining when the Things can help prepare it. If Thing 1 is busy making a bolognese then Thing 2 and Thing 3 get the important responsibility of setting the table. The Things all have their own specific chair and so making them set the table helps reinforce where their spot is in our crew. Once dinner is ready, it’s not served until everyone is sitting at the table. The very important duty falls to Thing 3 to round everyone up. She does her job with gusto and it always makes me smile when I hear her tiny wee voice telling her brother and sister their dinner is ready. Recently we’ve been using some technology to help build the occasion; Thing 2 will do the honours as I bring in the food with a perfectly timed “Alexa, can you play a drumroll please”

When we’re all sitting and eating together, I’m not going to pretend that we have a lively debate and discussion of the political zeitgeist. The usual pulling of teeth occurs when the Things are asked “how was their day” , “how was school” so my tactics have evolved to incorporate different games that we play between mouthfuls to keep everyone talking and (hopefully) laughing.

Story Dice

I invested a fiver in a set of story dice from flying tiger and they sit pride of place in the centre of the table. Whoever is making a good effort to eat their dinner gets to go first. They roll the dice and have to make up a story based on the pictures shown on each of the dice. The Things took to this game far better than expected, not least because one of the pictures is reminiscent of the poo emoji. Nothing like a made-up story about poo to get everyone laughing.

The Animal Game

This is a game I made up when Thing 1 and 2 were a few years younger and is a firm favourite. Whoever’s turn it is (again, doing a good job eating your dinner earns you the right to go first) has to think of an animal and then everyone else has to ask questions to try and guess what the animal is. “Does it live on a farm?” , “Does it have sharp claws?” That kind of thing. Basically it’s a variation on the yes/no game with added rules about taking a decent bite of your dinner before you can ask a question. Thing 2 loves this game because we can never guess the animal he’s thinking of. Usually because it’s an animal he has just invented.

The Teeth Game

Thing 1 brought this game to dinner last year and we have been playing it ever since. Everyone has to take turns saying a fruit or vegetable but you can’t show your teeth when speaking or you are out. This game always has everyone laughing particularly when I try and say aubergine without showing my teeth.

Things Review

Eating together is now our norm and rather than ask the Things to review it I am just happy that it’s a consistently fun time that we spend together and their laughing is all the endorsement needed!

Conclusion

As the Things get older we will adapt and tweak the games and activities but meal time together will always be our thing. My little knights of the round table know that it’s our rally point and when they are in the mood to talk more about their day it’s our safe place to have those chats.

Slime time

Kids love slime. Unlike fidget spinners, fidget cubes and respecting your elders, slime seems to have stuck around longer then the other kid fads. And I yes I do literally mean stuck around. That stuff gets everywhere and it’s easier to burn the house down or throw out the carpet then try and clean it off. Thing 1, in particular is a huge fan. When asked “Would you like to do something together?” her go to answer is “Can we make slime!!”.

There’s vlogs about making it, youtubers who vlog about watching it being made and even vloggers who make youtube videos about vloggers who vlog about making it. And despite having to sit through all of these videos we are yet to actually make a decent batch of slime that looks like anything those the online maestros have created!

Not today though. This post is dedicated to all the parents failing miserably at making slime. Today we rise up and finally work out how to make slime. The perfect slime, slime that will last, slime that we can be proud of, slime that may slowly be chemically poisoning us but more importantly, Slime that will buy our children’s love.

Whats actually happened

Working through the science of the slime is fairly straightforward. What you need to do is take a material that is a polymer (one that contains long chains of polyvinyl acetate molecules that slide about a lot) and mix it with an activator to create ‘cross-linking’. This is where the ions from the activator mix with the molecule chains in the polymer and make them a bit stickier and stop all the sliding about it.  That all sounds complicated but if you consider that the polymer is just PVA glue and the activator is something that contains Sodium Borate, which in our case is Optrex eye wash, then it’s way easier than you think. Throw in a bit of food dye or glitter for added effects and it all gets very exciting.

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The best recipe we’ve been able to work with is similar to the one on the BBC good food site here: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-make-slime

They also detail a lot of little tweaks you can do to make some fun variations on the standard slime (like fluffy slime or unicorn slime!)

The key ingredients are:

  • PVA Glue,
  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • Food colouring
  • Optrex eye wash.

 

The Optrex was the easiest, off the shelf activator I could find. Quick check on the ingredients ensured it contained Sodium Borate (WE ARE ALL SCIENTISTS NOW). We had made the mistake in one of our earlier experiments to use a saline solution but it was missing the killer ingredient and went down as an epic slime fail.

Things 1 and 3 were the main participants in this activity. They both loved getting their hands right in about it. Thing 2 HATES having his hands sticky so didn’t want to be involved in the mixing process at all.  It was a good exercise for Thing 1 in patience and measuring  properly and understanding the impact the different measurements have to the consistency of her slime. In previous experiments Thing 1 would add random amounts of the ingredients together and if it didn’t become slime immediately she would start looking for extra magic ingredients to try and fix it “DAD! Do we have any playdough?”

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We destroyed a lot of plastic containers in pursuit of the the perfect slime so I would definitely recommend having mixing containers available just for this activity. Thing 1 loves keeping her slime in little tupperware pots so I always try and make sure I have a set of those available too. This helps the slime last a little bit longer and also reduces the risk of slime dropped or trodden into the carpets!

Things review

So Thing 1 loves this activity and would do it every chance she could if I’d let her so it’s a definite 5 out of 5 from her.  Thing 3 gets a real kick out of it too because she’s getting to play with her big sister, she’s making a great big mess and gets to have goo all over her hands so a 4 out of 5 for her feels appropriate. Although Thing 2 doesn’t like the mess he is always keen to play with the finished product so it’s a 2 out of 5 for him. That gives us an average just under 4 out of 5 for our slime time activity.

Conclusion

We successfully made slime and now have clear steps to follow every time we want to. The activity of creating it all was fun enough for the Things but the fact you have a new toy at the end of it is a real bonus. I still don’t get how or why but the Things will sit and play with their slime happily for hours after it’s made. Definitely an excellent activity when you want to keep everyone indoors and the ingredients can easily picked up for less than 10er.

Park Life

The Plan

It was a lovely sunny Sunday in December and after hearing so many recommendations about Rouken Glen park in Glasgow it was time to give it a visit. The park is in Thornliebank only 15 minutes from the city centre so very easy to get to. I had timed it perfectly with the Things that we would drive there after lunch. This ensured they were all a little sleepy with full bellies and as planned they dozed happily for the 45 minute car ride to the park. My goal was to get them to the park, have a play in the kids play park for a while, walk to the duck pond and feed the ducks and then try and find the waterfall.

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What actually happened

The car park at the main entrance is a short walk to the play park for the kids. The Things charged up to it and were immediately in their element. Despite their differing ages (2, 6 and 8) there was enough different activities in the park for them all to have loads of fun. The main challenge for me was to try and keep an eye on them all at the same time as they darted off in different directions! Thing 1 was fascinated with the amount of dogs walking through the park. Sunday was definitely take your dog for a walk day in the park and there were breeds of all shapes and sizes (dogs not the dog walkers!)

I was keen to get them walking too so despite some protestations, including chasing Thing 3 for 5 minutes to get her to leave the play park, we managed to continue our adventure into the park and head for the duck pond. I had planned ahead and had a couple of bags of seeds and nuts for feeding the ducks. I didn’t know this until one of my pals pointed it out quite recently but you shouldn’t feed ducks bread at all. I think they explode or something if you do (at least that’s what I told the Things) but we were sorted with our seeds that the Things threw at various speeds at the assorted ducks and swans gathering along the shore of the pond.

The waterfall is right beside the ducks but despite having directions from my pal (an avid Rouken Glen park fan!) and actually being able to hear it, I did struggle a bit to find it. That was completely down to me however and being distracted by Thing 1 trying to encourage her sister to jump into the pond. There was the least amount to do at the waterfall with the kids but I was really taken with how the two older Things just zoned out when we got there and each took a few moments to look at the water and take it all in. A nice little moment of mindfulness for them both. Thing 3 just wanted to throw large sticks at it.

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Things review

I asked the Things for their out of 5 reviews of the park and Things 1 and 2 both came in with a strong 4 out of 5 each. Thing 3 isn’t quite there with the concepts of numbers but she certainly enjoyed the play park and the ducks but was probably a little wee for all the walking so we’ll give it a 3 out of 5 from her. Rounding up that puts us close to a 4 out of 5 Thing score for Rouken Glen.

Conclusion

It was a lovely day out, greatly helped by the weather. I had made sure everyone was in wellies otherwise it would have been too muddy and we wouldn’t have been able to walk across the park to get anywhere. Despite it being a busy Sunday with lots of people there it still didn’t feel crowded even in the kids play park and there was a lovely atmosphere of people and families out enjoying a sunny Sunday together. We counted 96 different happy dogs out for walks!

Knights of the IKEA Round Table

The Plan

Most of my ideas for entertaining the kids are shamelessly copied from things I did with my younger brother when we were kids. I’m yet to introduce them to the hilarious enjoyment of chasing a sibling with dog poo on the end of stick. I will save that one for the summer. A more civilised childhood brotherly pursuit was Chess.

Chess has been around for approximately 27 million years so it felt like the perfect game to try and get them interested in. It would get them thinking, we could extend it into some arts and crafts at some point by maybe building our own chess set but also it reminded me of playing Battle Chess on the PC with my brother in the 90s on our beat up Amstrad PC.

Battle Chess was a great game and a genius marketing ploy by the developers. It was just a basic chess game but whenever you took a piece it played a little animation of the two chess pieces battling until one died in glorious fashion. This was going to be my way into getting the kids hooked too.

What actually happened

Before we go any further let me introduce the kids. We will call them Thing 1, Thing 2 and Thing 3 in a honour of the wonderful Dr. Seuss. Thing 3 is a little girl of toddler age. Thing 2 is a boy not long started in primary school and Thing 1 is a girl halfway through her primary school adventure. To check if they were ready for chess we had a quick quiz in the car:

Me: So what’s the aim of the game in Chess?
Thing 2: It’s a TOY WAR!!

Tremendous answer.

Me: Do you know what way the pieces can move?
Thing 1: The queen can move in all directions as much as she wants. She’s the best piece on the board. Girls rule the world. whoooop!

Another great answer albeit one with a strong feminist agenda.

Me: So will we try and play when we get home?
Thing 3: Baby shark do do do dooo ddooo

While Thing 3 played with her Noah’s Ark (for the animals not the religious undertones) I set about getting Thing 1 and Thing 2 playing against each other in Battle Chess 3D on the tablet. The game was great in that when you selected a piece it showed you where it could move to so they quickly got the hang of making moves and trying to take their siblings pieces. They did take maybe too much enjoyment in sacrificing their pawns so they could watch the animation of them being killed! It was great to see them not fall out with each other either when they lost a piece. Perhaps they are destined to be cold hearted field marshals sacrificing their soldiers for overall victory. Come to think of it Thing 1’s Napoleon outfit did seem excessive for a wednesday evening.

Things Review

Thing 3 couldn’t really participate so it’s a 0 out of 5 from her. Thing 2 loved the battle chess element but not as keen on the real world version so a 3 out of 5 from him. Thing 1 definitely got more value which isn’t surprising, being the oldest. She enjoyed it more than the others and loved trying to work out the different moves for the different pieces. 4 out of 5 from her giving us an average of just slightly under 3 out of 5 overall.

Conclusion

Chess was a different activity for them to try and I loved when they worked as a team figuring out the moves together. It cost nothing to download battle chess onto the tablet and I had picked up a cheap set in the pound-shop (for a pound unsurprisingly). It definitely has legs as a reoccurring activity and I definitely think the Things will now be up for helping me fulfill my long term dream of building a Lego chess set!

 

And we’re off…

I’m a Dad. I have 3 kids. They are pains in the arse incredible little humans but they need copious amounts of knowledge, exercise, entertainment, fun, food and laughter to grow into incredible big humans. If we’re going to be doing all this then I might as well exploit them with a blog about it and document our adventures for the world to see. Don’t worry though, I promise they will get an appropriate share of any film or book deal and can stay up past their bedtimes on the night of the premier.