A Free 3rd birthday plan (the DIY play kitchen and other ideas)

This. This for 45 minutes, in solid traffic, staring at a bumper sticker that read “HEAVEN IS FILLED WITH HORSES!” THIS is why I am never taking the boy shopping again.

Without enforcing a conscious ban, I realise now that we haven’t been to any really tempting shops since the beginning of the year. There hasn’t been any call to take a trip to Toys R US, since new toys were explicitly not us this year. The most enticing shopping expeditions for J have been the local fruit and veg stall and – occasional, special treat this – the supermarket. But last week we had to go to Hobbycraft to pick up some non-child-related kit and happened upon hell: aisle after aisle of toddler toys emblazoned with pictures of his favourite cartoon characters.

Who knew that Fireman Sam’s rescue duties left him with so much free time for art therapy? Apparently they do (or else he hit the bottle after hitting the big time and got himself in some serious financial hot water) because there he is, at Hobbycraft, advertising everything from colouring pads, sticker books, water colour sets, magnetic art sets, bathtub crayons, bumper holiday packs…

J’s eyes widened like a junkie’s. I tried to speed things up, but the hole punches were right behind the playdough and look! There was a multi-coloured box so big J could climb into it, advertising a ‘Lego Digger’ that did something with playdough – I couldn’t quite work out what but our lives were clearly going to be incomplete without it and… Well, not to put too fine a point on it, J went chicken oriental.

It’s strange, really, because he’s pretty cool when faced with toys in other kids’ toys. He’s happy to go on playdates, have a tinker with other kids’ toys, maybe have a quick tussle over them, but accept, in the end, that they don’t belong to him and leave the house on two legs, rather than in a soggy, kicking, hiccupping mess.

He doesn’t ask to take them with him. He doesn’t ask for me to buy them himself. He doesn‘t seem to need to ‘own’ them or fill our house with them. But shops have some magic alchemy. What do they do – pipe sugar through the air conditioning systems like a junior Las Vegas casino?

Anyway. So. We learnt something. Want to avoid spending money on kiddy products? Steer clear of those kind of shops, or even those kinds of aisles in supermarkets. Not only will they turn your child momentarily into a shopping savage but you’ll leave feeling oddly mean, guilty and stingy too.

Which brings me on to… Johnny’s birthday. It falls in the middle of December and while I’m usually the sort of woman who shops the night before, in a whirlwind of blind panic in the half hour between work ending and shops closing, this year requires a little more forward planning. Not only is conventional shopping out, but I’ll be lost in newborn fog in the beginning of December, so I need to make a plan now.

I’ve never gone crazy for birthdays or Christmas. There have never been mountains of shiny, colourful plastic under the tree. But I do want to make it special for him. Growing up is a big job and I want him to feel a) proud of making it to the grand old age of three; b) loved by all his friends and family; c) a little bit spoilt; d) the centre off attention for a day despite the new baby.

So I’m coming up with a plan. Here it is, so far…


Games: A big selection of free, downloadable and printable games. I’m thinking…

This shape matching game: http://pdf.mrprintables.com/mrpsh02-match-a4.pdf

This ‘ice cream shop’ that also helps you learn your colours: http://pdf.mrprintables.com/mrprintables-fg01-ice-cream-a4.pdf

This clock to help him learn to tell the time: http://pdf.mrprintables.com/mrprintables-fg01-ice-cream-a4.pdf

This pretty counting game: ‘How many lemons on the tree?’ http://pdf.mrprintables.com/mrprintables-fg01-ice-cream-a4.pdf

This cool road maze: http://pdf.mrprintables.com/mrppz12-road.pdf

Dressing Up:

A selection of cool masks I can print out on card and we can add to our dressing up box. Of those I’ve found so far I like this dragon http://pdf.mrprintables.com/mrpmk02-green-ltr.pdf and this bunny http://pdf.mrprintables.com/mrprintables-mk01-bunny-lt.pdf the best. Know of any others?


I’m considering printing out some of these free colouring pages and making them into a colouring book for him. http://pdf.mrprintables.com/coloring/mrprintables-people-coloring-farmer.pdf



Possibly a customised stamp with him name on it that we can use for marking his books and general mess masterpieces: http://themakinghome.com/blog/2013/9/8/diy-stamp-using-craft-foam-for-kids

And maybe even some space crayons: http://www.minieco.co.uk/space-crayons/

What do you think?


Inspired by Lucy who recorded her own audio books for Ramona, I’m considering asking all of J’s favourite people to read one of his favourite stories into my dictaphone and then putting them on a CD for him. So we’d have Grandpa reading Peter Rabbit, his older cousin Flossie reading Oh No, George, his Godfather Murad reading a bit of the Jungle Book etc etc.

What do you reckon? It would be something for him to listen to now but also something for him to keep forever, to remind him of the people in his life and the stories he loved best at this age.


Drum roll… The DIY play kitchen. I’ve been looking at lots of examples online and I reckon I can get it done by mid December, even if my enormous size and weight slows things down a bit. So this weekend, we rediscovered this little chest of drawers kicking around at home:

I found an old tap and a tin bowl going spare and, with a little help from Tom and then Grandpa Fantastic, two and a half hours later we have this:

I’m thinking of painting concentric rings on these blank CDs and adding knobs to create a hob… Unless you can thinking of a better way? 

The oven, in its current state. It needs an oven shelf or tray of some kind, and possibly oven gloves?

 The sink!

It’s a work in progress, clearly. It needs sanding, painting, a little curtain for the top cabinet, hooks to hang some old utensils off… So please, please, PLEASE add your suggestions and we’ll add them in as we go. And, over the next month or two, any other suggestions for free birthday presents will be gratefully received too!