Our journey with cloth nappies started back in 2012 when we first found out I was expecting a baby; a couple who live a fairly frugal lifestyle and with both of us being self-employed we soon worked out the huge cost implication of disposable nappies. This along with our desire to cut down landfill where possible, there was a huge environmental factor to our decision making process in what we would purchase.
I still remember sitting with my mum at her house discussing nappies she used on my sisters and myself and wondering what, if anything, was on the market to cater for those choosing the reusable nappies. When I was a baby, it was cloth squares which would be folded to fit and that was pretty much the norm back in the 80s.
Me (left) and my twin sister in cloth nappies.
We were soon online researching cloth nappies and discovered a variety of companies, but soon were down a website video rabbit hole watching ‘how to’ videos on the TotsBots website; an enthusiastic woman talking through the nappy system and within a few days I had ordered a reusable cloth nappy kit.
Despite having the kit when our baby first arrived, my antenatal teacher recommended using disposables for the first few months until we had got to grips with a new baby and each new experience it would throw at us. We did this, but after 3 months we were using reusable cloth nappies until we reached potty training.
I remember people would often grimace when they discovered we used reusable cloth nappies and ask countless questions such as, “What do you do with the poo?”, “How can you be sure they’re actually clean?”…
Ok, so no poo is nice to deal with, ever. None of us like it, but what horrifies me more, is the thought of poo just being rolled up, put into a plastic nappy bag, which is then put into a nappy bin (lined with plastic), for a sausage like monstrosity to then be dropped in a bin and then taken off to sit in landfill for years and years… and years and years.
I am pretty sure most have felt disgusted by the smell just emptying a nappy bin, I can’t begin to imagine what landfill sites smell like with the mountains and mountains of soiled nappies.
For me, it’s simple, even when using ‘disposables’ in the early days, get as much of the poo out of the nappy and into the loo where it can be flushed away.
There is absolutely no denying that cloth nappies are far better for the environment than the disposable nappies; even when you take laundry into consideration. According to TotsBots 2 kilos of washable nappies does the job of 2 tonnes of disposables, preventing 500 years of biodegrading in landfills.
I do understand that it isn’t just the messy issue of what to do with poo that puts a lot of people off. There are those who do the, “oh wow, you use reusable cloth nappies, I’d love to do that, but….” and reel off countless reasons as to why they simply can’t use them.
Some see it as a “faff” washing and drying reusable nappies, but with a baby and as an outdoor family I am doing laundry most days, so last night’s nappies go in first thing and nappies used during the day go in last thing at night. The nappy cycle is ongoing and it’s just added to the beginning or end of my usual laundry cycle.
Another ‘issue’ raised is “the amount of extra stuff to lug about”; the way cloth nappies are produced nowadays it really is no different to taking disposable nappies out with you.
There are so many different products available that there is something for most scenarios. We’re not talking cloth squares and nappy pins anymore; it’s cloth, Velcro and poppers. TotsBots nappies have all-in-one EastFit nappies, or pop the wrap and tPeeNut together so it’s all set to use before you go out, so there is no difference, other than taking the dirty nappies home with you (in a specific ‘dirties’ bag), which again is no huge difference to taking a soiled disposable nappy home with you, but instead of bunging them in the bin, you wash them instead!
Then there’s the cost implication… “The kits are so expensive” as an initial outlay, yes, it’s a chunk of money, but it didn’t take us long to realise that buying nappies wasn’t sustainable for us, the expense was colossal. For the first three months alone we spent approximately £180 per month* on nappies.
TotsBots cloth nappies for us were the obvious choice as they came in a range of designs, however now in 2019 there are not only a huge amount more designs available making the nappies look attractive and fun, but there are also lots of different types of nappies in the range to cater for just about every person, every situation… and cover most excuses too!
The TotsBots Range
This post is to share my experience with cloth nappies, and having only used TotsBots this is why I am sharing such an instensive insight as it’s all I know when it comes to cloth!
Bamboozle night-time cloth nappies were all we used first time and they were excellent. From 3 months to potty training, these can actually be used for newborns too. These have a very absorbent cloth nappy, which you place a liner onto and finish off with an outer waterproof wrap layer.
Clues in the name, these EasyFit cloth nappies are about as “easy” as they come; they look like your ‘conventional’ disposable nappy except they are made of out of the absorbent cloth with the wrap pre-attached. These are great if you’re out and about as you don’t need to take the separate elements with you. Only downside with these is that the wrap is non-removable and if the wrap actually isn’t dirty you can’t reuse it until it’s been washed.
The TeenyFit cloth nappies are so adorable and utterly perfect for tiny newborns, basically a tiny EasyFit all-in-one nappy.
PeeNut Nappy System
I used to think it couldn’t get much better than the EasyFit cloth nappy, but since having a child out of nappies and going back to TotsBots they now have the PeeNut Nappy System. This is the best of both in my opinion, a waterproof outer wrap which you attach the absorbent nappy layer using the poppers, meaning that if it’s just a pee the baby has had, you simply whip out the core nappy and reuse the wrap! I pretty much use PeeNut most of the time as they are also less bulky too.
The look and feel of cloth nappies
Cloth nappies ARE in my opinion a bulkier item on a baby, there is no denying it, but what I often notice is that some disposable nappies also look bulky because they are so full due to limiting the moisture resulting in a baby who can’t feel the wetness of the soiled nappy. So actually, whilst they might look bulkier, so too do the disposables that mask the feeling of being wet.
I would say that my baby is quick to grumble if she’s in a wet cloth nappy, mainly because it feels wet; some may see that as a bad thing, but actually I find when using disposable nappies, a baby is more than likely to sit in a wet nappy for longer because they feel dry, and ultimately they end up sitting in urine soaked nappy which isn’t terribly nice.
I found that because my first was feeling wet and would want to be changed soon after a pee, we actually found ourselves potty training a lot earlier and really successfully, so there really is a benefit to little bots feeling wet.
Unlike disposables there is no dioxins, sodium polycacrylate, perfumes, as well as volatile organic compounds and phthalates to irritate, so we have never used creams of lotions when using cloth nappies. Each nappy is made from beautiful supersoft fabrics so they really are better for babies skin.
I actually know how nice using reusable cloth is myself as I used TotsBots own reusable cloth sanitary pads Bloom and Nora immediately after having my second baby. I used the Nora Kit which contains x2 Midi, x6 Maxi and x2 Mighty reusable pads and they were all I needed. They stayed in place with poppers and were so soft and felt like wearing underwear rather than horrible disposable pads.
In terms of how the nappies look and feel when on, both my babies have been happy in cloth. With the release of so many TotsBots wrap designs too, I couldn’t help but keep adding to my cloth collection just as I would change an outfit, in the warmer months the cloth nappy looks like a romper or a pair of pants with the fabulous designs.
TotsBots TeenyFit on my newborn.
TotsBots EasyFit on my 4 month old.
Sizing cloth nappies
The wonderful thing about TotsBots nappies is that there are the TeenyFit nappies for the tiny babies, then all the other nappy options are sized from birth to potty – how is this possible? Well they have poppers on the front so you can simply size to fit your baby in a small, medium or large.
The cost of cloth nappies
To a family like us with limited means, disposable nappies cost a fortune for the first 3 months; second time around we have also done a combination in the early days and it has cost a lot of money.
We did so much research on the brands out there and what was available to us and I honestly found TotsBots to be not only the most foolproof, but also in terms of cost efficiency. I found their ‘birth to potty’ kit all we needed for first time around, and once we got the hang of things, we added to our cloth collection with fun wraps and of course EasyFit because again they had some fabulous designs and I just couldn’t resist!
Back in 2013 I bought TotsBots ‘Birth to Potty Kit’ which had everything you needed, the nappies, wraps and bucket, I think it cost me approximately £250**, however now they have a wider range of TotsBots Reusable Cloth Nappy kits available which are well worth looking into.
It is also worth checking with your local council to see if they have any cash-back incentives for parents who choose to use cloth. Sadly our council don’t, but some offer incentives to help towards the upfront cost of buying cloth nappies. Personally I think it is so short sighted for councils not to offer more for parents who choose to use cloth as I feel it would help drive the market more that way again.
Questions about reusable cloth nappies
There are so many questions I am faced with when people find out we use cloth nappies, some I hope to have covered above, however there are quite a few I received when I asked over on my Instagram stories the other day which are the same that crop up with friends.
Do you use cloth nappies all the time?
We started in disposables both times, I had every intention of using cloth from birth with our second baby, however with my health not being great, it was something I had to put on the backburner. From three months onwards, we have used reusable cloth nappies, however there are occasions when I would use disposables, such as staying over at someone else’s house when I have no machine to use, or perhaps if I am out all day far from home then I will take a day off the reusable nappies.
Do you use cloth nappies at night as well as day?
We use cloth during the day and night, the Bamboozle night nappies are very absorbent and work well throughout the night. We only had the Bamboozle first time around so used them during the day too, this time we use the Bamboozle nappy at night for maximum absorbency and the PeeNut and EasyFit during the day.
How many cloth nappies do you need?
We have quite a collection of cloth nappies now, due to the years we have been using them, but starting out all you really need is 15-20 cloth day nappies and 5 cloth night nappies. On top of that, you would need the cloth nappy bucket and some rolls of liner.
How many washes do you do per week?
As mentioned above, I have a wash going most days for our regular laundry, but I am also doing an additional nappy wash each day. I do this at night when the nappy bucket is full.
Have you used any other cloth nappy brands?
I haven’t used any other cloth nappy brands, no. I did so much research when I was pregnant and really felt like TotsBots was the brand and product that would best suit us. This review is based on my experience with TotsBots only as I really do think a lot of them. It is testament to their product that I haven’t used any other brand actually as I simply haven’t felt the need to look around.
Did you try before you invested in cloth nappies?
I didn’t no, I just took a leap of faith as I knew I wanted to make it work so thought if I made the investment I would make a good go of it. Thankfully it all worked out! You can however try by purchasing Trial Kits. TotsBots Trial Cloth Nappy Kits contain an EasyFit nappy, a PeeNut and a Bamboozle night nappy, as well as a handful of liners which is just enough to give you a try.
Do you use cloth nappies for newborn babies?
Yes absolutely! TotsBots fit from birth to potty, but they also have their TeenyFit which are perfect for tiny bottoms.
What is the drying time for cloth nappies?
Cloth nappies take approximately 18 hours to dry on an airer in a warm environment, but they can also be tumble dried on a low/cool setting.
What temperature do you wash your cloth nappies?
TotsBots cloth nappies can be washed at 60 degrees or lower using any non-bio washing powder. I wash at 60 degrees for soiled nappies, 40 degrees if just wet using their anti-bacterial washing powder Potion which gets the nappies hygienically clean at 30 degrees.
Do cloth nappies stain?
Just like babies clothing when you get poo on it, sometimes it can stain if you don’t rinse it soon enough. I have had my cloth nappies for years now and I can honestly say that when I got them out again for our second baby they were like new cloth nappies. Still clean, no stains and still lovely and soft.
Does your house smell of poo if you use cloth nappies?
I love this question, I got it on Instagram, but I get it all the time! Our house does not smell of poo, in fact I find that it smells far less using cloth than disposables because the nappies smell so clean! My babies bottom even with a pooey nappy smells slightly fragrant! The nappy bucket is in regular use and when opened, yes there is a bit of a ‘pong’, but certainly no awful lingering smell hanging over our house.
How easy is it using cloth nappies?
From the moment people heard we were planning on using cloth nappies, I would be told it would be hard work, but it really isn’t. I am dealing with poo on a daily basis, nothing particularly pleasant about that, cloth doesn’t make it any harder or worse to deal with. As I mentioned above, I actually find it far easier dealing with nappies this way and flushing the mess down the loo, than dealing with a full..
A few years ago we visited a local auction full of all sorts of interesting bits and pieces; one lot I came across had masses of fabulous terracotta pots and planters and being someone who prefers second hand to ‘brand new’, when it came to this tatty, shabby auction lot I simply couldn’t pass it up. Spending just £10 on a vast collection of pots and planters in a varied range of sizes once home, we went through what we had purchased and it wasn’t long until we saw that along with most of the usable pots, there were of course a few breakages. Knowing that a project would spring to mind some time in the future, I put the breakages aside for a later date.
This weekend the ‘later date’ arrived; I had a project in mind and went to my pile of various broken things behind my greenhouse and pulled out one of the broken terracotta pots, along with the bits that had fallen away from it and set about creating a broken pot Fairy Garden with my husband and Birdie.
It was one of those projects we started together and I could see Birdie was a little unsure of what the finished article would look like; whilst a very creative and visual child, she couldn’t get past the fact that we had a nasty old broken pot and that we were going to create something really beautiful and magical for her fairy friends.
While my husband broke up the broken bits of terracotta into smaller pieces, Birdie started digging some soil to fill the pot, once we had set the levels suddenly the engagement began as she could see the shape of a garden begin and soon she was helping set the levels and adding broken bits of clay for steps. Once the general layout was set up, we collected moss and some plants we had planted some time ago and transplanted them into the fairy garden. Stones and shells were collected from some loose shingle we had and used to decorate, along with sticks and foliage from the silver birch to create a weaved fence.
What you will need:
Moss, Sticks, stones, Plants for decoration
Essential item: Bags of imagination
If you don’t have a broken pot or planter, you can always buy one and carefully break it up by giving it a good soak in water and then breaking it up yourself. Keep an eye out for little ones when breaking the pot up though as clay as a material does tend to fly off in all directions.
I always think it is worth remembering when creating crafts for little ones, that you don’t have to go out and buy ‘crafting kits’, so often we pull things out the recycling pile and set to work creating things with items we already have in our home.
A broken clay flower pot doesn’t have to be discarded, it can be squirrelled away as ours were and resurrected in the future as a tiny garden to spark the imagination of both younger and older children.
I have very recently touched on the emotional and mental well-being of our daughter in the post ‘Supporting Learning at home‘ and how we as her parents see this element of our daughter’s upbringing as one of the core areas we need to be truly mindful of.
Our birdie is a sensitive soul and for the most part she is a sunny, kind, loving, naturally bubbly and incredibly curious; we can’t profess to always get it right as her parents however, it is our hope that her upbringing in the woods, as well as the open dialogue we have as a family that will always be a source of comfort to her, as well as a healthy environment for her to open up and talk to us as and when she feels the need.
Even with what we think of as a supportive environment for her to grow in, we have faced struggles moving into the new school year with some particularly unsavoury behaviour of those she used to consider ‘friends’ and others excluding her from their play. We have supported her in the only way we know how, allowing her to talk about it, have a yell and a howl when she needs to, as well as allowing her the time she occasionally needs to take herself off on her own to explore her surroundings, craft or read a book.
The conversation with her school began a few weeks back now; resources we simply didn’t know about until we approached the school about our concerns (lack of any emotional and mental well-being support offered) have now been put into action in the hope that birdie will reach out to the relevant person when/if she needs to, as well as those around her being aware of some particular issues she has been facing since Reception year.
I feel proud of ourselves as parents for not only being able to spot an issue stirring early in our daughter, but also that we weren’t too proud to ask the school for help in addressing her emotional and mental well-being with them.
Perhaps this is due to my own history with mental health; seeing our daughter’s struggles, I simply didn’t want certain thought processes and/or unhealthy coping mechanisms to get so ingrained that she wouldn’t know how to help herself when she was out in the world without our support.
From a young age I was aware of serious mental health issues when at the age of 11 my older sister was in the grips of Anorexia Nervosa. Me and my twin sister had incredible support at home, however, looking back, I often think about how little help and support there was outside of the family environment for us, the siblings who were ourselves were going through a deeply upsetting period of our young lives.
At school our sister’s illness was the ‘elephant in the room’ with teachers and as 11 year olds we simply adopted the “everything’s fine” facade in the school environment, and for each full school day we had no one to talk to about the emotional and mental impact of what we were going through; the support and resources were seemingly non-existant at school.
So when witnessing our daughter struggling with her daily anxiety attacks through the early weeks of Year One, concerned about what to do and how to help I went online and looked for help and resources for parents to deal with things early in the hope that we could potentially prevent any severe issues further down the line and help arm her with the emotional ‘tools’ required to deal with any futures upsets.
It wasn’t long before I discovered YoungMinds… (please note, that this is NOT a sponsored post)
YoungMinds is a UK charity that champion children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. With years of experience under their belt, and with their campaigning and research in this particular field, they are able to provide expert knowledge to professionals, parents and young people through their parents helpline, online resources, training and development, projects with young people and work in schools.
I spent some time on their website looking for advice of how to support our 5 year old; I knew that this would be an organisation that the school would be aware of, but reading stories on the YoungMinds website and as a result learning that our daughter’s anxieties were perfectly “normal” gave us the additional reassurance that our little girl has a voice too.
YoungMinds main mission is to improve the emotional resilience of all children, and to ensure that those who suffer get fast and effective support, as well as building a society where mental health has no attached stigma.
On 10th October our daughter’s primary school is supporting World Mental Health Day and plan to fundraise for YoungMinds with a raffle, cake sale and ‘wear something yellow’ day. Our daughter however, asked us over the weekend if she could independently raise her own money to donate to the charity; something of course we fully supported!
Her idea was just so lovely; YoungMinds #HelloYellow is about showing young people that they are not alone with their mental health, so with all our sunflowers having gone to seed she spent a sunny Saturday afternoon harvesting the seeds and filling seed envelopes with plenty of seeds to be sold at our gate.
She set a price, made a sign and we set up an ‘honesty box’ at our gateway over the weekend; bearing in mind that we live in the middle of the woods, even on a sunny weekend like we had the day of her sale, footfall isn’t huge past our gate, but she did raise £20 which she has now donated to YoungMinds via her school collection.
We couldn’t be prouder of our daughter who is not only showing steady improvements in dealing with certain situations at school, but also in coming up with such a lovely fundraising idea that was so in-keeping with YoungMinds brand! Since I started writing this post, she has been awarded ‘Star of the week’ in her class for her fundraising idea and donation, as well as looking after and reassuring a new girl during her first week at school. As her parents it has been so wonderful to see her idea and kind nature acknowledged, after all, it is so often these ‘small’ acts of kindness that make the biggest difference.
Please note: This is not a ‘sponsored post’, this is a post sharing my own experience of #FightingFor my younger self and my daughter’s emotional and mental well-being in the run up to World Mental Health Day and on YoungMinds 25th Anniversary.
With all the policies and procedures, friendship groups and general exhaustion that comes with school, we have noticed a shift in our daughter’s general demeanour since the new school year has begun. For the most part she loves school and despite what we see as some shockingly absent ‘non-academic’ timetabled subjects at this key stage of her education, most days she comes out of school beaming and filling us in on all the wonderful things she has learnt that day.
It is however, the emotional and mental well-being that we, as parents have become most concerned about; something of a ‘hot topic’ due to the seemingly constant pressures young ones are facing these days. During the week our happy, confident child takes on a much sadder demeanour on just hearing that it is a school day; whilst we realise that occasional upset is a common scenario in most homes with children of school age, the blind panic experienced during the morning and drop-off currently seems disproportional.
We are incredibly fortunate to have a daughter who is so open and communicative with us at home, so she will talk with us about any issues she faces and recently we have got to the bottom of the recent upset; she is completely and utterly overwhelmed, not really by the work, but the manic behaviour in the school playground first thing, so-called “friends” and the social side of things too. We have just recently raised our issues with the school and hope to resolve these issues soon; we are looking at alternative resolutions too, as we don’t feel at the age of five our sweet natured birdie should suffer unnecessarily.
Something that we believe in very much as parents is supporting her school learning at home in a relaxed and informal environment. Reading is something regularly done together to unwind, we go on walks to brush off the day and spend hours hunting for nature finds; we currently have one ‘pet’ frog and two caterpillars we are monitoring closely to see how they develop.
More and more schools offer Forest School, but during a given day I am quite sure something has slipped in basic education of our children, especially in these early years. Whether you live in a city or the countryside, there is always something close by that gets the children out of the classroom and applying their everyday learning to something solid and tangible in the environment around them. Simply stepping outside and observing what is around us, with the change of seasons there is so much to see if only we just take the time to stop for a while with the little ones in our life and let them take the lead in a conversation about it.
Another area that we believe to be missing in the ‘curriculum’ is more exposure to the non-academic side of education, such as the arts and design and technology. So much can be learnt simply by teaming up in pairs for a long-term project and applying everyday learning from maths and reading for instructions etc. yet so little appears to be done in school these days, certainly in ours anyway.
Fortunately when birdie gets home from school if her daddy isn’t working away on site he is in his workshop working away on client projects making his fabulous pre-fabricated oak framed buildings, so she will often get home, get changed and chat away to him while he has a tea break to find out about the project he is working on and how it all goes together.
The weekends are naturally a time to stop and unwind, but birdie will often ask if she can make something in her daddy’s workshop and since late 2015 has been actively involved in the build project we have of our own here in the woods for the business. From watching the foundations go in, the oak frame go up, to helping lay the bricks with the bricklayer, helping set levels and screw the stud work, our birdie has been actively involved and trying out all the different trades.
We are asked by the school to share any learning at home in her ‘Home Learning Journal’ as if evidence is required to tick a checkbox. Whilst we understand the rationale behind completing work like this, on the first day of the new term we were told it is for ‘trips away’, maths exercises, writing practice etc etc. As a family, we simply don’t have the money that others have to go on endless days out, trips and experience days, equally we don’t want to stop the hours of imaginative play outside to go indoors and write out sentences about her day.
I often wonder what the school make of the leaves and sticks from our ‘nature hunts’ that have been stuck in our daughters learning journal; as a mother, I worry that our daughter will be deemed to be a child who’s learning isn’t supported at home due to there being ‘no evidence’ in her journal, but then I remind myself that I could spend our days together compiling information, collecting photos to pop it in her book and then have her write about what she has learnt, but then I realise that isn’t life! I would far rather pack her memory with wonderful days simply learning in practice then have her sit and write about it all simply for it then to be only critiqued by her teachers.
“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.”
Abigail Van Buren
Back to the point of “supporting learning at home”; in this academic and technological focused time we live in, for us our little family unit, we believe that supporting our daughter’s educational needs isn’t simply getting home and completing homework, reading school text and doing maths exercises online. By the end of the school day and/or week, already SO overwhelmed by what she has learnt, as well as what we believe to be over stimulation from all the screens and computers (no blackboards to scribble on anymore!) we support our birdie’s learning when she wants to engage in the very things that she loves the most, using nature, building and construction to apply her learning to allowing this young mind to see how what she is learning on a daily basis can be applied to the things she loves and that engages her the most.
Who knows what our birdie will be when she grows up, a “mummy and working with daddy in construction” or perhaps she will be a “plastic collector and nature presenter” both are her two aspirations for the future… all we know is that whatever and whoever she chooses to be, I hope she will always remember how we supported her learning at home rather than the hours spent indoors watching a screen at school.
I would love to hear from you:
How are your young ones settling back at school?
How do you support their learning as well as their emotional well-being at home?
Do you think our opinion of education these days is entirely fair?
A Flower Fairy birthday party for our daughter’s 5th Birthday, inspired by Cicely Mark Barker’s ‘Flower Fairies’ illustrations.
With our daughter’s 5th birthday looming our daughter asked for a ‘Fairy’ Party to celebrate with her friends. However, she didn’t want just any fairy party, she specifically wanted a Flower Fairy birthday party.
As huge fans of Cicely Mary Barker’s ‘Flower Fairies’ I wanted to strike just the right tone; we both have a shared love of beautiful illustrations and Cicely Mary Barker’s work is an example of illustrations you can get completely lost in. Equally, there is nothing brash or cartoon-like; each fairy is delicate and etherial and that was where we started with our planning.
Those who know us as a family know that not only do we love throwing a party, but we are also sticklers for the details. Our wedding was something that we wanted to truly represent ‘us’ as a couple, so once the main planning was done we spent time making sure everything tied in with us, our strong ethical beliefs, as well as making as much as we could.
So, when it comes to our daughter’s parties we feel the same. Our daughter’s birthdays we want to be a true celebration of her reaching a new milestone, as well as creating something special that will not only spark her imagination, but also that of her guests too.
It’s all about the details – Creating a ‘Flower Fairy’ theme
As a graphic designer by ‘trade’, I always like to design my own invitations and this year I simply couldn’t resist making something that looked like it had come from a woodland fairy itself.
Using poor quality images from scans, I set up something that I thought was rather pretty and would appeal to both genders. I had them printed locally and got them out with a few weeks to spare.
Setting the scene for a magical Flower Fairy Birthday Party
We had the theme, we have the ‘venue’, the invites had gone out and RSVPs received, all we had to hope for was good weather and this year didn’t disappoint. The UK’s heatwave came at such a wonderful time; her birthday fell on a Thursday and with an inset day on the Friday we set about planning where things would go in the garden for the party on the Saturday.
‘A’s’ ideas were inspired! She wanted a ‘Fairy Meeting Place’ where they could all eat, as well as a craft table for the craft activity we had come up with together.
I set about searching for some party decorations that would work well in the setting as well as with the theme and went to my favourite party supply shop Party Pieces. With SO many wonderful themes catered for on their website, I didn’t have to search long until I found just what I was looking for.
The morning of the party, tables we had made for the previous year’s ‘Woodland Explorer’ Party were laid out in the spot designated for ‘dining’ and simple oak off-cut posts were staked into the lawn to create posts to hang faux ivy garlands from.
With each Ginger Ray garland at 2m long, I tied two together to hang over the table diagonally and then dressed the oak posts with additional lengths. Once dressed with ivy, we then picked blooms from our ‘Fairy Rose’ (an inspired gift from a friend for our daughter’s Christening 4 years ago!) lavender and bracken and added to the posts to style as we imagined the Flower Fairies would!
With some trestles from my husband’s workshop and a big length of ply, we created a ‘craft table’ which would be cleared later in the day to have the cake and sweet treats on. Several round wooden cake stands which I have been hoarding for a while now, as well as the oak table name stands we made for our wedding were used as table decoration and sat on hessian table runners I made from offcuts I had, all of which tied in beautifully to the setting, as well as creating a natural look.
To add to party ‘take-aways’ each child had a pair of fairy wings and flower crown that I had sourced online and hung from a willow frame I made and added an additional element of dress-up to the party. Using the purple of the invitation as the colour for the day, the wings and crowns I found worked beautifully and were a huge hit.
An outfit fit for a ‘Flower Fairy’
Once the ‘scene’ was set; we headed inside and got ‘A’ dressed for her party. A few weeks previously I had bought a simply beautiful dress that I had found online via Instagram from Lilly and Bo that just screamed ‘Flower Fairies’. The Maria Party Dress has stunning embroidery, featuring all kinds of flora and a green sash.
I couldn’t hide it from our girl, however we did have a strict rule that it wasn’t to be worn until the day as the woods and brambles wouldn’t be kind on the delicate skirt fabric. Most days in the run up to the party, she would go and visit it handing in my wardrobe and stroke it lovingly, so you can imagine her delight at finally being able to change into it on the day.
We had also given her some silver ‘heeled’ shoes on her birthday; something she has been desperate for for months and months. We point blank refused to ever buy her the plastic ‘princess’ heels that a lot of her friends have, however we felt comfortable with these ones as they only have a slight heel and she just loves walking around on the kitchen tiles and/or decking listening to the ‘clop’ noise they make. Those along with a flower crown and her own unique butterfly style fairy wings were the finishing touch to her birthday outfit.
Face Painting for a magical party activity
Food was prepped and just about ready when the incredible face painter we had booked arrived; as someone who loves having her face painted, we had kept this a complete surprise until she arrived as an extra birthday present.
Once she was set up, she set about painting ‘A’s’ face and created something that complimented the overall look perfectly. Never one to turn down the opportunity to have my face painted, I too had something done… sadly, I have no pictures of me in them (happens every year!!) and as I don’t like to show our daughter’s face online it’s hard to show just what incredible face paint designs were created; but it really was utterly sensational and I’m looking forward to inviting her and her envy inducing kit back to the woods time and time again!
Keeping guest list to a (manageable) minimum
It wasn’t long until all the guests, ‘Fairies and Pixies’ arrived and soon they were having their faces painted, dressing up in wings and flower crowns and generally enjoying the play area in our garden.
Having only ever hosted a children’s birthday party for her friends for her 4th birthday, I had learnt from last year more than 10 children was overwhelming for the birdie and myself, so this year we stuck to a limited number.
The guest list was then chosen explicitly by the birthday girl, as I often find myself getting so wrapped up in party politics that ultimately I just ending up inviting everyone which as mentioned, simply isn’t workable.
This year we kept it simple, I still think we could whittle the numbers down further, but I do think that comes in time as friendship groups begin to settle.
Fairy Party – Natural Craft Activities for children – Party Games
How to make a natural Pine Cone Fairy
We are a family who loves to make things and craft, so we created a really simple crafting project using bits and pieces we have collected along with a few bits we bought in. Our daughter wanted to send her friends home with fairies, so I bought some craft ball faces and we went collecting pine cones for bodies, sycamore seeds for fairy wings, flowers we had pressed for clothing and acorn cups for hats, all of which I had put together in compostable bags with tags.
These ‘Pine Cone Fairies’ would be glued together using a glue gun by my husband during the day as and when children wanted to make them and then they were glued onto pieces of moss we had carefully selected and cut into rounds to sit on top of soil in terracotta pots that I had in my stash of pots.
This little craft was so lovely, as it gave the children an insight into what you can make using bits you find out in nature and that are so often overlooked. Each finished fairy could then be personalised and decorated with glitter glue and taken home to water in the hope that the moss would stay healthy.
When we first received planning to convert the woodland office into a dwelling, our home – it was September 2013, Autumn was setting in so our plans to start creating a garden were put on hold until the Spring.
By Spring 2014 we had a 9 month old daughter and we were keen to create a space for her and us to enjoy. We set out to create a lawn, a space for her to run around without falling over thistles and weeds! This was a mammoth task, the ground here is hard, solid clay so we bought in four lorry loads of top soil and set about creating the lawn, once finished and we had a ‘safe space’ to enjoy, plans began for our vegetable garden.
Like with everything we have done here, drawings are done, discussions (heated debates!) as well as countless visits to the space to try and visualise how it would work. Two beds were made in the front corners for me to grow flowers, my small cutting garden, full of all sorts of blooms for us to enjoy both outside and cut in vases indoors.
Then came the raised beds; a decent height to save my back and made using offcuts from my husband’s oak framing work. A lot of work went into creating the ‘perfect’ growing soil, lots of nutrients are needed to grow vegetables so we knew it had to be right. We also knew that we didn’t want to grow more than we needed, or what we would never eat, so we carefully decided our first year we wouldn’t know what grew well here overnight, however we made a list of most of the fruit and vegetables we enjoy the most, those in our daily diets, and those seasonal treats that we look forward to every year.
We had blueberries and strawberries in pots from rental properties we had lived in however these were becoming pot bound so we planted the in a bed and planned to create a fruit bed at a later date.
Over the years we have whittled things right down; courgettes, mixed lettuce, spinach, rocket, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, and with the addition of the green house (we found in a local auction for £20!) finally a successful crops of peppers and tomatoes! We grew kale and brassicas in the early days, however the caterpillars devoured them, so this year we are planning on adding frames around each raised bed with butterfly netting to avoid the same issue.
One of the hardest parts of growing your own fruit and vegetables, is the ‘trial and error’ element, however since those early days, I refer to my gardening as ‘trial and development’ as I am a complete novice in growing food. It has been four years now and I have learnt that works well one year, might not do so well the next… worse still, there are years like this particular one where I felt so on top of things; our daughter helping us with sowing seeds in the greenhouse, getting things out in good time, only to have seemingly everything devoured by the slugs, thanks to the hot, wet weather we have been experiencing.
All but three of the birdie’s 15+ sunflowers, as well as my sweet-pea seedlings, carrots etc etc have been completely demolished by the slugs… a real kick in the teeth, however, the frames for the beds are coming, as well as some Strulch organic garden mulch in the hope of keeping the slugs off our vegetables.
The fruit bed has also now been set up; the strawberries in an amazing structure my husband made with the birdie to keep them off the ground, warm and wet; this sits next to the fruit bed, containing blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries and redcurrant. This bed also has my husband’s pumpkins in… as he is eagerly growing them for a competition he has with one of his oldest friends! The net needs to go up on the chestnut frame we have built, with some walk-boards to that we don’t disturb the soil under foot too much.
When I sit as I often do, just outside the greenhouse, with a cup of tea and my gardening books, planning and adapting what happens next as the season unfolds, I often have to remind myself of how far we have come, as just four years ago the whole garden area was just clay, thistles and weeds.
I remind myself that it is something I will never get 100% right, by it’s very nature, gardening is an ever changing hobby. All I know is that it is one of the places I am happiest; just like watching our birdie enjoy the lawn and play area we created for her, the vegetable garden gives me so much pleasure and provides me with a sense of pride, calm and wellbeing.
Oh and those looking for tips… whilst I know modern-day titles are probably amazing to read; I always stick to the older publications, the books I was photographed referring to in the photos below are books my mother-in-law gave me one Christmas; one, a copy of a book she has that once belonged to her father who was a keen gardener and it is so straightforward, with wonderfully simply illustrations and guides… a book I could be without now!
// FEATURED //
Celtic & Co – Supersoft Slouch Jumper
One of Celtic & Co bestselling womenswear knits that I have been wearing a lot during these recent cool Spring mornings. Relaxed yet luxurious, it has a softly scooped neckline, oversized shape and a wide hem that hugs the hips (without clinging!).
It comes in a range of absolutely beautiful colours, I would happily have one of each as they are so soft and I can even imagine reaching for it on a cool Summer evening.
TROY London – Khaki green, wax parka
This has been a Spring essential of mine in recent weeks; with such changeable weather, it is perfect to throw on during a rain shower, or if there is a chill on a morning walk. It has so many pockets which is ideal if you are out walking the dogs, or with a young child who likes to fill your pockets with all sorts of woodland treasure!
Made in England, this parka has been seen on HRH The Duchess Cambridge, and I’d bet she loves it as much as I do as it lightweight coat (made from 100% cotton milled in England) with a dry wax finish. It has a black lining which provides fully waterproof protection and with a cinched waist and drawstring hood, it has a casual yet elegant look to it.
As someone who is always on the look out for stylish, functional country clothing, I have been thrilled to find TROY London as their product range ticks all the boxes.
Over the past few weeks we have been enjoying a daily assault on our senses here in the woods. Each morning as we opened our garden door, the scent of bluebells filled the air. A short wander into the woods and we were greeted by a magical sight: a carpet of blue, a haze of delicate flowers that stretched right out into the distance.
There is nothing more wonderful (in my opinion!) that an early morning walk or a walk around 5pm to head off into the blue haze. It is at these times of day that I always feel visiting the ‘bells is best; the scent that wafts through the air is almost thirst quenchingly delicious and the blue haze looks so incredible under the fresh, new leafy canopy above and in the soft dappled light.
We witnessed the bluebells turn from early green shoots to their darkest blue in what felt like a matter of days, the dark blue gradually getting paler as they began to fade away… it was at their most beautiful that we headed out for the walk seen below.
The afternoon light was so soft and flickered down onto the bluebells and created such a beautiful backdrop. These photos however, are now a thing of the past as the bluebells have now departed for another year, the blue haze has been replaced with little stems with pods ready to release the seeds of next years bluebells.
Soon we will see the return of the foxgloves, which are now shooting amongst the chestnut coppice, the the blue haze will be replaced by flecks of deep pink.
Whilst these seasonal blooms never seem to last long enough it is always such a welcome moment in Spring to see the bluebells and then towards early Summer, the return of the foxgloves; these wild, woodland blooms are the early pollinators and prove to be vital in maintaining optimum health for the surrounding flora, as well as that of the bees and insects that visit them.
Conker Pinafore is our all time favourite, classic pinafore shaped dress from Nellie Quats with gathered skirt front and elasticated waist back for a comfortable fit. Made from soft, light-weight, white stripe linen. Designed to sit above the knee and is perfect for layering in cooler weather or stripping back in the summer.
Ditsy Dot & Nellie Quats Collaboration Carter Bow – We have lots of bows from Nellie Quats and have always loved the simplicity of them, as well as the prints uses, this bow however was made in collaboration with Ditsy Dot and was created to match the NQ Spring/Summer collection. Made from beautifully soft white stripe linen. You can choose from either a hair tie or clip, however we always choose the clips as we feel you can use them on the end of pigtails, the top of a pony tail, or simply to clip my daughter’s whispy hair out of her face.