Thursday, 13 October 2016

Our first foray into children's parties...

So Iz turned 2 a few months ago. When D turned 2 we were on holiday and so took a trip to the local aquarium, had a cake and everyone was happy. But this year we were about to move house and D had realised when it comes to his birthday he will be at a new nursery and not with any of his current friends (sob sob - I'm finding the whole leaving thing very stressful!!). So we decided to throw a joint Iz birthday/D very early birthday/leaving nursery party and even though it was prime summer holiday time, a nice amount of their friends were able to come :)

This is the first children's party I've ever organised - oh how fun it was arranging everything but also how stressful as you wait for your first guests to arrive! You could completely wing it but I think that would make you very brave... I found it much easier having a detailed schedule of timings (that could also be the obsessive neonatologist in me!) especially as there were lots of toddlers involved... so this is a rough overview of what we did:

Kids arriving from 2.45 (the lovely facepainter started a bit earlier so D and Iz could be painted before everyone else arrived)
2.45-3.15 - Garden balloons and colouring, facepainting
3.15-3.30 - Piñata
3.30-4.15 - Animal show
4.15-4.30 - Cake

4.30 onwards - picnic tea outside

I'll give some more details below. This post is completely unsponsored, I'm just happy sharing some of the fab people we used to make the party really memorable!


In the garden 

In the garden I'd laid out a rug and a giant colouring scene. Each children had a named box which contained a DIY animal balloon (so cute and easy to make for even the youngest guest), a star wand and 4 crayons. In the end everyone made the balloons but didn't do any colouring - I think probably because it was just so hot outside!

Hanging frame

I bought this giant inflatable frame from Amazon and it was so much fun!  It was initially suspended from the ceiling so you could stand behind it but pretty rapidly it became the casualty of someone trying to swing on it so you had to hold it up instead. We did have some little props which D and Iz had loads of fun with before anyone else arrived but in the mad chaos of 30 people in our tiny house, soon got over-looked. But the great thing about this set of stuff is it is all completely reusable so I have now put it away ready for the next party :)

Pre-prepared picnic boxes

We had a picnic tea on the common outside our house and I pre-prepared individualised picnic boxes ahead of time. I got some cute princess lunch boxes and into each one put a juice box, two sandwiches, a packet of pombear crisps, a packet of raisins and an Organix snack bar. This made it so easy at teatime as I could just hand out one to each child quickly without having to worry if everyone had enough food etc. It also made it super simple for the child who had multiple food allergies as I just prepared her a different box ahead of time.


Our facepainter was AMAZING! The designs were way better than anything I expected for toddlers and Katy was so good - not complaining at all when I gave her the teeniest space to work in and working really quickly so the kids didn't lose interest. If you are local to West London and having a party definitely contact Katy ( - if I could persuade her to come to us next year after we've moved house I would!!

Animal show

I've never seen one of these for toddlers before and I'm not even sure where I got the idea but I'm SO glad we did this! Zoo4You came to the house, brought 8 animals and the result was an awesome show :) the kids all sat round in a semi-circle and Declan brought the animals out one at a time. D and Iz got to hold each one first because it was their party and then everyone else got a turn afterwards. It was amazing! We had a tortoise, hissing cockroach, bearded dragon, snake, chinchilla, parrot, rabbit and skunk.

Iz was super brave and held all the reptiles. When the cute soft chinchilla came along though she started screaming and point-blank refused to hold the rabbit... Some children are funny!! It was a really nice mix of animals though and it was lovely that all the children got a chance to hold them if they wanted. 

I will definitely be asking Zoo4You to come back for another party in the future. They are based in Chelmsford, Essex and cover anywhere within a rough 2 hour diameter. They were always really prompt at replying to messages and answering my (many!) questions.


I first saw this numbered Pinata on Jersey Momma's blog (thank you!!). As we had a party of toddlers I filled ours with pompoms instead of sweets (no thank you to a crazed sugar high!!) and 10 bangles (one for each child). Once the pinata was broken they took a bracelet each and later swapped that for a party bag.


This might sound a bit crazy to have at a toddler party but I'm pretty photo obsessed and there's no way I could've taken photos and organised timings and made sure everything was going to plan... And Mr MFDS is rather minimal about photo-taking... After 3 years I don't think he's ever had to clear space on his iPhone (slightly different to me - having to do it every other week!!). Our photographer was Sarah from Sarah West photography and she was brilliant - friendly and very unobtrusive, happy to just mingle and take candid shots. A really lovely photographer to have around. And actually having a photographer, facepainter and animal show worked out cheaper than having a party at our local soft play. Crazy huh?! 


Overall the afternoon went very smoothly. Mild rocky patch when the parrot decided to mistake Iz's plump arm for a nice branch to land on but that was quickly forgotten... It took quite a lot of organising as there were so many little bits but I wouldn't have had it any other way - I really enjoyed thinking about all the little extras. Maybe by the 20th kid party I've thrown I'll have got bored but this was my first and I loved it!!

I haven't talked about the rainbow candy number cake here but everyone loved it and having made one I now have a few insider tips so check out my other blog post about how to make one.

So if you're planning a toddler party extravaganza I say go for it! Let your imagination go and my top tip is - embrace Amazon with open arms! I do try to buy some things locally but Amazon has everything you could ever want pretty much (and more!).

Candy number cake

I made this cake for Iz's second birthday and although very simple to make, it was really visually striking and I got so many nice comments about it :)

How to make it:

1. Make your number cake in whatever style you want - I did a chocolate cake and used a "2" cake tin (although check out Pinterest for loads of ideas on how to create numbers from round cakes if you don't have the right number pan)

2. Cover the cake with a thick layer of icing

3. Buy a lot of M&Ms or Smarties - I bought 6 multipacks and actually had way too many at the end. Separate out the colours - this takes much longer than you think!  

4. Add your M&Ms - you can use any pattern you like. I'd seen a cake where the lines went horizontally across but I wanted a slightly different look so went with a more diagonal approach, starting at the centre and then working my way out from there. I carried the colours over the edges and just kept the pattern consistent, which meant the lines curved nicely

Ideally do this just before the party as I made it the day before and got some fading of colour on some of the candies (see below).

I had been storing the cake in the fridge and some articles on the internet said the change in temperature could make that happen. So I kept it at room temperature. And it still happened, and maybe a bit more quickly. So I just put the cake back in the fridge and then on the morning of the party used clean tweezers to remove the most discoloured sweets and replaced them with new ones (luckily I hadn't eaten the leftover extras in the meantime!!)

5. Add some candles and show your super impressed birthday child :)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Dome8 iphone case: review and giveaway!

Recently I was given the opportunity to review the new dome8 iPhone case - the idea behind the case is to not only protect your phone if you drop it (has rounded corners, extra rubber to absorb impact, a raised front edge to protect your screen if (when!) you drop your phone etc) but also to act as a clever case for your headphones so you never again have to hunt round the bottom of your bag to eventually find a tangled mess of leads with fluff in the earpieces... Instead your headphones can be coiled neatly round the back of your phone, discretely out of sight but right at hand when needed. And when you're using your headphones the outside of the case flips inside out to act as an iPhone stand! 

(Image from dome8 website)

For anyone who is a bit kak-handed (like me!) the shape of the cover is great. It takes a few minutes to get used to but then you realise you have this awesome anchor to hold your phone with - I haven't dropped it once since!! 

Does it work?

Yes. It was very easy to use - even my 2 year old can do it - and it was great always knowing I had headphones with me. You do have to use the apple headphones (they fit in the holes) but that's not really a problem as you get a free pair with your iPhone anyway. We've got Amazon Prime subscription and so I often watch something downloaded on my iPhone during my commute but I actually found this case even more useful for those "unexpected" times when doing trips with the kids and suddenly wanted to entertain them quickly with an episode of Peppa or Dora... 

Child's play to access and unwind the headphones

I'm not quite sure why he watching Umizoomis upside down...

Even my 2 year old could re-wind the headphones back up :)

When I first took this case to work I was amazed at the reaction I got. I use my phone at least once an hour for calculating drug doses/infusions etc and every time I took it out of my pocket someone commented on the case. Everyone was fascinated and wanted one for themselves - no one had seen anything like it. And ironically on that first day a locum colleague left work, forgot his headphones in his locker and had to come back adding an hour to his journey home to get them,,, if only he'd been using a dome8 case!! Well I guess he might have left his whole phone but hopefully not :)

Any problems?

I only have 2 very small gripes with this cover - and both are very personal to me. Firstly the cover I had before this one had a hidden compartment where you could store your credit card and an emergency note - I loved that I never had to take an extra wallet out with me and did miss that function. And secondly I take a lot of photos in selfie mode (mainly of the kids so they can see themselves and then hopefully smile more nicely!) and usually use the volume button to take the picture (did you know you could do that? Amazingly useful tip!). However this cover made it slightly harder for me to click that button. Not a problem if you use the button on the screen to take pictures but I rarely use that one. But neither are exactly deal-breakers.

Edit - just found out that they actually rectified the button problem with the iPhone 6 cases (I have the 5 version) and there is now a complete cut-out for the buttons so you can selfie yourself senseless!)

Overall impression:

This is a snazzy looking case that will definitely get noticed and is a clever way to keep your headphones safe - ideal if you watch TV/listen to music when out and about. 

Note: I was sent one free to test but everything above is my honest opinion :)


Dome8 cases cost £14.95 and come in a variety of colours and designs. They fit iPhones 5/5s/SE and 6/6s and the lovely guys at Dome8 have offered to give a case away to one lucky reader of my blog - yay giveway time! So if any of the above sounds good to you, then to be in with a chance to win your own dome8 case just enter the competition below...



Look at and leave a comment below detailing which colour and style case you'd like if you win - along with a way you can be contacted (Facebook page, twitter name, email address etc). Also follow "dome8" on Facebook (search for @dome8cases if you have any problems finding the page) - that's where they'll be announcing the winner first!

To increase your chances of winning you can also:

- Share this blog post on Facebook and leave one EXTRA comment here to say you've done so (with your Facebook name)

- Follow both me (@mum1stdoctor2nd) and dome8 (@dome8cases) on Twitter and leave one EXTRA comment here with your Twitter name

- Tweet about the competition using the following sentence (and leave ANOTHER comment to say you have):
"I've entered a competition with @mum1stdoctor2nd & @dome8cases to win a dome8 iphone case at Why don't you?"



Competition rules:

1. The only step you MUST do is the first one. All others are optional so you can do as many or as few as you like

2. You must live in mainland UK and be over 18 to enter

3. The competition will close at 1am on Monday 31st October

4. The winner will be picked on the morning of Tuesday 1st November via and their name will be posted on dome8's facebook page later that day

5. All efforts will be made to contact the winner by the contact details left in their comment(s). If there has been no response after 2 weeks a new winner will be drawn.

6. The prize will be dispatched directly from dome8

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Bubble wrap stomp

One plus side of moving house is the sheer amount of bubblewrap floating around at the moment...

So inspired by a photo someone shared on Facebook a while ago we decided to make bubblewrap shoes and get painting :)

Both kids really enjoyed this although Iz (the lover of all thing messy!) was engaged with the activity for about twice as long as D.

I laid 2 long tracks of paper out over some foam mats in the garden and taped them together. I wrapped bubblewrap around their feet and secured with a bit of tape - very simple!


The paint was on some flat plates and although to start with we painted the bottom of their feet it soon degenerated into Iz standing in the paint plates and paint going everywhere!


After Iz was done mess-making, D then spent a while reviewing their artwork with a magnifying glass :)

A few tips...
- have something under your paper (we used those coloured foam mats that are sold everywhere but you could equally use a tarpaulin or table cloth). If a lot of paint is used then the paper may tear and you don't necessarily want super colourful grass...
- a thick layer of pain on paper gets very slippery so be on hand to catch your toddler when they start sliding all over the place. We had a "no running" rule and Iz only slipped once
- have a tupperware of water or baby wipes for clean up very close at hand for afterwards!! (I didn't and so ended up carrying Iz up to the bath...)

The final piece in all it's glory!

Enjoy the mess :)

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Simple DIY quiet bags

I find our quiet bags really useful - if you haven't heard of them then they are small bags which contain "pre-prepared" activities which are completely portable. They are great for waiting rooms at the doctor, when visiting friends who might not have children/toys lying around, in restaurants, when trying to breastfeed your second etc etc. The list goes on :)

And best of all you can put anything in them! Whatever works for your family and your toddler. And as they grow up you can adapt them and change them.

Here are 3 I've made in the last few months - all super simple and only a tiny bit of prep work. Each of them is stored in an A5 sized see-through "pencil case" bag with a zip so it is easy to see what is inside each one. 


Construction sticks bag

This was the first one I made. I collected lots of coloured lolly sticks and put velcro dots at each end on both sides. I then made some laminated cards with patterns on them (easier to see in second picture). D and Iz either try to copy the patterns on the cards or just freestyle their own building creation. The bag has about 30 sticks in it so plenty for them both to play with. We sometimes also use it as colour matching exercise and the sticks are good for early counting and addition/subtraction sums.

Fuzzy felt bag

We all played with fuzzy felts as a child but they don't seem to be in vogue at the moment? Nonetheless felt pieces are a great portable toy as they are very light and how to play with them is only limited by the child's imagination. I collected together a range of colours/shapes/sizes and had a few A5 sized sheets (pictured in second picture). Both D and Iz enjoy making up stories and patterns with the various pieces.

Whiteboard drawing bag

This bag contains a few A5 sheets with various designs which I've laminated. Don't worry if you don't have a laminating machine - just buy some laminating pouches and use an iron (full directions in this blog post). The sheets are:
- a seaside scene to colour in and add more details
- numbers 0-9 to trace or copy
- shapes to match and colour
The bag originally included a whiteboard pen but I got nervous about pen ending up everywhere so instead found these really cool dry erase crayons on Amazon which fit perfectly inside and come in a pack with 10 different colours.


Now if I know we're going a train journey or have to wait at the GP surgery I'll just grab one of these bags and know that we have a ready-made mess-free portable activity good to go :)

Note - originally I was going to make a "quiet book" (Google them if you don't know what I'm talking about - some are amazing!) but life and work and kids took over and I didn't have enough time so instead decided to make multiple different "quiet bags" instead. They actually have lots of advantages over a book, including that you can choose individual or multiple ones to take with you, and you can change the constituents easily to fit with your child's age and interests as they grow up.

If your family uses anything similar I'd love to hear about it :)