A Valentine tree made of twigs in a vase with pink paper hearts


Sharing feelings

Sharing moments with the little ones in our lives allows them to voice their own thoughts.  Out walking in a park or making things in the kitchen children naturally get talking, which often gives parents and grandparents insight into how they really feel. Gradually by sharing experiences and almost without realising it children gain valuable insight into their own and others’ feelings.  A few conversation starters can be helpful and coincidentally may kick start ideas for Valentine’s Day! https://nurturestore.co.uk/talking-feelings-printable-conversation-starters


Heart in the Park

Make a Pebble Heart

Make a Pebble Heart

This puzzle is a good way to get the kids outside but could also be saved for a rainy day at home.  Materials needed are the outline of a heart and a selection of random stones or a mix of stones and other smallish natural objects. Looking for these bits is part of the fun – so eyes open on your next walk together. Incidentally doing puzzles and piecing things together helps develop children’s spatial awareness.



Invisible ink

A picture made with invisible ink

Use Invisible Ink

Children love invisible ink and secret messages. They also work well for Valentine’s Day. You need a few sheets of printing paper, a cotton-wool swab/bud, the juice of half a lemon mixed with very little water in a small bowl and a cooker set at about 210˚C.  Using the cotton bud as a brush (well saturated) children write/paint something then allow it to dry. Sheets MUST be placed in the oven by an adult.  After a couple of minutes the message appears.  This occurs because the lemon juice oxidizes (reacts with oxygen) and turns brown when heated. As the invisible ink burns faster than the paper, it turns brown first revealing the message.



Red Hearts and Pink Roses

A Valentine tree made of twigs in a vase with pink paper hearts

Make a Valentine tree

Valentine’s Day is all about feelings.  This Valentine Gratitude Tree is inspired by the Gratitude Tree tradition of Thanksgiving, using hearts instead of leaves.  Make extra hearts for visitors to add their thoughts to the tree.  Surprising discussions can result from reading the paper hearts.  https://nurturestore.co.uk/valentines-gratitude-tree

Binky Bear is sat on a beehive

The Importance of Bees

A beekeeper friend recently told me that to him honey-production isn’t the bees’ most important function but plant pollination is and it is astonishing how quickly children take environmental concepts on board in their earliest encounters with the natural world. A strange insect in the garden soon becomes a familiar friend and the memory is shared forever with the parent or grandparent who first made this possible.

a bee keeper is tending his hives

A bee keeper tending his hives

Helping bees together

With an astounding 270 odd bee species in Britain alone (just under 250 of which are solitary bees) – and all of them pollinators – we have to look after them. One of the ways we can do this is by helping to make outdoor spaces bee-friendly. Park authorities and farmers are becoming aware of the importance of protecting pollinators’ environments and in our small way we can help by growing bee-friendly plants. In addition to thinking of flowering plants water is essential for bees as are places for solitary bees to hunker down during the winter months in banks and in compost heaps. Bee-friendly garden, bee-hotels:
Poisonous plants to look out for: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=524
Make a bee-hotel https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/39691792

bees on a thistle

Bees on a thistle

Bee Facts

Honeybees survive the winter by snuggling close together in the hive to keep warm. Interestingly they don’t hibernate. Their honey sustains them, so they must produce enough for the cold months. In a good season in the UK a beehive can produce 27 kg of honey but this is around 11 kg more than the bees actually need. How lucky we are – they pass that excess onto us to have with our toast and butter!

Scientists have recently been able to decode sounds made by queen bees in the beehive according to a paper published in the journal, Scientific Reports, in June 2020. The “tooting and quacking” sounds tell the tens of thousands of worker-bees the queens want to come out. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53029218

Dancing bees

Our amazing bees can also tell their fellow workers where they have found a good source of nectar and to do this they perform a ‘dance’. Scientists call it the “waggle” dance and it imparts an amazing amount of precise information.
From this performance the workers can make a bee-line to the nectar.

Binky checks out the bee hive

Binky checks out the bee hive

Why are bees important?


Know your Bees:

Bee identification.

Interesting facts.

Interesting facts. Bee-lines in your area and helping a tired bumble–bee

Binky and Bees

If you are interested in bees like Binky is, you might like to get to know Binky better. He has lots of adventures and you can read all about them here:



Giving and Receiving

Giving and Receiving for Kids

A social experiment in the U.S. in 2015 asked children to choose between giving and receiving the perfect present. Surprisingly instead of choosing the gift of their dreams for themselves, they all chose to buy something for a parent. Thoughtful gift-giving really can develop a sense of empathy and on that front alone it’s worth considering.

For time- and cash-strapped families shopping for birthdays and Christmas presents can be stressful. Parents often end up buying more than they intended and spending more than they can afford. But things are changing and many are questioning and discussing what the act of giving actually means.

Want, need, wear, read

The 4-gift rule beloved of so many parents in recent years, may be a little sanctimonious, but it has helped many families simplify their present-shopping strategy, primarily at Christmas. It leads to fewer unwanted gifts and kids (especially tots) aren’t overwhelmed by too much ‘stuff’ all at once. The 4-gift rule explained –

Talk about it

As children grow up and in family discussions the idea of a gift can be explored and expanded to include giving time to others and valuing what we already have, as well as considerations of excess and waste.

free gifts

free gifts

Think home-made

More recently the 4-gift rule has morphed into 5-gifts and includes something home-made. Making their own gifts gives children the personal satisfaction of actually seeing the surprised look on mummy’s face when she opens her present. Some cookies or a tiny posy of flowers from the garden are fun things to make with granny, especially for Mother’s Day.



Saying thank you becomes an act of giving in its own right and writing thank-you cards can be a fun activity to share with kids. If they can’t think what to say, here are three simple steps to follow. Easy-peasy…


‘No one has ever become poor by giving’ – the words of Anne Frank

London Bus Times

London Bus Times is our new blog post series which we are writing exclusively for MyKidsy. If you have read our first blog post Buses Are Best you will know that we are the creators of Binky Bear, the read and explore adventure trail books and we are frequent out of town family visitors to London. Once we arrive at Waterloo we travel only on foot and by bus, initially because our then 10 year old was terrified of the Tube and now because we all just love the London bus experience.

Visiting places on a budget is our thing as is doing ‘stuff’ that is simple but with a creative twist. For this blog post we asked our Facebook and Twitter fans to answer this question: What are your favourite free kids’ activity ideas for a London day out?

Here are four of their many suggestions. We hope you like them, try them at half term and providing you have a travel card, we can guarantee these activities will be absolutely free.

1. Find the strangest vegetable at Borough Market!
We love this suggestion and Borough Market is open Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday) and is tucked away just south of the river near London Bridge. It is London’s oldest fruit and veg market dating from 1755 and describes itself as: “London’s most renowned food market; a source of exceptional British and international produce.” Borough Market has a quirky interactive map which is worth a look before you go and it will tell you where all the veggies are. Good luck on this challenge and when you do find the strangest vegetable, please tweet a photo to @MyKidsy @AllAboutBinky @boroughmarket #strangestveg and we will pop them up on our Facebook page www.Facebook.com/MoreAboutBinky.

London Bus Times Information for Borough Market:

Loads of buses will get you there, for example from Waterloo take the 168 or 188 to Elephant and Castle and then the 40 or 133 to London Bridge, from Victoria take the C10 all the way. For all other start points we suggest you consult https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/ You just type in your start and where you want to go and all the various options are worked out for you.
Get off the buses at London Bridge, Borough High Street or Southwark Street
The full address is 8 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1TL

2. Visit the Armoury exhibit at The Wallace Collection
The Wallace Collection is a bite size museum tucked away in beautiful Manchester Square, a block north of Oxford Street at the Selfridges end. Admission is free for everyone and it is open from 10am-5pm and on all Public Holidays except 24, 25 or 26 December. The Arms and Armour Collection is described as: “One of the largest, finest and most important in the UK”. There are lots of weapons to see alongside suits of armour. Here is the full address: Hertford House, Manchester Square, London, W1U 3BN Telephone +44 (0)207 563 9500

London Bus Times Information for The Wallace Collection:

The buses to get you there are numbers 2, 10, 12, 13, 30, 74, 82, 94, 113, 137, 274. All stop nearby.

Now if armour is not strictly your thing, they also have The Little Draw which is a monthly Sunday afternoon drop in art workshop from 1.30-4.30pm. There are lots of different activities to try and all ages and all abilities are welcome.

3. Sit with the lions in Trafalgar Square
This suggestion came in from Emily age 4. Trafalgar Square has long been a favourite of ours as the perfect picnicking spot! There is some proper bench seating round by the fountains and the place is great to just sit and munch as you watch the wonderful international-tourist-world go by. Decent loos are nearby in The National Gallery and if you are desperate for a coffee try The Café in the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Tel: 0207 766 1158

London Bus Times Information for Trafalgar Square:

London Bus Times and Binky Bear
To get to Trafalgar Square from any start point use https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/

4. Go on a big red bus.
Emily’s older brother Sam, age 5 make this suggestion and we couldn’t agree more. Here are 2 of our favourite ‘big red bus’ routes:

Route 11 Fulham to Liverpool Street – from leafy Fulham up the Kings Road, through Westminster, passing The Houses of Parliament and then up through the City of London and onto the Bank of England and ending in Brick Lane.

Route 9 Aldwych to Hammersmith – From Green Park, through Knightsbridge to Kensington with Royal Parks all the way and the glitz and glamour of Knightsbridge thrown in.

Remember travelling on the top deck is a must and we always make a beeline for the front seats or as close as possible so that when they are free, we can get them.

Have a great half term everyone. If you do find a strange vegetable in Borough Market remember to tweet a picture to us or tag us on Facebook www.Facebook.com/MoreAboutBinky. The next London Bus Times post will be out in the spring and will show you some more budget/free things to do travelling about London by a big red bus.

Liz Nankivell is co-creator of Binky Bear. There is a Binky Bear trail in Central London and you can find our more information here www.BinkyBear.co.uk.

Family Tree

Talking History

Family heritage

It’s amazing how enthusiastic children can become about talking history, especially talking family history.  They’re endlessly fascinated to know about your life as a child, before they were born. They love facts about their own history, where they came from and who everyone is.

A good starting point is an old photograph album.  If you don’t have one, don’t despair.  Now’s the time to get that box of old photographs from the roof and go through it together with the kids.

Photo Box

Photo Box

Get printing

You can preserve this knowledge in a special book, which the whole family can contribute to.  You can sort and print photographs (instead of leaving them unprinted on your laptop) and add those to family stories and traditions.  There’s something supremely satisfying about having an actual book for everyone to handle and share.  Often an older family member is only too pleased to explain who’s who.

Make a family tree

Then you can create a simple family tree.  Here’s what you’ll need to make one:

1 fairly large piece of thick white paper or card (no larger than A3),

Brown and/or black felt-tipped pens and sheets of light and/or darker green paper Alternatively, simply use poster paints or a combination of all the above.

Scan and print photographs of the various family members.  Stick to faces, as these are more recognisable for small children, especially if they don’t see some family members very often.  We made a family tree for Binky Bear himself.

If really short of time, here’s a link to the outline of a tree, which you can download and print on a sheet of A4:


Looking at evidence

Finding things out is a useful skill to develop.   Learning how to ask questions and listen carefully to answers is something we all need to do.  Interviewing a real human being gives life to a story, as opposed to researching stuff on the Internet.

Interacting face to face with real people away from a screen is something that we at Binky Bear are really keen to see children develop.  So here’s a fun game to try together:

Talking about what you are doing and doing things together is what Binky Bear books are all about. Check out our adventures here.

Gardening For Kids

Mucking About In The Garden

Gardening is something we do all-year-round, not just in Spring and Summer.  So, as a kids activity it ticks all the boxes by getting our little ones into the open-air and sharing experiences. Plus, it’s fun AND you don’t even have to have a garden to do it!

Here are some practical ways of getting started.  The BBC working with the RHS has made it easy to stimulate enquiring minds with lots of great ideas.  These include projects to do at home, in your own garden, indoors and there’s plenty of factual stuff too. What little boy can resist fascinating facts about wriggly creatures. Go to the BBC link below.

Bee On A Beautiful Flower

Bee On A Beautiful Flower

When planting in the soil or in pots choose easy to handle large seeds for little hands like peas, beans and sunflowers.  Look for plants, which can be readily distinguished from weeds. Keep a pet dandelion!

An interest in gardening can be fostered anywhere and doesn’t have to be in a formal garden setting.  Scent trails, where you search for and identify different plants can be followed in your own garden, along a country trail or in a public park.  Challenging for grown-ups as well!

Green-fingered benefits

The RHS and schools, who have collaborated throughout the UK in recent years in setting up gardens and gardening clubs, point to the many health benefits of gardening for children – getting them away from screens and into the open air. RHS research suggests that kids perform better at school and develop healthy eating habits as a result of their interest in self-grown veg.

The RHS Campaign for School Gardening found that children built “life skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication”. The Kings Fund in 2016 reported feelings of positive well-being, personal achievement and empowerment among young gardeners, particularly amongst children with learning and behavioural difficulties.  These youngsters in particular experience a sense of pride in a world where so often they are unable to shine.  They also find gardens to be peaceful places, “conducive to meditation”, suggests Caroline Levitt, founder of Diggers Forest School and Nursery, Midhurst.  Children learn to communicate with the world about them, which in turn puts them in touch with their inner selves.

Life-long love

Gardening with the little ones in your life can initiate a shared life-long love of plants and the outdoors. The continuity of the seasons fosters a long-term commitment to the world about us and a better understanding of the environment.   You never forget seeing your first seed emerge from the dark earth and from that moment we become a part of the wider ecosystem.

Take them into the garden one warm night and just let them lie on the grass and look up at the sky.  They’ll never forget it!





Picture of a boy reading to a reading dog

Reading Dogs

Learning to read out loud is a crucial milestone in our children’s first years at school. As parents and grandparents we’ve all sat beside our little ones willing them to get to the end of the sentence, without stumbling and, if possible, without help. But when it comes to reading in the classroom, many children become incredibly anxious. This is where “reading dogs” can help.

What is a ‘reading dog?’

The concept of “reading dogs” was born in the 1990s. In November 1999 Utah-based Intermountain Therapy Animals launched Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) and took them into a Salt Lake City library. A year later the programme moved into the school system.

Reading to Dogs has proved equally successful in schools in the UK. The Bark and Read Foundation, for example, funded by the Kennel Club Education Trust, works with charities, social organisations, schools and libraries around the country helping children to read with their specially trained support dogs.

Sharing with Dogs

Children feel happier reading to a dog as, “unlike grown-ups”, the dogs don’t ask them to repeat things! (Hannah Earnshaw of Crown Primary School, Inverness) The children have time to think about what they are actually reading and enjoy the experience more than when it’s done to the teacher. It’s less stressful for them and becomes fun while at the same time developing their self-esteem.

What really matters…

More difficult to prove are the claims that children improve significantly more as a result of reading to dogs than practising in a more orthodox classroom setting. But does this matter? As long as the experience of reading to dogs motivates our kids to pick up a book and enjoy it, rather than look at a screen, that’s by far the most important thing.

So, whether it’s in our home, at school with a trained ‘reading dog” or even outside in the garden let’s get them reading!


Ice-cream van

Treats and Rewards for Kids

We’ve been talking lately about the tricky question of what treats really are and what happens when treats become the norm.

Are sugary treats bad?

Opinions will vary but experts tell us not to underestimate the power of sugar addiction. An article in Parents Magazine states, “The average kid under 12 consumes 49 pounds of sugar per year, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.” Treats that consist of refined sugar and empty calories add up over the day, even if they seem individually insignificant. There’s also the message that is sent by using sweets as rewards. Nutritionist and Kids Kritic Spokesperson, Carolina Lima Jantac, says, “Kids associate feeling happy and accomplished with sugar”. This continues into adulthood with self-rewarding of something sweet when you feel down and ultimately can lead to habits which are hard to kick.

No one is talking about an outright ban on ice cream and cup cakes but it looks like it is not a good idea to use them as rewards.

Other kinds of rewards

I’m sure we’ve all used stickers and charts at various times and they can work very well, as children can actually see their progress. Rewards that seem to work equally well can be doing something really special together that creates a memory. You can go to a park together (remember to take photos), do a class together at a local museum or gallery or what about borrowing a neighbour’s dog and take it/them on a walk.

Walking a friend's dog

Walking a friend’s dog

Using Treats to motivate

Psychologists call what motivates us, our currency and your child’s currency is what motivates him or her now. It will change with time and as their priorities and latest enthusiasms change. Younger children will “jump through hoops” (as Carolina puts it) to have an extra 15 minutes of lights on before bed. Collecting sets of things can really enthuse young kids. Hang on to the cards that are handed to you at the supermarket till. Kids love collecting sets – and they’re free!

Singing from the same song-sheet.

Often grandparents and other carers are considered a “soft touch”. I know how difficult it can be to resist the pleadings of my sugar-deprived grandchildren. But I know it’s important to support the parents’ house rules. If kids are already hooked on ‘unhealthy ‘ options, it’s difficult to institute a sudden ban. They still have access to treats when outside the home. This is where grandparents can help. Paediatric psychologist, Eileen Kennedy, suggests buying the smallest-sized packet of a favourite treat or a large economy bag of small-sized packets. Keep these out of sight, which avoids mindless snacking by the kids – and by you! Always have fruit (and veg!) out on the table and visible in a bowl.

Carolina Lima Jantac, MS, RD, LD. Nutrition and Social Media Manager and Kid Kritics Approved Spokesperson.https://expertbeacon.com/why-rewarding-children-sugar-or-treats-big-mistake#.WUei6RNViko

Parents Magazine

bowl of fruit

Healthy Food For Kids

This is our first of two posts about healthy food for kids. Guiding children to eat healthy food is a challenge most of us face. Experts agree that the learning process has to be gradual to lead to success. And it can be fun!

“Rename them”, scientists say

“In a new study, 186 four-year-olds were given regular carrots and, on other lunch days, they were given the same vegetables renamed X-ray Vision Carrots. On the latter days, they ate nearly twice as many.”

carrots in the shape of a flower

X-ray Vision Carrots

Healthy Packed lunches – making choices

Whether or not there is guidance from your child’s school you can have fun together making your own list of favourite foods. Use a blackboard and different coloured chalks for various food types. This way kids have their say while gradually becoming aware of the nutrition values of different foods. If they can buy stuff at school, give them a restricted amount and let them ‘save’ the money to put towards something special, which is not food.

Healthy Main meals

For the ‘main’ meal of the day limit the amount of starchy foods and always have one vegetable option that you know they like. Get the children to help you prepare what you’re going to eat. Then they can give it a name. Elsie’s cauliflower cheese. Start the day with fruit for breakfast. Don’t forget that frozen is just as nutritious as fresh. You can puree fruits and serve with yoghurt.


Pureed fruit for breakfast

Developing Healthy Habits

Give them smaller bowls and, if age-appropriate, allow them to help themselves. They’ll appreciate being given a choice and feel grown-up. Encourage them to limit their portion size but ‘come back for seconds’.

If they say they’re full don’t push them into finishing everything. Eating when you’re no longer hungry ultimately leads to habitual over-eating. Children also need to recognise what they’re feeling “Is your tummy full now?”

Healthy Snacks

Snacks don’t have to be large. Stick to regular meal and snack-times, three meals a day and two snacks. If they don’t want a snack, skip it but watch out for crankiness before mealtime, as small children become suddenly hungry. Snacks don’t have to be large – a couple of slices of fruit and a cracker is plenty.

Feeling good

Up to school age children love to copy parents’ habits and choices – so take advantage of this and talk about what you’re eating – especially something new. They’ll want to try it too. Discourage the “yuck” face from older children in front of the little ones and talk positively about vegetables.
Vegetable Patch
Talk about fruit and vegetables when you’re out in the garden and crops that you see growing in the fields when you’re out for a walk. Go out and pick blackberries together in the summer and then make little blackberry and apple tarts.

Child Picking Blackberries

Blackberry Picking

We will continue this theme of Healthy Food For Kids with our next blog about “When a treat’s no longer a treat…”
In the meantime here is some further reading about the Carrot Experiment: http://www.livescience.com/7695-kids-prefer-veggies-cool-names.html

Squirt and Will - with thanks to the Evason Family

Losing A Pet

Coming to terms with losing a pet is something a lot of families have to face. Here at Binky Bear we are great animal lovers. Over the years Binky’s doggy friends and their families have become our friends. There was Max, the Great Dane, in Binky’s Big Adventure, Bertie and Rudi, the two corgis in Binky Goes to London and Squirt in Binky in Trouble. Dear Squirt died earlier this month, which made us think just what it means for the little ones in our lives to lose a much-loved pet, who has been both their friend and confidante.


The loss could be sudden but if the pet has been ailing for a while or is very old, you may have the time to talk about what might happen at the end of his life. When a pet has to be ‘put to sleep’ it’s as well to present the truth in an age-appropriate form. An explanation like ‘ he’ll never get better’ or ‘ he’ll die peacefully’ will depend on the child’s level of understanding. In the long run it’s better to stick to the truth and your own view of what happens after death may inform your explanation, even if it’s just a simple ‘I don’t know’.
With thanks to Sue, Jim and Wills

Sharing the grief

It’s difficult to gauge the right moment to break the news. Important considerations are: having the child’s full attention, being in a safe and comfortable place with no distractions and maybe talking one-to-one. It’s also fine for you to be sad, as it’s good for the children to know that you’re affected by the loss too. Sharing is a positive thing. Your pet was a member of the family and loved by everyone. A ceremony to mark his death or celebrate his life can also help.

Getting over it

Often the pet arrived in the family home before the children came along. He has always been nearby as they played and later hovered by the front door waiting for them to rush in from school. As time goes by the loss becomes less painful and you find yourselves laughing about the pet’s antics and sharing tales of the fun you had together.

In time you may consider another pet. The first inkling may come from the kids themselves. You’ll know when the moment is right.

It’s truly amazing what our pets teach us about life and, as it happens, about death as well.

We’d like to thank the Evason family for letting us use these wonderful family pictures of Squirt.

Useful info from The Blue Cross – https://www.bluecross.org.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/Children%20and%20pet%20loss.pdf
And a book: Goodbye, Mog by Judith Kerr (author of the Tiger who Came to Tea) –

Remembering Squirt

Binky and Squirt off on a walk

Binky and Squirt off on a walk

An out-take from Binky in Trouble - Binky and Squirt at Kingsgate, Winchester

An out-take from Binky in Trouble