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11 Ways to Spook up your Space for Halloween

Set the scene for Halloween with pimped up pumpkins and haunting homeware, says Sam Wylie-Harris.

With ‘Halloween at home’ falling on a Saturday, and our own personal sanctuaries setting the stage for the spookiest night of the year – will a full moon in the offing – the idea of creating a little house of horrors has never been so bewitching.

Want to set the scene for Halloween? Here’s how to spin a web of intrigue and get to grips with ghoulish goodies…

1. Pack of Five Halloween Confetti Balloons, £6.95, Graham & Green

Stringing beastly balloons together with black ribbon is a wicked way to dress up the entrance hall for trick-or-treaters, especially when they’re filled with confetti disguised as creepy-crawlies, bats and bugs.

2. Wallsource 70614579 Wallpaper Mural, from £29 per square metre, Wallsource.com

Move over Zoom backgrounds… if you really want to capture the chilling mood of Halloween virtual parties, a wallpaper mural is where it’s at. Made-to-measure and printed on demand to your dimensions, this wonder wall of jack-o’-lanterns in a spine-chilling graveyard is a real scream!

3. Sainsbury’s Home Halloween Collection: Skull Paper Plates, £1 for Pack of 8; Skeleton Arm Shot Holder, £5; Skull Beer Stein, £2; Black Ombre Plastic Wine Glass, £2; Skeleton Platter, £2 (other items from a selection or part of room set), larger Sainsbury’s stores

Devilishly good dining ideas, such as dressing the table with a little skulduggery, keeps adults entertained, as well as the kids. Themed treats, nibbles, skull-shaped snacks and hot dogs topped with gory ketchup will look so much better on a spooky black plate (not to mention wicked wines and shots served in black stemware).

4. Staub 24cm Pumpkin Cast Iron Cocotte Cinnamon, £259 (other items from a selection or part of room set), Zwilling

Not just a one-night wonder, pumpkins are a firm favourite on autumnal menus, all season long. For rustic-style table settings and those devilishly delicious pumpkin soups, curries and stews, nothing beats an eye-catching pumpkin cocotte (with black matte enamelled interior) taking centre stage. Suitable for hobs as well as the oven, it’s also ideal for rustling up a sauce for your pumpkin gnocchi.

5. Emma Bridgewater Halloween Themed Cobwebs and Midnight Spiders 1/2 Pint Mugs, £19.95 each, Emma Bridgewater

When you want to cup your hands around a warming hot chocolate or mulled pear and cranberry punch, only a generously sized mug – that can cope with a topping of frothy cream and cinnamon – will do. These creepy cups are ideal for Halloween hunkering on the sofa.

6. Gold Mercury LED Glass Pumpkin, £29.99 (other items from a selection or part of room set), Lights4Fun

When it comes to glamourous, ghostly ‘shelfies’ and tablescaping, a pumpkin with pizzazz makes a super stylish addition. This one’s made from extra fine glass and will proffer a shimmery, moonlit glow.

7. TruGlow Pumpkin LED Autumn Candle Trio, £19.99, Lights4Fun

Alternatively, this flickering trio made from real wax can be styled with berries, greenery and moss, or placed in the window to project shadows and illuminate your spine-chilling decos.

8. Nordic Ware Haunted Skull Cake Pan, £40.80, and Skull Cakelet Pan, £40 (other items part of room set), Harts of Stur

Don’t trust your cake-carving skills to whip up a beastly bake? Then these skull-shaped cake pans will do the job. Conjure up a red velvet skull and after it’s cooled, serve the cream cheese icing on the side, with gooey, chocolate eyeballs.

9. George Home Multi Halloween Dogs Reversible Duvet Set, from £10, Direct.asda.com

Come witching hour, when things start to go bump in the night, your Halloween costume party doesn’t have to end. Treat the bed to some spooky dressing up too.

10. Johnson & White London 2 Wick Candle, from £53, Johnson & White Aromas

For some grown-up black magic, you can up your squash game by spray-painting baby pumpkins black then hand lettering them in gold. Styled with a decadent candle, scented with bergamot, juniper, heady jasmine and hint of earthy patchouli, chances are you’ll be enchanted.

11. The Halloween Window Stencil Pack (42cm x 42cm), £9.99 (was £20), Snow Windows

It may be a little unnerving for onlookers, but when darkness falls, this wicked window display will certainly set the scene. To create this haunting, misty scene, position the stencil on the window, spray over with a can of Snow Spray (£3), peel off and wait for the squeals.

10 Fun Summer Outdoor Activities for Kids – with TV’s Helen Skelton

outdoor time family

The presenter and mum-of-two teams up with outdoor experts to suggest natural ways to keep children entertained outside over the summer.

After months out of school during lockdown, children and their weary parents are now faced with yet more time to fill during the holidays.

To help inspire them, The Wild Network has teamed up with TV presenter Helen Skelton and Smart Energy GB to suggest 42 sustainable things to do over the summer.

“I’ve got two young boys, who have been home pretty much the whole time during lockdown,” says Skelton of her sons, Ernie, five, and Louis, three. “They’re wide awake at 6am and full of energy all day.”

The Countryfile presenter and former Blue Peter host continues: “The boys love being outside – whether that’s in the garden, local park or woodland. They love foraging, climbing trees and creating seed bombs. If they’re running around all day, I’m hoping they’ll sleep all night!”

In addition, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has also compiled a series of activities for children to enjoy over the summer, and Guy Barter, RHS chief horticultural advisor, says: “Getting outside and sparking excitement around plants and bugs is the best way to inspire a love of nature, which is hugely beneficial to children’s health and wellbeing.

“Being outdoors makes us feel free, and gardening and connecting with nature is a very mindful task that can be just as rewarding for parents as it is for children.”

Here are 10 outdoor activity suggestions from the RHS and The Wild Network…

outdoor time family

1. Make a seed bomb

The Wild Network suggests children will have fun mixing daisy seeds with peat-free compost and water, and rolling the mixture into a ball. Let the balls dry and throw the resulting ‘seed bombs’ into the garden, or perhaps the park. Make sure you know where the bomb landed, so you’ll be able to see if daisies grow there in the spring.

2. Create a temporary dam

If you live near a stream, The Wild Network suggests making your own temporary dam with twigs, branches and stones to stop the flow of water. But it’s important to remove the dam straight afterwards, or the stream could flood.

outdoor time family

3. Go foraging for blackberries

Blackberries are in abundance at this time of year, says the RHS, growing wild in hedgerows from now until October. Take a bag on a country walk and hunt for the darker, sweeter, fruits to bring home. Avoid picking any that are below adult waist level or near busy roads.

4. Collect seeds to plant next spring

Cowslips, primroses, garden primula and other early flowers will be ready to shed seed now, says the RHS. With permission, gather seeds by snipping off seed heads and shaking them over a sheet of paper. Sprinkle the seeds onto a pot or tray filled with firmed potting compost, water, and leave in a sheltered spot, covered so animals can’t disturb them. Next spring look for little seedlings to plant in the garden.

outdoor time family

5. Paint a watercolour with rain

If it looks like it’s about to rain, The Wild Network suggests kids put some sheets of paper outside with drops of watercolour paint on them, and wait and see what picture the rain paints! “Even if it’s raining the boys enjoy being outside, playing in puddles, or creating a painting using drops of watercolour paint and the rain,” says Skelton. “For me, rain doesn’t have to necessarily mean the end of outside play.”

6. Create bug hotels for pollinators

Fill wooden boxes, flowerpots or other containers with pine cones, bamboo canes, straw, bark and logs or wood with holes drilled in them, suggests the RHS. Bees in particular like these ‘hotels’, especially the solitary bees that are among the best flower pollinators. Watch and make a note of which visitors come to stay.

outdoor time family

7. Go on a rainbow scavenger hunt

Both the RHS and The Wild Network suggest that in the garden or on a walk, children should try finding something in nature from every colour of the rainbow, and take photos if possible. The RHS warns children to be respectful to nature by only taking very small samples from plants or by looking for fallen materials, and not to touch anything unusual. The RHS Summer Flower Spotter Guide might help.

8. Make a mini-pond

Sink an old washing up bowl into the ground, fill with water, and add a rock or brick so anything that falls in can crawl out, says the RHS. Put in some waterweed and wait for creatures such as water boatmen and pond skaters to appear. Leave a muddy patch next to the pond so you can see any bird, fox or hedgehog footprints. Birds and insects also need mud for nesting.

outdoor time family

9. Be a street artist

Paint some stones, suggests The Wild Network. There are lots of possibilities – children might want to paint on flower patterns, turn the stones into insects or animals or decorate them with patterns. Hiding them for your friends to find could be fun too.

10. Watch caterpillars transform into butterflies

Moths and butterflies lay eggs in late summer that soon hatch into caterpillars, points out the RHS, which says nasturtiums are particularly attractive to large cabbage white butterflies. Although gardeners aren’t pleased when these butterflies infest cabbages, children can raise the caterpillars in a plastic box with a lid that lets in air, feeding them on cabbage leaves until they form a chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, in a process called metamorphosis.

Visit The Wild Network (thewildnetwork.com/inspiration/2020/7/20/42-days-of-summer) to find the 42 Days of Summer checklist.

Helen Skelton has teamed up with Smart Energy GB to encourage families to get a smart meter installed to help manage household energy consumption.

5 Fun Art Activities to Help Children Show their Feelings

children's emotional art

An art therapist outlines how kids' art can be used to help them and the rest of the family express emotions and bond together. Lisa Salmon reports.

For most parents, children’s art is just something to stick on the fridge and stow away when possible. But those splodgy works of art could actually be a window to their soul. Honestly.

Instead of trying to get young children, who often have a very limited vocabulary, to talk about how they feel, their drawings can be used to help them express their emotions. And while such a process is a form of art therapy, you definitely don’t have to be a trained art therapist to use it.

Art psychotherapist Fransie Frandsen says art therapy is very different from the popular belief that it’s just the interpretation of drawings – explaining that it uses art as a form of communication and expression, helping to identify, convey and process difficult emotions.

“As an art psychotherapist working with children, I find the idea of artwork becoming a ‘third person’ in a session particularly important,” she says. “This dialogue between therapist, child and artwork helps to make the process feel safer, so it becomes possible to gently turn on the lights of those dark rooms they avoid.”

Frandsen, whose children’s book Do Grannies Have Green Fingers is about to be published, says as well as art therapy being a specialised area of mental health therapy, creating art through drawing, painting, colouring or sculpture is therapeutic in itself. bringing focus, satisfaction and calm that remains long afterwards.

“Whether you’re in lockdown, holidays or at any other time, there are many art activities that can be done together at home, which are fun and at the same time hugely beneficial for a child’s wellbeing,” she says. “With the emphasis on the process of doing art together, rather than what the drawing or painting looks like, these activities can encourage bonding, create dialogue and allow family members to share and talk about the world and their feelings.”

Here, Frandsen suggests 5 fun art activities that will help children and families bond and express their emotions…

children's emotional art

1. Draw a Mandala

The word ‘mandala’ means circle in ancient Sanskrit and is a pattern with a circle within a circle, representing the universe. Start by drawing or tracing a small circle in the centre and then continue drawing a few outward concentric circles and patterns to complete the mandala. Your mandala can then be coloured in with coloured pencils or markers. Adults can help smaller children to draw the basic outline for their mandala. Because of the repetitive nature, drawing mandalas is calming and helps focus the mind. Colouring in the finished mandala is also relaxing as the outlines serve as boundaries or frameworks within which the colouring can be done.

children's emotional art

2. Draw or paint your emotions

Ask all members of your family to draw or paint how they’re feeling at that moment. When done, ask everyone to talk about what they’ve painted and encourage them to talk about the colours they’ve used, the marks or images they’ve painted and why they made that choice. Talking about feelings in a family setting isn’t always easy and this is an excellent exercise to build trust in each other and create dialogue about our inner worlds. It’s important that there’s no right and wrong and that adults reassure children their feelings are heard and valid, no matter what they are.

children's emotional art

3. Draw outside

Take art materials into the garden, where parents and children can pick a flower or find a feather, leaf or insect, and then talk about what they found and why they chose it. Then, everyone should draw or paint their object. This is a great way to encourage dialogue and to learn about each other, while spending peaceful time outdoors.

children's emotional art

4. Make clay handprints

Parents and children need a ball of clay each, which should be flattened until it’s roughly the size of each person’s palm. Press your hand down into the clay to create an imprint of your hand. Now compare all your prints and talk about how similar, but different and special we all are. You could also print the paws of cats and dogs. When the prints are dry, they can be painted and exhibited together. The tactile, sensory quality of clay is a relaxing material to play with and especially therapeutic where anger or control is an issue. Making handprints is an excellent way of encouraging dialogue about how unique we all are. Assembling them into a family artwork is not only bonding, but is visual confirmation of each family member’s valued part in the family.

children's emotional art

5. Do a group painting

Use a large sheet of paper or several pieces glued together. Arrange the family members equally around the paper and ask each member to start painting where they are and to work towards the middle until all paintings meet in the centre. There are no restrictions on what or how each member chooses to paint. When completed, ask members to describe what it was like for them to work together, what feelings they experienced and what they think of the finished artwork.

Once again, this exercise is excellent in opening dialogue. Group paintings are bonding, but can often evoke intense feelings about your place in the family, entering into another’s space, and boundaries being infringed. Reassure everyone that all feelings are valid, and positively reflect on the value of creating something together as a family.

children's emotional art

Do Grannies Have Green Fingers by Fransie Frandsen is published by Artfox.Bookwolf on June 11, priced £7.99.

10 Fun Craft Projects you Can do With the Kids

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

Give in and get creative. Claire Spreadbury rounds up her top picks for families.

When the stress of homeschooling starts to heighten, crack out the craft – easy, fun projects are great for encouraging kids to be creative, and can be relaxing too.

Get involved if you can, as focusing on just one thing can be wonderfully mindful, while your children will love spending quality time together. And if the mess stresses you out, choose an option you can do outside on a warm day – it’s the perfect antidote to feeling cooped up and crazy.

“When it comes to kids crafting, I would say the messier and the more creative, the better,” says Holly Harper, head of inspiration at notonthehighstreet. “One of the qualities I admire most in my nieces and nephews is their boundless imagination, and I tend to find the more freedom they have to do what they want, the more they enjoy the activity and the longer it keeps them occupied.”

Hobbycraft’s Ideas Hub is full of fun and simple projects. Katherine Paterson, their customer director, agrees getting crafty and creative is a great way to keep the kids entertained. “We’ve also launched an online Daily Kid’s Craft Club, with a different theme posted at 11am Monday-Friday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“The craft club is focused on a theme, rather than a specific project, so more children can get involved using whatever materials they have at home. We’re seeing some really fantastic creations.”

Need some ideas? Try some of these crafty creations for yourself…

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

1. A rocket made from recycling

Let little ones raid the paper and plastic recycling and build rockets which can be painted in brilliant colours. You can even make one into a rucksack by adding string or ribbon for straps.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

2. Decorated stones

Painted pebbles are a must – they’re super easy and gorgeously pretty. Get the kids in the garden, or searching for stones on your daily walk. From ladybird pet rocks to crazy aliens, there are endless designs to be created. You can paint NHS rainbows and hide them in the woods for other children to find and re-hide, or get really arty by painting on beautifully intricate patterns.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

3. Immerse yourself in nature

Experiment with items found in your very own garden. Create a leaf rubbing, pine cone spider or a twiggy wind chime. Or collect up leaves, stones, sticks, flowers and grass, and create a nature picture or art installation (look up work by Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration).

4. Create crafty cookies

Bake biscuits and let the kids go to town on the decoration. Use sweets, chocolate, mini marshmallows, icing, sprinkles and popcorn, or buy a Children’s Monster Bake And Craft Kit, £23, from notonthehighstreet.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

5. Make a scrapbook

Now is the perfect time to start scrapbooking. Buy a book and let the kids stick stuff on the pages, write about their day, draw pictures and create collages. It will be a work of art and a memory to look back on once life returns to normal.

6. Master brilliant bunting

Everyone loves a bit of bunting – it’s so cheering, and easy and cheap to create. You can either use scraps of fabric (try upcycling old, unwanted clothes) and sew triangular shapes of colourful bunting, which can then be stitched on to a fabric string or ribbon. Or you can cut out paper or card triangles, punch holes in them, decorate with paint or pen, and string them up. It’s bound to brighten up the place.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

7. Paint like Pollock

Splash out on a lovely big canvas (Hobbycraft have a huge range from £6-£18) and make a family splatter painting inspired by Jackson Pollock. Choose your paint colours, get brushes of all sizes at the ready and take it in turns to splatter the paint over the canvas. Keep going, one-by-one, until you’re happy with the finished result.

8. Transform into a robot

Had anything been delivered to you in a large box recently? Let the kids make a robot outfit out of it by sticking bits together, cutting holes for the head, arms and legs, and decorating it however they fancy.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

9. Let someone know you’re thinking of them

Make cards or postcards to send to friends and loved ones your kids are missing. The fronts can feature hand-drawn pictures or decorations galore, while inside or on the back, children and parents can write messages of love. Tell someone you miss them and why, say something that will make them happy, then send them through the post for a delivery of joy. If you fancy a kit to get you started, you can buy a Kids Colour In Postcard Portraits Pack for £6.50, from notonthehighstreet.

10. Build a den

Who needs an actual tent when you can build a den? Gather sheets, tarpaulin, card, newspapers, mats, twigs, cushions – anything that might be useful for taking cover beneath – and go to town building the biggest and best den you’ve ever attempted. Make signs for the ‘door’, and thread leaves on to sticks to prettify the area, then sneak tea and biscuits inside.

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