Breaking Out! Escape Room Challenge at Home for Children

Escape rooms offer exciting challenges that are heart racing and fun. They encourage children’s problem solving skills with code cracking, clue solving and calculations to be made.

As a family we have visited a few escape rooms and the children really enjoyed the mystery and challenges that were involved in finding the clues to escape the room. They are brilliant activities for families that help to combine your skills and work as a team.

What are escape rooms?

An Escape Room is a physical and cognitive activity where you have to find clues and solve puzzles to escape from a room. It might involve padlocks, keypads, physical, mathematical and literacy problems to solve and many more. As you enter the room you are set a time limit where you need to complete the puzzles and solve clues to reveal combinations to unlock padlocks. Some rooms create an immersive experience with music and sound effects. Some may have a background story to escaping and others may just be about puzzles. Many escape rooms offer props to use in order to solve the puzzles, but also help to get you into the mood of escaping the room.

Setting up the escape room

I would like to say that it was easy, but it took me some time to think up some of the clues to use. I took to pinterest and facebook for some inspiration. Pinterest is ideal for discovering new ideas.

I first bought some padlocks, I went for number and letter combination ones.

I didn’t really want to lock the boys into a room (plus none of my rooms have locks on them) So I decided on using a box with the locks on them instead. The idea being that once they found the clues to the locks they would open up the box and find a key inside which would then unlock the back door.

I decided on not going for a back story or a theme just because my head hurt with putting it all together. But, I did tell them that they had an hour to escape in the back garden otherwise they wouldn’t get to do an Easter Egg hunt. I also told them that they had to work together to solve the clues and that they would have to run around the house to look for the clues.

I placed the box on the table along with three envelopes; each containing a clue.

Envelope 1

Inside the first envelope

They quickly realised that the first clue was in a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book so they ran upstairs to their bookshelf to search for the book. Once they found them they then had to look inside to find the next clue, which was a piece of paper with holes cut out. The boys first thought that it was a dot to dot. So I gave them a clue to take it to the first piece of paper. The holes were numbered and they had to line up the paper with the words underneath, following the numbers to reveal a hidden message.

“The first clue is in the fridge”


Racing to raid the fridge, not sure what they were looking for. They soon found that the small puzzle box was out of place.

The boys had to solve the puzzle, but it wasn’t as easy as you would think! The puzzle had a message written on the back of it, so it had to be solved back to front. They used the picture on the box as a guide, flipping over the pieces to the opposite side. This was tricky, but working together they managed to solve it.

The puzzle revealed a riddle. The boys love a good riddle so I thought they would like this clue. In fact it was too easy for them, straight away they said ‘Book’!

Back upstairs to the book shelf they went, having no idea what book they were looking for. I told them that maybe the puzzle was a clue to the book that they needed to search for. Finding two Cars books, inside one was some mathematical questions for them to solve in order to get the combination of the first lock.

This proved to be a little tricky for the boys and they then began to become competitive against each other losing the momentum of the good team work that they had been producing prior to this clue. Eventually after some arguments ,they solved the clues and had their first lock released.

Envelope 2

Inside the next envelope the boys came across a letter that said

“To work out the this clue, you need to read between the lines”

Inside the envelope was a letter, an UV pen and some rune symbols.

The boys had to figure out that they needed to use the UV light that was on the end of the pen to find the hidden sentence – To read between the lines.

I had hidden balloons around the house, with pieces of paper inside them. they had to pop the balloons to reveal the next part of the clue.

Some of the balloons had clues in them and some didn’t. This was lots of fun running around the house searching for the balloons and popping them.

I had written three riddles with number words in them, each number word had a number about it, this was the order that they had to use to unlock the next lock.

Using the rune symbols they had to solve the words and then place them into sentences. Each sentence was cut in half.

There are seven days in a week

Jak is nine years older than Oliver

A quarter of a day is six hours

Some of the runes represented a few letters, so they had to work out which letter would fit into the word.

They now had the next combination for the second lock

Envelope 3

The last clue was inside envelope 3. This was a bit like a treasure hunt. I hidden Match Attax cards in certain areas within the house, solving the riddles the boy had to hunt them down. Once the found all of the cards they then had to place them in order of highest attack and using the first letter of the players surname would be what they would use in the letter combination lock.

Finally they had unlocked all of the keys on the box. Inside was the key to the back door.

Where they were treated to an Easter Egg hunt.

I loved seeing the boys excitement when they were doing the clues, running around and enjoying them self. I was hoping that this would help them to understand the benefits of team work and although there was a arguments between them, I think that it taught them a lesson of relying on each other for help.

I found it hard being creative and putting it all together to form some sort game but I do think that what i did create was rewarding and fun.

Let me know if you set one up at home and how you found it?

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Make your own Home Mobile Cinema – Kids Craft

This past week my boys have spent more time on their smartphones than anything else. The weather hasn’t been great and they have spent much more time than I would have preferred them to in the house.

They have become addicted to watching Youtube – football videos and playing Pokemon.

I saw a video about a girl who made a cinema from a box and thought what a great idea it would be for my boy to give it a go.

We get our weekly food shop delivered in a box (Gousto) so as soon as it arrived I knew instantly what we was going to do with it. I looked over at my son, who at the time was sitting on the kitchen side playing on his phone and asked him if he wanted to go to the movies. He obviously replied with a big nod of the head.

I showed him the box and explained to him that he would be making the cinema from the box. He wasn’t quite that keen on the idea at first but as I described to him in more detail on how the cinema would work, he soon became more interested in the idea.

We gathered together the equipment that we would need, which isn’t much and got started on the home cinema project.

You will need:

  • A decent size cardboard box
  • Scissors or a craft knife (Ask an adult for help)
  • Marker pen
  • An old t-shirt or some paint
  • Masking tape
  • A Mobile phone
  1. First cut away the flaps from the top of the box
  2. Turn the box over and place the mobile device in the middle. Draw around it
  3. Cut it out so you now have a hole in the top of the box
  4. Turn the box over and on the inside where you just cut the hole out, you need to place some more cardboard on the sides. Secure them in place with glue or tape. This will ensure that the phone will have somewhere to sit.
  5. Now cut out a semi circle at the bottom so that your head can fit through.
  6. All that’s left to do now is to decorate the box.
  7. Spend some time painting it or use an old t-shirt and stretch it over the box. Depending on the size of your box a medium sized top will do.
  8. Make sure that the neck is over the hole and secure inside with some tape.
  9. Et Voila!

Find a comfy spot on the floor and lay back and watch a movie. No more pain in the neck or having to hold the phone in front of you.

Check out our video on how to make the cinema.

We had so much fun making the cinema and it only took just under 10 minutes (longer if he had painted it). He is having much more fun watching movies and less time playing games.

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Crispy Peanut Power Balls : No Bake Recipe

Keep the oven off with these no bake healthy crispy balls. They are the perfect treat without the added guilt.

Crispy peanut balls are so simple and easy to make – ideal for children to make as there is no baking involved and are fun to do.

With the added crunch giving them a smooth texture that melts in your mouth, these balls are delicious! Crunchy, smooth and chocolatey in one bite.

Crispy Peanut Power Balls – No Bake

Little balls of heaven made from Peanut Butter, Rice Krispies and Flaxseed. Covered in dark chocolate

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 Cup No added Sugar Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 2 tbsp Fine Flaxseed
  • 2 tbsp Honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2 Bars Dark Chocolate
  • 1 tbsp Chia seeds

Instructions

  1. In a bowl crush the rice krispies so that you have of it in a powder form.

  2. In another bowl add in the peanut butter and honey and combine until mixed well.

  3. Place the flaxseed powder and chia seeds in with the rice krispies and mix together

  4. Combine both together and mix well. Using the palm of your hands take a tbsp of the mixture at a time and roll into balls. Place the balls onto a tin lined with grease proof paper and place into the fridge to set for about 30 minutes

  5. Melt your preferred chocolate with a little of coconut oil. Using a tooth pick dip your balls into the melted chocolate and cover.

  6. Place back into the fridge so that the chocolate sets hard. 

  7. Store the balls in the fridge and eat when peckish.

    Enjoy!

They make the best finger dessert. Just grab and go!

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Bowel Cancer – Never Too Young #thisisbowelcancer

April is bowel cancer awareness month. Young, old, male or female – it can affect us all. Most people are diagnosed with bowel cancer when they are over 50 years old. But more than 2400 people under 50 are diagnosed in the UK per year.

I am one of them.

I was 37 when I was diagnosed. And my story is like many others; I didn’t show the warning signs of bowel cancer and I was treated for other problems first.

I was diagnosed with stage 3/4 bowel cancer in May 2016. I have three beautiful boys and work full time as a Teaching assistant.

I didn’t feel unwell, but looking back I can see when some of the symptoms started showing. I had suffered with extreme tiredness the previous year, but I had put that down to working, ruining a household and being a mother to three very energetic boys ( the youngest being 4). To be honest, I can’t remember a time when I haven’t completely felt tired. I didn’t show any signs in different bowel habits nor did I have a loss of blood from my bowel.

I was struggling in my job and I was having problems in my personal life. Something that I feel had a massive impact on my health. I had previously suffered from piles from when I first gave birth to my eldest boy, who is now 16. It was about November 2015 – 5 months before my diagnosis – that I first felt a lump on my anus. A small nodule that really didn’t bother me, there was no pain but it bled slightly after motions and was only a small amount – nothing that bothered me too much. I treated myself with cream, which seemed to help. The tiredness didn’t ease though and I cried most days. I was struggling to get through the day without losing energy.

I didn’t lose weight but do feel that I actually gained lbs. I was walking daily and doing regular exercise sessions at home, nothing that wasn’t too strenuous. But, to be fair, I have never really needed to do much. Running around after three boys, going from one club to another and working on my feet every day, was enough to keep me trim. I could have been fitter but I was happy with my self. I had noticed that my thighs had put on a little weight so I began doing some exercises at home and after a few weeks I noticed that there wasn’t any change.

By Christmas 2015, I just didn’t feel myself. I knew something was wrong with my health.

I spoke to my sister who told me to get an appointment at the doctors. I mentioned to her about the small lump that I had found and that apart from feeling tired I had no other symptoms.

I tried for weeks to get an appointment. It’s not easy where I live. I was calling at 8 in the morning but having to hold on in the cold queue for half hour at a time, eventually giving up as I didn’t seem to be moving on in the queue and I had to start work.

When I finally got an appointment, I changed it over for my eldest to take as he was suffering with sebaceous cysts on his neck. So it was back to phoning in the mornings and holding in the queue to be told that there were no more bookable appointments available.

Eventually I got an appointment and at my first appointment, the doctor prescribed treatment for piles. I was to try the cream for a few weeks and then make another appointment for an update on the problem. I carried on with my life, a little worried as it felt like the lump was getting bigger.

Lo and behold at my next appointment the doctor confirmed that, she too, thought that it was getting bigger and referred me to the hospital.

At this point, deep down inside , I knew! I knew that this wasn’t just piles I was dealing with.

I waited 2 weeks for my referral to the hospital. Those 2 weeks were spent googling symptoms. Something, I would not advise anybody to do(I have had many sleepless nights because of this). I couldn’t sleep or think straight but i just kept telling everyone that I was ok.

On 21st April I attended the hospital and the consultant wasn’t happy with what he felt so asked me to stay the night for an emergency biopsy the next day. I didn’t want to stay, I wanted to be at home with my family. So, I promised that I would be back the next day. I was booked in for 7am the next day but I waited around most of the day in a small poky room waiting to be called. I was trying to feel positive about it all, telling family and friends that the doctors thought it was just an abscess and that they would probably just drain it away. Maybe I was trying to convince myself that that was the case. I kept pushing the thought of cancer to the back of my mind and tried to be positive about it all. Even when after surgery and the surgeon came to visit me at the hospital bed and introduced me to a colorectal nurse I still tried to be optimistic about it all; telling family that it was probably offered to everyone.

I sat and stared at the business card the nurse gave me for days after. The surgeon and nurse had told me that I would hear within 2 weeks about the results but in the meantime they wanted me to have a CT and MRI scan.

It was at this point that my Mum started to become a little worried and wanted to attend the appointments with me.

Up until this point, I still had no symptoms- even the spotting had stopped. But, I could still feel the lump. It wasn’t a hard lump, I couldn’t move it and it wasn’t painful.

But, I was so tired all of the time. Exhausted from everything.

I remember coming home from work one day and the house phone ringing. We never normally get house calls so i had that feeling that is was going to be the hospital. My nurse invited me along for an appointment the following day. I recall her asking if I was going to be attending alone or with family and thinking ‘why would she ask that?’

May 11th was the day that shook my life upside down. It was the start of a very rocky battle with my health and emotions. As I sat in the hospital room, in the middle of my Mum and partner, I looked over at the surgeon and from the look of his face we knew it was good news. I mean, I wouldn’t be sitting in a room with a surgeon and a nurse if it was going to be good news, would I!

As the surgeon began to tell me that it was bowel cancer, I felt my hand that my Mum was holding get tight. My Mum was trying not to cry, trying to take in what she had just heard about her daughter. I told her to go and wait outside with my sister. I wanted to protect her from hearing all of the details of my diagnosis. Sat there, hand in hand with my partner, we listened and asked questions about what was going to happen next. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t cry. I now know that I was in shock. I was expecting those words but I never knew how I would deal with it.

I had to remain calm, there was so much information to gather I am just glad that my partner was there to take it all in too. He was my rock in that room. He didn’t cry. He just held my hand and asked the questions.

Driving home from the hospital, I remember being numb and still not able to cry. My first thought was ‘How am I going to tell my children?’

Back home we sat down in the living room and discussed between us all about what how I was feeling. It was soon time for the children to come home from school.

It wasn’t until that evening that everything began to sink in. I didn’t deal with it very well.

I was devastated, numb, afraid, angry, guilty, overwhelmed, sad and in shock. I had boarded the roller coaster and was going on a journey. A journey of ups and downs. A journey that was going so fast that I just wanted to get off. Feelings of fear and uncertainty setting in.

I felt that I had to be strong and protect my family but I struggled with holding it in. I wasn’t holding up very well. I was heartbroken.

There were days when all I did was cry and days where I felt no emotion at all. One minute I could be positive and the next depressed. I couldn’t sleep at night as I suddenly feared not waking the next day.

That one word changed my life in an instance.

I began to resent myself and felt guilty of taking a Mum away from my boys. I pushed them away from me. Stupidly thinking that if they spent less time away from me they would get used to not having me around. Silly eh! I hate myself for doing this but at the time I thought I was doing good. I felt like I was a bad person as I must have done something wrong to cause the cancer to grow and fester in my body.

I turned to concentrating on something that I could control – eating a healthy diet. Researching particular foods that would help my immune system become stronger, nutrients that the body needed to recover from the grueling treatment that I was about to forego.

Exactly three weeks after my diagnosis my treatment began. But before it did I had to have a handful of more tests to check that the cancer hadn’t spread to other parts in my body. I was lucky, everything came back fine. I met my oncologist and the radiotherapy team and was tattooed up ready for the radio to start.

My cancer was a rare form. Mucinous adenocarcinoma – often diagnosed at the late stage and associated with a long-standing anal fistula. I was the first patient in the hospital to have been diagnosed with this type of cancer.

My oncologist prescribed a concoction of chemo tablets to take for 5 and a half weeks and radiotherapy for 28 days – with a rest at weekends. It was tiring. I went for my radio sessions in the morning and spent the rest of the day sleeping. The treatment was knocking me out, draining my energy. The last week of my treatment was the worst. I could barely walk. The radiotherapy had burnt my skin to the point that it was red, blistered and bled. I laid all day and night flat on the bed.

Treatment ended on 8th July. I had the summer to spend with my family and to get strong again before I was booked into having an APR – Abdomino Perineal Resection. As the tumour was on the Sphincter muscle that controlled the bowel habit it had to fully removed. The radiotherapy had also burnt a hole in the sphincter muscle causing me to develop an abscess and resulted me in staying in hospital for 8 days to treat the infection.

As part of this surgery I needed to have a colostomy, which is an opening on my tummy called a stoma where the end of my bowel is stitched to the opening. I wear a bag over the stoma to collect any faeces.

I had many complications with my treatment, even more with the surgery and had to endure a further major operation from the result of the first operation . No one ever warned me of what was to come with my treatment, I didn’t get any help from the hospital or nurses.

Cancer is a lonely place and makes you feel secluded from the world around you. Your life seems to be on a go slow. Always waiting for the next appointment, living with depression and anxiety. You rely on the support from around you to get through it. A good support is the key to positivity.

I relied on the internet to help me. Googling answers to what I didn’t receive from the hospital. There isn’t much information on my cancer on the internet and I am still learning lots about it. My nurse even asked me if I could support another lady who was diagnosed not long after me with the same cancer. We have become good friends and supported each other through our journeys. We could talk about our fears and emotions and understood each other.

I have recently heard of many more women being diagnosed with bowel cancer. Bowel cancer, any cancer is definitely not pink. It is not fluffy nor fashionable. You can’t walk all over cancer. You can’t fight it.

Cancer is real. It’s hard. It’s lonely.

Having cancer has taught me to look after myself, to become healthier and be more positive about life. I am thankful for every day that I get to spend it with my family. I look back on my journey as a life lesson. I am grateful for what I have now and cherish each day.

I am lucky to have this blog as a platform to share with you all about my cancer experience. But what we really need is:

  • Improved clinical guidance and practice on bowel cancer in younger people
  • Improved identification of people with genetic conditions and access to surveillance screening
  • Improved information for younger people on bowel cancer symptoms
  • Encourage good bowel health

So to everyone reading this, If you have a change in your bowel habits or are feeling exhausted for no apparent reason please seek further investigation.

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Tea for Two – Afternoon Tea at Whittard of Chelsea, London

Living at home with very busy boys it can be hard to find the time to spend quality time with each one of them. The boys are normally, either, running or playing football and myself or Dad spend our weekends ferrying them around from one place to the next.

Last weekend we were invited out by Whittard of Chelsea to attend an Afternoon Tea for two at there Tea Bar in Covent Garden. I took this as the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with my middle boy.

Whittard of Chelsea Tea Bar is an extension of the Whittard of Chelsea Covent Garden store.

Situated in the middle of Covent Garden Piazza, downstairs within the flagship store you will find more than your average tea and coffee shop. The Tea Bar features a specialist bar that serves a menu of full afternoon tea alongside 100 loose leaf teas with delicious cakes and savouries to compliment their astonishing tea menu.

Whittard Tea Bar also serves a selection of alcoholic drinks, tea infused cocktails, sandwiches, hot chocolates, coffee and all day afternoon tea.

As we arrived we were immediately greeted by the lovely friendly staff, who made us feel very comfortable throughout our visit. The Tea bar is rather small inside and you get that cosy feeling from the rather relaxed atmosphere.

We were shown to our table and offered the menu. Oh my! I had never seen so many choices of different types of tea that was on offer. They had a pretty extensive list of teas available and we had no idea what to choose. Luckily, our host, Marta, was there to offer some advice on what to try. After telling her what tea we normally drink she recommended the Jade Formosa Oolong for my son and the Matcha Guricha for me. Marta also offered us her plethora of knowledge on tea; Oolong tea is a traditional chinese tea that the leaves are wrapped into small beads and can be brewed multiple times.

Tea Menu

We were served our tea and given 3 timers; 3, 4 and 5 minutes. We were advised to give our tea between 3 – 4 minutes to infuse.

Infusion

The tea was every bit of what you would expect from Whittard, it lived up to its expectation. Full bodied with a herbal richness.

The Whittard Tea

We ordered our afternoon tea and opted for The Whittard Tea which is their signature spread of sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea for an afternoon of champions.

As we waited for food to arrive we sat and sipped our delightful tea and chatted about school and work. It was lovely to spend time with my son in such a charming and relaxed surroundings. Sitting in the tea rooms you wouldn’t think that just beyond the window was the busy hustle and bustle of London.

It wasn’t long before our host was heading our way our afternoon tea.

The Whittard Tea

I was also served up a glass of pink prosecco that was infused with strawberry and mint. I must say, I don’t normally drink but this was very refreshing and smooth. A very summer taste. I certainly could have had more than one glass of this fine drink.

The Whittard Tea consisted of selection of handmade finger sandwiches – smoked salmon with lemon cheese; coronation chicken; cucumber; egg and cress Scones. Scones with clotted cream and tea-infused strawberry and mango preserves and a choice of five bitesize cakes.

The hardest choice was what to put on first on the scone; jam or cream?

The presentation was beautiful as was the taste. Freshly prepared food, with delicate flavours that sent my taste buds into overdrive. A sensational selection of excellent food to indulge in. A perfect british tea time experience.

Outstanding service, delicious food and a fantastic variety of drinks including vast tea choices Whittards Tea Bar is definitely a place to visit and a quintessential location to book for a Mother’s day treat.

Not only can you book for afternoon tea you can also browse round the shop and buy some amazing gifts that they have on offer. I would definitely recommend the Easter Tea; a treat that is better than eggs. A nutty oolong tea with subtle hints of chocolate and buttercream, finished off with a scattering of sugar bunnies. Not only is it palatable but it also smells amazing.

Whittard Afternoon Tea £30 per person

Glass of prosecco £6

Tea ranging from £3.50 -£5.00

Take a look at what Whittard has to offer here

To book a table for afternoon tea or check availability take a look here

We were gifted with the afternoon tea and a goody bag for the purpose of this review

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