Why we love Grimms wooden toys + GIVEAWAY! 

I wanted to talk a bit about why Frida (and our whole family!) loves Grimms wooden toys. You will often see these in my posts, or on my Instagram photos, as they are probably Frida’s most used toys, alongside her animals. 

I love how much these toys stimulate Frida’s imagination. Her rainbow alone is played with as beds, houses, bicycles, hats, scarves, trees, and towers! Building blocks become medicine, a blue semi-circle becomes a pond, boxes become caves and caves become islands. Because they are so open ended they become whatever Frida wants them to be. Watching her play is truly magical.

We have made a conscious decision to only provide Frida with open ended, beautiful toys, and we are so happy that we have been strict about it. Her space looks calm, our home isn’t filled with noisy plastic toys, and her imagination has flourished. I have also found at 22 months Frida’s concentration span is quite long, and I wonder if that is because her toys and materials are so engaging, and invite deep play. 

A vet surgery, using Playmobils


Grimms toys are sustainable and natural, making them perfect for families who are trying to avoid plastics. They are not cheap, but the quality is beautiful, and because they are open-ended I see them as an investment as I am sure they will last our family for years to come.

They also look beautiful displayed, doubling up as room decorations. There is something so pleasing about them, and I’ve found that adults and children alike are drawn to the velvety wood and bright colours. 

Frida’s current favourites include: 

We also have a conical stacker (my go-to gift), stacking cups (great for colour sorting!), rainbow friends in cups, and I have a gorgeous fraction puzzle put away too. 

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for… 

GIVEAWAY!

I am very excited to have teamed up with one of my favourite small businesses, Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks, to bring you the chance to win an iconic Grimms 12 piece rainbow! 

Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks are a wonderful, ethical, online shop run by Warren and Melody Masters. They stock all our favourite products including a large range of Grimms wooden toys, our beloved Holztiger animals, Sarah’s Silks, Klean Kanteens (we have six for a family of three!), stainless steel lunchboxes (since ditching our plastic ones we have not looked back), and much, much more. They also maintain superb customer service and fast delivery whilst raising three lovely little acorns of their own.  

If you would like to enter for a chance to win a Grimms 12-piece rainbow from Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks, just head over to my Instagram account where you can find out how. 

Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks are also offering all Frida Be Mighty readers a very generous 10% off everything with the code FRIDA, valid until the 28th February.  

With Frida’s birthday coming up in a couple of months I’ve been eyeing up a few things including this Grimms Romanesque building set and a Grimms mobile home with a swing set, so I think I will be taking advantage of the code myself! 

What we’re reading – January 

We have a lot of books in our home, for Frida and for us. It’s very important to me and to my husband that we encourage a love of books in Frida, and so far I think it’s working. She is a big fan of reading. From a young age she has had a long attention span, devouring story after story, picking out details, and learning chunks off by heart.

Although Frida is only twenty-one months, we don’t really have many “toddler” books for her (such as board books) as she tends to get bored by these very quickly. Instead she loves books which are visually rich, either with a good story or full of animals or other details to build her vocabulary.

We try to keep books “Montessori-friendly” for the most part, ie. based in reality, factual, or mirroring every-day life. I have to admit though that there are a few books which we have which are more fantastical and although I don’t love these (the Meg and Mog series springs to mind) Frida ADORES them and so we have kept them.

We rotate Frida’s main book display which is in our spare room (it’s a tiny room, just with books and a day bed – Frida sweetly calls in the “reading room”). She can reach the bottom two shelves but can see all three shelves.

Frida also has a small book stand in her room of other “active books”, as well as a small basket in the sitting room.

We also have a big basket in the spare room where we keep books which are out of rotation (though Frida can and does search through these if she wants a book which isn’t displayed). Books which aren’t currently suitable I have kept in a cupboard out of sight in her bedroom.

You will notice that we have a lot of books “out” at once, which is unusual for many Montessori-at-home families. This is because we are following Frida’s lead, and she loves to have a big choice – she will often request books which aren’t on display, and we can easily get through five books in a sitting as she has a good concentration span. So it works for us to have a fairly wide selection available.

Because of this it was so hard to pick just a few books to share with you, but I thought I would try and pick books which are new, or special favourites.

This month, Frida is particularly enjoying: 

They all saw a cat (Brendan Wenzel)

This is a new book. I saw it and couldn’t resist buying it for my cat-mad daughter! It’s a great book as it is simple for young children – the story follows a cat who is walking through the world, being seen by other animals – but it also holds appeal for older children as the illustration of the cat changes depending on which animal is seeing it.

Actual size (Steve Jenkins)

Frida loves this book. It has illustrations of different animals in their actual size – it’s fascinating for adults too. Frida’s favourite is the pigmy mouse lemur; my favourite is the fold-out page of crocodile jaws. I am sure this book can be found in many Montessori homes!

Frida (Jonah Winter)

This book tells the (simplified) story of Frida Kahlo’s life. It is beautifully illustrated, and Frida is really taken with it, asking for it often. I am sure she will continue to get lots out of this book for years to come.

Brilliant birds (QED publishing)

This book is a huge hit. When I bought it for Frida for Christmas I wondered how she would find it as it is quite big and there are hundreds of different birds inside – I did question whether it would hold her attention, or be overwhelming. I need not have doubted! It’s not unusual for Frida to spend over half an hour just on this book alone, and there have been times where she has spent an hour with it. Her bird naming skills are getting better than mine!

Noisy (part of The Nursery Collecton, Shirley Hughes)

Oh Shirley Hughes, how our family loves you. We always have a few Shirley Hughes books out on display, and they are just so wonderful. Beautiful, realistic illustrations of family life, gentle rhymes, lots of exploring of seasons and the senses. Frida has learnt so much from Shirley Hughes books, and I would strongly recommend The Nursery Collection (a set of ten short books, including one for each season) to any family with a baby or toddler.

And one for the grown-ups… 

I am also trying to read more at the moment, and I’m currently reading “The Pier Falls”, a collection of short stories by Mark Haddon. Earlier this month I read “The Power” by Naomi Alderman, and next on my list is “At The Existentialist Cafe” by Sarah Bakewell.

What are you reading at the moment? Do you have any recommendations (children or adults)? 

Embracing the new year

This year is off to a slow start – in the best possible way. I always feel the first week in January is for slowly easing myself back into a semblance of a rhythm, uncurling from the hibernation of the holidays. We have done very little in terms of structured activities this week – lots of pottering, painting, bird-watching (a LOT of bird watching), reading, cleaning, and most importantly playing. 

I’ve also been continuing to reflect on what I want from the year ahead of me. I am always torn on new year resolutions – on the one hand, setting yourself punitive goals whilst suffering the inevitable festive come down hardly seems gentle. But actually I find there is something gloriously optimistic about setting an intention for the year to come, thinking about the path you want to take, and how you might best achieve your goals. 

Something I love is the idea of setting a word for the year – a word which encompasses your hopes and intentions for the year ahead. My mind was first drawn to negatives (“what’s a word that means ‘feel less guilty about stuff that doesn’t matter’?”) but quickly settled upon embrace. I think it’s a good one. 

The last year has been wonderful but has also felt very cut off from my old life – and indeed my old self – pre-Frida. Motherhood changed my priorities and ambitions and desires, and changed me, profoundly. But as I come out of the baby fug and start the year with a toddler who can afford me a bit more “me time”, I am going to try and figure out how those two halves of my identity can mesh – or at least, figure out if I want them to. 

This year I hope to embrace opportunities to catch up with my old friends as well as new, go on more dates with my husband, and embrace myself (meaning: look after myself a bit more!) as well as embracing motherhood and all that goes with it. 

It’s also about embracing my choices. I want to say yes more, in every avenue of life, even if sometimes it’s tempting to say “no, I’m too tired”. And equally, I want to be better at saying no, simplifying my life and not taking on too much when I know it only leads to guilt and stress and burn-out. 

There are however a few tangible things I want to achieve which fall under this broader intention:

  • Read more, specifically at least 26 books (one a fortnight, that seems very achievable). I’ve found that reading actual books can fall by the wayside when tired – the lure of blogs and social media is powerful! But I love reading so I am going to carve out time for it. 
  • Learn to drive. I know, I know, it’s shameful that I haven’t. But I will. I’ve texted some potential instructors and will report back!  
  • Finish some of the little annoying bits of house renovation I keep promising myself I’ll find time for. Painting window frames, painting wardrobe, finding someone to finally renovate our bathroom. 

So those are my hopes for 2017. I hope you’ll forgive this very introspective post. I would love to hear what your word is, or about the intentions you have set yourself for the year ahead.

What’s on Frida’s shelves (20 months) 

If you are rolling your eyes at yet another shelf post – hear me out. 

Sometimes I go for months without really adjusting Frida’s shelves, but sometimes I find myself changing them up every few weeks. I really do try and “follow the child” – if Frida is using something and engaged by it, I leave it. If it’s not grabbing her attention, or she’s showing a preference for something else, I switch it up. 

This is why her recent bug theme shelves  have been replaced by a block and building area. Frida’s interest in imaginative play has really stepped up a notch, and I noticed she was suddenly far more interested in her blocks and building materials. Our house isn’t very big, so if I have to be strict about rotation if I want to be give Frida areas like this which are dedicated to one kind of play. 

On her block and building shelves she has: 

  • Grimms large rainbow
  • Grimms natural bridges 
  • Early Learning Centre blocks (which I’ve split into natural and coloured)
  • Grimms toy cars
  • Grimms nesting boxes
  • IKEA train set
  • Wonderworld sound blocks (here
  • Grimms 1001 nights building set (this is her favourite at the moment)

Frida also has a basket of blocks in our dining room. 

As well as a few open ended toys and her art shelves, I’ve also put out for Frida: 

Kinetic sand + Schleich animals 

This is one of Frida’s current favourite activities – she really loves making “footprints”. I decided to put it out with just a cow and calf, but Frida likes to use her other animals too, and enjoys making “ear prints”, “tail prints”, and “nose prints”. 

This is predominantly designed to just be a fun activity, though it has a bonus effect of teaching her about different objects making different size and shape prints. 

This work is downstairs with her art materials (read: messy materials), as I want to try and prevent kinetic sand from spreading all around our home! This is proving so popular that I think we’ll try the same thing with playdough soon. 

Cat purse + zip bag + Holztiger cats 

Great for fine motor skill practice and spatial awareness. The cat purse is still too stiff for her to do up herself but it’s great for seeing which cats will fit in, and the zip bag is good for zipper practice. 

Knobbed puzzle 

I had put her knobbed puzzles away for a while, but thought it would be good to see if they sparked her interest again. I’ve separated the pieces from the board so that the work isn’t presented as already complete. 

So there we have it! I’m anticipating that the block area will be sticking around for a while, but I’ll be following Frida, so don’t be hugely surprised if you see another shelf update before the year is out… 

Outdoor playgroup: Looking at worms 

Our current “theme” for Frida’s main shelves at the moment is bugs, so I thought it would be a fun idea to take a bug viewer to our outdoor playgroup and look for some bugs.

Despite looking very hard (and some admirable calls of “oh bugs! Where are you?” from Frida), we couldn’t find any! Why is it that when you really don’t want to find a bug there’s a spider in your bed or a wood louse in the kitchen, but when you’re looking for them they are nowhere to be seen?

Undeterred, I dug for some worms, and found a couple of lovely little ones for the children to look at. 

Frida is at a stage at the moment where she likes to look at bugs, but isn’t very keen on touching them, so a bug viewer is the perfect way to examine them without her getting nervous.

I think a lot of adults grow up disliking bugs (myself included), so I’m keen to encourage Frida to see them for the fascinating creatures they are.

If you’d like to see what else is on Frida’s bug-themed shelves, please check back tomorrow as I’ll be posting about them then.

Peering at the worms

Looking for bugs

Simple autumn activities to do with children 

Look for squirrels, collect conkers, splash in puddles, crunch on leaves – in short, go outside! 

Going out for a walk or an adventure is my favourite thing to do with Frida all year round, but in the cool crisp autumn there is something truly magical about walking through the falling leaves. She is starting to learn about the seasons – I asked her today “why do the leaves fall down?” and she replied with one word: “autumn”. 

Pack some snacks, a flask of tea, and off you go! Frida has good wet weather gear – a puddlesuit and some wellies – but I think I need to get myself some proper waterproofs. 

Even babies who aren’t yet walking can get so much out of being outside, lying on the grass or in leaves, being held up to trees and bushes to feel the different textures, and having the different sights and sounds and weather explained to them. 



Paint (or carve) a pumpkin

There’s little more seasonal than decorating pumpkins. 

Frida tried painting directly onto a pumpkin which worked OK but the paint flaked off a bit once dry. We are still using it as our current table centrepiece though. I have also prepped some pumpkins by giving them a coat of white paint first and that worked much better. 

Even babies can get involved with finger painting once they are sitting up. Stickers, glitter and glue could all be used to great effect to decorate them too, and older children could of course carve them instead!  

Cook (and handle) seasonal food together 

Apple crumbles, roasted squash, pumpkin soup, spiced porridge, stewed pear… 

Even young children can help by mixing crumble topping, kneading dough, grating apples, or adding chopped fruit or vegetables to a pan (not a hot one obviously!). They can also smell and handle jars of spices as a sensory experience. 

It’s also lovely for them to handle seasonal fruit and vegetables, learning a little bit about them as they go as you can tell them “that apple came from an apple tree” or “that pumpkin grew in the ground”. Why not open an apple to look at the star and pips inside? Frida is particularly taken with “baby pumpkins” at the moment which are a lovely size for little ones to handle. 

Bonus points for going to a farm or orchard or for growing your own! 

Play with spiced playdough

This takes all of three minutes to prepare and can be used over and over again. I just added some dried nutmeg and cinnamon (and, erm, some coriander because I was tired and thought it said cinnamon) into my usual dough mix. It smelt divine and Frida really enjoyed using “di-da’s dough”.

I’ve found that it works well to offer dough with some tools, especially for younger children. Cutlery, sticks, cooking utensils – practically anything can be used as a tool. I offered Frida a fork, spoon, serrated chip cutter and a spanner.


Read seasonal books 

What could be better than curling up under a blanket or duvet with a pile of books and a hot cup of tea just outside the reach of little grasping fingers? 

Some of our favourite autumn books are The Very Helpful Hedgehog by Rosie Wellesley (a sweet book about helping each other), Autumn by Shirley Hughes (only available to buy as part of the “nursery collection” set but I think it’s well worth it – her books are just so beautiful and I really recommend them), and Autumn by Gerda Muller (a wonderful picture-book; there are no words so it encourages discussion about the illustrations). 

Create ephemeral leaf art…

Rainbows, mandalas, faces, patterns – you name it, it can be made in leaves! At this time of year there is such an abundance of colour out there carpeting the grass, it would be rude not to take advantage of it. Creating ephemeral art out of natural materials a lovely activity to do with children. 

Frida was able to help me find leaves in the right colour but wasn’t very interested in helping me arrange them (I think there were too many birds and squirrels to look at!).

…and use leaves to craft with at home

A few simple ideas:

  • use them in collages
  • make leaf embellished glass-jar lanterns
  • do leaf rubbing with crayons (bonus points if you’re outside! You can also do bark rubbing)
  • string together simple leaf garlands 

Light candles (and blow them out)

Our summer flowers have made way for our autumn pumpkins and candles. The simple ritual of lighting candles before a meal and then blowing them out at the end can be a lovely way to mark mealtimes. Frida is working hard on her blowing skills – she can’t quite blow one out yet without help but she’ll get there.

Needless to say, although she knows that we don’t touch them because they are hot – not even “big boys” can touch them apparently! – we never leave Frida unsupervised with candles. 

How will you be making the most of this wonderful season? 

Personally I’d like to go and visit an arboretum before the leaves finish turning, and I’m planning on a lot more soups and baked fruit in the kitchen. 

Gardening

I feel so lucky to have a garden. It’s certainly not a given in London, and when we were house hunting we had totally reconciled ourselves to not having one, until we found our home which has not only a back garden but a small front garden too.

It is in dreadful condition with tough and cracked clay soil, patchy grass riddled with weeds, and a gang of bold foxes who like to dig and steal and cause chaos. But it’s ours, and I’m determined to eventually make it look a bit less sad and try to teach myself some new skills in the process. 

I’m also really keen for Frida to develop green fingers. We spend a lot of time outdoors with Frida – she knows to smell flowers and will stop in the street to bend over and smell the flowers growing in the street, which makes my heart burst a little bit – but today was the first time she was encouraged to try some “gardening”. 

I bought her a child sized set of gardening tools, demonstrated how to use them, and then let her choose what she wanted to use. Unsurprisingly she wanted to use the watering can.

I am very relaxed about her getting dirty / eating dirt (it’s all good for her immune system) which is probably good as she got filthy! But she had such a good time getting muddy and trying to drink the water from the watering can. We watered some of our plants and she watched as I sowed a little patch of pollinator-friendly wild flowers (I’m not holding my breath but it can’t hurt to try!).

I am very much looking forward to her being a bit older next spring and actively involving her in planting and growing. I would like to give her her own little patch of garden, too, where she can dig freely. And I have grand plans of building a bug hotel, painting a chalk board fence, and maybe buying a little playhouse.

I would also like to build her a rudimentary mud kitchen (I have been saving ideas on Pinterest) but as per the rest of my grand plans I haven’t had the time to sort this out yet. Probably I’ll manage to build one just in time for winter….