All hail Daisy Upton, inspired creator of quick and easy kids’ activities, and saviour of parents everywhere.

Simple and child-led is always the best kind of play.’ That’s according to the irrefutable wisdom of Daisy Upton, aka @fiveminutemum who, as well as running this brilliant Instagram account, is also a bestselling author and has a YouTube Channel, all under the same simple yet super five-minute umbrella. The point? To equip parents with plentiful ideas for quick and easy things to do with the kids when you’re all stuck at home – whether in lockdown or just on an average rainy day that may otherwise see you go out of your tiny mind with boredom. If you don’t yet follow her, now is the moment to make Five Minute Mum your go-to for those moments when you find yourself flirting with the idea of a three-hour Peppa marathon purely to survive the day.

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SIMPLE DOLLS...yesterday I talked about the benefit of playing with dolls. But remember, if you want to encourage it, keep it simple! I used a wee plastic tub out of some food packaging to make a bed for a peg doll and Flo played for ages, tucking her peg doll into bed with a wee bit of cloth, and waking him up again. We’ve also build a tiny dolls house out of a cardboard box before. See @sydney.piercey if you want the proper upgraded version! And we’ve used out bath tray as a slide for a doll before too. Our peg dolls are from @ourkindifolk There’s no right or wrong way to play. Just set a little something up for your little ones and let them lead the story. Either join in and extend the play, adding in things - if they mention a boat go and get a bowl and they can set sail, for example - or just let them explore independently and enjoy the peace. #fiveminutedollplay #keepitsimple #fiveminutemum

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We adore her many varied and excellent ideas, but above all other things, we applaud her complete absence of smugness (an unwelcome trait that parenting sites or accounts can sometimes be mired in). Not so for Daisy who writes over on her website: ‘What it definitely ISN’T is a smug ‘look at me, aren’t I a super mum doing all these fabulous games with my kids’ type of blog. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating yourself as a mother but I cannot bear smugness. Because as any parent will know, smugness always occurs just before your baby projectile vomits in your face, or your toddler smashes headfirst into the wall as you chase them laughing. And Supermum isn’t real. And if she is, I am CERTAINLY not her. (I recently drove my three-year-old to playgroup naked because he absolutely refused to get dressed. True story.)’

On side yet? Yup, us too. Because, in the face of your pre-schooler throwing a tantrum to watch telly – usually while throwing bits of squished food into every crevice of your home – combined with an acute lack of sleep all round, what parent doesn’t occasionally hit an inspiration desert, just at the hour of need? In those more trying moments, Daisy Upton is exactly who you need on your team to remind you to, for example, go outside and gather conkers to first, decorate and secondly race? Or, indeed, to do play a game of what’s missing, using a tray, a tea towel and items from your house.

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TRICKY WORDS...I’ve had quite a few messages lately asking me how little ones can be encouraged to learn tricky words. Tricky words are words that go against a lot of the rules of phonics and so instead of sounding them out to read them, our kids must instead just learn them by heart. Repeatedly seeing them is helpful, but just reading them over and over is obviously boring for both you and them! I have LOADS of games for tricky words on my website - if you look up some of the letter recognition games they can easily be used for word recognition instead. There are obviously tons too in my first book, Give Me Five and there’s going to be a whole section on tricky words in one of my new books - Time For School. [links for both in bio] But in the meantime here’s some ideas. *play word bingo *write them on a wall and splat them with wet sponges or water balloons *play toddler pong *do the owl post and write 2 words on each letter *make tricky word pairs from some card *pop words in foil balls and then blow them into cups. When you score a goal reveal the word! *find the words in your favourite books Play The Trap or Stepping Stones (my five minute games) This is just the first few I found in my photos but there are SO MANY MORE! So don’t sit and flick through cards with words on ???????? Set up a super easy, quick five minute game instead so everyone feels great about learning tricky words. #fiveminutrmum #trickywords #playtolearn

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She has a seemingly endless supply of excellent games to play with young children of all ages, including those to help them learn to talk and to read and write and, quite frankly, we think she’s a complete and total genius. The abiding refrain? There shall be no going out to buy elaborate or expensive kit that your child then finds unaccountably objectionable and decides to smash/ chuck/ have a meltdown over. These are all designed with time-pressed parents in mind, whose energy levels are not perennially those of a children’s TV presenter and whose pockets are not limitlessly deep.

For the ideas and for the humour, the warmth, the wit and – of course – the absolute lack of smugness: Daisy Upton, @fiveminutemum, you are our hero.

By Nancy Alsop
November 2020


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.