Happiness & Bergamot (and a beach play sand recipe)

Whenever the scent of Bergamot permeates the air I always think of warm sunshine on a spring day. It has a citrus note yes, but it’s got a lot more depth to it than just an sweet lemony almost floral scent. It has warmth and spice.

I imagine if you could smell happiness, that would be Bergamot.

Bergamot oil comes from the citrus fruit of a bergamot tree found mainly in Italy. It produces fruits that ripen from green to yellow but the fruit is inedible because it is intensely sour. The oil is extracted from the peel of the nearly ripe fruit.

Bergamot has amazing healing properties especially for children with anxiety issues and other sensory disorders. Its natures antidepressant so its fantastic for times of intense sadness, anger and frustration. It’s a mood uplifter, helps with tiredness and generally improves physical and mental strength.

As Neiva is flexischooled, I collect her just after lunch and we have some quiet time at home for an hour. After that, we generally start working on fun activities that will help her social skills. To get her motivated for an afternoon of one to one, I wanted to find an activity that would incorporate the healing and calming power of essential oils. We had so much success with the lavender play dough I wanted to keep the ball rolling with sensory play, so we made a bergamot beach.

I scoured Pinterest for some homemade sand play ideas and found a recipe here. The recipe couldn’t be simpler.

To Make:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups wholewheat flour (we used brown rice flour)
  • 1/2 cup of baby oil
  • A few drops of bergamot oil

If you only have plain flour that’s fine but the wholewheat gives the mix a ‘sand-like’ texture and colour.

Mix together with a fork until the mixture takes on the consistency of slightly wet sand. It should still be crumbly (not sticky) but hold together when squeezed in your hand.

My mum brings Neiva shells back every year from her holidays so we have quite a collection now (Neiva loves shells) and we added these to the sand. 

Neiva absolutely loved this activity and a sand based theme has lots of playing potential. The shells make a great counting activity too.

For variation in play, instead of shells you could maybe add toy trucks and diggers and have a construction site theme. 

I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

Sleep & Lavender (and a lavender play dough recipe)

Lavender is one of the best known and widely used essential oils. It’s not hard to see why. From a calm, soothing sleep inducing lullaby to a powerhouse punch of an anti inflammatory, it is a potent, versatile, hardworking little oil. Why is Lavender, this wonderful nostalgic heady scent that transports you back to a childhood spent in your granny’s garden, so popular?

As mentioned in a previous post, aromatherapy is one of the therapies we are pursuing with Neiva. Lavender has been particularly helpful when it comes to sleep issues.

One of our main concerns has been finding a way to help Neiva to have a full, quality, good nights sleep. Sleep issues are not uncommon in children, particularly under the age of 7 and especially in children on the spectrum.

Why is Lavender known best for its sleep inducing properties? Lavender oil is made up of compounds that are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. Scientific studies have shown that these have a sedative and pain relieving effect. Studies have also shown that Lavender also lowers the heart rate and reduces anxiety.

Lavender is also non-irritant and non-toxic which makes it perfectly safe to use with children. Here are some easy ways you can introduce lavender into a bedtime routine:

  • A few drops of oil into a warm bath
  • Diffusing into an oil burner and letting the scent infuse the air (the scent will also be a reminder that it’s winding down time, great for a child like Neiva who thrives on routine)
  • One or two drops directly on to a pillow (take care with this as too much will have the reverse effect).

Another fun idea (and great way to get children away from electronics near to bedtime) is to make Lavender Play Dough. The recipe we used was from The Imagination Tree which is a great resource generally for play ideas and a website Ive used regularly since Neiva was a toddler. I also love the no cook method for making this play dough. It makes the whole process easier. The only change I made was to not use purple food colouring as certain E numbers do affect Neiva, but feel free to add it to your version if you would like more pop of colour.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-1.5 cups of boiling water
  • A few drops of glycerine (for smoothness and shine)
  • Dried lavender/fresh lavender heads (or a mix of both for texture)


  • Add the flour, salt and cream of tartar into a mixing bowl and stir well
  • Stir in the oil and glycerine
  • Add the boiling water stirring vigorously until a dough forms
  • Knead until it stops being sticky
  • Add 2 drops of lavender essential oil (optional) or purple colouring at this kneading stage
  • Leave to cool completely
  • Finally, add dried/fresh lavender

We have quite a few varieties of Lavender growing in our garden. It’s a real hardy beautiful little plant and makes a wonderful addition to any garden. It’s a great sensory aid too, Neiva loves rubbing the flowers in her fingers and smelling the beautiful scent. I hope, when she is older, that smell will transport her right back to her childhood, full of memories of where she spent many wonderful hours in the garden with Enid – her happy place.

Homemade Bird Feeders

Despite living in a noisy little town, our house resides on a hill that backs on to a steep bank filled with trees, a haven for wildlife. It was the perfect setting to take part in the RSPB’s big garden bird watch over the weekend.

I ordered our free pack some weeks back which, coupled with a few ideas from Pinterest, gave us all the ammunition we needed to get started.

Bird Feeder #1
For this we needed;

  • twine
  • cardboard toilet roll inner tube
  • peanut butter
  • wild bird seed

Using a butter knife we coated the tube with peanut butter until completely covered. Under close supervision from Enid, Neiva then rolled the tube in the wild bird seed. We then  threaded through the twine and hung outside.

To make the second bird feeder below, we needed to first make the suet cakes which ideally need to be done the night before so they can set completely in the fridge. It really was so simple to make and the finished effect looked lovely.

Suet (Lard) Cakes
For this we needed;

  • a packet of lard
  • an old baking tray
  • wild bird seed
  • twine
  • cookie cutters (we used hearts and stars)

Melt a full packet of lard gently. Add enough bird seed to coat thoroughly. Thread through the twine and ensure the two ends meet at the top. Transfer to the cookie cutters packing them down nice and tight. Leave in the fridge overnight to set. In hindsight I would have not used stars as they were quite difficult to remove once set. I would have also laid them on grease proof paper as they did stick to the tray.

Bird Food Garland
This was a little bit more complex but Neiva did love making this. For this we needed:

  • a bamboo stick (or a dry twig)
  • twine
  • two apples
  • suet (lard) cakes
  • small heart cookie cutter

Slice the apples into thin slices and use the small heart cutter to cut a hole in the middle. Thread the twine through the hole (we did rows of three) Remove the suet cakes from the cutters and tie to the bamboo along with the apple slices.

We did enjoy counting the different types of birds on the sheet and look forward to reporting our findings to the RSPB. Poor Enid not so much. Not only did she have the local squirrel to contend with, she had to deal with extra visitors to her garden this weekend.

If you want more information on why the RSPB carry out an annual survey on local birdlife, please click here.