Blog of the Week: The Imagination Tree
The Imagination Tree is stuffed with simple, creative ideas for activities to do with children. There are literally hundreds of ideas, whether you're indoors, outdoors, have a toddler or a school-aged child. Whether you want to make a baby treasure basket, learn about why play is important for babies, or make edible finger paint, there will be a post to inspire you.
The blog is the brainchild of former teacher Anna Ranson, who started the site when she was at home with her first child.
"I would do things with her, and friends would ask me for instructions," explains Anna. "So I thought if I had a website to collect them all, people could read them and it would be a good thing to have on my CV, showing what I did when I wasn't working."
Despite knowing nothing about technology, Anna managed to create a blog using the free Blogger platform in just a couple of hours.
"I didn't do anything really, I just chose a basic template and a name, then focused on adding lots of pictures, which I took myself," says Anna. "I think the visual aspect of this kind of blog is very important."
In the early months, Anna wrote her blog posts while her baby was asleep. These days with a three year old, a 21-month-old and a third baby due, that's not an option, so Anna tends to work on her blog in the evenings.
I spend an hour or two a day blogging and checking my Facebook page and Twitter. It's my hobby, in the way that some people's hobby is golf, or knitting.
Imagination Tree proves that great content gets you a long way – in 18 months Anna's blog has grown enormously and now attracts almost 100,000 readers every month.
Anna herself has been offered some great opportunities because of her blog, which was named the Parentdish Blog of the Year at the second annual MAD Blog Awards.
For Anna, the greatest benefit of blogging has been making friends with other bloggers, some of whom have become real-life friends. "I have bloggers all over the world who I chat to regularly and am friendly with. It was through my blog that I met my friend Maggy, who blogs at Red Ted Art. We have a lot in common and we regularly meet up with the children to spend time together."
As one of the UK's top bloggers, Anna knows more than most about where to find creative, beautiful things online. So we asked her to share some of her very favourite Internet bookmarks.
The Imagination Tree: Of course, this is my blog. I also have a Facebook page, where I chat with my readers, and a Twitter account. I love Facebook because it's so user-friendly and easy to build a community around a common interest.
Not on the High Street: This is a wonderful spot for unusual finds made by small UK businesses.
Myriad Toys: I love this site for children, it has the most beautiful toys and natural, education resources.
Fail Blog: I don't often have time to look at humour sites, but I do love the occasional dip into this blog, which is truly hilarious.
SouleMama: I love reading the knitting, sewing and home craft projects here, but I'm not crafty enough to complete any of them!
I Heart Faces: The most wonderful tips for photography, and provides lots of inspiration for my own images.
Enjoying the Small Things: This is probably my favourite ever blog, written by a mother to a child with Downs Syndrome with an astonishingly beautiful outlook on life