Anything But Bingo

Resources to enhance the daily life of people living with dementia


This arts and craft project is easy, uses everyday items and can be adapted to match the abilities of someone living with dementia.

I'm excited about this post because arts and crafts is one of my favourite activities to do both personally and at work. This particular project worked incredibly well when we did it in a care home and the results became a much admired part of our art show. I've called it a stained glass window but it isn't transparent, it just gives the colourful effect of a window. Theoretically I think it should be called a foil relief, but that doesn't sound as pretty as they look!

I've listed everything you need and described and photographed each step, so hopefully it should be easy to follow. I've also included ways to adapt the activity at each step. One of the most exciting things about creative activities is that I start with an idea about how a finished project should look and afterwards we end up with a selection of completely different results; each one is unique, each one is personal, each one is perfect. It doesn't matter if your stained glass window looks like mine, if it is all one colour, if the lines aren't straight or if there are holes in the foil. What matters is if you can both enjoy making it, so try to see youself as a guide rather than only a demonstrator and let the activity take its own course. It can take a bit of practice to find the balance between showing someone how to do something and doing the whole activity yourself on their behalf.

The stained glass window you make can be put on display, hung in the window or even given away as a gift. I always make a point of making sure that any art or craft creation is used in some way. I think it is important that activity should be purposeful even if that purpose is to have something pretty to look at.

What you need:

  • cardboard - you can use a cereal box or packing box, or indeed any cardboard you can find
  • string or wool
  • glue - either a glue stick / pritstick or a liquid glue
  • scissors
  • sellotape
  • tin foil - I've used extra-thick foil but a thinner foil will be fine
  • coloured marker pens - I prefer Sharpies but any marker pens will do the job. As I found out today, felt tip pens don't work!


What to do:

  1. Cut out a square or oblong piece of cardboard. Don't make it too big as it will take longer to colour in. Mine is 13cm x 15cm. Adapt: Person can hold cardboard as you cut it.
  2. Cut lengths of string or wool that are a little longer than the card in both directions. Adapt: Person can hold string as you cut, or visa versa.
  3. Rip off or cut a piece of foil that is at least 5cm bigger than your card on each side. Adapt: Put your hand over theirs to help tear the foil / person can hold foil box as you rip a piece off.
  4. Spread glue all over the carboard. If you are using a glue stick / pritstick be generous with it. Adapt: "take it in turns" so that you can fill in any gaps left behind / put your hand over theirs to guide the glueing.
  5. Lay the pieces of string over the card as shown in the photo. You are aiming to create shapes that you will later colour in. Adapt: Ask where they would like the string to go / take an end of the string each so that you can guide its position.
  6. Place your foil over the top of the cardboard and string. Using the palm of your hand and pads of your fingers start to press down, paying particular attention to either side of the string. As you do this you will see the pattern of the string start to appear. It is easy to pierce the foil if you use fingernails to push the foil down so try to avoid this. Adapt: Ask the person to place their hand on top of yours as you push the foil down / ask them to concentrate on one area at a time rather than be overwhelmed or confused by the entire piece.
  7. You should now be able to see each piece of string and the shapes that they have created. Turn over the cardboard.
  8. Fold over the edges of the foil and string. You can describe this as like wrapping a present which may help the person understand what you are asking them to do. Then sellotape the edges down to secure them. Turn your cardboard back over so that you can see the front.
  9. You can now start colouring in the shapes. You can see some normal felt-tip pens in this photo. They didn't work so you need to use marker pens like the Sharpie I have in my hand or a permanent marker pen like the fat blue one in the photo. You can often find these at pound shops. It doesn't matter if the colour overlaps, or there isn't much variety of colour. Try not to push down with the pen as you'll pierce the foil, but again, it doesn't matter if you do. Adapt: You can do some of the colouring too if the quantity of space to fill is overwhelming but try to do it at the same time rather than taking over.

Enjoy the final piece of art and share the success with your visitors and each other.


I hope that you will have a go at this project. I would love to see photos of your final pieces so please do share them on the Facebook page.


I love matching activities for people living with dementia; you can use things you have around the house or be more creative if you have the time (and means), and you can tailor them to an individuals interests. As with many of my activity ideas, matching tasks are good for someone who's dementia is at a stage when they are finding it difficult to fill their time and would rather sit and do nothing rather than try to complete tasks they might have once found satisfying and fullfilling. Tasks such as these can be a relatively easy way to provide distraction and be a meaningful way to keep the brain active and mind occupied.

Why do matching activities work?

  • I'm no academic but, from what I have seen in practice, matching games can be a good way to engage someone who is looking for some brain stutimulation but who's abilities have declined such that they can't manage more complex challenges.
  • Matching activities are by design done by an individual rather than group and so they remove any anxieties about "getting it right" in front of others, or indeed can be done in your home with minimal support.
  • As I suggested above matching activites can be entirely personalised. Making sure an activity holds some interest for the person rather than being a meaningless task can help to improve their levels of engagement, maybe also promoting conversation alongside the activity.


You can use things around the house

Matching socks, finding the right lid for each bottle, sorting cutlery into a cutlery tray. All these things can be found in your own home. If you are finding it difficult to persuade the person living with dementia to begin the task I might suggest it is a job that needs to be done and that it "would be a great help if you would sort these things out for me".



You can be creative

A great way to personalise a matching task is to use a topic of interest for the indivudal. For example one of the ladies I have worked with loved butterflies. I had discovered this whilst looking though a wildlife magazine with her one day. Using that knowledge I was able to make her a butterfly matching game as you see here.


I have also made a more complex spot matching game; this involved not just matching one colour but three. I had been worried that it was too complicated but with some guidance and support it was achievable by some of my clients, and those that did finish it had a great sense of achievement afterwards!

I made the butterfly and spot games on the computer, putting photos or shapes into a Word document, printing them and laminating. But don't let that put you off making one yourself, you could also make games using pictures cut out from magazines, or even drawing shapes onto paper.

This key matching game is made from a selection of keys kindly donated from a key cutting shop and drawing round them on a sheet of paper.

I have included PDF printables of the spot game below, so feel free to make one yourself and give it a go. Let me know how it works.

More ideas

Match object to photos; take photos of small objects around the house (e.g. a button, cotton reel, wooden spoon, golf ball etc) and then print them out. Keep the objects and photos together and ask the person to put the correct item with it's photograph.

Match halves of playing cards; cut a pack of playing cards in half and ask the person to put the halfs side by side again. Depending on their abilities it may be an idea to only present a small collection of cards - the entire 52 card pack might be too overwhelming!

Match fabric scraps; if sewing is of interest and you can lay your hands on some scraps of fabric you can cut the scraps into two pieces and ask the person to find the matching piece.

Colour matching; paint colour samples are freely available at DIY stores. If you can get hold of some pegs too you can easily make a colour matching game.


I am interested to hear your feedback on my ideas and also if they have worked for you, so please do comment below.


Game Set Match.


Printable spot game PDF



Advanced dementia - what can you do? How about polishing shoes?

When someone is living with advanced dementia it can feel like there is nothing meaningful they can do to pass the time. Working with people at this stage is one of the challenges of my job but also the most rewarding.

Michael (not his real name) was a 'wanderer'; an unhelpful description often used for someone living with dementia who can't sit still. Michael worked in the building trade all his life and so was used to being busy. His dementia had advanced to the stage that he had no verbal communication, an apparently limited understanding of the world around him and little interest in activities. Michael was, however, fully mobile and so spent much of his waking hours walking around the home. When I was introduced to the idea of using Montessori methods with dementia Michael sprang to mind and of all the things I tried shoe polishing was the stand out success.

Polishing shoes

Although it may be a generalisation I believe it was typical 50-60 years ago for the man of the house to polish the shoes. Assuming the same was true in Michael's house he will have polished a fair few shoes and boots during his life time.

I presented a pair of shoes, some polish and 2 brushes on the table in front of Micheal. He barely acknowledged them.

I put the brush in his hand but he put it back on the table.

The next step was to put the brush in Michael's hand and put my hand over the top. We started to brush the shoe together. I gently let go and straight away Michael slipped his hand in the shoe just the way he will have done all those years ago, and polished the shoe.  This activity lasted a mere 3 minutes but throughout those 3 minutes Michael was smiling. 


We know from research that the feelings experienced by someone living with dementia from a recent experience far outlive the memory of that experience so I felt sure that the satisfaction or pleasure that Michael felt for that brief time will have stayed with him for a longer than he will have remembered the activity itself. Now that we knew Michael was able and happy to do this task we were able to repeat it many times.

My tips for trying new tasks with someone living with advanced dementia:

  • Acknowledge the individuals life history and past hobbies and interests, but don't be ruled by them. They may have hated gardening once but will now find pleasure in filling a pot with compost.
  • Remember that muscle memory - the brain's ability to remember often practiced movements is a powerful (if not well understood) phenomenon so any physical tasks that someone has performed time and time again may still be useable even when their dementia advances.
  • Choose your moment when introducing a new task. You are looking for a calm, wakeful time when the person is responsive.
  • Don't be disheartened if the person doesn't show interest the first time. Unless you get a strong negative reponse you can try again another time.
  • Gradually add support as required. i.e. start by presenting the task. Then, if necessary show how it is done, then hold over the person's hand as you do it with them. The final level would be to demonstrate only. This in itself can be a welcome distraction for the person you are working with.

'Anyone can make it' microwave lemon curd recipe

You can make this, really you can. You need only 4 ingredients, a few common kitchen utensils. Oh, and you need a microwave. (You can make lemon curd on a hob but not with this recipe). If you are caring for someone living with dementia who used to love to cook or enjoys food then there is no reason to give up cooking with them.

All of my recipes have been designed to be easy to follow and with plenty of opportunity for carer and loved one to work together and share the experience. The level of participation will be very personal and go from minimal supervision, through stiring and grating, to reading the recipe and watching. As always I need to add a note of caution:

You know the person you are caring for the best; their memory, understanding and judgement. I cannot advise how safe each of these steps will be for everyone. I have highlighted possible danger points to guide you but common sense on the part of the caregiver is essential.



I have increased the sugar content as it is common for dementia to mess with taste buds and bitter tastes become more bitter, so lemon can taste more lemony and so on. Adding a little more sugar helps to counteract this sensitivity but do alter the levels to suit you.

There is a PDF file of the recipe below. You can then print the recipe and it can be easily read and followed .


What you will need:

2 lemons

2 eggs

125g caster sugar

60g butter (butter will give you the best flavour but spreadable butter or margerine will do too)


2 small bowls  - including one that is microwave safe

hand whisk

sharp knife

weighing scales

citrus juicer (you can also just squeeze the cut lemons)




What to do:

  1. Break the eggs into a bowl and then gently whisk them so that you have a runny orange liquid.
  2. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze as much juice out as you can using your hands or a juicer.  Sharp knife - beware!
  3. Add the lemon juice to the eggs and mix together.
  4. Using the sieve strain the lemon and egg mixture into the microwave safe bowl to remove the pips and thick bits of egg yolk.
  5. Weigh the butter and sugar and add them both to the sieved lemon mixture.
  6. Cover the bowl and microwave it 1 minute at a time. After each minute stir the lemon curd well. After a few minutes the mixture will start to thicken. Liquid will get hot - beware!
  7. Once thickened enough to drop off the spoon rather than run off it leave the lemond curd to cool and then you can eat it - delicious on a piece of bread.

The most perfect end to this cooking adventure is to invite someone for tea and see the joy in your loved one's face as you tell everyone that he or she made the lemon curd!

 Lemon Curd recipe PDF



Dementia - is there a place for children's toys?

Is it appropriate to give an adult, living with dementia, a child's toy to play with?



 My opinion is a resounding "yes". Should you also do this with care, sensitivity, forethought and in a person centred way? Of course. This is a sensitive subject for many people and one which I think I wil be returning to more than once

I first came across the concept of 'stage not age appropriate' from Teepa Snow, an American Dementia Care expert who has a refreshing approach to working and living with people who have dementia. There are also a heap of videos you can find on Youtube where she talks about her approach. 

The stages of dementia are loosly definable but are different in everyone and can involve all parts of the body and personallity. I really believe that pitching daily activity at the individual's own personal level,  what they can do, what they are finding pleasurable is the route to the most fun and fullfilling experiences. Think about what stage that person is at, and try not to worry so much about their age.

How does this work in practice?


Let's take jigsaw puzzles as an example. An individual with dementia may have once loved to do jigsaws; 1000 piece, back to front and upside down jigsaws. As their concentration skills, patience, memory and maybe even fine motor skills diminish these complex and demanding jigsaws may become unachieveable. So do you therefore take 'jigsaws' off the to-do list? Instead why not try easier puzzles. There are jigsaws available specifically designed for people with dementia, like this one (they will even personalise a jigsaw with your own photo!). I have used these particular jigsaws at work and the advantage of them is that the jigsaw is inset within a border of the photo so that you have clues for where to start straight away making it easier and less intimidating.

So far I don't think this is too controversial. Buying products aimed at the 'dementia market' makes them acceptable to most people.

If this size of jigsaw becomes too hard you can move on again. I have successfully used toddlers peg puzzles, like the one you see below with great results. I would usually begin by asking the person if they like the puzzle, the colours etc. Invariably I would get a reply about how they used to give the children one like it, or something similar. I might ask if they'd like to have a go, or "I wonder if we could do it?" This is usally enough to get us going. Sometimes you do get a negative reaction. One gentleman said rather gruffly "that's a children's toy". His tone of voice left me in no doubt that he didn't approve. Don't forget though .... it doesn't mean never. You can always try again another day.

Other ideas

Lego or the toddler version Duplo, Stickle bricks, Sewing cards, wooden sorting boxes, train set, Scalextric,



“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

elderly man playing with stickle bricks


If you are asking why I think this might be a sensitive subject then you are already with me on the stage / age appropriate debate. Many people however do find the idea of giving their Grandpa or wife a children's toy. It is insulting, inappropriate. Have you got anything to lose by giving it a go? If it feels uncomfortable try it when you are on your own together, guage their reaction. Try different things.


The journey begins

AnythingButBingo isn't even live yet and I'm writing my first post. I have so many ideas and just want to get them all down on the page for you to read. I wrote a list last night of ideas for posts; everything from recipies to book reviews.

The premise of AnythingButBingo is to inspire and inform anyone who spends time with someone living with dementia with ideas for activities and ways to modify favourite hobbies and pastimes. 

And so it begins .....

               Who am I?



I am a forty-something mother of two.

I love learning and creating, and do

what I can to improve the well-being

of people living with dementia.

I have worked in residential dementia

care for a few years and hope that I

have something useful to share.



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