Simple Christmas Decorations For A Child’s Room

I don’t know about you, but my children are worse than any cat I’ve ever had when it comes to Christmas decorations, and fiddling with things on the tree! They simply can’t leave well enough alone. Of course Christmas is a family affair, but when you’ve spent hours putting it all together, it can be soul destroying to have little hands pull it all apart again – especially when they do that to everything else all year round anyway!

There are a few things you can do give children their own creative space for Christmas – preferably in their own room.

If you’re lucky enough to have an amazing room for your child already, like one of these nursery ideas, then you’re off to a good start:Read more: Simple Christmas Decorations For A Child’s Room

#nothingbeatsabike Halfords Competition

Halfords has a great competition on at the moment where they are offering a new bike as a prize every week till the 16th of December.

Enter the competition to WIN a Carrera Star 16″ Kids’ Bike! Excellent for 5-8 year olds, the Star is lightweight and really easy to ride! It’s got the same high quality parts you’d find on grown-up bikes, making it perfect for little ones who can ride without stabilisers. Entrants for this competition must be must be 5 to 8 years old.


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Closing date for this week is 2nd Dec 2015, with the new competition being announced that day.

To be in with a chance of winning a bike in time for Christmas, all your child needs to do is draw a festively fun picture of their dream bike! Let their creativity run wild, and show exactly how they’d love their dream bike to look – the more colourful and unique the better!

To enter the competition, a grown up needs to take a photo of this drawing and upload it to the Halfords Christmas page here. Each week the most creative dream bike drawing will be featured as the Bike of the Week on Facebook, and the lucky drawer will win a shiny new children’s bike!

The competition at Halfords is now in it’s fourth week. This competition requires your child to draw their dream bike. The parent or guardian will then take a photo of the picture your child has created and upload onto the Halfords website. The most creative drawing will be picked as the winner. You can find out more here.

For a wide choice of Kids Bikes Visit Halfords Today

Christmas Gifts: 4 Fantastic Magazines For Children

While children today have so many amazing things that we didn’t even dream possible when we were kids, there was one thing that we had that they don’t: mail. Or ‘snail mail’ as we know it today. While adulthood has dulled the joy of the postman’s ring a little, since most of what he brings me is bills, there’s still a momentary thrill of excitement when I see him (or her) walking up the path. What’s he bringing? Is it for me? Is that a parcel I see peeking out of his over the shoulder bag? So exciting. (Or maybe I should get out more?) But either way, this is a thrill our children don’t really know.

As a child and later as a teenager I had pen pals, and a subscription to a Tinkerbell, and a later a couple of teen magazines and the arrival of the postman was the most wonderful thing.

This year I’ve been working with some magazine publishers and have been thrilled to have magazines arrive every month for  my girls, and have loved passing on that excitement too. Here are five magazines I get for my children. I think they would make wonderful  Christmas presents as they are gifts that bring new and fresh excitement every month (or two, depending). Few Christmas gifts will last through to next Christmas, so you’re looking at value for money too!

Please note these are affiliate links, but we subscribe or subscribed to these magazines. 

Eco Kids Planet Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 6- 11
  • 11 issues a year
  • Trial offer: 4 issues for £9.90
  • 6 Month Christmas Gift Subscription Offer: £19.90 (choose a Christmas subscription if you’re subscribing to 3 or more magazine.co.uk magazines for £15 savings – November 2015)

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You can read a full review of Eco Kids Planet Magazine here.

This is a lovely magazine for environmentally minded youngsters with an interest in learning about the world. Each issue has a topic – Himalayas, Scotland, India – and deals with different aspects of each area.

Eco Kids Planet also has a current offer on where you can pick up 4 magazines for £9.90, with their direct debit offer.  The magazines are normally £3.50 or subscribe and save up to £6.80, here.

Storybox Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 3-6
  • 10 issues a year
  • 10 Issue Christmas Gift Subscription Offer: £50 (choose a Christmas subscription if you’re subscribing to 3 or more magazine.co.uk magazines for £15 savings – November 2015)Storybox

Storybox Magazine is very different to the previous one. It’s all about imagination, stories, a little bit of seasonal learning (why do we wear sun block, going back to school) and a few activities. It contains a full story, and plenty of short stories, and provides a few hours of entertainment for young readers. It’s ideally pitched at those learning to read, but also fantastic for reading with smaller children.

You can read a full review of Storybox Magazine here.

Okido Magazine

  • For boys and girls aged 2-8
  • 6 issues a year
  • 12 Month Subscription: £24Okido

Okido Magazine focuses on art and science, and is filled with games, quizzes and features that will keep children  entertained as they learn. Each magazine has a theme, such as space, habitats, or feelings, and has activities, games and science experiments to try at home. With input from artists and even poetry and short stories there’s something for every interest in this subscription, . Each issue of this great kids’ magazine has a different theme, introducing little ones to subjects as diverse as space, habitats, and emotions and feelings.

While there’s great carry over from lovers of Messy on CBeebies, the magazine stands alone too, and doesn’t require knowledge of the TV Show to be enjoyed. Subscribe to Okido here.

Little Cooks Dora the Explorer Collection

  • For boys and girls aged 2-8
  • Fortnightly issues
  • Up to £4.99 per magazine

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We love this magazine and have a huge box full of all the goodies that come with it. While one of the things I love about the top three magazines is that they are their own attraction and don’t come with loads of tat, I love about this one that it comes with cooking and baking equipment as required for the recipes in the book. We’ve had this subscription for over two years, and the baking accessories are still going strong.

Each magazine comes with a variety of recipes to make together, a story to read and a few activities to do.  Little cooks don’t have to be Dora fans, nor do they have to watch the show in order to enjoy this series.  It’s no longer available as a subscription, but you can still buy individual magazines.

Review of Little Cooks Dora the Explorer Collections here

Elastoplast Launch New Vintage Tin

My family pretty much keep the plaster industry in business. Aside from the fact that I’m really accident prone in the kitchen – I’m not kidding, a meal is hardly a meal if I haven’t shed blood or given a burnt flesh offering, and quite frankly my life insurance should have gone up when I started a food blogBut aside from that, my youngest daughter tends to be an accident waiting to happen too. She can fall over from a stationary position, that child.

EP1I always carry plasters around in my handbag because any fall, no matter how big or small can pretty much be ‘fixed’ by a plaster. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but it would be if my children were in charge. They would use plasters for decorative tattoos. Especially the ones with Disney characters on them.

The problem I have is that the boxes always end up scrunched up in the bottom of my bag, and the contents scattered across the inside, which is just a waste really.

Recently Elastoplast have found a solution to my problem! They’ve launched these cute retro vintage tins for keeping your plasters safe and secure in your handbag – I have two so there’s one for my kitchen too!

The good thing about this cute little tin is that you don’t have to fill it with plasters only, but can put safety pins, nail clippers or other every day essentials in the box too, making it an on the go emergency kit.

EP2One tip I can offer you, if you find yourself handing out plasters like Halloween candy, is to stick to the plain old ‘boring’ varieties. If it has pictures on, my kids will throw themselves down stairs for one! But the plain skin toned variety are less tempting.

And also, as a mother, I’m always in and out the kitchen, dipping my hands in the washing machine, helping with bath and hair and face cleaning, and the Elastoplast plasters hold up really well to the in – and – out of wetness conditions, though of course you have to change them frequently so your fingers don’t go soggy underneath.

Well, I think these tins are really cute, and super convenient!

 

Three Extra Weeks Of Activities For Preschoolers – Flash Sale

Remember a few weeks ago I told you about the Hands On As You Grow ebook series filled with activities for you to do with your small people?

Well, HOAWG has a 48-hour FLASH SALE that’s just gone live and will go till roughly midnight on Tuesday (roughly, because it’s past midnight as I write this and I don’t feel like figuring out time zones!)

LEARN MORE is a free bonus of 3 additional weekly activity plans filled with 21 hands on learning activities planned out especially for your preschooler. LEARN MORE is only available when you purchase one of the other Weekly Activity Plan eBooks during this Back to School special. (It will not be available after this short 48-hour special!) Valued at $7.Capture

So basically, if you buy one of the existing eBooks, you’ll receive this added three weeks for free, giving you 8 weeks of activities for you and your little ones.

One of the things that drew me to this programme was the talk about accountability. I know that being accountable makes it easier to stick to it, and there’s only benefits to be had both for my small person, our relationship, and with it our daily interactions and by association my feelings towards my parenting.

The weekly activity plans come in:

You can also see a PREVIEW OF THE EBOOKS here.

weekly-plans-sneak-peek

 

Ways To Find Work As A Freelancer

As a homeschooling, freelancing mother, time is never on my side. Between running a home and providing a sufficient – hopefully more than sufficient! – education for my children, I have had to find efficient ways of making the hours I am able to work every week count.

A lot of freelancing involves pitching for work, applying for opportunities, hoping you’re selected. The reality of blogging, however, is that you never really know what the client is looking for, so you may or may not be chosen for the project, whatever it is.

I’ve been freelancing for 5 years now, and here are some of the ways I go to look for work – hopefully they can help you find work as a freelancer.

Freelancer

1. Relationships with clients

When I started blogging, way back in the days of yore – sometimes it feels like back in ‘the olden days’ – you’d feel elated when a PR emailed you, offering you pretty much anything in exchange for a post. Back then I used to take pride in replying to every email, whether I was interested in the opportunity or not. A few years in and sometimes over 100 emails a day, I looked at my newborn baby trying to crawl across the floor one day and I realised how much of her babyhood I’d missed by trying to reply to every email, for no return.

Politeness costs nothing, but it does take time. For a freelancer, time is money. I now use an out of office with an explanation of why I might not respond, but asking the emailer to get in touch again next time. Some people don’t like it, but my time is more precious than the opinion of someone who doesn’t think enough of me to pay for that time*. 

That said, relationships are essential to ‘easing’ the work load. I have a number of clients that I have an ongoing relationship with. Every few months, I’ll get an email requesting extension of an advert, for example, and for the time-cost of 3 or 4 emails, I earn a repeat advertising fee. This is ‘easy money’, but it comes off the back of relationship building, and repeat business.

2. Email approaches

The above said, it’s still really important to be visible as a freelancer. You might not love being on social media all the time, and you don’t have to be, but you do need to have a profile and be reachable. I’ve received approaches through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, in comments on the blog and even on Instagram. The most important thing is to be contactable. Make sure your blog has your email address on it. You won’t get the work if they can’t get hold of you.

3. Sign up with assignment-based websites

If what you’re looking for is sponsored posts or reviews, sign up with companies that offer those. Look at websites like WeConnect* or Bloggers Required where you can keep an eye on what’s available. You need to pitch for these, telling them why your blog is the right one for their assignment, and the brand will then get in touch with everyone it’s chosen. Most of these aren’t paid opportunities, but sometimes what you’re able to review makes up for it since generally you’re able to keep the product.

4. Sign up with networking websites

Websites like LinkedIn and Hiive are great for finding longer term projects. Sign up with them, and network. I think most people know LinkedIn now – the online place where people can connect with others in the same fields and areas of interest? Hiive is pretty similar, but with more of a focus on creative people.

On Hiive you can create ‘swarms’ or join someone else’s swarm, and get involved with their projects, see what’s going on in your field across the web, apply for job vacancies, connect with professionals in your niche and usefully, take some of the courses they offer online too.

I think the most important thing about being a freelancer is staying current, taking advantage of the opportunities out there, and moving with the times. Old fashioned principles – politeness, kindness, courtesy and patience – will always stand you in good stead, and with a little bit of time and luck, you’ll be a successful freelancer in no time.

*I don’t respond if it’s just not something that’s relevant to me, I don’t dismiss all unpaid work as sometimes that has value too.

Activities For Babies To Preschoolers: Weekly Activity Plans

Birth Activity Pack Contents

I used to be really proud of my parenting. Not in a smug, “I’m better than you” way, but in a self-satisfied, “I’m better at this than I thought I was going to be” way. Then things changed. My mum got ill and died, my husband lost his job, I went from SAHM who works an hour a day to WAHM who works every possible moment trying to keep food on the table. Somewhere in all that, I lost the ‘fun’ in my parenting.

Dr Seuss Activities

My children knew what waterbeads and shaving cream and gloop were. They had themed activity days where we decorated the lounge like a scene from the Lorax, or Charlie and Lola came to tea. Parenting was a lot more fun back then. My children had little to no screen time, and we all just got on really well.

Painting with waterbeadsI miss those days.

The problem I have found in trying to get them back, is I feel like I don’t know how. I feel like big gestures take up time, energy and money I don’t have, and little gestures are swept away in a sea of too much else going on.

I reached for the craft drawer the other day to try and see what I could do to fix all this, and found it to not only be in a chaotic state, but we have no basics – no ice lolly sticks, no googly eyes, no scrap bits of paper, no shaving cream or cheap food colourings for painting in the bath. Nope. In the words of Pink… “This used to be a fun house” but hopefully we don’t have to burn it down just yet.

Crafting

Instead, I’m going to try out something new. Sort of. I used to follow Hands On As We Grow, back when this was a fun house, so when I saw that she now offers weekly activity plans for preschoolers – I figure I’ll start with my young one, as she’s missed out the most – that are simple, easy to follow, and don’t require much equipment or set up time, I decided I need to give it a go – back to basics, and forward from there.

That’s what happened last time. This ‘don’t know which way is up’ mama became pretty good at it starting small and allowing my imagination to grow with that of my babies. So I figure the same can happen again.

Bring it on.

One of the things that drew me to this programme was the talk about accountability. I know that being accountable makes it easier to stick to it, and there’s only benefits to be had both for my small person, our relationship, and with it our daily interactions and by association my feelings towards my parenting.

The weekly activity plans come in:

You can also see a PREVIEW OF THE EBOOKS here.

weekly-plans-sneak-peek

The First 1000 Days With A Baby

Excuse me a moment, please, while I hide my tissues and wipe my eyes. I’m totally going to sit here and pretend this advert didn’t make my womb ache and swoon, and every fibre of my being long for those exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, empowering, insanity-inducing, beautiful days of a new baby’s  life.

Watch this, and tell me you came away without at least a little twinge, I dare you:


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I have two daughters, both equally wanted, and equally adored.

When I found out I was pregnant with Ameli, I booked her place at nursery and was angry that I wouldn’t be able to return to work after 2 weeks, as the childcare at my work wouldn’t take her under 3 months of age. I wanted her, don’t get me wrong – I’d been waiting for years to have her, but I think I expected her to slot in with my life, rather than become my world. 

baby girls feetI had a horrendous pregnancy with terrible Hyperemesis Gravidarum and I bled for 20 weeks. In the end, I opted for a home birth, and when I raised my daughter out of the water, there was a moment where my world spun upside down, and everything I had thought I ever knew about love, and hope and life as I knew it, changed. It was so sudden and profound that five years on, writing about it, I can smell the water in the birthpool, hear the rain outside, feel the moment rising up before me again. I sat in the water and told my husband I could never go back to my job.

Not many people can look back and remember the moment they became who they are. I can.

The months that followed that transformative experience were so different to anything I had ever imagined. Breast feeding came naturally, easily. We co-slept and never once in that first year used the nursery we’d put together. We bought a pram and it was so wide we couldn’t get it up the stairs of our maisonnete, so we gave it up and took up baby wearing instead. We learned about a whole new world allergies, and rashes, and check-ups and follow ups and we quickly learned that people who tell you your child can’t be teething at four months were wrong, and people who told us our child shouldn’t be crawling at 5 months had never tried to stop a child from crawling at five months, nor had they had to run after an 8-month old toddler.

small baby 30We learned in those first years that there were no rules that were hard and fast. We learned that every parent has to make it up as they go.

When we thought we had the answers, the questions changed. When we thought we had it sussed, curve balls came. After three years of waking up between 4 and 6 for the day, every day, having been awake at least every 2 hours through the night, we figured we had hacked parenting, and this is what it was.

Then we had our second daughter. The pregnancy was worse, the birth fast and furious. She was born at 42+5 by scan dates and everyone around me was ‘worried’ and had ‘concerns’ but I knew in my gut we were okay and she was born at home, in water, into my waiting arms, ready for round two of a sleep deprivation that never came.

Baby FeetAviya slept through the night every night for six month. She was in no rush to crawl or walk. She made her first dramatic moves right off a bed, breaking her collarbone. She was 10 months old before she took her first steps. A different child, with a different temperament, and a different take on her world – so clearly different, yet so indescribably perfect too.

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Pampers have been working with the NCT on a study about those first two years of a new baby-new parent’s life and they’ve come to conclusions that I’m sure most parents would agree with and recognise.

They say that night waking and disturbed sleep are considered an inevitability during the first year – but as my experience shows, not always so! They also found that most parents surveyed anticipated better sleep during the second year of their child’s life, but that for around a third of parents (30%) sleep problems persisted throughout the first 1,000 days. The reasons that babies struggle with sleep changed over time, with parents of toddlers citing issues such as teething and illness. They could have included jet lag in their study. My sleeper was 6 months old when we flew to Australia, and that time change signalled the end of her sleeping-through-the night. Coincidence, or was it to do with teething too? I guess I’ll never know now!

Additionally, the findings looked at modern parenting roles. Over two thirds of dads (67%) reported equally sharing the responsibility for caring for their baby at night. However, mums – don’t all nod your heads at once now – didn’t necessarily agree with this assessment with less than half (45%) responding that they shared equal responsibility with their partners. In fact, the research suggests that mums still take on the majority of the responsibilities of childcare. (It’s my guess that most mums could  have told them that for free ;) )

Dr Abigail Easter, Research Manager at NCT says, “This research has told us about the ups and downs of new parenthood, and how important it is that both mums and dads find the support they need as they care for a young baby. Balancing the responsibilities of parenting, work and finances was a key theme to emerge from the research, and affects different families in different ways. Good communication and looking after their own relationship is really important for new parents as they settle into changing roles. This research is just one part of a robust study which will inform NCT’s education, support and campaigning.”

That’s something I can agree with: every new parent’s experience is so completely new, and as fundamentally different as the people themselves are. No two ways are ever going to be the same, even in the same family with the same parents, so it’s great to know that support is out there, and people are taking the time to try to understand more wholly our human experience.

And all that aside, just go back and watch the video again. You know, for the sake of your own ‘research’. ;)

10 People Famous For Something Other Than What They Studied

My little girl keeps coming up with jobs that she wants when she grows up – a vet, an astronaut, a scientist – that require at least some time spent at university. But she’s decided that since she can’t read (she can!) and doesn’t like writing (but is always walking around with a notebook) that she doesn’t want to go to uni, but will become today’s career of choice despite it. I decided to compile a list of people she may have some connection to (a song she likes, a show she likes to watch) to show her what other people who’ve been to university have done with that background. Of course I know you don’t HAVE to go to uni to achieve, but that’s not the point here!) So, here are 10 people a child can relate to who’ve been to university.

1. Emma Watson

2683374217_7ab265e2af_o Hermione Granger – I mean, Emma Watson – loved school so much, she acted seven years of it. She also found time for some serious real-life studying. She graduated from US institution Brown University in 2014 with a bachelors degree in English Literature (ahem, I have a degree in English Literature. We’re practically sisters, Hermione Emma and me ;))

2. Bear Grylls

Everyone’s favourite action man, Bear Grylls picked up a lot of his survival skills as a trooper and patrol medic with the Royal Air Force. But perhaps less publicised is his ability to speak multiple languages (French, Spanish and English), thanks in part to the fact that he went to university to study further education in Hispanic Studies.

3. Emili Sande
One of the most successful artists of today’s music scene, Sande is more than just an amazing voice. She studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, leaving with a degree in neuroscience.

4. Lily Cole
Not content with being one of the youngest supermodels in the world, the gorgeous Lily Cole also achieved a qualification in history of Art  from Cambridge University. I lived in Cambridge once – so many parallels to famous successful people ;)

5 and 6. Prince William and Kate Middleton
You never know who you might meet at uni! The royal couple famously met whilst studying undergraduate degrees at the University of St Andrews in 2003. William, who is said to have originally enrolled under the name ‘William Wales’ was studying Geography, while Kate did Art History.

7. Chris Martin

If it wasn’t for university, there would be no Coldplay. Talented front man Chris Martin attended University College London back when he was 18, completing a degree in Greek & Latin, where he met fellow band mates Will Champion, Guy Berryman and Jonny Buckland. Coldplay have gone on to win multiple Grammy awards and have become one of the best-selling music artists of all time. …. And now I have “Bones, sinking like stones, All that we fought for, And homes, places we’ve grown, All of us are done for” stuck in my head. That’s from ‘Don’t Panic’, if you didn’t know.

8. Victoria Pendelton

7628281224_60e722a955_oBeing a professional athlete doesn’t just require an enormous amount of hard physical work, in Victoria Pendelton’s case it also involved a fair amount of brain power too. The Olympic gold medallist found time between training to complete a degree in Sport and Exercise Science, from Northumbria University in Newcastle.

9. Professor Brian Cox

Brian Cox has single-handedly made science and astronomy cool, so it is no surprise that this Lancashire-born lad has a few qualifications under his belt. He is currently a professor of a little thing called particle physics at the University of Manchester. Respect.

10. Harry Hill

TV funnyman Harry Hill might not come across as the studious type, but did you know that he originally trained to be a doctor? He studied at St George’s Medical School in London, before making a career change into the world of TV. (Okay, this one was for the husband, not the 5 year old. Just to be clear.)

I know university isn’t for everyone, and I’d never force my girls to take any path, but it’s good to have positive role models too, and there’s no harm in shining a little more light on a path that will hopefully lead them to

Spring Cleaning: 30 Jobs 30 Mins 30 Days

This crossed my inbox from ao.com earlier this week and I thought it’s an excellent idea to share, so I hope it works for you!

I have printed countless ‘spring cleaning’ or decluttering projects in my time, and I rarely get past day four or five, largely because my life doesn’t really fit to other people’s schedules, and much like a diet, if I ‘fail’ at day 5, I just give up!

I liked this ‘Dirty 30′ idea as it doesn’t tell you what to do on what day, or give you a specific order, but you can simply see which one fits in with your day, and hop right to it.

If you’re about to start spring cleaning, don’t run out and buy new cleaning equipment, but rather make your own. Here are 5 recipes for chemical free cleaning and an even simpler 3-ingredient cleaning option. Alternitvely, this 300+ page Homemade Cleaners: Quick-and-Easy, Toxin-Free Recipes to Replace Your Kitchen Cleaner, Bathroom Disinfectant, Laundry Detergent, Bleach, Bug Killer, Air Freshener, and more Kindle book from Dionna Ford and Mandy O’Brian will answer your every cleaning question.

Happy spring cleaning!

RIGHT CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO PRINT ITSpring Cleaning