Fun at the beach with Hape toys

Fun at the beach with Hape toys

We’re lucky enough to live close enough to the beach that we spend quite a bit of time there.

Most of the time when we pop down we just take ourselves.  Maybe a towel if the children will be going in the sea.

Sometimes though, if we’re planning on being at the beach for a bit longer, we will take a few bits like a bucket and spade with us.  And now, thanks to Hape, we have some really fab new beach toys to play with when we spend time there.

 

We were sent a few different toys from Hape to review and the children were so excited to take them with us on a recent trip to the beach.

 

The toy they were both desperate to test drive was the Hape dune buggy.

This little push-around car is really solidly built and we all love the way it moves about.  It has low-profile tyres which move independently.  You push the car along by holding on to the handle, and it turns really smoothly when you gently push down on the tilting top.

 

The dune buggy is for children aged 18 months and over and I think it would be a great toddler toy to use at the beach and even at home on the living room floor.  It’s such a simple, classic toy though that my son at 8 years old still really enjoys playing with it.

You can use your imagination to have so much fun with this toy, building slopes and digging holes in the sand for the buggy to negotiate.

 

The next toy we tested out was the Hape power paw.

This is just so much fun and something I can see us getting a load of use out of over the summer.  It’s basically a plastic claw that you can use for digging in the sand.

There’s a handle inside to hold on to, then you just use it as an extension of your hand to dig.

 

I wasn’t sure how efficient the power paw would be at first, but honestly it is so good!

Rhys had a great time digging in the sand with it and we were all impressed with how quickly he dug a decent sized hole.  The paw feels really nice and sturdy and like it will last a long time and stand up to being treated not-so-gently.

 

The last beach toy we’ve been trying out is the Hape rain shovel.

Like the dune buggy and power paw, the rain shovel is perfect for children of all ages from 18 months up.

It’s a really sturdy spade that fits nicely in your hand.  It’s a great size for popping in your bag when you head to the beach, but it’s so strong and well made that it’s really efficient for digging.

 

What makes this shovel special though is the fact that the handle is hollow and there are holes in the end, so you can pour water through it.

Nerys had so much fun with this, scooping up water from the sea and pretending she was in the shower as the water sprinkled out.

 

All three of the Hape toys we were sent are great fun, and lovely quality.

They all feel so solid and sturdy and will be perfect to keep in the car boot, ready to grab any time we pop down to the beach.

 

Which one do you think your child would enjoy the most?

 

Disclaimer: we were sent these beach toys for the purpose of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Set yourself up for a great day

8 things to do in the morning to set yourself up for a great day

Have you ever read any blog posts or articles about putting together the perfect morning routine?

They always sound almost idyllic.  Getting up bright and early and enjoying peace and quiet to meditate and exercise and enjoy a coffee all by yourself.

The thing is, I don’t really know how workable most of these routines are for parents.  Especially parents with babies and young children.

I do think though that there are definitely a few do-able things that us busy parents could work into our mornings to set ourselves up for having a great day.

 

1. Let the light in

This might not be possible in the depths of winter when you’re up for the day at 6.  But in the summer months try and get those curtains open as soon as you can after waking up to let the natural light in.

It helps reset your body clock and feel more with it and ready for the day .

 

2. Allow more time than you think you need

Mornings can be so stressful with so many things to remember and so many pairs of feet to get into shoes and out the door.

So don’t add to your stress by not giving yourself enough time for everything.

The best approach is to know how long something should take to do, then add on a buffer of extra time in case of any issues like lost shoes or heavy traffic on the school run.

 

3. Plan something nice for someone else

This might not be an every-single-day thing, but now and then spend a few minutes in the morning thinking of something nice you could do for someone else later on in the day.

It might be planning on taking a little treat for the children to have as a snack on the way home from school.  It might be offering to take some work from a colleague who you know has been overwhelmed recently.

Doing nice things for other people has been shown over and over again to give us, as well as them, a boost in happiness.

 

4. Drink some water

Even if you were up half the night with the baby, have a glass of water before putting the kettle on for a coffee

It’ll re-hydrate you and help you feel more awake and alert.  If you’re feeling fancy you can put some lemon in it, but really plain old water will do just fine.

 

5. Play some music that makes you smile

Instead of listening to the news on the radio or hearing the theme tune from Paw Patrol on the TV for the millionth time put together a play list of upbeat music that makes you feel happy.

It’ll put you in a good mood for the day and might even get your children moving a bit faster if the songs are uptempo!

 

6. Check your calendar

And your to-do list.

Make sure you know what’s going on today and if anyone needs anything in particular for school or work.  If you want to feel really organised then put a white board near your front door and each night write on it what you need before you leave the house the next day.  So each morning you can check you have everything before you head out.

 

7. Make your bed

It takes seconds but will make your bedroom feel so much tidier.  Making the bed has also been found to make people feel more in control and even happier for the rest of the day because they feel like they’ve already completed a job nice and early in the day.

 

8. Hug your family

No matter how frantic things are in the mornings.

Take the time to give everyone in the family a hug.  You’ll all get a lovely boost of oxytocin which makes you feel more relaxed, more empathetic and more bonded to the person you’re hugging.  I’m not saying it’ll mean you won’t still get frustrated when your children take an age to get their shoes on, but it will hopefully balance things out a bit more.  And if you leave the hug till last then you’ll end the morning on a lovely positive note to carry into the rest of your day.

 

 

Which of these things do you already do in the mornings?  Which do you think would have the biggest impact on the rest of your day?

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
ways to help your anxious child

5 ways to help your anxious child

If you have a child who is quite often anxious and nervous about things it can be hard to know what to do to help them.

Especially if you don’t think of yourself as an anxious person.

There are quite a few things you can do though, to help them work things through the next time they’re feeling nervous about something.  And these 5 ideas are a great place to start.

 

1. Acknowledge their worries

It’s really tempting to try to reassure your child by telling them there’s nothing to worry about.  But this doesn’t actually help all that much.

The anxiety and fear that your child is feeling is very real to them.  Think about how your felt before going in to a job interview.  You were in no real danger, but chances are your heart was racing a bit, your palms were sweaty, you felt anxious.

Even if you can see that your child has nothing to worry about, they are still feeling those same, very real, feelings.

So acknowledge it.

Tell them you can see they’re feeling anxious and worried.  Talk to them about a time you felt the same way.  Validate their feelings rather than trying to get your child to push them aside.

 

2. Forget logic for a bit

When we’re nervous and anxious our brains don’t work all that logically.

Our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that handles logic, gets put on hold while our more automated, emotional brain takes over.  We evolved this way back when we were hunter/gatherers and didn’t have time for logic when very real threats like predators were on the scene.

So even though things are different now and taking a test at school isn’t the same kind of threat as a big beast outside our cave, our bodies and brains still react in the same way.

Logic flies out the window and we run on our emotions.

Listing all the reasons why your child doesn’t need to worry about the test won’t really help at this point.

The best thing to do instead is help them calm their nervous system down with breathing exercises or soothing visualisations.  This will take them out of fight or flight mode.  Then when they’re calmer you can talk things through more logically.

 

3. Empathise with them

Think of a time you felt the way your child is feeling.

Maybe at that job interview I mentioned earlier.  Or maybe there were times when you were a child and you were anxious about joining a new class or starting a new subject.  Remember how you felt at that time.

Then tell your child about it.  Let them know that you get it.  That you understand how they’re feeling.  That you feel that way too sometimes.

Let them know that it’s completely normal to feel nervous about all sorts of things.

There’s power in knowing you’re not alone.

 

4. Teach them mindfulness activities

A big part of anxiety is thinking and worrying about the future.

All these scenarios run through our heads of all the things that could possibly go wrong, and all the ways we could be hurt (physically and emotionally).  For our children it might be that they’re thinking about a test coming up.  They may be worrying that they’ll get lost on the way and be late.  They won’t know any of the answers.  They won’t be able to finish the test in the time they’re given.

One way to try and reduce how much time our children spend worrying about all these potential ‘what ifs’ in the future, is to get them to focus on the present.

Teach them to sit and feel the ground beneath them.  To really listen to all the sounds they can hear around them.  When we’re mindful of what we’re experiencing in this moment, our brains can’t jump ahead and worry about what might happen later.

 

5. Try gradual exposure

Our gut instinct as parents is to protect our children.  So if they’re scared of dogs, and panic when they see one, we might just try and keep them away from dogs at all times.

The thing with this is that if we never face our fears then we can never conquer them.

A better way to help our children is to really gently expose them to the thing they’re scared of or anxious about.

Sticking with the dog example, this could start with reading books about dogs and looking at picture and videos of different breeds online.  Then you could start visiting places where people walk their dogs, but keeping a good distance from them.

You can gradually build up to asking a friend with an older, calmer dog if you could visit them for your child to spend time with them.

Taking it step by step, and allowing your child to get really comfortable with each step, will eventually help them move past their fear altogether.

 

Hopefully these ideas will help you prepare and feel better equipped to help your child when they’re feeling anxious.

Do you have any other suggestions for things that work well with your child?

quick cleaning jobs to tackle this weekend

8 quick cleaning jobs to tackle this weekend

I don’t know about you but I like to try and start each week feeling like I’m at least a bit in control and on top of things.

Which means on a Sunday I like to get lunches made for the next day, and try and get the house a bit cleaner and tidier.

There’s not always the time, or the inclination, to do loads of housework though.  On those weekends it’s still worth doing one or two quick cleaning jobs that will have an impact on how clean and tidy the house feels on Monday.

Here are 8 ideas for jobs like this that you can tackle this weekend to start next week with a cleaner home.

 

1. Dust your living room

Chances are your living room is one of the rooms you spend most time in, so giving it a quick once over with a duster will impact how clean your house feels overall.  If you have time, and the inclination, whizz round the other rooms with the duster too.

 

2.  Clear off your coffee table

Stack up any magazines or books neatly, take cups and dishes out to the kitchen and give the table top a wipe down.

 

3.  Tackle the mail

Grab all the mail, both opened and unopened, that’s been piling up all week and tackle it.  File the things you need to keep, put things to be actioned in your diary for next week and recycle everything else.

 

4. Shine up the mirrors

Grab a cloth and some cleaning spray (or white vinegar) and polish up all the mirrors in the house.

 

5. Declutter one little space

Don’t get carried away and empty out your entire wardrobe, but instead think about sorting through your underwear drawer, or going through your herbs, spices and sauces and throwing away anything past its use by date.

 

6. Clear the stairs

You know those little piles of stuff that accumulate on the stairs, waiting for someone to take them up?  Deal with them this weekend!

 

7. Clean the screens

Give your TV, computer, tablets and mobile phones a good wipe down.  And do the remote control while you’re at it.

 

8. Go sofa diving

Sorry this one isn’t as fun as it sounds!

Take off all the sofa cushions and dive down the edges to dig out any little toys and bits and pieces that have fallen down there.  If you can, try and get the hoover hose down there to really give it a good clean.  Then hoover the rest of the sofa, under the cushions, to get rid of any crumbs before reassembling.

 

Which of these jobs will be you tackling this weekend? 

Which one do you think will have the biggest impact on how clean and tidy your home feels?

screen free activities

Screen-free ideas to keep the kids happy and entertained

With the summer holidays just around the corner I’ve been starting to think of things to do to with the children to keep us all happy and entertained.

I’m generally quite relaxed with my children using the computer and the tablet but I’m very aware that if I let them they could easily spend the whole six weeks in front of a screen.

Last year we did a couple of completely screen-free days in the summer and I think we’ll do that again this year.  As well as making a point to do more screen-free activities in general.

If this is something you’re thinking of doing with your children too, then here are some ideas for things you can do that don’t involve a screen of any sort!

 

Draw a life-size self portrait.

Grab a big roll of paper (or stick smaller pieces together to make a big piece) and draw a self portrait.   They can lie down on the paper and you can draw round them to get their size right.

If you have more than one child then they can draw each other once they’ve drawn themselves.

 

Blow bubbles

So simple but still a lot of fun.

You can buy a pot of bubbles, a big bubble wand, or go all out and get a giant bubble kit.  You can keep extend this activity a bit more too by getting the children to make up some homemade bubble mixture.

 

Have a Lego competition

See who can build the biggest tower.  Or the most creative house.  Anything you can think of really.

 

Build a domino run

Make it as elaborative as you can.  If you don’t have dominoes, use books or blocks or whatever you have.

 

Have a go at some origami

Get a book from the library, or search online and print out some instructions for a few things to make.  Gift boxes are quite simple to make and can then be used to put homemade goodies in to give to friends and family.

 

Have a picnic

Make up some sandwiches, grab some crisps, fruit and a sweet treat and have a picnic.

You can go to the park, the beach, your back garden or your living room floor.  It really doesn’t matter where you go, the children will just love the fun of having a picnic instead of a normal meal!

 

Go on a nature walk

Head to the nearest park or woods and go on a nature walk.  If you’re organised you could write a little list of things to spot while you’re out, like a scavenger hunt.

 

Make boats

Rescue that plastic tub from the recycling bin and use it to make a boat, complete with paper sail, and then float it around in the bath.   You could also try making rafts out of lolly sticks glued together and see what floats the best.

 

Make paper aeroplanes

Get some paper in different sizes and have a go at making paper planes.  There are tons of paper plane designs on fold ‘n fly so your children can make loads and see which design flies the best.

 

Make mudpies/play in a mud kitchen

Put some old pots, pans, spoons and dishes out in the garden and let the children get nice and mucky playing in the mud.

 

Play a board game

Go through the cupboards and dig out those boardgames you’ve not played in ages.

If you’ve not got many, then pop to the local charity shop to see if they have any, or let the children get creative and make their own.

 

Bake something

Get in the kitchen and whip up some fairy cakes or flapjacks.

 

Go for a bike ride/scooter ride

Whether it’s round the garden, through the park or somewhere a bit different, heading out for a bike ride or a scoot is a great way to let the children burn off some energy.

 

Play a game of catch

So simple, but still such good fun.  If you have three people you can play piggy in the middle and with more people you can play a game like hot potato.

 

Write a letter

Or make a card to send to a friend.

 

Go to the park

 

Go to the library

And choose some new books to take home.  Most libraries also have DVDs available so you can choose something to watch when your screen-free day is over.

 

Make a kite and go fly it

 

Play spies/detectives

If you’re feeling creative you can set up a mystery at home for your little detectives to solve.  Or they can have fun writing with invisible ink and creating codes to send messages to each other.

 

Cook something savoury

Get the children to pick something new to make for lunch or dinner.  It could be as simple as scrambled eggs on toast or something a bit more complicated.

 

Learn a lifeskill

Teach your children a skill that’ll be useful for them to know, like sewing on a button or making a cup of tea.  Or step it up a gear and go to a first aid course together.

 

Learn a new random skill or trick 

Something like how to say ‘hello’ in ten different languages.  Or some tricks with a yo yo, a skateboard or a football.

 

Go swimming

Whether it’s at the beach, the local pool or splashing around in the paddling pool at home.

 

Visit a museum or art gallery

There must be at least one in your local area that you’ve not been to before!

 

Play giant noughts and crosses

Mark out a grid with chalk on the patio and use rocks and sticks as the game pieces.

 

Make a bird feeder

If you’re not sure how then there are 32 different ideas in this post from Happy Hooligans.

 

Paint their nails

Then let them paint yours too.

 

Put on blindfolds and do some taste tests

You can get a selection of different fruits to taste and see if they know what they all are and decide which one is their favourite.  Or you could work out once and for all if you’re a Coke or a Pepsi person by doing a blind taste test.

 

Do a random act of kindness

Tape some money to a vending machine so the next person to come along can treat themselves.  Take some of the cakes you’ve baked round to your neighbour.  Buy a bunch of flowers for a friend.

 

Learn some photography skills

If your children are old enough then take some time to teach them how to use your camera.  Or you could buy some disposable film cameras and go on a photo walk together.  Then you have the fun of waiting for them to be developed to see what everyone captured on film.

 

Learn and play some card games

You can start with the basics like snap and then learn some more complicated games.  Solitaire is a great one to learn too, because you don’t need another person with you to be able to play.

 

Make your own magazine or comic

Grab some paper and pens and get creative.  My sister and I did this one year, but we each made a magazine for each other.  We included horoscopes, quizzes, tips and all sorts!

 

Do some science experiments

Get some education in with the fun and try out some science experiments together.  You can buy science experiment kits with pretty much everything you need to get started.  Or you can have a go at some experiments that use things you probably already have at home.

 

 

Hopefully there are enough ideas here to keep you and the children happy and occupied throughout the summer holidays!

What are your go-to activities when you want your child to have some screen-free time?

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
men's grooming kits

Tips for busy dads: Men’s grooming kits and more…

When we become parents, for a while, appearances and grooming routines go out the window. There is always something more important or urgent to be doing, like cramming some work in while the kids nap, putting them to bed, making dinner, and so on. 

This doesn’t have to be the case though. A grooming routine doesn’t have to take up too much time. It can be simple and quick, whilst still making you feel put together and a whole lot better about yourself.

There are a number of useful ways for busy dads to adopt a grooming routine into their day-to-day life. For example, why not opt for a ready-made routine in the form of mens grooming kits? These can take all the stress away of trying to figure out what you need by providing all the necessary products and equipment to look your best. 

Here are some simple grooming tips and tricks for dads who are always on the go… 

 

Invest in ready-made mens grooming kits. 

If you are pretty new to the grooming scene and wouldn’t know where/how to start with taking care of your appearance, don’t worry. There are a range of products and mens grooming kits out there that will provide everything you need to get stuck in and looking like a ‘cool dad’.
The English Shaving Company offer a range of shaving and mens grooming kits, to suit your needs. Whether you’re a bearded dad who needs a range of beard-care products and trimming tools, or you prefer to be clean-shaven using before and after-care products and a double-edged razor – they can provide just that. 

 

Keep it simple. 

If you know your time for taking care of your hair or skin is very limited, keep your routine as minimalistic as possible. There’s no point going out and buying a range of fancy new products if you don’t have the time (or energy) to use them all. 

Find some key products that you know work for you and always have these at hand. For example, everyone needs a good quality moisturiser. Whether you’re an older or younger dad, moisturising at least once a day is essential, if you want to prevent or reduce wrinkles or lines. 

It takes two seconds to slap some moisturiser on, so there really is no excuse. Plus, once you start keeping your skin hydrated, you (and others around you) will notice how much healthier and happier it looks. 

 

Be realistic with your time. 

At first, kick-starting a grooming routine might feel more like a luxury than a necessity. Actually though, dedicating a tiny portion of your day to looking after your appearance can have amazing long-term effects. 

Despite this, there’s no point telling yourself that you will spend thirty minutes each morning shaving and moisturising etc. – this probably isn’t feasible. Be completely realistic with how much time you have to spare in the mornings and evenings, whether it’s ten minutes or less. 

 

Having kids means you have to become good at multitasking, so why should your grooming routine be any different? You can moisturise whilst the kettle boils, whilst watching TV, and more – there are plenty of ways to factor some self-care into your day without having to sacrifice other responsibilities. 

You could even treat yourself to a mirror to put in the shower. This way, you can kill two birds with one stone and shave whilst you shower. The warm water flow will open up your pores for a clean shave. Plus, you can keep your other half happy too by washing your mess straight down the drain!

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Craft ideas for rainy days

5 easy creative ideas for rainy days

When you’re at home with the children on a rainy day arts and crafts activities can be amazing for keeping everyone occupied and entertained.

The problem sometimes though is knowing what to actually do or make.  There are so many options that you can end up spending half the day debating which art supplies to get out and what to do with them.

If this sounds familiar, then this idea might help save your sanity.

Come up the a few craft activities or ‘themes’, and put together supplies for each of them in tupperware boxes or big zip up bags.  Then the next time you’re stuck in the house on a rainy day you can just pull one out and get started.

Here are 5 ideas for themes for creative activities to pop in your boxes or bags ready for the next rainy day:

 

Princess/fairy themed box

In this box you can put craft materials to make fairy wands and crowns.

You could include coloured card, scissors and glue, glitter, ribbons, pipe cleaners and stickers/gems for decoration.

I’ve got a blog post with full instructions on how to make a fairy wand if you’re not sure where to start with this.

 

Monster themed box

With just a few sheets on felt and some scissors you can make a build-your-own monster busy bag.

This one is great because you have the activity of cutting out the shapes (great for fine motor skills) and then the fun of playing with creating different monsters afterwards.

 

Rainbow themed box

There are so many options with a rainbow themed box.

You can put in some bits of paper and then pencils, crayons, pastels, and paints in the colours of the rainbow to see what different effects you get drawing rainbows with each of them.

You can just put paints and paper in, fold the paper in half, paint one half of the rainbow and then fold the paper and press down to mirror the other half of the rainbow.

Or you can put in paper, beads, feathers, fabrics, stickers, and sequins in the colours of the rainbow and let your child cut them up and create rainbow collages.

 

Flower themed box

This is a great theme for cheering up a rainy day.

You can put in flower-shaped stickers, fake flowers, flower-shaped foam pieces and use them to make pictures.

Another idea is to put in some paper and paints and some items to use to print some flowers.  Think toilet paper tubes that you can squish to make a petal shape.

If you need more inspiration then my flower photo frame and flower pictures and nice and easy to put together.

 

Butterfly themed box

Pop some paint, coloured paper and scissors in a box and you’ve got everything you need to do some butterfly paintings.

You could also make a box with coloured paper, crayons, stickers and other embellishments and let your child get imaginative and decorate a butterfly.  This is a great way to introduce the idea of symmetry to young children.

 

Which of these themes and activities would your child most like to try on a rainy day at home?