What should you be teaching your kids about travelling_

What should you be teaching your children about travelling?

For a small child, going on a long trip for the first time can be endlessly stimulating, and endlessly dull.

There will be new sights, sounds and experiences to get excited about, as well as long stretches of inactivity during which the child will have to amuse themselves.

 

Let your kids lead the way

It might seem counterintuitive, but if your children have to spend all day following your orders, then they’re likely to get bored. Plus, they won’t develop the ability to figure out travel on their own. Have them lead the way through a railway station or an airport. If you’re following just behind, then you can always rush things along, or take corrective action where appropriate.

 

Give them a map

A map will help your kids to understand where it is that they’re going and how it is that they’ll get there. These days, the maps we look at tend to come on digital devices like smartphones.

Get your kids to follow motorways and train lines, and work out in advance which junction you’re getting off at, or which station comes next. If you’re waiting for trains to King’s Cross station, then why not work out where the train will be stopping along the way?

 

Let them know when they have to behave

There are few things more annoying for a passenger on a long-haul flight or train journey than a screaming child in the same carriage. Warn your child in advance that they need to control their exuberance. That way, when you need to tell them to quieten down, then they won’t be able to say that you didn’t warn them!

 

Get them to learn about the places they’re visiting

As well as being inherently interesting, making a trip educational provides a kind of distraction that’ll prevent your children from getting bored along the way. If you’re curious about the places you’re visiting, then that curiosity will naturally infect your children, too.

Uncovering new information about a place in advance of getting there is a skill that will serve your children well when they come to embark on their own travels – so getting curious to begin with is a great way to get the ball rolling.

At present, international travel isn’t quite as free and easy as it was last year. While it’s still possible to hop on a plane and travel to a foreign country, many of us are electing instead to keep things domestic with a ‘staycation’ in Britain.  But however far you’re travelling, it’s important that your child is kept aware of how they should behave.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Ways to future-proof your home

5 ways to future-proof your home

If you own your own house then you probably spend a lot of time (and money) making it look the way you want.

You also most likely put a lot of thought into making your home work well for you and your family.  You choose furniture based not only on how it looks but also how practical it will be and how well it will fit in your home.

What you might not be thinking about is how your home will work for you in the future.

If you want your current home to be your forever home then there are a few different ways you can plan to future-proof it.

 

1. Be smart when it comes to electrics

When you need to replace or upgrade electrical items in your home, think about going for ‘smart’ options.

A smart TV, for example, is able to connect to the internet so you can stream and download content whenever you want, without needing a separate set top box or anything.

Smart technology is really looking like the way of the future, and will make life a lot easier now and as you get older, so it’s worth investing in it now.

All sorts of things around the house can be set up to use smart technology, from your lighting and heating to your locks and home security systems.  Having these things in place and being able to control your home from the comfort of the sofa with an app on your phone is something you’ll appreciate more and more over time.

 

2. Make home improvements energy-efficient

Another thing to consider when you replace various items and make improvements to your home is making sure they’re as energy-efficient as possible.  Think about adding insulation in the loft and opting for the most energy-efficient boiler you can afford.

Spending a bit more money now while you’re working will potentially save you a lot of money in the future when you may need to try and keep costs down.

Appliances like fridges, freezers, TVs and washing machines all have energy ratings that you can check before you buy so you can be sure you’re getting the most efficient model.

 

3. Prepare for mobility issues

One of the biggest issues most people face as they get older is reduced mobility.

So it’s worth thinking about what you could do in your home to cope if and when this starts to become an issue for you.

It might be that you look at whether you could install a stairlift or wheelchair lift so you can still easily access both floors of your house.

You might also want to consider reinforcing the walls in some places so you can install safety handrails in the future.

Another thing to think about is the possibility of putting a ramp in at the front door and widening internal doorways if there’s a chance you or your partner might need to use a wheelchair in the future.

 

4. Consider safety in the kitchen and bathroom

The kitchen and bathroom are rooms that a lot of people like to remodel and update after a few years.

So next time you think about painting your kitchen cupboards and re-tiling the bathroom take a bit of time to really future-proof these rooms so you can use them safely for years to come.

This could mean installing a walk-in shower unit instead of your bath, as well as making sure the lighting in both rooms is bright enough to see what you’re doing clearly.

 

5. Think about the outside space too

It’s not just the interior of your home you need to think about, you want to make sure your garden is future-proofed too.

Think about making sure that it will still be accessible if your mobility starts to decrease.

You might also want to create an area in your garden now where you can grow your own vegetables and herbs, either by digging up an area to plant in or buy installing a greenhouse.

This way in the future you’ll save yourself money by growing your own produce and also have an easy-to-access hobby to keep you busy at home.

 

Disclosure: this post is in collaboration with Cibes UK.

Back to school after lockdown

Preparing for back to school after lockdown

Around this time of year, every year, us parents start planning for back to school.

It’s pretty much the same every August – working out what items of uniform the children have grown out of, getting feet measured for new school shoes, booking spaces in after-school clubs and breakfast club and so on.

This year though, everything is a bit different.  A lot still feels very uncertain.

All this change and uncertainty can be hard to deal with and can leave both us parents and our children feeling quite anxious about the new school year.

So here are some suggestions for things you can do to help you and your children prepare for going back to school after these long months at home during lockdown.

 

Some of this advice is for helping children prepare for going back to school after lockdown, and some of it is aimed at getting us parents ready.

Seeing as the children are the ones who will actually be heading back to school, I’ll start with the advice for helping them.

 

Make time to talk and read together

It’s likely that your children will be feeling all sorts of mixed emotions about going back to school after such a long break.  So make sure you take time to talk through any and all feelings with them.

Reading books together can be a great way to spark conversations about how they might be feeling, so make reading with your children part of your evening routine if it’s not already.

If your child is feeling nervous and worried in general about going back to school, then ‘The Worrysaurus‘ is a great, gentle story to read together and get you talking about their feelings.

For children who are worried about how much things are changing then ‘The Koala who could‘ looks like a brilliant way to bring up the idea that change and doing new things can have really positive outcomes.

Young children who are nervous about how things will be at school when they go back might enjoy reading ‘When I start school‘, even if they’re not actually starting school for the very first time.  The book addresses different worries a child has about starting school, and is a great way to start a conversation with your child about the specific things they’re worried about with regards to heading back to school so you can then reassure them.

 

Start building good habits

There’s still a bit of time left to start getting into, or back into, good habits to prepare everyone for school starting again.

If your evening routine has relaxed during lockdown and the school holidays and bedtime has shifted later and later, then now is a good time to start trying to shift it back.

It’s also a good idea to keep practising thorough hand-washing routines and reminding your children about things like coughing and sneezing into their elbows and avoiding touching their faces as much as possible.

 

Walk them through the new normal

The school day will probably look quite different than it did last year, so take time to walk your children through the new routine.

If the school have sent any videos or photos showing how things will look then sit down and look at them together and talk about what is different from the way it was before.

Make sure your child knows where they’ll be going in the morning, and if you’ll be able to go to their classroom with them or if you’ll have to say goodbye at the gate.  Talk to them about the fact that you most likely won’t be able to hang around in the mornings, that you’ll have to give them a big hug goodbye and then leave.

Have a think about anything that will be different from before and make sure your child is confident about what they need to do and how things will work.

 

 

Working through these things with the children will help us parents prepare for them going back to school too, but there are also a few other things we need to think about.

 

Get everything organised ahead of time

Get as much information as you can from your child’s school and make sure you have everything they’ll need bought, labelled and ready before they head back to school.

You might need to buy extra sets of school uniform if, like our school, your children have been asked to wear a clean set of clothes each day.

If they need to have packed lunches for a while you’ll need to make sure you have lunch boxes, water bottles, and food containers and get them all clearly labelled too.

Make sure you’re clear on where you need to be to drop them off and pick them up, if this will be different from the normal routine.  And make sure you check what time drop offs and pick ups will be, because they’ll probably be staggered to avoid crowds at the gates.

 

Be open to all possibilities

At the moment schools here in the UK are planning to open to all children for the new school year.

The thing is there’s always a possibility that things can change.  If there are spikes in coronavirus cases then there’s a chance we could end up with the children back at home again for a while.

It’s an incredibly stressful time for everyone but staying open to, and putting things in place to prepare for, the possibility of more home school can help make things just that little bit easier.

Things like talking to employers about continuing to work from home, if that’s an option, are a good place to start.  You might also want to keep a work space for the children set up at home and make sure you have supplies of paper, printer ink, pencils and so on ready to go at any time.

 

Take care of your own mental health and wellbeing

This is such a stressful time for all of us, so as you and your children gear up for a new school year and a new routine, make sure you take time to look after your mental health and wellbeing.

I know it’s easier said than done at the moment, but try to find a bit of time where you can for a bit of self-care.  Head out for a little walk on your own.  Run a hot bath and shut yourself in the bathroom for half an hour.  Try practising mindfulness or meditation for a few minutes before bed each night.

If you can take care of your wellbeing then you’ll be in a stronger position to provide support for your children if they’re finding things hard too.

 

Hopefully these bits of advice will help you and your children feel more prepared for the new school year, whatever that might look like this year.

How are you feeling about the children going back to school?

Ways to plan a road trip with kids

How to plan a road trip with kids

A long road trip can be agony if you don’t have a plan in place to keep the kids occupied. They’ll get bored, and then they’ll seek to occupy themselves – often in ways that you might not appreciate.

To save yourself from a nightmare that stretches for hours and hours, it’s worth thinking in advance about how you’ll keep them occupied, and what you’ll see along the way. 

 

Certain kinds of vehicle are more suited to long trips than others.  For example, the spacious interior of a Peugeot 5008 SUV is going to suit the task better than that of a smaller vehicle.

Here are some other things you might want to think about to plan a brilliant road trip with the family:

 

Make sure that everyone is rested

A lack of sleep is sure to result in frayed tempers. The driver, obviously, needs to be able to concentrate and pay attention to the road ahead. But sleep-deprived children are also going to be unpleasant to be around.

On the other hand, if your children are actually asleep for a portion of the trip, you might find that things are that much more bearable. Pack some pillows and blankets and make resting easy for them.

 

Go to the toilet before you leave

Your children should be encouraged to go to the toilet just before you leave. That way, you’ll be able to minimise the chance that they’ll need to go when you’re on the road.

 

Plan your rest stops

Just about any large task can be managed by first breaking it into smaller ones. And the same applies to road trips. Research in advance where you’re going to be stopping. Most drivers need a break every two hours or so, and ideally more often.

Get the kids looking forward to these leg-stretching opportunities by counting down the junctions. If you’re driving with another adult, then you might take turns just to share the burden, and to keep things interesting.

 

Bring entertainment

Modern parents have a considerable advantage over older ones, in that they can simply provide the kids with a smart device like a tablet computer and leave them to entertain themselves. Just make sure that you bring along the appropriate chargers. Books are a reliable hit, as they provide entertainment that lasts for hours rather than minutes.

Some people tend to start feeling sick if they’re forced to read on a moving vehicle, however, so look into audiobooks as an alternative.

 

Bring snacks

If your children are getting stressed because they’re hungry, than a packet of nuts is unlikely to make much of a difference, at least not directly. What it will do, however, is provide an incentive for good behaviour.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

ways to make the most of the garden before autumn arrives

3 ways to make the most of the garden before autumn arrives

I don’t know where time is going this year.

It feels like the summer holidays only just started and yet the new school year is just around the corner.  Which means that autumn is too.

If you’ve really enjoyed spending time out in your garden during all this extra time at home then you might feel a bit sad about having to start retreating back indoors with the changing seasons.

So here are 3 ways you can make the most of your garden while summer is still here and before autumn comes along.

 

Enjoy some al fresco dining

Make the most of the last of the warm days and light evenings by eating your meals out in the garden.

If you have a spot in your garden that gets the sun in the morning, then head out there with your coffee and toast to enjoy a bit of peace outside first thing.

Grab a blanket at lunchtime and sit out on your lawn for a picnic with your children.

In the evenings enjoy the last hours of sunshine, and make use of your garden furniture before you stash it away for the winter, with dinner outside.  You could even stretch those evenings outside a bit longer by getting a firepit or patio heater to keep you cosy as the weathers starts to get chilly.

 

Let the children play while you work

If you’re juggling working from home and looking after the children then see if you can move your office out to the garden at some point each day.

Let the children play with some garden games or with sidewalk chalk on the patio, while you get some work done.

If most of your work is done on a laptop then, as long as your wifi reaches the garden, you can probably get a fair bit done while supervising outdoor play.  But if working outside really isn’t an option then at least think about taking a lunch break each day and sitting outside while the children play.

 

Plan your planting

Spend some time out in the garden while it’s still sunny and warm sorting out your flower beds, vegetable patches, pots and planters.

Prune, deadhead, and cut back any plants that need doing.

Harvest any fruit and vegetables that are ready to be enjoyed.

Then have a think about what you want to plant and grow in the future.

You might want to get right on it and plant something like spinach or kale to harvest in winter.  Or you might want to sit back with a glass of wine and plan ahead to what you want to plant where for spring and summer of next year.

 

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas and inspiration for getting out and spending time in your garden, making the most of the last days of summer before autumn arrives.

What do you like to do most of all in your garden?  Do you enjoy spending time out in the garden all year round or do you only really use it in the summer?

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Things to declutter at the end of the summer

7 things to declutter at the end of the summer

There’s something about the end of summer and the start of a new school year that feels like a fresh start to me.  Which makes it a great time of year to clear out and declutter at home.

There are so many bits and pieces that we only use in the warm, summer months so it’s a great idea to sort through and have a declutter of all these seasonal items instead of just stashing everything away again.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry, here are ideas for 7 things you can declutter at the end of the summer.

 

1. Seasonal foods and drinks

Ease into the decluttering by using up all the food and drinks that you only really have in the summer months.

Have one last BBQ and use up the last of the rubs and marinades and sauces that are knocking around in the fridge.

Make the most of the last warm evenings and sit out in the garden with the last of your bottle of Pimms.

 

2. Unused kitchen and BBQ tools and appliances

Once you’ve enjoyed your last BBQ of the season have a look at all your BBQ tools and accessories.

Get rid of any bits that are worn out or broken, and any things you didn’t actually use this summer.

The same goes for any kitchen appliances or tools that you’ve not used this summer, like ice lolly moulds or novelty shaped ice cube trays.  If your BBQ itself is really big, and you only ever use it in the summer, it might be worth looking at putting it into storage with other big, seasonal items, to free up space at home.

 

3. Beauty products and suncreams

The end of summer is a great time to sort through and clear out seasonal beauty products and sun creams.  Check if there’s an expiration date on any of your bottles of sun cream, and throw out any that are past this date.  Sun cream that you’ve bought and used some of this summer should still be ok for next summer, but it’s best to get rid of any that’s still left over from last year.

The same goes for things like self-tanning lotions and make up.  Look for the little symbol on the packaging that tells you how long after opening it’s safe to keep the product.  If it won’t still be ok to use next summer, get rid of it now.

 

4. Healthcare products

Sort through your first aid kit and medicine drawer and get rid of any medicines, sprays, lotions and creams that are past their expiration date.

 

5. Unworn and worn out clothing

As the weather starts to change take some time to sort through all your summer clothes before swapping them out for your jeans and hoodies.

Anything that you haven’t worn this summer or that didn’t make you feel great when you did wear it can go straight out to the local charity shop.  The same goes for any bits of summer clothing that you know your children will have grown out of by next summer.

While you’re in sorting mode it’s also worth going through your beach towels and picnic blankets and losing any that are looking worn out and threadbare.

 

6. Summer reads and entertainment

Take an honest look at the books you’ve read this summer and pass on any that you know you won’t want to read again.

If you’ve collected a pile of magazines over the last few months too then spend a few hours reading through them.  Scan any recipes you want to try into your phone and take photos of any items that caught your eye if you might want to buy them at some point.  Then all the magazines can go in the recycling or be passed on to a friend to enjoy.

You can also take this time to go through your dvd collection and get right of any that you never watch any more or that you know you can stream online now.

 

7. Summer games and toys

Make the most of the last of the warm days and let the children out in the garden to use up the last of the bubble mixture and the random packet of water balloons.

Then get rid of any garden games and water pistols that are broken or past their best from being left outside all summer.

The same goes for the paddling pool that’s slightly too small and the sand pit that the children are slightly too old for.  Pass them on to someone who’ll be able to use and enjoy them next summer.

 

Hopefully this post has given you lots of ideas for things you can clear out and declutter at the end of summer.

Do you like to have clear outs throughout the year or do you normally save it all for a big spring cleaning spree?

Disclosure – this is a collaborative post

key computer skills to teach your children

4 key computer skills to teach your children

We’ve always been quite relaxed about screen time with our children, and don’t have set restrictions in place on how long they can play on the computer or the iPad.

The way we see it, the skills they learn using the computer at home will be really useful for them as they get older, both at school and when they start working.

If you’d like to get your children going with computer skills but aren’t sure where to start then this post will hopefully be helpful.

These are the 4 key skills that I think are important to teach our children.

 

Keyboard and mouse skills

From quite a young age you can get children started with the basics of using a mouse and a keyboard with fun online games – just google ‘mouse control games’ to get started.

When your children get a bit older and are getting to grips with reading and writing then you can get them started with typing.

Nerys has been really keen to learn touch typing and we’ve found the dance mat typing lessons on BBC bitesize really great for that.  She’s having a lot of fun with it and slowly building her confidence in knowing where the different letters are on the keyboard.

 

Using the internet and email

So much of our lives are online these days that knowing how to use the internet is a key skill for children to learn.

Talk to your children about using the internet safely and think about setting up restrictions on the things they can see when they’re online.  This guide from Net Aware is useful if you’re not sure where to start with talking about staying safe online.

Once you feel happy that your children understand the safety issues you can start letting them loose on the internet.

Teach them how to use google to look things up that they’re interested in.

Show them how to open up websites by typing the address in.

Let them explore child-friendly websites by clicking on the different things that interest them.

Then as they get older you can help set them up with an email address and teach them how to use it.  You could start by sending each other an email once a week with a little list of your favourite things that you’ve done that week.

 

Coding

Coding is a relatively new skill, but it’s one that is so useful for children to learn.

You can get them started at a really young age with toys like the code-a-pillar which is suitable from age 3.   As they get a bit older then games like Osmo coding are a brilliant hands-on way to get to grips with coding.

When they’re old enough, and confident with their keyboard and mouse skills, they can learn more coding skills online.

Games like the hour of code from Disney are free and really great for children of various ages.  Rhys and Nerys have both completed this Moana-themed mini-course and really enjoyed it.

 

Creative skills

Along with the more technical skills, it’s also important to teach children creative computing skills.

As our children get older they’ll be asked to produce more and more of their schoolwork on the computer and that will include creating things like presentations that will require some graphic design skills.

We’ve been using Canva quite a bit at home, both for Rhys’ school work and to create our own fun designs for things like scavenger hunts.  I love it because there’s not too steep a learning curve but there is so much you can do and create.

You can do some great photo editing with Canva as well, from basic adjustments like boosting contrast to adding in filters, cropping and flipping images.  It’s a great place to start if you’re not ready to invest in something like Photoshop or Lightroom.

 

I know that lots of parents worry about how much screen time their children have, and don’t necessarily want to encourage them to be on the computer more, but they’ll be learning so much if you use that time in front of a screen to work on these 4 key skills.

How many of these things do you already do with your children?