Reasons to walk to school

5 brilliant reasons to walk to school

I have to be honest.  I don’t think I’ve ever walked my children to school.

We’ve walked home from school a handful of times.  And when Nerys was just doing half days at school I would walk her home fairly regularly when the weather was nice.

But for the most part now, with both children in full time school, we drive to and from school.

We live 1.2 miles away according to google maps, and it takes us about half an hour to walk there.  So realistically we could do it if we really wanted to.

There are quite a few good reasons to consider walking to school rather than driving, and here are my top five:

 

1. No worries about traffic or parking

I can’t be the only one who finds the drive to and from school quite stressful at times.

The traffic can be crazy some days, and it feels like we spend the whole journey stop/starting with traffic and various sets of lights on the route.

As for the parking, well I just avoid our school’s car park altogether.

It is absolute bedlam, with people blocking other parents in all over the place.  So I go for a spot on the side of the road, a little bit further away from the school.  And even then, some days, it can be a fight to not end up miles away.

So walking to school instead would be quite nice when it means avoiding all that stress every day.

 

2. It teaches great life skills

Walking to school for us involves crossing several pretty busy roads.  So it would be a great way to reinforce road safety ideas with the children.

A report from the AA found that children starting secondary school were less likely to be involved in accidents on the road when they’d had past experience of walking to school.

So practising walking to school when they’re younger can be great for gearing them up to do it on their own, safely, when they’re older.

It also lets the children learn some basic navigation skills that they just don’t really pick up sitting in the back of the car.  Letting them take the lead in saying which way to go and telling you when they think it’s safe to cross roads can really help build their confidence.

 

3. You’ll save money

Think of the money you could save on petrol (and wear and tear on the car) if you walked to school every day instead of driving.

A quick google tells me that the average family could save a couple of hundred pounds a year, which is quite impressive.

 

4. Walking to school helps children learn 

Regular exercise is known to have a load of amazing benefits.  It lowers stress levels and is great for our mental health all round.

It also helps to improve our children’s capacity to learn.

Walking to school can help boost their memories and improve their problem solving skills and their ability to pay attention.  Various studies have found that children who walk to school show better cognitive performance, better reading fluency and improved executive functioning.

All very good reasons to skip the car and start walking to school more.

 

5. You get extra social time together

As much as I try and chat with my children on the drive to and from school I’m aware that, obviously, I’m not giving them my full attention.

When you walk to school together though you can focus on them so much more.  And with the walk taking a bit longer than the drive would, you have more time together to chat and enjoy each other’s company.

When I used to walk Nerys home from school when she did half days it would take us quite a while, but I loved it.  I knew that before long she would be in school full time and that stage of our lives would be over, so I relished those walks home when we could just be together.

 

Writing this has made me so much more tempted to ditch the car and walk with the children to and from school.

I think I’ve just got so used to taking the car, it’s become a habit and has started to feel like the only way to do things.  Really though with the children the ages they are now we could easily enough walk at least once or twice a week.

I’d just have to get a bit more organised so we could leave early enough to get there on time.

Do you walk your children to school?  If you don’t, what is the biggest issue that’s stopping you?

Creative writing with children

Exploring creative writing with your child

Most school subjects depend on your child’s ability, whereas creative writing is more about who they are, rather than what they know.

Of course, there are skills involved in creative writing but they aren’t learned by revision and memory, which makes it all the more challenging. There are things parents can do to help their children explore the art of creative writing, as explored below by a Hertfordshire independent school

 

There are many benefits to creative writing for children.

It allows them to develop a strong sense of self and links academia to well-being. The first thing you can do is help your child feel inspired through their own experiences. Do you take them to museums or art galleries? Are they part of a drama or music club? Do they take long strolls through nature? If your child experiences a variety of different activities, the more inspiration they will find to write. Encourage them to write a diary in which they can jot down any exciting sights, sounds or general ideas. This will provide a basis for their creative writing in the future.

 

Another way to get your child into creative writing is through their reading.

If your child explores a range of genres and authors, they will soon get to know the main features of an excellent novel. Avid reading also helps children with their spelling and grammar; key ingredients to good writing. Games like Scrabble will have a similar outcome with regards to vocabulary. 

 

As with most great skills, creative writing can be a lasting pursuit, so the earlier your child starts to explore it, the easier it will become in their later life. You will likely be the first audience for your child, so try to always enjoy what they have written and point out the elements you thought were particularly great.

However, it’s also important to bear in mind that not all writing is created to be shared, so if your child doesn’t want to show you what they’ve written then don’t take it to heart.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

help your child at school

How to help your child succeed in school

All parents want their children to do well in school, but not everyone knows how they can help. The truth is, there are actually lots of things you can do to help your child with their education, even if you’re not a maths genius or a science whizz.

Simply being curious about their school work is a great place to start, because it lets your child know how valuable it is.

Here are some more tips from an independent college in London.

 

Be sure to praise your child whenever they do well on a piece of work as this will encourage them to keep up the enthusiasm.

However, don’t always focus on grades because it’s the effort that’s more important. Remind your child every now and again how proud you are of them for trying hard. You could even consider taking them out for a treat after you’ve seen them put in a lot of effort on a project or some revision. 

I always make a point of making sure that my children know that it doesn’t matter if they get questions wrong at school, as long as they’ve tried their best.  This keeps the focus on the process of learning, rather than making it all about the end result.

 

Make sure your child has a quiet and organised space in your home to do their homework.

There shouldn’t be any distractions, like the TV, and all their stationery and other school supplies should be in reach so that they don’t have to waste time looking for a ruler or a particular book. It’s also wise to ensure you’re not too far away during homework sessions because then your child can ask you questions if they get stuck. 

 

Try and set a good example for your child when it comes to working hard and putting in the effort.

When they’re doing their homework, you could use it as a good opportunity to work on your emails. You are your child’s first teacher, so always think about how to be a good role model and display the behaviour you expect them to display. 

The same goes for things like reading.  If you want your child to read more, then let them see you read more at home too.  Read together with them, and let them know that you read for pleasure by yourself too.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Quick wins to make your house feel cleaner

5 quick wins to make your house feel tidier

Some days you don’t want to spend ages cleaning, but you want to do a few quick things to make your house feel like not quite so much of a disaster zone.

For those kinds of days, here are 5 things you can do to really quickly get your home feeling cleaner and tidier.

 

Make the bed

If you only have time to do one thing in your bedroom, make it making the bed.

The bed is most likely the biggest thing in your room, and having it nicely made, all neat and tidy has a huge impact on how tidy the room feels in general.

The same goes for your living room.

Quickly putting any throws and blankets neatly on the sofa can make the whole room feel tidier.

 

Hide clutter in baskets

One of the big things that makes my house feel really untidy is all the stuff everywhere.

There are days when there is not a single clear surface in the living room.  Even the sofa and chairs have stuff plonked down on them.

So having baskets and toys boxes around to stash the clutter in is a great way to quickly clear off the surfaces and make everything feel much cleaner.

This is also a great trick if you always have stuff sitting on the stairs, waiting to be taken out.  Just popping that stuff in a basket that sits on the stairs looks much tidier.  You can even get special stair baskets that are shaped to fit over two steps.

 

Sweep or vacuum the floors

A quick whizz round the house with a broom or hoover can really make the house feel cleaner.

If you have people coming over and are in a real hurry then just focus on the high-traffic areas and the parts of the house that people are going to see.

 

Empty and wipe down the sink

A lot of people say that the best place to start with cleaning the house is the kitchen sink.  I know that FlyLady starts her whole cleaning process with shining the sink and I can see the logic behind it.

If you have dishes piled up in yours, then quickly getting them washed, dried and put away can make a big difference to how the kitchen feels.

While you’re there give the sink itself a bit of a scrub and rinse the drain with some soda crystals and hot water.

 

Open the windows

The ultimate quick win for making your house feel cleaner is to fling open the windows.

Get rid of any stale smells and let lots of lovely fresh air in.

If you want to go one step further then lighting some scented candles or popping a fresh-smelling oil into a diffuser will make your house smell lovely and inviting.

And if you want to trick visitors into thinking you’ve been cleaning then spray a bit of furniture polish in the air so it smells like you’ve been busy dusting!

 

What job do you tackle when you want a quick win to make your home feel tidier and cleaner?

What do you think makes the biggest impact in making your house feel tidy quickly?

Share photos of your children without their faces

How to share photos of your child without showing their face

If you’ve spent any time on my blog you’ll know that I do share photos of my children quite a bit.

I join in with the Living Arrows linky every week and pretty much all of the photos that I share do show my children’s faces.

A lot of people choose not to show their children’s faces online though.

I know there are a lot of concerns about it, and more people are looking for ways to share photos of their children without having to show their faces.  If this is something that’s on your mind then this post will help with a few different ideas for photos you can take of your children.

 

Here are some ideas for ways you can photograph your children without showing their faces, so you can feel happier sharing them online.

 

Get behind them

This is one of the easiest ways to get photos of your children that don’t show their faces.

Stand behind them and photograph them looking away from the camera.

This is something I do quite a lot with my children and I love how it can give a sense of seeing the world through their eyes.  It’s also a great way to get photos of them just being themselves, acting naturally rather than posing for the camera.

 

Get up high

Stand up above your child and point your camera down at them to take their photo.

This way you get a hint of their features without showing their whole face.

You can also get some fun shots that show your child’s personality this way if they have a particular hat they love to wear or if they like to experiment with hair accessories like Nerys!

 

Get down low

Another option is to get down lower and photograph your child from below.

I love this photo of Nerys on a swing because the angle gives a sense of how high she’s swinging.

 

Photograph over their shoulder

If your child is happily engaged in an activity then photograph them over their shoulder to capture them and what they’re up to.

This is a great way to photograph them reading a favourite book, drawing a picture or baking cakes.

 

Use shallow depth of field

If you can play with the settings on your camera then try using a really shallow depth of field when photographing your child.

Then you can get them to hold their hands out towards the camera and focus on them.  This way their hands will be the main feature in the photo, while their faces will be nice and blurry.

I love using this method to take photos like this one of me and Nerys holding hands while she navigates the climbing frame at the park.

 

Turn their heads

If you don’t want all your photos of your child to be from behind, then try capturing them side-on.  All you need to do is get them to turn their heads away from the camera.

Something as simple as ‘look at that tree’ is often enough to get them to turn their head away from you without moving their whole body.

 

Focus on the details

Get in close and focus on your child’s hands or feet or the pattern on their top.

I love taking photos of my children’s feet.  I can’t quite explain why, but I love how I can tell roughly how old they were when the photo was taken by the shoes and socks they’re wearing.

 

Literally hide their faces

If all else fails, try literally hiding your children’s faces in photos.

Get them to hold something up in front of their faces to hide their features.

You can get some gorgeous photos like this if you get them to hold up things like a small bunch of flowers.  Or you can capture their interests by getting them to show your their favourite toy, like Rhys did here with his red bird toy.

 

Hopefully these ideas will give you some inspiration to keep photographing your children and feel more happy sharing them online knowing that their faces can’t be seen.

Do you share photos of your children’s faces online?

If you don’t, then what approach do you normally take to keeping their faces hidden?

How often do you say be careful

How often do you tell your child to be careful?

I’ve lost count.

My children are 8 and 5 and I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve said the words “be careful” to them.  I know it’s a phrase I’ve said many, many times over the years though.

The thing is, as time has gone on, I’ve started to wonder how useful those words actually are.

 

The thing is, it’s a natural instinct as a parent to want to protect our children.

To keep them safe, out of harm’s way.

When we can’t keep them close by our sides any more we tell them to be careful, to keep themselves safe when we can’t do that for them.

 

The problem comes when we say it too much.

When every activity is started with a ‘be careful’ ringing in our children’s ears.

If we’re not careful our words will start making our children fearful.  Too worried about potential risks and dangers to try anything new.  We’ll end up with children who sit on the sidelines and stay small rather than being bold and taking steps out of their comfort zones.

It’s a balancing act between teaching them to not be reckless and letting them take calculated risks and make mistakes.

 

I think that part of the issue is that ‘be careful’ is such an open phrase that it ends up meaning everything and nothing at the same time.

It means so much that it can make our children feel that danger is all around them and they should be scared of getting hurt or getting things wrong.

And at the same time, it’s so vague that it means nothing.

We’re not giving our children any specifics about what they should be looking out for.

 

What we need to do is be more mindful of the words we’re using with them.

When they’re coming up to a busy road we need to give them specific instructions about slowing down, looking both ways and listening out for traffic before stepping out to cross.  This is so much more useful than a generic warning to ‘be careful’.

And sometimes, that warning isn’t needed at all.

When they go off to play with their friends, try waving them off with a call of “have fun” instead.  Let them have the freedom to mess up, to make mistakes, even to get hurt.

It’s all part of life.

The hardest part of being a parent is gradually letting your children go, but we have to let it happen.  We can’t keep our children wrapped up in cotton wool.  We can’t protect them from the world.  We can’t stop them from ever getting hurt.

What we can do is give them the skills to cope when bad things happen.

And they’ll never learn those skills if they never try anything new, if they never push themselves because we’ve told them to “be careful”.

 

So next time you find yourself about to say those words, stop for a second.

Ask yourself if there’s a better way of saying it, that explains to your child specifically what they need to think about.

Maybe you’ll find that you don’t need to say anything at all, other than “have fun”.

 

adventure holidays

Why adventure holidays are good for you and your family

Holidays don’t need to be all about chilling by the pool and vegetating on the beach, they can be incredible learning experiences and opportunities for genuine growth. This is particularly true of an adventure holiday, where you might be cast out of your comfort zone a little.

But aside from the obvious (the clue is in the name) what else are adventure or activity holidays actually good for?

Here, we’ll underline a few reasons why you might want to consider a true adventure for your next family holiday.

 

The challenge 

Knowing how far you can push yourself is an incredibly important thing, particularly if you’re trying to mould your children into engaged and responsible individuals. You might never have thought you and your family could handle white water rafting down the Grand Canyon or trekking Kilimanjaro, but you’d be amazed at what you’re capable of when you push yourself.

 

The perspective 

Adventure and activity holidays allow you to experience a familiar location from an unfamiliar perspective. You might have been to Paris or Disneyland a few times, for example, but cycling through France is a completely different and potentially more rewarding experience.

 

The culture 

When we travel to typical tourist destinations we are often sequestered in our little bubbles. We’ll only meet other like-minded people and will probably only end up eating the same foods. Adventure holidays, meanwhile, are all about introducing yourself to new cultures, experiencing new flavours and new points of view.

 

The memories 

You are unlikely to remember a beach holiday to Spain in 30 years. But you are definitely going to fondly remember that time you climbed up the side of a mountain in Nepal or mountain biking in Macedonia.

 

The skills 

There can be few things in life as rewarding as picking up a new skill. Activity holidays are all about learning new skills that you might be able to use in your everyday life. This can be social skills, fitness skills or even more specific skills like making a secure knot or being able to start a fire without a match.

 

The health and the happiness 

With many kids today spending half of their lives glued to a screen, the health and wellbeing of our children has never been more at risk. Obesity and social disorders are at an all-time high and a great way to mitigate some of that risk is to make sure your kids are being active and spending time with their family. Family adventure holidays often mean coming together as a family to solve a problem or get through a challenge and this will not only help bring you closer together, it will make you appreciate each other too.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post