How to encourage your children to open up about school

How to encourage your kids to open up about school

Lots of parents find it quite the challenge to get their youngster to talk about their school day, and their education in general.

When asking them questions about it, they often answer with a single word and refuse to open up. If this sounds familiar, don’t panic; there are things you can do to encourage your child to share more with you. Here are some helpful tips from a preparatory school in London

 

Think about the types of questions you usually ask your child after school.

Are they the right type of questions that require more than a one word answer? If not, you’ll need to mix things up. Phrasing your questions differently may go a long way to pushing your child to give you more details.

However, don’t bombard them with these questions immediately after you have picked them up; they will probably want some time to unwind after a long school day.

 

Always show an interest in your child’s education and stay informed on what’s going on at the school.

The more you know about it, the easier it will be for you to start conversations with your child and engage with one another. You could read the newsletter and browse their website every now and again.

What’s more, you could even think about scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher to talk about their progress and anything noteworthy that you should know about.

 

If and when your child does start to open up to you, make sure you don’t interrupt them.

Let them talk and share, without judgement, and only offer your advice and guidance when you’re sure they have finished.

Family meal times are a great time for you to all open up about each of your days.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Last minute present ideas hard to buy for

Last minute gift ideas for the hard to buy for people on your list

We all have them.

Those people on our list that we just don’t know what to get for Christmas.  So we put off shopping for them until the last minute and then panic that we’ve left it too late.

If this sounds all too familiar then don’t worry, this post has suggestions for various types of people you might need to buy for and they’re all available for delivery before Christmas with Amazon Prime.

The best board games

For young players

5 Second Rule is a really simple game, but so much fun to play.

You pick a card and then have 5 seconds to name 3 things from the category mentioned on the card.  It sounds easy but the time pressure makes it so much harder, and so much more exciting.

 

 

For Harry Potter fans

This Harry Potter themed Dobble game would be a big hit with fans of the series.

What’s fab about this game is that it’s really small, so you can pop it in your bag for games on the go.

 

 

For your friends

Trivial Pursuit is a real classic, and this Friends version would make a great gift for anyone who thinks they know every episode inside out.

Ideas perfect for music lovers

For young music fans

These PuroBasic headphones are volume-limiting so you don’t have to worry about damaging little ears.  They come in a few bright colours and offer great sound quality at a reasonable price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the whole family to enjoy

An echo dot is a great gift for any music lover to be able to listen to their favourite tunes, with all the added bonuses of Alexa.

For music trivia buffs

Let them test their musical knowledge with the Now that’s what I call music board game

 

 

Great ideas for budding scientists

For a whole year of ideas

This book from Usborne has ideas for 365 science activities so they’ll be inspired all year long.

 

For hands-on science fun

This science lab kit from Galt toys has everything you need to carry out 20 different science experiments.

It comes with a 32 page lab book which explains what you need to do and has space for your child to write their results and thoughts in.

 

For future inventors

The little inventors handbook is a step by step guide to coming up with fun and fantastic inventions.

 

Gift ideas your Secret Santa pick will actually enjoy

For chocolate lovers

This gift tower of chocolate truffles from Monty Bojangles will be a hit with any chocoholic.

 

For the person who likes a good laugh

This ‘damn you autocorrect‘ book had me and my sister laughing so much.  It’s great for anyone who likes something a bit silly.

 

For the person you really don’t know what to get

Socks are a classic Christmas present, and this set of odd socks are a fun twist on that.

They’re bright and colourful and because they come in a box your secret santa pick won’t have a clue what you’ve got them!

 

So there you have it, hopefully something for everyone on your last-minute shopping list can now be sorted just in the nick of time!

Who do you find hardest to buy for each year?

Organise at home after Christmas

5 top tips for organising the house after the Christmas holidays

I picked a big Christmas tree this year.

I went with my Mother-in-law to choose our trees and may have got a bit carried away with Steve’s encouragement over Skype to go big or go home.  So our not all that big living room is ever so slightly dominated by our 8 foot tall Christmas tree.

And I love it.

I love catching glimpses of it whichever way I look around the room.  I love being able to smell it as soon as I walk through the front door.

But I do know that come the New Year I will be about ready for it come down.  I’ll be ready for clear space again.  To be able to walk through the lounge without needing to turn sideways in certain places.

When it comes to that time of year when the decorations come down I think we all have an urge to do a bit of decluttering and reorganising in our homes, and here are my 5 top tips for tackling the job.

 

1. Take down Christmas strategically

You really might not feel like doing it, but if you take your time to pack everything away carefully and with some strategy you’ll thank yourself when it comes to getting it all out again next year.

As you take down the decorations take some time to sort through them.

Get rid of any that are broken and donate any that you didn’t actually use this year.

Then pack things away so that the things you’ll put up first next year are the easiest to get to.

 

2. Rethink your storage solutions

Are the battered old boxes you use still the best option for your Christmas decorations?

You can buy special boxes designed to hold your precious baubles and ornaments which might be worth investing in if you know you’ll want to use them year after year.

It’s also worth thinking about where in the house you store all your decorations.

If you have the space it might be worth installing some industrial shelving in your garage or shed to keep everything organised and out of the way for most of the year.

 

3. Declutter

Now all the decorations are down and you have your storage ideas thought out it’s a great time to declutter the house.

Work your way around from room to room with three bags or baskets.  Use one for things that you want to throw out or recycle, one for items that you don’t want but that can be donated or regifted, and the last one for things you want to keep but need to put in their proper home.

 

4. Find homes for new items

Once you’ve decluttered you can start to find homes for all the new things that have made their way into your home over Christmas.

If you have children this’ll most likely be mainly toys, but you’ll also maybe have books, new clothes, photo frames to hang up, toiletries and all sorts of other bits and pieces.

Spend time now deciding where all these things are going to live in your home, so they don’t end up just floating around for the next six months.

 

5. Make a plan

The hardest part for lots of people, including me, isn’t the decluttering, it’s the actually getting the stuff out of the house once you’ve decided you can do without it.

So make a plan for everything you’re getting rid of, and act on it as soon as possible.

Put items to be regifted in a particular cupboard or box in a wardrobe.  Make a date with a friend to get together at the weekend and take rubbish and recycling to the tip/recycling centre.  Put the bag of bits for the charity shop into your car so you can drop it off next time you’re in town.

Gem from the organised mum calls this having an exit strategy and it is key to actually finishing off the decluttering jobs around the home!

 

With a bit of thought and some time spent working your way through your house, you can have everything cleared and organised ready for a fresh start in the new year.

Do you enjoy the house feeling more spacious and clear after Christmas, or do you hold on and enjoy having the decorations up for as long as possible?

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Stay calm at Christmas

If you get overwhelmed at Christmas, try this trick to stay calm

I absolutely love this time of year.

I love the crisp cold weather and long cosy nights in at home.  There are pretty lights up everywhere, all sorts of festive treats to eat and drink, and when you have children there’s a sense of magic in the air that you just can’t beat.

There are times though, especially when you do have children, that it can all get a bit too much.  There are so many things going on, so many things to remember and keep track of and just so much to do.

Between the school Christmas events, present buying, house decorating, card writing and all the other festive events to take part it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

So here’s something you can try whenever you start to feel stressed over the Christmas period.

 

It’s called a mindful pause.

Any time you feel the stress of this time of year getting too much, or you start to feel overwhelmed by it all, take a few minutes for a mindful pause.

 

The beauty of it is that you can pretty much do this anywhere.

You just need to breathe.

Find a quiet spot somewhere if you can, even if it’s just at the side of the car after you’ve finally strapped your wriggly toddler into their car seat and shut their door.

Then breathe.

In and out through your nose.

Focus on slowing down your breathing, and notice how your body feels as you breathe in and out.

Do this and only this for 30 seconds.  A little longer if you can.

 

What this does is bring your focus back to your body.  It calms your mind down and stops it racing from one thing to the next, when you bring everything back to noticing your breaths in and out.

So when you hop back in the car to drive home, you’re feeling calmer and more in control.

 

This method of quietly focusing on your breathing for a minute is enough to help with those moments of overwhelm and stress, but if you want to you can add one more thing to it.

In an article on the mindful pause on Psychology Today, Ryan Niemiec talks about taking a few breaths and then asking yourself this question.  Which of my character strengths will I bring forward right now?

It might be that one of your character strengths is kindness. 

So in that moment you’ll focus on bringing that forward.  You can then deal with your loved ones from a place of love, kindness and compassion rather than frustration and overwhelm.  You can choose to let someone in front of you in the queue in the busy supermarket that’s left you feeling stressed out.

Or if you know that humour is one of your biggest strengths, then focus on seeing the humour in your current situation.  Choose to laugh at the crazy list of things your child’s school has asked you to donate to, sign forms for and rearrange work to attend.

 

Whether you choose to take the mindful pause that step further and find a strength to carry with you for the rest of your day, or if you just decide to take those few minutes for some calming, mindful breaths, this concept of a mindful pause is one that can really help through the stress of the festive period.

And once you get in the habit of doing it, you can start to spot little windows of opportunity to take time for other mini mindfulness moments.

If there are a few dishes to wash up after tea and mince pies, then do them by hand.  Take that 5 minutes to really focus on the sensation of the warm, soapy water.  How solid the plates feel.  The sound of the water moving around and splashing into the sink.

Or maybe you can get to school five minutes before pick up time and practice some mindfulness in the car.  Notice how the seat feels underneath you.  Listen to the sounds you can hear from the outside world and how they’re muffled through the closed windows.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

 

Do you find yourself getting overwhelmed at this time of year?  

What do you find has worked for you to help you stay calm?

Easy Christmas chocolate bark

2 simple recipes for Christmas chocolate bark

If you’re looking for a quick and easy but utterly yummy treat to make this Christmas then you can stop your search right now.

Chocolate bark is one of my favourite things to make to either give as a present or keep to enjoy at home.

I’ve got 2 different bark recipes to share that are both perfect for Christmas.  There’s a simple festive chocolate bark and a ginger and fudge chocolate bark.

 

The first recipe is for a really easy festive chocolate bark.

This is a simple bark with milk and white chocolate and Christmas-coloured toppings.

You need:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • Christmas sprinkles
  • Red and green smarties or m&ms
  • A baking tray
  • Greaseproof/baking paper

 

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Line the baking tray with greaseproof paper

2. Melt the milk chocolate.  You can do this in a bain-marie on the hob, but I normally just do it in the microwave.  Pop it in for 20/30 seconds at a time and stir it each time you check on it.

3. Pour the melted chocolate onto the greaseproof paper and then gently spread it out with a spatula or a knife.  I like to keep it relatively thick so don’t spread it out too far, but you can spread it out more and have thinner bark if you prefer.

4. Next melt the white chocolate, the same way you did the milk chocolate.

5. Pour the white chocolate on top of the milk chocolate and swirl the two together to get a marbled effect.

6. While the chocolate is still all melty tip on a load of festive sprinkles and then add the red and green smarties.  Press the smarties in gently so they’ll stay in place as the bark sets.

7. Put the tray in the fridge to set for about an hour.

8. When it’s completely set cut it up into pieces ready to give as gifts or enjoy yourself.  I tend to cut mine up quite haphazardly with a knife, but you can just snap pieces off in your hands if you’d rather.

And if you think that looks good, then wait until you see the other bark recipe.

 

This one is a milk and dark chocolate bark with ginger biscuit pieces and chunks of fudge.

You’ll need:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 2 ginger nut biscuits (or a gingerbread man, or any kind of ginger biscuit)
  • Mini fudge chunks
  • A baking tray
  • Greaseproof/baking paper

 

The method is pretty much the same as the simple Christmas bark, but in case you’re just reading this recipe here are all the steps you need to follow:

1. Line the baking tray with greaseproof paper

2. Melt the milk chocolate.  You can do this in a bain-marie on the hob, but I normally just do it in the microwave.  Pop it in for 20/30 seconds at a time and stir it each time you check on it.

3. Pour the melted chocolate onto the greaseproof paper and then gently spread it out with a spatula or a knife.  I like to keep it relatively thick so don’t spread it out too far, but you can spread it out more and have thinner bark if you prefer.

4. Put the tray in the fridge or freezer for ten minutes for this layer of milk chocolate to set.

5. While you’re waiting, break the ginger biscuits into little pieces/crumbs.

6. Next melt the dark chocolate, the same way you did the milk chocolate.

7. Pour the dark chocolate on top of the set milk chocolate and quickly spread it out, almost to the edges.

8. While the chocolate is still melty sprinkle on the ginger biscuit pieces and crumbs and the fudge chunks.  Press them gently into the chocolate to make sure they stay in place.

9. Put the tray in the fridge to set for about an hour.

10. When it’s completely set cut it up into pieces ready to give as gifts or enjoy yourself.  I tend to cut mine up quite haphazardly with a knife, but you can just snap pieces off in your hands if you’d rather.

 

The thing I absolutely love about chocolate bark is that pretty much anything goes.

With the simple Christmas bark you can use 200g of white chocolate, and then top it with dark or milk chocolate.  If you wanted a different flavour you could add some peppermint extract to the chocolate and top it with crushed candy canes.

And for the ginger and fudge bark you can use any kind of ginger biscuits, or even chopped up pieces of crystallised stem ginger.  If you can’t find little chunks of fudge in the shops then you can just buy bigger pieces and chop them up, and you can try it with different flavours of fudge too.

 

I’m planning on making another batch of these to give to the teachers and TAs at our school as a little Christmas present.

Chocolate bark is so easy to make, so the children can make it with me which makes it that bit more special I think.  I know if I was a teacher I’d love to know that the children had taken the time to make something especially for me as a little end of term present.

We’ve made chocolate truffles for the teachers before and my chocolate ginger bites always go down well with people lucky enough to be allowed to share them with me each year!  Chocolate bark is so easy though, and so adaptable it makes a great gift for anyone who might be on your list.

 

Have you made bark before?  Which of these will you try out this Christmas?

 

This post has been shared with a moment with Franca and KCACOLS

Should my child have a smart phone_

Should I let my child have a smart phone?

In today’s modern world, it’s more unusual if a child doesn’t have a smart phone than if they do. However, you shouldn’t let that pressure you into getting one for your own child if you don’t feel comfortable with it.

Of course, there are many advantages to smart phones; they give your child the ability to contact someone they trust in an emergency situation. They also allow people to stay in touch with friends and family all around the world. 

However, smart phones also have their disadvantages, including the cost and the unsociable behaviour young people often display when using them. For parents who are unsure when the right time is to give your youngster a smart phone, here is some helpful advice from an independent day school in Harpenden.

 

Firstly, you might be interested to learn that there isn’t currently a legal age for owning a mobile phone in the United Kingdom.

It’s entirely up to parents to make the decision, based upon whether or not they feel their child is mature enough to look after the device and use it sensibly. Think about whether or not your child actually even needs their own phone. 

Lots of parents tend to wait until their child has started secondary school, aged 11.

This is typically the age when kids start to make their own way to and from school and socialise in their spare time, so a phone is useful for allowing you to check in and ensure they are safe. Some smart phones will even allow you to track your child’s location. This functionality will also help you track the phone if it becomes lost or stolen. 

If you do decide that your child is ready for a smart phone, make sure that you talk to them at length about how to use it safely.

Be sure to add all of the relevant parental controls to prevent irresponsible use of the internet. 

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

How to soothe a cough at night

The magic trick to soothe a cough at night

This may well by the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the time of year when everyone and his dog seems to be suffering with bugs and coughs and colds.

School-age children in particular seem to like sharing germs among themselves, and then bringing them home for the rest of the family to enjoy.

What’s so frustrating about coughs and colds is that there isn’t all that much you can do to chase them away.

If a cough is keeping your child (and the rest of the family) up at night though, there is a slightly random trick that you can try to soothe it.

 

All you need is a tub of vapour rub and a pair of socks.

You can use Vicks VapoRub or you can use an own-brand version from the chemist, it really doesn’t matter.

What you need to do is put a good blob of the stuff onto the soles of your child’s feet at bedtime, and then put a pair of socks on over the top.  The socks are mostly important for keeping the vapour rub from getting all over the sheets, but I think they also help by keeping the feet warm.

What you should find is that this is enough to soothe their cough; letting them get to sleep, and stay that way through the night.

 

Now I’ve read a fair few articles about this trick since I first heard about it, and no one has any real idea why it works.

Some people think it’s just a placebo effect.

Others think it might to do with reflexology.

The theory that I think sounds most likely is that the vapour rub on your feet acts as a counter-irritant, so your body focuses on that rather than the tickle in your throat, so you end up coughing less.

 

Whatever the reason behind it, so many parents have tried this on their children and themselves with amazing results.

I’ve done it myself when we’ve had troublesome coughs disturbing our sleep and it has worked like a charm.

 

So next time your child brings some lovely germs home from school, give this trick a try so you can all still get a good night’s sleep!

 

Have you tried this trick before?  Does it work for you and your children?