Childcare Offer for Wales - a brilliant helping hand for working parents

The Childcare Offer for Wales – a brilliant helping hand for working parents

I’ve been a mum for almost 10 years now, and I think if I ever sat down and worked out how much money I’ve spent on parenting-related things I would, well, have to sit down.

Apparently, the average family spends over £10,000 in just the first year of their child’s life, which just sounds unbelievable until you start thinking about all the things you do end up spending money on when you start a family.

It starts with the basics like a cot, a buggy and a car seat.  Then obviously you need clothes and nappies.  If you decide to use formula then you need to pay for that, along with bottles and a steriliser.  And if you breastfeed then you might want nursing bras, new clothes that make feeding easier, a breast pump and bottles so you can express milk.

And that really is just the start of it.

For all the milestones of the early years with a child there are new costs, new things they need for each new phase. For a lot of families though, the biggest cost comes from childcare.

If you’re a parent living and working in Wales though, there is some help available that could make a big difference.

 

The Welsh government have created the Childcare Offer with the aim to take some of the financial pressure off working parents.

The Offer lets working parents of 3 to 4 year olds claim up to 30 hours of early education and childcare a week, for up to 48 weeks of the year.

The exact split between early education and childcare hours will depend on your local authority and how
much early education they offer.  As a rule though you can get up to 30 hours a week, made up a minimum of 10 hours of early education and a maximum of 20 hours of childcare.

When Nerys turned 3, for example, she was able to join the Rising 3s class at her school for 5 mornings a week which was great for us as it meant I had more time to work at home and she had a brilliant introduction to the routines of the school day.

 

The way the Childcare Offer for Wales is set up is that the funding goes directly from the Welsh Government to the childcare provider, and this amount is then taken off the bill you would normally pay.

So you don’t actually get handed any money, but you do get the benefits of the money you’ve saved.

What I love about this scheme is how it opens up so many opportunities for parents.

I know a lot of people end up needing to change jobs or reduce their hours at work, as the costs of full-time childcare are so high.  So this offer takes some of that pressure away and can enable people to go back to work they love, increase their hours, or even use the time to start their own business.

 

There are some criteria parents need to meet to be eligible for the Offer, but it’s all relatively straightforward.

Here are the main criteria:

  • your child must be 3 or 4 years old
  • you must be working and earning at least the national minimum wage for 16 hours a week, on average – this applies to single parents and to both parents in 2-parent families
  • each parent must earn less than £100,000 a year

If you’re eligible and want to apply, or just want to get a bit more information about the offer then head over to gov.wales/childcareoffer.

You can also get more information on the offer, as well as useful parenting advice in relation to childcare, over on the the Childcare Offer for Wales Facebook page.

There are so many ways this offer can help families, especially those who don’t have the option of relying on friends and family for childcare.

These 30 hours a week could mean you can get back into doing work that you really enjoy, or be able to dedicate more time to growing a business on your own terms.  It can also free up a bit of extra money for families to take some of the financial strain of raising children away, or even to spend on the things you enjoy doing together as a family.

So if you live in Wales and have a 3 or 4 year old child, it’s well worth taking a look and seeing how the Offer can help your family.

 

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How make room for your children's new toys this Christmas

How to make room for your children’s new toys this Christmas

Christmas is on the way (or it has already passed depending on when you’re reading this), and if your home is like many others up and down the country, it is possibly piled high with your children’s toys. From fairy tale castles to piles of lego (and anything else besides), moving around at home without stepping on something could be quite difficult.

And thanks to Christmas, there will be more toys than ever before, which is surely something you will be thinking of if you’re currently on the hunt for perfect presents for your children. Just how are you going to make room for them all? Other than moving to a bigger house, you will need to find a solution somewhere.

Well, to help you, here are some suggestions. 

1. Give the rest of your home a good clearout

To accommodate your children’s new toys, you might need to take a long hard look at the other things that are fighting for space. You might have pieces of furniture that are no longer being used, and there could be items in your storage spaces that are needlessly taking up room.

To create more floor and storage space, it could be time for a good clearout. Pick out those items you no longer need anymore, and either sell them, donate them, or send them to a recycling facility with the help of a house clearance service. 

 

2. Donate your children’s old toys

For those toys that your children aren’t playing with anymore, consider donating to them to those who are more needy. There could be children in your neighbourhood who could make use of them, for example, or you might want to give them to a charity.

Homeless shelters, hospital children wards, and local schools are three other places where you can donate the toys. 

 

3. Create more storage space in your children’s room

Of course, your children’s toys are probably spread all over the house, but you should still confine them to your children’s bedrooms when possible. This can be difficult when there isn’t enough storage space, but there are ways to make more space.

You could add shelving units, for example, or you could buy beds and other pieces of children’s furniture that double up as storage. Check out these other genius storage ideas and consider some of them for your children’s bedrooms (or playrooms).

 

4. Sell your children’s toys

You might need to make some extra money after your Christmas spend, so sell those toys your children no longer want to play with. You might even sell those toys that turned out to be unwanted Christmas gifts, although you probably shouldn’t tell the people who bought them.

Be mindful, however. Taking inspiration from these old toys that are now worth a lot of money, you might want to hold a few back in case they become collector’s items later. There might even be toys in your house now that are worth a lot of money, so commit to research before giving everything away.

 

Those were just a few ideas, so I hope they were useful to you. If you have any other tips and tricks, please let me know in the comments section below. 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Light the spark of creativity in your little one

Lighting the spark of creativity in your little one

We all love to see our children find their passions, and we want them to excel at them or to at least explore them with as much energy and depth as their little hearts can muster. But how do you do it right?

Here, we’re going to look at tips to help encourage the spark of creativity in your child, to see what it might grow into with the right help.

 

Try new outlets for them

For a lot of children, they might have a natural creativity that they’re bursting to let out, but they might not have found the way that’s most comfortable for them yet.

As such, you can help them try out new types of art forms, whether it’s finding fun photography projects for them, having a storytelling and writing session with them, or preparing a crafty activity for them to get their hands on at home.

 

Give them room to explore

Sometimes, all you need to do is make sure that your child has the resources that they need, sit them at a desk, and watch them go. To that end, if your child loves drawing and writing, for instance, then little gifts like party bags can come with all of the art supplies they need to go under their own steam for weeks and months to come.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much more than that.

 

Ask if they would like lessons

Some art forms, such as music, are not as easy to get into alone, even with online tutorials and the like. In other cases, your child might already have an interest but want nothing more than to improve their abilities to turn it into a real passion.

Ask if your child would be interested in taking lessons to learn. Don’t pressure them into it and, if they change their mind, accept it. However, many will be glad to jump at the opportunity.

 

Give them what they need to be bored

There is a certain amount of ability to hold one’s attention that is necessary for pursuing any interest. If your child is bored, give them what they need to quell it themselves.

Giving them books to read, music to listen to, art to enjoy can help them explore a dimension within themselves that they haven’t before, which can deepen their appreciation of the arts.

 

Don’t force it

You can always encourage, but you should never force your child to engage creatively when they aren’t feeling it.

It simply doesn’t work that way. If they’re not interested in a certain activity, keep that in mind and try to find those that are closer to what they’re already interested in. There is no easier way to turn a child off a pursuit that they might be curious about

 

Encouraging your child is about being on the same page with them. Don’t try to push them too hard into creative pursuits, simply be there to help usher them along in the same direction they want to go.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

_How to find perfect presents for the children in your life

How to find perfect presents for all the children in your life

Trying to find the perfect presents for the children in your life can be so tricky, especially when the children you’re buying for are all different ages with completely different interests.

And this year it’s probably going to be even trickier, with it being harder to head out to the high street and shopping centres to browse for gifts.

Don’t panic though, with the help of online shopping (honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without the internet!) and a bit of creativity you can find perfect presents for all the different children in your life that you need to buy for.

 

One of the first stops you should make online is Wicked Uncle.

Honestly this site is amazing for finding fun, exciting, unique presents for kids.

The biggest problem I tend to have is trying to find things for children that are different ages from my own children.  My two are 9 and 6 at the moment, so I don’t really have a clue what to buy for a 12 year old, for example.

This is where Wicked Uncle comes in.

On the home page you can select the age of the child you’re buying for and then you get presented with a whole load of suggestions for toys, games, books, and fun educational kits that are suitable for the age you selected.

If there are too many ideas for you to choose from and you feel a bit overwhelmed, you can click to see the most popular gifts for the age you’ve chosen.

You can also browse ideas in categories, like engineer, role play, and sensory, if you know the type of present you’re looking for.

There are so many different ideas on Wicked Uncle, you could easily get all the children on  your list ticked off in one go.  And if you really want to save yourself some time you can even use their gift wrapping and card writing service, and get everything taken care of all at once.

 

If you’d rather get a bit more hands-on when it comes to present-buying but you’re not sure exactly what to get, then a child-friendly hamper is a really fun option.

You could fill it with all sorts of little gifts, each individually wrapped to make it special and exciting for the child to open up.

Things like sweets and chocolates, bath bombs, hair clips, key rings, card games, magic tricks, sticker books, fidget toys and blind bags are all pretty much guaranteed to be a hit and can be adapted for different ages and interests.

 

If you want to stay away from ‘stuff’ altogether then you could look at giving an experience as a gift instead.

We might not be able to do very much or visit many places at the moment, but you could still give a gift voucher for something like a horse riding lesson, or a trip to the zoo, or the cinema that could be used when things (hopefully) start to open up again.

You could even go the home-made route with this, and make your own gift voucher for something like a home spa day that you could then put on and enjoy with your nieces and nephews.

What I love about this idea is that you can completely tailor it for each child you need a present for, so it’s perfectly suited to them and what they enjoy doing.

 

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for where to look for the perfect present for all the children in your life.

How many children do you normally give presents to at Christmas?

Do you find it hard finding the perfect gifts for them or do you enjoy the process of hunting for something they’ll really love?

 

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
5 habits to develop at the start of the new school year

5 habits to develop for the new school year

I meant to write this post over a month ago.  I was all organised back then and created the graphics to go with it and everything.  I just didn’t manage to actually write the thing.

So the title feels slightly off given the fact that we’re now almost at the autumn half term.  But I’m just going with it.

The way things are this year, I suppose we could all use any help we can get on getting on top of things and making life easier for ourselves.  Especially when it comes to juggling everything involved with having school-age children.

So, better late than never, here are 5 habits that you might want to develop for the new school year.  Or for any time in the school year!

 

Get things ready the night before.

This is possibly the best habit you can get into to make life easier during term time.

Get as much as possible packed and ready to go, the night before.

Make up packed lunch boxes.

Get clean school uniform laid out.  This is particularly useful at the moment when, if your school is like ours, the children need to wear a fresh set of clothes each day, as well as wearing PE kit to school on PE days.

Pick out clothes for yourself and put them out ready to throw on in the morning.

Gather any homework folders and reading books that need to be returned and pop them by the front door.

Basically get as much as possible done and ready to grab and go in the morning, so you don’t have as much rushing around to do before the school run.

 

Designate a homework day

Pick a day that works for your family for homework to be done and then stick to that day each week.

You might find that what works best for you and your children is to get all their homework completed on the day it’s sent home from school.

Or you might find that designating a different day for each piece of work is better.  In our family, for example, the homework folders come home on a Thursday so we might do maths that evening, reading on Saturday and then practice spellings on Monday evening, before it all goes back to school on Tuesday.

 

Get (and use!) a family calendar

There is so much to keep track of and remember when you have school-age children, and a big family calendar is one of the best tools you can get to keep on top of everything.

You can get calendars that have a column for each member of the family so you can write everyone’s different activities and so on in their own space so it’s nice and clear.

Now, at the moment there might not be the usual after school clubs, playdates and extra-curricular activities going on that would normally fill up your family calendar.  But there are still so many things you can note on there to make sure you stay organised.

You can note down the days that homework folders need to be returned to school, the days that the children need to go to school already dressed for PE, as well as reminders about changes to drop off and pick up times and different routes you might need to take around the school.

 

Find a regular time to talk about your day

Things can be really manic on school days as you rush around making sure everything gets done and nothing gets forgotten, but one thing really worth making time for is talking to your children about their day.

It can be ridiculously hard to get some children to talk about what they’ve done in school, but if you start to build a routine around chatting about your days at the same time, or in the same place, each day they should start to open up.

You might find that the best time to talk is on the way home from school.  Or it might be at the dinner table if you all sit and eat together.  Or you might find that your child finds it easiest to open up at bedtime.

The time you choose doesn’t really matter, just try and make it around the same time each day.

And if your child is really reluctant to answer the open-ended question of ‘what did you do today?’, then try my ‘3 things’ trick.

I ask my children to tell me 1 thing they learnt about, 1 good thing that made them happy and 1 not so good thing about their day, and most of the time this really helps me find out more about how their days have been.

 

Eat well and sleep well

Life during the school year is so busy, we all need as much energy as possible.

So little things like making sure everyone eats something decent for breakfast are really quite important.

Another thing that can have a big impact on keeping energy levels up is staying hydrated, so encourage your children to take a water bottle to school with them and to keep drinking through the day.

The last habit that’s worth developing for the school year is setting up a good bedtime routine.  We all need some sort of routine to help wind our minds and bodies down ready for sleep.  So think about limiting screen time after a certain time in the evening, giving your child a warm milky drink before they head upstairs, and reading together or encouraging them to read in bed for a bit before turning off the light.

 

 

Hopefully if you can build these habits into your life they’ll help make things just that little bit easier during the school year and help the whole family feel a bit calmer, happier and more organised.

How many of these things do you already do?

Are there any other habits that you would recommend or tips you have for making life easier during the school year?

Importance of Vitamin D for keeping the whole family healthy

The importance of Vitamin D for keeping the whole family healthy

We all know we need to eat a balanced diet and get a variety of vitamins and nutrients to keep our bodies healthy.

But how much do you actually know about the benefits we get from each different vitamin?

There are quite a few vitamins and nutrients that I know are good for me, but I don’t know what specific effect they have on my body.

One vitamin that we’ve been hearing a lot about in the news recently is Vitamin D.

It’s an essential vitamin that has so many benefits for the whole family, and one that we all need to be making sure we get enough of over the winter months.

 

Vitamin D is quite often referred to as ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because our bodies produce it when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

From the end of March until the end of September most of us are out in the sunshine enough that we can get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight.  During the rest of the year though it gets much harder.  Our skin isn’t exposed to natural sunlight in the same way and so it’s much harder for our bodies to produce this important vitamin.

We can get some vitamin D from a small number of foods including:

  • red meat
  • egg yolks
  • oily fish such as salmon and sardines
  • fortified foods such as breakfast cereals

These foods don’t give us all the vitamin D we need though, so the Department of Health and Social Care recommends that we should all consider taking a vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter months.

There are specific supplements for babies, children and adults that ensure that everyone gets the correct dosage, although formula-fed babies shouldn’t be given supplements because formula is fortified with vitamin D.

You can easily buy vitamins online and have them delivered to your home, or you can pick some up on the high street or at the supermarket when you do your food shop.

 

The reason it’s recommended that we take supplements to make sure we get enough vitamin D in the autumn and winter months is because it plays such an important role in keeping us healthy.

Vitamin D helps us maintain good bone, teeth and muscle health.

It works alongside calcium, promoting its absorption in the gut.  This is turn allows for normal mineralisation of the bones.  In other words, we need vitamin D alongside calcium, for calcium to be able to properly do its thing.

This is why it’s so important to make sure our children get enough vitamin D, as their bones and teeth are still developing.  And it’s just as important for us as we get older to help prevent issues with weak bones and muscles.

 

Vitamin D also protects our immune systems so we can fight off infections, colds and flu viruses, which is especially important at the moment with the coronavirus spreading along with the standard seasonal viruses.

A study carried out in Denmark led researchers to believe that vitamin D is an important part of a complex process in which T cells become ready to help fight infection.  The findings from the study suggest that taking vitamin D supplements can boost immunity, and that people who have a vitamin D deficiency are more susceptible to infection.

 

Making sure the whole family gets enough vitamin D can also help everyone avoid health issues such as feeling run down and tired, depression, hair loss and slow-healing wounds.

So in the coming months when we’re all staying inside more and not getting the exposure to sunlight we need to produce vitamin D, it really is worth looking at taking a supplement and getting more vitamin D rich foods into the family’s diet.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

ways to document your child growing up

How to document your child growing up

Time flies by so fast.

One day your babies are being born, the next it seems their off to school and then to work or university. Your children will be young adults before you know it, and you’ll be left with just memories of their time growing up. 

Your children will grow so fast. They’ll change every month, and if you blink, you’ll miss it. It is essential that you document your children growing up. This will make a big difference for you looking back. 

 

But what are the best ways to document your child growing up? 

In this article, we’ll look at some creative ways of making sure you preserve the memory of your children growing up. 

 

Make a note of key milestones in your child’s development 

Whenever something monumental happens in your child’s life, you may not be thinking about what day or date it is, you may just be amazed that your baby has spoken for the first time, or is walking around without help.

But these little things should be recorded for posterity. Make a note of the dates that things happen so that you can mark your baby’s progress. 

There are many different products available that allow you to track important dates like the day that your child grew their first tooth. 

 

Use height charts to record how quickly they’ve grown

One of the best ways to record how quickly your child is growing is with a height chart.

If you place a marker and a date on your child’s height chart every month, you’ll be able to see exactly how fast they are growing. 

 

Have a family photoshoot at different stages of their lives

Photos are one of the best ways of documenting a child growing up. Book in with a professional photographer and have a photoshoot with your entire family.

You can repeat this at different stages during your child’s development so that you have a range of different photos to look back on. Professional photos will always bring out the best in people and will really stand out, so they are worth the investment. 

 

Take a photo on the first and last day of every school year

A lot can change over the course of one single school year. While many parents will take a photo of their child on the first day of school each year, many people overlook the last day of school. Take a picture of both and have them printed using Pixa Prints

 

Take a photo next to a list of their favourite things 

It’s not just the appearance of your child that will be changing as they grow up. They’re interests and tastes may be rapidly changing. 

Every year, take a photo of your child next to a chalkboard filled with a list of their favourite things.

For instance, you may wish to include what they like to eat, their favourite place, what they like to do, their favourite book, and what they want to be when they grow up. 

Tracking their personal growth and people is just as important as documenting their physical development. 

 

Take a photo each Christmas 

Every year, take a photo of your child in front of the Christmas tree. That way, you’ll have a series of photos that are all the same only your child is growing in them. 

Taking the same photo each year could become a family Christmas tradition. 

 

Back-up your photos to the cloud

In the digital age, we take photos and record videos all of the time. Our phones and tablets are stuffed full of images, and we rarely print these off anymore. 

The last thing that you would want would be for your device to get lost, stolen, or damaged, and all of the photos and videos of your child growing up would get lost. 

It is essential that you back-up all of your photos to the cloud. By doing this, you won’t have to lose any of your family’s precious memories. 

 

Start a blog 

Whether you want to share your family’s life with the world, or just document it so that you can look back on it in years to come, a great option for you could be to start a blog

Use your blog as though it was an online journal and make sure that you document everything that you have been doing together as a family. Make sure that you include plenty of photos and videos, and you can even use sound recordings. 

There are plenty of different options when it comes to choosing the right blogging platform. You could choose between Tumblr, Wix, Blogger, WordPress, and more. 

 

Keep a memento box 

For each of your children, start a memento box. That way, when they are still very young, you can keep different mementoes as they age. Each memento should be a milestone.

For instance, you may want to keep a lock of their hair from when they were a baby, keep things like pacifiers, hospital wristbands, first teeth to fall out, their first drawings, and so much more. 

 

Create a photobook 

There are plenty of companies such as Blurb that allow you to make and publish your own books. You could create photobooks crammed full of memories of your family’s time together along with photos and keep them on your shelf for posterity.

 

Use social media 

Social media is a great place to start when documenting your child growing up. The memories feature on Facebook will allow you to look back on posts from previous years. 

Be careful not to overshare too much, because you are sharing to social media it can be difficult to know whether your friends may be a bit tired of seeing so many updates about your family. 

 

Make a growing handprint craft 

Each year, your child’s hands will grow. Cut out their handprints each year from different coloured paper and stack them on top of each other with the smallest hand on top, you’ll get a cute piece of wall art that grows with your child. 

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post