teach your children these life skills

Teach your children these life skills to help them thrive

A few months ago I had an interesting conversation with my children on the drive to school.

Rhys started asking me about when he’s older and not living at home any more.  He was worried that he wouldn’t know how to do certain things, and so I promised him that we would teach him everything he needs to know.

We talked about all the different life skills we would make sure he knows by the time he’s old enough to leave our family home.

Here are some of those life skills that I think our children need to know to thrive on their own as they get older.

 

How to treat other people

One of the most important life skills I think we can teach our children is how to treat other people with kindness and with respect.

For me this starts with simple manners, like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, which we can teach our children from a very young age.

After that we need to lead by example and show our children how to be considerate of other people’s feelings, to think about points of view that are different from our own and to be kind to everyone.

 

How to treat themselves

As well as teaching our children to be kind to others, I think it’s incredibly important that we also teach them to be kind to themselves.

Knowing how important it is to take time to look after themselves will help them so much when they step out on their own.

So let them see you put yourself first sometimes.

Take them with you to do a yoga session or for a run in the park, to teach them about taking care of their health.

Make time each week to slow the pace down and read, paint, and relax.

 

How to care for their clothes

Knowing how to wash and care for clothes is a key skill that our children need to learn.

You can start from an early age teaching them about separating items to do a dark wash or a lights wash.  I know you can just chuck everything in together with a colour catcher sheet, but I think it’s still worth teaching our children about how different items might need to be washed separately.

As they get older children can learn about what different care labels mean.

There are still some that I have to google when I see them, but children can learn quite quickly to recognise the labels for what temperature to wash clothes at and whether or not an item can be tumble-dried.

 

Basic cooking skills

From an early age we can get our children in the kitchen with us, learning basic skills.

Nerys loves making her own sandwiches at lunch time and helping my husband chop up vegetables when he makes a bolognese.

There are so many skills you can teach in the kitchen while you have fun together.

Baking fairy cakes teaches them to measure out ingredients, to understanding techniques like creaming butter and sugar together, and how to be safe around the hot oven.

As they get a bit older you can teach your child simple recipes like scrambled eggs on toast, pasta dishes and homemade pizza.

 

How to handle their finances

Knowing how to take care of money is a vital life skill for children to learn.

It can be harder to teach children about money these days, when so much of the time we pay with cards or do our shopping online.

So make a point of using cash on a regular basis when you’re shopping with your children.

Even better, let them have their own money in a wallet and let them choose to buy a little something with it when you’re out in town.

We also look at price labels when we shop together, and my children are starting to understand that sometimes a pack of 4 chocolate bars can be better value than a single bar.  They get quite excited when they realise this means we can buy more chocolate!

 

These are some of the life skills that I’m working on teaching my children, so that when they’re old enough to leave home they should not only be able to cope, but really thrive.

What other skills do you think are important for our children to learn to set them up for independence?

Rainy day activities

12 fun rainy day activities

It’s sod’s law really isn’t it, that as soon as the school summer holidays start the skies cloud over and the rain sets in.

I have to be honest though, I quite like rainy days.

The sound of rain falling is so soothing, and you can’t beat the smell of rain when it falls on the parched ground.  If you have busy children at home with you though, rainy days can be challenging.

So here are 12 ideas for things to do on rainy days to stop everyone going completely stir-crazy.

 

1. Feed the birds

Depending on what bits and pieces you have at home you can have a go at a few different ideas.

You can make a really pretty tea cup bird feeder to put up in the garden.  Or you can keep things simple and make a toilet roll bird feeder or some wild bird seed treats to hang from the trees.

The lovely thing with these ideas is that once they’re made you can spend time watching to see what birds then come and visit your garden.

 

2. Do some junk modelling

Go through your recycling and dig out all the boxes, toilet paper tubes, and plastic tubs that you can find.  Then add some glue, pipe cleaners and paint and see what creations your children can come up with.

If you need some inspiration then Rainy Day Mum has got a post with 30 recycled materials and junk modelling crafts that are perfect for children of all ages.

 

3. Go on a treasure hunt

You don’t need to go outside to go on a treasure hunting adventure.

Hide your treasure somewhere in the house, then draw up a map and write out some clues about where it’s hidden.  You can do this for your children, or they can do it for each other if they’re old enough.

You can also hide various things around the house for younger children to find.  We’ve got a set of colourful plastic eggs that we use to do egg hunts all year round.

 

4. Get painting

Dig out the paints and get creative.

If you want to do something a bit different then try blow painting, where you water down your paint a little bit, put a blob on the paper then use a straw to blow it around.  You can then make the shapes you’ve created into monsters by drawing on eyes and limbs.

You could also try marble painting and see what patterns you can make.

 

5. Make fairy cakes

Baking together is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon at home.  The children learn all sorts of skills and you all get something yummy to enjoy at the end of it.

My simple 2-4-4-4 fairy cakes recipe has never failed us yet and always produces really tasty cakes.

 

6. Make your own playdough

Playing with playdough is another classic rainy day activity.  And you can mix things up by making your own dough.

Using different colours, scents and textures can make this into a brilliant sensory experience for both young and older children.

 

7. Get the kids to make lunch

Get some ready made pizza bases and let them have fun creating their own pizzas for lunch.

If you don’t have pizza bases and don’t want to head out to the shops then you can use pitta breads or tortillas, or even just do it like a extended version of cheese on toast.

Another simple meal you can teach them to make with you is scrambled eggs on toast.  You can do the eggs in a pan on the hob, or in a mug in the microwave, and let them see how the eggs change in colour and texture as they cook.

 

8. Make a time capsule

Find a suitable box and get the children to fill it up with things that sum up their lives at the moment.

They can write lists of their favourite foods, books and toys.  They can write about their friends at school and the games they like to play together.  Then add in clippings from newspapers and magazines, as well as a few photos from recent days out.

Then seal the box up and hide it somewhere together, to be opened up at some point in the future.

 

9. Create an obstacle course

For children that need to be physically active and burn off energy an obstacle course is great fun.  You can use cushions as stepping stones, make tunnels from blankets draped over chairs, and put a strip of masking tape down on floor for them to walk along, practising their balance.

 

10. Record a story tape

When my sister and I were younger we used to record our own radio shows on our fisher price tape recorder.  Who else had one of those brown beauties back in the 80s?!

I’m guessing not that many people still have tape recorders now, but you can set up your camera, phone, or tablet though, and let your children record themselves reading their favourite book.  Or they could make up a story of their own and act it out.

 

11. Play some card games

Pull out the playing cards and teach the children a few different card games.

 

12. Embrace the rain

There’s no rule that says you have to stay inside on rainy days.

If it’s chilly then put your wellies and raincoats on and head outside for a walk and a splash in the puddles.

On warm but rainy days you can let the children head out barefoot in the garden for a fun sensory experience.

 

 

What do you and your children like to do on rainy days? 

Which of these ideas do you think your children will enjoy the most the next time it starts to tip it down?

ways to help your anxious child

5 ways to help your anxious child

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

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

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

 

1. Acknowledge their worries

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

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

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

So acknowledge it.

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

 

2. Forget logic for a bit

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. Empathise with them

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

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

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

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

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

 

4. Teach them mindfulness activities

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

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

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

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

 

5. Try gradual exposure

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

screen free activities

Screen-free ideas to keep the kids happy and entertained

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

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

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

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

 

Draw a life-size self portrait.

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

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

 

Blow bubbles

So simple but still a lot of fun.

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

 

Have a Lego competition

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

 

Build a domino run

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

 

Have a go at some origami

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

 

Have a picnic

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

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

 

Go on a nature walk

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

 

Make boats

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

 

Make paper aeroplanes

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

 

Make mudpies/play in a mud kitchen

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

 

Play a board game

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

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

 

Bake something

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

 

Go for a bike ride/scooter ride

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

 

Play a game of catch

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

 

Write a letter

Or make a card to send to a friend.

 

Go to the park

 

Go to the library

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

 

Make a kite and go fly it

 

Play spies/detectives

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

 

Cook something savoury

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

 

Learn a lifeskill

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

 

Learn a new random skill or trick 

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

 

Go swimming

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

 

Visit a museum or art gallery

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

 

Play giant noughts and crosses

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

 

Make a bird feeder

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

 

Paint their nails

Then let them paint yours too.

 

Put on blindfolds and do some taste tests

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

 

Do a random act of kindness

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

 

Learn some photography skills

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

 

Learn and play some card games

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

 

Make your own magazine or comic

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

 

Do some science experiments

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

 

 

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

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

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Use this trick to work out what your toddler wants

Work out what your toddler wants with this little trick

A friend of mine was at my house the other day, and she was talking to Nerys about how when she was just a toddler it was hard at times to understand what she was saying.

We were laughing about all the times I basically had to act as a translator for her; deciphering what Nerys was trying to tell her.

I know that I was pretty in tune with the way she spoke and, for the most part, I knew what she was saying.  There were times though that even I couldn’t make sense of the scribble coming out of her mouth.

And this stage where communication is so hard can be incredibly frustrating for us as parents and for our children.  There is one thing you can do though to make life a bit easier when you’re trying to work out what your toddler wants and what they’re trying to tell you.

 

Make everything easier for both of you by asking close-ended questions.

So instead of asking what your hungry and frustrated toddler wants to eat as a snack, take them to the kitchen and ask them “would you like this?” about each snack you can think of.  Now I know this sounds tedious, but honestly it’s so much better than you both getting wound up when you don’t know that your child saying “dices” means that they want apple slices!

 

If you’re at the park and they’re getting upset, if you ask them a simple “why” then they might not have the vocabulary to explain it to you.

So asking them questions that need just a “yes” or “no” answer is a better option. 

Ask questions like “did you hurt yourself?”, “are you having trouble climbing up to the slide?” and “is it hard waiting for your turn on the swings”.  It might take a while to get to the right question, but it’s generally less frustrating than trying to understand the garbled ramblings of a frustrated 2 year old.

 

On a side-note, this strategy of avoiding open-ended questions with toddlers is also great for things like getting them dressed in the morning.

It’s much easier all round if, instead of asking “what do you want to wear today?”, you ask them do they want to wear the blue top or the green top today.  They still feel like they’ve ultimately made the choice and been in control, and you don’t have to wait for ages while they pull all the clothes out of the cupboard and mull over all their options.

 

Hopefully this little trick will help make things a bit easier for you while you’re in that developmental stage where communication is a bit tough.

Although you do need to accept that there will be times where, no matter what you try, you just won’t be able to work out what your child is trying to tell you.

When Rhys was younger he used to talk about ‘bisser car’ and honestly it took me weeks and weeks to work out he wanted his toy Mator.  Turns out he had heard the words ‘disney pixar cars’ on an advert for the film and held on to the ‘pixar car’ bit as a name for Mator.

Yeah.  I was quite proud of myself when I finally worked that one out!

 

Do you struggle to understand your child or are you generally quite in tune with them?

Have you tried using this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question strategy when you can’t quite get what they’re telling you?

Hide your chocolate stash

The trick you need to know to keep your secret chocolate stash hidden

There’s a joke I’ve seen a few times since I’ve become a parent, about how our children can’t hear us when we ask them to put their shoes on 15 times but they can hear a chocolate wrapper being opened from the other side of the house.

If you find in your family that your supplies of chocolate are constantly being raided by your children (and most likely your partner) then this sneaky trick is for you.  It’s an idea for the perfect hiding place to keep your stash a secret.

 

Get your favourite chocolate bars and stash them inside the packaging of a really healthy food item that your children will never voluntarily open up.

I’m thinking things like the box of Ryvita in the cupboard.  Or tuck the chocolate behind the veg in the fridge.  If you like your chocolate frozen then you can hide it in an empty bag of frozen vegetables.

 

Of course if your children are little health nuts then you might want to find a different place to hide your secret pile of chocolate bars.

Or maybe you’ve been rumbled and need to find a new spot.

In that case here are some ideas for other places you can stash your chocolate:

  • In a container tucked away with the cleaning supplies
  • At the bottom of a box of cereal that the children don’t like.  Think Beth hiding the piles of cash in Good Girls
  • The back of your underwear drawer
  • Under your bed
  • At the back of your filing cabinet/with all the boring paperwork
  • Bottom of a tissue box
  • Behind the books on the shelf, or get a hollow book to hide them in

 

The important thing here is to hide things well enough that your children don’t find them, but not so well that you forget where you’ve hidden them.

 

Do you ever hide treats from your family?  Where’s the best hiding place you’ve come up with?

Quick cleaning tips busy parents need to know

Quick cleaning tips for busy parents

I have come to accept over the years that I will never be a domestic goddess.

I’ll never be a member of the Hinch army and my home will never be pristine and spotless.

What I would like though is to feel just that bit more on top of things when it comes to keeping the house clean and tidy.  If you’re like me and want some quick tips on having a cleaner home without worrying about keeping up with the Hinchers then this post is for you.

 

Here are some of the best cleaning tips I’ve found to make things easier for busy parents.

 

1) Work from top to bottom

This is such a logical thing to do, but something that we might not always think about.

The thing with cleaning is that you want to be as quick and efficient as possible, and you really don’t want to end up needing to do a job twice.  So start at the top of the room and work your way down.  Dust all the shelves and wipe down surfaces so that any dust falls on to the floor.  Then hoover the room last to pick it all up.

Another tip like this is to start in one corner of the room and basically work your way out.

 

2) Clean as you go

This is something I’m really trying to get in the habit of doing.

Instead of leaving jobs to pile up I’m working on tackling them as they come up.  For me this means taking 2 minutes to wash up the board and knife I’ve used to make a sandwich and wipe down the kitchen worktop before I sit down to eat lunch.

It can also be things like putting the junk mail in the recycling as soon as you pick it up from the letterbox.  Putting the dishes straight into the dishwasher after a meal rather than putting them down on the counter.  Hanging up clean clothes as soon as they’re dry instead of putting them on the bed to hang up later.

You see the idea here.

If the job will take just a few minutes to do, then do it there and then instead of leaving if for later.

 

3) Find a routine that works for you (and then stick to it)

If you go on Pinterest you can find so many different cleaning routines that you can try.  As well as advice on how to create your own routine that fits perfectly with your life.

The beauty of a routine is that once you get into it it takes most of the thinking out of cleaning.  You don’t look around the house wondering where to start or what task to tackle next.  You just follow the routine.

I’ve recently discovered The Organised Mum Method and this is the routine I’m planning on following for a bit to see if it suits me and my family.  It’s a really popular routine created by a busy mum and is designed to be nice and quick to complete each day.

If this routine isn’t the one for you, then Clean Mama and FlyLady are also worth a look to see if their methods suit your lifestyle better.

 

4) Put on a playlist and set a timer

There’s a rule that says work expands to fit the time we allocate to it.  So if we allow an hour to clean the kitchen then we’ll take that long to do it, but if we give ourselves just 30 minutes we can most likely do it in that time too.

So set yourself a timer, find an upbeat playlist of music to listen to it and get going.

 

5) Let the children help

If you have young children chances are they’ll be really keen to get involved and help you with the cleaning.

And yes, it’s not always all that helpful when they join in but there are things they can do so that you can tackle other jobs.  They can put their toys away while you dust the shelves.  They can help you load the washing machine.  You can give them a damp cloth so they can wipe the kitchen cupboard doors while you do the washing up.

Going with the flow and letting them help is generally better than trying to do it all yourself with them under your feet.

And studies have shown that children who are allowed to help with these sorts of things when they’re really little are more likely to keep pitching in with household jobs as they get older.

 

6) Stash first, sort later

If you want the house tidied in a hurry, go round each room and stash anything that doesn’t belong in there in a laundry basket.

This clears up the space so you can actually see the floors to hoover them, and clears table tops so you can wipe them down.

Later on when you have another spare 10 minutes you can go and put all the items back where they belong.

 

7) Let your cleaning products work for you

First of all, find a good multipurpose cleaning spray that you can use on all the different surfaces around the house.

Then make sure you let it do as much of the hard work as possible for you.

So when you’re cleaning the bathroom, spray the cleaner all round the bath and sink, then leave it while you clear up the clutter, empty the bins and so on.  Then when you go back to the bath and sink they’ll be much easier to clean down without needing to scrub too much.

 

8) Never leave a room empty handed

This is more of a tidying tip than a cleaning tip but it’s a useful one to keep in mind.

Each time you leave a room have a quick look round and see if there’s anything that needs to be taken where you’re going.  For example, take your coffee cup with you when you go from the lounge to the kitchen.

It doesn’t take any extra effort to do it, but saves you having to return lots of things in one go later on in the day.

 

 

How many of these tips do you use on a regular basis?  Do you have any other quick cleaning tips that I’ve not mentioned here?

I’d love to hear them if you do!