Cook Together, Share Together, Laugh Together

Family Friendly Week (formerly Parents’ Week) is a national awareness week run by the Family and Childcare Trust. The aim of the week is to increase recognition of the issues faced by families up and down the country, but also to celebrate the vital contribution families make to society.

Cook Together, Share Together, Laugh Together

The theme for this year’s Family Friendly Week is Cook Together, Share Together, Laugh Together so I thought I’d take this as an opportunity to reflect on our family eating habits, what we enjoy about cooking and sharing meals together, and some of the laughs along the way too.

I’m also reblogging one of our favourite family recipes, a healthy treat for toddlers in the shape of my ‘pack a punch toddler flapjacks’ – they’ve had great feedback from other parents and Joss loves getting involved in making them too!

Cook together

My top tip for cooking with toddlers would be to get them involved from a very early stage, preparing food can be a great sensory activity and can be a good starter for little chats about favourite foods, textures and healthy choices. For example when we make these flapjacks we talk about them being a treat or a snack, include plenty of fruit which I generally leave open to Joss’ choices offering her a range of dried or fresh fruits to add to the mixture, and the last time we made them we talked about the honey we add, and about buzzy bees too!

Share together

Sharing a family meal time is important to us and we like to offer Joss plenty of choice and a say in what we eat too. If I ask her what she’d like for dinner nine times out of ten she will say chicken pasta or sausage, broccoli, carrots and potato (it’s become like a song!) so those evenings I will try to accommodate her choices, or ask her to choose between a few different veggies so she feels she’s contributing too!

Laugh together

Clearly when cooking with a toddler much hilarity ensues, the last time we baked bread together we had to start again as the yeast was tipped onto the floor and when we made a crumble Joss was very interested until I said we’d be having homemade custard and she declared she wanted chicken dinner instead and wouldn’t try the crumble at all! There has to be a light-heartedness about family meals, I always said I didn’t want to have a battle over mealtimes and I think we have a fairly relaxed attitude to it all which helps this along, if it all goes wrong and I cut the toast wrong or can’t stick a banana back together after slicing it the ‘wrong way’ (aren’t toddlers fickle?!) the promise of being allowed to stir something in the kitchen or to play with the dried pasta usually gets things moving along again!

My Low Sugar ‘Pack a Punch’ Toddler Flapjack Bars

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We love to eat these snack bars and adding flour means they hold together with less crumble so they’re really portable too. These are apricot and raisin but they are lovely with dates, prunes or dried berries too! Honey keeps them chewy but can be omitted for even less sugar. Why ‘pack a punch?’ Because they’re chock full of dried fruit and banana to keep you going on a busy day!

Ingredients

100g butter (toddlers could often use the extra fats but you can use light spread for grownups)
100g soft, stoned dried apricots chopped roughly
30g raisins
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
Large tablespoon self raising flour
2 tbsp honey (or fresh apple juice if preferred)
250g porridge oats

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
I make this in one pan, transferring into a silicone tray, if using an ordinary flapjack tray grease with additional butter.
Warm the butter in a saucepan and add the honey or juice, warm gently for a minute to loosen the honey, then turn heat off.
Add the chopped apricots and raisins, and mashed banana and mix well
Measure out the oats and mix self raising flour through them
Tip floury oat mix into the pan and mix well so the oats start to soak the moisture and look golden, the flour should all mix through.

Tip the mix into your flapjack tray and spread out, pressingly gently with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown

Take out to cool, when cool turn out and slice into bars. Store in an airtight container and eat within 3-4 days.

Enjoy!

So over to you, this Family Friendly Week how are you introducing sharing and laughter into your family meal times?

Milton Sterilising Giveaway, two great prizes to be won!

When I was pregnant with Joss I was given a set of ‘baby essentials’ by a friend, and in the box was a bottle of Milton sterilising fluid.

I was taken back to the age of eight, when my baby brother came along and the distinctive smell of Milton brought back a really familiar feeling.

Now in its 65th year did you know that the original Milton Fluid was first used as a disinfectant during the First World War, and was taken into the trenches to treat skin burns?

After the war, the Milton Fluid continued to be used as a general antiseptic, disinfectant and food preservatives, as well as being used in hospital surgical procedures and later it became associated with sterilising baby bottles.

We used a Milton classic cold water steriliser like this after using it on the hospital ward to sterilise the nipple shields I brought with me, the bucket and secure lid were really handy and the clear instructions helped me through the fog of those first few difficult weeks when we moved to sterilising bottles too, something I found quite stressful but quickly got the hang of thanks to the easy directions. I continue to use this now to sterilise Joss’ drinking cups as they tend to be quite hard to clean.

Milton Sterilising giveaway

Milton have a wide range of products to offer to new parents, including microwave sterilisers and portable soother sterilisers too.

The lovely folk at Milton have given me two brilliant must-have prizes to give away, one lucky reader will receive a Milton Combi Microwave / Cold Water Steriliser and some sterilising tablets to get you started, and another lucky reader will receive a Milton Mini Portable Soother Steriliser with mini sterilising tablets to get you started (soothers not included).

Here’s a run down of both products. First up, the combi steriliser, A 2 in 1 microwave or cold water steriliser, it holds five bottles of any brand, fits the majority of microwaves and sterilising from 2 minutes in the microwave and in 15 mins with cold water it’s a fast option for a busy time in any new parent’s life.

The soother sterilisers are a new one to me as we didn’t use a soother; 2 in 1 it cleans and sterilises soothers on the go with no need to rinse and with a hand adjustable strap to easily attach it to your buggy, pram or change bag this is a great portable option for always having a spare soother ready when out and about!

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To enter this giveaway simply use the Rafflecopter tool below, terms and conditions as follows; UK postage only, winners notified within 24 hours of the giveaway closing, responsibility for sending out prizes is with PR company associated with the brand, there is no cash alternative or prize alternative.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please, please go to sleep sweetheart…how sleep affects mood in parents

This is one of those posts that’s been in my head for a while; it stopped being relevant for a while when Joss started sleeping better again but it’s now very much at the forefront of my mind. I wanted to share some ideas on being kind to yourself when sleep deprivation hits because it’s important not to become desperate for sleep or to feel desperate about the situation. It’s an issue that comes up so much in the postnatal depression groups I run and attend that it felt important enough to need a post in its own right.

For four weeks now we have had some pretty horrendous night’s sleep. Normally we can cope with night wakings but these have been coupled with it taking two, sometimes three hours to get Joss back off to sleep by which point it’s 11pm, we haven’t had any time to talk to each other as husband and wife, we haven’t had any real ‘down time’ and then from 1am to 6am we’re up and down like a couple of yoyos and let me tell you it’s taking its toll on us, I feel like the walking dead some days.

How sleep affects mood

The longest day after the worst night

Things came to a head last week when, after another 4am spent in the freezing cold over the cot I did something stupid, sleep deprived and very stupid. I forgot to put the Calpol away and the seal on the bottle was broken. The next day Joss got the bottle and we couldn’t be sure she hadn’t drank any so we took a trip to A&E, a blood test and six hours on the ward later and we found she had not a drop of paracetamol and was perfectly healthy but the damage was done, we had reached peak tired and I felt like the world’s worst parent as the hospital filled out a ‘cause for concern’ form. We all know the unthinkable consequences of this stupid mistake and I really went to town worrying about ‘what if’. A week on and I have forgiven myself for this mistake but the enduring tiredness continues.

These night wakings can be relatively short, they’re probably owing to cutting teeth at the moment so they’re only five to 10 minutes long, but they disrupt the natural rhythm of our sleep in their frequency.

How sleep affects mood

There is undoubtedly a connection between lack of sleep and mental health, our sleep debt is racking up and Joss is tired too, so we all feel slightly emotionally frayed, except she cannot yet control and understand her emotions so tantrums ensue. They’re harder to deal with after sleepless nights and before you know it the wheels have come off and we’re all grouchy, sometimes it’s hard to tell who is the toddler and who is the grownup.

How sleep affects mood

The 11pm bedtimes mean the housework doesn’t get done, we snap at each other, neither of us have had a break for even an hour in weeks and it’s just relentless when work is thrown in the mix. Then back to mental health, the black dog pops his head in…”it’s never ending…it will always be like this…look at the state of the place…things are slipping…you’re a terrible parent/wife/colleague” then the “what ifs” and anxiety begins to spiral- “what if she never sleeps through again…what if we can’t cope” – I’ve blogged about this awful spiral before, not good.

Seemingly my own mental health becomes more precarious when I don’t get the rest let alone the sleep that I need to keep me on an even keel.

These last few weeks have brought some revelations though. I can cope with less sleep than I thought I needed, I can go to work, be a mother, feed the family, wash the clothes and yet I can’t be as present as I would like, or as positive as I would like.

How sleep affects mood

So what have I learned after probably five or six of these cycles of sleep deprivation?

  • Firstly it’s important to remember that your child is not giving you a hard time but is having a hard time too. You’re all having a hard time of it, they are likely feeling as miserable at night as you are, so do what works, take them into bed with you, share responsibility with your partner for ‘nightshifts’ or arrange for yourself to get some time for a catnap if you can. Asking for help is not a weakness, be kind to yourselves and each other, apologise if you row more frequently and remember it’s because you’re exhausted
  • If you do decide to sleep in shifts as is sometimes necessary here one of you could use earplugs to make sure you get the most of your hour or two
  • I also find that if I feel frazzled and am blaming Joss even though I know she’s not at fault it really helps me to reconnect with her in some way, whether its sitting by her as she plays, cuddling or just enjoying five minutes of a TV programme she likes together, I cope better when I’m connected with her and with her Dad, those short moments bring me back to reality and out of my anxious thoughts.
  • Another thing I’ve learned is that the old ‘sleep when they sleep’ mantra rings true, genuinely there will be a point when they do sleep, even if its not ideal timing, get your head down. When Joss naps I will nap, now she naps less I go to bed really early if she goes off easily or I sleep when she does, even if it’s just for an hour or two (and they do sleep eventually, just not necessarily when you want them to!) to catch up, the other stuff can wait, leading me nicely to my next point
  • Forget the housework, I know this sounds like something people said when you had a newborn and it sounded ridiculous and you wanted to do it all but genuinely (even if you are unlucky to have a poor sleeper) this current period of real crunching all-consuming tiredness will pass and you will pick up the time and energy to get yourselves sorted out again, to sort out your home and feel more ‘together’
  • Try to eat a healthy diet, even if it means cutting some corners, it’s so tempting to slip into bad food habits to get you through, after all you probably feel down and crave comfort, but eating well will help you to have more energy to get through the day. Try and reach for nuts, bananas, dried fruit, oaty snacks etc that will give you a healthy boost
  • Use relaxation techniques and breathing techniques to help you stay calm and make the most of the odd moment of rest that you get. A friend of mine swears by a 20 minute catnap at work, I like to take an hour on a weekend when I’m really flagging to have a massage and I use essential oils to calm and relax me during the periods when Joss is awake but should be sleeping
  • Get out in the fresh air. It’s so easy to stay home in your PJs lamenting your lack of sleep, but in reality tiring your little one out with a walk and waking yourself up in the fresh air is a air is a great tonic. If you’re at work take a break and get out, and try to do your hardest tasks first thing as you may flag during the day and could use that time for basic admin etc
  • Ask for professional help if it’s really getting too hard to bear; I know sleep training is controversial but there are gentle methods for supporting a good sleeping routine if other methods are not for you. When things were really rough last year at the height of my postnatal depression just talking to my GP helped me gain perspective and feel less alone
  • And finally, ditch the guilt and being hard on yourself, this is so important. That someone wrote a book called “go the fuck to sleep” should tell you that you’re normal and only human, it’s bloody hard being a parent and you should use kind words about yourself

If you have ideas for additions to this list do let me know what works for you by leaving a comment, and I will try to add them as I hope this will be a useful resource for other parents

This is a World Mental Health Day Linky, link in via the InLinkz button below

 

The flexible working request, making it work for you

As the self-proclaimed queen of flexible working I read Tuesday’s Guardian interview by Tanya Korobka with Tracey Eker of Flexiworkforce.com with interest. I totally agree with the writer that we need to turn the UK into a place which values productivity over presence. Flexible working rights have now been extended to all but it’s only a right to request and more traditional employers are likely to want to maintain the status quo.

The flexible working request

Found on blog.expertmarket.co.uk

Productive without being present?

Is bums on seats9 – 5 really what we should value when the world is increasingly a 24/7 workplace? Even before children I brought a degree of flexibility into my working life; I know I do my best writing 10 – 2 from home, not from the office, and before Joss came along I was always a ‘later to work’ kinda gal enjoying extra time in bed and then working later.

As I’ve gotten older and become a mother I have realised I quite enjoy working an hour or two before colleagues arrive, starting earlier and sometimes finishing earlier too, then picking up between 8pm and 9:30pm when I tend to do my best idea generation.

At the moment I’m back to working 21 hours over three days, of course part-time working doesn’t equate to flexible working but I deliver those 21 hours in a range of ways, I currently need to be around during core-hours, but will occasionally balance an early finish with an earlier start the following day; I would prefer to be more flexible than this though.

Doing work differently

When I tell people this is how I work they generally assume it’s unhealthy to take work home for the evening, saying that 9-5 gives a work-life balance that my schedule doesn’t allow for. Or they’ll assume I’m not as productive, dipping in and out of work instead of having a solid 8 hour run at it.

I’d challenge both of these assumptions, firstly I am much more productive working the way I do because I thrive when busy – I’m ‘flexibly-busy’ to coin a phrase, and I don’t just work one desk-based job, I also volunteer, run a few networks and blog too, my ‘on-time’ is really varied and interesting which suits me.

As a researcher I have times in the cycle of my projects where I really immerse myself in the field I’m studying, it seeps into conversations with friends, I mull it over with my coffee – passionate much? You bet, I love this line of work and it’s totally appropriate that I work at it flexibly.

Don’t get me wrong, I do lament the 24/7 ‘at it’ culture, but flexible working doesn’t mean longer hours in the long run, it’s just that the hours I work are often delivered differently. The only downside to flexible working is knowing your limits, when you live a flexible life it’s easy to say yes to everything and to this end you need to plan your me-time with flexibility too, but isn’t that the beauty of flexible working?

The flexible working request

With compressed hours we can get an extra day back to ourselves, or that time with the kids in the morning, or after school; this kind of flexibility is good for our mental health and wellbeing too.

Trust is key

Of course Tracey was bang-on in her assessment of the key to flexible working; it absolutely requires trust, and bags of it. My employers get 110% from me, as I deliver on time, every time, should how I got there need to concern them?

In an ideal world I would work more flexibly still, why stop at compressed days or working from home? I suffer with seasonal affective disorder, I’ve blogged before about how I work better in the summer when the nights are lighter and I feel I have a reward at the end of a long day in the form of a walk with my family.

Extended family time in the sun slips away into a doldrumous and dreary winter though, and I’m not so productive, tend to need more frequent breaks and struggle with depression. Flexible working can combat the longer days and the well-known to business dip in productivity by allowing an hour or two off in the brighter afternoons for example.

Culture

Of course all of this requires a cultural shift; freeing people up to be judged on their results rather than valuing the time they put in better suits the creative and more connected ways in which many of us now prefer to work. Gen Y knows it can produce consistent results whilst working flexibly and enters the workplace looking for flexibility, a stronger work-life balance and wellbeing at work too.

I agreed with the writer’s opinion that it tends to be women who work more flexibly and it’s hard to find an acceptance of flexibility at the top. There’s a definite sense that employees want to work in new and different ways whilst management wants to maintain the status quo.

Sadly when flexible working laws came in, especially new laws to extend them to all workers, businesses talked about having to ‘brace themselves’ against requests rather than embracing new ways of working, reflective of our very male-dominant working structures.

Speaking to friends who have worked flexibly longer than I have they recall feeling excluded as meetings were booked in on their days off, or pressured to change their working arrangements, hardly the flexibility they were seeking, but their employers agreed to their new working terms inflexibly!

When employers lead by example, working shorter working weeks as some CEOs now do this leads to a happier workforce, we get the job done in less time, think sharper and leave feeling fulfilled looking forward to our down time.

The flexible working request, making it work for you

So you’ve made the flexible working request and it’s been accepted, now what?

  1. Keep a work pattern diary to work out where and when you do your best work, if like me you write better from the library with resources to hand, or from home, or prefer to make your telephone calls when the office is quiet before everyone else comes in work to these patterns, they are your strengths!
  2. Know when to switch off and try to have switched off periods during the day. I check my emails once every two hours on the hour so I don’t get disturbed by lots of auto updates, I also try to use technology to my advantage, so I can check emails on the go and be as responsive as I would be in the office.
  3. Keep talking to your manager and make sure that they see the results of flexible working, ask to review the arrangements during your supervisions too. You need to make sure they don’t think you’re opting out of anything by working flexibly
  4. If meetings are planned for your day off try to gently change these arrangements, don’t take it personally or feel overlooked but don’t apologise for your working arrangements either, try to arrange it so they’re organised when you are in the office, and try to get a working relationship going where you and colleagues can all be a bit more flexible about where and when you meet
  5. Be mindful, try to live in the now at work and at home, I’m still learning to do this, but it’s important to be where you are and not where you’re not, whether that’s at home, your other job, with the kids or your partner, it really does help with your work-life balance!

What about you? Do you have enough flex in your work life?

Mums' Days

SillyBillyz Organic Mini Robes Review

As we wave Organic September goodbye we say hello to a super soft and snuggly SillyBillyz Organic Mini Bath Robe in our house! I was so pleased to finally find a robe in organic cotton, they’re harder to come by for toddlers, and it has been a real treat to review!

I find organic cotton much more durable than non-organic and that’s really important to me in an item in everyday use as Joss’ dressing gown is a daily must-have, especially on those work mornings when I need to give her something to eat while I get ready before getting her dressed for the day. She is quite officious about making sure I get my own ‘dressidown’ on before we get up for the day so the fact that SillyBillyz robes are a dead-ringer for my own robe put us onto a winner, her own dressidown, brilliant!

Why Sillybillyz Organic?

Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic pesticides or fertilizers; buying organic is better for the environment and kinder on sensitive baby skin too not to mention it’s a better quality product and the fabric produced tends to be softer, stronger and longer lasting to boot.

The Lowdown

Joss has thoroughly enjoyed two days of lounging in her PJs and robe both in the mornings and after bath time! Available in two other colours, milk and blue, as well as this gorgeous plum and with a snug hood and Organic terry cotton inner these super robes are super absorbent, perfect for colder morning showers and a faster option than a towel for a ‘dashing to her toys’ Joss! The terry cotton on the inside of the gown means that I don’t need to spend long towelling her off, she can practically hop from the shower into the gown, hood up and she’s cosy and warm, a must for those cold winter days!

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Although aged 9 months to two years plus I think it might be a tad big on a smaller baby, no complaints here though as this is so roomy she will be wearing it for at least the next year! The size is really generous which makes this a long lasting buy and the robe is stain resistant and tumble dry safe so it’s perfect for tots to relax in and wear whilst eating (stain resistant!) as it dries really quickly too.

The simple waist tie means that there’s no risk of trips and falls and the robe is toddler safe as the tie is attached to the body of the gown.

Available from Safetots and retailing at £18.99 this is great value for Organic cotton and it’s a beautiful, soft quality cotton at that, you can see the soft terry pile and smooth nap of the fabric; super snug!

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Packaged up in a zip lock gift bag this would make a lovely, warm and practical gift for a baby or toddler, it even comes with a gift tag included!

Organic September

Organic September is the UK’s biggest celebration of all things organic, the Soil Association is encouraging us all to choose organic so we can all support a kinder, greener and better food system. This September they’ve encouraged us to make small changes that have a big impact on the environment; by switching one household item to organic we can make a big difference. Check out the #organicseptember twitterfeeds and you might even bag yourself a bargain with discounts and trials available before the end of the month.

I’m celebrating Organic September on the blog by introducing you guys to some potential small changes.

You may remember a while back I looked at some of the small changes parents could make when bringing their bundle of joy into the world with my Eco Parenting from Birth to Toddler series.

Now it’s the turn of the grownups with a glorious set of organic goodies to choose your ‘change one thing’ from!

ORGANIC SEPTEMBER

1) Haircare

We’ve been using some of Aubrey Organics products for a while now, you might remember our suncare review earlier in the year. There’s big talk about going ‘no shampoo’ (no-poo!) but that’s not for everyone and switching to haircare products that are better for the environment could be a good way to make the transition to more ethical haircare in the long term. I’ve been using the delicious smelling Aubrey Organics Tea Tree and Primrose shampoo this week and this is one organic switch that’s good on the purse too, as this is cheaper than my usual salon shampoo and smells better to boot! Organic Tea Tree Oil purifies the scalp whilst the addition of Organic blue green Algae strengthens the hair fibres and Organic Primrose Oil gently moisturises. A little goes a long way and this is one product ‘switch’ that new mums experiencing hair loss might want to consider as blue green algae has hair growth promoting properties.

Aubrey

2) A treat for mother and baby

I heard about Lavera organic baby products from a friend in Germany; now available in the UK, making a switch from some of the better known baby oil producers to an Organic producer has benefits for the environment as well as mother and baby. Lavera Baby & Kinder Organic Neutral Skin Oil contains many organic oils, especially evening primrose oil & organic olive oil to make sure your babies skin is moisturised thoroughly & protected, as the combination of organic oils is perfect in soothing irritated skin, including eczema this is a multi-use product that could take you from baby massage to a post-shower treat for mum (or dad!) Joss still loves me doing her baby massage routine and it can be great for taming tantrums too, this oil is rich but penetrates the skin without leaving greasy hands, infact it left my hands gorgeously soft!

lavera oil

3) Organic Eggs

Of course the Organic standards are not just related to clothing and beauty but to food too. The Happy Egg Co bring us free range happy eggs from happy hens in addition to recipes and nutritional tips on their brilliantly bright site. They now bring us Organic eggs too produced by hens fed an organic diet free from GMO’s, pesticides and other additives and graze on organic land. As with all happy egg hens the ‘girls’ that produce organic eggs have a full, enriched, and happy life so if you made this switch you’d also benefit from knowing that you’re supporting animal welfare, oh and you can make tastier treats too, like these cupcakes I made with a half dozen Organic Happy Eggs, yum!

happy egg

4) Eco-beauty

Oriflame’s eco-beauty range brings natural Swedish beauty products to the UK. As well as a smoothing day cream and night cream I reviewed their eco-beauty smoothing eye cream; a lightweight and natural Organic formula that smooths fine lines and reduces puffiness and dark circles around the eye – I liked that it is unscented and it has a lovely lightweight texture too. Starting with a small change to organic skincare with changing a facial product is a small change with big results for your skin regime.

Oriflame eco beauty

5) Organic cotton clothing

Where possible I love to choose organic cotton, it has an unbeatable softness and washes beautifully. I have added this organic cotton waterfall cardigan from Traidcraft to my Christmas wishlist, I have many of their long sleeves tees and they wash and wear so well that I just know this will make a great addition to my wardrobe, in rose and burgundy I just need to choose a colour now!

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Disclaimer: All of the products featured were sent to myself for review purposes or chosen for my wishlist and all views are my own

Holidaying with a toddler in the UK

We holidayed in Druridge Bay this week and in part I want to use this post to say thank you to Alison and Phil who own Poppy Cottage as we really enjoyed our stay at their gorgeous cottage by the sea; the location is stunning and with surrounding Farm land on one side and the wild Northumberland coast on the other we were spoilt for choice with local walks with a warm and welcoming holiday home to return to each day, a must on an occasionally chilly Autumn day!

I promised in my last post to say a bit about glamping at Druridge Bay with The Bells of Hemscott. Alison and Phil started to offer a glamping experience from their working farm this summer and this is something we definately want to return for when Joss is a little older. Knowing what the calm and cosy interior of Poppy Cottage offers with fab soft furnishings and carefully chosen accessories I have a feeling the tents will offer a similarly welcoming experience. Judging by what we’ve seen and heard on the travel blogging scene visitors to the site have enjoyed dark starry skies, fresh air and stunning scenery with comfort and a warm bed!

Photo from The Bells of Hemscott website

Photo from The Bells of Hemscott website

And so on to or holiday photos, our first real family holiday taking us from brooding sea fret and bluster to a rare afternoon of bright sunny sunshine!

Holidaying with a toddler in the UK

Joss is really interested in shapes at the moment so we made a huge circle in the sand

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This little fella had washed up on the dry sand so we carefully returned him

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Autumn is definitely coming

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We left the buggy at home and carried her the four mile round trip to the local farm shop, holidaying with a toddler in the UK is a breeze with a sling!

 

sling at druridge bay

Need to identify this gorgeous sea bird, anyone know?

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Brooding skies

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And out came the sun and blue clouds

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Joss likes to yell “Joss is running” when she’s, well, running!

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We spent most of our time on the beach rockpooling and we have brought back some amazing shells to add to our beachcomber finds series (turns out Joss treasures shells as much as I do – yes!)

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This is my photo of the holiday, I love how she’s supporting her weight on Daddy, the vibrancy of the pools and their intense concentration, magic

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And finally, sandy chops, a sign of a great time!

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holiday sand face

Our stay begins at Poppy Cottage

This week we’re taking time out from research and project work and taking a family holiday at Druridge Bay on the beautiful Northumberland Coast. Poppy Cottage is a literal stones throw away from the most glorious coastline, its site is a working farm and September is fabulous for quiet walks and blowing the cobwebs away.

As we live near an urban farm Joss has loved seeing farming on a bigger scale, with diggers, tractors and different breeds of livestock than we’re used to its a country mouse’s dream!

Sadly Joss is loaded with cold and don’t we know it, a bad nights sleep was much more bearable for these views though and I’ll be sharing more of our holiday snaps as the week goes on.

The Farm itself at Hemscott Hill has also seen camping action this summer with some brilliant bell tents set up, more on those later but suffice to say their pitch is in a beautiful part of the world!

I’m off for a glass of red and a spot of reading before we’re back to exploring again tomorrow!

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5 reasons for needing to say sorry to Sarah & Duck

An open letter to Sarah Gomes Harris and Tim O’Sullivan (creators of Sarah and Duck)

Dear Sarah and Tim,

I must apologise for saying that Sarah reminded me of sinister ol’ Salad Fingers, I still find it odd that she’s seven but lives alone with a duck but I can let that slide, I made those comments before my daughter was old enough for me to sit down and watch the show with her and it now has a special place in my heart, in Charlie and Lola style I am extremely absolutely sorry.

sarah and duck

I have turned over a new leaf and stopped picking faults with Cbeebies shows, I adore them and here are my 5 reasons for needing to say sorry to Sarah & Duck:

1) Scarf lady’s bag

A talking bag, genius,sheer eccentricity…I hope that when I am old and confused I will live much like Scarf Lady with a house full of woolen items and a talking bag to correct me, oh and a pet donkey, and a weeping woolen tree to harvest more yarn…

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2) Sarah’s love of sea cows

From about the age of five or six my brother was obsessed with sea cows or manatees, thanks to Sarah and Duck now Joss is too, I like to think of this as a family tradition now and it wouldn’t have continued without this show

3) Sarah’s fireworks dance

Hearing Joss sing this cracks me up, the lyrics are simple but it’s soooo sweet “this is my fireworks dance, I do it when there are fireworks…fireworks, fireworks,fireworks, fireworks”

4) Problem solving

This show is all about solving life’s little problems, Sarah goes to the library to seek answers to life’s many troubles – why are donkeys sad? Why does bug like buttons? The answers are lovely – “donkeys are friendly animals, they look sad but they are not. As long as they get lots of carrots and hugs they are quite happy”

5) Northern accents in kids tv

There aren’t enough Northern accents heard on kids TV so this is a big plus point, I love Sarah saying ‘hallo’ – it’s like a breath of fresh air!

Mums' Days

5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

Common Toddler Fears

I recently did a straw poll of over 50 mums and dads with toddlers to identify a list of common toddler fears; the following were identified as common:

Hand driers

Dogs

Mannequins or people in fancy dress

Bugs and creepy crawlies

Public toilets

Lawnmower

Vacuum cleaner or hoover

common toddler fears

Not so common toddler fears

As this was an unscientific poll it did throw up some really interesting fears, some very specific and as a precursor to saying that we shouldn’t belittle our little one’s fears later in this article there are some that were too funny not to mention. These included:

“My daughter 2 year old is scared of the toilet because it has eyes on the inside of the lid…And she is scared of mannequins, especially the ones that don’t have any facial features… in a nutshell- if it has a face she probably won’t like it and if it doesn’t have a face she’s not happy either..”

“Fat men he doesn’t know. Not even joking. It’s embarrassing when he starts getting upset and hiding because of the big fat man”

“Oh and the wheat bag thing you stick in the microwave. He’s 2″

“The wobbly shed! PS it doesn’t wobble”

“Big mega poos until they come out”

5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

We had a spell recently where Joss started asking ‘what’s that noise’ and asking to be carried or hugged if we heard a hoover, lawnmower, loud roadworks, car alarm etc.

More concerning for us as parents though was a really tough time where she was scared of M.O.N.S.T.E.R.S (yep monsters, we had to spell it out to avoid using the word for a good month and a half).

From the scary – “there’s a monster in my bed Mammy, it’s purple and I don’t like it” – to the ridiculous – hearing “what’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster” by The Automatic in a charity shop and Joss needing to leave the store NOW to get away from it! – it wasn’t an easy time as it really disrupted her sleep and disturbed her.

The problem was, Joss was unable to say what a monster was or where she’d heard the word or got the idea to be scared so it was hard for us to tackle. Here’s what we found worked after some research, these form our 5 ways to overcome common toddler fears

1) Recognise the fear

Don’t belittle their fear, it’s very real for them however imagined or surreal it might seem to us big people. We acknowledged that Joss was scared of monsters and talked about them in a way she could understand, I said that I could understand how it felt to be afraid – “it’s hard when something is scary, I understand you don’t want to go into the living room, let’s hold hands and go in together”

2) Talk about the fear truthfully, use books or other tools

Rather than saying that there’s no reason to be afraid or that monsters are not real we talked about them instead. She had some books about monsters, we talked about how they looked silly, what colours they were, that they made us laugh. She still had this dialogue of ‘monsters are scary’ but that slowly started to be replaced by ‘monsters are silly…’ We had some tough decisions about whether to start with monster spray or clear the room rituals that Id read about, I am glad we avoided these as I think they may have sustained or reinforced the fears instead, I think it helped more to be consistent and offer lots of repetition and praise. For slightly older children asking them to draw a monster or another fear might be a useful tool

3) Use lots of praise

I praised Joss’ efforts to overcome her fears, we had a spell where she insisted there was a scary monster under her chair, I encouraged her to point to the scary monster and say you’re not scary, you’re silly, and when she did I used lots of praise and encouragement, when she started to get scared of loud noises we did the same.

4) Use humour but don’t laugh about it if they’re upset

Children can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary so don’t laugh at them when they’re afraid, help them talk their way through the fear with you instead.

5) Make nighttime less scary

At the height of our time exploring monster fears Joss started to show signs of becoming afraid during bedtime, we did a lot of work to reassure her that Mammy and Daddy are here for her and we kept the hall light on for a few evenings. Over time her fears started to subside. Then we noticed that at times of change, my working away for a few days or her grandparents going on holiday and not seeing them for a little while seemed to unsettle her and bring back the fears again. With lots of praise and reassurance we have been helping her to understand change and prepare her for change by talking to her about where she is going for the day, what we are doing and building a strong sense of attachment.

As her fears decrease she has become bolder, sometimes shouting monster, run! She has also started to draw monsters and give them names so we’re moving away from something she’s too scared to speak about to her being able to be much more vocal about the fear and work it out for herself.

Do your little ones have any fears? How do you help them through?

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