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…


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!

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


Mannequins or people in fancy dress

Bugs and creepy crawlies

Public toilets


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?

- See more at: http://mumsdays.com/#sthash.RFuw1FtF.dpuf

Toddler Printable Library in a Box!

If like me you have a child that absolutely adores libraries, stickers, stamps and books then I have the perfect Toddler Printable Library in a box for you!

Joss loves our local library and asks to help stamp the books when we pop in on a Saturday, I wanted to recreate this as a play activity we could do during her quiet time at home. She’s really into role play so this will make a nice change from playing ‘shops’ for a while!

I made Joss a little Library Box with bookplates, a date stamp, library cards and stickers and other stamps so that she can play ‘librarian’ at home, and now you can too!


These Toddler Printable Library cards and labels are free for you to download and print as many times as you like! Just paste the label onto a shoebox, cut out the cards and bookplates and fill your box with stamps, ink, pens, stickers and hey presto, your little one is a Librarian!

Library label

library cards Printable cards

I’d love to see what you add to your own library boxes, if you print them pop back and let me know how your library play goes!


Magic, storytelling and play at The Hancock’s Magic Worlds exhibition

The Great North (or Hancock) Museum is hands down Joss’ favourite day out. In Newcastle’s city centre its a haven from the shops, “goin a see a dinosaurs” is a frequently used phrase in this house and we’re there most weeks, sometimes multiple times a week!

When I heard about the Magic Worlds exhibition we had to go on the first day!

It didn’t disappoint, a V&A Museum of Childhood visiting exhibition with the Hancock until the summer there is bags to see and do, today we focused on fairy tales and must go back to see more of the magic and play!

As a lover of fairy tales I’m keen to share this interest with Joss, I found the displays really sparked my crafty imagination and the Alice in Wonderland play area is amazing and we couldn’t drag her away from the Mad Hatters Tea Party!

The staging is amazing, woodland, elven, witch, fairytale and magic with a sweet little reading area, some great examples of patchwork cushioning and intricate wood cut trees, dark spaces and magic mirrors and loads of puppets, including Sooty himself and a scary Hansel and Gretel witch!

I can’t wait to go back and explore some more with Joss, an awe inspiring day out!


Eat, Sleep, Play: Unfounded Worries in Motherhood

Yesterday was World Sleep Day, as a mother your usual concern is that you and your family are not getting enough, and the idea that other folks are getting ALL THE SLEEP kills you!


In a previous life I was probably a sloth…


Truth be told, when I was planning my return to work I couldn’t see a way to go back, how could I put a decent day at my desk in after a run of bad nights? Knowing that sleep has a huge impact on my productivity and mental health and my job involves more than just saying ‘pass the damn coffee’ all day I couldn’t see how it would work. But it does, and I do.

This got me thinking about some of my unfounded worries and anxieties as a new mother. Now that I have a rapidly-approaching-two-year- old (RATYO?) my anxieties about “what if…x,y,z” have calmed a lot.

They usually focused around three key issues, Eat, Sleep, Play (see what I did here?)


Weight gain and weaning… I drove myself to despair over Joss’ slow weight gain, when she started to fall off her line in the red book of wisdom I was told to bring her back to be weighed in two weeks. I started to believe that I was somehow supposed to get her to eat more in those two weeks and meal times became awful for both of us, I’d obsess over her food intake. I knew people said “food before one is just for fun” – ITS TRUE PEOPLE!! I didn’t believe this at the time, but eighteen months on Joss has a healthy and sensible appetite, still loves her fruit and veg and once I started to become much more patient we all started to enjoy mealtimes. Most of my fears about weaning were unfounded too, hey look, she’s eating a meal of food like any regular human child, to me it was a revelation that baby led weaning existed, surely it was all about purees and spoon feeding? See this muffin? She didn’t really eat it, but she did mouth it and enjoy sharing a meal time with us, and that was more important than volume at that stage, lesson learned right there!


You don’t need as much as you think you do. Well I do, no really, I do. In the early days once a routine was established about five months into our parenting journey I started to get a bit desperate about sleep, those what ifs? again, what if she wakes really frequently? What is causing the disturbance? Am I getting this routine thing wrong? I started a sleep diary, we learned that Joss has a unique cycle every eight weeks moving from sleeping 10 hours straight to reducing that by an hour a night til we hit on a 4am wake up then increasing back to sleeping ten hours again. Erm, how fascinating, but what would we do with this amazing data we had gathered? Put it into a computer and make her sleep again? It’s her cycle, we learned to live with it, it’s easier when you accept it and know that good days will follow bad again.


The old will she won’t she walk soon? Will she won’t she talk soon? Is she getting the right kind of play? Is it bad that she asks for Tombiliboos first thing in the morning and knows the names of most of the Cbeebies presenters like they’re our friends and family? Again all unfounded worries. All normal worries I hasten to add!

I guess this post is just a gentle reminder to me that phases are just that, they ebb and flow, and to anyone having a wobble, this too shall pass!

Toddler schemas – the one where I get heckled

“They’re all different…” “every child is unique….”

Apparently there are ‘toddler personality types;’ the wallflower, zen baby, the extrovert explorer and the whirlwind, I have all four, no, not quadruplets, but Joss is a whimsical “flibertigibbert, a wilo-the-wisp, a clown” and regularly displays all of these traits and more.

She’s more wallflower probably, cautious,careful and thoughtful with the occasional flash of courage!

What really amuses me now that I am used to dealing with it is her tenacity, I have stopped seeing her as “stubborn” and “headstrong” there’s a humour under her steely determination that makes it much easier to work with, than against, I’m not saying there aren’t nights when I’ve been at work all day and could handle her whinging better but sometimes you just have to laugh at how they start to find their feet and understand their own emotions and whims. Like tonight, when I walked home with the buggy after the childminders, she leaned right out the pram asking me for more crisps and heckling ‘silly mammy’ asking me to run up the bank with all 10 kilos of her, a buggy, workbag and shopping ! – If I can catch her at the right moment she’s easy to distract, but I sometimes miss the cues!


A schema is a psychological term, it denotes a set of play behaviours when referring to children, and the BBC has a nice guide to toddler schemas you might be interested in here and there are more ideas for games depending on your child’s schema here

Joss’ schema is ‘transporting’ this means she likes to fetch and carry, to put items into bags and boxes to carry, to push items along, like her trolley and so her toy preferences are for bags, prams, cars and trailers.

It is fascinating how accurate this schema is for Joss, as these photos show, this is a really focussed enjoyable form of play for her!

What I also find amusing is how she does the same thing over and over if she’s really into her schema play, tonight she put all her animals in a little red bag and carried them about, this started with her looking at the bag, then thinking for ages, she suddenly and seemingly randomly to me said ‘sheep!’ hopped up and started filling the bag with plastic farm animals, but once she got bored she wanted bricks in there too, the bag then wouldn’t close and she got really angry, shouting for me to ‘fixit, fixit, fixit’ and when she calmed down we looked closely at the bag and talked about why it wouldn’t close, she was tired and couldn’t accept it so we moved on to distraction with a colouring book. Understanding her schema helps me understand her play and understand how I can develop her play with her too.

Have a read, what schema is your little one on? I’d love to hear more!

Toys of the past!

I’m 30 next month and true to my 80s kid roots I’ve been reminiscing over some childhood photos, I always come back to the toys that feature in the pics, retro chic! Once I get thinking about Hamble and Jemima, Alf, Harry and the Hendersons, Thundercats…that’s it, you’ve lost me!

About ten years ago Mr B bought me a repro Carebear after my toys came to a sad end (loft insulation man took them by mistake, bye bye lovely memories) it’s now Joss’ prized possession:


So this post is a rundown a ‘toys I’ve loved and lost but remember fondly’ if you will!

My top five rundown in TOTP style (do the presenter’s voice, you know you want to!) starts with Polly Pocket, frustrating though it was that Polly’s only movement was to bend in half in the middle I used to love these little cases, I’ve always been a sucker for compacts!


Then in at four there were Keypers, we had a snail and a swan given in a bumper pack of hand-mi-downs, I vividly remember my excitement at these, so good!


In at three, Cupcake Dolls and Strawberry Shortcake, these were scented and every now and again at a really unexpected time if I get a whiff of a really artificial synthetic strawberry smell I’m suddenly six years old again!


A controversial entry at two, around since the 60s with a heyday in the 90s I don’t care, (I love it) my Skip-it brings all the kids to the yard:

And finally this week’s new entry straight into number one, it won’t be everyone’s favourite but it’s mine, My Little Pony, can’t wait for Joss to get into these!


Disclaimer: I am now raising a child who I don’t believe should only play with the classically ‘girls’ oriented toys that I did and am a fervent supporter of the Let Toys be Toys campaign!

What’s the story?


What’s going on here then? Well I think I’ll call this photo “Clonkers Bonkers” sadly for poor Jossy this week brought in both a new year and her first accident, a bang to the head following some crazy running around on a very wet and windy day. Stuck in the house she ran in circles shouting ‘spinny thing’ (just something we made up…) and slid headfirst into the kitchen step, up came a goose egg and a now yellowing bruise to follow.

Now I think we did pretty well to get to 20 months with a lot of “slow down, be carefuls!” and no accidents, but it was only a matter of time.

This photo shows a safer mode of play, literally well cushioned, sat on her upside down potty with all her toy people and animals piled in, now if only she’d stay still in there…

Christmas Gift Guide: Slow Toys from Babi Pur and Discount Code

Given this blog’s focus on eco-parenting I was delighted to strike up a relationship with Babi Pur who bring together the best ethical and organic brands under one roof, with second to none customer service. Babi Pur have always been our go-to website for cloth nappies offering choice at a great price, and brilliantly speedy delivery.

Babi Pur are stockists of HAPE Toys, a great toy company offering high quality environmentally friendly wooden toys. I would call these toys ‘slow toys’ giving the freedom for creative play without the ubiquitous plastic!

For our first Babi Pur Boaster testing assignment they kindly sent us the HAPE Toys Musical Band Set complete with xylophone, drum, cymbal, guiro and clacker. This makes its way onto our Christmas Gift Guide because it offers great opportunities for independent play, development, and music making, which Joss absolutely loves! Photos are very much shot ‘in action’ for this post as musical toys are played with really vigorously in this house!


I love the idea of having a single board hosting a range of instruments, and this is really tactile and toddler friendly. Joss picked up the drumsticks straight away and bashed out a merry tune on the xylophone!

This photo captures the moment she discovered the cymbal, what fun!


The xylophone is really lovely and has a brilliant sound quality to it and the colours and quality of the materials really shine through.


The clacker is currently being used as a ‘hairbrush’ demonstrating the depth of creativity that slow toys bring, and she doesn’t quite get what the guiro is about yet, so there’s plenty to explore and discover as she grows. I like that there is space built in to store the accessories as it’s really hard to keep toys together when you have an inquisitive toddler.

With an rrp of £34.99 these are toys to keep and treasure, which is what the slow toy movement is all about, the quality of the product is really high.

In our role as the first Babi Pur Boaster we have a special code for our lovely blog readers, if you have not ordered with Babi Pur in the past you can claim 15% off your first order with the code NELLY – this works on all non-sale items for the first order only.

Disclaimer: I received this HAPE toy for review purposes, all views are my own

Toddler play, simple fun on a rainy day

When Joss napped this morning I got my stash of washi tape out (I love this stuff!) and used it to decorate some different lengths of tube cut from toilet roll inners. I bought a huge bag of 250 straws and popped her down on this rainy afternoon with the colander, 10 colourful straws and the tubes. First we talked about the colours of the straws, then she tried brushing them through her hair, and blowing through them, an hour later she was still playing, wearing the tubes as bangles and putting the straws through the colander tubes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Pinterest is an amazing source of play ideas, at 11am I wasn’t sure how we’d entertain each other for the day, but at very little cost we enjoyed a really fun afternoon indoors!


The fun continued whilst I cracked on with a spot of washing up too!