Chores for Children

Chores for Children

Let’s talk about chores for children.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the jobs that my children do at home. Honestly, her reaction was what you’d expect if I’d told her I had sent them to a Victorian England workhouse.

In defence of myself, I explained that I want my children to understand responsibility. The significance of working together as a household to look after our home and the importance of keeping the place tidy. I also want them to know the value of their belongings and how looking after your things is crucial, whether you are 4, 44 or 104.

She didn’t seem convinced. Some mothers are happy to do everything for their children and while I’m sure she now thinks I’m a modern-day Miss Hannigan, I stand by my decision to give my children chores.

Now, please don’t think my children spend their days in rags, scrubbing the floor until it “shines like the top of the Chrysler Building”. My husband and I do most of the jobs around the house, and when I say me and my husband, I mean my husband. That bloke gets gold in all cleaning events. 10s across the board. He’s ex-army, so cleaning is as natural to him as breathing. Everything from dishes to ironing is done to an exceptional standard. That said, we are a household of five. We have three children, a house, and I’m doing a degree. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything for everyone at home. Which is why my children are asked to chip in.

To teach and promote a bit of independence and responsibility, the kids have a few simple things that we ask them to do to help out. Jobs such as, feed the cat, put your washing away, make your bed. They are straightforward, five-minute things they are perfectly capable of doing that make a huge impact. It means there is one less job for me ( or husband) to worry about and honestly, my children love that they are an important part of our unit.

After my conversation with the child chore hater, I asked my eldest daughter if she thought it was unfair that she had to do things like put her washing away. She replied with the best answer I could have ever hoped for. She said “No, why would it be unfair, they’re my clothes, why shouldn’t I put them away.” Her response filled me with pride (and reassurance that she didn’t feel like a 21st Century Cinderella). When I looked further into it, there is so much information online about how great it is to get children involved with household chores.

Below is a list of some age-appropriate chores that you could allow and encourage your children to do.

Children aged 3-5

  • Tidying toys away: It usually helps if they have a large box to put their toys into. You can even make a game out of picking up toys by counting each one, or if you have more than one child, see who can pick the most up.
  • Making their bed: Encourage your child to pull up their covers and tidy the bed. You may need to help younger children with straightening the duvet.
  • Cutlery sorting: Getting your child to put knives, forks and spoons into the correct compartment of the ‘cutlery drawer’ is an easy sorting activity as well as a big help. I always supervise when doing this and remove anything sharp or weapon-like.  
  • Sock pairing: This is another great sorting activity that will help your child with matching and pairing. It’s also a great starter chore that your youngster can do alongside you while you’re sorting laundry.
  • Plant watering: A great activity in the summer to keep the plants fed. The Master of Mischief has loved watering the plants in the evening. Especially as they have grown so much. It’s been a great way to visually teach him about looking after things.

Children aged 7-9

  • Setting the table for dinner: This is something that Little Fairy is an expert at. You can also encourage them to make drinks to go with dinner. (I’d avoid anything hot or alcoholic)
  • Take out rubbish: I usually ask my girls to take bits of recycling out to the bin on their way out to play.
  • Putting washing away: Everyone is responsible for making sure their clothes get put away properly.
  • Make their breakfast: I’m not talking a full English or continental, but my girls can make themselves a bowl of cereal or a slice of toast. Life Skills!
  • Feed a pet: We have a cat; at 9 years old, we have recently entrusted my eldest to make sure the cat gets fed. The cat food is ring pull so there aren’t any major mechanics involved. The cat’s still alive, so it’s going well so far.  

For children aged 10+

  • Set an alarm: Taking responsibility for making sure they are up on time is a great skill to teach your child.
  • Keep the bedroom tidy: This means no toys or dirty washing on the floor, beds made and curtains OPEN!
  • Help with cooking: Depending on how trusting you are you can ask your child to help prepare dinner or allow them to cook a basic meal. Teaching them recipes will also set them up for adulting in later life.
  • Washing up: If you don’t have a dishwasher, you do now. I joke. Seriously though, at this age, you can allow and encourage your child to clean after dinner dishes or wash up their breakfast pots.

I probably don’t have to state the obvious, but I’m going to, my children don’t do all the things listed here, these are simply ideas.

Are there any chores that your children do that I haven’t listed? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

Hannah XO

Dates with My Daughters on A Budget

Dates with My Daughters on A Budget

The bond between mother and daughter is something unique. For me and my girls, the bond runs deep and strong. It’s like I have created two small besties. I’m not talking a ‘Weird Science’ set up, but since the moment I had them, I have given everything to make sure they are loved, cared for and that I bring a smile to their faces every chance I get. Having them in my (very) early twenties, we were a household full of girls for a very long time. Bringing the smiles was easy. It was fabulous, even though they were young, we would spend our afternoons cuddled up in our pink blanket dens, watching Disney movies and throwing glitter around like we were actual fairies. I wore wings a lot!
After meeting my husband and having our son, the girls had to readjust to having boys in our house of girls. With a new baby, we had fewer den building days, the glitter was put away and my attention shifted. The smiles were still there but I would be lying if I said that the change in dynamic was a breeze. There were plenty of bumps along the way. We endured through them all and looking back, all the bumps, that seemed like roadblocks at the time, are irrelevant now. I couldn’t imagine not having our chaotic little family unit. The girls are wonderful big sisters, and my husband is a fantastic dad to our beautiful blended family.
Despite the fact I couldn’t live without them, a new dynamic is still a juggling act. My son is the youngest and by far the most demanding of my children. With a ridiculous amount of energy, he has two settings. 1 and 11. There is no in-between. I’m proud of my daughters and their acceptance that mummy has to give attention to the Master of Mischief because he is younger and still learning. However, my mum guilt is given a little boost every time I have to split myself, meaning that the girls are left to play together (without me).
It is wonderful that they have each other, with only 16 months between them, they are more like friends than sisters (long may that continue). I do think it is important though, that I plan to give them uninterrupted ‘mummy time’. I usually aim to plan to do something together once a week. This is usually a little bit of cooking or baking, doing face masks, watching a movie, or heading out together for a walk, just the three of us.
Once every couple of months (budget allowing) I plan a girls day out. This is usually in the form of a shopping trip. We leave the lads at home, grab some lunch, browse through the shops and enjoy well-deserved girl time. I always budget to give each of them a bit of spending money which allows them to splurge on friendship bracelets and fluffy notepads, which they never wear or ever write in. However, this is a different story for a different time. Our retail therapy days are always fun and are a way in which we keep the bond between us strong.
Budgeting plays a large part in what we can do though. As a low-income family, I don’t always have the money to keep the kids flush with fluffy notepads. The juggle is a struggle.
When I started this blog page, I wanted to share with others, ideas and things that I do with what little money I have left after the bills are paid. Below is a list of ideas for dates with your daughters that won’t break the bank.

Movie Nights


Who doesn’t love a good movie night? From big-name blockbusters to the straight to TV films they show on channel 5 in an afternoon. I adore films. Sharing flicks with my girls is such a special thing for me. Growing up, both my parents worked shifts, so we were never a ‘sit down together for dinner’ type family. Movies were our thing. Both my mum and dad would share their favourite films and directors with me. With my mum, it would be the chick flicks. Legally Blonde, You’ve Got Mail, Dirty Dancing, Sleepless in Seattle and the rest. When it was movie night with my dad, it would be the best action or cult classics with the likes of Jaws, The Lost Boys, The Usual Suspects, Die Hard and The Untouchables. With the latter still being a firm favourite today. I had stacks of VHS (yes, I’m now that old) and for the ones we didn’t own, we would have a weekly trip to Global Video! This was pre-Netflix DVD posting, which was pre-Netflix streaming.
I’ll bet some of you younger readers might not know that before Netflix was built into your Smart TV, they were a DVD postal service. You had to wait 3 days to get your chosen film, so think before you next complain about your 3 minute buffering time!
Movie night is a cheap and easy thing to do on a rainy afternoon. To some, sticking a film on is just ‘something to do’ but when you share a film from your own childhood it becomes so much more than that.
If you’re willing, you can also splash a little cash on some movie extras. I usually set myself a budget of £5. Whatever treats we do have, I put them onto one large platter (this negates the dreaded packet crinkling through the film).

Walking and Talking


This is a completely free activity that you can enjoy with your child from birth to any age. When my children were babies, I loved walking out with them in the pram. The fresh air and the sounds around them were like a knockout drug. They would sleep for hours after. As they got older, we enjoyed exploring the local woods armed with backpacks filled with water bottles and biscuits. Walking is a therapeutic tool that is great for clearing the mind and getting a bit of exercise into your routine. If I’m honest, it’s something I wish I did more often.
Taking a walk and spending some quality time with your daughter is a great way to bond. I recently went walking with my eldest daughter and we talked about everything, from her feelings about lockdown to what her favourite character on Once Upon A Time was. When we set off she seemed sad, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, yet after walking, talking, laughing and breathing in some (smelly) country air, she skipped home like a completely different kid.

Make Overs!


In our house, with three girls, pampering and makeovers are a regular occurrence. Places like Poundland, B&M and Home Bargains have some great (and cheap) makeup products. Most supermarkets also sell them (if you’re happy to pay a few quid extra). Hair, make-up, music and laughs are always a good combination. This kind of activity is great for mother-daughter bonding and special moments.
Trying out a new hairstyle with my girls or letting them do my make up is something that they always enjoy. It rarely costs us anything and always results in giggling. Usually, because I end up looking like the lovechild of an Estee Lauder saleswoman and Pennywise. Although they are getting better with age, I don’t think either of my girls has a future in the make up industry. Special effects, maybe, but I’d predict some serious Ofcom complaints if my two were allowed to do the makeup of the Good Morning Britain hosts.


Baking and Cooking


Baking is something that I love to do with or without the kids. In the interest of bonding though, it’s usually best to involve them. I have a range of ‘fake baking’ recipes listed on the site, however, there is something special about baking from scratch and sharing a recipe with your daughter. I remember my own mum teaching me how to make a cake from a recipe her mum (my nana) had given her.
Even if you’re not a confident or keen baker, you can pick up a pre-prepared cake and biscuit mixes from most supermarkets. They are usually very reasonably priced as well, so you don’t have to break the bank to share an afternoon of baking with your child.


It can be tricky for busy parents to allow for an afternoon of baking or certainly, baking from scratch. If using a pre-prepped mix is better for you then do that. Your child won’t care whether your cake comes from a generations-old recipe or a 99p supermarket mix. Cake is cake. The time you give them though, that is what they will remember.
Another excellent bonding activity for mothers and daughters is cooking. Sharing a recipe for your favourite food or teaching your daughter how to make a simple meal is a wonderful thing to do. I can remember teaching my daughter to make a basic Bolognese. She did everything from ingredients prep, to making the sauce and serving the whole thing up. She was so proud of herself and what she had made. It was a lovely afternoon that we shared. There is a range of easy and cheap to make dinner recipes that you can share with your children here. Click the link below.

Afternoon Tea


Afternoon tea is something we have done a lot more of through lockdown. Boredom has been rife and I have found that presenting sandwiches and sausage rolls on a cake stand has become something that can brighten even the drizzliest of afternoons.
It’s never anything fancy. I have found that I can get everything I need for around £5. I usually make sandwiches from what I have in. This can include anything from ham and egg to jam or cucumber. I usually add a cake slice, a punnet of strawberries, and some crackers with cheese or buttered fruit scones.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant; you can spend as much or as little as you like. If you do decide to do afternoon tea with your daughter though, make it an event. Plan ahead, pop on a pretty frock, make your sandwiches, whether that be with a fancy filling or just a spread of jam. Sit down together with a bit of music playing and enjoy your afternoon together as if you were sat in the window of Betty’s.
Although all of the above-listed things are what I have done with my daughters as a way to make sure that not all my attention goes to my (more demanding) son. Do not think that these ideas are only for mothers and daughters. I would encourage you to enjoy all of these things with any of your children.

Until next time…
Hannah XO

Vanilla Fossil Biscuits

Vanilla Fossil Biscuits

These delicious biscuits are great for baking with children. They require few ingredients and are extremely easy to do. This recipe has been used in my family for generations. One of the great things about the simplicity of these is that you can vary your shape and design for any occasion.

You Will Need

200g Margarine

150g Caster sugar

400g Plain flour

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla essence

Method

Mix together the margarine and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Rub in the flour until you have ‘breadcrumb’ texture.

Lightly whisk the eggs with the vanilla essence and add to the dry mixture. Mix together until you have a dough (the dough with be slightly sticky at first – or at least mine always is).

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and lightly knead. Roll the dough out to 1-2cm thickness.

Cut out whatever shapes you wish to use and place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment or baking paper. For a fossil effect, press small dinosaur and other toys into the biscuits to create prints in the dough.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 4/180c/160 fan for 15 minutes or until a pale golden brown colour.

Allow to cool and enjoy!

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to make fossil biscuits and instead chose to keep your pattern plain, here are a few ideas for you.

When not making fossil effect biscuits, we usually use icing made from icing sugar and water and top the biscuits with sprinkles.

You can add 100g of currents to the dry mix before adding the egg to make current biscuits.

You might want to try dipping the biscuits into chocolate for an even sweeter treat.

You could also experiment with different flavours in place of vanilla. For a zesty twist, try adding the rind of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 tsp lemon essence.

Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Bark

This recipe is the epitome of fake baking. With very few ingredients, zero cooking time and a vast variety of flavours, this is everything a busy parent needs in order to trick their children into thinking they are baking, without doing any actual baking! An extra bonus with this delectable treat is that the end product is absolutely gorgeous. Perfect for a night-time naughty or an afternoon delight.

These quantities are for white chocolate and sprinkle bark and a mint chocolate bark. See the other ideas section at the bottom of the page for a variety of other flavours.

White Chocolate Sprinkle Bark

You will need:

4 100g bars white chocolate (I used the 30p bars from Morrisons simply because they were cheap, whether you choose to use branded or baking chocolate is a choice I will leave up to you)

Sprinkles of your choosing (for this recipe I used mermaid sprinkles)

Method

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and melt. I usually melt my chocolate in a heat proof dish over a pan of boiling water. You may choose to microwave your chocolate. If you do decide to microwave, I would recommend 30 seconds to start then stir and continue to microwave at 10 second intervals stirring in between and repeating until the chocolate is smooth.

Pour the melted chocolate onto a sheet of parchment or baking paper and spread evenly until you have a thick layer of chocolate.

Add your sprinkles

Allow to cool slightly and then leave in the fridge until set.

Once all the chocolate has set, roughly chop into shards.

Mint Chocolate Bark

You will need:

4 100g bars of milk chocolate (as before, I use the cheap stuff, you can use whichever brand or make of chocolate you prefer)

½ tsp peppermint extract

1 pack mint aero bubbles (a bar of mint aero of other variety of mint bubble chocolate will also work)

1 pack after eight minis

Method

Break the chocolate into a large bowl and melt. I usually melt my chocolate in a heat proof dish over a pan of boiling water. You may choose to microwave your chocolate. If you do decide to microwave, I would recommend 30 seconds to start then stir and continue to microwave at 10 second intervals stirring in between and repeating until the chocolate is smooth.

Once the chocolate has melted, add the peppermint extract and stir well.

Pour the melted mint chocolate onto a sheet of parchment or baking paper and spread evenly until you have a thick layer of chocolate.

Smash the aero bubbles until they are a mixture of small chunks and minty dust.

Sprinkle the smashed aero bubble chocolate over the melted chocolate, add as many after eight minis to the top as you want.

Allow to cool slightly and then leave in the fridge until set.

Once all the chocolate has set, roughly chop into shards.

Other Ideas

So. Many. Options!

You can literally top your bark with anything. The options are endless. Below are my top 5 ideas to vary your chocolate bark flavours.

  1. Salted Caramel: for this flavour I use milk chocolate and add small fudge chunks and crushed up pretzels. The salt and the sweet are a heavenly combination.
  2. White chocolate and strawberry mallow: for this I use white chocolate, chopped dried strawberries and mini marshmallows.
  3. Candy Cane: this is great for Christmas! It works well with white or milk chocolate. Add ½ tsp of peppermint to the chocolate after melting and top with crushed up candy canes. So yummy!
  4. Mini Eggs: for this I use a white chocolate and crushed up mini eggs. The pastel colours of the eggs and the white chocolate look really pretty together.
  5. Rainbow Bark: you can do this a couple of ways. Firstly, you could buy coloured chocolate, melt and swirl together to make a mix of colours and then sprinkle the top with skittles or smarties. Another way to do it if you don’t want to use coloured chocolate (it can be expensive), or if you can’t find it (where I live, you’ve more chance of finding rocking horse shit) is to use plain white chocolate and cover it with as many colourful sweets and sprinkles as you can find. You can either lay the sweets on top in rainbow colour order or you can bung them altogether and create a colourful feast for the eyes.

There are probably a million more variations, these are just my top 5. Let me know in the comments what flavours you decide to do.

Happy Faking!

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Five Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self

Having just turned thirty, I have found that I have spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my twenties. There has been an abundance of highs and lows. Although they got off to a rocky start, my twenties have given me so much that I am grateful for. The decade of my twenties has gifted me three wonderful and spirited children, a loving husband, a settled home and has set me on a journey to gaining a degree in young children’s learning and development. The degree in particular was something I thought was well beyond my reach.

I started my twenties as a single pregnant girl, still living at home with her parents. I say girl because I was so young and clueless. I’d had so many plans, a job lined up in London, I was going to travel and see the world. I planned to live my life like they do in all of the movies where the young and naïve girl leaves her small town, struggles for a short while, then finds her flow, then finds love, then stands in the ocean, maybe has a trip to a vineyard and then gets a happily ever after with a tall and brooding fella with dark hair and a penthouse. It was going to be amazing. I was an absolute idiot because for a split second at the age of 19, I actually thought that it could happen! Fool!

When I found out I was pregnant my entire path changed. Everything that I thought I would do changed and in the space where the dream had been, was a tiny human who needed all of my time and attention. As I progressed through my early twenties, life threw me some serious curveballs. My self-esteem and confidence plummeted. All of my self-worth and self-belief was stripped from me through a long run of difficult times.

It wasn’t until I met my husband that things started to change for the better. I didn’t need to believe in myself because he believed in me. Over time and as our relationship blossomed, I regained so much of my old self and life changed again for the better. I have entered my thirties, happy & healthy with three beautiful children, a lovely home and a future that I thought was long gone.

Here are five bits of advice I would love to give my younger self.

Accept Your Body (it is amazing – even the chunky bits!)

So much of my twenties was spent dieting. Oh. My. Days. I tried every fad diet going, and for what!? To deny myself and be miserable. I would love to be able to tell my younger self that as long as you’re healthy it doesn’t matter what shape you are. My second and third pregnancies both resulted in C-Sections, so I have the infamous ‘tummy pouch’. I shed so many tears over my ‘disgusting belly’ when what I should have been focusing on was that my body had done what it was designed for. I have grown not one, not even two, but three humans! A younger me should have appreciated the magic of that a lot more. It is particularly important to teach our children that our worth is not tied to our weight.

Budget Better!

So many of my problems when I was younger came from poor financial decisions. I was young when I left home with my daughter. I hadn’t a clue about family budgets, how to organise my money and what I should be saving or where I should be buying things from. I suppose for most, this comes from experience. Sometimes we have to fail a few times to learn. I am by no means financially secure (even at 30) however, I have learnt so much about budgets. Every penny that comes into my bank is accounted for. I know what, when and exactly (to the penny) how much is going in and out of my account. I am a seriously savvy shopper and I make sure that any treats (big or small) are factored into our budget. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation or financial difficulty, seek help immediately. There are so many companies, apps and charities that can help with financial struggles and budgeting. The biggest thing that I learnt when I did finally reach out for help with my finances was that I wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last to be in that situation. Remember that help is always available.

Enjoy Your Own Company

This is a big thing I wish I would have appreciated more while I was young. Before I met my husband, I lived for a long time as a single mum. I hated it. Once my children were in bed, I felt lost. My entire world revolved around them. I didn’t know how to be alone. If I could go back, I would tell myself that it is important to be able to be in your own company. I would have done some online courses, taken up a hobby, or just enjoyed the peace. After my husband and I began living together and then welcomed our son to the mix, all chances of alone time disappeared. I miss it. It’s true that you don’t know how much you love something until it’s gone. I would kill to get back all those nights I spent not knowing what to do with myself. I can’t even go to the toilet now without a small person tracking me down.

Aim Higher

At the age of 28 I took a huge leap and returned to education. I achieved a variety of things within the jobs that I’d had, however, every job I ever had was just that. A job. There was never any thrill or spark for what I was doing. After returning to education I had so much regret that I hadn’t done it sooner. My lack of confidence in my early twenties really held me back. For anyone feeling like they can’t do something, just do it! Aim high and if you miss, jump up and try again. If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to follow passion. I’m late to the game for this, it’s better late than never I suppose. They say that if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I could not agree more. I cannot wait to qualify and start my career as a teacher, I just wish I would have taken the leap sooner. It sounds corny to say that if I can do it anyone can. I will say it though, if I can do this (return to education and balance a five person household) ANYONE can do it! So aim high and don’t let anything or anyone hold you back.


Don’t Be Worried to Say No to People (be a bit selfish)

Does anyone else live with an incessant need to people please? All through my twenties, and I’m ashamed to say, ever so slightly now in my thirties, I have a really hard time saying no to people. So many times, I have found myself in situations, in places or doing things that I just don’t want to do. I always thought that saying no to somebody meant I was being selfish. It does not mean that at all! I cannot stress this enough. Over the years I have got better at indulging selfishness. When I say selfish, I don’t mean that I stomp around like a self-entitled, egocentric nitwit, who only does what she wants to do. No. What I mean is I don’t do things just to keep other people happy. An example is that in my people pleasing days, if I got invited out with friends, I would go out. Regardless of whether I wanted to, or could afford to, I went, because I didn’t want to let my friends down. Now, if I get invited out, I will ask myself whether I want to go and if I don’t or can’t I simply say, ‘no thanks, not this time’. It sounds like such a small factor, but it has made such a massive difference to me. My life is so much easier now I have stopped ‘people pleasing’. Honestly, it is not your job to keep the world happy. Focus on yourself and your own tribe and you will not go far wrong.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that my time machine is on the blink, I can’t go back and give myself all of this amazing advice. However, I can share it with all of you. Even if one person takes something away from my wistful musings, the past ten years and all the mistakes I made will stand for something. Although I didn’t get the world travels, feet in the ocean, vineyard finish to my story. I am ever so grateful for the struggles I have been dealt, because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am or as happy as I am now.  Life is a funny old thing.

Until next time….

Hannah XO

Chicken and Broccoli Rice

Chicken and Broccoli Rice

This is a really easy and delicious week night dinner recipe. It takes hardly any time to make so is great for those times you want something tasty but can’t be bothered cooking. I often serve mine with a splash of sweet chilli sauce. Delicious!

You Will Need

400g cooked chicken breast (diced) I use the frozen cooked chicken strips as these are cheap to buy and can be kept in the freezer. I find that this helps me to cut down on waste by only using what I need

300g dried long-grain rice

1 chicken stock cube

200g broccoli, cut into small florets

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garlic granules

1 tsp mixed herbs

Method

Cook the rice according to the packet instructions and drain.

In a separate pan, boil the broccoli (for 2-3 minutes) drain and set aside.

Over a medium heat, pan fry the chicken with the garlic and herbs in a large frying pan or wok (ensure chicken is cooked through). Add to this the finely chopped carrot and onion and continue to fry until softened. Once softened, add the broccoli.

Crumble the stock cube in with the chicken and vegetables and add a good splash of water. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add the cooked rice to the chicken and vegetables and stir until they are thoroughly mixed.

Serve straight away either on its own, or with sweet chilli or soy sauce.

Other Ideas

If you need a quicker mid-week dish, try using microwaveable golden vegetable rice. Simply prepare according to the packet instructions and add to the chicken and vegetables. You could even try other rice flavours.

If you want to sneak a few extra veggies into this, you could include a small tin of sweetcorn, some chopped mushrooms, or some chunks of courgette. Any extra veg you want to use can be added at the same time as the carrot and onion.

The Many Uses of Lego

The Many Uses of Lego

Lego has been around a very long time. You will be hard pressed to find a person who hasn’t at least heard of the dynamic and ever loved toy that is suited for adults and children alike. In our house, Lego is something that we all engage with. For my children, they spend hours building, breaking, and rebuilding whole worlds in which their imaginations are let loose. For me and my husband, we have unlocked a whole new vocabulary of words we spout when we stand on said Lego creations, which are often scattered all over our house. As hard as it may be to find a child who doesn’t love Lego, it would be harder to find an adult who hasn’t stood on Lego without swearing like a sailor. That said, you cannot deny the amazing possibilities that come with Lego. Although it can be expensive to buy large sets, there are some very reasonably priced packs that can be worked and re-worked into a variety of different things. In this post, I share a range of things that you and your children can do with Lego. All of the ideas given are things that me and my own children have enjoyed doing. I hope they inspire you to try new things with your Lego sets. 

Boat Making

This was a great activity, that usually turns competitive in our house. Through the summer, we filled a small paddling pool and had a competition to see who could build the best boat, we started using recycled junk, however this quickly turned into a Lego building activity. This is great for hot days and water play. HOWEVER, you do not need to wait for the sunshine to play boat building. One of our favourite ways to play is to tape some paper down onto the floor and draw a river. The kids build their Lego boats and use their imaginations to create stories on the river (sometimes all afternoon). The Master of Mischief usually brings in bad guys, dinosaurs and a whole host of other toys to play on his Lego boat river. Regardless of how or what your boat looks like, this is a great way to encourage imaginative play.

Bridge Building

This activity idea often ties in with our boat making, bridge making is an excellent STEM activity that gets your children thinking about ways to construct a sturdy bridge. Again, you can stick a sheet of paper down and draw your own river. You can colour it blue for water or get creative and colour it green for slime, or orange and red for lava. Encourage your children to think of creative things to build to get their toys safely to the other side. The Master of Mischief really enjoys this activity and he has come up with so many innovative ways to construct his bridges.

Ring Toss

This was a game that we built on a rainy afternoon while we were bored. After making it, we somehow ended up playing for almost an hour and a half. All three children got involved. One of the reasons I liked it so much was the sheer simplicity of it. It was a small tabletop version of the beloved garden game which took no time at all to put together. We used pipe cleaners to make the rings for tossing. You can buy a pack of pipe cleaners from most craft places or cheap shops with a craft section. I bought ours from Poundland. The game was great for promoting hand to eye co-ordination, fine and gross motor skills, patience, and turn taking. I often find that the simplest ideas are the most fun.

3 in a Row

Another tabletop game that you can create from Lego is three in a row. This game is more commonly known as noughts and crosses. I have found over the years that my children can fill a whole notebook playing this game. I wanted a version that used less paper, so here we are. All you need is a small base piece, some dividers, and two different colours of small square bricks. Both of the girls have loved playing this. It is another great way to promote cognitive development and turn taking.

Lego for Teaching Fractions

I am sure that within schools they have a vast range of classroom resources that they use when teaching. For us though, Lego has become an invaluable tool while we have been home schooling. The maths work that we were receiving for Little Fairy and Kiki was all based around fractions. Trying to explain the whole concept of fractions, equivalent fractions, how one fraction can be the same as another was becoming tricky (pizza and pie will only get you so far). Lego became a great way to visually present the different kinds of fractions as well as allow the girls to add and subtract fractions. The different sizes of the pieces and the colours made it so much easier to explain and visually represent.

Symmetry

This is an activity that I have used for all of my children. You can make your patterns as simple or complicated as you like based on the age and ability of your child. We have used a medium sized Lego base which I split down the middle. I then made a pattern on one side and gave the Master of Mischief the blocks to recreate the pattern on the opposite side. It was a great activity which gave him a hands on approach to learning symmetry. As your children get older, you can make the activity harden by creating a more intricate and complex design for them to copy. If like me you have two children close in age, ask them to create a pattern and then swap and see if they can complete each other’s design. Meanwhile, you can put your feet up with a nice hot beverage (maybe a biscuit) and relax knowing your children are playing nicely and learning while they do it. 

There are likely to be a million more uses for Lego, these are just a few that we have enjoyed. If you have any special uses for your Lego that I can use with my children, please do share them. We love building with Lego and I hope that these ideas can motivate you to think and build outside of the Lego box.

Until next time…

Hannah XO.

Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Soup

This is a soup-er dish to make. It is easy to do and is packed with hidden veggies which is great for the kids. We served ours at tea time with a big salad and homemade crusty bread. We had the leftovers for lunch the next day. This dish is definitely a household favourite!

You Will Need

4 red peppers (halved and de-seeded)

1 white onion

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

1 courgette

450ml vegetable stock

2tbsp olive oil

2 tsp garlic granules

½ pack goats cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Rub the chopped and de-seeded peppers with the olive oil and roast in the oven on a medium heat for 30 minutes (or until they are tender)

Dice the onion, celery carrot and courgette and in a large pan lightly fry all of the chopped vegetables with the garlic.

Once the veg is softening add the vegetable stock and simmer.

Remove the peppers from the oven and add to the pan, stirring well.

Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and using a hand blender, blend the soup until it is smooth.

Add the goats cheese and stir well (until the cheese is mixed through)

Return the soup to a low heat and simmer until it reaches a suitable eating temperature. Make sure not to boil the soup.

Season to taste and serve.

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to include the cheese, try adding some tomato puree to the soup for extra flavour.

If you don’t have a hand blended, simply allow to cool slightly and add to a smoothie maker or large blender to whizz into a soup. Return to the pan after and heat to a suitable temperature.

Soup is a great way to sneak extra veggies into your child’s diet without them ever knowing. Add as much or as little as you want to your soup base. If you feel you are veering into veg soup territory, increase your pepper count accordingly to balance the mix and keep your pepper flavours nice and strong.

Books! Books! Books!

Books! Books! Books!

Reading is a tradition as old as time. There are so many benefits to reading to your children and encouraging them to read to themselves, to you or even just to their toys. Reading to little ones, even in infancy, helps with cognitive development, language acquisition and literacy skills. Another area that stories and reading can encourage is that of imagination and creativity. Books, fact or fiction, give you an opportunity to get lost in another world, learn something new or be transported to different places with different characters. There are just so many wonders that reading provides.

Sitting and reading to your children is a beautiful way to bond. Spending time with your child and sharing stories, be them old or new, provides such a wonderful opportunity to forge a strong and lasting relationship. Setting up regular reading time provides children with a specific moment of their day or week that they can cherish. It can be at any time, you might wish to read to your child at bedtime, bath time, or every Sunday afternoon. I read to my son every night before bed, and I try to read with my girls (who are 8 and 9) once a week. They read independently almost daily. Participating in a regular and shared event that your child can look forward to is a fantastic way to build trust.

Since mine were babies, I have read stories to them, some traditional, some not so traditional. I remember one evening years ago when I was really struggling to settle my daughter, I read her the OK Magazine. She was only a baby at the time, the words didn’t particularly mean anything to her, but the soothing sound and tone of my voice as I read OK’s January 2011 edition cover to cover were enough to settle her. It was also nice for mummy to catch up on some celebrity gossip.

There are millions of stories out in the world waiting to be discovered. One of my favourite quotes is by an author named Kate DiCamillo who says “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, or a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”

Reading is a gift, and in this blog post, I offer a list of books that I have shared with each of my children. As my children are of differing ages, they read different things. I have split the list into top 5 for younger children and top 5 for an older crowd.

If you ever get the chance or see them in the shops, give them a try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If you do ever read them or share them with your children, I hope that the stories can bring you as much joy as they have brought me and my family.

For those with younger children, you might enjoy…

Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare! (Steve Smallman)

One of the first story books I shared with my eldest daughter that she really engaged with was ‘Don’t Wake the Bear, Hare!’. It has a great tempo and is really easy and fun to read. In fact, I could probably recite the whole thing without needing to even see the book (that’s how much we read it). It’s a great story for young children and has been a bedtime favourite in our house, first with the girls and then with the Master of Mischief. Although not a long story (which makes it an even better bedtime choice) it’s an upbeat tale that you can put plenty of character voices and enthusiasm into.

Giraffe’s Can’t Dance (Giles Andreae)

This is a great children’s story. It is fun, light-hearted colourful and reads like a dream. The actual story is also great for confidence building in children, as it starts with everyone telling poor old Gerald the Giraffe that he can’t dance and ends with him learning to dance to a different song. It is a feel good, can-do type story. The rhyming of the text flows really well which makes it fun and easy to read. It’ll definitely leave you with a smile. All three of my children have loved it.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen)

This is a fantastic story, which is now a made for television special. The repetition through the pages will likely mean that your little one will join in reading with you. I know that when we read this, the Master of Mischief says more of the words than I do (which is lovely). From the first line of the story children are swept up into the adventure. My children have always enjoyed large scale role play and this story fits right into that. After we finished reading it, we built our own bear cave under the dining table. It was great fun and kept the kids busy for hours.

Mr Men and Little Miss Series (Roger Hargreaves)

The Mr Men collection has been around since the 70s with the Little Miss collection joining in the 80s. The whole collection is enjoyable. My son has a range of the stories, however his favourite by far, is Mr Tickle and the Dragon. This is a story we quite often read at bedtime. The fun and colourful characters are great for young children. They are also great for initiating discussions about the characteristics they display.

Mr Wolf and the Enormous Turnip (Jan Fearnley)

This was a book that my son chose from the shop while we were out one day. It has quickly become a firm favourite. When we bought it, I didn’t realise that it was actually one in a series of Mr Wolf books. The enormous turnip edition is fabulous for reading to your children although, like me, you might actually find yourself laughing at parts. With a fun mix of characters, it’s a great chance to bring out the silly voices. Perfect for cuddling up to enjoy together.

For those with older children, you might try…

The Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton)

This is a classic story; I read the series when I was a child and I was so excited to share them with my own brood. If we’re ever a bit bored or stuck for something to do, we’ll read a few chapters of this together. It’s definitely a reading book, there aren’t many pictures so it’s something that I share with the girls more than the Master of Mischief. It doesn’t really hold his attention for long. From our experience, it’s better suited for an older reader. The characters are fun and a bit wacky and the adventures that the characters have are great for allowing children to escape into their imagination for a while.

Matilda (Roald Dahl)

This is probably my all time favourite children’s book. I have shared this with my daughters from a very young age. Many people will know the story from the 1996 film Matilda. The movie is one that I thoroughly enjoyed throughout my own childhood; you just can’t beat the book though. The story is inspiring for children and adults. Roald Dahl uses his creative imagination to keep your attention. Even parents will like this story. It’s a great one to share.

Disney’s Twisted Tale Collection (Various Authors)

These Disney books are genius. The twisted tales are an anthology series based around the alternate “what-if” spins on family favourite Disney films. My eldest daughter is absolutely obsessed with them. The one she is currently reading is the Once Upon a Dream which poses the question on the cover of ‘What if the sleeping beauty never woke up?’. They are darker twists on what are usually such happily ever after tales. These stories are great for older children (or adults if, like me, it piques your interest to experience your childhood memories with a bit of a darker twist).

Percy Jackson Series (Rick Riordan)

The Percy Jackson series is terrific for children who enjoy reading action and adventure stories. It’s better suited for older readers; however, my eldest daughter has been slowly working her way through the books since age 7. The series of books written by Rick Riordan are fantastic fantasy-adventures based on Greek mythology (something Kiki is deeply interested in). It follows a group of ‘demi-gods’ (who are the half-human children of the Greek Gods) as they set out on a number of thrilling and enigmatic quests. A definite must for heroic and thrill seeking readers.  

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women (Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo)

My youngest daughter was given this book by my grandmother. It is a collection of stories about inspiring women throughout history. The book is written for children aged 6 and up. The stories introduce the reader to 100 remarkable women and their extraordinary lives and achievements. You can read about women from all walks of life and throughout history. Women such as Amelia Earhart, Frida Khalo, Coco Chanel and Michelle Obama are all featured, as well as 96 more.  This book has been a beautiful gift for my daughter. The underlying message (or certainly what Little Fairy took from the book) is that no matter who you are, with self-belief, you can overcome and achieve.

All of the above books are ones that we have shared together and that my children have enjoyed. Encourage your children to read. It will open their imaginations and allow them to explore worlds of possibility.

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary”

Jim Rohn

Until next time..

Hannah XO

My Experience with Mum Guilt

My Experience with Mum Guilt

I’ve been really nervous to write about my mum guilt. I wanted my blog to be all positives, all the time. In reality though, that isn’t a true representation of my experiences or of motherhood as a whole. Truthfully, lately I have been feeling overwhelmed with life. We have been in lockdown since the end of March, and as the start of July is looming, I feel like my lockdown optimism has reached it’s limit. Home schooling has lost momentum, my children are missing their friends and their teachers, I’m missing my friends and my teachers. All the little jobs I had to do at home have been done, and for the first time in the history of my household, the washing baskets are empty. It feels like as a family, we have moved into a state of simply existing, rather than living. I’ve been suffering more over the past few weeks with mum-guilt. I’m sure that I am not alone in feeling this way. The world is a big place, chances are at least one person out there will understand how I feel. So here we go, settle in as I share my personal experience with mum-guilt.

As a mother, no matter what style of parenting you chose, you will have undoubtedly felt mum-guilt at some point. For me, since the day my eldest daughter was born, I’ve had some feeling that I could be doing better. Some days, the negative thoughts about my parenting practices are inescapable.

Truthfully, it doesn’t need to be anything severe to trigger my mummy guilt. It can be something as simple as, I don’t serve vegetables at tea-time and I instantly feel like I’m neglecting their health. I might swear in front of them (I definitely do. All. The. Time) and boom I’ve ruined their childhood!

Media, society, other parents and even family seem to set enormous expectations about what motherhood should look and feel like. The best comparison I think you can make is to liken motherhood to a snowflake. No experiences are identical. I don’t know this as a fact, there might be two women out there who have had identical experiences. I doubt it, but you never know! For me, having had three children of my own, I know that each pregnancy, birth, and post-natal experience has been different. So why do I spend so much time trying to live up to something that is unique to each individual and to each child?

I have always tried so hard to get everything right as a mum. It has become normal practice to measure and compare myself to other mums, celebrity parents (which is completely unrealistic I know) and to try be on the ball all the time. At any one time I seem to have 50+ things swirling around in my head. How quick are their feet growing? Do they need new shoes? Do I have enough food in for the week? Are school uniforms washed? Did I sign and return the school form that has been stuck to the fridge for a month? Did I pay the nursery bill? Does their bedding need washing? Has the Master of Mischief wiped his arse properly after doing his fifth shit of the day? Are the girls managing their homework? Have they eaten enough fruit this week? Are they eating too much fruit? Are their teeth going to fall out? Are they happy? Trying to get everything right all the time is impossible.  

I try to live by the mantra that I am a good mum who is doing her best and has her shit together. Although the final part of that statement might not be quite true. Some days my shit is definitely not together. Some days I’m not even a hot mess, I’m just a mess! That said, my children are healthy, well-behaved (most days) and they do pretty well in school. That should be enough. So why isn’t it? Why do I constantly feel like I’m failing at the one thing women are apparently meant to thrive at?

As a student, I have deadlines and exams and days where I am so tired from my own classes that I genuinely cannot be arsed being a mum! Just admitting this gives me a knot in my stomach. I shouldn’t admit it. As mum’s we aren’t allowed to admit that motherhood isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Fact is though, being a mum is bloody difficult. Obviously, the rewards far outweigh the struggles, but it doesn’t make the struggles any easier to deal with.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to put my voice and my feelings out into the world, I don’t believe that I am alone in feeling the constant guilt associated with motherhood. So I say to anyone, whether you’re a first time mum with a new born or a seasoned mummy with a tribe of little warriors, if you’re feeling the same, you are not alone.

My eldest turns 10 this year and I still struggle to balance my mum-guilt feelings. Over the past decade though, I have taken some steps to change my approach to it. I used to feel immense shame over wanting time for myself. I felt like I was so lucky to have been blessed with children so all of my time should be spent on them or with them. Nevertheless, my 9 years and 7 months as a mum have taught me that in order to be the best for my children, I need to set aside time to be away from them. For me, that time is 5am. I set my alarm and I go downstairs before anyone else in the house is awake. I enjoy a hot coffee and make a list for what I need to do for the day. I make that time my own and it sets up my day. Whether your release is early morning or late at night, find yourself half an hour in the day and just enjoy it. Practice yoga, eat some chocolate, read, meditate, take a shower, do whatever you enjoy doing and do it for yourself.

Another aspect of dealing with mum-guilt and quite possibly the best advice I was ever given, is to let go of perfect. It doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a perfect mum or a perfect child or a perfect motherhood experience. If you’re trying to achieve this, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Acknowledging that some days are shit and your kids will drive you crazy and you might shout is the best way to build resilience to the guilt. For me, it is the imperfect moments that are a true reflection of motherhood.

Until next time…

Hannah XO