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

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

Picnic Platter

Picnic Platter

A great sharing platter for children on sunny afternoons. I find that it is much easier to present all the food on one big board than serving up several individual plates of food (which usually means a tonne of washing up after). This is a stress free and easy to produce option for feeding the whole family on those sunny days in the garden.

You Will Need

One of the best things about sharing platters is that you can fill them with whatever you like. The platter in this image was created for three children and requires the following.

3 Turkey sandwiches on wholemeal bread (cut into triangles)

3 large rice cakes

3 cheese triangles

2 pork pies (cut into quarters)

6 cocktail sausages

1 salad pepper (cut into batons)

½ cucumber (cut into batons)

2 kiwi fruits (cut into quarters)

2 satsumas (peeled and segmented)

1 apple (chopped into slices)

3 kids tube yogurts

3 pepperoni snack sticks

Method

Make the sandwiches (removing the crusts if you prefer) and place them on the board in a line down one side.

Quarter the pies and position these next to the sandwiches, next to this add the sausages.

Chop the pepper and the cucumber half into batons and positions these on the board.

Slice the apple and kiwi and peel and segment the satsumas. Place all fruit together on the board near to the pepper and cucumber.

Place the cheese triangles next to the rice cakes on the opposite side to the sandwiches.

Finally add to the board the pepperoni sticks and tube yogurts.

Serve immediately.

Other Ideas

As I have said, the best part about these platters is that you can fill them with anything. If you have more adults than children, try substituting the cheese triangles for a selection of cheese slices, cured meats and crackers. You could even incorporate some chutneys and pickles to make it into more of a Ploughman’s platter.

If you prefer you could also add a larger selection of vegetable sticks, including celery and carrots and serve some dip alongside them.

Another easy ay to change it up is a wider selection of sandwiches. Try adding some egg and cress, tuna and sweetcorn, cucumber or even jam. This will give it more of a traditional afternoon tea feel. You could even throw on some scones and really make a show of it!

Breakfast Sundae

Breakfast Sundae

Dress your breakfast up and make it fancy! This is a really tasty twist on a simple yogurt and granola breakfast. Pack it with fruit or keep it simple, either way it is delicious! The great thing about this dish is that you can easily tailor it to any taste preference.

You Will Need

All quantities of these ingredients will differ depending on how much or how little you want to include in your dish.

Fruit yogurt (whichever flavour is preferred) I used a smooth low fat strawberry yogurt.

Granola (whichever flavour is preferred) I used a low sugar apple and blueberry granola.

Chopped fruit (whichever flavour is preferred) I used bananas on this occasion.

Method

Make sure that the fruit you have chosen is chopped into small bitesize pieces.

You will need either a tall glass, clear plastic cup or if you have them, an ice cream sundae glass.

To layer the ingredients, start with the granola. On top of this put a spoonful of yogurt, followed by a sprinkle of the chopped fruit.

Repeat the layering process until you have reached your desired number of layers.

Finish off with a final scoop of yogurt and a raspberry (or any berry of your choice)

ENJOY!

Other Ideas

You could go as big or as small as you want on this dish.

Make it tropical by using chunks of pineapple or mango and a coconut yogurt.

You could also make this dish with porridge oats or muesli instead of granola for a slightly less crunchy texture.

Cinnamon Swirls

Cinnamon Swirls

These are a great as a weekend breakfast treat or as an addition to your morning cuppa. With only a few ingredients, they are really cheap to produce and so easy to make. An added bonus is that as they bake, they make your house smell AMAZING!

You Will Need

1 packet ready rolled puff pastry

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp Icing sugar

2-3 tsp water to mix

Method

Mix the soft brown sugar and cinnamon together.

Lay the sheet of pastry onto a flat surface lined with parchment paper.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix onto the pastry.

Roll up the pastry lengthways until you have a long sausage shape.

Cut the party into 2-3cm thick slices and lay each piece onto a lined baking tray.

Bake in the oven at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 10-15 minutes or until golden in colour.

Mix the icing sugar with the water until you have icing with a consistency that you can drizzle.

Once the pastries have cooled, drizzle with the icing and leave to set for 10 minutes.

Other Ideas

If cinnamon isn’t your thing, try substituting the cinnamon sugar for Nutella for a whole new flavour!

Superstar Eggy Bread

Superstar Eggy Bread

This makes for a great Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast. I love it mostly because it is something my dad used to make for me and that his mam made for him. It definitely takes me back to when I was a kid. An added bonus is that it is cheap and easy to make. Winner!

You Will Need

2 Large Eggs

2 Slices of bread (any flavour)

2 Tbsp Milk

1 tsp Cinnamon

Star and circle shaped biscuit cutter

Strawberries and Blueberries (as many as you want)

Icing sugar to serve

Method

Whisk the eggs, milk, and cinnamon together in a wide bowl.

Cut out two stars and two circles from the slices of bread.

Soak the stars on both sides in the egg mixture. Transfer the soaked bread from the bowl to a non-stick frying pan and fry on both sides until golden. Repeat this process again for the circles.  

Once cooked, stack a star on top of a circle and position on a plate with chopped strawberries and blueberries.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

Other Ideas

To prevent waste, try using the off-cuts from the bread and make eggy bread bites by chopping them into chunks, coating them in the egg mixture and frying.

If you don’t have a star or circle cutter you can soak a whole slice of bread into the mix and chop into fingers, squares or triangles once cooked.

You can also mix it up by trying different flavours, substitute the cinnamon for nutmeg or ginger to try something new. You could also serve the eggy bread with a dollop of Nutella to make it a bit naughtier.

You can also serve this dish with a selection of fruits. Try making it more tropical by serving pineapple, mango, and kiwi. You could even sprinkle the dish with desiccated coconut instead of icing sugar for a real tropical twist!