What Happened to September?

What Happened to September?

Hello again, it has been a while.
I’m going to keep this post relatively short. It has been a funny old month; I keep thinking about the Green Day song ‘wake me up when September ends’. I feel like I should have asked someone to wake me up when it started.


I have had a lot of confusion around my returning to classes. This, coupled with the kids heading back to school, new work placement and the ever-changing distancing rules, have meant that I’ve missed an entire month! I have absolutely no idea where the days went. I had so many beautiful plans for posting about seasonal changes, exciting September crafts, school transitions, recipes, the whole she-bang. I missed it all.
In light of my missing month, I thought I would do a roundup of my September highlights before getting my ass in gear and diving headfirst into October (which we are now well into)


So, my top September moments.


Firstly, the kids are back to school! Let’s all have a mini Mexican wave for that! It was a bloody long time coming. Seven months, to be exact. Their return to school has had a happy ripple effect on so many other areas in our home. My shopping bill is back down to a reasonable amount, the cupboards are full for longer than five minutes, and we are back into an established routine. Although I’ve been stressed and hella busy, it has been nice to settle into a ‘new normal’ (even though I despise this saying, anyone else with me on that?)


On another happy note, the master of mischief has taken to school like a duck to water. He even bagged a certificate within his first week. Regardless of the fact every child got one, it was a milestone moment for him, and he was so proud, as were we.


As well as the kids, I too have returned to classes. I am now a 30-year-old second-year degree student. I still can’t believe I get to say that. The second-year has seen us dive straight back into it. I am only three weeks in yet somehow feel like I am a month behind with three assignments already looming. The classes are socially distanced, so although we are physically in class, the risks are managed. It’s been strange adapting to the new procedures, but it is definitely nice to be back. Wonder Husband says I’m a superhero for juggling classes with three children, placement and keeping the house running smoothly. However, I feel slightly more like a glutton for punishment. I had another wacky idea that in amongst everything that I already do, I want to learn Makaton. I really feel like it will open more pathways and benefit me in both my career and personal life in a variety of ways, so watch this space.

Another event in September for us was the packing away of summer. Does anyone else go through their wardrobe and bag up all the clothes they won’t wear in the coming season? I do, and I take so much pleasure in it. I particularly love going into the autumn/winter season. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I bloody hate summer. I am, shall we say, of a curvier nature and hot days and sunshine do not agree with me. I much prefer to layer up than strip down. Bagging up summer dresses, shorts and vests give me a sweet sense of relief.


The fall is by far my most favourite time of year. There is magic in the changes.

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall….”

Oscar Wilde

There are so many special things about fall that I love. . the unboxing of winter jumpers, scarves, boots, and hats means that it is the season for layers. Preferable mainly because layers hide a multitude of sins. Not washed your hair? Stick on a hat. Can’t find your bra for the school run? Big jumper, big coat. Salads are swapped out for stews. Light nights are replaced with cosy evenings, while pyjamas & fluffy socks become life. Most of this year has blown by in a blur. With this, I am making a solemn vow to slow down and enjoy what’s left of 2020.


Throughout the rest of the season, I am excited to share some delicious hearty recipes, fun and creative craft ideas, spooky Halloween ideas, and so much more.

Keep your peepers peeled for more posts coming.

Until next time…XO

Chocolate Chip Caramel Fudge Cookies

Chocolate Chip Caramel Fudge Cookies

These cookies are an absolute delight, they are easy enough to make so are a fun recipe to share with children. They make a great addition to movie night treats or can be enjoyed with a nice mug of tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

You will need

75g (3oz) butter (at room temp is best)

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) light brown sugar

1 egg (beaten)

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

100g (3 ½ oz) milk chocolate chips

100g (3 ½ oz) fudge chunk pieces – these are sometimes sold as ice cream toppings (if you can’t find them you can buy some cheap fudge and chop It into small chunks).

Method

Put the butter and sugars together into a mixing bowl and beat together until fluffy and pale. Add the flour and the egg and mix until smooth.

Stir in the chocolate chips and fudge pieces. Taking small bits of the batter, making them into balls (about the size of a walnut). Place these onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Make sure you leave enough room between the balls to allow the cookies to spread.

Bake in a pre-heated oven (Gas mark 4, 180c, 350f) for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Once you have removed them from the oven, leave on the baking tray to harden for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

ENJOY!!

Other Ideas

If you can’t find or don’t want to use fudge, try replacing it with raisins or chopped glace cherries. This adds a fruity twist to the flavour and texture.

You could also swap the milk chocolate chips for white or dark chocolate to mix it up even more.

How We Got School Ready

How We Got School Ready

Today, the Master of Mischief started school. He left the house this morning bursting with excitement. With his book bag and lunch box in hand, he walked into the school playground no trouble at all. I ugly cried in the car for a solid 5 minutes afterwards. This is the last first day of school we will ever have. It has been what feels like a long time coming, yet also I can’t escape the feeling that this moment has arrived all too soon.
Over the past few months, a large amount of my time, effort and budget has gone into ticking everything off the school starter ‘kit list’. As well as worrying about the uniform shopping, I’ve also done as much as I can to make sure that the Master of Mischief was what they would deem ‘school ready’.

In this post, I share some of the activities and things we have been doing to practice school skills and nurture independence in everyday tasks. By sharing a few tips and tricks that we’ve used with the Master of Mischief I hope that you too can get your children school-ready.

Dressing and Undressing
This is something that we have been encouraging my son to do since he was old enough to try. Unfortunately (for me) my son is both lazy and an amateur comic. In the mornings and at bedtime, we usually get some version of “I don’t know how to do it” followed by him trying to put pants on his head. This is something he finds utterly hilarious. The only thing that has helped us through this is encouragement and an abundance of patience. While the Master of Mischief sits and wails that he doesn’t know how to put socks on (when he does) I simply reiterate that he should try. After a few attempts of me telling him to have a go, he usually succeeds, and all is well once more.


For younger children, shoelaces can be tricky. I prefer to buy Velcro fastening shoes for ease. However, I do try to make time for shoelace practice. There is a range of tools available; however, a practice shoe is easy to make from cardboard.
Motivating your child to dress and undress independently will help them so much when it comes to changing for PE, removing jumpers in hot weather and putting aprons on for painting (not that they ever use that particular skill).
Another thing that your child might need to practice is getting their coat on and off independently. All reception children are given access to an outdoor area, having the ability to get their coat on themselves will mean they can get straight to playing without having to ask an adult for help.
Another aspect of developing this skill, particularly if your morning schedule is a busy one is practising getting up and dressed for a particular time. In the week before starting school, I made sure the children were up, breakfasted and dressed for 8.30 am. Please don’t think I’m like a drill sergeant marching the landing with a whistle and clipboard shouting for my troops to be front and centre. It’s not like that. I simply wake them up earlier to ease them into their new routine. This has been beneficial for both them and me as it prepares us all for the shift in routine. Once the new school year starts again, we will be well seasoned in our early morning routine which will (hopefully) prevent the dragging of heels when we need to be up and out.

Lunchtime Practice
Whether you’ve decided to opt for hot school dinners or are sending your child with a packed lunch, it is always a good idea to practice using a knife, fork, and spoon. The more confident they are, the easier it will be for them to eat their dinner. If you’ve decided on packed lunches, you might want to encourage your child to practice opening their packets and containers. Depending on how nice your school’s lunchtime staff are will depend on how much help your child will get. We will all remember that one troll-like dinner lady that was zero help at all when you couldn’t open your damn yoghurt pot!


With all of my children, I have found it beneficial to see how long it takes them to eat their dinner independently. I don’t sit and time them on a stopwatch! As I said, I’m not a drill sergeant. I merely make a mental note of how long they sit and eat for. I also make a note of how much they eat. This kind of information is useful to pass onto the school, so they know what kind of portion to give your child. It’s also good for you to know how much to pack in their lunch. Too much might mean your child misses out on after lunch playtime and too little might mean they are hungry or irritable when they finish school. Nobody wants that!

Names, Letters and Words
I don’t think for a second that teachers expect children to start school having read Homer’s Odyssey, reciting the Latin alphabet, and counting to 100 in French. I believe the Master of Mischief will be taught what he needs to learn at school. Still, for a teacher to build a child’s knowledge, it can’t hurt to have a basic foundation to build on.

We’ve spent a lot of time encouraging the Master of Mischief to read and write his name, recognise the letters in it. This has also helped him practice his pencil grip. Once at school, his vocabulary will grow rapidly. To prepare for this, we encouraged him to learn new words. While out walking we collected items which we then talked about at home. This was a great way to introduce describing words.
Sharing songs, poems and stories is another great way that we encouraged him to recognise sounds and patterns in words. Repeated storytelling seems to have fostered a strong interest in books. This is always a good thing.
You’ll be surprised how quickly reception children start learning to read.

Counting
As before, I don’t think any teacher expects a child to march through the door on their first day chanting the 9 times table. Nonetheless, being able to count verbally up to 10 or even 20 is a tremendous benefit to a child.
This is something that we’ve managed to teach the Master of Mischief without even designing to do so. Counting throughout the day with our children is so easy to do. For example, how many cars drive past while you’re walking to the shop, how many lampposts you see on your way into town, how many stairs are in your house, how many windows, how many doors and so on. The possibilities of things to count are practically limitless.
One activity that we did actively do to help with counting (and colour) was graphing.

I made a chart on large floor paper and labelled the sections with colours. I then asked the Master of Mischief to find as many items around the house with the colours. We sectioned them on the chart and then counted how many of each colour we had. I then got him to practice writing the numbers on a separate sheet of paper.


Another way to set a foundation for mathematic skills is to try ordering numbers. One resource for this that has been invaluable for us is a simple deck of playing cards. There are so many ways that you can promote mathematics skills with a deck of cards. Number ordering, shape sorting, adding and counting to name a few.

Sharing and Turn-Taking
This is something that I was quite concerned about with the Master of Mischief. My girls are very close in age so have always had to share. My son, being younger and the only boy, has a range of items that are his and his alone. He also, unintentionally, gets more one to one attention at home. This is particularly true while the girls are playing with their friends. When it comes to sharing and taking turns, he can be a bit of a ‘give it to me gremlin’. He also HATES to lose. Something attributed to his dad, with whom I have had many an argument over games of Frozen Frustration and Ludo. (He cheats, I don’t, it’s now on the internet so it’s true. End of!)
One way to overcome this is through socialising children, which during the COVID-19 lockdown has been near on impossible to do (and at times illegal).
It has been a relief to have multiple children, having three at home has helped immensely throughout lockdown. Although tough at times, I think it would’ve been even harder dealing with one bored child. I don’t take my ability to say ‘go and play with your sister’ for granted. To those dealing with one child through this pandemic, I see you. You are warriors!
One thing we have done to practice turn-taking and sharing has been Sunday afternoon games sessions. Every Sunday through the lockdown we have brought out the board games to play together as a family. I invested in several age-appropriate games for the Master of Mischief including a variety of Orchard Toys games.


When we started with our newly appointed tradition, he was very demanding and would get quite worked up waiting for his turn. Through patience and practice, he is now a polite and easy-going gamer. The improvement in him has been great to see. I suppose like many things in life it was simply a case of ‘practice makes perfect’.

Sit, Listen and Do
As well as sharing and taking turns, children need to be able to sit and listen to teachers and each other. Carpet time, storytime and assemblies will be new experiences for school starters. Listening to spoken instructions and shifting the attention from what they are doing to what the teacher is saying will be a big skill to master. Practising this before starting school can only be beneficial.
Something we’ve done with the Master of Mischief to practice listening has been going on ‘noisy walks’.
This kind of walk is where we listen to all the noises we can hear while we are walking. As we go, I make a note of the sounds we have heard and at home, we will recall the noises and talk about our journey. It’s quite fun to do.
Another way we’ve practised sitting and listening has been through reading. Something I have done with the Master of Mischief has been sitting him on a chair opposite me while I read a story. Having him sat away from the book has meant he has to listen to what I’m saying to follow the story. (obviously, I show him the pictures at the end of each page, I’m not that mean)
One more thing that is beneficial to practice, as well as listening to instructions, is following them. To encourage this we have played games like ‘Simon Says’. It’s a terrific way to practice instruction following. The better your child gets at the game the more challenging you can make it.

These are just some ways that we have prepared the Master of Mischief for school. I hope that your preparations have gone well. Sending your child to school for the first time is a big deal. Well done to all the parents who have navigated what has been a truly crazy year so far. We did it!
I also want to wish good luck to all the new school starters that are joining or rejoining classes post-pandemic. You’ve got this!

Until next time
Hannah
XO

School Uniform: Top Tips

School Uniform: Top Tips

It’s that time of year again. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, children up and down the country will return to their to classrooms to be taught by professionals.

This year is a bittersweet one for me as it marks my last first day of school moment. I had a sterilisation procedure done during my last C-section, so the Master of Mischief is our last child. When he starts school, it will be the final time I will have a child start school.

I feel overwhelmed with emotion. I only just brought my baby home from the hospital, how can be starting school already? Despite my feeble attempts to stop the clock, he is starting in Reception come September.

My girls will also be returning, with Little Fairy going into year 4 and Kiki heading into year 5. As you can imagine, the only thing I have thought about for the past month is uniform. I’ve made six thousand lists and read the entire internet to make sure that I’m getting the best possible prices; because let’s be honest, kitting out 3 rapidly growing children for school is not cheap to do.

As a mature student and mother of three, budgeting, planning and organising are at the centre of everything I do. For school uniform, it’s no different. There are so many factors to consider. In this post, I share some of the top tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years for getting children suited and booted for school.

Bulk Buying 

Bulk buying (if you can) is an amazing way to ensure you have enough uniform sets for the week. There is nothing worse than waking up on a Thursday morning when you’ve to be on the bus by 8.10 and realising that the kids uniform needed washing. Children are masters of making sure they don’t tell you important information until the last minute.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard “I need sponsoring for a walk we’re doing tomorrow” only to discover the sponsor forms were given out a month prior and that my glorious little cherubs have neglected to inform me. There are only so many times you can get sponsored by Annette Curtain and Teresa Green before teachers become suspicious. It’s the same with the uniform. They are only all too pleased to let me know 5 minutes before I’m leaving that they have no clean polo shirts, or that the cardigan they were going to wear got dirty while they were painting. Avoid getting caught out with uniform mishaps by buying in bulk.

I find supermarket prices very reasonable, which is great because it means I can buy more. Buying that extra 2 pack of skirts or 5 pack of polo shirts means I always have enough spares to see my children through the week.

What do you need?

Create a list of everything (absolutely everything) you think your child might need. Enquire with your school regarding any changes (especially amidst COVID-19). Odds are there will be some extras you might need or some things that you’re no longer required to have.

How much you need?

Decide how much you want to buy. If you want to keep washing to a minimum through the week, make sure you stock up on extra sets of uniform. Again, buying in bulk is what I choose to do. Keep in mind, this has a larger cost initially. When making this decision, it’s always best to consider what is best for you and your budget.

Where to buy?

Things I always contemplate when deciding where to buy uniform from is ‘sizing’, ‘pricing’ and ‘how well it washes’. I buy most of my children’s uniform from supermarkets, so I read the online reviews before buying. It’s also amazing how much you can learn from other mums. Don’t be afraid to ask around the playground to see where other parents buy from and get their opinions on sizing and quality.

Some schools may require you to buy uniform from specific places. We’re lucky where we are, a branded school uniform is not compulsory. If you’re required to have decorated sets, always call ahead to make sure the shop stocks what you’re looking for. There is nothing worse than a wasted trip to a place that is out of stock!

Sizing

Sizing has always been a problem for me. My eldest daughter is tall with long legs, my youngest daughter is average height with a small waist and my son is an odd mix of tall yet petit. While shopping I find it hard to strike a balance for fitting. I’ve shopped around a lot over the years. I’ve invariably found ASDA kids clothing to be the best of the bunch for sizing. 

Measuring your children before you shop will forever be a good idea. Again, read reviews and don’t be afraid to ask your mum friends for tips.

One tip that I picked up last year was to draw around your child’s foot onto a piece of card. Cut this out and keep it in your bag while you’re shopping. You can use the foot cut out to measure against shoes which means that you can shop without your children. If your kids are like mine and get bored and start asking to use every toilet within a five-mile radius, it’s life-changing.

Labelling

Labelling clothes and bags are so important for school. The number of jumpers and cardigans that have been lost by my daughters could dress a small village for a year. 

You can order personalised labels to add to your child’s clothes, however, this can be costly if you have multiple children. I choose to use a permanent marker or fabric pen and write straight onto the manufacturer’s label. Regardless of how you label your uniform, it’s something you should do. 

Multiple Child Problems

Having two girls so close in age used to cause so many problems for us. School uniform would get mixed up in the wash and my children would end up wearing each other’s cardigans or dresses. They would often end up looking like they dressed in the dark, wearing clothes that were either a tad too big or too tight. To put an end to these mishaps I came up with a one for one system.

For daughter 1 I buy skirts, scalloped collar polos, round button cardigans and black socks.

For daughter 2 I buy pinafores, plain collar polos, heart button cardigans and white socks. 

It made life 100 times easier. If you have more than one child of the same gender, I would highly recommend buying varying designs of uniform for each. Our days of “she’s wearing my clothes” are long behind us.

Storage Solutions

Before I add any new uniform to the wardrobe, I have a big ‘closet clear out’. 

Most schools offer a recycle system where you can donate items of uniform for other families to use. It’s always nice to give to others. Have a look into places you could donate any uniform your kids have outgrown before you decide to just throw it away.

As for storage, we hang the uniforms in sets so that the girls can easily get what they need without having to dig to Narnia to find it. We also keep school socks separate from everyday socks. If you have extensive storage in your home, it’s a good idea to allocate specific space for school items. This helps keep children organised. It also stops things from getting misplaced or lost (which can happen all too often). Our home doesn’t have masses of storage space, so I fit some hooks outside the girls’ bedroom specifically for their school bags and coats. This has been a great way to keep all of their school things in one place.

Get Snap Happy in Advance

There is nothing more important than that first day of school photo. Parents take hundreds of pictures of their little ones looking smart and smiley for their first day. These images flood social media, they take pride of place on our mantles, they go in scrapbooks, they get framed and given to grandparents, aunties, and uncles every year until graduation. However, the morning of the first day of school can be extremely hectic. It can be stressful trying to get the perfect shot of everyone looking the right way in the 5 minutes before you need to leave. I would highly recommend dressing your children in their uniform in the days before and take pictures in a relaxed atmosphere, instead of that killer 10 minutes before you leave the house. Trust me, you and your kids will thank me!

Take a moment

Taking a moment is the best bit of advice I can give. Whether your children are starting school or heading back to school, it’s a big deal. Make sure that in amongst the stress, the cost, the planning, the buying, the washing, the sorting and the labelling, that you take a moment to appreciate everything. Your little ones are going to enjoy new experiences and that should be celebrated. 

In our house, we always have an end of summer, back to school family night. Once everything is bought and sorted, we put all of the worry and stress behind us and enjoy pizza and a movie together.   

I hope that your school journey, be it starting or continuing, is as stress-free as possible. If there are any tips I have missed out or anything you can share with me, please do so in the comments.

Keep an eye out for more posts about how we are getting my youngest ‘school ready’. 

Until next time. 

Hannah XO

Keeping Cool

Keeping Cool

Having just entered another spate of ridiculously hot weather, I thought I’d share my tried and tested, budget-friendly tips for keeping the children cool and entertained.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find that when it’s hot I become a heat raged gremlin. My patience is shorter, I get agitated and flustered. It is therefore unfortunate that during the heat is when parenting kicks up a notch. On top of all our regular weather parenting, we now need to be on top of hats, sun cream, and hydration. We also need to make sure that the activities our children are doing aren’t going to result in overheating or sunstroke. It’s a tough slog, especially if like me, you don’t fair well in the heat.

With the unpredictability of the weather, we’ve progressed from baking sun to thunderstorms, onto hailstones and back to clear skies in the space of one afternoon. It’s mad! Still, it’s always a good idea to have some handy tips and tricks on hand to make sure that your little ones are stimulated, entertained and occupied whatever the weather.

Here I share my top 5 things to do at home to keep cool when the sun has his hat on and the temperature is creeping up.

Ice Box Rescue

This is a great and cooling sensory activity. You need to prepare it the day before so it’s always a good thing to check the weather forecast. If high temperatures are looming, you can get this game ready for when your little ones need to cool down. It’s a simple yet highly effective idea. All you need is a plastic storage box, a small selection of plastic toys, water and a small child’s hammer (or any other device they can use to tap with). For my version, I used the Master of Mischief’s Scooby-Doo characters. I put the figurines into the box and filled it with water. I then popped it in the freezer overnight which allowed the water to set, trapping the mystery gang in a block of ice. The next day as it got hotter, the Master of Mischief was getting bored and irritable. I got this out of the freezer and told him that a snow monster had trapped Scoob and the gang in the ice and that they needed saving. The excitement that came over my son was fantastic. I set him up in the shade outside and we set about whacking the ice block in a bid to free the toys trapped inside. The cold water was cooling him down while the game was occupying him. As a bonus, it was a great learning moment, while we were playing, we were talking about the toys and the ice. We talked about how it looked and how it felt. He even noticed that the ice was melting and turning into water.

This kind of activity can be made from whatever toys you have at home so shouldn’t cost anything. Some other themes you might want to explore is to trap farm animals, cars, dinosaurs, coloured blocks or even Lego. If you wanted to incorporate additional learning, you could use animal figures of animals that live in cold and ice habitats. This could facilitate a conversation about animals and their homes, which is always a great way for children to learn.  

Paddling Pool Lake and Boat Making 

When the hot weather first started, it was a bit up and down. The forecast was constantly changing. Whenever I went shopping, I would overlook the ample paddling pool selection. I made the rookie mistake of thinking ‘I’ll just buy a paddling pool next week when it’s hot’. Fool! As the temperature has continued to rise, every shop I have been to has sold out of paddling pools. The only place I was able to get anything was Tesco, who was selling a £3.50 three-ring pool which ripped almost instantly (I guess you get what you pay for on occasion). Honestly, it was so small you’d struggle to fit a toe in, never mind sit and splash around. A few days ago, I had a surge of luck. Our local Aldi is selling themed pools at a reasonable price (£5.99). I was only 122cm diameter so wasn’t big enough for all three to sit in, it was, however, the perfect size for our small patio garden and big enough for all three to sit around and play in. It was to be our paddling pool lake, and what is a lake without boats!?

I had some boxes and odd pieces of plastic recycling which I managed to rescue from the grasps of my cleaning wizard husband. With this, some wooden sticks, a few pieces of A4 paper cut into sail shapes and some wooden chopsticks, I set the task for each of the children to build and decorate a boat. The boats were then to be tested on our paddling pool lake. Whoever made the boat that survived the longest would win a lollipop.

We had a great time creating and testing the boats. For those interested, Little Fairy won the competition.  

Toy Bath

This is an excellent way to keep children cool in the heat. It’s so simple; all I do is fill a large tub with cool water and throw some toys in. Dinosaurs are usually the go-to for the Master of Mischief, however, with a few recent activities to do with Shark Week, we are now shifting slightly more towards Jaws and his mates.

Between the imaginations of Little Fairy and the Master of Mischief, the games pretty much make themselves. We’ve had dinosaurs fighting sharks, sharks eating Frozen characters, and a very daring rescue carried out by Scooby-Doo involving a monster truck and some pretty dicey shark-infested waters.

If you wanted to add an educational twist to this activity you could create an underwater habitat for your water-themed animal toys.

Water Balloons

What child isn’t obsessed with water balloons? I recently purchased a fantastic pack that are self-sealing. Genius!

It took me no time to fill them and the small ball contraption within the balloon meant there was no fiddley twisting and tying involved.

Now, I don’t like ‘water fights’. My children (and husband) are extremely competitive. Anything involving ‘fight’ no matter how playful the intent, will undoubtedly end in tears. So, if you are lucky enough to have children that can have a ‘civilised’ water balloon fight, please know, I envy you.

For the mums like me who have a band of children who don’t know what friendly competition is, try playing toss the balloon.

Fill the water balloons as you like and then play a spread out game of catch. It’s always a laugh and removes all the risk of fallouts.

Fan Making

Fan making is an age-old tradition that children of any age can participate in.

All you need is some A4 paper. Have your children draw a picture or decorate one or both sides of the paper.

Accordion fold the paper, pinch at the bottom and bind together. Fan out the paper and it’s ready for use.

Alternatively, you could make a paddle fan. For this, you will need a lollipop stick, card, glue and scissors.

Cut out matching paddle shapes from your card and decorate them.

Glue the lollipop stick to the back of one paddle piece ensuring there is a large part of the stick extending out from the paper.

Cover the back of the second paddle piece and stick this to back of the fan. Make sure you spread glue onto the back of the handle and the edges of the fan so that they stick together. This will hide the stick and make the fan sturdier.

Once the glue is dried you are good to go.

I hope these ideas can help keep your children occupied and cool at the same time. Hot and bored is a terrible mix. For us, these activities have meant that keeping cool can be fun.

Let me know if you try any of them in the comments section and stay cool.

Until next time….

Hannah XO

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

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.

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.