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

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

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.

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!