All posts by alex m

10 Inspirational Quotes From Children’s Books

Some of the greatest wisdom of all time can be found scattered between the bright and cheerful pages of children’s books. The stories we find ourselves reading over and over to our children often contain important messages for adults too.

Here we’ve put together a list of our ten favourite inspirational quotes by A. A. Milne, Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling and more…

1. By J. K. Rowling from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

2. By Giles Andrae from Giraffes Can’t Dance

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

3. A. A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh

4. By J. M. Barrie from Peter Pan

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

5. By Aesop from The Lion and The Mouse

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

6. By A. A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

7. By Roald Dahl from The Twits

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

8. By Antoine de Saint Exupery from The Little Prince

9. By Louisa May Alcott from Little Women

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

10. By J. K. Rowling from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Inspiring Quotes From Children's Books

Budget Halloween Ideas

Budget Halloween Ideas

My daughter announced last year that she likes Halloween more than Christmas. No pressure there! Unfortunately, our budget does not extend as far as I’d like it to. I want to make Halloween extra special for her but it also has to be done a shoestring.

Halloween can be an expensive business, especially as it always falls around half term. Costumes, parties, days out and activities all mount up. However, there are ways to make it special without spending a fortune. If you’re also looking for cheap or free Halloween activities, crafts and events then here are some ideas to help.

Events and Activities:

Check out:

Your local library:

 Our library has free Halloween craft sessions during the October half term and I’m willing to bet most other libraries will do the same. You could also pick up a few spooky stories to share.

Cost: Free

Shopping Centres:

Budget Halloween Ideas

 Our local shopping centres also put on free crafts and activities. They also do face painting, which costs a couple of pounds. It worth seeing if your local shopping centre puts on activities at half term.

Cost: Free or under £5

Churches:

 I know it’s unlikely to be Halloween themed, but some churches organise alternative celebrations. For example, on Halloween our local church is having a ‘Light Party’. There will be games, craft, a bouncy castle and food and it’s all free. All they ask for is a donation and you don’t have to be a regular church goer to attend. Have a look and see if your church is organising something over half term.

Cost: Free (with optional donation)

Arts Centres:

Our local arts centre is really going to town with Halloween activities this year. There are zombie invasion workshops, craft sessions and a spooky cinema. They do charge but the cost is lower than many other activities.

Cost: £5 – £10 per activity

Sppoky Halloween Walk

Budget Halloween Ideas

If you can’t find anything suitable, how about organising a spooky Halloween walk in the woods? All you need to do is cut out some Halloween pictures of cats, spiders etc (which you could find in free magazines from supermarkets and other stores) and hang them in the trees. Then take the kids and create a Halloween trail to find them.

Cost: Free. Weather dependant!

Crafts:

 All young children love making Halloween decorations. Here are some ideas of cheap Halloween decorations you can make, which don’t involve hacking up a pumpkin!

Spooky Halloween Hanging Decoration Here’s an easy decoration that even the littlest of hands will be able to make.

Cost: Under £5

Intestine Jelly I love this idea and the effect is pretty gory!

Cost: Under £5

Spooky Fruit For Halloween If pumpkin carving isn’t your thing or you run out of time to get one, then this is a fabulous alternative. I think the effect is just as good, if not better than a pumpkin.

Cost: Depends how much fruit you use, could be as little as £1.

Pebble Monsters For some reason, all kids love stones and pebbles. If your kids are anything like mine, you’ll likely have a stash of pebbles and stones somewhere in your house. You can put them to good use my making them into pebble monsters! All you need is acrylic paint, some googly eyes and a permanent marker pen.

Cost: Under £5 (depending on how many colours of paint you use).

Hama Bead Decorations If your kids are into Hama beads, why not make some Halloween decorations from them?

Costs: Free if you already have Hama Beads, but you can buy them for under £5.

Hand Print Spiders Another brilliant budget activity, which is easy for younger children to take part in.

Cost:  Under £5

And don’t forget to check out our three budget craft ideas for kids here.

Budget Halloween Ideas

Shop Around:

Pound stores and discount shops often have tons of cheap Halloween decorations and costumes, as do stores like Wilkos and Matalan. Don’t forget to check out the extensive Halloween ranges at Lidl and Aldi too.

Home Activities:

 A Spooky Film Night: My daughter loves having a spooky film night around Halloween. All you need is a film, some popcorn, a dark room and some candles (or these cute Mummy jars).

Some of our favourite film ideas are: Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Casper, The Adams Family, Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie, Harry Potter, Halloweentown, The Worst Witch, Labyrinth, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Witches.

Cost: Under £5

Pumpkin Bowling: This is guaranteed fun for all the family and all you need is a small pumpkin and some toilet roll! Simply take 6 toilet rolls, cut out three circles from black card to stick on each (to make two eyes and the mouth of a ghost). Stack them up like bowling pins and use the small pumpkin as a ball. Easy, cheap and fun!

Cost: Under £5

DIY Candy Stand This is a brilliant idea and the result is so dramatic, kids will love it. You will need to use a bookcase, but I haven’t included that in the estimated cost.

Cost: Under £20 (not including the bookcase)

Halloween Party: A small party doesn’t have to be very expensive. By visiting discount stores you can get cheap decorations and serve up pizza or cheap party food from Iceland. Possible themes are Witches Tea Party, Harry Potter party in the Forbidden Forest i.e. your local woods (here are some ideas and free printables) or a spooky film night for older children.

Cost: Entirely dependent on how much you want to put in but could be done for under £20.


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

 

How to Help Your Friend Through Baby Loss

How to Help Your Friend Through Baby Loss

This year, Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place from the 9th to the 15th October. Sadly, one in four mums will suffer miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss at some stage.

I am one of them.

My second daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with a serious heart defect at my 20 week scan and she passed away only twenty four hours after birth. There are no words to describe the torrent of  grief and emotions we are left with. Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive and I am grateful every day to them for the love they give us.

I recently started to wonder how it must feel to be the friend of someone who has suffered such a loss.

We saw a grief counsellor after we lost Grace. I will never forget the wisdom he offered about other people’s reactions to loss.

He said, ‘At least one person will tell you not to worry because you can have another baby. There will be at least one friend you will never hear from again because they don’t know what to say. And there will be at least one shining star – someone who  goes above and beyond in their support for you.’

He was absolutely right on all three counts.

How to Help Your Friend Through Baby Loss

If you have a friend who is grieving the loss of a baby and you are finding it difficult to know how to show your support, here are some tips for helping them through it:

Just be there

There is really nothing you can say or do to ease your friend’s pain. Just being there to listen, hug and talk about the loss will be a big help.

My friends came to see me almost every day for the first few months after we lost Grace and just knowing they were there was very comforting. There have been a couple of friends that I haven’t heard from since Grace died. I understand that it must be difficult to know what to say and do and perhaps they found it easier to say nothing at all.

Honestly there is nothing anyone can say or do. Just being there is more than enough.

Talk about the baby

Sometimes it may appear kinder to talk about something other than the loss because you don’t want to upset your friend further. But believe me; your friend will want to talk about her loss.

Look at the pictures of her child with her and any other memories she has (such as a lock of hair, hand and foot prints and hospital tags).

Grace’s life was so short, I want her to be remembered and I want to show people the photos and memories we had of her. By talking about her and sharing our memories it enables us to keep her alive.

How to Help Your Friend Through Baby Loss

Don’t mention trying again

After losing a child, the last thing your friend will want to think about is trying again.

Shortly after Grace died, someone remarked to me that I shouldn’t’ worry because I could have another baby. Although the grief counsellor had warned me I would hear this comment, I wasn’t prepared for the sting. While I’m sure the person in question was just trying to help, having another baby was not something I was ready to think about for a long time after losing Grace. And even now, five years on and after having a rainbow baby, he will never be a substitute or replacement for Grace.

Don’t forget

Your friend will never forget her loss and will grieve for her child every single day.

While it’s very important to be there in the days and weeks following the loss it is equally as important to be there for the long term.

Your friend will need your support forever. If she has days when she seems down or not herself, always remember that she is still grieving and may need a shoulder to cry on (however long has passed since her loss).

The loss may change her permanently –  try to understand and accept the changes. I know that I am no longer the same person I was before my pregnancy with Grace.

I have a friend who mentions Grace on every Christmas card she sends. It means so much to me to know she too is remembering Grace at a time of the year when her absence from our family is even more evident.

Support her through future pregnancies

Subsequent pregnancies will be difficult for your friend. She will feel a cocktail of emotions – guilt, worry, excitement, happiness and sadness.

I found my third pregnancy very difficult at the beginning – I felt guilty for ‘moving on’ and terrified that something bad would happen again.

It’s important to acknowledge the baby that she lost. At the beginning of my third pregnancy, a friend asked me how it felt to be having a second baby. I had to point out it was actually my third baby. This obviously caused her some embarrassment and I’m sure she simply hadn’t wanted to upset me my mentioning my second pregnancy.

I carried Grace for 8 months. And I spent twenty four hours with her before she left. It’s ok to acknowledge that – it won’t upset me. On the contrary, acknowledging Grace and her place in our family is very important to me.

Remember the anniversary

It will mean a great deal to your friend if you always remember the anniversary of her child’s birth and death. Sending her a card or even just a text on the day will let her know you are remembering too.

Help her celebrate her child’s life

You can ask her if she would like any help arranging the funeral or, if she is thinking of fundraising in memory of her child, offer to help. I have a friend that threw a fundraising party to help us with our fundraising efforts in memory of Grace. This meant so much to me as did the support of everyone who came along to and helped out at the fundraising events we organised.

Don’t forget her partner

He will feel the loss just as much. When you see him, give him a hug and ask him how he is coping. He will appreciate knowing that you are there for him as well as for your friend.

Life goes on

If you are pregnant or become pregnant after your friend’s loss – don’t hide it from her. Share the experience with her as you would with your other friends. She won’t want to feel left out or that you are treating her differently.

A few weeks after I lost Grace, a friend announced she was pregnant. I’m not going to say it was easy to hear her news, because it wasn’t. But I was genuinely happy for her and grateful that she shared her good news and pregnancy milestones with me.

How to Help Your Friend Through Baby Loss

If you are trying to support a friend through baby loss, you can be the shining star she needs. Find out more about Baby Loss Awareness Week by visiting the website here.


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

3 Easy Halloween Crafts

3 Easy Halloween Crafts

These three Halloween crafts are cheap and simple to make. Younger children will need help with the cutting aspects of the crafts, it will be better to cut everything out for them before you begin.

All the crafts pictured were made by my eight year old daughter with a little help from me!

 Halloween Lanterns

 You will need:

A glass jar

Coloured tissue paper

Googly eyes

Black card

Watered down PVA glue

Electric tea light

To make a pumpkin, cut orange tissue paper into strips and glue it to the jar (ensuring that you cover all of the tissue paper in the watered down glue). Add some green tissue paper to the lid or around the top of the jar in the same way.

Cut out some eyes from black card (or use googly eyes) and do the same for a mouth. Stick them onto the jar.

Add an electric tea light (not a real candle) to the jar to make it glow.

You can make so many variations of this. Use white tissue paper to make a ghost or make a multi-coloured jar with a silhouette of a witch flying.

3 Easy Halloween Crafts

Paper Plate Ghosts

You will need:

A paper plate

Black and red marker pens

Tissue paper cut into long strips

Black and white card

Some string

Cut out a mouth and eye shapes from the black paper and stick them into place.

Cut out two arms with hands from the white paper and tape them to the back of the plate.

Cut out two circles from white paper and stick one into each eye, adding a black circle with the pen as pupils.

Use the red pen to draw on the cheeks.

Tape four or five strips of the tissue paper to the back of the plate (on the reverse side).

Cut some string and tape it to the top (reverse side) to make the hanging.

Window Hangings

 You will need:

Black card

Orange and green cellophane wrap

Cut the black card into different shapes. You could make a castle (pictured) a pumpkin, a ghost or any other type of Halloween object.

Cut some holes in the card e.g. windows for the castle or eyes, nose and mouth for a pumpkin.

Cut the cellophane into small squares and stick it onto the back of the card, covering the holes.

Stick to a window for some spooky decorations


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

How To Get Your Child To Open Up About Their School Day

How To Get Your Child To Open Up About Their School Day

With the new school year now in full swing, many parents find extracting information about the school day from their children an excruciating process. The question ‘how was school today?’ is invariably answered with a ‘fine’, ‘good’ or ‘ok’. It’s often very difficult to get past these one word road blocks.

As parents, we want details! We want to know that they had someone to play with, that they felt included, that they had someone to sit with it at lunch, that they understand their lessons and that they are happy. Yet all this information never seems to be volunteered very readily.

However, there are some tactics you can use to delve deeper into your child’s school experiences. The first is binning the question ‘how was school today?’ because it is proven to be an ineffective way to open up conversations about the school day.

Don’t ask straight away

As soon as your child steps out of the classroom, they may be feeling a cocktail of emotions. As well as feeling tired and hungry, they can be strained from the effort of concentrating, being on their best behaviour and following the rules all day. As soon as they see a parent, they feel comfortable enough to release all those emotions and let loose. This can lead to ‘after school attitude’, when children play up, have tantrums and are uncooperative.

This is not a good time to ask them about their day. Once they’ve had a snack, adjusted to their home surroundings and had the chance to unwind, you’ll have a better chance at finding out what happened during their day. Your child will be much more likely to open up while you all sit down to dinner and during bath time, for example.

Ask Open Ended Questions

Once your child feels ready to talk about their day, open ended questions requiring more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer are your best bet.

Try and be a bit creative with your questioning. Avoid ‘how was school today?’ and try a more interesting route:

What was the best/worst thing that happened today?

Who did you play with?

Who did you sit with?

Tell me one thing you learned today.

What was your favourite part of lunch?

Who is the funniest person in your class?

What was your teacher wearing today?

Often the answer to one of these questions will be a natural progression to other topics.

Listen

It’s tempting to jump in with more questions to try and get to the bottom of a topic, but try to hang back and let your child direct the conversation.

Share your day with them

If you share tit-bits of your day with your child, they will be more likely to reciprocate. For example, if you share what you ate for lunch and who you ate it with, they may do the same. Although, for children who have just started school and are missing home, it may be a good idea not to make your day sound too exciting, especially if you have spent it with their sibling. Talking about what you ate, who you saw and what you talked about are good ways to help your child see how we share information about our days.

Living with a six year old

It’s Like Living With A Six Year Old

If you’ve ever seen the 1986 comedy film ‘The Three Amigos’ you’ll be familiar with Steve Martin’s famous line, ‘It’s like living with a six year old.’

When I was younger, my friend Gemma and I used to roll our eyes and say this every time we perceived someone to be behaving immaturely. Mostly, we just said it to each other and always in a stupid American accent.

I spoke that line so many times as a teenager but it’s only now, twenty years later, that I actually know what living with a six year old is really like.

I often see blogs with titles such as ’10 things I would tell my pregnant self’, which are generally centred on sleep deprivation, poo conversations and the mischievous antics of very little people. All are perfectly valid reading for those with babies and toddlers. I also see lots of literature based on parenting a teenager, which for the most part, I can’t bring myself to read yet.

However, there doesn’t seem to be many articles written about the joys and tribulations of raising post-toddler, pre-teen children. So I decided to write one about my life with my six year old daughter.

Here is what I would tell my pregnant self about living with a six year old:

You don’t have possessions. Nothing of yours actually belongs to you anymore.

Make-up, jewellery, clothes, stationery – nothing is safe from my daughter’s hoarding hands. Most of my jewellery has been stashed away in pink containers in her room and I’ve given up trying to find it.

Hiding my treasured items is fruitless because nothing escapes the radar of a pilfering six year old. This became evident to me the day that my daughter emerged from our spare room wearing my wedding dress (which had been carefully wrapped, boxed and put away) accompanied by her little friend who was modelling every handbag I own. They had been into the bathroom, opened a box of my tampons, removed the applicators and were wearing them as earrings. I later found the rest of the box floating in the bath. Tampons do make excellent bath toys.

While six year olds enjoy making use of their parents’ possessions, they don’t always fully grasp the correct usage of them. I learned this one morning when I woke up to find my daughter sitting on my bedroom floor painting her toenails. With my eyeliner.

I truly have no possessions anymore. John Lennon would be proud.

You’ll see complicated issues in a new light

Inside the head of a six year old, the world is a delightfully uncomplicated place. There is good and bad, black and white, superheroes and villains. Messy political and global humanitarian problems can be solved by a six year old in as little as a few words.

One afternoon, my daughter had some pressing questions about the Second World War. She wanted to know how it started, why so many people died (see on for six year old obsession with death) and how it ended. I explained all about Hitler and his invasion of other countries, Nazism and why the Allies retaliated. I was quite proud of my 1997 GCSE History knowledge. I ended by telling her about the Holocaust and how millions of innocent people were killed by the Nazis.

When I had finished, my daughter was quiet for an uncharacteristic moment. Then she said, ‘Well I don’t know where Hiltler’s mind was at, but he shouldn’t have done that.’

Indeed.

While I was listening to the radio one afternoon, a speech from Donald Trump was being relayed. ‘Who’s that man?’ my daughter piped up. ‘He has a lying voice.’

Say it how you see it, dear six year old, say it how you see it.

You’ll talk about death a lot.

I thought it was just my daughter who was given to making countless enquiries about death. However, after voicing my concerns to friends, it seems that many six year olds are preoccupied with the topic. Take my friend, who one morning found her six year old scribbling away furiously on a piece of paper. She asked him what he was writing and he replied, ‘I’m writing letters. To dead people.’

Perhaps it’s a fascination with and anxiety about the unknown that preoccupies a six year old with death. Whenever I watch a film with my daughter, we firstly have to ascertain which cast members have died since the film was made and those who are still with us. With a little help from Google, I am now fully up to date with the status of everyone who acted in Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Annie and many other children’s films.

On earwigging at my daughter’s bedroom door during a play date, I discovered that six year olds also tend to play quite morbid games. I heard three sweet little girls playing, ‘pretend you’ve broken your leg and your bone’s sticking out’, ‘pretend you cracked your head open and your brain spilled out’ and, perhaps the most insulting, ‘pretend we’re orphans and we like it’.

Your transformation into your own mother is now complete

It started gradually after my daughter was born – a word here, a habit there. Six years on and I have now fully and irreversibly morphed into my mother.

On a daily basis her words fly out of my mouth – phrases such as; ‘what did your last slave die of?’, ‘mind your Ps and Qs’, ‘do you do that at school? Well then don’t do it here then’ and (my personal favourite) ‘what did I come upstairs for?’

It’s taken six years but I have now perfected my mother’s sigh of martyrdom and pained exhaustion whenever I sit for a moment on a chair or sofa.

Chasing a child who is munching on a packet of crisps around the living room while screaming, ‘I’ve just hoovered!’ is now as much a part of my daily life as it was my mother’s.

You’ll wonder what parents did before google

Important questions such as ‘why is the sky blue?’ and ‘what’s the poorest country in the world?’ are beyond my GCSE science and geography knowledge. A sneaky Google on my phone behind my back helps me retain my status as the font of all knowledge. Seriously, what did parents do before they had such technology to fall back on? I know, I know they looked it up in a book.

You’ll be made to feel stupid on a regular basis

It’s not pleasant when my six your old knows more than I do about something. And yet it is a feeling I experience more and more often.

When she was studying dinosaurs at school, we decided to take her up to the Natural History Museum. While standing by the big dinosaur in the entrance hall, I read out its name from the display case.

‘It’s a Diplodocus’, I said, pronouncing it Dip-lo-dok-us.

My daughter rolled her eyes. ‘Mummy, it’s a dip-lo-dough-cus and it obviously ate tree leaves because it has a long neck.

It’s like living with my own personal Hermione Granger.

It’s like living with a six year old.


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

What’s Your Take On Gender Neutral Clothing For Children?

John Lewis’ recent decision to introduce gender neutral children’s clothing has divided the internet.  The store has removed ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ labels from children’s dresses, trousers and other clothes, replacing them with ‘girls and boys’ or ‘boys and girls’.

In a statement last week, head of children’s wear at John Lewis, Caroline Bettis, said, ‘We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear.’

Gender stereotypes within children’s clothing has been a hot topic over the past few months, with retailers Morrisons and Mothercare among those criticised. While Mothercare offered girls the chance to ‘sparkle’, boys could choose to be a ‘genius’. Morrisons’ t-shirt selection included slogans such as ‘little girl, big smile’ and ‘little man, big ideas’. Understandably, many parents found the difference in girls and boys clothes to be sexist and old-fashioned.

However, it seems opinion over John Lewis’ introduction of gender neutral children’s clothing is split between those welcoming the move and those branding it ridiculous.

Let Clothes Be Clothes, the campaign for gender neutral clothing was, predictably, ‘absolutely thrilled’ by the news.

Other Twitter users agreed:

https://twitter.com/BethhDoherty/status/904467343782367232

Yet not everyone was as supportive. Speaking on Good morning Britain, Piers Morgan said, ‘I have three sons and one little daughter. None of my sons have shown any interest in wearing dresses and my daughter wears 20 dresses a day. Why can’t we let boys be boys and girls be girls?’

Many Twitter users agreed with him:

https://twitter.com/danidotx/status/904657440796549121

Twitter polls revealed the extent of the split:

The furore has led many to question whether other retailers will follow suit. Is this political correctness gone mad or should all children’s clothing be gender neutral? No doubt we haven’t seen the end of this debate.


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

 

Back To School Tips: How To Rock The Morning Routine

Back To School Tips: How To Rock The Morning Routine

It’s no secret that mornings are often stressful and frustrating times for many parents. With children heading back to school this week, getting the little darlings dressed, ready and packed off to school on time can be a challenge.

Here are some tips to help your mornings run as smoothly as possible:

Get everything ready the night before

Make up packed lunches, iron and hang up clothes and line shoes up by the door the night before. Make sure all school bags and sports bags are packed and ready to go. If you fall into the routine of prepping everything the night before, you will save precious time in the morning.

If you drive to school, put everything you need in the car. If you walk, make sure it’s all ready to grab by the front door.

Prepare breakfast the night before

You can set the table and ensure all cereal boxes, jam and other provisions are ready. If you fancy something more adventurous, such as muffins, scones or even breakfast burritos, check out these easy to make recipes. You can prepare them all the night before.

Back To School Tips: How To Rock The Morning Routine

Put the clocks forward by ten minutes

This little trick works a charm for ensuring everyone remains ahead of schedule without even knowing it!

Don’t allow anyone to go downstairs until they are dressed and ready

Once children disappear downstairs to play and watch TV, it’s often a very difficult job to haul them back up again. Make a rule that no one can go down until they are washed, dressed and have brushed their teeth and hair. If your little ones are hungry for their breakfast, they’re also likely to move faster.

Get up before everyone else

Set your alarm before the rest of the house normally wakes so you can have a shower and get ready in peace. Just taking the time out to have a coffee and slice of toast in the early morning peace and quiet will set you up for a better day. If your mind is overload with tasks, jot them down into a manageable list to give yourself some clarity before the day begins.

Back To School Tips: How To Rock The Morning Routine

Use a reward chart

For younger children, a sticker chart will really help motivate them to keep moving. For older children, you could use rewards more relevant to their age.

Make it a competition

Utilise some of that sibling rivalry for a positive end by challenging your children to see who can get ready first. Reward the winner with a small treat. Giving the mornings a competitive seems to spring children into action more than anything else!

Keep an emergency kit in the car

This could include cereal bars for those who didn’t make it up in time for breakfast, a brush and hair clips for those who didn’t do their hair and some change for those who need lunch money.

With a little preparation, a smidgen of bribery and a bit of creativity, the school-run doesn’t have to be overly stressful. Good luck with getting your little ones back to school on time!


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

Cooking With Kids: Yummy Pizza Base and Dough Balls

Cooking With Kids: Yummy Pizza Base and Dough Balls

Most kids love pizza, but shop bought pizza bases often taste like cardboard. It’s really simple to make your own pizza bases and dough balls – the little people will love getting involved and creating something yummy to eat. My little helper had a great time with this recipe!

Ingredients:

350 Strong Plain Flour (for making bread not the normal plain flour you use for cakes, pastry etc)

7g sachet of fast action yeast

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil

250ml warm water

Cooking With Kids: Yummy Pizza Base and Dough Balls

Tools:

1 large bowl

1 large mixing bowl

Wooden spoon

Cling film

 

Method:

 

  • Making sure the mixing bowl is warm (you can pour boiling water in it and then wipe it over or use it just out of the dishwasher), mix the flour, salt and yeast together.

 

  • Stir in the olive oil and water and xix together until it collects into a dough.

 

  • Sprinkle some flour onto the work surface and then empty the dough out of the bowl and knead for five minutes or so. Little people can get creative with this – for example by using their elbows!

Cooking With Kids: Yummy Pizza Base and Dough Balls

 

  • Put the dough into a the large bowl, cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm for 30 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.

 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F/ gas mark 6.

 

  • Tip the dough back onto the floured surface and cut in half. You can use one half for the pizza base and one half to make the dough balls. Roll out the pizza base into a circle and use the remaining dough to make the dough balls by rolling out into a long, thin sausage shape and cutting into small pieces. Then roll each shape into balls using your hands. Our dough balls were not so small or even, mainly because I let my daughter make them herself!

pizza

 

  • Put the pizza base on an oven tray and add your toppings.

 

  • Cook the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes (or more if required).

 

  • Place the dough balls on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes.

 

It really is that simple! My little chef was delighted with her Italian feast.


Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, stationery addict and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills

As we move towards the end of summer and the days become slightly shorter, it’s inevitable that our minds turn to winter and how our energy bills will creep up. If you worry about how you’re going to manage the bills this winter, here are some tips for reducing the cost:

Switch supplier

It may sound obvious, but you can save a lot of money by changing energy supplier. Have a look on comparison websites to see how much you could save. Switching to the cheapest supplier could cut your bills by half.

Make sure you check out comparison websites regularly and switch whenever you can get a better deal.

Get the whole family involved

If no one is watching the TV, make sure it goes off. Switch off lights when nobody’s in the room. Take care is taken with water use.

Young children can be taught to be careful with the energy they use. For example, when brushing their teeth, ask them to turn the tap off. When they leave the room, keep reminding them to turn off the lights and TV until it becomes second nature to them.

Sitting down together and making a plan on how to save energy as a family will greatly help to reduce those bills.

Put a jumper on

Most people wander round their houses in winter wearing a thin shirt with the thermostat cranked up to 20 degrees. Your first port of call could be to put on more layers before the heating goes on.

Apparently turning down the thermostat by just one degree can save £85 per year.

Dare we suggest a onesie?!

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills

Unplug Appliances

Not only is this good fire-safety practise, it will also save you pounds from your energy bill. If you leave your TV on standby, it’s still using 50 percent of its energy.

The same goes for washing machines, dishwashers, tumble driers, microwaves etc. When they’re not in use, turn them off at the wall and unplug them.

 

Shower the kids

One way to save water is to shower the kids instead of bath them. They may not like it at first but they’ll get used to not having a bath and your water bills will quickly reduce. When you do give them a bath, only fill it as much as you need to.

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills

Be energy savvy

. There are plenty of ways to become energy savvy.

Make sure the dishwasher is full before you turn it on. The same goes for the washing machine. Don’t overload them but also take care not to use them until you have loaded them fully. Two loads of washing where one would suffice is just a waste of money.

In the winter, buy draught excluders and make sure all windows are shut before you switch the heating on. Close curtains to keep heat in. If you don’t use your fireplace, block the chimney with a pillow. Look into other ways of insulating your house such as loft and wall insulation to make it better able to keep heat in.

Use energy saving light bulbs. Fix dripping taps. Only fill the kettle with the exact amount of water you intend to use (did you know the kettle uses a lot of energy?) Turn down the washing machine temperature to 40 degrees and use the quick wash.

When you need to replace appliances such as washing machines and boilers, make sure you choose the most energy efficient ones as possible.

Keep up to date with your meter readings

Record your meter reading each month so you can see how you’re doing. Make sure you submit your readings to your energy supplier to avoid paying an estimated bill. Estimated bills can be grossly inaccurate.

Get a smart meter

All households will be offered a smart meter by 2020, at no extra cost. A smart meter not only sends meter readings to your energy supplier for you (ending the problem of inaccurate, estimated bills) but also allows you to see, in real time, exactly how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence. If you’ve ever tried to work out your energy bill, you’ll have seen how deliberately complicated it is. Smart meters put an end to all that.

You can find out more about smart meters here. Everyone will eventually be offered a smart meter, but contact your supplier to see if you can get one now.

If you don’t want to wait until 2020 for your smart meter, you can buy an energy monitor for about £25 (although some suppliers give them away for free). An energy monitor is a handheld device, which allows you to see the amount and cost of the energy you’re using. This will then enable you to see where cut backs can be made.

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills

By following all of the above, you can significantly reduce the amount of money you spend on energy. This will leave you to spend your money on things you actually want!