All posts by Leanne Taylor

About Leanne Taylor

Director and Owner of Baby & Children's Market UK. My husband and I launched the original Baby & Children’s Market nearly new sales franchise in Berkshire back in Nov 2009. Over the years our 8-year-old son has gained so much from us running the events along with us saving a fortune on toys, clothe's and equipment. So much has happened since we started our first Baby & Children’s Market which seems a long time ago now and over the 7 years we have seen it grown beyond our expectation with the help of our fantastic team of franchisee's. A lot has been learned along the way and a lot of fun has been had expanding our business across the UK.

See That Perfect Mum Over There? I Bet She Wishes She Were You

Do you see that perfect mum over there? The one with the beautifully made up face and the toddler who is sitting nicely eating a finger of red pepper dipped in hummus. He really loves that red pepper. She must excel at feeding him a varied diet packed with super foods. He’s finished the pepper now and, still sitting nicely, he begins completing the puzzle she placed in front of him. He’s so clever. I bet she spends all her time playing educational games with him. Her clothes are incredibly stylish. Where did she get that amazing change bag from? Yes, she really is perfect. I wish I were her.

Now divert your glance back a bit. Can you see the toddler in the corner? No, not the one riding a trike at the back of the hall. I mean the one in the far corner licking the wall. His clothes are covered in biscuit crumbs and his overgrown blonde hair has a large brown smudge in it. Let’s hope that’s chocolate. He’s still munching on the soggy biscuit in between wall licks. When he finishes cleaning the wall, he toddles over to an unsuspecting child, smiles at her and pulls her hair.

See the mum running over to stop him? Yes her, with the hole in her jumper and the dishevelled hair. See her? Her clothes are certainly not stylish; she must have worn them a lot. She doesn’t have an amazing change bag; it’s one of those free ones you can get in Boots. She’s picked up her son and now he’s angrily slapping her in the face while screaming, struggling and spitting the biscuit all over her.

The second mum – the harassed, biscuit covered one – is me.  I imagine that the perfect mum is watching my son and I in complete disgust, while making a mental note never to invite us over for a play date.

Or is she?

It’s funny how we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. Sizing them up, mulling them over, deciding what to feel envious about and berating ourselves in the process. She’s prettier than me, she’s happier than me, she’s a better mother than me…It could go on forever and there’s really no logic to it.

I recently came across a quote that changed my perspective on the whole comparison thing.

‘DON’T COMPARE YOUR BACKSTAGE TO SOMEONE ELSE’S HIGHLIGHT REEL.’

A great example of the accuracy of this statement is Facebook. Not many people, myself included, share their backstage on their newsfeed. I see pictures of friends on exotic holidays, beautiful gifts they have been given and all of their child’s gymnastics medals. But I don’t see pictures of them up all night with a screaming baby or snaps of their white carpet after one of their kids has trampled dog poo all over it. Yes it’s great that your friend’s son got into Cambridge University to study astrophysics at age seven. But I bet she doesn’t share pictures of him having a tantrum and smashing up the TV.

Facebook is the ultimate highlight reel. Once I understood that, I stopped comparing.

This applies in real life too. Appearances can be deceptive and snap judgements can be fantastically wrong. You may look at someone and wish you were more like them, while at the same time they are wishing they were more like you.

So perhaps I will brush the regurgitated biscuit off my holey jumper and go talk to the perfect mum with the beautiful face and the clever son. I’m sure she must have insecurities too. Maybe she doesn’t feel the perfection I have projected onto her.  I have no idea what her backstage is like. We might become friends. She may even be brave enough to invite us over for a playdate.

Though, good luck to her if she tries to give either of my children slices of red pepper and hummus as a snack.


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.

44 Top Tips For New Mums

44 Top Tips For New Mums (From New Mums!)

There’s no one like another mum to provide support and guidance when you need it. We asked 44 mums for their top parenting tip. Here are the responses in their own words (and in no particular order):

1. Olive oil is great for banishing cradle cap. And it’s cheap too!

2. Try and make some meals up pre-baby to put in the freezer. Or if you’re not that organised,  then ask everyone who visits to bring a dinner with them.

3. If you are bottle feeding buy a Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine. It’s worth its weight in gold and will save you lots of time and hassle!

4. If breast feeding wear a bracelet on one wrist then swap after a feed to the other side so you know which side you need to feed from next.

5. A few drops of tea tree oil in the bath helps you heal after the birth

6. Baby towels are too thin; using an ordinary towel is much better and means you don’t have to waste money on more stuff you won’t actually use!

7. Sudocream can be used for more than just nappy rash – it works wonders on eczema, rashes, spots etc

8. If a baby is drawing his legs up to his tummy it is often an indication that he has wind.

9. Make a proper photocopy of your scan pictures as over time they will fade

10. Get some fresh air- is easy to get stuck in a rut at home. Going out for a walk helps baby sleep and you clear your mind

11. Buy sleep suits with built in scratch mitts, much easier than trying to keep the mitts on.

12. When you’re about to feed your baby get the remote control, a drink, a little snack and your phone or tablet close to hand because it can take longer than you think!

13. Dream feeds (feeding your baby in his or her sleep at around 10 – 11pm or just before you go to bed) work wonders.

14. Once your child has a favourite comfort toy make sure you buy a couple of spares in case of loss, sick, dribble etc.

15. Always leave a small changing bag in the car and another on the pram in case you go out and forget something

16. Read Baby Bliss by Dr. Harvey Karp. It will really help you understand your newborn and how to comfort and help with colic. It was a lifesaver in my house!

17. Make use of toy libraries, charity shops car-boot sales, nearly new sales etc. Your baby doesn’t know the difference between new and nearly new.

18. Always have a plastic bag with you – this is handy to wrap up dirty clothes

19. Keep plenty of muslin cloths and bibs to hand to mop up dribbles, sick etc

20. Have a changing unit – mat, nappies, cream etc ready to use upstairs and downstairs to avoid constantly running up and down.

21. Baby proof your house before little one can actually move around, they start to move when you least expect it!

22. Try and give your baby as much time as possible every day on their tummy. It does wonders for their development.

23. Baby sleeping bags (e.g. Grobags) are a must. This prevents covers from being kicked off during the night. Consequently, baby won’t get cold and you won’t worry!

24. When nappies are on special offer at the supermarket stock up in all sizes. Nappies don’t go off and your baby will fit the bigger sizes eventually. You can save a fortune with buy one get one free deals!

25. Never be afraid to ask for help and advice from health visitors, doctors and other professionals

26. If breast feeding, stock up on nipple cream before your baby arrives. Breastfeeding can be painful and the cream really helps. The last thing you’ll want to do is traipse round a late night chemist with sore boobs!

27. Let your baby have a bit of nappy free time every day if possible. You can lay them on a changing mat. This helps their skin breath and helps with nappy rash.

28. If the baby is screaming, put the hoover on. Babies love white noise and you don’t actually have to hoover anything…

29. Listen to all advice given by well-meaning friends and family members and then disregard 90% of it. You know best.

30. Breastfeeding may be best but at the end of the day if it doesn’t work out – don’t beat yourself up about it. Do whatever works for you and your baby. Happy mum equals happy baby. Fed is best.

31. When introducing older children to a new baby for the first time, make sure the baby is lying in the cot/Moses basket and you are not holding him or her. This gives you both hands free to give your older child a big kiss and cuddle and a present from the new baby.

32. Also, if you have older children, have some little presents ready to give them when visitors arrive armed with gifts for the new baby. That way they won’t feel left out and resentful.

33. Don’t wait till baby is old enough to understand books to read to them. Read from day one – babies love hearing the sound of your voice and this will establish a lifelong love of reading.

34. Always, always have plenty of baby wipes stocked up. You can seriously never have too many of the things!

35. When you first try to leave the house with your new baby it can take ages! Don’t despair, you’ll get much quicker with practise.

36. Make time for yourself. A soak in the bath can do wonders. And make time for your partner. Try and find someone to babysit once a month so that you can have a ‘date night’.

37. When potty training don’t bother with pull ups. Kids just think they are nappies.

38. Create an email account for your child and then email pictures and memories of things they said/did. When they reach 18 you can give them the email address and password.

39. Try and find other mums with similar age children for friendship, advice, playdates and (when needed) a shoulder to cry on.

40. If people offer help – TAKE IT! Especially accept offers from friends and family to look after the baby for a few hours while you nap and/or take a bath.

41. You think you will remember everything – date of first smile, first word etc but you won’t in the years to come. Make sure you write it all down (keep a notebook handy at all times)

42. Trust your instincts! You are mum and you know best!

43. Try and enjoy the experience and don’t worry about being supermum. You can use up so much energy trying to look like the world’s most perfect mum in front of others. What really matters is that you enjoy your children while they are small and smother them with love.

44. ‘The days are long and the years are short’. Never a truer phrase has been uttered!

What are your tips?

Easy DIY Face Masks

Pamper Yourself While Saving Pennies – Easy, Home-made Face Masks

 

Being a busy mum on a budget doesn’t mean that you should miss out on the relaxing, ‘you’ time that you deserve. One of the best ways to give your skin a pick-me-up is to apply a face mask while you kick back and relax.

Making a face mask at home from ingredients you may have in your kitchen cupboards not only saves you pennies, but is also a fabulous treat for your skin. So we’re sharing our five favourite home-made face masks. They don’t cost a lot to make and will do wonders for your skin with their natural goodness. So whisk one up, slap it on and relax. Go on, you deserve it!

1)      For oily skin:

Avocado, porridge oats and honey are all great for oily skin. And, as avocados are filled with vitamin A it will help purge off any dead skin cells.  All you need to do is blend two teaspoons of porridge oats, one teaspoon of avocado and one teaspoon of honey together to make a thick paste. Apply and leave for ten minutes or so before washing off with warm water.

Easy DIY Face Masks

2)      For dry skin:

Honey is a brilliant natural moisturiser for your skin.  Mix together one egg yolk, one tablespoon of warm honey and one teaspoon of olive oil. Apply to your face for about 15 minutes and then be amazed at the moisturising properties of the natural ingredients when you wash it off!

3)      For tired skin:

If your skin needs a bit of reviving, blend half a cucumber and one tbsp of natural yoghurt in a blender. Leave on your face for 15 minutes before washing off with cool water. The cucumber contains anti-oxidants and silica, which will rejuvenate your skin and leave it glowing.

4)      For blemished skin:

Green tea contains many benefits for blemished skin. The healing properties in the tea reduce redness, unclog pores and reduce puffiness. You’ll need two green tea bags, one tablespoon of sugar and half a tablespoon of lemon juice. Leave the tea bags in hot water for about an hour. When the tea is cool, take out the bags and add the sugar and lemon. Rub over your face then rinse off after 15 minutes with cool water (the cool water will close your pores).

Easy DIY Face Masks

5)      For anti-ageing:

A vitamin C mask is perfect as an anti-ageing skin treat. In a blender, blend together half a fresh, peeled kiwi fruit, two tablespoons of raw honey and two drops of orange essential oil. Rinse off with warm water after 15 – 20 minutes.

Tongue Tie

Tongue Tie – The Facts

In the past doctors dismissed tongue tie as an issue and rarely did anything about it. Nowadays it is recognised as a common problem and can have a detrimental affect on babies and their feeding, as well as possible speech problems for older children. It affects 3-10% of newborn babies. It basically occurs when the bit of skin attaching the tongue to the floor of their mouth (the lingual frenulum) is too short and too tight and prevents them opening their mouth widely. If the baby is not latching on correctly when breastfeeding, it can be very painful for the mother and the baby may not be able to feed properly. In toddlers, tongue tie can affect their speech and ability to pronounce certain sounds.

Tongue tie is also classed according to how bad it is. So, a baby may be 50% tongue tied or 100% in severe cases. It is a good idea to ask the hospital to check your baby’s tongue when they are born. It can save a lot of distress and discomfort dealing with it after you are discharged. You can often see the piece of skin at the front of their mouth and babies will have a distinct ‘heart shaped’ tongue with what looks like a dent in the middle of it. Don’t think that because you are not in pain that the baby is necessarily feeding properly. They may still be taking in too much air and suffer from painful wind, even if feeding feels comfortable for you. If your baby has colic, ask a Health Visitor to check for tongue tie.

The good news is that tongue tie is relatively easy to rectify. They simply hold the baby’s head while they snip the skin to divide it and allow the baby to open their mouth wide enough to feed. The procedure is over before you know it. It is more distressing for the mum than the baby! They normally ask the baby to suckle immediately after the snip to comfort them and relieve any pain. There may be some light bleeding but the baby is unlikely to be bothered or aware of it. In older babies or toddlers a general anaesthetic may be used to do the procedure. The problem may be teaching your baby how to feed again as they are likely to have got into bad habits. This can take days or weeks. Be persistent if you can as your baby will get there in the end.

If you suspect your baby or toddler has tongue tie or would like more information contact your health visitor, doctor or a health care professional.

Bronchiolitis: Would you know if it’s more than a cold?

Bronchiolitis is a common lung infection, which affects babies and young children. It causes inflammation of the small airways in the lungs (bronchioles). This restricts the amount of air able to enter the lungs, therefore  making it more difficult for the child to breathe.

MTAC_facebook_1 in 3 gets before bday

For most infants, bronchiolitis is no more serious than a cold. However, around 30,000 infants are admitted to hospital in England each year with bronchiolitis. It is the most common reason for infant hospitalisation.

MTAC_facebook_steps to reduce risk

Bronchiolitis occurs more frequently during winter months and mainly affects babies aged between 3 and 6 months. Premature babies and babies with certain heart or lung conditions are more at risk of developing the condition.

Would you know if it’s more than a cold?

Make sure you’re aware of the symptoms of bronchiolitis:

MTAC_facebook_symptoms

Find out more at the More Than A Cold Website here.

Loneliness Parenting

Never Alone But Often Lonely

It’s a great irony of parenthood. For the first time in your life you are never alone. And yet isolation and loneliness are real issues faced by so many mums and dads.

Mums are everywhere – at the park, baby and toddler groups, children’s centres and the school gates. I often hear people say that it’s easy to meet other mums when you have young children. This is true. Meeting other mums is easy, but often establishing deeper connections with those you meet is not.

Firstly, just because someone has a child the same age as you, it doesn’t automatically follow that you’ll have lots in common. And secondly, even if you do have lots in common, you’ll both have to make a lot of effort to build a meaningful friendship.

I consider my closest friends to be the ones I made at school (with the exception of some of my mum friends). We saw each other almost every day for seven years. We navigated the turbulent teenage years as a unit – crying, laughing and learning together as we went. We shared all our secrets with each other and, because we naturally saw each other every day at school, we didn’t have to make an effort to meet up. Our friendships were built on solid foundations and have lasted a lifetime. While we don’t see each other every day anymore, it really doesn’t matter. Even if months pass by, when we do finally get together we can just pick up where we left off.

Whether you’re a stay at home mum or a working mum, you won’t see the same mums with your children every single day. You may even struggle to meet up with your mum friends once a week. There are so many obstacles in the way – illnesses, tantrums, appointments – trying to be in the right place at the right time as the parent of a young child is difficult.

It is possible to be surrounded by people all the time and yet still feel isolated. When I had my first child, I was incredibly lonely. I was the first of my friends to have a baby and went from working full time and having an active social life to spending my days alone with my baby.

Making friends as an adult is hard, especially when you don’t see the same people every day. Once I had found them, my mum friends became a lifeline to me. I was so much happier with these incredible women in my life to share every stage of my motherhood journey with. But it took time and effort. I had to put myself out there and let myself be vulnerable. It meant making a real effort to make sure I saw the same mums on a regular basis and opened up to them.

When I first joined a meet a mum board and wrote a post asking if any other mums would like to meet up, I felt incredibly vulnerable and I didn’t expect anyone to reply. I had never actively tried to make friends before; all of my friendships had come about through school and work. But people did reply and, with time, I incorporated the ones I connected with into my life.

If you’re feeling lonely right now, please know these two things: it’s nothing to be ashamed of and you can do something about it. Being shy, I know how difficult it can be to put yourself out there. I’m not someone who can breeze into a room full of strangers and chat to them all. I think it’s about finding a way of meeting new people that works for you (be it online, baby groups, classes etc) and sticking to it.

There will be knock backs and frustrations (they don’t call it ‘mum dating’ for no reason!) but if you persevere there is so much to gain.  If you feel isolated at the moment please reach out and don’t stop reaching out until you find the network you need to thrive.


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.

Low Cost Easter Holiday Ideas

Low Cost Easter Holiday Ideas

The daffodils are out, the days are getting longer and the shops are full of chocolate eggs – Easter is well and truly on its way!

Trying to keep the kids entertained this Easter doesn’t have to cost a bomb. Here are some low-cost ideas for keeping your little people amused during the Easter break:

Easter Crafts

Kids love making Easter bunnies, chicks and other related crafts. Many are cheap and easy to make too!

We love these 40 Easter craft ideas from Red Ted Art, which are bound to keep your creative bunnies busy! And check out these Pinterest boards for even more inspiration.

Easter Egg Hunt

Easter wouldn’t be complete without an egg hunt. For budget eggs, baskets, bonnets and decorations, head to your local Poundland   where you’ll find a great selection.

Your local library:

Most libraries run free arts and crafts sessions over Easter, as well as story times, rhyme times and other activities such as construction clubs and other workshops.

Cost: Free

Shopping Centres:

Many shopping centres also put on free crafts, activities and events. It’s worth checking out the programme of events at your local mall.

Cost: Free

Arts Centres:

Many arts centres host workshops and events over Easter. Whether your little ones are into dance, drawing, writing or craft, you’re likely to find something to they’ll enjoy for a minimal cost.

Cost: Normally around £5 – £10 per activity

Low Cost Easter Holiday Ideas

Cinema:

If your kids love film, why not take them along to the special kids screenings at your local cinema? These usually take place early in the morning and can cost as little as £2.50 per ticket. Also, check out your local arts centre or theatre, where films may be screened at a fraction of the cost of regular cinema prices.

Cost: £2.50 upwards

Museums

All around the UK, museums offer free entry to their exhibits year round. During peak times, such as Easter, many put on extra events and activities for their little visitors.

Cost: Often free

Park Runs

If your kids need to run off some steam, why not take them to a free park run? These events are held up and down the country every weekend and kids love the sense of achievement they feel from taking park in a 2k or 5k run with their peers. Check out the Park Run website to find events near you.

Cost: Free

Geocaching

Geocaching is a free and slightly addictive activity you can take part in through an app. Your task is to find the geocaches in your area, sign the log book and then re-hide the geocache for others to find. You can also share your progress with others online. If the weather isn’t too bad this Easter, geocaching is a great option.

Cost: Free

Bounce 

A room full of inflatables is every child’s dream. Bouncy castles, assault courses, slides and more are available at the Bouce Departments pop-up play centres. Tickets cost from £5.50 and must be booked in advance. See if there is a play centre local to you here.

Cost: Around £5.50 per child

Low Cost Easter Holiday Ideas

Your local Council

Don’t forget to scour your local council’s website to find more free activities in your area. For example, some councils offer free swimming and other leisure activities for kids during school holidays.

Cost: Free and up

Join the National Trust

For an initial outlay of around £114 (or a direct debit of about £9.55 per month), you can buy a National Trust family membership and have free access to hundreds of incredible places all around the UK. Beautiful gardens, parks, stately homes and historic buildings are just some of the attractions at your fingertips. Your kids will never be bored again!

Cost: about £114 per year

Dig out the deals

Websites such as Wowcher and Groupon have a multitude of deals on events and activities in every pocket of the UK. Don’t forget to see if you can use your loyalty card points to buy tickets to local attractions – for example Tesco Clubcard has an excellent selection of deals.

Head to your local Baby & Children’s Market

Not only will you save a fortune on everything your little ones need from clothes and books to pushchairs and nursery furniture, you will also find a great selection of pre-loved toys and games. Many of our markets also put on entertainment especially for kids, find your local event 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.

How To Help Prepare Your Child For School

How To Help Prepare Your Child For School

School applications are in and, as many parents wait anxiously to see if their child receives their first choice reception place, you may also be thinking about how to ensure your child is ready to start school.

Starting reception is a big step for children and parents alike, but there are some things you can do to help your child be as prepared as possible for the transition.

How To Help Prepare Your Child For School

Encourage self reliance

Ensure your child is confident carrying out certain tasks such as putting on shoes, changing into and out of their PE kit, hand-washing and eating with a knife and fork. Getting your child used to doing these things without your help will make the school’s expectations of them seem less daunting.

Talk and read about school

Ask your child what they are looking forward to and what scares them about starting school, so you can try and relieve any fears. Many school produce a booklet about the school for the new reception class, so try to read this together as often as possible.

There are plenty of great books about starting school including:

Charlie Chick Goes To School by Nick Denchfield

I’m Going To School by Chris Dickason

I’m Absolutely Too Small For School (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child

Topsy and Tim Start School by Jean Adamson

Explore the new school

You can look at the school’s website together to help your child become familiar with their new environment. If the school holds any fetes or other events, go along with your child so they can experience the school with you.

Phase out naps

If your child still has afternoon naps, now may be a good time to start phasing them out to ensure that they won’t struggle with tiredness in September.

Try and establish friendships with other new starters

There may be a Facebook or What’s App groups for the parents of new starters – but if there isn’t, why not create one? Try to arrange playdates with other children from the reception class so your child already has a few friends when he or she starts. This may help quell nerves on the first day.

Try on the uniform

School uniform is often very exciting for new starters and makes them feel very grown up! Let them try on their uniform a few times before the big day to help them get used to the look and feel of it.

Have a practise school run

Help establish the school run routine, by practising the route to see how long it takes. Being well prepared for the walk or drive will help you both feel less anxious on the first day of school and beyond.


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.

14 Great Things To Do More Often

14 Great Things To Do More Often

Is the winter gloom getting you down? Are you feeling stressed, tired and fed up? Try doing these things more often to help improve your overall health and well-being.

14 Great Things To Do More Often

 

1. Drink plenty of water

Experts recommend we drink 2 litres of day and with good reason. Being dehydrated causes tiredness, headaches, constipation and can often make us feel unnecessarily hungry. Our bodies are 6o% water and H2O plays such a vital role in keeping our organs functioning, carrying away waste and keeping our temperature regulated.

So next time you reach for a can of fizzy drink or a cup of tea, try and substitute it for a pint of water. You’ll soon see the difference in your energy levels and mood.

2. Go for a walk

Walking is a great from of gentle exercise for everyone, especially mums with prams and buggies.

A good long walk while listening to some uplifting tunes will never fail to help you clear your head and get your blood pumping.

3. Make and drink colourful smoothies

Do you suffer from the late afternoon energy slide? After a full-on day of work, chasing round after the kids and housework it’s easy to see why.

When you feel your eyelids starting to stick together, whip up a colourful smoothie to help your body recharge.  Adding bananas, berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, nuts and seeds will give you a well needed energy boost and help you feel more human for the rest of the day.

Check out this great selection of energy-boosting smoothies.

4. Love and accept yourself

This one can be easier said than done. However, constantly criticising yourself and wishing you were someone else is a waste of time and energy. Talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend because you would probably never say the things you tell yourself to a friend in need.

Be your own best friend by loving and accepting yourself more often and turn off the inner critic. Self-criticism does you no good at all.

5. Go to bed earlier

In our busy lives of work and childcare, staying up late may be the only way to get some precious time to ourselves. However, shuffling off to bed after midnight to grab only five or six hours sleep can be detrimental to your health. Try going to bed an hour or two earlier and give your body the rest it needs.

6. Wake up earlier

Going to bed earlier may enable you to wake up earlier and begin your day in peace and tranquillity before everyone else gets up and wants a piece of you. In fact, many successful people report that they wake up early in order to start their days on the right foot.

Many of us feel absolutely exhausted by the time evening comes round, so waking up early may be the only way to make time for exercise, hobbies or relaxation.

7. Practise Gratitude

It’s easy to focus on the things we lack and endlessly worry about what may or may not happen. However, by appreciating all the good things in our lives and saying thank you for them on a regular basis, our happiness levels start to increase and we worry less.

Plenty of research has shown that people who take time out to be grateful for the little things are happier. Read The Magic by Rhonda Byrne in order to fast track your way to the attitude of gratitude.

8. Have a digital detox

Turning off mobile phones and tablets for a few hours per day will give you a well-needed break from endless notifications, emails and social media activity. It’s refreshing to just be present with your kids, friends or partner without the digital interruptions. Do you remember the time before we had all this technology? We focused more on the people in front of us instead of forcing them to share our attention with a screen.

A digital detox doesn’t have to be severe. You could just start with 30 minutes a few times per day and build on it from there.

9. Replace negative thoughts about yourself and others with loving ones

Again, easier said than done but hugely beneficial to your own well-being if you can manage it.  As Roald Dahl said in The Twits, ‘If you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’ Plus you will always feel lovely. Positive thinking is certainly the way forward.

10. Cut down on sugar and caffeine

When in the thick of the 3pm energy slump, it’s very tempting to reach for more coffee and a sugary snack to help you out of the fog. Sure, you’ll get the required energy boost but it won’t last for long.

By cutting back on the caffeine and sugar and replacing them with water, healthy snacks and fruit, your energy levels will greatly increase.

11. Write down thoughts, feelings, ideas and things to do

Having a good brain dump – emptying the contents of your mind onto paper – will help you focus and gain clarity. By making a to-do-list each morning, your daily burden of tasks will seem far  more achievable (read this great post on bullet journaling if you’re considering giving it a try).

Writing down feelings and ideas can help make sense of them and make your brain feel less cluttered (and let’s be honest we could all benefit from a less busy mind).

12. Read

Switching off the TV and getting absorbed in a good book is a great way to broaden your mind and find new interests. Nothing beats snuggling under a blanket with a hot drink and reading a good book.

13. Visit the ocean

There are a whole host of seaside health benefits. The sea air helps promote a better night’s sleep and the lull of the waves aids with relaxation. If you can visit the ocean more often, it’s guaranteed to help you feel a greater sense of peace and calm.

14. Focus on your breathing

If you don’t have the time or inclination to meditate, just focusing on your breathing for a short while can be hugely beneficial.

When you feel stressed or the kids are driving you crazy, stop and take a few deep breaths while focusing on the rise and fall of your chest. It’s such a simple thing to do but it has so many benefits.

A Tibetan monk recently talked to the Huffington Post about how meditation doesn’t have to take up prolonged periods of time in How You Can Meditate Anytime, Anywhere. All you need to do is focus on your breathing for a few moments – it really is that simple.


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.


 

Budget February Half Term Ideas

Budget February Half Term Ideas

Just as we begin to recover from the financial fallout of Christmas, along pops February half term! Winter half terms can be testing, especially if rain and bad weather prevent outdoor play.

However, trying to keep the kids entertained this half term doesn’t have to cost a bomb. Here are some low-cost ideas for keeping your little people amused during the half term week:

 

Your local library:

Most libraries run free arts and crafts sessions over half term, as well as story times, rhyme times and other activities such as construction clubs and other workshops.

Cost: Free

Shopping Centres:

Many shopping centres also put on free crafts, activities and events. It’s worth checking out the programme of events at your local mall.

Cost: Free

 

Arts Centres:

Many arts centres host workshops and events over half term. Whether your little ones are into dance, drawing, writing or craft, you’re likely to find something to they’ll enjoy for a minimal cost.

Cost: Normally around £5 – £10 per activity

 

 

Cinema:

If your kids love film, why not take them along to the special kids screenings at your local cinema? These usually take place early in the morning and can cost as little as £2.50 per ticket. Also, check out your local arts centre or theatre, where films may be screened at a fraction of the cost of regular cinema prices.

Cost: £2.50 upwards

Budget February Half Term Ideas

Museums

All around the UK, museums offer free entry to their exhibits year round. During peak times, such as half term, many put on extra events and activities for their little visitors.

Cost: Often free

Park Runs

If your kids need to run off some steam, why not take them to a free park run? These events are held up and down the country every weekend and kids love the sense of achievement they feel from taking park in a 2k or 5k run with their peers. Check out the Park Run website to find events near you.

Cost: Free

Geocaching

Geocaching is a free and slightly addictive activity you can take part in through an app. Your task is to find the geocaches in your area, sign the log book and then re-hide the geocache for others to find. You can also share your progress with others online. If the weather isn’t too bad this half term, geocaching is a great option.

Cost: Free

Crafts

Why not try a subscription craft box to delight the children during half term? If the weather leaves you housebound, a good craft activity is a must. Toucan Box is flexible and reasonably priced, delivering everything you need right to your door.

Cost: From around £5.95 per box

Budget February Half Term Ideas

Bounce 

A room full of inflatables is every child’s dream. Bouncy castles, assault courses, slides and more are available at the Bouce Departments pop-up play centres. Tickets cost from £5.50 and must be booked in advance. See if there is a play centre local to you here.

Cost: Around £5.50 per child

Your local Council

Don’t forget to scour your local council’s website to find more free activities in your area. For example, some councils offer free swimming and other leisure activities for kids during half term.

Cost: Free and up

Join the National Trust

For an initial outlay of around £114 (or a direct debit of about £9.55 per month), you can buy a National Trust family membership and have free access to hundreds of incredible places all around the UK. Beautiful gardens, parks, stately homes and historic buildings are just some of the attractions at your fingertips. Your kids will never be bored again!

Cost: about £114 per year

Dig out the deals

Websites such as Wowcher and Groupon have a multitude of deals on events and activities in every pocket of the UK. Don’t forget to see if you can use your loyalty card points to buy tickets to local attractions – for example Tesco Clubcard has an excellent selection of deals.


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.