Category Archives: Blog

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!

Matched Betting

Matched Betting

This post was contributed by Jodie from Matched Betting Mum

Last time I was here I was offering some money making tips to help boost your holiday spending. In that article, I mentioned that one of the best ways was to do matched betting. I’m really grateful to Baby & Children’s Markets for having me back to provide a little more information about what matched betting is.

Matched betting doesn’t involve you betting or gambling in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s completely risk free. By following a set process, you place bets which cancel each other out. Therefore, instead of losing money, you simply get your money back. By using the free bets given to you by bookmakers, you end up being able to keep this money.

With more than £2000 worth of bonuses available for new customers, matched betting is a risk-free way to make a lot of money simply from opening accounts with different bookmakers.

The fact that matched betting had been tried tested out by journalists in national newspapers convinced me to give it a go:

“With bookmakers offering ‘free bets’ to tempt new customers, you can play the system and pocket hundreds of pounds – with little risk to your own cash” (The Guardian, June 2010)

How does matched betting work?

Matched betting is very simple. My guide to matched betting breaks down all of the steps for you in lots of detail. But here’s a summary of how it works:

  1. Open an account with an online bookmaker offering a free bet for new customers.
  2. Join a betting exchange. These are websites which allow you to bet against the outcome of a particular game or match.
  3. Place a qualifying bet. Instead of choosing a random bet, you place two bets both for and against the same outcome. This means backing a bet with a bookmaker and also laying against that outcome with the betting exchange. This means that when the match is finished, you will get your money back.
  4. You will then be given a free bet from the bookmaker. Repeat the same process, placing two bets both for and against the same outcome. Once again, you’ll get your money back. But as you have used free money given to you by the bookmaker you actually make the value of the free bet so will be in profit.

 

As you always back and lay against the same outcome you will always get your money back. This means it is a risk free way of making extra money. And, as a bonus, anything you make is also tax free.

How much money can I make?

By following this method, you can always make at least 70% of the value of the free bets offered by bookmakers.

With more than 50 bookmakers in the UK offering bonuses worth over £2000, there’s at least £1500 to be made simply by signing up.

Matched betting can also be an ongoing source of income for many people. With the competition between different bookmakers quite strong, they also give out lots of ongoing offers. Since starting matched betting a year ago, I’ve made more than £7500. If you can spare two hours per day, most people tend to make £500-£1000 per month.

I keep a matched betting diary showing how much I’ve made, the types of offers I’ve completed and how much time I’ve been able to spare.

How do I get started?

If you’re anything like me, the whole matched betting world can seem very daunting and intimidating. Before I started, my experience of bookmakers was also very limited. I didn’t really understand how the odds worked or how to place a bet.

So I use a matched betting service to help me do matched betting instead. There are lots of different companies to choose from but I chose to join the largest company with more than 20,000 members, Profit Accumulator. They spoon feed me all of the information I need to do matched betting. This includes telling me what offers are available, helping me find suitable bets, making the calculations for me and showing me how to place bets. There’s a full Profit Accumulator review on my blog.

They offer a free trial where you can access their training and tools for two offers. This is a great way to see whether matched betting might be for you, whilst also making £35-£40.

If you do decide to take the plunge and give it a go then check out my website for help and advice. There are some top tips for getting started, frequently asked questions and a guide to the terminology of this strange land.

I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have. You can contact me via email (info@matchedbettingmum.com), Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks once again to Baby & Children’s Market for having me.


Matched Betting Mum

A former career civil servant, Jodie took a break from Whitehall when her eldest daughter Lily was born just over 4 years ago. Since then, she’s had another baby – Oliver – and moved to the sticks. As a stay at home mum, her day to day life is very much dictated by the school run, toddler groups, clubs, feeding and the bed and bath routine.

Missing the freedom of earning her own money, she randomly stumbled across something called matched betting a few months ago. It offered an easy way to make money from home but it also seemed a bit too good to be true. Backed up by reviews in The Guardian, Telegraph and Huffington Post, though, she decided to give it a go. Five months later, she’s made nearly £4000 in her spare time, simply fitting it in when the kids allow.

Now she’s on a mission to tell other people all about it.

When I started, it was really difficult to find information which told me how matched betting worked. It’s actually very simple but just takes a little time to get your head around it. I’m sure there are other people out there who are interested in giving it a go but are overwhelmed by the betting world and its technical jargon! My aim is to explain how it all works as simply as possible and give people the confidence to try it out.

By sharing the experience of how she got started and manages to fit it in around her children, Jodie aims to help others who might be worried or nervous in taking that first step. Along the way, her blog also offers wider money saving tips and random musings about life with her two kiddies.

 

Are The Summer Holidays Too Long?

Are The Summer Holidays Too Long?

Picnics in the park, games of rounders with neighbourhood kids, watching TV and sneaking ice pops out of the freezer. What memories do the summer holidays conjure up for you?  For many, the long break from school offered up a welcome chunk of liberty, enjoyed alongside copious amounts of strawberries and ice-cream.

From a parent’s perspective, however, the enjoyment of spending time with their children can be diminished by the challenge of juggling work and other commitments, while worrying about the impact of soaring childcare costs.

In Britain, the long summer break is a throwback to the time when children were needed to pick fruit and work on farms. With its purpose made redundant long ago, the question remains as to whether the traditional six-week summer holiday actually fits in with modern life. Should the summer break be slashed to four weeks? It is a question that divides opinion and raises many issues including those of:

Affordability

If you struggle with the cost of the summer holidays, you’re not alone. For those lucky enough to go away, the high costs of peak-time travel can really bite. Even if you stay at home, the expense of entertaining the children and the prohibitive cost of childcare, place a real strain on family finances. Working mum Asha Lewis says, ‘I’m lucky I have amazing friends and family to help, but if I had to pay for childcare over the entire summer I’d hardly be left with anything. It’s a real nightmare for some.’

Jo McGowan of Guildford Business Training says, as a small business owner, she finds the summer holidays manageable but it’s the early September INSET days that present a problem. ‘After six weeks of trying to sort out childcare and activities, the INSET days at the beginning of term are a real headache. Many holiday clubs have finished by then.’

However, a recent report by the Trussell Trust has added a more worrying concern. While 40% of parents worry about extra summer costs such as childcare and activities, 1 in 5 parents will skip a meal over the summer in order to be able to feed their kids. In July and August 2016, the charity issued 67500 emergency food packages to families. This figure is significantly higher than usual and is set to rise again this year.

Another charity, Action for Children, has reported unprecedented demand for its Holiday Kitchen places in some areas of the UK. The phenomenon of children going hungry during the long school break is, in one of the world’s richest countries, extremely worrying. Reducing the length of the summer holidays may alleviate the problem but does not, by any stretch of the imagination, solve it.

Are The Summer Holidays Too Long?

The summer learning gap

It’s inevitable that over a six week break from school, children will forget much of what they’ve learned. According to research carried out in the US, academic progress halts significantly during the summer. One study found that pupils returning to school in September are, on average, one month behind where they left off at the end of the summer term. Teachers, therefore, must waste time re-teaching lessons, in order to bring pupils back up to speed after the summer slide.

In 2008, a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) recommended the school year be rearranged to five terms of eight weeks, with a four week summer holiday and two week breaks between the remaining terms. The IPPR’s findings that maths and reading skills regress over the summer mirrors the results of research carried out in the US. According to the IPPR report, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are hardest hit, because they may not be able to access the same activities and clubs as their peers.

Burn out

Children in the UK start school relatively early compared with many of their European counterparts and are under more pressure than ever to achieve. A complete restructure of the school year, with shorter, more frequent breaks may benefit children more than the current set-up.

Disbanding the summer holidays and distributing them evenly throughout the year, could help children achieve and progress. Teacher Sally Hebden says, ‘Children lose momentum and motivation over the summer. The autumn term is too long and tiring for them. I think they would benefit academically and emotionally from shorter, more regular breaks.’

Teachers’ needs

Teachers often finish the year exhausted, stressed and burnt out. Many argue they not only need the summer holidays to recover, but also to prepare for the coming school year. Teacher Gil Wilson thinks the summer holidays should be left as they are. ‘Both the kids and teachers need it. Teachers spend at least three weeks of the holidays planning for the year ahead as well as sorting out their classrooms. Four weeks just wouldn’t be long enough.’

Disappointed Children

Some parents, like fitness instructor Sarah Feazey, think depriving children of the long summer holidays would be, quite simply, mean. ‘Most people have lovely memories of the summer holidays and it wouldn’t be right to prevent others from having what we had. Also, children need to have as much fun as possible without formal structure.’

A six week school break also provides parents and children with a real opportunity to spend quality time together. Stay-at-home mum Helena Borely says, ‘I enjoy the summer hols and I like having that chunk of time with the kids while they still want to spend it with me!’ The long break from the school run, homework and the whirlwind of after school activities is welcomed by many parents.

Long summer holiday periods are the norm throughout the world. Children in the USA enjoy a twelve week pause, while other countries, such as France and Sweden, opt for a nine or ten week break. Although the reason behind long summer holidays is a relic from the past, it appears to still work for many other countries.

Incidentally, schools are at liberty to set their own term dates. While they have the opportunity to shorten the summer holidays, most choose not to. Whatever your take on the debate, it seems children will continue to enjoy the magic of an extended summer for the foreseeable future.


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.

Free Summer Activities For Kids

Free Summer Activities For Kids

Parenting is an expensive business and this expense is even more prevalent during the summer holidays. Efforts to fill the six week holiday period with boredom-busting activities and days out can often lead to a huge outpouring of cash.

At Baby and Children’s Market, our mission is to help you save money on the everyday expense of parenting. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of free activities and days out you can enjoy with your family over the summer:

Free Summer Activities For Kids

Visit Your Library

Most libraries will be taking part in this year’s summer reading challenge, Animal Agents. Simply sign up at your local library to receive your free pack and start hunting for clues to solve the Aminal Agent’s mysteries, as well as collecting stickers for reading six books over the summer. To find out more, visit the summer reading challenge website.

As well as the reading challenge, most libraries also put on free craft activities, clubs and story times throughout the summer.

Get active with the National Trust

The National Trust have an excellent list of outdoor activity ideas called ’50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4’. Packed full of adventures for your mini explorers, the comprehensive list of activities will certainly keep little people occupied. You can download the list here or get the app, which helps you keep track of your progress.

Go Geocaching

Geocaching is another 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 share your progress with others online.

Visit a National Park

The UK has a number of beautiful National Parks and all are free to visit. From exploring the beautiful New Forest to trekking across the rugged Peak District, there are many free adventures to be had if you know where to look. Head over to the National Park website and see how many of these national treasures you can explore over the summer.

Free Summer Activities For Kids

Have a day out on your Clubcard

Tesco Clubcard vouchers can be spent in a multitude of ways – one of these is on days out at theme parks and other attractions. Depending on how many points you have accrued, you could spend your vouchers at Legoland, Chessington, Alton Towers and a number of other theme parks. If theme parks aren’t your thing, you could go and see a movie or dine out on your vouchers instead. Discover the huge variety of ways you can spend your vouchers here.

Catch a movie at a Free Film Festival

Free Film Festivals  was born in 2010 with screenings in London and has grown in popularity ever since. For movie enthusiasts, attending one of these free screenings is a must. To see what’s on and if there’s a festival in your area, visit the website.

Keep them entertained on rainy days

So far this year, the summer holidays have been a bit of a washout. While it’s great to pull on your waterproofs and wellis, you will likely be looking for indoor activities to alleviate boredom too. Find thousands of free printibles all in one place on the iChild website. Nealtly organised by age and topic, there is something for everyone from Peppa Pig colouring sheets to games, charts, crafts and educational activities. All you need is a printer and some craft materials and with the help of iChild your little people will be kept occupied for hours.

Free Summer Activities For Kids

Visit a free festival or carnival

There are many free festivals taking place throughout the UK this year. Money Saving Expert has condensed them into a handy list, so you can find out what’s on near you here. Additionally, you can find more free events at free-events.co.uk.