Saturday, 2 June 2018

Keeping it Cosy...

Without a doubt, my favourite room in the house is Honey and Ace's bedroom. We went 
with yellow and white colour scheme, which is light, bright and makes their small space 
feel just a little bit bigger. We planned the layout of the room around their bespoke bunk 
bed, which naturally created the perfect little nook under their window. We filled it with 
bookshelves and a large beanbag and we all love it in there! If you like the sound of 
creating a nook for your child, why not have a read of this fab guest post by Leanne

Leanne has recently become a freelance writer after discovering a passion for
it last year. Her favourite topic to write about is home and lifestyle and in her spare time, 
she loves reading blogs and magazines, as well as researching for and writing new 
content. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys baking, interior design and travelling.
5 Ideas for a Cosy Corner in your Child's Room
- A guest post by Leanne Thompson -
There is perhaps no more revered place for a child in their early years than their bedroom. It's an area where they will be spending the majority of their time and therefore a safe, warm and cosy space is of paramount importance. A perfect area to establish in a child’s room is a cosy corner. Not only can this prevent children from getting up to mischief in undisclosed locations, it can also help more reserved children find a quiet place to truly relax. The beauty of decorating a child’s bedroom is that imaginations can run wild. However, if you are looking for some tips, here are 5 ideas, which should enable you to create a truly cosy corner for your little one.
1. The Den
For some children, the holy grail of play areas is the den. Whether made from cardboard boxes, cushions or something more substantial, a place to explore, hide and play in can be heavenly for a child. Ideally, the den will be sturdy enough to take some hits from the inevitable escapades but conversely not be hard enough to pose a risk to your child’s wellbeing. Dedicate a corner of a room to a den and slowly start to build something that your child will feel safe in.  Unlike other cosy corner alternatives, a den will tend to have a roof, meaning that your child feels totally secure and calm in their own little space.
2. The Tent
Perhaps the simplest and yet most effective cosy corner idea would be to create a tent or tepee. Inexpensive to construct, sturdy, safe and extremely cosy, a linen tent offers children a small area that bursts with light in the day and retains a warmth during the evening. Much like a den, a tent cosy corner has a roof, adding to the effect. This can also be used to great effect with the addition of hanging decorations (in your little girl’s room fairy lights or stars would work perfectly) which will soon see your child fall in love with their new space. You may even find yourself retreating to their tent occasionally for a little R and R! 
3.The Desk
If your child is enjoying reading, drawing and writing or has a creative mind, a cosy corner with a desk is a perfectly suitable way of meeting their needs and transforming their space. Bundle plenty of blankets and cushions in the corner and perhaps consider a low desk, which your child can use even when sitting on the floor. You can even use the wall space in the corner area to put up some shelves to store stationary and the like. Pretty soon, your child’s cosy corner will become a creative corner too!
4. The Bed
If comfort is number one on your child’s list of demands for their cosy corner, then a makeshift bed is the way to go, especially if you have the budget and space to indulge. The key here is to make sure the cosy corner bed has a different feel to the bed that they sleep in. This is a space for relaxing and not necessarily sleeping only. It gives you a chance to offer your child all of the things that they may want with them in bed but shouldn’t really have. Fill the area with comfortable pillows, blankets and stuffed animals. Have plenty of books in reaching distance so that your child can curl up and lose themselves amongst the pages in comfort. Much like a tent, utilise fairy lights in the design and, if feasible, drape some blankets over the top to create a truly safe, cosy space. Just make sure that your child doesn’t get into the habit of crawling into the cosy corner during the night!
5. The Play Zone
While cosy corners should ideally be a place for your child to find some solace, it doesn’t mean that it should not also be an area for plenty of fun. Creating a cosy corner that acts as a play zone can be difficult in that you may require floor space that would usually be occupied by blankets or pillows. However, there are plenty of ways around this. Create ‘seating’ areas next to the two walls in the corner and utilise the space in front of this as an area of play. There are a myriad of play mats available, some of which are designed for specific interests (e.g. Road or town themed mats). Use these mats as part of the cosy corner – not only will your child have an area for quiet play, it will also prevent inevitable clutter from building up around the room as it contains the play to a specific area.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Let's Go Swimming...

My husband and I were both qualified lifeguards for many years in our teens and twenties and after a few years in the job, I also qualified as a swimming instructor and picked up extra hours teaching little ones to be confident in the water. My choice of words is deliberate, as while I did have a hand in teaching many children to swim, making sure they were happy and confident in the water was always my main goal. Seeing children who cried about coming or clung to their parents legs, blossom and gain confidence was so rewarding and if they managed to jump in, join in with a game or even learn to pull themselves through the water a little bit, then that was the icing on the cake!

Our children love the water. Ace can be a bit reluctant at first, but once he's in, he thinks he can swim and is super keen to throw himself around and mess about with toys and floats. What he loves to do most of all, is explore the poolside but we try to keep him in the water as much as possible so that he doesn't slip or get too cold.

I'm writing this post in response to a few messages I had over on Instagram, after mentioning my old job in a post a few weeks ago. I've put together a list of top tips that have worked for us (so far) with our children. All the products are linked but they are not affiliate links, these are things that we bought ourselves or recommend as parents and I have not been asked to include any of the products mentioned:

Swimming Lessons
We began taking both children swimming for fun when they were just a few weeks old. Due to our backgrounds with the water, we decided against any baby swimming lessons and agreed to wait until we had taught them the basics before considering handing them over. This strategy has paid off so far, as Honey recently had her first taste of swimming lessons and ended up jumping two classes by the end of the week (it was an intensive course at the local leisure centre).  Even though we are less regular swimmers these days, due to my husband's shift pattern, it's something we all love to do together and a life skill that we will continue to encourage as the children get older.

Showers with Mummy or Daddy 
From an early age, either my husband or I would take our babies into the shower occasionally to prepare them for showering after swimming, but also to get them used to having water on their faces. We started off with just a few seconds (then the other parent would take the baby off the person in the shower) and built it up from there. Singing and (careful) dancing can help if your little one finds it a bit frightening at first, Ace's favourite shower song is "I hear thunder..."

Blow Bubbles in the Bath 
Encourage your little one to put their mouth in the water and blow bubbles. Just for a second at first, then work up to longer stretches and taking breaths then returning their mouth to the water. You can also buy toys that flip over in the water when blown, these can help if your child is reluctant to have a go at blowing bubbles, as can sinking toys.

Choose a No Tears Shower Gel
We use Child's Farm 3 in 1 Swim in the shower after swimming. Even I use it, then just add a blob of leave in conditioner to my wet hair once i'm changed. The all in one formula makes showering super quick and it also smells delicious! One bottle is so much easier to hold and keep track of than 3!

Choose your Swimming Aids Carefully
Traditional, blow up arm bands can be tricky for littles ones. They're bulky and put their arms into a bit of an unnatural position. With Honey, we used a little seat for a few weeks, but actually found that just holding her or tying a swimming woggle round her waist was more fun and allowed her to kick her legs and move her arms freely. As she got older, this method also allowed her to become more independent in the water and choose where she wanted to go (with us close by). 

The best product we have used with Honey is the Swim Fin. We were lucky enough to be given one by Honey's childminder when she was about 2 and a half and it instantly revolutionised her swimming. The fin allows children to adopt a proper swimming position in the water and explore the pool as if they were swimming unaided. It velcros securely round your child's torso and although it is lightweight, it is really sturdy so won't bend or snap when stored.

Most recently, I have invested in a Mini Manta for Ace. I don't usually buy things that have the potential to be a bit of a gimmick, but after seeing this on Instagram and doing a lot of my own research around it, I was sold. We have used it for 3 swimming sessions so far and I am really impressed. Ace calls it his boat and enjoyed lying on his tummy kicking his legs while I gently pulled him through the water. It is also suitable as your child gets older and more skilled in the water, Honey used it to lie her head back on and kick her legs and even I did a few drills using it as a kick board and leg float.

Goggles can be controversial. For some children, it's the only way they will put their faces in the water and in that case, I say go for it! Honey has only recently earned her first pair of goggles as we have always maintained that we'd like her to be able to swim at least 10 metres without them, for safety purposes. We live near a lake and have explained to her that if she should fall in there (or any other expanse of water) unexpectedly, she almost certainly wouldn't be wearing goggles! I think it's the lifeguard in me and one of the reasons we have started to introduce the idea of swimming lessons now, is so that as well as learning the different strokes, she will get to have a go at swimming in her pyjamas and pick up other skills that may one day save her life, leaving our family swim times free for fun and playing!

Consider swimwear carefully, yours and theirs. When mine were little, all they wanted when we got out of the pool (and sometimes even before) was milk. This meant that I had to wear a costume I could easily feed in, which for me was my maternity halter-neck tankini, tied at the side to get rid of the excess fabric! For the children, we went with wraps and wetsuits for the first year or so, as we found that without them, our time in the water was limited to about 15 minutes before they started to shiver and go a bit blue. Once they got older, they were fine in a traditional costume or shorts. We have also always chosen to use a disposable and neoprene nappy in tandem, to reduce the risk of leaks! Also consider the location of your swim, if you're outdoors, think about investing in a sunsuit made from fabric with a high SPF, as well as a water resistant sun screen. Be sure to follow the washing instructions on your sunsuit in order to preserve the life of the SPF.

When ours were little, we used to take two towels for them. One to take on to the poolside and pop on as soon as we left the water and another one to use for drying off after a shower. The poolside towel meant that we could remove the wetsuit and neoprene nappy in the water which is SO much easier than trying to wrestle it off as it starts to dry! It also means that you can rinse off their swimsuits under the shower and wrap them in the poolside towel, saving a job when you get home. My top tip is to ditch the hooded towels as soon as they show signs of being too small and use bath sheets or towels so that your little ones don't get their heads stuck and become stressed or agitated.

Once our children started weaning, we would take snack bags or pouches to the pool with us (we use these fab ones made by Nom Nom Kids) so that we could keep the children occupied while we changed. I always get myself dried and dressed first incase there's a fire alarm (again with the ex-lifeguard brain) or one of them needs to go to the toilet. As long as they're wrapped in a snuggly towel and have snacks, they have always been fine about this! Taking your own snacks also helps to avoid the lure of the vending machines so will save you money too!

Locker Organisation
Firstly, make sure you have the correct change for a locker (if needed), the lockers in our local pool take 50p's which you get it back afterwards so I just pop it back into the swimming bag for next time. Next, when you're all changed and ready to get it the water, think about how you load your locker. I put our sling and shoes at the bottom because I know we won't need them until last, then I put the bag with all the clothes in, then the snack bags, followed by our towels and finally a small sponge bag with the 3 in 1 swim bottle and a Tangle Teezer to comb it through with.

My overriding mission when we go swimming is to make the experience as fun and fuss free as possible. These are thing things we do to make that happen and if you've read this far, I hope you might have picked up a tip or two along the way! Whether you decide to swim just for fun or enrol your children in swimming lessons, I would say that having a child who is happy and confident in the water is half the battle. Once they're at that point, the rest will follow. As with everything in life, it will come to some more easily than others and, as with everything they learn, some children will grasp swimming quickly and some will take a bit longer and that's ok. Have fun and stay safe everyone, thanks for reading! 

Honey wears... Watermelon swimsuit by Primark

Monday, 14 May 2018

Thank you...

Well what can I say except thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took the time to vote for me in The Cotswold Blogger Awards. I must admit that it felt really strange to be asking for votes, I’m not a competitive person and I wanted everyone to win, so when my name was called out, it was totally surreal! I’m so grateful to everyone who voted whether you read regularly or you’ve never read a word of my blog and just wanted me to stop hassling you for votes, thanks, you rock!

A huge shoutout to the other bloggers who were nominated in the Feelgood category, I love all of these blogs so why not give them a follow yourself:

Mama Bear of One (Winner in the Social Influence category)
Jamie says "I have been fumbling my way through motherhood since 2016 and documenting my journey! I am a hypnobirthing, breastfeeding, PND recovering, endometriosis suffering, rainbow baby, no-judgement mama just trying to keep my sh*t together like the majority of us."

Adam and Sarah say "We're Adam and Sarah, a husband and wife team blogging about our life in and around the Cotswolds, Bristol and South West. You'll often find us ensconced in a delicious foodie hot-spot, or visiting some ofthe most beautiful places around, typically with a gin in hand! We love to share the best of where we live, so if there's somewhere you adore and think we should visit, please let us know."

Honey and Tweed
Jen says "Hi I’m Jennie and I live with my sausage dog Honey in the Cotswolds. I am an Interior designer/decorator and also upcycle furniture."
Natalie says "I am a freelance writer and mum to two girls aged 3 and 5. My husband and I live in rural Worcestershire with the girls and two large dogs. We all love to travel and where possible, the dogs come along too. Our long-term plan is to buy a camper-van and travel around Europe for a year when the girls are a bit older. But for the time being, we love to go on shorter trips both in the UK and abroad. When we’re not on the road, we love exploring our local area and often write about our exciting days out. This can be anything from a winter day running around on the beach to a trip to a theme park, afternoon tea in the Cotswolds or a leisurely walk around our favourite National Trust property. Talking of afternoon tea, we are all foodies, including the children. I am a firm believer in eating with children and allowing them to experience the same culinary delights that we enjoy. At home, we love to bake when we have time and our cooking is generally vegetarian, although the girls and my husband do eat both fish and meat. Please come along and read all about our adventures, we’d love to share them with you."

I'd also like to give a special shoutout to Roanna of Roeco Fashion who deservedly won in the 'Inspirational' category, her blog is fantastic and every post she writes demonstrates just why the panel chose her as the winner. I am lucky enough to work with this lovely lady and witness her inspiring the next generation on a daily basis. Well done lovely and good luck with your next adventure!

Lastly (but by no means least), a huge well done to my fellow school run Mum Abi of The British Maple who was nominated in the Social Influence category. I love her blog, especially the hilarious books she writes and urge you to go and have a read right away!

So now I have my very own star and my prize of a photo shoot with up and coming local photographer Chui King Li to look forward to. 2018 has been a blast so far and I can't wait to see what the next chapter holds, I hope you’ll join us to find out! 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Less Mess, Less Stress...

It's been a while since I've published a guest post but this one spoke to me when I read it. I LOVE it when my kids get messy, we equate mess with fun to some degree, but I am always looking for hacks to make cleaning up faster and easier.

Alex Farley is a full time working Mum of two children, aged two and five years old.  She is a writer and co-owner of a small business, Superb Cleaning Services based in London and has collated some of her cleanup tips to share with you all.

Minimise the Cleanup after Crafting with Kids
- A guest post by Alex Farley -

Are you looking for ways to occupy your little ones but at the same time you don't want to spend a whole day cleaning up after them? I know that many parents are concerned about the degree of messiness that goes hand in hand with some craft projects, but there's no need to panic! Inevitably, there are some activities which can turn into a messy disaster no matter how many times you tell your children to be a little bit more careful, but this post will share with you, a number of tips to help you minimise the clean up after crafting with your children.

Always cover the playground

One of the easiest ways to minimise the clean up is to cover the area where your kids play. For example, you can use a table cloth, a blanket or even a shower curtain. Trust me, each and every of these works really well! The best part is that after your kids are done with their craft project, you can give the cover a good wipe or throw it in the washing machine!

Better messy outside than messy inside

If the weather allows, move the messy activities outside. After your kids are done playing or crafting, the cleaning up will be a lot easier. Of course, it depends on what they played with, but the messy situation will be further under control in contrast to what would have been if they played inside.

Use the bath for messy crafting or playing

When it is cold outside, my kids know that they do all their fun activities… in the bath. To be frank, a friend of mine told me about this tip. Formerly, I let my kids play in their room which was my biggest mistake as a mother. Yes, my kids were having a hell of a fun but they did not see the situation as I did (a gigantic mess to clean after their play). Ever since that friend told me that her children played in the bath, using it as a vessel, I took advantage, too. It is a fantastic way to contain all the mess and it is extremely easy to clean the surface. Once your kids are done crafting, run the water and all the mess will be completely gone in an instant.

Replace your art supplies with washable ones

You will thank me later. To keep your children's clothes from getting heavily stained during their craft projects, use washable art supplies! I replaced all previous ‘risky’ supplies with washable watercolours and washing the clothes has never been easier!

Limit the materials to prevent a massive mess

Give your kids materials in small amounts during their craft process. If they are into painting, give them a small amount of paint and if necessary, add to their supply. Believe me, this does minimise the clean up because kids only use what they actually need as opposed to overloading their paper or ending up with a surplus at the end of their project.

Keep their fun simple

There are many simple tips on how to prevent a massive mess. The place where children play makes a great difference. For example, if you seat your kids at the table and give them crayons to draw with will not be as messy as giving them the opportunity to choose where to draw because they will instantly see the walls as their canvas. If you are worried about the table getting drawn on, cover it with paper.

If no matter how hard you try, things are getting messy anyway, keep calm and try to have fun. If you are concerned about the mess you have to deal with after you are done playing or crafting with your child, you deprive yourself of all the fun. Enjoy your time with your little ones and make the best of it.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Let's Make Some Noise...

Next up from the Miniature Music Music Bag Club is the 'Let’s Make Some Noise’bag. I'd explained that we were going to return the 'Zoom' bag, but that we would still get to see Kate and the rest of the toys during Miniature Music classes. Honey was fine with that but Ace got a bit upset and wanted to hug Kate the astronaut goodbye, which was super cute.

Honey and Ace were really excited to open up the new bag and even more exited to see what was inside! 

This bag contains:
1 story book (including CD and DVD content).
1 melodica
1 accordion
4 shaker eggs
2 sets of hand bells
2 sensory sticks

Ace absolutely adores books and the fact that this one has vehicles in it AND a song to sing along to, pretty much blew his mind and it's been a firm favourite here over the last couple of weeks. The book comes with a CD/DVD so you can sing and watch along or remind yourself of the tune if you forget! The instruments provided lend themselves to becoming bicycle bells, rumbling trucks and beeping horns during the story but can also be used on their own to accompany a range of toddler performances or family sing alongs. 

Honey loved using the sensory stick as a conductors baton and could regularly be found conducting an imaginary orchestra or choir (Melody Mamas warm up Bella Mama being the performance of choice). Ace's favourite was the melodica, he learnt to fit the mouthpiece by himself and loved dancing round with it playing his own, wonderful compositions! Both children are big fans of a shaker egg or two and love a round of Wind the Bobbin up, as well as recreating class favourites such as fast and slow and shake and dance around.

If you fancy joining the Music Bag Club, you can find all the details in the latest Miniature Music newsletter. We hope you have fun making some noise!

Honey wears... Bunny sweatshirt by H&M
Ace wears... Hooded sweatshirt by Primark

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Repping Out...

Ace was thrilled to be chosen as a Brand Rep for Cotswold Baby Co as we love so many of the wonderful brands they stock, especially our all time favourites, Blade and Rose leggings! He even has his own special discount which you can use to get 15% off your entire order (ACE15). Read our full review of this gorgeous up and coming clothing company over at the Cotswold Baby and Toddler Show blog, see you there! 

Click here to read the review

Ace wears... Blade and Rose Train leggings from Cotswold Baby Co

Monday, 5 March 2018

One Grove...

This post is a little different to my normal posts as there are no kids in sight! Sometimes it's nice to take a little bit of time out to do something for yourself. Whether that time is taken daily, weekly or monthly and for how long, is up to you, but here's something I've done for myself recently.

I've always wanted to try pilates, so when Lucy from One Grove got in touch to invite me 
to see their studios and have a go on one of their reformers, I was really excited. I haven't exactly been a regular at the gym over the last few years, I've chosen to spend my time and money on a couple of other things, but I've always enjoyed exercise and been pretty flexible, so I had high hopes for my session! 

One Grove is a specialist pilates, physio and yoga studio close to the centre of Cheltenham. The studio is tucked away down a quiet side street, close to Waitrose (which has a huge, customer car park, just saying) and it's an oasis of calm, a really beautiful place to go to stretch your stresses away. 

With no monthly commitments, you can just call, go online or pop in to book onto any of their 25+ classes each week, a refreshing change from having to pay by the month, even when you can't make half the classes!

On arrival, I was given a tour of the facilities and a brief rundown about the history and principles of pilates and after filling in a short health form, we got started. Lucy moved me through a diagnostic warm up, during which, she was able to spot my weaker areas and encourage me to focus on these throughout the workout.

Once on the reformer, Lucy clearly demonstrated and explained what she wanted me to do and coached me through the movements, reminding me to focus on specific areas and also to breathe (which sounds odd, but I was concentrating so hard at points that I had in fact forgotten)! After less than half the session, I felt like Lucy knew my body and its capabilities better than I did and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to do. I totally switched off from everything else during my session, which is very rare for me as I always have a whole raft of brain tabs open, but I can honestly say that they were all well and truly closed while I was moving through the stretches and exercises Lucy set for me.

If you've ever considered pilates, I urge you to take the leap and give it a try. At One Grove, you will receive a personalised workout, which is tailored to your body. You will never be crammed into a huge impersonal class, so you know your body will always be getting what it deserves and needs from your class or private session. You can plan your workouts based on your free time and budget and the knowledgeable staff are so friendly and welcoming, you will feel right at home from your very first visit.

*Although I was kindly gifted a 1:1 session with Lucy for the purposes of writing a review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mummy wears... Gym leggings by Primark

Pink Pear Bear