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! 

Monday, 7 May 2018

Down by The Bay...

When my husband was a teen, he joined a canoe club and each year, they would head down to North Devon for the early May Bank Holiday and spend the weekend camping and kayaking. He continued this tradition well into adulthood and when kayaking no longer held an interest for him, was so in love with the area that he continued to travel down there and enjoy the local area instead.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself invited on one of these weekends and fell in love instantly (with the area, not my then boyfriend, I was already long gone on that front)! We have returned each year ever since and even got engaged down there in 2011, which makes it an even more special place for us.

We camp on a site called Easewell Farm, which is one of the Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks. The great thing about it, is that we get the peace of a quiet site, with the opportunity to visit the other sites in the group if we want a bit more action. 

Easewell Farm:
Really quiet. 
Children's play area with climbing frame and swings (most suited to 5+ but younger children will be able to access if helped by an adult).
Small pool.
Large toilet and shower block (with baby bath and changing area).
On site cafe and takeaway.
On site bar with entertainment.
Small shop.
Small amusement arcade.
Washing up facilities.

Twitchen House:
Kids club.
Kids discos.
Evening entertainment.
Larger children's play area with a range of equipment to suit all ages.
A wider range of shops.
Paint your own pottery.
Indoor and outdoor pools.
Outdoor activities.

Woolacombe Bay:
Small soft play (very recently refurbished so no longer smells of feet).
Large amusement arcade.
Large, modern bar with stunning views from the terrace.
Large pool plus kids pool with awesome water play area.
Large Nisa shop.

Golden Coast:
Bowling Alley.
Soft play.
Pool (with super cute beach hut changing rooms).
Large bar
Pool shop.
Amusement arcade.
Indoor surfing.
High ropes course.

These are the facilities we have made use of at each site over the years, there's loads more we haven't explored yet, so head over to the Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks website if any of them sound like what you're looking for!

The open top bus is definitely worth a ride, we paid £5 per adult (children under 5 are free) and the ticket was valid for the whole of our stay. The journey takes quite a bit longer than simply driving into town as it stops at all the parks in the group, but the scenery is beautiful and you don't have to pay for parking when you get there!

In town, our days revolve around food. Pasties, milkshakes, waffles, pizza and cheesy chips, whatever you fancy, we can tell you the best place to go! Once we're fed, the only question is do we turn left or right when we get on to the beach (we're team right by the way ;-).

Honey and Ace wear... Woolacombe Bay hoodies by Shore 2 Surf

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