Why Mums Should Hang Out With Their Teenage Daughters

As our daughters hit their teens, it sometimes seems as if parents are surplus to requirements.  Sometimes we are invited into their lives but on many others, shut firmly out.  Moods swing from elation to misery according to the throw of the hormonal dice – and that applies for both mum and daughters!

It can truly feel as if you are being tested and, worse, as if you just don’t have the parenting strategies or ‘magic’ solution to repair the fractured bonds which used to be impenetrable.

There are, I believe, two schools of thought.

There are those who think that hanging out with your tween/teen girls all the time is not a great thing.  It is mum cramping their style and living vicariously through her daughters.  You may remember a documentary about ’embarrassing’ mums who went clubbing with the daughters and competed with them for attention both on the dance floor and off – much to the chagrin of the girls.

But then there are those whose daughters become their new best friends and for whom time spent together just serves to bring them even closer.  They seem to have found the solution to the constant, knackering drama-fests that can envelope a hormonal household.

It’s always going to be a challenge where you have mums and daughters with equally strong personalities and especially if either one of those personalities is inflexible.  My mother had a very specific set of rules for behaving and doing things around the home – passed on to her, of course by my grandmother. From hospital corners on beds, to meals served at set times, my mother has always thrived on routine and structure.

Ours was never a ‘laissez-faire’ household where bedtimes varied and the occupants kept whatever hours they chose.

It’s only natural, I suppose to want our daughters to be like us and I’m guessing that, as they age, many of them will turn out like us – but that is no consolation during the tempestuous teen years.  In truth, it is surely far better for our daughters to be different, to be adventurous, to be rule-breakers and non-conformist.

Lots of us innocently push our own agendas on to our daughters – from the hobbies we tell them ‘they are sure to like’ to the books they ‘should’ read.  We only want what’s best for them – the best academic results to ensure they get a job for example.  The best job so they have a chance at saving a deposit for a place of their own. The best partner for a committed loving relationship and on it goes.

We forget that we got to be who we are and where we are through the lessons life taught us – and how many of those were from our parents?

But back to today – and what do you do if your relationship with your daughter is like living in a war zone – or at least prone to door slamming, tantrums and sulking (both sides!).

Do you ever catch yourself talking to your kids and realise that you are basically just issuing instructions?

“Clean your room”

“Do your homework”

“Put your clothes in the laundry basket”

“Make sure you eat a proper breakfast”

There’s not actually a lot of conversation or even relating going on.  Of course, sometimes if you ask ‘how was your day’ you don’t get much of a response but at least it’s an attempt to share their experience.

What we are not doing in this situation is actually seeing our daughters as individuals.

The adolescent brain has an undeveloped prefrontal cortex and a dominant limbic system which translates as being prone to drama. I’m sure you’ve noticed (!)

But this isn’t the only factor at play.

To quote one study, “childhood and adolescence is the core risk phase for the development of symptoms and syndromes of anxiety that may range from transient mild symptoms to full-blown anxiety disorders.” This includes depression.

So what is going on?

Environmental factors such as the pressure to conform by social media or to get 5 A* A-Levels may play a part for some.

Heavy social media use is actually linked to depression in young people, according to a study published in “Computers in Human Behavior”.

As women we are surrounded, still, by so many pressures no matter what we read about a new ‘woke’ society – made all the worse because so many opinions and views are sat upon and any sensible discussion immediately curtailed lest someone’s feelings be hurt.  It’s the unthinking ‘cancel culture’ of Twitter and the red mist descending over mature discussion in many other quarters.  History is to be rewritten rather than learned from which, to me, invalidates all striving, fighting and hard work of those who have trodden the path before us.

Teen girls are truly under pressure to perform which must make focusing on just ‘being’ extremely difficult.

And for us mothers, the worry about how our daughters will cope with all this creates a stress which makes us all the more prone to react with panic and censure.

When you have both mothers and daughters living in an atmosphere where there is a permanent threat of not fitting in, not making the grade and not ‘getting it right’, it’s no wonder fireworks occur – and that’s without hormones.

Some of our kids are working so hard with school work and extracurricular activities they literally have no time to themselves.

So what can we do about it?

Spend more time together just ‘hanging out’

Whether it’s watching a movie together, listening to music or a spot of online shopping, just spending some time without having to be, do or behave in a certain way can help.  Step out of the mother / daughter roles for a bit and just relax.

I think this is even more important where there are male siblings or fractious sibling relationships in addition to parental ones.

When there are no expectations to conform to the usual pattern of behaviour, it may be easier for mum and daughter to be open and honest with one another.

Let them teach you

Very often I’ll be writing a post or playing around with photo editing and my daughter will offer advice or show me a new way of doing something.  (One of the few positives of her social media use!).

You’ll be amazed what your daughters can teach you and it’s important that you let them share the world they are growing up in – it keeps you, in turn, younger and better equipped to relate to them.

The way to get through to our girls may not always be through conversation. Responding positively to the things they choose to share can develop bonds.  Caitlin loves to share funny videos (especially cats), memes and songs.

Rather than brushing these kinds of interruption aside – and it’s not so easy if we are working from home for example, making time for them can improve our closeness.

The trick is, of course, to focus on what she has chosen to share and not the maelstrom of clothes on the bedroom floor or rubbish that has missed the bin.

If you can master this, you may find that your daughter shares more with you more often.

Don’t Always Jump In With Advice

The urge to give advice is very strong isn’t it?  The problem is that it isn’t always wanted.  You’ll know from your own experience that the last thing you want when you are upset or feeling down is a lecture and a list of yet more things that you ‘should’ be doing.

A bit of kindness and empathy will go much further – as will listening without interruption.

Perhaps try a coaching approach – asking how she thinks should she should approach a situation may be more helpful that “why did you do that for heavens sake!”

The other thing to bear in mind is that you may not always know the full story.  If your daughter doesn’t trust you with her innermost secrets, any advice you give could be based on half the facts – and might actually make things worse.

Teens seem to amplify situations according to their moods – which seem to change from moment to moment.

What might be a nightmare scenario today may be just “whatever” tomorrow.

If we parents pitch in too soon we risk not only making it worse for our daughter but ramping up our own stress and anxiety too – and who needs that!

If you can implement these strategies you will hopefully see a reduction in the level of drama – or at least the frequency.  Start small with an hour or so dedicated to mum and daughter time that is sacrosanct and for you and her alone.

Of course there will still be battles and arguments but we are not powerless to create a different path.

For those of us lucky enough to still have a good relationship with our mother (and I am well aware that this does not apply for all), how you handle the teen years may be crucial in creating a strong and lasting bond with your own daughter.

7 Ways to Deal with Heartburn During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is common to have nausea, back pain, sore legs, and interrupted sleep. Another one of the complaints of many pregnant women is the heartburn that they experience. In fact, up to 50% of women are likely to experience heartburn at some point in their pregnancies.  For me, the heartburn and indigestion were the worst part of my pregnancy with Caitlin.  With Ieuan, I had morning sickness very briefly but no other symptoms.  Every woman and every pregnancy is different.

If you are suffering from heartburn, you may not be able to avoid it or relieve it completely during pregnancy, but there are ways to control it.

What exactly is heartburn?

Heartburn actually has nothing to do with your heart. The burning pain, associated with heartburn, results when stomach acid rises up into your oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach). You may hear it referred to by its medical name, “gastroesophageal reflux.” “Gastro” means stomach. “Esophageal” refers to your oesophagus/food pipe.

What causes heartburn during pregnancy?

There is a muscle, called the “lower oesophagal sphincter,” located between your stomach and oesophagus. This muscle relaxes when you eat or drink something so that the food/drink gets to your stomach.

However, if the muscle relaxes and does not stay closed, then symptoms of heartburn result.

The two main reasons for heartburn during pregnancy are:

1. Pregnancy hormones play a role in relaxing muscles throughout your body. This includes the lower oesophagal sphincter.

2. The growing uterus pushes and displaces other organs in your abdomen, including the stomach and its contents.

What can you do to reduce heartburn and its effects?

1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals

Most pregnant women get accustomed to doing this anyway, especially as the pregnancy continues and the baby crowds your abdominal organs.

2. Do not eat/drink before you lie down

You want to use gravity to your advantage to help keep things in your stomach, where they should be.

It is preferable that you do not eat for about two hours before you plan to go to sleep.

3. Make adjustments to your sleeping surface

You may have to sleep in a recliner chair for part of your pregnancy. Again, you are using gravity to help keep things down.

A second option is to elevate the head of your bed. You can do this by putting six-inch blocks under the head of your bed. Alternatively, you can buy a foam bed wedge that you place under your head down to your waist, and sleep on that. That will keep you propped up. You can find these wedges on Amazon, for example.

4. Try sleeping on your left side instead of your right side

This recommendation is based on the anatomical design of the human body and can be helpful for some heartburn sufferers.

5. Ensure you are wearing comfortable maternity clothing

You want to avoid anything tight around your waist that might cause increased pressure and chance for reflux.

6. Avoid particular foods and drinks

Spicy foods and carbonated beverages are known to play a role in heartburn. Caffeine, citrus, and pickled foods can also aggravate it.

7. Speak to your physician

If you try these tips, and you are still not getting full relief, be sure to talk to your doctor. Some antacids may be able to be used, but you should get medical advice first as to which ones are recommended during pregnancy.

What worked for me

I found that high protein foods really seemed to settle my stomach – in particular cheese and cheesy biscuits and crackers.  Now I will confess that I put on a lot of weight with Caitlin but frankly I got to the point where I would do anything to make the horrid nausea and heartburn go away.  Babybel (the small cheeses covered in red wax) or snack size portions of cheddar are great to have in your bag, along with snack packs of crackers – oh, and indigestion tablets!

To summarize, heartburn is one nuisance of pregnancy. Now that you know what causes it, you need to implement methods to control or relieve it. Pregnancy certainly can be uncomfortable, but you want to do what you can to minimize those discomforts.

School Anxiety:  6 Tips for Helping Your Child Start a New School Year

A new school year brings conflicting emotions for most children – as it does for us parents!  This year will be particularly stressful because, although ostensibly schools will be open come September, the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 has thrown a shadow of doubt over the forthcoming academic year.

Notwithstanding this, whether it is your child’s first year in Primary or, like Ieuan, their transition from primary to secondary school, they are probably experiencing a mix of both excitement and anxiety about what lies ahead.  It is a little easier for Ieuan than it was for Caitlin, as at least he has a sibling ready to greet him in his new school but even so, it is a daunting time – for all of us!

Overcoming these feelings isn’t always easy, but it can be done by following some simple guidelines for both parents and their children.

While there may not be a blanket set of rules to follow, the following are some tips that parents can use to have a more successful school year, regardless of how old a student is:

Familiarize Your Child With the Situation

  • Talk with your child about school, no matter his or her grade level. This can help curtail some of this anxiety.  Discuss such things as what subjects he or she will be taking, and who the teacher will be.  In addition, answer any questions that your child may have.
  • Share personal experiences with him or her. A child will be much more excited and comfortable if they understand that his or her parents “survived” school too.
  • Call the principal or other school staff to arrange a personal visit to the school, if possible. Try to meet one or more of the student’s teachers, who can provide a connection should he or she need one in the first few days. You will both also want to take a look around and see where the child’s classroom(s) will be, and so on.  If you are unable to get inside the building, even just a visit to the building’s grounds can be helpful.

Establish a Routine

One of the major reasons children have trouble with and in school is the lack of a set routine, and failing to enforce such a routine causes unnecessary stress for the parents and the child.

  • Parents need to create a back-to-school schedule with the child. Start this new schedule at least a couple of weeks before school starts.  Having a firm agenda to practice beforehand will alleviate problems of adjustment once school starts.
  • For example, aim for a set time of going to bed and getting up and generally consistent times for meals, baths and other daily actions your child is expected to perform.

Make Going Back to School a Fun-Filled Experience 

  • Go shopping for school supplies and new school clothing together. Having new clothing for the first day of school can increase the child’s self-confidence, and make the first day more exciting.
  • To make the shopping experience even more fun, make it an all-day event with a lunch date included. 

Set Up the Child’s Environment for Homework

  • Set up a space in the home that is comfortable, quiet, and has all the supplies the child may need.
  • Also, since younger children tend to follow a parent’s lead, “study” along with the child. Find a book to read, a craft to make, or some other activity to do that helps the student feel less isolated.  As a child gets older, study habits change, and he or she may elect to study independently of others.  Just keep in touch with how he or she is progressing.

Teach Your Child Organization Skills

  • Another key element to reducing school anxiety is being organized, especially as a student’s work becomes more plentiful and difficult. Encourage the student to keep a calendar or agenda of assignments and projects, and their due dates.  Ensure that the child has the supplies and resources that he or she needs to complete any projects.

Get Involved 

  • Volunteer as a classroom helper, a tutor, or a chaperone for school outings. You may also want to volunteer for the parent advisory council.  When a child sees his or her parents helping with school activities and providing input, the student feels more secure, more a part of the school – the whole experience becomes a “family thing.”
  • In addition, when parents invest time and talent in a child’s school, communication with the child’s teacher and the school staff is strengthened and more open, which simplifies working through difficult times if such situations arise. The more a parent is involved with a child’s school, the more settled a student may be.

Children are resilient, but there are times when new situations might be more than they are prepared to handle.  A new school year can be such a challenge, so parents must be aware of the possible signals of school anxiety, especially as the first day of school approaches.  Reacting to these signals is paramount to whether the year begins in a positive and controlled way, or in a negative manner.  Employing some or all of the above tips is a good way to start a new school year.

It’s also good to remember that your child’s education is a partnership between you, your child and their teacher.  Sometimes we think that education means just handing the child over for the school to ‘do their bit’ but research shows that academic performance is vastly improved where parents take an active role in teaching their children.

How To Keep Your Gamer Kids Safe Online

A couple of years ago, Santa gave Caitlin and Ieuan an iPad for Christmas.  The idea was that they would use these for ‘educational’ games to help with reading and numeracy skills.  Santa subsequently had the genius idea of combining the family’s ancient DVD player with a games console and delivered an Xbox.

I think every parent in the land can guess how my two now like to spend their time – to the detriment, I have to say, of homework, reading and good, old-fashioned outdoor play.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it should have been glaringly obvious that traditional games and hobbies were never going to compete against the instant, shiny-shiny, reward of games with sounds, flashing images and, most addictive of all, the chance to accrue likes and followers, some of whom are no doubt already on a police register somewhere. Yes, it’s all too easy to ignore the dangers of online gaming.

Do I blame myself?  In all honesty yes I do and I have a grudging admiration for those parents who have stuck to their guns and said no to games such as Fortnite when their offspring are a good couple of years off the recommended age for playing.

Whilst we use software to set time limits based around the school day, extra-curricular activities like football and ballet and a homework hour on Sundays, it feels as if we are fighting a losing battle against the tide of ever sophisticated games, graphics and in-app purchases.  You’d swear that Robux was an actual currency – and frankly, in our house, it is.

Now there is a certain amount of hypocrisy here, isn’t there.  You may have read the recent cases of children who have had to have counselling for their online gaming addiction (Fortnite being cited in both these cases). One child would wet herself rather than leave the game to go to the bathroom, whilst another was admitted for a suspected tumour of the bowel when, in fact, he was just completely constipated from, again, not leaving the game.

You can imagine the comments – “it’s the parents”, “just take the ruddy console OFF them” and so forth.  And who can say the commentators are wrong?

dangers of online gaming - black Xbox controller

In the middle of the long school summer holiday, gaming time has more than likely increased, not least due to the temptation to use the gaming console as a babysitter when you are trying to work from home.

Family battles concerning online gaming are only going to continue and possibly escalate if we don’t start to set new boundaries not only for our children but, more particularly, for ourselves in terms of what we will and will not accept for our kids.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Back in 2018, computer security company McAfee ran a campaign called “Don’t Play Games With Your Cybersecurity” focusing on educating parents about the potential dangers of online gaming and how they can best protect their family.  The research they carried out as part of the campaign raised some important issues which are even more pertinent in 2020.

For example,  it was found that:-

Rating guides are regularly ignored

Over a third of parents (41%) do not follow age rating guides or were unaware games even have an age rating, with nearly half (47%) allowing their children to play online games that are 3-5+ years older than the recommended age rating given.

Kids are chatting with people they don’t know

42% of children are now playing games where they can chat directly with people, despite nearly half (48%) of parents agree that their child is at risk of online grooming

Many kids are playing up to four hours of video games daily

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of parents allow their children to play one to four hours of video games every day and as the summer holidays hit, this could be set to rise

Kids are accidentally spending our cash online

Over a third of parents (37%) have had their children accidentally purchase something on a video game at some stage, leading to a potentially significant financial loss.

Parents aren’t talking to their kids about the problem

17% of parents do not talk to their children about any of their concerns. Children as young as 12 could be playing games that have been exclusively rated for more mature audiences containing violence, sexual themes and drug use.

If, like me, you are feeling like you are losing the battle against online games and your kids are no longer to sit still for more than 3 minutes without Flossing, demonstrating ‘Orange Justice’ at the bus stop or performing Hype in the middle of the library, then you’ll find these tips from Allen Scott, Consumer EMEA Director at McAfee very helpful.

dangers of online gaming: teenage boy in his bedroom playing video games on a large computer screen

The ABCs of how to better protect children while playing video games

Start conversations early

If you start talking about online safety early, it will make your job that much easier when your children get older. If your kids are young, start with simple rules like: “don’t open emails or messages from people you don’t know” and “decline friend requests from strangers.” You want online safety to be part of normal behaviour.

Be careful what you click

Most children have been using digital activities for entertainment from an early age, desensitising them to the potentials risks of online behaviour. Cybercriminals can use the popularity of video games to entice gamers to click on potentially malicious links. Think about what you are clicking on and ensure that it’s from a reliable source.

Control how long they play

Set a good example by minimising your use of devices around the home, but also use parental control software to set time limits on your child’s device use to help minimise exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites.

Avoid malicious links

If your children are searching online for gaming tips or new games to download, a tool like McAfee WebAdvisor can help them avoid dangerous websites and links, and will warn them if they do accidentally click on something malicious.

Be protected

No matter what anyone in the family is doing online, it’s best to use a security product like McAfee Total Protection that can help keep connected devices safe from malware. Just like any PC application, be sure to keep security software updated with the latest software version.

As McAfee’s Allen Scott says, “Gaming continues to be a popular pastime for many under 16s across the UK. There are many advantages to playing video games, and they can be a great tool at parents’ disposal during the summer months where they need to keep their children entertained while trying to manage everything else. That being said, it is imperative parents understand the cybersecurity risks their children are exposed to when playing games. They need to know what guidance and restrictions to put in place and how to keep their children safe online.”

There’s no time like the present to educate yourself about the risks of online gaming and to start talking with your kids about how to stay safe online.

If you’re convinced it’s all harmless, I challenge you to sit with your tween or teen while they play and watch how they play and how they interact with other players.  Many players have a microphone these days.  Or, if they use a program like Funimate, take a look at their profile and follower lists.  I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience which will leave you wanting to put some boundaries around your kids’ gaming quicker than they can log off. The dangers of online gaming for your kids will quickly become apparent.

Fellow parents – I salute you.  We have a big challenge ahead.

 

Tips To Help Your Kids Stay Safe In The Sun

Now that the hot weather has arrived and, while we finally have the barbecue summer we’ve been promised here in the UK, it’s worth reminding ourselves of what we should be doing to help our kids to stay safe in the sun.

Below you’ll find quick tips to help the family make the most of the glorious weather and stay safe in the sun without succumbing to the dangers of sunburn and dehydration.  Yes, they are all basic but it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when the sunshine hits.

If you’re like me, you haven’t been sleeping too well in the heat which I find tends to make me less than fastidious sometimes.  Incidentally, you’ll find my tips for helping your little ones to sleep in the heat here.

stay safe in the sun - little girl applying suncream to her face on a beach

Stay safe in the sun with these tips

Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day

There’s an old song which goes “mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun”.  I’m not sure that’s too politically correct any more but the NHS advises that in the UK you should avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm if possible.

Head for the shade, particularly with prams and pushchairs.

If you can’t avoid the sun then at least head for the shade.  Don’t leave tots in pushchairs out in the full glare of the sun, especially without sunscreen and a hat.

On the other hand, do not cover a pram or buggy with a blanket because it will restrict the flow of air and heat the pram up really fast. 

stay safe in the sun - two little girls playing in a rockpool on a beach

Photo by Brad Halcrow on Unsplash

Dress your kids to protect against the sun

Make sure your kids are properly covered and wearing a hat which is wide-brimmed enough to protect not only their face but their ears and neck too.

Invest in decent quality sunglasses for your children and make sure that they offer full UV protection.  Don’t forget that, over time, sun exposure can lead to cancer and cataracts. 

If you’re heading for the beach, consider UV swimsuits and beachwear.  These keep your little ones cool and protected from the sun both in the water and out.  Note that these are UV resistant so you’ll still need to apply the other precautions listed.

Use Sunscreen Properly

Get the right factor

When you buy your sunscreen, check the label carefully because it should not only have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against UVB but also at least 4-star UVA protection.

Chuck out the old stuff

Don’t think you can just rely on that old bottle lurking in the bathroom cabinet either, because most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years.  I like to be safe by buying new sunscreen every year but it’s just not worth risking skin cancer caused by sun exposure.

Make sure you apply enough

Most of us don’t apply anywhere near enough sunscreen either.  Adults should be using two teaspoons of sunscreen for your head, arms and neck but two tablespoons for your whole body, particularly if you’re wearing swimwear.

There doesn’t seem to be a particular recommendation for children but make sure that all exposed areas are covered – for example, ears, tops of feet, backs of knees and hands.

Make sure you reapply frequently

Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your child heads outside so that their skin has time to absorb it. Reapply at least every two hours, more frequently if your kids are swimming, playing in the water, or sweating.

You shouldn’t put sunscreen on children under 6 months due to the sensitivity of their skin.  This means you’ll have to use clothing to protect your baby. Keep them out of the sun as much as possible, use a stroller canopy; dress them in lightweight clothing to cover arms and legs and remember a hat!

Stay safe in the sun - two little children playing on the sand

Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

When in the water …

If your kids are going swimming, the NHS advises that you reapply sunscreen straight after they come out of the water, even if the sunscreen is water-resistant – and also after towel drying which might rub it off.

And on the subject of swimming, if you are planning a beach holiday or are planning to spend lots of time around the pool, it’s worth investing in swimming lessons for your kids before you set off.  Every single year there are tragic cases of tots who lose their lives in pool-related or beach accidents.

Stay hydrated

You’ve probably read that if you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated and, of course, it’s very easy to succumb to dehydration in hot weather.

You should encourage your children to drink water before, during and after exercise.

You find advice on how much a child needs to drink in hot weather here.

If your child starts feeling dizzy, sick or weak, then bring them inside or find some shade. Give them a drink of water (a sports drink would also be OK) and cool them down with a warm shower or sponge bath.  If their symptoms worsen or last for more than an hour, seek immediate medical advice. Here’s what the NHS advises for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Check your hose pipe water temperature before turning it on your kids

Hose pipes left out in the sun can get extremely hot and cause terrible burns.  Never turn the water on your kids without testing the temperature first.

Avoid bouncy castles

This is a personal choice but since there have been at least 2 recent cases of children losing their life through bouncy-castle related accidents, I’d avoid them.  There needs to be far greater regulation in place and formal safety procedures to ensure that cases like this never happen again.

On the road

If you’re travelling by car, it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen to exposed skin as the sun’s heat can be very concentrated through glass windows.

Make sure you have the sun shades on the children’s windows and that your car’s air conditioning is in working order before you set off.

Take regular breaks for drinks and light snacks.  Pure water is always best to keep hydrated rather than sugary sodas and energy drinks.

If carsickness is a problem – even worse to deal with in hot weather – try my tips here.

And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this one – children should never be left in parked cars as the temperature can get dangerously high very quickly.

It is possible to stay safe in the sun and still enjoy yourself but, as with most things parenting-related, some advance planning and investing in the best sun products you can afford will make things a lot easier.

10 Ways To Teach Your Kids About Finance

There are a variety of important things that parents need to be able to teach their children. One of these things is how to deal with finances and look after their money. After all, the last thing you will want for them when they are adults is to find themselves struggling to manage their debt. But the best way to approach this is to share your knowledge with them about the financial facts of life whilst hopefully teaching them some fun money lessons at the same time.

fun money lessons - a piggy bank wearing a graduation hat in a library

The trouble is, so many parents simply do not know where to start when it comes to teaching your kids about finance.

So, to help, here are 10 ways that you can teach your children to help them have a secure financial future.

Show them that money doesn’t grow on trees

A common phrase is that money doesn’t grow on trees. Something that as an adult, we are only too aware of. However, chances are that our children simply don’t understand this concept, that money is not infinite and plucked out of the air.

A great way to demonstrate this is to show your children how you withdraw money from a cash machine, whilst carefully explaining to them that this money has come out of your bank account. You could even show older children the cash withdrawal transaction on your bank statement so that they can see the money leaving your account.

Teach them how to budget

It is important that your child learns how to budget. Kids need to understand that they are unlikely to have enough money to buy ALL the toys they want and will have to choose the one that they would prefer to buy the most.

Set an example for them by telling them about the different things that you would love to buy and why you can’t go out and buy each and every one.

Encourage them not to rush out and spend their money

If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll have very little patience. If they receive money, they will want to be straight off to the shops (or online!) to buy that toy that they have always had their eye on.

Instead, you should encourage them to temper their impatience a little and teach them the pleasures of delayed gratification.  Easier said than done, I know!

A great way to show them that you take a careful approach to your spending is to show them that you are thinking about a bigger purchase. Shop around with them, ask them to help you to compare the different deals that are out there.

Explain that saving a little more will help you buy something better, of higher quality, longer-lasting and more fun.

It’s the difference between blowing their cash on the latest collectable and having the money for an Xbox game or even a console.

Teach them that saving is cool

Saving can sometimes get a bad rap, especially when compared to spending. It is a good idea to teach your child that it is cool to be a saver. Especially when saving gives you a reward such as the ability to buy something nice for yourself.

Teach your kids that it’s often the little things that are bought on a daily basis can add up to a significant item of expenditure over a year. Curbing your occasional spending can really help you to budget for bigger ticket items.

A simple way to teach kids about the power of saving is to have a savings jar that you as a family pay into. Show your child how the money builds up over time, and let them know when you are using that money, such as for a holiday or a new TV.

Make a game of it.  Try the Penny Saving Challenge by saving the same number of pence each day that matches the number of the day in the year.  So on the 35th day of the year, you add 35p to the savings jar, all the way up to more than £3.50 in December.

This will give the family around £667 extra cash to spend at New Year. It’s one of those fun money lessons that really will make an impact.

Help them to keep track of their money

Being able to monitor your spending habits is an incredibly useful skill to have in later life, and this is something that you can encourage right from childhood.

If your child receives pocket money on a weekly or monthly basis, why not encourage them to make a chart? This could contain the pocket money that they receive each time, as well as what they spend it on. That way, they can keep an eye on where their money is going.

Get them to write a wish list of things that they want to buy

Having something in mind is a great way to achieve a goal. This is particularly true when it comes to saving.

If your child is struggling with the concept of putting away their money, then why not ask them to create a wish list of things that they want to buy?

You can write down how much these things are going to cost, as well as how many weeks pocket money that is, showing them how long it will take them to save for it.

Tech-savvy kids could create a wishlist on Amazon which will not only teach them how much things cost but is a great resource for relatives wondering what on earth to buy for their next birthday or Christmas present.

On the subject of presents for kids, the Monopoly board game is a great choice if you want to teach your kids about money and how a little bit of a strategy can make you a winner!

We also enjoy the Payday board game – go through the working month buying and selling items and see if you end up the richest player.

fun money lessons - a retro robot

Teach them about the importance of charity

Charity is important, no matter your generation. However, if a child doesn’t understand why charity is important, or how to donate to them, then this won’t carry on growing.

Encourage your child to give a portion of their savings or pocket money to charity, not all the time, just sometimes. That way, they have some awareness of what is going on in the world around them, and how some people are not lucky to have the same money as them.

Always have some boundaries

We all love spoiling our children, there are no two ways about it, after all, we love them. But spoiling them can have a negative impact later on in life.

You should try and set some boundaries on spending and what they can get, as this shows them that you are not always able to get what you want, and sometimes you simply have to wait for it.

Open a bank account for them

Having a bank account is something that we all need to have later in life, so why not introduce this concept to your child from an early age.

Go with them to the bank to open their own account, and encourage them to pay money into on a regular basis.

This means, that when the time comes to open an adult bank account, it won’t be quite as much of a novelty for them.

Let them make their own decisions

You may be tempted to take charge when your child wants to spend out on a particular item. However, it is better to let them make their own decisions.

If after a couple of days or weeks they decide that they have made a bad decision, then they will realise that they have wasted their money.

This will encourage them to think more carefully about the choices that they make in the future.

We all want the best for our kid’s future, and one of the aspects to think about is their financial stability. By teaching them everything that they need to know about money, you are giving them a great start that they can build on.

How do you teach your kids about money?

How To Monitor Your Kids’ Internet Usage

These days, most kids and teenagers will spend a lot of their time on the internet. This can be at school but also at home, either playing games, watching movies or chatting with friends on social media. Whilst this may provide hard-working parents will some welcome reprieve from being nagged at, it can also become a potential problem if left unchecked.

Firstly let’s consider the dangers of kids spending too much time online. Research has shown that spending too much time online poses some health risks including high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, obesity and increased chance of becoming socially isolated. Kids can also become irritable and less likely to want to do more healthier activities if they are solely reliant on the internet for entertainment.

So – the next question is what can be done about all this considering the internet is an integral part of all our everyday lives? Below are some top tips to help parents manage their kids’ web browsing…

  • Don’t deprive them of the internet completely, instead agree certain times of the day or week they are allowed to spend online.
  • Make sure the time they are spending online is not being wasted waiting for stuff to load as your connection is too slow. If it is the case then it might be time to see if you can get a deal on your broadband and get a faster connection.
  • Set up up content filtering either via your ISP or by downloading an application such as NetNanny which will ensure they won’t be able to access harmful or unsuitable content.
  • Talk to them. Teach them good old fashioned advice, like not talking to strangers or disclosing personal data online.
  • Put the computer they want to use in a communal area where you can keep an eye on what they are looking at. Alarm bells should start to sound if your child or teen repeatedly wants to go online alone or is secretive with their devices.
  • If they want to make friends with someone online, make sure they actually know who the other person is.

Following the above advice should allow for sensible and controlled internet usage without having to sacrifice the benefits associated with letting kids use the web. Although it can be easy to caricature kids using the internet as just mindlessly playing games or watching inane TV shows, in reality, there are some positives that come from them being online. For example, social media can help them keep in touch more with their friends whilst playing games can help improve reaction times and promote problem-solving skills.

In summary, the ubiquitous nature of the internet means it will play an increasing part in kids and teenage lives for years to come. However, this should not be seen as a negative as there are many benefits to this increased connectivity. Parents merely need to have a plan in place to monitor and manage internet usage by their kids.

How To Teach Your Kids About Money And Prepare Them For Adult Life

In this age of information, society is going through tremendous changes at almost breakneck speed. Every day we read stories about people becoming millionaires from innovative business ideas – and it often seems as if they did this overnight.

Equally, there are loads of stories about those who are really struggling to make ends meet in the current financial climate.  You could say that the disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ could be down to their financial literacy.  In other words, their skills at wealth generation and understanding the basic rules of money.

 

It’s pretty obvious that our kids aren’t born equipped with this crucial knowledge and, as parents, it’s our job to teach them how to be financially responsible adults. Easier said than done when you may not feel all that financially savvy yourself.  How can you teach your kids about money when you struggle to cope with your own finances? If that’s the case you might lack the confidence for teaching financial literacy to kids.

You don’t need to worry because there are plenty of resources to help you to quickly learn the knowledge and skills you need and pass these on to your children. For example, here you will find practical ways of influencing your little ones to achieve financial freedom.

Tips for teaching financial literacy to kids

Identify how your children learn

As a parent, I’m sure you’ve observed that children can soak up knowledge like sponges.  I know Caitlin and Ieuan certainly have better memories than I do these days! In fact, kids can learn from many and various channels and they are not discouraged by failure.

Not only do children have their own unique personality, but they may also have a learning style which works best for them. Unfortunately, the education system doesn’t cater for every style of learning and, whilst there are seven prevalent learning personalities, generally, a ‘one style fits all’ approach is used. This means that a lot of children can be easily branded as poor learners when they are anything but.

If you can identify your child’s learning style early enough, you can help them to grasp concepts faster. At the same time, acknowledging their preferred learning style will go a long way to help a child realize their uniqueness and embrace their strengths. This means that your children will also be more receptive to learning the financial skills you have to teach them.

Before giving the child money, empower them

As a concept, giving children pocket money has both its supporters and its detractors. Some parents don’t agree with the idea and others give a small, fixed amount each week – as we do.  But rather than just handing over cash, it’s a good idea to explain how to use their pocket money wisely.  Any stream of income can be a tool to create wealth if spent wisely and if it is invested.

As a rule of thumb, if your outgoings are very high and you do nothing to budget, you’ll find you end up with even less in the long run – and your chances of increasing your wealth will be small. Help your kids to grasp the concept that, with the right inspiration and effort, great ideas can generate cash. Teach them that you can start generating an income with practically nothing.  All you need to find is the right idea and a way to put it into practice.

Explain to your children that they do not necessarily have to get stuck in the rat race if they understand the financial potential of a great idea.

Be a good example at all times

Children tend to learn from those around them so setting them a good example when it comes to finances is a good idea! To do this, you may have to alter your own relationship with money and look at how you control your finances. By simply becoming better at dealing with your personal finances, you can easily pass the same skills to your child and they will be ready to enjoy financial freedom when they grow up.

When you change your mindset from scarcity to abundance and adopt a way of thinking that constantly looks for ways to generate more income, you will become that great role model for your children. If you want your kids to become successful, you have to prepare them up for success. Instead of striving to work for the rest of your life trying to provide for the family, teach your children how to adapt to a changing world and create wealth.

Make the learning process enjoyable

If a child enjoys the process of learning, it will be far easier for them to absorb their lessons. For example, why not teach them games that revolve around financial principles – Monopoly is a great one! Games can be a great way to help your kids to understand debt and the risks involved.

When you rely on loans to pay for an expensive car or holiday, you may be setting yourself up for a poor credit score if you default on your credit card or loan repayments.  ‘Live within your means’ is a wise piece of advice my parents passed on to me.

If you do end up with a poor credit score, your ability to take out a mortgage and further loans may be severely impacted.  Worth getting your kids to think about if they see themselves buying their first home as soon as they leave school!

On the other hand, taking out an instalment loan or a business line of credit to help you scale up your small business can be a wise move if you have taken the time to put together a thorough business and marketing plan – one that is supported by your bank and other investors.

In the long run, you will hopefully turn a profit on those borrowed funds – once your expenses and taxes have been paid, of course.

Getting your kids to watch Dragons Den is a good way to show them how some business ideas are great and clearly going to generate profit whilst others fall at the first hurdle as the entrepreneurs have not done their homework.

Sometimes we all make bad financial decisions

When your children are growing up, there will be times when you see them squandering (at least in your opinion) money on meaningless things. You may feel conflicted because you know they need to learn the negative lessons that come with poor budgeting.

At the same time, it is only natural that you’ll want to help them to get back on the feet.  But is opening the ‘bank of mum and dad’ always a good idea? Teaching financial literacy to kids is going to be an uphill struggle if parents always bail their kids out when they get into debt.

The truth is having to deal with the consequences of bad financial decisions can be quite effective in teaching the child the importance of good financial management. Every financial decision has consequences and if your kids want the latest toy and can’t afford it because they have spent all their cash on sweets (or Robux in Ieuan’s case), they may be more careful in the future and make a better choice next time.

Even when your children don’t seem to be grasping the lessons, you don’t have to be mad or criticize their choices. If you do this, it’s likely that you are making them believe that it’s out of their reach to master the concept.

To sum up

While you have many other parenting responsibilities, helping your child to learn how to become financially free is very important. If you don’t teach them, there’s a risk that they will pick up bad money habits from alternative sources – leading to serious consequences for their future success and happiness. Instead of letting your kids learn about money from those whose only interest is to profit in them, why not take charge of their financial education. You may learn a lot in the process too. Teaching financial literacy to kids may benefit the whole family.

Tips For Coping With A Child’s Car Sickness

Now that COVID-19 restrictions are being gradually lifted, many of us are planning if not a holiday then a day out or too.  For longer stays this involves making endless lists, bulk buying toiletries and trying to summon up the energy to do the packing. On top of this, there’s extra stress if you are travelling long distances by car or if you or your children suffer from car sickness.

I wasn’t too bad as a child but my sister would be looking green before we’d travelled more than a couple of miles!  Cue much packing of potties and urgent pitstops in lay-bys.

My dad gave me some sensible advice about assembling a basic kit for coping with car sickness.  He suggested carrying a large plastic box in the boot with a change of clothes per child, including towels, wet wipes and also a big bottle of soapy water for quick clean-ups. He also advised carrying travel potties or old ice cream cartons.

My parents used to give my sister Sarah and I travel sickness pills and packets of Wrigley’s Double Mint chewing gum to give us something to focus on.  And we quickly learned that reading whilst the car was moving was a no-no!.

I asked some of my fellow parenting bloggers how they cope with the nightmare of car sickness and they had much wisdom to share.

Tips for dealing with car sickness

Here are a few of their suggestions which also include advice for travelling on ferries and planes.

Shannon says “maybe not for a child for fear of them choking. How about lollipops? Or even a chewy toffee or sweet?”.  [sarbthoughts.blogspot.com]

Mary says “My nephew used to really travel sick even on short journeys but it all stopped when he used child travel bands. He’s just left Uni so I don’t think it’s an issue any more, but they certainly saved us all having empty ice cream tubs in our car when we’d take him out!  With ferries – don’t sit at the front of the boat or look at the horizon.” [Over 40 And A Mum To One]

Claire says “I always had a pack of wipes, plastic bags and spare clothes. Keep a window open to let air in. Don’t let them drink milk, and strong juice before the drive or during. Keep snacks light.” [familypanelreviews.co.uk]

Helen says “I had really bad travel sickness as a child and the only thing that worked was a bobble on my wrist. The ones with the metal bit pressed on the inside of my wrist. Not sure how safe it is but it 100% worked”.

Lisa of Travellovingfamily.com has a great post about coping with travel sickness on aeroplanes.

Tips from a Flight Attendant – Preventing Travel Sickness

Mellissa says “When all else fails Kwells is great and suitable for those over 10. You can take one as soon as you feel ill although it is better to take one 20 minutes before the journey.” [Flydryexplore.com]

Rebecca says “Avoid dairy products before you travel if you suffer from travel sickness, they seem to make it worse! Two of my children suffer badly but not so bad if they’ve not had dairy products.” [www.mumof3boys.co.uk]

Sophie says “For ferries, I discovered that laying in a chair like you’re in a rubber ring (if that makes sense) helps because the sensation is more like bobbing along on a lazy river” [onetenzeroseven]

Coral says “I was only car sick in smooth cars never in land rovers or lorries. Was told sitting on a newspaper prevented it. Mind over matter I guess. Doesn’t help in a cyclone in Fiji though. Avoid reading and devices. Look at the horizon. I talked a person out of seasickness on a ferry. NLP and hypnosis can work.” [Travellingcoral.com]

Michelle says “My parents used to give me child travel sickness tablets & anti sickness wristbands.” [Looking For The Silver Lining]

Katy says “Distraction can be a fantastic way to ease the anxiety of a child who gets sick on long journeys. Often the anxiety can be what makes the child feel unwell. Packing toys, games or even a tablet can be a great way to distract a child!” [www.katykicker.com]

Rebecca Ali says “My mum used to keep a cool bag with ice-cold water or go to the on-boat bar and get some ice which used to help loads (especially on boats and planes). Cars I was okay with but my granny always uses limacol in the car – it’s a super strong lemon-lime scented thing that she’d rub on a cloth and breathe and apparently that helped her from her youth to now.” [Pocahontas Jane]

So there you have it – quite a few votes for wristbands which I’m off to try.  Otherwise, I’ll be relying on travel sickness tablets for children and a big bucket safely stowed in the boot!

Do you have any tips to add?  Please share them in the comments below.

The Pregnancy & New Mum Bibles I Couldn’t Live Without

When you’re pregnant, you’ve often plenty of time to research every aspect of pregnancy – and there’s LOADS of information out there. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be reading all the pregnancy and baby books you can get your hands on! Particularly if you’re an older mum too (anything over 35).

pregnancy and baby books - pregnancy woman reading on a yellow sofa

There are distinct schools of thought on the best way to bring up baby, from the controlled crying techniques of Gina Ford to the co-sleeping recommendations of James J. McKenna.

Pram or baby sling? Breastfeed or bottle feed? Cot or Moses basket? There are reams of information on every aspect of motherhood even down to what to put in your hospital bag.

You really need clear, concise information from a reputable source you can trust and these pregnancy and baby books became my bibles. I heartily recommend all of them.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

This was the book I turned to every night and at every twinge.  Murkoff does not sugar-coat the information and points out what can go wrong as well as what is usually nothing to worry about. Don’t expect cuddly photos of newborns, but do expect practical, “does what it says on the tin” advice.

Pregnancy and baby books: cover of What to Expect When You're Expecting (4th edition)

The latest edition (the fourth) has been completely revised and updated.

“Heidi Murkoff has rewritten every section of the book, answering dozens of new questions and including loads of new asked-for material, such as a detailed week-by-week foetal development section in each of the monthly chapters, an expanded chapter on pre-conception, and a brand new one on carrying multiples.

The Fourth Edition incorporates the most recent developments in obstetrics and addresses the most current lifestyle trends (from tattooing and belly piercing to Botox and aromatherapy).

There’s more than ever on pregnancy matters practical (including an expanded section on workplace concerns), physical (with more symptoms, more solutions), emotional (advice on riding the mood roller coaster), nutritional (from low-carb to vegan, from junk food-dependent to caffeine-addicted), and sexual (what’s hot and what’s not in pregnant lovemaking), as well as much more support for that very important partner in parenting, the dad-to-be”.

Your New Pregnancy Bible – The Experts Guide To Pregnancy And Early Parenthood by Dr Anne Deans

On the other hand, if you want to spend, like I did, hours staring at pictures of developing babies so you can gauge how big your little one is at every stage of your pregnancy, this is the book for you.

Pregnancy and baby books: cover of Your New Pregnancy Bible by Dr Anne Deans

Far friendlier in tone than “What to Expect”,  it has clear explanations of the labour process and a great medical reference section. It gives added peace of mind because it was written by a team of eminent specialists under the direction of a leading UK obstetrician.

“….this latest edition of Your Pregnancy Bible has been updated to take account of recent changes in antenatal and newborn care and to provide a more comprehensive discussion of caesarean deliveries.

Given a fresh design, it still contains special fold-out sections on each of the trimesters and the birth process; week-by-week images of the developing baby; in-depth chapters dealing with all aspects of antenatal care, labour preparation, delivery experiences and care of the newborn; comprehensive reference sections on medical treatments and procedures in both pregnancy and the postnatal period and an extensive glossary of ante- and neonatal terminology”.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

When Caitlin was born I was completely clueless.  I hadn’t even put a nappy on a baby before.  And I certainly didn’t know anything about a day in the life of a baby.  For example, I had no idea that a newborn will need substantial naps during the day and will not be able to play for much more than 45 minutes at a time.

Pregnancy and baby books: cover of Secrets of The Baby Whisperer

It was with a huge sigh of relief that I stumbled upon Tracy Hogg’s wonderful Baby Whisperer books. Both this one and her problem solving guide (below) were invaluable in teaching me the importance of routines so that everyone in the family knows what is happening and where they are. Tracy sadly died in 2004 but her advice is still relevant today I think.

“In this remarkable parenting book, Tracy demystifies the magic she has performed with some five thousand babies. She teaches parents how to work out what kind of baby they have, what kind of mother and father they are, and what kind of parenting plan will work best for them.

Believing that babies need to become part of the family – rather than dominate it – she has developed a practical programme that works with infants as young as a day old. Her methods are also applauded by scientists: ‘Tracy’s is a voice that should be heard. She appears very knowledgeable about modern infant research and has incorporated this to a level parents can understand. In spite of all the baby how-tos on the market, this one will stand out.’

In case you’re wondering The Baby Whisperer method is often described as being in between crying it out methods and no tears methods. I liked it because Tracy does not advocate letting babies cry it out (unlike Gina Ford).

BUT she does not advocate “accidental parenting” which is where parents accidentally use props to get baby to sleep – like giving them a bottle, or rocking them, for example.

Several methods are given in the book to help parents teach their baby the all important sleep basics which includes a strictly structured routine (E.A.S.Y.) and the pick up put down (pu/pd) method for putting baby to bed.

E.A.S.Y. stands for Eating, Activity, Sleep and You and Tracy suggests timings for each activity according to the age of the baby.  The Pick Up, Put Down Method looks at how you put your baby to sleep in her cot and focuses on getting her to sleep alone.  Tracy suggests a “Four S” wind down ritual to set the scene (swaddling perhaps, sitting quietly, and shush-patting to help quieten your little one down). Even if you don’t adopt her ideas wholesale,  there are enough ideas in the book to help you work out what works for you and your baby.

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

The follow-on book to “Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer”, this one answers a whole host of questions from parents of babies at differing stages of development.

 

It focuses on the “Big Three” – sleep, feeding and behaviour from infancy to the age of 3 and explains Tracy’s philosophy and methods in much greater detail.  I think you really need both of these books to get the best out of the system.

Annabel Karmel’s The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner

Once Caitlin started her weaning around 4 months and had got past the baby rice and simple apple puree stage, I became completely stuck on what to feed her.  Annabel Karmel’s books were fantastic at giving a range of ideas for simple purees and combinations to educate your child’s palette and to introduce a wide range of foods.

I think it’s no coincidence that Caitlin will now eat anything and is quite adventurous in her tastes (olives, for example).   By the time Ieuan came along, he had less of a range of purees and mini-meals and is far fussier with food than his sister.

You will need a good blender and a range of freezer-proof pots in varying sizes.

Annabel Karmel is undoubtedly the UK’s No.1 author on feeding babies and children and this particular book is the one I turned to time and time again.

It contains: “the best first foods to try, tasty recipes and ideas for introducing more complex flavours and textures; meal planners and time-saving menu charts allowing you to highlight and record which recipes your children liked and disliked. The original version of this book has sold over 4 million copies worldwide, with Annabel becoming a leading resource for parents who want to give their growing family tasty, wholesome meals that even the fussiest eaters will love”.

So there you have it – my bibles, the pregnancy and baby books now handed on to other expectant and new mums so that they can feel as comforted by them as I did.  I’d love to hear about the books that you turned to during your pregnancy or that you are finding helpful whilst you await the arrival of your little one.

How To Entertain The Kids In The Holidays

It’s been the weirdest academic year ever, hasn’t it?  Caitlin and Ieuan have both returned to school for a few hours each week but, the long summer holiday looms and the usual necessity to keep them occupied and stave off wall to wall gaming and moans of “I’m bored”!

Last year I asked my readers for simple suggestions for entertaining kids over the upcoming six weeks and here’s what they came up with. I’m sure parents and carers across the country are doing broadly similar things but sometimes a list helps (I do like a good list).

Anyway, see what you think and if you have any suggestions to add, let me know in the comments below. Bear in mind that these activities may all be affected by the various COVID-19 restrictions where you live.  We can only hope that we will all be able to roam freely as the weeks pass by.

Activities Jar

Ask your kids what they’d like to do over the holidays and then write all their ideas on pieces of paper and pop them in a jar. Let them pick out two different things every day so, for example, baking and a nature hunt.

Art Alfresco

Get the kids outdoors and, if you’ve got the energy to get the jetwash out afterwards (or wait for rain!),  you’ll be amazed at home much fun they can have with a bucket of water and paintbrush or some coloured chalks.  Create your own Roman mosaic on the patio or pavement.  Just make sure it doesn’t annoy the neighbours.

Bake Off

Many kids enjoy baking and decorating simple items like biscuits and cakes. Not only is it creative, but you have an end product that everyone can enjoy together.  Older children can be taught how to cook basic dishes too like Spaghetti Bolognese or even something really simple like poached egg on toast. Pizza dough is easy to knock up and everyone can decorate their own with their favourite toppings. Just ladle on some Passata on top of the dough, sprinkle on cheese and toppings and off you go.

Beat boredom with board games

Everyone’s got their favourite, haven’t they?  Even though they might seem a little old fashioned these days, board games are still a great way for all the family to spend time together.  From the sophistication of Chess (which I’ve never got the hang of) to the wheeling and dealing of Monopoly or the solving of the murder in Cluedo, there’s bound to be one they enjoy.

Boxing clever

Several readers recommend large cardboard boxes as cheap and cheerful entertainment. One reader says that she spends a few weeks collecting cardboard boxes, tubes and bits and bobs then leaves it all out in her garden under the gazebo with paints, glue and other crafting bits so that the kids can create whatever they fancy.

Plus if you lose the cat, you’ll know where to find it.

Car boot sales

I’ve no idea if these are still going on but they are a great way to sell your own toys, books and games to make a few pounds for the family coffers.  Car Boot Junction has a list of car boot sales across the country so check them out.  Just be prepared for an early morning start!

Card sharp

Easy card games can keep kids occupied for hours, even Solitaire or Clock Patience.  As kids we learned Rummy, Knock-Out Whist and of course there’s Snap and Happy Families.  Poker might be taking it a step too far!

Chores for all

Many suggest giving kids a chore to do around the house each day and letting them know why they need to do it and how it will benefit them in their future. There are chores for kids of every age – even little ones can help put their toys back in the toy box.

One way of getting kids to do this, of course, is to bribe them but we tell our two that helping out around the home is expected of them.  We might let them earn a quid or two here and there if they help out with bigger stuff like washing the car but I’d suggest you avoid paying them to do what your parents expected you to do for free.

If you choose to give your kids pocket money (and many don’t), you do have some leverage when it comes to getting them to, say, tidy their room.  But, in our experience, not that much!

Create a holiday calendar

One parent commented: “I’ve found that the kids are less likely to keep saying they’re bored etc when there are days labelled on the calendar with activities. They seem to be calmer when they have things to look forward to”.  I think some children certainly struggle with a lack of structure and discipline and, of course, you may need a calendar if you are still working from home.  That seems to be on the agenda for many of us for quite some time to come.

Daily discipline

As well as a structure to the day, lots of parents said it was important to go out every day with your kids, even if it’s just a quick walk around the block.  Older kids can take the dog for a walk!  We try to stick to regular meal and bedtimes too, although bedtime tends to get later.  Tired and hungry kids are not the easiest to entertain!

Declutter!

Now is a great time to get everyone involved in wardrobe clearouts and general decluttering of toys, books and games that are no longer used. We have loads to take to the charity shops once they are accepting donations again.  For anything that might add a bob or two to the family coffers, there’s eBay or even Amazon marketplace, although take into account listing fees and charges from Paypal that can eat quite significantly into any profit.

Eating out

Again, who knows how things will pan out over the coming weeks but some fast-food drive-throughs are open and lots of places are now opening for takeaway or if they have outdoor space for tables. Pre-COVID, eating out used to be both a treat and a way of dragging the kids out to spend time as a family (and avoid cooking).

Save money by having your main course at home and then going out for dessert or ice cream.  You’ll find you’ll halve the bill you’d pay for a full meal for everyone.

And you can’t beat fish & chips eating on a park bench or by the sea – or a family picnic.

Gaming gripes

We know that left to their own devices, seeing our tweens and teens at all is doubtful when it comes to gaming and mobile phones. They vanish into their bedrooms and there they stay, surrounded by used mugs and crisp packets. We use software to limit access to Wi-Fi and try to set limits to screen time – in particular having a firm cut-off off 7:30 pm before bed.  Do we always stick to it?  Nope.  Fellow work-from-homers will sympathise and my advice would be to do what you can but don’t beat yourself up.  These are strange times and we all doing the best we can.  We’ve enough on our plate without sinking into a morass of guilt on top of everything else.

Garden time

Gardening is one of our kids’ favourite things to do when they visit their grandparents. Children are naturally fascinated by planting flowers and anything to do with mud and bugs!

Why not plant some herbs in pots or make some home-made bird houses.  A birdbath is a great way to keep visitors to your garden cool but be careful if there are lots of neighbouring cats.

You could also paint some rocks to decorate paths and borders or create a fairy garden with fairy doors and painted toadstools.

Teens and tweens can learn to move the lawn, weed and prune!

Hire a beachhut

You can find many beach huts for hire around the UK, including at the fabulous Barry Island (known to us as Barrybados), home of Gavin & Stacey and some very fine fish and chips.  A quick Google search will throw up lots of options.

And, talking of beaches, why not go shell or pebble hunting, or how about sea glass?  Bring your treasures home for arts & crafts sessions.

Kids of any age just love rock pooling too – just make sure an adult is on hand close by to supervise.

Love your library

Community resources like churches and libraries often have craft activity sessions or days during school holidays and they are likely to be inexpensive too!

See also Reading below.

National Trust Membership

Pricey but worth it if you have lots of National Trust sites around you and once you have paid for your annual pass you do save quite a bit on entry fees.  Here in Wales, you may be better off joining Cadw as there are only 2 NT sites local to Cardiff (Dyffryn Gardens and Tredegar House).  Don’t forget English Heritage too.

Lots of the NT sites have great play areas and I once read of a couple who, rather than visit motorway service stations for loo and coffee stops, headed for their local NT site instead.  Much nicer.  And better scones.

Party time & picnics

No, not the nightmare of one of those teen parties ‘advertised’ on Facebook (shudders).  My readers suggest holding an ‘unbirthday party’ – ideal for those kids who have a Christmas or Boxing Day birthday and tend to miss out – or what about a teddy bear’s picnic?

Who doesn’t like a picnic (well, leaving out the wasps obviously)?  Little ones can spend hours with a set of toy cups and saucers.  Let them play with water and make ‘cakes’ from your salt dough.

Or, get the kids in the kitchen to bake some cookies or cupcakes and serve them out in the garden with mini sandwiches, sausage rolls and some home-made lemonade.

If you’re going further afield, investing in a picnic kit is a good idea – try one that is in a backpack – or just use a cool box.

But please please take your rubbish home with you and don’t risk injuring others by doing daft things like burying those instant barbecue kits in the sand once you’ve used them or feeding the wildlife on scraps (especially horses).

Photography

Mobile phones have made almost professional quality photos available to everyone and there are plenty of apps that allow you to be creative and make flyers, posters, cards and collages (try Canva.com). That’s without delving into the world of Lightroom presets which I haven’t quite got to grips with yet.

One parent suggested having a daily photo challenge which would give you a wonderful memory book at the end of the holiday.  Or you could theme your photo challenges and send the kids off to capture wildlife, beaches, food, whatever you can dream up.  If you’re letting them borrow your phone, a good quality shock-proof case is in order.  Not one for the little ones!

Playdoh (or make your own)

Ah the hours spent playing with Playdoh as a child but you can make your own quite easily.  Here’s a simple salt dough recipe to try.

Rainy day blues

Lots of you keep craft boxes for rainy days, full of glue, sellotape, string, wool, felt, tissue paper and lots of craft bits.  I’d avoid the glitter though – not least because it’s pretty environmentally unfriendly and you never get rid of it.

Good old Google will find you lots of free templates for your kids to colour and Crayola has some free colouring pages too.

One enterprising parent suggested that you get some card blanks and get the kids to make Christmas cards for friends and family.  Now that is thinking ahead!

And, talking of colouring, there are plenty of colouring apps like HappyColor – painting by numbers that I find very calming and absorbing – great for kids and adults alike.

Reading

When I was a child I spent hours reading.  (Here’s my list of children’s classics).  These days there are Kindles and Kindle apps on phones and tablets for kids who won’t pick up an actual book.  We know that reading helps develop our children’s vocabulary which will stand them in good stead as they go to secondary school but we’ve found you do need to find the right books for them.  Authors such as Jacqueline Wilson (Tracy Beaker), Rachel Renee Russell (Dork Diaries), Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider books) are great places to start for older children.

There are plenty of classics that are free to download to a Kindle on Amazon and, of course, local libraries are beginning to reopen.  Many of these run reading challenges over the summer which are worth checking out.

Safari at home

You don’t need to go to Longleat.  Why not take your kids on safari in the back garden or at a local park or countryside. Take binoculars and a magnifying glass, borrow a nature guide from the local library and head out for some wildlife spotting.

As well as keeping your eyes peeled for bugs and animals also search for evidence such as paw prints and habitats. You can also teach your children to recognise different flowers, trees & shrubs or even birdsong.

Soft play

I’m happy to say that our soft play years are behind us but, if you can find a good one that’s clean and well supervised, it’s a great way to let younger kids burn off some energy whilst you grab a coffee and a little welcome me-time.

Sports day at home

Whilst I’ve never been a fan of school sports days, holding your own sports day at home sounds a lot more fun.  Sprinting challenges, egg and spoon and three-legged races are easy to organise and you can award a suitable prize to the lucky winner. If you haven’t got a garden big enough, hold your competition in the local park and take a picnic.  The adults can compete too.

TV & Tablet time

Fewer young people than ever are watching TV it seems, with most preferring to stream their entertainment rather than rely on BBC and ITV.  For little ones, though, CBeebies can be a lifeline for parents trying to juggle work and home, especially since COVID hasn’t exactly helped childcare providers.

A family movie night is always popular (generally because it means popcorn and a later bedtime) and there’s plenty of choice on Netflix and NowTV.

Tablets are very useful for travelling and for entertaining kids anywhere you have to wait like airport lounges and dentists’ waiting rooms.  There are plenty of apps that are fun but also educational.  Caitlin does all her school work via Google Classroom on an iPad.

As well as Happycolor (mentioned above), we love simple but absorbing game favourites like ToonBlast and older kids will love lost object games like Murder In The Alps, or my current obsession, June’s Journey. Be mindful that these games do offer ‘in-app’ purchases so make sure you’ve got any Apple passwords locked down!

Tents & dens

A tent in the garden is always a hit. It can be a den, or restaurant or where ever the children’s imagination takes them.   You can pick up a two-man tent relatively cheaply from somewhere like Go Outdoors but don’t leave the tent up for too long if you don’t want to wreck your lawn.

A cheaper option is old blankets and pillows and a little creativity.

If you’re going to let the kids sleep under the stars, they’ll need a responsible adult with them to supervise.

If you’re lucky enough to own a campervan or mobile home, even better.

Trampolines

A great way to burn off energy for all the family if you’ve got the space.  Just make sure that your trampoline is safely assembled and keep an eye on little ones.  Nobody needs an unnecessary trip to A&E at the moment, do they?  The same applies to any garden equipment.  My two have managed to fall off swings and slides plenty of times!

Walking

Free and good for you, a walk in the park, through the forest, along a canal or across a local beach is a great way to blow away the cobwebs. Combine it with some Pokemon Go and try your hand at geocaching, the world’s largest treasure hunt.  Use your trips out to collect items for crafting later in the week – twigs, leaves, pine cones, feathers etc.  Don’t pick the wildflowers though – leave them for everyone to enjoy.

You’ll also find lots of guidebooks for local walks and trails in your area either on Amazon or your local tourist website.

WhatsApp

A popular idea is to set up a Whatsapp group for friends and parents at school to share events and ideas. You can coordinate plans for playdays, picnics at the park, games of rounders etc. Pick up any flyers from the local library or community centre advertising free and discounted activities and share the details.

Zoos and aquariums

These guys really need our support at the moment due to the Government only recently allowing them to reopen.  We love The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth and Bristol Zoo, both great days out.  You may find your visit a different experience due to social distancing so make sure you take food and drink with you.

So hopefully there is something in the list that appeals.  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

How to Stroll Your Baby and Jog at the Same Time

Many women report feeling tired and unmotivated after giving birth, and the last thing they want to do is to work out. However, according to the NHS, going back to exercising after having a baby can help you relax and boost your energy levels, enabling you to take better care of your baby.

Furthermore, the sooner you get back to your usual exercise routine pre-baby, the less your chances will be of going through postnatal depression, which many new mums suffer from. If you used to work out at the gym, you might find it challenging to go back to your old ways when your baby is still small. However, this does not mean that you cannot get your workout in; it merely means that you should find alternatives to your gym classes like going on outdoor jogs, for example. 

 

Read on to find out how you can stroll your baby and jog at the same time.

Find the Right Baby Stroller

Baby strollers come in all shapes and sizes. Nowadays, you can find ones that are specifically designed to accommodate parents who have an active lifestyle. Besides asking for recommendations from your friends, you need to do thorough research and seek professional guidance, as it is a matter of preference after all. Visit trusted baby products’ websites that compare the pros and cons of an array of brands. To find the perfect jogging-friendly stroller, you can see more here and have your pick. Some basic features that you will want to keep an eye out for include stability of the stroller so your baby doesn’t bounce up and down as you jog. Also, it would be best if you made sure that the stroller is malleable enough to allow for seamless, one-hand manoeuvring. 

Spend Some Time Practising

Jogging while strolling your baby at the same time is not easy, it needs coordination and strength. It gets even harder when you bring wet weather into the equation as slippery grounds might make it almost impossible to control the stroller. The best thing you can do is to practice jogging while strolling around your house before you go out on the open roads. Take all the time you need until you are confident enough that you can react fast if anything goes wrong while jogging with your baby

Mind your Form

This is incredibly important if you have clearance from your doctor to go jogging in the early days after birth. Your body is probably still sore, and your muscles are weak after the delivery, so any wrong or intense movement can have serious adverse effects. Make sure you consult a physician about how to protect yourself when exercising after giving birth, and learn how you can identify your safe limits.

According to professional postnatal buggy trainers, as they are known in the UK, adjusting the handlebars on your baby stroller for your height will guarantee the right jogging posture without even trying to figure it out on your own. You indeed need to exert effort to reap the benefits of your exercise, but you have to get used to the fact that your body has changed, and you need to get reacquainted before you burden it with any expectations. 

Set a Realistic Jogging Schedule

If you used to be an avid runner pre-baby, you should understand that you will have to tweak your previous schedule to better suit your new lifestyle. Make sure you allow a couple of rest days between each jog and actively look for ways to help you relax and restore your strength. Salt baths and stretching are simple and easy things that you can do to release any tension that might arise from jogging while clenching your baby’s stroller in front of you. Your baby will also need to take a break from the chilly winds, so she/he doesn’t get sick. 

Wear the Right Clothes

You have to be comfortable enough when jogging. However, you might need to rethink your clothing choices if you are strolling your baby at the same time. Your loose fitted T-shirts might get tangled on the stroller’s handlebar, and make you lose your balance and trip. It is better to wear fitted clothes made from breathable material so you won’t overheat and get dizzy. If you are breastfeeding, make sure you wear breastfeeding-friendly sports bras to feed your hungry baby when you go on longer jogs. 

Jogging while strolling your baby can increase your calorie burn by 20%, which is what every new mum would like to hear when she wants to shed the extra pounds. However, it is not easy, and you will need to practice before you can incorporate it into your workout routine. Do some research to find the best stroller that is comfortable enough for both you and your baby so that you can enjoy your time outdoors.