Make The Most Of A Rainy Day With Kids

The British weather can be wonderfully unpredictable. You can bet that whenever you decide to have a family outing in the sunshine, it rains! Every parent knows the value of a backup plan. So here are some great suggestions for not letting rainy days dampen the family fun.  Read on for some great rainy day activities.

Photo by Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash

Rainy day activities for kids

Dig Out the Board Games

Every family has a hoard of games. They’ve probably been neglected in favour of smartphone apps, but now is the perfect opportunity to dust off the old-school games! Nothing quite brings a family together like a game of Monopoly or Connect 4. A board games championship provides a new twist and can easily occupy the family all afternoon.

Great Family Bake-off 

There are lots of cake recipes which do not require kids having to use a hot oven. Rocky road, for example, is delicious yet very easy to make. Bring out your best Mary Berry or Pru Leith impressions for the taste test. The losing side has to wash up! Adult supervision will be required for cutting and heating ingredients.

Get crafting!

Arts and crafts are the most popular choice for beating boredom on a rainy day. You don’t need a particularly extensive craft box. Just a few essentials that can be re-used for lots of projects. Make sure you have plenty of crafting staples such as crepe paper, paints and crayons for some no-sew crafts.  You might want to invest in a glue gun too.

Family Scrapbooking

There’s never usually time to organize family photos. Have a good sort through all of your albums and loose photos. Have everyone pick out their favourite snapshots to be featured in the scrapbook. All you need is a plain notebook, scissors, glue and pens. Get everyone involved in the decorative process. The kids can draw illustrations while the parents add written quotes.

Make a pillow fort

Watching a movie on the sofa is so overrated! Set up a pillow cave for a cosy home cinema experience. If the rain is particularly persistent, get kids to organize a mini-film festival. Handmade posters and popcorn are essential! You could even encourage children to write a film review after viewing. This will ensure their handwriting and literacy skills are being practised during the holidays.

Photo Credit Seamus McCauley

Get a head start on gifts 

Got a birthday or special occasion coming up? Check out these low-cost gift ideas. Even if you don’t make anything, planning the family schedule will keep everyone organized for the next few weeks. Pull down the calendar and write down everything you need to do before the kids go back to school. Remember to make time for more family fun too.

Have a jam session

Most homes will have a musical instrument lying around. If not, make your own! Pots and pans can be used as percussion. Rice in a cardboard tube can become an impromptu rain stick. Singing requires no accessories. You could even have a free karaoke session and use instrumental clips of popular songs from YouTube.

Rainy day activities for kids need not be complicated or expensive – and just think, you’ll be spending some much-welcomed quality time with your little ones.  If all else fails, just don your wellies and waterproofs and head outdoors for some puddling jumping!

4 Things Great Mums Do In Difficult Times

Sometimes you just have one of those days, don’t you?  Days when you are permanently chasing your tail and nothing goes right.  You oversleep, you forget to pack a sandwich lunch for your child’s school trip, there’s no clean school uniform and you haven’t got any change for the latest PTA demand. It would be very easy to just go back to bed and pull the duvet over your head. But, as parents, all of us will experience the challenge of parenting in difficult times.

parenting-parenting matters-how to parent-honest
Everyone faces tough times in their lives

We are all guilty of being disorganized sometimes and find ourselves envying those organised mums who never seem to have a hair out of place and who radiate loving kindness to their kids and those around them.

But what about when family problems such as a relationship breakdown or illness threaten to overwhelm us? Or when we find debts mounting, or redundancy looming on the horizon?

How great mums cope with parenting in difficult times

What is it that great mothers do differently at times like these?  Can we learn anything from them?

1. They have a strong network of friends and family to help them.

Some of us find it really difficult to ask for help.  As parents, we may also find ourselves prioritizing the kids’ social lives over our own but this is a mistake.

Stay at home mums in particular need adult conversation and the chance to share their problems.

This can’t really be done effectively via Facebook, although I have made some great friends this way. Nothing really replaces a good chat over a cup of coffee.

Takeaway tip:  make sure you keep in touch with your friends and family and don’t be shy to ask for help.  Reach out to other mums, strike up a conversation and ask them on a ‘mum date’ for a coffee or drink.  You’ll probably find they would welcome some company too.  When things go wrong you will find your mum friends are an invaluable source of support.

2. They focus on solutions, not problems

Bad things happen to good people as the saying goes, but dwelling on things you cannot change will get you nowhere and make you feel worse.

Great mothers know how to prioritize and to focus their energies on the things that matter. The health, happiness and security of children will always be one of their primary concerns.

They also know where to turn for the best impartial advice – whether to a solicitor or Citizens’ Advice Bureau for legal help, or to an organisation such as Relate for matrimonial and relationship advice.

There are times when an objective view is needed – and friends and family may often be too involved in a situation to give the best and clearest advice.

Takeaway tip:  recognize when you need professional advice and don’t be reluctant to seek it out. There are many sources of free, or low-cost advice and it is better to address a problem head-on than to let matters get worse, for example when debts are growing at an unmanageable rate. 

3.  They recognise that “this too shall pass”

No matter how bad things are now, great mothers hold on to the thought that everything changes and try to stay positive for their children.  Focusing on the good things in life is not always easy but if we try we can usually find the good in every day.  Teaching our children gratitude for the good things they have in their lives (even if that is just a mother who loves them to bits), is something that will help them to deal with their own problems later on in life.

Takeaway tip: no matter how ‘twee’ it sounds, focusing on the positive and writing a list of things you are truly grateful for will raise your spirits and may even show you a way to deal with the problems you face.

4.  They practise self-care

When parenting in difficult times, great mothers know that they have to take care of themselves to be an effective carer for the children (and, these days, probably their parents too).  It is not selfish to take some regular time out for yourself, even if it is just for a long bubble bath or a coffee with a friend.  They make sure that they eat well and get enough sleep.

Takeaway tip:  looking after yourself need not cost a lot of money.  Ten minutes of mindful meditation, a brisk walk or even a brief nap will help calm you and clear your head to say can return to your problems with a fresh viewpoint.

We all have times in our lives when things do not go as we hoped or planned but we need to develop our own strategies for dealing with them so that we can look after ourselves, our children and our families.

How do you cope with parenting in difficult times?

For loads more parenting advice, just visit the parenting section of my blog.

He’s Not Babysitting – He’s Parenting!

I often read blog posts about the challenges (for ‘challenges’ read ‘bombshells’) experienced by new mothers. It is physically, emotionally and spiritually draining.

Childbirth changes you in ways you never previously suspected.  You feel everything more intensely and your propensity for feeling guilty increases a thousandfold.

I’m not sure who looks more perplexed here!  Mat and Caitlin in 2008

But there is one key skill, I think, that all new mothers need and that many fail to master.

No, I’m not talking about putting a nappy on one-handed whilst drinking a cuppa and cradling the phone beneath your chin.

I am not talking about the motorised instrument of torture that is the breast pump.  (It’s ironic that you are expected to ‘express’ milk because there was nothing very speedy about mine!).

I’m talking about the ability to ask for help – and accept it.

Because, let’s be honest, offers of help are not always forthcoming.  Everyone is so busy with their own lives and particularly if you are a stay at home mum, you will most likely find yourself home alone with your new, albeit magical, plus one.

I saw on Twitter the other day a dad complaining that he was congratulated for ‘babysitting’ his own child when, as he so rightly put it, he was parenting.

There is, I think, a temptation for new mums to immerse themselves completely in motherhood to the exclusion of their partner.

Very little is actually written about what it is like for new dads.  It must be very frustrating to find that, having done midnight runs for curry and gherkins, listened endlessly to birth plans (which are usually jettisoned as soon as labour begins in earnest) and planned the first bike rides, country jaunts and trips to the seaside, they find themselves rather surplus to requirements.


And then, if they are left in charge of their newborn son or daughter, we congratulate them for ‘babysitting’.

I have done this myself and I think it’s because new mums feel it’s their mission to single-handedly ensure the baby thrives – and that only they can do it.

As a new mum, you may become consumed with a perfectionism you never had before. Nappies must be put on just so.  Baby must be laid down like this.  And on it goes.

There is a sense in this because, at least in my experience, creating a routine that works for all the family is vital.  We become obsessed with baby’s bowel movements and when they will ‘sleep through’.  Every ounce of their weight is recorded.  We wait, anxiously, for the first toothless smile.

But, at some point, you have to let go, for your sanity and your health and also for your baby.  This is even more important, of course, if your partner is not around to support you both – and a time when you really need your family and friends.

For those of us lucky enough to have a partner on hand, as mothers we need to let them in and share the experience and learn by doing.  That is not meant to be patronising.

It is the same logic used in delegating in the workplace. A team is stronger than a single individual.

And if we don’t encourage dads to get ‘hands-on’ and acknowledge their input as ‘partners’ in both senses of the word, then we play into the hands of the dyed-in-the-wool sexists who still refer to looking after baby as ‘women’s work’; the sort of people who think a man’s role in the birth process is to have a stiff whisky.

If we don’t encourage dads to play an equal role then we will only have ourselves to blame if they regard their input as ‘babysitting’.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, there is no shame in asking for an hour out for a coffee, or in asking for help with some of the routine household tasks (ironing, putting a batch of washing on etc).

When we’re stressed, we somehow think people can read our minds whereas a short list of things that need to be done and some basic instructions are far more useful!

If we involve our partners in childcare and we ask for help from friends and relatives, our experience in those first few challenging months may be even more memorable – for all the right reasons.

We do dads a disservice when we deny them the opportunity to create their own memories with their newborn child.

And we do ourselves a disservice when we won’t ask for help at a time when we really, REALLY, deserve it.

Dads don’t babysit.  They parent.

Will You Let Your Kids Stay Up To See In The New Year?

New year’s eve. Now, this is something that tends to polarise parents.  There are the “it’s only one night and they can sleep in tomorrow” crowd and the “you have to be joking, keeping them up that late is abuse” crowd. Do you let your kids stay up to see in the new year?

Will you let your kids stay up to see in the new year? New year's eve fireworks

I tend to fall in between the two camps.  Having seen the effect of lack of sleep on my two though, I’m not entirely sure that keeping them up to see in something which has very little meaning at that age makes a whole heap of sense.  To be honest, I’m pretty grumpy myself if I stay up much past 11 pm.

We recently took our two to see the fabulous Mary Poppins at Wales Millennium Centre and because we were slow to book, as usual, we could only get tickets for an evening performance.

The kids had an ‘enforced nap’ early afternoon much to their chagrin but it did mean that they were brighter and I think enjoyed the show more.  There were other kids there but quite a few had fallen asleep in their parents’ arms.  Sweet, but a waste of a quite expensive ticket.

Do kids really want to be partying with a house full of tipsy (or worse) adults?  Actually, I suppose it’s no different on Christmas Day really, is it?

It’s probably fine if you’re not doing anything on new year’s day but if you are going visiting with a hangover and unruly, knackered kids it’s not going to be much fun is it? Either for you or your hosts.

Perhaps the solution is to have a mini New Year’s Eve celebration before the kids go to bed. A special story and a snuggle to plan all the lovely adventures they can have next year? There’s no reason why you can’t all sing “Auld Lang Syne” before they go to bed, is there?

Will you let your kids stay up to see in the new year? Baby girl in a pink tutu sleeping on a white sheeted bed

I would far rather start the New Year off in a relatively calm and peaceful fashion rather than with the sounds of morning to night bickering, tears and door slamming  (the joys of living with a tween).

So I asked my fellow parenting bloggers what they did and, as usual, they had some brilliant advice to offer.

Sally: I let mine stay up until midnight once they reached about 10. Now they are 15 and 13, they stay up a little later than that. We have an afternoon nap on New Year’s Eve, and then a quiet day and an early night on 1st Jan!

Lauren: I’m taking mine to a kid-friendly rave where everyone celebrates midnight at 6 pm. Home and in bed by 8 pm none the wiser! They’re 1 and 3.

Katie: My daughter has additional needs and cannot cope with disruption or lack of sleep so we have a fake midnight much earlier in the evening, with the previous year’s Big Ben fireworks on TV! Much easier than an overtired grotty child to start the year!

Amy: We don’t even stay up to welcome the new year in anymore, my pair are 5 and 8. If we did the 5-year-old wouldn’t last past bedtime (8 pm) and the 8-year-old would outlast us all. I swear she doesn’t need sleep.

Charlotte: Our son is almost 5 and he stays up, he has insane amounts of stamina and if we are all staying in we might as well see in the new year together. (You can find Charlotte’s post about just this topic here at The Mummy Toolbox.)

Cathryn: My children are 7, 5 and 2 and so far have not stayed up until midnight. We get together with other families with young children and bring the celebrations forward a few hours – start about 4 pm, food and drinks about 5 pm, party games and then we go outside about 7 pm and all sing Auld Lang Syne then. We also then usually watch the Sydney celebrations on YouTube or record it from earlier in the day, as they are obviously ahead of us. The kids usually last until about 9 pm and the other families head home then.

Melly: Mine are 11, 10, 7 and 3. I put them to bed with the threat if they don’t go to bed nicely I won’t wake them for midnight. At ten to midnight, I wake them and they go back to bed around 12.30. Works fine. If they sleep in a bit I don’t mind.

Amanda at Ginger-Mum.Com says: My two boys are 10 & 4 (5 in Feb) and they have strict bedtimes most of the year. However, as we always go to a family party with all of our local friends with kids, we go for dinner then they stay up as long as they can last. If the younger one is tired my husband takes him back home early but he loves it and the excitement of partying with their friends carries them both through. The key thus far has been him having a sleep in the car earlier in the day as we are out and about but this won’t last much longer. We have a lovely lie in the next day followed by a brisk walk and a huge lunch. Works for us!

I think I’m going to have to be more creative and get the party going a bit earlier in the day!

How do you celebrate the New Year with your little ones? Will you let your kids stay up to see in the new year?

Whatever you do this new year’s eve, I hope you enjoy it – and have a peaceful new year’s day!

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16 Top Tips To Help Your Kids Eat Healthier

How to get your kids to eat healthy is one of the constant battles of parenthood in my experience.  It can be a constant struggle if you have fussy eaters – and one that has been well documented in this blog!

How to get your kids to eat healthier - Caitlin & Ieuan laughing and drinking milk together

This useful infographic from  has some great ideas but bear in mind point 16 – don’t beat yourself up.

These things take time – and I speak as a woman whose 9-year-old son still won’t eat mashed potato on the basis that he hates the texture and whose 10-year-old daughter loathes peas.

how to get your kids to eat healthy - infographic from Families Online

How to get your kids to eat healthy isn’t such a complex problem as long as you’re prepared to be consistent and to apply these ideas daily.

It also really helps if your partner is on board too so that you can put forward a united front.  That just leaves Grandma and Grandpa to convince, doesn’t it?

What’s your favourite tip – and have you any to add?

Parenting Solo – What I’ve Learned When The Husband Is Away

Although he has the luxury of ‘working from home’, the Husband spends most of his weeks travelling which leaves me to hold the fort and experience the joys of parenting solo.

parenting solo - Caitlin and Ieuan arguing in the garden
There’s never a dull moment

Now I am not claiming that my experience of parenting solo is anywhere near that of a single parent but my time alone with the kids has given me an insight into the trials and tribulations we parents face when the role of good cop and bad cop falls to us for days on end.

In the early days, I used to feel very anxious at being left alone and I still hate locking up at night. Houses tend to make all sorts of funny noises when they cool down and I am such a scaredy-cat that I hate passing uncurtained windows just in case someone is lurking.

Of course, I can’t pass on any of this anxiety to the kids!

Here’s what I’ve discovered when I’m parenting solo.

The kids will gang up on you

My two have worked out how to wind me up with all the subtlety of MI5 in order to avoid i) eating unnecessary vegetables and ii) getting into bed before I have spent 30 minutes pacing the floorboards while they clean one tooth at a time.

The logical extension of this is that the kids will then start to parent you, viz, “Mum, you’re really grumpy so we think you should go to bed at the same time as us tonight”.

They will all want to use the same toilet

It doesn’t matter how many toilets there are in the house, they will all want to use the same one – especially if you are in it.

They will also synchronise bladders to precisely 5 minutes before bedtime, even though they otherwise have the bladder capacity of camels.

There will never be any toilet roll left.  The cardboard tube will be rolling around the floor and new toilet rolls will have to be unearthed from the cupboard under the stairs using a torch and several choice expletives.

You will not find out that the toilet roll has run out until 11:59 pm.

There will be something very urgent to be communicated as soon as you go downstairs at night

For example, whether Caitlin can go to the beach to collect sea glass or if Ieuan can buy his 27th light-sabre.  How the Hadron Collider works – that sort of thing.

Your attempts to cook will be futile

Firstly you’ll be so knackered from the constant negotiation to get them to school and back, plus homework and the usual after school activities that you won’t feel like it.

If you do cook anything it won’t be as good as dad’s and you may just as well resign yourself to pizza, spag bol and something inventive with fish fingers.

parenting solo - my baked potato hedgehog
My lovely Hedgehog Potato

Any household appliance about to burn out or break down will do so

Our boiler likes to cut out from time to time ensuring a short, sharp icy shower.  It never does this when I am bathing the kids, but saves it for me.

If the kids are going to be ill,  it’ll be now

You know that tremor you feel in your gut when you hear 60% of your kid’s classmates have gone down with the latest plague?  That suspicion that you’re next on the list?  It usually happens when the husband’s away.  Best get the bucket and Dettol out just in case.

And if the kids aren’t ill, it’ll be you

In which case don’t bother because languishing in your bed waving a lace hanky around and demanding smelling salts won’t get you anywhere.  The best you can hope for is gnawing a chunk of yesterday’s pizza slumped in front of Power Rangers in your dressing gown whilst the kids moan about your cooking.

In any case, you will have run out of Calpol

I swear the stuff evaporates.  We do, however, have a cutlery drawer containing 25 Calpol syringes.  I should throw them out but they may come in, you know, useful at some point.  For feeding baby hamsters or something.

You won’t get to talk to your other half on the phone

When the Husband phones, I either have to physically remove the phone from the kids whilst they run through their day minute by minute, or the poor sod gets little more than a grunt from them because they are lost in YouTube or Roblox.

He does little better with me because I am, by this stage, cross at being left alone whilst he,  in my eyes, is living it up in 5-star luxury in a place which never runs out of toilet roll and has things like a mini bar and staff.

You talk to yourself

I do this anyway but in the absence of any other adult conversation, I find I can have very interesting two-way conversations about business, politics, literature – all sorts of things.

When it becomes a three-way conversation I know I’m getting a bit stressed.

You need your mum and your mates

It’s great to have someone to turn to when it all gets too much and, for stay-at-home mums like me, I have made some great friends on Facebook.  There’s also the wisdom of other parenting bloggers too. We’re all going through the same things and sharing our experiences.

You might indulge in a bit of ‘whingeing’

Having given up work and despite being lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mum, there are times when I hanker after the freedom that comes with leaving for a job every morning and having someone left behind to carry the load.

I don’t doubt that the Husband works very hard but sometimes I think we mums just wish we could hit the off switch for a bit and give our brains a rest from all that fretting and mothering!

You count your blessings

You know it’s not actually so bad and you do discover you can cope with more than you thought.  You do get an insight into what it might be like to be a full-time single parent.  I have written before that single parents have nothing but my absolute admiration.

It makes you appreciate your partner a lot more, although it does shine a light on your individual parenting styles.  The Husband always says I am not consistent in my approach which is often true – but when there’s one of you, you don’t always want to be the bad cop, do you?

I do think there is what I can the “superstar daddy syndrome” – where the partner comes home and the kids react as if David Beckham has just walked in.  You are suddenly invisible.  That mad woman chewing pizza in her dressing gown moaning about the lack of toilet roll.

This usually lasts about 24 hours – or until the Husband lays down the law about vegetable eating or cleaning teeth in under 15 minutes.

Then,  happily, balance is restored.  Mummy is rightfully restored to her place as all-round nurturer and the nice one who soothes brows and knows where the Calpol syringes are.

It’s very easy to get quite competitive for the kids’ attention, isn’t it?

There’s nothing like one partner working away and the other holding the fort to throw a torchlight on a relationship and your parenting styles.

Being older, the Husband and I are quite traditional in our approach and we have a system that works for us but you may find that time spent parenting on your own for a bit throws up all sorts of issues that need an honest discussion and possibly a renegotiation of responsibilities.

Do you have to parent solo from time to time?

Make sure you’ve got enough toilet roll and pizza.

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5 Life Lessons To Share With Your Kids

There is such a lot we need to teach our children and we have such a short space of time to do it. A key aspect of parenting is recognising that we have so many life lessons to share and working out which are the most important for our children at the varying stages of their lives.

life lessons to share - Caitlin and Ieuan on the sofa

5 life lessons to share with your kids

These 5 are some of the most important life lessons to share with my kids – and you may find them useful too.

An education is never a waste.

I’ve never believed that “school days are the best days of your life” because mine, frankly, were endured rather than enjoyed, but I do believe that if you stop learning, you stop growing as a person.

You may not need to understand glaciation or the digestive system of a rabbit but you are learning how to assimilate information, how to analyse and apply it.

When we get the inevitable “I don’t want to go to school” from the kids we gently explain that the subjects they are learning are like building blocks to a successful future.

That if they learn to read, they can learn anything. That if they want to do a job they love, they need to learn now.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

As a general principle, this one stands the test of time.

Friendship and money do not mix.

That is not to say we would ever turn our backs on a friend in need but I think if you lend in those circumstances you are better off viewing the loan as a gift.

The kids are learning about money and the importance of saving at the moment.

They are also learning about deferred gratification.

The “I want it now” mentality has probably led an awful lot of people into the path of payday loans and a whole heap of credit card debt.

It’s often not about you.

Yes, you have to stand up for yourself when someone is horrid to you but it helps to remember that happy, well-adjusted people usually don’t feel the need to bully, belittle or intimidate.

If we can all remember that then perhaps we can treat bad behaviour towards us with sympathy and even a bit of compassion rather than letting the sad person indulging in it push our buttons to shore up their frail egos.

With the kids, whilst we tell them firmly that they must not put up with other children being horrible to them, we also tell them that if a special friend has been grumpy or a bit off, it is not necessarily anything to do with them.

Say sorry.

The flip side of this is that when we are in a bad mood it is very easy to take it out on other people.

As a family, we make a point of apologising when we need to, especially to the kids.

We need to model the behaviour we want our kids to adopt so, if I’ve been a bit grumpy, I will explain the reasons why to the kids and apologise.

Make the most of every day.

This one is probably the most difficult of the lot.

There are so many horror stories in media that sometimes I can’t bear to read them.

Making the most of every day is one of the things I struggle with but sometimes you just have to sit down, breathe and say “this is where we are now, and it’s OK”.

The kids are always looking ahead to the next weekend, trip out, cinema visit or party and we gently remind them that we can have a good time NOW, today.

Do you have any life lessons to share with your children?  What do you think of mine?

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Back To School Hacks For Busy Mothers

It isn’t just the kids that dread going back to school; it can send parents into a frenzy too. The school run, packed lunches, school uniforms, remembering to sign every consent form the teachers send home (if your child remembers to give it you in the first place). Don’t worry, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last parent to feel like this.

Luckily, those wise parents who have gone before us have come with some stress relieving back to school hacks. Here are some of the best.

Caitlin & Ieuan at St. Fagans, Cardiff. Back to school hacks

Make the Class Schedule Your Screen Saver

If, like many parents, you’re given a class list and your child’s timetable at the beginning of the year, take a picture of it and save it as your computer or smartphone screensaver. That way, you don’t have to worry about misplacing it when you need it and you’ll always have easy access to the details you need when they spring into your mind. So, if you’re desperate to find out if your child needs a P.E kit for tomorrow but your child can’t remember, you have the answer right in front of you.

Bag Checking Routine

You’ve probably already found that your child’s teacher put’s permission slips in your child’s bag to take home. If your child doesn’t tell you about them, they’re likely to stay in there and never get signed. So, the best way to deal with this is to check the bag on a daily basis. Once you get into the routine of coming home and checking the bag immediately, you’re unlikely to forget anything. Even if your child has a see-through book bag, it’s still possible to miss things, so make sure you are checking.

Footwear Preparation

The start of the school year brings month’s’ worth of unpredictable weather. Many parents have been caught out doing the school run and having to deal with a sudden down pouring of rain. For kids, it’s best to have school shoes, trainers and wellies at the ready, so you’re prepared for any eventuality. When it’s likely to rain, take a spare pair of wellies and raincoat with on the school run. For parents, it’s best to have some simple footwear you can change into. If you’re picking your child up at school and you need to make a mad dash to the car, running in heels could cause an injury.

Child's alphabet and colouring pencils - back to school hacks

Organising Homework

If your dining table starts to look more like an arts and crafts project while your kids are trying to do their homework, they may need some help organising things. Try colour coding their exercise books so they don’t have to empty everything out of their bags before finding what they need. If pages of their exercise books become stuck together, try using some dental floss to separate the pages.

Fruit Hack

Did you know that young children are more likely to eat fruit while at school if the fruit has been cut into segments? If you’ve noticed that your child isn’t eating the fruit you provide, try cutting it up before putting it in the lunch box. You can find lots of lunchbox ideas in this post.

Going back to school doesn’t have to be a nightmare with a bit of pre-planning and organisation.  You’ll find more great ideas to get you organised in this post and feel free to share any back to school hacks of your own.

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Mums – Struggling With The School Holidays Already? You’re Doing Fine!

Well, I bet many of us are already feeling a little, how shall I put it, wrung out having looked after our little darlings for a few weeks. Parenting during the summer holidays can certainly be a challenge, can’t it?

Cue much muttering from the “well what did you expect” and “why did you have kids then if you didn’t want to look after them” brigade.

parenting during the summer holidays: Linda Hobbis with Caitlin and Ieuan at Pizza Express, Cardiff Bay

At Pizza Express with the kids a few years ago

Many of us find ourselves as the sole childcare provider if our other half is working and, of course, the cost of childcare can be exorbitant – thank God for grandparents.

Let’s press the mute button on our critics and acknowledge one or two things, shall we?

We love our kids and they love us.

It is our responsibility to set boundaries, limits, call them what you will so that our children learn how to fit in.

(Yes I know little Johnny has every right to kayak around the world eating lentils and being ‘free’ but such things are easier with an education and some sort of gainful employment under your belt).

parenting during the summer holidays - collage featuring Caitlin and Ieuan

Sometimes, the setting of boundaries requires, (whisper it), raising your voice and imposing sanctions – whether that be the removal of an iPad or time out.

The imposing of such sanctions very often makes you feel like s**t.

Learning to play independently is a valuable skill.

We do not need to provide wall-to-wall entertainment involving crafting, cooking, painting, singing, board games or reading for the entire time our kids are awake.

Meaningful interaction is required of course, but if you find yourself devising a time-table, I suggest you make yourself a coffee and have a word with yourself.

That ‘word’ should involve asking yourself the following question honestly.

“What kind of mother do I want to be” and “Am I physically, mentally and emotionally capable of being that kind of mother?”

Culturally, our society prefers its mothers to have more in common with the Virgin Mary than it does with the living, flesh and blood conglomeration of discordant emotions that many of us consist of.

From an early age, we are taught that ‘mothers’ are sweet, caring and nurturing.

They are selfless, self-sacrificing and willing to relinquish all sense of entitlement to individual happiness just to ensure their offspring thrive.

Readers of this blog may recall that I have, on occasion, found myself identifying with Joan Crawford.

A rather stark counterpoint to the cultural fantasy described above.

The point, of course, is that the kind of mother you want to be is the kind that you are able to be.

An honest assessment of your failings, together with a plan to improve (where you can) is likely to be far more fulfilling for you and your kids than to mope on the sofa at the end of the day with a large glass of vino whilst muttering “I’m just not cut out for mothering”.

If you’re short on patience and your temper is frayed, make sure your self-care is up to scratch.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Eating right?

Drinking enough water?

Are you asking for help?

If you really are at the end of your tether and you can afford it, hire a babysitter (or bribe a relative) and just take two or three hours out for you – even if that’s just nursing a coffee at Costa.

Or arrange to babysit for a friend in return for a night out with your partner or best friend.

Listen, if you are kind, caring and compassionate, if you soothe hurting tummies and wipe away tears, even if you sometimes shout quite loudly, it’s all OK.

So, take a deep breath.

Put your guide to local attractions and “501 free things to do with the kids” down for a moment.

Geo caching whilst wearing floral wellies can wait.

Building a fully functional mobile home out of cardboard boxes and an old camping trailer can be shelved, as can baking a cake in the shape of Mr Tumble.

Tomorrow, when the dark cloud of “useless mothering” looms large over your head, turn everything with a screen off.

Throw some cushions on the floor and just sit down with your kids, tell them a story or just chat.

That’s all they really want.  Your attention. Even if it’s just for an hour. Heck,  I’ve convinced myself.  I’m going to give it a go.

After all, kids are human too.  Parenting during the summer holidays? P’ah.  It’s a breeze. Now, where’s my wine.

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parenting during the summer holidays - mum looking stressed in a kitchen with 2 children

Am I A Good Mother? Just Pass Me The Paracetamol And Call Me Joan

It’s been a Joan Crawford sort of day. If I had a turban and a cocktail shaker they would have come in useful. I have found myself wondering “am I a good mother” – again!

My mood has veered from tired, frustrated, tetchy and on the edge of morphing into my arch nemesis “Shouty Mummy“.

Shouty Mummy is a stranger to Veet and likes the occasional cigar.

Am I a good mother? Joan Crawford

The late, great Joan Crawford

So what has Mommy Dearest been up to on this blustery perimenopausal day?

Washed net curtains to get rid of mildew (#FAIL), took kids to the supermarket and tried to avoid buying any more cheap plastic toys (#EPIC FAIL) and cooked (well reheated) spaghetti bolognese (#FAIR TO MIDDLING).

Leaving aside my peculiar fondness for net curtains (how very Miss Marple), this has hardly been a day of sterling successes.

And, as a ‘late’ mother, this is one of the hardest aspects of motherhood to deal with after working for so many years.

Now, marketing is one of those professions where you can easily spend years feeling like you haven’t achieved anything at all.

In legal services, where I spent over 13 years, marketing is still in some Jurassic quarters viewed as “something to do with golf”.

Things have moved on but it may not be the best career choice for the results driven.

My daily question to myself is “how do I know I’m doing this (mothering) right?” Am I a good mother? Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that you are, you have to feel it deep inside.

I worry that one mummy tantrum may irrevocably scar my kids, one shout too many may stunt their emotional development and one denial of a smile in favour of a stern talking to may blight their ability to ever play more than chopsticks on the piano.

I have a very conflicted view of discipline.

Motherhood involves a kind of subjugation of ‘self’.

It’s all about the needs of others, kids, husbands, partners, family, pets and I think sometimes maternal moodiness is more to do with this loss of identity than it is with the stress of parenting.

I struggle to find an appropriate role model for late motherhood.

Celebrity mothers have an army of nannies and housekeepers, not to mention personal trainers and chefs so I’m not sure their lessons are applicable to a stay at home mum in South Wales.

Am I a good mother?  Well, the kids are alive, eating (not vegetables obviously) and expressing varying degrees of attachment to me so it’s not all bad.

If you can think of an inspiring older mum, please comment and let me know. In the meantime, it’s a strong cup of tea for me, unless there’s a ‘y’ in the day.

Oh come on now, you know that makes it a legitimate wine night.

*This post was first published in October 2013.  I’m not entirely sure I’m any the wiser on the mothering front.

How To Explain Cancer To A Child With The Help Of Nurse Ted

With it being estimated that one in two of us may suffer some form of cancer during our lifetime, how difficult must it be to have to explain cancer to a child?  It is, hopefully, something I will never have to do for Caitlin and Ieuan and yet it would be naive to blindly assume that it would never happen. My dad is a prostate cancer survivor whilst my maternal grandmother, Phyllis, died at just 60 from bowel cancer in 1976 when I was 12.

I don’t remember much about that time.  In those days cancer was talked about in hushed tones and, in our family, not really discussed.  I do remember my mother travelling up and down from Cardiff to Plymouth several times and being allowed to visit my grandmother once more in the downstairs drawing room where a bed had been made for her. Despite being close to the end, she had still done her hair and applied her make-up (Ponds Cold Cream, Bourjois Blusher and pink lipstick). My grandmother would not have dreamt of receiving visitors looking less than groomed.

explain cancer to a child with the help of Nurse Ted

I still think of her often and wish more could have been done for her but the fear I felt, the confusion, the not knowing and not understanding the reactions of the adults around me has never left me.

I have discovered a beautifully written book which helps parents and carers to explain cancer to a child in a way that takes the confusion and fear out of the situation for them.  A book, in fact, which would have helped if not me, at 12, then certainly my younger sister Sarah who was 9 at the time.

A guide that helps explain cancer to a child

Nurse Ted  – A Children’s Guide to Cancer by Ffion Jones and Kerry Foster-Mitchell tells the story of Ben, whose mum receives a cancer diagnosis and goes to the hospital for treatment.  The tale follows the family through Ben’s mum’s treatment and ends with her recovering at home after her treatment.

Nurse Ted explains to Ben what is happening, what cancer is and how it is treated.  This is done in a gentle, yet practical way.  For example:- “I told Ben that every cancer is different.  Cancer is an umbrella for more than 100 different illnesses where cells grow where they shouldn’t”.

explain cancer to a child - Ben's mum had become unwell

There is no sugar coating, however, and the story is realistic without being alarming.  We see Ben’s mum wearing a scarf over her head after chemotherapy-related hair loss.

And, at the end of the story, there is no automatic happy ending, rather we are shown a family who have grown together and who are determined to face the future no matter what it may bring.

At the back of the book, there is a glossary of terms aimed at children such as “Radiotherapy – a special cancer treatment using x-rays.  The x-rays are directed at cancer cells to try to stop them growing”.

And there is a list of the side effects of both radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as well as space for the child to note down their thoughts and feelings.

Lastly, there is a cut-out parent/carer guide to help you to tell your children and suggestions about how to support them through their parent’s treatment.

Nurse Ted – A Children’s Guide to Cancer is a really useful resource which may make a very difficult situation a little easier for the family.  Kerry Foster-Mitchell is a neuro-oncology clinical nurse specialist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, whilst Ffion Jones is the author and illustrator of seven children’s picture books.

You can find the book at RRP £7.99 where there is also a guide on how to explain brain tumours to children.

Tips For Parenting Tweens

We all know how fast our kids grow up – and they seem to mature earlier and earlier. Caitlin, at 10 is well in the throws of tween-dom with Ieuan, at 8, not so far behind. Don’t you find the younger children seem to race to catch the oldest up?  It’s a far cry from the days when they could be kept happy with CBeebies and an extra large ice-cream (although the ice-cream still works sometimes). Yes, parenting tweens certainly brings its share of unique challenges.

Parenting tweens - young girl picking daisies in a meadow

Parenting tweens brings its own challenges

The challenge of parenting tweens

It can be hard to cope as you see your kids becoming their own person and challenging your views and opinions. Here are some tips you might find useful for parenting tweens.

Don’t take it personally

It’s only human nature to take what your tweens say to heart when they lash out or are after something. They know you well enough to be able to push your buttons and aim that arrow right to the heart for full effect!

Try not to take what they are saying personally.  The best approach is to calmly acknowledge what they are saying by feeding it back to them. Say what you observe.  “I can see that my saying no to the party has upset you”.  “I can see that you feel my banning Roblox is unfair”.

Acknowledging that you recognise what they are saying and feelings does not mean you are letting them off the hook when it comes to treating you with respect.

You need to stay firmly in your role as an adult and, if they are shouting at you or being disrespectful, then you should point this out. It’s that fine line between being a parent and being a friend.

That means you need to watch your reactions and not have an ‘adult tantrum’ – so easy to do when you are tired. Don’t load on the guilt – “I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you”. Try to judge the behaviour as a momentary lapse, rather than a permanent stain on their character. “That behaviour is unacceptable” rather than, “you are a pain in the backside and your behaviour is getting worse!”.  Big difference.

Ask the grandparents or a family friend

If it all gets too much, just say “I’m really not able to deal with this right now.  Let’s take a break and we’ll discuss it later”.  Sometimes it helps to talk about the problem with another adult first – their other parent, a grandparent or a good friend.  Incidentally, grandparents are great sounding boards because they know you and how you react to situations.  It may be that you are over-reacting or that there’s a simple solution you just haven’t considered.

Lead by example

Often easier said than done, but rather than just telling them what they should be doing, demonstrate the behaviour you want them to adopt. Kids are like sponges and they miss nothing. You can be sure every slip-up, swear word, momentary rudeness and less than sparkling attitude has been duly noted and stored.

Show them what to do by setting a great example.  It’s normal for kids to try on different behaviours and particularly to see which behaviour gets the most attention.  You can be sure that your bad behaviours will appear at some point – usually in the most embarrassing situation possible.

If you do slip up, explain that you are not happy with how you just behaved and the reasons why that behaviour was inappropriate.  If I shout and am grumpy, I will explain to the kids that I am sorry, I am tired and whilst this doesn’t excuse my behaviour, everyone is human and slips up sometimes.

Impose appropriate punishments

I’m not even sure that ‘punishment’ is the right word but when you are pushed to the limit, it’s certainly the word that springs most readily to mind.  Discipline is a better word because it implies strong, yet more gentle guidance. However you choose to phrase it, it’s a case of ‘the punishment should fit the crime’.  I don’t believe you should allow your children to grow up believing bad behaviour has no consequences because, in the wider world, it most certainly does.

The challenge is to make your point without exacting physical or psychological harm to your child.  The most popular one I hear many parents talk about is withdrawing Wi-Fi privileges or cutting pocket money. As kids get older the threat of an early bedtime has less of an effect, whilst ‘grounding’ them and refusing to taxi them to parties and after-school clubs just might.

But talking may be far more effective

Far better to sit down with them and talk about what happened to see if they understand why there’s an issue and whether there are wider implications you haven’t thought of.  Is the bad behaviour a reaction to a new partner?  Is it sibling jealousy?  Are they being picked on in school?  Is it just hormones?

Parenting tweens - young girl looking at a a mobile phone

Photo by from Pexels

Keeping them safe is even more of a priority

Tweenagers are at that tricky stage where they still need lots of support and attention.  Because they start spending more and more time in their inner worlds, it is often difficult to gauge what is going on with them. For example, knowing who their friends are, or how well they are doing academically.  Of course, you can talk to their teachers at parents’ evening but that doesn’t always give you the bigger picture.

When children are spending lots of time playing games online, it is even more difficult to know who is in their social circle and whether their safety is being compromised.  Lots of Caitlin and Ieuan’s friends already have mobile phones which are used to organise sleepovers and parties and which can easily cause rifts in friendships and that hideous bugbear of ‘peer pressure’ and feeling left out.

We used software to monitor our kids’ Wi-Fi access and the type of sites they are allowed to use but, of course, this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what they can potentially get their hands on.  As parents, you need to be extremely vigilant.  The contentious Logan Paul video had actually been viewed by my two.  You can be sure we tightened up internet access after that! Cyberbullying is something every parent needs to be vigilant about.

The challenge of being a parenting blogger

As parenting bloggers, we often post pictures of our children in our blog-posts and on social media.  Now is the time that children may start to actively object to having their image promoted, particularly when they are doing things they consider embarrassing.  Asking your kids permission to use their image will demonstrate respect and acknowledge that they have a right to privacy. It’s a two-way street.  If you want respect as a parent, you need to show it to your children.

Since most social platforms recommend a minimum age of around 13 before you are allowed an account, teaching them a sensible approach to using social media will stand them in good stead later and allow more open discussions about why the minimum age has been set the way it has by YouTube and Instagram etc.

There’s no doubt that parenting tweens is challenging – particularly if you have children close in age, as I do. Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful.

What are your best tips for parenting tweens?

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