Friday, 20 April 2018

10 Things All The Best Toddlers Do On Sunny Days

Did you know it’s been hot this week? Perhaps you noticed on your way to work this morning? Maybe you saw a brief mention of it on your social media feeds? Well, anyway, it’s been sunny. Last week it was cold, this week it is sunny and apparently next week it will be autumn or something. From what my weather app says, the summer of 2018 has been condensed into just a few days and, for some unknown reason, they’re in April. I hope you made the most of those fleeting days of sunshine because from next week it will be black tight weather again, apparently.

With the three-day summer almost over, I thought I’d better get my weather-related post up quickly before we’re all sledging again (side note, climate change is a bit real, isn’t it?). So, here are 10 things toddlers do on sunny days:

1. Avoid the shade
It’s almost like they want to get burnt. You can spend ages creating a perfect shaded haven filled with toys, books and pillows and your toddler will avoid it all cost. They may even take the toys and books and drag them right out into direct sunlight. The only way to keep a toddler out of the sun is to keep them indoors because if there is even a tiny patch of sunlight on your garden, you can bet your life savings that’s exactly where your toddler is going to set up house.

2. Drop all their food
My toddler can eat just fine. If we’re inside she can eat soup, noodles, whatever, all without dropping so much as a crumb. If we’re outside, where the ground is covered in mud and dust and bugs, she becomes a real butterfingers. Food flies out of her hand as though launched by a rocket pad. Everything ends up covered in blades of grass, specks of dirt and tiny ants.

3. Eat stones
Don’t worry though, because your toddler will be more than happy to eat that food anyway. In fact, you may find they enjoy it more with a sprinkling of nature on there. And for dessert? How about a mouthful of stones. My 18-month-old today tried to get away with eating a stone by pretending it was a chickpea. It was clearly not a chickpea. I think she might have eaten half the stone. I worry about her teeth and her insides.

4. Pee in the paddling pool
If you’re brave enough to attempt inflating a paddling pool on a hot day (warning: do not attempt this if pregnant, you will cry), it is pretty much guaranteed that your toddler will pee in it. The clear pool of cold water is just too tempting a toilet. Plus, what is nappy-free time for if not for peeing everywhere?

5. Run away with the sun cream
Toddlers just love cream, don’t they? Especially when they get to be in charge of the bottle which is officially never but unofficially every time you blink. One minute you’re popping the lotion bottle down beside you so you can apply more sun cream, the next you’re chasing a butt-naked toddler around the garden and pleading with them to please not eat the sun cream. Side note: toddlers are much faster than they look.

6. Point out all the bees
Toddlers don’t have all the words yet, but they usually learn the word ‘bee’ pretty quickly once the sun comes out. Then they will say it over and over again to every passing bee, butterfly, wasp and worm. ‘Bee! Bee!’ This is always accompanied by overenthusiastic pointing and you will spend literally the whole day saying ‘oh wow, yeah, a bee’ until you lose the will to live.

7. Attract bees
The bee labelling is particularly tedious because of the sheer abundance of bees. Bees like flowers, sure, but they also like sweet-smelling, sticky toddlers. If you feed your toddler any fruit on a sunny day, they will immediately smear the juice all over their face, body and hands then spend the rest of the day toddling about, wafting those sweet scents in the direction of any passing bees.

8. Refuse to wear a hat
Hats are good sun protection. Young children should wear sun hats. Great advice but actually impossible to action. I couldn’t get my toddler to wear a hat if I glued it to her head. She would remove her own head just so she didn’t have to wear a hat, and she would do this spitefully while giving me a death stare. She will not wear hats when it is snowing or during a heatwave. She does not agree with the very nature of hats. I do not have the energy nor inclination to chase her around with a hat. I really don’t.

9. Get undressed a lot
Remember the layers of winter? Ah. They were so abundant and so difficult to remove. There were buttons and zips and poppers and so much fabric that toddler arms could barely move to even attempt to free themselves. But now summer has arrived and with it a new dawn of nakedness has arrived. There are not enough layers to prevent the constant stripping and so toddlers walk around pretty much naked. You can dress them, go for it, but within minutes they will be naked and peeing in the paddling pool again, a trail of abandoned clothes in their wake.

10. Ruin your new garden furniture
This one might not be universal, I’m not sure. I put my new garden furniture up yesterday and today I sat on it for many hours. I bought the dark grey colour because I thought this would increase its chances of survival. Only a madman would buy the cream. The garden furniture has been there for 24 hours, here is a list of things my toddler has smeared on it:
  • Sun cream
  • Pineapple juice
  • Pasta salad
  • Carrot crisp dust
  • Mud
  • Her snotty face

Thursday, 19 April 2018

5 Things You Need For The Perfect Family Garden Party

Garden parties always feel a bit risky in the UK, don’t they? The weather seems to do whatever it wants regardless of how many hours you’ve spent planning a get-together. We had a garden party (not like the Queen, it wasn’t that fancy) for Laurie’s 30th and despite threats of rain, we were pretty lucky with the weather. Fast forward to my 30th and it rained all day long so we ended up trapped indoors and I was sober (public service announcement: don’t bother having a birthday party when you’re pregnant, it’s no fun watching other people get drunk).

Ember’s birthday usually falls on the bank holiday weekend in August and I love the idea of having a party in the garden to celebrate. But I also hate the idea of having a houseful of miserable children thanks to bad weather, so I am yet to commit to such a celebration.

The weather is glorious today, however, so it’s the perfect time to start daydreaming about summer barbecues, garden parties and afternoons spent drinking cold beers in the garden. This beautiful sunshine has caught me unaware and my garden is in no way ready to be used just yet (why does it have to go from winter straight into summer? Can’t we have a few weeks of spring first to clear the garden and get things ready).

Here are five things you need for the perfect family garden party:

1. Enough seats
Right? There is nothing worse than a party with inadequate seating. I like to be seated. I hate standing awkwardly around the edges of the party. And when you’re outside and the ground is likely to be mucky, this seems especially important. You can find seating to match any budget. You could fill your garden with quality teak garden furniture or opt for a simple stash of picnic blankets and cushions. As long as people can be comfortable, they won’t mind what they end up sitting on.

2. Entertainment
Don’t panic, I’m not talking about an all-singing-all-dancing magician to entertain the kids at your party, but if you’re planning on inviting children, you’ll need something for them to do. If you have a climbing frame or swing set, that will probably do the job. A teepee set out on the grass will keep kids entertained, as will ball games, tennis rackets and a sandpit. You probably don’t need to buy anything new for this, just look at what you already have in the house. Even just a box of chalks and some toy cars could keep younger kids happy for a while.  

3. A tidy garden
Your friends and family probably aren’t going to be snobby about it, but nobody wants to sit next to a bag of rubble all night. And I say this as somebody with a collection of rubble bags in her garden. Our garden is a work in progress and it is always a little more building site than family garden. I’m always in the process of moving concrete slabs or dismantling something, so it’s hardly the perfect setting for a party - especially one with small children. Luckily, it’s easy to tidy around things and make things look presentable. Bags of rubble can easily be hidden under a table if you drape a tablecloth over it. A garden party is actually the perfect excuse for a clear out, so make a few tip trips and get rid of the things you don’t need.

4. Things for all the weathers
Well, it’s the UK, isn’t it? It would be a bit crazy to plan an outdoor party without at least a few umbrellas in the house. You can’t have a UK garden party without a wet weather plan. You will need to think about where you’re going to hide out when it rains. And you’ll also need to be sure you have plenty of sun cream in the house because it’s inevitable that a few families will turn up without it and then panic when the sun comes out. And, since this is the UK, you should probably also have a sledge handy for in case it snows, just to be on the safe side…

5. Food and drink
It’s just not a party without a decent offering of food. Barbecues are the obvious choice, I love nothing more than eating barbecue food when the sun is shining. And a decent selection of drinks is a must-have, You’ll also need to make sure you have enough room in the fridge so people can cool their drinks - nobody wants to drink a warm beer on a hot day. A tub filled with ice will do for cooling beers in the garden.

What are your garden party must-haves?

This is a collaborative post.

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

5 Reasons You Should Teach Your Child To Swim On Holiday

Holidays are a little break from the norm and they’re the perfect excuse to step out of your comfort zone. While you’re busy soaking up the sun and enjoying a break from work, it’s the perfect time to teach your child to swim. After all, you have access to a pool and plenty of opportunities to go in it. Laurie taught Ebony to swim on holiday, she was already confident in the water thanks to plenty of trips to our local pool, but he taught her how to swim by herself while we were away. By the end of the holiday, she was more confident than ever and could swim across the pool all by herself.

Here are five reasons why you should teach your child to swim on holiday:

1. You can make it fun
You can’t compare the ambience at your dreary local pool to the open air pool on holiday. Far from the flickering fluorescent tube lights and the sound of rain pattering against the window, you are free to really enjoy your time in the pool. It’s bright and sunny and filled with other kids having fun - it’s the perfect place to get your child hooked on swimming. And, unlike at the indoor pool back home, you can treat your child to as many swimming pool loungers and brightly coloured inflatables as they can handle. Your child is more likely to enjoy learning to swim (and to want to learn) if you make it fun, and that’s arguably way easier to achieve when you’re in a gorgeous pool on a sunny day abroad.

2. The pool is your oyster
When you teach your child to swim at home, you can either take them to weekly swimming lessons or your local pool or attempt to teach them yourself each time you take them swimming. When you’re staying at a resort with a pool, you’ll be spending plenty of time by the pool so you may as well make the most of it by teaching your child to swim. You’re all in your swimwear for most of the day anyway and you’re never far from the pool, so it’s easy to get in and have another go at swimming each time your kid shows an interest.

3. It’s cheap
Swimming lessons can end up costing you a fortune. Even if you decide to do the teaching yourself, the cost of pool admissions can quickly add up over the weeks. The pool at your resort is free for the taking, so you may as well make the most of it. You might be surprised at the difference you can achieve in just two weeks. By spending lots of time in the water, playing and learning, your child will have learnt a lot by the end of the holiday.

4. You’re surrounded by inspiration
At home, swimming has to compete with other activities. Your child wants to hang out with her friends, she has extra-curricular activities, she wants to see family and play with the toys she has at home. She may not always want to go swimming when the opportunity arises. On holiday, your child is likely to be spending a lot of time by the pool. And not only that, she’ll be watching the older kids having fun in the pool. Resort pools are filled with giggling, squealing happy children who are running, swimming and handstanding (definitely a word) to their heart's content. If that doesn’t convince your child to get into the pool for an impromptu lesson, nothing will.

5. It’s good exercise
If you’re enjoying a holiday in the sun, there’s a good chance your child will be consuming bucketloads of ice-cream. When the sun is hot, it’s not always easy to run around and expel your excess energy, but it is important to stay active on holiday. An easy way of doing this is to get the family in the pool for some swimming. The NHS reckons swimming is a great way to get the family moving and have fun together. So get a beach ball, blow up the inflatables, and head into the water to burn off a few of those ice-creams.

This is a collaborative post.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Would You Send Your Child To A Plant-Based Nursery?

Important clarification: a plant-based nursery is a nursery offering plant-based meals. It is not a nursery carved out of potato, with decorative celery columns, brussel sprout carpets and a radish roof. If you want to send your child to a nursery like that, you will have to set one up yourself. Unfortunately, it does not yet exist.

According to news reports, one mum was apparently angered when her son’s nursery switched to an all-vegan menu last week. The mum, Aimee, posted on an online forum to complain about the change. She wrote, “This has really got my back up as I feel we are being railroaded into making our children vegan without a choice, no option of meat or fish!”

Now, firstly, it’s worth noting that one plant-based meal a day doesn’t make you a vegan. Quick, somebody tell Beyonce (actually don’t because I love her and I am willing to exempt her from the whole plant-based vs vegan debate if it means we have something in common). If you eat a packet of crisps that happen to be free from meat and dairy, you’re not suddenly a vegan. Don’t worry. You still have the whole rest of the day to get your fill of flesh. One meal, or even one day a week, does not a vegan make. That's a wise selling us wise vegans have been saying for years.

You should never read the comments on these sorts of stories, I know, but I did. Opinion was split, some people didn’t see what the big deal was. Others were outraged, they wanted her to take this complaint all the way to Ofsted.

It’s one meal a day, surely? Does that matter? You can take a Peperami and cheese strings with you when you pick your kid up from the nursery. Hell, you can stand outside the gates, udder in hand, ready to squirt the milk from the teat of your newly acquired cow straight into the mouths of the kids toddling out of the gates. Does it matter if your child goes eight hours without eating meat or dairy? Apparently, to some parents, it does.

Now, clearly I’m biased on this. I am a decade into being vegan and I have two vegan kids (well, one, the other hoovers up biscuit crumbs at playgroup so I’m not sure she’s fully committed to the lifestyle yet, but she’s only 18 months old so there’s still time to convert her). I know kids can thrive on a vegan diet because I have two happy girls (well, one, the biscuit sneaker can get a bit grouchy at 3 am) who are growing and learning and doing all of the things kids are supposed to do.

I’m assuming the kids at the nursery are given a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, so I'm struggling to see what the issue is. If it turns out the kids are just fed buckets of the diary-free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream with not a vegetable in sight, then hell, I’d be outraged, too. But the idea of a room full of toddlers sitting down to eat fresh vegetables really isn’t that offensive to me.

A plant-based diet is inclusive to people from different cultures. Rising numbers of children are being diagnosed with dairy allergies, and skipping the dairy may also be reassuring to the parents of those youngsters. There have been a few incidences reported in the media lately of children being wrongly fed food they were allergic to, something which can be life-threatening for children with severe allergies.

As well as being inclusive, a plant-based diet is healthy. There are plenty of healthy, energetic vegan kids thriving on a plant-based diet. According to a recent survey, seven percent of the UK is now enjoying a vegan lifestyle. I’m not sure I can quite believe that the number is that high, but certainly, veganism is a lot more common, and accepted, than it was ten years ago.

Not accepted enough that we’re ok with our kids eating the occasional vegan meal though, apparently.

What do you think? Would you pull your child out of nursery if they switched to a plant-based meal plan?

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash

Monday, 9 April 2018

3 Things To Do In Liverpool This Summer

Liverpool is one of my favourite cities. I went to university there and I have so many fond (and so many hazy) memories of my time in the city. I lived right next to Liverpool Lime Street when I was in my first year so I got to know the city pretty well. Obviously, in those days I wasn't looking for places with a family-friendly vibe, I was more interested in student discounts and horrifically sweet alcoholic drinks, but it's a really good city for families. 

Ebony has been to Liverpool countless time. My best friend still lives over that way so we've been to see her lots of times. I've also taken Ebony to see the daffodils in Sefton Park, to explore the museums and to the shops. It has become a bit of a tradition now that we visit Liverpool during the school holidays. After Manchester, it's our most visited haunt. It's really easy to get to on the train from Romiley and there are plenty of places to visit within walking distance of the train station. 

Here are 3 things to do in Liverpool this summer:

1. Visit the museums
When you get to Liverpool Lime Street Station in the city centre, you are mere moments away from a collection of family-friendly attractions. The World Museum is a must-visit with plenty to keep kids entertained. From dinosaurs to the night sky, the museum will provide hours of learning and entertainment. Top tip: it gets really busy in the holidays and the wait for the lift is long, so get walking up those stairs. 

On the same strip as the museum sits the city's central library. From the roof of the library, you can look out across the city. It is a beautiful view and definitely worth a visit. The Walker Art Gallery is just next door and they have a wonderful kids room with plenty of dressing up, crafts and books. This is our usual circuit, we head to these three attractions and that easily fills a day out during the holidays. 

This event sounds pretty special. Taking place at Liverpool ONE, and running from today until June, the organisers hope this event will get kids excited about reading. Combining live storytelling with imaginative play, this activity is bound to be good fun. The adventures runs four times a day, lasts 45 minutes and is followed by a 15-minute craft session. It's free to attend but you need to book a place in advance. 

Duke's Dock, just next door to Albert Dock, has been taken over by a huge inflatable obstacle course. Freefall slides, rafts and trampolines make up this family-friendly assault course. The course is suitable for everyone aged 8 and over, so it's the perfect summer activity for older children. Visit the website to book today.

For more inspiration of places to visit in Liverpool, check out the hashtag #LiverpoolGuide2018 to see what other people have recommended. 

This is a collaborative post. 
Photo by Carl Raw on Unsplash

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