Friday 27 April 2018

7 Ways To Encourage Your Child's Learning At Home

Education is a pressure-point for most parents. I tend to swing between thinking they push the kids too hard and should just let them be kids, to worrying that my views on this are somehow holding my daughter back. I hate the thought of putting her under pressure or sucking the fun out of learning, but I do want to find ways to help her love learning. Kids are naturally curious and inquisitive, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get them inspired about learning new things and getting hands-on experiences.

All children can benefit from their parents getting involved in their education. It doesn’t matter whether your child goes to the local school down the road or a prestigious private school like Rossall, showing an interest will have a positive impact on your child’s learning. Here are a few ways to encourage your child’s learning at home:

1. Seek out relevant books
Firstly, a love of reading is something to encourage, so don’t feel you need to dictate what your child reads. If your child is engrossed in Captain Underpants, then, by all means, encourage that. It makes sense, however, to look out for books that may be relevant to the topics your child is studying at school. Take a trip to the library together and let your child search for any books on the topics she’s learning about in the classroom.

2. Go on day trips
A good old fashioned museum trip is the perfect way to compliment your child’s education. Most museums are curated with kids in mind, so there are plenty of hands-on learning experiences and activities throughout. Sign up to the mailing lists for local museums so you can keep up-to-date with any exhibitions that may be opening. It’s always worth checking online to see whether there are any relevant museums or tourist attractions when your child starts learning a new topic at school.

3. Get creative...
Art projects are always a big hit in this house, I think most kids love an excuse to get messy and be creative. You can turn pretty much any topic into a craft project. Science experiments can have a craft element (for example, building and painting the volcano before conducting an experiment to make it erupt). History topics can be turned into paintings or storybooks. There are plenty of ways to learn while you’re cutting, sticking and painting. If you’re stuck for ideas, take a look on Pinterest for inspiration.

4. … In the kitchen
Cooking is another activity kids enjoy. You can teach your kids about food safety and hygiene while exploring some of the topics they’re covering at school. Measuring ingredients is good maths practice so make sure you let her do it herself (even if it makes a mess). If she’s learning about the war, you could design and cook a family meal using the types of foods people had access to during rationing.

5. Go out and play
You don’t have to plan an activity or spend hours searching the internet for ideas, a simple trip to your local park will benefit your child. Your child’s physical development is just as important as her academic achievement so make sure she has plenty of opportunities to practice jumping, climbing and running. If you want, you can add in a nature trail or a scavenger hunt for some extra learning opportunities - but, honestly, time spent getting muddy in the garden isn’t wasted time.

6. Figure out the answers together
Kids ask a lot of questions, usually about things you don’t know the answer to. They never ask you about your specialist subjects, instead, they just hurl question after question about things you have no idea about. It’s always best to be honest, don’t try guessing, just say you don’t know and then work together to figure out the answer. You can research using books or the internet, or ask an expert, but make sure it’s something you do together so your child will see how rewarding it is to find out answers for herself.

7. Show an interest
Life is busy, isn’t it? Especially after school. You’re trying to prepare dinner and get the house sorted and finish off that work you didn’t quite have time to do earlier. And your child is talking at speed about an argument in the playground and something funny that happened in class and this thing she learned today. It’s easy to nod along and make the right noises without really listening, but being present and listening to your child when she tells you about her day at school is an easy way to encourage her education. Show an interest, ask questions and really listen to what she tells you. Make time each day to just sit and chat before you get distracted by your to-do list.

This is a collaborative post. Photo by on Unsplash

Thursday 26 April 2018

5 Things To Do On A Family Weekend Visit To Liverpool

I’ve written before about my never-ending love for Liverpool. I lived there when I was at university, I’ve been back countless times since and I now make a habit of taking the girls during the school holidays. Liverpool was my home for just three years but they were important years so it’s important to me that the girls know the city.

Liverpool has a nice vibe, it’s changed a lot since I was at uni but it is as welcoming as ever. The locals are friendly, the architecture is beautiful and there are plenty of things to see during your visit. If you’re planning to head to the city for a trip with your family soon, here are some ideas for activities to check out in Liverpool:

1. Pay a visit to Imagine That!
A play centre with a difference, Imagine That! offers kids the chance to create, explore and imagine to their heart's content. They can get messy painting and sticking in the craft area, create giant bubbles in the water zone or get creative with their imagination in the village. We took Ebony a couple of years ago to their old site and she had the best time exploring the different activities on offer (you can read our review here), we haven’t paid a visit to the new site yet but it looks even more amazing, so will undoubtedly be worth a visit.

2. Visit the International Slavery Museum
The International Slavery Museum, located on Albert Dock, tells the stories of people who were kept as slaves, detailing their daily lives and the oppression they faced. If you want to teach your kids about important issues and why they still matter today, this museum is a must-visit. The museum focuses on the legacy of the slave trade, so your kids will also learn why the continuing fight for equality and freedom is an important one.

3. Explore Sefton Park
Sefton Park is one of my favourite places in Liverpool. I lived really near the park when I was in Liverpool and spent many a happy (and a few unhappy) hours in the park. If you want to enjoy some green space while you’re in the city, this is the perfect place to visit. The big park is filled with huge old trees, colourful flower beds and terrifying geese (they are no more terrifying than other geese, it’s just that all geese are terrifying). The park boasts a number of statues, a beautiful waterfall and a Victorian boating lake (you can’t actually boat on this anymore though), as well as some huge playgrounds for the kids to enjoy.

4. Delve into the Williamson Tunnels
Joseph Williamson was a well-known philanthropist and eccentric living in Liverpool in the 19th century. Williamson created an underground world in the city, the tunnels took 30 years to build but then sat derelict and hidden until the 1990s when excavations began. Since then, the Williamson Tunnels have been opened to the public, allowing visitors to experience some local history and get an insight into one of Liverpool’s most notorious eccentrics. The reasons for building the tunnels remain unclear, though Williamson claimed it was a way of providing jobs and wages to those in need.

5. Take a walk down William Brown Street
William Brown Street is filled with enough child-friendly tourist attractions that you can easily lose a day just on this one street. First up, there’s the World Museum - five floors of child-friendly information, activities and displays, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the World Museum. The museum covers dinosaurs, space and the natural world, allowing kids to get stuck into learning. Central Library is just a few steps further up the street and is definitely worth a quick visit. From the viewing gallery on the library’s roof, you can enjoy views of the city and its iconic skyline. The Walker Art Gallery is the final place on the list, and it’s a great place to kill some time. You can explore the gallery or keep the kids entertained in the learning zone. There are enough books, crafts and toys to keep them busy for hours.

Don’t forget, if you’re planning a weekend visit to Liverpool it’s always worth checking Groupon to see if there are any offers or discounts available for the attractions you’re planning to visit. You may even find some inspiration for other places to check out while you’re in the city.

This is a collaborative post.

Photo by Carl Raw on Unsplash

Wednesday 25 April 2018

To My Friend Who Just Had Her First Baby

Oh man, I envy you. You only become a parent for the first time once, it's not an experience you can relive. I envy you taking those first terrifying steps as a mother. And yet, at the same time, I don’t. I think back to those early weeks of motherhood when I was a 25-year-old with a constant caught-in-the-headlights-of-life expression set upon my exhausted face and I am filled with warmth. I can remember the utter amazement I felt each time I looked down at my baby. Everything about her seemed so perfect. Her luscious eyelashes, her perfect little fingernails, and that perfect wrinkly little butt of hers. I can remember the pride I felt at having grown her in my tummy, it felt so crazy that she was finally in the real world.

I remember what a complete and utter head fuck it was to be thrust head first into motherhood. I didn’t have many friends with children and I hadn’t spent much time around babies. I had no idea how to change or nappy or stop a baby crying, and then, all of a sudden, I had one of my own to take care of. It felt huge. Overwhelming. Too much. I would look down at her peaceful sleeping face and feel overwhelmed with the realisation that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

I can remember the exhaustion. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. It was a heavier tired to the I-stayed-up-all-weekend-partying I was used to, it was something I had no control of. I wasn’t staying up because I was having fun, I was forced to stay awake because of the crying or the feeding or the generally being needed. I was a kind of tired you can’t escape from, I could feel it in my bones, my entire body ached for sleep and yet I couldn’t sleep because I was constantly needed.

I can remember the soreness, the aching of a body trying to rebuild itself after the birth. I can remember struggling to find comfortable clothes that fit, the difficulty of finding a snug position to fit in, one that didn’t hurt in all the wrong places. I can remember trying to take as few steps as possible, wanting to just sit down and rest, even when a crying baby meant I was forced to walk in circles around the room at 2 am.

I can remember the struggle to breastfeed, the nights lying awake in tears at 3 am because I didn’t want to have to do another feed. I can remember the toe-curling pain of each feed, having to steady myself before she latched on so I could handle the pain. I can remember leaving guests downstairs so I could escape to my bedroom and feed in peace so that nobody would see me cry. I can remember feeling like it would never not hurt, then forgetting just weeks later when breastfeeding had become second nature.

I remember those things, the hardships, the adjustment, the mental fatigue of worrying about absolutely everything. And yet, I still feel content when I remember the early days of motherhood. Those days were the making of me. Becoming a mother shook my entire world, it changed me in every possible way. I can’t even imagine who I would be today if it were not for that beautiful little baby who made me a mum. I remember long afternoons camped out on the sofa, binge-watching crap TV with a baby attached to my breast. I remember long nights spent wondering when sleep would come. I remember the joy of those firsts. The first smile, the first laugh, the first walk around the park.

To my friend who just had her first baby, know that there is a whole community of women who know what you’re going through. You are not alone, even though it might seem that way at 2 am when the street outside is dark and quiet but you are pacing the room with a restless baby. We see you. We see the worried look in your eye and we hear the break in your voice as you try to soothe your crying baby. There is an army of women out there for you to lean on. Women who will pick you up when you fall, who will watch your baby when you need five minutes to yourself, who will tell you their own stories to help you feel less alone.

Right now you are probably exhausted, overwhelmed and perhaps a little shell-shocked after the birth. You are probably in survival mode, doing what you must to get yourself and your baby through the day. But it won’t always feel like this. You will find your stride, build your confidence and feel proud of the mother you are. I promise. And in the meantime, I am here whenever you need me.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Should We Be Worrying About Kate's Pelvic Floor?

A press release arrived in my inbox this morning to tell me that Kate really needs to start working on her pelvic floor. Kate Middleton is just one day postpartum and already PR professionals are wondering about the state of her pelvic floor - and not privately, they’re doing this in the form of a mass email. This isn’t a discrete nod from your community midwife, it’s an email with the title, ‘Kate needs to protect her pelvic floor now!’ Did you see the exclamation mark? This is clearly a matter of urgency.

I know a lot of people will say she knew what she was signing up for when she married into the Royal family, and I suspect that’s true in many ways, but I’m not sure they would have gone into specifics like how soon after giving birth she’d be expected to appear in heels and a dress for the press. I don’t know that they’d have sat her down and explained that her pelvic floor would become public knowledge, that people would be joking about the state of her Royal regions mere hours after the birth.

I’m not saying that she is a put-upon woman, clearly, she has it much better than most. She has a staff of people around her who will no doubt help her to have a bloody lovely postpartum period. She has a chef to prepare her meals, a nanny to keep the older two entertained, and enough money to not worry about buying new clothes for the baby. I know that. I know she has it easy. And I know she belongs to an outdated tradition that holds little value in modern society. But she’s still a woman.

She still gave birth yesterday, whether she did that in a fancy private wing of a world-renowned hospital or not. She still summoned up all of her strength to give birth to her child. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how many designer dresses you own, you give birth like anybody else. Ok, she probably had a nicer room to give birth in, and she probably ate from fancy china instead of the scratched hospital plates everybody else is used to. She still gave birth, she’s still likely to be feeling tired, emotional and just a little bit shell-shocked.

She doesn’t have the luxury of anonymity. She didn’t get to escape the hospital ward in her comfiest jogging bottoms. She didn’t get to take those first few steps out into the real world again by herself, instead, she had the world’s media waiting for her at the front door. And not just the media, apparently there were ‘fans’ too, people who had camped out for days on end just hoping to get a glimpse of the Royal baby. Now, I don’t know who these people are so I don’t want to make assumptions but I’m guessing the kind of people who camp outside hospitals waiting to get glimpses of babies are not exactly the kind of people you’d want anywhere near your newborn baby.

She didn’t even manage to labour in secret. The news that she had gone into labour appeared on every news site within minutes of her arriving at the hospital. If you’ve ever dealt with the harassment of receiving ‘Any signs yet?’ messages from well-meaning friends every morning at the end of your pregnancy, imagine having the entire world waiting with baited breath. And then, once the ordeal was over, having to walk straight out in front of the press and present your baby to the nation.

There seems to be a lot of discussion about how she looked too good, it was unrealistic and didn’t do much to help the portrayal of new mothers. Well, yeah, she looked way nicer than I did on my wedding day and she’d just pushed out a baby, but I don’t really look to her as an example of a normal woman. She’s been criticised for not enjoying her newborn, for forcing herself out too quickly, and for loads of other things that seem to be based on assumptions rather than fact. She was in a hospital and there was a crowd of paparazzi standing between her and home. She probably just wanted to get the press over and done with so she could go home and hibernate with her new baby, and who can blame her?

Yeah she looked amazing, yeah she wore heels, no, the average woman doesn’t have to look like that and anybody expecting them to should probably have some kind of psychiatric examination. It would be great if we lived in a world where Kate could have John Wayne-d it out of there in yoga pants and an oversized hoodie, but then she’d have had hundreds of articles written about how shit she looked and how she didn’t seem to be coping with the fact she had recently given birth. If I knew there were going to be hundreds of comment pieces written about me when I was probably feeling like a hormonal, vulnerable delicate mess, I’d way rather they accused me of being too glamorous than looking like a walking bag of shit (for what it's worth, my tabloid headlines would have read Waddling Princess Dressed In Blood-Stained Maternity Jeans Can't Stop Crying As She Carries Giant Baby Home).

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Monday 23 April 2018

7 Things I Do In The Name Of Self-Care

I’ve written before about the importance of self-care for new mothers (read it here, folks), but I don’t think self-care becomes less important as your baby grows. The truth is, we all need to focus more on looking after ourselves. It is so easy to get swept up in the demands of family life, work commitments and the need to have a social life and end up with very little time to really give to ourselves. I sometimes feel like I am being pulled in all different directions, it’s so hard to feel like you’re winning at anything when there are more demands on your time than you can handle.

Self-care seems to be on-trend lately, but maybe that’s just because I read things mostly aimed at mums. Probably 18-year-olds aren’t talking about self-care, they’re probably just planning their girls holiday to Ibiza or something. But, in my circles, self-care is big. We’re all talking about it but not many of us are actually doing it. I don’t think self-care has to be something big or unmanageable because then it just adds to the list of things I can’t achieve. I would love to use self-care as an excuse to try out a range of spa days, but in reality, I just focus on the small things that make me feel a little more like myself. Here are seven things I do for self-care:

1. Read my book
This is one of my favourite things to do. There’s nothing quite like a bit of escapism to help you deal with the mundane stresses of family life, is there? I love reading. I used to read a lot, but I’ve found it difficult to read since becoming a mother. I always have at least one child in my bed so my reading lamp is strictly decorative because I loathe to wake up a sleeping child. I sometimes read a chapter or two sat on the ground outside my bedroom door before bed, but my favourite thing is to take my book out and read it on the train. Even better, if the friends I’m meeting are running late and I can read a few chapters in a cafe or quiet bar while I wait for them to arrive. That really feels like a break from reality.

2. Go for a run
I am new to running and I am not good at it, but I am trying. My plan is to run so much I forget that I hate to exercise and become amazingly thin and healthy. It has not worked so far but I do not give up easily. Running is wonderful because it helps with a few different areas of self-care. Firstly, it gets me out of the house and into nature. Secondly, it improves my health and gives me a more positive mindset. Thirdly, I get some time to myself away from my ever-so-clingy toddler. And finally, I get to listen to podcasts.

3. See my friends
I spend most of my week with a toddler. She’s ace, but she also covers me in peanut butter, slaps me in the face and occasionally pees on me. Sometimes it is nice to not suffer all of those things. When Ember naps, I work, and so I rarely feel like I get a break. I am busy woman doing busy woman things busily. It’s nice to not be that person for a while. Meeting my friends keeps me sane. It gives me a chance to talk about feminism or politics or old memories. It gives the opportunities to hear about things other than potty training and toddler tantrums and the demands of motherhood. There is nothing more soothing to the soul than meeting up with old friends. They know you, they love you, they accept you, and it’s easy to be yourself around them.

4. Get a babysitter
This is something I’ve discovered relatively recently, but it is really amazing to get a babysitter. When Ebony was little, I used to go out and leave her with Laurie, and he used to go out and leave her with me, but we never really left her and went out together unless it was for something specific. For the past few months, we’ve been taking advantage of my parents’ babysitting services and escaping from family life for a few hours to spend some time just the two of us. I wouldn’t leave Ember overnight yet, so my parents take the kids for the day while Laurie and I go out. When we get back, the kids are bathed and fed and ready for bed. It gives us the chance to go to see movies, or eat nice food or just have conversations without having to be parents. It’s lovely.

5. Go to a movie
I am not afraid to be seen in the cinema alone, so this is one of my ideal self-care dates. If there’s a film I want to see, I go alone. It’s nice spending a few hours by myself doing something for me. And the cinema is wonderful because I don’t have to go and put anyone back to bed during the movie. I can switch my phone off and pretend nobody depends on me. I don’t rush home after either, I pop to the shops and get some cake and read my book. It only takes an afternoon but it feels like I have had a real treat by the end of it. It’s just so nice to not be in charge of anyone for a little while.

6. Pluck my eyebrows
Man, this is a depressing one. I used to pluck my eyebrows all the time. When I was young (oh, young), I plucked them constantly. It was part of my morning ritual (get up, cry, pluck eyebrows, go to work). I never had to do an emergency crisis pluck unless I had lost my tweezers (which, admittedly, did happen relatively often). But now, now things are different. I’m not exaggerating when I say I don’t often look in the mirror during the week. I put mascara on and straighten my hair in the morning, usually in a rush because we’re late for school, and then I don’t usually look at my reflection until the end of the day when I gasp at the horror of my own face. So now something as ordinary as plucking my eyebrows can actually leave me feeling refreshed, depressing as that is to admit.

7. I go to bed on time

This is lame, I know, and I’m hardly the self-care poster girl. But, in reality, I don’t take holidays alone or go on spa days or do anything that costs a lot, it’s the little things that make a big difference to me. And going to bed on time is one of them. I either go to bed on time and wake up feeling human, or I go to bed late and wake up feeling like crap. And whichever of those options I choose can determine my whole day. The chances are I’m going to get woken up in the night by a grumpy toddler, so the earlier I go to bed, the better.

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

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