Spending Christmas Away With The Children Without Hassle

Christmas is just around the corner, and whether we like it or not it’s time to begin thinking about plans for Christmas. We’re sure that you’re already aware that going anywhere with children is no simple task, so if you’re invited to spend Christmas at a family member or friends home, it’s likely that you’re dreading how you’re going to pull this off without any drama. Luckily, I’ve compiled a little guide on how you can spend Christmas away with the children, without any hassle and still enjoy yourself! 

christmas reading child

Pack the car to the brim

When you’re staying away overnight in a strange place, you can never predict how your children are going to react to their surroundings. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you’re armed with everything they could ever need to help keep them calm and happy. Packing the car with their favourite teddies, comfort blankets, snacks, drinks, clothes, and anything else that you think could help your children settle easier will make your Christmas run much smoother. You don’t necessarily have to bring everything into your accommodation with you, but knowing that it’s there if you need it will certainly help you rest with ease.

Make nap time easier

If you’ve got young children, the thought of putting them down for naps might be playing on your mind. Perhaps your friends and family don’t have anywhere that you’d like to safely leave your child to have a nap, or maybe you’re worried your child won’t nap with ease? You can buy kids travel systems that can help make sure your baby gets the nap they need without any worry on your behalf! Again, making sure they’ve got their favourite teddy or blanket will make the world of difference!

Keep them busy

There’s nothing worse than bored children, and as you’re probably already aware, when children are bored, the adults will suffer too. Before you even think about travelling, prearrange activities for your children to keep them busy and entertained. Perhaps you could get them a portable DVD player or some board games to keep them occupied? Alternatively, check to see if there are going to be any other children there for them to play with!

Baby proof everything!

Finally, children can get into pretty much anything if they put their mind to it, and when you’re in a strange environment you never know where dangers might be lurking! Ask your family members and friends to baby/child proof their homes so that not only will your children be able to safely roam around, but you will have one less worry on your hands!

Travelling away with children doesn’t have to be as stressful as you may think, so follow these tips and have a wonderful Christmas!

Pregnant? Top Steps to Take to Ensure Your Baby’s Health

The best situation for any foetus is for its mother to prepare her body before it has ever been conceived. There are a lot of medications, for example, that help a grown adult but could increase the risk of congenital disabilities or a miscarriage. Then there is the damage that drinking, smoking, and other recreational drugs can do to the baby while it is developing. There is a lot you can do before, during, and even after to ensure your baby has the best shot at life, so start today by following these steps:

Contact Your Doctor

It is not always possible to consult your doctor and prepare your body before you get pregnant. Sometimes it is a mistake, other times unexpected. For example, perhaps you have been trying for a baby for so long that you gave up, only to then discover that the pregnancy finally happened. Either way, once you find out it is best to visit your doctor for a consultation so that you can:

Get off Any Dangerous Medication

There are a lot of different medications that can harm a foetus that you will need to stop taking immediately. An example includes anti-depressants. You will need to work with your doctor to manage your mental health without the medication while pregnant.

Start Taking the Right Vitamins

There are a lot of vitamins you can take that will help your baby’s health, like folic acid. Folic acid has been proven to help your baby develop correctly and reduces the risk of abnormalities.

Stay Healthy and Active

Though it may seem contradictory to be active while pregnant, you do need to try. Exercise is an important part of a healthy body, which means you need to stay active throughout the entire experience. This will also help you bounce back faster and return to your pre-pregnancy weight easier.

How to Further Safeguard Your Baby’s Health in the Future

All the hard work you put into being healthy will not go to waste. It will help your baby develop correctly so that he or she can enjoy a healthy life right from the start. Make your effort go further, however, by visiting biovaultfamily.com to see how easy and beneficial it is to store your baby’s stem cells now. If they have a life-threatening disease or other illness in the future, they will then be able to access their healthy stem cells. Stem cell research is flourishing right now, and for good reason. Give your baby the opportunity to take advantage of their health in the future by safeguarding it today.

Your baby’s development should be your utmost priority. Do all you can to make your body the perfect haven, and prepare yourself further by taking classes and even making preparations to provide your child with the best chance medically in the future. Do this, and you will already have given your new baby a bright future.

The Most Beneficial Children’s Toys

The Most Beneficial Children’s Toys

Children can learn through play without even realising it. As far as they are concerned they are just having fun, but you may be surprised just how much some toys and games can help with their development.

Up To 12 Months

For their first year, bright colours and toys that make noises, such as rattles, will best amuse your child. Toys that promote using their senses and encourage interaction are the best things at this age, Unbreakable mirrors, floor gyms, activity boards and soft colourful stuffed animals are a good start for babies first playthings.

Age 1 to 2

As they get a bit older they like toys where a cause has an effect. Sets where they can hammer pegs or balls through holes are good and stacking toys will help develop their motor skills. Shape sorters and puzzles with just four or five pieces are a great way for them to start solving problems.

Age 2 to 4

At this age, children need toys that are more purposeful. Their motor skills will have improved and they will be stacking blocks and doing simple puzzles by themselves. They will like toys that make sounds, such as a pretend telephone or toys that talk. It is at this age that they first start to play with different things. Usually, it is dolls for girls and trucks for boys. There is nothing wrong with this at 3 years of age, just as it is fine if boys want to play with dolls, or vice versa.

The Most Beneficial Children’s Toys

Age 4 To 5

Their learning ability by the time they reach 4 has grown a great deal. It is a good time to start to introduce toys that really are educational, such as art and crafts supplies, electronic phonic toys, harder puzzles, action figures and a Melody Jane dolls house, as they are brilliant for encouraging imaginative play. Most 4/5 year olds love things such as dressing up, starting to play sports and simple board games.

Age 5 To 7

Now they will start to develop interests of their own. This could be a particular sport, cooking or playing with a favourite toy. A lot of them will become interested in digital devices and the games they can play on those. It’s also the age when they start wanting to have friends round to play some of their games with them. Some of the best toys for this age group include strategy games such as chess or draughts, computer and video games, basic science kits, building sets such as Lego, and bikes as they are good for their balance.

Over 7

Your child will continue to develop past 7 years old, but now they will probably know what toys they want. There will always be one they will tell you everyone has except them. You will hear then chat to their friends about the highest score they achieved on their latest computer game, and they will carry on trying to beat that.

Their interests will become more adult-like and they may well take up a hobby. If they are going to be a collector of something, it is not unusual for the collection to be started at this sort of age.

So, you’re the baby shower host.. now what?

How lovely (and, maybe a little bit daunting); you’ve been entrusted with the task of hosting a beautiful baby shower for a beloved mum-to-be. You might be feeling a little overwhelmed if you’ve just started the planning process but don’t worry, it’s time to get the troops on board, then you’ll be able to plan something really lovely together. The following are some tips, ideas, and advice for those who want the baby shower they’re hosting to go seamlessly, and be as enjoyable as possible (without inducing labour in the guest of honour!)

baby shower

Presents And Gifting

Ask and see if the expectant mother wants or needs anything specific for her new baby. Try and put together a gift list to send around to the guests; this will enable each person to tick something off the list, and they’ll be no doubling up on presents. If you are part of a close friendship or family group, you could put your money together to create a hamper full of essentials, or the main gift that perhaps the new parents have been unable to afford. Don’t go buying any designer cots or prams, without asking the mum or dad-to-be what they already have. Personalised items are another way to give the new mama something special that she and her child can appreciate forever; embroidered blankets, or art for the nursery, will make a functional gift, and be a sentimental surprise. Just try to remember that the thought put into it is the most important thing.

Send Out Those Invites

Sort out a time and a venue as soon as possible, and make sure it’s around a month or six weeks before the baby is due to arrive (leaving it too close to the due date is a risky move). The best time for a shower is around lunchtime or early afternoon; this will ensure the guest of honour won’t be too tired, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy any food, drink, and nibbles. If you’re planning a surprise for the future mama, then make sure you state that on your invitations; you don’t want anyone to let the exciting news slip. There are loads of invitation design ideas online, so it’s worth taking a look for a bit of inspiration.

Food, Nibbles, And Treats

The sweet treats at the shower can easily reflect the colour palette and theme of the event; coloured icing, sprinkles and cake toppers are all excellent ways to incorporate your chosen shades. A buffet style offering is a relaxed and informal way to feed the guests and gives everybody the chance to bring a dish to the party. By involving the guests in providing the food, you’ll save yourself precious time and money.

baby shower cakes

Any time and effort that you put into hosting a baby shower will be appreciated by the expectant mother for the years ahead. You’ll be helping her to make lasting, lovely memories, and getting everyone excited for the new arrival.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me #Thinkwayfriends

It’s all back to school now within the next week and I have to say I’m gutted. I love having my kids off and spending all our time together! I love the leisurely mornings we can have and hate the early routines of school runs… waking up the kids, rushing them out of the door! This next term too sees the return of the dark mornings which are the worst!

My twins always struggle with back to school after summer holidays. They have been known to cry at the classroom door… not because they hate school, they don’t, it’s just they want to stay with me. Last year though, we tuned a corner and I think (hope) this will be the case this year.

The reason for this change is because they know they will be seeing all their friends again! They’ve got to the age where they realise the importance of friendships and how much joy they bring. They love their little ‘gang’ of boys and getting together again at school after the long break will be lots of fun!

This motley crew is made up of my twins and their school friends at a party just before the end of term in July!

Friends are THE best thing about school, I think most people would agree. When you think back as an adult to your own school days, it’s the laughs you had with the friends you made that will probably stick out the most in your memory!

This week we were sent some brand new Toy Story Buzz and Woody toys from Smyths to celebrate all things friendships! We’ve had Woody and Buzz before in our toy collection. In fact, we have quite a lot of the characters from the film as all four of my children have been into them over the years and they’ve popped up frequently under the Christmas tree! Teen (19) even had the original ones from way back when! But these, made by Thinkway Toys are definitely the most true to life ones we’ve seen! At 12″ tall they’re nice and sturdy, with Buzz being able to stand up on his own!

They’re stunning aren’t they?

toy story buzz and woody thinkway toys

Buzz and Woody were definitely the best of friends in the Toy Story films. Yes they disagreed and had their fall outs, but that’s completely normal for best buddies isn’t it? Children can relate to these two favourites as they learn all about friendships themselves. Buzz and Woody are great role models too as they stick together through thick and thin and don’t give up on each other when times are difficult! Buzz has rescued Woody and Woody has rescued Buzz throughout the 3 Toy Story films!

Now we’re on countdown for the release of the brand new Toy Story movie coming out next year in June 2019! Toy Story 4… how exciting! I can’t wait to see what all the toys get up to this time… the last time we saw them, which was way back in 2010.. can you believe it was THAT long ago? Andy went off to college and ended up giving his beloved toys to the little girl round the corner! I wonder if we’ll get to see Andy again? I hope to see lots more Buzz and Woody adventures…. and there’s bound to be some new characters as there always has been with each new film release!

Great friendships come in all forms and aren’t just for school… even siblings can be the best of friends and nowhere is this more true than in my home with my twins…. they are the epitome of best friends and are always happiest playing together! They are kind and supportive of each other, yes they have their moments when they argue, but they are fiercely protective and I hope this is what they find in school friendships they make too.

twins toy story toys toy story 4

I decided to take the two sets of best friends out for an afternoon play at the park…. Woody and Buzz and my twins! They had lots of fun!

toy story friendsEnjoying the see-saw together!

toy story BuzzBuzz Lightyear liked the play house

toy story woodyWoody liked the slide

toy story buzz and woodyEnjoying the rope climbing frame

toy story buzz lightyearLucky Buzz even got to share some ice cream

My twins have played lots with Buzz and Woody since we’ve had them and now I’m giving you the chance to buy some of your favourite Toy Story Characters with my new competition!

There’s a £50 Smyths voucher to be won here on the blog and all you have to do to win is fill out the Gleam widget below!

#Thinkwayfriends

£50 Smyths Voucher #ThinkwayFriends

Best of luck!

If you have a child starting school this September… here’s to them making lots of new wonderful friends! For those that are returning…. here’s to lots more fun with the great friends they already have and for the new ones that might come along!

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Mr Todd’s Lair at Willows Farm

willows farm rocknrollerbaby mummy endeavours

I’ve written about Willows Activity Farm loads of times here on my blog as it’s somewhere we absolutely LOVE to go and luckily for us, it’s local too!

Situated just off the M25 at St Albans, it’s easily accessible from London and for everyone else to visit as well, no matter which direction you’re coming from!

And I know that visitors do come from far afield because my very good friend Ruth who writes the blog Rocknrollerbaby drives from Norwich to enjoy the delights of Willows Farm! In fact we meet there regularly and already plan more visits this year!

We were there together on this day and it’s like our very own special place to meet! Neither of us likes to be there without the other now and our children, all pictured above, adore each other and always, ALWAYS have the best time at Willows!

This time we were there for a very special event… the grand opening of brand new play area for 2018…Mr. Todd’s Lair. The large, amazing, Peter Rabbit playground has been a favourite at Willows for a few years now and it truly is a brilliant feature, so they wanted to add to it!

It was an early start for the launch, and very cold, but with a lovely breakfast laid on for the press, bloggers and a few celebs it was worth it!

After breakfast there was a meet and greet with the main Fox himself…. Mr Todd! The kids loved seeing him, he was very happy to pose for photo’s and looked very dapper indeed!

willows farm mr todd peter rabbit

Peter Rabbit was in attendance too of course, who was in a particularly mischievous mood… covering my twins’ faces when I was trying to take a photo! Very funny…. NOT… naughty Peter Rabbit!

willows farm peter rabbit

That’s better!

willows farm peter rabbit

Then it was time to be taken to Mr. Todd’s lair and the kids couldn’t wait! There were two entrances…. either going down the slide at the top here, or wandering down the hill to the bottom where you can enter via the doorway!

willows farm mr todds lair peter rabbit

willows farm mr todds lair peter rabbit

willows farm mr todds lair

It looked amazing! As with every other feature at Willows, the attention to detail is second to none. All the kids were completely in a frenzy as they raced to explore all around and inside this new play area! There’s a glimpse into how Mr. Todd lives with a full size dining table and chairs in the kitchen that kids can sit at, a cooking pot that they can look inside or even climb into if they so wish and lots of little drawers and fiddly bits to faff around with! There’s also the slides and hidden entrances.

willows farm mr todds lair rocknrollerbabyRuth and I with the stars of the show Peter Rabbit and Mr. Todd!

willows farm hertfordshire peter rabbit mr todd todds lairMine and Ruth’s gorgeous girls!

Outside the old tree house has been included in the new Mr. Todds area and it’s been given a spruce up, as has the zip wire! There’s also a little Squirrel Nutkin agility course and a fab new kiosk selling hot doughnuts…. we definitely made the most of this, they were super delicious!

willows farm mr todds lair peter rabbit

willows farm mr todds lair peter rabbit

willows farm mr todds lair peter rabbit

willows farm mr todds lair peter rabbit

willows farm mr todds lair peter rabbit

We can wholeheartedly say that this new addition to Willows was a massive hit and everyone enjoyed it. It fits right in with everything else, like it’s always been there. I can’t believe how Willows manages to add something new and exciting every single year. Changing things up so there’s always fresh excitement every time you visit!

Our kids wanted to go down to the bouncy castles afterwards!

I have to mention that everything, once you’ve paid the entrance fee to get in, is included! That means all the bouncy castles, the fairground rides, the outdoor shows, the seasonal events, the indoor play areas, the animals… EVERYTHING! The only thing you have to pay for is food…. and you don’t even need to pay for that! The food IS great at Willows and very reasonably priced, but you are very welcome to bring a packed lunch and there is even a designated area to eat it, which is covered in Winter to keep the cold out and all open in the Summer to enjoy the weather!

Ruth and I are always at Willows till closing time! They are literally throwing us out we stay so long and this happens every single time! We love it and never want to leave… honestly!

The bouncy castles were soaked. It had been raining early in the morning but do you think this stopped our kids from running straight onto them? Oh no!

willows farm

Wet trousers and socks were the result so after this we headed to the indoor play barn, Woolly Jumpers! Luckily they sell socks for £1 a pair so I bought some for my twins whose own socks were drenched! There’s two indoor play areas… the main one, Woolly Jumpers, is set inside the cafe where we love to hang out especially when it’s cold! There’s a full climbing play frame including slides and our children spend hours in here!

willows farm

willows farm

The other one is Toddler Town which is perfect for younger kids that has all sorts of play houses in, like a kitchen, pet shop, train station, hospital and lots more… it’s role play heaven!

A big event that’s happening at Willows right now is their Easter Eggstravaganza! This is really lovely. There’s a designated, delightfully pretty Easter Egg hunt garden where children can pick a basket and run around hunting for hidden wooden eggs (which are easy to find!) then exchange them for REAL chocolate eggs afterwards! Again, you don’t pay extra for any of this, it’s all included in the entry price! That’s right… yummy chocolate for free!

willows farm easter

willows farm easter

willows farm easter

From here we headed down to Tractor Tristan! We love this… it’s a cute ride on the back of a Tractor which takes you on a little seasonal tour… this time it was through an Easter scene! There’s also a large pond to go through as well as seeing lots of animals! A visit to Willows really isn’t the same without a ride on Tristan!

willows farm

willows farm

After this we headed inside again, into the Farmyard to see some more animals. It’s Spring so lots of babies to see including piglets and adorable chicks! There were also some lambs being hand fed by some of the farmers!

willows farm piglets

willows farm feeding lambs spring 2018

willows farm animals guinea pigs

Petting some of the smaller animals is a highlight for most children! All they need to do is take a seat and one of the helpers will come around and hand them a guinea pig to hold. So cute!

Lastly, we headed round to the Peter Rabbit play area! It cost over £1 million to create and it’s easy to see why… it’s incredible! There’s so much in this one space and all dedicated to the CBeebies version of the much loved character. There’s Mr McGregors garden where you can run around and collect giant vegetables, Jeremy Fisher’s music pond where there all sorts of instruments to make noises, Benjamin Button’s amazing treehouse with adventure play area, Mrs Tiggy Winkles kitchen, Lily Bobtails nature discovery and Peter Rabbit’s secret treehouse and adventure playground!

willows farm peter rabbit

willows farm peter rabbit

It’s easy to understand how we can stay at Willows till closing time isn’t it?

Don’t just take our word for it either… whenever we visit we quite often spy a famous face or two.. oh yes, it’s a favourite haunt for celebrity kiddo’s too! Samantha Faiers is a frequent visitor at the moment with her baby Paul but I quite often spot pop stars, actors, sports stars and tv presenters mingling with the crowds enjoying their day out at Willows with their children!

For the launch of Mr. Todd’s Lair we spotted Alex Jones from The One Show and Michelle Heaton from Liberty X amongst others… including DIY SOS’s Nick Knowles, who very kindly posed for a photo with me… I just wanted to show my other half as he’s a fan! Any excuse!

willows farm nick knowles

Willows Farm Easter Eggstravaganza is on until 15th April.. if you can make it, be sure to pay a visit over the holidays! Otherwise it’s open every single day for you to enjoy. Keep an eye on their website for upcoming events too!

Getting Girls into STEM with Pretty Curious by EDF Energy

I’ve been seeing the STEM campaign by EDF Energy on social media for a while and was initially surprised to learn that of all the people working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) related jobs, only a small percentage were women. Years ago I would’ve thought that to be the case but not in this day and age surely? Maybe boys have been naturally drawn to those subjects in the past because of the generations before them, and girls go to the more arty type subjects at school. I don’t know. But I do know that unless schools and us as parents are actively trying to change these perceptions and teaching girls about the diverse roles these subjects can lead to… nothing will change.

pretty curious EDF Energy

Step forward EDF Energy! They decided to create their Pretty Curious campaign which has been running for a few years now and has been incredibly successful. It was set up to raise awareness and give young girls the opportunity to learn about the industries they could work in. Just one in four people working in core STEM roles in the UK are women and EDF Energy is reliant on STEM skills not only to deliver a low-carbon energy future but also to create smarter energy solutions. That’s why they they want to recruit from the widest talent pool possible including a new generation of STEM advocates.

Having a 12 year old daughter myself, I do actively encourage her to explore STEM subjects, especially technology which I know she’s interested in already, and Maths because she’s quite good at it (she doesn’t particularly like it though!). She loves making things and getting stuck in so when we were asked if we’d like to take part in this campaign and receive a Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit, my daughter was very excited!

EDF Energy have partnered up with Star Wars: The Last Jedi recently as they believe having a major movie on board which features two inspirational female lead characters with strong STEM skills… Rose and Rey, can encourage girls to look at STEM in a new light.

pretty curious edf energy star wars

pretty curious edf energy star wars

When the Droid Inventor Kit arrived, it was all I could do to keep my twin boys away from it! They just assumed it was for them and I guess therein lies the problem. Because the toy was a mechanical, construction robot thing, my boys immediately thought it had come for them. I would go so far as to say they were even a little shocked when I told them no, it was for their sister! They looked at each other in disbelief!

Why is that? It’s that stereotypical gender role argument… that boys usually have all the building toys and girls would have the creative toys or dolls etc. To be fair, being an R2-D2 I personally would never have bought something like this for my daughter and it DOES look like a boys toy, so it’s taught me something too right there! It’s silly though because there’s no reason why girls shouldn’t build and construct things…. they’re just as capable and enjoy it just as much!

This is why I love this campaign.

So, I made sure the boys took a back seat this time… they could sit and watch! The kit was fantastic. Created by Little Bits, who make customisable, remote control toys, comes with everything they need to make the Droid, including batteries!

The first thing to do is download the App. This provides all the instructions as well as the tools to controls your Droid once complete, there are paper ones too but my daughter was straight into the App!

star ward droid pretty curious edf energy

star ward droid pretty curious edf energy

As you can see there are a fair few parts and circuits to navigate but the step by step instructions were easy to follow. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed working out what to do all by herself. I literally didn’t have to help her once and she absolutely relished this.

pretty curious

pretty curious edf energy

pretty curious

pretty curious edf energy

The App that accompanies the Droid becomes the controller too… a very important partner! It comes with more than 16 different missions for the Droid to undertake so no need for kids to become bored! Again, my daughter set all this up by herself. Being able to work out how to put something like this together without help was so important. It meant she didn’t have to ask anyone else to do it, which would’ve meant a disconnection between her and the Droid. She couldn’t wait to try out the circuits she’d connected and built, before it was even completed!

droid inventor kit pretty curious edf energy

Once the main control part of the Droid had been assembled, it was then time to add the body. These toys have been designed so that you can create your own inventions too and not just have the R2-D2. This encourages kids to think outside the box and customise their Droids in as many different ways as their imaginations allow! They can even ADD to the mix by buying different Little Bits kits.

All that needed to be added then was the outer shell and all the stickers. She had fun with that! The R2-D2 was complete… and doesn’t he look amazing?

pretty curious edf energy droid inventor kit

My daughter thought the whole process of building the Droid was great! She discovered she possessed the necessary skills to work out the logistics, the problem solving, the coordination, the design, and that she could do all this with no help!

Once she had played around with the Droid for a while, taking him all over the house, controlling him with the App, it was time for my twins to finally have a go!

pretty curious

They loved it… especially all the noises it makes! R2-D2 has a voice and he uses it!

My daughter was also encouraged to watch a virtual reality video about three women who work for EDF Energy in three very different roles… a structural engineer who helped design The Shard, a Research Engineer for off shore windfarms and a Coder who also founded crowdfunding website Mode for Me! She was amazed by these jobs and realistically she may never have known about these roles had it not been for us taking part in this campaign. I’m sure they inspired her to consider her career options more carefully now she has seen what she could do!

IMG_3610

I would absolutely tell anyone with a daughter to head over to the EDF Energy website as there’s so much information on there about the Pretty Curious programme. The events they organise too are challenging girls creatively to experience those career possibilities available by pursuing STEM subjects at school.

Also on the website you’ll find……

Future Me avatar and quiz

Create a sharable and personalised avatar in a STEM-related career to picture yourself in a potential future role ranging from a biologist to an electrical engineer. If you’re not sure what the future could hold, take their easy personality quiz to see what career may be best suited to your interests.

Parents quiz

Be the first to take the new parents quiz and see what STEM-related career would best suit your child. Identify their strengths, plus discover information and guidance on pursuing a career in that particular role once you receive your results.

We have fully appreciated collaborating with EDF Energy on their brilliant #PrettyCurious campaign – I feel as though we have benefited a great deal from it and learned so much. I really hope you find it educational too.

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