Friday 30 September 2011

Second day of our holiday and Mwnt beach

We started our day with some delicious croissants from Y Popty Gwyn in Moylegrove, you order them the night before and they deliver right to the cottage first thing in the morning, lovely!

In the afternoon we went to visit Mwnt Beach. We were lucky enough to have another beautiful day. There are quite a few steps down from the car park so not very pushchair friendly, but we managed to carry the little ones. It was a lovely sheltered beach, and luckily the tide was out, otherwise there wouldn't have been much beach!

Harry isn't very sure about the sea, and it was quite rough, although people were swimming. But someone had built up the sand to create a large sandy pool from the river at the top of the beach which was perfect for him. He had a fantastic time splashing about in the water and driving his truck about in the sand.

On holiday at Mwnt Beach, Pembrokeshire

On holiday at Mwnt Beach, Pembrokeshire

I've often in the past seen parents on the beach with wet, sandy toddlers and felt sorry for them having to clean them up before getting them into the car. Well today it was our turn!

Thursday 29 September 2011

On holiday at Croft Farm and Celtic Cottages, Pembrokeshire

We are spending a week on a late summer holiday at Croft Farm and Celtic Cottages in Pembrokeshire, Wales. We drove over yesterday, a journey which went surprisingly well despite misgivings. Both little ones were impeccably behaved in the car.

We are staying in the Talar Aur cottage which is lovely, beautifully decorated and fully equipped. First thing this morning we were out to feed the animals:

On holiday at Croft Farm and Celtic Cottages, Pembrokeshire

Harry was a bit nervous of the goats to start with, but once he realised he could just shove the bucket in their faces he was fine.

On holiday at Croft Farm and Celtic Cottages, Pembrokeshire

The pigs are a bit more intimidating, best to throw the food over the fence.

On holiday at Croft Farm and Celtic Cottages, Pembrokeshire

The donkeys were also very keen to get to the food.

In the chicken house we collected the fresh eggs.

On holiday at Croft Farm and Celtic Cottages, Pembrokeshire

In the afternoon we drove down to one of the nearest beaches, Poppit Sands. It was a lovely big beach, free parking and very few people there. We busied ourselves making sandcastles, then headed over to look for crabs in the rockpools (we didn't find any!). After a slight detour due to a should-have-trusted-the-sat-nav navigational error we returned to the farm and tried out the swimming pool. Unfortunately Harry wasn't really up for it, but Mia seemed to like her first swim so hopefully we will be giving it another go later in the week!

We've been so lucky with the weather, it is gloriously hot and sunny, long may it last!

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Dealing with clutter in the home

This post was inspired by the Friday Club Home Carnival hosted by Notes from Home, and the topic this week is dealing with clutter in the home. It's a subject which appeals to me, because I do find that my mood is negatively affected by clutter and mess in my environment. The trouble is that when you have small children there is so much stuff around, and none of it is particularly visually appealing.

Dealing with clutter in the home

If you can keep your home free of clutter it instantly creates a more relaxed environment, and also a healthier one, because it becomes easier to clean. Here are a few tips which I try to follow to keep my home as clutter free as possible:

  • When a child outgrows a piece of equipment, especially a large item like a bouncy chair or playmat, either pass it on or store it somewhere out of sight. If you are storing it, make sure that it is neatly packed and properly protected. And be honest with yourself as to whether you are really going to use it again, or whether it could benefit someone else!

  • Always keep a carrier bag or box somewhere out of sight to keep things in for the charity shop or to pass on to friends. When it is full, make sure to drop it off immediately.

  • Store like toys with like. If you find that you've got too many of the same thing then it's easier to see it, and then make the decision which ones to part with.

  • Try and request non-clutter gifts for the children - passes to local attractions or soft play centres, a day trip out with the grandparents, clothes if they need them. My only exception is books, they don't count!

  • Keep a nice basket in all the rooms where toys are played with that you can throw loose toys into at the end of the day, preferably one that can be stowed out of sight, e.g. under the bed. Go through the boxes though and rehome things regularly.

  • Identify the "hot spots" in your home. These are places where clutter builds up easily. Mine are - the shelf by the front door, the stairs, the counter in the kitchen and the coffee table. Make a daily effort to keep these areas clean and put away items that are out of place.

  • The most obvious tip - a place for everything and everything in its place! Find a home for everything and get in the habit of putting it away. Make decluttering part of your cleaning and tidying routine.

Toy car and truck clutter

Recently I've taken a lot of inspiration from the Marie Kondo method of tidying and decluttering. You can read a little bit about my experiences here - The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo - and here - My Marie Kondo Approach and Sparking Joy - as well as Working out my own interpretation of the Marie Kondo method.

Monday 26 September 2011

Simultaneously entertaining a baby and toddler

Before getting pregnant with Mia, I was chatting to another mum at baby group who had just had her second child. She told me that the worst thing about managing with two was the feelings of guilt. Having spent all her time looking after her toddler, she now had to divide her attention between her two daughters.

This is something that I've been struggling with lately. Harry can entertain himself for a little while with his toys. But it's more fun for both him and me if I can join in with him. Mia is often quite content to sit in her swinging chair and listen to the music, but she is much happier when I get down on her level and interact with her. The trouble is that it's very difficult to entertain them both at the same time.

Mia does still sleep a lot during the day, and Harry can play by himself while she is feeding, which takes less and less time these days. But there are many times when they are both desperate for attention, and I end up either ignoring one or trying to divide my time and giving neither my full attention.

I know that it will be easier when Mia is sitting and interacting more with her surroundings, and I'm really looking forward to it. But in the meantime I find it a struggle to come up with activities that will engage them both. What do other people do?

Simultaneously entertaining a baby and a toddler

Notice Mia looking on from the background, desperate to join in!

Sunday 25 September 2011

Return to running

I've never been a big runner, but I've always found that for me it's the best form of exercise to really get my heart pumping. My aim is to run 5k in 30 minutes a couple of times a week, teamed with some swimming if I get the chance.

I haven't been running since I found out I was pregnant over a year ago. I also need to be a bit careful, having suffered from separated stomach muscles in pregnancy. But I saw my physiotherapist last week and she gave me the go ahead to start running again, so this morning I gave it a go.

I'm taking it very slowly, so I began by alternating two minutes of running and walking for half an hour. It felt really good to be getting back into it.

I did discover something though. After many years without needing to worry, it appears that after two pregnancies along with associated breastfeeding I now need to add a sports bra to the shopping list!

Running accessories

Saturday 24 September 2011

10 car journey activities to do with your toddler

We have a long car journey coming up, and so I'm putting together a bag of activities to keep Harry busy. There isn't a lot of space between the car seats in the back, but most of these activities will require a certain level of intervention, either to keep him interested or to keep frustration to a minimum. I'm also trying to come up with activities to keep him amused by himself.

Ten car journey activities to do with your toddler

I'll be taking a small tray for some of the activities. And I'll be sure to report back on how well they worked! Here's what I've come up with! Most of these activities need a tray to keep everything together.

Laminated pictures - themed collections of images to look at together. I found these on various websites and have printed them out in colour so that we can go through and name the different objects.

Laminated pictures for children

Aquadoodle Mini Mats - we have a couple of sets of these. They are little blank mats that you scribble on with the special wet pen and the picture appears. When the water is dry you can reuse them. They are brilliant for keeping little ones busy and don't make any mess, you just need to make sure that you have water to refill the pens if they get really keen.

Playdoh -  I bought this little Play-Doh Mini Fun Factory which contains two small pots and a mini extruder, then added a couple of cutters and a lollipop stick. 
Mini PlayDoh set

Small jigsaws - we had a few that were given out in restaurants etc., you need little jigsaws that have small pieces but not too many - something like these mini jungle jigsaws  

Collage bag - glue stick, collage materials, background papers. Can be supplemented on the journey with free catalogues or leaflets if required, maybe leaflets with pictures of the places that you have been visiting. 
Collage materials and glue

Colouring - a small colouring book, pack of crayons and stickers. Crayons are best as they don't make much mess and don't need sharpening like pencils.

Colouring books and stickers

Matching activities - I print a grid of pictures or shapes and then cut out the corresponding shapes to be glued in place over the top. I also scanned in some foam stickers and am providing the matching stickers to be stuck over the top of the scanned images for some shape matching fun.

Magnet books - try to find one with magnets that are quite large so that they don't get lost. We had this Peppa Pig: Marvellous Magnet Book which was brilliant.

Car layout and car stickers - I drew this out myself, I hope he likes it! Just draw out a simple road way picture with a few shops and houses etc. and provide car stickers to decorate it with.
Car layout drawing and car stickers

Small books - there are all sorts of little mini library book sets that you can buy - we had this lovely Axel Scheffler Pocket LibraryAlso children's magazines, especially those with games and stickers and a toy on the front.

I hope that these ideas were helpful!

Ginny at Small Things also has some brilliant suggestions in her blog post about travelling with young children.

Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday 23 September 2011

Sunflower Mosaic Stepping Stone

I'm really proud of this garden mosaic stepping stone which is made from a kit by Tracey Cartledge.

Sunflower mosaic stepping stone

This kit includes everything that you need to make the mosaic stepping stone. I must admit that when I opened the kit I was a little bit daunted, as the pieces of tile were much larger than I expected and in irregular shapes that didn't match the pattern. I borrowed a pair of tile nippers, but I didn't find them very easy to use.

In the end though I discovered that by putting the pieces into a plastic bag and breaking them up with a hammer I could make them small enough to fill the design nicely and it was quite easy to arrange the tiled pieces to fit the pattern. The finished piece is more fragmented than the original design on the website and I'm not sure that I could ever have made the tile pieces into the correct shapes for the petals, but I'm very pleased with how it looks.

Sunflower mosaic stepping stone

The kit was really easy to follow, and a link is provided in the kit to a YouTube video to show you how to complete it which was really helpful. I have another kit to complete now, a poppy this time, and I think that they will both look lovely out in the garden!

Make a Monster Kit - Toddler Busy Bag Activity

This Make-a-Monster kit is really easy to put together and would be perfect for a long car or plane journey, or a quick activity to pull out when you need to amuse your toddler for a few minutes. You can make it using bits and pieces from around the house or craft cupboard, and it all fits neatly into a sandwich bag to take out and about with you. It's a great Halloween craft for little ones that can't handle anything too spooky.

Make a monster toddler busy bag

The basic monster's head is made from a large brown piece of felt. If you have several children then it's a good idea to make at least one for each child, perhaps in different shapes and colours. Then I used different colours of felt to cut out some suitable monster shapes - for example sharp teeth, tongues, eyebrows and different shapes which can be used for spots or other markings. They eyes are made from some black buttons sewn onto a white felt background.

Make a monster busy bag kit for children

I also gathered together some coloured shredded paper which can be used for hair, beards or anything else that the child can imagine, as well as short pieces of pipe cleaners and pieces of coloured craft foam. You could also add shapes made from coloured paper and card, scraps of material for clothing, coloured tissue paper or even little objects like paper clips and dried pasta shapes - the possibilities are endless!

I love these re-sealable bags from Ikea to use for my toddler busy bag activities. They come in a range of different sizes so I can always find one that suits what I'm looking for! Here is the Make a Monster kit all packed away:

Make a monster busy bag kit

It takes up hardly any space to store, when you've finished playing, just scoop it all back into the bag ready for another day.

I've written about a few Halloween crafts for young children which you might also enjoy, like these super simple Halloween window decorations. My children also really enjoyed their Halloween sensory tub and Halloween ice block excavation activity. Finally if you are planning a Halloween party for young children you might enjoy my post with some Halloween party ideas for little ones.

You might also like my other busy bags for toddlers:

Pasta and pots busy bag
Threading busy bag
Christmas busy bag

Thursday 22 September 2011

Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World

Yesterday we went to visit Paultons Park, with Peppa Pig World being the main attraction. We picked a good day to visit - term time, mid week and on a day which started drizzly but brightened up later.

We aimed to arrive just as the park opened at 10.30am, and actually arrived before this. So we were pleased to discover that although 10.30am was when the rides started, the park was actually already open. This meant that we could make the most of the day with a look around and visit to the play areas before the rides started.

We followed the other buggies and headed first to Peppa Pig World, which although not a huge area contains a surprisingly large number of attractions.

George's Dinosaur ride at Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park

All the rides here are low capacity and slow loading, so we were glad that it was a quiet day. There is a good selection of Peppa Pig themed rides, and the area is beautifully landscaped. There are also walk through areas like Peppa Pig's House and Madame Gazelle's School House, with lots of models around, like Peppa's Camper Van.

Boat ride at Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park with our toddler

It wasn't long before Harry spotted the Trekking Tractors, so we headed over for the first of several rides. The tractor drives through vegetable patches where they are growing real vegetables, no plastic theming here.

Tractor ride with our toddler at Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park

The Digger Ride was another hit, with Harry happy to ride on his own.

Our toddler on the Digger ride at Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park

We were delighted to discover that all the coin operated style machines were actually free, which we thought was a nice touch!

Our toddler on a ride at Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park

There was even a quiet area in George's Spaceship Play Zone for Mia to stretch her legs after being crammed into the carrier or pushchair all day.

Baby in the soft play area at Peppa Pig World in Paultons Park

We had a brilliant day, and left feeling that there was plenty for our baby and toddler to do, with many more attractions that we didn't even have time for. Although we were mainly visiting for Peppa Pig World, many of the older attractions were also very suitable and enjoyable. We paid £40 for two adults. Children under 1 metre tall are free, but toddlers over that height will need to be paid which can be quite expensive for a little one.

I've put together a bit of information based on our experiences for any other families with young children planning a visit to the park.

Facilities for babies and toddlers:
  • All the toilets have baby change facilities. All toilets are fitted with a pull down toddler seat.
  • There is a feeding room available and also plenty of benches for discreet breastfeeding, including undercover, and inside at George's Spaceship Playzone.
  • Many of the indoor and outdoor play areas are suitable for babies and small toddlers. George's Spaceship Playzone has areas for ages 0-2, ages 2-5, as well as a larger area suitable for all ages. Adults can accompany children onto the equipment.
  • Mr Potato's Playground has a lot of outdoor play equipment which is very suitable for smaller toddlers as it is low to the ground and you can supervise them easily. There are also slides which little ones can climb up to easily.
  • Pushchairs need to be left outside most rides, so take a separate carry on bag for valuables.
  • You can take babies on most of the rides in Peppa Pig World.
  • The Flying Frog Rollercoaster is designed for little ones and doesn't have a height restriction (although not suitable for children under 12 months). It's a good introduction to rollercoasters for little ones, although still quite intense!
  • The Digger Ride is for children only, but adults can wait in the queue with children, settle them into their seats, and wait on the platform during the ride.
  • There are lots of areas in the park where you can get away from the crowds for some quiet time, or a walk about with the pushchair.

  • Coin operated style machines in the park are actually free, just press the button inside
  • Arrive early and plan to stay later as there are still attractions to enjoy in the park when the rides are shut.
  • The Muddy Puddles outdoor water play area can make children very wet, so take spare clothes.
  • You need to wear socks in George's Spaceship Playzone, so take your own or else you'll have to buy Peppa Pig ones from the shop.
  • There are plenty of benches and areas to eat picnics.
  • George's Dinosaur Adventure is the only ride in Peppa Pig World with a height restriction of 90cm and above, which is strictly enforced for safety reasons.
  • If you're visiting for Peppa Pig World, don't discount the other attractions in the park as there are lots of other rides and attractions suitable for smaller children.
  • Although the opening hours of the park have been extended since Peppa Pig World opened in April 2011, the park can get very busy, especially in school holidays and at weekends.
  • It is expensive to visit. A season ticket is good value if you plan to visit more than four times in a year, and it is cheaper if you buy while in the park and upgrade your day ticket. It is slightly cheaper to buy tickets online before your visit, but the saving is small as you still have to pay £1 booking fee.
  • The Peppa Pig shop sells everything that you can imagine with Peppa Pig and friends on it.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

16 weeks

Mia is 16 weeks old today, which is a bit of a personal milestone. I've been anxiously anticipating this week, because when Harry was 16 weeks old we were going through a very difficult patch. I was sleep deprived, tearful and miserable. That was the point at which one morning I actually called my Health Visitor in desperation because I felt like I needed some help.

Looking back it doesn't seem that bad. Our biggest problem was that Harry was waking every couple of hours at night to feed, and he never seemed content or settled during the day. I'd read my parenting books, and I was feeling frustrated because I thought that he should be sleeping for longer stretches by now. I also looked around at other babies that were happy and smiley, while he just seemed so unhappy and cross. I assumed that the reason he was waking so frequently and was so discontent was because he was hungry. This was coupled with the fact that he never breastfed for long, and his red book told me that he wasn't put on weight as quickly as he should have been.

I was so worried that he wasn't feeding properly that I lost confidence in my ability to breastfeed, and we ended up moving to supplementing with formula, before starting him on baby rice at just 17 weeks. It made no difference at all to his sleeping.

Baby at sixteen weeks old

Now Mia is the same age, and her night time sleeping is pretty similar. We had some longer stretches a few weeks back, but lately it's back to every two hours at night again. The difference is that this time I know that she isn't always waking because she is hungry.

I now know that babies (and toddlers!) do just wake up during the night and can find it difficult to get back to sleep. Breastfeeding back to sleep is a comfort thing, and it can become a habit. But this time I am less anxious and frustrated when she wakes, because I know that it is not because she is starving.

I won't be rushing to wean so early this time, and I don't feel the need yet to start topping up with formula. I'll just accept that whether by nature or nurture my babies are not good sleepers, and remind myself that there will come a day when I am struggling to get them out of bed in the mornings.

Baby at sixteen weeks old

I also don't get Mia weighed as frequently, with the consequence that I don't talk to Health Visitors as often. This time around I have the confidence to follow my own instincts.

Monday 19 September 2011

A trip down memory lane

I like to think that I'm fairly decluttered, but I do have a tendency to hang on to sentimental things. I decided it was time to go through the two shoeboxes that I have stuffed full of old letters, cards and other mementoes in the hope of thinning them out a little bit. 
I spread them out over the dining table, and my entire life was laid out in front of me. 
I had letters from my first best friend, who moved away when I was seven. Letters from a schoolfriend in hospital. Letters from my German penfriend. My first Valentine's Day cards. Letters from penfriends all over the world that I made during the early years of the internet - how funny that we used to write old fashioned letters to each other despite the new technology on our doorsteps! In particular I exchanged long letters with a girl in Canada, we used to pour out our teenage angst to each other in long letters written over several days, usually during lectures at college. 

I found significant Birthday cards, New House cards, Exam Congratulations, Driving Test Congratulations. There were notes from friends left on my door in my first year in halls at University as well as letters from my friends and loved ones back home sent to me during my year out in Germany, in the days before Facebook and Twitter. 

There was the cinema ticket from my first cinema trip with my husband, and the receipt from our first holiday together. There followed Engagement Congratulations, along with all the Valentine's Day and Birthday cards that we have sent each other since.

Old cards and letters

I kept the recycling bin next to my chair, and many times I delved back in to retrieve something. But the trouble with keeping letters from other people is that you are keeping their memories not your own. There are tantalising glimpses, references to things that you have written to them, but the full story is only visible when you see both sides of the correspondence. The only thing I have that I wrote are the letters which I sent to my Grandma while I was in Germany, although they do represent a somewhat sanitised version of events!

It was a real blast from the past to get everything out. I didn't get rid of as much as I expected to. Some of the responses to letters written in my teenage years reminded me of things that I don't need to remember, and it felt cathartic to get rid of them. But there are so many happy memories contained within those boxes, and most things have ended up right back where they started, albeit a little fresher in my mind.

Old cards and letters

Now the next job is to go through all my old teenage diaries. I'd like to re-read them, but not sure I can handle the cringe factor, there is an awful lot of angst contained within those pages!

Sunday 18 September 2011

High Salvington Windmill Open Day

This afternoon we went up the road to the High Salvington Windmill Open Day. We paid £1 per adult which included a tour of the windmill. They assured us that it would only take 20 minutes, so we decided that the little ones were probably up to that. Unfortunately it lasted a little longer than that (nearly an hour!), and so they were both a bit fractious by the end. Harry was desperate to get inside the windmill, and then once inside just as eager to get out again!

High Salvington Windmill Open Day

There were very narrow steps up inside, and Harry had a bit of a wobble at the very top and had to be carried down. So we calmed him down with a sit down and the pot of Cheerios that I am usually carting about with me.

High Salvington Windmill Open Day

Saturday 17 September 2011

My Little Pony Dream Castle revisited

I think that my favourite birthday present ever was the My Little Pony Dream Castle, received on my 7th birthday. I was delighted with it, and it had a lot of play. It's one of the toys that I've held on to, and it's been up in the loft along with a box of the ponies and accessories.

Child playing with My Little Pony Dream Castle

We're in the process of going through the loft thinking about moving house, and so I hauled it down for Harry to play with. It's a bit battered after being well loved for many years, and some of the bits and pieces are missing.

Child playing with My Little Pony Dream Castle

I showed Harry how to set up the castle and left him to it. He quickly designated Mummy, Daddy, Harry and Mia ponies as Mia looked on with interest.

Child playing with My Little Pony Dream Castle

He brushed their hair with the little brushes and gave the baby pony (Blossom) her bottle, then put her down for a nap in the playpen. He was also fascinated by the drawbridge which goes up and down when you turn the handle. He made up all sorts of little role play games with it.

Child playing with My Little Pony Dream Castle

Although it wasn't long before Lightning McQueen came to visit!

Friday 16 September 2011

Is it a tractor?

Child playing with ELC tractor toy

No, it's the bin men! Collect up all the rubbish...

Child playing with ELC tractor toy

...empty it into the lorry...

Child playing with ELC tractor toy

...and drive it to the tip!

Child playing with ELC tractor toy

Thursday 15 September 2011

Potty training success?

We're getting on very well with potty training. Almost every wee at least makes it to the toilet. Unfortunately we don't seem to have quite reached the stage where Harry tells us that he needs to go, but as long as we put him on the toilet frequently we can manage long car journeys, day trips and so on. Now that the novelty has worn off it can be a bit of a battle to get him to sit on the toilet though. We end up performing a pantomime which goes:

Me - Harry, do you need a wee?
Harry - No
Me - Harry, do you need to sit on the toilet!
Harry - NO! Waaaa!
Me - Harry, would you like a biscuit?
Harry - Yes!
Me - So what do you need to do first?
Harry - Sit on the toilet (heads for toilet). Mummy, I need the toilet, I tell you!
Me - Well you didn't really tell me did you?
Harry - I tell you all the time! (He does what is expected of him on the toilet) That was a really really big one! I have a biscuit now!

If I try to test him and not bribe him to sit on the toilet, he will invariably have an accident. Just hoping that this is just a phase and that he'll work it out soon!

Potty training accessories