Something For All:Christmas Gift Guide

[GIFTED] Last year I decided to mix things up a little and instead of making lots of separate gift guides I did one guide that included a little something for everyone, as let’s face it we don’t all fit into the same box do we!

I hope you manage to find something that takes your fancy here as let’s face it we all need a little cheering up this year don’t we.

Something For Our Tummies:

Chocolate Hamper – The ‘sweet dreams’ hamper from Willie’s Cacao is a chocoholics dream with this stinking g hamper full of goodies from gooey hazelnut spread, indulgent hot chocolate, tasty chocolate bars and much more!

Sparkling Kefir Water – I for one have been a lot more conscious of my health this year and have been looking for ways to enjoy things that are good for you but don’t compromise on taste, and this is exactly what you get from Agua De Madre low alcohol sparkling water that comes in three different flavours; making it a great alternative from the usual Christmas indulgences.

Pizza Making Kits – Gifts don’t always have to come in the form of a present under the tree and I personally prefer something a little more interactive, which is exactly what you get with the brilliant pizza making kits from Birtellis who deliver gorgeous stone baked pizza delivery lots directly to your door.

You can pick from a whole host of different toppings that are great fun to make as a family and sit down and enjoy in front of a movie or two!

Things For Teens:

PMS Gift Box – I put this one here for teens as I think it’s going to make the perfect gift for my teen daughter, but I know there are so many ladies out there that would love this gift box. Our Remedy have put together a whole range of gift boxes full of goodies such as their Our Remedy CBD oil, organic sanitary pads and tampons, vegan chocolates and lots more.

Smartphone Projector – Another one here that’s definitely not just for teens is the smartphone projector. This projector allows you to simply pop your phone inside the cardboard projector and let your favourite film fill your wall!

Cards Against Humanity – Now this game has been a huge hit in our family for many years now, but it has caused problems as for obvious reasons the younger ones haven’t been able to join in. The new Cards Against Humanity edition is a much fun as the iconic original game with a huge 600 cards you need to give it a try!

Car Lovers:

Carfume – Gone are the days of having a garish cardboard smelly tree hanging from your rear view mirror as you can now make your car small gorgeous in style with the Carfume Deluxe Edition that gives off the scent of some of your favourite scents in this sleek and stylish design.

Green Fingers:

Living Plant Food – Indoor plants are becoming more and more popular and this gorgeous looking indoor plant care set will help you look after your plant babies in style.

Feel Good Gifts:

Happy Kids Affirmation Cards – It can sometimes be a challenge for children to open up and talk about their feelings so things like these gorgeously illustrated affirmation cards are a great way to increase confidence and build a positive attitude.

Box Of Favours – Sometimes giving someone your time is far more important than a physical gift and this is exactly what you get with this Box Of Favours there are a deli of cards that offer simple things like a cup of tea or breakfast in bed which can mean so much.

All The Toys:

Teething Toy – Teething can cause such a problem for babies as well as parents so giving them something like the Matchstick Monkey to sooth their gums would make for a brilliant present!

Colouring:

Stib Colouring – I love anything that allows little ones to get creative and what’s more with these Stib colouring pencils you get to read a positive word that is embossed on the pencils every time you pick one up!

Stomp Rocket No batteries, no fuel and the ability to shoot 400ft in the air within minutes! Now what’s not to love about the Stomp Rocket!

Skateboard – Now skateboards have been on Santa lists for longer than I can remember and this Tony Hawkes board is perfect for those that are just starting out and wanting to practice their skills!

National Geographic Toys – Frankie is a huge fan of National Geographic and for me anything that gets kids engaged in something fun as well as educational is a win in my books! They have a great range of kits from shark tooth kits, to real bug kits and more!

Coding Toy – Coding is definitely a skill our littles ones need to learn as early as possible now and the amazing Botley is a fantastic way to help kids learn.

Botley is a coding robot that offers 100% screen free learning and allows children to build on their problem solving and critical thinking skills by taking part in a whole host of activities and challenges.

Getting Crafty – I love a toy you can make and keep and this is exactly what you get with the Fuzzikins Ice Cream Van Bag using the washable pens you can decorate the van and all it’s accessories which can then be taken anywhere with you.

Peppa Pig – Peppa Pig is loved by everyone and I have always been impressed with the amazing toys they come out with; and I’ve not been disappointed with the brilliant grow and play pots.

They allow children to learn about growing and nurturing alongside their favourite Peppa characters.

Subway Surfers – The Subway Surfer game is a huge hit with my youngest two so I know that the Spray Crew and Shorties collectibles would make for the perfect stocking fillers.

Pen To Paper:

Dairy Diary – I’m sure I’m not alone in having a pretty empty diary last year, so this year it would be lovely to receive a diary like this beautiful dairy diary to fill with hopes and plans for the year ahead.

This diary also gives you lots of recipes and tips for the home and garden.

Cookbook – Lots more people are choosing to opt for a vegetarian or vegan diet, or at least have a few meat free days, so the Zest For Life cookbook is a great way to find some super tasty recipes.

Something To Wear:

Leggings – Leggings have been a wardrobe staple this year and they won’t be going anywhere fast! I’ve been wearing them to workout as well and leisure wear and Love Legging is the place to go for all your legging needs. They have a huge range and my favourites have been their Energise Leggings for training and their high waisted Everyday Leggings for wearing anytime at all!

Something Special –

Last year I featured a gorgeous necklace from I Love Rachel and this year she has come up with another beautiful piece in this copper necklace with a mint green enamel disc…it’s the little touches of a chocolate surprise in the gift box that mean so much too!

A Little Glow:

Candle – You can’t go wrong with a candle as a present, but these candles from Kindred Fires are something a little special as they smell incredible and offer a personalisation service to make it your very own!

Something For The Garden:

Bird Feeder – We’ve been spending a lot more time outside this year and have really appreciated everything it offers, especially all the nature we need to look after.

This gorgeous bird feeder with its bulrush is a beautiful addition to the garden.

Last but not last is a bit of a funny one, but something my husband would love me to have…an anti snore ring.

This ring is worn an hour before bed and during the night to stop storing by using pressure points.

I know the gift of a good nights sleep would be the perfect gift for a lot of people!

Mysteries In Time – An Adventure Through History GIVEAWAY

[AD] If the past few months have fought me anything, it would be that teachers should never be taken for granted.

Trying to keep my youngest two engaged in learning has been no mean feat, but what I have learnt…especially with Frankie is that he responds much better to anything a little outside the box rather than the traditional style of learning.

So when Mysteries In Time got in touch I was hopefully this would work for us.

Mysteries In Time is a monthly subscription box that brings a whole host of historical topics straight to your door.

They cover world history, ancient Egypt, the Elizabethan era, evacuees, Ancient Greece and the Wild West.

The classic box gives you –

• A story full of adventures

• History booklet

• Word puzzles and other activities

• Themed bookmark

• Sticker sheets

• Three colouring pages

• Timeline stickers

• Free map – with your first box

The bumper box gives you all this, plus a few more additional items, so as you can see there is more than enough to keep them busy.

The time machine designed box arrived at our door and just this alone made him eager to check out what was inside.

Ancient Egypt was our them and Frankie loved uncovering all the exciting elements inside the box – especially the Tutankhamun shaped pen that unusually he was itching to get writing with!

Each aspect of the box interlinks and along with reading from books and worksheets the children can draw, colour and even make things from the modelling clay provided. This was extremely popular with Frankie and he loved making his very own Amulet.

This box really does give you a little bit of everything wether you are history buff or not. From the excitement of receiving something in the post, to discovering everything hiding in the box, to learning all kinds of new facts this box has been brilliant for us.

The quality of the box is fantastic and it really amazing value for money. If you would like to try one out for yourself then click HERE to enter!

Guilt Free Screen Time With Osmo

[PR SAMPLE] Getting the right balance when it comes to screen time and little ones can be so hard, especially in this current climate. I find myself allowing the children more of it so that I can get work done and then feel guilty that I have let YouTube take over my duties as a parent.

I have recently however found a brilliant solution to this – Osmo.

Osmo is a unique educational gaming accessory that you can use with a list of compatible devices. Osmo brings together tactile exploration and innovative technology to allow children to learn in a super fun way.

When our Osmo Creative Kit arrived I was worried the set up would be tricky, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. All that was needed was to download the Osmo App, place our iPad onto the Osmo base and the then place reflector over the top of the iPad’s camera and we were good to go.

There is a huge range of different kits available for Osmo that help your children learn skills in coding, maths, puzzles, spelling and drawing.

The creative kit that we were sent came with a white board style board and wipeable pens to use on it, as well as a case for the pens that doubles up as a cloth…how cool is that!

Oscar set to work following the instructions and jumping with glee when his creations were brought to life by being dragged into the screen by the big lovable bear. It was so much fun the my husband couldn’t resist joining in to.

I loved the combination of him working on his drawing skills, listening and following instructions and learning to navigate his way around the screen.

The creative kit has given a new meaning to screen time for Oscar and has made me feel so much better about getting on with work, safe in the knowledge he is is gaining new skills.

Rail Safety With Network Rail And Thomas The Tank Engine

[AD] ‘Stop, look, listen, think before you cross the road.’

This is a road safely saying that was drummed into me as a child and I have passed this down to my own children over the years. Road safety of course is something of upmost importance and is taught to our children at home and in schools…but how many of you teach rail safety to your children?

As regular train users I am embarrassed to say that the limits of my teaching to the children have been to stand behind the yellow line on the platform and to move away from closing doors. I naively thought that this was all they really needed to know and never considered this of any great importance; and it looks like I’m not alone – a Mumsnet survey shows that only half of parents that were asked had spoken to their children about rail safety, compared to a wapping 94% that had spoken about road safety. 3 in 1 parents have never discussed rail safety with their children, even though 4 out of 5 of them think it should be spoken about and this seems to stem from parents not knowing how to start the conversation which resonated with a third of those asked.

If you really take time to think about this the dangers of the railway are just as great as those on the road and even if you do not live near a railway station or use a train regularly, teaching our little ones about rail safety is of upmost importance and the need for it to be taught at a very young age is so great as their learning can then be carried through into their teenage years.

As I said earlier a third of parents didn’t really know how to broach this subject and this is why Network Rail have got together with the lovable and familiar characters – Thomas And Friends to teach children how to stay safe.

For those of you familiar with Thomas And Friends he is a pretty cheeky character who is always up to mischief and my youngest two certainly have many of the same characteristics. Looking for fun rather than considering dangers that can be involved is something I always need to keep an eye on with them and I’m sure many of you have the same issues with your children.

‘Stay Safe With Thomas’ allows parents to approach the subject gently with their children, allowing them to learn in a fun an interactive way with their special book.

I turn to books to aid me in a whole host of subjects I find difficult to navigate, so having Thomas And Friends there showing children the dangers of not stopping at level crossing, standing to close to the platform and much more allowed me to broach these subjects where the children could put their self into Thomas and his friend’s shoes.

There is also a super handy checklist at the end of the book that can be referred back to time and time again to reinforce all those dangers they need to be keeping an eye out for.

As well as being able to purchase a paperback copy there is an easy to download electronic version which would be great to refer to when you are out and about and using the railway.

I would love to know how many of you already speak to your children about this or if it is something you will now consider engaging in.

Frankie’s Free One – To – One Tuition With toota

[AD] Frankie has struggled with maths for a long time now and a long time now and alongside getting additional help at school I have tried to supplement this at home which has often been a struggle. With there being different teaching methods to those that I am used to and the familiarity between us we more often than not hit a brick wall.

Something I have been considering for a while now is a tutor to give him some much needed expert help, and for me with this in mind I then had to make the decision as to wether I wanted a traditional face – to – face tutor or to explore online tutoring.

So when toota asked me to trial a 40 minute one – to – one maths session for Frankie I was eager to see how this was going to work for us both.

toota offers tailored online one – to one maths tuition from UK qualified teachers and cover key stage 1 all the way to A Levels. The sessions work in a pay as you go basis which allows great flexibility so you can book as an when you need.

Our session was super easy to book and a follow up email arrived shortly after, asking if there was anything specific we were looking to cover. As I said Frankie struggles with lots of aspects of maths so my brief was pretty vague WiFi got didn’t put off our lovely tutor Jan who just got stuck in with Frankie the minute our session began.

Jan introduced herself to us both and Frankie was was a little apprehensive before the session immediately warmed to her and amazingly offered her an insight into what he was finding hard at the moment, with fractions coming up as his sure team of choice for the session.

One of the reasons I was put off by online tutoring was the fact that Frankie works much better in a hands on way but toota quashed my worries here as Jan used visual aids for Frankie as well as an interactive board online that they could both write on. Frankie loves this aspect and it worked well alongside him being able to use traditional pen and paper too.

As the session progressed Jan quickly picked up his needs and sent me on the lookout for some dried pasta for him to use as counters which helped Frankie no end.

I loved the fact I could sit in on the session with him and pick up tips on how I could continue helping him at home which is something I always find hard and end up loosing my will with. The sessions are also recorded so you can go back time and time again to go over anything they have learnt and may have forgotten.

Frankie isn’t a willing learner and I never thought we would get through a whole 40 minutes without him trying to leave the table which would have been so easy to do when there was nobody there in real time, but with the combination of an engaging tutor and a fun and interactive session he finished asking for more which I honestly wasn’t envisaging at all.

For me an online tutor is more convenient for us and during these challenging times it is the only option obviously due to lockdown. We have pretty hectic schedules in this house and having an online tutor would allow me to fit in sessions easily without having to battle through traffic, sit waiting in the car for sessions to finish and allow us to have the session from pretty much wherever we want, also making this more cost effective as you are receiving the cost of traveling back and forth.

As I said earlier I loved being able to dip in and out of the session with him which is something you don’t get the chance to do if they are with an outside tutor and I would really enjoy being able to see his progression the through the sessions.

It also gives them the chance to navigate a different style of learning, mixing in computing skills along maths with the use of the interactive tools.

I was overly impressed with toota from start to finish and I would highly recommend taking up this offer of a FREE 40 minute maths supercharged session to see how it works for yourself. Simply click HERE and use the code JOFIVE to get started and don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

Outdoor Activities For Children During Lockdown

I now have no idea what week we are on in lockdown but I do know that during this time we have all been trying to find ways of coping with being around each other 24 hours a day and for me I have found structure is key and trying to give the children some kind of home learning has been a must.

I am no teacher and so with the help of work set by school and the wonders of the internet I have been trying to find ways to keep the children happy and engaged.

We have been lucky to have been blessed with this wonderful weather and have tried to utilise this as much as possible and taking our home learning outside.

  • Most homeschooling activities can be done outside as it allows children to have freedom of movement, increases their physical development, helps build towards a healthy and activity lifestyle and hopefully makes them happier and more motivated to learn.
  • I have compiled a few of our favourite activities below and hope you find something that’s a good fit for your family to try:

    Den Building – The boys love building dens, so this was a great excuse to get something set up in the garden where they could play and read independently.

    Skipping – Skipping is a great way to get them using their gross motor skills as well as burning off a lot of steam!

    Climbing Tree – This is great for them to challenge their dexterity and build their confidence.

    Digging In The Dirt – All kids love to dig around in the dirt and without knowing it they are getting a real sensory experience. From making mud pies to hiding and finding different objects this is a great exercise.

    Getting Out For A Walk – The government is still allowing us out for 39 mins exercise a day, and we can use this time to clear our heads, strike up conversations to check that your little ones are coming with this situation and make it into a game by spotting different things on the way.

    • Planting – It’s the perfect time to plant seeds and flowers in the garden which can turn into a science lesson by talking about the lifestyle of plants and then drawing and labelling what you have planted.

    • Still Life Painting – There are so many things that can be painted in the garden, just pick something that catches your eye and get painting.

    • Rough And Tumble – This might not be for everyone, but my youngest two literally can’t keep their hands off each other; so for me allowing them to battle it out for a while works. It’s a way for them to relive stress, read social cues, make decisions on their own and of course have a good cardio workout!

    • Nature Collage – Take some time to walk around the garden and pick up anything you find interesting to create a masterpiece with.

    • Painting With Water – A big pot of water, some paint brushes and some space on the patio, a wall or a fence will allow children to create their own murals with no mess at all.

    • Shadow Drawing – Grab some paper and some objects that will create good shadows…our favourites are dinosaurs; position them on the paper so that the sunlight casts a shadow on the paper and the draw around the shadow.

    • Make A Bug Hotel – Find a space in the garden where you can put together as pike of bricks, logs, sticks, tiles and just about anything else mini beasts can create a home. The children can then go back and take a look at the insects and write up their finding.

    • Scavenger Hunt – Write a list of all kinds of different objects you might find outside such as leaves, flowers, rocks and set the kids a challenge to find them all.

    Bug Hunt – Lift up rocks, dig around in the leaves and see what insects you can find and them write down and discuss your findings.

    Tree And Leaf Rubbing – Grab some paper and crayons and find all kinds of different tree barks and leaves to rub over with the crayons and compare the different textures.

    Giant Bubbles – If you have a tuff tray or something large enough to hold a hula hoop then make up a bubble mixture using washing up liquid and water. Place the hula hoop inside and make as many giant bubbles as you can.

    Outdoor Gym – Nature gives us a huge array of items we can use to build our own outside gym which allows the children to left off steam and build gross motor skills. Stepping stones from logs, a rope placed between two objects to limbo under, a bench to do tricep dips from a just a few ideas. Let me know what else you would use!

    Getting Away From The Screens At Hever Castle

    This half term Frankie seemed to hit the age where the only thing that was interesting him was screen time. The dreaded Xbox had firmly taken hold and anything I suggested doing was brushed aside.

    However the mini dictator wasn’t going to get his own way and we headed out for some fresh air and to see what the Living With Nature event at Hever Castle was all about.

    After a lot of complaining about having to leave the house, the minute the children left the car they made a run for it and bounded across the fields, making the most of all the beautiful open areas Hever has to offer.

    The huge play area is always a favourite for us and we spent a good few hours picnicking, letting off steam and drinking delicious coffee and hot chocolates to keep us warm.

    Frankie was especially snug in his cosy sweatshirt from T.J.Maxx.

    Next up it was time to take a look at what was on offer at their Living With Nature week.

    Hever is fabulous for children and they always manage to put on something exciting for them during the holidays and this half term they didn’t disappoint. The children got to watch an array of different birds of prey in the falconry display, meet a hedgehog and talked about bee keeping in the wildlife charity tent, make a super cute ladybird and bumble bee in the craft tent and explored the grounds whilst answering lots of questions in nature trail quiz.

    We even managed to fit in a snowdrop walk which was so pretty and highly recommend.

    Of course we couldn’t have a visit without a trip inside the castle. I always love looking at the grandness of all the rooms whilst the boys love to see the suits of armour and discussing how the poo would make it’s way from the toilet into the moat!

    We managed to squeeze in an ice cream before the heavens opened and got us drenched…but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it!

    For me Hever is a place where the adults can take in the beauty whilst the kids can just be kids and you can ask for much more than that can you.

    FUNharmonics Family Concert – ZOG

    [GIFTED] I think I must have walked past, taken pictures outside and wondered about the Southbank Centre more than a hundred times over the the years but have never ventured inside.

    So I was over the moon when we were asked along to a the FUNharmonics family concert of ZOG that was being held there.

    The Julia Donaldson, Alex Scheffler classic has been a favourite in our house for many years now and I was intrigued how the London Philharmonic Orchestra were going to execute it.

    We arrived to collect our tickets and after getting our bearing we headed to a great area that had been set up with lots of ZOG inspired crafts to keep the little ones busy before the show. this was all included in the price of a ticket and was the perfect way to get them thinking about the story before the main event kicked off.

    We took to our seats in the beautiful auditorium and listened to the huge orchestra warming up. The boys loved looking at a whole host of different instruments and had fun trying to guess what each one was called.

    It wasn’t long before the performance was underway and I was hugely impressed with how interactive it was. The children got to answer questions to find gold stars that appeared on the big screen, there was singing, dancing and lots of information given on the orchestra in a super fun way that was perfect for the age range of the audience.

    For the second part it was time to settle down and watch the super cute Dragon – ZOG.

    As the animation was running we were treated to an amazing performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra that complemented the story perfectly.

    The whole concert was far more interactive and educational than I was imagining and adults and children alike throughly enjoyed it, if all of the woops and cheers from the audience were anything to go by.

    It really did bring a children’s classic to life and it is something that will remain firmly in our memory banks for many years to come.

    The orchestra is turning to Beethoven in February for its next concert – Why Beethoven Threw The Stew and I’m sure it’s going to be as fabulous as ZOG so keep an eye out.

    Learning The Importance Of Friendship With – The Way Home For Wolf

    [AD] Being five may seem to us adults a bit of a breeze. I mean you are fed, clothed, watered and the most challenging part of your day is which cereal to have in the morning.

    But in reality those first few years are pretty tough as there are all sorts of hurdles to overcome, lots of boundaries you need to work out how and if you should push and just knowing how to fit in with your peers is all pretty tough going when you are so small.

    I know for Oscar who has reached the grand old age of five, the determination to do things for himself and his self belief is pretty strong…not sure where he gets that from! So it’s good to try and explain to him that sometimes it takes a team to get through life and it is important to learn to accept help from others, and also be there for other people in your team; and this is the message the lovely new book – The Way Home For Wolf by Rachel Bright and Jim Field is trying to get across.

    Rachel and Jim, who are also the creators of The Lion Inside, The Koala Who Could and The Squirrels Who Squabbled, have created a fantastically fun and easy to read picture book that tells the story of the uber confident wolf cub. Wilf is determined to take the lead when his wolf pack move on one cold and dark evening. Despite being told by his elders this wasn’t a good plan he finds himself lost, alone and not knowing what to do until he is found by a whole host of strangers that reach out a helping hand to him and help him find his way back to the safety of his family.

    I love to encourage my children to be forthright and fearless, but in reality we all need a hand sometimes and should also always be there to keep an eye out for others needing that little bit of help too.

    This is a lovely book that would actually make a fantastic gift for those of you with little ones starting school this year and it had come out just in time for this so go and take a look.

    *Disclosure: This review is based on a free sample.

    Daily Goal Planner And Giveaway

    [AD] I am notorious for my lack of organisation, love of procrastination and can usually be found somewhere compiling a list on an old envelope which will within minutes be lost and forgotten about.

    This skill set doesn’t really lend itself well to a self employed mother of five and for as long as I can remember it has been something I just wish I could change.

    With each new year comes a new zest to make it work and within a few months things are back to normal and I am chasing my tail with little knowledge of what is going on with my week ahead.

    When I was asked to try out the Daily Goal Setter from Mal Paper I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to get myself into a little more order.

    I continually feel that I have hundreds of tabs open in my head and none of them are complete and ready to close; so this planner has been a great way to dump the junk in my head onto paper and get it into some kind of order.

    The goal setter starts off with a great introduction on how you can segment your day and get it into order. It allows to to scribble down goals you have for the short term and long term which is a great way to start thinking positively about life as a whole.

    Things are then broken down and you can fill out tasks ranked in order of importance for your week ahead.

    Breaking it down even further you can do a day by day list of tasks and notes that are interspersed with sections for you right down things you are grateful for, daily affirmations and great things that have happened to you that day.

    For me life can sometimes get a little mundane and it can be hard to see all the good things that have happened day to day so I think having this allows you to take a moment to think of simple pleasures that have pleased you or have made you proud is a great way to make things a little more interesting and grateful.

    My evenings are often spent scrolling aimlessly through my phone and this has given me a little outlet to be more organised, grateful and productive and I highly recommend you take a look.

    If it sounds like something that would benefit you then click HERE for your chance to win your very own copy.