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!

    The Best Home Office Locations

    More than ever at the moment people are having to find ways to work from home – with many finding this could actually be a better and more efficient way to work going forward.

    We are currently struggling at the moment as I am ordinarily the one working from home and I’m happy with my workspace in the dining room; but due to my husband having to move his business online and numerous children trying to create workspaces we are all having to move and adapt to cater for everyone.

    This has really got me thinking about how we could make room for extra office space at home and below I have listed a few of the things I find of upmost importance when planning your home office:

    The Perfect Space – First up of course is where are you going to position your office. Have you got a spare room you could utilise? Could you make room in a guest room? Could you transform an area in your dining room? Could you factor in the cost of a loft conversion?

    Home And Work Life Balance – For me it’s crucial to strike up a good home and work life balance, making sure there is a definite divide between your work space and your living space. Sprawling out on the sofa is great for when you’re relaxing but it’s not really conducive to being productive when working.

    Good Connections – Good connections to the outside work are vital so when planing your space you need to ensure there are plenty of plug sockets situated around your desk and there is a good internet connection.

    Lighting – If you can make sure there is a good amount of natural light which is good for a whole range of things. Getting the right artificial light is also imperative to ensure you don’t strain your eyes whilst trying to concentrate on the screen.

    Colour – Colour can evoke a whole range of emotions so when choosing a colour theme for your office you should choose colours they are going to stimulate your imagination and motive you.

    Greenery – Plants are known to promote happiness and give you that feel good factor so go ahead and fill your office with plenty of plants.

    Tidy House, Tidy Mind – This is a moto I always follow and I think it is just as important when it comes to your workspace. Make sure you have plenty of folders and boxes to store things away so that your desk space doesn’t become cluttered and overwhelming.

    What tips would you have for creating a home office?

    Childcare For Now And The Future With Childcare.co.uk

    [AD] Leaving your children can be one of the most anxious times you are likely to experience during your parenting years. We have that motherly instinct to look after and protect our children and having to take that step and hand the responsibility over someone else can be a really hard task.

    Ultimately though this time will come and as much as it may he heart wrenching for us it is good for our children to mix with others and learn to cope without their immediate family. For many it is also a necessity as we need to go back to work.

    For me one of the best ways to feel happy about passing on one of my precious bundles is to get as much information about the childcare provider as possible and this is were something such as childcare.co.uk is a great service provider.

    Used by over 2 million parents – childcare.co.uk is an award winning online social media networking platform for parents that provides a huge range of childcare in a whole host of forms from babysitting to childminding, nannies to nurseries, maternity nurses to doulas and so much more.

    With the current pandemic childcare may be something that you are thinking about once things are back to normal and this is the perfect time to take a look at everything they have to offer or if you are an NHS/Keyworker then they have a fantastic services that allows you to arrange emergency childcare which couldn’t be more needed right now.

    The site is super east to navigate and once you have registered and created your profile you can search for any of your childcare needs with providers from your local area.

    You can read their profiles to find out a little more about them, and take a look at them from their profile picture which I think is a great addition as it makes you feel more connected straight away.

    Many profiles have reviews attached which is always something I need to see as who better to share experiences with than other parents!

    Finally there is an option to chat online so you can get a feel of the provider before arranging to meet.

    This easy to navigate site offers everything you could want and more and I urge you to take a look for yourselves as I’m sure there is something to fit everyone’s needs.

    A New Way Of Life In Lockdown

    It was only a few weeks ago that I was moaning at my husband for not wanting to get on the tube due to the Coronavirus outbreak – fast forward to now and I have just had sweaty palms and my heart beating out of my chest as I prepared to leave the house to do the weekly shop.

    In such a short space of time the world has been turned upside down in a way none of us could have imagined, at times it feels like we are living in a movie scene.

    I feel grateful that for us it’s being confined under one roof and financial battles that are our only problems as I know that there are far worse situations going on around us and this helps me gain some perspective when things get on top of me.

    I developed a cough and felt unwell around a week before the official lockdown and we are now approaching our third week of social distancing.

    I’m not going to lie, the first few days were pretty horrific. We went from a family that are like ships passing in the night for the majority of the time, to being with each other twenty four hours a day was a huge shock.

    The dining room has had a bit of a turnaround and for the best part of the week is now a training area for my husband to train his clients via Zoom(something neither of us had heard of before) and get some exercise for himself…I need to utilise this more!

    With the youngest two I found early on that structure was key and a loose plan was put in place for their home learning was put in place. This hasn’t been without its tears and tantrums, but on a whole making sure their work is complete before they get free time has been working well. Dad comes into play with the teaching for an hour with a PE session to allow me time to get the house in order and I have been fitting my work in before they wake up, during their break times and once they are all in bed.

    The teens are a bit of a mixed bag and Izzy has been knuckling down independently, getting her set work completed and busying herself with cooking, crafts and helping me with the boys. Archie however has been less compliant. Getting him out of bed is a challenge in itself and trying to get him to work is impossible. I have my fingers crossed that by working together with his teachers we can get things on track after the Easter holidays.

    Food has been a battle ground as for the first two weeks none of us could leave the house and we had to rely on wonderful friends dropping things to us. I have had to ration what we are all eating and it hasn’t gone down well at all. Trying to explain to the children that only having two biscuits a day isn’t going to kill them really isn’t going down well but they are learning to get used to it; as after a very nervous trip to the supermarket, full of people taking little notice of the distance they should be keeping it’s not something I want to be doing to often.

    Trying to keep in touch with the outside world is something I’ve been trying hard to keep up and daily FaceTime calls to family and friends are the new normal. We have a very close relationship with our extended family and not seeing my parents, eldest daughter, grandchildren and my sister has hit us all hard, but keeping in touch virtually is a something we are very thankful for.

    None of us know when this is going to come to an end, but the importance of following these guidelines to protect everybody else is of the upmost importance and if we all hang in there and get this done then hopefully it won’t be long before we can all get back outside to embrace our love ones and enjoy those simply pleasures we are all guilty of taking for granted until now.

    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.

    Getting Pension Savvy With Profile Pensions

    [AD] Retirement and pensions are words that a lot of us would associate with old age; and in a way this is true but they are also two very important things that need to be considered as early as possible to make for a worry free and comfortable time in our later years.

    As well as being put on a back burner due to thinking we have all the time in the world to get this sorted it can more than a little confusing and all to tempting to bury your head in the sand…just as I did!

    With over 10,000 pension schemes available, changing demographics in the way pensions work and a huge lack of knowledge on the subject is no wonder people don’t know where to start when it comes to choosing a pension.

    A pension is in short a savings plan that you put into – usually monthly that allows you to have a regular income once you are retired. The bonus to saving in this way is that you don’t have to pay tax on this, making it the most effective way to save for your future.

    We all need a pension as a way of being supported once we are no longer working and if provisions aren’t put in place then a state pension will have to be relied upon and in turn things will have to be sacrificed due to a limited income and I’m sure that this isn’t how any of us would like to spend our golden years.

    Aside from the state pension there is a workplace pension and a personal pension.

    Workplace pensions simply take a contribution from you, your employer and the government each month and this is then given to you once you reach retirement age; and a personal pension works by having money put into a plan on a monthly basis from a provider you have chosen yourself. These are best suited to self-employed persons such a myself.

    This is of course a very brief outline of how pensions work and with limited access to advice unless you have the funds to a financial advisor it can still be very hard to know which provider is best suited to you and your needs. For me the worry of not having an employer to take away some of this pressure was huge and I wanted an bit of an idiots guide to help me make the right choices.

    Pensions Profile offer an online pensions health check that is a great way to check the status of your pension with no cost to sign up, which is a bit of a no brainer really! Even if you already have a pension in place it could be poorly performing and they can get this checked for you. Many people are at risk of having a poorly performing pension, especially those with pension dating back pre-2000.  Sadly women tend to be paying higher fees than men as their pot sizes are often significantly lower than men’s. They can see if you have any missing pensions from previous employer, this was the case for me and it was great news to find this and know there is a little more available to me. They can even give you an outline of how much you will need to be comfortable during your retirement which gives you a real peace of mind in all areas.

    I hope this has made things a little clearer for you and it has given you that push to get your future finances sorted as its really not as scary as we all think.

    For more information and to sign up for your pension health check click HERE.

     

    Frankie’s Lego Inspired Birthday With The Hip Hooray Co.

    [GIFTED] ‘All I want for my birthday is a party with my friends’ – this was a kick to the stomach after realising Frankie had reached the grand age of eight without having a party with his friends.

    I think due to the combination of his birthday being so close to Christmas and getting into a routine of doing a special day out with the older ones rather than a party, it has always just passed by without me getting anything arranged.

    I was eager to resolve this and after discussions of a sleepover I sought the help of the lovely Tasha from The Hip Hooray Company.

    I have followed her beautiful feed over on Instagram for a long time now and had high hopes that she was going to be able to create something special for Frankie and she certainly didn’t disappoint.

    After a few emails to figure out what Frankie and myself were looking for and what his likes and loves were, Tasha soon came up with a Lego inspired theme that I fell in love with as soon as I saw it. It was the perfect idea for Frankie and gave me lots of ideas of what I was going to do to work around it.

    The Hip Hooray Company specialise in sleepovers and luxe picnics for children and adults alike. There are teepees that are perfect for indoor sleepovers and even the option of bell tent hire for the warmer months.

    We went for a teepee and picnic table package where every little detail was thought of and we couldn’t have been happier.

    Tasha and her equally lovely Mum came along on the afternoon of the sleepover and set everything up for us, I didn’t have to lift a finger whilst Frankie stayed in the front room so he could have a grand reveal!

    We had six teepees set up which come with a mattress, pillows, duvet and decorative cushions. To this bedside tables are added with little glass bottles for their drinks and nightlights and the teepees were given a finishing touch by being draped with bunting and fairy lights…I found the addition of lighting not only very pretty but good for those that aren’t keen on the dark.

    As I said we also had the addition of a picnic table which I’m extremely glad we did as it was a great way to get them all seated to eat and doubled up as the perfect place for games that we played during the evening.

    The table comes complete with tableware, lunch boxes that I used as the children’s goodie bags and of course popcorn boxes for the all important sleepover movie.

    All set up and Frankie over the moon with what had been done the guests arrived and the fun began. Gaming was set to be a big part of the evening, but I made sure we had plenty of games to keep them amused too.

    I went with the Lego theme and had a design your own mini figure area, a game to see who could break their mini figure out of ice the quickest, guess how much Lego was in the jar and plenty of games of who could build the biggest Lego tower in the shortest amount of time.

    Take away pizza was on the menu but I also created a grazing section for them so they could go back and forth as and when they wanted too.

    All played out it we time for a movie and popcorn maker from the Lekue microwave popcorn maker. It was so lovely to be able to be enjoyed in the cosy set up of the teepees and the fairy light lit room.

    As expected bedtime took a while with six over excited eight year olds, but upon getting up in the morning they all said what a great nights sleep they had had in the teepees.

    Before we knew it the party was over and the team were back to take down and put away after all the fun.

    The party was noisy and not much sleep was had and this is exactly what I was expecting – but what I do know is that each and everyone of them had a wonderful and unique experience that they will remember for years to come and I couldn’t have hope for more.

    Making 2020 The Best Year Yet!

    Some years January fills me full of excitement and motivation, sometimes I am happy with my lot and other years it leaves me feeling dull and disappointed with everything I haven’t accomplished in the past year.

    This year thankfully I am full of hope and have lots of ideas and motivation to make this year the best one yet! I haven’t got any grand plans or aspirations, more simple changes that I hope will lead to a calmer, more productive and happier year ahead.

    Travel – Last year I took the children away in my own for the first time ever on a mini road trip around Devon and Cornwall.

    I was extremely anxious in the lead up and nearly cancelled as I doubted my ability to do it on my own. I did however manage to keep us all alive and it sparked something inside me that wanted to travel more with the children and allow the to experience different cultures, discover new lands and get a few stamps in their passports.

    I was lucky enough to travel a lot as a child and it’s something I’ve not had to opportunity to do very much with mine, so I want to change this and this is why it had come top of my list!

    Organisation – Scraps of paper, committing to things before checking dates and time and rushing here there and everywhere due to poor time management are all things that drive me insane, yet I just can’t seem to change.

    Each and every year getting organised appears on my list and every year I fail epically. I think part of this is just in my nature so I’m going to try and work with it and make small changes towards a more organised and in turn less stressful life!

    Getting In Front Of The Camera – This was a resolution from last year and I did get myself out there a little more, but this year I’m giving it a big push.

    All of the accounts I follow have the writer at the forefront of their blog/feeds and this is why I love and build a relationship with them and this is what I would love to be able to do more…even if it is super scary.

    Giving Back – Using my platform to give back to people is certainly something I want to utilise it more for this year. As an influencers I feel it’s important to use my reach to do good. It has brought me so much and I really feel I need to give something back this year.

    Self Care – Towards the end of last year I was feeling extremely bad about myself and I feel a big part of this is due to the fact I have lost the ability to take time out for me, to switch off and to treat my body with the respect it deserves.

    It’s my mission this year to exercise, feed and give myself my some mental health breaks as I know in the long run this is going to benefit everyone.

    Have you got any gaols for the year ahead?

    Pleasing A Teen With Poster Store

    [GIFTED] Trying to please a teenager is a struggle at the best of times, and as I have recently found out these times are particularly challenging when it comes to decorating their room!

    Of course any suggestions that come from me are poopooed and when I ask for her input it turns into a battle ground.

    One thing however that was relatively painless was picking out some prints for her walls.

    We have very different tastes and I have to admit I find it really hard to let the kids have free reign sometimes. When they hit their teens though it is important even more important to let them express themselves and what better way than through art.

    Izzy was lucky enough to be able to choose a selection of prints from Poster Store who offer a huge range of posters of different sizes and genres so there will be something to suit absolutely everyone. They also offer a vast selection of frames so you can have the finished piece all ready to hang as soon as it arrives.

    Izzy is a big lover of monochrome and there were an abundance of prints for her to choose from.

    Over her chest of draws she went for one statement piece that showed her love for her favourite city.

    Above her bed she went for a gallery wall and gained a lot of her inspiration for this from the mood boards on Poster Stores sites.

    Her love of fashion shone through with her choices with the statement Chanel piece being her favourite.

    Izzy went for an all black theme with the frames that were fantastic quality and set the art work off perfectly.

    Wether you are decorating a teens room like me or have a completely different project underway then Poster Store is definitely worth perusing.

    Alice In Wonderland At Hever Castle

    [PRESS EVENT] If I was ever asked to depict a traditional Christmas then Hever Castle would be it for me. We have just had our fourth Christmas visit and it is still as spellbinding and breathtaking as our first trip.

    Fairy lights covering the pathways, lights illuminating the vast lake and snow dipped trees tucked away made for an amazing start to our visit.

    Already full of the spirit of Christmas we headed towards the castle where we got to sip hot chocolates and mulled wine, feast on mince pies and cookies whilst taking in the splendour of the beautifully decorated rooms.

    Warm and toasty we headed back out into the grounds and had some fun on the carousel and the magic hall of mirrors. The children and adults alike where all smiles throughout.

    Next up we headed to see the main man himself. We were a little early so the friendly elves set the boys down to writing their wish lists to Father Christmas that they could then seal and place in the letter box which was a lovely touch.

    Before we knew it we were being guided through the snowy paths by more friendly elves who chatted about all the things they had been up to before passing us over to Father Christmas who was nestled away in his cute wooden cabin.

    He chatted away to the children for some time and was extremely warm and welcoming. After a little pep talk on being good…which was most welcome they all received a lovely gift and we headed out to finish the evening with the Alice In Wonderland trail.

    This is always one of my favourite parts of the evening and this year was one of my favourite themes. The actors were as elaborate and engaging as ever and the decorations were a wonder to see, although Oscar found a few a little spooky this year.

    The beauty of Hever’s Christmas attraction is that tickets are not needed to be booked in advance for everything so there is the opportunity to enjoy this right up until Christmas Eve.