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!

    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?

    Mindfulness With True And The Rainbow Kingdom

    [AD] These are challenging times for us all at the moment, and as adults we can rationalise things and try to put coping mechanisms in place for times when things all get a little to much.

    Sadly for all the little ones going through this it can be even tougher, as it must be so hard to process everything that is going on around them. Their park trips have been cancelled, there is no more school and there is no contact with their family and friends and this must be such a challenge in their little minds.

    One way we can try to ease this for them is to help them find ways to help them relax and focus their minds.

    Frankie has actually suffered with anxiety for many years now, and one thing we have found to be a great help has been mindfulness; and during these times I think that the majority of children could benefit from practicing this.

    Here are just a few ways mindfulness can help:

    Builds Self Control – Mindfulness makes you pay attention to your body and especially breathing systems which we all take for granted. Tuning into these allows us control over over bodies which is a huge help when little ones are feeling overwhelmed.

    Lowers Stress And Anxiety – We all know how much stress and anxiety can take a toll on our bodies and mindfulness can help to regulate blood pressure and lower heart rate.

    • Increase Self-Esteem Mindfulness helps you to think about your emotions and open up to how they are making you feel which in turn builds your confidence and self-esteem.

    With all these benefits you really couldn’t say no to giving it a try, but for me finding a way for little ones to practice this without them getting bored can sometimes be a challenge and this is where True And The Magic Kingdom is a fun and interactive way for them to learn these techniques.

    Tiny Pop has brought True And The Magic Kingdom to our screens, a show produced by the world-renowned artist Pharrell Williams who worked closely with childhood development experts to integrate the concepts of mindfulness into the show.

    True – the hero of the show encourages children to ‘ stop and take a breath’ when they are faced with uncertainty and change and shows them how to deal with things that they are not expecting.

    The Rainbow Kingdom which is home to True is full of hustle and bustle and can be very overwhelming, so at the beginning and end of each show True visits the Wishing Tree which is a haven of love and warmth and demonstrates deep breathing exercises with the children without them really realising what they are practicing.

    Each and every episode includes True’s friend – Zee, who encourages True to STOP, BREATH and THINK about her problems and organise them so they can be dealt with.

    All of these tools that have been integrated into True And The Magic Kingdom to teach young children to stop and think before they act which as we all know isn’t an easy task, but being able to refer back to a favourite TV show to mimic these things is a fantastic way for children to practice these in everyday life and for me this is what is so fantastic about this show, especially with all the changes we are currently facing.

    Tune into Tiny Pop available on FREEVIEW 206| YOUVIEW 206| SKY 616| VIRGIN 736| FREESAT 600 everyday at 8am and 4.30pm

    Do you practice mindfulness with your little ones?

    True And The Rainbow Kingdom™ Guru Studio. © 2020 Guru Studio

    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 Ready For World Book Day With Viking

    [GIFTED] World Book Day often fills parents with dread, but I love it for so many reasons. It gives the children the opportunity to use their imagines and recall all their favourite stories from over the years.

    For reluctant readers and can give them a more creative way to look at reading and this is exactly what I have been doing with Viking.

    I was sent a gorgeous parcel of craft materials to create something around the theme of World Book Day; included in this was a gorgeous book of book craft creations. They were all stunning, but super delicate and with my youngest two being bundles of destruction I wanted to create something for them that would stand the test of time.

    I simply took a piece of A4 black card and onto that randomly stuck some pages from old books – the older and more dishevelled the better.

    Then I look some pages that were partly blank and using the old typewriter style alphabet stamps I printed out a couple of quotes from one of our favourite authors – Roald Dahl.

    One complete I roughly tore the page until it was a good fit and put in place on top of the pages.

    Lastly I placed inside a pretty frame and it was all ready to take up home next to the boys bookcase to give them a little reminder every time they walked past.

    I have lots of other ideas running through my head so watch this space for more book crafts to come!

    Getting Ready To Rumble With Robozuna

    [AD] We started the half term pretty spectacularly when we headed to a pub in Balham! Yes I was taking my children to a pub in South London on a Monday morning – however this was not for a cheeky wine, it was to celebrate the launch of the new Series of Robozuna.

    For those of you not familiar with Robozuna it is a animated show about a 14 year old boy called Ariston and his homemade robot – Mangle who together try to free their land of its evil empire and band of robots.

    The show was really bought to life for us with a wrestling match and a real life Mangle who was there to oversee the proceedings.

    The boys are huge wrestling fans and quickly settled down with their popcorn to watch the show whilst shouting, cheering and encouraging the fighters with each and every choke hold, slam dunk and flying fist!

    Whilst all the fun was taking place we got the chance to take a look at some of the brilliant toys that are available to accompany the show. I love being able to purchase toys to go along with the children’s favourite shows as it really allows them to us their own imaginations and create scenes of their own.

    Frankie’s eyes lit up when he saw the Robozuna game that is available on iOS and Android.

    The game allows you to customise your own bot and battle against others using coding as well as your own creativity.

    I had to tear Frankie away which is always the sign of a good game!

    If you are already a fan or have liked what you see then don’t forget to tune into CITV and ITV at 8.30am on 29th February and check out the brand new series!

    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.