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!

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.

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.

2019 – Our Year In Pictures

I have been reflecting on the past year and kicking myself for not doing as much as I should, achieving as many goals as I wanted and generally beating myself up which isn’t a good thing at all.

After flicking through my camera roll I had a word with myself and realised that I am eternally grateful for my happy and healthy family and all the things we have accomplished in 2019 and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings us.

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.