Treads – The Indestructible School Shoe

[GIFTED] It’s that time of year when parents are frantically trying to get ready for the return of ‘back to school’ labels are being stuck in, trousers are being taken up and for me the dreaded shoe shop is taking place.

With years of school shoe shopping under my belt I still haven’t found a stress free way to keep the kids happy and me sane whilst getting what we need.

So when Treads asked if I would like to try out their online shoe shop I was immediately drawn in as the prospect of hitting the shops was something I had been avoiding – especially in the current pandemic.

Treads specialise in durable school shoes for children aged 6-16 using a combination of top quality materials and clever technology to turn construction style footwear into school shoes.

The boys sat with me and happily scrolled through the shoes and selecting them for themselves. There wasn’t a huge range which for me was much better as they came to a decision really quickly.

Frankie went for the smart, Velcro option with the Sydney shoe and Oscar went for a more casual, lace up with the Boston.

Children are in school shoes for a good six or more hours a day, so fitting is important to me and is the only reason I usually opt to go in store for this. However Treads have a print out paper gauge that allows you to take the measurements and then enter online to get the perfect fit. They also come with a dual fitting system which means you can take out one of the inner soles to give you a wider fit.

The biggest pull for me though was their ’12 month indestructible guarantee’ which means if they don’t meet their high standards they will replace them for FREE.

My youngest two have been known to ruin shoes in a matter of weeks so I’m eager to see if they can stand the rest of time with them and by the sounds of these shoes they should have their work cut out trying to get through these!

A special Strobel technique is used which means the upper part of the shoe is placed into the mould and then the sole is injected around it – making it come complete entity. As well as this, the heels are reinforced to prevent splitting so they really have covered everything.

I will of course keep you updated and let you know if the demolishers manage to break through…I have high hopes for these though!

The Week Junior – Current Affairs For Kids

[AD] It’s been months now since the children have been in any kind of formal education, and with the summer holidays drawing to an end it is time to start thinking about the return of school and getting those clogs ticking over again.

Lockdown learning wasn’t easy for us at all and I found myself finding ways to keep the children engaged that wasn’t based around endless piles of black and white worksheets, as they glazed over as soon as they were confronted with this. Instead I tried to use things that were going on around us to spark their thirst for knowledge and this is where The Week Junior has been a great help.

The Week Junior is an award-winning current affairs magazine for children aged 8 – 14 that brings together news and facts from all around the world.

Like most children mine are naturally curious and The Week Junior allows them to find out about current affairs such as COVID-19 and the Beirut explosion in a safe and easy to understand way, which I sometimes find hard to convey to them.

There is a section that encourages their ability to engage in debate….this isn’t something they normally struggle with though to be honest! Quizzes, puzzles and crafts to keep restless fingers busy, sport and entertainment that Frankie absolutely loved and so much more.

We received our first copy just before going away for the weekend and came across a section all about Stonehenge. We have driven past numerous times before and the the youngest two had never really shown much interest. I was so pleased as we passed this year though as they had recalled many facts they had read up on and were over the moon to see it in all it’s grandeur.

Frankie also took inspiration from the ‘photos of the week’ and used my camera to try and get a little more creative with the way they see things though the lens.

This magazine is a fantastic resource to feed inquisitive minds, getting them talking about a whole host of different topics as well as discovering new ones and allows them to build critical skills.

You can join the other 90,000 families that already receive The Week Junior by subscribing HERE and getting your first SIX copies free!

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.

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!

    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.

    Just Go To Bed!

    It’s Friday night and I’m sitting here writing this at gone 10pm, wrinkled from hiding in the bath at my absolute whits end after seven years of no sleep.

    Tonight really has pushed me to my limits and after three hours or pleading, bribery, shouting and crying I really am lost at what to do.

    The oldest three weren’t bad sleepers. I had a few problems over the years with my eldest but all in all bedtimes were pretty much the same routine of bath, book, bed and there they stayed.

    Then along came my fourth. He didn’t really get off to a good start as he suffered terribly with food allergy related eczema that keep him awake at night. I felt terribly for him and night after night would be spent applying creams and trying to sooth him back to sleep. Breastfeeding was a huge comfort for him and for the first few years he spent each and every night in my bed on and off the boob to give both me and him some much needed rest.

    Fast forward a little and the allergies were under control as was the eczema and I had said goodbye to our breast feeding journey but the sleep problems were well and truly still there and to be honest now at the age of seven nothing much has changed, in fact over the past year things have got worse and it is really taking its toll on me.

    You name it I’ve tried it! We’ve gone through countless pillow sprays, special bedtime stories, meditation apps, the list really is endless. There may have been a little light relief every now and then and all this false hope would come flooding in and then bang – right back to square one.

    I’ve sat tirelessly outside his bedroom in the hopes he will drift off to sleep, tried the ‘Super Nanny’ method of returning him every time he leaves his room, none of which have had any effect. He unfortunately inherited my stubborn pigheadedness and it is a standoff between us both and I have to say each and every night he wins.

    When he does eventually decide he can’t take anymore and drifts off it’s not long before he is making his way into our bed, usually closely followed by his younger brother and here starts the next leg. Flying limbs in everyone’s face, the arguing over who is in who’s space and before you know it the alarm is going off and I am ready to face the day on a few broken hours sleep yet again.

    I have to say that over the years I have grown accustom to the lack of sleep and seem to mange pretty well on this but I’m not so sure it’s the same for this little one and I worry what effect it is having on him in terms of his health and learning as it can’t be doing him any good.

    For me the major problem is missing those few hours of time to myself before I hit the sack. A child that won’t go to bed coupled with the demands of two teenagers in the evening, mixed in with all the other admin of life that needs to get done leaves a window of about 30 mins for me to switch off unless I want to push my bedtime back until about 2am.

    I try to remind myself of the quote ‘motherhood – the days are long but the years are short’.

    With grandchildren of my own already I know this too well but I can’t help but feel if my days were a little shorter those years would be they little bit more enjoyable!

    Our January…

    Last year I started a series called “Celebrating The Small Things” were every week I would do a round up of all the little things I had to be thankful for such as one of the children learning to tie there shoes or the excitement of seeing the first flowers of spring.

    Being the unorganised and scatty person that I am, committing to getting this done every week all got to much but I still wanted to keep something going this year so I’ve switched things up about with a round up style post of our month and I hope you like what you see.

    We kicked the year off in a pretty amazing way with a visit to Center Parcs. This is by far one of our favourite places to get away too but the price isn’t always to attractive. We managed to get a great deal and had a few days to relax, try out some new activities, swim to our hearts content and eat our body weight in pancakes.

    After a pretty hectic Christmas and a trip away we decided the rest of the holiday should be dedicated to relaxing, recouping and enjoying our new home. I am always on the look out for the next thing to do and after a discussion with the kids we decided this year would be the year to take things at a slower pace and enjoy things like movies nights and playing board games instead of always being out chasing a new adventure.

    I’m truth if was Frankie that really made me feel terrible about the amount of time we spend out as he informed me he never gets a chance to just go to the park and ride his bike as I’ve always planned something. I know you mum guilt hits you all the time but I really felt terrible at the fact I must have been putting so much pressure on them.

    It was Frankie’s birthday at the beginning of the month and we celebrated him turning seven with a his first day back a school which didn’t go down to well and a steak dinner. Next year it’s my mission to not let the December and January birthdays go so unnoticed.

    I jumped on the keep fit bandwagon with the majority of people and got myself back into David Lloyd more regularly again. The weight had certainly piled on again over Christmas and I was eager to hit those goals again this year.

    After a bit of a nightmare with going backwards and forwards to hospital and orthodontist visits, both Izzy and Archie are finally on their way to getting perfect teeth after having their braces fitted.

    I’m sure most of you feel the same and get pretty bored of the same old meals everyday. I was as bored of cooking them as the kids were of eating them so I dusted off the cookbooks and tried some things I’ve never had before. All I can say is move over Wagamama as I can now cook a pretty mean katsu curry!

    I’ve been adding a few pieces to the house to put our own stamp on it, but with things being a little tight I have been trying to my good friends EBay and the bargain corner at IKEA and found some great pieces. It always makes me feel happier to know I’ve got a bargain.

    We rounded the month off with our first event of the year and it was a good one to say the least. We headed to Islington for the release of How To Train Your Dragon. Not only was it an amazing movie they you all need to see but the interactive event was amazing and the boys literally felt like they had been transporting the Isle Of Berk.

    Premier League Writing Stars Competition

    Earlier in the year a few of you may remember that I was lucky enough to attend the Premier League Primary Stars One Year On event which introduced me to the fabulous community project that has been set up to help develop literary skills amongst primary aged children.

    After hearing the children recite the winning entries I was absolutely astounded at the time, thought and love that had gone into these entries and the look of pride that beamed from the children’s faces was a clear indicator of what an amazing initiative this is.

    Last year the project reached out to over 25000 schools and brought a fun and different way to engage the children in learning, opening up a different world to so many of them who ordinarily may not have had an interest in the written word before.

    This year they are back with another poetry competition that has the theme of diversity. This is a great way to get the children thinking about and celebrating everyones differences as well as similarities and why these are so important.

    This subject is close to my heart as since starting school the differences and segregation that comes with Frankie’s food allergies have been hightened and I think that getting his feelings written down about this could be really cathartic for him; and reading through other entries may open his eyes to all the differences in the world and how each and everyone of these makes that person special, individual and just as important and anyone else.

    They have inslisted the help of poet Joseph Coelho who has written a poem entitled ‘Beautifly Different, Wonderfully The Same’ which I’m sure you will agree is just perfect to get the childrens imaginations and creativity flowing.

    Again this year they have a star studded panel comprising of former Premier Leaugefootballer – Rio Ferdinand, author – Lauren Child,  singer/songwriter – Olly Murs and Joseph Coelho himself who will have the tough job of picking winners based on a whole range of different criteria. The lucky winner will get their poem published in a limited edition book whilst there are other great prizes such a Premier League trophy school visits and author-ledwriting workshops up for grabs.

    I’m sure that after reading this many of you will see just how much this project could enrich your children’s own school and if they are not already signed up to Premier League Primary Stars then all they need to do is sign up HERE.

    The competition is running until 21st December 2018 so there is still plenty of time to get those creative juices flowing.

    *collaborated post