fathers-day-gifts-ideal-for-lockdown
Lists, Unlikely mum makes

Father’s Day Gifts for Lockdown

Last year for Father’s Day I was looking for things my toddler (not quite 2 at the time) could help make, or be a part of. It turns out that some of those Homemade Father’s Day Gifts for Kids actually go quite well in lockdown. So for anyone struggling for a gift idea this year, whether it’s because you can’t get the gift or experience you would like to give, or you (or your kids) can’t see your father or grandad due to lockdown, I’ve come up with a few ideas that you should be able to recreate.

fathers-day-breakfast-in-bedBreakfast in bed
It’s a simple classic that might be more welcome than usual under the current circumstances. If your kids are old enough, they can obviously do the making, while I’ve found that younger children like our 2 year old are very good at carrying plates and helping deliver the breakfast. No matter what the breakfast preference is, hot or cold, vegan or full-English, this allows you to practise kitchen skills with your little one while giving dad a long lie and some time to himself – a rarity in quarantine!

Movie night hamper
So you cant go to the cinema or for a day out for fathers day but that doesn’t mean you cant bring the cinema to you. Why not fill a hamper (or decorate and fill a cardboard box) with great movie night treats. Some recent movies have already been released on DVD so you could include those, or a family/dad favourite. Top up with popcorn, snacks and drinks and all that’s left to do is turn out the lights for an at-home cinema experience.

fathers-day-painted-stonesGardeners gift – painted stones
If the dad or grandfather in question is a bit of a green fingers and takes pride in his garden, then some painted stones are a nice personal touch. All you need to do is collect some large stones from the nearest park or beach (don’t travel too far just for stones!) and let your kids paint them how they fancy, whether its a rainbow, spots or maybe a frog or something else befitting for their garden. For an extra special touch, why not match the theme of the garden for an ideal fathers day garden gift? They can be used as ornaments, plant markers or even a doorstop for the shed.

The gift of chores
What better fathers day gift to give than the gift of chores? Your little ones can help out around the house, doing daddy’s usual chores if feasible – a 2 year old may not be able to operate a lawnmower but they can help with the dishes! Why not make the gift last longer with the promise of doing the chorea for a whole week? If you’re thinking of a grandad, there’s a promise to help when you are able to see them again, or there’s the prospect of doing some gardening or car washing if able to maintain social distancing!

fathers-day-ticket-giftSports fan gift – ticket to a match
If your dad or grandad is football mad, or can’t get enough of the rugby, why not give them a coupon which promises to buy a ticket to a live match when live sports (and spectators!) are allowed again. An alternative is always to give sports merchandise in lieu of a game – nobody can ever have too many mugs, especially of their favourite team/player, in my opinion!

The gift of solace
This one is quite important in lockdown, as peace and quiet can be hard to come by when family is always around. Mums are given a lot of encouragement to practice self-care and to carve out ‘me-time’ but it’s just as important for dads. Why not give the gift of solace and ensure the kids (and mum and anyone else!) are out of the house for a couple of hours, giving dad a little bit of time to himself. Whether he chooses to have a nap, a bath, play PlayStation, or finally get round to that thing he was meaning to do, the choice is entirely his. There’s a lot to be said for some quiet time to gather your thoughts and having space to enjoy things to yourself.

Postable gifts

If your child won’t be able to see their dad on Father’s Day for whatever reason, but still want to make sure their father receives a gift then why not create something that will fit in the letterbox, and let the postman brighten their day? This is especially applicable to grandads whom most kids probably don’t live with or won’t have seen for weeks already.

Handmade cards
It’s cheap and cheerful but it contains all the love and thought and effort (and mess!) from your child. Your only limitation here is the contents of your craft drawer. Whether it’s a beautifully hand-drawn card, stencilled, coloured with crayon, paint or felt-tip, additions of glitter, pipe-cleaners or cotton wool, the handmade touch is sure to bring a smile to your dad or grandad.

Photo frame
If you’re like me and still keep an old-school collection of printed photographs around then why not create a lovely photo frame with your favourite picture of you and your dad or grandfather? Or why not let your child choose their favourite photo, or a cute group photo of your kids to send to their fathers or papas? The photo frame part is simple – either use a spare one you have in the house (Ikea multipacks sometimes come in handy!) or get creative with your kids and a cardboard box. We’ve all got so much more cardboard now the recycling hasn’t been collected in weeks, we might as well make use of it!

Tokens and coupons
I touched on this last year in my homemade father’s day gifts post, but it’s an easy and post-friendly option. If grandad loves sport, get him a coupon to watch a match at a later date. For a bonus create a whole book of coupons to be redeemed post-lockdown. Some great ideas include tokens for different chores, favourite meals or snacks, tokens for trips and adventures, “ask gran/ask mum” tokens and so on.

more-eco-friendly-mum-lockdown
Lists, mum life

Becoming more eco-friendly in lockdown

I’m never sure what the latest buzzword is when talking about being kinder to the planet – reducing my carbon footprint? Yes, I’m certainly trying to do that. Net zero carbon – feels like a made up BoJo phrase. Environmentally-friendly is good but a bit old-school, not to mention a pain to spell, so I’ve settled for eco-friendly.

Whatever the appropriate term, I’m trying to become more conscious of my (and my family’s) consumption and waste during lockdown. I know that makes it sound like I’m on poo-watch (only for the toddler) but I’m really taking a more general overview of our whole lives and boy, are we bad to the planet without even realising!

Here’s how I’m trying to combat that by making small, eco-friendly changes to our day to day lives.
(Any products mentioned are purely my opinion – I haven’t been paid or incentivised to use anything)

Personal care

It really irks me that a lot of the beauty world care about creating products that are made naturally, with no animal products or testing, yet they are put into non-recyclable bottles, containers and packaging. I’m also aware that over the years I’ve been conditioned to believe I need stuff I don’t, and that the things I’ve been told are good for me, like a specific shampoo and conditioner set or aerosol deodorant, aren’t particularly good for the environment.

Shampoo/Conditioner – I tried some shampoo and conditioner bars from a local ethical food shop, Made Guid, which focuses on sustainable, low carbon products and local makers. However, this particular kind didn’t work well for me at all – I have long thick hair and I was there for half the day trying to get the bar through my hair, and it still never felt particularly clean after. But I will persevere and try and find another brand whilst still on lockdown – so nobody can see any greasy or frizzy side effects!

Native-unearthed-deoderant-balm-glass-jarDeodorant – I already wrote a review about Native Unearthed Activated Charcoal deodorant balm, which I absolutely loved. It was a surprise tester product I received in a Birchbox months ago but I will be looking to purchase it again from another store or find a similar alternative locally.

Skincare – There have been horror stories about face wipes for years, but the fact they are convenient meant I usually kept a pack lying around the house. However, since using Liz Earle hot cloth polish for over a year, I’ve never felt the need to use wipes. The cloths are reusable, machine washable and lift off even the most stubborn makeup. The cleanser is brilliant and I’ve noticed much less breakouts since using. Plus I bought a big tube last autumn and I’m still using it daily – value and less packaging!

Kiddycare – I won’t lie, my child is still in disposable nappies which I know is a massive problem in terms of landfill and the fact they aren’t biodegradable. We are trying our damndest to potty train, but he’s not having it yet. I can’t conceive using cloth nappies because I think it’s more than my washing machine or household plumbing system could take rinsing poo into, but maybe they could make nappies that are more biodegradable?

We’ve also switched from using sponges to flannels to wash, again from the reusable/washable point and we try to stick to products in recycled packaging, not giving into demands for overly-plastic cartoon-looking bubble baths and the like.

Next steps – moving onto things like bamboo toothbrushes (we can do it!), hairbrushes etc and more natural body care products which can be refilled or use less packaging. I already have bamboo makeup brushes so we’re making progress! Plus find that ideal shampoo bar for my hair.

Food

Less meat consumption – All the vegans out there will probably be outraged at the amount of meat we eat as a family. However, since the start of the year, we’ve been trying to change mindsets and attitudes. Having said that, it’s only really filtered to us parents for the moment as I want my child to be able to experience lots of different foods and nutrients and let him decide what he does and doesn’t like. I’m sure many toddler parents will attest to tantrums over food, and so taking away things he likes right now just feels like an unnecessary battle to us. Whilst he eats sausages (if he could have them for every meal, he would), we have been trying to eat one veggie and one vegan meal a week. Admittedly, this has become much harder in lockdown, with many of our regular foods suddenly not in stock (pasta-gate anyone?) but we are still trying nonetheless. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a place of complete veggie or vegan diet but we are also conscious to ensure the meat we do eat is Scottish, and locally produced where possible.

strawberry-sustainable-food-lockdownSustainable food – This was previously a buzzword I used consistently for a catering client in a past life, but actually I’m focusing on caring more about where our food comes from and what it contributes in terms of carbon footprint, local economy and of course, health. Part of this is making changes such as using the local butcher for meat (easier in lockdown as I can walk to the shop in 2 minutes) and checking the origins of my food in the supermarket. Why buy raspberries from Spain when there’s a plentiful amount grown in Scotland? And do you really need a mango that’s travelled halfway around the world when there’s perfectly good fruit grown locally?

Additionally, by buying local from butchers, fishmongers (ew, maybe you, but not I!), bakers or greengrocers, we are contributing to the local economy (more buzzwords!) and more importantly, local people who’s livelihoods have no doubt been affected by coronavirus.

Food packaging – This has been a bugbear of mine for a while – why do you need to put something frozen, which is already sealed in a cardboard box, inside a plastic wrapper too? Some things are happily frozen in the cardboard without the plastic and that seems fine, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Also, things that come in foil trays or plastic tubs – with card sleeves over the top? Or mostly anything for kids – multipack cartons of juice wrapped in never-ending plastic for instance.

I’ve long since abandoned the little poly bags for loose fruit and veg and can safely say they taste no different having journeyed bareback in the trolley. And of course I use bags for life or reuse plastic ones from the ever-growing bag cupboard. Now I’m taking the next steps of consciously not buying heavily and unnecessarily wrapped products. Those little multipacks of fruit shoot? No thanks, diluting juice only (Travis may hate me but thems the breaks!). Plastic inside cardboard? You’re not clogging up my bin thanks!

Any packaging in fact
So anyone living in the UK will probably agree that it’s been surprising to see how much packaging – even recyclable stuff – we encounter on a weekly basis. The council have stopped collecting recycling bins, but I’ve still been filling my blue bin (lol, filled it weeks ago rather) and have been keeping the dry recycling in my house until the bins are collected again. The problem is, it’s made me see how much excess packaging there actually is. With everybody ordering online at the moment, everything comes with extra bubble wrap, plastic outers, and boxes within boxes (probably just Amazon) which are wholly unnecessary.

Next steps – I’m on a mission to reduce our packaging, and if that’s not possible then at least reuse or repurpose what we have. While we’re in lockdown we may as well attempt a few Blue Peter projects with all the boxes and loo rolls and egg cartons lying around. Or I may start using the boxes to pack away old things we don’t use very often, ever in the hope we may be able to move house once lockdown is over!

Cleaning

Tools – I bought a bamboo brush for the house a couple of months ago and I’ve found that it’s a pretty good, sturdy brush. Not like the cheap ones you get (even though it only cost me a fiver!). It’s also meant that I’m hoovering the kitchen/hall/other laminate floors less often which is a win in terms of electricity usage.

Products – I’ve made the conscious decision to buy less (and eventually no) disinfectant wipes. Admittedly this has been nudged along thanks to panic buying at the beginning of lockdown. I had been a massive fan of Flash Wipes for cleaning the toilet in particular (who wants to reuse a cloth full of the whole house’s pee?) but obviously this is terrible in terms of environment. So for the greater good I’ve got myself a ‘toilet cloth’ which shall be used, cleaned and reused for only the aforementioned.

I have also resisted “Hinching” because although I love a good hack as much as the next person, I don’t believe in needing 40 different cleaning products when just 4 will do. I’m not into the mass consumerism of cleaning and sometimes the old ways just are the best. Vinegar and water is fine to clean my windows with and one disinfectant spray can disinfect every room. I’m not a Mrs Hinch basher – I love Zoflora too, and think it’s a fantastic multi-purpose product but I don’t need 5 other things if I have that.

Next steps – I really want to try a laundry egg as I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. Plus from what I can tell, they save you money as well as the environment, so it’s a double winner.

pinterest-become-more-eco-friendly-lockdown

native-unearthed-vegan-deoderant-review
Mum's finds, Reviews

Native Unearthed charcoal deodorant balm review

During lockdown I’ve taken some time to start using a number of products I’d previously received in Birchboxes, partly down to the guilt of not using them and partly to ensure I’m using what I have before I embark on the laborious journey to the shops for what I might already have in a cupboard.

One thing I was really eager to try was Naturally Active’s charcoal deoderant balm. As part of living a more conscious life (something I’ve been trying to do since Travis was born, but ultimately life gets in the way a bit!) I’ve been trying to use products which have less of an impact on the environment. This has admittedly been a bit hit and miss with other things like shampoo bars, so I didn’t really want to try a different deoderant unless I wasn’t really going anywhere and bumping into anyone in case I was a bit smelly or worse, actually sweated on them! In that sense, lockdown has done me a favour enabling me to try an alternative deodorant without offending anyone’s nose.

Worth mentioning at this point that this review is completely my own experience and nobody has paid me or incentivised me to write this.

Native-unearthed-deoderant-balm-glass-jarWhat’s it like?
I have to admit, I’ve always been unsure about balms, ever since the early 2000’s fads of perfume balms and sticks (are they still a thing?) but the actual environment is more important than my feelings towards a certain texture of product so I power through. There’s not really a smell off it so my first worry was how well it would end up protecting against bodily odours. I’d say it was more of a paste than a balm, in that you don’t exactly rub it on directly like lip balm, but rather scoop some out. At first I wasn’t sure a paste was any better than a balm but it’s surprisingly easy to get used to, as long as you’re careful not to get half the tub stuck in your fingernails.

Apparently activated charcoal can absorb up to 1,000 times its own weight in moisture (a fact I learned from researching Native Unearthed) which is absolutely amazing, and better be true based on the amount I sweat after a light jog/workout. There are a few other scents available, coconut and vanilla or sage and lavender, but since I got this in my Birchbox I didn’t have a say in what balm I ended up with.

How to use it
The advice on the label is to scoop out a pea sized amount and work in your fingers until it becomes a smoother paste, then rub on the desired area. So far so easy. It’s not as quick as a skoosh with an aerosol, but it’s just a few extra seconds. A pea sized amount doesn’t seem much but when it mushes up it’s the ideal size for an armpit!

NB: You can probably use it anywhere you sweat, but I just stuck to the underarms.

Packaging and ingredients
All ingredients are, as you can imagine, natural. Bicarbonate of soda is a key ingredient which helps neutralise any odours, with the active charcoal playing its part here too. The only other ingredients are shea butter, coconut oil, arrow root and lavender essential oils, to keep your skin nourished whilst absorbing any moisture.

The size is just 60ml so it’s not the largest item in your bathroom cabinet, but as a little goes a long way, the Native Unearthed deoderant balm still lasts a fair amount of time. I’ve been using it every day since lockdown began (23rd March) and am only beginning to see the bottom of the jar now, over 6 weeks later. It also comes in a recyclable glass jar, another tick for the environment.

The result
Despite all my uncertainties around this product to begin with, I was really impressed with the end results. Whereas I found myself getting a bit hot and sweaty after a workout, my armpits were either dry, or in the case of more intense workouts, sweaty but not smelly. I found the active charcoal deoderant to be very effective in terms of keeping dry on a daily basis so would definitely recommend something like this for anyone looking to make the change away from aerosol.

Whilst I might not always buy this exact product, I know balms (especially ones with those ingredients) will work well for me.

Where can I get it?
Weirdly, whilst researching, I couldn’t find a website or any direct sales platform from Native Unearthed but it is available from health stores like Holland and Barratt and The Nature Shop. It’s sold out on the Birchbox site, and I think has been for some time. It retails for around £6.99 so dearer than your can of Sure or whatever, but worth it for the environment and the fact it actually protects against odours and excessive sweating, rather than try to simply cover with a more overpowering smell.

Native-unearthed-vegan-deoderant-balm-pin

real-things-toddler-moms-facing-lockdown-title
Parenting

Real Things Toddler Mums are Facing During Lockdown

A wee bit of humour with a little list of just some of the things toddler mums are facing while we’re in lockdown. No offence meant, just a bit of light relief!

 

Dishes. So many dishes.
I’ve not even finished the breakfast dishes and there are more plates, cups and cutlery creeping towards me on the counter. I feel like I can add kitchen porter to my CV with the amount of under water ceramic shining I’ve been doing.

The monotony and sheer frequency of tidying.
If I have to go round my house and pick up toy cars one more time I’ll be dizzier than a teenager doing spinnies in the park.

Facebook is the new nursery/school gates
Judgey mums are everywhere and they aren’t afraid to tell you that you’ve spent too much on your child for Easter. Nor are they afraid to clipe on people for breaking lockdown rules by going outside more than once or spread wild misinformation amongst each other from some unverified Facebook account.

Instagram stories are a new form of mental and personal torture
I love an Instagram story and am as guilty of sharing all our fun times and proud mum moments but when you’re knee deep in year end reports and dirty nappies, its probably not wise to check your Insta stories whilst making a much needed coffee. The sunbathing/exciting daily walks/homeschooling/making/baking/general fun will only depress you as you stand amongst a pile of even more dishes.

The cleaning. Specifically crumbs.
Crumbs are constantly everywhere. How is this possible? I am constantly wiping down surfaces, sweeping floors and hoovering in a never-ending cleaning circle of life but somehow, 5 minutes later there’s another trail of crumbs.

Milk usage levels are udderly ridiculous (sorry)
Our wee family of three is usually lucky to get through two pints of milk a week. But in lockdown when mum and dad are surviving on about 40 cups of tea and coffee a day and the little man has cereal plus milkshakes or hot chocolates depending on the weather, that two pints can last about two hours!

Maths that doesn’t compute
I thought I didn’t do too badly in school and thought I’d breeze the basic counting and numbers routine with toddlers. But its the other maths. Where you’re expected to fit 8 hours of work, 12-14 hours of parenting, 2 hours of housework, 1 hour of exercise, an hour of personal hygiene and somehow 8 hours of sleep into just 24 hours. And that’s not including time to cook or eat!

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mum life, Parenting

How I’m Surviving Lockdown as a Toddler Mum

I’ve been thinking a lot about the UK lockdown lately, and my very mixed feelings about it all. There are plenty of reasons to enjoy this somewhat forced family/household time but that doesn’t mean its easy – especially if you work full time and have a toddler.

The main way I’ve been trying to survive is by trying to stick to some sort of routine. This is easier said than done for a lot of people, I know, but generally toddlers will still want about 11/12 hours of sleep at night and three square meals a day (and umpteen snacks too!) so we’ve continued to plan around that for the most part, keeping bedtime as close to normal as possible. Although I’m not a savage, I’m not waking him up before 7am when there’s no nursery to go to!

Stick-to-routine-toddler-mum

I don’t dispute this is harder to stick to for those with infants, older children or multiple kids (you are walking superheroes every day never mind during a lockdown. Send me your address and I’ll post you a medal). With that in mind it brings me to the next thing I think helps me cope: my privileged situation.

I am under absolutely no illusion that I’ve actually managed to get a pretty good deal out of this lock down situation. One toddler, who sticks to a routine for the most part, my full time job allowing me to work from home and a partner with the same means that we’re not worrying about paying the bills or losing all sense of time and day. The structure is comforting, although the grass definitely looks greener when the sun comes out and families are spending their time together in the garden while we’re stuck in and draining all of Sky’s Internet capacity.

Core-hours-working-mum-toddler

Which is why I also try to stick to my core working hours where possible. As I said, its office hours so whilst I’m meant to be working 8.30 till 5 I like to ensure for the most part it’s kept that way so we can still have family time around that. Of course if my toddler is throwing a tantrum or just needs some love and extra attention at 2.45, then you’ll be sure I’ll be with him and make up my work time later.

One of my big positives about the lockdown is the lack of commute. I lose at least two hours every work day in traffic, so I’ve held onto this extra time and cherished it. Normally, I’ll only see my little man for half an hour in the morning and an hour at night during the week (I see him less than I see the traffic) so there’s no way I’m complaining at all this extra time I get to see him and spend with him – even if I have to concentrate on work for a lot of it.

During regular commute time I like to still ensure I’m awake in the morning (although I give myself a bit more of a lie in than normal, I’m not a robot) and make the most of the early morning – particularly if the males in the house are still asleep. I’ll tidy a bit, exercise in some way (the earlier I can be outside to run like Phoebe Buffay, the less other daily exercisers will see me) and take my time getting ready in the morning. Sometimes I’ll make everyone breakfast and be like that picture perfect mum and others I’ll just make myself a strong coffee and sit quietly till they get up!

Cooking-during-lockdown-toddler-mum

I’ve also taken to cooking more of the dinners now I’m home. One thing I’ve been totally spoilt for since Travis was born is the cooking. For most of Craig’s shift pattern, he’s home at teatime with my dinner usually waiting on me coming in, so I’ve taken back some of the responsibility now I’m home at that time. I do enjoy cooking and there’s no doubt I’m the food prepper in terms of the big shop and planning for the week, although its not usually me making it!

With my extra evening hour I also like to spend more quality time with my little man. Whether thats playing with his favourite toys, doing something new or simply sitting together to watch his favourite cartoons and eat our dinner, I’m cherishing this precious lockdown time.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sunshine and roses, and lockdown has absolutely had me in tears at points but I think the routine and the positivity definitely help. I’ve found myself wondering if I’m doing enough for my little man, as I’ve not been doing any sort of home schooling because he’s only two and I’m not a teacher, but I don’t want him to be left behind when he does go back to nursery.

Similarly I’ve been stressing myself trying to potty train him because, quite frankly, I thought he would be ready by now and every mum ever has suggested that this is the perfect time to do it. We’ve invested in all the right tools and books and charts but honestly it’s so hard to keep on top of “do you need a wee?” and sitting on the potty (him, not me) when you’re knee deep in a monthly report.

And then there’s all the household stuff. Some parents have managed clearouts, redecorated rooms, redone their gardens and built their kids tree houses or reached Mrs Hinch levels of cleaning. I’m just barely scraping by at the normal rushed level of housework and so it makes me feel a bit inadequate. But after a bit of reflection, usually in a nice long bath, I’m reminded that everybody’s situation is different, and that not all parents cope the same way. Heck even in this household no two parents are coping the same way! So I try not to be too hard on myself and all the things I think (or Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest thinks) I should be doing and just try to make sure everyone is happy and safe.

I just have to remember that when there’s a wee guy having a full blown tantrum when I’m on a conference call, or all my friends are posting their home schooling pictures, or my boss asks for something at 5.15pm or when my toddler wakes four times in the night or when we can’t have friends and family in our home or when the dishes aren’t done…. you get the picture!

Pinterest-graphic-surviving-lockdown-toddler-mum

baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Indoor games for toddlers

So this is the first time I’ve really felt inspired to write all year, mainly due to planning an impending wedding which was promptly cancelled at the 11th hour due to COVID-19 restrictions! Suddenly, I’ve found myself with some spare time now I’m not organising table plans or making decorations and favours.

It has been nice to spend a bit more time with my little man now there’s no commuting and no nursery. Its taken a bit of adjusting and thinking of new and creative – and preferably free – things to do with a 2 year old around the house. So here are the games for toddlers we have found ourselves playing during this government lockdown…

Cars in a bucket
Cars, paw patrol figures, really any little toys fit the bill here. We’ve been racing cars off the end of the couch, trying to get them into a bucket placed not far away. The Paw Patrol pups all jump off. Pretty simple, doesn’t require anything more than existing toys and a bucket, and helps with motor skills/aim and accuracy etc. It keeps our wee man amused for ages and breathes new life into his every day toys.

Making our own soft play
One of the big killers of having a toddler in lockdown is that they dont understand why they cant do things like go go soft play (or anywhere else for that matter) like usual. Its heartbreaking trying to explain and watching the little man get upset, so we started to improvise. We had a pop up tent and ball pool that kept Travis amused when he was about 8-18 months, and which hasn’t been looked at in over a year. I’m so glad I didn’t give it away as its been a good soft play alternative. Other things to substitute are cushions and pillows on the floor with boxes to climb and hide in. A paddling pool with toys in makes for a good ball pool alternative too.

Dens
Everything is better in a den isn’t it? We’ve made dens from things lying around the house like blankets and chairs and then proceeded to play in them, sometimes with his favourite toys, sometimes watching cartoons on his tablet. Other times we’ll incorporate the other games like hide and seek or even have a picnic in it.
We’ve also started moving on to making dens for his cars out of building blocks. The possibilities are endless!

Sorting
Another little game we’ve made out of regular toys is sorting. It’s maybe a little of my OCD coming through, but dont things just look nice when they are lined up or put in some sort of order? We have been playing at sorting things by colour and by size. Then we count them – how many blue cars are there? How many little building blocks and how many bug ones? This counting and organising is about as close as we get to home schooling!

Hide and seek
Travis has just begun to understand the concept of hide and seek, though he doesn’t like doing the counting and waiting. He also loves to go and find hidden items, whether its toy figures, a missing jigsaw piece or an errant dummy!
This is also great practice for any easter egg hunts that may be happening over the long weekend.

 

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christmas-at-the-falkirk-wheel-santa
baby and toddler activities

Santa at The Falkirk Wheel

This year we’ve been on a bit of a Mission Santa now that Travis is a bit older and has more of an understanding of the festive season. We’ve been trying to open up to as many festive experiences as possible, preferably meeting Santa if possible.

Last year we had a bit of a hurdle to overcome as Travis absolutely hated Santa and was scared of anyone with a white beard wearing red! This year we’ve worked a bit on turning that around, and one of our first Christmas experiences was at The Falkirk Wheel.

We visited on the first weekend of their Wheely Festive Boat Trips (Saturday 14th) which run until Monday 23rd December. The idea is that the normal Falkirk Wheel boat trips have a Chirtmassy twist. The boat essentially goes on the same journey up through the wheel as with the original trips, but there’s a whole lot of festive fun on board – think elves leading the way, singing Christmas songs, festive decorations. Then, as if by magic, a grotto appears at the end of the tunnel, ready for a special visitor to board.

Santa joins the girls and boys for some songs and gives out presents according to age, with the option to have a photo with Santa too. That pretty much takes up the second half of the boat trip as you make your way back down the wheel and back to land. However there are loads of great festive elements within The Falkirk Wheel’s visitor centre which add to the overall experience and make it a great day.

Firstly, (and quite importantly!) parents are met with a voucher for (unfortunately, non-alcoholic) mulled wine and shortbread available in the cafe area. Within this area there are other activities for kids, including cupcake decorating, colouring in and the chance to write and post a letter to Santa. There’s also the chance for kids to have their face painted, and a snowman hunt which rewards a prize for finding all the images of snowmen hidden around the centre. Best of all, these activities are all free to take part in, meaning you can enjoy a cup of coffee while they colour in Rudolf or release their inner Mary Berry.

Travis-cupcake-decorating-falkirk-wheel

If you make a day of it, the cafe has plenty of food options catering to most requirements. Plus at this time of year there’s a festive menu, which included a foot long (!) pigs in blankets baguette when we were there. Need less to say I had to try it, and was exactly as amazing as it sounds! There’s plenty for little ones to pick from too, and a lunchbox option which gives the choice of a sandwich, juice plus three snacks (think fruit, yoghurts, crisps and chocolate) for around £4.

It’s worth noting the Wheely Festive boat trip takes an hour, which might be a struggle for some toddlers. We had a few whines from Travis, but managed to keep him appeased with some juice and crisps on the trip. Usually there are great views to distract toddlers with lots of things to point out the window at too, but we went on one of the single wettest days of the month – hard to avoid in Scotland in December, but it didn’t really impede our trip.

Tickets are £13.95, or £2 for under 1s (to cover the cost of the gift) and are available to book online. Tickets include the boat trip, chance to meet Santa and a gift. The pictures with Santa are extra, but make a great souvenir, plus digital copies mean you can print some as pressies for grandparents etc.

Overall I’d say this makes for a great day out with toddlers – the experience offers enough to do for a whole afternoon. The boat trip may be a little long for younger toddlers, but the other activities balance that out. Well worth a spin I’d say!

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what-can-two-year-olds-use-a-tablet-for
Mum's finds, Parenting

Does a 2 year old need a tablet?

As we get closer to the festive season, I’ve been wondering what on earth to get Travis for his third (!!) Christmas. With his birthday in October, I start to feel at a loss of what to get.

We are so fortunate to have such a loving network of friends and family that spoil Travis, so he doesn’t particularly need anything at this moment. Add to that the fact that hes too young to really want and persist about certain things (at the moment!), and accounting for the fact it will then be another 10 months before he gets another big present from us, and it all gets a little bit daunting.

So I decided to purchase a tablet as his main Christmas present this year. Even when I popped my card into the reader in the O2 store, I could hear twenty-something me saying “what does a toddler need an actual tablet for?” And I know many other parents (and non-parents) will be thinking the same. Whilst there are a million reasons that tablets are seen to be bad for children, there are also some plus points and benefits for parents (sanity) too.

When I was younger and childless I used to look at kids in restaurants glued to iPads or see little ones nag at parents for a shot of their phone – I’ve even seen kids sitting in the park on a tablet (!) All of which made me instantly recoil in horror and think, how could that be good for such a little mind? Truth is, without kids you don’t really understand the situation, and unless you ask someone why they’ve given a kid a device or what they are doing on it, you’ll never really know if it’s as bad as what your brain is telling you.

Now with my parent hat on I can see so many benefits to this little piece of portable technology and believe there are actually many things a 2 year old can use a tablet for. Here are just 5 of them:

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1.Watching things you don’t want to

I’ll be the first to confess, this is the absolute number one reason that swayed me to getting the tablet in the first place. I’m all for watching some CBeebies (especially if there’s a beaut bedtime story reader!) but with YouTube and Netflix and other streaming sources meaning that kids expect to watch things on demand, it can be difficult to control the timing of watching things. It can also be hard to control what your kid likes, thanks to auto playing and recommended suggestions from the likes of YouTube.

At the moment, Travis’ favourite thing to watch is remote control fire engines and trucks that change colour and teach him colours. Whilst they aren’t exactly x-rated or offensive, they are a tad repetitive and boring. There’s only so many times I can watch the same fire engine be driven to the same (fake) fire and watch it get put out by this remote control marvel. Similarly with the colours videos, though add to that a regular argument between a toddler and a grown-ass woman about whether the truck turns purple or pink!

So for me, having a tablet he can watch these things on, albeit on a limited time frame, saves a portion of my sanity, and means he doesn’t have to be in the living room to enjoy it.

2. Interactive learning

There are so many educational apps out there for kids at all stages of development. Whether it’s a fun game based on a cartoon character that lets you sort out shapes, or a simple screen where you tap animals to hear the noises they make, there are loads of interactive learning games for toddlers available on apps. Again, I feel like if the screen time is limited, it’s no more harmful than watching TV or doing similar activities not on a screen (with plastic toys that are unable to biodegrade for example).

3. Travel

This is another top reason in our book for getting the tablet. My own personal tablet was bought in 2014, but was quite possibly made earlier than that. As such, it’s getting to the point where apps are no longer able to update and so it’s not reliable for us to take when travelling. Whether it’s a long car ride or a plane/train ride where your little one can’t exactly get up and wander off, tablets can be a good way to incorporate the above into your travel plan, meaning a 2 year old is content watching fire engines or sorting shapes or watching a movie from one little device rather than having to pack 40 toys, games etc with you.

For me it sure beats the alternative of tantrums when he can’t get out and move around, or the polar opposite – a danger nap at the wrong time of day!

4. Playing with mum and dad

Nobody said that kids had no option but to use tablets by themselves, doing solo activities. In fact, most basic games can be played on tablets, whether it’s drawing and colouring or learning and counting. Mum and dad can always join in, picking a colour or singing along. YouTube can be a great resource for nursery rhymes with subtitles (because I swear there were never as many nursery rhymes when I was wee!) and dances or actions, meaning everyone can join in.

5. Growing with your child

Rather than a plastic toy that may only be in your toddlers favour for a few months, destined for a charity shop or recycling by the next December, a tablet is an investment that can grow with your child. Basic counting and naming apps too childish for your kid now? Simply find some newer ones which will stimulate their mind and educate their growing brain. As they get older they can use the tablet as a library and even homework tool (if the tablet is much better than my 2014 friend which is past its sell-by now!) meaning that there’s less wastage and you – or Santa – has actually got great value from a Christmas present for a 2 year old.

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look-for-a-book-west-dunbartonshire-free-activity
baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire

One thing I love about where I live is the amazing community spirit. It mat be one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, but what we lack in our pockets we make up for in kindness and good spirits.

The latest example of that is the Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire initiative which was recently started by a local mum. Having seen something similar in another area, she decided to bring the idea to our neighbourhood which has got everybody in the community spirit.

What is Look for a Book West Dubartonshire?

According to their Facebook page, it’s a thrilling activity for families which injects fun and excitement into reading, by combining it with hide and seek. Essentially, children are invited to hunt for books around the local area, which have been hidden by other children. Books are hidden in parks, at the school gates, in the leisure centres and local cafes and anywhere that makes a good hiding spot really.

Each book is hidden with a cover note from Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire, saying congratulations on finding the book, and encouraging finders to read and keep, pass on or re-hide the book once they have read it. Finders are also encouraged to hide their own books for other boys and girls to find.

The power of social media is what really drives this fun game – clues as to where books are hidden are shared in the Facebook group and conversely parents share pictures of their happy children who have found books. The cover note with books strongly encourages the use of social media to share findings and be part of this community game.

Taking part in Look for a Book West Dunbartonshire

Its really easy to take part as all you need is a dry day to get outside and get hunting! We looked on the Facebook group to see if any books had been recently hidden nearby, and if any clues had been shared. This game is so popular in the area that books can literally be found within 15 minutes of a clue being shared online.

Unfortunately we haven’t found any books yet (though not for lack of trying!) But we did take part and hide some books locally. The cover sheets to accompany the books are available to print online, and most of the local West Dunbartonshire libraries have stocks of the cover sheets and plastic wallets to keep books dry. We just did it the old fashioned way and wrote our notes by hand.

We picked our spots and set off to hide some books from our bookshelves which Travis was no longer interested in. At this stage in his life, I’m too scared to give away some of his more loved books to others (if we don’t read Mr Happy at Sports Day every bedtime, I think his world would implode) but a lot of the participants have given away some of their favourite books, and well-loved ones that they have grown out of. Others have bought books especially to hide, though there’s no obligation to do that.

Free fun for all the family

The best part about this initiative is that it’s all-inclusive. There’s no cash barrier and no age barrier – books are hidden for all-ages from baby books right up to YA fiction. If your child finds a book and you/they think it doesn’t suit age or topic-wise, then you’re welcome to re-hide it for someone else to find, whilst you search for another to read. Additionally, the only ask is that you hide books back – this can either be the same book you found, or a book your child already owns. Either way, this costs you no money to participate in, and you get to enjoy two activities with your child – getting outdoors on a book hunt, and enjoying story-time later.
This has honestly got to be one of the best uses I’ve seen for social media and one of the quickest-adopted community schemes (RIP chain mails) in my area and I’m so thankful that we can take part. If you’re reading this and you’re not from West Dunbartonshire – why not set up your own Look for a Book game in your area?
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Mum time

5 minute mum makeup

I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at worrying (remembering) about makeup at the best of times. Now I’m a mum, I find it even harder to fit a makeup routine into the mix, and am lacking motivation most of the time.

However that lack of time doesn’t stop me noticing that actually my face can look dull and tired, or a breakout can takeover my chin, or actually, sometimes, you just look a bit more approachable when makeup is covering all the flaws. Plus, it’s nice to look and feel nice sometimes. So I’ve devised my own sort of 5-minute mum makeup routine that can get you from bare-faced to bright-eyed without too much effort.

Here’s how I do it:

Moisturise!

I confess, I’d love the time to be able to cleanse, tone and mosturise every single day, but it just isn’t feasible. That said, a good moisturiser or primer is key for makeup to sit well (on my face at least!). I use Astral Cream and have done since I was a teen and used to nick my mum’s, and genuinely can’t flaw it. I’ve spoken about the many benefits of this wonder product here before.

The face part

Foundation, blush and powder – no more, no less. A comfortable foundation base, followed by a sweep of blush, then set in place with some powder usually does the trick. The products I use for this are all Avon – True Cream to Powder Foundation, True blush and Mark Loose Powder Foundation – but obviously everybody has their own makeup preferences and budgets. This simple face brightening usually takes 2 minutes tops – and that’s if I have to add a bit of concealer in to cover any breakouts.

Eyes/brows

I find that to get on the go, a good brow and mascara product are all you need. I am a self-confessed mascara junkie, and have found loads of favourites over the years but for the moment I’m really digging Charlotte Tilbury Legendary Lashes Volume 2, which only needs a couple of strokes of the wand to create a dramatic, lengthy lash effect. For my brows I use Beautaniq fill & tame brow gel – it’s cheap and cheerful and came from my Birchbox – something which I shout about regularly. Again, a couple of sweeps of this sort out your brows by taming rogue hairs and filling in any gaps.

Lips

Last but not least, a good lip balm or sweep of favourite lippy does the trick to get you on the go – no need for any faffing around with lip liner or coats of gloss on top of colour. For me, I sometimes skip this step (ensuring I’m not sporting foundation lips!) as I find lipstick on my coffee cup annoying, but in the winter my dry lips normally demand it. Currently, my favourite lippy is Charlotte Tilbury Superstar Lips in signature shade Pillow Talk, but it could just as easily be a Rimmel lippy for under a fiver as I tend to go for shade and texture over anything else.

 

And that’s literally it. That whole routine takes 5 minutes tops. Granted, I could take longer contouring or adding more coats of mascara, eyeliner etc, but this routine is enough to give coverage and appear bright eyed and natural, without too much time or effort – because, as we know, toddler mums are rarely afforded such luxuries!

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