baby and toddler activities, Free things to do with toddlers

Briarlands Farm

Another in my series of free things to do for toddlers, Briarlands Farm is the ideal all-round winner for amusing, educating and burning off some energy in your toddler. Located off the A84 near Stirling, it’s a countryside adventure a world away from the city.

Briarlandsfarm isn’t your average working farm of sheep, cows etc in a field. Yes, there’s that, but there’s also so much more to see and do. The farmland has clearly been set up as a family and tourist attraction, and has been invested in over the years. The most notable of the kids attractions is the massive bouncing pillows, which tend to pop up on any newsfeed or photo collection of anyone who’s ever visited. These giant pillows are like a cross between bouncy castles and trampolines and cause no end of amusement for kids.

The basics

In comparison to Blairdrummond Safari Park right next door, Briarlands Farm is an absolute steal to visit. Kids under 3 are free, and for adults the cost is just £5.75 to enter. Children aged 2 to 16 are £7.75 to enter, which struck me as odd at first as it’s more expensive than adults, but actually, the farm is set up for children to partake and enjoy more than adults so I guess it makes sense? If you prefer just to visit the tearoom, it’s free to visit, and if you’re within season, you can go strawberry picking for £6.75 a kilo.

We were advised of the times of the tractor rides, which cost an additional £1 per person, and the times of the animal handling sessions, which are free, however you can purchase bags of feed for 50p to feed all of the animals if you wish. We were also given a paper wristband (to separate us from the tearoom-only guests) and a map outlining the different animal fields and attractions, and where to find them.

It’s worth noting that we took Travis without a pushchair, and he was 21 months old at the time if that gives you any sort of comparison for your child. We also only stayed just over 3 hours, though you could easily spend all day there so a buggy might be advisable for nap times

What to expect

It’s fair to say that the map leads you to believe the area of Briarlands Farm is going to be much larger than it is. It definitely covers a decent amount of space, but you can see most of the site from pretty much any of the locations, as everything is designed in quite an open way. Plus there’s a path right around the farm, which makes it easy to navigate with a pushchair or pram.

Don’t expect a stereotypical farm day out with a barn, field and pen of animals and token playpark on the side, as this just isn’t what Briarlands is about. The focus here is fun in the fresh air, and whilst that involves seeing the animals, feeding them and learning about them, it’s also as much about play.

Some of the play is farm related – for instance a big bales of hay to climb (or it might be a hay fort?) and there’s a real tractor that kids can sit in and pretend to drive. However there’s loads of great other outdoor play such as plenty of climbing frames and slides, along with go karts, sandpits, mazes, football golf, archery and mini diggers to keep the kids amused all day. Plus this year the farm added some new springer toys and swings to keep things fresh and give kids of all ages something to do.

In terms of the farm aspect, visitors are encouraged to feed the animals (bags of feed cost 50p each) as they make their way around the field viewing the animals and finding out their names. There’s also an animal handling barn, in which you are allowed to pick up and pet the soft furries such as gerbils and bunny rabbits, thought the lambs are usually up for a bit of a pet too. The handling sessions are held at set times, outlined to visitors on the day, and the staff give a talk about the animals too. For a more in-depth understanding of the farm, there are tractor rides which run at several times throughout the day. It costs £1 extra per person to go on the trailer (petrol doesn’t pay for itself!) which takes you on a guided tour round the outer edge of the farm.

Expect to prepare for a typical outdoor day – we seen some kids with wellies on despite it being a warm July day when we visited! And remember your child will likely be climbing on frames, and possibly treading through muckier ground depending on the time of year.

Unlikely mum verdict

I honestly can’t fault this as a top place to take your toddler, and think it’s great value for money for adults too. Travis had so much fun all day and loved being able to go between the animals and play areas. The farm is definitely kitted up for kids of all ages, with toddlers like Travis able to enjoy the under 7s inflatable pillow, small cars, sandpits, smaller climbing frames and slides, and of course a shot in the big tractor! I have genuinely never seen a happier child in a tractor than Travis!

We were quite lucky to visit on a dry summers day, so were able to wander around freely in shorts, t-shirts and trainers, but obviously waterproofs and wellies are advisable for the unpredictable Scottish weather! The tearoom was bustling as we visited in the height of summer, but the food was good and the service was fast too. The tearoom uses local and homemade produce – Travis absolutely devoured his jam sandwich made from Briarlands Farm’s very own strawberries.

It’s worth noting that the tractor ride was particularly busy as we visited during the Scottish school holidays, but there is a notice that says the tractor will come round again until everyone that was waiting gets a shot. As we have an impatient toddler, we opted out of the tractor ride on this occasion. We also didn’t manage to go strawberry picking as unfortunately they were in between crops to pick, which just means we will have to revisit before the summer is out!

We spent just over 3 hours there and there were still things (like the tractor and strawberries) we didn’t manage to do – we didn’t even get any feed for the animals! – and yet we still explored so much and Travis had so much enjoyment from the place. We will definitely need to go back, either for a longer day, or for another afternoon to complete the whole Briarlands experience.

Main points

  • Children under 3 free. Kids 3-16 £7.75 which is more expensive than adults at £5.75
  • Numerous additional extras, such as animal feed (50p), tractor ride tour (£1) and selected amusements (£1)
  • Strawberry picking available throughout summer for £6.75/kilo
  • Family-friendly with a pushchair-friendly path around the farm
  • Lots of play frames and entertainment for toddlers

Briarlands-farm-toddler-activities

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loch-lomond-faerie-trail-free-toddler-activity
baby and toddler activities, Parenting

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail is one of the first in my series of free activities for toddlers. For more information on the series, and why I’m doing it, see this post.

As the title suggests, Loch Lomond Faerie Trail is situated on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond – just outside of Luss, Scotland. It’s a wonderful wee place in its own right, with claims to fame (if you’re old enough to remember TV soap Take the High Road), breathtaking views, and plenty of places to eat and drink. In a past life I worked in the village so have all the tourist info to spout, if you want to know any more!

The Faerie Trail is a relatively new attraction to these parts – it opened in mid-2018. I felt Travis was too young to go then, as he was barely walking at this point. Although the guide advises the trail isn’t a pushchair-friendly walk, there weren’t many parts that seemed a challenge for a buggy – as long as you’re comfortable bumping up a few steps at the beginning of the trail. So if you have babies and toddlers, it could be an ideal way to get fresh air and keep a toddler amused. It’s worth noting that when walking the trail with a pram, you might want an all-terrain pushchair or to avoid it in the winter/wetter days as it’s still very much natural woodland you explore for a chunk of the walk.

The basics

Loch Lomond Faerie Trail cost us just £6 to take part in. I’m assuming this is broken down into £3 for adults as we were told Travis didn’t need to pay. However, this also meant that he didn’t get the accompanying activity book for the trail. This was fine with us, because at only 20 months old, he was still a bit young to pay that much attention or take in any of the activities. Both parents were given the booklets (and pencils!) though, which contains the trail map at the back, directions to each stop on the trail, and a series of activities to take part in as you go. These range from interacting with the stop points to fill-the-blanks, drawing and some information and rhymes about faeries! For us, this was definitely worth the entry fee – as adults we might not have made much of it ourselves but it was a good way to ensure you take in each stop on the trail and get little imaginations going. For a child to make the most of the booklet, I’d probably recommend waiting until they are 3+ (so unfortunately will be subject to paying!)

We also each got wristbands for the trail, and at the purchase point (a food van at the moment as their premises had recently been burnt down, though they are working to get this back up and running) there was the opportunity to buy faerie memorabilia, like a faerie door, faerie dust etc. I’m sure there will be more of a gift shop again once the premises is reopened.

We were advised that the trail was about 2 miles long, which again was the perfect length for us to take Travis without a buggy. He is a confident walker but obviously 2 miles is quite a distance to go on little legs! We were actually surprised at how much of the walk he managed to do himself without wanting to be carried – a testament to the attraction itself.  It took us about an hour and a half to complete, though we didn’t stop too long at each point as we didn’t complete all of the activities within the booklet. To make the most of the day, and with bigger toddlers or older children, I’d say give yourself 2 hours to enjoy the trail.

What to expect

The trail takes you over and under a main road, through a glen and back down again, so be prepared in terms of footwear and travel system (buggy etc). There aren’t any particularly steep points, aside from the steps you climb to go up to the overpass to get started on the trail. However there is a section which takes you down into an old quarry, which is probably the steepest any climbs/declines get, but the main thing to note is there is still a lot of loose slate from the quarry here so be careful with your footing.

Expect a lot of magic and wonder, as the organisers of this trail really have thought of it all! From little faerie doors that act as markers along the way, to incorporating the tooth fairy, fairy godmother etc, you’ll have loads to see and plenty of picture opps. Your child can enjoy posing as a faerie, exploring the faerie library and more. I don’t want to ruin the magic of all of the stops but it’s certainly not a boring trail, and even just from a nature point of view, there’s loads of beautiful scenery from babbling brooks to fresh flowers and views of the lush, green glen. This is of course if you visit on a sunnier day, which can’t be guaranteed!

One thing I would suggest is bringing along some pennies, as there are a lot of pennies at the faerie doors and your little one might want to place their own and make a wish.

Unlikely Mum verdict

I would definitely recommend this activity for toddler mums. It’s not too expensive for adults and it fills up most of your morning or afternoon. In the summer, it’s definitely feasible to do the trail with a pushchair too, so can still be a good activity for kids who can’t yet walk or aren’t yet confident walkers, or for parents who have a toddler and baby. With 20 stops along the way, it’s certainly enough to keep little brains (and adult ones!) engaged without getting distracted, and I have to say the organisers have thought of everything. For me, another main draw is that once you have done the trail once, with your map and guide, you are free to return to the trail any time and do it all again at no cost, as everything is within a public walking space. I know Travis will be just as enchanted if we visit again in 6 months, and maybe even more so as he grows and develops, so we will just need to keep those guide books in a safe place!

Main points:

  • Price – £3 adults, £4 for 3+ and infants/toddlers free*
  • Pushchair friendly – yes, but one stairway at the start of the trail
  • Length – 2 miles walk or about 2 hours to complete with a little legs
  • Additions/extras – includes a map and activity book, there’s a gift shop to buy faerie memorabilia at the end

*Although there’s a charge for adults and older kids, you could revisit the walk again at any point without paying (as long as you remember your map and the route!)

Loch-lomond-faerie-trail-toddler-activities

free-toddler-activities-parenting
baby and toddler activities

Free Toddler Activities and Attractions

As a toddler mum, I’m always looking for new ways to keep my little man entertained. There’s only so many episodes of Hey Duggee or visits to the soft play one can take without contemplating spiking your own coffee – even if the wee fella is quite content to watch and do the same thing over and over again.

New activities are good for all – toddlers get to explore and expand their horizons, learning as they go, and us parents get to save our sanity for one more day. However, many activities come with a price tag, which means they aren’t always possible or accessible. So I’ve tried to explore a variety of different activities in a range of locations, both indoor and outdoor, which at least offer free toddler places, if not free for adults too.

It’s important that our kids get a range of experiences and that we have the opportunity to provide them with fresh ideas, games, things to explore and places to go. I’ve started with some of the places closest to home for me, but I am looking to expand locations as I go. On top of this, I’m looking for a variety of different experiences which stimulate different senses or get different parts of the brain working. So it won’t be a list of physical activities (playparks, outdoor adventure etc) and viewing activities (farms, aquariums etc) but also experiences and learning activities that encourage skills like reading, writing, counting etc.

The idea is that I will add a link below to a post about each activity or attraction. The posts will be a mixture between a review, our experience and what you can expect for free, plus any other information such as additional extras etc.

  1. Ardardan Estate – we visit here quite regularly, and they are currently improving the farm to include more animals and a children’s playpark by 2020. Read the post to see what’s currently on offer there.
  2. Loch Lomond Faerie Trail – Brilliant attraction and walk in a scenic area. Read the post to find out how to make the most of the trail.
  3. Briarlands Farm – this Stirlingshire farm contains more than your regular farm animals, with tractor rides, play areas, mazes, archery and even go-karts!

 

Coming soon:

  • Lamont Farm, Erskine
  • Loch Lomond Sealife Centre
  • Bookbug

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handmade-gifts-fathers-day
Uncategorized

Homemade Father’s Day Gifts for Kids

So following on from my homemade Mother’s Day gifts post in March, I thought it only fair that the dads/gradands/papas get the same treatment! I’ve based the gifts on both the kind of ability a toddler can join in on, and on the kind of things I think the men in Travis’ life would appreciate.

handmade-fathers-day-cardHandmade Cards
A handmade card adds a great personal touch, and gives you the chance to make a card that really reflects dad, grandad, step-dad etc, rather than having to trawl through card shops or websites to find the perfect message or funny quip (just me who does that?). All you really need is some A4 card, some pens, crayons and your imagination for the rest. If dad’s into golf, why not add a pom-pom football and make the card 3D? You could get messy and get your toddler to add some handprints, footprints or finger painting – hands can be high-fives, little fishes on a rod, a little monster, whereas a foot can be a trophy, a rocket to the moon, walking in daddy’s footsteps… you get the idea!

homemade-fathers-day-gift-couponFather’s Day coupons
This one is a great fail-safe if you’re unsure what to give your dad, and it’s a great addition or fallback gift that kids can get involved in making. All you need is paper/card of various colours, some markers and colouring pens, and a stapler or some glue to hold the pages together.
Get your toddler involved by asking them the type of thing daddy/papa likes and how you can turn that into a coupon. Plus there are heaps of standard coupons to include, such as breakfast in bed, a cup of tea made, charge of the remote control, undisturbed PlayStation time etc that can be used on Father’s Day and beyond. Let your child choose the colour for each coupon, and draw a picture on each. They can even sign their name (i.e. scribble) like a cheque on the coupon.

handmade-fathers-day-keyringPhoto keyring
Does dad drive a lot for work? Maybe papa has a separate set of shed keys? Either way, their little pride and joy’s face on their keys will be sure to brighten their day. All you need for this is a nice photo of your little one(s) with their dad/grandfather etc – be sure to print 2 copies as the keyring will be double-sided – and either a laminator or a little plastic photo keyring. The latter is probably the easiest, and you can buy them in bulk from a craft store like Hobbycraft, and then Bob’s your uncle! Or Jim’s your grandad…. (sorry)

homemade-fathers-day-gift-shaving-creamHomemade shaving cream
Most men need to shave at some point, if even to trim and tidy their beloved beard. A homemade shaving cream adds an extra special touch, with natural ingredients to ensure a soft, moisturised face that’s perfect for giving a kiss goodnight. Although I’ve not made one for myself yet, I did discover this great recipe on The Garlic Diaries which not only sounds lush, but is apparently also a great shaver/moisturiser for your legs too, so double-win!

homemade-fathers-day-hamper-giftBig night in kit
This is another one that can be personalised to dad’s taste. Maybe it’s a Saturday night in with the family, or maybe dad’s got a night to himself? Either way, all you need is a hamper and some of dad’s favourite things. Ask your toddler to help choose some of dad’s favourite things, whether it be a beer, chocolate, movie etc. Maybe there’s a game you always play together? Or there’s a big sports match coming up? For the latter, you can make a “ticket” to watch it on TV on the specific day, with a coupon for a takeaway too. Maybe dad likes a good bath too – no discriminating here! You can also add in the shaving cream above to the night in kit for another double-win.
Tip: If you have more reliable weather than Scotland, why not switch this for a big day out kit? Add in picnic items and garden games the whole family can join in.

 

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5-essential-baby-products-blog
Lists, Parenting

5 essential baby products I couldn’t live without

There are loads of so-called baby essentials out there, and for first time mums, choosing the right products to help you care for your baby can be daunting. I was definitely in those shoes before Travis was born, and with baby shows, events and brands all offering different things from genuine essentials to new products that position themselves as genius new life-hacks, it was a bit overwhelming to know who to trust and what to buy.

With a bit of hindsight in mind, I’ve made a list of the top 5 baby essentials I don’t think I could have lived without. In my opinion these were the best things to fork out on for my situation, but yours might be different. I’ve not been approached or paid in any way to promote or review any of these products so you can make of that what you will!

Oh, and I’d be grateful if you could let me know of any of the amazing products you couldn’t have lived without as a new mama!

Nappy Bin
The single most useful thing that we were lucky enough to be gifted with before having Travis was an Angelcare nappy bin (other brands are available!). I was sceptical about using disposable nappy bags as my conscience already eats me up enough that we use disposable nappies and they are terrible for the environment, but on the same note I didn’t want a smelly bin all the time. As a new parent, putting the bins out (especially if you live in a flat) can get pushed to the back of your mind as you juggle a new found lack of sleep with trying to care for a tiny human’s every need as well as your own. So this nappy bin which sooks in stinky nappies and takes away the smell, means your home smells poo-free, your baby is clean, and nobody has to take a trip to the bin unless it’s full. Plus less plastics on disposable nappies – yay!

Perfect Prep Machine
The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine is money well spent for any formula feeding mother. It sounds stupid but if you’re not used to getting up multiple times a night, and don’t like keeping a sleeping baby awake longer than necessary (because new rules say you can’t keep formula for more than like an hour or something equally as silly) then this is ideal. Just make sure it’s topped up with water, press a button, add formula, press a button and hey presto, your baby’s feed is ready, with their exact amount and at the right temperature in just two minutes. Word to the wise – Tommee Tippee products (especially this one) can be expensive, but there will usually always be a deal on the Perfect Prep Machine if you shop around for baby events etc. At the time of writing this post, you can grab it for a reasonable price at John Lewis of all places.

A good travel system
I can’t stress the importance of a good travel system for your baby. As we live one floor up with outside stone steps, a pram and buggy with air tyres was essential for us to bounce up and down the steps. As I said, I’m not being paid to write about any products, but for me the Venicci 3 in 1 travel system was ideal for our circumstances. It also came with a cup holder which was an added bonus for all those caffeine induced walks in the park! Travis still fits in his buggy at 18 months (despite being the height and weight of an average 3 year old) and I can’t relate how good it is to be able to pop the car seat onto the frame if you’re nipping out to the shops in a journey which must be done in the car. We ran into a few issues with our back wheel (tyre tube and wheel had to be replaced multiple times) but I think that’s an anomoly as anyone else I’ve spoken to with a Venicci pram system also swears by it!

Sleepyhead
I was fortunate enough to be gifted a Sleepyhead Deluxe by my work colleagues as a mat leave gift, but they can be quite pricey. There are similar brands available, and they basically all do the same thing. There are various health warnings that babies shouldn’t be allowed to sleep in them, that you have to watch them etc, but I honestly found this a lifesaver for naps. Travis could quite easily sleep on the couch inside it while I either napped on the other end of the couch or pottered about tidying the living room or whatever. It was also the perfect size to take in the car when visiting family, because as we know naps are inevitable when they are so young, but you don’t want to be carting around a moses basket or travel cot everywhere in case your child naps! Plus, if you’re having one of those utterly unbearable nights where they wake heaps of times and just want a touch from mum or dad, then the Sleepyhead is ideal for placing on top of the covers on your bed, meaning your baby is snug and close to you, without the worry of a quilt covering their face etc.

 

Sling/baby carrier
As a Scot, I was fortunate enough to receive a Baby Box when Travis was born, which came with a bunch of useful items in, including a baby sling. Now I have to say the different ways to tie this and secure your baby absolutely baffled me, but I did love the sentiment. I had already purchased a baby carrier with money gifted to us for Travis when he was born, and I can honestly say I’d probably still be using it today if 1) Travis wasn’t a giant and 2) it didn’t burn down in our house fire. Travis was quite a colicky baby, which meant he was a lot more comfortable if he was elevated. This was fine to a point, but considering he weighted 8lb 15 when he was born, you could imagine the strain on my arms as he got to 3, 4, and 5 months old. The baby carrier was the ideal solution as it meant he could be upright and close to me, without the strain on my arms or back. It also meant I could perfect skills like going for a wee while he was strapped to me, making life that little bit easier for everyone.

 

Those are my 5 top baby essentials that I definitely could not have lived without, but I’d be keen to hear of anyone else’s – after all, every baby and every situation is different!

5-essential-baby-products-for-new-mums

ardardan-estate-free-things-to-do-with-toddlers
baby and toddler activities

Ardardan Estate

A great free place to take kiddos near me is Ardardan Estate. It’s actually not that far from Glasgow either, so if you’re fancying a trip out to the country, it’s a nice place to stop and appreciate nature with plenty to see and do. The best part is, they are only getting started too – there’s a petting zoo and adventure playground in the pipeline for kids, due to open in 2020.

What can you do at Ardardan Estate?

The Estate is a working farm, so there are loads of sheep, cows and horses to go and look at. As its springtime, we had lots of fun looking at the little lambs and baby Highland cow. When we visited previously, there were also pigs, hens and chicks, but we’ve been advised that they are on their holidays for now, as works are ongoing at Ardardan Estate to bring lots of family fun in 2020. I have to say, all the animals were great and come right up to let you pet them at the fence, if you have a bit of patience to wait on them!

Throughout the Estate land, there are a number of walks, through the fields or through the woodland. The latter is great for kids as there are loads of things to do, like spot the ribbons in the trees, run through the woodland maze, climb trees and spot lots of bugs and birds who call the woodland home.

Tucked away behind the plant nursery and garden shop is a cute little duck racing game too! Travis absolutely loved this, as splashing and rubber ducks rate high on his list of fun things to do. The way it works is that there are four old-fashioned water pumps lined out in a row. Each one has a plastic pipe below it, flowing down and around, like a little ducky water slide. Racers pick their rubber duck from the box, place it on the pipe under the pump, and start working those arm muscles to pump their duck down the slide. And you guessed it – fastest one wins the duck race!

For the grown ups

I briefly mentioned that there’s a plant nursery within the grounds, so you can imagine all the great plants and garden decor you can buy here. From hanging baskets to water features, you can make a spectacular garden display with what’s on offer here.

The shop area doesn’t just sell plants and garden items, there’s also a tasty farm shop too. Packed with fresh produce like eggs, in-season fruits and veg, along with prime cuts of meat, the farm shop also sells fantastic jams, preserves and baked goods.

If food and plants aren’t your thing, there’s also a great gift shop section, packed with cute and unique ideas for things like Father’s Day/Mother’s Day, kid’s birthdays and more. Of course it also caters to the tourists, so expect plenty of postcards, maps and very Scottish themed keepsakes.

Cafe

Although there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I’d definitely recommend spending some cash in the cafe if you’re heading to Ardardan for a day out. Those trail walks can work up an appetite, and they’ve got options to cater to all tastes. Travis especially enjoyed a babyccino (though that doesn’t stop him still eyeing up the chocolate on top of my cappuccino) and I can testify that their homemade soups and cakes – especially the massive scones – are to die for.

 

Ardardan Estate also regularly holds family fun events, such as egg hunts at Easter, family fun events and vintage tractor rallies. Check out their Facebook page before visiting to find out if anything special is on before you visit.

surviving-chicken-pox-toddler
Parenting

Surviving Chicken Pox

So it’s been pretty quiet on the blog front over the last couple of months, though that’s definitely not due to a shortage of things to share!

Spring has been so hectic, with a million things going on (because everything tends to happen at the same time, doesn’t it?) and I just didn’t feel like I could catch up on basic life tasks like ironing and meal prep, never mind find the time to blog. One of the main things that set us back a bit was Travis catching the chicken pox in early April. Nothing prepares you for your wee one being ill, or the effect it can have on the whole household. Here’s how we survived the chicken pox…

Early detection

I noticed a couple of spots on Travis’ nappy line when he woke up on Saturday 5th April. I thought maybe his nappy had been on too tight or too long overnight, so lathered him with Sudocrem and kept an eye on him as the day went on. I noticed the spots start to blister later in the day, which made me run to Dr Google as I had no idea that chicken pox actually blistered – in my blissful ignorance I just thought they were itchy spots that scabbed because they were scratched too hard!

After a mild panic at the 7,000 different types of rash and skin disorders children are prone to, I phoned NHS 24 for some advice and clarity. I have to say I was surprised at the advice given over the phone as I had already assumed my Saturday night would involve a trip to the out of hours doctor and an overtired toddler.

In actual fact, we were partly diagnosed over the phone and told to simply use Calpol, monitor temperature and go to the pharmacy when it opened for a confirmation and recommendation of soothing cream. I think this is because, for the most part, Travis was pretty good with his pox and not really showing too many of the bad symptoms or side effects such as loss of appetite or really bad fever. He had his ups and downs, and was a bit more unsettled at night, but that was to be expected as the heat and cosiness of jammies and blankets etc can bring out the itch.

I couldn’t give enough credit to the NHS24 nurse whom we spoke to, as she was full of useful tips and advice. She explained the new guidelines, and how things had changed over her time as a nurse, and what you’re now recommended to do. Over and above the medical advice (ie use Calpol, not ibuprofen, don’t exceed dose etc) she offered practical advice to help get through it and was generally a lovely and empathetic person.

Here are just some of her gems, along with other pearls of wisdom we found helpful during the chickenpox saga:

Bicarbonate of soda bath – this takes the itch out of the spots. Similarly, a post has been doing the rounds on Facebook proclaiming Head & Shoulders to be the bathtime saviour at eliminating the itch. Other remedies also include bundling oats in a flannel and running the water over this – it’s a tip often given to mothers of toddlers with eczema but the soothing properties are the same.

Lay off the calamine – I was told by the nurse that this isn’t prescribed any longer as it hasn’t proven effective or shown any great signs in improvement in symptoms. Instead I was encouraged to use creams like Aveeno (we use this regularly for Travis’ eczema flare ups so that was handy) and Child’s Farm and some other brands I can’t remember the name of.

Use Calpol regularly, but not ibuprofen – As is the usual staple for kiddy illnesses, I was encouraged to use Calpol to avoid a fever, which is common in pox sufferers. Travis was ok during the day, but we did use Calpol in the run up to bedtime as this is when itching tends to be worse, and when we’d notice the little man getting warmer. However one gem we were told was to lay off the kiddy Nurofen/ibuprofen as the anti-inflammatory property in this medicine can actually have an adverse affect on the itching and can make the chickenpox go deeper (yikes!)

Play games with the spots – we found that a nice distracting technique was to point out the spots and get Travis to point different ones out. This distracted from scratching and also meant that he didn’t think it was crazy abnormal to suddenly be sprouting spots.

Prepare for upside down days – between the virus and the Calpol, days and nights got mixed up with grogginess, extra naps, long naps and restless nights. Be prepared to feel like you did in the early days, as routine will go out the window for about a week (maybe longer if your kiddo unfortunately suffers all the side effects) so if you can take time off work and any commitments, it’s advisable not only for your wee one, but for your own health too.

Keep moisturising – for all that the virus is no longer contageous once the spots scab over, they still stay for ages afterwards. In fact, despite suffering the pox in early April, Travis still has some faint marks in late May. My one key piece of advice is to keep moisturising regularly to encourage the skin to repair and avoid scarring.

Even with the best advice, anecdotes and tips, no two children will necessarily cope with the same illness in the same way. Hopefully our chicken pox survival proves helpful, and if there are any tips and tricks you swear by which I’ve not mentioned, please share with me!

Unlikely mum makes

Unlikely Mum Makes: Easter Nest Cakes

I don’t know about you, but making Easter nest cakes was one of my favourite things to do (and eat!) as a child. Bringing back some of the nostalgia, I’m hoping to spread the joy to Travis and start a new Easter tradition for us.

I’m not much of a baker, however these sweet treats are super easy to make, with no need to even switch the oven on, so there’s pretty much no way you can go wrong! With no baking and a quick prep time, they are the ideal activity to involve your kiddos in too. Although I imagine at 18 months, Travis will only want to eat all of the chocolate or wear the mixing bowl as a hat!

 

What you need:

Ingredients

  1. Half box of Shredded Wheat (the big ones!)
  2. 200g Cooking chocolate
  3. 2x share bags of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs

Equipment

  • Glass bowl
  • Saucepan or microwave
  • Cupcake cases

 

Method

1.Break your chocolate into pieces and place into the glass bowl.

Microwave: cook in short bursts of 10 seconds at a time, ensuring the chocolate melts evenly and doesn’t burn. You’ll probably need about 6 or 7 goes at a 200g bar of chocolate all broken up. Be sure to stir in between microwave blasts too!

Hob: fill your saucepan halfway with water and place the large glass bowl on top. It’s worth noting you’ll need a larger bowl than pan for the bowl to sit properly and melt efficiently. Keep the water simmering to heat the chocolate evenly and stir as you go.

2. While the chocolate is melting, break up some shredded wheat with your hands. Usually about 5-6 will suffice.

3. Once chocolate has melted, add in the broken shredded wheat and mix well.

4. Spoon the mixture evenly into your cupcake cases, pressing the spoon into the centre of the cake to make a nest shape.

5. Place 3 mini eggs into each nest cake

6. Place all cakes in the fridge for a couple of hours to set

7. Enjoy!

Uncategorized

Homemade Mother’s Day Gifts

I’ve already listed some of the great crafts you can do with your toddler to create fun Mother’s Day gifts, but I’m also planning to give some handmade Mother’s Day gifts of my own this year. Because no matter what age, you’re still someone’s child!

While my ideas of gifts are a bit further reaching than hand crafted cards and tokens for chores and tea, it doesn’t mean there’s any less thought or love going into them. It just means there are usually more steps to take and items required to make them!

Here are some great Mother’s Day gifts you can make at home

Homemade Candles

I shared a post around Christmas time, all about how to make festive candles. The principle is basically the same, though I’ve bought some nice rose and jasmine oils which I plan to use to scent the Mother’s Day candles. I will also be steering away from Christmas ribbon to decorate, instead opting for more pastel shades, and some lovely washi sheets to decorate. I’m still undecided on whether to write Mum/Happy Mother’s Day anywhere on them yet.

Homemade body scrub

Who knew that body scrub was actually insanely easy to make yourself? Literally all you need are 2 or 3 ingredients, with the main decision being: do I use salt or sugar as the exfoliating element of my scrub? I would recommend using almond oil within your scrub, as it’s highly rated for its nourishing properties, but coconut oil works well too (and smells great!). I’m going to test out some brown sugar, coconut oil and honey, but there are endless possibilities with homemade body scrub – add loads of natural ingredients (think leaves, fruit etc) or essential oils to achieve your desired scent and consistency.

Homemade cookies

Flowers and chocolates are the go-to Mother’s Day gifts, but what about swapping the Milk Tray for something handmade? Whether you’re a baking novice, or fancy attempting this stunning cupcake bouquet I found on Pinterest, there’s something extra special about a sweet treat that’s been handmade. Plus your mum might share your wares with you, so a win all round!

Homemade makeup bag

So I haven’t made a makeup back since my Fashion and Textile class in high school c. 2005/6. However, if you’re a dab hand with a needle and thread then this shouldn’t be too much bother. The size I’m thinking of making is around 6-7 inches wide, so it’s probably more of a travel essentials/handbag size makeup bag. All you need is some fat quarters (Aldi usually have nice, seasonal patterns in their Special Buys aisle), some wadding (optional), a zipper, fabric pins, and of course a needle and thread. If you have a sewing machine, even better, although that’s not essential. Here’s a great tutorial video I found, showing how easy they are to make (minus the wadding).

 

Wee disclaimer: I’ve no affiliation with any of the external links shared, I just read/watched and thought they were useful, and hopefully you do too!

baby-toddler-swimming-lessons
baby and toddler activities, Mother and Baby classes

Baby and Toddler Swimming Lessons

One of my favourite all-weather activities for Travis is his swimming lessons. We’ve taken him since he was around 5-6 months old, and he absolutely loves it. Having grown from the baby classes into the toddler classes, it’s easy to see progress in terms of his abilities in the water, but also his confidence in water and his ability to listen and follow instructions.

Why swimming lessons?

If there’s one thing I could recommend to new mums looking for things to do with their little babies it’s this. There are so many benefits of this for mum and baby. Remember when the midwives gave you information on water births and they spoke about babies being surrounded by water when you carried them? That’s a main reason for starting swimming lessons so young – babies grew surrounded by water, so it’s something they are familiar with.

If, like me, your newborn absolutely hated bath time to begin with, swimming lessons are a way to combat that. Sure, they may scream the pool down the first couple of times (Travis returned to doing this again last week, despite swimming for a year!) but that’s only normal until they get used to the water. The lessons involve simple things like pouring water over different parts of your babies body to get them used to water whilst learning body parts too.

Other great reasons for booking a block of lessons are that it helps you create a routine with your child, going at the same time every week, whilst encouraging mums and babies to get out and see other mums and babies. As mum is going in the water too, it helps you get some gentle exercise (and not so gentle as your baby grows into a 2.5st toddler!) as you bounce your baby and guide them through swimming techniques.

Selfishly, I’ve also always found that it’s quite tiring on Travis, so it means he usually goes for a nice long nap afterwards – a godsend if mum is in need of some rest too, or just a hot cuppa in peace!

What do lessons involve?

As well as pouring water over the body, there’s time to splash, time to kick, and time to play at the end too. As your baby becomes more confident in the water, your instructor will show you how to hold baby to get them to move as if they were swimming. This encourages their motor skill development and invokes the urge to kick in the water. Your instructor will also guide you on dunking your baby underwater. Believe me – this is far more traumatic for mums than babies the first couple of times! In fact, I actually chickened out and only put Travis in up to his neck the first time.

There are usually songs or nursery rhymes to accompany most things you do, so you get that repetition and association that’s key to babies’ routines.

Depending on how well your baby adapts to and enjoys the water, your instructor will introduce floats and various different moves, such as lying your baby on their back and guiding them across the water. Like with everything, every baby develops at their own pace so there’s no time or age limit on anything really.

The toddler lessons involve more floats and swimming – and sometimes even letting go of the floats to watch your little one go! Plus there are opportunities to “catch treasure” by encouraging your little one to reach under water to bring out toys and (toy) coins that are placed on the steps of the pool.

How soon can I book swimming lessons?

The advice from health visitors is to wait until after your babies’ first round of jags. I think this is probably due to the fact that swimming pools and changing areas can be a breeding ground for germs.

However, after your baby is 8 weeks old, you’re free to book onto the next set of lessons. The lessons in our local pool (Ready, Steady Splish and Ready, Steady Splash) run in blocks of around 8-10 weeks to coincide with school term time. This might mean you have to wait a few weeks longer than planned to start, if there’s currently a block in the middle of running.

The only downside of blocks running like this is that there are no lessons during the 6 week summer break, but if your child has started before this then I’d strongly recommend taking them for a little splash during the holidays so they still remember the pool.

How much do lessons cost?

The price very much varies from area to area, and depends if you chose to go with a brand of swimming instruction (such as Water Babies) or stick with your local council pool offering. I’ve heard that some big brand name classes can cost upwards of £70 for a block of just 8 lessons.

Our Ready Steady Splash classes are run in the local council pool, and a block is usually between £28-£35 a time. The cost is dependent on the number of lessons per block, and other factors such as bank holidays within the block. This tends to affect us as Travis’ lesson day is a Monday, but most pools offer a variety of days and times to choose from.

What should I bring to swimming lessons?

As you would for swimming yourself, bring a costume and towel for each of you. There are costumes with in-built flotation devices/materials for kids, but it’s entirely up to you if you want to pay extra for this or just buy a simple all-in-one or two piece. As Travis has gotten older, I’ve found a two piece trunks and top set is much easier to get on and off a wriggly toddler than an all-in-one.

Swim nappies are other essentials, as nobody wants to be swimming alongside a poo! At first I was so paranoid, I used a disposable swim nappy with a cloth swim nappy on top so no accidents could leak through! However just one is enough, whatever your preference!

If you can, I’d recommend buying some travel-sized toiletries to keep in your swimming bag, with baby wash and Aveeno cream at the top of our list. Travis has quite sensitive skin which is prone to eczema in the folds so a slather of Aveeno after swimming keeps this away. And of course, be sure to pack the usual nappies, creams, wipes and spares just in case!

Finally, I’d recommend a snack/feed or toy to keep them occupied while you dress yourself. Unless of course you have another parent, relative or friend on hand to help for that bit!