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!
  4. Lamont Farm – a charity farm project based in Erskine. Dense city-farm which focuses on the welfare of animals and rehoming animals

 

Coming soon:

  • Loch Lomond Sealife Centre
  • Bookbug
  • Oor Wullie Big Bucket Trail
  • Riverside Museum
  • Tall Ship

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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!

Baby-toddler-swimming-activities

mothers-day-crafts-for-toddlers
baby and toddler activities, Parenting

Mother’s Day Crafts for Toddlers

I can’t believe I’m almost celebrating my second Mother’s Day as a parent – time really does fly when you’re having fun! I don’t know about you, but Mother’s Day for me is more than just a card and gift kind of holiday, it’s about really giving back. It could be because my birthday is also in March (UK Mother’s Day peeps), so I don’t really want or need any additional gifts, or it could be because I find time and experiences as more valuable gifts than anything you could buy in a shop.

I just think, what could be better than giving back some love and care which has went into some hand-crafted tokens of appreciation? Things like handmade cards go a long way in my book, although obviously I won’t be making any of these with Travis for myself (I’m not that sad!), I know we’ll have fun creating memories as we craft. Hopefully the grandmammas who are in line to receive the crafts appreciate the homemade gifts!

Here are 5 Mother’s Day crafts you can do with your toddler:

 

Mothers-day-handmade-card-toddler-craftsHandmade Cards

Handmade cards are always a winner, and no doubt you will receive some from nurseries and schools anyway. All you need is some card, coloured pens/pencils, and any additional 3D materials you want to stick onto your card. We opted for tissue paper flowers this year, using coloured tissue wrapped into a flower shape and stuck on with some craft glue via a glue spreader. I’m considering adding some glitter that’s gathering dust in a drawer, but not sure the mess and glitter for days is worth it!

Mother’s Day token booklet

The value of the tokens is completely up to you. If your toddler is already speaking and communicating well, why not ask for their input on the tokens? For me, I’d like tea and coffee tokens so that I can have a hot drink or 2 made (probably by dad) on request, and possibly also enjoyed whilst hot! A couple of the tokens could contain chores such, like a laundry token or dish washing token, or even a simple tidy-up token that your little one can do. Here’s a link to an interesting pin I found with some simple token ideas.

 

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Decorate a plant pot

Flowers are a common Mother’s Day gift, so why not go that one step further and really personalise this gift by getting crafty? Plant pots aren’t hard to come by – garden centres, B&M, Ikea or online stores like Amazon will have a range to choose from – and decorating them is fun and easy. Why not get your little one to help paint it in mum/grandma’s favourite colour? Or maybe glue on some coloured letters spelling “Happy Mother’s Day” or “Greatest Grandma” or something similar?

If plant pots and growing your own flowers doesn’t fit with your mum or grandmother, you could always try decorating a vase instead.

Breakfast in bed hamper

Growing up, it was always traditional for mum to have breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. How much myself or brother helped, without setting off the smoke detector, was another thing however. Depending on the age of your toddler, you might not think they are ready to help with the breakfast in bed just yet, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help prepare and decorate a breakfast hamper for mum. Many craft shops have small hamper baskets, or you can simply buy a small wooden box which can be painted and decorated. Why not help your toddler choose the contents (tea/coffee sachets, jam jar etc) and pack with shredded paper or cardboard – another sensory stimulant.

Mothers-day-personalised-photo-framePersonalised photo frame

What could be better than your toddler picking out their own unique memory of you or a grandparent and adding their own personal stamp. All you need is a treasured photo, and a plain photo frame that fits the chosen photo. B&M do loads in various plain colours and sizes. Then it’s entirely up to you – why not add polka dots in mum/gran’s favourite colour, or shade that matches the colours of their living room (or wherever you want the photo to be proudly displayed!). If you know that mummy likes flowers or stars for instance, you can always draw some on, or pick up some embellishments from your local craft store and stick those on. Similar to the plant pot, you can also add in a message like “Happy Mother’s Day” or “Best Mum/Gran in the World” or even a favourite quote or saying that’s meaningful to you.

 

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baby and toddler activities, Parenting

5 Fun Free Indoor Activities for Toddlers

Spring has almost sprung, but if like me you live in a country where the weather is increasingly unpredictable, spring can be a gamble in terms of plans to make with your toddler. A few times in the past couple of weeks we have planned to go feed the ducks or visit farms, go on woodland walks and a number of other outdoor activities. Sadly, between rain, hail and even snow, it wasn’t meant to be.

However, with cancelled plans comes the panic of what to do instead (in my case anyway), as I always fear my little one won’t be as stimulated with the same toys, no fresh air, too many cartoons and the like indoors. I’m probably mad, but I think it’s important to introduce new toys and activities to keep kids interested and entertained.

Here’s my top free indoor activities to keep toddlers amused and learning:

indoor-toddler-activities-storiesAnimate stories

Storytelling needn’t be solely a bedtime activity – reading books can be fun at any time of day. Travis cannot get enough of books and stories, especially books where there are things to touch (aka all the “That’s Not My..” books which he loves), as the interactive experience adds a new level of enjoyment to the book. Another way to do this is to animate the stories you read. For example, if it’s a book about animals, I’ll get down on all fours and pretend I’m the animal, making the noise it makes. We also use teddies to act out the story. Of course this doesn’t have to accompany a book, you can make up stories or simply tell them from memory with props, sounds and actions.

Flashcards

Flash cards are a great way to add an educational element to staying indoors. Whether your toddler is young or almost at pre-school age, flash cards can be used to introduce word association, encourage speech and, as your toddler gets older, they can be used to complement any reading or spelling they may be learning at nursery or school.

build-a-den-indoor-toddler-activitiesBuild a den

Is there anything better on a miserable, cold, grey day than diving under a fort and getting all cosy? Whilst it may not be the relaxing, quiet blanket-fort you’d envisage for an adult, you can create a den for the kids and transport them out of the living room/bedroom for a little while. Bigger toddlers can help building the fort, whilst smaller ones will enjoy exploring inside. Why not pretend you’re camping in the woods and the teddy bears are coming for a picnic? Or maybe you’re in the jungle and the tigers and lions are just outside? You can even combine activities, like reading inside the den, just to mix things up a bit.

Word Tracers

As your toddler develops, you may want to introduce reading and writing activities. Word tracers are ideal for this. What’s a word tracer I hear you say? Well they are exactly as they suggest – practical sheets which allow toddlers to explore and create words that the sheet outlines. Want to print one for yourself? Here’s one with action words.

Toddlers are always on the move, so this action words word tracer is perfect for them. Word tracers are a fun way for little ones to gain practice with their fine motor skills and beginning letter recognition. They can even act out the words as they trace. For even more fun educational resources, check out Education.com.

indoor-toddler-activities-make-pretendMake and pretend

It’s time to get out the cardboard boxes and dig out some of the recycling material and get ready to make and pretend. Rice or lentils in a plastic bottle becomes a musical instrument, as does elastic bands over an empty tissue box. Bigger boxes can be cars, planes or rocket ships that fly around the room. If you’re more crafty, why not use some of the old toilet roll tubes, empty egg cartons and yoghurt pots to make your own space ships or princess castles or whatever your imagination chooses!

 

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