potty-training-toddler-in-lockdown-blog-header
Parenting

Potty Training A Toddler During Lockdown

Back in February, when everyone was still going about their lives freely, I was tentatively worrying about potty training. Going into parenting I always said it was the bit I was least looking forward to – how do you teach someone to wee or poo into a hole?!

It was always something that worried me and because my mum had explained how stubborn I was to potty train, I didn’t hold out hope for success with my male mini-me. So as my little man was making his way through the terrible twos, each day brought more anxiety about the moment it would eventually happen. We had bought potties and watched videos, read articles and blogs all about it, so we could be prepared when the time came. We just didn’t think the time would come during a global pandemic when we were already being tested in so many other ways.

Throw the rule books out the window
Honestly, we watched so many YouTube videos which punted expensive potty training manuals, listened to advice from friends and family, and read articles in all the usual mum & baby website havens. When it came to it, our toddler didn’t want to conform to any of their rules and suggestions. We tried involving him in the potty process, letting him add stickers to his potty, introduced a reward chart, gave him potty training books and let him pick his own pants.

None of it worked. Just because he picked the pants and liked Simba, didn’t mean he was going to wear them. I should probably point out that, according to all the signs, our child was 100% ready for potty training. He would tell us every time he needed a wee, would go and hide (and still does) to do a poo, grabbed his crotch when he needed to go and pretty much all the usual signs. So we weren’t trying to force him into something prematurely (or so we thought).

There’s no magic week or fortnight
A few of the resources and self-help parenting books had suggested taking a week or two away from work to potty train; the more bold of these suggesting that your child could or should be fully potty trained in that time. Sorry to burst the bubble, but there’s no magic fortnight. At least, not in our experience or in the experience of any of the mum friends and family I spoke to about my potty training worries.

As with everything, your child will learn and do it in their own time. Some take longer than others, and some start much earlier or later than others. Maybe the start of a magic potty training method will work, whereas it might fall down halfway through and you might end up winging it. Everything could go swimmingly (not literally, I hope) and your child could work through a standard set of checklist tips and be potty trained without so much as a grumble. If anyone has mastered it in a week or fortnight, please share your experience with me!

Nappy battles
We eventually had a couple of flukey wees in the potty but then came a major regression. All of a sudden he didn’t want to be without a nappy, and he really, really didn’t want to do a wee. We got to the point it was exhausting trying to convince him it was ok to wee while he had screaming fits, going rigid trying to hold it in. And this was with his nappy on…

Weirdly, once we’d taken a good few days to get over the wee-anxiety, he was quite happy to sit on his potty to go – but only if he had a nappy on. By this point I was picking my battles, and I was happy to concede him wearing a nappy if it meant he was going on the potty freely without tears, and understood the actions of what we were working towards overall.

I’ve never read or watched a guide or tutorial where this is done, or seen as good practice, but it worked just fine for us. The anxiety of using the potty was removed and if it meant he took much longer to use the potty without a nappy, it wasn’t a big deal. We didn’t have to explain a quirk to nursery teachers or have anyone judge us for how we were doing it.

Isn’t it easier in lockdown?
A few people have alluded to, or just asked me this straight out. The implication is that potty training is somehow easier in lockdown because you’ve been told to stay at home where possible so it shouldn’t be a problem with accidents, outings and regressing. So wrong. Firstly, have you ever tried to keep a 2 year old in all the time? It’s difficult. Secondly, everybody’s situation is different. I didn’t have the luxury of time afforded to me to potty train – I am still working full time and caring for my toddler full time. My partner works shifts so we are regularly having to vacate the house to keep a hyper toddler entertained whilst letting a tired adult sleep. It’s just not possible to stay at home all the time, and when I am home, I’m working about 70% of the time. So actually, it becomes more difficult dragging yourself away from zoom calls for potty emergencies, and feeling generally frazzled as you try to make up the time in your work day you’ve missed due to wee breaks, accidents and tantrums about the potty.

Also, in lockdown, your child doesn’t have the benefit of perhaps seeing other children (whether friends, at nursery or whatever) and learning or progressing with them, unless they have older siblings. This can mean a delay to learning about potty training or feeling ready for it.

I’d also argue that it might have longer term implications by learning to potty train in lockdown. Whilst kids had routines they went about once upon a time, from nursery to pre-school groups, swimming lessons to granny’s house, those different settings have been denied to my toddler for the moment. He has already had tantrums about not using the toilets in ASDA, so I’m anxious about him regressing when it comes to going back to nursery and anywhere else he might need a wee that’s not in his own house.

That and we’ve not mastered number twos yet, so there’s still a way to go!

Top tips
Honestly, there’s no big secrets or hacks. The best tip I can give is to relax and listen more to what your child says than what any adult tells you about potty training. Guides are great as just that, but don’t stress if it doesn’t go to plan.

The only other thing I can advise is to make sure you’re prepared with all the equipment you’d need for potty training, from actual potties to underpants and mattress protectors.

potty-training-toddler-lockdown-pinterest-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!

pin-real-things-toddler-moms-face-lockdown-pinterest

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

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:

5-benefits-to-giving-a-toddler-a-tablet

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.

what-does-a-two-year-old-need-tablet-for

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

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

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!

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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.

 

handmade-mothers-day-plant-pot-decorate

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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free-fun-indoor-activities-toddlers
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!

 

5-free-indoor-activities-for-toddlers

baby and toddler activities, Parenting

5 Free Activities for Toddlers

At this time of year, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to have a mix of indoor and outdoor activities on-hand to keep your toddler amused and learning. The list of things you can pay to take your kids to, or things you could buy to amuse them is much vaster than this. However, unless you’re a millionaire it’s just not practical or possible to fork out every time your kid is bored or needs some stimulation.

Here are 5 go-to activities that cost nowt, but will keep your child amused, active and learning.

Feed-the-ducks-toddler-activity1 Feed the ducks

Maybe I’m showing my age, as maybe it was something to do with Rosie & Jim, but I always loved going to feed the ducks as a child. Watching all the ducks come up for bread, sometimes getting a glimpse of little baby ducks and feeling a bonus thrill if swans or geese dropped by was often enough to make it fun. However if you feel like making it more of an educational experience, why not count the number of ducks and swans with your child, or point out the different types of birds that are feeding.

2 Playpark

Failsafe option every time. Playparks are always a winner, as kids never seem to get bored of swings or slides! Plus, playparks these days seem to be getting more and more impressive by the minute – flying foxes are all the rage in my neck of the woods! That’s not to mention the elaborate climbing frames, sandpits and trampolines that have become more commonplace in playparks. Usually there will be other kids around in the park too, meaning your toddler can enjoy playing with other kiddos too.

Playdate-toddler-activities3 Playdate

If there’s no other kids at the park, why not get in touch with a mum friend and arrange a playdate? I’ve already written about how much of a saviour playdates are, but don’t just take my word for it, experience it for yourself! Whether you go to their house, they come to you, or you meet in the playpark (weather permitting!), there are loads of benefits for mums and toddlers.

Messy-play-crafts-toddler-activitied4 Messy play/crafts

The same toys and the same cartoons in the house can get boring and repetitive after a while, and your little one might need some more stimulation after a while. If the weather is putting a dampener on any outdoor activities, why not get the crafts out or make some messy play? This doesn’t have to involve buying loads of craft material in – I bet you have plenty of items in the house that could be used. From basic colouring and drawing, to experiencing shaving foam, soapy bubbles and other interesting textures, your household items could become a great hub of crafting and messy play for an afternoon!

5 Bookbug

Another activity which I think is great for babies and toddlers is Bookbug. Run in Scotland in local libraries, Bookbug classes last around 45 minutes and consist of story time, rhymes and play. The aim is that parents and children will also check out books for their child and encourage reading from an early age. Classes are suitable from birth until around three years old, and take place weekly throughout term time. You can find out more about this great free activity in my Bookbug Week 2018 post.

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