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Camping with Kids – the Essentials

Camping with kids can initially sound like a crazy thing to even attempt; I mean, several days spent in the countryside with zero screen time, a bed filled only with air, reduced meal options and potentially questionable facilities – why would you?

camping with kids

Well, it’s cheap and cheerful, for starters, and there are a thousand stunning places to explore in the UK alone.  Getting back to nature is proven to help children learn and focus, lots of fresh air means they are more than ready for bed at bedtime, and spending quality time as a family, without the distractions that are abundant at home, provides an excellent opportunity to bond as a unit.

To make the whole camping process run as smoothly as possible, it is important to do like the Scouts and be very well prepared.  Here, I have collated a number of essential items as well as a few extras that can make a whole World of difference:

SLEEPING

A good night’s sleep, I’m sure we can all agree, is a must for any holiday.  After all, nobody wants to deal with cranky children when they’re struggling to stay awake themselves.  Camping is, obviously, not going to be quite as comfy as staying in a hotel or being in your own bed at home, but there are ways of making the best of it.  Use a ground mat topped with a good quality air bed and finally a sleeping bag and pillows.  For children, I would recommend a Snuggle Sac or Grobag.  The Snuggle Sac is a warm, cosy sleeping bag with inbuilt pillow case, perfect for camping.  The Grobag, suitable from birth to 6 years, are great for keeping little ones safe from suffocation and can even be worn in the car, with space for the seat belt within the material.

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Battery-operated night lights or fairy lights are a must for children, as well as torches (head-torches are genuinely amazing for camping!) for those night-time wake ups and toilet trips. Remember to pack any teddies or blankets that help your child to settle at night too, as well as a plastic box to keep them dry when they aren’t being used.

COOKING

A gas stove is a camping essential alongside extra gas canisters.  There are a huge range available but, for a weekend away, something basic is absolutely fine.  With a double ring, you would be amazed at what you can actually cook on a camping stove – from beans on toast (yes, you can get a camping toaster) and hot dogs right the way through to full English if you fancy it!  You can also pick up a camping kettle (perfect for that early morning caffeine fix) from as little as £6. Don’t forget to pack pots and pans, cooking implements, oil and seasoning, and plastic storage tubs in case you want to cook something up one morning to take out on a picnic that day.

EATING

Tinned food (and drinks; hello gin in a tin) are ideal for camping and it is advisable to base as many meals around cans of food as possible.  Avoid any perishable food items where possible and freeze milk and drinks before you leave; this will not only extend their own life but they will act as extra ice packs in your all-important cool box.  Invest in a sturdy folding table and chairs for mealtimes and pack a couple of picnic blankets for extra dining space.  Plastic cutlery, plates, bowls and cups are must-buys too, while a drinks dispenser, like this one from Tesco, would certainly come in handy for the kids to help themselves.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

A first aid kit is an absolute must when camping at all, but particularly with children.  Add plenty of liquid paracetamol and ibuprofen, Dioralyte, Bonjela, extra plasters, bite and sting relief sprays, insect repellents and lots of sun cream.  Remember to pack sunhats for everyone as there may not be a lot of shade available (particularly if you are camping by the sea or at a festival) and take portable water bottles so you’re never without a drink.  It is also advisable to find out the details of the nearest A&E to where you are staying, just in case…

MISC ESSENTIALS

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Dry shampoo
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Washing up liquid, scourers and a tea towel
  • Waterproof table cloth
  • Storage boxes to house items overnight to avoid them getting damp
  • Towels and shower gel
  • Travel board games/books/audio books/MP3 player/pens and paper/other games in case boredom sets in
  • Portable power banks to keep mobile phones charged up
  • Blankets/shawls in case of cooler weather
  • Matches
  • Mallet
  • Lots of loo roll…

Have I missed anything out?  I would love to hear your “camping with kids” suggestions in the comments.

End of Term Teacher Gift Ideas

In a fortnight’s time, my chicks will be back in the nest for the summer; a notion that fills me with equal measures of warmth and dread.  For now, though, their days are marked by reports and sports days and special assemblies and choir practices.  This means that there is not much time left to source a special teacher gift.  Now, you may not buy gifts for your child’s teacher, and that’s fine, but definitely hang around as some of the items I’ve found are great for other occasions too.  And if you do like to send along a token of your appreciation on the last day of term, and you’ve yet to find a suitable offering this year, I’ve found a handful of beauties.  I’ll start with the gifts I’ve chosen for the teachers of my own children and finish off with a few other gems.

Personalised Wine Label from Milabel (Etsy)

These labels are one of the best discoveries I’ve ever made online and their appeal never dulls.  I’ve bought two of these this year – one for my son’s teacher and one for his TA – and they are just brilliant.  Amusing, cute, very, very true and you attach them to a bottle of wine; what’s not to love?

teacher gift

These cost £3.50 each or £6 for two and arrived the morning after I ordered them, making them absolutely ideal for all your last-minute panic-buying needs.  The wine is obviously sold separately and can be tailored to individual tastes as these labels will fit any standard bottle.  Order them here.

Personalised Print from Corkymandle

For Jasmine’s teacher we went for something a little more traditional with a beautiful personalised print from Corkymandle.

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Excuse the poor quality picture, it is a million times nicer in real life, just tricky to photograph.  There are a number of hairstyles and colours to choose from as well as the choice of shorts or skirt and seven jumper colours.  The text can be personalised to reflect your child and their teacher and the overall effect, I think, is lovely.  The print is on the more expensive side; an email copy will set you back £18 with a simple mounted print (what I went for) costing £25 and framed prints going all the way up to an eye-popping £58.  I would suggest going for the mounted print and framing it yourself.  These prints can be ordered here.

Sweary Pencils from Proper Post

To supplement my son’s teacher’s wine, I have bought a pack of sweary pencils from Proper Post natch.  I personally think that every adult gift should include these stationery essentials and would actually love a set of my very own.WhatsApp-Image-2016-11-22-at-18.40.27-600x600

Tell me you don’t love them too?!

Each pack costs £6, which I think is excellent value, and can be purchased here.

Grammar Pencils from NewtonAndTheApple (Etsy)

If you think that the mere sight of a fuck or bollocks will propel your child’s teacher into a state of shock or disgust, you may prefer to consider these, frankly amazing, pencils instead.  Each one features a common grammar mistake and the entire set costs £7.50.

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I am considering grabbing myself a set of these, self-confessed grammar nerd that I am.  They would be a good addition to any child’s back-to-school stationery haul as well, though I personally think they’re much too good for children 😉

These beauties can be bought here.

Other Stationery

I’m not a teacher (obviously) but I imagine they get through a shit load of stationery every year; diaries, notebooks, pins and clips, pencils, pens, paper, etc.  And even if they don’t, everyone likes pretty new stationery, right?

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I don’t think you can go far wrong with anything from Paperchase or, if you like your pens and pencils scented, Smiggle.

Citrus Potted Plant, Ikea

For something a little different, a succulent or other houseplant could be a nice option.  I particularly love this citrus plant from Ikea; it’s just £20 and looks gorgeous.

Happy Gift Hunting

 If you have any ideas to add to my suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Don’t Sweat the Smart Stuff

 

With leaps and bounds in technology occurring faster and faster these days, I am constantly interested to discover new inventions and equally fascinated with things that are fun and useful but ultimately not exactly vital, and things that are designed to protect me and my family and friends.

Smart homes seem to be the tech ‘buzzword’ at the moment with companies such as Amazon, Apple and Samsung all creating devices to make controlling your home appliances easier. With Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo, you can add items to your shopping list and check local weather all with a simple voice command. Samsung’s smart fridges allow you to view what’s inside from your smartphone and even suggest recipes based on ingredients – handy!

Some swear by the functionality and think it represents how we’ll do things in the future. Others think it’s a novelty that will fall by the wayside in a couple of years.

One area, however, where smart devices can enhance your life is home security. Internet-connected devices can take the hassle out of home security by allowing you to keep an eye on your property from anywhere in the world, at anytime.

One such company that can provide this is the security experts, Yale. Whether it’s a Smart Door Lock, Smart Home Alarm or Camera, Yale’s Smart Living range has the device for you, allowing you to secure, monitor and control your home security from a simple touch of a button.

Smart Door Locks

Have you ever had your hands full when coming home from work and struggled to unlock your door? Or maybe you’ve wanted to grant access to your family, friends and visitors if they’ve arrived on your doorstep early.

Yale’s range of Smart Door Locks give you the freedom to secure your home without the need for a key. Now you can open your door in a number of ways, including PIN code, fingerprint recognition, remote fob, or even via an app on your smartphone or tablet. What’s more, you can keep track of who’s coming and going and at what time; ideal for parents keeping an eye on teenage children!

There’s no need to worry if your kids arrive home early, or if you’re stuck at work with friends on the doorstep. You have complete control of access to your home.

Smart Home Alarms

Arm, disarm, configure and control your home alarm system all from your smartphone. You can also receive notifications, emails and even images direct to your phone when the motion detector is triggered, to give you instant information in the event of an intrusion.

When used in conjunction with a power switch, the alarm systems also have the capability to turn on/off your lamp remotely with your smartphone or boil the kettle as you pull up on the drive.

Smart Cameras

Check in on your home at the touch of a button with a Yale IP Camera. Whether it’s to watch over older children when they’re home alone, or check on your pets during the working day. The cameras can also be installed in the homes of elderly parents or relatives, for added reassurance on their well-being.

Complete with motion detection the IP camera can alert you to movement in the home, and it also has a two-way audio feature that allows you to listen and talk back with a built-in microphone and speaker.

Yale’s Smart Living range also works with a number of leading smart home networks such as Samsung SmartThings and Control4 for to create a complete smart home experience.

For more information on Yale’s range of smart security, visit www.yale.co.uk/smart-living

Personally, I am all for useful developments in technology and am happy to embrace anything that makes family life that little bit easier, and safer.  What are your thoughts?  I would be interested to hear them in the comments.

4 Exciting Summer Holiday Activities for Kids in London

The summer holidays are fast approaching and a trip to London is a great way to embrace warmer weather with your children. The capital has exciting activities in abundance — from outdoor paintball to bike tours — to establish a top-notch itinerary.

London

Sonny at the Science Museum – another brilliant day out in the capital

The end of the school year is right around the corner so, as a parent, you’ll have the task of keeping your kids entertained for the next six weeks. So how about a trip to London? A trip to the UK’s capital will provide more than enough sights and attractions for the grown-ups and a wide range of exciting activities for your children. Here are five of the best that should be on your to-do list.

  1. Explore London’s Parks

London boasts some of the most engaging historical landmarks and fantastic architecture in the world — and its parks aren’t too shabby either. No matter which area of London you are situated in, there is a nearby park to suit you needs. Scenery to die for, vast areas of grass to enjoy a picnic, live events, even a variety of wildlife — there really is something for everyone.

Hampstead Heath offers a beautiful location for long walks and a brilliant view, while Clapham Commons provides a more lively environment with tennis courts, grass pitches and a skate park to enjoy. If you want to introduce your children to wildlife they may have never seen in the wild, Richmond Park is home to over 650 deer and St James’s Park houses a broad range of birds, such as pelicans being fed every day at 2:30pm.  

  1. Bicycle Tours

A tour of London’s vast array of sights is undoubtedly a must when visiting the city. The lengthy stroll between attractions or the added stress of public transport can make it a hard sell to children. The solution to your dilemma? A bike tour. Not only do you all get to see the sights and experience the attractions, but you’ll also benefit from the exercise and added enjoyment of a bike ride around the city.

London — like many over European cities — has become iconic for cycling, and therefore bike tours are an extremely popular tourist activity. While this does mean that you may have to book in advance to make sure you have a saddle to sit on, it also means that there are a wide range of tours to choose from.

  1. Outdoor Paintball

A day of paintball in London is a great way to give your kids an experience unlike any other. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets will be a nice change of scenery, especially as you and your kids will be spending the day immersed amidst the excitement of outdoor paintball. Travelling a little while out of the inner city into more rural surroundings allows you to experience paintball near London, which is a great change of pace for your children.

One key benefit of outdoor paintball is that it’s a suitable activity for a broad range of ages (8 years and upwards). Due to the use of lower powered weapons in kids paintball, it makes it a perfectly safe activity, leaving you with the ideal activity for a day of exciting family fun.

  1. Zorbing

Much like paintball, zorbing is an activity that is difficult to compare with any other. In short, it involves being securely harnessed in a huge inflatable ball and rolled down a hill. Dizzying fun at its finest.

The majority of London is made up of urban environments that present no opportunity for Zorbing. Luckily, though, you won’t have to travel too far out of the city to experience it for yourself. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can travel to one location to experience Zorbing and paintball near London. There is a woodland facility just outside of the city that’s home to both activities and combine to make a brilliant day out for the kids.

A trip to London is a fantastic way to bond with your family, spend some time in a holiday environment and allow your kids to explore a new city for the first time. All of the activities mentioned above are perfect for children, but not designed with only kids in mind — meaning that the parents can have an equally as exciting day!

Back to School Shopping with Love the Sales

With two weeks of the summer term left, I am almost ready for the children to go back to school in September; well, practically, anyway.  I have new school bags and book bags lined up, uniform bought and paid for, and even lunch boxes and drinks bottles in mind.  My plan is to be ready for September by the time they break up for summer so we can make the most of the time together and firmly put school out of our minds.  There is one area I leave to the last possible minute, however, and that is school shoes and trainers.  We all know how quickly children’s feet can grow, so buying shoes for September at the end of July just seems silly.  I leave it until the last week of the summer holidays to get them measured and fitted for trainers and school shoes. This year, I intend to have Jasmine measured in town and then buy her school shoes from Love the Sales.  I have my heart set on these Kickers shoes:

kickers

When I went into Year 4, I was bought my first pair of Kickers school shoes and I absolutely loved them.  They were black patent in a chunky, almost platform, style with an actual heel (hello, Spice Girls). Bearing in mind that this was 21 years ago and I can’t have owned them for more than a year at most, it’s fair to say they made quite an impression, and I am hoping that Jasmine will love her Kickers just as much.  That she is going into Year 4 herself in September (how is that possible?!) is just a happy coincidence.

As well as school shoes, Love the Sales is a great place to find trainers and bags for school too; with hundreds of sale items all located in one place, it makes catching a bargain easier than ever – it’s basically the site you’ve always been looking for.  You’re welcome.

Are you back-to-school-ready yet, or do you prefer to leave preparations to the last minute?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.