How to Keep Kids Entertained During Long Haul Travel

We’ve done quite a few short haul flights with our three girls, but despite wanting to travel further afield we’ve been too fearful of a lengthy flight with them. I was therefore very happy to be approached about a guest post providing great tips and advice for travelling long haul with kids. So here it is… 

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I wish we looked this stress-free on a flight or at any time in fact!

Most parents with young children and babies tend to stay closer to home when going away on holiday, favouring the UK staycation or a hop, skip and jump across to France, Spain or Portugal. That doesn’t have to be so, however, because there are ways to keep youngsters entertained during long-haul travel so that the journey is that bit more bearable for everyone involved.

  1. Tablet - Whilst, in most situations, a child having their head buried in an iPad would make many people around them roll their eyes about tech-addicted kids, your fellow passengers will thank you for this one. Taking a tablet onto a flight on which you’ve downloaded some of your children’s favourite movies, TV shows or games will mean that they always have something to do when boredom starts to strike and the tantrum is coming. Make sure you have child-friendly earphones so you don’t risk irritating passengers around you.
  2. Old School Games - Never underestimate the beauty of older, traditional games like ‘I Spy’, memory games such as ‘I went on holiday and in my suitcase I packed…’ and travel board games like a mini snakes and ladders. All of these ideas can provide hours of entertainment, so make sure you have something up your sleeve even if it’s a simple deck of cards for a round of ‘Snap’ or ‘Go Fish’.
  3. Make Believe - Children have incredible imaginations, so make use of that during long distance travel to keep them entertained. If you’re on a flight that’s going to be throughout the night, get them to look out of the window to try and spot planets, stars, astronauts and even aliens. Being above the clouds means there’s always something to gaze at and the stars are extra bright.
  4. Get Arty - Before you think we’ve lost the plot and are suggesting that you pack pots of paint in your holdall, there are fairly mess-free ways of getting your kids involved in arts and crafts during a flight or long journey. A simple colouring book with a few bright pencils can suffice, but if you wanted something a bit different then consider taking some pots of Play Doh. It’s not sticky, it won’t make a mess and the kids can come up with all kinds of creations on their seat tray.
  5. Make It Educational - Before heading off on your journey, make the whole experience more interesting for your little ones by teaching them about the transport. Tell them how the plane works (Google is your friend here), tell them what different countries you’ll by flying over and a few fun facts about each one or how to say hello in that language and then use the plane’s in-flight moving map on the seat screens to allow them to follow the journey.
  6. Tire Them Out - The day before you’re due to travel, or on the day itself, try to make it as action packed as possible for your children. Take them outdoors for a long walk in the country or to the local park to let them burn off some energy. The more tired your child is when they begin their journey, the more likely they are to sleep during the trip; meaning entertainment won’t be necessary for the whole duration.
  7. Stories - Although packing books means adding weight to your hand luggage, you will not regret the decision to do so. The best kind of books for entertainment purposes often involve sounds and buttons for the little readers to push, but don’t be put off by that. Fellow passengers are more likely to prefer a little bit of a jingle to a wailing child. If you’re travelling with more than one youngster in tow, allow them to take it in turns to read pages of the story if they are of reading age, or just put on your very best theatrics to wow little eyes and ears.
  8. SnacksChildren are most likely to get restless when they are tired, bored or hungry, so always ensure you have packed plenty of snacks and drinks. You’ll have to get the drinks from the airport after getting through security due to liquid restrictions on flights, but packing your own food from home is no problem. Instead of taking chocolate or anything that’s likely to make your child hyperactive, think along the lines of grapes, crisps or raisins.

It’s worth remembering that whenever you travel with kids, you should take a spare set of clothes for them; just in case any accidents happen (because they can and do), whether it’s a spillage or sickness. Also, if you have a flight that will go into the night, take their pyjamas so that you can get them changed when it would normally be time for them to sleep. That way, they are more likely to settle down and get some rest and they will be a lot more comfortable.

If your child has recently moved out of nappies having completed the toilet training challenge, don’t tempt fate by not packing any at all. Just take one or two to put on them in case they sleep on the plane, as the cabin pressure can do strange things!

Our best advice to anyone planning a long journey to a holiday destination with young children is to be well prepared. Planning ahead and making sure you have everything you need will ensure that your children barely have the chance to get bored. Don’t use up all of your sources of entertainment at once though; be sure to space them out so that your children always have something new to see or do. Bon voyage!

Written by Chris Clarkson, Travel Expert and Managing Director at www.sunshine.co.uk

Also read:

The fitness to fly certificate – another pregnancy-related cost

Diary of 43 Days of School Holidays

My eldest finished school on July 21st at 1.30pm. Her sisters finished pre-school the week before. The summer holidays have arrived! Yay!!

How many outings will we go on, how many places will we visit? How many lazy days will we have? How many ice creams and ice lollies will they consume? How many random craft ideas will I have to develop? There’ll be lots of fun and no doubt some tears and tantrums.

Day One

Last school run of the year and stayed on to present the teachers and TAs with their gifts. Then off to the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club with three-year-old twins Maria and Gabriella. Lots of play with a bonus birthday celebration.

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Cake!

Very quick lunch by the duck pond in Ashtead. After picking up a few essentials from Sainsbury’s we went to pick up Sofia from school. We’d organised to go down to Woodcote Green Garden Centre with a few of Sofia’s friends straight after. The garden centre has a nice cafe and lovely play facilities. A good couple of hours enjoyed by all.

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Ice creams: 2    Ice lollies: 1   Minor bickerings: 2   Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Two

First day of no alarm clock and girls up crazily early as usual. However, a far more leisurely breakfast :-) .

We had to run some errands, but made a stop off at our local toy shop – Lorimers – at Sofia’s request as she wanted to spend a bit of pocket money. I steered her away from the hugely expensive Barbies and more towards the arts and crafts: the compromise was a GALT Nail Art set, which was far more in pocket money territory. I treated them to a £6.99 boule set for the garden.

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We had to get back as someone was coming to buy some of my old maternity clothes. My new obsession is Jellybugs Children’s Market  a Facebook group for selling childrens’ and maternity items in my local area.

We had quite a few games of boule before the weather turned and then it was lunch, which was followed by homemade ice lollies.

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Homemade lollies

The afternoon mainly consisted of indoor play (including den building) and old favourite Pick up Sticks from a games compendium Sofia’s grandma just bought her.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3   Minor bickerings: 2   Arguments: 1  Small tantrums: 0 

Day Three

Today was a big meet up at the wonderful Hever Castle in Kent with Sofia’s friends from reception class (a tight-knit group despite being separated when they went into year one). I hadn’t been since I was eight, so I was rather excited.

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I booked online yesterday to get a slightly reduced rate; I’m an RHS member so I got into the gardens for free (and as it happened, outside was so fantastic we didn’t even go into the castle) and under fives are free in any case, so it was just Sofia’s ticket to get.

We got into the car, armed with the girls’ trusty I-Spy books, for the 45 minute journey.

We arrived at 10.15am and didn’t leave until 5pm. We started at the cafe and all the kids were really happy just running around the beautiful grounds by the water with its lily pads and ducks and swans. After the mums had all had their coffees, we moved to the adventure playground and Tower Maze. We spent absolutely ages there and that’s where we ate our picnics. We then all took a walk past the castle and onto the English Yew Maze, which again kept everyone entertained for a big chunk of time. Next it was on to the water maze. For the kids, this really was saving the best for last. It was really unique and they LOVED it. They got absolutely soaked. I finally had to lure them out with ice creams. After that we went back to the lake and had a bit of a chill out.

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We didn’t do the boating, see the Japanese Tea House, Miniature Model House Collection, Italian Garden, English Rose Garden or Tudor Garden; in fact we barely scratched the surface. However, all the children and adults thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a truly relaxing and fun-packed day.

All three girls asked when we could go with daddy. We’ll definitely be going back and hopefully we’ll get to see some of the summer jousting that’s taking place and see and do some of the many things we didn’t have time for this visit!

Check out the Visit Kent website for other great things to do in the county.

Ice creams: 4 (including mine)  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0   Arguments: 0  Small tantrum: 1 (having to put wet shoes back on) 

Day Four

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We had our first proper leisurely start. Not much happening in the morning apart from drawing and a bit of TV, but we cooked a curry for lunch. In the afternoon we went to Hobbledown - ‘an adventure farm park’ in Surrey. The girls absolutely love the place. However,  it is pretty pricey, so I bought an annual pass last year, which although expensive itself, has actually saved money for days out since I got it as we’ve used it loads.

IMG_0080As it was absolutely pouring we didn’t even attempt to see any of the huge range of animals. Instead we headed straight to the play barn, which is probably the biggest indoor play centre I’ve ever seen. We spent three hours in there and they still didn’t want to leave. Luckily it was closing time so we had to!

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 2

Day Five 

Sofia had a birthday party to go to at Pizza Express and I had to go shopping, so dad was in charge for a couple of hours. He firstly dropped Sofia off. Many, many weekends now consist of driving to various parties around Surrey. Sofia is now old enough for a drop and run (five seems to be the acceptable age for this – hurrah!).

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My husband then took Maria and Gabby to our local playground, which is home to Pistachios (one of a number of lovely cafes in parks in Surrey and London, which always have lots of activities on), for a play and toasties for lunch. He then took them for a haircut at our local childrens’ salon. They absolutely love having their hair cut, not least because they get to watch Ben & Holly whilst sat in a car and get a lollypop afterwards. Naturally, I’ll have to take Sofia for a haircut next week!

Late afternoon was spent playing some garden games and and generally just messing about.

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Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 1 (at Pizza Express) Minor bickerings: 0   Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Six

Today was all about a BBQ at friends. Everyone ate (and drank) very well and had a great time. The girls had a four-month-old baby to coo over. No ice-creams or ice lollies, but plenty of chocolate  cake :-)

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Seven

I’m a freelancer and needed to get some work done today so the girls went to the childminder for a few hours. They absolutely love going, which is brilliant as essentially they view it as a proper day out (and I can get on without worrying). They do loads of arts and crafts, enjoy playing with different toys and absolutely adore her two-year-old daughter (who adores them too!).

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In the afternoon we had an impromptu play date. Two hours passed very quickly as all five girls raided the dressing up box and did some imaginary role play. A very busy and happy day for them.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 1  Small tantrums: 0

Day Eight 

It was one argument after another this morning. It started when my husband allowed Gabby to have one of Sofia’s temporary tattoos. This spawned many more showdowns.

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However, I packed a picnic and got everyone in the car so that we could head out to Wisley, an RHS garden in Surrey.

This summer, all four RHS gardens are celebrating the 150th anniversary of  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. IMG_0112There were a number of Wonderland-inspired activities at Wisley, and each of them got a book which contained quizzes, things to spot and conundrums related to the novel. It was rather beyond Maria and Gabby (perfect for six years and over I’d say), so we only very loosely followed it. We visited our favourite parts of the gardens, of which there are many, and did lots of walking. IMG_0134They love all the water features and the glass house as well as the orchards and fish. However, they were all very intrigued with everything Alice-related – including a game of flamingo croquet – and Sofia now wants to read the book. For once, we didn’t even make it to the playground as everyone was so interested in everything else.

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We headed over to The Clore Learning Centre and Teaching Garden to plant some pansy seeds (pansy Joker Series), which we brought home. We had a great day and all of them were asking when we could go again. Sofia especially wants to do the Alice trail properly.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 3  Arguments: 3  Small tantrums: 2

Day Nine 

So, we’ve embarked on a kitchen renovation. It started today. We were intending to stay the day here, but by 9am it became obvious it wouldn’t work so we shipped out to my dad’s.

From fully operating kitchen to a shell in a few hours

From fully operating kitchen to a shell in a few hours

The girls were quite excited about the chaos. There was quite a lot of ferrying backwards and forwards on my part, but they enjoyed spending the day playing at my dad’s.

Loom bands and tea parties

Loom bands and tea parties

Then the real excitement came: their very first sleepover. They were so excited that I was very surprised that Maria and Gabby, who were sharing a bed, actually fell asleep within five minutes. Sofia, wasn’t asleep when we left, but was reading one of the books she’s chosen as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. She’s already four books in.

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My husband and I took advantage of their first sleepover and the fact that the kitchen was out of action and went for a curry. It’s going to be very strange having no one up at 5.30am or any midnight visits or demands for breakfast before 6am…

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Ten

I managed to get a lot done before heading over to my dad’s to see the girls after their very first sleepover. I arrived to find them all watching TV with a plethora of tattoos adorning them, including a rather fetching massive black and purple Sofia the First one on Maria’s face.

They actually did this unprompted

They actually did this unprompted

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After a quick tidy up of the carnage they’d created in a couple of hours, we headed to Nonsuch Park, which houses Nonsuch Mansion, and is literally across the road from my dad’s.

We had a nice walk to the lovely Nonsuch Pantry where we got fed and watered. The girls were particularly intrigued when three men in full on Highland dress walked in. There was a wedding happening at the mansion and as soon as we went outside for a play, we could hear bagpipes playing.

Sofia's sneaky pic of the kilted men

Sofia’s sneaky pic of the kilted men

We spent several hours exploring, playing, climbing and racing and then headed home.

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We got back to my dad’s and renewed several library books online that are part of the Summer Reading Challenge but had to go in person to return one, so headed to our local library.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Chocolate lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 4

Day Eleven

Today was a meet up with some of my friends who also have kids. We decided on National Trust venue Morden Hall Park as it was pretty central for two of us that live in Surrey and the others who are in South West London. It describes itself as a green oasis in the city, giving a taste of a country estate with a glimpse of its agricultural and industrial history. A pretty accurate description.

Adventure playground, which kept them entertained for some time

Adventure playground – kept them entertained for some time

We spent a lot of time in the great adventure playground – including the favourite zip wire -, played plenty of Pooh sticks and did lots of walking and tree climbing. We had a lovely picnic in the rose garden and then walked to Deen City Farm, which is a very manageable distance from Morden Hall Park and suitable for buggies. We even picked some early blackberries en route. The girls liked them but way too tart for me!

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Picnicking in the rose garden

Once at the farm we spent some time with the chickens and then had the obligatory ice creams/ice lollies to recharge. Then we went on to feed the bigger animals.

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Finally we headed back to Morden Hall Park; Sofia had knocked off a few of her National Trust 50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4 and went to get the stickers to prove it.

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The kids (22 months – 6.5 years) had a wonderful time. Six kids and not a single argument or meltdown. Amazing!!

Ice creams: 1   Ice lollies: 2  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twelve

We went to Glorious Goodwood today for the horse racing. We live right by the Epsom Downs so the girls have been to that race course a couple of times and love it, but it was our first time at this one.

My brother’s girlfriend had invited us to go as it’s something that she and her family do annually.

We travelled down, met with some of the group and went straight on for a pub lunch at the lovely The Earl of March. It’s believed that the view from here inspired William Blake’s poem And did those feet in ancient time (Jerusalem). The girls were brilliantly behaved over lunch.

Pub lunch

Pub lunch

We headed off to the races in a minibus (another cause for excitement!) as soon as we’d finished eating. The food had been very good and won the childrens’ seal of approval also.

Once at Goodwood the girls were immediately captured by the buzzy atmosphere. There was plenty of space for them to roam about and they just loved every minute of it: both the social aspect and the races themselves. A really great day where they were entertained throughout, which meant not even a minor bickering!

Checking out the form

Checking out the form

With daddy

With daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice creams: 3   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirteen

We travelled back from West Sussex this morning but stopped off for coffee and to say hello to an old family friend who lives near where we were staying.

My dad was making one of the girls’ favourite meals for our return – Spaghetti alle vongole (or in this case using bavette instead of spaghetti).

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We went into my dad’s garden to play and his neighbour (who has a couple of grandchildren and who we get on with very well) called us over. He has actually bought a huge bouncy castle (OMG!!) and invited Sofia, Maria and Gabby over to play on it. He didn’t need to ask twice!! They were in their element.

Later on, I decided to go up into the loft and found loads of my old story books from when I was a little girl. I was so excited as were they. Sofia was ecstatic when she found Alice in Wonderland (we’d been to the celebrations at Wisley earlier in the week).

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At bedtime, I read one of my favourite stories from the books I’d discovered: The day the clocks stopped. They really enjoyed it, and I was really pleased that they had :-)

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Summer Activities for the Kids

My latest post for TalkMum is about ways to entertain toddlers, pre-schoolers and older over the holidays, so I thought I’d give a quick rundown here of my top 10 tips.

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1) Outdoor arsenal

Make sure you’ve got a few inexpensive outdoor toys etc up your sleeve. The big supermarkets stock a wide range of good value items. A few that are popular in this house:

  • Bubbles/bubble wands
  • Football
  • Badminton set
  • Skittles set
  • Quoits
  • Cricket set

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2) National Trust membership

I bang on about this quite a lot. However, it is so cost-effective when compared to other days out. Whether heading for somewhere new or visiting an old favourite, my girls love it. There’s always a new trail or activity to do even for seasoned visitors.

National Trust ahoy!

National Trust ahoy!

3) Picnics

There’s something about a variety of cold picky foods eaten from the comfort of a picnic rug that seems to pique the appetite of the kids. They can’t eat enough and never get bored of them. Be warned though, picnics aren’t usually an easy meal option. I always find they can take a while to prepare. If I’m not driving I add in a bottle of Prosecco. Holidays are for mums and dads too :-) Wisley Gardens are a favourite place of ours for picnics.

4) The Pub

Check out your local family-friendly pubs. It’s a win win really. Many have great outdoor stuff for the kids; one of my locals – The Woodman – has a massive sandpit and outdoor games. Others in the area have climbing frames etc.

5) Paddling pools and water features 

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Lots of parks have paddling pools and water features. Check out your local ones as water is always a massive hit. We recently headed to Tooting Bec Lido in South West London and had a great time (children under five go free). Also pay a visit to the local duck pond; there’s usually a cafe nearby.

6) Hidden gems

Do a bit of research to see if there are any attractions/hidden gems near you. I recently discovered that we have beautiful lavender fields on our doorstep. We’ve now visited three times in the space of five weeks!

7) Dens and gazebos 

In the height of summer our garden is a suntrap all day long, which isn’t as good as it sounds. Last year, we were in desperate need of shade so I bought a £20 gazebo from Homebase along with a few cheapo cushions. Old toys get a new lease of life if played with underneath the gazebo and eating there sat on cushions on the floor is ‘like camping.’ Last year, the girls even enjoyed just relaxing under it with a drink (and they never relax). Alternatively, you can just make a den with sheets and table clothes.

8) H2O

From running in and out of a sprinkler and playing with water pistols to aqua tents, paddling pools and simply floating things in it and tipping it from one container to another, water never fails. Get them cleaning the car, watering the plants and generally cleaning stuff. If it involves using a hose they’ll be all over it. Try not to completely waste it though. One of my friends sings the praises of the Crazy Daisy. I’m yet to purchase one, but it’s a matter of time…

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9) Outdoor messy play

  • Chalk pictures on the patio. Bonus points for letting them wash them off afterwards
  • Sand play – Great fun and brilliant for aiding your toddler’s development. Make sure you invest in the slightly more expensive play sand. You can get 10kg for £3 at Sainsbury’s. It’s totally safe and doesn’t completely stain clothes (I’ve heard some horror stories about builders’ sand!).

10) Cooling off  

Invest in some ice-lolly moulds. They’re cheap as chips, toddlers, pre-schoolers and older children love making them and eating them, they’ll be a lot healthier than shop-bought ones (we do pure fruit juice watered down a little) and you’ll save an absolute fortune in the course of the summer!



The £2.99 Dresses and a Children’s Clothing Epiphany

I have three girls. My eldest is at school and wears uniform so has little choice in what she puts on in the morning during the week. However, I have a daily battle with my three-year-old twins.  I was a bit of a tomboy at their age and only ever wanted to wear trousers. They on the other hand want to wear ‘beautiful dresses’ every day. We can often have a 20 minute meltdown if it’s a day I’m putting them in trousers, leggings or shorts for pre-school. I ‘win’ in the end, but it’s a rather hollow victory and certainly not a great addition to the morning routine.

Some of our H&M haul

Some of our H&M haul including 5 of the £2.99 dresses

All of the dresses I’d been buying until recently were fairly pricey from places such as Boden, Petit Bateau and, luckily due to my husband travelling to the States, Ralph Lauren (much, much cheaper than in the UK). John Lewis is also another port of call. It tends to be cheaper than the aforementioned but can still be quite pricey, although they have a childrenswear clearance on at the moment. They’re all lovely clothes but not necessarily the clobber I want them to do painting in at pre-school or wear to messy play.

I also have this thing where I like to buy each child the same number of clothes each – although I’ve started to sneakily buy my eldest the same thing in two colours so that she can eventually pass them down to her sisters. As you can imagine x 3 gets pretty expensive and there never seem to be enough dresses for every day use.

I then had an epiphany on discovering Boots’ Mini Club and H&M Kids. Boots always do loads of offers; currently they’re doing two for £8 and half price on a variety of lines, including cropped leggings, tunics, dresses, shorts and T-shirts and trousers. I bought a number of tunics and a variety of leggings, which all mix and match. Then there’s H&M: it’s clothing is always really well-priced. Right now they are doing girls dresses aged from one to eight years for £2.99!! I’ve stocked up on loads of the £2.99 dresses, and then some shorts and other dresses, which are still a modestly priced £5.99. The girls are absolutely elated, I don’t have  to wash favourite clothes every other day and I can save the more expensive items for special occasions. It means we can compromise by alternating between dresses and shorts/leggings/trousers. Win win.

Sensational Butterflies at The Natural History Museum

Our three girls are big fans of butterflies and on Sunday all five of us went to the Natural History Museum‘s Sensational Butterflies exhibition in London, courtesy of Three Mobile.

Car selfie

Car selfie

We arrived in Kensington well ahead of our designated time slot so that we could have a look around the main museum a bit first, and also so that we could be assured a parking space in a nearby street. Parking can be extortionate in central London, but on Sundays the unthinkable happens and you can find street parking that’s free :-)

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With our exhibition tickets we were able to avoid queuing for the museum itself (it was pretty busy) and go straight in. We’ve been before so we revisited favourite displays and then went outside to the temporary tropical butterfly house, which contained butterflies from Africa, Asia and South America.

We were immediately surrounded by butterflies when we entered, which saw the girls literally squealing in delight. They were there in huge numbers and in all sorts of colours.

We were all fascinated by the different butterfly species we were seeing and the staff were great at answering our questions. The children were off the scale excited when the butterflies landed on us, especially when one landed ‘on mummy’s bum’.  They also loved stamping their cards, which charted the lifecycle of a butterfly. The younger two just love sticking and stamping anything, but my eldest, at six years old, was actually taking in the information at each stamping station.

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The girls were taken by all the exotic colours and how close they could get, but my husband and I were absolutely amazed by the rows and rows of dangling chrysalises in a specially made frame behind glass. They were beautiful and rather eerie at the same time. We actually saw a butterfly emerge whilst standing watching. Absolutely fascinating.

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Lucky enough to see a butterfly emerge

 

The butterflies get 'drunk' on rotting fruit

The butterflies get ‘drunk’ on rotting fruit

The girls were really reluctant to leave, but we tempted them away with the promise of lunch at the restaurant in the museum’s Green Zone. All three are still talking about seeing the butterflies. Find out more about Sensational Butterflies.

We were provided with a Samsung Galaxy S6 for the day so that I could record and share the experience with readers of the blog. The butterflies were a great subject to try out the handset’s 16 megapixel camera. I’m no David Bailey, but it was very easy to get great photos, especially with the pro function. Inspired by what she was seeing, my eldest, who is very snap happy, disappeared off for 10 minutes and clicked away. I didn’t show her how to use it, she just figured it out and took some lovely photos, so the phone’s pretty intuitive. It has a longer battery life than other phones I’ve used, so great for a day out where you want to capture a lot. It also boasts wireless charging capabilities. When I got back home I played about with the camera functions and found some great features and effects. Pop art anyone…?

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Being Excluded from the School Trip

I’ve just been reading about the five boys that were excluded from their primary school trip to Disneyland as it was oversubscribed. The five names that were pulled out of a hat couldn’t go.

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I suppose the first reaction is: Disneyland… for a school trip?? I think there’s a huge pressure on parents to cough up for increasingly ostentatious trips. However, putting that aside, I think it is unfair.

True enough, parents were informed beforehand that there weren’t enough places, but why was a trip that they couldn’t all go on an option in the first place? Surely there were other choices available?

People have commented that children have to learn that there are disappointments in life; you just have to suck it up and get on with it. Yes, they do have to learn about not getting everything they want, but there are plenty of opportunities for that lesson. Why have something that is guaranteed beforehand to disappoint an unlucky few, especially something that is divisive and singles them out from their peers?

OK, so I’m particularly passionate about this because IT HAPPENED TO ME (and boy do I not want to be in the same situation ever with my kids)!!

I’m 36 now so we’re going back rather a bit, but when I was at middle school (so I’d be about 11, actually I was definitely 11 as it was Italia ’90) there was a school trip to Normandy as part of our French studies. I loved learning French and was probably quite precocious in my appreciation of French culture, so was soooo excited about the prospect of going there with my friends. The trip was oversubscribed by two out of the entire year of almost 90 and I was one of the two drawn out of the hat not to go. I was devastated. Properly devastated.

My best friend at the time, who hated French, kept banging on about how much she couldn’t wait to go. I remember that I couldn’t stop crying.  Then kids at school began to say how they no longer wanted to go, which made me even more upset. I REALLY WANTED TO! It wasn’t a flash in the pan disappointment. I just didn’t get over it.

My mum booked a gîte in Normandy for the whole family at the same time as my year group was going to be there. I know that this certainly would not have been possible for many and that I was VERY fortunate that, as a family, we were able to do this, but she knew that I wasn’t just being a brat, that I really loved French and would have done anything to go; she even got the itinerary off the teacher so that we could replicate everything (I was a bit of a nerd like that).

We had a fantastic time and I have so many wonderful memories from our trip, but to this day I remember how so upset I was when I got drawn out of that hat.

The Allergy & Free From Show – Win Tickets

Do you live with allergies, intolerances, eczema or coeliac disease? Perhaps gluten, wheat, eggs, nuts or dairy are no-go in your house, or maybe you need to avoid dust mites, latex or other materials…

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If any of the above affects you or your family then The Allergy & Free From Show – Europe’s largest ‘free from’ family day out - is for you. The next one is at Olympia, London, the 3rd-5th July and Mum2Mum Markets has given The Parent Social a pair of fast track entry tickets for me to give away.

A bit more about the show

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The Allergy & Free From Show is an event full of products (food, drink, skin, hair care, household items and more), cooking classes, talks, expert advice, kids activities… all ‘free from’ and all dedicated to improving the life of people with allergies and intolerances.

Some of what you’ll find at The Allergy & Free From Show:

  • Try & Buy –  1000′s of ‘free from’ products
  • Just for kids – time to have some fun with Allergy Adventures
  • Learning Theatre – seminars from the UK’s leading experts
  • The Sainsbury’s Kitchen – inspirational ‘free from’ cooking classes
  • Sainsbury’s Recipe Exchange – swap recipes and tasty food ideas
  • 1-2-1 Consultations – receive advice and information from specialist

For more details about the event visit: http://www.allergyshow.co.uk/london/

To win a pair of fast track entry tickets for The Allergy & Free From Show simply like The Parent Social Facebook page and share or Tweet this post. A winner will be selected at random on the 22nd June. Good luck!!

•    Tickets (worth £10 each) can be used on any day you choose
**  These are barcoded, numbered e-tickets in the name of The Parent Social. They need to be printed

My First Mum2Mum Market

I did my first Mum2Mum Market last Saturday. I really enjoyed it and made a nice little profit too.

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Mum2Mum Markets are nearly new sales for selling and buying children’s clothes, baby equipment, toys and books etc. The name’s a little discriminatory as there’s nothing to stop dads buying or selling!

The markets are held all over the country and you can find ones local to you by visiting the website. Prices for your ‘pitch’ vary according to location, but I paid what looks to be the highest amount at £25 (that’s Surrey for you!). This gets you a decent-sized table with plenty of room around it to display items. After paying that, you keep 100% of your takings. I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually make as I had lots of clothes to sell – so not high value items like high chairs, buggies or cots. I’d already successfully sold these sorts of items via Preloved UK (I’ve written about my online selling experiences before: Making Money From Home (and de-cluttering). As I was a bit chicken, I decided to do it with a friend so that we could share the initial cost.

The ladies behind Mum2Mum Markets do a great job of marketing the events and will ask you if you have any specific items that you want to promote, which they’ll then push via their social media channels. They provide sellers with notes about all of the logistics. They also include some helpful tips about what they’ve found works selling-wise based on their experiences.

If you’re thinking of doing one here are my tips:

  • Don’t get too hung up over what you initially paid for something. People are looking for a bargain. Think about whether you really want to lug something back home to sit back in the loft
  • That said, you can always start with prices a little higher and see how you go in the first half hour (that’s when we were busiest) and reduce a bit after this time. You’ll quickly judge if you’ve priced too high
  • Get a hanging rail to display any really good quality clothes you’re selling (if you can’t borrow one, they have them to hire for £5)
  • I was trying to shift clothes in large volume so I made boxes of items for 50p and age ordered them. Mum2Mum Market say that secondhand baby and children’s clothes are the least profitable items to sell. Therefore you have to be realistic. This method worked well for me. It also worked particularly well alongside the rail as people could differentiate quickly between the more select items and the more every day stuff
  • Don’t take every single item you’ve got stored at home as it risks looking like a jumble sale, which is off-putting. Keep it seasonal for a start
  • It’s good to have a variety of things on your stall (and not all piled high). This is where sharing the stall with a friend helped. My friend had more major items, I had mainly clothes. This meant that the stall captured more people
  • Make sure you have a good float with you

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I did reduce quite a few of my things in price as the morning went on (sales last for two hours),

but there were a couple of designer items that I really felt I couldn’t part with for a hugely discounted rate. People kept looking at them but didn’t buy. I don’t think this was the right place for them. I’m selling these on Preloved. So if anyone is in the market for a beautiful Ralph Lauren girl’s summer dress or a hand embroidered and smocked Sarah Louise summer dress then let me know :-)

I’ll be back doing another sale in Autumn. I’m looking forward to it and I’m slightly wiser.



Family Favourites – Pork, Chorizo and Cannellini Bean Stew

This is a recipe that’s made it onto the meal planner and is adapted from allrecipes.co.uk.  It’s hearty, easy to make, extremely cheap and the kids love it. If we haven’t had any green veg that day I do some green beans with it, otherwise it’s just crusty bread to dunk or served with some rice.

The children love helping out in the kitchen, but this requires some quite difficult cutting so you may want to just get the older ones involved.

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I’ve just been sent some products from Dettol to try out so this was a perfect opportunity to road test them.

I particularly worry about hand washing after handling raw meat, especially chicken and pork. We’d been sent their hand wash. Sad I know, but I really loved this as it was a specific kitchen one and is a No-Touch Hand Wash System. This solves an issue I’ve always had when cooking: you touch something full of bacteria, you then use the soap and transfer all the gunk onto it, which you then pick up next time you use it. This is fab as it senses your hands and dispenses the soap. My fellow kitchen cleanliness obsessive compulsive – my dad – was also very taken with it.

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Testing out the hand wash

Obviously the kids love it as it’s a gizmo and fun. It does what you’d expect from Dettol in that it kills 99.9% of bacteria and removes viruses. However, as an added bonus it’s odour neutralising and effective against pungent smells such as garlic and onion, which is very handy as about 90% of what I cook contains these two ingredients. The unexpected result – as I don’t associate germ killing with being gentle – was that my eldest said it didn’t make her eczema sore. This is usually a real problem and she won’t go near most soaps. This contains moisturising ingredients. A real winner.

So, on with the recipe…

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Pork, Chorizo and Cannellini Bean Stew

Ingredients (serves 5) 

  • 850g pork shoulder steaks/pork shoulder
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 250g of cooking chorizo
  • 2  x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large red onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 teaspoons paprika

Method

  1. Slice the pork into strips and fry off in a casserole dish (which has a lid) until brown all over. Remove from the pan and drain off the fat
  2. Cut the chorizo into small chunks (or cheat and buys the ready cubed) and add to the pan, brown off for two minutes then add the chopped onions, four teaspoons of paprika and the chopped garlic. Fry for a further two minutes until the onion has softened
  3. Add the pork back to the pan along with ½ a pint of water and the tinned tomatoes. Season to taste
  4. Simmer for one hour on a low heat with the lid on. Then remove the lid, add the cannellini beans and simmer for a further 30 minutes
When you let a six year old help...

When you let a six year old help…

Trust me when I say it's the best it's been!

Trust me when I say it’s the best it’s been

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were also sent two different disinfectant sprays. I used Dettol’s Power & Pure Advance Kitchen Spray for the clean up operation. It was very effective at cleaning the hob, which got splattered. Our kitchen is next on our hit list for renovation. The hob is vile and never looks amazing. However, the spray was the best I’ve used. It blasted through stuff without the need for scrubbing and as it breaks down to just water and oxygen you don’t have to rinse afterwards. As before, it kills 99.9% of bacteria, including E. coli and influenza virus (H1N1).

So, cooking and cleaning in the one post. There’s still hope of becoming a domestic goddess.

10 Reasons to Be Thankful You’re Not a Royal Mother

1) You didn’t have people from all over the world and the UK’s media camped outside the hospital on ‘womb watch’ for days/weeks before your arrival. In fact, NO ONE seemed prepared for your arrival at the hospital

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2) You didn’t have to contemplate what designer dress you would wear on leaving hospital hours after giving birth and consider whether your choice would be well-received or slated. Your biggest style dilemma was probably whether to dress your – still very noticeable – bump in over- or under-the-bump leggings

3) Ok, being preened by others so you look wonderful sounds nice on the face of it, but would you really want people fussing about blowdrying your hair, applying your make up for ages and squeezing your still swollen feet into heeled shoes? A quick flash of a mascara wand, a touch of Touche éclat under the eyes and a bit of lippy = job done in two minutes and then out of there

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4) You didn’t have a photo call 12 hours after giving birth, with the pictures ending up in every UK paper and around the world. You probably had a few private snapshots, which you may have shared on Facebook if you were feeling particularly brave. You certainly didn’t care about whether you had a VMPL (Visible Maternity Panty Line)

5) You weren’t constrained by tradition when it came to name choices for your baby. Let’s face it, she was never going to be Princess Daiquiri or Princess Audi (both appeared on the list of unusual baby names 2014)

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6) The world and its wife didn’t debate about your naming decision let alone run a book on it. Although family and friends may or may not have ‘discussed it’ in private

7) You didn’t have to prepare for The Queen coming over when your baby was three days old. The Telegraph is streaming live updates on this and also includes this useful counter… WHAT ON EARTH?

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8) You didn’t have to get your boobs out in front of ma’am and her entourage

9)  You weren’t touted as a potential ‘Breastfeeding Ambassador’

10) You could be yourself