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Big Little Tent Festival This Easter | AD

30 March 2021

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration with The Little Big Tent Festival 

The clocks have sprung forward so the nights are getting lighter and for us that means more time in our garden. We spent so much time in our garden last year due to being in lockdown and staying at home. The weather was kind to us and we had lots of fun playing garden games, playing in the pool and also making tents and camping outside. 

The little big tent festival bunting

While we were safe at home last year we were introduced to the Big Little Tent Festival. The Caravan Club created the idea of Big Little Tent Festival during lockdown. It was an idea that meant we could still enjoy all the fun of the great outdoors but from our own home. 

Big Little Tent Festival is back again this year and is taking place over the Easter weekend which falls on the 3rd and 4th April. Restrictions in the UK are still in place so this is the perfect way to get outdoors, pitch a tent, and enjoy nature all from your own garden. 

There are lots of festival fun and activities to join in with across the weekend including a Zoom party to meet The Mermaid Princess and The Friendly Neighbourhood Hero for games, superhero training, and a campfire song! You can take part in their facebook love children's quiz, enjoy bushcraft and so much more. 

You’ll find all the information you need on their Facebook page - Big Little Tent Festival

To get you in the festival and camping mood the Caravan Club have created a free downloadable pack which contains everything your and your family will need for a home camping festival experience. 

Little big Tent Festival wristband


Create your own festival wristbands. Use the wristband templates in the pack to make them as colourful as you like. 

Decorate your garden or home with The Big Little Tent festival colour your own bunting. 

Create a To Do list. Everything you need to make the festival fun.

Whether you're camping indoors or outside there is a packing list perfect for you. 

Boy colouring in


Lots of fun activities for the kids to enjoy, word search, garden bingo, spot the difference and much more, 

When you download the pack you will be entered in to a draw for a chance to win with Raleigh. Raleigh are offering the chance to win one of two amazing bikes. 

Raleigh's Pop and Molli children's bikes are worth up to £350 each. Perfect for exploring the great outdoors and getting some exercise too. 

Make sure you join in with The Big Little Tent Festival Twitter party on Wednesday 31st March between 7-8pm to find out lots more about the Caravan Club and The Big Little Tent Festival. There will be chances to win prizes too. Make sure you follow @BigLittleTent and use the hashtag #BLTF21 in your tweets. 

boys in a tent


Not matter whether you have a tent or have to improvise, camp indoors or out, the Little Big Tent Festival is fun for all and the perfect way to spend an Easter Weekend

Michelle
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Snacks and Lunch Bag Fillers From Jack's | AD

16 March 2021

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration with Jack's. All thoughts, opinions and photographs are our own. 

We have successful completed the first week back at school and it went really well. I think we all had the same idea that it was time for our children to get back to some kind of normality and routine. Staying at home for a short period is okay but it is no good for our little ones long term as they need to be with children their own age and little J was ready to be back in his social circle. 

boy holding a pack lunch bag
I knew once little J was back to school he would adapt well to being up and out before 9am , however I was worried about how he would cope during the day just having a snack and his lunch. There has been lots of posts on socials from parents joking how will their kids survive during the day without their second breakfast, 52 snacks before lunch and it's true. While at home our children have definitely snacked more. Little J has a packed lunch at school so I need to make sure I provide him with a healthy but filling lunch each day whilst not denting the bank balance too much. 

At Christmas we headed to Jacks to shop festive treats on a budget so we decided to pop to our local Jacks again to stock up on lunch box fillers and snacks.

Jacks Supermarket
Jack's is a supermarket that was founded and named after Jack Cohen who is also the founder of Tesco. As well as Jack's own branded products you can also find a selection of Tesco and Britain's favourite brands in store. It's a go to supermarket that is very popular as you can shop quality products at outstanding value. 

As well as selling food and drink you can also browse the toys, games and homeware. 

sandwich, apple and crisps


Packed Lunch Ideas
Little J is a very fussy eater and is often unsure about trying anything new so his lunches each week are usually a variety of sandwiches, pasta and chicken. 

Packed lunch bag filled with food
Jacks Supermarket Sandwich fillers

Sandwich fillers are little J's favourite sandwich choice so we popped a choice of egg and tuna in our trolley. Each pack makes up to 4 sandwiches. I will usually use the Tuna filler on a sandwich one day and then add it to cold pasta the next day so it covers two different lunches. 

Lunchbox filled with food

Another lunch choice is another of little J's favourite chicken fillet and a small cheese block. I love that as well as Jack's own brand I can also shop brands that we also love too under one roof. 

Lunch box extras are usually one or two pieces of fruit. Jack's fruit is always really fresh with reasonable expiry dates. You can also shop their fresh five with offers on fruit and veg every two weeks. 

I will then add a packet or crisps or crackers, a small treat such as a biscuit and a drink. 

Where Can I Find A Jack's Store?
Jack's has twelve  stores in the UK and they can be found at St Helen's, Sheffield, Edge Hill, Barnsley, Immingham, Wakefield, Liverpool North, Walton, Rubery, Castle Bromwich, Chatteris and Middlewich. A full store locator is available on the Jack's website.

a variety of shopping from Jack's
As you may know from previous posts we do like to shop with a budget in mind so we don't get carried away whilst in store. Our break time snacks and lunch box fillers cost less than £20 and lasted us beyond the school week. Having the choice of Jack's and other brands all in one place allows you to add  a variety of items to suit your family tastes and budget. 

Michelle
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Have Parental Control With Star On Disney+ | AD

25 February 2021

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Disclosure - This post is in collaboration with Disney+ however we are subscribers of the service already so any thoughts, opinions and photographs are our own.

We have been subscribers to Disney+ since it was DisneyLife and have watched it grow over the years to include Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic and The Simpsons. Just when we thought it couldn't get any bigger, Disney+ also now includes Star and also new easy to use parental controls.

Boys watching TV


What Is Disney+
Disney+ is the streaming home for entertainment from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and more. Disney+ brings you exclusive originals with new feature films, shows, short-form content, including the world's first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian - streaming only on Disney+. You can also watch the new Marvel mini series WandaVision. 

As a Disney+ subscriber you have unlimited access to thousands of the Disney movies and shows that are completely advert free offering you a high-quality viewing experience with unlimited downloads on up to 10 devices.

What's New?
As mentioned Star on Disney+ was launched on 23rd February alongside a new feature for parental controls. 

Parental Controls on Disney+


Parental Controls
Disney+ offers robust parental controls to ensure that Disney+ remains a suitable viewing experience for everyone in the family. We have three adults at home and little J who will be turning 8 soon so I was eager to find out how subscribers can set access limits on mature content and also create PIN-protected profiles to give us parents and guardians peace of mind.

Easy To Use
When opening Disney+ for the first time after the launch of Star on Disney+, subscribers will be asked
if they want to opt in to access mature content. This will change the content rating on their profile from 14+ to 18+. Opting in as an 18+ subscriber will give you the full content catalogue available within Star on Disney+. If you choose 'Not Now' your content will set to a rating of 14+, which gives you limited access to the Star catalogue on Disney+. 

Once you decide to make the change and have full access to the Star catalogue on Disney+ you enter your password to confirm the change.
 
As I said earlier we are a household of 3 adults and 1 child and as every household is different Disney+ allows you to create up to seven profiles per account. This allows each profile to have a viewing experience tailored to their age. 

When you click on the main account avatar there is an option to edit profiles. You can click on each profile to edit the content rating for each member of your family. 

It was really easy to turn on parental controls, however this could not be done on our TV we had to do it from a mobile device or desktop. If you do need any help setting up the parental controls there is a short 1 minute video 

Parental Controls on Disney+


The content rating options are 0+, 6+, 9+, 12+, 14+, 16+ and 18+. Content ratings provide guidance for parents and children on all TV series and movies. Each TV series and movie on Disney+ has been given a specific rating to offer a recommendation on its suitability. 

I thought it would be a good idea to give an example of movies and series for each content rating.

0+ Disney Junior series Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, The Sound oO Music
6+ Disney Pixar movie - Soul
9+ Disney Tim Burton movie Alice in Wonderland, We Bought A Zoo
12+ Marvel Series WandaVision
14+ Star on Disney+ original Big Sky
16+ Comedy movie Borat
18+ Drama Crime Series Sons of Anarchy

Kids Profiles
Kids profiles are also an option that can be selected on Disney+. These profiles are specifically designed to be used by a younger audience and feature a unique design and user experience. All content available in this profile has a content rating of 7 and below, and will not include any content that features a content advisory warning.

Kid Proof Exit
If your child decides to click to exit their kids profile the kids proof exit feature makes it harder to leave a kids profile with the addition of an exit question. This feature can be found under a new Parental Controls menu, within Settings and account verification will be required to turn this feature on.

Profile Pin
An extra feature to provide parents with peace of mind that their child will not access mature content now available with Star on Disney+ is a profile pin. Account holders can secure profiles set to an 18+ content rating with a profile pin. 

After we had set up our Star on Disney+ access to 18+ it did ask us if we wanted to create a profile pin then however account holders can set a pin at any time under profile settings.

Star tile on Disney+


Star On Disney+
Now that you have set up your parental controls you can explore the whole new world of entertainment. Star is now fully integrated in to Disney+ and offers over 75 TV series, 280 movies and four Star Originals plus new content will be uploaded every week too.

Star has its own tile on the Disney+ home page. When you click it, it will bring up a choice of movies and series based on genre, featured or our favourite bingeable series

TV Series
When I saw the list of TV series that will be available my eye instantly went to Grey's Anatomy. Grey's is a favourite of mine and I know how popular the show is so I think this will be a very popular choice with the first 15 full series available to watch. 

John is looking forward to X Files. He has been wanting to binge watch the series for years but never got round to it so that will definitely be on our 'to watch' list. 

Grey's Anatomy and X Files are just 2 of over 75 series available including Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Modern Family, Glee and How I Met Your Mother to name a few. 

Movies
280 new movies are available to with Star on Disney+ so you will never be stuck for something to watch. I have checked the whole list and there are so many to look forward to including Pretty Woman, Shallow Hal, Moulin Rogue, The Devil Wears Prada, Die Hard 2 and 275 more!

Originals
One of my favourite features of Disney+ is the originals available. Originals are exclusive to Disney+ and I am pleased to say that Star has an initial four originals of their own. 

Crime thriller Big Sky
Love, Simon spin-off series Love,Victor 
Adult animated sitcom Solar Opposites
Drama series Helstrom

How Much Does Star On Disney+ Cost?
Star on Disney+ is included in your Disney+ subscription. If you are already a subscriber, the Star on Disney+ content will be available from 23rd February 2021. 

If you do not subscribe to Disney+, UK customers can subscribe for £7.99 per month, or £79.90 annually (annual price available at most retailers). 

Full details on how to subscribe will be available on Disneyplus.com. Current prices for existing subscribers (prior to 23 February) will be honoured for six months, with the price change taking effect on the monthly or annual renewal date following 23rd August 2021.

Disney+ is a service that offers so much entertainment in our home and the addition of Star on Disney+ has given us a whole new range of entertainment to enjoy.

If you found this post useful there are a few ways that you could say thanks and support Playdays and Runways.

Are you a Disney+ subscriber? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you have been watching recently.

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Share This Post With Friends Who May Also Find It Useful. 

Michelle
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Shopping For Festive Food On A Budget at Jack's | AD

10 December 2020

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration with Jack's. All thoughts, opinions and photographs are our own. 

Christmas is nearly here and I know most of you will be getting ready for the big day. Whilst this Christmas may be different in so many ways we can still make it special. Like most we will be spending most of our time at home and I want to make sure we have lots of festive treats to enjoy. We recently went to Jack's to stock up on goodies perfect for Christmas time and our budget too.

Decorate for Christmas Dining table


What Is Jack's Supermarket
Jack's is a supermarket that was founded and named after Jack Cohen who is also the founder of Tesco. As well as Jack's own branded products you can also find a selection of Tesco and Britain's favourite brands in store. It's a go to supermarket that is very popular as you can shop quality products at outstanding value. 

As well as selling food and drink you can also browse the toys, games and homeware. 

A selection of Jack's Foods


What Seasonal Treats Can You Look Forward To?
Jack's have special products in their festive range including mince pies, mini toad in the hole and a giant festive sausage roll! They also have a great veggie range of festive nibbles so can guarantee you will find something that the whole family will love!

The festive range can be found both in the chilled and frozen section. 

Jack's Toad In The Hole

Jack's Mince Pie

Jack's Mini vegetable spring rolls


We were in desperate need of a pick me up after a wet and cold week so enjoyed a festive movie night with a selection of party nibbles. The quality of Jack's own products has always been good and excellent value for money. 

Can I Buy Everything For Christmas Dinner At Jack's?
Absolutely. Jack's has everything you need for the perfect Christmas Dinner with 100% of Jack’s fresh turkey, chicken, beef and lamb being British. You can also find all your trimmings plus some special festive treats including mini toad in the holes and pigs in blankets. 

We all like a nice tipple on Christmas day and you will find a range of festive drinks to to make the day extra special.

Is It Good Value For Money?
Yes. We usually shop on a budget anyway however for this particular shop we had a budget of £40 in mind and we actually didn't spend it all and purchased enough food, treats and drinks for our plans. 

Where Can I Find A Jack's Store?
Jack's has twelve  stores in the UK and they can be found at St Helen's, Sheffield, Edge Hill, Barnsley, Immingham, Wakefield, Liverpool North, Walton, Rubery, Castle Bromwich, Chatteris and Middlewich. 

Table decorated for Christmas


We have been shopping at Jack's for quite some time now and I knew their festive range would not disappoint. When it comes to Christmas food we usually focus on a typical Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and then spend the rest of the time enjoying snacks and party food. It will mainly just be the four of us but we all have different tastes when it comes to food and I tend to sway towards more vegetarian options so we were pleased to find lots of vegetarian festive treats too. 

Michelle
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Preparing the Perfect Study Space for Your Child | AD

18 November 2020

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration.

This year was meant to be a happy year for us, more happy than any normal year. We had two big birthdays to celebrate, a milestone wedding anniversary and big J's new adventure at university. Unfortunately we never got to really celebrate the birthdays or our anniversary and big J's university experience is not what it should be. His university course is mainly taught by zoom and online so we have had to make adaptations to his room to make sure he has an adequate space to study.

computer on a desk


Ensuring your child has a great place to study at home can help to make homework more fun, improve their ability to concentrate and generally just motivate them to learn. A private school in West Sussex have prepared the following advice to help parents set up a comfortable and practical study space for their children….

Start by making sure your child’s study environment is different to their relaxation space. For instance, they should not be doing their homework on their lap in the lounge, as they won’t be able to concentrate. If you’re fortunate enough to have a spare room, this would be a great place for a study spot. However, not everyone has this kind of room in their house, but regardless of where you set up your child’s study space, it should be as free from distractions as possible. 

Make sure the desk area is clean and tidy, otherwise they will be too busy focussing on the mess, rather than their schoolwork. You might need to invest in some shelving or storage boxes to help you keep the clutter to a minimum. The space should also be equipped with all of the relevant study tools, including books, stationery, and anything else they might need. You don’t want them to waste time looking for a missing ruler when they could be engaging in valuable learning activities. You should even make sure your child takes a glass of water and a healthy snack to their study space with them before they begin so that they can stay alert, energised and hydrated. 

Consider the lighting in the space. Natural lighting is preferable but if this is not possible, especially in the darker, winter months, make sure there is a decent lamp in the study area. Without appropriate lighting, your child is more likely to suffer from eye strain and headaches, which is not only unpleasant, but it will also make it harder for your child to do their work. Encourage regular breaks as another way to help your child avoid any aches and pains.

Make sure there are some strict rules in place where the study environment is concerned. For example, there should be no mobile phones or other digital devices in the room, unless required for the homework. Ask your child’s teachers if they have any more suggestions when it comes to preparing the perfect study space for your child.

Michelle
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A Parents Guide To A-Levels | AD

14 November 2020

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration. 

When the time comes for your child to choose their A Level subjects, they might be feeling a range of emotions, from excitement to anxiety. The decision carries a lot of weight, as it can determine what your child goes on to study at university or what career route they go down. Parents should try and do as much research as possible so that they are in a position to support their teenagers through this challenging time. Here’s some advice from an A-Level college in the UK.

Love to learn sign
Start by chatting to your child about how they’re feeling and let them know that you support them no matter what. Ask them which of their current subjects they enjoy the most and which ones they’re best at, as these should be strong factors in the decision-making process. Enjoyment of the subject will result in the best grades.

It’s worth noting that a levels are very different to GCSEs and will require a lot more independent work. Do some research into the A level curriculum so that you can determine what kind of work is involved in the subject and how it will be graded. If it’s heavily coursework based and your child isn’t fond of coursework, it might not be the best option. 

Go along to any open evenings at the school with your son or daughter so that you can learn more about each of the A level subjects they’re interested in, ask lots of questions and generally just feel more informed so that they can make a decision they’re truly happy with. It might also help your child to chat to any older friends or relatives who have already done their A levels so that they can share some insight.

If your child plans to go to university and has a course in mind, you should have a look into what qualifications are required to secure a place. Many courses will require that the student has specific A levels, so looking ahead will help them make suitable choices and determine whether or not their goals are actually realistic.  

Bear in mind that A levels aren’t compulsory; there are other forms of education that your child could look into if they feel that would be more appropriate. However, there are many benefits to A levels, including easier access into universities and various employment options. While it’s important to support your child as best you can, try and let them make their own decisions, based on what they feel is right for them.
Michelle
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The Importance of Pastoral Care in Schools | AD

13 November 2020

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Pastoral care is a crucial element of any school; it ensures that the physical and emotional wellbeing of every single student is supported. The responsibility for pastoral care is shared amongst the teachers and other staff and enables children to develop successfully on both a personal and academic level. For a stronger understanding of why pastoral care is so important, an independent school in the West Midlands explore some of the benefits below.

boy sat in a classroom
From injuries in the playground to illnesses during school hours, pastoral care aims to deal with any accidents and sickness. Generally speaking, it involves protecting students and keeping them safe from any physical or emotional harm, both at school and within their personal lives. This involves monitoring each child closely and liaising with parents on a regular basis about any issues that arise so that they can be tackled fairly quickly. 

A child’s primary pastoral carer will be their form tutor, who spends time with them at least once a day and is able to keep an eye on them. They will watch out for any friendship problems, as well as monitoring their academic progress and ensuring they are completing their homework on time. If anything significant is happening at home, it would be worth letting your child’s form tutor know so that they can check in and make sure your child is handling it well. 

The pastoral care department must also ensure the school is safe and secure. The caretaker will be asked to regularly check the school boundaries and fire alarms to make sure everything is in check and any visitors to the premises will have to sign in and out. 

Each school will have their own policies and procedures when it comes to pastoral care to ensure that all staff are on the same page. It is often included in lessons, as children learn about bullying, sex education, drug and alcohol abuse, safe use of the internet and road safety. 

Children thrive in environments where they feel safe and happy, which is ultimately the true mark of pastoral care. When their time at school concludes, they will be able to make sensible decisions regarding their future, have built strong relationships with their peers and be equipped with appropriate skills and qualifications to help them succeed in life. If you want to know more about the pastoral care provided in your child’s school, don’t hesitate to contact the teachers for some additional information. 

Michelle
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Facts About Female Fertility | AD

12 November 2020

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration.

One of the first questions I get asked when I talk about the boys is "That is a big age gap." It is a huge gap, 11 years to be exact however not everyone is fortunate enough to fall pregnant as soon as they start trying. We were lucky with big J, the pregnancy happened naturally but after having him we then faced 11 years of trying before we finally had a healthy baby in our arms. 

a woman walking through a puddle
Fertility is a vastly complicated aspect of human anatomy and unfortunately often considered quite a taboo subject. For that reason, young people aren’t really taught enough about fertility when they’re in school and therefore don’t know how to maximise their chances of a successful pregnancy in the future. After all, the way we treat our bodies can determine whether or not we are able to conceive a child, especially by natural means. I have teamed up with an IVF fertility clinic in London to share four fantastic facts about female fertility to help us girls understand what’s actually going on inside our bodies and help us prepare for pregnancy, either now or in the future. 

A Woman Loses 3000-5000 Eggs Per Menstrual Cycle
When a female baby is born, she has the most eggs she’ll ever have; around 1-2 million! Eventually, this egg reserve runs out as a woman loses many of them during each menstrual cycle. Once a woman is around the age of 35, her fertility rapidly declines, which makes it a lot more challenging to conceive a baby naturally. Many women choose to freeze their eggs when they’re still young to preserve their fertility, so that they can have a baby in the future, when they feel more prepared. A man’s fertility also declines as he ages, as their sperm loses its quality. In fact, around 30% of infertility cases are due to the male party. 

BMI Can Affect A Woman’s Chances of Conceiving
BMI either underweight or overweight can prevent you from conceiving. For example, extreme exercise and dieting can prevent a woman’s menstrual cycle and therefore make it impossible to get pregnant. Eating fatty foods can lead to high blood pressure and other diseases, like diabetes, which can make conception difficult. You should try and aim for a healthy BMI of anything between 18.5 and 24.9. 

Some STIs Can Lead To Infertility
Gonorrhoea and chlamydia are the two most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK. Cases that are left untreated can cause various other problems, including infertility in both men and women. For instance, chlamydia can leave scarring in the fallopian tubes which prevents the egg from travelling to the womb. If this has happened to you, you might want to consider IVF, as it essentially bypasses the need for viable fallopian tubes. 

Smoking During Pregnancy Can Cause Harm To The Baby
There are lots of potential health risks associated with smoking while pregnant. In fact, it can even cause fertility issues for the child when they grow up. Other issues are things like low birth weight, preterm birth and defects of the mouth and lip. If you need help with quitting smoking, don’t hesitate to contact your GP. 

When I was younger I just assumed I would grow up and have babies whenever I was ready but as we know this just isn't the way it works. Understanding your body and making small lifestyle changes can really help. 

Michelle
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Finding Childcare In My Area With Childcare.co.uk | AD

24 September 2020

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration

boy and woman looking up at the sky


As you may already know there are 11 years between our two boys. At first I wasn't sure about having the big age gap but it has been amazing in so many ways and one is big J can now help out with looking after his younger brother. I do not miss the days of trying to arrange childcare for when I returned to work or if John and I fancied a date night, it was a nightmare. Not everyone has family or friends they can rely on so it can be tough knowing where to turn to. I recently found childcare.co.uk and it has amazed me how easy it is to find childcare in our local area with just a few clicks. 

childcare.co.uk home screen


What Is Childcare.co.uk?
Childcare.co.uk is an award winning online social networking platform for parents, childcare providers and private tutors with over 2 million members.

Where Do I Start?
If you are looking for childcare then you have definitely clicked on the right site. All you need to do is register and create an account. This is free and super easy to do. You need to let childcare.co.uk know whether you are a parent/guardian or a childcare provider and pop in a few details such as where you live, date of birth and your requirements then you are good to go.

childcare.co.uk home screen


How Do I Search For Childcare In My Area?
You can search for childcare in your area without registering however if you did want to get in touch then you would need to be a member.

To search all you do is click on the search menu on the home screen and choose what service you are looking for. There are lots to choose from including babysitter, childminder, nanny or nursery. Next pop in your postcode and click search. 

childcare.co.uk home screen


Choosing The Right Childcare For Me?
I was quite surprised that 133 possible child minders were registered within 5 miles from our home. This is obviously a lot of profiles to search through so you can then choose to browse all the possibilities or you can narrow down further by filtering your search results. 

Once you have narrowed down your search results you can now view your childcare options in more detail. 

The profiles of the individual childcare providers have lots of information about themselves, their experience, their qualifications, their availability and their fees. 

My favourite part is the reviews section. You can read honest reviews from other parents which I think is really important, knowing what others think. 

My Thoughts
Would I use it? Absolutely. Big J is heading to university soon so I have no idea how he can fit in looking after little J when we need him so we will be needing to look at the childcare options in the future. Also due to the current situation with covid19 we just never know when we may need emergency childcare and I honestly feel confident that with 133 results close to home we could find someone. 

I think childcare.co.uk is an amazing tool to have to hand for all your childcare needs. It's free to register, easy to use and I am not surprised it has over 2 million members. 

Michelle
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Top Tips for Monitoring Your Child’s Progress at School | AD

14 September 2020

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration

books

If you want your child to succeed in school, it’s important that you monitor their progress at regular intervals throughout their academic journey so that you can uncover any areas for improvement, while also giving them the praise and reassurance they need to encourage them to continue trying their best. In other words, if you don’t pay attention to your child’s education, you won’t be able to help them make the most of their experience in school and reach their full potential. But how do you go about monitoring your child’s progress? A pre-prep school in London has shared some advice below.

First of all, it’s important to arrange frequent catchups with your child’s teacher, even if this is just via email, to find out how they’re getting on in class. By the time you receive the once-a-year feedback at parents’ evening, it might be too late for you to make a real difference in helping your child improve in certain areas. It’s crucial that parents and teachers have this sort of relationship because it means that you can keep one another updated with anything that might be happening to interfere with your child’s academic or personal wellbeing, such as friendship problems, moving house, a death in the family or another major event. 

However, bear in mind that the teachers have tons of kids to look after and it would be impossible for them to know every tiny detail about your child, especially if they are fairly quiet. With that said, try and encourage your child to open up to you about school as much as you can so that you can hear directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, how they’re getting on. Let them know that you support and love them no matter what so that they feel more comfortable sharing things with you. If you reprimand them or judge their decisions, they might be more reluctant to talk to you about any issues they’re faced with.

When your child is doing their homework, try and make yourself available to them so that they can ask you for help if they need it. Without that support, your child will be more likely to give up in frustration. If they don’t ask you for help, be sure to offer instead, as they may be afraid to bother you. Getting involved with your child’s homework will give you an indication of how easy or difficult they find the subject. If they seem to struggle time and time again with the same subject’s homework, this is a clear sign that it’s not their strongest area and you may want to consider hiring a private tutor.

So, monitoring your child’s progress is as simple as getting yourself as involved as possible in their education. Not only will this help you grasp how they are performing, it will also show them how much you care, which may encourage them to try even harder as a way to impress you. So, be sure to attend school plays, sports day and other events, while also enriching your child’s education with activities at home so that you can develop a better understanding of their growth.

Michelle
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Top Tips for Helping Your Kids with Maths | AD

12 September 2020

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Disclosure - This is a paid collaboration.

maths on a blackboard
Maths is quite an intimidating subject for those who find it tough. For some people, it comes naturally but other people are more comfortable with music, art or literature. However, maths is an important part of the school curriculum and students are forced to study it until the end of their GCSEs, even if they don’t like it or find it tough. 

Fortunately, there are lots of ways that parents can help their children with their basic maths skills, and it doesn’t necessarily require you to be a mathematical genius. It’s certainly worth investing your time in this particular area of your child’s education, as Maths and other STEM related qualifications can really open up a lot of doors in terms of a fantastic future career. So, you’re probably wondering where and when to start? Here are some tips from a junior school in the Cotswolds.

Well, there’s no time like the present than starting to teach your kids maths at home. If your child is young, there are lots of nursery rhymes that can help them learn how to count, such as “Ten Green Bottes”, “This Old Man” and “Ten in the Bed”, to name but a few. You can look them up on YouTube if you’re unfamiliar with any of them and you’ll all be singing along in no time. Pre-school and Mother and Toddler groups will explore nursery rhymes and other techniques to help your little one become more familiar with numbers. 

Older children, on the other hand, may be able to help you count your cash at the till when paying for your groceries or assist with weighing and measuring next time you cook. Encourage them to play board games that involve basic sums, like Monopoly, for example. These sorts of activities demonstrate to your child not only how crucial maths is to everyday life, but also how its not as complicated as it seems and can actually be quite fun.

Numeracy is all around us and the sooner your child understands that, the more comfortable they will feel in their maths lessons. Helping your child outside of lessons will give them the confidence to see maths in a positive light and approach sums and equations with optimism. However, if you’re truly concerned about your child’s progress in maths, don’t hesitate to contact their teachers for some advice. They may be able to suggest a lunch or after school club that your child can attend to boost their maths skills, which would be particular beneficial in the run up to any important exams.

Michelle
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How Does Moving House Affect Your Child’s Education? | AD

11 September 2020

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apple on top of books

I think its fair to say it's been a very strange 2020 so far and it looks like it could continue to be strange until at least the end of the year. John and I spent have spent most of this year of lockdown at home safe with the boys. We didn't go to work like some people, it was just us in our house for months. Having this bonus time together made us look at our home and whether we wanted to spend some money making improvements or did we want to move? We chose to make some home improvements and I'm so glad we did because with everything that has gone on this year I don't think we could have coped with a house move too. Also moving house would have a massive impact on the boys and it's definitely not what they needed right now.

Whenever a child is faced with a life-changing event, like a new baby sibling, divorced parents or moving house, it is likely that their education will be affected, even if it’s just for the short term.
The events can be very distracting for young people, and often emotionally challenging, making it harder for them to focus on their studies. However, when it comes to moving house, there are other reasons why your child’s education might suffer. An independent school in Hammersmith explore in further detail below.

There are lots of reasons why a family might move house. Perhaps they have outgrown the previous property or maybe one of the parents has to relocate due to work commitments. Sometimes it’s completely unavoidable but knowing how it affects your child will ensure you are better equipped to help support them during the transition. So, if you move to a new area and your child has to start a new school, you might notice a drop in their grades to begin with. This is because they are getting used to so many new things, including a new teacher who may have a completely different teaching style to their previous teacher. What’s more, the curriculum might be slightly different. Don’t be too hard on your child if their grades do suffer, as it will probably just be for a short while until they are completely settled. It might help to hire a private tutor in the meantime, just to help them with the move.

Your child might also have some reservations about making new friends and leaving their old ones behind, which is also something you can help with. Where possible, encourage them to meet up with and keep in contact with their old friends so that they feel a sense of familiarity, but also try and arrange play dates with kids at their new school. It’s also a good idea to encourage your child to join some extra-curricular clubs in the area where they can meet likeminded people. The more confidence your child has in terms of the social side of their life, the more confident they will feel in other aspects of life, such as in the classroom when answering the teacher’s questions.

All you can do is try and remain optimistic about the whole situation around your child so that they can feed off your energy. If they see that you’re stressed about the move and worried about what the future holds, they will have the same sort of emotions. Alternatively, if you shelter them from the stressful side of things and try and talk about all of the positive aspects of moving house and starting at a new school etc.
Michelle
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Does My Child Need a Tutor? | AD

10 September 2020

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boy writing

All parents want to raise a happy, healthy, successful child, but that’s easier said than done. Your child might be the smartest or most popular in their class, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need a helping hand from time to time to give them a little boost in the right direction. Sometimes that helping hand comes from a private tutor. Our children have been through so much over the past 6 months having to stay at home so if you have noticed a drop in your child’s grades or perhaps a reluctance to complete homework or attend school altogether, this might be something you want to consider. 

There are lots of advantages to hiring a private tutor. Obviously, they can help your child with their overall academic performance, but there’s more to it than that. Since sessions are one-to-one, your child gets the attention they deserve and their learning experience is tailored to suit them, which is an entirely different experience to a classroom setting with 20+ other kids. The tutor might be helping your child with maths, but the confidence they’ll develop from developing their skills and knowledge can be transferred across all subjects. However, private tutors are costly, so it’s important that your investment is worthwhile. But how do you know if your child truly needs a tutor? I have teamed up with a private prep school in Surrey to explore some of the things you should look out for. 

One of the most obvious signs that your child needs some support with their learning is a substantial drop in their performance. Other signs include getting upset when discussing schoolwork, getting easily frustrated when doing homework and showing a general reluctance to attend school. Maybe the teacher has reported that your child isn’t paying attention in class or they’re not handing in their work. Don’t jump to conclusions, though, as there might be another reason why your child is struggling. For instance, they might require glasses and not be able to see the white board, which is causing them to fall behind. They might have some friendship problems that are distracting them and making it difficult to concentrate in class. Do some digging and try and figure out what might be causing the drop in grades before you hire a tutor.

Ask your child what they think about a tutor. If they are interested in the idea and admit that it might help them, then it’s definitely something to properly consider. They might say no, which could just be because they’re feeling a little shy, or it might be because they know that’s not the reason why they are underperforming. Let them know that you support them no matter what and that they can trust you with anything that might be bothering them. This should help you get to the bottom of the problem and figure out what to do about it!

Michelle
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Why Choose Engineered Wood Flooring | AD

7 September 2020

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a fireplace




We have given our home a full makeover twice since we first moved in 17 years ago. Home improvements give your home a new lease of life and it's your chance to change things around and try new things. We have moved rooms around, had an extension built, changed our colour scheme but we have always been certain that the one thing we wouldn't change was our engineered wood flooring.

What Is Engineered Wood Flooring?
Made up of many layers of laminated hardwood and finished with a top thick layer of hardwood. The top layer is also known as the 'wear layer'.

There are many reasons why we chose engineered wood flooring but if you are considering wood flooring here are our main reasons.

Family Friendly
For us this was the main reason. Our home is and always will be a family home. When looking for flooring we instantly knew carpet would not work for us. Our home is very busy with lots of comings and goings. Engineered wood flooring is durable and made to last. The flooring can withstand plenty of footfall and that was just what we needed.

engineered wood flooring


Easy To Maintain
As we are a family of four, I cannot tell you how many times the boys have spilt a drink, dropped food on the floor or walked through the room with muddy shoes on. This would have been a nightmare with a carpet but having the engineered wooden floor has made these little accidents so much easier to clean usually just with just a brush and mop.

It Looks Real
Everyone who comes to our home thinks we have solid oak hardwood flooring, we don't. Engineered wood flooring has many layers that make up the base of plywood and then the top layer is actual real wood so it looks just like the real thing.

Value For Money
I don't like saying something is value for money as everyone's budget is completely different. What I will say we found that it wasn't the cheapest on the market but for the quality and effect it was definitely the right choice for us and within our budget. It is more expensive than laminate however it is definitely cheaper than hardwood.

engineered wood flooring


It's Popular
It's become very popular in recent years which means that there are lots more designs out there to choose from. It took us quite some time to choose our design and colour based on our original colour scheme and it's actually stayed looking fresh even after years.

Warm and Cosy
People assume wooden flooring is cold however I would totally disagree. The design we chose is warm and inviting and the added bonus of having the engineered wood flooring is we can pop a rug down to give the lounge a new look whenever we feel.

What are your thoughts on engineered wood flooring? Is it the right choice for you?

Michelle




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How To Make Your Garden Suitable For All Weathers | AD

27 August 2020

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toys on astro turf

Giving our garden a makeover was not on my home improvements list and I would rather have spent the money indoors however it was probably the best thing we ever did. Not matter how big your garden is, it is an extension of your home and with the right makeover you can make your garden an outdoor space that is suitable for all weathers.

Grass Makeover
Astroturf isn't for everyone but I can honestly say that once you decide to invest you will never look back. Not only do you never have to mow your lawn again it will stay looking fresh and green for years to come.

Astroturf allows you to use your grass space in all weathers. After a heavy downpour the boys will usually head out less than an hour later and the grass is less than damp. No having to wait for the soil to dry out and no muddy puddles. They can play football all year round.

Table and chairs on patio area

Create A Patio Area
You don't need a large patio area just enough for a seating area or table and chairs. It's so nice being able to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner out there on warmer days and also just chilling in the Summer evenings.

Sometimes you need to just get out the house, it's nice to have a space that you can go to and sit. The type of patio is up to you but most will choose paving flags. A row of at least 4 should be enough to create your own patio space.

Choose The Right Furniture
We chose Rattan furniture for our outside patio area as its durable and easy to clean. You can also add removable furnishings such as seat cushions and a parasol.

Get Cosy 
We don't have many hot sunny days in the UK so investing in a fire pit or outdoor heather will make sure that you can still enjoy your garden even when it's cold outside. Add some fairy lights too and you will create a warm chill area for you to relax no matter what the weather.

boy splashing in the pool

Outside Taps - Hot and Cold
We have spent too many Summers fixing hose pipes to our indoor taps trying to fill up a paddling pool. We have also spent too many Summers giving up when the hose won't sit on the tap right, and reverted to buckets.

Having a hot and cold tap has made filling up the pool a doddle this year and there has been no buckets in sight.

Install An Awning
Hot and humid days and nights are a nightmare when it's raining and you are stuck inside. Putting an awning over your patio can let you enjoy the outside without getting wet and it can also provide shade.

An awning is like a large canopy that sits tucked away in its case attached to your house until you are ready to use. Pull the cord and the awning will cover your patio in seconds leaving you dry underneath.

Storage
It is important to have good quality storage such as a shed or storage box. We chose plastic for durability and also ease of build. There are many varieties of storage size and shape available, so you will be able to choose the right size and shape for the space you have allocated to storage. For bikes we have a 'store it out' lift up storage box and its perfect for getting the bikes in and out easily.

Remove All Plants
This won't be for everyone but if you are afraid of insects and flying creatures, removing plants and flowers can help to make your garden bug free. One of the reasons I never enjoyed the garden was because of the wildlife that plants and flowers attract but now that we have none I am so much happier out there.

It's been a few years now since our garden makeover and we have never looked back. We spend so much more time out there now than we ever have done in the past and it's a great space for us and also for our family and friends.

Michelle
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Top Tips for Helping Your Child Learn A New Language | AD

26 August 2020

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The Eiffel Tower

The National Curriculum in the UK states that children should be taught a modern foreign language between the ages of 7 to 14. That means that at some point during your child’s academic journey, they will start to learn a new language, usually Spanish, French, Italian or German. Sometimes, they may be taught a combination of more than one language. All parents want their children to succeed across each of their school subjects and their ability to speak a second or even third language shouldn’t be overlooked; it can actually be really great for their future career. With that said, you’re probably wondering how you can help your child perform well in their language lessons, despite the fact that you may not be able to speak the language yourself. I have teamed up with a girls’ prep school in Kingston Upon Thames to offer parents some advice on how they can help.

First of all, it’s important to note that you don’t have to be good at any particular subject yourself in order to help your child excel in it. Simply providing a supportive and optimistic environment for your child to grow up in will help them with their confidence and overall approach to their education. When it comes to learning a new language, perhaps encourage your child to stick labels around your home on the everyday items so that your child can learn some basic vocabulary. Of course, this may look unsightly, but it will demonstrate to your child how keen you are for them to succeed and how much you support them, which will make them all the more determined. When your child becomes more proficient, they will be able to use the new vocabulary in their sentences.

Another great way to learn vocabulary and even some sentences and common phrases is to use cue cards, with the English translation on the other side. You can hold the cue cards up in front of your child, showing only the English side, and ask them to read out the foreign alternative. Let them know if they were correct. This is something they could do quite easily alone but having a “study buddy” will make the experience feel less tedious.  If you are not available to carry out this activity, perhaps allow them to invite a friend over to help.

You could also sit and watch a foreign film together (with English subtitles to begin with to help you understand what’s going on) or play foreign music during car journeys. What’s more, there are lots of resources online or even downloadable apps that your child can use to help them with their learning. If your child is struggling with their language skills, you could consider hiring a private tutor or perhaps looking into some local evening or weekend classes. If this seems like an extreme option, perhaps start by contacting your child’s teacher to find out if there are any lunch clubs or other extra-curricular sessions that can help your child with their learning.

Michelle
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Dealing With The Back To School Blues | AD

25 August 2020

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Academic Diary

This Summer has flown by and considering that we haven't had our usual holiday abroad I am shocked just how fast it has gone. We have been talking to little J now for a few weeks about his return to school. If I am honest he is not looking forward to it and neither am I. The back to school blues are real enough for children after the six-week summer break but can you imagine how they’re going to feel returning to school after months at home thanks to the global pandemic?

Some kids are probably excited to get back to their friends and extra-curricular clubs, while others are probably feeling pretty anxious about starting a new year with a new set of challenges. The majority of children are probably feeling a combination of the two and it’s important for parents to help them transition back into a normal routine. Here’s some advice from one of the best prep schools in Oxford.

With just over a week left to go until most UK schools reopen their doors to all students, it’s crucial that kids start to familiarise themselves with healthy habits, including early nights and early starts. Lots of us are guilty of letting our youngsters stay up late during lockdown and have long lie-ins, but unless they get out of those sleeping patterns before school, they’ll struggle to get up on the first day of term. You should also make sure that they have all of the appropriate uniform and stationery ready and organised for their first day back, otherwise the morning will feel like a crazy rush. The more prepared you all are, the more smoothly everything will run.

As well as preparing your child physically, it’s also important to help them mentally. Find some time to have some one-to-one time with your youngster in which you can chat about how they might be feeling about returning to school. Don’t ask any leading questions that might put ideas into their head and, instead, let them open up to you on their own terms. They may tell you that they are worried about some friendship problems that they left behind before lockdown, or perhaps they’re struggling with a specific subject. These are things you can give them advice on or even contact the school to help resolve the issue. If your child knows that they have your support no matter what, they will feel a little more comfortable about returning to school.

It’s also wise to use lots of positive terminology around your child, especially when talking about school, to help lift their spirits. If you say things like “I hated school when I was your age”, your child will not develop an optimistic attitude towards their own learning. Instead, try and remind them of all of the great things about school, like being around friends.

No one truly knows what the return to school is going to look like however children are so resilient and can usually adapt to change very quickly. I am sure little J will be fine and will be happy to get back to school once he is there and we can look back at the past 6 months with fond memories on how we got to spend so much time together as a family.

Michelle
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Back To School Essentials List | AD

18 August 2020

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Disclosure -  This post was first published in 2019 however I have added to it today and updated and update photographs. This post is a paid collaboration with Taunton School and features pr samples for the purpose of this post. Any thoughts, opinions and photographs are our own. This post also contains affiliate links.

2019 deluxe planner
As a child I loved going back to school shopping with my Mum. I would head to Woolworths or WHSmith and spend hours choosing the perfect stationery set and lunch bag. It was definitely a highlight of my Summer. Now I am a Mum I try to get the Back to School shop done as smoothly and as quickly as possible. Dragging two boys around the shops trying to get them pick shoes and try on uniforms when they would rather be out playing football is such a chore. A prep school in Somerset have put together a back to school checklist to ensure you are prepared in time for September. I have added our favourite products so it has everything you need to be prepared for the new school year ahead.

stabilo highlighters
Stationery
When I started Senior school I was introduced to the world of fineliners and highlighters. Now as an adult I am addicted to different pen types and highlighters using them every day for many things. Stabilo have a wide range of highlighters and pens available which makes back to school stationery shopping easy for both older and younger school children.

The Stabilo Easy Start range is perfect for younger ones starting their school journey. The range is ergonomically designed offering a triangular shape and non-slip grip moulds for a relaxed hold and you can choose from yellow and red colour colour coding which indicates left or right handed versions.



Bic Kids range
You may think that littler ones may not need to purchase back to school stationery but having a little one in infants I know that having pens and pencils at home is a must as the amount of homework they need to complete is crazy.

Even since Nursery little J has brought work home every week which may involve drawing or colouring. The BIC Kids range of pens and pencils will ensure that you are well prepared at home for when the homework begins.

The BIC Kids and BIC Evolution product ranges are perfect colouring tools designed to be easy for kids to use. The bright colouring pencils available in 12 different shades are all made with synthetic resin that's shock-resistant, chew-resistant and doesn't splinter if broken. The Kid Couleur felt tips come in 12 colours and are made for kids 5 and up for everyday colouring projects. Each felt tip offers a fixed medium nib which won't get pushed in under pressure.



Academic diaries
For as long as I can remember I have always used a diary. Some people buy their diaries to start in January but I have always used an academic diary starting in July/August. It's just the way I have always worked.

Harry Potter and Disney are perfect choices for us as we are huge fans. The diaries show one week over 2 pages and runs till August 2020. Lots of space for notes, addresses and also a year to view page too.

The Danilo mid year academic diaries are a perfect addition to your back to school essentials.

stib pencils

stib pencils
Stib Inspirational Jumbo Pencils come in a pack of 12 colours in a tube pencil holder.  Each pencil has inspirational word on them to help keep you going if times get tough.

 Peace Keeper, Earth Lover, Joy Finder, Big Thinker, Self Believer, World Changer, Story Teller, Problem Solver, Good Listener, Freestyler, Great Leader & Team Player.

These words have all been matched with an animal character, that together form The Stiblers. Each pack of pencils contains a specially designed sheet of Stibler stickers, which can be used to decorate the Stib tube or elsewhere. The pack also includes a bright orange double pencil sharpener.


Snacks
Snacks are a huge part of little J's day. Each morning he will spend a long time choosing which snack he will take in to school that day. Having a wide range of healthy snacks available for him to choose from is a must from September.

Del monte fruit snack
Del Monte Squeezie are an 100% fruit snack boasting one of your five a day and perfect for lunchboxes.

Available in Apple and Mango, Apple, Strawberry and Blueberry and Apple, Strawberry and Banana these are a great way in ensuring your little ones take a healthy snack that is also tasty too.

Crazy jack organic
 Crazy Jack ready to eat soft apricots are perfect for snack time. Each individually wrapped bag is filled with delicious naturally dark apricots and just 70kcals. The Crazy Jack Soft Apricots are also organic, gluten free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Gregory's tree bars
Gregory's Tree fruit with a twist bars are the perfect way to 'beat the dip'. When you are low on energy and need a boost the double fruit twists are a perfect snack. Just 60kcals per bar with no hidden nasties.

Peperami snacks
Both boys have always loved taking a Peperami as a snack to school but now there are a few new additions to the Peperami range and are perfect for lunch boxes.

Peperami Pep'd Up Chicken Bites come in a handy individual wrapped bag, ideal for snack time. Peperami and Cheese snack box is a great source of both protein and calcium to get the little ones through the school day.

Lunch Time
If your little one stays for a packed lunch then you will know that the lunch bag and lunch box range in the shops is huge. There are so many options to choose from. Having a son in sixth form and one going in to year two their lunch bag/box choices are very different.

Smiggle lunch boxes
 Little J is a huge fan of Smiggle and when it comes to lunch bags and bottles, Smiggle is his go to place. They offer a wide range of bags including this style which is called a double decker. So if you want a bag with lots of space than I would definitely recommend a double decker. The top can be opened using the zip to reveal a shallow compartment. This is ideal for snacks or even an ice pack if needed. The bottom is spacious and could fit a large lunch in and/or a water bottle.


Smiggle is also known for its huge range of stationery too including notebooks, pens, stationery sets and pencil cases. 

Sistema lunch boxes
Sistema lunch boxes are perfect for those that like to take a range of goodies for their lunch as the bento box has lots of different compartments. There is plenty of space for sandwiches, fruit, treats and a yogurt or dip pot too.

You can also accompany your lunch box with a Sistema water bottle. There are lots of different bottles to choose from including twist cap, sports cap and quick flip.


Ace Cleaning products
As a parent, you don’t need to be told that children stain everything! With that in mind, make sure you have at least two, if not three versions of each item so that your kids have spares when you’re doing the laundry. However if they do come home with some stubborn stains then ACE stain remover products can help get their uniform looking new again. There is a variety of products to choose from including stain remover for colours or for whites. You can also choose mousse, spray, liquid or powder. You can use ACE on all wash temperatures but obviously you need to check the clothing label first and although ACE uses a mild bleach it has been extensively tested and did not affect the durability of the garments. 

We have started to buy a few items already. Have you started the Back to School shop yet?

Michelle

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