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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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I Want A Lunchbox…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School | Posted on 30-08-2016

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With a little over a week to go before the children head back to school there is stuff everywhere. In every single shop there is some kind of back to school section overflowing with uniform, stationary, bags, lunch bags, bottles, and every manner of thing you apparently need to survive another year at school.

Now with Little Man about to make the move up into Year 1 and Little Dude about to start his time at preschool – two mornings a week to myself!!! – the list of things we actually need are pretty short. New jumpers, shirts and socks was about all Little Man needed, and Little Dude just needed a bag to take bits to preschool in. All very low maintenance, which to be honest makes a change for my two.

I’m very lucky that both the preschool and the primary school provide lunches for my boys. I hate making packed lunches. Little Man likes a very limited selection of foods that I could provide, so gets easily bored. Both of them seem happy enough when we have the occasional picnic, but if I gave them that sort of food every day they’d both be complaining in no time.

That being said, we do own a lot of lunch boxes. Little Man has a couple that he used at his original preschool, and Little Dude has one as well. In fact his new preschool “bag” is actually a cool bag but it was perfectly sized for him and has a dinosaur on so it’s a winner.  Daddy even has a lunch box that he takes to work with him. In fact the only person without a lunch box is me…

I want a lunch box! Why does everyone else get a lunch box except me?! *insert tantrum here*

Anyway…

There are SO many cute lunch boxes out there. Gone it seems are the days of plastic lunch boxes with ill fitting flasks. Nowadays its trendy looking coolbags in a vast array of shapes, designs and styles.  I’ve been resisting the urge to get myself a lunch box for ages. Until now that is.

Joules-GuineaPigBox

I mean seriously, how cute is this?

I actually have the guys at House Of Fraser to thank for this. I love Joules designs – my Little Dude’s preschool bag is actually this but in the dinosaur print – so when they asked if I’d like one I couldn’t say no. They are a great size, supremely cute and come with a handy box inside too. Now obviously I’m not heading back to school in September, but I guess I could take food to work in it maybe. Or at the very least I’m ready for my next picnic with my boys.

Good luck to everyone heading to school in September, especially those going for the first time. You’ll be great.

Keeping School Uniforms Clean

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Product Reviews | Posted on 10-09-2013

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Well the children have been back at school for about a week now – or longer if you’re north of the border. Little Man had his first morning at preschool last Thursday and, despite a few tears once I’d left, coped really well. Very proud mummy. What I did notice though when I picked him up was the fact he looked rather grubby. Paint and pens on his fingers, but also sand and dirt on his clothes. To be expected, particularly when you have a little boy.
He has two tshirts which he wears as his uniform, along with some shorts when its hot and trousers when its cooler. His tshirts are a bright green colour and have the preschools logo on the front. I want to keep them looking bright and colourful right through the school year, and maybe into next as they do swamp him at present.

Washing Little Man’s clothes is a bit of a minefield as he does suffer with eczema – the perils of being related to me sadly. We have medicated cream and moisturiser to protect his skin but we do have to watch what we use to wash his clothes. Non-bio is generally the safest bet, but I do tend to use a fabric softener as well, just to make sure everything is comfortable against his skin.

Clothes will probably start getting the Persil Small & Mighty with eraser ball treatment. This works wonders on really hard to get out stains like tomato sauce, simply by popping some straight onto the stain and rubbing it in with the eraser ball. I’ll also be using the new Comfort Bright Colours fabric conditioner with his school uniform. As well as keeping his clothes nice and soft, it also works to keep them looking nice and bright too.

Best get plenty Persil and Comfort in. Based on day one, its going to be a long messy school year!

Starting Preschool With Marks & Spencer

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Product Reviews | Posted on 29-08-2013

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One week to go until Little Man’s first day at preschool. I’m sure he’s going to be fine. I hope he is at least. He’s often a bit nervous in new places, but we’ve been to several drop in sessions at whenever we drive or walk past he points preschool out and wants to go in. Whenever we’re there he’s perfectly happy, playing with the toys and running around the garden. I know it’ll be different being there without Mummy there too, but I’m sure he’ll settle in soon enough. The preschool he’s going to is just a small one in the village. There’s no official uniform but there was the option to buy t-shirts with the name and logo on, and jumpers too. Little Man has always been a fan of routine and consistency, doing things to same way and doing the same things with the same person. This is why we decided to get him a couple of t-shirts and a jumper. So he’d have a consistent outfit to wear. So he’d know that it was his day to go to preschool. We were told he could wear anything he wanted on his bottom half – shorts, trousers, whatever. Preschool did request no open toe sandals but otherwise any sensible footwear. When Marks & Spencer got in touch after reading a previous post on here and asked me if I wanted to look at their Back To School Range I wondered whether he should have a specific set of clothes to wear. I wondered whether a uniform of sorts, albeit not official and not compulsory would help with the settling in process. I had a look around on their website and picked out a few items which looked ideal for Little Man’s first day.

Marks&Spencers Back To SchoolFirst up I wanted a pair of trousers. I wanted something that would be hard wearing and long lasting. We’re advised by the school to not put them in anything new when they start as they do a lot of playing in the garden as well as painting and water play. There’s also lots of Playdoh going around. They are bound to get messy/wet/dirty so wearing something new would be a waste. The trousers I chose from M&S have Stormwear+. They repel both water and stains to keep them looking newer for longer. They also have Supercrease. This means the crease down the front stays there, even after washing. No extra ironing for Daddy. The trousers also have adjustable waists. Perfect for my skinny Little Man. The best thing though is that there are no fastenings on them on sizes below 5-6 years. They just pull up. As you know we have just potty trained Little Man – with incredible success, both during the day AND the night – and he is very keen to be independent. He wants to pull his own trousers down and up when he goes to the toilet at home, and I wanted to make sure he could do it at preschool too when I’m not there to help.

Back To School Shoes

Footwear was next on my list. Something smart yet comfortable. Something again which would be hard wearing and which he could take off himself if needs be. Did we mention him being rather independent? Anyway, I found what I hope will be the ideal pair. Black, leather, proper quality soles and scuff resistant. Even better is that they come with Marks & Spencer’s patented Fresh Feet technology so hopefully, even after a day running around like a mad thing, his shoes at least will still be fresh and clean. I’m sure these shoes will become a fast favourite and no doubt he’ll end up wearing them all the time. Another reason I chose them – they don’t look specifically like school shoes.

And finally whilst I was wandering – virtually of course – around the Back To School pages of the M&S website I found socks. All of Little Man’s socks are brightly coloured, socks you’d expect an almost three year old to be wearing. Some have Angrys Birds on and others feature the cast of Toy Story. Hardly the most appropriate for preschool, especially when you’re so smartly dressed otherwise! So I thought a few pairs of plain black socks would do the trick nicely. And what better way than to plump for some Fresh Feet ones. Little Man should hopefully be spending his time at preschool in comfort.

I think we can safely say that clothes and footwear wise Little Man is ready to start his preschool adventure. I hope he loves it. It’ll be very strange not having him here one morning a week, but I can’t wait to see what he gets up to.

Back To School: Essentials

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Product Reviews | Posted on 22-08-2013

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Its only a couple of weeks until school starts again. Little Man is beginning his educational journey in a fortnight by starting at preschool. He’s only going for one morning a week for now – being an October baby means he’ll be there for two years so there’s no hurry – but he still has a little list of items he needs to take with him. The Back To School shopping experience is one I don’t look forward to. All that mad running around looking for stationary, clothes, shoes, bags, and other items that every child needs before that first day of the new term. Luckily for us Little Man’s needs are pretty basic and generally things that he already has, like wellington boots and spare clothes.

We’ve been sent a few Back To School items to review however, and these are my favourites.

Yellow Back To School Jacket From AsdaThis bright yellow jacket from Asda is ideal for the school run. Available from age 1 right up to age 10 its great for everyone. Its shower proof which is brilliant if you have a long walk to school in the mornings and afternoons, and is nice and bright so your child will be spotted. Little Man’s preschool is about a mile from our house, right on the other side of the village. Whilst he wont be walking there and back himself just yet he’ll need to keep dry and warm in the pushchair. When he does start walking that journey this coat is going to be brilliant. We got it in size 3-4 years and its a lovely fit with plenty room for growth, so hopefully this should last him well into spring. Available in store and online this coat is a must buy and a super bargain at just £12.

Stationary is something that all children use, whether they need it specifically for school or not. Little Man wont need to take a pencil case to preschool with him, but he certainly enjoys pencils, crayons and drawing at home. Memo Etc sent us a great little parcel of items from their Remarkable Recycled range to take a look at. There was a pencil case that use to be a car tyre, recycled leather covered notebooks of recycled paper, and pens and rulers which used to be corn on the cob! All brilliant quality items and all recycled which makes them even more special. I loved the novelty factor of them as well. Its not often you find a set of colouring pencils made from old CD cases! Little Man obviously doesn’t appreciate the eco-friendly nature of these items, but for slightly older children I think they would make brilliant back to school items. Everything is reasonably priced and the range covers items that would be of use to young children starting primary school right through to older students heading to college and university.

 

Guest Post: The New Importance of Child Led Learning in Primary Schools

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Back To School, Guest Post | Posted on 19-08-2013

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Children are being encouraged to develop skills that go further than the ability to read and write. Schools are now focusing on the idea of helping children learn to become independent, assertive, confident and to develop an idea of importance. Although this is an area of focus for children of an older age, that has since changed and children as young as 5 will be encouraged to become independent and take as much control as possible for their own learning.

Studies of home-schooled children have been taken and comparisons made between those in mainstream education and those that are taught at home. Home schooled children were found to be far more independent and willing to learn, they had the opportunity to choose the areas they learnt about on each day and this not only made them far more interested and focused but they performed well during tests and exams.

Teachers are keen to work closely with parents in a home-school agreement to ensure that the need to learn educationally and with regards to child’s environment is continued outside of school. Parent mail is one of the best ways to ensure the constant communication between school and parents and this will ensure that the child is not only the main priority but that any issues are ironed out, both parties are constantly aware of anything relating to the child and the education which is taking place. PrimarySite developed the concept of parent mail for this exact purpose with this new self-directed learning concept in mind.

Within school environments, the concepts of traditional schooling and home-based schooling will be united to, hopefully, develop the perfect learning environment. The environment will be substantially more relaxed to allow children to learn, as they want to and to reduce the immense pressure that is currently put on children to perform well and to learn specific areas regardless of interest levels and abilities.

Although the curriculum will remain specific, children will now be responsible for their own learning. The rate at which they learn, the involvement they wish to have and the enthusiasm in tasks will hopefully increase dramatically with the new system and children will not simply learn just to pass tests but will take a genuine interest in their education and the things they are being taught. Not only does this concept encourage self-motivation, it also encourages children to feel relaxed at school and even enjoy themselves whilst they learn.

“Children learn the most and do their best when allowed the freedom to take control, lead the way and explore as their confidence grows.”

The classroom environment will not become a free for all, with children dominating the room, running wild and taking self expression to the extreme. Instead it will be a room that is filled with participating children that have a desire to learn and will be proactive about their education. The main purpose of the change to the traditional teaching methods is to increase student engagement, provide a good education that children are keen to have which will eventually shape and mould the rest of their lives.

Lunchbox Fillers

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 02-09-2012

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As well as making sure your child has the right uniform and equipment for school, if you are providing a packed lunch, you want to make sure they have the right food to keep them going during the day. Healthy school meals is a long standing discussion, but with a packed lunch you know precisely what your child is getting. Here are a few things that I think would make a great addition.

My Pocket Buddy
Not a food or drink but an important lunch box addition all the same, the My Pocket Buddy alcohol-free hand sanitiser should find its way into every lunch box. The 8ml pen style spray makes it easy to slip into their lunch box – or pencil case or bag – to make sure their hands are clean before and after eating. The spray is made from pure and natural ingredients, so is chemical free and much kinder to skin than normal alcohol hand washes. The spray delivers just enough to wash their hands quickly and its leaves them feeling fresh and dry and ready for the rest of their day. We all know children aren’t the cleanest of creatures, so a My Pocket Buddy should be the first thing you pop in to their lunch box each day.

MU Cheddar Sticks
Made from 100% cheddar and with each stick being equivalent to a glass of milk a Mu Cheddar Stick is a handy and tasty way to get calcium into your children. Each stick is individually wrapped and suitable for vegetarians. You can also get Mu 100% Cheddar Patz which  are discs of cheese ideal for using in sandwiches or on homemade pizzas. These are a great way to get children involved in food preparation – I even managed to get Little Man to help me put a few patz on our pizza last week, and it tasted great. You can find the full Mu Cheese range on their website.

Happy Monkey Smoothies
If getting fruit into your child is becoming something of a battle smoothies might be the best option. These tasty smoothies from Happy Monkey are perfect for lunchboxes. Available in two delicious flavours – Strawberry & Banana and Orange & Mango – the smoothies contain one full portion of fruit and are made from 100% pure fruit. Best served cold straight from the fridge, they keep their cool out of the fridge for up to 12 hours making them a great addition to your child’s lunchbox. Little Man is a fruit-a-holic and getting fruit into him is never a problem, but we tried him out on these and he loved them. Anything with a straw is generally a winner with him, but he was a big fan of these and finished them in one before asking for “More?” pretty much straight away! Happy Monkey Smoothies are available from most supermarkets, and to find your nearest stockist check out their website, where you’ll also find a great range of games to keep your child entertained!

 

 

Product Review: Ryman Stationery

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Product Reviews | Posted on 31-08-2012

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Everyone needs stationery. Whether you’re heading to school, college or university and you need a veritable supply of pens, pencils and rulers, or you run your own business and you need accounts books and ledgers, or perhaps you have a penpal in a distant country and you need lots of writing paper and envelopes, or maybe you’re just an enthusiastic toddler who just can’t get enough crayons, stationery plays a part in most people’s lives. If you’re looking to top up your stationery collection, your first stop should always be Ryman.

Available on most high streets and with an extensive online store, Ryman is the most popular destination for office and stationery supplies. Whatever you could possibly need for your home office, or your enthusiastic toddler, can be found in your local store.

Little Man has been an avid user of crayons since he first picked one up and inadvertently drew a line on a piece of paper. He has since progressed to swirls and zigzags, and also drifted from paper to walls and carpets, but thankfully not too often! Whilst he doesn’t need much in the way of “Back To School” – not yet 2 so a few years off for us – he is always keen to receive shiny new crayons. All the ones he’s had so far have come free with a magazine – Something Special more often than not… – so it seemed time for him to get some brand new ones.

Navigating the Ryman website is so simple, and within a few minutes I’d filled my basket with quite an alarming array of crayons, colouring pencils, coloured pens and a brand new pencil case to keep them in. I know he’s too young for school, but its never too early to encourage him to be vaguely tidy, as futile as that sometimes is. So here’s my Little Man’s latest additions to his colouring fun:

I also found a great product for all you parents out there who are in the final stages of sorting out their children’s uniforms, kits and bags for school. Putting names into everything they take with them is essential but I know that I for one couldn’t face hand sewing labels into everything, and as tempted as I’d be to get my Mum to do it, I think this is a much kinder option to everyone concerned! The Sharpie Laundry Marker Pen is water proof and quick drying to avoid smudging and is permanent on most surfaces. This pen is ideal for school items, as well as labeling camping or sailing equipment.

Check out your local Ryman store this weekend for your last minute Back To School essentials or, for a much calmer experience, get online and take a look at their vast website.

Back To School…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review, Product Reviews | Posted on 28-08-2012

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Well that time is upon us all once again, where the mad dash to find essential supplies for our children before we send them back to school next week – unless you’re in Scotland of course where they are already out from under your feet! Now Little Man isn’t 2 yet so I have a few more years to psych myself up for this eternally stressful time, but I do have a few products here that might just appeal to you, and your young scholars!

Smencils
A new school year means a brand new pencil case loaded up with new pens, pencils, rulers and erasers. If you fancy treating your child to something a little more unusual this year – something special if its their first ever day at school – then I highly recommend a set of Smencils. Smencils are just what they sound like – smelly pencils. Made from recycled paper and scented for added fun, these pencils are a great idea. I really like the Fruit Shoot scented range, which is great for young children just starting school. I don’t think there are many children out there who don’t love Fruit Shoots, so a matching set of pencils will be a perfect addition to their very first pencil case.

Click here for a Facebook Competition to win a set. Closes Friday September 7th 2012.

Back To School Books
If your child is a bit nervous about venturing to school for the first time then there a couple of great books here that might just ease their worries. “Foxy” by Emma Dodd is about a little girl called Emily who is starting school the next day and is worried that she doesn’t have everything she needs. Her magical friend Foxy comes to her rescue with some very amusing results, and a brilliantly reassuring message for all children. “Come To School Too, Blue Kangaroo” by Emma Chichester Clark is the latest in the Blue Kangaroo series. Lily takes Blue Kangaroo to school with her and wants to help him through his first day, but his day goes on longer than planned when he is left behind. A great fun story for all Blue Kangaroo fans worried about starting at school.

Forget Me Not
If your child has something of a hectic schedule – school, clubs, sports teams, music lessons, etc – or the mad rush each morning means they often forget something important for school, investing in a Forget Me Not from Tidy Books might just save you a lot of stress. It comes with a large magnetic whiteboard for jotting down reminders or fastening letters from school or timetables on. Beneath that is a small shelf with a lip to put small items that need to be taken, such as lunch money or letters that can be posted on the walk to school. Finally you get a row of hooks which can hold school bags packed ready for the next day or sports kits for PE lessons. The Forget Me Not has a compact slimline design, but has plenty room to store all your school day essentials.

Guest Post: Five Things Your Child Doesn’t Need For School…

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Guest Post | Posted on 19-08-2012

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For any parent with school age children, you will undoubtedly have experienced that black day I have labelled ‘Operation Uniform’

It isn’t a fun day, but one filled with queuing, changing rooms, tears (mine) and more queuing.  Over the years my children have discovered that towards the end of the day I am so desperate to get out of the shops, I say yes to pretty much anything they wave in front of my face, as long as they tell me they need it for school.

For any parent likely to be in this situation over the next couple of weeks, I thought I would give you the benefit of my experience and the heads up on what they really DON’T need:

  1. Suitcase on wheels.  Their friends do not take their PE kits in these.
  2. Tinkerbell costume.  Not even for school trips.
  3. iPad.  Homework doesn’t need to be in a slide show format…yet.
  4. Basketball net.  Schools generally have their own.
  5. Cool box. A lunch box is fine.

My advice would be to do as much uniform shopping online as possible.  Check out the great deals and offers at Promo Codes first.

This article was written by Kathryn Thompson, a freelance writer and mum to three daughters aged 12, 10 and 5.  Kathryn once bought a leather Filofax for her eldest daughter in a last minute shopping panic, as she convinced her they needed to record all their homework in it.  Her daughter was in year one at the time.