September 19, 2014

Easy Ways to Create a Play Park in Your Garden

PLayhouse and SlideAs any parent will know, providing fun activities to entertain children can be a difficult thing when faced with time constraints of a modern lifestyle. As such, many children simply end up sitting in front of the television of computer for hours on end when they should really doing something much more fun outdoors that will involve physical activity.

So what can be done about this? Well, there is a number of solutions available ranging from enrolling them into sports clubs and after school activities through to encouraging them to go a ride their bikes however these will no doubt take up more of your time as you will either end up supervising due to living on a busy road or end up like a taxi service shuttling the about from place to place.

However, what if there was a solution that was available that would keep children of all ages entertained within the bounds and safety of your garden all at an affordable price. Would this sound appealing? If so be sure to read on.

What Options are Available?

When it comes to making outdoor activities fun, nothing does so better than the addition of a climbing frame, garden swing or activity set.  Think about it. Have you ever seen a sad child on a swing?

What Kind of Activities do they Offer?

Depending upon the design of a particular play structure they will all offer various benefits. As such we have detailed below some of the more popular designs and the reasons they are so popular.

Wooden Playhouses – Perfect for small children and toddlers, the addition of a wooden playhouse to your garden will provide an enchanting play space that will encourage your child`s imagination to flourish. In addition to this, as the child manoeuvres their way around the inside, they will be able to refine their motor skills and balance. Available in a range of sizes and designs, some playhouse even feature a tower design which will encourage the child to climb up thus providing a challenge for them that should they achieve it will build confidence.

However, more so than any of the above factors, the addition of a children`s playhouse will make your child happy and as a parent that is no doubt your number one priority

Wooden Play Towers – Designed for slightly older children who already have plenty of confidence, the addition of a wooden play tower will provide hours of fun for kids as they make up imaginative scenarios such as a fort for army games or similar.

Activity Centres – Where space permits the addition of this for of outdoor entertainment structure is the ultimate purchase. Featuring a number of elements such as swings, slide, climbing frame and rope nets, the energy required to make the most of each section will no doubt get your child`s heart raised which will in turn lead to them burning off calories making them healthier in the long run. In addition to this, as with the above mentioned solutions, an activity centre will help refine confidence, motor skills and concentration all without your child even realising it.

What if Garden Space is Limited?

Regardless of the size of garden you have available to erect a play structure there will always be a suitable solution available at an affordable price.  If space is limited opt for something that features a minimal base size but offers plenty of height such as a tower playhouse.

Where can i Purchase Such Items?

If having read the above information you now feel it would be beneficial to you as a parent to purchase a play structure they can be found in a wide range of outlets including major toy stores, second hand markets or for the fastest and easiest solution can be found online through specialist retailers who offer a great selection of products with delivery direct to your door. In fact with most models and designs being supplied in a self build kit that requires no specialist skills to erect, they are fast becoming the latest must have addition to any household that has children living in it.

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Childproof Your Gadgets

Many modern parents use gadgets to keep their children occupied; whether it is with a tablet, laptop or smartphone. Unfortunately children do not really understand how much these items cost, which is why as a parent you need to take steps to ensure that it is child proof before you let your children play with on the gadget. This isn’t just to protect the item itself, you can ensure that your child does not have access to any inappropriate content found on the internet. So if you want to ensure that your gadget lasts longer than a month, follow these steps to ensure that it is sufficiently child-proofed.

My dad's got it all figured out!

  1. Screen Protectors

We all know that kids have sticky fingers, so the first step to ensure that your phone or tablet is well protected is to apply screen protectors. If you have a new product it will more than likely arrive with one included, however it is always advisable to have a large stash of them available as they will provide protection from scratches, food and droplets of water. Ensure that you get stocked up in time for Christmas by heading to screenprotectors.co.uk.

  1. Turn Off Buying Options

The biggest mistake made by parents who hand over their gadgets to their kids is they leave the option to buy turned on. Children will take the opportunity to buy a new game, and they may not even realise that they are doing it! Always ensure that you turn off 1 click purchasing on www.amazon.co.uk, or you could end up ordering products that you don’t even want and a massive bill. Wherever you shop online ensure that you sign out of your account after each purchase.

  1. Get it Insured

So many people choose not to purchase insurance these days however this is a fatal error especially if you have children. Usually a basic product warranty will not cover accidental damage and this is something that you need when children use electronics. You can find fantastic insurance deals at www.gadgetguardian.co.uk that include accidental damage. If there’s one thing that will save you money in the long run it is purchasing insurance.

  1. Helpful Apps

There are apps that can help to protect your child from accessing inappropriate content.  An app called Kytephone allows you to check the online activity of children, check it out by heading to www.kytephone.com. You can even set up timers on games so you can limit the time they actually spend using your gadget.

Ensure that you protect your children whilst also protecting your gadget. Smartphones and tablets really are fantastic devices that can encourage learning and fun, so just make sure that you follow these steps and then your gadget could last a lifetime, well, at least for a few years!

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Get Crafty!

It’s that point in the holidays that every mother dreads. For the past few weeks your daughter has enjoyed her newfound freedom, coming up with ways of filling up the days (how do they manage it?) Just when you thought the moment would never come, here it is:

“Mum, I’m bored!”

Fortunately we’re here to the rescue. Here are three of the best ‘crafty’ hobbies to keep the kids occupied. They have the following in common: they’re fun, they’re cheap, they involve a good deal of quiet and they’re incredibly moreish- in other words, they’re perfect!

Knitting

Knitting is one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. Whether your daughter’s a total beginner or she hasn’t done it since middle school, it’s extremely easy to pick up.

If you want to start with the basics, you’re probably best off buying a knitting doll (they should be available at any good knitting shop). This will get her used to the motions and teach her the patience it requires; it’ll give her the confidence to start making small items, such as a funny snake or a crazy quilt. Once the knitting bug has taken hold, she’ll be itching to graduate from the dolly to proper knitting needles.

Do your research. When she buys her first set of wool and needles, it’s important that they go well together- and that they’re not beyond her level of ability. Bamboo and wooden needles are a terrific choice for beginners: not only are they lighter and less slippery than metal needles, they require less hand tension to keep them in place. In time she’ll soon be picking her own choice of needles, wools and patterns. Online shops such as Woolwarehouse offer knitting accessories at affordable prices.

Jewellery making

Jewellery making is an excellent hobby- not only is it absorbing and fun, it leaves you with a gorgeous, unique piece you can wear yourself, sell or give as a gift. It’ll save your daughter from having to spend money on accessories- indeed, why bother when she can make something as attractive herself?

Like any new interest, it’s worth reading up on it, and seeing if there are any classes that your daughter can attend. She shouldn’t try anything too ambitious; making beaded necklaces or bracelets are a good place to start, due to the low cost of the materials and their availability. There are thousands of sites and videos online advising on the best techniques.

With the simple elements of wire, beads and clasps, she can make an ever growing variety of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. It’s no accident that many jewellery makers who start out as hobbyists go on to do it for a living! Websites such as JillyBeads can start her off with a ready supply of funky wooden beads or even a dabble in real and affordable Swarovski crystals!

Origami

The ancient Japanese art of origami allows you to create fantastic designs from little more than slips of paper- which goes some way to explaining the craft’s popularity. Once you’ve mastered origami, it can be adapted for all occasions: to keep yourself amused, to give as presents, to make artistic decorations for special events. Requiring only paper and glue, it must be one of the most cost effective but absorbing hobbies out there.

The easiest and most popular designs include roses (a bouquet can look stunning), swans, butterflies, dragons and a frog (this can be made to ‘hop’!) Once your daughter’s picked it up, she’ll be able to turn her hand to decorations like snowflakes (a unique Christmas decoration), pinwheels and paper lantern. It’s not solely decorative, either: you can make boxes, photo frames and sweet holders using origami.

Although you can make origami using ordinary craft paper, it can’t be denied that you get the best results using authentic papers designed especially for the purpose. Sites such as Origami UK sell beautiful Japanese papers that allow you to make origami dolls and other classic designs.

We assure you that once your daughter discovers these hobbies, she’ll never complain that she’s bored again. Indeed, they could potentially open up a whole new world of opportunity for her.

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Schools Out…Soon: Help for Parents

kidpaintThe summer is upon is, the sun is starting to make its’ presence felt and the school holidays are just a few short weeks away. For the kids, this is the source of joy and excitement but for parents, the challenge of working out what to do with them for six weeks can be really stressful. There are a lot of options though, start planning now and you should be set for summer. Here are a few suggestions of things you can do with your children during the long summer break – mix them up and avoid the familiar ‘I’m booooored’ week three whine.

1. Drop-off classes / Activities: The school holiday is the perfect opportunity to give your child time to explore their interests. Take a look at what’s going on in your area and you’ll soon find there are a lot of workshops and classes they can take part in. Whether it is ballet, break-dance, pottery or Portuguese that they’ve shown an interest in, there’s probably somewhere nearby they can go to learn more about it. In a big city like Manchester, Gumtree (www.gumtree.com/manchester) is a great resource for learning about classes and activities.

2. Baby-sitting co-op: Most parents will end up taking leave from work during the school holidays but few could manage to take holidays for the whole time. Rather than struggling alone or as a couple, try getting together with other local parents to see if you can run a childcare co-operative. If everyone agrees to take a few days or a week of holiday, then you can look after one another’s children in this time. When you have a few children to take care of at once, you’re going to want to plan some activities to keep them occupied: try soft play areas like Snakes & Slides (www.snakesandslides.co.uk) where the children can play together and amuse themselves while you relax and watch them from a distance. Bike rides, foraging days and craft projects are also great ideas. For a treat, why not give them a midday sleepover too? Snacks and their favourite films and a den set up in the living room made out of blankets and duvets: they’ll love it.

3. Childminder: You can also hire a childminder for the holidays. There are childcare centres where your child can go and socialise with others or you can hire an individual to look after your child personally. It’s a great idea to speak to your local college and look at notice boards there: there will be a lot of childcare students keen to get more experience and earn some money during their study break. Their fees might also be less than fully qualified professionals.

4. Summer camp: There are so many types of summer camps: from adventure days to residential projects. It is well worth seeing which of them appeals to your child. It’s a great way for them to gain some independence and develop their practical and social skills. Camp Beaumont (www.campbeaumont.co.uk/our-camps/colomendy-valley) has a location in North Wales with camps to suit everyone: Glee camps, extreme adrenalin, pamper parties, survival zone: they’ve got them all covered.

5. Work from home: If you are struggling to find childcare solutions for the entire school break, why not try spealing to your employer to see if they can be flexible with your working practices? Could you work from home for a few days a week? If your child is a little bit older, this might work out perfectly as they will need less supervision and you’ll be able to work efficiently. For younger children, a babysitter might still be necessary to give you enough time to work, but if you’re in the house, maybe you have a niece or teenage neighbour who’d love the chance to earn some pocket money and play with your little one?

Keeping the kids occupied during the long break can be quite a headache for a lot of parents. Plan ahead, get together with other people in a similar position and see what you can work out together. This way, both you and your children can get on with the much more important business of enjoying the summer!

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Give Your Child a Swash Buckling Birthday to Remember!

Avast me hearties! I’m here to tell you about the amazing benefits of throwing a themed party for your child’s birthday – and not just any themed party. Forget princesses, Spiderman or dinosaurs; pirate is the way to go, and I’m going to explain how you can throw the best pirate-themed party that will have your child and all of their friends swash-buckling for weeks afterwards!

The brilliant thing about the pirate theme is that it’s accessible to both boys and girls. There’s no pink-and-blue division here – everyone can come dressed equal and enjoy the same games, characters and decorations. Tell gender to walk the plank and have a non-prejudiced party for your son or daughter!

So what do you need to do to achieve the perfect pirate party?

Decorate: You basically need to transform your house into a pirate ship – no big deal, right? It’s easier than it sounds! Make a few skull and crossbones out of painted cardboard to hang above the front door so parents find the right house (click here to find out how to make one!) while finding a Jolly Rodger to hang in the hall! A treasure chest can easily be created out of a picnic basket or sewing box, and by wrapping a few of your child’s building blocks in gold and silver paper, you can create bars of gold and silver. A few plastic jewels dotted around the place and swash buckles will all help to create the right effect.

Games: At some point after the children have all arrived, compared costumes, and got their temper tantrums out of the way, it’s time to play some pirate themed games. Obviously a treasure hunt always goes down a treat. Create a treasure map out of a sheet of A4 paper – by staining it brown with a teabag and making jagged cuts along the edges, you can create an old look. Give the kids clues to lead them around the house and ‘bury’ some treasure for them to find – and we all know a child’s greatest treasure is chocolatey treats! You could also play games to decide who talks the best pirate language – this website’s great if you want to brush up on your arrrghhh’s: www.piratetreasurenow.com/pirate-phrases.htm

Food: Speaking of edible treats, you need to think about what food you’re going to supply. Obviously pirates weren’t known for their culinary finesse so you’re going to have to improvise on this – rename a lot of ordinary food to become pirate food – chicken drumsticks can be seagulls’ legs, while Scotch eggs can be barnacles – that kind of thing. You can also opt for a few different pirate-themed food accessories to hype up the pirate theme – companies like Party Care supply candles, cupcake holders and cake trays all bearing pirate faces and patterns. Check out their website: www.partycare.co.uk/birthday-cake-decorations.html

Once you have these three things sorted, the only thing left to do is to find the right costume for you and your child. You could do the home-made version – a belted t-shirt with cut-off pyjama bottoms. Or you and your partner could go the whole hog and order fancy dress, which let’s face it is more impressive. Websites like Bryony Theatrical have a wide range of pirate fancy-dress, from Captain Hook to Jack Sparrow: www.bryonytheatrical.co.uk. Once you’re costumed and everything’s in place, there’s only one thing to do – hoist the flag!

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Top Tips to Tire Out the Tots

angelicIf you’re a parent or often find yourself in-charge of nieces, nephews, god children or grand-kids you’ll know that the joy of watching their first steps is soon the exhaustion of trying to stop the little things from going that one step too far. Then, the daily task of finding ways to tire kids out can prove more tiring for you than for them.

Here’s a few top tips to tire out the tots, or at least keep them occupied so they don’t tire you out:

1, In the Home –

I’ve heard it a hundred times: you can’t get anything done with the kids about. This doesn’t have to be the case.

 

Young tots (under four years old)

Involving the children in household tasks can actually save time…and tantrums. Thus, if you need to hover, involve younger children. One idea as to how is to invest in a bag of ‘ball pool balls’. Spill the balls about the room or area you’re hovering, the balls are too big to hover up, child safe, big enough to find easily (hence, mess free), and fun, colourful things to hunt for. Ask your tot to help you by finding them all and putting them back in their bag. For each ball your tot puts back give a simple ‘yay! Well done!’ or clap if your tot looks to your for a reaction.

Older kids (four plus)

Older children may raise an eyebrow instead of a smiledrawing at the thought of collecting ball pool balls. Instead, speak to them on their level. They’re children, not aliens; explain what you need to do and why.

If they are not happy to play alone for any length of time, what I used to fall back on was something like, ‘I need to hoover. I hate hoovering, as you know. So please would you take your crayons / building blocks and make me something and when I’ve finished you can cheer me up?’

Children old enough to not fall for this tip, in my books, are old enough to get washing up. Mention that to them. Most kids, in my experience prefer drawing to cleaning!

Alternatively, for more ‘at home’ activity ideas, try the Stay at Home Mom Survival Guide.

child-in-the-rain-edit2. Days Out –

If you live in England then taking the kids out, even in summer, can mean bringing them back drenched, windswept, frost bitten and often covered in mud, rain or goose bumps. Consequently, when I cared for my friend’s children, I regularly took them to in-door play groups and play sessions.

Nowadays, soft play centres, such as Snakes and Slides which is a play centre in Bury, have conveniently popped up in most towns. Unlike the old (and often cold), make-shift church halls, soft play centres provide children with somewhere (indoors) where they can run, jump, rolly-polly and otherwise whizz and hop about without being told to mind that lamp , calm down or that the dog isn’t a climbing frame.

What’s more, while the kids are racing about and interacting with other kids, us oldies can grab a coffee in comfort and warmth. The space and facilities most play centres offer too, being relatively modern, are often first-rate. Without meaning to sound like a grumpy oldie, this means thSoft Play Web imageat I can sit and enjoy watching the kids play and explore uninterrupted. While I’m not averse to a good old chat with other parents and the likes, sometimes it’s just lovely to watch the kids hop and pop about, knowing they’re warm, safe and not going to break my favourite vase!

 

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