October 31, 2014

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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Why All Parents Should Invest For Their Kids

Having children can be one of the most joyous occasions of a person’s life, but as soon as they are in the world that joy quickly turns to worry. Parents lose sleep at night trying to figure out how they are going to provide the best possible life and future for their children. There are so many things to pay for from schooling to healthcare and even weddings that a parent might wonder where the money is going to come from. The best way to ensure your child has everything you want them to have is by investing and saving some money. Here is why all parents should invest for their children.

 

Reasons to Invest

There are many reasons why you should invest some money for your children. The first is that you want to be able to send them to the best schools, from the time they are little kids, until they eventually go to university. Investing some money when they are young is the best way to ensure you have enough to cover all school related expenses.

 

Although it is tough to think about, there could be a time when you or your child suffers from a serious illness or is injured in an accident. If you are looking at paying high medical bills you will be glad that you invested money. If you should happen to pass away, your child can be taken care of with the money you have invested.

 

There are also happy reasons you might need a big influx of money. If your child gets married or wants to travel the world or you simply want to buy them a new car, then you will need some savings to fall back on. By investing some money now, you will be able to buy the things you want for your child in the future.

 

Types of Investments

There are many different types of investments out there, which means you will need to do some research to find out which will work best for your particular situation. It is best to invest in things that are not too risky, as you don’t want to end up losing your investments. Individual savings accounts and retirement accounts are great, low risk ways to invest for your child.

 

The Future Starts Now

If you are concerned about the future of your child, then you should speak to a financial advisor about the best ways to invest for their future.

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Smart Savings!

Whatever the politicians might say, the recession is far from over. According to the Office of National Statistics last month, the average UK household wealth is lower than it was 10 years ago. It doesn’t help that in the intervening years, living costs have increased, meaning already limited resources are spread much more thinly.

When faced with sobering statistics like these, you might feel frivolous for wanting the luxuries you used to take for granted. You can surely have a staycation this year, or leave updating your wardrobe until it’s actually necessary. Surely cosmetics and fragrances are mere fripperies you can do without?

This is operating under the assumption that treating yourself automatically costs big money.  If you know where to look, you’d be amazed at the savings you can make. Here are three of my favourite sites for making my money go further.

 

Bag A Bargain

Bag-A-Bargain is one of my best kept secrets. It has an extremely simple premise- if you love to keep abreast of fashion, why should you have to pay extortionate prices, or suffer from the guilt such splurging inspires? Drawing stock from high street brands like Gap, Dorothy Perkins, Marks and Spencers (and that’s only a few!), they sell them at greatly reduced prices, granting you as much as 75% off. If that isn’t enough cause for celebration, their quick turnaround and excellent service mean you keep going back again and again. While the majority of the savings are on clothing, they also offer brilliant deals on footwear, fragrances and accessories.

When Evans vanished from my local high street, I didn’t know what to do. No other chain did the clothes I liked in my size (size 20); I worried I’d have to keep driving to the next city in order to get anything decent. Not only does Bag-A-Bargain stock Evans’ latest, it has superb offers on plus size clothing, prices beginning at £8! Truly a godsend.

 

Your Discount Code

Finding food for your family can be a nightmare in the present climate. Thank goodness for Your Discount Code, a website that compiles all the up to date vouchers and sales in the country’s leading chains. Whether you’re seeking money off from your favourite supermarket or a stay at the Travelodge, they’re sure to have an offer that’s right up your street! To make the process even easier, they list the top discount vouchers, the best retailers and the most popular areas. It turns online shopping from a bewildering fog to a positive pleasure, allowing you and your family to have fantastic experiences for half the price!

If you’ve ever worried about the spiralling costs of school uniforms, Your Discount Code will put your mind at ease. When I had to buy three new uniforms for the kids (no picnic!), I was able to able to use Adams’ vouchers to knock pounds off the original price. I’ve never been so relieved!

 

Teletext Holidays

Did you assume Teletext had disappeared once digital TV arrived? I used to think the same- until I was browsing online for last minute holiday deals. Teletext Holidays is the most comprehensive site around, allowing you to go to hotspots for incredible prices!

For as long as I can remember my husband and I have had a quiet holiday in April, the kids going to their grandparents in Cornwall. Thanks to numerous domestic disasters, we were running shorter than usual.  I’d thought I’d have to settle for a caravan in the Lakes but no, with Teletext’s help I tidied up nicely, finding a romantic weekend in Barcelona at just £155 each! I know who I’m going to be using when I book the family holiday in August!

 

piggy bank

 

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After the Theft … How to Cope with the Aftermath of a Burglary

burgled houseBurglary. It’s not a pleasant word. Unfortunately in the present climate you’re going to hear it more and more often:  official figures state that a home is burgled every 2 minutes. Yet it’s common not to pay burglary much mind until it happens to you.

If you come home from work or holiday to find the front door kicked in and your belongings ransacked, it’s natural to feel vulnerable and upset. Reactions vary- while some are solely concerned with the stolen goods, others no longer feel safe in their homes, particularly children. Consider it from their perspective: children hate upset and change, and nothing can be more bewildering than the thought of strangers forcing their way into their home. They may feel as though nowhere is safe.

Let the feelings pass. They’re normal. Once you’ve come to terms with the shock, it’s time to be practical: how can you compensate for the loss? How can you ensure this doesn’t happen again?

The police will have allocated you a crime number. Keep hold of it- you’ll need it when you’re dealing with your insurance company. If you’ve had any credit cards taken, ring their emergency hotline and have them cancelled. Check your documents, too- if passports or driving licences have been stolen, you should report that immediately.

Now you’ve an idea of the full extent of the theft, make a list. Include everything you can remember about the items- when they were bought, the original price. Dig out receipts where you can. This might seem coldblooded in a time of great stress, but it’s only what the insurance company is likely to ask you. Indeed, before getting in touch with your insurance provider, it’s worth researching the subject to give them as little reason to reject your claim as possible. As Moneywise explains, even an honest mistake can lead to a claim being repudiated on grounds of “non disclosure.” You should give one copy of your list to your insurer and another to the police.

Once you’re sure of all your facts, contact your insurance. Make sure you know exactly what’s going on and ask plenty of questions: what’s the procedure for recovering your property, if any? Will they be working with the police? Will anybody be coming to verify the loss? Guarantee you have all the right forms and fill them out correctly- seek help if you find filling in forms difficult.

Keep records of every conversation you have: the name of the advisor, the date and time of the call, what you talked about. Although it’s often claimed that calls are being recorded for quality purposes, it’s relatively easy for them to slip through the net. Try not to get angry or flustered; while it may seem as though they’re being overly personal or insensitive, they’re just trying to do their job. It might be that you live in one of the UK’s burglary hotspots, as revealed by the Independent earlier this year. If you live at a vulnerable postcode (Leeds, Bradford, North Finchley), they may have been advised to proceed with caution.

While you can’t go back in time, you can make it extremely difficult for thieves to make a second attempt on your home. Read up on home security; don’t leave a single t uncrossed and i undotted. If your garden was previously easy to access, secure your gate and surround it with noisy, off putting gravel. Install an alarm system- preferably visible to act as a deterrent.  Going from past experience, an audible alarm is far more effective (and certainly less irritating!) than their motion sensitive equivalent. Employ the services of a company such as Locks Express, one of the most reliable locksmiths in the North West.  When a work colleague was burgled early last year, she was impressed by their attention to detail- not only did they secure all the locks around her house and replace the keys, they also replaced the doors and double glazing damaged by the break in.

It will take time to return to normal. Negotiations with the police and insurance company might seem like yet more trouble in a hectic world. Yet if it means your family and home are secure in the future, a little bit of inconvenience now is worth it.

 

caughtburglar

 

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Makeover Your Kid’s Room!

snatchthedogI’ve always been mystified by parents sending kids to their room if they’ve been naughty. “How is this a punishment?” I used to wonder as I taped another ratings topping edition of Radical Radio!, my pretend radio show. “All my stuff is here!”

It’s time we moved away from thinking of your kid’s room as ‘time out’ or simply somewhere to sleep and started thinking big. Where can they play? Where can they create? Where can you give them the tools to make this possible?

A good place to begin is by giving it an overhaul. This should happen in any case every few years- I was mortified whenever I had friends round and they saw my Snatch the Dog decor in all its twee glory. (Though possibly that’d be fetchingly retro now).  Seeing how expensive wallpaper, furniture et al can be, how can you do it without going bust? How can you avoid your kid turning around in two years’ time and saying, “Mum, I’ve gone off it!”

Never fear! Here are 4 fail proof tips to give your kid a rocking bedroom…

 

1)  Likes, not crazes!

Remember: the average kid is a fickle creature, swayed by whatever the cool kids at school do. It might seem a charming idea to adorn the walls with Pokemon (or whatever he’s into at the moment), but will he still be such a fanatic in a year’s time?

Consider your kid’s long term interests. Does she love ballet? Is he interested in space? What are their favourite colours?

It’s sometimes claimed that your personality is fixed by the age of seven. I know I’ve  haven’t changed dramatically twenty years later. So if your daughter wants to be the next Kylie now, chances are she’ll still be interested in singers and showbiz for the years to come.

 

2)  Funky furniture

Kids of all ages (that includes grown up ones!) love wacky furniture. Draught excluders that look like snakes, squashy bean bags, crazy rugs, clocks with faces. They’re also pragmatic- they’d rather have furniture that does something.

Never has this been truer than of shelves and cupboards. It’s not enough that it holds their toys, books and clothes- they’ve got to look interesting too. Holdalls that look like tepees, geometric shelves. Make sure it doesn’t date quickly so the kid can carry on using them.

Tescos is a terrific place to go for shelving solutions. Whether the pretty (the much loved Disney Princesses) or the witty (a box that looks like a skip), there’s something for every taste.

 

3)   Budget!

Shopping on a shoe string needn’t be a bore. Indeed, with creativity and verve, it can be fun. Do you have some cute fabric languishing in a drawer? Turn it into a blind! Do you have any old paints or wallpaper samples lying around the house? See what you can make out of them! Even the shabbiest old bits of furniture can be transformed with a bit of love: paint them a new colour, change the cushions etc.

Stencils are a superb technique of decorating a room without breaking the bank. Since few of us are Michelangelo, it’s also the easiest way to paint a pattern or beloved children’s character. And there’s nothing saying it’s limited to walls- give the aforementioned old furniture a new lease of life.

Henry Donovan Motif Designs is a brilliant resource for stencils for every kind of home decor; check it out!

 

4)   The Land of Counterpane

Saving the most important thing till last! Beds are vital- not only can you sleep in them, they generally serve the role of lounger, desk, desert island or whatever imaginary scenario your kids come up with. It stands to reason that as the most crucial piece of furniture it should be attractive as well as comfortable.

Bearing this in mind, it’s best to have a bed that will last and your kid won’t quickly outgrow. Just Sleep Beds, an outlet selling cheap beds in Liverpool, offers a fantastic range of kids’ beds- from the quirky (beds that look like race cars!) to the practical (sturdy bunk beds). Pair this with their cracking accessories and you’ll have a bedroom fit for a princess (or princess).

 

It goes to show: making over your kid’s room needn’t be daunting. With your little one aiding the process every step of the way, it can be enlightening and fun!

 

kidsroom

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Which Dog is Right For Your Family?

kidanddogA kid and a dog- the start of a beautiful partnership. Children’s fondness for our furry friends is probably best summarised by my niece, who once announced she’d watch any film as long as it “had dogs in.”

If you’re choosing a new pet for your family, it’s sometimes tempting to bow to peer pressure. Kids are intensely receptive, often going for a breed for no reason other than “I saw one on the telly” or “my friend Robyn’s got one.” Indeed our own criteria is often based on appearance rather than character.

Dogs aren’t just four legged accessories but part of the family. Since this relationship is likely to last for ten or more years, surely you want to guarantee it’s the perfect fit?

 

Choosing a Dog

Since it’s a family decision, you should all put in your tuppenceworth. Dog ownership isn’t just something you can pick up and put down but a full time commitment. Are you prepared to budget to buy the dog’s food every week? Can one of you go home at lunchtime and spend time with it? Are you willing to give it as many walks as it needs (generally three a day, but it depends on the breed?) Avoid drawing up a rota or anything that gives it the appearance of being a chore- you don’t want any members of the family to resent the new arrival, however subconsciously.

Now it’s time to move onto the specifics. Look around you. How big is your house- would you be able to take dogs over a certain size? A flowing, glossy coat might look stunning in commercials, but have you the time to give such a dog the grooming it needs? What about your family’s health- do any of your kids suffer from allergies? While there is still no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, some are much better in this respect than others.

Select.Smart  offers an incredibly detailed Dog Selection quiz, bringing up points you might not previously have considered. Would you want your pet to be an effective guard dog? If you’re house proud, could you really put up with one that sheds a lot of hair?

When I took the test, the results were chiefly terriers- no coincidence, since they’ve always been my favourite type of dog. My ideal dog would be lively, intelligent, enjoy walks but not be hyperactive, be sociable and not shed or slobber. If you’re looking for a family dog, you’d want to factor in compatibility with children and other pets as well.

 

Kids and Dogs

It’s natural for a kid to be excited by the new family member. Yet you have to remember that mannerisms which you find cute or funny in your kid might not be perceived as such by a dog. Even the smallest kid is larger than many dogs, and if the kid behaves in such a way to make the dog feel threatened, it may well provoke the dog’s temper. The earlier the kid’s made to see things from the dog’s perspective, the better.

Is your child a bit of a foghorn? Do they have a tendency to invade people’s personal space? Do they keep picking up your dog and hauling it around even though you’ve told it several times not to?

Quite recently I was sitting in the park, watching the world go by. A little boy was left to mind the family dog- he couldn’t have been more than four. I have rarely felt so angry- first that a small child was given a much older one’s responsibility, then at the way the kid was treating the dog. He wouldn’t stop poking it and at one point even tried to sit upon it (the dog being a Jack Russell). I’ve never wanted to intervene so badly, but knew I’d only be told to mind my own business.

For further advice, read this blog by Dr Sophia Yin, an animal behaviour specialist.

 

Training

Dogs aren’t saints and it’s wrong to expect them to be. Even the most placid can occasionally have outbreaks of naughtiness- my friend’s elderly boxer regarded anything in a bag as ‘his’, and decorate the room with it (most memorably a sack of potatoes).

If you want your new pet to rub along comfortable with the rest of the family, dog training is a must. Not only will it cure it of such undesirable tendencies as jumping up and doing its own thing out on a walk, it’ll help curb its aggressive tendencies. Ideally you should begin as soon as possible; organisations such as Clever Dog Company offer excellent puppy training classes in a relaxed environment, encouraging the dog and owner to have fun and bond as they learn.

My friend’s dog Oscar was an infuriating little pest when she first bought him. Noisy, wilful and a real attention hog- he hated it if you paid any attention to Lady, the dignified older dog. Having gone through an intensive program, he’s still an extrovert, but an endearing one. It’s nonsense to suppose that curing them of “naughtiness” will rob them of character.

 

family-dog-m

 

 

 

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Chasing Your Dreams? That’s Not Mummery!

chasingMy other half had an epiphany the other day.

Before people think this is one of those “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum” anecdotes, hear me out. She and some likeminded friends want to start an all female Shakespeare company. She was invited to an actress’s workshop, where the same themes kept coming up. The women felt they had to choose between being a mum and being an actress; that there was no possibility of being both.

Then something wonderful happened. Maggie Fox, one half of award winning comedy duo Lipservice, said that being a mum shouldn’t be an impediment to following your dreams- indeed, she and Sue (her comedy partner) had deliberately planned their job around their families. Since the girls have been performing since 1985, she knows what she’s talking about.

So if you’re a mum who’s looking for a new job and going nowhere fast, or one who’s struggling to juggle the one she has with her home commitments, use Maggie as inspiration …

 

Start a business!

It’s official: it’s never been easier to start your own business. Think about it. In which other circumstances would you be able to work from home, plan your schedule, spend an entire weekend with your kids?

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Work on your business plan. What are you selling? Who is your intended market? Will you be able to get funding?

Go to all the workshops you possibly can. Where possible, study for a business qualification through the OU or Learn Direct. Research the business themed websites and magazines. If by this time you have a strong idea you’re confident other people will buy into, go for it!

Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by legalese. Businesses such as Formations Direct offer company registration services for extremely reasonable prices. Their basic package guarantees the same or next day formation, grants full trading ability, gives you after sales support as well as a free guide to running a business … A terrific deal, I think you’ll agree!

 

Publish an e-book!

The literary establishment may sneer but they’re in the minority. The meteoric rise of the e-book has led to previously unknown authors becoming household names.

Before you pull that dusty old manuscript out of a drawer, there are a few things to consider. Yes, you might possibly be sitting on an overnight success, but you’re far likelier to earn around £40-50 a month.  And just because it’s self published doesn’t mean you can eschew niceties such as spelling, punctuation and (whisper) a plot. Get second, third, even fourth opinions. If you bung it straight on without any input, the one and two star reviews will come as a painful shock.

Since e-publishing is still very much uncharted waters, do thorough research. Which company do you want to publish with? Do you want to publish it as a print book in the future? Where can you get a decent quality free review?

For further details, read this TechHive blog.

Start a blog!

It might sound crazy, but starting your own blog is the perfect marriage of the aspirations already discussed. If you haven’t the patience or capital to start a business, can’t write a novel but have plenty to say, you might have found your vocation!

The great thing about the Net is its democracy. You don’t have to be a celebrity for people to take an interest in you. All it requires is passion and industry. Take Julie Powell, an ordinary American stuck in a job she loathed. She’d always loved the TV chef Julia Child, so- in a flash of inspiration- decided to cook every one of the 524 recipes in Child’s cookbookMastering the Art of French Cooking.

How do we know about this? Julie kept a blog charting the ups and downs of her quest. It became an Internet sensation – and then a film, Julie and Julia. While I’m not suggesting your blog will be made into a film starring Meryl Streep, consider the possibilities!

If you want a few ideas for writing a fantastic, readable blog, try this article on About.com.

chasing1

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Why Every Mum Needs a Good Bag

marypoppinsandherbagIt’s tough work being a mum. You’re expected to be a nurturer, a teacher and a best friend all rolled into one, as well as have eyes in the back of your head. Planning what should be a straightforward day out can become a military operation. It doesn’t help that whatever you might need at any given moment turns out to be exactly the thing you can’t lay hands upon.

Remember Mary Poppins’ magic bag? While modern technology hasn’t come up with one yet- sadly- you can create your own version, or near enough.

Here’s what every self respecting mum should keep in her bag at all times. Whether you were a Girl Guide or not, it always helps to be prepared!

 

(1)    A mini first aid kit

We all know what kids are like. They will climb that tree, or touch that sharp object, and end up hurting themselves. So how can you prepare yourself for such an eventuality without lugging a ton of medical supplies around?

Here’s a workable solution!  This mini first aid kit from Gap Year Travel Store can fit inside most handbags. It contains two sterile pads, eight plasters, a bandage and cotton buds.  You’ll never have to make a mad rush for the chemist again!

 

(2)    A camera

Although phones might have replaced a camera for many of us, there’s no denying that if you want to immortalise a precious memory, a camera is far superior. Taking continual photos is a great record of all the times you’ve shared- and believe me, most kids love putting photos in the album once they’ve been developed.

 

(3)    Travel Games Compendium

If you’ve had to make long, dull car journeys, chances are you’re well acquainted with the phrases “Are we nearly there yet?” or “Mum, I’m bored!

Want to stop any such complaints for once and for all? Then why not invest in a travel games kit? If your kids have particular favourites- Travel Scrabble, Pass the Pigs- you can take those along. A particular find is this 6 in 1 travelling games compendium, available on Amazon.

 

(4)    Make up compact

Just because you’re a mum doesn’t mean that your personal appearance has to go hang! A small compact with blusher, eye shadow and lip gloss will work wonders.

 

(5)    Guide books

Whether you’re home or away, it’s always handy to know what’s around the corner, whether it’s a family attraction, somewhere that does cheap but tasty meals, or- especially in the case of younger children- toilets. Your older children might find it fun to help you plan the itinerary beforehand. They can certainly help read the map while you drive.

 

(6)    A book!

Part and parcel of being a mum is a lot of waiting around, particularly when you’re picking the kids up. In these circumstances a good light read won’t go amiss.

 

You might be forgiven for thinking all this kit requires a colossus of a bag. When my friend Vicky put together her Wonder Bag (she has three kids), she turned to Sabarini, who offer a range of attractive leather tote bags. Sophisticated yet sturdy, they’ve been ideal for her needs- and you’d never guess at the arsenal within!

My-Mary-Poppins-Bag

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