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It may be Spring, but that doesn’t always mean warm sunshine and dry land when you live in the UK! But why let that stop you? Recent studies have proven that children need at least 15 minutes of outdoor play every single day, and let’s face it- they don’t tend to mind a spot of rain, do they? So if you’re looking for excuses, look elsewhere. These tips for outdoor play have been designed to inspire you to get those wellies on and get out and play!

Tips for outdoor play~ Cuddledry.com

Why outdoor play is so important

Being outdoors has so many benefits for children (and adults too!) and these are just a few of them:

  • Vitamin D. Being outside boosts the intake of the vitamin we need to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. For growing children getting enough is essential!
  • Gross motor skills. Children need to learn how to run, jump, climb, kick balls and pedal pedals. Being outdoors promotes gross motor skills and gives children wide open spaces to exert themselves.
  • Fitness. Give a child an open space and that child will run! Being outdoors promotes a healthier lifestyle for our children and boosts fitness levels too.
  • Knowledge of the world around us. Being outdoors is a wonderful learning experience for children, and an opportunity for them to use their senses to explore. Just being in green spaces boosts a child’s knowledge, but also being able to investigate new surroundings has huge impacts on learning too.

So now that you know how important being outdoors is, here are some tips to getting out there and playing!

  • Make sure you have appropriate clothing. The UK is not known for it’s warm weather all year round, and we do tend to get a lot of rain too. So make sure you have thick waterproofs and welly boots to hand at all times. As they say- there is no such thing as poor weather, just poor clothing!
  • Make outdoor play a natural part of playtime. Don’t make a big deal out of going out to play- it doesn’t need to be planned, or something to ‘get over and done with’. As soon as you view being outdoors as part of everyday life, the easier it will become.
  • Indulge in your child’s interests. If they love creepy crawlies, go on a bug hunt. If climbing is their thing, find a good, solid tree and see how they go. Take a picnic to the park, and bring teddies to make it extra special.
  • Take the paints outside. Outdoor art is a wonderful way to get kids creative and you won’t even notice you’re outsideTips for outdoor play- take the paints outside~ Cuddledry.comonce you get going! Another plus is that the house stays clean too…
  • Clean the car. A simple, yet wonderful sensory experience for children. And you get a clean car in the process. Result!
  • Go for a walk. Take bikes, prams, scooters or just little legs. Where you go doesn’t really matter- take a letter to pop in the post box? Buy a comic from the newsagent?- but once you’re walking and breathing fresh air the world is your oyster!
  • Take an empty bag with you. Sounds strange, but you’ll notice that children like to collect things when they’re out and about. Let them find brightly coloured leaves, oddly shaped stones and smooth, round rocks. Let them collect their treasures!
  • Run. Yes, you too. Get outside, get the endorphins flowing. Take a ball, or a skipping rope, or just run. Get the heart pumping and enjoy being outdoors!

The best thing about being outdoors in cold or rainy weather can sometimes be coming back inside again. Make sure you have some warm milk or hot chocolate to hand, and wrap cold children in a snuggly Cuddledry to warm up… until the next outdoor adventure!

Bath time doesn’t always have to be at the end of the day. Of course, a bath is an integral part of most bedtime routines for many families, but sometimes it can be fun to make a splash at other times too! Water play is a wonderful sensory experience for babies and toddlers and if the weather is not permitting, why not bring it inside? The bathroom is the ideal place and so we’ve put together some tips and ideas for making bath time fun!

Make bath time fun~ cuddledry.com

  • Create a colour themed bath. This can be as simple or as extravagant as you like. Colours are a great way to add a fun element to bath time, and all you need is to collect toys of the same colour, add a few drops of food colouring to the bath and you’re set!
  • Make the water glow! Submersible lights are a wonderful way to transform any bath tub. You can buy various types quite cheaply and the colour changing versions make for a rather magical experience. If you can, close the blinds and turn out the lights too so that your little one can enjoy the experience to its full potential.
  • Cook up a storm! Kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons, colanders and whisks don’t need to be restricted to the kitchen. Encourage imaginative play and introduce them to bath time instead. Perhaps your little one will create a bubbly feast for a king?  Or a magical potion for fairies? The possibilities are endless.
  • Give dolly a bath. Children love to role play and bath time is a great opportunity for you to encourage self care. If you have a baby doll that can go in the bath, bring her in and let your little one take turns to wash her hair and body.
  • Let them paint! If paintbrushes and all the paraphernelia that goes with it sends shivers down your spine, why not bring it into the bath instead? You can buy specific bath crayons and paints, or you can bring small pots of washable paint into the bathroom instead- it depends how brave you are! The best thing about this activity is that your little one gets to express himself, and you get to hose him down afterwards!
  • Play sink or float. Let your little one help you to find waterproof objects and take turns to guess which ones will sink and which will float.
  • Make paper boats- and sail them. Simple fun!
  • Add some ice! Add a few drops of food colouring to the water before you freeze it, then pop them into the bath for theMake bath time fun~ cuddledry.comlittle ones to chase! Once melted, the water will change colour- and you can have a chat about why the ice melted too.

All of the above can be done during the usual bath time if you prefer, but if you know that your little one needs extra wind downtime after activities like this, then you might want to choose a different time instead. As always, make sure you supervise little ones at all times, and don’t forget to wrap them up warm in their Cuddledry towels afterwards!

What are your little one’s favourite bath time activities?

OK, it’s time to ‘fess up.

Have you ever dressed up your baby as a bunny? Ever squeezed them into an adorable monkey suit or drawn whiskers on them with a Sharpie while they slept?*

As parents, we seem to have a growing obsession with dressing up our kids as animals. Chubby babies and toddlers are adorable enough at the best of times but add in costumes, face paints and funny ears and it’s all just too darn cute.

Retailers have seized upon this fetish of course and it’s possible to get just about any animal theme that takes your fancy. For less than $40 you can even dress your baby as a lobster, courtesy of Annie’s Costumes.

Feeling the chill this winter? Never fear – animal hats are here! You can keep your toddler’s head toasty and make them look like a bear, all at the same time.

We are not in a position to judge of course – we are all about the animals with our toddler towels. Our Cuddlemoos come complete with tiny cow horns and our Snuggle Monkey even has a tail. It doesn’t get much cuter than a toddler with a tail.

But what is it about tiny people dressed as animals that sends our hearts and tummies all a flutter? We wouldn’t actually want a live monkey wreaking havoc in the bathroom, drinking the organic body wash and drawing on the tiles with toothpaste, so why is it so cute to play dress-up with our little ones?

On the flip side of course, there are lots of people who like dressing up their animals as people. There is nothing quite as adorable as a guinea pig in a hat.

*That one might just be me.

By Jo Middleton aka Slummy single mummy

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Apart from a nice warm bath and a cuddle in a Cuddledry towel, getting your little ones to clean their teeth is an important part of the bedtime routine. It isn’t always easy though, which is why we’ve asked Aquafresh to help us out with some top tips. They came up with 20! Blimey. Now, you’ve got no excuse.

For more information, or to sign up to The Aquafresh Club for a free sample of Aquafresh Fresh & Minty, you can visit http://www.aquafreshclub.co.uk

Top 20 tips on how to make brush time less stressful:

1. Get a 2 minute egg timer – you can get these at the dentist – so your kids know how long to brush for!

2. Let kids pick their own toothbrush – they will get really excited when it comes to brushing their teeth with the toothbrush they have picked!

3. Get your kids a (robust) mirror – they can make silly faces in it and watch themselves brushing

4. Play their favourite song while they brush to the beat – as most songs last two – three minutes it’s the perfect length

5. Brush your teeth at the same time – kids love to copy mum and dad!

6. Get an older family member to surprise your kids with their false teeth and a story about how theirs fell out – always a good incentive to get kids brushing!

7. If you have more than one child, turn brush time into a competition – the one who brushes the best gets to pick the bedtime story! Don’t forget to alternate the ‘winner’ though!

8. Tell your kids that the Tooth Fairy pays out less for decayed teeth – this will get them brushing better!

9. If you have an older child, get them to teach their younger sibling how to brush – this makes it fun and also reinforces good brushing tips for the elder one.

10. Let your child brush their favourite toy’s teeth – they will soon pick up how to do their own!

11. Sing “Brush, brush, brush your teeth, gently to and fro, up, down, side to side, teeth so clean they glow” to the tune of “Row row row your boat” – it’s a great brushing rhythm!

12. Give your kids a gentle scare by showing them pictures of people with bad teeth – or even your own – so that they know why they need to brush!

13. Make three animal faces for brushing: tiger teeth (together), hippo mouth (mouth open) and snake tongue (to brush tongue). It makes it more fun and gets their teeth in the right position.

14. With older kids, establish the link between bad brushing and bad breath – they will soon cotton on to this!

15. Get your kids to brush with disclosing tablets once a week – they will love the surprising effect and it can become a challenge to see who can get their teeth white the quickest!

16. Play ‘dentist’ with your kids – put them in a chair, inspect their teeth while they brush and provide a running commentary while they are doing so!

17. Reward charts with stickers work very well – once they have reached a certain number they can get a treat which is a great incentive!

18. Let your child ‘brush’ your teeth too – they are more likely to let you brush theirs if you can take it in turns!

19. Give your kids 1p in a piggy bank every time they brush properly – 2p per day adds up to £7.30 a year!

20. Let your kids be independent! You will need to brush their teeth at the end but letting them do it first makes them feel very grown up and it’s good practice!

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This Father’s Day, forget the novelty golf ball cufflinks, and give that special man in your life a gift guaranteed to make being a new Dad that little bit easier. And no, it’s not an au pair… On June 17 this year give the gift of stress free baby bath times with an award-winning Cuddledry baby apron towel – the ultimate combination of luxury and innovation.

The original Cuddledry apron towel, which is the proud owner of multiple awards for it’s quality and design, including the FQ Magazine Top Gear Award, was actually inspired by Dads. We were watching our partners bath our babies, over a glass of wine of course, and as we watched them struggle to simultaneously hold a small towel and slippery baby, decided there had to be a simpler solution.

So we created one!

"Father's Day"

The Cuddledry towel is a double layer of silky soft pure cotton and bamboo fibre, which you wear around your neck like an apron, leaving both hands free for safely bathing and lifting your baby. The bamboo fibre makes the Cuddledry extra absorbent, and gives it a softness that lasts wash after wash, even without fabric softener. The bamboo also gives the Cuddledry towel long lasting natural anti-bacterial properties, meaning extra peace of mind for parents.

If you’re worried that pink and baby blue gingham might not appeal to the man in your life, fear not. We have lined up an extra special limited edition apron towel with dads in mind – a pure white towel with a subtle beige linen edge that’s the perfect compliment to any nursery colour scheme.

TV presenter Ben Fogle is one Dad who appreciates the help of a Cuddledry at baby bath time. Ben is well known for embarking on all kinds of crazy adventures, but parenting requires a whole new set of survival skills. When he’s not navigating the Arctic Circle his wife Marina says that Ben likes to tackle the challenge of bath times instead, and thanks to Cuddledry the Fogles are well equipped!

“They are really fabulous,” said Marina, “and have been constantly in use since they popped through our door. I love the quality – they’re so soft and thick and both our children love cuddling in them while we dry them. Having thought we had bathtime sorted, I now don’t know how we survived so long without them.”

Get your Cuddledry apron towel now at www.cuddledry.com

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We all know the deal – as a country we take too many antibiotics, and rely too heavily on painkillers and other medications. We want to do the best for our children though, so what are the alternatives? Are there ways to protect the health of our babies and toddlers without having to resort to a prescription?

The good news is that yes, there are! We’ve put together a few of our favourites, but do let us know if you have any other home remedies that your family swears by.

"Echinacea"

The echinacea plant

Echinacea

A good all-rounder, echinacea is used by lots of people to stimulate the immune system, helping the body ward off infection. Particularly useful in winter, it may help protect your family from the usual round of coughs and colds, by giving the immune system a much needed boost. Useful resource: A.Vogel Echinacea

Honey

Coughs, colds and runny noses seem to be a permanent feature of most young families, and most will run their course quite naturally, supported by plenty of rest and fluids. Research has shown that honey can be a useful way to soothe coughs – give 2.5ml of honey to children two to five years old; 5ml to children six to 11 years old; and 10ml to those 12 years and older. Never give honey to babies younger than one.

Arnica

Arnica is a very popular herb, that can be effective against a whole range of ailments including joint pain, swelling, bumps and sprains. Arnica is particularly helpful in speeding up the healing of bruises, and reducing the risks of any complications arising from bruising. Useful resource: Arnica A.Vogel Herbal Remedies

Salt water

Congestion can be very frustrating, especially for babies trying to feed and breathe through their nose at the same time. Saline nasal drops or spray are very effective for relieving congestion, both in babies and older children. For babies, place a few drops of salt water in each nostril to thin mucus, wait at least a minute, then gently use a bulb syringe to remove any discharge.

Milk Thistle

One for the mummies! If you’ve had maybe one too many glasses of wine the night before, (for stress relieving purposes only obviously), try a bit of milk thistle as a treatment for hangovers…

Get well soon!

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You’ve got married, you’ve bought a house, you’ve had a baby, life should be perfect right?

So how come you feel so tired all the time? And why is it that every time your partner leaves a towel on the floor you want to stab him with a fork?

OK, perhaps it’s not always quite that bad, but things certainly aren’t the happy ever after you imagined as a child, planning your dream wedding and picking your baby names.

Fear not. This is normal.

I’m not saying that it’s OK to stay in a relationship that genuinely doesn’t make you happy, or to live a life you don’t want at all, but it is normal when you’re raising a young family, and juggling work, bills and children, to sometimes feel like you want to run away and hide under the duvet for a week or two.

Naturally, when you’re feeling tired and under pressure, it’s the people closest to us that bear the brunt, and so it’s often our partners that become the focus of our frustrations. Relationship and sex problems are a common symptom of parenthood, but although they happen to many people, they aren’t something that you should ignore.

So, what can you do to ease the strain?

Make time for yourselves as a couple – yes we know, everyone says this, but that’s because it’s true! The idea of ‘date night’ may sound like a horrible cliché, and having to put on a bit of make-up and brush your hair when all you really want to do it lie on the sofa watching Take Me Out is tough, but it’s worth it in the long term. When you do go out, try to think of things to talk about other than the kids…

Ask for help – “If you want me to do the hovering,” says the man of the house, “just ask!”

“But I shouldn’t have to ask!” complains wife. “I want you to notice it needs doing and just do it!”

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, a lot of men, (and women too), just don’t notice things like this, and if you wait for them to, and let your resentment grow with every day that they don’t, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Having to ask doesn’t make you a nag, it isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s being assertive, and getting things done.

Be more accepting – Towels on the floor are annoying, but is it really the end of the world, especially if it means he’s been taking charge of baby bath time. We’re not saying you should let yourself be treated like a doormat, but just be aware that it’s all too easy to transfer our own high standards onto others, and end up feeling let down and resentful. Look instead at the things your partner does that really matter, like listening to you and spending time with you.

Take a lesson from author Dr Richard Carlson and don’t sweat the small stuff.

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Although the news of a baby’s arrival is a happy one, it is important to be prepared. Babies are free, but their maintenance fee can be a shock! Most expectant parents don’t realise the financial burden they are taking on, and focus mainly on schedule disruptions and the exhaustion they will be facing.

The biggest expense is childcare (if you are a working mum.)  The next, will be formula (if you choose not to breast feed) and then nappies. Yes, nappies! Consider that a baby can use 8-12 of these a day, so the costs really do add up. Expenses can begin before the baby is born!

Baby gear is mostly expensive upfront, and will probably be your next biggest cost with the crib, stroller, car seat, baby bath and so on…

These are just the expenses that you can control. It’s so important to save money on the expenses you can control for the expenses that you either can’t or haven’t prepared for. Cutting costs wherever you can will really help you in the long run!

While saving energy in the home is unlikely to be on your list of priorities at this time, have you thought about taking measures to cut down on the energy your household uses?

Start at the source! Consider changing your electricity provider and compare electricity prices to see whether you are with the right supplier and on the correct tariff. Other companies could give you a cheaper deal, plus incentives for changing. With up to £400 of savings at stake, if you switch to find the best option then plenty of pounds will be saved.

Changing your clothes washing habits can really save you money. Just by swapping long wash cycles with hot water for short wash cycles with cold water with a proven stain remover can save you 93KWh of energy a year. Never wash clothes in small loads, only use your washing machine when you have a full load. If you dry your laundry on a line outdoors or on a drying rack indoors and ignore your clothes dryer, you will do the environment a favour and cut your electricity bill by 6%.

When you do use your washing machine, dishwasher or dryer, use it at low energy use times of the day, and avoid using them between 4pm and 9pm.

Use a laptop, it uses almost three quarters less electricity than a desktop. Also, turn off and unplug all appliances in your house and home office at night. Use strip plug adaptors, so you can switch off up to six appliances at a time by flicking off the wall switch.

Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, they use three quarters less energy. Also, kids love Christmas lights! You don’t have to skimp on the festivities just because you are trying to save electricity. LEDS use 10 times less energy than incandescent mini-lights and a staggering 100 times less energy than standard bulbs.

After you have brought your baby home, it is tempting to worry about it catching a chill and turn up the heat. The heating bill is usually the most expensive bill. Instead, invest in insulating your home and watch your bills significantly decrease!

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Weight loss is a tricky subject. One the one hand we know that size zero isn’t healthy, and that we should love ourselves for who we are, but on the other, it’s tough shifting that baby weight, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of wanting to get our bodies back into shape. Concerns about body image can impact on other aspects of our lives, potentially leading to low self-esteem and relationship and sex problems, so it’s important to tackle them head on.

We know you’re all grown ups, and don’t need us to make your mind up for you, so today we’ve got a guest writer with a possible solution. Jane Hodgson started her own business, creating Skinny Sprinkles, and yes, I have given them a try myself, and you can read about that on my own blog. But for now, over to Jane…

I set up an online business selling beauty products a year after having my gorgeous daughter Isabelle, who is six this month.

In that time I put on weight and lots of it! I guess it was the combination of having a baby and sitting at my computer 24/7. I tried slimming supplements but none of them worked for me. I have always dreamed of creating my own product, so I thought a slimming supplement would be the ideal choice.

I wanted to create a product that would take away the stigma associated with losing weight, a product that women would not feel ashamed of taking. Over a period of 14 months and with the support of Dr Nigel Plummer an expert in the development of nutritional supplements, we came up with Skinny Sprinkles®.

I didn’t want Skinny Sprinkles® to be just another weight loss supplement. I wanted it to change the way people feel about losing weight to encourage people to be positive about weight loss and strive toward a healthier lifestyle. The packaging has purposely been designed to be lively and fun not medical; this is the feeling I want Skinny Sprinkles® to evoke. Getting the psychology right with weight loss is as important asgetting the ingredients right, it’s the combination that worked for me.

I want women to feel proud they are making the effort with aproduct that does actually work. (the weight reduction claims relating to the actives in Skinny Sprinkles® have been substantiated by EFSA).

Skinny Sprinkles® makes following a calorie restricted diet really easy. We received our first test batch of Skinny Sprinkles® in late October last year and so I took 3 a day and kept to 1200 to 1500 calories a day and by Christmas I lost a stone. I continued to take them over Christmas and although I did not lose weight because of the inevitable increase in calories, amazingly I didn’t put any weight on. I even indulged a little with my favourite Christmas vice – Baileys!

In total I have now lost 2 stone,  and can now even fit into a pair of size 10 Jeans the first time in 6 years. They are still a little tight though!

If there are any mums out there that would like to try Skinny Sprinkles and be featured as a case study on the website please contact me at jane@skinnysprinkles.co.uk or via twitter @skinnysprinkles.

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Chore wars

Are rows over housework getting you down?  Follow these tips to help everyone feel they’re getting a fair deal.

A new baby means more work for everyone, but the reality is that new mums often end up with the lion’s share when it comes to household chores. And when one partner goes back to work leaving the other with the bulk of domestic duties, resentment can build, causing lasting damage to your relationship.

Point-scoring doesn’t help anyone, so here are a few ways to make sure everyone wins.

1. Plan ahead
Don’t just assume things will ‘work themselves out.’  You’re more likely to argue if you end up doing more than you expected, so think it through and agree in advance about who will do what once baby comes along.

2. Value your role
Just because one person earns more it doesn’t mean that their job is more important, or that they deserve more of a break when it comes to the weekend.  “I don’t mind doing the housework during the week, but the expectation that I will also do it at weekend drives me mad!” says Rebecca, 36.  Try swapping roles for a day so he can see just how hard you work – then agree a schedule that gives you both the time off you deserve.

3. Find time to talk
Knee-deep in laundry with a screaming baby on your hip is not the time to tell him how you feel.   Find a time when you can sit down and talk without getting emotional, and show him you’re not tired or irrational – you need things to change.

4. Do some things together
Ok, so it’s hardly quality time, but doing the laundry or dishes together can give you a shared sense of purpose and help you feel you’re in it together.

5. Drop the scorecard
You’ve fed the baby, done eight loads of washing and been up all night, but keeping score means no-one wins.  It’s not a competition, so take a deep breath and let it go.

6. Don’t go on the attack
Sometimes it’s less about what you say than how you say it.  If he feels threatened he’s more likely to counter-attack, so instead of saying ‘you never do the dishes,’ try asking if he’d prefer to wash up or clean the bathroom.

7. Don’t criticise
Telling him what he’s done wrong will only make him less likely to try again, so resist the urge to stand over him or criticise when he does help.

8. Say thank you
A little appreciation can go a long way.  At the end of the day you’ve both worked hard, so make sure you recognise each other’s efforts.

9. Lower your standards
It may drive you insane, but chances are he simply doesn’t notice dust gathering on the picture frames or the layer of grease over the cooker.  Make sure you’re both clear about what standard is expected, but be prepared to lower your sights sometimes if it means keeping the peace.

10. It will pass
Right now it may seem like things will never change, but as your little one grows more independent you’ll start to share things more evenly again.  Hold on and remind yourself that the end is in sight.

For more relationship information and advice, visit The Couple Connection.

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