Autumn and Winter picnic food

As a family we love picnics and just because the weather is cooler in Autumn and Winter it doesn't mean that picnicking has to stop.  No indeed for us it just means that we move to more warming food and sometimes we have them inside on a rug and sometimes we have them sat in the boot of the car! In fact having an Autumn picnic is in our Autumn Bored Jar!  We also carry a pop up tent in the back of the car and it is great for picnicking in when it is windy. We keep the food simple warming and filing.  We have a couple of flasks that we use for food.  A wide necked soup flask and a food flask.  Soup is our favorite cold weather picnic food.

Five Autumn and Winter Picnic Soups

Soups which work well for us on a picnic are ones that are blended smooth and that we can drink from a cup, but also dunk in some crusty bread or have with a cheese sandwich. Autumn picnic soups Tomato Soup by Daisies and Pie (more…)
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So where those Startrite shoes made for scooting?

You may remember we have been working with Startrite on seeing how their boys school shoes hold up.  Well they have been wearing them for eight weeks now and I thought I would share with you how they have been wearing. I am going to preface this by saying that the boys last pair of shoes didn't last six weeks and they scoot, walk or bike to school.  They play football with them on the MUGA (astroturf) at break time, so I didn't hold out much hope for ANY shoes. So this is how the boys shoes looked at week two. Startrite shoes week two And this is how they look after eight weeks of constant wear. startrite week eight Maxi's shoes are looking pretty much as good at week eight as they were at week two.  Mini's are holding up well too, although he did manage to rip the bumper at the front!  But even with the ripped bumper the shoe is still intact and looks great. Want to know what me and the other bloggers through, then take a look at this round up video and the blog post about it here. Now I am going to admit that I am a stickler for looking after our shoes.  It was drilled into me by my Grandad when I was young and you can find our weekly shoe care routine here. I want to say a great big thank you to Startrite.
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Pinwheel Poppies – A Remembrance, Armistice or Veteran’s day activity

Both my boys take part in the annual remembrance parade as Cubs and this year it is the 100 anniversary of the start of World War One.  This has really captured the boys imagination, so we made Poppy Pinwheels. Remembrance Day, Armistice Day or Veteran's Day as it is sometimes called is November 11th. How to make pinwheel Poppies Materials:
  1. Red paper
  2. Brass Paper Fasteners
  3. Black Sharpie
  4. Green Paper straws
  5. Hole punch 1/8 inch

How to make a pinwheel poppy

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The Small Stuff – October Edition

Wow what an October it was.  The mildest one I can remember and we had a great time even through all the sickness that plagued us during the month, however, as always the small stuff is what made it a month to remember. OCTOBER SMALL STUFF We started our month with an epic trip to London with Superbreak, in fact it was the best family weekend we have ever had in London.  We saw the poppies at the Tower, saw the amazing Matilda, visited the Art of Brick and stuffed ourselves silly! (more…)
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Keeping your kids teeth healthy this Halloween

Halloween is becoming more and more popular and my boys are at the age where they love trick or treating and lo9ve eating all the sweets and tweets they get. However, there is a negative side to all these sugary foods and drinks that they get and it is important for me to help them keep decay at bay. Bupa are also aware of this and a recent survey by them revealed that nearly half of mums (46%) are worried that their child might be addicted to sugar. the story of the little tooth This research also found that 50% of mums have used the story of the Tooth Fairy to encourage their kids to brush their teeth. Of these, nearly half of mums tell kids the Tooth Fairy won’t accept rotten teeth to encourage them to clean their teeth, and 35% say the Tooth Fairy will know when you’ve eaten too many sweets. So with this in mind they have produced a fab video that you can personalise for your child from The Tooth Fairy.  You can see Mini's here.

My number one tip for cleaning kids teeth

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Melted wax poppy craft, a remembrance day activity

Here’s an easy poppy craft, which is a great Remembrance Day activity for children. We have made a display of poppies and a paper plate poppy wreath, but you can use the same technique to make a poppy brooch by added a pin on the rear or a display of poppies for your home, church or school.  The mini mad's will be taking the poppies to my mum's grave in remembrance of her. These poppies were inspired by the fab wax paper flowers at Homegrown Friends. Melted crayon wax poppies

How to make melted wax poppies with Kids (more…)

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Cardboard Tube Firework Art

We love loo roll and cardboard tube crafts so after our Salt Art Firework we decided to try some cardboard tube firework art. cardboard tube firework prints Materials:
  1. Cardboard tubes
  2. Sticky tape
  3. Scissors
  4. Paint - we used Neon Acrylic Paint
  5. Iridescent White Glitter
  6. Paper plates
  7. Black paper

How to make cardboard tube Firework prints

Cardboard tube printing wand We used kitchen paper rolls as they are longer and we could use both ends.  We cut slits in to the ends before cutting the length of the tube and then rolling it tighter and taped them. cardboard tube printing Put your paint on to paper plates and use the cardboard tube to print on to your paper. We used one end for each of the colours, so as to not contaminate the paint and mix the colours together. Before the paint had dried we covered it with translucent glitteradding glitter Why not take a look at my other firework activities including scratch art fireworks, salt art fireworks, edible sparklers and bonfire artwork.
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10 Kid friendly apple recipes – Cooking with kids

We live in a new build house, well I say new build, it was when we moved in eight years ago.  One of the first things we did to our garden was plant an apple tree.  We have watched that tree grow each year hoping for apples and finally this year we got more than the three we have previously had from it. The boys have been desperate to pick the apples for over a month and we have had to hold them back.  Eventually they had a fun afternoon picking all the apples they could and eating a fair few too.  MadDad had to hoist them up to pick them from the top of the tree. harvesting our own apples So we now have a rather large pile of apples and have been thinking about what to do with them.  I really wanted to make sure that we cook with them and harness the boys enthusiasm for wanted to cook with them.  So here is a great round up of apple recipes

10 Kid friendly apple recipes

10 kid friendly apple recipes
  1. Apple Crisp
  2. Apple Crumble
  3. Oatmeal stuffed baked apples
  4. Apple turtles
  5. Chicken with apples and sage
  6. Apple enchiladas
  7. Toffee Apples
  8. Apple dumplings
  9. Apple pie
  10. Dutch apple cake


Do you have a favorite apple recipe? Then please do share it with us, either in the linky below or in the comments. Disclosure: The fab clothes the MiniMads are wearing are from House of Fraser, as part of their Autumn Days campaign.  They have been wearing them pretty much constantly since we received them and they have washed really well.  We received a blue long sleeve Timberland top, yellow long sleeve Timberland top, Quicksilver boys cargo's and twill trousers. In fact we were so impressed with the Quicksilver Cargo's that I ordered a second pair for Mini!   
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Salt Art Fireworks

I have seen salt art on a lot of blogs and have really wanted to try it with the boys. With Guy Fawkes and Bonfire night on the horizon it was the perfect time to try some salt art fireworks. Salt Firework Art Materials
  1. Glue - PVA, Elmers or school glue
  2. Table salt
  3. Watercolour paints
  4. Droppers
  5. Black Paper

How to make Salt Firework Art

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3 Brilliant Tablets for Tweens and Teens

As much as I advocate for screen free time we are quite a technological family and I do allow my boys time on screens and they both adore technology, but totally agree with Sunshine and Hurricanes that technology is a privilege not a right.   Over the last few months the MiniMads' have been reviewing tablets and we want to share with you our top 3 tablets for tweens and teens. top three tablets fro tweens

But I also believe that my boys should have access to tablets and technology and we have been putting them to the test over the last couple of months and I want to share with you our top three tablets for Kids.


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Scratch Paper Fireworks and Make your own Scratch Paper

Do you remember making your own scratch paper when you were younger?  Well I certainly do and it is great fun to make with your kids and perfect for Firework pictures too. Whilst we were making the fireworks we talked about how dangerous they are close up, but how colourful and beautiful they are. I love how the boys made a completely different picture from the same starting point. scratch art fireworks

How to make your own scratch paper

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Jam Jar or Mason Jar Halloween Lanterns

With the darker nights and the clocks due to go back, we love brightening up The Mad House and one way we do that is with Jam Jar/Mason Jar Lanterns or tealight holder. These Halloween lanterns are really easy to make Look great too, so I have teamed up with Betta Living to show you how you can reuse any old jars that you have. Jam Jar or Mason Jar Halloween Lanterns

What you need to make Jam Jar or Mason Jar Halloween Lanterns

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Orlando with eight and nine year olds (not Disney)

Can you believe that it is nearly a year since we all went on holiday to Orlando.  We spent 2.5 weeks in Florida with my Brother, Sister in Law and Niece and I just realised that I never actually shared anything about our holiday! Orlando with eight and nine year olds (not Disney) We had an amazing time and the boys loved every minute of it.  So what apart from Disney did we do! (more…)
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The perfect family weekend in London with 8 and 9 year olds

As a family we love London and we love visiting, however, as we reside in the frozen North of England it is a long journey and sometimes weekends can be stressful and hectic.  Not anymore as thanks to Superbreak we had the perfect family weekend in London and I want to share with you what made it so special.

Make it for all the family

What made this weekend so perfect (even with Mini feeling under the weather) was there was something for everyone in the family.  We talked about what we all wanted from the weekend before we started planning and discovered that we all wanted to do different things.  Mini wanted to see a show, I wanted some culture, Maxi wanted ice cream at Fortnum and Mason and MadDad wanted a five Guys! We also knew that we wanted to have fun and some not rush from one things to the next, but we also wanted to make the most of it as we live so far away.  So this was our itinerary Friday after school We traveled to London on the train.  I made sure that I packed a picnic for the train and remarkably the boys both fell asleep on the train, which is unheard of! To make life easy we traveled with the bare minimum, in fact we took a couple of rucksacks and that was all. Mini on the train Saturday (more…)
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The power of printing without a computer – Canon Pixma MG7150 Review

We use a lot of technology in the Mad House and one thing that we have been trying to do more lately is less reliance on screens, so having the ability to print activities, colouring pages and papercrafts without even turning on the computer or tablet is amazing. The power of printing without a computer  - Canon Pixma MG7150 Review For the last three months we have been using the Canon Pixma MG7150  for our printing requirements and one of the benefits of this printer is its LED screen and ability to print directly from the printer using a series of child friendly menus without even turning on the PC.  The amazing thing is that this piece of technology has actually reduced the boys reliance on screens. (more…)
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Kid friendly slow cooker recipes and a giveaway

We are now over two weeks in to #Crocktober and we have been making the most of our slow cooker crockpot.  As a busy mum I love my slow cooker and it is perfect for family meals. Kid friendly slow cooker recipes

Slow cooker jacket potatoes

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Paper plate Autumn/Fall leaf wreaths

An autumn paper plate leaf wreath is the perfect fall activity or craft to make with your kids whatever their age.  Paper plates remain one of my favorite ways to make wreaths with kids due to their affordability, but also their flexibility. Autumn fall paper plate leaf wreath  

What you will need to make your paper plate wreaths

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Autumn/fall leaf suncatcher

The Autumn sun is a lot lower in the sky and now is the perfect time to make some wonderful Autumn/Fall leaf sun catchers. The boys and I have such fun making these suncatcher and they are really effective and look beautiful when the sun shines through them singing the colours on to walls. Autumn cuncatcher Materials
  1. Cardstock - we used black
  2. leaf template
  3. Coloured Cellophane (this is one of the reasons we save sweet wrappers)
  4. glue
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15 Tips for washing your kids hair

We have all been there.  The screams and tears over hair washing and that was just me not the boys!  Well I am here to let you know that it gets better and now at eight and nine my boys can wash their hair on their own and we no longer have any issues so here is what worked with us to make washing kids hair much easier. 15 Tips for making toddler hair washing less stressful

15 Tips for making toddler hair washing less stressful

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Autumn/Fall watercolour resist leaf garland

Inspired by Fun at Home with Kids fall watercolour resist leaves we decided to get our new glue gun out and make an Autumn/Fall watercolour resist leaf garland. We were sent two glue guns (one low melt, which is perfect for crafts and younger children and one high melt from Glue Guns Direct).  We decided to try the coloured glue to make the outlines. watercolour leaves   Materials required:
  • Card
  • Glue gun
  • Watercolour paint brushes
  • Cord
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Walk to school month with Kia – tips for making mornings less stressful for all the family.

October in Walk to School month and I am joining in with Kia in trying to encourage you to get walking to school. I am lucky with the fact that the boys school is within walking distance and now that they are eight and nine they walk or scoot to school on their own, so mornings are so much less stressful for me.  My biggest tip is to remove all the obstacles from the morning that make life hard. Steps to feeling confident with your kids walking to school on their own

Tips for making mornings less stressful for all the family

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Get a Birds Eye View and Win a Samsung Smart Camera

In conjunction with  Birds Eye I have a Samsung WB350F Smart Camera (White, 16.3MP, Optical Image Stabilisation, 3 inch LCD) to giveaway to celebrate the modern British mealtime and their Birds Eye View exhibition.

Birds Eye View Birds Eye have been on a quest to document the modern British mealtime with photographer Martin Parr. To help them understand mealtimes today, Martin's been visiting households across the country, from people who entered a competition to have Martin visit and photograph their meal times, delving into our nation’s food habits along the way. The tour concluded with Martin's findings and the best images from this competition being presented at A Birds Eye View’ exhibition in London earlier this week. (more…)
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October is now Crocktober – share your favorite slow cooker recipes

I am a huge fan of my slow cooker or crockpot as they are known in the US and Autumn is the perfect time for getting it out and using it.  I love that I can  prepare everything, put it in and then forget about it until dinner time. I love that I can pop all the ingredients in for a soup and when we return from Junior football on a cold Sunday there is a meal ready and waiting. One of the things that I do every time we have a roast chicken is to make stock with the carcass, some veg and leave it in the slow cooker overnight.  It makes the best chicken stock and what's more the chicken falls off the bones and there is enough to make chicken soup with. chicken soupy stew In fact my chicken soupy stew is one of the most asked for meals from the boys and it was passed down from my mum.  It is a filling, delicious and wholesome meal which I top with dumplings for my bottomless boys. (more…)
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September Small Stuff

September if a month of bittersweet for me.  I love the going back to school feeling, but miss my boys after a long summer together.  It has also been filled with lots of small stuff that has filled my heart with joy. September collage We started the month with a family trip to Lightwater Valley just before school started.  The weather was glorious and the park was pretty quiet, which meant lots of rides were enjoyed. (more…)
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Do you limit screen time at home?

Screen time and the boys is something I battle with.  It isn't such an issue in the summer and good weather when their first choice would be to be outside playing with their friends.  But as the nights draw in, then they do reach for the screen more often than not.  They are not TV fantastics and we do not have it on in the background, but they do love their Ipods and Xbox. It is all about finding a balance that suits us as a family. At the moment, we have strict limits on screen time at home which are no screens at all (except for TV as a family) after 6pm, no screens at the dinner table and one hour limit a day otherwise agreed.  We also have a #signoffsaturday or a #saignoffsunday where we have a day at the weekend which is technology free. limiting screen time

Why I chose to limit screen time

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Win an Arctic Home gift pack with Coca-Cola and WWF

To help celebrate the launch of the Arctic Home campaign, Mum in the Mad House has teamed up with Coca-Cola and WWF to offer three lucky readers the chance to win an exclusive Arctic Home gift pack, which includes a beautiful fleece blanket, stylish white hooded jumper and much more! coke Arctic Home is a partnership between Coca-Cola and WWF working to protect the home of the polar bear by raising awareness and funds, so polar bear mums continue to have a safe place to give birth and raise their cubs. On Saturday 6th September, hundreds of WWF supporters from across the UK joined forces to create an incredible piece of live art to raise awareness of the desperate plight facing polar bears in the Arctic, you can see the great picture featured above! Image01 (Low-Res) Arctic Home is now calling for people to visit to learn more about the struggle faced by polar bear families, share their support and make a donation. This year across Europe Coca-Cola will match all donations made to the campaign up to up to €1million.

To be in with a chance of winning an Arctic Home gift pack, simply answer this question:

Where do polar bears live? A: Africa B: Arctic Terms & Conditions
  • Closing date is until Friday 3rd October 2014
  • Three readers will win 1x Arctic Home gift pack which includes 1x polar bear fleece blanket, 1x polar bear soft toy and 1x white hooded jumper in small, medium or large (subject to availability)
  • Prizes will be distributed to the winners within a week of the close of the competition
  • Only one entry per person
  • No cash alternative will be offered
  • The decision is independently supervised and the winner will be drawn from all correctly answered entries and informed via email or phone
  • The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
8 11 5
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What do you look for in a school shoe?

School shoes.  I have to admit that I find hunting for school shoes with the boys a chore and it isn't because they never like what there is to offer, but down to the fact that they wear them out in no time at all. Last year Mini's second pair of shoes lasted six weeks, yes six weeks before they had a hole in them.  I have tried expensive shoes, less expensive shoes and everything in between my, but we are lucky to get more than 12 weeks out of a pair of shoes.  My boys only wear them for school so 8pm to 3pm, 5 days a week. When you ask the boys what they want in a shoe, they are not that fussy.  Yes they are swayed by toys and freebies, but they have a Mummy who isn't! How to choose a great pair of school shoes At eight and nine they have size three feet, so are well on the way to adult size shoes, but they need something much more robust.  Something that can cope with scootering and biking to school, something that can cope with football on the MUGA (multi use games area) at lunchtime and recover from them not seeing a puddle and getting wet! So what do I look for in a decent pair of school shoes?
  1. When they have velcro fastening I want that to be secure and for the stitching to stay secure
  2. I want scuff proof bumpers
  3. I want flexible soles, but with good grip
  4. Nothing inside the shoe, I don't want my kids to be encouraged to take them on and off
We were contacted by Start-rite at the beginning of the summer to be part of their blogger team of six families putting their shoes to the test.Startrite shoes week two I was interviewed by Start-rite and discussed with them what we looked for in a show and what I knew about shoe fitting and then send a foot measurer and asked to measure by boys feet so they could send what they thoughts was a suitable pair for each of them. We measured the boys feet and found them to be 3F and 3H.  Mini has always had wide feet with a high instep. I also made sure that I had measured them correctly by getting MadDad to do it to and then the boys pinched the measurer and have been using it to play with! Last weeks the boys shoes arrived.  Rino Warrior  for Mini and Reflector for Maxi.  Using their video we checked the fit and the boys wore the shoes indoors for an hour or so a day to make sure that they were worn in before school. I think that we take pretty good care of our school shoes. I clean them once a week with proper old fashioned polish and you can find my top tips for looking after leather shoes here. Over the coming weeks and months we will be working with Start-rite, sharing with them how the shoes are wearing, sending them images of the soles and the rest of the shoes, so that they can see how they are holding up to life on the feet of two energetic boys. So, what do you look for in a school shoe?
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Win up to £500 in Amazon vouchers in our “Messy Kids” Bloggers’ Competition

We all know how mischievously messy kids can be, so why not share your experiences in your latest blog post and win some extra cash? messy kids
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The ultimate Autumn/Fall family activity list

I am a huge fan of bored jar's, not just for the boys, but for me too.  I sometimes need a quick activity that isnt screen based.   Unsure of how to make a bored jarm then take a look at how to make a bored jar. Fall autumn bored jar and activity list
  1. Go apple picking
  2. Make leaf cards
  3. Jump in a pile of leaves
  4. Make some autumn art 
  5. G0 on an acorn hunt
  6. Make a leaf picture frame
  7. Play this free scarecrow game
  8. Collect colorful fall leaves
  9. Coffee filter leaves 
  10. Make autumn leaf fairies 
  11. Collect seeds from plants in the garden
  12. Make a pom pom apple tree 
  13. Plant bulbs in your garden for next spring
  14. Make an Autumn sensory bin
  15. Make a pine cone bird feeder
  16. Make leaf prints
  17. Make pumpkin playdough
  18. Saltdough leaf bowls
  19. Handprint owl newspaper art
  20. Family art project - make a seasonal banner 
  21. Borrow a book from the library
  22. Create an Autumn poem
  23. Go on a walk at dusk with a torch
  24. Make fruit leather
  25. Make leaf skeletons 
  26. Go looking for spider webs 
  27. Go on a leaf hunt
  28. Make a nature table with your Autumn finds
  29. Make a tree with an old jigsaw
  30. Autumn Preschool science
  31. Cut leaves from felt and make a garland 
  32. Bake an apple pie
  33. Nature Crowns
  34. Count leaves
  35. Carve your own pumpkin
  36. Make wooden waldorf inspire nature blocks 
  37. Make a puppet theatre
  38. Play acorn hopscotch
  39. Make a paper leaf garland
  40. Make a tissue paper leaf
  41. Make Autumn suncatchers
  42. Make dragonfly cards with sycamore seeds
  43. Go on a bat watch at dusk
  44. Make toffee apples 
  45. Set up a scavenger hunt
  46. Collect sycamore seeds and throw them in the air (they fly like helicopters)
  47. Fall saltdough ornaments 
  48. Make apple crumble
  49. Grab an umbrella and go singing in the rain
  50. Make clay and twig hedgehogs 
  51. Re-watch your favorite scary movie on Halloween
  52. Free leaf printables
  53. Make some leaf relief art 
  54. Prune the garden plants, learn about how this helps them to grow back stronger in the spring
  55. Build a hedgehog house
  56. Make jam jar lanterns covered in leaves
  57. Print off some free play dough mats 
  58. Make conker spiders 
  59. Throw a Halloween party
  60. Make a leaf mobile 
  61. Breath in the cool, crisp air
  62. Make leaf lanterns with empty cheese cartons 
  63. Make jam
  64. Learn to knit
  65. Make a winter tree lantern 
  66. Make an autumn wreath for your door
  67. Make a bug hotel
  68. Listen to the sound of leaves crunching under your feet
  69. Find the tree that matches the leaf
  70. Make an autumn tree
  71. Collect conkers and have a match
  72. Make a halloween indoor obstacle course 
  73. Watch geese flying south for the winter
  74. Make autumn playdough
  75. Collect pinecones and display them in a glass bowl
  76. Collect twigs and try twig weaving with spare wool 
  77. Make hot chocolate
  78. Draw or paint some autumn still life 
  79. Attend harvest  festival
  80. Make a tissue paper pumpkin 
  81. Make apple crisps (chips for US folk)
  82. Beachnut hedgehogs 
  83. Put you wellies on and splash in some muddy puddles
  84. Make Halloween shadow puppets 
  85. Remember what you’re thankful for
  86. Go on an Autumn Nature walk
  87. Take pictures of all the different colours you can find in a woodland
  88. Make leaf rubbings
  89. Build a scarecrow
  90. Make a pinecone owl
  91. Go stargazing
  92. Make a leaf collage 
  93. Have an autumn picnic
  94. Make a paper turkey 
  95. Turn orange balloons in to pumpkins 
  96. Look for a full moon
  97. Make Dutch apple cake
  98. Go trick or treating
  99. Make a autumn nature mobile
  100. Try apple bobbing
  101. Make a leaf window display
  102. Make apple prints
  103. Enjoy some Autumn science projects 
  104. Make a leaf man
  105. Make corn on the cob prints
  106. Make pompom pumpkins 
  107. Make a conker bat 
  108. Make leaf owls
  109. Make apple sauce
  110. Printing with Acorns
  111. Make and fly a kite
  112. Make a windsock
  113. Edible sparkers 
  114. Make pine cone firelighters
  115. Make some poppyseed bats 
  116. Make woodland animals
  117. Make a crayon lantern
  118. Make jam tarts
  119. Make pine cone skittles 
  120. Make some leaf identification cards 
  121. Dry orange slices
  122. Roast pumpkin seeds
  123. Make Halloween salt dough
  124. Leaf Drawing and Doodling
  125. Paint pumpkins
  126. Paper plate owls 
  127. Play Autumn/Fall Eye Spy
  128. Make an autumn leaf crown
  129. Make paper lanterns
  130. Make Halloween cakes and biscuits
  131. Make some pumpkin pie paint
  132. Make a ghost paper chain
  133. Preserve leaves with glycerine
  134. Make popcorn
  135. Print this fab autumn nature treasure hunt
  136. Decorate an umbrella
  137. Make a raincatcher
  138. Build an indoor fort
  139. Go on a number nature hunt
  140. Talk about what makes you thankful
  141. Go leaf counting
  142. Collect acorns
  143. Donate old woolens and coats to a charity
  144. Help clear leaves from the lawn
  145. Make a fall wreath
  146. Make hairy hot dogs
  147. Make a harvest cake
  148. Customise a Tshirt for halloween
  149. Make pancakes
  150. Make a leaf mandella
autumnfall bored jar   If you like this then you can find lots more Autumn/Fall crafts on my Pinterest board Follow Jen Walshaw's board Autumn and Fall crafts and activities on Pinterest.
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Autumn/Fall leaves sticking activity for preschoolers

Preschoolers love gluing and sticking and this Autumn leaves and tree sticking craft is a great craft for preschoolers and is a simple and pretty much mess free activity.  By preparing all the items you need before you can leave it as a great invitation to play.

Fall leaves activity

  Autumn Fall leaves sticking activity Preparation
  • Cut out a selection of leaves and acorns in different sizes and colours
  • Draw or cut out a bare tree
coloured leaf activity 2 Activities - three and under
  • Let your child feel and explore the leaves
  • Discuss the way they feel
  • Discuss the colour of the leaves and ask your child to point out the colours to you
  • Ask which leaves are smaller or larger
  • Point out acorns
  • Count the leaves with your child
  • Provide your child with a glue stick or glue and let them sick on the leaves as they choose
This is a great activity for over three's too.  It is a brilliant activity for after school or quiet times.  It can also be a super activity for scissor skills as your child can cut out the leaves if they want to. coloured leaf activity 4 Activities - over three
  • In addition to the above discuss why leaves change colour, you can find some great posts about it here at Teach Beside Me or Ingles 360
  • Encourage your child to colour in the bark
  • Why leaves fall off trees
  • What acorns are
  • Discuss patterns that they might make with the leaves
  • Talk about how many leaves they are sticking on each branch
  • Discuss the size of the leaves
coloured leaf activity trees Like this, then why not take a look at my Autumn/Fall activities Pinterest board. Follow Jen Walshaw's board Autumn and Fall crafts and activities on Pinterest.
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It’s Back To School Time

It’s time to get organised and make sure you get the new school year off to as good a start as possible. The return back to school after the fun-filled weeks of the summer holiday can be a struggle for the whole family, but with careful planning and emotional awareness the transition can be smooth for everyone. Think about buying everything you need now and start preparing for the year ahead. 2014 Buying New Kit It’s time to buy new school uniforms, sports kit and shoes. How did they grow so much since last term? Take time to visit the school outfitters with your child and get them measured up properly. You may not have as much time for this during the term so it’s better to buy what you need now, if possible. Don’t forget to sew on name tags. Everyone else will have the same items of clothing so you don’t want all those new clothes to get lost straight away. Children will not necessarily need new notepads, pens and pencils but who can resist new stationery? Bright, shiny pencils, protractors, rulers and rubbers are tempting and may even help reluctant children get more excited about a return to school. Often a new bag will be required to carry sports kit or a lunch box. Some items may be specified by the school, such as a calculator, so check any lists the school has provided you with and make sure you purchase the required equipment. Mental Preparation It’s a good idea to start preparing your child mentally for going back to school especially if they are moving up to ‘big school’ or have changed schools. Talk to them about the routine they can expect, who their new teacher is and which friends they’ll see again or the new friends they will make. Discuss all the fun things they will do at school and be enthusiastic about lessons. If your child has a positive attitude going into the new school year it will be good for their levels of confidence and may even influence their performance. Start getting the family back into a good routine with a sensible bedtime and wake up time. These often slip during the holidays when a routine may not be so important but it’s now time to make sure everyone is well rested before the start of each busy day. Extracurricular Activities and Private Tuition Start planning which after-school clubs your child will be attending and whether you’ll need to organise childcare. It is also a good time to think about private tuition. Work out what your tutoring requirements will be for the year ahead and start looking for an appropriate tutor. Fleet Tutors will match your child with a tutor who will suit their needs and bring out the best in their abilities. Will your child be tackling the 11+ or GCSEs this year? Or is it A-levels they need extra help with? It may be the case that your child just needs a bit of confidence-boosting in a particular subject. There is a lot for the whole family to think about in the run up to going back to school. But if everyone plays their part in getting prepared beforehand the transition should be smooth. Back to school can be an exciting time not a stressful one. 3.
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Ways to spend more time with the kids during school term time

I love the school holidays.  I love spending time with my little darlings (are you getting the sarcasm here?), no really I do love spending time with Mini and Maxi, they are actually becoming great company and are fun to be with and I miss them once school starts again.  So I try to make sure I spend quality time with them once the school term starts. Ways to spend more time with the kids during school term time Do not overschedule kids This is my biggest tip. The boys have two out of school activities a week, Cubs and Football and I am a huge believer in not filling up kids free time with activities.  Children need to have freedom and time to unwind after the regimented school day. Screen free time We have a rule that screens are turned off at 6pm until the boys bedtimes (apart from movie night).  This gives us quality time for reading, listening to music, gardening, walking, baking, playing games, jigsaws, arts and crafts or just chatting. Cook together One of the times that I love most is when me and the boys or one of the boys spend time in the kitchen together. I cook at least one meal a week with each of them, more and more they are taking charge and I am just directed by them as to what to do.  We menu plan together too. Eat together This is one of the most important parts of parenting in my opinion.  We eat together as a family as often as we can. At the moment that is five nights out of seven and we also have breakfast together too.  There are so many benefits to sitting at the table together without interruptions (we have a no electronics at meal times rule). We have conversations, debates, chats and tell stories. Even one night a week makes a big difference.  Make it special. Insist on family time This is easy for me as my boys are only eight and nine, but  when I was growing up at least one day at the weekend was designated family time.  We have continued this tradition and spend the weekend as a family.  We try and go out and have an experience one of those day. Family Game night One night a week is designated as family game night.  As soon as the dinner plates are tidied away the games come out and we have competitive fun until bedtime. Family Movie Night We also have family movie night one night a week, now this might not always be a movie, it could be a TV show that we all want to watch, but the thing is we watch it together.  We turn off electronics and grab snacks and cuddle up together. Family Dog Walks Since getting Alvin we have walked together more as a family.  We get outside together more, even if it is just for a ten minute walk. We aim for one short walk a day, this can either be all together or one adult with one child.  It gives us one on one time with the children and enables us to have a good chat. I have had this post in my drafts and then KC Edventures posted a fantastic post about how to spend more time with the kids during school and I have to share it too. 

 THe Mad House

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What was your favorite childhood toy?

John Lewis are running a campaign about childhood toys and this week are talking all about model trains and to celebrate this asked me to share with you my memories of my favorite childhood toy. My childhood is filled with the toy I had and the one I really wanted, but never got! My most loved toy would have had to be my multistory Sindy House. It was something that I never thought I would own.  I remember the joy at coming down on Christmas morning to find it under a candy striped sheet. I spent so many hours playing with it and all the accessories that my mum and dad got for me.  I knew that it was preloved, but that didn't matter.  It was the only thing I had out on my christmas list and I was overjoyed that Father Christmas has brought me what I wanted. SINDY HOUSE ONE The one that got away.  The year after I asked for a Petite Typewriter, it was the toy of the year.  All I wanted was a typewriter and some secretary glasses.


Oh but it wasn't to be, there was no typewriter for me.  I learned a hard lesson that year as I sat sulking that I didn't get everything I wanted.  My Dad was very upset with me and he had every right to be, I was acting like a spoilt brat.  He said that Father Christmas did get my letter, but he didn't always say yes. The toy that has survived since my childhood though and is still played with my the boys is mine and my brothers LEGO.  It is mixed in with all the new pieces and you can not tell the 1970's stuff from the 2014 stuff.  It is a true ageless classic toy. So what was the toy of your childhood? This is a sponsored post which has been written in association with John Lewis Insurance 3.
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My experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I have issues getting pregnant, staying pregnant and being pregnant.   When I was expecting Maxi people actually thought I had a terminal illness.  I was in fact suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  For me this meant that I vomited pretty much constantly and when I wasn't vomiting I felt nauseous. My experience with Hyperemesis
Imagine being so drunk that the room spins without having actually drunk anything. Imagine lying in bed and the room spinning so much you had to lay with one foot on the floor, just so you believed that the room wasn't actually moving. Imagine now being able to look at a book without the letters feeling as though they moved. Imagine that the smell of your husband, the man that you love more than anything in the world making you feel physically repused. Imagine waking up with a mouth full of vomit. Imagine wanting to hit the next person that told you ginger will help. Imagine the only time you get any relief is when you are asleep, but being so scared to fall asleep incase you vomit and choke. Imagine waiting ten years to have a child and then wishing that you weren't pregnant and the guilt that you have to live with this every day of your life. Imagine becoming so dehydrated that you do permanent damage to your liver. Imagine being sick so many times the acid rots the enamel on your teeth. Imagine the desperation of being in hospital on a drip and none of the anti-sickness drugs stop the sickness or the feeling of nausea for more than 45 minutes at a time. Imagine the desperation of doctors who prescribes and tried so many drugs that are contraindicated in pregnancy to stop me being sick. Imagine the husband that agrees to inject his wife in her butt three times a day just to ease the sickness. A husband that overcomes his own fears for the hope of a family. Imagine a 36 week pregnant woman who due to vomiting so much and the unbalance of vitamins and minerals starts to hallucinate and is made to see a physiatrist to ensure the safety of herself and her unborn child. Imagine being so desperate for some normality that you spend every penny you have looking for alternative treatments. Imagine going to acupuncture as often as you could as the only time the room didn't spin was when you had needles in you. Imagine agreeing to a cholecystectomy at 20 weeks pregnant as you were told you lifer and the life of your unborn child were hanging in the balance. Imagine sobbing but being to dehydrated no tears came. Imagine all this for week, after week, hour after hour for 38 weeks. Then imagine falling pregnant five months later only for it all to start again.
There are no pictures of me being pregnant, it was not a happy time in our lives.  MadDad had to resign from his position so that he could provide me with the care I needed. This has not being an easy memory to relive.  The only good things to come out of this were my two beautiful babies, but I live daily with the guilt that I felt during this time, the thoughts that went through my head. I wanted children so badly.  We had lost twins at 20 weeks and also a singleton previously and I had put all hope of children away and yes I suffered from HG in both of those pregnancies too. Me and Maxi This is one of the only pictures I can find of me when pregnant with Mini, I was 8 months here. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy and I am sure that it played a large part in my postnatal depression too. But I was one of the lucky ones, my condition was discovered early and wasn't palmed off as morning sickness.  The treatment I received from medical professionals was second to none. If you know anyone going through this then please point them in the direction of the Pregnancy Sickness Support.
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Blackpool for kids, by kids

Did you see that we went to Blackpool as a family over the summer holidays? We had THE BEST time.  Blackpool has really changed since I went there last 20 years ago.   Blackpool is certainly back! blackpools back Blackpool certainly is a wonderful place for families to visit and they have just brought out their 'The Kids Resort Guide', an interactive guide, written by Blackpool's biggest critics... the kids.  It shows Blackpool's top attractions through the eyes of a child. blackpool resort guide Blackpool is full of family friendly activities and places to visit and we only managed to skim the surface during our weekend there and we did a LOT. We visited Madame Tussauds, The Sealife Center, The top of the Tower,  Blackpool Zoo and had an amazing time at the Pleasure Beach - take a look at the boys review of the top places to visit in Blackpool when you're eight and nine here. where to eat in blackpool Blackpool is full of great places to eat too and we had some amazing food including the obligatory fish and chips and icecreams. We took a trip on a tram and we had an amazing time watching Mamma Mia. It has been the place the boys have talked about the most since we visited and a place they are desperate to return to. We stayed just outside Blackpool at Ribby Hall and I am hoping that they invite us back to review their Winter Wonderland!  Ribby Hall really is the perfect place to stay with kids and makes a great base or place to stay and enjoy the activities they have to offer.  I so need to try out their spa!
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Helping your kids cope with the first week of school

Going back to school takes some acclimatisation.  Not only for you as a parent but for your children too.  I know that I need to cut them some slack and make sure that we are all a little gentler on each other. It is understandable that after six weeks off school with much more freedom and less routine that they are going to find the return to school a challenge, but the fact is that whilst they are at school they are good and make sure that they do their best, it is at home that it all starts to unravel! back to school acclimatisation

5 Tips for helping your kids to acclimatise to back to school

  Food is everything! No really, it is key to give your kids a good protein based breakfast as they can not snack as they can during the holidays.  So making sure they get the best start ot the day is essential.  I also find that the boys return home from school ravenous, so I ensure that they have a good balanced afterschool snack waiting for them which keeps them full till dinner time. Keep hydrated I am not around to remind and ensure that the boys have lots to drink whilst they are at school.  I make sure that they get a good drink once they come home and send them to school with their new water bottles filled with cold water. Don't overschedule Make sure that you don;t over schedule activities for the first couple of weeks back at school.  Kids will be tired after a day at school and it is essential that they unwind.  My boys don;t have many after school activities anyway, but for the first couple of weeks I make sure that they do not have to go. Plan quiet activities I know that my boys will be tired and this often means that they are tetchy with each other, so I make sure that I plan activities to keep then occupied, but not over stimulated.  I love invitations to create and I am also a little more relaxed with regards to TV time. Go outside After being in a classroom all day the boys need their exercise and to get outside.  It is essential to their wellbeing and to mine too.  I make sure we go to the park, beach and walk the dog so that they can get out some of their energy. Sleep is essential  Children need a good nights sleep and it is one of the things that I am really strict about.  The guidelines for the amount of sleep is:
  • 4 years 11.5 hours
  • 5 years 11 hours
  • 6 years 10.75 hours
  • 7 years 10.5 hours
  • 8 years 10.25 hours
  • 9 years 10 hours
  • 10 years 9.75 hours
  • 11 years  9.5 hours
  • 12 years 9.25 hours
  • 13 years 9.25 hours
  • 14 years 9 hours
  • 15 years 8.75 hours
  • 16 years 8.5 hours
How do you help your kids during this first couple of weeks?  
THe Mad House
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Technology Free family time – 10 screen free family activities #screenfree

Technology, it pervades all parts of our life at the moment and I am not saying that is a bad thing, but I feel that we all need some freedom from it and some quality family time.  Kids need quality time with you, yes you and for that I mean me in the picture! We have implemented a screen free day each weekend and have screen free family time at 6pm, but this wasn't easy to implement.  It took time, it took planning and it takes constant input from me.  I am not going to pretend that it is easy, so I am going to be sharing some screen free activities and ideas for family time together. Technology Free family time  10 screen free family activities #screenfree Board Games We are big fans of board games and as they boys are getting older we can move more to strategy games.  Yes they don't like to lose, but who does! Cards I want my boys to be able to have a pack of cards and be entertained.  So we have taught them solitaire and we are busy learning some new games together, such as twos and eights, go fish and rummy. I swear that Maxi is going to be a card shark and card counter! Go for a walk alvin Now we have Alvin, we do this much more often and we love going out for a family dog walk.  Now I know that I am very lucky and I live in North Yorkshire, (Gods own country)  with some fantastic walks, which we take advantage of.  If your kids don't want to get out for a walk turn it into an adventure by looking for things that begin with a certain letter or are a certain colour or go on a nature walk. Do a family art or craft project Making medals Now this doesn't have to be a big scary project or even a messy one, you could just do some colouring in together round the table or you could make some story stones. Make up a story Group storytelling is a great way to spend some screen free time.  Story stones are a great way of facilitating group storytelling, especially using ones you have made as a family featuring things that you like. Make a scrapbook together My boys love looking at pictures, so we resolved to do something with all the images that I take and make some scrapbooks of things we have done together.  The boys love doing this, I print off a batch of images and then we all sit round the table and reminisce about the things we did and our different memories.  I try top leave the actual scrapbooking to the boys by sitting on my hands! Do a science experiment How often do your kids want to do something and you just don't have the time to devote to them.  We use screen free family time to do longer term experiments and science projects.  Science Sparks is a great resource for science based activities.  We had great fun exploring our sense of smell and taste. Cook or bake together  Maxi chopping tomatoes   I am passionate about teaching my boys household skills and cooking and baking together is something that we all enjoy and even better it feeds our souls as well as our tummies.  Some nights we just get the cookbooks out and all browse through them and make a list of what we want to cook and make a shopping list.  Other nights we bake or cook together. 3.
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Cooking with Kids – Vegetable stuffed omelette

I am passionate about teaching my boys life skills and for me a big part of that is cooking.  I aim to give them the skills in the kitchen to read recipes, prepare food and cook and bake meals from scratch.  At eight and nine, they are pretty handy already and vegetable stuffed omelette is a great recipe for kids as they are do it all themselves. vegetable stuffed omelette
5.0 from 2 reviews
Vegetable stuffed Omelette
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 100g Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • black pepper
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 60g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1tsp. paprika
  1. Sizzle the veggies…
  2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the veggies till soft and golden. Season with black pepper then set to one whilst you sort the other bits.
  3. Get cracking with the omelettes …
  4. Crack 2 eggs in a bowl and give them a whisk up.
  5. Add a drizzle of oil to a medium sized frying pan and go in with the egg mix.
  6. Swirl it round the pan to get a nice even coating.
  7. As is cooks gently push the outside edges into the centre to let the still runny egg move out to the edges.
  8. When the omelette is just set sprinkle over some of the tomatoes and cheese.
  9. When the cheese is nice and oozy you’re good to go, pile in some of that sautéed veg, fold over and tip onto serving plate.
  10. Do exactly the same to knock up the remaining omelettes and serve topped with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of paprika.
Maxi chopping mushrooms It helps to think about the fact that children will be preparing the meal when buying the ingredients with them.  This recipe called for mushrooms and we picked large flat mushrooms as they are much easy for the boys to handle and cut, rather than small ones.
Tip: There is nothing wrong in using frozen vegetables.  We have frozen sliced peppers in the freezer and used them in this recipe.  Frozen onions are also great for kids too as they don't get sore eyes when chopping them 
We have moved on to real knives, but I drum in to the boys about knife safety.  Before this we used salad knives and childrens knives from The Pampered Chef. Maxi chopping tomatoes A quarter of UK parents admit they never cook with their children, and one in eight families never use the kitchen to cook a meal in the oven, so UNCLE BEN’S® is launching Ben’s Beginners™, an online family cooking channel at , just look at this fab video about what the house of the futre could look like. u When cracking eggs it helps for kids to crack them one at a time in to a small glass that way they can fish out any shell that might go in. Mini with his omlette The boys did a really good job with their vegetable stuffed omelette.  They were delicious and they will certainly be making them again. To find out more about the campaign, please follow @BensBeginnersUK on twitter 3.
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its a trap I long to shout at the top of my voice as they scoot away down the road "Don't' grow up, its a trap"! I catch my breath as I measure their feet Adult size three's, only two shoes sizes under mine. I smile at the fact that they still want to go to the park to play and not just "hang out" Summer days are filled with friends, street cricket and scootering Scuffed knees still require a platter and a kiss from mummy to make them all better Summer mornings and we are all to be found snuggled together in Mum and Dad's big bed. I breath them in and inhale every part of them and my heart skips a beat. I made these boys. I am giving them roots so that they can grow wings. I am not raising boys, I am growing men. And I am not going to wish away a single day. Oh the first day of school is such a bittersweet time.  I LOVE spending the summer with my boys, they can be challenging, funny, argumentative, daft, silly, amazing and are great company and most definitely loud.  I know that they want to get back to school, to their friends and to an environment that they love, but I miss them, however, that first cup of tea in silence is heaven! The days are long, but the years are short. So make sure you make the most of this time by giving them an extra soft cuddle today and embracing the #PowerofSoft with Fairy. I would love to know how you let your kids show they individualism.
THe Mad House
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Would you put a tracking app on a loved ones phone?

At eight and nine, my boys do not have mobile phones.  I want to hold off on them getting them for as long as possible.  But if they had mobile phones would I put a tracking app on them and use it as a parenting tool?  I have to admit my first reaction is hell yes!

What got me thinking about this, well Folr, is a location-tracking application which offers real-time information on the whereabouts of the device it is installed on from kids, elderly parents (with consent of course) or anyone who agrees to be tracked, quickly and easily.

Would you put a tracking app on a loved ones phone

You install it on any mobile device (smartphone or tablet) and it unobtrusively updates you on the locations of those devices.

Interestingly Folr unique in location-sharing as it gives user complete autonomy over when there are tracked or if they are tracked at all. Folr is available via itunes or Google Play This caused quite a discussion when I mentioned it on facebook:
Emma from Emma and 3 "No chance. trust and communication is what's needed not spying and secret stuff I wouldn't use a tracking app as hopefully I have children that I can talk to without resorting to this.   I think it's invading their personal space and privacy. Laura from Kneadwhine " I could see the benefit for a child but it really doesn't show all that much trust in a relationship." Kara from Chelsea Mamma We have the find my phone app on the iPhones which has been really handy for locating misplaced phones and teens that don't answer them and don't think about phoning mum to say they'll be late home from school! Emma from The Mini' Mes and Me "I have the 'Find My Phone' app and it's really useful when misplaced (quite regularly). I don't think it invades privacy as long as it is used as a last resort/emergencies or for lost/stolen handsets. I wouldn't use it to stalk the family as that is completely unnecessary! Anna from In the playroom  "I don't see anything wrong with it if the person knows it's on their phone and agrees to it. Me and my other half had it on each other's phones but it's not working since I changed phone and I've not got round to sorting it. It's nothing to do with trust but it was quite convenient eg if he's driving he won't answer the phone but the app would show me is he nearly home or not. Now because mine doesn't work he normally sends me the journey tracker from waze instead when he sets off, only when he's coming late and I would need to know the time etc" Kelly  from DomesticGoddesque  Absolutely, if I felt I needed to: when The Girls travel to school on their own for example. I have a friend who can track her husband and she often calls him out for going to the pub after work instead of coming home!" Polly from The Enchanted Pixie "I think it's better to have a relationship where you trust each other and can talk then have to use an app." Anthea from Blue Bear Wood "Absolutely yes! It wouldn't be done sneakily and I would explain why it was there. For me it would be about safety and not to do with invading their privacy especially in the young teenage years. Any small possibility of trying to track a missing child is better than nothing." Emma Bradley £But that's the thing Anthea I wouldn't let a young child have a phone so it's not a missing child thing for me. for example my 10 yr old goes off with his friends for a couple of hours but doesn't take iPod as I think that actually makes him a target" Marianne  from Mari's World "No, I wouldn't. I too believe in trust and communication. It sounds a bit too Big Brother" Annie from Maneskur "No, not I. Looking at the kids angle, having been a sneaky kid myself I would worry that apart from the possible lack of trust issues it may throw up it could also encourage a child to leave their phone at home to avoid being tracked - and that could cause more problems than it solved." Suzanne from 3 Children and It "No I don't think I would - certainly not a partner! And as for children, I do believe that if they're old enough to be trusted with a phone then we have to give them some rope and show them that we trust them enough to give some freedom. How will they learn to make good decisions for themselves unless they sometime suffer consequences of bad ones?" Emma from The Syders "I have never done it but my Friend has because her 14 yr old daughter kept sneaking off into London from Essex and was strolling home really late in the evenings. At first they didn't know where she was going but once the tracker was in her phone they would know what train station she was travelling to and they started turning up. It baffled the teen how her parents knew where she was. It was a very useful tool for them in establishing what was going on with their teenage daughter x"
Interestingly I decided to discuss it with my boys and they were pretty unphased by me having anything such as Folr on their ipods.  They said that they always tell me where they are going and they don't take them out with them anyway! GooglePlus After discussing it with the Husbeast we decided that we would rather put our trust in our children to keep us informed about where they are going and that they will come back when they were told too! He decided that it would be implying that the possibility of something really bad happening is very real. It also sends a message that we don't trust them. A tracker is no substitute for real parenting. Plus I live in a small village where tracking is already a "free service" done the neighbours! But, if I had a child with autism who was a wanderer then I might have a different opinion. Also as I said in the beginning my boys are only eight and nine and never say never! 3.
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Back to School 2014

Eek, the boys are back to school today.  The days are long, but the years are quick, never a truer statement for me.  I can not believe that they are going in to Y4 and Y5 this year. Maxi 2014 Mini 20142014 And now for the outtakes! Outtakes school Previous years back to school photo's 2013 2012 2011 Do come and add your back to school photo's and back to school blog posts:
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August 2014 Small Stuff

August, it has been a funny month for me.  Thankful that the boys were off school, but hard due to health issues.  If I didn't have the small stuff then I think I would have spend most of it in tears! august small stuff There has been a lot of August spent in the kitchen with the boys baking, making and cooking.  It was great to supervise the boys (as I could do it sitting down).  Maxi learned to make pastry this month and we have made pies with foraged brambles, custard tarts, quiches, jam tarts.  Mini has been busy helping prepare dinners and making pancakes. Both the boys are becoming really proficient in the kitchen and Maxi has been chopping the carrots he has grown. We have also spent time in the garden and then cooked what we have grown.  We have eaten our way through all our beans, peas and potatoes.  The cauliflower and cabbages are all gone too.  The carrots have been a huge success this year. The boys are both becoming more independent and have spent the summer biking and scootering with their friends. They also went swimming by themselves with the Frugals for the first time. Mini's eyesight has improved, mainly due to a massive growth spurt and he picked out some new specs. Another new experience for me this month has been being on radio.  I spent the day on London being interviewed as a spokesperson for Anti Social Media day, both for live radio and for pre records.   It was a learning curve again, but I am loving pushing myself. We had a fab couple of days in London as a family, where the boys spent some quality time with MadDad at the British Museum and we all loved the South Bank Love exhibition. A Mum and boys trip to see Guardians of the Galaxy ended up with the boys buying themselves the soundtrack and the earworm from is is "Do you like Pina Colada" which the boy sing along too. I have really loved the more relaxed days and evenings and the boys have had fun with movie nights and snuggles on the sofa and Maxi has even been carried to bed a couple of times!

Craft wise we have been scrapbooking and personlising shoes and T Shirts.  I even made ombre shoe laces with Miss Frugal.

It hasn't been the month we planned, but being unable to walk and drive meant that we had to make changes and cancel some of our plans, but we have made the most of our time together.  
The Mad House
So now it is your turn.  Come and share with me your small stuff.  The little things that make a big difference.
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How to allow individualism when your kids wear school uniform

The school that the boys goes to have a school uniform policy and they are pretty strict with it.  Grey or black trousers, red or white shirts or polo shirts and a red jumper or cardigan.  They have to wear black shoes and PE kit is red shirts and a white T Shirt. I am a fan of school uniform for the following reasons:
  • Uniforms cost less overall
  • There is no worrying about what to wear each morning
  • Children are easily identified as belonging to that school
  • Encourages discipline
  • Uniforms can be recycled and passed down.
But I also feel that a uniform can detract from a kids unique identity,  So I do let the boys choose their own coats (within reason), school bags and their own trainers. Encourage Individualism

Ways you can encourage individualism

  • Allow your children to make choices when they can
  • Set acceptable boundaries
  • Allow them to choose their own stationery
  • Let them personalise items such as their bags and pencil cases
  • Encourage difference, my boys wear funky socks and as a household we believe in socks not to have to be a matching pair
The boys school shoes lasted less than six weeks last term, partly down to them playing football at playtime on the MUGA (multi use games area), so when JD Sports asked if the lads would like to receive something from their back to school range they chose a pair of all black trainers each. The trainers they choose are perfect for wearing to school as they follow the uniform guidelines as they are all black. craghopper This year the boys picked their coats from Get the Label. This was the first time I have used this site, but was really impressed.  Fantastic clothes at much lower than high street prices. Maxi got a fab Craghopper waterproof and a Bench coat and Mini a Sprayaway Jacket.  All were fantastic prices and  it allowed the boys to express their individualism. I might have mentioned before that Mini wears glasses and again I let him choose his own.  When he is due a new pair I take pictures on my phone of him in the frames he likes and then he looks at them and picks which ones he prefers. Another decision that I allow the boys to make is to choose their own haircuts.  Maxi still has longer hair and is more than happy with that, in fact his nickname is MOP and he embraces it.  Mini on the other hand likes his hair short and looks the current trend for hard partings. I would love to know how you let your kids show they individualism.
THe Mad House
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Asda saves the day with Click and Collect

Off days, we all have them. Well I think we all have them. I have had an off couple of weeks. The last couple of weeks of the school holidays have been something of a challenge for me. I contracted a virus which for some reason affected by joints and left me pretty much unable to walk. I am getting better slowly, but have walking sticks and a lot of pain. collection point Now you can imagine this has been hard on all of us. I am really lucky that my boys are eight and nine and pretty capable kids. They have lots of friends that live nearby and have had a couple of weeks playing on their bikes, playing football and street cricket and enjoying their summer off school. They are able to make their own sandwiches and get their own breakfast, but shopping is well too much for them and MadDad just cannot take any time off until next week, plus I am a control freak when it comes to my menu planning and food shopping and knowing him I would send him with a list and he would come back with half of it missing and loads of treats instead. IMG_0131 So when I was approached to try Click & Collect at Asda it was a real blessing. I could do an online shop and not have to wait in for delivery (not that we are going anywhere) or worry about bringing in in from the door and putting it away. Instead I could order online and arrange for MadDad to collect it to a store close to his clients on the way home, that way he can put it all away and do all the legwork for me! Me being me, I was super forgetful and forgot to add the light bulbs on that we needed, but I was able to add them on to my order without any issues.

So how was my Asda Click & Collect experience?

• Ordering was really easy and I was able to amend my order up until 1pm on the day of collection. • The ordering is the same as delivery right up until the last stage (but no need to pay for delivery or books a slot) • There was a store near where MadDad was working, so easy to collect from and the collection slops were 2 hourly • Collection is free
Click & Collect was a huge success for me. My shopping was collected by the hus-beast and he brought it home and put it away. It was less than 3 minutes out of his way to collect the shopping and he only brought home what I had ordered! Disclosure: This post is part of a collaboration with ASDA and SheKnows. All my opinions are my own.  
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Wonderful Wooden Spoon Characters

Wonderful Wooden Spoon Characters Inspired by our Kids in the kitchen pack we received from Betta Living and the craft pack from the Tots100 Bostic Craft Club this month we decided to make our own wooden spoon characters to use as puppets. So let me introduce you to Alice, Jim and Sheena (the punk rocker)! We had great fun making our wooden spoon puppets. Materials
  1. Wooden Spoons
  2. Fabric Scraps
  3. Embroidery floss scraps
  4. pens
  5. Fabric Glue
  6. Pipe cleaners
  7. Sharpies
wooden spoon puppets We basically just had loads of fun making our wooden spoon characters by glueing on clothes which were just scraps of fabric and adding some embroidery floss hair.  We even added pipe cleaner arms. We then drew on faces and left them to dry before putting on a show, which of course Sheena was the star! bostic  
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Tips for preparing for going back to school after the holidays

For me and the boys the hardest part of going back to school is reestablishing a good bedtime routine and time after the more relaxed days and nights of the holidays, however, I find that with some planning and preparation I can ease the transition back to school with the ideas below.  This makes going back to school so much easier for the kids and therefore, me. Tips for preparing for going back to school after the holidays Re-establish routines A couple of weeks before the school day starts again, we make a schedule for our typical school day and record all the timings and what needs doing.  We work towards regulating bed time in the final week before school, which ensures that body clocks are in sync with our Autumn timetable.  I try and ensure that I plan activities on a morning for that week before school so we all get in to the habit of getting up, breakfasted and dressed to a timescale. back to school routine and bag checklist Set Expectations Even though my boys are eight and nine, I still find that a back to school chart is really helpful in establishing what they and I need to do each day, so we take some time to each make one which includes what we have to do each day, including the timings. For the first time ever this also means that Maxi will be doing homework (Year 5), so we will be working on a homework timetable. Back to school routine Have a timetable/calender central We use an Organised Mum planner at home and the boys have the days that they need PE kit, musical instruments etc on the calender.  it is their responsibility to keep me informed of changes and taking their things to school. I totally copied the fab backpack checklist from J Daniel4's Mom Bag checklist Nurture independence One thing that makes our back to school transition so much easier is that I expect the boys to be independent and to manage things on their own.  They are both expected to take control of things in their classrooms at school, so I take advantage of this at home. A place for everything We have a place for the boys to out their school bags and paperwork each day.  It is important that they follow this, so I can check their bags for paperwork and act on it.  They also came in and wash their water bottles before refilling them and putting them in the fridge for the following morning. Do as much as you can the night before This is one of the things that is key for out mornings running smoother.  I AM NOT a morning person, so will stay in bed as long as I can, by doing more the night before I take the strain out of what can be a moody morning.  This means getting clothes ready, bags ready, checking the calender, filling water bottles, paying for school lunches in advance and prpping breakfast. Have a trial run We do a dress rehearsal a couple of days before school starts, just to make sure that everything runs smoothly.  For us this means having the bike locks and keys ready (the boys cycle or scoot to school), setting alarms and also helps make sure we know what is expected for all of us. Mum's need to be prepared too Being prepared for the boys going back to school means that I am not stamping their names in uniform the night before they go back to school.  It also means that we have tried on all the school uniform and that they have everything they need.  It also means getting back in to a routine with breakfasts and dinners and more importantly making sure that they have an afternoon snack to come home too.
THe Mad House
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A weeks school lunch Bento Box ideas

Just because my kids eat school dinners doesn't mean that they don't need a packed lunch occasionally and I have been a fan of Grace at Easts Amazing for a long time.  Her lunches looks fantastic and really aspirational, however, as you can see from the fab post from Grace below they are easily achievable with some planning using what you have in your home. Allow me to introduce myself – I’m Grace, mum of two boys, and I usually blog over at Eats Amazing, where I share ideas and inspiration for presenting healthy children’s food in new and exciting ways. I’m probably most well-known for the creative bento-style lunches that I make daily for my older son, and that is why I am here today. Jen very kindly asked me to share a week’s worth of my packed lunches with you, and I was very happy to oblige back to school bento lunches Making a packed lunch day in, day out can quickly become a very boring task, and when my son first started school I wasn’t looking forward to the endless lunch packing I could see stretching ahead of me. I had already struggled to keep them interesting when I was only packing two lunches a week for pre-school, so when I stumbled across some photos of bento lunches online I was instantly attracted to the idea. As well as being eco-friendly, bento boxes are incredibly flexible – depending on the box that you choose to use you really can pack almost any food in them. Initially, I primarily concentrated on packing healthy foods, but I soon discovered that with a tiny bit of extra effort I could get creative with the lunches too, and have never looked back! I estimate that I have made close to 400 lunches to date, and I’m still enjoying the process! I’ve picked out five of my favourite packed lunches to share with you today. Eats Amazing UK - Frog themed bento lunch This frog themed lunch was packed in a fun lunchbox made by TUMTUM. I packed some roast beef sandwiches on wholemeal bread, a mini Babybel cheese, cucumber slices, a mandarin orange, a few raspberries and a strawberry, plus a portion of mixed cranberries and raisins. I made it extra fun by cutting the sandwiches into frog shapes (using a special cutter kit by CuteZcute, which comes with an outer cutter and several interchangeable animal faces), cutting triangles from the cucumber to make lily pads, peeling the orange and gently pulling apart the segments to make a flower, cutting a flower into the wax of the Babybel cheese using a mini cutter, and adding a grass shaped silicone divider and some food picks (frogs, a leaf and a bee) to decorate. I also created a few edible flies by adding sunflower seeds wings to some of the raisins. Eats Amazing UK - Simple Zoo themed lunch This zoo themed lunch was fun to make and simpler than it looks. It’s packed in the Yumbox (one of my favourite lunch boxes), which has in-built compartments that make packing bento lunches really easy. The food was made up of some home-made tortilla crisps (to make, cut shapes from a tortilla wrap, brush them with oil and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes), houmous, a Babybel cheese, a hard-boiled egg, cucumber slices and some strawberries and red grapes. I made it fun by using an elephant cutter on the tortilla crisps, popping the Babybel into a silicone cupcake case and adding alphabet food picks, shaping the egg into a panda using an egg mould (egg moulds are really easy to use and so effective!), cutting the cucumber slices into flowers and adding cute animal food picks and a few grass shaped silicone dividers. Eats Amazing UK - Tortoise pitta pocket bento lunch I made this tortoise themed lunch to celebrate world turtle day. The food was a wholemeal pitta bread, stuffed with mayo, lettuce and slices of roast beef, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, a couple of strawberries and a peeled and sliced kiwi fruit. I got creative with it by turning the pitta bread and carrot sticks into a tortoise (I drew the details on with an edible marker pen), cutting ‘bite marks’ from the cucumber using the edge of a mini hand shaped cutter and adding food picks (alphabet, clover and leaf picks) to decorate. Eats Amazing UK - Hairy Maclary book themed lunch for World Book Day This Hairy Maclary lunch was part of a series of special book themed lunches that I made for World Book Day earlier this year. It was a simple lunch – a quesadilla (tortilla wrap filled with cheddar cheese, chopped ham, finely chopped red pepper and chopped tomato before toasting in a dry frying pan), grapes and natural yoghurt. I turned it into a themed lunch by drawing Hairy Maclary on the tortilla with edible marker pens, adding dog picks to the grapes and freezing the yoghurt into bone shapes using a silicone mould. I often get asked about the frozen yoghurt shapes – to keep the lunch cool I pack the lunchbox in an insulated bag with a small ice pack above and below it. I’m told that the frozen yoghurt usually holds its shape but is soft enough to eat with a spoon by lunchtime. Eats Amazing UK - Star themed bento lunch This star themed lunch was packed in a tiered Japanese bento box. The food was a quick pasta salad – pasta, finely chopped yellow pepper and carrot with a simple dressing of olive oil and white wine vinegar. In the second tier I packed shredded ham, a mini Babybel cheese and some cucumber slices. I also added a reusable food pouch filled with yoghurt and an apple to his lunch bag (not shown). I made this lunch fun by using space-themed pasta shapes, cutting stars from the carrot and pepper with a mini cutter, adding rocket food picks to the ham, cutting a star from the wax of the Babybel and popping it into a star-shaped silicone cupcake case and cutting the cucumber into stars. I hope that you feel as inspired by Grace's lunches as I do.  If you have any back to school posts then do come back and add them to the link up below:
THe Mad House
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The benefits for your child from eating school meals

I am a huge believer in school meals.  My boys have both had school lunches since they started school and I firmly believe that there are huge benefits for kids from eating school dinners.

Free school meals for infant aged children in England

  As from this September all infant aged children in England (reception, year 1 and year 2) are entitled to free school lunches.  For me this would be a saving of over £900 (although my boys are older).  This was piloted in Durham and was a big success.  Children in the pilot areas quickly moved ahead of their peers elsewhere, by almost a term.  Hungry children can’t concentrate and it helped solved the problem of  feeding pupils who are “not quite poor enough”. These children come from low-income families who don't quite qualify for free school meals, but can't afford to pay for them – or to put together a good packed lunch.  Want to know more about the free school meals then do check out the Department for Education  and the Children's Food Trust. To help publicise this the Department of Education are asking people to share their #SchoolMealMemories.  I have to admit that I have pretty decent school meal memories and the boys school dinners are ace. SCHOOL DINNERS facebook  

The benefits of eating school dinners

  1. Eating a balanced meal at lunchtime is important for concentration.   Hungry children can not concentrate
  2. Peer pressure - My boys will often try a new food if they see their friends eat it.  This is a great way to introduce new foods.
  3. The UK now has the highest rate of obesity in Europe with one in three children overweight or obese by Year 6.  School lunches are a nutritionally balanced meal.
  4. School lunches provide the opportunity for pupils to sit down and enjoy their meal whilst developing social skills that will be very important later in life.
  5. The boys school dinners provide three of their five a day
  6. Research by the Children's Food Trust shows that school meals are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, giving the children who eat them a better foundation for good health.
  7. A Children's Food Trust study has shown that children in primary schools are 3 times more likely to concentrate in the classroom following improvements to the food and dining room 
  8. I believe that by eating a warm school lunch and being taught about making healthy food choices that we are giving our children a solid foundation in food and equipping them with the skills for years to come.
  9. Table manners and cutlery skills come from everyday use and seeing how other people eat.  You would be surprised at just how many children can not use a knife and fork or talk with their mouth full. For some children lunchtime will be the only time they eat at a table or in company.
  10. Don't just take my word for it, this survey on why Teachers think school meals are important is eye opening.
Just to show that I am not totally against school lunches, Cass my dear friend from Diary of a Frugal Family gives her kids pack lunches and this is her post on them.
THe Mad House
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#CapriSunSchool Twitter Party – Friday 29th August 2014, 1-2pm

CB-Twitter-Party-Post-Disclosure-June2014-TM Do you love a good Twitter Party?  You know we do and we’re excited to host a party about your back to school lunchbox ideas.  On Friday 29th August at 1pm BST, please join us for the#CapriSunSchool Twitter Party where we'll be discussing juice drinks and how they can be incorporated into your back to school routine and healthy lunchboxes, and giving you a chance to win prizes! #CapriSunSchool-Twitter-Party08_29 Do your kids have packed lunch for school?  Mine don't regularly, but when they do I have to admit that we are fans of Capri Sun.  I love that I can freeze them and the pouches keep the rest of the food cold in the boys lunch box. We are big fans of Capri Sun fruit crush which is great for kids who like mine have adverse reactions to additives.  Oh and I also love that I can upcycle the pouches in to pencil cases.

Join me and RSVP for the #CapriSunSchool Twitter Party on SoFabChats!

   DATE: Friday 29th August 2014 TIME:  1:00 - 2:00 pm BST PRIZES: 5 - £60 Tesco Gift Cards EARLY BIRD PRIZE: 1 - £30 Tesco Gift Card HOSTS: @Jessies_kitchen, @keepupjonesfami@mum_themadhouse PARTY LEAD: @tsue1136 RULES: #CapriSunSchool Twitter Party Official Rules RSVP & PARTY GRID: #CapriSunSchool Twitter Party Page How To Participate In A Twitter Party on SoFabChats! TIP:  How to join a Twitter Party - sign in! Before party starts, click on the green “Sign In On Twitter” bar at the top of the page! TIP: Who to follow at a Twitter Party? Follow the Party Team by clicking on the Twitter handle links on the RSVP page! TIP: Want to win Twitter Party prizes? RSVP by clicking on RSVP button before you join the party, follow everyone on the Party Team, and tweet with the party hashtag during the party to be eligible! TIP: How to win the Early Bird prize? Watch for chance to share a tweet when you RSVP for chance to win! TIP: Special deals and brand coupons? Keep that option checked when you RSVP for the party! TIP: New to Twitter parties? Watch your column and Party Team tweet columns - they are slower paced and easier to follow! TIP: Where to find Twitter Parties? Check out the SoFabChats Twitter Party Calendarto find more fun parties to attend! Find more helpful Twitter Party Tips on SoFabChats!
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Loo Roll Balloon Rocket

Rocket Bingo are hosting a competition where you have to make a Loo Roll Rocket to be in with a chance to win an iPod 7th Generation. Now loo rolls are something that I have a lot of in our junk modeling box otherwise known as the recycling bin and as it isn't bin day till next week, we thought we would spend the afternoon making our own loo roll rocket.  But my boys do love to challenge me and they insisted that our rocket actually move! Don't worry your rockets don't have to work the competition, in fact you can find out all the details of the competition here

How to make a loo roll rocket that flies 

  making a loo roll rocket that works What you need
  • Loo Rolls
  • Washi tape
  • Wool
  • Straws
  • Balloon
What to do I asked the boys how they wanted to decorate their rockets and they decided that washi tape was the way forward, so I got out my stash and we had some fun decorating the loo rolls.  You could decorate your loo rolls in any way you wanted, paint, stickers, glitter or pens, the tape was a great as it encouraged the boys manual dexterity as they tried to keep the tape lined up on the rolls and an added bonus for me was that it wasn't messy. We then taped a straw inside each of the rockets and threaded some twine through it.  We tied the twine to two chairs and then blew up the baloon before taping it to the loo roll. We then let go of the balloon and wow the rocket moved on its own!  IT WORKS! Don't just take my word for it, take a look at our video below How to Enter

The competition closes at 23.59 on the 31st of August (see the site for full details).  But entry is easy, all you need to do is make a loo roll rocket, share it off on Facebook, and read the small print for the full terms and conditions.

So why not make the most of the rest of the summer holidays and get crafting with the kids and make your own loo roll rocket.  If you do enter I would love to see it so do come back and share a link to it in the comments. 

Good luck and have fun!

Full details here on Rocket Bingo’s site, competition is not hosted by The Mad House, the promoter is Rocket Bingo and this is a featured post on their behalf.

Looking for more summer fun inspiration then do come and join me over at Mum in the Mad House Facebook page 
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