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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