On Sunday morning I went to visit Luke an amazing horse, who is owned  by a friend.

I started my visit by giving Luke a few treats of carrots and apples which understandably he loved.

I enjoyed listening to him munching, as well as breathing in the wonderful smell that horses have ( this is something that my husband, who is not horsey does not understand at all!)

Luke had just come back from a hack ( ride) with his owner, Michelle so after she washed him off , I helped by using a sweat scraper to remove the excess water.

I spent the remainder of my visit generally patting, kissing and admiring this magnificant animal.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my good friend Michelle Clayton for allowing me to have this experience and to my sister, Kim Watts for escorting me and taking the photos. You can read more of my horsey adventures, before I suffered a stroke, by purchasing my e book titled Equestrian dreams Click Here To Buy

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Karen

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These cute little books are the latest that Tiny tree children’s books have sent me.

The books in this series are written by Kaley Owen and illustrated by Graeme Holding.

AMOS THE ANTEATER

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ells the moral of treating others in the way that you would like to be treated, it is written in rhyme and tells the reader a little about this spesies of animal providing some educational material as well as having fantastic colourful pictures throughout the book. On each page there is a bee which children could be asked to find, which may be a good incentive for a child who is a little reluctant to sit still and share a book with an adult.

BENNY THE BEAVER

explains why sharing with others is important, again the text includes some information about the animal.

CLEO THE CAMEL

this book explains why being greedy and wanting everything is not such a good thing and suggests that saving money might be a better option. It includes a brief explanation of how camels cope in the hot desert.

All 3 of these books are written in rhyme making them fun to read or to be read to by an adult. They will be enjoyed by pre-school age children at any time of day but would be especially good as bedtime stories.

Each book is published by Tiny tree children’s books and retail a t£4.99 each, good value for money, I would say because they teach important morals and provide some educational material about the animals in each book.

Disclosure: I was sent these books for the purpose of the review but all opinions are my own.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Karen

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As a mother of 4 boys ( 3 of my own and a step-son) and that the majority of the children I  looked after while I was working as a registered child minder were boys, I have quite a lot of experience in keeping them amused. In my opinion, boys will be boys, so you may as well let them get on with it, to a certain extent, by this, I mean, don’t necessarily ban guns and other violent inspired toys. In my experience they will go into the garden, find a stick and that becomes a gun,

or they build one from lego!. instead encourage calmer play, if possible. I believe that all children should have access to toys intended for both sexes. My middle son used to love pushing a doll around in his toy buggy. While child minding I observed that the girls, who didn’t have brothers, liked the cars ( as they didn’t have them at home) and boys, without sisters, swayed towards more ‘girly’ toys. I did, once hear from another childminder, that one parent complained because his son was playing with a toy kitchen! I think she politely said that if he wasn’t happy, maybe he should think about placing his son elsewhere, as she had similar beliefs to me. All I can gather from this story is that the father thought by playing with a ‘girls’ toy, his son would become effeminate! I had a small boy who liked to dress up in a pink tu-tu, from my dressing-up box. I could see no harm in this. In fact, I think he only did it, as he had seen one of the girls enjoying it and he decided to get it first!  I did, however, persuade him to remove it, before going on the school run, as I thought the older boys, may make comments. This child was very mild mannered and like to play quietly by himself, until one day another boy brought 2 light sabers ( star wars) with him. The play became rough and I had to intervene. I recall once taking my youngest for a walk in his pram. My older 3 sons were playing in the garden, as my husband was home, they were play fighting teenage mutant ninja turtle ( all the rage at the time) On my walk I saw a friends 3 girls ( of similar ages to my boys)  the difference was they were playing barbie dolls. For a split second I thought to myself, why did I have boys, but , of course, I wouldn’t change them for the world and am very proud of the men they have grown into. I think all boys go through the stage of loving anything with wheels. I remember my eldest son, sitting looking out of the window for most of a morning. We lived on a housing estate that was still being developed and was watching the dump trucks and diggers going past. I even gave him refreshment by the window, so not to spoil his enjoyment! He had an enormous collection of cars, lorries, buses and tractors which he used to line up, as if they were in a traffic jam, but then he would crash them all together and pretend there had been an accident ( this was the boy in him, I believe) Playing with toy vehicles can be educational, especially the Thomas the tank engine trains, as not only are they different colours, but also have numbers on the side.

In summery, then, don’t stop boys displaying boyish behaviour be aware that some computer console games can encourage unwanted behaviour, in boys and girls.

Instead encourage calmer ways to play Why not get down and join in, you may even enjoy yourself!

As always, questions/ comments are very welcome. If reading my blogs has inspired to to consider child minding you may like to buy my e book.

Karen

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This delightful book is written by Russ Brown and illustrated by Jamie Cosley.

 

The story is basically about a child who is struggling to concentrate in school, he says because there are monsters stopping him from doing his work. The other children don’t want to socialise with him as they think he is strange. Everyone tells him that the monsters are not real, until one day a new boy starts at the school who also has monsters pestering him and so the two boys become firm friends and things start looking up.

The text in this book is written in rhyme making it a fantastic story for early readers to attempt to read for themselves, as the rhyme makes it easier to predict the next word giving the reader confidence.

This book would really help any child who is finding school a challenge due to dyslexia  or other learning difficulties. Throughout there are colourful pictures making the book even more enticing to children.

 

 

 

Monsters in my maths book is published by Tiny tree children’s books and can be purchased from www.matthewjamespublishing.com for£6.99.

Disclosure: I was sent this book for the purpose of the review but all opinions are my own.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Karen

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This is a request from Julie Tallin, thanks Julie, for tips on how to divide your time and attention between several children.

In my experience, trying to juggle several children at once is easy, if managed correctly.

I used to try to include everyone together, so nobody feels left out.

I can recall my youngest son always wanting to be treated as a ‘big boy’ ( due to the fact that he had 3 older brothers).

One day he picked up a book, that one of his brothers has been reading and pretended he was reading it, fully engrossed. The only problem was, he was holding the book upside down, much to everyone’s amusement!

One another occasion, after a session of speech therapy.The therapist said to me “I would like Adam to practise these words at home.” He became very excited by this and said “Have I got homework, like my brothers?”

So from then on,when my older children were sat around the table doing home work I would encourage Adam to sit there too and give him a note book and crayons and instruct him to draw a dog etc.

For children who are too young to join in, in this way, why not sit them in a high chair, close by, with a healthy snack or small toy to keep them entertained?.

My older boys used to have weekly spelling tests at school, which they would learn at home. One day on the school run in the car, I was testing them on words. Adam looked up and said “What about me?So I replied “Adam. spell dog.” He came back with, “DOG.” It was a fluke that surprised us all!

Whilst child minding I really had to juggle children , as most days I had 3 under 5 and more in the school holidays.

Again I tried to plan activities that everyone could enjoy. Even a baby will sit happily on your lap while you read a story or sing. At around 18 months they can play with dough or draw using chunky crayons if sat in a high chair near by.I used to encourage the older children to help with the little ones. I had one particular 8 year old girl who loved to help. When we were preparing to go out they would get their shoes and sit on my stairs, in a queue, waiting for her to put them on. This worked really well for us.Older children also like to push a buggy or a child in a swing,or will happily cuddle a younger child under supervision, of course.

While any child requiring a nap was asleep I would read the other children a story, or encourage other quiet activities.

One time the children were junk modelling and a young child happily stuck masking tape onto a box and then pulled it off again. He still took this home (after I explained it to his mum).

 

If you let all the children share your time, in this way, hopefully, it will avoid jealousy, when one child appears to be getting more attention. GOOD LUCK.

As always questions/ comments are welcome. I will answer questions as soon as I can.

Karen x

This is another book from Tiny Tree children’s books.

Portia the pear is written by Nicola Hulme and illustrated by Elena Mascolo.

The story is a new take on the ugly duckling fairy tale, Portia starts life feeling that she is not as good as the other fruit in the orchard, but her confidence slowly grows.

This book may help a child  who is struggling with a low self-esteem  or mild bullying. Throughout the book there are beautiful colourful illustrations.

The text is printed clearly making it easy for an early reader to have a try at reading for themselves.

This is a book that will be enjoyed over and over again and would make a valuable contribution to a child’s bedtime routine as a before going to sleep story.

Portia the pear is published by Tiny Trees children’s books  and retails at£7.99

Disclosure: I was sent this book for the purpose of the review but all opinions are my own.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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Most children, love animals and rabbits, along, with hamsters and guinea pigs, are firm favourites.

Rabbits are cute and cuddly, however, they don’t always like to feel that all four feet are off the ground and therefore, sometimes, will scratch,.at that, I’m not suggesting that they are not a good choice of pet for a child, just that children should ALWAYS be supervised around any animal, not just pets. If they are handled correctly, by holding securely and having their legs supported, they will tolerate a small cuddle.

 

My two sisters and I, kept rabbits, when we were growing up and we looked after them extremely well, even if I do say so myself! However, I recall a time when we were very irresponsible, we often let our rabbits have a run around our secure garden and our parents, told us one numerous occasions, “NEVER,let them out together,”( they were housed in three separate hutches) but being children, we didn’t listen and did let them out together, to see what would happen really and you can guess what did happen,yes, they mated and several weeks later, we had babies, when we were questioned by our mum, I am ashamed to admit that we denied everything!

The main problem, with allowing your child, to have any pet, not just a rabbit, is that it may be just a novelty and they soon get bored with it, leaving their parents to feed and clean out the cage, or worse, the poor thing is left forgotten and neglected, living in a dirty hutch at the bottom of the garden, getting fat.

As an adult, I have owned several different rabbits, the most memorable being Billy, our giant continental bunny, He was huge in personality as well as stature and was even known to sunbath on the patio with our German Shepherd dog.

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At the present time, we have two Cornish Rex rabbits, Fudge and Smudge, who live happily together.  They go out on the lawn, in a run, as often, as the weather allows, ensuring they get plenty  of exercise, we even give them’toys’ to keep them fit. They will jump into an empty cardboard box together, my husband has also come up with an idea of stuffing hay into an empty toilet roll tube to make them work for  food, he has made a hay net from sacking too and hangs it just out of reach to encourage them to stretch.

Several years ago, my husband decided he would like to breed rabbits. I was working as a child minder, at the time and the children loved the babies, a few of them, even managed to persuade their parents into letting them have one. Another time I was looking at baby rabbits in a local pet shop, to see how much they were selling them for. I noticed a family were also looking at them. I whispered, to the mother, “I have baby rabbits for sale, which are half the price and have been handled by children.” She asked if she could have my phone number, so I gave her one of my child minding business cards. She rang later that day and ended up buying two from us. Sorry to the owner of the pet store!

Rabbits teeth never stop growing, so it is important that they are given hard substances to gnaw on, we give ours apple wood, hay and bird seed, which they love. but make sure you don’t overfeed your rabbits, a fat rabbit will not be able to clean it’s self and will be  vulnerable to fly strike .

Another tip, from my husband again, is to keep an area in the hutch to use as a toilet. He has sectioned off an area with wood batons, see in photo,

but you could even use a cat litter tray, for really easy cleaning. Encourage the rabbits to use this area by  moving their droppings into it, hopefully the scent will do the rest.

If reading this, has made you decide that a rabbit is the correct pet for you, or your child, please consider  obtaining one from a rescue centre, North Devon animal ambulance is my local re homing centre,but there are several across the country, including some pets at home stores, who do an adoption for pets scheme, they usually ask for a £10 donation, which is still cheaper than a lot of pet stores.

As always, questions/comments are welcome.

karen

I was sent this book from Tiny trees children’s books.

It is written and illustrated by Michelle Hird.

The story is about moving house and settling into a new place, which may help children going through similar.

Regular readers of my children’s book reviews will know that I love a book that is written in rhyme . This is no exception and because the text is rhyming it can help early readers to predict the next word, giving them the confidence to read some more. Equally the book would be enjoyed if it were read to a child by an adult.

Throughout the story there are wonderful, colourful illustrations

which will appeal to children of a wide age range, there are animals to look out for which young children should enjoy aiding early learning. The text is printed clearly  and is just the right size  for early readers to manage.

I recommend this book to be added to book shelves as it will be enjoyed time and time again.

Binx the jinx is published by Tiny trees children’s books and retails at£6.99

Disclosure: I was gifted this book for the purpose of the review but all opinions are my own,

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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I was sent this book by ichild.

It is just the sort of activity book that I would have found really helpful when I was working as a registered child minder as many of the activities relate to the early years foundation stage (E.Y.F.S.) which are personal, social and emotional development, literacy, maths and understanding of the world.

There are attractive pages to colour, which would be suitable for young children as the pictures are not too intricate.

There are also- spot-the-difference, counting and dot-to-dot puzzles which aid hand to eye co-ordination, these would be suitable for pre- school age children, plus writing

and drawing activities. Meeting the E.Y.F.S. there are puzzles relating to different sizes

and some simple maths exercises.

On the last page are some tips for staying safe in the sun.

 

Disclosure: I was gifted this item but all opinions are my own.

As I have already mentioned this book would be an asset to early years practitioners and parents of young children . The activities in this book and many others can be downloaded from ichild.co.uk/summer or can be purchased from Amazon for£2.99.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Karen

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I love to get out and about whenever possible and liked to do outdoor activities, with my child minded children, when the weather would allow.

One bright Autumn day I decided to take them on an outing to the woods, I had to drive us there, as it was approximately 8 miles from my home.

We parked in a picnic area nearby and walked together along the footpath to the wood. I gave each child a plastic carrier bag to put their treasures in, I had visions of them collecting conkers, acorns, pine cones, sycamore keys and maybe some leaves.

One particular little boy, Hayden, decided to fill his bag to the top with rather large stones and pebbles, he was thrilled with his finds.

After collecting our goodies, we paused for a while, to watch a wild rabbit, in the distance

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We then gradually made our way back to the car. Hayden’s bag was heavy, as it was full of stones, so he decided to drag his bag along the floor, rather than carry it. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the car park, the friction of the bag rubbing against the rough path had worn a hole in the bottom and all the stones had gradually slipped out. I hadn’t noticed this happening, as I paying attention to the children, ensuring everyone was walking safely along the path.

I have written on road safety, in an earlier post). The children all passed me their bags to put into my car boot. All poor Hayden had was an empty bag complete with a hole! Luckily, he didn’t seem too upset, just a little bewildered and his sister kindly said she would share her treasures with him.

As always, questions/comments are welcome. I always answer questions to the best of my ability.

Karen

There are many advantages why a parent, mother or father should join a toddler group,( traditionally known as mother and toddler groups.) with their child. Firstly it is a fantastic opportunity to meet other parents in similar situations as yourself. A well run group will benefit your child as it will help to teach them how share, turn take and generally get along with other children all things that will aid them later in life at pre -school groups as well as at school.

I took my own children to such groups and also attended several when I was working as a registered child minder. During this time we all benefited because the children in my care got to socialise with more children. I could have some much needed adult conversation and from a professional point of view, I gained ideas for activities to carry out at home with the children and I also acquired more work. This was because parents could see how happy and relaxed the children in my care were ( at one time I was literally over flowing with enquiries for my child minding service that I was able to pass on the details of other local child minders).

Activities at groups vary but usually there is an opportunity to paint

and or do art and craft projects,

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group singing time which includes singing to anyone who is celebrating a birthday

and a story session. Drinks and biscuits for both adults and children are provided.

Fees are usually minimal, starting at a few pounds to include a registration fee. Popular groups may well have a waiting list, so don’t delay in putting your child’s name down, often a group will allow you to go on a complimentary visit  before you commit.

Take my advice and join a toddler group, the benefits are endless.

Have fun with your children.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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This is a mini blog to respond to a message sent by Claire Day, after she read my original piece on bedtime routines.  Claire has a 21 month old son who sleeps in a normal bed and wakes every night screaming and nothing will settle him until he’s ready, then he just rolls over and goes back to sleep. This can be 10 minutes or two hours later.

Thank you for your question, Claire and for giving me so much information into your son’s sleeping pattern.

I’m presuming that my suggestions, given so far, have been of little help. I suggest, now, that maybe you should look into your son’s diet. I say this because when my eldest was of a similar age to yours, he started having nightmares, he would wake up, suddenly, screaming that there were bees flying around his room ( there were none) the only way I could console him was to open his window and shoo the bees away, telling him that they were all gone now. I then stopped giving him orange squash to drink, replacing it with diluted orange juice (which has less additives) this seemed to do the trick, as the night terrors stopped. Try settling your son to bed with a warm drink of milk, followed by a calming bedtime story. Shirley Hughes is an author I would recommend to you, as her books are about calm family life, with fantastic illustrations for you to talk about together.

Another idea, for you, is to buy him a new cuddly toy and explain to him, that it is a sleep bear or bunny and that if he cuddles it, it’s magic powers will help him sleep. At 21 months he should be old enough to grasp this idea! You could also reward him for sleeping well by introducing a simple star chart, instead of using stars, give him Thomas the tank engine or Bob the builder stickers (I bet he loves both of them) then if he manages to earn 3 in a row, treat him to an outing to the park or take him swimming, something he really enjoys. When you put him into his bed, try leaving his door open and the landing light left on, so he doesn’t feel so cut off from you. If you think he might escape through the open door, use a stair gate across the door way, or give him a night light in his room.

Hopefully, this has given you some more ideas to work with. Good luck, try to stay calm, as he will pick up on your anxiety. Let me know how you get on and if you need any help on other issues, just let me know.

Karen x

I was invited to go into “The voice”, Barnstaple, a local radio station in North Devon to chat about my blog.

I have been on the radio several times before; when I was campaigning to upgrade my local park (read more about this in my post titled power to the people-battle to upgrade Rock park) and when radio Devon asked me to comment on one of their parenting discussions, so I wasn’t feeling at all nervous this time.

First of all my sister who was pushing my wheelchair and I entered the building by the wrong door but a kind gentleman soon put us right and made me a coffee as we were early.

At 10.15 the appointed time we went into the studio where I sat in front of the microphone.

I asked the D.J. Paul Hopper if I was going to broadcast live, to which he replied,”Yes”.

He asked me a few questions, such as why I blog and what I write about. I think I answered the questions quite well and tried hard not to speak  too quickly ( which is something that I am aware that I tend to do).

Afterwards I realised that I had forgotten to mention during the broadcast that as well as writing parenting/child minding tips and advice I also review related products, but it was too late now.

After the interview had finished I asked Paul if he would be kind enough to send me a copy of the recording- here it is:

A few friends and relations told me afterwards that they had listened to the show when it went out and that I did well and sounded great (personally, I don’t like the sound of my own voice).

I would recommend other bloggers to contact their local radio station, as it is a fantastic opportunity to promote your blog.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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When Suziew asked me if I would like to review a second of her children’s books I immediately said  that I would, as I was impressed  by the previous one she sent me, Things Evie eats.

This time the book she sent is titled Better buckle up. It is a brightly coloured paperback suitable for toddlers and preschool aged children.

The book tells the story of Ollie, who doesn’t want to sit in his car seat or wear his seat belt, the tale is told in a way which young children can relate to. The illustrations  by plainsightVFX are brightly coloured which will enable parents and carers to assist their children in learning the names of different colours.

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After a little persuasion Ollie’s mum convinces him that sitting in his car seat and wearing a seat belt is the right thing to do.

I wish that this book had been around when my youngest son was small, as when he was around a year or so, he learned how to undo the straps on his car seat and would climb out of it. This alarmed me and I remember going into a baby shop and asking if they stocked a device which would prevent him from doing this, the assistant implied that it was down to parent supervision and made me feel that I was a failure as a mother. I think that reading this together would really have helped.

Better buckle up is written by Suziew, it is published by Beresford Publishing House and retails at £6.50.

I would defiantly recommend this book to parents, grandparents and carers, as it can be read and enjoyed time after time. The text is also printed in a way which will encourage early readers to have a try at reading it themselves.

Disclosure: I was gifted this book for the purpose of the review, but all opinions are my own.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Karen

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The small cars, big hearts mini rally began in August 1994 when 3 mini enthusiasts went for a drive around north Devon. They had such a good time that the following year invited more drivers along.

Now in it’s 22 year “The Grand Tour” as it is known is famous around North Devon. Over 200 minis are decorated and drive around the streets of North Devon honking their horns each August bank holiday to raise money for the children’s hospice south west “Little Bridge House” which offers respite to local children and their families.

 

Spectators line the streets to support, donate and cheer them on their way.

This year as the weather was pretty amazing I sat with my dog in my convertible car to watch this spectacular event go by, many of the mini drivers also dress up , helping to make the event even more entertaining for spectators. To date the rally has almost raised £500,000 for this worthwhile charity.

 

I would like to thank Michelle Clayton and Chris Wilman for allowing me to use their photographs in this blog.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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Regular readers will be aware that before I suffered a stroke 10 years ago  I rode thoroughbred horses belonging to friends every weekend.

Since stroke I have tried riding for the disabled at the Calvert trust, Exmoor.

My second go at this varied from the first in that this time I wore my left stroke affected arm in a sling because the first time I felt that my arm was in the way and was actually pulling me into a lop-sided position.

I was hoisted into the saddle of my piebald horse, the amazing Teddy. I felt more relaxed this time as I knew what to except.

We started as previously walking slowly around the indoor school to enable me to get the feel of my mount.

 

Kerri my instructor , said that this time she would like me to attempt to steer Teddy rather than the lady who was leading making him go in the desired direction. This was more of a challenge than it sounds as previously when I had the use of two hands I would shorten the left rein to go left and the right to move to the right, now though  I was riding one handed so had to master the art of reining like a cowboy. My poor recovering stroke brain struggled with this at first but with some encouragement from Kerri

I soon got the idea and even managed to weave in and out of some cones,

I also changed the rein  across the arena ( to non-horsey people this means to change direction). Next we mastered a 20 metre circle, of course, when I was able bodied I would do this at a canter rather than the slow walk we were doing now. One thing that  Kerri, my husband and sister, who were watching said had improved  since my last ride was my posture, I was sitting better and was not depending on the monkey strap that was attached to the saddle for me to hold on to.

At times I was leaning to one side

and where as at my first lesson  Kerri would literally  push me more central, this time  I was able to shuffle  myself into a better position.

After being hoisted  back into my wheelchair, my sister pushed me back to the stable block. Unfortunately one of the wheels got caught in a drainage gully and I was catapulted out of the chair onto the concrete floor which alarmed everyone especially me, immediately my ‘super Gordie’ of a husband  seeped me up and put me back into my chair . I was unhurt, just a little shaken , we all laughed afterwards by saying that I managed to sit on a large horse for an hour and then fell out of my wheelchair!

I would like to thank the staff at the Calvert trust, Exmoor

 for allowing me to have the experience of riding a horse again, I would recommend it to everyone.

As always comments/questions are welcome.

Karen

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I have always enjoyed watching the birds in the garden. As a child my grandfather gave me a book about birds so that I could read and learn about those I saw.
When I moved into my own home after getting married, my dade me a wooden bird table with a roof we only put out stale bread really, but managed to attract a few passing birds.
I really became interested in feeding garden birds after I suffered a stroke which has left me disabled, I spend a lot of time sitting in an arm chair beside a window, which overlooks the back garden. Unfortunately the garden is too low for me to see the ground while sitting, so my clever husband made a bird table at the right height

 

This has been wonderful for me to see wood pigeons, starlings, sparrows, black birds and a robin who frequently visits to feed on the died fruit and seeds that we supply.
He has also hung feeders containing peanuts and sun flower hearts from the garage roof that I can look at.

The biggest success, however is a gift I received from an elderly relative of a fat ball holder, the starlings can’t get enough of this. I heard on Spring-watch that there are a shortage of home bred starlings, I think that I have them all on my feeder as I recently counted 15 young fledglings feeding at once.


When I was a child minder I helped the children to make bird cakes from seeds , nuts and suet mixed together with melted lard and packed into yogurt cartons, left to set and then we hung them from a tree near the playroom window. The children enjoyed monitoring which types of birds liked to feed from them, it was mostly blue tits.

We also have a plastic bird table on the lawn which has water available for the birds to drink or bath in, we let the water go green as this encourages insects giving the birds natural food as well.


My husband has fixed a nesting box for the birds where I can see it, we have witnessed the odd blue tit going inside to investigate but up to now nothing has nested in it which is a shame as he has rigged a camera inside so that I can see anything that develops. I will keep hoping!
If you would like to attract birds to feed in your garden place the food somewhere safe away from cats, also refrain from throwing food onto the floor as this may attract rats rather than birds.
HAPPY BIRD WATCHING!
As always questions/comments are welcome
Karen
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This weeks post goes back to 2004, I was working as a very busy registered child minder and loving every minute of it.

I lived within walking distance of a park, but more often, than not, would drive the children roughly 10 miles to the next town where there was an amazing park complete with a paddling pool

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The little equipment it had was so old, that my mum had a photo of me, as a child, sitting on the same sea-saw ( I was 43 years old!).I was sitting in the park, one day,with another child minder, discussing how wonderful it would be, if the council would upgrade our park. I decided that it wasn’t any good to just complain, but I needed to do something AND I DID! I put together a petition the next day…

I began by just asking friends and neighbours to sign and everyone, I asked, spurred me on, saying it was a brilliant idea.

Next I  contacted the local papers and radio. It snowballed like crazy. My first letter was published in one paper and I was featured on the front page of another. Myself and the children were becoming quite famous. I must point out, that I did obtain written permission from the child minded children’s parents, before any of this went ahead.

One day, I received a phone call from the local television company asking if I would appear on their news programme, at first, I thought it was my husband, playing a prank, but quickly realised it was for real. I arranged to meet with them, in half an hour, at the park, for filming. Thoughts of, what shall I wear?and I need my roots colouring, went through my mind, but, in reality, I ran a comb through my hair, put on some lipstick and made a dash to the park. When we arrived the camera man, asked me to approach a lady and ask her to sign the petition, while he filmed. I seemed to turn into a wooden top ( a children’s T.V.  programme, where the characters were made of wood and therefore, had stiff joints)

After filming, we walked home, collecting more signatures on the way. Sitting down, later that evening, to watch the news, I felt sick, what if it looked terrible? but luckily, it was great, I came across well and the children loved seeing themselves on television, except for, my 12 year old son, who was not impressed, when he was shown. on the roundabout, with a girl!

The council, said, soon after, that the upgrade would happen, but then came up with one excuse after another and it was looking more unlikely. I then decided to step it up and along, with some other child minders, we came up with a slogan. B.U.R.P. Battle to upgrade Rock Park. I printed loads of posters

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and handed them out to the public, who displayed them in house and shop windows, on garden gates and in cars, one man, was even seen with one attached to his push bike saddle.

Next, I organised a get together to hand over my petition, to councillors, outside the civic centre. In total, I had collected over 2,400 signatures and it was tied altogether with a red ribbon, as I proudly handed it over. Of course, the media, were there, in force I had also asked members of the public to join me to make a sort of demonstration. I must admit, I did have nightmares, that no one came, but needn’t have worried, as over 150 parents, grand parents and children came, we had made placards to hold, saying, UPGRADE OUR PARK , WE WANT SOMEWHERE DECENT TO PLAY, and such like. We then marched in a circle, with me as the leader, followed by the children, chanting ” What do we want?”

” A new park!” ”

When do we want it?”

” Now!”.

One of the radio stations recorded this, for their news bulletin,the next day . A few older children, also stood on the pavement, with signs, asking passing traffic to hoot if they agreed, this sounded great too.

I am happy to report that in October 2007 the new play park was officially opened, I was invited along with some of the children that had helped,

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< unfortunately, I became ill in February, so have had to give up my beloved child minding and haven’t been able to use the park, as I had planned, although I am informed, that local children and their parents love it. Hopefully, one day, I will recover enough to child mind again and will use ‘Karen’s park’ , as it is now known.

As this story shows, if you feel passionate about something and get enough people together, a lot can be achieved. We never got the paddling pool, so families, still travel 10 miles, for that enjoyment, but the equipment, in the local park is now wonderful.

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As always, any questions/comments are most welcome.

Karen

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Karen

Harry started at Little Treasures quality child minding, when he was 2 years of age. I had previously cared for his older brother, Kelvin, until he left me to start school. Harry had initially been with another child minder, as I didn’t have a space for him, at the time ( there are very strict rules about the number of children, child minders are permitted to look after). Harry eventually took over his brothers place, when he left, so it all worked out in the end.

Harry’s mum, Paula, had previously spoken to me about Harry being a little slow to talk. All of my sons had needed help, in the form of speech therapy, to help them with communication, so this was all familiar to me.

As Harry grew older it became more evident that he was having trouble with this.

When Paula asked me what I felt about this, I said, what I thought was an obvious question,”He has had his hearing tested, hasn’t he?,”Well no,”she replied,”I couldn’t take him for the appointment, as something else came up!”

I was amazed to hear this, but try not to judge people, as we all lead busy lives.I suggested that she make another appointment, but she never took him to that one either.

I was working part time as a support child minder, at the children’s centre too and knew one of the speech therapists quite well, I mentioned to her, that I was concerned about one of the children in my care and she suggested that I bring him along to one of her drop-ins, where she could observe him.

I spoke to Paula about this option and explained that I would need written permission from her for this to go ahead, she was delighted at the prospect, as it meant she wouldn’t need to do any more!

Anyway, she gave me the written consent:

To whom it may concern, I,…… give my child minder, Karen Dennis, my permission, to seek action and/or advice in order to help my child,……signed…………….

I took Harry along to what was, in effect, a play session, with a speech therapist in attendance. She observed us both, from a distance, at first, and then when Harry became more relaxed, she came over and started to build a tower from building blocks with him.

He was now about 2 and a half, she chatted to him, but because he was shy, he wouldn’t even look at her, let alone talk to her!

A few weeks later, while at home, Harry pointed to my television, meaning he wanted me to switch it on, when I did a programme called Big cook, little cook, was on,

“Yeah,yeah, yeah, cook,cook, cook, cook,” he exclaimed excitedly.

Another time I took all the children on a visit to a farm, where we saw, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.

I attended a training course some time later and I was still thinking that there must be something else I could do to help Harry’s situation. I spoke, in confidence to the special education needs co-originator ( Senco) about him and explained to her that I had written consent from his parent to seek help, she told me that she was going to be working close to my house soon and so would pop in for a coffee and take a look at Harry at the same time.

Anyway, she did just that, all the children were sitting at my kitchen table playing with some play dough, when she arrived, I discretely pointed out which was Harry. She sat next to him, as he was cutting out the shape of a pig.

“Is that a pig,Harry?” she asked.

“Yeah, yeah,yeah,Karn’s a oink, oink,” he replied.

I told her, that Karn was how he referred to me.

“Oh, is Karen a pig?” she queried. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” came his reply, as he bounced excitedly on his chair.  I very quickly explained that I had recently taken the children to see some pigs! she laughed and said that she hadn’t actually thought that the boy had really meant that I was a pig.

The Senco couldn’t see a particular problem with Harry, other than a common speech delay and therefore suggested some listening games that I could play with all the children and that he could also play at home. Eventually Paula took her son for a hearing test, which he passed, his talking then developed in leaps and bounds, he is now doing very well at school.


If you have concerns about your child’s hearing or communication consult your doctor or health visitor for advice.

As always comments/questions are welcome.

Karen

 

This weeks post goes back to when I was working as a registered child minder and took a group of minded children on a visit to the local garden centre.

We walked along a safe foot path

and on arrival  we looked around at the plants

 

and pet accessories they were selling, before visiting the cafe for refreshments

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After our visit we were preparing for the walk home, when one child, Katie, looked a little worried.  “What’s the matter? I enquired. “I’m just checking that the police haven’t arrived yet,” she told me

, “I have stolen some diamonds!”

I asked her to show me these precious jewels, so she reached into her pocket and pulled out 3 shiny stones

which had been on display in one of the flower beds we had been looking at earlier.

“Oh sweetheart,” I told her, “These are not diamonds, they are shiny stones.”

” i took one for mummy, one for daddy and one for you,” she explained.

I don’t know if she was more relieved that she wasn’t going to prison, or disappointed that she wasn’t going to make us all rich.  It was good to know that she had included me in her get rich scheme though!

Read more of my child minding tales in other posts and in my e book also titled the next best thing to mummy, available to down load from Amazon.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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I was sent this book by Boolino

childrens book reviews. It is written by Jackie Marchant and is illustrated by Loretta Schauer, this paperback will appeal to children around the ages of 7-11 years and has an inviting front cover, which is mainly in red.

 

The book has 194 pages but the way the story reads, it would make a good book for a reluctant reader, as it entices the reader to keep reading in order to discover what is going to happen. It is humorous in parts and contains black and white sketches throughout.

Dougal Daley is published by Wacky Bee books and retails at £6.99.

I would recommend this book to parents, who wish to encourage their children to read more.

Disclosure: I was gifted this book for the purpose of the review but all opinions are my own.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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When I was working as a registered child minder I had a few parents who came to see me to enquire about my child minding service, but were unsure or worried about using me instead of grand parents..

One such person was Heidi  who said that her mum Lydia was keen to look after her 6 month old son, Michael, but Heidi was concerned that doing this would restrict her mother. We chatted for a while and then came up with a plan, which she was going to put to her mother, I would look after Michael for 3 days a week and Lydia could have him for the other 2. Heidi went away feeling confident that this would work  and promised to let me know what her mum thought.  She rang me the following day to say that her mother agreed it was a good idea and because she was so pleased she wanted to pay my fees  for caring for Michael, as it meant she wasn’t going to be tied to a baby every day.

The arrangement worked extremely well, however, Heidi went on to have a second child and we continued with the same joint care, then one day I took  the other children in my care to a toddler group session,Lydia was there with her grandchildren and when they saw me they seemed to forget who they were with and came to me for everything, could I take them to the toilet, put on painting aprons and so on. I didn’t mind really and as they were with their granny it meant that I wasn’t breaking my number ratio.

Another parent brought her mum along  for the interview with me and the grand parent made it very clear that she didn’t think her grand son should be going to a child minder at all  as she was quite capable of looking after him

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Anyway  the mum decided that her son WAS going to be spending time with me! When his mother wasn’t feeling well , she phoned me to say that the child’s grand mother would collect him for her. when granny arrived and attempted to put on Johnny’s coat, he was having none of it and screamed, she then took a big breath and said, “Could you put his coat on, please Karen?as he obviously prefers you” Later I had an apology from Johnny’s grand mother admitting how wrong she had been as Johnny really enjoyed his time with me.

Another scenario  was when a young parent came to see me after getting a recommendation from a friend and said that her husband wanted his mum to take care of their daughter while they both at work, but she knew that if her mother-in-law had her child  she would most likely be sat in front of the television  for most of the time as the lady was getting older and didn’t venture out much. She knew from her friend that I did loads with the children and took them out most days, eventually we set up a similar arrangement to Michael’s keeping everyone happy.

There are pros and cons to using a child minder over family members and as everyone is different, parents have to do what they think is best for their child and other family, by having joint care the child gets the best of both worlds, in my opinion, time to socialise with other children while at the child minders home and quality time with grand parents

As well as sharing child care with a grand parent, or two I have also shared care of a child with other early years settings and another child minder.

Laura required 3 days a week but at the time I only had 2 that I could offer so she came to me for them

and went to another child minder for the third day later when the space became available she came to my setting for all the days, she is grown now and still refers to me as her second mum as I must have done something right’

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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I was sent a complimentary bundle of activity booklets from ichild.

They consist of

Twirl woos

 

based on the cbeebies weekday television show this booklet has a variety of educational activities for a younger child to do with an adult plus a colouring page  that your child could  can do without too much supervision.

Disney junior

This booklet is based on 7 Disney junior television programmes, the fun activities are about healthy eating, there are things to make with your child and some simple writing exercises, a collage to work on together, also dot-to-dot and even a finger puppet to make.

Pip ahoy is on every weekday at 7am on channel 5’s milkshake,

again the booklet  contains colouring, dot-to-dot and puzzles, plus a spot the difference and a simple counting activity, writing exercise and much more.

Ben and Holly’s little kingdom

. has colouring and counting, plus some art and craft ideas, spot the difference and a fun puzzle.

To sum up

I would have defiantly  found all of the above useful when I was working as a busy registered child minder as the activities could be adapted to suit a variety of different ages. Parents will also find them invaluable as a way of preventing boredom during the long school holidays, especially if we have another typical wet British summer!

There are many fun, education activities  to download and print for yourself at www.ichild.co.uk and by becoming a gold member  there are even more special resources to access.

Disclosure: I was gifted the activity bundle, bot all opinions are my own.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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The subject of this weeks blog, is a suggestion, from Erika; thanks Erika.

Before I start, I want to point out that I am very bias towards child minders (as I worked as one, for 14 happy years, only giving up due to ill health)


Child minders usually work alone, in their own homes and many have their own children.

My personal feeling is that babies are better with a child minder, than, say, a nursery setting, as a child minder is in a home enviroment and the adult to child ratio is a lot lower. It was one under one, three under five and six under eight  in my day. Child minders also cover a wide age range, usually birth – 14 years, so your child could stay with a child minder for many years, including before and after school and during school holidays, if necessary.

Most of my work came from word of mouth, so ask around at your child’s school. toddler groups, etc. if anyone knows of a good child minder.. Health visitors are also a good port of call, or contact Ofsted for a list of registered child minders, in your area.

My advice, would be to visit several before making your decision. Although all childminders, follow strict Ofsted rules and regulations, we are all quite different from one another and you need to find one that is on ‘the same wave length’!

Initally you will need to make phone contact. to check on vacancies and then make an appointment to visit.I used to try to interview prospective parents, during the day, while I was working, if possible, to give them the feel  of my setting while it was in use.

During the visit, parents should be shown, the registration certificate ( ideally this should be on display), insurance document, details of policies, Ofsted reports, first aid certificate and other qualifications gained, she should also explain about things like accidents / inicidents and make out a contract, if you decide to go ahead,so every one is clear about every thing ( like fees, arrangements for non attenance etc.)

Questions to ask the child minder are  how is behaviour managed? will there be extra fees for outings or  meals? ( or should a packed lunch be provided) what happens if a child is taken ill during the day,ages of other children who will be at setting at the same time, etc.

My last piece of advice is to go with your gut instinct, if it doesn’t feel right look else where. Most of my child minding parents told me that they knew when we first met, that I was right for them and their offspring. I have made some life long friends from both parents and children from my time as a child minder.

As always questions/ comments are welcome.

Karen

 

 

Another instalment of my pets for children, this time it’s fish.

When I was a child my father kept a tank of tropical fish in the living room

. We were delighted when the guppies had babies, we gathered around the tank to watch them being born which was magical to begin with, the baby fish popped out of their mother one at a time rolled up in a ball they then uncurled and swam away only to be eaten by the other fish including their mother  we found this horrific to witness. The next time we had a pregnant fish dad  purchased a small breeding tank which floated at the top of the tank

he put the mother-to-be inside then as the babies were born they dropped through a slot out of harms way, when they grew they were realised into the main tank.

A few years later dad decided to go a step further and made a fish pond in the back garden this was a huge success and as he also included a fountain and small waterfall it made quite a feature

. The goldfish loved this large expanse of water, he then added some golden orfe

which were his pride and joy, unfortunately my father then came across a product which claimed  it would make the pond water clear enabling us to see our fish better, what he didn’t know was that it was not suitable for ponds containing golden orfe, we soon found out as the following day they were all floating upside down on the top.

On a similar subject my grandfather kept a goldfish in a small tank, one day while cleaning it he placed the tank complete with fish into the kitchen sink he then turned on the tap with the idea that the clean water would flow into the tank while the dirty water would over flow and run down the plug hole, the problem was my granddad had turned on the hot tap by mistake which killed his beloved fish.

Back to our fish pond, as children we went to a fun fair were we each won a goldfish from one of the side stalls.dad quarantined  them for a while saying that they would be dead by morning as the fair staff don’t treat them well, he was wrong two of the three fish lived for many years in the pond.

As an adult my husband  decided that he wanted to keep Oscars,

which are huge fish which I personally find ugly, he purchased an enormous tank which held 450 litres of water and stood 6′ high including the cabinet and stand  he bought two Oscars one lived for a few months the other we had for about 18 months,  my husband, Alec loved this fish and would prepare pieces of meat to feed it  as well as spending time watching it swim, while cleaning the tank once, which was quite a task considering how large it was he placed his fish in a bucket which he put in the garage away from the cat while he cleaned the green alga  from the glass inside. When the tank was clean he went to the garage to discover that his fish had commuted suicide  by jumping out of the bucket onto the floor. To say that Alec was upset is an understatement  he even said that he considered cooking and eating the fish as he had invested so much time and money into it!

If your child wants a fish as a pet, hopefully this won’t have put you off!  but please DO NOT house it in a gold fish bowl,  there is nothing sadder than seeing a fish swim round and round in boredom, get the largest tank you can afford and have room for and put in some plants which as well as looking attractive will enable the fish to hide, also buy a filter and a heater if you are keeping tropical fish, above all ensure that children are not tempted to overfeed their fish as this will lead to a premature death, keep fish out of direct sunlight and cover tank with a lid to keep out dust and cats

Above all enjoy and take care of all pets.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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Susan, who has been a child minder for just over a year got in touch and asked if I could offer some advice on transition documents.

There are many documents available to buy or download on the market, but I used to make my own using the computer.  Basically they need to include the child’s name, date of birth, your contact details ( I also added my Ofsted Reg. No) roughly how long the child has been with you and how they have progressed during that time. The document has to be signed by the carer and parent.

I recall a particular child, Harry, who had a significant speech delay when he first came to me. I have written about Harry in more detail in a post titled Double Dutch When Harry was ready to leave my child minding setting to go to a school nursery

, I had never written a transition document before, I wanted and needed to include the speech delay, but knew I had to be respectful of him and his mother who never took him for a hearing test

. My first thought was not to mention it at all, but I realised that his teacher would soon discover this for herself and may think that his child minder was not very good  as she never said anything about it.

What I did was to write that Harry was a happy child who got on well with his peers and had shown signs of speech delay when he first came to me but that he was now making progress.

I had another parent who worked as a special needs nursery nurse, ask for my opinion about her son, ” Do you think there is something wrong with David?” she asked me.I did think that there was something not quite right, but would never say anything to upset or offend a parent, so I replied that, “In my experience, he was a little slower in his development than the average child, but as all children are different, I wouldn’t worry too much, monitor his progress and mention it to your health visitor at the next appointment” she seemed happy with that, David was diagnosed with a mild form of autism after leaving me so my instinct had been correct.

Back to the document, you can make it quite simple, Susan with only the essential information, but I have heard of early years settings who include a photo of the child and even some of their artwork

I think that child minders have an advantage over other early years settings as we tend to work more on a one-one basis , having fewer children than a nursery or pre-school  means that we can get to know our children really well which should make writing this document easier. also there shouldn’t be too many children leaving at once, unlike a larger setting who may have a dozen or so .   leave to start school.

I hope this has helped Susan and given you a few ideas, if you have any further questions you know where I am!

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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Once when I was a child minder and went to collect my youngest son from school, while I was waiting for him to come out of the classroom the head mistress came over to speak to me, ” Mrs. Dennis,” she said, “I need to apologise, as I have done something terrible today.” My first thought was has she killed my child? All she had done was to give my name and telephone number to a new parent who had asked about a child minder who could collect her boys from school, I said to the teacher that it was perfectly alright, but she insisted that she should have asked my permission first.

Anyway the parent phoned me the following day and asked if I was able to collect her two sons from school on Monday afternoon. after she accepted my fee and gave me the vital information I needed we decided we would complete a contract and other paperwork when she collected the children from my house.

On Monday when I went to  get the children from the village school they attended I began to wonder what Dylan and Colin would be like , as other than their names and ages I knew nothing about them.

The school secretary who had seen me waiting in the playground from her office window came out to see me, “Karen, you are taking Dylan and Colin today aren’t you?Dylan is lovely,” she said then she waked away.

I started to think what was wrong with Colin if only Dylan was lovely. Dylan then came out with my son with a big grin on his face

. and did indeed look lovely. I never got to meet Colin at this occasion  as the head mistress came out again and told me that their mother had been trying to contact me to say that as Colin was going to football practice after school

she would fetch him before coming to get Dylan from my house.

Later after signing the contract ( which ideally should be signed before the arrangements start) I finally got to meet Colin who WAS also lovely.

I continued to collect Dylan from school every Monday for about 6 months or so until his family moved again and we lost touch. I have written a post about the activities I planned for the older children.

My son informed me that although he was friends with Colin he was glad that he never came home with us as he didn’t want to spend time with him after school as well as all day so it all worked out for the best.

I would love to hear if other child minders have been in a similar scenario.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Karen

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I was sent a set of 4 books named The dinosaur detectives to review from Boolino

. Each book is a paperback written by Stephanie Baudet and tells an exciting adventure had by Matt  the son of a palaeontologist, who gets transported back  to prehistoric times.

 

The books describe the dinosaurs and will defiantly appeal to any children who have a fascination  for these extinct creatures. I can think of a half dozen I used to child mind who would have really enjoyed these books. There are black and white illustrations  throughout the books by illary Casasanta

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Each book is roughly 70-80 pages long so just long enough to hold the attention of a child aged 7-11 years which this set should suit. The stories also explain a little of how the dinosaurs survived providing some education as well as  entertainment for the children reading them.

I would recommend these books  to parents to buy for their children, boys especially will  get an enormous amount of enjoyment from reading them I know they would have appealed to my boys when they were growing up. having said that girls will also love them. The books retail at £5.99 each  or the set of 4 can be purchased from sweet cherry publishing for £23.96, good value if they get children away from sitting in front of a screen!

Disclosure: I was sent the books for the purpose of the review but all opinions are my own.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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Continuing my theme on my experience of pets for children this time is for budgies.

When I was a child we had a fantastic blue budgie we named Kelly, although I think it was a male budgie as if my memory is correct he had a blue area above his beak, whereas females are coloured a pale brown colour.

. I have always been told that males are the best talkers although I know my husband would chose to differ as he claims no one can talk like a female!

Kelly was really tame and when he was allowed to fly around the living room would often come and perch on a shoulder

my parents would sometimes offer him a little of their tea on a teaspoon to drink.

Sadly Kelly managed to escape from his cage when my dad was cleaning it in the garage he flew out of the door and was never seen again.

As an adult my now ex- husband insisted on getting a yellow budgie so he could call it Custard, I wasn’t as keen as we had two small sons and a kitten to take care of. Anyway he had his own way purchased his bird and hung the cage from a bracket above the sofa in the living room  I think that when he put his pet into the cage was the last time he looked at it as as he never fed or cleaned it out that was left to me. Custard’s feathers would land along with the husks of seed all over the sofa.

I am now going to be honest and admit to what happened next. We had a few cross words about this and later that evening I went out for a few drinks with some friends from work, later I invited them back to mine for a coffee my ex was already in bed sulking, when one colleague commented on the budgie and said how much he had always wanted one having dutch courage from a little too many drinks I handed him the cage containing the bird then I found a screw driver and removed the bracket from the wall ( I did know this person well and was confident that Custard would be well looked after).

It actually took a week before my ex realised that his ‘beloved’ pet had gone and that was only when I asked him if he thought something was missing from the room, he replied “I know something is missing as the room looks a little bare, but I can’t think what it is!” Later when I told him about it  he didn’t seem at all bothered and it was never spoken of again six months later we bought a pet rabbit for the children who lived in a hutch in the garden.I have also written about rabbits as a children’s pet.

My grand father always had a budgie and they were always called Joey. I think there were half a dozen different Joey’s over the years. He liked to train them to talk and do little tricks, he taught one to push a tiny plastic dolls pram along the table with it’s beak.

Budgie’s can make a great pet for children, but please ensure they are given attention and always supervise children around all animals. For easy cleaning most cages come with a removable tray at the bottom. Supply clean fresh water at all times and keep the cage out of direct sunlight, your budgie may also appreciate a few toys such as a mirror in his cage.

. If you allow your pet out of the cage to fly around make sure all doors and windows are firmly shut and closing curtains will prevent them from flying into glass and getting insured. Enjoy all your pets.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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I have been a horse lover for as long as I can remember always hoping to get my own( read more about this in my e book Equestrian dreams available to down load from Amazon) so when a friend asked if I would like to assist with bathing her horse I jumped at the chance.

I started by wetting Luke a 16.4 hand bay gelding with the hose pipe, his owner Michelle  did the high parts that I was unable to reach from my wheel chair, next I rubbed the shampoo into the lower parts

 

Luke is an amazing horse and wasn’t phased at all by the ‘silly woman’ who was attempting to wash him from a sitting position! I then rinsed off the shampoo using the hose again

, then a sweat scraper enabled me to remove the excess water,

as it was a warm day he was fine to be left to dry off completely in the sunshine.

Finally as a thank you I fed Luke some carrots and planted a kiss on his nose.

I would like to say a big thank you to Luke’s owner, Michelle Clayton for letting me experience a fantastic morning at the stables and to my sister, Kim Watts who not only accompanied me but also took the photos. I have written an earlier post on my experience of riding for the disabled.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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Boolino books sent a set of 4 Toddlyworld books for a review, these brightly coloured board books are suitable for ages 2-5 years and come with an accompanying audio compact disc.

These books feature Toddly and his teddy bear, Toddlybear, the books I received are titled Summer, Spring, Numbers and Stars and each tell  a story that most children will be able to relate to, such as a visit to the garden centre or going on a holiday

IMG_20170519_123916 the stars and numbers books are educational meaning that early years settings could use them to help with the curriculum set by Ofsted

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,Each compact disc starts with a song related to the story that is catchy and children will soon be singing along to after listening a few times, then the basics of the story is told in the voices of the story characters. The narration doesn’t follow the words exactly  but close enough that children will be able to follow the stories by looking at the illustrations as they listen, equally the stories will be enjoyed if read to by an adult.

All four of these books are substantially made and can be wiped clean, they will be enjoyed by both boys and girls .

I partially like the inside covers were there is a space for the child’s name

encouraging  name recognition, giving a head start at nursery, preschool and school for the child. Toddlyworld books are written by Stanka Wixted and tillustrated by Tony Campbell.

The books retail at £7.99 and can be purchased from www.toddlyworld.com

I would recommend these books to parents and carers of pre school age children as they will be enjoyed  time and time again.

Disclosure: I was sent these books for the purpose of the review, but all opinions are my own.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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When Suziw got in touch to ask if I would be interested in reviewing one of her books I jumped at the chance as I have been a fan of children’s literature since falling ‘in love’ with the Gruffalo  while I was a registered child minder.The things Evie eats is written by Suziew and has amazing illustrations by Lillian Dawson.

The book tells the story of Evie, who is a very fussy eater, preferring to play with rather than eat her food. When Evie says that she wants to eat flowers her family cleverly make her food into flower shapes making it attractive and more appealing she then eats everything

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This is a delightful book with fantastic illustrations of familiar items that children will recognise  and so can be encouraged to look for and point out to an adult reader, therefore aiding communication skills

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I would recommend this book this book to any parents, but it could be especially useful to parents and carers who have a fussy eater as it may encourage the child to try new foods and give the adults inspiration to make food fun.

I have written a blog post on fussy eating titled, how to avoid do I have to eat all this?

Disclosure: I was sent this book for the purpose of the review, but all opinions are my own.

Things Evie eats can be purchased for £6.50 from Beresford Publishing house or visit www.suziew.com where an accompanying free activity pack can be obtained also.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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This weeks post is going away from my usual topic of parenting/child minding tips and advice.

Recently I have been fortunate in that I have managed to lose a stone in weight quite quickly and when a friend asked how I had achieved this I decided to blog about it.

I have never had a weight problem before, in fact, when I was in my 20’s  I was at the park with my children on a warm day wearing shorts and a cropped top, I came across a work colleague who stopped to chat  then he said, “The word Gandhi comes to mind, Karen” I knew that I was on the slim side, but was I that skinny! This is a picture of before I gained weight

I suffered a major stroke 10 years ago and add to the fact that I was getting older the pounds and then the stones crept up on me.

I will admit to comfort eating too. My husband who also became my carer would reward me with a chocolate bar or cream cake when he thought that I had tried hard at my physio exercises, this became a joke that I shared with friends, if he gave me grapes with my morning coffee he wasn’t overly impressed but if I was given a slice of cake or biscuits he was pleased.

In February of this year I had a fall which happens occasionally  and usually my ‘super Geordie’ husband  would pick me up and put me back on my feet  ( I am unable to help myself as I have very limited use of my left hand side) on this occasion when he attempted to lift me he kept repeating ” How much weight have you put on?”

It was then that we both realised that something had to be done, as if he was unable to lift me we were both in trouble. I was brave and got onto the scales the next day, this was a challenge  I wear a splint for support on my leg for standing and walking so once Alec had put this on I held onto the window sill for support stepped onto the scales and then let go for a few seconds while he checked my weight

, I was 13 stone I have never been more than 10  even though my three pregnancies.

I didn’t follow a diet as such I gave up the comfort food and snacked on fruit  I ate brown bread rather than white and replaced semi skimmed milk for skimmed, which didn’t really taste that different. I also had salads and if the rest of the family were having chips I had pasta or rice  I was encouraged  by my sister when we went out for our weekly coffee together to have a small white coffee rather than my usual latte.

As exercise if difficult I attempted to walk a little more. I wear a splint on my left leg and use a tristick

so when I walked to the toilet at the end of our hallway I would walk back to the living room  and then turn around and walk back towards the toilet again doubling my usual walk I called this my roundabouts my leg muscles ached for a few days but they soon adjusted to it.

When I weighed myself a week later to my amazement I had already lost half a stone I was so surprised that I stood on the scales again an hour later to double check that it was true, which it was. that gave me a real boost and more willpower On average I tended to lose 2llbs a fortnight. I still allowed myself a weekly treat of a piece of battered cod from the fish and chip shop, usually I would have had a portion of chips but figured fish was less fattening even with the batter.

I was beginning to receive lots of positive comments from friends and family which gave me more incentive to carry on.

On 4 May when I stepped onto the scales I had lost the magic stone. If I can manage to lose weight I believe that anyone can all you need is willpower and encouragement from family and friends.

My challenge is now going to be  to not let it creep back on.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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This picture book is written by Caroline Baxter and illustrated. by Izabela Ciesinska

childrens book reviewsWhen Boolino books got in touch and asked if I would be interested in reviewing this book I knew by reading the title that I defiantly wanted to write the review.

This book will appeal to early years settings, especially child minders as it challenges the gender stereotype that boys and girls can only do certain things.

The book is aimed at 2-5 year olds and was published on 8 March 2017 to coincide with International Woman’s day

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On opening the book the inside cover has wonderful pictures of multi-coloured planes flying among clouds

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the text is written in rhyme which will encourage children to predict the words at the end of each line which in time helps  promote early reading. I have written more on this in my post titled helping and encouraging your child to read.

The story is about a clever, brave female pilot named Jane who flies in her plane to many different  countries and cities which also introduces young children to the names of places they may not otherwise be familiar with.

Throughout the book there are fantastic illustrations that are sure to be attractive to young readers.

I absolutely love this book and would recommend it to parents and professional child carers to add to their book shelves, it will make great bedtime reading but could equally be enjoyed at any time of day. On finishing the book the back inside cover shows the places where Pilot Jane has travelled reminding children once again of the names of the countries, which early years settings could use to demonstrate  how they are covering the understanding the world early learning goal.

 

Pilot Jane and the runaway plane is published by Big Sunshine books and retails at £6.99

Disclosure: I was gifted this book for the purpose of the review but all opinions are my own.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

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Regular readers will be well aware that I worked as a registered child minder for 14 very happy years. years, I proudly managed to achieve an outstanding grade from Ofsted at my last inspection.

Sandra has asked for some tips to enable her to get a similar result.

I displayed some disability posters in my playroom, these can be purchased quite easily and at a reasonable cost. I obtained mine from magazines, such as Nursery world and Nursery education who often have posters in their publications.

 

I had also been privileged in that I had cared for several children with varying special needs , which I mentioned to my ofsted inspector. I explained how I modified activities so everyone could take part, you can read more about this in my post titled planning child minding activities to suit everyone.

Another tip I have is to  borrow some toys that reflect disability and diversity from the toy library, if you belong to a child minding network they will be able to point you in the right direction to access this.

I borrowed books from the library too one of my favourites which challenges equality is Amazing Grace.

I’m not suggesting that you only obtain these items for your inspection and never use them again, but it doesn’t hurt to have them on show during the inspection.

It is a huge advantage if your family are behind you in your child minding career, as being a child minder can have an effect on other members of your family I have also written on how child minding can benefit your own children. Although my husband would not admit it now he was fantastic at encouraging and supporting me throughout my child minding years.

While I was being inspected , which can feel quite daunting, I was looking after an extremely bright 4 year old child who I’m sure helped me to achieve my grade as when the inspector asked him what he liked to do at my house he told her, “Read The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson!”which really impressed her.

Ensure that all your paperwork is up to date including contracts and early learning journals. I gathered all of mine together before the inspection started so that she could look at it as it suited her. The inspector looked at some while chatting to me and asked if she could take the rest home to study in more detail. On leaving she told me that she was very impressed by what she had seen so far and that I was heading towards a good grading.I will admit that I felt a little disappointed at hearing this as I was hoping for an outstanding .

One of the questions I remember being asked was “Did I treat all children the same?” my initial thought was of course I do, but I actually answered that I treat all children as individuals as you can’t treat a small baby the same as a 6 year old and a child with special needs may need  treating differently, so I treat all children as individuals depending on their age and stage of development.

I made a comments/complaints book (as I never received any complaints it only contained comments) which parents had left for me, I will confess that occasionally when a parent had complimented me I had asked if they would mind writing it in my book so that I could show it at my inspection.

I received a phone call roughly 24 hours after my inspection informing me that I had been awarded the outstanding grade, the report followed a week or so later which I photocopied and gave to my child minding parents so they would hopefully appreciate their fantastic child minder!

Following my tips won’t guarantee that you will get an outstanding grade Sandra but hopefully it will help you to have a bit more confidence about it all, use it as an opportunity to show how good you are!

 As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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A second light hearted post this week with an aim to hopefully make everyone smile.

One of the many things that I miss since having to give up my beloved child minding is hearing the funny innocent things that children often come up with, luckily I still see many children and these antidotes come to mind.

A friend of mine told me  that her partner who has longish greying hair was waiting for his order in the local fish and chip shop, there was a boy of about 6 watching him. He heard the child whisper to his father, “How do we know that man, who is he?” to which the dad replied, “I don’t think we do.” The boy kept on looking at the stranger then he suddenly blurted out, “Dad, I know who it is, it’s Jesus!”

A neighbours child came to visit  and told me that her auntie was having a baby and had seen it on the baby scan

When I asked if she knew if she was going to have a little girl or a boy the child replied, “How can the doctor tell the difference?”

This girl had a brother so I thought she would understand when I said that boys have something that girls don’t.

“No, Karen, you have got that wrong, girls have something that boys haven’t,” she insisted “long hair!”

Along similar lines, when my sister had her second baby , a boy, her elder daughter kept asking about his ‘extra’ bit, her mother told her that all boys and men have one, to which she enquired as to if daddy has one, then much to my sister’s embarrassment while they were out together a man walked passed them, my niece said rather loudly , ” mummy, has that man got a willy?”

I would love you to share your experiences of the wonderful  funny innocent things you have heard from the mouths of babes by leaving comments.

As always comments/questions are welcome

Karen

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Before I suffered a massive stroke 10 years ago I used to ride every weekend. I was extremely fortunate in that I had a friend called Sue Barker, who owned 2 thoroughbred ex racehorses, she had obtained them when they failed to make the grade in the world of horse racing. I rode an amazing gelding, who went by the name “Scruffy” ( although he wasn’t in the slightest) his racing name was Wind Span.

Since my stroke I have been lucky enough to visit a friend’s horse, Luke from my wheelchair.


My youngest son bought me a disabled riding experience at the Calvert Trust, Exmoor as a birthday present.

On arriving at the stables I was asked to sign a disclaimer before riding, I was then fitted with a riding helmet and a nylon sling for the hoist was placed underneath me, my horse, Teddy, was a 20 year old piebald ( black and white to non horsey folk) cob, he was led into the indoor arena closely followed by myself in my chair, which was pushed up a ramp, the sling which I was now sitting on was attached the hoist and while Teddy was moved into position I was lifted into the air with some help from 3 remarkable assistants I was soon in the saddle.

It felt a bit strange at first and my stroke leg did ache quite a lot but as I walked my horse around the school a few times to get the feeling of riding again I began to enjoy it next I was allowed to go outside as the weather was warm, we ambled around a track, while my sister took photos, then it was back inside to be hoisted off again.

It was definitely different to the sort of riding I did before stroke when I would gallop, hell for leather on a fast mount, but this gave me a chance to once again get a taste of a hobby I once loved. I would recommend it to everyone.

An hour’s disabled riding at the Calvert Trust, Exmoor cost £30, all opinions are my own

As always questions/ comments are welcome

Karen

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Samantha has asked me for some tips to make food shopping with her children a bit easier.

Food shopping at the supermarket can be quite stressful if you have young children with you.

When my 2 sons had to accompany me every week to the supermarket, my youngest who was almost 2 years old would have a temper tantrum as soon as I attempted to sit him in the trolley, he would make himself stiff and lie on the floor screaming, the reason behind this was because his brother who was two years older would walk around the shop rather than ride, in those days there were only trolleys available with one child seat. I tried to negotiate with him but this made matters worse, eventually I let him lie on the floor kicking and screaming inside the supermarket and we walked away letting him think that it was not a big deal. I must point out that I could see my child at all times and he was quite safe. He looked up, saw us walking away then jumped up ran after us and held up his arms asking to go into the trolley, I never encountered this problem again!

As my children grew older I came up with an idea to make shopping more interesting for them, we made shopping lists at home together before going to the supermarket. I would say that we needed sugar, for example, my 4 and a half year old would write an S mark on his list. When we started the shop and collected the sugar, he crossed the S from his paper, my youngest son, who was now sat strapped into the trolley didn’t have an S on his list to cross off, so the tantrum reared it’s head again, he threw the paper and pen onto the floor in frustration. In hindsight, if I had more time and energy I could have cut pictures from magazines and made him a visual list to use that he would have found easier.

When I was a child minder I didn’t attempt to do a full food shop with the children in tow, but occasionally we would pop in for a few items, I would encourage the older children to help weigh any fruit and vegetables. I once made a time consuming mistake of allowing a girl, of around 3 years to scan my shopping for me at the self service check out, she thought this was wonderful and wanted to scan the groceries of the customer behind us too, who was more than happy to let her oblige, if I hadn’t insisted that it was time to leave I think we would still be there!.

Once I was walking through the town after visiting the library with a child in a buggy, when I noticed that my favourite clothes store was having a sale, I took the child in his buggy into the changing room so I could try on a dress I gave the boy the token that the shop assistant issued stating how many items I had to look after, he thought that it was really important and held tightly onto it. As a reward for being so good while we were in the clothes shop I told Sammy that  we could either visit the toy shop or the pet store as a treat, he chose the pet shop and when he saw some cute baby guinea pigs he presumed that I was going to buy him one, luckily he was content to just watch and talk about them with me.

Back to the supermarket,on another occasion I was shopping alone before starting my day of child minding when I came across one of my minded children with her mother on seeing me the child informed her mother that she wanted to help me with my shopping as it was more fun and that is what happened , the girl came with me and the parent disappeared!

My tips, Samantha for successful shopping are try to make it fun by involving your children and reward good behaviour with lots of praise, there is more about this in my post on behaviour management.

As always questions/ comments are welcome

Karen

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Kirsty Lavender has asked for tips on how best to wean her baby off his bottle and onto a trainer cup. Thanks for the request, Kirsty.

The best advice I can give is to have patience.

When I decided to coax my oldest son off his bottle, at around 12 months of age, it took several attempts before getting a result. I offered him a variety of different cups, until I gave him a small plastic beaker with about 6 tiny holes in the spout. He liked this one and never had a bottle again.

Don’t be tempted to swap and change between bottle and cup once your child takes to a cup, stick with it.

My mum tells me that when she got me off my bottle, she hid it away in a drawer out of view. Several weeks later on a rainy day she decided to let me help her tidy some drawers to keep me entertained. ( she had forgotten the bottle was in there). When I looked in the drawer, I saw the bottle teat and excitedly said “Look, I’ve found a malteser!”

Never give your baby sweet drinks from a bottle, as this will encourage tooth decay.

Nowadays, there is an enormous variety of trainer cups and tops available, from teat like tops, to plastic sippy cups. These are good, in the way that they are non-spill, but I have witnessed children actually shaking the liquid out of them, all over my carpet! while I was child minding.

My sister tells me that she gave up with a trainer beaker and let her children suck drinks through a straw and then progressed to a normal plastic cup with no top.

I am guessing, Kirsty, that when you give your son his bottle, you cuddle him. Try doing a similar thing when introducing him to a cup. Obviously, you will need to hold him more upright to prevent choking, but by holding him close, maybe sitting on your lap,it will be more familiar. Then as he gets used to it, give it to him in his high chair.

Hopefully, this gives you some food for thought and with trail and error and as I mentioned earlier patience, hopefully your son will soon happily be drinking from a cup and his bottle a distant memory.

Good luck Kirsty, stick with it and let me know how it goes.

Karen x

As always comments/questions are welcome..

 

weaning baby off bottle

Stranger danger is a difficult subject to administer. We all tell our children never to speak to or approach a stranger, and then we take them to meet Santa and encourage them to not only tell him what they would like for Christmas, but also sometimes to sit on his lap!

We also forget sometimes that people we know are often strangers to our children, but we still tell them “Say Hello, to Auntie Beryl.” etc.

I recall a parent telling me about a long conversation, she had had with her son. Telling him all about the dangers strangers can impose, she thought it had gone well until two days later when he innocently asked her “Mummy, what is a stranger!”

We must also be careful not to make our children so scared of people they don’t know, that they are afraid to go to one if they need help.

I used to tell my children when they were young, that if they ever got lost in town while we were shopping to go into a shop and tell the person on the till that they had lost me.

Similarly, I took a group of child minded children on a day trip to the park. I put a bracelet on each of them, with my mobile phone number written on the inside. I explained to them, that if they got lost they should look for a mummy with children and ask her to ring me. One little boy responded by saying, “But I don’t want to get lost, Karen!” I reassured him by telling him that it would never happen (as I didn’t take my eyes off them) but it was just in case. (I thought that approaching a lady with children, was the safest bet, if the worse should happen)

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On the subject of getting lost, I also once heard a tale of a mum not being able to see her son suddenly while at a toddler group. She called his name and when he didn’t appear, the whole group started to look for him. Half an hour or so later, when his mum was starting to panic he popped out of the climbing frame and proudly announced ” I found a really good hiding place didn’t I? No one could find me!”

In summary; talk to children about the dangers of strangers, but not to the extent of making them so scared that they won’t go to one if they ever need to.

As always, questions/ comments are welcome.

As a child minder you may well find yourself with a variety of children of different ages to look after. Unlike many nursery settings, who usually have the under 1’s in a separate baby room; a child minder will look after all ages together.

I tried my best to include all the children in all activities whenever possible, for example; when I sang rhymes such as “This Little Piggy” or “Round & Round The Garden” to a baby, I would encourage the older children to sing too. When singing action songs like “Row,Row, Row Your Boat” I would sit a small baby on my lap, a child old enough to sit would sit opposite myself, or with an older child under supervision.

I would also include a baby from around 6 months to participate in activities such as play dough by strapping into a highchair up to the table. Be aware that a child of this age will want to put everything into their mouth; so be very vigilant.


In my experience a baby will learn so much from an older child that an adult can’t somehow achieve, equally; older children gain so much from the little ones, such as watching them develop and reach milestones.

I used to have learning journey folders for all the children in my care. For the under 3’s I followed the “birth to three” matters framework, and colour code the different stages, for example if I witnessed a baby hold her head up I would colour that purple indicating a strong child, and pink for a skilful communicator and so on. I also included photos, which parents appreciate and samples of their child’s art work.

As always questions/ comments are welcome

 

Road safety should be a concern for parents.

Your child is never too young to start learning how to cross the road safely. Always set a good example, even when they are in a buggy ; they will observe how you cross the street.

When I was childminding we always used the pelican crossing when crossing the busy roads near to my house. I recall once while we were waiting for the green man to appear, another pedestrian crossed the road before us. One of the children shouted out “Look at that silly lady Karen, she hasn’t waited for the green man. That’s stupid, isn’t it?” At the time I was slightly embarrassed by her out burst, but she was right, wasn’t she?


When walking with a child beside you put, them on the inside away from the road. I am a fan of using reins on a walking child, rather than the wrist straps which they can undo with their free hand.

When childminding I used to insist that the children hold my hand, or hold onto the buggy if I Was pushing one. When we went along footpaths or quiet roads, and the children were being good I would let them run a small distance ahead of me. I would give an instruction such as “You can run as far as that red bench, but then stop and wait for me” If they did this correctly, then I would give them another pointer to run to. I found this worked really well and once was asked by a passer by “How come your children are so well behaved?”


Teach children the “green cross code” for crossing safely when there are no pelican or zebra crossings to help them. Explain to children the dangers of crossing the road between parked cars and never to run across the road. Hopefully by following this advice, your children will be safe when walking with you along the road and will gain a life long respect of the dangers of roads.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

 

I am the first to admit that I don’t like the dentist at all. In fact I always say I would rather have a baby, than go to the dentist (and I really would) At least when you go into hospital to give birth you come out with something amazing, when you go to the dentist all you get afterwards is a large bill. I am really proud however, of not passing my fear to my children. When I took them to the dentist they used to argue in the waiting room; as to who could go in first!


Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as he or she gets their first one. Use a nice soft brush so that they get use to the sensation. As they get older encourage your children to clean their teeth by brushing yours at the same time. This will set a good example; and lots of children like to copy their parents anyway .Use a toothpaste especially made for children as they are made especially for children’s teeth and also tend to taste better. Let your child chose her own toothbrush, brightly coloured ones are usually popular, but you can also get them with characters on. My grand children use an egg timer when they clean their teeth as a reminder to do it properly. My eldest grand daughter, took great pleasure in telling me that “Daddy doesn’t use the timer when he brushes his teeth!”


I recall taking my youngest to the dentist with me when I was having just a check up. We were lucky in that we had a really good, child friendly dentist and he asked my son if he would like to have a ride in the dentist chair while he was there. He then asked him if it was ok if he could to have a look at his teeth with his special mirror, which he let my son examine first. When we came out the receptionist let him choose a sticker; he couldn’t wait to go back for another visit!


Encourage children to drink milk or water and try to avoid fizzy drinks which are full of sugar. Get your children into the habit of tooth brushing by making it part of their daily routine. e.g. bath, pyjamas, clean teeth, bed. Keep sweets to a minimum. One mum I knew used to give her son dried apricots, telling him they were sweets! REMEMBER, IF WE LOOK AFTER OUR TEETH THEY SHOULD LAST US A LIFE TIME.

 

As always questions/ comments are always welcome.

Many parents admit that they can cope better if they get a good nights sleep. My biggest tip to achieving this is ROUTINE.

Whilst childminding, I looked after a boy whose mum said was difficult to get her son to go to bed. When I prepared to put him down for a nap, I would give him prior warning by saying something like “when we finish snack time, it is time for a ok?” Then when he was in my arms ready to go of a nap I would ask him to say “night, night” to whoever was there – the other children, my husband, the dog,etc. When putting him in the cot I would give a quick kiss and say “go to sleep now, I’ll see you later.” This really worked so I did the same sort of thing each day and explained it to his mum.


When my own children were babies, bedtime would follow a bath and evening feed. As they grew older they would have bath, warm milk and a bedtime story read before they went to sleep. If a child is given a routine to follow it usually makes for a happier household. Try to avoid over stimulation with things such as television; a warm drink and story is much more calming. My eldest son suffered with nightmares for a while, I cut out orange squash from his diet and they stopped. My youngest son was too clever for his own good; he knew he went to bed at eight after Coronation Street finished. I recall one occasion; it was on later than usual and he put up a fight for a while, until it was explained to him. Another child whom I minded was too frightened to go to sleep in my room as he said there were monsters. It turned out that he had been watching the film “Monsters Inc.” at home. I solved this by putting the cot on my large landing so he didn’t need to be in the bed room.


As always questions/comments are welcome.

 

I think it is a good idea to make your health visitor aware that you are a registered childminder; this will be the first port of call for many new mothers intending to return to work. Another good way of advertising is to be seen out and about. Go to local toddler group sessions and events at the children’s library. I used to wear a t-shirt with the name of my business printed on it. Having a name for your business makes it appear more professional, however; people may confuse you with a nursery setting. Outside local schools while collecting your own or minded children is another place where you will be noticed. It is a good idea to let the school secretary know that you are a registered childminder and are able to drop-off or collect pupils from that particular school.


My biggest tip to marketing your own childminding business is to always be on your best behaviour (May seem a strange thing to say) but when you are out and about in the community with your minded children; members of the public do tend to look at you (sometimes in horror, when they see how many children you have with you) I have been asked on many occasions, questions, such as, “How many children do you actually have?” and “Why are your children so well behaved?” Both of which made the person asking the question feel a bit embarrassed when I explained that I was a busy childminder.
Always ensure that you carry some business cards with you; if you don’t have business cards, you really should get them as sometimes people may scribble your details down on the back of something an then accidentally throw them away; whereas with business cards people tend to keep them in their purse or wallet. (One of my son’s offers a design and print service for professional business cards so please contact me for info) I was even asked if I had a card whilst queuing in a public toilet! (again it was an inquisitive person commenting on how I had my hands full,with so many little ones) When I said I was a childminder her response was that her friend was looking for one and could she have my details to pass on?


I used to advertise in as many places as possible when I had vacancies. I tried to do this where it wouldn’t cost me too much money. The most successful was at local toddler groups on their notice boards, but I have also placed a notice in my local hair dressing salon and in my rear car window. I did for a while have my car professionally sign written on the back. This showed my name, business name, the fact I was a registered childminder, my phone number and web site. Speaking of websites; I feel that these days an strong online presence is essential for every business as nowadays parents tend to search online for what they are looking for before looking anywhere else. An online presence sounds really daunting and you may get bogged down and confused with all the jargon. I was very lucky as one of my sons created my website for me when I was childminding; he also created this blog website for me too! If you need help or advice with creating an online presence then contact me and I will put you in touch with him.


As always; any comments or questions are most welcome.

 

 

My husband would say that I am highly qualified to encourage a child to talk; as I never stop! Even having suffering a massive stroke didn’t stop me, much to his disappointment! When I was in hospital he told me he thought he had gone deaf! When I was growing up my dad would tell people that I was vaccinated with a gramophone needle!

Other than attending a work shop on the subject, I have no formal qualifications this topic; only my personal experience.


In my opinion the more you talk to your child/baby, the better communicators they will be; as that is how they learn, by imitating us.

Despite me doing this with my own children,;they were all slow to talk (maybe because they never got the chance as I talked too much!) Seriously though, I think their problems were genetic; My sister was also delayed in her speach and required speach therapy. She used to call me “Ga Ga” I would say to her my name is “Karen” I would try to help her to say my name properly by braking it down “Say Ka” I would tell her; she would repeat it, then I would tell her “say ren” again she repeated it. “Now put it together and say Karen” ….” Ga Ga” she would say!


My eldest son didn’t say a lot when he was younger; but he eventually developed his own ‘language’ that only I as his Mummy could understand. For example; if he wanted a biscuit, he would say “Mum, Mum.” and he made up his own words for certain colours. This concerned me; as his 3rd birthday was approaching and he was soon to start pre-school. I mentioned my worry to my health visitor and she said she would put his name on the list to be assessed for speach therapy. The list must have been a long one, because almost a year later nothing had been done. I kept phoning her and eventually he was seen. He went for a few sessions, and he really enjoyed them. The results were amazing; he went from hardly saying anything, to non stop chatting in a few months!

My second son wasn’t quite so slow to talk, but I recall him saying “no man” (for snowman) and “poon” (for spoon) I spoke to my younger son’s speach therapist about this and she suggested getting him to say “SS…Sammy the snake says… SS” before saying these words. That really did the trick.

My third son also had his own language; referring to his siblings as “Nangnie” (Jamie) “Nangnang” (Damon) and “Nee” (Leigh) “Annie” was orange juice and “Aggie” was a boy called Alex (who I was childminding) He also had difficulty sounding “Th.”, we came up with the idea of getting him to put his top teeth over his bottom lip while looking in a mirror (like bugs bunny) before trying to sound “Th.” again. This worked very well.

I have also looked after several children (mostly boys) with delayed speech. I think their parents chose me as their childminder because I could understand them more than most. One child once told my NVQ Assessor that “Karn” (Karen) is an “oink oink” (pig!) I realised; and quickly explained that what he was trying to tell her was that we had recently been to a farm where they had pigs!


If you are at all worried about your child’s ability to talk; speak to your Health Visitor, or GP as in my oppinion; a speach therapist can achieve marvalous results.

As always, questions or comments are very welcome.

 

Hamsters are often thought of as an ideal first pet for a child; they can make wonderful pets but beware that they can and may well bite. Hamsters are delicate little creatures, so as with all animals; children should always be supervised by an adult when around them to ensure the children are handling them correctly.


Sometimes children can be disappointed because hamsters are nocturnal, meaning that they may well be asleep most of the day when the child was hoping to play, and are awake all night when the children are ‘hopefully’ asleep!

My stepson had a hamster when he was growing up. He kept it in a cage in the corner of his bedroom. My stepson liked his sleep, so when the Hamster was awake at night, playing on it’s wheel; the squeaking noise kept him awake. He placed the cage complete with hamster and wheel in the bottom of wardrobe where he could no longer hear it. This was good in that it meant he could now get his head down, but not so good because his school shirt was hanging just in reach of the little critter and by the time the morning came, the bottom of Jamie’s shirt was in shreds in the hamsters cage! We removed the cage from his bedroom at night and placed it in the utility room.


My sisters and I had hamsters when we were growing up;, so I have a few tales to tell. Hamsters have to be kept apart (with the exception of certain hamster breeds) as they will fight. The cage I kept my hamster in had a dodgy door fastening and my parents had instructed me to place a heavy object against it to ensure it was safe; which I did, but somehow my hamster managed to escape. I was extremely upset and insisted that I had done as I was told, anyway, my parents must have believed me; as the next day they gave me an identical looking hamster. I put him in his cage and put the heavy item in its place to stop this one escaping, mum asked me if I had done that and I told her I had. An hour or so later the doorbell rang; it was our neighbour asking if we had lost a hamster as they had found one in their shed. Mum gave me a knowing look thinking that I had also let this one escape; but when we went to check he was sitting in his cage cleaning his whiskers! The hamster the neighbours had found was the original one; so now I had two hamsters to take care of! My dad cleverly divided the cage in half so the animals wouldn’t fight.

My sister’s hamster one managed to get out of its cage and we saw him disappear into the wood burner (luckily it was summer time, so it wasn’t alight) He managed to go in one side and scramble all the way to the other side where he emerged; he was white when he went in,  and black with soot by the time he came out! Other than being covered in soot, he was none the worse for his adventure.


Hamsters don’t live to a grand old age; 18 months to 2 years is average. When one of ours died, we were all upset. My dad would normally have buried it in the garden; but that day, we had heavy snow and frost on the ground,  so.in order not to prolong our agony any longer, he placed it in the bin outside. Christmas came and went and the bin became very full. The refuse collection men were also on strike; so dad had to jump on the bin contents to make more room. A few days later, while dad was asleep upstairs (because he was working nights) mum went to put some rubbish in the bin, when she removed the lid there was my “dead” hamster crawling along the top! She screamed so loudly that not only did she wake my dad, but some neighbours came to see if she was alright too. If a hamster’s temperature gets too low it goes into a sort of hibernation; which to the untrained eye appears to be dead. When it did die for real; we were too afraid to bury it and kept it in a box, in a warm place hoping it would revive. After a week we took it to the vet explaining the situation. He opened the box, held his nose and told us “It’s defiantly dead!”


When my children were growing up we lived in an old house. My youngest son decided to let his hamster have a run around his bedroom, the hamster decided to crawl into a small gap between the floor boards and disappeared. The following day while eating breakfast we were reminded of his existence when we heard him scurrying across the ceiling; the kitchen was directly under his bedroom. My husband cut a hole in the ceiling in order to get the creature out, but when he put his hand into the hole there was no sign of it; this continued for a while and several holes later he retrieved the hamster! Luckily my husband is at DIY, and successfully patched the holes in the ceiling. We gave our boys strict instructions; not to let pets loose in the house again!


Be careful that your children don’t overfeed their hamsters, they tend to store their food in cheek pouches and empty it later. To help keep hamster cages clean I placed an empty jam jar inside the cage and encouraged my hamster to use it as a toilet by placing his droppings in there. We also used to make hamster adventure playgrounds from cardboard boxes.

If you decide to get a hamster for your child; learn from my stories. Hamsters can be great escape artists; but also can make a fantastic pets if treated well.

 

As always, any questions or comments are most welcome.

 

Anyone caring for a child under the age of 8 years who is not related to them and for any kind of reward, must become registered by Ofsted Early Years.

Many people will think that by becoming a child minder their own children will suffer,  however because child minders are self employed they can set their own working days and times to suit their own families.


 

Advantages are that you don’t have to find childcare for your own children whilst you work; as you care for them at the same time that you are childminding other children. Remember though; your children are counted in the number you are permitted to have at a time. When I was child minding this was one child under the age of 1 year,  3 children under the age of 5 years, including the under 1’s and 6 under 8 years. (In some circumstances; Ofsted may allow some child minders who are very experienced to care for 2 children under the age of 1. I was allowed to do this) I also had two over 8s during the school holidays.

Another advantage of being self employed is that you are able to attend school activities that your children are involved with; such as sports day, special assemblies and the all important Christmas Nativity plays. Being a child minder, meant that I could  go along to all such things that otherwise wouldn’t have been manageable had I worked for an employer. Of course, it meant that I had to take the minded children along too; but I know that they benefited from and enjoyed these events too. One occasion which comes to mind is when my youngest son was playing football for his primary school. It was a pleasant day weather wise, so I packed a few snacks and drinks and we all sat on my picnic blanket to watch the match. Each time my son got possession of the ball the children chanted and cheered him along; it must have looked as though he had brought along his own cheer leaders!

Being a child minder also meant that I spent more quality time doing certain activities with my own children that we otherwise may never have done.


I must point out that there are many strict rules and regulations set by Ofsted that all child minders must follow; but basically you can do as little, or as much child minding as you chose (depending on demand and the needs of parents) You can also take up as much training as you like; apart from the essential training that all childminders MUST do before they can gain a certificate allowing them to begin child minding (these are a first aid course, which must be refreshed every 3 years. There is also a pre registration course, that explains what child minding is about and a foundation course which introduces new child minders to the business side of child minding and loads of other essential information). Personally I took as much training as I could; as my motto is “if you do something, give it your all” My qualifications consisted of an NVQ Level 3 in Early Years Care and Education. Behaviour Management, Speech Delay Special Needs (and too many more to list!)


I spent 14 very happy years as a child minder; achieving the “Outstanding” grade at my last inspection (of which I am very proud) I was forced to give up child minding up due to suffering a major stroke ten years ago; but many of my minded children are still in touch with me, and I would love to take it up again if recovery allows.


For more information on becoming a registered child minder contact Ofsted, your local authority or Pacey; details can be found online. Most areas also have child minding support groups; where you can obtain training information and details of any available funding.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Understandably it can be quite daunting for a newly registered child minder to do their first interview, or meeting with a parent for the first time.

You learn with experience; this is how I handled it, and I did manage to convince most parents to pick me as their child minder.

Usually, a parent would contact me to check availability. If I had the desired place available, I would suggest that the parent came to my house with their child to meet me over a coffee. I suspect that a lot of parents are equally as nervous about the situation, so the word “interview” can sound a little formal. I preferred to see a new parent during my working day if possible; while child minding children were present, as that gave a good view of how happy the children were with me. Although on one occasion; the 6 month old child I was looking after cried for the whole time a new parent was present! I thought this would put her off, but she actually booked me there and then saying that it had proved to her that I was a patient person, as she would have thrown him out of the window!

When the door bell went; I would be accompanied by several little people, all eager to see our visitors. When we got back to my playroom (I was very fortunate to have a separate room for my child minding, but many child minders use their lounge/living room; so don’t worry if you don’t have a designated area such as a playroom) I would invite the parents; usually Mum and Dad to take a seat (sometimes Grand Parents came along as well.) As it was my playroom; there were always toys out and most children were only too happy to make a beeline for new, interesting toys. This helped keep the child amused whilst I chatted with their Mum and Dad. I would then offer the parents a tea or coffee and suggest that the they have a browse through my portfolio while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. The portfolio contained all of my qualification certificates, policies and procedures etc. When I returned refreshments to hand; I would sit down and introduce the existing children and maybe give a little insight as to how often they came and how long they have been attending.

I would then ask if they had been to see a child minder before. The reason I asked this is because if they had, it would mean they should have a vague idea of how child minders work. Sometimes a parent was embarrassed to admit they have already looked elsewhere; but I would reassure them that I think it is important to see different settings, as although we all have to follow strict rules and regulations set by Ofsted we are all individuals, and it is important to find someone you feel comfortable with. The vast majority hadn’t been anywhere else (or they never admitted to it!) so I would start by pointing out my registration certificate that was proudly framed on my wall, along with what I called my “big qualification certificates” such as my NVQ. I would also show things like my insurance  document, which was in the portfolio, but as some parents, only glanced at it quickly whilst I was making the drinks, they may have missed it.

I also explained about first aid and that my qualification had to be renewed every 3 years. I would tell about other members of my household and introduce them to my husband (if he was at home) I would also introduce them to my pets; I had a cat, 2 rabbits that lived outside and my German Shepherd dog. I was concerned sometimes, that having such a large dog may put some parents off. My dog was wonderful, and I would trust her with my life; although personally, I don’t think any dog should be left, unsupervised with a child ever. To my knowledge; no-one was put off by my dog, or any of my other pets.

One the introductions were over I would then explain what we usually did on the days the new child would hopefully be attending. For example; child minders drop-in on a Monday, Toddler group on a Tuesday and so on. We would then look at paperwork together. Things such as contracts, contact information sheets and discuss any allergies that their child may of had.I explained about my accident/incident book and why I had to list any existing injuries a child may have. It was important that the parents told me if their child had a bump or bruise that had happened whilst not in my care; this was  in order to protect myself from allegations.

Most parents like to go away and think before they commit to a place; but I have had a few who decide straight away that I was the child minder that they wanted. I would then ask for a deposit to reserve the space if the child wasn’t starting for a while.

As I have already said; you learn with experience as you become established as a child minder. It takes time, but remember to relax and take a deep breath. HAPPY CHILD MINDING!

As always questions/comments are welcome.

 

As an early years practitioner; you should be very aware of the need to work with the children’s parents in partnership. Here are some of my experiences of this from my many years as a child minder.
I liked to think that I knew the children I was caring for extremely well, but I never forgot that the parents were the real experts on their child (although sometimes this was difficult to understand.)
I preferred the parents to send a packed lunch with their children so I didn’t need to worry about preparing food. One boy; always had cheese and cucumber sandwiches, it soon became apparent to me that he didn’t like cucumber as he would either spit it out or remove it from between the bread before eating. I started to place the uneaten cucumber back in his lunch box rather than throw it away, thinking that his mother would realize that he didn’t like it and would send something different; but no, the cheese and cucumber kept arriving for weeks.
Another parent which comes to mind was a father who asked when I was going to teach his son the alphabet, I explained as I wasn’t a teacher I hadn’t expected to teach him but considered that the child knew what he needed to know for his age of just over 3. I explained that he would point to the letters on the alphabet chart displayed on my play room wall and tell me that “A” was for Alec (my husband’s name) “J” was for John (another child I was looking After) “K” was for Karen (my name) and would then point to the letter that his name started with. I also said that I thought this was very clever for his age.

Later that evening, my husband (who had overheard the earlier conversation) asked me why I was so polite and that he would have told the parent to go away (or similar!) For a child minding or any early years arrangement to work I believe it is paramount that parents and carers have a good relationship.


I always tried to find time at drop-off and pick-up time to discuss things with parents; for example a child may be tired due to a restless night or under the weather because of teething. I also liked to talk about how my day with their child had been by telling them what we had done, how long the child had napped for and so on. If it wasn’t convenient to chat at those times (because other parents were present or little ears were listening) I would suggest that they ring me, or I ring them later that evening.

I also had what I referred to as a “to and through book” this worked with one family who had arranged for the child’s aunt to do the collection. I had previously met her at the first interview, The book worked as a backup Incase the aunt forgot to pass on anything.


During my Ofsted Inspection; I was asked about how I worked with the parents of the children I looked after. One example I gave to the inspector was of the time one parent who had English as a second language had asked me what her daughter liked to do when she was with me. I told her that she loved play-dough. I had given the parent the recipe so she could make some play-dough with her daughter at home. The Ofsted inspector must have approved; as I was awarded an “outstanding” grade at my last inspection.


As always questions/ comments are welcome

 

Whilst child minding; I often heard the children say funny things. Once, whilst I was covering a topic on healthy eating we were making fruit kebabs and I asked “Where do grapes come from?”

A 4 year old shot up her arm and told me “I know Karen; Tesco!”

On another occasion; while walking through the park in the Autumn, a child noticed the leaves falling from the trees. He innocently asked me “Does the Gardener stick them back on with Blu Tack in the spring?”

On a similar subject; I was sitting in the waiting room of the hair dresser with my own children, when my youngest asked what the colour sample hanging on the wall was. I explained it was showing the different colours you could have your hair. He piped up with “Does the hair dresser stick them on with Blu Tack?” The whole salon went into a fit of giggles!


Back to Child Minding again; I had an 8 year old girl, who the younger ones looked up to. One boy said to another girl that he was going to marry her when he grew up. To which the girl said “You’re not; I’m going to”

“Don’t be silly” The boy said “Girls can’t marry Girls”

“Well then” she came back with, “I’ll get a magician to magic me into a boy and then I can!”


My all time favourite was when two children were discussing weddings; as one child had recently been to his Aunties Wedding. The girl instructed the boy ” When you grow up you have to marry me.”

“I don’t want to get married!” was his reply.

“You have to!” she told him.

“No I don’t, I know more about it than you do!”

Not wanting to be beaten; she answered “Well, I know more about prisons!”

I still haven’t worked out what she meant…


My eldest son was chatting to a 4 year that I was child minding that day. The boy was telling my son about two boys named Connor and George.

“Whose Connor?” my son asked.

” George’s friend.” replied the boy.

“Whose George?” asked my son.

You guessed it… “Connor’s friend!” came the reply


Other tales I have heard are;  two school boys were chatting about sports day, one asked the other “Why are you such a fast runner?”

“It’s in my genes,” he replied.

“Wow! Where does your mum buy them? I’ll get the same ones.”


Whilst having a drink, a father asked his daughter ” Do you know where milk comes from?”

“Of course I do; the fridge!”

After explaining that it comes from cows, she added  “And strawberry milk shake comes from pigs; because they are pink!”


Back to child minding again. A child was about to bite into a plum, when I said “Let me take the stone out first.”

He asked “Why did you put a stone from your garden in there?” Certainly made me chuckle!


As always, questions/ comments are welcome. Maybe you have a funny child saying to share?

I believe that children and dogs can be great together; if managed correctly.

When I purchased my German Shepherd puppy “Keira” she was 8 weeks old. I did a lot of research into her breed first (although I have always been an admirer of this type of dog, so knew quite a lot already) I needed a dog that would be good with children as I was a busy childminder at the time. My own children were now growing up fast, my youngest then being 13.

After phoning many breeders my husband, myself and youngest son set off in the car to see our puppy for the first time; it was very exciting!

When we met her she was in the back garden with 7 siblings and her mum. Keira’s mum was very laid back and didn’t seem bothered that we were handling her pups. I had a chat to the breeder about the temperament of the parent dogs (I had been told earlier that 70% of a dog’s temperament is through it’s genes and the other 30% by the way it is treated) She assured me that both parents had excellent temperaments and that she wouldn’t use them for breeding otherwise. This particular breeder was one of the good ones; she had paperwork to back up a lot of her claims, she was also Kennel Club Registered. I’m sure not all breeders are as good or honest as this, so do your homework first!

When we got Keira home; I enrolled her into a puppy party (your vet should have details of these) It is very important that puppies are exposed to many different experiences from a young age. Puppy parties are run by qualified dog trainers who will explain all about this.

While Keira was eating I would put my hand into her bowl, adding tasty morsels; the idea being that a hand near her food was a positive thing.

I spent a lot of time socialising my puppy, even before she was fully vaccinated I would stand outside of my son’s school at home time with her in my arms. Before long we were surrounded by children and a few teachers all wanting to stroke her. I also used to sit on a wall by my home beside a busy road with her on my lap so she would get used to the sight and sound of traffic.

One of the main problems with a puppy is mouthing (this is not biting as such, just a dog learning about new things by using his mouth; much like a baby) This can hurt though and the most effective way to prevent it is to squeal, like a litter would and then ignore your puppy for a moment.

Jumping up is another problem you will have to overcome. When your dog does this; turn your back (similar to the advice I have given on managing children’s behaviour, ignore the bad, reward the good.)

While I had minded children in my home I would keep Keira in the utility room, so she could have time on her own and not be pulled about by the children. I would let them play with her for short SUPERVISED periods so she could get used to them. When we went out we had to exit my home via the back door to get to the car, so I would put Keira into a Dog Crate with a tasty treat to prevent her from jumping up, and let her out once the children were in my car.

Ensure your dog stays healthy by taking him to a vet for his vaccinations get him neutered and treated for fleas and worms. Always encourage children to wash their hands after playing with animals.

I would trust Keira with my life, but I WOULD NEVER LEAVE HER UNSUPERVISED WITH CHILDREN even though my grand children and other young visitors love to play with her.

As always, comments/questions are welcome.

Cats and kittens can make great pets. Kittens especially look so cute and cuddly; which they can be, but they also come with a good set of claws ready to scratch if they are not happy about a situation!

Always supervise children around any animal. A kitten (or any other pet) can sustain a nasty injury if squeezed too hard or dropped by a child. Another thing to be aware of is the cat litter tray. Empty it often, and keep out of the reach of children (and away from pregnant ladies) Saying all this; if treated correctly, cats can make wonderful pets for both children and adults.


I have had several amazing cats in my life. The first was a tabby; we named Tiger. He was actually a stray, who appeared in our garden one day totally out of the blue. He was so hungry that he was eating the stale bread my mum had thrown onto the lawn for the wild birds.

Being a soft touch, we immediately fell for his charms and bought some cat food for him. That was it; he then moved in. Tiger was a great cat and we had him as a member of our family for many years, even bringing him with us when we moved from just outside Liverpool to North Devon. He travelled in the car with us in a cardboard cat carrier that we purchased from our vet.

One morning while, myself and my two sisters were still asleep my dad who was an early riser discovered a dead tabby cat which had been run overt at the bottom of our drive . Thinking it was our beloved Tiger; he dispersed of the cats body in a nearby field to save us from seeing him. Later that evening when he came home from work dad went into the living room to discover our cat warming himself in front of the fire; It wasn’t Tiger who had been killed at all!

As an adult; before having children, my husband and I decided to get a kitten. I chose a beautiful Tortoiseshell. We called her Purdy, she was my substitute baby and I loved her with all my heart.

As we both worked full time we installed a cat flap into the back door. It took Purdy a week or so to learn how to use her special door; but once she did it meant she could come and go as she pleased while we were at work.

Being responsible cat owners we got her vaccinated and she was neutered at 6 months of age; she recovered quickly from her operation but alarmed me when she managed to remove all her own stitches! I rang the vet in a panic who assured me that as she was so young she would have healed already so everything was fine. Sadly Purdy was killed by a car a year or so later; it broke my heart but we knew she had, had a good short life.

My next cat was a handsome black and white kitten. My son Adam (who was 8 at the time) named him “Socks” as he had four white feet which looked like he was wearing socks. Socks was 8 weeks old when we collected him from a farm and was very playful; his favourite toy was a ping pong ball. My son also made him a ball from scrunched up kitchen foil, which he skimmed across the floor. Socks would fly after it. There are many commercial cat toys on the market; but you can easily make your own from a simple piece of wool or even an empty cardboard box.

Socks liked to sit on top of my fridge freezer while I was a child minding so he was out of reach of the children; but had a good view of things going on, plus it was warm up there! Cats  like to go outside and hunt, so ensure they are regularly treated for fleas and worms. Avoid using flea collars, as any collar can be a hazard to a cat who likes to climb trees. There are elastic collars available which are said to be safe; but personally I wouldn’t risk them. Socks did come home one day, wearing a collar that someone had put it on him with a note attached containing a telephone number. I rang the number and the receiver explained that Socks had regularly been visiting them and they wanted to check  that he wasn’t lost. I told the person, that he was my cat. We later discovered that Socks was in fact visiting  many neighbours and walked into their homes uninvited as if he owned all the houses! Socks lived to the grand old age of 15 and became a bit of a legend; all the other cats were afraid of him and he even bossed my German Shepherd dog around!


If reading this has inspired you into getting a cat or kitten; please consider getting one from a rescue centre such as the RSPCA or the Cats Protection League as there are many animals looking for loving homes.

As always comments/ questions are welcome

I thought that as many parents may consider getting a pet to complete their family; I would share my experience of adopting a dog from the “Dogs Trust”


When our beloved German Shepherd; Keira, died we were devastated. We got her back in 2006; from an extremely good breeder. Unfortunately in 2007 I suffered a Major Stroke, meaning that all  dog duties fell upon my husband; whereas I had been the one to do it before.

 

My Husband; Alec, decided immediately after loosing Keira that he needed to get another dog, as soon as possible as he missed the walks. We looked into getting another German Shepherd; but then Alec thought that a small dog would be easier. He had owned a Jack Russell as a child, so decided to get  another of these. He started looking on the dog’s trust website http://www.dogstrust.org.uk and then went to the page of our local re-homing centre in Ilfracombe. There he discovered lots of photos of dogs; of various shapes and sizes all looking for homes. He contacted the kennels and made arrangements for a visit. Once there he was introduced to several different breeds of dogs that he liked, but when he was shown two16 week old Jack Russell brothers; they stole his heart. He told the kennel maid that he would like to give one a home…but which one? One of the puppies, named Bob, had already been reserved; leaving Jake for us. The Dogs Trust asked for details of our veterinary surgeon, who gave such a good report about us that a home visit wasn’t needed and we were approved as suitable candidates.


Two weeks later we brought Jake home, we paid £100 for him; which included a yellow dog’s trust collar and lead and a voucher worth £75 to cover the cost of getting him neutered. He was also fully vaccinated and micro-chipped. He settled into his new home immediately; the only slight problem we encountered was that he wasn’t keen on our cat called “Socks” who wasn’t overly impressed either! We soon overcame this.


After about a month we received a phone call from the Dogs Trust to make sure that everything was going well for both ourselves and Jake; which it was.

We have had Jake in our lives for almost two years now, he is a wonderful little dog who is full of character. He has quite a fan club in our neighbourhood, being loved by adults, children and other dogs. We always say that he was the one who rescued us; rather than the other way around!

I would recommend using the Dogs Trust to anyone thinking of getting a dog; all of their dogs are temperament tested and health checked before given for adoption…so how can that not be good?

Back in 2004 I launched a campaign to get the out dated play equipment in Rock park, Barnstaple up graded. I have now been made aware of a campaign to save Westacott park.

Westacott park is a small park on Westacott Road in the Whiddon valley area of Barnstaple.

When I lived in Whiddon valley (many years ago) I used this delightful park on a weekly basis, taking  not only my own four boys; but also the children I was child minding, at the time. This green space  in the centre of a housing estate is enjoyed by child minders, workers on their lunch break, the elderly and of course; families.


The council  are now looking to build a road through this area; to access more housing, meaning that the play park and football pitch will be destroyed. The council state that it would be too expensive to use the main road  and that cutting through the park area is the most cost effective.


A group of Whiddon Valley residents; headed by Marcella Priest Roberts,Jilly Thomas Wheatley and Emma Cullen Lerwill have started a campaign to try to save this beloved place. Louise Hedges has started a facebook group called “Westacott Park  ‘SAVE THE PARK’ ‘NO THROUGH ROAD’ and also have a profile on Twitter.


Melanie McKenna; a child minder at “Melandrew Daycare” contacted a reporter of the local paper who made a feature of the campaign.


This has been going on for several years now; the residents of Whiddon Valley are not only concerned about loosing their park which was stipulated as a designated green area when the original plans were drawn up, but also that an increase in traffic and fumes could harm their children and pets.

There is a petition in place to save Westacott Park. I have now, just been notified the residents have been informed that the planning for the new houses and road have been refused, This doesn’t mean that the war is over; as the council are going to re submit new plans. For now though; the park is safe. Please help by signing the submitting an objection; you can do this by clicking here: http://www.savewestacottpark.org

For as long as I can remember; I have always wanted my own Horse. I wished for one every time I blew the candles out on birthday cakes and asked Santa for one each Christmas. I even came up with an idea that if I married a rich farmer when I grew up then I would get my horse. Years later, I mentioned this to my son, to which, he replied ”Oh, mum, you ended up with dad!”  I think I did extremely well there… but still no horse.


When I was a child we often went as a family to “Westward Ho!” beach. We were excited to discover that there were donkeys there giving rides. Surely a donkey is similar to a horse; isn’t it? My sisters and I approached the donkey man who we later found out was named Pete and asked him if we could help with his donkeys. He agreed; after all, this meant that he could sit back in his deckchair, topping up his tan whilst we did all the leg work. He still took the money and would lift the children onto a donkey.

One day, we arrived at the beach before the donkeys. The tide at Westward Ho! comes right up to the pebble ridge leaving no sand; so the times the donkeys worked depended on the tide times. This worked in our favour; as when the donkeys arrived in the converted horse box it meant we could also help to tack them up (put on the saddles and bridles) meaning being able to spend even more time with them! We then walked the donkeys over the pebble ridge; something that had to be seen to be believed, many tourists took photos of this.

Once on the sand; one of us (often me) would take an empty bucket and go in search of fresh water; the nearby amusement arcade were happy to supply this. We then waited for children to come for rides. If my memory is correct it was 50p a ride. We basically lead a donkey each a short distance along the sand, turned around and went back. Pete owned 13 donkeys in total and I must say they were extremely well looked after. The reason he had so many was so that he could vary which ones he used; giving them a day off from time to time, as he only used 3 or 4 each day. They all had their own characters; my favourite was a donkey called Crumpet.


Donkey Derby

We also attended many Donkey Derby’s. because we knew the donkeys so well; we worked out that  if you were given the best donkey and managed to stay on then you would likely win. Sometimes there was a tote where visitors to the donkey derby were encouraged to place small bets on the donkeys and riders (profits went to local charities) We used to make bets using our pocket money and knew that if a child had their own riding hat; rather than one supplied by the event, it usually meant that they knew how to ride and therefore if they were given a fast donkey they would likely win. We came away in profit more often than not!

Pete made sure that we got the best donkeys for our races; as a reward for all our help at the beach. Other riders who didn’t help complained, once that we were being favoured, so the organiser decided that he would allocate the donkeys to riders rather than Pete. A slow donkey named Lucy was chosen for me; however, when I given was my donkey to get on Pete gave me a sly wink. Once mounted I leaned forward to pat Lucy’s neck. It was then that I realised why he had given me a wink; I had Crumpet, my favourite and fastest donkey! To the untrained eye Lucy and Crumpet were identical until  you stroked them; Lucy had been used to pull a cart before becoming a beach donkey and therefore had a muscly neck. Once again I won my race  and as the organiser had thought he had chosen my donkey there were no reasons to suspect foul play so we were never questioned again. I would now like to apologise to any child  who was beaten by myself, but that’s life and you can’t win them all!


Sadly, I never did get my horse; but spent several happy years riding other peoples horses. I suffered a major Stroke ten years ago and had to give it all up. I am hoping to have a go at riding for the disabled next year, so watch this space.

Living in north Devon; I am very fortunate to have some wonderful coastal and countryside walks on my doorstep.

Many years ago now; when my boys, were of school age I decided that we would go on a cycle ride together to a lovely place called Fremington Quay. The weather was pleasant; without being too warm and it was the school holidays so we set off for the Tarka Trail  which is approximately 30miles in total; of course we had no intention of going no more than a few miles! The Tarka Trail is traffic free and follows the path of a disused railway line. It is named after the book about an Otter called Tarka. We accessed the cycle path from home by using a few quiet roads; so it was a safe route. Once on the Tarka trail we were met by some fantastic views.

It was all relatively flat; so we could enjoy the scenery as we cycled. After roughly three miles we arrived at Fremington Quay Cafe; where we stopped for some refreshments. The cafe has bike racks provided so we locked up our bikes and sat outside the cafe looking at the fantastic views across the estuary. I was good in only having a coffee; the homemade cakes were looking wonderful though!I have also heard from several friends; that the breakfasts they serve here are to die for! The cafe building is an old railway station and has been wonderfully restored and also now houses an historical centre; there are a number of tables available inside too but most customers tend to be cyclists or dog walkers and choose to sit outside (weather permitting.) Whilst I enjoyed my coffee the boys had soft drinks and an ice cream; they then asked if they could go across the path, to a wooded area on their bikes without me. As I could still see them from my picnic bench I agreed. They disappeared from sight very briefly when they cycled up a bank, but I could hear them laughing.

After a short while they headed back towards me and i noticed that my youngest was walking along side his bike rather than riding it. As he became closer I could see that the brake cable was tangled around the handle bars! My middle son explained that when they were ready to head back to the cafe he had suggested to his younger brother that he push his bike down the hill; rather than risk falling off if he rode it down, to which Adam (my youngest son) literally physically pushed it down the hill; causing it to fall at an awkward angle and get the cables twisted! My first thought was how was I going to be able to get us all home. Luckily, there were some older boys doing stunts on their BMX bikes nearby. They were showing off a bit really and I realised that some of the elderly customers were a little annoyed by this. I approached the boys and asked if any of them would be willing to help a mother in distress who knew nothing about bikes. Two of them were really helpful; fixed the bike in no time and we were able to ride home with a tale to tell.


Sadly, I am now disabled, after suffering a major stroke; I still regularly visit the cafe at Fremington Quay with my sister; we take an alternative route along the road. I sit in my electric wheelchair and Kim walks along  beside me. The cafe is very disabled friendly; so this is a time we can both enjoy together.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to keep children amused doing art and craft activities.

When I was childminding; I used to use the back of junk mail (which is often blank on the reverse) as drawing paper. The inside cardboard of cereal boxes is great to use for painting. Put an old adult shirt over clothes for protection. Another tip is to buy paint brushes from market stalls; rather than specialist shops.

I used to keep old magazines, holiday brochures and greetings cards for the children to cut pictures from as well as egg boxes, yogurt cartons, cardboard tubes from kitchen and toilet rolls and plastic milk bottle tops for junk modelling; which can be painted the following day when dry.

My husband said I never threw anything out (which was pretty much true) as a ribbon from a gift can be used for weaving or making a collage. Once I even purchased a feather duster in a bargain store and stripped the feathers for a collage!

My biggest success was making treasure boxes at Christmas, which the children loved.

Give each child an empty shoe box (most shops will gladly give these away at no cost) encourage the children to decorate with pictures (I supplied these from the previous years Christmas cards) and stickers; bought cheaply from a bargain store. Later use a solution of two parts water, one part PVA glue mixed together to cover the box. This not only helps the pictures to stay put; but acts like a varnish.

When I was a child minder I used to use these boxes to put all the ‘bits and bobs’ that the children made in the run up to Christmas and let them take them home on Christmas Eve. (I usually added some chocolate coins and a small gift too)

Brass rubbing is another easy and cheap activity; you can buy purpose made plastic templates, but many household objects can work too for example; coins and keys. I’ve even used the product name on white goods, which is usually textured. On dry days why not try brass rubbing the bark on trees and collect leaves to take home and use later?

Bags of felt off cuts can be purchased cheaply and as felt doesn’t fray; it’s great for making items such as egg cosies, needle cases and even a glasses case.


Why not have a go at making some playdough? All you need is

1 cup of flour( the cheap value range is ideal)

Half a cup of salt,

2 teaspoons of cream of tartar

1 cup of water (add food colouring to this and it won’t stain later)

Put everything into a saucepan and stir over a medium heat until it forms a dough; BE SURE TO LET IT COOL BEFORE GIVING TO CHILDREN. Add rolling pins and pastry cutter shapes and let them have fun.

Older children may prefer salt dough; which is just as easy to make and as it doesn’t need cooking they can help to create it

1 cup flour

1 cup salt

Half cup of water

Just mix it altogether using your hands.

Leave creations in a warm room for a few hours to harden.


I hope these ideas have provided some food for thought.

HAVE FUN GETTING CREATIVE.

As always questions/comments are welcome and I will respond as soon as I can

When oxo tots got in touch and asked if I would review some of their products, I immediately enlisted the help of family friend called Ann and her 14 month old daughter; Arya.

Sippy Cup

Oxo tots sent me their tall sippy cup; suitable for 9 months plus It is priced at £7.60. This has non-slip grips on both sides and even has a ridge along the top to prevent tiny noses from being squashed while drinking. Ayra took to the cup straight away; although Ann did initially wonder if it may be a little too big however it wasn’t. It didn’t leak at all and Ayra had no trouble at all using it. It has become, her favourite drinking vessel, by far.

Divider Plate

The divider plate; priced at £8.50 is great as it has sections for different food types which means that the food doesn’t touch each other therefore Ayra could taste each different flavour (this, may work well for picky eaters, who are fussy, about certain food types) Ann reports that the dip section in the centre of the plate made it even more special for them as Ayra loves gravy; so extra gravy was placed in the centre of the Divider Plate.

The curved green sides, of the plate meant that the food didn’t slide around, while she was learning to use the cutlery. The fact that this can be removed when the child is ready is an asset too. There is also a removable rubber ring on the bottom; to prevent the plate from sliding around the table.

Fork & Spoon Set

The fork and spoon set; suitable from around 12 months costs £7. These were easy for Ayra to use as they are light weight and the perfect size for her hands. The anti-grip sections meant she didn’t struggle to keep hold of them.

 


Ann; Ayra’s mother gives all of the above products ten out of ten! She would recommend them and says that they are well worth the money. The products can be purchased online via their website which you can visit by clicking here

Disclosure: We were gifted these products for the purpose of the review; but all opinions are that of myself, Ann and Ayra.

Acropats come in packs of 16 pieces. They are made of stiff foam, and come in four different colours: red, green, yellow and blue.

I asked three children; 2 girls and a boy who were aged between 4 and 11 years to help with this review. The product manufacturer recommend that they are not suitable for under 3 years of age.

Initially the shapes where placed on the floor; the children used them in a variety of ways. The girls joined them together to make a fence; complete with a gate and sat a stuffed animal in their ‘field.’ The boy made a cube; which he said was full of dynamite!

As well as a construction toy; acropats are suitable for use in water as they float. They make an alternative bath toy and could also be used in a paddling pool on a warm day.

The eldest girl used one acropat as a template to draw around. The children seemed to enjoy playing with this toy, the possibilities are only prohibited by a lack of imagination. Acropats can be purchased from their wesite: http://www.acropats.com

This is an article that I originally wrote for “childcare Expo.”

I worked as a registered child minder for 14 very happy years; in all that time, I only ‘went sick’ once. This was because I had a bad stomach upset and there was no way that I could have looked after children (not that I would have; because of the risk of passing the bug onto them) I had no other choice but to phone the parent. Luckily; on this particular day I unusually only had one child booked  and explained my situation. The parent was very understanding and said she would take a days holiday from work.

I was a member of the local child minding network; Devon child minding association (DMCA) and knew of other child minders in the area; one, in particular lived about a mile from me. We often got together with our little ones so all the children knew each other and both of us which meant that she was my named child minder  in case of an emergency and, I was hers.

Being in such a group of other child minders could work in that; with consent from the parent, a child minder could pass on details for parents to ask in the case of their child minder being ill. This would depend on the new minder having a space for an extra child of course.

I had 4 children of my own; who were also sometimes sick. If one of them just had a mild cold but didn’t feel up to attending school, I would phone the child minding parents and explain what was happening and I would then offer them the choice of either sending their child as usual; or keep them away.  I must say, most still sent them! I wouldn’t have given them this choice for a more serious illness, as part of being a responsible child minder is to keep children safe and to prevent spreading infectious illnesses.

Another scenario to be aware of is when a parent sends a sick child to their child minder without mentioning that the child are ill. I recall one particular occasion when this happened. A child of about 18 months arrived with her mum; I did mention, at the time that the child looked a little pale, but her mother dismissed this telling me she was only teething. An hour or so later when I changed the child’s nappy; it was clear that she wasn’t well and as she had quite a sore looking bottom. I suspected this wasn’t the first time it had happened. I rang the parent and requested that she collected her daughter as she was unwell. She did this; but unfortunately the damage had already  been done. I came down with this bug a few days later meaning I couldn’t work.  My Husband then caught the bug; so he couldn’t work either (he was self employed also, so didn’t get paid for being off sick) Then each of my boys came down with it in turn; meaning that again I had to turn child minded children away.

I learnt from this experience and made it quite clear to parents at the first interview that I don’t allow sick children in my care.

Ironically, I had to give up child minding ten years ago due to ill health ( a lot more serious than an upset stomach) Below is a photo of me now; reading a story to my Grandchildren.

As always; any comments or questions are most welcome.

I was privileged to work as a registered child minder for many happy years, meaning that I never had to leave my children in childcare; other than in pre-school play groups.

Being a child minder; I was aware of a parents guilt, and hardly a week goes by without something similar being brought up on television programmes such as “Loose Women” and “This Morning.” I was once told by one of my child minding parents that she expected me to think that she was selfish because she chose to leave her baby with me while she went to work. In reality; I don’t think that many mothers have a choice going back to work after having a baby and that it is very much a necessity, what with the rising cost of living. As long as a parent chooses the right childcare for them and their child everything will be fine.

Going back to the child minding parent; she told me that she felt by leaving her child with me, for a couple of days a week while she worked would make her a better parent. She explained that she didn’t have the patience that I was blessed with and therefore only spending part of the week at home with her child would be better for them both. I replied by telling her that if everyone was like me and chose to stay at home with their children then I would be out of a job! This women was and still is an amazing  parent and she should be very proud of her daughter!

Other parents I have worked for have appeared not to be overly interested in what their child has to say when they come to collect them at the end of the day with me; they have nothing to feel guilty about, they may have had a stressful day and just want to get their child home to some peace and quiet.

I also came across a grandmother who had pangs of guilt, she felt that because she was the grandparent; she should be the person to look after her grandson while his mother at was work but when she really thought about this she admitted that she didn’t want to be tied to a young child at her time in life and after all; she had brought up her own children. Eventually, between us; myself, the mum and grandmother, we came up with a solution. She looked after her grandson for one day a week and paid the fees for me to have him the other two days required. This granny did tell me when I saw her her a few months later, that she felt that her grandson had benefited from also coming to me  as I did lots with him; such as taking him to toddler group sessions etc; whereas she tended to stay at home with him.

Another new mum became very upset when leaving her baby with me for the first time. I tried to reassure her by saying that I would look after him. She replied ”If I didn’t know that, we wouldn’t be here!” I told her that she was welcome to phone me as many times during the day as she wished; but she said she wouldn’t ring as if she did and heard her son crying in the back ground, it would upset her and if she didn’t hear him, she would worry why she couldn’t hear him!

The point I am trying to make from this post is that being a stay at home, or working mum is a personal choice. You need to do whichever is best for your family and not feel guilty about it.

I strongly believe that the children I looked after benefited from coming to me (not that I’m implying  that they wouldn’t have done equally as well if they hadn’t been in my care) but it certainly didn’t  harm them.

As always comments/ questions are welcome.

Another child minder (also called Karen!) has asked me for ideas that are suitable  for the older children. She also child minds after school;  however most of her activities and games are aimed at younger children.

The older children that I looked after liked arts and crafts (especially the girls) Making dolls out of wool was a very popular activity, the boys often referred to wolly dolls as woolly robots.

Quick pom-poms, which maybe a good starting point for you before you make wolly dolls are also very popular with older children.


Treasure Keepsake Box

Another popular activity suitable for all ages, is to decorate an empty shoe box to make a treasure box. Give each child an empty shoe box ( most shoe shops are only too pleased to give these away) P.V.A. glue and a variety of pictures and stickers.

I used to use my old Christmas cards that were saved from previous years to decorate their boxes. The older children may like to assist the younger ones in cutting out pictures.

You can supply glitter too, if you can manage the mess. I used to make these, with the children, in the run-up to Christmas and use them to store all the items they made at various toddler group sessions, they would then take the filled box home on their last day with me before Christmas. This idea could be amended for other occasions such as Easter, or as a holiday keepsake treasure box.

Bird Feeding Station

If you have a window that overlooks a garden it’s a great idea to put up a bird feeder.

I also got the children to make their own bird cakes by adding nuts, dried mixed fruit and suet to melted lard. Put the mixture into empty yogurt cartons, with string attached to the bottoms. When they are cold and set, take them out of the yoghurt pot and hang them upside down from a tree branch for the birds to enjoy . The children can look out for birds and use reference books to identify the different varieties and even work out which food the different breeds prefer.

Salt Dough

Salt dough is another activity older children may enjoy. It is simple and cheap to make, place a cup of flour and half a cup of salt in a bowl and slowly stir in up to a cup of of water, the mixture needs to be sticky, but not too wet., kneed together, then roll out and get creative. The dough then needs to dry out, 3 minutes in a microwave on a low setting works well. Then paint, or use glitter to decorate.


I am a great believer in getting children out and about whenever possible, this may not be suitable for after school; but good if you have older ones in the school holidays, as I did.

Something very popular in Autumn time is to take them on a conker and acorn treasure hunt.

I hope, this has given you some ideas.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

For as long as I can remember I have always loved babies and children (and anything to do with them) including an interest in pregnancy and birth. All I ever wanted to do when I was growing up playing with baby dolls was to to get married and have children. I did get married, aged 19 and had two sons when I was 22 and 24. When my boys where aged 4 and 6 I got divorced but re-married; gained a step-son and had a third son with my new husband when I was 29. I would happily have carried on having more babies until I was too old to have any more but, my husband (who was more practical) said we had enough. Although secretly; I suspect he would have liked a daughter too!
When I heard about child minding, it seemed the obvious choice of career. I had worked as a clerical assistant for the Inland Revenue (now known as HMRC) before becoming a mother and had no real desire to go back to that and have to leave my children with someone else. Becoming a child minder would mean that I could earn some much needed money (of which, I earned a decent amount when I became experienced and established, as a child minder) and could look after my own children at the same time.

When I first started, my three eldest where at school; so being a child minder also meant that my youngest had play mates during the day when they were all in school. It also meant that I didn’t have to miss out on important events in the school calendar, such as sport’s days and Nativity Plays. It sometimes meant taking a few child minded children along with me; but we all benefited from these occasions.


I made the initial enquiries into becoming a child minder and was invited to attend an informal preregistration meeting to find out more. At this time such events were organised by Social Services, but it is different now. After attending this and liking what I learnt, I took the next step and a lovely lady came to inspect my home for suitability. She approved the house and left me with a lot of paperwork to complete, including C.R.B (criminal records bureau, now known as DBS) checks, for both myself and my husband (my boys were also CRB checked when they reached 16 years of age)
Three months or so later I received my Registration Certificate, of which I was extremely proud and my child minding journey began.
I worked as a child minder for 14 years, achieving OUTSTANDING at my last inspection. Sadly ill health forced me to stop child minding ten years ago (at the time of writing this)

I still have many very happy memories, and am still in touch with many of the children and their parents and am proud to say that two of them refer to me as their “second mum”
I hope to make a full recovery and one day be able to go back to this wonderful vocation.
I can’t say that I found anything about child minding a challenge, as I had a lot of support from the Devon Childminding Association (DCMA) and was an active member of their child minding network; saying that it defiantly helps if you are organised, as there is a lot of paperwork to get through and when I was full I would spend more time writing up notes for Ofsted early years than I did with the children. I must point out that I NEVER attempted to do the paperwork, while I had children present, but did that in the evenings, after they had gone home. Having an inspection can also be a stressful time, but I used to look at it as a chance to show off how good a child minder I was!


The best part of being a child minder for me was that; as I have already mentioned, I didn’t have to worry about finding child care for my children while I worked.

I would recommend child minding to anyone who enjoys spending time with children. You can read more of my experiences in other blog posts and in my e-book, also called the next best thing to mummy, available to download from Amazon shop to an electronic device.

If this has inspired you to become a child minder; contact your local authority or visit http://www.pacey.org, for more information. Happy Childminding!

As always comments/questions are welcome.

Karen

 

Rebecca, who is a registered child minder has suggested this blog topic.

As a registered child minder; you should be invited to attend meetings and courses, on the basics of keeping child minding accounts, for tHMRC. As a self-employed person, record keeping is your responsibility.

You can, of course, hire an accountant to do this for you and there are many companies, who will offer help, but, as most child minders wouldn’t be able to afford this luxury, doing-it-yourself, seems a better option. That said there is a company called “Mazuma Money” who my second child (now aged 29) uses for his children’s entertainments company, he tells me they are fantastic and very reasonably priced (if you do go with them please mention his name “Damon Gaunt”)

I always kept my own income and expenditure records, quite simply in an exercise book, although there are specialist books and worksheets available to buy, from a variety of suppliers.

If you opt to do your own, keep all receipts. ( I used to put mine monthly in separate recycled old envelopes). As well, as being able  to claim large expenses against your tax, such as, start up costs like safety equipment for your home such as safety gates, a fire guard and the compulsory fire blanket. Plus of course, the cost of buying toys and story books.

You can also put a percentage of utility bills and any rent, if you rent your home ( when I was a child minder, this was 10%, but it may of changed now, so do check with HMRC) First aid qualifications and other training can be quite costly, so claim for these too. Don’t forget to include the smaller expenses, they all add up to a considerable amount, like the cost of attending toddler group sessions. If you visit several each week (as I did) it will cost more than you realise; although you are able to charge this to the child’s parent, if you write it into the contract at the first interview. I used my car to take the children out (with written consent from parents) on trips further afield to local attractions. I kept a track of my mileage, by setting the mile counter on my car, also keep car parking fee tickets, as these can add up quite quickly.

I sometimes took the child minded children to a local soft play centre, where I would buy myself a coffee, while watching the children play. I put this expense through my books too, because if I wasn’t a child minder, I would be drinking coffee at home; not buying a more expensive one, while out!

I also purchased ice creams for the children on a warm day, the ice cream seller most likely won’t issue a receipt, but you can still claim it as an expense. I once had a lovely parent offer to pay for an ice cream for all the children I was taking out on a particular day, as she said I was using my petrol to take them out and she wanted to help by buying treats, I thanked her for her kind offer and I explained that it was all tax deductible.

Subscription to magazines, like Nursery world and nursery education are another expense, you may not think of claiming for. I found both of these publications invaluable for activity ideas and for obtaining posters to display in my playroom. Spending money on marketing your child minding business, is also money well spent and of course, is something that is tax deductible. As always comments/ questions are welcome.

I always found HMRC to be very helpful, if I ever needed advice. The self assessment forms they issue every year are not as horrific, as they appear at first glance, if you tackle them calmly and slowly.

As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave a comment. You can also contact me privately by clicking here.

When I worked as a child minder, I found that most of the new child minded children settled in remarkably quickly. I have written, in more detail, about a particular child, who took a little longer, in another blog post, titled “child minding tales – separation anxiety”

I think, it is actually more distressing for the parent than for the child, when they first start going to a new child minder. Some parents ask if they can stay for a while, but i find that this can just prolong the upset (for the parent)

In my experience, a child may cry as the parent goes to leave and as soon after they are out of sight they stop crying and start playing.

They have a great day and then sometimes cry again when mum arrives to collect them, this time because they don’t want to go home! This must be very upsetting to witness, as the adult thinks her child has been miserable all day, so I always mention this scenario at the first interview, if the parents seem concerned.

I often encouraged another child, who had been with me for a while, to help with settling in a new child. For example, I would suggest to the established child, that he show the new child, where we hang up our coats.

Children often take more easily to other children, than to adults. Using this method, also gives the original child a sense of responsibility, which makes them feel good about themselves.

I had one 4 year old, who was particularly good at helping me with this task. He was very interested in a six month old baby, who had just started in my setting. We were having lunch together, one day, as I offered the baby a spoonful of his dinner and he opened his mouth wide, like a baby bird.

The older boy suddenly noticed that the little one didn’t have any teeth “Oh, look Karen, he has lost all his teeth!” hew exclaimed, in shock. I explained that the baby hadn’t lost his teeth and that because he was still a baby his teeth hadn’t come through yet. Every morning, after that the boy would ask, as he arrived if the baby had grown teeth yet!


On a similar subject; another child (this time a girl) was very taken with a new younger child. About 6 months or so after the older child had started with me, the younger one started walking, for the first time. I never told a parent, if their child took it’s first step while with me, as I wouldn’t want to rob them of that precious moment. The older child was so excited, her mum actually thanked me the following day, saying that when her Daddy had come home from work she couldn’t wait to tell him what had happened while she was at her child minders that day.  Her mum went on to say, that as her daughter was their youngest and they didn’t plan on having any more children, she would never have had this experience. She also attended a pre school, but as all the children there were of a similar age to this girl, she wouldn’t get to see anything as exciting there.

 

As I have already mentioned most children settle with a new child minder quite quickly and easily. It amazes me how when I took a new child to a toddler group session, with many other ladies present; they seemed to instantly know, it was me they had to return to after playing in a group with other children.

I had several of my minded children for many happy years, often when they left to go on to nursery or school, a younger sibling would take their place. Sometimes the older child, would return during the school holidays, meaning even more fun!

As always comments/questions are welcome.

As a Child Minder you are at an advantage over a larger setting such as a nursery (I’m my opinion anyway) when it comes to planning activities for the children in your care. For example; I like to think that when I was a child minder I knew the children I looked after really well and could therefore plan activities to suit individuals.

I had one boy, who loved vehicles and anything associated with them, so we went out for a walk, taking my camera with us. I let Mark, take photos of Road Signs (under supervision, to ensure the camera didn’t get damaged) We discussed what each sign meant and the different shapes and colours as we came across them.

When we got back to my house,  I set up the computer and Mark helped me to print off his photos, he managed to feed the paper into the printer with a little guidance and he pressed the appropriate buttons (this covered the ITC section of the early learning goals)

Another boy I looked after, was struggling and showed little interest in activities. He had recently been to the cinema with his family to see the film “Madagascar” which he loved so I planned an activity for him around this. I took him to the library, where we searched together for books about animals featured in the film and discovered one on meercats and lemurs. Back home , we looked at the book and talked about the animals – how many legs they had, what they may eat and so on. I also encouraged him to draw his own pictures of the animals and to colour them in the correct shades of colour by referring back to the book.


I once was child minding a boy who was a little slow to learn things and was I was struggling with activities to cover the mathematical early learning goal with him. He enjoyed playing with toy cars in the Playroom so my husband made a wooden ramp to slide the cars down.

When he slid the toy cars down the ramp, I encouraged him to measure how far it had travelled. He would not have understood the concept of centimetres so instead we used cars as a measuring tool; e,g, the red car moved a distance of 6 car lengths. When writing my observation, of this activity later I said that as the child progressed and began to understand numbers better, we would re-visit the activity and use a ruler or tape measure to calculate the distance using centimetres this time, so he learnt maths language.

Another child; who was also a little slower than average, was having trouble learning the names of colours. Each time I asked what colour an object was, his younger sister would reply for him. I came to the conclusion that he really had no idea where the names of colours were concerned, so instead of asking, “What colour is this?” I held up a blue crayon and told him “this is blue, can you find me another blue one, please?” He liked this game and found it quite easy to recognise the same colour and eventually he started to tell me the names of the colours as he picked them up.


One afternoon I set up an activity using some empty cardboard boxes an other junk making materials. We sat together and began making models. We all had great fun doing this!

I also had an 18 month old baby in my care, that day, who wanted to join in, so I presented him with a small box and some masking tape. He spent a considerable amount of time concentrating sticking pieces of tape onto his box and pulling them off again. He giggled as he did this, while also watching the older children creating their masterpieces.


Another group of children I was minding were enjoying having running races in my garden. I had a disabled child at the same time. To ensure that she didn’t miss out, I took them all to the local park, when the children started to race I ran pushing Mary in her wheelchair along side them. She screamed in delight and stretched out her arms, pretending she was an aeroplane.

These are only a few examples of ways that activities can be amended  to suit children at different stages of learning and development. Use your imagination and have fun helping children to learn as they play.

As always questions/comments are most welcome.

Experts say that most children don’t get bladder control until around 18 months, so there is no point in trying to potty train before that age.

I must admit however, to placing my first born son Leigh, on his potty just after his first birthday. He seemed to be quite happy sitting there, whilst watching a children’s television programme (I couldn’t see any harm in this and thought that it was good that he got used to it) Whether it was just a coincidence or not; I don’t know, but he produced a No.2, so I did the same thing the following day and the same thing happened. This continued for about a week, then one day when I changed his nappy, he was dry so I asked him if he like to sit on the potty; this time he managed a wee so I made a big fuss of him by telling him what a clever boy he was and that we would tell his Daddy, when he came home from work and that he would be really pleased too.

My son still wet his nappies, but every now and again I would discover a dry one and put Leigh on his potty, sometimes he would use it and sometimes not. As time went on, I had more dry than wet nappies, and more success with the potty. At this stage I was still putting on a nappy when he went for a nap, over night and when we went out; as I knew he was still quite young.

When Leigh got to around 18 months or so, he seemed to understand more about the potty and would tell me when his nappy was wet. I decided now was the right time to really go for it. I explained to Leigh that we were going to go shopping to buy him some big boys pants that he could wear instead of his nappy. He chose some with Thomas The Tank engine on the front. When we got home I put the pants on him and asked him to tell me if he thought he needed a wee. He was brilliant and almost always stayed dry and used the potty. Of course, he did have occasional accidents, usually when he was busy playing with toys. After a few weeks I took Leigh out for a walk still wearing pants. I took a clean set of lower clothes with me (even socks) just in case of an accident and when we ventured out further I would also take the potty, in a carrier bag and hang it off the buggy (young children can find sitting on an adult toilet frightening)

I was extremely lucky with all 3 of my boys, they all took to potty training easily and all became dry at night quite soon after mastering it during the day. I just placed a plastic sheet under the bed sheet to protect the mattress.

To summarize, my tips are:

Don’t start too young
Praise your child big time for using potty
Don’t become too upset if accidents happen change clothes and hope for better next time
Always carry spare clothes (and potty if possible)
Don’t use pull-ups or confuse the child by sometimes putting on nappy
Purchase a seat to fit on adult toilet when time is right to progress.

As always, any comments or questions are most welcome.

Nowadays, keeping children entertained on long car journeys is relatively easy thanks to things like laptops, electronic games and tablets such as iPads. They can now watch a movie or play a game whilst they travel.

When my own children were young, there were no such luxuries. I once made a booklet for each of them with a list of things for them to look for on the journey such as a man up a ladder, lady pushing a pram, a red traffic light, roundabout, scarecrow in field etc.

They then crossed each item off the list once seen. My youngest son was too young to read at the time, so I drew pictures for him (I am no artist!)

When I was a child, my two sisters and I would travel with our parents, between North Devon and Merseyside, a few times a year. We used to look out for car registration plates going through the Alphabet and also made a chart of car colours to see which were most popular. We would also look out for horses (as we were all horse mad) and at Christmas time we would look out for Christmas trees in windows.

Drawing books and crayons are a good activity for children. Crayons are better than felt tip pens, as they won’t stain clothes if dropped.

Give each child a small ruck sack containing a drink (avoid fizzy drinks, i find that fruit juice or water is better) a snack, drawing book and pencils, a small toy and a picture book or comic for the journey.

Singing (if the parent can stand it!) is another past time, as are games like “I Spy” (you can spy colours, rather than sounds, for younger children.)

When I was childminding, I didn’t take the children on long journeys as such, but we did go on day trips and as my son went to Primary School a few miles away, we travelled by car to the school. I encouraged the children to look out for things like police cars, fire engines, ambulances and as we drove into a farming community; tractors.

The main thing is keep your cool, ensure everyone wears a seat belt and that young children are secured in an appropriate car seat; enjoy your journey. These activities can be adapted for journeys made by train, bus or plane.

As always comments/questions are welcome.

Many parents are under the impression that teaching their child to read is the responsibility of their child’s teacher.

While this is true to a certain extent, there is a lot you can do to help as a parent.

My eldest son started to recognize words from a very young age by the way they were written, e.g, he pointed to an advert in a magazine and told me “That says Boots” (it was for Boots, the chemist)  I can remember doing a similar thing myself when I was young, looking for Enid Blyton books, I would know they were written by her by the way she signed her name.

In my opinion for what it’s worth, a child is never too young to start enjoying books. Even a baby will get satisfaction from being read to whilst having a cuddle. Board books are great for babies and toddlers, as they can stand rough treatment and even being chewed. My all time favourite book for older children is “The Gruffalo” written by Julia Donaldson. It is written in rhythm, so children can often work out text for themselves. It also has amazing illustrations by Alex Scheffler. I recall a mother of a child I used to child-mind telling me that he they gone into a book shop and he picked up a copy of The Gruffalo and read it aloud all by himself! He wasn’t technically reading it, he was reciting it from memory (as I had read to him loads of times) but then reading is using memory really; isn’t it?

When reading to your child, point to the words as you go, so the child can follow.

Enroll your child in the library from a young age to encourage a love of books (after all, the library is one of the things we pay council tax for!) Libraries often also have story and music sessions, which can only help children to read. It is also worth knowing that most libraries have a selection of books for children with special needs, such as scratch and sniff and textured books for the visibly impaired. These books are often not on show for the general public, but are available if you ask a member of staff.

Let your child see you reading a book or magazine, as they often like to copy a parent . Get into the habit of reading to your child at bed time as it is a good wind down activity.

Children can be encouraged to recognize letters of the alphabet, by first learning the letters that are significant to them, such as “K” for Karen or “M” for Mummy and so on. My youngest son learned that “M” was for Mummy. One day when we visited the zoo, he pointed to the sign on a cage saying “monkey” and he shouted (rather loudly) “That says mummy.” A child I was child-minding once pointed to the “H” on the hot tap and told me, thats “H” for Hayden (the name of her Brother) and also pointed out that a road sign, saying “Park Lane”, had a “P” for Pippa (her Mum’s name  and a “K” for Karen, so she was well on her way; long before even starting school.

I hope that these suggestions will be a help, HAPPY READING TO ALL!

As always, comments/ questions are welcome.

When I met my second husband, my boys were aged 4 and 6 and he had an 8 year old son.

Once we settled into life as a “blended family” the boys didn’t call their step-parent mum or dad (after all, they each had an absent parent who they still saw) neither did we tell them that they had to refer to each other as brothers. I do however recall being in the post office when a distant relative of my step-son came over and said to him “Are these your new brothers?” to which he replied ”yes”

Another time I was in the school playground and over heard a mother say to my step-son, “Ask your mum if you can come to ours for tea tomorrow” to which he said to me ”Mum, can I go to my friends house for tea tomorrow please?”

My boys did a similar thing. to my husband, when he was referred to as their dad. I think they found it easier to go along with, rather than explain every time.

I believe that the fact that the boys made up their own minds on the subject, rather than being told how to act helped then to accept our “blended family”

Apart from a few minor disagreements, the boys got on very well.

Quite quickly into our marriage, my third son Adam was born. Not only was he a ‘joint effort’ for us as adults, but he also helped to bond the step-brothers.

The three eldest children would visit their absent parent a few times a week and at one time, Adam asked his dad if he would move out, so he could visit him (he felt he was missing out on something) At first my husband was upset by his remark, but we had a laugh about it later.

Years later, when I was childminding, new parents often wouldn’t realise we were a blended family, until I told them. People often remarked that the older boys looked alike and I was even asked once if they were triplets!

I’m not saying that blending families is easy and we did have arguments from time to time, but if you work at it; all comes right in the end.

My second son, is now married and has a step-son, as well as two daughters of his own. I feel exactly the same towards my step-grandson, as I do my grand daughters.

As always, any comments or questions are most welcome.

After catching up with Terry who originally suggested I write a blog on Child Led Play, he told me his Daughter aged 2 had recently been to a birthday party. He was surprised that all the small children played separately, instead of together.

This in my experience is perfectly normal for that age, and soon not only will children start to interact with one another they will also start to disagree. I have come across a poem, which sums it up brilliantly.

TODDLER RULES POEM

If I want it, it’s MINE.
If it’s in my hand, it’s MINE.
If I had it a little while ago, it’s MINE.
if I can take it, it’s MINE.
If it’s MINE, it is NEVER going to be yours.
If we are building things together, all the pieces are MINE.
If I give it to you and then change my mind, it’s MINE.
If I think it’s nice, it’s MINE.
Once it’s MINE,It will NEVER belong to anyone else, no matter what.
If it’s broken, it’s YOURS!
– Author unknown –

As children mature and their brains and imagination develop, hopefully harmony will be restored and they will play happily together, as I demonstrated in my earlier “Child Led Play – Part 1” long, where i told the story the “Santa Play” scenario.

Hopefully, this has explained things for you Terry. Enjoy your daughter, while she is tiny as they grow up far too quickly!

As always  if anyone has any questions or comments, they are very welcome. I aim to respond quickly.

Thanks to Terry who suggested that I write a blog about Child Led Play.

It is too easy to hover over our children while they are playing. It is much better take a step back and et them use their imagination.

When I was child minding, I sometimes laid out the tea set on a child sized table in my play room and watched while the children played with it.

Another way of encouraging child led play is to ask them open ended questions such as “What are we going to have to eat and drink?” rather than just asking for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

The most special occasion that I can recall of this was at Christmas time. There were three children, of varying ages in the play room. I was listening from just outside the door way. The oldest child dressed up as Santa, complete with glasses (without lens) had wrapped up random toys in sheets taken from the dolls cot she then placed them in a pillow case (santa’s sack) While this was happening the other children lay on the sofa and pretended to be asleep. “Santa” tiptoed over and placed a present beside each child as he crept out of the room, I saw one of the children open an eye, she then jumped up and squealed with delight “Wake up, quickly, Santas been!” to the other child.

Then they both unwrapped their gift, hugged and sang Jingle bells.

It was a magical moment for me to witness, made even more special because they didn’t know that I had been watching and listening, they retold the whole event when I went back in the room.

My grandaughter loves to play shops, her favourite is to be an ice cream seller. Instead of her Daddy asking for a vanilla ice cream, he asks what flavours she has, this not only makes her use her imagination, but also helps her communication skills.

Child led play is great for expanding a child’s imaginative play and vocabulary skills, while generally helping brain development at the same time.

Have fun and enjoy this special time with your children while they are young and innocent.

As always comments/ questions are welcome

The question of how to help a child with number recognition came up recently on social media. These are my ideas.

In my experience, most children start recognizing numbers by their age. Many youngsters are given birthday cards with their age on ( usually the number is large and brightly coloured) Some children walk around for days wearing a badge to show the world how old, or big they are!

My grand daughter who is three. learnt her numbers by watching videos on YouTube of people opening kinder eggs, she also learnt about colours and shapes at the same time.

My eldest son learnt about numbers by watching Sesame Street on TV. He also liked Blockbusters, which helped with his letter recognition.

My grandson learnt to recognise 0-10 from the dial on my mobility scooter (I am now disabled) he loved to sit on my lap and help me to steer. I recall one time when he saw some people ahead of us he shouted “Come on, Nana. let’s beat them!” whilst turning the control dial to top speed. Luckily I was still in control and soon turned it down again!

While I was child minding I used board games such as snakes and ladders or Ludo to help encourage number recognition (this is also good to teach turn taking and sharing) We also used to sing songs like “5 little ducks” and “10 little monkeys jumping on the bed” to help with counting.

The boys were always fans of Thomas The Tank Engine and as each train has a different number and colour, this can be very helpful too.

If we think about it, numbers are everywhere; on the remote control, telephone, calendars, car registration plates, house numbers, road signs, the list is endless. You could make a sort of number treasure hunt game for children to play while you are out and about.

Look out for numbers with children while you are shopping. Price tags on items or shelves and weighing fruit and vegetables in the supermarket is a fun learning activity.

Remember, if you give your children pocket money that coins have their monetarily value written on them.

Some television programmes, such as The X factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Children In Need will show numbers on screen, while the presenter reads them out.

In summary, numbers are all around us, make it fun for your children to learn and soon they will be telling you how much the latest video game, or toy costs!

As always, please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment.

I am hearing of more and more parents complaining that their children are addicted to electronic devices such as tablets such as iPads, MobilePhones and games consoles and that the children get stroppy when told to switch them off.

I had a similar problem when my eldest son became obsessed with his play station and although it kept him amused for a long period of time, he didn’t cope so well when asked to turn it off and do something else. It got so bad that we had to talk him into selling it and said he could have the money to purchase something else. He asked if he could get an Xbox!

With hind sight, I would suggest to parents going through the same dilemma that they make it clear to their children that they can have a short time ( perhaps 30 minute intervals) on the device and that they must then find something else to occupy themselves after that time.

The down side of using one of these devices at bed time, is that they can over stimulate the brain ( as can television and videos or DVDs) It can then be difficult to wind down and fall asleep.

Many adults are also addicted to laptop computers and tablets, thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As parents, we need to set a good example to our children. It will seem very unfair to them if they are not allowed to use theirs while a parent is sat tapping away. Try telling your child that while you are dealing with important emails they can use their tablet, then you both need to turn them off and that you will do something together.

Be aware, that children, of a very young age are often extremely savvy with such devices. My three year-old, grand daughter Sophia already knows how to unlock her mummy’s iPhone, accesses YouTube and sings along to the Frozen song “Let it go” I have also heard of a child ordering toys on line. The first the parents knew of this, was when a parcel arrived!

I was once using my new laptop when a visiting two year-old laughed at me, because I was apparently doing it all wrong “Oh, Karen” she told me,” You don’t need a mouse, you use your finger to move the cursor!” Well that was me, well and truly told.

There are more ideas for dealing with children who throw temper tantrums,for one reason or another in my “Behaviour Management” blog.

As always, comments / questions are welcome. I promise to reply to all as soon as possible.

Thanks to Tina for the suggestion of an absent parent, a difficult subject; but one I have had a little experience of.

My boys, were aged four and six years, when myself and their father split. I decided at the time that I was going to try to stay on good terms with my ex, to make it easier for my sons to adjust, but, of course I quickly realised it wasn’t as simple as that. I told my ex husband that he could see the children whenever he wanted, as long as it was pre arranged. This worked well for a while, but soon he was telling the children, “Daddy is all on his own now.” ( I had started a new relationship and he hadn’t) I tried talking to him about this, but he was having none of it and very soon was returning the boys to me ten minutes later than arranged.

I know Tina’s children are quite young, as were mine and so a certain amount of what is going on will go over their heads, but we mustn’t under estimate our off spring and therefore try to explain as much as you think they can deal with. I would tell them that mummy and daddy have fallen out with each other, but not with them and that none of it was their fault. Mum and dad may not love each other any more but they will always love them, and will always be their mother and father.

I don’t know Tina’s exact situation, but am presuming that they still have contact with their father. A friend of mine; Hilary, split with her husband when their daughter, Emma, was very young because Emma’s dad wasn’t all that interested in her when they were together. Hilary decided that he didn’t need contact with his daughter now they were living apart. This arrangement was fine while Emma was tiny, but when she started attending pre school and made a father’s day card Hilary wasn’t so sure she had made the correct choice, in the end she posted the card to him. Emma is now a mummy herself and everyone has a healthy relationship with granddad.

Of course, sometimes a parent is absent due to a bereavement. I have another friend, whose little girl lost her daddy suddenly a few years ago. A lot of children first encounter death by loosing a beloved pet. My grand children recently lost their great granddad and on witnessing her mummy crying, my granddaughter told her “It will be OK Mummy, great granddad will be able to look after nanas dog.”

Back to my friend; she is amazing the way she has coped with helping her daughter through this difficult time, they send presents to heaven by tying small gifts to a balloon and because Steve(the dad) liked mints they placed a few polo mints and a school photo inside the balloon. They then go to a local high beauty spot and release their gifts. I must also stress that it is not always the dad who is the absent parent, I know of two mothers who chose to leave their husbands and children to start a new life. Sometimes an absent parent may not be able to have direct contact with their child, due to a court order or similar, there are usually ways around this too. The children’s centre where I used to work, can arrange supervised sessions, where a parent can spend time with their child with a third party present.

Just remember, stay strong for your children, let them know you are always there if they want to talk about anything worrying them and finally, for any person moving onto a new relationship, my blog called “Blended Families” may be a help.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Similar to learning about numbers and colours, the easiest way to teach our children about shapes in my opinion is to make it fun. Start by looking around your environment. Sitting in my living room, I can see several different shapes; square and rectangle picture frames, a round clock, rectangular windows and door frames, a round fruit bowl, even the buttons on the remote control are circles and squares, equally the square keys on my laptop keyboard.

I used to point out shapes to my child minded children when we were outside, as well as indoors. Road signs, for example, are mostly circles or rectangles, some are also square.

My granddaughter learnt to recognise shapes, colours and numbers by watching you tube videos, on her mum’s phone.

Of course, there are many commercial shape sorting toys on the market, for varying age ranges of children.

Many children will draw shapes in their pictures without realising it, for example a square house, with square windows and rectangle door and chimney and a triangle roof. You could also point out shapes to your children while they are playing such as the wheels on toy vehicles, or dolls prams and push chairs even the plates you serve their food on. You will be surprised how quickly they learn.

As always, questions/comments are welcome.

The subject of encouraging your child to do No.2’s (poos) on the potty, has recently come to my attention, both in person and on social media.

I did encounter, this problem, with my middle child, although his problem was of constipation; which in itself can be a vicious circle, it hurt him to go, so he tried to avoid it making the whole situation much worse. It took me a while to figure out, why he wasn’t using his potty for this, shall we say “activity” when he had been using it for doing wees for quite some time.

I actually found him one day hiding behind the sofa, sitting on his bottom in an effort to prevent himself from going. This is when the penny dropped and I realised this was more of a medical issue.

Regular readers will be aware, that I don’t give medical advice, as I am NOT qualified in this field. I only give advice on topics that I have experience of and that I believe will work.

I started to give my son foods that were high in fibre, such as brown bread, fresh fruit, plenty of fluids and even sprinkled bran (obtained from a health food store) over his breakfast cereal. Of course, I also took him to see our doctor, who told me that I was doing all I could to help him and she also prescribed some mild medication. As time went on, I discovered that diluted prune juice ( not syrup) did the trick, he drank it happily from his cup and I would then read him a story, while he was sitting on the potty, crouching down beside him.

Happily, with time and patience and lots of praise when he did manage to preform , he got over his fear and normal service was resumed! My elder son would do a No.2 in his potty, while he was watching his favourite programme on television. I have written more on general potty training in an earlier post.

As I have already mentioned, I don’t give medical advice, but questions of non- medical issues. or comments are always welcome.

Managing their child’s behaviour can be one of the biggest challenges for many parents, after all; the “terrible two’s” do start at around 18 months and finish at 18 years, don’t they?

The solution to this is simple – reward good behaviour and, wherever possible ignore the bad.

The best example I can give of this is when at a toddler group a mum approached me and asked for advice with managing her 3 year old son’s behaviour (let’s call him Sam) as since the birth of her 2nd child, 6 months ago, Sam was showing negative behaviour towards other children.

After observing them, I tactfully suggested that when Sam became violent towards others, instead of jumping up and telling him off, she should quietly and calmly remove him from the situation. (therefore not giving too much attention to him) When he was playing nicely, she should go to him and say something like”what a good boy you are being at the moment.”

I saw this lady again about a month later and she couldn’t thank me enough. She said she felt like I had given her back her good little boy!

Other tools for managing behaviour are star charts, stickers or just simple verbal praise ( A pat on the back goes along way.)

Another example I had was while childminding, a 5 year old girl in my care who always had to be the first to do things first – first out of the door, first into the car etc. While out walking I noticed that she liked to press the button on the pelican crossing so I used this to my advantage, explaining to her that if she was very good I would let her be the one to press the button in future. She changed from pushing and shoving to always be first to actually encouraging others to go ahead of her!

For a while I had a car which had a built-in pull-down child’s car seat in the back, which they all liked to sit in so I used this as a reward for being well behaved. A plastic pink spoon (a freebie, in fact) was a favourite for using to eat yoghurt at lunchtime, so again this became a reward.

I hope this has provided some food for thought. Ideas need to be adapted to suit the individual child, depending on their interests, age and stage of development.

If a parent feels that this isn’t working for their child and instead would like to give a punishment, then in my opinion, taking away a privilege is the way to go.

As always, feel free to leave a comment and ask any questions.

Another request from Sarah Knight, this time for fussy eaters. Thank you so much Sarah.

My experience with my own children, as far as eating goes is that they usually eat most things, until around twelve months, when the picky eating starts.

My eldest son would eat a varied diet until this age and then he started to get fussy.

By the time he started started school he refused to eat fruit of any description in spite of me giving him a good variety when he was a baby. He used to love mashed banana and stewed apple ( I used to stew eating apples for him,so I didn’t need to add sugar).

His school had fruit time mid morning, where the pupils where encouraged to eat fruit brought in from home. I thought that when my son saw his peers tucking into their fruit he would want to do the same, but I was wrong; he still refused to eat it! Eventually he was persuaded to take in a small box of raisins

When I married my second husband, my son was virtually living off peanut butter sandwiches and yoghurts. I was under the impression that because peanuts are full of protein this was O.K. but as the saying goes, all things in moderation.. My son was becoming hyper active and his behaviour was suffering. It was my husband who realised that the diet may be the cause of these problems, so we weaned him off the peanut butter and encouraged a more varied diet, within weeks my son was back to his old self. Now as an adult, he will eat anything!

As a childminder I came across a child who was afraid of certain food, worrying about making a mess (I feel I need to point out that I didn’t mind a mess) It was the child’s parent who was obsessed with cleanliness and made her child afraid of dirtying clothes. I reassured the child that I would sponge off any marks and if that didn’t work, I would change her clothes and wash the offending ones so mummy wouldn’t know. (I didn’t usually encourage children to be deceitful, but on this occasion, felt she needed reassuring) I have also heard of children actually becoming food phobic because of the worry of getting dirty.

Also when childminding I tried to encourage healthy eating by doing activities with the children, such as making a fruit salad. At this time I asked the children if they knew where grapes came from and one little girl informed me ”We get them from Tesco”

Another way of encouraging children to eat healthily is to set a good example and let them see you eat well. You could set aside a small area of the garden and let them grow their own vegetables, even cress grown on a widow sill is a start.

Basically give your child a varied selection of foods, avoiding too many sweet things from a young age. Try not to nag if your child refuses to eat, as it is all too easy for meal times to become a battle ground. Praise your child when he does eat, even just a small amount and give small portions, so they are not put off by the amount of food on the plate. TRY TO STAY CALM. GOOD LUCK AND BON APPETIT.

As always, feel free to leave a comment or ask questions.

During my time as a childminder I was asked; on a few occasions (usually by first time parents) what were my feelings towards using a dummy. When I was in my early twenties and expecting my first baby I was under the mind set that no child of mine would ever be seen with a dummy in it’s mouth, and luckily my first born was a “model child” so it never occurred to me to use one. By the time my next two sons were born, however, I gave in and gave them dummies. As I grew older and wiser I changed my opinion completely and by using a dummy for my second baby, it meant he slept for longer during the day and I could spend quality time with my other boys.

Always keep dummies clean – If you put them in the steriliser along with bottles etc you will be assured that they are spotless. I used to transport my sons dummy in a plastic container, but now there are dummies on the market complete with a teat cover that sterilises it too.

Dummy v Thumb?

My first born son did not have a dummy, but instead was a thumb sucker. This, in my opinion looked sweet, but of course; I couldn’t remove the thumb when I thought it was time to stop this habit! As a childminder, I have come across children with quite nasty sores on their thumbs, from the skin being constantly wet. At least with a dummy you can remove it away from all temptation.


TIPS FOR WEANING A CHILD OFF A DUMMY

When I decided it was time for my second son to ditch the dummy, Christmas was coming. I explained to him that we were going to give his dummy to Santa for baby Rudolf at a party we were going to attend. Damon thought this was a great idea and once the deed was done, never asked again for his dummy, but would proudly tell people where it had gone. Similarly, my father, who worked in a car factory, took my sister’s dummy to work for a baby car. I have also heard of a family who lived in the countryside left a dummy under a bush for the baby bunnies that came into their garden. My third son had two dummies, one he put in his mouth and the other he liked to hold. Giving up the first was easy, a neighbour had just had a new baby, so he handed it over to the mother for the baby (or so he thought) Loosing the second was more of challenge, one day he fell asleep with it in the car, it dropped out of his mouth as I carried him indoors. When I retrieved it I cut off the teat with a pair of scissors. Later Adam asked for his dummy at bedtime when he went to put it in his mouth, there was nothing to suck, so he threw it in the bin. (He wasn’t really old enough to think about asking me to buy a new one, so that was the end of that). I recall at the time, my husband telling me that I was cruel, but it never really did any harm.

Another idea to use is the dummy fairy, encourage the child to place the dummy in a gift bag and hang it on a door before bedtime for the dummy fairy to collect while the child is sleeping. It is a nice idea to leave a small gift for the child from the fairy as a thankyou for the dummy.

In summary then; dummies can be great, if managed correctly, kept clean and not over used etc as this can cause speech delay. Find a way to remove the dummy before they become a problem.

As always, comments and questions are more than welcome.

Personally, I have never experienced sibling jealousy with my own children.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I told my son who was almost two ,in language that he could understand. We looked at pictures of babies in magazines and borrowed library books etc.

He came with me for some of my midwife appointments and met other children whilst waiting, who were also going to get new baby siblings and he heard the baby’s heartbeat during the examination.

I let Leigh chose the wallpaper for his brothers room.

When the time came and Damon was born, I made a point of not having him in my arms when Leigh walked into the ward to visit. Instead I gave Leigh a big kiss and hug and said meet your brother. When the cover was pulled off Damon there was a present for Leigh (from Damon) I then asked if he would like to kiss his brother. which he did.

When we came home, I tried to include Leigh in Damon’s care as much as possible. When bathing Damon I put the soap out of reach on purpose and asked Leigh if he would pass it to me. “How would I manage without you?” I told him. I also gave Leigh a teddy which I told him to look after and he would mimic the things I was doing with Damon.

When Damon was asleep I tried to spend time with Leigh and when Damon was awake I encouraged the boys to interact. Leigh made a den under the table, so I put the baby chair in there, I sat back watching; Leigh was chatting to his brother.

I did similar things, several years later (but more age appropriate) when my third son was born (I had also gained a step-son by then)

A completely different situation, which I would like to share is while childminding a four year old (the youngest in her family) and a twelve month old baby at the same time, the baby started walking witnessed by the older child. The following day, her mother told me how excited her daughter had been and what a wonderful experience I had given her, as she would not otherwise ever see that, as they were not planning on having any more children.

As always, comments/questions are welcome.

Many people are of the impression that child minders just put their little ones in front of the television and leave them to get on with it.

Hopefully, my account of a typical day for me when I was a child minder, will show that for most this is far from the truth.

A typical, let’s say Monday for me would begin with my first child and parent arriving at 8am, before which I had walked my dog and set up my play room with age appropriate toys. Once the parent had left for work we would drive my children to school (my youngest attended a village school in the countryside so we looked out for tractors on the way.)

On return home, the second child arrives at 8.30 and soon after we set off to the children’s centre for a child minders drop in. Weather permitting we would walk, with walking children wearing reins and being encouraged to hold onto the buggy walking on the inside so they were away from the road ( see earlier piece on road safety) I teach the children about the importance of using pelican and zebra crossings to cross the road. If the weather is wet or cold, we would go in the car, ensuring all children are seated safely in age appropriate seats or booster cushions.

On arrival to the drop in, the children play and socialise with other minded children, while learning to share and turn take. The adults get a chance to give each other support and share vacancies. After being encouraged to help tidy away the toys, the children sit around a table and have a fruit snack, biscuit and drink, while adults get a warm tea or coffee. When sack is consumed we leave to collect my third child from his school nursery.

We then head back to my house for lunch, mostly the children bring a packed lunch from home. After lunch, any child requiring a nap does so and the other children do a quiet activity, like painting or play dough.

When everyone is awake and I have changed nappies, we either go into the garden or head for the park, where we feed the ducks, before playing on the equipment. We collect my children from school at 3.00 and then we have a story or singing time, before the minded chlidren go home, between 4 and 5. I then feed my own children and finally write up any notes needed for Ofsted and to help my planning for future activities.

As this shows, we had little time for television. I’m not saying we never watched it, as if monitored, I believe some programmes can be educational.

Other days I would take the children to toddler groups, family work shops and visits to the library, for story time or singing groups. During the school holidays I had more children, so we had even more fun.

If you are thinking of hiring a child minder, see my earlier post on looking for child care,

As always comments/ questions are welcome.

Karen x

If anyone wants to contact me directly, do so by clicking here

Cooking with children is an activity that I have done with both my own children, and the ones I used to child mind. You can simply let the children help with baking, my own children used to like to stand on a chair beside me so that they could reach the kitchen worktop and help to stir and mix the ingredients together, then spoon the mixture into the cake cases.

They also liked to lick out the mixing bowl, but be aware that cake mixture will contain raw eggs. Children love to help with pastry too. Mince pie making was a favourite, as they could roll out the pastry and fill the tarts with the mincemeat. Let children have some of their own pastry and cut shapes and decorate with raisins and sultanas.

A favourite with the child minded children was at Easter. We made Easter nests, by mixing shredded wheat with chocolate and spooned it into nest shapes, When cool, place 3 or 4 mini eggs inside and you could even pop a yellow chick decoration (widely available for little cost, at this time of year) on top.

At Christmas, we made marzipan fruits by simply colouring the marzipan with a little food colouring and making fruit shapes.To achieve the mottled effect of orange skin, gently roll the marzipan against the fine side of a cheese grater then push a clove into the top for the stem, cloves also look effective on an apple, as the core, or a stalk at the end of a banana.

Don’t forget the simplest idea of mixing rice crispies, or corn flakes with chocolate, to make cakes that even young children can prepare, with little supervision as these won’t require cooking. My  son used to enjoy making cookie dough, for the child minded children to roll and cut out Christmas themed shapes, they would decorate when cool with tubes of coloured icing.

Cooking with children can also  be a good way of encouraging them to talk, about anything that  may be worrying them, as they are not having to look an adult in the eye, but  can carry on with what they doing, while chatting.

Always take care when children are in the kitchen, keep them away from a hot oven and ensure that sharp knives are well out of harms reach ( as they should always be!)

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or if you would like to contact me via email you can do so by clicking here