Halia Rose sent me this elephant teething toy in plum to review.

The first thing that struct me when I opened the box was how cute it looked.

The toy is made from silicone therefore is hard wearing and should stand up to a dish washer or baby sterilising solution.

It has a hole just the right size for baby’s thumb enabling them to grasp it comfortably.


Cove, age 15 weeks modelled for me. He managed to hold the toy with ease and put it straight to his mouth.


The underside of the elephant is covered with small bumps, enabling babies to learn about different sensations of touch and texture.

I have no doubt that Cove will enjoy his toy for many months to come.

I would like to thank Sarah Wilmott for allowing Cove to  model for the review.

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

Until next time




I am very fortunate in that I live in south west England where we have wonderful beaches.

When I was working as a child minder I didn’t take the children to the beach in the height of summer because they were often full of tourists and it sometimes became very hot.

Instead I would go out of season with them when I didn’t have to pay a small fortune to park the car in an over crowed car park and didn’t have to worry about the children mingling in with the crowds or getting burnt by the sun.

We just put on our wellington boots, wrapped up in warm clothes and enjoyed walking through the shallow waves.

While rock pooling, we often came across crabs, shrimps and small fish which we would study together and always put them back afterwards. The children also loved to collect shells and shiny pebbles as we walked along the sand, often we would look things up in reference books when we arrived home, enabling the children to learn more about what we had seen and brought back.

Of course the beach out of season is also great for dog walking

, surfing, kite flying and having a brisk walk to blow away the cobwebs.

I would be interested to hear how others use the beach out of season.

I would like to thank Julie Tallin and Ann Marie Jane Morris for supplying the photos in this post.

Until next time.



I have decided to write this post in the hope of inspiring other disabled people to have a try at riding.

As the title suggests this was my fourth attempt at disabled riding at the Calvert trust, Exmoor.

Once again I rode Teddy a 21 year old pie bald (black and white) gelding.


After being hoisted from my wheelchair and onto the saddle as usual it took a few strides for me to feel confident, when I did there was no stopping me.

I began with a few manoeuvres  through cones and poles managing to steer my horse by reining with my one hand.

Kerri my instructor felt that I was ready to ride without someone leading my mount and I also felt that I could achieve this. I walked around the indoor school changing the rein ( changing direction) and did a few halts and starting again by using both my voice and squeezing my leg against Teddy’s side to instruct him completely on my own, with Teddy’s help of course


Next my instructor asked if I was feeling brave, to which I replied that I was without knowing what she had in mind for the pair of us. She said she would like me to attempt a small trot, as I was a regular rider before stroke I knew that trotting is a bouncy gait for the rider but felt that I should at least try.

I was extremely proud of myself (even if I do say so myself!) as I managed really well, when I was able bodied I would rise to the trot but now I mastered a sitting trot.

I left the stables on a high and couldn’t wait to get home to tell all my friends on Facebook what I had achieved.

Kerri has suggested that on my next lesson in a few months time I should go on a hack (outside ride) rather than riding in the indoor school. So weather permitting that is what I intend to do, watch this space to read about how I get on.

I would like to thank the stable staff at the Calvert trust, Exmoor for letting me have this amazing experience and my sister, Kim Watts for being my photographer.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



I was sent this children’s paperback book by Tiny Tree children’s books.

Framed is written by Margrit Dahm.

The thing that I noticed when I started reading  this book is the quality of the paper used it is such a thickness that I thought I had turned more than one page.

The story is a little dark on occasions but exciting at the same time willing the reader to keep reading  in order to discover what is about to happen.


Each of the 11 chapters has a black and white sketch st the beginning.

The book is quite long as it has 70 pages, it will appeal to bookworms of the 7-11 year age group.

I would suggest this delightful book to parents to buy for any reluctant readers  as hopefully the content will encourage them to want to read.

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

Framed is published by Tiny tree children’s books and retails at £5.99

As always questions/comments are welcome.




Recently there have been a number of stories in the media about the sexualisation  of children, from entering them into beauty pageants wearing skimpy outfits and spray tans  plus a High street store was reported to be selling false eye lashes for toddlers.

This got me thinking that there is a fine line between children dressing up for fun and them being exploited.

Children will always copy what their parents do so if a girl sees her mother putting on nail polish and lipstick , then the chances are she will want to do the same and pout while she pretends to take a selfie on her toy phone

.Just as my son’s would put the bubbles from their bath on their faces  pretending it was shaving foam then scrap it off just like daddy.

To prevent children from doing such actions would destroy their natural imaginative development.

Girls have always tried on their mummy’s high heel shoes and tried to walk around in them, haven’t they?

I’m not so sure about beauty pageants, children are beautiful without putting make up on them and as for the skimpy clothing I would be concerned about who was watching and why.

I have come to the conclusion  that maybe let our children put on play make up and dress up for fun in the house and better to let them look and behave like the innocent children that they are when out in public.

I would be interested to hear other views on this topic.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



Education.com got in touch and asked if I would write about this worksheet, I agreed because this is just the sort of activity I used to do with my youngest son before he was old enough to start school. He was the youngest of 4 and liked to think that he was a ‘big boy’ like his brothers , so would jump at the chance of doing what he referred to as his homework.

The way that I would approach this particular worksheet, providing the child had some knowledge of letters and sounds, would be to point at the first letter of the first word ( which is an m) and ask which sound it makes then ask the child to look for a picture of something beginning with this sound although children may be confused by the word mug and refer to it as a cup ( not knowing what a mug is) when he has pointed to the corresponding image  I would encourage him to draw a line between the 2  as this helps with hand to eye co-ordination as well as spelling and reading.

This has taken me back to when my son was learning his letter sounds he knew that mummy began with a m, we were visiting a wild life park  he spotted a sign for monkey and proudly announced to everyone in earshot that mummy was in this cage!

I think that children may also struggle to match the word yarn with the image on this worksheet as it is quite an old fashioned name, I know my children would have called it wool (saying that, however, I can’t think of another word beginning with y that could be used to make it easier).

Children can warm up their spelling with this chilly snowman worksheet, want more? visit education.com for spelling, reading and math resources.

Disclosure: I have received no payment for this post and all opinions are my own.

My advice to anyone using this or similar activities would be to make it fun, give lots of praise to your children when they get it right but do not show disappointment if they make mistakes just give encouragement to try again later.

As always questions/comments are welcome.




Melanie has suggested this weeks topic.

One of my favourite messy play activities is what I call gloop (cornflour and water experiment) as this also covers science in the early years. Basically you mix lots of cornflour with water in a large vessel. I used to mix it in my grill pan as this allowed easy access for the children to get their hands in when I placed it on my kitchen table, if you wish to add colour, a good tip is to put the food colouring into the water before stirring into the cornflour, this way the colour won’t stain the children’s hands.

At first the mixture looks like a solid but as if by magic when force is applied it becomes a liquid.

I once made a batch and presented it to the children that I was child minding. One male child had a very short attention span, but when I put the gloop in front of him he sat contented for a good 45 minutes fascinated by what he was seeing. He was attempting to write his name using the end of a wooden spoon he managed to start  but as it turned from a solid to a liquid it would fade away.

Other forms of messy play  are to give the children food to experiment with, for example spaghetti or jelly I have also heard of giving them a tray full of shaving cream.

Messy play is as it says on the tin- messy, but that’s part of the fun.

Slime is now becoming  a popular thing to make I recently discovered this recipe on television:-

Mix together in a bowl a cup of P.V.A. glue and a cup of baking soda, add a few drops of food colouring, if desired. For a super fluffy slime add a good squirt of shaving foam and mix well, add some contact lens fluid a teaspoon at a time, keep adding more fluid and keep mixing until it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl. Tip in out and have fun, If it is really sticky try adding more contact lens solution until it is pliable. Store your slime in an airtight container and it should last for a good week, possibly two.

The benefits of messy play are endless, while having fun in a relaxed atmosphere children learn new vocabulary such as slimy,  sticky, moist, dripping while at the same time discover sensory lessons about touch and texture. Children can also learn how to manipulate tools if they are supplied. It is a great opportunity to make some new friends and because messy play is an inclusive activity children with special needs should be able to join in with the fun.

Recently many church groups have learned about the positives of messy play and participate  by holding what they refer to as messy church sessions, these can usually be attended for a minimal fee.

I once took a few children along to a messy play session when I was a child minder, one activity on offer was for the children to flick watery paint onto a large piece of paper that was hung on an outside fence, one little girl in my care didn’t like the idea of getting messy but after standing back and witnessing the other children enjoying what they were doing, she decided to be brave and join in, unfortunately ‘a speck of paint landed in her hair which didn’t impress, but when I told her that I could easily brush it out when it had dried she went on to produce a masterpiece that she proudly took home to show her family.

My advice would be to dress children in older clothes when taking them to a messy play day, although aprons are usually provided and mess comes out in the wash, children mostly enjoy any excuse to get messy, so roll with it and let them discover this wonderful experience of learning while having a fantastic time!


I would like to thank messydoodledoo Ltd for allowing me to use their photographs in this post.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



It may seem a little strange for a blogger who says that she writes parenting/ child minding tips and advice to write a review of dog treats, my reasoning is that a family isn’t complete without a dog, in my opinion.

Recently we learned that a certain brand of dental chews that we had been giving our dog, Jake a jack Russell cross  who we rescued from the dog’s trust 3 years ago were not as healthy as we believed. Our vet said that they were full of carbohydrates so when Jake who was already a mill wall supporter had them you can imagine the consequences – he now has an A.S.B.0!

I came across bug bakes on Facebook and when they agreed to send some samples to review I jumped at the chance.

The goodies arrived along with a jute ( hard wearing natural material ) toy

in a delightful drawstring bag

the contents were 2 packs of organic bug bakes

and 2 packets of wild flower seeds, which my husband was thrilled about as he was planning to plant some flowers to attract the butterflies and bees into our small garden.


The bug bakes treats are organic and their purpose is to be kind to the planet and good for our dogs.

The wild flower seeds are intended to attract insects which are essential to pollination.

Jake wasn’t really bothered by the treats, if I’m being honest,  but he is the fussiest dog on the planet, I have been informed that bug bakes  will be bringing out new flavours so who knows if they will interest him?

Individual bags containing approximately 55 treats can be purchased for £3 each alternatively if bought in bulk (known as feeding the pack) which is a 14 bag box they retail at  £2.50 per bag free shipping applies to the later option available from www.bugbakes.co.uk

Jake loved the dog toy and because it is made from hard wearing material it should last a lot longer than most of his other toys that he has managed to destroy by literally tearing them into pieces.

I would recommend products from bug bakes because as they are good for our pets and the planet, what is not to like?


At the present time the toy is not yet available and the seeds are not for sale but may soon be depending on demand. These are however included with large or regular orders.

Bug bakes can be contacted through their website wwwbugbakes.co.uk

As always comments/questions are welcome.








Recently I heard on the local news about a subway on a housing estate that had been damaged with graffiti, by teenagers, the reporter claimed.

This took me back to 2004 when I was campaigning to get my local children’s park upgraded, read more about this in my post titled Power to the people.

The council informed me that there was no money available to fund an upgrade, but then a fountain was installed and a mosaic built costing thousands of pounds and these were placed in a part of my town which was rarely used by local people. All very nice but I thought that the money could have been better spent on our children. Soon after the fountain was full of soap suds after ‘teenagers’ added washing up liquid to the water.


Next the skateboarders were labelled as yobs because they were skating on top of and damaging the mosaic,

my feelings were and still are that if they had a designated place to skate  then they wouldn’t be causing trouble.

I visited this mosaic and yes  there were youths skating on it, when I approached and asked if I could have a word at first they were offensive and suggested  that I “***off” but once I explained that I was on their side and was attempting to get a skateboard park they couldn’t have been more polite and readily agreed to sign my petition and come along to the demonstration I had planned.

Another time I was sat beside a children’s paddling pool with a group of children that I was child minding in another local town. Next to us were some teenagers who had left empty crisp packets and drink cans on the grass. The park warden yelled at them, “Pick this up now, go home and don’t come back!” they ignored him so when the warden had left I politely suggested  that they put the rubbish in the bin so that he didn’t think badly of them. I expected some back chat, but to my surprise they did as I asked. This proved to me that if spoken to in the correct way most , not all, teenagers will respond with respect.

Please readers don’t tar all young people with the same brush, there are some who will go out of their way to cause trouble, I’m sure, but the majority are good, just bored and maybe if society made more provision for them then there wouldn’t be such incidents occurring?

We have survived family life with 4 teenage boys without too many hiccups.

The council did eventually fund the much needed skateboard park after 3 years of campaigning,

unfortunately, my nephew a keen boarder then managed to fall off and brake both of his wrists – not quite what I had planned!

I would like to thank Stu Gaunt, Jeremy Lamprell and the north Devon Gazette  for supplying the photos used in this post.

Please share any experiences of teenagers.

As always comments/questions are welcome.





Long before they can learn to write children need to master the skill of holding a pen or pencil.This usually begins by doing a few scribbles with a chubby crayon.

This primitive form of writing is known as mark making, just having fun with any form of arts and crafts

can help with hand to eye co-ordination, another skill that needs to be achieved before children can start writing.

I used to give my children and the ones that I was child minding junk mail to draw on, often I noticed that they would mark make in the space asking for a name and address, all good practice for later years.


Scribbles quickly become more sophisticated  and so drawings of familiar things such as a family member soon develop.


Once a child starts school they learn to write significant letters  enabling to attempt to write their name,

followed by more and more words which become sentences as confidence builds.


Praise children when they attempt to write but also be aware that if they are not supervised when given mark making equipment they may use them on walls or furniture, most of which can easily be removed, my motto was to keep art materials out of my living room and encouraged the children to sit up to the table for such activities.


When I was at junior school I won a hand writing competition, sadly now as an adult my writing is not so neat meaning that I tend to use a computer for writing or write in capitals so it can be read.

Please share any experiences of your children’s early attempts at writing and drawing.

I would like to thank Jade Marie Ryan, Kirsty Butland and Sarah Knight for allowing me to use their photos of their children’s work in this post.

As always questions/comments are welcome.






Firstly. I must point out, that what I am about to write is purely, my own personal experiences, of pregnancy and child birth. I have no medical training in this field and as every women and child, or baby’ is different it will not necessarily be the same for anyone else!




For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to have children. I did the usual ‘girly’ thing of playing with dolls, like Tiny Tears, etc. when I was a child.But I discovered I had a flair for babies and children, when I took a C.S.E. exam in childcare and development, whilst at school. I managed to achieve 97%.

As soon as I got married at 19, I wanted to have a baby, but my husband, quite rightly, persuaded me to wait a while.(he was one of 8 and although he wanted children of his own, he wasn’t in a desperate hurry).We waited about 6 months, before trying to get pregnant. I became a little obsessed and would read everything I could about pregnancy, birth and babies. I couldn’t walk past a pram without looking inside ( I still can,t!). It took us about 8 months to get pregnant, but  it felt a lot longer. I had the usual ,sickly’ feeling, that most women get, my period was late and my breasts felt different, sort of full, so I went to see my doctor, armed with my urine sample ( home pregnancy tests, were not so good back then) I had to wait 3 days for the result and rang the surgery during my lunch break from work. When the receptionist told me the result was positive I wanted to shout it out and tell the world, but as my husband had to know first I had to keep it a secret until I got home. My pregnancy went well, I gained the right amount of weight and my blood pressure etc.  was all good. I first felt my baby move at around 11 weeks, at first it was just a flutter, but as he grew it got stronger. I would lay on my back, in bed and watch him move, with wonder, guessing if it was an arm or leg I could see poking out.

Apart from feeling nausea and tired I felt quite well. I attended parentcraft classes, which prepared me for the birth. I was taught breathing and relaxation  methods, that I practised a lot, at home. I would lie in the bath and practise the breathing. I was a nervous of giving birth, but tried to think of it as a positive thing. I longed to meet my baby and the only way this was going to happen, was to give birth.

I awoke, at around 6 in the morning with mild stomach pains, on my due date. I thought I was imagining it, as everyone had told me that first babies never come on time. They were wrong. as later I had a ,show, (the mucus plug ,which keeps everything in place) so I knew things were happening. I rang the hospital to ask  if I should eat breakfast, they suggested something light, so I had toast and tea. I remember being told, at parent craft classes to make my way to hospital when my contractions were 5 minutes apart. I tried timing them and they were every 3 minutes, so my husband rang again for more advice. They said to come in. We arrived at about 8that morning the nurse examined me and said”You will have baby today” I thought, of course I will, that’s why I’m here!


When asked about pain relief I said I didn’t want anything I didn’t need and would go natural if possible. I coped with the pain by walking up and down the hospital corridors for as long as I could. I then managed with my breathing exercises, which really helped me. The pain was nowhere near as bad as I had been led to believe it would be and after about 6 hours my baby boy was born weighing 8ibs 2ozs. I felt an instant surge of love for him. I had to stay in hospital for a very long week, those were the rules then, although we were both doing well, I found breastfeeding difficult, as my baby wouldn’t latch on and eventually put him on the bottle .

Once we got home I settled into mother hood quickly and loved every minute of it. Mind you, I did have an exceptionally good baby.

When he reached 18 months, we decided the time was right to try for number two. This time I got pregnant almost straight away. I felt extremely tired this time( probably because I was looking after a toddler as well as carrying a baby) I used to grab a nap while my son was napping.

I went for an anti natal check-up a few days before my due date, after an internal examination, the doctor told me I wasn’t ready and the baby would be at least another week or 10 days. I left feeling disappointed, but later that afternoon, just after finishing tea I went into labour. This baby was lying back to back, so the pain was worse this time. I tried gas and air, but it made me feel sick, so I managed without it. My second son was born after 4 hours of labour, weighing 6ibs 14ozs.

When I had my third baby I was on my second marriage. This time I used a home pregnancy test, as it was valentines day and I thought what better present could I give my husband! Again I had a good pregnancy, but this time my baby was over due, quite a shock, as the first was on time and the second a few days early. We had sex in the morning ( sorry, too much info) and I went into labour quite soon after. I only just made it to hospital, as my third son was born 2 hours after arriving (much to my husband’s shock) weighing 7 lbs 4ozs. I loved being a mum to my boys, and my step-son and if it weren’t for my husband putting his foot down, I would have had many more!

To summarise I would recommend going to anti natal classes to learn as much as you can and try to embrace labour, rather than being scared of it, but please remember this is only my experience, GOOD LUCK TO ALL EXPECTANT MUMMIES, ENJOY EVERY MINUTE IT’S THE BEST THING YOU WILL DO’ IN MY OPINION!

I would like to thank Sarah Willmot and Vanessa Willis France for allowing me to use their beautiful photographs on this post,

As always questions/ comments are welcome.



Just before Christmas I was watching a television programme where a 4 year old child told a joke to an elderly person.

“What wobbles in the sky?” “A jellycopter.”

This took me back to when my sons were young and would tell jokes to adults, (so to cheer everyone up now that the Christmas festivities are over I thought that I would write a humerous post this week) Of course being their mum I would find all of the jokes funny, but other adults who  didn’t have children didn’t always understand their humour.

Some of the jokes that I can remember are:-

“why did the ninja turtle cross the road?” “Because he wanted to!”

“Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?” “Because it was dead.” and “Why did the second monkey fall out of the tree?” “Because it was holding the dead monkey’s hand.”

My youngest son Adam’s favourite book when he was little had nonsense words and pictures in it such as a hairy bath, Adam thought this was hilarious and added his own, which was bag of chips

When we took him to visit Santa, or Father Cripman, as he called him ( this particular Santa wasn’t very jolly) so when Adam said, “Hello Father Cripman, hairy bath and bag of chips,”and Santa didn’t respond Adam told him, “Well laugh then!”

Santa didn’t laugh but myself and my husband were stood with our hands over our mouths because we couldn’t stop laughing.

Around the same time I had a part time evening job in a petrol filling station and to pass the time during quiet periods, my colleague and I would tell each other the non-funny jokes that our children had made up.  We would laugh until we cried. One evening another colleague  who had been listening to us and didn’t have children told us, ” They aren’t even funny!.” This just made us laugh more.

A friend has told me her 7 year old, Seth’s favourite joke which is

“Why do golfers wear 2 pairs of trousers?” ” In case they get a hole in one,”

I once told my 4 year old nephew a joke, “Why did Tiger put his head down the toilet?” ” He was looking for Pooh.” He thought this was brilliant as being a boy he loved anything to do with the bathroom. When he went to school the following week he told his teacher and class mates the joke dozens of times until the teacher eventually said that he had shared it enough times

.My now grown son told his 5 year old daughter a joke, “What’s brown and sticky?” the punchline is “a stick,”  but being  clever she thought about it and asked “parcel tape?”

Eden, age 6 has shared her jokes.

“What do you call a camel with 3 humps?”

I said “Humphrey” but her punchline was “Pregnant.”

Another joke she told me was

“What do you call Santa when he falls down the chimney?” “An ambulance to take him to hospital.”

Eden’s sister, Brooke,11 jokes are

“why did the picture go to jail?” “Because it was framed.” and “Why did the queen go to the dentist?” “To get her teeth crowned.”

Brooke and Eden also wanted to share a joke that their grandfather had told them, ” What’s red and bad for your teeth?” “A brick”

Caitlin, 6,

“Why do elves go to school?” ” To learn the elfabet” and “What goes oh,oh,oh?” ” Santa walking backwards.”

I would love to hear other jokes that children have told everyone, either funny, or not.

As always questions/comments are welcome.










Woolly dolls are something I learned to make, as a child ( a school friend taught me) and I used to make, with my older child minded children.

To make a woolly doll, you will need: wool, thick wool works best, a hardback book ( a ladybird book, is ideal) and scissors..

  1. After choosing your wool, start by winding it around the widest part of the book, until it is completely covered, don’t pull the wool too tight, or it will be difficult at the next stage.
  2. IMG_20171129_155941
  3. 2 Carefully slide the wool off the book, in one piece.
  4. Make hair, head and waist, by sectioning off areas with wool.
  5. Now wind more wool, you can use the same colour, or a contrasting one, if you desire, around the narrow part of the same book, to make the arms.
  6. dolls2
  7. Slide wool of, as earlier.dolls1
  8. Tie off ends, with pieces of wool,  to make hands.
  9. Carefully slot arms into body section
  10. Separate and tie off legs and feet.
  11. dolls4
  12. You can trim the hair ( and hands and feet) if you wish.Use a larger book, to make a larger doll. Different colour wool could be used to make dolls for various times of year, for example, a red doll at Christmas time. All that is needed is imagination.I have written more on arts and crafts in an earlier post, titled arts and crafts for kids on a shoestring.As always questions/comments are welcome.Karen
  13. x

Recently I attended a Christmas craft evening where I discovered the following crafts, which I feel children would manage with a little help from an adult. I feel sure that many parents and child minders will enjoy and benefit from this.

All the items needed can be purchased reasonably from arts and crafts suppliers and even some discount stores.

I used coloured lolly pop sticks, glue or glue dots, googly eyes, buttons and glitter, plus some ribbon for making hanging loops. Children  could follow these designs or modify to make their own creations, which can be hung on the Christmas tree or even given as gifts.

Another idea that I discovered this week and is so ingenious that I had to share was on a television show, it demonstrated how to make bespoke penguin wrapping paper  by simply printing with half a potato using black and white paint onto plain brown wrapping paper, then adding feet and beaks with orange paint and commercial googly eyes.

When I was working as a registered child minder  I taught the children how to do tea bag folding, which sounds a bit odd,  but can be really effective once mastered.

We made small stars to stick onto homemade cards and larger ones as decorations for the playroom walls. Using contrasting colours of paper look even more striking.

Marzipan fruits and Christmas biscuits were also favourites that we did together each year along with the Christmas treasure boxes  that we put our little makes into ( read more about this in my post on arts and crafts for children on a shoestring).

I would love to hear about other crafts  that adults enjoy sharing with children at Christmas, or at any time of year.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone who reads my blog!

As always questions/comments are welcome.




As a parent and grandparent I feel that it is important that children are fed good wholesome food which is free of additives that can affect behaviour. This  is one of the reasons that I am writing this review.

Besshill farm shop is in Arlington approximately 10 miles from Barnstaple, the farm is easy to find and has ample car parking.

Inside the shop is spotless and all varieties of meat are on display.

The beef and pork is reared on the farm

, the free range poultry.is locally sourced.

We have always found the staff to be extremely helpful, knowledgeable and friendly, the meat tastes like it used to ( before we all got used to buying our meat from a supermarket) plus as there are no waste bits to remove before cooking  it is excellent value for money.

The joints that we buy are hung for at least 4 weeks allowing them to mature.

As an animal lover the welfare of the animal is just as important as the taste and I know that the meat sold here comes from animals which have been reared well.

Besshill also sell a wide range of dairy products and free range eggs all of which are on display.

Once customers have visited and purchased from Besshill farm shop I know that they will return  time and time again, as we have.

Besshill offer a national and local delivery service and sell products at many farmers markets.

Contact the farm shop on 01271 850311 or by the website www.besshillfarmshop-barnstaple.co.uk

Disclosure: all opinions are of mine or my husband.

As always questions/comments are welcome.





For anyone who doesn’t know about this, the elf on the shelf is a relatively new  concept which has come from America. Parents tell their children that Santa has sent a special elf from the north pole to watch them and report back to him as to whether they have been good, or not.

Commercial elves can be purchased  for a few pounds

. Of course the elf doesn’t have to be situated on a shelf, anywhere were children can see him is fine

. In principle this ideas seems good as long as it is managed in the correct way. I have heard of parents eating some of their child’s advent calendar chocolate and then blame it on the elf! which to me is defeating the whole point of encouraging good behaviour from our children. Some l pranks can be fun if undertaken in moderation.

  I have also come across elves being stuck to the fridge with sticky tape by the other toys because the elves were being cheeky

, this , I think sets the right example to children  in that being rude or cheeky is not a good way to behave.

The elf on the shelf should be another magical part of Christmas with young innocent children who believe in the idea of Santa which is amazing and I would recommend that parents cherish each moment as Christmas is never quite the same once our children learn the truth, so please parents use the elf on the shelf in the manner it is intended to encourage wanted behaviour.

I have written an earlier post on behaviour management which may be helpful to parents experiencing issues with this.

I would be interested to hear other thoughts on the elf on the shelf.

As always comments/questions are welcome






This book is just as it is described in the title – magnificent.

It will appeal to both adults and children who have an interest in exotic birds. The illustrations by Narisa Togo are truly breath taking, plus she gives some information about each beautiful bird.


Older children will find this book an asset for helping with school projects, although we all have access to the internet nowadays for looking things up, there is still something satisfying about using a book to find the information that we need.


As this book is quite large and comes as a hardback it would make a wonderful present for any nature lover.

The publisher recommends that this book is suitable for  over 10 years old, but as  I have already mentioned I feel that it would equally be appealing to adults.

Magnificent birds is published by Walker studio and retails for £15 which I think is good value.

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.





This craft could be undertaken by both adults and older children under some supervision I made mine some years ago at a family workshop group.

All that is required is a picture of a Christmas theme (I used a candle) there are many free downloadable images available on google imagines (check for copyright).


A plastic Pyrex plate which can be purchased for a few pounds

and some glass paints which are readily available on line or from arts and crafts suppliers.


Wash and dry the plate before painting to remove any dirt or grease then put your imagine behind and secure with blue tack or sticky tape, you should be able to see the picture clearly enough to paint between the lines ( as glass paint is quite runny this should be relativity simple to do).

Leave to dry for at least an hour, longer if possible then remove backing imagine. You now have a great Christmas decoration. I recommend that this plate is used as a decoration and not for food as washing it may remove the paint, I put mine on the window sill every year as the light reflects the colours.

Merry Christmas!

As always questions/comments are welcome.



Manning’s pit is a local beauty spot. named after Benjamin Manning, a cattle trader and former butcher. I have a long relationship with this wonderful, tranquil place, I spent many happy hours playing here as a child and walked my German Shepherd dogs  many, many times as an adult.

One day, during the school holidays while I was a child minder, I rarely had only one minded 8 year old , as the baby was absent, due to sickness. I decided to kill two birds , with one stone, as the saying goes and walk my dog, whilst keeping my minded child occupied, at the same time. I must point out, that I knew her parents, would be very happy, with this arrangement, as they had dogs themselves and had often mentioned that Laura, would like to accompany me on my dog walks.

We drove there, as I had moved away from my childhood neighbourhood, which was in walking distance. Upon parking and leaving the car, we had to access the first Manning’s pit field, by climbing over a stile384950f462b193fba3bbe305d867eade--stiles-gates I helped Laura over and my dog went via a special dog entrance, the farmer had made.


We walked across the fields and then crossed the river, known as Bradiford water, by using a wooden bridge. Laura threw stones from the bridge into the water and laughed as my dog bounded in to retrieve them. As we ventured further, the child whispered to me, “Look, Karen, there are rabbits!”and there were, too many to actually count. Suddenly, one of us stood on a twig and the noise of it snapping sent the rabbits scurrying away into their burrows, showing their white cotton tails, as they fled. I explained to Laura, that by showing their tails, they are warning each other, that there could be danger approaching, so it was an educational walk, as well as a fun time.

We walked further into the countryside chatting about wild flowers, catkins and pussy willow, as we saw them.We then sat on the bridge steps watching some children playing, in the distance, some older children, had also made a rope swing, using making use of an old tyre


Many local parents take their children here to play, as it is  safe, peaceful and there is no worry from passing traffic.

Unfortunately, it is looking like this idyllic time, may soon have to come to an end, as Manning’s pit has been bought by a developer who plans to build on the land.The friends of Manning’s pit have started a Facebook campaign to try to prevent this wonderful place from being destroyed. Please, please, everyone sign the petition by clicking here


As always questions/comments are welcome.


Pipity have kindly sent me 3 of their new activity books to review.



This, as the title suggests consists of activities that are animal related, from making an elephant using your finger as a trunk

to tiny bugs, there are also pictures to colour and a birthday card to make.

The  thing that makes pipity stand out from other activity books is that there are you tube videos available demonstrating how to make or play each activity, which I think is worth it’s weight in gold because I have often struggled with disappointed children watching on, to figure how  a new idea is suppose to go together. These videos can be accessed through the pipity website www.pipity.com or by a you tube scan-able code printed in the books.


This is exactly what is says full of various games and puzzles from spot-the-difference, a version of who’s who?

and even a child friendly Sudoku puzzle .For older children there is a code breaker game and a word search.


This has colouring, puzzles and things to make  all of which could be taken on holiday for help keeping children amused while they are away from home.

The above books retail at £4.99 each  which make them ideal stocking fillers, they would suit a wide variety of ages making them value for money even better pipity are offering readers of my blog a 15% discount until 20 December use the discount code xmas002 to access this from www.pipity.com alternatively they can be purchased from Amazon.

I would have found these books an invaluable asset when I was working as a registered child minder plus the you tube videos would have meant that the older children could have tried to make the items for themselves giving a sense of achievement and allowing me to focus on the younger children.

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.






Without meaning to sound like a slave driver, I believe that children should be encouraged to help in the household.

My youngest son loved to clean my kitchen sink, this started one day when he was bored and as I was pottering in the kitchen I pulled up a chair so he could reach the sink and put some water in for him, he began playing with some plastic toys and we discussed whether he thought they would sink or swim. Later when I emptied the water to clean the sink, he asked if he could do it for me. I squirted the cream cleaner around and showed him how to rub it in and rinse away when finished. Adam enjoyed this new activity so much that he asked if he could clean the sink nearly every day ( I swear I had the cleanest sink in the country!) It didn’t end there , as far as Adam was concerned as he then started to clean his bedroom, when I say clean, I mean that he removed everything except his bed and wardrobe and set to work, he even used an old toothbrush to clean his dragon ornaments. This has become a bit of a joke in our family as now that he is in this mid twenties, he has gotten through more vacuum cleaners than we can count.

My older children were asked to wash the dishes from around the age of 10,

they did this on a sort of rota basis; one would wash the breakfast things and the other 2 the lunch and teatime, they did this without complaining too much, so when they were a bit older we asked them to dust, polish and vacuum their bedrooms at the weekend, which weren’t done to the same standard as Adam did his.

I also think that younger children can be encouraged to do their ‘bit’ as they often like to help out and it gives them a sense of achieve when they are praised for it

.simple tasks such as sorting socks into pairs can help with colour matching, so it can be educational too.

I wouldn’t recommend that parents pay their children for doing household chores as this could result in them wanting to help for the wrong reasons, far better to give verbal praise in my experience.

I once overheard my step-son telling a friend that I had insisted he scrub the whole house after I reminded him that he hadn’t dusted his room, so don’t expect gratitude either.

As a child minder one of the older children loved to help me by putting the little ones shoes on for them and helped with doing up coats. This was something that I never asked her to do, the children instigated it for themselves.

I’m not suggesting that we go back to Victorian times and send children up chimneys, but getting them to help with simple household chores must be a good idea surly?

I would like to thank Sarah Knight for allowing me to use some of these photos and to Megan for being so photogenic!

I would love to hear what other parents think about this subject.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



Thanks to Shannon from education.com who got in touch with this brilliant blog, after reading it myself I knew I had to have her as a guest blogger!

Knowing the letters in your name, and the order they go in, is an important sign of nursery readiness. But it’s not as easy as you might think! Children need repeated practice, and at this age, their restless little bodies demand that the practice be as hands-on as possible!

Here’s an activity that’s all hands-on…hands-on the fridge, that is! It’s a refrigerator name game!

What You Need:
Ink jet magnet sheets (or, use cardstock and adhesive magnet strips)

What You Do:
1. On your computer, type out your child’s name in a bright color and super large font. Be sure to bold the letters and leave lots of space between each letter in the name, as you will be cutting each of the letters out later. On the same page, type your child’s name again exactly as you did the first time, so the name appears on the page twice.
2. Print the page onto ink jet magnetic sheets. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions so your page comes out perfectly.
3. Cut the names into two separate strips so you have two copies of your child’s name. Leave one strip completely intact. Cut the other strip apart into individual letters.
4. Put the name strip on the fridge at a height your preschooler can reach.  Tell her that this is what her name looks like.
5. Spell her name aloud and point to each letter as you name it. On a second reading, have her join you.
6. Put the individual letters on the fridge near the strip with her name on it.  Ask your child to name the first letter of her name and then find that letter in the cluster on the fridge.
7. When she finds it, help her to hold it near the matching letter on the full name strip, to check that they are the same. If it’s a pair, let her put it on top of it’s matching letter.
8. Repeat for the remaining letters in her name. Be sure to celebrate each step along the way, especially once she has spelled her name completely!

After your child gets good at her name puzzle, try creating additional word puzzles, such as “mum,” “dad,” or the names of siblings or pets. You can also play games with the word puzzles, for example, Name Game Simon Says. Here’s how: Put a variety of letters at her height, then say, “Simon Says put the letter B way up high,” “Simon Says put the letter E way down low,” or other letter-based directions.

Looking for another game? Try the Mix and Fix Race: Use a kitchen timer to challenge your child to complete the name puzzle quickly…can she mix the letters up and fix them in less than two minutes?

Or go for another version, called Tall Letters/Short Letters: Ask her to spell the letters in her name aloud. When they are tall letters, she stands up; when they are short letters, she squats down.

Regular readers, will know how I love to get children out and about whenever possible.One outing, that comes to mind, was when I took my youngest son. then aged 12, a child minded child, age 8 and went, with another child minder and her son, 12 on an afternoon walk to Heddon’s mouth, via the Hunters Inn

The Hunters Inn, as the name suggests, is a hotel.

We drove there, ( note, that I had written permission from the child minding child’s parents, to take her out in my car) leaving my car in the car park, we then walked pasted the hotel, where there were several peacocks wandering around the grounds.

. The path which is in a deep valley follows a river to the sea.

We walked together along the path, where I spotted and pointed out a heron looking for fish. At one point we had to cross the river over a wooden bridge, where the children had fun playing pooh sticks, while I chatted to my friend. As we walked further we also saw a mountain goat, high above us, on the hill. To get onto the pebble beach, we had to cross the river once again, the older boys decided to use some stepping stones

and my son managed to get his feet wet, On witnessing this, the rest of us took an alternative route.

Next we found a sheltered spot to sit on the beach, while the children tried their hands at skimming stones into the sea

(always take great care of children near any water). I remembered my dad telling me, when I was a girl, that round, flat stones are the best for this, so I shared this information with them all.

Half an hour, or so, later, we headed back to the car park, taking pleasure from the scenery, as we walked.

When we arrived at the car, we had an ice cream, before driving home.

For the cost of an ice cream each and the petrol it took for our journey, we had a good, educational, fun afternoon out and as it meant my son had a good few hours away from his x-box, I would say it was a good result!

I would like to thank my dad. Ken Smith and my friend Tina Day for allowing me to use their photographs in this post.

As always questions/comments are welcome.




This paperback is written by Katy Segrove and illustrated by K aterina Vykhodtseva,

it basically tells the tale of animal friends who want to put up a Christmas tree together, at first they can’t agree on what to have but it has a moral that if they stay positive and work together they will find a solution.

The first page has a space for the child’s name, which he could write himself or an adult do it for him, this can then be used as name recognition useful for when the child starts nursery and school.

Throughout there are bright, colourful pictures which children will find appealing, plus the language used and some of the illustrations could be useful for early years practitioners to demonstrate size and shape covering some of the mathematical early learning goal.

The book has a feel good factor so I would recommend it as a before sleep story as part of a child’s bedtime routine.


Hopscotch and the Christmas tree is published by Tiny tree children’s books and retails 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




When I was a registered child minder  I heard about a drop-in for child minders, I went along and discovered that it wasn’t well attended, which I thought was a shame.

Later when I also became employed as a support child minder I took over the running of the drop-in, we were extremely lucky, in that we managed to acquire the playroom at the local children’s centre to hold this weekly event.This was fantastic as we were not charged for the use of the facility, plus the toys were already there and we had the use of  a kitchen for making drinks and preparing snacks.

As a support child minder I invited along the potential child minders that I was mentoring, one particular shy lady requested that I meet her outside of the centre, so that she didn’t have to walk in alone, I gladly did this and she became a regular, as did several others.

During the drop-in we gave one another support and chatted while we played with the children.

As I was also there as a support child minder I would give everyone the details of any upcoming training that I knew of.

I also started a vacancy list in the hope of matching parents looking for child care to minders with vacancies. Half way through the morning I made tea and coffee for the adults and juice for the children who also had a snack of fruit followed by a biscuit each.

In the beginning I had to take everything needed for this each week, but later we were allocated a cupboard meaning non perishables could be left there, the children’s centre supplied the milk and fruit so I charged a nominal fee of £1 per child minder and nothing for the children. At the end of the year I used any money accumulated towards a Christmas party, we all contributed with food and I bought a few gifts for party bags for the children, I even managed to persuade a male member of staff to dress up as Santa for us. At the end of the morning  we were expected to tidy everything away and leave the room as we found it.

During the school holidays many of us had extra older children who also came along, so because the toys at the children’s centre were really for younger children I took along some suitable activities, like wool to make a woolly doll.

Before having to give up child minding due to ill health we had a great variety of up to 10 child minders and their children attending this worth while group, which meant the child minders got some much needed adult conversation and the children learned to socialise with more children than they would at their child minders home.

I would suggest that all child minders attend a similar group, if there isn’t one in your area, why not start one yourself. If there is not a children’s centre playroom available, as long as suitable premises can be found perhaps the child minders could each take along a few toys, or hold it at each others homes, as we did for a while when the children’s centre was having some building work done.

I would love to hear any other child minders experiences of attending a similar group.

As always questions/comments are welcome.









Nowadays, with electronics, such as, games consoles, tablets and i pads it may seem old fashioned to think about playing traditional games, but they, too, can be fun and a lot cheaper on our pockets.

Eye- spy is one of the oldest, it can be adapted for younger children, I used to to play it using colours, rather than letters, for the tiny ones, e.g. I spy with my little eye, something red (the car ahead) I have even played eye spy on the web cam, using Skype, with my grandchildren, who live far away, my eldest granddaughter made us laugh, when she said, “Eye spy, with my little eye, something beginning with !”nana”

Hide and seek is another old favourite, I remember a child once lying on a bed, with his eyes closed, thinking that because he couldn’t see, no one could see him! Another time a little one hid in a laundry basket, but left her arm dangling outside.

Hopscotch is another traditional favourite, that will also help your children to stay active

Dressing up will help feed your child’s imagination ( I have also written posts on child led play)



If your children are into electronic games, my earlier blog on being addicted to tablets, may be useful.

Of course, there are loads of party games for groups of children, like Ring a roses and the farmers in his den, the list is endless. The main thing is, which ever games children play,   enjoy and have fun doing so.

As always questions/ comments are welcome.



Boolino sent me this remarkable book.

The first thing that struck me when I looked at this book was the paper torch at the back


The book is hard back and spiral bound which makes it easy to read while using the torch because the pages stay open. The front cover is quite striking giving a clue to what is inside.

This is an extremely interesting and educational book which explains the food chain of animals in a simple way which children will understand. There are dark transparent pages throughout which I wasn’t sure why they were there at first glance, once I pushed out the paper torch I soon discovered the meaning, when the torch is placed behind the page, as if by magic images light up making the book even more enticing for the reader.

Towards the end of the book  it explains briefly how much food some animals eat, this, I think, will appeal to boys especially as in my experience boys can sometimes be a little reluctant to read so this with the addition of the torch feature may just persuade them . The back inside cover has a place to store the paper torch  keeping it safe  ensuring that it can be used every time the book is read.

What animals eat is published by moonlight publishing and retails at £8.54, making it great value for money in my opinion. It would suit children aged 5-8 years.

Boolino are offering a 20% discount  off this book  for my readers, use the discount code friends20 to qualify,  Click Here to buy the book

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.





Sarah Knight has suggested that I write about how to survive Christmas with children, thanks, Sarah.

The first thing that comes to mind is how wonderful Christmas is when spent with children. My best Christmases. were when my children were still believers in Santa, there is something magical about that!

I recall, one year, my eldest son wrote to santa asking for teenage mutant turtles ( all the rage that year) I went to every toy shop in the area, but all were sold out. Afraid that he was going to be disappointed on the big day, I gently explained to him, that as many children were asking for these, Father Christmas may find it difficult to get them, as toy shops were selling out.

“It’s O.K, mum” he told me. ” My school friends nan lives in America and she says there are loads there, santa flies all around the world, so he can get me some on his way!”

Eventually I managed to get two sets, one for each of my sons, by going on a shopping trip to London. ( It did involve having a scuffle with another mum)


Whilst childminding I had a selection of Christmas activities up my sleeve, from making and icing biscuits and marzipan fruits to decorating shoe boxes ( more on this, in my  arts and crafts blog)

Christmas eve in our house was manic. not only were my boys excited about the next day, but Christmas eve was also their dads birthday, so we had several visitors. One year, my son gave his dad some chocolate, as he unwrapped the present, my son told him, ” We could share that.”

I have heard  that a local theme park is letting local families in at a reduced price on Christmas eve, as a way of saying thank you for supporting them throughout the quieter times. What a great way of letting your children burn off some energy and prevent them getting bored while they are waiting for santa to come.

I used to persuade my children to go to bed early on Christmas eve as the time seems to go faster when you are asleep!

A bit late for this year now, but my biggest tip is to start planning for Christmas early. I used to buy presents, all year round, especially if I came across something suitable for someone in a sale. It certainly helps the budget if you can spread the cost throughout the year.And if you get sorted ahead of time, it means you can enjoy the build up to Christmas with your children without the stress.

One of my favourite things was watching my children and others, at the nativity plays. Unfortunately, my grand children live too far away for me to see  theirs, but my son sends me a video.

One more thing, if you do shop all year round, it is a good idea to write down who you have bought for and put it in your purse, so you don’t forget and double up!

In brief then, plan ahead when possible and keep little ones amused, by letting them help with making cards and decorations and putting up the tree, of course.

I have noticed that shopping centres are putting santa in his grotto earlier each year, I would suggest that parents don’t take their children to visit him too early, as this will make them think that he is coming in the next few days, which may cause them to get over excited, before they should.

Above all, enjoy Christmas with your children, as it never quite the same when they grow up.


As always, questions/ comments are welcome.

Karen x


Another book sent by Walker books.

This delightful picture book  is educational as it explains what the natural world gives us in a simple way which will appeal to young children.

The front cover is bright and kept quite simple.

Inside are wonderful illustrations by Toni Yuly who has also written the book, the pictures will draw in the attention of young children because there is not too much going on, but just the correct amount of colour to keep children interested.

If I were sharing this book with a child I would ask him to point out things in the pictures and ask open ended questions such as, “Can you see a bird and what is the bird doing?”

Thank you bees comes in hard back and retails at £11.99. It is published by Walker books and would make a great contribution to a child’s bookshelf.

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.







This wonderful book was sent to me by Walker books.

Pick a pine tree is written by Patricia Toht and Jarvis has illustrated it for her.

The book is just perfect for this time of year, as it describes the excitement we all feel when putting up our Christmas decorations, it begins with choosing a pine tree and ends with a fully decorated tree and house.

The front cover is delightful with a Christmas theme,

inside the cover there are pictures of snowflakes, which add to the magic.

The text is written in rhyme which subscribers will know  I am passionate about as it helps early readers to be able to predict the next word giving confidence whether they are reading for themselves or being read to by someone else.

Throughout the book there are colourful illustrations showing a variety of everyday items which younger children could be prompted to find and point out.



Pick a pine tree comes as a hard back  ensuring that it will stand up to becoming a family keepsake  which will be brought out and enjoyed year after year. It is published by www.walker.co.uk and retails at £11.99.

I would defiantly recommend this book as it made me feel the joy that comes with the thought of Christmas ( my favourite time of year)

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.








As the title of this blog suggests this is my third attempt at riding for the disabled at The Calvert trust, Exmoor.

This time I had a bit of a shaky start when I was hoisted into the saddle, usually Teddy my horse  stands like a statue, but for some reason today he was shifting about and tossing his head up and down, had I been able-bodied as before stroke I would have relished this behaviour, today it made me a little uneasy. Kerri my instructor and a new lady that I hadn’t met before reasured me that everything was fine.

Then I realised that  my stirrups were too short for my long legs ( this is something that I hadn’t even thought about on previous lessons), once the stirrups were corrected  I not only regained my confidence , but sat in the best position I have managed so far since starting disabled riding. On other occasions Kerri has had to stop and remind me, or even help me to get my posture straight, today however she remarked that it was half an hour into my ride and she hadn’t done this at all. This gave me even more confidence, at my last lesson I had begun to learn how to steer my horse now that I was having to ride one handed. I had been practising this at home while sitting in my chair which had attracted some scarastic remarks from my husband.

During this lesson the new instructor upped the anti by asking me to steer Teddy between 2 traffic cones

and then through some jumping poles, which I managed extremely well, if I do say so myself!

I also changed the rein ( changed direction) across the indoor school and asked my horse to halt and walk on again using both my voice and by squeezing with my heels.

During my other 2 lessons the staff had attached a monkey strap to the front of the saddle  for me to hold onto giving extra support, but as I didn’t use it last time, this time it wasn’t even there, proving the confidence that everyone had in my ability.

It wasn’t until I was hoisted back into my wheelchair that I realised that my stroke leg hadn’t hurt at all this time! previously after about 20 minutes it had started to ache and continued to ache for about an hour afterwards ( not too badly to stop me want to go, but enough that I was aware of it).

I would once again like to thank the wonderful stable staff at The Calvert trust, Exmoor  for all their patience, help and support.

An hours disabled riding at the calvert trust, Exmoor costs £30.

I have wrritten about my horsey adventures before stroke in an e book titled Equestrian dreams which is available to download from Amazon.

As always questions/comments are welcome.






lThis is the first installment of the pasta kidz and petz adventure stories, which are written by Byrony Supper and illustrated by Julien Bray. The front cover is glossy and has vibrant colours.

The story tells of an inventor and his assistant. The text contains some nonsence words which will appeal to children ( at the end of the book is a glossery explaining the meaning of these words). There are also some ryming short songs which again will please children of various ages. The moral of the tale is to have patience, take your time and not to rush into things that you are not sure about, throughout there are bright colourful illustrations.

At the end of the book is an introduction to all the pasta kidz who will appear in the follow on books.

I enjoyed reading this book as it is a little different. in a good way, from the average children’s book and I would recommend it as a feel good story to share with your children.

The Iventing tubes is suitable for children aged 4-7 years. It is published by Juvenile fiction and retails at £4.99

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

As always questions/comments are welcome





This is the latest book sent by Tiny tree children’s books.

Ilias’mountain is written by Lilian  Kars and illustrated by Steffie Padmos. It is quite a large book which is impressive to look at with a striking front cover picture.

The inside cover has a picture of rocks, giving a  clue as to what is coming up.

It tells the tale of Ilias who at first seems to be just an average boy but events happen that make him quite special as he changes his way of thinking about things that have happened in his life.

This book is fairly long so would be suitable for children around 7 years upwards. There are colourful illustrations throughout the book

, the story is exciting encouraging the reader to want to carry on reading to find out what is going to happen.

I would recommend this book for  parents to read  to their children.

Ilias’ mountain is published by Tiny tree children’s books and retails at£7.99

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

As always questions/comments are welcome







As an experienced child minder I often used to child mind for social services, which is now known as community child minding.

This initially meant attending a 2 day training course ( where I met another child minder who 20 years on is still one of my closest friends).

This training consisted of listening to talks from other professionals from a woman’s refuse, the child protection officer and a couple of social workers.

I gained some great tips for managing behaviour as well as heaps more relevant information.

A few weeks after completing the training two social workers visited me at home, this was to get to know me better and complete the necessary paperwork.


My first child which was sent via social services was in order to give her mother some respite ( the girl had an ongoing medical condition).

I enjoyed the aspect of taking care of a child so that the parents could get help, rather than while they were working ( not that I had an issue with this). When I did community child minding I had to invoice my fees to social services at the end of the month, they paid promptly but wouldn’t pay if a child didn’t attend due to illness or a holiday ( which are both things that I would charge for had I drawn up my own contract with parents) this may be different now.

I did community child minding for many years, having children for differnt reasons ranging from respite to once when the police arrested a woman who had a young child with her, I looked after the baby while she was being interviewed’


I would recommend any dedicated child minder to look into community child minding as it is extremely rewarding. Find out how to go about it from your local child minding association, ofsted or Pacey.

Read more of my child minding experiences by purchasing my e book also titled the next best thing to mummy.

As always questions/comments are welcome.




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.






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.



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.


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


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.







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.



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.






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






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.



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.


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







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.








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


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.


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,


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







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





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.


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.







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







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.







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.
As always questions/comments are welcome

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


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



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,

< 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.


As always, any questions/comments are most welcome.




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.



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



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








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







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


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






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







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.




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








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







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.





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


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







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






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





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


,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




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


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


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





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





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


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


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






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




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




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



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



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)


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.


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.



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.