Category: Parenting

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.



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.


x 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 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.



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.



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.




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






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 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.

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.



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


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 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

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 or can be purchased from Amazon for£2.99.

As always questions/comments are welcome.








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


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.




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.


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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

To summarize, my tips are:

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

As always, any comments or questions are most welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always comments/questions are welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, comments/ questions are welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, any comments or questions are most welcome.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always comments/ questions are welcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

As always, questions/comments are welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dummy v Thumb?

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


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

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

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

As always, comments and questions are more than welcome.

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

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

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

I let Leigh chose the wallpaper for his brothers room.

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

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

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

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

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

As always, comments/questions are welcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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