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

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

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


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

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


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

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


As always questions/comments are welcome.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.




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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always comments/questions are welcome





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always questions/ comments are welcome



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always questions/ comments are welcome



Road safety should be a concern for parents.

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

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

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

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

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.


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

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

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

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


As always questions/ comments are always welcome.

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

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

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

As always questions/comments are welcome.