Monday, 29 November 2010

What's your illness etiquette?

There are a few things that nobody tells you about having a baby, like all the washing you suddenly have to do and how they get one cold or illness after another (which often you catch too).  I rarely used to get colds but since my son has been born, I've probably had more in these past two years than I ever had in my lifetime!

It's that time of year right now where there seem to be lots of germs around, colds and other bugs spreading like wildfire. I guess it's partly because we're all enclosed indoors now that it's got cold. Unlike in the summer when you can be outside in fresh air, we get stuck in confined spaces with each other in the winter!

As a mum, you quickly learn that consideration for others goes out the window when it comes to your child's illnesses. Maybe for the first ever cold your child gets, you keep them away from other babies, kindly not wishing to spread the germs to other helpless creatures. Yet, before long, you find yourself surrounded by runny noses galore! People don't feel the need to keep their child away from others when he or she is ill. I guess they think that at some point sooner or later, the other children will catch something themselves anyway so what's the point in keeping them away.

A few of my mummy friends have recently started their two-year olds in nursery for a few mornings a week and so I've been hearing about their experiences. You're always told that once they start school, they're forever ill with something and that seems to be the case for a lot of the people I know. These mums are paying for the mornings at nursery and as you know, they don't come cheap. When their child gets ill, they send them into nursery regardless as they don't want to lose out on the money they've spent.

A cold is one thing but when children are sent to nursery or playgroups with something highly contagious, I think that's a different story and shows a lack of parental responsibility. It's really not fair to inflict something contagious and likely rather miserable to other children. It's not something they will inevitably get like a cold and so why should they be put at risk of catching something nasty because another parent didn't keep their child at home?

I'm more relaxed with something like a cold and will still take my son to a playgroup if he has a bit of a runny nose. When it comes to something contagious or more unpleasant, I wouldn't take my son to mix with other children. I wouldn't, because I don't think it's fair to the other children but also because I'd like to think other parents would have the same respect for my child and his peers in the same situation. What frustrates me is when parents don't share the same attitude and respect, which seems to be the case more often that not.

What are your views? Do you think I'm being a bit over-sensitive? Is it something that you view differently when your children start school and begin mixing more regularly with more children?


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Friday, 26 November 2010

Something for the weekend

It's been a busy week but rather than not write anything at all, I thought I would share a few links that you might enjoy reading over the weekend.

We have friends coming over for tea and cake tomorrow so I'm planning on making these pumpkin cupcakes that Urban Mums shared with readers earlier this week.

Books always make good gifts and there are some nice recommendations for the adults you might be buying for this Christmas on Five Books.

As it's getting colder and colder now, these 5 tips to keep healthy and happy during the chilly season are definitely worth a read.

I enjoyed reading this post on The Sweet Beet about the intimacy of sharing food with loved ones.

As a vegetarian, I eat a good amount of beans in my diet but after reading 4 of the best beans for health on the Little Green Blog, I think I should look into mung beans!

Is there anything you've read this week that you've enjoyed and can share?


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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A day in the life

This post is inspired by The Key to a Peaceful Home with Toddlers on Zen Family Habits. I really enjoyed reading Sherri's daily routine with her two children aged 2 and 3. To me, it's always interesting to know what a person's typical day is like, especially that of another mum.

There's always plenty of talk about routine when it comes to babies but less so with toddlers, even though it's just as important to keep their day structured. Sherri's emphasis in her post, was that making an effort with her two young children has helped make the days more fun with her family. One way she has done that, is by following their routine.

So, I thought I would share my routine with you. My son is almost 2.

• Wake up. Breakfast. Tidy up dishes.

• Free play whilst usually getting ready to leave the house.

• Playgroup / park / activity.

• Snack.

• Back home, free play, prepare lunch.

• Lunch.

• Quiet play (read books, do a puzzle together).

• Nap.

• Snack.

• Go out for walk / playdate or have someone over to play.

• Free play while getting dinner.

• Dinner.

• Clean-up, free play, tidy up toys.

• Bath, stories and bed.

This is an average day. Somedays if the weather is bad, we won't go out and we'll do some art stuff or some cooking together. When it's summertime, we spend most of the day outside.

Looking at Sherri's routine, I was impressed by two things in particular. One was the 'kids do their responsibilities' and the other was 'craft time'. She's found a simple way of introducing responsibilities to her children, by displaying and talking through these routine printable cards. If you were feeling artistic, you could make your own. They seem like they might help make chores fun for children and of course they are simple enough for her 2 and 3 year-olds to follow.

As for the crafts, I think that shows real effort. I always wanted to be a mum who did lots of crafts with her child but I don't do them very often at all. As Sherri points out, they do require planning and preparation that she does the night before. I'm going to give that a try, as crafts are a good way to spend some time when it's cold outside and there are fun seasonal things to create.

When I look at my schedule compared to Sherri's, mine involves more getting out of the house. For me, that's an important part of the day. Fresh air, seeing things or seeing people, a change of scene all break up the day and I try to get out whatever the weather, even just for a short walk. My son enjoys it and I feel better for it too.

What would stand out from your daily routine? What particular activities are important to you and your children on an average day?


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Thursday, 18 November 2010

What's your meltdown fix?

For my son, it's listening to 'The wheels on the bus', for others I know it's turning on the TV. I'm talking about the only thing you can do that placates a very upset, unconsolable, frustrated toddler.

We don't have many meltdowns with my son ( far) but when we were recently on holiday and he woke up in the car from a nap that was too short and couldn't get back to sleep and nothing would stop his screams, we put on a nursery rhyme CD. The first song on there is 'The wheels on the bus' and that did it. He stopped his crying, his face lit up with a smile and the tears and anguish were all forgotten.

Likewise, the other weekend he was upset after his nap (notice the pattern?!) and nothing we did would calm him down. My husband reached for the CD and again, when his favourite song started the meltdown immediately melted away.

I left my son with a friend yesterday while I went to an appointment. He's been a but clingy just recently so I was a bit nervous about leaving him and could hear the cries as I closed the door behind me and left. My friend has a son of a similar age and had reassured me all would be fine and if the worst came to the worst she would switch on the TV. Her son and mine don't watch TV (her son does only when she needs him distracted to cut his fingernails) so I guess the novelty works for her son and might for mine too. We don't have a TV so I've never used that trick. I have another mummy friend who uses the TV to calm her son down and finds it's the only thing that works.

Today, I looked after the same friend's son while it was her turn to go to an appointment. He's a very good little boy, plays nicely and is no trouble at all. Yet, I had the thought of what I would do if one or both of them lost it. Would 'The wheels on the bus' work for this boy too? I had my doubts. Luckily, I didn't need to test it out!

So what do you when your child has a meltdown? I thought it could be helpful to know what other mums have tried when all else has failed and who knows, we might learn some other techniques to try out from each other.


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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The little things

I was going to write another Christmas based post when I realised that we're in mid-November and there's plenty of time for more festive focused pieces. I'm sure all the catalogues coming through my door, magazines and articles everywhere mentioning Christmas had something to do with it!

Instead, I thought I'd write about not thinking about Christmas. Not that it's a bad thing but just that there's other things going on in our lives and we don't want to miss any of the small but fun things about just a regular day in November. My last post was about planning for the Christmas period and whilst that might be going on in the background, we should let ourselves enjoy the here and now too.

Here are 10 things I've been enjoying recently, nothing special but just the day-to-day things that are I think are worth remembering and appreciating:

(1) Enjoying a warm bowl of porridge with my family on a cold winter morning.

(2) Cooking together. My husband and I both did some cooking for other people this past weekend and our son loved helping out with the stirring, pouring in ingredients and watching things take shape.

(3) Racing my son around the flat to burn off some energy when it's been too cold or dark to go outside.

(4) My son and I playing with a cardboard box (that one never gets tired!).

(5) Getting lost in a book.

(6) Watching a movie with my husband, snuggled up under a blanket on a cold night.

(7) Trying out a new restaurant with friends.

(8) Taking some family photos (ok, that was for our Christmas card).

(9) Skype chats with parents.

(10) Playdates with friends. Company and the warmth of a home is perfect playtime for winter days.

Sometimes it's good to step back from the big things going on in our lives and think about the little things that make up our day. It can be refreshing to just stop and remember what you've done recently with your family and it helps you identify things you might want to do more or less of to keep a happy balance.

What are some of the everyday things you've been doing this November that have been enjoyable for you or for your whole family?
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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

6 Steps to Stress-free Festive Planning

I won't scare you by saying how many days there are until Christmas but suffice it to say that it's time to get planning now to avoid any last-minute panic or stress! Depending on the size of your family, who you are spending Christmas with and your own family traditions, what you need to prepare will vary. However, there are things that many of us do and I've provided a checklist below to help remind you of what you can do now to get organised:

1. INVITES: If you're hosting and still need to invite family or close friends, better do it sooner rather than later. Think about those family members who live alone and might be cheered by spending Christmas with company.

2. CARDS: More people are sending photo cards these days. If you're taking that route and don't yet have a photo ready, start snapping! Appoint someone to take some family shots, whether that's a friend or professional photographer. Have a think about the setting for the photo and the clothes each family member will be wearing so there are no awful colour clashes ;-). Alternatively, if you're making your own cards, get started and work on a few each evening. If your children are old enough to lend their artistic flair, it can make an excellent indoor activity to do together.

3. GIFTS: If you haven't already begun present-buying, start now so it's not all left to a last-minute rush. I find it helps to make a list of each person I'm buying for and to write down ideas when they occur. If family members have lists or wish lists, make sure you get hold of those so you can get them something you know they want. Again if you're making gifts,  now's the time to start. Food gifts might have to be done closer to the time but if you're making other items, you can get going on those.

4. POST: For those of you who have family abroad, posting cards and presents is something to think about in advance. Check last posting dates and prioritise those items so you can get them sent off in good time.

5. DATES: The festive season is a sociable one and a good excuse to get together with friends. People's diaries fill up with various work and personal Christmas parties and gatherings so it's advisable to get dates in your diary now. Maybe you want to have some friends over for dinner or have an open house where people can drop by to spend a bit of time with you. Plan those occasions now so you can have a sensible social schedule in the lead-up to Christmas that doesn't leave you exhausted.

6. FOOD: It might be a bit early to buy food for the Christmas period but it's not too early to start considering what you might need. A bit of meal planning will make your life easier, especially if you are entertaining and will also help you avoid over-spending. Start a shopping list that you can add to as and when you think of something. Schedule a delivery date for your online supermarket shop if you prefer to avoid the ineveitable crowded streets and stores.

Spend a bit of time this month on the above suggestions and it can only result in a much calmer and more enjoyable festive season. What have I missed out? Let me know of any other organisational tips in the comments.

Here are some other related posts that you might like to read or re-read:

Big Family Get-togethers: 8 Ways to Minimise Stress & Maximise Enjoyment

10 Simple Joys of Christmas

Staying Happy over the Festive Season


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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Fit body, fit mind

We all know that children should be encouraged to exercise regularly to help combat rising rates of childhood obesity. An article in The New York Times provides another reason. Studies have shown that fitter children who do regular aerobic exercise perform better in tests. Scans on the children's brains revealed that the exercise had led to a growth in the part of the brain responsible for helping us hold our attention and coordinate succinct actions and thoughts.

A second separate study examined the part of the brain associated with 'complex memory' and again, the exercise the children performed resulted in this bit of the brain being larger. The article mentions another couple of studies that support the theory that a child's fitness correlates to their performance in mental exercises. It concludes by saying that we need to get our children moving and preferably not just in front of a screen with their Nintendo Wii:
A still-unpublished study from his lab compared the cognitive impact in young people of 20 minutes of running on a treadmill with 20 minutes of playing sports-style video games at a similar intensity. Running improved test scores immediately afterward. Playing video games did not.

The children who participated in the two main studies discussed in the article were ages 9 and 10. At that stage when they are busy with school, exercise probably needs to be in the form of walking/cycling to school and/or  playing in after-school / weekend sports clubs and teams. As parents, we need to instill early on a habit, enjoyment and desire for exercise to make it easier and more natural for our children to want to continue exercising regularly and staying fit and healthy.

Exercising as a family is a great way to make it an enjoyable activity and part of a regular routine. Going for vigorous walks,  swimming, playing football in the park or other ball games are all good ways to exercise together and have fun at the same time. As your child gets older and maybe develops an interest in a particular sport or physical activity, encourage them to practise and improve their abilities by joining a class where they can exercise with other children their same age.

How much exercise do you do as a family? What are the main forms of exercise your children do regularly?


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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Embracing the seasons

I'm really enjoying our autumn this year. Our local park has a carpet of huge beautifully coloured leaves and still plenty on the trees too, gorgeous reds, yellows, bronzes and greens. It looks so pretty and is a real pleasure to walk through. It's dry and not too cold so it's perfect for being outside and appreciating the beauty of nature during this season.

It's good to engage children in the natural seasons and involve them with their surroundings. I think I've mentioned in a previous post that my son currently loves getting handfuls of  leaves and throwing them in the air with a "wheee!!". I keep meaning for us to collect a few leaves and bring home to make a simple tree collage too.

Winter will follow and for me that's the most challenging season to embrace. In England, it seems to always overstay its welcome. Yet, dressed appropriately, it's fun to play in the snow and make snowmen, snowballs and maybe find a hill for sledding. Pre-Christmas, there's a certain charm in dark, cold winter nights, keeping warm and cosy inside and preparing for Christmas itself, wrapping gifts, putting festive decorations up and looking forward to some family time together. After Christmas, it's a different story though and most of us find ourselves yearning for spring.

Spring is the most uplifting season for me. Spring blossom and the first crocuses to emerge are an encouraging sight to behold. Spring flowers give a burst of colour after a dark grey winter. Lighter, longer days make you feel more energetic and able to enjoy being outside again.

Summer might be the easiest season with which to engage children. Holidays, beaches, sea, sand, buckets and spades, pebbles, paddling pools in the back garden, running in the grass and all the outdoor stimulation that summer brings makes for lots of simple fun activities.

Whatever the weather and the season, it's invigorating to get outside. It's a nice lesson for children to understand the cyclical patterns of nature and appreciate what they can see, touch and experience at different times of the year. My parents often took me on woodland walks in the spring and autumn and sometimes to beaches in the winter. I have fond memories of those times, enjoying the simplicity of what nature offers.

What's your favourite season and what are some of your favourite family activities you like to do during that time?
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