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Messy play is an important part of their development, helping children to learn important life skills. 

When you’re looking for activities for your children, it is important that parents look for ways to aid growth in terms of physical, communicative, social, intellectual and creative development and messy play can help immensely! has created a fun and informative resource offering some great ideas for outdoor and messy play! ‘Life is Messy’, it is an interactive piece challenging us to put away the technology for a little while and take part in 30 fun activities to get kids outside and dirty.


Each idea is supported by extra information and inspiration to make sure you can create the activity.


Examples include:


  • ·      Home-made play dough – Let their imaginations run wild, what will they sculpt today!? A bright green dinosaur or a series of buildings for a much bigger project? It also lasts a lot longer than shop bought play dough too.


  • ·      Glass Paint – why restrict the kids to just paper? Let them loose on a window or a pane of glass with some homemade glass paint. It’s easy to make and easy to clean off. The kids will love admiring their creations, especially when the sun is shining through.


  • ·      Papier Mache – a classic favourite with all the kids! You can pretty much make anything, and the children can get really creative with the paints and the decorating of the sculptures they design.


The messy play challenge was created after carried out a survey revealing the nation’s attitude to play, with rather surprising results:


  • ·      29% of parents worry their child’s development is negatively affected by TV, games consoles and other technology.


  • ·      The two main areas of development highlighted by parents as being the most negatively affected were social skills (44%) and attention span (31%).


  • ·      41% of parents discourage their children from getting dirty or messy when playing outside for fear of extra housework or germs.


With children’s development potential being affected through lack of play in the home and a dependency on technology as a whole, it has never been more important for parents to incorporate messy play in their daily activities.


Andrew Kirkcaldy, group brand director at stated: 


“We carried out the survey to understand parent’s attitudes towards children’s play, and more specifically messy play. We know that children are becoming more and more used to technology, and although this has its benefits, we wanted to challenge families and teachers to put aside the iPads for a short while and get the children out and messy! Helping children’s development is so important, and so we created the Life is Messy campaign to help inspire parents and teachers.”


The Life is Messy campaign includes the 30 day messy play challenge and the survey data, along with lots of other fun information. You can take a look at it here:

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Large families cost money and there’s no hiding from the fact. If you want to bring a small army of children into the world, then you’ll need to juggle your finances – and a few other things – accordingly. And that’s fine, as long as you are prepared.


Managing your money with a large family can be tricky but it’s not impossible. Here are some ways to keep on top of the money…


Budget planner

The internet is awash with free resources that can make our daily lives a little easier, and that’s certainly true of family budgeting. Budget planners offer a simple and effective template for you to be able to map out all of your regular expenses and be fully aware of what you spend. This one from Frugal Family is a useful template.


Plan out big purchases

By knowing what you need to spend you’ll have a clearer idea of what you can afford and be able to properly plan out any big ticket purchases that you need to make. AvantCredit personal loans can be used for anything from home improvements to holidays, helping you to afford such things by breaking the cost down into manageable chunks.


Reuse what you’ve got

Big families often include children at different ages and stages and that presents opportunities for managing your money smartly. Pass down clothes, toys, pushchairs and any other items that you can to avoid needing to pay for the same thing over and over again.


Switch the bills

Busy family households use plenty of energy. That means you need to be even more careful about your bills. Run regular price comparison checks to ensure you are on the best tariff available and avoid the costs spiraling out of control. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal from your providers if they put their prices up; a small rise in tariff can make a big difference to a big family.


Food planning

As Money Crashers points out, it’s important to get your grocery shop right. Ideally you want to get everything in one go – avoiding a number of extra small spends throughout the week that add to the cost – and write and stick to a list of items. Smart families will be able to cook up meals in advance in batches using ingredients that can be bulk-bought at a low cost. It can also be cost effective to hunt out reduced items, looking for expensive things such as joints of meat that can be frozen on purchase and used further down the line.



Birthday and, particularly, Christmas presents can be a big headache for parents in big families. It pays to set a consistent price limit for your children, that way they know what to expect and you can budget properly for it, maybe even saving up across the year so that Christmas doesn’t come as a big shock? There’s nothing wrong with joint presents either, especially when it comes to expensive things such as games consoles that could easily be shared by several siblings.

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Juggling life as a busy Mum more often than not means whipping the credit card out regularly and ensuring the kids have everything they need, as well as encouraging them to try their hand at new activities or taking them out for the day. It can all get pretty exhausting – and expensive – but of course you wouldn’t have it any other way.


But… have you actually taken some time to break down what you are spending each year? Well, debt management experts PayPlan have and their results might come as a surprise, such as the cost of keeping a baby in nappies for a year amounts to £451. That’s a lot of changing!


The Centre for Economics and Business Research reckons the cost of raising a child amounts to £231,843 for children born in 2016, from the day they are born until they turn 21. Take some time to scroll through PayPlan’s guide, it’s interesting to discover what the average cost is each year and if you compare it to what you spend you might feel pretty pleased with yourself if you’re the thrifty sort!


However, there are always ways to save yourself some money and still keep the kids happy. From cutting back on brands at the supermarket to mending clothes instead of buying new to taking your own snacks in your bag for when you head out for the day – no more impromptu orders at the cafe at lunchtime – you can save a fair few pennies and justify the costs that come with raising kids.



When you finally get a minute have a scroll through the guide, and if you have older children you can have a nice chuckle to yourself about not having to spend money on nappies anymore – although be prepared for the expense of driving lessons and university in the future.

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A pest infestation in your home is horrible at the best of times, but when you have small children in the house, this situation can become a hundred times more stressful.

Your home could be infested from anything from mice or rats to wasps or fleas – these won’t only cause damage to your property, they could also cause hygiene issues, particularly for your young children.

Then you have to try and get rid of them

Picture the scene: You have set up a trap to catch the mouse you saw run across the lounge floor and instead of catching the pest, it ends up squashing little fingers, as your two-year-old reaches for the piece of cheese you were using as bait. Or, even worse, your small children find the dead pests before you do, touching them and putting their little fingers in their mouths afterwards.

Of course there are other traditional methods you could use, but these could be incredibly dangerous for young children if they were to accidentally consume any of it.

So, how do you manage the pest infestation and keep your children safe at the same time?

Humane traps

Live traps are a more humane way to get rid of pests and are safe to use around food, water, children and pets. You simply have to set and bait them, and then you can get rid of up to 30 mice at a time without ever having to see or touch them. Check out Victorpest to find out more and order the right one for you.

Natural methods

You could make your own insect spray! This combines the repellent effects of garlic, onion and hot pepper with the insecticide of soap – just as effective at removing pests, while being a lot less dangerous for your small children.

Call in the experts

If the infestation has got to the point where you don’t know how to deal with it anymore, or you simply don’t want to deal with it yourself, why not call in the experts? Simply enter your postcode into the ‘Report a Pest Problem’ page on the government site and you will be taken to the correct page of your local council, where you can find and book the right service for you area. 

This way you can take the children out of the house while the experts deal with the issue! If it is a day, great - a trip to the park with the kids should be all it takes to get it sorted, if this issue is ongoing you may want to stay with friends or family for a few days. 

If you already experienced pests in your home or want to avoid ending up in the above situation, then you should make sure you are always looking out for them. Keep an eye out for signs that they could have taken up residence in your home, such as droppings, nests, insects and so on.

Also, do everything you can to keep them away; lids on bins, all food put away, don’t leave dirty dishes on the side, etc. If you have been considering getting a pet, then it might be time to add a cat to your family. Their litter tray can be left in any potential problem areas, as their urine alone will scare off any pests.

The sooner you tackle the situation, should it arise, the sooner it can be sorted and the less damage it can do to your home or your young children.


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Whether you are leasing a car or purchasing one outright, it’s important you find the right one for your family’s needs. Perhaps you need a reliable car for the school run to come in a couple of years or a motor big enough for those family trips to the beach at the weekend.


You’re definitely going to need five doors for those moments when your toddler doesn’t want to be strapped into their seat and throws a tantrum as well as a large boot for all the ‘just in case’ stuff you need to take with you when out of the house. Here are six of the best cars for young families to choose from:


1. Skoda Octavia

Named the What Car? Family Car of the Year in January 2016, this vehicle comes with a recommendation from one of the most trusted car reviewers in the UK. They claim it’s down to its exceptionally sized interior space as well as its economic engine which saves money in the long run on fuel. The Octavia also scores highly when it comes to safety, with seven airbags and a post collision braking system.


2. Ford Focus

Roomy, comfortable and great to drive, it’s no wonder the Ford Focus comes up top when it comes to family cars. It’s a great vehicle if you aren’t looking for all the gadgetry that comes with newer cars, its console is simple, easy to use and offers everything you need. Available in both manual and automatic, diesel and petrol and a variety of engine sizes there is a Ford Focus out there to fit every family situation.


3. Vauxhall Astra

This hatchback is perfect for those families that want something that looks great but also offers plenty of practical features. The interior is high quality and there’s plenty of room inside, 35mm more knee room in the rear – great if one of you still needs to sit in the back with the kids - and the boot offers 350-litres of space to fill up for days out.


4. Hyundai i30

Looks good, drives great, plenty of room; the Hyundai i30 is Korea’s answer to popular car choices such as the Ford Focus. Opt for a five door option for maximum access to the rear of the car, especially if you have little ones in car seats. Great for school runs and nipping around town with the kids, it’s a cheap car to run and looks great.


5. Audi A3

For those young families looking for style and comfort when it comes to a family vehicle, the Audi A3 offers both. The Audi A3 Sportback is a preferable choice when it comes to this model as it comes with five doors and a decent sized boot. This is the family car to choose if you regularly venture out on long trips, with a 2.0-litre engine you should have no problem reaching your destination in good time.


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Are you going on a staycation this year? It’s bound to be lovely wherever you go – whether you’re exploring the south west of England or the outer fringes of Scotland – but you certainly need to take the time to pack properly. Here are the essentials you really need for your staycation…


Rain-ready clothing

If there’s one thing you can be sure of on a British staycation, it’s that you’re likely to get rained on at some point! So, include a set of waterproofs in your suitcase or a classic trench coat and a sturdy umbrella.


Shoes and clothing for exploring

Pack some comfortable footwear such as walking boots, or at least a pair of fashionable boots with a good sole and plenty of support: staycations invariably involve lots of walking (which is great news for your waistline), and you’ll have a much happier time if you avoid getting blisters. A stylish rucksack will also come in useful if you need to throw in an extra jumper and a stash of emergency snacks so that you’re ready for whatever you end up doing each day. A decent pair of jeans will be perfect both for walking along miles of shoreline and popping into boutiques in quirky towns and villages.



If you’re heading to the idyllic Cornish coast you’ll certainly need to pack a beach bag, but it’s worth packing a handbag too – wherever you’re holidaying. This will help you to explore new towns and cities on foot without looking like a tourist or accidentally being lumbered with nothing but your suitcase! A pair of sunglasses will make you feel as though you’re on ‘holiday’ (even if it’s not eye-wateringly sunny), and a sun hat will come in useful if the weather warms up enough to warrant one. If you’re feeling fancy, pack a perfume you’ve reserved specially for this trip away: it will bring back staycation memories when you’ve returned to work for months afterwards!



When you’re settled in for the night in the private holiday home you’ve booked through Classic Cottages, you’ll find there’s nothing you want more than your usual comforts. So, be sure to pack your pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown so that you can relax in the evening, just as you would if you were at home. Whether you’re snuggled up watching a bigger television than your own with the fire roaring away in the corner, or simply playing a game of cards in your holiday kitchen, you’re going to enjoy it by having your comfiest clothing to hand.



It would be a real shame to go on staycation without capturing any of the beautiful sights the UK has to offer, so be sure to pack your highest quality camera. You’ll get some practise photographing the rolling green countryside and sprawling cities, or if it feels too cumbersome to lug around with you, why not use your iPhone? Of course, you’ll need to pack an iPhone charger, and it will be worth investing in an in-car charger to keep your battery topped up. Pack a tablet or iPad if you have one too: you never know when a rainy day is going to foil your plans, and it’ll be nice to have the option of doing a spot of online shopping if you have to spend a day inside!



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Managing money can seem like daunting task. In fact, it’s so scary for some of us that, when failing to manage it properly, we end up in serious trouble. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can manage your money effectively, and feel in control of your finances. Here’s how…


1. First, set yourself a budget. Setting yourself a budget is going to take a little bit of effort, but it’s a really good idea as it will give you a clear idea of what’s coming in and what’s going out. Making a budget means you’re less likely to be caught out by day to day costs, as well as unexpected emergencies and will help to keep you out of debt.


The best way to do this is to use a budget planner. It will require that you know your income after tax, and enable you to see you how much you’re spending on things like household bills, living costs, debts and travel expenses. At the end, you’ll get to see how much (if anything) is left over, and which areas are costing you most of all.


2. Next, you need to find a way to stick to your budget. If you’re currently spending more than you’re earning, you’ll need to find ways of scaling back your expenses. For instance, you might need to cut down on the amount you eat out of the house, or cancel some TV subscriptions, gym memberships or expensive habits.


Once you’ve scaled back your outgoings so that they’re in line what you’re bringing in, get yourself some apps to help you stay on track. For instance, make sure you have access to online banking, and use a budget tracker app to help you manage your money. The convenience of technology means you’re far more likely to manage your budget properly than if you had to rely on printed bank statements alone!


3. Then, prioritise paying off your debts. It’s not unusual to have some kind of debt, and under some circumstances, a loan is the solution – in fact, the average total debt (including mortgages) per household in the UK in 2015 was £54,296! Good budgeting, however will make room for paying off the debts you owe so that interest doesn’t accumulate, helping you avoid falling into serious financial difficulty. Pay at least the minimum on your credit cards, as well any other loans and your mortgage.


4. Finally, don’t forget to add savings to your budget. It can be really hard to find surplus money at the end of every month, but even £30 a month will amount to a larger sum over time. Pay some money into a separate savings account, however big or small and resist the temptation to dip into it. Savings can be used in emergencies, to top you up when you’re earning less (such as when you’re on maternity or paternity leave), or to help you buy things such as cars without having to take out finance.


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Kids love visiting places where fun never stops rolling. Parents however love taking them where a safe environment prevails for their merrymaking. It’s however never easy to find such a place that comes good on the expectations of both, parents and kids.


Trampoline parks have emerged a great option when it comes to bringing risk-free fun to kids, or also to people of all age-groups. They have won the trust of millions of parents worldwide and brought them respite from having to keep an eye on their kids at a venue.


Let’s look at some of benefits of being at such a park:


  • Tots will have a special area dedicated to them where grown-ups are not allowed an entry


  • Trained staff are there to attend kids under 5 and help them understand the meaning of fun


  • Tots are set free to do whatever catches their fancy as the soft surface beneath means they will do all what the park expects them to


  • Kids can jump non-stop, using as much vigour as they can muster up and they can hop from one trampoline court to anther


  • Jumping between trampolines can keep tots busy and hooked for hours for sure


  • Music, dance, toys, all will be there for kids to have much more fun than they could get elsewhere


  • Kids are allowed a specific time-slot to jump and it’s often the time when all present there indulge in the same activity


  • Fun apart, kids get to benefit from some small fitness drills suiting their age and body, and imparted under the supervision of experts only


  • The purpose of these classes is to let tots learn and explore things at their own pace by detached from the area meant for grown ups


  • Apart from jumping, kids can also bounce and fly as and when they feel like doing that


  • With a foam pit around full of soft cubes, kids would surely find it hard to resist the temptation of throwing the body away


  • There will be a variety of food items to gorge on and let the delights turn double for sure


  • Such a place is very helpful from health and fitness perspective as rebounding is bring a lot of benefits to the body


  • Nowhere else can tots get to enjoy fun and fitness together as here.


In a way, parents should understand the value of toddler classes Leeds as this is where exploration is encourage. Tots get to showcase their creative side and indulge in all those activities that are helpful in their growth and development.


Such classes are designed specifically to let tots have fun at their own pace and learn a lot of valuable things along the way. For parents, such classes present a great opportunity to take their tots there and contribute in their overall development.


In overall, a visit to Trampoline parks means a lot to gain and parents understand that well. They know the tastes and preferences of their kids and that’s why don’t delay taking them there.


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Picture your lush, vibrant garden dripping with greenery, scented with blooms and teaming with wildlife. The lawn is an emerald carpet and the flowerbeds buzzing with drowsy bumble bees, and all manner of birds are tweeting and chirping somewhere up in the canopy of your trees. But, as you look around at your little oasis, you notice that the contents of your bird feeder is looking precarious, just waiting to be snaffled up by an opportunistic squirrel!


Should I keep squirrels out of my garden?

Squirrels aren’t bad garden visitors, and in fact, anything you can do to help your local eco system is fantastic! However, red and grey squirrels love nothing more than raiding a bird feeder, seeing it as a ready packaged meal dangling from a branch - understandably, it’s simply too easy and delicious to resist devouring!


What’s the problem?
Well, (aside from the obvious problem that the more food squirrels steal from your bird feeder, the less food local birds are actually going to get) they’ll leave a mess behind and deter birds from visiting your garden.


Every time a squirrel steals from your bird feeder, it’s telling birds that it’s a squirrel territory, which ultimately drives them away from the area you want them to visit. This is bad news for gardeners, as birds are an essential part of the food chain in your garden: as they gobble up pests and insects that would otherwise feast on your flowers, fruit and vegetables.


So what can I do about it?
The best way to stop squirrels raiding your bird feeders (in a way that’s safe and humane) is to make the bird feeders squirrel-proof. Squirrel proof feeders will force them to give up visiting your garden for a free dinner, and it wont take long before they move on to a new source of food and leave yours for the guests you intended to feed.


What type of bird feeder do I need?
If you’re determined to keep squirrels from demolishing the contents of your bird feeder, choose one that is weight activated, baffled or caged:


Weight activated: this kind of feeder is clever as the feeding port closes up tightly when an animal heavier than a bird gets close enough to eat from it.


Baffled: these are designed with dome barriers that squirrels have difficulty crossing because they can’t grip it with their claws.


Caged: these feeders are enclosed in a mesh cage that is too fine for squirrels to enter, but easily allows access for smaller birds.


Which squirrel proof feeder should I choose?

The feeder you choose will depend on the species of birds you want to see in your garden. For example, caged feeders and weight activated feeders will inevitably keep out larger birds such as rooks and jackdaws, so might not be suitable if you want to provide for bigger species.


And, some types of squirrel proof cages work best with particular kinds of feed, so make sure you give some careful consideration to the types of bird you want to encourage into your garden. If in doubt, speak to a bird feeder supplier – a site such as is a good place to start - as they’ll be able to advise you which squirrel proof feeder is right for your garden.

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Like it or not, social media is here to stay. It’s a part of our daily lives and, as a result, it’s a part of the world that today’s young people are growing up in. Campaign body Internet Matters recently found that children as young as 11 post as many as 26 times a day on social media.

It’s impossible to swim against the tide when presented with those numbers. Yet, teachers needn’t even try to rail against this. If children react well to social media then why not embrace it, bring it into the classroom and encourage it to be used safely and productively?

Here are three examples of how that can work:

Sharing work socially

The great strength of social media is in the title: it’s inherently social and can foster a sense of community. This ability was in full effect when Anna Divinsky created a ‘massive online course’ (MOOC) for art. This course allowed students from across the globe to share their work and organically form their own communities and study groups. By using the common hashtag #artmooc students were not only able to share their own work with a wider community, but were also able to see work produced by others in their age group. This not only built a community but helped to inspire students to improve their work.

Staying up-to-date

Social media is one of the easiest ways to keep everyone up-to-date with what is going on in a busy school. Starting a Twitter account or Facebook page and encouraging students and parents to ‘follow’ and ‘like’ them helps to boost communication within the school. That way, parents can know what time their little one is due back from a school trip, when special themed days are on and what they need to do to prepare and allows them to see pictures and videos of their child’s work.

Social media can also help to keep teachers ‘up-to-date’ when it comes to the latest news from their industry. They can share lesson ideas with fellow teachers, follow links to blogs written by others in their job and find out about any job opportunities.

Using hashtags on Twitter such as #ukedchat and searching out sites such as EduStaff and coolcatteacher will ensure a teacher has their finger on the pulse and delivers the best lesson they can.

Take the classroom online

The rise of social media means that it is natural for children to use such platforms. By pulling in these forms of communication into an online classroom, you can ensure you are talking to children in a way that will capture their imagination.

Companies like Edmodo specialise in creating ‘social media style’ online classrooms. These have the ability to inspire and engage the next generation in their lessons as well as fostering the sort of collaborative learning that may become commonplace across different schools in a multi-academy trust, for example.


Whether it’s collaborating and working with others, staying up to date (as student or teachers) or learning ‘socially’ there are great benefits to be had from embracing the social media revolution.



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For those who love to craft, the right tools are essential for completing a job quickly, easily and to a high standard. But what tools are ‘must haves’ that require a special place in your craft kit and you know you will need for those regular crafting jobs? Here are six to get you started:


High quality scissors

Scissors should be in every crafter’s arsenal; they will more than likely be used for every project you ever undertake. Choose the non stick variety so they don’t get jammed cutting fabric one day and duct tape the next.


Strong pliers

These will come in handy for so many projects, from picking up small gems for a piece of jewellery you’re working on to bending wire, they should definitely be in your tool kit.


Craft punches

For those making cards or paper crafts, punches are essential and allow you to create beautiful, intricate cut out designs with ease. Simply pick up a basic punch and then swap out the designs depending on what you’re creating. You’ll discover seasonal designs, generic floral and shape designs as well as being able to commission custom designs. Check out Home Crafts, where you’ll find a huge range of craft punches to choose from.


Measuring tape  

Many crafts require measuring lengths of fabric, strips of paper or ensuring patterns are perfect before cutting begins. This is why a small measuring tape is an essential tool in your craft supplies box and you’ll discover you need it often. Alternatively a long rule should also do the trick if you are working on smaller projects.


Hot glue gun

How did we ever cope before hot glue guns became available to the masses? These handy tools are great for sticking stones to jewellery pendants (or even making the pendants themselves as this tutorial shows), paper to cards and for securing tricky elements of a model in place. You can easily find refills online or in your local craft shop to stock up on if you’re undertaking a big project and there are numerous glues for various jobs so you should never run out of sticking power.


Craft blade and mat

Besides scissors you’re going to need a super sharp craft knife and a thick mat to cut on. Choose a mat with grid lines for precise measurements and to ensure you get perfectly straight lines every single time.


When it comes to crafting, the tools you use can make all the difference between a great project and a mediocre one!


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Are you putting off moving house due to the huge amount of stress it is bound to cause? Despite the fact we do it an average of eight times during our life, it is one of the most stressful things we can undertake.


Research by Money Supermarket discovered that 86% of recent movers believed the process was stressful and almost half (46%) felt they weren’t in control. It is considered more stressful than bankruptcy, divorce and even the death of a loved-one. The comparison site found that this major life event impacts on people’s health, wealth, relationships and careers.     


However, with that being said, there are ways to guarantee your move is stress-free. Take a look at these five tips, and you might find yourself ringing the estate agent to organise the quick sale of your home. And if you are looking for a handy checklist that covers everything from essentials to necessities plus a few fun upgrades to help you make the most of your new home.


1. Organise Storage

The biggest task on moving day is getting that house full of belongings to your new home. Why not organise a storage unit, like these at Ready Steady - then the items you don’t need right away can be kept here, enabling you to do it in stages? This also provides you with a back up plan if anything should go wrong (fingers crossed it doesn’t) with the removal company on the day or you discover at the last minute your favourite sofa won’t fit through the front door.


2. Start packing early

The research by Money Supermarket also discovered 71% of people believe packing up belongings in their home is one of the most stressful parts of moving house. This is why you need to start packing early! The earlier you start, the longer you have to sort through your belongings and get rid of anything you don’t need because there is no point wasting time moving these items.


Start boxing up the items you use the least and work down to the essentials. Make sure you label the boxes with what room they are for and the contents. This may make the packing process longer, but it will make the unpacking process much easier.   


3. Save and budget

Two-fifths (39%) of recent movers said the cost was more than they anticipated and spent, on average, £5000 more than they had expected to. To foot these costs, movers had to dip into savings, put it on a credit card or rely on their parents. Not having enough money can be incredibly stressful, especially when it is such huge amounts you can’t avoid.


So, for a stress-free move ensure you have plenty put aside for it – create a spreadsheet of costs and make sure you budget. It is better to spend less than you think and then have extra pennies to spend on furniture for your new home, than to not have enough. 


4. Create a ‘to do’ list

There is so much to do when you are moving home, that even the most important tasks, such as organising a removal van, can get forgotten. Create a ‘to do’ list of everything that you need to do in the order that it needs doing. Then you can tick it off as you go and ensure there are no unpleasant surprises on moving day.


5. Prepare a ‘Moving Day Survival Kit’

Whilst you are packing, prepare a separate box that will be your ‘survival kit’ on moving day. This will hold all the essentials you will need as you leave your old house and enter your new one – the kettle, for example. The last thing you want is to be desperately searching through the boxed up contents of your home when you are gasping for a cup of tea!



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Decisions, decisions. How do you actually take the plunge and make a decision on the career you want to pursue? It’s a daunting choice but it’s one that we all face – from fresh-faced school leavers and graduates to world-weary employees looking to change course.


Many of us have passions, hobbies and interests that we’d love to follow, but have no idea how to get a job from them. The trick to getting your career choice right is in choosing something you have a flair and passion for and then working out which job will welcome those skills. Here’s our guide to four interesting careers, and what to do to get a foot in the door…


Airline pilot: This is one of those aspirational careers that attracts more than its fair share of prestige. As Oxford Royale highlights, you don’t have to have a degree for this as you can go straight into an airline training school. There is a lot involved in this – with exams and practical tests - so it is best to throw yourself into the training as early as possible. You’ll basically be working towards an Airline Transport Pilot’s License (ATPL), followed by further, more specific training that is sometimes sponsored by an airline. The salaries – and job satisfaction – should be worth the effort.


Industrial design: This is a career that is the perfect fusion of creative and practical. Taking an eye for artistic design and putting it to a use in the world of engineering, this is about thinking big – from dreaming up industrial structures to deciding on the look of planes and trains. If you’ve always been creative then this is a way of graduating from paints and artistic materials from a craft shop and into an Airblast AFC blast room. Chances are you will need a degree to break into this, but you’ll probably need more to get your foot in the door of the best companies. Build a portfolio of work on your own website to showcase your talents and search out internships to give you the chance to impress employers.


Journalist: While the way we consume our news and media output has changed rapidly over the last few years, there is still a call for people to make sense of the world in journalist roles. Traditionally journalists would take a degree – often in a different academic sphere – and then work towards a job on a local newspaper with a view to rising through the ranks. That avenue still exists, but journalists these days need to be able to cater for the digitally-focussed modern reader. Run a blog, contribute copy where you can and take up a volunteer stint at a news organisation to add experience to your qualifications to get onto this career ladder.


Personal trainer: Is fitness ‘your thing’? Do you have a passion for the gym and would prefer not to drag yourself away to the office? Becoming a personal trainer could be a great way to combine your hobby with a paid position. But, as with any attempt to make money from a hobby, you have to take this seriously to succeed. You need to build on your specialist knowledge with the right certifications, training and insurance to be able to deliver results for others. After this it’s all about word of mouth. Run classes and sessions, build up a bank of clients and spread the word. It’ll take as much dedication out of the gym as within but it can bring success.


The above four careers are all very different but one thread runs throughout: if you are serious and work hard enough then your talents can be put to use in a career that you’ll cherish. With any career you need to find out what the entry requirements are and think long and hard about whether you can meet them – both in terms of talent and effort. If that’s the case, then your dream can be achieved and that daunting decision becomes an awful lot easier.



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We all have been in the situation where we are faced with a seemingly massive task that requires many steps and some effort to resolve. Perhaps it’s a pile of papers to sort through, maybe it’s a list of drawers to clean around the house or maybe it’s a project to design a flyer for your business. Whatever it is, looking at it in its entirety can be very daunting – and this can often lead to you delaying in even attempting to complete it as you anticipate it will need a lot of time, which you are pressed for in the best of circumstances! So in the end the pile persists, the to do list remains unchecked and the project is a nonstarter– and all the time you are filled with a looming sense of burden in your mind till it can get done.

I have been there a few times but as a lover of “Getting Things Done, I’m always open to trying approaches to conquering the to do list. Recently I was inspired to try a new approach to attacking a burdensome task that had been on my to do list for a long time. It worked so well that I would love to share it with you too!

 I had a task to do that was not something difficult – I needed to sort through a collection of items that had accumulated on my dresser over some time. It was a box consisting of a broken bracelet, a lone earring, perhaps a broken clasp that needed fixing- that kind of stuff. I found it really challenging to find the time -and energy, to just knuckle down and sort through it all and each time I laid eyes on the box, I felt a sense of dread and annoyance which wasn’t pleasant- and I knew wasn’t healthy for me either!

So I tried a newly inspired “One-A-Day approach”. Here are my findings:

Old approach: Wait for a day where I could commit two hours to sitting down and sorting through the box.

Result: Weeks went by, and I wasn’t able to find the time to tackle the task.

New One-A-Day approach: Break the task down into steps (in this case divide the box into 10 items that needed sorting/packing away) and do just one thing a day in that task. For me, that meant putting away just one thing from my box away a day. No more, and no less.

Result: I enjoyed having a much smaller task to focus on a day. Putting away one thing meant only committing five minutes in my day, which was much more manageable. After ten days, my box was empty and my task was completed! And each day seeing the pile getting smaller was a great mental boost.

 So whilst this took ten days to finally complete, at least it finally did get completed! Perhaps at the outset ideally I wouldn’t have wanted to wait ten days to do the job, but in reality if I waited to get it all done in one day I would have waited way more than ten days!

I now do this for anything I have to complete – like watching a series of clips from a recorded conference or talk, cleaning my study desk, or studying material for a course – it can be applied to anything!

All the best with trying the One-A-Day Approach and do let me know how you get on.



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Image: Happy and pretty 

Your garden offers you the chance to really make your mark on your home, it’s the perfect space to test out your DIY skills and in turn create a beautiful outdoor space perfect for spring (that should hopefully be arriving soon!) However, if you’ve been wondering where to start here are a few ideas that you can try out this month:


Start with your bulbs

If you’re a savvy gardener, you’ll have planted those daffodils and tulips in your raised border between September and November and are now reaping the rewards as you watch them bloom day by day. However, if you didn’t get round to planting spring bulbs in autumn you can pick these plants up ready to go from your local garden centre or an online supplier such as Bakker Spalding Garden Co


Make a beautiful outdoor space by ensuring these spring flowers are in your garden and creating a fun display of colour that should last for a few weeks. Then you can get started planting those summer bulbs – here’s some help when it comes to what to plant and how; preparation is key!


Spruce up furniture

If your garden furniture is looking a little tired you could simply swap it for a new set or you could grab a paintbrush and get busy with some fun coloured paints. Turn that bench from a boring brown to a bold blue, or that deckchair could be more appealing with a spritz of bright postbox red spray paint.


Install a water feature

Remember Ground Force? And how (braless) Charlie Dimmock would always have to install a water feature in any garden the team were renovating that day? You should do the same. The soft sound of running water and a pretty feature will definitely enhance your outdoor space for spring, provide an important water resource for local wildlife and still look great once summer rolls round.


Take some landscaping inspiration

Check out last year’s RHS Chelsea Garden show entries for inspiration when it comes to setting out that border bedding or where to put the pond. The Homebase garden is a great example of how you can create a garden anyway, even in a dominantly urban space, while Morgan Stanley and Chris Beardshaw’s ‘Healthy Cities’ garden was all about creating a sense of community, with vibrant plants working in harmony with one another and structured hedges creating a clear path for people to take to enjoy the beauty of the garden.

While your motives behind doing some DIY in your outdoor space might not be as artificial perhaps as those behind these gardens, they can still serve as great inspiration.

When creating a beautiful outdoor space think about what you will use it for - dedicate sections of your garden to stunning plantlife, helping wildlife and for socialising – and if you don’t shy away from colour and definitely get your hands dirty you should have no trouble creating a stunning space to enjoy this spring.

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Being a mother of two tiddlers myself, G (3) and B (1.5) I know how hard it is to occupy the little people on a rainy afternoon and how it is harder still to occupy them with something that doesn’t involve Mr Tumble or the delectable Mr Bloom and actually has some meaning (educational value -haha).

In addition to being Mummy to G and B, my other ‘day job’ is teaching secondary school Art.  Every September I am excited by how much the enthusiastic little eleven year olds that come in to the first year LOVE Art and think it will be the MOST fun lesson (well most of them think that anyway)! But I am often a little disappointed by the knowledge they have gained of ‘Contemporary Art’.  They are great at using bright colours, painting really fast, scrunching tissue paper into little round balls and listing the Impressionsists.

Having spent another enjoyable hour watching G and B splatting paint at the kitchen table, merging the three primary colours together and smearing the resulting sludgy brown through their hair… I came to the conclusion that our Afternoon Art Activities needed to be more structured and have a purpose!

Being married to an Art Teacher as well as being one myself has meant that as a family we have never been shy of taking G and B to galleries.  G was particularly taken by the Lichentenstein and recent Matisse Cut-Outs.  I was reminded of my teaching practice reading list…. ‘Seeing comes before words’…  So in a gallery I talk to G and B about shapes, forms, composition, narrative but at home let them splash paint for no reason at bland sugar paper.  I wouldn’t let my eleven year old pupils get away with such unplanned work so what has made me think it is OK for G and B (apart from my need to have five minutes to boil the kettle and slurp some tea) at the their most sponge like time of life?!?

I have decided to take my tiddlers on an Art journey… Being introduced to artists work and creating ‘something’ themselves in their style. We don’t have inexhaustible art supplies or a big budget so most materials will be found or recycled…. Some activities will be 10 minutes long, some a whole afternoon but all will be achievable in your kitchen (or garden if you prefer creativity to happen outside) and all will be tested before I post them so I can encounter the pit falls and you and your toddlers can produce your master pieces (hopefully) problem free!

Follow us on Twitter @Tiddlerart  on Facebook: Tiddlersartstudio or on the blog!

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As with so many safety-related issues, reducing risk often means taking common-sense action preemptively. Installing a 360-degree camera or anti-collision alarm from a specialist supplier such as Brigade Electronics, for instance. Or perhaps something more obvious - and cheaper - like slowing down on the road. However you choose to do it, you’ll cut the chance of coming to harm in your vehicle and maybe even save money on your motor insurance along the way.


Here’s where to start.


Reduce your speed 

Not only will driving within the speed limit reduce the chance of an accident occurring by giving you and other road users more time to react to situations as they unfold, it also lessens the impact of one should the worst happen. You’re twice as likely to die if you’re hit by a vehicle travelling at 35mph as at 30mph. Across Europe, 12,000 lives and 180,000 injuries could be prevented every year by sticking to the speed limit and wearing seatbelts, according to insurer Allianz.


One new idea currently being tested by a number of car manufacturers is Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA). The system registers the speed limit of the road you are travelling on and uses audio and visual alerts to let you know when you breach it.


Wear your seatbelt

It shouldn’t even need highlighting, given that it’s a legal requirement in the UK, but the use of a seatbelt greatly increases the chance of survival in a car crash. In fact, you’re twice as likely to survive one now than you would have been 30 years ago, thanks in part to seatbelts becoming mandatory. According to the World Health Organisation, seatbelt use reduces the risk of death among front seat passengers by 40 to 65 per cent.


Driver assistance aids

As well as ISA systems, a multitude of innovations are helping to make driving safer than ever. Motion sensors, driver health sensors and even alcohol detectors are beginning to make their way into new cars. Cars that can communicate with each other are on the way too. As well as cutting accidents, this could have a huge impact on congestion.


Self-driving cars

Autonomous vehicles take much of the technology that exists today and go several steps further, removing the need for human hands on the wheel. And since human error is a factor in the vast majority of road accidents, that means less opportunity for us to miss a vital indication or carry too much speed into a bend.


Increase visibility

Whether it’s a glancing blow from a lampost or a serious collision with another vehicle, a lack of visibility follows on from human error as a major cause of accidents. While you can’t account for roads that are poorly lit, you can make sure you have the appropriate lights on in dark or foggy conditions, and you can plan your trip so that you stick to major, better-lit roads as much as possible.


If you prefer two wheels to four, you can ensure others see you. Reflective clothing, running lights, lamps and reflectors can all help other road users see you, especially on winter nights. 

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When it comes to dressing for a winter wedding there are a few key things to keep in mind before you hand your debit card over to the cashier or type your digits into the form online. Here’s the lowdown on dresses for a winter wedding, that should keep you looking stylish but also ensure you aren’t a shivering mess.


Let’s start with a coat and go from there. It’s winter, so a strapless dress that falls just above your knees isn’t going to cut it when it comes to photos outside, which is why it’s a very good idea to choose a gorgeous coat first, to wear over your wedding attire.


A structured duster coat, a belted mac with a fur collar or a camel coat are all great options and will look smart and stylish in the photos with your heels and ankles on show (be careful what coat you choose if you know you want to wear a long length dress. Throw your coat casually over your shoulders for a really chic look - if it’s not too nippy outside.


When it comes to the dress itself, a longer sleeve is a good idea and can be incorporated via lace or sheer material, alternatively a stretchy, form fitting wrap dress with a long sleeve is a flattering look and perfect for exuding glamour at the reception later (plus it can easily be worn again for that work Christmas party or posh meal out.)


If the winter wedding is a festive occasion you can’t go wrong with a vibrant red dress or an emerald green to tie in with the Christmassy theme. Dresses featuring a gorgeous leg veil and modest long sleeved bodices are popular now for those of us who like to show a little leg but enjoy a little cover up. Something like this dress Chloe Moretz wore to the premiere of The Equalizer would work well for a winter wedding. It’s the perfect combination of sophisticated glamour, with a little veil for those exposed limbs.


When you think of winter, what weather type first comes to mind (okay, we know you live in the UK so probably immediately think of wet, windy days stuck inside but let’s use our imaginations)? It's snow, of course! And what better way to tie in the winter theme than with an outfit featuring plenty of shimmering glitter. Either go for a full-on sequined design or opt for subtle diamante details on an elegant maxi dress and finish off with a faux fur stole or shrug.


Alternatively, throw out the dress altogether and rock a structured jumpsuit or even a co-ord. You can pick these up in classic black designs or a bold print; we love this belted, off the shoulder jumpsuit from Warehouse, which exudes effortless glamour and would look amazing with a colour popping clutch and heels.


When it comes to winter wedding style, you can’t go wrong. Start with the outerwear first and work in and remember to leave anything white in the wardrobe! 

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Most people spend at least 40 hours a week or more at their place of work.
The chances are that if you work from your house, you’ll probably spend even longer in your home office. It’s important not to create an office that’s purely functional -  after all, you’re your own boss, no one’s going to moan about flowers, music or other enhancements so make your office a place of beauty as well as function.


Furniture first

A comfortable office chair is important, especially if your work entails hours at a computer. Make sure that the chair is the right height, well upholstered and castors from Tente will help you glide from one part of the room to another, if necessary. Your desk should be able to accommodate your computer, some pens and a notebook and must be at the right height. This doesn’t mean that it has to look dull. You can always renovate this piece of furniture with a coat of paint so it blends in with the rest of your colour scheme.


Colour and design

When painting your home office you don’t have to stick to stark white, or monotonous magnolia. Select a colour that you find relaxing, perhaps paint the ceiling in a light green or blue to reduce your stress levels. Incorporate some art into your office. Having some paintings above your desk, or photographs that you love will always add a personal touch and improve the look of the room in general. The Fresh Home Ideas blog has some innovative ideas that you might want to incorporate.


Important essentials

Some people can work against a backdrop of music or radio; others find the additional sounds too distracting. If you do work from home you’ll also have to learn to relax and take breaks in between keeping up with your emails and carrying out your profession. A good sound system with all of your favourite downloaded tunes as well as some effective speakers might be a great idea to help you relax. Music played through speakers does sound better than through earphones.


Encouraging creativity

If you love flowers and plants, then introduce these to your office. Alternatively you could keep a window box on your windowsill. The flowers will grow as the seasons change and will add some additional colour to your surroundings, watering them and nurturing them will act as a displacement activity when the ideas aren’t flowing.

The Guardian suggests that your home office should be practical as well as comfortable, and that any personal accessories that will make it easier for you to work are to be encouraged.


Comfort is important

Whether you have a design business, work as a freelance writer or carry out any other job from home, the addition of a comfortable chair for relaxation in your office is important. A chaise lounge is ideal in a perfect world for this purpose but most people don’t live in a perfect world. A well-upholstered armchair covered in your favourite fabric will fit the bill perfectly and will provide an ideal space to catch up on some reading, plan your work or organise your schedule.


Working from home can be difficult, but as long as you have stamped your identity on your office, then it might be a little easier to get started every day!


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If you are a keen gardener, the icy temperatures, frost and potential snow of the winter months doesn’t have to prevent you from gardening.


You may not want to tackle the elements to be outside and there is very little you could do out there anyway - however, what you can do is continue gardening from the comfort and warmth of your house!


Pick up a few pots and seeds, then start growing these seven plants indoors this winter, ready to transfer to your garden (if you wish) when the weather improves:


1. Tomatoes


Tomatoes are perfect to grow indoors this winter and will be delicious when added to your dinner plate.


You can place your tomato seeds on the windowsill in a 6-inch pot filled with good potting soil – and add fertilizer and plant stakes as they start to grow.  


2. Polyanthus


These are easy to grow and come in a variety of colours. They are supposed to be planted in winter bedding, but you will get the flower for a lot longer inside.


Polyanthus like high humidity, so ideally you need a coloured glass container and cover the base with a bed of pebbles in water, then your pot can be placed on top. Ensure you mist-spray the leaves to maintain humidity and water frequently.


Polyanthus need bright but indirect light – a sunny, south-facing window ledge with daytime temperatures is ideal.


3. Cyclamen


The small-flowered varieties of cyclamen are ideal for the winter months. They like bright, indirect light but don’t like it too hot – so it is best not to keep them in the kitchen or by a radiator.


4. Spring Bulbs


You can bring a bit of colour to the cold and dreary winter months by forcing spring bulbs to bloom inside. You can pick up spring bulbs from You Garden – the most common for winter include; Crocus, Daffodils, and Tulips. Once you have your chosen bulbs the process of forcing the bulbs will need careful thought and timing – the perfect job for the keen gardener!


5. Herbs


Herbs are perfect to plant inside during the winter and are ideal to add to your cooking! Place them on a windowsill, where the light will keep them happy and healthy until you can plant them in the garden again. The perfect herbs for this include; basil, bay, chervil, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme.


6. Carrots


There are plenty of vegetables you can grow inside during winter, which can be mixed with the tomatoes on your dinner plate. The seeds can be planted in a pot or window box that is at least a foot and a half wide and placed on the windowsill or near to a window. Plant the seeds one inch apart in rows that are six inches apart from each other. Keep them well watered and they should start sprouting within two weeks.


7. Begonias

If you already have begonias in your garden they need to be brought inside before the frost or they may be lost for good. Once inside, with a little light and space, they can continue to be grown over the winter months. They will need to be kept moist, fertilized, and perhaps use a pebble tray for extra humidity. Be aware that they may need some time to adjust to being moved indoors – and this may mean dropping and re-growing some or all of its leaves.




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