As reported in the media a few days ago, a radical shake up at the BBC could see CBBC and CBeebies channels, amongst others, facing the axe.
Digital Spy reports "A kid-friendly version of BBC iPlayer called iPlay is among the new proposals, along with a music discovery service based on Playlister.
BBC Director General Tony Hall describes iPlay as a "single, online front-door for children to the wealth of the whole BBC and our trusted partners".
The service will offer a broader range of content than CBeebies and CBBC, with programming geared towards pre-schoolers and young adolescents alike.
Hall has promised that all content will be free of commercial elements and their "pester-power", a term he uses to describe kids being compelled to beg their parents for official mechanise they've seen on screen." We'd be very interested to hear your views on development. If you feel passionately about saving these channels then you may wish to sign this petition at change.org, Save the CBeebies TV Channel!
Or you may think that the app based portal for kids to use on an tablet or similar is the best way forward now.
Whatever your views, please do comment below and let's see if we can get a discussion going about this.
Your pet is part of the family, so when you go on holiday the last thing you want to do is leave them behind. Not only will kennels add to the cost of your holiday, no one really wants to watch those puppy dog eyes looking up at them as they leave their beloved pooch in a cage while they jet off to enjoy some sun, sea and sand.
So, rather than leaving your pet to pine for you, take them with you and have a whole new holiday experience that both you and the kids will enjoy! Whether that holiday is a staycation in a country cottage or a beachfront villa in the sun, there are plenty of options open to you and your pet!
More Britons are holidaying at home than ever before and is it any surprise when the UK has so much to offer? Whether you choose the palm tree lined golden sandy beaches of Cornwall, the enchanting woodland of the New Forest, or the changing scenery of our waterways, there is a wealth of dog-friendly accommodation and attractions across the country.
There are plenty of attractions and hotels that welcome pets in Scotland. Explore ancient forests, shaded glens, award-winning beaches and discover rich history, all with your dog in tow!
A cottage break with your pooch in Wales will provide you with plenty of beautiful walks, from costal paths to countryside. With an abundance of pet-friendly accommodation you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to stay!
Ireland is a truly dog-friendly destination and there is plenty of pet-friendly accommodation to choose from. From five star hotels rolling out the red carpet, to a large selection of pet-friendly cottages, situated both deep in the countryside and on the coast near to dog-friendly beaches.
Pets can move far more freely across borders than they used to be able to, as long as they have a passport and up-to-date vaccinations. France is an ideal location, as it offers all you could want from a summer break within easy travel distance from your home.
Another sunny hotspot that can be easily reached with your pooch, is Spain. Although dogs are banned from many Costa del Sol beaches, there are several that welcome man’s best friend so your pet will be able to enjoy the sand between his paws.
Entertain your four-legged friend and two-legged offspring with a holiday in Greece - although you may want to avoid going in the height as summer, as the conditions could make it an uncomfortable experience for your pet. Temperatures in the spring will be far lower, and the air-conditioned accommodation and a dip in the sea will keep them extra cool.
Although not actually a member of the EU, Switzerland has adopted the same rules and regulations regarding pets crossing the border. Here your dog can travel on public transport (for free if they are small enough) and join you for your evening meal at most restaurants!
If you don’t have a dog, but after reading this would love one to make your holiday extra special, then take a look at the puppies for sale from Freeads.But remember, a dog is for life not just for a holiday!
Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess and this dream can usually be traced back to the first time that they ever laid their eyes on a Disney princess. Who doesn’t want a handsome prince to search night and day for the girl whose foot can fit into a beautiful glass slipper? If your kid’s birthday is around the corner or perhaps they themselves want to make a homemade birthday card for a sibling or a friend, there is no reason why you can’t make their dream come true and create the perfect Disney princess birthday card.
Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess and this dream can usually be traced back to the first time that they ever laid their eyes on a Disney princess. Who doesn’t want a handsome prince to search night and day for the girl whose foot can fit into a beautiful glass slipper? If your kid’s birthday is around the corner or perhaps they themselves want to make a homemade birthday card for a sibling or a friend, there is no reason why you can’t make their dream come true and create the perfect Disney princess birthday card.
The first step towards making the perfect birthday card, no matter what the theme, is to gather all of your essential card-making tools. Home Crafts houses all the essentials you can think of, including coloured card, glue, pens, ink, paints, stickers and lots more. Once you have all of these creative wonder workers in one place, you can start planning the design of your birthday card. You may want to get your hands on some orange felt to create a giant pumpkin to replicate Cinderella’s pumpkin coach. According to Ranker the actual Cinderella movie cost almost £3,000,000 to create, it became a huge success and remains so today, which is why so many young girls would adore a Cinderella themed birthday card.
Choose a Princess
There are many different Disney princesses to choose from, including Elsa, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel and Belle etc. If the birthday girl has a favourite princess then make sure to incorporate this into the card. For example, if she adores Frozen like so many kids do, it may be a good idea to choose a Frozen based theme that includes characters from the movie such as Elsa, Anna, Sven and Olaf etc. Elsa is quite an easy princess to replicate because of her distinguishing look. You can easily make your own version of her dress for your birthday card by either drawing it out yourself and painting it with the appropriate colours, or you could spruce it up a notch and add glitter to give the dress that glowing ‘Elsa dress’ effect.
You can transform your own little girl into a Disney princess by simply printing out the original image of her favourite princess or an image of a gorgeous dress design and sticking it onto the cover of the card. You can then add a picture of your daughters face, making it seem as though she is a real life Disney princess. You can make the experience even more real for her by throwing her a Disney princess themed birthday party, complete with glitter cupcakes and sparkling ball gowns. If you have drawn your own image onto the front of the card and want to make the dress seem as real as possible, Martha Stewart suggests using 3-D fabric paint, which will give texture and life to the front of your card.
It’s something we don’t even think about as adults, but telling the time is a tricky concept for children to master. It’s hard enough to kids to start comprehending what the numbers on a digital watch actually mean - but ask them to look at an analogue clock and it’s a whole new world of confusion. One means five? Six is 30? Eleven is five-to?
As soon as your children get a good grasp of numbers, you might want to think about teaching them about time. A good way to help them understand the concept is to buy them their first watch (let them choose their own from a retailer such as Tic Watches) and then talk about the different routines that occur at particular times throughout the day, such as heading off to school, lunchtime and getting ready for bed.
You could also try the following:
●Teach your kids about the passage of time by setting them tasks to complete within a certain period. Get an egg timer or a stopwatch - or any timer that allows them to see time passing - and ask them to see if they can complete a jigsaw or wordsearch puzzle within, say, five minutes.
●Build up an association between time and events. This will help your child see that many things happen according to what time it is, and that it’s helpful to look at a clock to judge when something might be about to happen. It’ll help them to start with events that occur on the hour so that they can recognise the ‘o’clocks’, and with each one, the position of the hour and minute hands.
●A large analogue clock with the minutes between each number clearly marked will help them understand how a clock face is split up into hours and minutes.
●Explain that the short hand tells the hour, while the long hand shows minutes past the hour. Avoid clocks with a seconds hand, as this might be confusing to begin with.
●This is where things might start to get confusing. Explain that there are 60 minutes in an hour and count up to 60 in fives: five-past, 10-past, 15-past (explaining that this is ‘quarter-past’) and so on. Don’t switch to ‘25-to’ and so on until this foundation has been established. When you get to 60, and the minute hand lands on 12, point out that the hour hand moves onto the next number.
●Next you can move onto practising various times - this is half-past, this is quarter-past. As you go about your day together, continue to point out things happening at certain times. ‘The bus leaves at 20 past three’, ‘the shop closes at five o’clock’, and point out the time on their own watch.
Once your child has stopped puzzling over the basics, you can reinforce things occurring at particular times. You can say, ‘It’s eight o’clock, time to brush your teeth’ or you can switch it so that you say, ‘It’s eight o’clock - what happens now?’ or ‘When do you brush your teeth?’
It’s a real milestone for a child to learn to tell the time, and you’ll both get a real sense of achievement from it.
Gardening is a great way of encouraging your children to spend time outside the house (away from the lure of the TV or iPad) and get fit and healthy – because all that digging can be hard work!
But how do you convince your little one that gardening is fun? After all, the seeds they plant aren’t going to shoot out immediately for them to enjoy!
1. Kit them out
Start off by picking them up a small, kids gardening set featuring a little spade, trowel and gloves, you could also pick them up a small watering can. Having their own tools will make them feel special while they’re out there in the dirt beside you. Choose a set with their favourite character featured on it or in a colour they like.
2. Don’t worry about the dirt
Gardening is messy and a parent who gets upset, because their child is covered in mud, is not going to make the experience an enjoyable one for kids. Let them pick up the dirt with their hands, rub it on their clothes and just get messy.
3. Choose exciting flowers
Sure you need to get those seeds in the ground but your children won’t be interested in them until they flower. Mix up your gardening plans and let them pick out some bright, partially grown plants to pop in the ground; marigolds, pansies and daisies are great for kids.
4. For wet days
If your child can’t go outside, or if you want to garden on a wet and windy day, then you can still plant while inside the house. Simply pick up some pots, pop a wipeable tablecloth on the table and get your kids transferring plants into bigger pots, to be placed around the house.
Amaryllis is a firm favourite for children, who enjoy their tropical appearance and multiple colours, you can purchase planters and full-grown plants from Bakker
5. Inspire them with insects
Gardening isn’t of course just about planting seeds, there’s so much more to see in your back yard and insects are a great way of getting your kids interested in the great outdoors.
Spend some time finding insects in the garden to carefully capture, in see through tubs, that you can then study with magnifying glasses and draw together. Ladybirds, worms, crickets, butterflies and woodlice are great insects to find under rocks, on plants and in soil.
6. Get them growing their own
Gardening and eating healthy go hand in hand and getting your kids to help you grow their very own fruit and veg should also encourage them to enjoy healthier snacks.
Strawberries, tomatoes and peas are so quick and easy to grow and you can head outside every week to check how their plants are doing and enjoy watching them get excited when they start to produce fruit.
Children will always be enthusiastic about gardening if they feel involved but you can also set them little tasks to complete themselves while you get on with a bigger job alongside them. Encourage them to get messy, show them lots of new things, praise them and let them feel like they’re contributing to your outdoor space.
Safety, reliability and efficiency are the key considerations for any new parent when it comes to buying a car to transport their new family in. Where once these would be features you’d get only with a larger vehicle, canny design and clever tech has meant that much smaller cars are now more viable. And given today’s busy roads and high fuel prices, a small car makes perfect sense.
Below are five small cars perfect for shuttling around a brand new family, for even more options, check this site.
Still going strong after more than three decades, Ford’s mighty mini, the Fiesta, continues to be hugely popular. With sharp styling, tidy handling and built-in technology belying its small size, it’s easy to see why. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine allows for plenty of zip in tight city spaces, and its latest redesign has eked out even more boot space – a 295-litre capacity means plenty of room for pushchairs.
Honda’s legendary reliability comes to the fore in the Honda Jazz. It offers such peace of mind that it will hold its price well – unusual in a super-mini – when it comes to trade-in time. It’s now only available as a five-door option, which, combined with a surprising amount of interior space, means that it’s incredibly accessible despite its diminutive stature.
Another Ford effort, the B-Max has a couple of clever tricks up its sleeve to make it a very attractive option for new parents. First, the absence of a central B pillar means there’s nothing to obstruct lifting a baby into and out of the car. And the slick sliding rear doors makes access easy even in the tightest parking spots. Just like the Fiesta, the B-Max looks great, packs the feature list, feels comfortable inside and handles well.
One of the best small options around, the Up scores big on some of the things you’d expect little cars to fall down on. Its cleverly designed interior feels like the inside of Mary Poppins’ handbag compared to its external size. And while it’s ideally suited to nipping about the city, it’s no slouch on country roads either. Add in Volkswagen’s renowned build quality and competitive pricing and the Up is hard to ignore.
The latest version of the Panda may be something of an acquired taste given its high roof and tall, straight-up stance. But what it lacks in visual cool it makes up for in great visibility while driving and a roomy, airy-seeming interior with lots of handy storage space. Its big draw is its fuel economy. You’ll get just over 67mpg from the TwinAir petrol engine – and its low CO2 emissions make it exempt from road tax. That changes should you plump for the four-wheel-drive model, but the boost to handling inside and out of the city makes up for that.
Need more tips? Which.co.uk has some great advice on choosing a family car, while CarBuyer.co.uk has listed some alternatives here.
One of the most important things you should do to keep you and your family safe is to ensure your home is secure and protected. There are many ways to carry this out using either high-tech security, or by just having good locks and smoke alarms.
Securing your home
If you are all away from home for long periods at a time it will be worth investing in one of the many grilles or shutters as supplied by Security Direct. These can be fitted internally or externally and are very affective at keeping out unwanted guests. Fitting one of the many types of roller shutters can also protect the garage. Specialist remote-controlled electronic doors on your garage will not only protect your car, but will also deter burglars.
Pretend you’re the burglar
One way to start your security DIY is to approach your house as if you were going to break in. This may be difficult for some people, but if you follow an article in the Mirror online; you’ll see that it will give you an idea of what type of jobs you’ll need to carry out. Looking for any old unsecured side doors or windows and checking that any perimeter fencing is secure and sound should be done first. These areas are what someone would look for if trying to enter your home. Think like a thief and you’ll see where your home security needs enhancing.
Fitting an alarm and lighting
You might walk down the street and see that lots of houses have burglar alarms fitted, but do you ever wonder how many actually work? You can now buy DIY alarm systems from most large stores, and fitting them has been made much easier since the advent of the mobile phone and the internet. Once the alarm is fitted you can set it so that if there is an incident you will be alerted straight away via your mobile phone or laptop. Another good type of protection is a motion sensitive lighting system. These lights will automatically come on if someone or something moves outside your house.
Once you have secured the doors and windows on your house the next step is to make sure you and your family are safe inside the building. An article in the Daily Mail online explains the advantages of using technology to monitor your surroundings. Every home should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to alert you to any problems you may have with your heating system, or a gas fire. You can’t smell carbon monoxide fumes so investing in one of these detectors is important. These gadgets can now be connected directly to your phone via a transmitter. You can fit them yourself.
Specialist locks and safety glass
Doors and windows are a vulnerable part of any home or business so fitting the correct locks can make all the difference. It is also a condition of your insurance that you have at least a five-lever mortise lock on each door as well as a deadlock. If you have glass doors or low windows and have young children you should either put bars across them or get strengthened glass.
Hearing is one of the most important of all our body’s senses. Just imagine a day when you can’t hear your friends, listen to the birds or even communicate effectively with the outside world. It’s important to learn how to improve your hearing health.
Regular tests are vital
If you want to get an expert opinion on the state of your hearing, even if you think that there’s nothing wrong with you, then regular hearing tests are essential. During the course of the test your examining specialist will be able to pick up any potential problems that you may experience as well as assess your ears’ general health.
Most people lose their hearing gradually, and a test will give you a precise measurement of the state of your hearing loss. The test will also help you learn how to look after your hearing in the future.
You are what you eat – well, maybe…
Scientists claim that improving your diet can help prevent hearing loss. A recent American study looking at the body’s absorption of omega 3 and vitamin D has showed that those who eat more oily fish, for example, tuna, sardines or salmon, had a ‘42% lower chance of facing age related hearing loss than non-fish eaters.’ These promising results are related to benefits of this type of food on the blood circulation to the ear.
Broccoli also can help your auditory health by increasing the supply of antioxidants to the brain. A healthy diet can help all aspects of your body’s health, so keep up with the banana, nuts and oranges and cut down on the grease and sugars.
Loud music will damage your ears
Anyone who has left a club or festival with the sounds of music still reverberating through their ears could be experiencing warning signs that you might have damaged your hearing. If this ‘ringing’ sound persists than you have definitely harmed your ears. An article on the BBC website, taken from data gathered by the World Health Organisation (WHO), suggests that ‘1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of permanently damaging their hearing by listening to too much too loudly.’
The report urges that people keep ‘the volume down, (and) limit the use of personal audio devices to less than an hour a day.’ Anyone who is planning to indulge themselves in a summer of festival music should take some party plugs to protect their ears.
Re-assess your lifestyle
If you work in a noisy environment, then your employer has a legal requirement to provide you with ear protectors. Always insist that your ears are protected at work. It’s not just those who work in industrial settings or on construction sites that need to be aware of potential ear damage. Even call centres or visiting a football pitch can cause hearing discomfort. The important thing is to not surround yourself with this degree of noise on a constant basis. After the football match, and the customary post match drinks, retreat to a calmer environment.
No one is suggesting that you can’t enjoy yourself, simply be aware that once you’ve lost your hearing, it’s gone forever.
Have you ever wondered why children tip their chairs forward onto the front legs. It is not always because they are being naughty, in fact it very rarely is. It is more likely to be that they are uncomfortable. They have recently developed their ‘grown-up’ back curves and we are asking them to sit in chairs that slope backwards and cause their lower backs to bend in the wrong direction. All they are doing when they sit on the front of their chairs and tip them forwards is trying to get into a more comfortable position that doesn’t stretch ligaments and put increased pressure on their discs and joints.
It is estimated that children spend 12,000 hours sitting at school and yet most chairs would be illegal in the office workplace. Add to that the propensity of most children to slouch and compounded on top of that the fact that they are going through some significant growth and you have a very significant ‘worse case scenario’ on your hands for the health of their backs in later life.
Recently research has placed a lot of focus on the effects of school bags on children’s backs, however more and more research is now focusing on the effect of prolonged sitting in children. Recent research published* has shown a significant link between sitting and upper and lower back pain in children and adolescents.
A few key elements were found to be critical in this link between back pain and sitting. These were: sitting duration, activities while sitting, dynamism and postural angles. It was found that that an increase in the time a child had to sit for as well as a lack of movement while sitting led to an increase in the incidence of back pain in children.
As a parent this raises a lot of concern with regard to your child’s health, but what can you do about it. Below are a few tips to help prevent the development of back problems for your child:
• Ensure a weekly clear out of your child’s bag takes place and remind your child to remove unnecessary books • Provide a backpack style school back and check that it is properly adjusted, as well as ensuring that your child wears the straps over both shoulders. The bottom of the bag should be resting in the curve of the lower back • Weigh the backpack regularly to ensure that it is within the safety weight range of 15% or less of your child’s body weight • Try and win the function versus fashion battle with your child’s school shoes • Lobby your child’s school to provide lockers • Encourage some form of exercise after school, whatever it may be, to prevent your child from moving straight from sitting at school to sitting at home
If your child is already suffering with pain, it may be worth while having a spinal check up to make sure that there is nothing more serious going on. Surrey Osteopathic Care specialises in the treatment of children, so you know that your child will be in safe and knowledgeable hands. Please visit www.surreyosteopathiccare.co.uk for more information
Moving house is an extremely exciting time, but can also be one of the most stressful times of your life. In fact, a poll has shown that it can be more stressful than bankruptcy, divorce or even bereavement.
When moving house there is so much to plan and organise that it is easy to forget even some of the most important details. Here are five things that can often get overlooked:
You will (hopefully) have booked a moving van, but have you thought of labeling boxes? It is so easy to just throw things into boxes in any old order for speed and ease but at the other end of the process you have no idea where anything is. A few minutes of writing instructions on the box, such as a brief description of what is inside and which room the items need to go in, can make a big difference when unpacking.
However, also remember to pack a separate box of things you need just before you move out and as soon as you move in. No one wants to be searching through a houseful of boxes to find the kettle when they are gasping for a cup of tea on moving day!
While most of your belongings may be coming with you to your new house, you might not be able to take everything straight away. Have you thought about where this will go? The best option is to organise storage, through a firm such as Kelly's Mobile Self Storage, which will pick it up from your current home, load your goods into storage pods and then store it safely until you would like it returned to your new address.
You will have already checked that all your furniture will fit in the doorway of your new home, but if you have miscalculated and find that when you get there you just can’t find any way of getting the sofa through the door, at least you know you have somewhere to store it.
Get your post re-directed
You may have told all your friends and family that you have a new address, but have you remembered to tell the important places such as your bank? Many people are moving home without telling their financial service provider their new address and as a result are putting themselves at risk of identity fraud. You may also want to inform any subscriptions you have; you don’t want your monthly gift box or magazine being delivered to your old address!
You probably feel as if you have constantly been asking questions since you decided to move house, but have you asked all of them? Use the outgoing tenants or homeowners while you can to find out answers that will make your life easier when you move in. This includes where the gas and electricity meters are (incidentally, it is important but easily forgotten to take down the readings at both your old house and new house on moving day!) Where is the stopcock? Where is the thermostat? Where are all the instructions for items such as the cooker, boiler and so on? All the way down to the smallest details such as what day are the bins collected.
Eat the contents of your freezer and then defrost it. If you leave it until moving day and open your freezer to find it is still packed full of food, this is not only a waste of money because you have nowhere to store it, but there also won’t be enough time for it to be defrosted. Whether it is yours or a landlord’s it is important to do this. If it is yours it must be dry so it doesn’t leak and damage your items during the move. If it is your landlord’s, you will have to turn it off as you leave and you can’t risk it creating a mess or damage in your absence.
If you are worried about forgetting anything in the whirlwind of moving house, write it down next to the date it needs doing and tick it off as you go!
The summer holidays are here, along with a gaping six weeks of ‘I’m bored’ and exasperated sighs from your children every five minutes while you attempt to keep them entertained and ban the iPad so they’ll actually go out into the garden and get some fresh air.
Sing along Frozen
Yes, yes, we know Frozen has been done to death now but your kids are still not over it. So, a Frozen sing along event is the perfect thing to do with your kids during the long summer break. Dress them up in some really affordable Frozen clothing and head down to an event near you to sing about making snowmen and letting things go. Check the website for details.
Price: £7 - £16
A fun experiment and game to play with kids is to take some sunflower seeds, give your children a pot and some soil and plant them. The game is to care for the seedlings and compete to see whose grows the tallest over the summer. If you only have one child you can be the competitor.
Price: £1.99 for seeds, 60p for plant pots, £3.99 for potting soil
Free tennis coaching session
If your kids loved Wimbledon this year you can sign them up for free coaching sessions with the Lawn Tennis Association. There are 360 events going on in August so book a place quick to take advantage!
Head to the cinema
Don’t recoil in horror yet as you think back on your last trip to the cinema and how much it cost. Lots of UK cinemas are offering discount tickets; Cineworld have a child ticket for £1.60 on Saturday and Sunday mornings offer while Vue cinema had £1.99 tickets for selected morning movies throughout the holidays.
Check your local cinema’s website to see what is on offer. Alternatively, you could opt for the Compare the Market 2for1 offer – your car/home/travel insurance is probably due soon, right?
Price: £1.60 - £2.50
Get a free craft project box
Toucan Box is a subscription box that sends children an amazing project to complete every two weeks to a month - and you can get your first box for free! Use the code 59NTR32 to receive your free surprise box and set up an account. The boxes usually cost £3.95 plus 98p postage but get in there quickly with this deal because there are a limited number of boxes available (8,000 in total)!
Visit a London Show
Kids Week has teamed up with theatre companies in London to offer free child showings for certain shows. The Gruffalo, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the Matilda are all available to book for free, for children under 16.
So what are you waiting for? Get that diary out, get planning and never hear the words ‘I’m bored!’ until that last week of the holiday when you’ve really run out of ideas.
A great way to entertain the kids (and the whole family!) is by arranging bouncy castle hire. It's no secret that kids love bouncy castles - who doesn't have fond memories of bouncing around with their friends when they were younger?
Summer is a key time for inflatables, too. The heat of the season for bouncy castle companies comes in the midst of the warmest months, when schools host summer fairs or sports days, and when the obvious place to hold a party is the back garden. There is usually a second, smaller spike around the festive period - especially among companies that offer special Christmas products such as Rodeo Reindeer - and the occasional booking throughout the rest of the year, but many firms in the sector operate for 18 hours a day throughout the summer months, and are almost fully-booked weeks in advance.
This means, if you want to entertain your kids with bouncy castles, hoping for success with a last-minute booking might be a recipe for disaster! It is certainly more sensible to make a booking well in advance - this is the only way to avoid disappointment, especially over the summer.
What should I look for when I'm hiring a bouncy castle?
There are plenty of companies in the sector, and choosing the right one for you might seem like a bit of a challenge. The following tips should help you get the most out of your bouncy castle.
Find the right inflatable for you. If you're hosting a pirate-themed party, or throwing a birthday celebration for a Batman fanatic, take a look around and see if you can find an inflatable with a decor that suits your occasion. If you expect adults to use the bouncy castle, make sure you get an adult bouncy castle - grown-ups' additional weight can damage inflatables, and if you've been informed that a product is for children only, you could be liable to pay for any repairs or replacements should you ignore this warning.
Make sure the company adheres to health and safety regulations. There are a number of organisations in the sector, membership of which suggest that an inflatable rental company achieves good health and safety standards and that it takes its responsibilities seriously. These include The Inflatable Play Enterprise (TIPE) and the British Inflatable Hirers' Alliance (BIHA). Inflatables should also be regularly subjected to PIPA tests.
On a related note, check the insurance credentials of the company. Bouncy castle firms ought to have public liability insurance of at least £5 million. This will ensure that if you or anyone else is injured due to the negligence of the company, the victim will receive compensation that should adequately cover them for their pain, suffering and losses.
Do you really want a bouncy castle? There are plenty of other products available from many inflatable companies - a very popular choice is the rodeo bull.
Booking out a bouncy castle is easy - many companies nowadays use online bouncy castle booking and calendar systems - so you can be confident that you will receive the product you expect on the date you want it, and that you are paying a fair price for the hire.
Finding the perfect holiday to suit the entire family can be a tricky task with prices growing exceedingly higher towards the summer months. To avoid steep prices, book your family vacation as early as possible and make sure that you do enough research to find the best deal. Portugal is one of the most popular holiday destinations and with over 300 long days of glorious sunshine each year, it is clear to see why.
Situated in central Portugal rests the city of Porto, often known as ‘Oporto’ to the locals of the city. Porto is a fantastic family destination as it offers tons of lively culture, architecture and compelling tourist attractions. Take a day trip to Coimbra to visit the birthplace of six kings or take a walk around the majestic 14th century Sao Francisco Church which is the main attraction of Porto. For the adults in the family, a delicious wine tasting will be a unique (and delicious) experience to enjoy. To find the perfect accommodation here and in other locations across Portugal, click here.
The big capital city of Lisbon remains a constant tourist attraction all year round. With a beautiful Mediterranean climate and lots of excitement bustling in the city centre, Lisbon is a great choice for a family holiday. Some of the main attractions include The Castelo de Sao Jorge where you can take the kids for a once in a lifetime adventure and enjoy some spectacular views. Art lovers will appreciate collections by Picasso and Dali on display in this gorgeous city. For the more out-going families, a short drive to wooded Sintra will provide the perfect day-out. According to the Telegraph, Byron described Sintra as being the ‘most beautiful village in the world’, so you can guarantee it is well worth a visit.
Funchal is a more laid-back holiday destination and is suited for the family who want to go sightseeing and don’t mind getting tired feet on the way. Some of the hottest attractions include the open Workers Market, Blandy’s Wine Lodge and the Sacred Art Museum. Set foot in the captivating wilderness of Portugal with some of their superb safari trips or take a stroll through the enchanting Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, which boast some of the most picturesque views in all of Portugal.
This historical coastal city is situated in the southern Algarve region. A former fishing village, it offers some of the best activities for kids such as dolphin watching and the Parque Adventura game and entertainment centre. If you really want to put a smile on their faces, take them to Crazy Paintball, which will guarantee that your kids will have a great time and will give you and your partner a chance to sit back and relax.
Just 20 miles from Lisbon is the coastal town of Cascais. This town was once a fishing village, famous for its catches and exquisite wines. According to Trip Advisor, Cascais often attracted the attention of ‘artists, writers and expelled European nobility in the 20th century’, and is somewhat famous for its glorious beaches and crashing waves which are perfect for sailing and surfing. Other main attractions include the Conde de Castro Guimaraes Museum and the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum. Cascais is also a great location for golf courses and nature guided tours.
Most of us would love to have the money to splash out on the dream house, car or holiday that we see others enjoy. And even if the Caribbean villa and the Bentley are beyond us, with a little diligent saving we should all be able to strive for a lifestyle to enjoy.
But in the ‘21st century, reality TV, I-want-it-now celebrity culture’ it seems too many of us aren’t willing to put away a few pounds every month for a long-term plan. With unemployment at a seven-year-low there’s ample opportunity for those who do have a job to concentrate on making a plan for their future, in the short or long-term, by squirreling away a little each month.
If only it were true. According to a Scottish Widows study reported in the Guardian eight million people in the UK have no savings at all, while another 15 million make no effort to save. That’s at least eight million people who have no safety net should disaster strike, but also unable to put money towards their dreams without diving into credit and debts.
Let’s take a real feasible example of something to which to aspire, not so much a rainy day but a statement of growing up: a deposit for a home. The average deposit for a new house is around £27,000, which sounds horrendous for most aspiring home owners. The average household saves 5% of its income (if at all), so someone with a salary of £23,000 would need to save for 22 years to get the deposit they need.
There are two ways of looking at this; it’s either an unattainable aim that should be put to the back of one’s mind, or a real, long-term project that will become easier and ideally not even noticed. Investing in a long-term ISA should build up a good level of interest, meaning that the full 22 years may not be necessary.
What’s more, saving £2-300 a month gives you the flexibility to dip into an emergency fund that won’t cost you (as a loan or credit card would), for the odd treat. Perhaps you decide to treat yourself one weekend to a short break, or a new outfit, or something for a child. Perhaps a glut of birthdays are approaching, or Christmas.
Of course, rainy days don’t always end in sunshine. Traumatic experiences such as illness, accidents, redundancy or suffering as a victim of crime can be especially devastating to those without a monetary safety net. Financial coping mechanisms could include taking on extra work, borrowing, and in an emergency a so-called ‘payday loan’ might bridge the gap.
It’s not the perfect scenario, but one can at least take some solace from the fact that complaints about the practice have almost halved in the past year following regulation from the Financial Conduct Authority. Other helping hands may come through benefits such as universal credit, introduced to help those on low income or out of work. The Money Advice Service has more information.
Ultimately the decision on how much to save, if at all, could be dictated by fate and other decisions outside your control. If, however, you do have provision to place some of your cash in a little nest egg then it makes sense to do so, and enjoy the fruits of prudent spending some day in a happy future.
Before you head to the Continent, be sure you are aware of the French rules of the road - both new and old.
1. The use of hands-free sets is now BANNED when driving a car. This means all hands-free usage, not just phones. (However, the small print says you can still use your phone when the hands-free system is dashboard-based or bluetooth).
TIP: Let your passenger make the "We're lost and can't find the Gite" call!
2. Un-marked police cars are now roaming the French highways fitted with speed cameras. All very secretive! They can even detect and photograph speedsters in the opposite lane.
TIP: The unmarked police cars are pretty much guaranteed to be French marques - Renault, Peugeot or Citreon. So that means 95% of the cars on the road!
3. If you're new to driving (under 3 years experience), the drink drive limit is now 0.02%.
TIP: Don't even have the one if you're a novice driver.
4. Usage of speed camera detectors is NOT allowed. All such radars should be switched off from sat navs before entering France.
TIP: Not worth the risk. You can drive faster on the toll roads than British motorways anyway so best to not go speed-silly and just keep an eye out for the little boxes. Remember - they don't have to warn you of upcoming cameras in France.
5. Breathalysers, reflective jackets and a warning triangle must be carried in all cars.
TIP: There doesn't seem to be any reinforcement of this law and no fines are made so don't panic too much if you're without and leaving tomorrow!
6. Headlamp converters (otherwise known as stickers) must be fitted to all cars for driving on the right.
TIP: Get them on Amazon now to avoid expensive ferry/train terminal shops
7. Children should be 10 or older to legally sit in the front seat of a car (with the exception of rear-facing baby seats).
TIP: Just keep your little royalty in the back where they should be.
The general message is to just keep alert and remember you're in a different country - different rules apply. The ease of getting to France and being in the comfort of your own car does make it easier to forget.
And who wants to get stopped by the scary Gendarmes? Not me!
This weekend, GoFest permeated my being. Just as any good festival should, it gave me a feeling of anticipation on Friday, excitement on Saturday and fatigue on Sunday. But in each case, no sooner had I waved my wrist band to whoever cared, I was carried into that parallel existence that any weekend festival goer will relate to.
GoFest 2015 was billed as ‘the sporting Glastonbury’ and it didn’t disappoint. A mixture of warm weather, live music, celebrity spots and good vibes combined with a chance to try out every sport imaginable under one roof, meant that we had a thoroughly exhausted but happy family on our hands by the end of the weekend.
Friday’s highlight was skiing on the freshly imported snow, trucked down the A3 each day to create a mini ski slope in the Snow Zone. Definitely one of the most popular activities, our kids who have never been skiing before embraced it wholeheartedly. Uh oh, looks like the pressure could be on for a skiing holiday. Darn you, GoFest!There were plenty of other activities to try, from bouncy obstacle courses to Segway, via tightropes and trampolining. There was much excitement as we bumped into Ian Waite in the Surrey Sports Park foyer. Charming as ever, he agreed to pose for a photo with our avid Strictly fans and this really did make their day.
We stayed on for the evening entertainment. It was such a treat to get a close view of Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe performing their jive then rumba. And yes, these genial people willingly posed for a photo again. Following them on stage were the energetic and catchy Only One Direction, which went down very well with the children. OK, we admit it, we could be spotted having a cheeky bop too.
Due to other commitments we returned only briefly on Saturday but we did have a chance to try the Sokka zone, run by Kevin Keegan. This zone focused on speed and agility games and was great fun.
We were back with intent early on Sunday morning, ready to give GoFest our all. The children wanted to have a try at climbing, but unfortunately it was fully booked for the day.
So we popped down the corridor to see what was going on at the Squash Zone. I was mad on squash as a teenager but haven’t dared enter a court for at least twenty five years for fear of leaving it on a stretcher. But it was fantastic fun and really nice to teach the kids a few of the basics. And I was still standing afterwards, bonus!
Some of us joined the Family Fun Run 1 mile and they had the chance to test their mettle against Olympic athlete Roger Black. If you look carefully amongst the pack you may spot him. All finished credibly and it was the perfect warm down after squash as my husband remarked through gritted teeth.
But there was no rest for the wicked. Next we were off to the Cricket Zone and got some top coaching tips from Surrey cricketers. The gymnasts amongst us took to bowling quickly after being told to bowl as if you are doing a cartwheel. One in particular got carried away and actually followed through with the cartwheel. We didn’t manage to capture this on camera so her blushes are spared for now.
After some batting tuition we were asked if we wanted to play ‘blind cricket’. Yes, with real blindfolds and not being able to see a thing! It was as difficult as it sounds and a real ‘eye opener’ into how sport can be accessible to all and open up a world of opportunities to those with disabilities.
And later in the afternoon we discovered that our eldest daughter has a talent for fly-fishing after she successfully learnt four techniques in 10 minutes, something that usually takes grown men hours of tuition apparently. I’m not sure whether we will be following this up, living in land-locked Surrey, but what it does demonstrate is the ethos of GoFest, which is to open as many doors as possible and create new opportunities for kids and adults alike.
GoFest organisers should be praised for believing in an idea and executing their vision to such an effect. GoFest was other worldly once you got stuck in and embraced what was on offer. We look forward to GoFest 2016 as there were so many sports and activities that we didn’t have time to try.
The only negative about GoFest 2015 was that more families didn't sign up for the experience. So we hope that your curiosity has been piqued enough to encourage you to grab some tickets next year and have your own very unique experience, just as we did.
View our Facebook GoFest 2015 album for more photos and videos.
So the breastfeeding debate is ignited again (#bressure on Twitter) just as I attend my refresher breastfeeding session prior to having baby number 2... My general view is that midwives etc shouldn't put pressure on us to breastfeed and it doesn't work for everyone. But I'm not convinced that the pressure always comes from external sources.
Truth be told, I had an awful time breastfeeding with number 1. After a good start, her latching on became difficult which I suspect was caused by the fact that we were both diagnosed with thrush and I seemed to have a low milk supply. Amongst the tears, I painstakingly plodded away at expressing milk, sometimes spending over an hour getting not much more than a tablespoon. To us it was clear that as the stress increased and her weight dropped, we had to supplement and I eventually stopped when she was around 3 weeks.
At the time, I felt dreadful about it. How would we survive in countries without formula?, how could such a natural thing be so difficult for us? and what terrible impact would this have on her development? I didn't want to speak to some of my best friends who had been able to do it, for fear that they would judge me. I was pretty miserable, despite family and a lactation consultant telling me that stopping was probably the best thing for me.
Now, 6 years later, I have no regret over my decision. My daughter thrives and eats well; we have a fantastic relationship and no-one questions the bond we have. Bottle feeding enabled us to go out and about pretty freely from about 4 weeks, as calm as can be (with a newborn!). The main downside was the preparation involved in having enough sterilised bottles and milk available and, mainly, feeling like I had to constantly justify myself to others.
So, as I'm about to have number 2, I was feeling quite pleased with my mindset of "right, well I'll give it a go this time but if it doesn't work out, we'll quickly move on". However, after 3 hours of discussing the subject yesterday, I was left a little despondent thinking that (a) it was highly unlikely to work out (I need to have antibiotics during labour and have PCOS so might well have a low milk supply again); and (b) once the hormones kick in, am I really going to be thinking so rationally about it? Although the counsellor running the session wasn't pushy at all, I could sense those feelings of failure creeping back if it wasn't going to work again this time...and this just raises a host of questions: Should I be proactive and find someone to help me in a fairly dedicated way from the outset (which will cost money)? Should I just go with the flow (no pun intended!), but be better informed about dealing with/avoiding thrush and boosting milk supply at the outset? Should I invest in a hi-tec expressing machine or is that, given my previous experience, really a waste of money?
Unfortunately, as a mother already, my guilt now has an added dimension: should I be spending the first part of my daughter's summer holidays dragging her (and the baby) around BF clinics trying to ensure that this experience is better than the last, or should I stick with my original plan of quickly moving on at the first sign of difficulty (thus making family life a bit less stressful for everyone)?
Suffice to say that a big bit of me hopes that I'm just luckier this time and it's all a bit easier, but I also know that, being a perfectionist and a try-er, I am unlikely to give in without a fight. I will want to feel that I tried everything to make it work, but that is probably equal part external pressures and my own expectations of myself.
I’ve known for sometime that video blogs (or vlogs) would become an essential medium for a website such as ours to use to reach readers. So last week I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go and make a vlog based around our ‘What’s on in Surrey this week’ listings.
We chose Loseley Park as our location as we were there anyway for a review. It’s a lovely place with gorgeous parkland (do I say this enough in the vlog!) and a great environment for a relaxing afternoon out with the family.
Luckily we managed to find a fairly secluded spot to vlog from, as I was suddenly overcome with self consciousness from the stares from passers by. But I got into it eventually and we recorded from three or four locations to give ourselves more variety.
We experienced a couple of technical hitches, the main one being that the microphone picked up the sound of the wind rather than my voice at certain parts, so we’ll be investing in a small microphone for next time.
I felt that I could have done with an autocue as well. I was reading my notes and then looking up and trying to remember what I had just read! It seems that you can buy some kind of autocue for your ipad for under £50 so we may well be investing in that too.
I hope you enjoy watching it and find it useful (and maybe entertaining!!). It was fun and I’m determined to streamline my presenting skills; something I know I will only do with practice. Watch this space!
Some of you may be aware of changes that Google has made to its algorithms this week. I won’t bore you with the technical detail of this (not sure if I quite understand it myself anyway!) but suffice to say that we at Surrey Mummy completed the redesign of our website just in the nick of time.
Having analysed our website visitor statistics over the past couple of years, we realised that two thirds of you either use a mobile or tablet device to browse Surrey Mummy. It was a no-brainer to set about making sure that our website was faster, clearer and better for mobile users.
So it is sort of a happy accident that, as the last six weeks of redesigning the website draws to a close, we are right on time to sit back and hopefully enjoy an increase in our Google search rankings.
On the subject of the new website design, as well as retaining the essence of what we are about in terms of what’s on events and things to do listings, we have introduced a couple of new features.
The first is the Mum’s blog, which we have started as a point of discussion on all sorts of issues, topics, happenings and ideas that we come across as we go about our business. Most things go here and we are hoping to have a team of bloggers contributing on a regular basis. If you’d like to join us as a blogger then do get in touch.
Secondly, we have better advertising spaces for more prominent advertising opportunities, with a wider banner space at the top and bottom of all pages as well as a larger promotional feature slot. So do contact us about advertising if your target audience is parents in Surrey and you have a business you would like to promote via Surrey Mummy. We can also offer banner advertising on the newsletter now as well as the usual editorial spot.
Finally, we have exciting plans for the future. We want to kick start our for sale section again, this time allowing sellers to list for free. We’ve had feedback from local mums that this would be a real draw to the website. We are also planning to experiment with the world of video blogs (or Vlogs as I’m told they are called!), so watch this space.
Inevitably we are experiencing glitches here and there as we get the website working as it should, for example we haven’t quite got the listings looking as they should yet, but please bear with us. And do feel free to feedback your experiences with the website and any thoughts and ideas. You may well have spotted something that we have missed.
Most families who applied for primary school places in Surrey will have heard this week about which school their child has been offered a place at. Most will feel elated or relieved, but for a few their anxieties and worst fears over this process will have been realised.
If you are one of those whose child has not been offered their first choice of primary school, it is worth looking into whether you can appeal against the decision.
The appeal needs to be made to the school that was your first choice ie. the school that you wanted but didn’t get offered. The first port of call is the Surrey County Council school admissions appeals web page. This contains details of the criteria for appeal, the timetable involved and information about contacting the school.
Do bear in mind before you start the appeal process that there may be an insurmountable reason for you not getting your first choice place. The ruling on limiting infant class sizes to 30 means that, unless a genuine mistake has been made, you are unlikely to make a successful appeal.
However, don’t despair. There are other resources available to help. Truth Education, based in Surrey, aim to help parents with all matters arising on education and schooling. Their article, Not got your primary school place? Keep calm and carry on… is highly relevant to the process this year too.
Over the years we have known many people who, with patience, have managed to get the school of their choice at some point as others decline places or move away from the area. Whatever happens, we wish our Surrey Mummy members every success in this sometimes difficult and painful process.