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1568

Educators constantly have to use their imagination in order to create a welcoming and inspirational learning space. Teaching pupils of differing abilities in a single classroom means that rooms have to be divided or space has to be found elsewhere.

 

Tackling the space problem

With many schools across the UK dealing with overcrowded classrooms or a lack of space in general, an innovative solution has to be found. One way of tackling this problem is to divide a classroom with panels. For younger children, these screens can be used to construct an additional safe play area, and if they are built to resemble a moulded plastic train like those from Hope Education, they can provide a useful way of separating a play area from a learning space in the classroom. As an additional benefit, the screens can be folded away when not in use.

 

Imagination is essential

Schools with tight budgets often can’t afford to build a new classroom to cope with increased pupil numbers. Rather than erecting Portakabins, one school, Central First School in Ashington, Northumberland, has used a bus as an additional learning area. An article in The Daily Mail highlights the fact that one in five primary schools across the UK are over subscribed. The sums for transforming the Ashington’s double decker classroom, bought on eBay, only came to £8,000, a sum considerably less than constructing a new classroom. Mr Godfrey, the school’s headmaster, stated that the school had also converted toilets and cupboards into additional workspaces.

 

Brightening up the school library

In a bid to reintroduce children to the wonderful world of books, many school libraries across the UK have had to transform the appearance of their libraries. Forget dusty shelves filled with dull looking tomes that most children would simply ignore. Monochrome walls have also been abolished in a bid to make libraries look more enticing.

 

The Guardian recently featured school libraries from across the country where rooms have been divided by screens, decorated with brightly coloured art work and the actual book shelves come in different shapes and sizes. Many school libraries now ‘allow children to make discoveries, put technology to imaginative use, learn, perform and relax as well as read.’ The library has been reborn as an additional learning space.

 

Innovation leads the way

Some schools are suffering such pressure on their classrooms that they are literally ‘crammed to the rafters.’ In 2014 the Local Government Association found a one billion pound shortfall in funding to create more spaces. Schools in both Liverpool and East London have had to create play areas on the roofs of their schools as the playgrounds were increasingly filling up with temporary classrooms. 

 

With a government restriction of only 30 places to a class and increasing pupil numbers, schools are going to have to dream up novel ways of approaching the problems of overcrowding. The days of separate classrooms for every academic activity will become a memory of the past. 

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If you fancy whisking the little ones off for a trip of a lifetime, you won’t be short of spectacular places to go. From luxurious seaside resorts offering everything you and your family will need to retreats nestled in the mountains, you’re sure to find something that takes your fancy but if you’re in need of some inspiration, here are five standout locations to experience with the kids.

 

1. Canary Islands

A Spanish archipelago located off the southern coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands make for a spectacular holiday destination. From the black sands of Lanzarote to the quaint coastlines of La Palma, the Canaries offer something different around every turn with the accommodation being as equally diverse and exciting.

While many resorts are located by the sea, the Ritz-Carlton Abama resort here is positioned high on a cliff top commanding wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean and La Gomera Island. There’s something for everyone, so why not experience the delights of this part of the world for yourself?

 

2. Cyprus

As a parent, you might be slightly anxious about travelling with the kids, especially if it’s your first holiday as a family – but there’s really no need to worry. Countries like Cyprus will welcome your entire brood with open arms and as many of the top hotels cater for babies, young children, teenagers and adults alike, everyone will be able to enjoy their stay on this sunshine island. Cyprus is great for many reasons thanks to its fascinating ruins, incredible mountain ranges and delicious food but it’s the beaches which make this place a must-see. Fig Tree Bay in Protoras has even been voted the sixth best beach in Europe and is well worth a visit.

 

3. Italy

From one Mediterranean gem to another, Italy is also a country with strong family values that will happily entertain you and your little cherubs for a week or two. Aside from the delicious food, with pasta, pizza and seafood appearing on many menus, you can also soak up the exquisite views of Venice and Verona or suss out the tourist hot spots of Rome including the world-renowned Colosseum. Italy is quite literally a feast of fascinating ruins, famed sculptures and memorable architecture making it a great country to explore.

 

4. Maldives

If your idea of paradise is glistening white sands, turquoise waters, tropical fish and wonderfully rustic sea huts, The Maldives won’t disappoint. It really is as beautiful as it looks on postcards offering children their very own Treasure Island to explore. The food is to die for, the locals are smiley and welcoming and resorts, some set within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll, are second to none.

 

5. Dubai

Just because you’re a parent now does not mean you can’t consider a Middle Eastern adventure. From the timeless tranquillity of the desert to the hustle and bustle of the souk there’s something for every taste and due to the large amount of family-family hotels on offer you won’t have trouble finding somewhere safe to stay. Travel is a fantastic form of education, so if you want to give your child an experience they’ll remember for a lifetime and submerge them into a different culture, this is the place to be.

 

There are many exotic countries worldwide that will add a bit of luxury to your life, but these are five of the best.

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As parents today, we often experience high levels of pressure and stress to make sure our children become well rounded individuals. We pack their lives with a variety of activities and sports clubs to keep them fit, sociable and confident, encourage them to do well at school, make the right friends and painstakingly pore over every decision about their education.

The daily routine of family life with all its chores and demands and our own feelings of responsibility to ensure our children are confident, independent, responsible and happy can all make for very stressed and exhausted parents. Basically what I am saying is that if we are not physically on the go, we are mentally on the go; thinking about what to do and where to be next.

It's no wonder that 90% of parents describe themselves as frantic rather than fun. It's no wonder that parents today have become DOers rather than BEers.

It's not helped by the fact that we're always having to take calls, check texts and emails and feel that we need to respond and to be reached 24/7. Our children quickly realise they don't have our full attention when we're attached to our iPhones, which can create huge challenges when we then try to tackle the issue of their screen time too.

The effect of this 'full on all the time' way of life is that we are never really in the moment or mindfully there for ourselves or our children. And this can have a negative effect on both of us!

For us, it can cause stress/irritability and exhaustion and we can start to react to situations in a much more negative way. We stop listening properly to our children; we are just too busy thinking about other things. We forget to enjoy the small moments with them and sadly miss out on opportunities to praise them.

We then often start to feel guilty as, deep down, we know that this is not the parent we want to be and we can start to lose our confidence as a parent. This can encourage self-doubt in our children too as they start to think that we don't want to be with them. They start playing up to get our full attention as they know we always react when they are fighting or misbehaving. They feel that we are not listening and start not listening to us and each other. They start mimicking our behaviour and becoming like us!! Our stress is being passed on to them.

The good news...mindfulness can be achieved by anyone, anywhere.

Mindfulness aims for you to fully focus on each moment you are with your children. Mindfulness helps you to find the balance between being a DOer and a BEer. When we do become 'mindfully there', we become a great role model for our children based on respect, care and deep love. Since we are fully aware of what they say, do and feel we really get to know our children better and re-connect with them. We feel proud of ourselves at the end of each day as we feel we are doing the right thing, even if things haven't gone to plan and they aren't!

We gain energy and motivation as a parent as we start to see the same emotions and feelings manifesting themselves in our children. we will have a positive and dynamic focus on problem-solving in stressful situations and become more open-minded to positive discipline. Our children develop healthy social skills based on listening and respect for other people. They become like us (and in a good way!) and we start to have fun together again.

Awareness is the first key to mindfulness. Our daily tasks and challenges are not going to go away but when you become aware that you are not 'in the moment' and are just too busy thinking about other things or multi-tasking, remind yourself why you need to focus now.

Relax your body, breathe slowly and look at your children and smile. Try to think more calmly and remember that Mindful parents become essentially better able to manage difficult situations and issues arising in the family and within themselves.

"I started to enjoy every moment with my family. good and bad, instead of always being on my way to doing something else or thinking about doing it." Suzanne, Berks

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Buying a home online is now big business. Once technologically savvy estate agents realised that the old traditional high street estate agents and newspapers can be overtaken by the might of the digital world to the satisfaction of potential customers, the balance was always likely to change in favour of the Internet of Things.

 

A Google search of the term ‘buying a home online’ leads to 366,000,000 results, for a market that’s booming from Manchester to Mumbai. For the Millennial, imagining the logistics of looking for a home in another country or even county without the Internet or a mobile phone is mind-boggling.

 

The numbers are clear; your next, perfect home is surely out there, somewhere.
The flip side of the burgeoning online property market is that the process could almost be too swift and simple, meaning that an interested party might miss out without acting fast.

 

As a point of reference, online estate agent House Simple states that it saves the average customer £5,077, but perhaps more pertinently for buyers in this context, a full 48 days faster than the 68 day average sale time of a high street agent (go to the website to find out more). Other online agents might boast similarly impressive stats, so if you do find an intriguing property act fast.

 

Setting up accounts with a number of portals will help a number of buyers to find a selection of properties based on a number of criteria. Zoopla, Rightmove and other giants dominate the online market but other alternatives exist. Whitehot Property exists purely for the repossessions market, while Unmodernised does what it suggests and concentrates on those eager for a challenge through offering properties that need refurbishment. Other online agents and portals can be found here.

 

If you’re looking for something a little special take heed: ‘dream homes’ are often owned by people who are a little different, who possess a bit more imagination and business sense than the average, and therefore may want to save money on the sale should they decide to move. These people include Steve Phillips, who is aiming to save almost £100,000 by buying and marketing his Bray home by constructing and monitoring his own site (as well as placing it on The Telegraph’s finance section).

 

Limiting oneself to the property giants might preclude you from finding a property that could be ‘the one’ so keep a beady eye on social media. For example, #houseforsale, #realestate or other similarly-themed hashtags can be used by sellers to place their properties on Twitter so that searchers can find them from across the globe. Equally, a hashtag such as #movingtolondon might tempt someone with a property for sale in The Capital to get in touch.

 

As an overall plan, these could be the steps to take to find your ideal home online. Set up a new email account purely for receiving property news. Set your parameters  - number of bedrooms and bathrooms, price (and remember to factor in stamp duty and other possible extra costs) – and spend time each day looking at the alternatives. If one grabs you, arrange a visit, and if it then really grabs you – go for it!

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The last academic year saw the compulsory introduction of Computing into the British National Curriculum. Pupils as young as five are being taught the language of computers, learning topics from debugging to app creation.

This much-needed modern shake up to the UK education system received a huge thumbs up from the technology industry, who say that this move will help close the gap between jobs available in the sector and the number of qualified candidates able to fill them. Schools have felt this change with the number of computing teacher vacancies on sites such as EduStaff shooting up.

Although this is good news for our children’s future, the coding initiative also has wonderful benefits for pupils whilst they are still in school. Experts claim that being taught how a computer thinks directly complements the subjects of mathematics, science and languages.

There’s a lot more to it than this, however. The benefits of coding are often discussed in the context of employment and academic success, usually with reference to STEM-related subjects. Rarely are the personal skills learnt from computing highlighted and championed; ones that are applicable to all elements of life.

Learning to code quite literally enables you to create virtual worlds where the only limit is your imagination. Computing lessons include the activities of creating games and animations, with many involving group work. Collaboration and creativity go hand in hand, having a positive effect on both the academic and social skills of our children. A Europe-wide competition held by Microsoft in October saw three British pupils triumph the 12-16 year old category with their game creation using a visual programming language.

Pupils attainment in literacy can also increase when properly taught how to code. Certain programmes that allow users to create animations have been used in creative writing classes, suggesting that the study of algorithms can directly assist the comprehension of sentence structure.

Understanding how computers work means understanding how the world around us works. Our children are brought up surrounded by technology, so not learning the language of technology will surely pose a major challenge. This incredible skill will empower learners to not only grasp how our world works, but how to create it.

Aside from the obvious benefits, teaching our children how to think computationally builds upon their creative, social, problem-solving and awareness abilities. These transferable, important skills will give them a head start on whichever way their path goes. 

 

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1923

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.

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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!  

 1. England

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.

 2. Scotland

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!

 3. Wales

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!

 4. Ireland

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.

 5. France

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.

 6. Spain

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.

 7. Greece

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.

 8. Switzerland

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!

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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.

 Creative Tools

 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.

Incorporate Photographs

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.

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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.

 

For more tips, this Guardian teacher’s guide is a good place to look, as is this WikiHow article on how to tell the time.

 

 

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2020

 

 

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.  

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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.

 

Ford Fiesta

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 Jazz

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.

 

Ford B-Max

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.

 

Volkswagen Up

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.

 

Fiat Panda

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.

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1921

 

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.

 

Hi-Tech security

 

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.    

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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.

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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.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Discipline-Your-Child.jpgIt 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 

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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:

 

Label Boxes

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!

 

Organise Storage

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!

 

Ask questions

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.

 

Freezers

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!

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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

 

Plant sunflowers

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!

Price: FREE

 

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)!

 

Price: FREE

 

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.

Price: FREE

 

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.

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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?

puzzled smiley

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.

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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.

1. Porto

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.

2. Lisbon

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.

3. Funchal

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.

4. Albufeira

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.

5. Cascais

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.

 

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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.

 

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Before you head to the Continent, be sure you are aware of the French rules of the road - both new and old.

NEW STUFF:

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.

SAME OLD:

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!

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