Nursery, Are You Ready To Let Go of Your Toddler?

Nursery, Are You Ready To Let Go of Your Toddler?

Releasing our little ones into the big world can seem daunting, but nursery is often a realm of positivity, happiness and wonderment.


The Nursery Visits

I visited nursery after nursery. They all came ‘highly recommended’. The thumbs-up came from friends with happy, well-adjusted kids, so I expected to find a setting for my son without any issue. Wrong! I saw six childcare places in total. With each visit, I became more disheartened. None of them felt right – there was always a small something that didn’t sit right with me. In the end, I gave up. Some nurseries seemed too chaotic, others too dull and non-engaging. I thought one was dirty, and another had miserable staff. Maybe I caught them on a bad day; perhaps not. I was not prepared to take the risk.

There Was No More Delaying It

I kept my two-year-old at home with me for another year. But then, of course, came the time to start hunting again. Well before he had turned three-years-old, I felt that he needed much more than I could continue to offer him at home.

He was ready to go on ‘bear hunts’, to build bubble machines in the sunshine and to make and fly a kite on a Tuesday morning. Playing in mud kitchens, regardless of the weather, and to learn some phonics made him happy. He was eager for interactive play with a bunch of friends. I knew it was time to introduce him to the joys of building a ‘home corner’ out of boxes and helping to paint the living room wall with fifteen other three-year-olds. Making boats to go on imaginary adventures in, exploring healthy and unhealthy food choices as part of a group and playing on interactive tables were all awaiting him. It was time to start discovering the big world for himself, and I knew I had to find a way to let him do it.

I Struck Gold

I visited one nursery and struck gold.

It was not a nursery I had seen previously. No one had recommended it, and we knew no one that attended. It was perfect. I knew straight away that this particular nursery was the right place for my boy. My gut instinct felt satisfied!

The Journey At Nursery 

Exactly one year ago, my son began his new adventure. It was expensive until we received the 30-hour funding from the government. When he started, he did not talk (perhaps the result of being the youngest of four), and he refused to eat pretty much anything that wasn’t sweet. He still wore nappies in the day and loved nothing more than his dummy. Fast forward one year and he speaks beautifully, is very happy and understands so much about the world around him and his place within it. He speaks a little French, loves a bit of ‘Pyjama Drama’ and is very partial to some Spanish frittata or spicy couscous for lunch! Surprisingly he quit dummies and nappies within the first month of starting, and his progress has been quite astonishing. He skips into ‘school’ (as he calls it) with a big smile, every day.

Take Your Time And Be Selective

Each setting is different, as are our kids. My boy would have felt out of his depth in a vast, bustling nursery and unhappy in one that was too strict. However, for another child, they could have been the absolute perfect choices. Trusting YOUR gut instinct, as a parent, is the best judge of what is right for your child. Of course, if I had needed to work when he was two-years-old, I would have continued searching for the place that we eventually found.

The Benefits of A Nursery

Pre-school education is a choice. In my case, it has provided my son with so much happiness and confidence and is preparing him brilliantly for big school. He knows how to wait his turn and how to share, the importance of being kind, respectful and having good manners. He’s learnt patience and that feeling of utter pride at accomplishing something new. He is able to stand in front of a group of kids and explain a story or describe a character. We discovered his love to draw, paint, make glorious art, spell his name, remember songs and actions and put on a bit of a show. He understands all about the weather and how to plant a seed and watch it transform into a beautiful flower with care, attention, water and sunshine.  He has learnt we are all different and to be tolerant of those differences.

I could never have given him all that.

Kids Are So Capable

When you find the right setting for your child, truly marvellous things can happen. It’s hard to release them into the ‘wild’ of the big world where they have to manage without you, but when you do, you realise just how capable they are and that their potential is limitless.

Parental Guilt, Do You Feel Guilty As A Parent?

Parental Guilt, Do You Feel Guilty As A Parent?

Being overwhelmed by parental guilt is something every parent has experienced. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I Quite My Job

‘Face-Timing’ my son on his first-ever day at school was not the same as being there. I was overwhelmed with emotions, and they were mostly negative ones. My son, of course, was fine but I felt like the worst mother on the planet. I wasn’t even there to collect him, and so it continued, morning and evening, for the next three weeks. Then I quit my job. (See my article on Work Life Balance) The struggle was real. I was torn between paying the bills and being there for all the small, everyday things. When I announced that I was going to be staying at home and he wouldn’t need to go to morning/after-school club anymore, he cried. Not with relief, but because he loved club. Excellent – I hadn’t even seen that coming!

Parental Guilt? I Think I know Why

No matter what we do, we feel (needlessly) guilty for just about everything it would seem. And I think I know why. It’s not because of the decisions we make, but rather because of the plethora of information online and the prevalence of advice and opinion ‘out there’ that we are in a permanent state of self-doubt. I’ve thought about this a lot and trust me, you have no need to feel guilty. If I had carried on working, my son would have been absolutely fine. He loved club, he loved life and was very happy and settled. The point was that I wanted to be with him and not somewhere else. I thought I felt guilty, but actually I was feeling sad, and I had a terrible case of the ‘fear of missing out.’ It was more about me than him. There was absolutely no need to suffer the anguish of parental guilt for working full-time.

The Difference Today

I have two grown-up children and two small children. The first two came along in a social media free world, and the second two are growing up in the digital age. I was a happy parent, raising the first two. I made decisions and never remember feeling parental guilt over any of them, probably because I had no real clue what everybody else was doing and never sought any opinion either. Fast forward 15 years and I question myself over everything. Social media and the abundance of opinion and advice has a lot to answer for. The internet is a fantastic ‘information-finding’ resource, but social media sites can facilitate the judging of parents and creating anxiety over every decision one makes. Should they be allowed to eat in front of the TV? Or even be watching TV? Should I enrol them in more after-school activities or less? Am I terrible for letting them sleep in my bed? What’s my parenting technique and is it the right one? So many things to worry about and feel like a guilty parent over! I mean, are they getting enough mental stimulation, and should I be playing with them more? Do I need to raise my kids as gender-neutral, or is it ok to dress my boys in blue and my girls in pink? It’s so confusing, and we end up feeling guilty about the most ridiculous things. STOP.

Enough of the Parental Guilt Already – Trust Your Instincts!

Enough of the guilt, mums and dads. Trusting your own instinct on what is right, or wrong, for your family is the most important rule you can live by. What is the best decision for one child or parent is not the best for another. Every situation is unique, and therefore, all our choices will be unique too. Parenting is a tough enough gig without heaping on a load of unnecessary guilt. So, go ahead and use the internet to help you make decisions. Learn more, understand issues and weigh up the pros and cons of a given situation. But don’t feel guilty once you’ve made a decision. If that decision doesn’t work out, then change it as I did. This goes for everything, including much-debated issues like whether or not to breast-feed, have a C-section, raising vegan kids or choosing to home-school. Ignore what everyone else thinks is right and do what’s best for YOU and YOUR child. Staying at home has proven to be the right decision for us. I am happier, and a happy mummy equals a happy family. Being happy is what matters and, you can’t be happy if you’re perpetually feeling guilty. So stop!

Do Your Kids Get Too Much Screen Time?

Do Your Kids Get Too Much Screen Time?

Screen Time – We live in digital times where the use of mobile phones is prevalent. But how much screen time is too much as far as our kids are concerned?

The Distraction

We have all done it. We have all, at one time or another, handed our child a mobile phone or tablet to distract them with some screen time so that we can get on with doing something. I am unaware of any parents who have not. It’s easily done when you need to take a business call, feed the dog, load the dishwasher or simply take a break. It’s always really easily done when it feels like World War 3 is breaking out in your home, and it seems like the only way to get some peace. Parenting is hard, and sometimes we just need a break.

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?

Despite this, we are all aware, as parents, that too much screen time can be detrimental to our toddlers and young children. But how much screen time is too much, and why is it an issue? Let’s look at the negative impact of ‘too much’ screen time:

  • Inactivity – which can lead to obesity, lack of imagination and creative play as well as a decreased attention span
  • Performance issues – lower scores in memory, language and thinking tests
  • Inappropriate content – if left alone with devices for too long, children can stumble across content that creates confusion and emotional problems
  • Digital addiction – which can lead to cognitive damage (structural changes in the brain)
  • Poor sleep quality and duration

Given that the above list appears to present a scary picture of the impact of screen time, what should we, as parents, be allowing our children to do? A recent study was published in the UK by the RCPCH – The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (2019). ‘High screen time’ is determined as 2 hours or more per day, and at that level, detrimental physical, social and mental effects were observed. The report also concluded that while there was no actual safe level of screen time, that not all screen time could be perceived as ‘harmful. The full report can be found here, and it is an enlightening read.

Screen Time Stats

The digital world can help children learn, explore and develop skills that they will require in later life, such as how to manipulate devices and technology. Currently, according to Internet Matters, statistics show that in the 0-5 years old category:

  • 36% play games online for up to 6 hours per week
  • 80% watch cartoons
  • 69% use tablets
  • 52% are online 9 hours per week

Set The Boundaries

There are no concrete, screen time guidelines (apart from the fact that 2+ hours per day is damaging). It is, therefore, up to us as parents to set clear boundaries for our children. Ideas include:

  • Device-free times – to include meal times and bedtime
  • Watching high, quality content together
  • Setting an excellent example with your own mobile/tablet use
  • Splitting online time between passive watching and interactive learning

For my part, I allow my kids to watch cartoons on my tablet. They are 3 and 5 years old. However, I choose the content, and the time is limited to weekends. We also have rules about phones at the table and in the bedroom. Definitely not allowed.

The Alternatives To Screen Time

Providing your child with lots of other stimulating, non-digital, activities pays dividends. Creative play, reading, crafts, sports and music are all ideas of exciting activities that your children can participate in to occupy themselves. As they become older, they will demand more screen time and mobile phones of their own. Next comes social media, the PlayStation or Xbox (or whatever new device will be invented in the future). Creating good habits now, while they are young, will set them in good stead for when they become teenagers.

When All Is Said And Done

I am as guilty as the next parent for using the phone as an unpaid babysitter, but given the information contained in this article and the findings of the RCPCH report, I will, in future, be much more mindful of doing this. When all is becoming a little crazy in your house, and you feel like whipping out your phone for some peace and quiet, maybe grab some play-d’oh or some slime instead. Infinitely messier, but definitely healthier.

Baby Number 2 Arrives, Here’s 5 Things what to Expect

Baby Number 2 Arrives, Here’s 5 Things what to Expect

Baby number 2 has arrived on planet earth and you are not sure what this means for your set-up at home? Things may alter a little…


It goes without saying having your first child is a life-changer. Your focus, your new-found love for a child; your relationships, everything. But what about when baby number 2 arrives? Surely you have the experience and know-how on how this works, right? Your home dynamic is about to alter slightly.

Changing A Nappy Is Like Riding A Bike

First and fore-most, the nitty-gritty of looking after a new-born are the nappy changes and feeding. Your first experience of this with baby number 2 will either lure you into a false sense of security because you mastered the nappy changes with the first; or you will become unstuck and restart your nappy changing techniques for the second. Either way, the smell and the chaos nappy changes and feeding can bring remains universal for all babies.

Eldest Behaviour May Change When Sybling Number 2 Arrives

When they meet their brother or sister for the very first time, they will be experiencing a whole host of emotions – regardless of their age. They may be overly excited and wish to be at the forefront of everything related to the baby. They may opt for going the other way by not really showing any real interest. This doesn’t mean they hate the idea of having a sibling, they may be simply trying to understand and perceive what it means to them. Some may show initial interest, and then get bored and carry on as if nothing has happened. A sibling response will be unique them. Their little brains just need a little time to process the event that baby number 2 has arrived. After all, they will be meeting a life-long friend for the very first time.

Baby number 2 will copy everything

Like all kids, they attempt to copy or mimic most things they see in front of their eyes. Even more so for a new arrival who has a sibling to look up to in more ways than one. As time goes by, their personality begins to shine through, so you may notice typical sibling behaviour. They may copy certain behaviour such as making negative noises when something doesn’t go their way. This is unavoidable. They are simply observing what they see and learning how the world operates – even if it means screaming when there is no pudding! It is therefore up to you as a parent to look for opportunities to offer simple explanations and begin boundary making.

Your feelings toward them both will be unique for each

When baby number 2 arrives, your recollections of the first arrival will resurface. Your world will revolve around the baby. And the eldest will see this. Feelings toward them both may seem strange at times. Let’s be honest, baby’s can be boring at times. they just sleep, feed and poo. They have no personality. And yet your love for them is raw. It is new. You are learning how to love a child all over again. And that can be beautiful. Your love for the eldest continues to grow but be aware they may not see it this way as your attention will be split.

Time will be divided…sometimes unequally between the two

Your eldest will undoubtedly possess a bundle of personality; more so than a boring, sleeping baby; you have also known them longer. As things settle a little and a routine is established you may notice that you spend more time with the eldest. Maybe mummy is busy bonding with baby number 2 and you feel left out and end up spending a disproportionate amount of time with the eldest. This isn’t a problem at all. Remember that your eldest still has emotional and physical needs which require attention. They need to continue to play, to experience childhood. They may be confused as to why mummy and daddy are giving this baby all the attention. You may notice they may want you to play with them more. You would probably rather go play tag in the garden than change the baby’s 5th nappy in an hour. So, go and play with them. The trick is to know when to say no, so you can tend to baby number 2 and the eldest needs to learn to accept this – and they will.

Parent Guilt Is Something Dads Feel Too

Parent Guilt Is Something Dads Feel Too

Feeling bad about not being at home with your kids during the working week? We have 4 tips for Dads in alleviating that dreaded parent guilt.

Whether you work irregular shifts consisting of early starts or night work; or commute long distances to work, you will probably find yourself suffering with parental guilt. Namely – frustrated you are not at home with your family as much as you wish.

Your partner may send you updates on how the evening routine has gone; they may send you cute pics of the kids in their pyjamas. You may even sneak in some Facetime to speak and see one another. But you are stuck at work, or you are still over one hour away from getting through the door. Your train is also delayed. Up steps parent guilt. You don’t let on to your partner or the kids, but deep inside you feel bad about not being physically able to read them a bedtime story.

Book A Day Off During The Week

The next day you arrive for work, ensure the first thing you do before you check the emails or grab a coffee is to book a day off during the week. It is annual leave after all. You may see this as a waste of a day, but you will be surprised at how good it feels to break up your working week by spending it with your child/ren.  Use it to spend the day at home playing games and making a mess; you could go to the beach; have a picnic in the garden; you could do the school runs you wish you did. The day is your oyster.

Yes, your kid may have childcare arrangements in place at a nursery, childminder or grandparents, but you are the parent, you can do as you wish if it means your priceless bonding with you children improves.

Request Simple Flexible Working Alterations

If your commute is so long and frustrating at times, maybe think about requesting an opportunity to work from home a couple of times per week. Or have a chat to see whether you could start or finish early/later. Employers have a legal duty to listen to these requests and must come up with very good business reasons to deny them. Slightly tweaking your working hours and conditions, can free you up to walk your child to school or to pick them from nursery at lunchtime. It can provide you with simple opportunities to do normal, every-day parenting thing which some take for granted.

Use Shift Working To Your Advantage

Working anti-social hours will mean you are off when your own friends and family members are at work. But your mornings off or your weekly Wednesday off may mean you can be daddy for the day. You and your child all day. And no-one is going to get in the way. Not even tiredness. Truly make the most of these times you have with them. Yes, your body clock may be shot to pieces, you are lethargic and can’t really make the effort in doing much. But these are the days which will swim by in the blink of an eye. Make this the time you put 100% effort in; lots of energy; plans and above all else, lots of laughter.

Take Your Child To Work

More and more employers are holding events where you can bring your children to work with you for the day. Why not take them up on this and bring your own? Make sure to ask them if they are aware of a pioneering initiative that Employees Matter has been rolling out across coporate Britain since 2013 called ‘bring your child to work day’.  If you commute on a train and endure lonely, stressful journeys, what better way to cheer you up than having your child with you to experience it with you. When you are having a tough day or commute, you can fondly remember the moment your son or daughter joined you on the trip and made you smile. And they can get a sense of where you go every day.

Give them a Kiss Goodnight

Even if you are late home or it is midnight, never feel afraid to pop in to your child’s room to tuck them in and peck them on the cheek to wish them a good night… Even if they are busy dreaming about dinosaurs or breakfast… These type of small gestures help immensely when you feel that parent guilt strike.

School Holidays Are Over. Lets Get Your Kids Back to School

School Holidays Are Over. Lets Get Your Kids Back to School

It’s that time of the year again when your child is returning to school after the never-ending summer holiday. How do you prepare?

Getting Back To The Swing Of Things After The School Holidays

Late nights, daily ice cream van visits and endless snack requests are ending abruptly for the kids. Their un-structured, lengthy escape into the summer wilderness is over. Reverting to their usual mundane school routine may seem daunting as parents as you may have let discipline slip slightly. You have got used to loosening your grip on their bedtime and sugar calorie consumption.

So how do you get back into the swing of things?

The School Holidays Are Over And You Have Survived

Firstly. Relax. Take a breather. You are in the same boat as millions of other parents. You have survived the monster summer holidays. And so have your kids. Yes, your sense of humour and patience may have diminished somewhat, but hey, summer holidays will live long in the memory of our kids. Even if they ask for a snack three minutes after scoffing down their Weetabix. Or whether they want dinner at breakfast time.

The School Uniform

Most parents will probably get themselves worked up by rushing off on a wild school uniform goose chase to supermarkets. Before you do, take a walk in to your kid’s bedrooms and locate their school uniform from the previous academic year. In other words, clothes they wore six weeks ago. Get them to try it all on. If it fits and there are no obvious marks, I have saved you a stressful visit to Tesco.

A Good Polish And Clean May Just Do The Trick

Look at their school shoes. Examine them. Do they look OK to you? Give them a thorough polish and clean. I bet you they will come up better than you imagine. Another expensive trip to Clarke’s isn’t required. Obviously if they no longer fit, you are free to shop for alternatives, but I think you get the jist.

This is not being tight with money or sending your kids to school scruffy. It is simply saying to yourself, ‘they look absolutely fine in the uniform they have’.

This saves you the stress and frustration of turning up at the shops to realise they have sold out of most of the sizes you require.

Better still, maybe keep an eye on your school’s social media channels with posts relating to uniform for sale.

Right, that’s the uniform sorted.

Now for the kids.

Take A Balanced Approach

Try not to panic by force feeding them too much work in preparation for their first day back. Remember they have probably had a largely great time having a break from the curriculum. If you suddenly expect them to read five books a day for a week in preparation, then you may get a lot of protest.

Ease them back into the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your kids. They will soon pick up everything when they return.

Going back to school can be very daunting for children. It is important to create positivity about the return. Maybe think about going out for a family meal on the day before they are due to go back? It is a nice, relaxed way in showing them summer is over; now get back to school you toe-rags!

Prepare everything a week before they head back. Know that you have no more stationary shops or supermarket visits to attend to.

Patience Is Key

Final job is to get them back into their bedtime routine. Lower screen time consumption and get them back into their normal school night routines. It may be a waste of time doing this a week in advance, so just give it a go two or three nights previous.

And most of all, expect the first morning back to school to be an incredibly frantic one. It will be rush rush rush.

Try and be patient with yourself and the kids and simply laugh through the adversity of the dreaded first morning school run.

It will be fine…