Thursday, 30 October 2014

Savvy Half Term - how we did it for (nearly) free

The cost of half term can add up so easily. From parents having to use annual leave to spend time at home with young children, to forking out even more than usual to make the most of this time together and entertain said children, the half term budget can grow beyond reasonable. So here are some savvy ideas for having a great time and spending next to nothing.

1. Visit a Museum or two.

Many museums offer free entry, charging fees for specific exhibitions or events. However, there's a lot to keep children (and adults) occupied without the fee paying events. Prepare a packed lunch or picnic cutting out the cost of dining out.

2. Visit a Shopping centre.

No, not for the shopping. Larger shopping centres often have half term events on. Some of these are free of charge. We recently saw Ben & Holly at a  shopping centre nearby, for free and were back home in time for lunch so spent nothing apart from the cost of petrol.

3. Visit your local park. 
The park is always a big hit in our family, and weather permitting, a picnic lunch follows on nicely. There's often a bit of bread left over for the ducks and bikes and scooters see some action.

4. Have a toy overhaul.
Spend sometime going though old toys, or as they are known in my household, clutter. Weed out and agree what can be given away to "other children who don't  have many toys". It is surprising how generous even young children can be if you explain the reason for giving with the above rationale. We took some old toys to a charity shop after an entire morning of examining, reminiscing, playing with and bagging old toys.

5. Have an Arts and Crafts day.

I often find the term "arts and crafts" a bit daunting as I imagine it means making amazing structures or knitting an entire blanket that an actual human could use. In reality, and certainly in my household ,it just means cutting pictures out of old magazines or catalogues (great for creating a Christmas wish list), practicing writing and drawing, and working on our home made rocket which happens to be Blue's half term homework. By the way I find a little classical music in the background gets the creative juices going and aids concentration.

What's on your list of low cost or free half term activities? 

Have you got any savvy half term tips to share?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Here Comes Half Term - 5 things to do

So we are nearly at the finish line of the first half of term one. I'm not quite sure why it feels like the time has passed so quickly given that this first half term has been life changing. In these last few weeks we've discovered jolly phonics and numicons, we've realised just how busy the roads are at 8.30am and 3pm, and have been surprised to learn that most 4 and 5 year olds are gifted with more dexterity and self control than we previously gave credit for or dared to discover for ourselves.
            Crossing the finish line 

I've been fortunate to have hit the "I don't want to go to school" wall only once so far. However I am no stranger to the after school challenge where by mummy gets  everything so wrong. Things like forgetting the Thomas the Tank engine umbrella ( it wasn't even raining); forgetting the helmet ( ok fair enough, I left in a hurry); talking to the other mums for too long, thereby wasting precious walking home time; and after a long day at school, serving up the wrong food.

So with half term upon us there's a part of me that just wants to relax and not rush around for anything. But there's also a part of me that is addicted to routine and therefore I need to have some kind of schedule in place. (Besides two young children will never permit an entire week of relaxation). So inspired by a half term planner I saw on, I thought I'd loosely plan some half term activities.
1. A trip to London to fulfil that London bus fascination - probably to the natural history museum - hello dinosaurs
                 A London bus

2. Visit the local museum - 20 mins drive for a free day out with arts and crafts and musical instruments. This should please both children and the purse.

3. Crèche - mummy still needs gym time even at half term. A gym session will re-energise me for mum duty. Besides both children seem to enjoy the fact that this is something they can do together, parent free.

4. A day of boredom at home because boredom breeds innovation and creativity. I'm hopeful but can't deny a little nervousness.

5. A play date - a long awaited catch up with friends from nursery. I wonder if previous best friends can still hold this title after being apart for weeks.

Making this list only serves up a realisation that we will probably have another busy week. These 5 items don't even include the School Halloween disco, the party on Saturday followed by another party on Sunday. 

The business of parenting is relentless work!

What have you got planned for planned half term?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

8 Things No one Told Us About Starting School

As a first timer with the business of the school run, there are a few things I have come to realise I just wasn't prepared for. Despite my dry runs, timing the walk from door to door (I even considered investing in a pedometer to get scientific verification of which of 2 routes was more efficient), I am surprised to be surprised.  

1. At least twice a week, a scooter will collide with the back of your legs. The correct response by the way, is to genuinely accept the other parents profuse apologies because you will be seeing them again and there is a strong likelihood, your child will scoot into their legs before the weekend.

2. The PTA - to join or not to join?
The school PTA is a good gang to associate oneself with. Such was my strategy anyway until I was scared off when the role of Treasurer was announced as vacant and urgently requiring a volunteer. I don't want to be the treasurer! That means being responsible for the school's money. Anyway I suspect you have to be atleast a part qualified accountant to be an effective treasurer and actually enjoy it. I think I'll stick to making pretty things for the Christmas fair and helping the teachers with organising the class room and resources.

3. The head teacher makes me want to behave. I like the fact that the head teacher is a strong no nonsense type, but even I feel I have to sit up straight and tuck my shirt in in her presence. She just commands authority.

4. Road safety ground rules.
Road safety has taken centre stage in our family since the start of school. Despite my confidence that my child understands the rules, I have to remember children get carried away and they will influence and be influence by others resulting in scooter races at rush hour. Confiscation of the scooter is not out of the question.

5. The Ice cream van. 
I find the presence of the sugar dispenser, I mean, Ice cream van right outside the school premises irritating to say the least. I wonder when it will be replaced by a fruit and veg van.

6. A 4/5 year old is actually capable of carrying their own tray of food from counter to table - AMAZING! We are only a few weeks into the first term of school and not once has the loss of lunch through clumsiness been reported. I'm too nervous to try this out at home.

7. Your child will make friends beyond the control zone. There will be new friends whose presence in your child's life you did not orchestrate. Don't we all get used to arranging play dates with parents we like? Those who we consider like minded? Well, it's all about to end because children will make their own friends at school and inevitably, you'll be asked to arrange a play date with a child you know nothing about. This could be awkward!

8. The comradery - meeting other mums and families who are actually, genuinely like minded people. The parenting tips, the recipe sharing, the decorating steals and uniform swaps ... I could go on but I'll stop now before I start declaring undying love and detailing weird codependency habits.

Is this how it should be or am I still high on new starter enthusiasm?
How have you found starting school?