Friday, 31 August 2018

Are you ready for back to school? The last minute uniform and stationery purchases.

Back to School ready? Stationery, uniform and bag shopping done?

I would love to let everyone know that this year I have been super organised but I would be fibbing! Each year I say that I will do all of my back to school shopping early and get it done and out of the way and here I am with less than a week to go and we still need backpacks, shoes and trousers.

So tomorrow I face the daunting task of hitting the shops and hoping I can find everything I need in one go. I’m not going out again! Thing 2 and 3 both found backpacks in Superdry so I know what they want and I will probably order those online, they should be here in time for school next Wednesday.

Our impending backpack purchases. You won't miss Thing 3 with her choice of Superdry bag!

Thing 4 and 5 are uniform ready which makes a change for two of them not to not need anything! Thing 5 may need a new school jumper or two but these can only be purchased from the school so I will have to do that on the first day. He did get these fab personalised socks from SCHOOLSOX which come in 7 different colours in the ankle socks to match all school uniforms. They also do sports socks, trainer socks and knee high socks as well personalised socks for men and women too. 

Personalised school socks from SCHOOLSOX

School shoes are also needed for both older girls and I may need to get Thing 5’s shoes checked too. Thing 5 will have Clark’s or Startrite shoes but the older girls tend to want to choose heir own and I have to keep an eye on what they choose. I know in the past they have chosen some which haven’t lasted very well at all, we need hardwearing yet stylish! Thing 4 doesn’t have a uniform at his school so he has plenty of pairs of shoes already that he can wear to school as well as being able to wear anything from his wardrobe too so he is back to school ready.

We are all set up with gym bags and lunch boxes from Smiggle. The Smiggle range is always amazing for back to school and you can get everything you need including backpacks, lunchboxes, gym bags, pencil cases, water bottles, stationery and more. We’ve always found the Smiggle products long lasting and durable. Thing 4 has his backpack from last year which still looks as new.

Smiggle bags at the ready! Backpack, gym bag and lunchboxes all ready. 

The older girls got some fab monochrome stationery items from Poundland which I am really impressed with. It looks great and I’m hoping they keep it all in their pencil cases for more than the first week.

The teens Poundland stationery haul

We’ve also had some stationery sent from Staedtler UK. Their Noris range is great with chunky colouring pencils as well as sharpeners, rubbers and the iconic yellow and black pencils we all had at school. It’s ideal for all of the children to use from infant school right through to senior school and I know they will all get full use of the products we have here.

Our fab bundle of Staedtler Noris stationery. All ready for back to school. 

So there we have it. The Summer holidays flew by in the blink of an eye and it only feels like they finished school last week. The last few days of freedom are looming and we are hurriedly getting ready for back to school. 

Are you ready for back to school?

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The launch of the new Microsoft Surface Go in partnership with John Lewis #GoImagine

 The launch of the new Microsoft Surface Go in partnership with John Lewis

Last week we got to go and see the newly launched Microsoft Surface Go in partnership with John Lewis. I took Thing 3 with me as she is very much into her tech and drawing at the moment so it was an ideal opportunity for her to get her hands on the Surface Go and try it out.

When we arrived we walked straight into a room with the product ready to get hands on with and try it out. Straight away we found it easy to use and we were able to draw and create using the Surface Go. Thing 3 was able to use it straight away with ease and was drawing freehand as well as using the 2D/3D images available to create your artwork. 

Trying out the Microsoft Surface Go

I left Thing 3 to get more accustomed with the Surface Go and it's 10" PixelSense display. She used the Microsoft Surface Go pen (available separately) to draw freestyle as well as using the other tools within the application.

We were treated to a wonderful chat with Ben Fogle as well as a representative from Microsoft, John Lewis, Britmums and an outdoor play specialist on creativity in children which was really good and really got me thinking about the uses of technology in home, in the classroom as well as out and about. We are always quick to think that technology can be a bad thing if used for long lengths of time and our children should be outdoors and playing and using their creativity but technology can really help with this too.

Children should be encouraged to be as creative as possible and technology can really help. As well as being used to be artistically creative the Microsoft Surface Go can also be used to help explore nature and broaden children's knowledge on the world around us. You can access the internet which unlocks a whole world of information to use to encourage our children's learning and boost their knowledge on anything they wish to know. Whether they need help with their homework or you are outdoors and need help identifying certain things in nature it's a versatile piece of equipment.

The children were taught how to create a penguin using the 2D/3D shapes and afterwards Thing 3 was able to show me again how it was done. I was amazed at how quickly and easily she had picked up everything and she replicated the same drawing within minutes to show me what she had learnt. 


We then sat together and everyone was given the Surface Go and we were given another tutorial on how to create a mash up animal picture using specific parts of individual pictures of animals to create a while new picture of an animal that we had made using various different parts. You can see our animal below! A mix of a horse, elephant, eagle, bunny and frog. The magic erase function on the Surface Go which pinpoints a specific part of a picture really impressed me and again Thing 3 got to grips with it so quickly.

Thing 3's animal mash up creation. She did a fab job and got to grips with the Surface Go so quickly

The Surface Go pen made things really easy to use and navigate although it was still just as easy to use without. When you want to use the Surface Go to browse the internet or write there is the Microsoft Surface Go Signature Type Keyboard Cover (available separately)  turning your Surface Go into a premium laptop.

We would highly recommend the Surface Go as an easy to use, versatile piece of tech. I know Thing 3 will want one very soon!

You can find out more here at and unleash your creativity with the Surface Go and #GoImagine 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Our TOP 5 TIPS on days out or activities to do over the summer with the children.

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As a parent we are responsible for keeping the children entertained throughout the Summer holidays. Six weeks is a long time to keep them entertained every single minute of the day and not a pressure you should give to yourselves. 

Here are my top 5 tips for surviving the Summer holidays and things to do. 

1. Days out are great but can be expensive and costs can mount up quickly. Look out for days out deals like buy one get one free entry tickets or early booking discounts if you book online. Also check out local amenities too. Our local swimming pool is doing kids swim for £1 if you signed up for a swimming pass. Check out reviews online before you go like our recent visit to Paultons Park Peppa Pig World. Will the children enjoy the day? Is there rides appropriate to the age of your children? Remember parks and resorts will be busy so make sure you are well prepared for your day out. 

2. Play dates. More children in the house might seem like a nightmare but having friends over to play can be a real treat. Either invite them over and hope the invitation for your children to go over there one day will be returned or invite the children and their parents and enjoy a sit down, coffee and a natter whilst the children play. There is nothing worse than sometimes thinking that all you've done all week is look after your children and not seen another adult so don't feel bad about sitting and having a coffee whilst the children play/run riot. 

Play dates and the lovely weather we are having means you can get the toys out in the garden.

3. Explore the outdoors and find new places to visit. We are lucky to live right next door to a huge woodland area and a few years ago we found 'the beach' hidden inside. There is a huge lake to walk around and lots of hidden areas to play and explore but my younger 2 loved to go to the beach and play in the sand. Living right next door to it means we can visit as many times as we like and it's free. We just pack up a bag of play stuff, a blanket and some drinks and head over for a couple of hours play. Ideal if you've been in the house all day or having nothing particular planned. Local parks are always good to visit too. Take a picnic or just let them run off their excess energy. 

Our local woods is a great place to explore. Here are the 2 younger Things at their favourite 'beach' spot. 

4. Craft days/baking days. Don't feel that you have to get them out of the house every single day. Although we have been very lucky with the weather which has meant days out have been easy to do it can also get too much. Some days the heat has been overwhelming and going on a full day out with the kids when it's that hot can also ruin the day. Craft days/baking days are a great way to pass the time. You don't always have to have a plan in place either. Take the children to the shops to choose various craft supplies and either just have a free for all crafting session or look on Pinterest for hundreds of craft ideas. Baking is also fun and you then get to eat the end result! from flapjacks to cupcakes or why not get them involved in choosing and cooking a dish for dinnertime? 

Homemade pizzas are a great idea. The children can choose their toppings and then they have their dinner already made for that evening. 

5. Most importantly, relax! Easier said than done but don't feel pressured to fill every day with days out, organised activities and things to do. Don't feel guilty if one day they just play at home with toys or they spend a bit too long on their gadgets and games consoles. Have a PJ day, movie day and eat junk food once in a while. Summer holidays are for memories and the children will remember the impromptu duvet day with movies and snacks just as much as the days out. 

Movie day/night can be fun. Popcorn, sweets and a good DVD for the children. Dad loves to join in too! 

Have you been out and about every day so far? Have you relaxed a bit too? Have the children exclaimed 'I'm bored' yet? Let me know what you have been up to in the comments below. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Do you know who your children are talking to online? Online chat with 'friends' & keeping an eye on your children's online presence.

We recently had a few issues with school/social media and friendship issues with one of our children which then involved a meeting with the school. 

On the day I assumed I would go into school and everything we had talked about previously would be brought up and they would explain how they were dealing with the issues and that was it. 

As the meeting progressed I was shocked and slightly taken aback to find out that my child had been talking in online chat groups with people they classed as 'friends'. 

They had started by playing a game that millions of children play each day and that we were fully aware of. We try not to let them lock themselves in their room and hide away and we thought we were aware of what they were doing online. Mainly using the home PC that we have and we generally pop in and out to check on them and what they are doing. 

Our child had then been told about another place to go and online chat with everyone. This is what we didn't know about. As they had been talking online with the same 'friends' for ages on the game they went over to the other chat group and continued their chat there. 

It was said that a lot of them talked about every day life, the games they were playing, what they were up to etc.... Nothing bad. However, some of them talked about issues they have and my child said they tried to help them if they could. 

They are a very sensitive child and they said that they tried to help others where they could but I am sure some of what these 'friends' were talking about had more of an affect my child more than it maybe would have others. I am sure they may have also spoken about things to these 'friends' about what was going at school recently too. 

People these days love to hide behind their phones and PCs. Social media has boomed over recent years and the amount of things posted online whether via Facebook, Instagram or any social media outlet means that we seem to keep in touch more online than we do in person these days. However it also means people think they can bully online, say mean things, post horrible pictures and it won’t affect the person involved. 

‘Oh I called them a horrible name but I didn’t say it to their face’. This does not make it ok or any less hurtful to the person involved. Words hurt whether spoken or not. People have feelings whether they hear something or read something. 

The effect of this and more is that a few weeks ago I found our child had self harmed. I’ve not told many people. I’ve not even really said the words ‘self-harmed’ out loud even to myself. I don’t want to admit that one of my babies has been driven to hurting themselves because others have bullied them and hurt them in a way that they probably are completely oblivious to or told them that if they are feeling down or low that this is something they can do. They have scars now and I still can't believe that they were driven to do this by someone who suggested it or maybe spoke or acted in a way I find totally unnecessary.

My child has been dealing with difficult situations in school too and so coming home and talking to people online about their day and about what has been happening. I was so upset and angry with myself that I hadn't noticed they had found this new chat room to talk in and we have since deleted it and keep an eye on everything they are doing. We limit screen time where we can and have screen free days too. 

Could I have done more? Should I have been more observant? Why didn't I pick up on anything sooner?

An update before publishing my post; School responded to us extremely promptly after I emailed them regarding the most recent incident at school. They apologised that they couldn't find a copy of my first email and they reassured me that my child is our first priority. The child involved with the school incident will be spoken to at school and the parents will be called regarding their child's behaviour. School have also been very supportive in keeping an eye on the self harm situation and working alongside us to repeat the importance of online safety. I will be keeping a very close eye on the situation to make sure nothing else happens again. 

So limit your child's screen time and social media time, frequently check on what they are doing and that they are only talking to friends. Have chats about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to being online and make sure they know the importance of internet safety. We can never be 100% certain who they are talking to and it's so easy to feel like we are talking to 'friends' even though we have never met them.