Category Archives: Children

Living Arrows: My Smiler of the Week

My son is known for his smile; in particular his huge dimples which if you fell into you may never be seen again. He is a smiler. A smiley boy and I hope the world never sees fit to wipe the beautiful smile off his face.

Last week at school he was awarded “Smiler of the Week”. This is not as you may think an award for just having a lovely smile. It is something you get nominated for if you’ve done something particularly kind or helpful that week. 

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

We will never know what he did that was kind or helpful. He either can’t remember or if he can he’s not telling. But whatever it was, it was good enough for him to win the award and stand up in front of the school to receive his round of applause. 

I really like the fact that his school celebrates kindness and helpfulness. If the world was a kinder, more helpful place wouldn’t it be wonderful?

If I can blow our own trumpet for a paragraph or two; one of the things we have really focused on at home is kindness and consideration. I feel like I’m a kind person with lots of empathy. Whilst that can mean I do sometimes get taken advantage of, it does mean that in many ways my life is richer for the kindness I show and share with others. 

I didn’t want to raise a child who would barge through life running roughshod over other people and being unsympathetic to their feelings. People often comment on how kind and helpful he is. I am so pleased that it’s evident to other people too. As some wise owl once said “Manners cost nothing, but get you everything”.

Ordinary Moments: Smiler of the Week

I just want him to be a decent human being. In a world which seems to be increasingly full of tyrants and darkness, a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Well done Ben. You’ve made me so incredibly proud of you, my Smiler of the Week!

Living Arrows

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

The small boy, who these days is not so small, starts Year 2 in just under a fortnight (where has the time gone etc etc). He needs new school uniform, but the thought of spending hours of our precious summer together trawling through various shops buying various bits of uniform and kit fills me with horror. Better to buy it all, or almost all in the same place at the same time. Last week we popped to Debenhams and did just that.

If I was fancy I’d talk about our Debenhams School Uniform “haul”, but I’m old-fashioned for that. Instead we just went shopping and bought a big bag of school uniform. Hopefully enough to see him through until his next growth spurt. Debenhams School Uniforms are currently 20% off in store and online, something we took full advantage of.

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

This will be his fourth “school year” (School Nursery, Reception, Year 1 etc) so this is not our first time at the school uniform rodeo. We know what he likes and what he doesn’t like.

We bought a new warm padded school coat (£18), 6 pristine white polo shirts (£5.60 for a pack of two), 2 pairs of slim fit trousers (£8.80), 2 pairs of flat fronted trousers (£9) and 10 new pairs of grey socks (£4 per pack of 5 pairs). All we need are a couple of jumpers with the school logo on and we are ready for the start of the year. Our shopping trip cost us just under £63, that’s including the 20% off!

I was really pleased to find some nice slim fit trousers. I always think the flat fronted ones make him look like a junior accountant, so we bought some slim fit to try out. Like most children, he is very hard on the knees of his trousers. If he’s not falling over and grazing his knees, he’s crawling along being a ninja superhero or something.

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

He’s six and whilst he’s grasped the rudimentaries of getting himself dressed. If he’s rushing he can still get frustrated with fiddly buttons on trousers, especially if he’s getting himself changed for PE or nipping to the loo. We like to adjust the waistband on his trousers so they’re loose enough to just pull them up in a rush if he needs to, but not loose enough to fall down, obviously. Both the flat front and slim fit styles we chose have adjustable waistbands. Phew.

He is also very hard on the white polo shirts he has to wear for school. I’m enjoying them now in their pristine white state before term starts. His polo shirts get washed to death. We like to buy enough so he has a clean one each day and a couple of spares waiting to be brought into circulation once he starts destroying them.

We have tended to buy cheap supermarket polo shirts which often shrink in the wash a bit. I’m hopeful these will stand up to regular washing a bit better than their supermarket counterparts. They do feel like they’re a cut above in terms of quality and doesn’t he look smart (and clean)!

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

As for his new coat, it’s light to carry and nicely padded for the winter months. With an easy zip up the front and zipped pockets so his treasures won’t fall out. He’s thrilled with it and at £18 we have no complaints either.

We have high hopes that our “haul” of Debenhams school uniform will last the year; or until he grows out of it. I am impressed with the price and quality. Everything seems well designed with sturdy stitching and made from good quality material. Even the socks are thicker, stretchier and more comfortable than the cheap supermarket ones I’ve made him wear.

If I have one regret, it’s not buying more polo shirts, another couple of packets couldn’t hurt, could it?

Debenhams currently have 20% off school uniform online and in-store now. Visit their website to have a look at their range.

Back to School with Debenhams School Uniform

Note: This post is in collaboration with Debenhams as part of their Back to School Campaign. All images and opinions are our own.

Catch festival favourite Nick Cope on tour

Summer is here and the festival season is upon us once more. Whether you’re off to Camp Bestival, Refract at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, or taking in the sights at the Edinburgh Fringe, you must (you really must) catch “indie-surrealist kids’ singer songwriter” Nick Cope this summer. Nick Cope is a professional singer and songwriter, who first enjoyed international success as lead singer and songwriter with The Candyskins in the 1990s. These days he is a much loved writer and performer of beautifully bonkers songs for kids.

On tour with festival favourite Nick Cope

Nick first came to my attention when I saw he was appearing at Refract at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on Sunday 30th July. I looked him up on YouTube and I knew that my son would love his work, and he really really did.

Nick has a number of CDs, each one is full of his funny, whimsical songs for kids of all ages. I now have two of his CDs; The Pirate’s Breakfast and A Round of Applause for The Dinosaurs which I know will fill a few happy hours on the long drive to Cornwall and back this summer. The songs are simple, funny and really relatable. I would love to see Nick perform live and I’m going to make it my mission to catch one of his shows soon!

Nick has also recently released a DVD – The Nick Cope Show which is an animated compilation of brand new and classic videos by Nick and his son Burt (Burt has done some of the animations for Nick’s songs). The DVD is narrated by a cartoon Nick and features favourites like – A round of applause for the dinosaurs, I’m a little lizard, Flower in the garden, the classic The baby’s done a poo and many more. This 25 minute film is available on DVD and iTunes download.

Nick performs all over the UK at all the major art and music festivals. If you want to see him this summer (or at any other time really), all of his gigs are listed o his website. He will be appearing at Camp Bestival, Refract at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale and the Edinburgh Fringe over the next month or so.

Nick is brilliant. We are big fans and I hope you will be too!

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

I know school is yet to break up for the summer holidays, but I’m already putting together a list of everything we will need for the new school year. One of the things he will need is a decent lunchbox, not least because he needs to take a packed lunch when he’s in the holiday club at school over the summer. He needs something which will stand out from the other lunch boxes, something practical and something cool. Step forward this Smiggle Lunchbox.

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

The Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox includes two functional compartments with double zips, a name label, carry handle, an adjustable shoulder strap and a drinks bottle holder.

The larger of the two compartments is insulated, so you can keep your lunch cool. The smaller compartment is ideal for putting other things in, like a notebook and colouring pencils, so you can use this as a day bag, which makes it perfect for kids club over the summer.

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

There’s plenty of room in the lunchbox for what he needs. I like that there’s a large side net to keep a water bottle. In the smaller compartment there’s a place for your to write your name and contact details. The front compartment also has a hard casing. It’s decorated with a cool 3D cartoon character and the styling certainly sets it apart from other lunch boxes.

Back to School: Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox

The cool zombie style prints on the back of the bag provide lots of interest and a welcome splash of colour. The small boy said it looked really cool and he was excited to have a stylish lunchbox of his own. If you like the styling of the Smiggle Says lunchbox, they also have a selection of stationery in that range including spikey pens and scented pencils.

The Smiggle Says Hardtop Lunchbox costs £19 and is available from Smiggle stores and online too.

Note: We were sent this lunchbox for review purposes, all images and opinions are our own.

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

When you’re six and the sun is shining, you want to throw off the shackles of school, homework and all the things you have to do each day and have fun. Much to my regret, my six year old has a busy life, a far too busy life. He has school and after school activities and not enough time sat at home chilling out and being six.

When he is at home we’re generally busy trying to get his homework done, or getting his dinner down him, or throwing him in the bath and bundling him into bed so he’s rested enough for the next busy day. I long for half term breaks, inset days and summer holidays so we can just be and we can just stop racing around for a few days and spend some precious time together.

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

At Easter I took him away for a couple of days, just the two of us and it was fantastic. We had the best time together and we were both well rested and tired out by the time we got home. Maybe that’s what I need to do to be able to spend time with him, steal him away from everything for a few days. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. Sadly.

This last week has been phonics screening week at school. He’s had a lot of prep and pressure leading up to this. He’s worked hard but I’ve no idea how he’s got on, nor do I care particularly. He’s six and he’s doing just fine and he doesn’t need pressure from me on top of the pressure from everyone else. When did being six become so stressful?

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

In the snatched moments we have together, when we’re not in a rush to go somewhere or do something, or finish some homework, we do crafts and baking, we go on nice walks and talk about nature. Sometimes we just sit and watch TV together and all of those things, all of them are just as valid as phonics, reading, homework, Beavers and football lessons.

We need to stop doing things and just be.

Living Arrows: The busy life of a six year old

Although there’s hardly any time at all to just be, this week we did manage a few snatched moments of time to just be six. Walking the dog, colouring in with his new Paw Patrol stationery kit and  we had a BBQ and I caught him gnawing away at a corn on the cob – a difficult task if you’re missing some teeth and nursing some wobbly ones! 

I love this boy and treasure every snatched moment with him.

Living Arrows

How to organise your own Easter Egg Hunt

One of my favourite things to do on Easter Sunday is to set up an Easter egg hunt for my son. He’s 6 now, but he still believes in the Easter bunny and I have no wish at all to shatter his illusions. Easter egg hunts are pretty easy to put together and lots of fun to take part in.

How to plan an Easter egg hunt at home

Here are my top tips for setting up an Easter egg hunt.

Step 1:
Buy some Easter eggs. I like to get a selection of sizes and colours to hide in the garden. Make sure you buy enough to share fairly equally between the Easter egg hunters. I tend to get a couple of medium sized eggs and then some smaller ones for the hunters to seek out. You don’t have to stick to Easter eggs, you can also mix things up and add some Easter sweets too.

Step 2:
Count the eggs and sweets before you hide them and try to make a mental note of where you’ve hidden them.

Step 3:
On Easter Sunday I am usually tasked with distracting the boy whilst my other half scurries around the garden hiding the eggs in obvious and not so obvious places. If you can do this just before the hunt without anyone noticing you’ve got a better chance of finding everything and it’s less likely that the local wildlife will find your goodies and eat them for you.

Step 4:
Don’t forget your bucket or basket to put your Easter bounty in.

Step 5:
Go hunting! Have fun, don’t forget to take some photographs. See if you can find an egg and get away with keeping it all to yourself.

Since last Easter we’ve got a new puppy and she is into absolutely everything. If you’ve got a new puppy, or an older dog it’s worth remembering that chocolate is very bad for them. So sadly our puppy, Penny will not be able to join in with the Easter egg hunt. She will have to stay on her lead just to make sure she doesn’t snaffle any goodies she shouldn’t have.

Will you have Easter egg hunt at home? What are your top tips for a successful hunt?

How to organise your own Easter Egg Hunt

If you enjoyed this, you might like to try painting your own Easter eggs.

Why I don’t need fuss on Mother’s Day

I know I’m a rare specimen, but I can live without too much fuss on Mother’s Day. I’m very content with a homemade card and a cuddle. I have a great relationship with my son and I feel loved, admired and appreciated by him every day. Plus I don’t want him to grow up feeling obligated to make a fuss when no fuss needs to be made.

Why I don't need fuss on Mother's Day

Nevertheless, I know at school there will be some card and gift making going on in readiness for Mothering Sunday. No doubt instructions for fuss making will also be issued from my husband.

My husband is prone to bouts of extravagance, so I have very firmly put in a request to go to our local community farm to see the baby animals. This is something we can all enjoy together. Ben and I can see the animals and meet the newborn lambs and calves. Daddy can walk the dog and then we can all go to the playground and have an ice cream. Sounds like a pretty good day out to me and one I’m really looking forward to.

Last night after dinner, I asked Ben some questions about Mother’s Day and got some surprisingly adorable answers. We’d been talking about the zoo, so both the zoo and walking the dog feature heavily; but I reckon this is worth three minutes of your time any day. 

I am so proud of my boy. Every day he brings sunshine and light into my life. We laugh and giggle an awful lot. He’s wonderfully creative and determined. He’s stubborn and wilful and as bright as a button. He wakes me up every morning with a kiss (because that’s how you wake a princess). Ben goes to bed every night insisting that we have a big family cuddle. He is kind and caring and I love the very bones of him.

Having him in my life is the best present I could wish for on Mother’s Day. Being a mum isn’t easy, not by a long chalk, but for me at least there are endless rewards.

What are your plans this Mother’s Day?


Family things to do – Half Term Hygge

The February half term is upon us and despite a gloriously spring like weekend, day one has been wet and cold. We had a quick trip to the park with friends this morning, but the afternoon demanded a bit of warm cosiness and gentle fun. Thankfully Plusnet had sent us a box of Hygge style activities for such an occasion, so we got to work on creating a bit of Half Term Hygge at home.

Hygge is something which comes from Denmark. It means creating a nice, cosy atmosphere and enjoying the simple things in life with the good people around you.

Our Half Term Hygge box contained a lovely assortment of Hygge style goodies and inspiration including –

• Decorations including fairy lights and instructions for building a cosy fort
• Hot Chocolate & marshmallows
• A recipe card for Snobrod (Danish butter biscuits) 
• Family film night poster and popcorn

February Half Term Hygge activities

It’s got winter stamped all over it. For me that might mean a nice cup of coffee and a good book in front of the fire. For children that probably doesn’t cut it. Armed with our Plusnet Hygge box, we whipped up a batch of delicious Danish butter biscuits and while they were in the oven we made a cosy den.

February Half Term Hygge activities

This wasn’t any old den, it was filled with cushions, cosy blankets and finished with a string of fairy lights. So good was this den that he spent the afternoon in there reclining, colouring in and watching cartoons on his tablet. 

February Half Term Hygge activities

I was very impressed with the Danish butter biscuits too. It’s a really easy recipe. He loved helping out and we will be making these again very soon. Be warned though, they are too good and as a result they didn’t last very long!

February Half Term Hygge activities

The boy is very sold on Hygge. I can see us having a few more afternoons like this over half term. Who doesn’t love a blanket fort, a mug of hot chocolate and a cosy afternoon of loveliness? 

February Half Term Hygge activities

Thank you to Plusnet for our Half Term Hygge box. You can find out more about Half Term Hygge on Twitter by searching the #HalfTermHygge hashtag. You can find our more about creating some half term hygge of your own on the Plusnet website.

Are you planning any lovely half term hygge activities?

Review: ChewyMoon subscription snack box for children

After school the small boy likes to come home to a drink and a little snack. He’s very fond of both fresh and dried fruit, so he normally gets something like that to munch on. An afternoon snack for him is something of a sanity saver for me, if he goes without he’s often so hungry by 5pm he’s howling for his tea. A handful of dried fruit is just enough to tide him over till teatime. This week his afternoon snacks have been courtesy of ChewyMoon, and very nice they are too!

ChewyMoon subscription snack box for children

ChewyMoon is the UK’s first nutritionally-balanced subscription snack box for children between the ages of 4 and 10. Their snacks are made from natural ingredients, with no refined sugar or nasties. There are five snacks in a box, together with a ‘fun pack’ comprising comics, fact cards and totem toys, so the box just as much fun as it is healthy.

In our ChewyMoon box there were five little boxes of snacks – just the right size for a quick nibble. They’re in really fun, brightly coloured boxes (which we’ve saved, I’m sure they’ll be brilliant for using in a craft project). The snacks are all nutritionally balanced and healthy, full of fruit, nuts, seeds and other goodies. He loved eating them and enjoyed trying the different snack boxes.

ChewyMoon subscription snack box for children

The ChewyMoon box comes with some fun things too. Ours contained a card to help us identify different kinds of clouds – we’ve stuck that to the fridge for reference purposes. There was also a space monkey “totem” which you popped out of the card and made into a little stand alone figure and a little comic strip to read.

It’s colourful, fun, a little bit educational, healthy and the box arrives every week through your letterbox, addressed to your child. That alone is beyond exciting for my six year old!

ChewyMoon subscription snack box for children

The ChewyMoon website is fab, it’s got lots of nutritional advice and information for parents. You can also rate each snack, so you can get more of what you like and less of what you don’t.

Your ChewyMoon subscription box is delivered weekly and costs £4.95 per week, you can order a free trial box (just pay postage) to see if you like it. We did like it a lot. I felt that although my son generally enjoys healthy snacks, this was a great way to introduce him to some other kinds of snacks he might enjoy. There were a couple of things in our selection of snacks which challenged him, but with a little encouragement he tried them, enjoyed them and would have them again.

As a parent I try to encourage healthy eating and part of that is discovering new things to eat; exploring flavours and textures and encouraging him to be open to new experiences with food. I think ChewyMoon is a really fun box, but also a way to develop an interest in new things, which is never a bad thing.

For more information about ChewyMoon, visit their website.

20 Questions to ask your children

Over the last few weeks on Facebook I’ve seen a lot of my friends asking their kids 20 questions. I’ve loved reading their answers, some of them are funny, some a bit weird, some a little bit sad, but all of them really interesting. 

Shepherds Friendly have produced a ‘20 questions to ask your children’ worksheet which you can find here. We sat down this morning and gave our son a gentle grilling, asking him each of the 20 questions. It was an interesting and quite funny little family task, and one which would be a good thing to do again each year.

Here’s a video of me questioning our boy wonder, he was a bit sleepy and a little bit grumpy to begin with, but he soon got into the swing of things…

20 questions: His answers…

Q1. What is your favourite colour?

Q2. Who is your best friend?
Joseph (his cousin of the same age).

Q3. What is your favourite TV programme?
Paw Patrol (naturally).

Q4. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A Power Ranger, when asked which one he said Black Ranger. 

Q5. What car do you want to have when you grow up?
Lots of thinking about this one, but he opted for a motorcycle – I think because the Power Rangers sometimes ride them.

Q6. If you could go anywhere in the world on holiday, where would you go?
He said Spain – we recently went there on holiday and had a really fabulous time.

20 questions Sol Katmandu Hotel, Majorca with Jet2Holidays

Q7. Do you want to get married one day?
Yes…to Sophie.

Q8. How many children would you like?
Errr… one. he said eventually.

Q9. What age are you when you become an adult?
He said 17, which is a very good guess.

Q10. What are you good at?
He said painting, I reminded him that he was good at lots of things, which he is.

Q11. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Flyi…. running. He corrected himself. I would have accepted his first answer (flying). Running really, really, super, super fast. What a great superpower.

Q12. If you had one wish, what would it be?
He said loving, so I asked if he meant he would love and be loved right back, he said yes by you and pointed at me. This answer melted my heart a little bit.

20 questions

Q13. What do I do as a job?
He thought for a minute and said “writing” which pretty much sums it up.

Q14. What are you scared of?
The dark. Which is true, he hates the dark evenings now winter is here and he has to sleep with a light on. Hopefully he will grow out of it.

Q15. What is your favourite song?
Transformers Rescue Bots (theme tune).

Q16. What is your favourite class at school?
He said “eating” and when questioned he said eating fruit. I know he likes school and he enjoys learning. I did half expect him to say learning songs for the Nativity play, but clearly eating fruit is the highlight of his academic day.

Q17. What is something I always say to you?
I love you. 

Which is true. I never want him to feel like I don’t love him or have time for him.

Q18. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
He gave the slightly enigmatic answer of “be calm”. I’m not sure what he means by that, but I can only think it’s what someone at school says to the boys when they’re running around being giddy at school.

Q19. What makes you happy?

Q20. What makes you sad?
Scary things….like the dark.

I really loved some of his answers to these 20 questions. I think I know my son pretty well and I could have predicted most of these replies, but some of the others give an interesting insight into the mind of my six year old.

20 questions to ask your children

This post was in collaboration with the Shepherds Friendly Society who offer a range of savings plans including a Junior Isa