Friday, 30 March 2018

A sunny walk down the Caldon Canal, Staffordshire

The sun returns!

Last weekend the sunshine made a welcome return, so we decided to get up early for a walk and make the most of it before the weather turned on us yet again! As a family, we have been trying to get out more and appreciate the beautiful places on our doorstep and the Caldon Canal couldn't be much closer! The Caldon Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal is 17 miles long from Etruria in Stoke-on-Trent, to Froghall Wharf in the Staffordshire Moorlands. 

Buggy friendly

Needless to say that with two children under 5, we didn't walk the full length of the canal! We joined it at Stockton Brook and headed towards Stoke. The Canal side is great for the kids as the path is wide enough to let them walk safely in front of us. I'd say it was pretty buggy friendly too, as long as you could manage the slightly muddy bank down to the path from the roadside! 

Wildlife watch!

This part of the Caldon is quite pretty with views of the countryside either side. It becomes even more picturesque if you walk in the other direction towards Froghall, as you enter the Churnet Valley. This is on our to-do list for next time, with a scheduled stop at The Hollybush Pub in Denford I think! The children enjoyed seeing all the ducks and listening out for other birds and wildlife as we continued our walk. 

Locks and Long Butts...

There are several locks and a manually lifted bridge called Long Butts Lift Bridge (a name the children found quite funny!) along the stretch at Stockton Brook. Last time we came for a walk here, we were lucky enough to see the locks in action as a lovely holidaying couple invited the kids aboard (and us...we didn't just throw them aboard with strangers!). People we've met along the canal here have always been really friendly, and let the kids watch or help with the locks which is always exciting for them. 

Inner Pepper Pig!

After a steady 20 minutes or so, we decided to turn back as Rosie can only walk so far (she's only 2). I didn't fancy picking her up with her muddy wellies on as I'd be covered too! This girl can not resist a puddle...the muddier the better! In fact most days I'm pretty sure she's channelling her inner Pepper Pig! Stanley was excited to point out the scary house on the way back, telling his sister to watch out for ghosts! I'm not sure what this derelict building had been, but it didn't look too out of place against the backdrop. There are other items of interest along the way, such as the two interesting monuments that celebrate the Spitfire and pottery heritage which is local to the area. You can see one of them in the background of this photo.

Time for a drink?

There are three pubs/restaurants located close to where we joined/exited the Caldon Canal (just off the main road, the A53) if you fancied a drink or lunch to recharge after; The Sportsman Pub and Ego Restaurant. Greenways Golf Club is also a short walk down Stanley Road, and they serve food to non-club members too. We had a play date with friends at soft play that afternoon, so I had a gourmet lunch of chicken nuggets, chips and beans to look forward to! 

More to explore...

There is so much more of this canal to explore. I'm looking forward to the springtime when we can take advantage of the beauty on our doorstep a bit more, and the canal will definitely be a good place to bring our newest family member, Dottie the Dachshund pup! I have also found a great little "Duck Guide" by the Canal and River Trust, with some fab ideas I'm going to try out with the kids next time we go. You can find the Waterside Quest download here, which contains 10 outdoor activity ideas for when you're at the waterside. I'm always after fun, free activities; let me know in the comments if you get involved too! Always remember to keep little ones safe by the water.

Finding joy in the little things: What better way to spend an hour of a sunny Sunday morning than down by the canal with my family! We are all totally over the snow and cold weather now, so to be outside without 10 layers on was fab! It's amazing how much a little warmth and brightness cheers up your soul and puts you in a good mood for the rest of the day... even if you are off to soft play afterwards! Try to get out when the sun shines, even if only to walk around the block. You'll feel so much better for it! Enjoy the sunshine, wherever you are! 

I've linked up this post with these fabulous blogs:


Sunday, 18 March 2018

How to de-stress the school run scramble!

School run stress

A quick google or hashtag search of the school run and you’ll find lots of horror stories of fraught mornings ruined by missing uniform, unmade packed lunches and getting stuck in traffic! It’s a stressful time for many parents and it can set the mood for the day that follows. For even the most organised of mums and dads, the school run can leave you feeling frustrated and a bit deflated!

For the kids, it can be just as anxiety inducing, as they wonder why mum has asked them four times to put on their shoes when they're just trying to remember which foot each shoe goes on. Or dad has raised his voice again to speed up the whole breakfast choosing/making/eating process! It’s no wonder that some children rush off into school, forgetting to kiss mummy at the gate, excited to spend a fun-filled day with their friends!

Small miracles!

Last week however, a series of what I liken to small miracles occurred in our house! Firstly, Stan (4 1/2) made his bed without me reminding him. He even tucked up his Paw Patrol dogs safely so they could sleep while he was at school! This made me smile.

Next, Rosie (2) tidied up her room with a little help from her favourite clean up song! Since going to Messy Play where they play a tidy up song whilst everyone helps to put things away, she’s reacted really well to using a song at home! It gives her a sense of focus and a great feeling of achievement if she has finished by the end of the song! You can find the clean up song here.

Both children were amazed to find that after breakfast we had 10 minutes to spare, so they could watch a little bit of TV! This rarely happens during the pre-school scramble to get everyone up and out!’s the absolute icing on the cake... I actually made myself a cuppa... and drank it sitting down!!! Not whilst rushing around with it in one hand, book bag, shoes and coat in the other! And it was HOT! I know you’ll appreciate just how wonderful that it!!

Three wheels or four? 

That morning, we walked to school. Stan scootered! That’s normally a treat we save for the way home, as he’s no pro and it certainly takes us longer on his wheels than in mine! We were super chilled, happy in each other’s company and actually enjoyed the slow walk to school! No missed kisses at the school gate for us; even Rosie was told by Stan to pucker up! What a difference these small things make to your day!

De-stress your morning!

So I’ve put together a list of things that may help you to take the stress out of those precious before school moments. For working families, this may be the only interaction you get until the tea-time chaos ensues! For others, school pick up can seem a long time to wait to ease the mummy/daddy guilt of the school morning rush. So wouldn’t it be rewarding if those before school moments could be golden? Hope it helps!

Plan ahead.

  • Uniform - Have it washed, ironed and ready to go each night. As Stan is still learning to dress independently, I lay his clothes out in the order he puts them on, even laying the polo shirt button side down so it’s the right way for him to pull it straight over his head. Same with his school jumper. It’s little things like this that make it just that bit easier for him. All I have to help him with now is tucking in his shirt and sorting his collar! I hope to crack this by July!
  • Toddler/baby clothes - Rosie’s clothes are also ready to go. She’s usually up first so as soon as she’s been to the loo, it’s off with the pjs and straight into simple clothes, like a jumper and leggings. Nothing with buttons or buckles when time is precious!
  • Your clothes - Have them ready the night before to grab and throw on before sorting the kids in the morning!
  • Lunches - I’m lucky enough that Stan has school dinners so I needn’t faff with lunches for him, but I work two days a week so I try to get mine ready the night before too. Usually at tea time while I’m waiting for something to cook, so I don’t have to spend additional time in the kitchen in the evenings! 
  • School admin - Have reading records signed the night before and put back into book bags. Sign any school letters and pop them in too.

Teach the children to take charge of something. This makes it easier on you.

  • Stanley has been taught to make his own bed; he may need a reminder but he does it now without argument. He just knows that making your bed is one of the things that needs doing before we all go downstairs.
  • Rosie knows she has to put away her toys before she comes down too. She has a little play whilst we get dressed as she’s always ready first. That’s just how it works in our house, and she’s learning that too. With a little help from her tidy up song!

Get the kids to pre-order breakfast!

  • I don’t always do this as my two are pretty good at picking in the morning. But if I know we are going to be short on time, I’ll get the kids to tell me what breakfast they want the night before. We choose bowls and spoons (we still have all the plastic character crockery here!) and lay them out on the table ready, before bed. It can save precious decision making minutes in the morning! Who knew choosing between the princess bowl and the Pepper Pig bowl could be such a dilemma when you’re 2?!

No TV/tablet before everything that needs doing is done! 

  • It surprising how well this little bribe works with mine! It’s a nice little reward for them for getting ready in time, and chills them out for those last few moments before we leave.

Plan your journey.

  • Set yourself a “time to leave the house” time and try your best to stick to it! I set mine 5 minutes before the time that I absolutely must leave by, which allows me a few extra minutes to be running late before all chaos ensues!
  • If you’re walking, have pushchairs/scooters/book bags/coats ready to go, by the door if it helps. 
  • If you’re driving, allow time to get the kids strapped into car seats/de-ice windscreens/warm the car, etc! Plan to leave 5 minutes ahead of time to try and avoid the scramble to get in the car and go!

And don’t forget - There’s always time for a cuddle and an “I love you.” 

I don’t profess to be an expert at any of this, we’re all human after all! But these are some of the things that help us to have a calm, purposeful and enjoyable morning together. I hope you find some of these tips helpful. Let me know in the comments below if you do, or if you have any tips to share. I look forward to hearing from you.

Finding joy in the little things: The little “miracles” I mentioned earlier are the kinds of thing that make me smile in the morning! It makes me proud to know that the children are growing up to be helpful and independent. By creating a positive, calm, “working together” atmosphere, we can all enjoy the mornings in each other’s company. I hope you can too.

I'm linking up this post with these fabulous blogs:

The Pramshed Confessions of a New Mummy

Sunday, 11 March 2018

German for Kids: Fünf kleine Entchen - Five little ducks

Counting to 5 - Our first lesson!

A familiar song 

I decided to introduce the children to German through one of their favorite songs, Five Little Ducks. Using a song with a familiar tune captured their attention straight away and allowed us to chat about the reasons why it sounded different to them.

I explained to Stanley that we live in a country called England and we understand each other because we speak language called English. I showed him where England was on the map, then went on to explain that people from other countries often speak other languages. I showed him Germany on the map and told him that Mummy lived there once and that I had to learn another language called German so I could understand the people that lived there. Whilst this all went over Rosie's 2 year old head, 4 year old Stan was really interested and seemed to understand. We talked about a recent Pepper Pig episode we'd watched about a character that visits from France, and that she spoke French. This really cemented the idea of why people speak different languages, and they were keen to learn some German!

Eins, zwei, drei! 

We sang the English version of the song, Five Little Ducks, together and clapped each time we heard a number. We also put some simple actions with the words which would help them understand the German version of the song too.

Next, I introduced the kids to the German numbers 1 to 5. I used the sandwiching technique in a sing song voice to help with their understanding. Sandwiching is when you say the words in the target language, repeat them in English, then say them in target language again. Both Stanley and Rosie enjoyed repeating the words, they were really keen to join in!

Multisensory play

To really capture Rosie's attention, I introduced a tray of homemade blue rice (the pond) and some plastic ducks. We had fun counting the ducks in English and in German, and playing in the rice. I popped in some Numicon shapes for numbers 1-5 for Stan to reinforce the word - digit link. These maths tools are very common in EYFS and KS1 classrooms, and he was excited to match up the correctly numbered duck to the Numicon shapes. It really increases children's confidence to use something they are already familiar with when introducing new learning. So far, so good!

Fünf kleine Entchen

We went back to the German version of the song and had a go at clapping when we heard the numbers and putting in the actions we had practised earlier. (You can find the song we used here.) I was so proud of them when they said the numbers too! Stanley pointed some out on the video saying, "Look Mummy! It's fünf! That's 5!" It's fair to say that our first little German lesson was a success!

If you fancy having a go at this yourself, you can find the vocabulary that you need at the end of this post. Please let me know via comments below if you try this with your children; I'd love to know how you get on. Good luck!

Finding joy in the little things: In the days following our little lesson, Rosie has asked to watch the "vier, fünf duck song!" That made my heart melt a bit! She can say, "drei, vier, fünf," by herself already so that's really positive, considering that she's only just learnt how to count to ten in English! Stan has been counting in German independently, practising when he doesn't realise I'm listening! He doesn't get all the numbers right yet each time, but it makes me smile to know he's interested and having fun learning something new. Long may it continue!


Fünf kleine Entchen - Five Little Ducks / Duckies 
(You may also see Enten - ducks, or Entlein - ducklings).

Fünf (5) kleine Entchen gingen schwimmen
über den Berg und weit hinaus
Mama Ente sagt 'Quack, quack, quack,'
doch nur vier kleine Enten kamen nach Haus

Vier (4) kleine Entchen gingen schwimmen
über den Berg und weit hinaus
Mama Ente sagt 'Quack, quack, quack,'
doch nur drei kleine Enten kamen nach Haus

Drei (3) kleine Entchen gingen schwimmen
über den Berg und weit hinaus
Mama Ente sagt 'Quack, quack, quack,'
doch nur zwei kleine Enten kamen nach Haus

Zwei (2) kleine Entchen gingen schwimmen
über den Berg und weit hinaus
Mama Ente sagt 'Quack, quack, quack,'
doch nur ein kleines Enten kam nach Haus

Ein (1) kleines Entchen ging schwimmen
über den Berg und weit hinaus
Mama Ente sagt 'Quack, quack, quack,'
doch kein kleines Entchen kam nach Haus

Kein (0) kleines Entchen ging schwimmen
über den Berg und weit hinaus
Papa Ente sagt 'Quack, quack, quack,'
und alle kleinen Entchen kamen nach Haus

Eins - 1
Zwei - 2
Drei - 3
Vier - 4
Fünf - 5 

If you need a direct translation of the German song words (as the English version doesn't directly translate), just let me know!

** Please note: I am not a native German speaker! I try my best to be as accurate as possible, but mistakes do happen and my language skills are a bit "rusty!" If you do spot a grammatical error or spelling mistake, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments. Danke! **

 Tactical Tuesday at Joanna Victoria

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

A (character building!) walk around Rudyard Lake, Staffordshire

A nice family walk! 

So the kids were starting to feel better after their recent illnesses, and after being pretty much snowed in for three days they were climbing the walls and in need of some fresh air! We are lucky enough to live on the doorstep of the Staffordshire Moorlands and the Peak District, so there are plenty of beautiful places to go for a family walk. With there still being quite a lot of snow around, we opted for one of the flatter locations, Rudyard Lake. The lake (which started life as a reservoir in 1797) was the first meeting place of Rudyard Kipling's parents!

All wrapped up!

The kids were excited about going on a snowy welly walk, so we all wrapped up warm with plenty of layers and extra socks! As soon as we parked up in what was now slush, I didn't think our walk was going to end well! But as good parents do, we put on a brave face and our biggest, most convincing, "You'll enjoy this!" smiles and off we went!

We started our careful walk up the snow covered path, alongside the working steam engine railway track. (It wasn't running today due to the weather, but it doesn't cost much for a train ride when it's operating.) The kids were in their element, crunching through the ice and jumping in slushy puddles, giggling and playing. This is what it's all about, right? Right. Until they get wet...and cold! And they've walked their little legs off! We stopped by the lake to look at the ducks and the boats, which cheered them up a bit!

"Can we have an ice cream?" 

There is a little cafe by the lake, where Hubby and I stopped for a well deserved coffee, and Staffordshire oatcakes with cheese to warm up the kids! They really enjoyed their snack, despite asking for ice cream! To be honest, I was so glad to see Rosie enjoy eating again after being off her food for so long. But after a while, the cold started to kick in and they were ready to go home. Trouble is, that meant walking back the way we came... and that wasn't something either of them fancied doing! And didn't we know it...

Character building! 

Have you ever tried to convince a tired, cold 4 year old and a stubborn, wet 2 year old to do something they don't want to do?! I'm sure many of you have been there, trying out all the bribes you can think of, all the while trying to keep that plastered on, "I'm the parent and I'm in control," smile for the benefit of passers by! What started out as an idealistic family walk in beautiful surroundings, ended up with tears, tantrums and tiredness! But it's character building for parents and kids alike, right?!

When we finally got everyone back to the car, Hubby and I were as exhausted as the kids but you have to laugh about it don't you? They may have been a bit miserable at the end, but we were all out together, spending time in each other's company and that to me is what life is all about. I'm sure the kids will thank us for it one day! 

If nothing else, we all learn to be a bit more resilient when faced with life's little challenges. Being a parent has taught me how to shrug off the unwanted glances of those around you who just don't understand. In these situations, my children are just finding a way to express an opinion; they too are learning about the world and what it's all about... even if it's being taken out in the cold for yet another "character building" welly walk! Just enjoy your adventures with your little ones, and even if they don't go as planned, it's ok. Be grateful for the time you spend together and look for the positives in every situation.

Finding joy in the little things: Not every family trip out is perfect, as social media will have you believe, so don't stress when things don't pan out how you imagined. When I asked the children what they enjoyed about our walk, they said, "running in the snow and jumping in slushy puddles!" Not one mention of being wet or tired! That makes it all worthwhile!

You can find out more about Rudyard Lake here.

I'm linking up this post with these fabulous blogs:

Saturday, 3 March 2018

A night out?! That would have been nice!

We're going out! 

We'll, that was the plan. As many parents will know, finding time to go "out out" can sometimes be difficult. Throw into the mix finding babysitters who are willing to have your kiddies overnight, and it's an even rarer occasion! So when Hubby announced he'd bought us gig tickets, booked a hotel AND roped in the grandparents to sit the children, I was quite excited! An actual night away, no little people to look after, a bedtime past 7:30 and maybe a few glasses of wine? Yes please!
She's not picking her nose here, I promise!

A night in...

So, it's Saturday night and I'm in bed. My bed. With BOTH kids and the Hubby. Not at the gig, reliving the 90s with a hotel breakfast to look forward too! Nope! Yesterday saw us battle the snow to make a double trip to the emergency doctors... Stanley has an ear infection and Rosie has a throat infection! Poor, germ ridden kiddies! I couldn't leave them overnight when all they want is cuddles and spoiling! So, instead of our night out, we're very much in! And Stanley, the little gem, seems to have had a miraculous recovery!! Rosie's not far behind either...

When your plans don't go to plan...

Here they are, enjoying the snow after school this week (for all of 10 minutes!), reminding me why I don't mind missing my night out after all! And look...a little yellow ray of sunshine, a tiny sign of spring, peeking out from behind them! That really made me smile! So when your plans don't go to plan, take a minute to remember what really matters in life, and count your blessings.

Finding joy in the little things: Any time spent with this pair is golden. Even when we're all snuggled in my bed on a Saturday night, fighting for space and fending off pins and needles! I'm grateful for the cuddles, snot and calpol-induced craziness! Plans can be remade; the kids always come first. (Helps a bit that we've another gig booked for June instead...fingers crossed we get to go to that one!)

I'm linking up this post with these fabulous blogs:

Thursday, 1 March 2018

"This is a big tree."

Art in nature 

Over half term, Stanley's class were set a homework task. They were to go on a nature walk to find natural things to make a picture with. Easy you'd think, right? We'll...we had a lot of rain that week and most of the leaves, twigs and flowers had turned into a soggy pile of mush! So we had to get creative; we dried out some bark from the garden, rescued a few of the less crumbly/soggy leaves from our walk then raided the local garden centre floor for more healthy looking bits! Stanley took his time to arrange the items to create his picture. Cue Mum with a bucket full of PVA glue and 2 days of drying and he ended up with this!

Pencil pride!

Stanley also had to write a sentence to go with his picture. "This is a big tree" is what he came up with! We are so proud at how far he has come on with his writing during his time in Reception class. Just a few months ago he wouldn't even entertain the idea of holding a pencil, but now he is trying so hard! Well done Stanley! 


Finding joy in the little things: We always enjoy going out for walks in  the fresh air, but having a purpose made it even more fun. Look at that beautiful writing too, and his proud smile!