Words of Wisdom from Experienced Moms and Dads.

A Guest Post by Claire Adams

I was approached by a fellow blogger and writer, Claire to see if she could write a post for me. Claire is personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. You can find her online writing and giving tips about lifestyle and development as a regular contributor at highstylife.com.

I am thrilled to introduce Claire’s post for my readers and hope you love it as much as I do!

Words of Wisdom from Experienced Moms and Dads

We live in the age of the Internet, parenting books, chat rooms, classes, information wells only a few clicks away, but as disturbingly contradictory or simply different as some of it may be, new parents and parents-to-be yearn for knowledge. And it makes sense – your thirst is driven by the desire to be the best parent you could possibly be, without sacrificing your relationships or neglecting your professional development.

However, few things related to parenting are black and white. It’s a beautiful journey, the adventure of being a parent, but it makes for a stressful one on those who decide to embark on it in this day and age. And as such, you could use some real-life advice from moms and dads who’ve been in your shoes and can help you prepare and enjoy as much as possible.

Let go of perfectionism

Whether it’s a messy t-shirt, a room filled with toys, or the fact that you’re wearing a puke-covered hoodie after 36 sleepless hours – you soon realize that the reality of parenting doesn’t even resemble those dreamy ideals. On the contrary, your baby will disrupt your lives beyond recognition, both in marvelous and less marvelous ways.

Your priorities will change, and so will your sleeping schedule, and the notion of what passes for “presentable” will alter. As they grow up, you will also realize that “she will never throw tantrums in public” or “he will never get hooked on watching TV” are also far-fetched, as every child has their own way of perceiving the world. The best thing you can do for your child’s peace of mind, as well as your own, is to abandon any perfectionist notion you’ve had thus far.

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Go with Frank

Mr. Frank Sinatra has spoken many a wise word through his music, but one universal truth that affects parents as much as it does every other aspect of your identity would be simply doing things your own way. That doesn’t mean rejecting any piece of advice you hear (solicited or otherwise), but still being able to have your own opinion in the chaos of other parents’ voices.

Every child is different, and while one parent will successfully potty-train their youngster with the help of training-pants, another might prefer to try a reward system. This extends to all behavioral patterns in life, so listening to others can sometimes point you in the right direction, while sharpening your own parenting “gut feeling” is equally important. No parent knows you own child like you do.

Go with Frank

Finance wisely

On a more practical, forward-thinking note, parenting could use some financial structure that will ensure your own, as well as your children’s security later in life. While a majority of employers often carry a family friendly health plan that includes various types of insurance, new parents could also think about writing their will, and a college fund that can be re-purposed if needed.

Keeping an eye on your retirement policy and other related plans for the future may seem over the top while you have a baby to care for, but the sooner you reach for the reins, the safer you’ll be if any problems crop up. The same goes for choosing the right guardian for your kids and setting up a contingent trust that allows you a reasonable amount of control over the funds when your kids finally come of age.

Finance wisely

Invest ahead

Some kids learn fairly quickly and adapt easily to new environments, both socially and cognitively, while others struggle with different challenges. As parents, we can sometimes be prone to misjudging our kids’ abilities, either perceiving them as flawless, or underestimating their potential. In both scenarios, it may seem impossible to relinquish some of our parental power over to teachers, psychologists and other professionals, but it could be necessary for the sake of their success later in life.

Sometimes that means tackling a speech impediment early on, or ensuring tailored high school tutoring for improving their performance in those subjects that are particularly problematic. Either way, there is no shame in recognizing a problem and handling it with the help of professionals.

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Don’t forget you

As soon as you become a parent, your children occupy almost your every thought. At first, this may serve as a mechanism to adapt to your new role as a parent, or anticipate and solve problems along the way. But if you continue neglecting your own needs, and pushing aside your identity, your parenting enthusiasm will also dwindle.

New moms and dads should work on learning to remember their preferences, nurturing their relationship and tending to their needs. As Elizabeth Silk, a New York psychotherapist working with moms put it wisely: “The happier you are, the better parent you will be.”

Adams, Claire 2017
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Could our children be anxious because of us?

There seems to be more children with anxiety in our society than ever before. This is something that I have been reading quite a bit about recently and the facts are quite staggering. In fact the research shows that as many as one in six young people in the UK suffer from anxiety. To look it another way, one in five teenagers in an average class will be suffering from anxiety (anxiety.org.uk). This is a frightening statistic frankly and it got me thinking about why this is happening.  As a mum, I know that there are many pressure of our teenagers which I have written about Here.

As a teacher and a mum I come across many, many children and their parents. I’m not a mental health expert and I’m only offering my opinions gathered from my experiences in this post. I certainly wouldn’t want to offend anyone but I wonder if the way we parent is adding to the anxiety that our young people are experiencing? In being such caring parents perhaps we are not helping our youngsters?

 

Here are my thoughts:

1. Perhaps by always telling our children that they are amazing at things, we are creating anxiety?

As parents and teachers, we want to praise our children for the things that they have done but I think the words we use are so important. Telling relatives that your child is going to play for a county team because they are amazing at sport actually creates tension, as your child is then expected to make that team. We’ve all done it; I know I have but labelling your child as ‘really good at maths’ creates a pressure for your child to always be really good at maths when their flair for maths may just be a stage. We want our children to enjoy what they enjoy or are motivated by, not become burdened by adult expectation.

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2. Do we overplay a ‘blip’?

As parents, we worry when our children get a bad grade in science or stick on a reading level but we really shouldn’t. All children plateau with their learning as that is the nature of learning! I’m often dismayed to hear that children as young as 6 years old are having tutor support because they received one poor maths grade. It may be just that they need to consolidate what they have learnt and then they will start making progress again. Tutors are great for children who need a little confidence or who have a barrier to learning such as dyslexia but all children will plateau at some point. This does not mean that they need extra tuition. If our children think the ‘blip’ is important enough to need support, they become anxious about their performance. Learning is a process that is complex and children must feel confident in their own abilities to make those next steps.

3. Do we overplay friendship issues?

One moment of unkindness is not bullying. Seeing you get upset when your child is working through a friendship issue will make them think the issue is more important than it really is. It really isn’t. All children have friendship woes, it’s a normal part of growing up. We need to help our children talk about their worries but not add to them by making small issues bigger than they actually are. I’ve noticed in my career that more and more parents are rushing in to talk about their child’s friendships when they should be allowing their child to figure some things out for themselves. Many, many children hit, scratch, kick, bite, pull hair and say unkind things. We need to teach our children tolerance, kindness and how to say sorry and forgive. Holding a grudge about a certain child that once pulled your child’s hair will also add to your child’s anxiety. They need to learn to get along with their peers and this anxiety about another child will not help them.

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4. Do we hide our feelings from our children?

I do this. I find it tricky to show my children if I’m sad or worried by something. I think that this is not healthy though. Obviously we shouldn’t be sharing things that are not appropriate with young children but if we are feeling sad we could tell our children that. ‘Mummy feels sad today but your smiley face is helping me feel happier.’ I think that children need to know that life can make us feel a range of emotions on a daily basis and that’s ok.

I’ve done all these things as parent at some time or another.
As a teacher, I know that praising effort is more important than praising attainment and I have always tried hard to do this with my own children. It does develop confidence and that is the one thing that young children need to try new things. Try it. Praise your children for the efforts they have made with a new skill rather than praising them when they achieve the end result. This is especially important for bright children when things come easier to them because they need the confidence to push themselves out of their comfort zone and learn that small failures are ok. Resilience to failure learnt young is better than feeling anxious as a teenager when exams hit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care everyone. X

 

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6 Teen Sayings of the Summer

I read an excellent post by Four Princesses and the Cheese Here

A brilliant post about the things Kirstin’s little children have repeatedly said over the summer. It made me laugh as I thought about what my teenagers have been repeatedly saying over the summer. So here is my version….. thankyou Kirstin for the inspiration!

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1. I’ll do it in a minute…..

Well you clearly won’t though will you?? Whether it be chores (my kids get chores each day) or taking your dirty dishes to the kitchen you won’t “do it in a minute!” You will leave it until I remind you and then get cross because I am apparently nagging you to do your chores! Sometimes your chores need to be done so that I can get on and do mine. For example, I would like you to walk Dottie dog so that I can mop the floors when she’s out….actually hang on, you don’t walk Dottie because that would mean getting out of bed before lunch. Doing it ‘in a minute’ means doing whatever the ‘it’ is when you are ready to do it. Perhaps you should say, “I will do it when I want to?”
2. Is that what we’re eating??

Yes, clearly this is what we are eating! Actually, I’ve decided to lay the table with food that I think you may like to eat but if you don’t I’ll just go and prepare something else…….obviously. We have actually eaten this before as I’m not a cook and I have about 3 things that we eat in rotation. Dad cooks more than me and you know that so yes, this is what I am eating and this is what is being offered to you. Eat and be happy.

3. There is never any food in this house!

Clearly as I let you both starve. Let’s look in the cupboards…..oh look! There is lots of food in there. In fact, there is also lots of food in the freezer. No, we haven’t got any treats/snacks/cereal left as you have eaten all of that in 2 days since I went to the supermarket. Why not eat an apple? No? Try toast then and why not drink more milk! I only bought 6 pints yesterday and I will have to go later to buy more bread and milk.

4. Where is my blue top/black jeans/clean sports socks?

I have no idea. Perhaps the clothing fairy has taken it?? The clothing fairy takes all sorts in this house and will sometimes wash and dry clothes too if she feels like it. Or perhaps it is in the washing basket having been already washed by the washing fairy aka me, and needs to be put away? Oh, that was your chore was it? Ok, well that’s where it will be unless……oh look it’s stuffed at the back of your wardrobe where you stuffed it!

5. You are so annoying!

Yeap. It’s my life ambition to be annoying. I love to be annoying so much that I go out of my way to be annoying, just for you. I’m not particularly annoying to your Dad or friends or even work colleagues. I leave that especially for you. Call me annoying mum! Do all of the things you need to do and I become not annoying mum. She is much nicer and less annoying apparently.

6. It’s only like £50…..

Yes. I also love that top/jeans/makeup brush for “only £50.” It doesn’t mean that I’m going to buy it for you. You’ve spent your allowance/earnings by August 1st? Oh! sorry to hear that! Yes, it’s only £50…a bargain apparently. And no, I won’t lend you the money until next month because you already owe me money and I told you not to buy that make-up/pair of ridiculously expensive socks. Yes, I know I’m annoying, you already said that!

So there you have it! The 6 teen sayings of the summer thanks to my lovely children. They are great really and I have enjoyed the summer with them but they can go back to school now please. Thank you. 😉

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Questions for my teenagers. June 2017

My children are 17 and 15. One is in the sixth form studying for A’ Levels and the other is just finishing Year 10 and the first year of GCSE’s. I have a daughter and a son and they are both really great people.

They have agreed to help me with this blog post! I thought it would be a fun idea to get their views on certain things. I can be quite opinionated with some saying I have a “strong” character but I’d like to think that my children have their own voice and we encourage discussion and differing views in the Old House. I would also like to think that they can talk to me about anything as that is really important.

I asked the children separately to see what their opinions apart from each other.

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1.  What is your greatest fear at the moment?

Daughter: Getting my mock English Literature result back! Terrorism could be something but honestly, if it’s my time it’s my time.I don’t want to stop doing the things I like because of stupid terrorists. It doesn’t worry me and nothing scares me except those scary mazes in you get in horror movies!

Son: Being alone. I don’t worry about anything really.

Me: I fear for my children in this ever turbulent and unsettled world. It’s interesting that they do not worry about that really. Then I think back and remember that when I was a child there was unrest and acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland. I didn’t even consider what this meant to me until I was an adult. Perhaps youth protects us from the harsh realities of the world around us or perhaps age opens our eyes to it? I don’t know.

2. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

Daughter: Having a job, living alone with a cat. (My son thinks she will become a crazy cat woman from The Simpsons!! My daughter just really loves animals and thought she would grow up to be a cat until she was 3. She’s a very caring person.)

Son: Travelling.

Me: I hope to be travelling too but with Uni fees looming I expect I won’t be!

3. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Daughter: Socrates. He had such developed ideas about the world; he talked about such amazing ideas such as particles. He was killed because people were frightened of him. (My daughter is studying Classics A Level and is really enjoying it. I wonder if she will study this at University?)

Son: Joseph Goebbels because he was an interesting character. He was obviously crazy but he would be interesting to talk too I think and see how his mind works.

(My son is studying history GCSE and loves it. It will be interesting to see what he chooses for A Levels.)

Me: I’ve often pondered this question. I think it would have to be someone like Elizabeth the first who got me interested in history in the first place or Shakespeare. I would like to meet Elizabeth as she comes over as such a strong woman in a man’s world. Shakespeare, there is some thought that he didn’t write all of his plays, that perhaps a woman did, I would like to see and meet him.

4. What makes you angry and why?

Daughter: People who think they are better than others. Cruelty to animals.

Son: People who think that they know everything.

(They were very similar in their answers here)

Me: I have to agree with my children! Especially cruelty to animals. I would add environmental issues too but, as an adult, I’m more able to see that just “don’t cut down trees to save the orangutans” is too simplistic. It is a much wider and complex issue. That’s why I champion local environmental projects and ways of living. Help your local wildlife first.

5. Do you believe in having a soul mate and true love?

Daughter: Because of my parents! (Ahhhhhh…..x)

Son: No, I don’t think I do. (He didn’t know why….)

Me: yes I do. x

6. What is the best and worst part of being a teenager?

Daughter: The best bit is not having to pay any bills. The worst is having bad skin when I was about 14. I hated it but it cleared up with antibiotics.

Son: The best bit is having no worries. The worst but is some other teenagers who are annoying. (My son is quite mature for his age and gets cross with others that are “like little kids.”)

Me: When I was a teenager, the best bit was the freedom I had, especially with money. What I earned went straight into my pocket! The worst was friendships or boy issues although I can’t remember a specific issue interestingly.

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7. What would be your perfect day?

Daughter: Going to a festival or concert.

Son: Playing sport all day and then being with my friends in the evening.

(This sums both up pretty well! My daughter was upset at not going to Glastonbury this year but may go to Reading.)

Me: time with my family or in the garden.

8. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

Daughter: I would put it in the bank so that it can earn interest. I would pay for my university fees and then buy a house. I would go on a brilliant holiday. I would give some to charity and share it with other family members.

Son: Spend it and not tell anyone!

(I can tell that my daughter is sooo like her dad when it comes to money and my son is very, very like me! I laughed so much at his response here!)

Me: Pay off the mortgage, put it in the bank. Pay off loved ones mortgages and spend some on Uni fees, holidays and lives pleasures! I wouldn’t go and spend loads on houses and cars. I would set up an Educational Foundation to support Special Needs in schools. I would also like to give money to various environmental charities such as Wiltshire Wildlife.

My son is very mature for his age but interestingly, he found answering some of the questions tricky and wanted to find out what his sister had said.

You may want to ask your teenagers questions too. It’s really interesting to record their answers. I wonder what they would think of these answers in a few years time!

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How can I provide stimulating play opportunities for my young child?

Since I wrote my post on Helping my child learn to read here
I am aware that I should also write a post about developing other skills through play.

I remember when a Health Visitor told me that because my son wasn’t crawling and went straight to standing and walking, he would not be good at Maths. What?? I then spent months trying to get my son to crawl! Well that didn’t work! He was so heavy that it was just easier for him to stand up and walk. All he wanted to do was run! I have read about the benefits of crawling and how it is a vital stage. see more here but I’m not sure about it just being good for Maths! I understand what my Health Visitor was trying to say but I did worry for a while which was not needed.

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A child crawling.

When my children were young, I noticed a difference in the way my daughter and son played during the toddler years (aged 18 months to 3 years old). My daughter enjoyed putting things in bags, my son would line things up whilst they both loved to push wheeled toys and prams. These differences were clear to me as I am a teacher with a specialism in the Early Years but many parents think of these differences are just part of their child exploring or of their child’s gender. However, there is more to these behaviours that you may think! They are called Schemas and it’s useful to understand them so you can understand your child better. In this post, I will give you lots of play ideas to link to each schema which you could try with your toddler at home.

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Little children love playing in the sand.

What is a Schema?

Schemas are described as patterns of repeated behaviour which allow children to explore and express developing ideas and thoughts through their play and exploration. The repetitive actions of schematic play allow children to construct meaning in what they are doing. Knowing about schemas can really help educators and parents discover what a child loves to do and challenge them using what they love. By understanding schemas, parents can recognise and support these urges and developments. It is also helpful to know that your child is not necessarily being naughty when they throw their food all over the floor!

Lining things up or taking lids on and off things.

This is known as a Connecting or Containment Schema.

Give your child lots of different sized pans, pots with lids, spoons and spades in the sand or water. With supervision, try a tray of lentils, pasta or dried peas for variation. They may also like shape sorter toys, handbags of different sizes, boxes of different sizes to put themselves or toys in, painting boxes around shapes and drawing around objects, their hands or stencils. They may enjoy threading ribbon in the fence or using thread to connect things together.

Wrapping things up, getting into small spaces (this is the one where you find things in your dishwasher or CD player!)

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Some children love small spaces.

This is called an Enveloping or Enclosement Schema.

Try den making, providing different sized boxes and blankets to play with. Add soft toys of different sizes so that your child can add these in their beds etc. Dressing up clothes for themselves or for their dolls/teddies. In my experience, the dressing up clothes that are adult sized are the best (oh! and shoes!). Being able to paint themselves (use coloured water!) or try hand/feet painting. Children may also like to cover their paintings in one colour after they have painted it! This is typical behaviour and they are not “ruining” their picture! They may also like to bury heir hands and feet or hide their faces.

Throwing things, jumping off things or pouring and filling objects.

This is called a Trajectory Schema.

This can be a hard one as the child likes to throw things whilst they investigate forces! Take them outside and let them throw pine cones and balls. They would love a slide or hill to run down. Set up targets or play skittles. Invest in a trampoline (with a net guard) and let them bounce! Play in the bath or with a garden hose pouring water and letting it dribble between fingers and toes. Play with water or sand wheels in a tray of water or sand. Dribble paint all over a page. Play with guttering and old pipes outside in the rain or mud.

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A child playing in the sand.

Pushing prams, buggies and wheeled toys. Taking toys from one place to another.

This is called a Transporting Schema.

This is a very common one. Let children push prams around (boys too! This is nothing to do with gender) or wheeled toys. Toddlers love to transport things from one place to another. It could be anything, so keep jigsaw pieces or more precious toys packed away! Let them have a box of “bits and pieces” like soft toys, blocks, real spoons, natural materials like stones (not too small for fear of choking), pegs, plastic cups, plastic fruit and vegetables. Let them transport these from place to place. Make it imaginative by adding places such as the supermarket, a car wash…whatever your child likes. Let them play with diggers, buckets, spades in the sand tray.

Rolling down hills, spinning, winding things up.

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Children love to spin.

This is called a Rotational Schema and again, can be a tricky one.

This is a little more unusual. Your child will like to spin on the spot or continually wind things up. Invest in some cheap wind up toys and have a basket of them. When I led a Nursery, I would find old watches or real items and have a box of those! Again, best to get them outside and ride bicycles or wheeled toys. A wheel barrow is another good toy for this schema. Take them to the park and they would love the swings or roundabout. Try roller painting with giant DIY rollers (again, you can use coloured water if you can’t stand to have paint in your house!). The painting rollers are also great fun with water on a dry wall and this action is fabulous for developing arm and hand muscles!

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Some children love the sensation of swinging.

Mixing sand and water, playing with food and making mud pies

This is called a Transformation Schema.

Transformation schemas can be messy! They are when a child likes to mix things together to see what happens. This may be paint, mud, food, water, sand….poo. It’s our job to help a child find the things that are more acceptable! Let them experience cooking, the elements (like rain on their skin), make mud pies, petal potion, mix sand and paint, glue and glitter. Plant seeds. Dig holes. Make paint messes and let them use their fingers to feel the paint.

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Toddler playing in the sand box.

I hope you have found this post useful.
This site is amazing….click Here for more ideas.

I have lots of other ideas on my Pinterest pages which you can found at Sophie (oldhouseintheshires)

OH THE JOYS OF LIVING IN THE OLD HOUSE IN THE SHIRES.

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My ovaries are hurting…..

I was chatting to my good friend, Marie. She is lovely and has children of a similar age to mine and she was asking if I was going to have any more children.

What!??! Urrrr noooooooo!!??

You get the picture!

She always thought that I would have more children you see -I have 2. In fact, I always thought I would have more children. It was just that there was never the right time. I even saved names for those children.

Hubbie didn’t want another when I did (when son was about 4). Then when I definitely could not see myself with another, he started to consider the thought! By then, the gap would have been 8 years between 2 and 3 and I just couldn’t imagine starting again. Anyway, I was working full time and I couldn’t imagine working, having 2 school aged children and a baby! I was only just managing with the routine I had. I remember a family member telling me that I didn’t want to get to 40 and regret it or that every baby was a blessing.

I reached 40 and decided that I did not want another baby. I was so happy and lucky to have the family I have.

But then my ovaries started hurting…..

I think it’s my bodies way of telling me this is my last chance. I mean, I’m 45 now so there is such a slim chance! This blogging malarky doesn’t help either as so many of you lovely people have such cute babies! And dont get me started on Instagram! OMG the cuteness!

BUT

I think my ovaries are hurting because I just miss my children being babies? Does that make sense? I miss me being a mummy of younger children I guess. I think that’s just part of my make-up; I’m a primary school teacher so enjoy this age group. That’s not to say I don’t love my teenagers….I just miss them as babies. Or, may be my ovaries are hurting because I’m perimenopausal?? Yeah, that’ll be it!

OH THE JOYS OF THE PERIMENOPAUSE (Yes! It’s a thing…….google it!)

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How to create a family friendly wildlife garden

I make no secret of the fact I love gardening and helping local wildlife in my garden. I love that we have hedgehogs, toads, frogs, newts, slow worms, butterflies, bats and bees in the old house garden. I do not use chemicals at all and always try to find other, organic ways to overcome pests or problems.

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A bee visiting a peony in the old house garden

Many people ask me how I created my wildlife friendly garden. Well, I didn’t! We have only lived in the old house for less than 2 years but in that time we have enhanced a previously overgrown and dark space into the beautiful garden it is today. The wildlife was here already but I like to think we are encouraging more creatures to come and visit.

I thought I would share with you my top tips for creating a wildlife garden that is also child friendly.

1. Save Water

Add a water butt to your garden will help in times of dry weather. You can even add sprinklers to some which children will love playing in! Use this water to fill up the paddling pool but add a teaspoon of Milton for very young children as the rain water could be dirty.

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The pond at the old house with a dog/ child proof fence

2. Ponds

Wildlife gardens are best with a pond but these can be very dangerous for young children. I went to a neighbours recently and was dismayed to see that they had poured sand into their pond as they were worried for their toddler. Whilst I understand this, I could only think of all the damage they had done to the pond’s ecosystem! Instead cover existing ponds with a good quality mesh above the pond or, better still, fence off your pond AND add a mesh. In this way creatures can still access your pond BUT your child will be safe. When your child is older or with supervision, you will be amazed at what creatures you can see together. Ponds are good for children to learn about life cycles and to see many animals from their books. Ponds attract a multitude of different animals but do not add a pump as this will only cause problems for tadpoles and other small creatures. For this reason, I would not add fish either as they eat tadpoles.

3. No Chemicals

I do not use any chemicals. Nothing to kill aphids. Nothing to prevent rose rust. Nothing to kill the weeds in my lawn. You really don’t need them. Add ladybird houses and encourage other insects into the garden will help to beat the pests. Make sure the soil is healthy by adding home grown compost. I will talk about other ideas in another post such as how to get rid of aphids the organic way! Chemicals are not just harmful to the garden ecosystem but also for our families.

4. Plant some seeds and give a patch to your children.

Give a patch of garden to your children to grow their own seeds on. It could be a pot or raised bed if you have a smaller garden. Children love to plant, water and care for plants. They don’t mind what kind of plant it is! I love growing sunflowers, nasturtiums, marigolds, sweet peas and nigellas with children as they are all easy to grow from seeds. If you want to plant some now, I love nasturtiums. The seeds are larger for young children to handle and they grow quickly producing lots of lovely orange/red/yellow flowers. They have the added bonus of attracting the cabbage white butterfly so you may get caterpillars too!

5. Grow your own food

There is nothing better than eating your own vegetables and fruits. It also helps children to see where their food comes from. You don’t need a garden to grow tomatoes; a window sill will do. You can buy small vegetable plants at this time of year which saves you growing from seed if you are a new gardener. We still do this sometimes as it saves space in the greenhouse! Easy vegetables to grow are cucumbers, peppers, peas, beans, onions, strawberries, carrots and pumpkins. I love growing pumpkins with children because they are always amazed at their size!

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6. Feed the birds

We have lots of different bird feeders in the garden and even with cats, get lots of visitors. Children love to watch the birds that come to the garden. We always do the Big Garden Bird Watch in school and the children are ALWAYS thrilled to see all the different birds! You can make bird cakes with children which are very easy -put a hole in a yoghurt pot and add a piece of string (so that you can hang your feeder). Then, melt lard in a pan and add birdseed to it. Add the mixture to the yoghurt pot and leave to cool before hanging. Make a area of your garden for birds and you may be lucky to see other visitors such as squirrels!

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Squirrel visiting the bird feeders

7. Create a den or “hide”

Children love making dens so make a permanent one in the garden where your children can hide and watch the birds! You can use bamboo plants as they grow quickly (but can be invasive) or you could make one from willow sticks. Even adding a den from materials and chairs is a great way to encourage children to sit quietly to watch wildlife (for about 5 minutes!)

8. Add animal homes

Add nesting boxes, ladybird houses, bat boxes and hedgehog homes to encourage wildlife to stay. Making a bee hotel is always a fun project to do with children and they are easy to make. Get lots of plastic drinking straws and let your child bundle the straws together and tie them using string or an elastic band. Then cut the straws to the size they want (great for snipping skills!). Hang these on a sunny wall and watch the solitary bees come to make their nests. Perhaps read stories about the animals and this will enable your child to see what they may look like.

9. Plant food for the insects

Planting a range of plants that flower throughout the year not only makes your garden look good, it also provided food all year round for bees, moths and other insects. My favourites are lavender, forget-me-nots, primroses, buddleja, sedums, sunflowers, clover, honeysuckle, jasmine, asters, black eyed susan, phlox and crab apple blossoms. Variety is key and personally, I love the cottage garden look anyway!

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Children looking at ladybirds! *

10. Don’t be too tidy!

The perfect wildlife gardens are a little untidy in places and have patches of nettles or wild bits! It’s tricky to do this in a small garden but I tend to think that if the grass is a little long or if there a few weeds, it doesn’t really matter. Enjoyment of our green spaces is key so that we can spend as much time outside in the fresh air as we can. If we can do that and help local wildlife as well, surely we will all live in a better world and will be teaching our children than wildlife matters.

Happy gardening everyone!

OH THE JOYS OF LIVING IN THE OLD HOUSE IN THE SHIRES.

*photo found at http://gratisography.com/

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