The Little Lilypad is a lifestyle blog mostly written by a mum to two beautiful, cheeky and entertaining daughters. It is sometimes written by the Man on the Pad or our baby bloggers and occasionally we accept guest posts. There is frequently talk of shoes and clothing (we love fashion and savvy shopping), chocolate (who doesn't love chocolate) education and swimming (we love this too). It is hopefully helpful, sometimes funny and always honest.
My husband thinks I am addicted to shopping, he thinks that I am unable to stop myself from buying things online because I love the thrill of the parcels arriving. I justify it to myself that a third of the clothing that arrives at our house is for the fashion conscious preteen and her evolving style choices. (although who doesn't love those parcels arriving with new delights inside).
Keeping up with her changing and developing style is not cheap, especially when she wants a Ted Baker outfit in the sales for her end of year disco in one breath and Nike Air trainers in the next. I know that there will be some parents who think it is ridiculous to put children in named clothes or designer outfits but it doesn't seem that long ago when I was at senior school and watched in envy at the children with all the "right" clothes. Unfortunately for me, being fashion conscious has arrived in our house earlier than expected so it is important for me to shop savvy so that she can get the best of everything but at the best price for my bank balance too!
I always shop around, whether it is making sure that we get cashback for the girls savings accounts or getting money off upfront via online websites such as Love the Sales. I know that when I am shopping for her now that her friends influence her far more than I do, but while she still wants to shop with me I just have to remember that I can't simply enforce my own tastes anymore.
For her, it is an experimental time, working out what sort of teenager and young person she is eventually going to become ..... hopefully one that has been taught that if she works hard and shops smart, she can have the life AND the wardrobe she wants.
I have to be honest, sending my girls to a government funded school is a lot more expensive than I expected, and that’s just with one child in full time education at the moment! With my oldest moving on to year 7 in September, and her little sister starting in Reception, I am already looking at our budget and working out where we can cover the costs of their free education.
Actually, my gripe is unfair because it isn't the cost of the education that is increasing, but the expense of everything that goes along with it. And, yes, I know it's a first world problem to moan about the fact that my children have both an education and a social life, but that doesn't make it any less of an issue when it comes time to pay for school trips, uniforms, meals, and various sundries.
A Children’s Commission on Poverty report found the average cost of uniforms was £108 for primary schools, and £126 for secondary pupils, and I am faced with buying both this summer. That report doesn’t take into account replacing outgrown shoes, lost jumpers, lunch boxes and drink bottles (which are ludicrously expensive, in my opinion) and school bags which just weren’t up to the task. Buying some items of uniform from supermarkets items can reduce this cost, but that’s no good if a school has embroidered badges on their jumpers, or specially printed sports kit. Some hand-me-downs will help cut the cost of uniform buying this year but I still expect to pay £200 to kit both my daughters out for their new schools.
Other financial treats in store for my overdraft include school trips (averaging over £50 per year for secondary school, and £25 for primary); and stationary, which thankfully isn’t much as both schools provide most items, but which will still end up costing around £20. Include music lessons at £45 per child per term, and I am glad I am sitting down because that’s already over £800, or £2,185 if the children decide they want school dinners!
I am not ranting because I know that all parents want to provide the very best for their children and as parents we budget for these things accordingly but what happens when you get an unexpected cost. Many children work on computers for their homework but what happens when the laptop breaks and you have tears at bedtime because they don’t have access to powerpoint that apparently they absolutely need to use for a presentation on the Vikings(!!). As parents it is easy to panic but thinking about responsible lending with a payday loan company such as Vivus could help to ease this pain for the short term. They offer short term loans of £100-£300 which is enough to cover a decent laptop and to prevent the melt down in a pre-treen.
We are fortunate to be in a position to provide everything our children need (though not everything they want!) but an alarming number of school children go without. 1.2 million pupils in England alone do not have access to a nutritious meal during the day - 700,000 of them live in low-income families whose parents are not entitled to claim benefits, while another 500,000 of them are entitled to free school meals, but their parents have not applied for them either because they don't know how, or because of potential stigma associated with claiming benefits.
We might complain about various education ministers and SATs, about the perceived deterioration in the standards of teaching, and about not being able to take our kids on holiday during term time, but with Pearson ranking Britain’s education system as the sixth best in the world as recently as 2014 (the last PISA ranking was in 2012) I can’t really gripe about having to spend £900 a year on my children’s school life when they get an education children in some parts of the world could never even dream of.
Along with the arrival of some much needed sunshine comes the realization for parents that in a little over four weeks we’re going to be hearing the pitter patter of pre-school and pre-teen-sized feet on the floor. No matter how much you love them, we all wish there were just a few more hours in the day to prepare for the impending chaos that’s just biding its time, lying in wait for when the final school bell of the year tolls.
To avoid six weeks of dullsville and total meltdown at the state of the house by the time it’s all over, here is my handy countdown of three top tips to help you get "Project Successful School Holiday" off the ground.
Clean Up Your Act
Maybe you’re the proud parent of a gaggle of giggly under 10s or you’re well into the teens with a terrible twosome. Whatever age your children are one thing’s for sure: the cleaning never ends. Just as soon as you’ve wiped the worktops there’ll be sticky handprints and leftover crisp crumbs to greet you. To help lighten the load, get the bigger jobs out of the way before the school gates close for summer. Missed the windows on this year’s spring clean? Get the bucket and buffer out before the kids get home and you’ll have a weight off your mind. Trying to entertain your bored brood and get a good shine on the bay window is unrealistic so put in the effort beforehand and you’ll thank yourself afterward. The same goes for all those pesky jobs we like to leave till last; ovens, shower trays and even the car all come under the pre-holiday TLC action list.
Be Budget Conscious
Unless you’ve just won the lottery it’s unlikely that you’ll be taking the kids out every day but at the same time you all need things to look forward to and activities to punctuate what can be a bit of a slog, especially for the younger ones. Before you go booking yourself into the circus, the cinema and the craft club within a day of each other, check your bank balance. Try to ensure you’ve got enough to do something fun away from the house each week without tipping the scales against you. If you can, it’s a great idea to start putting a little more away now in preparation – a rainy day jar really adds up if you can afford to pop a spare ten pounds in each week and you’ll be thanking the Gods when it’s bucketing rain and you’ve got the cash for a visit to the soft play. Most local authorities have a “What’s On” that includes free activities too – bonus!
Plan Your Fun
The kids will want to do everything – and we mean everything – that’s on offer in your local area this summer. With your budget set you’ll already know how far the kitty will stretch but money’s not the only issue, there’s also the matter of preference. Child Number 1 likes to paint unicorns with their fingers whilst Child Number 2 is at home climbing (and inevitably falling out of!) trees. Scour your local paper for ideas and see if you can strike a balance; a farm visit could provide a great combination in this case – messy hands and the great outdoors!
Summer holidays can be the best time of year for families – keep it that way by getting prepared early and commencing battle armed with an organized house, budget and activities.
11 year old girls are not quite teenagers but no longer innocent children. They are on the brink of senior school and finding their place in the world (not to mention her place in the social pecking order) and I have found, much to the dismay of my bank account, that their fashion sense has kicked in way earlier than mine ever did! But how do you dress an 11 year old girl that is appropriate for her age?
I am not a fan of the crop top look but that is because I remember wearing it when I was 18 and somehow my daughter doesn't seem old enough for that just yet. The sporty look is something that many of her friends aspire to now but with that comes designer brand names and expensive trainers.
I still covet many beautiful girls dresses although I know that in a blink of an eye, she will be wanting to go to nightclubs in a dress that her Dad and I will insist is too short.
My girl is growing up, growing more beautiful, she is finding her way, her own innimitable style and is far "too cool" to be called pretty any more. So while I can look forward to having a shopping companion in the coming years, I know that there will be some fashion battles ahead too because Instagram is more likely to influence her than me!