Blog : Little Lilypad Co

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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 by one of our baby bloggers. Occasionally we accept guest posts too. 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.

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  1. As the end of the year draws near, many of us reflect on the good bits, the bad bits and all the bits in between. When it comes to schools, we as parents tend to look at the essential bits. How well is the school performing from a grade perspective? What is the local opinion of the school? What facilities does the school have? Whilst all of these questions are extremely important and very valid when making a decision, one of the things we tend to overlook is the quality of the playground.

    What Makes a Great School Playground_2

    Nobody knows your child better than you and I’m sure we can all agree that a good playground can do wonders for our children, helping them grow and develop in ways that we often don’t notice. So, this post is dedicated to highlighting the key activities and factors to look out for when judging a school playground. The hardest part is trying not to be swayed by your own childhood playground memories!

    Physical Challenges

    The first point to consider is the physical challenges that your child should be undertaking in the school playground. Physical activity has been proven to have a positive effect on classroom learning, so for your child to make the most of their time at school, they must have room to push their physical limits and expend energy.

    In particular, you want to keep an eye out for physical challenges that encourage healthy competition or interaction like agility trails, climbing apparatus and themed equipment (depending on the age of your child of course). A good school playground will have a variety of different physical challenges for children to enjoy and use based on their personal tastes.

    What Makes a Great School Playground_1

    Socialising Opportunities

    The second essential feature to look out for is socialising opportunities that encourage the school children to interact with one another. Humans are social creatures and a massive part of child development is directly linked to speaking, picking up social clues and generally interacting with others.

    Social opportunities can be presented in a variety of different forms. Meeting places and seating is always a great way for children to come together and interact but equally, large thematic equipment can be great at encouraging children to engage with each other.

    Brain Teasers and Discovery

    The final key points we’re going to look at is the inclusion of brain teasers and discovery. This is particularly important in nurseries and primary schools, where the children are still full of imagination. The brain behaves just like a muscle - it needs practice and continual use to become more efficient. Giving children the equipment and materials to let their imagination run free is a great way of helping them develop. For older children, riddles and mental challenges are more appropriate for developing critical thinking and problem solving.

    In general, discovery can be incorporated in school playgrounds for younger children through moving parts and physical puzzles. In particular, puzzles that involve walking or moving are really good, which is why lots of school playgrounds feature mazes on the floor. Keep an eye out for this when you’re visiting a school playground. On the flip side, trying to put tougher brain teasers into a playground is much more difficult, though there are still some puzzles that might be appropriate.

    AdobeStock_65958496

    Overall, the key to a healthy and positive school playground is variety. No playground should focus on a single goal, whether that be physical growth, mental challenges or social opportunities; instead, they should combine all of these targets into one and have equipment that works towards this overarching goal.

  2. It’s advent! Time to deck the halls and pull out all the stops to ensure your home is sparkling, twinkling, merry and bright. While Christmas decorating is one of my favourite things to do with the kids, I’m definitely feeling as though there’s more of an expectation than ever to have a fantastically festive home.

    AdobeStock_73680138

    Whether you’ve found inspiration on Pinterest, from a neighbour, or via following certain Insta accounts, 2018 is about creating a classy Chrismassy abode, from lighting to scents and all that’s in between. Heck, even your favourite seasonal Zoflora scent is a topic of interest this year. Yes, even your disinfectant. Needless to say, the pressure is on!

    With so much to think about, the cost of Christmas decorating can quickly sky rocket. It’s important to remember that your Christmas is about what it means for you and your family. If your Christmas tradition is to pull down the same tree from the attic and decorate it with family favourite baubles, then don’t cave under social media standards. As soppy as it sounds, memories are moments with meaning, rather than heaps of material possessions.

    That said, if you’re fancying a revamp or want to add to your existing collection, there are ways to push down the financial burden of decorating, so it’s a little kinder on your pocket.

    During advent, children are on top form, bursting with the excitement of Christmas. Channel this energy into some creative crafts. Making Christmas paperchains, paper snowflakes to stick to the windows and even Christmas crackers, will not only keep the young ones entertained, but is a sure way to make decorations steeped in sentimental value.

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    Scout around the charity shops, too. Often, when people buy new Christmas decorations, they donate their old ones to charity. This doesn’t mean they’re worn and outdated, either. Some homes buy new year on year, others donate theirs when they decorate with a new colour scheme. Have a browse around! You’ll be surprised.

    Do a bit of a decoration swap with family or friends. What’s old to you, is new to them, and sometimes that’s enough to give your Christmas decorating a bit of a boost. Incredibly cost effective – costing nothing at all – get together with your bits and bobs, and you may well have enough to swap to give your home a fresh new festive feel.

    ben-white-178531-unsplash

    And finally, failing all that, check out the sales. As we head closer to the big day, stores start to panic that they won’t shift Christmas stock and prices drop. With up to 75% slashed of RRP on the highstreet, the longer you leave it, the better the deals you will get on decorations. Perhaps, you will keep your existing sparkle for this season, and bag a brand-new haul for 2019. Sounds like a plan!

  3. Once upon a time, when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter I travelled to Cologne to see the German Christmas markets. Cologne provides a stunning backdrop to the markets and it is impossible to beat Cologne Cathedral, the magnificent Gothic edifice that took more than 600 years to complete and which today is still one of the city’s significant features.

    Birmingham german market 

    Fast forward 10 years or more and I don’t have to travel far to experience the bratwursts, tankards of German beer and the fruity flavours of hot Glühwein as Birmingham has one of the biggest markets outside of Germany!

     Birmingham german market sausage

    We went into Birmingham last weekend and there were notices already up in the train station warning of delays due to the increased number of passengers going to the German Markets. It is lovely to have it on our doorstep and people clearly come from far and wide to visit.

    We travelled in the early afternoon and the trains were already busy so the later it gets, the busier it gets. Weekends tend to be the busiest times - great if you enjoy a bustling atmosphere but it can get very crowded.   

    Birmingham German market by night 

    You can see from the pictures that there is not much breathing room so our top tips for attending the Christmas markets are:

    1. If you are planning on going without the children, try a week day as they are less hectic although it can get very busy in the middle of the day (from noon to 2pm when shop and office workers go in their lunch break).
    2. Avoid the times between 5pm up until about 7.30pm on a week day, as people stop for a drink and a bite to eat on their way home from work in the city centre.
    3. Some people think that it can be expensive to go to the markets but don’t get too caught up with price matching. Most vendors have equal prices, and although we love a bit of haggling, it isn’t common practice.
    4. If you want to venture a little further afield and go to the actual German markets in Germany, there are lots of travel operators offering coach trips, or why not book a hotel and enjoy a festive mini-break? It’s also worth checking to see if travelling by car maybe cheaper but always make sure that you have Car Insurance that covers European travel!
    5. And finally, don’t forget to sample the Glühwein. You may find that for a small fee, you can keep and re-use the special mugs. Not only are refills cheaper, you have a great souvenir too!

    Collaboration with Aviva.

  4. We’ve waltzed into December and – just like that *finger snap* – the year is over. I’m a little dumbfounded to say the least. Just where have all those weeks gone? It doesn’t seem two minutes since we were looking forward to the six-week summer break and thinking about getting a gardener because the heatwave had made everything grow twice as fast.

    Given that time’s flying so fast it’s giving Santa’s sleigh a run for its money, I seem to have a little clump of anxiety up in my chest. The days are running away with me right now, and I can’t help but wonder how I’m going to cram everything in that I have to do before the end of 2018.

    Mums Christmas Checklist

    As my littlies keep reminding me, it’s only 21 sleeps ‘til Christmas. So, if you’re feeling the same way I am, here’s a handy checklist to keep us mum’s sane and plans in place throughout December.

    • First things first, if you do your grocery shop online, book a slot ASAP. Fill your basket up with a few bits to meet the minimum spend to secure your preferred delivery date and time.
    • If you haven’t already – deck the halls with your children! It will put you in a magical mood for everything else you need to do.

    Christmas table

    • Stock up on Christmas cards, gift wrap, tissue paper, bows, bags, and all that jazz.
    • Arrange a couple of Christmassy days out, e.g. Santa’s grotto; snow park; reindeer farm; pantomime, you know the score.
    • Write down said family fun days in your diary and actually remember to go!
    • Book in a babysitter, pull out all the presents and wrap! The sooner the better.
    • As you’re wrapping, make a list of what you have, and anything else you need. This is guaranteed to make you feel on-top of the whole gifting situ.
    • Speak with family and friends, plan in when you will get together for some festive fun.
    • Check last post delivery dates, and be sure to send out cards and gifts in time.
    • Revisit your online food shop to finalise your order, or plan in a time when you’ll hit the supermarkets. Eeeek. Don’t forget Christmas dinner ingredients, Christmas cake, nibbles, cheese and biscuits, and traditional tipples.
    • If you have the time Christmas weekend, plan in a baking day. Schedule out some time to make cupcakes, a chocolate yule log, and decorate your Christmas cake with the children.
    • Alternatively, if you’re pushed for time or so stressed your hair’s turning a glorious shade of Santa Claus snowy-white, scratch that. No one knows. You just didn’t Insta-it. A Christmas present from you, to you.
    • Prep the veg, pre-heat the open, pop open a bottle of something sparkling, and relax.

    You did it!!