Saturday 28 February 2015

Making Mealtimes a Fun Learning Experience

There has been a lot in the press over recent years about how the British are losing their grip on the meal time traditions that were once considered the norm. Sitting together as a family is so important as not only is it a great opportunity to get the whole family sitting down together at least once a day, it also offers the opportunity for children of toddler age and up to see and mirror your eating habits. 
From Pinterest

Feature picture credit

Learning new skills and doing things for themselves are both extremely important. Making mealtimes as fun and as grown up as possible certainly helps when teaching little ones to be big boys and girls at the table. 

Picky Eating 

There are few thing as frustrating when it comes to parenting than having a child who will eat everything and anything one week and only red food the next (how many of you are smiling and nodding or gritting your teeth at the memory of this stage just now?). There are a number of ideas for how to get past the picky stage, from hiding vegetables in sauces and other foods, taking a firm stance or not forcing the issue as your little one will dig their heels in prolong the "I don't like any of this" stage. 

Regardless how you and your family have decided to tackle this fun stage many report that injecting fun into the mealtimes often helps. Food arranged by colour, to make faces, or patterns and more turn boring grown up food into something kids want to try. Many parents find that allowing your child to help shop for ingredients, to choose and to help prepare food also breaks down some of the barriers they've put up. 

The Right Utensils 

A large part of learning to eat with the grown up is all about using the utensils right. These rather lovely Zootensils from Skip Hop are brilliantly designed, making it easy for little hands to grip them properly and over time practice and develop their gross motor skills enabling them to move food to mouth properly with ease. 
They also look great! 

It's Only Mess 

Easy to say I know but it doesn't matter how quickly our children are going to get to grips with eating like big boys and girls, there is going to be a fair but of mess along the way. Bibs and aprons are a must and a great idea for saving time and effort when it comes to clearing up is to place an opened bin bag or messy mat under the highchair or grown up chair to catch the majority of anything dropped. 

Sitting Up at The Grown Up Table

It is very exciting for children being able to sit properly at the table with their family. Swapping a highchair for a booster seat signals the next stage of development. Setting a place for the children with their own dinner mat, own special plate, cup and utensils will go a long way to encouraging them to practice their eating skills. 

As with anything, the more fun and interesting we as parents can make learning something new, be this eating like a big boy or girl or even sleeping in a big bed for the first time, the more likely the transition will be a smooth one. 

Happy mealtimes!

Friday 13 February 2015

Half Term and Holiday Travel Tips

Are we nearly there yet?
There is nothing quite like travelling, be it a short trip or a longer journey with tired and/or bored children. We've all been there and we all know how stressful it may be on both parents and children. To help avoid these situations we've put together this mini-guide to help you all enjoy a calm, fun and safe journey this half term and for all future road trips.

On The Road

Be Prepared
If you are prepared for the worst anything else may be seen as a bonus. In the event of a breakdown it is essential that you have a breakdown box in the car with drinks, snacks, essential medications and of course things to amuse the children. If you are lucky enough to have broken down near a safe grassed area a ball or a Frisbee makes a great distraction activity (and burns off some of the excess energy) and if not paper games, simple card games and similar novelties will make passing the time before you are back on the road much more pleasant for everyone.

Be Safe
It is essential that the kids are in the right type of car seat for their age and height.  Up until the age of four years children should be a Group 1 car seat. From four years onward the rules are often confused. This handy car booster seat guide from Halfords clears up any confusion about what types are best and for what age. The right type of car seat will keep your children safe in the event of an accident and will also eliminate any discomfort felt which could be occur if the child was in the wrong type/size of car seat.

 Keep The Little Ones Occupied
Avoid boredom by having age appropriate drinks and snacks, toys, games and items which will amuse children throughout the journey to hand. Using a specially designed caddy or over the seat tidy makes it easy for children to access these items themselves.

Car games (knock, knock ding-a-ling was a firm favourite when some of us at Dotty Hippo HQ were younger!) as well as audio books, music and in-car DVD players for longer journeys all offer great solutions for beating travel boredom.

Schedule in Breaks
For long journeys toilet / changing breaks are important however these times also offer a great opportunity for the children to let off steam. If there is a play-park at your rest-stop or an open yet safe area encourage them to stretch their legs and get a little exercise before getting back in the car.

Travelling By Foot

If you are lucky enough to enjoy dry and even warm weather there is no better way to spend your days off and holidays than getting out in the fresh air and going for an adventure. 

Walk Safe
It is never too early to teach your little ones how to cross the road safely and every day trips out as well as holiday outings make for the ideal time to practice these skills. Teaching little ones to hold hands, pushchairs and walk independently is all part of them growing up and thankfully using walking accessories such as the Sure Steps security harness from Diono allows them a little freedom while parents and carers remain in complete control of their safety.

Be Seen
On dull days, early morning and of course in darkness it is essential that when walking out and about that you and your children may be properly seen by road users including cyclists as well as others on the paths. Everyone wearing fluorescent jackets or waistcoats with reflective bands when out and about, as well as having a light and reflective stickers or similar on pushchairs will ensure that your party may be seen at all times.

Carrying Supplies
It is amazing how much "stuff" you tend to take with you when walking out with children. There are snacks, drinks, tissues and wipes, changing items, toys and often much more. Rather than weighing down the pushchair handles and risking tipping whey not use a stroller organiser such as this one to keep everything to hand and safe?

If you aren't using a pushchair anymore and want to keep your hands free for holding little ones and playing use a backpack with handy pockets for everything you need. Ensure that you choose one with two straps so that you may spread the weight of what you are carrying and avoid back ache.

Whatever you have planned for this half term we hope you have a suitably wonderful time!