Saturday 28 March 2015

Getting Organised For The New Term

Most schools broke up today for the long Easter holidays and we imagine there will be many happy children looking forward to the break as well as some fun and tasty offerings from the Easter Bunny.

While the break might seem a really long one for the little ones those of us who have to make sure that they are suitably suited and booted in time for the new term know that it actually goes very quickly.

Why all shoes seem to be scuffed beyond repair or suddenly too small, water bottles disappear and uniform needs replacing when there are only a few months until the summer holiday we haven't the answer for. What is very clear though is that if you have items to replace now is the time so that you have everything that you need before the new term starts.


Replacing uniform at this point in the school term isn't ideal however items do get lost, worn down or are suddenly too small. If you are ordering online from official uniform shops the time to do this is now as often it takes a little longer for these items to arrive than it would if buying from some online stores and you don't want to go back to school and still be waiting for a delivery.

Buying new school shoes is often a chore however it is one best undertaken early on in the holiday as towards the end of the fortnight the shoe shops are very busy and fitting appointments are almost all gone.


A lost or damaged bag or rucksack at this point in the school term is a bind however if you buy a decent quality bag now for school or nursery you won't have to buy another for some time. This means that you may cross one more items off the back to school after summer list. The applies to swimming bags and PE bags of course.

Packed Lunches 

Many children need not only packed lunch boxes but also a bottle for juice and one for water when at nursery or at school. We have a number of water bottles, some with straws for younger children and others without, all in lovely bright and easy to recognise colours and patterns and well as lunch boxes, cutlery and more so that your little ones have everything they need.

What's more all our eating items have to pass a cuteness test before being added to the website so you know that whatever you choose will be suitably adorable.

Name It

Wear and tear is normal as are items being outgrown but lost pieces of uniform and lunch time accessories are just annoying. Make sure that your child's items are return back to them by using name tags and labels on everything from water bottles to school shoes.

Once you've got everything ready and organised for going back to school or nursery (etc) all you have to worry about is where to hide the Easter Eggs and how to make sure that you fit all the fun activities you've got planned into two short weeks!

Have a fabulous break, whatever you have planned.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Encouraging Reading in Children

The world of books opens the door to an amazing collection of new experiences and learning opportunities. Above all else of course reading is fun!

Some children will be very keen on books, story time and reading from the word go, while others might need extra encouragement. We've put together some hints, tips and tricks to help you foster reading in your home and with your children.

Bedtime Stories
A great way to encourage children to read is to start young and to incorporate it into your routine. Bedtime stories are brilliant for helping to settle little ones and to nurture and grow a love of stories from an early age. As children grow ask them to read part of the story themselves or listen to them as they read page or chapters themselves (praising their efforts).

Letting Children Choose
Reading the same story three nights in a row might not be everyone's idea of fun however when it comes to keeping children engaged in their reading and story time it is important to let the kids choose. The Dinosaur That Poo'ed a Planet or Aliens Love Underpants are just two fabulous stories that will have children running for the bookshelves again and again.

Reading Area
Do you have a place in your home where little ones can go to read or do they read in their rooms? A reading corner with beanbags and a bookcase, blankets and cushions is an ideal place for quiet and comfortable enjoyment. Not everyone has space of course for one of these magical reading havens however so wherever you all read make it special, even if it simply means pulling out a favourite blanket to snuggle up under or a special cushion to cuddle.

Visit the Library 
Libraries are so much more family friendly these days with dedicated areas for children to read and play in, colourful furniture and child-sized chairs and tables to read at and more. Many libraries run special events for children throughout the year, including story time sessions where a member of staff will read to children.

One much loved library event for children which runs every year is the Summer Reading Challenge. Libraries nationally run themed events over the summer and through which readers of all abilities from ages 4yrs upwards may earn stickers, rewards and more by reading six books (minimum) over the summer. More on this year's challenge will be featured on the Summer Reading Challenge website where kids can also leave book reviews and play games.

Reading Anything is Reading
It doesn't matter what children are reading as long as they're reading. If fact books are their thing, comics with descriptions, manuals or magazines as long as they're reading and enjoying it they are learning.

Do you have any tips for encouraging reading? Did you read a lot as a child? We'd love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment.

Friday 13 March 2015

Promoting a Good Sleep Routine

Parenting is the most rewarding job in the world. It is often also the most tiring, especially when you have a little one who isn't a great sleeper, who doesn't like going to bed or who is going through a phase of interrupted sleep.  

As well as parents missing out on valuable sleep little ones not getting their full quota doesn't do them any good either. Sleep is great not only for resting and recouping lost energy for the next day, sleep time is the time most of us and especially children process what they've seen, heard and experienced during the day and learn from it. 

We've had a rally around Dotty Hippo HQ to pull together some of our best tips for promoting a good sleep routine. If you have more to add please leave a comment as we'd love to hear! 

Routine, Routine, Routine Routine is the golden word as far as parenting goes as many children (and parents) go as with a routine in place everyone knows what comes next, who does what and routines may be reassuring. How your routine works will depend on your child or children, their bedtime, how many people are involved and other such things. Whatever your routine is, when you find something that works stick to it. 

Wind Down Time It is a lot easier to encourage a little one to settle into bed if they have already had a period of time where they stop running around and relax. Some people use the CBeebies Bedtime Hour, others use bath time, noisy toys could be switched out for quiet ones or perhaps this time is a time where TVs, devices and anything which may be noisy and distracting are switched off or put away so that little ones may enjoy some cuddle and chat time.  Again, whatever you do during wind down time be consistent. 

Bedtime Reading Once in bed the perfect way to finish the day is with a story. Allowing reluctant bed-goers to choose which story will be enjoyed may also help, as might inviting guests of the fluffy teddy-shaped type into bed to listen too. Story time can be a magical time and one which both parents and children enjoy before little ones nod off. 

The Perfect Bedroom Some children simply don't like bedtime which may be difficult. Making going to bed something special and an adventure often does help. Make the bedroom somewhere that the children want to be. Decorate in favourite colours, choose bedding they love and personalise the space. 

Some children struggle in the dark so instead of having a bright lamp on or spending a fortune on keeping a landing light on all night using an energy saving nightlight can be very reassuring and solve a lot of bedtime sleep anxiety. 

Do you have any top tips for bed time? Do you sing? Is there a special game to encourage little ones into bed? If so we'd love to hear more!

Saturday 7 March 2015

Easter Holiday Fun Ideas

It doesn't seem like two minutes since the February half term ended and yet in a few more weeks many of you will be bringing nursery bags and school PE kits home once more for the Easter holidays. 

The beauty of the Easter holidays is that with a longer stretch of time off (22 days including weekends for many of our local schools) we as parents have more days to play with so when it comes to organising activities, days out and more there's no worry about having to cram everything in. 

If you are looking for inspiration on what to do this Easter we have a few ideas for you. 

Get Out and About 
If the weather is kind this Easter spend as much time as possible enjoying the great outdoors as a family. Go to local parks, roll down hills (with or without your painted hard-boiled Easter eggs), walk through forests (have a look at the Forestry Commission website for some brilliant safe and well maintained woodland walks in your area) and generally use the time to stretch your legs and let the kids blow off some steam. 

Planned Trips and Events 
Over Easter, especially over the long Easter weekend there are often a great number of fairs, markets, special events and more run in your local area, the key is knowing how to find them. Look at community noticeboards (online and around your local area), use Facebook local pages, the tourist information centres, ask other parents and generally keep your eyes open.  

In addition to the often free or cheap local events that run why not take the opportunity these Easter holidays offer and explore local museums, English Heritage sites or perhaps look up what the National Trust has in your area? 

Art and Crafts 
As much as we'd like to assume that during the holidays that the sun will shine and that we'll be surrounded by beautiful spring sights there is always the chance that we'll be covered in snow or stuck indoors thanks to fierce April Showers. If this is the case don't despair as there are plenty of entertaining ways to get through the holidays without hearing "But I'm bored". 

 Art and craft is a great activity and something that can be enjoyed at any age. Minecraft paper craft for older children, beadwork, painting, chalks, working around a theme such as a place or topic (as well as traditional Easter crafts) are all great examples.  

Here at Dotty Hippo for example we offer a number of art and craft activities for over the holidays including scrapbooking for kids, magnetic mosaics and even colour in comic books.  

This is a great time to introduce your children to new ways to enjoy their creativity. 

Having friends over is a great way for kids to spend their time (especially if there are dens to make or activities planned). Playdates also give parents a chance to sit down and talk with adults during the holidays. Try and organise one session at your house and one at someone else's if you can. 

The Library 
Libraries are very child friendly these days with large colourful areas dedicated to young readers of all abilities and the library often run their own holiday events. Call or visit your library to see what they have available (on top of the lure of row upon row of fabulous books of course). 

Plan Nothing at All 
Having new and exciting things to do, places to go and people to see over Easter is great however sometimes just playing and relaxing is needed. After a busy half term the children are unlikely to protest at the odd pj day, movie afternoon or spending the morning just enjoying playing with their toys. This gives them a chance to unwind and rest before they go back to school again. 

Whatever you have planned for the soon-approaching holidays we wish you a fabulous time.