Education · Family

Five life skills your kids don’t learn at school

Five life skills your kids don’t learn at schoolThere is no “right” way to bring up children, and sometimes the more advice and opinions you hear, the tougher it can seem. Even the views of the greatest teachers and psychologists always differ to a certain extent.

Still, there is one thing on which everyone is in broad agreement: if you give your children freedom and value their individuality, they will grow up confident and happy. Another basic truth is that parents have as important a role in educating their kids as schoolteachers. With that in mind, here are five lessons that will be of value to every child, which you can help them to learn:

Independence

Before doing something for your children, step back and ask yourself whether they can do it themselves. Everyone needs freedom, but keep in mind that freedom and permissiveness are not the same thing. Let them try to do their own shoelaces, for example. Encourage, guide and most of all be patient. They will get there in the end.

Housework 

Here’s a secret: Kids love to help out with things. The only reason they get lazy and reluctant is through habit if you don’t let them get in on the act from a young age. The sooner children learn to perform ordinary household chores, the more confident and self-sufficient they will be in future. Aside from that, it’s always nice to have an additional pair of hands to help with cleaning or washing up, and it’s a great time to chat without the intrusion of a TV screen or games console.

Of course, kids don’t become skilled in domestic chores overnight, and role play games are highly valuable here. Those toy kitchens and toolkits are the perfect start, and you will see how much they love preparing pretend meals or repairing their toy cars.

Choosing and analysing

Your children will ultimately live their own lives, not the ones that you or the teachers in school have in mind. Where you can make a difference is to coach them on how to make wise decisions. Provide your child with the opportunity to choose as often as possible. For example, what to wear or what colour backpack to buy.

Beyond that, get the kids involved in broader family decisions, so that they can see how to research options and make the right choice. Whether it’s booking a family holiday or choosing the right printer cartridge, there is research to be done. Using the latter example as a case in point, show them the price of cartridges on the high street, then search online for Canon MG5750 and decide which is better!

Outdoor activities

Children need to spend time in the wide world. This is where they learn to observe, see the beauty of nature and live in harmony with the world. That doesn’t mean throwing them out in the morning and hoping they come back in the evening, as some generations maintain they spent their childhoods. In truth, it’s a great opportunity for us, as parents to spend more time outside too, not to interfere, but just to be around.

Kids

What Was Your Favourite Part of the Playground Growing Up?

Remember running out to the playground at break time after lessons, or a walk down the park, as a youngster and getting all excited because your favourite spot was free? For some, it is the slide, while others immediately run over to the bars.

Not all playgrounds are created equally, with some encouraging more play than others. Yes, you may have loved playing hopscotch, but did anything really capture the imagination like an all-singing-all-dancing structure filled with endless possibilities?

It probably depends on what type of child you were. Here, we take a look at some of our favourite parts of any playground.

Slide

What young child didn’t love the slide? Of course, some slides were better than others – there was nothing worse than getting stuck halfway down the slide, only for the next child to dislodge you on their way down. The best slides were, of course, the slides that had a spiralled design, rather than a straight slope down.

You might also remember the unfortunate discovery of a landing pad that wasn’t quite padded enough in parks that hadn’t been maintained as well as they should be. It was all good fun, though, wasn’t it?

Seesaw

The seesaw could be a lot of fun, as long as you had someone to actually go on it with. If you were something of a loner, the seesaw only served to compound your loneliness. But it was okay, because you could make friends on the playground and jump on the seesaw with them – after all, you are in a social setting.

This was a very simple piece of equipment that would keep us entertained for a long time. Of course, if you would get a little overzealous, your parents would get a little twitchy, but that was what the rubber matting was for.

Field

Is the surrounding field technically part of the playground? At school, everyone would be excited when they could play football on the grass, so for that reason we are saying yes. When we were at school, the grass field was used almost exclusively for sport, especially football.

Do you remember sliding around in your new school trousers and seeing your mum’s face drop when you returned home? Now we know how mum felt because, as any parent will tell you, grass stains aren’t fun to get out of clothes. Especially whites…

Rocker

Going back to those that loved to play on the seesaw, anyone that couldn’t find a friend to participate with them could jump on the rocker. This is a one-man seesaw, if you will, where the child can swing backwards and forwards or side to side to their heart’s content.

The best part of the rocker was that you were not reliant on another’s momentum (or lack thereof) and could go as fast or as slow as you wanted. The simple things always made for the best park equipment when we were young.

Swing

A staple of the playground, the swing was the reason for many a bump and graze when you fell off. You would always hear fables of how one kid managed to swing all the way over the bar (almost always when no one else was present, funnily enough) and foolishly try to replicate the feat yourself. It would never end well, or you would chicken out at the point your body would become inverted.

Looking back with an adult’s perspective, playground’s seem such a simple concept but, through the eyes of a child, they really do represent a world of opportunity.

Garden

Making Sure Your Lawn Stays Lush

Lawn-envy is a terrible thing, especially if you have vast expanses of flat, emerald green on either side of your browned, pitted and sparse wasteland… There’s no need to despair, though, as you can transform your tatty patch of land into an even, lush green carpet if you make the effort.

It starts with the soil

You can’t expect luxuriant green grass to grow out of nothing, so it’s important that you tend to the soil before you order your seeds from The Grass People. Using the right fertiliser is vital – if it’s later in the year then you need a fertiliser with phosphates in to provide long-term nutrition over the winter.

Make a schedule

This can be as simple as putting notes on a wall calendar or using a gardening app on your smartphone to remind you to buy the right type of fertiliser for the right season.

When it comes to fertilisers, there are two phases. Autumn and winter is for potassium and phosphate mixes, which strengthen the grass and help it to cope with the cold temperatures over winter. These mixes need to go down in October, November and December.

Once it’s spring, then it’s nitrogen time! Nitrogen mixes get used up faster, so you’ll need to apply them every six weeks from March through to August.

It’s important to control weeds and moss

Weeds and moss rob your grass of the vital nutrition it needs to grow healthily. Therefore, they must be eliminated! It’s a good job, then, that you can buy treatments that feed your grass and kill off weeds and moss at the same time. September is the best time to lay this treatment on your lawn because the weeds and mosses are still active so they’ll absorb the compounds. Trees which shed leave and twigs all over your lawn will also be detrimental,. so we’d suggest contacting New Smyrna Beach tree maintenance services for an expert opinion on how to manage your overhanging branches.

Get the hose out

The UK doesn’t really droughts, so there’s no need for a built-in sprinkler system. However, you do need a decent hose that can reach all the parts of your lawn and you also need to know which soil type you have. Sandy soil doesn’t retain water so well, so it’s more prone to drying out. Clay or loamy soil holds onto water a bit better, so you can water less frequently.

If you tend to water your lawn a little bit every day, then you should stop doing this. If you water frequently, the grass roots only ever need to “look” for water near the soil surface. Leaving it a few days for the water to sink down further without adding more encourages the roots to travel deeper down in search of moisture and nutrients. This makes the roots stronger and in the long-term helps the roots to access more nutrients.

Do some over-seeding to fill in bare spots

If your lawn is plagued by bare patches where grass just doesn’t seem to thrive, then try some over-seeding. This is sprinkling extra seeds in the area so that it gets a few more blades in the end. Be careful, though, because using too many seeds will back-fire as the seeds will be competing for an insufficient amount of food and none will grow properly.

Christmas

Christmas Preparation

Christmas PreparationChristmas seems to come around earlier and earlier each year. There’s the long school term; a drag which seems to take forever, and when (mercifully) the summer holidays roll around, they seem to come and go in a flash and before you know it you’re faced with the onslaught of the silly season.

For many, what is supposed to be a joyous time surrounded by family and friends, becomes a stressful, unenjoyable holiday that feels like more hard work than the rest of the year. Thankfully you can take the edge off with some canny planning and a fresh outlook, and these are our favourite ways to take the stress out of your Christmas.

Budget (and stick to it)

Money is perhaps the biggest source of stress for families during the Christmas period. Gifts, food, drink, decorations, evenings out; the list is endless. Take the money worries away and you’re already 9/10 of the way towards an enjoyable yuletide season.

By writing yourself a strict budget you can work out how much you have to spend on each necessity and take away much of the indecision that comes with your Christmas shopping by sticking to your budget 100%. No compromising.

Write down all of your expenses, allot each one an amount and lock it down! If it isn’t on your list, kick in into touch.

The internet is your friend

Ordering gifts online is a huge time and money saver but many people forget that you can actually order much of your consumable Christmas wares online too. There are some excellent online butchers who can send you your meats and if you buy alcohol online you’ll likely save a fortune on supermarket prices. Once those boxes arrive with your gin,  turkey and other tasty treats, you’ll feel the relaxation descend. Guaranteed.

Be prepared to say goodbye to the Christmas rituals

Most families have things that they always do at Christmas time, whether it’s hauling themselves through the crowds to the local panto or making sure they watch their favourite Christmas films in the right order, but you don’t have to do the same things you do year on year. Krampus won’t sneak up on you in the middle of the night if you forego It’s a Wonderful Life and spend some time other things you enjoy. When things that are supposed to be fun become a chore, it’s time to cut them loose.

Your house, your rules

If you’re catering for friends and family over the Christmas period, you’re going to want to make them feel comfortable and well looked after, but all too often the hostess (or host) feels like they have to make a raft of changes just to sate their guests, and many of us have guests who are quite happy to be vocal about what they’d do, were they you. Here’s the thing though: they aren’t you. Your home shouldn’t be somewhere where you feel frozen out at the expense of others who are only around for the day – and drawing a firm line will let everyone know where they stand.

The emergency present

This isn’t a new one by any means, but budget for (and buy) an auxiliary gift that will suit anyone – chocolates, champagne, a diary or planner – and wrap it up, just in case you’re faced with an unexpected plus one or someone else that you might have overlooked. Just knowing that you have an emergency gift tucked away will allow you to relax that little bit more.

If your family is packed with kids, maybe include a child-friendly option, too.

Embrace your daily rituals

While we think it’s important to be flexible about saying ta-ra to your Christmas rituals, we think it’s integral that you maintain the things that make you tick day-on-day. If you go for a run every morning, take a bath before bed or enjoy a few pages of your book after lunch, make time for these things during Christmas. You’ll find it easier to keep your head in the game if your simple pleasures are there for you.

Remember Christmas is for you too

We all get caught up in process of making sure our loved ones get the presents they want and our guests are fed their favourite foods and everyone is happy and content – but you must remember that applies to you as well. When you’re doing your online booze shop, throw in that nice bottle of fizz you’ve been denying yourself all year, or treat yourself to some new clothes, so that you can feel on the top of your game come Christmas day. You’ll feel better for it and maybe (maybe) when next Christmas rolls around, you won’t dread it quite so much.

DIY · Home

How a Dishwasher Changed My Life

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash
Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

When we moved here, to our little house in the countryside, I had to accept a few things in order to get the lifestyle we wanted. Firstly, I would have to do a fair bit of driving to get the girls to school. Nights out would either need to be very sober or cost a lot more if we factored in taxis. We’d have to accept that our internet went about the same speed as dial-up, circa 1997. And, perhaps most horrifyingly of all, I would have to accept that there wasn’t space in our kitchen for a dishwasher.

I’d never had a dishwasher until we lived in the house before this one, and getting one at the last house felt like all of my dreams had come true at once. You see, I’m not naturally domesticated, and the washing up was my BIGGEST nemesis. I absolutely hate washing up. And so does everyone else who lives here, so it would often go undone for days at a time, which as you can imagine, is a less than ideal situation.

I won’t lie, I had a bit of a meltdown at Husband and told him that something needed to change, so he put his thinking cap in action (as well as chucking a bit of cash at the situation!) and worked out that we could have a dishwasher if we did a bit of shuffling around in the kitchen.

We’re seriously lucky that we have some super handy and practical people in our family, so after a call to Husband’s aunty (although you could just hire a plumber) we worked out that we could put the dishwasher where our washing machine currently stood and do a bit of a retrofit with the pipes to move the washing machine along a different wall altogether.

We have a galley kitchen, so it wasn’t immediately obvious that we’d be able to do this, but sometimes it takes a new pair of eyes, and someone with a bit more expertise than yourself, to come up with this sort of solution.

Husband’s aunt and uncle ordered all of the parts they’d need and came round one evening a few months ago to get it all done. It only took them two or three hours, and by the time they finished, we had a shiny new dishwasher, ready to go, and a washing machine that actually worked MUCH better in its new position because the floor was more level and it was closer to the dryer, too.

It sounds dramatic when I say it’s changed my life, but I cannot understate this fact enough. Instead of permanently living in limbo between “don’t use the kitchen, I’ve just spent hours cleaning it” and “we’ve got no clean plates, we’ll have to have a takeaway”, the kitchen is permanently clean and tidy and we ALWAYS have things to eat and drink with.

This has also had other knock-on effects too – we eat far fewer takeaways, so we’re saving money and being healthier, both of which are really positive. It also means that the rest of the house is tidier, because there’s a place for all of the dirty plates, cups and cutlery to go. I also enjoy cooking SO much more now. Before, I’d cook a roast or bake a cake and then be faced with the reality that I had to hand wash every single item I’d used in the process. Now, it all goes straight in the dishwasher, nothing is untidy, and I can just enjoy the whole experience of being creative in the kitchen.

If you don’t think you have space for a dishwasher in your kitchen, it could be well worth getting a plumber or kitchen designer to have a look and give you a professional opinion as to whether there might be a way, and if you’re as undomesticated as me, it could genuinely change your life!