Christmas · Education · Kids

BrightMinds – Educational Gifts for Kids

Being a parent at Christmas can be a tough job. If Burrito Baby had her way, all of her gifts would be things that Husband and I consider cheap, plastic tat which will probably be chewed up by Maureen before New Year because it all gets left on the floor! Also, as you’ll know if you read this post, Sausage is getting  to that ‘hard to buy for’ age, which makes buying presents even tricker. We’ve always tried to find a balance between three things:

  1. Stuff they actually really want.
  2. Stuff which is good quality and will last longer than a few weeks.
  3. A combination of gifts which are fun but are also educational in some way.

Both of the girls are really fascinated by science. Just a few weeks ago, Sausage came home from school absolutely buzzing because she’d used a bunsen burner for the first time and she seems really engaged by things she’s learning in her lessons. BB isn’t quite at bunsen burner level yet, but she’s developing a deep love of all things science, mostly anatomy and nature.

A while ago, BrightMinds got in touch and asked if we’d like to pick some things from the website for the girls for Christmas, and I realised that it’s basically a whole site, dedicated to things my kids would LOVE! BrightMinds specialie in STEM toys (science, technology, engineering and maths), as well as wooden toys, role play & board games that are fun to use but also encourage learning and development.

BrightMinds - Learning Resources Anatomy Models: Set of heart, brain, body and skeleton

We opted for the Learning Resources Anatomy Models which consists of a set of heart, brain, body and skeleton models, giving children gain a deeper insight to the workings of the human body. Children learn as they build each of the models using the step by step photo illustrated assembly instructions. It’s a bit like a puzzle, but taking it to a whole new level!

I just know that both girls are going to love these and that it will hopefully help to continue to foster their love of science. At the moment, BB is adamant that she’s going to be a doctor AND a vet (hello, tuition fees!) and these models might be the thing that inspire her to make a choice. I haven’t opened the boxes yet, as I want to save them for Christmas, but you can see them through the window on the front and the quality and level of detail looks excellent.

I think these make such a great gift for the scientifically-minded kids in your life and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. The best part is, you can still place an order all the way up to 23rd December for next day delivery, which mean you’ve got plenty of time to get some things ordered before Christmas. Don’t forget to take a look around the WHOLE Brightminds site for other STEM toys, arts and crafts kits, books and a whole load of other educational gifts which are so vibrant and fun, kids will forget they’re learning!

Christmas · Kids

Young Driver: Driving Your Way to a Great Christmas!

Young Driver
Photo by Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash

Sausage is at that slightly difficult age when it comes to buying gifts. At 11, and a first year at senior school, she’s not into toys anymore (Funko Pops aside!) but she’s still a kid, so we don’t want Christmas to be about ‘functional’ gifts rather than fun ones. As a Mum, I finally understand why people hae always said how tricky the ‘tween’ years can be, purely because they really are in between phases.

Just recently, we heard about a company called Young Driver, where kids as young as five can have a driving lesson, and it seemed like a perfect stocking filler for Sausage. They have centres all around the country where kids can drive a real car, with a real instructor, and they even cater for a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and have automatic cars with hand controls for wheelchair users at selected sites.

Fostering a love for driving at this age is a great thing to do – I’ve written before about how happy I was when I learned to drive and how much I loved the freedom, and although driving is an expensive business these days, I think it’s important for people to learn how, even if they chooe not to use a car on a daily basis.

The best thing about Young Driver is that you can buy vouchers for one lesson, or as many lessons as you want, which gives you an option to suit every budget. The lessons are exactly the same as the lessons that they’d have when they turn 17, and there’s a YOUNG DRIVER™ Drive Diary charts your progress and goes with you.

The 30 Minute Festive Lesson Voucher  gives your tween a 30 minute Young Driver™ experience and is available as a postal voucher, which makes it great as a last minute gift. Gift vouchers are valid for 9 months from date of purchase, so they have plenty of time to get booked in for their lessons.

Im so excited about giving Sausage her voucher at Christmas – it’s such a unique idea for a gift and I really think she’s going to geta huge thrill out of the whole thing. I also think that a gift like this shows that we have confidence in her and see her as a very mature 11 year old.

If you want to learn more about Young Driver or the lessons they offer (they also do birthday parties at some of their centres!), follow the link above. There’s still time to buy a voucher before Christmas a they offer an option for email delivery which you can print off yourself at home, for extra convenience, meaning you can buy something right up until Chritmas Day itself!

Charity · Kids · School

Ways to Raise Funds for your PTA

Ways to Raise Funds for your PTA
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Since Sausage starting at primary school, I’ve done my best to get involved as many PTA events as I can. This has meant chaperoning many discos, helping out with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas sales, setting up stalls at the school fete and as many other things as I’ve been able to get involved with, time wise. In September, the parents received a letter, letting us know that the remaining two members of the PTA were stepping down as the committee and my sister-in-law and I decided that it would be too sad to see the PTA close down all together so we would take on the role of Chair and Deputy Chair.

Since we took on the roles we’ve had brainstorming sessions with other members of the PTA and have come up with lots of fundraising ideas that we want to try over the next 12 months. Our current commitments to the school include keeping the minibus running, but we also want to provide them with some new school playground equipment such as climbing frames so that the kids can make better use of the outdoor space. Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the fundraising ideas that we’ve come up with so far, so they might inspire you to help raise funds for your child’s School.

Embroidery and Name Tags

There are several companies which will give you a percentage of sales when you share their leaflets for your parents. Labels and embroidery are the most common examples and they allow parents to get all of their labelling needs covered while the school benefits from the commission.

100 Club

The principle of a 100 club is that you have a list number one to 100 and parents are able to buy a number and pay £1 per month for this number. At the end of each month, you draw a winner from each of the 100 names and you split the £100 usually 50/50 between the parent and the school. Obviously if you have a much larger school and want more parents to get involved you can have more numbers but do bear in mind that the main work involved with the 100 club is ensuring that each payment has been made from each parents bank account every month.

Enterprise Evenings

Lots of the parents but our primary school are self-employed and run their own businesses, many of which revolve around crafty endeavours or selling things. Enterprise evenings are fairly simple, and there are two ways that you can make a profit. The first way is to simply sell table space so that each business pays a fee to rent a table and then any profits they make, they keep for themselves. The other way is to agree a profit share for the evening so any profit made per table is split with the school but you don’t generally charge for the space. The latter option is more difficult to arrange because obviously it relies on everyone being honest about how much profit they made in the evening.

Movie Nights

If your school has a decent sized hall with a projector, running a movie night is a really simple way to make some money. Advertise it so that kids bring their own bean bags, chairs, blankets etc and all parents have to do you drop them off to watch a film for a couple of hours and then collect them at the end. Our school has its own popcorn machine so we’re planning to offer a bag of popcorn in the ticket price, but as this is cheap to make it shouldn’t affect our profits too much. You can also set up refreshment stands and sell food and drink if you want to.

Open Mic Night

This one might not work if your school is small, however our primary school has almost 1000 pupils and therefore lots and lots of grown-ups who are willing to get involved with stuff. You can charge people to come along on watch and encourage everyone to bring their own food and drink so that everything you make is purely profit. It’s a really fun way to get the adults involved with the school community and you could even combine it with the movie night so that those who need childcare have it built in with their night out.

Collecting Coins

This one takes relatively little effort and is something that you can get the whole school involved with. All you need to do is take a decent sized container to each classroom and ask them to fill it with as many 1p, 2p, or 5p coins. Then, at the end of term, you count up which class has the most money in the pot and the class with the highest amount of money raised wins a prize. You can make the prize something like lollies for the whole class if it’s a summer event which means you’re out loud will be minimal and everything else will be profit for the PTA.

If you have any other ideas that you think would be good for raising money for the school PTA and our outdoor play equipment, please leave me a comment below as we’re always trying to come up with fresh ways to raise funds.

Weddings

How is a Diamond Made?

For many, the go-to carbon source associated with the creation of diamonds is coal. However, science confirms that naturally conceived diamonds created by the earth and space, do not require the metamorphism from coal to form these jewels. To support this, scientists discovered that coal needs plant sources to exist. And that dated diamonds were created before the world’s first plants even existed. Hence, it would be incorrect to assume that the method for the creation of diamonds is reliant on coal. Furthermore, as a sedimentary rock, coal embodies a horizontal rock form. However, diamonds are presented in the shape of vertical pipes packed with igneous rocks. 

There is one man-made process for creating diamonds and four natural occurrences that make up the world’s diamonds, these are as follows;

Lab-Created

With the use of science and technology, since the 1950’s we have sought to attempt to recreate the diamond for commercial use in jewels and industrial equipment. At present, with the use of an abundance of electricity to mimic a high temperature/pressure environment, the USA and China (the leading country for creating diamonds) are capable of producing almost superior diamonds in regards to diamond clarity. These VVS (very very slightly) diamonds include incredibly minor inclusions that the naked eye can not see without the assistance of 10x magnification.

Earth’s Mantle

According to geologists, extremely high temperatures and pressure are the necessary environments needed to create natural diamonds. Because of this, the limited zones within the earth’s mantle are the perfect atmosphere for diamonds to form and flourish. And so, for this method, the creation of diamonds originates around 90 miles below the earth’s surface and continental plates. The temperatures within this area are expected to reach a minimum of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. These diamonds are forced to the earth’s surface by a volcanic eruption that occurs from deep within the ground pushing the diamonds upwards. 

Subduction Zones

50 miles below the earth’s surface diamonds are subducted into the mantle by plate tectonic processes. The temperatures within the subduction zones amount to 390 degrees Fahrenheit, a much lower heat source than used in the earth’s mantle method above. Following the diamond’s formation, they are delivered to the surface. However, these diamonds are scarce, and usually upon their discovery, they are unsuitable for commercial use.

Impact Sites

The velocity and pressure of heat from an asteroid are likened to the heat from the sun’s surface. In turn, providing the required conditions for diamonds to form on what is referred to as impact sites (where the asteroid lands and shatters the earth’s surface). To support this concept, diamonds have been uncovered around asteroid impact sites at the meteor crater in Arizona and the Popigai crater in northern Siberia.

Space

Similar to impact sites, extracts from meteorites by Smithsonian researchers have demonstrated the existence of nanodiamonds within samples from, for example, the alien hill meteorite. High-speed collisions in space accumulate the required temperature and pressure to form diamonds, similar to those created and found when an asteroid strikes the earth. However, due to the nanosize of the diamonds, they can not be used as jewels or for industrial purposes.

The processes above create diamonds of different variations, some of which are suitable for mining and commercial use, and others that are too insignificant in size or rarely ever found.

Christmas

How to prevent unwanted Christmas gifts

Christmas is undoubtably a time for giving and receiving. But how do you prevent receiving those unwanted Christmas gifts? It’s estimated that that over 50% of us receive at least one unwanted gift each year, that’s a whopping £5.03 billion going down the drain. Not only is this waste having a detrimental effect on our environment but it’s having a negative impact on our personal finances too, to the tune of nearly £50 per person.

Prevent yourself from receiving unwanted Christmas gifts this year by being proactive and taking charge – we’ve all got things we want or need, so let your loved ones know!  

Create a list 

The easiest way to prevent yourself from receiving unwanted Christmas gifts is to write a list. It doesn’t have to be long, but make sure it includes items under different budgets, for example gift ideas under £20, around £50 and over £100. This will help people assess how much they can afford to spend, and they’ll know they’ve got you something you will actually appreciate. Check some gift  ideas and  more info here

Ask for experiences

Avoid receiving more stuff and ultimately more things for landfill by asking for experiences. This is great for a group of friends. Instead of buying each other a mediocre gift that is sadly unwanted, why not all club together and buy an experience. This could be each putting in £20 to go to the spa together, going out for a meal at that fancy new restaurant, or even putting money towards a holiday. 

Not only will this prevent you having to fake an enthusiastic smile when you receive an unwanted gift, but you’ll have something to look forward to in the new year that has already been paid for! 

Drop hints

Drop into conversation with friends and family that you’ve seen something that you would love for Christmas. You can be as subtle or unsubtle as you like. If you’ve seen something in a magazine, leave the magazine lying around open on the page, or even better tell them face to face.

The most important thing to remember is that Christmas is about more than things – it’s about spending time with loved ones, reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the future. 

When it comes to buying presents, make sure that you don’t spend beyond your means. You may consider spreading the cost of Christmas with a credit card – which can be a good option, as long as you pay the balance off with your January paycheque.

If you do receive an unwanted gift, see if you can return it, sell it on or better yet donate it to charity.