Preparing the kids for the new school year

The Back to School Routine

In association with SuperSavvyMe

With summer nearing its end, it’s time to start thinking about the new school year. The back to school transition can be a daunting one at times, and whether you are dreading the little ones going back or can’t wait for them to leave, there’s a lot to be done.

It’s important to remember that it’s going to take a little time for both you and the children to get used to a more regimented way of life. Instead of rising as and when desired, the kids must now be dressed and out the door before nine!

This often means you are to rise at least an hour earlier than them – packed lunches won’t prepare themselves, gym kits won’t magically jump from the fresh laundry pile and into a bag and unfortunately, shirts don’t seem to come crease-free.

Children that are moving from junior into senior school and also those that intend to begin the New Year at an entirely different school are the ones that will have the biggest adjustments to contend with. It’s important to take a few parenting tips on board at this point and ease them into transition  the best way you can.

Making sure that they are fully prepared for the new school year is one important tip to follow. If the uniform is slightly different to that of last year’s, it’s wise to buy into a new school ensemble in advance.

On this note, if the uniform is the same, it’s a good idea to check that it still fits your child before the end of the summer. Kids grow surprisingly fast and trousers which are too short, tight skirts and close-fitting shirts are not a good look for anyone.

Once you have the school uniform in order, it’s time to move onto the gym kit. Many schools will ask you to adhere to a certain style or colour when it comes to sports clothes.

Some schools will offer their own brand of kit which will often feature the school’s own logo. Others will ask that you stick to blue, black or maroon shorts and a white t-shirt. Regardless of how much your little ones love their super snazzy trainers, wearing vivid-hued gym shoes to school is not acceptable.

Stationery is another important factor to consider. The likes of a new school planner, pens, pencils, maths equipment and exercise books are all necessary tools to have. It may be wise to create an area in the study at home dedicated solely to your child. This will allow them to organise projects into completed work and work yet to complete so that it is easier for them to manage.


It’s that time of year again! School Uniform Review

Where is the best place to buy school uniforms?

Last year an experienced mum said

‘Don’t wait until the end of August to buy school uniforms’

I’m so glad I listened or my daughter wouldn’t have had any uniforms to start school as most places would have sold out.  We had some left over M&S vouchers so kitted her out with winter uniforms.  They may have been a bit more expensive but they did last the entire school year.

However, during the year we have managed to accrue quite a few summer uniforms, some were hand-me downs and others were sent for review purposes.  We have uniforms from Aldi, Asda and BHS.  When I asked my 5-year old which ones were her favourite, the Girl’s Classic Gingham Dress (£4) from BHS have come out on top!

Summer Uniform from BHS

She loves the ones with the two pockets, the bow at the back and hair tie.  As a mum, I love the fact that they are knee length as I find a lot of the summer uniforms are far too short.  They’ve also stood up to numerous washing and if I hang them up straight away there is no need to iron them.  However, I do find the buttons a little fiddly and would prefer the zipper from the Asda one, however that one is a bit short for my liking.

This year there seems to be a price war between the big supermarkets with some offering uniforms for as little as £4.  I’m a little dubious about the ethics behind some of them as I don’t know how they can ethically source them for that price.  There is an interesting article ‘Why I would NEVER buy into cut-price supermarket school uniform deals on Parent Dish.

This year I’m hoping to get away with using her summer uniforms for September and buying winter ones later.  I do hope this isn’t a bad idea.  Do let me know otherwise.



Do you read to your kid’s every night?

‘83.6% of Mums spend time reading to their children at bed time, despite studies showing a growing number of Mums returning to work’

As a working mum, I’m often tired after being on the motorway and fairly stressed by the time I get home, but the one thing I make sure I do every night is to read to and with my daughter as part of her bedtime routine. Around 1 in 10 parents admit that they find the bedtime routine very stressful, it is certainly a lot easier, when after the bath, hair brushing and teeth cleaning to focus my daughter’s attention with the promise of a story together.

Reading to your kids Even as dads get more involved in parenting, bedtime is still mums domain, with 51% of mums in charge of bedtime each night compared to just 15% of dads’

We are lucky that our childminder does our daughters school reading with her, because often by bedtime she is too tired to read by herself and it can turn into an unwelcome battle. She is now at the age where reading is a pleasure for her and as long as the pressure of having to read is removed; I find she often takes over from me whilst I read her, her bedtime story. Dad is very involved with parenting and shares the bedtime routine, especially on those nights that I’m just too tired.

Our daughter has a wide selection of story books, she is keen to read some of her school reading book to me to show me how well she is doing and will select the book she wishes me to read to her before going to sleep. We do have our favourites, one of my personal favourites is Winnie the Witch.

I find it important to prioritise the bedtime routine with my daughter, especially as a working mum. Whether it’s the reading or the routine, our daughter certainly settles to sleep a lot quicker than she does if the reading is missed out of the routine.

I’m going to miss the bedtime routine when she’s older.

Do you read with your kids every night?  What are your favourite books?

Disclosure:  This post was inspired by research undertaken by Fairy Non-Bio about children’s bedtime routines and we did receive a bottle of Fairy Liquid and a lovely bedtime blanket for our daughter.





The perfect thank you gift for teachers

Where has the time gone!  First year of school done!

It’s almost the end of my daughters 1st year at school, where has the time gone.  It seems like  yesterday that we were walking to school for the first time!  Now the conversation in the play ground has turned to ‘what to buy the teacher as an end of year thank you present?’

Hopefully her teacher doesn’t read my blog or I’m about to spoil her surprise. We’ve been very lucky this year with our daughters teacher, she’s amazing, I’ve never seen some one with so much enthusiasm who obviously loves her job.

We’ve watched our daughter embrace her love of reading going from a non reader to a reader and I’ll miss the days when she no longer wants me to read to her at night, putting herself to bed.  She genuinely loves school and runs through the gate every morning.

There has been whispers about doing a collection for the teacher, but apparently, this is discouraged by senior management as it may put pressure on some families and I totally understand.  I’ve heard of intense competition amongst parents in the playground with large amounts of money being spent on gifts and that’s just not my style, I want my daughter to be involved in the choice of gift, as after all, the teacher has suffered 30 kids, like her, for the past year.  My hat goes off to her!

My daughter’s class is called Butterflies and she wanted to buy her teacher a present related to that theme. As a teacher myself I know that the endless boxes of chocolates rarely leave the staff room, the flowers have nowhere to live and I wanted a more personal, but practical gift that the teacher can use or wine and lots of it!

Gifts for teachers

Coincidentally, I was sent these Butterfly post it notes, a practical gift that the teacher she can use in the class next term, every teacher needs post it notes from marking a page in a book to jotting down notes after listening to a child read of difficult words they need to work on. We’ve stumbled upon the perfect present!

When the chocolate has been eaten and the flowers have wilted, the post it notes will still be there and the tin the post it notes come in can be reused.

Disclosure:  I was sent these post it notes for review purposes, but you have to admit they’re rather fab!

Do you buy presents for your kid’s teachers?  If so what do you suggest?



How to Keep Younger Children Safer When Using Computers

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More than a third of all 3-4 year-olds are now accessing the internet in their homes. My daughter has been accessing computers since she was two, and swipe technology has made this possible. She whizzes around the iPhone and iPad better than her father does and can often be seen on my lap searching the internet for answers to questions I don’t know the answer to (e.g. why don’t electric eels shock themselves?). She is truly a digital native. She is now five.

As an ICT consultant, I train teachers for a living on the use of hardware and software in the classroom and I strongly believe that these technologies can positively impact her learning.  However, I don’t want her spending day in and day out in front of the screen.

I know a lot of parents are reluctant to allow their children to access these technologies and rightly so. The internet can be a dangerous place, but I do feel that children who are denied access may be put at a disadvantage academically.

I’ve been doing a bit of research about e-safety and younger children, aged 3-5, but everything I read tends to relate to slightly older children who are able to read and write.  My daughter is just learning to read and write so I found that a lot of the information was not relevant to this stage as it was talking about chat rooms, cyber bullying, etc so I thought I’d put together a short list of my top tips for keeping younger children safer when online.

In our house, she has supervised access to iPhones, iPads and a PC.  This is where my experience lies so this article is based on that.  However, I’m sure it can be translated to Androids, Macs and other tablets.  Do chip in the comments section.

My top 10 tips for keeping younger children safer

When using an iPad or iPhone

I’ve learned a few of these the hard way – just remember that the settings are your friend.

1.) Turn off In-App Purchase to avoid any nasty surprises! I’ve written about this in the past when my neighbour nearly got stung with a £70 bill from iTunes.

You can do this in Setting>General>Restrictions and turn off In-App Purchases

How to turn of in app purchases

2.) Turn of Location Services – this one really scared the crap out of me. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that someone could identify my daughter’s location using it. Eeeek!  I have now turned it off! It’s in Restrictions as well.

Turning off Location Services

3.) Disable Safari and YouTube – My daughter and I do go onto YouTube and Google as I mentioned earlier, but only when we are together, so to ensure she doesn’t find her way on there when I’m not looking I have disabled them. It’s a bit of a pain as I have to turn it back on again when I want to use it, but I’d rather be safer than sorry.

How to Turn off You Tube and Safari

4.) Set Media Parameters, again it’s in restrictions but you can decide what age range you are comfortable with when watching films or accessing apps. However, if you are using any other subscription-based film services like LoveFilm, you may also have to change the settings there as well. The instructions can be found here.

Setting Age Restrictions

5.) On the iPad the default is 15 minutes for needing to re-enter a password for purchases.  Change this to ‘Immediately’, otherwise they have plenty of time to run up a bill buying stuff.

Change time limit for entering password

When using the PC

My daughter rarely uses the PC unless I’m with her and to be honest, I’d rather she use the iPad so that I can get on with my work or faffing around on social networks. But when she does, these are a few things that I have done:

6.) I’ve made a folder for her with a list of favourite sites, which reduces the chances of her getting onto an inappropriate site, but it’s not fail safe.

7.) I have turned on Safe Search Mode on Google so when we are searching together it reduces the chances of us coming across anything unsavoury. Look for the ‘cog’ in the top right corner and select search settings, you should see it in there!

8.)  It’s not 100% accurate, but I have also switched on Safety Mode on YouTube.

9.)  Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date in case, god forbid, they manage to download something dodgy. I personally use AVG Free.

10.) And lastly, this is true for any type of technology whether it’s a tablet, phone, computer or gaming console. Always keep them in a busy place in the house, so you can keep an eye on what they get up to. We rarely allow the iPad to go up into her room, unless I’m having one of my lazy parenting moments. We can get away with this at the moment as she is only five, but we will cross the next hurdle when we get to it.

Hopefully, this has helped in some way. Do leave any other tips in the comment section below. Go safe out there!

A huge thank you to Geek Mummy and Violet Posy for their valuable contributions to this post.