Fun with educational toys from George at Asda

Toys can be educational without being boring and dull, and now Athena has reached an age where she understands more about the world and what goes on in it she’s finding a lot more enjoyment in toys that let her use her imagination a bit more. We were asked recently if we would like to choose from the selection of educational toys at George at ASDA, though I admit that I did the choosing!

I was careful not to introduce all the toys at once in case of a sensory/brain overload, so let Athena play with a new toy every couple of days. This way she played with each set thoroughly and explored lots of different angles!

I chose two ‘building’ type toys, one Creative Animals set from Duplo and one Junior Builder set Mega Bloks, both early versions of proper Lego. The Duplo set has lots of different pieces that can be made into random shapes or proper animals, depending on how you feel at the time! For the first fifteen minutes Athena actually preferred to empty the bits out of the box, fling them around and then put them all back in a few times! Once I had showed her how the bricks went together she soon got the hand of it though! We did have a little play with the Mega Bloks set, but the pieces were smaller and a bit more fiddly so I think saying from age 2 is correct and we’ll leave it a few more months and try it again when Athena is closer to two!

The shapes and sharing picnic basket from leapfrog is great fun, although it does play songs and talk! It asks questions about things in the set, which Athena pays no attention to just yet but I’m sure she will within a couple of months. She loves the noises that are triggered every time you open either of the lids, and also loves pretending to eat the food and drink from the cups! She also loves to make me ‘eat’ the bits too, so definitely lives up to the ‘sharing’ name! The only thing I don’t like is that it’s a very pink picnic basket!

The Little Tikes My first School is another favourite, and only has a school bell button, much more pleasing to parents ears! The school house has an open back, and an opening door so you can play both in and outside. The moment I unpacked this from the box Athena opened the door and peered through, which was really sweet and very amusing! There are two students, a teacher and various play equipment for them too. The school house has numbers printed on it and there are lots of bright primary colours to aid learning too.

 Finally we had a quick play with the Little People Birthday Party set from Fisher Price, which went down well especially spinning the Piñata! It’s another slightly  noisy set, and admit I have been a mean mummy and put it away until Athena’s birthday as it seems more apt! Or for when she really needs a distraction when the new baby arrives!

I think letting Athena take the lead when playing with these sorts of sets is really important, however tempting it is to make the people walk through doors and sit on chairs properly, for example! Athena loves taking the lead though, and giving me pieces to move about, or taking them off me and putting them where she thinks they should go! She’s having fun, learning more about the world at her own pace and entertaining me all at the same time!

What kinds of toys does (or did!) your toddler love to play with?

George at Asda very kindly supplied us with the toys to review for this post, as always all opinions and words are my own.

Food: Healthy swaps with Waitrose

healthy-food-swapsMost people start out January attempting to eat more healthily after a fair amount of December indulgence, then quickly lapse into bad habits as the weather gets colder and the temptation to hibernate with a pack of biscuits increases. Waitrose have created a snazzy tool to help people make some healthy food swaps, small changes to their normal meals and to encourage exploring different snack options. Changing one or two things you eat a day can make a drastic difference to your health, and give you more energy!

waitrose-healthy

As well as using the online tool to make some changes I was kindly given some advice by the Waitrose nutritionist after I provided her with a sample meal plan for our family for the week. Here’s her advice:

Breakfast

  • Add a portion of fruit like fresh or frozen berries to your porridge and Weetabix.

Dinner/lunch

  • Add two portions of fish to your week with at least one portion being oily e.g. salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna. A portion of fish is about 140g.

We’ve got some information about eating for a healthy pregnancy online.

 Snacks

Avoid the cakes, muffins, crisps and biscuits and instead try:

  • A couple of LOVE life oatcakes with a thin spread of ‘no added sugar’ peanut butter (or any nut butter like almond or cashew)
  • Low-fat yogurt containing live bacteria with a tablespoon of seeds like pumpkin seeds and linseeds.
  • Medjool dates instead of fudge – sweet, plump medjools taste similar to fudge. They’re also high in fibre and a source of B vitamins. They are high in calories though, so enjoy in moderation.

So armed with some suggestions from the nutritionist and some from the website I headed off to Waitrose to attempt not to fling my usual not very healthy staples into the basket! Here’s a little selection of what I came home with, all items that wouldn’t normally be in my trolley!

So here are a few healthier meals that we enjoyed this week:

Tagliatelle Carbonara, with added spinach and pine nuts. Made using ham rather than fried bacon like I normally would!

healthy-stir-fryA veggie filled stir fry with no sugary sauces, just soy sauce and Chinese spices. 

Pizza Fiorentina from this recipe on the Waitrose recipe finder, all made from scratch, only minus the egg and with the addition of roasted red peppers!

So how did we feel after a week of healthy food swaps? Not horrific! I did miss the occasional chocolate biscuit, but found that grabbing a handful of cashew nuts actually filled me up a lot more! Snacks of plain yoghurt with defrosted berries replaced the muffins I used to enjoy, and Athena approved too which is always a bonus! Next week I’ll be trying some Quinoa salads with avocado and apples, and will be taking cashew nut butter to work to dip my apples and crackers in as an at-my-desk snack! I also plan to start swapping to meat substitutes like Quorn mince and sausages once a week too.

Overall it was actually pretty easy to make small changes to our meal plan to help us to be more healthy without really thinking about it, and I think my shopping habits will be changing going forwards!… but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I did sneak a tub of Ben n Jerry’s Fro Yo (or two…) into my trolley. In my defence it is much healthier than regular ice cream, and I’m blaming it on a pregnancy craving!

 

What changes could you make to your weekly shop and meal plan to start making little differences?

 

 Thank you to Waitrose who kindly supplied me with a gift voucher to spend instore to make some healthy food swaps for my family!

Protecting your children through a divorce

A divorce can be an emotional, stressful and hard time for everyone; you, your partner, and your kids being the main people involved. Some people might shy away from divorce whilst their children are young, or altogether completely because they fear the upset it will cause. However kids are more resilient emotionally than what credit we give them, here are a few pieces of advice to keep your children’s best interests at heart through separation with your partner.

One of the most difficult phases of separation and divorce can be breaking the news to your Children, if you have any. This may seem difficult to do but keep in mind that this is one of the most important stages and should be handed appropriately. It is recommend you sitting down with your children and telling them about the fact that you are separating, if possible try to do this together. Having both of you sit down with them might make it easier for the kids to digest and give them enough information so they aren’t constantly questioning why. Choose your words carefully; obviously you will need to cater differently for your child or children depending on their ages. Avoid blaming either party because that might unsettle the children and insinuate that they need to ‘choose sides’ – they don’t. Keep it civil so that the children understand you will both co-operate and co-exist in their life.

When focusing on trying to assist your children in coping through your divorce, you should try and minimise the tension between you and your soon-to-be-ex. If that is an option of course, we understand that it is far easier said than done to be civil with your ex sometimes. Try to avoid any negative comments towards your partner in front of your children, and also remember the children aren’t there to dictate who was right and who is wrong – they wont feel comfortable taking sides.

Try to keep stability, by this I mean that you should keep up their routine as much as possible. Despite the obvious changes such as having one parent at home rather than two, your children don’t need further upheaval with their social lives etc. Try to keep any normal routines going, for example if they attend clubs, and most importantly school.

Another necessity in your situation for your children is to remind them that you live them, as apparent as that may be. This is what will be your most important information to convey with your son/daughter, it is important because if your children end up feeling neglected it will unsettle them greatly and result in them remembering the whole separation as a very negative thing for years to come. A common worry that many children will have when their parents are divorcing is that they will lose one of their parents,  or even both. To ensure this irrational worry doesn’t trouble them – make sure you remind them of how much they mean to you.

There is no pretending that this isn’t going to be a tough time of your life and there will be sleepless night, tears, argument etc but the important thing to remember is the children. Another important decision you will have to make is the law firm you choose to handle the divorce. Divorce solicitors can be expensive which is why it’s important to make the right choices in solicitors to save you both heart ache and money. There are alternative to a straight up divorce with collaborative law where you an your ex come to agreement on what is fair rather than the courts and divorce lawyers like Neves Solicitors from Harpenden and Milton Keynes can help with this. Alternatively family lawyers Rix & Kay from Sussex and Brighton can offer you a free consultation to help you discuss the next step.

No matter what happens your children will always be your children and they will always love you and you will always love them. Just because you are no longer with your partner this will not effect that and you need to make sure they know that every step of the way.

This is a collaborative post.