A Space Race with BEAR Yoyos

*This is a commissioned post for BEAR*

I remember when Ben was in Reception and he told me that he wanted to learn about “Space” – I suggested he asked his teacher, and was more than a little gutted when he replied “But we don’t tell our teacher what we want to learn!”  Luckily, Space turned out to be a full on topic when he was in Year 2 and he absolutely loved it.

Now, with fairly epic timing as Chloe will soon be studying Space in Year 2 herself, BEAR are flying off to outer-space for this year’s BEAR cards theme, featuring their Grrreat Space Race around the solar system, stopping off at each of the planets and learning fun facts along the way!

Ben, Chloe and Amy were super excited to unpack their BEAR Space Cadet boxes and find matching space themed pjs for them to wear whilst trying out the new BEAR Space Race game . . .

Matching Boden space pjs

Our limited edition Space Race kit features four astronauts in their space ships, you insert a straw into the back and blow hard (and I mean really hard) to make your astronaut fly off into space, the ship which flies the furthest wins!

BEAR Space Race aliens
There’s even a special chart to record the race results on!
BEAR Space Race record sheet
As you can imagine, the sibling rivalry flared and everyone blew as hard as they could to make sure that their alien flew the furthest!
BEAR's Grrreat Space Race
The free, collectable cards which come in every pack of BEAR Yoyos have always been a big hit with Ben and Chloe in particular who love to read up on all the fun facts – I think this year’s space theme is our favourite so far!
BEAR Yoyos Space Race fact cards
BEAR Yoyos have been a regular feature in my backpack and the kids’ lunchboxes for several years now – made with 100% pure fruit and veg, with no added sugar or concentrates, BEAR Yoyos provide the kids with at least 1 of their 5 a day and are low in natural sugars.  (In fact each packet of Bear Yoyos contains the same amount of natural sugar as a small apple!)
Yummy BEAR Yoyos - one of their five a day!
Yummy BEAR Yoyos only contain natural sugars

If you want to join in with BEAR and their Grrreat Space Race, you can pick up BEAR Yoyos in your local supermarket and once your cubs have collected 10 bear codes, they can be sent to BEAR’s Cave (the address is on the side of the pack) in exchange for your very own solar system poster and stickers!

To find out more visit: http://www.bearnibbles.co.uk/ and @BearNibbles on twitter / instagram!

Twinkleboost – AVIVA Community Fund Winners

In association with theAviva Community Fund 2017 

The Aviva Community Fund 2017 funding winners have now been announced with over 590 community groups being awarded funding from the Aviva Community Fund, ranging from up to £1,000 to £25,000!  (Click here to find winners from your local area.) 

As you know, last year I wrote about Farsley Celtic Girls FC, a local group from Leeds who were awarded funding from the Aviva Community Fund in 2016. They used the money to buy new football kits for the members. 

Farsley Celtic Girls FC - Aviva Community Fund

This year, I was lucky enough to visit Twinkleboost who recently found out they had been awarded £4,926 by the Aviva Community Fund this year that will help make a real difference in our local area. 

Twinkleboost, Wythnsawe
Twinkleboost, based in Wythenshawe, is one of over 590 winners of the Aviva Community Fund 2017. To see the full list of winners and to find winning projects in your area, visit:  Aviva Community Fund

Twinkleboost, based in Greater Manchester, works to deliver speech and language training to parents in deprived communities.  Research has shown that vocabulary at the age of five is the best predictor of whether children experiencing social deprivation are able to escape poverty later in life. 

As a primary school teacher myself with experience of working in one of the most deprived postcodes in the country, I know all too well the impact the that speech and language can have on children’s progress at school so I was really excited to hear about Twinkleboost and find out more about how the project works and what they will spend the money on.  

Twinkleboost - Peter Rabbit story session with Laura Harding

The weekly classes, for babies age 0 – 18 months, are run by Speech and Language Therapy Assistants and each session is based around a story interwoven with activities and sensory experiences as well as clearly explained speech and language techniques and signing.  This isn’t just an airy fairy nice way to get out of the house for an hour with your baby – there’s a real purpose to the session. 

Laura Harding from Twinkleboost - speech and language story session

Twinkleboost story and sensory activities - baby playing with net scarf

The Twinkleboost programme not only supports the language development of the babies who are attending, but empowers and equips their parents with the skills to promote language development at home. This is done to such a high level that parents who attend seven or more Twinkleboost sessions are actually awarded with a certificate in “Supporting Speech and Language development in the Early Years”.  For some parents, this certificate has been a foot in the door to their next job.  And, on top of supporting parents and their children, Twinkleboost offers opportunities for volunteers to come and help out, often Speech and Language students who want to build on their placement experience.  The effects of the project are far reaching. 

Twinkleboost babies

And yet, despite this highlevel speech and language work, the group is just a whole lot of fun and laughter – which frankly is just how learning should be!  The people attending the session I visited this week were so warm and welcoming and they clearly all loved attending the group.  I chatted to one parent who had been bringing her little girl for about 8 months and another who was attending her very first session and couldn’t wait to return the following week.  Parents can sign up to the class on a weekly basis (many are provided free of charge via local Sure Start centres, others charge a small fee to cover costs) with up to 12 babies in each group. 

Sensory exploration and messy play at Twinkleboost

I was particularly impressed to discover that as well as the 30 – 40 minute Twinkleboost session each week, parents are sent an email after the session to consolidate their learning – giving them tips and tricks to try out at home and reminding them of the techniques learned in class as well as YouTube videos and additional support on social media.  As I said, this isn’t just an hour out of the house with your baby.  Twinkleboost is making a difference. 

Last year Twinkleboost worked with 259 parents and 285 children in some of the most deprived areas in Greater Manchester.  Now, thanks to the funding from the Aviva Community Fund, it is able able to reach even more families to empower them with skills to help break the cycle of poverty. 

Community groups such as Twinkleboost or Farsley Celtic Girls FC are more than just something to do each week.  The effects that these groups have on their members and families go so far beyond that; boosting confidence, teaching new skills and providing potentially life changing opportunities.  32 millions Brits have felt the positive impact of community groups and, with the help of the Aviva Community Fund, this will continue the be the case.  

Twinkleboost is just one of over 590 projects and charities that secured funding from the Aviva Community Fund this year.  The nationwide initiative, now in its third year, launched in September 2015, called upon passionate residents to submit a project close to their heart to be in with a chance of securing funding ranging from up to £1,000 to £25,000.  

Over 6,500 groups entered the funding initiative, each galvanising the support of their local community to vote for their entry in four categories: Health & Wellbeing, Skills for Life, Community Support, and Inclusivity.  

5.5 million votes were placed this year and the 828 groups with the highest votes were shortlisted as finalists. Awards in the £1k category were decided on by public votes, with winners in the £5k, £10k and £25k categories selected from the finalists by a judging panel.

Don’t forget to have a look and see  which groups in your local area received funding, and if you know a group who might benefit from funding in the future make sure you tell them about the Aviva Community Fund

If you’d like to find out about other Aviva Community Fund winners and find out who won in your local area, visit this page here .

Tried & Tested Tuesday (Week 5 – 2018)

Welcome to another week of Tried & Tested!  I don’t know about you but I was so pleased to see the arrival of February – it seems one step closer to spring!

In case you are new here – let us tell you what Tried & Tested is all about. We all know how useful reviews can be. Most bloggers do them – be it things they have bought themselves or have been asked to review. They are a useful tool for people looking for honest and thorough reviews of products they need, things they are considering buying, or even to introduce people to exciting new products they have never even heard of.  You can find out more about how to join in here.

If you have linked up with us before – welcome back! We love having you. Please have a quick read through the points below to remind yourself how things are working:

* Tried & Tested is open on Tuesday – from 8am to midnight on the same day.

* We’d love to share your post on Twitter – please tweet us your link (@Lollinski & @FamilyFever) along with the #TriedTested hashtag and we’ll retweet that for you.

* If you’d like a Twitter reminder each week when the linky is open then please drop Kate a tweet and she’ll add you to the list.

* Each week we feature our two favourite reviews from the past week and we have a super special “featured blogger” badge! If you are this week’s featured blogger we will send you over the code which we would love you to add to you blog post or sidebar!

That’s about it – it’s super simple to join in, so crack on, link up and share some commenty love – let’s face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

Last week, we loved:#TriedTested featured blogger

Disneyland Paris must do’s from Life as our little family. This is SUCH a handy guide for anyone planning a visit, with lots of tips to make the most of your visit.

#TriedTested featured blogger

The Gifted Notebook review from Northumberland Mam. It’s no secret that I love a bit of stationery, and I have to admit that I am now eyeing up this notebook for my ever growing collection.

We don’t have lots of rules for #TriedTested however the ones we do have are really important

Please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment on the posts we have each linked up

* Try to comment on a couple of other posts as well if you can – we know that people really appreciate the feedback!

* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)

* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)

We're going on an adventure



Some thoughts on family holidays – #SimpsonTravelFamily

As a child, travel didn’t feature all that highly on our agenda.  We weren’t the sort of family who went abroad every year without fail, I think I can count on one hand the number of foreign holidays we had.  That’s not to say I missed out – we had a couple of big trips to America to visit friends which were huge adventures and ones I have clear memories of.  It’s just that foreign holidays weren’t “routine” or”expected”.  For the most part Mum & Dad concentrated on investing their money in houses (though it’s safe to say they are more than making up for lost time now, in fact as I write this they are adventuring in Vietnam).

As such I’ve always seen a family holiday as a luxury, not a right.  Something to be planned for, saved for and looked forward to.  The thought of feeling the sun on your face, the sand between your toes and cool ice cream on your lips . . keeping you going as you countdown to your very own bit of paradise.

Kids on the beach in France- blue sky

Read More »

How to Fund a Family Adventure

*Collaborative Guest Post* 

How to fund a family adventure

A family having a good time whilst the sun sets.
Going on an adventure is one of the most enjoyable and exciting things the whole family can enjoy. But raising the money to fund such a luxury is not always the easiest of tasks. We live in cash-strapped times where even households with two working parents struggle to afford leisure activities for themselves and their children.

But I’m here to show you that funding a family adventure can be possible, and even quite simple with a little creative thinking. Read on for our top 3 tips that can help bulk up your bank balance making funding a family adventure a reality.

1. Use what you’ve got

Being creative can be one of the easiest solutions to money shortages. Whether you love baking homemade goods, designing and creating handcrafted jewellery and clothes, or maybe painting and pottery crafting is your niche. Find a local bakery or boutique to sell your goods to, in the process turning your passions into hard cash. And why not get the kids involved? I’m sure they’ll love getting their hands dirty.

If you’re more academic than creative, you too can boost your bank balance. Turn your hand to tutoring and freelancing in your spare time. This is a great way to work when the time suits you, whether that’s evenings or weekends, working around your family and lifestyle is a luxury when freelancing. Websites like People Per Hour is a great place to start.

2. Sell what you can

File name: woman-taking-picture-of-blouse-on-phone
Image alt text: A young woman taking a picture of a blouse on a phone.

It’s time to sift through your attic, spare room and garage, and sell all of your unused and unwanted toys, electricals and jewelry. According to Save The Student, you can even make up to 50p per coat hanger, so if you have any spare ones lying around, get selling. eBay, Gumtree and Facebook’s Marketplace are all great for sellers wanting to offload items.

Ever thought of selling your opinions? Well if you haven’t before, you should consider it now. Your opinion matters to brands and by signing up to online survey sites to review products, you can earn some serious money. Check out Valued Opinions, Swagbucks and MySurvey, some of the best survey sites, if this interests you.

Another way you can make money from selling your opinions is by creating a website or blog. Sharing your views on a particular topic can lead to affiliate and sponsorship deals. Topics such as travel, health, personal financing and lifestyle are all popular, so if writing is something you enjoy, start making money from it.

Play to win

A group of young friends cheering at a laptop after winning.

Did you know that playing games online can lead to huge revenues? Before you rush out to invest in the newest games console, hold your horses, all you need is a computer, the internet and some gaming experience. InboxDollars is free to join, offers you a selection of online games and can pay you up to $10 (approx £7.40) per hour.

Additionally, playing the lottery can be one of the simplest ways to win big and fund not one, but a lifetime of family adventures. However, working and bringing up a family often leaves little respite to go and collect a ticket, but with the Health Lottery you can play the lottery online.

With no opening or closing hours buying a ticket has never been so hassle-free. Not to mention at least 20p from ever £1 Health Lottery ticket goes to local and national charities and causes. Meaning you’re funding crucial schemes that aid the UK’s most vulnerable citizens whilst funding your family’s adventure.

While we understand a family day out, or a holiday to the seaside or abroad is a luxury, it’s not unreasonable to want at least one, or more than one, every so often. Using our top tips you can turn this luxury into a reality.

Tried & Tested Tuesday (Week 4 – 2018)

Morning, welcome to Tried & Tested! Whooo the end of January is in sight!  I’ve even noticed the afternoons getting a little lighter, have you?

In case you are new here – let us tell you what Tried & Tested is all about. We all know how useful reviews can be. Most bloggers do them – be it things they have bought themselves or have been asked to review. They are a useful tool for people looking for honest and thorough reviews of products they need, things they are considering buying, or even to introduce people to exciting new products they have never even heard of. You can find out more about how to join in here.

If you have linked up with us before – welcome back! We love having you. Please have a quick read through the points below to remind yourself how things are working:

* Tried & Tested is open on Tuesday – from 8am to midnight on the same day.

* We’d love to share your post on Twitter – please tweet us your link (@Lollinski & @FamilyFever) along with the #TriedTested hashtag and we’ll retweet that for you.

* If you’d like a Twitter reminder each week when the linky is open then please drop Kate a tweet and she’ll add you to the list.

* Each week we feature our two favourite reviews from the past week and we have a super special “featured blogger” badge! If you are this week’s featured blogger we will send you over the code which we would love you to add to you blog post or sidebar!

That’s about it – it’s super simple to join in, so crack on, link up and share some commenty love – let’s face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

Last week, we loved:

#TriedTested featured blogger

Jungle Bunch DVD review from Coombe Mill. This looks like a real feel good family film, perfect for miserable January days!

#TriedTested featured blogger

Swedish Death Cleaning book review from Opposable Thumbs. I love the idea behind this book, and will definitely be implementing the ideas to help declutter my house!

We don’t have lots of rules for #TriedTested however the ones we do have are really important

Please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment on the posts we have each linked up

* Try to comment on a couple of other posts as well if you can – we know that people really appreciate the feedback!
* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)
We're going on an adventure




Litter Picking & Reducing Plastic Waste

It can’t fail to have escaped your notice that reducing plastic waste features pretty highly on the political agenda right now with Theresa May’s “long term” plastic waste plan hitting the headlines earlier this month and many hitting back that it’s just not enough.

Until fairly recently my own awareness of plastic waste was fairly limited.  Our local council provides us with a brown bin which we use for recycling glass and plastic bottles but I hadn’t really thought about what I could do to reduce our consumption generally until I read an article on bars stopping using single use plastic straws.  I know when I was working in a bar around 2004 we used to put two small straws in every drink as it was proven that it would make people drink faster . . . and well it’s all business.  But I hadn’t never considered the level of waste this created.

Having read this I decided that we would invest in some more environmentally friendly straws for use at home.  I’m not really a fan of the paper ones as, whilst they look pretty, they do tend to just go a bit soggy before you’ve even finished your drink.  I’ve not yet decided whether we go for silicone or stainless steel – though I think the metal ones have the edge.

Little girl attempting to reduce plastic waste

At around the same time as I had started to research this a little further, Chloe came home from school all full of facts about how many straws they were using in her school each year and how damaging this was.  She was fully enthused about looking after our world and the animals and how we mustn’t just keep throwing plastic away.  Of course this is something I’m keen to encourage in her, though I was less impressed when she started trying to pick up other people’s litter on the way to school . . . “But it’s dirty!  Make sure you wash your hands when you get to school . . . .

Inspired by Chloe’s new found enthusiasm to reduce waste, I actually remembered to take my own cup to Starbucks the other week (saving myself a few pence in the process).  In terms of the 7 million disposable cups we use in the UK every single day, my one reusable mug is a drop in the ocean of course but if we can all start to make those drops, pretty soon we’d have a puddle and before we know it a flood.

Whilst I rolled my eyes when the 5p plastic bag tax was first introduced, there’s no denying it has worked.  How many times have you found yourself with arms full of stuff having forgotten to take your reusable bag but refusing to pay 5p for a carrier bag?  Our plastic bag consumption has been reduced by around 90% since the introduction of the tax.

Have you done anything to reduce your plastic waste recently?  Any top tips to share?

When did I last carry you?

I don’t know how or when it happened.  When did Ben and Chloe become too big to pick up? Was there a day I decided I couldn’t lift them any more?

Amy still likes me to pick her up, to carry her. She’s 4. She’s tall. It’s not easy. I can’t carry her far and nor do I really want to and I often find myself refusing her.  But I cherish those moments where I pick her up and she wraps her limbs around me for the tightest of cuddles.

Mummy and Bo

Before long she will be too big too. Will I know it’s the last time or will I realise all too late that it has stopped and I can no longer pick her up?

The big two are putting themselves to bed several nights a week now, they are increasingly independent and whilst I love this to a point as it just makes life easier for Dave & I, it is another step along the road to them growing up, another step further away from them being little.

My babies are growing so fast. Faster than I’m ready for. I want to pick them up and hold them tight forever.  I’m not ready for them to be too big to pick up, to sit on my knee or to hold my hand.  I’m not ready for it to be the last time.

Doctors are boys and nurses are girls . . .

It’s only a few months since I wrote about my frustrations at Amy’s desire to be “the farmer’s wife” and last night I found myself confronting gender stereotypes with my children once again . . .

Driving to Street Dance last night and we found ourselves having one of our “Wednesday Chats” – it started off fairly innocently with a conversation about the fact that Dr Ranj is indeed a real doctor.  We were talking about how whilst he does a variety of jobs on TV, he’s also still a practising NHS doctor.  Chloe thought the idea of potentially being in hospital and treated by Dr Ranj was hilarious, especially if you were watching him on TV at the same time.

As we were chatting she said “Wouldn’t it be funny if Dr Ranj was your nurse?“.  I corrected her with something along the lines of “No love, Dr Ranj is a doctor!”  The conversation continued and she mistakenly referred to Dr Ranj as being a nurse again.  As I began to correct her again, a voice came from the back of the car . . .

No Chloe! Dr Ranj isn’t a nurse.  Doctors are boys and nurses are girls!

Woah, woah, woah hang on a minute there Ben?! That’s some serious gender stereotyping you’re rocking out there!

We had quite a stern conversation where I explained that the difference between doctors and nurses was to do with the type and level of training undertaken and the jobs they do, and nothing at all to do with whether they have a willy or not.

I was shocked and more than a little disappointed in my son’s apparent sexist attitude but then the more I thought about it the more I realised that this is all to do with his life experience.  Ben has (thankfully) had very little contact with medical professionals in recent years but when he has, the GP has been a man, the nurses? All women.  I don’t remember a time that Ben would have seen a female doctor or a male nurse.

It just shows how important it is that our children, through books, tv and real life experience, encounter a range of people doing a range of different jobs.  That they know that their gender should bear no relation to their career choice.  It’s up to us to challenge their perceptions and ensure that they grow up knowing that your job isn’t confined to boundaries dictated by your bits and pieces, is decided by your ability and ambition.

Winter Walks with Hotter Boots

I suffer from a fairly common affliction amongst women . . . the dreaded chunky calf. I’ve always had quite a shapely lower leg but my calves are solid shall we say? I’ve always blamed it on wearing high heels when I was younger but I’m not sure if that’s really the case. Either way it does make make buying boots tricky. The only knee high boots I’ve ever owned were a stretchy pull on fabric and wellies never quite fit properly leaving them slightly ruched around my ankles which aside from looking unsightly also means they have a tendency to rub. Unsurprisingly I don’t really bother shopping for anything other than ankle boots now. When I spotted the knee length Belle boots on the Hotter website which come in not just a standard fit but also a wider leg too, I didn’t dare hope that they might actually fit me.

When the boots arrived, I tentatively tried them on, first of all being pleased that they fit my foot but not really expecting them to zip up comfortably.  I might have shrieked in delight when not only did the boots zip up easily but they fit beautifully – they hugged my calves without being too tight, the boots fit right up towards my knee – no crumpling at the ankle, no slipping or gaping.  Just beautifully fitting knee high boots.

Hotter Belle Boots - wide calf fitting

knee high Hotter boots for chunky calves

Now, to push my luck, the very first time I wore my Hotter boots I wore them for a proper day out – no wearing them in around the house or testing them out on the school run first.  I treated them with a protective spray after some helpful advice from someone on twitter and then headed out to a National Trust property for the day with my friend Donna.

Hotter boots in width fittings - Belle Boots

I felt smart and stylish but appropriately dressed for our day out – my feet were warm and comfortable and in fact the boots felt like I’d been wearing them for months, there was no rubbing or stiffness to deal with.

I’ve been wearing my Hotter Belle boots for a couple of months now and I still love them.  There’s a little creasing on the toe which has made them look a little scruffy but otherwise they look as good as new.

If you’re looking for boots to fit a wider calf, definitely check out Hotter and let me know how you get on!  (My cousin has already bought the Belle boots in black after seeing mine!)

*Disclaimer – I was sent a pair of Hotter boots free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*