Saturday, 20 December 2014

A cheeky Chester update!

Just look at that face, like butter wouldn't melt.... yeah right!

Its been a while since I gave you an update on the antics of Cheeky Chester and to be honest I am going to focus this post on School as, lets face it, that is where most of his antics happen! The last month or so has seen a big turnaround in Chester's behaviour at School and his attitude towards learning.

I think its fair to say that his behaviour at School so far seems to go in phases. Some weeks he is good and others, well, he is a pickle, to put it politely. But ever since we had parents evening, and I praised Chester for all of his positives, then pointed out how his negatives could also become positives, he seems to have changed his attitude towards both his behaviour and his learning.

For the last 3 weeks at pick up time I have been told that 'Chester has had a really good day'. It has been such a relief to hear, and Chester has loved the praise he has been getting for being so good at School.

One of the things that frustrates me with Chester is his stubbornness to learn. He had got into the habit of playing up with his reading and writing. I think in part it was laziness, but I also think it was because he does not like repetitiveness. He enjoys a challenge. But since I spoke to him about how improving and thinking positive about learning to read and write would really impress his teachers (and us) he seems to have become a different child!

He went from not wanting to write at all to happily writing and practising his spelling at all times of day! Even in his plan and do time at School he apparently writes rather than plays!

His reading has also come on loads. He seems to read better when he is given books that challenge him.

Chester came home from School last Friday beaming from ear to ear. Then when I looked in his contact book I found this....

He had been awarded a merit for good behaviour and hard work! This is the first time he has ever received this and I could not be more proud of him! It seems to of had another positive effect on him, he is working even harder to prove he is improving!

Don't get me wrong, I don't chain chester to a desk and tell him to read or write. He does it off his own back and he seems to really be enjoying it!

I think this positive praise seems to be working really well with Chester and its a great feeling to end the term on a high note!

Some fun Christmas facts from Portable North Pole!

If you read my Portable North Pole post earlier this week, you will see that we are big fans. Anything that makes Christmas even more magical is always of interest to me! So now I have this really fun infographic to share with you. I think it would be great to show the children, as these facts are very interesting! Enjoy....

Friday, 19 December 2014

Millie loves Nursery!

Its been just over six weeks since I was sat drinking my Costa Coffee typing this post about Millie's morning at Nursery School .

It seems so long ago now, it seems to have slotted right into our routine and its as if it has always been this way!

Millie started off on just 1 session a week, but I soon realised that she would much prefer to go for 2! So she now does 2 sessions a week, and I am totally lost without her on those 2 days.

She has settled in so well, she had a little wobble in the middle and cried when I left her a couple of times, but she has gone back to her normal happy self. A couple of weeks ago she made the staff laugh when she walked in the door, and no sooner had she taken her coat off she was asking for a drink, she sat herself down at a table watching everyone else play whilst she sipped her beaker of water! She is so cheeky!

She has come home almost every session with something that she has made. These are just a few of the things...

They seem to do so much with the children, I am being updated on what she has been getting up to in the form of a contact book. Her teachers will often write a little note about what she has enjoyed doing that day or what funny things she has said! I really like that communication is so good, as it puts my mind at rest. She is in safe hands and I could not be happier.

She always come home full of chatter about her day, she has made some little friends, and formed closer bonds with some children that she already knew. She often tells me what she has had for snack and then points out that she hasn't saved any for me! Cheeky! She sings songs to me that she has learnt and shows me little dances that Millie and her friends have made up!

Sending Millie to Nursery was the best decision I have made this year, I can see how happy she is surrounded by other people her age. She may have only been going for 6 weeks but I can already see big changes in Millie. The only thing I dislike is that my youngest baby is no longer home with me on those days!

Kurio Tab - Our first thoughts!

If you follow me on social media, you will have probably seen our really big exciting announcement last week! We have been chosen to be a Kurio Family Blogger! We are very excited about this new blogging adventure, as you know Chester is a real Tech kid, and Millie is following fast in his footsteps!

I am amazed at how much Children seem to know nowadays when it comes to technology, and as I have mentioned before, it does sometimes bother me, the amount of things they understand how to access is alarming!  This is where Kurio get a big thumbs up from me, as they say they are the safest tablet for children.

We have been sent the Kurio Tab, the 7 inch version, so perfect for Chester aged 6 and Millie who is almost 3. We will be testing it extensively, as we want to give you all a very detailed review. But for now I just wanted to tell you about set up, and my initial thoughts on the safety aspect.

Ok so lets get the 'boring bit' out of the way this is the spec:

• Display: 7 inch capacitive touch screen
• Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels
• Chipset: Intel Atom Z2520
• Operating System: Android 4.4
• Storage Memory: 8GB
• Camera: Front: 0.3Mpx, Rear: 2.1Mpx
• Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0
• Speakers: 2 x 1W
• USB Connection: Micro USB 2.0 - OTG support
• Micro SDHC Card Slot: Up to 32GB

According to Craig, this is a really good spec list, the RAM being 1GB is one of the highest he has found when comparing tablets in the same price bracket. He also thinks the fact it has a camera on the front and rear to be a big plus.

Inside the box you get the tablet, a case, a stand, a charger, instructions and a code for a free game.

Now onto set up. It was very easy to follow the on screen instructions to set up. Once I had got through the usual time, date and email address bits, it was on to setting up each profile. You can have upto 8 profiles on the Kurio, the main Parent one and then one for each Child. Everything was explained step by step on the screen, so very easy to follow.

Firstly I needed to setup a password for the parent profile, there are a variety of password option including a number password or even a pattern password. I have set this up, but will probably change it regularly as I know how observant Chester is!

I then set up the childrens profiles, this was again easy to do, I picked a picture so that each child would recognise their own area and also the background theme. I then needed to go back into the parent area to authorise apps and games onto the childrens profiles. In that area, I could also chose a limit on the time they spend on the tablet too. Which I think is a great idea.

The Kurio comes packed with games and apps so if this tablet was purely for Millie she would be good to go from the start (and she was). Chester however, has already got a check list of apps that he apparently needs! So I downloaded those from the google play store with no problems and added them to his profile. The games he has chosen are ones that ask if you would like to connect to Facebook. But of course, I do not want him to connect to facebook, and as it happenes the Kurio blocks this in the childrens profiles. So I can happily let him play the games knowing that there is no way he can access social media!  

I am not used to Android systems, but I have to say that I found it very easy to navigate around. Craig is used to Android and he is very happy with the layout, and especially pleased at how easy it is for us as parents to pick and choose what our children can see and do both on the tablet and on the internet. In our opinion it certainly seems to live up to the safest tablet for Children claim!

Now we have got lots of playing to do, so do look out for more posts about the Kurio Tab from us in the New Year!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A lovely family day out!

Last weekend my Parents came to stay. That in itself was a major excitement for the Children! They love it when Nannie and Grandad come to stay, and as they live so far away it isn't very often! But to add to that excitement it was Nannie's Birthday and we also went for a day out at Leeds Castle!

We really love Leeds Castle, and my parents hadn't been for years so were all really looking forward to it. With it being only 20 minutes from us and a buy once come all year attraction, its the perfect day out!

At this time of year they have the Castle decorated beautifully with Christmas Tree's and decorations. This years theme was Gingerbread and the children also got to take part in a King Henry the 8th Gingerbread man hunt, and we got to see the castle made out of Gingerbread! It was amazing!

We also got to look around the Christmas market. It was lovely to wander around and see what interesting things were on offer. We got to sample (and purchase) lots of food, and chat to some lovely stall holders. We even got to see two of Santa's Reindeer!

The children loved the little fairground, of course Millie wanted to go on the Pony and Chester, who has no fear, went on the fast ferris wheel!

Chester really wanted to be the photographer for the day, so I (reluctantly) let him use my camera. I really love that he has an interest in photography, he clearly takes after me and his Grandad!

We were very lucky that we were able to get tickets to see Father Christmas, last year we didn't manage to and this year I spent all day on the phone trying to book tickets! It was well worth it though. Father Christmas spent a long time chatting away to Chester and Millie about what they love at Christmas time, and then he told them what he likes and what treat they should leave out for him and the Reindeer! Then they had a conversation about snow and snowball fights, where Chester told Father Christmas that he really wanted it to snow so that he could have a snowball fight with his beloved Uncle Luke! It was so cute to see the children so excited! They loved their presents too! Chester got a Labyrinth game and Millie got an Orchard Toys Gingerbread house puzzle!

We finished off the day with a lovely stroll around the grounds. It was such a lovely family day, the children have not stopped talking about it!

Our thoughts on the Tesco Finest Party Food Range!

Christmas time to me means buffets and lots of them! Its the time of year when we get lots of visitors, so the easiest thing to do is to have lots of little nibbles on the table so everyone can eat when and what they like.

Of course I have to make sure I cater for everyone, from kids, to adults and then my Sister who is a vegetarian. I like to have a stock of party food in my fridge and freezer too, for unexpected guests or for when, quite frankly I can't be bothered to cook a full meal!

Tesco's Finest party range looks pretty impressive this year they have added some new dimensions to traditional favourites such as edible glitter, popping candy and Jewel like jelly pearls!

I really wanted to try out the Bang Bang Chicken Skewers with popping candy, but sadly our two nearest Tesco's did not stock that product. But luckily they had lots of other party foods in the range to tempt me!

This is just a very small selection, you can see just how much there is to choose from on their grocery website. 

What I like about the Tesco Finest party range is that it all cooks at 190 degrees, and can be frozen (and most of it cooked from frozen)! So when I was preparing all of this food for my Mum's Birthday buffet on Sunday I didn't need to worry about different cooking temperatures, and most things cooked at the same time or just a few minutes more. So everything was served piping hot at the same time!

We had a fantastic day celebrating my Mum's Birthday, and the buffet using the Tesco Finest party food just topped it off. Everyone really enjoyed the food, no one disliked anything. Everything was well flavoured and portion sizes we perfect. I loved that the Souflettes and the Macaroni Cheese balls were in individual paper 'cups', this makes them easy to hand around at a party!

Two clear favourites came out of the selection we had, and that was the Sticky Maple Glazed Chicken Wings, which were very moist and tender, but above all sweet! Plus the Scotch Steak and Cornish Real Ale Mini Pies, utterly delicious!

The Finest range is between £4-£5 and until the new year it is on 3 for 2. The 6 things we chose cost  just £16 and served all 6 of us (4 adults and 2 children). I think that is an absolute bargain! It will certainly be making its way onto my shopping list for Christmas and New Year thats for sure!

Do you like a buffet over the festive season?!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

IKEA soft toys for education campaign.

I was recently made aware of a campaign that IKEA are running in partnership with UNICEF and Save the Children. Here is a little bit about the campaign...

At IKEA, we believe all children deserve a quality education – because we know nothing has a more direct impact on wellbeing, from better health to increased wealth, than education. Education represents an opportunity, and it empowers children with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves. That’s where the Soft Toys for Education campaign comes in. The campaign is a partnership between IKEA Foundation, UNICEF and Save the Children, and the idea is simple: for every soft toy or children’s book sold, IKEA Foundation donates 1 euro to children’s education projects so more children can get the education they deserve.

The IKEA Soft Toys for Education Campaign is very simple: for every soft toy, children’s book and children’s card game sold between 26 October 2014 and 3 January 2015, IKEA Foundation will donate €1 to children’s education through UNICEF and Save the Children.

With 64 toys to choose from and prices starting from 80p, it couldn't be easier to help a child this winter. These magical toys really are the gifts that keep on giving.

Claudia Winkleman lends her voice for this video...

To me this seems like a very worthwhile cause. I truly believe education is a very important part of childhood. Since Chester has started School I can see such a change in him, his education has helped his understanding of the world around him, and given him some of the basic skill he needs to set himself up in life. So this campaign has got the thumbs up from me!

The Children were sent these adorable soft toys (both of which are part of the range where €1 is being donated from their sale).

Of course with Millie's love for Pandas she was thrilled with her new addition! Chester absolutely adores his wolf, this term at School they have been focusing on storytelling and fairy tales so the wolf from Red Riding Hood was very fitting for him. He can't stop laughing about the fact the wolf can gobble up Grandma and then he opens up the Tummy to find Grandma in once piece! He has also used the Wolf in a game about the Three Little Pigs that he and Millie were playing the other day (Millie was a little pig of course!)

The Panda costs just £3 and absolute bargain!! It is so soft and fluffy and so worth the money, especially knowing that part of that will be going to a worth cause.

The Wolf with Grandma costs just £8 the quality and detail on this wolf justifies the price, which I think is great value for money! Using toys as props for our imaginative play is something we do often, to have them from our favourite fairy tales is just fantastic!

Do your children have a favourite Fairytale?