9 Ways To Financially Prepare For A Baby

9 Ways To Financially Prepare For a Baby image We all know having kids can be expensive. But if you’re financially prepared it doesn’t have to be as expensive or stressful as you might think. Here are my top tips on how to financially prepare for a new baby:

TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR FINANCES
Take some time to go through your income and outgoings and give yourself a money makeover. Check how much maternity pay you’re entitled to and use this to work out a budget. Factor in new regular purchases such as nappies, milk and baby food.

Do you have credit cards or loans? Will you be able to pay these on a lower income? If you can, try to pay as much debt off as possible before the baby arrives – the last thing you’ll want to do afterwards is worry about your finances.

CHECK YOUR BENEFITS ENTITLEMENT
If you’re on a low income you may be entitled to benefits. You can check your eligibility online, and if you do qualify, you may also be entitled to a Sure Start Maternity Grant of £500. https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators

SAVE FOR MATERNITY LEAVE
One for the best ways to financially prepare for a baby is to start  a savings account. When I discovered I was pregnant was set up a Direct Debit to save a bit of my wages up before I left work. I was paid weekly and found out very early on that I was pregnant so I saved £20 a week and had around £500 saved by the time I went on maternity leave. It made me feel a lot more secure knowing we had a bit of cash put by to fall back on in case of emergencies. You could save all the spare change you have at the end of the day or set your own penny challenge. 

JOIN BABY CLUBS
Baby clubs are a great way to get free products and discounts. Most of the big supermarkets and kid’s shops have one. They regularly send money off vouchers, discounts and details of sales and promotions. You can join them while you’re pregnant and receive freebies and discounts to use on baby essentials.

ONLY BUY THINGS YOU NEED
It’s easy to get carried away and buy loads of adorable baby clothes, toys and fill your house with things you don’t actually need. Write a list of all the things you think you need – then go through it again and see if you can cut out any non essentials (nappy bin springs to mind).  More often than not friends and family will buy you more baby clothes and toys than you could ever use anyway!

BARGAIN HUNT
If you’re happy to buy second hand, Facebook, eBay and nearly new sales are all fab for bargains. Even if you want brand new things, there are still ways to save. Make sure you shop around for the best price, always use a cashback site like Quidco or TopCashback when shopping online, check for online voucher codes and make use of your Baby Club discounts. I picked the travel system I wanted pretty early on in my pregnancy. Then I kept my eye on it for 4 months until it went on sale at Mothercare. I used a £10 off voucher from their baby club, and got cashback from Quidco – I ended up saving a massive £261! Follow my Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest bargains and discounts.

DECIDE WHERE YOU’LL LIVE
Do you have enough space in your home for a new baby? If you’re going to move it’s worth doing before the baby comes along. Not only is moving stressful and will be much more tricky with a newborn in tow, but if you’re buying a home, having a new baby could actually decrease the amount you can borrow on a mortgage.

PAY OFF DEBT
If you’ve got existing debt, see if you can pay some or all of it off before the baby is born. If you can’t, make sure you’re getting the best interest rate you can. A lot of people use 0% interest credit cards and switch to a new one when the interest free period ends. If you do this, just be aware that if you decide not to return to work, you may find it difficult to apply for credit – as you’ll have no income.

MAKE A WILL (OR UPDATE IT)
It’s something a lot of people put off because they just don’t want to think about it, or think it’s too morbid. But if the worst was to happen, wouldn’t you want to know your child was taken care of? Wills aren’t just about what happens to your assets – they can also explain who should take care of your child if you’re not around anymore.

10 Places To Take Toddlers Out For Free

10 Places To Take Toddlers Out For Free

 

If you’ve got a toddler you’ll know some days you just need to get out of the house. Whether it’s to keep them entertained, or for your own sanity. But, all these trips out to soft play, cafes and swimming add up quickly. If you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of ways to entertain your toddler without spending loads of cash. So I’ve compiled a list of places you can take your toddlers out for free!

MUM AND BABY GROUPS

Mum and baby/toddler groups are a great way to get out of the house, entertain your little one and meet new people. I know it can be daunting to go into a group of people for the first time, but I’ll bet most of those Mums felt the same way the first time they went. See if your local library runs any sessions, or join local parenting groups on Facebook.

LIBRARY

Most local libraries will run baby and toddler groups as mentioned above. Even without these, they’re still great to visit. There’s usually a children’s section with little chairs or cushions, toys or even activities. Let you child explore and pick their own books to borrow. It’s a great way to encourage a love of reading from a young age.

GARDEN CENTRE

A garden centre is a brilliant place to take toddlers out for free. There’s so much to interest and stimulate them. From all the different colours to the textures, sounds and even smells, it’s a full sensory experience. We went to the garden centre this morning and Ollie had great fun pointing out the different colours of the flowers. We also listened out for different noises like trickling water from fountains, bees buzzing past and our feet crunching the gravel.

TAKE A WALK IN THE WOODS

What better way to get some fresh air and exercise than a walk in the woods? There’s so much for little ones to see and do. You could search for animals, learn about different trees or have a teddy bear’s picnic.
Or why not make your own treasure hunt and give them a list of items to find.
There’s also the Gruffalo Spotter app which has interactive trails in 26 different forests!

ANIMAL SANCTUARY

Most animal sanctuaries are free to enter and just ask for a donation to help towards the animals’ care. They’re a great opportunity for teaching older kids about animal welfare and the importance of looking after pets.

THE BEACH

If you live close enough to the beach, this has got to be high on your list. A walk on the beach, paddle in the sea and picnic is a lovely way to spend a day without spending any money!

VISIT FAMILY OR FRIENDS

A very simple but easy and free way to get out of the house! If you have a group of Mum friends, why not arrange to each host a play date. You’ll get a change of scenery, the kids can play together, and you’ll get some much needed adult conversation!

MUSEUM

There are lots of child friendly museums that are free to visit. Check out the places shortlisted for the Family Friendly Museum Award for inspiration!

There’s also plenty of outdoor galleries to visit such as The Yorkshire Sculpture Park

PET SHOP

If we’re out shopping, I always pop into the local pet shop. It can be dull for kids to trudge round the shops so stopping at the pet shop breaks up the boredom. Ollie loves to watch all the different animals, especially the tropical fish.

LOCAL PARK

We go to our local park regularly to play on the swings and slide. It’s completely enclosed so Ollie can run around freely and burn up some energy! We usually take a football and kick that around for a while too. We’re lucky to have quite a few parks within driving distance so we visit different ones for a change of scenery.

 

I’m sure there are lots of other great places to take toddlers for free. Got an idea? Leave it in the comments to inspire other parents!

 

 

Last Minute Father’s Day Gifts For Any Budget

Father’s Day is only a few days away and I know there’s going to be lots of people who haven’t sorted their gifts yet! There’s still time to find the perfect gift to show your Dad, Grandad or father of your kids how much they are appreciated. It isn’t always about spending loads of money, it’s just showing them how much you care.

HOMEMADE
If you’re on a budget or want something truly personal, homemade is the way to go. Get the kids to make their Dad a card or present. A handmade drawing, handprint card or cake are all cheap and easy ways for kids to show Dad how much they care.

VIRGIN EXPERIENCE DAY
I LOVE Virgin Experience days because there’s so much choice and you get to gift something your Dad/partner probably won’t buy for themselves. For me, experiences or days out are brilliant because you make memories that will last a lot longer than most other gifts. With Virgin, most experience gift vouchers can be sent as an email so if you haven’t bought it in time for delivery you can always print it off! Added bonus, if you buy your partner an experience for 2 you get to enjoy it aswell…win win! 😂
Make sure you buy through Quidco or TopCashback to earn money back on your purchase!

MAN VS BABY BOOK
I’ve followed this Facebook page and Instagram for a while now and have to say it is HILARIOUS! There are so many Mummy bloggers out there but it’s so refreshing to read about a Dad’s experience. Especially when he does it in such a funny way. I’ve only read a couple of chapters so far but I think it’s brilliant and I think a lot of Dads will relate to it too.

HAMPER
Last year I made my partner a gift hamper containing all his favourite food and drink. It didn’t take that much effort but he was seriously impressed. You can use any container you have handy, but Poundland have some great ones in at the minute. If you want to make it look more impressive just wrap it in cellophane and stick a bow on it! I usually buy it from Amazon or The Range because it’s cheap but you can also get it from most florists.

MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION
A monthly subscription is a great gift to receive because you keep getting presents every month! It’s not just magazine these days either, there’s subscriptions out there for everything from learning how to cook to beauty boxes to craft gins or real ales delivered to you door each month.

A DAY TO THEMSELVES
Any parent knows we’ve got one of the toughest jobs around. It’s amazing and wonderful but it can also be relentless and exhausting.
If you also work, it can feel like you never get a break.
Maybe you could give your partner some time to himself as a treat this Father’s Day. Maybe he’s passionate about sports – get him tickets to his favourite game. Maybe he just likes to chill at home – take the kids out for the day, or get them to make him handmade vouchers that entitle him to watch what he wants with no-one complaining, 10 minutes of silence, snacks on demand…anything you can think of!

BREAKFAST IN BED
Simple but effective! Get the kids involved and get them to help make Dad’s breakfast this Father’s Day. Give him a lie in and get the kids to deliver their cards and breakfast to him in bed.

SOMETHING HE WONT BUY FOR HIMSELF
Lots of parents don’t treat themselves to the things they really want. Whether it’s clothes, aftershave, a hobby or even a meal out. If there’s something you know your Dad or partner loves but won’t treat them self to, this has to be the perfect gift.

 

 

 

Fun With Food – Sensory Toddler Activities 

Sensory play ideas - toys set in jelly
Over past few weeks Ollie and I have been doing all sorts of sensory activities and messy play with different types of food.

He’s been having a pretty rough time teething (7 at once!) and has really gone off food. Getting him to eat anything at all has become a real battle and we all dread mealtimes. I really don’t want this to start becoming a big issue for him and I don’t want him to start associating food with being unhappy. I know that negative feelings around food can often start in childhood and carry on through to adulthood. So, I thought I’d take the pressure off a bit and make food more fun for him.

I wanted to give him the chance to explore new foods, textures and smells. I wanted it to be fun without the pressure of sitting at the dinner table with people expecting him to eat.

All these sensory activities can be done using things you have at home. And if you don’t have the ingredients, they’re all super cheap to buy. I’m a firm believer that entertaining your children doesn’t need to cost the earth, and playing with food and household items is a great way to learn about everyday life. It allows children to experience different textures, sensations, sounds and even tastes.

Jelly Messy Play
Jelly is great for messy and sensory play, because of the unusual texture and bright colours. I got a few plastic toys and set them in some jelly overnight. I put it all in the sandpit and gave Ollie some plastic cutlery to dig the toys out. Originally, I was intending for him to get in the sandpit to play but it turns out he HATES the texture of jelly! But that’s fine! The whole point of sensory play is to give him the chance to discover new things and find out for himself what he does and doesn’t like. I like to give him chance to make his own mind up about new textures and sensations.

He had great fun squishing and scooping the jelly, and digging the toys out with spoons – just as long as he didn’t have to touch it with his hands!

Sensory play - Child playing with jelly Sensory play - child digging toy out of jellySensory play - child playing with jelly

Cracker Smash
We used our new tuff tray for this one and it worked really well. If you don’t have one, you could use a sandpit or a big baking tray. I think it works best outside because the birds will help with the cleanup!

I used cream crackers and crisps because they make a good noise are easy for little hands to smash. You could also use biscuits, dried pasta or even coffee beans!

Just tip them out in the tray and let your little one smash them up! Ollie used a wooden spoon to bash them and loved it! If you’ve got older kids you could use a rolling pin or something with a bit more weight. When we’d finished we tipped it all out on the grass for the birds . Ollie had great fun stomping all over it in his wellies!

Sensory play - child smashing up biscuits

Spaghetti Messy Play
This was so easy to prepare and Ollie really enjoyed it. I just boiled some spaghetti and then coloured it with food colouring and left it to dry slightly. I wanted it to be slightly wet and squidgy. If you want it to be dry (so the colour doesn’t leak) leave it to dry overnight. He loved scooping it, transferring it between containers and trying to thread it through the holes in the colander. He even nibbled on some which was great as he has refused to eat pasta for weeks! I cooked spaghetti for tea the next day and he ate tons which was a massive achievement! I really think that’s one of the great things about using food for sensory play. It makes food seem more fun and gives kids the chance to explore new textures and tastes without the pressure of dinner time.

Sensory play - child playing with green spaghetti Sensory play - child playing with coloured spaghetti

Rainbow Rice
Rainbow rice is really cheap and easy to make, and it can be stored to use again. It’s great for sensory play because of the bright colours and the noise it makes. You can use it in all sorts of ways – I’ve just made a sensory bottle using our leftover rice!
Rainbow coloured rice

Pasta Threading
If you’re looking for a quiet time activity, pasta threading is a very simple but effective activity. It is great for entertaining toddlers and older children. You can dye your pasta to make it look more interesting or use it plain. Use it to practice pattern making, counting and colour recognition. Older children can use it to make jewellery or practice sequences. It’s also great for developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Child threading pasta onto straws

Pasta Threading – Fine Motor Skills Activity

Pasta threading - fine motor skills activity

Pasta threading is a great way to entertain kids of all ages. It helps develop their fine motor skills and concentration without spending any money.

If you’re looking for a good rainy day activity, pasta threading is really simple but so effective. It is a great activity for toddlers to develop their fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and concentration. You can also use it to work on counting, colour recognition, or sequences and patterns for older children.

You can use plain pasta, or dye it using the same method I used to make my Rainbow Rice. It takes 5 minutes to prepare and is best left to dry overnight.

Different coloured pasta

I dyed the pasta to make it look more interesting, and also because Ollie is learning to recognise colours. So I used this as an opportunity to see if he could remember the colour names. I repeated them each time he threaded one. If your little one is prone to putting things in their mouth, you might want to use plain pasta as the dye will start to come off when it gets wet.

Child threading pasta on to straws
We started with paper straws as they’re sturdy enough for little fingers to grab and poke into the pasta holes. It took Ollie a while to get the hang of it and I had to help him out to start with. Once he’d had a bit of practice he managed to do it by himself quite easily. He has done a lot of threading and fine motor skills activities before, so I made it more challenging.

I joined a few pipe cleaners together and curled one end up so the pasta couldn’t slide off. The pipe cleaner is more bendy which makes it tricker for little hands. If you really want to help develop fine motor skills, give your child something trickier to thread on to. It took Ollie a lot longer to get the hang of this one and you could really see the concentration on his face! Once I’d shown him how to do it and he’d had a few attempts there was no stopping him. He was so pleased with himself he stopped after each piece to clap for himself!

Child threading pasta on to pipe cleaners

Ollie’s also really into counting at the minute – despite the fact he can only get to 2 on his own!
He loves repeating the numbers when I count them out. So each time he thread a piece, I counted and he repeated the number back to me.

This activity is so easy to prepare and didn’t cost a penny as I had all the ingredients at home. It’s very easy to adapt aswell for different abilities.

I used a pretty thin rigatoni but you can get pasta with bigger holes in most supermarkets. You could make this easier by using chunkier pasta and threading on to something stiff, like straws or lollipop sticks. You could even stick them down using sellotape or plasticine to make it easier to thread onto.

For older children, make it more challenging by using penne or giving them something more tricky to thread like a shoelace or ribbon. You could even get older children to make their own pasta jewellery!

Ollie was 18 months old when we tried this activity 

Rainbow Rice – Sensory Toddler Activity

Rainbow rice - sensory toddler activity

Rainbow rice is a fantastic sensory activity for children of all ages. It’s cheap and easy to prepare and can  be used again and again.

I made it for my toddler recently and it went down so well! He loved the sound it made and the bright colours. He practised scooping and transferring aswell as working on his pincer grip to pick the little grains up. We used it as a free play activity and I loved watching him explore different ways to play.

I’ve been doing a lot of sensory and messy play involving food lately, but this was probably our favourite. One reason for using food in sensory play is that Ollie is going through a fussy eating phase. So I’m trying to take the pressure off and make food more fun. The other reason is these activities are easy to prepare and totally thrifty because they just use things I already have in the kitchen!

How To Make Rainbow Rice

Rainbow rice is really simple to make and only takes 5 minutes to prepare.


You will need: 

  • White rice
  • Food colouring 
  • White vinegar
  • Plastic sealable box or freezer bag

Place the rice in a freezer bag or plastic box – about one cupful to start with. Add one teaspoon of white vinegar and a couple of drops of food colouring. Seal the bag or box and give it a good shake for a couple of minutes until the colour has spread evenly. A few drops will give you pastel shades. If you want brighter colours like mine, just add more food colouring and shake again. Repeat the process to make different colours.

Rainbow rice - brightly coloured rice

Once you’re happy with the colour, lay the rainbow rice out to dry. I used baking trays with kitchen roll spread out over them. Spread the rice out in a thin layer to help it dry. I used quite a lot of food colouring to get the colour I wanted so I left the rice to dry overnight. If you use less, your rainbow rice should be dry in a few hours.

If you don’t have the above ingredients, you can buy the lot at Aldi or Lidl for under £2! As the rice is uncooked, you can store it in an airtight container to use again in the future.

Of course when you’ve made your rainbow rice, you can use it however you want. I think it would look great in sensory bottles and I’m going to use some of ours to make colourful maracas! You could use it as a colour recognition activity or even in arts and crafts!

It was a lovely sunny day so we played outside with Ollie’s sand/water table as it’s the perfect height and has raised sides to contain the rice. I added a few cups, containers, plastic shapes and spoons.

Toddler playing with rainbow rice

Ollie had a little feel around and decided he was ok with the texture of the rice. He then spent ages picking it up and dropping it to hear the noise it made on the plastic. He used a spoon to scoop it up and fill different containers. This is a great way to practise using cutlery without messing the dining room up!

I used Ollie’s water table which has a removable board with a couple of cogs. He poured the rice on them and watched them turn. This is a great way to learn cause and effect, just like dropping the rice himself. It’s amazing how much children are actually learning while they’re playing.

The different colours gave us a great opportunity to practise naming them. This is something Ollie has been learning recently, and he even learnt a new word – ‘wice’ 😂

Ollie really seemed to enjoy himself and in the past week he’s pointed at the play table a couple of times and said ‘wice please’ which I think proves it was a hit!

Child touching rainbow rice
Child pouring rainbow rice

Woburn Safari Park – Frugal Family Days Out

Frugal Family Days Out - Woburn Safari Park
When you’ve got kids, days out can be pretty pricey. So I’ve decided to start a new feature on the blog – frugal family days out.

There are tons of ways to spend time together as a family without breaking the bank. Family days out don’t have to be as expensive as you think!

Last week we went to Woburn Safari Park.
We had a lovely family day out. We saw lots of animals up close, and best of all it was totally FREE!

I used our Tesco Clubcard vouchers to buy our tickets so it didn’t cost us a penny!

Tesco Clubcard Boost is amazing for days out. You can get up to 4 times the value of your points to spend at various attractions. Just log in to your account, pick the deal you’d like and swap your points for vouchers. Some are emailed and some are posted out so check the offer details.

An adult ticket to Woburn will cost you £7.50 in Clubcard points, a child ticket £5 and under 3s are free. If we had paid at the gate it would have cost us £62 for a family of 4! So we made a massive saving by using our Tesco points.

I also took a picnic with us (paid for with my Nectar points) so we didn’t need to spend any money when we got there. Taking a packed lunch is another great way to save money on family days out!


The park opens at 10am, and we arrived around 10.30am which was pretty good going for us. We only set off an hour later than planned and no-one forgot anything. Winning already!

The queue to get in was pretty big which seemed like a bad sign of things to come. Once we were inside, it actually wasn’t a problem. We went on Good Friday, so it was more busy than usual. Apart from a fairly slow trip around the drive through and a long queue for the pedalos, it didn’t affect our day at all.

You start at the drive through safari – although you can bypass this if you want to. I took us about an hour to drive round it all as there were quite a lot of cars on the road.

I’ve never been to a safari park before so it was great to see all the animals close up. They are roaming around freely within certain sections, so you have to keep your windows and doors shut and there are signs explaining that animals could damage your car. Our car is pretty much on the way out so it wasn’t an issue for us. There were a lot of support vehicles around and I saw them herding the rhinos away from the road when they got too close. You also have the opportunity to bypass the safari completely, or skip certain parts like the monkey ensclosure. So if you are worried about your car, you don’t need to enter those sections.

You start at the rhinos then head into the carnivores section, finishing with the monkeys. There’s lots to see on the way round. Although there were a lot of cars on the road, we still saw all the animals including 3 black bear cubs having a snooze in a tree!
Once you’ve finished the drive through, you park up and get out to enjoy the rest of the park.

There’s lots to do including animal enclosures, outdoor playground, reptile house, sealion show (extra £2 pp), animal talks and a big soft play area. There’s also Go Ape, which you can pay extra for, but there’s a minimum age of 10.

When you arrive at the park, you’re given a timetable of all the events and keeper talks happening throughout the day. It happened to be elephant conservation weekend while we were there, so we headed to the elephant talk to see what it was all about. I’m so glad we did because I learnt a lot about how the elephants and looked after (including that they’re taken on daily walks and to their own private lake for a swim) and we got the opportunity to stroke one at the end. I think these are a great opportunity for older kids to learn about animal welfare and conservation.


We had a wander around the park seeing loads of animals including birds, meerkats, otters, giraffes and monkeys. We then stopped off in one of the picnic areas to eat our lunch.

If you want to buy food and drink there, there are several restaurants, aswell as ice cream and drinks stands. Some of it is quite expensive – £5.49 for a child’s lunch box – but that’s pretty standard these days at attractions like this.

The boys had a little play on the outdoor park and we headed into the squirrel monkey enclosure. For me the best part of the park are these walk through enclosures. The animals are roaming around freely while you walk through so you can get really close to them. Ollie LOVED the wallabies. He thought they were so funny and kept jumping up and down shouting ‘Boing’! He also loved the lemurs and the birds.


By the afternoon Ollie was getting pretty tired and a bit grumpy. We didn’t take his buggy as he likes to walk most of the time. I’d also read online that there are certain areas where buggies aren’t allowed. This includes the walk in enclosures.

I’d just started thinking this was a mistake when I remembered you can go round the drive through safari as many times as you like. So we hopped back in the car and he was asleep within 5 minutes. It was actually a lot better for us the second time around. The road was a lot quieter which meant the animals had all moved closer and we could see them up close. It was amazing driving right past 3 white rhino – we could practically touch them! We also saw more bears which were hiding the first time around. When we got to the monkey enclosure, one jumped on our bonnet which absolutely made my stepson’s day.

As far as family days out go, this was one of the best we’ve had. Overall we had a really good day and I would definitely go back, and recommend it to other families. There’s something for all ages. The boys were 8 and 17 months when we went and they both had a great time – and so did me and my partner! I’m glad we used our vouchers though, as I think it would have been a bit pricey for the whole family if we had paid full price.

Our highlights:

  • Stroking an elephant at the keeper talk
  • Getting up close to the wallabies, lemurs, monkeys and birds
  • Swan pedalos
  • A lemur jumping right past our faces in the walk through enclosure
  • Watching the penguins and sealions swim underwater


Things to note:

  • Buggies aren’t allowed in walk in enclosures. If you don’t want to leave it outside, you might want to consider leaving it at home or in the car.
  • You can go round the drive through as many times as you want so if it’s busy or bad weather, you can always try again later in the day
  • If you use Tesco Clubcard vouchers you MUST print them and take them with you!
  • Food is quite expensive but you can take your own, and there are picnic areas available.
  • Soft top convertibles can’t do the whole safari – you won’t be allowed in the carnivores section.

The Benefits Of Toy Rotation

The Benefits Of Toy Rotation
Toy rotation is a great way to make the most out of your child’s toys and decrease the clutter in your home at the same time! Rather than spending money on new items, it encourages your child to play with what they already have.

If your kids are anything like mine, they have far more toys than they actually play with – especially after their birthday or Christmas! Even though we have a clearout of old stuff around this time, 2 weeks later toys have once again taken over THE ENTIRE HOUSE. They’re scattered around every room – in cupboards, under sofas and beds, and falling out of the toy box.

And yet my son still seems to only play with the same few things. He picks up a toy, gets bored with it and moves onto something different within a minute. Tidying up is never ending and after hours of hunting on my hands and knees I still can’t find all the pieces to every toy.

The main reason I’ve found for this is he has too much choice and the same toys are always around.

As a little person, having a lot of toys available all the time can be overwhelming. They don’t know what to play with first, and if they see the same toys all the time it’s hard for them to get excited about anything in particular. I know as an adult if I’m around the same things all the time, I just stop noticing them. When’s the last time you paid attention to the ornaments in your house or the pictures on the wall? It’s the same for children, and all of this means they end up playing with the same things over and over and everything else is sat at the bottom of the toy box sad and unloved 🙁

This is where toy rotation comes in.

SO WHAT IS TOY ROTATION?
The basic idea of a toy rotation is to pick out a few toys that will be played with for a set amount of time. This could be a few days, a week, however long you like. Everything else is taken away. At the end of the period, or when your child gets bored, you swap them for a new group of toys. Even though you’ve had these toys all along, they’ve become a novelty and almost like a new object to your child so they’ll be much more interested in them!

HOW TO SET UP A TOY ROTATION
Firstly gather up ALL the toys you have and put them in a big pile for sorting.

Next, decide how you will work your rotation. Do you want one set of toys to last an hour, a day or a week? Do you want several sets on the go at the same time? Personally I’m using one set of toys to last for a few days to start off with. But you might choose to have one set of toys for the morning and one for afternoon. There’s tons of ways to do it, just go with whatever works for you.

Next pick out the toys you want in your first rotation and stick them all together in a container.

Try to do a mixture of different types of toys so your child doesn’t get bored. For example one sorting toy, one pretend play toy, one ball etc all go in the same box. You can tailor your box to what your child is interested in at any given time. So you might choose to put more construction toys in for instance if they’re really interesting in building or stacking things.

Next decide what to do with everything that’s left! Personally I’ve just packed it all away in a big box. When it’s time to rotate, I’ll pick some new toys. If you’re super organised you can arrange your next rotations in advance and sort them into separate containers ready for swapping. Label them or use clear containers so you can see what’s inside. The only reason I’m not doing this is I don’t have the storage space at the minute for multiple containers.


I’ve picked my first group of toys based on Ollie’s patterns of play and his interests at the minute. He loves stacking, sorting, threading, posting and containing things. So most of the toys and activities we have out for the next couple of days will allow him to explore this further. He also has a ball, some books and a music toy, plus his ride along truck so he has the option for variation.

Since introducing this I’ve seen a big difference. He’s played with things that have been in the bottom of the box for weeks and not touched – and they held his attention for a long time. He’s isn’t getting bored quickly and he’s using his imagination more. Already the stacking cups have been used to stack, roll, drink imaginary drinks from and as hats for his toy panda! This is definitely something we will continue!

BENEFITS OF TOY ROTATION: 

  • You can target your existing toys to meet your child’s current interests or developmental stage.
  • They will be more interested in toys they already own because they haven’t seen them for a while so they become a novelty.
  • Your house will be tidier (woohoo) as there will be fewer toys out at any one time.
  • It encourages discovery and use of imagination.
  • Reduces overstimulation.
  • It gives you chance to routinely check for damaged or broken toys.

How To Get Freebies By Product Testing


Product testing is a fantastic way to save money by bagging a few freebies.
It also gives you the chance to try products you might not have considered before without having to spend any money. 

Since I’ve been product testing, I’ve had free nappies, baby products, food, wine and even makeup! 

Here’s a list of my top 5 product testing sites:

THE ORCHARD AT TESCO
I absolutely LOVE The Orchard at Tesco. Their product testing programme is really easy to take part in. The basic idea is they send you invitations for programmes you may be eligible for, you complete a few questions and if you’re accepted they send you vouchers for free products. You also usually get a couple of extra money off vouchers for yourself and to pas on to friends. 

All you need to do is post on social media about your experience. This includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The more you post, the better your Orchard Score becomes, meaning you’ll be more likely to get on future programmes. You also get Tesco Clubcard points for every action you complete! 


Since I’ve been an Orchard member, I’ve had free flowers, berries, cheese, Christmas desserts, cranberry sauce, frozen meals and loads more!

UPDATED 21st MARCH 2017 – Tesco have just announced that they will be closing The Orchard from 31st March. Such a shame as I’ve had loads of great freebies and really enjoyed their programmes! 

SAVVY CIRCLE 
Super Savvy Me is a good site for any money saver. They regularly have printable coupons and run loads of competitions. Their Savvy Circle is a product testing community for P&G products. 

If you’re accepted for a campaign, you’ll be sent free products and you just need to leave reviews and complete surveys on their site. Last year I got a load of Pampers nappies to test out (44 if I remember rightly) plus some to pass on to friends and a little tote bag! 

Ollie investigating what’s in the box!

BZZAGENT
I’ve only been signed up to BzzAgent for a few weeks and I’ve just been accepted onto my first programme. I received my free Johnson’s baby bath this morning. All we have to do is use it and review it…simple! 


MOTHERCARE
Mothercare often run campaigns for product testers. You just need to sign up to their baby club to take part. They offer everything from digital thermometers to prams and car seats. I’ve never been lucky enough to get on one of their programmes but it’s worth applying as it only takes a minute to do so. Fingers crossed I’ll get to take part in one of their campaigns soon!

TOLUNA
This is a survey website as well as offering product testing. Most of the campaigns are for makeup, but I find it can be quite hard to get accepted. Even though I’ve applied for LOADS of them, I’ve only ever been accepted on to one. I’ve read that answering surveys means you’re more likely to get programme invites, but I’m not sure how true that is! 

Things to be aware of: 

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is! We’ve all seen the bogus ads online offering free iPads or laptops, all you have to do is provide ALL your information and bank details. SCAM! 
  • If you’re unsure if a site is legit, do a quick Google search and look for reviews. You’ll soon see if it has a bad reputation.

 Mother’s Day Crafts For Kids

Mother’s Day is only a couple of weeks away. If you’re looking for gift ideas, why not get the kids involved, get creative and make something unique. Here’s a few frugal Mother’s Day craft activities for children of all ages! 

VEGETABLE PRINTING
This is something I always loved doing as a kid. It’s really simple, good fun and can be done with items you have at home so it’s very frugal. It gives children the chance to investigate colours, shapes and textures. 

You can use any hard vegetables (or fruit), but a bunch of celery is a great one because the end of it already looks like a flower. Potatoes are cheap and easy to cut shapes out of. Just cut your potato in half, then draw a shape in the middle with a pen. Cut away the outside so you have a little stamp. Dab it in some paint and get printing! 


This is good for children of different ages – younger children like mine (16 months) will just enjoy playing with the veg, feeling the texture and discovering what happens when they press it down. Ollie was so excited when we lifted the potato up and there was a mark on the paper!

Older kids can get more creative and make pictures or patterns.
They could make Mother’s Day cards or even print their own wrapping paper!

HANDMADE CARDS
Older children can get creative and use paints, crayons, glitter, stickers…anything they like to make a nice card for their Mum or Nannie. 

If your kids are too young to draw pictures you can still use their artwork to create a special card. Ollie loves scribbling away with wax crayons and it keeps him entertained for ages! I let him scribble on a piece of paper and then cut a heart shape out of it and stuck it on the front of a card. You could also cut letters out of their pictures to spell out words. 

You can also make cards from your children’s hand or footprints.
I love making prints of Ollie’s little hands and feet because they grow so quickly! I want to keep a little memento of how tiny he once was. 


I got some red paint and printed Ollie’s hands and feet onto some paper. I cut them out and arranged them into a heart shape but you can use any shape or pattern you like!

CUPCAKES
Baking is a great activity for kids as it’s fun, inexpensive and gives them a chance to learn about cooking. If you’re not the best baker you can buy kits in most supermarkets and B&M have some really cheap ones.

PERSONALISED PLATE OR MUG
My sister inspired this one with this lovely Christmas Eve plate she made for Ollie. 


If you’ve got older kids, get them to do a drawing for their Nannie that she can keep and see all the time! All you need is a white plate or mug and some Sharpies. 

Just get them to draw a picture, write a message or do a doodle on the plate or mug. You need to make sure it’s completely clean before you start: once you’ve finished, allow the ink to dry overnight then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180•C! Oil based Sharpies work best, or you can buy ceramic pens.