Don’t Be Like Teaching Mum (at Children’s Parties).

Since starting her Lower Foundation years at school in September, my Girl has been invited to a number of parties over the last few months.  It appears that every other Saturday or Sunday, off we trot to another party where   we I eat too many Wotsits, sink into too many ball pools, steal mini sausages from plates and eat too many pieces of cake that don’t belong to me.

Being the regular party goer that I am, I thought I would share with you my insight on how to rock children’s parties…and then show you how I do it.

Here we go then.  Hope you learn something!

Do make sure you are fully prepared and organised by buying a present, a card and wrapping paper in good time for the party.  After all, most parents plan and prepare their child’s party a good month or so before and send the invites out weeks in advance, thus giving you ages to buy and wrap a present.  The majority of parents make, create or buy the most lovely invites, sprinkle them in glitter and place them neatly into your child’s school bag for you to find when they return home from school. (Or four days after they return home from school when you accidently drop the bag.)  This is extremely good planning and something that I really should learn from.  For my daughter’s fourth (third and second) party, her invites were send via Facebook Messenger with the closing sentence reading: ‘By the way, there won’t be an invite through the post.  This is it.  Sorry, I’m just really busy.’  You can liken my organisational skills to a T-Rex playing Basketball (crap), but knowing that I am saving the rainforests makes my parenting halo slip only a little.

Don’t drop your daughter off at her 9am ballet class on the morning of the party, make a mad dash to B&M Bargains to buy a present, card and wrapping paper.  You may think that this is not such a bad thing to do and it’s not.  However, knowing that your daughter’s ballet lesson is only forty five minutes long and the closest B&M is a ten minute drive away ensures that your visit must be a swift one.  Therefore, pushing your one year old son up and down the aisles (in a pushchair that takes at least three minutes to assemble) looking for bargains is not conducive to successful present buying.  Don’t, once you have your present placed safely in your basket (that also contains two tubs of Lucky Charms cereal and a packet of Smartie Mini-Eggs that are all for your consumption), spot two huge canvases that you think will look awesome somewhere in your house and attempt to place them in your basket.  By this time, your daughter’s ballet lesson has less than twenty minutes to go, so you definitely shouldn’t attempt to push your son, carry a basket and two canvases towards the check out and then stop to ask a shop assistant if they sell carpet cleaner only to find out that she is new and insists on finding it for you.  And, after she does find it, she then insists on carrying it to the tills for you while you follow behind with your son, a basket and two massive canvases.  However, if like me, this is how you do insist on buying your birthday presents, then make sure you ask the woman behind you at the till, who is clearly buying presents for a birthday party (card, paper and Monster High Doll), to carry the two canvases out to your car while you run quickly towards your car trying to dismantle the pushchair as you go.

Disclaimer proving that I am not a bad parent:  I made it back in time to collect my girl from ballet.  A problem arose though when we realised she couldn’t fit in the car due to there being two pointless (and yet awesome) purchases sitting in her booster seat.

Don’t Be Like Teaching Mum (at Children’s Parties).

Do make sure you know whether there is a theme to the birthday party your child has been invited to.  In order to be successful at this, all you have to do is read the invite.

Don’t fist bump and shout ‘YES!’ after realising that you have, in fact, coincidently happened to buy a superhero themed present and wrapping paper (okay, so not the card, but two out of three ain’t bad) for a party that you had no idea had a theme.  You vaguely recall images on the invite, but your focus was on the time, date and venue because, as a busy mum, you deal ONLY IN FACTS.

Disclaimer acknowledging that I know when I have been lucky*Does another fist pump and shouts ‘Yes!’* because the birthday boy was wearing a Spiderman costume at his party and the present I bought was The Avengers (At least it was Marvel) and the wrapping paper was good ol’ Spidey.

Don’t Be Like Teaching Mum (at Children’s Parties).

Do ensure that you know beforehand if the party requires fancy dress.  Recently, my girl has gone to parties dressed as a princess, a pirate and…erm a Muggle at an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed party she attended only a few weeks back.  Muggles WERE in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ you know!  I am an English Teacher after all – I know my Lit.

Don’t be the one parent who has to send texts like this to your other half mid party:

Don’t Be Like Teaching Mum (at Children’s Parties).

Do wrap your present, write your card and leave it in a suitable place (preferably near your exit) so that you don’t forget to grab the present before you leave in good time to go to the party.

Don’t leave everything to the last minute, do a mad dash to the car and drive off without your ‘Sat Nav’…and the present.  Thus resulting in texts like this:

Don’t Be Like Teaching Mum (at Children’s Parties).

Yes, this particular party was in another city, therefore any organised parent would have had the ‘Sat Nav’ in the car beforehand with the postcode already typed in and ready to go.  This would have prevented my having to stop a young bearded hipster, who was walking in the middle of an estate in Leeds, to ask him where MonsterKidz was.  Then, after being amazed and possibly quite alarmed that he knew where all the soft plays were in North Leeds, upon our late arrival try to park as close to the entrance as possible which resulted in reversing into a wall when we found that there was, in fact, no parking right outside the entrance.

Do make sure you make the time to talk to, mingle with and become friends with the other parents at the party your child has been invited to.  After all, these are the parents who you will, no doubt, bump into time and time again at various other superhero, pirate and other themed birthday parties.  These parents might even become your ‘Mum Friends’, the ones you are so desperately in need of because you are not living in a town near your actual proper friends from home.  Yes, ‘Mum Friends’ are precious as they will be your rock as your child enters school for the first time this coming September.

Don’t be the only parent who doesn’t know anyone at the party and rather than rectify that by being sociable, chooses to isolate herself completely by pulling out twenty Year 8 books that need marking.  Don’t be the one parent who goes onto ignore the hired Magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat, the hired adult woman dressed as Alice lost in Wonderland or the only parent who doesn’t chase their child into the soft play because you couldn’t put your red pen down as (and I may have mentioned this before) you’re busy.  Making ‘Mum Friends’ should be a priority, after all, everyone needs a kindred spirit to guide and support them through this ‘adventure’ we call parenting, BUT where else are you going to get two hours, a chair, a cup of tea,  an endless supply of sausage rolls, ham sandwiches, chocolate fingers, buns and a person employed to entertain your child?  Yes, the red pen came out and all the books got marked.

Disclaimer that I am not miserable and unfriendly and would actually love a few more ‘Mum Friends’: No, I am actually pretty sociable, polite (I thanked the Magician and told him he was good) and nice, but any (busy!!) Teaching Mum will tell you – if you find some time to mark then you mark.

Do allow your child to play with and eat the contents of their party bag when they arrive home from the party.

Don’t put your children to bed, open a bottle of Prosecco, write a ‘hilarious’ blog post and eat the cake in the party bag…

If only I had made the time to make some ‘Mum Friends’ and perhaps I too would be out at a party instead of peeling and eating the icing from a Spiderman cake.

Don’t Be Like Teaching Mum (at Children’s Parties).

A Practical Guide to Peaceful Homework.

The trouble with kids and homework is that they’re kids. Living in the now is what they do naturally so it’s difficult to get them behind something that doesn’t have instant rewards. But don’t give up. There are plenty of ways to encourage less than keen kids and quite a few easy tactics you can use to introduce healthy homework habits early and cut down on fuss when the serious studying sets in later.

Take ‘Work’ out of Homework

Fit some time into your routine for homework at a set time every day. It’s easier than you think with younger schoolchildren. They don’t need 100% of your attention and half an hour in the kitchen while you’re making dinner works fine. As long as you’re there and they know it’s time for reading or writing or working on a project. And even if they don’t have homework, give them that set time anyway to do something together or just talk and it will naturally become part of their routine too.

Pile on Praise and Encouragement

Make a fun Homework Timetable together and hang it somewhere everyone can see it. Set goals for a week or a month so there’s something to aim for. And don’t forget to reward achievements, no matter how tiny. Praise motivates kids and stars and stickers are results they can see for real.

Make Homework Real

Relating what kids are up to at school with play, activities or days-out connects the abstract idea of learning to real life, makes it understandable and less like ‘work’. First time readers respond well to choosing their own books at the local library or ‘helping’ with a few pages from their bedtime story. If they’re finding out about mini-beasts at school, lending a hand in the garden is a chance to see their lessons in action. And homework is a lot easier if it has good associations.

Create Quiet Study Space

Creating a space in your home where your kids can focus, spread out a project or use the computer in peace is a great motivator. Internal bi-fold doors in the living room give you the flexibility to have a ‘study’ when you need it and sociable family space when you don’t. And remember, kids learn by example, so if they see you using quiet space to read or work, they’ll follow your lead without a second thought.

Give Everyone A Break

Everyone deserves a break in the day and children are no different. Set a clear line between school and home by planning and preparing after school snacks together, make it a fun time to talk about their day, or anything else they like, before going straight into homework.

A Practical Guide to Peaceful Homework.

Be A Little Tough Sometimes

Consequences of not doing homework are tough to explain in the abstract. Sometimes it’s best to step back and let them face their teacher with unfinished work. It’s a lesson to learn, won’t scar them for life and usually doesn’t happen more than once or twice.

Rewards Can Be Good

Some parents are very hard line about not giving rewards for homework. But you know your child best and if they respond to a special treat or the promise of an activity for their hard work, go for it. You’re not teaching them bad habits, most of us work for money as adults, so a tangible reward for homework well done (or at least done without a fuss) isn’t that different really.

Stay A Step Ahead

Don’t leave things to the last minute. Get your child to show you what’s in their schoolbag every day and what’s in their Homework Diary (if they have one). Finding out you’re missing something vital to finish a project on a Sunday evening, half-an-hour before bed, is pain we’ve all felt. Try to avoid it if you can.

Try Different Approaches

Be patient and if you find yourself getting frustrated, step away. Recommendations about homework for primary kids in the UK are changing and the general thinking is that gently reinforcing what’s learned at school is more valuable than set study. There are excellent homework resources available online to help you get more involved in what your kids are working on so you can introduce topics into conversation, plan a visit related to a subject and share ideas and information naturally. Much easier and more productive all round and avoids the potential for turning homework into a battleground for years to come.

And finally, remember the main purpose of primary school homework is to help children learn to work on their own initiative. So when you turn up at Parents’ Night and there’s a perfect scale model of the Parthenon sitting beside your kid’s lopsided, toilet roll holder disaster, don’t worry. Teachers know the difference between homework and parent work, even if some mums and dads don’t.

A Practical Guide to Peaceful Homework.

Review – Trespass Everyday Women’s Waterproof Jacket

I hate being cold.

I HATE it.  I don’t function very well if the weather outside is below 15 degrees – which means for 9 months out of the year I look like a toy that needs winding up.  I shrink into myself, wear layers and layers of clothing and sometimes go a whole day at work without taking my coat off.

Luckily for me, Trespass recently got in touch to ask if I would like to try and review anything from their online collection.

Erm. Yes!

I didn’t falter for a second.  Clicking straight onto the female coat section, I browsed and very quickly found something that I liked the look of.

Bearing in mind that my Other Half goes skiing with his school next week, he didn’t even get a look in.

“I’d love a new coat to put to the test on the slopes in Austria,” he said.

“No way!  My classroom is colder than Austria,” I said. “I’ll be reviewing the coat.”

The coat I chose was the Every Day Womens Coat in Navy (it also comes in grey) and at the moment it is half price at £69.99.

Review – Trespass Everyday Women’s Waterproof Jacket

Admittedly, I chose style and colour over whether it was durable in a storm, because the plan would be to wear it as a winter jacket over jeans and Uggs and not, alas, at the top of a mountain in Austria.

The jacket arrived on Tuesday evening and I have worn it every day since.  I modelled it in the English Work room at school, I bragged about it to my Year 10 form during a fire alarm drill.  Bless them, they were standing in line freezing, having been rushed from their lessons when I strolled up to them, pulled up my faux fur lined hood and casually took a register feeling as snug as a bug in a rug.

“Ere Miss, lend us yer jacket!” one boy shouted.

Feeling smug that I had managed to grab the jacket on the way out, I politely declined and continued checking that they were all present, correct and, most importantly, safe.

When the jacket arrived, my first thought was that the Internet picture did not do it justice. It was lovely and fit me perfectly.   Being 5ft 8in and a size 12, I chose a medium jacket and it fits like a glove.  The jacket comes with a faux fur lined hood, which I love, but if fur isn’t your thing – then you can easily remove it by simply undoing a button on the top.  The tweed pattern on the outside layer of the coat makes it look extremely neat and smart and not what you would expect from your usual waterproofs.  It is both waterproof and wind proof and with Storm Gertrude blasting at us this week, I certainly felt protected from the recent harsh gales that come charging over the fields outside our house.  In addition, I love the purple lining because it is my favourite colour and contrasts perfectly with the navy.

I have had a number of people compliment the coat – even the Other Half!  I wore it to work on Thursday with black trousers and heels and he told me ‘I looked nice’!  For anyone who knows him – that’s a compliment so I politely thanked him and gave a twirl!  The jacket is easy to dress up and wear casually.  Take today for example, I teamed it with a checked shirt, jeans and leather Uggs and went out to…a kids’ party.  While my daughter played happily with her school friends, I sat quietly in a corner party and marked books…with the jacket on! (Because I was cold – not because I am getting a little too attached…)

So all in all, I am pretty chuffed with Trespass, so thank you so much for offering me such a fantastic jacket to review.  I imagine come next Thursday night when the Other Half packs for Austria, he’ll be trying to sneak it into his suit case.  It’s just a pity that he is not a size 12 or a woman!