Sunday, 15 July 2018

how to pass the time with your toddler: 25 things you can do

hey all, today i am bringing to you some tips and tricks on how to pass the time with your toddler. which, as any other stay-at-home mum will know, is not easy, because toddlers can be both super challenging and super boring. it's hard as a mummy to stay motivated and excited and keep the rhythm of the day flowing happily day in day out.

for the first 18 months of my son's life i didn't find anything to be too boring; i loved breastfeeding and i loved the challenge of getting him to sleep and continually changing and optimising his sleeping routine, as well as trying new foods and watching him learn to crawl and walk. but then after the 18 month mark, things slowed down a lot and there were fewer new things to watch, and the routine sort of stayed exactly the same... so it got pretty dull.

also, my toddler is really keen and ready to learn, and he daily needs a challenge to help him grow and develop. i must honestly confess that, in comparison with other parents, i'm quite laid-back and i like to be at home. there are plenty of mummies i know that simply like to pass the time by going out and doing activities. but, i find it so exhausting to be out with him, so i don't do a big outing every day, instead we do that 2-3 times a week.

i also really value independent play - i think it benefits both parent and child, and i have spent most of the first two years of his life encouraging him to interact with things in his own unique way. there was a very long period up until he was about 25 months where he really needed my help with everything, or he needed some companionship, so instead of being able to do anything else whilst he was playing, i actuall had to do all the playing with him. and then come 25 months-ish, he was much more able to play by himself, except on days when he was too tired or feeling sick.

so, here's a pretty comprehensive list of things we do....

firstly, let's just mention those outings that we do do during the week sometimes:

 - the park - we go to the park at least once a week, because the good ones are a bit of a walk or a bus ride away. and we love it! as he spends more time there it's so fun to watch him increase in confidence and learn to use his body in new ways. he also gets to interact with other children, and burn off energy.
 - soft play - this is a new one to us, but our friends invited us last week and we loved it! it was early morning so it wasn't busy and we both had so much fun climbing around and going down slides and up rope ladders... and they even had a break for a craft activity included in the entrance fee. we will definitely be going again.
 - playgroup - i must be super honest and say that i've really put off going to a playgroup in my local area since i moved back to England. partly because i thought we'd be moving house sooner than we actually have, and partly because they're so darn intimidating. but there are so many to chose from and i know it would be great for him to go and interact with other kids. also, when we first got back to England he went through a hair-pulling/hitting phase, which wasn't fun for anyone, so i sort of have been waiting for it to pass and then when he stopped several months ago i just haven't organised things yet... so watch this space.
a city walk/nature walk - a guided walk is so much fun, because he learns so much about the world around him. whether he's actually walking or sitting in the pushchair taking time to explain all the things around him is both important and interesting. at the minute he's really enjoying learning his colours, so we get a lot of "red bus" or "purple car".

 - coffee/lunch dates - i have tended to do less coffee dates and more lunch dates, because he loves eating out but not just sitting and playing in such a confined space. so, we usually go to the same two spots and he has learnt how to interact in both of those spaces, so he is well behaved and know where his boundaries are, so i can relax and enjoy myself more.
 - food shopping - it's essential that a couple of times a week we pop to the shops to pick up food or household bits, and i love showing him how those 'boring' things can be fun, but also need to be done. it also teaches him patience, new words, new smells and he does love to help scan things through and use my card to pay
 - swimming class - his gran takes him swimming each week, as we've just signed up at the local pool. it's quite pricey, but teaches him an essential skill so i feel the cost is worth it. and after our last holiday to Corsica where he enjoyed swimming so much, i wanted to "take the bull by the horns" and see how he'd enjoy classes. and he does love it! it also provides me with an essential hour off from looking after him which is pretty important!
 - obviously there are heaps of other local activities you can take part in, and you just need to have a look/listen out for things you can get to...

secondly, here's a list of things i can leave him to do for a good number of minutes in the house so i can get on with other things:
 - play with his toys - i have a video sharing all of our favourite toys, so go watch that if you haven't already - his absolute favourite that he could play with for hours is his wooden train track (US/UK). honestly i don't know how i would parent without those trains!
 - watching television and movies - actually his favourite thing isn't really the TV, but he loves to watch YouTube videos of trains and helicopters and counting videos - he also really loves three particular films, which are Cars, Paddington and Ponyo (which if you've never seen an anime, or heard of this film you should get it, all kids seem to love it and it's got nice messages and music - US/UK)
 - playing in the garden, usually riding his bike - i usually can get 5 minutes of him pushing his bikes up and down so i can do the dishes and watch him from the kitchen window
 - listening to music - he loves to sit there with my headphones in, listening to his favourite songs on repeat. so of course i need to be nearby so that i can make sure his songs are all playing - i've got a playlist for him on the iPhone but often he just wants to listen to the same song again and again.

 - pouring in the kitchen sink is something he still loves - he gets up on his little step, and digs his hands in to play with whatever is in the washing up bowl. he loves the bubbles and he loves to pour and experiment. i can get a good 20 minutes out of this activity usually, so it's great for me to clean the kitchen and sort out the dishwasher each day.
 - threading beads - i can get about 3-10 minutes of concentration of him using his threading beads (US/UK). which is great for putting makeup on, and honestly he's probably getting a little old for it now. we might need to start moving into matching games.

lastly, here's some of the things that i like to do with him still, because they need supervision or a second pair of hands - but arguably, these are really stretching him more than the others in new ways and so the more he does them, the less supervision he is likely to need:
 - reading - i have a video sharing some of our favourite books, but i love to read with him, to get him to interact with flaps and animal noises and pictures
 - sidewalk chalk - these chalks (US/UK) are great, because they're pretty versatile if you've got any outdoor space. you can draw with them, and then (perhaps the most fun bit for my son) wash it all off. and then just repeat that process on different surfaces to see how it will react. and older kids can get involved too. we love this stuff!

 - finger painting - we've been using some lovely eco finger paints (US/UK), which work brilliantly for him, because he learns that he is allowed to get his fingers dirty (which he isn't normally a huge fan of) and that he can create something so amazingly colourful.
 - using Procreate on mummy's iPhone - i got a Wacom Stylus pen (US/UK) for using with my iPhone and my boy loves to use it with Procreate Pocket, where he can pick the colours and types/sizes of brushes and create something amazing.
 - drawing & stickers in his art book - i got him a giant A2 sketch book ages ago (US/UK), and it's already pretty full of all of his scribbles, stickers and doodles. there's also some finger painting in there, stamping and various other things we've tried out a few times. the notepad also gets used as a ramp for his trains... and one of our other new favourites is using some Gelatos (kind of a cross between a lipstick and a watercolour - the 12 piece set i got also came with a brush, but there are varying sets you can try - US/UK), which he loves to use in his book and on his waterproof mat.

 - dancing - we move all the toys out the way and put on a really loud song and have a good wiggle. sometimes we even get the musical instruments out and use those too. but he loves to practice jumping and twirling, and he can really move!
 - watering plants & weeding - this is something we do together or else next door would get wet, or I would get soaked, or my favourite plants would get pulled up - i love showing him how to work the earth, and i'm excited for him to be a whole year older so we can plant seeds and he can understand things even further. he loves to help move branches for me too, so he's a great help when i trim the bushes.

 - glueing and sticking - good old-fashioned paste scrapers and kid-safe PVA, along with a sheet of paper of some kind, and then some scraps of other papers, tissue paper, fabric or anything else that you can find, and then you can create some spectacular pieces of art!
 - cooking and cutting - i like to cook, and so he likes to help me in the kitchen. ages ago we brought him a simple wooden step from Ikea, and he's used that ever since he was tiny, and can now handle it safely without me worrying. he also has his own crinkle cutter (US/UK) for occasions where i need him distracted but doing something. he likes to chop bananas into pieces and eat as he goes. he's really got into stirring everything lately too, so
 - screwdrivers - daddy's screwdriver set is an endless source of fascination. he likes to get them out and find anything with screws. currently he's not strong enough or silly enough to ruin the screw, the house or the screwdriver... so mostly he just tried to replace the batteries in his trains.
 - puzzles - we've only got a couple of wooden puzzles (US/UK), but he's pretty good at them when i sit with him and encourage him along. it only takes a few minutes, but i feel like it's an activity worth investing in, because if he continues to enjoy it and can handle more complex puzzles he'll be able to sit for hours with a 1,000 piece as a teenager.
 - flashcards - we've got a couple of sets (this is our favourite - US/UK) and he actually likes to get them out and see how many he can do in one go. i would've thought somehow i would have had to make it into more of a game, but he seems to do that all by himself. he's always looking for the chicken.

and if you're all out of ideas still, i really recommend this book by A.M. Sterling called "Montessori at Home Guide" (US/UK), and it's full of very easy activities to do, which is perfect if you're after helping your child to be helpful, as well as keeping them busy with activities.

thank you so much for reading today, and i hope that this has given you an insight into some of the things we get up to at home all day long. please if you have any other ideas, i would love if you would share them in the comments box below! and some of the loveliest ones i may add to the end of this post...

extra ideas:
 - cleaning & hoovering - my son loves to spend ages cleaning his cars and hoovering with our mini handheld vacuum cleaner. how did i miss this from the original list!
 - going on a train or a bus - often we just get a cheap bus ticket into the city centre and that's our outing of the day. it's a distraction, a simple one, and he usually loves it. we tend to plan on a train trip a few times a month, which is a much anticipated and enjoyed excursion.

have a fabulous day x

* this post contains affiliate links. it won't cost you any extra money to shop through these links, but instead it generates me a small income from which i can continue to provide content for you, so thank you for choosing to shop via these links because it means i can buy myself a guilt-free coffee

Monday, 2 July 2018

be the change: the culture of social media

hey all, i've been doing a lot of thinking lately about my presence here on the worldwide inter-web. it's a very different creature to the one i first started out with, it's changed and morphed into something far more complex than i can quite comprehend. hence why i've been spending time trying to get my head round it. why do i find myself on it constantly? should i be on it as much? what is it for? is it changing my personality?

if you're interested in the way social media shapes culture, i hope you stick with me on this one. and at the end of my "conversation" i've listed a few tips on what i think YOU can do to change the way the internet works for everybody - how you can make it a positive and encouraging place where people feel better about themselves. as well as letting you know how i'll be moving forward with things.

what a difference a decade makes

firstly let me address how i think social media has changed since i first logged on to the world of "social" 9 years ago with my first blog posts and YouTube videos.

when i started there were a couple of simple formats in which people could share content, and they tended to choose just one or two platforms - usually a blog and a YouTube channel, and then sometimes a Facebook page or Twitter (if the community wanted it or the following was big enough and depending on the content). and then along came Instagram...

instagram has evolved, not just in itself with all of it's algorithm changes, but it's also evolved how we use social media, and how we perceive it. since it's start as a simple daily photograph sharing space, it's now become so professional, it's given creative people a huge outlet to share their content that didn't really exist before (Flickr and Picasa weren't really that user friendly or shareable). and now i think lots of people perceive social media as a place to have a full-time career, building their own business and become social "celebrities".

5 years ago when i was creating a lot of content and a lot of buzz about my journey with natural beauty there weren't that many of us out there, and now the YouTube world is saturated with content and (like Instagram) it's high quality content too, which is hard to keep up with if you aren't a videographer, don't know an editor or have the time to do proper editing yourself (because you're a full time mummy, wife and running a home), and you don't always remember your snazzy video camera (and you still take most of your footage on your iphone).

i find that getting any engagement is super hard work. to me it seems like people are engaging less than they were 5 years ago, and on a YouTube video i'd usually have received about 5% of views as comments, i now receive about 0.5%. perhaps this is more a reflection of my changing audience and the different sort of content that i create... perhaps i don't 'cut the mustard' any more.

the great things i still love about social

the main thing i really LOVE social media for is the way it brings together like-minded individuals, who would probably never have otherwise found each other. particularly for more niche interests, like green beauty, or plant-powered eating, or gentle parenting (which all now, thanks to social media, are much less niche and more main-stream).

i love that you can search hashtags on instagram and easily find people who are similar to you, who think like you do. this is such a major reason why people are so attracted to social media. it makes us feel less alone. that 90s teenage movie character complaining that "no-one thinks like me, no-one understands me" is a thing of the past. if you are a teenager of today, you can find these people. and if you can't find them, you can attract them by sharing how you feel and what you're up to.

one of my favourite things ever is when i get an email or message from someone who has seen a blog post or a video and they want more advice on their particular situation or they just want to thank me for it in particular. i got a lot of these emails after my 'no sex before marriage' video, and then i got a lot of loving personal messages after my blog post about Rose. i also get a lot of questions about breastfeeding, diet/gut health and acne. this is what social media should be for, and what i always think it should be for - connecting with others around you, sharing wisdom and giving advice from friend to friend. not in a professional way always (obviously), but as we would've done centuries and centuries before us, chatting with our internet 'neighbours'.

THE reason i stick with social media, even when new algorithms drive me crazy, is because i believe the best way to learn is through the experience of other people. it's why i like to share my story, share things i don't like and why, things i love and why, places i've seen and experiences that i've found challenging. so other people feel more normal and challenge them to think in new ways. and i love that so many of my friends have chosen to share their stories in blogs and posts too, because it is encouraging and uplifting to hear every type of opinion and experience.

the problem with social media

the problem with finding these people who think similarly to you, is that, when you do it's far TOO EASY to feel like you don't match them or that you can't live up to their standard. which is actually all too easy for any of us to do, whether you're my husband following the latest car releases on YouTube and being bombarded with the latest technology. or you're me and you are following so many beauty channels that you feel like you're always out-of-date with the latest product releases and trends.

it may not feel like you're being bombarded with advertising, but as someone that used to work in "social media marketing" i can tell you that it's one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there, as it's super subtle and people actually sign up to it. in the world 10 years ago, Google Ads ruled the internet and that was THE way to get your business message out there, it wasn't personal. now we have visual ads that people are often choosing to scroll through, making companies seem more real. it's incredibly powerful.

and instagram and YouTube are both encouraging their content creators to think more business-like, allowing them to work more easily with brands, choose adverts on their content and encourage paid/sponsored adverts on personal pages. which isn't inherently a bad thing, but...

what do you DO it for

...for me, i find that being able to see all the analytics, the amounts of likes and dislikes, the number of comments, the type of comments, the number of new subscribers, well i find that it can really easily drive me crazy! it means that i can easily switch focus from the positive to the negative. i forget that the whole reason i create content is really as a creative outlet for myself, as well as a way to spread positive and encouraging messages out there and put a smile on peoples faces.

anyhow, the biggest thing that i want to say is that i feel like there are lots of big 'celebrity' YouTubers in the news lately, discussing their break-ups and holidays, their latest makeup product launches and their opinions on motherhood. and i think all this publicity is creating an impression in millennials that YouTube can be an easy job. but i can honestly tell you it's one of the hardest things to do - to live up to the standard of your surrounding competition, write content, edit videos, reply to comments, upload content. do you know it takes me about 3-5hours per video? and more if it's something longer and more complex. which is a challenge when you've got a toddler pulling on your hand to come play.

the other thing that i want to say is that i think a lot of people start on social media and then develop a following and feel obliged to continue posting even when they aren't feeling super inspired. and that's the challenge for me at the moment. without enough interaction from my "community" i don't feel like the effort i put in is worth the outcome, but i also appreciate that a lot of the reason for this is because i'm not feeling inspired myself, so how can i expect to make engaging content?! anyhow, i've taken many breaks from YouTube in the past, and i've taken a couple of social media holidays before too, but then i've always come back and done exactly the same sort of thing, because i feel like it's what people expect of me.

"what people expect of me" ?? how weird is that.

ok, really as well, as a stay-at-home mother, with a husband working 12hour days, i get super bored. it's something to do. it's something that slightly challenges me but doesn't scare me. i feel like it somehow is keeping ME alive. but it doesn't really. not really, because i put out content to make a conversation but there isn't one - or at least not really with me anyway.

so, this all boils down to 2 things:

  • firstly, please know that your interactions matter, people that share content on the internet would like your feedback - so see the ideas below on how you can help keep the community-side of social alive!
  • secondly, i need to focus on figuring out who i am, who i'm made to be. that day a few months ago changed me in so many ways that i don't really understand yet. so i need to give that more time. real time. and life is busy enough with a 2 year old. i want to be sharing messages with you that are encouraging, inspiring and uplifting, rather than just sharing my latest favourite moisturiser - LIFE is so much bigger than that, and i want to use any influence i have for something more meaningful. but i don't know what that looks like yet.

YOU can be the change

so, here's my tips on what you can do to affect the world of social media.
  1. you have to believe that SMALL THINGS YOU DO MATTER. the world can be changed with one simple smile, whether that's literal or a thumbs-up or smiley face on the internet.
  2. stop being passive. TAKE PART. if you watch, read or listen to content, BE THAT PERSON who leaves a nice comment or review. obviously we can't do that on every piece of content we consume - do it when a blog post or video makes you smile or think, or you recognise it's changed you in some small way. that person deserves some recognition.
  3. consume less content and CURATE IT more. if you notice that you haven't been commenting or engaging with someone you're following consider either whether you've missed some of their content (thank you algorithms), or, if you're up-to-speed perhaps just consider unfollowing them. make sure you're engaging with content you actually like.
  4. SHARE. there's a distinct lack of sharing the love on social media any more. we need to get back to "Share the Love" posts where we share people and posts that inspire us. let's create an outward-looking community. and it's really easy - just click "share".

so, there you have it, my ramble, my rant, my thoughts on how social media has changed in the last decade, how it's improved and what i think it can be for. and i really hope you have some positive takeaways from this that you go on to implement in your own life. and on your own smartphone. and please let me know in the comments below your thoughts on social media at present, because i think it could be a really interesting discussion ;) x