The Frugal and Fun ebook – enjoying the school holidays the thrifty way.

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As parents, we know just how long and expensive the Summer Holidays can be.  Children are easily bored and we understand just how easy it can be to spend a fortune trying to keep them occupied and happy so we have written an ebook called Frugal and Fun, enjoying the school holidays the thrifty way.  Our book is filled with ideas for frugal and fun ideas to make sure you get the most out of this year’s Summer Holidays without having to spend a fortune.

The book contains over 150 pages of  ideas and activities to help you make sure that this year’s Summer Holidays are frugal and fun.  There’s a planning week filled with things for you to do in advance of the holidays to get yourself prepared and the rest of the ideas are split into different themed weeks, with each week having five indoor activities, five outdoor activities and five recipes for you to cook with you children.

Themes include:

  • The Olympics
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Around the World
  • Heroes and Heroines
  • Home Sweet Home
  • Colours

So that is one indoor activity, one outdoor activity and one recipe for every single weekday of the holidays.  There is no way you can possibly run out of ideas with this at your fingertips and you need never hear ‘I’m Bored’ again as these are guaranteed boredom busting (but not budget busting) ideas!

Just in case you do need a little extra inspiration, we’ll also have extra ideas on our website throughout the Summer and we’ll be re-tweeting posts about activities and ideas that we think might be useful for you.

If you want to buy our ebook, you can click on the link in the sidebar and it will be delivered to your e mail box in no time at all.  It truly will be the best £4 you spend this summer.

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How to Make Your Own Christmas Decorations

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paper decorations

Christmas is the most expensive time of the year for any family. Presents make up the bulk of costs – the food and beverages aren’t cheap either. Then there are the decorations on top of that. It’s a financial nightmare! It’s important to save money where you can at Christmas, so we thought we’d offer a few DIY decoration suggestions. It doesn’t have to be a thrifty option this Christmas, making your own decorations can be a fun activity for you to do with your kids. We hope this little guide is useful to you.

Turn Old Toys into Decorations

You don’t need to make every part of your decorations. Old toys are a perfect, hassle-free way to transform something you were probably going to throw away. Make sure the toy isn’t too heavy or large to hang on the Christmas tree.  In the past, I have done it with little rubber teddy bear models just under two inches tall. Take your toy and hammer a very small horse shoe-shaped nail into its top. Then tie some dark green or black thread to the hoop and make a loop with the thread. And voila: you have a fun, incredibly easy to make decoration. It’s also a great way to remember the types of toys your children have played with over the years. If you do it every year you could end up with a little museum of old toys furnishing your tree.


Paper decorations

Cutting intricate designs in paper can produce some staggeringly beautiful designs that actually rival costly high-street decorations. You and your little ones can have fantastic fun with some folded paper and a pair of safety scissors. Or, if you want some truly elegant results, you should have a look here or peruse the various YouTube tutorials for a fantastic-looking 3D Christmas tree. If you want to practise on a few designs before finalising one, then you should use recycled paper until you’re sure you can get it right with the ‘fancy paper’. This allows you to save money and the planet at the same time. It’s win-win. You can save money on materials by shopping smart. Viking has some great arts and craft supplies here.

Bake some inedible decorations

Another great idea is to bake some gingerbread men and to use them as decorations. There are lots of great gingerbread recipes out there – but this one from the BBC is our favourite. Just make sure that you make enough to eat as well as to decorate your home. Once baked, proceed to eat half of them with a cup of tea. Leave the other…third to go stale and super hard.  Tip: It looks great if you thread a gingham ribbon through a little hole in the top of their head, but some coloured string will suffice. Just make sure you do this while the gingerbread man is soft – otherwise, as brutal as it sounds, you will end up shattering a few of them trying to make the holes in their heads. Once they’ve hardened, you can brush them lightly with varnish. The end result is a beautiful little decoration that looks good enough to eat. (But don’t even think about it!)

Whatever you decide to do to save money this holiday season, we wish you a merry, but frugal, Christmas!

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The Importance of Tummy Time and How to Encourage It

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Once you say hello to your new arrival for the first time, it’s full steam ahead as they develop new skills every day. Their proper development, from the moment they greet the world, is crucial to ensure a happy baby, and tummy time is just one of the ways in which you can encourage healthy growth.

It has been known for parents to get confused between the concept of tummy time and the idea of the ‘reduce the risk’ campaign which encourages parents to put babies to rest on their backs to dramatically reduce the incidence of SIDS. New parents may worry when they first place their baby on their tummy, as they squirm and wriggle in what is often assumed to be an effort to free themselves from this position. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Introducing them to tummy time from an early age will help them to develop essential motor skills that they will be able to use and build on in the coming weeks and months. Placing them on their tummy, whether it’s on a Fisher Price baby gym or playmat, on a rug, or on the bed, will help them to learn crucial skills such as balance, motor control and co-ordination; as long as you supervise them and share the experience with them, it’s sure to be a positive experience.

By providing your baby with an opportunity for tummy time, at least once a day, they will be able to learn more about the movements that they can make and will enjoy being able to make them. You will also reduce the incidence of popular issues, such as ‘flat head’, which is a condition that many babies will display due to the amount of time they spend with the back of their head against hard surfaces such as the floor or the car seat.

A period of tummy time every day contributes to the ability to master important milestones for your baby, such as learning to hold their head up, pushing themselves up using their arms and rolling over. They may not seem to like it much to start off with, but a little perseverance will see them thrive in no time.

As long as you remember that the concept of tummy time is applied to times when baby is awake and bear in mind that it contributes towards healthy, well-rounded development, tummy time can form part of a fun, healthy daily routine.

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Do you judge a man by trainers?

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Many women nodded in agreement when Carrie Bradshaw famously declared that she understood shoes better than men. Befuddled by a man’s brain, we look to his shoes for a clue as to just what is going on in his head. Like a scientist interpreting DNA, it only takes a woman a few seconds to read a whole host of information into the trainers on a man’s feet.

It takes practice and patience but years of serious sleuthing mean we’ve learnt to dig through the clues of an outfit to expose a man’s true personality, starting with his shoes. For example, while chunky trainers may point to a sports fan headed to the football pitch, when worn with jeans or chinos we know that this man favours comfort over fashion, and the nearest those shoes have come to exercise is walking the dog.

Then we have the type of gent who favours the garishly-coloured high-top. Sporting more colours than Notting Hill Carnival and twice as loud, he’s got a bold personality and a lot to say. Look out for bad tracksuits and tacky bling along with the glaring footwear.

Possibly even worse, trainers that are falling apart signify someone who’s either lazy or totally inattentive to others’ opinions. Should you find yourself standing in his flat, expect to see piles of washing on the floor, peeling posters of eighties metal bands and a fridge full of ready meals and gone off milk. Encourage him to find some on-trend men’s trainers, and get out of there before the smell becomes too much.

Of course we know these are judgements, not facts, and a keenly-trained female eye can be prey to tricks. It would be a shame to let something as silly as a man’s footwear stop you from getting to know him, so however tempting it is to dismiss the guy in the fluorescent yellow shoes or the holey horrors, remember that the man behind the trainers may be more than you think.

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Four ways to cut your energy usage

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If you’ve been hit with an expensive energy bill recently, you might be keen to find out how to prevent this being a regular occurrence. There are a number of reasons why your bill might be higher than it should be – from a faulty system (something an annual repair included in many boiler insurance policies covers) to a mistake by the supplier. If you’re satisfied neither of those are the reasons then look in to a few ways to change your habits and lower your bills.

Keep your heating at a sensible level

At this time of year it’s easy to momentarily forget about how cold indoors can be once the temperatures drop. But once winter arrives and with it chilly temperatures, you’ll likely soon be thankful for your central heating. However, cranking up the thermostat can be costly, so consider putting on an extra layer around the house if it allows the system to run at a lower temperature. Taking out boiler cover can also help to ensure that heat produced doesn’t go to waste, as can installing insulation, double glazing and draught proofing the home.

Turn off when not needed

It seems obvious when you think about it, but with so many electronic items around the average household it’s sometimes easy to forget what’s in use. Whether it’s a light left on in another room, or a mobile phone charger left plugged in to a socket, the energy drained can soon have an impact on your bills. If you’ve got a family then trying to stay on top of wastage can feel like a full time job, so it’s worth trying to get the little ones involved with reminding you to do your bit. For maximum savings remember to turn off TVs at the power switch, rather than leaving on standby, and to use the battery power on laptops and mobile phones once they reach full charge. Desktop computers should also be turned off over night. These small changes could go a long way to saving you money and helping the environment!

Go energy efficient

There are a whole host of ways you can make a switch to more energy efficient products, but perhaps the easiest is to replace your old incandescent light bulbs with more modern compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs. Not only will these last longer, but they’ll save you money too, with the Energy Saving Trust pointing out that lighting alone is responsible for around eight per cent of household energy bills. When it comes to outside lighting it’s worth using the kind with sensors, which will come on when you approach them and turn off after a certain amount of time. These are a great security feature for your home and help you to avoid having to choose being constant light or darkness throughout the night.

Use an energy monitor

To monitor your energy usage in real time getting an energy monitor might be the way to go. These typically provide you with this in kWh and also provide details on carbon emissions and costs. They’re a great way to get a better idea of how different appliances affect your energy bills and could help you to lower your consumption. These are available at various shops, with prices ranging from around £40 to £100, depending on the features they have. Some energy suppliers will also provide you with one as part of certain tariffs, although it’s worth being aware that all information they provide is for your reference only and isn’t send on to the company itself.

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How does fancy dress help child development?

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Fancy dress is a favourite past time of many children and a popular theme for many of their birthday parties. Most parents allow their children to play with costumes and make costumes out of anything they can find in the home because they can see how much fun they have, however fancy dress is also extremely beneficial to their development and is pretty essential to aid their growth. As a parent it’s great to know that the beaming smile on your child’s face is not only because they’re happy and having fun but because they’re doing something that’s improving their health and development.

Fancy Dress

When children dress up they take on a whole different persona and entertain themselves purely with their imagination for hours on end – something they generally struggle to do when they’re aware of the fact that they have to entertain themselves. Although parent’s love their children to have fun they also feel guilty if they’re not constantly teaching something in order to help their progression which is why allowing them to dress up is a win, win situation because they’re having fun and learning at the same time. As an adult it probably isn’t obvious how donning a princess dress and tiara or a pirates outfit with a sword is helping your child’s development, but once you know the benefits you’ll be encouraging them to dress up out of anything they can find all the time.

Cognitive development

Fancy dress helps with a child’s cognitive development because it encourages them to think as another person as well as improving their problem solving skills. You might not think that a child’s problem solving skills can improve without them being presented with a problem however children are extremely good at creating their own problems especially in a fantasy world where nothing is as it seems. When you’re son is pretending to be a pirate the likelihood is that he’ll be trying to work out how he can get off the imaginary island that he’s stranded on. Quite often, as well as coming up with their own personas, children will try to portray their favourite characters from TV shows and even adults that they know very well, for example, their parents. When mimicking people that they’re familiar with children will not only copy their actions but they’ll adapt their voices to try and imitate the things that they’d say too.

Emotional development

Like we said before, fancy dress and role play don’t just assist with one area of development but many, and another that it really helps with is their emotional development. When playing a character children are much more likely to show their emotions in order to make their characters more believable – for example, pirates are generally pretty angry so their manner will show this, whereas princesses are very calm, quiet and ladylike and this will be represented in your child’s behaviour.

 Language development

Through the imitation of others and the adaption of their mannerisms in order to fit in with the character that they’re trying to portray, children will also adapt their vocabulary in order to imitate their chosen character even more realistically. Quite often children will copy phrases that are associated with the character that they’re portraying, for example, if it’s their parents then something along the lines of ‘come on now it’s time for bed’ or ‘would you like a cup of tea’ are usually popular.

Social development

When dressing up the majority of the time children are with a friend, group of friends or siblings who play different characters – often rivals – and although a lot of the time they’ll be in character they will also halt the game while they all gather round to plan what’s going to happen next so that no one has to come out of character.

Physical development

The amount of energy they use in pirate fights and walking around in princess parades helps build your children’s stamina, muscles and will help with their growth. It might not seem like they’re doing a lot but the constant movement as opposed to sitting still in front of the TV will be a great impact on their health.

Thinking about it you probably always knew the benefits that this type of active play could have on your child’s development but the likelihood is that you never really thought that deeply about it. Fancy dress and role play is something that the majority of children will want to take part in naturally and won’t need any kind of encouragement. Children quite often want to pretend to be an adult and when they ask to help you with the washing up or cleaning the car it’s because they’re pretending to be you and it’s important to allow them to do this and for you to indulge in their games if you want to aid their development even further.

Party Britain is one of Britain’s leading fancy dress supplier, stocking every adult and child’s costume you can imagine.

 

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Inspiration for the October half term

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Before we know it the OCtober Half term will be up on us.  So book now for October half term breaks, alternatively you could spend the break at home and make the most of the generally dry days.

Get Back to Nature

Autumn is the perfect time for a woodland walk.  Why not set your child a treasure hunt and look out for lots of Autumn nature.  You could draw a list for younger children, maybe include a yellow leaf, a conker, an acorn and a pine cone.  For older children see how many different trees they can spot.

Alternatively why not visit a local beach.  Yes swim wear weather is over, but that doesn’t stop you taking a bucket and spade and making the most of the quieter beach.  Make sure you wrap up warm.  You could keep a look out for treasure including shells and unusual stones.

Prepare for Halloween

We love crafts and now is the perfect time to get crafting for halloween.  You can turn orange balloons in to pumpkins or make halloween ghosts.    Why not make some Salt Dough Halloween Decorations:

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Basic recipe

2 cups of plain flour
1 cup of salt
1 cup of warm water
  • I also add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to make the final decoration harder.
  •  Mix the flour, salt and lemon juice adding water until you get a firm dough. Then knead the dough.  The more you kneed the more pliable the dough will become.
  •  We basically roll out the dough and cut out our decorations with a cookie cutter.  Then use a straw to cut out a hole for ribbon.
  •  We cook our dough at the lowest oven temperature for 3 hours, then leave overnight before we paint and decorate them.

Get Baking

My children love to bake, but we do not often have the time.  Half term is perfect for getting all inventive with the flour and make lots of different things.  Do not limit yourself to sweet food.  Why not try making pizza dough or bread with your children.  Younger children adore kneading dough.

 

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Activities for the darker Evenings

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With the weather changing and the darker nights creeping in, I am looking for activities and ideas for things to do with the children after school, but I want to make them fun and exciting.  I also want to encourage them to spend time away from electronics.  Mini is an avid reader and I want to transfer that enjoyment to writing and we both loved these fab tips from Scottish Friendly and The Etherington Brothers, so we are going to have a go at Storytelling.  I am not going to insist that we write down our stories, but I want to make it fun.  We have some fab story cubes that Maggie from Red Ted Art sent us a couple of year ago that we have got out and put on the table and we are also going to have a go at making some ourselves too.

The library is a regular haunt of ours once the darker evenings set in.  We walk up after school and spend some time reading books and making and then re making choices of books we are going to check out.

Other activities we are going to do include:

  1. Board Games
  2. Drawing
  3. Hama beads
  4. learning embroidery together
  5. Make a start on making christmas cards
  6. cooking and baking together
  7. Swimming
  8. Make a photo book from the summer photographs
  9. Some kitchen science
  10. Make some jigsaws.

What do you do with your children once the darker nights draw in and they can not play outside as much?

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What is on my Ipad for 7 and 8 year olds

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We have a family Ipad in The Mad House and over the summer I have let the boys have access to it, so I thought I would share the minimad’s favorite apps.  One thing to note is that we have in-app purchases turned off and the boys do not have access to passwords, so we have never had to buy any add ons.

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Minion Rush – Minion rush is all about collecting bananas and after the success of Despicable Me 2 at the cinema, which the boys loved they have been playing this a lot.   it is in the style of Temple Run, but you have to collect Bananas!   As you play Minion Rush, you’ll want to make sure you collect all the tokens and bananas you can because if you run into something, you’ll have to cough up some of them in order to continue. Each time you run into an obstacle during a level the amount of bananas or tokens you’ll need to advance becomes larger.

Candy Crush – We are a little late to the candy crush party.  It is a somewhat addictive game which is based on Bejeweled.   As a parent I like it as once the boys have run out of lives they have to play with something else!

Clash of Clans - This was introduced to the boys by a friend of theirs and they each seem to have their own clan.   It is a combat strategy game. Build your village, train your troops and battle with thousands of other players online.

Stick Cricket and Stick Cricket Robot - It has been the summer of cricket for us, what with the Ashes win and the wonderful weather, which means the boys ahve been playing street cricket most evenings with friends.   MadDad is a big fan of stick cricket too!

Do you let your children play on your iphone or ipad?  If so what are their favorite games?

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Great Sources for rainy day activities

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We have had a lovely summer, but for me that means that we might have a wet winter and Autumn.  Sometimes it can be hard to know where to look for great budget friendly rainy day activities.  Well worry no more, as I am going to share with you my top five websites for brilliant craft, play and rainy day activities.

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Nurturestore

I have know Cathy since we both started blogging and I have watched as Nurturestore has taken the learning by play world by storm.  It is a fantastic resource full of play activities.  Cathy also has a weekly newsletter which is filled with an activity a day for the coming week.   Cathy also an ebook called the garden classroom, which I have and it is brilliant.

Rainy Day Mum

With a blog title of rainy day mum Cerys does not disappoint.  Her blog is filled with loads of activities for rainy days, but it also preschool and toddler fun ideas too.  There is also a regular Tuesday Tots roundup which is filled with amazing things to do and inspiration.

Science Sparks

I adore Science Sparks and so do my boys.  There is a wealth of activities that are science based. We particularly love the kitchen based science and the fact that there is an over five section, perfect for older children.  It is full of inspirational and education activities perfect for rainy days.

Play activities

Melitsa’s post always get me thinking.  They remind me of the need for slow parenting and that we need to make childhood an adventure.  She has some great play activities and also a raising playful tots section and if you want to listen to something inspiration whilst the children are doing an activity then per podcasts are a MUST.

A Thrifty Mum

This is one of my alter ego’s.  I try and give you ideas for parenting and fun on a budget. I have some super free printable roundups and also free online magazines for children too.

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Saving Energy in the Home [Infographic]

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Saving Energy in the Home Infographic
Brought to you by Ovo Energy the cheaper, greener and simpler energy supplier.

Old School Toys Feature In Must-Have List This Christmas

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It makes sense to start Christmas shopping early

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While most people are still trying to enjoy what remains of the good old British summer, retailers have long been scheming and planning for the festive season. This week, Argos have joined Hamleys in revealing their predicted best-sellers – before we have even got into September.

The Argos Christmas preview gave parents a glimpse at what their kids may be asking for this year, with traditional games and redesigned toys from yesteryear expected to rival the latest technology for prime of place under the Christmas tree.

Every mum and dad knows how hard it can be trying to find those must-have presents when there are only a few weeks or days left until Christmas Day. Panic can soon set in as you realise your children might end up being disappointed and may have to make do with a second-choice gift.

Despite the fact that parents might not always want to encourage their offspring by showing they are willing to cave in to every demand, it is great to surprise children at this time of year.

It is easy to go back to Christmases gone by and recall how soon toys can sell out in the shops with a long wait until stock is back in – often well into the new year.

So, in order to put yourself in the best position for getting your kids’ presents sorted out early this year and beat the Christmas rush, it is certainly worth getting acquainted with these showcased toys and a heads-up over the competition.

The comeback kids

The theme of this Christmas seems to be old-school toys with a new twist. Some traditional favourites are also making a comeback with parents buying updated versions of the things that may have been given to their younger selves just a few decades ago.

Technology may have moved on considerably since then – you only need to compare the Acorn Electron and Commodore 64 computers of the 1980s with Apple MacBook Pros and the latest portable gadgets – but it would seem like the classics still live on.

Just take a look at some of the toys featured in this article and you will see what we mean. While there are updates on last year’s fair, there are also returns for popular names from the past like Barbie and the Cabbage Patch Kids.

Return of the Furby

The cute and cuddly Furby is back, with a colourful redesign. Kids can interact with the toy using a smartphone or iPad device, allowing them to feed the creature, help it go to the toilet and all kinds of other exciting and unusual things. The new Furby Boom will cost around £59.99 (if you manage to get it in time from a reliable stockist). Its release will evoke painful memories to those parents who had to pay over the odds last year when supplies of this particular Hasbro release came to a standstill. Sites like eBay and other marketplaces became a hub of activity and the go-to places to pick up one of these elusive toys from eager resellers.

Lego Star Wars R2D2

Star Wars action figures were a hit back in the late Seventies and throughout the Eighties, with the franchise recently enjoying a rebirth through a new updated toy line. When coupled with Lego, this makes for an unstoppable combination for kids and adult collectors alike.

Sesame Street Elmo Big Hugs

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Sesame Street is another of those American imports that is still going strong. There will always be an audience for the characters created by Jim Henson. Of all the Muppets, Elmo is one of the best-loved. The original Tickle Me Elmo toy was released by Tyco Preschool in 1996. This Christmas you can have a cuddle with the Hugs edition, which will hug you back and even sing to you for a price of £49.99.

 

Remember Nerf?

 

The Nerf brand has been producing all kinds of foam-based weapons for kids since the 1970s. The latest Elite Rapidstrike CS-18 gun manages to fire at an impressive rate of 3.2 rubber darts per second, though it will set you back £49.99 for the privilege.

 

Build your own empire

 

Every adult will have at least heard of, if not played many hours of, the popular Monopoly property trading board game. With the latest iteration Monopoly Empire you can stand to own and trade some of the biggest brands in the world. This family game is designed for those aged eight and up, so is a great option for older children this Christmas

The best of modern technology

Competing against these familiar names this Christmas will be hi-tech products like the InnoTab 3S Blue, the LeapPad Ultra, the Robo Fish and the Teksta Dog. Boasting lifelike and intelligent features, the latter two of these four toys are sure to sell out fast and be included near the top of many Christmas wish lists.

Buying toys using any means possible

It has also been reported that there has been a surge in online sales and orders from mobile devices, with people willing to use any means of getting these festive must-haves. So no matter how you plan to get your hands on these hot toys and gadgets, make sure you act quickly so you can store them away knowing the build up to Christmas should be less hectic this year.

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Placing the toys around your sparkling new tree

Have you planned what you are going to do about a Christmas tree this year? Artificial Christmas trees are becoming increasingly popular due to their lifelike features and low maintenance. You can even purchase pre-lit versions through the Internet to save you the trouble of having to go out and buy lights separately. By sorting out this issue early on too, all you’ll have left is to make the family arrangements for the big day and take care of the decorations. This would be yet another weight off your mind and something else you could tick off your own list.

Christmastreesandlights.co.uk is a company that is dedicated to helping both children and families enjoy their Christmas by enhancing the festive spirit.

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Anything To Declare? An infographic by the team at NetVoucherCodes.co.uk

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Ways to make money from old video games

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If your children are anything like mine then you will be aware that things move rather quickly in the video games arena.  What is cool one week is old hat the next.  As a parent I find this frightening and also potentially very expensive.  Most games for the XBox, Wii, Playstation retail at around £40 and for new consoles much much more and it can really add up, especially if your children have an Xbox and a Nintendo 3DS like my boys do.

  1. Exchange your games – you can take your games back to your local bricks and motor game store and exchange them for vouchers and money off your next purchase.
  2. Sell on Ebay – This is not as profitable as previous due to increased postage costs
  3. Boot Sale – if you have a lot of old games the boot sale is often the way to go.  Sometimes you can get more than you would expect for them.
  4. Music Magpie – this is a great site and they exchange your games for cash, plus they send you a prepaid envelope so you do not have to even worry about paying for postage.    It is really simple all you have to do is enter or Scan the barcode of your CDs, DVDs or Games into the Valuation Engine… then click”Get Value”  You must remember to remove the paper or shop sticker barcode.

The other option, which I really like is to arrange a local swap with other families that have the same Games Console as you do.   This way you can exchange games when your children have lost interest in them and someone else can get some play out of them.  You can also swap back and your children can enjoy them again.  We do this with a couple of families that I know and also my brother too.  We also all amke sure that we buy different add ons like the Skylander characters and share them making it so much more affordable.

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How can I monitor the websites that my child is viewing?

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Just like in the days when television was a brand new thing and only watched by the lucky few, so the new phenomenon of the internet has spread across the world and is now used by many of us.  That of course includes the younger members of the family and it is up to us as parents to control and monitor the things that our children are looking at via the World Wide Web.

There are of course many websites aimed specifically at children of certain ages, and we can ensure that we steer them in their direction.  At the same time, parental controls are available to us.    But what are parental controls and what do they do?  Well in simple terms, they are features that are included within the software on computers, video games, mobile phones and lots of other devices.  They enable the adults in the home to limit access to age-appropriate content and set the controls to suit your needs and those of your child.  You can totally block certain types of sites and set the controls to enable access only to those sites that you input.  There is even advanced sophisticated software now available which can monitor everything that is viewed on the device and even track the location when the device is being used.

Obviously places like schools and colleges make good use of these filters but we as parents can also use them to our advantage.  The location tracking software is something that usually has to be added to the device as a separate piece of software, and that is a whole other ballgame.  Sufficient to say that it can be invaluable if your child or young adult uses mobile devices and you want to have the peace of mind of knowing where they are at any time, 24/7.  Some may say that this is an invasion of privacy but to parents it can be an absolute godsend.

You should also browse the internet for child-safe websites, maybe even doing this with your children so that you can both choose the ones that they like and you approve of. Child safe website quib.ly can also be a great help with this.  It is an innovative website set up specifically to help parents and children deal with technology.  This of course covers a whole network of topics and subjects.  You will find the site divided up into age groups and topics, so that you can select the areas of concern on which you want to concentrate.

Here there are like minded virtual communities of parents and children all facing the same sorts of problems and all sharing their ideas, views and solutions.  It is simple enough to register on the site and then you can make the most of the free advice and information that is readily available.  The content on the site is growing by the day as more and more parents realise what amazing benefits can be obtained.  Get browsing now and you will soon realise that you are not alone!

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Three cheap and easy summer drinks you can make at home

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When the sun’s shinning and it’s finally warm outside there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than sat in a garden or outside a café sipping a nice cold drink.

Drinks can be expensive though, especially if you’ve got kids, and a trip to your local family-friendly café can easily cost you the best part of £20 before you’ve even had anything to eat.

So if you want to get the taste of a café without the price tag, and all in the comfort of your own home, here are three drinks that will definitely hit the spot.

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Ice coffee

Refreshing, delicious and satisfying, an ice coffee can be as indulgent or diet-friendly as you like.

Begin by making an intense shot of espresso using either Tassimo Coffee machines or a cafetiere. Add your sugar while the coffee is still hot so that it dissolves and then place a few ice cubes into the mix to start the cooling process.

For a light coffee, simply add ice-cold water and milk and it’s ready to go, or for a real treat you could top your coffee with whipped cream and chocolate flakes.

Fruit smoothies

These make a great breakfast time beverage, as well as a drink you can enjoy throughout the day, and are great to make with kids.

You can pretty much add any type of fruit to the mix, just make sure everything is washed, peeled and de-stoned.

For a really great result add a teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lime before blitzing everything into a smooth liquid.

Slushies

Making slushies is easiest if you’ve got a fridge with a crushed ice dispenser, but if not you can use a food processor to cut the cube into small chunks.

Next you need to make the juicy part. The more flavour that you can get into this the better, as it will begin to dilute as soon as it hits the ice.

Use a bit of fruit juice intensified with some squash or fruit concentrate, then fill a glass to the top with ice, pour in the juice and you’re good to go. You can even add a few drops of food dye if you want to go for the authentic neon colouring.

All of these drinks are perfect for long summer days and can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Although if you’re having friends over for drinks, you can add a shot of liqueur to any of these to transform them into a delicious treat.

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