The Weekend Box September 2017 review

Last month, we received a Weekend Box. Yes, this post is a teeny bit late but with my daughter’s birthday and lots of other family stuff going on, blogging and vlogging had to take a bit of a back seat in the last couple of weeks.

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The Weekend Box teamed up with Snazaroo, who I’m sure we’re all familiar with as a face paints brand.

The box contained one mini kit that had the paints for a tiger face design and a birthday party stamp kit with several paints and stamps.

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Here’s my vlog review of the box:

 

We were really pleased with this box. My daughter loves dressing up so she found face painting really fun.

If you’d like to subscribe to the Weekend Box yourself, here’s a link.

Disclaimer: We were sent a Weekend Box free of charge for review purposes.

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Life as a ‘Girl Mum’

A common phrase on social media and in the blogging world at the moment seems to be ‘Boy Mum/Mom’. This phrase accompanies pictures of or posts about boys getting muddy, making mess and generally being the boisterous, unhygienic, loud, football-loving, book-hating creatures that stereotype tells us they’re supposed to be. I could write a whole post on how damaging that stereotype is (and I probably will). Today, however, I’d like to give you a comparison.

I am a Girl Mum. Actually, I’d never describe myself that way usually, I’ve literally just used that phrase to counter ‘Boy Mum’. I’m a Mum. Anyway, my point was that I am parent to a girl and only a girl. What does that look like?

Well, I imagine that on a daily basis, it looks pretty similar to parenting any other child. I make sure she’s washed and dressed every day. I give her food. I listen to her read. I help with her homework. I get her to school on schooldays.

But what do we do for fun? Well, I look through those ‘Boy Mum’ pictures and posts and I have to say, it looks pretty familiar. Trips to the park, where she generally ends up covered in grass and mud stains. We might take her bike with us, or a ball to kick around together. We might go to collect leaves and other things to take home and look at under her microscope. We go fossil hunting on the beach. We have Nerf battles, our house is often littered with darts that I find weeks later under furniture or lurking in corners. She plays computer games – LEGO Dimensions is the big favourite at the moment. She’s just started up a new hobby – Warhammer 40K, which she plays with her Dad (I am not a fan, just not my thing). Her army are Nurgles, which she picked because, in her own words, ‘they look gross and really vicious’. She loves reading adventure stories with plenty of pirates and ghosts. She watches Marvel films, Doctor Who and Star Trek.

Do I think this is a picture of life that other parents of girls would recognise? Actually, I reckon there are going to be bits they do and bits they don’t. I don’t reckon every parent of a boy would recognise everything in that description either. You see, I have this sneaky suspicion that all children are different and therefore like different things.

Some people are definitely going to accuse me (because they have before) of purposefully directing my daughter towards activities that counter existing stereotypes. Well, no I haven’t. In addition to everything I already listed, she likes baking, My Little Pony and has recently developed something bordering on an obsession with Disney’s The Descendants. She frequently chooses to wear floral dresses (although she’ll equally be found in jeans and t-shirts most days). I believe it’s my job as a parent to introduce my child to as many different experiences as possible (obviously allowing for safety) and encourage her in anything she takes an interest in. I would still be doing this if I’d given birth to a boy instead of a girl.

 

The only difference I can seriously think of between being parent to a girl compared to a boy is that I didn’t need to teach my daughter to pee standing up. That’s it.

So please stop assuming that your life with muddy children and a house filled with dinosaurs and comic book characters looks like that because your children are male. You are only perpetuating a stereotype. I know that’s easily done. After all, we’re surrounded by stereotypes. They’re constantly reinforced by media and other people and our own experiences (which were probably also modelled on stereotypes, creating a vicious cycle). But we can stop doing it and I believe we should. It is damaging. Instead, let’s accept that all children are uniquely themselves. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Thanks for reading.

 

Guest Post: It’s Never Too Soon to Teach Kids About Cleaning

Like many parents, I’m forever telling my child to tidy her room and pick up her toys. However, I don’t think it occurred to me until fairly recently that she’ll need to learn to do all chores eventually and there are quite a few that she could be helping out with already. I’m not saying we should be getting the children to do housework while we sit down with a cup of tea. But perhaps they could be helping out just a teeny bit more!

My guest poster is Nicole Gardiner, London-based cleaning business owner. She has a few tips to share how on to get children helping out around the house.

It’s never too soon to teach kids about cleaning

Teaching your children how to do cleaning chores will not just simply help you tremendously around the house but it will also teach them some valuable lessons which will be very helpful in their life as adults. It’s never too soon to show them how to do some simple cleaning tasks. Of course you should choose age-appropriate chores but their young age is not a reason to not teach them basic skills.

 

Set some rules

If you are having a hard time to make your kids to clean after their mess, you should start by showing them that there are certain rules they need to follow and there are consequences if they don’t keep those rules in mind. Tell your children that it is important to put their toys in a certain place or box before they move on the next toy. Even if they don’t pay you attention right away, you shouldn’t give in and do the decluttering on your own. Warn your kids that you will store away every toy which is laying on the floor. This will definitely motivate them after they loose a few of their favourite toys.

 

Teach them to declutter

This chore is hard even for adults and this is why it is important to teach your children how to properly clean their rooms from a young age. This is a very helpful skill which will be of a great help for your child when he/ she grows up to be an adult. Baskets may be great tools to make the decluttering easier. It is simpler to collect all the clothes at first and then store all the items that actually belong in the room and finally choose which toys can be kept and which can be donated. A lot of children are reluctant to throw away their old toys, however, if they are told that they can donate them to another kid and make him/ her happy, this makes the process much easier.

 

Let them help with the laundry

Kids can learn about sorting the laundry as early as 3 years old. In fact a lot of toddlers find the sorting of the laundry as some kind of a game. Older toddlers can even learn how to load and unload the washing machine and the dryer. If you start including your children in the laundry chores from a young age, you can be sure that by the time they become 10 years old they will be ale to do everything on their own and be a great help around the house.

 

Making the bed

This is probably one of the first things you can teach your kids. Show them how to make their beds properly. This is a skill which can contribute to the building of the character of your children. A good way to make the whole chore much easier is to eliminate any extra pillows or sheets, if your child doesn’t use them. This way the making of their beds will be much easier and faster.

It is never too soon to teach your children some valuable lessons. If your kid knows how to tackle some house cleaning chores from a young age, it will improve their personal skills a lot. Teaching your kids to be organized and tidy will help them to become responsible adults. Next time you do the house cleaning chores, don’t be afraid to include your little helpers in the process. The sooner you start to teach your children about cleaning, the easier it will be for them to handle difficult situations in life when they become adults.

My Thoughts on ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free’ Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about the first part of a programme on BBC Two called ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’. Last night the second part was aired. It’s currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

In the first part, presenter and doctor Javid began an experiment to see if removing differences of gender from the lives of children, their opinions and behaviour could be changed.

This continues in the second part. The children are given tangram puzzles to solve, which can help develop spacial awareness, a trait commonly thought of as naturally stronger in males. However, as experts (such as Gina Rippon, professor of cognitive imaging, featured in the programme) have found that the brain changes its structure depending on experiences. This idea could mean that if boys and girls were given equal opportunity to practice developing spacial awareness, there would be no gender difference in this skill. Indeed, results of this experiment show that while the girls initially struggled more than the boys (who more commonly played with LEGO and other toys that can also develop this skill), by the end of two weeks practice, this difference disappeared and abilities were far more equal.

This part of the programme focused heavily on the toys and clothes that children are given, which Javid claims are separated mainly into blue for boys and pink for girls, with stereotyped slogans common for each. Examples given in the programme were t shirts saying ‘Forever Beautiful’ for a girl and ‘Here comes trouble for a boy’. In those slogans are stereotypes that for a girl, the ultimate aspiration is be physically attractive and to remain so, while boys are almost expected to have poor behaviour and be tough and aggressive. None of these messages are positive. My own daughter does like wearing dresses but equally she likes wearing jeans and a t shirt. She has owned more than one t shirt that came from the boys section of a shop, simply because they had designs she liked (both had super heroes on). I’m pretty careful about clothing anyway, especially as a lot of the clothes for girls are, in my opinion, really inappropriate for the age they’re designed for. I could get seriously lost in a tangent on this though so I’ll stop that there!

Javid visited the children’s homes to try and help the parents take away gender differences there too. A girl’s pink dolls and princess toys were bagged up and removed from her room. While they were later replaced with other, more neutral toys, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad for her. I know my daughter is quite attached to some of her toys so this felt a bit harsh. Couldn’t neutral toys and dressing up clothes (this girl had a wardrobe filled to bursting with princess dresses) be offered without taking away toys the child already owns? While I agree that having a variety is good, I don’t see anything wrong with a girl having a princess dress or doll if that’s what she wants. Looking in my own daughter’s room, she does have quite a bit of pink but equally lots of other colours and a real variety of toys – dolls that live in her doll’s house, a jewellery box and lots of cuddly toys but also a big box full of books (none of which are very girly as that just isn’t the kind of story she likes) and an enormous collection of LEGO that is threatening to take over the whole room! She does have some pink, girly stuff but there’s also a Spiderman poster on her wall and an Incredible Hulk figure on her windowsill. It’s her room and looking at it shows the vast variety of her interests.

Replacement toys were given to the children to make up for the ones that had been removed. Marble runs and robot kits for the girls, sewing and craft kits for the boys. All of the children seemed to enjoy them and I did think this was a positive way of challenging the toy stereotyping. I simply think it could have been done without taking the children’s possessions away from them.

Another change made was having the children all use unisex toilets. I wasn’t sure I saw the point of this but when you think about it, toilets at home are unisex so why are they using separate toilets? It was not a change that the children really liked. The girls said that the boys’ lack of hygiene put them off using the bathroom with one girl saying that she tried to hold it in all day – very unhealthy! As it was only one block of toilets that had been made unisex, that meant that a whole class of 30 children had only 3 toilets to use between them. These are issues that could be solved though. The boys’ awareness of hygiene, regardless of any gender experiment, needs to be addressed anyway as it’s a health risk. Also, if these changes were made school-wide and all toilets were unisex, the issue of a lack of toilets to use would be solved too. However, I’m still not convinced by this particular change.

Chores were also looked at. In the UK, women do 60% more of the unpaid work such as household chores and childcare. Initially, it seemed that even when the children’s fathers took on more of the chores, the children still believed that it was more of a female task. An experiment on the beach showed mixed results, with the children splitting themselves off into mixed gender groups for the tasks of preparing the picnic or preparing the fire pit but then the boys lost interest and blamed this on preparing food being a ‘girl’s thing’. In our house, I do pretty much all of the housework and more of the childcare than my husband does. However, he works at a full time job, while I only work part time. I have been careful to explain to my daughter that this, rather than our genders, is the reason for the way we manage these things and that other families do things differently, depending on what works for them. If I were to start working full time, the way we manage work at home would change.

The children were then split into mixed teams to practice playing football, a stereotypically male sport. When asked if they wanted to remain in mixed teams or change into boys vs. girls, most of the children chose to remain in their mixed teams – a positive result. I know my daughter has struggled to be ‘allowed’ to play football with her male friends at school and often feels the boys are being too rough for her to join in.

At the end of the programme, Javid presented the overall results from tests that were done at the beginning of the experiment and repeated at the end.

The difference between boys and girls in self esteem dropped from 8% to 0.2% with many of the girls saying they felt more confident, echoed by their teachers and parents. The girls also started using more positive words such as ‘unique’ and ‘happy’ to describe themselves, rather than ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’ and were 40% more accurate when predicting their own abilities when at the beginning they had tended to drastically underestimate themselves.

The boys’ pro-social behaviour improved by 10% and they scored higher on the emotional intelligence tests.  Their female classmates, their teachers and their parents all commented that the boys had become more caring and empathetic and less aggressive.

These results, to me, are really indicative of the positive changes that come from challenging gender stereotypes.

This school’s headteacher announced that she wants to extend the changes made in the classroom to the entire school. I hope that other parents and educators watching the programme take similar steps. I would love to see my daughter’s school making these changes.

Mr Andre, the teacher whose class took part in the experiment, took on board where he needed to change and has embraced it so whole heartedly that he’s now presenting new gender neutral teaching methods, not just within his own school but also to the Institute of Education. I hope this leads to UK-wide change.

Personally, I think this programme has shown the good that can come from making boys and girls more equal. Of course there are biological differences between the genders. But in most ways, we can be equal and if we start showing our children this now, maybe our future society can be a more equal place for all.

What were your thoughts on this programme?

 

 

 

Trying the 5:2 Diet

I am the Queen of Yo-yo Dieting (yes, that is my official title).

I generally manage about a month, maybe two of healthy eating and exercise before the treats start to creep in and before you know it I’m consuming whole tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting (yes, really).

I heard about the 5:2 ages ago. I heard 500 calories a day and immediately dismissed it. However, recently I heard some positive things about it on social media and decided it might be worth another look. I spotted the book ‘The Fast Diet’ by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer at our local library, borrowed it and read it.

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The idea is that you eat normally for 5 days of the week but fast for the other 2. On fast days you eat only 500 calories (for a woman, it’s 600 for men). Aside from weight loss, which should occur due to the 3000 calorie deficit you’re creating, there are loads of other health and wellbeing claims made about this diet – such as lowering your chance of getting diabetes or heart disease and helping you live longer. Ever the skeptic, I always need a lot of convincing on any health claims made about diets or certain foods or supplements. There have been a number of studies and the results have all been pretty encouraging. Plus, the more I read the book, the more I began to think that this could suit me pretty well.

There are always a couple of days in the week (usually when I’m working and Penny has after school activities) that I’m so busy that I could probably manage eating only 500 calories without constantly thinking about food all day long. There are also days during the week (like Date Night and weekends) when I’d love to not worry about calorie counting or anything like that.

So, I’ve decided to give this a try. It could well be that a month from now, I’ll have given up on it. But could it also be that this can really work for me, sustainably and long term?

My first fast day will be tomorrow. I’m starting work at 7 so I’ll just have a banana for breakfast beforehand. I finish work at 3 and I’ll have another snack when I get home. Then I’ll have a small portion of whatever I make for dinner.

I do have a few concerns. Firstly, I’m picking my busiest days to fast on because I think I’ll be able to keep my mind off food if I’ve got lots of other stuff going on. This might not work because my job is cooking and serving food. But food I know I can’t possibly eat in any case, diet or no diet. Another concern is that surely I’m going to need more energy on a day when I’m busy. My job isn’t physically challenging exactly but I am on my feet all day. What if I get halfway through a shift and run out of energy?

I will give this a proper try and see if I can make it work for me and my family life. I’ll update you next week to tell you how I’m getting on!

 

 

My Top 5 Family Tabletop Games

It’s been ages since I posted a games review and since we’ve been having such wet weather (It’s August, for goodness sake!), I thought I’d share with you some of our favourite tabletop games to play as a family. These are perfect for rainy days and for everyone to enjoy – not just the kids!

No.1 Rampage 

This game is a really noisy and kind of messy one but so much fun! You each play a monster trying to destroy a city, knocking down buildings and eating Meeple (that’s tabletop speak for little model people).

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No. 2 Dream Home

A great one for anyone who loved building houses in the Sims. Basically the idea is that each of you builds a house, using room cards and various little extras like paintings to go on the wall or a birdhouse to put in the garden. Be prepared to get weirdly competitive about roof patterns! (That makes it sound dull but it’s honestly good family fun)

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No. 3 Sushi Go

This is a quick & cute one. It’s only 15 minutes long (roughly) so good for filling a little bit of time. It’s a card game rather than board game so there’s not much setup either. Basically you collect different kinds of sushi to collect points. Plus, the sushi is really cute!

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No. 4 Mice & Mystics

This is for a family that is ready for a longer, more involved games. It’s a story driven RPG game, where you all play people that have been magically transformed into mice, who have to fight rats and millipedes. I love this game. It takes over an hour to play though, so I advise planning a break halfway through. It is cooperative so you get to work as a team and there are no squabbles over who wins!

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No. 5 Machi Koro

I think this is my favourite out of the five. It’s certainly the one we play most. What I really love about it is that it’s a strategy game (with a bit chance as well, obviously) that Penny has a good chance of winning, without us helping or purposefully doing badly ourselves (which we actually never do in our house, but I’ll probably talk more about that another time!). The aim is to build up a city with it’s own economy. You win basically by making the most money out of various resources and assets (it is a bit more complex than that but I won’t go into too much detail here).

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Here’s my vlog of these games so you see a little more detail of each game:

By the way, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’m uploading more regularly now. Thanks to everyone who has been watching!

I hope I’ve inspired you to maybe put aside your old copy of Monopoly and try out a new tabletop game!

What are your favourite family games?

10 Ways to Combat Depression

If you’re regular reader of this blog or if you know me in real life, you might already know that I suffer with PTSD, with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

I first realised I had depression when I was about 21. I was diagnosed with PTSD a little while after that then took anti depressants for two years and had some counselling. These things helped me reach the point of accepting exactly what I’m dealing with, that it’s not my fault or some kind of weakness and that I will probably have to cope with it for the rest of my life.

Actually learning how to cope with it has taken me years and it’s by no means something I’ve perfected. I still have bad days, weeks and months and I know I probably always will. But at least I’ve worked out some things that help (and some things that make it much worse!). I’d like to share these things with you. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, do try them out. However, I’m totally aware that mental illness is different from person to person so I cannot make any kind of guarantee that any of this will work for anyone other than myself. I’m also not a medical professional and I have no training or qualifications in this field. I’ve just done a lot of research and have my personal experience to go on.

If you use any other techniques, please share them. I’m always open to any ideas that could help me or anyone else coping with depression or anxiety.

So here’s my list of ten ways to combat depression:

  1. Healthy eating. Notice, I did not say dieting. My struggle with weight loss is really tangled up in my mental illness but dieting, for me, isn’t the answer. When I diet, I do it obsessively and not healthily. Instead, I’ve learnt that making healthy choices and making sure I’m eating lots of fresh, nutritious foods really helps me. Feeling guilty and shameful about treating myself to an ice cream or a pizza does not help me and I doubt it’ll help you either.
  2. Exercise. This does not have to involve going to the gym or taking part in any activities that you really hate (unless literally expending energy is something you hate, I suppose). Exercise could be walking, jogging, running, swimming, yoga, pilates, cardio, group classes, gym, cycling….really the list is endless. Just find something active that you can do that makes you feel good. Personally, I love long walks outdoors, somewhere peaceful and full of nature. I also enjoy cardio & pilates but only in the privacy of my own home!
  3. Get outdoors. As I said, long walks outdoors can make me happy. But just being outdoors, preferably somewhere natural, makes me feel so much better. It could be in the woods, by the seaside or a lake, or even in my local park. Just being out of your house can make you feel better, although I’m all too aware of how challenging doing that can feel some days.
  4. Read a book. This one feels very personal to me but from what I’ve read, it’s true of a lot of people. It probably feels personal because it’s a personal experience. I love to read generally anyway but if I’m having a bad day, there are a few books I can dip into for an hour or so and feel so much calmer and even a bit happier. Harry Potter is top of that list for me. If you’re stuck on what to read and you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, try reading ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig. Reading that book helped to pull me out of a really bad depressive phase and I know it’s done the same for many others. In fact, the other two books I’ve read by Matt Haig (‘How to Stop Time’ and ‘The Humans’) both really helped my mood. Watching films can have a similar effect, I find, though not as consistently. Oh and ignore book snobs. If a book makes you feel good, read it, whatever some critic said.
  5. Treat yourself. This does not have to involve spending money. Given that for many people, money is something they’re often anxious about (myself included), it’s good to have a few ideas of things you can do that feel like a treat but are actually low cost or free. Having a bath, could be one example, or taking a walk (when you’ve been super busy with work or being a parent or whatever else, taking a walk on your own somewhere peaceful can feel like such a treat).
  6. Spend time with friends and/or family. I know that sometimes socialising can feel so draining and so anxiety-inducing but if you feel like you can face it then do. It doesn’t have to be meeting new people or being in a crowd or going somewhere loud. It could be a coffee with an old friend or relative. It could be sharing a special dinner with your partner or playing a game with your children.
  7. Spend time alone. Yes, I know this appears to contradict no. 6 but this isn’t a list of things to do all at once. Sometimes I really need to be with other people but sometimes I really need to be on my own. Just some peace and quiet without any expectations or obligations.
  8. Writing. Okay, so writing is something I love. But I’m not saying everyone needs to take up blogging or writing fiction. Writing in a diary could be really helpful, especially when you’re trying to work out triggers. It could just be a space to express your totally honest thoughts and feelings without worrying about the judgement of anyone else. I occasionally write letters to people I feel angry with. They’re never sent, obviously, but it genuinely makes me feel better.
  9. Practice calming techniques. This could be yoga, Tai Chi, breathing exercises, meditation. There are loads to try and I recommend giving a few a go. That way, when you’re having a bad day or feel really panicked, you’ll have a few ideas of ways you can quickly calm down, even temporarily.
  10. Take care of yourself. This is something important that I forget quite a lot: I am worth taking care of. And so are you. You are worth having a shower and putting on fresh clothes. You are worth eating proper meals. You are worth having some time to yourself for what you want to do. Yes, sometimes other things have to take priority, like work and childcare. Yes, some days just getting out of bed feels like such a challenge. But you’ll feel better if you’re clean and healthy. You’re not doing it for anyone else’s benefit, you’re doing it for yourself.

 

So there’s my list. Do comment with any of these that work for you or share other things that work for you!

If you’re having a bad day or week or month, I hope tomorrow is a better day for you. Even if it’s just a tiny bit better.

Thanks for reading.