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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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?

 

 

 

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?

Family Day Out: The Doctor Who Experience, Cardiff Bay

Last weekend, we visited the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay. Being a geeky family of Whovians, this was not our first visit. It was our third. Plus it’s actually the second time we’ve been as part of my birthday celebrations.

We’re really lucky that it doesn’t take us very long at all to get the train to Cardiff Bay (trains from Cardiff Queen Street to the Bay run every 12 minutes and the journey is just 4 minutes!).

We were also lucky that the weather on Saturday was almost perfect: not too hot but a bit sunny and no rain at all! Even without a trip to the Doctor Who Experience, the Bay is one of my favourite places to visit in Cardiff.

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Having always booked tickets in advance, I’d advise doing the same to anyone planning to visit. It means no queuing to buy tickets and no chance of being told they’re fully booked (I don’t know if this regularly happens but wouldn’t want to risk it personally). You can book online then simply print off the tickets or have them sent to you and bring them along.

There is a short queue on the way into the experience but there’s plenty to look at in the foyer area – from character costumes to ancient Gallifreyan artefacts to a massive LEGO dalek!

The actual experience involves going on an adventure, guided by a member of staff and the Doctor himself! Even as an adult, this was really enjoyable and Penny and the other children there loved it, especially the interactive bits. I won’t say anymore as I wouldn’t want to spoil it. I would warn that the first time we went, Penny was about two and did get a bit scared so you might want to consider that when thinking about taking very small children. The experience has changed a few times, usually when there’s been a regeneration, so it’s been different each time we’ve gone.

After the adventure, you get the chance to look around a huge collection Doctor Who exhibit with costumes, props and monsters from the oldest classic episodes right up to the latest series. I really like that this allows you to see the evolution of some monsters like the daleks and cybermen.

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After the exhibit there is a gift shop. With birthday money to spend, I did treat myself to a couple of t shirts and a pin for my notice board.

 

My husband also bought a couple of framed prints which look brilliant in our living room.

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There is a good range in the gift shop, from lower priced souvenirs to some really amazing collectables.

Sadly, the Doctor Who Experience is closing this September, which was one of the reasons we wanted one last trip. If you’re a Whovian, or have any mini Whovians, I really recommend a visit if you can make it, it’s such a fun day out.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Summer Holidays 2017: Weeks 1 & 2

The last two weeks are not exactly how I pictured our summer holidays. I had visions of Penny and I spending long days outdoors, walking in parks and along seafronts and through woods. I had researched a whole catalogue of new picnic recipes to try.

So imagine my dismay when the forecast predicted clouds and rain just about every day.

Our holidays began as soon as Penny left school. We headed to Starbucks for our traditional end of term celebration. It was raining. Never mind, I thought, six weeks of school-free fun are ahead of us.

At the beginning of our first full week of holidays, Husband’s Mum and Nan arrived for a three day visit. We went to Cardiff Bay with them (a rare day of proper sunshine!) and took the Aquabus tour around the Bay, Penarth and the Barrage. Here’s a video I made of it:

We all went out for dinner together that evening. For their last day in Cardiff, we went for a shopping day in the city centre. It made for a good start to our holidays, even if the weather was mostly a bit grim.

Penny and I went to our local library in that first week too. Penny always takes part in the Summer Reading Challenge. This year the theme is Animal Agents and the reward for each book read is a set of clues to work out the mystery in the library. To complete the challenge, a child needs to read 6 books over the course of the summer holidays. As an overall reward, they’re presented with a medal at school when the new term begins. It’s a great scheme and I highly recommend it as a way to get the kids reading some new books over the holidays.

Last week, I was ill for several days. I’m rarely physically unwell, at least not more than a minor cold. This wasn’t serious but I ached all over and felt generally crap. By Thursday, Penny was clearly getting fed up with being indoors, however much I tried to occupy her with baking and crafts and DisneyLife. So we went back to the library as it’s close by. Just being out in the fresh air seemed to cheer her up and getting some new books and a set of stickers as reward for the ones she’d already read helped a great deal too.

On Friday, I was feeling quite a bit better and we had a bit of sunshine (along with the clouds and rain that never seem far away at the moment) so we went to Penarth for a walk along the beach and an ice cream on the pier. It did rain on us a bit but we both needed a proper day out. I felt just about entirely recovered by the weekend.

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Penarth Pier

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Penarth seafront, looking towards the Devon coastline

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Writing our names in the Sand

We had a bit of a lazy day at home on Saturday then I had to work on Sunday. Penny had a lovely day at home with Husband, playing board games.

I’m hoping for better weather and no more sickness for the next four weeks!

How’s your summer holiday going? Has the poor weather affected your plans?

Let’s Talk About PANTS

The PANTS rule was created by the NSPCC as a way to talk to your child about being in control of their bodies and keeping their private bits private. It’s a way of preventing abuse without having to talk about abuse specifically.

P stands for Privates are Private. This is about teaching children that their pants cover up their private bits. Those are the bits that aren’t for other people to see, unless it’s a parent or medical professional and then they should explain why and ask the child for permission first.

A stands for Always Remember Your Body Belongs To You. A vitally important message and one that really needs to be taught from a young age. Children should not be made to do something with their bodies that makes them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

N stands for No means No. Even if it’s a trusted family member asking for a hug, a child has the right to say no and it’s our job to teach them that. And if they say no, their choice should be respected, not treated like a bad thing.

T stands for Talk About Secrets That Upset You. Children should feel that if someone tells them a secret they feel uncomfortable with, they can tell another grown up they trust. Two of our key values as a family are honesty and being open with each other. If it’s something like a birthday surprise, then we say it’s a ‘Good secret’, to make clear that it’s not something bad that’s being hidden.

S stands for Speak Up, Someone Can Help. This is about making sure a child knows they have a range of people to speak to if someone does something to make them feel scared or uncomfortable. Again, this is about making sure there’s open discussion and that any problem or worry can be talked about and wherever possible, we’re here to help.

The NSPCC have also created a fun character – Pantosaurus – complete with his song about PANTS. This makes the whole message that bit more child friendly and hopefully memorable too!

I cannot overstate how importantly I view this conversation. It’ll take a bit of time and maybe there’ll be some awkward questions but you’re keeping your child safe. I know it’s not something we want to think about but child abuse does happen. I think many people have some stereotype in mind of the kind of family abuse occurs in but this is simply false.

If you read my last ‘Let’s Talk About…’ post, you’ll know that I’m a survivor of child abuse myself. I can tell you that from my personal experience, if I had been told the PANTS rule, I might have told someone right when the abuse began, before the serious damage had been done. Instead I just felt scared and confused, convinced to hide what was happening. I, and many other people like me, could have been saved from a horrific childhood, as well as a lifetime of consequences to deal with.

Please have this conversation with your child today.

Thanks for reading.

Family Day Out: Caerphilly Castle

The first week of the Easter Holidays brought us some lovely Spring weather. Knowing that the sunshine can disappear as quickly as it arrives, we made the most of it with a trip to Caerphilly Castle.

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Sitting right in the middle of the town of Caerphilly and surrounded by an extensive moat, the castle is partly ruins with one ominously leaning tower, although in nice weather this makes for a pleasant walk.

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Pip was thrilled to find dragons in the castle grounds!

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These sculptures were amazing, such beautiful detail. The red dragon has apparently been at the castle for a long time, while the blue was added more recently.

Signs warned us not to approach the geese that waddled about, as they’re nesting at the moment.

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We walked up a winding narrow staircase to reach the top of the castle. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on spiral staircases, particularly ones with ancient slippery steps and even less so when my daughter happily bounds up them when I’d rather she take her time. There’s no stopping little adventurers! However, I’d say the view from the top is well worth the climb.

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I would say that this is not a suitable day out for pushchairs or wheelchairs. There’d be very little you could see and even navigating the grounds could be tricky.

The price of entry was perhaps a little expensive for what’s on offer. £7.95 for adults, £5.20 for students, senior citizens and under 16s or £23.70 for a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children). I understand that maintaining an ancient structure costs money and that’s probably reflected in the price but there wasn’t a lot to interact with. I suppose I’m comparing that with Cardiff Castle, which as Cardiff residents, we only have to pay £6 every 3 years for our Castle Keys for unlimited entries and reduced event prices.

After spending a couple of hours walking around the castle and the obligatory visit to the gift shop, we ended our day out with a drink in the visitor centre cafe.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip. It was a good learning experience and an enjoyable walk outdoors in the Spring sunshine!

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