Wednesday, May 25

How and where to find bugs and minibeasts

What is it about children and bugs?  They just love to find them, search for them, hold them and generally get mucky, messy and dirty!  It's not a bad thing of course and is something I actively encourage.

We love getting back to nature and being outdoors. The messier the better in our books because lets face it kids will only be small for such a short while and the dirt can easily be cleaned away.

With the release of Minuscule in cinemas on the 27th May the kids have seen a few trailers are excited to hopefully see this over the half term, this has placed bugs and minibeast in our minds so we have been exploring the outdoors and discussing the best place to find bugs within our local environment, without spending any money.

A photo posted by Clare Nicholas (@emmysmummy1) on

For a bug hunting adventure you will need:
  • Magnifying glass
  • Clear pot with a lid
  • Net and bucket for pond dipping
  • Spade
  • Old clothes or ones you don't mind getting messy
  • Tweezers
  • Paint brush

Looking for bugs:

You don't have to venture too far to find bugs and minibeast. Your local woods, stream and back garden will turn up many different types of creepy crawlies, you just need to know where to look.

  • These can be found in rotten wood piles and under leaf litter
  • You will find beetles and earwigs by moving piles of wood - so if you have a logpile in the garden ready for winder fires move the bottom ones where it is damp and dark as they like to hide under these.  Piles of sticks will also make a great home and the bottom of trees where the bark is coming away.
    You'll also find them hiding and feeding under piles of fallen leaves so if you've a tree in the garden with lots of fallen leaves under it gently move them away and you'll find lots of bugs hiding
  • These can be found on nettles, thistles and plants where greenfly like to congregate. - you'll find a more comprehensive guide to their habitat here.
  • These can be found under stones and slabs all year round.  You can find them in your garden while you have a picnic are they are attracted to sweet substances. 
  • We have been looking at ants closely in our ant world - the children loved building this and watching them to create their own burrows and seeing them eating the food they placed out for them - you can read our review here.

  • These can be found in gardens and fields collecting nectar and pollens
  • There are many plants and flowers which attract butterflies including: Lavendar, Lilac, Butterfly bush and snap dragons - there are many more too.
  • We enjoyed watching our caterpillars grow and change into butterflies although Emmy did cry when we released our butterflies 
  • These can be found under the ground and in compost heaps
  • One method to encourage worms out of the ground is to mix 2 heaped tablespoons of mustard powder into 2 litres of cold water.  Pour this over a bare patch of soil or an area with short grass.  Sit back and wait, some earthworms may appear immediately and others may take longer.  You can read my guest post on finding worms over on Edspire blog here.

Slugs and Snails:
  • These can be found in dark moist areas such as under logs and in flower pots, they feed on young plants (and in my garden will always be found eating the children's sunflowers). 
    Slugs and snails need to stay moist to survive, so if it is very warm you will find them hauled up under over turned pots, under wheelbarrows or even under polystyrene plant trays in the garden trying to find moisture and shade.

Both Emmy and Harry love looking for and collecting bugs, my advice would be to do this together and supervise these activities so you know just what they are picking up and know it won't sting or bite them, plus you can ensure they are careful with the creatures, or in my case leave them outside once finished and not in a box next to their beds!

If of course you don't fancy getting too close and personal with bugs in your garden you could take the children to see the new movie:  Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants is in cinemas on Friday, May 27th, courtesy of Lionsgate UK
    "In a peaceful little clearing, the remains of a picnic hastily abandoned spark a standoff between two tribes of ants. A bold and brave young ladybird finds himself caught in the middle of the battle but, having befriended Mandible, one of the black ants determined to protect their haul of sugar cubes, sides are picked. With the safety of the black ants’ nest at risk, our plucky ladybird helps take on the aggressive red ants, led by the evil Butor, and must use all his ingenuity and resolve to win the day.
    A fantastic tale taking place at ground level, MINUSCULE is the perfect half term treat for all the family. Based on the popular CBeebies TV show, MINUSCULE blends stunning CGI animation with live action backdrops to really transport little ones to the undergrowth where they’ll embark on a huge adventure with this half term’s tiniest heroes."

Disclaimer: We were sent a bug hunting kit and a sticker book in exchange for this post

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Finding our lost smiles and promoting oral health

I love nothing more than seeing my children smile, the innocence of childhood and the giggling at nearly everything is what really warms my heart.  They find the simplest things hysterical such as the worst jokes, slap stick humour and tickles.

The little things we take for granted mean the most to children and those are the things which make them happy and smile - an after school snack, an unexpected trip to the park on the way home, an extra bedtime story, climbing trees in the forest and letting them help to make their own dinner, and do you know what makes me smile the most?  Seeing my children happy.

Wrigley's Extra® surveyed children from 1,000 parents and found that the great outdoors, old fashioned games and just spending time with Mum and Dad were cited amongst the most fun activities, as were spending time with grandparents and playing with the family pet - all being things which made the children smile.

This is actually nice to read as there can often be a stigma around youngster's watching too much TV or playing video games, I won't lie - mine do love to watch TV but it isn't something which brings them joy or makes them smile.

These 'smile' findings mark the launch of its own storybook part of Wrigley's Extra Smile Back™ Project.  The campaign aims to protect children's smiles by donating money from every pack of sugarfree gum sold to Action for Children, to create and run oral health workshops, in partnership with Oral Health Foundation.  Wrigley's Extra aims to protect the smiles of over 10,000 children across the UK

Harry is too young to read this book however his sister has a huge love of books and reading so has been reading this story to him.  It follows a little boy who is searching for his families lost smiles so in a bid to find them he packs all his essential smile hunting tools into his bag and begins to search for them.  After being unable to find them he puts up lost posters of his family smiling and puts them in all the places they usually smile - of course I don't want to give too much away so you will have to read for yourself to see if they are found again.

Now of course happy and healthy go hand in hand when it comes to smiles and oral hygiene for children is so important - young children aren't of an age where they know how important this is to brush properly and to care for their teeth so we as parents have to help them and show them.

Setting good examples is key to helping to teeth them to do this themselves, as a family we all brush our teeth together in the mornings and I brush mine with the children at night too, and then again before I go to bed.  I let them both do their own and then have a go over them myself as at 3 & 6 they don't do the best of jobs.

To help encourage brushing the children each have a timer they use and they also have a sticker chart - if they fill their monthly chart we all have a special family treat day of their choice.

Check out Wrigley’s video that shows how The Lost Smile book was created by children and the inspiration the workshop gave to the children’s author and illustrator:

How do you help to encourage tooth brushing in young children?

The Extra Smile Back Project is running in conjunction with National Smile Month - 16th May - 16th June, this is the UK's largest and longest-running oral health campaign and is organised by the Oral Health Foundation, a leading independent charity working to improve oral health around the world.  

All profits from the sale of The Lost Smile will be split between the charities Action for Children and the Oral Health Foundation. For more details of the project and to purchase a copy of The Lost Smile visit

Join me for a Twitter party with Tots100 and Wrigley’s Extra on the 25th May and tell us all about what you do to make your child smile! Join the party using the hashtag #SmileBack between 1-2PM and you could win one of five £25 John Lewis vouchers.
This is a sponsored post for Wrigley's Extra® written on behalf of their Extra Smile Back™ Project which launches today.

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Tuesday, May 24

Positive steps towards lowering cholesterol

Those of you who are regulars of this blog will remember I was diagnosed with Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) towards the start of last year. If you haven't heard of this it is an inherited condition which leads to exceptionally high cholesterol levels, which are often double and sometimes four times those of the general population.

While high cholesterol levels are closely related to an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, FH isn't related to these at all but is passed from generation to generation by a faulty or altered gene.

Unfortunately the effects of having high/raised cholesterol levels from both diet or FH are the same, and those of us with FH can lead to early heart disease if left untreated.

I am currently taking high doses of a medicine called Statin which is used to lower the LDL cholesterol levels.  LDL cholesterol is often referred to as "Bad cholesterol" and the Statin helps to reduce the production of it in the liver.  I am taking one tablet a night for the foreseeable future and most likely for life, this has been reduced from 2 tablets as my levels have significantly lowered already.

As well as taking the tablets I am doing my best to keep on track with non-medical methods of lowering cholesterol, and these are things which we can all be doing to keep our cholesterol levels lowered:

Diet (No I don't mean a diet to lose weight I mean what you eat):

Eating foods which are high in saturated fats increase cholesterol levels but research shows that cutting down on these fats and replacing with everyday foods which contain more unsaturated fats can help to lower these levels.

Photo credit and food advice credit:

Foods which should be limited are:
  • Butter
  • Hard Margarines
  • Fatty meat and meats such as sausage
  • Full fat cheese, milk, cream and yogurt
  • coconut oils and coconut cream
Foods which can naturally help to lower cholesterol are:
  • Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts (always unsalted)
  • Tofu
  • Soya mince/chunks
  • Soya alternative to yoghurt
  • Soya alternative to milk
  • Unsalted soya nuts (also called roasted edamame beans)
  • Vegetables rich in soluble fibre such as okra, aubergine, citrus fruits, turnip, sweet potato and mango
  • Red lentils, green lentils
  • Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, butter beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, edamame beans, kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, navy beans, pinto beans, split peas, white beans
  • Baked beans
  • Pearl barley
  • Oatcakes
  • Bread made with 50% oat flour or oat bran
  • Oat breakfast cereals
  • Oatbran
  • Porridge

To help lower my cholesterol levels through my diet choices I started to make healthy switches to my everyday food choices, little changes over a period of time which have now become the norm and I no longer think of as hard but have integrated into my everyday, and some of which the children have picked up upon and are actually happy to eat - which considering I have an inherited condition it does mean the children may need to monitor their LDL levels as they grow up.

I have switched over to soya milk which I have in my coffee and on my cereals, I eat a lot more fruit and vegetables than I ever have done and salads are my favourite lunch of choice. 

I have a stash of almonds to hand to reach for instead of the normal chocolate bar and I try to buy 50/50 bread and use butter whenever possible.

I have also started to eat more fish, something I never liked before and to cut back on the amount of red meat I eat, I use less sauces in my cooking and when I do have curry's and foods with sauces I have less of the sauce then I would have previously done.

I've also introduced breakfasts for myself, something I usually don't bother with.  I have been trying out the new CHEERIOS Oat Crisp®

The new CHEERIOS Oat Crisp® is a healthy breakfast made from crunchy flakes of oat flakes mixed with the light crispy traditional O's. Oat Crisp®  is a natural source of beta-glucan which has been proven to lower chlorestrol and they are also high in fibre and low in saturated fat.

They are actually very tasty and filling too, a medium sized bowl in the morning topped with soya milk has been keeping me going until lunchtime before I begin to feel hungry, this means I am reaching for less snacks and starting my day on a very good footing.

I absolutely love the cinnamon version of these, while the plain ones are edible the cinnamon give them a very tasty edge.  I have been adding strawberries and raspberries to the plain ones to give them more flavour.

The cholesterol charity Heart UK have also given these cereals their seal of approval and by looking for the green banner on the top of the box you know you are starting your day the right way with at least 8g of whole grain per serving.

weight loss:
I also need to lose a little weight, I want to lose another stone - this will also have a positive effect on my cholesterol levels.

Rest and relaxation:
Stress can have a negative effect on cholesterol levels so I have started to ensure I have a couple of night free a week and to scale back on my work load.  If I am tired I will go to bed instead of sitting up all night trying unsuccessfully to work

Laughter and exercise:
They say laughter is the best medicine and it really is true as it can help to increase the HDL levels and any exercise which increases the heart rate and gets the blood flowing faster and harder is very good for your heart, cardio exercise is one of the best for increasing your heart rate and pumping the blood faster.

Do you have any tips for lowering cholesterol levels?

"This is a collaborative post"

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Saturday, May 21

Should babysitters be paid minimum wage?

I have always looked after children even before having my own.  For my school work placements I worked in schools and was asked by a few of the parents to babysit their children in the evenings from the age of around 14.

After school I went onto college to study for my DNN (Diploma in Nursery Nursing) and during this time funded my going out, car, petrol and books etc. by babysitting for local families and the families from my college placements.

It was also during my second year in college I got a job as a mothers help. I would leave college around 5pm to go to their home and help the mum with the evening routine.  On the days I finished early I would cook dinner, the other times I would wash up, bath the children and help put them to bed. Then on occasional evenings I would babysit while the parents went out.

After college I worked in a Day Nursery for a year, babysitting a few of the children in the evenings if needed.

Then I became a Nanny working full time for a few families over the course of 14 years, most jobs lasting around 5 years at a time.  I would of course babysit if needed in the evenings.

what to charge a babysitter, how much does a babysitter get paid, what to pay a babysitter,

There has been a debate on the parenting site Mumsnet which was highlighted on ITV's Good Morning Britain asking if babysitters are getting a bad deal?, the debate was sparked by a babysitter asking for a payrise from £6 per hour to £7.20 which is in line with the minimum wage, the mum who's children she babysat felt this rise was too steep for 'just sitting and watching TV'.  Seeing this debate unfold got me thinking about my own experiences and to ask friends on theirs.

When I was still at school aged 14 I would charge £5 per hour, while at college it raised to between £6-7.50 per hour, then once qualified it raised again to £8.50-10 an hour and once I'd left the Day Nursery and was working as a Nanny it increased again to £10 an hour (£12 on some occasions as this was my hourly wage).  I also increased my fees after midnight as it would mean driving home very late at night.

After having Emmy I set up a Nanny/Babysitting Agency with my old boss.  The babysitters on our books would charge between £6.50 per hour to £11 an hour depending on their age and experience, all of which were CRB checked and over 18 at the bare minimum.

I've never paid a babysitter for my own children because up until recently we didn't go out and now grandparents help us out or my best friend and I then have her children in return.

As I've not paid for this myself I asked friends what they paid or would pay in their area and here's what they had to say about babysitters :

  • Family Fever:  Not that we ever go out, but friends do, and they tend to pay between £10-20 for the evening, depending on how late they are out. I would definitely pay more for a qualified professional. I would want a babysitter to be 18+. I personally think you need to be an adult to look after someone else's children. If there was an emergency situation, would a younger teenager know what to do?
  • A Cornish Mum:  We pay my boyfriend's nephew to babysit, he's been babysitting for us since he was 15 and since he's family it is usually just £10 for the night and a takeaway. With my eldest having Type 1 Diabetes, I don't trust many people with him, but the nephew has been trained by us and is an absolute gem. We're in Cornwall and age doesn't come in to it really, I would only ever trust family with my boys, but that's purely down to health issues. I babysat from age 13 upwards for other children.
  • Tiaras and Welly Boots;  I pay teenagers £5 an hour, I started off as a babysitter at age 14 & am happy to pay girls the same age as I was. I pay older peeps £7 to £8 an hour, like nursery staff, but a Nanny charges £10 an hour to babysit in this area of Oxfordshire.
  • Hectic Diabectic:  The thought of leaving my daughter with a random person terrifies me, lol. I have a few select family members to babysit, My sister is just 18 so I'll give her £15 and my WiFi & Netflix passwords. But it's not often I ask, so she's happy with that. As far as I'm aware there are no evening childminders in my local area.
  • Budding Smiles:  I've paid a friend's teenager (15) £5p/h a couple of times. I wouldn't have anyone I didn't know but I trust the girl who's looked after Toby. A friend and her two kids (7&9) also babysat once, the kids loved looking after Toby! I'm just outside of Peterborough
  • Hello Baby Blog:  We only use the girls at the children's nursery to babysit, as we know them and the kids are comfortable with them putting them to bed etc if needs be. They charge between £8-£10 an hour. We live in Cheshire.
  • Blog by Baby:  I personally wouldn't use someone who wasn't qualified in some capacity and I would expect to pay £5 an hour like my childminder charges...maybe even more for later nights
  • Chelsea Mamma:  This is a tough one - I use and abuse my teens for this but Abbey does babysit for my friends at a much reduced rate than agencies cost. She is 22 and charges around £5 per hour but often gets more as they give her petrol money too or pay a taxi home.
    I trust my 15 year old to babysit too
It would seem that most of us would prefer to have a friend or family member babysit our children wherever possible, however as we know this isn't always the case as not everyone lives close to their family or maybe estranged from them.  The next favourite option is older children if you have teenagers yourself, they may of course not like it but a little extra pocket money is always welcomed and a plus side is they know the children and the routines.

Teenagers are also a popular option and as was the case when I was a teenage babysitter £5 per hour still seems the norm or a set figure for the evening.  As a teenager babysitter I would only take on local jobs as there was still the case of getting home again, if it was a little further away I would expect a lift home (I'd never call my Dad to come to get me), it seems this is still the case although many have said they pay for cabs for their babysitters who don't drive.

Also in-keeping with my previous rates, qualified professionals seem to charge up to £10 per house.

I think that qualified professionals or even those over 18 years of age should definitely be charging at least the minimum wage rate to babysit, it maybe a case of only sitting watching TV however this is not always the case and you are paying for the reassurance of someone knowing what to do in an emergency should the case arise.

A babysitter should be able to keep calm in an emergency and know exactly what to do, administer medication is needed, settle and soothe the children if they are upset or wake, cook for and feed the children if needed (if coming before bedtime), read them their bedtime stories, be in-charge of the house while you are away, wash up if they use any cups/plates etc. and be responsible at all times.

So while you may only pay for a sitter to look after the children and to sit watching TV while you are out, they have the responsibilities you do while they are out and it is this service you pay for as well.

I would much rather pay someone who is qualified, has a CRB check and has first aid training to care for my children so I have the reassurance that they would cope in an emergency and know what to do, and for this service I would expect to pay AT LEAST minimum wage.

Do you use a babysitter? What do you pay them and do you think minimum wage to too high?

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Thursday, May 19

Giveaway: Win a custom-made onesie from The All-In-One Company in conjunction with Minuscule release

If you go down to the woods this spring, you’re sure of a tiny surprise as the mini-beasts go antennae-to-antennae for the spoils of a picnic in MINUSCULE, you'll find this movie in your local cinemas from May 27th, 2016 courtesy of Lionsgate Films.

In a peaceful little clearing, the remains of a picnic hastily abandoned spark a standoff between two tribes of ants. A bold and brave young ladybird finds himself caught in the middle of the battle but, having befriended Mandible, one of the black ants determined to protect their haul of sugar cubes, sides are picked.
With the safety of the black ants’ nest at risk, our plucky ladybird helps take on the aggressive red ants, led by the evil Butor, and must use all his ingenuity and resolve to win the day. A fantastic tale taking place at ground level, MINUSCULE is the perfect half term treat for all the family. Based on the popular Cbeebies TV show, MINUSCULE blends stunning CGI animation with live action backdrops to really transport little ones to the undergrowth where they’ll embark on a huge adventure with this half term’s tiniest heroes.

Emmy, Harry and myself are really looking forward to seeing this film and of course they are 'bugging' me already asking if it is out yet - sorry pun intended!

To celebrate the release of this movie, I have teamed up with Lionsgate Films and The All-In-One Company to bring you a very exciting giveaway.

Your little - or larger - ones can look like the adorable Ladybird from Minuscule or another tiny critter from the pint-sized animation (which hits cinemas from 27th May) with a bespoke, custom-made onesie from British manufacturer The All-In-One Company. Get inspiration from one of the cute creations on the website or create-your-own unique design, it’s up to you!

From your chance to win 1 x voucher for a custom-made onesie from The All-in-One Company please enter via the rafflecopter form below, this giveaway will end at midnight on 24th June 2016 - Good Luck.

Don't forget to leave your name in the comments so I can match your entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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