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With every new year come new resolutions; while many of these will be thrown by the wayside come early February, there are a few that are worth sticking to. Cooking as a family has many benefits for parents and children alike, and whether you consult cookery books or the internet, friends or the television; there are plenty of wonderful ways to transform meal time into family time.

Local bookstores are chock full of cookery books that are a great starting point for families looking to turn meal times into more productive family time. With a range of books and material online catering to a variety of diet options, families can shop together to find the book that’s right for them. Including kids in meal preparation, shopping or the actual act of cooking may mean a bit more clean up or slightly longer prep times but ultimately promotes benefits that will result in healthy and responsible children.

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In the short-term, encouraging children to identify and select ingredients that are nutritious as well as tasty can create positive associations with healthy foods. Including ingredients from different food groups can also teach children the importance of a well-rounded and balanced diet that they might not otherwise acknowledge or show any interest in. Some other short term benefits include fostering a sense of accomplishment through contributions to the family and creating a sense of unity and engagement at mealtime resulting from everyone’s help in meal preparation.

But when it comes to long term benefits, there are plenty. Teaching children to cook gives them a skill that they can use for the rest of their lives, while encouraging healthy eating habits at a young age is proven to extend into their adult lives. What’s more, building positive experiences with family in the kitchen can help develop confidence in children.

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While kids are still likely to snack on crisps or ice cream every once in a while, the most important factor is how they eat most of the time, which is where parents come in. Creating a positive and healthy environment in which to teach children about nutrition and cooking means that they are able to understand exactly what it is they are eating and create positive and productive experiences that they will carry with them into their adult lives.

 

 

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winter-blues

There are 5 days to Christmas and I still have some presents to buy, lots to wrap, food shopping to organise, a house to clean and stockings to sew! Yet yesterday you would have found me doing a spot of interior decorating…

This week I was challenged by Homeserve to makeover one of  the rooms in my house to make it more warm, Christmassy and inviting. The incentive, a £50 B&Q voucher and the chance to win a further £250 voucher (could come in very handy!)

Never one to turn down an arty challenge and having only recently moved into the house which is known as “cream palace”, think cream walls and cream carpet… I had plenty of choice of rooms that I could apply this to.

The new house is beautiful but seriously lacking in colour and personality, which we are adding slowly but surely. Our living room already has a warm red and soft oatmeal brown colour and is pretty inviting especially with the addition of our lovely Christmas tree.

But wait, I knew one room that could seriously do with a makeover in time for Christmas, the dining room! We are eating at home this Christmas so actually adding a bit of personality, warmth and festive spirit to a incredibly dull room would be fantastic.

boring-room

(I know, I know…)

So I took on the challenge, even though I only had a couple of days to enter, popped down to B&Q, bought some paint by Dulux in a gorgeous deep grey blue called Breton Blue £21.98, a new light fitting and some Christmassy bits and bobs to decorate the Christmas table.

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Hmmm… I know what you are thinking blue, that is not warm is it? It isn’t traditionally what you would think of when you think hot, flame, heat but actually this blue is such a lovely soft deep colour that it does warm up what was a very cold, cream, boring room. In fact I even think it has a kind of mediterranean feel about it which is most definitely warm!!

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I set to work painting the wall, I decided to create a feature wall as I thought this would make the room look larger and it definitely does. The paint covered beautifully in one go and I have more than 3/4 of a tin left so may do the other walls at a later date, we will see…

painting-wall-blue

I then got my lovely assistant and strong man to put up the light fitting for me. This was an absolute bargain at £14.98 and although simple, I really like it. No more hideously fussy light fitting that belonged to the previous owners, this one is sleek, understated with a nice touch of bamboo on the inside. Not Christmassy but very versatile and perfect for the long haul.

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I then set to work on making my Christmas table. I was inspired by Amanda at the Ana Mum Diary who I saw recently use a blanket as a tablecloth and as I own no tablecloths, went upstairs to dig out my gorgeous Indian throw decorated with tiny light reflecting mirrors. I had to do a bit of folding but very quickly I had a new tablecloth and über Christmassy at that!

christmas-table

I then took the threads off the decorations I bought from B&Q and laid them down on the table as extra decoration. I loved these snowflakes and thought they looked beautiful. I then hunted around the house for some other bits and bobs to dress the table with, some shiny silver beads which were left over from a craft project and some gorgeous vintage buttons of which I have hundreds. I weaved the silver beads around the snowflakes and dotted around a few vintage buttons just to add a playful, vintage, a little 1920′s glamour feel which I got from the lovely snowflakes and mix of gold, silver and glass…

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Every Christmas table needs a centre piece so I found a bowl I already had and added a few bits of potpourri in gold and silver with the additional of a cinnamon stick, you’ve got to have a cinnamon stick at Christmas.

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The table then just needed some candles (for warmth in the frosty, sparkly wonderland – the candle light bounces off all the reflective surfaces and looks lovely) and of course place settings which I quickly fixed and voila. One super quick inviting dining room with a gorgeous, classy, easy Christmas table.

new-dining-room

What do you think? A am thrilled with the transformation and cannot wait to have our first Christmas in our new house!

www.lifesafeast.co.uk

Oh my goodness, how did Christmas manage to sneak up so fast? No matter how early I start to think about getting organised with presents, cards, decorations, Christmas dinner, it always seems like a mad rush to the finish line!

The greatest thing about getting all the prep out of the way is we can breathe a sign of relief, crack open the champers and the celebrations can begin. For me this time of year is all about getting together with loved ones and good friends, Christmas get togethers followed by New Years Parties followed by my own birthday in January (if everyone isn’t already exhausted by all the festivities!). It is a whirlwind of friends and families, food and fun.

If you are hosting the party at home make sure to check out my tips below on making sure your party is a big success!

Create space in your home to entertain. Move things aside and put items away that you don’t want to get damaged. Create comfy seating areas, chill out spots, the food table, a bar and maybe even a little dance floor…

www.marthastewart.com

Decorate. You don’t have to go all out here, keep it simple. Use an accent colour and run it through your party decorations to tie it all together. How you decorate will be based on the kind of party you throw but surf Pinterest for some excellent homemade inspiration. For me it is all about the details, oh and don’t forget nice scented candles in the toilet :)

www.bbcgoodfood.com

Food. If you have plenty of time on your hands you might want to home make your canapes, nibbles and party food, but there is no shame in buying pre-made from the supermarket. In fact it will save you an enormous amount of time! Try to cater for all tastes, something for the meat eaters, something for the veggies, not everything has to be complicated, you can’t beat lovely fresh salad vegetables and a nice dip or gorgeous crusty bread with pate.

Music. Create an awesome party playlist before the night so you can just pop it on and not have to worry about it. Use music that you love with a few party (or Christmas) classics thrown in for good measure.

Fancy dress. Everyone loves fancy dress. Why not give your party a theme and use the planning app from the Fancy Dress Ball to give you a helping hand to organise your party? Meanwhile search the site for your perfect fancy dress outfit, they have some absolutely brilliant costume ideas here, the best I have seen by a mile! I fancy a Great Gatsby style New Year party!

Games. This very much depends on what kind of party it is you are hosting but you can beat a game for a bit of lighthearted fun! It could be karaoke, a good old game of cranium or a classic drinking game. Check out these fun dinner party games.

www.occasionsonline.com

Drinks. Be creative, sure have wine and beer but what about some seasonal cocktails to add a talking point?  Think mulled wine or champagne cocktails for New Years. Guaranteed to get the party started. You could also think about setting out self service bars, a wine station, a cocktail station and a soft drinks station… it saves you having to continually top everyone up!

Relax and have fun! Don’t let the party planning get the better of you. Relax and enjoy your own party :) Don’t worry, everyone will go with the flow and your friends will enjoy no matter what, that is why they are your friends after all!

 

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Christmas came a little early at our house this week, as the post man delivered some parcels we were allowed to open before December 25th!

You see I had been asked to take part in the Debenhams Blogger Secret Santa. With a budget of £80, a group of bloggers were chosen and allocated a secret santee (we decided this was officially a word) to choose a gift for from the Debenhams site.

After carefully reading through and researching my secret santee’s blog, deciding what they might possibly like to receive, I set to work browsing the Debenhams site.

Christmas is my all time favourite time of year for many different reasons but one of them is, I love to buy people gifts! There were plenty of beautiful things to choose from and it was pretty hard to narrow it down and commit!

I managed to choose what I think they might like (fingers crossed they did!) and I waited excitedly to see what had been chosen for me. I wondered if my blog gave enough clues into the type of person I am… hmmm! Exciting stuff :)

sweetshop-collection

First to arrive was a package of vintage sweets, it was like opening a mini sweet shop! So lovely, we all appreciated this one, Littlelish, me and my man. Littlelish discovered a new found love of shrimps, I devoured the pear drops the minute I opened it (they are my weakness) and my man opted for the licorice sweets. The sweets tasted so good, nothing artificial, old school and well just scrumptious. There are quite a few empty little jars already and we are just deciding whether to reuse them as a play sweetshop for Littlelish or to fill them with crafty beads, buttons and sparkles!

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The second item that arrived was for Littlelish. A fabulous rainforest stamp set by Melissa and Doug, whose toys we love! This is a great present as Littlelish loves to get crafty and creative :) Of course it was immediately put to use, out came the paper and she was in stamp heaven :)

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The third item made me gasp a little. It is not often I get to really treat myself and when I do it is normally something quite practical so receiving a wonderful luxurious clutch bag was a real treat for me. It is stunning, sexy and modern and will go with everything! Sleek black leather and a slinky silver strap it is the perfect going out bag. I put it to the test on Saturday as I dined with a friend at an Italian restaurant, it looked great with my red dress and black heels. I know I am going to get a lot of use out of it, small enough not to be a nuisance when you are out but large enough to fit makeup, my purse, phone etc. Just perfect.

So I was in luck, my santee obviously got a pretty clear picture of me as I received some fabulous gifts just right for our little family. So I’m thinking my blog says sweet, creative and stylish which is just about right! Hurrah :) I have literally no idea who my secret santee could be, I wish I could guess but I just have no clue… Amanda? Tanya? Stacey? Come on, who was it?? ;)

Whoever it was, thank you so so much, you put a smile on all our faces. And of course a big thank you to Debenhams for choosing us to be part of the fun! xxx

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It is a familiar scene this time of year, delivery man knocks on the door, a parcel for you! Or most likely one of your online purchases arriving…

Only this time last week, it was a present for meee! Honestly, you would have laughed if you could see how excited I was to open the box containing a new…. wait for it…… vacuum cleaner!

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Oh yes, I’m afraid it has got to the stage that I am excited about getting a new hoover! In all fairness though, it isn’t just any hoover, it is a Dyson and I have been lusting after one for years, years I tell you. Finally I have one of my very own thanks to our rubbish vacuum cleaner giving up the ghost.

We have beige carpets in our house, even in the hallway, which combined with a rubbish hoover makes for a very sad Mummylish. No matter how hard I hoovered, the carpet didn’t look any better and boy was it hard work.

So now into my life, comes the beautifully designed queen of the hoover (she should be female I think), my Dyson DC39. Opening the box felt like Christmas day had come early, how could I possibly be so excited to open a vacuum cleaner? But believe me I was! It took all of 2 minutes to assemble it and I was off!

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My Dyson is everything I’ve dreamed of, with minimum effort required from me, she is in control, moves beautifully and with purpose. Solid and wellbuilt without being heavy, she is a hoover on a mission, sucking up everything and anything in her way.

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The specially designed head which is created to instantly adapt to all types of flooring is amazing. We can use it on the carpet, on the tiles in the kitchen and it stays firmly stuck to the floor. Not only did it pick up all surface debris but it also collected all kinds of dust and dirt (yuck) which is a noticeable change from our old vacuum cleaner.

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I  love the extra tools you get with it which means I can easily vacuum my skirting boards and door frames, bannisters and stairs. It also has a great feature, a little trigger button that you can press to release some air which means you can hoover mats, rugs and curtains without them getting sucked up and bunched up. So I can basically hoover my entire house, every last unreachable bit of it!

Dyson darling, you have made me very happy this Christmas :) :) We got our Dyson cleaner here at Argos…

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I was invited by Country Baskets to enter their Festive Face Off. A what? I hear you cry!

The festive face off is a Christmas craft competition run by Country Baskets. 30 bloggers compete with each other to make a crafty decoration from a basket of craft goodness that we received.

So the last week I have been very busy making all kind of homemade decorations. The house is an absolute bomb sight and I have managed to sustain 2 knife cuts and one hot glue gun wound in a week! But with my game face on here is my entry to the competition ;)

The lucky winner will receive £250 voucher to spend at Country Baskets. Awesome! More mess and injuries here we come! No seriously I would love to win this as I am hoping to get my crafting / Etsy business back up and running in 2014.

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The basket of crafting goodies we received was enormous, there were artificial flowers, ribbon, bark, decorations, buttons, baubles. I was excited for a whole week about what I was going to make out of it! We are going for a Nordic look this Christmas, you know the simple, naive, traditional Christmas with lots of red and wood (you can’t escape it, it is everywhere!) so I wanted to create something that would work alongside this.

We’ve seen the trend for stick Christmas trees all over Pinterest and I thought I would attempt to make a branch garland for on the fireplace.

Here is how I went about it!

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1. I chose the best looking branch I could. This particular one is taken from my mums walnut tree and I love the moss and spiky twigs. It is pretty beautiful on its own!

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2. I made some bell bunting out of little gold bells I found in the charity shop for 50p and some red string. I tripled the thickness of the string so it was nice and sturdy and tied the bells in equal spaces across the length. I then draped this over my branch.

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3. I added the little golden apples to the branch. Remember with Nordic that less is most definitely more!

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4. I made a few simple decorations out of the birch bark. This was literally as easy as pie. I just drew a freehand shape out on the back of the birch and used scissors to cut out the shape. I made a hole with my ‘hole maker’ (is there an official name for these?) and threaded them with some thin gold wire. These were also dotted around the branch.

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5. It was already starting to look quite full. I had loads of other decorations that I had made that I was tempted to add but I didn’t as it immediately spoilt the simplicity which is the look we are going for when we think Nordic!

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6. Lastly I made the word NOEL out of some wonderful maleable wire that was in the kit and sprayed this gold to fit with the colour scheme. I hung this from one of the twigs and my creation was complete.

How simple was that? But I think you will agree it looks lovely, rustic and charming. Let me know what you think of my design?

And please pop over to I’m home honey in the next few days were you will see how to make a few other decorations like these ones!

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Last week I was invited to London by Magnet Kitchens, to pay a visit to The Ideal Christmas home exhibition. All ready to embrace the Christmas spirit and pick up some Christmas trend inspiration and tips I headed over to Earl’s Court where 650 exhibitors were waiting to show me their finest festive fare!

Showcasing Interiors & Home Accessories, Food & Drink, Home Improvements & Outdoor Living, Fashion & Beauty, Technology & Gadgets, Gifts and Decorations, there really was something for everyone and I spent many hours perusing the various stands picking up cool present ideas, here were my top pics!

How about a gorgeous beach towel / sarong / towel / throw for your Bestie? From www.foutala.com

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Or a beautiful candle for your Mum? From www.ameliacandles.co.uk

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Some absolutely fabulous magic pens for your favourite little girl? From www.selkinmedia.co.uk

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A gorgeous name book for your new baby Nephew? From www.lostmy.name

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A funky fox cushion for your sister? From www.sassandbelle.co.uk

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A new mug for your papa? From www.sassandbelle.co.uk

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A Moroccan light for your beloved? From www.moroccanbazaar.co.uk

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There were also some gorgeous room sets designed by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen with a very opulent, rich purple theme running throughout. Very Laurance, very Luxurious… Don’t you just love that chrome bath?

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I personally fell a little bit in love with the Tesco Direct stand as I am totally feeling the rustic Nordic Christmas trend. It is so warm and Christmassy :)

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The rest of my afternoon was spent listening to Laurence Llewelyn Bowen giving a talk on how to have a Glamorous Hollywoods style Christmas. It seems black and gold are very much in this Season. Laurence has a new range of decorations for sale at Littlewoods of which he kept reminding us ;) They are pretty fab though… Laurence also gave us some tips on creating your own home made decorations with a personal touch, explaining that originally tree decorations were all meant as mini presents.

Why not try making your own:

  • Miniture frangrance bottles tied with a beautiful ribbon to the tree. Get samples from your local department store and make one for all the family.
  • Vintage alcohol minitures. Find some lovely vintage mini bottles and fill with homemade Sloe gin! Fun!
  • Gold sprayed anything. Take something, spray it gold, tie it to the tree with a ribbon. It could be a mini toy car, an animal… anything looks Christmassy when it is sprayed gold!

I will also be showing you how to craft some of your own homemade Christmas decorations over on I’m home honey so why not come and see what I’ve been making!

Thank you to Magnet for the invitation. If you would like to check out what the kitchen trends are f 2014 visit their trend pages here!

mac and cheese fodmap free

Today’s guestpost is another FODMAP free recipe for those with food intolerances and looks delicious. Food tolerances or no food tolerances…. I’d like to tuck into that right now!

Yum :)

Macaroni and cheese is a classic family favourite. Sometimes nothing beats a hot, bubbling, stringy mac and cheese, and with FODMAP free ingredients, this is one you can enjoy without having to sacrifice on taste. Anyone suffering with IBS can find it hard to give up their favourite food, a low FODMAP diet can help you still eat some of your favourite meals or find a substitute.

This meal is really simple, and can even be cooked in advance and simply reheated. For those who haven’t tried macaroni and cheese, it is similar in many ways to lasagne – it’s all about layering, only this dish leaves out the mincemeat and tomato layers so it’s a lot simpler to make, and doesn’t leave you with as much washing up afterwards either! Ideal for rushed, busy days when all you want is something wholesome, serve with salad for the extra crunch. Simply follow these instructions for a delicious and warming feast.

Ingredients

  • 1 pack of plain Gluten Free Crackers
  • 450g of macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons of dairy free butter
  • 1kg of grated lactose free cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 cups lactose free milk
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. Once cooked rinse with cold water.

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

1       Crush the crackers into small crumbs.

2       In the bottom of the dish spread a thin layer of crushed crackers.

3       Layer a third of the cooked pasta over the cracker crumbs.

4       Dot with butter

5       Season with salt and pepper

6       Spread a third of the grated cheese over the top

Repeat directions 1 to 6 twice until you have three even layers of cracker crumbs, pasta, butter and cheese.

Pour you lactose free milk over the dish. Milk should fill half way up the layers, so feel free to use less or more milk depending on how deep your dish is.

Sprinkle the remaining cracker crumbs over the top, season to your requirements and then place into the preheated oven.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the cracker crumbs are toasted golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and beginning to crust.

Remove the dish from the oven and leave to stand for five to ten minutes before serving.

If you think you may have a food intolerance be sure to check out YorkTest.

Image Credit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/naotakem/

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There is a new Government (DfE) initiave out called CANparent, aimed at providing high quality parenting classes to support the parenting skills of both mothers and fathers. They have released a video about myth busting and the ‘tips’ we are given as new parents.

As a mum of a four year old, baby days were a while ago. But I still remember being a new mum, feeling bombarded with advice from all kinds of people whether you asked for it or not! It seems everyone and anyone had a golden tip for what you should do when your baby wouldn’t sleep through the night / had a temperature / wasn’t hungry… you name it!

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As a new mum (or dad) you are naturally concerned about the welfare of your child. You have thousands of questions, is this normal, should my baby be doing this? Why isn’t my baby doing that? Who do you turn to for advice…

Being a mum is mostly an instinctive thing for me, I tend not to listen so much to well meaning friends and relatives. I normally smile and nod and then just do what I wanted to do. I had pretty strong ideas about what my baby should be eating, how I wanted to put her to sleep… I felt comfortable parenting my way (which is probably closest to attachment parenting) and went with that.

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I did however listen to the advice I received from the health visitors /midwives (in Holland as we lived in Holland until Littlelish was nearly 2) and I do remember them having some good tips that seemed to make sense. It is difficult to know whether every bit of advice you are given is correct or not but I just used my common sense and followed my instincts to decide if it is something I agreed with. At the end of the day we all do it our way.

Littlelish was an easy baby in many ways but difficult in others. She was very content, but didn’t sleep much, wouldn’t drink from a bottle, had difficulty winding down, often seemed deep in thought. I determined (evenutally) she was probably a highly sensitive baby / child which I have written about in more depth here. It seems four years later, we have learnt the best ways to manage and deal with any issues that arise. We did this mostly by instinct and a little but of help from some books (as mentioned in my previous post).

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My top parenting advice:

  • If you can, prepare baby food yourself. This will mean they are not eating processed food and that you can introduce all kind of foods at an early age. They say you have to give a baby food 3 or 4 times until they get used to the taste of it! I have a little girl who eats fish, avocado, asparagus and all sorts! I loved this book by Annabel Karmel.
  • Sing to your baby. I sang day in and day out to Littlelish, I loved how she enjoyed it and it was our way of connecting. Apparently singing to your child is very important for their speech development and is scientifically proven to calm them and lower their pain perception.
  • Read to your baby. We all know this is important and why. Give them a love of language and learning for life, help expand their vocabulary, teach them…
  • Wear your baby in a carrier. If you are doing this correctly (ie. not forward facing) it is a great way for your baby to feel safe and secure and very loved. I carried Littlelish everywhere are we both loved it!
  • Do what works for you with regards to sleeping! There is not golden tip that will get them to go down instantly or sleep through the night, every baby is different. Littlelish was a pretty terrible sleeper as a baby. For the first 6 months she slept in a moses basket right next to my side and occassionally with me in bed. When she moved into her own nursery, I always had to rock her to sleep otherwise she literally would.not.sleep. She has only just started to go to bed on her own (since she started school). It wasn’t always easy but this is we did what worked for all of us.
  • The housework is not that important. As long as the house isn’t a total cesspit, it is fine. Sleep when the baby sleeps if you feel the need to catch up. Everything seems more bearable if you have slept enough.

Tips I listened to:

  • Do not put your baby in a walker or bouncer for too long it is not good for their hips.
  • Do not let your child under the age of 1 watch television, it is not good for their development.
  • Do get your baby drinking out of a normal cup as quickly as you can. Sippy cups are not good for the development of the muscles in their mouth. Neither are dummies.
  • Don’t say no all the time, you will sound like a broken record. Save the word NO it for when it is really, really important and they might actually listen ;)

Tips I didn’t listen to!

  • Let your baby cry it out when you put them to sleep, they will learn to self soothe.
  • Don’t give your baby too much attention as they will expect it and become a nightmare!
  • Don’t pick your baby up every time she cries. It will only teach her to cry for things…

 Visit and like the CANparent Facebook page

 

Littlelish: Mum, God is good isn’t he?

Mummylish: Yes, darling.

Littlelish: Then why did he invent petrol? Because petrol makes pollution…

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