Posted in Winning at Parenting

The Guide to Not Having a Stressful Overwhelming Children’s Party!

Amongst my talents I site party host as one of them. Having a dance school, dance parties was another thing I could offer and make an additional wage from. But if was to think it would be an easy number I would sadly be wrong. Parties are HARD WORK. You have the birthday child plus usually around about 25 more friends. Plus parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents. Time and time again I turn up to parties and within the first 15 minutes the birthday child is overwhelmed. I see tears and tantrums galore. I thought I would put together a little guide to not having a stressful overwhelming party!

INVITES

Gone are the days of written invites… if they are given out they rarely make it home, left in the depths of the school bag or lost in the class room. These days save the stress and email or use Facebook or text to send invites. Another bonus to this is if you aren’t inviting the whole class children who aren’t invited will be left unaware. See below for more on this…

NUMBERS

You might not want to leave people out but such is life… this is a lesson you will learn away so why not start young? Inviting the whole class plus cousins and neighbors etc is going to make for a stressful party. Is your child really close to everyone of those children? The more children the more noise, the less 1:1 attention on your child and a million other kids all vying for the party hosts attention. I’ve done parties for 30+ and it’s wild! I try to encourage people to stop at 20 by charging per head over. Honestly when I do a party for around 18 children I feel like every one of those kids has had a lovely time. The birthday child has been spoiled with attention, isn’t that what you want?

NOISE

A party is noisey… like really noisey. Parents like to chat, it’s a social gathering for them too. They stand about filling each other in on what’s going on in their lives totally oblivious to the party. For the host the noise is sometimes unmanageable. Trying to keep 20+ kids attention over the nattering of all those parents and relatives can be exhausting. Tip: If your renting a room that allows it set chairs out at one end. You party host can work from the other. Do not let the parents stand and chat round the edges… or worse still in the middle of the room. This interferes with the party space and again keeping the kids focused.

CAKE

I see these elaborate cakes time and time again go to waste… it seems many kids don’t even like icing… picking it off! Cakes are for show, I get it. But if your moaning about the cost of your party get the cake from a local supermarket – kids don’t care as long as it has something on they like! Also I’ve seen parents have a birthday cake but not cut it up, this is because they already bought another cake and have it ready in the party bags – genius! No frantic cake cutting at the end and you get to keep the main cake for family and close friends.

FOOD

Platters of food are a waste! Sandwiches get left in favour of goodies. With platters you over cater. The best parties I’ve been to either have hot dogs, pizzas, chips or crisps – easy! If you want to add something healthier cucumber and carrot sticks all the way, these seem to go down well. Alternatively you can buy a cardboard lunch box (like a happy meal box) add a sandwich, maybe some mini sausages, bag of crisis, veg sticks, cake or biscuit. This way you don’t over cater as you have a box for each child.

ENTERTAINMENT

This is what will cost you the most so choose wisely. There are an array of options out there and a great party host that keeps the kids engaged will massively reduce your stress. That said just because your child loves to dance it won’t mean every other child wants to learn a dance. Some may sit out and that’s okay. Games will usually pull all children in so make sure you ask your party host for those to be included.

GAMES

If you are braving doing a party yourself my advice on games is KEEP IT SIMPLE. Traditional party games have died a bit of a death in recent years in favour of more elaborate party themes. But honestly if you child is up to 7 years old in my opinion they still go down a storm. Get the music right and musical bumps, statues, pass the parcel are still firm favourites. I often see piñatas at parties too now which are fun but again if your having a party with 25+ put older kids at the back so they leather the hell out of it last. I’ve seen many teary tantrums when not all party goers have had a go before the sweets have rained down. Also the Hokey Cokey is great to finish on with up to 7yrs. It still raises lots of smiles and laughs as they charge at each other but be sure to have a few adults help hold the circle together and keep them from getting too wild. Limbo always seems to be the highlight at parties I host, kids all ages absolutely love it!

PARTY BAGS

I still watch parents try to hide their reaction as they recoil in horror when their child is handed a party cone or bag FULL of sweets. We live in a world now where parents are seemingly more conscious of what there kids are consuming. Many kids have gluten and dairy allergies too. Check before hand if any of them do. Keep party bags simple – bouncy ball, bubbles, a few chocolate coins, mini bag of haribo and the birthday cake is plenty.

I would like to finish by saying I have made many birthday party mistakes with my 10 year old son. I have been the queen of stressful parties at times! Striving for perfection… we all know where kids are concerned there is no such thing. I hope my guide saves you from party stress, but if it doesn’t… there’s always wine! 😉

Rachael x

Posted in Winning at Parenting

Redundant Parenting…

I’m having a real hard time with my son growing up (he’s 10 going on 16!) You obviously know that it’s going to happen but you don’t really notice it happening until one day it hits you. Being a single mum I’ve just been so busy trying to juggle everything alone. But when I do stop and think about our journey together tears come to my eyes. For we have had the most fun times. Some would say he’s been spoilt as I mention in a previous post. Yes he has with days out, experiences and holidays. But amongst all the stress and hard work of being a parent I believe these moments are the little rewards. Quality time together making memories.

I couldn’t wait for the summer holidays… I got my diary and pen and set to making lots of plans for us. I joined the National Trust as well for some outdoor time in some beautiful spots close to us. We were going on holiday to Cyprus too which I couldn’t wait for. Amongst this I planned a trip to the zoo, cinema and other things.

When I excitedly produced my diary and shared my plans they were met with face pulling and ‘I don’t want to do that’. Well ‘what do you want to do son?’ ‘I just want to hang out with my mates’ and just like that I was binned… on the occasions I dragged him out I put up with constant asking ‘what time we going back?’ I felt I had lost my little friend. He even told me I should have another baby!!

On holiday he made new friends (which was lovely to see) but in turn I was left a bit bored and alone. It’s funny because there were days when I prayed to read a book in peace for longer than five minutes on a sun-bed! At meal times he often finished before me and raced back to his new friends excitedly leaving me nursing a glass of red alone, ha ha! He did come and find me to sign for whatever he was ordering for him and sometimes his friends at our hotel of course…

I spent a few days getting all emotional reminiscing about days gone by… asking myself where time had gone? As a parent each stage so far has been different and come with its own challenges but I realise now how special those younger years were. I shouldn’t say it but they were my favourite. The years when you are literally their world, everything is new, magical and exciting to them. Probably from age two to maybe five.

So in my emotional state I wrote a poem for my son… really just to try and express my own feelings at a time when I’m feeling rather redundant. I thought I would share it here too as maybe some others can relate?

It’s back to school soon for you son

I will miss our summer fun

Your growing up so fast

It’s plain to see

That you don’t want to hang out with silly old me

I wish for the days when we played in the sand

When you skipped along holding my hand

The hours in the farm and picnic by the swings

These are now by gone things

For at the time I never knew that one day you would feel too grown up for the zoo

Our adventures have changed and my heart is heavy

As I watch you grow and I don’t feel ready

I try to persuade you to do things with me but you would rather have friends over for tea

But now and then I see a glimpse of that boy, the one who used to play with toys

You think I am boring but I’m doing my best

To be your friend still, you put me to the test

We’ll soon be heading into the teenage years

which no doubt will cause me further tears

I will treasure our memories all the way through

For every stage is a blessing with you. So, don’t push me away, your silly old mum

I only want to have some fun

For one day you will realise that really it’s me.. the best friend you will ever have – you’ll see 💞 x

Rachael x

Posted in Winning at Parenting

Harry Potter Potion Class!

When my dance school closes for the summer holidays or any other holidays for that matter… what am I to do with my time?! As much as I love the dance and it is nice to have a break the inner child in me just can’t resist putting on school holiday fun as well. So every time school breaks up I run Legends fun days or summer school and I love it!

Constantly racking my brains for new ways to entertain the children (and myself! ha ha!) I first thought of a Harry Potter potion class whilst lying in bed. I mean as a child myself there was something very satisfying about perfuming making… please tell me you can relate?! This was an activity which consisted of getting water, lots of petals off plants in the garden and stirring them in a bowl, swishing them into the sides and then putting them into jam jars to store. This would create hours of fun trying to create different smells.

So when potion making sprang to mind and was a similar concept I knew this would go down a storm at summer school. A quick google told me actually I wasn’t a genius and indeed other people had done similar before which basically made my job easier. I still thought it worth sharing my tips and experience of the doing it with a big group!

Firstly I realised I needed to collect bottles and jars of different shapes and sizes. Now my intention was to do this myself and ask other people but I kinda forgot and a trip to ikea came to my rescue. In there I managed to get all kinds of potion bottles much to my delight and I only spent around fifteen pounds.

I was ready to create labels when I checked on eBay and saw actually I could just buy those ready done too for a couple of pounds. I also came across a few links to print them yourself but as my printer is not great this was the best option for me. Once they arrived I thought carefully about which bottles to stick them on.

The labels gave little explanations under them so I was careful to put some on jars and others on bottles.

How did I decide what to put in each?! Well I just winged it. But the most important ingredients needed is washing up liquid (I used red as unicorn blood), white vinegar (which I added glitter too) and bicarbonate of soda. These three things react and foam when added together.

I added cut up feathers to one jar, lots of little leaves in one and glitter in another. I put water in all the other jars and added food colouring to change it to different colours.

I gathered a group of five children and started potion class by showing them my potion (that was with the three reactive ingredients I mention above) I did this in a jar so I used less ingredients and it would rise fast, I stood the jar in a bowl to save mess. The children were delighted when it bubbles over.

Then they sat at the table with a mini bowl each (sat in a larger one – again to catch the mess) and were left to mix there own potions. Some had obviously listened as they went straight for the same concoction as me. Some of the younger ones (I have children 3-11 years) relished in pouring in lots of glitter. I had given them all a wooden spoon each to mix their potion as well.

Now this activity was loved by all… a lot hadn’t seen Harry Potter but potion making was exciting none the less. Surprisingly this appealed as much to the older kids as it did to the younger ones. The trickiest part was after each group the bottles and jars needed refilling, table wiping etc and bowls washing and resetting up for the next lot. This was difficult to do quick enough with several children bursting with excitement for their turn!! We had other activities going on along side but none quite as exciting as this! We had to do this for five groups in total. That was a lot of cleaning up! But it was totally worth it… the children loved every second. I would do it again but I did think this would be lovely maybe as part of a smaller party.

Have you ever tried a potion making class? How did it go? I would love to hear!

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Winning at Parenting

Easy Boiled egg Decorating this Easter!

Whatever happened to decorating a boiled egg? It seems to be way less popular these days. You can buy polystyrene eggs and plastic ones but do these really compare to the real deal?! Not in my book. One of the highlights of Easter for me was decorating a boiled egg…  the excitement of what to turn it into. Since growing up (or pretending to!) I’m still partial to this activity. So much so I do it with the children from my dance school every year on our Easter fun day. Take a little look at my tips below for a super fun easy egg decorating experience.

Place the eggs in a pan and cover with an inch of water (don’t put too many in! Or double layer as they will crack, I was doing 24 and used 3 pans) bring to the boil and then remove them from the heat. Cover the pan with its lid and let them sit for 10 minutes.

Then remove the lid and cool them off with cold running water. You can also let them sit in the water instead (if you don’t want to waste water) this will take at least 5 minutes. Once cooled pop them in the fridge until your ready to decorate, or let’s get going!

Tip: To stop the egg rolling about and so you don’t have to hold it, use a blob of play-doh. Squash it down with your thumb and create a crevasse. Stand your egg in it.

You will also need paints, brushes and water.

Younger children love paint don’t they? Eager to get going paints are usually mixed into some yucky brown colour and before you know it the vision you had is gone! But don’t let this bother you. It’s their creation.

Now here’s the secret to making it look cool! Using PVA glue stick two feathers either side, two googly eyes, cut a beak out of felt… we have a bird! This is great for younger children.

Or you can paint your egg white, use white felt to cut out two ears, googly eyes and paint a face to make an Easter bunny! You can even add a little pom-pom tail.

For older children still you can give them more of a free rein. I find felt is a great addition to boiled eggs to cut out and add detail. Animals are fairly easy to create, but how about a princess or a pirate? A dinosaur? Or why not use glitter or sequins for a more sparkly design?

Here you can see a penguin… plus a few others in the background. We had great fun creating these. I always think the beauty is in that they did it mostly by themselves.

I envisaged something like this… but theirs were even more awesome!

Why not decorate some boiled eggs with your children this Easter weekend? I hope this has inspired you a little. Have fun! x

Posted in Winning at Parenting

Don’t dash your child’s dreams…

Times have changed… of course they are bound to… the world is evolving. Technology is constantly propelling us forward. People are no longer just happy and accept what they have, everyone is striving for more – me included. The world isn’t such a big place anymore. Opportunities are plentiful. People often say my son Lex doesn’t know he’s born.

Both I and his dad (although not together) have made sure he’s missed out on nothing. The kids well-travelled in general (He’s on a two-week road trip around America with his dad as I type this!) he’s been to Disneyland several times, Lapland, had big birthday parties, fabulous Christmases, days out most weekends. I like to think he’s not spoiled in general but is he spoiled in experiences? – probably. But who wouldn’t do that for their child if they have the means to?

I have come under fire from parents and friends at times for the sheer amount of things I do with him. His expectations are high… I know I’ve created this. But I’ve also created a kid with drive, ambitions and goals. Sometimes I do wonder have I set him up to fail? He thinks he’s going to live in a mansion in Hawaii (inspired by his favourite movie Lilo and Stitch) drive a Lamborghini and be a youTuber. They are pretty big aspirations to have. But who am I to dash his dreams?

I myself am I dreamer, a go getter, however my plans at his age were somewhat smaller. All I wanted to do was teach dance, have a dance school. Did I achieve that? Yes I did and my parents supported me. Had they not supported me would I have achieved my dream? Probably not. I’m grateful to them for this. I am grateful they didn’t undermine my dream and try to pigeon-hole me into another career. As a parent now I want to give my son the same liberty.

I am proud of my son and how he doesn’t see any limitations but I will also do what I can to make sure he passes his exams – the safety net. Do I want him to have a conventional career? If that’s what he wants, absolutely, but so far he doesn’t. I am pleased he wants more for himself.  I am pleased I have created a situation where he believes he can achieve so much. I am his biggest cheerleader and I will support him however I can to achieve his dreams no matter what they are.

Remember children are always watching you. You are their superheroes. Vision, success and wealth anyone can achieve. If a child grows up in a successful family that will become their standard. You are setting the standard. If you bring them up in a love filled, happy, optimistic, positive home that to will be their general outlook. They won’t believe the world is against them. But if you’re all ‘poor me’ with a negative vibe they will pick up on this too. My son (whist he has his moments) is positive and happy because that’s how I believe our home is.

Some would say I’m setting him up to fail by letting him believe there are no limitations… But I believe I’m setting him up to succeed. With my support the world is his oyster. I want him to wake up every day with a smile. I want him to have a zest for life, love the world he’s in and be happy with the choices he’s made. I don’t want him to ever look back and think my mum didn’t believe in me. Cos I do son… I’m not saying it will be easy but I will always be by your side. Go chase your dreams…