Forest Holidays: Our Winter Retreat to Forest of Dean

Back in January we decided to book a last second escape to the Forest of Dean for a winter retreat at Forest Holidays. This was our first time visiting but it came recommended from friends who have stayed at a different location on one of their other sites. Squiggle’s anxiety was high, so we figured some extra time relaxing outdoors might be just what we all needed. It didn’t work miracles in that regard (but then again, I am pretty sure they don’t claim to either though!) but it was still a lovely holiday! Here is our review…

Title written on image of Forest Holidays cabin.

The Cabin

There are three main styles of cabin; golden oak, silver birch and copper beech. The main differences between them are that silver birch has a hot tub, and golden oak has both a log burner and a hot tub. We intentionally wanted to avoid having a log burner for personal reasons, and silver birch was fully booked, so that made it pretty easy to choose!

Despite copper beech being their cheapest (and most basic) option, we were absolutely amazed by the size of the cabin! The whole place had a wonderful air of luxury about it, whilst also feeling very homely. I loved how beautifully in keeping the decor is; very natural. I was very impressed! And everything is eco- friendly wherever possible too, which we were really glad to see.

Eco friendy kitchen kit

I was quite worried that it might be chilly in winter but the underfloor heating took care of that! If anything, it was actually abit too warm when we arrived but the thermastat was easy to use and had separate settings for each room too, so that was soon remedied. I don’t know how hot the cabins might get in a heatwave with all that glass though! But given that they seem very well designed overall, I am assuming there are measures in place to maintain optimum temperatures. We were certainly able to do that during our winter stay anyway, despite having both sunny days and snow in the time we were there! They are really cosy and it is easy to feel right at home there.

Here is my video tour of the cabin…

The Setting

The cabin we had was in the meadow so it was very open, whereas some of them are tucked away amongst the trees. Honestly, in my opinion, regardless of where your cabin is situated, you can’t go wrong.

Our view from the cabin. A meadow with cabins spread out.

The site is in a beautiful location, in the Forest of Dean, with stunning scenic walks all around. Regardless of the time of year we visited, even in Winter, we couldn’t fail to be in awe of the forest setting. Here are just a few of my pictures taken, the first onsite and the others literally a few moments walk off the main site…

Stunning forest setting of the Forest Holidays site.

Beautiful views at the Forest of Dean

Winter scenes at Forest of Dean

Forest of Dean

By the way, the sheer drop on the above photos is less breathtaking and more heartstopping when your autistic child suddenly bolts!!!! Especially if you happen to suffer from vertigo as well, like I do! So I recommend if you explore this area with a young child, or one with SEND, that you not only have nerves of steel, but a very tight grip of their hand!

We don’t have a dog personally, but the site is very dog- friendly and it would be the ideal holiday to take a dog if you are an owner. This is probably also worth noting though if you are nervous around dogs though I guess! Squiggle loved seeing all the dogs about going for walks, she was delighted!

Facilities

Forest Retreat

The Forest Retreat is the main hub where you check in and book activities, and is home to the shop and restaurant. It also has pottery activities for children.

The shop sells a lovely range of gifts, books and activities that are carefully chosen to be perfectly on theme for the nature of the holiday. It also sells a wonderful selection of food and drink; including an extensive range of cider, wine and beer, fresh produce and a range of Cook meals for easy self- catering dining options.

Forest Retreat photo strip showing selection in store.

Food

The menu has plenty to choose from, to either eat in the restaurant or take away. The food was consistently good and service was prompt.

Bike Hire

Bike hire is available onsite from £28 per break per adult or from £25 per child. It is recommended you book these in advance. We didn’t hire bikes on this occasion but Squiggle did ask about it (towards the end of the holiday!) so we would definitely consider it next time.

Cycle Hire building from the outside.

Play Area

The play area was sectioned off during our visit as they were carrying out work on it. It looked more suitable for younger children, but Squiggle would have had a quick go if it were available no doubt!

Bug Hotel

Granted not really one of the facilities per se (at least not for humans!) but I wanted to mention the bug hotel anyway. We have seen these in many places but this one is particularly well made!

Large bug hotel with information sign. Squiggle is stood next to it.

Activities

There are a range of forest ranger led activities available for various ages. Some are shorter at 90 minutes in duration, whilst one survival course is half a day. As well as daytime activities, there is also a night-time ranger adventure so you can spy on the nocturnal forest inhabitants after dark! Dogs are allowed on some of the activities but not all courses, and some have a minimum age for children, so do check details before booking. There are also a selection of activities off- site that can be booked through Forest Holidays as well.

Squiggle on the winter trail.

Squiggle wasn’t up for any of these due to her anxiety, so we opted to do their self- guided seasonal trail instead. This cost £6.95 and she got a prize at the end for completing it. This was a really engaging activity. She started off reluctant to join in but as soon as we got to the first few stops and solved the clues she was hooked! We really enjoyed it and it was definitely one of the highlights of our holiday.

Seasonal trail clue

Local Places To Visit

There are numerous walks nearby surrounded by beauty and tranquility. Aside from that, there are several local places to visit that might be of interest. Forest Holidays have some suggestions of what’s nearby. I would really love to visit Clearwell Caves and also Puzzlewood sometime in future.

We did go to Beechenhurst, mainly to go on the sculpture trail. However, Squiggle was very near tired and nearing meltdown, so we didn’t actually find any sculptures and ended up just having a quick wander instead. I would love to return when it is better timing for her though; it looked like a lovely place to spend a day and I really want to see the sculptures – from the photos they look brilliant!

One thing I will remember from our trip though was that, as we drove up into the carpark, something moving in the forest caught my eye. As I turned to look I thought at first it was dozens of rabbits scurrying into the bushes. But then I realised, whatever they were, they weren’t hopping – they were running. It was a huge group of baby wild boar!

Now I know they are very common to the area and especially at that time of year, but I had never actually seen any before. I was so excited! They were gone in a flash; no time to grab a camera or even point them out to Squiggle, but that was a personal highlight that I will always remember.

We also visited Symonds Yat briefly, on the bank of River Wye. I took a few photos, but I could have taken many more of these stunning scenic views…

River Wye

Stunning scenic view of river Wye

Symonds Yat

In Summary

We really enjoyed our stay at Forest Holidays and loved exploring Forest of Dean. We are very keen to return here sometime in the future, and also would like to try other Forest Holidays locations too. We would definitely recommend it – at any time of year!

Last but not least…

Here is a video clip I put together summarising the highlights of our holiday:

*Disclosure: I was given a discount when booking this holiday in exchange for a review post. However, as always, I have expressed my honest opinion and all thoughts are my own.

 4 Ways Camping Can Rejuvenate Your Soul

As modern people, we often do not get out into nature half as much as we should, and certainly nowhere near as often as even some of our more recent ancestors did. Instead, we remain indoors for the vast majority of our lives, whether at home, at the office, at the local cinema, or restaurant, or club.

There’s nothing wrong with the indoors, of course. Nature can often be savage and unforgiving, and electric underfloor heating is a tremendous boon in the midst of winter, when would be left fighting for our lives against the elements if we were still hunter-gatherers. Nonetheless, connecting to nature is essential, for mind, body, and soul. So here are some ways that a good camping trip – in as wild a place as possible – can rejuvenate your soul…

Title image with faded camping picture in background

It can wash away the preoccupations of daily life

Over the course of our normal 9-5 workdays and the lives that surround them, we are caught up between a near-endless number of obligations and concerns and preoccupations of various types. These obligations aren’t just all in our heads, either, although many of them are. There are real obligations placed on us by society to fill in the right form at the right times, complete our projects by particular deadlines, top up our cars, and attend parent-teacher meetings. All these preoccupations – each small in their own right – can mount and become the kind of chronic stress that leads to breakdowns and unhappiness with life in general.

Camping can wash all of that away for a time. Suddenly you are no longer “plugged into the Matrix”, but are out in nature, with your days and nights stretching before you. What do you need to do out here? Eat and sleep. Everything else is optional.

Leave your phone off and only switch it on for emergencies. Leave all your fancy gadgets at home. Go camping and let nature remind you of a more simple mode of living, and wash your soul clean of its usual preoccupations.

It can get you back in touch with the cycles of nature

Chronic insomnia is one of the major issues plaguing modern man in the developed world. The reasons aren’t too hard to fathom, either. Instead of our days following a natural rhythm, we find ourselves in an “always-on”, world. We can wake up before dawn, watch YouTube videos, organise our days on our planners, have a strong coffee, and leave for work. After working for an entire day, we return home, switch on the blinding artificial lights, and watch Netflix until the early hours.

Camping gets us back in touch with the natural cycles of nature. We rise with the sun, are active while it shines, and then get sleepy – and sleep – moments after it sets. Things seem to fit into their proper categories and positions, and our mood and health begin to improve rapidly.

A tent pitched up on a large open field overlooking the beach and ocean below

It can remind you of your connectedness to the great web of life

We buy our food from the local grocery store wrapped in plastic. We hear about environmental crises, but it doesn’t really register. It can be easy to forget, when living in the city, that we are not just detached individuals floating through the world, but are in fact connected to the great web of life all around us.

Camping reminds us of our place in the order of things. It can make us feel more whole, less alone, and more in touch with the planet we occupy. It can remind us that we are part of a greater whole and have an important role to play in the world.

It can give you space to dream

One of the most damaging consequences of being caught up in the constant flow of information and distraction that makes up modern life, is that we are so drawn into the everyday complexities of things, that we completely lose our perspective and forget, or can no longer manage, to dream the big dreams that make life truly worth living.

Getting out camping in a wild location can truly give us a different perspective on life. Now, we see our normal lives as if from a great height. We’re in a different place, somewhat outside of space and time, and we can see more clearly than we did before. From this perspective – this place outside of our normal routines – we may once again find the space to dream, to wonder, and to plan our lives from a transcendent place of hope and excitement.

A tent in the forest

*This is a collaborative post.

Strategies To Help Children Who Procrastinate

“Not now” and “later on” are common things that a household with older children or teenagers will hear. It could be relating to homework, chores, or just general helping around the house. And in many ways, it can be completely normal. Even us as parents can put off the less than desirable tasks as we have other things to do instead or don’t have the energy right then and there to do them. What is important is noticing if you or your child are an occasional delayer, or if you or they are a proper procrastinator and do so because of an underlying issue. Dealing with children that delay tasks for either reason can be a challenge, but knowing the difference and why your child does it can be even more of a challenge.

The thing is, if children are delaying these kinds of thing at home; by simply not starting them with enough time, not completing them, or not even bothering with them, it can cause them some challenges in life. It can mean lower grades, less freedom due to parental punishments, or the inability to take part in extracurricular activities.

A group of teenagers chatting happily

Some reasons why they will put doing things off could be:

• Boredom or lack of interest

• Poor time management

• Lack of self-discipline

• Lack of empathy and seeing the relevance of the task to them

• Fear of failure or anxiety

As parents, we need to identify why it might be that our children are putting off doing certain things, or just not wanting to do them at all. Do any of these reasons resonate with you? If so, then it is a good idea to intervene. Here are some ways that you can help your child to be more focused and productive…

Use Your Experiences to Share and Relate

Whether our children like it or not, we have been there and done that, so to speak, and can share some of our life experiences. You could talk about how to become a productive student and what changes you had to make when you went off to University, for example. You could share what you struggled with as you were growing up and what you learned, or strategies that helped.

Clarify Your Expectations

If your child puts things off because of anxiety or the perceived thought of failure, then make sure you are clear in what you expect of them. You are highly likely not expecting perfection; so let them know. Focus on the effort it takes to do something, rather than the end product, or the score, or grade.

Help Teach Problem Solving

Children with anxiety will be likely to make a small situation much bigger than it is, in their head. If they perceive failing at a certain task before they’ve even done it, then it could mean to them that they’ll instantly be punished or become unpopular. The scenario is not likely to happen, but the thought that it could might well be enough to put them off. Help your child to do some rational thinking about this and sometimes even talking about worse case scenarios will make them see it is not that bad. Also help problem solving skills and confidence by starting with smaller, more manageable tasks. You can also teach relaxation skills too.

If Anxiety Gets Too Much

If your child has anxiety, it is important to be understanding and support them in beating their anxiety, using approaches that help them feel able to do whatever it is they are trying to achieve. Gentle nudges out of their comfort zone without making it too overwhelming tends to be effective. If their anxiety becomes unmanageable, CBT and/ or self- help strategies can sometimes be very effective. If it gets to a point where anxiety is significantly affecting daily functioning though, please ensure you seek professional help asap.

*This is a collaborative post.

International Day of Happiness

Today, 20th March, is International Day of Happiness. This year’s theme is Share Happiness – focusing on the importance of relationships, kindness and helping each other.

I created this reminder of actions we can take to help ourselves, and others, to feel good…

International Day of Happiness infographic

This was inspired by ideas from the Action for Happiness website, which has plenty of other ideas and resources too. I printed off some of my favourites for us to display at home…

Squiggle reading our Action for Happiness, International Day of Happiness display

Action for Happiness, International Day of Happiness display

Squiggle also wrote her own message too…

International Day of Happiness message from Squiggle

International Day of Happiness message by Squiggle

What will you do today for International Day of Happiness? Leave me a comment!

An Open Letter To Anyone Who Struggled This Mothers Day

If you follow me on any of my social media channels, you will perhaps have already seen the Mothers Day post I wrote first thing yesterday morning. But incase you missed it, here it is…

Happy Mothers Day ❤

I know today is not always the happy day that it is sometimes expected to be. For alot of SEND parents, for example, it can be quite the opposite; the ‘demand’ (even if only perceived, not an actual expectation), the anxiety of ‘getting it right’, the change from the norm – all of it can lead to a difficult day for everyone.

Or maybe you are dealing with a bereavement. Or your family just isn’t around. There are so many reasons why today might be tough…

So whether there is a specific reason… or your kid simply decides that today is THE day to get out of the wrong side of bed and throw the most epic of tantrums ALL DAMN DAY… this post is for you. To all the mummas who feel sad, or frustrated, or under- appreciated right now; I am here to tell you that you rock! And it’s okay not to feel okay. Today or any other day.

May your rain lead to rainbows and may tomorrow be a brighter day! Love and strength to you all 🌈 ❤😘 xxxx

A selfie of Katie Living Life Our Way with rainbow drawings border

Alongside the post, I shared this selfie.

Why A Selfie?

I already knew, even at that time of the morning, that there would be no Mothers Day pictures to share. No cards. No presents, flowers or chocolates. No meals. No outings. No recent photos of my mum. Nothing.

(Although to be fair later in the day I did get a few cute photos of me sat on the sofa with Squiggle but I wouldn’t share those for privacy reasons anyway).

Sure, I could have used a stock image of a pretty bunch of flowers or box of chocolates but it just seemed abit inauthentic. So the picture is just to remind other mums that you aren’t alone! There is a real person behind these words, and I get how you feel. After all, I am that mum too.

Social Media Highlights

People on Facebook and other social media are often accused of only showing the highlights of their lives too though. Well yeah, sometimes that is certainly true – but so what? Way I see it, even if it was just one good moment out of the whole day, then you are blessed with that moment and why not share that with the world?! There is nothing wrong with focusing on the positives and sharing them for everyone to celebrate with you! So when you see others’ newsfeeds, please remember that people aren’t trying to make you feel bad or show off how amazing their life is – they are just the highlights!

Let’s all be cheerleaders in one another’s lives – goodness knows we certainly all need it at some time or another! As I said in my earlier message; sending love and strength to all those who need it. Together, we got this! ❤💪

(As a side note, the picture wasn’t meant to look so ‘posed’ by the way; it was taken at 3am after zero sleep (thanks to Squiggle pulling an all- nighter, yet again) and I was just trying to hide the fact I had massive bags under my eyes, haven’t done my eyebrows in forever, no make up (obviously!) and have very messy, unstyled hair. Oh, and I was sporting a scratch on my cheek from an earlier meltdown too! So I was just doing my best to erm… ‘style it out’ shall we say lol! But I mention this all now because, to be honest, I did kind of cringe when I looked back at the photo later in the day and wondered what others might think of my sleep- deprived choice! Oh well!)

Lots of love,

Katie xx

Children Are Our Future: Setting Them Up For Success

As parents, our number one goal in life is to raise happy and healthy children with a bright future. We want to know that we’re doing everything we can to do what’s best for them, and once you have a child this little person is suddenly the most important thing in your life, you value it above your own. But knowing what we need to do to make sure we’re setting our children up for success can be a struggle, after all, no one knows what the future holds. However with that being said, there are a few things we can do that will always benefit our kids in later years, regardless of the direction they go in. Here are some ideas…

Children Are Our Future: Setting Them Up For Success title with black and white image of child sat on adult's knee in a living room reading a book.

Teach Them The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle

We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. The leading cause of death in the third world is heart disease, which for the most part is preventable with a healthy lifestyle. Therefore teaching our children about the importance of health and setting a good example for healthy habits is crucial. Keep processed food, sweets and junk out of the house as much as possible, and try to avoid using them as treats or rewards, as this teaches children a bad mindset towards these things.

Cook healthy and delicious meals at home- include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and other fresh raw nutricious ingredients. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for family friendly meals, and if you’re pushed for time you could try batch cooking at weekends. That way you have access to lots of frozen, healthy meals you cooked yourself and are far less likely to buy something convenient yet unhealthy and expensive. Also, numerous studies have shown that families that eat together raise happier and more balanced children, who tend to be slimmer and healthier. So if you currently feed the children and adults in your house separately it’s worth making a change.

Exercise is also very important, kids are naturally energetic so it shouldn’t be difficult for them to get in the hour of moderate to vigorous activity they need a day. The trick is to make it fun, avoid it feeling like a chore. You could go on family hikes or bike rides together at the weekend. Or take them swimming, trampolining or to a class they enjoy, such as dance or martial arts. Even hire a bouncy castle or buy a large trampoline for your back garden and they’re sure to have hours of fun activity with very little input needed from you. Getting into these healthy habits and seeing exercise as something that’s fun and enjoyable is something that will most definitely set them up for future success.

Think About Finances

Starting out as a young adult can be difficult. It’s more of a struggle to get onto the property market now than it ever was- and it’s set to get worse. By planning for your child’s future, you can give them an advantage once they’re older. Some money towards a mortgage deposit could help them onto the property ladder which might have otherwise been impossible for them. You could either put money into a savings account, or make a smart investment such as buying some property. A studio apartment or small flat wouldn’t be too expensive, you could then put away the money you earn from it each month into savings for your child. When they’re older, they could even live in it while they get established with their career or attend a local college or university. This would save on fees for halls or renting a student house, but still give them the independence they will be craving at that age.

Keep Them Curious

Children are naturally curious about the world, and keeping this magic alive is what will give them a great capacity to learn and do well in their education. Take them to galleries and museums, go on woodland walks with fun worksheets from Pinterest where you tick off the things you see. Take them rock pool fishing and teach them about the creatures they catch, go to the farm or zoo and tell them all about the animals. Learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom or with books, keeping kids curious and giving them a thirst for knowledge is a fantastic way to set them up later in life. With a passion to learn they’re more likely to do well in future, and a good education paves the way for gaining the skills they need to later on enjoy satisfying career that they love.

Read to your kids often, sing songs, make up stories together. Do puzzles, teach them how to bake or sew. It’s all new, fun and exciting for kids and you help them to develop passions and hobbies that can help them meet new friends and develop their skills.

Photo of a happy laughing family having a water fight with buckets of water

Encourage Them To Be Empathetic

Empathy, being able to see things from another person’s perspective and feel genuine emotions towards them seems like the most human thing in the world. However this is not a trait we are born with, those who grow up without learning how to empathise don’t show it later on, their brains do not develop in the same way. Being empathetic, sensitive and able to understand the emotions of others helps people to develop meaningful friendships and later on relationships- it helps them to become a good person.

Encourage empathy by praising empathetic behaviour, avoiding anger and encouraging kids to talk about their feelings. Being able to label your own feelings as a child is very useful, as when others speak about how they feel the child is able to understand what it means and feels like.

One option for teaching kids empathy is to take them volunteering. Feeding the homeless, helping out at a children’s hospital, volunteering at an animal shelter or at a care home can all allow them to experience different emotions of others, and learn how it feels good to help. Growing up in touch with their emotions as well as being able to perceive others will allow them to create meaningful and lasting bonds with others.

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Relaxation Tips For Children: Dealing With Stress and Anxiety

This post has been written at the request of Squiggle. She specifically asked for advice from other children, for dealing with stress and anxiety, and strategies to help her to relax. We do alot of work on this already and have lots of strategies in our toolkit. But sometimes you just need fresh ideas, or to hear them from someone else! So here are some tips for kids, by kids…

Relaxation Tips For Children: Dealing With Stress and Anxiety. Title written on image of child smelling flowers in a sunny field.

Keep a gratitude jar or list where you write positives, achievements and things you are grateful for to look at when you feel low. ~ Nomipalony

Kids self-help books can be really useful. As can therapy apps. I have written about these here.

My nine year old said a spa day – I feel I’ve taught him well! ~ Twinderelmo

My 3.5 yo just said going outside makes him happy – so guess he’s right, everyone in our family loves to be outside, being close to nature. It’s also proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels. No wonder all kids love to be outside! ~ Captainbobcat

Writing and drawing her own stories helps to alleviate anxiety.

My six year old daughter says spending time with loved ones and her animals makes her happy, relaxed and feel lucky and appreciated. Particularly dog walking and exploring new countryside areas. ~ Family Travel With Ellie

My twelve year-old suggests putting a nice film on and then fall asleep with a blanket. ~ Edinburgh With Kids

My son says to do some mindful breathing! ~ Pink Pear Bear

Music – whether it is singing, dancing, listening to it or playing it – is very therapeutic.

My children have both said reading, they like to read before bed and I have found them with books in their hands while fast asleep… they are 7 and 6. ~ Mummy Cat Notes

I write a reasons to be cheerful post everyday on my Facebook page ~ Monkey Footed Mummy

Yoga with the kids! I have 5 and 7 year old boys and even though their attention span on yoga is about ten minutes, it is ten minutes of calm and recentering before we’re onto the next crazy activity. Well worth giving it a shot. ~ Motherhood Diaries

My 5 year old said to eat lots of chocolate! ~ Five Little Doves

Treating yourself can really help, as long as the child understands the need for balance and to moderate.

My 8 year old suggests going to your room and finding your favourite music. Then dance until you feel better! ~ Household Money Saving

My nearly 7 year old has struggled with anxiety over the last few months. We’ve introduced a ‘worry bag’. Every day, she takes a few minutes to write down any of her anxieties on pieces of paper. The paper goes into the worry bag at bedtime and we put the worry bag away. Then once every few days (can be more or less frequent depending on how she’s feeling) we open up the worry bag, and go through all the worries, and work out how to manage each worry. We throw each worry away once we’ve tackled it.

She’s found this really helpful, and is sleeping better and is happier at school as a result. I think the symbolism of writing the worries down, putting them away / throwing them away once we’ve tackled them really seems to help. ~ The Mum Conundrum

Incase anyone else relates to this or finds this information useful, my daughter finds writing down her problems distinctly unhelpful. She described it as making them even more concrete and real. I included the advice anyway because I think it is generally a great strategy for the majority of children and her reaction/ way of looking at it is very rare!

Our 8 year old says, “music, reading and being with her pets” helps her to relax and chill out. ~ Virtually Allsorts

Child sat outside on the grass in sunshine reading a book.

My daughter (10) likes to read her favourite books and escape into imaginary worlds through them. ~ Starlight and Stories

My son likes to draw and paint so he takes the pen or paint brush whenever he feels stressed. It let him pour out his emotions through art expression. ~ My Parenting Journey

Getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy mind.

Playing outside or going for a walk. Great for kids and grown ups alike. In my teens I always put on headphones and laid in bed listening to music to relax. Always slept with my headphones on. Also, hugging someone you love. ~ Mum of 2 point 5

My son gets very anxious alot due to his autism. When he is like that, he loves to organise his train collection! Anything to feel he is in control and it relaxes him. Also, we read books about different feelings to help him understand why he is feeling how he is. Lastly, he says playing football in the park helps him alot! ~ Mother Gets Lippy

When you feel like it’s bubbling up inside, try and stop yourself, close your eyes, take a very deep breath (or two) and see if that changes your immediate response to a situation. If you manage to do it often in the day, you find yourself being more positive or receptive to life’s everyday situations. Hard to do at first, but it can become a (good) habit! ~ Mind Your Mamma

Self-care, including healthy eating and plenty of exercise, really helps.

I just asked my five year old and he suggested Netflix and a duvet with chocolate fingers! From Mammys perspective I find his interest in sports is which causes him to be less stressed, that coupled with minimal screen time; I find it drives them wild! ~ The Mamma Fairy

My 7 year old daughter says bubble bath and quiet time. She loves being by herself to block out noise and just chill out! ~ Country Heart and Home

Totally immerse yourself into a hobby. It can be absolutely anything, from crafts to music, to baking or sports. Getting better at something and seeing the results of your efforts help gain perspective and a more positive outlook on life overall. ~ How To Rock At Parenting

Thank you to all the children who contributed to this post!

Great Gift Ideas For Health and Wellbeing (Gift Guide)  

This gift guide is aimed at anyone looking for gift ideas that focus on wellbeing. Filled with presents that support a healthy lifestyle, this gift guide has the perfect suggestions to show you really care about someone! This post also includes a giveaway too.

Since my blog regularly focuses on health and wellbeing, when I was planning my gift guides for this season I knew I definitely wanted to include one on this topic specifically. It is important to me when choosing gifts for others to pick something out that is meaningful and special, or truly makes a difference to their lives. And I figured you, my lovely readers, would appreciate these fab present ideas too…

Image with collage of items included in the guide. Title at top.

Stocking Fillers

Higher Nature is an independently owned business that provides high quality nutritional products, including the Mind Matters collection, which focuses on supporting mental health.

Image of Brighter Day, Rest Well spray and Worry Not spray by Higher Nature

Brighter Day Drink

This natural fruity flavoured drink is perfect for the darker, winter months. B vitamins in a natural blackcurrant drink to brighten your day and lift your mood.

Cost: £7.99 (currently half price at £3.49 at the time of writing).

Worry Not Spray

Handy spray to keep by your side for those moments in life when you feel anxious or overwhelmed. A supportive blend of amino acids, B vitamins and herbs.

Cost: £9.99

Rest Well Spray

This unique spray formulation can help towards improving the quality of rest. It contains a unique blend of amino acids, herbs and vitamin B3.

Cost: £9.99

Caffeine and L-Theanine stack by Focus Supplements

Caffeine and L-Theanine work together to improve your focus and energy while introducing a feeling of calmness. L-Theanine removes any caffeine jitters, creating a sensation of calmness, combined with the focus and attentiveness of caffeine. Buy here: Caffeine Amazon

Cost: £14.99

Yoga Clothes

Yoga is good for both the body and mind. It’s a great activity for reducing stress/ relaxation and supports general wellbeing, and a healthy lifestyle. So yoga clothes make a fab gift!

Ohmme Yoga Shorts For Men

For example, OHMME is an eco- friendly athleisure slow fashion brand created as ethically as possible. These yoga clothes have been created to encourage men to take up yoga from a mental health perspective. They also donate to CALM Charity.

A main wearing a pair of blue 2-dogs yoga shorts.

I have a giveaway for one lucky reader to win a pair of mens yoga shorts from OHMME (usual price £45). Check out my eco- friendly gift guide to enter.

Grow Your Own Food Kits

Growing kits make a lovely gift; the act of growing your own food is in itself great for wellbeing, and eating the results is healthy too!

A picture of a child kneeling outside by the salad kit in use, pointing to the food growing.

Salad Kit by The Crop Club

The Crop Club is a brilliant initiative that reconnects communities through the joy of growing food and inspires healthy happy lifestyles. They also collaborate with companies and communities who want to give their stakeholders a gift that makes them feel good whilst remembering their brands. For individuals, they sell salad kits to grow at home.

A picture of the salad kit contents.

These salad kits are designed for people with small spaces; you don’t need a garden to grow your own! The coffee sack planters are perfect for small spaces and all varieties are chosen because they are compact, fast to mature and many can be re sown throughout the season for a continual harvest.

Cost: £30

Gifts For Relaxation

Luxury bath sets are wonderful gifts. There are such a range of fabulous items in a variety of scents that support wellbeing and help us to relax. From oils to salts, bath bombs and body scrubs, there are plenty of presents available to pamper with!

Neals Yard Bedtime Collection Gift Set

This Beauty and Sleep Bedtime Collection is an ideal gift for anyone, for example.

Cost: £15

TowelUp

And for after the bath, this cool little invention makes a nice addition to any stocking too! TowelUp is a handy clip that stops a bath (or beach) towel falling down when wrapped around the chest or waist, and it comes in a pretty gift bag too.

A picture of TowelUp clip in a pretty little gift bag on a white towel.

I also have one of these to give-away, head over to my facebook page to enter!

Cost: £3.99 for one or £6.99 for two (+ 73p P&P)

Self- Care Books

There are some brilliant books that focus on wellbeing and these make a thoughtful present.

Survive and Thrive by Jennifer Boon

Jennifer Boon is a life coach who has written a new book series called Survive & Thrive. This series focuses on supporting women through challenging life phases and shows us that it is ok to love ourselves. She offers solid practical advice on how we can fill up our own ‘love reservoirs’ and empower ourselves to go after the life.

Image of cover of paperback version of Survive and Thrive book.

The first book in the series is called Dating and Being Single. Despite the title, the book is great for those in a relationship too, as it is really about self-love and acceptance. Full of amazing advice regardless of current status!

Cost: £9.99

I have a copy of this excellent book for one reader to win! Enter via rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ends 7th December 2017. UK residents only. Other T&Cs apply.

This is a collaborative post and contains affiliate links.

Top Tips For A Good Night Sleep

Sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing. Yet it is something that many of us struggle with, for one reason or another. Whether it is getting to sleep, staying asleep or frequent disturbances throughout the night, lack of sleep and/ or poor quality sleep can play havoc with your mood, health and functioning.

So here are some top tips to help ensure you get a goodnight sleep and wake up well rested…

Picture of a pair of feet sticking out of the end of the bed. Reads Top Tips For A Good Night Sleep.

Wind Down

Many people need time to relax and unwind after a busy day in order to feel ready to sleep. There are various relaxation aids and tips to switch off in the sections below to assist with this. Meditation or some gentle yoga might also be beneficial.

I try to shut off tech and not use my phone for about 30 minutes to an hour before going bed. I try to have a bath and listen to music instead. ~ The Mum Diaries

Switch Off

Whilst a minority of people might do just fine falling asleep to TV or other devices, alot of people would benefit from no screens in the bedroom.

We took all electric devices out of the bedroom and it made a huge difference. ~ I Am River

Charging my phone away from where I sleep helps. ~ The Coaching Parent

Declutter Your Mind

If you go to bed with your mind swirling with thoughts, it can be difficult to switch off and get to sleep. Writing them down can help get them out of your head.

I always have loads of thoughts going round my head – I try & scribble them down if I can’t sleep as it helps ’empty’ my brain! Or use voice memo on a phone. ~ Sophie’s Nursery

Relaxation Aids

Finding relaxation techniques that work for you is important as it allows you to de-stress and supports sleep. Whether it is relaxing music, hypnosis or something else, making time to relax is essential for wellbeing.

I listen to relaxing music, as do the kids – Weightless is the name of the song that works wonder for all of us! ~ The Mamma Fairy

I use online hypnosis tracks from iTunes and they work a treat! ~ Thrifty Mum

I have struggled on an off for a few years but about four years ago I found ASMR videos on YouTube. They are often called tingle videos as if you experience ASMR This is what you feel! Gentle whispering is the one I watch the most, they are so soothing and relaxing, I always fall asleep to them! ~ Ready Freddie Go

If I’m struggling to get to sleep, reading a book usually sends me off. Don’t think I’ve finished a book in years as I always forget what I’ve read at bedtime! ~ The Growing Mum

Comfort

To get a good night sleep, you need to be comfortable! Invest time and money in finding the most suitable mattress and choose good quality bedding. Pick the duvet tog that is right for you and the room temperature. Or layer up with blankets so they can be adjusted according to need. Some people even find weighted blankets useful. The Dozy Owl has a great article to help you choose the best pillow too.

Bedroom Environment

Lighting in the bedroom is important. Some people prefer a nightlight, whilst others really need the room to be as dark as possible and find blackout curtains or blinds helpful. Noise levels can also be an issue. If you find yourself frequently being woken up by environmental noise, then it is probably time to invest in a pair of ear plugs or use a white noise generator. A fish tank (or even a fan) in the room can also have a similar effect. Relaxing scents such as lavender oil can also help assist a good night sleep too.

Bed with side table and lamp. Minimalistic clean neutral but welcoming bedroom.

Sleeping Arrangements

Sleeping arrangements are such a personal thing. Whilst some people sleep much better snuggled up to a warm body next too them, others find themselves waking at every little noise or movement and find it easier to sleep alone. In the case of relationships, it can become a delicate balance of the importance of intimacy vs the importance of sleep. There is really no right answer, weigh up what the priorities are and what works best for everyone involved.

I don’t struggle with sleep, just stay up too late. But if you’ve a baby who’s in their own room near enough to hear when they cry, turn off the baby monitor once you’re in bed. They keep you awake with any little sound but really you only need to know when they’re really calling for you. It’ll help them self settle if they’re just being noisy and having a moan.

My husband would say sleep in another room to your partner if they keep you awake. He’s a really light sleeper and moans I’m noisy even before I am asleep. ~ Bubba Blue and Me

We have a family room with us and 2 little ones sharing. We have a huge room with two double beds and a single in. I have no idea why but we all sleep better for it and it works for us. ~ I Am River

Avoid Caffeine

For a small minority of people (particularly those with ADHD) caffeine can have the opposite effect and potentially be relaxing. However, generally, for the vast majority of people, caffeine acts as a stimulant and is best avoided, or at least reduced, as it gets closer to bedtime. The length of time needed before sleep varies from person to person, and alot of people find it useful to cut it out completely.

I’ve realised I sleep a million times better & fall asleep instantly if I have no caffeine all day. So not even a tea in the morning! The days I have a tea (usually green) I take much longer to sleep. ~ Lylia Rose

Supplements

I was recently sent some Benenox Overnight Recharge to try. It is a combination of honey, two amino acids (L-Alanine and L-Glutamine) and Vitamin B6. During a survey, 3/4 of people felt this helped to improve their quality of sleep and left them feeling more refreshed the next day.

I take a magnesium supplement, it’s know as the anti-stress mineral and is a muscle relaxant, so is really effective for helping to relax me and get me to sleep. I also have a mug of rooibos tea before bed. ~ Pure Nourish

Benenox in two flavours presented in a pretty purple box

Last Resort…

Failing all the above, I’d book a hotel room away from the man child & childerbeasts! I reckon that should do it! ~ The Smallest Of Things

On a serious note, sometimes a change of scenary and night away (espeecially with a room to yourself!) can really make a difference. After a good night rest you can wake up feeling like a different person. Sleep matters!

What are your top sleep tips?

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Common Health Conditions: Where To Go For Advice and Information

I came across an article the other day discussing the ethics behind health bloggers; in particular, the dangers of non- experts giving advice and writing beyond their level of expertise. As a family lifestyle blogger, I have a health and wellbeing section, and cover this topic fairly regularly. 

It got me thinking, should bloggers shy away from covering certain topics? Perhaps just leave it all to the professionals? I think it largely depends on the context it is written. Of course, nobody should be claiming to be an expert if they are not, or offer advice that could potentially be harmful. I guess some subjects are therefore by nature more controversial than others. But I do think well written and responsible health blogs have their place, and can be a very valuable source of information.

For example, I often see on parenting groups new parents asking for health advice for their babies. Sometimes they are questions about rashes or temperatures; the kind of thing that it would be best to look up on NHS Direct or go to a pharmacy to establish whether it is safe to treat at home. But other things are questions that can easily be answered by other, more experienced, parents. Sensible, typical suggestions for dealing with a teething baby for example. Or little first aid tips like how to safely and easily remove a splinter. But if in any doubt whatsoever, it is always best to seek medical advice. Likewise, same applies when it comes to any other advice or health conditions for anyone of any age.

health, medical, health conditions, wellbeing, advice

It is comparitable to how people might ask friends or family for advice vs going to their GP. Of course, we don’t want to waste valuable NHS resources and professional’s time with things that are clearly fine to research ourselves or safe to treat at home, but if there is any doubt whatsoever then seek advice. Rule of thumb, in my opinion, is to treat blog posts and articles more like you are chatting to your friends rather than speaking to an expert!

Personally, whilst I try to ensure that my health posts are informative, of course I absolutely do not claim to be an expert and I make sure that I signpost people on where to go for further information, advice and support. I offer ‘common sense’ practical suggestions about living a healthy lifestyle and ideas to support wellbeing, but I am careful not to cross the line into specialist advice. It is important however to reflect on this sometimes though and make sure I am consciously taking responsibility for the impact of the words I write on my readers. 

Remember: if in doubt, seek expert medical advice. 

health, medical, health conditions, wellbeing, advice

Here are some essential sources for information and advice:

NHS Direct

The Independent Pharmacy

Mind (mental health)

Childrens Health

NHS children’s health section

www.healthforkids.co.uk (NHS site)

www.gosh.nhs.uk/children/about-your-condition

youngminds.org.uk (mental health)

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.