Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Baobao's Activity Time: Our Christmas Activities 2016

1. Reverse Advent

Although we don't have much ourselves, I'm very aware that there are many who have less. Christmas is such a time of high consumption and materialism, that I want to teach Baobao early to share with those in need. Our local foodbank are always looking for more donations. 

Each day, I will encourage Baobao to add one item from their donation list into a box. Then on the first Friday in January, we will take the box to our closest donation point. To help Baobao know what items to put into the box, I will print pictures and include them in her advent calendar, making this a daily activity. We'll have a £15 budget to get all of the items on the list.

2. Book Advent
One of my favourite activities to do with Baobao is to read. I have several Christmas and winter themed books left over from when I was teaching. Every day we will read a new book every day. As it's our first year, and we haven't got the funds to buy lots of new books, some of the days will be activity days, instead of book days. This will include sensory activities and days out.

As with the reverse advent above, I will print pictures of the book covers to allow Baobao to find the story.

3. Christmas Activity Box
Originally we did this on Christmas Eve, but want to use items over the whole of the Christmas period instead this year. Each evening I will put items into the box for the next day's activities. This will include the day's book and reverse advent item. 

Other items will include:
  • Polar Express Ticket (to take car trip to see local Christmas lights)
  • Advent Calendar
  • Christmas Pyjamas
  • Christmas outfit
  • Christmas hat
  • Christmas jumper
  • Christmas Activity Sticker Book
  • Christmas DVDs
  • Christmas CDs
  • Resources for Christmas Activities 
  • Resources for Christmas Sensory activities.
  • Sealed Christmas Eve box:
    Hot chocolate/eggnog
    Christmas eve snacks
    Christmas mugs

4. Christmas Crafts
  • Fingerprint fairy lights
  • Mistletoes
  • Christmas cards 
  • Christmas baubles
  • Christmas tree decoration
  • Gingerbread man
  • Christmas baking
5. Seasons School
We are going to be following the Seasons School Solstice Workshop this year. Seasons School is a nature based curriculum, that allows children to learn at a relaxed pace based around the seasons of the year. The Solstice Workshop will include winter solstice activities for children in a non-denominational manner.

What activities are you planning on doing with your children this December? Any activities I could add without making our December too full?

Monday, 28 November 2016

KonMari Challenge Week 8: OFFICE SUPPLIES

I really struggled with beginning this category, going so far as to skip ahead and do other categories first. It wasn't that I was irrationally fond of my stationary, I'm not, but at 32 weeks pregnant I couldn't face the thought of collecting everything. We keep most of our office supplies in our office/storage room. With various DIY projects and building work going on, it has become difficult to access quite afew parts of that room and I just didn't want to access it.

I finally too the plunge yesterday morning, cutting it very close to the deadline. In the end, I only collected the items that I could easily access. I'm sure I missed some things, but I plan on tackling those as part of the miscellaneous category. As it stands, next weekend my husband and I will finally tackle the office space, to make it easier to access the rest of the categories.

Office Supplies - Before

Spare Change
I haven't applied the KonMari process to our spare change. That's because we have a really elaborate way of dealing with change. Pound coins are split between three savings tins that cannot be opened. One for gifts for family, one for Baobao and one for Xiaobao. Currently all 50p coins go to Baobao for her piggy bank, but will be split between her and Xiaobao once Xiaobao arrives. Any change under 50p goes into the large jar, which we change up once a year when full.

Credit Cards
Rewards Cards
We only have reward cards for shops we use regularly

Bubble Wrap
Mailing Boxes
Since I rarely post things, preferring to sell locally or have gifts directly shipped to the recipient, we don't keep envelopes, bubble wrap and mailing boxes at home, preferring to buy them as and when needed.

Filing Cabinets
I actually had quite a few notebooks that I have bought over the years, used briefly and then abandoned. I plan to copy the relevant info to the computer and possibly this blog and then recycle. The only notebook I kept was my current blog planner.

Sticky Notes
Hole Punches
Clip Boards
Folders/Page Protectors
I had a few folders left over from teaching, that I had kept just in case. I realise that if I do happen to need one in the future, I can buy a new one, especially as my taste will have changed.

Label Makers
Staplers and Staples
Rubber Bands
Paper Clips
I ended up discarding most of my pens, keeping enough to fit into one drawer of my stationary box.

White-out (tipex)
Coloring Books/Sketch Pads
|I had some colouring books and pages leftover from when I became very interested in colouring for adults two years ago. Unfortunately, I don't see myself finding the time with a toddler and a newborn and so have decided to let them bring somebody else joy.

Office Supplies - after

Office Supplies - after

Office Supplies - after

Office Supplies - after

Office supplies - sell/donate

 Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your Office supplies? Do you now find it easier to access the stationary you need to use? Have you honed your sense of what stationary you prefer to use and brings you joy?

Thursday, 24 November 2016

One Hundred Toys: Open Ended Toys for 0-5 Years

Recently, I stumbled across One Hundred Toys, a website aiming to introduce parents to the 100 toys, games and experiences that all children aged 0-5 should be able to enjoy.

The part of the One Hundred Toys philosophy that interests me the most, especially while trying to reduce our possessions as part of the KonMari process, is that children should have fewer better toys. In light of that, I've had a look at the toys they recommend for different ages and distilled them into different types of toys. When you break it down, lots of the toys after the first 18 months are actually very similar, meaning you can build them up over time and still have minimal clutter.

I highlighted toys that were the same across multiple age ranges and added things such as books and musical instruments that I feel are important for children to experience.

0-6 months

  • grasping toy
  • rattle
  • baby gym
  • soft ball
  • soft books
  • play mat
  • mirror
  • mobile
  • teether
  • black & white imagery

6-12 months
  • grasping toy
  • rattle
  • baby gym
  • soft ball
  • soft books
  • play mat
  • mirror
  • mobile
  • teether
  • blocks
  • stacking bowls and toys
  • sensory activities - treasure baskets

12-18 months
  • blocks
  • stacking bowls and toys
  • board books
  • wooden cars/boats
  • musical instruments
  • chunky puzzles
  • sensory activities - treasure baskets

18-24 months
  • construction toys - blocks, duplo, wooden Grimm's type toys, stacking bowls and toys
  • board books
  • wooden cars/boats
  • musical instruments
  • picture puzzles
  • art materials - paper, crayons, glue stick, chunky brush, finger paints
  • role play - play food, doctor, dress up, baby doll
  • sensory activities - play dough, messy play
  • fine motor skills - pegs, threading
  • gross motor skills - balls, wands, ride on toys
  • small world play - wooden animals, trains, play people
  • outdoor play - sand/water play

2-3 years
  • construction toys - blocks, duplo, wooden Grimm's type toys
  • wooden cars/boats
  • musical instruments
  • picture puzzles
  • art materials - paper, crayons, pencils, chunky brush, chalk, finger paints, easel, sharpener, water colours
  • role play - playfood, doctor, dress up, baby doll
  • sensory activities - play dough, messy play
  • fine motor skills - pegs, threading, colour sorting
  • gross motor skills - balls, wands, ride on toys/scooters
  • small world play - wooden animals, trains, dolls house, play people
  • outdoor play - sand/water play, minibeast magnifier
  • puzzles and games - number/letter/matching/sequencing
  • picture books

3-4 years
  • construction toys - blocks, duplo, wooden Grimm's type toys
  • wooden cars/boats
  • musical instruments
  • picture puzzles
  • art materials - scissors, paper, crayons, pencils, chunky brush, chalk, finger paints, easel, sharpener, water colours, decorative items
  • role play - play food, dress up, doctor, baby doll, til (money)
  • sensory activities - play dough, messy play
  • fine motor skills - scissors, pegs, threading, sorting, shape tack
  • gross motor skills - balls, wands, scooters/balance bike
  • small world play - wooden animals, trains, dolls house, play people
  • outdoor toys - sand/water play, minibeast magnifier, gardening materials
  • puzzles and games - number/letter/matching/sequencing/story/rhyming
  • picture books
  • den making materials

4-5 years
  • construction toys - blocks, lego, wooden Grimm's type toys
  • wooden cars/boats
  • musical instruments
  • picture puzzles
  • art materials - scissors, paper, crayons, pencils, finer brushes, chalk, finger paints, easel, sharpener, water colours, decorative items
  • role play - play food, dress up, doctor, baby doll, til (money)
  • sensory activities - play dough, messy play
  • fine motor skills - scissors, pegs, threading, sorting, shape tack
  • gross motor skills - balls, wands, scooters/balance bike
  • small world play - wooden animals, trains, dolls house, play people
  • outdoor toys - sand/water play, minibeast magnifier, gardening materials, wood work
  • puzzles and games - number/letter/matching/sequencing/story/rhyming/time/phonics
  • picture books
  • card/board games
  • calendar
  • family tree
  • den making materials
Using this list, I hope to keep Baobao and Xiaobao's toys to a minimum. You might notice a lack of electronic toys, especially those with screens. There's evidence to show that play with open ended toys leads to greater language acquisition, as well as nurturing fantasy and imagination. 

Are there any toys I have missed? What open ended toys do you think are essential for ages 0-5?

Monday, 21 November 2016

Baobao's Activity Time: 'Rough And Smooth' Treasure Basket

One of my favourite activities for Baobao are treasure baskets. She'll be given a collection of everyday items, selected around a theme, and then she explores them, with minimal input from me. This particular treasure basket was based around touch and featured rough and smooth items.

When we did this treasure basket, Baobao was very interested in how objects go together, especially objects that fit inside other objects. She went straight for the straw and hair roller and threaded the roller on to the straw. She later went on to explore other things that the straw would fit into.

Monday, 14 November 2016

KonMari Challenge Week 6 & 7: PAPERS

Paper! Does anyone actually get excited about paper? I know I don't. And yet we keep so much. Even though I had gone through my paperwork once before, this time around I still had bank statements that were 10 years old, for accounts I no longer used.

I ended up reducing my paperwork by around half, taking away a whole folder and quite a bit from the other two folders.

Pay Stubs
Insurance Documents
Birth/Marriage/Baptism Certificates
Court Paperwork
Notes from Lectures/Classes
Loose Recipes
Checkbooks/Used Checkbooks
Business Cards
Greeting Cards
Gift Wrap/Tissue/Bags
Thank you Notes 

Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your paperwork? Did you find it a relief to have less paperwork, or are you worrying that you've gotten rid of some paperwork that you may need in the future. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Cloth Bum Fun: Why We Use "Real" Nappies....

The conversation goes a little like this...

Colleague 1: I  can't be changing nappies. I'm too old for that.
Me: Laughs
Colleague 1 (gentle teasing): Look at her. That's your life now.
Me: Yep. I spend a lot of time thinking about nappies. Buying them, changing them, washing them.
Colleague 2: Washing them?
Me: Mhm, I use cloth.
Colleague 1 nods in understanding.
Colleague 2: Cloth?

If you're a cloth bum mum (or dad!), you have probably had a similar conversation before. Using cloth nappies (I don't like using the term "real" nappies) can be a bit of an unknown. For many it conjures thoughts of the old terry nappies my generation of babies wore. They have moved on greatly since then, appearing and going on more like disposable nappies.

They also have the reputation of being hard work. I have many friends who would rather buy the cheapest disposables than switch to cloth. The extra washing and prepping seems like too much. Honestly it isn't. When using cloth nappies full time, they only produce two extra washes per week.

After finding out I was pregnant with Baobao, her Baba and I visited various baby shows. There the idea of using cloth nappies was planted and I began to research. At this point, I wasn't aware of the cloth nappy meets held monthly in my area, and so did all of the research independently.

There are several reasons why we have decided to use cloth nappies with Baobao:

  1. Environmental
    On average, a baby will go through 4000 - 6000 nappy changes before they are potty trained. Each of those nappies will be sent to landfill or in the case of my borough, incinerated, causing untold trouble for the environment and that's not including the nappy sacks, wipes etc. In all but the winter, we air dry our cloth nappies, so aside from the extra two washes a week, we are putting less of a strain on the environment.
  2. CostThe initial outlay for cloth nappies can be as large as you want it to be. We use a higher end brand sized nappy (gNappies), so our outlay is a little higher than usual. This is further exacerbated by my collecting prints. The outlay for 20 nappies in each size is as follows:
    -gNappies newborn bundle (12 newborn pants, 6 small pants) £109.95
    -gNappies small pouches x2 £25.90
    -gNappies small cloth inserts x3 £68.85
    -gNappies medium rainbow g's pack  £69.95-gNappies medium pouches x2 £25.90
    -gNappies medium cloth inserts x3 £68.85-gNappies large rainbow g's pack  £69.95
    -little lamb bamboo boosters x2 £24.00
    Total (without extras) £463.35
    Over a short amount of time, this can seem like a huge amount of money. Lets compare to some disposable nappies.
    -Pampers Active Fit  at 19p per nappy (Boots) x4000 £760 x6000 £1140
    -Aldi Mamia  at 8.5p per nappy (Aldix4000 £340 x6000 £510
    -Tesco love Baby Ultra dry at 11p per nappy (Tesco) x4000 £440 x6000 £660-Naty at 21p per nappy (Sainsburys) x4000 £840 x6000 £1260

    Compared to some of the cheaper supermarket own brand disposable nappies, our higher end cloth nappy can be more expensive, depending on how many nappies you end up using, but once your initial outlay is done, you don't have to spend any more. There are of course cheaper cloth nappy brands that you can use and Go Real estimate that you can save between £150~£1000 by using cloth nappies. This saving increases if you have multiple children, as you can reuse the nappies with the younger sibling.
  3. Better for baby
    Cloth nappies are designed to 'breath' and so will still allow air to the baby's bottom. You are also more aware of how often you have to change them. Some people believe that cloth nappies cause nappy rash, especially after pampers led a defamatory campaign in their leaflets to new mums last year. This simply isn't the case.

    On average, we will change Baobao's nappy every 3-4 hours. We know that the cloth inserts and boosters that we use can last about 4-5 hours. We also change a soiled nappy as soon as we notice it. This would be the same if we were using disposable nappies. This is because the best way to prevent nappy rash, whichever type of nappy you use, is frequent nappy changing.

    On the whole, this has worked. Baobao has only ever had one bad case of nappy rash. This was while she was at nursery, where they used disposable nappies and may not have changed her as frequently.

    The main difference between disposables and cloth, that makes cloth better for baby's bum, is the lack of harsh chemicals. You know exactly what you have used to wash the nappy. The materials are all natural - the inserts we use are fleece, hemp and bamboo - and if the nappy stays on too long, they will only leak wee on to her clothes, rather than burst and leak harsh chemicals on to baby's bottom.
  4. Stylish
    Back in the 'dark ages' when I was a baby, you had terry toweling squares. They were big and bulky and well, not very nice to look at to be blunt.

    Now, cloth nappies are very different. You can still get terry squares, in fact, smaller ones are excellent for newborns, but on the whole, most nappies are now shaped, making them as easy to put on as disposables.

    The main change, however, is the covers. Nowadays, cloth nappies are bright and colourful, with stylish prints. You no longer need to hide them. If anything, they are designed to be shown to the world. Many cloth bum mums will even collect different ones.

When deciding to use cloth over disposables, my main reasoning was the fact that I didn't want to contribute to landfill waste with nappies that would never decompose. We do use biodegradable nappies for nursery, but they will break down much faster than a regular disposable nappy.

Writing this post, however, has made me feel much more secure in my decision. Cloth nappies look much better than disposables. Rather than an ugly ragged white line peaking out from under Baobao's trousers, we have a brightly coloured waistband. Plus, in the long run, we have most definitely saved money. It's win-win all round.

Monday, 7 November 2016

KonMari Challenge Week 5: BOOKS

Books! I've been a long lover of books, but rarely reread them. I do find them incredibly hard to let go of, however, constantly thinking, maybe I will read this one again. This is especially true for reference books, which I will often keep, because I think the information is useful.

Prior to my initial KonMari attempt, we had six shelves of fiction books, plus another three of reference and cookbooks. I had reduced all of my books down to one and a half shelves and my husband had reduced his down to one shelf. It still hadn't quite reached click point for me.

As you can see I originally kept very few fiction books, preferring to keep reference and cook books.

All books before

General (pleasure reading) 
I still kept about half of my fiction books. These are books that I find visually appealing (the pop-up fairy tale books are absolutely gorgeous) or books that I hope to share with Baobao in the future.

General books before

General books after

Phone Books

We don't have any phone books.

Cook Books 
I love flicking through cook books, but generally don't use them to actually cook. Instead I will browse the internet for a recipe to use. The books that I have chosen to keep, are ones that I have used many times in the past and would like to use again, once I have reached click-point with the house and can live the life from my vision statement.

Cook books before

Cook books after

Note Books

I only have four notebooks, two that I am currently using and two that bring me immense joy.

Visual Books/Picture Books
Reference Books 
The one type of book I struggle to let go of, if reference books. I always think I will go back and use the information, but I rarely do. These are just my books that don't relate to activities with Baobao. Those I will tackle during Children's Learning/Homeschool week.

The books I have chosen to keep, relate to the current stage in my life - decluttering and preparing - and the life I want to lead in my vision statement. The ones I have chosen to pass on, I can access the information online, or I have taken pictures of the information I want to keep.

Reference books before

Reference books after

School Books/Text Books 

Books to sell or donate

Books to keep

Are you taking part in the KonMari process? How did you find sorting through your books? Does your bookshelf now spark joy for you? How will you access new information now that you have fewer books?