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Primary school children

atworkThanks to all for your encouragement about being not ‘quite’ a stay-at-home. I thought it may be interesting to write some notes about going back to work.

  • Enjoy your time at home and don’t worry about the future as it wastes this special time. Read my previous posts about ‘Why am I a stay-at-home mum’.
  • Use your time wisely at home. Pour your energies into your children but keep on eye on the future (without worrying of course). Can you do courses to aid your occupation or add depth to it? Helping with charities and committees can provide you with new skills and maintain your self-confidence. It is also a way to fill gaps on your CV! I chaired my local pre-school for 5 years and learnt a lot about negotiation, people management, interviewing and it looks good on a CV when there is a gap from formal work.
  • Have some idea of when you think you would like to return to work – you can always review this decision but it helps you to focus on being at home and enjoying your children if it is some years away.
  • Keep clothing, shoes and accessories up-to-date otherwise you need to replace everything at the same time when you return to work.
  • Look for work by thinking about what you want to do as this helps to clarify and focus what you are looking for. You could write out a ‘dream job’ or even consider doing something totally different. Keep your options open and don’t feel you can only do the type of work you did before.
  • Research the types of jobs you are interested in and sign up to relevant job sites. When you start looking for work set aside a regular time each day Monday to Friday to do research, search the internet and write a CV. There is nothing worse than vaguely worrying about it all day. Just do a bit each day and then set it aside physically and psychologically.
  • Write a very clean, simple, well-laid out CV. There is no need for it to be more than one page no matter how qualified you are. Write a covering letter to accompany your CV and be honest about the work break but give it a positive spin.
  • Be confident and relax during your interview. Be prepared for tricky questions such as ‘What will you do for childcare?’ Have some solutions or good answers.
  • Phone and research ideas for childcare. Check your local council’s website for lists of local nurseries and child-minders. Many nurseries take school age children during the holidays. Some schools and many leisure centres offer holiday clubs. Talk to friends and find out what they do. Consider employing a trainee nanny or a teaching assistant if you just need child care during the school holidays.
  • The day before you go back to work, put out everything you plan to wear right down to tights and jewellery and double-check it. Mornings are manic and you won’t have time to sew on buttons or find new tights!
  • Be organised with the children and have all their school kit and clothes ready.

Going back to work has proved okay so far although it has its own stresses but I am so glad I had this time off with my children.

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ready for schoolSometimes I can pull out my hair, I get so frustrated trying to get little children off to school on time. Keeping them on task is quite a battle. So I came up with the morning chart which photographically reminds Sophie step by step what she needs to do. It hasn’t solved all our problems but at least I can remind her to check her chart. And it has helped me to realise that there is quite a lot for a little person to do each morning.

running boyI saw the list below on Lisa’s fridge and I thought it was a great idea as sometimes eliciting information from my child can be like squeezing water from a stone. But don’t ask all ten questions every day – it is not the Spanish Inquisition!

Ten questions to ask your child about his day at school
Get a sense of your child’s life at school by asking questions that provide more than a one-word response. The trick is to ask about things that are specific with open-ended questions and invite your child to describe his world. It’s also great to start the conversation with an anecdote from your own day. Try one of these conversation starters:

  1. Tell me about the best part of your day
  2. What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  3. Did any of your classmates do anything funny?
  4. Tell me about what you read in class.
  5. Who did you play with today? What did you play?
  6. Do you think maths (or any subject) is too easy or too hard?
  7. What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year?
  8. What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair?
  9. Who did you sit with at lunch?
  10. Can you show me something you learned (or did) today?

woods1The Concept: As my son became older we needed more space for ten mad 8-year olds to run around so we decided to have his party in a local wood. There was a conference room we could use as a base and as a contingency plan for bad weather. He wanted a Star Wars party, I wanted woodland fun – so we fudged it and combined the two.

The Invitation: A photograph of the woods with the details. An invitation like this could also be emailed although I still prefer to post them.

Our Party: Even with a ‘Star Wars’ theme, I kept it homemade and we started by making our own light sabres. I bought pool noodles which I cut in half and each child added duct tape to create a handle. They then went outside to do Jedi Knight training where they whacked each other with great abandon. The next game was to free Han Solo who was frozen in carbonite. Each child received a cup with a lego man frozen in ice, and using water defrosted the ice to release the man – first one out was the winner. I gave them chalk to draw the Death Star on the patio and then handed out water balloons to destroy the Death Star. The woods were brilliant for hiding games and running around in. We ended with food and decorating individual meringues (planets) and yes, I let them smash the creamy meringue in their own faces! There was plenty of water, high-octane excitement and much hilarity and we pulled it off  – ‘Party in the Woods with Star Wars’.

Top Tips: Cakes can stress me out – but this one was simple. A new Star Wars model on top of a cake. Do a few web searches, there are some great ideas for games and that is what inspired my ‘light sabres’. Listen to your child as they become older and try to incorporate their ideas. At the age of 7 or 8 children prefer single sex parties, that is fine, let them. I aim to be low-tech and not to have films, computer and wii games just yet – I am sure parties in the teens will incorporate these items. It may be simpler to invite a group of children who all know each other as parties can be stressful enough for a birthday child without mixing up his different groups of friends. woods2 woods4woods3This post is part of a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.

dog party1The Concept: Every child has crazes and my daughter is mad about dogs – so that was the theme. Everything from food to dress to games to party bags was dog related. You could probably use many of these ideas and tie them in with your child’s own fixation.

The Invitation: My daughter drew a beautiful dog and I added a few spots of colour and text to make a simple but delightful invitation.

Our Party: For some unknown reason, many of  the friends have dog costumes which was hilarious when 8 or 9 dalmatians turned up! As the children arrived, there was ‘dog grooming’ and I face painted a nose and whiskers on each child. After a few ice breakers, we went outside to tackle the dog agility course. I had lots of fun with this one – borrowing hay bales for the dogs to climb, setting up a mini trampoline and a plank see-saw. And then there was the slalom course with traffic cones. Food was hot dogs of course. I had removed the labels off the juice bottles and made personalised doggy ones.The ‘party bags’ were china bowls from Waitrose pies on which I wrote each child’s name and filled with bone-shaped ginger biscuits so the children took home their own ‘doggy’ bowl.

Top Tips: Keep it homemade as there is no need to spend a fortune and discuss your needs with friends. The china bowls were from a friend as were the hay bales. I promise I didn’t steal traffic cones, they were my son’s present when he turned three and have given us much pleasure over the years. Write a detailed timetable so you have a plan and timings to refer to. Also write out a list of all the food as it is annoying to have forgotten something. Have a few complex games but also allow time for the children to play freely. Try not to have too many games where there is only one winner and don’t be surprised if birthday child misbehaves if they don’t win! Don’t get stressed if things don’t work out as you planned, it will spoil the party for you and to be frank children are easy to please. Have fun and be creative!dog party4dog party3dog party2This post is part of a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.

treasureparty1The Concept: Set up a treasure hunt using photographic clues for a circular route of about 1-2kms. As the children reach the photographed item – a gate, an odd-shaped tree or a sign, you give them the next photo and have about 25 photos. The final clue is where the treasure is hidden or buried. This is brilliant way to use lots of energy and after the hunt you can return to base for party food.

The Invitation: I printed the invitation on the outside of the envelope and placed the first ‘clue’ a photo of our house inside the envelope.

Our Party: My son was very into camouflage so it had a  ‘camo’ theme as well as being a treasure hunt. They loved running the 2km course finding the clues and we ended in the play park where I had hidden the treasure – water pistols and ammonite fossils. We then returned to our house for a sausage BBQ and a very long dessert. The pudding was a ‘WOW’ factor as I had bought a length of guttering and then tasked the children to fill it with ice-cream, bananas, sweets and toppings. Once it was ready, they set to, each armed with a spoon to start eating!

Top Tips: The distance of the course depends on the age of the children and how used to walking they are. It works best in a rural area or where there is not too much traffic. Give each child a (homemade) bandanna to create a ‘team’. By only giving out the next photo on reaching the object photographed, you keep the group together. Keep the treasure simple – I sewed camouflage bags which contained a few items. Keep the food simple as most children like hot dogs with ketchup – don’t waste time with lettuce and onions! treasureparty2 treasureparty3 treasureparty4

cooking birthday1 cooking birthday2The Concept: Cooking is a great theme – the party revolves around food that guests make and then eat so squeeze in as many dishes as possible and choose recipes depending on the age and preference of your child. The youngest age I would recommend for a cooking party would be four years old but this theme will would work well right up to young teens.

The Invitation: Have fun with flour and eggs and photograph the results. Wrap the invitation around a little rolling-pin to deliver to your guests. Invitations are important, they set the tone and the theme – but I am a graphic designer so can’t help going to town.

Our Party: When the children arrived they made caterpillar kebabs from marshmallows. They then concocted their own mini pasta bakes in dinky takeaway containers and any leftovers could be taken away to be eaten at home. These chefs work fast so we moved swiftly on to cookie dough and biscuit cutters, strawberry smoothies and highly decorated cupcakes. The children left happy, floury with a party bag containing a wooden spoon and cookie cutter – aesthetically tasteful and hopefully useful!

Top Tips: Work out what kitchen equipment you will need and have it ready – you need to be organised! Prep up before hand by making the dough for cookies and baking cupcakes in advance. I use this Swedish biscuit recipe. Children can cut biscuits shapes and you can bake them while they decorate the cupcakes. Pizza or pasta is great for a main dish. Have fruit trimmed and ready for smoothies. Have a few simple party games which they can play with one adult if you need time to clear the decks and get ready for the next cooking extravaganza. Have a high proportion of adults to children if very young. Have simple boxes or bags to take home the goodies they don’t manage to eat.cooking birthday3 cooking birthday4 cooking birthday5This post is part of a mini theme on children’s birthdays. Feel free to share your ideas as comments.