The Cat in The Hat – Live!

I took my daughter to see the live show of Cat in The Hat at The Pleasance theatre in London this week and it was incredible.

M adored it and was totally caught up in the mad adventures.

With a revolving stage, balloons, bubbles, incredible costumes that brought the book’s animation to life and interaction with the audience it was fabulous 50 minutes of surreal fun.

The Cat in the Hat. Photo Credit Garry Lake (4) The Cat in the Hat. Photo Credit Garry Lake (5) The Cat in the Hat. Photo Credit Garry Lake (6)

How to accommodate an ever growing family

family-pregnant

In this day and age where economic pressures are making families struggle, from higher costs to legislation such as the bedroom tax, it can be difficult to cover everyday costs for middle income families.

One of the biggest struggles for the modern day nuclear family is accommodating for an expanding family. If you’re looking to grow your brood, make sure you’re prepared for any surprises by following these tips.

Make space

This is easier said than done, but one of the precious commodities you will value when you have a bigger family is space – but there are a few little tricks you can employ to ensure you make the most of the space you’ve got. For one, consider investing in space-saving furniture. Divan beds, for example, are perfect for storing excess clothes and toys.

Run out of space on the bedroom floor? Why not go upwards? Having a second child will invariably mean some bedroom sharing, so consider investing in a bunk bed while they are still little.

Embrace the benefits of having an older child

One of the great things about already having one child on board is the amount of amenities you will only have to buy once – for example, a sterilising kit, breast pump, and if you’re lucky enough to have two babies of the same sex, clothing. There is no shame to be had in having a few hand-me-downs, and they’re also great if you’re looking to save space as mentioned above.

Have a rainy day fund

Of course, when planning to have a baby, one of the biggest concerns is whether or not you will be able to finance a larger family. Before you start trying, consider sitting down with your partner and going through your monthly income and the potential expenditure of a new child – consider short term expenses, such as nappies, as well as long-term ones, such as education.

You may have already put together a ‘rainy day’ fund for your first child, but it is important not to be too restrictive with this. Yes, it might be for Baby X or Y’s university fees, but you never know what might happen – for example, you might just be surprised with twins! Be willing to be flexible with your savings and also ensure you are prepared to chat with your children about these funds in the future.

 

Dream cars for dads

You’ve got the house, the accompanying mortgage and the 2.4 children. It’s time to get some sensible transportation – a people carrier perhaps, something that’s safe, economical and practical. In other words, something that is lacklustre, unexciting and monotonous.

The good news is that doesn’t have to be the case. There are cars out there that are safe, economical and practical as well as being thrilling, stirring and electrifying.

Here is the pick of the dream cars for dads.

Jeep Cherokee Longitude

jeep cherokee

No one could ever accuse Jeep Cherokee of producing cars that are bland and the Longitude follows the American manufacturer’s propensity for fun and quirkiness. Underneath the bonnet however, this is one serious car, coming with the option of a 2.4 litre or 3.2 litre petrol engines it certainly packs a punch. Inside it offers plenty of space and a smart interior with all the safety features you would expect. When it comes to a family car that is also exciting this takes some beating.

Ford Focus ST

This sporty version of the Ford classic has all the safety and practical features of its more humble siblings. Open it up however on the motorway and you will soon notice that the 2.5 litre turbocharged 225bhp engine ensures there is nothing humble about this little gem. You may want to tame it a little for the school run though.

Skoda Octavia VRS

The Octavia VRS is a car for those who like subtlety but whom also like high performance. The VRS might look like any other Octavia, but it’s powered by the same engine used in the Volkswagen Golf GTI so it’s fair to say there’s nothing ordinary about it. It offers great economy like the Skoda’s of old, but also great reliability and performance, not quite like the Skoda’s of old.

BMW 5 Series saloon

The 5 series is and always has been and hopefully always will be a seriously good car. With a luxurious leather interior, plenty of space, superb handling and performance the BMW 5 series makes an excellent investment. Surprisingly it also offers good economy with the 520d managing 66mpg, oh and the kids will love being picked up from school in daddy’s BM.

 

 

 

5 Ways to Stay Cheerful and Relaxed at Christmas

The most stressful time of the year is just around the corner. The kids are demanding the latest toys, the turkey needs ordering and the relatives need visiting. It’s going to seem impossible that you’ll get any time to yourself, but there are actually plenty of ways for you to wind down this Christmas.

Get Outside

It’s rare to see sunlight over the winter, but make sure if it’s there, you enjoy it. Sunlight can help your body produce vitamin D, which has been scientifically proven to improve your mood and aid any health issues, particularly in bones and skin, such as osteoporosis and psoriasis. These illnesses also tend to be affected and caused by excessive stress levels, so a bit of sunshine can keep the doctor away. If the kids are bored, they can join for a bit of outside playtime in the snow or a walk in the park.

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Source

Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep is going to be guaranteed when the going gets tough. Here’s another scientific fact: even the shortest naps can help you feel refreshed and overcome tiredness. The reduced hours of daylight can make us feel more tired when it starts to get dark at about 4pm. Get 40 winks during the day when you can to keep you going through your to-do list, and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep at night.

Schedule Some Me-time

It’s alright to get a little bit selfish around this time of year. You can reward your hard work by meeting up with some friends for a night out and have a few drinks. Or if you’d prefer a night in, there’s plenty of films on the TV around Christmas. Maybe you could play a few games online to take your mind off things, like poker or blackjack at MrSmithCasino. Card games can help you relax but also keep your strategic and planning mind in shape. Plus, you can play them with friends or on your own at home on your phone, tablet or computer.

Visiting Relatives

Making that dreaded trip to the parents’ house for Christmas can be one of the most stressful parts of Christmas. It can be hard to get along, particularly when there’s a Christmas dinner to cook, presents to organise and very little time for everyone to sit down and relax. If certain members of the family are prone to cause drama, there isn’t much that can be done. Find neutral subjects to agree upon and settle any arguments at a less stressful time.

Enjoy Christmas

While it is stressful and there’s mountains of things to organise, there is still plenty about Christmas to enjoy. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, so make sure you find the fun in it. Get excited about presents, enjoy the time off work and spend some time with friends and family.

Are we nearly there yet?

bored kids

Everyone who has ever driven their family in a car knows that sooner or later they will hear the words “are we nearly there yet?”

In a recent survey by Parkdean Holidays of over 1,400 parents they discovered that parents are likely to hear “are we nearly there yet” in less than an hour of the car journey. In my car I’m lucky if we can last ten minutes before the question is asked – and its usually first uttered by my wife!

The majority of parents used iPads and electronic tablets to keep their little ones entertained in the car. But 532 parents still favoured a trusty old book as their source of entertainment. This does surprise me because I always thought reading in the car was a sure way to get a headache.

Thankfully my 4 year old daughter enjoys sleeping in cars. So keeping her amused is generally not a problem. And if she is fighting sleep I generally find a discussion of the day’s political events is a good way to bring on those zzzzzs.

Here’s a link to the findings. And a handy video for keeping your kids entertained in cars.

http://www.parkdeanholidays.co.uk/are-we-nearly-there-yet/

Parenting Tips: Driving Lessons for Kids

kids driving

 

Here are some of the best places that you can take your kids for driving experience and pre-driving lesson driving lessons:

THE AA

 The AA don’t just offer roadside assistance, they can also be on hand to get your kids behind the wheel. Aimed at 13-16 year olds, the AA Driving School provides a safe, controlled and stress-free environment for teenagers to experience driving for the first time. The lessons only cover the basics of accelerating, stopping, steering, changing gears and manoeuvring, so there will be no tearing it around the track for the overzealous Lewis Hamilton wannabes – but then there’s always go-karting for that.

MERCEDES-BENZ

There’s an old saying in sports that if you’re good enough then you’re old enough but the folks at Mercedes-Benz fail to see what competence has to do with it at all. The motto at Mercedes-Benz World in Weybridge, Surrey, is: “If you’re tall enough then you’re old enough”. By ‘tall’ they mean 1.5m and by ‘enough’ they mean that you have to at least be able to reach the brake pedal. Their 30 minutes and 1 hour courses for under 16s go a bit further than your average conservative introductions to the world of driving. They take the little whippersnappers through the basics and then head straight onto the famous Brooklands circuit for some dynamic handling and skid management lessons. These are courses designed to get young adults introduced to the fundamentals of driving at a young age and perhaps even progress them into the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy.

SILVERSTONE

If you’re after driving experiences then SIlverstone is the place to go. The legendary racetrack is not only the official home of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix but it is also the host of some of the world’s greatest driving experiences, and they don’t only cater for adults with driving licences. Kids too can get the chance to ride around the same circuit that has been driven on by every F1 superstar in the history of the sport. The driving experiences for ‘rookies’, as they call them, cater for ages 13 plus and offer the choice between driving lessons in a Renault Clio 200 Cu, scooter lessons on a Yamaha JogRR 50cc or for the thrill seekers an adrenaline-pumping, high-speed drive around the classic circuit with an expert instructor behind the wheel.

ŠKODA

Over at ŠKODA they’re not looking for the new Michael Schumacher with their under-17 driving lessons. ŠKODA’s research suggests that motoring accidents in young drivers can be reduced by 40% through providing under-17s with driver training. This isn’t surprising considering that 20% of new drivers are involved in some sort of road incident within 6 months of passing theirs tests. So in response ŠKODA has helped set up ‘Young Driver’, the UK’s only nationwide driving school for children aged 11 to 17. Motoring expert Quentin Wilson described the lessons as “a road safety revolution” after his son took part in the course. Wilson’s enthusiasm for ŠKODA’s scheme makes complete sense but what doesn’t make any sense is that SEAT’s website claims to be responsible for the exact same driving scheme and link to the same ‘Young Driver’ website. They even both use Wilson’s quote as their own. Watching the video the cars all look like ŠKODAs to me and the explanation is probably that uber-parent company Volkswagen is actually behind the whole thing.

DRIVEB4UTURN17

On first inspection one would assume that a company called Drive B4 U Turn 17 were frugal character saving experts (they’ve even managed to get ‘U-Turn’ in there) but under the txt-style title of their website they soon make up for any letters that have been saved by stating “Under 17 Driving Lessons for 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 & 16 year olds”. Well at least they’re thorough with the age specification. I would have gone for 10-16 myself but anyway, moving on through their site their opening gambit is: “If you are aged 10 to 17 and can’t wait to learn to drive”… hang on. Now I’m confused. I thought it was only driving lessons for 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 & 16 year olds? Also I’m very concerned about these 10 year olds out there who are so eager to drive that they are scouring the internet for underage lessons. I’ll let it go anyway, so Drive B4 U Turn 17 also claims that they “can teach young drivers from age 10 provided they can reach the car pedals.” Hang on now we’re just back to “if you’re tall enough then you’re old enough”. You know what, just have a flick through their website yourself.

CycleMania

Yorkshire dad champions the benefits of cycling.

Those living within a close enough proximity to any of the Tour de France stages held in England would have gone to it. The two stages in Yorkshire were watched by 2.5m people and were an overwhelming success despite the withdrawal of Green Jersey favourite Mark Cavendish and defending Champion Chris Froome, both of Britain.

The Tour was the perfect place to get children interested in cycling. The raucous, carnival atmosphere that accompanied the race really gave for an electric buzz. A buzz that was completely enthralling regardless of age whilst the competitors were in brilliant spirits and very welcoming to the youngsters. The Tour has instilled in children a desire to start cycling – which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

The average weight of a 10 year old boy is 70 pounds, and an hour cycling at a decent speed would see him burn 318 calories. Cycling is evidently a great way to stay in shape and should actively be encouraged.

Another perk to having children interested in cycling is that it is such a great way to spend time as a family. Everyone enjoys a good cycle. There a fewer better, and cheaper, family excursions than a Sunday afternoon bike ride. Pack some sandwiches and get lost in the beautiful British countryside.

Being on a bike introduces your child to new places and all things natural. Because of the exciting element of cycling your child will struggle to get bored even though they are learning at the same time, whether that be about a certain flower or insect or the natural environment as a whole. The humble bike ride can be a very useful educational tool.

So even if you or your child hasn’t been interested in the Tour you should give cycling a go. It is a great bonding exercise and the benefits are vast.

Authors Bio

Joe Burton is a 33-year-old father of two boys: Harry 10 and Archie 6 and husband to the ever loving Lucy. He resides in Leeds and works in the exciting world of finance.

SUMMER HOLIDAY TIP:  OPEN A KIDS ART GALLERY 

It’s the start of the summer holidays and for many parents it will fill them with dread as they have to find countless activities to fill their child’s day and avoid those two deadly words  “I’m Bored”.

So here’s a suggestion to occupy a day or two – turn you house into an art gallery. Firstly, you may download a digital art app onto your ipad/tablet for them to draw pictures or create abstract digital arts by using the app. Once done, you can then print them out and display them on the walls of your house. Then get your kids to give you a tour of the exhibits and listen to their no doubt baffling abstract creations.

It will be fun to hear their explanation of why triangular blue blob with pink dots is in fact “daddy” and those disturbingly phallic looking yellow things are in fact trees. You can also quiz them on their motivation for giving rainbow eggs ears.

So load up some good quality printer inks, art papers and get your printer working hard. You can start your art gallery in no time.

Why not combine this activity with a trip to a real art gallery? Some parents think that young kids won’t “get” real art but even toddlers can appreciate masterpieces. Beth Schneider, head of learning at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, sums it up perfectly.

 “You’re never too young to enjoy Manet,” she says. “He often painted his family and friends, and children immediately notice that, in some cases spotting relationships grown-ups might miss. Going to an exhibition is a great family occasion that can spark a conversation that goes all the way home.”

My daughter loves big bold colourful works. Matisse at Tate Modern is a particular favourite of hers. Art galleries are big spaces so there is plenty of room for even the most hyperactive of kids. In addition, many galleries have special activities for children during school holidays.

kids art kids art2