Monday 21 February 2011

Craft Ideas and Activities for Children aged 0-11

Day 1 of the half term, pulling your hair out yet?

As a childminder I like to offer the children lots of different activities and opportunities, and ensure we celebrate all country and religious holidays.

To keep it fresh I use which is a free site, that’s continually updated, and full of fantastic ideas to do, see or make.

It is split into age ranges 0-12 mths, 1-3, 3-5, 5-7 and 7-11

We have to provide opportunities for 6 areas of learning and development, so you will see there are activities listed under:):-

Physical Development
Knowledge and Understanding of the World
Creative Development
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
Communication, Language and Literacy
Problem-Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy

If you use a childminder it might be interested to have a look around, but as a parent it will also give you templates for hats, door-hangers and finger puppets, ideas for games to play and example rewards charts etc., amongst other things - as you can see from the list below!

I hope this gives you some help over the half term holidays J

Thanks for reading.

Annie x

Thursday 17 February 2011

Adopting Ex-Battery Chickens........................

The Good Life J

We are a family who are daft about pets and animals in general.  However, I must admit to being shocked when my husband decided he wanted to have chickens.  However, not just any old chickens, ex-battery chickens, “the scrawnier the better”.  I was worried but, as with any project my husband embarks on, I must say he researched it thoroughly, and was in constant contact with the British Hen Welfare Trust

It was explained to us that once the chickens get to around 18 months old, the farmers are ready to let them go.  The BHWT then swoop and collect them all, and advise those on the ever-growing (thank Goodness) waiting list where to collect from.   Those that weren’t fit would be nursed until there were fit to do so.  We also found out that the chickens wouldn’t know night from day, and their legs may not be strong enough to go up and down runs, or sit on perches, but that they would improve and gain in strength with time!!!

You have to adopt the chickens in 3’s, we decided to get 6, and bought a coop which could house 10, as we wanted to make sure they had plenty of room.   We didn’t intend to let ours out of the coop - unfortunately our garden is not big enough, and they can be quite destructive, which wouldn’t be good with my job! 

So we were on the list for some months when we finally got the call, but as bad luck would have it, it was a day when Arsenal were playing an early game and QPR were also at home.  We would never have got to the site in Essex at 3pm.   We were disappointed but we then found out that 6 of the chickens were quite poorly and once/if they got better we could have those.   Of course that fitted in beautifully with Chris’s wishes.

Finally we were able to go get them.   I was shocked at how awful they looked, featherless wings and red bottoms, and this was them better!  But they were bright and lively and the kids fell in love instantly.   We were told that 2 of them were way down on the pecking order and to keep a watch.

When we got them home I videoed them going into the coop!

We have named them Bernard, Adel, Dora, Beaky, MC (motherclucker), and Baggy Bum (after our late cat Bageera)!

Adel and Dora were the 2 way down in the pecking order, but they are all getting along just fine now.  They take themselves off to bed as soon as its dark, and give a little *goodnight* when we close their door.

I have to say that I had some great advice from other chicken owners @chickenruby @JohnWeston and @kevb8ll

This experience has made me re-visit my whole ideas on eggs too, and I now check ingredients to ensure if they contain eggs, it actually states free range, cos if it doesn’t then it won’t be!

They are an absolute joy, and have all feathered up beautifully.  We are getting between 4 and 6 eggs a day, and the children love going to collect them.  This is my lovely feathered Adel chicken now, named after Adel Taarabt of course :)

If you were also considering adopting ex-battery chickens feel free to contact me, but I would certainly urge you to go for it!  The chickens cost us around £35, the feed is cheap but the reward is bountiful!  Happy chickens, happy children, beautiful eggs :)

Thanks for reading!

Annie x

Thursday 10 February 2011

An Ode to my Jasper

Published at last, only NCT Magazine but its a start...........

I was looking for something today in my filing cabinet and fell upon the NCT magazine that had published my poem celebrating the birth of our first-born son Jasper.  It still makes me laugh that through all the enormity of the occasion I still had to bring it back to football, and my beloved QPR!  It was 1st of May 2004 :)

An Ode To Jasper, Mums and Chums!

As an expectant Mum, I made many chums
We'd waddle to coffee and chat
It wasn't a sin, with a wage coming in
To shop and to buy this and that

As the big day drew near, we'd drink Raspberry Leaf Tea
And waited for each other to pop
We'd have curry and wait, for the inevitable back ache
But sod it "we'll shop till we drop"!

As each babe arrived, and tales filtered through
About which drugs were good and which not
Which hospitals clean, and which were obscene
The penny began to drop.....

My goodness has nine months really gone by
This babes coming out any day soon
I'd better get ready, arrange all the teddies
And make space for the inevitable balloon!

The due date came and went by just as fast
I was irritable, would just sit and moan
I didn't want inducement and particularly on the date
Rangers were playing their last game at home!

But the inevitable happened I went in Friday night
I waited and prayed for some pain
Just one little contraction to kick off the action
But nothing I felt just the same

So Saturday 1st May, they helped me along
and we waited and waited until
my Jasper was born 9 hours later
and QPR beat Swindon 1-0!

Rhona and Fiona were next a few days later
So that was all the ten done
There's Cameron, Maddie, Enya and Joe
Laura, Finlay and Lucas
Jasper, Finn and Ella made ten
My goodness where has the time gone?

14 months later life's turned upside down
But I'm enjoying being a mother
I went through the pain, but I'd do it again
To give Jasper a sister or brother!

"By Annie Robb, stay at home mum, who obviously spends her valuable time writing poetry and flower arranging.  Now you must excuse me I have a little needlepoint to finish"

And I did go on to have Scarlett, but I lied in this poem, it took me longer than 14 months to decide do it all again!   This was before twitter obviously, don't know whether to feel proud or embarrassed lol :)

A little light hearted fun I hope?

We survived a family trip to Disneyland :)

Took us 3 days to work out the FastPass system was free though!..........

Last October half-term (2010) we booked a week in France with the intention of taking the 2 children to Disneyland Paris.  Jasper was 6 and Scarlett was nearing 3, so felt it was a good age for them to go.

I googled and searched for deals online for the Park itself and couldn’t find any real bargains, they have it pretty much buttoned down.  We wanted a 3 day pass, but ended up getting a 4 for 3 pass, which we did in fact use.   When we got there they had a deal whereby you buy a 1 day pass and pay a small fee, and it is then valid for 12 months.   If you knew you were going back within 12 months it would be a bargain indeed!

Getting there took some discussing, the ferry was a lot cheaper, but I don't really do boats, since they have edges (this is from a swimmer and lifeguard), so I convinced Chris to take us on the Eurotunnel - 30 minutes and you're in France, then a very do-able drive down towards Paris.  We stopped en route for lunch, didn't choose wisely, but it was OK! 

Then accommodation.  I personally have an aversion to hotels  – and as a Villa owner in Crete   always like to look around for alternative accommodation.  After much deliberation we found this place

It was just perfect!  The kids loved their bedroom, which was on the ground floor but was not an issue.  It had a beautiful open fireplace and in the evening we would light it and just watch mesmerised by the flickering flames.  It was also set within a Goats Cheese and Cider farm, with a little shop to buy from.  The owners were also happy for us to go and stroke the very friendly goats, which again the kids loved. 

We ate in mostly, but a couple of nights went to a very friendly local restaurant.   Each morning we would prepare a picnic to take with us too, buying baguettes from the local boulangerie as of course is law in France :)

Our first morning to Disneyland was very exciting.  It was exactly 29 minutes away, though we weren’t expecting a Car Park fee – rooky error!  I think it was around €20.  We had a fabulous time and lucked out with the queuing as we obviously weren’t going on the bigger more popular rides – though Chris pined to!   We had a fun-filled day but worked out we only went on around 3 rides as we knew how long a queue time the kids would tolerate, and avoided a fair few!

The second day went to Universal Studios, which was also an absolute blast, until we went on the studio tour, I won’t ruin but there are bangs and fire.  After that we went to the stunt show, which we adored but the kids got frightened by more bangs and fire.  Was all going horribly wrong, though we managed to calm them down.

The third day we went to a Big Cat park not too far away, which was newly opened in 2009.  We're not great fans of animals in zoos but the enclosures were huge and the animals were very content.  There was also a petting place there where you could feed the goats, and a good reasonably priced restaurant.  I took some amazing pics of white lions and white tigers etc., but this was my favourite pic in the end!  It was an amazing place and great day out, apart from the little tour we took at the end, we had no idea they were going to show how man was killing the planet, and yep they decided to use petrol and explosions to prove a point doh!

The fourth day we went back to Disneyland and had a good time picking off some more of the rides we hadn’t seen, apart from their nervous twitching about bangs and explosions we had a great time.

The fifth day we went into Paris by train.  Jasper knew all about the Eiffel Tower and his face was a picture when he spotted it.   We went up as far as the second floor and though I felt a bit queasy the rest of the family had a ball.   We had a very expensive average lunch, as you do, and I had a quick stroll down the Champs Elysees, before heading back.

That evening, vin in hand, I was ploughing through the pamphlet working out our plan of attack for our last day, when I spotted the FASTPASS system grrrrrrr,  I thought people had paid for priority boarding to the rides but no!  You go to one of the rides that offers it, normally the busier ones, and you get issued with a FastPass ticket with the time for you to return.  You then turn up and just walk on, whilst being eyed suspiciously by those not in the know!   You can only have 1 at a time, but we cleaned up and zipped around everything we wanted.  If only we'd known on day 1, hey ho!

The latest part of the Park was dedicated to Toy Story and was a huge hit!

We found out that they also have a system whereby if you have a young child, you and your partner can take turns on the ride withough the 2nd parent having to queue again.  Its called child/baby swap!

Suffice to say we had a lot of fun.   We even bumped into a neighbour there!  I know a lot of people go for 3 day breaks and that is fine, but for us we enjoyed the freedom of coming and going and seeing a bit more of the country too!

We will definitely be going back!

Feel free to ask any questions if I can be of help?

Thanks for reading :)

Annie x

Monday 7 February 2011

Childminding, the whats, whys and wherefores..................

Childminding, the facts

Whenever I tell people I’m a childminder, I am often asked lots of questions about what, when, why, how, so thought I’d use this opportunity to let you know what we are about.

HowI can only speak for my local area in Hertfordshire, but prior to registration we had to complete a 10 week course, consisting of 1 evening per week of around two and a half hours. It is not a strenuous or taxing course by any means, but it offered a lot of good ideas, and points of reflection, which as a mother alone I found extremely useful!

After completing the course you have various forms to complete and a check with the Criminal Records Bureau for yourself, and anyone else under 16, who may be on the premises at the same time as the children.

There follows the inspection of your premises. From memory my Inspector was here for over 3 hours! However, they are not there to trip you up, but to advise on points of safety. For instance, I had to have the bathroom locks raised, and install safety catches, fire blankets etc.

At the time, this was all provided for the cost of £10.

Additional CoursesWithin 6 months of being registered you have to attend a First Aid Course. Other courses are also available and are fast becoming obligatory on Risk Assessment, Safeguarding Children, Food and Hygiene etc. All are provided locally and each cost around £10.

AdvertisingThen it is up to you to decide on what cover you are providing, what hours you would like to work and how many children you are prepared to take on. There are strict rules however; you are not allowed to take on more than 3 children under 5, and no more than 1 child under 1. Your own children are included within these numbers.

As an Ofsted registered childminder you are automatically included on the local council’s website. There are various other means of advertising, which you would have to pay for, but to be honest I have never had to use them.

Further InspectionsOnce you start minding, you will have another Ofsted inspection so that the Inspector can see you working/interacting with the children. This inspection will be graded. Mine lasted around 5 hours, but again the Inspector was very helpful indeed.
After this you will be further inspected every 3 years.

ContractsIt is important to remember that you are self employed; your client is not employing you! We were provided with National Childminding Association (NCMA) contracts, which cover all bases, as well as all the other forms you require. For example, if the child has a bump or is ill, then it has to be recorded, as much for your own cover as anything else.

PaperworkThere is a lot of talk about the amount of paperwork required, and this caused a big storm when the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) was introduced in 2008. A lot of it was caused because we were expected to provide the same level of paperwork as schools are, but now that the dust has settled, it is all fine and manageable. For children under 5 you are expected to monitor their progress and complete forms to show how they are doing under the six areas of development highlighted; Physical Development, Creative Development etc.

In simple terms, every six weeks or so you are required to record observations on the children, to provide proof of development within these areas. Simply a photo and a few lines is all that is required.

RealityFor me this is the best job in the world. I have the freedom to work within my home, hours and days to suit. I actually go out to “play” most mornings, and I love that the children and I are highly visible in the community, be it the library, park, playgroup or farm etc. I am often asked how we cope with such numbers of children to mind, but the reality is that childminding children pretty much do as they are asked, because we are not mum. All too often I have beautifully behaved children all day, laughing, joking, singing and playing. The minute mum or dad, well actually sorry, mainly mum turns up, they often turn into the child from hell. This is because they are programmed to push the boundaries within the safety of their mother’s love, and do not feel the need to with others.

I hope that answers a few questions, if not feel free to contact me if you need any further information!

Thanks for enduring 

Friday 4 February 2011

Size Matters!

Have revisited this post today, I am now 46 and had a tummy tuck last year.  I am extremely happy with my body now, best decision I ever made.  Am definitely getting more comfortable in my own skin, just the face to work on next :)

Size matters…………

I was brought up being occupied and *kept off the streets* with dancing, swimming and gymnastics amongst other things. I swam every morning before school and was woken – I kid you not - with a mars bar “for energy” – those of you who know me now know I cannot touch chocolate. I was therefore quite fit, but grew up in a house with a violent dictatorial father, and I’m afraid I became the stereotypical eating disorder bird!  I survived for months on 1 apple a day, because I figured that was healthy, and weighed myself at least 20 times a day. It became my *friend* which I believe is the in vogue way of describing it, but hey it was before the internet thank God, so was my own private hell. I then got to the point that I couldn’t sustain it and as I said to my 3rd councillor “I failed and became bulimic”. Needless to say I had weight issues. You may have heard me talk about my ex husband, but to be fair to him the night of our wedding in Las Vegas I was throwing up the “wedding breakfast” trying not to get my veil dirty! Whilst those issues are very much behind me, if I have strength I’ll blog on the turning point, I still have problems with myself and self loathing and image.

Whilst I respect choice, I despair at ladies paying to be weighed every week, particularly when they are seeking out diet cake! At the same time however I realise these ladies are normal and I am not! I just wanted to explain that I can appreciate the ever striving. and I’m behind you if that’s your thing, but I am unable to contribute! I am 44(age) and a size I’m comfortable with myself, in areas, but still a bit ish! Tho starting to realise that we are all a bit ish!

What am I trying to say, hmmmm, I cant do weight stuff over there on twitter, though the beauty of twitter is you get to be who you want to be, so go for it but I won’t contribute anytime soon 