A Powerscourt ‘Estately’ Weekend

We were lucky enough to be invited to attend both family friendly events in Powerscourt Estate over the October Bank Holiday weekend.

First up was “Frightmare” which was run on the grounds of Powerscourt Estate by a team from Imaginosity. I genuinely didn’t know what to expect – usually the Imaginosity events are very well run but as they are aimed at children, I didn’t think it would be scary enough for my Addams Family-esque children.

Well, we were in for a treat! At the outset we were given a map and sent off the beaten track to look for clues, the first clue confirmed as being under a witch’s hat. The walk was decorated to scare, with black bags containing suspicious shapes, cobwebs, broken police cordons, and scattered debris making it instantly atmospheric.

Off the beaten track.

Off the beaten track.

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There were some great touches – rather than using a static clue, we found a real live witch who said she could ‘smell the children coming’ – fantastic! We had to repeat a few spells in German before we could see the clue. All the clues had an interactive aspect, and we met spiders, rats and pirates as we continued on our journey, with each characters giving us chilling warnings to ’look out behind’ and ‘trust no one’ etc.

Who's afraid of the big,bad witch?

Who’s afraid of the big,bad witch?

The grand finale came at the Pet Cemetery where we met the absolutely brilliant Tina Vamp and her macabre ‘dead toy tea party’. She introduced us to a vampire who played the “Monster Mash” on keyboards while Tina taught the children to dance along. Unfortunately, vampires will be vampires and so it ended with him chasing all the children to shrieks of delighted terror. Where did the final clue lead us? Back to the main house for a sweet treat, of course.

Really creepy!

Really creepy!

The Monster Mash!

The Monster Mash!

Verdict: The children were just the right level of spooked, although the vampire chase was a little too much for my three-year-old who was frightened and asked to ‘go home now!’ If you are looking for a family friendly scare at Hallowe’en, I would highly recommend this.

'I want to go home now!'

‘I want to go home now!’

    

We headed back up to Powerscourt on the rainy bank holiday Monday for the ‘Make a Scarecrow’ at The Garden Pavilion event. This was brilliantly organised and again the team working at it were excellent at instructing the children on what to do. We had Monica helping us out, whose enthusiasm was absolutely infectious.

The wonderful Monica!

The wonderful Monica!

The children were invited to make and style their very own scarecrows, with a central supply of clothes and straw provided along with hessian, string and accessories left out at each family’s workstation.Now, I am not usually one for getting involved children’s activities, but this was so much fun that the entire family got stuck in! If we were unsure of the next step there was always someone on hand to help.

Stuffing our scarecrows!

Stuffing our scarecrows!

Sorting at our 'work-station'.

Sorting at our ‘work-station’.

We started with a bamboo cross for each scarecrow, and after much stuffing, tying and gluing ended up with three actual scarecrows. They are suitably creepy and will finish off our decorations for the 31st perfectly!

SCARE-crows!

SCARE-crows!

Our verdict: Well worth the trip, the Pavilion staff put a lot into making this a fun, successful and interesting class.

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend the above events for the purpose of this review. However all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Summer Job – Positions Available. :)

I spend every Monday putting the shoe mountain that gathered at the side on the couch back in the children’s rooms and ‘dissappearing‘ the wilted dandelion or stone collection scattered on the mantle-piece. I mutter to myself about how I always have to do it, and I am going to have serious words with them all this time (including Mr Dad who seems to think there is a shoe and sock putter- back fairy living with us!) So, enough is enough.

I'm sure someone will tidy up after me.

I’m sure someone will tidy up after me.

Timing is everything and obviously dishing out tasks on a Monday morning is a surefire way to reach screaming levels of tension in nanoseconds. But the school holidays are around the corner, so this household is about to get chore-tastic! Along with the added bonus of not having to run around and pick up after them all the time, doing their own chores will go a long way towards encouraging their self-respect, self-confidence and independence.

So this summer, I will refer to the list below for little jobs that all three children from the toddler to the tweenager can help with!

Housework: Dusting; putting their toys away (tip: insist they put each toy /game away before starting a new activity); hoovering; emptying the dishwasher; making their beds; sweeping the floor; clearing and setting the table; washing and drying dishes; mopping up (inevitable) spills.

 

Never too young!

Never too young!

Laundry: Sorting out clothes for dark and light washes; matching socks; stripping their beds; folding and putting laundry away; loading and  putting on the washing machine; putting their clothes either in the wash or away at the end of the day.

My sous chef.

My sous chef.

Food preparation: Pouring drinks; preparing breakfast cereal; peeling vegetables and putting peel in the compost; making sandwiches; chopping fruit; turning on oven to preheat; weighing ingredients; using a whisk.

 

Don't forget the wheels!

Don’t forget the wheels!

Outside: Pulling weeds; sweeping the decking; washing the car (inside and out); gathering up chopped leaves and branches; watering the plants.

Obviously the list is not exhaustive but there is plenty there to encourage the children to help out a little every day.

Weeding!

Weeding!

I don’t plan on overloading them with a load of tasks. The aim of the game, for us, is to keep it light and easily achievable. That said, I will not give up at the first “I am too tired” hurdle – instead, I

will try a little negotiation. “So, what do you think you could do to help me out? ” and build on that.

Still plenty of time for fun!

Still plenty of time for fun!

By mid-August, I expect I will be having breakfast in bed while the children clean up and prepare lunch, ahh happy days! 😉

What are your summer plans?

Thanks for reading.

Aisling

Happy Christmas!

Thank you all for your support throughout the year. I am already looking forward to sharing some more tips and insights with you in 2015!

Are you finding the children’s  climbing the walls anticipatory glee of Christmas hard to manage? Are you ready to throw decorations, tree and children out the back and forget about them until next year? Are you dreaming of a quiet room where you can hide until all the ‘fun’ of Christmas with children is over? Take heart – you are not alone, we all experience ‘the fear’ at Christmas. In fact, my most recent article for MummyPages was about just that! Hope you enjoy it.

Planning a perfectly imperfect Christmas | MummyPages.ie.

Off to start the ham now, wishing you all a fantastic Christmas and the very best for the New Year!

It's Christmas Eve!

It’s Christmas Eve!

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Nearly there and then it is time …

...for the Christmas Ham!

…for the Christmas Ham!

Thanks for reading!

Aisling

Enjoying Play Dates ( it can be done!)

Actual playing on a play-date!

Actual playing on a play-date!

As much as I hate the children going back to school, and all the hassle that goes along with it, I must admit to enjoying getting back into the routine of things. However, like them or loathe them, along with all that routine come play-dates!!

I was useless at play-dates when my eldest started school, way back in 2011. Not that I didn’t like inviting children to play per se, it was just that I was not great at the awkward inviting-strangers-in-to-my house thing – for the uninitiated, junior infant playdates involve parent coffee dates too. In my defence I was pregnant and dealing with a newborn throughout that first year, so I kept forgetting to organise them. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Nowadays with my eldest going into second class, I finally have a handle on play-dates and no longer cringe at the mention of them. In fact, I have made some very good friends of my own through the play-date system. I was having coffee with a couple of said friends this morning and we got to talking about play-dates and the various problems that can arise, so I decided to sit down and do a list of my version of the do’s and don’ts of play-dates, so as to avoid the stress and actually enjoy them.

Play-date etiquette:

  • From day one, tell your child that adults arrange play-dates, not children! This will help to avoid your child inviting themselves on play-dates. This line also comes in handy when a child starts inviting themselves to your house and their mother stands idly by and says nothing – been there done that!
  • Depending on how little/much you enjoy them, set a day/days aside that you dedicate to play-dates. For us, it’s every second Friday. Pick a day that suits you and stick to it. When invited on a different day, avoid saying yes straight away in the fear that your child will never be invited again. Explain and get the word out there that a certain day/days are when you are free for play-dates.
  • When it comes to junior infants, I would absolutely avoid organising any play-dates with new friends before mid-term. Starting school is an overwhelming and tiring experience for children – give them a chance to get used to their new routine before putting anything else on their plate. From senior infants on, I would also avoid play-dates for the first week or so for the same reason.
  • Keep them short (at the start) and always state the time you want the other child picked up. Remember that both your child and yourself may need to decompress afterwards so allow time for that before the dinner rush. When children get to know each other a bit better, play- dates can be longer and can sometimes run into dinner dates too! If it doesn’t suit you to return that service, then decline dinner and pick up your child earlier. Otherwise it can get a little awkward.
  • Give them space – children may be a little awkward with each other at the start – it is perfectly natural and they will figure it out for themselves.They may need a little direction as to what to do but don’t start creating games and taking part yourself. It is tiring and kind of defeats the purpose.
  • Make an effort to also invite children without stay-at-home parents. They can definitely fall through the net because their parents are not seen at the school on a daily basis.
  • Until you know the family well, keep the play-date at home. Taking responsibility for someone else’s child is a big enough deal without the added potential risks and dangers of playgrounds etc. (One of my first playdates involved a trip to the playground where the invited child got bitten on the arm by a random little brat in the playground – mortifying beyond belief!)
Maybe, avoid the playground!

Maybe, avoid the playground!

  • If you are planning to offer snacks, check with the parent first that snacks are okay and that there are no allergies.
  • Keep the snacks simple and easy; you don’t need to have a fresh fruit platter with normal and tropical fruits ready and waiting. If the normal is a banana from the fruit bowl, stick with that! Don’t fill your house with goodies in a Hansel and Gretel manner – you will only end up with a sugar rush/crash to deal with.
  • Avoid baking, or arts and crafts unless you are that way gifted. They are stressy enough with our own children but are even harder when you have to be ‘nice’ throughout.;-)
  • Be yourself. If behaviour from either child is unacceptable, then say as much to the child, whilst keeping it fair. Often our own children become casualties of a play-date as we want to avoid upsetting the invitee!
  • Inclusiveness is key, so when we have people over on play-dates they have some time to do their own thing, but I also encourage them to include the siblings in the games; as well as ensuring no-one is feeling left out, this also gives one time to sit down during a play-date with a cup of tea!

My children have developed some fantastic friendships from play-dates and I am so glad that I got over myself and embraced them ( the play-date that is, not the children..) Play-dates are now a pleasure and something I look forward to. So if you are embarking on the journey for the first time, or are not a fan of play-dates, I really hope that you have found something useful in the above.

Have you any tips to offer yourself? Please feel free to add any tips or advice of your own in the comments below!

Thanks for reading

Aisling

Summer Lovin’!

Summer Camps are brilliant. Particularly if you work ‘outside the home’ and have this long stretch of time to manage. There is an amazing variety of activities from drama to religion (if that is your bag) so you can plan your summer with less stress and more choice than ever before. In fact, I don’t know how professional parents would cope without the variety of summer camps out there.

However, as a stay-at-home mum, I don’t ‘do’ summer camps. One of the things I LOVE about the summer holidays is the fact that there are no rules – we are at nobody else’s beck and call, we don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time, and most of all I don’t have to make packed lunches!!

Summer is all about unwinding and relaxing, and I truly love having the children at home with me. Yes, of course they drive me up the walls and there are A LOT of hissy fits (including theirs..) but even with all that I still love having them about.

20130822_163120

Trips to the beach!

 

I got myself into a bit of a panic recently – everywhere I looked, there was information on summer camps – on social media, in the newspapers, and in leaflets that were constantly coming in through the letterbox. Most of my peers were booking their children’s summer camps; just a week here or there to give some variety. Was I causing my children to miss out by not sending them to camp? The main reason I gave up work was to spend more time with the kids so it really goes against the grain with me to sign them up for a camp. I swallowed my panic and made a list of all the things I plan on doing with my guys during the summer. So here it is:

 

  • Send them out to the back garden to play!

 

We will also do lots of things like taking trips to the beach /playground/park, walks, a little gardening, a little housework (emptying the dishwasher and putting away clothes for example), visiting friends and family, playing games together, going on picnics (somehow I don’t view making a picnic in the same dastardly light as making school lunches), browsing for some books at the library and stopping off here and there for the occasional ice-cream. However, outside of these plans, I will revert to my list and

 

  • Send them out to the back garden to play! 

We might even spend some money on day trips to town, or to the zoo or the farm. Make a journey the whole length of the DART line, or go on the LUAS to a secret destination (aka The Dead Zoo), but these will be one-offs and in the meantime I will revert to my list and

 

  • Send them out to the back garden to play!
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Fun times out the back 😉

 

So if you are struggling to come up with ideas of how to entertain the children over the summer holidays, and the thoughts of picking home-made playdough out of your carpet for the forseeable don’t appeal, please feel free to make use of my list! I appreciate not everyone has a back garden but the local green or park will equally suffice. My general point is that we dont have to farm out our children or fork out lots of money to create magical summer holidays.

 

Thanks for reading

 

Aisling

 

I love any and all feedback please leave any thoughts or comments below. 🙂

 

Encouraging Independence, Part I

20130507_154206Although being parents requires an awful lot of running around after our children, a mistake a lot of us make is doing too much for our children. We should absolutely not be at our childs every beck and call as this only results in creating needy and under-confident children/adults. I think if you want your child to grow into a content, self-led and confident adult, encouraging their independence is an absolute necessity and something you can start from a very early age.

Today I am going to write about encouraging independent play. Doing this not only encourages independence, it also allows childrens’ natural sense of curiosity to develop and so also encourages learning. For newborn and young babies, we have a tendency to hold them in our arms and on our laps whilst playing with them, and there is nothing wrong with this; in fact, it is vital for strengtening your bond and developing your infant’s sense of security. However, it is also really important that you let your baby play on their own!

I would suggest putting your baby down in their play-gym/bouncy chair or just lying them on a soft blanket with a few toys a few times a day. Engage with them for a few minutes and then task yourself with something else and leave them to it. As their confidence grows, you will be able to leave them playing on their own longer and longer.

From when your baby gets to the stage that they are moving around on their own – be it walking/crawling/bum shuffling or that ‘ol classic, the commando manoeuvre – let them choose their own toys, and continue this throughout their childhood. This may sound a bit much but really, it’s not. There are some very simple do’s and don’ts that will help you to encourage independent play in your child.

The Do’s:

Do make sure their toys are age appropriate – toddlers and skateboards just don’t mix!
Do engage in whatever they are doing for a few minutes and then leave them to it.
Do have their toys where they are easily accessible i.e. for babies, a basket or for toddlers, a box with a lid on.
Do rotate their toys every few months.
Do insist that they tidy away one toy before they start another – it’s good discipline for them and will help you ‘let go’ a little if the house is not being overrun with toys.
Do let them figure it out on their own – they can and they will!
Do encourage them to play outside as often as possible.
Do be available but not involved.

The Don’ts:

Don’t ask them what they want to do – let them decide for themselves.
Don’t tell them how to make it according to the manufacturer’s instructions – they will bore easily if you keep interupting their imaginitive play.
Don’t correct the way they are playing – they may want to put the square peg in the round hole; they are experimenting!
Don’t hamper their imagination with adult expectations – they can of course be a hybrid spiderman/vampire/flamenco dancer if they wish.
Don’t get involved when there is a misunderstanding – unless it becomes agressive, let them figure it out themselves.

I am not saying never play with your children, where would be the fun in that? In fact, encouraging independent play means then when you play with your child, it is actually more enjoyable as you are coming to it by choice as opposed to another parental duty you must fulfil. When you encourage independent play, you find that you are not counting down the minutes until you can turn on television. When you encourage independent play, the whining, the ‘muuummmmyyyyy’, the ‘I’m booorred’ will, if not dissappear, then become a LOT less frequent. 🙂

Thanks for reading
Aisling

I love feedback, please leave any thoughts and comments below.

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