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How to Effectively Monitor Your Children’s Screen Time

Natalie writes: We live in a digital world; from computers to tablets to telephones and televisions, we are face to face with screens more than ever before. For many adults, screens are a relatively new part of life but many children in today’s world have never known life without them.

Kids today not only love technology, they have a remarkably intuitive understanding of how it works. Whether it’s a computer game, playing with their friends on the internet or manoeuvring a new gaming console, children possess the unique ability to understand the language of technology in a way that many parents struggle to keep up with.

With technologies and apps designed specifically for preschool aged children and sometimes even younger, the idea of ‘screen time’ becomes an important consideration for modern parents. This in mind, here are some great tips for parents looking to create structured screen time schedules for kids and positive relationships with technology for the whole family.

Make Sure Everything is Age Appropriate

The internet is vast and contains all types of information. A lot of it is not appropriate for young children (article in The Guardian). When setting up internet or television accounts, take advantage of the parental control settings and use passwords or timers to ensure your kids aren’t seeing anything they’re not old enough to understand. With younger children, try to make time spent with technology productive and educational, establishing good habits from a young age will pay off in the long run.

Participate

Whenever possible, try to get involved with your children’s relationship with technology. Watch what they watch, learn to play some of their favourite games and find programming that entertains you both. Making an effort to understand what your children spend their time doing, watching or playing on various screens will open up a dialogue and enable you to relate to them in new and important ways. Set weekly dates to watch a show the whole family likes or find games that you can play together, even if it’s just for a half an hour a week.

Effectively Monitor Your Children’s Screen Time

Set Limits Early

Establishing boundaries and time limits as they relate to screen time are most effective when they’re implemented from an early age. This enables parents and children to develop positive habits as they relate to technology and to understand that there are plenty of other ways to spend time beyond starting at a screen all day. Make sure as a parent you’re flexible with your rules and maybe consider adding screen time as a reward for good behaviour or to mark a special occasion. Above all be sure to regularly reevaluate your rules as your children grow and develop.

As school work has also gone the way of technology and many kids now require computers to complete assignments, this presents an interesting dilemma for parents as it requires a more diligent approach to technological monitoring. However, so long as you have rules in place and balance their screen time with physical exercise and family time, there’s no reason your kids can’t have a healthy relationship with computers.

Natalie Bailey lives with her family in Manchester and works part-time as an online journalist, specialising in parenting advice and practical tips for other families.

Image by Orin Zebest, used under Creative Comms license.

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VDayCrafts_1Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and that means it’s time once again to start seeking out a gift for that special someone. But beyond that, this holiday is an opportunity to give gifts to close family members, though the real trick is in finding a unique, romantic gesture for a significant other. Of course, there are a number of traditional options: an intimate date night, a bouquet of roses, a nice card with some decadent chocolates, and so on.

These are all standard ideas with which you can’t go wrong.

But if you’d like to do something a little bit more unique for Valentine’s Day in 2014, here’s another idea to consider: go the route of Fairtrade products or homemade crafts? Not only are these options more socially and environmentally efficient, they’re also very on trend and often one-of-a-kind gifts. If this idea appeals to you, here are five fair-trade and craft gift ideas for the coming Valentine’s Day. 1. Romantic Homemade Soaps Bath products and soaps are popular “gifts for her” on Valentine’s Day. And for 2014, Red Ted Art provides us with a recipe for how to make these gifts at home! Homemade, heart-shaped soaps are irresistibly cute gifts that show some real effort on your part and that will certainly be put to good use. Plus, you can get a bit creative within the recipe to infuse special scents and colours. 2. Fair-Trade Teas & Chocolates These are fairly standard gifts for Valentine’s Day, but many people have a tendency to opt for high-end, expensive brands simply for the occasion. However, if you’d prefer to go with a niche option, or a brand that upholds Fairtrade practices, there are plenty of teas, chocolates, and coffees that can suit your needs. For example, Divine Chocolate is one brand that practices fair-trade efforts. 3. Fair Trade Flowers The easiest option is always to stop by the nearest supermarket for a bouquet of Valentine’s-themed flowers, but fair-trade options are out there for you to use, too. The Marks and Spencer “Plan A,” for instance, dictates that the store practices fair-trade and environmentally conscious policies for natural products. And as a result, there are various bouquets and arrangements of fair-trade flowers available for the holiday. These can be lovely options as they’re traditional but of the highest quality. 4. Homemade Fortune Cookies This is an idea from Martha Stewart that’s very romantic. The idea is to construct homemade fortune cookies out of soft, red and pink felt while the messages within can be whatever you please! It’s simple, but if you’re looking for a fun new way to wrap up a personal massage coupon, it’s worth considering! 5. Homemade Votives Candles can be very romantic for a couple, whether used over dinner, during a massage, etc., so why not make a few artfully crafted homemade votives? Real Simple has some nice and easy tips for this simple, though deeply romantic and thoughtful, gift idea.

This is a guest post, I’m also over on aGreenerLifeforus.com for further ethical, Fairtrade stories….

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FREE Printable Calendar 2014

So  the New Year is upon us again, so apologies for not posting this sooner – so many of you have been asking for a FREE printable calendar – I’ve quickly rustled up one for us, which you can print off for your walls too!

Ours is printed on to alternatively, white, and red paper, and we’ve used a great big cardboard box as the backing, and used a fabulous gilt-printed tape as a ‘frame’ which we found in New York, and have been waiting to use it for ages!

I’ve saved the 12 pages as a printable PDF for you CLICK HERE TO PRINT, with space for meal-planning, and a little ‘bonus point’ reward chart at the bottom – whether for your kids, or yourself – that’s up to you!

Oh, by the way, I’m also on twitter/MoreKidsChaos too… Erm, funnily enough on Google+Facebook and Pinterest! Pop over say hello x LIKE IT? Pin it!

Ali also writes over on AGreenerLifeforus.com

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So, this weekend 9yo and I had the night to ourselves… He invited a girlfriend over, and we had a #SmurfFest! The two of them built a lovely atmospheric fire in the hearth, and we snuggled down under blankets on the sofa and were in Smurf Heaven for the evening… I’ll be honest, it didn’t sound like my kind of dvd film, but I went with it, and we watched The Smurfs, and then The Smurfs2 – I actually loved them both, hilarious and for those of you, like myself, who’ve not seen the first film, I was surprised –  it’s a hybrid live-action and animated family comedy. When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the Smurfs out of their village, they’re forced through a swirling blue (of course) portal, out of the safety of their Smurf world and into the middle of New York’s Central Park. And so the adventure unfolds…Smurfs2-kidschaos-review

The Smurfs 2 continues seamlessly explaining Smurfette’s (Katy Perry) background, created in the lab by Gargamel who now plans to kidnap her to extract the formula for the magical Smurf essence which Papa Smurf used to make her blue. Once he has the secret, Gargamel plans to build a wee army of Naughties, to help him take over the world.
Christina Ricci voices Gargamel’s naughty daughter Vexy who is charged with manipulating Smurfette to gain her trust….  I won’t spoil it, however, we all three loved it, and I would recommend a night in for your own #SmurfFest – we even drank smoothies from wine glasses, and sliced up a Mars Bar for a posh chocolate treat 🙂 Sophisticated!

Smurf-DVD-cover

The Smurfs 2 out on Blu-ray and DVD December 2nd.

Oh, by the way, I’m also on twitter.com/MoreKidsChaos too… Erm, and funnily enough on Google+Facebook and Pinterest! Pop over to say hello x LIKE IT? Pin it!

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We are pretty lucky to live within a half an hour drive from Chessington World of Adventures, and it’s always been high on the list of favourite treat places for our boys to visit during the summer months. My Mother has fond memories of the Zoo from her own childhood, so it’s always been somewhere we have visited as a family.

KidsChaos-ChessingtonThis year has been no exception, and was TOP of 8yo’s birthday list for his ninth birthday recently, so as we were lucky enough to receive some tickets as a gift, we took a party of children aged 6-9yrs as a joint birthday treat.

We arrived at 10am, and there was very little queuing to get through the gates, so we headed straight to Hocus Pocus Hall – a big favourite, which set us up nicely with giggles, and ghoules, and cries of *Let’s go round again!*.

KidsChaosZufariGiraffeThe sensible Dad of the party had visited the Chessington website to plan the day, as there are height restrictions on some of the rides. So I took my slightly taller 10yo boy onto Rattlesnake (my ride of the day – we laughed so much on this one!) whilst the slightly shorter kids enjoyed Bubbleworks.

KidsChaosZufarijeepThe park is divided into areas, Wild Asia being popular with our party, Kobra and Monkey Swinger received MASSIVE votes, and were visited several times during the day.

Scary ride for me is the Dragon’s Fury (which everybody but me LOVED) and a new area for 2013 we’d not been on previously was the amazing Zufari which took our breath away, really quite a big queue, but completely worth it for the gasps of ‘REAL RHINOS!’ from all of the kids (and me too!)

So a good day was had by all, my one recommendation would be to visit the Monkey Swinger and the Dragon Falls to the end of the day, as we got a bit wet on those!

Disclaimer, we were kindly given four of our tickets for Chessington, however the balance of our tickets were purchased here with a great group discount.

Read about our trip to Thorpe Park Oh, by the way, I’m also on twitter.com/MoreKidsChaos too… Erm, and funnily enough on Google+Facebook and Pinterest! Pop over to say hello x

Ali also writes over on AGreenerLifeforus.com

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How many times have you (or a certain someone in your family) left your phone charger on overnight, buzzing away?
The telly on standby; accidentally leaving the microwave door ajar?

But did you know that you’re losing money (and clearly wasting energy) whilst you sleep?

Leaving your household appliances on standby whilst you’re curled up in bed is burning a hole in your pocket and taking the time to turn off could save you up to a fantabulous £86 per year. So, what are you waiting for? Switch OFF at bed time!

 Energy Saving Infographic
Commissioned by Ovo Energy – the cheaper, greener and simpler energy supplier – lovely bunch, follow them on facebook here.

Oh, by the way, I’m also on twitter.com/MoreKidsChaos too… Erm, and funnily enough on Google+Facebook and Pinterest! Pop over to say hello x

Ali also writes over on AGreenerLifeforus.com

crafts, gardening with kids, google+ hangouts, kids, Uncategorized

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Andy Goldsworthy inspired
FlowersBuildKidsChaosThis week my darling boys got busy with some Andy Goldsworthy style flower arranging! Well, they made some gloopy papier mache glue (recipe here: two parts water, one part flour, nuked in the microwave for 50 seconds…stir stir stir the lumps out as best you can).

Then they painted the patio and started building up their pattern of summer leaves and petals. It has to be said, 10yo particularly LIKES working with colour patterns, you only have to look at his gogo crazy bones collection which he has displayed by colour, and he LOVED David T Waller’s amazing Toy Atlas Rainbow – the hundreds of toy cars… oh, click here to see it…

This is a fabulous way to explore the science of plant decomposition too – watching as the petals’ colour changes over a period of days – and the release of carbon dioxide…

If you’d like to see how our own patio art works with Autumn / Winter leaves – take a look at the ‘sculpture’ we made with the neighbour’s children – read more here, taking inspiration again from the fabulous Andy Goldsworthy and RedTedArt of course.

10yo boy was really excited to tell his Dad all about this, and has decided that he will cover the entire patio for his birthday, in November, so watch this space!

Anyway, as you know, I’m on a weekly panel of crafty So-and-So-s invited to ‘hang-out’ on Google+ by the every lovely Maggy Woodley at Red Ted Art.

I’m hanging out on Google+ for a bit of a vlog…(click the screengrab to watch) with some craft buddies to share these flowers and leaves ideas, hosted by the aforementioned ever lovely Maggy from Red Ted Art. who made flower crowns and showed us how to press flowers and cute woodland people. Also present are Anna, Crystal, Anthea’s wild grass seed head artKelly‘s amazing helicopter seed thank you cards for teachersLiz was featured with her diy flower-petal paintsThe fairy and the frog’s discovery bottle Pop back later for more links soon.

KidsChaosFlowersYouTube

Oh, and I’m on twitter.com/MoreKidsChaos too… Erm, and funnily enough onGoogle+Facebook and Pinterest! Pop over to say hello x Like it? Pin it!

Ali also writes over on AGreenerLifeforus.com
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Many moons ago
I ran the creative department of a large UK department store. We all loved our ‘MOOD BOARDS’ – we used them in the studio, and we used them at home…folders stuffed with images of how we wanted our kitchen to look; notepads full of magazine ‘tears’ of inspirational ideas our new bathroom…

SO you can imagine my delight when I discovered Pinterest, an online version, of just that – your own mood boards, and more importantly, access to OTHER people’s mood boards – and if you don’t have a Pinterest account of your own, it’s simple to create an account!

Pin It Forward UK 2013So, I’m delighted to be part of Pinterest’s #PinItForwardUK campaign. Through this selection of excellent ‘pinners’ I’ve found some amazing blogs, and campaigners, and it’s really made me think more about my own photography, and composition too…

Read on to discover my top boards for all things ethical and creative, with upcycled crafts and DIY ideas such as A Greener Life for Us.

pegPlane-A-Greener-Life-Board-Ali-Clifford


 I recently planned a wedding (well, MY wedding, it seven weeks!) using Pinterest, I created a board called Party Time taking inspiration for the most amazing wedding cake which I just wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for Pinterest I’m sure!

Cake-Love-Wedding-Ideas-Board-Ali-Clifford

Share your own Pinterest favourites

Are you already on Pinterest and have you discovered a fabulous board you’d like to tell us about? Please share a link to your best board in the comments here so we can all take a look. And pop on over to visit Chris at Thinly Spread tomorrow for even more pinspiration as she shares her Pinterest gems.

Are you on Google+ Follow me here, and say hello, and I’ll add you back to my circles.

Oh, and I’m on twitter.com/MoreKidsChaos too… Erm, and funnily enough on Facebook and, AS PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED, on Pinterest too! Pop over to say hello x Like it? Pin it!
Ali also writes over on AGreenerLifeforus.com

cooking, cooking with kids, crafts, education, Uncategorized

Chaos writes:

RococologoI had recently been singing the praises of Rococo Chocolate on twitter, as earlier this month I had wolfed down a couple of delicious ‘grown-up’ birthday bars (all to myself)….
As a designer by trade, I’ve always loved the packaging, with the repeat patterns of the old chocolate moulds – There’s just something so appealing about the classic blue prints.

Achica

You can imagine my delight when the chaps at Achica invited RedTedArt and I to spend the morning with them at Rococo’s Motcomb Street, Belgravia store.

We were welcomed by Julie Rosenberg, the events manager for Rococo, with delicious hot chocolate, and were given a really informative ‘lesson’ on how cocoa is grown, and becomes the chocolate we were then to try.

Julie led us down to the kitchen (which we had spied through the glass window in the floor!) and our Chocolate School continued, with egg decorating, and the fun bit of gluing the two halves of our eggs together!

It’s such a great idea for a birthday or hen party….have a chat with Julie for more info…there’s a Half Term Children’s Chocolate Bar Workshop coming up which looks great!

So, we even got to take home the eggs we had decorated (yes, mine IS supposed to be an owl!)

Joining in the fun too were the very creative TorieJayne, Lizzie Me and My Shadow, and Jen from love chic living, glamorous glutton and lish concepts, and hannah in the house too.

A big thanks to Julie from Rococo for making it such a super morning, and to Achica for inviting us along and making it such a memorable morning!

belgravia

book reviews, competitions, education, kids, Uncategorized

Chaos writes:

All this talk of Roald Dahl has got 8yo all of a twitter… (find it hard to use that word in this context, but bear with me!)

KidsChaosRoaldDahl

This is his collection of Roald Dahl books (Laura Dockrill’s favourite writer, and the cause of this desire to take this photo on the ‘big camera’ to tweet to Laura – bless).

His ultimate favourite is the Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, which was no.1 on the bedtime reading list before Daddy took over that job, reading Harry Potter to them every night, over the phone on loud-speaker (that’s another story altogether).

The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me I think was first choice, because, (A) it was a LONG book to read at bedtime, so they get to stay up later, and (B) the language is so beautiful, (how many little boys do you know who call the loo the ‘Lavatory Pan’? thank you Roald).

The story is fabulous, and even without the Quentin Blake illustrations, and your eyes shut, your imagination marvels at the wonder of Billy’s sweet shop, the incredibly TALL house, a giraffe with an extending neck, a pelican with an over-sized beak, a dancing monkey, and the quite bonkers, His Grace the Duke of Hampshire.

Oh, and there is some ‘gun action’ always goes down well with little boys I find!

We did venture several years ago, when they were much younger, to the Little Angel Theatre and this wonderful puppet performance delighted and engaged both boys, because they knew the story so well.

So, thank you Laura Dockrill, for dragging small children back to their childhood with your fab book Darcy Burdock, and talk of Roald Dahl again… 8yo is currently reading George’s Marvellous Medicine aloud to me, and polishing off Matilda when he’s meant to have his LIGHTS OUT!

Are you on Google+ Follow me here, and say hello, and I’ll add you back to my circles.

Oh, and I’m on twitter.com/MoreKidsChaos too… Erm, and funnily enough on Facebook and Pinterest! Pop over to say hello x