Featured Post: How to attract birds into your garden

Its a really good idea to try to give children as many opportunities as possible to interact with wildlife. This is important for their mental well-being, to enable them to appreciate and gain an understanding of the environment and also simply to learn about different types of birds. We love to experiment making bird feeders and wildlife friendly things for the garden.

In terms of feeding birds we have a bit of a hit and miss relationship in our household. I must admit that we don’t really want to attract lots of pigeons and we have to be careful about attracting the ‘tamer’ birds like Robins as our cat is a fearsome predator.

I’ve been given some top tips on  how to attract three specific types of birds in to your garden.


Dunnocks are small and inconspicuous birds that reside in gardens across the UK with a preference for staying close to the edge of flower beds, bushes and hedges. They’re renowned for their shuffling, almost nervous gait, preferring to creep along the edge of vegetation rather than be out in the open.

Food for dunnocks: As well as eating worms, spiders and insects, dunnocks will be grateful for seeds provided in bird feeders – especially in the winter when food on the ground is more scarce. It’s worth remembering, however, that they do prefer dense cover when they’re eating.

So, if you want to attract them into your garden, make sure you position your bird feeder on the fringe of a thick hedgerow or close to a patch of vegetation. Dunnocks will eat fine seeds such as millet, and will be likely to visit your garden if you provide them with crushed or grated nuts.


Greenfinches are frequently spotted all over Britain – in country gardens and urban gardens, in farmland and in parks. As they’re often found close to woodland and hedges, the only place you likely won’t see them is in an upland area without trees or bushes.

Food for greenfinches: Greenfinches will eat bird seed and insects. They’re not fussy, but they do particularly like peanuts and black-oil sunflower seeds. During the winter, they’ll happily take whole nuts and seeds from your bird feeder to bulk out their diet, but watch out – they’re sociable and will squabble with other birds at the feeder if there’s something they want!

Just be sure to avoid any seed mixtures that contain dried rice or dried beans – only larger species can eat this kind of seed, and therefore it isn’t suitable for a bird the size of a greenfinch.


Goldfinches are beautifully coloured birds with a bright red face and a patch of yellow on their wings. You’ll find them all over Britain, except for in the far north and west of Scotland. Their highest numbers are generally recorded in the south of England.

Food for goldfinches: In the summer, goldfinches will eat insects and seeds, but in the winter they’ll rely on your bird feeder to help support them through the colder months. Goldfinches will eat most types of seed, although they’re very partial to small, black nyjer seeds. The high oil content of this food makes it attractive to goldfinches, but bear in mind that you will need a special type of bird feeder if you want to supply it. Nyjer is a very small seed and will need a dispenser that is capable of administering the right portion sizes.

If you’re looking for more information then there are lots of resources on line including the RSPB (of which we are members) website which has lots of fab information.


Featured Post: My Tips for Financially Surviving Maternity Leave


babygymOne of the things which you’ll come to realise quite soon after your pregnancy sinks in is the financial implications! I was employed throughout my 3 pregnancies and was very fortunate to have good a good maternity scheme where my money was gradually reduced to the statutory amount over a period of weeks. There are loads of caveats to maternity pay and its worth thinking about them ideally before pregnancy- for example to qualify you have to have worked a certain amount for 26 weeks before the 15th week before the baby is due. You can find out about them here on the money advice service website.

One of the problems with being off on maternity leave is that you have lots more time to spend money and lots more demands on it. For example, if you want to socialise or just get out the house you’ll find yourself going to coffee shops, playgroups and other activities. These are really important for your mental health, but come at a cost to your pocket. So just how can you save some pennies?

I know that for your first baby you’ll want everything new and lovely, however buying second hand and accepting freebies will save you a fortune. One of the things I’ve learnt is that babies grow very quickly, you wont need all those 0-3 month clothes, there will be stuff they don’t even wear. Babies and small children have no idea what they are wearing, I’d buy one or two nice new outfits and beg, steal and borrow the rest. Also buy quality items if you can (that doesn’t necessarily mean designer)- workhorse clothes which are well made from good fabric will wash and wear so they are always more economical. My third child is wearing the first child’s wardrobe and it looks a good as new!

The same principle applies to all the baby equipment. There is no point in buying an expensive top of the range pram, everyone ends up with a Maclaren. A change mat on the floor is better than a changing unit which they’ll only fall off and will take up loads of space. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can sell it all for big bucks once you’ve finished with it- the kids will trash it all and no-one will want it.

Toys will be a real temptation. Avoid at all costs. They only need one or two and the rest will become clutter and the bane of your life. If you enjoy books with your child (very important), then curate a small bookshelf and make the best use of your library.

The other thing which will save a fortune is to try to make the most of all the free activities out there. Baby rhyme time at the library is brilliant, many museums offer great free children’s activities or why not start a craft group with like minded mums at your house?

I loved my periods of maternity leave and loathed them in equal measure. It can be very empowering becoming a parent, but at the same time very difficult when you experience a massive loss of income and to a certain extent a loss of personal status. Getting to grips with your finances before the baby comes will give you a brilliant start to parenting, after all a happy mummy makes for a happy baby!


Featured Post: Summer Holiday Brain Drain

With my eldest now in year 5 i’m getting very familiar with the concept of ‘brain drain’. Its basically where your child can go backwards  in terms of their reading, maths and general school stuff during school holidays. I think some of it is related to lack of use- if you don’ t keep doing something then you easily forget it, it happens to us all. However, its a good idea for children’s confidence to try to maintain their levels over the holidays. Hope Education have provided me with the handy infographic posted below which provides some great ideas.

One of the things which I do is to buy the children a new notebook and get them working on a project of their choosing. We also have special themed days such as our India Day and special book club days to keep them reading. The other brilliant thing to do- highlighted in the infographic below- is to get them to keep a diary. This encourages literacy, comprehension and loads of skills including maintaining their fine motor skills. The other day the 9 year old found the diary he wrote when he had finished reception and he was delighted to have a look at it.

If you haven’t discovered it yet there are also some fabulous apps which can keep the kids thinking and learning. We like Reading Eggs, Scratch and Minecraft (surprisingly educational) here but there are loads to choose from.

Its only three weeks until half term, now is the time to start thinking about how to keep the children educated and using their brains. I must admit, I’ve come to realise that for me its best if I plan activities so we will be having a halloween themed book day, a trip to a railway museum, some cookery and possibly a theatre trip.

I’d love to hear your ideas for preventing brain drain; what do you have planned for half term?



Featured Post: Eco Friendly Schools: How To Be Greener In The Classroom

Old habits die hard, so the saying goes. That’s why it’s vital to pick up good habits as soon as humanly possible. Often this means helping our children to learn to be good citizens while they develop intellectually in the classroom.

So how, therefore, can we get them to be good citizens in an environmental sense? With a renewed sense that the current generation must act to protect the planet for the next, it’s crucial that children understand what it means to be green.

Here are some practical ways to help them along the way:


As a nation we’ve come a long way when it comes to recycling. In 2001 just 12 per cent of municipal waste was recycled and by 2010 that had jumped to 39 per cent. Now that figure is running in the low 40s. That is still below our target of 50 per cent by 2020 though, which means we must still do more at all levels of society.


some junk models by the 4 year old

That can start quite naturally in the classroom. Make sure every scrap of paper used is recycled and that the children use recycling bins in the classroom. Encourage children to bring in things like batteries and used ink cartridges that can be sent off for recycling, maybe even making it into a competition or challenge. Give children the responsibility of being ‘eco champions’ to co-ordinate your classroom’s efforts – they’ll thrive with the responsibility.


While we’re at it, it’s worth considering which materials could be used for art projects. That can be packaging or discarded items in the classroom or also at home. Old shoe boxes, jars and plastic bottles might all come in handy in the right context – get children to squirrel them away and bring them in. By finding a new creative use for old materials children will be able to appreciate the fun side of recycling.

Go digital

The sort of technology available in the classroom these days means that it is easier than ever to ‘go green’ while learning how to use the devices that are essential to a modern, digital world. Children shouldn’t need to be issued with stacks of worksheets or handouts to help with their tasks, with computers and tablets helping to wean classrooms off using quite so much paper.


Don’t just think inside the classroom either. Help children to understand their carbon footprint by thinking about the way they get to school as well as what they do while they are there. Sharing lifts with classmates can help cut this down, as can encouraging children to use public transport or things such as a ‘walking bus’ to safely make their way in in the mornings. Teachers can set the tone by the way they travel in to work too. This might depend on where you are and what options are available. Teacher jobs in London might pose a different challenge to the Outer Hebrides for example, but the principle is the same: if you lead, they will follow.

Featured Post: How to Prepare Your House for Sale

houseAre you thinking of putting your property on the market? As parents this is something we’ve spent a long time considering and discussing. As our family has grown we have outgrown our house. Its a tricky thing to do successfully when you’re busy rushing about and you have a house full of stuff so we’ve put together some top tips for you. This advice will help you to ensure that your house sells quickly and for the highest amount possible…

First, think about your curb appeal

When you’ve been living in your home for a while it can be hard to see that it’s less than perfect. However, prospective buyers are going to be judging your property from the moment they set eyes on it, so make that first impression count!

Freshen up the exterior and attend to peeling paintwork, overgrown gardens, cracked patios and fallen-down walls or fences. By getting the outside of your property in top tip condition, the buyer will truly believe that it’s worth every penny you’re asking for.

Repair damage
Similarly, spend some time and money making essential repairs. For instance, if your chimney is beginning to fall down or you have big cracks appearing in the walls, it’s definitely in your interest to get it fixed.

Why? Well, putting your house on the market without addressing these issues is going to knock lots of money off the asking price as buyers know that they’ll have to foot the bill to put it right. But don’t worry: you can recoup the money you’ve spent on repairs by simply putting the asking price up a little, so this step doesn’t have to cost you as much as you might be imagining right now!

Freshen up with a lick of paint

If any of your rooms, skirting boards or trims are looking worse for wear, freshen them up with a new coat of paint. And, if you have particularly bold taste, you should consider redecorating in neutral colours. Opt for whites and creams as prospective buyers will find it easy to envisage moving their belongings into your home if you’re offering them a blank canvas.

De-clutter and tidy up

It can be hard to keep on top of the mess while you’re selling (especially if you have a family), but it will certainly pay off to give your house a deep clean before it’s professionally photographed. Tidy up before viewings, and use the fact you’re selling as an opportunity to de-clutter some of your belongings: nothing puts prospective buyers off like mountains of ‘junk’, especially if it’s obscuring the proportions of your rooms or blocking natural light.

Decide how you’re going to market your house

Finally, remember that some house buyers pay in cash (such as the kind of companies that buys homes quickly and don’t need to secure mortgages beforehand), whereas others are going to be locked into a chain.

So, decide what’s important to you: do you want to sell your house quickly and have it taken off your hands? Or, are you happy to let it linger on the market before negotiating offers and contracts? It’s a personal decision and both options could be the right choice, so just weigh up the pros and cons of each.  

If you follow these tips, you’ll be a long way towards getting your house ready for sale! For more advice, check out this information available on the Home Owners Alliance website.