Sunday, 14 September 2014

Enjoy those Fairy Soft Moments #PowerOfSoft

My little boy has not started school as yet. We are home educating for a little while until we find the right school. That maybe this January or next September so we have a little longer together. When he goes to school I shall be in a pool of tears, I will miss all our cuddles and the days out mid-week.

It is strange how the time really does fly from when you bring your precious child home from the hospital to their first steps and then going to nursery. Fairy Non Bio have a lovely video 'The Softest they'll ever be'that is encouraging  all mums to make the most of all those hugs and cuddles, all the special moments when they are little before they go off for the first day at school. The video may bring a tear to your eye....sniff...

My little boy has always been so cuddly, contrary to the myth that autistic children don't like hugs and affection. Quite the opposite for my little man, he craves affection and has always wanted to be close to me. He still does! I love these days so much, these precious days when he still very much wants his mummy. 

When he first went off to pre-school he would run and wrap his arms around me when I went to collect him. Such a wonderful feeling and one that Fairy Non Bio are encouraging us to not take for granted. I feel lucky to have this extra time with my son now before he heads off to school full time. It is hard to believe that he will be 5 in January as I can remember so clearly when he was just 5 months and his cheeky smile was appearing. The cheeky smile that makes my heart melt.

So even though my house is filled with noise and toys and books everywhere I will really miss it all when he heads out with his little school bag, sigh.....I wish time would go slower. I have in the past wished for the next step, after a hard day. When he was a baby I wished for him to be a toddler, for him to be walking or for him to be able to do more for himself. However due to his needs these stages have taken longer and sometimes been extremely delayed such as with his speech. When his first words started pretty much exactly a year ago I felt like the happiest person on the planet. This has actually made me appreciate the small things in life a lot more and savour our precious moments. I feel like I get extra time with my boy being little and I'm making the most of it.

**This was a sponsored post, words are my own**

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Twinkl Review - from our SEN/Home Educating point of view

We are now home educating Little Bird. We couldn't find the right school in time for September and all sorts of other reasons. I think the pathway is a little clearer now and we'll maybe start looking at schools again but in the meantime we are very much home educating. We don't have a structured timetable and go with the flow depending upon the mood that LB is in and aim to do lots of fun things every day to help him learn.

It can be hard to know where to start sometimes. Little Bird has autism so his learning style takes a lot of work to understand, I can't lie - it is complex. Over the summer I had a bit of a head start using the Twinkl website which provides oodles of printables, activities and guidance. It has been a great help to me in order to get started on our home education journey.

Twinkl Resources is the trusted home and one stop shop for thousands of lovely, unique, printable teaching resources for Early Years, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, teachers, home educators, parents, childminders, nurseries and more.
They have an SEN section with everything from visual timetables to behaviour management. One of the first sections I went to was the Autism Spectrum Disorders page and got the full resource pack in one handy download which took only a few minutes.

This contained truly amazing printables that we can work on. From simple tasks like sensory activities such as the Playdough Mats which are great for us at the moment as LB has a love of the stuff, squelching it and squeezing it. We will use the mats to enhance our learning, starting with the Playdough faces so he can practice rolling up sausages to make a smile and rolling  a ball for eyes - great for his fine motor skills and the Playdough Mats make it that more interesting.  Then there are lots of matching games and further down the line for us, simple Numeracy and Literacy.

What I love about Twinkl is that the layout and the grouping together of activities is very easy to understand and navigate. You can easily find what you are looking for and also find the right level for your child straight away. Also, if like me you are home educating it acts as a good starting point and if you are following the National Curriculum it is a good guide to follow. Even if you are not following the NC, it is still a fab site for information and activities for your children. It will be invaluable to us whilst home educating. 

The illustrations of the activities are colourful and clear with a style that is consistent across the site. The instructions are straightforward on both how to download and then print the resources. All you need is a printer and a laminator - invaluable items for me with printing off lots of visual timetables and communication cards for LB. 

There are three subscription levels offered:
Free membership that allows access to the majority of resources; 
Gold membership which is the high quality, low cost option at £24.99 a year
Platinum membership which allows access to all resources and is priced at £39.99 per year

The Twinkl Forum is a further wealth of information covering all subjects and levels as well as topics relevant for teachers, parents and others in education. This was a really interesting area to browse through and I picked up some ideas for planning the day at Early Years Level and read an interesting SEN thread. Hopefully in time the forum will be utilised a lot more and have more contributions as it would be a place I frequently look too for help. 

Twinkl Create is a new section of the website where you can create your own resources from a selection of templates that you then whatever you need for the classroom or at home - perhaps labels for files or for drawers. You can select pretty borders and picture to tailor them to your own style. For instance, LB loves animals so I'd like to make some labels for our puzzles, games and activity baskets with his favourite animals on them to brighten up our home education area at home. It also gives another talking point with LB and I like to increase these speech and language opportunities throughout the day. 

I was thrilled to find a Home Education area under the Parents section and here I found some ideas of Lesson Plans such as a very relevant Autumn lesson plan ideas for EYFS. Now it can be really hard at home to think of some ideas some days so the lesson plan is great and provides activities across the curriculum. They even contain handy links to printable activities on the Twinkl website. I found an Autumn Display Poster that is perfect for LB as we are very much all about the pointing, naming and practising vocabulary. You will get so much help from Twinkl, it is an absolute life saver. 

Twinkl are open to suggestions and I can see that under each activity is a section where you can put forward ideas and improvements to which Twinkl quickly acknowledge. I like that, it feels very much like you are part of a community.

The SEN section has most definitely been our first stop. The Autism Spectrum Mind Map is superb and helps you to understand autism and what you can do with your child on the spectrum. Likewise are the visual timetables which we having been putting to good use in our daily work at home. 

The Story Sacks are amazing and give a pack of activities, it would be great to see more stories in time as they really are excellent. 

From a home educating SEN point of view they are fantastic and when LB goes to school we will carry on using the resources at home. They are fun whilst also being educational and I can see how they help teachers in the classroom too. Top marks from us and I feel the price is very reasonable too. 

** Disclosure: I received a Twinkle Platinum Membership for the purpose of the review and it is my own honest view of the service**

Twinkl Primary School Resources

Monday, 8 September 2014

Brave The Elements: An Outdoor Retreat for All Seasons

There’s no denying that we have had a fantastic summer; with endless days of sunshine and long warm evenings, we have undoubtedly spent hours in our garden - but now the nights are drawing in are we really ready to retire to the shelter of our homes?

Break the mould and create a garden haven you can enjoy all year round – yep, even when the nights are creeping in and the leaves are falling from the trees! Here are some great ideas to help you transform your garden into a cosy retreat:
Picture credit Red lantern - Shutterstock

Light up the Night:
When the sun goes down you’ll need to get creative with your outdoor lighting and make your garden glow! Fairy lights are always a winner, drape them along your fences and wrap them around trees to set a magical mood. You’ll also need to think about free standing lights that can be placed around your garden so the whole space is lit up.

Floor lighting is another effective way of illuminating your garden; sink some lights into your paths and along your lawn to light your way. As they are going to be outside all year round you need to invest in some quality outdoor-rated lights from a specialist company like KES Lighting, that way you can be sure they’re not going to fizzle out at the first sign of rain!

Creative Canopies:
Choose a corner of your garden, preferably a decked or patio area - this will be your place to sit and wake up as you drink your morning coffee, or relax in the evenings with a good book and a glass of wine. Then you need to think about building a canopy or gazebo to add a bit of protection from the cooler breeze. You can get all sorts of cool looking shelters from simple fabric topped gazebos to more sophisticated wooden ones. If you’re pretty handy when it comes to DIY you can always fashion your own pergola for a really personal touch. Check out this Pinterest board for a bit of inspiration!

Savvy Seating:
Obviously you will need somewhere to sit in your little garden retreat. Wicker chairs are ideal for the garden as they wear really well in wet weather; sling some cushions on them and they’re really comfortable too.

Another fantastic idea for seating is giant beanbags, they come in lots of different sizes and most of them are wipe clean and 100% waterproof – so ideal for the garden. Big enough to lay on, you could unwind in the garden, looking up at the stars. They come in loads of big and bold colours too so you can really brighten up your little garden escape.

Hot Heating Ideas:
The last ingredient to your perfect outdoor retreat is warmth! There are loads of different ways to keep warm in your garden, it’s just a case of working out which option is best for you. Fire pits and chimeneas are a cheap way of keeping warm if you have easy access to plenty of wood; many of them double up as barbeques too.

If you’re looking for something low maintenance, patio heaters are excellent, and much safer if you have little ones running around. The Independent has got a handy little guide of the 10 best patio heaters to help you narrow down your choices.

Now you’ve built the foundations of your snug garden hideaway you can start adding all those wonderful personal touches, little trinkets and accessories, blankets, candles and whatever else you can think of to really make it your own.

**This was a Guest Post for KES Lighting**

Friday, 5 September 2014

Keeping Your Home Fresh For Guests

Whether it is your elderly grandparents or your collection of close friends, inviting guests over to your home can often be a stressful occasion. From purchasing the cleaning essentials to identifying any clutter solutions, it is important that you can feel confident in welcoming guests with open arms. Check out our top tips for a guest-friendly home…

Prepare The Kitchen –Any close family members or friends will probably barge into your kitchen and raid the cupboards for their own treats – so it is best to be prepared for the inspection! If you know your guests well, then it is easy to fill your kitchen with tasty treats to suit them. However, if they are new to your home then it always best to offer the bare essentials such as a tea, coffee and a tin of biscuits. For a slightly more sophisticated affair, why not trying putting together your own cheese board? Although probably not best if you ever want your guests to leave! Lastly, we recommend keeping a bottle of wine or beer chilled in the fridge in order to toast yourself for being such a fantastic hostess!

Prepare The Bedroom – Whether you have a bedroom dedicated to your future guests or your idea of a makeshift bedroom is throwing down a mattress on your spare room floor, it is essential to make sure that your guest is comfortable. One of the simplest ways to ensure that your guest is happy to sleep at your home is to provide them with freshly washed linen. There is no need to smother them with material accessories, but it is worth offering a couple of fluffy pillows and a cosy blanket, especially during those winter nights.

Prepare the Bathroom – When guests arrive at your home, you can probably assume that they will have forgotten a variety of things, so it is always best that you are prepared to share! Whether you need supply toothpaste or shampoo, it might be worthwhile investing in some storage solutions for your bathroom to keep the clutter to a minimum. If you haven’t already done so, why not check out these bathroom cabinets from Bathroom Deal; ideal for storing essential products or keeping your personal items hidden behind stylish mirrored doors. Finish your bathroom with a couple of your finest guest towels and you are ready to go!

Clean and tidy house? Snacks at the ready? You are ready to invite your guests in with confidence that they will enjoy every moment in your home!

This was a guest post for Bathroom Deal