Entries by Mark

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Amazing Money-Saving Deals for Families

Amazing Deals for Struggling Families!

There’s no doubt that things are getting tough for families right now. However today, in our antidote to inflation, tax increases and the recent cost-of-living crisis, we bring families news of some absolutely brilliant deals, offers and ways that families can save money. What we’re talking about today may improve quality of life a little — even with something as simple as being able to afford a meal out with the kids. We were astounded by some of these discoveries, so we hope they are good news for you too.

Families: this is for you!

A few examples will help to introduce the type of money-saving offers and deals that we’ve unearthed for you in today’s post:

Did You Know?

  • You can eat out for just £1 per meal if you know where to go!
  • You can eat at home all week for just £1 per meal if you know the right recipe and supplier!
  • One famous food retailer offers interest-free shopping loans for struggling families!
  • There are lots of different Government schemes that give eligible families free childcare!

It’s amazing what’s available if you know where to look, and that’s exactly what we tell you today. We hope you find it useful …

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Halloween Fun for Under-Fives!

Halloween Fun for Under-Fives!

Halloween on 31st October is a great time to prepare some fun activities for children, including under-fives.Halloween arrives on 31st October, so it’s a great time to prepare for some fun activities for little ones!

Halloween Dressing-Up

Children will absolutely love dressing up in Halloween-themed fancy dress outfits. Although available online commercially, many can instead be home-made. That will not only save money but also give children another fun, creative activity to take part in. For example, a sheet with eye holes strategically cut will make a very effective ghost outfit that children will love wearing. Before you know it they’ll be whizzing around, shouting ‘boo’ at everyone and trying to make them jump. They’ll simply love it and yet it is so simple.

Witches’ outfits are also easy to accomplish, using existing black clothing and an easy-to-make pointy hat made from cardboard and sticky tape. For extra effect, any older clothing that your child no longer needs can have edges cut (by an adult) with scissors so they look ragged and full of character.

Many Halloween costumes are easy to make at home. Some families even make them for the family's pets!Children’s imaginations can run riot with Halloween fancy dress. There are so many themes they can choose from. They could dress up as a witch, a wizard, a character from Harry Potter, a ghoul, zombie or wicked clown from one of the horror films, Harley Quinn, the Joker or even just a skeleton. That’s easy to achieve with some black clothing, white paint and some creative make-up. Many such things can be made at home for little or no cost, requiring only creativity and a little imagination on the part of children and supervising adults.

Halloween Party Time!

Even better — get children together, in their fancy dress, for a Halloween-themed party! Parents and children can …

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An Introduction to Baby-Led Weaning

An Introduction to Baby-Led Weaning

Today we look at what baby-led weaning is, how it differs from traditional weaning and what its benefits are.Today we look at the topic of baby-led weaning in a follow-up to our last post all about traditional weaning. But what is baby-led weaning? How is it different to traditional weaning and what are its potential benefits? Let’s take a look.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning is the process of letting your baby feed themselves pieces of appropriate ‘finger food’ i.e. by picking them up with their fingers. This is in contrast to a parent/carer feeding a baby puréed or mashed food via a spoon. But which method is best? Well, although some parents have a preferred method, there is currently no compelling evidence proving that one or other is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ method. Indeed, some parents may wish to combine both approaches. More often than not, whether a baby gets on better with traditional spoon-feeding, baby-led finger food meals or a combination of the two comes down to what suits your baby or yourself best. There are some considerations, though.

What are the Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning?

There are several potential benefits of baby-led weaning.While traditional weaning has its own benefits, baby-led weaning has it’s own set too:

  • Baby-led weaning encourages the baby to learn to chew, even if that means they first learn to ‘gum’ food before swallowing (especially if they, like most babies, don’t yet have teeth). This chewing element is all good practice of a new skill that they don’t yet need with the traditional purée approach.
  • This means they’re strengthening their face muscles and jaws and learning to better control mouth and tongue movements.
  • Baby-led weaning encourages development of fine motor skills. Picking up the food themselves means infants are using a mix of finger and hand movements, honing hand-eye coordination and also practising hand-to-mouth actions.
  • Baby-led weaning lets the baby go at their own pace. They are in control of their feeding and not being governed by the parents pushing spoons at them. That’s potentially much more relaxed as a feeding mechanism.
  • It may also encourage them to eat a healthier diet later on. As they grow, they are sampling foods and textures in their true state, not processed into an unrecognisable purée or mash.
  • Baby-led weaning may even help to reduce child obesity as …
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An Introduction to Traditional Weaning

An Introduction to Traditional Weaning

Weaning is also known as complementary feeding.In a follow-up to our Guide to Formula Milks last month, we now introduce the topic of weaning — also known as complementary feeding. Weaning relates to the introduction of foods other than milk to your baby once they reach an appropriate age. In today’s article, we explore the traditional approach to weaning although will follow up separately with an alternative weaning method, in the near future.

The Meaning of Weaning

A typical dictionary definition tells us that weaning is, “to gradually stop feeding a baby or young animal with its mother’s milk and start feeding it with solid food.”  Specifically, we mean the process of changing over i.e. phasing out the milk/formula and gradually transitioning the infant to ‘solids’.  The new foods will initially be given alongside the breast or formula milk that the child has consumed up until then.

“Solids” — a Clarification for the Traditional Weaning Approach

It should be noted that, using the traditional approach to weaning, food is not initially introduced as actual solid pieces. Although we call foods other than milk or formula solids, they are fed to babies and infants initially in puréed form in the traditional approach to weaning. Examples of foods that can be pulped in this way are soft fruits like ripe apples and pears, bananas, cooked (but suitably cooled) vegetables like cauliflower, potato, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, carrots and suchlike. Puréed food like this can slip down easily – almost like a liquid. It’s intuitive for a baby to swallow as it’s not too dissimilar to drinking, which is what they’ve been used to.

In traditional weaning, foods are puréed.The thinking with this traditional approach is that puréed food is safer for very young babies too. It may also be easier for them to consume (most have no teeth at weaning age). Pulped vegetables or fruit, for example, will have been blitzed in a blender to a point where there are no lumps and the food is simply in a lovely purée form. The traditional wisdom is also that its pulped form will significantly reduce the potential choking risk that would otherwise apply if the food hadn’t been puréed. However, see our note below about baby-led weaning as that approach is quite different to the traditional one.

Anyway, as your infant grows older and more used to eating puréed food, you can gradually progress to less ‘blitzed’ textures. For example, mashed foods rather than completely puréed ones. They’ll have a bit more texture about them. A slightly lumpier mixture can follow later, then eventually graduate them to finger foods, so long as they’re soft (for example cooked carrot sticks rather than raw). Do see the safety notes in the box at the end of this guide, though, including in regard to avoiding possible choking hazards.

Baby-Led Weaning

In contrast to traditional weaning using puréed food, a more recent approach that’s become quite popular is baby-led weaning. However, because it’s …

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30+ Food Safety & Hygiene Tips for Parents

30+ Food Safety & Hygiene Tips for Parents

Poor standards around food preparation could make children very ill, or even prove fatal.Hygiene and safety around food preparation is important to everyone’s health and wellbeing. However, it’s even more important for babies, infants and toddlers. At this age they are fragile and have low resilience against bacteria, toxins and potential food poisoning. The fall-out from poor standards around food preparation could therefore make little ones very ill or, in the worst cases, even prove fatal. With that in mind, today’s article outlines ways that parents/guardians of children can take appropriate precautions when preparing and serving food to little ones.

Hygiene in the Kitchen

It’s important that any food preparation is done in a clean and hygienic environment. This helps to prevent the spread of germs and cross-contamination of foods.

  • Always clean surfaces before preparing or serving food on them.Always clear and clean your surfaces.
  • Ensure pets to not walk on surfaces where food may be prepared or eaten.
  • Make sure, if using a cleaning product like a spray, that it does not come into contact with any of the foods or plate surfaces that food will go onto.
  • Make sure that all kitchen utensils are clean and have been washed in warm soapy water or in the dishwasher.
  • Remember to keep sinks clean and hygienic too.
  • Keep fridge and cupboard door handles, cooker knobs and hobs clean and hygienic.
  • Ensure that tea towels and hand towels are fresh and regularly washed to prevent the further spread of germs.

Personal Hygiene Around Food

There are also things that you can do on a personal level to keep hygiene and food safety levels high for your family:

  • Always wash hands before preparing food, and rinse them well.Tie long hair back to avoid it coming into contact with food.
  • Always wash hands before preparing food, and rinse them well.
  • If you feel unwell, for example with a tummy bug, try and ask a family member or friend to help with food preparation so you avoid spreading germs to your child.
  • Ensure your fridge is set to the correct temperature to keep food cold and the door kept closed whenever possible.
  • Ensure the fridge is kept clean and always clear up spillages or leaks there right away.
  • Try to avoid smoking while preparing food. Second-hand smoke and smoke residue is not at all good for children.

Precautions Around Food Preparation

Preparation of the food itself is, of course, an important consideration when it comes to hygiene and …

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Guide to Formula Milks – At a Glance

Guide to Formula Milks - At a Glance

There are various options available for children who are not being breastfed, have allergies, are lactose intolerant, or need a non-standard alternative for some reason.Today we give you an at-a-glance guide to the various types of formula milks available for babies and infants. Options are there for children who are not being breastfed, are allergic to cows’ milk, are lactose intolerant, or need a non-standard alternative for one reason or another. Informative notes are also included for further guidance. We also include a list of ‘milks’ that are totally unsuitable for little ones, for further clarification.

Take a look & feel free to bookmark or share.

Quick Guide to Formula Milks — Types & Purposes

Formula Milks Typical Use Notes & Warnings
First Infant Formula Milk (a.k.a. First Milk) Usually the standard formula milk for babies aged from birth up to 12 months, if not breastfeeding — unless a GP directs otherwise. Based on cows’ milk. Contains casein, whey and a good balance of vitamins & nutrients.
Lactose-Free Formula Milk Intended for lactose intolerant babies/infants. Only to be given under the direction of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife).
Anti-Reflux Formula Milk (a.k.a. Staydown Milk) Designed to prevent reflux in babies so they don’t bring the milk up during/after feeds. When appropriate, it is suitable from birth. Only to be given under the direction of a medical professional (e.g. GP, Health Visitor or Midwife). Preparation, temperature, storage and safety considerations are critically important, so …
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Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives – A Rough Guide

Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives - A Rough Guide

Seasonal allergies: how to recognise symptoms, causes and how to treat them.In our last post all about food allergies, we also briefly touched upon seasonal allergies in young children. Today, we take a closer look at those and explain how to recognise their symptoms, what causes them and perhaps most importantly, how to treat them. Also known as “Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis” and, in the case of pollen allergies, “Hay Fever”, seasonable allergies can be miserable for children affected. It’s therefore important to alleviate any symptoms, or at the very least find workarounds, wherever possible. Doing so will make affected children more comfortable and able to breathe more easily.

What are the Causes of Seasonal Allergies?

As the name suggests, seasonal allergies are more prevalent at certain parts of the year than others, usually being worse during spring, summer and/or autumn. They are caused by an allergic reaction to such things as tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, dust mites, mould and pet dander, Seasonal allergies can be caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, dust mites, mould and pet dander.which are present in the air that the child breathes. The child’s immune system treats such allergens as invaders, defensively reacting to them by releasing the protein histamine into the bloodstream as part of its wider physiological response. It is this specific protein that triggers the unwelcome symptoms experienced by the child.

Children can be more prone to seasonal allergies if they have a family history of allergies.

What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Children?

Itchy ear canals is one less common symptom of a seasonal allergy.The symptoms of seasonal allergy are similar, but not identical, to what we often refer to as having ‘a cold’. The most common symptoms of a seasonal allergy include nasal congestion, a clear, runny nose, an itchy nose, throat and/or roof of the mouth, sneezing and a ‘postnasal drip’ (dripping of mucus from the back of the nasal cavity directly into the throat). The latter can also cause persistent coughing, perhaps accompanied by wheezing and shortness of breath. Although similar to a cold in many respects, the symptoms of seasonal allergy are different in that they do not include a fever, any cough is usually a ‘dry’ one and nasal congestion is clear and watery rather than thick and cloudy as you might expect if the cause was a cold. Another difference is that a seasonal allergy may persist for weeks or even months, unlike a cold, which generally goes within a fortnight or so.

Sometimes seasonal allergy symptoms go on to trigger …

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Food Allergens for Infants – A Rough Guide

Food Allergens for Infants - A Rough Guide

Amongst children aged up to two, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild.We previously looked at the types of food for parents to avoid giving infants and now follow up with a separate post about foods that are most likely to cause allergic reactions in the very young.

Some reactions towards food are also not true allergies, in the scientific sense. For those that are, it’s important to stress that severe allergic reactions (a.k.a. ‘Anaphylaxis’) in infants under one are rare. However such severe reactions should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even amongst children aged up to two, though, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild. Nonetheless, parents, carers and guardians of infants will naturally want to be cautious. Today’s post discusses the food types that most commonly cause allergic reactions and how they can be introduced to infants.

Severe allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis) in infants under one are rare, however such reactions should be treated as a medical emergency.

Symptoms to Look Out For

So, what are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? The NHS lists symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, coughing and a blocked or runny nose as possible signs of an allergic reaction. Itchy, red, watery eyes or a red, itchy rash are also possible signs, as are worsening symptoms of eczema or asthma.

The Most Common Food Allergens

According to the NHS, the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions are:

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Tummy Time for Babies — & Why it’s Important

Tummy Time for Babies — & Why it's Important

The idea of tummy time is to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles and to improve coordination and motor skills.‘Tummy Time’ is very important for babies and today we take a look at why that is, and what exactly tummy time entails. The NHS defines tummy time as follows:

“Tummy time is time your baby spends on their tummy when they are awake.” (NHS)

The idea behind the activity is a simple but crucial one: to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles as well as improving coordination and motor skills. These are important for newborn babies because they have comparatively heavy heads for their size, not much physical strength and poor coordination and motor skills when they’re first born. Tummy time allows them to improve in all these areas. After regular tummy time, they should become more able physically, they’ll gradually become more mobile and, crucially, will be better able to keep themselves safe. You could even argue that tummy time is a survival thing at its core.

Tummy Time Benefits

Tummy time benefits babies in many ways, including …