Baby Swimming

Taking your baby swimming from an early age is a great way to introduce them to the benefits of swimming and give them ‘water confidence’.

Where to go
It’s a good idea to find a pool that has a separate children’s pool. These are generally kept a bit warmer than the main pools and often have toys available for general use. Ask around to find out which pools near you are best for small babies.

What to take
Any mum will tell you that the key thing when taking a baby swimming is to be prepared! Make sure you have a swim nappy and a swimsuit for your baby – for really young babies a small neoprene wrap style suit will keep them warm in the water. Take a towel with you to the poolside ready to wrap baby in when you come out – a cold baby is a grumpy baby!

What to doFor the first few visits, most babies will simply like to be held and ‘swooshed’ around. Once you are both confident in the water, you can be a bit more adventurous!

Accessories
For very small babies, all you need is a nappy and a suit. Once they get a bit older, many babies like to sit in inflatable seats and be pushed around the pool. You can also get a variety of pool toys such as balls or floats that they can hold onto.

© Babyschwimmer, flickr.com

Lovingly Stitched Together

We’re fond of labels, as a species – we put them on race, colour, creed, religion, sexuality, and even age and size. It seems we’re not happy unless we can neatly pigeonhole every aspect of the world around us, and judge it accordingly. Very little draws more scrutiny than the non-traditional family unit – far from being a heterosexual couple with 2.4 children, the modern family is more likely to be the product of one or more former relationships, divorced older children returning home, parents coming to live with their offspring, or same sex couples and family groups.

The most damning label usually put on these family groups is “dysfunctional”, which is more often than not inaccurate. The blending of two or more households to make a loving family group can often be the first taste of stability some of its members have had in some time.

A far more accurate and affectionate term for these family groups is “patchwork family”. The traditional skill of the quilter was to make do and mend, using formerly-loved items of clothing and scraps of material, and repurpose them into something beautiful that would become an heirloom, and continue to comfort the family for years to come. The stitching would be strong, and often decorative, and any minor patches of wear and tear would be repaired with more well-loved scrap material.

The patchwork family is not dissimilar to that quilt – strong stitching to make a new family out of much loved individual pieces.

Children’s Birthday Parties

Children’s parties, while thrilling for the child, can be quite a task for any parent to organise. Having just finished birthday party season in our house, I thought it might be worthwhile sharing three things I have learned so far about making birthday parties easier for everyone.

Venue
While it’s often easiest and cheapest to host a party at home, sometimes it’s a good idea to pick an external venue. When the party is in your house, you spend a lot of time tidying and sorting in advance of the party, and then more time tidying and sorting afterward too. But pick an external venue and all the organising and tidying is taken out of your hands. There are venues for every budget – from a church hall to a room at soft play to a corner of a restaurant.

Food
Most people – me included – make far too much party food, most of which goes uneaten. One party we recently attended had the great idea of sending out to the local fast food restaurant for a kids meal for every attendee. This probably didn’t cost much more than providing trays and trays of party food but was much less hassle for the organiser. Another alternative is to pick a venue where they provide the food for you.

Party bags
Most children expect a party bag now but the actual contents don’t seem to matter. Use Ebay and Amazon to buy cheap party favours and go for quantity over quality.

© Helga Weber, flickr.com

Family Days

Quality time

Spending quality time together is one of the cornerstones of a successful and happy family life. As time brings more and more innovations and technology into the home, this is one area that might end up being neglected as children and parents alike opt to spend more time browsing the net or posting updates rather than spending ‘down time’ in each other’s company. Organising some family days can be a great way to get all the members of your family together for a while, creating happy memories and stronger bonds.

Where to Go?

Exactly where you go isn’t really of utmost importance, as long as there is something there to interest each member of the family. Luckily there are thousands of places across the country that aim to provide all around fun days out for families – you’ll be able to find out about local attractions by looking at leaflets at a public information centre (or just google, but bear in mind there are still plenty of places that aren’t online yet).

Make it a Habit

The most important thing is that you indulge in family days fairly regularly. It really depends on how busy each of your schedules are, but at least once every couple of months is a healthy amount to aim for. Keep things relaxed and informal, and everyone will have fun! That’s the best way to keep your family members loving each others’ company.

© http://forevermomentlove.tumblr.com/

When your first baby arrives

After the months of planning and preparation for birth your first baby finally arrives. You arrive back home as a family, and realise that despite having bought every baby gadget available, nothing has prepared you for the day to day reality of a newborn.

So go get your money back on nappy wrappers, electric bottle warmers and all the other unnecessary things you were persuaded to buy. Its time to make some practical decisions on how you want to bring up your child. When my eldest was born I had read extensively on pregnancy and birth, but nothing about after the birth. So while juggling a newborn, I was also inundated with parenting information. Should I do a routine, or let the baby set its own pace? Cuddle to sleep or self-soothe? Dummy or not? And by weaning time, do I use traditional weaning purées, or baby-led weaning?

I had never heard of routines, baby-led weaning, or self-soothing until I had a newborn. Honestly, its best to think of these things before the birth, but if you haven’t, don’t panic, start thinking now. If you are part of a couple, make the most of each other, bounce ideas off each other, and let your partner take their share of baby duties. But most of all, relax, go with what feels right for you, and enjoy this precious time with your little one. I know you will have heard it before, but baby time really does go by so fast.

Tips for your Pregnancy

So, someone in the household has taken a pregnancy test, and the second blue line has shown up clear as day. Within nine months, there will be one more of you! While it’s all very exciting, there’s the pregnancy to get through first. Here are a few tips to get you on your way:

Do:

  • Go to your GP as soon as possible. Getting all the right checks and balances along the way will put your mind at ease.
  • Get healthy. If the pregnancy was unexpected, you might have a few habits to drop. Smoking, drinking alcohol and drinking too much caffeine are the main ones.
  • Prepare for birth! Lots of women have some anxiety about birth. They worry about pain, method, and all manner of things. In the end all that matters is that mum and baby are healthy afterward. Ask your midwife any old question that pops into your head – they’re there to support you!

Don’t:

  • Worry. The majority of pregnancies result in happy, healthy mums and babies. Stressing out yourself and your baby over the “what ifs” won’t do anyone any good.
  • Buy too much. It’s important that baby has some clothes to wear, but anyone will tell you that they ended up throwing out or giving away piles upon piles of “newborn” sized clothes.

Above all, delight in your future new addition, and enjoy the pregnancy! Your body is performing the truly miraculous feat of growing another human being inside it!

© mideg, flickr.com

Your Child’s First Teeth

First teeth, also known as primary or milk teeth usually start to appear in your child’s mouth at between the ages of six months to three years. There are 20 of these first teeth, 10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower, which will be gradually replaced by permanent adult teeth from around six years of age. The term ‘cutting’ a tooth means the time when the tooth begins to break through the gum. This can be an unsettling time for your child (be prepared for some sleepless nights), and is commonly called ‘teething’.

The signs and symptoms of teething can include:

• Irritability and clinginess
• Crying
• Excess saliva and dribbling
• A tendency to chew anything within reach
• Red and swollen gums
• Back teeth (molar) eruption may cause warm cheeks and redness on the affected side

Giving your child something to chew can help this process. My children loved to chew on my finger or a piece of cooling apple. There are also dental preparations available from your local chemist, which you rub into the gum to ease the pain of teething.

Once erupted take care of the first teeth by gently rubbing with a little toothpaste after meals and move on to a small toothbrush. Make this a time of fun and closeness for you and your child so that as they grow older they will be encouraged to have a go at teeth brushing themselves.

© H. Hille, flickr.com

Time with the Partner

As family life can be quite frantic, it is important to set time apart with a partner to ensure the relationship doesn’t suffer due to a hectic schedule. This doesn’t have to be a weekly commitment which can cause stress to arrange, occasional or in-house private time is important to keep communication lines open and the relationship status intact.

Can’t get a babysitter?

If, like many parents, babysitters are an issue, time alone can be at home. There should be some ground rules that the children go to bed at a set time, then a couple can relax in each others company. This is the perfect time to discuss how each others day went and if there are any worries or needs that need to be dealt with. Keeping communication lines open is important in relationships as it allows grievances to be aired so that they don’t fester. It also reminds you how much you enjoy each others company!

A night out

A night out for a parent can be a special occasion. Even if the trip is to the cinema or a pub, the importance of getting out of the house as a couple and enjoying each other again is very rewarding. If one parent is a stay at home parent, the benefits of getting out of the house for a while are especially big; time away from children, the house itself and its daily chores will allow them to relax.

Taking time to be with a partner can offer multiple benefits to couples. Importantly, it allows nourishment to a relationship, which it needs to grow and blossom. Make a date night and stick to it, plan something special or something small, in the long run it will be a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the company of the person you chose to spend your life with.

Favourite kids toys

When it comes to childrens toys, where better to begin that with the old favourite, Lego? First mass-produced in the 1950s, the Danish block building toys have become a staple of almost every family home worldwide. With thousands of different themed sets available to accompany basic brick boxes, the only limit is your child’s imagination. From space to the police, exciting alien themes to sets based on super heroes or blockbuster movies, there’s something for everyone. It’s just as much fun for adults too! Just keep the tiny bricks away from very young children!

Wooden toys are always a hit. From cars and boats to train sets and puzzle blocks, these toys have delighted kids for generations. Let loose their imagination with a simple train set, and throw in cars, buildings and scenery to make a world of adventure. You can even get engines and carriages based on characters such as Thomas the Tank Engine to link in with the childrens’ books and TV programmes.
In the computer age, electronic learning toys are sophisticated and relatively inexpensive. Companies such as Mattel and Vtech offer a host of options, from interactive world maps to junior computers. A giant music mat is a surefire winner, letting your children burn off energy and create a musical experience at the same time!

© DirkVorderstraße auf flickr.com

Parenting: Bonding with your Newborn

Having a great bond with your new baby is fundamental to your relationship, and the good news is it’s easy to establish; your newborn comes pre-programmed to instinctively want to be near you. Here are some tips for getting that bond off to a flying start.

Once your baby’s born, be it in the hospital, or at home, have skin to skin time with her as soon as possible. If you’re breastfeeding, skin to skin helps to stimulate your baby’s hunger, which helps establish your supply. If medical reasons prevent immediate contact, all is not lost, you will be able to make up for lost time with plenty of cuddles soon!

Keeping your baby close, either by wearing a sling or carrier, or simply by holding her close to you, will help your baby feel safe as she adjusts to life outside the womb. Being near your skin and hearing your familiar heartbeat will help her feel calm and relaxed, and don’t worry: there’s no such thing as holding a baby too much!

Interacting with and talking to your baby as much as possible will help her get to know you, and she will delight in your reactions to her. Always smile and encourage your baby as she plays.

Responding quickly to your baby’s needs will help her confidence to grow, so try to get to know her early hunger cues and respond to them before she needs to cry.