50 sanity-saving summer holiday activities

Now the summer holidays are well underway, are you running out of ideas to keep the children busy? Don’t panic! Here are 50 of my favourite sanity-saving holiday activities.

50-sanity-saving-summer-holiday-activities

  1. Visit the library.
  2. Build Lego models.
  3. Go hunting for new games in the charity shops.
  4. Make a den under the table/behind the sofa.
  5. Decorate the path/patio with chalk.
  6. Have scooter races.
  7. Write postcards to your family and friends.
  8. Make junk models from the contents of the recycling bin.
  9. Make pizza.
  10. Write Christmas wish-lists.
  11. Make a scrapbook of your summer with photos, tickets, and drawings.
  12. Design your own board game.
  13. Make Christmas cards.
  14. Make things out of holey socks.
  15. Design your own T-shirt.
  16. Go swimming.
  17. Do a garden treasure hunt.
  18. Blow bubbles.
  19. Make your own ice cream (whisked double cream + tin of condensed milk + extras).
  20. Fly a kite.
  21. Play musical statues.
  22. Have a board games tournament (play all the games you have and see who is Winner of Winners).
  23. Get brochures from the travel agent and plan a perfect holiday (cut out pictures of the nicest hotel, swimming pool, food, etc)
  24. Rearrange their bedroom furniture (if they will cope with the change).
  25. Home spa – nail varnishing, massage, give each other hairdos…
  26. Plant flowers.
  27. Use printable activity sheets (these Twinkl outdoor activity sheets are free to download).
  28. Make ice lollies.
  29. Play with Fuzzy Felt.
  30. Make people out of lolly sticks and washi tape.
  31. Go to the beach.
  32. Find a playground you haven’t visited before.
  33. Visit a pick-your-own farm.
  34. Make fairy cakes.
  35. Make models out of Plasticine or Fimo.
  36. Go blackberrying.
  37. Make your own animation (a friend gave this to Joanna and it is very fun).
  38. Visit a pet shop.
  39. Make a scene with gel art window decorations.
  40. Go litter-picking with grabbers.
  41. Earn a Blue Peter badge.
  42. Make an alarm to keep your annoying sister out of your bedroom.
  43. Make wax rubbings of coins, leaves, Lego bricks…
  44. Design a new pencil case for going back to school.
  45. Go birdwatching/tree-spotting/vehicle-spotting with an I-spy book.
  46. Create a mini-book about something you love.
  47. Put on an audiobook.
  48. Fill an in-car entertainment station.
  49. Create an animal footprint tray for your garden.
  50. Do a science experiment.

And if none of those will work today, my vote is for putting a new film on their Kindles and having a small doze on the sofa. How about you? Let me know in the comments.

Before you go…

  • If you found this post helpful or interesting, please vote for it. Thanks! ūüôā
  • You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I love to talk to fellow adopters.
  • You can also sign up here to receive my monthly newsletter. It¬†contains my recent blog posts, my favourite adoption-related blog posts by others, and relevant resources from around the web.

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Blurt BuddyBox: a review

I am a long-term fan of The Blurt Foundation. I love their dedication to self-care and the way they seem to genuinely enjoy brightening people’s days. The Blurt BuddyBox is one of the ways they do that. You can buy them as a one-off or by subscription, and as long as you place your order by the end of the previous month, it turns up in the second week of the month, filled with self-care surprises.

blurt-buddy-box-review

I like self-care, and I like surprises. #Win.

This month’s box is on the theme ‘All at sea’, and it’s a great one. For starters, it includes a book, which is one of my favourite forms of self-care. There’s also a little sewing project for crafty types, a candle for self-care traditionalists, and the monthly Blurt Zine which is a fab little booklet to encourage and inspire self-care.

So are they any good for stressed-out adoptive parents? Should you get one yourself? What sort of stuff is inside? Here’s what I found when I lifted the lid.

Sea Air Yankee Candle

sea-air-yankee-candle

Was it going to smell of seaweed? Fish and chips? Seagull? I popped off the glass lid and wafted it into my nostrils. To me, it smells more of flowers than the sea ‚Äď I’m thinking the gardens on the seafront at Eastbourne rather than the wild Pembrokeshire coast or the salted and vinegared delights of Whitby. On balance, the flowers might be what more people want to smell in their bathroom. If you want your bathroom to smell of fish and chips, you can always eat fish and chips in the bath. (Why have I not done that before? It sounds fun.)

Conscious Water Serenity Water Enhancer

conscious-waterI admit, a water enhancer is a new one on me. That’s what squash is for, isn’t it? But I’ll try most things once, so gave it a go and added the sachet to my glass of water. It’s basically a cordial, and needs a good stirring in to stop it all sinking to the bottom of the glass as mine did. To start with I didn’t taste anything, and then there was a subtle orangeyness at the end. It might take a bit of getting used to if you usually have more strongly flavoured drinks. For regular water-drinkers though, this makes a nice change to add to the occasional glass of H2O.

Mapology ‘How to Make Better Decisions’ map

how-to-make-better-decisionsIf you have teenagers, this would be a great one to put on the wall where everyone in the family can see it. It’s perhaps a bit complicated for younger children, but many of the principles are good life lessons ‚Äď making lists of pros and cons, working out what your guiding values are before a big decision comes along, asking advice from people you trust.

I’m not so sure that if still undecided after all that I’d want to toss a coin or consult my horoscope for a final decision on something important such as ‘Which school should I choose for my child?’, but other than that, it looks helpful. I also like the look of ‘Let’s Negotiate’, another booklet in the series.

Sew-on fabric badge

A sew-on octopus badge? What’s not to like? If I had a denim jacket I’d sew it on to that, but I don’t, so I had to give this one a bit more thought.

I opted to sew it on to a towel for Joanna to take to camp with her ‚Äď I think it will make her smile.

Stacey Swift Postcard

I think I’m right in saying that Stacey does all of the postcards for Blurt, and she’s consistently great. I love the artwork for this month’s box, which includes rather marvellous seagulls, otters and lighthouses.

Even the tissue paper inside the box has them on – this is another example of the attention to detail that’s great about the Blurt kits.

 

 

Blurt Zine

blurt-zineThis is always one of the best bits of the BuddyBox. It’s a little 8-page booklet on the box’s theme, containing self-care inspiration and encouragement.

Highlights of this one include ‘5 ways water soothes the soul’ a short article on the benefits of visits to the seaside, listening to water, watching fish, having a bath, and staying hydrated.

There’s also a great piece on surviving (metaphorical) storms. The Zine is deliberately small and easy to stash in a bag or pocket for a portable pep-talk whenever you need it.

water-soothes-soul

‘I want to be calm’ book by Harriet Griffey

I-want-to-be-calmThe title won me over straight away ‚Äď what adoptive parent doesn’t want more calm and sanity in their life? (And an aside: there’s an I want to sleep in the series too. HELLO.)

Short version: this is a brilliant little book about stress and self-care. Clear, practical, and easy to read in one sitting.

I was impressed that within a few pages there was a helpful description of the function of the amygdala and how long-term stress can ‘re-set our internal stress thermostat and it takes less and less to set off our red-alert reaction… It begins to feel “normal” to be functioning in a constant state of stress’.

If you’re thinking that this perfectly describes your child, I’m with you. But it may well also apply to you, the adoptive parent who juggles it all. Yes, me too. I enthusiastically recommend this book. it would make a great gift for any other stressed adoptive parents of your acquaintance if you’re buying; if not, then put it on your Christmas wish list.

Details: I want to be calm: How to de-stress by Harriet Griffey, published by Hardie Grant.

Summary

I’ve had a few BuddyBoxes now, and this is my favourite by a long way. The book has a lot to do with that (it really is excellent), but I also enjoyed sewing on the badge, because it meant I had to sit still for a few minutes. I liked sniffing the candle (even if there wasn’t the slightest whiff of fish and chips), and reading the zine. I may well be buying a few copies of the book for friends for birthdays and Christmas presents.

So, should you get a BuddyBox? I’d say that if you have a spare ¬£21.50 to spend on your self-care you should certainly give it a try. (Unless you really dislike getting parcels of surprises, in which case, maybe not so much.) I ¬†like the way each of the boxes I’ve had has make me try something I wouldn’t have thought of in terms of self-care: I only buy candles at Christmas, I wouldn’t have discovered this book, and our household would not have a towel with an octopus badge on it. So it has definitely added a bit of cheer to the Meadows household as we batten down the hatches for the end of term.

If you’d like to try the next one, place your order on the Blurt Foundation website before the end of the month. August’s theme is ‘Summer Camp Adventure’ and there are woodland animals in the picture so I’m all in.

August-buddybox-summer-camp-adventure


BEFORE YOU GO…

  • If you found this post helpful or interesting, please vote for it. Thanks! ūüôā
  • You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I love to talk to fellow adopters.
  • You can also sign up here to receive my monthly newsletter. It¬†contains my recent blog posts, my favourite adoption-related blog posts by others, and relevant resources from around the web.
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6 sensory activities for summer

The end-of-term transition anxiety has kicked in here this week. The dysregulation has moved up several notches. Both the girls are tired. There have been lots of tears and slammed doors and shouting about how terrible we are followed by apologies and more tears and cuddles and a bit more wailing and then calm (more-or-less). Time to break out a few more of my tried and tested sensory activities to see us through to the end of term and into the holidays.

6-sensory-activities-for-summer

Note: this is an update of a post I wrote last summer. This stuff works really well for us, so I’m sharing it again.

Around here, as in many adoptive families, holidays are hard work, especially the first few days of adjustment to the different routines. Joanna (8) and Charlotte (7) both have sensory issues caused by their early experiences: Joanna’s are primarily aural (oversensitivity to sound and a fear of loud noises), while Charlotte’s are¬†mainly oral (she likes to chew things ‚Äď toys, clothes, books ‚Äď and is very fussy about food and will not countenance the idea of a raw tomato within five feet of her plate). Both are also quite fidgety and love to fiddle with things ‚Äď to self-soothe because of attachment-related anxiety.

Enter the list of sensory activities to help them stay regulated, happy little sausages during the holidays.¬†You’ll note that all of these are of the uncomplicated ‘buy it and get on with it’ variety, rather than Pinterest-worthy creations that require you to spend a week crocheting the shoelaces of elves first. The only one that requires any advance preparation is number 4, but that’s just putting some stuff in the freezer overnight. Job done.

1: Beads

The beads are a great calming activity – the sorting and threading and concentrating works beautifully to help them stay regulated. Seriously – it’s amazing. I have rarely seen them so calm! As long as there are enough of each type to go around and sibling rivalry doesn’t kick in, all is well. This particular set was ¬£6.00 from Tesco¬†and has kit for four necklaces with lots of beads left over. I haven’t been able to find it there this year but there are similar kits on Amazon (try the¬†WINOMO Alphabet beads¬†or¬†Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Bead Set).

2: Playdough/Plasticine/FIMO

An oldie but a goodie ‚Äď give them a supply of dough, cutters and rolling pins and let them do their thing. (All you have to do is watch it get trodden into the carpet.) Nice and tactile for those who enjoy that sensation and/or the creative possibilities. Alternatively, our OT recommends the gloop made by mixing cornflour and water. It’s great for making fingers work harder and giving that feedback their muscles need.

3: Baking

Basically an edible version of the previous idea ‚Äď adding an extra sensory experience into the mix. Use a¬†simple¬†biscuit recipe and let them go mad with the cutters, or for a treat try my chocolate cake recipe. (This cake is EPIC and also completely foolproof.)

chocolate-cake-small.jpg

4: Frozen archeology

A great idea for hot weather. Take some of their plastic toys and freeze them in a big container of water (with food colouring or a bit of orange squash in to hide the toys if you want), then give them a spoon to perform their archaeological dig! This activity provides new tactile experiences to keep sensory-seekers interested and can be combined with playing in a paddling pool for extra entertainment! Joanna and Charlotte love this.

sensory-activities-for-summer

5: Water

Charlotte completely lights up with joy when she’s in a swimming pool, and it’s a full-on immersive sensory experience, so our girls have a fortnight of swimming lessons every summer. But if that’s not an option, then a middle-of-the-day bath can work, especially if you colour the water with food colouring. In hot weather, the classic run-through-the-sprinkler game reliably produces a lot of shrieking and giggling in our garden. In hot weather we sometimes peg out a tarpaulin on the grass and squirt washing-up liquid or bubble bath on it. We then put the hose at the top end (our garden is on a slight slope). The girls love to slide down the slope and get covered in bubbles, then rinse off in the paddling pool. (Don’t have a tarpaulin? Grab one from camping shops or from Amazon here for under ¬£6.50.)

Our garden bubble-slide.

6: Masking tape racetrack

This one needs a roll of masking tape (washi tape works well too) and some Matchbox-type cars. The first time we did it I designed a course for them myself, but Joanna added her own modifications. I like to include plenty of obstacles to make it more of a sensory experience. We have cushions to drive over, maybe a beanbag mountain, a cardboard tube tunnel, whatever we happen to have in the recycling box at the time. I find that the girls’¬†attention span increases when they can use the tape themselves after I’ve done the basic layout. They also enjoy using lots of props (e.g. people, trees and buildings from their train set and toy farm).

Racetrack

An early prototype

I hope you find these helpful during the holidays. If you you have other¬†sensory play ideas¬†I’d love to hear about them. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

BEFORE YOU GO…

  • If you found this post helpful or interesting, please vote for it. Thanks! ūüôā
  • You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I love to talk to fellow adopters.
  • You can also sign up here to receive my monthly newsletter. It¬†contains my recent blog posts, my favourite adoption-related blog posts by others, and relevant resources from around the web.
Please share, like, and follow

How knowing your personality type can help adoptive parents

img_5807

I love personality tests. Always have. Turns out they also come in handy for adoptive parents when you’re trying to suss out your own foibles and how they affect¬†the way you relate to others (spouses, children, friends, professionals…). And you can find¬†hints about each type can best manage their self-care.

Here are some of my favourites and how I use them.

Myers-Briggs
I’m an INTJ: Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging. This type is sometimes labelled ‘The Mastermind’ – we like plans and theories and date-gathering and testing hypotheses. Pete is the same, which makes life easier – we are pretty much on the same wavelength about most things and tend to approach situations in a similar way: by weighing things up, having discussions that pull in all the evidence and work toward a conclusion and a plan of action, and then getting on with it.

intj

In terms of our parenting, this generally works in our favour. Yes, the introvert thing is a pain in terms of a support network (I’ve written more about this in¬†my post about the need to have support to facilitate self-care). The intuition is great for tuning in to the girls, the thinking is great for the analysis of why things happen, and the judging means we are big on boundaries (read: strict) which Joanna and Charlotte really need so that they don’t get themselves into a spiral of hyperactivity and then crash into a meltdown.

Take a free Myers-Briggs type test.

Enneagram
With the¬†Enneagram, you’re given¬†a main number which represents your type, with a subordinate ‘wing’ number. I retook a version of this test (here) before writing this and came out as a type one with a two wing.

enneagram

Type one¬†is labelled ‘The Reformer’. The website where I took the test says: ‘People of this personality type are essentially looking to make things better, as they think nothing is ever quite good enough. This makes them perfectionists who desire to reform and improve; idealists who strive to make order out of the omnipresent chaos.’ So, well suited to adoptive parenting then!

Type two is ‘The Helper’, which might sound a bit more appropriate. ‘People of this personality type essentially feel that they are worthy insofar as they are helpful to others. Love is their highest ideal. Selflessness is their duty. Giving to others is their reason for being. Involved, socially aware, usually extroverted, Twos are the type of people who remember everyone’s birthday and who go the extra mile to help out a co-worker, spouse or friend in need. … Because Twos are generally helping others meet their needs, they can forget to take care of their own. This can lead to physical burnout, emotional exhaustion and emotional volatility. Twos need to learn that they can only be of true service to others if they are healthy, balanced and centered in themselves.’

Interesting. The type one stuff does sounds like me. I like a plan and a system and I love¬†looking for ways to make things better. I am very easily cheesed off with systems that are inefficient or poorly thought-out. During the adoption process I kept thinking of ways to redesign the system and computerise large swathes of it on a secure site like the one you use to do self-assessment tax returns. (Yes, that is my idea of a fun way to spend an evening.) And as for the type two stuff, I’m definitely not an extrovert, but hello, enormous need to remember self-care. That fits.

So this test is useful in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each type, and it’s not difficult to look at this with your therapeutic parenting googles on and apply your type to your family relationships. For me ‚Äď no surprise here ‚Äď the perfectionist/efficiency thing is both an advantage (multitasking? No problem!) ¬†and a source of frustration when others are not wired in the same way. (‘What do you mean, you can’t sort laundry¬†and cook the dinner and supervise two lots of homework simultaneously? You just need a better system!’) It’s useful to be reminded of that.

Take a free Enneagram test.

The Four Tendencies
This quiz, devised by Gretchen Rubin and linked to her book about habit-forming, Better Than Before, divides people into four types: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner and Rebel. She says:

‘In a nutshell, it distinguishes how people tend to respond to expectations: outer expectations (a deadline, a ‚Äúrequest‚ÄĚ from a sweetheart) and inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year‚Äôs resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound slightly obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%).

Questioners question all expectations; they‚Äôll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense‚Äďessentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations.

Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves.

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.’

fourtendenciesfourinterlockingcircles-300x317

I’m an obliger, which means I’m great at meeting other people’s expectations of me (such as work deadlines) but not so great at keeping commitments I’ve made to myself (such as diet and exercise). Pete is a questioner, so he is perpetually desperate to know why the children are making daft choices: ‘Why did you cover your bedroom wall with lip balm/hide a week’s washing down the side of your bed/steal things from your teacher’s desk?’ – which of course are the unaskable questions if we want to avoid meltdowns, so he is often exceptionally frustrated. Knowing this helps both of us to back off a bit. Sometimes.

Take Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies¬†quiz.

Hogwarts
Also, I’m not sure this is good for more than a bit of fun, but according to The Guardian’s Sorting Hat quiz, I am in Ravenclaw, Pete is in Hufflepuff, Joanna is in Slytherin and Charlotte is in Gryffindor. (If you’re not a Potterhead, see this explanation of the Hogwarts houses.) Make of that what you will.

What type(s) are you?
I’m curious to see whether adoptive parents are more strongly represented by particular personality types. How do they affect your parenting and/or your self-care preferences? If you take any of these tests, I’d love it if you’d leave the results and your thoughts in the comments so we can compare notes.

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Mumsnet’s #Blogfest16: live blog

mumsnet

I’m in London today for Blogfest – my first time attending. I’m not entirely sure what to expect except a lot of talking, the promise of cocktails, and an apparently legendary goody bag. But I’ll endeavour to blog about what I’m getting up to. Here goes…

4.15 I have woken up (because my brain is incapable of waiting for alarms) and am having the internal conversation about what to wear, how much the house needs tidying before our friend arrives to babysit, etc. 

5.40 My alarm has gone off. My husband’s ability to sneeze loudly and remain asleep meant that I was very much still awake anyway. Prrrf. 

6.50 Having got everyone up and dressed, the family all accompanied me to the station so they can have the car for their own adventures later.

7.05 I helped a nervous Eastern European lady (who is off to London for a job interview) buy her ticket from the machine and find the right platform. We had a nice chat. Seeing her nerves has made me feel confident by comparison. 

7.15 And we’re off. I’m eating my breakfast banana (slightly under-ripe). I regret not bringing coffee.

7.45 Taking the wrapper off my new notebook. Exciting times.

8.30 That’s better.


8.40 London bus? Check. Rain? Check. Alllll the stereotypes. Let’s cram ’em in. I didn’t have enough hands for coffee, phone, card-to-scan-to-pay-for-bus and umbrella, so the umbrella lost. Am a bit soggy. But hey, I have coffee. 

9.10 Made it. Fought the wet umbrella bag machine in the foyer (who knew such things existed?) and lost. But I’m here, I’ve eaten the world’s smallest croissant, and I’m ready. Let’s go.

9.35 Justine Roberts (Mumsnet CEO) is doing introductions and talking about the sponsors.

9.45 Fi Glover (@fifiglover) is chairing a conversation about women online and the importance of hearing from a diverse range of people. Shappi Khorsandi (@ShappiKhorsandi) talking about the need to stop talking and listen: ‘We live in a world where we have to go and seek alternative news sources.’

9.55 Victoria Smith (@glosswitch) talking about bringing feminism into parenting and the importance of women talking/blogging about our domestic lives, unpaid care work, etc.

10.00 Really interesting discussion about the way  Google, Facebook, etc personalise content for users which reinforces our own perspective. If we want to hear diverse views we must go looking for them.

11.00 Chatted to one of the exhibitors about Detective Dot – a children’s detective book/game that looks fun and inclusive and empowering. I love what I’ve heard so far. Watch this space for a review once I give it to Joanna.

11.10 Off to a breakout session on blogging about SEN. 

12.00 It’s a great discussion. Lots of talking about community and support and the cathartic nature of blogging.

12.20 Back in the main hall for a session called ‘Thinkbombs’. Bryony Gordon talking about writing about OCD, Ed Balls (prerecorded) plugging his book… 

12.30 Lucy Porter: ‘I look at Donald Trump and the stream of hate and nonsense that comes out of his mouth, and as the mother of young children I think, “Is he just hungry?”‘

1.00 Lunch. Mini burritos. Pad Thai. Pi√Īa colada cake (hello). Fruit.

1.30 The Scummy Mummies (@scummymummies): ‘Hooray! We’re at Blogfest! We’re not with our children!’

‘A yummy mummy takes her children on a woodland walk to collect leaves for an autumnal collage. A scummy mummy takes her children to Lidl to help them discover the range of foreign crisps.’

1.45 I’m in the ‘Building a brand’ session, and Steph Douglas (@DBHFgifts) is talking about giving new parents gifts that encourage self-care rather than flowers (which need looking after).

Steph Douglas now talking about how helpful it is to have a business plan and to fill in a template because it helps you think about areas you need to cover. She also says 20,000 views per post (!) is a good number to have in order to work with brands. 

2.40 Now a session on ‘Digital strategy for bloggers’ – about SEO and analytics.

2.50 Alison Perry (@iamalisonperry) talking about finding what keywords people search for in association with a given topic, and addressing that in blogs and SEO in order to reach readers. She recommends answerthepublic.com.

3.00 Alison is also discussing the advantages of naming images and using SEO keywords in blog headers to rank more highly in searches.

3.10 She’s recommending using Buffer to schedule posts when you have the highest Twitter traffic, and sharing one piece of new content, one piece of popular old content, and one piece of someone else’s content.

3.15 Alison says to treat each social media platform differently, and not to try to save time by linking them together e.g. posting tweets on Facebook.

Richard Miranda recommends signing up for a Google Adwords account and pausing it so you’re not paying for ads, so that you can use their analytics.

3.40 Coffee break cake verdict: lemon cake excellent, strawberry muffins not so much.

3.50 Having such a good time with people I met in this morning’s SEN session. We’re now in the ‘Know your voice’ session. Stella Duffy saying that we use different voices depending on the topic we’re discussing. Others on panel questioning whether that applies to nonfiction or only fiction.

4.15 Miranda Sawyer talking about society’s need for women to represent themselves as ‘happy’, regardless of the reality. 

4.25 Panel answering questions about whether we should filter out certain topics and what they do if they’re having a day where they don’t feel like writing/don’t feel they have anything to say. Their answers: generally no unless it’s a matter of your children’s privacy, for example, and keep writing and have a fake deadline or be accountable to someone else.

4.40 Davina McCall is giving the keynote on resilience.

4. 50 Davina now talking about self care. Hurrah. 

5.00 Time for the 2016 blogging awards…

Best Comic Writer: Fran Taylor

Best Campaigner: Catriona Ogilvy

Best Vlogger: Rebecca Meldrum

Best Writer: Abi Oborne

6.00 Two cocktails later and I am off home with a goody bag and a slightly spinny head (#lightweight).

6.15 Quick nip to platform 9¬ĺ to take a photo for Joanna, my little Potterhead. Think I’m going to have to come back with her and her Christmas money. 

6.50 After waiting in the rain for half an hour I am finally on a bus.

7.20 …and now a train. Rummaging through the goody bag. Among vast amounts of shampoo and conditioner (I mean MASSES), deodorant, Coke, noodles and vitamins, I found these, my favourite of the contents:


9.00 Home. What a great day. Looking forward to continuing the friendships I’ve made today with some genuinely lovely people.

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Sensory-seeking summer: six activities to try this holiday

Around here, as in many adoptive families, holidays are hard work, especially the first few days of adjustment to the different routines. Joanna (7) and Charlotte (6) both have sensory issues caused by their early experiences: Joanna’s are primarily aural (oversensitivity to sound and a fear of loud noises), while Charlotte’s are¬†mainly oral (she likes to chew things ‚Äď toys, clothes, books ‚Äď and is very fussy about food and will not countenance the idea of a raw tomato within five feet of her plate). Both are also quite fidgety and love to fiddle with things ‚Äď to self-soothe because of attachment-related anxiety.

Enter the list of sensory activities to help them stay regulated, happy little sausages during the holidays.¬†You’ll note that all of these are of the uncomplicated ‘buy it and get on with it’ variety, rather than Pinterest-worthy creations that require you to spend a week crocheting the shoelaces of elves first. The only one that requires any advance preparation is number 4, but that’s just putting some stuff in the freezer overnight. Job done.

1: Beads
The beads are a great calming activity – the sorting and threading and concentrating works beautifully to help them stay regulated. Seriously – it’s amazing. I have rarely seen them so calm! As long as there are enough of each type to go around and sibling rivalry doesn’t kick in, all is well. This particular set is ¬£6.00 from Tesco here (you can buy it with your groceries) and has kit for 4 necklaces with lots of beads left over.

2: Playdough/Plasticine/FIMO
An oldie but a goodie ‚Äď give them a supply of dough, cutters and rolling pins and let them do their thing. (All you have to do is watch it get trodden into the carpet.) Nice and tactile for those who enjoy that sensation and/or the creative possibilities.

3: Baking
Basically an edible version of the previous idea ‚Äď adding an extra sensory experience into the mix. Use a¬†simple¬†biscuit recipe and let them go mad with the cutters, or for a treat try my chocolate cake recipe.

chocolate-cake-small.jpg

4: Frozen archeology
A great idea for hot weather and a new one for us this year. Take some of their plastic toys and freeze them in a big container of water (with food colouring or a bit of orange squash in to hide the toys if you want), then give them a spoon to perform their archaeological dig! (Read a great blog post about this idea with photos here.) This activity provides new tactile experiences to keep sensory-seekers interested and can be combined with playing in a paddling pool for extra entertainment!

5: Water
Charlotte completely lights up with joy when she’s in a swimming pool, and it’s a full-on immersive sensory experience, so our girls have a fortnight of swimming lessons every summer. But if that’s not an option, then a middle-of-the-day bath can work, especially if you colour the water with food colouring. In hot weather, the classic run-through-the-sprinkler game is guaranteed to produce a lot of shrieking and giggling in our garden. In hot weather we sometimes peg out a tarpaulin on the grass and squirt washing-up liquid or bubble bath on it, then put the hose at the top end (our garden is on a slight slope). The girls love sliding down the slope and getting covered in bubbles, then rinsing off in the paddling pool. (Don’t have a tarpaulin? Grab one from camping shops or from Amazon here for under ¬£6.50.)

Our garden bubble-slide.

6: Masking tape racetrack
This one needs a roll of masking tape (washi tape works well too if you have that) and some Matchbox-type cars. The first time we did it I designed a course for them myself, but Joanna added some of her own modifications. I like to include plenty of obstacles to make it more of a sensory experience ‚Äď cushions to drive over, maybe a beanbag mountain, a cardboard tube tunnel, whatever we happen to have in the recycling box at the time. I find that the girls’¬†attention span increases if they are allowed to use the tape themselves once you’ve done the basic layout and if there are plenty of props (e.g. people, trees and buildings from their train set and toy farm).

Racetrack

An early prototype

I hope you find these helpful during the holidays. If you you have other¬†sensory play ideas¬†I’d love to hear about them. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Summer holiday survival resources: the ‘magic’ activity chooser

Sounds ridiculous. Looks simple. But this thing is magic.

Yes, it’s just like the ‘fortune tellers’ we made as children, but with activities in. (If you need a quick set of instructions, there are some¬†here.) I’ve chosen activities that our children can do without much intervention or set-up from me, for those ‘I’m bored and I don’t know what to do’ moments that happen about seventy times a day in the holidays.

Fold it up, colour in the sections, and when the little cherubs use the b-word, whip out your magic activity chooser. Ask them to choose a colour, then another colour, then – ta-da! – decision made. The beauty of it is that the children feel that they are making the decision, rather than us telling them what to do. So (this is the magic bit) they actually do it, instead of having a strop.

Yes I know it sounds too good to be true. But it’s got to be worth a try, right?

(Pro tip: I’ve used colours rather than numbers because obviously the children memorise what is under each colour. So mix it up by spelling out the name of the colour and opening/closing the chooser as you say each letter.)

Mizz picked up this idea and ran with it when I shared it on Twitter on Wednesday. This first tweet from last summer:

Then this week:

Mizz came up with some other ways to use this concept, including one for all the activities to get ready for bed! I’m sure there are other ways you could deploy it ‚Äď perhaps for little jobs to earn pocket money, for example.

I’d love to hear how¬†other people use it¬†and to see your pictures. Please share them with me below or on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.

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Summer holiday survival resources: the schedule

We are now 24 hours in to the summer holidays and things are more or less on track.

The girls have now been with us for four Julys. We have established that Joanna in particular Does Not Like Them, and that the last day of the school year is especially hard for her as she says goodbye to her teachers.

  • First year: Bit her nursery key worker and hit some other staff as a¬†statement of¬†‘I’m going to reject you before you “reject” me’.
  • Second year: Cried at bedtime for a week when she left her reception teacher.
  • Third year: Cried as soon as she was out of sight of school and at bedtime for three days because she missed everyone.
  • This year: 20 seconds of crying outside school, much sobbing¬†and clinginess at bedtime on day one… we’ll see how long it lasts.

We always skip the leavers’ assembly in order to avoid prolonging the goodbyes, so I collected them from school at 1.30, emergency calming-down bubbles on hand (but not deployed), and whisked them off to Sainsbury’s for a bit of distraction. They chose some new crayons to take on holiday and some ice creams, then we went home, they ate the ice creams, and I revealed that I had added Madagasgar (an old favourite) and Gangsta Granny (which is Joanna’s class’s first topic next year) on to their Kindles. They promptly plugged in for two hours, suitably happy and distracted. Parenting win.

I was able to field questions about plans for the holidays by producing the summer holiday schedule that I’ve used with them for a couple of years now (see large version here).

Summer Schedule (image)

Joanna (age 7) can read this and understand it well, and I create it primarily for her benefit so that she knows that there is a plan.

Charlotte (age 6) struggles with the concept of time, frequently mixing up ‘yesterday’ with ‘tomorrow’ or ‘three days’ and ‘three weeks’. This schedule doesn’t completely solve the problem but it does help as a tool for explaining (repeatedly!) how many days there are until we go swimming, etc.

I don’t stick to it rigidly, and I don’t include a lot of detail that is likely to change, but the stuff that’s booked up in advance is enough to give us a sense of structure and sanity, and this really helps with the transition from school time to holiday time.

You can download a copy to customise and use yourself from my resources page.

Tomorrow: the ‘magic’ activity chooser.

 

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Self-care live blog

Thursday
6.00am

I have four days of sanity-preserving self-care happening this weekend. I’ll be checking in to my hotel room later today, for a big dose of sleep, reading, spa visits, swimming, Starbuckery, bookshop-mooching, stationery-impulse-buying, Wagamamification, scrapbooking and just doing what I like, child-free, until lunchtime on Monday. ¬†(YES.)

I’ll be sharing the joy here, on Twitter and on Instagram, and would love your virtual company. Check back throughout the weekend if you need reminding what unwinding looks like, and I’ll give it my best shot.

8.50am
That was one of the loudest school runs for a while. Charlotte refused to put her shoes on until me and Joanna had physically left the house. She was then offered the ‘wrong’ hand to hold for the ten-minute walk to school, so refused to hold it and instead threw her book bag at me, pulled on the back of my T-shirt, and did lots of fake falling over and wailing whenever any other adults were passing. Thankfully her teacher and TA took pity on me and let us in to the classroom early, and they did a great job of distracting her. Cuddles and promises to phone tonight dispensed to both (their classrooms are next to each other) and I managed to leave.

Now to pack. All that’s in my bag so far are scrapbooking stash, notebooks and my Kindle. No actual clothes. Priorities!

11.45am
I have left the house. (I have brought half the contents with me.) First stop: lunch with my excellent husband.

1.00pm
Lunch has happened.
    

2.15pm
I’m checked in! This is home until Monday. ūüėÄ

2.50pm
And now time to pop over the road for my first massage of the weekend. It’s almost as though I’ve been planning this for months or something…

4.20pm
Stationery shopping.

5.15pm
Naturally…

Dinner:

5.40pm
Phoned home. The children are so lovely from half an hour away…

7.15pm
Must stop thinking about the chocolate in the vending machine downstairs.

7.25pm
If I walked the four flights of stairs to the vending machine and back, would that make it OK?

7.50pm

8.00pm
Grand Designs. Not sure about this format, but hurrah for a new programme anyway. Have watched all the old ones a hundred times each.

9.30pm
Intrigued by a programme about people getting married without meeting each other, but Being Sensible and declaring it sleeping time. This is what 4oD is for. Night!

______________

Friday
2.45am
Woken by very loud drunk man, shouting in the street outside. Ugh. I am four floors up, wearing earplugs. What will Friday and Saturday nights be like?

5.55am
Woken by delivery lorries. At least they don’t need entertaining or feeding.

7.45am
Suppose I should have a shower.

8.05am
Exchange of Facebook messenger communications with Pete and the girls, who want to know if I have had my breakfast. I have not. I have been playing with scrapbooking stash and making it look pretty and putting photos of it on Twitter.

image

8.45am
Decided to ask for a different (quieter) room. Staff were helpful and have offered to move all my stuff for me. I think I will now have a room overlooking a different road and the park. Let’s see how that goes.

9.00am
Hurried bag-packing.

9.30am
Indian head massage at the same place as yesterday, just over the road from the Premier Inn. Blissful.

10.10am
Breakfast at Starbucks, just me and my laptop/phone/Kindle. *contented sigh*

image

11.30am
Buy cinema tickets for a little surprise tomorrow.

12.10pm
Back to the Premier Inn, and to my new room. They haven’t moved my stuff, so I go back to reception and get them to open my old room and do it myself. The new room is just further along the same street, so I’m not sure it’ll be much better noise-wise, but we’ll see.

image

1.40pm
Lunch.



‚¨ÜÔłŹ The most amazing carrot cake (with carroty mascarpone) I’ve had for AGES. Find a branch of Bill’s and try it right now.

A bit later
Um, I seem to have fallen asleep this afternoon. I have a headache which I think is massage-induced. They did warn me I could get dehydrated, and I’ve been drinking gallons of water, but still.¬†Bleugh.

After that
Did some scrapbooking – a double-pager about Pete’s recent escapades. Realised I need some more stash to finish it off that (shock) I didn’t bring with me.

6.45pm
Off to Wagamama’s in search of a prawn itame.

Prawn itame found.

image

Prawn itame consumed.

image

Banana panko also happened.

image

9.00pm
Tried to buy chocolate. Sainsbury’s was shut (at 8.00!) and the vending machine won’t take my ¬£10 note (I am out of change). I could go to the cinema but I don’t want to look desperate… so I’m back in my room with my remaining two strawberries.¬†


9.30pm
Calling it a night. More adventures in self-care tomorrow…

___________________

Saturday 
8.00am

Dragged into consciousness by a text from Pete. Tried to persuade my eyes to focus on my phone, but they were reluctant. Eventually dragged myself to the shower and made myself presentable enough for breakfast.



10.00am

Then it was off to the cinema.

The girls didn’t know I’d be there and Charlotte sang a song about my many virtues and general marvellousness afterwards. Don’t worry, it didn’t last. We went to an Asian buffet for lunch and when we tried to encourage them to try something other than samosas and chips there was grumpitude. *sigh*

2.00pm
Then they went home, and I wandered off for a manicure/pedicure (only about my third ever, I think, and my first in this country!)

4.30pm
And yes, a Starbucks afterwards.

5.00pm
A bit of stationery-stroking in Paperchase. I’m planning to make summer scrapbooks during the holidays with the girls, but was retrained and didn’t buy anything today.


7.00pm
Dinner with my Kindle.

______________

Sunday

Woke up at 6.30. Why?! Tried to get back to sleep but it wasn’t happening, so I read and ate salt and vinegar Pringles in bed instead. Decided the book on stress (above) was not actually the kind of relaxing reading material required, so started another book – this one on anticonsumerism, ie deliberately not buying stuff.

10.00am
Faffed about with a scrapbook, getting photos in order and gathering up tickets and whatnot. Made a cover and five pages.

12.05pm
Listened to I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

12.35pm
Nipped out to Bill’s before they stopped serving breakfast.


 Full English with surprise blueberry.

1.15pm
To Starbucks for a gallon of coffee to take back to my room.

2.00pm
Current state of desk: mildly chaotic.

All afternoon

  


6.45pm

  

  

Followed by watching a bit of TV and then bed at 10.00pm.

____________________

Monday
8.00am

Bracing for the return to reality. Got up and finished off a couple of scrapbook pages before packing up my bags. Left my laptop out until the last possible moment so I could watch scrapbooking videos ready for the Week in the Life project next month. Despite having hung the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door I still had a visit from the cleaners to hurry me along… but I am having all my minutes!

11.50am
Time to check out. Hope you’ve enjoyed the live blog and have been encouraged to have a bit of time out for yourself.

Over and out (until next time.)

 

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10 easy ways to practise self-care

Self-care is vital ‚Äď especially for adoptive parents and all those caring for children with additional needs ‚Äď but it¬†needn’t take up lots of time or cash. Here are ten easy ways to practise self care and give yourself a dose of TLC. These ideas won’t change the world, but they’ll give you a dose of sanity for half an hour. Give all ten a try and you could win a ¬£10 Starbucks gift card!

10 Easy Ways To Practise Self-Care

1. Do something differently

They say a change is as good as a rest, so just make a little adjustment to your usual routine. Walk a different route home after dropping the children at school. Listen to a new podcast. Surprise yourself. Doing a new thing helps your brain to approach problems from a different perspective and can spark all kinds of new ideas.

2. Play your favourite music

In the house, in the car, on headphones… wherever you can inject a bit of happy. (Dancing is optional.)

3. Make something

A painting, a Lego model, a cake, a hanging basket, a sewing/knitting project ‚Äď whatever works for you. Creativity is great self-care.

4. Phone a friend

(Or write, if you prefer). Connect with someone else ‚Äď perhaps another adoptive parent or someone who’s going through a hard time. Encouraging someone else is good for you too.

5. Pick flowers

It’s spring, so¬†they’re everywhere. If you don’t have a garden, head to the woods and find bluebells. If you can’t get out, put a bunch of something on your online grocery shopping order.

6. Let someone else cook

Whether this means letting a family member or friend take over the kitchen, getting a takeaway (or just your favourite microwave meal), or going out to eat, take cooking off your-to-do list for a day (or more).

7. Go to bed an hour earlier

Catch up on sleep, and you’ll feel better for it tomorrow. The washing-up can wait.

8. Watch/listen to a comedy programme

Take your mind off things and laugh for a while.

9. Hide in the bathroom

Read¬†in the bath or sing in the¬†shower ‚Äď whatever works for you. Lock the door and take some time for yourself.

10. Plan a surprise for someone

Guaranteed to give you as much fun and excitement in the organising as it does the recipient.

try all 10 and win!

Which of these can you fit in to your schedule this week? Let me know on Twitter using #selfcare10 and tagging @hlmeadows. There’s a ¬£10 Starbucks card for the first person to send me evidence that they’ve tried all ten. [Edit: This has now been won. Congratulations to AdoptionAdventures!]


BEFORE YOU GO…

  • If you found this post helpful or interesting, please vote for it. Thanks! ūüôā
  • You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I love to talk to fellow adopters.
  • You can also sign up here to receive my¬†newsletter, containing my recent blog posts, my favourite adoption-related blog posts by others, and relevant resources from around the web.
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