Creating Calm with Kids

Today I needed a calm day. I realise that the idea of calm is incongruous with having kids, but I decided that I would try to balance the day out with activities for my kids and activities for me, to get the closest feeling to calm that I could. The last few days have been exhausting. My daughter had to get her bandage changed on her broken finger in hospital and the next morning, it fell off and the doctor refused to see her, so we had to go back to the hospital. On top of that, my other daughter came down with a vomiting bug the night before, and none of us had had any sleep. After days like that, I need to retreat and go into hibernation mode when they are over. I knew my daughter would be off school today – she’s at the stage where she is back to her normal self, but too contagious to be allowed to go in. So, we did some simple art projects and baked.

First, the girls painted pasta tubes. We left them to dry so they can thread them onto necklaces later. You can also use PVA glue as a varnish to put on top of the paint. It stretches out the pasta necklaces activity for longer. For boys that don’t want to make necklaces, you could make pasta snakes instead and thread them on pipe cleaners.
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Then, we made dried food collages. Sometimes if we don’t have card, I cut up old cereal boxes and they use them instead. It works better than paper for gluing solid items. I just set out plates with dry beans, lentils, rice, seeds, oats, etc. You get the kids to draw a large picture and then fill in the different parts of it with whatever they like. You can also do this with cut-up coloured paper, fabric remnants or string painted with a mixture of glue and paint. This activity took more than an hour and the girls didn’t get bored with it – which is rare for them 🙂 A word of warning – the clean up took a while, but it was less painful than I’d expected it to be.
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The girls watched a film for a while and I got an opportunity to have a cup of tea and write. I think it’s important to squeeze in time for your own things when you’re with kids all day. If you never get time to yourself, it’s easy to get snappy!

We made some easy shortbread. It was just three ingredients and we tried some new cookie cutters we hadn’t used before. They have cut out parts so you can balance them on the rim of a teacup. I made some babyccinos and a vanilla latte for myself and then allowed TV time again so I could drink it and write uninterrupted. It reenergises me, so when I do something else with my kids I’m able to focus more on them. Jazz helped us survive the day in the house too. I’m convinced that it cuts down on the number of squabbles over toys and creates a calmer atmosphere.

It can be hard to treat yourself as a stay at home mum, but I think the things that work best for me are taking time out in the kitchen, listening to music, lighting scented candles and wax melts, making coffee-shop style coffee, squeezing in short times to write, read or draw. You can colour alongside your kids too if you get an adult colouring book. I like using the kids as an excuse to bake too so I have freshly-baked treats 🙂 There is a youtuber I like watching called “Coffee with Kate.” She makes videos about her simple lifestyle and the creative things she does. My daughter likes watching it too, because she does cooking videos and has two children. Finding something you like to watch that your kids enjoy too is a good way to attend to your need for a break while they’re awake 🙂 At the moment, our house is a dump, and I’m just letting it go, because being with my kids and sitting drinking coffee in the midst of the mess are more important today.

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Ordinary Days

I think there is a lot of emphasis placed on always doing things with your kids nowadays. I’m not very good at sitting still for long periods of time, so keeping them occupied suits me well. But lately if we have a busy week, I like to have an ordinary day to wind down from it and let my kids have the room to be creative.

When I got up today, the first thing my kids asked me was “what are we doing today?” Sometimes I think if we have a lot of busy days, they come to expect it and become more entitled, so I like to offset it with uneventful days too.

Today, I let my kids watch TV, they played in the garden and made a pretend barbecue with flowers, stones, leaves etc. I like to see what games they come up with when I allow them the space to do it. I sat in the garden with them, my writing and a cup of tea. I think it’s good to let your children watch you doing something creative of your own. They need to know you have value beyond serving them snacks sometimes 🙂 They usually show curiosity about what I’m doing when I do write/read/make things in front of them. My daughter usually joins in with an idea of her own. Today they were drawing pictures of some lilies in our garden.

We had to go out for a little while to do errands and we stopped at the pound shop and one shop on our way out. Even if you are trying not to spend too much money, I think it’s good to treat yourself to one pound treats 🙂 I got the girls a couple of canvases to colour and decorate and I got some chocolate and Yankee candles that were on sale.
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I think music and candles are important. They make you feel like you’re treating yourself when you don’t have the time to do it, and you can enjoy them whilst occupying your kids. Sometimes the best times I have are when my kids are happily playing (before they inform me of their next fall-out!), I’m listening to music, dreaming up ideas and enjoying the aroma of a new candle, coffee and cooking. My multicoloured hydrangeas make me happy too, with my new unicorn lights 🙂 Sometimes it’s important to just enjoy whatever your version of ordinary is.

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Sunshine and Spontaneity

Last weekend, we went to The Fine and Dandy Market. It is a monthly market in Belfast that sells handmade items and quirky things. I always know when I go it’s going to account for most of my unnecessary spending that month. Everything is so cool I’m like a deprived magpie in a jewellery box. I’d been looking for hanging plants for a while. I saw some at a local flower shop, but they were expensive, so I waited to see if I found a cheaper one elsewhere. I found one for £12 that hangs from a rope and a plant in a glass ball that hangs from a metal stand the stall holder had made. I got a bit carried away since they suit the 60’s decor in my living room.
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My kids enjoyed the market too. They like going to the fancy bows stall and appealing to my mum to get them some. They got some unique ones. One was a little dream catcher hair clip – I think about pinching it when she’s not looking.

They have made the fair more kid-friendly now. There was a felting workshop upstairs where the girls learned how to make soap in a coat. You take a bar of soap and wrap it in wool, using water until it clings to the soap and looks decorative, as well as having a practical use. Making them involved lots of bubbles and mess, so my kids loved it and they were proud of their creations they got to bring home.

In the market, there is a lady who makes amazing earrings. I bought another pair. She was simultaneously holding a kids’ workshop where they could use gems, and patterned paper and tape to decorate rings and badges.

I think the key to a good day out with kids is breaking things up into small segments. I manage to go shopping with them sometimes as long as there are food and drink breaks and a chance for them to make something/ run around in an open space.

We shared a pizza outside the market and then decided things were getting a bit fraught, so we decided to go to the Belfast Mela.

I’d never been to it before and it was worth going to. It is an event that celebrates all different cultures and brings everyone together. Tickets were seven pounds for adults and kids go free. It was on for hours and it takes place in Botanic Gardens. There was so much to do – we sat in the sun and listened to the Dublin Gospel choir. The girls were happy to get some lemonade and dinky donuts. Then we found a tent for kids where they could dig in big basins filled with rice/cereal and utensils. That kept them occupied for ages. There was dancing with scarves for them in the tent too. We walked around the whole park to see what was on. There was lots of food being served from different cultures. Each section was labelled with a country. We watched African limbo fire dancing which my daughter said was her favourite. The girls loved sticking their heads through the animal photo boards. It is held once a year and we would definitely go back. I love days where you plan to go to one event and end up at another one, deciding what you do as you go and not over-planning; letting the day unfold how it wants to.

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Difficult Weeks and Simple Distractions

This week has been really draining. My daughter broke her finger and had to get an operation yesterday, so I decided after two days of waiting in hospitals, we were due a relaxing day in the house. My sister had sent us a fairy garden to assemble, so we decided to put it together. I had to improvise and steal soil from other plants, but we managed to get enough to hold it together. My daughter enjoyed planting the grass seeds and assembling the little house. There was a pebble path to add, a washing line, little figures and fairy dust. It’s a good way to gently spend the day when you’ve had a taxing week. I’m a firm believer in the power of crafts to get you through difficult situations. Every time I’m feeling low, I try to create something positive out of it. Then, when you look back on the situation, you aren’t left with only negatives – you have made something worthwhile because of it. Even if it is just something to decorate your house with, a way to entertain your kids or some treats to enjoy in the house, it helps lighten the atmosphere around you.

It looks like we will be having a quiet few weeks while my daughter is recovering and her hand is out of use, and I plan to use it as an excuse to do all the projects I put off. I learned recently that drawing while my kids are awake is a good way to get their attention. They always want to get involved and draw their own pictures of the same things/ help to colour in. I think returning to activities that require creativity and the use of your hands are a good way of stripping everything back and removing your stress. Too often we are absorbed by electrical devices and forget about what’s important. Even though the last couple of days have been so tiring, sometimes events like that put everything into perspective and you realise the time you typically waste on useless worries.

Garden Blackberry Picking

I never used to notice much around me, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to observe my surroundings the last few years. I tend to get lost in my thoughts and forget to pay attention to things. If you’re having a hard time and getting stuck in your own mind, it’s good to take some time to notice the simple things around you. A few days ago, I was walking outside in my mum-trance to put something in the bin. Then I noticed in the hedges in my garden that there were lots of blackberries growing. I got the girls to help me pick them, which they loved. They devoured them in seconds and seemed to enjoy them more because of the novelty of picking them themselves. I was really excited because I usually successfully end the life of every plant in my vicinity. I have a strawberry plant that has only produced two strawberries this summer, so that made up for our strawberry drought. (Unless my kids are eating them without my awareness.) Sometimes when you’re racing around, trying to do too much, it’s worth taking the time to slow down or sit with a cup of tea in the garden and not to allow yourself to think thoughts other than observational ones about your surroundings. If you don’t, you might miss something small that makes your day salvageable.

Things to do with Fed-Up Kids

My kids need a lot of stimulation or they just fight each other for fun. Maybe that’s by my own doing. We tend to go out a lot and have lots of varied experiences. The downside to that is that they probably don’t get enough time to face their boredom, which I think stifles their creativity. I’m making a conscious effort to let them entertain themselves more, but here are a few ideas for the moments when they’re climbing the walls and you’re about to crack up 🙂

1. Get out and go to the nearest beach. Bring snacks and drinks, get a net so they can “fish” in rock pools, make castles and collect pretty shells. Get a special box for them to put their treasures in.

2. If they have a tent/house in the garden, or if not – picnic blanket,  bring your kids milk in teacups and biscuits on a tray. There’s something about getting a delivery when they aren’t expecting it that puts them in a good mood 🙂

3. Draw pictures with crayons and paint over them with watercolours. You can also use candles instead of crayons to make “magic pictures” too.

4. Have a no electricity day. Turn off the TV, the lights, light candles (out of their reach!) and read stories together by candlelight and give them a glimpse of life before technology.

5. Let your kids dress up in your clothes and do a fashion parade/ play with your jewellery collection. My kids are like magpies and love shiny things and trying to pinch my stuff.

6. Bake bread together. Show your kids how to knead it and they’ll enjoy eating it more because they’ve made it themselves.

7. Watch old musicals and make popcorn. I find it hard to get my kids to sit still for any movies without cartoons in them, but for some reason, if they are music-based, they sit for longer and it holds their interest.

8. Give your kids old magazines to cut up and make collages with. If they are learning to write, get them to practise writing the words underneath, or get them to write an accompanying story.

9. Speaking of stories, my daughter likes if I make her a “book” by folding paper or card and tying it with a string. She comes up with phrases to write and I help her spell them. You can give younger kids an idea and they can draw it for you.

10. Have a treasure hunt. Hide a toy/a treat, draw a map or give clues to help them find them. When I was little, my grandparents used to hide a thimble and we had to find it using “hotter/colder.” It was one of my favourite games and didn’t even involve toys 🙂

Things to do on a Screen Free Day

Things To Do On A Screen Free Day

I hate having too much screen-time. It leaves you feeling unhealthy afnd drained. I think it interferes with what could have been a productive day. I’ve been seriously limiting my screen usage recently and in the spirit of that, I decided to compile a list of alternatives to using a screen:

Nature

Go for a long walk and leave your phone at home. You will realise how much more you notice the things around you when a phone isn’t absorbing your attention.

Go to a park, forest or beach and appreciate nature without interruptions. Collect items as little souvenirs. Draw pictures of them.

Paint a picture, outdoors.

Have a picnic under a tree with friends. Each bring an item to make it simple.

Have a hot drink on a bench, watching the sea and think.

Exploration

Find a car boot sale. Sell your own items or look for new interesting ones.

Go window shopping for books. Get ideas for your reading list. Read the blurb and see if you find something new. Buy them more cheaply online or look out for them second hand.

Go on a train journey, get off at the last stop and see what is there. Take pictures.

Go to an open farm and spend a quiet afternoon with animals. It helps to slow down your mind.

Culture

Go to a museum and take real time to read about the exhibits.

Listen to a podcast. Note down ideas you get from it.

Listen to music and read about it while you listen. You might find something new you like and learn some interesting facts about the band.

Go to the cinema and watch an international film with subtitles.

Read a newspaper, on paper, in peace in the library. They also have coffee mornings where you can do this and get free coffee 🙂

Imagination

Make your own flower arrangement with various cheap bouquets of flowers or flowers you find outside.

Lie on your bed and daydream like when you were a kid.

Try making home-made ice lollies. Freeze fruit inside ice cubes to make them pretty. Treat yourself to a fancy drink.

Research your family tree or record stories about relatives for future generations to read. Make photo albums and scrapbooks.

Draw out a design of your perfect room and then work towards making it look like the picture.

Make presents for people you know. Make up baskets with personal notes and items in them to cheer them up.

Create a new space out of an unused corner in your home. You could add in a mini office, a crafts’ corner, a coffee corner, a place for yoga, etc.

Collect shells on a beach and made a seaside display to remind you of summer holidays.

 

I hope this gives you some ideas of more valuable ways to spend time and relax. How do you like to spend your screen-free time?