26 May 2017

My First Experience of BlogOn - A Conference for Bloggers

Back in January tickets became available for the much anticipated BlogOn Conference which took place last weekend in Manchester at the Museum of Science and Industry. There was lots of chat in the blogging community of who would be attending and it really caught my attention. I had never been to a blogging conference before and was a bit worried and felt slightly intimated that I wouldn’t know anyone and just basically be milling around by myself. Luckily after a really nice talk with Susan from Susan K Mann she convinced me it was a very friendly conference and one that is well worth attending. So I booked my ticket and eagerly awaited the 21st May.

As time drew closer travel had to be arranged and I managed to find a travel buddy in the form of Jo from MummysKnee. I always think travelling to new places and events is always easier with a friend so if you can chum someone along then totally do it. We decided to book flights from Edinburgh to Manchester as Jo had traveled by train and car before but found it a little tiring. I was happy to fly as it sounded like the quickest and less stressful option.

BlogOn normally have a launch party the night before the actual conference so I traveled down the day before, booked a cheap hotel and snatched a ticket for the launch party. After a quick freshen up at the hotel a few of us had a bite to eat then headed to the party which was sponsored by Paladone. The party was a nice easy way to get to know some new and familiar bloggers and thanks to Paladone there was plenty of games and activities to try out. There was of course plenty of booze and food as well.

After quite a restful night Jo and I met the lovely Jax Blunt (aka @liveotherwise) in our hotel reception for a lift into Manchester. Lots of bloggers were meeting at a nearby McDonalds to sort out lifts and taxis so when Jax offered us a lift in her car we couldn't have been more thankful.

Arriving at the conference there was a total buzz in the air. Lots of stalls had brands and PRs showing us what they do best and there were plenty of familiar blogger faces getting ready for the kick off and sessions ahead. At each brand/PR stall there were lots of freebies and competitions to enter. One of my favourites had to be the Razor Jr. Lil’ Crazy cart which you could win there on the day. My daughter would have so loved this as her brother has the big version. Hexbug where there and I didn't realise they did Nano Junior and Cuddle Bots for Toddlers. They're so much bigger and means they won't choke on them.

So after the Introduction and Keynote it was onto the first session of the day. I chose Advertising & Promoting by Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham as I feel I don't put my blog out there enough. It was a really great session with plenty of good sensible info. Tim also had hand outs, well done Tim, so this saved me lots of note taking.

Next was lunch time (already) where there was lots of lunch bags with crisps, sandwiches, biscuits etc and of course plenty of drinks. After this was the second session of which I chose 6 Steps to Going Pro. There was then a break with cake and wine before continuing onto the next session. I chose Instagram this time which was fab before finally choosing Accounting for Bloggers. I should mention there was a massive raffle in between all of this to with some amazing prizes but silly me forgot to buy tickets!

When all the sessions were over everyone moved back into the main hall for the closing keynote and of course to receive our goody bags! The rumours were true and I'm so glad I brought a massive suitcase. The goody bags were huge. Two big canvas bags full of lovely stuff and a third plastic bag full of sweeties. The next BlogOn Conference is going to be held in September where they celebrate Christmas. Tickets are currently sold out but I'd get on the waiting list if I was you.


25 May 2017

When The Sickness Bug Strikes! – 5 Tips to Help Your Child

Poor Harlow has recently been through sickness bug hell with no signs of it going away any time soon. She’s had a trip to the doctors as the other half and I were quite worried it could be something else but no. It’s definitely a sickness bug, it just seems to be taking it’s time leaving her little body. I do worry about her though and had a mild panic about how I would keep her hydrated so asked the lovely people of Twitter. It got me thinking that other parents must feel the same at times, not knowing the right thing to do, which is why I’m going to share some tips I picked up recently on helping your child through the nasty sickness bug.

Keeping the Fluids Down
We all know with a sickness bug that preventing dehydration is really important. The last thing you want is for you child to be hospitalised and put on a drip but if needs must it has to happen. One thing a lot of people suggested, and I’d forgotten, is giving your child ice poles/lollies. They’re not heavy on the stomach, have a little bit of flavour and are perfect for getting some water into your little one as well as cooling them down. You can even buy mini ones (half the size of a normal) for smaller children. I’ve got the mini ones for Harlow and they’re the perfect size for her to hold.

As well as keeping some fluids in your kids you want them to make a quick recovery and this can be aided by Dioralyte. It’s a rehydrating drink which has all the salt and minerals your body needs to recuperate after loss through sickness and diarrhoea. It can be used by infants as well with cooled boiled water so really is a good thing to have in the medicine cabinet. If you think your child might be able to keep a bit of fluid down then trying giving them some Calpol as well. This will help any pain and reduce their temperature from fevers.

Be a Scruff for the Day
You’ll want to make sure your child is as comfortable as possible so put them in some old clean clothes that you don’t mind them getting sick on. Make sure their clothes don’t push on or restrict their tummy in anyway, sometimes even a night gown, cardigan and some thick warm socks can be nice. I always have an old blanket to hand as well, don’t want Harlow catching a chill too.

Sick Bowl
Everyone has a sick bowl of some sorts and it's usual a basin if us adults can't get to the toilet in time. Sometimes a basin is just a bit too big for the kids so I normally keep a smaller plastic bowl handy. Harlow was so ill recently that the only thing we could catch her sick in was a little bowl, she just couldn't move. Also some wet wipes near the sick bowl can be very handy.

Bland Foods
When your child starts to perk up and shows signs of actually eating solid foods again then go for something bland that won't upset the tummy. Things like bread, toast, soup, plain pasta etc usually do the trick and they'll be eating normal meals again in no time. One thing that can irritate the stomach after having a bug can be milk or dairy based products so maybe skip these for a day or two.

If you have any other tips on helping your child when the sickness bug strikes then I'd love to hear them. Anything to make the little ones life easier is always a big help.

23 May 2017

Easter Holiday Trip to Drayton Manor

Last Easter the family and I ventured down to Legoland in Windsor for a little break. It was fabulous but such a long drive that I'm not sure we're ready to tackle again quite yet so decided to try something closer this time. Hence the reason we decided on Drayton Manor in Tamworth (not far from Birmingham). It looked like a brilliant theme park perfect for all ages, since it incorporates Thomas Land as well, so I booked us up and we went along to give it a bash.

The drive was around 5hrs as the traffic was actually ok (drove on a Sunday) and we stopped to refuel the car and our tummies for an hour at lunch time. The other half and I decided that to save ourselves hassle and stress that we would stay at the Drayton Manor Hotel which is on site. I managed to get us quite a good deal on the stay, play and save 20% offer online. You get your park tickets included for each nights stay and this will save you a lot of pennies as the park tickets themselves aren't cheap.

You can book a Thomas the Tank themed room at the Drayton Manor Hotel but I didn't bother this time as thought we'd hardly be in our room. I was right, we literally were only in the room to sleep as spent all day at the park then after dinner headed to a separate building onsite where they had children's entertainment. The hotel has a great play park too and the kids were there till it got dark.

The theme park itself was fantastic and I really couldn't believe the amount of rides that Harlow could get on. She's quite small at 86cm but with an adult going on the rides with her she could get on tons. I wasn't too sure if Logan would be a bit too old for Thomas Land (since he's 7) but because he had Harlow to help he loved it. Some of the rides there were faster than I expected but the kids had a ball. The park was clean too and there were plenty of places to get food and not just the likes of hot dogs. You could get toasted sandwiches, muffins, paninis, milk shakes, ice cream, kids boxes with sandwiches/yogurts etc.

We all really had a lovely time at Drayton Manor and would definitely go back. It's perfect for young kids if you want them to experience the whole theme park joy. Take a look at our photos to see how we enjoyed the park.


25 April 2017

Review: Lucy Locket Wooden Biscuit Counting Game

We absolutely love wooden toys in our house. There's just something so fresh and beautiful about them. Harlow in particular likes a wooden toy or two especially for her toy kitchen which she inherited from her brother. Along with the kitchen she received some wooden play food but it's getting a bit old now (6 years and counting) so a new addition to the kitchen was well overdue. Step forward the lovely Lucy Locket and the cute Wooden Biscuit Counting Game which they sent Harlow to try out.

Here's a little bit about Lucy Locket: "Children are right at the heart of many families and at Lucy Locket we are no different. We're the Edwick family and we currently have two generations working at our company as well as a younger generation who like to keep an eye on what we are up to. From product design, marketing, IT and safety it's all covered by our family. The great thing about this is the core values of our company reflect the values of our family through and through. The younger generation have a role to play too. Very often they are the inspiration behind new ideas. As they grow and learn we see what inspires them the most and this inspires us too. Of course the kids also love to play and test our new product ideas and we can count on them for a very honest opinion."

As you've just read, Lucy Locket are a family company through and through and provide a plethora of children's toys and products suitable for all ages and stages of development. Harlow was lucky enough to receive their wooden biscuit counting game which arrived well packaged and handily contained in a perfectly sized wooden box with sliding lid.

Inside the box there's 10 yummy traditional biscuits and a spotty tea towel to complete the set. Harlow was absolute delighted when I showed her this toy and couldn't wait to play with it. As well as encouraging imaginative play and of course adding some excitement to Harlow's beloved kitchen, the wooden biscuits are each numbered from one to ten making it a fab counting game to help practice those numbers. Being a toddler, Harlow is at the perfect age for honing her number recognition skills and I feel this toy really helped. She can say her numbers from one to ten however she won't necessarily get them in the right order. Having these biscuits to hand with the numbers printed on them helped her see the proper order they were meant to go in.

When we weren't using the biscuits as a counting game they made great pretend food for Harlow to serve with her pretend cups of tea and coffee. They really have made a great addition to her little wooden kitchen and the rest of her wooden food.

This Wooden Biscuits Counting Game can be purchased directly from the Lucy Locket website for £16.00 and if you spend over £20 you qualify for free UK delivery. I've been drooling over a few items of theirs, especially the lovely music boxes, so I can see myself putting in an order very soon!

I received the Wooden Biscuit Counting Game for free in return for an honest review.
Family Fever


23 April 2017

Helpful Autism Aids - Things To Make Life Easier

As parents of autistic children will know, autism aids can be of great benefit to their child in the present and in the long run. Over the past few years the other half and I have learnt which aids help Logan the most and which don’t work so well. Of course we’re still learning and Logan changes as he grows older so there will always be something new to come. However I’ve put together a little list of current autism aids which seem to work for us. Hopefully they help you too.

Chewigem – for the need to chew
Chewing can help relieve anxiety in people with autism as well as acting as a calming aid or something to fidget with as a distraction. Chewigem offer a wide range of amazing chew pendants, bangles and other designs to suit all ages. Logan has a few button pendants himself which he uses every day at school. They really do help although he has to be reminded not to twirl them in the air every so often. I’m surprise how long they last as well as Logan is a heavy chewer but these have stood the test.

Sensory Lights
There's tons of different sensory lights on the market at the moment. Some of the more specialised ones can cost a fortune but you can easily pick up some good ones from places like Argos and Amazon for a fraction of the cost. Logan has this awesome laser sphere lamp which changes colour and shows cool laser patterns on his bedroom ceiling at night. He literally uses this light every night and it also makes a soothing humming/ white noise sound which actually helps him fall asleep.

Room in Room Tent
Sometimes at night time Logan can often feel scared, I'm not sure if it's because he's got an over active imagination or if it's because his large room can look a bit scary in the dark. The other half found these cool bed tents on kickstarter a little while ago so placed an order and awaited it's arrival. The idea being it would make Logan feel more secure in bed at night time. They really are awesome and Logan loves his new tent, it's helped too which is a bonus.

Sand Timer
When Logan was younger he really struggled with moving from one activity to the next. He just couldn't finish an activity without a meltdown even if the next activity was the most amazing thing ever. So to help combat this and also stop the stress for Logan we started using sand timers. You can purchase small ones from the pound shops easily or of course a quick search online will bring up a host of different options.

Hair Burshing
Most children hate having their hair brushed as it can sometimes hurt but it's always been 10 times worse for Logan. He wouldn't let us use normal brushes on his hair so when AirMotion Pro sent me one of their brushes to try it was a break through! For some reason the different length of the teeth in the brush help to stop the hair being pulled when you have a tug. It's brilliant and makes hair brushing time much easier.

Ear Defenders – EDZ Kidz
Busy noises places and autistic children (and adults) don’t always mix well so to help ease the anxiety I often offer Logan his EDZ Kidz ear defenders to wear if he feels like it. Sometimes he will and sometimes he won’t. I’ve noticed as he’s getting older he doesn’t want to wear them as much as they make him stand out and he is becoming aware of this but they still come in handy. There's also a cool jigsaw patterned EDZ cap which you can click over the ear defenders, it's like the autism symbol to me.

So these are some of the things that really help Logan with his day to day activities. There's lots of other things out there that help as well but I'll leave them for another post. I'd love to hear what helps your child or even yourself as the adult.

Just Hannah Jane


17 April 2017

Working with Toyella: toys for children on the spectrum

As it's Autism Awareness Month it's only fitting that I should have a post on the blog regarding autism. All parents of autistic children will know that when it comes to toys and autism there are no rules. Whatever you think a child would normally do with a toy throw that idea out of the window as anything goes in the autism world.

Autistic children (and adults) do have some specific likes but with such a wide spectrum everyone is different and has their own little quirks and special abilities. Luckily for us, and of course Logan, we've been working with Toyella to investigate some fantastic toys for children on the spectrum.

Toyella have been very kind and sent Logan a few different toys to test and try out. They event wanted to include Harlow so she didn't feel left out which was so very kind of them. So first up and under investigation are the Moluk Mox sensory balls. We received two of these, one for Logan and one for Harlow. They look like simple little balls but they can be used for so many different things.

Mox are basically multi-purpose sensory balls with two eyes and a mouth. Logan was instantly drawn to the colour, pale blue, as blue is his all time favourite colour in the whole world. When he picked the ball up it fit perfectly in his hand and he described so clearly how he loved the soft texture and how smooth the Mox was. He wasn't too sure what to do with it to start with, asking me what he should do. I told him he could do whatever he wanted and pointed out that the Mox looked like it had a face. He picked up on this quickly and proceeded to make the ball talk and sing and interact with any other toys around him.
Logan really liked the Mox balls, so did his little sister, he even took them to school to try out as a fidget toy. His support worker thought they were pretty cool and a bit different but did say they only kept his attention for a little while before he moved onto the next fidget. Logan seemed to play with them more at home and did try to play with them with his sister but he kept getting a bit too excited and stealing her Mox from her.

The brilliant thing about Mox is that you can do so many things with them. Your kids can take them in the bath or use them in water tables. They help develop communication and motor skills as they're firm so require a slight squeeze to make the mouth part move. Nothing that a toddler couldn't do though so very easy for most children. They work well with marbles which you can put in the eyes and in the mouth to turn into a rattle etc. There's even a left handed company which use them to help with left handed hand writing skills which I think is brilliant. Logan hates writing and although he's not left handed I'm sure these can help him with his writing in some shape or form. I could just slot a pencil in the Mox balls mouth and away he goes.

Mox are made from food grade silicone, BPA-free, phthalate-free and latex-free and are suitable for babies to handle and mouth. I really do like them and at £4.99 per ball they don't break the bank in the slightest. You can even purchase a pack of three for £13.99 if you wish which would be handy as you can stack the balls on top of one another.

Next up for investigating is the Oogi. Logan was sent an Oogi Family and one Oogi Glow. Oogi's remind me of little stick people but instead of hands, feet and a face they have suckers. It means that they can be positioned in all manner of ways. One Oogi can connect to another and the suckers mean Oogi can be used to connect any number of different objects together. They're made from super soft elasticated silicone and are latex and phthalate free so non toxic. Logan particularly enjoyed the feeling of them against his skin since they are so soft.
In the Oogi Family pack there is two big Oogi (one red one blue) and two small Oogi (one red one blue). It's meant to represent a family and it definitely represents ours well which Logan really liked. He clicked on straight away telling me which one was his little sister, Mummy, Daddy and even himself. He then moved on swiftly to playing zombie battles with the Oogi family and making them stick to different surfaces in his room. It was lovely to see his imagination come to life. Because they are quite soft and flexible Logan liked the way they moved and would bounce them around in his hands making them dance. The arms are long which makes the dancing quite mesmerising.

The Oogi Glow is a single big Oogi figure that glows in the dark. This didn't stop Logan from playing with him during the day with the other figures but as night time would fall his excitement would mount at the thought of playing with the Oogi Glow in the dark. He loves lights and things that glow, as they all seem magical, so this was definitely a big hit for him. Even if it wasn't dark enough he would hide under his bed covers with the Oogi Glow and still see it working.

At £13.99 the Oogi Glow is fairly priced and the Oogi Family is a good bargain at £23.99 saving you £10 if you had to buy them separately. They're really great toys and so stretchy. I was worried that Logan would break his easily as he can be quite rough when it comes to his toys but we've had the Oogi for over a month now and they're still intact with no signs of any breakage.

From an autism point of view both the Mox and Oogi make great interactive fidget toys as well as stirring the imagination and helping to develop communication skills. Sometimes for Logan to understand an every day event he needs to hear a story or see pictures before hand. The Oogi are great for this type of things as you can easily role play a scene with them. For example give each one a name of the person in your family and role play what would happen when you go to an airport and fly away for your holiday. It's this type of thing that will help ease anxiety and also familiarise children with what will happen. Even better is that you can then take the Oogi to the airport with you. You can also do this for the supermarket, cinema and other events which autistic people often find challenging.

I don't think the Mox and Oogi are just for children either. I believe a lot of adults would benefit from them. I can happily see myself fidgeting with the Mox whilst I'm working at my computer desk. The soft texture and feel has a lovely calming effect and the fact that Logan had the Mox in his hands meant it stopped him from picking and hurting his own fingers.

The Mox and Oogi are both brilliant additions to any child's (and adult's) life. I'll definitely be recommending them to friends, family and support groups we attend. If you fancy some yourself then do check out the Toyella website. They have so many different things to offer.
This is a collaborative post.


28 March 2017

Breastfeeding a Biter!


I know the title of this post sounds a bit scary and some people will be like "why are you breastfeeding your child when they have a set of teeth like jaws", however lots of babies get their teeth young and I wanted to share some tips and my experiences on breastfeeding a biter.

Let me start by saying that most babies won't bite whilst breastfeeding but there is a number of reasons why they can and do. I'm still feeding my daughter, who has recently turned two, and it's only been in the last year I've had issues with her biting and only a couple of incidents were her being cheeky.

If I remember correctly the first time she decided to have a nibble was when she was just over 1 year old and was more curious and alert when feeding. It wasn't too sore when she bit but it did of course hurt and when I took her off the breast and sternly said no she immediately had a cry because she didn't like the reaction I gave her. I'm sure she was just being curious but didn't expect me to get cross. After that I popped her back on the breast and she didn't bite me again.

The second time she had a bite, again she was being cheeky and I think she did it because I wasn't looking into her eyes lovingly whilst she was feeding. She basically nipped me, smiled and giggled then went back to feeding the wee monkey. I did stop to give her a telling off again and remind her that mummy's boobs are not for biting.

The older she got though and the more teeth she got sometimes lead to accidental biting and this leads me on nicely as to why sometimes babies do bite whilst breastfeeding.

Who's Bad
One of the most common reasons is a bad latch. If your baby isn't latched on properly and they have a set of teeth in their mouth that could rival jaws from 007 then you're going to feel a nip or two. It's obviously a little accident and easy to sort hopefully by popping your baby off the breast, getting comfy and in position then popping them back on.

Sweet Dreams
For Harlow right now the worst thing she does whilst breastfeeding is fall asleep and this is when her mouth starts to close gradually and basically clamps my nipple in her teeth. It's blooming sore but I know she doesn't mean it so I put my little finger into the corner of her mouth quickly to free my nipple so there's no damage.

Nosy Parker
Some babies are so nosy and whilst breastfeeding they never get a good look at what's going on. Naturally their nosy nature means that any movement/ noise must be investigated and of course they forget that mum's boob is in their mouth when they turn their heads quickly. Ouchie but hopefully it doesn't happen too often!

Cheeky Monkey
As I explained above, when Harlow first had a bite it was because she was probably curious as to what would happen and generally being a bit cheeky. Some babies can't help themselves.

Poorly Chops
If your baby has a cold or a stuffy nose then this won't do them any favours when feeding. It often means they find it hard to breath so frantically pull on your nipple to get the milk then take a quick breath then clamp back down to catch the milk. You can purchase baby nose aspirators to help remove the mucus before a feed so it's easier for them to breathe.

New Teeth
Teething can be another cause of biting in breastfed babies. If their gums are sore and they're in pain or feeling irritated, then they may bite to get relief. You can always rub their gums gentle with a clean finger before a feed or provide a cool teething toy that you can keep in the fridge.

That's some of the experiences I've had so far and what I've done to try and help. Have you had any experiences of your little one biting whilst breastfeeding?


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