Fun card games for children of all ages (by Ellie Dix)

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of a pack of playing cards as a screen-free pocket-sized boredom buster. And while the coronavirus is keeping us all cooped up indoors, I’m sure I’m not the only parent wracking my brains for games to play with the children. So, I challenged board game expert Ellie Dix to come up with a list of fun card games for children of all ages – and, wow, she came up trumps! Here’s her list:

fun card games for children of all ages picture of Rummy handCard games are a wonderful tool for bringing the family together. A deck of cards is one of the cheapest and most versatile methods of family entertainment available. Cards are quick to set up, portable, easy to store and full of endless possibilities.

Now we are in lockdown and spending far more time together as a family, there has never been a better time to learn some new games and extend the family repertoire. You could even structure an afternoon of home-schooling around playing card games and exploring the maths within them!

It’s easy to underestimate our children’s ability to play more complex games. Younger children may not be able to see all the possible outcomes of their decisions, but they can usually learn the mechanics of how to play and they’ll develop some tactics through playing. So the suggested ages for the card games below are only guidelines.  Dexterity can be an issue, however, so when playing card games where you have to hold your own hand of cards, maybe invest in a card holder for little hands or make your own lego version at home! Continue reading

Helping teenagers through social distancing

I have been having a lot of Twitter chats this week about helping teenagers through social distancing. Firstly, how to convince teenagers to stay at home. Then, how to keep them entertained when they do stay at home. And now, how to manage the emotional fallout when teens are made to stay home.advice for parents helping teenagers through social distancing

The teenage years are all about breaking away from family and finding your feet in the social world. Mates, friends and peers (whether positive or negative) are at the centre a teen’s worldview. Many teenagers reject family activities and parental contact and withdraw to their own peer group or their own private space. Younger siblings are often rejected too (they symbolise the childishness that teenagers need to discard in order to become young adults). So having to stay cooped up inside with only their family to socialise with for an indefinite period of time goes against the grain of a teenager’s development. It’s a delicate situation for parents to manage.

When faced with any tricky parenting issue, it’s always a good idea to listen first and act second. When we stand in our children’s shoes and see the world from their point of view, it’s much easier to find a way to help them. Often, helping children isn’t about parents finding the ‘right’ solution. It’s about supporting children to find their own solution and solve their own problem. Helping teenagers through social distancing is no different.

But what if your teen won’t open up or engage in dialogue? Teenagers who are trying to break away from childhood will often aggressively shield their inner lives and thoughts from their parents as an assertion of independence and separateness. Luckily, I currently have a couple of teenagers in my house who have nowhere to run and not much to do. So I asked if they could give us some insights into being a teen during Covid-19 and some advice for parents helping teenagers through social distancing. Continue reading

Low cost no-prep indoor play ideas for young children

Getting outside with children is great for their development as well as for overall family well-being. But there are times when it just can’t be done. And, with the current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, many parents face the prospect of spending a lot more time indoors with young children. So, before you start tearing your hair out and streaming Frozen 24-hours a day, here is a handy list of low cost and no-prep indoor play ideas to keep young children entertained when you can’t get outside. indoor play ideas to keep young children entertained

But, before you start, I want you to hide some toys away. I know that sounds bonkers but bear with me. Children love novelty. That’s why they get bored even when there is a house full of toys. So, gather up at least half their toys into boxes and put them away where they can’t be seen. This is really important if you might be in for a long haul of indoor life. Every few days, collect up more toys and swap them with some of the hidden ones. If your kids haven’t seen them for a while, their toys will seem much more interesting.

And, rather than focusing on ready-made toys and games, think about re-purposing instead. There is no need to rush to order lots of new games or sign up to every educational website on the planet. Our homes are full of exciting things to play with that aren’t toys. All it takes is a bit of imagination. Children absolutely love getting their hands on adults’ things – especially if these are usually forbidden. (My two fondest memories as a child were being allowed to look through my mother’s jewellery box and playing with my Grandma’s enormous tin of buttons!)

These fun indoor play ideas require no preparation and use things you already have in your home. And, they will keep your little ones entertained! Continue reading

How to work from home and look after children at the same time

Working from home sounds like a great idea. There’s no commute, no distractions, you can dress down and you’ll never miss the postman. But what if you have to work from home and look after children at the same time? how to work from home and look after children at the same time With the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic now disrupting travel, childcare and schools, that’s the challenge facing huge numbers of working parents.

Hopefully, employers are going to be flexible and understanding. And, who knows, maybe this is is going to lead to a radical change in the way we all work. But if you are staring down the barrel of a long stretch of combining working from home with looking after children, here are a few ideas that might help: Continue reading

Risk-averse parenting and the fear of being judged

Risk-averse parenting is the modern norm. Children now spend more of their time being supervised, more time inside the house, less time in independent free play. And they are not allowed outside unaccompanied until a much later age. When it comes to children, we live in an Age of Fear. Not being an always-hovering helicopter parent is now a frowned-upon exception.

It is no coincidence that this reduction in tolerance for risk has been accompanied by a more judgmental attitude towards what constitutes good parenting. The list of must-do’s for overstretched parents (who are somehow working more and parenting more) is getting longer and longer. It used to be said that it takes a community to raise a child. Now, it seems, it takes a community to niggle in every parent’s ear about how they should/shouldn’t be raising their child. Risk-averse parenting? Young child wearing a helmet on a bike

In the UK, children’s room to roam has shrunk considerably. Keeping children safe has morphed into keeping them always in sight. The amount of time children now spend indoors and in sedentary activities is damaging their health. And, given that taking manageable risks is a key component in developing resilience, there are concerns that this is also impacting on children’s mental and emotional well-being.

But is it real justifiable threats to children’s safety that are driving this risk-averse-parenting? Or a parental fear of being judged and of coming up lacking? Continue reading

Introducing ‘Whatever Together’

Our crowdfunding campaign has now closed. We raised an amazing £8,500! We are now busy setting up the project to launch as soon as possible. You can keep up to date by following Whatever Together on Twitter (@whatevertogeth1) or Instagram (@whatevertogeth1) or Facebook (@WhateverTogetherCommunity).

No stage of parenting is easy. Each age brings its unique challenges. Parenting is a journey packed with torrential emotions, sudden surprises, gnawing worries, and lashings of daily self-doubt. We never really know if we’ve got it right. There is simply no single ‘right’ to be ‘got’.

If we are lucky, we are surrounded by people we can turn to for reassurance. And safe people to lean on when the burden is getting us down.

When children are very little, that community often helps carry us through. There are the NCT chums and the pre-children friends who have grown families at the same time. And the Nursery or school gate pals that you are thrown together with at all those birthday parties. Not to mention the Facebook groups of other local mums and dads ready to give advice or point you in the right direction.

But when the teenage years arrive – at exactly the point where the challenges of parenting can really shift gear – a lot of that support falls away.

Whatever Together from Little Fish Films on Vimeo.

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Managing children’s emotional behaviour

Today’s video post is all about managing children’s emotional behaviour – both little ones and teens. Often, when children are emotional, that comes out as difficult behaviour – behaviour that parents find challenging. And it can be difficult to know what to do. Should you respond to the behaviour? Or to the emotion?

The trick for managing children’s emotional behaviour is actually to do both. Here are a few tips on how you can use reflective and empathetic listening whilst also drawing boundaries around unacceptable actions.

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Parenting as a team (despite different parenting styles)

There is something about caring for children alongside someone else that really highlights your differences. Whether it’s friends, your mother-in-law or your partner, you never really know someone until you share the care of children. Sometimes it’s a good surprise, sometimes not. But we discover things we didn’t know (about others and ourselves) when we are parenting as a team.Parenting as a team - two people holding hands

It might be that you and your partner have radically different parenting styles. It might be that you are co-parenting across the divide of divorce or separation. Or you may be a single parent who relies on friends or family members for support. But understanding who is in your parenting team and finding ways to work with them is crucial.

It’s easy to see when other people are getting parenting ‘wrong’. Usually, this means that they are doing things differently from how you would do it. Or in a way that contradicts your personal values. But (extreme harm aside), there really is no single correct way to parent in any given parenting situation. Within that sweet zone of warmth + boundaries, there is a lot of wriggle room. And a lot of judgement calls to make. Continue reading

Book Review: The Incredible Teenage Brain

It’s not often that I wholeheartedly recommend a parenting book. I can usually find something I disagree with… Or that I think could have been clearer/included/left out. But, parents of teenagers, this is actually a really good book! The Incredible Teenage Brain by Bettina Hohnen, Jane Gilmour and Tara Murphy is perfectly pitched. It’s an easy-to-read neuroscientific guide to teenagers with practical tips that parents and teachers can take away and apply. Will it make parenting your teenager easy? No. But it might help you understand him/her a little more and see how you can best be supportive.

Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into the physical side of the book – its size, font, spacing etc. The font is large and friendly, there are lots of spaces and subtitles, plus Q&As, illustrations and tables. All of which make it very easy to follow, despite the in depth neuroscience. The text is accessible without dumbing down the issues. Continue reading

The importance of making memories

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of making memories. What with the end of the decade and the departure of my eldest son for university, I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with holding onto memories of my kids as little ones. And also, if I’m honest, a little fearful about how many more opportunities there will be (or won’t be) to make new family memories.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year Resolutions as I’m not convinced they lead to real change. But I do like to set my kids a bit of a challenge to mark the New Year. You might remember, a couple of years ago I asked them to write my New Year Resolutions for me with interesting results! This year, I asked them to come up with their five favourite family moments from last year.

As usual, what I thought was a bright and clever idea taught me a salutary lesson in teenage priorities. “Five?!” they said. And scratched their heads. I could see them wracking their memory banks for a single important event last year at which I was present. They could remember lots of great times, but none of them included family! In the end, the eldest came up with four rather vague memories (one of which actually happened in 2018 and the other was being dropped off at university – a double-edged sword of a family memory for sure!). The youngest cribbed two memories from his brother, made one up that I know he hated and concluded “We need to do more 🙁 .”

Aaagh! As if I hadn’t been desperately trying to get him to join in with family life for the whole year!

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Preparing teenagers for leaving home: checklist

The teenage years are a time when parental focus shifts away from creating a happy childhood towards ensuring our children have the skills and knowledge they need to become happy and successful young adults. An essential part of this process is equipping young people to thrive outside the protection and comforts of our family. And that means actively preparing teenagers for leaving home.ideas for boosting children's resilience teenager in a big box

Every teen matures at a slightly different rate. But promoting independence isn’t just about our teenager’s maturity. Parents have a huge role to play. Preparing teenagers for leaving home requires us as parents to actively change our expectations of our children and start treating them as the young adults we want them to become. And that means doing less for them and expecting more from them. We do our children no favours if we send them out into the adult world unable to manage for themselves!

Teaching new skills to children of any age requires parents to:

  1. Model the skill (show them how it’s done)
  2. Aid supported practice (do it alongside them)
  3. Facilitate independent production (step back and give them opportunities to do it alone).

When it comes to teenagers, that means:

  1. Having appropriate expectations as to what they are capable of (not under-expecting or doing everything for them)
  2. Allowing them to make mistakes and learn from them (not rescuing them from every risk of failure)
  3. Understanding what might motivate them to take on new responsibilities (standing in their shoes).

Preparing teenagers for leaving home involves building their practical skills, their thinking skills, their organisational skills and their knowledge of the world and the way it works. Here are a few tips for how you can best prepare teens for independence in the big wide world. Continue reading

12 ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet

Getting outside is great for everyone’s well-being. And children love the outdoors because it’s always changing – every time you step outside your front door is a little different from the last. outdoor play when it's cold or wet: picture of mushrooms in the woodsMaybe there are fallen leaves where there weren’t any before? Or perhaps there’s a wind blowing into your face? Or puddles where before it was dry? Children love novelty. But sometimes adults can lack a little imagination when it comes to ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet….

The great thing about outdoor play is that it doesn’t matter if you make a mess. So, avoid tidy up time by investing in waterproofs and a warm hat. Then head outside and take the opportunity to get stuck into nature no matter what the weather throws at you. Here are 12 top ideas for outdoor play when it’s cold or wet that children of all ages (and their parents) can enjoy. Continue reading

5 tips for maintaining a good relationship with your teenager

I have had absolutely no time to write this week, so here’s a quick video blog instead on how to maintain a good relationship with your teenager. If you are interested in this topic, you might also like to read my top tips on communicating with teenagers.

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©Anita Cleare 2019

The Ultimate Christmas Booklist

As regular readers will know, I review lots of books for children and parents on this blog. Which means I read a lot of books too! So, in my continual efforts to make your busy lives just that little bit easier, I have done all the hard work for you and come up with a Christmas list of the best books to buy for all the children and parents in your life. Think of it as my Christmas gift to you 🙂

For teenage girls

It has to be Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It’s just brilliant, trust me. And while you’re at it, buy a copy for your sister and best friend too. It’s technically a ‘Young Adult’ book, but it was the best book I’d read all year when I discovered it. (See Best brave novels to inspire your teenage daughter for more suggestions). Continue reading

Book Review: The Board Game Family, by Ellie Dix

If you are looking for a way to tear your kids away from their tablets and consoles in order to have some quality family time, then board games are a great option. But where do you start? And how do you go about engaging your kids in a board game when the lure of computer games is so powerful? The Board Game Family by Ellie Dix has all the answers.

Ellie Dix is clearly a big fan of board games and her enthusiasm is infectious. But she is also a realist. There are no illusions here that your children will skip happily to the kitchen table for a three-hour Sunday afternoon board game just because Mum or Dad thinks it’s a good idea! There a some brilliant stealth tactics for how you can subtly get your kids interested by leaving games lying around (pretend you are having a clear out!). Or by solo playing to tempt their interest. These are ideas that might just work, too. Continue reading