9 reasons why all mums need a kindle or e-reader

9 reasons why all mums need a Kindle (or other E-reader)

First: a disclaimer. I adore paper books, I do not think they are redundant and they are my go-to gift for adults and children alike. Thank God for my local independent book shop – they rock. However, since I was given an e-reader for Christmas last year I am a total convert from my luddite, paper-book addict self and feel they are an essential piece of kit for all parents. I now need my Kindle and here are my reasons:

1 – backlighting

Oh my Goddess I cannot tell you how much I value this feature on the e-reader I use. It’s a Kindle Paperwhite, in case you were wondering and the backlighting is an essential feature for the mum of small children. I am blessed that The Girl is a fairly decent sleeper (The Boy was awake for hours in the middle of the night) but I still have to settle her at bedtime and don’t want a light on while she feeds to sleep. I also have a husband who doesn’t always want to stay awake reading at the same times as me, plus hideous pregnancy insomnia while I was expecting both kids. Being able to read without a light on is AMAZING. Whilst I still adore paper books, this is the feature I miss the most when trying to read them.

2 – free books

I’m a fast reader. Like really fast. Especially when I spend hours feeding a baby and am not limited by being in a dark room (see above). I can get through a book in a day if the wind is behind me. I also don’t really remember much of what I read afterwards and commonly find myself re-reading books and not realising until more than halfway through that I’ve read it before. The ability to ‘buy’ free books suits my style of readership perfectly.

3 – one-handed

reading and feedingMost of the reading I do is one-handed because I do it whilst doing other things – feeding babies, eating dinner, walking along pushing a buggy etc. The problem with ‘real’ books is holding the pages apart with one hand – not something that’s an issue with an e-reader. The ‘book’ stays open and you can flip the page with your thumb… or your nose if necessary.

Apparently there are other reasons one might find one-handed reading useful, especially when reading bodice-rippers for cheap thrills, but I’m a mum to two under-4s, so reading is the most exciting thing I ever do in bed, other than sleep 😉

4 – lightweight

This goes (eh-hem bad pun alert) hand-in-hand with the one-handed reading. No worries about choosing a particularly hefty book, they all weigh the same (about 200g). I am currently carrying around (in addition to a library-full of chick-lit and tat) the full works of Shakespeare, Dickens, L.M. Alcott and the complete set of Anne of Green Gables.

5 – silent

See item no.1 for the times I actually get to sit and read. I’ve tried reading paper books whilst feeding my baby – nuh-uh. Every time I flip a page she turns her head to look and, well, I’m quite fond of my nipples, you could even say I’m attached to them. And she doesn’t. let. go. when she turns her head. Buh-bye paper books.

6 – discreet

God I read some right crap. Mostly I download free books and they’re mostly of the chick-lit/bodice-ripper variety (if you care to have a peek at the text visible in my feature image shot you might get an idea of how trashy some of the things I read are. His Captive Bride, in case you were wondering.)

Now, I do a fair bit of reading on the school run whilst The Girl naps in the sling and I could do without advertising my un-literary proclivities to the other school-run mums. I also don’t need my son querying me on “why is that lady no wearing no cloves Mummy?” as he did when I took a punt on a library paper-book copy of this type of novel.

Finally, The Man is well known for taking the piss remorselessly. Bad enough he knows I read this kind of literature without giving him further ammunition with some of the titles and cover art.

7 – immediate

For when you run out of reading in the middle of the night and/or need a parenting book on how to deal with your three year old’s aggression ishoos the immediacy of downloading a book is fabulous. No waiting. No postage. Super! Start taming the beast right away!

8 – don’t lose your place…usually

Have you any idea how often my children like to get involved with anything I do? Books are fair game as far as they’re concerned, and the number of times I’ve lost my page or had a page ripped out is absurd considering how rarely I read paper books these days. Now I can always be sure that my book will open on the page I left it… though I do get the occasional flailing hand flipping the page back or forwards whilst feeding.

9 – easy for others to locate

The Boy is often used for fetching/carrying. He doesn’t have many uses, but this is one of them (except when he gets distracted halfway through and disappears for 25 minutes only to reappear wearing a cowboy hat and tutu but missing one sock… but most of the time he succeeds in his task).

However his reading skills are still limited to CVC type words and his own name so sending him for “Mummy’s Kindle” is significantly more successful and less confusing than sending him for “Mummy’s book, the one with the lady with no clothes and the man with a sword, you know, with the word H I S at the beginning…? Not not that one, the man is obviously holding a pitchfork, not a sword. Never mind. I’ll go.”

5 fab gift ideas for subsequent children

5 fab gift ideas for subsequent children

5 fab gift ideas for subsequent childrenYou may have seen my posts on gender neutral gifts to buy a three year old (and more gender neutral gifts to buy a three year old).  I had a lot of positive feedback on those, but one comment asked me to please please write a list of gifts to buy subsequent children and I’ve been mulling the topic over since. What do you get for a younger sibling when their brother or sister has already been given the standard ‘new baby’ gifts?

It’s a tricky issue because once you have one child you have pretty much everything you need for the following children.  You might get a few easy gifts if the child is a different sex to its predecessor, but even then the majority of items required will already be taking up space in the house.  So I put together a few ideas but, as my friends continue to procreate, I would appreciate any suggestions of things I haven’t thought of, so do add comments! Luckily, as the kids get older they will hopefully develop individual interests and hobbies you can cater to, but for the early stages here are some ideas…

1 – Dribble bibs/bandanas – yes, they may (probably do) have some of these already, but it’s one of those items where you can never have too many. Plus it’s nice to have different colours to match to different outfits. The Girl can saturate as many as four or five in a day (eww). Especially useful to have new ones as, once smalls start to wean, they will inevitably get unpleasant food stains on them. I really love the ones I have from Tu at Sainsburys, especially for the price, but the design of the ones from Dribble Ons are the absolute best for getting right under their chin and catching the drool. There is a great choice of colours etc too.  ‘Normal’ bibs are good too – some shops sell them with sleeves which are fabulous!

2 – Books – you can never have too many books in a house and they handily take up very little storage space.  Choose a book you enjoy or, for that personal touch, one you used to enjoy when you were a child. If the mother is anything like me she will ‘encourage’ (ie – insist) that you read the book to the little recipient of the gift so make sure it’s something you can manage (we recently got give one about a ‘Dinosaurarumpus‘ which is great fun to read except for the very long and complex dinosaur names which are impossible for me to pronounce).

3 – Personalised items – no matter how huge the collection of things child no.1 possesses there is one thing you can guarantee they won’t have: anything with Child no.2’s name on! So here is a list of things you can get personalised and a couple of suggestions of places to do it. If cost is an issue and the child has a long, complicated name, then initials can work too in most cases!
– A doorplate or letters for their bedroom door
– A personalised book where your child becomes the character. I haven’t ordered one of these so have no recommendation to make, just Google for it.
– A framed print of their initial. Lots of local artists will do this to order so have a look in your area.
– A travel bag for their things with their initials embroidered on
– Hairbrush
– Ex Libris bookplates “This book belongs to….”
– Crockery or a cup
– Placemat
– Pendant/cufflinks (yes this is thinking a little far in advance, but it’s less likely they’ll already have one…)
– Egg cup

4 – Vouchers. As mums we rarely get a chance to buy new things for our little ones, especially subsequent babies – they just get hand-me-downs. A voucher for Next, H&M, Jojo Maman et Bebe, John Lewis or Mothercare (other shops also available) will make a lovely present for mum and baby alike as they get to have fun shopping and buy something the baby really needs or will wear a lot.

5 – A set of crockery and/or cutlery is a perfect gift, even un-personalised.  With an additional person to feed comes the need for additional child-proof tableware, especially as the little buggers bring friends round, too! I like melamine sets like this lovely 7-piece dinosaur one.

So there you go – a few suggestions that might help you buy something that won’t end up being re-gifted three weeks later!

Visiting a new mum – come bearing gifts

visiting a new mumSo, in a fine display of blog wankery I turned up at my friend’s house to visit her and her lovely new wee baby but before I did anything else had to take a photograph of all the stuff I brought over for her so I could put it on this blog. My initial plan for this post was to prove that I practice what I preach and, when going to visit a new mum, took over the recommended present for baby, present for older sibling, a meal and cake for the family. However, I was rendered so horrified by my display of blog-mindedness that I had to share how much it’s taken over my thoughts!

feetsI also had to share this photo of his little tiny feet – aren’t they lush?

Anyway – chickpea and lentil curry, cumin seed pan bread, chocolate crispie cakes, a handmade crocheted ripple blanket for the wee man and a set of dolly baby clothes for the new big sister. My job here is done.

10 really excellent gifts to buy a new mum

10 excellent gifts to buy a new mumAs you may have seen I was recently inspired to do a post on a Top 10 gifts to buy a new baby. Now, although this is super handy when going to visit this hypothetical infant, I do have to make the point that the gifts suggested there are in no way gifts for the mother (with the possible exception of Ewan the sleep sheep, if he works as he ought). So here are ten really excellent gifts you can buy a new mum to make her feel special, treated, looked after and not merely the battered incubator & milk bar for a new human.

1- Monkey mama twiddle necklace and teething ring
Now I do have to make a wee disclaimer – if your intended recipient is more yummy mummy than lentil-weaving hippy mama like me then this gift is no good.  For breastfeeding and/or babywearing afficianados, though, I would go so far as to call this (or similar) a ‘must have’.  The Boy was an inveterate biter – even before he had teeth he liked to give his stony-hard little gums a good work out on my poor, tender nipples.  I bought myself a wooden teething necklace and necklacewhen he got bitey pulled him off and handed him the ring – miraculously he would give his wee gums a good chomp on the ring, then latch back on peacefully.  The Girl is a tiny monkey and likes to have a handful of ‘fur’ when she feeds or is carried. Before I thought to get my necklace back out this was (preferably) a handful of T-shirt but (usually) a painful grip on the loose skin of my breast or a handful of hair, generally with kitten-sharp fingernails digging in or the strands becoming ever more twisted about her tiny, clammy fingers!

They come in pretty colours and different designs and, when you can’t wear much jewellery for fear of it being grabbed, it’s nice to have something to accessorise with.

2- L’Occitane almond shower oil
oilAfter both of my pregnancies I have developed very dry skin and this seems to be common amongst most of the mums I’ve spoken to. A lovely lovely friend of mine bought me this luscious shower oil after I had The Girl and I’m obsessed with it. It saves two steps in the showering ritual – so useful when you have limited time to shower – as it moisturises, washes and makes the best shaving lubrication I’ve ever used. Plus it smells absolutely divine, but is a very light, subtle fragrance so you don’t have to worry about it overwhelming your baby or obliterating your own mummy-smell for them.  A top gift for any new mum.  I can also recommend their lavender hand sanitiser as a handy out-and-about hand cleanser for post-nappy-changes. Smells 100x better than any other sanitiser I’ve used!

3- Paperwhite Kindle
Chances are the baby will be keeping her up at night, so an e-book reader with built-in lighting is ideal for entertainment during those long night feeds. The light won’t wake the baby or the erstwhile snoring husband and an e-book reader is so much easier to manage one-handed than a ‘proper’ book, lovely though they are.  Just check she doesn’t have one already, but this would be an ideal ‘group’ gift, say, from an office to a mum about to go on mat leave. If you need any more persuading, why not read my post on 9 reasons why a mum needs an e-reader?!

4- Photobox vouchers and/or a photo frame
One thing there will be a surfeit of that first year is photos – photos of the baby, of mummy with baby, daddy with baby, Great Auntie Joan with baby etc. Why not buy some vouchers for an online photo printing site so they can immortalise those memories in a photo book, album or on a wall.

5- Jewellery (esp personalised to the baby – fingerprints/birthstone etc)rings
This might be one for the baby’s co-parent to purchase as it’s likely to be a bit more expensive.  The (lovely) Man has bought me two rings, one for each baby with their birth stone in and they nest together. I adore them probably more than my engagement ring because they symbolise my darling babas.  There are all sorts of options for meaningful jewellery – Not on the highstreet has some great ideas for fingerprint jewellery, but there are usually local jewellers who will do this for you which makes life easier in terms of getting the baby’s fingerprints!

If you want something engraved with a name then I adore Dino Daisy who does quirky little pendants and bangles stamped with the letters and images of your choice and for a very reasonable price. Although delivery is a little slow (due to being made to order) her customer service is great and she does her best for you.

6- Photo shoot
Again a great idea for a ‘group’ present, a photo shoot, or series of photo shoots, makes a lovely present for the whole family so they can immortalise their new addition and the new shape of their family.

7- Massage
After nine months of pregnancy and then giving birth and a possible hospital stay followed by sitting in funny positions to feed and constant carrying, bending and lifting trust me a massage would be a welcome gift. Try and find a masseur who’ll come to the house to minimise stress for the new mum and make sure you offer to be there for baby jiggling purposes so she can really relax!

8- DVD boxsets/subscription to a streaming service
My baby was born just a few days before my birthday and my lovely sister bought me a NowTV box and subscription to Sky Entertainment for 3 months – it was bliss. I watched so much crap. If something like this is beyond your budget, why not try one of these boxsets I recommended – she’ll be grateful of the TV on demand!

9 – A cleaner
No new mum should have to be worrying about cleaning – even tidying is too much sometimes and nothing makes as much mess as being post-partum and having a baby. Buy her a few hours with a good cleaner for the first couple of months and she’ll love you forever!

10 – Food!
See my post ‘How to support a new mum‘ – she’ll either be ravenous, or have no appetite but in great need of nutritious food (and cake). Look after her properly and come bearing food and you won’t be turned away!

Top 10 gifts to buy for a new baby

My sister’s boyfriend’s sister (convoluted connection I know) is due her first baby any day now and I was getting my brain picked for suggestions of really good presents for her and for the baby.  Seemed like a good topic for another lovely ‘list’ blog post so here we go – some of my top picks for babies! (And not forgetting something for the new mums, here are some really excellent ideas just for them.)giftsforababy1 – Ewan the sleep sheep – A cuddly sheep that lights up with a soft red glow and plays a range of soothing heartbeat-themed white noise tracks.  Not only has this been such a hit in our house that we have one for each child and The Boy still uses his, but the customer service is truly fabulous – speedy, helpful, good sense of humour! My number 1 top pick!

2 – Summer infant light projectors – these come in a great selection of animals and bugs, from ladybirds and butterflies to frogs and elephants. They play a twinkly tune and send stars onto the ceiling in a range of colours. As with Ewan this has a wide age appeal. The Boy uses it to keep monsters at bay, The Girl gets a sensory kick from lying in a dark room and watching the stars – never seen so many kicks! Amazon sell them for £14.99 (at time of publication) and if you click through from here you can help me keep this blog running at no extra cost to you!

3 – Bandanas – these cute little neck scarves might seem like a pointless fashion accessory but trust me – baby drool is the most slimy, soggifying substance known to humankind and one of these little fleece-backed beauties stops their clothes getting wet and prevents a sore, chafed chest. They’ll be dribbling before you know it! Plus they look utterly adorable and can be bought at bargainous prices.

4 – New clothes – always nice even if the baby is well stocked with hand-me-downs, but aim for 6 months and onwards as, not only will the outfit get more wear, but chances are there are a million 0-6 month clothes already.  If you don’t know what to buy then may I suggest dungarees? They’re gorgeous on all babies and eminently practical, especially once they start crawling and you need a grab handle!

5 – Something personalised with baby’s name, be it a blanket, doorplate or book it’s a special present that the parents won’t have bought. Especially good for subsequent babies.

6 – Cloth books or ‘That’s not my…’ touch and feel books.  The Girl is only 4 months old and already loves to examine these so they come in sooner than you might think. Black and white books are great for small babies as they love the high contrast images.

7 – Cuddly toys are always lovely, but be aware that these may be in rich supply and the parents may curse you forever. If you’re going to do it, though, make it a jellycat toy. All the children I know who have special cuddly friends it’s a jellycat friend.  The bunnies and monkeys seem to be especially popular, in our house at least. Super soft and with lovely beanie bottoms.

8 – A playmat. We always make these in our house, or have been given beautiful handmade ones with ribbon tags for little fingers to explore, but you can buy them and they are a baby essential until they start crawling.  Not only do they make a safe, clean (easily washable) surface to place a stationary bubba, but I’ve seen some fabulous photos of babies taken on a playmat once a month from newborn as they grow and you can use the images on the playmat as a reference to track their growth – just lovely.

9 – Hooded towels – not only are these great for snuggly post-bath cuddles (watch out for the obligatory nappy-free wee on your lap) but babies look super cute in these. Love this duckie one.

10 – Childproof cutlery and/or crockery.  These will be needed before you know it and will go on being useful for years, plus (unlike the wretched cuddly toys) you can’t really have too many, as it’s always handy to have one to wash and one to ‘wear’, and that’s before you even factor in having their little friends over for lunch!

I have received no remuneration of any kind, not even free products, for this article. All brands and items mentioned or linked have either been tried and tested at our cost or I just randomly Googled something that would demonstrate what I meant!

The List

Ten (more) gender-neutral gifts to buy a three year old

Following on from the positive response I had to the original post, Ten gender-neutral gifts to buy a three year old, I thought we really needed to add some of the suggestions made by readers, as well as the things I suddenly thought of about five minutes after I posted the original article.

I also need to point out that the ‘three year old’ is a reasonably arbitrary age based solely on the fact that I have a three year old and know what he and his chums like. The majority of these gifts would probably also be appropriate for two and four year olds also. Use your common sense, refer to the tastes and abilities of the child in question and, if all else fails, ask their parents.

1 – Magnetic letters for the ‘fridge
Having said all that, magnetic letters are probably much more appropriate for three and four year olds than two year olds. The Boy is three and a half now and has only recently started to ‘get’ letters and words.  All kids love magnets though, so it could just be something for them to grow into.

2 – CDs
2.i – Audiobooks
I would never suggest that an audio CD could act as a replacement for a lovely bedtime story read by a loving caregiver (in fact, I recommend this article on bedtime stories which explains why they’re such a positive addition to a child’s life) however there are definitely times when they can be worth their weight in gold. That period when your child is giving up their daytime nap, but still needs a rest in the afternoon (as do you) is custom designed for a nice audio CD.
Car journeys, also, can be made far more peaceful by a nice injection of a Julia Donaldson boxset or a bit of Winnie the Pooh (and if you haven’t heard it read by Alan Bennett, then you haven’t lived).  The Man and I actually had a penchant for the Just William series, read by Martin Jarvis, pre-children, though they were all on cassette and will have to be replaced now we’ve upgraded our car to something with a CD player.

2.ii. – Nick Cope CDs
If you’re a regular follower of this blog then you will have seen before that our family is rather fond of this singer/songwriter from our lovely home county.  A founder and former member of the Candyskins, a britpop/rock band and contemporary of Radiohead and Supergrass, Cope went on to write songs from children after the band broke up in the late ’90s. His songs are fun and funny, upbeat with engaging lyrics that appeal to children but also have a bit of resonance with adults too.  We often play his songs when we’re trying to entertain The Boy but don’t want to put the TV on and they’re invaluable on long car journeys as it’s pretty much the only music we can all agree on. I recently recommended his albums to a friend of The Mater who was being driven nutty by the incessant playing of ‘The wheels on the bus’ when she looked after her granddaughter.  All his albums are fab, but I think, if I had to pick just one, The Pirate’s Breakfast is especially good, featuring The Boy’s fave, The Baby’s Done A Poo, and mine, Another Day.

3 – Scooter accessories
Round here most three year olds already have a scooter (I am already planning a list of gifts for two year olds and that will be number 1!), usually a Micro Mini as they’re so easy to steer, but that means that – much like a middle aged golfer – there’s a whole range of themed presents you can buy to trick their scooter out with the latest must-haves!  Top of the list has to be Scooter Earz – basically fleece-lined waterproof mitts that live on the scooter’s handles so you never ever ever have to have that soul destroying negotiation about gloves again.  Also available are bags, tassles, headlights, visibility lights, bottles and holders, wheel ‘whizzers’, scooter sleeves, stickers, name plates, badges, reflectors and handlebar horse heads (or dragons). Pimping your scooter is basically a gift-list on its own!

4 – Play food
Whether plastic, wooden or felt (yes, felt) kids this age love to play at being grown up and often re-enact going round the supermarket (see item 5 on this list). My poor son, having been deprived on this experience on a regular basis by the fact we get our shopping delivered, doesn’t seem that bothered by the play food we got him, which is probably why I forgot it when writing my original list, but guests to our house often hone in on the shopping basket full of ‘groceries’ briefly sparking a renewed interest from The Boy before it yet again fizzles and dies.

5 – A cashier’s till
Now this my son actually plays with. Sod the food – he likes the money. His concept of how it works is a little off (it’s common to hear “one money, two money, three money!” and 10 pennies are worth more to him than one pound, but hey) but by gum he can entertain himself for hours playing with the till. The ones these days (and boy, doesn’t that make me sound old?) even come with a microphone to do tannoy announcements and a chip and PIN card-reading device.

6 – A watering can
Obviously only appropriate for children with access to some kind of garden or outdoor space, but there’s nothing The Boy likes better than pouring water over his own feet watering plants.  It’s even something useful he can do on hot summer evenings. Win!

7 – Jigsaw puzzles
Again, keep an eye out for the age appropriateness, but a good jigsaw puzzle, in combination with a child who likes doing them, can keep the peace in a house for many minutes at a time (I’m not overly ambitious on this score. If I get half an hour I’m happy).  Good for motor skills, observation and colours jigsaws also have the happy nature of being something that can be done alone or with a friend or parent without too much squabbling.

8 – Bath toys
I can’t be the only parent who uses the bath as a peaceful and mess-containing way of whiling away some of the endless hours before bed.  For children who are subjected to this by their parents then bath toys will give them something extra to entertain themselves with (though a jug and a bottle to pour back and forth seem to excite The Boy more than the costly water-wheel device that sticks onto the side of the bath, so I’m not doing a very good job at selling this am I?). For kids who hate baths maybe this will ameliorate the experience somewhat.

9 – Tea sets
Whilst play food is not of great interest The Boy does make an excellent cup of pretend tea and greatly enjoys doing so. I even have a cute picture of him (somewhere) having a tea party with some of his cuddly friends.  Teapots and tea cups also double up as (fanfare please) amusing bath toys! These he will play with for hours without tiring.

20150705_160355 (1)10 – Cuddly toys
Most children have a massive surfeit of these and I, certainly, shudder with horror at the mounting piles of cuddly ‘friends’ accumulating in our house (especially since The Man and I still have a few of our own childhood chums knocking about that we can’t bear to get rid of), however, to a child, there is no joy greater than discovering a new lifelong buddy inside some shiny wrapping paper, especially if it’s bigger than you, so sod the parents, buy a polar bear the size of a Great Dane and tell them to just be grateful it doesn’t play a tune when you squeeze its ear!

Ten gender-neutral gifts to buy a three year old

So, people who know me know I can get pretty ranty about the gendered stereotyping to which we subject our children.  As the proud Mama of (now) both a boy and a girl I suspect I’m only going to get more strident as they grow and develop.  The Boy, so far, has been given a pleasing mix of types of toys, most of which I would describe as ‘gender-neutral’ but all of which I suspect would be described by shops and manufacturers as ‘boys’ toys’.  It makes me fume that construction toys, vehicles, puzzles and the like are just for boys unless liberally daubed with pink and sparkles.  The pinkification of Lego is something that particularly grinds my teeth – what was wrong with the lovely multi-coloured bricks that were already in circulation?

Which brings me to the following list, based upon the predilections of The Boy and his many chums.  Periodically (maybe… annually) I will create further lists with suggestions for other age groups. Something tells me it’ll be ‘4 year olds’ next…

1 – A windmill. A cheap yet satisfying gift which gives much pleasure to the recipient and their parents as it’s silent and makes almost no mess. Win.

2- Brio and similar wooden train-tracks and paraphenalia (Big Jigs, Tesco, Ikea etc all do items which work together). It encourages creative play, comes in a variety of colours and can help with numbers and fine motor skills.

3 – Duplo. Lego’s over-sized baby that allows younger children to practice their construction and creativity. The Boy spends many happy hours creating enclosures for his Duplo animals.

4 – Plastic animals and dinos.  Yes – yet another silent toy. You see what I’m doing here? These can be picked up at bargainous prices per bag and have a multitude of uses. They can be combined with Duplo (to inhabit dens) and Brio (to be transported). They can make footprints in Playdoh, pose for photos, be used in role plays and help learn about the outside world. Due to their diminutive size and the tendency for 3 year olds to secrete them in various bags and pockets, they also teach children about loss – a valuable life lesson I’m sure you’ll agree.

5 – Play Doh. This is a tricky one. Kids love the bloody stuff. The parent responsible for housecleaning hates it – trust me on this. It gets mashed into carpets and socks and all sorts. Maybe just buy this for kids who live in houses with hard floors, or whose parents you dislike.

6 – Dressing up clothes, particularly hats. It’s easier than you think to stay gender neutral here. Avoid anything to do with Disney and you should be OK. Doctors, Vets, firefighters, cowboys/girls, vikings – all of these come with fun accessories of some sort and encourage great imaginative play and yes, once again, make no fucking noise!

7 – Books. Always a good call as they take up very little space and are widely regarded as educational, plus they’re a good way to get kids to sit still for a bit. We were recently given a copy of ‘You Choose’ which is absolutely fab as it opens up a dialogue between parents and child and encourages their imagination – plus you can drag it out or speed it up as much as you need to to get to bedtime unscathed. Julia Donaldson is also still a good prospect for this age range, or the Alfie books by Shirley Hughes engages with the life lived by this age groups in a great way. In fact, before I get carried away, I may have to just come back and do a whole post on books for three year olds.

8 – Arts and Crafts materials. Crayons and colouring pencils get broken and go missing with extreme regularity, so it’s hard to have too many of these. Colouring and sticker books are also easy but popular choices. I would recommend steering clear of more messy items like glitter glue and paint unless you know the child has a parent willing to engage in such activities (and, more to the point, willing to clear up after them).  Foam and felt cut-outs are great though and apparently everything looks better plastered with googly eyes…

9 – An ‘experience’. For a more pricey gift then you could consider buying tickets or vouchers for a family day out – especially welcome if this is something the family can’t afford to do themselves. Peppa Pig is still popular at this age (and she has a whole Peppa Pig World to explore – yay) plus there’s Lego Land and Thomas World, or there are usually Thomas days out at railway stations around the country.  Wildlife parks of all sorts wouyld be exciting too – we have the wonderful Cotswold Wildlife Park but there are several dotted across the nation.

10 – A child-proof camera. Have you noticed how besotted small children are with cameras, photos and having their picture taken? They’re so unself-conscious and love to record their version of the world, so if you have the cash to splash there are digital cameras specifically aimed at (and safe for) small children to use. Don’t tell The Boy, but he may be getting one of these soon. Fear not – I will certainly post some of his forays into photography if we do!

Unusual suggestions for Fathers’ Day gifts – presents and experiences in Oxford or Oxfordshire

Oh goodness, the one gift-giving occasion where you can’t just throw flowers at the problem and hope it goes away (well, not unless your father and husband/partner are very different from mine, anyway) – what to do? I’ve been caught in this quandary myself and, in the desperate hunt to find something unusual or unique to give my dad and the father of my child (as the child in question has no finances or shopping skills, being only two), have hunted out a few great local businesses selling fabulous products – or experiences – that should appeal to most men.  So if you’re looking for the perfect present to give for father’s day, look no further, we have a few suggestions…
Jewellery – Saxons of Oxford

More usually thought of as the preserve of females, occasionally you might want to buy something really swanky for a chap and Saxons of Oxford have some great, modern styles of jewellery to give to the men in your life. If you really want to spoil them, though, Saxons specialise in offering bespoke designs to bring your ideas to life. Want to commemorate a birth for a first time dad? Perhaps you’re looking for something special for a tenth-time grandad – Saxons could help you make your design a reality.

AlcoholGibson’s Organic LiqueursImage
We are lucky enough to have many wonderful breweries in Oxfordshire, but if the dad in question isn’t much of beer drinker, why not offer him one of these fabulous organic liqueurs? Perfect for relaxing with on these lovely warm evenings we’re having, you could toast him with a great local tipple – and you get to share it, too!

Flying – Horizon Aviation

Oh yes, this is our favourite option. From just £85 you can buy him the chance to fly an aeroplane himself, How awesome is that? This local business is based at Oxford Airport, so you don’t have far to travel, and I can personally recommend the pilots as I’ve entrusted the man in my life to their hands! Can’t say fairer than that.  It would make a great bonding experience for a father and son – of any age.

Day OutCliveden National Trust

This National Trust property is hosting a special Fathers’ Day event. Father’s get in free and from 12pm onwards there’ll be free beer tasting from local Rebellion Brewery (whilst stocks last). A lovely chance to show your dad you love him by spending quality time together.

Hope some of these inspire you to find something great to give next Sunday, but please let us know here, by email or on Twitter if you find something even better!
Camilla, Editor