In honour of world book day, I’ve listed my favourite books to read to and with my two year old. I’ve always been such an advocate of investing time into reading to your children, it’s so important! I’ve read to Leo since he was a newborn and now he loves books. He could sit at ‘read’ his books for hours and he loves our bedtime stories!
The Snail and The Whale – Julia Donaldson
This is one of Leo’s current favourite books so I thought I’d start with this one. He loves all the pictures in it and the rhyming element to the story. It’s got a beautiful message that no matter how big or small you may feel, you can still make an impact when it counts.
A Sick Day For Amos McGee – Phillip C Stead
We’ve loved this one since he was just a few months old. The message of friendship and good karma is beautiful!
Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney
This book is a great one to read just before bed. For our bedtime stories, I like to fill him with love and positivity before he drifts off to dream land.
The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
Hi could we not include one of the best children’s books ever written? This classic from Julia Donaldson will remain within our favourites for many years to come.
The Gruffalo’s Child – Julia Donaldson
The follow up to the Gruffalo, we love this one!
Giraffes Can’tDance – Giles Andreae and Guy Parker Rees
This story has a beautiful message which shows that everyone is different and everyone learns at their own pace! It also rhymes lovely.
Aliens Love Underpants – Claire Freeman and Ben Cort
Aliens love underpants is a book that always gets us giggling!
Goodnight Digger – Michelle Robinson and Nick East
We love to read this one just before he goes to sleep as our bedtime story, it’s a very relaxing book for little ones. Since he is a car and digger fanatic also, this one always seems to go down a treat!
A Squash and a Squeeze – Julia Donaldson
Another Julia Donaldson classic, this one gets us laughing but has a lovely message to appreciate what you have.
Pop Up Dinosaurs – Fiona Watt
Pop up books are so much fun for a day time read, toddlers always love an interactive story!
Dear Zoo – Rod Campbell
This is a classic story. We have the lift the flap version which he loves! It’s always lovely to get him involved in the reading of the story, even if he can’t read the words just yet!
The Lorax – Dr Seuss
This one is another repeat from last years post but with good reason! The story shows us the importance of loving and respecting our environment and the consequences if we don’t.
The Dinosaur Department Store – Lily Murray and Richard Merritt
This book is fairly new to our collection but we’ve really enjoyed it so far. The quirky illustrations and beautifully written narratives make great, fun reading!
We also love the Large Family books and of course anything Peppa Pig. I could go on all day but these are my top favourites. I hope this helps anyone who is looking for new books to read to their toddler – I know how repetitive it can feel sometimes!
Positive words of encouragement can have a long lasting affect on your child, even years after you have said them.
Trying to choose words that will make them feel amazing from the inside out. As parents, we try hard to shape our children’s lives to ensure that they live their best lives possible. I’ve always believed that this starts with creating positive foundations in childhood that will develop their minds to be positive and thoughtful.
My son is my world and I never want him to forget how much I love and value him. It’s very important to me that he knows how deeply I care for him and so I try to give him positive affirmations everyday from a young age to secure our bond, learn right from wrong, understand how much I love him and also teach him to be kind to others.
Here are 38 positive things you can incorporate into your day and say to your child to make them feel happy, valued and loved.
1. I love you
2. Well done!
3. What was the best part of your day? (And the worst)
4. I’m lucky to be your mummy.
5. I’m grateful for you.
6. You are so good at …
7. You’re really kind / that was a really kind thing to do.
8. Thank you for being you.
9. We will tackle this problem together.
10. Your opinions matter.
11. I believe in you.
12. You did your best.
13. You make me so happy.
14. Don’t be afraid to be you.
15. I admire you.
16. That’s a lovely question.
17. I trust you.
18. I believe you.
19. You are beautiful, inside and out.
20. I’m grateful for you.
21. I love spending time with you.
22. I appreciate it when you …
23. I hope you have an amazing day.
24. I hope you have a lovely sleep.
25. I’m sure you can do it.
26. You make me smile.
27. I’m excited to do this with you!
28. You’re so creative.
29. Lets do this your way.
30. I knew you could do it!
31. I care about you.
32. I care about your feelings.
33. I’m proud of you.
34. Your words are meaningful.
35. You should be so proud of yourself!
36. You’re very helpful / that was a really helpful thing to do.
37. Thanks for being such a good boy / girl today.
38. The world is a much better place with you in it.
I’m always on the look out for fun and exciting places to go with my 18 month old, rather than the standard soft plays and parks as I feel we exhaust those quickly. Leo is a very outdoorsy boy and so that’s always a priority when looking for the perfect spot for a day out, especially when the weather has been as glorious as it has.
I came across Brocksbushes Farm and Tea Shop on Facebook and I noticed that they were advertising pick your own fruit sessions and so Leo and I went along with my friend Megan.
Based in the heart of Northumberland, Brocksbushes boast 35 acres of soft fruit to pick throughout the Summer months. They have strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. On site there is a beautiful farm shop which sells lovely home products, vegetables, drinks, home baked cakes, jams, wines and more! Beside the shop the Tea Room sells coffee, afternoon tea, sandwiches and home cooked lunches.
We paid £1 each for entry into the fruit fields and then after the strawberries were weighed at the end, we paid for those too which cane to £7. So all in all, the experience was £10 which I think is actually great value for a fun day out and lots of lovely strawberries. We made a glorious strawberry cheese cake with ours!
This was our first time strawberry picking and I’ve always wanted to go! I think it makes a perfect day out with young children. Leo really enjoyed getting involved and picking strawberries and getting…
Going to the countryside to pick your own fruit is one of those experiences that is the epitome of summer and I think it’s something we should all experience just once. It’s so beautiful to switch off for a while and just enjoy the British country side with your nearest and dearest, whilst teaching your child to appreciate the outdoors and where their food comes from.
for more information about the site we went to for our strawberry picking, click here – brocksbushes.
Here’s my thoughts on the best selling book MumBoss by award winning blogger HonestMum AKA Vicki Psarias. There’s also an interview from Vicki herself 👶🏻💁🏼♀️💓
For my dissertation this year, I created a baby and parenting magazine called Little Love and I had the pleasure of interviewing Vicki Psarias, Director, film maker, blogger, mum and author of the book, Mum Boss for a piece on inspirational parents.
This was a book that I couldn’t put down once I started it and I found myself reading it at every given opportunity.
An Interview With Vicki Psarias, AKA Honest Mum.
I asked Vicki what her advice would be to someone who was struggling to manage their work and life balance and is feeling guilty about working. She told me that, “there is never an easy answer. Schedule quality time in with your kids where possible but remind yourself how your work nourishes you metaphorically and literally. My children are my motivators. I’m ambitious because of them. It’s always a juggle. Some days will seem easy and others will be tremendously hard. I think it’s key to be kind to yourself and have fun!”
Vicki said that, “Many women want and need to work. Stay at home parents have the hardest job of all! I believe in equality and support parents in whatever they choose to do. I understand that the guilt is there but I also believe it to be futile”
Vicki’s book, MumBoss, was published in 2018 and she told me that it’s publication made her feel both elated and scared but ultimately proud! I’ve written a review of the book below for you to find out a bit more what the book entails and why you should get yourself a copy!
When I asked Vicki to define MumBoss she said that it is the “honest mums guide to surviving and thriving at work and at home!”
A Mum Boss Book Review
Here’s my thoughts on the book.
One of my favourite things about this book is the normalisation of your feelings during pregnancy and after birth. So many people talk about an instant rush of love when you first meet your newborn but often it’s not like that.
For me, I was more relieved that we were both alive as I’d had visions of one of us dying during the birth or something going wrong. You’re in a state of shock and in a lot of pain and so you don’t really realise that the love is there straight away. This is something that personally I felt very guilty about but you have to remember, you’ve just been through a HUGE ORDEAL. Birth is no laughing matter, it’s not easy and it’s by no means a walk in the park, you’re not going to be in any mood to spread much love while you’re being stitched up, if you know what I mean. I love how this is normalised in the book because new mums need to know that feeling like that is 100% ok and natural.
“Yes there will be relief and joy that you have your baby safe and sound in your arms but it’s also totally normal and natural to feel anxiety, pain, confusion and shock – mostly shock – often before love gets a real look in. That emotional cocktail can make it hard to enjoy the ‘happy feels’ at first” – MUMBOSS
Vicki also touches upon post natal mental illnesses within her book which I think is so important to raise awareness and reduce the stigmas attached to it. Like she says, the whole notions of birth and motherhood are romanticised into a fairytale which can make it hard for new mums – as they feel lost and as if they’re doing it all wrong. This section of the book, I feel, normalises it all and tells it how it is in a crucially honest manner.
Vicki’s award winning blog was set up in 2010 after she suffered a traumatic birth of her first born son and felt there wasn’t enough support or advice out there for those going through it. Vicki told me that, “I felt isolated as a new mum in 2010 after my traumatic birth and I also feared that my feelings were completely abnormal as I found very little help online at the time. Blogging has naturalised motherhood and enabled women like me to seek support and help”
All about Confidence
“While you need to work hard to achieve results, a lack of confidence can result in others struggling to invest in you [..] you need to believe in yourself to make the most out of life and from business too, so make confidence building a priority” – MUMBOSS
‘Faking it til you make it’ has always been a favourite quote of mine and something that I live by. In the third chapter, Vicki states that you can 100% feign confidence until you actually feel it and I think that’s such an important message to put across.
This chapter also tells the readers to relish in your failures and use them to your advantage to push on, in the same way that you would with positive results and that’s the best way you can feel confidence and gravitate others towards you.
I love the sections about confidence as I think everyone, but especially new parents, can benefit from boosts of confidence. When you’re a new mum, You often worry that you’re not getting it quite right as you compare yourself to the mums you see online or around you. The truth is that everyone only posts the best versions of their lives and very rarely their struggles. Vicki states that, “one of the biggest zappers of confidence and one of the key contributors to the imposter syndrome is comparison” – page 81.
She tells us that although it is easy to compare ourselves to others due to the surge in social media, we must remember that a little bit of competition is vital for evolution but we shouldn’t let it destroy us, instead we must use it as it it motivation and inspiration to improve ourselves. Vicki tells us to turn our mindsets upside down and ensure that we are so wrapped up in achieving our on goals that we won’t have time to focus on what we don’t have or what other people are doing.
I think the book is perfect for any parent who needs a boost of confidence to remember what Mum Bosses they actually are. It’s a great read to make you realise that actually your goals aren’t out of reach and your life doesn’t stop once you give birth. The book also helps a lot with blogging and social media tips! If you’re looking to set up a blog or a side hustle such as an etsy site, a craft, anything, during your maternity leave then this will really be the ultimate guide to get you though it and ensure you that you deserve success and that you can achieve your goals with confidence.
“Speak to yourself as you would your best friend. When self doubt creeps in shout NO or STOP. Be the friend you need and value in your life” – MUMBOSS
I feel like this is such an important quote and often something I need to be reminded myself and probably many other do too.
Mum Boss also has amazing advice for returning to work after maternity leave as that can be extremely unnerving. You can also feel a lot of guilt, and nobody feels guilt like a mum.
Vicki recommends being open with your employer and to ease gently back into your role if possible. She tells us that the standard work day doesn’t suit parents as working away from their children can be heart breaking and obviously, we want to spend as much time as possible with our babies. She tells us that Lucy Griffiths told her to use her maternity leave wisely and this is what we should all do! Although we’re tired (exhausted) and drained, we should imagine how life could be without the 9-5 commute and therefore plan and create what we want to do to achieve our dreams. We’re all hustlers if we put our mind too it!
The book makes the dream seem achievable for anyone, not just the fabulous girls we see on social media everyday. It helps us to realise when we are ready to reach out, how to go about it and the challenges we will face during. I think this is an essential guide for any mother or even just someone who wants a shot at setting up a blog or online business as there is so much advice in there from Vicki herself and also a select set of other professionals.
She tells her readers to plan and to not feel too nervous in front of the camera, or atleast don’t worry about your nerves because everyone feels nervous on camera! There is so much helpful advice about blogging and vlogging and what kit to use, what to post, when to post and how to get hired in the blogging world with a lot of PR tips and advice on getting noticed on social media.
“Remember that your body is made from stardust, so you are designed to shine” – MUMBOSS
I can’t recommend reading this enough, I think Vicki will have empowered a lot of women and helped them through difficult times with their baby and reminded them that they are able to achieve everything. That’s definitely the message I took from this as it helped me realise my feelings are normal and that actually, I’m doing pretty good. She has made me feel like a total Mum Boss! This would make a great gift for a new mum.
I think Vicki is a very inspirational woman who makes an excellent role model to women across the world with her empowering nature. We could all learn a thing or two from her!
Also, her boys are very lucky to be raised by a woman like her.
Also while you’re here, do yourself a huge favour and check out Vicki’s award winning blog, HonestMum.com
What’s it like to have a baby at University? 🎓 find out here –
This will be a long one so grab yourself a snack!
I started my degree in September 2016, after having a year out to work full time. I did this to make sure that it was definitely the degree I wanted to do because obviously, it’s a lot of money! I settled on English Literature and Journalism due to my adoration of writing. I felt that a combined degree like this kept my options open as at the time I was toying with the idea of being a Literature teacher, but I was also fascinated by the world of Journalism.
Instantly, I fell in love with both subjects and adored my time there.
Unfortunately, in the January of 2017, my Dad passed away. I was absolutely beyond heart broken and didn’t want to continue with anything in my life, never mind my degree. I wasn’t attending as much, I wasn’t putting the effort in. Outside of University, I wasn’t looking after myself at all and I became very poorly, both physically and mentally. I fell pregnant three months later and it was what I needed more than anything. At first I was terrified, I thought I was going to have to drop out and I was panicking so much!
Thankfully, the pregnancy had the opposite affect and I was more motivated than I’d ever been before. I quit smoking, stopped having three energy drinks a day, ate better, drank water and genuinely looked after myself and I felt amazing. Being pregnant gave me the drive and the motivation to want to make something of myself.
A lot of people asked me what I was going to do when I told them. I think in a lot of people’s eyes it was a case of abortion or abandoning my degree. Why does it have to be like that, though? I wanted both worlds and I believe that when you set your mind to something, nothing can hold you back.
I had eight weeks from finding out until breaking up for the summer and I spent those eight weeks walking out of lectures to be sick! I didn’t mind though. I was creating a beautiful baby inside of me and I was so motivated to succeed and get this degree not only for me, but for him too.
I told the University about my pregnancy and when the baby was due. It’s important that they know this and they know that you may be off for scans, hospital appointments etc. The vast majority of my lecturers were extremely supportive and kind about it all. The University will also help you to decide whether you want to put your studies on hold, or simply keep going. I decided to keep going because I thought it would be harder to leave and come back than just to keep pushing on. My tutor helped me to work my timetable for the semester after the birth of my son so that my contact hours would be minimal and it wouldn’t be too much of a strain or too difficult to find child care.
You also need to speak to Student Finances as you are entitled to an extra amount of money on top of your student loan and grants for being a parent in education.
When I started my second year of University I was approaching the six month mark and was visibly showing a bump. I’m not going to lie to you, people stare. I always took that as a compliment though. I only ever heard one person make a negative comment under their breath but every single other person was so supportive. Everyone in my class was asking questions and being kind and then just genuinely treating me like a normal student which is all I wanted.
My baby was growing a lot more than expected and I was off a few times for growth scans and appointments but like I mentioned, my lecturers were great. The only time my pregnancy ever affected my work is when I was expected to do a ten minute presentation infront of a lot of people at 34 weeks pregnant. I physically and mentally couldn’t do it and I was having anxiety attacks at the thought. I’d suffered from anxiety for years and this was bringing it all back, I was being sick, shaking and just feeling awful and I knew I couldn’t put myself or my baby through that. I was in hospital one night for reduced foetal movements that I believe was down to my stress and that was the last straw for me. My son will always come first and so I handed in a sick note from my doctor and forfeited the presentation. I then had to catch up in the Summer with an essay to improve that mark. It seemed awful at the time but know that if you ever have to do something like that, then it’s for the best. An assignment can be redone but you can’t take back any damage caused to you or your baby so always always always make sure you put you and your baby before your degree.
We broke up for Christmas break in December 2017 and I went into labour on January 8th 2018. I realised, when I was in labour, that I had two essays due on the 10th and the 11th of January, which I’d totally forgotten about. I went into the hospital at 11pm on the 8th and was sent home as I was only 2cm dilated. I then finished one of the two essays whilst frantically jumping around on my pregnancy ball between contractions. Finally, I went back into the hospital at 7.30am and I gave birth to my perfect baby boy at 16:37. Unfortunately, he was a little under the weather which meant that we had to stay in hospital until the 13th, but on the bright side this gave me the opportunity to finish that other essay that I totally forgot about.
I brought my gorgeous boy home and I had two weeks before I had to return to my studies, which was hard, as in a job you get a lot longer. I was just grateful that we were both ok and home safe and sound. I was sore, tired (exhausted) and anxious when I returned but I stayed at it and made sure that I kept up the best I could. My boy motivated me more than anything to keep going. Even though you may feel anxious and even depressed for what seems like forever, your confidence will bounce back and the dark clouds will always pass. It can’t rain forever!
If I didn’t have my friends and family behind me I’m not sure I would have made it this far they were so supportive and amazing. The friends I made at University always made sure I never fell behind and that I was doing my best so make sure you don’t push them away because you will need them more than ever.
The main key piece of advice I would give to a woman in my position is to accept all the help you can get because it’s not easy. University is such an emotionally demanding thing to go through with seemingly endless essays, presentations and reading. Having all that alone is hard enough, but whilst raising a new baby and coming to terms with your new life as a mum can sometimes feel impossible. I’m here to tell you it’s not. You can do whatever it is you want and you can achieve anything you want to achieve. With the right support, the motivation, the drive and the determination, you can do it. I promise! Just remember why you started and who you’re doing it for. Your future self will thank you and the feeling you get when they call your name on graduation day is worth it all.
I didn’t write this for any other reason than to tell mums to be in my situation that it can be done. You do not have to choose between being a mum and your education. You can do both. I promise.
If you are in my situation and would like a chat or someone to talk to about anything I’ve touched on, please do not hesitate to message me on Instagram or Twitter, I’d be more than happy to help. (@beccalhargate)
Stay strong and be the boss bitch you were born to be, the universe wouldn’t have given you this life if you couldn’t handle it.
Is Center Parks a toddler friendly break? 🌲 find out in my latest blog post.
For this years stay-cation, we opted for another trip to Whinfell Forest at Center Parcs for a long weekend. In this post I’ll be sharing my experience and finding out whether it’s a toddler friendly stay!
We did come here in 2017 when I was pregnant and then in 2018 when Leo was only eight months so there wasn’t too much for him to get up to that time, here’s to hoping there will be now that he’s an 18 month old now!
We didn’t check in until a bit later (in a bid to beat the rush) and quickly unpacked and went to put the car back to the car park. This is by far the most annoying part of the whole experience and the only negative, mainly for when you need to leave because the car park is quite a way from where we are staying.
We then hired two bikes and a trailer for Leo to sit in. You know how everyone says you never forget how to ride a bike? Well, I’d like to challenge that theory because I COULDN’T DO IT. Honestly, I was constantly almost falling off and driving myself into traffic, not a good look.
Anyways, it was £29 for each bike and then an extra £31 for the trailer at the back, which is expensive, however it is so much quicker to get around this way and cycling is a really good way to get some exercise. You’re also spoiled for choice on the cycle parking front so you can wizz round anywhere you like!
We stayed in the Lakeside Apartments which is an open plan complex that’s oh so cosy. It was perfect for the three of us with a travel cot and high chair provided.
God can we talk about this bath please!!! It’s a spa bath which means it turns into a mini whirlpool and it was the best bath I’ve ever had (and I have a lot)! Can’t even describe how relaxing it was! It did take us a while to figure out how to turn it on but after some excessive googling I figured it out. Incase you’re here to find the same information out – there’s a switch above the bathroom door on the outside which needs to be turned on (didn’t even know it was there until I googled) and then the bath needs to be over 70% full and then the light should start to flash green. Then, you just hold your finger on it for a few seconds and there you go! Amazing.
There is so much to do here – it’s impossible to do it all so it’s important to plan your days as much as you can. We booked all our activities prior to arrival to ensure spaces. On Saturday we went to musical movers – a baby group of singing and dancing. Then we went to toddler active play and football pool.
On the Sunday, my partner, Ben, went to the driving range before we headed to messy play and then to bowling on the evening!
Of course, we also fit swim sessions around all our activities, which leads me onto my next point …
There is free and unlimited use of the swimming pool from 10am-9pm everyday. There are so many different parts of the pool with slides, sprinklers, bubble pools, hot tubs and even outdoor pools. Honestly, laying in the outdoor pool in the sun made me feel like I was abroad! The swimming is a great way to burn your child’s energy so they sleep well, so would definitely recommend that for a good nights sleep!!
One of the best parts about Center Parcs is the amount of playgrounds there are for children!
This is the area where the swimming pool is along with restaurants, a supermarket, bowling, shops and a bar. Leo especially loved the supermarket because he got to push a mini trolley around!
Is Center Parcs Toddler Friendly?
Absolutely without a doubt! Everywhere you go caters for children and young families. The pubs/restaurants even have soft plays and free baby food facilities for you. I think it makes a great holiday for a weekend stay with a young family and even if you have older or younger children, there’s plenty for the whole family to get up to during your stay. I couldn’t recommend enough!
Have you ever been to Center Parcs? What did you think of it? Let me know. All the best,