A return to sports clubs

When I was on maternity leave I signed Arlo up to every baby group I possibly could. Originally because this gave me the chance to connect with parents of babies the same age. It gave us a routine and something to do every day, as being away from work meant that I thirsted for social interaction. We began with baby massage and baby sensory groups, and with every short session we went to, practitioners taught me about the benefits of their particular specialities and how to put in to practice techniques learnt during the classes to continue at home.

Playing with coloured ribbons on a wooden loop helped him learn to track movement with his eyes and focus on different colours and textures. It was an opportunity for us to bond. These types of groups basically taught me how to be a parent, hints and tips such as how to rub the tummy of a constipated baby were invaluable and I still share the things I learnt now with other parents who are struggling with the same issues. Many parents will tell you about the benefits of sports clubs for children.

The first official sports club I signed Arlo up to was swimming lessons, with a franchise called Water Babies, from twelve weeks old he was visiting the pool. Some people thought I was crazy taking him to a lesson where the teacher would “dunk him under the water” but this was the highlight of his week. Of course they don’t throw babies in at the deep end on day one, the structure of the lessons is aligned to chapters which build skills in the water and by the time Arlo was one he could roll from his tummy to his back, and clamber out of a pool safely himself – he was super confident in the water. This in turn made bath time at home a fun experience too.

As a group of no more than half a dozen children in a lovely heated pool the lessons would focus on taking turns to do things like duck under water and go through hoops with the instructor, and when Arlo was a little bit older end with a group activity where Arlo would be balanced on a float with his peers and the parents would sing “jelly on a plate” and wobble the float and then all the little ones would all splash with delight in to the water together. With the heatwave last year over lockdown it was fabulous to be able to get a paddling pool in the garden and see him have so much fun.

Arlo could swim before he could walk – as soon as he began to find his feet I started to take him to gymnastics groups. He was always a little whirlwind and as soon as he learned to put one foot in front of the other he was running rings around me, and I had to baby proof the entire house. Gymnastics club gave him a chance to find his centre of gravity safely. Each lesson began with a sing along group activity and then “free play” on the apparatus – he would crawl across balance beams and loved running across bounce mats which wobbled beneath him. As one of the youngest in the group he would imitate the older more experienced children and try to follow and copy them to develop new tricks. I see him put these skills in to practice when he’s in a play park and jumping off equipment.

Arlo’s favourite thing at gymnastics was the trampolines and so we joined another toddler bounce group. This was a wild 45 minutes of jumping, and it amazed me how well behaved the entire group of children was. Listening to instructions and taking it it turns, making sure they were jumping in the right places and helping each other as they clambered up and down. I was most grateful for the exhaustion, Arlo used to come out from these groups, eat a banana and then fall asleep for his nap. He still runs around like a loose canon but he’s got balancing skills, and seems to be able to find his centre of gravity and be very self aware.

Football was a whole new adventure.

This was the first sports club where Arlo had to have a kit to match all the other children and he found this hilarious. Like swimming, the course was structured in to a progressive skills dynamic. Each lesson focused on play based group activities – colour sorting cones, fetching all the balls and returning them to coach, and taking it in turns to shoot penalties. Every lesson a player was given the weekly trophy to take home and at the end of every six weeks his squad would have a little ceremony and receive badges and a certificate.

At two years old the transition from maternity leave to work was smooth because Arlo had no problems heading to nursery, being so used to other children and structured activities he was confident and happy with the new environments. Our clubs and groups gave us a weekly routine, a way of spending quality time together at the weekends and he would relate Saturdays to football, waking up first thing, rolling out of bed asking if it was Saturday yet then rummaging around for his kit and rushing me out of the front door. Then lockdown happened.

I didn’t appreciate our sports clubs and groups until suddenly we were all on our own and all groups and activities were cancelled. It’s true what they say, you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone. Our routine was up in the air and Arlo really missed his friends and clubs. Of course we made some amazing memories together over lockdown, and Arlo, now nearly four has amazed me with just how much he has grown in a year and how resistant he has been to all of the change. I did the best I could to encourage him to continue with his sports and we joined in with lots of online activities to try out at home.

I think Its safe to say that lockdown is very nearly over, I took Arlo to the pool for the first time last week. He dressed himself for the occasion and jumped right in as if he hadn’t missed out on a year. I stopped to have a socially distanced chat with another parent who remarked that he had no fear of the water and explained that she was struggling with her little one, who at the age of just over one year had never been to a swimming pool before. It made me so sad to think that there’s so many children who have missed out on the opportunity for the social interaction which comes through attending sports clubs and it’s made me realise now how important they are.

My advice to any parent would be to look out for local groups and activities, use social media to find out what’s on – most sports clubs have got children’s groups so it’s just a case of finding a club which is age appropriate – get in touch and ask to visit for a taster session. I’m signing Arlo up for rugby next, because he loves a bit of rough and tumble and he’s also suddenly become obsessed with ninjas(no idea where from) so I’m looking for a martial arts group to help him learn how to take a safe flying kick, and not from my sofa.

The crunchiest Snack Ever – Love Corn review

We received this awesome PR package from Love Corn, inviting us to try out their range of corn kernel snacks. Arlo was delighted to open the box which was full of all sorts of fun little treats but was most excited about trying out the different flavours. He is a little snack monster (no idea where he gets that from). I have always been passionate about making sure he has a balanced and healthy diet but it’s getting harder now to find treats for him which aren’t full of rubbish.

“Our ingredients are as simple as they get, just corn that’s been roasted then seasoned – no need to overcomplicate something so crunchin’ good!” – Love Corn

These little packs of corn kernels make the ideal treat to pop in to our back pack for days out and will be awesome when he starts school. A great alternative to crisps, especially with the range of flavours available. They also offer different sized pouches including a sharer size for movie night snacks. I have to admit that my favourite flavour is the Habanero Chilli – they really pack a punch.

Arlo liked the smoked BBQ flavour the most, and the first time we had a little garden soirée I found myself sharing these snacks with guests, just like you would usually offer pretzels or nuts and they went down a storm. I’ve been munching on these ever since they first arrived and I’ve even been using them as a salad topper to provide extra texture and flavour.

You can get your hands of a FREE sample pack by just paying for postage (£1.99) over at the Love Corn website and 20% off the entire website using the code CRUNCH20! Keep an eye out on our socials for a cheeky little competition too!

Planning a family budget

Life has changed so much for us over the last twelve months, just like it has for everyone. As the pace of life slowed right down I realised just how much money I was wasting on things which aren’t at all necessary. I’ve gone a year without drinks from coffee shops on my daily commute and when I think about how much cash that’s saved me I can’t believe I used to spend so much. Inspired by Chantelle from Two Hearts one Roof’s recent Family Budget blog I’ve been making some changes.

Of course the occasional treat is good for the soul – and Arlo enjoys a hot chocolate when we are out and about just as much as me but I’m focused on keeping track of just how much money I’m not spending and putting that aside for rainy days using online Calculators. Now that things are back open it’s great to be able to use my savings fund to book tickets and support some of the places we love to explore.

Just this last week we took a trip to the coast for the first time in over a year and I managed to save myself a huge amount of money by booking a caravan instead of a hotel through a newspaper offer. This worked out better for us because the caravan park had all sorts of amenities available such as swimming pools and entertainment but best of all, it was self catered and so I wasn’t spending money on three meals and snacks – with lockdown only just ending I wasn’t sure quite what would be open so it’s a great idea all around.

I’ve been making the most of meal kits from companies such as Hello Fresh this year, using these helps me massively cut down on food wastage which is great for the environment. I love these because I can treat myself to something different without spending big on ingredients. In fact I checked my spending history in takeaway food apps – I can order four family meals for the cost of one of my average takeaway orders. The other plus is that I’m not going to the supermarket as much and adding extras to the basket which I don’t need. I took one of these to the caravan with us and I’m going to do this every time we go away.

I’ve also been using the internet to find discount codes and offers for family friendly days out – we managed to get a toddler and parent pass to Chessington theme park for a weekday price of £25 which saved £67. Being flexible with dates for activities and planning ahead, or alternatively looking for last minute deals is a great way to save.

I’m going to be spending a year on a student income, not having my corporate salary is going to be a big change for me and so making my savings work for me is a head scratching conundrum. I’ve worked out my monthly family budget and have been setting myself financial goals to work towards using this calculator – essentially it works out exactly how much to put aside each month to reach your goals and also factors in interest. Every time I save myself a little bit extra I keep track and now I’m finding it fun and exciting to try and beat my own goals. Stretching out my Sunday roast leftovers now has become somewhat of a weekly challenge.

Play time online

Arlo is getting to the stage now where he’s interested in games and competition. He’s always claiming he’s the winner, it’s always a race to brush your teeth the fastest or climb up to top of a hill first, and so I began to introduce games to him at Christmas. One of our absolute favourites is crocodile dentist – I had this as a little girl and it’s so much fun.

A relatively simple context, you crank own the jaws of a plastic crocodile and take it in turns to press down his teeth, and the game ends when someone presses the wrong tooth and his jaws snap shut. This concept absolutely delights Arlo and we often play this a dozen times in a row. Taking turns is one thing which I think is especially useful to learn for when he approaches “big school” in September.

We have also started to play snakes and ladders. I pulled out an old set from the loft and he enjoys counting the dots on the dice and stepping his counter across the corresponding squares. Just recently he has begun to plan ahead and try to “cheat” and miss the snakes heads and skip straight to a ladder. Obviously I call him out and try to have a fair game, but inside I’m marvelling at how the cogs in his brain are working at problem solving.

To me games aren’t just about passing the time, or to pull out on a rainy day when you’re bored they’re helping him learn through positive interaction. I started thinking about some of my favourite games and how technology was also introduced to me through games as a child. Back when I was Arlo’s age I remember there being one computer introduced at nursery and we would take it in turns to play with a painting app where the mouse would trail blaze a series of stars across the screen in technicolour.

This sent me down a nostalgic trip down memory Lane as I recalled using Encarta to research my homework and playing minesweeper on the first ever desktop computer we owned at home and so of course I had to search online for the game. Then I had to mooch through the website to see what else I could find to play with.

Arlo gets to use a computer at nursery and I’m told he sits nicely with his peers, takes it in turn to select games and that he gets quite involved with immersive concepts and so I’ve been looking to find some simple games which we can play online together too, we don’t have a games console at home and so I needed things we could play from my phone together. It’s been great to find this free online catalogue of simple games to play together whilst on a U.K. staycation – I’m often reluctant to bring board games out with us and risk losing the pieces but we have played several online games together this week.

One of the first games I came across was pipe mania – this fits in with the things he’s learning about at the moment with construction, we organise all sorts of play based activities with water tables in the garden too, and using a game together for short amounts of time compliments this. As a parent I feel it’s important to introduce small amounts of screen time in a constructive way so that Arlo understands how user interfaces work, but I don’t want to get any expensive games consoles or anything like that at this stage.

Pipe Mania from plays.org is a relatively simple place to begin – again a really simple concept game strategy, where you find a grid filled with pipes which need to be connected to allow the water to flow through. I’ve played this with Arlo as it’s a relatively simple game concept, to play you simply tap the pipes arranged on the grid and they rotate in to place – once they are all connected you press the play button and watch the water flow. Then points rack up with a pinging audio giving positive feedback and taking you on to a more challenging level.

This website has a whole host of games you can browse through to find something to play and the best thing is that they’re all free. There’s no apps to install or hidden charges, simply scroll through the games and tap through to play. Each game comes with a brief description and detailed instructions although the concepts are relatively simple and as you progress through levels you pick up the game play techniques as you go along. I have to admit that I’ve been enjoying the “snake” games myself which remind me of the first ever mobile phone I had. I didn’t think they made games like this anymore so it’s been a pleasure to find a new twist on some retro classics.

All things Wild

Yesterday we visited All things Wild, a family attraction based near Evesham in Worcester. I have nothing but positive feedback for this place as we had such a wonderful time yesterday and we can’t wait to revisit. Of course yesterday the sun shone down and for the first time in forever we were wandering around in our t shorts for most of the day which certainly helped matters as of course everything is outdoors at the moment and the indoor attractions are closed.

This however had no impact on us as there was so much to do. When we arrived at our pre booked arrival time slot we were greeted by a friendly attendant at a small outdoor kiosk, and Arlo was given a wrist band to enter. The first thing he spotted was a fabulous wooden play area, and he would have been happy to run around this all day but as soon as he spotted the enclosure behind with meerkats and porcupines he realised that there were animals to see and off he ran.

The grounds are marked out in a one way system with arrows and no entry signs which makes it easy to wander around, and at various points there are short cuts so that you can skip around and get to your favourite places. I think yesterday we went around three times in total. At first Arlo ran around at speed just wanting to see everything and then when we got back to the beginning he said he wanted to go back to various places.

So where to begin? Just past the first few animal enclosures which are all beautifully maintained with healthy and happy animals we went through to a huge meadow, lawn and second play park area. This location of the grounds had everything, from a mud kitchen of childhood dreams, to a barefoot trail, musical instruments, a go kart track, mini golf and more. I did notice that throughout there were plenty of hand washing and sanitising spots and notices to politely ask guests to take only ten minutes at each area. With so much to see and do this isn’t a challenge.

Just beyond the open field there is a nature trail with some magnificent bug houses to explore and of course Arlo took his time wandering around here with big houses great and small along the route, plus all manner of sculptures, and informative signs to read. There are worksheets for trails you can print from the website in advance of your visit as around the site there are stamps to collect and so many things to spot.

Just after the nature trail we found the entrance to invite us to step back through time. I knew that this was a dinosaur attraction but I was not prepared for just how wonderful this would be and neither was Arlo. As soon as we got to the bend in this woodland path and could see the field ahead of us full of enormous dinosaur sculptures we were in awe.

I can’t even describe how excited Arlo was, he of course can identify all sorts of dinosaurs but we came across some new ones to add to his encyclopaedic knowledge.

Each dinosaur had a very handy sign with how to pronounce its name and more information about each creature. We also spotted interactive prompts throughout this area which were perfect for his age. “Can you stretch as tall as a diplodocus?”

There were Picnic benches and spaces spotted throughout the park providing plenty of room for families to picnic and maintain social distance, and it was a pleasure to greet so many families enjoying their days out on our travels. At the end of the dinosaur trail Arlo really enjoyed the play areas, mainly because they included lots of sand pits.

He was happy to clamber on board a real digger and then also play in a digger themed sand pit with a slide right beside it, placed in the shadow of a real army helicopter. It’s the stuff of his childhood dreams to see all of these things and get to look at them close up, and this is all before we properly had a chance to meet any animals. By this stage it was time for a snack and so we paused at the vintage bus shack for cold drinks and ice cream before setting off again.

Just behind the bus Arlo spotted some “creatures” and so it didn’t take long for us to set off again, following the one way system around a series of paddocks and enclosures. I was expecting children’s farm animals, and was more than happy to meet chickens and goats etc, but I wasn’t prepared to come across camels and zebras here too, never mind everything else!

The variety of animals All things Wild has to engage with is immense. Arlo didn’t know which way to look and was totally in his element as we ambled along at our own pace. Every so often Arlo would spot something new and run off ahead to investigate, the design of the enclosures is fantastic for little ones with viewing windows at just the right height throughout the park.

Most of this area has very wide paths and so people could pass by us safely as we took our time greeting all manner of creatures from parrots to monkeys, and again picnic benches spotted around for rest spots, by the end of the day I’d easily covered my 10,000 steps and more. The pathways are all flat so easy for strollers and pushchairs to navigate.

The farm yard walk through experience with the friendly goats was a highlight for Arlo as they crowded around us for attention, and he confidently stood right in the middle of them all. Then we went on to meet donkeys and a pony and bunnies – and we also spotted a lovely little collection of Fancy mice just like Bingo, Arlo’s mouse at home before coming to another hand washing station.

After this area we washed our hands after handling the animals and I was expecting to be back at the beginning again, but we turned left and went on another route, which took us through an Australian themed area with kangaroos, Emu’s and all sorts just before we came to the boundary line where there were more goats to greet along a beautiful trail, and just opposite some Rhea’s. Now Arlo knows the difference between a Rhea, an Ostrich and an Emu and will talk about this for an hour if you ask him.

We paused under the blossom trees beside this path to have another snack, but before I could pack up Arlo was off again as he spotted something in the distance, and he ran back to tell me he’d found some lemurs. I did spot signs here and back in the Australian yard for walk through animal attractions which are closed for the time being but this didn’t dampen our day at all, Arlo didn’t even notice and so the next time we get a chance to visit and I tell him he can walk through enclosure with parrots – he’s going to be beside himself.

We got back to the beginning after two hours and Arlo had another run around in the play park, and I got us some chips from the take away cafe (and I noticed an insane looking indoor soft play area behind some closed off screens). There were plenty of benches around the play park and two structures, one for the little ones and one for older children so Arlo enjoyed these for a while before coming over to tell me he wanted to see the dinosaurs again, and so off we went. The second time we wandered around the grounds we spotted so much more we’d missed out because there is just so much to see.

Arlo’s favourite spot was another sandpit which had a hidden dinosaur fossil to find. We’ve been making our own fossils with clay at home and it made his day to discover T Rex teeth.

There were swings and more sandpits and of course a second chance to visit the ice cream kiosk at this stage before heading back to see more animals. My personal favourite were the beavers, I don’t think I’ve seen any before and didn’t realise they were so big.

There was also a huge selection of birds and parrots Arlo took his time watching, especially because we found the parrots, with an African Grey just like Sam at home. We also spotted Macaws and Hawks in different spots and now we were mid afternoon some of the monkeys and other animals we didn’t spot earlier were out and about in their enclosures.

We were enjoying the warm weather and so for the remainder of the afternoon we wandered around again taking shortcuts and headed back to the meadow and play area, where Arlo became head chef of the mud kitchen. I watched him from a distance just enjoying himself and playing happily with other children also making the most of the sunshine and then we both took off our shoes and went along the barefoot walk together – a fabulous sensory experience.

We had such a wonderful time here and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. At the end of every day I ask Arlo what his favourite things were and last evening he told me “everything” before reeling off a list of animals. He eventually fell asleep in the car on the way home exhausted from our day and clutching on to his dinosaur toy purchased from the gift shop.

The tickets were £14 each – amazing value for money, car parking was free. There are toilet and hand washing facilities, a reasonably priced take away cafe at the main entrance, along with the ice cream kiosk and picnics are welcome. Even with the indoor attractions closed this makes for a fantastic day out and is now on the top of the list for recommendations of family days out in the Midlands.

The Zog Trail at Warwick Castle

We had a wonderful day out last week at Warwick Castle. The unpredictable weather we’ve been experiencing lately seemed to settle for one day and the sun shone down on us as we explored the castle grounds. I booked our tickets online in advance and the trail was included in the ticket price. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s a fabulous tale from the author of the Gruffalo. A dragon called Zog enrols at dragon school and the trail followed the book as he progresses through each school year.

Arlo is very familiar with the story and the backdrop of the castle emerged him right in to the magic of story telling. I packed a bag with our book and a stethoscope (if you know you know) and as soon as we arrived we were greeted at the castle entrance by lovely team members who gave us our trail passport to stamp throughout the grounds. You will require a face mask at the main entrance. The first year at dragon school Zog learns to fly.

This beautiful large sculpture greeted us very near to the main entrance and it was easy enough to figure out how the trail worked – with five different locations to represent the school years in the book all marked out with bright orange and blue bunting, so there’s no chance you can miss the locations in the grounds which are marked on the map. Everything is of course outdoors and so although there were little queues as families ahead of us were taking pictures, it was easy to maintain social distance, and this was the same throughout.

As we wandered down towards the castle we were greeted by a knight, and Arlo was in awe – we in fact met several characters dressed up as we wandered around the grounds and they were all fantastic, happy to pose for pictures but also really engaging with the children, bringing the magic and immersive experience to life. This particular knight noticed Arlo’s personalised clothing and so greeted him with a “good day sir Arlo” which delighted him.

The second and third parts of the trail were near to the horrible histories maze and so we spent a decent amount of time getting lost in World War One trenches and a Viking armoury before we even entered the castle courtyard. I think it’s fascinating for Arlo to have this kind of experience, I have a fondness for history myself and to see him connect the dots and realise that Viking’s are (or were) real and not just fiction is fabulous.

Back to the trail – the second and third locations were interactive – there are “stamping pads” in front of each exhibition display which Arlo was familiar with because at the Christmas light trail these were jumped on to change the colours of the lights in the castle grounds. This time the set for the second year of dragon school gave our delightful roars with a good stomp, and the third year display shot out water to put out the accidental fires. At each display area the story of the book was to be heard as it was read out over the tannoy system.

As we headed across to the Castle, Arlo spotted another Knight, on horseback and at this point he decided he wanted to be a knight too – and conveniently the first gift shop was just through the gates and so he got a sword, shield and helmet. I did notice that some families had come prepared and their kids were dressed up as knights for the outing (a great idea if you want to avoid the gift shops on the day). These accessories came in very handy when we went back to Dragon School.

The interior castle grounds are decked out with socially distanced bench seating and there are mobile catering units here serving all sorts of snacks and treats, so here was a good spot to pause for elevensies and to use the loos, before heading across to climb up on an adventure up the castle fortress. “Sir Arlo” led the way and as we got to the top we paused for a while to take in the scenic views which were stunning. Clearly a great spot for a castle, and there’s some interesting signs throughout this area which let you know all about the history of the castle.

I took so many pictures at the castle, how could you not?

Arlo stopped and looked over the grounds spotting a Zog trail location in the distance and so we ambled down and strolled across the river to learn to rescue a princess. I love that in the book gender stereotypes and the tradition of fairy tales having damsels in distress is turned upside down.

Princess Pearl in fact is a strong independent character and ends up helping Zog and so this children’s book has a fabulous twist to its plot. None the less it was fun seeing the adventure course set up at this area to practice princess rescuing with the backdrop of the magnificent castle.

After all of this hard work it was time for us to find a picnic spot, and so back across the bridge to the expansive lawns we found a grassy riverside spot just opposite the boathouse, and to our delight we spotted deer across the water popping in and out of view. There were more mobile catering units in this area available and plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy the spring afternoon and scenic views.

Arlo tucked in to his packed lunch and we pulled out the story book to read it through and recap our adventures of the day so far. With one more year of dragon school left to complete he was hyped up to wander around and try to find Zog again.

We took the long route the grounds through pageant field and around to the peacock gardens, playing hide and seek around some of the most magnificent trees on our travels.

There were peacocks everywhere you looked in the gardens, you could hear them before you saw them. We were lucky enough to see them display their feathers proudly for us to take some pictures and they seemed to love the attention, either that or they were competing between themselves.

There is a lovely terrace here overlooking the gardens which is open for seated alcoholic drinks if you’re tempted, and you can also purchase takeaway ice creams, which Arlo spotted a mile off. There’s another toilet facility here just behind the building too.

Just around from the gardens the final year of dragon school is set up, on the lawn in the shadow of the castle fortress. At this location Sir Gadabout appears at appointed times to award students with their gold stars. To earn your badge and complete dragon school you have to engage in a game of Sir Gadabout says (just like Simon says). This is where Arlo’s sword and armour came in handy – there was plenty of up and down, point to the sky, kneeling etc for him to participate and he thoroughly enjoyed this part of the day.

Once you’ve earned your final stamp in your passport you can meet and greet a mascot Zog and show him your star and get a photo opportunity. Of course as it turns out the Princess doesn’t need rescuing, but you’ll have to read the book to find out how their adventures end. We spent the best part of five hours at the Castle enjoying the open space, having such a warm day made it all the more enjoyable, well worth the cost of ticket entry, which was £17 for adults and free for under threes.

How to dress sustainably in bamboo

We have been making adjustments to our lifestyle recently, based on Arlo’s love for nature and his new found responsibility for being eco – friendly. He has been learning about pollution at pre-school and we have also been learning about recycling too. I’m not going to pretend to be an earth mother, I still have a long way to go before I can claim that we are a sustainable family so right now my focus is on making as many small changes as we can.

This kind of decision requires taking a long hard look at the kind of lifestyle we lead and trying to figure out where we can make changes, and so we have switched to reusable straws, and water bottles. We have switched to a green energy company and we have planted flowers for bees and butterflies in the garden. These kinds of fun projects do contribute in a small way and help educate Arlo but when it comes down to it, focusing on the products we purchase and researching their manufacturing, packaging and general Green policies is a new way of thinking for us.

So alongside the food we eat and cleaning chemicals we use the one main thing we need to focus on is our clothing. This is a tough one for us because I have a diverse wardrobe. I will spend money on timeless classic pieces which will be worn many times but I also have “fast fashion” items of clothing which have a short lifespan and often come with questionable ethical manufacturing histories. From the very beginning with Arlo I started to fill up his wardrobe and every time he out grew an age category I would spend hours sorting through clothes.

Back then on maternity pay it made sense to sell some of the better pieces of clothing he had which retained their value and donate the rest. I quickly learnt to shop around for clothing which was a better quality, when it comes to something as simple as a white baby vest, you can go through dozens in a week. You can buy packs of five for a couple of pounds from a fast fashion retailer, or you can shop around. I think by the time Arlo was around six months I learnt the value of organic cotton.

I also started to look at handmade clothing, I wanted him to have unique outfits and stand out from the crowd, but I also didn’t want to irritate his skin with polyester and cotton blends and I found that many small business owners established themselves because of similar needs and it made sense to shop with small business owners who had transparent manufacturing processes and who could provide high quality clothing. This is when I first learnt about bamboo textiles.

The added bonus now is that due to the rise in popularity of social media it’s easy to source clothing for children using hashtags on Instagram and there’s a market for resale of clothing with dozens of Facebook groups dedicated to parents who help extend the lifespan of children’s clothing. So all of this is great but where does it leave adults?

Over the last year I’ve learnt that I don’t really need to rely on fast fashion, I’ve been putting comfort to the top of my priorities whilst working from home, and with non essential retail closed for the best part of twelve months I’ve figured out which items in my wardrobe last longer, wash well and feel great too. I certainly don’t feel as though I need a new outfit for every single occasion and have learnt that it is worth investing in clothing which feels great to wear, not just because of the way it looks but because of the way it’s made.

Bamigo’s casual bamboo T-shirts have many features that distinguish them from other shirts. Alongside the subtle details and the unique composition of the fabric, you can expect the trademark quality and comfort you expect from Bamigo products. Excellent breathability and added length contribute to an unparalleled fit and feel. In short, you get comfort, softness and elegance all in a superior T-shirt with a relaxed fit.

This is just one more small conscious change that I can make as a consumer to make sure that my impact on the world has as small a carbon footprint as possible. There’s still a long way to go but it’s one small step at a time which counts in the long term, for Arlo and for all the other children who will inherit the world we leave behind.

Returning to the West Midlands Safari Park

Every day for the last three months Arlo has been asking to go to the Safari park – as annual pass holders we would visit regularly prior to lockdown and it’s quite literally one of his most favourite places to visit and so of course it had to be the first place we went to when the countries outdoor attractions re-opened on April 12th.

We always park up as soon as we arrive and head to the walk about areas when they are the quietest. You greet the penguins first thing and then can go and wander around the ice age and dinosaur exhibits. Arlo literally ran through these areas as if he was checking that everything was still in place, and I found myself sprinting to keep up with him. With not too many people around in the morning we had unrivalled fun.

Of course the indoor attractions such as the reptiles and lorikeets are closed but as we were graced with the sunshine we were happy to wander around outside, and ambled down to the far corners of the Safari park to greet the hippos and I bought Arlo a wrist band to enjoy some rides, he’s now over 1m tall and so can go on quite a few of the different rides. As an annual pass holder I get a Discount on these and so he went on his first roller coaster, and my personal favourite – the Log Flume.

This area of the park opens at 11am and we noticed that the drive through Safari was jam packed when we first arrived, but cars started to space out by noon and the park area was a lot busier, so we went against the grain and retraced our steps back to our car, pausing to get some lunch. I usually take a packed lunch but we fancied something warm and so I queued up for a takeaway chicken and chips, and we paused to eat before heading on Safari.

We were delighted to see so many of the giraffes out and about from the moment we entered the drive thru, there’s nothing quite like the sheer delight of seeing Arlo’s face as they lean down to the windows and peer in to see if you have any animal food. I highly recommend purchasing a pack or two upon arrival for this experience.

The roads were still busy as we drove around but we really enjoyed watching all of the animals who seemed to be living their best lives – I caught this rhino rolling around in the mud to cool off and Arlo thought this was hilarious. I did ask Arlo to tel me his cavities animal and he said “everything” – and started listing off all the different animals in the order we usually see them, but things have changed recently at the Safari Park.

The route has changed and there’s still some building works taking place around the new Safari lodge area, and so now the drive experience takes longer, we were in the car for around two and a half hours, and I expect this would take longer in the morning. So it’s a good idea to use the loos before you start, there’s a one way system at the block in the car park so even though it’s busy, it doesn’t take long.

As we went past the cheetahs Arlo was in full form, telling me all about how they’re the fastest animal in the world. At home over lockdown I’ve been filling the gaps by letting him watch David Attenborough and so he acted like a little tour guide, and was telling me things which I had to fact check on Google as we went around, but he’s always right!

My personal highlight was meeting Inesh the new baby rhino, we watched as his mum and another rhino were having a little bit of a confrontation and running around their paddock. I didn’t realise that rhinos could move that quickly and we ended up watching for a good fifteen minutes, before moving on to see more of the animals.

You know you’re near the end of the Safari when you come back to the African plains and are greeted by the zebras and the giraffes once more. Animals often congregate here as they know they will get fed by visitors and so it can create a little bit of a bottleneck but the park keepers do well to herd the animals around and make sure they aren’t blocking the traffic. There’s two lanes for cars all the way around the park and so you can use these lanes and pass cars if you want to.

After we had completed the drive experience we went back to the walk around areas, Arlo had an ice cream and we went back on some more rides and wandered right to the back of the area to find the children’s play park and the African Village. The park at the Safari is a lovely space for little ones, very bright and cheerful and with plenty of bench seating, toilets with baby change facilities and a take away coffee stall it’s a fab place to pause with little ones.

Before retracing our steps back through the park at home time we visited lemur woods, at this time in the early evening it was deserted and all of the lemurs were gathered near the main entrance, anticipating feeding time I think, and so we got to see them up close. Adults have to wear masks in this area and there’s hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit, and in fact throughout the park to use.

Arlo had an absolutely wonderful day and it felt, dare I say it “normal?” I have to praise the staff, who were all really friendly and acknowledged Arlo as he greeted everyone he encountered. He fell asleep in the car on the way home and just like that our first day out of lockdown was over. I’ll be renewing my annual pass so that we can visit regularly.

Yours is the Earth – making changes to reduce waste

Arlo is absolutely obsessed with all things relating to the natural world. He could name a dozen animals before he could recognise colours and he continually surprises us now with amazing nature facts. Just yesterday on our way to the Safari Park he told me that ants were one of the strongest animals – I had to use google to fact check and he was right. Leaf cutter ants can carry up to fifty times their own body weight and so they are indeed one of the strongest animals in the world.

It’s little surprise therefore that Arlo is showing an interest in the environment at such a young age. His nursery already covers topics such as recycling, and cutting down plastic waste to save the worlds oceans. He is very conscious about such matters and when we are out and about he often notices “trash” and tells me all about how naughty it is to see discarded coffee cups, he is very careful about using the right bins and we love that so many tourist attractions now offer recycling and waste bins to patrons. Every time he points something out like this it makes me second guess my own actions. I’m a creature of habit but making an effort to change.

I know that we can’t change all that’s wrong in the world as individuals, but with Arlo’s lead I’ve started paying attention to the little things we can do to reduce the amount of waste we generate which in turn goes to having a small impact on the environment around us. One of the first switches we made was to re-useable water bottles. We are always out and about, and switching to a water bottle which we top up from home has stopped us from buying countless drinks, it also saves us money and my top tip to parents is to freeze a half full bottle on its side overnight, top up with fresh water and you’ll have a lovely cool drink to quench your thirst.

We now have a recycling bin and a normal waste bin which are collected weekly and I like to try and challenge myself to make sure that there’s as little as possible in the household waste bin. Of course we already keep all of our cardboard and all sorts of bits and bobs to use in our craft projects, even making up toys for our parrot. I was however dismayed to notice just how much rubbish is generated from the packaging of products which we buy.

Sam loved his home made egg box foraging toy which we filled with nuts and treats for him to find.

We have made lots of changes to the way we buy food this last year, choosing loose fruit and veg which isn’t packed in plastic and also visiting a local zero waste initiative to buy dry foods such as pasta and use our own reusable containers to bring it home. It’s great to see brands committing to helping consumers by eliminating plastic waste from production and manufacturing which in turn has a greater impact on the world.

Brands such as Nereus are taking on the challenge and partnering with a fabulous organisation called Plastic Bank – a Canadian organisation who are experts in their field. They have officially prevented 1 billion bottles of ocean plastic, by concentrating on Recycling and coming up with innovative and enterprising solutions to repurpose plastic which in turn has a direct impact on the communities in which they work. Plastic Bank’s Social Plastic® ecosystems result in improved access to employment, education, services, and technology for developing communities across the globe.

Once we cut down our waste at home drastically through our food packaging, it was also apparent just how many other ways we could make changes. We have switched to using more environmentally focused brands. It’s a big part of our decision making when it comes to being consumers, our washing tablets now come as a monthly subscription in cardboard packaging and some of our cleaning products now have reusable bottles which are topped up with sachets rather than utilising the dreaded single use plastic. I find myself browsing the environmental policies of all brands I’m interested in.

I even turned our attention to our toothbrushes last year and we made a switch to bamboo brushes which eliminates needless waste as they have to be discarded every three months. These are such small changes but goodness knows how many plastic toothbrushes are in landfill right now. I’ve gone through at least a hundred in my lifetime, but we all have to start somewhere.

Next time you’re putting the bins out take a look and see if there’s anything you could change, not just for yourself but for those who will inherit the world we leave behind.