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      Aug 20, 2017
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Category: Blog

Toys that Help Develop Gross Motor Skills
Toys that Help Develop Gross Motor Skills

Gross Motor Skills are the movement and coordination of larger body parts like arms and legs. For most children, this comes naturally, but for others, it needs to be encouraged and helped along. Gross motor skills are needed for everyday activities – balancing, walking, running, throwing and catching. For babies, it includes sitting up, rolling over and crawling. Gross motor skills develop before fine motor skills. Here are some exercises you can do to help your child strengthen their gross motor skills.

  1. Lie your baby in a baby activity centre/baby gym. These are generally colourful rugs that have toys dangling down. Show your child the toys and encourage them to reach for them. Usually, these toys will have some extra special effects – some may be on elastic so it’s possible for your child to pull them and watch them bounce back or others may have crinkle sounding material or a squeak area for your child to press and listen to.

My first nici activity centre baby gym gross motor skills baby present babies gift

2. Lie your baby on the floor on a soft rug. Put their favourite toy near them but not within arm’s reach. Then encourage them to roll over to get it or crawl over to get it. Don’t make it too difficult for them and encourage them as they try and when your baby gets bored with this ‘game’ move onto something else.

Ragtales oscar dog favourite baby toy gross motor skills soft toys for babies

3. When your child is about 10 months old, buy or borrow a ‘walker’. This will help them balance while they learn to walk.

Small Foot Design Legler Baby walker with blocks wooden toys gross motor skills help learning to walk balance

4. Play ball games with your child. When your child is young, use a soft ball but as they get older and more competent, introduce heavier balls. Start with throwing and catching. Then try kicking and saving with their feet. Learning and strengthening gross motor skills should be fun. Use a light ball or balloon and play a game of trying to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible.

Goki soft baby ball gross motor skills

5. Spend time at your local playground. Even small children can learn skills like climbing steps (up to a slide) and balance (on swings)

6. As your child gets older, help improve their balance with jumping games. Buy a skipping rope or some street chalk and draw a hopscotch or an obstacle course on your driveway or path outside your house. Or invest in a trampoline.

Street chalk pavement sidewalk chalk outdoor fun chunky chalks gross motor skills

7. On a wet, cold day, play some dance music and get your child dancing. Teach them new moves like rolling your hands, pointing your feet, and swaying to the music. All these will strengthen their gross motor skills without costing you a cent. Younger children may prefer learning action nursery rhymes.

8. If you have a garden or a large room in your house, then buy a play tent with a tunnel. This encourages crawling.

As you can see, strengthening your child’s gross motor skill doesn’t have to be expensive and can be fun. However, it will take time-investment as you participate in these activities with your child and encourage them every step of the way.

Xx Suzie

6 Christening Gift Ideas for a Baby Girl
6 Christening Gift Ideas for a Baby Girl

 

Hi there I was looking for something for a baby girl for her christening. I have searched your website but can’t quite see anything. I wanted a special wooden toy or gift but was looking to spend 30 euro or so I know this may not be enough .do you have any suggestions? Thank you

Thanks for your message and sorry it has taken me so long to spot it. I love getting questions like this and regularly, I’ll post my answers up on a blog so it helps other people looking for similar things. Most toys are certified for children aged 3+ (to mainly protect the producer, in case a child swallows a small part and the parent makes a claim). This means that toys that are designed with younger children in mind are placed in my ‘age 3+ category’. If you saw these toys in a toy shop, you probably wouldn’t see the age restriction and you’d buy it. Anyway, although the child is small now, I think you’re looking for a keepsake type of toy that she will play with for some time?
The wooden pull along toys are very popular and durable and are perfect for children who push toys around the floor and crawl after them. When they are a little older, they can walk and pull them behind them. Since they are wooden, they are the kind of toys that once the child has finished playing with them, they will be put in the attic for the next generation. I stock 3 pull along toys. The Owl one is really pretty and has a baby owl who fits inside the mummy one but can be pushed along separately. Along with the owl one, I stock Luhna the Dog and a Snail. These three toys are priced less than €20 each.

Pull along owl christening gift toy present

One of my favourite wooden toy brands is Le Toy Van and the Bird House Shape Sorter is gorgeous. I gave one to my niece when she turned one and she still plays with it.

le toy van birdhouse shape sorter wooden toys christening present

If it is more of a keepsake gift rather than a toy that she will play with regularly, then I’d recommend the Ragtales Tooth Fairy. I know it’s not wooden but it is gorgeous and it will come out every time she loses a tooth (approx aged 5-12 years). This little tooth fairy has a backpack for the tooth to be placed in and then, overnight, she returns the tooth to wherever tooth fairies bring them and comes back with money in her backpack for the child. When she’s not busy, she lives in a gorgeous box.

Ragtales Toothfairy keepsake gift toy

Another lovely keepsake toy that she will grow into, but which isn’t wooden, are musical jewelry boxes. I have two designs, both made by Djeco. This is something that she will grow into and will love and will be reminded that you gave it to her on that special day.

Princess musical jewellery box christneningk keepsake present

If you are thinking of an educational toy that she will grow into, the Melissa and Doug Shape Sequence Sorting Set is lovely.

Melissa and Doug Shape Sequence Sorting Set wooden keepsake toy educational toy christening present

Or, how about buying her her first wooden tea set . Again, she may not appreciate it now (to be fair, she probably won’t appreciate anything you buy her at this age unless it’s a Lega or Rusk!) but it’s a toy that she will grow into. My girls are 6 and 7 years old and they still play with their play food regularly.

Wooden tea set wooden toys christening gifts

Sorry again for taking so long to reply. I hope you find the perfect gift, either from me or elsewhere.

Kind Regards,
Suzie

7 Quiet Activities for 3-Year-Olds
7 Quiet Activities for 3-Year-Olds

My sister has a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. During term time, her daughter gets to sleep in peace in the morning as her son is at playschool. However, now that he is on his school holidays, my sister is looking for quiet activity ideas to do with him while his sister sleeps, which could last for a couple of hours each day.

Here’s a list of some ideas, I had.

  1. Read Stories to Him. He loves stories and it’s great to sit down and read stories of his choice without having his sister vie for attention or pull at the pages of the book. I know it’s hard to keep the attention of three-year-olds, so don’t feel you have to read every word in the book but rather draw them into the story by asking questions about pictures or what they would do if they were the character in the book. If buying books isn’t an option, take regular trips to the library and pick up different books every time. Kids love repetition and I think you’ll find that they enjoy listening to the same story over and over.
  2. Do a Craft Together. My sister was quick to point out that it’s much harder to find crafts for boys than girls, and she is right, even at this age. There are lots of mums who craft with their kids and blog about it, so if this is something that might interest your child, start following some of these blogs and pick up new ideas every week. It is so much easier to do a craft with one child than it is with two, so take advantage of the two hours you have with one child and get the messy play done for the day. The Melissa and Doug Farm Animal Stamps is a good mess free option which can come out regularly and still be exciting and fun to use. Or, these fun Djeco mosaic stickers help with fine motor skills and learning about shapes.

Djeco Edu Stick Shapes Crafts for 3 year olds3. Work on Learning Something New in a Fun Way. Unless you have a good monitor which you can bring outside, playing outdoor games or teaching your child how to ride a bike, isn’t an option during this quiet time. However, you can do things like helping your child recognize letters and sound them out. My daughters loved the Octaland 4D+ Occupational Flashcards. Each card showed a letter and had a picture of a person whose name started with that letter, working in an occupation with that letter. So, for example, The ‘D’ flash card had a girl called Daisy who danced. What makes these flash cards different from regular ones is that you can view them through a free app on your phone and they take on a 3D appearance and move, so Daisy does some dance moves when viewed through your phone. Or teach your child how to spell their name using magnetic letters. If they manage this, you could start teaching them basic spellings with these really lovely See and Spell Boards from Melissa and Doug.

Octaland 4D+ occupation flash cards alphabet three year olds

4. Do a Jigsaw Together. My eldest never really got into jigsaw puzzles but my youngest loves them. They are great for developing concentration and fine motor skills and they are fun and satisfying to do. Again, it’s really hard to do jigsaw puzzles when you have little brothers or sisters in the room. There are two jigsaw puzzles that I’d recommend from my stock for this age group. The first is the wooden puzzle of the World and the second are the 36 piece puzzles from Djeco. I stock a Pirate one and a Ballerina one.

The world wooden jigsaw puzzle map for three year old boys and girls

5. Play a Game Together. You are never too young to learn how to play simple games. Snap is a good place to start or dominoes. Once they have mastered the skill of taking turns and the ability to accept that they won’t always win, then you could introduce some memory games. I think you’d be amazed at how quickly they learn how to play these games and how good their little memories are.

Djeco Memo Game memory matching pairs three year old boy girl6. Build Something Together. Use lego or wooden blocks or sand or play dough. Enter in with your child to the imaginary world they are making. I think you’ll find this lots of fun and therapeutic as you’ll be able to make your own creations too.

7. Teach your Child how to Cook or Bake. Prepare dinner but involve your child in the process. Bring the food down to their level or have them stand on a chair so they can see what you are doing (provided it’s safe for them). Count spoonfuls going in together, get ‘help’ stirring and adding. They’ll love being involved and they’re probably more likely to eat it since they made it. It also helps you do something productive.

This time that you have one on one with your child is special and it won’t last forever. Your child will be back in school in less than a month and although it’s draining now, you’ll miss it when they have gone back. Next summer, your baby may not nap any more, so make the most of this special time.

xx Suzie

Arklu launches ‘Brownie’ themed Lottie Dolls and Accessories
Arklu launches ‘Brownie’ themed Lottie Dolls and Accessories

This week Arklu (the company that makes Lottie dolls) launched their first Brownie doll and some Brownie accessories to go with her. It’s lovely to see the relationship between the World Association of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts (WAGGGS) and Lottie develop. After all, they both have similar goals – to empower girls and young women to be strong, courageous and ambitious. Lottie’s motto is ‘Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You’ while WAGGGS has a vision that ‘All girls are valued and can take action to change the world’.

Lottie Doll Brownie

Lottie dolls are designed for children aged 3-9 years and are ideal for children to practice role play with dolls before they face the situations themselves. Girls can prepare for brownie camp, learn how to integrate with others or take on sports they would be nervous of, by allowing Lottie to do it first. Lottie, unlike a lot of dolls on today’s market, is designed with a 9-year-old’s body shape.

Lottie Doll Brownie Uniform outfit

The Irish Girl Guides is a huge youth organisation in Ireland with several age divisions. Brownies are for girls aged 7-10 years old. They wear a yellow and navy uniform. The Girl Guides was set up in Ireland in 1911 and in 2015 there were 17,464 members.

Lottie Doll's Brownie Camp Tent and Accessories Campfire Fun Playset

Lottie is also an Irish brand set up by Irish business man Ian Harkin and his business partner, Lucie Follett. They designed the dolls to improve how girls view themselves and to encourage STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and maths) among girls and boys alike.

Lottie Doll's Brownie Canoe Set

The Brownie collection includes a Brownie doll, a separate Brownie Uniform (for children that already have a Lottie doll), a Camping Set and a Canoe Set. Prices start at €9.99

 

Boys Toys Ireland
Boys Toys Ireland

When I opened my online children’s toy shop nearly 3 years ago now, I was determined not to categorize my toys into gender specific toys. After all, brothers and sisters play with each other’s toys all the time and enjoy them and most of the toys I stock, I think most boys and girls would love to play with. However, having said this there are certain genres of toys that most boys will be drawn towards. In this blog, I’ve broken this down into 5 types of boys toys.

  1. Balls

One of my good friends has 3 older girls and a toddler boy. Her house was full of pink toys. She’s a ‘no nonsense’ kind of person’, who wouldn’t just buy more toys because they are the wrong colour and wouldn’t have a problem with her son playing with pink coloured toys. However, even before he turned one, she was amazed at how all he wanted to play with were balls. It didn’t matter what size or colour. He just loved sending it away and getting it back. I don’t stock many balls on my website but I do have this really lovely baby ball which is soft, colourful and has a rattle in it.

Boys toys Ireland baby toys soft ball

  1. Dinosaurs

I’ve heard it said that little girls learn to speak quicker while little boys make noises better. My nephew can make fantastic ‘vrmm’ and ‘Rrrrroar’ noises. He doesn’t even notice that he’s doing it as he’s playing with his toys. Personally, I don’t see what the fascination with dinosaurs is but they are certainly great selling toys. So, much so, that I have a whole section on my website with dinosaur themed toys in it.

boys toys ireland dinosaur hatching eggs

  1. Cars and Vehicles.

Unlike dinosaurs, I do get how fun can be had playing with cars and I’ve no problem getting down on my knees and moving cars around on play road rugs/mats. I particularly love wooden vehicles like the Melissa and Doug Car Transporter and Magnetic Car Loader. These make great gifts for younger boys. What I love about cars, is that they don’t have to be huge or expensive. Little boys will be happy to move a model car like these mini cooper ones up and down a table in a coffee shop. They generally don’t need more than one (although I have discovered that my nephew loves nothing more than a good imaginary car crash) and they are easy to carry in your handbag or baby bag. Of course, it is possible to spend a lot more on bigger vehicles for a birthday present or a Christmas present. I love the Le Toy Van Fire Engine. I have a whole section on my website for cars, trains, and planes so if you are searching for one of these boys toys, you can narrow your search down on this page.

Boys Toys Ireland Cars Le Toy Van Grande Garage

  1. Tools and Mechanics.

Whether you are looking for a tool set for a one-year-old or an eight-year-old, I have a good selection to meet ability. They look like the real thing and often work just like the real thing. As your boy gets older, I’ve mechanical kits that help you make your own robots, calculators, bedroom alarms and much more.

boys toys ireland wooden tools belt

  1. Farmyard toys.

I’ve only recently started adding to this genre of toys. I hadn’t realised how popular farmyard toys are for both boys and girls. I guess little people just like acting like the grown ups around them and Ireland is still quite an agricultural country. While girls seem to choose more horse style farmyard toys, boys seem to prefer tractors and mym animals. I hope to add to my range of farmyard toys over the coming years.

boys toys ireland farm animals barn

 

I hope you haven’t found this blog too general and that if you are looking to buy a gift for a boy in your life, that it has helped spark some ideas as to what toy to buy them.

Xx Suzie

GoKi Toys and the Environment
GoKi Toys and the Environment

If you haven’t already figured out, I’m a huge lover of wooden toys. However, as with all things wooden, the wood needs to come from trees and if we don’t act responsibly, our forests will be depleted and our environment will be negatively affected.

That’s why I love toy brands like gokiPlan Toys and Le Toy Van. As each of these brands treats the environment respectively. I hope over time to add to my range of brands that do this. Today, I thought I’d write a blog post about goki toys and hopefully, over the coming weeks, I’ll get to write about the other two.

Goki toys

goki derived its name from the two partners that set up the toy company 35 years ago. It is made up of the first two letters of each of their surnames – Gollnest and Kiesel.  They are a Germany toy company that specialise in high-quality toys at fair prices and if you take a look at their huge range of toys, I think you’ll agree that they satisfy both. In total, they make over 2000 different toys, of which I only stock a small percentage. However, like any other brand of toys, if there is something specific that you want to buy and I don’t stock it, please contact me and I’ll see if I can get it into stock for you. The goki toys have a functional design and contemporary colours.

Goki toys environmentally friendly, sustainable forests fair trade toys

goki is the largest toy company in Northern Germany. Over the past ten years, they have planted over 300,000 trees and they have built new schools in developing countries.

Goki toys environmentally friendly, sustainable forests fair trade toys

Under the Company name goki, they also have some other brands that include Heimess, HOLZTIGER, ’cause and ANKER Stone. I stock some Heimess soother chains and ’cause soft balls. ‘Cause print a lovely educational tag with their products that teach that there are 250 million child labourers in the world. They build schools for children who previously had to work hard. To date, they have built schools in Vietnam, Peru, Colombia, Mali and the Philippines.

Goki toys environmentally friendly, sustainable forests fair trade toys

Although not very well known in Ireland, goki is a huge company in most of Europe. They employ over 600 employees worldwide and in a 2015 survey of 4,000 toy retailers, goki came first in performance and efficiency in the toy industry.

Goki toys environmentally friendly, sustainable forests fair trade toys

I am delighted to stock toys from such a environmental conscience company. I hope you are equally as happy to buy them! Click here to view my full range of goki toys.

xx Suzie

 

Shopkins Themed Birthday Party Ideas
Shopkins Themed Birthday Party Ideas

Last month my 5-year-old attended a Shopkins themed birthday party and she came home buzzing from it.  Although I don’t stock Shopkins, I like posting blogs that parents can get inspiration from, so I asked the birthday girl’s mum, Sarah, if she would write a blog for me. Sarah is also an Irish working from home mum. Her business, Nuababy specialises in cloth nappies. She is also mum to 4 lovely children.

Thanks Sarah. Here’s what she’s written! Enjoy,

xx Suzie

 

It was my youngest daughter’s 5th birthday recently and she wanted a party with her school friends. She has been counting down the days to her birthday since last year and so THE party became a big exciting event in her little life. Her main criteria were jellies and pass the parcel; so they were an easy request to fulfill!

For the last few years, I have organised a party around a theme that the girls are interested in. One year it was My Little Pony, another one was Frozen, last year was a bunny rabbit party and this year was Shopkins. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on the overpriced merchandise so I trawled through Pinterest for a couple of evenings and then went to the euro shops.

There are so many links to some very over the top parties on Pinterest and lots of links to beautiful cakes and elaborate tables of food. I discovered that the food was going to be easy with a Shopkin theme because most of the Shopkins are food. So we had Annie Orange, Marsha Mallow, Mini Muffin, Strawberry Kiss and so on. I went to the Shopkin website and copied the various images and just printed them out with their name on them.

Shopkins Birthday Party Ideas

The Table looked so effective

Shopkins themed birthday party

All the kids got a real kick out of the names of the food and I heard one little girl say “oh I want an orange because it is Annie Orange from Shopkins” The power of positive peer pressure! We kept Tommy ketchup for a couple of weeks in our fridge – he lasted well.

5 year old birthday party ideas

For the birthday cake, I put a batch of cookies dough into a round cake tin and baked it. I just popped on some roll out icing to make eyes and a smile (I got the icing in Dealz). I think it was very effective.

SHopkins birthday cake

For the all important party bags I got some popcorn paper bags from the euro shop and printed out eyes to make them into “Poppy Corn”. We had some themed plastic bags too but the paper bags definitely looked the best. My little girl loved getting these ready with me and we put in one Shopkin into each one with a jelly sweet, the bun that the kids decorated themselves and then some pocket money toys. There is a great selection on toysandgames.ie and I have used a selection of them to bulk out presents or to go with a voucher. The finger monsters have been a great hit and the gliders  but I think the best are the finger spies.

The main activity my girl wanted was to play pass the parcel which had a Shopkin as the prize and had a chocolate egg for each wrapping but we also played pin the candle on “Wishes” the Shopkin cake. My older two girls drew this and decorated it. And as party decorations, the three girls coloured in some shopkin posters we got and then we stuck them on the wall.

If your kid is shopkin mad I hope this blog has given you a few ideas of how to make a very fun and impressive party with very little effort and its kind on the pocket too!

32 Free Activities for Kids in Ireland this Summer

Woo Hoo, the summer holidays are nearly here. I love the lazy mornings and not having to rush and get out the door by 8.30am however, by 11am, my kids are getting restless and it’s time to decide what to do. The summer can be an expensive time for us parents, so I thought I’d compile a list of free activities to do with your children in Ireland this summer.

Antrim – The Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Forest Park

If you have a Gruffalo fan in your house, then this forest park is definitely worth a visit. Take a stroll down the deep, dark woods and discover all the characters from the book, carved out of wood. Then continue on to the fairy trail.

Armagh – Armagh County Museum

This looks like a really cool museum to visit. This museum will ignite your child’s imagination as they see pre-historic artefacts and there are military uniforms, wedding dresses, ceramics, natural history specimens and railway memorabilia.

Carlow – Visual Carlow

Introduce modern art to your child by taking a visit to this lovely art gallary. Check out what exhibition they have on as some are more suitable for children than others. Bring some sketch pads and get your child to copy a piece or a design a piece of their own. Perfect for children who love creativity.

Cavan – Walk up Flemings Folly

Fleming’s Folly is a hill situated about three miles from the south of Cavan town. The hill is covered with funze and heather. In the top of this hill stands an unfinished tower about sixty feet in height. Great to burn off some energy and to explore the outdoors. Bring a picnic.

Clare – Fanore Beach

We may not get the weather, but kids love beaches no matter what the weather.  Bring a bucket and spade, some warm clothes, a wind breaker and Bob’s your uncle! Fanore Beach is a gorgeous beach for playing on the sand or in the water or for strolls and shell collecting. If you are visiting beaching this summer don’t forget to do your research for safe places for children to swim, life guard areas, car parks and public toilets – all which make a trip to the beach more relaxing.

Cork – The Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll

Explore the walkways and picturesque surroundings while meeting donkeys and mules that were rescued and are now enjoying sanctuary.

Derry – St. Columb’s Park

This park is laid out with several walkways and play areas for kids. A small stream runs down the center of the park which leads to the main kids play park with slides, swings and roundabouts etc. Follow the path a bit further and another play area with rope slides and climbing logs. One walk can take you through a woods and then along side the railway track and river Foyle, this will go right up to the new Foyle Bridge.  There are plenty of grassy areas for picnics or just to sit and relax.

Donegal –  Glenveagh National Park

Glenveagh National Park has amazing views, if you can take your eyes off your children, that is! Wander though the gardens or a schedule a visit when they have an event organised. They organise family events including music events and birds of prey displays at weekends over the summer, so it’s worth checking out their website and planning ahead.

Down – Have a BBQ at Murlough National Nature Reserve

This is a beautiful scenic area which both children and adults enjoy. Whether you decide to go for a small hike around or just park yourself at the BBQ area – it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon. There’s grassy areas for ball games or pick up a children’s nature trail quiz to follow and activity packs from the Visitor’s Centre to keep your less sporty children busy.

Dublin – The Natural History Museum

This is a great one to do on a rainy day if you live near Dublin. Inside this museum you’ll find the skeletons of some very large animals, other animals have been stuffed and placed in glass cabinets and there’s tons of small insects, butterflies etc to check out.

Fermanagh – Castle Archdale Country Park

Walk through the meadows, beside the lough or through the forest taking in nature. Why not bring along a telescope for your child to make the walk more interesting?

Galway – Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Ring Museum

Hear thrilling tales of pirates, lost love and Ireland’s famous Claddagh ring at Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Ring Museum.

Kerry – The Irish Fairy Trails

There are  two magical fairy trails to be found in the south west of Ireland in County Kerry.  These family fun activities can be found in the woodlands of both Derrynane  House and also in Darryquin, part of the demesne of Parknasilla  near Sneem on the Ring of Kerry.

Kildare – Fly a Kite in The Curragh

The Curragh is a flat open plane of almost 5,000 acres of common land in between Newbridge and Kildare.  It’s a great place to fly kites and watch horses. If you have an army enthusiast in your family, you’ll probably spot a few army trucks going back and forth, as they are based here. If you don’t fancy a picnic, Kildare Village Outlet is just around the corner and they have several nice restaurants and a lovely playpark.

Kilkenny – Spend an afternoon at Aghaviller Round Tower

Bring a picnic and spend an afternoon relaxing at Aghaviller Round Tower and the ruins of the church. The top part of the tower has worn away, leaving only the bottom 9.6 meters. However, you can still see the raised door and teach your children why the door was raised and the original purpose of such towers. There is a holy well not far from the site, to be visited too. Let the children play ‘hide and seek’ among the ancient grave stones or if you have older children, send them on a treasure hunt to find things like the oldest grave, the oldest and youngest person to die that’s buried there, the grave that’s holding the most people etc.

Laois – Visit Heywood Gardens

Heywood Gardens were completed in 1912, and consist 50 acres of gardens, lakes, woodland and architectural features. Bring the family for a stroll and take in the fresh air and beautiful views.

Leitrim – Visit the Organic Centre and Fowley’s Falls

The Organic Centre promotes healthy and sustainable living. Teach your child a little about nature as you stroll through their gardens and see different plants growing. Finish off with a picnic around the corner at Fowley’s Falls and take in the power of nature at this water fall.

Limerick – Visit the Fields of Dreams Animal Sanctuary

Go along and see all the animals. You are welcome to walk a dog, pet a cat, take a stroll through the beautiful gravel walkways which wind through the fields and you will experience the extraordinary views of the surrounding countryside and The Ballyhoura Hills. Visit the farm where all the rescue horses enjoy good food and care. They have rabbits, goats, pigs and chickens. It’s equally as good as a pet farm and it teaches your child the importance of minding their pets (although you may feel under pressure from your kids to bring a new one home!)

Longford – Walk the Corlea Trackway

This really unique path dates back to 148BC and stretches over bog land. Do a little bit of research together before you leave on bogs and what life might have been like back in 148 BC and then talk about it together as you walk the trackway. Visit the visitors centre to finish off your trip.

Louth – Build a Den in Ravensdale Forest

When I was a kid, one of my favourite summer activities was building a den. I’d collect tree branches that had fallen, large stones, pine cones, ferns and whatever else I could to make my own little hideout. Forests like Ravensdale Forest are ideal places to go and be creative. Walk off the path a little and find a clearing, then start your building project with your kids. Great for team work.

Mayo – Slievemore on Achill Island

Explore the Deserted Village and 5,000-year-old megalithic tombs on the slopes of Slievemore on Achill Island, County Mayo.

Meath – The Cairns at Loughcrew

Clusters of Megalithic Cairns are dotted around the Slieve na Caillaigh hills. Visiting them involves a small walk from the car park but you can actually get inside one of the Cairns, so it’s worth it! It’s like a mini Newgrange.

Monaghan – Have a Scavenger Hunt at Lough Muckno

Bring a bag and challenge your children to find something beginning with each letter of the alphabet, as you walk around the beautiful lake or the wooded areas. Finish off with a nice picnic.

Offaly – Visit Ireland’s only Pyramid in Kinnitty.

Did you know that there’s a replica pyramid in Ireland? Located in the quant village of Kinnitty you will find a 30ft high pyramid built as  a crypt by Lt. Col Richard Wesley Bernard for his family on his return from Egypt in the mid 1800’s. Building began in 1830 and was completed in 1834. It is permanently sealed now. After viewing this and talking to your kids about ancient Egypt, head into Kinnitty, where there’s a public play ground.

Roscommon – Go Fishing on the River Shannon

If you don’t own a rod (or net) borrow one from a friend and head off for a fun activity. Check the website above for safe spots to fish and if you catch anything nice, dinner will be sorted for that evening!

Sligo – Learn about Yeats together at Sligo County Museum

Yeat’s poetry might still be a little hard for your child to grasp, but they’ll love hearing about his life as they wander through this museum. Perfect to put in a few hours on a rainy day.

Tipperary – The Fairy Trail at the Town Park in Templemore

Find the Fairy Doors as you walk through the park, then finish off having a picnic, feeding the ducks and swans and hanging out at the playground.

Tyrone – Parkanaur Forest

Choose a trail that suits your abilities and wander through these gorgeous forest park. You might be lucky enough to spot some beautiful white Fallow deer. Spend some time at the wildlife pond before settling down for a picnic at the tables provided.

Waterford – Cycle the Greenway

The Waterford Greenway is 46km long so too long for most children (and a lot of adults!) to manage. However, why not choose a section of it to cycle together. Bring plenty of water and edible incentives to keep going and to give you all energy.

Westmeath – Check out the seven wonders of Fore

Explore Fore, site of a 7th Century abbey, and home of the seven wonders of Fore, including the tree that won’t burn and the water that flows uphill.

Wexford – Ballyhack Castle

Last year we holidayed in Wexford and my girls absolutely loved visiting Ballyhack Castle. As they wandered around, they imagined what life was like back in 1450 with Knights and ‘fair maidens’! The guide helped build a story around their imaginations. They got activity sheets and crafts to work on and even got to try on some clothes worn back then. Right around the corner is a Ferry that can bring you to Passage East in Waterford. It’s possible to get on without a car and if I remember, it costs less than €5 return for our family. The kids loved the short journey on the ferry and in Passage East there is a lovely play park (but no coffee shop, so bring your own if you like relaxing with a cuppa while the children.)

Wicklow – Kilmacurragh – The National Botanical Gardens

This is one of my children’s favourite spots. Walk through the stunning gardens with a bug viewer. It’s not a long walk but makes for an easy stroll for young children. There’s a lovely pond with a bridge where they can play pooh sticks and at the end is a picnic area. Beside the picnic benches, there’s an amazing tree whose branches swoop down to the ground. Work your way through the branches and foliage and you’ll find an amazing natural climbing frame from the inside branches. If you don’t fancy a picnic, there’s a coffee shop too.

 

As I’ve researched for this blog post, I’ve realised that there are lots of activities for free for kids all around Ireland. Most large towns have a play park, so if you’re bored with your local one, pack a picnic and drive to a town you haven’t been to in a while. If the weather is wet, take a trip to your local library.

I realise that I haven’t been to most of the places listed above. Please share in the comments box below any local free attractions that your kids love doing and we’ll all benefit from each other!

Have a lovely summer,

xx Suzie

 

The Importance of Music and Instruments for Young Children
The Importance of Music and Instruments for Young Children

 

Yesterday (the 21st June) was World Music Day so I thought I’d write a short blog highlighting some of the musical instruments I stock for babies and small children. Music is important for all ages and it’s never too early to introduce musical instruments to children.

Getting young children to play simple instruments is beneficial.

  • It can calm and sooth babies and children
  • It can be a tool to engage with children and distract them
  • It enhances brain development and language skills. If you want more information, check out this article.
  • It improves motor skills (fine and gross, depending on the instrument)
  • It encourages self-expression
  • It is fun!

The great thing about musical instruments for young children is that they are generally inexpensive in comparison to pianos, violins etc. So, here’s some that I stock…

  1. Wooden Animal Castanets – €3 each

Musical instruments for babies and young children

Although your child may not master clicking these until they are around 2 years old, they make a beautiful dull clacking sound which your child be mesmerised by as you click them together. Older toddlers will love clicking them and dancing to the rhythm they are making.

  1. Wooden Mini Maracas – €5.75 each

Musical instruments for babies and young children and kids

These are very similar to old fashioned baby rattles. They have a slim handle and a bulb at the top which contains grains or something that makes a lovely shaking noise

  1. Triangles – €7

Musical instruments for babies and young children and kids

 

These bring me back to my school days. You hold the string and use the small metal rod to hit the metal triangle. Again, these are great at helping children develop rhythm

  1. Wooden Tambourines – €8.50

Musical instruments for babies, kids and young children

I stock these in 3 different colours.

  1. Beginner Band Set – €34.99

musical instruments for babies and young children melissa and doug instruments wooden

If you want to encourage music and rhythm in your child’s life and want more than one or two instruments then it’s cheaper to buy them in a set than individually. This Beginners Band Set from Melissa and Doug comes with six instruments, each making a different noise.

I hope you enjoyed World Music Day and that you and your child will take a few minutes to listen to or play music together.

Xx Suzie

How to Prepare your Toddler for the Arrival of a New Baby
How to Prepare your Toddler for the Arrival of a New Baby

It doesn’t feel like 6 years ago when we were preparing our, then 19 month old, daughter for the arrival of a baby. Time has really flown but I remember those days very well and I received  some great advice on how to help my toddler to adjust to having a sister. I thought I’d pass it on, as I’m sure there are lots of expectant mummies in similar scenarios.

  1. Talk about the baby lots, so that your older child knows what to expect.

No matter how young your child is, explain as simple as possible that there is a baby growing in your womb. Explain what will happen when you go to the hospital, where your toddler will stay, who will look after them and that you will be bringing home the baby. Take turns roll playing. Help them to pack their suitcase (if they are going to stay with a relative) when you are packing yours. Borrow or buy a book that might help them understand what is going to happen. I stock a really funny pop up one called, ‘What’s in your Tummy Mummy?‘. Help them to also understand what life might be like once the baby comes home. Make sure they understand that the baby is going to stay. I’ve heard so many stories of children, after a few days, telling their parents that they can bring the baby back to the hospital now!! The more information you give your child, the more prepared they will be.

Preparing a toddler for the arrival of a new baby, what is in your tummy mummy

2. Have a gift prepared for the baby to give the toddler and some extra little gifts.

If you have a gift wrapped, then you can produce it the first time your child meets the baby. You can say that it’s a gift from the baby. This will not only help them love the baby but the contents will hopefully distract them for 20 minutes here and there during the busy few weeks of adjusting to live with two. I’d also recommend that you have a stash of pocket money toys wrapped in the cupboard. Over the coming few months, every visitor that comes into your house will bring a gift for the new baby and your toddler may feel overlooked. If you have a stash of toys, you can produce one anytime you think your toddler is about to have a meltdown over having no presents themselves. They can also work magic if you need to bribe your child. After your baby is born, it will be twice as hard to leave the house, so be prepared and buy in what is needed before baby arrives.

3. Leave mummy hands free to hug toddler when s/he first meets baby.

Someone recommended this to me and I thought it was a great tip that I never would have considered, if I hadn’t been told. If you can arrange for daddy or granny to hold the baby the first time that your toddler meets him or her, it will reduce early onset jealousy. It means that your toddler can have your undivided attention, which s/he is used to. They can get normal hugs, can hold your hand etc without feeling there is a baby between you and them. Obviously this isn’t possible all the time, but it’s worth making the effort for the first introductions. I have so many memories of my toddler insisting that baby should be in her bouncy chair and I was happy to oblige this request most of the time when possible as it meant my toddler didn’t feel like I was holding the baby all the time and I got hours of cuddles from baby at night time when my toddler was asleep.

4. Involve them as much as possible, so they feel part of the team welcoming the baby.

Once your baby is home, s/he will demand quite a bit of your attention. If you can include your toddler in as much of it as possible, you are making them feel part of the ‘grown up’ team welcoming the baby. Teach your toddler some lullabies they could sing to the baby. Keep the nappies and wipes on a low shelf/drawer so your toddler can get them at ease for nappy changing time and praise your toddler no end for how helpful they are being. All this will help them see that they still have an important role in your family and that they are needed and loved as much as the baby. When the baby naps, you may feel like you want some down time yourself, but resist the temptation and read your toddler a book or do a puzzle together.

Some Tips for Mummy

  • Be prepared for your toddler to regress. I’ve heard of toddlers that were potty trained starting to wet themselves and others needing to be spoon fed again. For me – my toddler refused to walk up or down the stairs about 3 months after our baby arrived. I had to carry them both every time we moved up stairs. It was a short season, so be prepared and be patient. It will pass.
  • Don’t be afraid that you’ll have to split your love  once baby arrives. It’s amazing how it’s possible to love two little people 100% each.
  • Don’t panic about how you are going to cope. I actually found the last trimester of pregnancy with a toddler much harder than the first three months of life with a baby and a toddler. Once the baby arrives, you have your energy back (despite sleepless nights, pregnancy tiredness is much worse), your baby will sleep a lot and you’ll find you are able to do things that you couldn’t do with baby inside (like bend down and play with your toddler)
  • Invest in or borrow a good sling. You will want your baby close to you and your baby will want to be close to you too. However, your toddler also will want to hold your hand, make you play with them etc. Having a sling will mean that your baby is close and you still have 2 hands to play/help your toddler.
  • Don’t let yourself feel guilty if you give your toddler extra tv time or send him/her to creche for a few extra hours. You need time to bond with your baby/establish feeding etc and your toddler will love extra tv time/time with other little people. The first few months are really hard for most mums so do what you can to make life a little easier and over time you’ll be able to reduce these hours and spend time with both children together without them fussing.

All the best as you transition from one child to two. It’s a hard move but one that I’ve never regretted.

xx Suzie