Camping with Kids: The Ultimate Kit List

motherhood

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With just one day to go until we hit the road for the summer the inevitable packing-induced panic is upon is! Packing is my absolute nemesis and when you’re a family of 5 going on a 2 week+ camping trip we are talking next level stress.

The first stop on our big annual road trip is CAMP BESTIVAL! A family-friendly festival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset where we will be camping in a tent. From there we are heading to… ITALIA!!! We plan to drive all the way in our camper, with a few pit stops on the way, and live out of our van for a fortnight whilst feasting on pizza, pasta and gelato and drinking prosecco and aperol spritz (a glass of which actually costs less than a can of coke!). When in Rome… quite literally!

If you find yourself in the same boat / tent / campervan I hope the kit list below will help…

TENT

So we have a VW T5 campervan which we will be sleeping in when driving across Europe but for Camp Bestival we are pitching up in a tent. I have over the past week or so got well into tent research. I’m aware of how lame that sounds but bear with me… I had no idea there were so many options out there and once I started researching I just couldn’t stop. I discovered this guy called “Alpine Dan” on the Millets Website who is just awesome and basically shows you how to put tents up and take them down and gives you tours of the tents. A bit like MTV cribs but with Alpine Dan and the Berghaus Air 6 rather than some American baseball star and their pimped-out pad.

So my biggest tent-related discovery was there there are now tents WITHOUT poles. Let that sink in for a moment… Instead of poles, there are tubes that inflate and then the whole tent just rises from the ground all as one and is UP. It takes mere minutes. I feel like I’ve stumbled across a tent revolution! I mean maybe everybody already knew about this??? But I certainly didn’t. The last time I erected a tent, I had to battle with an inner layer, a ground sheet and a separate outer layer. Let’s not even get started on the poles which are always a huge struggle. The thought of trying to erect a large family-sized tent, in the dark, at a busy festival, with 3 kids on the loose, fills me with fear so this inflatable option has totally won me over.

We went for the Berghaus Air 6 and I’m genuinely like ASOS-delivery level of excited for it to arrive.

BEDS

So we have 5 people, ranging in age from 1 through to 34 (!) who need to bed down for the night and we need a solution that works both in the tent and in the campervan. Since we are spending so long on the road this summer and not booking any accommodation, I really wanted to up our sleeping set-up. It’s alright roughing it for a night or two but I don’t fancy a fortnight of it.

For the baby…

We have gone for a sleepyhead grand. The sleepyhead original was one of the best purchases I made when Fox was born. I begrudgingly spent the money but oh was I glad I did!! He slept in it every night at home in the snuzpod (another awesome buy) and then every night when we were camping in our van. Not only did he feel safe and snuggly it in but I also felt more comfortable (and therefore slept better!) knowing I couldn’t just roll on top of him when we co-slept. Before he could crawl out, it kept him contained and it’s so easy to transport. Wherever we went we took the sleepyhead with us. So I’m super excited about using the sleepyhead grand when camping. It’s going to make for one very warm and cosy sleeping set up!

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Above: Fox sleeping in his sleepyhead on a camping trip at 8 weeks old

If it’s cool at night Fox will sleep in a grobag as he does at home and if it’s warm then he will just wear his PJs. I might put the sleepyhead in the travel cot if I need to keep him contained – we will just have to see if he stays put or not!!

The travel cot we have is the Phil & Teds Traveller and it’s the most lightweight travel cot I’ve ever seen/used. We have taken it on countless flights and trips away in our van. It folds down super small and is incredibly lightweight but amazingly it’s still full-sized when up.

For the toddler and the ten year old…

We have gone for bundle beds! These are such an awesome concept; a whole bed rolled up in one including pillow and duvet! A bit like a sleeping bag they are compact and easy to transport to festivals and campsites and friend’s houses. But once unrolled they are so much more! A self-inflating mattress with a comfy foam layer, a duvet and a pillow – the whole shebang! We plan to use these in the tent and in the van for the kids and they are so much easier than lugging air beds (that then need inflating) plus sleeping bags or duvets and sheets and pillows.

They’re not cheap but will be used for years to come and we are frequent campers. They can also be used at home when we have guests and are suitable for adults as well as kids! Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure the sleeping bag I have at the moment dates back to my 2002 trip to Peru! So if they last half as long I will be one happy lady! Also anything that helps the kids sleep better is worth its weight in gold I think. If the kids don’t sleep, the adults don’t sleep and then the whole happy campers dream turns into a living bloody nightmare for every soul.

For the adults…

Last but least there is James and I. Funny how we think of ourselves last, hey?? So we have gone for a simple self-inflating mat which we got on Amazon (which was recommended on the VW T5 forums that I frequent! I really am a camping geek!!) and then a memory foam mattress topper from the wonderfully-named ‘Happy Beds‘. If we were just going to the festival for a couple nights we’d probably be fine on just the self-inflating mat but given we will be sleeping in our van for over 2 weeks we thought we might want a *little* more luxury. We might not be heading to a hotel or apartment this summer but we don’t want to totally slum it! We plan to use the mattress topper on our rock and roll bed to make it a little more comfortable and us that bit happier.

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The boys chilling out in their onesies in the van on our last camping trip

GETTING OUT AND ABOUT

So once we have pitched up at the festival, inflated our tent (A-MAZING) and set up our luxe beds we’re going to want to go off and explore. We are 2 adults to 3 children in ratio so it’s like a one-man down situation from the offset. Lots of people use wheelbarrows or trolleys at festivals to push/pull their kids around and I think when children are too big for buggies but still get tired from walking, they are a great solution. I think children aged 3 or 4+ probably love kicking back in a wheelbarrow but it’s not going to work with a 1 and 2 year old. In particular my 1 year old would just throw himself over the edge at the very first opportunity and if I parked up and took my eyes off them (to watch a band or chat to someone) I know full well by the time I turned around they would both be GONE. So I need a more secure solution.

MOUTAIN BUGGY….

Which is why we will bringing our amazing double buggy – the Mountain Buggy Duet. This buggy is AWESOME. I bought our first one before Fox was born after conducting extensive research online. We are now on our second one because someone STOLE our Mountain Buggy from outside our house!!! They are that desirable folks that people with no conscience will steal them. Be warned!!

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The boys down at the beach in their new Mountain Buggy Duet

Tales of daylight robbery aside, I have used the Mountain Buggy Duet every day since Fox was born, both on the tube in London and on country walks in Devon. It has been down to the beach and up to the snowy alps! I’m a BIG fan and promise to post a proper review soon!

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The boys up the mountains at Alpe D’Huez in their MB duet

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Out and about in Camden in Central London

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A super small baby Fox in the carrycot attachment

But when it comes to festivals with two young kids I’ve decided it’s pretty much the perfect pram. It’s built for rough terrain so should be able to handle a bit of mud and when the kids want to nap, I can simply recline the seats and they can sleep on.. whilst strapped in tightly so I don’t lose anyone!! When they are awake they are side by side so can both see all the sights there are to see – there is no ‘inferior’ back seat! And even though it’s a side by side it’s no wider than a regular single Mountain Buggy so you won’t annoy people *too* much as you steer through the crowds. I’m not suggesting you buy a duet just for a festival but if you’re looking to upgrade to a double, I seriously recommend it!

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BOBO BUDDIES…

Now of course the little ones aren’t going to be happy with being strapped in the whole time and that doesn’t fit entirely with my ethos of ‘let them be free’ so they will be let out to roam. The only way I know of keeping kids safe in this type of situation where there are crowds of people and the said kids are toddlers on a mission, is to put them on reins. Like a dog.

I have used reins since Osh was a toddler, 10 years ago. In fact when I took him to Glastonbury in 2014 when he was 7 years old I still used reins then!! I find it just stops them getting swept along with the crowds and separated from you! I might let Osh off the reins this year since he is 10 (haha) but the little two are 100% going to be reined up!!

I recently discovered BoBo Buddies and I’m a big fan. A buddy is a soft cuddly toy with a little zipped compartment so it doubles as a mini rucksack and comes with detachable straps so triples up (is that a word?!) as a pair of reins. Foxy loves his Monkey and Mama loves keeping Fox on a leash. Happy Days. The Buddies are coming to Bestival!

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SLINGS…

I will also be packing our slings so we have the option of carrying the kids. I have two slings – the Mountain Buggy Juno and the ErgoBaby Adapt. They are actually quite similar in style and can be used on your front or back or hip. They both have a wide strap that goes around your waist so the weight is distributed a bit like a big hiking rucksack which stops you getting pain as with some carriers that pull from your shoulders. Reassuringly, both have been approved by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute as being  ‘hip-healthy’ products.

I found the Mountain Buggy Juno was particularly good when Arlo and Fox were small as the newborn insert is really nice. So nice in fact that I used to take it out and Fox used to sleep in it! So soft and plush. You can also carry your baby on your front facing outwards with the Juno whereas you can’t with the ErgoBaby Adapt.

Now they are a bit bigger I like the ErgoBaby Adapt as it’s cooler (as in less hot not more trendy) and carrying a toddler makes me sweaty. It’s a slightly different shape and there seems to be less fabric and more ventilation. You can also get the Adapt in loads of different colours and prints including collaborations they’ve done with other brands.

But to be honest both are great and I’m sure you and your baby would be happy with either.

A sling at a festival is a good idea because if the ground is really wet and pushing a buggy becomes impossible, you can still get out and about without having to lug a kid under each arm.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

For the kids..

I’m pretty sure that there will be plenty to keep the kids entertained at Camp Bestival. We have been before and to lots of other festivals with the kids and there is always so much going on that you don’t even get to see it all. You certainly don’t run out of stuff to do. However from Camp Bestival we are heading straight to Italy in our van and that is going to mean a LOT of hours on the road…

An iPad goes some way to helping but the battery does not last indefinitely and also it has been known to cause arguments. So the kids will each be bringing a few toys/games to keep them happy. I love these zipped toy bags from husband and wife team Occasionally Six. The bags have the kids’ names on them so there can be no confusion – even Arlo (who is 2.5yo) can identify the names and has learnt to recognise the letters in his own name by tracing the bright neon letters printed on his toy bag. Apart from reducing arguments by each child having their own toys in their own bag, it’s also a good way to keep things tidy and ordered. By counting the toys out and counting them back in you can ensure no superhero is left behind.

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For the parents…

As with the kids, at Camp Bestival I reckon there will be enough to keep us entertained but when it comes to the big road trip and the 2 weeks of camping, I am going to want my phone to have some battery. I plan to limit my phone use on holiday and steer clear of my work inbox but I’m also going to want to share some photos on my Instagram and document our holiday, because it’s those photos that I love to look back on most which remind me of the fun summers and all our adventures. We also like to listen to podcasts on our road trips. Current faves for laughs are Letters to my Fanny, Scummy Mummies and Dirty Mother Pukka and then of course there’s the super addictive Serial and S Town, which are just brilliant. We binged listened to S Town all the way to the Alps earlier this year when the kids were asleep in the back and it definitely made the 12hour drive easier.

So that’s why a battery pack is a MUST HAVE. You do need to remember to charge it up initially but then it will charge your phone multiple times over. They’re small and not too expensive and with roaming charges pretty much gone using your phone abroad has never been easier/cheaper.

Old school as it is, I will also be packing some card games for camping. My fave NSFK (not suitable for kids) is Cards Against Humanity. James actually bought me the expansion pack for Valentines Day last year. Admittedly not the most romantic gift but it was a pretty good gift for me. Does that make me a really horrible person?! 😉

I tend to use my phone to take photos but you might want to pack a camera too and then there are other festival essentials like tissues and wet wipes and antibacterial hand gel. Maybe some first aid items and of course cash money for the stalls!

The best way of carrying these items and ensuring they are easily accessible is a bum bag and I’m so pleased they are actually IN FASHION. You can buy them anywhere from ASOS to Tiba+Marl. If you’re wanting one for a festival then make sure you check out the MiPac range. They have a really cool selection of metallic and palm prints ones and they are about £16.

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Talking of Tiba+Marl you are going to need a change bag for the festival/camping trip if you have kids in nappies and a rucksack is without a doubt your best bet. Anything that frees up your hands for all-important activities like drink-holding and kid-catching is a sure fire winner. Honestly, once you’ve gone rucksack you are not going back!!

The Tiba+Marl rucksacks are changing bags but not like any you’ve seen before. They’re not at all ‘mumsy’. They won’t make you look like a seasoned hiker or a kid that’s off to school. They are seriously stylish and there are now loads of cool prints and options available. They are stocked by Harrods, Selfridges and Mamas & Papas and have been designed and created by two amazing Mums. I particularly love the pink and metallic silver Elwood and reckon they’d be perfect for a festival.

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EATING

A few summers ago we invested in a weber gas BBQ and now do mostly all our cooking on this when camping. We chose not to have a kitchen fitted in our camper as we wanted more space for the bed (we are a family of 5 after all) and also because I wasn’t keen on the idea of cooking in a small space with 3 kids on the loose. I do love a bacon sarnie in the morning but wouldn’t want my much-loved camper stinking of pig for the rest of the day and splattered in oil. So the weber BBQ has been our saviour. It heats up super fast and is easy (ish) to transport / lug about.

We also have a portable gas stove and use this for boiling water for tea/coffee and for cooking stuff like pasta. The gas stoves are really cheap to buy and probably one of the best camping purchases you can make. They are super portable and usually come in a lightweight plastic carry case. They are perfect for festivals!

In terms of actual food to eat, there are loads of great food stalls at Camp Bestival but a very easy and healthy option for little kids are the new classics from Little Dish. They include stuff like macaroni cheese, spaghetti hoops and tomato soup and cost approx £1 from most supermarkets. They can be heated up on the little stove and have no hidden nasties but lots of hidden veggies!

At Camp Bestival I plan to feed my two little ones early, get them ready for bed and then tuck them up in their buggy with some blankets and their milk and then head out to see the headliners. The rest of us can then pick up some food later on from one of the many food stalls.

When camping for longer periods of time we tend to do a big supermarket shop and most campsites have fridges you can hire to keep stuff chilled. European campsites in particular are so good for families and have everything you need. We then just cook on the stove and BBQ.

TOP TIPS FOR FESTIVALS

  • I think wellies are a great footwear option for the whole family at festivals. They are easy on and easy off and you are sorted come rain or shine.
  • Ear Defenders for little kids are a must have! I just bought these ones on Amazon. Thank God for Prime.
  • Take some some solar-powered or battery operated fairy lights to string up around your tent so it’s easier to identify yours in a sea of similar looking ones.
  • Make sure you’ve written your name and number on your child so if you do get separated someone will be able to contact you. Take a sharpie. If they are old enough make sure you agree on an easy-to-find meeting place just in case.
  • I’m also a fan of high vis vests… for the whole family. Festivals are notoriously busy places and it can be hard keeping an eye on everyone in the dark. The easier your brood are to spot, the better. The same goes for you! Your kids will find it reassuring if they can easily see you in the dark.
  • A bit like the inflating tent, I’ve recently discovered and been blown away by these Munchkin Miracle 360 cups. I think I’m a bit late to the party but seriously, THEY DO NOT SPILL! It really is a miracle. I’ve got a few of them now and they are especially great in the car. No more crying over spilt milk!! Also I’ve managed to wean my boys off their bottles (with teats) using these cups. Another miracle.

 

I hope you have found this kit list and top tips useful! In the interest of transparency, some of the above I have bought and some of the above I have managed to blag (perks of blogging) but all the items I’ve included are absolutely brilliant and I have mentioned them because I rate them highly, not because I was under any obligation to do so.

Finally, remember you can slowly acquire stuff over time and don’t need all or any of the above to have an awesome camping trip! Many years ago I took my eldest to the lsle of Wight festival and it was a complete wash out. The mud was over knee-deep! We only had a bog standard cheapo tent from Argos, a couple sleeping bags and one of those portable stoves I mentioned above, but we had the BEST time.

Over the years we have moved from calling ourselves ‘amateur campers’ to ‘semi-pro’ and now because we camp so much and take all our holidays in our campervan, we have a lot of really nice kit. So if camping is going to be something you do a lot, I’d recommend investing in some decent beds if you can. If you’re going to a festival as a one-off don’t stress and just have a wicked time!

You can keep up with how we get on at Camp Bestival and on our big road trip by following me on Instagram where I will post lots of pics and stories over the coming weeks!

Thanks for reading

Siobhan x

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HALF-TERM HALLOWEEN HEROES

motherhood

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It ain’t over ’til it’s over, right?  

With a few more days left of the half-term break and Halloween still to come, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been doing, and have planned, to keep the kids entertained and screentime to a minimum…

Natural History Museum, London.

This is one of our favourite places to visit in London, followed closely by the Science Museum, which conveniently is right next door! The museum is free and there is loads for kids to see and do, especially in school holidays when extra activities are laid on. No prizes for guessing which is our favourite area of the museum! Of course it’s the DINOSAURS! A trip to the Natural History Museum is one of those rare activities that I find entertains both the 9 year old and the toddler which makes it firm favourite and a winner all round.

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The BFG at the Odeon Cinema, London.

I have been promising to take Oisin to see this since it came out so this half-term I was determined to make it happen. We went to the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square (love a date night a with my big boy!) and filled a tub with pick and mix before going in – a prerequisite to any good cinema trip I think. The film was AWESOME and I’m not sure who loved it more. The BFG was one of my favourite stories as a child and now Oisin is reading the Roald Dahl book himself which is really lovely.

Going to the cinema in central London meant there was lots more to see besides just the film. After we came out we got to see a performance artist dancing magically with a ball, which sounds bizarre but was absolutely mesmerising. We also went for a little ride on a rickshaw which was only the BEST THING EVER!! Totally recommend doing this if you are in London. Don’t know why I waited 30 years to do it.

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Eating out with the kids

Whilst in London we went to Carluccio’s on Fulham Road where kids get a 3 course meal with drink for £1 during half-term. (Adults have to be eating from the main menu to qualify). This makes it a super reasonable way to eat out with the whole family and since the whole family are fans of pasta-based meals it was a win-win situation. I also know that kids eat for free at Jamie Oliver’s restaurants during half-term and I’m pretty sure others are offering similar deals so there’s sure to be something out there to whet your appetite.

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Big Family Catch-Ups

I took the opportunity to visit my cousins whilst we were up in London; between the three of us we have 7 children – 6 boys and 1 girl (Poor Poppy!)! It’s mayhem as you can imagine but heartwarming to see a new generation playing together just as we did when we were kids. I think half-term holidays are a good opportunity to catch up with extended family that don’t live on your doorstep. Often it’s also an opportunity to visit a different part of the country!

 

 

PEPPA PIG WORLD at Paultons Family Theme Park

Probably (or rather definitely) the highlight of the week so far! We have talked about going for so long that even Arlo regularly says “Pep. Pig. Wuld.’ I know the pig gets a lot of haters but I freaking LOVE Peppa. I’ve never actually watched a single episode in full but Arlo has probably watched every episode ten times over (I have two babies with a 15 month age gap and a business to run!). Peppa literally saves my life, or at least me from having a breakdown, on a daily basis and that’s without mentioning the joy she brings to the annual long haul south-of-France-and-back campervan journey. We have all the heart eyes for Peppa and George in this family.

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Initially I thought a visit to the home of Peppa would just be for Arlo’s benefit and I couldn’t wait to see his little face when we arrived. He already borderline hyperventilates with excitement every time he spots any Peppa or George! However having been I can tell you that there is so much more to Peppa Pig World or Paultons theme park than I realised. Peppa Pig World is in fact just a tiny part of the park and your entry ticket gives you access to it all! We spent a whole day there but could easily have done another. We split our time between Peppa Pig World and Lost Kingdom (which is basically a dinosaur world) and we didn’t even manage to do all the rides in those two areas of the park.

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Oisin loved the visit as much as Arlo which was unexpected. In fact the whole family did! Foxy went on some rides and squealed/grunted with excitement whilst flapping his fat little fists and James and I rode a rollercoaster with Oisin and screamed ourselves silly! (YES YOU SCREAMED TOO JAMES!). There really was something for all ages and we will most definitely be going back soon.

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Long live the Pig!

Yes I got screwed in the gift shop and we now have a gigantic soft toy version of George.

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Dog Sitting

This is perfect for those who would love to have a dog but can’t commit to actually owning one, which is basically us. If you’ve got a friend who is going away and needs their dog minding, you could save them putting their pup in a kennel and benefit from having the temporary loan of him/her.

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We currently have a gorgeous beagle with us for 2 days called Molly. She is the dream! So good natured and docile with the kids. It’s amazing how they just know isn’t it?? She’s happy to jump up on James and I and play fight but she’s not once jumped on Arlo or Foxy. We’ve loved having cuddles and taking her for walks. Having her stay has forced us get out of the house and go for pretend Bear hunts (walks) in the woods. Autumn is my favourite time of year so I’ve loved being out in nature admiring all the incredible colours. Also it’s so cute how dogs like to be near people – Molly just follows us round the house and settles in whichever room we are in. It’s also nice for me to have another girl in the house! We’re definitely going to miss her when she goes home.

Pennywell Farm, Devon

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Dubbed ‘Devon’s friendliest day out’ (no idea how they measure that?!), Pennywell is without a doubt our favourite attraction to visit in the South West. I’m beyond excited about becoming a season ticket holder next year! Especially because in the Spring all the baby animals are born which makes it the best time to go in my opinion.

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I could write an essay on why Pennywell is so amazing but essentially it’s a farm and every half hour the farmyard bell is rung to signal the start of a new activity; bottle-feeding lambs, milking goats, collecting eggs, pampering miniature piglets – we’ve done it all! The season runs until the 30th October so we plan on paying the farm one last visit tomorrow. Pennywell will then reopen again in February for the 2017 season although there are some special Christmas events, including a live nativity in the barn, scheduled before then. Check out the website for more details if you’ll be in Devon over the Christmas period.

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Arty Crafty Activities

And then because you can’t be out and about all day every day, here’s a few ideas for some home-based and wholesome activities!

First up we’ve got Trunkaroo! What an invention!!!!! Trunkaroo is basically a box of educational (but fun!) craft activities for kids to do. Best of all the box contains absolutely everything you need to complete the activities, down to the child-friendly scissors. Perfect if you don’t have an organised and extensive crafts cupboard.

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If you visit the website you can subscribe and that way you’ll be sent a new box every month (each one has a different theme and a number of activities included) or you can buy a one off special like I’ve got this half-term for Halloween.

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Today because I’m in my office (ahhh I have an actual office and not just a bit of floor space!!!) with a load of work to do, it’s a perfect day to crack open the Trunkaroo. Although the website says Trunkaroo is for kids aged 3-8, my eldest is 9 and he’s still a big fan! It’s also suitable for much younger children although they may need some support in completing the activities. 

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Other crafty activities we plan on doing over the weekend include carving the obligatory pumpkin (although may try a pineapple as well this year!) and perfecting the Halloween costumes for Monday night’s annual trick or treating session. If you need some inspo for kids costumes check out these amazing ideas from the queen of craft; Emma over at Ladyland.

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Cooking with the kids

Cooking with the kids is a great activity if you can face it because it enables you merge entertaining the children with making dinner, which has the potential to save time and leave you feeling very productive.

You may already know I’m a big fan of the folks at Little Dish who make the kid-friendly ready meals and sent me this amazing half term survival kit recently…

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In all honesty I don’t think we’d have managed the recent house move / relocation without them, or at least not without our kids becoming malnourished. When you’re time-poor and need to dish something quick up, it’s nice to have an alternative to fish fingers that doesn’t feel totally awful. The ready meals might not be freshly made but the people at Little Dish are committed to making healthy meals for little people so although I’m no nutritional expert I feel ok with giving mine their stuff. They also make Go Go biscuits (see above) which are awesome.

Now the reason I’m mentioning them here is because they also have a cookbook which is full of recipes (101 to be precise) for meals that the whole family can enjoy but are made with little people in mind. So when it comes to cooking with the kids as an activity, I just let Oisin choose some meals from the book that take his fancy and we then attempt to make them. Also as an added bonus, you might find your children are more likely to eat their dinner when they’ve chosen it and have played a part in making in it. No guarantees though. You can also find loads of Little Dish recipes on their website.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading what I’ve been up to with the kids so far this half-term and what we’ve got planned! There are still at least 3 days left before the kids go back to school so muster up that last scrap of energy Mamas, you’re at the final hurdle, you’ve almost made it!! GOOD LUCK!