11/18/2018

5 Reasons Why I Love Toddler Sense | Just Add Ginger


As a full time mummy, knowing what classes are best to take Eric to has been a huge learning curve. He is a toddler who never likes to keep still so finding a class with the perfect balance of free play and time where he needs to sit and focus has been tricky.

I started taking Eric to Baby Sensory when he was four months old and, although at first it was a little difficult (read more about that here), as he grew he started to get so much out of being there. And by the time he was on the cusp of being too old, transitioning him on to Toddler Sense seemed the logical step

And now I don't know where we would be without it as part of our routine. It's something we both look forward going to each week and afterwards Eric is absolutely knackered (which is a huge bonus). 

So - if you have a little one of a similar age and you're looking for a new class to go to, here are five reasons why I love Toddler Sense.

image of toddler sense mascot 'Tod' surrounded by a bright border and Toddler Sense logo

1. It's Run With Enthusiasm

I'm not saying other classes aren't, but our class leader at Toddler Sense works her socks off during our session and we're only the first of the day. How she finds so much energy is beyond me. But she puts in 110% every week, interacting and engaging with the children, singing her heart out and leading the activities with vigour. And this enthusiasm is infectious. Before you know it you are sitting there smiling and humming away and having as much - if not more - fun as your toddler. And because all the adults are there having a good time, this rubs off on the children. The atmosphere is infectious and you just can't help but be in a good mood (even if your child is constantly running as far away from you as possible.....I'm looking at you Eric!)

2. It's Okay If Your Child Doesn't Join In 

So let's talk about that. You know how I mentioned that Eric doesn't keep still? Well at Toddler Sense that's okay. Because he's surrounded by children of a similar age doing exactly the same. It's expected. And the room is set up in such a way that it is pretty much safe no matter where they run. You find yourself catching the eye of the parent next to you and stifling a laugh as if to say 'here we go again'

The set up of the space we are in at our class also means that even if Eric does run away and has no interest in going back to the main activity, there's plenty of room for us to do our own thing not to far away. Whether that's watching, dancing, or more likely me stopping him from trying to rearrange the furniture. There's no judgement and no embarrassment. And ultimately, the session is so interactive that they absorb everything irregardless of what they are doing.

toddler sense stock image - woman and toddler playing with a doll

toddler sense liverpool room setup

3. It's Different Each Week 

This isn't your average soft play session ... oh no! Every week we have been to Toddler Sense it has been a different theme, with a slightly different room configuration, different toys and equipment and different directed activities. You step into the room each week not knowing just what to expect and it's a feast for your senses. Your toddler never gets bored by seeing the same things and there are naturally going to be weeks that appeal more to them depending on their interests. 

4. It Tires Eric Out 

A slightly selfish point but I don't care. Eric needs his naps and taking him to Toddler Sense each week is an absolute guarantee that he will get one. He's running around so much and so engaged with everything that afterwards he is just zonked. It'a brilliant. He usually nods off in the car and I gently carry him upstairs when we get home where he carries on sleeping for at least another hour, meaning I get to have a hot coffee and a sit down in peace without being dragged around the house. 

NB: I've clearly just jinxed myself by making this point, so I'll get back to you with if this is all still true! 

5. Toddlers Learns Through Play 

You may just think this is all about playing but it really isn't. Eric learns so much from going to Toddler Sense. From how to interact with other children to independence, understanding his own limits, listening, tidying up, and even getting involved in a bit of risky play. It also lets toddlers direct play for themselves and because everything is open I'm not frantically following after Eric wondering where he's gone. I leave him to it and stay a step or two behind so that I'm there for him to interact with should he want to.

Do you and your little one go to a Toddler Sense class? Let me know what you think of them and leave me a comment below.
Images: c/o Toddler Sense North Liverpool

11/14/2018

My Big Chop For Charity | Just Add Ginger


I have always considered my hair my biggest accessory. It's big, it's red and although most of the time it looks an absolute mess, I really think it makes me stand out. And for years now I have wanted to get it to a good enough condition where I feel like I could happily donate it and not feel embarrassed about it. 

And finally that time is nearly here. At the start of 2019 I will be saying goodbye to my fiery golden locks and embarking on a big hair change. The bleach that totally ravaged my hair has nearly grown out and I can't use excuses to put off the process any longer. 

woman sitting outside in a park wearing a faux fur coat and looking off camera

On 26th January I will be cutting off as many inches of my hair as I can to donate to Little Princess Trust - a charity who make wigs for children who may have lost their hair due to illness or through cancer treatment. Hand in hand with this I will be raising money for the Liverpool Women's Charity. I had Eric at the Liverpool Women's Hospital and had the best birth experience and aftercare so I really want to do all I can to support the work they do and show my appreciation for what the hospital has done for me. 

woman standing in front of yellow flowers in bowler hat and looking at the camera posing

woman standing in front of yellow flowers in bowler hat and looking at the ground smiling

Saying goodbye to my hair isn't going to be easy (I will probably cry) and it took me a long time to settle on a date to do it. Normally I try and d a charity walk each year or more active fundraiser but I just couldn't this year. I am really attached to it and love feeling it swish around my shoulders. But there are so many children, young people and adults out there who do not lose their hair by choice that I can't feel sorry for myself. 

This is not a post to ask for donations. It is more for me to mark what is going to happen (so I don't feel like chickening out). It is also to help raise awareness for the charities I have mentioned and to hopefully help inspire anyone reading this to  consider organising and hosting a fundraising event for a charity you care about. It doesn't matter what you do - big or small - but there are some really deserving causes out there that need support, so why not reach out and see what you can do to help. 


Bottom Lifestyle Imagery: Rachel Clarke Photography

11/10/2018

Hopster - The App That Makes Learning Fun* | Just Add Ginger


Eric is a really independent baby. He knows exactly what he wants and isn't afraid to let you know about it. He doesn't really like to do what you want him to and would rather attempt to do it himself. Which is great - just a tad frustrating when he doesn't understand that there are some things you do still need to help him with.

One thing that he has started to take complete ownership over however is his learning. He catches on to things really quickly and will spend ages figuring out how things work just so that he knows how to use them himself. And one tool that he loves to use and will gravitate to again and again is the Hopster app. 

As a mum I am always a bit careful with how much technology Eric is exposed to. If he watches things on television or YouTube I try my best to opt for educational shows or songs (with the exception of any Disney princess film, which he just loves). So when the chance to try Hopster out came up, I didn't hesitate in expressing my interest. He was already curious about my phone and this way, it would get him away from trying to call random people from my contacts list and give him something to focus on.

close up of toddler boy playing on an ipad

close up photo of a toddler boy playing on an ipad

I waited a little while before I installed Hopster on our iPad. Eric only turned one in April and I wanted to make sure he was would really be getting something out of it. Initially a lot of it was me directing his play, showing him what everything did and pressing the screen so he could watch the shows I thought he might like. The games were an instant hit and in particular 'Monster Match' (a shape recognition and matching game). I would talk about all the different shapes and he thought the monsters were absolutely hilarious. 

Gradually, over the course of a few weeks the concept of a touch screen caught on and Eric was starting to learn how to navigate things himself. And if there were things he could not do he would guide my hand to show me what he wanted to happen on screen. Pretty soon he was doing everything himself and it was incredible to see him match shapes correctly in 'Monster Match' and remember where pairs were in 'Rock Flip' (another favourite game of his). He had no trouble choosing songs he wanted to hear or shows he felt like watching and he started to ask to have Hopster on on a regular basis.

Of course there are aspects of the app that he is just too young for. His knowledge and understanding is growing at a rapid rate and although the app caters for quite a varied age range you can tell which games he will struggle with or get frustrated trying to use. So although he is pretty much in control of using the app, I do need to 'encourage' him to click on things I know he won't have a meltdown about if he can't figure things out.

From a parenting point of view I am also really enjoying reaping the benefits that Hopster brings. One of the main ones being that there is downloadable content. This has been a godsend to Ryan and me on several occasions. The first was when we had to take Eric to A&E (how we would have kept him entertained for hours without Hopster I have no idea) and the other was on a weekend away in a B&B. Eric woke up in the middle of the night inconsolably screaming and it really helped calm him down (and us keep our sanity). 

mother and toddler in living room interacting with an ipad, looking away from camera and smiling

toddler boy sitting on his mother's knee. Mother is pointing to ipad screen and child is watching and touching his ear

Before I was a parent I always thought I wouldn't have any faith in technology as a learning aide but now that we've been using Hopster I've totally changed my mind. I genuinely think it has brought him along. And I never thought I'd say that about an app. He is excellent at matching shapes now, whether on the app, or doing a puzzle and his confidence has spilled over into other areas of his development. Give it a few more months and I really think he'll be telling us about the shapes he sees and what he wants to watch rather than telling us!

Hopster is a completely child safe space with no annoying ads and a carefully curated selection of videos, songs and games that are 100%  appropriate for your child. It is great fun for Eric to use as a 19 month old but I think older children would really enjoy using it too. 

Want to know more? Head over to the Hospter website to have an explore and start your free trial.

*I was very kindly gifted a 12 month subscription to Hopster in exchange for this post. This does not affect my opinions. For more information, please see my disclaimer . 

Lifestyle Imagery: Rachel Clarke Photography


11/07/2018

5 Reasons To Love Autumn | Just Add Ginger


Out of all the seasons I love Autumn the best. I think it's because I'm a winter baby - I am naturally drawn to chillier weather. It's where I feel most alive. A season of incredible beauty and colour there is just so much to love about sweater season that I wanted to share some of my favourite things.

autumnal shot of the lake, statue, trees and water feature in sefton park, liverpool

1. Cosy Coats & Super Soft Knitwear

There's no better a feeling to me than picking out the snuggliest clothes I can find from my wardrobe and bundling up against the cold weather. It's like walking round in one big hug. I try and update my knitwear each Autumn as I pretty much wear everything to death and if I'm feeling particularly organised I'll lay my comfies out on the radiator for a bit to warm up before I put them on.

Coats are also one of my biggest weaknesses. I have so many it is just ridiculous. But there's just something about them. They really pull an Autumn outfit together. I have made some investment purchases over the years that come out of hibernation at this time of year and I love slipping them on and getting snuggly before heading out. One of my favourites is a grey faux fur oversized coat I bought from River Island years ago. I affectionately call it my 'yeti coat' because it is absolutely massive and wearing it is like getting a cuddle from a bear. I just love it.

2. Seasonal Drinks

Whether it's PSL, a chai tea latte or a red cup there's no question that everyone seems to get a little excited at this time of year when it comes to hot beverages, with coffee shops bringing out their seasonal ranges and trying to up their game each year. Personally I am a sucker for a hot chocolate topped with lashing of whipped cream. It's my Autumn drink of choice and I find myself gravitating to cocoa much more than coffee during the colder months. Although if you were to offer me a large flat white and a mince pie I wouldn't say no! 

Mulled wine is also my Achilles heel. Especially if we are out and about at a Christmas market. I have also attempted making my own at home but I get a bit over zealous with the red wine so I tend to stick to the shop bought or ready made varieties nowadays.

close up shot of green leaves with a small waterfall and stream out of focus in the background

path surrounded by trees in sefton park, liverpool

male duck standing on a rock by a lake in sefton park, liverpool

3. Crunchy Leaves & Winter Wildlife

'Autumn days when the grass is jewelled and the silk inside a chestnut shell.'

Did anyone else used to sing that in primary school? It was always one of my favourites to sing and now as a grown up the images that fill my head whenever I think about it just make me want to grab my coat and hat and go on a big long walk. Nature is at her most stunning this season. From the crisp leaves to the dewy morning grass to the animals and bird you spot scrabbling around amidst the tress, being outside is just glorious. 

We have made it a bit of a weekend tradition now to go to Sefton Park or Rimrose Valley and spend as much time as we can in the great outdoors. And Eric absolutely loves it - he runs around screeching, picks up leaves and giggles away when we push him on the swings. And if Ryan and I have had a crazy week it feels so good to go on a walk to dust away the cobwebs so we are ready to start a new week with a clear head.

4. Pretty Photo Opps

Hand in hand with being outside is the opportunity it gives you to capture some stunning shots and memory-making photos. I really enjoy taking out my camera and snapping away. Nature photography is one of my favourites as well as capturing candid shots of Ryan and Eric together. I make sure there's a balance between time behind the lens and times spent with my boys but sometimes I just can't help myself but see what shots I can get. 

autumn photo father and toddler son standing in a park wearing coats and walking away from camera

autumn photo of redhead wearing glasses and sitting outside on stone steps looking off camera

5. More Excuses For Snuggling Up On The Sofa

And when you've spent the day outside exploring, walking and taking photos there's just something about heading home, getting into your comfies and curling up on the sofa together to watch a film and keep cosy. There are always some great things to watch at this time of year too - my preferences are Strictly, The Apprentice, and for this year Making A Murderer and The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina on Netflix. I grab some sweet treats (I love a bowl of popcorn mixed with M&Ms) and more often than not doze off watching my favourite shows.

Do you love Autumn too? Let me know your favourite things about this time of year in the comments.


11/04/2018

The Pressures of New Parenthood | Just Add Ginger

Since Eric turned one I've been reflecting on motherhood quite a bit. What it means to me, how it as changed me, and more importantly - things I wish I'd done differently. I touched on this a little bit in my Mummy Milestones post but as this topic is so important to me, I wanted to explore it a lot more.

Now I don't mean what bottles I should have used or if we should have given our baby a pacifier. It goes a lot deeper than that. In fact it's not so much about things I wish I'd done differently with Eric, it's things I wish I'd done differently for me

mother holding toddler boy in arms. Both looking at camera and posing for a photo

Everyone has their own opinions on parenting and how it should be done. As humans we just can't help it. But if there's one thing I've taken away from having a baby of my own is that it is only we as mothers, fathers and care givers who know how to care for our children. Because it is true - they are all different. But more importantly - so are we as parents. 

I struggled so much at the beginning of this journey. My experiences with anxiety made me incredibly insecure and unconfident. There was nobody to teach me how to tackle things and I was learning as I went, which, when you're a first time mum, is terrifying

There was a great amount of pressure on me to "do the right thing" or "do what's best" but in reality, nobody stopped to ask me what was best. Nobody really knew everything that I was going through and just had to get on with it. On my own. My confidence and self-belief was so low that it took me six or so weeks to even feel comfortable taking Eric for a walk round the block on my own

One big mistake I made was listening to outside voices. I was told I needed to go to baby classes. So I did. And it's one of my biggest regrets. Leaving the house with a tiny baby is stressful enough but for me every time I walked out the door I had to take so many extra items. The pram was piled high with things and the back seat of my car was hidden under a blanket of baby paraphernalia. Looking back it was just ridiculous.

What I should have been doing was working on myself. My confidence. My self-worth. Because the reality is that I was fucking brilliant at doing things on my own. It is only really now that Eric is older that I sometimes need a bit of help (and even then it is very rare that I do). 

Going to classes I felt like I was was a complete joke. I was so nervous I barely spoke to anyone and I was terrified that other mums would think I was a loony for going about things the way I did. I hid myself away and it took me ages to mingle with the other parents. It made it impossible for me to make friends. 

It is only now that my confidence is coming back and I have a handle on my anxiety that I'm reaching out to other mums. I no longer feel like a third wheel and I've actually made friends of my own. And it feels so good. Over the summer I went out for brunch with a group of mums and it was the first time ever that I had the confidence to stay out with Eric all day. After our coffee date was over I took him to the library and then to soft play. By myself. And I was - and still am - so proud of myself for it.

photo of toddler boy looking off camera into distance

When Eric was new I should have listened to myself and said "no thank you" when people had advice to give. For the first few weeks I was on my own I should have gone on walks with him in the pram, taken him on shopping dates, ventured out in the car and used public nappy changing facilities. But instead I gave into the pressure. And I feel like I failed Eric. I feel like I failed myself

I know what you may be thinking .... 'He won't remember.' And you're right - he won't. But I will. I'll remember.  And even though there's nothing I can do to change how I went about things those feelings will stay there because next time I'll know what I need to do differently. 

Yes. You heard me. Next time. Ryan and I want more children. It's on the cards. And God willing one day it's going to happen. 

That's another topic everyone seems to have an opinion on. Having more children. As soon as it comes up everyone becomes an expert on how long you should wait, how many you should have, and if in fact you should have any more at all! What is with that? It infuriates me beyond words because, on an entirely personal level, I need to think about it even more than some would and the timing has to be perfect.

On the one hand I want to wait so that I feel I'm ready to enjoy the pregnancy experience. Last time was so shit that I want to go into it again with a more positive mindset. Then there's the logistics. Do we wait until Eric is a bit older and can help? Or do I want to keep the gap a bit smaller and plan it with when he's going to nursery?   

This post may not make much sense, but as a new-ish mother I had to share my feelings. They have been building and building for so long that if I don't get them all out now they'll just stay hidden forever. And that's not healthy.

 There may even be somebody who reads this who is reading this and feeling exactly the same way. If this is you then I hope this helps you realise you are not alone. That pressure you are experiencing is a real thing - I've been there. It might not feel it right now but you can push through it and if you feel you are being pulled to do something that as a new parent you are just not ready for, you are well within your rights to say "no". 


11/03/2018

Having A Blog Mid-Life Crisis | Just Add Ginger


My posting schedule over the past few months has - I'll admit - been erratic and clumsy. It is only now, one month away from the end of 2018 that I have finally knuckled down and got myself back into a routine. And the trust is that I've been going through a bit of an identity crisis as a blogger.

Let's start with the fact that I am now in my thirties, married and with a child. The content that I was producing when I was a younger gal with more time on my hands just did not interest me anymore. I was bored of it. In place of the hours I'd have shopping for new beauty products or trying on news clothes is replaced now with naps and housework. I wanted to produce content that I was passionate about and that mattered to me. I just don't have time to focus as much as I want to on those things I used to love anymore. 

toddler boy sitting on his mum's lap. Both are looking off camera

And that leads me onto my next issue - time. I don't have much of it. And the time I do have is usually spent running around like a headless chicken trying to juggle a million things and swapping between all the hats I wear. Life when you have a child is chaotic. Heck I sometimes go a week without showering because I have such little time so try and factor in blogging to everything else and I felt like my brain was going to come pouring out of my ears. I needed a break.

Above all I needed someone to talk to about all this, and luckily Codie came to my rescue. Codie is one of those people who you feel like you just know. I only went round to her house for a cup of tea and a chat and I ended up pouring my heart out and telling her some of my darkest secrets. Taking into account I only met her last December and met up with her one time previously it's safe to say that she just made me feel instantly at ease. 

toddler son and mother walking away from the camera on a path through a country park. A couple approaches them in the distance

I digress - my point is that I found someone who got it. So after a few hours and lots of over sharing, I decided it was time to have a bit of a blog renaissance. I had been so afraid of losing who I was with the content I thought I should be producing that I had forgotten who I was. 

So from now on expect to see a bit of a change. There will be a lot more parenting and mummy related content alongside food and lifestyle posts. Fashion and beauty posts might pop up from time to time but all with a little mum twist. And if all that doesn't sound like something you want to read then that's fine. I'd love it for you to stay but I can't write to please other people, I have to do it for myself. Otherwise I'm just living a big old lie and that isn't fun for anybody.

It's a bit exciting this growing up malarkey isn't it?