Woburn Safari Park – Frugal Family Days Out


When you’ve got kids, days out can be pretty pricey. So I’ve decided to start a new feature on the blog – frugal family days out. 

There are tons of ways to spend time together as a family without breaking the bank; whether it’s creating activities at home, visiting family, going for a walk in the park, to the beach or even big attractions like zoos, and theme parks. 

Last week we went to Woburn Safari Park.
We had a lovely family day out, saw lots of animals up close, and best of all it was totally FREE! 

I used our Tesco Clubcard vouchers to buy our tickets so it didn’t cost us a penny! 

Tesco Clubcard Boost is amazing for days out. You can get up to 4 times the value of your points to spend at various attractions. Just log in to your account, pick the deal you’d like and swap your points for vouchers. Some are emailed and some are posted out so check the offer details. 

An adult ticket to Woburn will cost you £7.50 in Clubcard points, a child ticket £5 and under 3s are free. If we had paid at the gate it would have cost us £62 for a family of 4! So we made a massive saving by using our Tesco points. 

I also took a picnic with us (paid for with my Nectar points) so we didn’t need to spend any money when we got there. 


The park opens at 10am, and we arrived around 10.30am which was pretty good going for us – we only set off an hour later than planned and no-one forgot anything. Winning already! 

The queue to get in was pretty big which seemed like a bad sign of things to come, but once we were inside, it actually wasn’t a problem. We went on Good Friday, so it was more busy than usual. Apart from a fairly slow trip around the drive through and a long queue for the pedalos, it didn’t affect our day at all. 

You start at the drive through safari – although you can bypass this if you want to. I took us about an hour to drive round it all as there were quite a lot of cars on the road. 

I’ve never been to a safari park before so it was great to see all the animals close up. They are roaming around freely within certain sections, so you have to keep your windows and doors shut and there are signs explaining that animals could damage your car. Our car is pretty much on the way out so it wasn’t an issue for us. There were a lot of support vehicles around and I saw them herding the rhinos away from the road when they got too close. You also have the opportunity to bypass the safari completely, or skip certain parts like the monkey ensclosure. So if you are worried about your car, you don’t need to enter those sections. 

You start at the rhinos then head into the carnivores section, finishing with the monkeys. There’s lots to see on the way round. Although there were a lot of cars on the road, we still saw all the animals including 3 black bear cubs having a snooze in a tree!
Once you’ve finished the drive through, you park up and get out to enjoy the rest of the park.

There’s lots to do including animal enclosures, outdoor playground, reptile house, sealion show (extra £2 pp), animal talks and a big soft play area. There’s also Go Ape, which you can pay extra for, but there’s a minimum age of 10. 

When you arrive at the park, you’re given a timetable of all the events and keeper talks happening throughout the day. It happened to be elephant conservation weekend while we were there, so we headed to the elephant talk to see what it was all about. I’m so glad we did because I learnt a lot about how the elephants and looked after (including that they’re taken on daily walks and to their own private lake for a swim) and we got the opportunity to stroke one at the end. I think these are a great opportunity for older kids to learn about animal welfare and conservation. 


We had a wander around the park seeing loads of animals including birds, meerkats, otters, giraffes and monkeys before stopping in one of the picnic areas to eat our lunch.
There are also several restaurants, aswell as ice cream and drinks stands if you want to buy food and drink when you get there. Some of it is quite expensive – £5.49 for a child’s lunch box – but that’s pretty standard these days at attractions like this. 

The boys had a little play on the outdoor park and we headed into the squirrel monkey enclosure. For me the best part of the park are these walk through enclosures. The animals are roaming around freely while you walk through so you can get really close to them. Ollie LOVED the wallabies. He thought they were so funny and kept jumping up and down shouting ‘Boing’! He also loved the lemurs and the birds. 


By the afternoon Ollie was getting pretty tired and a bit grumpy. We didn’t take his buggy as he likes to walk most of the time and I’d read online that there are certain areas where buggies aren’t allowed. This includes the walk in enclosures. 

I’d just started thinking this was a mistake when I remembered you can go round the drive through safari as many times as you like. So we hopped back in the car and he was asleep within 5 minutes. It was actually a lot better for us the second time around. The road was a lot quieter which meant the animals had all moved closer and we could see them up close. It was amazing driving right past 3 white rhino – we could practically touch them! We also saw more bears which were hiding the first time around, and when we got to the monkey enclosure, one jumped on our bonnet which absolutely made my stepson’s day. 

Overall we had a really good day and I would definitely go back, and recommend it to other families. There’s something for all ages. The boys were 8 and 17 months when we went and they both had a great time – and so did me and my partner! I’m glad we used our vouchers though as I think it would have been a bit pricey for the whole family if we had paid full price. 

Our highlights: 

  • Stroking an elephant at the keeper talk
  • Getting up close to the wallabies, lemurs, monkeys and birds
  • Swan pedalos
  • A lemur jumping right past our faces in the walk through enclosure 
  • Watching the penguins and sealions swim underwater 


Things to note:

  • Buggies aren’t allowed in walk in enclosures. If you don’t want to leave it outside, you might want to consider leaving it at home or in the car. 
  • You can go round the drive through as many times as you want so if it’s busy or bad weather, you can always try again later in the day 
  • If you use Tesco Clubcard vouchers you MUST print them and take them with you!
  • Food is quite expensive but you can take your own, and there are picnic areas available.
  • Soft top convertibles can’t do the whole safari – you won’t be allowed in the carnivores section. 

The Benefits Of Toy Rotation


Toy rotation is a great way to make the most out of your child’s toys and decrease the clutter in your home at the same time! Rather than spending money on new items, it encourages your child to play with what they already have. 

If your kids are anything like mine, they have far more toys than they actually play with – especially after their birthday or Christmas! Even though we have a clearout of old stuff around this time, 2 weeks later toys have once again taken over THE ENTIRE HOUSE. They’re scattered around every room – in cupboards, under sofas and beds, and falling out of the toy box. 

And yet my son still seems to only play with the same few things. He picks up a toy, gets bored with it and moves onto something different within a minute. Tidying up is never ending and after hours of hunting on my hands and knees I still can’t find all the pieces to every toy. 

The main reason I’ve found for this is he has too much choice and the same toys are always around. 

As a little person, having a lot of toys available all the time can be overwhelming. They don’t know what to play with first, and if they see the same toys all the time it’s hard for them to get excited about anything in particular. I know as an adult if I’m around the same things all the time, I just stop noticing them. When’s the last time you paid attention to the ornaments in your house or the pictures on the wall? It’s the same for children, and all of this means they end up playing with the same things over and over and everything else is sat at the bottom of the toy box sad and unloved 🙁

This is where toy rotation comes in. 

SO WHAT IS TOY ROTATION?
The basic idea of a toy rotation is to pick out a few toys that will be played with for a set amount of time. This could be a few days, a week, however long you like. Everything else is taken away. At the end of the period, or when your child gets bored, you swap them for a new group of toys. Even though you’ve had these toys all along, they’ve become a novelty and almost like a new object to your child so they’ll be much more interested in them! 

HOW TO SET UP A TOY ROTATION 
Firstly gather up ALL the toys you have and put them in a big pile for sorting. 

Next, decide how you will work your rotation. Do you want one set of toys to last an hour, a day or a week? Do you want several sets on the go at the same time? Personally I’m using one set of toys to last for a few days to start off with. But you might choose to have one set of toys for the morning and one for afternoon. There’s tons of ways to do it, just go with whatever works for you. 

Next pick out the toys you want in your first rotation and stick them all together in a container. 

Try to do a mixture of different types of toys so your child doesn’t get bored. For example one sorting toy, one pretend play toy, one ball etc all go in the same box. You can tailor your box to what your child is interested in at any given time. So you might choose to put more construction toys in for instance if they’re really interesting in building or stacking things. 

Next decide what to do with everything that’s left! Personally I’ve just packed it all away in a big box. When it’s time to rotate, I’ll pick some new toys. If you’re super organised you can arrange your next rotations in advance and sort them into separate containers ready for swapping. Label them or use clear containers so you can see what’s inside. The only reason I’m not doing this is I don’t have the storage space at the minute for multiple containers. 


I’ve picked my first group of toys based on Ollie’s patterns of play and his interests at the minute. He loves stacking, sorting, threading, posting and containing things. So most of the toys and activities we have out for the next couple of days will allow him to explore this further. He also has a ball, some books and a music toy, plus his ride along truck so he has the option for variation. 

Since introducing this I’ve seen a big difference. He’s played with things that have been in the bottom of the box for weeks and not touched – and they held his attention for a long time. He’s isn’t getting bored quickly and he’s using his imagination more. Already the stacking cups have been used to stack, roll, drink imaginary drinks from and as hats for his toy panda! This is definitely something we will continue! 

BENEFITS OF TOY ROTATION: 

  • You can target your existing toys to meet your child’s current interests or developmental stage. 
  • They will be more interested in toys they already own because they haven’t seen them for a while so they become a novelty. 
  • Your house will be tidier (woohoo) as there will be fewer toys out at any one time. 
  • It encourages discovery and use of imagination. 
  • Reduces overstimulation. 
  • It gives you chance to routinely check for damaged or broken toys. 

How To Get Freebies By Product Testing


Product testing is a fantastic way to save money by bagging a few freebies.
It also gives you the chance to try products you might not have considered before without having to spend any money. 

Since I’ve been product testing, I’ve had free nappies, baby products, food, wine and even makeup! 

Here’s a list of my top 5 product testing sites:

THE ORCHARD AT TESCO
I absolutely LOVE The Orchard at Tesco. Their product testing programme is really easy to take part in. The basic idea is they send you invitations for programmes you may be eligible for, you complete a few questions and if you’re accepted they send you vouchers for free products. You also usually get a couple of extra money off vouchers for yourself and to pas on to friends. 

All you need to do is post on social media about your experience. This includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The more you post, the better your Orchard Score becomes, meaning you’ll be more likely to get on future programmes. You also get Tesco Clubcard points for every action you complete! 


Since I’ve been an Orchard member, I’ve had free flowers, berries, cheese, Christmas desserts, cranberry sauce, frozen meals and loads more!

UPDATED 21st MARCH 2017 – Tesco have just announced that they will be closing The Orchard from 31st March. Such a shame as I’ve had loads of great freebies and really enjoyed their programmes! 

SAVVY CIRCLE 
Super Savvy Me is a good site for any money saver. They regularly have printable coupons and run loads of competitions. Their Savvy Circle is a product testing community for P&G products. 

If you’re accepted for a campaign, you’ll be sent free products and you just need to leave reviews and complete surveys on their site. Last year I got a load of Pampers nappies to test out (44 if I remember rightly) plus some to pass on to friends and a little tote bag! 

Ollie investigating what’s in the box!

BZZAGENT
I’ve only been signed up to BzzAgent for a few weeks and I’ve just been accepted onto my first programme. I received my free Johnson’s baby bath this morning. All we have to do is use it and review it…simple! 


MOTHERCARE
Mothercare often run campaigns for product testers. You just need to sign up to their baby club to take part. They offer everything from digital thermometers to prams and car seats. I’ve never been lucky enough to get on one of their programmes but it’s worth applying as it only takes a minute to do so. Fingers crossed I’ll get to take part in one of their campaigns soon!

TOLUNA
This is a survey website as well as offering product testing. Most of the campaigns are for makeup, but I find it can be quite hard to get accepted. Even though I’ve applied for LOADS of them, I’ve only ever been accepted on to one. I’ve read that answering surveys means you’re more likely to get programme invites, but I’m not sure how true that is! 

Things to be aware of: 

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is! We’ve all seen the bogus ads online offering free iPads or laptops, all you have to do is provide ALL your information and bank details. SCAM! 
  • If you’re unsure if a site is legit, do a quick Google search and look for reviews. You’ll soon see if it has a bad reputation.

 Mother’s Day Crafts For Kids

Mother’s Day is only a couple of weeks away. If you’re looking for gift ideas, why not get the kids involved, get creative and make something unique. Here’s a few frugal Mother’s Day craft activities for children of all ages! 

VEGETABLE PRINTING
This is something I always loved doing as a kid. It’s really simple, good fun and can be done with items you have at home so it’s very frugal. It gives children the chance to investigate colours, shapes and textures. 

You can use any hard vegetables (or fruit), but a bunch of celery is a great one because the end of it already looks like a flower. Potatoes are cheap and easy to cut shapes out of. Just cut your potato in half, then draw a shape in the middle with a pen. Cut away the outside so you have a little stamp. Dab it in some paint and get printing! 


This is good for children of different ages – younger children like mine (16 months) will just enjoy playing with the veg, feeling the texture and discovering what happens when they press it down. Ollie was so excited when we lifted the potato up and there was a mark on the paper!

Older kids can get more creative and make pictures or patterns.
They could make Mother’s Day cards or even print their own wrapping paper!

HANDMADE CARDS
Older children can get creative and use paints, crayons, glitter, stickers…anything they like to make a nice card for their Mum or Nannie. 

If your kids are too young to draw pictures you can still use their artwork to create a special card. Ollie loves scribbling away with wax crayons and it keeps him entertained for ages! I let him scribble on a piece of paper and then cut a heart shape out of it and stuck it on the front of a card. You could also cut letters out of their pictures to spell out words. 

You can also make cards from your children’s hand or footprints.
I love making prints of Ollie’s little hands and feet because they grow so quickly! I want to keep a little memento of how tiny he once was. 


I got some red paint and printed Ollie’s hands and feet onto some paper. I cut them out and arranged them into a heart shape but you can use any shape or pattern you like!

CUPCAKES
Baking is a great activity for kids as it’s fun, inexpensive and gives them a chance to learn about cooking. If you’re not the best baker you can buy kits in most supermarkets and B&M have some really cheap ones.

PERSONALISED PLATE OR MUG
My sister inspired this one with this lovely Christmas Eve plate she made for Ollie. 


If you’ve got older kids, get them to do a drawing for their Nannie that she can keep and see all the time! All you need is a white plate or mug and some Sharpies. 

Just get them to draw a picture, write a message or do a doodle on the plate or mug. You need to make sure it’s completely clean before you start: once you’ve finished, allow the ink to dry overnight then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180•C! Oil based Sharpies work best, or you can buy ceramic pens. 

Mother’s Day Gifts For Any Budget

Mother’s Day is only a few weeks away (26th March to be exact) so I thought I’d share my ideas for Mother’s Day gifts that can work on a budget. 

Personally I think the whole point of Mother’s Day is to show your Mum you love and appreciate her. It’s not about how much money you spend. Whether you’re on a tight budget or not, gifts that come from the heart are often appreciated a lot more!

So here’s a few ways to show your Mum you care without breaking the bank:

COOK A HOMEMADE MEAL
Simple, thoughtful and can be done on a budget. We all know how busy life can get as a Mum. So giving yours a chance to relax while you prepare a homemade family meal is sure to go down well!

If you’re doing a roast, meat is undoubtedly the most expensive part. Consider going veggie (Quorn do an AWESOME roast) or keep a look out for reduced yellow sticker cuts of meat over the next few weeks that you can freeze until the big day. 

HOMEMADE CAKE
While we’re on the subject of home cooking, why not get the kids involved and bake a cake or some butterfly buns for Nannie? It doesn’t have to cost a lot and if you’re not the best baker you can always blame poor presentation on the kids 😉😂

HANDMADE GIFTS FROM THE GRANDKIDS 
Homemade gifts are thoughtful and frugal, plus making them is a great way to keep the kids entertained for a few hours without the help of CBeebies! 

Ollie and I have already made our Mother’s Day cards and gifts – check out my Pinterest board for inspiration! 

ME TO YOU BOOK
I love these books! Either you buy one for your Mum -Dear Mum, from you to me –  she fills it in and gives it back to you, or you fill the Dear Daughter version in for her. They’re a really special way to look back and share your memories with each other. Filling it in reminded me of loads of happy times from my childhood that I hadn’t thought about in years so I enjoyed it as much as my Mum did! 

FAVOURITE THINGS HAMPER
I make gift hampers for my family all the time. In fact they’re probably sick of receiving them but I love making them because they can be truly personalised. 

Find a nice basket or gift box and fill it with your Mum’s favourite things. A bit of tissue paper, cellophane and ribbon and you’ll have a really pretty, impressive looking gift! Both The Range and The Card Factory sell cheap ribbons, bows and tissue paper. Poundland is great for toiletries and chocolates. 

PHOTO GIFTS
I think photo gifts are a lovely way to share your memories. Plus these days most of us have a camera with us almost all the time, so why not make the most of all those photos? 

Photo prints can be pricey but Money Saving Expert have a whole page dedicated to finding the cheapest deals on photo prints and gifts. The Range is really good for cheap photo albums. 

DAY OUT 
I personally love getting experiences or days out as gifts because I think memories last a lot longer than possessions. Why not plan a family trip out with your Mum? Take her somewhere you loved as a kid or make some new memories with her and your own children. 

You can exchange Tesco Clubcard points for some great days out such as safari parks, sea life centres, Merlin Attractions like Alton Towers, safari parks and loads more. You can get up to 4 times the value of your points so you could treat your Mum and the kids at the same time without spending a fortune! 

PARENTING BOOKS: 
I don’t mean books that tell you how to raise your kids, because honestly who wants that. But there’s a new wave of parenting books out there at the minute where bloggers and authors share their honest experiences of parenting. 

The reason these books are so popular is that they are so honest! These women don’t pretend to have the ‘perfect’ family. They just tell it how it is, give you a good laugh (and maybe a little cry) and make you realise that in the end we’re all in the same boat when it comes to parenting.

Water Painting – Mess Free Toddler Activity


Water Painting is a great sensory activity for toddlers. It’s so simple, didn’t cost me anything, entertained Ollie and best of all there was no cleaning up afterwards! 

Ollie loves scribbling with coloured crayons but I wanted to try something a bit different today so he doesn’t get bored of doing the same activity all the time. I’m not ready to let him use paint as he’s in a phase of throwing EVERYTHING he gets his hands on at the minute! So I decided to let him do some mark making with water instead. 

Mark making allows children to practice and develop the physical skills they will need for writing in the future. It also allows them to use their imagination and express themselves creatively. 

I found some coloured paper and blue tacked it to the tray of Ollie’s highchair so it wouldn’t move around. I then wet a paintbrush and handed it to Ollie to let him investigate. He liked feeling the wet bristles and then decided to put it on the coloured paper. When he realised it was making a mark on the paper he got really excited and wanted to keep doing it.

When the brush was dry I re-wet it for him. After watching me do this he wanted to try for himself. This is good for developing his co-ordination and practising those all important skills he uses to feed himself. 

Such a simple activity but it definitely held Ollie’s interest for a while, we will definitely be doing this one again!

For another fun activity without the cleanup, try mess free painting – check it out in the Kid’s Activities section. 

Saving For Christmas 2017

Ok so I know it’s only February and Christmas is a LONG way off but a real Tightwad Mama is always organised…so I’m going to talk about ways to save for Christmas!

So many people put off the thought of Christmas until the last minute because it’s too expensive. But it’s only expensive because you’ve put it off, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy! If you get organised now, you can save a load of extra cash for Christmas without making too much effort and you don’t even really need to think about it throughout the year!

LOYALTY POINTS
Loyalty points are a great way to cut the cost of Christmas. I save them up throughout the year to use on my Xmas shopping.

Sainsbury’s have their Double Up Event at the end of the year and I’ve got some mega bargains in the past such as FIFA 17 for £1.99 instead of £41.99!
Boots always have good offers such as 3 for 2 on gifts.
It’s a shame Tesco have ended their Clubcard Boost – but if you join their Christmas Savers, you’ll receive your Clubcard vouchers in November rather than throughout the year. This way you can’t spend them any earlier and I find it’s a big help with cutting the cost of Christmas.

PENNY CHALLENGE
This year I’m doing the penny challenge with a twist. I’ll save a few pennies each day and by 1st December I’ll have £559.45 saved up and won’t really have missed the money!

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR SALES
I always get a few bargains in the January sales like Xmas cards, wrapping paper and a gifts. I only bought a few things this year as the sales were pretty disappointing.

I’ll keep an eye out for sales and bargains throughout the year and buy cheap presents to put away for Xmas. The key is don’t buy things just because they’re cheap! Make sure you know wh you’re buying it for, if not it might not even get used and you’ll have wasted money rather than saving it! Also make a list of what you’ve bought so you don’t end up forgetting and buying 2 pressies for the same person!

SUPERMARKET SAVINGS
Many supermarkets like Asda and Tesco have a savings programme where you can put some money by throughout the year. I put £10 on each month at Tesco so when it comes to doing our December food shop, it’s already paid for.

Be aware, you can only spend your money in that particular store and if the shop were to go bust you could lose your savings. Personally I feel safe saving with Tesco as it’s unlikely they will close down. You could put your savings in a bank account but I know I would spend it before Xmas as there’s always some emergency (car, baby, wine etc) that crops up throughout the year.

MAKE YOUR OWN
I love handmade personal gifts. In fact almost all my family get something handmade or truly personal each year. Not only is it a great way to save money but it’s a thoughtful way to show someone how much you care.

Look out for opportunities throughout the year to make something special. Last year I did the Monopoly Pub Crawl with my sister (a drink in a pub on every Monopoly square) we went in August but I knew it would be a great opportunity for a gift. So I took loads of photos and saved things like train tickets, receipts and mementos to make her a photo album for Christmas. As I knew about it in advance, I could keep an eye out for deals on photo prints and cheap albums.

STOCK UP ON FREEBIES 
Cashback apps are great for free food and drink. Last year I got tons of cider which we saved for Christmas. I also got selection boxes, chocolate, ice cream and food. If it could keep till Christmas, we saved it up. If you’re hosting Christmas or another celebration, it’s a great way to give guests variety without spending a penny!

There are also loads of freebies to be had online. From free samples of perfume or makeup to pet food. I have a friend who saves up all the freebies she gets to make hampers for friends and family. They don’t know it was all free and with a bit of cellophane and ribbon she makes a really beautiful gift!

EARN GIFTCARDS ANSWERING SURVEYS
Sites like Swagbucks offer gift cards as rewards for answering surveys and completing tasks online. I save these up throughout the year to spend on my Christmas shopping.
Other sites also pay cash which you may want to save for your shopping but I find mine is always spent before December!
Check out my roundup of the best sites here!

Do you have any other ways you save up for Christmas? If so feel free to leave a comment and share your tips! 

Posting and Threading – Fine Motor Skill Activites


This week’s free activities for toddlers are all to do with fine motor skills. They’re great for distracting Ollie from all the dangerous things he wants to play with, keeping him entertained, developing concentration and giving him a bit of a challenge. He’s loved them all which is great as we all know how hard it can be to entertain a toddler for free!

Ollie is very into sorting, organising and posting things at the minute. I’ve lost count of the times he’s emptied the washing basket only to put the clothes back in, or the weird and wonderful items I’ve found stuffed in my handbag or boots.

So I came up with some posting and threading activities to keep him entertained. I started off with a few empty tins and some plastic discs – yes they are poker chips, but they’re the perfect size and pretty sturdy! Why waste money when you can use what you’ve already got!
I like to give Ollie free reign to investigate and discover in any activities we do, so I just put the lot on the floor and let him do his thing. Immediately he started picking the discs up and putting them in the tins. As soon as he heard the noise they made he decided to put the lid on and shake the tins up. He then liked transferring them from one tin to another. It entertained him for a good half an hour but I could see it wasn’t interesting enough to keep his attention for long. 

I thought I’d give him a bit more of a challenge so I got a cardboard box and cut a little slot in it. He didn’t get it right away but after I showed him how to post the discs, he loved it! He stopped after posting each one to clap for himself. I cut the slot to just the right size for the discs so he had to really work to make sure he had them at the right angle. *See main photo above*

I’m also trying to introduce Ollie to colours. It’s probably a bit too early as he’s only 15 months old, but I thought I’d give it a go! I had red, green and blue discs so I got matching plates a few discs on each one. I then showed Ollie where each one went. He managed to place a few correctly but then lost interest and started mixing them all up. I think this would be a great activity for children a little older. You can easily introduce the ideas of sorting and colours at the same time. Plus you can use any coloured items that you have to hand so it doesn’t have to cost you anything!

To entertain Ollie and develop his concentration and fine motor skills further we tried a few more activities:

PIPE CLEANERS AND A BOTTLE 
This is a great threading activity for toddlers as it requires concentration, problem solving skills and fine motor skills. Just fill an empty plastic bottles with pipe cleaners and let them pull them out and thread them back in. You could adapt this for different stages by using bottles with wider or narrower openings.



COLANDER AND STRAWS OR PIPE CLEANERS

Another great activity for developing fine motor skills. I first used pipe cleaners, which I threaded into the holes of the colander and let Ollie pull them out and try to thread them back in. He found it a bit too difficult at 15 months, so I used plastic straws as they’re a bit sturdier and don’t require as much hand control. 

He looked so proud of himself after threading each one into the holes! I’ve never seen him sit still doing the same activity for so long, so we will definitely be doing this again!

A couple of months later and his fine motor skills have improved so much he has moved on to the pipe cleaners. He can now thread them in by himself. 



FIRST BLOCKS TOY

Because Ollie seemed so interested in each of the above activities, I’ve been on the lookout for a sorting and posting toy. I found this little bargain in a charity shop for only £2!!! 

It’s the perfect toy for him as it gives him the chance to sort shapes and post them through the correct slots. At the minute he has to be shown which hole each shape goes into. I think as he gets older this toy will grow with him. He’ll learn to recognise the shapes and learn their names, and learn the colours to so it was a pretty good find! 
If you’re looking for activity inspiration, check out Mess Free Painting or have fun in the kitchen!

The Ultimate Guide To Cashback Apps

If you’re looking for ways to save money on your supermarket shopping, cashback apps are a great place to start. They are a great way to get free drink and food as well as money off at supermarkets. If you follow my Instagram or Facebook page you’ll always see photos of freebies I’ve bagged through cashback apps!

So, what are cashback apps and how do you use them?
Cashback apps allow you to claim money back on certain products that you buy in store or online. The apps all have slight differences, but pretty much work in the same way. You check out the offers on the app, go shopping and buy the products listed, take a photo of your receipt and get some or all of the money back!

The apps are all pretty straight forward, and most of them have a tutorial section.

How To Use Cashback Apps: 

1 – Browse the offers and find one you like!

2 – Check the amount you’ll be paid. If it says FREE you’ll get the full value of what you paid back, if it says £2 for example, that’s the amount you’ll get paid back.

Offers on CheckoutSmart
3 – Check which shop the offer is valid in.

4 – Check when the offer expires. Some run out pretty quickly so ensure you buy the product within the offer date!

5 – Buy the product.

6 – Claim your cashback by selecting the relevant offers and uploading a photo of your receipt (and scanning the barcode for Shopmium and Shopitize). Make sure you claim ALL the offers on your receipt.


7 – Check if you can claim the offer on any other apps – sometimes one product will be on 2 apps so you can claim cashback from both. CheckoutSmart and ClickSnap are the same company though, so you can’t claim for the same receipt on both. If they both have the same offer, and you want to claim twice, make sure you get a separate receipt to upload to each app. 

8 – Wait for your receipt to be processed.

9 – Get paid! Your money will either go into your bank account, PayPal or your cashback app account depending on which app you’re using.

CHECKOUTSMART
Probably the best app for freebies. The offers are updated regularly but can expire quickly. Cashback is stored in your account – you can cash out straight away (but you’ll be charged 5%) or wait until you’ve got £20 to cash out for free. Money is paid into your bank account within 10 days.

SHOPMIUM
Good for trying new products and money is paid directly into your bank or PayPal within a couple of days. Has an ‘eligibility checker’ so you can scan the barcode in store and make sure you’re buying the correct product!

Sign up with code KHEYEFKU to get a free Lindt chocolate bar! 

CLICKSNAP
Powered by Quidco so cash goes directly into your Quidco account. Receipts are normally processed within a day or two.
For ‘FREE’ products it often offers a set amount – e.g £1.50 when you buy a particular loaf of bread. This means you’ll get £1.50 regardless of how much you pay, so if you can find it on offer somewhere for £1, you’ve just made 50p profit.

SHOPITIZE
Doesn’t often have freebies, just offers some money back on certain products. Offers are updated every Wednesday.
Need a minimum of £4 to cash out. Receipts need to be perfectly clear, not wrinkled and no shadows, and uploaded properly or they won’t be accepted.

GREENJINN
Can only be used in Sainsbury’s or Waitrose. Offers are updated weekly. Cash out after £1.50.

Important things to remember:

  • Always check the offer details. There’s no point buying it from ASDA if it states Tesco only, because you won’t get paid!
  • Make sure your receipt pictures are clear and not blurred, and that they have the date, time and store details on.
  • Check product prices on MySupermarket before you shop to get the most out of cashback offers.
  • Check you’re buying the right product! Make sure the pack size, flavour etc all matches the offer.
  • ClickSnap and CheckoutSmart are the SAME COMPANY so you can’t upload the same receipt to both!
  • DON’T BUY THINGS YOU DON’T NEED! Don’t get tempted to buy things you wouldn’t normally just because there’s 50p off! If it isn’t totally free or you weren’t going to buy it anyway, is it really a bargain?!
  • Upload your receipts ASAP so you don’t forget or miss the offer deadline! Otherwise you won’t be paid.
  • Save your receipts until your cashback is confirmed. Occasionally you will be asked to upload it again – for instance if you’ve missed part of the receipt out of the photo or if it can’t be read easily. 

Baby Sign Language For Beginners


Baby sign language is something I’ve been really passionate about teaching Ollie.
I read a lot of information about it when I was pregnant, and thought the benefits with regards to improving communication and decreasing frustration sounded great!

Children’s ability to understand language and communication is often a lot more advanced than their ability to speak. And if you’ve ever been around a tantrumming toddler, you’ll know how this can be frustrating for them – and how often it can lead to total meltdowns. Baby sign language gives children a way to communicate using gestures and signs.

When you start talking about baby sign language, people always want to know things like ‘does baby sign language really work’, ‘when will my baby sign back’ and even ‘will baby sign language delay speech?’.

Baby signing and Makaton use symbols and gestures, along with speech, in spoken word order to help support communication. They are different to British Sign Language. They are becoming more popular with parents as a way to help their children learn to communicate – whether they have hearing difficulties or not.

As a parent who has tried and loved baby signing, I want to share my personal experience.

DOES BABY SIGN LANGUAGE WORK?
For us, baby sign language has been a fantastic way to communicate. Ollie was able to learn and use signs long before he could speak so it helped us understand what he needed.

WHERE TO LEARN BABY SIGN LANGUAGE
There are a few different options you could go down, such as group classes, books, DVDs or YouTube tutorials…and let’s not forget Mr Tumble!

I found a bit of information online, but a lot of the websites and videos seemed to be based around American Sign Language.
Group classes are really popular, but I just couldn’t afford them as I was already paying for 3 baby groups a week.

Instead, I chose to get a few books from Amazon. After reading reviews I ordered a couple of the Child’s Play series and I was so pleased! They’re the perfect design for babies and toddlers, as they are colourful, illustrated board books. Each sign comes with a description and cute illustration of a child signing it. If you’re on a budget, these books are really good value for money, as each one is less than £5 – which is about what you would pay for one class! I started with My First Signs: BSL (Baby Signing) and Play Time (Sign About).  
I’ve also just bought some flash cards which are great for toddlers and older children – signing isn’t just for babies!

We also watch ‘Something Special’ on CBeebies. While I do limit TV time, we watch Mr Tumble pretty regularly. I don’t know what it is about Justin that kids love so much, but Ollie is OBSESSED with him!  We pick up new signs and he always has a dance to the ‘friends’ song 😂

HOW TO START BABY SIGN LANGUAGE
Choose a couple of signs to start with that will be relevant to your baby – such as ‘milk’ or ‘food’. Use the sign alongside the word. So each time you give your baby a feed, ask them if they want food/milk while making the sign. Repetition is key here! You need to make sure you’re consistent and it may take a while before baby starts signing back, especially the younger they are.

Don’t introduce too many new signs in one go or you will just overload them! I never introduced more than 3 signs at a time and found this worked pretty well. 

WHEN WILL BABY SIGN BACK?
Common consensus is that babies will start to recognise and interact with signs from about 6-9 months. But, the earlier you introduce them the better. I started with ‘milk’ around 4 months and would sign it to Ollie at every feed. He learnt to associate the action and word with the result he wanted and could sign it himself by 6 months.
As soon as we started weaning I introduced ‘food’ and ‘all gone’, then later ‘water’. All were picked up within a few weeks.
The older Ollie gets and the more signs he learns, the quicker he picks them up. I recently taught him around ‘more’ which he mastered in one day along with the word!

Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. Ollie has adapted a couple of signs to make them easier for himself! We understand what he wants so that’s all that matters!

Ollie signing ‘milk’
Ollie signing ‘food’
BENEFITS OF BABY SIGN LANGUAGE
From personal experience I can say the biggest benefit has been decreasing Ollie’s frustration. Although his speech is developing well, there are certain things he just can’t yet say or ask for. So signing has helped him communicate with me and reduced his tantrums.
A lot of people wonder if baby sign language will delay speech, but research shows that it actually helps them develop communication skills.

In my experience, Ollie’s speech has not been held back at all. He can say more words than average for his age, and he’s even started making his own gestures for words he can’t say. I think this just shows how baby sign language helps develop communication skills, as he realises for himself at 15 months that if he can’t verbally ask for something, he can find another way to communicate his feelings or needs.

It also helps develop social skills, fine motor skills and concentration.