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.

Brilliant Baby Clubs

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A great way to save money when you have kids is to join baby clubs. A lot of people ask how to get coupons for baby products, well baby clubs are one way. Companies will send you money off vouchers and freebies as a way to get you to shop with them or try their products. Often they’ll also send you emails full of information related to your stage of pregnancy or your child’s age.

There are lots of clubs out there, but here are my favourites:

Boots 
Boots  is definitely my favourite baby club by far, as they just give you so much stuff!

Everything is tailored to your baby’s age and what stage they’re at so you get emails, freebies and money off vouchers that are really useful and relevant!

I’ve had a free changing bag, 50 free photo prints, Ella’s Kitchen weaning book and a photo book just to name a few.

The club is a great way to boost your loyalty points as you get 10 points per £1 spent in the baby section AND they regularly send you vouchers for bonus points.

Tesco
Tesco is good for money off vouchers and sometimes extra Clubcard points. If you’re a member they’ll also email you to let you know when the baby event is starting so you can grab a few bargains!

Sign up with code AWPUNU and you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a year’s supply of nappies or an Aveeno bundle!

Cow and Gate
This is a good club to register with while pregnant, as you’ll receive a free pregnancy diary and cuddly cow. You will then get regular emails related to your child’s development which are quite helpful.

Once your child gets to around 6 months they send you vouchers for money off their baby food and formula. I found these SO useful as Ollie loved their porridge but a small box doesn’t last long!

Mothercare 
Mothercare send you over £100 of money-off vouchers when you sign up. I used the £10 off when you spend £100 voucher to buy my travel system.

You also get 20% off toys on your child’s birthday and a heads up before sales start.


Babies R Us

When you sign up to the Babies R Us club, you’ll receive some money off vouchers and a loyalty card.

You earn points on your card every time you shop with them, and these reward you with money off vouchers a couple of times a year.

Ella’s Kitchen
If you ‘become a friend’ of Ella’s Kitchen, you’ll be sent a weaning pack containing a wall chart, stickers, recipes and money off vouchers.

You also get access to their weaning app. I found the information on their website and app really useful when I started weaning as I had no idea where to start. Ollie also enjoyed a lot of the recipes.

Kiddlyicious
Kiddylicious have a new baby club which promises to keep you updated with the latest news, offers, free product samples and competitions!

If you join by the end of February they’ll send you a free snack for your little one!

If there’s a particular company or product you like, check out whether they have a baby club and you may save yourself some money! 

Fun and Free Toddler Kitchen Activities 


This week’s free toddler activities are all based around items you can find in your kitchen. 

I’m forever looking for new ways to entertain my toddler, especially when he’s teething and needs a lot of distraction!

He loves making noise – the louder the better – and he’s at the stage where he’s really interested in everything adults are doing and using…including kitchen utensils!

Usually he plays with his toys while I prepare his lunch but since he’s discovered what’s behind the kitchen cupboard doors, he definitely more interested in those!

So last week I came up with a few games and activities we could do using objects from the kitchen. This way he can investigate the items he’s so interested in – in a safe way – and I managed to keep him entertained for hours on rainy days without the help of CBeebies!

Kitchen Drum Kit

This is super easy and a lot of fun for little ones. Just get whatever you have that they can make noise on and let them go at it! Saucepans and wooden spoons make great noises, but Ollie is a bit boisterous and I didn’t want him waving around anything too heavy so we used plastic spoons and lunch boxes.



Spatula Hockey!
Ollie really loves playing with balls at the minute and his dribbling skills are pretty impressive! To make things a bit different I got a spatula and a plastic spoon from the kitchen and we hit a ball around the living room together. Not only is it great for developing hand-eye co-ordination, but it helps with large muscle development and social skills (taking turns). Ollie had loads of fun and so did I!

Sensory Bottles
Sensory bottles are a great way for babies and toddlers to investigate new objects, colours, shapes and noises. They can safely play with small items like sequins or beads without them being a choking hazard.

You can use them at all ages and your child will enjoy them in different ways. Newborns will benefit from listening to new noises and looking at the colours and movement. When they get older they will learn to grasp, shake and roll them – learning about cause and effect. When they’re a bit bigger you could even get them involved in making them! Let them choose their own contents and see what happens when they shake them up.

Just fill a plastic bottle with any items you like, superglue the lid shut and off you go!

I used rice and to make a noisy bottle for Ollie. The liquid version was just warm water, glitter and food colouring.

Plastic cups
Plastic cups make a great toy as they are SO versatile. We’ve used them to hide objects, carry toys around, stacked them up and played in the sand pit and the bath with them.

The best thing about these activities is that they’re all completely free! They also give toddlers a chance to investigate everyday items and test out new skills. 

It doesn’t matter what you use or what you play, just have fun! 

The best survey sites to make extra cash 

If you want to make extra money online, answering surveys can be a good way to do it. With a bit of effort you can earn cash or gift cards from the comfort of your own home.

There are tons of survey sites out there, but here are my favourites:

Swagbucks
Swagbucks gives you points known as Swagbucks or SB, for completing tasks such as answering surveys, watching videos, playing games or online shopping.

Once you have enough SB, exchange them for gift cards or cash via PayPal.

The site works better on a laptop as not all areas of the website are compatible with smartphones. However, they do have a couple of apps and there are still plenty of ways to earn points on your phone from the main site – read my full guide here.

Prolific Academic
Prolific Academic is my favourite survey site as it is so straight forward and easy to use. You find out straight away if you’re eligible for the survey, so you don’t waste time answering qualifying questions only to be turned away.

When you log into your account you’ll see all the surveys you’re eligible for, plus amount you’ll be paid and the average time it would take to complete them.

The surveys are provided by scientific researchers, so they’re a lot more interesting than some you get on other sites. I personally find the psychology surveys really fun to answer!

Once your answers have been approved, the fee is paid into your account. You can withdraw your cash to your PayPal account once you reach £5 but you will be charged a small fee. To avoid this, just wait till you have £20 or more before you cash out!

YouGov 
YouGov  has political surveys which are fairly regular and easy to complete. They usually take around 5-10 minutes for a reward of 50p.

You can either accept the money or use it to enter the prize draw to win cash.
You need to earn £50 before you can cash out.

One Poll
OnePoll has short surveys for small rewards. Some may only pay 15p but they will only take a couple of minutes to complete. You also get £2.50 just for signing up!
Cash out is £40.

I’ve tried others including Toluna and Valued Opinions, but didn’t really get on well with them. I found I wasted a lot of time getting screened out of surveys. I will only recommend sites that I’ve tried myself and think are worthwhile, and the ones above have worked best for me. It all depends on your demographic though, so some sites may have a lot more surveys available for one person than another. The best thing to do is give a few a try and see which ones work for you! 


Mess free painting – baby sensory activity

Somehow my phone storage is full AGAIN so I’ve been sorting through some old photos and videos. I came across some from a year ago – back when my baby was still a baby – when we tried out mess free painting. 

It’s a great activity because it incorporates tummy time and new textures and sensations. Plus I did it with items I already had in the house so it was totally free! Ollie was fascinated by the different colours. He wasn’t too sure about the texture at first but once he’d investigated a little he found it hilarious squishing the paints together. It also kept him distracted meaning he got a good amount of tummy time! 

At the time I just used what I had to hand which was cling film. I put a piece of paper on a baking tray, stretched cling film over it and taped it in place underneath…simple! 


It worked pretty well but cling film is a bit flimsy so if you have a grabby baby like mine, it could tear. I’ve done this activity since with a sealable freezer bag and it’s a much better for toddlers. 

Just grab a bag, put a few blobs of paint in, seal and secure it wherever you like with some tape. I chose the patio door because Ollie doesn’t like being sat still for too long and I could put it at the right height for him. I left I there for the afternoon so he could come back to it whenever he wanted! 



At 14 months old, he just like mixing the colours together and moving the paint around the bag, but as you can draw pictures or shapes in the paint. 
I’ll definitely be using this again when Ollie gets a bit older to help him develop his fine motor skills and practice drawing and writing! 

2017 Goal Setting 

I know a lot of people choose January to get organised and take control of their finances, and it makes sense after Christmas. 

I find the best way to get started is to sit down and think about all things I want to achieve and set myself goals to help me get there. 

This year, most of my goals are based around money and family. Setting myself targets will give me something to aim for, and help me stay on track and see how well I’m doing throughout the year. 

2017 Goals

Money
I want to pay off the little bit of credit card debt I have left and keep saving money to start a rainy day fund. I’ve set out a budget based on our income and outgoings, and set a direct debit up to pay the rest off my card. This year I’m going to be looking for new, weird and wonderful ways to make extra cash and I’ll be sharing my experiences on here! 

Home
Our biggest goal this year is to buy our first house. We’ve been saving like crazy for our deposit so if all goes well we’ll have our own home by the end of the year! 

Blog
I really want to start focussing on my blog and building both my followers and content. I’m passionate about money saving so I want to help others do the same! 

Quality Family Time
As a family we made some great memories in 2016. This year I want to do the same, starting with taking the kids to London. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled all year for opportunities to visit new places and try new activities without breaking the bank! 
I also want to make the most of my daytimes with my little boy. I’ve been finding inspiration for free activities on Pinterest so hopefully we will be doing lots of new fun stuff this month! 

Whatever your goals are, make sure they’re realistic, and set yourself a time frame for achieving them. Good luck! 

5 Ways To Make Money As A Stay At Home Mum

Being a stay at home Mum is a full time job, but unfortunately doesn’t pay like it!

So if you need to make a bit of extra cash, here’s a few ideas to get you started:

SELL YOUR OLD STUFF
Free up some space and make extra cash by selling your unwanted items. I do this pretty regularly as kids just accumulate SO MUCH STUFF!

Personally I don’t like car boots (mainly because I don’t want to get up that early) so I tend to use eBay and Facebook.
I find eBay is best for clothes and Facebook for things like toys, computer games and DVDs.

Whatever you’re selling, do your research and check different sites for similar items and see how much they’re selling for. Think about what you’re selling and when – there’s no point trying to sell a winter coat in the middle of August!

USE YOUR SKILLS
See if there’s a way to make your skills and qualifications work for you in your own home. There’s all sorts you can do from home – from private tutoring to teaching music lessons, proofreading to freelance writing, childminding or even pet sitting! It can be a great way to make extra cash and keep your skills fresh. Plus, if you work for yourself you’ll be able to set your own hours and make it work around your kids.

MYSTERY SHOP
I love mystery shopping. It’s a great way to earn a bit of extra cash, get free products and an excuse to get out of the house! I’ve had tons of free meals, drinks, makeup and even baby clothes. The great thing is often you can take your kids with you – in fact for some assignments, it’s actually a requirement! Find out how to get started with Mystery Shopping!

GET CREATIVE
If you love arts and crafts, see if you can make some cash from it. Handmade gifts, cards and clothes are really popular these days so why not get in on the action?
Try selling at craft fairs, to friends and family, or online on sites like Facebook, eBay and Etsy.

ONLINE SURVEYS
Completing online surveys is an easy way to make a bit of money without leaving your sofa. How much you make will depend entirely on how much time you have to spend on the sites and how many surveys you qualify for. I found surveys a great way to keep myself awake during night feeds when I had a newborn. The more you do, the easier you’ll find it to quickly work out which ones you’ll qualify for and which ones aren’t worth your time.

My favourite sites are Swagbucks, Prolific Academic and YouGov!

If you’re on a tight budget it’s also worth looking at your outgoings and seeing where you can cut back. Get started with a quick 30 Minute Money Makeover and find out how to Save Money On Your Monthly Shop. 

There’s loads of other things you could do to bring in some extra money, think outside the box and come up with your own ideas!

Penny Challenge – The Tightwad Mama Way 

I’m sure many of you will have heard of the penny challenge. The basic idea is you save one penny more than the day before, each day for a year. So January 1st – 1p, 2nd – 2p, 3rd – 3p etc. At the end of the year you have £667.95! 

I think it’s a great idea but having tried it myself last year, it just didn’t work for me. Firstly, I wanted the money for Christmas shopping, so saving until 31st December didn’t really help. 

Secondly, the first few months are easy, but the further through the year you get, the more you have to save each week. As a stay at home Mum, money is tight and I can’t always find a spare £24 a week to put away. I got a bit disheartened when the values crept up and I gave in. 

So this year I’ve decided to try my own twist on the challenge. Firstly I’m going to save until the 30th November, meaning I’ll be able to use my savings for Christmas. 
Secondly, I’m not going to increase my pennies daily. I’m going to add them in at random based on whatever I have in my purse. 

This version of the challenge lasts for 344 days so I’ve created a table with all the amounts in that I’d need to save – 1p to £3.44. 

Each day I will add a different amount in, and cross it off the table. This way I can get the big amounts out of the way whenever I’m feeling a bit flush, and save the pennies for days when I’m a bit skint! 

Personally I think this way will be a lot easier as there won’t be as much pressure to save a lot in November (a big spend month for me due to my son’s birthday) and I’ll have £559.45 waiting for me on December 1st! 

There are tons of ways you could work this challenge, you could try it in reverse or add the amounts weekly. You could make your own challenge- maybe save all  all the 20ps you get throughout the year, or skip one takeaway coffee a week and put the money in a jar. 

Whatever you decide to do, make it achievable and stick with it! It’s amazing how much small amounts can add up to over a year!  

Good luck!