• isobel

Spring ideas to refresh and renew!

Updated: Mar 27

Hello and welcome to my Spring newsletter (if you aren't already on my mailing list, join it NOW for a free copy of my "Potty Perfection" potty training guide, which has been updated for Spring 2021)! I hope that you and your family are well, and that once again, we can be hopeful about things returning to normal (or at least a "new normal"!). I for one am grateful that the children have been allowed to return to school, despite the complications surrounding this, and am just so impressed by the amazing effort the schools have made to accomplish this in the safest possible way, and with so much thought about how to support the well-being of the children. In this newsletter I will be thinking of ways we can do this ourselves at home and throughout the rest of the year, as well as sharing my top tips for enjoying this beautiful season in a mindful, holistic, and sustainable way!

Enforced hibernation over lockdown has been tough for all of us, but now that Spring is in the air I am feeling grateful that there is fresh air and sunshine ahead for all of us! Easter is coming (the Easter holidays seem to have come so soon!), and there are lots of easy and affordable ways to bring the Springtime and the joys of renewal into your home and share them with your children. One of my favourite things to do as soon as possible is bring fresh flowers into the home - there is nothing quite like the scent of daffodils after the darkest, coldest weeks of winter to lift your spirits (and to teach children about the changing of the seasons - these early flowers are nature's toughest pioneers!). Try bringing in some cuttings from the hedges outside - even in the suburbs of North London it is possible to gather hawthorn, forsythia and camellia flowers without too much trouble!

Easter provides opportunities for lots of lovely seasonal food, and I am a big believer in marking the changing seasons with traditional holiday foods (think hot crossed buns, lamb, leeks, Jersey Royal Potatoes, rhubarb, and of course Easter egg chocolate!). Traditional holiday foods are usually traditional for a reason - they are usually the freshest, the best, and the most nutritious for us at that time of year (this may not apply to chocolate per se, but I can confirm that the chocolate used to make Easter eggs is usually of a higher quality than regular chocolate, so you might as well enjoy it now! Find some great Easter chocolate recommendations later in this post)!

Easter also provides opportunities for seasonal activities for kids like Easter egg hunts (this doesn't have to involve vast amounts of chocolate eggs, some of my most successful egg hunts have involved hiding paper eggs that we have decorated together earlier in the day), visiting lambs (check out the National Trust's guide to all things lambing here) learning about eggs and chicks - many primary schools in the UK now include "living eggs" projects as part of the summer terms which is wonderful, but you can also find some amazing videos online. Not sure about how to explain why we eat some eggs but others hatch?! Might be time to brush up on your science with Kathy the Chicken Chick!

Easter is a traditional Christian celebration, and just like with Christmas, I feel that even for non-Christian families, it is always helpful to explain the origins of this holiday to children, even if just to add to their general knowledge - plus they are usually quite interested in tales of morality, heroes, and triumphs of good over evil. If you need a quick reminder about the origins of the Easter celebration, Families Online has a helpful runthrough!

Now is the perfect time to start growing herbs, salad and vegetables, in pots, window sills or in your back garden (if you have one!). A real life learning opportunity and science experiment, growing plants (especially edible ones!) from seed or a seedling teaches children about where our food comes from, the basics of agriculture, and is also a really nice calming, mindful activity to do together. Let your child get their hands dirty, and encourage them to play with water, soil, digging tools, pouring containers, and inspecting whatever insects they come across (you might be squeamish, but small children can often be very gentle and friendly towards insects!). After my amazing success with tomato seedlings last year (a lockdown gift from my lovely next-door neighbour), I am definitely going to try to repeat the process this year!

Lockdown certainly made me appreciate the outside world a lot more, even the green areas that are just outside my front door. As the world came to a halt, so did much of the pollution created by our busy modern lifestyles. One of the things that I thought a lot about was how to make myself and my work more sustainable (something that I have thought about a lot since the age of about 10!), and as we emerge into the outdoors once again, there are sustainable swaps we can all think about making.

Do you think about your family's carbon footprint, and your interactions with your local natural environment? If not, these are great conversations to start having with your child, and they are probably already talking about these kinds of issues at school. Eating local, seasonal foods, and taking a holiday in the UK rather than abroad (looking likely anyway!), are two of the easiest way to improve your family's sustainability. There are also eco-energy providers that you could consider switching to like OVO, and even search engines that are more eco-friendly - have you heard of Ecosia (your searches plant trees!) and Ekoru (your searches help to clean up the oceans!). They work just as well as Google! What a great incentive to pass on to your kids.

Something that I came across last year, and that made a big impression on me, but was sadly halted due to lockdown (not to mention the darkest, coldest months of winter!), is the concept of "earthing" or "grounding", which I will be sharing with all the parents I work with as part of our coaching, as a really great way to reduce stress, anxiety, and increase mindfulness. Great for both adults and kids alike, "earthing" is simply put, the idea that kicking off your shoes and socks and walking barefoot on the ground is benefitial to your health. Remember Julia Roberts teaching Richard Gere to do this in Pretty Woman? The idea has been around for ages, and while many of us have enjoyed the feeling of walking barefoot on the grass for years, it was only last year I stumbled across the science behind earthing. Despite being under-researched, the acknowledgement of the health benefits of this practice are growing all the time - if you are curious, take some time to read more!

Will we be able to book holidays this year or not? Things are still so uncertain, and travel probably won't be the same for some time. Luckily there are many wonderful opportunities for you to enjoy a change away from home right here in the UK (and holidaying at home also supports our local tourist industry and all the local small businesses that go hand in hand with tourism!). Think seaside cottages, B&B working farm holidays, camping and glamping - many of my favourite childhood memories are of exactly this kind of holiday! In fact one of my most vivid childhood memories is of standing in a dark barn in my pyjamas, a coat and wellies, and feeding the orphaned lambs with bottles of hot formula milk, on a very remote sheep farm in Lancashire! I have an old photo of this, I will see if I can find it! As a city kid this was really fascinating, and while you may not all be city dwellers, a change is as good as a rest - so just head for an environment that is totally different from home for your holidays (live somewhere flat? Head for the mountains! Live in a landlocked area? Head for the lakes or the seaside!). Giving your children the time and space to explore and enjoy their new environment will keep them occupied while you take some time to relax and refresh after the last year.

How best to support your child after this global pandemic, and so much change and anxiety (and so much time indoors!)? Such a big question, and in my opinion one that can only be answered thoughtfully over a period of time. For the rest of this year at least, I would suggest being extremely gentle and understanding towards your child, and accepting all of their feelings as natural (no matter how extreme or unpleasant they might be). Try to get them outdoors as much as possible, the fresh air, exercise, and Vitamin D from the sunshine are all things that they have been missing out on. Encourage your child to play with other children as much as possible, whether they be neighbouring families, relatives, or other children at the park. Don't worry if they are not all the same age - mixed aged play has enormous benefits for the oldest and the youngest. Schools are making a massive effort to keep the education boat afloat, so take advantage of whatever extra classes or educational support they offer during the holidays or later in the year, your child will benefit from learning from others. And don't expect too much too soon! It will take a long time for us all to recover from this difficult period.

We can't have an Easter newsletter without thinking about chocolate. My favourite chocolate brand at the moment for innovative, ethical and sustainable chocolate is Montezuma's, which began in a Brighton in 2000, and is now "Britain's Greatest Little Chocolate Company".

But have you ever considered where to buy Easter egg chocolate if your child or a child you know has severe food allergies? Help is here! Allergy mum Manpreet Azad recently gave me her tried and tested favourite brands and Easter chocolate selections which are both Dairy Free and Nut Free (read more of Manpreet's tips to make Easter more fun and accessible if your child has food allergies here):

1. "Nomo Chocolate – The original. They have a range of flavours but for my young girls this one is absolutely their favourite! £6.00 from most supermarkets.

2. Moo Free – the original is a "May Contain" for hazelnut, so we avoid these BUT they have a range of flavours which this year are produced in a separate factory and are Nut Free as well as Dairy Free – AMAZING! £3.50.

3. Sainsbury’s Free From Easter Eggs are both dairy free and nut free, £3.50 (Tesco and Asda also have dairy and nut free Easter Eggs too.

4. Sainsbury's Deliciously Free From Chocolate Bunny Bar - It’s really hard to find dairy free and nut free novelty chocolates so I love these ones from the Sainsbury’s Free From range and they’re only £1.00 – I will be stocking up on these!

5. So Free from Plamil Foods Easter Chocolate Range from £4.00 I love this brand, but they are only available online."

Some of my other favourite products that I have come across recently are:

  • Hottea Mama for pregnancy and breastfeeding teas, including herbal teas to help with morning sickness, teas to aid sleep, and teas to energise you in the mornings. Great as a gift for expectant mums (I love these teas so much I include samples in all my coaching packages!)!

  • Toddle Born Wild for natural, vegan skincare, including a range of handy hand sanitisers designed specifically for kids. Made in Britain, and complete with sustainable packaging, products like "Wind Balm" are just too good to miss!

  • ForAVeryImportant for bespoke eco-friendly cards, paper, packaging and gifts, perfect for weddings, baby showers, and small businesses (and to top it off a tree will be planted for every order over £15!)

This year I am returning to studying in a big way, and I like to think that it is never too late to start studying, never too early to begin studying, and never exactly the right time to take on something new, so sometimes you just have to hold your nose and jump in! I have just begun a new course about the "science of sleep", and later in the year hope to take courses in mindfulness coaching, and postnatal depression support. You can never have too much knowledge! Now that the kids are returning to school properly (fingers crossed!), what course could you take to improve your knowledge, expertise, and sense of personal growth?

My newest friend Shelley Wilson, a private midwife and lactation consultant, and creator of the the 40 Week Squad agreed recently to contribute some of her specialist knowledge to my blog. I asked Shelley what worries first time parents the most about having a baby, and she said that induction of labour. was always a big one, so that is where we began! Shelley has also invited to join new social media platform Clubhouse, and we have scheduled our first live chat! I will let you know if I bump into Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey! Social media is not really my thing, so it is exciting but nerve-wracking to be part of something new!

Potty training season is almost upon us - if you know anybody who is preparing to potty train, let me know! I have a new and updated version of Potty Perfection (my potty training guide) which I send out as a free download throughout the Spring and Summer to everybody who signs up to my mailing list! If you are feeling uncertain about beginning potty training, why not book a Potty Prep session with me, this is a 2 hour 1:1 session (currently via Zoom! where we will cover all the basics, and make sure you are setting off on exactly the right foot!

My next blog post, all about dairy allergy and intolerance in children will be coming soon (posts later this year will feature naps, Dads, and how to encourage play!), but while you are here why not read some more great tips from some of my other favourite specialists: Midwife and Lactation Consultant Shelley Wilson, Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness and Nutrition expert, Emma West, Sleep Consultant Alexandra Collingbourne, and Declutterer and Organiser Joanne Forde.

Check out my other posts for more info and advice on screen time, dinner times, fussy eaters, buying pre-loved children's clothing, decluttering before your new baby, and more.

Visit the rest of my website to find out more about my parenting coaching services, child development, child behaviour, and positive parenting!

Get in touch for more information on any of the topics mentioned here or elsewhere on my site, I would love to hear from you! Have a lovely Easter!