Mimitoys Location & Direction
At Mimitoys we understand that sometimes it's good to forget about your toys for a while and have a look around you.
We all know that you can have fun without using any toys at all and that some of the best games are to be had running around the garden with your friends.
We are passionate about play in all its forms and we hope that these articles will inspire you.
As always, we would love to hear your play ideas, so please email them to me at email@example.com, call us on 1890 520 025 (tel int =353 46 905 8008) or write to us Derryclare Summerhill, Co Meath.
Assembling Mimitoys outdoor toys
Instructions for the Assembly, Maintenance and Use of our Outdoor Toys
These instructions apply to the entire range of our outdoor Toys: Steel Climbing Frames and Swing Sets and Trampolines. They also apply to Wooden Climbing Frames and Wooden Swing sets, Slides, Garden Toys, Play Pools and Sandpits
TP toys must be assembled by an adult. They must be erected exactly in accordance with the assembly instructions which are provided with all our outdoor toys.
Under no circumstances should any of our outdoor toys be positioned on a hard surface, unless the ground under the toy plus the recommended free space area is covered with a safety surface. Outdoor toys should ideally be sited with grass, sand or a recommended play surface covering the free space area. A fall onto a hard surface can result in serious injury. Toys should be sited on level ground away from the house, overhanging branches, laundry lines, electrical wires or any other similar obstruction. Installing your outdoor toys on sloping ground can cause it to lean or ‘rack.’ This puts additional stress on all the connections and joints and in time will cause them to fail. This is not covered by any guarantee.
Our Outdoor Toys are designed and made to be used by children aged between 12 months and 12 years, unless otherwise stated, and must not be used by anybody else. TP Toys are designed for family outdoor domestic use only.
Children should always be supervised while they are playing on our Toys and should be instructed not to use outdoor toys in an inappropriate or hazardous manner. Make sure they do not wear loose-fitting clothing or jewellery that can catch or snag. Children should not wear cycle helmets while playing on TP Toys.
5. Playing in wet conditions
Many surfaces can become slippery in wet or icy conditions. Lips, tongues and wet skin can stick to metalwork in very cold weather. Therefore, in these conditions children must not be allowed to use their outdoor toys. Extra caution and supervision is required when combining water (eg. paddling pools, aqua slides, etc.) with outdoor play.
With all outdoor toys it is vital that the equipment is checked regularly and often by an adult. The complete toy should be checked at least once a month, and particular attention should be paid to the suspension system, ropes, and all fittings, bolts, nuts, and shackles, etc. If any parts exhibit signs of wear and tear, they may need to be replaced. Failure to do this may result in the product malfunctioning and causing injury. If a sharp edge or protruding bolt is found, saw and file it down until flush and smooth. Children must not be allowed to use outdoor toys until properly installed and checked.
Galvanised tubular - outdoor toys
This range of TP Toys is made from either zinc-coated or hot-dipped galvanised tubing and includes steel climbing frames, swingsets and trampolines. If surface rust appears it should be removed with either a wire brush or coarse sandpaper, and the area treated with a cold galvanising paint such as Galvafroid or Polygalv. These are two well-known names, although other makes of paint are available from most hardware or DIY stores.
Wooden - outdoor toys
As a natural material, wood is subject to changes due to atmospheric conditions. Wood will expand and contract as temperatures and humidity changes and therefore may splinter and split. This will not affect the structural integrity of your TP outdoor toys. However as a result of this characteristic, you should be prepared to check your wooden climbing frame or wooden swing regularly so as to identify any splintering or lifting of the surface layers of the wood. Any affected areas can be rubbed down using coarse sandpaper to restore a smooth, safe surface.
7. Swing Set Frames
These must always be used with the stakes provided. Stakes must be concreted in. Please note you must never set the legs of a swing frame in concrete.
8. Swinging Toys (Swing Seats, Trapeze Bars & Rings, etc.)
swing sets and some climbing frames employ nylon bush bearings. Swing accessories should be fitted to these in accordance with the original product instructions. When fitting swinging toys it is vital that moving parts have no metal to metal contact. Children should be instructed not to pass in front of or behind moving items, not to twist or swing an empty swing seat, and not to get off a swinging toy when it is in motion.
9. Ropes (Swings, Nets, Rope Ladders, etc.)
These ropes will degrade over time. This can be recognised by the rope becoming pale in colour and giving off a fine powder when rubbed. When either of these signs appears, the outdoor toy should be withdrawn from use. Products where the rope is joined with aluminium crimp will need to be completely replaced.
The Mimitoys TP slides are manufactured with a UV stabiliser that prolongs their life. Always check that the slide is not hot from the sun before allowing children to play. If the slide is hot, pour cold water down the slide until it feels cool to touch. Check the slide several times during extended play.
11. Trampolines and Trampoline Accessories
Trampolines are great fun for all the family. However it is very important they are used within their safety guidelines. These safety guidelines are included with every TP trampoline.
12. Fire Risks and Disposals
Never allow TP Toys to be placed or used near a fire. When it becomes necessary to dispose of your equipment, remove all bolts and disassemble. Store out of the reach of children until it can be properly disposed of.
These instructions are issued in the interest of child safety, and we do ask you to follow our advice.
Outdoor Ideas For Spring
Spring is finally here, so make the most of the better weather by enjoying some fun activities with the kids outdoors. You'll all feel much better for feeling the breeze in your hair, the sun on your face...and probably the rain on your back! So what are you waiting for?
Many birds build their nests in Spring, ready for egg laying and chick hatching. Why not try and build your own nest outside? You will have lots of materials in your garden you can use or you could gather some things from the park - look out for lengths of dry grass, twigs, sticks and lichen. You can make your nests in the garden and place them on the ground or in a tree if you have one - find a low branch for your nest to sit in. Is it sturdy enough to hold some small stones or cones (your 'eggs') and would your nest be able to survive a windy day (give your tree a shake!)?
Spring nature trail
Spring abounds with lots of natural activity so take a walk to your local beauty spot and look out for signs of Spring on the ground, in the trees and in the water. Things to look out for include; frogspawn in streams and ponds; butterflies - peacock butterflies which have deep red wings and 'peacock eyes' are particularly busy in the spring; bluebells; caterpillars; catkins opening for spring; dragonflies ...perhaps you can make a collage of all the wildlife you've seen when you get home?
Welly hurling is truly an eccentric sport but it's great fun for all ages. All you need is some open space and a welly boot. You'll need to mark a throwing line and then record each competitor's throw by marking the spot where their boot landed - perhaps use twigs to do this. The aim of the game is simply to throw the boot the furthest. According to welly hurling aficionados, the best technique is to throw as if you were throwing a hammer (turning around first before letting go), aiming to throw the boot in an perfectly positioned arc!
Make a snail farm
Get up close and personal with the snails in your garden and make yourself popular with the gardeners. Feed and observe your snails for just a couple of days before setting them free. You'll need a clear plastic bottle (with its top), some sellotape, soil and, of course, a snail or two from the garden. The bottle will be your snails' home. First cut a small door in the side of the bottle and carefully pierce the bottle to make some small air vents. Then fill the bottle with damp soil and place your snails inside. Place some lettuce or weeds (like dandelion leaves) inside. Seal up the door and make sure the bottle top is on. Now observe your snails. How do they move and what do they seem to prefer eating? Have they made a snail trail inside the bottle? Remember to release your snails from the bottle after a day or two.
Make a hanging basket
A manageable way for the kids to try their hand at gardening. Children will enjoy creating a hanging basket, providing lots of colour throughout the summer. You'll need the following: a hanging basket, some Sphagnum moss (from your local garden centre), compost and a selection of plants - you'll need both some trailing/spreading plants (such as lobelia and ivy) to be placed at the lower level of the basket and some other good hanging basket varieties for the rest of the basket, such as geranium, petunia, nasturtium and verbena.
Line the base of your basket with moss and compost then plant the trailing plants into the compost on their sides, carefully teasing out the roots so they are well embedded in the soil. Do this around the edge of the basket. so that the trailing plant leaves are poking out through the sides of the basket. Add another layer of moss, covering the roots of your trailers. Then add another layer of compost and bed in the next selection of plants, again planted on their sides and poking through the basket. Add more moss until it covers the rim of your basket and one final layer of compost in the centre of the basket - this is where your central plants will go, perhaps your geraniums or another 'feature' flower. Now your basket is complete! All that's left to do is find a nice spot to hang it and to remember to keep it watered.
Spring is breeding time for many birds so it's a good time to get outside and observe our feathered friends as they get geared up for the new season. You'll hear lots more birdsong now the days are warmer and some birds will be showing off their plumage and engaging in elaborate courting rituals to attract a mate!
You don't need an expensive kit to enjoy looking out for different species but you might like to consider buying a pair of binoculars so the kids can get a really clear view of the birds in the garden, park or nature reserve. You can use them to look out for indigenous birds such as robins and great tits or migrant birds such as chiffchaffs and blackcaps. In the garden look out for nest building as sparrows, blackbirds and other garden birds fly back and forth carrying twigs to make their nests. Perhaps you could place a bird feeder in the garden to attract lots of bird activity.
Try a new garden game
Bored of football and rounders? Then try a different garden game for a change. How about holding a juggling competition - can anyone keep three balls in the air? Here's a quick juggling tutorial: start with one ball and gently throw it from right to left then left to right. Now add another ball. Hold one ball in your right hand and the other in your left. As you throw the ball from your right hand to your left, release the ball from the left hand so you can catch the incoming ball! Aim to throw the balls in a nice arc - this will take some practice before you can add in a third ball.
When you are comfortable juggling two balls hold two balls in your right hand and one ball in your left hand. Throw the first ball from the right hand to your left hand, releasing the second ball and throwing it right. Then try and throw that third ball in your right hand over to your left hand! It's tricky but you should perfect your technique with lots of practice!
With thanks to our friends at www.Netmums.com for some great Spring ideas.
Children and Horse-Riding
Many children go through a pony-mad phase where most of their waking lives is spent nagging their parents to buy them a pony. For most this is a pretty unrealistic dream given the cost, space and time demands involved. Even for those with an empty paddock, stable and fully kitted out tack room, it's not always the best way to find out if riding is really for them and if they are ready for the commitment of looking after a horse.
A good compromise and a necessity for anyone with an interest in horse riding is a course of lessons at a riding school or with a private riding instructor. Mimitoys spoke to Lucy Dillon, a British Horse Society (BHS) qualified riding instructor who teaches at Bachelors Lodge Equestrian Centre near Navan in Co Meath. (See their details at www.bachelorslodge.com)
We asked Lucy some questions that we thought parents might ask before considering riding lessons for their children.
At what age do you think it is appropriate for kids to start riding?
"I think children should be at least 6 before they start, but 7 is the ideal age. At 7, they are better able to take instruction, concentrate on what they are doing and they are that little bit stronger, physically"
What should parents look for when choosing a riding school or instructor?
"The riding stable or instructor should be a member of the Association of Irish Riding Establishments (AIRE). This ensures that it has the appropriate equipment, insurance, safety regulations etc, but also means that it is monitored to guarantee high quality instruction and excellent animal welfare."
AIRE inspects establishments annually but also carries out spot checks to ensure standards are maintained. Full details of its requirements can be found on its website www.aire.ie
"Other factors to consider when choosing a riding school or instructor include:
- whether the riding area is enclosed - something I think is essential for beginners;
- the size of the class;
- whether a qualified instructor is on hand - I don't think it's necessary that every class is taught by a formally qualified instructor, but there should be someone present who is trained in first aid and safety; and
- whether children are encouraged to help out with stable management in a supervised way.
Where can I find out about riding schools in my area?
"The AIRE website (www.aire.ie) is an excellent source of information as it lists all its approved members. Word of mouth is also a good source of information, but it's important to follow up on recommendations by asking about insurance, safety, facilities and equipment before you commit."
What equipment does my child need?
"Generally speaking, a beginner does not need any equipment as all essentials should be provided by the riding stables or instructor, namely a riding helmet complying with current safety standards and riding boots.
Jogging bottoms or leggings are suitable alternatives to jodhpurs, but laced up shoes, runners or other footwear without a heel should never be worn for riding.
Once the child has decided that they would like to take regular lessons, then you should consider buying them their own riding helmet, boots and riding crop.
I would always advise buying a back protector for any child once they have reached the cantering stage."
What do you think are the main benefits of horse riding?
"I think riding is a wonderful activity for kids on so many levels.
Obviously on the physical side it develops strength, coordination and general fitness. It is also a very levelling sport – everyone can ride a horse, the only thing holding you back is fear. Children who aren't as good at other sports might find themselves better at horse-riding than their sportier friends.
We have also found that riding is a good sport for children who have attention difficulties. The act of trying to coordinate your movements, controlling the horse and following instructions is a great way of focusing.
Riding a horse is a 50:50 partnership so it will always be a varied experience. Each pony is different and some are more challenging than others so children rarely get the chance to be bored.
The social side is great – children get to mix with others they may not have met otherwise. Riding schools tend to draw kids from a much wider area than other sporting clubs and they will meet up at any number of events and shows. There is also something healthier about gangs of little girls hanging out at the stables rather than the shopping centre!
Learning to ride horses is a great confidence booster: it gives children assurance around animals, encourages responsibility and is a skill you take forward into adulthood."
Thanks to Lucy for taking the time to speak to Mimitoys. If you have any questions for her, please feel free to email them to Mimi@Mimitoys.ie and we can put them to Lucy and publish her responses in a follow-up article.
CHILDREN AND PETS
Keeping pets can be a great way to give kids some responsibility, as well as offering new opportunities for play, interaction and learning.
Buying a pet is a big commitment so it's important to choose wisely. This short article looks at some of the considerations you should take into account before you take the plunge but take advantage of any information sources you can find. Talk to friends with animals about their experiences and have a look online or in the library for information on the pet you are considering.
Of course, we can't cover every pet possible in this article but we provide some key information on common domestic animals, as well as how to deal with common problems such as safety and the death of a pet.
Is my child ready for a pet?
Having a pet requires a lot of commitment. It's not just about having something to cuddle; there is also the responsibility of feeding, cleaning and, in some cases, exercising another living thing. When considering a pet take into account that a lot of the looking after will be done by the adults in the household, no matter how committed the children. Try not to get tempted by the idea of a pet without realising that most of the practical stuff - cleaning out cages, taking dogs for walks, etc - will be done by you!
That said, having to look after a pet even a little is good life training - it teaches children about responsibility and the importance of good nutrition and cleanliness. If you are sure your child will be willing to play some active role in looking after their new pet in the long term then you may find they pick up some good experience along the way.
Other things to consider before you buy
Few domestic pets come without costs. Aside from everyday living expenses such as food and bedding, it's important to consider costs such as vet bills. Would you be able to cover any emergency medical care your pet might need if they became ill or injured? Or can you afford an insurance which should cover them against illness and accidents? The average dog can cost its owner something in the region of £10,000 over its lifetime so it's important to ensure you feel comfortable about taking on an additional financial responsibility.
2. Asthma and allergies
Unfortunately some pets can cause or exacerbate existing allergies, so if your child suffers from an allergy or condition such as asthma you should consider your choice of pet very carefully. The most common pets to cause allergies are cats and dogs. Animals such as these lick themselves to keep clean and in doing so transfer allergy-causing proteins to their fur, which are then carried through the air in tiny droplets. This can cause a range of hay fever-like symptoms (blocked nose, runny eyes, wheezing) as well as making existing conditions such as asthma or eczema much worse. It's worth talking to your GP for advice if you're thinking about buying a cat or dog and someone in your house has an existing allergy.
4. Care when you are away
Are you away from home frequently? If you tend to go on holiday or away at the weekend quite regularly you'll need to think about care for your pet while you're away. You may have another family member or neighbour who you think would be willing to pop in and feed your pet but don't assume this will be the case! It's best to check this out with the person in question before you buy. Remember that kennel or cattery fees can be expensive so you'll need to factor this in as an additional cost if you take several breaks throughout the year.
Possible choices for younger kids
So, you've done the maths and given the kids the responsibility chat. Everything's good to go, but now you need to actually choose a pet! Some animals make better choices than others, so here is the low-down on some of the more obvious choices.
Furry, independent, generally clean...it's no wonder cats have been popular domestic animals for centuries. Although cats' personalities can vary considerably, they are generally pretty free-spirited creatures, happy in their own company and affectionate in equal measure. A cat's character is determined by its age - kittens may be more playful than more mature cats, but a younger cat will be more fragile and less tolerant of the odd pull or over-zealous cuddle.
The big plus of keeping a cat is that they're not high maintenance - they are clean and easy to house train (most will take to a litter tray quickly) and can be left to eat at will, often just needing a bowl of food left out for them to eat at their leisure. And as they are so independent and able to be left outdoors to their own devices for much of the day, they do not impinge on the hectic demands of everyday family life. The downsides? Providing a scratching post might help dissuade cats from scratching your child and furniture but it may still happen. Cats can often present you or your child with unwanted 'presents' such as dead birds or mice. They are also a big trigger for allergies.
Average lifespan: around 15 years
If your child is looking for a lifelong, furry friend then they can't get much better than a dog. Affectionate, loyal and having a natural affinity with children, dogs, being pack animals, love being the centre of family life, interacting and playing with the younger members of the clan. In return, dogs can offer guardianship and bravery (think of the many cases in which dogs have saved their owner's life) and are great for building confidence in children. They encourage healthy habits in all members of the family too, encouraging more walking and running about outdoors. Dogs have also been proven to have significant benefits for children with autism.
But- and it's a big 'but'! - dogs also have perhaps the most disadvantages in the pets world. They can be expensive to keep, need regular exercise, can take up lots of room in the house and need lots of social interaction and affection. Furthermore, as children will need help with pretty much all aspects of a dog's care it will be a commitment for the whole family if you decide to add a dog to your household. It's important to think carefully about dog breeds, too, as some breeds do not mix well with young children. But whichever breed you go for all dogs will need some form of training, to set ground rules and keep the dog under your - and your child's - control.
Average lifespan: 10-12 years
Although they don't come much cuter than a fluffy rabbit, there are some downsides to keeping rabbits. Often quite nervous creatures, they can be wary of children and do not take kindly to sudden, loud noises or rough handling. As such, given the sometimes unpredictable nature of younger children, rabbits may not provide the companionship your child may be looking for in a pet. However, if your child is calm-natured and understanding enough to grasp that a rabbit requires very gentle handling and quiet play as opposed to rough and tumble, rabbits can make good pets. They are after all quiet animals and enjoy affection.
Practically speaking, they require a hutch with straw bedding, and access to somewhere (preferably outdoors) where they can run around (either freely or within a run). Be aware of the potential hazards of foxes, even if you live in an urban area, and also note that if you plan to keep rabbits indoors, although they can be trained to use a litter tray they can be a little on the messy side, and will happily chew thorough your electrical cables and furniture if they get the chance!
Average lifespan: 7-8 years
Usually quite sociable creatures, who become affectionate when handled properly, guinea pigs can make great family pets. They are also cheap and easy to look after, requiring only food, bedding, a good-sized cage and a few toys to play with. One of the main considerations before buying a guinea pig is that they get lonely and do not like being in solitary confinement, so if possible it is better to buy a pair of guinea pigs (ideally two females or a neutered male and female - two males can sometimes fight). With plenty of interaction, guinea pigs can be become extremely affectionate and make a lovely companion for your child. But it's important to stress they do require the right handling as they are easily injured if handled roughly or dropped.
Another big consideration: they feel the cold and prefer to be kept indoors. If you must keep your guinea pig outdoors they will need to be provided with a warm refuge during the winter months (perhaps a warm corner of the garden shed or garage - they will become very sick or die if left in freezing temperatures for any period of time). They can also be a tempting prize for foxes or cats. One other point: short-haired varieties are much easier to care for than the longer-haired guinea pigs, which require daily grooming.
Average lifespan: 4-7 years
Hamsters are a popular choice as family pets, primarily because of their size. They are also relatively easy to look after and their energetic, excitable natures make them fascinating to observe - many happy hours can be spent watching them running around or turning over on their wheels. Like most animals, they will need to be tamed and will require interaction with the family members so they can get used to the new household and new faces (they do have a bit of reputation for biting so do encourage very careful, gentle handling so your new pet quickly realises they are amongst friends and not enemies).
One major consideration is that hamsters are nocturnal creatures so you may feel they don't make a good choice if you have a younger child that won't be able to enjoy playing with them for any significant amount of time. They can also become a little bad tempered and more prone to biting if they are subjected to excessive noise levels during the day when they are trying to sleep.
There are several widely available species of hamsters to choose from but be aware that you should never house different species together. In terms of housing, a wire cage is required, and it must be equipped with an exercise wheel - hamsters have incredible reserves of energy and need plenty of exercise and toys to play with.
Average lifespan - 2-3 years
Energetic, busy creatures, Gerbils are social rodents who thrive best with company so are best paired, ideally two males or two females together. Unlike hamsters they are active during the afternoon and early evening and sleep all night. But like hamsters, they require lots of activity and exercise, and need ample space to do so - they are best housed in a glass aquarium rather than a wire cage, as these tend to be deeper and better for burrowing, a favourite gerbil activity. They also require lots of material for them to dig and tunnel into (toilet roll insides are perfect, as is any other type of cardboard tubing), as well as exercise wheels and plenty of room for exercise.
It's worth bearing in mind (and the same applies to hamsters, too) that because gerbils are such fleet-footed, agile creatures they are almost a bit too active for children, who may become frustrated by their 'blink-and-you-miss them' nature. This, in turn, can lead to inadvertent rough handling as children, desperate to 'catch' their pet, may grab the animal a little too hard, scaring and hurting the gerbil. So, as with other similarly natured pets, it's important to give children a good grounding in appropriate care for their gerbil at the outset - they should never pick up or pull a gerbil by its tail.
Average lifespan - 2-3 years
Mice and Rats
Mice in particular are very quick and, as with hamsters and gerbils, can sometimes fall short of the requirements children expect of their pets. The main drawback of both mice and rats is their odour - male mice have a strong smell of musk (the females less so), as do rats, so the biggest commitment to keeping both these animals is making sure their cages are cleaned out regularly.
Rats in particular require lots of human interaction - they'll become quite miserable if left alone for long periods of time so daily contact with their human carers is a must. In return, they can become quite affectionate creatures. Another point to consider is that rats need more spacious living environments than other rodents and small mammals, and they like to have cages with different levels. As with most pets, if you're going to keep a pair, stick to the same sex and never keep a mouse and a rat together as rats are predatory towards mice. If you're a bit squeamish about rats, it's worth noting that domestic rats are actually very rewarding pets - they love being handled, are highly intelligent and very affectionate. They can even be trained to perform tricks!
Average lifespan: rats - 2-3 years, mice - 3-5 years
If you're short of space in your home but would like to keep a pet, a bird could be an option. Intelligent, beautiful to look at and interesting to observe, birds are perhaps better suited to children who are happy to have a pet they can look at rather than one which requires more hands-on interaction. However, if your child does not like noise, think carefully before you buy - birds are very vocal creatures who will bring another noisy element to the household!
Other downsides need careful consideration, too. Birds have quite a long average lifespan - 10-30 years, depending on the breed - so a big level of commitment is needed to care for them. The moral issue of keeping caged birds is also something to consider. In addition they are messy eaters and go to the toilet a lot so they are quite labour-intensive when it comes to cleaning. They are also extremely sociable creatures who do not like being kept in solitary confinement. Bear in mind that handling or petting needs to be carefully supervised, too - birds' beaks, especially parrots, can be a danger to small children, as birds are able to inflict serious injuries on fingers should they nip your child's hand. In terms of breeds, affectionate birds like budgies make the best choice as pets for children. Not only are they more gentle but your child will get a lot of joy training their budge to mimic words or whistle songs!
Average lifespan - 10-30 years
Noise-free, relaxing to watch, and beautiful in colouring, fish make a great first introduction to the experience of keeping pets. With a low level of responsibility and cleaning, and minimal maintenance costs, they deliver lots of pluses for parents. However, for children who generally equate 'pets' with a companion they can play with, fish will obviously not be able to fulfil that role. But they can still provide the experience of looking after something - cleaning out the aquarium and feeding. And it's great fun to choose your selection of fish, particularly the many-coloured, different-shaped tropical varieties. Children will enjoy choosing and decorating the aquarium, also.
Average lifespan - around 2 years (although goldfish can live for a decade or longer)
General tips on keeping pets
Make sure your children are aware of the need for thorough hand-washing after they've been playing, feeding or cleaning their pets/pets cages.
Introduce a new pet to the household in a calm and caring manner, and show your child how to handle their new pet carefully and gently.
Make sure your pet is up-to-date with all their vaccinations and worming. Worming should be done at regular intervals as worms can be transferred to humans. Always keep worming tablets or any other pet medication well out of reach.
Make sure litter trays are kept well away from little hands and make sure food bowls are regularly disinfected.
Explain the specific needs of your child's new pet to them: that they need regular exercise, mustn't be disturbed from sleeping in the day (if they are nocturnal), don't like their tails being pulled, etc. And an animal that is sleeping or eating shouldn't be disturbed.
Never leave babies and pets in the same room alone. Use a net on the pram if your baby is sleeping downstairs and you have a cat. Young children and dogs should never be left alone together, either - even the most even-tempered dog can respond badly if startled by a loud noise, or handled roughly.
Your baby may be able to fit through a cat-flap so do check they can't make an escape into the front or back garden!
Sometimes pets need down-time from the children, and a chance to be left alone in peace and quiet for a while.
You may need to pet-proof your home - animals, a little like young children, will see the house as their very own playground, full of interesting things to explore. As you have children it will be second nature to keep harmful substances (cleaning products, medicines, etc) out of reach, but you will also need to review things like your electrics and cabling as many animals will instinctively view these as things to chew on. Make sure all wires are covered or inaccessible, and make sure there are no small spaces little pets could escape through (gaps in floorboards, air ducts, etc). Some house-plants are also highly toxic to some animals. Scratching posts may be useful to safeguard your furniture.
When a pet dies
The passing of a much-loved pet is often a child's first experience of death, and although difficult and upsetting to deal with, the experience provides children with a valuable life lesson. It provides parents with an opportunity to talk about loss, love and the after-life (if you believe in one). But death is a complex concept for children to get their head round, and parents need to take an honest but delicate approach when talking about what has happened to the family pet.
It's important to make your explanation of the situation clear rather than avoiding the hard facts. Your child's pet isn't going to come back and it's important for children to recognise death as a natural part of the life cycle. Don't dismiss your child if they are very emotional about their pet's passing - even if to you 'it's just a hamster' it's very important not to trivialise your child's feelings and to let them know that grief is a natural emotion, and nothing to be ashamed of. On the other hand, your child may seem indifferent to the death of their pet so don't berate them if they don't seem to be showing any emotion - children react to situations in their own way so don't press them for a reaction. It may take a while for the loss to be felt, and if the upset isn't immediate you may find that as time goes on your child feels their loss more keenly when they realise how much they miss taking the dog out to the park, grooming the gerbil or playing with the cat.
Your child may feel responsible for their pet's passing, so try to put their mind at rest that it's not their fault. Don't brush off any questions your child may have about the death of their pet, and let them remember their pet in their own way. Many children like to hold a little burial ceremony for their pet, or write a story or poem about them. Or they could keep a scrapbook of memories and photos to remember their pet by. In time your child may ask for a replacement pet but it's important not to rush the grieving process and surprise your child with a replacement before they are ready.
Thanks to our friends at www.netmums.co.uk for their help with this article
Dealing With Fussy Eaters
We all have a fairy-tale idea of meal times with the children: chatting and laughing with everyone happily tucking into their food. But if you are unlucky enough to have a fussy eater in your family then this all changes.... meal times can become very stressful and the tea table quickly becomes a battleground.
Of course we all want our children to thrive and it's hard to see how this can happen if they only eat a tiny amount of only a few foods. We face stress and aggravation every meal time in the hope of getting a few more morsels down them and meal times become a time we dread rather than enjoy.
If this is you and your family then you should know that you are most definitely not alone. This is a widespread problem affecting lots of families.
But help is at hand from our friends at NetMums (www.netmums.co.uk) who have consulted Diet Detective, Judith Wills. Judith is one of the UK's best -known and knowledgeable nutrition and diet experts, with the knack of making a healthy lifestyle both fun and appealing to children.
She is author of “Children's Food Bible” and “Everyday Eating for Babies and Children”.
“Toddlers and young children can be notoriously difficult about eating what you want them to eat, when you want them to eat it but try not to worry too much! The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) says that food problems in pre-school children are common, to the extent that they are seen as a stage of normal development at that age, and that a third of under-fives practice food refusal or selective eating.
This is partly because children are experimenting with, or being asked to try, new textures and tastes, and partly because they are testing their parents’ reactions and seeing what effect their behaviour has.
The RCP reassures that the majority of children will grow out of any problems but in the meantime you can help minimise mealtime tantrums and raised stress levels – (and that’s only from you, the parent!) with some of our tips here. “
We have included some of Judith's suggestions below and hope that these will help you minimise the problem or at least learn not to care about it so much.
• Offer them a variety of foods as soon as possible after weaning is established (after age 6 months). Research shows that if your child has been introduced to a range of foods straight from weaning, they are more likely to accept them. It has been found that only 4% of new foods are accepted after the age of two. A delay in offering textured, ‘lumpy’ foods or chunks of food may contribute to later faddy eating.
• Remember no child likes everything. Almost all children aged around 2 to 3 will have food favourites and will take against certain other foods that they have previously liked, or will refuse other foods just by looking at them, or will try a little and then refuse to touch that food next time it is offered. Many will use food refusal as a way to get your attention, or a reaction from you, or as a tool. In general, if they are not underweight and seem healthy, and are eating something from each of the food groups, then you shouldn’t worry too much. If they see you get agitated, or if you try to force them to eat, this could well make the situation worse.
• A 2002 survey conducted by University College London found that these are the foods that 4 to 5 year olds hate most: leeks, marrow, avocado, cottage cheese, melon, sweet pepper, liver, onion, cabbage.
• If your child is teething they may well feel off colour, their gums will be sore and they may be off their food. Offer sugar-free rusks or rice cakes to chew on and give them plenty to drink until they feel better.
• If your child is ill, they may also be off their food. Consult a doctor about their illness and offer plenty to drink.
• If your child is more tired than usual, or is worried about anything (e.g. new childminder, or picking up on something that you are concerned about) they may go off their food.
• Small children who will only eat a few types of food –for example milk, cheese, bread, apples – can be a worry but seem to do better on such restricted diets than you might think. Try to build on a preferred food and work others in – for example, if they like milk, add a small amount of pureed fruit to make a milkshake and gradually increase the amount and variety of fruits used. If they like bread, try it plain, toasted, white, brown, with butter, with jam, and then try a little bit of peanut butter or mashed banana in a small sandwich.
• For a child with a limited appetite, who eats only a very restricted range of foods or who is failing to grow properly, your GP or Public Health Nurse may advise vitamin and mineral drops – A, C and D are commonly given to young children.
• Be guided on whether that is a cause for concern by whether your child is a reasonable weight– if they are then don’t worry.
• Many children don’t have much of an appetite for their main meals because they have filled up on snacks and drinks between mealtimes. Try offering only water or diluted fruit juice for drinks and snacks of fresh fruit or vegetable sticks between meals.
• If your child seems to dislike most fruit and/or vegetables concentrate on the fruit or vegetable they do like for the time being and introduce small amounts of one or two of the disliked ones again every few weeks. Few children like everything so if they only dislike some vegetables then that really isn’t too much of a problem as they should get all the nutrients they need from the ones they do like.
• Junk food and sweets - Try to avoid offering these items from weaning up to school years. Generally, if a young child doesn’t have access to these foods, they won’t crave them as they won’t even know what they taste like. It is in these young years that tastes develop and with any luck you might avoid your child getting a strong liking for unsuitable foods. Since you have control over what you buy for your children at this age, it is best to be cruel to be kind and don’t introduce the idea that these items are treats or rewards. This is especially important for overweight children and for children who have a limited appetite and trouble eating enough of the ‘good’ foods.
• There is nothing wrong with many puddings – custards, rice puddings and fruit desserts can offer a range of important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin C and protein. If your child eats a balanced diet, the small amounts of sugar in such desserts are acceptable.
• Try to relax. Some parents worry so much about a good diet for their child that meals become tense making any minor feeding problem worse. Children can easily be put off their food by tension – or learn to like the attention that food refusal brings.
• It is important to give your child the idea that meal times and good food are to be enjoyed. Help them develop a love of real food and home cooking. Let them take pleasure in sitting with you (and other family members) to enjoy a meal and a good chat.
• Even quite small children can help in some way to prepare food – washing fruit or vegetables, mixing, kneading, setting the table, and then tasting as you cook.
• However if a child really doesn’t want their meal, never force them to sit at the table with their uneaten food in front of them for ages after others have finished. Set a time limit on each meal of 20 or 30 minutes and don’t ever offer a bribe (eat up your dinner and you can have sweets).
Lunch Box Ideas
While cooked school meals are generally getting healthier, and have to conform to government guidelines, children taking packed lunches to school may be missing out on the same nutritional guarantees.
Some children take a lunchbox full of processed and junk food to school, and are missing out on the vital vitamins and minerals contained in fresh foods. If your child takes a lunchbox to school we have lots of healthy ideas here from our own research and have picked up loads of tips from our friends at Netmums (www.netmums.com).
If your children are bored of eating the same thing very day, or you're not sure what makes up a healthy well balanced lunch box, this article should give you the inspiration you need for spicing up lunch boxes with a good mix of healthy ideas.
Simply pick one item from each of the five categories shown below to make up a well balanced and healthy packed lunch. Vary the portion sizes according to the age and appetite of your child.
Our 5 categories: Tummy fillers, 5-a-day choices, Good for growing bones, Snacks, Drinks
Growing kids need plenty of starchy foods to fill them up and give them energy. Nutritious meals packed with fibre, protein, carbohydrate and vitamins will also help your child's growing bones and give them a healthy dose of brain power for the afternoon ahead.
These along with fruit and/or vegetables should form the main part of your child's lunch. Try some of these ideas:-
Sandwiches and wraps
Just like adults, children can get bored with sandwiches so try using the same fillings, but add variation by changing the bread.
• Sliced or homemade bread - vary between wholemeal, granary, multi-grain and white
• bread roll, pitta bread, naan, chapatti, bagel, tortilla/wrap, oatcakes, crepe/pancake, potato cake, malt loaf, hot cross bun, scone.
• Pack crackers or breadsticks separately from the filling. Your child then assembles the crackers and filling into sandwiches, or dips the breadsticks in.
• Meat - wafer thin cooked meats, cubed chicken/turkey breast with tomato and lettuce, ham and cheese, roast chicken & hummus, leftover cold meats (chicken, turkey, meatloaf, sausages etc) with salad, chicken and mashed avocado, cold BLT.
• Fish - tuna mayo & sweetcorn, tuna salad, sardine and tomato, fish paste and cucumber.
• Veggie - grated cheese, cheese spread, cream cheese, Quorn slices and salad, cottage cheese with pineapple, cheese and grated carrot with a little mayo, veggie sausages, vegetarian pate with cucumber, cheese and coleslaw, egg salad/egg mayo, cheese and pickle, Marmite.
• Sweet - High-fruit jam/fruit spread, nut-free chocolate spread*, honey, treacle, lemon curd.
*Please note that some schools do not permit nuts and nut products to be brought in lunchboxes (due to pupils with nut allergies), so check with your school before including nut products. More about food allergies here.
Other ideas for tummy fillers
• Carbohydrate based salads such as pasta salad, rice salad, cous cous, potato salad, tabbouleh etc.
• Egg based foods such as quiche, mini quiche or frittata.
• Baked items such as savoury muffin, cheesy corn triangles, pizza slice, mini pasty, cheese and potato roll, croissant, samosa, pakora, spring roll etc*.
*These items can be high in saturated fat, so just opt for them occasionally.
• Any combination of the following, in a small pot or bag: raisins, sultanas, pumpkin/sunflower seeds, ready to eat dried apricots, dates or prunes.
• Whole fruits - satsuma, apple, banana, pear, peach, plum, grapes, strawberries (whatever is in season)
• Fruit salad pot - any combination of prepared fruit: strawberries, orange, melon, mango, pineapple, kiwi etc.
• Homemade fruit puree, smoothie or apple sauce (you can add strawberry, peach, etc to it)
• Fruit jelly made with fruit pieces and pure fruit juice
• Tinned fruit pot (useful in the winter when there isn’t a great selection of ripe fresh fruit) - mandarins, pineapple, peaches, fruit salad, pears.
• Salad pot - any combination of prepared raw vegetables: cucumber, lettuce, pepper, celery, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, mangetout, slices of avocado sprinkled with a little lemon juice etc. or coleslaw.
Good for growing bones
• Fruit yogurt, fromage frais or dairy-free alternative.
• Cold rice pudding or custard.
• Greek/plain yogurt.
• Cubes of cheese or pre-packed lunchbox sized cheese portion, cottage cheese with pineapple.
• Dips: hummus, tzatziki, raita, cream cheese and plain yogurt.
If you have energetic kids, you may like to add a snack to their lunchboxes to re-fuel their energy levels! Here are some of our favourites:-
• Savoury options - Hard boiled chicken's or quail's eggs, scotch/savoury egg, mini sausages, sausage roll, falafel etc.
• Small bag of lower salt (preferably baked or reduced fat) crisps, or a handful of crisps in a pot. Crackers, crisp bread, rice cakes, cheesy biscuits, savoury flapjack, savoury scone, bread sticks, unsalted popcorn.
• Sweet options - Muffin, cup cake, small piece of cake, biscuit or cookie, flapjack, shortbread, jam tart, cereal bar*
* Check cereal/flapjack bars for sugar content , as some can contain as much sugar as a bar of chocolate!
Steer clear of sugary drinks and go for one of these healthy options:-
• Milk (whole, semi-skimmed, goats or soya)
• Pure fruit juice or smoothie - preferably diluted.
• Occasional well diluted high-juice squash (see note about sugar free options)
A note about sugar free options
Sugar can be hard to spot in children's food, as it's called many different things. All the following are forms of sugar, which is only needed in small amounts and offers your child little, except empty calories: sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, fruit syrup, molasses.
Look for 'no added sugar' on the packet. If you can't see that on a label then read the Nutritional Information panel and look under 'Carbohydrates - of which Sugar'.
But do be aware that products stating 'no added sugar' normally use chemical sweeteners, some of which are being investigated for safety.
We have gathered some top tips from Netmums and our own friends – we hope that you can add to them!
• Have a trial run at home, just to make sure your child can open everything.
• Remember to label your child's lunchbox...half the class might have the same design!
• Soft lunchboxes seem to be the most popular choice for young children, as they are light, and easy to carry.
• Buy some small lidded (watertight!) pots, the ones you can buy to freeze baby food in are an ideal size for a portion of fruit, salad or dip.
• Remember to pack a teaspoon if you send a yogurt, fromage frais or jelly!
• Put a sheet of kitchen roll in, to wipe sticky fingers and mop up any spills.
• To keep food cold in summer either use a refreezable ice pack, or freeze a bottle of water (remember not to overfill). You can also freeze tubes of fromage frais, or cartons of fruit juice over night and pop them in their lunchbox in the morning.
• Make lunches the night before and keep them in the fridge. It saves that last minute panic in the morning.
• Encourage older children to help make their own lunch.
• If you put a pure fruit juice drink and another fruit or vegetable option in your child's lunchbox, your child will get 2 of their recommended 5-a-day.
• Even fussy eaters should be given a variety of different foods in their lunchbox (plus a couple of favourites so you know they won't go hungry). They're more likely to eat new foods when mum's not watching and when they are surrounded by other children eating.
• Use leftovers - if they liked it the night before, odds are, they'll love it next day cold - really!
• Fillings for wraps can be put into a separate little container or resealable bag to stop the bread going soggy, or fill a tortilla or chapatti with a variety of toppings, roll and and wrap tightly in cling film or foil.
Cooking with Children
So, if you've got an hour or two to fill and are wondering how to amuse your toddlers or how to entertain your children in the school holidays, here are some ideas, tips and recipes... with thanks to our friends at www.netmums.co.uk for inspiration.
Select your recipes carefully
If your children are very young then choose something simple like straightforward biscuit recipes or a fresh fruit salad. Preferably nothing that takes too long or is too complicated. As children get older, they can concentrate for longer and you can move onto more involved dishes and eventually complete meals.
Prepare and Plan ahead
Make sure you have all the ingredients before you begin in the kitchen. If you have the time, you can spend the whole day on a cooking activity. Get your children involved in choosing a recipe, shopping for the raw ingredients, preparing and cooking the food and finally eating it. It’s incredible how children are more open to eating foods that they have been involved in preparing.
Give everybody plenty of time
Don't think for a moment that you can do anything quickly when you've got a mini-helper in the kitchen. Things will take much longer than normal so don't try to squeeze a cooking session in between a school pick up and a doctor's appointment. You won't be doing your stress levels any good whatsoever.
Expect there will be mess
You're going to have to expect some mess even with the tidiest of children but once you’ve accepted that, it's easier to turn a blind eye to that layer of flour and mess covering the kitchen floor. Perhaps you could have a good clear up with your child later ... after you've had a cup of tea with one of those delicious, newly-made biscuits.
Don't forget aprons for everyone!
So where do sausages come from?
It might be obvious to you that eggs are laid by chickens and that sugar, cocoa, rice and flour all come from plants but your children will be astonished to learn where their food comes from, and how it is produced.
A trip to the local farmers’ market, farm shop or even farm or allotment where you can pick your own fruit and vegetables will also open their eyes to the variety of foods available in Ireland.
Once children are old enough to open the fridge and cupboards and hold a knife safely, you should encourage them to start preparing food for themselves (or even for you!). Just have patience and confidence in them, try to ignore the mess, and let them try out some simple no-cook recipes. When they have completed their culinary creation, encourage them to help clear up too!
A five year old could be given sliced bread, a flat knife, a choice of spreads or toppings to make you a sandwich. Or what about giving them some different fruit juices to mix into a ‘cocktail’.
Once they have mastered sandwich making, you could encourage them to assist you in making their packed lunches for school. They might surprise you and ask for something completely different to the normal packed lunch that you would make them.
Another idea is to make a fruit and yogurt layer pudding. Give older children a variety of whole fruits to prepare and chop themselves, while younger children could be given prepared fresh or drained tinned fruit instead. Let the children layer the fruits and different fruit yogurts in a glass or clear plastic bowl, so that they can make a pattern and see the layers. They could also add different ingredients such as crushed biscuits, meringue or sponge cake at the bottom of the pudding. All that remains is to decorate with sprinkles or crushed chocolate flake.
...and older still
When you feel you can trust older children and teenagers to use the cooker safely, they can have a go at making their own meal. Let them impress their friends by inviting them round for a home cooked tea, such as spaghetti bolognese, burgers or a chilli.
Or let your kids try cooking tea for the whole family once a week…so you can have an evening off!
In doing this you will have started producing a self-reliant young person – one who will be able to fend for themselves when they leave home.