A Sustainable Secret Santa

secret santa claus doll

Ahh the workplace secret santa: that annual event we’re all forced to participate in even though we neither want to buy nor be bought another comedy mug. Rather than spending pennies pointlessly on most likely plastic-wrapped, throwaway items that will end up in the charity shop in a week/year’s time, why not buy something pointedly sustainable instead? Here are a few ideas…

Secret Santa: under £5

Skincare: Unless you know someone really well, soap can be taken the wrong way, but lip balm is always both useful and appreciated! The Organic Essence natural lip balm is universally appealing and a great option for men or women who are stuck in an office OR subject to weather, on a playground for example. (Which also makes it a great option for classroom assistants /nursery leaders /teachers etc…)

Travel: The Funky Soap Travel Tin can be used for so much more than soap, and as it’s made from aluminium it is fully recycleable. To make it look like more, pop in a few wrapped sweets or some fudge from your local sweet shop.

Kitchen: There is no excuse for using clingfilm any more – buy a regular offender an alternative like these vegan food wraps and they’ll never look back. And we would never encourage cheating, but if £5 is really more a guideline than a rule, splash out an extra £1 on a Keep Leaf baggie.

Lunch time: Who doesn’t love bees? This cool bag is waterproof, lightweight and will keep lunch cool until, well, lunchtime. If bees aren’t their thing there are other options – flamingoes, seaside or puffins, Eco Chic have got it all!

Out & About: These gorgeous organic short-handled string bags are deceptively spacious, holding far more than you’d expect but squishing down to nothing in a pocket. A bargain at £5 exactly.

Desk-top fun: Check out Goki’s fab brainteaser puzzles, many of which come in under £5.

Secret Santa: under £10

Garden: Surely no-one with a garden wouldn’t appreciate a bee bomb? Add a jar of local honey and you’ve got a gift everyone will be buzzing over! (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Kitchen: In this price range straws are a great option! Bamboo or stainless steel, the choice is yours!

Lunch time: You can’t go wrong with a reusable sandwich pouch, such as those by Planet Wise and Keep Leaf – both have some stunning design options available.

Monbento have some really trendy options available for those who bring leftovers for their lunch. Their biodegradable cutlery is really stylish, while their chopsticks are frankly beautiful!

The Equa 600ml bottle just squeezes in under the £10 mark and offers a great alternative to single use plastic water bottles. There are several lovely designs available; my favourite is Universe.

Secret Santa: under £20

If you’ve got £20 to splash out there are endless possibilities! There are lots of lovely reusable drink options, from water bottles to insulated flasks to juice boxes.

Wooden toys are not just for children, as many of us can attest. How about treating a colleague to a desk-friendly Grimms small rainbow, some grapat mandala pieces  for mindfulness practice or a Goki puzzle 3D?

A hamper (see below) could also come in under £20 if you pick carefully…

Secret Santa: over £20

Why not make a personalised gift hamper? Some ideas could include:

For the lunchbox regular: choose from straws, beeswax wraps, reusable cutlery, sauce pots… monbento are a great place to start!

For the parent: build a fabulous rainbow picnic hamper from the amazing Re-play range – and they are so reasonable you could even manage a small hamper under the £20 mark!

For the commuter: Help them while away the train journey with some brainteaser puzzles from the Goki range, or a Grimms magnetic puzzle for the ultimate in compact open-ended “play”. Add an insulated flask for their mid-journey cuppa and a bar of chocolate as a treat!

International Dot Day – mark-making with your child

Mark-making is your child’s first step towards handwriting and drawing. It’s important for motor skills but also for creativity and imagination – with a pencil in their hand a child is no longer limited to the realms of reality, and anything is possible!

mark-making crayons

Mark-making can begin as soon as your child is able to sit up in a high-chair unaided. Early mark-making ideas include hand-prints using finger paints, encouraging your child to draw in yoghurt on their high-chair tray, and drawing in sand, in a sand pit or on the beach. Mark-making activities can be great sensory opportunities, as a child explores the squidginess of finger paints, the graininess of sand, the scratchiness of chalk on a pavement, the sweep of a paintbrush on an easel, the swoosh of a marker pen on a whiteboard… Try:


  • Using fingerpaints tomake handprints
  • Drawing patterns in yoghurt in your baby’s high chair tray and encouraging them to copy


  • Dot painting, using fingerpaints to create a pattern or pictures – leaves on a tree are always beautiful, or dots on a dalmation, patterns on a butterfly’s wings… you draw the outline and let them fill in the colours
  • Once your toddler has a fist grip they can use crayons or even pens, pencil crayons or paintbrushes, under supervision, to create art.
  • Encourage them to paint both on flat surfaces like the table and upright surfaces – an easel is great, but if you don’t have one, tape paper onto a window or door (if your paints are non-washable tape newspaper underneath first).
  • Chalk pavement drawing is always a hit.
  • Paint splatters can be made by dipping scraps of fabric into paint and throwing them onto a piece of paper on the floor.
  • Screwed up waste-paper can be used for printing.
  • Carve shapes out of halved potatoes to make simple prints (we did this with our preschoolers to tie in with dinosaur and wild animal topics, which they loved!)
  • Blow art is very popular with children who are old enough to understand the importance of not sucking paint through the straw! You can drop poster paints onto paper and blow them outwards, or add watercolour paint to washing-up liquid in a shallow container, blow bubbles then print the image onto paper by laying it on top.


  • Fill a tray with rice or lentils and encourage your child to use a finger to draw letters.
  • Easy-grip pencils are both practical, encouraging them by making it easier to hold the pencil, and exciting, as they are pencils of their vey own.
  • Encourage them to label their art with their own name.
  • Copying simple words to describe their art is also a good way to introduce writing.


Autumn is a great time of year to look to nature for mark-making resources. On the simplest level, you can collect blackberries or elderberries, place them between two pieces of fabric or paper, and squash or even hammer them to make fruit splats.

You can also squash berries with a little water to make paint, which can be painted with brushes or fingers.

Food-based activities are great for both weaning children, as they also encouarage them to explore texture, and “mouthers” of any age, as they can mark-make without worry if any finds its way into their mouths!


Yes Bebe stock a fabulous range of art resources including my favourites, Crayon Rocks!

Gift picks for £5, £10, £25, £50, and £100

Send help! I can’t stop looking at the Yes Bebe website! I’ve been picking out my favourite things within price ranges, and there are absolutely loads for any budget.

I’m including the Facebook discount, because I’m assuming nobody would miss out on that blessing. So here’s what I’d get for:

Gift picks for £5ish

gift picks £5

  • Lanka Kade puzzle: these are lovely and chunky and an absolute steal (like all Lanka Kade) – my 19 month old has a few Lanka Kade puzzles and never gets tired of them
  • Planet Wise snack bag: who doesn’t need more beautiful bags? Good for snacks, stationery, makeup, soap, sanitary biz, just keeping some things clean and in the right place in your giant handbag…
  • Le Toy Van rocket! Zoom to the moon! A renowned crowd pleaser
  • Bamboo straws: fun for any age! Novel if you like novelty, virtuous if you don’t want your rubbish stuck in a hapless turtle’s orifices #stopsucking
  • Lamazuna Oriculi: an ear wax scooper? Yes and yes!
  • Goki finger puppets: look at that impudent wolf in Grandma’s bonnet!
  • Wobbly Tower: travel sized stacking fun for all the family
  • Little Bug Bingo: Orchard Toys sell the best games and puzzles! What little person doesn’t love bugs?
  • Crayon Rocks! These come in a little bag as all great treasures must, and help develop a proper pincer grip to build writing skills
  • Veggie brush: it’s useful and it looks good, so it’s a great present for any age in my book
  • Lanka Kade tractor: again, my little girl has this and it’s one of her most reached for toys 10/10 would buy several more
  • Little Violet’s hand sanitiser: a cool gift for anybody currently looking after children or animals, or who just likes to keep their hands camera-ready
  • Foldable shopper! You gotta have a foldable shopper! Why not get a nice looking one? This will make your money back in 5ps saved in no time
  • Goki frog catching game: A bright, fun, active present. Children will thank you! Parents will admire you!
  • Knitting 4 Nancy: French knitting! What a blast from the past! Apparently you can make the knit into pretty flowers and things which I certainly never got round to as a callow youth
  • Cupcake Trinket Box: a sweet home for special things

Gift picks for £10ish

gift picks £10

Gift picks for £25ish

gift picks £25

  • Goki Nature train: It’s chunky, it’s choo-ey, it’s super playable with
  • Bajo Mendelsons: iconic little stacky people to keep hands and minds busy
  • Doctor’s suitcase: listen to your heart and gift this winner
  • Figure 8 railway: a perfect introduction to the joys of miniature railways
  • Monbento lunch box: what a cool gift, for an adult or a young person rocking their own packup
  • Play n Pack Jungle: Love this! A backpack full of fun including a mini roll of Playpa!
  • Playhouse animal hospital: you could collect a whole high street of these little play scenes
  • Educo bees: Bees! Colour sort the little cuties and/or display them looking fine
  • Hape checkout: beep! Beep! Beep! Is that cash or card? Little folk love running the register
  • Sensopath balance: build your core with these bonkers wooden stationary balance flip flops.
  • Mermaid doll: isn’t her colouring perfect for a mystical sea lady?
  • Fishing game: if you know somebody without a fishing game, for goodness’ sake get them a fishing game
  • Palos: scrumptious Grapat sticks with so many uses. I intend to use them for clutching in my hands and laughing “AT LAST!”, but they could also be trees, people, ice creams, counters…
  • Terra carving set: I think this is my top pick. What youngster would not want a blade and a whittling blank?
  • Nanoemo: these look like such an engaging way to connect together different emotions
  • Patisserie set: for the classiest tiny tea parties

Gift picks for £50ish

gift picks £50

  • Pirate ship: what a beauty, for hours of fun on the seven seas
  • Grimms cars: fabulously shaped and coloured, tactile little autos
  • Rollerby Klingeling: what a lovely first ball track with just enough going on to keep little folk hooked
  • Fagus tractor: a big beautiful wooden tractor. What is not to love?
  • Perpetual calendar: lovely visual way to mark time for the whole family
  • Geometrics house: a modern doll’s house which can be endlessly reconfigured
  • Grimms mobile home: a beautiful place for little figures to inhabit, plus it doubles as a travel toy since it packs away neatly
  • Tegu: a magnetic blocks set with enough pieces to spark hours of building and experimenting
  • Quadrilla roundabout: have you seen the marbles go on the whirly roundy bit? This thing is mesmerising
  • Grimms rainbow: I’ve got a serious crush on the pastel 12 piece at the moment
  • Luggy: such a super stylish way for little folk to carry their treasures
  • Teniques: gorgeous calming stacking loveliness
  • Holdie House: is it okay to use this as a handbag in your thirties?
  • Construction trucks: brum brum! These have the edge on wooden toys for hitting the garden or bath, and still good for the planet
  • Bird tree: a beautiful home for your beautiful wooden birds
  • Castle: a reconfigurable days-of-yore setpiece in gorgeous Gluckskafer colours

Gift picks for £100ish

gift picks £100

  • Quadrilla: mega ballrun fun for hours of whizzing marbles
  • Country play kitchen: is it okay to be jealous of children for having a nicer kitchen than me?
  • Tegu: what can’t you make with this many Tegu pieces?
  • DIY dream house: how gorgeous is this? It has little empty frames which you can put your own artwork in!
  • Annual Ring: how much gravitas is this beaut rocking? What a great present to enjoy all year
  • Balance board: wibble wobble fun for all the family
  • 1001 Nights: we’ve had this for a while, and I only fall more deeply in love with it as time goes on
  • Fairy Tale cottage: what a perfect mystical home for any figurines to play out stories in
  • Everearth Ark: a majestic vessel complete with lovely animals
  • Mosaic peacock: beautiful colours and I love a multi purpose puzzle block situation
  • Lanka Kade farm: farm animals and a home to keep them. And a tractor! Perfection
  • Market stall: isn’t this a beauty? What a magnificent place to practise the fundamentals of commerce
  • Sumblox: blow them away with the awesome power of tangible mathematics
  • Pirates Island: what a cool set piece! I can see pirates swashbuckling, I can see dinosaurs roaring, I can see heroic rescues…
  • Spectra: why not get them a balance board, swing, market stall, hammock all in one?
  • Garbage tipper truck: the little bins slot on the back and you can tip them up! My refuse collection aficionado would be blown away by this

What did I overlook?? I had such long long lists, it was hard narrowing down to just these. What are your winning presents this year?


Advent Calendar Ideas

An advent calendar is my opening gambit to BLOW my baby’s MIND this Christmas. I’m thinking of going all in on the ceremony and lighting a candle every morning, reading some kind of Winter themed poem or talking about something I’m grateful for that day, and then opening the advent box for the day. But enough about my nonplussed nearly two year old…

What’s going in our advent calendars?

Many of us might be planning to give wood, and some go as far as making story sacks for the run-up to Christmas…

Here are some of my ideas for themed advent calendars; basically a plan to consolidate efforts into just a few purchases which can be split across the calendar. I love the idea of the theme coming together over a period of days, and the suspense about what the next piece will add.

Marbles (and a ball run for Christmas?), Sumblox corresponding to date, Grimms rainbow forest, Goki tree slices, Goki stone puzzle, Grapat Tomtens (or Mandala pieces), Threading game and buttons/bobbins/beads, Bigjigs trackside accessories (and a train set for Christmas?), Magic Wood dollhouse furniture, Janod mini stories, Bigjigs dinosaur templates, Tegu, Little wooden ladybirds, Dinosaur magnetic jigsaw, Grapat Winter, Lanka Kade puzzles

Or the calendar could be built around a theme (tree decorations, wooden animals, decorative figures for a seasonal display, beauty treats, books or poems), or just a mix of different items.

Grimms bearded dwarves, Lanka Kade animals, Maileg tree ornament, Gluckskafer duck, Haba rollicking rollers, Grimms decorative figure, Holztiger robin, Organic Essence lip balm, Lanka Kade fire engine, Ambrosius mistletoe girl, Pick n Mix candle, Eric and Albert’s Crafts reindeer, Grimms branch, Gerda Muller – Seasons collection, Lanka Kade spinosaurus, Ostheimer shepherd kneeling

I’m leaning towards an activity advent calendar, which might include a mix of seasonal trips, festive activities, and acts of kindness. Some of these could be…

Choose and decorate tree, Make Christmas Cards, Enact Christmas/seasonal stories, Nature forage/collect pine cones, St Nicholas’ Day on 6th December (find a gift hidden in shoe), Choose new present or old toys for charity of choice, Bake gingerbread, Make festive play dough, Visit a Christmas market, Make nature gift – insect hotel/bird food, Make hot chocolate sticks for gifts, Winter crafts, Make Christmas crackers, All add a memory to keepsake box – add/review annually, Christmas bath by candlelight, Go carol singing

Maileg tree ornament, Wee Can Too finger paint for cards and wrapping paper, Lanka Kade nativity, Respiin medium basket for displaying nature finds, Ambrosius Saint Nicholas, Janod doctor’s suitcase for charity donation, Janod pastry set for baking, Okonorm soft modelling clay to make festive sensory dough, Olli Ella Luggy to take to the market, Haba assembly kit – insect hotel, Love Cocoa dark chocolate for making hot chocolate sticks as gifts, Re-cycle Me Winter, Friendly travel soaps for Christmas cracker fillers, Bajo pony keepsake box for adding memories from the year, Tinti bath ball,    Qwetch insulated flask

I love hearing about people’s Christmas plans! Do you have any great advent ideas cooking? Please let me know!

Meet Your New Christmas Holiday Tradition!

holiday tradition Jolabokaflod


Everyone has their family traditions during the Christmas holiday season. Any of these sound familiar, past or present? Not all mine.

  • Getting a tree together and decorating it?
  • Baking mince pies?
  • A Christmas day walk after or before the main Christmas feast?
  • Watching Top of the Pops countdown? Snigger. How retro.
  • Watching the Queen’s speech?
  • Morning church service?
  • A must-see annual viewing of a special film?
  • Present giving before the Christmas feast?
  • Present giving after the Christmas feast?
  • Present giving on Christmas eve?
  • Snack left for Santa and Rudolph?
  • Christmas stocking?
  • A little nap after the feast?

The list can be endless. Sometimes you don’t even realise a tradition is hidden away amongst the festivities.

And as we get older and have our own families we become nostalgic and pass these traditions on (or even get rid of them because we hated it as a child) and gain another few along the way. Any of these ring true? Not all mine.

  • New Pyjamas and socks (because we haven’t got enough already)?
  • Xmas eve box full of treats?
  • Charity donation or visiting someone who might be lonely this holiday?
  • Secret Santa?
  • Celebration/seasonal display?

And then there are those extra-extra special traditions that you just can’t replicate and are close to your heart.

Eating my grandpa’s turkey sandwiches late on Christmas day when you start to get hungry again after the feast (because it happens). Squeezed in between the layers of bread are roasties, stuffing, vegetables, dripping and all. A death-wish right there, but so amazing and indulgent. A last nod to Christmas day. I still find it hard to imitate those wicked flavours.

Just when you think you can’t have any more amazingness over the Christmas holidays, someone waves that hygge* wand over you and you discover a new tradition!

What sorcery is this you speak of?

The concept is simple. Picture this.

It’s Christmas Eve. You have been gifted a new book from your family (smell those crisp pages). Donning your Christmas pyjamas and socks, you wrap yourself in a blanket. The fire is lit, candles out and the tree lights are twinkling. With a mug of hot cocoa you spend the rest of the evening reading.

“Oh, for a nook and a storybook. With tales both new and old. For a jolly good book whereon to look. Is better to me than gold.” Old English Song.

Christmas Eve is the main gift giving day in Iceland. After the exchange of presents have finished they lose themselves in a book. Everyone grabs a cup of hot chocolate (eh hem, or an alcoholic beverage) and cozies up to spend the rest of the evening reading. And this is exactly how Icelandic people celebrate each year. The most book buying people in the world enjoy a bit of Hygge* time with their new book and family. In the words of Pop Larkin from The Darling Buds of May – Perfic.

This tradition started around 1944 (World War 2) when paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland and there was low tax on paper imports. Today, while the rest of the world celebrate World Book day in Spring (Next year – Tuesday 23rd April 2019), Icelanders have their equivalent between October and November and start purchasing books for Christmas Eve. A book boom of the year. This tradition is known as Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to “Christmas book flood” in English.  A study conducted by Bifrost University in 2013 found that half the country’s population read at least eight books a year.

In a world slave to technology, I cannot think of a better way to spend the evening. My dad always had a tradition of reading his new gifted book on Christmas day, while everyone was busy tidying in the kitchen or sat in front of the box. He always looked so happy and content. Lost to the world. So, why not bring it forward a day? There’s nothing worth watching on the TV these days on the night before is there? Snigger typical British television.

If this sounds like an ideal way to spend Christmas Eve with your family, here’s a little bit of Yes Bebe inspiration for you all.

Drink up

Something to keep your hot cocoa warm or your ‘naughty-but-nice’ cold? Try U Konserve insulated coffee cups and tumblers with helpful drinking lids. They come in a variety of colours. Why not assign a colour for each family member?



Happy reading

Yes Bebe stock a carefully considered range of books. For example, themed books on Dinosaurs, Seasons, Sea life, Baby milestones, Inspiring women of history, First books, Classic picture books and interactive fairy tale books.

Many of these books can be used in conjunction with their toy section and you could create your own story sacks to accompany them.

Waldorf and Inspiring play books are also available for parents.



* Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. Look it up. It’s now become a widespread thing. Down with the kids so to speak.


Hold Them Close

Hold Them Close – Big Feelings

Shockingly, there were 6,188 suicides in the UK in 2015. Men aged between 40-44 had the highest rate of suicides and female suicides were recorded as the highest in a decade in England. Male suicides are around 3 times higher than female in the UK (statistics from Samaritans 2017 report). Horrifyingly, 1 in 10 children have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition (Children’s Society, 2008).

Grapat Nins of the Forest big feelings

As a mum, the mental health and wellbeing of my little one, terrifies me. It feels like an invisible danger that could take hold of our little ones and steal them away, without us knowing. It’s a disease that we can’t see, we can only feel the impact that it has upon the ones we love. Mental health conditions do not discriminate, they can affect any one of us. Some people may be genetically predisposed or circumstances in life can impact on our mental health, but it is a personal struggle, unique to the individual. However, it doesn’t need to be a journey that someone travels alone – family, friends, health professionals and organisations can all be sources of support. It’s important we act now to help our children to recognise how they are feeling, learn coping mechanisms and know how to access support.


When teaching in the early years, before having my little one, three things were incredibly important to me to develop in my classroom. Firstly, a safe and secure environment where children felt comfortable to share their feelings and confident that they would be heard and listened to. Good modelling by adults within the setting to help children to understand emotions and develop strategies to overcome challenges. Secondly, the language to be able to express themselves – emotional literacy – to be able to recognise and say how they are feeling. Opportunity to role play situations and solutions, play feelings games, experiment with different expressions in a safe environment. Lastly, helping to develop strategies to be able to support children to help themselves when feelings get too big and to ensure children know who they can turn to for support when they feel overwhelmed.

big feelinsg playing with nins

Now a Mum to my almost two year old, my three important beliefs as a teacher are exactly what I do at home. A loving, sharing and caring environment where the language of emotions is used and encouraged and together we develop strategies to help boost our mental health and our ability to cope with challenges faced.


So, as parents, guardians, family and friends what can you do to help support the mental health of the children you love?


  • Let your little one know it is OK to show their emotions – yes even the boys! I do think that there is still a divide in what we think is socially acceptable for boys and girls when it comes to emotions – could that have any reflection in the suicide statistics?
  • Give your little one the language to express themselves. Use words to describe emotions and feelings for yourself, them and others.
  • Narrate to help them understand. I can see that you are angry because x took your toy. I can see you are upset…. etc. This emotions puzzle can help.Emotions Learning Puzzle big feelings
  • Calm spot – have a quiet spot where they can go to calm down. I don’t mean the ‘naughty spot’. I mean an area with cushions and blankets and soft toys that they can snuggle with and feel safe.
  • Relaxing toys – toys that support mindfulness. Toys that help role play such as dolls/ figures and houses.

    big feelings
    Hape All Seasons House – Fully Furnished
  • Hugs. Hugs. Then some more hugs! One way to have your baby/ little one close is to use a sling or carrier.lsing baby carrier feelings
  • Show your emotions to help them understand. Children know. Hiding emotions teaches them that they should hide theirs. Now I’m not saying if you are really angry that it’s appropriate to shout and throw things – I’m saying that your little one will know you are angry, so letting them know you’re angry and why (if appropriate) and what you’re going to do to help calm yourself down is teaching them how to cope with anger in future and that it’s OK to feel angry. I remember my Mum crying when our beloved, family cat died and telling me that she was upset because he was part of our family. I understood, I was upset and she taught me it was OK to show how I was feeling.
  • Certain situations can be helped by exploring them before hand through roleplay, stories and games such as the arrival of a new baby and a hospital visit for example.

My New Baby [NEW EXPERIENCES] book big feelings

Get further support from –

  • Samaritans – Call 116 123 – Email jo@samaritans.org
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) for men – 0800 58 58 58 – they also have a webchat facility
  • Papyrus – for people under 35 – Call 0800 068 41 41 – Text 07786209697
  • Childline – for children and young people under 19 – Call 0800 1111 – the number doesn’t show up on your phone bill
  • The silver Line – for older people – Call 0800 4 70 80 90

I Will Listen, I Will Care: World Suicide Prevention Day

Written by Milly Smith
Instagram & Facebook @selfloveclubb

Would you be able to help a suicidal person?

Would you see the signs of someone considering suicide?

The sad fact of the matter is that we live in a society in which 12 men every single day take their own lives in the UK alone. That’s 12 husbands, fathers, sons, friends.

We live in a world that every 12 seconds in the US someone takes their own life. Can you even comprehend those figures?

My heart aches, as I imagine yours will do at the thought of so many lives lost at their own hands. The world can be cruel and harsh but it can also be beautiful and amazing, suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary question. It breaks families, it crushes communities and most of all it’s a devastating loss of a hurting soul.

We can help push these figures into smaller and smaller numbers. Early warning signs are absolutely vital. The most painfully dangerous misconception is that suicidal people are going to ‘look suicidal’ are going to be crying, losing weight, stood on the end of a bridge. But no, it’s simply not the case. Many people who are planning on suicide seem happy, seem positive, they may be treating themselves like they haven’t done before, they may be making holidays and spending time with family. Suicidal tendencies are often well hidden, disguised on purpose so you won’t stop them OR they can be sudden and seemingly out of nowhere.

suicide preventaion day

The early warning signs for suicide could be as follows, knowing these could save lives:

Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;
Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;
Sleeping too little or too much;
Withdrawing or feeling isolated;
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge;
Displaying extreme mood swings.

It could be something completely different to these but the important thing is going with your gut feeling, stick by someone you are worried about, check in on those you know are struggling. Even simple things like posting articles about suicide onto your social media can help, can educate and might just bring someone back from the edge by breaking down the stigma and starting a potential conversation. Make them aware of crisis numbers in your area, remind them that you care, these tough times will pass and if they just hold on for 10 seconds at a time then they’ll see that sun poking through eventually, let them know you believe in them, that you’re here for them and not going to let them slip away.

I’ve been to the bottom and I’ve lost friends to suicide. I remember feeling like I was a burden to everyone who knew me and even to those who didn’t. I look back now and I’m so glad that I’m here. I’m so glad that I’m living my life with my baby boy, I’m grateful for my time here and I’m grateful for those who helped me.

If you’re feeling lost, hopeless of even suicidal then I want you to take this as your sign to stay. I want you to take this as your sign that you’re going to make it through today, tonight and the next week, you’re going to be okay. It may take minutes, weeks, months but you’re not alone, you’re not weak and your life is valuable, important and wanted here. Reach out, extend your arm and let those willing to grab it pull you close.

Just remember, this will pass.

Raising book lovers – some tips

book shelf reading

Have you seen the new Books category on the Yes Bebe website yet?

Surely every parent – Mr Wormwood aside perhaps – wants their child to grow up loving books? Most of us start reading to our children when they are very young – still babies, or even still in the womb. We have favourite children’s books from our own childhoods that we want to share, and build memories around new favourites as our children grow up. Books are magical for parents and children alike, and quite capable of creating lifelong bonds between parents, grandparents, siblings – families.

But there are also many obstacles to reading that can derail all our best intentions as our children grow up. Here are some tips I’ve found useful for helping us all to raise book-loving children.

Tip 1: Perseverance.

Some children simply don’t have the attention span to sit through a story. I know my twins struggled through most of their toddler and preschool years with this. But I ploughed on regardless, reading aloud even while they wandered off, fidgeted, fiddled and even fought! The day finally arrived that they sat still through whole books. This summer, at 5-and-a-half year’s old, we have moved on to short chapter books, and they sit mesmerised while my husband reads to them every night.

Likewise, researchers are beginning to recognise the importance of continuing to read with our children, even after they are old enough to read by themselves. Older children continue to learn how to pronounce words and how to use context to decipher them if we continue to read longer, more difficult books with them. You can take turns to read with them if you prefer, but shared reading past school age is a great way to help your children become lifelong book lovers!

book reading creatimber

Tip 2: MAKE time.

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, it can seem impossible to find the time to read together. It’s so easy to get caught up in every day chores that run into bedtime and realise we’ve got through the whole day without finding time to read with our kids. By making time to read – and making it clear that you are making the effort to MAKE time – you are telling your children that reading is important. You are also telling them that they are important to you, which is equally important!

Tip 3: its not just about bedtime.

A bedtime story is a brilliant place to start reading with kids. It sets them a lifelong pattern of reading before bed, which is doubly important now that our lives are spent staring into our devices. Did you know that the blue light thrown out by devices actually disrupts sleep, and that you will sleep far better if you spend at least 30 minutes before bed device free? You’ll sleep even better if your devices are in a separate room and so can’t disrupt your natural sleep patterns whenever they flash…

But it’s important to also read with your kids at other times. Next time your child announces they are bored, suggest that they look at a book with you rather than switching on the TV or tablet. Next time you go out to a restaurant, take a book to read while you are waiting for your food to arrive rather than relying on your phone. Next time they ask you a question, suggest you look for the answer together – in a book. Reading is not only about stories, and literacy is not just about reading for pleasure. Make sure your child has access to a range of age appropriate factual books that they can consult as well as fiction options.

Tip 4:  Lead (or read) by example

How often do your kids see you reading? Do you consult books for recipes? Do you make time to read yourself? Evidence suggests that children who see their parents read for pleasure are more likely to grow up reading for pleasure themselves. A more literate home will generate more literate children – and literacy can be as simple as looking up words in the dictionary, hand-writing shopping lists on a notepad and having a bookshelf full of well-loved, well-read books. Simply put, parents who want their children to grow up to love books, need to demonstrate their own love of reading.

Bonus tip: kids will be kids

book, story sack reading

If, like me, you love books, it can be tempting to want to look after them, to keep them pristine. And children do need to learn to respect books, with simple rules like not writing or drawing on book pages set out from the start. But it is also important that your kids can get hands-on with books. Let your kids PLAY with books; incorporate them into play scenes and story sacks and accept that they will get chewed, ripped, possibly lost… Book nooks, likewise, are great, but integrating books into life in general is even better!

If there is a book you really love from your own childhood, or that was a treasured gift from a friend or relative, keep it out of reach and read it with your child. But if your child loves A Squash and a Squeeze, The Dinosaur or Eggs for Benedict, make sure those favourite books are available and accessible from an early age. If you really want to make sure you have a copy of Moon for your child to hand on to their own kids, buy a second copy to keep on a high shelf!

My 10 Zero Waste Swaps

It can sometimes be a bit overwhelming knowing where to start with reducing waste and doing your bit to help the environment. So here’s some simple swaps that I have found useful in my journey to zero waste.

  1. CLOTH NAPPIES – This was our first change and got some great help from our local nappy library who gave us a kit to borrow and ongoing advice to make it work for us.
  2. REUSABLE WIPES – Following on from cloth nappies, we made the change to cloth wipes. We use them for everything from wiping bums to cleaning kitchen worktops. The uses are endless and I love the feeling of saving so many wipes from landfill.
  3. LOCAL MARKET -This was a move on reducing waste/packaging, supporting local business and saving us some pennies. We are lucky to have a brilliant market not far away, and it has become a feature of the week. It’s also been lovely to get to know the people that run the stalls. We take the mesh produce bags to put things like potatoes and mushrooms in, and the rest just go straight in a bag for life.
  4. SAYING NO TO PLASTIC BAGS – We do still shop in a supermarket, so remembering to take our bag for life with us is a must, and it means I only need one or two rather than 5 or 6 plastic bags. I recommend leaving bags in the car at all times, as there is bound to be an occasion when I might forget.
  5. TOOTHPASTE -This has been one of our most recent changes. It is a bit of a mindfield as most of the plastic free options are also fluoride free. Therefore it may not be suitable for everyone. We are trying out Georganics mandarin toothpaste as it is also suitable for children. We are getting on well with it so far, and when we are done, the pot will be used for something else.
  6. DEODORANT – I think this is one that is beneficial both to myself and the environment. Our skin is gentle and sensitive and since learning about the chemicals they put in conventional deodorant, I wanted something natural and kind to my skin. There are many zero waste options, but one I like is the organic essence as they come in a cardboard tube and have a gentle smell. It is also kinder in its manufacturing then regular deodorant.
  7. DRINKS BOTTLES – This swap has been a relatively easy one, and means that I no longer need to buy bottled water when out and about. Lots of places will fill up your bottle if you run out, and there are lots of options to suit what you need.
  8. HOME COOKING – We wanted to start eating healthier to set a good example to my daughter, so we started cooking from scratch, using ingredients from the local market and supermarket. This in turn means that we aren’t using as much prepackaged food, reducing the amount of waste, and we are then able to use leftovers for lunches. It doesn’t always mean it takes ages to do either, we have found ways to do quick dinners when needed.
  9. WOODEN TOYS – We decided to go down the road of wooden and ethically produced toys for my daughter. It has many benefits in that it supports small businesses, it supports natural development and naturally reduces the amount of plastic that we consume. Wooden toys are very well made and will last generations compared to most mass produced toys. They don’t have to be expensive either.
  10. REUSING – I have found that on my journey I have started to think more about what I am using and throwing away. So before I throw something out, or buy something new, I think about what I already have that I can use for that purpose, or how I can reuse the item. For example, we use a chunk of wood as a soap dish, a bottle box as a pencil box and we use old toothbrushes for cleaning. It is sometimes quite fun to think about the uses we can come up for something.

Our Zero-Waste journey

A zero-waste week post.

It was Christmas last year that the sheer volume of waste we produce as a family really hit me. Everything we bought seemed to be wrapped in pointless plastic. I had received parcel after parcel from the postman and had more parcel bags than I could ever imagine reusing, and a brown bin overflowing with corrugated cardboard… We missed the last bin collection before New Year and I lost it:

“That’s it! We’re going zero waste!”
“Ok. What’s that?” asked my ever-patient husband.
“I don’t exactly know. But we’re going there.”

And so our 2018 resolution was born. We’ve always been environmentally aware – we’ve used cloth nappies with all 3 kids, buying our first bin bag-full of preloved TotsBots back in 2012 when I was pregnant with the twins. I had previously made our own soap, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent, because until I found Yes Bebe I couldn’t find anything in this category that would keep the family acceptably clean without potentially damaging the wider eco-system. I started growing my own “organic” fruit and veg in 2012 before I fell pregnant, and believed from the start in using our dishwashing and bath water to water the plants – something I could not do with popular or supermarket brands of soap or detergent. Not to mention that my kids and husband are all somewhat sensitive to fragrance and start sneezing if they so much as smell commercial laundry powders (a problem I never have with Violets)…

But until this year I had sort of accepted plastic as a necessity of modern life. I hadn’t really thought about what happened to it after I had finished with it – we threw it in the recycling and it got recycled, right? I had no idea about the limitations of plastic recycling, had never thought about microplastics or microfibres getting into the water table.

one green bottle zero-waste

Once Christmas was over I started planning our next steps in earnest. I ordered a family of OGBs from Yes Bebe, alongside a couple of stainless steel lunchboxes for the sole purpose of bringing food home from the butcher’s. I found out which milkman delivered locally and started booking in regularly. We made a chart and stuck it on our fridge, writing in where we found plastic-free alternatives or which brands were plastic-free. We also made a note of those who had plastic packaging hidden inside a cardboard box, or even used plastic-lined paper which looked like waxed but, in fact, wasn’t (I’m looking at you, Weetabix!)

We also made a note of which products were proving difficult or even impossible to source. Cheese remains a problem, and I have been known to go to the cheese counter in local supermarkets and buy an entire waxed wheel to avoid having to buy pre-packaged portions. Yoghurt we overcame by making it ourselves; a simple if slow process (although slow does not mean time-consuming or labour-intensive – there’s just a lot of leaving it to do its thing!). Bread, we also found difficult, as all our local bakeries bag theirs up before it hits the shop floor – but we overcame this by investing in a bread machine which we use EVERY DAY and fills the house with the most inviting smell.

Fresh fruit and veg are bought weekly from our local greengrocer, who has become accustomed to me turning up with my own produce bags and has even reintroduced paper bags as an option after a conversation we shared back in spring. Meat is bought from the farm shop where we not only take our own containers, but are greeted with a blackboard that tells us exactly how few miles our meat has travelled before we buy. Double cream and creme fraiche are bought in glass jars, and frozen fruit and veg are bought out of huge chest freezers, scooped into our own containers each week.

One thing we really miss out on is a zero-waste bulk-buy shop where we might source wholegrains, pulses, rice, pasta etc. Before we went plastic-free we ate a lot of wholegrains – brown rice, wholewheat pasta and so forth… As we have been unable to source plastic-free carbs, we compromise by buying in the largest quantities we can. Unfortunately, all the bulk bags I have been able to find have contained white pasta and white rice – a little better for the planet but far worse for our guts! This is top on our list of things to tackle in coming months.


And what of our other waste? We are lucky that our council offer a really good recycling service which includes paper, cardboard, all cans/tins and glass. They don’t take plastic bags or batteries, which we instead take to recycling points at the supermarket ourselves, or any food waste, which we have plenty of with a toddler in the house! So we compost what we can, and bokashi the rest! I LOVE bokashi – being able to put all that food waste back into our garden and knowing that it is benefitting the vegetable patch is a great comfort to me, and almost displaces the guilt I feel at wasting that food in the first place…

We still have a LONG way to go to become truly zero-waste, but I do feel we’ve come along way already this year. And although it is true that businesses themselves need to start playing their part in caring for the planet, I believe it still matters what choices we make as individuals. For me, going zero-waste is about more than just cutting down on plastic. It’s about slowing down in everything that we do. It’s about stepping outside of the convenience bubble and recognising the constraints that “convenience” places upon us – and the freedom inconvenience offers in its place. It’s about reconnecting with everything from the earth to our children. And it’s about getting back a sense of perspective with regards to what really matters, the cycle of life and living, the holistic nature of existence. For me personally, going zero-waste began as a back-lash against commercialism that I suppose I often feel immediately after Christmas, but has become something much more spiritual. It has become a path back to who we are and where we fit in the world. And it matters!