Author: Kevin O'Hara

30 ways to make Christmas less expensiveWe all want a fantastic Christmas but it can be a very costly time. Here are some tips for helping you save money at Christmas time whilst still having a fantastic family yuletide.

First: think realistically about what you can afford

You have to start with a budget and the first question is not ‘Who do I need to buy presents for?’, it’s actually, ‘How much can I afford to spend on everything?’ Everything includes: presents, food, special outings like seeing a pantomime, wrapping, cards, decorations and postage.

Once you have your budget, you can then begin to work out how much you can afford to spend on the seven things listed above. Only then can you begin to think about who you need to buy presents for and begin to put a limit on what you can afford to spend for each person. However, there are ways to make Christmas less expensive and here they are.

Christmas Presents Savings

Make money when you spend

 

1. Get cash back on your spending

Sites like TopCashBack in the UK and Ebates in the US offer you the chance to get a sizable rebate on your order. They are linked to thousands of online retailers and all you have to do is visit their site and click through to the shop you want to buy from. Doing this allows you to claim cash back on your purchases. You could save substantially if you do this.

 

2. Shop early for Christmas

Prices go up the nearer you get to Christmas and sometimes the demand for things is so high shops run out of stock. Yet some stores are still having sales on right now. This wont be the case by late October and the next sale won’t begin until Boxing Day. Check out these toy stores now.

Smyths Toys MelissaAndDoug.com- Over 2,000 Unique and Exciting Toys for Children of All Ages! Click here! DisneyStore.com ShopMattel.com  Build-a-Bear UK

 

3. Buy refurbished electrical goods

Amazon are a great source for high quality reconditioned electrical goods that come with a guarantee. Tesco have an Outlet Store on eBay and at time of going to press they were selling reconditioned iPad minis with a 12 month guarantee for £30 less than the new one’s from Tesco.com. The Xbox 360 was £30 cheaper on the Tesco Outlet Store but also had a bundle thrown in which the online store didn’t. You can also find equally great bargains at the Ebay Argos Outlet on eBay.

4. Buy used items

Again, you can do this on Amazon, eBay, Craigslist and there are plenty of local Facebook sites around too. This is especially good for things like video games, DVDs, videos and electrical goods. Remember if you buy expensive items on eBay to buy them from a business seller and then you are guaranteed to be able to return them if you do not like them.

5. Buy your stocking fillers at the Poundshop

And your stockings too, (but not their cheap batteries, they don’t last 2 minutes.)

6. Buy good quality batteries in bulk, online with free delivery

You can get 24 Duracell AA batteries on eBay for £7.25 and free delivery – much cheaper than you’ll get at the supermarket and guaranteed to still be working by New Year.

7. Raise cash by selling your old toys on eBay

When your kids grow too old for some of their toys, providing they are in suitable condition, you can sell them on eBay and add some extra funds to your own spending pot. Read the article Christmas Selling on eBay for advice.

8) Save up to 50% by redeeming your supermarket points

At certain times of the year, supermarkets will let you double your money so that £10 in vouchers can be used to buy £20 worth of products. If you have a loyalty card for any store, see if they have such a deal and you could end up paying 50% less if you have enough vouchers saved up.

9) Make your own Christmas presents

There are lots of homemade gifts that can be made for friends and relatives which are easy to produce and a much cheaper alternative to buying.

Saving on Wrapping and Tags

 

10. Make your own wrapping and tags

You can have a fantastic afternoon of fun with the kids making your own gift tags and wrapping paper. Recycle old Christmas cards to make the tags and get the kids painting, drawing or potato printing to create your own paper. A roll of plain white paper or even cheap lining paper from a DIY store could save you money and get the kids into the festive mood.

11. Shop around

Don’t spend a fortune on wrapping – it only gets ripped up and binned at the end of the day. You can get very good deals if you shop around.

12. Search for unused wrapping in the house

You’re bound to have some left over from last year.

Save money on Christmas food

 

13. Share the cooking

If you are having a large Christmas gathering you can suggest that everyone brings something for the meal. It takes a little organizing, but if you make a list of what you need, get people to cook it the night before and bring it over, all you have to do is warm it up and serve it out. This way you often get people offering to do their ‘Christmas specials’ and bring what they are really good at and happy to make.

14. Buy Christmas food online

This is a real potential money saver. At Christmas, we all get tempted by all the glittery things in store that we don’t really need. If you buy online there’s much less impulsive buying.

Two other great advantages to shopping online are that as you spend online it tallies up how much you’ve spent – so if you have set yourself a budget you can take things off or look for cheaper solutions. It’s hard to do this when you are at the checkout. Most people are too embarrassed to take things back once its on the conveyor belt.

Finally, you won’t have to deal with the supermarket stampede at Christmas or wait two hours in the queue and come home with a banging headache wishing there was no such thing as Christmas. If you do go, don’t take the kids, it’ll cost you a whole lot more – you know this!

15. Don’t overstock the Christmas fridge

How big does that Turkey really need to be? When you buy, be realistic about what is actually going to get eaten and what is going to end up in the bin. It’s estimated that up to 40% of food gets thrown away uneaten – this can be worse if we over buy at Christmas. Do you really need such a wide variety of vegetables or so many different meats? Did you actually finish last year’s bottle of sherry or did most of it get poured down the drain? You don’t really like it that much anyway, do you?

16. Buy food early and freeze it

As things get more expensive nearer to Christmas, get the most expensive things now. You are spending the cost by doing this and saving on last minute buys. A joint of meat will last for months in the freezer.

How to save money on Christmas outings

There are lots of things going on around Christmas time and it’s great to go as a family to enjoy them. But it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

17. Go to places where it won’t cost you anything to go

Christmas fairs and carol concerts are just some of the many free festive events you’ll find in your local area. Don’t forget to see all the Christmas things that your child’s school might be putting on too.

18. Take the less expensive option

Paying £25 a head to go see some has-been soap star playing the ugly sister in the town’s main theatre is an expensive night out. (‘Oh no it isn’t’!)  A smaller production at you local arts centre is likely to feel much more festive, be far less expensive and from personal experience, usually a far better production.

If you want the full panto effect, screaming kids, panto dames and corney jokes, then opt for your local amateur dramatic society instead. It’ll be just as much fun as the main panto in town, but won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

19. Look online for a deal

There are plenty of voucher sites out there that will give you money off or family discount. Discount sites like Groupon or Wowcher could save you a small fortune. You can also save by grouping up with other families and getting a group booking discount also.

20. Eat out early

Once the office Christmas party season starts, restaurant prices go up. If you are planning to take your kids out for a meal then look for early bird specials. This way you will save money, still get home fairly early to put them to bed at a reasonable time and won’t have to explain your kids why drunken Pete from IT is belly dancing on the table.

Save money on Christmas decorations

21. Christmas tree choices

The main decoration in any house is the Christmas tree. Fake Christmas trees are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they are worth consideration for a few reasons: they are generally cheaper; you can use them year after year; they don’t litter your house with needles; and you don’t have the hassle of having to take them to be recycled or pay for someone to take them away for you. Granted, they do not give off that seasonal scent or look quite as authentic, though some look real enough.

If you are going for a real Christmas tree, then do shop around, you may find local garden centres do a better deal than the big stores. Do make sure it will fit a) in your car and b) in your house before you buy it.

22. Make your own festive decorations

A brilliant idea for a Sunday at the beginning of December would be to spend the morning in the woods looking for pine cones, holly, ivy, mistletoe and unusual bits of twig or bark. You can then spend the afternoon with the kids transforming them into decorations by painting the cones and twigs and making a Christmas wreath. As darkness sets in, decorate the house with them. There’s also sorts of ideas to help you here

Save money on Christmas cards

 

23. Make your own Christmas cards

Again, you can have hours of fun getting the kids to make your cards for you. Blank cards and envelopes can be bought cheaply at craft and stationery stores. Plenty of sticking and gluing, drawing and painting can be done here.

Another alternative is to print out some pictures off the internet, stick them to the card and sprinkle over with glitter.

24. Shop around for photo Christmas cards

A lot of people tend to get their own designs printed. There are lots of online places where you can upload your own design and have it personalised. Do be aware that the prices they advertise to get you through the door are not always what you will pay at the end. They do not include VAT, postage or other hidden extras. Do shop around.

25. Find cards in Charity shops

Saying that, you can buy some cards very cheaply, and one way to get them exceptionally cheap is to get them from charity stores, particularly when out of season. Before you buy any, make sure to look around the house first for the ones you didn’t use last year.

Save money on Christmas postage

Whether it’s cards or presents, most of us will be putting something into the post box this Christmas. With the cost of postage rising, this can add up, so here are some helpful tips on how to keep the cost down.

26. Use family and friend mail first

My family never posts Christmas cards – we just pass them on in bulk to a relative we know will see them before Christmas. So, cards for my cousins and their children will go to my aunts and uncles to disperse and cards for my aunts and uncles will go to my mum. In return, she gets the cards for me from my aunts and uncles and extended family. Not a penny to the post office. Thanks mum!

27. Post in bulk

If you are posting, follow the same principle: post everything to one person who you know will see the people whose cards you’ve put in with theirs. It’s significantly less expensive than sending individually.

28. Post early

If you are posting abroad, do it early so you can send it more cheaply and if you have gifts to send abroad, consider sending money or a voucher which will cost much less than the price of a package.

29. Look for alternative shipping companies

Parcels can be pricey things to post, especially if they are large or heavy. If this is the case then shop around. As anyone who sells on eBay will tell you, there are a lot of smaller shipping companies who have set up over the last few years who will pick up from your door and deliver for you.

30) Use UShip

UShip is a website where you let tell them what you are delivering and where to and then couriers bid to provide you with the cheapest deal. I’ve used this a few times and you’ll be surprised by the number of bids you get and the prices get lower and lower as more people bid.

If you have any great ideas to share please leave a comment below and let us know

 

All opinions in this article are our own, however, we may be compensated should you make a purchase through the links provided.

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wooden ark toyThere’s something reassuringly luxurious about wooden toys. More substantial than plastic, warmer to the touch and made from natural materials: they last longer and can handle the rough and tumble of child’s play.

One tends to think of wooden toys in a nostalgic way because they remind us of the era when things were made with more care and designed to last. However, there are some very contemporary wooden toys on the market – if you know where to find them.

One of my favourite suppliers is The White Company in London who have some fantastic toys for younger children such as the Noah’s Ark and London Bus, pictured.

Wooden London Bus Toy

 

My daughters adore this wooden kitchen set from the Great Little Trading Company – and I can see why they find it so appealing. Besides being beautifully coloured, it also comes with a range of built-in appliances including a tap and sink, a fridge, an oven with opening door, a washing machine, microwave and storage cupboard. It even has a hob with clicking knobs. It has everything your kids will need to have hours of fun cooking up their own version of Bake Off and Masterchef. Three, two, one … bake!

Wooden Toys GLTC Kitchen

If roleplay is your child’s greatest pleasure, they may also be interested in this fabulous playshop and theatre combo. Exquisitely designed to work as a shop on one side and a puppet theatre on the other, you kids can have hours of fun entertaining themselves and the family and play shops or cafe’s whenever they like.

GLTC even produces a range of equipment to go with it, so you can fully stock your shop and provide the essential till!

wooden toy shop and theatre combo
Ride On Wooden ScooterFor the more active kids, Great Little Trading Co also has some fantastic wooden ride-on toys. I think these funky wooden scooters are very cool.  Their Italian, retro designs are super chic and as for functionality, the imulti-directional castors give fun, free flowing movement in all directions.

You can certainly see why this fab scooter won a Junior Magazine Design Award for Best Toy Design (0-2 years). And being made of wood it’s pretty much going withstand lots of knocks and last long enough for you to get your money back on eBay after your kid’s grown too big for it.

wooden toy farm

GLTC also have traditional wooden gifts such as this great wooden farm, with its own barn, hayloft, cow shed and stables. You can also purchase a wide range of animal accessories and even a tractor. You kids can have hours of fun playing farmer and looking after the animals in the knowledge that these sturdy wooden pieces aren’t going to fall to pieces or break like plastic toys do.

There’s lots more to see at GLTC too. Why not check out their pirate ships, easels, work benches, train sets, activity walkers…. The list goes on.

Eight times winner of Best Children’s Retailer and winner of the Best Independent and Best Online Retailer Awards, GLTC is a British company that provides both great products and great service to its customers – including international delivery and free returns. Why not visit GLTC now.  

Why not check out our post about GLTC’s fab Christmas stockings

 

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Fab Kids RoomsHaving been ordered to redecorate one of the kid’s bedrooms. I decided that rather than just slap on some pink paint and buy a matching lampshade, that I ought to do a bit research.

Good job, I did, really because my ideas of what makes a good kids bedroom seem a bit drab compared to what I found looking online.

So as there is some amazing stuff out there, I thought I’d share my favourites with you.

 

Great Little Trading Co.

GLTC is one of the leading British retailers of stylish and tasteful children’s furniture and they have created some outstanding pieces for kids’ bedrooms. They sell everything you need from stunning beds to delicious soft furnishings including bedding, curtains, rugs, bookshelves and storage boxes. I particularly like the Reece bed, pictured below – ideal for smaller bedrooms and great for kids.

gltc-bed

If you have children who love to have their own den, then the Paddington Mid Sleeper, below, is perhaps the ideal bed-den combo. There are designs available for both boys and girls too.

 Bedroom ideas for kids

GLTC’s range of bedroom furniture really gives your kids a classic and stylish looking room with feature pieces of furniture that really stand out from the average as well as performing important functions.

kids bedroom furniture

I personally like their classic white coloured furniture which helps makes your kid’s bedroom bright and clean.

girls bedroom furniture

You can certainly see why Great Little Trading Company is the 2016 Children’s Retailer of the Year. Visit the GLTC site for more information about their fantastic range of kids bedroom furniture.

The White Company Children’s Bedrooms

Girls bed

I’d always associated the White Company with hand washes and scented candles until I discovered their Children’s bedroom furniture.

The piece above is a cross between a bed and a private cabin, complete with windows, shelves and even a pitched roof. Perfect for young girls who want a bed that can also function as the ideal den.

They have some  fabulously classy bedroom accessories, soft furnishings and bedding that would give any kids’ room a cosy feel too. I particularly love this statement rug with the white star, pictured below.

bedroom accessories

Riley PuppyIf you have got a younger one who likes all things cuddly, then check out their bedroom toys too. They have some seriously gorgeous ‘bashful bunnies’ and ‘sheepskin bears’ that would make an excellent pillow pet for your toddler  – and at very reasonable prices too. My favourite is Riley the puppy.

I hope this has give you some inspiration – it certainly gave me lots of ideas.

All opinions in this article are our own, however, we may be compensated should you make a purchase through the links provided.

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For those of you who have kids with a love of riding on things, I’ve put together what I think are 10 of the best ride-on toys for Christmas. Whether it be electric battery-powered toys or good old-fashioned push and pedal powered, ride-ons have always been popular Christmas presents and here I’ve chosen some exceptional models with brilliant designs made from high quality materials. Hope you like them:

Electric Battery Powered Ride Ons

Vintage Mercedes Style Ride On with Parental Remote Control

Best battery powered ride on toyThis is a stunning vintage ride on car with a high attention to detail and lots of fab features that kids will love. It runs on (2 x 6) 12 volt, twin motor, rechargeable battery and has the added feature of a parental remote control which means you can give your kid the ride of their life whist ensuring they don’t go bump into your garden wall at the same time.

It’s made from tough,  durable plastic with a high gloss finish.  Features include: a fast/slow speed switch, mp3 input cable, front working lights, music and horn buttons, digital battery capacity timer, extra spare wheel, safety seat belt. For ages:2+

Kids Ride on Batmobile

Batmobile Ride on Toys

If you have a batman fan at home this could possibly be their ultimate Christmas gift for 2013. Take their role play adventures one gigantic step further by getting them their very own Batmobile.

This 6V Batmobile is built with a tough steel chassis combined with tough bodywork to take all of the bumps and scrapes that your budding crime fighter will get into. Hand crafted in Italy and designed with DC Comics to help create a truly realistic Batman kid’s car, its features include: wing mirrors and official Batman styling, logos and details, flashing lights, authentic music and sounds, forward & reverse gears and foot operated pedal control. It includes 6V battery & charger.  L122.6cm x W62.5cm x H52.7cm

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Ride on Sports Car

Best electric Ride on Ferrari

If your child is more of a Michael Shoemacher than a batman, then this stunning red Ferrari is one that’s going to make their F1 dreams come true. It will probably also make dad very jealous. This amazing looking electric kids car is a fully licensed Ferrari F12 Berlinetta which, like the Mercedes above, also comes with parental remote controls, making it fun for and safe your child.

The Ferrari is a well constructed ride-on with easy assembly. The body for this model is vacuum formed, then painted with real car paint, to give a superb finish. Your child will feel like they are in a real car, with realistic looking accessories and car body. It also comes with working lights and an MP3 plug-in facility – just connect your iPod or mp3 player! Features include: working lights, a seat belt for additional safety,  2 forward speeds and 1 reverse speed, top speed 4km/h, realistic key ignition start.

 

12V Mini Cooper Ride-On

 Best Electric Ride-on Toys Mini

Always fantastically stylish and fun, the Mini Cooper is a true design classic. This version runs on a 12V +2 motors rechargeable battery and comes with parental remote control, mp3 input, battery capacity indicator, soft leather seat to make your kids feel comfortable, 2 music buttons, play engine start-up sounds and many different music tones ( a volume control for parents!) and flashing colour lights.  It also has remote and pedal function switch. It’s available in 3 colours, red, blue and pink and is made from toughened, durable plastic with a high gloss realistic finish.

 

Audi R8 Spyder Ride On

Best Ride on toys 2013 audi

 

This amazing ride on is a fully licensed kids replica of an Audi R8 Spyder. The 12v sports car is a well constructed ride-on with easy assembly and top quality paintwork. The body for this model is similar to the Mini in that it is also vacuum formed and then painted with real car paint, to give a superb finish. Features include:  genuine looking accessories,  working lights and sounds for a realistic driving experience, a 12v motor to match the 12v battery, seat belt for additional safety. Top speed 7km/h

Pedal and Push Powered Ride-ons

Baghera Speedster Racer Ride-On Car

Baghera Best Ride on Toys 2013

Baghera are a fantastic French company and probably make the best designed cars in France, real ones included – sorry Citroen. These are truly classic kids toys, exceptionally well made with robust materials and real chic retro designs.

The Speedster Racer is an amazing little push powered sports car for young children. Built to last with a padded seat, a good old fashioned metal body and rubber tyres, it also comes with a honking horn, chrome radiator grille and petrol cap. Simple self assembly required on delivery. It’s suitable for indoors or outdoors riding.  57 x 35 x 40 cm. Seat height: 26 cm, Max. rider weight: 30kg

Baghera Speedster Racer Ride-On Car 

Baghera Best Ride on Toys 2013

 

Just like the Racer above, the Chocolate is another beautifully crafted well designed ride on toy. I particularly like it because the headlights make it look like one of those cute cartoon character cars that kids love.  Again, it comes with a padded seat, metal body, rubber tyres,   chrome radiator grille and horn. It’s easy to ride and steer both inside and outside. Slightly larger then the Racer it measures  L 72 cm; W 27 cm; H 37 cm and has a seat height of 26 cm.

Baghera Children’s Metal Ride-On Car

Best ride on toys for kids 2013This is an unusual looking car and I like it for that very purpose – it’s not pretending to be any particular style of existing car, it simply is what it is, a toy to ride on. It’s a simple, but beautifully minimalistic blue metal ride on. Like all Baghera ride ons it’s easy to control and steer and is made from a hard wearing metal body with rubber tyres. It has been designed with space underneath to transport favourite toys. Delivered for self assembly. L: 60cm, W: 32cm, H: 19cm. Seat height: 19 cm, Max. rider weight: 30kg

Baghera Speedster Fire Engine

Best Kid's Ride On Christmas 2013

Playing at being a fire fighter can now be taken one step further with this fab Baghera fire engine. It has a real retro look whilst being made from genuine good old fashioned materials – no cheap plastic here, just wood, metal and rubber put together with craftsmanship and style. Features include padded seat, fire engine bell and a rack at the rear to put on your fire fighting outfit. Dimensions: 37 x 72 cm. Seat height 26 cm

Classic ‘Harry’ Pedal Car

Best Ride on Toys for Kids 2013

 

I was looking to find a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and was very surprised not to find one, however, here is the next best thing, another metal bodied car, this time manufactured by a company called Great Gizmos that produces a wide range of early 20th Century looking vintage toy cars. As you can see, there is a high attention to detail, both with the body work and with features like the wind-up starter at the front, traditional front lights, old-fashioned radiator grille and mock fold up roof at the rear. Truly Scrumptious would have loved this.

Not found what you are looking for? Then try here for lots more ride ons.

All opinions in this review are our own, however, we may be compensated should you make a purchase through the links provided.

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The ‘Twelve Books of Christmas’ list I compiled last year proved to be so popular that I’ve decided to do it again this year, looking at a completely new set of brilliant children’s Christmas books.  To get onto my list, they have to be written by seriously good storytellers, be either a classic Christmas story or a newer book that is likely to stick around and the illustrations must be something I think children will adore and will capture the essence of the season.

Here’s my ‘Twelve Books of Christmas

 

Michael Morpurgo ‘Christmas Stories’

Michael Morpurgo has, over the years, established himself as an eminent author of children’s fiction. His most famous book, of course, is the internationally acclaimed, 1982 novel ‘War Horse’ which has now also become a massive hit on both stage and screen. However, he has written over 100 books in total, ranging from traditional retelling of young children’s stories like ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel’, to gripping teenager page turners like the brilliant ‘Private Peaceful’.

This collection of Christmas stories shows Morpurgo at his very best. It includes the marvelous, ‘The Best Christmas Present in the World’ which on it’s own made it into my 2013 list. Here is an incredible Christmas story, told by a soldier on the front in WW1, which is found many years later in a secret drawer. ‘On Angel’s Wings’ tells of a heavenly visit. Could it be from the Angel Gabriel himself? ‘The Best of Times’ is a tale of a Prince and Princess.  Soon after they marry, joy fades away and a shadow hangs over the royal palace. As Christmas approaches, the Prince, Frederico, has to find a way to warm his new bride’s aching heart. The fourth story, ‘The Goose is Getting Fat’, tells of Gertrude the goose who is getting fatter by the day as Christmas approaches. Can her keeper, little Charlie, save Gertrude from the Christmas dinner table?

In addition to superb storytelling there a brilliant range of illustrators. Each Christmas story  is illustrated by a different artist all of whom are among the  biggest names in children’s books:  Quentin Blake, Michael Foreman, Emma Chichester Clark and Sophie Allsopp.

Buy from Amazon

 

 Enid Blyton Christmas StoriesEnid Blyton ‘Christmas Stories’

Enid Blyton might seem a little old-fashioned these days, but that’s exactly what makes this book perfect for the Christmas list – it’s evocative of that bygone era when you imagine family Christmases were everything they should be and everything they still ought to be.

Originally entitled ‘The Christmas Book’ and published in 1944, the stories follow a family as they prepare for Christmas. What makes this a really interesting read is that each story deals with a different Christmas tradition and as the children in the stories take part in the traditions, they and we learn about the origins of the traditions too.

As we move through the stories we learn about how Christmas began; why Christmas pudding is called plum pudding; how mince pies began; and why we eat turkey.  The inquisitive children in the stories ask all the questions about Christmas that your own children want to know: how did Christmas cards originate? Where do we get mistletoe from? What is a Yule log? Why do we have holly and Ivy?

The family in the story show us that the activities leading up to Christmas can be as exciting as the day itself and that ‘family’ itself is what makes Christmas perfect.

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Emma Thompson ‘The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit’

Although Emma Thompson is best known as a double Oscar-winning actress, she is also widely respected as a children’s author after taking up the mantle of Beatrix Potter and writing several new Peter Rabbit tales.

The latest in this edition and only published in September 2014 is ‘The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit.’Thompson has gone to great lengths to write in a style that is perfectly in tune with the original Beatrix Potter stories so that this one can fit almost seamlessly into the collection.

It tells the story of Peter Rabbit and his comical little cousin Benjamin Bunny. As Christmas is getting near Peter and Benjamin bump into a turkey called William who tells them that Farmer McGregor is ‘Having him for dinner.’

William, of course, doesn’t fully understand exactly what this means, and its up to the two rabbits to think of a plan to convince William that he’s wrong and find a way to save him.

The book is beautifully illustrated throughout in exactly the style you’d expect from a Peter Rabbit story.

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James Mayhew – Katie’s London Christmas

James Mayhew is the creator of the much-loved Katie and Ella Bella Ballerina series and many other books, including Koshka’s Tales, Miranda the Explorer and Boy. He’s been writing and illustrating Katie books for over 25 years and this latest version is ideal for young children this Christmas.

In their latest adventure, Katie and Jack are woken up late on Christmas Eve by a loud sneeze. Little do they realise that they are about to embark on the most amazing evening! Soon they are flying high across London, over snow-dusted landmarks, through the star-scattered sky with the one and only Father Christmas, in his sleigh, with his magical reindeer! But can they help Father Christmas to deliver all his presents and be back in time for Christmas morning?

This is a fabulous story with amazing illustrations and an ideal setting for a Christmas story.

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Francesca Simon – Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker

You can’t get away from Horrid Henry these days, he’s in book shops, on the TV and  has even made films. In the 20 years since he first came out he has become a bit of a phenomenon. One reason for this has to be his appeal to younger kids who love to read him and getting kids to read has to be a good thing.

Interestingly enough, he appeals to both genders. My two daughters, 6 and 7, both love to read his books and even I occasionally sit in on the cartoons. I even confess to having watched the movie too.

For this reason, I suspect that one book that many children will put on their own Christmas list this year is ‘Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker’ and for the reason that they are well written and thoroughly enjoyable stories, I’ve put them on mine too.

As you would expect, things never go to plan when Henry’s involved and in these four funny stories we find every family’s worst Christmas nightmares, as Horrid Henry sabotages the school play, tries to do his Christmas shopping without spending his pocket money, attempts to ambush Father Christmas and endures Christmas dinner with the guests from hell. Kids will love it.

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Donaldson Stick ManJulia Donaldson ‘The Stick Man’

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are the Lennon and McCartney of the picture book world. Their collaborations are fabulous examples of what children’s books should be. She creates magical stories using fabulouss rhyme and he brings them to life in a way that truly evokes childhood.

‘The Stick Man’ tells the story of a stick-like creature who gets mistaken for a real stick. We see him thrown to a dog, used as a Pooh-stick, put on a sandcastle as a flag pole, and each time he is forced further away from his family tree.

When winter begins and we see him sad and shivering on the snowy pages, we begin to wonder whether he will ever make it back to the safety of family tree. But Santa comes to the rescue and there’s a perfect Christmas ending.

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AA Milne ‘Winnie the Pooh Christmas Stories’

Winnie the Pooh has had somewhat of a revival over the last few years, especially since he made his film debut. This year, however, sees the release of a new book in which some of AA Milne‘s incredible Christmas stories are put together into one fabulous collection. Now we can join Pooh and his entourage of friends building a house in the snow, constructing the perfect snowman and receiving some mysterious Christmas letters. You’ll find kids will love these three stories set in the enchanting Hundred Acre Wood.

As usual, you will find all the stories wonderfully illustrated in the traditional Winnie the Pooh style. Perfect to read to your little ones in front of the Christmas fire.

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Walter de la Mare ‘Snow’

Walter de la Mare was a renowned British poet writing mainly in the first half of the 20th century. This beautifully illustrated book brings to life one of his most evocative poems, ‘Snow’.

As the day draws to a close, a family prepares for Christmas – decorating the tree, hanging stockings by the fire, putting out a plate of mince pies, whilst outside winter rolls in and the world turns to white.

Perfect for a winter and Christmas read for younger children.

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Claire Freedman and Ben Cort ‘Aliens Love Panta Claus’

If you have young children you will no doubt have come across the very funny books ‘Aliens Love Underpants’, ‘Dinosaurs Love Underpants’ and ‘Pirates Love Underpants’. These are tremendous fun for kids as they are full of silly rhymes all dealing with the even sillier subject of underwear being stolen, played with and fought over by pirates, dinosaurs and aliens – the perfect recipe for a good giggle, especially as the books are as humorously illustrated as they are written.

Now it seems Claire Freedman has taken her underwear fetish one step further and created the amazing ‘Aliens Love Panta Claus’. I bought this when it first came out last Christmas for my then 5 year old daughter to add to her collection. She loved it and still does and because of it’s sheer joy it gives my little girl, I’m going to add it to this year’s list – it’s a real winner.

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Susan Cooper ‘The Dark is Rising’

I first read this Susan Cooper story many years ago as a 9 year old and loved it. It’s not a typical Christmas story but it is ideal for older children who want something less traditional that is, at the same time, dark and mysterious.

It’s Christmas-time in the Stanton family house: presents, carol singing, good cheer. But for eleven-year-old Will Stanton something sinister has begun, inching round his subconscious, shouting silent warnings he can’t decipher. Then on Midwinter Day Will wakes up to a different world – silent, covered in snow and ancient forest, a world of another time. A world where evil lurks.

Because Will is not the ordinary boy he always thought he was. He is the last of the Old Ones and the power to vanquish the evil magic of the Dark lies within him.

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Jonathan Emmett ‘The Santa Trap’

This seriously wicked story introduces us to Bradley Bartleby. Bradley is bad, exceedingly bad. He’s greedy and naughty and selfish and spoilt: and Santa Claus knows it!

So, when beastly Bradley empties his Christmas stocking to find nothing but a pair of socks, he does quite the baddest thing he has ever tried to do. He builds a trap, a SANTA TRAP! With guillotines, dynamite and a tiger or two.

This Christmas it looks like Santa doesn’t stand a chance. Or does he?

This is a really fun read for youngsters that has an interesting Tim Burton-esque feel to it. It’s not your usual sweetened Christmas story, but it is a morality tale for all those children on the naughty list. Imaginatively and  brilliantly illustrated by Poly Bernatene, this is an excellent book for younger children.

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Steve Smallman ‘Santa is Coming to …( your town)’

Before I explain how good this book is, I first of all want to talk about the fact that there are hundreds of versions of this book available, each of them personalised to a place near you. For those of us in the UK , USA or Canada, you can get titles such as ‘Santa is coming to Halifax’ and ‘Santa is coming to New Jersey’. If you can’t find your town, you’ll certainly find a version in which Santa travels through your county, state or province.

Last year we bought the ‘Santa is coming to Yorkshire’ version and my daughters loved not just reading about local towns and villages that Santa went to, but seeing illustrations of those places as well.

The plot of the story is good too. It’s Christmas Eve. Santa’s packed up all the presents and set the Santa-nav to your house. So what could possibly go wrong? Discover how Santa dashes from here to there, visiting all the places in between, while you are safely tucked up in bed and fast asleep! Then the snow begins to fall and the Santa-nav stops working. How will Santa get his presents delivered?

Well written and very attractively illustrated, kids will love these, wherever they are from.

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If you are looking for beautiful, high quality, personalised Christmas gifts for babies and young children then we may have just found the perfect place for you. Whether you are looking for clothing and shoes, presents, Christmas decorations, Christmas stockings and sacks or even toys and books, you can get them all from the wonderful My 1st Years shop.


Personalised Christmas Sacks and Stockings

personalised christmas sackMy 1st Years have a good selection of personalised Christmas stocking and sacks, all very reasonable priced. The sack shown measures 55cm by 88cm and is made from strong material printed with the words,’ Presents for a Special Girl with love from Father Christmas.’ It has a love heart at the top onto which the child’s name can be printed.

The printing of the text can be up to 15 characters, which is suitable for most children.

See our review of personalised Christmas sacks and stockings from another supplier.

 

Personalised Toys

bikeWe just love the idea of personalised toys and this fabulous wooden bike is just awesome. It’s painted in bright colours and with natural finish wheels and handlebars and has rubber wheels covering to imitate a real tyre. The bike measures 55cm high and 80cm in length. Your child’s name is beautifully personalised on the sides with space enough for 9 characters. The bike arrives flat-packed for you to assemble before the big day.

A pink version is also available for girls.

Besides the bike, other wooden toys include a rocking horse, a painted guitar a drum, a xylophone and an abacus, all painted in similar colours to the trike. There are also rag dolls, cooking outfits and baking sets for boys and girls, as well as other gorgeous items.

To see our review of wooden toys from another company click here

Ivory Teddy Bear Baby Gifts Personalised Cuddlies

There’s a lovely collection of cuddly toys for sale at My 1st Years which are perfect gifts for babies and younger children. Measuring about 25cm high, these are super soft, wipe clean cuddlies made from polyester, with the name of the child embroidered on the teddy’s clothing.

You can choose from teddy bears, puppy dogs, reindeer, a long-eared rabbit and even an elephant.

 

 


Personalised Christmas Clothing

christmas sleeping suitIf you are looking for super cute Christmas clothing for your baby or toddler, then you have to check out the goodies on offer at My 1st years. We love this Christmas bauble  sleep suit the words “My First Christmas” printed above the baby’s name.Made from 100% lovely, soft cotton with snap fastenings for super easy changing.

Other clothes include: sleep suits, dressing gowns, onesies, pyjamas, shoes, sleeping bags and bibs.

 


Personalised Christmas Booksletters_to_santa_book2-1000

If you are looking for the ideal keepsake which children can treasure for a long time, then a personalised Christmas book is a brilliant option. We really like this ‘Your Letter To Santa’ book, where the name of the child is printed twice on the cover,and on every page in the book. This wonderful hardback book with fantastic water colour illustrations follows your child’s Christmas letter on it’s journey to Santa and then follows the presents on their way to your child.

There is a small range of other personalised books to choose from.

 

 

Personalised Christmas Decorations

Personalised baubleNo Christmas would be complete without beautiful decorations and My 1st Years have a great collection to choose from here, though not all of these are personalised. They include unusual and unique baubles, angels, garlands and various other Christmas trinkets to add that extra sparkle to your festive cheers.   We particularly like the personalised owl advent calendar, made out of fabric.

One personalised gift that really looks good is the glass First Christmas bauble shown in the picture.  Featuring the name of your child and the year of their first Christmas, this is a souvenir they can keep and bring out year after year.

 

My 1st Years don’t just limit themselves to personalised Christmas gifts, they have children’s products for all occasions and everyday use. They are a UK based company, but ship internationally, with free worldwide delivery on orders over £75 GBP. To visit their website and find out more visit My 1st Years

 

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Uni Nature : Classic style nursery/kids room by Möbelgeschäft MEBLIK

Uni Nature by Möbelgeschäft MEBLIK

When looking for inspirational boys bedroom ideas, you have to understand what a bedroom means to a boy. It’s much more than somewhere to sleep at the end of the day; it’s a playroom, a place to hang out with friends, a study, a creative space and importantly, a retreat where they can escape the world and have some privacy.

Multi-zoned boys’ bedrooms

Once you understand this, you are halfway there. You’ll know that you need to create a multi-zoned room and not just somewhere to stick the bed and hang the clothes. Multi-zoned rooms, of course, need careful planning. You will have to look at the space you have and consider where things should go in order to fit everything in. Where will the bed go? The closet? The desk? Where do you find space to accommodate that group of friends who’ve come around to play games on the Xbox? And what about the drum kit and the growing collection of Lego creations?

A room that grows up with the boy

A boy’s bedroom is also a dynamic space. As they grow, boys don’t just change in the way they look, they also change in their minds. And as they change, so their rooms need to adapt to accommodate their emerging personality. The toys they now cherish will change to gadgets and sports gear and those pictures of Superman will become posters of supermodels. One day, that pirate ship bed will seem totally at odds with the young guy getting ready to go surfing with his mates.

Chambre d’ado surfer : Eclectic style nursery/kids room by cecile kokocinski

Chambre d’ado surfer by cecile kokocinski

When looking for boys bedroom ideas, we need to consider the inevitable changes. Our bedrooms can stay the same for years because we don’t change much. A boy’s bedroom design is different; just like their shoes – sooner rather than later, they will have outgrown it.

Affordable adaptability

However, whilst changing shoes regularly is an expense most of us can afford, changing the bedroom décor and furniture regularly is not something within most parents’ budgets. So, when looking for inspirational boys bedroom ideas, we also need to consider adaptability. What can we create that will last the test of time and can be changed as the boy grows up? One example of an adaptable piece of children’s bedroom furniture is a cot bed. As a baby, you use it as a cot, then, as the baby becomes a toddler you remove the sides and it becomes a bed. It can last from birth until the child is four or five years old.

Bedroom painting in London NW3 : Modern nursery/kids room by Adrian Lesicki Decorating

 

To find truly inspirational ideas we have to consider other aspects of boys’ bedrooms which can be easily adapted or morphed into something with a greater longevity; and which will also meet the needs of the growing child. This can be quite a speculative task considering we don’t know what things our children are going to be into in the future; this year cricket, next year rugby, the year after football.

One thing we can probably guess at is that as they become older, it’s more likely that a sense of style will dictate how they want their bedrooms to be designed. Once they start getting into trendy clothes they’ll want their room to look like a cool pad that reflects their identity. It will also have to be better than their mates’ bedrooms.

Take inspiration from others

The good news is that there is help at hand. Professional designers and inspired amateurs have been through this process before us and put their ideas into practice. Thanks to the internet, you can find their fabulously boys bedroom ideas online and can mix, match borrow and adapt their designs to suit your own child, your own space and your own budget.

This post has been created in collaboration with homify, an online platform showcasing inspirational interior design, architecture, diy projects and tips for every room in the home.

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SONY DSC For those of you looking for cheap family holidays in Europe, with added sunshine and lots of things for the kids to do, then I would seriously consider Eurocamp Holidays. We went to the Vendee in France with Eurocamp two years ago and had a fabulous time on two different sites.

best european family holidays 2014 kids go freeThe mobile homes were far better than I imagined them to be. As you can clearly see from this photograph, they were very modern and tastefully decorated, fully kitted out and had plenty of space for the whole family. They were also clean, tidy and well maintained. Outside we had our own fenced off area with a raised patio to eat on and a place to park the car.

If a mobile home is not your thing then there are lots of other options to choose from including amazing tents, wooden chalets and even tree houses!

Both campsites had lots of excellent amenities and there were constant activities going on for the kids and adults too.These included a golf course, horse riding, several swimming pools, adventure play grounds just to mention a few. There were also restaurants, clothes washing facilities, bars and a disco.

During the day there were plenty of kids activities organized by the camp. You could take your kids, drop them off and rest assured that they were being supervised by staff in a safe area. This was good if you needed time to do the washing, tidy up the accommodation or just needed a bit of ‘me time’. This was also a good opportunity for the children to make friends with other kids on the site.

You won’t want to spend all your time at the campsite, of course. I mean, what’s the point of travelling abroad for your family holiday if you are not going to explore the surrounding area? One of the good things about these sites is that they are always within a short distance of places you would want to visit, whether it be the beach, local towns and villages or tourist attractions in the local area.

Low cost family holidays 2014 kids go free

Our children love to explore, but being young, are usually better at doing half day visits to places and then moving on. We would generally find that we would go out exploring in the morning, perhaps visiting a local château and then after lunch out we would return mid afternoon and spend time at the pool. Later the kids would take part in a camp activity whilst we cooked dinner. On other days, the kids would join a morning activity whilst we prepared a picnic and then we’d head off mid morning for the beach, returning home after stopping off somewhere for dinner.

One thing that we particularly liked about the Eurocamp campsites were that they were very quiet in the evenings. If there was a disco going on, you certainly couldn’t hear the music blaring out. The main noise came at dinner, when various groups of neighbours would group their tables together, bring out loads of food and sit down to eat together.  It was good to see, dotted here and there, little communities of holiday-makers sitting down to eat together, kids included. After dinner, people would drift slowly back to their accommodation, the odd few, chatting quietly away over a drink and nibbles into the evening.

How to keep the price down

Although Eurocamp offer cheap family holidays and the kids go free, the final price depends on the destination you choose, the type of holiday home you decide to book, the additional extras you choose to opt for and the method of travel you use to get there. Here are some tips to keep the final price as low as possible.

When you first book, you are given a basic price which is excellent value – but the way the company makes money is to add optional extras which you can choose or not choose at your discretion. If you choose them all you can soon see the price creep up. So, for example, you don’t need to hire the raised patio to eat outside if you are happy to eat inside or just eat at the outside table without being raised up. We did hire it, but having a daughter who has a fear of wasps meant we ended up eating in more than out, so really we didn’t need it.

The company, like many others, doesn’t include bedding in the package -it’s another optional extra, but if you have space in the car you can save by bringing your own. There are other add-ons like this which you can keep the cost down by not using.

Accommodation prices vary depending on what type you choose and the size you want – but bearing in mind that this is a summer vacation and you are going to spend most of the time out, it’s really just going to be a base to sleep, wash and eat in.  You don’t need the highest spec accommodation. If you are lucky enough to have kids who don’t mind sharing a room, then you can go for a smaller holiday home with fewer bedrooms.

All accommodation comes with at least one bathroom, a kitchen, dining space and living space – so you’re well catered for no matter which option you choose. Save money here and you can spend more on days out. You can also save money by choosing wisely about how you get there. If you are going to one of the further destinations it makes sense to fly and hire a car. For nearer destinations like France or the Netherlands, it’s probably less expensive to take your own car on the cross channel ferry.

Rather than having the kids cramped up in the car for hours on end, we took a 9 hour ferry which saved us a great deal of driving time. As it was an overnight journey we also booked a cabin for the evening, something I would seriously recommend: sitting around on a ferry all night, trying to grab some sleep in an arm-chair with two young children would have been pretty miserable experience to start a holiday, especially when it was being followed by a the three-hour drive the following day. We could have taken a much shorter journey over the channel and saved a great deal on the ferry price but we would have had a much more travelling to do. What we saved in ferry fees would also have been partially used up in extra fuel costs.

One thing you can do is to book a single night at a camp site and use this as a sleep over destination before driving on to your main destination. In fact this flexibility is one of the really good things about Eurocamp. Our ferry home was at 6am and we didn’t want to have to drive through the night to get to the terminal at 5am in the morning to embark. Instead, we moved our last night to another camp site 15 minutes drive from the terminal and enjoyed a good night’s sleep.

On a similar note, I have a friend who always starts his Eurocamp holiday off with three days just outside Paris. This gives his family time to visit the Parisian attractions and Disneyland Paris before moving on to their main holiday. This kind of flexibility would also be good for those of you considering driving to Italy. You could stop on route at various destinations and explore France on the way, whilst breaking up your journey.

The final way you can save money is through booking your own travel insurance. Eurocamp will offer you the option of choosing travel insurance as part of the package, but you will generally find searching online will get you a better price. If you are taking your car abroad, remember to contact your car insurance company and your breakdown company to ensure you’re covered for travelling in Europe. It’s not expensive, but just imagine having your car stolen or breaking down abroad and not being covered – especially if you were not fluent in the local language.

Overall, we really enjoyed our holiday. There were lots of things nearby for us to visit; the camp had everything we needed and lots of facilities; the accommodation was much better than expected for the price we paid; the people on the campsite were all families ( not a single group of drunken blokes out on the pull to be seen); and the kids loved it. Would I take the family back again? Definitely – especially as the kids go free.

Find out more about Eurocamp Cheap Family Holidays

  All opinions in this review are our own, however, we may be compensated should you make a purchase through the links provided.

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If you’re looking for an affordable, UK based, all inclusive family activity holiday you’ll never forget, then Real Family Holidays have got the ideal solution. If your kids spend too long glued to a screen and never seem to get out and do all those exciting things we did when we were young, then this may be the perfect antidote. This is your chance, mums and dads, to relive your younger days while showing your own kids how to really have fun outdoors.

Best family activity holidays 2014

The UK based holidays on offer here are genuine adventures that will really challenge your kids whilst getting them to experience new things and accomplish new achievements – and there are many activities on offer to suit all adventurous types.

How about their ‘Surviving the Wild’ activity? Here you and your children will learn genuine skills for surviving in the wild. You’ll have to use the surrounding natural materials to make your own shelter, make string from willow or nettle and learn ow to light a camp fire to cook.

If you are up for getting wet then you can go white water rafting along the River Tay, the largest river in Scotland. riding through the rapids and eddies including those of the Grand Tully slalom course. There’s also canoeing, sail boating and even surfing lessons on offer.

For those who get a thrill from a sense of danger there’s caving, climbing  rock faces and ghylls, high ropes, zip wires and even a 35 feet leap of faith jump. Combine all this with bug hunting, rock pooling, orienteering, trekking into the widerness and going on a British wildlife safari.

How can kids not enjoy these experiences? Even if they’ve spent the rest of their lives stuck to the iPad, these will be truely brilliant experiences for kids to do – and of course, you too!

Real Family Holidays have 6 centres based in the countryside throughout the UK. From the highlands of  Scotland, rugged Wales, the Lake District all the way down to Plymouth. Although not all the centres offer all the activities, you’ll find other activities suited to the local area available.

Accommodation is inside the rural centres. These vary depending on where you go. So for example, in Snowdonia, you’d be staying in a historic Georgian country house. Where as the house in Scotland is a more stately country mansion. All the centres are small and accommodate only a small number of families at a time and these are people you’ll most likely be adventuring with.

Although they are not 5 star hotels, you will find them comfortable and well equipped. These are not youth hostel types accommodation, they are more like hotel where you have your own private rooms but share other facilities like the dining and public rooms with other guests.  Facilities include things likes games rooms, lounges, TV/DVD facilities and of course, outdoor areas in a natural environment with some stunning views. There are a variety of different facilities available outdoors, depending on which centre you choose.

Best UK family activity holidays 2014 best activity holidays 2014 Best uk All inclusive family activity holidays

As for pricing, I think I’m saving the best til last. The price per person per night is £20.00. For every three nights you pay for you get an extra night free! Some of their centres are also offering an early bird price of £16.50 per person per night. Short 3 night breaks (with an extra free 4th) are available.

So, a week’s holiday with Real Family Holidays for a family of four will cost £396 if booked in 2013 and £480 in 2014. Now, if that’s not value for money, what is?

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reading booksDo you need to improve your children’s reading at home? Here’s two facts to get you thinking:

The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that only 34 percent of US students were rated ‘reading proficient.”

A 2012 report by Renaissance Learning on 29,000 students showed that English 15 and 16-year-olds had an average reading age five years lower than their actual age.

The effects of a low reading age

In the UK, the reading age requirement for GCSEs is 15.6 – that’s the average age of students who sit them. If their reading age is well below that at the time of sitting the exam, it becomes frighteningly obvious they will not be able to understand the exam papers well enough to pass the examination or do as well as they should.

It also means that throughout their entire time at school they will have been struggling to read the texts books and worksheets handed to them by teachers. They will have had a consistently poorer understanding of the subjects they were studying than those who have better reading skills. So, even if they did manage to understand the exam paper, the knowledge they had to answer the question would have been inadequate to get them through.

This will no doubt have a negative effect on their futures. Having a low reading age stops children getting into college and university and prevents them getting better paid jobs. These children will be less competitive in the jobs market and will have increased chances of living in poverty as a result.

No-one want this for their children.

What can parents do at home to help improve their child’s reading?

According to Renaissance Learning, children make the most progress when they are reading challenging books for at least 35 minutes a day. Less than that and the progress is smaller. The single most important thing you can do as a parent, therefore, is to get your children to read more. We all know, however, that this is easier said than done and the older the child, the harder it is to do, especially if they are really starting to read for pleasure for the first time.

Here are some useful tips to get you on your way:

1) Find how much time your child already spends reading?

You should have an idea if your child reads at home and how much time they spend doing it, but you can add to this how much private reading (i.e. reading a book of their own choice for pleasure) they do at school. For example, in my last school, every child between 11 and 14 read privately for an hour and a half each week during school time. This would mean that at home they would only have to read for 22 minutes a day to reach the 35 minute a day goal.

2) Explain to your child the benefits of reading

Explain to your child why you want them to read at home and the benefits they will get from it. This is not just about improving their reading age but also about the telling them of improvements it will bring to their lives in the long run. It’s also about the benefits of reading good literature and the brilliant adventures they can experience when getting into a good book.

3) Find suitably challenging books for your child to read

Finding a suitable book is not as straightforward as it seems. The first thing you need to know is your child’s reading age. You should be able to get this from your school, but don’t count on it! Not all schools have well organised reading schemes where there is regular testing of students’ reading ages. However, if they do not have your child’s reading age ask for an assessment to be done.

If you can’t get it from school, an excellent test to use is the Burt Reading Test.  Originally created in 1974 and since updated, this has been used extensively as a way to help understand a child’s reading age based on their ability to read increasingly more demanding vocabulary. What it doesn’t do, unlike the Renaissance Reading tests, is give you a reading age based on the child’s ability to understand the meaning of texts. However, it will help as a guide to get you started. You can download both the guide and the instructions here.

Burt Reading Test Guide  Burt Reading Test

Only once you have the reading age can you begin to find suitably challenging books. If your child has a reading age of 10, then giving them books with a reading age of 8 will not benefit them and similarly, giving them a book with a much higher reading ages will be too difficult to help them progress. As a guide, in order to make the best progress, children need to be reading books that have a slightly higher reading age than they are currently working at. From here, they can then move to more challenging books as they progress.

4) Find children’s books with suitable content for their age

The big issue comes with the discrepancy between the real age and the reading age.  A teenager with a low reading age might find it difficult to find an interesting book. No teenager wants to read childish content. Similarly a seven year old with a reading age of 14 might find books that are a little bit inappropriate for their age and maturity.

Where to get help finding the right books

Renaissance Learning runs a program called ‘Accelerated Reader’. Unfortunately, it’s only available to schools, not to parents. However, there is a free tool called the AR Book Finder.  Here’s what to do:

  • Go to the tool
  • click on advanced search tab
  • select the ‘Interest Level‘ for your child’s real age
  • select the ATOS book level for your child’s reading age. (For example, a book level of 4.5 means that the text could likely be read independently by a pupil whose reading skills are at the level of a typical fourth year pupil during the fifth month of school.)
  • click search

ARBookfinder

If you leave the title and author boxes blank, the results will show you all the books that match both your child’s reading ability and are suitable for their age. The results will also include an image, a  rating from other readers and a brief description.

What else do you need to do?

Encourage and support

 Help them choose a book:

  • Helping children to readshow them it’s cool to read by finding out who their heroes are and what they are reading
  • go to the library with them
  • sit down together and check out book reviews on Amazon
  • buy them a book as a present
  • Find alternatives to paper books which might engage their interest more. See our post: Why Older Children Don’t Read & How To Tackle It for a possible solution to this.

Talk about books you have read which they might be interested in or get them the book version of their favourite film or TV series.

Remember that 35 minutes a day may take some time to achieve. It doesn’t all have to be done at the same time either – it can split up over a couple of sessions. If your child is finding hard to focus for so long at first, don’t worry, just give it time.

Whatever, you do, don’t leave it too late before you start your 35 minutes a day routine. Perhaps you can join them and read at the same time? Acting as a role model is one of the best ways to get your children reading.

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