The first generation to be worse of than their parents, not if I can help it.

University fees are rising, houses are becoming unaffordable and the next generation is likely to be the first to be worse of than their parents. So what can we do,  as parents, to help our children and enable them to have opportunities in the future.

My wife and myself have decided that we want to try and build a savings pot for each of our girls. We’ve done this by opening a regular savings account with Halifax which pays 4.5% interest loans.  After a year the money is transferred into a Halifax children’s savings account paying 2%. We have standing orders in place to save into the regular saver account every month.

In addition to our regular savings contributions the girls grandparents will usually give money to add to the savings account for Christmas and birthdays. They think the children have enough and get enough toys as it is and they’d rather them have something to look forward to in the future.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the relatively low interest rate of 2% on the savings account. Now they’ve built up a decent sum of money and because we don’t want them to access it till they are in their late teens at the earliest I’m wondering whether the stock market would be a better place to put the money.

Whilst this is a more risky strategy,  the length of time we would be looking to invest should mitigate that risk. Historically over this time period the stock market performs a lot better than savings accounts. This could enable them to have a much greater savings pot in the future.

I need to do more research on the various options and discuss with my wife, but one thing is for sure, when they grow up and become independent  I want them to have the best start they could possibly have.

I’d be interested in finding out how other people are saving for their children’s future.





Going to the cinema with young children, great films at great prices.

So over the cold, wet winter months, we’ve started taking our daughters to the cinema at the weekend for special children’s screenings of big movies. Usually a few months after they first get released.

Previously we’ve always been worried that our three year old wouldn’t have the patience to sit still through an entire movie, but at £3 a ticket it was worth trying. She and her five year old sister both really enjoyed it. So far we’ve seen Despicable me 3, the re-release of frozen, with Olaf’s christmas adventure and Paddington 2. All the films were great fun and at £12 for a family it’s a cheap morning out.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the quality of the films that they are showing and how close they have been added as a kids movie to their actual release date. I believe the current film doing the rounds is Ferdinand and that was only in the cinemas just before christmas.

The children love going as it’s a different experience for them than watching a film at home and they love getting popcorn and other treat (we usually sneak them in from the supermarket).

If you want to see what children’s films are showing at your local cinema then you can use the following links. These films are usually shown at around 10am at the weekend, but they also often have showings during school holidays.

I would definitely recommend the cinema as a great day out on a cold, wet weekend morning.




How to arrange a playdate

Although this article isn’t just about the issues stay at home dads have with arranging play dates I feel there are more difficulties for men in this regard. I was recently contacted by another stay at home dad asking if I had managed to arrange playdates for my daughters. I have managed to arrange some, but they’re mostly piggybacking on my wife’s friends from when she was on maternity leave.

The importance of playdates for toddlers

Playdates can be a very important developmental aid for toddlers. Especially those who do not go to nursery or attend toddler classes as it teaches important social skills such as sharing. It is also nice for the children to make friends they see on a regular basis. Even though it’s especially important for children who do not attend nursery and/or toddler classes I feel, it is also a good aid for children who do go to nursery and classes. This is because it teaches important social skills on a smaller scale than withing  a big group setting.

The two main issues for stay at home dads

  • The male – female dynamic: Most of the potential playdate options will be a child with their mother. It can be difficult for both the mum and the dad in this scenario to arrange a playdate. There is the potential for a request to be taken the wrong way and sometimes it just seems easier not to ask for the playdate. The mum will have plenty of other mums to ask, but the same can’t be said for the dad.
  • The delay in looking after the child: What I mean by this is that usually a stay at home dad takes over the child caring duties after his partner has finished their maternity leave. In a lot of cases this will be after a year. By this time most mums will already have made a circle of friends, so there is not really any need or incentive for them to add another person into the mix.

How to overcome these issues

  • The male – female dynamic: To avoid any confusion and embarrassment it’s a good idea to invite a group of mums at the same time. Maybe casually mention about meeting up sometime and just seeing what the reaction is. You will probably find it easier to at least arrange the first few dates in a group setting until you become more comfortable around each other. Another suggestion is to have the playdates in a public place rather than at someones house as they might feel uncomfortable with that. Soft plays are a great option for this.
  • The delay in looking after the child: This is a more difficult situation to overcome if you’ve already taken on the role. However if you’re in the planning stage I would recommend that you start piggybacking on your partners playdates. What I mean by this is arrange to go along to some playdates she has with her friends. Maybe specially arrange some playdates for the weekend  if you are working. In that case partners can come along as well. That way the mums get to know you and will accept you into their group. It also helps if their partners get to know you a little so they don’t see you as a potential threat. If you have already taken over the reins from your partner then it might be an idea to get her to arrange a weekend catch-up with some of her mummy friends so that you can meet them.


Whilst it is definitely more difficult for men to arrange playdates I feel it is worth making the effort to arrange them. I think the first time is the awkward, difficult time, but after that it should get better as the other parents realise it’s mainly about the children and not about them. Having said that whilst it is about the children it’s also important that the parents get on as well.

I’m going to try and follow my own advice and arrange a few more playdates, this is especially important once my wife goes back to work from maternity leave and I’ll be looking after two young children. It will be important for my sanity to get out of the house and have some adult conversation.

Your thoughts

I would be appreciative of any feedback and or comments about how you feel about playdates and how best to arrange them.



The Dad Network


Toddlers have half term too!

Do you think half term is only for school aged children? If you do think again. Half term has a major impact on my two year old and five month old.



For our own sanity we try and get out of the house as much as possible so toddler groups and classes are a real godsend. However at half term the majority of them don’t seem to be running. This means that you have to entertain your children in other ways. That’s not easy though.

We went for our weekly swim last Monday and the swimming pool was really busy with older children. There was lots of splashing from the older children, who often didn’t look where they were swimming. This meant that we were often getting bumped or having to take avoiding action. In addition there is a real scramble for the changing rooms with a baby changing unit as older families use them as well. All in all this means the experience is not as relaxing as it normally is. I imagine the same goes for other activities which will also be busier than during term time.

Our solution

Our solution was to pack our bags drive 180 miles and visit some family and friends. We did this on the Tuesday and thankfully we had an excellent drive up both girls were either asleep or passive enough not to stop so the journey was very good. We had enough time to get unpacked, settle in and let our eldest get over the excitement before it was time for bed.

The next day we had arranged to meet friends at Gulliver’s world in Warrington. I did a detailed review here, but suffice to say our eldest daughter loved it and even today a full five days later still talks about the ladybird ride that she went on. The next few days involved seeing family and going with them to a garden centre with aquarium when it was raining, and visiting Tam O’Shanters farm when it wasn’t. At Tam O’Shanters my eldest daughter got to stroke an owl which she really loved. Other activities included house visits to friends and family and getting windswept on the beach.  The days were really jam packed and fun, with family taking a bit of the pressure off having to constantly entertain a two year old and five month old.

The children not being in school gives you a little more flexibility with regards to travelling. For example we decided to travel back today, on a Monday, when children were already back at school to avoid the traffic. If we had had to travel back on a Sunday the traffic would have been chaotic and we wouldn’t have had such an easy trip.

We left this morning and to tire out my eldest daughter, as well as to give mummy and daddy time to pack the car in peace, she went on a bus ride to the local beach with family. She really enjoyed it and it definitely did the job as she was asleep soon after we left. Again the journey was really good. Our youngest slept the whole way and although our eldest did wake up about an hour from home she wasn’t that restless that we needed to stop so we managed to get home at a decent time.


Upcoming holidays

Both my wife and myself think this past week has been a huge success. Our eldest daughter hasn’t been missing her classes as there has been so many other things going on. She has had plenty of distractions without taking up all of our time. We have already planned to visit family and friends again at Easter time. Hopefully that will be just as successful. I’m not sure we will be wanting to go away every holiday, but probably we would for a good portion of them. Alternatively it might also be worth timing relatives trips to see us around school holidays so that there is an extra distraction for the girls.

I also think late spring and summer holidays will be different anyway as there are a lot more outdoor activities that we can do and we don’t feel like we have to be cooped up in the house or having to drive to expensive soft plays and theme parks.

All in all I do think that doing something different like taking a trip to see family and friends during school holidays is a great idea. .


Tips for surviving long car journeys with children.

So as it’s half term next week and most of the toddler classes will not be running we have decided to go and visit friends and family. However this entails a four hour car journey. Below are the tips I can give you from our long car journeys so far as well as memories from when I was younger. However, as our daughters are getting older and more active I could really do with some additional tips for surviving long car journeys. Hopefully I can then compile a comprehensive list for surviving long car journeys.

 My tips for surviving long car journeys:

Pre-Journey tips

These are tips for planning the journey so that you are as prepared as you can be.

    • Timing: If at all possible time the journey to avoid rush hour and to fit in with your childrens schedule. For example when we went to Europe via Dover we determined that a 6.30am ferry was the best option for us. This would mean leaving at around 3am, but it would also hopefully mean that our daughter would sleep most of the way there. As it happened she didn’t sleep that much, but she was quite calm as she was tired. The timing meant that we missed rush hour on the M25, were on board just in time for breakfast, she got to run around on the ferry after breakfast and expend some energy. By the time we had to get of the ferry and back in the car for another long stretch she was ready for a rest. This journey, about eight hours in total, worked out better than we thought it would.
    • Route planning: Plan your route in advance or at the very least have a reliable Sat-Nav handy. Getting lost is stressful. It’s even more stressful with a crying toddler in the back seat. It is therefore important to know where you’re going. On the eight hour trip to Europe I mentioned above we had planned the journey and printed out directions, but we hadn’t used our Sat Nav as we didn’t want to use roaming charges on our mobile phone. We took one exit too early, it was confusing right in the heart of Antwerp, and ended up taking a 45 minute detour as it took us a while to realise our mistake and  correct it.
    • Packing: Pack the car in advance as much as possible as it will probably end up taking longer than you think. Have everything you think you might need, such as changing bag, change of clothes, snacks, etc, within easy reach.
    • Baby Car Mirror: A baby car mirror is really good for both the adult and the child. What it does is allow you to see any child in a rear facing car seat through the rear view mirror. It attaches to the headrest in front of the child so they can have fun looking at themselves in the mirror too. We have found ours to be really useful.

Passive in car tips

By passive in car tips I mean tips that include little adult participation.

    • Toys: Toys are a good distraction especially for younger children who do not get as easily distracted by music and other activities. Having said that toys do fall easily out of little hands and if you don’t want a crying baby, because they’ve dropped their toy somewhere you can’t reach I suggest having a bag at the front with a wide selection of little toys that can be passed back to your child.
    • Music: At the moment our daughter really likes listening to music and she often asks for the music to be put on. We have a lot of children’s CD’s by the CRS Players, which we managed to find in a charity shop. This is lucky as she absolutely loves these and they are now hard to find although they are available on itunes.We have put them all on our ipod which we can connect to the car stereo so that we don’t have to keep switching cd’s. My daughter has her own playlist on the ipod so we can go quite a distance without the music going off. I expect that once our daughters are a bit older we might need to give them their own ipod with headphones so they can listen to what they want. Especially as we have two in the car as they might otherwise fight over the music choice. It would also be nice to get a break from the childrens music.

  • Food: This used to be a big no-no for us, but we have found it to be helpful on many occasions especially when stuck in traffic and unable to stop. We always carry a snack box with us which include drinks and snacks like breadsticks and bananas. Easy food that they can hold and eat without making too much mess.
  • Video: Although not on our radar yet I imagine a portable dvd player or Ipad will be required at some point in the future. Again they would probably need to have one each as they will otherwise fight over it.
  • Books: I think we will try this with our daughters, however I’m a little unsure as reading can lead to car sickness. Whenever I used to read in the car I got sick. That’s not to say it will happen with my daughters and having books nearby can also be good for when you need to stop.


Active in car tips

By active in car tips I mean tips that will probably require adult participation.

    • Sing alongs: Although my eldest daughter loves listening to music on the in car stereo she sometimes wants a change. She likes mummy and daddy singing to her and she’s reaching the age where she is starting to sing along herself.
    • Games: We haven’t started his with our daughters yet, but I don’t think it will be that long till games like I Spy become popular. Another game I enjoyed when I was younger was the game where you try to spot certain things, like trains, dogs, etc before the other people in the car.

Other tips

These are my tips that don’t fall in the above categories.

  • Scheduled stops: Try and have a scheduled stop every two to three hours so that the children can stretch their legs for a bit. It’s also good to have some lunch/snacks outside the car so you can enjoy some time as a family, without them talking to the back of your heads. Of course you should also plan for unscheduled stops. When our eldest was younger we took her on a journey that lasted six and a half hours when before she was born it took three hours. We had stopped at a service station and between nappy changes and feeds we were there for nearly two hours. Five minutes after we left the service station she did a dirty nappy. By the time we had reached the next service station and changed her nappy she was ready for another feed.
  • When you arrive: Don’t expect too much normal behaviour after a long car journey as it can affect your children in different ways. Sometimes they can get exhausted from the journey even if they’ve just been sitting there. At other times they get a bit hyperactive to let of steam. The latter is usually the case when they see familiar faces like grandparents who are obviously also excited to see them so they gee each other up a bit. Be aware that they might need to alter their routine be it an earlier night or a later night.


Share your tips for surviving long car journeys with children

The above are tips based on my experience of travelling with a two year old and now also a four month old as well as from my childhood memories. As my children grow up I’m sure I’ll add massively to this list. However I would also be grateful for any tips you can share with me now so I don’t have to find out the hard way.

The Dad Network


The List
Running in Lavender

A picture is worth a thousand words,

but what is the best way to print it?

If you thought this article was going to be full of beautiful pictures then you are wrong. It’s about the best and cheapest way to print your pictures.


Printing out pictures

In this digital age, most of us take photos almost everyday. However, they are often left in the digital world. My wife and I have recently decided that we want to print off more pictures of our daughters as they are growing up. We just needed to decide what the best way of doing that is.


Online printing companies

We have already signed up for various online photo printing sites that offer free prints to new customers. Even after you add the postage it works out very cheaply.

Currently I can find the following offers.

  • Snapfish: 20 free prints for new accounts
  • Truprint: 40 free prints for new accounts
  • Photobox: 60 free prints for new accounts
  • Jessops: 50 free prints for new accounts

After you have used the free print offers if you want to carry on using online printing companies then it is always worth checking who has the current best price as they often have offers. All examples used are for standard 6″ by 4″ prints.

For example, today Photobox  has a price of 12p per print if you buy up to 200 with the lowest price of 5p per print if you buy more than 500. However, they have a current deal where if you buy 50 standard size prints you get 100 free. So you pay 50 x £0.12 =£6, but get 150 prints which works out at 4p per photo.

The standard prices on Truprint are the same. However, they do not have the 100 prints free promotion so if you order today the price on Truprint would be three times higher than Photobox. Tomorrow or next week it could be a different story though.

Jessops currently has a higher base price at 15p per print for up to 100 photos and then 10p a print up to 500 photos. However, you do have the advantage that you can pick the photos up in store so you don’t need to pay a delivery charge.

Printing at home


The other option we looked at is to print pictures at home. We went to John Lewis to look at printers and they recommended a HP Envy 4500 printer as you can use a new subscription service called instant ink. With this service you basically pay a monthly fee to print out a certain amount of pages. When the ink cartridge is about to run out you get sent a new one in the post. The idea being that you never run out of ink. The good news is that the included pages can be either standard word documents or high quality photos, whichever you choose the cost is the same. We went for the basic package which means we pay £1.99 a month and can print 50 pages a month.

Those doing some calculations might say, hang on that works out at 4p a print and you have to buy the printer and paper as well. However the good thing with this is that you can fit four photos on one A4 page. This means that the ink costs are 1p a print.

Photo Paper is not as expensive as it used to be. You can buy 100 sheets of HP 200g/m2 Photo paper on Amazon for just under £10. So 50 sheets would cost £5 added to the printing costs this means that it’s 3.5p per photo. You could get it even cheaper if you lowered the quality of the paper.

The printer we chose is the HP Envy 4500 and cost around £45. The print quality is very good although slow and we have been happy with our purchase so far.

So what’s the best option

There are advantages and disadvantages with each option.

Advantages of printing online

  • Quality is usually better than printing at home.
  • With deals it can work out cheaply as well.

Disadvantages of printing online

  • It can take time to find the best deals as the base prices are pretty high compared to printing at home.
  • It can take a while for the prints to arrive.
  • You probably have to pay delivery charges.
  • It can take a long time to upload the photos to the website.

Advantages of printing at home

  •  It usually works out cheaper
  • It’s pretty instantaneous and you can print something off when you like.
  • You don’t have to wait till you have 200 photos and then sit there for hours uploading the best ones to the online printing companies.

Disadvantages of printing at home

  • You only have a set amount of prints per month and are charged extra for exceeding those pages. However you are able to roll a certain amount of pages over to the next month.


Having weighed up all the advantages and disadvantages I think that we will mainly use our own printer for general photo printing. However, we will keep an eye on deals at the online printing companies and make use of those as they arise. Also, whenever we need to print for a special occasion, I think we will stick to the professionals.