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

Battery recharge needed

This week has been exhausting. Our youngest daughter is having a growth spurt and/or teething. She has been up every 2 hours at night time and not been sleeping much during the day. She also believes that between 4am and 5am is a good time to wake up and not settle back down. Three times this week I’ve been down with her very early in the morning, trying to keep her occupied so my wife can catch up on some sleep.

On top of that our eldest has decided that she doesn’t need daytime naps anymore. She has been resisting most days. Luckily she had a nap yesterday as we tired her out by going swimming. She’s also having a nap as I’m writing this so maybe she is starting to realise that she feels better in the afternoon if she’s had a nap.

When she doesn’t have a nap she gets unsteady on her feet, cries at the merest slip and gets very clingy. this is very tiring especially when the youngest has been keeping us awake at night.

Back into swimming routine

One positive from this week is that we are starting to get back into the routine of taking them swimming every week. Last week I wrote an article about the importance of routine and how a lack of swimming meant that my eldest daughter had lost a lot of the confidence she had.

Although it was only the second week in a row we’d been we could already see a lot of improvement over last week. She was starting to jump into the water herself a bit more and was generally a bit less clingy. Hopefully, once we keep going weekly she will soon have her old confidence back. At that point we can start thinking about giving her some lessons.

Having stressed the importance of routine it’s a shame that it’s half term next week. Most toddler groups won’t be running and the swimming pool is likely to be really busy. As such we’re thinking about going away for a few days to give us a bit of a break away and see some family and friends. This should hopefully keep our daughter distracted enough to forget that she is missing her usual activities. We will however, try and go swimming either before we go away or on our trip.

Battery recharge needed

Hopefully my youngest will stop her growth spurt and/or the teething long enough to have a few good nights sleep as I think my wife and I could really do with having a few good nights under our belt to recharge the batteries. On top of that if our eldest does keep napping regularly it will also help a great deal as it allows us to either recharge our batteries or get some housework done without tripping over her.

 

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

printer

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Could you be getting Calpol, Sudocrem and Ibuprofen for free?

If you live in certain parts of the country and don’t pay prescription charges(i.e. during and after pregnancy, children up to 16, the over 60’s) you could be getting free over-the-counter medicines, i.e. medicines that you don’t need a prescription for. It’s called the minor ailment scheme.

Minor Ailment Scheme

The minor ailment scheme is basically a resource that lets you get over the counter medicines without a prescription from participating pharmacies. The reasoning behind the scheme is that minor conditions often don’t require a GP visit. However people attend the GP’s just to try and get a prescription and access to the free medicines. This takes up a lot of the GP’s time and that is why the scheme was brought in.

With this scheme the pharmacist can recommend a medicine and it can be given to you for free. They usually report back to your GP what has been given out so it does stay on your medical record.

The bad news

It is not available in every area of the country. I believe it’s available in the whole of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but in England and Wales it’s dependent on the local Primary Care Trust(PCT). However, there are calls to bring this in nationally as research by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society suggests it could save the NHS £1 billion a year.

As such, more and more PCT’s are bringing this scheme in. Unfortunately, I cannot find an easy way of finding out in which areas the scheme is running. Infact when we recently went to our GP surgery to ask about it, they knew nothing about the scheme. However, 10 miles down the road in Milton Keynes the PCT is running the scheme.

How to find out if it’s available in your area

You can try and contact your GP and find out, but it might be difficult to get through to them. I was hoping Boots would have it on their website, but although they do mention the service it doesn’t show up as a service when using the store locator. Thankfully Rowlands Pharmacy do list the minor ailment service on their website. All you need to do is use their store locator and if the local stores offer a minor ailment service then it is eligible in your area. There is one caveat to this. As far as I understand it, the service is linked to the area in which you are registered with your GP. As such, if I use the Rowlands service it says my local one doesn’t offer the service, but Milton Keynes which is on the list does. As I understand it I will not be able to go to the Milton Keynes pharmacy and use the scheme.

I hope this helps you

I hope this article will be helpful to some of you as this scheme does not seem to be very well advertised and I know we have spent a lot of money on Calpol, Ibuprofen and the like, when in actual fact this could have been free.

The Dad Network

How to raise bilingual children?

How to raise bilingual children is a question I really struggle with. I myself am bilingual having moved to England from Holland when I was a child. I attended primary school in England and secondary school in Holland, before coming to England to attend university. I have lived in England ever since.

 

I really would like to give my children the best start in life and being raised bilingually could really help in that.

My issues with raising my children bilingually:

  • My wife doesn’t speak Dutch: Although she has expressed an interest in learning it’s not an easy language and finding the time to teach her is very difficult. This also raises another issue. If I do teach my children Dutch they could speak it in front of my wife and she wouldn’t know what they were saying. I imagine two young children could get very mischievous with that.
  • Dutch isn’t the best second language to have: It’s not a world language like Spanish, Mandarin or even German and French. Although a second language can be a big advantage I’m just not sure how much of an advantage Dutch would be. We don’t have that many friends and family there and those that we do have speak good english.
  • My Dutch isn’t the best anymore: Although I was born in Holland and have been to school there I have lived in England so long now that my dutch isn’t that great anymore. I sometimes struggle to remember words and I definitely feel english is my mother tongue now. Therefore it doesn’t feel natural to me to be speaking Dutch and it is why I often forgot to speak it in front of my children.
  • Finding the time: We attend toddler groups or classes most days usually with friend and the conversations we have there are naturally in English.

 

I would still like to raise bilingual children

Despite all the issues mentioned above I would ideally want to raise bilingual children and teach my daughters Dutch. Below are some potential ideas

  • Read more Dutch books to my daughters, especially at bedtime.
  • Try and have dedicated Dutch times/days where I can teach both my daughters and my wife Dutch.
  • Let them watch some Dutch childrens programmes on youtube.

I would really appreciate any other ideas that anyone has. Being bilingual is a life skill and it would be a shame not to pass that on to my daughters.

The importance of routine

I’ve recently noticed how important a certain amount of routine is to our daughter. I’m not talking about a regimented day to day routine that we have, but about activities that she’s been missing.

There have been two recent incidents, which has made part of me feel that we have neglected her needs. However I know this is very irrational as what she’s been missing has been replaced by other interests and activities.

The local music group Our daughter had been going to a local music group pretty much every Monday for well over a year. However in the recent run up to christmas we started attending a different toddler group  as her friends go there a lot. She also really enjoys this group. However last week we took her back to the music group and she wasn’t her normal bouncy self. Don’t get me wrong she still really enjoyed it, but she wouldn’t go to the front and join in as she used to do. She was just a bit wary and shy.

We went back this week and she was a little bit better and did go to the front, but only when holding mummy’s hand. In a way it seems that we have to slowly rebuild the confidence that she had built up by attending regularly. I’m sure if we keep going she’ll be back to her normal bubbly self in no time. The dilemma we now have is can we keep her confidence up in both the music group and the toddler group by rotating them regularly as it would be a shame to completely drop one for the other as both are good for different reasons.

Swimming

The second incident is when we took her swimming recently. Before her sister was born we used to go swimming nearly every week and she loved it. She used to enjoy sitting on the side and jumping/diving into the water. The birth of her sister, subsequent tiredness, illnesses and the christmas break have meant that we hadn’t been swimming for nearly six months. We were keen to get her and her sister back in the pool. For her sister it was a first and she seemed to really enjoy it. Whilst our eldest did seem to enjoy herself and in the end didn’t want to get out it seemed all she wanted to do was walk around in the toddler pool. She wasn’t interested in going in the big pool or along the lazy river. Things that she really enjoyed when she last went.

We are now very keen to get her in as regular routine of going swimming as we want to give her lessons soon. First we have to rebuild her confidence for going in the water. As it would be a shame if when we paid for lessons she didn’t want to get in.

Lesson learnt

What these two experiences have made me realise is that children’s memories don’t seem to be as long. Although she did remember both the music group  and the swimming she didn’t remember what she used to like about them. She didn’t have the confidence to do things she was confident in before.

What I’ve learnt from these two incidents is that we need to do the activities my daughters enjoy regularly so they can continue to have enjoyment out of it. After all these activities aren’t cheap so it’s important that when we spend that money our daughters enjoy it to their utmost.