Another day in spy school

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Spy school is going well – the children are loving earning their ‘norbots’ and ‘tanks’ and they are looking forward to spending their spy money in the shop on Saturday – they are both saving up for various things. Each day they are doing a bit of school work without arguing and at times even ask to do more! Nothing like incentivising your children.

Today the children have been tearing around the house looking for pictures of household objects. I took a series of photos of fixtures and fittings around the house I have printed them out and created laminated sheets and then got them to run around the house and had to find the objects. I intentionally made it as difficult as possible so that it would take them quite a long time. I gave them a sheet with 4 pictures on it – they…

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Another day in spy school

 

Spy school is going well – the children are loving earning their ‘norbots’ and ‘tanks’ and they are looking forward to spending their spy money in the shop on Saturday – they are both saving up for various things. Each day they are doing a bit of school work without arguing and at times even ask to do more! Nothing like incentivising your children.

Today the children have been tearing around the house looking for pictures of household objects. I took a series of photos of fixtures and fittings around the house I have printed them out and created laminated sheets and then got them to run around the house and had to find the objects. I intentionally made it as difficult as possible so that it would take them quite a long time. I gave them a sheet with 4 pictures on it – they both had the same pictures. It took them about 40 minutes to track down the 4 items. I am developing this concept further to try to make it into a longer lasting treasure hunt, using clues to get from one picture to the next.

The photos are a combination of fun and challenging! Can you work out what these are?

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To try and utilise the photos more I have also created bingo cards which the whole family can use, and I am also trying to make this idea more interactive, but I haven’t worked it out properly yet either.

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I have laminated the pictures so that the children can write on them in dry wipe marker as I am also turning them in to story prompts. I am going to photograph rooms and places to laminate and then photographs of the children doing actions (eating/playing/reading/running etc.) and emotions (laugh/cry/sleep etc). The idea will be that the children create stories using the photos – my 5 year old will have key words like the/and/of/if/it etc so he can link the photos and my 8 year old will have to write the words on laminated paper to link the photos together. I might add in some fairy tale characters and random other things to help them build stories. I want my 8 year old to really develop her creative writing skills and for my 5 year old to begin to understand how to create a story and recognise key words.

So, use your phone and your house to create pictures for all sorts of activities. You don’t need a laminator (but I love using mine!) and if you use the basic/draft printer option it will use less ink. I’ll update this with pictures of the story cards once they are created.

Spy School

How to make home-schooling more fun

We’ve all started on this new brave world of home-schooling – well those of us with school age children have anyway. But how many of us are dreading it?If you are organised and good at following timetables it will probably be a bit easier but for those of us who do things a bit more on the hop it could be more challenging. So, to try and reduce the stress I have come IMG_7291up with a way of making home schooling for younger children a bit more fun and exciting. Bear with me it is still very much a work in progress, and I will add ideas and activities each week but here is the concept as it stands so far….

 

Create a spy world, to do this everyone needs a code-name (think Spy Kids the movie and if your children are the right age then watch it for inspiration!) if you need some ideas for creating Spy names here are the ones my children had a go at –

Colour + Mineral = (Blue Diamond)

Triple number + shape = (i.e. 444 Square)

Animal + action = (i.e. Panda Runs)

Colour + First Name + number = (i.e. Blue George 22)

Name prefix + colour + plant = (i.e. Miss Pinkie Moss)

Adjective + animal = (i.e. Mighty Dinosaur)

Then in box files put a series of ‘missions’ (each mission is a piece of work/or set time for work) Have another box file for ‘outside missions’ (each mission is an outdoor activity or errand).

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Then ask the children to create some money, they need  something that can be a poundand something for pence. Then photocopy the money or draw out lots of replicas and put it into another box – this is the bank.

Then finally find a selection of ‘prizes. I went to a second hand book shop and brought some books, maybe a pack of cards, or jacks or some Top Trumps, a hot wheels car, a small bag of Haribo and also some ‘experience’ vouchers such as hot chocolate and marshmallows, cupcake baking, movie and popcorn, bike ride, treasure hunt, sleepover night, later bedtime, extra bedtime stories, favourite meal etc. Be as imaginative as possible and vary the prizes from small to less small! Then put a spy price on them IMG_7558making sure you have some things that are more expensive and that they will have to work quite hard for as well as some easy to earn things such as the Haribo. Everything in our spy shop was brought in sales/bargain shops/second hand shops with the exception of the HP top trumps everything cost less then £2.

Each time a ‘mission’ is completed without incident the Spy gets paid by the bank, the spy can then save their money for something in the box or buy something in the box. Try to make them work for their money, don’t make it to easy otherwise it won’t work but equally they have to feel that they can save up for something. The bank can also give bonus’s for spies who complete extra challenges (bed making, bedroom tidying, laundry sorting etc we have envelopes with tasks in – they pick a random envelope and complete the task!) or show exceptionally good behaviour or for great teamwork. You get my drift??

Ideas for ‘experiences’

Hot chocolate and marshmallows
IMG_7292Family game of daddy’s choice/mummy’s choice/your choice etc
Pizza night
Extra play time
10/15/20/30 minutes extra TV time
Movie and popcorn night
Den building session
Later bedtime
Extra Storytime
1 episode of your favourite TV show

Then let the children draw a big picture of their secret agent identity – what colour hair? IMG_7304What gizmos? Any secret powers? What are they frightened of? What makes them extra brave? Who are their friends? Do they have a mode of transport? Depending on the age of your child encourage them to draw or write in as much description as possible. If you have access to a computer and printer (or use the scanning option in notes on your iPhone) then print the picture out and use it to label the boxes etc.

 

It’s fun to set extra missions too – for my 5-year-old going on sound hunts throughout the IMG_7306house is fun i.e. give them a task – ‘find as many things beginning with ‘o’ as you can in 5 minutes’ or ‘find 5 ‘o’ things as fast as possible’. For my older daughter (8) she has challenges like ‘write down 2 things you find for each colour of the rainbow’ or ‘find 10 objects then use the first letters to create as many words as possible – you can have 2 bonus vowels if needed’.

Be as imaginative as possible and try to wind the challenges into aspects of schoolwork – its good practice to get them to use their school skills in different ways.

We are currently working on ‘wanted’ posters (photos to follow!) – each poster is an alliteration – i.e.

Bob the Builder who bulldozes beasts, balloons and bubbles
Clever Cat who carries crisps, cries and cuddles
Silly Sophie who spreads sloppy slime and sings senseless songs

My daughter (8) has to write the description of the wanted person but my son (5) draws his person and copies some key words.

The next part they will work on will be their spy vehicles – they will need to do a detailed drawing with a detailed description for each part of the car/boat/plane/rocket. For my daughter she will be using verbs in sentences for each action the car does, in the present tense then I will ask her to write the same sentences in past tense (trying to get her to use participles).

For my son I am going to give him a sound mat and get him to choose the words that he wants his car to do then write them around it. It needs to be fun but a bit challenging so try to amend bits according to your child(s) current ability.

I’ll post photos and keep adding ideas as time goes on so keep on checking back here.

Variations on a theme – A mission on the moon, The Wombles, The Wild West, Wizard of Oz, Hogwarts, another country, cowboys, Indians, a favourite cartoon etc. All you need is to create adventures/chapters/missions (which are pieces of work or time spent on work) etc, create currency and names, a shop and off you go…

I used a lot of free printable templates that I found online – a bit of googling should give you some great things to use for making it a bit more interesting to look at unless you are a brilliant artist.

Good luck…

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Spymobile maths game

Items required
– Blank squares of paper and colouring pencils (optional!)
– Die
– Squares of paper with plus/minus/divide/multiply and some extras such as -10, +10 etc (add in the maths numbers that are appropriate to your child’s schooling level.
– Bag/box of random items such as a dinosaur/Lego brick/train/car/keyring etc. (if you have a large number of Lego bricks then you can put lots of these into the bag instead and skip drawing/writing on paper)

Game play

1) First player rolls the die
2) Take a corresponding number of blank squares
3) Pick an item out of the bag
4) Draw or write the name of the item on to each of the blank squares
5) Place them into the net/trailer behind your spy mobile
6) Each person repeats this process until everyone has a selection of items in their trailer/net

Stage 2

7) Roll the die
8) Take the corresponding number of blank squares
9) Pick something out of the bag and draw/write it on to the paper squares
10) Pick a hazard card
11) Now complete the maths question using the items in your net/trailer. Place the answer back into the trailer/net and put the spare ones into a bowl in the middle for anyone to use if they pick that item)
12) The next person repeats steps 7-11
13) If you can’t complete the maths problem, then pass your turn
14) Keep going until you have each played a set number of times, or played for a time limit, or until someone reaches a specific number i.e. a multiple of 10/5/2 or 50. Again make this relevant to the maths stage of your child. If you are playing with a mix of abilities, then use the youngest person’s ability as your guide but give older children a 30 second time limit to work out their answers or make them do an extra stage like multiplying by 10 etc.

Does your 7 year old need a mobile phone??

Last week the press was full of the revelation that the average age of a child getting their first phone is 7. Yes, you read that right, 7 years old. Childwise reports(http://www.childwise.co.uk) that 53% of 7-year olds own a phone; they spend on average 3 hours 20 minutes per day texting and messaging; and that by age 11, 90% of children have a mobile phone.

Quite rightly, we, their parents, are beginning to be concerned about this relentless flood of technology into our innocent children’s lives. 

Because they aren’t using these phones in the traditional sense – to phone home or ask for help in a crisis. They are using these mini-computers in the same way that they see their parents use them, and often without the restraints that we impose on their use of and access to other forms of screen.

If your 7yearold is taken to school and collected again at the end of the day there is no real need for them to have a phone.  By the time your child starts at senior school a cheap, simple phone for making calls and sending texts will meet their needs … but not their desires, and it is this that we need to address as parents.

It seems to me that we are buying into this madness by not curbing our own phone use, and that it would do us some good to consider our own habits in light of the known dangers of screen use.  I know that both my husband and I more often than not have a screen near us and it’s something we both need to get a grip on. So, what ground rules could we set our children for smart phone use?

1) No phones at meal times
2) No phones at homework time
3) No phones at bedtime
4) One central charging point
5) Contribution towards cost – either with chores or pocket money
6) No extra funds once the monthly allowance has been run down
7) No changing passcodes without telling parents
8) Talk to someone about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable
9) Don’t accept friend requests/messages from anyone who you don’t know in real life

Of course, the rules should apply to us just as much as to them for fear that we lay ourselves open to charges of hypocrisy. Rumour has it that Rod Stewart has a top hat which all phones go into for the meal. I must dust off my husband’s!

No phones at homework time makes sense for me too – focus on the children and forget about the online world unless and until it is a required part of homework.

I do keep my phone by my bed and I justify that because I listen to audio books at night and, as we don’t have a landline,I feel somewhat nervous about not having a phone nearby at night. But there are no other screens upstairs. My husband has a love hate relationship with his smart phone but is glued to his iPad far more frequently.  And on re-reading that paragraph, I can see that I’m just making excuses for bad habits – I will try to address them forthwith!

It is increasingly clear that social media has a strong impacton mental health and that children access this through their phones (lower age limits regardless), spending a worrying 3 hours a day on their phone screen.  Time that should be better used interacting with real friends in the real world.

So for now, let’s try to manage our children’s expectations of when they might be getting a smart phone, and try to model better behaviour in our own screen use.

 

Next time, I’m going to address the issue of screens and bad sleep … watch this space!

 

20 for 20

Now that 2019 has drawn to a close I try not to be pulled into the classic ‘New Years Resolutions’ catch. Everywhere I look people are beginning to focus on how to make 2020 a better year. Somehow I feel it implies that the current year has been a failure .. and that it’s my fault.  It makes me feel that I need to do better/eat better/parent better/work better/friend better. And then I get caught in the vicious circle of what I should be doing better – it could be a long list!

 

Quite frankly I feel I’m winning just by not shouting or crying on a daily basis. I am not wishing away my children’s childhood but parenting can seem a relentlessround of chores and routines, and that’s before you add in the other roles of wife, daughter, business partner, dog owner, friend – all roles which come with responsibility and expectations from others. Its no wonder that I feel exhausted!

 

So I am not going to resolve to be “better”. I don’t have the mental energy but I’d like to try to be my best self”(with thanks to Leaden Hall School for that family motto). And I am going to do this by giving myself permission to do the simple 20 for 20. And I hope you will join me.

 

What am I thinking? Well, take 20 minutes in 2020. Just 20 minutes and use them wisely. Daily? Weekly? Monthly? I don’t mind how often, but give yourself permission to take 20 minutes – and do something for yourself, or with your partner, children, parents, friends. 20 minutes Golden Time. How will you spend it? Its precious, do you want it once a week, once a month: warning – I’d argue that once a year is really unhealthy!

 

I earnestly tell my children that we just want them to try hard, be graceful in failure and not give up. However, as a parent I put a higher expectation on myself: I don’t want to be mediocre, I want to be the best wife, mother, friend, daughter and business partner and yet aiming so high just sets me up for failure. 

 

And we are continually exhorted to do this, do that, lose weight, work out more, talk to old friends, make new ones, improve yourself, volunteer, listen more, watch less its an endless to do list that has a high failure rate. Unless of course you are one of those people who makes and keeps their New Year resolutions (I probably hate you for that). 

 

So, this coming year I’m going to promise myself 20 minutes once a week (and longer if possible) and use it for something positive: Golden Time with my children or hanging out with my husband or being a better daughter. Something meaningful, or fun –just because.

 

So I invite you to join me and give 20 for 20 a try.

Be your best self and stop trying to be THE best.

Jingle Elves

Jingle Elves

December in our house is all about the Elf on the Shelf. Percy, as our Elf is known, arrives to much anticipation. The children buy into the magic that he brings and I work hard to make it magic for them but it begs the question ‘is it all too much?’ Am I setting them up for a huge fall when they realize that none of this is real? Will they hate me for creating such a powerful all-consuming imaginary world once they understand that it’s not real?

I know I am not alone amongst parents in trying to outdo oneself with Elf ideas and I love seeing my children’s faces as they discover Percy each morning. They write notes and leave him pictures; my daughter in particular takes it all very seriously. This year they acquired a magic reindeer, which they have to love as much as possible to give Father Christmas extra magic for flying on Christmas Eve. I know that my 8 year old is on the cusp of not believing; she asks more challenging questions and hears what her friends are saying. I feel that I need to be making it more magic so she remembers this as an adult, but I also need to be ready to help her with the transition from not believing to understanding.

So, how do we prepare for that moment when our children find out that Father Christmas isn’t real? Do you remember finding out? I don’t, not even slightly. So is that because I was quite young when I found out so didn’t mind; or was it just kept low key; or did my parents simply not buy into ‘building’ a bit of magic around Father Christmas so it was not so far to fall once I knew the truth. I’ve asked my parents but helpfully they have no recollection at all so I’m none the wiser. Perhaps my father’s childhood experience influenced him to be more low-key with me. His big brother, fed up of all fuss his little brother was getting, decided to set him straight. My father was about 5 or 6 years old and his brother was mid-teens.

But it brings me back to my children; I have done some reading over the last year or two for ideas about managing children’s expectations regarding this issue. Some people seem to think you should just be honest, don’t dress it up, some people suggest telling children before they find out so that you can control it completely. My favourite thought (which I can’t find now so apologies to the person who wrote this) was to acknowledge that yes, Father Christmas isn’t real in the sense that they believed he was but that there is a very special adult secret which only children who are grown up enough can be told about.

The concept of Father Christmas exists as grown-ups the world over want to spread the magic that St. Nicholas originally started by secretly gifting presents to children; they recognize the satisfaction of gifting a secret Santa present to someone without expecting any reward other then knowing they have done something kind, fun, thoughtful.

I love the idea of bringing children into the big secret and encouraging them to do something kind for someone else without expecting anything in return. This for my daughter is an idea that will work very well; she loves taking on the role of ‘grown-up’ to her little brother and knowing something he doesn’t know will be a great satisfaction to her and I know she will buy into the great nightly Elf move.

It also buys into a less selfish philosophy which I am all for encouraging these days. If, when adults, my children look back on their childhood, I hope they realize that they not only had parents who loved and cherished them with a little bit of Christmas magic, but they also learnt a great life lesson – give with love and no expectation of anything in return. I drive myself up the wall positioning Percy each night because I love to see their faces every day.  It really is as much for me as it is for the children. So go forward and Elf happily, but be prepared for what happens next.

Homework

Homework – how many of us parents dread this? It hangs over me from the minute we get home from school and as the sun goes down the invisible ticking clock gets louder in my head, but my emotional wherewithal is severely compromised by this point. I always think a glass of something might help, but actually I know that really it is the reward for getting through homework, supper, bath and bed without losing my temper with the children. With a year 3 child, homework is at a low level yet the fireworks it creates can be spectacular. Often I feel like the only mother losing her marbles over this long held institution but I know it’s not just me. What intrigues me is that everyone has a different way of dealing with this particular joy.

The let it go house

This house has a laissez faire attitude – no one sits down to do homework if they don’t want to. There’s no bribery, pleading or shouting. But there is a lesson learnt here – take responsibility for your own actions. If you don’t do it then you have to answer to your teachers and your peers. I really respect the parents who follow this through.

The keep calm and get it done house

This is what I aspire to – I actually think these houses are urban myths but some children seem to come in and just get on with their homework. I can’t work out if that’s because they are actually robots or drugged. Or maybe they are heavily bribed. I mean seriously, how many children actually want to do homework? These homes also have a calm and serene feel and seem to be tidy, ordered and organized.

The shouty house

This is where every day a mother starts with the aspiration of a calm, cool and collected post-school afternoon, but after the third request to ‘please do your homework’, resorts to shouting which takes us quickly to meltdown mode. Hello my house. I still fail to understand why I have to ask more then 8 times before shouting to get any response.

And let alone my children, how do I cope with homework! Much is done in the car which means that I forget to write in the diary what has been read. So my reception year child looks seriously unsupported as his reading diary has next to no comments from me. My vision of serenity is always fractured by tea time, as is theirs and I struggle to stay calm while organizing tea, emptying kit bags, feeding the dog, packing things for the next day and refereeing the warring factions I acquired at school pick up.

What kind of homework mother are you? Do you hover, correcting every mistake as it occurs; or do you wait until it’s completed then tear it apart? Do you test their knowledge after completion or just assume that the mere act of completing it constitutes some sort of understanding? Is it just me that seriously questions the point of homework at times? Yet, I understand its value. The teachers rely on us to back up what is being done in the classroom, the children need to learn, gently, that most work requires some sort of extra input outside of school hours – it’s just a taster for most people’s working lives after all. (How many of you will check work-related emails, read articles or do some research outside of your formal work hours and place?) and I know that the more something is repeated the more we understand it.

I also know that it’s an opportunity for us to see what our children are doing and to make sure that we can support their learning at home in a calm and measured manner. But I also love that my year 3 still wants a ‘play bath’ and a bedtime story and that is what gets lost in the tantrums (mine and hers) over homework. It’s another juggling act. And one that I seem to lose more often than not.

So to try and bring some order to the chaos, I have introduced buttons in our house. Essentially it’s like a currency: good behaviour, kind deeds, getting things done, table manners, helping with chores etc. all earn buttons. The children save their buttons and then convert them to a treat or a ‘thing’ depending on what we have discussed.

Then there is the coveted gold or silver button. This takes some serious work to achieve. (We are talking Blue Peter badge type achievement.) I liken it to my glass of gin on a Saturday night – I’ve worked hard (really, really, REALLY hard) all week and that is my reward, as is the gold or silver button their reward for something outstanding.

Homework is on the button hit list. And I’m not ashamed to say that I am deploying button currency at full throttle. As it’s only started this week I can’t yet tell you how effective it is, but there has been significantly reduced shouting, which must be a good sign surely?

How important is accreditation?

Let’s start with the phrase we all know is bound to appear in this blog: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?” from the Roman poet Juvenal, which means: “Who will guard the guards themselves?”

A democratic society, such as that in which Juvenal lived in approximately 55-127AD, should have a system of checks and balances.   In 21st century Britain almost every area has an organisation that purports to maintain the standards of its practitioners, and this is definitely a good thing. It ensures people working in that industry are maintaining standards of best practise, following guidelines that are (or ought to be) regularly updated and operating within safe parameters so that their clients or customers can be assured that they are not going to be ripped off or taken for a ride.

In the childcare industry there are many organisations that offer accreditation to companies providing training courses; they will ensure that the courses have content that is supported by current research, that the teachers themselves are properly qualified and trained, and they will even provide certificates so that the attendees can be confident that their new-found knowledge is of the highest standard.

All of this comes at a cost, of course, and to gain accreditation is expensive. Most of the recognised accreditation agencies require annual subscriptions in addition to a payment per course. They will send out a representative to attend your course once a year, and this person has to be paid too.

So what do you do if you are a new agency, trying to fill a hole in the market by providing continual professional development in niche areas that are not covered by these agencies?

At Born To Parent we rely on our reputation and word of mouth. We have been teaching training courses for different organisations for nearly 20 years before we decided to do it for ourselves and set up our own company. We wanted to offer short courses to busy professionals working with babies and children; there are so many areas where research is ongoing so that parameters change and parents are confused by articles contradicting each other on a weekly basis.

Our courses are based on rigorous, up-to-date research thanks to Emily, who doesn’t let me write a single word without wanting to know where it came from and who has endorsed it – “Who says?” rings out across the office whenever we are writing a new course.

The courses are written in response to requests from the professionals themselves, who know where the gaps in their own knowledge occur, but who don’t have the time to sift through the alternative opinions and the mass of information online and elsewhere in order to be able to support the parents who rely on them for guidance.

And they are delivered in a friendly environment where the focus is on drawing out what the students already know and building on it, on teaching them in an interactive (and therefore more memorable) way. This again is thanks to Emily whose Montessori training and ethos permeate all our courses. And her dyslexia, which leads her to frown when she reads the handout I’m writing. At which point I know I’ve written too much and need to illustrate more!

So if a course isn’t accredited, how can you tell how good it is? How can you judge that your money is being well spent and that you will get the quality of training that is promised?

Ultimately it comes down to a question of trust and gut instinct on the side of the purchaser, and integrity and reputation on the side of the seller. And in childcare, it’s not the accreditation that is the most important thing, it is using the knowledge you’ve gained, feeling more confident than before, and developing as a person and a professional.

And for Emily and me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – Emily, like Mr Kipling, makes exceedingly good cakes, but I’m sure that’s not the only reason people keep coming back to our courses!

GB

The procrasta-list

I don’t know about you but when I sit down to write another blog (which you’ll notice is not a frequent happening, although I am trying to change that!) my mind goes blank. All those ideas that swim into my mind while on the school run or stomping across Salisbury Plain on a dog walk or while persuading a 3 year old to do his business on the loo seem to somehow disappear the minute a new word document appears on the screen in front of me. Then my strongest life skill of all kicks in – procrastination.

Which made me start thinking – are we too quick to dismiss the art of procrastinating? Or could we actually embrace it as a life skill if we just utilize it more successfully? As a busy mother my mental ‘to-do’ list is so long I honestly don’t see how I could ever get to the end of it before the children leave home. And yet I often find myself with mini time-holes, 5/6/10 minutes before the school run or waiting for the dishwasher to finish; I find myself looking for things to do and yet so much on my list needs hours, not minutes and my time gets lost.

So I’m introducing the ‘procrasta-list’ – my never-ending list that is hanging on the inside of my cupboard, in no specific order, it’s just there. I am not using it to remind me of all I need to do, but as a way of utilizing my time more successfully. I’m introducing the power of positive thinking; instead of fearing my endless procrastinating I’m going to harness the creativity that procrastinating apparently brings me and use my list to get ideas for what to do in those mini time-holes.

All of which is very interesting but still doesn’t help me harness my blog ideas – so I’m also adding a blog list to my wall – a random collection of words and ideas that may one day become something more. I’m not sure if it’ll help me or not; it maybe that it remains a random collection of words because after all, what all these things need is time and as a busy mother time is something I lack…….

 

ER

Starting school…

My youngest child started in reception last week. I have found it both exciting and rather sad. It is yet another milestone in the journey of his life, a life which seems to trickle through the hourglass at an unfathomable rate sometimes. I can’t help but look at my 4 year old on the brink of so much and yet I want to hold on to this miniscule human and stop this march of time for just a while longer. I want to relish the tiny moments, the missed words, the big ideas and the innocent adventure of life. I love the feeling of tight arms around my neck or the ‘I love you’s’, the way he snuggles up in bed next to me when he has had a bad dream, the way he bounces out of school full of stories and excitement about life. I want to press pause and hold on to him, to protect him from life, from hurt, from sadness and to protect his innocence.

Then I look at my elder child. I felt equally bereft when she started school three years ago, but I still had a tiny bundle of babyness in my arms and was reassured that I didn’t have to worry about losing him for a long time. And now I burst with pride looking at my daughter – she loves school so much and I adore our endless chats and sharing time with her. It reminds me that the inevitable passage of time has an evolving joy about it. One stage is simply the stepping-stone to the next one so that without even realising it a subtle stage change has occurred.

So as a parent how can we help to make the little milestones count, to mark the memories and yet not hold our children back? Maybe just being present more often. Take time to watch, to listen and to be part of their lives. When you ask ‘how was your day at school?’ really listen, ask questions and be interested. To them it is their whole world; bills, work and other commitments mean nothing to them and nor should they. Just be present. Put your phone down; turn off your computer and listen.

Try having golden time every day, even just 10 minutes when you focus exclusively on them whether it’s preparing a meal, reading a story or gazing at the stars; allow them to sometimes choose what this golden time is and go with their flow – be excited by what excites them, allow yourself to be led by them and let yourself live on the outskirts of your child’s life.

Make a promise to turn off your phone at weekends to have family golden time.  Allow each person to have a weekend when they choose what to do. Maybe there is an epic board game battle, or hot chocolate on the trampoline, perhaps it’s making pizza all together. Allow everyone to have a turn – including parents! It only needs to be a short time but fun and together.

So try not to hold on to one time but to relish all the time, not to look back but embrace the future. Being present is the greatest gift we can give our children; after all, that’s what memories are made of and no one can take away our memories.