Create, play, read and craft – but, above all, imagine

Newark Book Festival Imaginarium

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Losing yourself in a good book can provide all sorts of benefits as any avid reader knows but a good dollop of escapism has to be one of the biggest advantages in current times for story lovers both young and old.

One Saturday, February 27th, the Newark Book Festival will be helping to engage those imaginations keen to fly into fictional worlds with a series of free online events designed for families.

The Imaginarium festival will see Rhubarb Theatre presenting its adaptations of Addy Farmer’s space travel adventure A Place Called Home and the classic fairy tale The Ugly Duckling.

Nottinghamshire-based author Frances Stickley will be sharing some of her stories including What Will you dream of tonight? and The Mouse’s Apples and introduce you to the characters in her story sack.

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Budding illustrators can join prize-winning Bunnies on the Bus author Philip Ardagh for stories, drawing and fun and older children can take part in a writing workshop exploring magical worlds with LD Lapinski, author of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency series.

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Thomas Taylor will be sharing more about his book Gargantis, set in the mysterious Eerie-On-Sea, and Jenny McLachlan will be inviting you to welcome dragons, unicorns and mermaids into your living room as she introduces The Land of Roar.

The fun doesn’t have to start and stop on the 27th though. Get those imaginations warmed up by creating a model of your favourite character from a book to enter the festival’s craft competition beforehand and afterwards families local to Newark can download the Barry the Bookworm exercise trail and look out for Barry in shop windows across the town throughout March.

All events are free (donations are welcome). Find out more about the events on the Festival website, visit www.iaminprint.co.uk/newark-book-festival to book your free place online and visit Newark Book Festival Facebook Page for regular updates.

Chakraji and Calm Callum

The state of children’s mental health has been a growing concern in recent years and it is unsurprising that the pandemic’s continuing effects have seen the problem grow even worse.

Hansa Pankhania, who founded AUM Wellbeing Consultancy, has plenty of experience as a corporate wellbeing expert, speaker and author but it’s not just adults that she feels could benefit from her skills.

“For a few years, I have been concerned about the rising levels of stress and anxiety in children and young people. Just like all life skills, it is imperative for children to have the skills to overcome stress, otherwise it builds up and causes mental health issues in later life,” she writes on her company’s blog.

“My forte is to pass on simple natural techniques that do not cost anything and are easy to integrate into everyday life.”

Her concern has led her to publish a children’s picture book called Chakraji and Calm Callum (Sohum Publications, £7.99).

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Illustrated by Anne-Marie Sonneveld, it is the first in a planned series of six titles that incorporates these “natural techniques” in imaginative storytelling to introduce mini readers to mindfulness and stress relief techniques.

Integrating Eastern and Western influences, the short tale essentially presents a breathing exercise and affirmation. But encapsulating it in a story of a young boy upset by his parents arguing, complete with magical flamingo ride to see the mystical maternal Chakraji seated on a rainbow, enables parents to introduce these ideas and techniques in a less direct manner. Accompanying Callum on his colourful journey allows for discussion of feelings in the third person.

The eldest two minis are very used to joining in with actions suggested by a book and reenacting the story in different ways (see Everybunny Dance! and A Busy Day for Birds), so no verbal prompting was needed to get them to copy the instructions Callum is given by Chakraji, as soon as I put my palm on my tummy they started physically following along too. And, in the couple of days after our initial reading, my six year old was also keen to repeat the magic words the flamingo teaches Callum “to make you feel happy inside” to prove to me she remembered them.

Anything that might help young people’s resilience during these strange times is definitely worth embracing and, even if it’s not retained and just works when you’re reading it, a calming story for bedtime is always welcomed too.

Today is the start of Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 (February 1-7). This year’s theme is Express Yourself.
And it’s also National Storytelling Week 2021 (January 30 – February 6).

Baking, time travel, natural exploration and crafting fun delivered directly through your letterbox

2020 has been the year of staying in and the toys mini ones receive under the tree this year may have a greater opportunity to be played with this festive season if schools are delayed in returning next term. But many parents will still be searching for suggestions of worthier Christmas gifts than the adbundantly available one-trick-pony plastic lumps in shiny boxes (or at least someting to go alongside them…)

So, as they’re delivered directly to your door mat, a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, containing a variety of activities designed to keep your mini ones’ hands busy and minds engaged, it’s no wonder that letterbox subscription services are experiencing a surge in range and popularity.

Mini number two would be looking forward to the launch of Lincoln’s The Back Garden Bakery Bakers Club if she knew it’s been ordered for her for Christmas – read more about it at Inspire your mini baker with lots of membership incentives and, if we manage to harness her enthusiasm into making anything that looks vaguely edible, then be sure to check the blog again in the new year to see what she thinks of it.

We’ve already had lots of fun reviewing Mud + Bloom’s nature-inspired activity box here – Educational, fun and easy ways to inspire children to connect with nature. And Jo from A Rose Tinted World is also a fan of this one – “It is so full of really good information and a really good prompt for learning about nature with your child. It is fun whilst being educational,” she writes in her post Mud + Bloom Subscription Box Review which includes some very pretty ice decorations. 

And there are lots of different boxes to choose from too as some more of my fellow bloggers are keen to recommend.

“The Mysteries in Time box is fantastic,” says Jennifer who writes at Mighty Mama Bear. “It’s a brilliant way of making history accessible and interesting for kids. You get a lot inside the box and my kids loved it”. Find their full review of the box aimed at ages 7 to 11 here – History for Kids: Mysteries in Time Subscription Box Review.

Small House Big Trips’s Kelly thinks that The Learning Club (aimed at ages 3 to 5) is “fabulous”. “This box incorporates the full 7 different Early Years Developmental Milestones into fun activities through the use of 7 unique and fun characters,” she writes – find her full review at The Learning Club.

In her Positivity, Self-Care, and Mindfulness Gift Guide, The Less-Refined Mind’s Kate includes the Letterbox Anxiety Mindfulness Craft Kit from The Breathing Buddy. “This letterbox kit is really, truly lovely,” she writes. “I adore the simplicity of the crafts and the way it has all been put together. Because it’s a small business, it’s not overly commercialised in terms of packaging or items – it all feels very authentic, and the concepts – both individually for each craft, and in its entirety as a product – are wonderful.”

If your minis ones are particularly crafty you might want to consider a toucanBox, recommended by both Shel from The Willow Tree and Welsh Mum Christy.

In ToucanBox Review – A Kids Craft Box, Shel epitomises why these subscriptions are proving so popular at the moment: “With the second lockdown leaving us and being in a Tier 3 area, staying at home seems to be on our agenda more than ever.  Therefore, sourcing arts and crafts kits to keep the kids entertained is high on my agenda at the moment!” Aimed at children aged 3 to 8, Shel praises it’s unboxing appeal – complete with secret compartment – found it very engaging and liked that you can choose the crafts for each box. 

And Christy has had a similar experience, writing in Craft Subscription Box ToucanBox Review that “when we were forced inside this year and I wanted to keep my three year old entertained and educated in a similar way to nursery, crafting seemed ideal”. Opting for a bee and a crocodile craft, Christy found it “stress and hassle free” which is definitely a winning statement for any parent.

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“Being a working mum, I don’t have much time to organise kid’s activities” writes Rowena from My Balaning Act. “That’s why a kids subscription box is perfect for my lifestyle! It means that I can still do cooking and crafts with my son but without having to worry about the time it takes to plan and prepare.” In her post Kids Subscription Box UK: Foodini Postal Club she praises it for teaching kids about food and encouraging them to get creative in the kitchen.  “It is perfect for fussy eaters as it will give them a new appreciation of food, allowing them to explore new flavours and seasonal ingredients.”

Will your mini one be unwrapping something to unbox this Christmas? Let us know your favourite subscription boxes in the comments.

Inspire your mini baker with lots of membership incentives

Businesses having to innovate during the pandemic is hardly unheard of but one Lincoln woman seems to have particularly honed the art of adapting to our ever-changing Coronavirus circustances.

Helen’s The Back Garden Bakery was both successfully supplying cakes to local cafes and teaching decorating technique workshops before lockdown struck, taking away the majority of her existing trade.

Bouncing back from such a ruinous outlook, Helen had soon not only launched “Quarantine Cupcakes”, delivering sweet treats directly to customer doorsteps in a socially-distanced manner, but also took her in-person workshops online, beaming her creative tutorials virtually into people’s homes via whichever screen worked for them.

Now the cook is launching her third innovative service just in time to vie for a place on mini ones’ Christmas lists. Not content to settle for our doorsteps and our internet connections, Helen is looking to share her love of baking through our letterboxes too, creating a club that could welome members from across the country as well as locally.

“The Back Garden Bakers Club came about in the midst of COVID, when business was all about adapting to stay afloat,” she explains.

“During lockdown I ran online tutorials for children and had such an amazing response I started to think about how this could grow and become something that wasn’t just about lockdown. In a world where our children have technology thrust in their faces on a daily basis, I wanted a way to use that to lead to a positive, creative experience.”

And so the idea for subscription packs evolved.

“Every month there will be a new recipe card to try and two online tutorials to follow at your leisure,” she says.

“Full access to The Back Garden Bakers Club members-only website jam packed with helpful hints, tips, tutorials and a gallery space for all club members creations will be included along with full access to a private Back Garden Bakers Club Facebook page with weekly competitions to win amazing baking goodies.”

And if eating the results of such inspiration isn’t enough in itself, Helen’s club provides plenty of extra incentives to keep your litle bakers reaching for their rolling pins.

“In month one you also receive a Back Garden Bakers Club logo apron and a Back Garden Bakers Club Challenge Wall Chart – complete both monthly challenges and receive prizes at three months and six months.

“In month two you receive The Back Garden Bakery Cupcake Recipe Book and a fabulous folder to keep all your recipe cards safe.

“And in month three you receive a Back Garden Bakers Club Baking Journal filled with spaces to design your own creations and recipes, to put in pictures of your work, a calendar to keep check of all your birthday and anniversary baking dates and a fab fun sticker sheet.

“And, if that wasn’t enough, from month one you receive a 10% members’ discount card that can be used for Back Garden Bakery Workshops, one-to-ones and any cake orders.

“All through December there are fantastic discounts for three monthly, six monthly or 12 monthly passes – it’s £14.99 per month, for three months paid in advance it’s £40, for six months paid in advance it’s £75 and for 12 months paid in advance it’s £145.”

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For more information please visit The Back Garden Bakery, email Cakeme@backgardenbakery.co.uk or call 07958 045243.

Lincoln mum expands her focus to find more family fun

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Lockdown has given us all the chance to think about doing things differently in our lives whether we’ve wanted to or not. For one Lincoln mum of two it’s proved a great opportunity to expand her horizons from the city’s walls to the much wider county’s borders.

Emma Crellin owned and ran Lincoln Mums for the last five years but has used the strange time the pandemic period has afforded her to create the new brand Lincs Kids, taking her experience of running the parent-foucsed city community county wide.

The newly launched website aims to encourage Lincolnshire families to explore, visit and shop locally within the county.

“Lincolnshire has so much on hand for local families,” says Emma. “Now more than ever, people are shopping and visiting more locally.

“By launching Lincs Kids we have created a hub which allows people to see at a glance what is around for them to do and see, and to create some great value offers for local families.

“We will be there to support local businesses during this second lockdown time and afterwards as people get out and about again.”

Lincs Kids focuses on Lincolnshire’s activities, classes, retailers, food and drink, services, health/fitness providers and green spaces. Emma wants it to bring information together in one place with an events calendar, regular what’s on guides, social media pages and a blog with local parents contributing their reviews and views.

The Lincoln Mums discount card can still be used to access all the promotions offered to the community’s members and parents and carers new to the area and/or Emma’s work can now request a free Lincs Kids Family Card. It already provides more than 50 discounts off local attractions, eateries and services and the number of participating business partners is growing and is now expected to expand rapidly.  Card holders can also subscribe to a newsletter providing monthly updates on new offers and promotions.

Find out more at www.lincskids.co.uk, email emma@lincskids.co.uk or follow @lincskidsuk on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Presents for 6 year olds that pass the parent test

What do you buy a six year old for Christmas when she’s already not lacking in toys but also has a birthday just a couple of weeks beforehand to cater for too?

It’s fair to say that mini number two quite likes December with all its unwrapping possibilities and, with no parties allowed in this year of pandemic restrictions, presents are likely to take even more of a centre stage in her world.

Whilst she may be happy with one of everything from the toy catalogue, mummy and daddy’s bank balance, storage capacity and need to be slightly more intentional than that means we’re open to recommendations from fellow parents.

Nomadi Daddy’s Stephen suggests an “Electronic playdough science kit and Bath bomb making kit” which both sound like a fun way of turning STEM activities into STEAM fun (putting the arts back into science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

unique present ideas for 6-8 year olds

Louise from Thimble and Twig makes lots of interesting suggestions on her blogs Unique Present Ideas for 6-8 year olds and Unique Ideas for Christmas Presents for Children aged 7-10, particularly highlighting that the “walkie talkies and the easy speak microphone were winners with ours and the stop motion animation set was also a good present”.

“My daughter absolutely loves arts and crafts so a box filled with all sorts of different craft bits always goes down a treat!” says Lylia Rose’s Victoria. “I’ll fill a gift box with different coloured papers and sparkly cards, coloured lollipop sticks, wooden beads, stickers, washi tape, coloured strings and glues, etc. Perfect for any six year old who loves to get creative.”

Annette, who writes at 3 Little Buttons, is also getting crafty with her daughter. “My daughter loves these construction sets from Foame. They come in sets to build specific things, such as sea creatures and robots, but also larger sets for free play. They are fab for little fingers as the pieces are soft and also double up as water play toys.” Find out more about the kits on her blog Construction play with Foame.

Amanda, who writes at Mummy 2 Twindividuals, knows a thing or two about what six year old girls like having two of them herself: “My six year old daughters love play dough, Playmobil, Lego, secret diaries and Polly Pocket” she says.

Joanna has reviewed the Cool Maker Go Glam Nail Studio by Spinmaster for her sister’s blog Mummy and Moose and gives it high praise – “There’s not many toys out there that are worth the price tag but this one is”.

“The new Lego Dots sets went down a treat with my friend’s little one,” says Chantele from Two Hearts One Roof. “The jewellery holder and photo frame set are really cool and fun to add to their bedroom decor afterwards.”

“My daughter is six and we have LOVED the Yoto Player,” says Fran from Whinge Whinge Wine. “It’s a clock, nightlight, radio and audio player in one and we use it every day” and you can read exactly how much they like it on her blog at Yoto Player review.

What would you recommend as a gift for a six year old? Let us know in the comments below…

Lots of trails are the trick to keeping your Halloween a treat this year

Halloween events 2020

Many of us may think that 2020 has been scary enough as it is but in a year when a lot of celebrations have been cancelled it’s good to highlight the events that are still managing to go ahead offering to put a bit of fun back into our mini ones’ calendars.

pumpkinaFamilies are being urged to help transform Trick or Treating into a Pumpkin Trail by putting one – real, decorative or crafted – in their window so children can dress up and walk around their neighbourhoods seeing how many different pumpkins they can find (just like the rainbow spotting during lockdown) and parents can always bring their own sweets or treats to hand out along the way. 

If you’re going to head to one of the events below as well then obviously it’s even more important than ever to check the details and/or to book your fiendish family’s tickets in advance before leaving your own haunted house for your disastrous destinations… 

Art and Craft
Day of the Dead Decorations
October 24th to 31st – 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe, DN15 6TB.
Kids Halloween Pottery Painting Session – 
October 31st – The Little Pottery Studio, St Marks Shopping Centre, Lincoln.

Baking
Cupcake Decorating – October 29th and October 30th – Hosted by The Back Garden Bakery at Waddington Village Hall

Events
Fear Island at Fantasy Island
selected dates between October 10th and November 1st – Ingoldmells, Skegness, PE25 1RH.
Halloween at Active Arena – October 31st – Active Arena, Lincoln, LN6 7JW.
Halloween at WoodcocksOctober 31st – Woodcocks, Burton Waters, Lincoln, LN1 2BE.
Halloween WeekendOctober 31st and November 1st – Heckington Windmill, NG34 9JW. 
Witchy SpooktacularOctober 30th and 31st – Wolds Wildlife, Horncastle, LN9 5LJ.

Films
Hocus Pocus (PG)
October 27th and October 29th to November 1st – Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa, LN10 6QD.

Pumpkin Festivals
Pink Pig Farm – October 24th to November 1st – Scunthorpe, DN16 3RE
Rand Farm Park
October 23rd to November 1st – Rand, near Market Rasen, LN8 5NJ
Sundown Adventureland – TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO COVID RESTRICTIONS – Rampton, DN22 0HX

PPatch2Pumpkin Patches
Coleby Lodge Farm
– Coleby, near Lincoln, LN5 0AR
Doddington Hall
– Doddington, near Lincoln, LN6 4RU
Maxey’s Farm Shop – Kirklington, near Newark, NG22 8PB
Red House Farm – SOLD OUT.  Maize Maze still open.  Waddingworth, near Woodhall Spa, LN10 5EE
Tattershall Farm Park – Tattershall, LN4 4JR
Uncle Henry’s – Grayingham, near Gainsborough, DN21 4JD

TrailTrails
Fairy and Dragon Trailvarious dates from September 1st to NOW FINISHING NOVEMBER 4th –  Bransby Horses (LN1 2PH).  Adventure around the Visitor Centre yard on this magical fairy and dragon trail and meet some of our equine residents along the way!
Halloween Family Potion TrailOctober 30th – Sherwood Forest.
Halloween Hunt: Find the Hidden Pumpkinsfrom Monday, October 26th – Hanworth Country Park, LN4 2DX.
Halloween Monster Hunt
October 17th to NOW FINISHING NOVEMBER 4th – Rufford Abbey Country Park (NG22 9DF).  Help hunt down the creatures, ghouls and ghosts as you follow the map into haunted hideaways and creepy woods.
Halloween TrailOctober 17th to November 1st – Burghley House, Stamford, PE9 3JY.
Nocton Pumpkin Trail – October 31st – Nocton.
Outdoor Halloween Trail – November 1st – Wyndham Park, Grantham.
Pumpkin Hunt October 17th to November 1st – For under 5s. Thoresby Park (NG22 9EP). 
Pumpkin Trail – Otcober 31st and November 1st – Bassingham and and Carlton Le Moorland.  Hosted by Friends of Bassingham School.
Scarecrow or Autumn scene Trail October 25th to October 31st – Skellingthorpe, organised by St Lawrence School PTA.
Spooky TrailOctober 31st and November 1st – Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, Friskney, PE22 8PP.
Uphill Lincoln Pumpkin Trail October 17th to November 1st – Follow a trail of hidden ceramic pumpkins through Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter and answer the clues to win prizes for all the family. 
Where’s Wally? Spooky Museum Search!October 24th to November 1st – Lincoln Castle and The Collection Museum in Lincoln. 
Who Dunnit TrailOctober 26th to November 1st – Age 4+. Thoresby Park (NG22 9EP).

Wouldn’t Change A Thing

Down Syndrome Awareness Month 2020

The Wouldn’t Change A Thing campaign for Down Syndrome Awareness Month 2020 is all about why we “Wouldn’t Change A Thing”.

On October 1st the single and music video Wouldn’t Change A Thing was released.

The #WCAT urban track positively tackles how mainstream individuals might feel uncomfortable around disability and why. It also highlights the love and positivity families feel for their relations with Down syndrome. 

The track is written and performed by The Bitterati (pictured below) and produced by Simon Frankland whose daughter Neive has Down syndrome. Simon told #WCAT: 

“I was so honoured to be given the opportunity to produce a song that would deliver a clear message about diversity within our community and specifically people with disabilities. 

“The title Wouldn’t Change A Thing is exactly how I feel about my daughter Neive.

“My friends and colleagues in the music industry know how much this means to me and my wife Clare, they all have pulled out the stops to be involved and produce what I believe is a groundbreaking, fresh and contemporary song, that we are very proud of and I am confident it will be a success.”

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The theme for 2020 awareness month centres around the hashtags #OurTruth and #WouldntChangeAThing and portrays exactly why those included “wouldn’t change a thing”. 

The campaign enables families, friends, and those with relationships with people with Down syndrome and people with Down syndrome themselves to express how they feel. 

Project manager Lisa Carr teold #WCAT “Every campaign that #WCAT tackles is so important to me because I really do want to tell the world that I wouldn’t change a thing about my son Luke. #WCAT from the word go has represented our children in a wonderfully enlightening way. This particular campaign I feel is important because I would like the world to know why we ‘wouldn’t change a thing’. I think those who view the campaign are in for a treat. The whole campaign is just beautiful.”

You can watch Wouldn’t Change A Thing by The Bitterati on the charity’s website at www.wouldntchangeathing.org or download it on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Choosing the right name for your baby

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.

It’s probably going to stay with your child for the rest of their lives, be an inherent part of their identity and possibly be the first label attached to them that people may judge or stereotype them from.  It’s something you often decide before even meeting them for the first time let alone getting to know their personality.  So it’s no surprise that choosing your baby’s name is no small task.

Fortunately (or not if you’re a bit rubbish at making decisions like us) there are lots of different ways of coming up with the perfect choice…

Names MeaningMeaning

Many parents simply start by considering the names they just like the sound of and seeing if they can agree on any but for some the meaning behind the name itself is just as important.

“We chose a boy and a girl’s name as we didn’t know what we were having,” explains Michelle from Time and Pence.  “The girl’s name we just liked but the boy’s name had a special meaning.  We had been told we couldn’t have children then after three failed IVFs I conceived naturally.  It was a boy and his name means ‘a gift from God’ so I think it was meant to be.”

“We chose George for a boy because it means farmer in Greek and my husband is a farmer,” says Emma of Farmer’s Wife and Mummy.

Elevated Mum’s Ngozi chose her children’s name based on her “religion’s beliefs, culture and the meanings of the names.  I always believed the meanings of names can influence a person’s character.  I also gave all my children three names so no one felt left out!  Chukwuemeka (male) means God has done so much in Igbo, a Nigerian language and Daniel means God is my judge in Hebrew.  Chinonyelum (female) means God be with me in Igbo and Kyla means victorius in Hebrew.  Chika (female) means God is superior in Igbo and Nathania means God has given in Hebrew.

“Our girls have meaning behind their name which are two fold – because they were both IVF and for old family names,” says Carrie from Flying With a Baby.  “One means ‘answered prayer’ our first miracle baby and her middle name is named after my grandmother, the youngest’s name means ‘mighty in battle’ as we were told she was inconceivable, then not viable and to expect a miscarriage, then told that she was possibly an ectopic and then she had a CCAM issue.  She made it through and is healthy!  She also has a family middle name.”

Names familyFamily connections

There’s no escaping that extended families can often have a huge influence on the decision-making process of new parents.  From following long running traditions, to honouring special relatives to receiving lots of suggestions whether they were asked for or not!

“My boys’ names are all family names,” says Victoria Hockley.  “Oldest’s first name is after my grandad with my dad and father in laws names as middle names (James Ian Michael).  Then the youngest is after my husband’s grandad with my husband’s name and my grandad’s middle name as his (Freddie Andrew Tinline).”  And, as is often the case with family names, they often stretch back even further than at first glance.  “Tinline was my grandad’s mum’s maiden name.”

“My son is named after my dad who passed away whilst I was pregnant,” says Laura who writes at Edinburgh with Kids.  “We had considered a few names with the same initial we liked (Tobias and Theo) – didn’t decide until he was born but Thomas just looked like the right name for him, it was more meaningful and a good fit!”

“For the first names there was no real story behind them,” says Jenni who writes at The Bear and the Fox.  “We chose names we both liked and that were pronounced the same in English and German, as we are a bilingual family.  But for the middle names we chose something meaningful.  Out first son’s middle name is Thomas, after both grandfathers.  Handily they had the same name, so we didn’t have to choose one over the other.  For our second son, since we’d already honoured both grandfathers we chose Fox which is the English translation of my German surname (Fuchs).”

And Wildflower and the Bear’s Nicola also found her family’s nationality an influence.  “My husband is Welsh so both of my kids – Dilys and Edwyn – have Welsh names,” she explains.  “We both wrote out lists of names each and looked at which ones we had both written down which was helpful to narrow it down.  I also love looking up the meaning and history of names and like it when names match, so if I had another child their name would definitely be Welsh too!”

If you already have older children then maybe they can make the decision for you.  “My eldest actually came up with my daughter’s name,” says Emma-Louise of Even Angels Fall.  “I was really struggling on what to call her and asked him (he was two at the time).  He said Car.  I said you can’t call a baby car so he said Car-leeeee and I loved Carly and went with it!  Love telling them the story now, it’s sweet her brother named her.”  You might want to make sure you have a back up plan though.  “I decided to see if my daughter could name our youngest,” she continues.  “The only name she came up with was Salad, so for the pregnancy, that was his name (he’s since been called Benjamin by us, but the word salad still makes me smile).”

And older family members can prove useful too.  “My mum chose both my boys’ names,” says Toni from This Mama.  “Me and my partner couldn’t agree at first, especially with the surname Kuehl.  It’s so hard to get names to sound right, if we were having a girl my son wanted to call her Molly which with our surname would be pronounced molecule!  Both times my mum suggested a name and straightaway we were like yes, that’s it, that’s the name.”

“My eldest was named Jack after my grandad.  We didn’t even consider another name,” says Jennifer from Mighty Mama Bear.  “My daughter was named after a character in a Shirley Hughes book series, Alfie and Annie Rose.  My dad used to read me the books when I was young and I always loved the name.  As I got older the name always reminded me of those evenings being read stories by my dad.  I now read them to my daughter!”

Names MediaMedia and cultural influences 

It’s not just literary sources that can supply inspiration either.  For All About a Mummy’s Amy music provided the answer.  “My youngest daughter Iris is named after our wedding first dance song: Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls..  Whenever she hears it she gets so excited saying it is her song.”

For Mother Geek’s Tina it was a television series – “My daughter was Alicia from the day we found out at the 20 week scan.  Then my mum (Alice) started telling everyone it was after her (which it wasn’t).  We were watching Alias during the pregnancy and, when baby arrived, neither of us thought she looked like an Alicia, so we called her Sydney (the leading lady in Alias).  Her middle name is Robyn because I love Batman and Robin and her older brother was always called Batman by family and friends due to him having so many Batman costumes/tops.”

Emma, aka The Cheshire Wife, looked towards royalty for help.  “We like regal names and it was George or Edward.  He came out and my husband (Henry) said he’s a George.”

Names CWho doesn’t love a theme?

If mum and dad don’t necessarily share the same cultural tastes then a theme could be as simple as a, b, c.

“All seven of my children’s names start with a ‘C’,” says Claire from Big Family, Big Fun.   And their middle names are all after family members.  We alternated the family names so one baby would be named after a family member from hubby’s side of the family and the next would be named after a family member from my side of the family.  The first two were accidental, they were just names we liked, didn’t even think about the fact they started with the same letter.  Eldest was going to be called something else literally up until the day he was born when hubby suggested another name and it stuck.  Then when I was expecting number three people started asking if that one would have a ‘C’ name too.  We didn’t think they would.  I was convinced I was having a boy and had the name Jamie in mind.  But we had two girls’ names we liked too, Bethany and Courtney.  Courtney just happened to start with a C also.  When she made her appearance and we realised she was in fact a girl, I said to hubby to pick whichever of the two girls’ names he preferred.  He chose the C name.  From then on it was deliberate as each baby we said would be our last and we didn’t want them to be the odd one out.  Our angel baby was also given a C name, Charlie, for the hospital’s book of remembrance.  So we have Callum, Chloe, Courtney, Cameron, Caitlin and the twins Cassidy and Cody.

“I also didn’t find out what I was having for three out of the seven (I knew numbers two, five and the twins) so we just had a name picked out for each.  Callum was actually going to be Liam or Megan.  Chloe we knew was a girl so didn’t really have a boy’s name.  I had liked Becky or Bethany though.  Bethany then made it on to number three’s list.  Cameron was either Cameron or Caitlin.  We then kept Caitlin for number five (although had considered bucking the trend by going with Harry Christopher for the boy’s name but we found out she was a girl around halfway through so Caitlin it was).

“We were originally told both twins were girls.  They would’ve been Cassidy and Connie.  When we later discovered one was actually a boy, they became Cody and Cassidy, with Cassidy getting both the original names to make her Cassidy Constance.”

Names TDHNot any Tom, Dick or Harry

Many parents want to avoid when popular becomes common.  “We knew that we didn’t want our daughter to be one of many with the same names in her class so we looked at the online lists of 100 most popular baby names and tried hard to avoid them all!” says Jodie from Maidenhead Mum.

Josie from Me, Them and the Others, agrees, “We were keen to have names that weren’t common so they wouldn’t have another child with the same name in the class but we also didn’t want them to be too rare as I always wanted to meet someone with the same name as me as a child and never did.  We both liked old fashioned names and so looked at the top names list for each name we liked and discounted things that were in the top 50ish and outside the top 150ish.  We ended up with Stanley and Eliza but it’s turned out that Stanley is regionally very popular and there are multiple Stanleys at the school although none in his class luckily.  Definitely worth checking regional popularity if you don’t want something too common!”

Names waitWhen its right to wait

Where we’ve had names picked out for the minis during pregnancy before, the decision isn’t proving as easy this time but if we wait until after mini number four has arrived we’ll be in good company.

“Neither of my children had a name until they were born,” says Becka from Mummy Est.2014.  “I really struggled with boys’ names.  In the end both names came from a baby book (same book as I kept it after my eldest).  We narrowed it down to two names each time and then waited to see which name suited our sons best when they made their entrance.  They are Jared and Finley.”

“I didn’t want to find out the gender of either of my rainbow babies,” says Vicki from Blossom Education.  “I’d had a very traumatic time with a molar pregnancy and subsequent chemotherapy treatment.  Falling and being pregnant felt like a dream.  I did discuss names with their dad but it wasn’t until they were both born that we made out final decisions.  I often wonder how people feel when their baby is born and the name doesn’t really suit them.”

“We had a list for girls and boys but didn’t actually choose until after they’d arrived.  It took a couple of days to lock down first and middle names,” says Helen who had double the decision to make and offers help on her blog Twins, Tantrums & Cold Coffee for Choosing Names for Twins – 6 Ways.

If you’re having a surprise but still wanted to choose just one name ahead of time then one that suits either gender could be the way to go.  “With my daughter it was the first name I picked – Rowan.  Over my pregnancy I went through liking a lot of different names and then seemed to circle back to the original name.  It is a unisex name as well as we were not sure if she was a girl,” says Faith from Raising Moonbows.

And, whilst most people might be concentrating on other things during labour, perhaps it might be the perfect time to reconsider any previous naming dicussions.  “We decided on the name Dylan months in advance but when my wife was asked about his name during labour she could not remember through all the painkillers and kept calling him Robbie!” says Steve from The Diary of Dad.  “We saw it as a sign and by the time he was born we had to stick with it.  We still have the cards and gifts from before the birth with the name Dylan on though!”

Names AgreeAgree to disagree

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome in the decision making process is both mum and dad agreeing on a choice but even a difference of opinion could provide inspiration.

“My daughter is Amabel, it’s the original name from which Mabel comes from,” explains Nicola from Happy Tums.  “I wanted Mabel as it was my nan’s name but my husband didn’t like it.  When I found Amabel he was convinced and now we call her both names!  But everyone finds it really tricky to pronounce as everyone is used to Annabel!”

“We decided on my daughter’s name as soon as we had the gender scan,” says Victoria who writes at Lylia Rose.  “Driving back in the car I said I liked Isabella for a girl and my husband said he preferred just Bella so that was perfect.  My daughter is Bella!  For my son we could never agree on a name.  When in hospital, during labour, we went through lists of boys’ names saying aloud to each other any that we like to see if the other agreed.  We literally did this for hours until we reached Reuben and it was the first name we both really liked so settled on it.  My husband is Ben so we really liked that it had Ben within the name too!”

“We had the deal that if it was a boy my husband would choose (from an approved by me list, of course!) and if it was a girl, I’d choose.  I knew I was on to a good thing though as there was no way he’d watch me go through a pretty tough birth then not let me have the choice!  Just as well as we ended up with three boys!” says Helen from Twins, Tantrums & Cold Coffee.

And sometimes perhaps it’s best if your partner doesn’t know where your inspiration comes from.  “My other half refused to discuss names beforehand in case something went wrong,” explains Emma who writes at Bubbablue & Me.  “I had a huge list of girls names but only two boys names.  Oliver because I liked both the short version too and it went with our surname but was just too popular.  The one I chose that we ended up with was a favourite name of mine since I knew a boy I fancied who played in the same orchestra when I was in 6th form.  I don’t like one of the short forms as it’s the same as a girl’s shortened name, so specified the alternative which was out of a Mills and Boon book.  Luckily my husband said yes to that name I preferred after I said we needed to decide once he was born.  He doesn’t know why I liked the name in the first place though!”

Is there a story behind why you chose your children’s names?  Why not share it in the comments below and also some suggest what you think mini number four’s name should be?

What special extras do you need to pack in your hospital bag?

With more and more babies arriving in my due in September Facebook group, the need to finish packing my hospital bag is ever more pressing.

BabyInHospitalWith all three of the current minis never making it to their full 40 weeks gestation you’d have thought I’d have learnt to be a bit more prepared by now.

But, not only am I not yet fully prepared, I’m also only remembering things that I’d like to take with me because of reading other people’s lists and suggestions rather than because I recall for myself how useful they were last time – such as taking in your own extra pillow for example.

The one thing I do remember from each time, however, is wishing I’d taken a straw.  So this time, after ordering a set of reusable metal straws, it was one of the first things I put in.

But with birth experiences varying so much and the lack of sleep you experience afterwards not helping short or long term memory recall it’s no wonder women might feel the need for a list or two for inspiration.  Here are just some of those extra things beyond the obvious clothes and personal care items that were particularly important to some of my fellow bloggers…

Phone ChargerJodie, otherwise known as Maidenhead Mum, says “I ended up in hospital for four weeks when pregnant with my son, flip flops were essential for walking around the ward and an extra long charging cable is ideal – your bed isn’t always right next to the charger and your battery will drain a lot keeping in touch with people, watching Netflix… and eventually taking photos too.”

And Rebecca of Mummy Est.2014, who shares her list at What shall I pack in our hospital bags?  Mummy, Daddy, baby and big brother, agrees “the most important item to me was phone charger.  I spent three days in hospital and it meant that I could take my own photos of baby (so didn’t feel pressured to pay for the Bounty photos), text and keep in contact with family (send photos to those who couldn’t visit) which was important as it can be bit lonely on wards sometimes and hormones go everywhere so I was grateful to talk to friends when baby was asleep”.

ToMAtoesA Suffolk Mum’s Issy also thinks “it’s great to also have a little bag with things for dad/birthing partner too. I ended up in hospital a lot longer than I thought as I had pre-eclampsia, so it would have been handy to have a change of clothes, snacks, drinks etc for my husband too.  If you can it’s great to have a couple of different size clothes for baby too.  Newborn is great, but so many babies are diddy, if you’ve had a friend with a prem/tiny baby, borrow a baby grow to pop in the bag just in case, so their first outfit doesn’t swamp them if they are little.”

Big Family Organised Chaos’s Mandi agrees but from the opposite perspective – “Or a size bigger!” she says.  “I took the newborn sleepsuit all my seven babies came home in but the first size baby vest was too small for my 9lb 6oz boy!!  Thankfully the sleepsuit fitted him but only for the journey home!!!”

Tape MeasureOn the subject of size Jo, who writes at A Rose Tinted World, says she wishes she’d taken a tape measure.  “When my little girl was born I never thought to measure her length at birth and our hospital didn’t do it.  It was only a couple of weeks later that we realised that we didn’t have that measurement.”  After a 30 hour long induction Jo ended up having an emergency c-section she obviously wasn’t prepared for so she shared her tips to help others at Post C-Section Tips

Josie from Business for Mums  and Jennifer from Mighty Mama Bear may have been inspired by the recent overly clement weather when they came up with their suggestions.

“I so wish I’d had my handheld fan with me,” says Josie.  I gave birth the first time in a heatwave and wished I’d taken it so my other half could have just held it on me.  I then didn’t take it the second time because it was winter and still regretted not having it because labour is hot work whatever the season!”

Jennifer’s chosen item was a recommendation from a friend – “A frozen bottle of water.  Stick a bottle of water in the freezer as your due date approaches and take it with you when you go to hospital.  The wards and delivery suites are kept so warm and the ice cold water (which obviously starts to melt as it gets warmer) felt amazing.”

Bed SocksTeam Stein blogger Charlotte also has the temperature in mind but from the other end of the thermometer – “Stretchy bed socks as after surgery my swollen feet get very cold, even in a heatwave!” she says having recovery very much in mind also suggesting  “Taking arnica tablets from day one to aid healing.  I really felt it helped my recovery after my fourth caesarian section.”

Bethanie, of Northumberland Family Diaries, is currently getting ready for her own imminent arrival too.  “Recommended to me by my hypnobirthing coach was something that has a comforting smell to you, something that will calm you down and help you to relax.  For example I am packing my NEOM night roller (lavender scent) and one of my son’s cuddly toys.”

“Lip balm sounds silly,” says Jennifer from My Mummy’s Pennies, “but it was recommended by a friend and was great to have as the hospital really dried out my lips!”

Lip balm, a handheld fan and flavoured water were also on Helen’s list.  Writing at www.twinstantrumsandcoldcoffee.com she recommends to “Also pack baby’s stuff in a separate bag to yours as it’ll be your partner trying to find baby clothes etc and they’ll either mess up all your stuff by rifling through or not have a clue!  I also had two full sets of different sized clothes (well actually four as I had twins second time round) and I packed each of them in carrier bags within the bag and labeled them so as not to get confused.”

SnacksUnsurprisingly food and water are top of the list for three other bloggers too – and having my own snacks and drinks was definitely appreciated when I had a longer stay than anticipated with my eldest.

Busy Mum Lifestyle‘s Rosie says “Snacks, sweets drinks – we ended up being in fir days and I was being induced so hubby couldn’t leave.  Snacks were a life saver!”

Holistic Mama’s Laura writes “As a Doula the one item I always recommend to pack is your own mug for your tea/coffee.  As nothing worse than having to tolerate a plastic cup, especially when they are super flimsy!”

“A sports style water bottle,” says Amy from All About a Mummy.  “After my C section I couldn’t reach overto pick up the plastic cup of water.  Having the water bottle with me on the bed without fear of spilling was a godsend!”

And The German Wife AK’s suggestion was on hand for when she and her new little bundle were ready to leave the hospital.  “I loved our snugglebundl, it was so handy to have to bring my daughter home and for a good few months after I used it daily so far I have gifted four of them to my friends and family my cousin who had an emergency c-section said it was her favourite gift (she’s currently using it with third newborn).”

What special item did you pack in your hospital bag?  Let us know in the comments below…