Back to reality and my favourite Mark Warner Moments

I’m really pleased to be able to offer my readers £50pp discount on all Summer 15 and 16 bookings made by 27th July. Just use the code EmmaBlog50.

Not valid for free child place and can’t be offered in retrospect.

We’ve all returned back to reality with a thud today after a blissful week away at the beautiful Mark Warner Levante Beach Resort in Rhodes. I was a little nervous about returning for a couple of reasons. Sydney, now age 6 was to be in Junior club with her big brother leaving Hannah on her own in Mini club. They’d both been so happy last year in Mini Club together that they were apprehensive about the switch. We needn’t have worried. Hannah and Katie’s Maddie were over the moon to be reunited after a year and settled right back into the familiar surroundings. Sydney immediately made friends in Junior club and was looked after wonderfully by the childcare staff, she had such a good time she asked to go to club in the afternoon as well as morning and couldn’t wait to return in the evening too. Despite the fact that Zak and Sydney spent a lot of time in kids club, we still managed to spend some quality time with them and saw them around and about the resort frequently. It was so lovely to see them chatting with new friends, singing songs, giggling and laughing together. We’ve only used kids clubs on two holidays so far, and both times the children have had a blast. It gives them a bit of independence from us as well which I think is really important.

I’ll write more about our holiday later, but for now I just wanted to share some of my favourite holiday moments.

I will confess to not being the bravest traveller with children, when they were younger the thought of keeping three small children safe in a different environment was quite daunting for me, it is getting much easier now they’re older, but the added advantage of returning to a familiar environment made the journey SO much easier. We settled right back into our previous routine and it was lovely to see so many of the same staff members around the resort.

Zak happily returned to Junior Club and made me very proud with his new found windsurfing skills.

kids windsurfing

After a busy morning we had lunch in the pool bar each day. It was lovely to sit and chat with the children, listening to them excitedly telling us about their morning and planning the afternoon ahead.

Levante Beach Resort

We don’t get much one on one time with any of our children at home, so it was lovely to spend an hour or so each afternoon with Hannah while her big brother and sister were in childcare. We played in the pool, took her out on a kayak and treated her to a special parent and child sail, which she giggled all the way through. One of the things that makes a Mark Warner holiday extra special are the fantastic staff, every member of the waterfront team we spoke to was helpful, attentive and went the extra mile to help us out. In this instance, they patiently allowed Hannah to help push the boat and cheerfully gave her a piggy back over the hot sand to save her little feet getting hot. Hannah loved the extra attention and had a really lovely hour on the beach.

Parent and child sail Levante

Levante Beach Resort

Little Sydney surprised us all with her enthusiasm for Junior Club, watching her walk arm in arm with her new friends is a memory I’ll treasure for a long time.

Levante Beach Resort

Sydney became quite fond of some of the guys on the waterfront, even nicknaming them Georgina ( George ) and Pom Pom ( Tom ), a big highlight of her kids clubs adventures was the windsurfing and a very exciting sail one particularly windy day.

Windsurfing in Junior Club

At the end of the week there is a special presentation for the children going home, they sing a song and are each given a certificate and award. Hannah for the second year in a row got the award for smiling so much, which really sums up her holiday. Lots and lots of big smiles!

Levante Beach Resort

My own personal favourite moment apart from watching the kids enjoy themselves was lying on a paddle board on the sea with my eyes closed, feeling the ocean rock below me after the sunrise SUP stretch, it was such a peaceful calming experience, I wish every day could start that way.

Sunrise at Levante Beach Resort

Read our full review of Levante Beach Resort here.

I’m really pleased to be able to offer my reader £50pp discount on all Summer 15 and 16 bookings made by 27th July. Just use the code EmmaBlog50.

Not valid for free child place and can’t be offered in retrospect.

We received a discounted rate for our holiday at Levante Beach Resort

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Making the most of every moment

I’ve spent much of the last few months trying to do everything and nothing very well, I knew I was doing too much but couldn’t find it in myself to give anything up. It was only last week on holiday that I sat back and realised what was really important. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t got the best photos or my house is a mess or I don’t have as many YouTube followers as I want. In 20 years time, I’m not going to be bothered about a twitter conversation with a stranger.

What is really important are the little and big people in this video, and me making the most of every second I have with them. They don’t care if my hair is a mess or I haven’t ironed my clothes, they just want to spend time with me.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the little things that you forget what really matters, and what is really important. I’m trying really hard not to let little things get to me, and be 100% present when the children are around. It’s not always easy, after all money needs to be earned and clothes need to be washed, but I’m really trying  to make the most of my childfree time to do the boring stuff and I cannot wait for a Summer of fun with my little people.

These are not my best photos, some are out of focus, the background are cluttered, but it is my ‘real life’ and pretty much sums up my family. xx

P.S Apologies for the laundry shot….and yes my playroom does usually look like that.

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The Maths Factor – Review

I’ll admit to not doing much extra work with my children at home, mostly because we don’t have much spare time and also because I think they work hard in school so need a break, but at the same time I do feel that I should support their learning outside school, which I try and manage in short bursts and make it as fun as possible so it has the least impact on our precious free time. Luckily for me The Maths Factor is ideal for short periods and I know a little each day has been hugely beneficial to all my children already.

the maths factor

 

For my girls its been great for reinforcing the topics they’ve covered in school and for Zak who is a very able mathematician its allowed us to push him along a bit so he can learn more advanced topics at his own pace. If you have more than one child, they each have their own login, allowing The Maths Factor to remember where each child is up to with their learning.

Each session starts with a video tutorial by Carol, followed by a fun warm-up and then a practice. You can skip through the video and warm ups if you’re confident with the topic.  There are over 1,000 of these sessions, arranged into 32 topics, which makes the subscription price of £9.99 seem like a bargain.

Carol has lots of handy hints and tips for helping your child with new topics including games you can play and the supporting printables are just brilliant. Perfect for people like me who are very time short.

The Maths Factor

 

 

 

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There are also some great games covering everything from counting 1-10 to rounding, decimals and multiplication. I’ve been really impressed at how well The Maths Factor has worked for all my children who have very different ability levels.

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What if it’s too easy?

You can jump your child ahead of where they are recommended to be based on age, to so this you simply choose the topic you want to try and enter your password to skip them ahead.

How do I know what my child is doing?

From the parent controls you can see the topic your child completed last, their score and what they will be doing next. This is especially great for older children who you might not watch as closely when they play as younger children.

What if I don’t want my child online too much?

I’m a big believer that children sometimes need to learn without a screen, which is why we’ve loved the print and play resources from The Maths Factor. We’ve especially found the fraction sheets helpful with my 6 year old, as she likes to be quite hands on.

The 100 square for multiplication is also a great visual way to learn.

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What’s new??

The Maths Factor is now iPad ready and the Summer Clubs are FREE for subscribers. If you subscribe before the 3rd July there’s an extra special rate of just £9.99 available for three months, which is a complete bargain.

Summer clubs are organised by year group so you know where to start your child, we’ll definitely be trying these out over Summer as I’d like my children to go back to school having retained as much knowledge from the previous year as possible. The games are such a fun way to learn too that hopefully it shouldn’t feel like a chore.

The Maths Factor

Still not sure? Try the free  sample lessons to see what you think or try one month for just £1 using this link.

We were given a free subscription to The Maths Factor. 

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First Holiday Snaps

We’re back at Mark Warner’s beautiful Levante Beach Resort this week. I never thought I’d be the sort of person who would return year on year to the same holiday destination, but it’s so much less stressful travelling with children when you know what to expect. Our journey out to Rhodes was very smooth, with almost no hanging around at either airport and transfer to resort very well organised.

The Mark Warner staff as always, have been amazing, Sydney was a little nervous about moving up to Junior Club this year, but the lovely childcare ladies welcomed her with open arms, helping her integrate into the group easily. She finished the morning yesterday and immediately asked to go back for the afternoon. I’d also been worried about the intense sun, as Junior club are outdoors a lot more than Mini Club and Syd is very pale skinned, but again the staff have been fantastic helping her apply extra suncream and making sure she wears her hat and sunglasses and sits in the shade where possible. We had a brilliant first day yesterday and have booked ourselves an action packed week ahead. We’re all very excited!!

Mark Warner Levante

Mark Warner Levante

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LeapFrog Tangled Review and some exciting news

Tangled for the LeapReader is another great book from LeapFrog. The book includes the story as well as games along the way and at the end of the book.  I love that as well as reading the story if you press different parts of the pages the characters talk or music plays, the whole book really comes to life with LeapReader.

Some of the pages have questions about the story that’s just been read, so we’ve been using these to test whether the children have been listening and even to see how much they’ve taken in when reading the story by themselves.

My 4 year old loves the independence the LeapReader gives her to listen to a story by herself while my 6 year old very much enjoys the games and questions.

LeapReader Tangled

 

Which is your favourite LeapReader book?

BRAND NEW Imagicard™

Did you know LeapFrog® have just unveiled the brand new Imagicard™, a ground-breaking Digital and Physical Learning Experience which brings characters to life with the snap of a picture from one of 30+ interactive collectible cards on the All-New LeapPad™ Platinum.  The all-new LeapPad Platinum has a seven-inch high-resolution, multi-touch capacitive screen and fast processor, as well as being extremely durable and with the usual kid safe content you expect from LeapFrog.

We have an older model LeapPad so are very pleased Imagicard is backwards compatible with all LeapFrog LeapPad™ tablets with the exception of LeapPad™1.

LeapFrog Imagicard (RRP £19.99 per game, for children three to eight years old) will be available online and at major retail locations in August 2015.

The LeapPad Platinum tablet (RRP £99.99, for children three to nine years old) online and at major retail locations in July 2015.

We are Ambassadors for LeapFrog

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Win a Mystery Toy Gift Basket

We’re just getting into YouTube and love finding great new channels to follow, including these fantastic new videos from DCKids & Warner Bros’ new Youtube channels, with favourites such as Batman Unlimited, DC Super Friends and Scooby-Doo! My 8 year old thinks they’re AMAZING!!

Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date. Which us your favourite?

DCKids Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyu8StPfZWapR6rfW_JgqcA?sub_confirmation=1

WBKids Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9trsD1jCTXXtN3xIOIU8gg?sub_confirmation=1

To win one of five mystery toy gift baskets just complete the Rafflecopter form below.

The baskets are worth a minimum of £40.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Why visit Florida?

We’ve been lucky enough to have experienced two amazing family holidays in Orlando, Florida and before that it was a destination I’d visited frequently with my own parents, but why choose Florida over other destinations?

Florida has a bit of everything, beautiful beaches, amazing theme parks, Broadway style shows and dinner theatre, great restaurants, shopping, lots of opportunity to play and watch sports, museums, fantastic weather and a huge variety of wildlife. There really is something for everyone. Florida has a lot more to offer than just theme parks and Mickey Mouse. Although we are big fans of Disney World too.

Outside Orlando

The Beaches

Florida has thousands of miles of beautiful coastline and incredible but varied beaches, and you don’t have to stay outside Orlando to visit them. Cocoa and Daytona beaches are just over an hour away, and Melbourne beach about 90 minutes, all perfect for a day trip.

Cocoa Beach is the nearest beach to Orlando  and offers a range of water sports, deep sea fishing kayak tours and airboat rides. It also has great shopping and lots of fun nightlife.

National Parks

Florida is home to many beautiful National Parks including the Everglades, which is the largest subtropical wilderness in America and home to a huge variety of wildlife. I was hoping to try an airboat ride through the everglades on our last visit to Florida, but we ran out of time. Next time though an airboat ride is definitely going to be top of our list. Boggy Creek Airboat Rides are only about 30 minutes outside Orlando, so again perfect for a day trip.

Kennedy Space Centre and Cocoa Beach

Kennedy Space Centre is definitely a must visit attraction if you visit Florida. The history of the space program literally unfolds before your eyes. We all came away incredibly inspired and a little overwhelmed at the achievement and bravery of all involved. Kennedy Space Centre is only about an hour’s drive from Orlando so an easy day trip if you’ve got a villa or hotel for the duration of your holiday.

Kennedy-space-centre

See some Manatees

Florida is home to some incredible wildlife including manatees. We visited the TECO Manatee Viewing Centre at Apollo Beach, just 90 minutes outside Orlando which is a designated manatee sanctuary where Manatees return annually to the warm discharge waters of the Big Bend Power Station. The site offers a little education centre as well as viewing platforms and lovely walks. Sadly when we visited it was the end of the season and the water was too warm for the Manatees, but I’d love to visit earlier in the season to see them.

Further afield

Florida Keys

It’s been many years since I visited the Florida Keys, but I remember the long drive across bridges, gorgeous unspoilt sunsets, diverse wildlife and of course the infamous southern most point of America. As I child I didn’t really appreciate it, but it’s definitely a location I’d like to revisit with my own children.

Sanibel Island

Sanibel is located along the Gulf of Mexico, not far from Fort Myers. Sanibel Island is known for it sunsets, lighthouse and shell filled beaches. Sanibel is a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist areas and really relax.

Orlando Travel Tips

We’ve now travelled to Orlando with both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic and found both to be brilliant with children. You can see my post on the James Villas blog for tips for travelling with children.

Be ready for a long queue at immigration, if you’ve got small children I’d have a bottle of water and some snacks handy just in case. Don’t forget to have your ESTA complete as that speed the process up a little.

If you’re hiring a car, choosing one based at the airport ( we used Hertz ) as this saves a bus journey to an external site.

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We stayed at the beautiful James Villas Bahama Bay Resort, which was perfect for a family or even a group of friends. James Villas also have a great selection of private villas available.

We stayed at Bahama Bay Resort courtesy of James Villas.

Why visit Florida?

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A whole new world..

I’ve been so very conscious of time this year, Hannah’s Year R has sped by at a ridiculous speed and I’ve proudly watched on as my little girl, the youngest in her class has thrived in her new environment. It’s not easy being one of the little ones, and I’ll never know whether my decision to start her on half days was the right one or whether it made it harder to her to settle and feel like a full member of the class. She had months of being worried about playing in the big playground, but thanks to lots of support from school is now happy and confident all day long. I no longer need to worry about her wandering around by herself looking for her big sister for support, she can now manage by herself, find her own friends and join in their games. Although she doesn’t have a best friend, I know she always has people to play with and makes new friends easily.

I still look in the back of the car and can’t quite believe all my children are at school, how my littlest girl spends her days without me, I imagine her carrying her lunch tray to her table, picturing the water slopping everywhere, sat busily at the table in her classroom writing or playing imaginative games in the outdoor area.

I worried before Hannah started how she would manage the school work being compared to children almost a year older, but Hannah has astonished us all. Her reading is amazing, we frequently sit back astonished as she sounds out long words, reading books I wouldn’t have expected her to be capable of until way into Year 1. The world has suddenly come alive with words for her and it’s just magical to watch. She constantly reads signs, packets in the Supermarket and anything else she can see around her.

“That pub serves food ALL DAY Mummy” or with a cheeky whisper in my ear “That man is called Tom, it says on his badge”.

One day last week when all was eerie quiet upstairs I found her sat cross legged on her bed reading a book to herself, her lips mouthing the words as she read. She still seems so young to me, it’s hard to believe she is so grown all of a sudden.  As much as I have missed her at home this year, I have loved watching her blossom. I look forward to seeing her smiling little face at the end of the day, even at the latter half of the week when the smiles become more short lived and my cheerful little munchkin is replaced by a tired, grumpy girl I barely recognise, but I know that after a cuddle, a snack and a rest my loving little Hannah will be back, quick with kiss and a new phase of kind little notes. However bad my own day has been, she can always make me smile again.

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Sofia the First for LeapTV

Sofia the First for the LeapTV  from LeapFrog has been a great addition to our collection of games. My little girls adore Sofia and couldn’t wait to get started. The game involves training for the Tri-Kingdom Games with Sofia with lots of learning along the way.

 

Children use the controller to find their way through the gardens in Enchancia completing training challenges as they play.

 

LeapTV
My 4 year old loves flying Minimus through the clouds correctly recognising upper and lower case letters to guide him through, and it’s been great for reinforcing her letter knowledge.

 

My 6 year old really enjoyed the woodland obstacle course using body motion which was also very entertaining for us watching her. I like this mini game as it encourages listening skills, which are sometimes lacking in our house and gets the kids up and about moving which is one of my favourite features of the LeapTV. The learning areas in this game were a little easy for my 6 year old ( it is aimed at children  aged 3-5 ) but she still enjoys playing the game, especially collecting gems and earning badges.

 

Both girls said the sled game was their favourite and we were very impressed at Hannah’s reading skills when matching rhyming words. The game is a really great way for younger children to learn and older children to reinforce their knowledge in a fun and active way.

 

 Sofia the First for LeapTV is available from the LeapFrog Store for £24.99, which we think is very good value as there is such a lot of play available, and different levels to unlock.

 


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We are Ambassadors for LeapFrog

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What financial advice would you give?

I don’t really remember my parents giving me financial advice as such, but I definitely picked up a good attitude towards money and saving from my parents. We were always encouraged to save half our birthday and Christmas money and to not waste the money we did spend. I watched my parents food shop carefully, we’d always take packed lunches for day trips, and didn’t live to the end of their means. I always knew that we’d get a good holiday in the Summer, thanks to being careful throughout the year.

I was encouraged to work from being 16 and apart from when I stopped to become a stay at home mum, haven’t stopped working since. I worked in Boots on the photographic counter and stacked shelves until the end of sixth form, then at University I worked in the Student Union and then for the Confereences that came in during the holidays. I moaned a bit about having to work at the time, but it was actually great fun, made me lifelong friends and meant I didn’t leave University with huge amounts of debt.

These days, I’m still quite careful with money, although don’t budget as much as I should. I save for big items rather than buy them just because I want them, an attitude my husband does not share. I am desperate for a camera upgrade for example, but am determined to wait until I’ve saved the money rather than putting it on a credit card. We don’t save as much as we should either, but life with three children is expensive and they all do a lot of extracurricular activities which add up substantially over a year.

I hope my children inherit the same good attitude towards money, my 8 year old is very careful already with his own money, on holiday he doesn’t feel the need to spend it instantly like his sisters, but checks out what’s available, considers his options and then makes a purchase. Whereas both my girls would spend it in the first shop if they could and then expect to be given more.

When my children are older I also really want to give them a good work ethic, we get a lot of lovely opportunities through my blog, and I worry that they think things come easy, so I always stress how hard I have to work for us to see those benefits.

When my children are old enough to have their own current account, I’ll definitely be encouraging them to get a Saturday job and we already save all their Christmas and birthday money so I hope they’ll have a little to help them out when they go to University or set up their own home. I know I was very happy I’d saved for all those years when I could buy my own car at 18 instead of saddling myself with a huge loan like my husband had to do, which affected our finances for many years afterwards.

I’ll also be advising them to always leave a certain amount in their account and to only buy things they really need, however tempting it might be. I would just like them to have a sensible attitude. We all need treats every now and then!

What advice would you give?

In collaboration with TSB

 

 

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