10 alternatives to getting them a pet

It’s now week 10 of lockdown and it’s becoming clear that my children are missing interaction with animals. Whilst we live in the city, we were frequent visitors to the farm at the weekends and on holiday. But now, the absence of animals, with the exception of the neighbour’s cat, is ever present. So, it’s not surprising that I’m fielding more questions than ever as to why we cannot get a pet. The honest answer is that looking after 2 young children whilst holding down 2 full time jobs is more than enough. Adding to the family is not a priority.

And it seems we’re not the only ones. The demand for domestic chickens sky rocketed shortly after the lockdown announcement. As well as the desire to get a dog. Maybe the shortage of eggs and the need for purposeful exercise were prominent factors. But I firmly believe we all miss some kind of interaction with animals.

As the saying goes, a pet is not just for Christmas, and so if your needs are purely temporary, here’s 10 alternatives that may help:

1. Chat to a parrot

As with any good parrot, the Rock-a-Too Show Bird will copy your words and phrases – simply press his beak to record your own voice and hear him repeat it back! Used to being centre stage, this parrot loves attention and so will show you some loveable affection if he is patted and praised.

2. Keep up with what’s going down

Get your farm fix with the BBCs Down on the Farm on iPlayer. This has been a firm favourite in our household, watching ducklings hatch and seeing the lambs playing. They also have interactive animal quizzes and games online too.

3. If you can’t see them, hear them

The Melissa & Doug Farm Animals Sound Puzzle combines the classic peg puzzle with an added twist of real animal sounds. Help your little one to distinguish different shapes as well as identifying farm animals by listening to each animal sound off in their own voice when a puzzle piece is correctly placed.

4. Get an interactive coding pet

Dog mad kids will love cute Ranger and Zip who are adorable and will become your kid’s new favourite toys. Let your child’s imagination go wild as they help Ranger and Zip get up to all sorts of fun and games. Your child can teach them to fetch a ball or even go for a ride on the slide. Using the storybook, they will have fun challenges to complete which makes this a perfect educational toy.

5. Build a den

Lockdown has given local wildlife more space and many creatures have thrived during this time. Take the kids to local woodland and build a den. If you manage to keep them quiet for long enough you’ll be surprised how many animals you can spot.

6. Recreate your own safari

Take yourselves on your own safari and explore an imaginary land of lions, tigers with the odd dinosaur thrown in using Papo figurines.

7. Accessorise

Get one step closer to pet ownership and order some pet accessories. It’s the perfect toy to teach children the importance of animal care. Whether they want to play vets, or simply pretend they have a pet of their own, this toy gives them plenty of opportunity to use their imagination.

8. Go to a very different pet shop

Take them to a very different kind of pet shop with a Funnybones story. It sees the big skeleton and little skeleton head to their local pet shop and swap the dog for a skeleton goldfish. Before long, they are swapping pets regularly until the fed-up pet shop owner gives them a box with a mystery pet in.

9. Play Pooh Sticks

Plan a visit to play pooh sticks by reading the kids a story about Winnie the Pooh the evening before. Go on a trail to find a bridge over a river and imagine yourselves as one of the book’s characters.

10. Dress up as your favourite animal

Re-imagine your favourite animals and become them too. Let your child practise their flying skills and looking after imaginary ducklings as they engage their brain and memory skills to create similar fairytales that they read in books.

Guest post: Indoor play ideas for the little ones

If you’re anything like me, at the moment you’re probably looking for as many ideas as possible to entertain small people. Being indoors is tough with pre-schoolers, so keeping them out of mischief has become more valuable than ever!

For kids, play and learning go hand-in-hand. So engaging them in play, and allowing them to play independently, is a great way for them to explore the world around them. While being stuck at home is somewhat limiting, by getting creative it’s still possible to offer a wide range of different types of play. Having two kids under three, I’ve done my fair share of pre-school play, so today I’d love to share a few different ideas for keeping little people entertained.

1. Open-ended play

Open-ended play is one of the best ways to keep toddlers and babies entertained. The idea is that you give your little person something which can be used in loads of different ways, allowing them to use their imagination to create ways to play. A simple example might be a set of wooden blocks, which has infinite possibilities, from building towers to practising grabbing and dropping, to colour and size sorting.

One of the most popular open-ended toys in our house is our Brio wooden railway. My 2 year old never gets bored of it because it’s different every time we get it out. He uses blocks and stacking arches to create tunnels and obstacles for the trains, and loves to use Grapat Mini Nins as little passengers.

2. Sensory play

Light-up and high-contrast toys are wonderful for the youngest babies, who are developing their crucial sense of sight. Likewise, rattles are a timeless baby toy that helps stimulate hearing. Try shaking one whilst moving it from one of your baby’s ears to the other. It will keep them entertained for hours (or at least until the next nap!)

Even better, try encouraging a multi-sensory experience using toys that are designed to engage more than one sense. This Lamaze Discovery Book combines sound, touch and sight to hold baby’s attention and help them practice using those crucial senses. 

And for older babies and toddlers, sand or water can make wonderful sensory play. A water table and a selection of cups and bath toys have saved me on more than one occasion!

3. Imaginative play

Imaginative play is wonderful for kids’ creativity and helps them to process the world around them. At this time, it’s also a great way to show kids that you don’t have to go outside to have fun. Although you can’t go to the zoo, bring the zoo to your living room by dressing up as their favourite animal, or placing toy animals around the room for your little ones to find. Or try making a pretend beach in a sandpit, complete with bucket and spade.

Papo animal figures and Grapat nins

You can even turn being at home into pretend play. Get kids involved in chores by having them copy you with their own mini versions (like this Melissa & Doug Vacuum or the Let’s Play House Set) or check out the huge range of play kitchen items that you can borrow from Whirli. There’s nothing toddlers like more than helping out, and as a bonus, you might even manage to get some things done whilst they’re entertained!

4. Getting active

In some ways, encouraging the development of motor skills (like walking, jumping and climbing) is difficult when you’re stuck at home, but there are ways to keep kids moving indoors. Try using sofa cushions, storage boxes and cardboard tubes to create mini obstacle courses in your lounge. Whirli has a fantastic range of larger toys that will take your obstacle course to the next level, like the Triclimb Pikler Triangle. We love the Wobbel Board, as it can be used in so many different ways – see-saw, slide, bridge, balance beam, to name a few!

Wobbel board – everyone’s favourite

Even smaller toys can be great for getting kids moving. Encourage very young children to chase a flashing ball or pull-along toy, or place a toy high up to get them standing and climbing. Just make sure to supervise this activity – it can be surprising how quickly they get moving!

Guest Post: Top 7 toys to make maths fun at home

With recent school closures, many parents have had to become instant homeschoolers.

Whilst the idea of temporary homeschooling may seem daunting, there are many educational toys out there to aid you in your quest. As an experienced mathematics teacher, an advocate for visual learning and mother of one, I would like to provide you with my top toys that aid mathematical learning. These toys make teaching at home easier with minimal set-up.

1. Multilink cubes by Learning Resources

Multilink cubes by Learning Resources
Multilink cubes (11 tokens)

Multilink cubes are a staple item in any mathematics learning environment. These cubes help maths come alive and support inquiry into many concepts!

A popular use for the cubes is to teach ratio. One example of how ratio can be represented with multilink cubes is for learners to design their own bridges with them. However, there is an added level of challenge to this activity. For every 8 red cubes the designer uses, they must also use 14 blue ones. You can also use a task like this to pose additional questions, such as ‘If a bridge uses 96 red cubes, how many blue are needed?’

This is just one of myriad ways that multilink cubes can be used to develop problem-solving skills. Another idea is to use multilink cubes to illustrate that multiplication is repetition of equal groups. 3 groups of 3 cubes would equal 9 cubes in total and this is a perfect way to illustrate the concept to a visual learner.

I recently created a cool illustration for the math.mama Instagram page explaining how Pythagoras’s Theorem works using these handy little multilink cubes. They really are my top resource for teaching mathematics!

Illustrating Pythagoras’s Theorem using multilink cubes

2. Garden Games Wooden Game Toss

Garden Games Wooden Game Toss
Garden Games Wooden Game Toss (34 tokens)

To get some fresh air and practice your mental maths, why not have a go at this fun outdoor classic? Your little ones will be hooked for hours and they can practice numeracy at the same time. The idea of the game is to toss your ring and try to get the highest score by landing it on one of the poles.

The maths modification you could try is ‘First to 100’. Take it in turns to throw the rings and the first to reach the target of 100 would win the game. This gets children counting whilst also strategising as they should not go over their target. The game has many possibilities and you would soon see that children like to introduce their own rules and versions of the game.

3. I Sea 10 Game by Learning Resources

I Sea 10 Game by Learning Resources
I Sea 10 Game (8 tokens)

Card games have always been popular with children and this one is no exception. Players place their cards on the table and take turns to flip them over, shouting “I see 10” as soon as they can make a total of 10. This is a great way to practice number bonds of 10 (pairs of numbers that add up to 10). When children know number bonds well, they can progress and understand subtraction with ease.

This sea-themed game would bring hours of fun for all the family. Be careful of the shark card though, you would be unlucky to get this card as it would mean losing your winnings!

4. Building Octagon Puzzle by Grimm’s

Building Octagon Puzzle by Grimm's
Building Octagon Puzzle (35 tokens)

One thing that my friends know about me is that I am a total geometry buff. This octagon puzzle reminds me of the work by Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, who was famous for his mathematically inspired woodcuts that used the concept of tessellation (placing shapes together in a way that they can connect perfectly without gaps). This concept is present in the puzzle in the way that all the triangles tessellate, fitting beautifully into the large octagon shape.

The opportunities for learning mathematics are endless here. Learners can create new patterns by rearranging the colours and use the puzzle as inspiration for their own tessellation artwork.

The puzzle can also be used to explore fractions. For instance, learners can count 8 purple triangles out of a total of 72 triangles. This is represented as the fraction 8/72 and can be simplified by dividing both the numerator and denominator of 8/72 by 8 to get 1/9. The conclusion found is that 1/9 of the octagon puzzle has purple triangles. Children can use the puzzle to form different questions and capitalise on their own natural sense of inquiry.

5. LeapStart Cook It Up! Maths Activity Book by LeapFrog

LeapFrog LeapStart Cook It Up! Maths Activity Book
LeapStart Cook It Up! Maths Activity Book (11 tokens)

I picked this interactive activity book because of my love for cooking. Children can get involved in all kinds of things that keep your house and family in happy and working order. The added bonus is how DIY, gardening, cooking, and all manner of household maintenance activities are really natural opportunities for learning. Cooking, for instance, is chocked full of mathematics as well as being an invaluable lifelong skill.

This Leapfrog cooking and maths activity book explores 16 key maths, logic and reasoning skills. Some skills that younger children can develop when following simple recipes include weighing, sorting, mixing and time management.

You can also take the concepts from this book further and adjust recipes for different amounts of people. For example, if a recipe is for 4 people, then your child would need to correctly divide each ingredient by 2 in order to get the exact ingredients for 2 people. You could even practice conversions between different measures. 1.75 kg of flour being equivalent to 1750g is one type of conversion that children can calculate. Perhaps this could lead to conversations about measuring volume. Other follow-on questions can be used, such as ‘What does a millilitre of milk look like and would it fit on a teaspoon?’ There is plenty to explore with this book and you get to eat lots of yummy dishes afterwards!

6. Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set by Learning Resources

Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set by Learning Resources
Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set (50 tokens)

Coding is a desirable skill in the competitive 21st-century economy and is used to build and run websites, apps, video games, and much more. When children learn to code, they learn problem-solving and practice analytical thinking. Colby the robotic mouse will help introduce your child to coding in a fun way. The game includes step-by-step instructions and is simple to follow. After helping Colby find the cheese, children will understand programming principles and appreciate that robots actually execute commands given to them in the form of codes.

Give this one a try – your children won’t be disappointed.

7. Bajo Balance Pyramid by Bajo

Bajo Balance Pyramid by Bajo
Balance Pyramid (28 tokens)

Everyone has a personal love or hate relationship with algebra. Even as a maths teacher, I have to admit it was not quite love at first sight! Solving equations became a quick and senseless procedure early on at school. I knew I was finding the value of a variable, but I did not understand the principles behind solving equations.

Later on, I learned that algebra is actually a lot of fun but it didn’t come naturally. Certainly a toy like the balance pyramid would have helped me understand the balancing nature of equations. This toy is suitable for very young children because it teaches coordination and pattern formation. However, I would equally use it with teenagers because it helps teach the property of equality via a visual model.

Check out Whirli’s other educational toys here. I hope you enjoyed my recommendations and for more insights into mathematical concepts follow my page math.mama on Instagram and Facebook.

Guest Post: Homeplay – the best way to learn at home

Firstly let me introduce myself. I’m Jamie, an early years specialist and the creator of ‘The Childcare Guru’. I have a passion for the outdoors, in particular Forest School. I love to encourage children to learn through play, building on their self-confidence & resilience. I have worked in many roles in my career, from managing nurseries, working as a deputy headteacher and as an early years consultant. My two debut books are released this year, ’50 Fantastic Ideas for Forest School’, available now and ‘Building confidence, resilience and emotional intelligence in young children, available for pre-order.

It’s difficult to put into words the current COVID-19 pandemic. We find ourselves stepping back from the fast-paced world we ‘normally’ live in – I say ‘normally’ in inverted commas because I know that so many are working tirelessly on the frontline to fight this virus, putting themselves at risk to support our nation. Which I am eternally grateful for and I have no doubt that everyone shares this gratitude.

I have spent a few days mulling over the purpose of this blog entry and how best to write it in order to support parents. I have come to the conclusion that everyone will be facing different challenges and adapting to new realities. So to begin, I wanted to say don’t put pressure on yourselves. There has been SO much talk about ‘homeschooling’ on the internet and I feel that parents have been put under immense pressure to put education plans in place or try to homeschool their children. The reality is that children learn through play and your children will not suffer from a few months out of school, this is an amazing opportunity to teach life skills, play at home, explore the outdoors (where possible) and bring together the family. So I wanted to arm you with some exciting and fun activities that you can easily do at home with your children, in particular outdoor ideas for your garden or on your daily exercise.

1. Outdoor play & natural resources

The outdoors provides us with a wealth of resources and opportunities for play and exploration. The following ideas are flexible, adaptable and suitable for any type of environment you may have access to, including gardens and areas on you come across on your daily exercise (primarily to collect resources if nothing else!). Spending just 15 minutes a day outside is proven to boost our wellbeing – especially in times like now, having some outdoor time is crucial to children’s health both physically and mentally.

I won’t go into too much detail about the theories and research behind the importance of being outdoors, however one theory really resonates with me is ‘SPICES’, which stands for –

S – social
P – physical
I – intellectual
C – communication
E – emotional
S – spiritual

Being outdoors allows for holistic learning, this simply means it focuses on the needs of the whole child rather than just one element of their development or learning. Being outside offers children the opportunity to connect or re-connect with the natural world around us. The environment itself offers great opportunities for learning, exploration, discovery, and risk-taking. You feel a sense of calmness when outside and it really helps to nurture and heal.

Sticks, leaves, fallen petals, moss and stones are all brilliant resources for play. Often we just bypass these types of resources but they can add so much value and create plenty of play opportunities that are priceless. Here are some of my favourites…

Activity – Free Barnacle the Dragon!
(note: you can change the characters/themes of any activity to suit your children’s interests!)

You can write this activity introduction onto a letter to read to your children to make it even more magical and exciting! So they think they have received a letter personally!

‘The menacing woodland witch has cast a sleeping spell on Barnacle the dragon. Whilst he is sleeping he is unable to protect the woodland animals with his magical dragon tears! There is only one way to break the spell and we need your help! Can you collect the woodland ingredients to break the witch’s spell?’

Ingredients (perhaps you can find these on your daily walk or out in your garden?
A lump of mud
5 green leaves
6 brown leaves
4 sticks
8 blades of grass
3 stones
1 snail shell
1 piece of moss

Once you have your ingredients, mix them together in a pot. Then you must chant your woodland spell to free the dragon! (Older children may want to create their own chant/poem).

“The woodlands provide us with so much,
We must be delicate with our touch.
This magic potion we will make,
To ensure the witches spell will break.
Then Barnacle will be free to fly,
Our dragon soaring through the sky.
Happiness will resume,
And the witch will lose her broom!”

Woodland spell
Woodland spell

Activity – What can you find?

I love the simplicity of this activity but that it also helps children to notice their surroundings and ask questions about their finds. As spring is finally here there are lots of changes around! Simply take a piece of cardboard (or anything similar) and cover it with double-sided sticky tape (or fold the sticky tape in two). Children can then explore their garden or areas on their daily walk to place onto their cardboard. This will encourage them to compare their findings and see what patterns and colours they can create on their boards!

If you are stuck to find answers to what plants they may find, this app is very helpful. The woodland trust also has a tree identifier app which is very useful!

Plants stuck on a piece of cardboard
Different types of plants stuck on a piece of cardboard

Activity – Spring Spotter Sheets

As mentioned there are so many changes around us at the moment and on my website, you can download free seasonal spotter sheets. Why not go on an adventure from your homes or in your gardens and see what changes are around and what you can find.

Spring Spotter Sheet
Spring Spotter Sheet

Activity – Natural Art

I love nothing more than creating art with children using natural resources. Again, free items that you can find in your gardens or locally on walks. Like sticks, petals, leaves, stones, shells… be creative! Using these items you can create large ground art, including self-portraits, animals, shapes, scenery… the list is endless!

Dog
Rabbit
Flowers

For some more ideas head over to my YouTube channel.

2.Turning the everyday into great play

Children thrive on routine, it helps them to feel secure and safe as they can anticipate what is coming next, even if that is 2 hours free play – to have that scheduled helps to organise their day and yours. There are so many things we do each week that can be slightly enhanced to create play opportunities, which in turn provides learning experiences.

I find that role-play games are highly effective in capturing children’s attention, creativity and curiosity. Here is a list of activities you might complete both daily and weekly that can be enhanced for play and learning:

1. Creating restaurants at mealtimes – encouraging children to put together menus (with or without support depending on age), setting up the tables and helping with the cooking. This supports them to voice their likes/dislikes, experiment with cooking/baking (mathematical, literacy & scientific skills), be creative, work in a team and have fun!

2. Building a den outside or inside for story time or perhaps movie time! Making dens facilitates so many opportunities. Children have to use their creative skills to build and design their dens, using trial and error and resilience to keep on trying! It also offers time to work together, collaborating and communicating. Dens can be turned into a magnitude of different ideas, including imaginary games, role-play, quiet space, laboratory, spy headquarters… the possibilities are endless. There are some further ideas in ‘101 things for kids to do outside’ a really useful book full of quick and creative ideas, I have added this to the reading list below.

3. Set up your own in home library system. Children can make their own tokens or library passes to choose and select books to use each day. Creating a ‘story of the day’ voting system so everyone in the household votes for the bedtime story each day, teaching about democracy and taking turns. Stories are also a fantastic way to extend play. Take the well-known book ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’, you can act this story out in your garden or on a walk! Children love to take well-known stories and turn them into play/adventure or role-play. On my YouTube channel, I give an example of this. Whirli also has plenty of books to borrow for your home library with puppets and toys to accompany.

4. Movies/TV – everything in moderation! I know there can be stigma around children watching TV too much but I truly believe there is a place for everything and there can be so much learning from movies and TV shows. The Disney movie Mulan, taught me to be strong, independent and a go-getter – to this day it is one of my favourite ever films! So, rather than simply putting a movie on why not extend this activity even further… ask the children or support them to create a cosy cinema space. Invite them to create a snack stand and prices for each item (mathematics & literacy), make their own movie theatre poster and vote for their favourite movie each week (or however often works for you), they can even design their own cinema tickets! When I did this activity it took me several hours of great fun to put this all together. Here is a simple video to give you some inspiration.

5. If you have got a garden space and have access to local supermarkets, now is a wonderful time to create your own growing area outside – planting your own produce creates wonderful experiences for children, it allows them to understand life-cycles and be given the responsibility to grow and nurture your own produce. There are some lovely ideas in Annie Davy’s book ‘a sense of place’.

Lastly, Whirli has some wonderful resources to borrow that can really enhance play and learning at home, especially their role-play toys like the Plan Toys Doctor Set which is a great way to introduce to children about the current pandemic through a role-play scenario. Often this is the best way to teach and educate children, through a hands-on experience, an opportunity for them to role-play out what you may be telling them (in simplistic forms).

3. Quality time

I want to reassure you that children will look back on this time as a period where families came together, had quality time and re-connected. We live in a world where everything is going 100 miles per hour and although this is an uncertain and scary time, we have to try and see the positives where possible. Children want nothing more than our time, to feel secure and safe. The importance and value of family is crucial– suddenly money, wealth and material things seem far less important. Now is a time to re-connect, reflect and value what we have.

Parents are not meant to be formal teachers and shouldn’t see that as their role or to fill in whilst their children are not in mainstream education or nursery. The parent/child and child/teacher relationships are very different. Don’t pressure yourselves – we are all trying. This is uncertain times for not only adults but children too, their ‘normal’ has been removed so it is a period of adjustment. You know your children better than anyone else, so what you decide to do during this time will be unique to your family and your circumstances but right for you too.

Value what you have, laugh together and find happiness in whatever forms. This will be a time to look back on and realise how this shaped and changed us. It reminded us of what really is important in life.

Reading list:

Top 5 family games

Let’s face it, the lockdown has many of us glued to the screen. The kids watching Ryan’s world on YouTube and us grown-ups endlessly scrolling through social media and the news. Also, occasionally rolling our eyes at fitness ads targeting us – leave us alone and stop judging us for eating all the snacks. So, I’ll share our top family games which will guarantee the whole gang to peel away from their gadgets.

1) Dobble

Dobble by as

Warning: this game is addictive. If you want a fast-paced game that challenges mental dexterity, then this is THE game for you. Think of it as snaps but on steroids. Each card has 8 different symbols and the clever bit is that any two cards have one symbol in common which varies in size -it’s your job to quickly spot it. It’s a great game for the whole family because there’s no advantage of being a grown-up. 

2) Classic Monopoly by Hasbro gaming

Monopoly is the ultimate family game so no wonder it’s the best-selling board game in the UK since lockdown according to market research firm NPD (Dobble coming in at third place). The aim is to be the last person standing with any money – not an easy journey. That’s why this game can bring families together before tearing them apart – so be prepared for tears, laughter and backstabbing. On a positive note, it can teach kids good money management.

3) Scrabble by Mattel

Looking for a game that will keep the kids learning during lockdown? We’ve got scrabble which is an education in disguise. Each player takes seven letter tiles and each letter is worth a different value. Players must form words from their tiles and at least one letter from word already on the board. It’s a fun way to teach kids spelling, expand their vocabulary and show off your knowledge of obscure words. Literacy fans, this one is for you.

4) Nerf guns

Marvel Avengers Nerf Captain America Assembler Gear
Marvel Avengers Nerf Captain America Assembler Gear (24 tokens)

Want a fun game that will get everyone up and moving about? How about renting some of our nerf guns for an epic battle? It’s also a great way to burn some excess energy off. You can go all out on this – build an obstacle course, play dramatic music and add disco lights. Or you could just stack tins in a pyramid and take turns in shooting them down. 

5) Connect 4 by Hasbro gaming

This is a simple game so even the little ones will get the hang of it – try to get four discs in a row before your opponent. It’s also a fast game which means kids can greatly improve in a short period. So expect to hear frustrated cries of “Again! I want a rematch.”.

I hope you enjoy these recommendations. Let us know on Insta if you tried any of these games and what you thought of them. You know the drill – let us know if you have any toy requests and we’ll do the shopping for you. Stay at home and keep safe everyone.

Guest Post: 6 cloth nappy myths you thought were true

Like most people, when I first thought about using cloth nappies, I had a few pre-conceptions about them. I was worried I’d spend all of my time washing, they’d take a long time to get the hang of, and I’d need to buy a whole new wardrobe to fit over them. Thankfully, none of these things turned out to be true. If you’re considering using cloth nappies but are put off by thinking that they’re dirty, difficult and expensive, let me bust those myths for you!

Why consider cloth nappies?

Firstly though, why even consider using cloth nappies? Well, of all the decisions you make as a parent, one of the best things you can do for the planet is to switch to reusables. That’s why I give a large amount of my time to helping parents get started with them. You may not know it, but disposable nappies are largely made of plastic. This makes them incredibly resource- and energy-intensive to produce, and means they will likely sit in the landfill for 500 years. According to Zero Waste Europe, around 33 billion single-use baby nappies were consumed in Europe in 2017, resulting in 6,731,000 tonnes of waste over the year. That’s a lot of nappies!

By choosing reusable nappies, you can use the same 20 nappies thousands of times, saving a huge amount of waste and massively reducing your family’s environmental impact. Hopefully, that gets you thinking about why the switch is worthwhile – time to bust some myths!

Terry square (left) next to modern cloth nappy (right)
Terry square (left) next to modern cloth nappy (right)

1. They’re complicated

The traditional idea of a reusable nappy is the folded terry square that our grandmothers would have used. Lots of people still (understandably!) think this is the only style of nappy that’s available and they’ll have to master complicated folds and safety pinning on a wriggly baby.

This couldn’t be further from the truth! Cloth nappies have come a long way, and the majority of today’s nappies are designed to be easy to use. Most cloth nappies look and function almost exactly like a disposable nappy. There are a few little differences in how they fit, but they’re incredibly simple to master, and once you’ve done it once or twice, it’s no harder than a disposable. You can see just how easy they are in this video!

Nappy fitting

2. They’re bulky

Classic terry nappies are pretty bulky. There are lots of layers of material to provide absorbency and this can mean that they can look huge on small babies. However, nappy design is improving all the time, and today’s reusables are much more slim fitting.

While they’re all a little bulkier than disposable nappies, the majority are neat and slim. Many are slim enough to fit under clothing from high street brands. Some parents also worry that they are too bulky to allow babies to move easily – there’s no evidence that this is true! Cloth nappy babies hit milestones just as quickly as babies in disposables.

3. They’re expensive

The idea of spending a lot of money can put some people off investing in cloth nappies, but over the long term, they will likely save you money. According to this article by The Nappy Gurus, by the time your child is out of nappies, you will have likely spent around £1,200 on nappies, bags and wipes. By comparison, the average cloth nappy user only spends around £375, including the cost of washing them! That’s a huge saving over the first years of a child’s life. And of course, if you use your nappies for more than one child (as most people do) you’ll save even more!

Having said that, even the upfront cost can be difficult to meet, so if you’re still worried about the cost, why not consider affordable ways to build your stash of nappies:

  • Try starting with one or two nappies (in fact that’s what I usually recommend!) and buy more over time.
  • Buy preloved nappies online or from a friend.
  • Look into affordable options. You can buy simple nappies known as pocket nappies for as little as £4 each. Or you can always opt for terry or muslin nappies – which can be as cheap as £1 each.

4. They’re dirty and smelly

Dealing with any kind of dirty nappy isn’t going to be the most pleasant experience, but there is a perception that reusable nappies are dirtier than disposables. This is definitely a myth! Sure, you need to pop any solids down the toilet once your little one has started weaning, but it’s usually as simple as shaking a little over the toilet. And did you know that you’re actually meant to do that with your disposable nappies too?

Once the solids are down the toilet, you place your nappies in a waterproof bag or mesh bag inside a bucket to be stored. When it comes to washing, all you have to do is move the wet bag, open, into the washing machine. No touching dirty nappies at all! And if you keep your wet bag or bucket open to the air you won’t get any smells from your nappies while they’re waiting to be washed. In fact, in my time supporting new parents with cloth, every single one has found it more pleasant than using disposable nappies!

5. They’re hard to wash

Speaking of washing, you might have heard rumours that cloth nappies have a complicated washing method, including soaking and bleaching and all sorts besides. This is now very outdated – gone are the days of soaking nappies! You simply store them dry in a waterproof bag or bucket, before washing in your machine. 

It is important to wash nappies well so that they remain hygienic and safe for sensitive baby skin, but once you learn how to do it, it’s very straightforward – washing nappies in high temperature will kill germs including coronavirus so don’t worry. I have a helpful guide to washing nappies that takes you through it step-by-step – it’s no more complicated than washing clothes. 

6. They leak

Of all the cloth nappy myths, this one is the least true, because one of the huge benefits of reusables is that they are much less likely to leak than disposables! If you’ve ever dealt with a newborn poonami (you know the ones I mean…) then you’ll be happy to hear that reusable nappies are often bombproof. The strong elastics and fabric work much better than their disposable equivalents, making them super reliable. Not only does this save on washing clothes, but it actually means nappy changes are often more hygenic. 

I hope this helps you consider using cloth nappies with your family. If you’d like more information on different kinds of nappies, you can head over to my blog where I have plenty of helpful articles. Good luck with your nappy journey!

Guest Post: Play and sleep

As a certified infant sleep consultant and a mum of two little girls, I give regular advice to families on how to get the precious sleep that they need. While some kids are great at going to bed when they need to, many insist they’re just not tired to avoid bedtime. Kids need our help to get into a good sleep routine so that we can meet our own sleep needs too! Here are my top 5 tips to help your children unwind before bedtime.

1) Play during daytime

Play is essential for child development as it contributes to their physical, social, cognitive and emotional well-being. In particular, daytime play outside (the garden for now) is beneficial to our circadian rhythm (our internal body clock), because when we are exposed to sunlight, our body increases the production of serotonin (a hormone used to synthesise melatonin, our sleep hormone). In return, we will get a good sleep and wake up energised – ready to play and learn effectively! Also, playing in the garden is a fun way to get the kids to burn off excess energy.

2) Set a consistent bedtime routine

Children are not the best judge on when they need to go to bedso it’s down to us to set a consistent bedtime routine. According to sleep studies, when a child’s bedtime is irregular, their behaviour is often worse. They may be irritable, moody, and lose focus at school or nursery. 

During the times of self-isolation, it is more important than ever to encourage or maintain a routine for the whole family which can help to minimise stress. This could mean creating a set time for playing, learning, eating and sleeping so kids have a clear expectation of what will be happening that day.

3) Turn off the screens before bedtime

Screens can affect how quickly we fall asleep and stay asleep. The blue and white light from our gadgets can suppress melatonin levels (our sleep hormone) and delay how sleepy we feel. Also, playing video games or watching tv can produce adrenaline in the body, delaying sleep further. This is why we should avoid screen time (no more Peppa pig) for at least an hour before bedtime.

4) Choose toys that can help kids wind down

Play can also be part of a bedtime/naptime routine – quiet and relaxing play will lower your child’s activity level. We should avoid bright and noisy toys or any high activity play which can overstimulate your kids. You can even use pretend play to help kids relax. For example, they can put their favourite toy ‘to bed’ and subconsciously learn to anticipate bedtime. This type of play can also help them understand and express feelings through the re-enactment of experiences, which sets the scene for the “end of the day chat”.

Wooden toys are especially soothing and appealing to a child’s sense of touch. A personal favourite of mine is the Plan toys dentist set which is great for emulating the adult world, but also for practising fine motor skills. Another one is the Janod zigolos flamingo balancing game because it challenges dexterity without being overstimulating. What’s fantastic about Whirli is the large variety of exciting toys to choose from to keep your little ones amused.

Plan Toys Dentist Set (30 tokens)
Plan Toys Dentist Set (30 tokens)
Janod Zigolos Flamingo Balancing Game (18 tokens)
Janod Zigolos Flamingo Balancing Game (18 tokens)

5)  Build your own bedtime routine 

There is no definitively right or wrong way to set up a bedtime routine. Ideas could include a relaxing bathtime, a bedtime story, goodnight cuddles, quiet play, listening to relaxing music and having an end of the day chat (great for mindfulness). These activities contribute to positive parent-child attachment, development and sleep. For example, bathtime as part of a routine can encourage early learning of self-care and hygiene. The power of the routine also depends on how you do it such as dimming the lights and keeping a calm voice.

I hope these tips have given you some ideas on how to help your kids unwind before bedtime so you and your family can get the rest you need.

Top 5 educational games for 5 – 8 year olds

With today marking the first day of school closures, here are our top 5 toys and games for school aged kids.

1. Captain Macaque Cortex Challenge Kids

After you’ve got your hearts racing joining the nation’s favourite virtual P.E. class with Joe Wicks, start your day as a family and see who will emerge Cortex Challenge champion. With eight different challenges available, players can test their memory, speed of thought and thinking ability. Games take just 15 minutes to play, so there’s no need to devote your morning to it if you don’t want to.

Suitable for 6 years +

2. My First Bananagrams

Continue the family fun whilst developing their word building skills with this junior version of the much loved Bananagrams. Go rogue and make up your own game by creating ‘tricky words’ appropriate to their phonics level. The winner is the person that can create the most variations of each tricky word!

Suitable for 4 years +

3. Smart Farmer by Smart Games

If you need some time to catch up with work, a single-player game of Smart Farmer might come in handy. It is guaranteed to engage your child’s brain as they endeavour to divide all the animals into their own separate, closed-off areas using the three fences provided. Fantastic for developing problem-solving, spatial awareness and spontaneous thinking, it features a booklet with 60 challenges ranging from starter to master. It’s also a great visual way of explaining social distancing!

Suitable for 5 years +

4. Zygomatic Rory’s Story Cubes

Let your child’s imagination run free with this fun storytelling game. It features nine dice which have images on the sides. Your child has to make a story depending on the outcome of the dice and it has endless possibilities with no wrong or right answer. As well as helping your child to work on their storytelling skills which will give them a boost in English class, it can help improve their language and problem-solving skills.

Suitable for 6 years +

5. Hape Quadrilla Castle Escape Marble Run

This easy-to-assemble game comes with just over 100 puzzle pieces, presenting a great opportunity for children to develop building, balancing, problem solving and engineering skills – and possibly a bit of peace and quiet for a couple of hours too! They can either follow the step-by-step instructions to build the demo sets or, once they’ve figured out how each building block works, make their own run.

Suitable for 4 years +

COVID-19: Whirli is operating as usual

These are extremely difficult and unprecedented times. First and foremost, our thoughts are with all families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope all of you and your loved ones stay healthy and well throughout the challenging months ahead.

At Whirli, we have been weighing up how best to balance our responsibilities to our staff and their families, to our subscribers and their families, and also to the general public’s health and well-being. We recognise the mental and financial strain extended periods of home isolation and school closures will put on parents, and Whirli’s potential role in helping alleviate these concerns.

We’ve taken the decision to keep ourselves operational and to continue providing our services for families, albeit with strong precautions in place.

Warehouse operating with occasional reduced capacity

All office-based staff will work remotely for the foreseeable future. Only myself and a bare bones crew of essential staff will operate our warehouse and fulfilment operations. In this critical period, I am personally supervising our in-person operations to ensure we are not putting our staff, customers, or the public at risk.

We are guaranteeing full pay to any staff who need to self-isolate due to symptoms of illnesses, however minor or whether it is directly related to COVID-19. This is to ensure all our staff make the right decision to help prevent the spread of illness, and to support them through a challenging economic outlook.

Consequently, when the infection peaks in the UK, we are likely to have reduced capacity in our operations and in our courier networks. This might mean that your orders and returns take slightly longer than usual, or that we’re slightly slower than usual to respond to you. I kindly ask for your patience and to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to maintain our high service levels.

Toy sterilisation

When COVID-19 first surfaced months ago, we immediately took steps to assess the risks and prepare ourselves. As you know, all toys have always undergone a stringent cleaning and sterilising process at Whirli before we send it on to another family to enjoy. This process varies depending on the type of toy, but always includes sterilisation either through high temperatures (e.g., plush toys in the wash) or sterilising fluids and wipes. For example, we use commercial Milton sterilising fluid which kills 99.9% of germs including the Coronavirus and is safe to use on children’s toys (Milton is regularly used in hospitals and maternity wards).

We are ensuring our warehouse is kept a clean zone, with no sick staff present and regular cleaning is undertaken. We are also enforcing regular hand washing, use of masks and gloves to reduce any contamination risk.

Imported goods

We assessed the risks of imported goods carrying the virus and general transmission probabilities through goods in the post. Broadly, whilst it appears that transmission is possible through contaminated surfaces, the early indication is that the virus does not survive on surfaces for very long periods. The primary source of infections have appeared to be through direct exposure to an infected person, and not through goods received from online shopping or from other countries.

Nonetheless, we have taken additional precautions to enhance our processes and all toys, whether they have just been unboxed from the manufacturer or have been returned by another customer, are thoroughly sterilised before they are sent out again.

To-door deliveries and home collection services

Price freeze

We will continue to offer our door delivery service, postal service and a courier collection service from your home at the normal rates. We will honour these prices as we have never believed in profiting from them. As a reminder, here is what we will continue to offer:

Transparently, we do not apply a mark-up to our pay-as-you-go rates. We are charged the same rate by Royal Mail and Parcelforce.

We also offer a Delivery Booster package and home collection service to our customers at below market rate, upon which we incur a loss.

Home collection

We will continue to price our collection service at below market rate. For any customers wishing to self-isolate we encourage you to use this great service carried out by DPD.

Lastly, for any customers who are worried about general goods being delivered to your home, please get in touch. We will be more than happy to share tips on sterilising and cleaning different types of products and surfaces.

New in-home toys

In light of the recent recommendations to stay at home, we have switched our attention to purchasing more in-home toys and games that will keep families occupied. This includes buying more:

  • Indoor toys and Pretend Play
  • Family / Board games
  • STEM / Educational toys

As always, please send through your recommendations and we will do our best to get hold of them for you.

Our community

In these worrying times it may also be comforting to reach out to our community on Instagram and Facebook and share what you have been doing at home. We will also keep you updated by email, Insta and Facebook and send through play ideas, educational tips and cleaning techniques to keep you busy and safe.

As usual, we are always available to speak with you regarding any questions, concerns, or help you might need. Get in touch with my team here, and if you want to speak to me directly you can always ask my team to pass you on to me.

Best Wishes,
Nigel Phan
Founder & Managing Director

Top 5 costumes for World Book Day

One of the best parts of World Book Day for your child is dressing up as their favourite literary character. Whether you’re looking for something classic or something a little more contemporary, renting a costume can take some much-needed stress off your shoulders. Here are the top five (the cutest) World Book Day costumes that your little one will love wearing.

1) Postman Pat

Postman Pat Costume
22 tokens

A staple of kids TV for years now, both parents and kids can enjoy this vibrant Postman Pat outfit, complete with the blue suit decorated with badges, cap and glasses. Jess and letters aren’t included, but with a little handiwork, they’ll make amazing accessories for this memorable outfit. You can even get the kids to make the letters with you for an extra special touch that will make this costume the hit of the classroom.

2) David Walliams Gangsta Granny

David Walliams Gangsta Granny Costume
22 tokens

David Walliams’ classic character comes to life with this hilarious Gangster Granny outfit, perfect for those kids who want to make a big impression with their World Book Day outfit. Complete with a full outfit, plus a handbag, eye mask, glasses and even a pearl necklace, you can bring to life this amazing character without having to buy each piece individually – a perfect time saver.

3) Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit Costume
27 tokens

Another classic of kids books, this costume can help bring all of Beatrix Potter’s iconic characters to life. Complete with the full bunny outfit and famous blue jacket, your child can transform into the mischievous, carrot-loving rabbit and send their school friends hopping wild! This is also great for group costumes – we have Jemima Puddle and Benjamin Rabbit.

4) Miffy

Miffy costume
18 tokens

Cute as any little rabbit could be, your kid will love this adorable Miffy outfit that brings our favourite white bunny to life. This outfit comes with fluffy white bunny ears and a recreation of the famous floral blue dress. Your little one will be instantly recognisable from this popular series of books in this comfortable and fun ensemble.

5) Roald Dahl’s BFG

Roald Dahl's BFG costume
24 tokens

Roald Dahl’s book has delighted millions of kids – and this outfit will too. Complete with giant ears, top, trousers and even a huge horn to hear out of, your kids will feel larger than life in this piece. We’ve even got other classic Dahl character costumes like Fantastic Mr Fox, Miss Trunchbull and even Mrs Twit and Mr Twit.

Note: our costumes come in different sizes and are listed as separate products. Scroll through the product photos to find a description of each size.

So there you have it! No more last-minute sewing or shopping for a costume they’ll only wear once. Let’s face it, they probably don’t want to go as Peter Rabbit again next year.