Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why Having a Pet is Good For Your Children

When I was a child I grew up with dogs in the house. In fact, I didn't know life without pets because when I was born my mam already had two dogs, and that's the way it was until I left home.

I got my first puppy when I was quite young. I can remember the buzz of the bus journey to the pet shop, and I thought I was going to die with excitement as I looked at me soon to be new puppy through the glass. She was so tiny, and my heart melted when she curled up with a little blanket inside our little box. I called her Muffy, and from that moment onwards she was like my best friend.

I was an only child, but I never felt lonely because I always had my doggy. When friends couldn't come out to play I didn't complain, instead I would put on my roller blades and go skating around the street with Muffy. She was my little sidekick, and we got up to all sorts of mischief together. I even taught her how to jump up on to chairs to steal food from the bench which my mother really hated.
When I started my own family I knew I wanted my children to be brought up alongside animals just as I was.

There is no denying that caring for a pet is a huge commitment, but I think it is one worth making, and it is so beneficial to children.

Caring for a pet teaches patience. It takes a lot of time and patience to welcome a new pet in to the family home. It is something that the children didn't really understand when we first got the kittens, and they wanted to play with them as soon as we got them home. Caitlin learned that she needed to gain the cats trust, and that this would take weeks of gentle encouragement.

Having a pet not only teaches about patience, but about responsibility. It is a big responsibility to care for something other than yourself, to make sure it is happy and healthy. It is a fantastic lesson for children, and one that can start at any age. Younger children can be given the task of carrying empty bowls to the kitchen to be refilled, older children can be in charge of feeding time, or can take the dog out for a small walk around the estate. All of these tasks can feel very rewarding for children and it can really help them form a strong bond with the pet.

And it is that bond that I think is one of the most important things about your child having a pet. Neil has formed quite a special bond with the cats. He struggles socially, the demands of a normal social interaction can be too much for him, but he doesn't have that with the cats. And when Caitlin started school she had trouble fitting in and finding her feet, but the cats were always there to silently comfort her. If you ask Caitlin who her best friends are she always lists the cats.

If anything ever happened to the cats, the children would be devastated, and I would too. When we first got the cats I was worried about vet care. I know when I was younger one of my dogs needed a major operation and the cost was phenomenal. I knew we couldn't afford to pay out a lump sum if our little kitties ever needed treatment.

This is why pet insurance is essential for pet owners. I must admit though, I was a little put off pet insurance at first because some of the quotes I received were quite high. After shopping around for a while, I found Argos Pet Insurance and was impressed that they offered three levels of cover so there was something to suit every budget while still giving great cover. With premiums starting at just £4.15 I could insure both of the kitties for a lower price than I would have been paying for one elsewhere. They had an option to select indoor or outdoor cat which for me was one of the reason I chose Argos Pet Insurance to insure my cats. They have over ten years experience in dog and cat cover so I really felt I could trust them with my pet insurance.

Now, I feel safe in the knowledge that should the cats ever get themselves in to a bit of mischief I will be able to get them the care and attention they need, because they are truely part of the family now, and we look after our family!

Do you have pets at home? How do you feel your pets have benefited the development of your children?

I received compensation in exchange for writing this post. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Photo's Of My Boy

The theme for this weeks The Gallery is Boys. In my case, it's boy.

My Boy... or my wee man as I like to call him.

Don't get me wrong, I have two main men in my life. Both of them share my love, and they also share the same name. Yes, my husband and my wee man are both Neil, it's why I always mention my hubby on here as just 'hubby' because things can get pretty confusing! Anyway, as I was saying, I have two boys in my life, and I would love to share a collection of photos of them together but one of them hates having his picture taken. So instead, I'm sharing a few of my favourite pictures of the wee man.

I may have snuck that last one in because it is a rare photo of my two boys together, enjoying a bit of lego bonding. Not the best photo in the world but I love it anyway!

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Helping Hands & Play Foam Review from Learning Resources

As the parent of a child with ASD, I'm always on the lookout for fun and interesting ways to engage and help Neil develop his skills. I have spent many a night on the Internet looking at special needs toys, and sensory toys. There is a lot available, but it's disappointing to find that a lot of 'special needs' toys carry quite a high price tag.

A little while ago I was introduced to Learning Resources and was amazed by the huge range of educational toys on offer. I was very pleased to find they had a dedicated section devoted to special needs toys, and the big winner for me was the price... Everything was so well priced! I have loved the place ever since, and I was very pleased when they asked if we would like to try a couple of their products.

We received the Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set and an 8 pack of Play Foam, and we couldn't wait to give them a go.

The Helping Hands set contains four tools for various activities, to grab, squeeze, scoop and drop. The tools are all brightly coloured and immediately appealing. The tool set is designed to help children develop their fine motor skills, which is an area we are keen to work on with Neil.

To test out the Helping Hands, we gathered together Neil's collection of miniature Minecraft figures which were just the right size for grabbing and scooping with the various tools. We started with an empty bowl and the Squeezy Tweezers and I gave Neil the task of collecting up each of the figures and dropping them in to the bowl. This tool is great for developing hand eye coordination. Neil struggled at first because to open the tweezers you have to squeeze the handle, so it took him a while to coordinate his movements, but once he got the hang of it he was flying!

I then filled the bowl with water and asked Neil to retrieve the figures using the Handy Scooper. This is my favourite tool, as it is very similar in shape to scissors, and is perfect for developing the movements needed to control scissors properly, which is something Neil does struggle with a lot. The handle is designed perfectly for little hands, but I could also use them comfortably too. The large scoop has lots of little holes around it making it ideal for water play. Neil had a lot of fun lifting his characters from the water then watching the excess water drain away,

This was Neil's favourite activity and he could have played with the water and the Scoopers for hours. They are great for water play, and would be a perfect addition to bath time fun. I think this tool would be great for playing with flour or fine sugar too, but we haven't tried this as Neil doesn't like to get messy. Another great water play tool is the Twisty Dropper. The dropper helps strengthen the muscles in your child's hand because there is a lot of squeezing required to suck the water up in to the tube and squirt it back out again, and Neil enjoyed playing with this too.

The last piece in the kit was the Gator Grabber which looks like a little pair of tweezers, and is designed to help develop the pincer grip which is essential when learning how to hold a pencil properly, which is something a lot of ASD children can really struggle with. The grabber is very similar to one that we use in Occupational Therapy, and is great for picking up and sorting small objects.

The Second item we received was the Play Foam. We had never tried anything like play foam before, and were completely intrigued by it. It claims to be mess free and non drying and I was very interested to put the claims to the test.

Upon first inspection, the Play Foam looks like lots of tiny polystyrene balls stuck together. The pack we received contained four very vivid colours, including found original and four sparkle. The texture of the foam is bizarre. It feels sticky, but isn't sticky.... I know that doesn't really make sense but that is the way it is. The tiny little balls stick to themselves, but not to you. As soon as you put it in your hands you just want to squeeze it, and the squeezing is great for strengthening the hand and finger muscles.

It was out of the box for about one minute before Neil had mushed the 8 colours together, which is fine because it looks just as pretty.

The Play Foam is great for children who like a bit of sensory input. It feels like nothing I have felt before, and Neil spent a lot of time just touching it and squeezing it.

It is so mouldable, and will hold its shape until it is squashed back down. Neil had a lot of fun moulding shapes and words. The great thing is that is doesn't dry out, unlike other popular mouldable products, so there is no need to worry about squashing it up and putting it away too soon. This means that the product can be played with for hours! All of the shaping and moulding takes place with the hands and fingers, and again is a great way of strengthening those muscles and developing fine motor skills.

Its quite common for children with ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder to chew things and put them in their mouths but I just want to let you know if your child does like to taste or chew not to be put off by this as it is non toxic and doesn't expand in the stomach and so if the odd piece is swallowed there is no risk to your childs health with this.  I feel completely fine with Neil using the product and he is compelled to taste and chew everything around him.

We were very impressed with both of the products we were sent. What I love about the Helping Hands Tool Set and the Play Foam is that they are so good for helping develop fine motor skills, but they are so much fun at the same time. I don't think Neil realised how much work he was doing with his hands because he was too busy enjoying himself. Both of the products would be great for children with ASD, ADHD, Sensory Processing Issues, Dyspraxia and many others. I feel the products would also be great for preschoolers who are still developing their motor skills.

The 8 pack of Play Foam is currently selling at £9.00, with the Helping Hands set selling at £7.14 which I think is a bargain! These two items, alongside many more great resources for children of all abilities are available from the Learning Resources Site, which you can find here.

If you would like to see the play foam in action you can do so in our youtube review:

To celebrate World Autism Day on the 2nd of April, Learning Resources UK are kindly giving one of my lovely readers the chance to win their own pack of Play Foam. To be in with a chance, please enter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, March 20, 2015

Fancy Dresses & A Solar Eclipse - Little Loves

I found out last week that I still had a good few hours of holidays left to take so I have been very fortunate to have a nice stretch of time off work this week, and probably again next week. I haven't done much, and haven't ticked as many things off my to do list as I would have liked, but it has been nice to recharge a bit. I think if I have another stretch of time off next week I may give myself a kick up the bum and get stuff done.

So, on this lovely lazy week, I have....


I haven't read much at all recently. I got myself a book from the mobile library last month and it,s still sitting on the sideboard where I left it. I could do with setting aside some time to curl up and read infront of the stove on an evening, but most nights this week I have been watching TV instead.


This morning I was very excited to watch the solar eclipse. During breakfast I explained an eclipse to the children, and said they might see it at school. Before they left for the bus, Neil asked me 'mum, what time is the apocalypse?' Hopefully he is not heading in the school telling people there is an apocalypse today!

I was 11 when we last had an eclipse, but I don't remember being very interested then. I settled down infront of the window with the little pinhole viewer I had made with card and got ready to watch the event. Unfortunately, it was quite cloudy here in County Down so I had to watch the best part of it on Sky News but there were a few breaks in the cloud and I managed to get this photo. All very exciting!


I went to a wedding last week and got to dress up for the first time in ages. I bought a beautiful Chi Chi London dress for £10 in the sale last year for the occasion, and I couldn't wait to wear it. I was very excited to have a chance to wear a fascinator for the first time too. I often look at pictures of ladies day at the races in absolute wonder. I had been joking to the beautiful bride that I would be wearing a head piece to rival that of Princess Eugenie at the Royal Wedding, but it wasn't quite on that scale.
It did feel amazing to get dressed up in fancy clothes instead of the usual jeans and uggs!


I have been listening to music a lot, and I'm in the process of creating myself some new playlists on Spotify. I found this little gem and have been listening to it a lot. It's a bit of a blast from the past, and it has such an upbeat tune.


Coffee, but it hasn't been working out too well for me. My regular coffee is a tin of Nescafé Azera. For an instant coffee, it is sooo tasty and far nicer than any coffee I ever made with my dolce gusto machine. At Christmas time I got a filter coffee machine, we had one when we first got together and loved it so thought we would get a new one. As my regular coffee had run out I gave the machine a go, but I just can't seem to get it right! Every coffee I make has either tasted like tar, or toilet water. I am getting fed up, and so have reverted to iced coffee instead.

And lastly...

The kids were allowed to pick a treat in the toy shop this week. Caitlin picked the standard, Shopkins. I have lost count of the number of shopkins she has, but it's a lot and they are everywhere in the house. Neil surprised me and bought himself a Baymax toy from Big Hero 6, despite having not seen the movie yet. He has had the thing in his hand since he took it out of the pack and has been asking questions about it, so I'm wondering if this is the start of one of his new special interests? Only time will tell....

I hope you have had a great week and have a fantastic weekend!



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty Review

Neil loves to touch and feel things. Whenever he is sitting watching tv, or doing his homework, or reading, he has to be doing something with his hands. We have tried lots of fiddle toys in the past, with varied results.

I first came across Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty on Twitter and thought it looked great for Neil. I was delighted when I was asked if we would like to try a tin of it.

Thinking Putty is 'stress relieving, hand exercising, mind expanding, totally fun and addictive' which sounds pretty awesome, and we couldn't wait to see what it was like.

Two tins of Thinking Putty arrived, a large tin on 'Super Illusion Super Oil Slick' and. Small tin of 'Hypercolour Amethyst Blush'

When I first tried to open the tin I could barely move the lid, the putty had moulded all around the inside. Leaving the tin flat for 10 minutes would have sorted this, but I'm impatient and wanted it out immediately, and so prised it open with a lot of strength. Inside the tin was a strange looking, yellow-ish looking substance. It looked a bit like those little pots of slime you bought on your school trip to a museum as a child, and I expected it to feel like that too, but I was wrong.

The Super Illusions putty felt quite firm in the tin, but as I peeled it away it started to soften over my fingers. As it moved I could see the colour changing, from gold to green to bronze. It looked like a totally different product depending on the lighting conditions. It feels soft and mouldable like play-doh, but can be stretched in all directions in an almost gloopy way. Despite this, it never actually makes any mess and can very easily just be formed back in to a dough like ball. I was mesmerised from the moment I took it out of the tin, and knew Neil would be too.

He was a little bit reluctant at first, as he doesn't like slime and hates the idea of getting his hands messy but once he had a little feel he loved it, and spent ages just pulling and stretching it. He was pretty impressed with the colour too.

The smaller of the tins contained a colour changing putty. Starting out as a vibrant purple colour, the putty reacts to the warmth of your touch and turns a hot pink.

The Hypercolour putty felt a lot firmer than the Super Illusions one, while still retaining the stretchy consistency. The colour changing is a great effect, as you mould it and manipulate it you see it slowly changing from purple to pink. It was an instant hit with Caitlin, but Neil preferred the feel and look of the Oil Slick putty.

Since it arrived I often find myself sitting playing with it at night when I'm thinking about blogging stuff so this would be great to put on your desk at work. Ok, so you may look a bit random but it has a real calming effect. It has done the trick for Neil and it is something he can play with to keep his hands busy while he is watching TV.

If you would like to try Thinking Putty for yourself it is available from Like Clockwork and prices start at £2.99 for a small tin. We have since purchased another couple of tins and have not been disappointed.

We were sent two tins of Thinking Outty for the purpose of my honest review, all opinions are completely my own.


Blogger Mummy Lauren

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My Reasons to be Cheerful

I wouldn't necessarily say I was an unhappy person, but I certainly don't think I am as happy as I could be. Or should be.

I will admit, sometimes I am guilty of complaining. I complain about the usual things, Monday mornings, getting up early for the school run or work, running out of coffee, the weather, the kids making a mess minutes after I have tidied, having too much washing to sort through... It all sounds so trivial when it is written down, but it's very easy to spend the week complaining about little things like that.

I'm making myself sound like a right moany old cow, and I'm not! I don't spend the whole week moaning, but I definitely spend more time complaining than I do appreciating. For example, if my husband asks me how my day has been, i will usually find a negative to tell a story about, like someone being rude to me on the phone at work or something.

It's often the little negatives that stick in the mind, the fact that the rest of the day went well is often forgotten. When I sit on a Sunday and think about the previous week, I'm likely to remember Monday as the day I slept in, even if the rest of Monday was a good day.

Ok, so I think we may have established that I might be a bit of a moany so and so after all!

I really need to learn to just let go of the not so good parts of the day, because in the grand scheme of things they are really quite insignificant.

I have so much to be grateful for.

An so, I have made the decision to start each day with a more positive outlook. I'm going to focus on the little things more, like my daughter singing her latest song to me, or seeing the joy on my sons face when he shows off his latest build on Minecraft.

I think to really enjoy those little everyday moments you have to really appreciate what you have got in life, so my reasons to be cheerful this week are the most important things in my life, the things that are constant, part of the bigger picture...

My family My family are the biggest reason for me to be cheerful. I truely have been blessed with two wonderful children. I often look at them and feel like I'm going to burst with the amout of love and pride I have for them. I also feel very lucky to have my husband. We may not be perfect, and we have our fair share of arguments but I love that man to bits and I don't know where I would be without him! (He's going to tell me to stop being a loser when he reads this, he's not in to soppy stuff at all!). I'm also very grateful for my mam. I only really see her once a year now because we just can't afford to travel across to each other much, but I know she's always there for me when I need her, and she is a great nana to the kids. I couldn't mention my family without mentioning the cats, they are my little furry babies after all!

My Blog When I started blogging last year I didn't realise what joy it would bring me. I just love sitting down while the kids are at school and planning my next post, taking pictures with my beautiful Nikon camera (I'm a little bit in love with my camera!) and just sitting down to write posts. I love it all, and I'm so pleased I made the decision to start blogging in 2014.

My House My house may not be perfect, it doesn't look like the houses I lust over on Pinterest, it's a bit messy, there are toys everywhere, the laundry baskets are full to bursting... but you know what, it just feels like home to me. We have a nice front garden where the children can play, a big kitchen table that we can all sit around to eat or dinner and chat about our day, there are happy memories framed on the walls, a lovely stove to keep up warm and cosy, I couldn't really ask for more!

When I sit down and think about it, I have so much to be cheerful for! I'm going to try my hardest not to complain about silly things, to instead try to focus on the good things that happen every week, and I think I'm going to feel a hell of a lot better for it!