Daddy and Munchkin Blog
Seriously, Take Kids Camping!

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Some of my best childhood memories came from the camping trips I had with my Grandparents and Mum. We would find a good site, pitch up, get the croquet and games out, play endless garden games and relax. It was childhood at its best.

Ready or not, I’m coming to find you! – Hide and seek camping style!

It’s something I always wanted to pass to Munchkin. This year, Nanny and Grandad were already planning to go to a local site so we joined them for a one-night trail run. The short, it was fantastic, so seriously, take kids camping!

The sky’s awake so I’m awake!

As a parent, we often worry about our child sleeping well. So the thought of camping in the summer with an early sunrise and sharply rising tent temperatures was enough to add a bit of fear with taking Munchkin camping.

Going to a local site eased the fear a little. If worst came to the worse we could escape home in the middle of the night and return the next morning.

So, we put our fears aside. Bought him his own character airbed and a new Paw patrol nightlight and took familiar things like his pillow, duvet and favourite bed toy from home. We made sure we had long walks, lots of activity and a little bit of a later night after a late takeaway dinner.

The result: he slept through undisturbed until morning.

kids camping
Phew. Out light a light switch.

Home away from home

To make him feel at home and included, we made sure whatever we had, he had. He had his own little camping chair so he could sit around the firepit with us, and his own personal airbed. We let him help with activities such as pumping up his bed, helping with the washing up and building the tent – he especially loved the mallet, offering to help hammer in the pegs. We took a good selection of toys which could be used outside and garden games. Ensuring he never got bored.

Playing like at home

We also take his tablet with Amazon kids+ (I’ve review that here). This was good whilst we pottered around getting food ready and for his usual bedtime routine with a few stories.


For great days out with young children see our reviews of Hobbledown and National Trust properties ➡️


Affordable holidaying

The most important thing, especially with the current cost of living crisis, is that camping can be affordable. You can pick up a good sized tent for a family of 3 or 4 for under £50 and pay a quarter of what is it for a low budget hotel room for the pitch. There’s a bit of prepayment for things like chairs and airbeds, but at this time of the year you can find cheap camping stuff everywhere, for example, we picked up our foldable chairs for a little over a tenner and borrowed other bits from my parents. It was obviously more pricey this time, but will make an affordable getaway next time and the next…

A reasonably priced tent for us three. Oh and a car to store everything else

The trial run

As it was Munchkin’s first time a we opted for this as a trial run for future camping.

The reason for a short trial run of camping was two-fold. Firstly we needed to see if Munchkin would sleep. Second, we needed to see what items we needed and inevitably you will forget something the first few times! Like any holiday, imagine going away and forgetting the baby milk, or a favourite cuddly toy!

Prepare for all weather

In the UK we all know we can experience all four seasons in one day. We went in June.

Summer is probably the hardest as you never know what you are going to get. So pack the sun cream and shorts, the coat for the cooler evenings and the wellies and waterproofs if it rains. Plus, plenty of spares if they get muddy or wet. Be overprepared.


Given this was just our trial run I imagine ill update it over the trips to come.

Do you have any advice on camping with kids?

Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Daddy and Munchkin

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Mutable Review – The ultimate multi-activity table.

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From the moment we started trying for a Munchkin, I had created a list of products I wanted for him or her when they were old enough. At the top of that list, a Mutable by Stokke (previously Mukako) (Visit Stokke.com). Its been a favourite product for years now, and it hasn’t disappointed, so here is our Mutable review.

Since being brought out by Stokke, the product line seems to have decreased. So while this review doesn’t match all the products sold by Stokke they are still stocked elsewhere. I will include links where possible for other UK stockists where appropriate.

Mutable Review
The Mutable

What is a Mutable?

The Mutable is an Italian designed multi activity table for kids up to the age of 8 as it grows with them. The table is made of a beautiful wooden design, with a modern shape and a splash of colour. It has screw on legs, with additional pieces to enable it to grow in height as your child grows. This gives the chairs two heights and the table four heights to grow with your child.

There is an insert in the top which houses the ‘multi activity’ components. These are wooden or cardboard discs which change the table from a simple table, to a lego or duplo table, a chalk board or white board, a round puzzle board or a city or world landscape. There is also further options such as multi level lego towers, playdough moulds and adaptable scenarios.

For older children, there are app enabled toys and games, such as numbers and letters and ‘around the world’ and ‘ring o stories’ . So what can be a snack table, is an art space, a pay space and also a learning space.

Daddy and Munchkin’s Mutable review.

As I said in my introduction, the Mutable does not disappoint. From the morning it was delivered and constructed, which was a simple process with hand screw legs. Munchkin was eager to play with his cars on the town landscape, scribble with giant chalk on the white board and take his wooden train or cuddly toys for a ride up high.

Daddy loves it as its self contained. Every activity is stored within the table. There’s an attached pen/chalk pot which is useful for easy storage and access to (you guessed it) pens and chalk, and a storage bag for tidying up, which is filled by simply removing the centre and pushing the toys through the hole. We used this from when Munchkin was just one to teach about tidying up, and it worked a charm.

Overall I cannot fault it, and can’t wait to buy extra toys and games and use it as a learning tool for numbers/letters and humanities in the future. The only drawback is the price, but when you consider the amount of time it can be used with its variety of uses, its was an easy equation for us and its been worth every penny since.

What Else is Available?

We originally opted for the moderately supplied Essential Plus bundle. In 2022 this includes two chairs, 7 inserts, extra puzzles, storage bag and pen holder, but there are many more options to add. It currently retails at Stokke for £434.90 but can be found cheaper elsewhere in the UK such as pram world who stock it for £345.90.

In terms of accessories and toys, there are extension sets to allow space for 6 children and silicone covers to protect the table.

In the toy department, there are 3-dimensional playhouses, wooden playhouses, and lego towers, play dough moulds and educational games. I already have my eye on a playhouse, playdough mould, and more games for Munchkin.


Interested in a tablet for your little one? Check out my Fire HD Kids tablet review ➡️


One year on…

It is still the best product we have invested in. It is a favourite place for a painting and drawing or scribbling on the chalk board. Munchkin has started to use the Mutable for imaginative play taking his dinosaurs to the town landscape and therefore we have expanded our Mutable collection.

We now have the two, two sided games, one teaches about fruit and vegetables and the other is a space themed game. These both come with multiple levels, allowing the game to change as your child grows, for example changing from counting to doing sums and multiplication.

The second is a superhero house. A multi-level wooden playhouse that sits it is own disc holder on top of the Mutable. It has multiple rooms, from fictional superhero to real life such as police and firemen. We spend many an hour playing with this now. Unfortunately this product is not sold by Stokke since their take over however even if they still sell the furniture and the heroes but can be found elsewhere on third party sellers like Pramworld.

Mutable Review – Those all important stars

Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Price

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Useability

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Instructions

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Daddy reviewed, Munchkin approved.

Thanks for reading our Mutable Review,

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Count with Peppa

Whilst this product was kindly gifted. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

From the second I said, ‘look, a package for you’ Munchkins eyes lit up. When he saw it was Peppa, the excitement was unreal, he could not wait for me to wrestle and free it from the packaging.

Peppa pig count with peppa
One happy poppet

Peppa Pig Count with Peppa is a number and colour recognition toy all styled in the design and with the voice of every parents favourite pig.

It uses 10 coloured number discs, with different colours and the numbers from 1 – 10. On the other side is the corresponding number of items i.e. 5 planes. Peppa can recognise which discs are inserted and therefore know if the correct disc is posted.

‘Where’s the number 5?’

There are multiple games, from find the number, to find the coin which has a certain number of an item. It also plays three songs, from the series, which Munchkin was instantly joining in with. This will further solidify Munchkins colour and counting skills and improve his ability to follow instructions.

We admit we had a little issue pushing the coins through at first. But two days later it seems to have improved for us both.

Available at Argos. £20

Thanks for reading,

Daddy reviewed, munchkin approved.

Daddy and Munchkin

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Get Toddlers Involved

Raising good little humans can start very young. From as little as 1 year old, Munchkin wanted to help around the house and by letting him help, we feel we are raising a well rounded human and giving him the skills to succeed from an early age. Its very simple to include them in little tasks to get toddlers involved and build their life skills.

Grub’s up

Giving Munchkin access to snack choices and letting him select from breakfast options supports developing his independence with free choice, which aligns with our Montessori style of parenting. Similarly, by letting him help with dinner preparation, whether that be cutting up some vegetables with a child safe knife, or letting him mix on the hob, we feel we are building those skills he will need in the future and his interest in what he’s eating and where it comes from.

Shop shop away

Another simple way to get toddler involved is at the shops, or when the delivery arrives. Let them select a snack, or what vegetable to have with a meal to include them, then get them to help put it all away too. This is good for language too as Munchkin will ask when he doesn’t know what something is, learning along the way.

Wash, splosh and scrub.

Adults generally hate doing the washing and unloading the dishwasher, but toddlers seem to love it. Let them sort through the clean washing, and pass it to be hung out to dry, or give them the ultimate trust of unloading the dishwasher, passing cultery and plates to you to put away. Similarly, toddlers love to get involved in a little cleaning, as much as they do a poor job, but it helps them feel part of the family team.

Out and about

For me, teaching life skills out and about, is just about telling them everything to understand the world. From what a wind turbine is, to how a shop operates, to why we need petrol for the car, I just tell him everything, all the time.

The most important of these being crossing the road. I would tell Munchkin to stop, and look left and right even when he was just a little 6 month old on the way to rhyme time and I’ve never stopped since in the hope it’ll be drilled in for when he one day ventures out alone (eek!).

Cash talk

With less physical cash out there, due to easy contactless payments and of course, Covid-19, its useful to talk about money when its spent as otherwise he doesn’t really see it. We do this by showing him money when we do come across it, and explaining what it means when we beep our cards. When Munchkin is old enough we will also set up his own pocket money bank account such as a Starling kids account (available from age 6) or prepaid card so he can learn to spend or save his own pocket money.

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Daddy and Munchkin

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‘Water’ Way to Light Up Your Day with Sensory Play at Home

Sensory play is a fantastic thing for babies and toddler development. There are classes available, but its easy to do sensory play at home. Here is a few things we have done with Munchkin during lockdown of 2020. All of these used every day items we already possessed.

Bubble Float, Bubble Pop

Its a known fact that every child loves bubbles, and Munchkin was no different. The look of awe and amazement as he reached for the bubbles around him was worth every second of the clean up operation which followed!

Bottle Shaker Sounds

If there is one thing Munchkin loves, its making a lot of noise. He loves drumsticks and banging everything, his drums and setting off all his musical toys at once, and even using his utensils at meal times for impromptu musical routines.

So this one was simple. Take equal sized bottles and fill with different every day items to illustrate the different sounds they make. We used lentils, stones Munchkin collected from the garden and rice. You could see the interest of the different sounds and the joy of shaking and dropping them.

Splish Splash Water Play

With swimming on hold, it was important to give our Munchkin some time to splash about at home. So we filled the blow up duck he used to have his baths in, gave him some toys and away he went splashing about.

Wibble Wobble Jelly Play

Exactly what it says in the title. Jelly on a plate, wibbly and wobbly, with a few utensils, feeling it, bouncing it and tasting it. Good orange flavoured fun.

Make a Lentil Mess

We put some lentils in a bowl and let him go crazy. From the first unsure touch, to throwing them everywhere, it was a fun explosion of sensory fun.

Disco lights and lightning bolts

We set up a disco ball, a lightning plate, a rope light and a colouring changing stars on the ceiling toy and popped Munchkin in the middle. He loved touching the plate and making the lightning move, grasping onto the disco ball and wafting around the rope light.

Cook up a storm

Finally, not fully a sensory exploration, but we gave Munchkin kitchen bits and some balls for a cooking experience. He’s had a saucepan ever since as his eyes immediately lit up and a smile filled his little face. He loved to play peek-a-boo with the colander!

It was easy to create sensory and discovery experiences from items already in our household. Hopefully this gives some inspiration for what sensory play at home you can do with your little ones.

Thanks for reading,

sensory play at home
10 things I’ve Lately Learnt as a parent.

Last time I wrote one of these posts things were different (find it here). We were allowed out of the house for non essential reasons, Munchkin was a tiny 8 month old, and our biggest fears were feeding Munchkin the right things. So at two years old, here’s the latest things we have learnt.

1. Even as they sleep through the night the tiredness continues

You fool yourself that tiredness will improve as they master sleeping through the night. But no, the days become more demanding, and as a result you are equally sleepy.

2. They grow up too fast

It’s a line you’ve heard before and its true. One minute they stay still, the next they are running from room to room. One minute they giggle and ‘ga ga’ and the next they sing full lullabys and demand what they want, when they want it. Time flies when you are a parent.

3. Parenting (at this age) improves lockdown

I think we are lucky we have Munchkin in lockdown. We haven’t lost our minds with boredom or completed Netflix. Entertaining him keeps us entertained and consequently improves our lockdown.

4. They copy every thing you do

This thought always takes me back to that old smoking advert showing toddlers smoking crayons as they copy their parents. But its apparent daily how munchkin picks up little mannerisms or turn of phrase. Often surprisingly quickly.

5. If they like to climb, every household object is a climbing frame

We’ve got a climber in Munchkin. Every time he’s quiet he’s either mounting a dining chair or jumping on the sofa. The world is his playground, which means we need eyes in the back of our heads.

6. Nursery is amazing for development, albeit blooming expensive

We can’t fault our decision to use nursery, although it costs a bomb. He learns something everyday, grows in confidence and it gives him the opportunity to see and bond with others his age (especially important right now!)

7. You will eventually get bored of certain programmes

Don’t worry Dugee, there’s always room for you, but move over Teletubbies and In the Night Garden, if I never see a Ninky Nonk or Tubby custard again it will be too soon.

8. The last stage always seems easier

When they progress through the developmental stages, you are always eager for the next stage. But when they come, you always miss the ease of the last. The important note here is to live in the moment, moving on from the past and not looking into the future. Just enjoy the here and now.

9. You shouldn’t feel offended when they don’t choose you

As they find their voice, they start to make choices, and this includes which parent should do what. Munchkin went through a 100% Mummy phase, to a 100% Daddy phase and now its mostly 50:50 again. It is believed that when your child begins to choose, its because they feel safe and secure, so it should never offend as saddening as it may be.

10. There is no parenting manual

This needs no explanation. All our children are different and therefore there’s no manual or rule book that dictates when things should happen. If there was, Munchkin would have been late for all the gross motor targets. But now hes running about like an Olympic runner so all is good.

learnt as a parent

Thanks for reading,

If you want to see what we learnt at Eight months, check it out here.

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Montessori Methods at Home

Montessori play is something I’d never heard about before becoming a parent but is something so great for development. What it means to me is giving Munchkin that freedom to choose what to play or do, making those choices accessible, learn through play and learn life skills.

Here’s a quick what to do to set up Montessori style at home and how we’ve done it, some of which by chance.

1. Designate an accessible place for everything

This comes down to making things easy reach for your child. From toys, to books, to arts and crafts and snacks and drinks.

For us, we have all toys in low drawers and shelves, clothes for nursery days in bottom drawers, books under the TV for little hands to grab, and Munchkin level snack shelves so he can choose when he’s hungry and what to eat (within reason!).

2. Emphasize Life Skills

This swings on how even young children are capable of pitching in around the house in one way or another and by helping, it sets them up to be considerate and capable adults.

With Munchkin, this occurred naturally. Start to clean, he wants a cloth to join in too. Approach the dishwasher, he wants to help empty it. Hang out the washing, he would help ‘sort’ and pass the items to be hung. I always take him to show him jobs like watering the plants. I’m just too scared to give him a watering can indoors just yet!

3 .Teach Concentration

This is one I could question, but when you read, its about identifying your child’s interests and setting things up to keep them concentrating and thoroughly exploring for a period of time.

We know Munchkin loves the outdoors and a good sensory play activity. So we set up some time and some space and try to make the activity evolve to keep his interest and therefore concentration. For example, we set up an ice play activity, then introduced bubbles and coloured water later to evolve the play.

4. Give them their best learning environment


Discover where your child likes to learn and provide that space. Some children prefer solitude where others like the middle of the room. We have two spaces, a playroom and a play space in the lounge. Munchkin chooses where to go to play, and whether or not to ask for our hand to lead us to join him.

5. Focus on Inner Motivation, Not Reward

This Montessori method is about rewarding behaviour and progress with verbal feedback in moderation, over physical rewards such as stickers or sweets.

This is an easy one and one that we do naturally. Say well done, that’s great, we are proud of you and clap with him at big moments.

6. Use Child-Sized Furniture

For this one we have a tuff tray for floor messy play fun and a mutable for Munchkin sized table activities. We use the high chair when baking to bring the mixing and making to floor level.

If you’d like to know more about Mutable, see my review here.

7. Make Their Bedroom Child-Friendly

This echoes some of the previous points by giving them a play space, so if they wake early they can move from bed to play on their own.

Munchkin rarely uses it, but we have always had a third play space in his room ready for when he moves from cot to cot bed.

Future Montessori plans for Munchkin

One idea we’ve had to expand our Montessori offering at home is to create seasonal nature trays and more role play tuff tray activities, such as making a farm or zoo.

Do you have any tips or things you do at home? Let us know in the comments.

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Big Fish Little Fish – Our No. 1 baby class

Our Number One Baby Class

When you first think about having a little one you’ll quickly realise that there are many classes avalible, from baby massage to baby sensory. However, taking cost and (more importantly) your precious time into account on top of the multitude of free classes you want to attend its hard to get to everything you want to do. Believe me, even on parental leave I struggled to balance the classes we carefully chose to attend.

So here is my number one class. It had to be baby swimming.

People without children always get surprised when I say we are taking Munchkin for his swimming lesson at the weekend. It seems unbelievable to them that you can take them at 19 months, even though you can actually start at 6 weeks with baby classes.

Our swimming class (Babybliss, Cambridgeshire) consists of splashing songs, fetch the toy games as well as core swimming skills. At 19 months we have already dipped our toes into independant swimming.

From six months old, the classes teach water confidence and aids their development and reflexes. But more importantly than that its also for safety. It teaches the little ones what to do if they swallow water, to spit rather than swallowing firstly, and how to hold on to the side and climb out. Useful skills if they ever accidentally enter water.

With swimming being part of the national curriculum and a pivotal part of any family holiday it was a no brainer to start swimming lessons so young, especially knowing he will be safe with his water skills in the future.

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The Return to Not Quite Normal

When the letter to return to work arrived my heart sank, whilst many may have struggled with lockdown and restrictions, we have relished in the bonus time together with our little Munchkin. If you have had a hard time, I am sorry and don’t worry, for that I feel very guilty.

But with a 15 month old at the start of furlough, we got to spend so much precious extra time together. I was luckily furloughed on full pay and Natalie had a lot to do to support her children she teaches, but could do a lot at home with us as well.

However, this time came to an end when I returned to my normal place of work, even if not for my normal job. And thats where the lack of normality begins. My hours are different and the job is different. We have queued to arrive at work, and to leave at home time and my closest friends are still working from home. Though that said, its been good to form bonds and develop friendships with those I haven’t had chance to before.

For Munchkin, he has returned to nursery this week ending his dream 6 months with Daddy and then Mummy. We have done, and developed, so much over this time, but it will be great for him to be back with kids his age to play and build friendships with. This is now the start of the stark difference from the nice and relaxed, peaceful furlough time to the mad rush again from home to nursery to work and back.

We finally started walking

The alleviation of lockdown has meant it has also been nice to visit family again, without staying garden bound and feeling like we shouldn’t even use the bathroom. Although, we are still far from the times of hugs and proper contact. Luckily for the Nanny’s, the return to nursery also means the return to Nanny childcare days. That’ll be good for them and Munchkin both. I know for sure its been very hard not seeing him properly for so long.

So while everything is different, let’s enjoy this time before the inevitable ‘second spike’ we have been warned of, which could be on the horizon. Though, let’s hope it doesn’t happen. As much as I enjoyed furlough, I dont think the country can afford to do it again…

To all those still suffering from anything Covid related, me and Munchkin are sending socially distance digital hugs.

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The Next 2 Me to Nursery Transition

The time to move have his nursery transition and move into his and big boy cot, which could be feared by some, came at 9 and a half months old. This may seem late, but tied in nicely with the move from our Munchkin breast feeding in the evening and throughout night to purely bottle fed. A change which made us happy parents as this was the first solid week he also slept through the night. Phew. At last!!

We followed the advice on this one, moving the next 2 me slowly on a journey from bedside to his Nursery. Day by day, for a week (and a bit…).

It started by moving to the bottom of the bed with the side up and… this was a normal night 😌. We were worried, being sleep related and being knackered new parents, that any change would upset him. Thankfully it was all good so far.

Then moved closer to the door for two nights. Phew, we breathed a sigh of relief, still fine.

On day four it was the new room. You can imagine this being the biggest of changes. It probably has a different smell, different acoustics, and a different pattern the lights make on the ceiling. Some adults don’t like sleeping on holiday for these very reasons. It must be crazy for a baby at 9 and a half months.

nursery transition
Munchkins new cot in his woodland nursery.

We got through to 3 am in sweet slumber but at 4 am Munchkin woke. Half an hour of rocking though and he was back to sleep. This wasn’t anything we weren’t used to. And this is exactly all I thought was different…

Day 5 he went down at 7pm to wake at 8:40pm. ‘This is what he keeps doing’ I’m told. I was none the wiser. ‘He wakes, has a little moan for a bit then gets back to the land of nod’.

Well that’s news but its all good, apart from this time, he didn’t go back to the land of nod. We believed it was down to the demon of night poos! So after a change and little rock and all was sorted and he was sleeping again.
Sleeping again for a whole, maximum of, 10 minutes. So we rocked again and he slept. He woke again, we rocked, he slept again. This pattern continued until the final rock to sleep At 11pm. Exhausted we rocked him, went to bed ourselves and, luckily he slept through the rest of the night.

The next step was the big cot! This came on day 7 after a another reasonably rocky day 6. This made us nervous. Very nervous. Especially after the madness of days 5 and 6. But in this big cot, with lots of space to roll and wake, there was not a single peep!

The cuteness of a sleeping Munchkin.

And to this day he sleeps like an angel. We think he just teased us with a few bad nights 😝.

Hope the transition went/goes well for you when its time for your little one.

Thanks for reading,

Daddy and Munchkin

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