Category Archives: children

Have you ever thought about a career in Early Years?

The Early Years Sector is a rewarding and vitally important sector which needs high quality staff at all levels. There are many exciting career options available, whether you are looking to work full-time, part-time or on a voluntary basis, with plenty of opportunities for training and progression.

If you have enthusiasm and enjoy working with young children and want to play a key role in supporting children’s learning and development, this could be the career for you.

The Early Years and Childcare Service can provide you with information about the different roles within early years, qualifications and training pathways and where to look for the latest jobs.

Contact us for a copy of our ‘Working in early years and childcare’ booklet  which has been designed to help you to make a more informed choice about your career options so that you feel confident about what steps to take next.

For Information on jobs, qualifications and training routes visit: www.devon.gov.uk/eycs, email: natalie.elston@devon.gov.uk or phone: 01392 385398.

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Filed under childcare, children, employment, self employment

Face Painting

Back in June, we had a team building day where we all learnt to face paint with Cats Whiskers from Bristol.  It was great fun (though unfortunately my boys don’t let me practice on them!) and we now offer this free service to community events.  We hope that free face painting will help to keep the kids smiling at your event, and help to promote your community group as well as promoting our services.  If you’d like us to attend one of your events, call us on 0800 043 2440.

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Face Painting

In June, the Opportunity Plus South West team all got together to do a Face Painting course with Cats Whiskers from Bristol.  We had so much fun turning each other into tigers and pirates and butterflies!  But this was more than a team building day.  Part of our lottery funding is for us to support local community groups.  We thought that offering free face painting at community events would be a great way to get people involved and to help with fundraising.

On the 7th August, Chloe went along to the Mary Rose Community Centre in Buckland, Newton Abbot.  They were holding a celebration event for the Breastfeeding Peer Supporters who have recently completed their training with Healthy Babies UK to volunteer and help new Mums get to grips with breastfeeding.  This was also part of World Breastfeeding Week 2013.

Chloe painted the faces of around 10 of the older children, and it was really popular – some children came back more than once to be turned into something different!!

Do your children like having their faces painted?  What’s their favourite character to be painted as?  So far we have found Spiderman and Butterflies to be the most popular designs.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Advice.  When you become pregnant, you suddenly find that everyone wants to share their advice with you.  It could be your close friends and family, but more often than not it’s complete strangers giving you unwanted advice, usually whilst fondling your bump or baby without asking!  Most of this advice is well-meaning, from people who have been there and know how hard it is – they just want to try and make it easier for you, and feel involved with your little bundle of joy.  It’s down to you to decide which bits to take on board and which to ignore.

We asked Mums on Facebook to share the best piece of advice that they’ve been given.  Here are some of their responses:

Esther: Try and avoid directly comparing babies too much, particularly in terms of milestones.

Anne: Trust your instincts and spend time getting to know your baby, and don’t worry so much about what the books say! 

Victoria: Take all the help that is offered, and don’t think people will think you are a failure if you ask for help.  They won’t.  They’ll just think you are sensible for recognising when you need a hand, like we all do.

Arabella: Buy a baby sling!

Louise: When things get rough, say to yourself…….it’s just a phase.

Charlotte: Get a good group of mum friends around you who are supportive and good fun.  They’re the ones who will get you through the bad times and enjoy the good times with you!

Charlotte: At work when I was pregnant I had an elderly man tell me he was going to give me the only two bits of advice I would ever need.  The first was – don’t encourage them to talk as once they do they never stop.  And the second was – don’t worry they eventually grow up and move out.  I’m not sure either would be in the attachment parenting handbook but it made me laugh at the time, and still does!

Justine: Books are just other people’s opinions written down. It made me realise that they are not the law to follow, but only what others THINK and I could take and leave advice as I so chose!

Sarah: If it’s not a problem for you, it’s not a problem.

Louise: Slow things down and enjoy it.  I finished work and was expecting a good couple of weeks of putting my feet up, reading, and preparing for the birth.  My little one had other ideas and turned up 12 hours later.  As a result I stayed in work mode for weeks, rushing around trying to be superwoman.  I eventually got the confidence to just chill out and enjoy the here and now and to stop willing him to be at the next stage.  It was my mother-in-law who said enjoy every moment as they don’t stay as babies for long.  And having watched Child of our Time over the past couple of nights, I realise just how quickly they can grow up, especially when I look at my little boy who resembles a toddler now much more than a baby.

What’s the best piece of advice YOU have been given?  Did you realise it at the time?

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Filed under children, Inspirational Women, planning, sleep, work-life balance

Summer holidays!

The summer holidays are here!  A while ago a friend asked me to suggest some activities she could do with the children she was childminding.  The activities needed to be low cost and with minimal resources needed.  I hope that these give you some new ideas to do with the kids over the next few weeks!
origami/paper aeroplanes
consequences (with a picture of a monster or a story – we do this at baby showers and it’s brilliant)
den building
acting out a book (we do we’re going on a bear hunt a lot)
paper mache
painting – potato prints
write a story
write a letter
write and put on a play
make sock puppets
make monsters out of egg cartons, toilet rolls etc
cooking (pizza, biscuits, cupcakes)
home made playdough
face painting
make a road map by drawing on a big piece of paper or fabric paints on an old sheet
make tissue paper pom poms
make cushions out of old tshirts
kite making
make bunting
make door signs (their names, “keep out”, “no girls allowed” etc)
make candles in teacups
make a robot from cardboard boxes
tie dye
grow plants – beansprouts in a jam jar
make smoothies
decorate pebbles
make superhero capes and masks – write/draw/act out a comic
make a bird feeder

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Yawn! Working when you haven’t slept

Ok, so everyone knows that having a baby means you will be having a few sleepless nights.  And for some parents that’s all it is: a few weeks of broken sleep before your baby gets the hang of it and sleeps through.  Not too disruptive as you are on maternity leave for that time anyway.  But for many, many others the broken sleep goes on well into the second and third year.

So how are you supposed to cope with sleep deprivation when you’re back at work?  Sure, before kids you might have had the occassional drink after work that went too far, so you were tired and useless the next day, but with a baby it’s night after night after night after…  The sleep deprivation can really build up, and it can become a choice between going to bed at 8pm every night or staying up to a reasonable hour but spending the next day half asleep!

In all honesty, if we’ve had a bad night and I’ve got work in the morning, the worst bit is just getting up and trying to make myself look presentable.  It’s the days where I have to get up and deal with two tired children that are the hardest!!

So, I’m afraid to say that I don’t have any tips for dealing with the sleep deprivation at work, but if you do, please, please share them below!  Also check out The All Night Milk Bar group on Facebook, to see that you are not the only one who’s up all night!

I also recently wrote this guest post for the Close Enough to Kiss Blog.

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Filed under children, employment, self employment, sleep, work-life balance

An Inspirational Story…

Today we have a really inspirational story from a lovely lady called Emma Jones, who unexpectedly became pregnant whilst travelling.  Emma is now trying out a few different business ideas to create a flexible business that will give her the ideal work-life balance:

I had quit my job as a teacher and gone travelling to South America to change my life. Seeing as I returned ten months later having found the love of my life, and with the shock news for everyone back home that I was pregnant with our baby (not to mention the shock it had been for us), I would say that my goal had been achieved!

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Our little accident in Argentina, Eva, is now 15 months old and is the greatest delight of our lives. However, it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys. We had returned without anywhere to live (and as Ciarán is Irish, we hadn’t yet even decided which country we would live in), and without any income between us. My savings had been completely depleted – mostly I think on too much alcohol in Peru – but thankfully Ciarán had some in a separate account. We were also extremely lucky to have very supportive and generous parents, including mine who remortgaged their house in order to provide us with a monthly income. I had gone from having a good income and being completely self-reliant, to suddenly being dependent on family once more. It was this, I believe, that was the main spark for my antenatal depression, which stayed with me to varying degrees until Eva was born.

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I had never had an exact plan for my return to the UK, but that was just as I wanted it. After years of feeling tied down and stressed (not just from teaching in a challenging inner-city London school, but also as I had been a local councillor in a highly deprived area at the same time – I had averaged 80-90 hour weeks, including evenings and weekends), I needed the feeling of coming home and still being free. I had assumed that I would work in any old job and didn’t care where I slept, and/or that I might go abroad again to work, then at some point I would do a Masters and start my new career path from there. But the baby meant that a real plan was needed, and we only had about seven months in which to get reasonably settled. Abortion crossed our minds several times, but our unborn was the product of the happiest time of our lives, so we knew that we wanted her.

Once the terrible morning sickness had finally vanished (the same morning sickness that had started when we were in 40°C heat in India, and which I had initially assumed to be a strange case of Delhi Belly), and on days when the antenatal depression wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed, I started applying for a few jobs. But I was quickly starting to show, and when I went to an interview and saw the interviewer glance down at my tummy with a knowing smile, I knew that this was a pretty fruitless exercise. So I threw myself into my writing. I had done some freelance travel writing while I had been away, and had also spent a month working as a guidebook writer in Uruguay. I continued to do this throughout my pregnancy, mostly education and travel writing, but by the time Eva was born I could still count the number of paid commissions I had received on my fingers.

Meanwhile, Ciarán’s jobhunt had not fared much better. After a couple of months of his applying to a variety of jobs that we knew he didn’t really want anyway, we made what many people called a very brave decision: he would study for his Masters in Meteorology then aim to get a job from this. To us, it seemed the obvious thing to do – we knew we had to start thinking longterm, and there was no point in both of us giving up our post-travel dreams.

Fast forward to the present day, and after spending a year living in Reading where Ciarán successfully completed his Masters, we are now in Exeter where he has been working at the Met Office for the past six months, but this is not going the way he wanted. I look regularly at jobs, but nothing I could do other than teaching would make any money after having to pay for childcare. And the very thought of teaching again literally gives me the shakes, so I fear a return of depression if I tried it. I still have a place held at University College, London, to study my MSc in Neuroscience, Language and Communication, but it is unclear when – if ever – I will be able to follow this dream.

Instead, I am following another interest. Having taken up running while a teacher and councillor, which I found was the best stress reducer, and having continued to run during my travels and throughout my pregnancy (including a slow one miler on my due date!), I am studying by distance learning for a diploma in personal training. I hope to use this to work flexibly around Eva. I am giving myself experience of leading group exercise sessions by having started Mummy Active, a buggy fitness class on the Exeter Quayside. Currently, I am asking for donations to the charity for which I am running this year’s Brighton Marathon, but once I am a qualified instructor and can be insured, I aim to expand this as a small business. I also have a number of other similar ideas up my sleeve, which I will reveal at a later date.

Mummy Active pic

Unfortunately, my other business venture, parent and baby Spanish classes, has not taken off in the way that I wanted, despite good feedback from those who have attended. Hola Bebé will therefore have to end before I lose any further money, sadly.

Ciarán, Eva and I are not yet self-reliant, and as well as being eternally grateful to our parents, we are very thankful for Child Tax Credits. We don’t know where we will be living in a few months’ time, and our careers are very much up in the air. But we are together, and we are happy. And Eva has been worth every moment of worry, every tear, every fear and everything we have given up. One day, we will return to South America as a family, and hopefully stay there for a good length of time. Unlike in our 20s, when our work was the focus of our lives, it is now merely the method by which we can aim to give our family the life we really want.

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Filed under children, creative, employment, Inspirational Women, retraining, self employment, work-life balance