Dressing Up at School

I hate it so much. Those dreaded dressing up at school days. You know the ones. Previously we’d get a little bit of notice… like, maybe three days. Since H moved to Junior School we’ve had a little more. But still, they exist.

So you do your best to make something of them. Somehow, I had the foresight to buy something which has been extremely useful so far. The only problem with any dressing up days at school is you don’t know what is likely to happen in subsequent years.

So what exactly is that useful thing? Why, a simple white oversized adult t-shirt. I sewed some ribbon around the middle as a tie, and happened to have plenty of felt around for logos.

So far, we’re on our third dressing up day at school, and it is about to be used again.

The first time was for a day when the kids needed to go in dressed as a knight. I cut out and sewed on a simple felt crest to the front of the t-shirt. Add a knight’s chain mail head thing (we bought at an English Heritage place) and H felt knight enough.

Knights Day dressing up at school

The second time was for a pirate day. The crest was removed and I cut a green skull and crossbones, which was sewed in its place. I also made a little waistcoat from a reusable shopping bag, with matching tie.

Pirate Day dressing up at school

Given I got a CSE 4 in needlework at school, this kind of thing isn’t one of my strongest skills. But it works, and it’s fine for a day.

This week at school we have a Greek day. Well this is now easy. I’ve removed the pirate crest, and H will wear the simple plain white t-shirt, with purple ribbon tie, and some leggings.

Ancient Greece Day dressing up at school

I’m now getting confident and rubbing my hands with glee at what school are going to throw at us next. I suspect it might be Year 4 when it comes out again, possibly a Roman day.  Dressing up at school doesn’t feel quite so painful any more!

An adult white t-shirt (this one is medium) is great – cut off the sleeves and you have enough room to put warmer garments on underneath if it’s cold too. It cost me £3 from Matalan.

Going to Junior School

I hadn’t really thought much beyond H starting school when she was offered her place three years ago.Yet here we are at the end of her last term, and I’ve had to think ahead for some things, if only to save a bit of money and spare H’s anxieties. Here are some top tips for starting Junior School.

back-to-school, junior school

Junior school covers the next four years of H’s education – from Year 3 to 6. (they were never called that back in my day).  I’ve found myself being prepared almost a year up-front. Here’s my top tips if you’re in the same position or heading that way.

  1. Know your new school uniform. We’re changing from a red uniform to blue which is slightly annoying, as you end up forking out for new jumpers and cardigans. However, there are still lots of things which can be worn across both schools. There are common colours with things like socks and tights and trousers and skirts stay the same colour. If H grew out of any of her red jumpers and cardigans I replaced them with cheaper ones from the supermarket. I’m looking forward to ditching all the white socks!
  2. Visit the new school fairs! We didn’t know until April whether we had a space at her new school but having her familiarise herself with the building and what could be has meant she isn’t anxious at all about the change. For H it was her first time visiting her school so the idea of it became less scary. She had her first proper visit with school last week (in June) – it can feel like a long time to wait when you haven’t been before. She walked around like she’d been a million times when she finally got to go! We did this with her current school as well.
  3. If you’re offered the chance to tour the school but you can’t make what’s on offer, it’s worth getting in touch with them to see if you can organise an alternative time. We couldn’t get the time off work, and organised another time when we could. It meant we could point out things we’d been shown and teachers we had met.
  4. Sign up to Facebook/Twitter groups relating to the school. While you’re not yet there, it’s handy to find out about things like second hand uniform sales. We picked up a waterproof school coat and a PE bag for £1 each. We’ve ordered uniform for when she starts, but from doing that we’ve saved ourselves almost £20.

Do you have any top tips for making that switch to Junior School? Let us know in the comments!

School Choice Day

I hope everyone got the schools they wanted. We got our results today too.

See, we’re in this slightly odd scenario of H being at the local Infants School, and having to apply for the Junior school that most of the kids go on to. They even keep them in the same classes (which is a relief, I’ve only just memorised the names of the children in her class) – so it was a fairly safe bet we would get a place there.

Except, of course, we don’t know what’s happening with our house. As I posted about way back when I was still a bit in shock of it all, we had the leaky flue in the loft. I haven’t felt sick once since our heating was turned off, and our landlady is mulling over whether to get central heating installed or replace the flue. If the latter happens we’re never switching the heating on again, so will leave this house. If the former happens, we’ll stay. So having to think about moving house and getting the school place has happened at a confusing time. We don’t know what’s happening and probably won’t for another week or two. We’re great tenants, but unfortunately great tenants who have been exposed to carbon monoxide does not equate to wanting to keep us in the house. But that’s another rant for another place.

Because now we know H’s Junior School! Yet strangely I didn’t feel as stressed, probably because I don’t know what’s going to happen these coming months. The result came through at 5pm when I was at Rainbows, so had to irresponsibly hide under a table to check the text from Shaun, then let H know everything is fine and she has the school she wants.

The Junior School choice was a bit weird anyway. There only seemed to be religious schools who *might* offer places – her current school isn’t a church-affiliated one. That or they were over the other side of Sutton. So really, anywhere else wasn’t happening. Slowly word is coming in and most of the class are all confirming they’re moving over the road too.

Now if only all decisions could be like this, it would save us a lot of stress! So that’s two half terms left to go at this school, and making sure I replace any uniform with things that will be worn at the new one – who of course, being an academy have a completely different colour for their uniform, and you can only wear official school jumpers or cardigans – not cheaper shop ones. Whatever happens we’ve got our Bandino Cup Bands and our Stamptastic stampers both still going strong and labelling clothes and drink cups perfectly.

That’s one less thing to think about anyway.

Back to School with Matalan School Uniform

Half term is only two weeks away, and H has been wearing her Matalan school uniform daily – I think it’s time we did a quick mid-term report!

There is a wide variety of Matalan school uniform options online – I ordered H’s when we were in Australia back in August, where I only had use of my iPad. The whole experience was simple enough (although if I navigated away I lost the order, so needed to make a note of what I wanted and order it at once) – delivery was speedy too, despatched within a day of me placing the order which impressed me.  The Matalan website has a School Shop section where you can view the whole range – our local store doesn’t keep everything available online in stock.

I love that Matalan stock longer-length skirts – H is a tall girl (she grew over 2cm this summer!), has only just turned 5 and is quite skinny – she’s already wearing a lot of size 6 clothes. Alas, they don’t seem to have longer length trousers, which I would definitely have bought.

So here’s what was in the order :

Matalan Uniform

Two Empire line pinafore dresses £6 each, age 6. I love these – the style makes us think ‘Wizard of Oz’ with a little cross across the back – which can be a bit tricky on PE days so we tend to wear them on the days she doesn’t have it. I went for age 6 which fits her perfectly.

Matalan Uniform

Two Gingham Dresses with tie belt at £6 each. These look identical to the ones on H’s school uniform website and cost £6 each. They wash well too – with the warm weather and the fact they can wear summer dresses up to half term I bought age 7 so hopefully they’ll last for the summer as well – though who can tell with the speed she’s growing.

Two Girls Scallop Edge Cardigans, age 6-7 at £6 each. I like plain cardigans with summer dresses – the school ones come in a sweatshirt type material which is often too warm for hot weather. So far the cardigan is washing well as well.

Matalan Uniform

Two Girls Longer Length Box Pleat Skirt, age 6 at £5.50 each. As said before, I love there’s a longer length available. There is an adjustable waistband too – ideal as H is tall and skinny! Matalan, please consider doing longer length girls trousers too!

Finally, I bought two packs of Polo Shirts, which come in packs of 3 at £5 each. Her older polo shirts are getting small, so these are ready and will probably be in daily use after half term.

The total cost of the Matalan School Uniform came to £59. I had a £50 voucher which took it down to £12.95 including shipping. Everything was in stock, despatched quickly and well packed – and has washed and ironed well over the last six weeks. We’ve had a few tumbles  in the playground and so far no holes which is a very good thing.

I would highly recommend Matalan School Uniform – it is priced well – I need to look at their shoes next, as H has moved up a size (sighhh, stop growing..!!) and is learning to tie laces – they have some lovely looking brogue-style shoes – plus she’ll probably need some new plimsolls soon, and at £2.50 you can’t complain!

I was provided with a £50 voucher for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Photos were taken when the uniform originally arrived and are just a guide.

Back to School!

Phew, the Summer Holidays just flew by, and all of a sudden I find myself getting H’s uniform ready again – Year 1 beckons tomorrow, when she’s back to school!

I did an End of Year report on the various bits of uniform we bought over the year at the end of term, but as anyone who has a child at school knows, it isn’t just about uniform – there’s a few other bits too.

Matalan Uniform

Take for example, H’s water cup. We started the year with a Poppet Moshi Monsters one from Sainsburys which lasted for a while, although the cap broke, so it had a sharp part where you open it. Fortunately they were reduced so I bought another. That lasted a while again, until I spotted a Minions cup, which I bought. On the last day of term she came home with someone else’s Minions cup! I was gutted, as ours was a few days old – the one she came home with was dented and leaky, and most importantly of all, didn’t have a Bandino Cup Band on it! The Bandino Cup Band has been one of the best things all year, as far as missing cups go.

It has happened a couple of times, and her cup has turned up back in her class the following day – there was no need to put it in Lost Property. I can highly recommend Bandino  – so much so I bought more as with losing ours on the last day we needed one for Holiday Club. They’re a bargain, really hard wearing and make identical cups easily identifiable.

Matalan Uniform

We have just had a big delivery of School Uniform from Matalan, as we’re Matalan bloggers. I chose uniform in a size 6 or 7, as she’s grown a good couple of centimetres over the holidays without me realising – so she’s going straight back into bigger clothes already.

All the uniform pieces were very reasonably priced – and we’ll be testing them out over the coming weeks – her new summer dress is ready for tomorrow. I’ll go into more detail once we’ve had a proper chance to test them out – H is set to fall over several times this week I’m sure, so we’ll see how they fare. The summer dress we bought last term from Matalan is going strong, although getting a bit short (sigh, more growing..).

Matalan Uniform

That’ll be ready thanks to me stamping her name on them – living my inner librarian with my Stamptastic Stamp Pad, still going strong and still really impressed with them. The ink is still doing well – although I would like to find a method of removing the ink once a piece of uniform is too small, as I donated loads to our local Children’s Centre for them to sell, but they’re all still named! Stamptastic do PTA deals as well, so check them out.

We don’t need anything else right now, I don’t think. Can we really put our feet up, knowing we’re all set to go back to school?

We were sent all the above items for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own.

School Uniform – End of Year Report

We’re coming to the end of H’s first year of school, so I thought it was the right time to go through our School Uniform experiences, and what we’ve found has lasted through the year – and what hasn’t.

back-to-school

I remember last year in a month or so’s time hitting the stores, trying to find somewhere that stocked school uniform – most shops stopped for the summer. The good thing is that right now a lot of places will be having sales – M&S often do a good one, and it’s where I picked up a lot of H’s school uniform.

My biggest mistake was to buy school uniform in her actual size as she tends to go up a size after Christmas, so I ended up buying two sets in her first year – I should have just gone bigger initially.

M&S’s quality was great – I bought two packs of polo shirts (two in a pack – why don’t they do five packs?) and they washed well and didn’t lose their shape. Actually, my biggest initial concern was that H didn’t know how to do up buttons, but that didn’t take long to master.

H-uniform

As well as that I got one summer dress as we were heading into the colder months but could wear them up to the end of Autumn half term. The dress has been worn a few times in Summer term this year, although it’s quite short now – so buy big for summer clothes! We’ve since bought another dress in Matalan in a size 6 which should last a year. Matalan have a great selection of school uniform at a good price too.

I bought two pairs of trousers and two skirts from M&S in size 4, which lasted until H grew but lasted well – many tumbles in the playground and no holes in the trousers are always a good sign. When she grew I kept with M&S for the trousers but switched to Sainsburys for the skirts which were cheaper and are good quality too.

Back-to-School-2013

I also bought a Next school skirt in size 4 which is still being worn – we’ve often found H grows out of Next clothes first but this one has lasted and isn’t too short.

Shoes were the next concern, as you want to buy a pair that lasts. Our Clarks pair lasted until this Summer half term when H’s feet had grown a size and she really needed a new pair. Unfortunately they didn’t have the same kind in, so we got a similar pair with a patent leather toecap on it, which is wearing away a little a month or two in which is disappointing. If they get her old shoes back in we’ll definitely go back to them (and I might buy another pair a size up). PE shoes were £2.50 in Sainsburys, and have lasted well.

clarks dance step infant shoes

Jumpers and cardigans were official school uniform ones, however we did have some plain in case I didn’t wash them in time, which were kindly passed on to us by Sharon at I Heart Motherhood – they are from Aldi and are going strong, wash well and haven’t faded.

Legwear is the final thing to mention – I bought loads of pairs of ankle socks, but when the weather got warmer H wasn’t used to exposing her legs, so ended up buying some knee length socks from Next – £4.50 for three pairs and they’ve stayed white too! Tights were an interesting purchase. I bought some nice H&M ones that cost a fair bit, but when she fell over the holes made them unrepairable (even with my poor needlework skills). Eventually I bought a seven pack in Sainsburys which stayed intact for her worst fall (blood and everything) so I’m pleased with that – five pairs are still in the packaging too, and I bought age 6 for the length (H is 120cm).

We’ve had tumbles and falls, climbing and playing, tripping and skipping, scootering and possibly Didicars (don’t quote me on that, it’s some kind of car I don’t get to see) and overall everything we’ve bought has survived. But there’s one thing which nothing seems to fix at all. We have tried so many ways to make it stop, but it doesn’t – the dreaded white board marker pen marks on everything. The day someone designs school uniform which doesn’t hold those blasted pen marks on them will be the day I spend all my money and stop cursing the pens!

So the final grade for school uniform? Let’s base them on the Early Years Foundation Scores, shall we?

M&S. I’d say is easily a Exceeding 3. They’re slightly more expensive but so far have lasted. I’ve had no repairs to make to anything.

Next. Ends the year an Exceeding 3 due to not being too small despite me ordering a 4. The skirt was around £6 and has lasted which is all I ever ask of anything.

Aldi. Started the year as an Emerging 1 and ending as an Exceeding 3 – due to the lasting quality and the price (had we bought it).

Clarks. Tricky one this one – for the first pair of shoes I’d say an Exceeding 3, but for the second pair an Emerging 1, going down a little. I can only hope they bring back the original shoes.

Sainsburys. For the skirts and tights we’ve bought, I’d say an Exceeding 3 – good quality, no repairs and surprisingly good. My local Sainsburys didn’t have much for clothes and the Wandsworth branch was being refitted so I couldn’t buy there initially, but the tights impressed me the most for being so hardy. I was impressed that our local one had a list of the colours for all the local schools so you know what to buy.

Matalan. Because the dress is so new I feel we can’t grade it over the year, so it’s an Expected 2, and it’s just time which will lead to a conclusion.

Sounds Like Fun – Jolly Phonics with Cartoonito

Sounds Like Fun is a new programme shown daily on Cartoonito. It uses the Jolly Phonics system – which also happens to be the one H is using at school. We’re impressed!

Sounds Like Fun With Cartoonito

Sounds Like Fun has 42 episodes in total, each based around a phonics sound – as in i, o, ee, ai and so many more. Each programme is just five minutes long, and follows the Jolly Phonics system. The Cartoonitos use a multi-sensory method to communicate each of the 42 letter sounds, teaching children to listen for the sounds in words to quickly improve their reading, writing and spelling.

I’ve watched out for some good phonics programmes, and find this is exactly what H is being taught at school – they don’t do any of the phonics songs but do each sound using the same action (puff out the candle on the pink pig cake – p-p-p vs blow the candle out on the cake) which we’re pleased with.

Sounds Like Fun With Cartoonito

At the start you’re told the sound for that episode, followed by a short film featuring key words based on that sound. These words are then spelt out and blended at the end. Already H joins in and is quick, and with each programme being so short and there being so many it keeps her attention. That also helps as there isn’t too much repetition – while I’m all for her remembering things, a good variety of episodes means there’s almost always one shown we’ve never seen.

Watching television with your child is unavoidable (I’ve found) – I love that Sounds Like Fun is a programme which complements her learning – and that she enjoys watching. I feel it has been well put together and is something I’d highly recommend if you know your child will be following the Jolly Phonics system at school and is a visual learner.

Sounds Like Fun is on every weekday at 8.45am and 4.45pm, (1.50 and 4.45pm at weekends) and each section features two episodes.

There’s a page with downloads and activities on at the Cartoonito website too! I’ve found that Sounds Like Fun is at the perfect time too – right when I’m cooking tea, so potentially she’s learning while I’m cooking. Result!

Back To School?

H has now completed two full weeks at school. We are no longer in back to school mode, so I thought it might be handy to make a note of things we’ve found out since she started.

back to school • some children may find it harder than others to settle and it’s horrible for the parent. You don’t know how your child gets on once they’re through the doors, but a traumatic drop off can make a horrible day for you. If your child is friends with another, why not try to arrange to meet up with them at drop off time so they’re walking in together? It may be they’re getting to the playground and feel quite intimidated by it.
• you will be bombarded with letters. At BritMums I got a Personal Planner and ordered it to start from September so I can log everything school-wise in it to keep organised. It’s a different kind of calendar to our everyday one, as I can make notes about school dinners so I know how many weeks we’ve paid for, and make sure all important days are properly logged. I’m finding the Personal Planner a big help. I’ll write more about it soon and will have a giveaway so you can win one as well.
• If your school is anything like ours, your child’s PE kit will stay in school until half term. Oh the horror! I asked H if she folded her kit when she puts it away to be told “I just push it in the bag, that’s okay isn’t it?” – I’m making a mental note to teach her how to fold things a bit better! *dreads half term*
• Your child will probably tell you absolutely nothing about school. This is normal. We are only finding out about what she’s done via other parents (and vice versa). H is finally starting to tell me some things which is nice. Bear in mind they’re using a lot of brain power at the moment with learning – they’ll find it tiring, and probably won’t want to talk about their day (much as we do when we’ve had a hard day at work). It’ll happen.
• The only thing which gets H out of her uniform at the end of the day is to tell her she can watch Lazytown if she gets changed. This may be bad parenting but it works. I get to do some work while she watches too, so it’s win-win. Except Cartoonito have changed their schedules. Damn you.
• I now know why people give their uniforms a wash before wearing. H’s cardigans and sweatshirts are red – and we have the red fluff balls on all our clothes.
• Buttons. Bravo you lucky parents whose uniform is adorned with zips, take pity on us buttoned ones! Never before has a buttonhole felt so difficult to someone so small – and there’s the peer pressure of PE and doing it without asking for help. I’m considering sewing some buttonholes and buttons on fabric for her to sit playing with. I realise this may be the dullest toy ever though.

phonics learning

• Books. You will be bombarded with books, lots of phonics. Lots of stories. If you’re really lucky your books won’t have words in them so you’re describing the pictures. They exhausted me! Fortunately we’re on words now, but as a parent I can see we didn’t talk about pictures in books as much as we could have. Reading words and not looking at what else is going on in the book is easy to do when you’re busy. Take five or ten minutes to stop and read and talk about the book – even if it’s only six pages. We’d read five or six books and get through them in that time – we’ve slowed right down. Everything is slowing right down.
• There will be songs your child sings that you don’t know. YouTube is usually your friend.
• You can never have too much uniform. Already one pair of tights has a hole.
• If your child is starting reception, you’ll be like most of us and grumble about the long settling in and short hours. Actually having come out of it, it made sense why they do it – everyone does it (it’s not like some kids stay longer and others are sent home – everyone goes home at the same time). Now the first full week is over she’s less tired than she was (but still tired). After school clubs won’t be offered for the first term as they like children to settle in first – I’m hoping for a couple after Christmas when I’m sure she’ll be ready.

First Aid Kit
• Bumps in the playground. Yesterday H came home with a big graze on her knee after a boy pushed her over. We have some wipes and plasters ready in a first aid kit so patched it up and it’s healing now. In fact you may need all sorts – check you’ve got the basics in anyway, as in, antiseptic wipes, plasters and bandages – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Fortunately we have a super new First Aid Kit so we’ll be fine!
• Don’t forget vitamins. For ALL the family!

Boots have put together a Back to School chart with loads of handy hints from other bloggers – you may want to have a read and get prepared now, especially if your child is set to start next September. Nursery has taught us some of these things, but it doesn’t hurt to have another read and there are many things I’d never thought about before now.

We were sent a first aid kit from Boots for this post, but all content is mine.

Munchkin Bento

We’ve been sent the new Munchkin Bento Box to try – and with school imminent it has come at a good time!

Munchkin Bento Box

Munchkin Bento Boxes are perfect as a starter for your child to make lunchtimes a bit more interesting. It fits into a backpack perfectly, we haven’t tried with a Book Bag yet. I really like the separate compartments – they’re nice and airtight too, we (accidentally) kept some chopped apple in one which didn’t discolour for 48 hours! I tried the apple and it still tasted fine as well.

H will have school dinners to start with, though I haven’t ruled out lunches so we’ll be well prepared, so for now we’re using the Munchkin Bento box for daytrips. Today we headed to Reigate Fort and for a short walk along the South Downs Way, somewhere there’s plenty of seats to sit down and have a snack or two when you need them.

I packed some cucumber and carrot in one section, with blueberries and grapes in the other. In the main section there were a pack of Pom Bear shapes, mainly as I decided if we needed something a little more substantial we’d eat out – this was just for being out and about. Everything fitted fine anyway!

You have one main section which would hold small sandwiches fine, possibly a drink (although at school I’m guessing they’d have water rather than take in their own?), with the small sections fine for fruit and vegetables. The main section has a cover which will stop any food getting caught in the knife and fork in the lid, with the two small sections having airtight lids – they’re firm enough to put on and easy enough for a 4-year-old to remove. My next step is to try some food which might leak to see how we get on – I’ll report back!

The lid has a spoon and fork which clip in safely. There’s more information over here at the Munchkin site. The novelty of having food in sections is something H really isn’t getting tired of, every trip is an adventure wondering what her next snacks could be. It reminds me a bit of the Tupperware containers we had in the eighties, but airtight!

Munchkin Bento Box

All parts of the Munchkin Bento Box are dishwasher-safe, but top shelf only. We’ve washed ours a few times now and have had no problems at all.

Underneath the box is a space to put your child’s name – I’ll be adding H’s with the Stamptastic stamp as that will hold firm, though it would be perfect if you could do this on the fork and spoon too!

You can follow Munchkin on Facebook and Twitter

We were sent the Munchkin Bento Box for review, all opinions are our own.

Starting School

H is starting school next week. There, I’ve said it. Actually, I’ve said it everywhere.

Starting school is such a big thing – mainly for the parents I think! It doesn’t matter how many times I repeat it, it still hasn’t quite sunk in. We’ve all been there, we all remember the good and bad times and now it’s becoming a reality for our little ones. Slowly one by one Facebook friends are posting photos of their children in their new, oversized uniform as they all start their journey.

Back to School - 2013

We have uniform – lots of. Some might say too much. I’ve kept Marks & Spencer, H&M, Aldi, the school uniform supplier and the school going with my money, as well as a last-minute fitting for shoes in Clarks. Friends have passed on old bits of uniform, a book bag and a PE bag too. I know the Children’s Centre attached to the school sells a lot of second-hand uniform for around 50p a time.

Somehow everything we’ve bought has cost over £100. Fortunately we’ve had help from family to meet all the costs so it wasn’t too hard on our bank balance, so now we’ve got to hope everything lasts! We have so much but my thinking is if I can have five full days of uniform before washing then that’s good. There’s another thing which changes, see. I no longer have my day off in the week – I’m going back to five days in the office.

Label-wise I’ve got the Stamptastic stamp pad which has marked all the clothes, as well as the Bandino cup band which will have her new cup labelled and ready. I bought some Clarks shoe labellers (at £3.50) as the insides of her shoes are black and I couldn’t use the Stamptastic pad, which is the last thing we need to do.

She’s having school dinners to start with, but we do have a fabulous Bento Lunchbox that we’re reviewing which I’m really impressed with so far and is very child-friendly.

I have various iPad apps ready to complement her learning – the Biff, Chip and Kipper one, quite a few numeracy ones and loads of phonics ones as well, she’s going to be overloaded with learning. I know the first thing they’re working on is syllables.

I guess all I have to do now is pack her book bag and we’re ready. Gulp.