Cooking with children

Cooking with children, is an activity that I have done, with, both, my own children and the ones, I used to child mind. You can simply let the children help with baking, my own used to like to stand on a chair, beside me, so that they could reach the kitchen worktop and help to stir and mix the ingredients together, then spoon the mixture into the cake cases, fb_img_1487325450145they also liked to lick out the mixing bowl, but be aware, that cake mixture, will contain raw eggs. Children love to help with pastry too, mince pie making were a favourite, as they could roll out the pastry1487415516497870906265 and fill the tarts with the mincemeat. Let children have some of their own pastry, to cut shapes  and decorate with raisins and sultanas.

A favourite with the child minded children, was at Easter, when we made Easter nests, by mixing  shredded  wheat with chocolate and spooned it into nest shapes, when cool place 3 or 4 mini eggs inside and even pop a yellow chick ( widely available for little cost, at this time of year) on top.

At Christmas, we made marzipan fruits,14873257889971747268941 by simply colouring the marzipan with a little food colouring and making fruit shapes, to achieve the mottled effect of orange skin, gently roll the marzipan against the fine side of a cheese grater1487359342886836071372, then push a clove  into the top, for the stem, cloves also look effective on an apple, as the core, or a stalk at the end of a banana.

Don’t forget the simplest idea of  mixing rice crispies, or corn flakes with chocolate, to make cakes1487356919476921750549, that even young children can prepare, with little supervision, as these won’t require cooking. My  son used to enjoy making cookie dough, for the child minded children to  roll and cut out Christmas themed shapes, they would decorate when cool with tubes of coloured icing.

Cooking with children can also  be a good way of encouraging them to talk, about anything that  may be worrying them, as they are not having to look an adult in the eye, but  can carry on with what they doing, while chatting.

Always take care when children are in the kitchen, keep them away from a hot oven and ensure that sharp knives are well out of harms reach ( as they should always be!)


As always questions/ c14873585920681801693185comments are welcome.



If anyone wants to contact me directly, do so by email: karendennis1@btinternet.com


Saving Westacott park

Back in 2004, I launched a campaign, to get the out dated play equipment in Rock park, Barnstaple , up graded. You can read about this in my earlier post, titled power to the people. I, have now, been made aware  of a similar campaign to save Westacott park.

Westacott park is a small park on Westacott Road, Whiddon valley, Barnstaplefb_img_1485636014960. When I lived in Whiddon valley, many years ago, I used this delightful park on a weekly basis, taking, not only, my own four boys, but also the children I was child minding, at the time. This green space  in the centre of the housing estate, is enjoyed by  child minders, workers on their lunch break, families with children and dogsreceived_1448608445171948 and the elderly.

The council are now looking  to build a road  through this area, to access more housing, meaning that the play park and football pitchfb_img_1485975917939, would be destroyed, the council state that it would be too expensive  to use the main road  and that cutting through the park area is the most cost effective.

A group of Whiddon valley residents, headed by Marcella Priest Roberts,Jilly Thomas Wheatley and Emma Cullen Lerwill have started a campaign  to try to save this beloved place. Louise Hedges,  has started a facebook page,fb_img_1485509387877 which at the time of writing has over 30 members.

Melanie McKenna, a fellow child minder at Melandrew daycare, contacted a reporter of the local paper, who made a feature of the fight.1485981388027-1552493061

This has been going on for several years now, the residents of Whiddon valley are not only concerned about loosing their park, which was stipulated as a designated green area, when the original plans were drawn up, but also that an increase in traffic and fumes, could harm their children and pets.

There is a petition in place to save Westacott park, I have now, literally, just been notified  the residents have been informed that the planning for the new houses and road have been refused, this doesn’t  mean that the war is over, as the council are going to re submit  new plans, but, for now, the park is safe. Please help by signing the petitionfb_img_1485976038403.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



If anyone wants to contact me directly do so by email: karendennis1@btinternet.com


Adopting a dog from the dog’s trust

Continuing, my theme of pets for children, I thought that as many parents will consider getting a dog to complete their family, at some point, my experience of adopting a dog from the dog’s trust,img_20170127_094425 may be helpful.

When we lost our beloved German Shepherd dog, Keira,fb_img_1485516135985 we were devastated.

We bought her back in 2006, from an extremely good breeder, unfortunately in 2007, I suffered a stroke, meaning that all  dog duties fell upon my husband, whereas I had been the one to do it before.

Alec, my husband, decided immediately after loosing Keira, that he needed to get another dog, as soon as possible, as he missed the walks. We looked into getting another German shepherd, but then Alec thought that a small dog would be easier. He had owned a jack Russell, as a child, so decided to get  another of these. He started looking on the dog’s trust website http://www.dogstrust.org.uk and then went to the page of our local re homing centre in Ilfracombe. There he discovered lots of photos of dogs, of various shapes and sizes all looking for homes, next he contacted the kennels and made arrangements for a visit. Once there, he was introduced to several different breeds of dogs that he liked, but when he shown 2 16 week old Jack Russell brothers, they stole his heart, he told the kennel maid, that he would defiantly  like to give one a home, but which one? One of the puppies, named Bob, had already been reserved, leaving Jake, for us. The dog’s trust asked for details of our veterinary surgeon , who gave such a good report about us, that a home visit wasn’t needed and we were approved as suitable candidates.

Two weeks later, we brought Jake home, we paid£100 for him, which included a yellow dog’s trust collar and lead,64191_fc a voucher, worth£75, to cover the cost of getting him neutered, he was also fully vaccinated and micro- chipped. He settled into his new home immediately,fb_img_1485516043097 the only slight problem, we encountered was that he wasn’t keen on our cat, Socks,1478459341798541924815 the cat, wasn’t over impressed either! but we soon overcame this.

After, about a month, we received a phone call from the dog’s trust  to make sure that everything was going well , for both ourselves and Jake, which it was.

We have had Jake, in our lives for almost two years now, he is a wonderful, little dog, who is full of character, he has quite a fan club in our neighbourhood, being loved by adults, children and other dogs, we always say that he was the one who rescued us, rather than the other way around!

I have also written an earlier post on do and children make a good mix.

I would recommend using the dog’s trust to anyone thinking of getting a dog all of their dogs are temperament tested and health checked before  given for adoption, so how can that not be good?

As always questions/comments are welcome.



If anyone wants to contact me directly do so by email: karendennis1@btinternet.com


Planning child minding activities to suit everyone

As, a child minder,you are at an advantage, over a larger setting, such as a nursery, in my opinion, anyway when it comes to planning activities for the children in your care. For example,  I like to think that, when I was a child minder, I knew the children I looked after really well and could, therefore plan activities to suit individuals.

I had one boy, who loved vehicles and anything associated with them, so we went out together , for a walk, taking my camera with us. I let Mark, take photos of road signs,14846775908181023193962 under supervision, to ensure the camera didn’t get damaged. We discussed what each sign meant the different shapes and colours, as we came across them, When we got back to my house,  I set up the computer and Mark helped 1484678889410-939419300me to print off his photos, he managed to feed the paper into the printer with a little guidance and he pressed the appropriate buttons ( this covered the I.T.C, section, of the early learning goals).

Another boy, I looked after, was struggling and showed little interest in activities. He had recently been to the cinema, with his family, to see the film Madagascar, which he loved, so I planned an activity, for him, around this. I took him to the library, where we searched together, for books about animals featured in the film and discovered one on meercats and lemurs1484939516471-1521483571., back home , we looked at the book, talked about the animals – how many legs they had, what they may eat and so on, I also encouraged him to draw his own pictures of the animals and  to colour them in the correct shades of colour, by referring back to the book.

Tim, was not a bright child and I was struggling with activities to cover the mathematical early learning goal, with him. Tim enjoyed playing with the toy cars,1484594148494331204821 in my playroom and one afternoon, my husband was at home doing some D.I.Y.so he made a wooden ramp for Tim to slide the cars down. He loved this new game, so when he sent a vehicle down the ramp1484593598761-1505918606-2 I encouraged him to measure how far it had travelled, Tim would not have understood the concept of c.m’s  so instead, we used cars as a measuring tool. e,g, the red car moved a distance of 6 car lengths.When writing my observation, of this activity later,  I said that as Tim progressed and began to understand numbers better, we would re visit the activity and use a ruler or tape measure to calculate the distance using c.m’s this time, so he learnt math’s language.

Another child, who was also a little slower than average, was having trouble learning the names of colours. Each time I asked what colour an object was, his younger sister, would reply for him, I came to the conclusion that he really had no idea where the names of colours were concerned, so instead of asking, “What colour is this?” I held up a blue crayon and told him, “Freddie, this is blue, can you find me another blue one, please?” Freddie liked this game and found it quite easy to recognise the same colour and eventually he started to tell me the names of the colours as he picked them up.

One warm, sunny afternoon, I set up an activity in my garden, I put some empty cardboard boxes and other junk making materials14845946662301375820170 on a rug on the grass. We sat together and began making models. I also had an 18 month old baby, in my care, that day, who wanted to join in, so I presented him with a small box and some masking tape.1484594965061-1834527881 He spent a considerable amount of time concentrating sticking pieces of tape onto his box and pulling them off again. He giggled as he did this, while also watching the older children constructing their models.1484594702482-488036860

Another group of children, I was minding were enjoying having running races in my garden. I had a disabled child at the same time,  to ensure that she didn’t miss out, I took them all to the local park, when the children started to race I ran pushing Mary in her wheelchair along side them14845992819271321530432, She screamed in delight and stretched out her arms, pretending she was an aeroplane

These are only a few examples of ways that activities can be amended  to suit children  at different stages of learning and development. Use your imagination and have fun helping children to learn as they play.

As always questions/comments are welcome.



If anyone wants to contact me directly do so by email:karendennis1@btinternet.com.


Settling in a new child minded child

When I worked as a child minder, I, found that most of the new child minded children,settled in remarkably quickly. I have written, in more detail, about a particular child, who took a little longer, in an earlier post, titled child minding tales- separation anxiety.

I think, it is actually,more distressing for the parent, than a child, when they first start going to a new child minder. Some parents ask, if they can stay for a while, but this can just prolong the upset (for the parent).

In, my experience, a child may cry, as the parent goes to leave and as soon as they are out of sight, they stop complaining, start playingnumbers, have a great day and then sometimes cry again when mum arrives to collect them, this time because they don’t want to go home! This must be very upsetting to witness, as the adult thinks her child has been miserable all day, so I always mentioned this scenario, at the first interview, if the parents seem concerned.

I, often encouraged another child, who had been with me, for a while, to help with settling in a new child. For example, I would suggest to the established child, that he show Jimmy, where we hang up our coats1484074267619692434659, or suggest that child A, invite child B to join in with the make believe tea party1484074882381-1150509823 and so on. Children often take more easily to other children, than to adults. Using this method, also gives the original child a sense of responsibility,which makes them feel good about themselves.

I, had one 4 year old, who was particularly good at helping me with this task. He was very interested  in a six month old baby, who had just started in my setting. We were having lunch together, one day, as I offered the baby a spoonful of his dinner and he opened his mouth wide, like a baby bird,148407413338741532143  the older boy suddenly noticed that the little one didn’t have any teeth. “Oh, look, Karen, he has lost all his teeth!” hew exclaimed, in shock, I explained that Bobbie, hadn’t lost his teeth and that because he was still a baby, his teeth hadn’t come through yet.Every morning, after that the boy would ask, as he arrived if Bobbie had teeth yet!

On a similar subject, another child, this time a girl, was very taken with a new younger child. About 6 months, or so, after the older child had started with me, the younger one started walking, for the first time1484079859363281416762 ( I never told a parent, if their child took it’s first step, while with me, as I wouldn’t want to rob them of that precious moment). The older child was so excited, her mum actually thanked me, the following day, saying that, when her daddy, had come home from work, she couldn’t wait to tell him what had happened, while she was at her child minders that day.  Her mum went on to say, that as her daughter was their youngest and they didn’t plan on having any more children, she would never have had this experience unless she was with a child minder, she also attended a pre school, but as all the children there, where of a similar age , she wouldn’t get to see anything as exciting their either.

As I have already mentioned  most children settle with a new child minder quite quickly and easily. It amazes me, how, when I took a new child to a toddler group session, with many other ladies present, they seemed to instantly know, it was me,1484165773391-1712992274 they had to return to after playing in a group with other children.

I had several of my minded children for many happy years, often, when they left to go on to nursery or school, a younger sibling would take their place. Sometimes, the older child, would return during the school holidays, meaning even more fun.

As always comments/questions are welcome.



If anyone wants to contact me directly do so by email: karendennis1@btinternet.com


Review of oxotots

When oxo tots got in touch and asked if I would review some of their products, I, immediately enlisted the help, of family friend, Ann and her 14 month old daughter, Arya.

Sippy Cup


Oxo tots sent me their tall sippy cup, suitable for 9 months plus, priced £7.60. This has non-slip grips on both sides and even has a ridge, along the top, to prevent tiny noses from being squashed, while drinking. Ayra took to the cup straight away, although Ann, did wonder , if it may be a little too big, it wasn’t, it didn’t leak, at all and Ayra had no trouble, at all using it. It has become, her favourite drinking vessel, by far.


Divider Plate


The divider plate, priced at £8.50 is great, as it has sections for different food types, which means that the food doesn’t touch each other, therefore Ayra could taste, each different flavour (this, may , work well for picky eaters, who are fussy, about certain food types). Ann reports that the dip section, in the centre of the plate, made, it even more special, for them, as Ayra loves gravy,so extra gravy, was placed in the centre.


The curved sides, of the plate, meant that the food didn’t slide around, while she was learning to use the cutlery. And, the fact, that this can be removed,when the child, is ready is an asset too. There is also. a removable ( helps when washing-up) rubber ring on the bottom, to prevent the plate from sliding around the table top.

Fork & Spoon Set


The fork and spoon set, suitable from around 12 months, costs £7. These were easy for the little girl to use, as they are light weight and the perfect size for her hands, the anti-grip sections,meant she didn’t struggle to keep hold of them.


Ann, Ayra’s mother gives, all of the above products ten out of ten, she would recommend them and says that they are well worth the money. The products can be purchased online via their website which you can visit by clicking here

Disclosure: we were gifted these products for the purpose of the review, but all opinions are that of myself, Ann and Ayra.

As always, comments/questions are welcome..

If anyone wants to contact me directly, do so by email: karendennis1@btinternet.com





Balancing your child minding books

Rebecca, a registered child minder, has suggested this weeks topic.

As, a registered child minder, you should be invited to attend meetings and courses, on the basics  of keeping child minding accounts, for the inland revenue. As. a self-employed person, record keeping is your responsibility14811922979961496224779, you can, of course, hire an accountant to do this for you and there are many companies, who will offer help, but, as most child minders wouldn’t be able to afford this luxury, doing-it-yourself, seems a better option.

I always kept my own income and expenditure records, quite simply, in an exercise book,although there are specialist books and worksheets available to buy, from a variety of suppliers.

If, you opt to do your own, always keep all receipts. ( I used to put mine monthly in separate recycled old envelopes). As well, as being able  to claim large expenses, against your tax, such as, start up costs, like safety equipment, for your home, maybe safety gates, a fire guard and the compulsory fire blanket1481309930175-154059594, plus the cost of buying toys1481137386076-201021556, you can also put a percentage of utility bills and any rent, if you rent your home ( when I was a child minder, this was 10%, but it may of changed now, so do check). First aid qualifications and other training can be quite costly, so claim for these too.

Don’t forget to include  the smaller expenses,  they all add up to a considerable amount, like the cost of attending toddler group sessions14811376873832033180144, if you visit several each week, as I did, it will cost more than you realise, although, you are able to charge this to the child’s parent, if you write it into the contract, at the first interview, see my earlier piece, for more information on this. I used my car to take the children out ( with written consent from parents)on trips further afield. I kept a track of my mileage, by setting the mile counter on my car speedometer, also keep car parking fee tickets, as these can add up quite quickly.

I often took the children to a soft play1481136913851-342010868 facility, where I would buy myself a coffee, while watching the children play, I put this through my books, as if I wasn’t a child minder, I would be drinking coffee at home, not buying a more expensive one, while out!

I also purchased ice creams, for the children on a warm day, the ice cream seller, most likely won’t issue a receipt, but you can still claim it as an expense. I once, had a lovely parent, offer to pay for an ice cream, for all the children, I was taking out on a particular day, as she said I was using my petrol to take them out and she wanted to help by buying treats, until I explained that it was all tax deductible

I always found the H.M.R.C. to be very helpful, if I ever needed advice and the self assessment forms they issue every April are not as horrific, as they appear, at first glance, if you tackle them calmly and slowly.

Subscription to magazines, like Nursery world and nursery education are another expense, you may not think of claiming for, I found both of these publications, invaluable for activity ideas and for obtaining posters to display, in my playroom. Spending money on marketing your child minding business, is also money well spent,( I have written on this, in an earlier post) you have to speculate to accumulate, is a saying, I think.

As always comments/ questions are welcome.



If anyone wants to contact me directly do so by email: karendennis!@btinternet.com



Childminding, my story

This is a post that I originally wrote for Pacey, but when they realised that I haven’t been a child minder for many years, they decided not to use it.
For as long as I can remember,I have always loved babies, children and anything to do with them, including an interest in pregnancy and birthwoman-holding-newborn.
All I ever wanted to do, when I was growing up and spent many years playing with baby dolls1479149396553-771432280, was to get married and have children. I did get married, aged 19 and had two sons, when I was 22 and 24, sadly for my boys I then got divorced, but I remarriedfb_img_1479150632592, gained a step-son and had a third son, with my new husband, when I was 29. I would happily have carried on having more babies, until I was too old, to have any more, but, my husband, who was more practical , said we had enough. ( although, secretly, I suspect, he would have liked a daughter too!).
When I heard about child minding, it seemed the obvious choice of career, I had worked as a clerical assistant, for the Inland Revenue, before becoming a mother and had no real desire to go back to that and have to leave my children with someone else, while I was working. Becoming a child minder would mean, that I could earn some much needed money ( of which, I earned a decent amount, when I became experienced and established, as a child minder ) and look after my own children at the same time. When I first started, my three eldest, where at school, so being a child minder, also meant that my youngest had play mates, during the day,.when they were all in school, it also meant that I didn’t have to miss out on important events, such as, sport’s day1480705160271-238706723s and Nativity plays. It sometimes meant taking a few child minded children along with me, but we all benefited from these occasions.
I made the initial enquiries and was invited to attend an informal preregistration meeting, to find out more. At this time, such events were organised by Social Services, but it is different now. After attending this and liking what I learnt, I took the next step and a lovely lady came to inspect my home for suitability, she approved the house and left me with a lot of paperwork to complete, including C.R.B( criminal records bureau). checks, for both myself and my husband ( my boys were also C.R.B. Checked when they reached 16 years of age).
Three months, or so, later I received my Registration Certificate, of which I was extremely proud and my child minding journey began.
I worked as a child minder for 14 years, achieving OUTSTANDING at my last inspection.
Sadly ill health forced me to give up,20160927_114207 almost ten years ago, but I still have many happy memories, am still in touch with many of the children and their parents, and am proud to say that two of them refer to me as their second mum.
I hope to make a full recovery and one day be able to go back to this wonderful vocation.
I can’t say that I found anything about child minding a challenge, as I had a lot of support from the Devon Childminding association (D.C.M.A.) and was an active member of their child minding network, saying that it defiantly helps if you are organised, as there is a lot of paperwork to get through and when I was full I would spend more time writing up notes for Ofsted,early years than I did with the children. I feel. I must point out that I never attempted to do the paperwork, while I had children present, but did that, in the evenings, after they had gone home. Having an inspection can also be a stressful time, but I used to look at it, as a chance to show off how good a child minder I was!
The best part of being a child minder for me, was that , as I have already mentioned, I didn’t have to worry about finding child care for my children while I worked. I have written on how child minding can benefit your own children in an earlier post.
I would recommend child minding to anyone who enjoys spending time with children. You can read more of my experiences in other blog posts and in my e-book, also called the next best thing to mummy, available to download from Amazon shop to an electronic device.
If this has inspired you to become a child minder, contact your local authority (L.A.)or pacey http://www.pacey.org, for more information. Happy Childminding!

As always comments/questions are welcome.



If anyone wants to contact me directly do so by email:karendennis1@btinternet.com.


Memories of donkeys

received_10155528320653345For, as long, as I can remember,I have always wanted my own horsefb_img_1479460978010. I wished for one, every time I blew out the candles on a birthday cake, asked1479327072239-1619709578 Santa each Christmas and so on. I even came up with an idea that if I married a rich farmer, when I grew up, then I would get my horse. Years later, I mentioned this to my son, to which, he replied, ” Oh, mum, you ended up with dad!”  I think I did extremely well there! But still no horse.20160930_103237

When I was a child, we often went, as a family, to Westward Ho! beach, we were excited to  discover that there were donkeys there giving ridesreceived_10155528320653345, surly a donkey is similar to a horse, isn’t it? My sisters and I approached the donkey man, who we later found out was named Pete, and asked him if we could help, with his donkeys. He said, “Yes,” after all, this meant that he could sit back  in his deckchair, topping up his tan, while we did all the leg work, he still took the money and would lift tiny children onto a donkey.

One day, we arrived at the beach, before the donkeys. The tide at Westward Ho! comes right up to the pebble ridge, leaving no sand, so the times the donkeys worked depended  on the tide times, this worked in our favour, as when the donkeys arrived, in the converted horse box,1479063355433-1905409552 it meant we could also help to tack them up ( put on the saddles and bridles), meaning be able to spend even more time with them. We then walked the donkeys over the pebble ridge,  something that had to be seen to be believed, many tourists took photos of this.

Once on the sand, one of us, often me, would take an empty bucket and go in search of fresh water, the nearby amusement arcade were happy to supply this. We then waited for children to come for rides, if my memory is correct, it was 50p a go. We basically,lead a donkey each a short distance along the sand, turned around and went back, Pete owned 13 donkeys, in total and I must say, they were extremely well looked after, the reason he had so many, was so that he could vary which ones he used, giving them a day off from time to time, as he only used 3 or 4 each day. They all had there own characters, my favourite was called Crumpet.

We also went to several donkey derbies,14790622797481104106285 because  we knew the donkeys so well, we worked out that  if you were given the best donkey and managed to stay on then you would likely win. Sometimes there was a tote, where visitors to the donkey derby were encouraged to place small bets  on the donkeys and riders.( I think profits went to local charities). We used to make bets, using our pocket money and knew that if a child  had their own riding hat, rather than one supplied by the event, it usually meant that they knew how to ride and therefore, if they were given a fast donkey, they would likely win. We came away in profit, more often than not!

Pete made sure that we got the best donkeys, for our races, as a reward for all our help at the beach. Other riders, who didn’t help, complained, once that we were being favoured, so the organiser decided that he would allocate the donkeys to riders, rather than Pete. Lucy, a slow donkey, was chosen for me, however, when I given my animal to get on, Pete gave me a sly wink. Once mounted, I leaned forward to pat Lucy’s neck, it was then that I realised why he had given me a wink. I had Crumpet, my favourite and fastest donkey, to the untrained eye, Lucy and Crumpet were identical, until  you stroked them, Lucy, you see, had been used to pull a cart, before becoming a beach donkey and therefore had a muscly neck. Once again, I won my race  and as the organiser had thought he had chosen my donkey, there were no reasons to suspect foul play, so we were never questioned again. I would now like to apologise to any child  who was beaten by myself, but that’s life and you can’t win them all!

Sadly, I never did get my horse, but spent several  happy years  riding other peoples horses, until I suffered a stroke and had to give it all up. I am hoping to have a go at riding for the disabled next year, so watch this space.fb_img_1482516879152

As always questions/comments are welcome,



If anyone wants to contact me directly do so by email: karendennis1@btinternet.com