At what age?

When I was young, my friends and I liked to look up the ages we could certain things, the rites of passage which would lead to adulthood. Life seemed a bit freer and relaxed in the 80s, we were always out playing in the neighbourhood and would come back when we were hungry or thirsty. As my secondary school was a fair distance away, just weeks after my 11th birthday I was on a 2 bus journey to school changing buses in a busy town centre. It wasn’t a big deal and I felt able to deal with it. However times have changed and we are thinking more about at what age we’ll allow our children to do certain things.

Yesterday my daughter had her ears pierced. She is so delighted and happy as she has been desperate to have them done for years and we agreed that she could when she was ten. I don’t know why we chose ten, looking back on old photos I think I might have had mine done a little earlier, I suppose we chose an age where we hoped she would have the responsibility and care to look after herself.

As parents we are finding ourselves more and more questioning our decisions on what we allow our daughter to do, it’s a very fine line between allowing her some independence and knowing what is appropriate for her age. Last week on holiday, we allowed Little Miss to go to the mini market on site for any little bits we needed, she loved it and we were reassured as it was a car free 5 minute walk. However, I still wouldn’t let her walk to town to potter around, yet when we’re off shopping tomorrow, I will allow her to browse the girls clothes whilst I pick up a few pieces with her younger brother on the same floor.

In the final two years of our children’s primary school, the pupils are allowed to walk to and from school independently with parental permission. Whilst we have given permission, the reality is that because we walk her little brother to and from school it’s likely that we would have her in view for the journey as it’s basically one street she has to walk with a lollipop lady at the only road crossing. Little Miss also really likes the social aspect of the walk as we tend to walk with a few local families and she would miss this aspect on her own. However I would like her to have a bit of practice as she will need to walk to the local secondary school.

For Little Miss the biggie is the the age she can have a mobile phone. I think that since about Year 3, she has had peers who have had mobiles at school, this is a real big bug bear of mine, I don’t feel children need them and do not have the skills or maturity to use them properly. Some of her friends have Instagram accounts under false dates of birth, full internet access etc.. The stories I have heard at safeguarding conferences (I’m a DSL at work) only strengthen my beliefs that primary children should not have a phone. However I am also conscious that Little Miss wants to belong, feel like her peers. At present we have a compromise, where by she has my old iPhone without a SIM card at home. I control the Internet access and it is only me who downloads anything onto the phone, it is password protected at all other times, although it’s a password she is always trying to guess. She uses the phone for songs on a Spotify list we make together and a few games for car journeys etc.. It is a compromise and she is still desperate for a SIM card, she asked Santa for one last year but thankfully he was a very helpful Santa who read my cues well! Mr S and I both agree that Little Miss can have a mobile when she starts secondary school, but again there are problems here too, I would prefer her to have a simple call and text phone but there is that pressure to have a more modern version, eg camera and internet. Again with my attendance at safeguarding conferences I am only too aware of YPSI ( new term for sexting; peak age 13) and online bullying and the long term effects on a child. We have a year to make a decision.

Over the next few years I’m sure there will be more difficult questions over the age my daughter can do things. We then have our son to consider too. Our daughter is bright and savvy yet our son has some learning difficulties but is very close in age, how do we agree on an age for her and not have the same rule for him? It’s all so difficult to be fair, safe and consistent. I guess as parents we’ll analyse each situation and try to follow our instincts. Sometimes it’s not about an age but a feeling and confidence in your child to be sensible and appropriate in different situations.


My Sunday Photo #22

Im afraid that there wasn’t a photo last week as the WiFi in Cornwall was intermittent. However here’s a photo from Newquay taken on Monday. Whilst there were plenty of surfers on the beach to provide us with lots of entertainment I chose a photo of the little suspension bridge between the large rocks above the beach. I really liked the set up of the photo the symmetry of the rocks, the bridge, the sea and sand.

Butlins 2018, High Ropes, Nine Bots and Hot, Sunny Days.

Our family loves Butlins, to us its our happy place and we try to visit at least annually for a short break. Over the past 7 years we have done 11 breaks, initially to Minehead but since discovering the amazing hotels at Bognor Regis, we now drive down to West Sussex.   I don’t normally write about each trip, but our visit last weekend was special and different, it felt like the passing of time and deserving of a few words. There are some trips which we have done to Butlins which will always stand out, our first visit was our first holiday as a family and came the week of our adoption order and my first mothers’ day, we’ve also done Easter, Christmas and Halloween at Butlins which are always special for their seasonal celebrations, decorations and personal touches.  We love Butlins for its attention to detail, family friendliness and the variety of activities on offer, there really is always something to do.

Last weekend was special for a number of reasons.  Firstly the weather was stunning, we have never had such gorgeous sunshine and high temperatures at Butlins and finally got to enjoy our room’s balcony as well as al fresco dining around the site.  Mr S in very impressive form had booked me a spa experience and massage as a birthday treat and I had a wonderful afternoon in the spa.  I went from the sunshine and warmth of the outside hot tub to the snow and ice room and many more treats in between.  The massage was one of the best I have ever had and I felt so relaxed and refreshed after my spa experience.  Bonus points for Mr S!

During our little break, we realised how quickly the children are growing up.  We started going to Butlins when they were toddlers and Mr S and I  looked nostalgically at the tots funfair, the toddlers activity centre etc.. all those hours we had spent with the children  in those areas as well as watching the shows and having photos taken with their heroes, Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina etc…  This time we didn’t watch any of the children’s shows, only the evening ones in Centre Stage or Reds.  During this stay the children were ecstatic that they were now tall or old enough for new experiences.  They did the High Ropes and although they started cautiously they quickly developed the skills and confidence on the course.  They also tried Nine Bots which are junior versions of Segways.  I was worried how Little Man would cope as he has some motor difficulties, yet he was the stronger of the two and picked up the instructions and directions immediately, he was zooming around the course at such a speed and so happy with his success.  The swimming and slides were great and a welcome relief in the heat, the pool party on Saturday night with DJ and inflatables and props was especially fun .  However, we’re all looking forward to our trip next year with the new water park opening in Spring 2019 as it looks fantastic with lots of new rides and slides to try.

We found this break that Mr S and I had a little extra time too, the children are now at an age where they’re looking for a little independence and we allowed them some unsupervised parent time in the staffed areas like the games room or arranged a meeting point at the fair whilst they did the stomach churning rides that neither of us fancied.  Holidays are now starting to get a little more relaxing for us too (I’m whispering that as we have our summer holiday next week and I don’t want to jinx it!)

I can’t imagine a time when we won’t be coming to Butlins.  I only discovered it with Mr S and the children as I had never been to a Butlins resort as a child and it is now my happy, safe place.  As soon as we enter I feel relaxed, ready to have fun and make happy memories with our little gang of 4, Butlins really is special to us all.

My Sunday Photo #21

The combination of the summer holidays and a few grey days mean we’ve been creating cosy corners and settling down to read this week. I have read some excellent books, Notes on a Nervous Planet and This is Going to Hurt whilst the children are working their way through their books for the summer reading challenge, Mischief Makers. As part of the challenge this week they also attended a workshop at our local library where they learnt to draw cartoons and write a comic story. The reading challenge is a always a lovely little project and has become a summer holiday tradition.

Happy times in my kitchen …


Despite the quality of the photo, the icing was duck blue and the stars silver and purple.

One of my favourite things to do in anticipation of birthdays and special events is to plan the cake. I love baking, the flavour and filling are just as important as the decoration and I am always looking on Pinterest for inspiration and tips. Baking in the kitchen listening to my music is one of my happy times and my cakes are baked with lots of love. Mr S thinks it would be easier and cheaper to buy a shop bought version but that’s just not me, baking a cake for my family brings me real joy and satisfaction.

It’s been birthday season in the Sparkles household so here are our birthday cakes for this year. Little Miss had a glitter ball cake. It was an orange and almond sponge with a white chocolate and orange filling, covered in a turquoise icing decorated with purple and silver stars. A simple but very effective design and delicious flavour.

For Little Man, I made a football cake with a football figure, no 9 Harry Kane who was his world cup hero.  His cake was a lemon and lime marble sponge topped with a green icing and white icing for football pitch markings.  He loved it although I would have preferred something less plain as to me it did look like it was missing a little something.

Whoops I forgot to get a good picture of the cake and most have my Little Man in blowing out his candles.  This is part of the cake, imagine a football pitch with cut out icing letters spelling out his name and age. 

Whilst birthday season is now over, I’m already planning a Halloween cake with a spicy orange flavour and then a special design for Christmas.  I think this has to be the year when I finally make a Christmas cake!



Whilst its been a little while since I did a catch up, my #ecosparkles2018 commitment is still going strong.  I have tried to reduce, reuse, recycle or repair in many aspects of daily life and I’m pleased with my progress whilst acknowledging there is always more to do.  Of all my actions I think clothes is a big change, I am buying fewer items and have repaired two things in the past few weeks rather than recycle them.

However the one area I’ve really focused on is reducing my use of plastic.  There have been many articles in the media highlighting the impact of plastic on our environment and it is worrying.  I have become quite zealous in not buying plastic bags or using plastic cups this year, my count on both is zero and I have refused to purchase a drink if it is served in a plastic cup.  I always carry a drinks bottle and cafes have no problem in filling it up or in giving me a glass for my drink rather than the plastic cups they provide.  It was a real eye opener at Butlins this week on how so many national food outlets use plastic, I found paper plates and wooden cutlery but there was far too much plastic just being thrown away not even into recycling bins.  I’m used to independent cafes in our small town who are definitely more eco friendly.


It was my birthday recently and it appears my crusade has been noticed by friends too.  I got a Chilly water bottle which keeps your drink cool or hot dependent on the content and it is amazing, this is not an ad just an appreciation of a great piece of kit.  I also received some beeswax wraps to be used instead of cling film for food covering.  Again I have been pleasantly surprised by their efficiency and I’m also using Tupperware boxes for food storage too (old not new purchases as they are plastic) rather than covering in cling film.  In the shops, I look at food packaging and have found the market the greenest place for plastic free packaging, I’m the 1950s housewife with my wicker basket of fruit and veg and I rock my look! My local health food shop is also encouraging you to bring in containers to take away your product so I’ve been taking advantage of this invitation too.  I’ve been using this article for inspiration too

There is always plenty more to do, but just by making some simple changes, I feel I am helping in my own little way and am looking for new ways to be eco friendly in the months to come.

My Sunday Photo #20

This weekend we are at our family’s happy place, Butlin’s. In 2011, it was our first family holiday and we have continued to visit ever since, I think this is our 11th visit and we’ve been here for Easter, Christmas, Halloween as well as other times during the year. For us it’s just a happy and safe place where we get to play and enjoy our time together. As the years have gone on, our activities of choice have changed, it’s much more adventurous this break with High ropes and Nine bots but it’s still about a feeling, a warm, sparkly feeling of very special family times.