Tag Archives: parenting

Inspirational mum Fiona from Bitzbags

Fiona Gowing

Fiona Gowing

As a mum in business I love to celebrate the successes of other mums in business. This week we have an interview with the inspirational mum Fiona from Bitzbags.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your family?
My name is Fiona Gowing, I have been a qualified Occupational Therapist (OT) for 17 years and have worked both in the UK and internationally. However, when I had my children, Ben & Ella, I decided to have a career break. It was while I was a stay at home mum that I decided to set up a childminding business and that’s when I had my light bulb moment: a new children’s product idea.

Why did you decide to launch your business?
Inspired by my children Ben and Ella and while running my childminding business I was looking for a play to pack away solution for fiddly kids toys. I dreaded the noise of a full box of Lego being tipped out onto the floor as it was time consuming to tidy up and the kids often wanted to go from one activity to the next, as fast as possible! The only products that were on the market were plastic storage boxes (which the kids loved to just tip out onto the floor), and mats with lengthy pull cord (which isn’t suitable for a child due to safety reasons). So I had to design something new.

Mess with NO stress (twitter)
Could you tell us a little about your business?
I designed Bitzbags a new 2 in 1 portable storage solution. It’s made up of a square mat, with detachable bag. The drawstring free design on the bag is what makes the Bitzbags design different.
I started the business from home, making my first batch of Bitzbags from my kitchen table to test the market at local fairs. Then, outsourcing the manufacturing enabled me to launch the product nationally in August of last year. We have exhibited at large Childcare Expo events in Edinburgh & London, and we are stocked in local retail shops. We are also available online through www.bitzbags.com and an early years resources website www.imagido.co.uk.

How are you finding it fits in with your family?
Owning your own business is hard work and I have been fortunate to have a very supportive husband and also to have the support from business start-up services such as Entrepreneurial Spark www.entrepreneurial-spark.com, Bright Ideas Scotland and Business Gateway. In regards to family life I am able to run my business around school pick-ups and drop offs and even get my children to be involved in the business! For example, they loved being involved in the photoshoot for our marketing materials and packaging, telling me that they “feel famous”, aww…

Anything else you wish to tell our readers?
I would encourage anyone out there, thinking of starting a business, to give it a go! This is the decade of the female entrepreneur, there has never been a better time for women to start their own businesses’ with a vast array of start up support specifically tailored for female businesswomen. So give it a go, dream big, and make it happen today.

At my Lingotastic classes I use a similar idea of wrapping up ducks in blue fabric ready to pull out as we start the song, or all the stuffed animals we use in story, wrapped in fabric so I can quickly get them out when we read the story.

Fiona kindly sent us a bitzbag to trial. My daughters were really pleased, I found my son’s outgrown Lego so they could play with it. I’d been meaning to do it for a while.
As she has said earlier it is brilliant for Lego and the brilliant storage bag is great if you want to put it away quickly to play later or take out with you.
If we’ve inspired you to buy your own (I’m not on commission) visit www.bitzbags.com

If you would like to see more of the Bitzbags products (including the new outdoor bitzbags visit www.bitzbags.com and follow them on Facebook, twitter, instagram and Linkedin.

Language learning à Paris

Language learning à Paris

If you follow us on twitter and Facebook you will know Pascal our French puppet has been out and about in Paris during May half term. Can you guess what he saw?

Our nine year old had been asking to go to Paris for a while. We found a good deal on the Eurostar and the most amazing apartment, Le Loft at Chez Bertrand.We’ll be posting a blog soon about our tips for visiting Paris with children.

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As you can see we had a lot of fun seeing the sights. As a family of language learners, of course we had to learn or improve our French as well. Hearing and reading so much French meant us grown ups were using it much more than usual. I realised when crossing the road I automaticly gave instructions in French “Vite!” “Allons-y!” “On y va” The children responded as if they understood. The girls were reading on the Metro “Sortie” Whilst looking around Notre Dame my youngest daughter said “that sortie is closed”.
After a busy day my daughter came home and flopped on the bed. Daddy asked “Est-ce que tu est fatiguée?” My daughter thought this was a very silly word so often said “I’m fatiguée” and “Je suis fatiguée”. Our son has studied French to year 9 and I was surprised how much he used on holiday, as his last school French lesson was two years ago.

Each morning We went to la boulangerie to buy le pain. The children helped write the shopping list. Les bonbons was their favorite thing to write. It was not all unhealthy though. My daughters found some apples with stickers to decorate them “tête du Pomme” I’ve not seen them enjoying apples so much before. In the supermarket the girls were really excited to find l’escargot. Strangely enough, they did not fancy eating them.

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We toured the notable landmarks in Paris and heard others speaking French. The children were really excited to see the famous landmarks in real life. Our Jasmin was so excited about the Eiffel tower I thought she may pop! As you may see from the pictures it was a very wet few days, one day it was so damp we could not see the top of the Eiffel tower and the Seine was close to bursting it’s banks. A few days later The Louvre was closed to move priceless paintings up a floor to safely and the Notre Dame was also at risk of flooding.

We visited Parc Asterix which Maik had wanted to visit for 25 years. We had a lot of fun and read and heard a lot of French there. The rides were really good for all our ages. We’ll tell you a lot more in a blog so stay tuned.

When in Paris we stumbled upon an amazing museum of Language and linguistics called Mundolingua. It was just up our street and really interactive so the kids enjoyed it as well. We could have spent much longer there than we did. It was huge fun and we’ll have a blog all about it on the way.

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Our time in Paris was a great boost to all our families French learning and gave them us real life examples to hang our language learning on.

What langauges are you learning as a family? Have you visited the country to help achieve this? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

You’ll never guess what happened on Friday!

On Saturday I went along to Mumsnet workfest 2016. I was still very surprised to be going along. Twenty two hours before I did not know I was going! I got a tweet from Barclays to say I’d won a pair of tickets. I looked at the website and was so excited about the line up. Just a quick call to my hubby to chat about childcare and I was all set to go. The Mumsnet workfest looked to be aimed as mums returning to work after maternity leave. I figured there were a couple of seminars that looked really good and it was a great opportunity to network.

The most surprisingCath andMe part of the day was when I met Cath. I arrived early and got chatting to another he. She had an awful lot in common with me. I’m from Bradford, and she lives there now. We both LOVE languages, especially German, so we chatted about that, about our families, and the Lingotastic classes I run. Anyone who has read my blogs, or met me in the flesh will know that family language learning is my passion, so another mum looking to bring more language learning into her family life and maybe run classes like mine is an absolute joy to me. Cath said this was something she’d like to do so discussed my journey and ideas for her to work towards something similar.

The first event was with the keynote panel of Karen Blackett OBE, Jo Whiley, Jess Phillips MP and Kirstie Mackey. It was awesome to hear them share their stories and “How they do it all.”Panel speaking
Karen is a truly inspirational women who has created a culture in her company which includes and celebrates family. Jo Whiley shared how through her radio career she has worked with supportive people who have allowed her to be a mum as well as an employee. The two shining light pearls of wisdom from this session were “One good parent is enough”- Jess, and “Bring the whole of you to work” – Karen. If the day had stopped there, this would have been brilliant already.

I’m self employed, so the break out session on The Key to building your business was just what I wanted to hear. It was so great to hear others stories. I heard what I know now to be true, “Starting your own business is not the easy option”. I also had the time to reflect on how lucky I am to have a hubby who has let me run a selfie2business which did not make any money for the first two years.
For the second breakout session I walked in, and the lovely Esther Stanhope was bouncing around with excitement. It was titled “How to network when you hate small talk” There were lots of brilliant little tips I could quickly put into practice. We had to break into pairs and speed network. I found out that Katie loves Bradford (where I’m from) and writing and blogging. I was so excited I took a silly selfie. She confessed that prior to this she was a selfie virgin!

Lunch was delicious restaurant quality food and great chance to network. I chatted with a bilingual Russian & English mum about what they do at home, and she said advice and support would make a massive difference to her as her daughter grows. This was a massive encouragement to me and something I am considering I how to work in practice.

 

I went along to the self esteem workshop with Kim Morgan from Barefoot Coaching. The room was pretty full. It was a high speed session including many ideas and a couple of group exercises. I came away with a revelation that as women we all struggle with similar issues which was a real eyeopener to me. Her book The Coach’s Casebook looked a good way to follow up on the session.

We were so fortunate to be able to find out “What we did next”-inspiring stories with five awesome women who were inspired to launch their own business by Workfest 2015.

I was so excited that the guest speaker this year was Matthew Syed. My hubby has been reading his book “Bounce”, so I was excited I could hear him speak. He presented so clearly. This was a real lightbulb moment, to see my own growth mindset and fixed mindset. It was a real eyeopener as a mum, to help me to encourage my own children to see that if things go wrong, failure is not final, and though failing we learn how to do it better next time.
MattSyed If you want to buy his books Black box thinking and Bounce for yourself, click through.

It was an awesome day and I came away feeling comfortable in my own skin and that I’m not doing a bad job as a mum. Not bad at all for an event I’d not heard about before the Friday.

This blog is the first in a monthly series celebrating women in business and the workplace. I believe that if something is not celebrated it can die, so I want to take the chance to celebrate some awesome women. If you’d like to write a guest blog for us get in touch.

Learning from the Romans


We spent a few days up North around Easter. As a polyglot family we could not stop language learning! We’ve visited a brilliant Roman settlement near our home in St Albans. There we learned much of the glassware found there was produced in Cologne (nearish where my mum in law lives in Germany) We took the children to see to Roman remains there last year
Cologne sightseeing guide
The most impressive part was the Praetorium discovered under the Rathaus in Cologne.

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Also near my mum in Law’s in Germany is the Varusschlacht museum. Near the site of another great wall and the site of a massive battle between the Romans and Germanic tribes Vindolanda
My son had learned some Latin at primary school with minimus This book follows a real Roman family who lived at Vindolanda (They identified them from their well preserved letters on the Vindolanda tablets) and a mouse called Minimus in the guide. My hubby has been using this book to bring back his school Latin so from the book all our Children had learned to introduce themselves in Latin. Quad nomen tibi est? Nomen mihi est Sarah. Last year they excavated a Roman Granary I’m sure that’s where Minimus loved to be. Our children had a lot of fun exploring the site and imagining what it would be like to live there in Roman times. The girls were really inspired to see the volunteers excavating as we were there. They were keen to find out how old they have to be to join in!
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I was so excited to see the real Vindolanda tablets and the actual shoes belonging to Lepidina the Prefects wife. It was amazing to see all the Roman remains found in such good condition for their age.
We visited a real section of Hadrian’s wall at Birdoswald on the way back.

As I said we bought tickets for the Roman Army museum as well. I was very different to Vindolanda. The children enjoyed just how interactive it all was, bringing the to life the Romans who were stationed here. We had chance to practice our Latin in the school room together. Picture. My favourite parts were the found Roman jewels and the film of the area from the air revealing yet another Roman fort.

Your family go learning from the Romans too. There are lots of Roman remains all over Europe. A great opportunity to let kids experience history for themselves and do a bit of language learning. Let us know where you choose to go!

Can you pass on a language without being a native speaker?

Today we have an interview with Rachel, who is teaching her daughter french, but she’s not a native speaker of french.
I’d been chatting to Rachel before. We met via the Speak to the Future LinkedIn group. I was really excited when I found out she’s teaching her own child French at home, although her mother tongue is English, like we’re doing at home.

Learning about le poisson d'Avril

Learning about le poisson d’Avril

We met Rachel in her hometown of Carlisle in the Easter holidays.

– The first question was from Emily: Why do you live in the north?

I’m from this area and my parents live here. There’s lots to do with little ones in Carlisle.

– What do you do for work?

I’m a freelance translator of French and German and private tutor of French. I also occasionally do some voluntary work in French classes in a local infant school.

– What made you want to introduce a foreign language to M?

I can see that it’s a massive advantage for her to be introduced to languages at a young age. Little ones are like sponges – they learn so quickly. She’s at an age where she’s not shy about using another language. I have the language skills so can pass them on to her. I know she won’t become bilingual through me – I’m not a native speaker and we don’t live in France – but I want her to have a good grounding in another language, to enjoy it and be confident in it. I was surprised from how early on she could distinguish between French and English and how much she has picked up.

– Do you do lessons with your little one?

No, we simply do it as part of our everyday life. She likes to watch “Pierre le lapin” (Peter Rabbit) and other English-language cartoons she knows on the tablet in French, as well as original French-language cartoons. We’ve also got some CDs of French songs – she in particular likes trying to sing along to songs on one called “Maxi Enfance”. We enjoy sharing French books and puzzles. I’ve got a French mummy friend we exchange books with, which is a great advantage.
I joke with friends that I teach her “French by torture” – we play a tickling game where I’ll stop tickling only when she says “arrête”. She often shouts “encore”!
We visit France together. Last time we were there, M bought herself a book. I explained the procedure/what to say, all in French, and she quite happily went to the counter and said all the right things at the right time, and was delighted to have “tricked” the lady into thinking she was French!
She’s just started French lessons at her preschool, so we’ll see if she lets on that she knows lots or is quiet and acts like she doesn’t know any!

"We love to share these magazines together"

“We love to share these magazines together”

Alongside learning the actual language, I also think it’s important to teach M about some of the traditions and culture of France. For example, we recently read an article together on Easter in France, from which M not only learned a couple of new Easter-related words but was also interested to find out about the “cloches volantes” that bring sweets to children in France. We also had fun making “poissons d’avril” as I taught her about this French 1st of April tradition. I was also able to use this activity to reinforce colour words with her.

– Finally, what would you say to other parents wishing to pass on their language skills to their little one?

Go for it! There’s no better time to learn than when they’re young – the younger the better! Especially if you’re a native speaker, but even if you aren’t but have the right background and skills in the foreign language. It’s fun for both of you and wonderful to see their progress.

Ever seen a confused octopus eating spaghetti?

No? Well you’ve never played randomise game then! As a family we love to play together so we jumped at the opportunity to try out this game.
With the Easter holidays coming up we thought it was a great opportunity to try it out. We were travelling up to the Lake District to visit family and the small box fitted very easily in our luggage.

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We had a very rainy afternoon where my brother and his wife were over, as well as my parents. Nine in total and a great opportunity to try out the game.

Playing cards

The rules are simple. Choose three cards, decide whether you are playing the easy or hard game and off you go!

It was soon obvious that different people preferred different ways of playing. I preferred to act it out. The younger ones preferred to draw and a couple of adults preferred to describe.
My hubby drew the cards of an ugly Hippo giving birth and had to put his we developed acting skills to full use.
My favourite was when I had to act out the giant Chicken ballet dancing. I don’t have any acting skills whatsoever so this was really quite daft!

We started playing in teams of boy verses girls except the girls kept changing sides. We gave up on scoring early on as We were in fits of giggles at many points as it was so so silly, and not able to keep a score anyway.

Can you guess what these pictures are describing?

giant lady

priest randomise

Pigeon

Let us know your guesses in the comments below.

My mum was really impressed we had an hour of fun together without screens.
Jasmin age 8 said “it was really good and funny”
Emily age 8 thought “it was good”.
Maik aged 41 Was “amazed at Emily’s creativity. She asked to borrow a phone to act out a lazy rabbit taking a selfie”

So next time anyone asks Ever seen a confused octopus eating spaghetti? you will be able to answer yes!

We were sent this game to review by Randomise.

Has this review inspired you to have a go with your friends and family?
Buy your own here.

OPOL or bust? What’s the best method for language learning?

I’ve heard it said many times that one parent one language (OPOL) is the best if not only way of family language learning. It is often held up as the Holy Grail of bilingual families.
In our home OPOL was not possible, as my husband was not keen to do this. He’d only lived in England two years by then and felt consolidating his English was most important. I’m native English and had studied German to GCSE, so started to pass on what I knew when our son was small. Maik did help me work on my German, so me and my son were learning together. We found some French books in a local shop when he was a little over a year and we started to read those to him now and again.

Il fait comment le caméléon?

Il fait comment le caméléon?


It was all very ad hoc, and in the very early internet days we did not come across anyone doing the same. I just felt it was important so we shared German books together, recited days of the week in the car, sung along to nursery rhyme CDs, counted on the swings, played with toys which spoke German and watched German DVDs together as well as German satellite TV. My thinking was to give as much language exposure as possible which he could build on in school. Yearly visits to Germany provided a good chance for him to meet German speaking people and practice speaking. Food vocab was considered most important! We celebrated German festivals like Martinstag and Nikolaustag together. It was hard work and I was not sure how much difference it was making.
A few years later my girls were born and I met a few German speaking mums with similar age children. It was so encouraging to be able to speak to someone outside our family in German and talk with them about how they brought German into their family. We shared books, DVDs and CDs which was great. We also found out about a German Lutheran church about an hour away so we were able to join with them for Martinstag and Nikolaustag.Nikolaus Boots
My children are not fluent in German but can understand a lot and communicate in the country. My son can easily pick up native accents (and mimic regional accents too) and speaks better Dutch than his parents. I put this down to hearing and using a few languages from a young age. My six year old was astounded when I told her some families only speak English.

So back to the opening question, OPOL or bust? What’s the best method for language learning?
I think there is no best way of family language learning. Raising multilingual children is a flexible and very personal process, do what works for you and your family, make it part of your lifestyle. It needs to be something which works for you and your family in the long term.
Bilingualism is a massive asset to your children in the long term and as parents we are so fortunate to be able to give it to our children. Just do what works for you all and enjoy the journey together.

What has been your family experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or you could even write us a guest blog.

Language Learning tips from a seven year old

EmilyEmily’s guide to programmes for your little ones.

Hello, my name is Emily. I am seven years old. This is my first blog. My family like learning languages. My dad is from Germany and my mum is from England and she runs classes.

There are some fun programmes which I watch to help me learn some different languages and they are French and Spanish and Mandarin.

My favourite one is the Spanish one which is called Dora and I can learn a little bit of Spanish and know more when I get older. She explores and she helps her friends if they get stuck and says to us to say these words in Spanish.

The Mandarin one is called nǐ hǎo Kai- Lan. She has friends and she speaks Mandarin and when she’s helping her friends she asks me to talk a little bit in Mandarin.

The French one is called Madeline and she lives in school in Paris and she is the youngest one out of all the eleven girls. She uses some French words and has a French accent and you get to see parts of Paris.

Hi there, Emily’s mum here. As Emily said we love languages and use every opportunity to bring language learning into our lives. These programmes are a lot of fun and bring in a few words of the target language in among lively stories and songs.

Children enjoy watching programmes so it is a great opportunity to bring language learning into your everyday family life.  We’ve found Peppa Pig in German and Mandarin on You Tube and the above programmes can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

Try Amazon Prime free for a month!

Do you have programmes your little ones like? Let us know in the comments below.

A Polyglot Christmas

As a polyglot family we think it is really important for our children to experience other cultures. To understand and empathise with other cultures is just as important as speaking the language. Winter is a dark time and midwinter festivals are there to bring light and celebration.
This week’s blog is about the midwinter festivals we celebrated as a family, our polyglot Christmas.
As a German and English family we celebrated St Nikolaus Day on 6th December. Here is a video of us finding our boots the next day.

 

We’ve done this since our children were young. It’s just what we do as family at that time of year. My middle daughter often gets embarrassed about being different, but she was really pleased to discover a few of her Polish friends celebrated St Nikolaus day, too.
Our local church held a St Lucia celebration. I was so keen to see it for myself, having heard a few others talk about it. Here is the video of the event.


After this brilliant celebration we shared some typical Swedish food together and we had the chance to talk to some children who are bilingual Swedish and English. They love that they can have lives in both countries. One girl talked with glee about the summer house her family have in Northern Sweden.

 

As a family we also light the lights of Hanukkah, remembering how God provided for his people when their temple was destroyed. Eight nights of remembering God’s goodness and the chance to learn a bit of Hebrew together.
We celebrated Christmas in the UK with my parents with English Christmas carols and mostly English traditions, though they did pick us up a few times for answering them in German. Have you had a polyglot Christmas? Let us know in the comments below.
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I hope you and your family have had a lovely Christmas. It just remains for our family to wish you and your family a very happy and blessed new year.

Sarah, Maik and family.

Shine light in the darkness -Martinstag

Today we met with lots of other German families to celebrate St Martin’s day. (Martinstag) This is commonly celebrated by all in Germany whether they go to church or not.

Sankt Martin

We heard the story of St Martin.

Sendung mit der Maus

He choose to share what he had with a beggar. In that sharing of his cloak he gave the man warmth and comfort. He stopped what he was doing to make a difference for that one man and so is still remembered today for his kindness.

German children remember this by making lanterns and walking in the dark singing songs.

During the service the children were asked about people having difficulties who needed God’s light to shine on them. The children wanted to remember those without homes, Oma and Opa, those who were sick, soldiers and those in Paris.

Kerzen

After the service we went out with about other families to shine our lights into the darkness.

We sung

“Ich gehe mit meiner Laterne,und meine Laterne mit mir,
Da oben leuchten die Sterne und unter da leuchten wir.
Mein Licht ist aus ich gehe nach Haus
rabimmel, rabammel rabumm – bumbum!”

“Laterne, laterne, Sonne Mond und Sterne!
Brenne auf mein Licht, brenne auf mein Licht aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht!
Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne”

“This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let shine, let it shine”

There were lots of home made lanterns from the very basic to intricate 3D foxes. We had some Oma sent with electric candles. We have used real candles before but they set on fire and had to be stamped out!!

We do this each year as a chance to meet with other German speaking families. It is a great visual reminder of how even a little light makes a difference in the darkness.

Do you celebrate Martinstag with your family?
How do you pass on your culture to your children?

Let us know in the comments below.

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