Wed 20 November 2019

The 12 Tips For Christmas - Festive Hacks For Parents

Take the stress out of Christmas

"It’s the most wonderful time of the year”… or it should be, but Christmas can become stressful, especially if you have children. Before your Christmas gets out of control, take a look at our "12 Tips For Christmas”, and you’ll be gliding through the festive season on a tide of peace and goodwill!

1. Get ahead of the clutter

Christmas decorations alone can give your house a cluttered feeling, never mind all the cards, presents and other festive flotsam that will be drifting into your home. Get ahead of the clutter with a one-in-one-out rule. For each new thing that comes into the house, try to recycle or donate an old one. If you can’t manage this rule at Christmas, it also makes a great New Year’s Resolution.

2. Wrap each child’s presents differently

To save sorting through the presents on Christmas Eve, wrap each child’s gifts in a different paper or style. That way you’ll be able to tell at a glance whose presents are whose and you don’t need to gift tag them all.

3. Manage the festive calendar

Christmas time can be the most hectic time for your social calendar, but don’t say yes to every event or invitation, you’ll just end up exhausted and stressed. Prioritise the important ones and politely decline the rest. Then make sure you set aside time to relax and enjoy the festive season.

4. Stock up the freezer

At this time of year cooking can be a chore, and not just on Christmas day. Time is going to be short in the run up to the big day so get ahead now. Make some easy meals in advance and freeze them, or stock up on frozen food such as fish fingers, so you can get tea on the table in a hurry when things start to get hectic.

5. Be a smart Christmas shopper

There are endless Christmas offers and sales available to tempt you to part with your cash. Whether it’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday or the January sales, be disciplined. Only buy things that you need and would have bought anyway, that way you’ll save money rather than blowing the budget.

6. Give memories not just stuff

We’re all guilty of focusing on the materialistic side of Christmas sometimes. But remember, it’s not all about having a huge pile of presents under the tree, memories can be so much more valuable than possessions, so think about giving people tickets, vouchers and experiences as gifts.

7. Get Christmas crafting

Start setting aside crafting materials such as cardboard tubes, boxes, scrap paper and string. An afternoon of Christmas decoration making will keep the kids occupied after the schools break up. For outdoor decorations, Pine cone birdfeeders will keep our feathered friends happy. Just push some fatball mixture into the spaces between the seed scales of a pine cone and attach string.

8. Go green this season

Going environmentally friendly this Christmas could save you time and money too – avoid card writing by sending e-cards, use reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper or even get creative and use recycled materials as wrapping such as these bottle bags made from old jumper sleeves. Add a decorative touch to recycled card/paper with festive washi tape – it’s cheap, decorative and biodegradable.

Christmas gifts

9. Take a tour of the Christmas lights

Twinkle, twinkle - have a fun evening Christmas light spotting. Just make a mental note of the houses and streets with the best lights, then set an aside an evening to tour them all after dark. You could even give the kids a ‘bingo card’ to check off things like Santa, reindeer, Christmas tree, snowmen, snowflakes etc.

10. Be prepared for seasonal snuffles

How predictable is it that one or all of the family will get ill at Christmas? Be prepared by topping up the medical supplies. Make sure you have Calpol, indigestion tablets, throat sweets and plasters on hand. And don’t forget to order repeat prescriptions in good time so you don’t run out over Christmas.

11. Let Santa Claus give and take

An ingenious way to get the kids involved in decluttering is to let Santa take away unwanted toys and clothes. Encourage children to make an alternative Christmas list of things they are going to leave out for Father Christmas to take away. This is also a great way to persuade younger children to part with items they’ve grown out of such as dummies.

12. Be happy with good enough

Every Christmas year does not need to be bigger and better, and your house does not have to be a show home. Putting pressure on yourself to be perfect will just crank up the stress level, be happy with good enough and focus on enjoying the festive season.

Here’s a quick reminder of our 12 Tips For Christmas:

  1. Get ahead of the clutter
  2. Wrap each child’s gifts differently
  3. Manage the festive calendar
  4. Stock up the freezer
  5. Be a smart shopper
  6. Give memories not just stuff
  7. Get Christmas crafting
  8. Go green this season
  9. Take a tour of the Christmas lights
  10. Be prepared for seasonal snuffles
  11. Give and take
  12. Be happy with good enough

Top 10 Tips For Recruiting New PTA Volunteers

Wed 18 September 2019
PTA volunteers helping with school fundraising

It’s that time of year again when every PTA is trying to get new recruits on board. If you’re finding it daunting you’re not alone, recruiting new volunteers can feel a bit like swimming through treacle. It’s important to approach the task with a positive attitude, so to keep your morale high, we’ve put together our top tips for recruiting new PTA members:

1. Plan and advertise

Make a plan for recruiting new people that involves more than just sending a pleading note home from school. Use methods such as social media, newsletters and posters. Perhaps most important is word of mouth, so ask existing PTA members, staff and even governors to spread the word within their networks.

2. Don’t just approach mums

People can get the impression that the PTA is a clique of mums, avoid this by showing the diversity of your group and approaching non-traditional potential volunteers. Try to spread the word among dads, grandparents and extended family, that the PTA isn’t just for mums. Don’t forget, grandparents tend to have more time on their hands so they can make great contributors.

3.Target new parents

Use the first term of the school year to reach out to families of children who are new to the school. People who have recently moved to the area may be particularly open to the idea of joining the PTA as a way of making new friends.

4. Sell the benefits

Perhaps most importantly, people need a reason to join the PTA so tell them what’s in it for them. Explain how the PTA will benefit them and their child, as well as helping the school. The benefits could include making friends, learning new skills, showing your child that you are interested in their education, and helping to buy equipment that will directly benefit your child.

5. Get face-to-face

Hold an event such an informal Coffee & Cake morning/evening where people can meet PTA members and ask questions about what’s involved. This will give you a chance to meet a pool of potential volunteers. Make sure you get their contact details so you can invite them to future meetings, and get them to join your Facebook group. If you don’t have a Facebook group, consider starting one today!

6. Don’t forget the staff

When looking for new volunteers, don’t just recruit from parents and families. Remember there are lots of other people involved in the school who might be interested in joining or supporting the PTA. Think about trying to involve teachers, teaching assistants, admin staff, catering staff and cleaners. You never know who might step up.

7. Use people’s talents

Get to know the background and talents of potential new members. Look out for people who are well connected in the local community or who have useful skills such as finance, marketing, art/design, baking or digital media. You could even advertise for specific roles within the PTA, or for people who have a skill that’s lacking within the current membership.

8. Be honest and flexible

Be honest about what the PTA does and what’s involved. Explain how often the meetings are and for how long, how many events are involved and any other responsibilities. If people come into it with their eyes open, they’re more likely to stick with it. Some people don’t have the time or motivation to make a regular commitment to PTA meetings; give them the option to volunteer on a one-off or occasional basis if that’s what suits them.

9. Make it fun

When new people come to their first meeting or event, make sure they feel welcome and have a good experience. Avoid disagreements and conflict, and foster a positive atmosphere. Whilst it’s important to get through the necessary business at PTA meetings, make sure you allow friendly chat and humour. Try to build an element of fun into the PTA by having social gatherings that don’t involve PTA business.

10. Maintain communication

Good communication with potential and existing PTA members is crucial. If you say you are going to follow-up with someone make sure you do it, and ensure people know how to reach you too. Even better would be to recruit or appoint someone to take a lead on communications. Tone of voice is important in written and verbal communications, keep your tone friendly, and avoid the temptation to nag people.

Over to you!

Now you’re equipped with our top tips for finding new PTA members, so good luck with your recruitment campaign. We’re sure you have lots of great ideas of your own too, so please follow our Facebook page and give us your PTA recruitment tips.

If your PTA is looking for ways to raise more money, why not start a fundraising lottery today with Your School Lottery?

Summary of Top 10 Tips For Recruiting New PTA Members:

  1. Plan and advertise
  2. Don’t just approach mums
  3. Target new parents
  4. Sell the benefits
  5. Get face-to-face
  6. Don’t forget the staff
  7. Use people’s talents
  8. Be honest and flexible
  9. Make it fun
  10. Maintain communication

15 Cheap Or Free Things To Do During School Holidays

Mon 15 July 2019
Children painting during school summer holidays

Calling all parents - if you have children who are easily bored, the Summer holidays can seem awfully long. Now you can resist the urge to occupy them with electronic games. Our run-down of 15 Cheap (or FREE!) Things-To-Do With Children during the Summer Holidays will save your sanity and your bank balance. Whatever the weather or the age of your children these ideas will keep them entertained for a while.

Things-To-Do At A Glance:

  1. Treasure Hunt
  2. Home Baking
  3. Gardening
  4. National Museums
  5. Junk Modelling
  6. Magical Mystery Tour
  7. Water Play
  8. Get Back To Nature
  9. Dressing Up
  10. Pavement Art
  11. Picnic
  12. Make a photo album
  13. Home-made Playdough
  14. Retro Games
  15. Play Shop

Treasure Hunt:

Download or draw a simple map of your local area and help the kids to navigate from one point to another using clues (perhaps offer a few hints if they get stuck). Let them find a small prize at the end to reward their efforts. Alternatively, use Google to find a ready-made treasure hunt for your local area.

Home Baking:

Bake and decorate simple fairy cakes or biscuits using basic ingredients. Try to introduce fruit, seeds and other healthy ingredients to cut down on the sugar content. Also make sure the kids help with the cleaning up as well as the eating! Check out BBC Good Food for some child-friendly recipes.


If you have a garden or yard, get the kids involved in planting, weeding and watering. Old food containers can be decorated and upcycled into fun plant pots. It’s not too late to plant fast-growing seeds like cress, so little gardeners can eat their own produce! If you don’t have a garden, look out for farms that offer pick-your-own strawberries, and remember you don’t pay for what you eat while you’re picking!

National Museums:

Many towns and cities are home to our National Museums which can be visited free of charge and offer great interactive exhibits for children. Our favourites are the National Railway Museum in York, the Science Museum in London and the World Museum in Liverpool. Many local and regional museums are also free for local residents.

Junk Modelling:

Start keeping old boxes, cardboard tubes and used wrapping paper, ready for a junk modelling session. All the kids will need is some PVA glue, paint, brushes and their own imaginations. Encourage them to create fantastical robots, cities, vehicles or abstract art! Don’t forget to help them out with cutting if necessary.

Magical Mystery Tour:

Lots of children travel everywhere in the car these days. Why not plan a fun road trip using public transport such as trains, buses or even trams? Tickets can be cheap or even free for children. Older children can get involved in checking timetables, routes and fares too. Take a picnic and visit a park or playground they haven’t been to before.

Water Play:

Water is the ultimate free kids entertainment as long as you don’t mind them getting soaking wet! Save (clean) plastic drink bottles, yogurt pots, and containers in various shapes and sizes. Set the kids up outside with buckets or a padding pool filled with water. Throw in a little bubble bath or washing up liquid for extra fun. Don’t forget to supervise them and apply sunscreen.

Back To Nature:

Why not have a day out in the countryside or your local park. Kids will love activities such as bark rubbing, bug hunting and feeding the birds (with bird food rather than bread). If you have a garden pick a few leaves or flowers and try pressing them until they’re dry, then they can be used for collage-making, but don’t take flowers from your local park!

Dressing Up:

Before you take those old clothes to the charity shop, put a few interesting or colourful garments and accessories aside to create a dressing up box. Ask relatives if they have anything unusual or quirky to add to the box. Look out for novelty sunglasses, hats, ties/scarves and any lengths or fabric that can be tied into a cape! If they need further inspiration, ask them to put on a play or show wearing their outfits.

Pavement Art:

Chalk is one of the cheapest craft materials around, with a typical pack costing less than £1. Give children a safe, paved area to draw on and let their creativity do the rest. Don’t forget to photograph the results before the rain washes them away. Of course, don’t do this on other people’s property or near traffic.


Kids never tire of picnics, especially if you involve them in getting the picnic ready. Let them help make the sandwiches or pop food into small containers e.g cheese cubes, fruit or carrot sticks. Also get them involved in planning what else you need to take such as sunscreen, blanket, etc. After your picnic, take the opportunity to educate children on disposing of their waste and rubbish responsibly.


Kids love taking photos and it needn’t be expensive. Why not have a day out taking their own photos, perhaps around a theme such as patterns, colours or nature? Either let them use a phone camera (with supervision) or buy a cheap disposable camera and get them processed the old fashioned way! There are several app (such as Free Prints Photobooks) that will turn digital photos into a printed album free of charge, all you pay for is the postage.

Home-Made Playdough:

It’s easier than you think to make playdough, and it’s much cheaper than the shop-bought stuff. All you need is some cheap store cupboard ingredients and food colouring. Give your children some simple tools such as plastic cutlery and a rolling pin. For a playdough How To Guide and video, checkout BBC Good Food.

Retro Games:

Many children have never been exposed to the games we played in our own childhoods. Why not teach them retro games such as hopscotch, leapfrog, hula-hoop, juggling and skipping? You might be surprised how much they enjoy these old favourites. You can pick up cheap hoops, skipping ropes and balls at pound stores or car boot sales.

Play Shop:

Don’t throw away food boxes and tubs, collect a selection of clean empty packaging ready to play shop. Just tape up the tops of boxes so they look unopened – fun size cereal boxes are especially good for this. Then get the kids to make a price list and take turns being the shop keeper and customers. If you don’t have play money just get them to make bank notes from scrap paper.

Hope you enjoyed our rundown of The Best Cheap (or FREE) Things To Do With Kids During The Summer Holidays. If you have any feedback please visit our Facebook page. If your child’s school doesn’t have a lottery, why not get one underway and start raising money next term.


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