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parenting tips


It’s actually happening! Your little one is starting nursery or preschool and you’re super excited – as well as a little bit nervous. Being prepared can help ease your nerves. Knowing what to pack for nursery can make you feel more prepared. Here’s your nursery packing checklist so you feel less frazzled!

Packing it all up in a backpack

Your child will have a peg at nursery where you can hang a backpack with all their kit and caboodle that you’ve carefully packed for their busy day. Choose one that’s small enough for them to carry but big enough to house everything they need for their day at preschool.

Messy munchkins – packing spare clothes

When your child starts nursery they will be having lots of fun – and a lot of that will be messy play! Whether it’s squishing playdough, making mud pies in the nursery garden or splodging paint. Remember too your child might spill food down their clothes at snack or meal times too. They could even have so much fun playing that they have a little accident or two. So one of the main things you should pack is a spare set of clothes to change into if they need to. Another key item is a pinny or an apron for messy play (unless the nursery provides!)

Indoor (and outdoor) shoes

Your child might need indoor shoes to change into when they go into nursery. They might also need outdoor shoes or wellies for outside play or nursery trips.

Packing for snacks and mealtimes

Your child will need lots of snacks and meals to give them fuel to play. If you’re breastfeeding send in bottles of expressed milk. If you’re bottle feeding then pack your little one’s formula. You might need to send in spare bottles and teats. If your toddler is a little older – your nursery might ask you to send daily snacks. Or they might provide them. It’s always best to check.

Nursery is thirsty work

Unless your child’s nursery supplies bottles, sip cups or cups for drink times you will need to pack a drinking vessel for your child each day. Your little one will need to stay hydrated for all that busy play. Top tip – make the bottle or cup you choose spill-proof!

Nappies and knickers!

If your baby or toddler is still in nappies then you’ll probably need to pack a supply of nappies, wipes, nappy cream and nappy sacks. If they’re potty trained they might still have accidents so packing spare pants is essential.

Dressing for the weather

We all know that in the UK there can be four seasons in one day! Depending on the season make sure your child has clothes and supplies for every weather. A warm coat, hat and gloves in the winter. Layers, sunscreen and a sunhat for sunnier days.

Nursery naptimes

what to pack for nursery

Your child may well have a nap at nursery and you will want to make sure you pack everything they need to snooze happily. That could include a blanket, sheet or comforter. Check with your child’s nursery for what they will need for their naps.

A comforter

Your little one might want to take a special toy or blanket to nursery to soother them at nap times or when they are feeling a little wobbly. Your nursery might have a policy around comforters so check first. If they ask your child to leave comforters at the door but you feel your child still needs one often they will have a nursery toy that can help your child feel safe and that can be an alternative.

If you’re child has a very favourite toy then they will be distraught if it gets lost on its way to and from nursery. So either buy a back up identical toy to keep in a safe place as a replacement. Or choose a special toy for nursery that won’t be the end of the world if it goes missing.

Teething soothers

If your baby or toddler is teething then you might want to send in any teething toys, gels or powders into nursery.

Don’t forget medicines

If your child takes any daily medicines or needs emergency medicinal supplies makes sure that they you take them into your nursery. The nursery staff will need you to full out forms and will store any medical supplies safely. If your child has any medical condition always talk to the staff and make sure they are fully aware of their condition and any medication they need.

What to pack for nursery – Contact details

Make sure your child’s nursery have your up to date contact details as well as emergency contacts. It’s very easy to forget to update these if you update or change your mobile phone and number. So make a note to always make sure your nursery has the very latest contact details should you need to be contacted.

Label everything!

One thing to make sure you do is to label everything your child takes to nursery. You can buy iron-in or stick-on name labels to make the job quick and easy. We also love Stamptastic name stamps, which mean you can label everything in super quick time.

Starting nursery – troubleshooting for parents!

Starting nursery or preschool is a big step. It might be the first time you and your child have been separated. And you might feel anxious about it.

If your child finds it hard to settle then talk to and be guided by the nursery staff. They’ve settled so many little ones (and their parents) and will have so many ideas and strategies in place to help your child settle in.

If your child is very clingy we also have this blog full of top tips to help before the first day of nursery.

…and why we need to stop pretending it is!

Self care for mums is NOT going to the shops alone, it’s NOT having a shower without the kids being an audience, it’s NOT cleaning the house without the kids around. All these things are NOT self care and we all need to stop pretending they are.

The viral meme that made mums stop in their tracks

Recently we posted this infographic on our social media, which had a huge response:

self care for mums

It really hit a nerve. And had hundreds of likes and shares. Some of the responses from mums included:

‘Agreed although going to the loo without an audience does feel like a luxury sometimes!!’

‘I’m so guilty of most of these being my time to me’

‘I even said to my husband the other day when I got back from a rather unpleasant dentist appt that it was a bit like going for a spa day as I got to lie down and someone touched my face’

Self care – pre-kids

Before you had a baby if your friend asked you what you’d done to take a little bit of time out for you to recharge your batteries there’s NO chance you’d have said: ‘I went to Tescos last night. It was really relaxing and really energised me’. So why do we feel like any mundane everyday task we get to do without our kids is self care?

What IS self care?

self care for mums

Put simply, self care is choosing and making the time to do little things for you that recharge your batteries and re-energise you. It’s finding the time to do things that make you happy; things that boost your physical and mental well being; taking time to do things that make you feel good. 

Doing the weekly food shop or cleaning the kitchen when your kids are not around do not fit into this description of self care. It might be easier to do these kinds of errands or chores without a child hanging off your ankle but they don’t make you feel like you’ve taken a little time for you.

You wouldn’t let your phone battery run low

Once we become mums we put so much (all?) of our energy into looking after our child and keeping the household running and our own needs can all too easily be put to the back of the queue. Life’s busy. There’s always something that demands your attention and your time. And you can feel guilty for making time for something that seems a bit self indulgent – such as reading a book, going for a walk or carving out time to paint or craft. 

But if you always put your needs last and neglect making time for self care then you can become frazzled and worn out and low on batteries. And that’s not good for you OR your children. It’s an overused phrase but a happy mum – happy baby is so very true.

The more you take time for self care the better you’ll feel and the better mum you’ll be.

Mamas, make that time for you!

Drop the mum guilt and make time for self care. Each day and each week. There are lots of small ways you can build it into your busy life. It’s just about making it a priority.

Watch our video all about self care

Recently we had a brilliant Facebook Live Happity Expert Talk all about self care and why it is so important for mums. With Kim Golson from @mylifeafterbirth. You can still watch it back in our Facebook group for mums. Not a member? We’d love you to join.

If you have a clingy baby or toddler it can feel harder still to make time for self care. Here are some top tips to help.

There will be times when your baby or toddler is clingy and demands your attention a lot. It can be tough as a parent to have a clingy toddler. It can be tiring and wearing – we’re all human after all!. Dr Zara Rahemtulla, a clinical psychologist from Gentle Journeys shares her top tips on why little ones can be clingy and how best to deal with it.

What is clinginess?

If you’ve got a clingy toddler, you’re not alone! Clinginess is extremely common and is a behaviour that all children display at some point during their development.

Examples of clinginess are: when a child cries and shouts because they have to separate from their parent (e.g. to go to nursery, or parent goes out to run errands, etc.), they want their parent’s attention more than usual, they are constantly seeking physical contact with their parent (e.g. more hugs or physical touch), they want to be in the same room as their parent all the time and/or they act younger than their age at times.

Clinginess vs Separation Anxiety Disorder

Clinginess is different from separation anxiety disorder, which is a significant fear or anxiety of strangers and the child cries inconsolably and shows extreme distress in these situations. (NICE, 2020). Mild forms of separation anxiety can occur in children and is usually something that naturally passes, however if this is prolonged and is getting in the way of your baby/child having new experiences then it is important to check this out with a health professional.

Clingy toddlers: It is developmentally normal for a child to go through?

Sometimes it can feel like there is no obvious reason for clinginess, and other times there can be clear reasons for the change in your child’s behaviour. Levels of clinginess can also be related to your child’s developmental stage; for example, children can become more clingy around 8-10 months, 2 years and 3 years old.

This is often due to them making big developmental leaps and becoming more independent in various ways. For example, around 8-10 months babies may be crawling or walking, at 2 or 3 years children often become toilet trained and around 2-3 years children may start to separate from their parents, attending nursery or pre-school. All of these events can feel exciting to a toddler, but also overwhelming and strange at the same time, which can trigger increased clinginess to their caregiver.

Another important reason why your child might become more upset when you have to leave their side is when there are significant changes to their routine or daily life. For example, the arrival of a new sibling can be a particularly big upheaval for the first born as they now have to wait longer for their parents’ attention, there is less focus on them and their needs and they have to share their parent’s love. This is a life event that takes some time to adjust to, and it is very common for toddlers to become more clingy, tearful or angry at this point.

The impact of Covid-19 and clinginess in toddlers and children

Of course the single, biggest change to our lives has been that of Covid-19. We have all had to stay at home and stop socialising. What we knew as our familiar, daily routines have been completely turned upside down. We have been at home for a year, and the idea of going out and socialising again can be both exciting and scary at the same time – for both adults and toddlers alike.

As we gradually come out of lockdown, it is normal and expected for babies and toddlers to show more clingy behaviours and become more upset or distressed when their parent(s) tries to separate from them. For those babies whom have spent over a year in the care of only their parents or a few close adults, going to a baby group, nursery or a social gathering may feel a little daunting and it will take time for them to integrate these situations into their ‘new normal’ and feel at ease within them.

Ways to support your toddler through clinginess

1. Start by leaving them with someone familiar

If you know you will be separating from your toddler soon, build up to this and start by leaving them with someone who is familiar to them. Start by leaving them for a few hours, then gradually longer, for an afternoon and then the whole day. Similarly, when at home, try popping out of the room for a very small amount of time and coming back, whilst at the same time saying “mummy is just going into the kitchen and then I will be back”. Talk to your child whilst in the kitchen so they know you are still there.

2. Talk to your child beforehand

No matter what age they are, always try and talk to your child about what will happen, before you are due to leave them. This gives them time to process what will be happening and ask questions or get reassurance from you before they separate from you. Bringing up the topic a week in advance and then mentioning what will happen in the few days running up to the event will help children prepare.

For example, “tomorrow mummy is going to be out for the day and grandma will be looking after you. She is going to play with you lots while mummy goes out. Then I will come back and make your dinner and put you to bed”. Giving children a reference point to when you will be back is really important. If they know that you will be back at dinner time, they will hold this in their mind.

3. Do not sneak out on your child

 It can be tempting to sneak out and avoid saying goodbye to your little one when you leave. Letting them know you are going and will be coming back is so important to them so they can hold this in their mind while you are away. If they don’t get to say goodbye to you they will be wondering where you are, why you left and if you are coming back, which can distress them even further.

4. Don’t dismiss or ignore their clinginess

Dismissing or ignoring your child’s plea for you will actually just make their clinginess worse. This is because clinginess is triggered when a child is feeling more vulnerable or less confident, therefore they need the extra support and acknowledgement from their caregivers at this time. Giving them those extra cuddles, instead of pushing them away, will actually reassure them and give them more confidence in the long run, leading them to be less clingy!

5. Use a transitional object

Clingy toddler - how to understand and manage clingy toddlers

A transitional object is an object that your child can have in replace of you while you are gone. It is often an object that smells of you, so your child can be comforted and reminded of you if they miss you. A scarf, t-shirt or another item that has your scent is useful here.

6. Use games and play

Play is such an important tool for children. They will often ‘play out’ their difficulties or worries and this can be really cathartic for them. For example, it might be peek-a-boo for your 10 month old helps them establish when mummy/daddy disappears she/he comes back, or your toddler pretending to be a baby helps them come to terms with jealous feelings about a new sister or brother arriving and sharing their parent(s).

7. Listen and acknowledge their feelings

clingy toddler

Your child may tell you with their cries or words that they don’t want to leave you. One of the most helpful things you can do to help a clingy toddler is genuinely listen to your child as they express themselves to you, and acknowledge their experience. Their feelings are so big for them in these moments, but research has shown that when a child’s feelings can be heard and empathised with by their caregiver, feelings of distress do decrease. If you can get down on your child’s level, touch them in a gentle way and say, “you really don’t want mummy to go. I understand darling. It is hard to leave mummy/daddy sometimes”, “you’re feeling so sad that mummy has to go out. You will miss me. It’s normal to feel like this.”

8. Being aware and managing your own response

Try to make saying goodbye to your child a positive experience, however worried or sad you might be feeling about your child’s tears. By giving your child a positive experience of a goodbye and reunion they will remember this and feel more confident during the next separation.  Perhaps separations are tricky for you as a parent in some way and this might be important to reflect on, so you can be aware when these feelings arise for you.

If you feel like you would like more support with understanding your child’s clinginess, or you have worries about separating from your child, please get in touch with us at Gentle Journeys, Instagram Gentle_Journeys or Facebook GentleJourneys

Maariya Arshad, mental health expert, shares her top tips to help little kids manage their big emotions.

Little children have BIG emotions and they don’t have the words to describe them or the experience to understand them. As every parent who has seen their child have a tantrum or be overwhelmed by anger or fear will know! 
When your child is crying a lot or having a lot of anger outbursts it can feel pretty overwhelming for you as a parent too. But how we respond can make a big difference.

Teaching our children Emotional Intelligence

Teaching our children Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is all about helping them to deal with and express their emotions in healthy ways. When it comes to our children, being emotionally intelligent affects:

  • How the communicate
  • The way they socialise
  • How they control their own emotions
  • Their ability to adjust to change
  • How they make decisions
  • The way they see their own self-image and self-worth

By teaching our children how to be emotionally intelligent at a young age, we’re setting them up for success in almost every area of their lives! Helping kids learn how to manage their emotions can truly help them to shape their future!

The 8 big emotions little children have

We all know that little kids have big emotions. All children have 8 primary in-built emotions. Primary emotions are those emotions that all children experience without being taught about them; these are:

– anger
– sadness
– fear
– joy
– interest
– surprise
– disgust
– shame

8 ways to help your little child manage their BIG emotions

1. Label the emotion

There are 2 easy techniques for teaching your child to label emotions.

1) When your child is crying, you could say: “I know you’re sad.” Or if they’re scared, you could say: “Are you feeling scared?” Or when they’re happy you can say “You’re so happy!”

2) When you’re watching TV or out in public, and you see somebody showing emotion: acknowledge it. If someone is crying you can say: “they are very sad” and the same for scared, happy etc.

Overtime your child will be able to identify these emotions for themselves, which is the first step before they can verbally communicate their feelings with you. As they get older, you can start bringing in a greater range of emotions.

2. Validate their feelings

It’s always useful to note that often when a child feels indifferent towards a situation, they won’t say anything, but when they’re feeling a strong emotion, that’s when they will tell you about it.

So if they have told you something is “unfair” draw on your own experiences of when you have felt something is unfair, and feel that with them. You can do the same for when they are happy, excited, sad etc. This is also a great way of validating their feelings and developing a stronger relationship with your child.

3. “Use your words”

Little girl yells out! Help little kids manage their emotions

When children are starting to get frustrated, they will often show this through their non-verbal behaviours (certain noises and actions). So if your child is at the stage where they are starting to speak, encourage them to “use their words”. This technique:

– redirects their attention and focus away from the overwhelming feeling
– teaches them an alternative, healthy way of expressing their emotions
– helps with their language development
– overtime it makes it easier for you to respond to their needs, because they are able to tell you, so less guesswork will be involved.

4. Create a quiet place to help kids manage big emotions

Have a quiet place they can go to when they need to calm down. This isn’t the same as a naughty corner. This space is specifically for the purpose of teaching them to deal with their intense feelings. It can be a chair at the dining table, the corner of a sofa, anywhere that can be quiet and calming. 

In this space, think about bringing in some techniques that might help them calm down. For a toddler, you might want to teach them breathing exercises, e.g. breathe in for 4 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds – repeat this 6-10 times. You could put out cards that show images of different emotions, and ask them to let you know how they feel by holding up one of the cards. You could even have soft play toys that they could use as a stress ball.

This is a technique they can use into adulthood, where when they’re overwhelmed, they can take themselves away from the situation, and employ healthy coping strategies.

5. Make a safe space to talk and help kids manage their emotions

Mother and child are hugging, encouraging being open about emotions and creating a safe space.

Create opportunities in your day/week where your child can speak to you about anything they are thinking and feeling. You could do this as a family at dinner time, or spend 5-10 minutes every day or a few times a week with each child on a 1:1 basis where you ask them to tell you things they like, dislike, feel, etc.

When you first begin this practice, they may not be able to fully verbalise their thoughts. But that’s okay. Use this time to turn this practice into a habit, and overtime you will have developed a stronger relationship with your child, because they’ll start to see this 1:1 time with you as their own “safe space”. After a while, it will become easier for you to identify areas of their life they may emotionally be struggling with.

6. Model big feelings that little kids have

Children learn a lot more from how we behave and respond, than from what we say. Use this as an opportunity to develop your own emotional intelligence. Be honest with yourself about how you are when it comes to:

– identifying your emotions
– managing your emotions
– how you express your happiness, sadness, anger and frustration

If there are any areas that may need some work, take steps to start working on these, so that you can then model emotional intelligence to your child.

7. Each kid is different and need help to manage their emotions in different ways

Keep an eye out for specific things when it comes to your child:

– what are my child’s triggers?
– what makes my child feel better?
– does my child need to be informed when a change is coming?
– are there certain sounds, textures, toys or people my child likes/dislikes?

Observing these things can help you to settle your child at difficult moments in a calm and stress-free way. Also, remember that if you have more than one child, the answers to these questions are likely to be different for each child, and the answers may also change as your child grows and develops.

8. BIG feelings that little kids have: managing tantrums

Child is sitting in the middle of a road experiencing a tantrum.

When a child is experiencing a tantrum, they’re feeling very overwhelmed, and in that moment they are struggling, emotionally and physically, to handle what they are feeling. Where possible, try to identify the early signs of overwhelm before it occurs and use some of the techniques mentioned above. However, if in this moment we have passed the point of rationalising and teaching, and our child is in the middle of a tantrum; it may be best focus on protecting their physical safety.

Intervene if your child’s tantrum is causing physical harm to themselves or anyone else. However, if they are safe, observe their tantrum from a safe distance. As soon as the tantrum has passed its peak, you will notice that your child gradually begins to show signs of calming down; even if that shift is a subtle one. This will be your cue that within the next few moments your child will be receptive to you intervening again.

It’s normal for little kids to have big emotions

Remember that even despite your best efforts, sometimes toddlers will still respond in explosive ways. This is perfectly normal, and know that the work that you’re putting in will help to minimise how long the tantrums last, and reduce how explosive they might be.

Best of luck on your parenting journey!


You can find more parenting tips as well as advice and support for mental health, productivity and lifestyle advice from Maariya in her You Tube Channel – Insightology.

For tips on how to help your child through the pandemic read our advice from a clinical psychologist.

Read more:

Parenting in the pandemic: the impact on new mothers

Top teething tips – the best ways to soothe your teething baby

7 ways to help your baby or toddler cope with the pandemic

We know teething can be a stressful period for your little one and yourself. However, don’t worry, you are not alone! Many parents are going through the same struggles you are. Matchstick Monkey is here to help with some useful teething tips to make this time easier for both parents and toddlers.

To briefly let you know a bit about Matchstick Monkey: We are a UK teething brand founded by mum Katie about 5 years ago, after she couldn’t find anything to help her first daughter Minnie while teething. She designed the innovative Original Teething Toy, our hero product, to reach and massage the back molars without getting bitten. Since then we have expanded into a range of different teethers, fabrics, toys and our brand new natural & organic babycare range.

How do I know my baby is teething?

Though the timing widely varies, babies often start teething around 6 months of age. 

Typical signs and symptoms of teething include:

  • Sore or tender gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Irritability
  • Chewing on objects, hands or anything else they can get hold of!

Top teething tips

top teething tips for parents

To help with those sore gums, we have compiled a list of our top teething tips for you:

  • Teething Toys

Your baby will know best where it hurts, so being able to self sooth by chewing safely on a teether will help ease their discomfort and distract from the pain. Place the teether in the fridge for added pain relief!

  • Teething Gels

Teething gels to reduce pain are not for everyone but if you decide to go down the route, make sure you use one specifically designed for young children. Remember teething gels contain a mild local anesthetic, so please do speak to a pharmacist for further advice. 

  • Rubbing the Gums

This technique of light massage is a common method used by a lot of parents. Simply use a clean finger or wet gauze to rub your baby’s gums for one to two minutes – you could even try small circular movements too. The pressure can ease your baby’s discomfort. 

  • Chilled Fruit

Giving your little one chilled food from the fridge can ease inflamed gums. Be it solid or mashed up, it is perfect to sooth painful gums. Just make sure to avoid acidic fruit, such as oranges, as they can fuel inflammation! Please note that the NHS does not advise using frozen products. 

  • Cuddle Therapy 

Yes, this is definitely a thing. Other than being the nicest name ever for a treatment, it’s definitely a great way to help relieve the pain. When they’re in distress or feeling discomfort, just be there for them and distract them. Playing, singing and reading are good exercises that will help take their mind away from the pain they are experiencing. 

Different strokes for different folks

It is important to note that different methods and remedies will work for different babies so give them a try and see what works for your little one. Remember, regular childhood dental care helps set the stage for a lifetime of health teeth and gums. It is advised to book your toddler’s first dental appointment as soon as their first tooth appears!

If you are not sure what else to do, you might consider giving your baby painkilling medicine. Please do consult your GP or pharmacist for further advice. 

We have written a couple of blog posts about teething so please feel free to check them out on our website

Love, Matchstick Monkey Team 🐒

For any new parent worrying about their baby or toddler in the pandemic we have some top tips here from a clinical psychologist

Disclaimer: Matchstick Monkey have paid a small fee towards this post. This fee will go towards helping more parents find classes and support near them.