Category Archives: family

Little pony

My daughter was given a family of little ponies for Christmas. One of the ponies has been adopted by my nearly seven year old son. These last couple of days this pink toy has become his favourite. He appropriately named her Pinx and has learnt to comb her mane, make plaits and use hair clips and bands.

It is a matter of time before poor Pinx ends up at the bottom of his toy box and he shifts all his attention to his legos, superheroes, cars and dinosaurs. But for the time being, he is simply enjoying playing with his little pink pony. Isn’t it sweet?



It is all Greek to me

Recently, I fear I sound a lot like Mr Portokalos, the eccentric Greek patriarch in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Mr Portokalos, a Greek immigrant in the USA, being very proud of his heritage, does not only believe that Greece provided the foundations of Western culture, but never misses an opportunity to prove the point.

“Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek” is his motto.

Indeed, he has the unique ability to create connections and eventually link any English word to a similarly sounding Greek word.  His line of reasoning occasionally makes for truly hilarious instances.

The last few months, as my children are becoming curious about the new words they encounter, I hear Mr Portokalos in my head, as I say:

“Oh this is a Greek word”

“Did you know that the origin of this word is Greek?” 

“This comes from the Greek word…”

Only this weekend, we came across the following: hypothesis, thesaurus, octopus, airplane, planet, astronomy, telescope, paragraph, apostrophe, synonym. Not to mention all the mathematical terminology or physics vocabulary I use in my work.

So the phrase (another English word originating from Greek) “it is all Greek to me” can have a literal meaning to me.

In English, it means “I can’t understand it at all”. But do you know what the equivalent Greek phrase is? “It is all Chinese to me”.

I wonder what the Chinese say.

Taking a break from my children

I am sitting idly at my desk. There is an air of tranquillity, a feeling of absence of “something is not quite right” at the house. There is an order everywhere I look, coupled with an unusual serenity.

Everything on today’s to-do-list is ticked off. Dinner is ready, tomorrow’s lunch already prepared. The house is sparkling clean. It is only 2:00 pm and I have nothing else to do.

So I get on my bike and off I go for yet another long ride.

This is how the next four weeks will roll out. Working in the morning and having plenty of free time for the rest of the day. Absolute freedom is the theme of the next few weeks. FREEDOM.

Is this a dream? Can a mother of primary school age children ever have any serious free time not to mention freedom?

The answer is simple – I am currently taking some time off from my children. They are enrolled in a Summer Camp in Corfu apparently having an amazing time, while I am here experiencing some sort of “empty-nest-syndrome”.

Empty-nest syndrome is the name of the transitional period, when children leave the parental home for good to live independent lives – study, marry, travel or just move in to a new home. This change can unsettle the parents and the feelings of loss and sadness or just the process of adjusting to the new circumstance fall into the definition of the syndrome.

I have been looking forward to this time since Easter. But changing overnight from running a busy household and a business to absolute freedom and having to manage tons of free time is quite a shock to me.

Summers are quiet periods work-wise. So by noon the day’s work is done. I then have half a day for myself. It may be every parent’s dream to have a few weeks of peace and quite, but I am struggling.

Indeed having nothing to do troubles me. I hate being bored and am always looking for things to do. Raising two primary school-age children provides ample opportunities for me to keep busy. Take the children out of the equation and my world collapses in more ways that one.

Even though I have been planning my summer time for months in advance – meeting friends, increasing my exercise regime, trying a new sport, learning something new, having weekend breaks with my partner – my free time feels unlimited.

So here I am, child-free for four weeks, restless with the need to fill my day. Normally, housework takes much of my energy and time, so I naturally look around our pristine house and realise that there nothing for me to do. Parenting takes so much of my time, my energy and mental capacity, that now that I am on a break, I have trouble adjusting.

I need to slow down and switch off, but this is a long process and by the time I have managed this the kids are back.

This is the third summer in a row that the children are off for four weeks. Every time brings me face to face with a reality I am occasionally struggling to accept – Every single aspect of my life is structured around the children. I fit my work, leisure, socialising around their needs and schedule. So it should not come as a surprise that settling into a new child-free routine is such hard work.

While I look forward to my annual four week break, however many plans I have made, the transition is always tricky if not unsettling. Frankly, doing whatever I feel like doing without having to think about the logistics of looking after the children is alien to me.

Do not get me wrong. My summer break from the kids means a lot to me. It gives me the space and time to reconnect with myself, take care of myself, refuel, try new activities. Last summer I enrolled in an intensive 3-week long professional training course. Not only did I enjoy the process, but the course gave a huge boost to my career. One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t have done this with the kids around.

This year’s wish list includes among other things a swim in the sea, as well as trying a new sport. It is a much simpler but quite challenging endevour.

After four weeks, I welcome the destruction, unpredictability, mess and exhaustion that the return of my children brings. But soon I will be looking back to my summer break and all the freedom that it affords me and, I dare say, I could not wait for the next one.

How is it for you? Would you take a break from your children?

How do I keep my children off the “summer slide”?

With the Summer holiday break fast approaching, you may already have heard of the “Summer Slide”, a term that is used to describe the loss of learning over the six week school break.

Following the end of a demanding school year, children need a break and will probably resist any attempt to be engaged in traditional academic work. Fortunately, learning for academic success does not neccessarily require textbooks and vigorous study.

So what’s the alternative? How do we make sure that our children are provided with opportunities to boost their brain power, while at the same time take a hard-earned break from conventional academic work?

Here are my five simple but effective strategies published on The Talented Ladies Club website.


Summer ideas for Maths activities

There is a common misconception that maths is just about numbers. Yet maths is so much more than this. Pattern recognition, problem solving, structured thinking, comprehension, interpretation of quantities and critical thinking are all skills required to investigate even the simplest of mathematical questions. But most of all, maths is about questioning, trying ideas and challenging ourselves.

All children are born with the “curiosity bug” and love a challenge. In fact, children are adept to mathematical problem solving from an early age. The summer holidays provide a fantastic opportunity for learning in different contexts and through more playful channels. So this summer why not nurture your child’s maths abilities?

I have written a few tips and ideas for the latest Families Warwickshire magazine. Visit the website to find out how to have fun with your children this summer, while at the same time helping them to sharpen their skills. All activities are designed to develop core skills that will help children gain a solid background in maths.

Families Warwickshire magazine



5 a day in 7 Ways!

By Suparna Dhar Coach, Author, Trainer and founder of Life’s Canvas

When working with frazzled mums with young children, I often hear “I know we need to get our 5 a day, but how do we actually do it as a family?”

So here are my top tips on helping you and your children get your 5 a day:


Have Fun!

A great way to encourage children to eat and try more fruit and vegetables is to get them involved in washing, chopping and cooking. We often make faces, ships and rockets with our salad, fruit and cooked vegetables. Admittedly it is slightly time consuming but children really get engaged in these activities and as a result want to eat what they have created.

Spread it out

Eating fruit and vegetables throughout the day is essential, some favourites of mine are chopping half a banana in with cereal at breakfast, replacing crisps with cucumber, carrot and cherry tomatoes at lunch and serving a bowl of 2/3 steamed vegetables with dinner so that everyone can choose what to eat. I also have lots of dried fruit mixed with nuts and seeds which adds different flavours and textures which we eat as snacks.

Portion Sizes

You may just find you consume more fruit and vegetables than you think, as a general rule for adults and children one portion of fruit is the amount we can fit into the palm of our hand. So for my 3 year old it would be 5 grapes but for me it would be 10 grapes. A portion size for vegetables is 80 grams which is roughly 3 tablespoons and The Children’s Food Trust recommends half for children. So next time you are preparing fruit and vegetables think of the quantity in terms of your palm and your child’s palm.

Frozen and Tinned

With food prices soaring it is important to remember that frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables can all count towards your 5 a day. Just make sure you buy tinned fruit in 100% natural juice and tinned vegetables with no added salt or sugar. Household favourites of mine are tinned mango and pineapple great for fruit kebabs and frozen peas and tinned sweetcorn to add to casseroles.

Liquid or Solid?

Not made from concentrate juice or smoothies can count as one of your 5 a day, but only one portion counts. Remember to look out for a 5 a day logo and portion indicator and make sure how much equates to one of your five a day. It is easy for children to have a smoothie with their breakfast or as part of a snack. Over the weekend I always make a smoothie with a mixture of fruit and vegetables which is tasty, quick, easy and encourages children to try new flavours such as spinach.

Eat colourful food

When preparing food think of colours which help make meals look interesting, exciting and appetizing. Encourage your children to eat red, green, blue and orange which will help them get a wide variety of vitamins. We often make animal shapes and flowers with fruit and vegetables.

10 Rainbow pasta salad pol

Healthy Treats

Serving fruit occasionally with frozen yoghurt, ice cream, melted chocolate or vegetables with a cheese sauce can all be ways to encourage children to try new fruit and vegetables. Also children often like the smooth textures of yoghurts and sauces like cauliflower and broccoli in a cheese sauce.

As mum I find using easy, simple and practical ways to encourage myself and my family to eat more fruit and vegetables works best.

suparnaresizedphoto (2)Suparna Dhar is a Coach, Author, Trainer and founder of Life’s Canvas.  She supports frazzled mums with everyday parenting such as healthy eating, setting routines and boundaries and specialises in supporting mums who have been through domestic abuse.  She has self-published Cooking Together – Step by Step guide to Yummy, Healthy and Fun Recipes.  She has two children and lives in London. 

Read Suparna’s blog and connect with her on twitter @lifescanvas7


Cereals and kitchen paper tubes

“To a child, often the box a toy came in is more appealing than the toy itself.” (*)
What wise words! It is the simple things that capture a child’s imagination and spark their creativity.
In our household it is cereal boxes and kitchen paper tubes that have been transformed into the golden weapons of the Lego Ninja.
(*) Quote by Allen Klein
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