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Guest Posts Parenting Advice

Winning the Mealtime Battle

Written by Sarah Alder of Kitchen Titbits

As a couple, food is probably what binds us the most. When we welcomed H into the world, we were excited for him to share food with us, to sit at the table and eat together and to see the joy on his face when experiencing new and interesting flavours or the pleasure of visiting a restaurant.

For a couple of years after weaning, he’d tuck into anything and everything. He’d declare his favourite meal as ‘paella’ to anyone who asked and would request I cook him squid when his peers might not venture further than a fish finger. He would cook with me, tasting as we went and chatting about the ingredients. He was a sponge, soaking up everything I had to teach him. It felt wonderful!

Then, something changed. This little boy who’d try anything turned into a food refuser. A wholesome and varied diet restricted to a few acceptable foods –raw red pepper and carrot, cucumber and sweetcorn, cheese and ham, bread and crackers, cheese and tomato pizza, fish fingers and not much more.

Suddenly, I knew just how so many parents feel at mealtimes. Dread, anger, stress, bewilderment. I just wanted the dining room to open up and swallow me.

We tried to follow our instincts and the advice for coping with the ordeal; not getting angry or upset was easier said than done and there was so much conflicting information that I didn’t know where to start. I needed tried and tested methods.

So, I read and read and read and determined what would be the most sensible things to try first; persisting with offering the food we wanted him to eat in small amounts, not offering an alternative, praising when he tried something and trying to remind ourselves that he’d eat if he was really hungry (turned out he was so stubborn that he wouldn’t!).

It was OK knowing some simple approaches to employ but it was slow going and so I started reading about the psychological and social aspects of eating, about child behaviour, even delving into the area of autism,where there are known sensitivities around textures of foods and trying new things.

I was able to start piecing things together and forming a plan of action. Two years later,we weren’t free of the battle with food, but the situation was hugely improved. The acceptable food pool had widened and the call to the table was no longer met with a complete meltdown.

Now, almost four years on, I would say we’ve definitely cracked it and I no longer consider H a fussy eater (we’re just going through it all again with our daughter!). Yes, there are foods he doesn’t enjoy. Yes, there are foods he’s yet to try or has tried but needs to keep trying. Yes, there are mealtimes where he’ll start to make a fuss. But, that’s just like any other child!

So, how did we cope with the challenge? I realised that his life is managed for him in so many ways and that he’s constantly being told what to do and when. What goes in his mouth is the only thing he can dictate and we needed to get around this. We found ways for him to assert some control over what he eats, within the boundaries that we set.

Each weekday he chooses what to have for breakfast from a small selection. At the weekends, we often have a more leisurely breakfast and he has the opportunity to request something he likes; fruit pancakes, sausage bagels, omelette and toast, sweetcorn fritters.

At the weekend, he picks what to have for lunch, but we all eat the same thing together at teatime. He also contributes to our weekly meal plans. It’s another way for him to feel in control.

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to make mealtimes less stressful and more varied,whilst ensuring I am only preparing one dinner is to serve meals family-style. All that means is that, instead of serving a meal plated up for everyone, all the food goes in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.

We’re made food fun again instead of it being a battleground and it worked – I think the fact that he now wants to ‘style’ his meal and take a photo of it just like daddy is a positive sign!

Family mealtimes should be sociable affairs, full of laughter and a way to reconnect after a busy day or week. Instead they are all too often a stressful and upsetting time. But they don’t have to be this way.

My ‘How to feed your fussy eater’ four-week interactive online programme will equip you with an armoury of techniques, words and activities so that you can turn mealtimes around. Food will no longer be scary, the dinner table will no longer be a battleground, you will be able to remain calm, you’ll have an endless supply of meal ideas, food will be served which everyone will enjoy and the vegetables will get eaten (eventually!).

I’ve got bonus appearances from Laura Clark Nutrition and Heather Keats Health and Fitness lined up as well to support you with any nutrition concerns and techniques to help you reduce your stress and remain calm. Once the course is finished, you’ll also have the option to join a community of supportive mums (dads are welcome too!) who have attended my courses and workshops and who know just what it’s like. You’ll receive ongoing support and encouragement from us all.

So, if you’re ready to help your family enjoy healthier, happier and stress-free mealtimes, join me for the course starting on 27 April! It will be running termly so if now isn’t the right time for you, join me for the next one after the May half term.

If the course isn’t for you but you know a mum (or dad) who is at their wits end come mealtimes, please tell them about my course. They don’t need to face this alone and they don’t need to continue to suffer.

Why not also take a look at my other posts –

Lisa Norman shares her story on the premature birth of her son Neil

Interview with Jo Coombs and Robert Papworth of the new selling site Made by Mums

Book review of Jo Middleton’s fabulous book Playgroups and Prosecco

Categories
Mental health & Wellbeing Parenting Advice

Please stop worrying about homeschooling your children

Almost overnight parents across the world have now become teachers and are trying to do the very best they can to home school their children in a very challenging environment. 

Most parents don’t have experience of homeschooling and due to how suddenly it all happened didn’t have time to prepare. 

Well this post is my plea to all parents to stop worrying and stressing over homeschooling your children. They will be alright.

You have to remember that schools and teachers have months of preparation and years of experience to provide our children with structured learning at school so trying to replicate this structure at home is going to be near impossible. Not to mention that we as home school teachers now have the added stress that we can’t go outside and the fear of the CoronaVirus causing everyone anxiety.  

Most primary schools have around 30 children per class all with different abilities, likes and interests so structure is key in a school environment to ensure classes and learning run efficiently and everyone gets to do a bit of everything. 

However in a home setting you will only have your own children to teach so why not take this time to let them focus on the subjects they enjoy the most whether it be Art, cooking, creative writing, geography ect. Ask them what they would like to learn each day or which subject they would like to focus on. Even if your children, like mine, spend nearly all day drawing and baking they are still learning and developing their skills. 

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One of my eldest daughter’s drawing
Making Flapjacks

These are tough times that we are all going through and I think most adults are feeling worried and anxious so our children must be feeling a bit of it too. Anything you can get them to do that will keep them occupied and enjoying themselves will help to ease their stress and worry. 

Even if you have high school children instead of trying to get them to do a bit of every lesson and fit it all, spend a bit of time on the core subjects Maths, English, Science and then spend most of the time on the subject that they enjoy the most. This is going to be a hard time for them too especially that they are not able to go out with their friends so keeping them happy is going to be the main priority and probably a tough one with teenagers.  

There are lots of online educational games and learning tools available now that are brilliant for teaching children especially when homeschooling but if your children really don’t take to it or don’t want to do it then don’t feel pressured to make them. Just keep trying different things until you find something that works.    

This is a very difficult time for everyone and a lot of people are suffering at the moment but if we try to find a positive in all of this it is that we have been given this extra time with our children so just try to take the time to enjoy it. 

Why not also read my other posts –

Indoor crafts and activities for children

Ways to help with mental health and anxiety during the corona virus

The Pointless Book by Alfie Deyes book review in association with Books2door

Why I wrote The Book of Silly Rhymes and how it can help children that struggle to read


Categories
Mental health & Wellbeing Parenting Advice

New Years Health & Fitness Routines – Why They Do Not Work and What We Should Be Doing

Why! Why do we do it to ourselves. With the beginning of every new year we all make these health and fitness goals that just are not sustainable. It is like we are stuck in a broken record making the same mistakes every year.

I mean, what is it about January that makes us all focus about our health and fitness anyway?

Is it that we have all over indulged too much at Christmas and start to feel guilty so once January hits we go on diets but surely calories don’t count in December, right.

Or it could be that come the 1st January everywhere you go they are selling gym equipment, food supplements and gym clothes, even Aldi best buys are taken over by the January get fit quick idea. Everywhere you look there is adverts for gym membership trying to pressures us to make the change and newspapers and magazines are packed full of articles on how to be super fit and healthy. 

I mean how many times have you bought a piece of equipment or gym membership with the best intentions and once January has ended it has gone to waist never to be used again? 

Well I can tell you now that you are not the only one! 

It turns out that the second Saturday of February is statistically known as ‘fall of the wagon day’ as identified by Citylab and Foursquare research. 

To be honest even that is good going we are only on the 4th January and I have already given in on eating healthy and finished a box of Lindt chocolates to myself.

Now I am all for getting healthy and sustaining a fitness routine and I do actively promote these but I feel that every January there is so much pressure put on us to change literally overnight from eating chocolates for breakfast still on 31st December to then be eating avocados and rye bread from the 1st January. 

I do want to be healthier and fitter and I do encourage everyone to else as well to take the steps towards living a healthier life. However it needs to be done slowly and over the course of the year so it is more sustainable. 

If we ease into it and implement small changes then it will be so much easier to keep. If you are going from doing no exercise at all and then all of a sudden you are doing 5 days a week of exercise I doubt you will be able to keep this going. It is better to start off with one day a week of exercise then as the weeks/months go on slowly increase to 2-3 days. 

The same with diet don’t go jumping in on the newest fad diet that you just won’t be able to keep up. Start by making small healthy changes like maybe eating a healthier breakfast, drinking more water and then slowly build on this. 

If we can all slowly build on small sustainable health & fitness steps then by next New Year we won’t need to make these radical New Years health resolutions as we will already be at are prime health and fitness levels.

My January small steps that I have made is to start ordering weekly fruit and veg boxes from our local green grocer to ensure we are all getting more in our diet and instead of signing up for gym membership I have signed the whole family back up to National Trust membership to get us back out visiting these beautiful places and going out for walks again around the grounds.  

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What small steps are you going to make to work on your long term health goals?

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Why not take a look at my other posts –

Why I turned Vegetarian and my journey on cutting out meat

Being a writer with Dyslexia

Art is good for the soul (even if you are not very good at it)

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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Parenting Advice Product Reviews

Cool That Volcano – A self-help book for parents to help children achieve emotional intelligence

I had the pleasure of being asked to review Peter Black’s informative self – help book ‘Cool that Volcano‘. 

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Pete Black is a registered psychologist with over 16 years of experience working with troubled individuals. He has used his own professional experience and knowledge of emotional management skills, to create this self-help book for parents to help you achieve a emotionally intelligent children. 

Cool that Volcano’s core focus is on open communication between child and adult which Peter has then broken down into easy to follow sections explaining step by step how to achieve this and gain emotional intelligence. 

The book is broken down into the following sections – 

– Understanding Emotions

– Managing Emotions

– Processing Emotions

– Maintaining Emotional Balance

– Effective Modelling

Peter has used Metaphors to describe a child’s emotional state, hence the title of the book.  The Volcano is the child’s temperament and the Lava is when a child erupts spewing out negative emotions, he refers to these throughout the book and also uses icebergs as a metaphor for cooling your little volcano’s down. 

I found Cool that Volcano easy to read and understand. It is also packed full of helpful tips and advice that is broken down into small steps to help you follow and implement to effectively deal with your child’s emotional state. Peter has written the book in a understanding way that makes you feel at ease. He also sets realistic targets highlighting that changes won’t happen overnight but with a bit of time and practice emotional intelligence is achievable. As well as focusing on our children’s emotional intelligence Peter also talks about the importance of being a good role model by making sure we can control our emotions in difficult situations too and has included some tips to help parents with this. 

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If you are struggling to handle your child’s emotions then this book is definitely worth reading. 

Cool That Volcano is available on Amazon for £6.99 paperback or you can read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited. 

Why not take a look at my other book review posts –

Playgroups and Prosecco

Escape from Nettle Farm

I am your Friend, A book of hope

The girl who refused to quit

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

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Parenting Advice

It is OK to have a lazy day every now and then.

I always feel that on weekends and especially on Bank holiday weekends our family should be doing something special like visiting a new place, going on a beautiful walk, making something or doing an activity.

I often feel that if we haven’t done something that day then it has been wasted and I have let everyone down. Today was one of those days, I wanted for us all to go out and make some memories but no one really wanted to move. All of us were knackered, the weather was cold, we don’t have a lot of money as we are going on holiday in 2 weeks and we just couldn’t be bothered.

I think social media plays a huge part in making us feel like we should be doing more as you only really see post when people/families have done something or gone somewhere exciting you don’t see people posting that they spent the day watching telly and doing the washing. However the real-life truth is we can’t do all these things all the time we have to have the boring days of doing nothing to be able to enjoy and look forward to the fun days.

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At first I was worried that my girls were missing out on an opportunity to do something over the bank holiday but then I looked at them chilled out playing on the computers and I then realised that they need days like these, they are happy and not moaning and we could all do with a down day there is nothing wrong with having one every now and again..

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So instead the girls all played computer games, I did the housework and then we did a bit of roller skating. Even though we didn’t go anywhere we still all had a good day. It also means we were able to save money so we will now have a bit more to spend and enjoy our holiday with.

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Why not also take a look at my other posts –

New Years Health & Fitness Routines – Why they don’t work and what we should be doing.

Body Image / Body Confidence photo shoot

Love the Skin you’re in

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Parenting Advice

Alternatives to Chocolate this Easter

This Easter I will be looking at getting my children something other than chocolate as a gift. They still will end up with chocolate from Easter trails and I am sure from other family members so they are not missing out completely but I don’t want to contribute to the hoards of chocolate they normally end up with. Instead I am getting my girls a book each and a cushion which I have shared below. I have also added some other gift ideas instead of chocolate.

Books

Books make a great gift for children for Easter, these can be Easter related stories, activity books, picture books or just a book from a series/author they are interested in. Books are  great way to inspire children to read from a young age it will also be something new for the children to read over the Easter holidays.

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My children’s book Pete The Cheeky Parakeet would make a lovely gift for children 3-7 years olds.

Craft Activity Packs

Craft activity packs also make great gifts for Easter, they are fun, engaging and also give children something to do when they are on half term.

Some of our favourite activities are Hama Beads, sand art, Window sticker pens, painting sets.

Clothes

This is a good gift idea if your children are slightly older and appreciate getting clothes. A new top, dress, football kit, jumper, new shoes or even a pair of pyjamas all make a lovely gift that are also practical.

A useful gift

I have chosen to get all my girls cushions for their rooms this year. I have ordered them from the lovely Lili’s Boutique who hand makes them and can also add in a little pocket at the front for keeping a cuddly toy or book in. She has a range of different fabrics that you can choose from.

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An example of the cushion I have ordered for my girls

A jewellery/keepsake box, a new rucksack or even a lunch box all make good gifts for Easter that are also useful.

An activity

Why not book a family activity for you all to try something new like climbing, high ropes, laser tag, horse riding, tobogganing ect. There is lots of activities available and this will also be a gift you can all enjoy together.

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Categories
Mental health & Wellbeing Parenting Advice

Finding the balance for children between screen time and playing outside

As modern day parents we are facing a new dilemma with our children and the boom of electronics. In this day and age it is important for our children to be familiar with electronics and how they work. By having a good knowledge of electronics will help them in the future.

However it is also important for them to be outside playing, interacting with other children and being imaginative by thinking up their own games. This will help keep them fit, healthy, develop motor skills and also help improve their well-being and happiness. Read my post on the Benefits of nature and how to enjoy them post for more info on the importance of people outside.

It is so hard to find the balance or even to know what the balance should be. How much is too much time on their tablets? I have looked into it and all the advice I can find is that appropriate time limits should be set however some places say no more than 2 hours a day and some say less than 2 hours a day. My girls are early risers so they could do this before I even get out of bed especially on the weekend.

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If I let them they would happily spend all day zombified to their tablets/computers and although they may moan once they are outside playing they are happy children climbing trees and playing with each other in the park like we used to do as children.

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They even got their uncle into playing Roblox with them

Although I still don’t think I have the balance right here are something I have found that help.

1. In the weekday mornings they are not allowed to touch electronics until they are completely ready for school they are normally slow at getting ready so most mornings they never even get to go on their tablets. This is also a great way to get them ready for school on time.

2. After school we have the rule of no electronics until after dinner although annoyingly they do still get round this sometimes as they have homework that needs to be done on a computer, but generally this works really well. They will go out to play burn off some energy and then after dinner they can have a chill time on their electronics before heading to bed. On days with bad weather they play games or do some drawing.

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3. Weekends however are a lot harder as I want to be more relaxed with them but they would easily spend the whole day looking at the screen if I let them. They are on their electronics from the point of waking up until I decide they have been on them to long and send them out to the park. Some of the games they play or YouTube videos they watch are good and they can learn from them but others are just a load of rubbish that I am pretty sure has no benefit to them at all.

I have to admit that they probably do spend more than the 2 hours a day on their electronics over the weekend. After having breakfast they are normally on them until about 10/11am when we then take them out or I send them out to play with their friends. Unless the weather is really bad they will stay outside for most of the day just playing and being children. Then they will go back on their tablets in the evening sometimes for another 2 hours. In the summer however we are pretty much out for the whole weekend and they barely even look at their electronics. On the weekends I try to again limit their electronic use to just morning and evenings.

What tips do you have for finding a balance please comment below.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Love the skin your in

Self-care tips for busy parents

The Benefits of Journaling

Art is good for the soul (even if you are not very good at it)

Ways to help children improve their mental health and well-being

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Parenting Advice

A Poem for An Amazing Mum

Mum you will always be by my side,

With the unconditional love that you provide,

Millions of kisses you have showered upon me,

To your family you are a true devotee,

You are my saviour through dark times,

That is why I love you longtime.

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Mental health & Wellbeing Parenting Advice

Self-care tips for busy parents

As busy parent’s we can often find our days are like a never ending to do list, as soon as we have finished one thing it is straight on to the next.

As well as looking after our children, there is cleaning, chores and for some of us work to fit in as well. With life being so busy it is hard to remember to take time out for ourselves to ensure that we have some me time and do not become run down.

As parents we tend to put our self-care last and focus more on our children’s care when in fact taking care of ourselves should be number 1 priority as when we our burnt out we are unable to care for the rest of the family.

As they say in the airplane safety briefing before the plane takes off, ‘always put your breathing mask on first before helping others’, they say this for the simple fact that if you take care of yourself first you are then in a better position to help others afterwards. The same goes for self-care, look after yourself first then you will be in a better position to give your children the best care.

I have to admit I have not been the best at self-care and often put myself last but I have been making more of an effort lately and have noticed the improvement in family life, when I am chilled and happy so is the rest of the family.

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How to factor in self-care?

Take 10

With our busy lives, time is always an issue when trying to fit in self-care and we can’t take a few hours off every day to refresh. This is where we need to ensure that we take at least 10 mins to ourselves a day. I have incorporated this into my everyday routine with a tea break. Everyday after finishing work and getting back from school run I will make a cup of tea and sit down on the sofa and drink it slowly. If anyone wants anything from me they are going to have to wait until I have finished. It is amazing what just a 10 minute refresh can do for your mind and body.

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Exercise

Exercise is a great way to clear our heads and help us stay focused. If you are feeling stressed then a great way to unwind is yoga. Yoga has the unique ability to help melt away stress and help your mind to focus on what is important. It will leave you feeling calm and relaxed and after doing it regularly you will feel healthier and stronger. (For more on yoga take a look at my post Why parents need yoga)

Going for a walk or a run is also a great way to get some you time because as well as getting exercise you are also getting fresh air.  

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Taking time out to go to the gym, an exercise class or any type of exercise that you enjoy will leave you feeling energised and invigorated and ready to take on the challenges life throws at us.

Planning

I know planning can seem an odd thing to put for self-care but sometimes if we really look at our busy lives and take the time to sit down and plan out our week you will find that you can slot in a few hours here and there for ourselves. Whether that would be in the morning before the children wake up, a little time while they are at school/nursery or when they have gone to bed. If you usually spend this time filled with chores plan in that one day a week you are going to forget all about the chores and take some time for yourself.

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If you are looking for a good planner take a look at my

post on The ultimate Diary Planner.

Hobbies

Find a hobby that you enjoy doing and set yourself some time during the week to carry it out. I love to read so every night before I go to sleep I sit up and read a bit of my book, some nights I can only manage a page or two as I am so tired and other days I can read for hours. There are lots of hobbies out there like knitting, drawing, baking, listening to music the list is endless you just need to find something you enjoy and try to set some time aside to do it.

Music

Music for me is one of the best ways for me to de-stress and go into my own little world. Even if I am still doing the housework putting my headphones on and dancing around the kitchen whilst mopping is the perfect way to forget your troubles. I also quite often put the radio on in the morning while we are all getting ready as I feel it motivates us more and I also listen to my i-pod on my walk to and from work which helps me relax and switch off for a few minutes. (For more on how music can benefit families read my post on how music brings families together)

Baths

Now this maybe a lot higher on some peoples list but for me baths are very rare. I am a shower person as they are quick, easy and get the job done and I don’t have much time for baths. That being said when I am feeling run down taking the time to have a nice warm relaxing bath can really help.

We are all different and all have our own unique ways to help us relax and unwind, whatever they maybe we all need to ensure that we are setting aside some time no matter how big or small in our busy lives to take care of ourselves.

Why not take a look at my other posts –

Love the skin your in

The Benefits of Journaling

Art is good for the soul (even if you are not very good at it)

Ways to help children improve their mental health and well-being

Some of my post contain affiliated links to products where I may receive a small fee if these products are bought.

Categories
Parenting Advice Product Reviews

Why the Olympus TG-5 Tough is a great camera for parents that love to take pictures!

I love photography. It is my other passion along side writing.

I like to have pictures of our family days out and activities so we can have them as lasting memories. I have my Nikon D3330 which I love and use a lot for my photography however it is not the type of camera you can take with you on a beach day when you have children to run around after. I also worry when the kids ask to use it as they want to take some pictures that they may drop it.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to get an action camera so I would never miss a family moment at the beach or of the kids playing in the water. I searched for ages and looked through so many different cameras I was baffled. I wanted something that was water proof but that also took great pictures but not with an extortionate price tag.

It was when a very talented photographer Paul Williams recommended on his page the Olympus Tough 5 as it has an amazing macro function as well as being fully waterproof and drop proof.

I am fascinated with macro and underwater photography so that was it I was sold and ordered my new camera. That was over a year ago and I still love my Olympus TG-5 Tough and now I wanted to share with you why it makes a great camera for parents. I have managed to take so many amazing photos from it and capture family moments that otherwise would have been lost in time.

At £420 (the price when I bought mine) it is by no means a cheap camera but for me it was so worth the money and I have never regretted it. The camera is lightweight and small so it can fit in your pocket or bag making it easy to carry around with you.

It claims to be drop proof up to 2.1m drop height although I can not verify this as I am not brave enough to test it out but it makes it the perfect camera to let little ones use knowing that if they did accidentally drop the camera it won’t break.

It is fully waterproof up to 15m deep without the need of any specialist case so you can run in the sea with it and take pictures of your little ones and come away with beautiful pictures to remember the day. It is also perfect for snorkeling and capturing the amazing creatures that you encountered lurking under the water.

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The Olympus  TG-5 Tough is also freeze proof up to -10C so you can take it out in the snow without any worries and capture the fun you all had on those rare snowdays (if you live in the UK).

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It has a brilliant macro feature on the camera allowing you to really get up close and come away with stunning detailed images.

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It has a good 12mp camera that you can use to capture images of days out, family photos and landscapes. The camera has lots of functions to help you take photos in different light conditions however from using my DSLR I like to shoot on manual mode to get the most out of my pictures and light condition which you can’t do with this camera but for a point and shoot camera the images are decent enough quality.

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It has wifi so you can easily connect it up to your phone to either use remotely or to download photos with ease.

Take a look at the Olympus Tough T5 (aff link).

If for you feel that this is too much to spend on a camera take a look at my post on cheap action cameras instead.