Saturday, 23 July 2016

A holiday in Pembrokeshire with a toddler (and 2 dogs)

We've recently returned home from a week's holiday in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. It was one of the best holidays I've ever had and was definitely the most relaxed I've been since giving birth 2 years ago.
In the past we've usually gone to Devon or Cornwall but fancied a change, we weren't disappointed. 
For a start it's super easy for us to get to Pembrokeshire, we just whizz down the M4 then onto A48 and A40 then you're pretty much there. Much easier than all the wiggly, windy lanes on the way to Cornwall.

We are the kind of family that likes to be out in the sticks, somewhere quiet that we can let the dogs have a good run and let our hair down. We are not ones for going on lots of excursions or visiting lots of attractions. Our days are happiest spent walking in the countryside, visiting cafes and beaches, eating locally sourced foods and generally chilling out.
Baby D never goes in a buggy - we abandoned ours nine months ago, she either walks or we carry her in a Toddler Tula. This makes our lives easier in many ways as so many places in the countryside are not buggy friendly. And if you rely on buggy use this is definitely not the holiday for you!

But trying to find somewhere that allows two dogs and is toddler friendly is really quite hard!

After scouring the internet I found Hendre House Cottages which looked perfect for our needs. It's 3 miles from Solva - a small fishing village in Pembrokeshire. And even closer to the nearest beach.
They have 3 cottages that sleep various numbers of guests, we hired the Old Chapel which has one double bedroom with space for travel cot. 
It is seriously the most lovely place. You arrive (out in the sticks on a country lane) to a long, leafy, tree lined driveway which you follow past Hendre House and to the well kept car park then you see the beautiful cottages. It's slightly isolated, which is the way we like it and very quiet. All you hear is birdsong.
The Old Chapel & corner of pool house

The Old Chapel is an upside down house with the bathroom and bedroom downstairs and the lounge- kitchen-diner upstairs. There's a little enclosed yard which was great for the dogs and a big space under the stairs which also was perfect for the dogs' beds. 

The whole house was immaculately kept with tasteful decoration and everything you could possibly need. 
We arrived to a display of Spring flowers on the kitchen table, freshly baked Welsh cakes (super yummy, they lasted all of five minutes as we crammed them in our gobs) tea, coffee and milk and a full wood store ready for the open fire complete with fire guard.

As suggested by Michelle the owner we organised a Tesco grocery delivery for our arrival day so we didn't even have to go anywhere to get all of our food for the week.

The kitchen was equipped with extras such as scales, blender, dishwasher, washer-drier, high chair, baby/toddler cutlery, plates, bowls and cups. There were a good selection of cleaning products all of which were Ecover which made us very happy.

Something I found especially helpful was a list of optional extras they can supply if you have a baby or toddler. We asked for stair gates (definitely needed) at the top and bottom of the stairs, potty, bath thermometer, bath toys and various other bits and bobs. 

There was even a jar of dog biscuits and a ready filled poop bag dispenser so our furry friends didn't feel left out!

On site, about 5 steps from the cottage there is a lovely indoor heated swimming pool. We went in it every day. There was a good selection of inflatables, balls and toys to keep the younger ones entertained.
There's also a small playground area with swings and climbing frame which were a firm favourite of Baby D, a barbecue hut and a shed that's totally rammed with entertainments for all ages. There were books, DVDs, games, puzzles, toys. Baby D was in her element choosing which books to read next. She's a proper little bookworm.
They have grounds which are good for stretching the dogs' legs, not for a proper walk but they can play ball, have a sniff about and do their business.
playground and barbecue hut
The closest beach is a 5-10 minute drive away at Newgale. It's a gorgeous, huge, sandy beach and was virtually deserted. The dogs had the time of their lives running around the 2 miles of soft sands whilst Baby D made sand castles and drew circles in the sand using the biggest stick available.
It's not the easiest beach to get onto however. Had we been a family that relied on a buggy rather than a sling we would have really struggled. There's plenty of parking and toilets right by the beach but to get to the sand you have to climb down a very pebbly and steep slope. Anyone with mobility issues would find it very hard. And I would even bother trying with a buggy.
Newgale beach
We also enjoyed walking along the sand at Solva harbour. When the tide is out you can walk from the car park (National Trust members can park there for free) all the way along the river bed to the sea. It's really magical walking alongside the boats on the sand by the cliffs to the water's edge. 
There's also walks on either side of the harbour. Ones we did were along the footpath on the right as you look out to see leading to a cafe and another up on the left up to the cliff edge and Gribin headland. The latter being quite hard going for a toddler but our little trooper managed it...albeit a wee be slowly.
Another lovely walk is along Prendergast woods which is awash with bluebells in the Spring.
Looking towards Solva harbour from the sea
Pretty much every day...sometimes more than once a day we visited our favourite dog and toddler friendly café situated by the car park on the edge of the harbour called Thirty Five Café.
They were warm and friendly, the locally sourced food was delicious and the unisex bathroom with baby changing was clean, spacious (plenty of space for wheelchair or buggy/pram) and even had emergency changing supplies of wetwipes etc. 
Baby D in her toddler Tula in St Davids
We visited the city of St David's several times. It was about a 20-30 minute drive away. It's the smallest city in the UK and is more like a small town in size. Most places were dog friendly and we enjoyed walking around the cathedral grounds and around the city streets. There are lots of galleries, restaurants, cafés, and shops.

We had such a lush time. Loved every minute.

We definitely want to go back. It was fantastic and perfect for our little family.

Dawn x

Saturday, 9 July 2016

How on earth do you brush a toddler's teeth?

This seems to be a question I see a lot on various groups and forums so I thought I'd share our experience which through lots of trial and error have found almost continuous success.

When Baby D's first few teeth came through she was only 6 or so months old so it was pretty easy. We used Brush-Baby dental wipes. You just pop the little ‘sleeve’ on your finger and wipe around the gums and over the teeth. Easy peasy…until tooth number 4 came through and she bit my finger very hard! I then needed to find an alternative.

She was teething like crazy and I tried with a tiny toothbrush but all she’d do is chew on it. Cue the chewable toothbrush. Again by Brush-Baby is the Soft Chewable Toothbrush. It’s made from silicone with soft ‘bristles’ in a curved shape that echoes the shape of the gums. You just put a small smear of toothpaste on the bristles and baby can happily chew away on it and brush their teeth at the same time. They also make a teething toothpaste in apple-mint flavour which Baby D particularly liked. It contains xylitol which is great for teeth (and natural too) plus fluoride but a reduced amount. There seems to be conflicting views on how much fluoride babys can have but I know you have to minimise swallowing so it doesn’t damage their tummies. There is no way I am going to persuade a baby to spit out toothpaste, that’s just daft. So I concluded that a reduced amount might be good at this stage.

It wasn’t until Baby D was around 1 that we started using a proper toothbrush every day. She was given one by the health visitor at her year 1 check and she immediately wanted to give it a go. We started off great guns with her happily opening her mouth and me brushing. This lasted only a week or two before she became bored of it. She then started the extremely annoying habit of clamping down on the toothbrush or refusing to open her mouth. Obviously brushing teeth is an extremely important thing to do every day so after a few days of trying and failing at getting her teeth brushed properly I saw no alternative other than forcing it. After 30 seconds of screaming and crying I realised I’d done the wrong thing and swore I’d never force anything upon her ever again. Forcing her to have her teeth brushed twice a day is not only unsustainable and highly stressful for her and me but also sends the wrong message about consent. Pus I was concerned that making this unpleasant for her may make her develop a fear or aversion to tooth related things and I didn’t want that. We had to come up with a gentle solution.

We use a variety of approaches depending on Baby D's mood, tiredness level and time constraints. We don't restrict brushing to the bathroom. We have the smallest bathroom in the UK and there simply isn't enough space for two people even when one of them is a toddler. So, it usually happens in the bedroom sat on the bed. 
We always use two toothbrushes. She inevitably wants to hold one herself and brush her own teeth / brush your teeth / brush teddy's teeth or generally wave one about. 
We always ask her first ("we need to brush your teeth now, is that okay?") to gauge which approach to use:
  • If she says 'yes' which is happening more and more we simply ask her to open her mouth and get brushing. She may well want to brush our teeth too (which I let her do but hubby doesn't) or whatnot at the same time but that's fine. It may also take 5 minutes as she randomly gets distracted and tries to do other things. If she gets too distracted we'll read her a story at the same time - having a second person at this point is much easier and she'll settle down and concentrate on the book whilst we brush.
  • If she has a little grumble about it we have to change tack and get her laughing. We used to do 'tickle toothbrush' whereby Daddy would tickle tummy or feet and I'd get brushing whilst she laughed. A few weeks ago she decided that she didn't like this anymore and like I said earlier I don't want to force anything upon her so we have to find other ways of making her laugh. The latest is by pretending to sniff her toes and exclaiming "poo-eee! Stinky!" Which she finds utterly hilarious and works a treat.
  • If she says 'no' we sit her down and explain why it's so important that she brushes, remind her of tv shows she's seen that feature brushing like Peppa Pig and Topsy & Tim, maybe have a little singsong or story then once she's happier about the prospect make her laugh using the above techniques.
  • If she gets upset immediately we know that if we push it there will be a full-on meltdown (doesn't happen very often) so we go straight in with the chewable toothbrush and ensure the next brushing is an extra thorough one.
Other techniques that we've tried and failed with include buying a special electric toothbrush which terrified her, watching YouTube clips and making up toothbrushing songs and bribery. 

So, as Baby D approaches 2 years old we successfully brush her teeth twice a day. We accept that it may take 15 minutes using various methods (albeit a bit/very annoying sometimes) but at least it is done without tears from her or us.

Do you have any tried and tested techniques?

Happy brushing

Dawn x