March, Mental Health and Fear

As the weather in the UK warms up and we start to look forward to our children returning to school, many parents are beginning to look at what other activities we can pick up again following the recent lockdowns. After a year of restrictions, the prospect of a return to their extra-curricular clubs is undoubtedly welcome. However, I was struck by doubts when our school sent around 4 pages of supportive ideas to help get children happily back into the routine of going to school. At first, and I’ll admit, because my children seemed overjoyed and desperate to go back, I dismissed it. But then, after chatting to my 10 year old, late at night as he couldn’t sleep, I realised that my family was affected by fear.

I had noticed a slip in my children’s confidence over the last year, eroded and coped with on a daily basis, when faced with yet another upheaval, they were frightened. Gone are my confident, curious kids, replaced by hesitant, cautious, nervous ones. Homeschooling and the subsequent social isolation has weakened their resilience. Even, as it turns out, a return to the familiar environment of their school worries them now as they process the practicalities for next week. What if their friends don’t talk to them? What if they’ve forgotten something? What if it’s hard?

Much as I try and soothe away all their concerns, I know as an adult, the only real remedy is to give it a go, discover for themselves that it’s not as bad as they fear it might be. That doesn’t stop any of us being anxious though, but it got me thinking about what else parents can do beforehand to reduce the pre-game nerves.

Playing increases resilience

Fear is a powerful driver for us all – the fear of trying something new especially. With regards to the unknown, all these questions circle around, and can block out the rational objections we have. With sporting activities especially, there is also an element of danger – what if I get hurt? What if I can’t do it? With less resilient children, encouraging them to try something new seems even more daunting.

You many have seen in the new talk of educational catch up budgets, plans to try and boost away the missed learning. This might work for some, but I don’t personally believe it will help us regain the skills which fell by the wayside. We have been the lucky ones during lockdown, and I feel very concerned for those who have struggled with terrible obstacles in a prevailing climate of daily concern to just even provide for their children. For them, the return to a semblance of normalcy may be an even greater leap, welcome, but challenges facing many children will remain for long after their schooling recommences.

Our aim as a family now turns to restoration of what we have lost, not in terms of education, but more building back up our children’s confidence and resilience. This can only be achieved through a return to normal activities which challenge them like gymnastics, or playing with their friends, exploring new places and free play. It feels like it has been a struggle this last year to try and retain our children’s sense of wonder and curiosity when their lives have inevitably become so mundane and ‘local’.

Fear, and learning strategies for managing it, is a necessary part of building resilience.

So what can we, as parents, do to support our children as they spring back into this strange new world? Here’s my top 6 suggestions:

  1. It might seem obvious, but actively listen to your children. Just encouraging them to verbalise their fears can be cathartic. It enables you to discuss strategies for coping with what concerns them, as well as reinforcing that you are always there for them.
  2. Be consistent, especially with your messaging. Remember that learning involves repetition. This includes encouragement!
  3. Prepare them – some parents I know have been getting up and dressing their children ready in uniforms for the last week to get them back into a routine! But, even if all you do is take some time to sit and explain what is likely to happen when this new challenge arrives, it will help. This goes for all new experiences – and it is why now is the time for downloading Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming for free! Even if things don’t go to plan (like in the story), parenting is in essence about preparing our children for life, so give them a heads up about what ought to happen and how to deal with the unexpected.
  4. Talk about the What If’s. You could even role play what might be the right thing to do in your play activities. What if they are alone and don’t know anyone? What should they do, who should they look to for support if you aren’t there? Get them thinking about what resources they have to cope with their fears.
  5. Acknowledge the change. A child can grow a lot in their likes and dislikes over a year – we forget this because at the time its so incremental, but when we offer them a return to a previously loved activity from a year ago, it could be that they simply aren’t that person any more. And that’s ok. Try something else instead!
  6. Tomorrow (or the next time) is another day. Each day is an opportunity to try again, do better. In this, we can learn from our children who have the most amazing ability to bounce back. I am continually amazed by how one day my daughter’s attitude will be absolute refusal to try something, then next, embracing it with open arms! And vice versa of course.
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Preparing for the Pool!

My children are so excited about swimming pools opening up again after they closed during lockdown! Help your little one get ready with this fantastic packing checklist – colour and black and white versions available to download and print off!

Right click image and Save As or download as a pdf below to print off.

Don’t forget you can also download our Free Swimming Tips and Games mini booklet for more ways to help prepare your child for swimming!

Drop us a line or message – we’d love to hear how your first swimming lesson went! Have you downloaded your Awesome Certificate yet?

Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming is available as an ebook and paperback from multiple outlets – check them out here:

The challenges of trying something new in lockdown!

At first, homeschooling was new, exciting even. The chance to try and educate my children at home was both daunting and oddly liberating. Finally, I thought, time to explore ‘other’ learning, which they might not encounter so much in school! Whilst the school got itself into gear with home learning facilities, much baking, nature walks, crafting and dramatic fun was attempted. But, it was a constant pressure to entertain and motivate my children, with limited resources. The challenge of juggling it all had begun.

At the back of my mind was always that lingering worry that the children would fall behind with their curriculum, so we tried to strike a balance. Schoolwork as set by actual (and much missed) teachers in the morning so we could do ‘work’, finish it off after lunch, then do ‘something’ sort of educationally aligned in the afternoon. It seemed to work, for a while.

Idyllic as long as the sun shines. Not so much when it rains or you are supposed to be working!

Being a routine kind of person, I hoped that this loose yet flexible arrangement would give me time to actually do my work. I envisaged that given enough time, this regime would eventually work and my kids would settle into the new norm well.

I admit, I may have been optimistic. An unproductive three months in, and I am still plagued by little feet pottering to my just-sat-down-to work-at desk for ‘help’ with what is something they should easily be able to do; in fact, I’m positive that before this all happened, they could do.

But, rather than giving up, we keep at it. Anything is better than nothing and I refuse to sink into the abyss of just letting them ‘do’ whatever they want to do. This will result in an overdose of screen time, which in turn leads to arguments, lack of sleep and general stress all around. It is hard work. I’m not ashamed to say there are days when I get so frustrated juggling it all, I want to scream.

The fact is, my children rarely gravitate towards the semi-educational things I would ‘like’ them to spend their time doing. We have lego’d to death, so interest levels in engineering are low. Crafting still results in the most monumental amount of mess and frustration if left unsupervised and unstructured. And as for time spent walking through the wilds of nature, they frequently just want to get us as lost as possible before moaning about how hungry they are (when we are miles from anywhere).

What they think they want to do and what they/we need to do in order to have some semblance of a happy life right now are polar opposites. I am highly aware that mental health is a priority in these unusual times, in itself, staying busy doing something is a motivation to keep trying and not slide into The Abyss….

Motivation is harder to achieve when you are starting from a bad mindset.

With this fear ever present in my mind, I have to keep trying to find new things to interest my children. For my sanity as much as my children’s. I have also realised that the moment when their curiosity is sparked is what keeps teachers going on (what I now know) is an uphill battle some days. My children learn in very different ways, so sometimes it’s a balancing act to get them on the same page, but we keep trying different things. The most important lesson I have learnt throughout all of this has been my attitude – if I present the activity as something new and exciting, the chances are, my children will give it a go. If I just toss it over as ‘Try this, you might like it or learn something’, then chances are we will all fail to engage.

Here’s some ideas for trying something new which have helped my husband and I, in case you too have fallen into the abyss of not knowing what to try next:

  • It takes some prep work, but link something together which is educational with things they like doing. Our kids love scavenger or treasure hunts, so we make a hunt for clues which involves them using their logic, or looking something up, or working out a picture based clue. These are written or printed on the back of one page which, when they had the whole page of clues, can be reassembled like a jigsaw to make a picture of the subject. Scavenger hunts can also be held outside – there are loads of ready-done lists of natural things to find in practically any place you choose. What is great about them is that they not only offer energy burning activity to find these objects, but you can then have conversations in a review of the treasures afterwards. How did the acorn grow into a tree? How many houses high is the tallest electricity pylon in the distance? What are these different kinds of stones made of and how did they come to be stones?
  • Extreme Pop Quizzes. Over dinner, we try and talk about what subjects they were looking at in school. If possible, we fire a few questions at them to make sure the learning is retained. Then, we take it to extremes! Alexa is very helpful as is Google, because let’s face it, who remembers how long the Great Wall of China is and what is it’s highest point? There is a novelty/learning lesson in phrasing for the children in finding the clerest way to Ask Alexa to get to the correct answer (there’s your english right there – how many different ways are there to phrase a question to get the results you want!).
  • Wraparound – additional resources to enhance a story is a technique teachers use, and what works for them works for us! Below are some examples of what I call wraparound which I’d like to share, because they feature stories about trying something new, and succeeding.
Bad Caterpillar by [Suvi Chisholm, Chiara Corradett]

Bad Caterpillar – a story we can totally relate to right now! But bad moods can change when you alter your point of view! I also love it when authors produce printables so you can carry on the learning with a beloved character. Suvi hosts a regular Reading Corner on Facebook which regularly features free books and activities, as well as helpful lists of books which cover topics relevant to today’s childhood.

Jake the Growling Dog Goes to Doggy Daycare: A Children's Book about New Experiences, Friendship, Stress Relief, and Kindness by [Samantha Shannon, Lei Yang]

Jake the growling dog – The Author, Sam Shannon, has helpfully listed out not only places to access the book, but on the website there are other resources to have a look at – videos of her reading the story and other ideas to have a look at around the tales of a fun loving dog, Jake.

As a standby on a rainy or ‘uninspired’ day, there are also a wealth of ideas online, Oak National Academy, BBC Bitesize, You Tubers reading stories. Here is a list of my favourite Famous Authors offering their stories and activities for free – why not check it out today and maybe it will inspire you to try something new?

There are days when I feel like an epic failure. I’m sure I am not alone. There are days when I tire of the battle to do schoolwork by 9.30am and have to satisfy myself that the achievement for the day will be mopping the filthy kitchen floor and feeding my family. There are other days when we happily collapse onto the sofa with a sense of Yes, something went right today, the Google classroom thing worked for once, my daughter was dressed and actually had work to share. But, we keep at it.

For all the other homeschooling parents out there – you are awesome. Keep at it! Keep trying something new!


Available for free from all Amazon stores – globally!

Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming (e-book) is free this week! I am so delighted to offer this opportunity to introduce you all to Mitch and Mooch! Why not download your copy now to take advantage of this limited time offer for fun and learning with Mitch and Mooch?

If you are so minded, please leave a review, it would me much appreciated. Also, if you know anyone who would be interested in reading the book – please share this!

About the book – Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming

A funny, comic book style illustrated story for children ages 3-8, great as an early reader book, or storytime for you to share with your children. Includes hints and tips on what to expect in a first swimming lesson, as well as comprehension questions to prompt a deeper understanding of the text. More importantly, the story prepares children to have fun safely in the water! WARNING – this book may include fart jokes, silly pirates and ducks…. Hope you enjoy it!

Get your copy here:

#freebooks #sharethejoy #trysomethingnewtoday #childrensbooks #swimming

You can download more fun games and swimming tips here

More information about Mitch and Mooch and fun activities to try at

Making swimming lessons fun, even during lockdown!

Tired of no swimming lessons right now? The pool may be closed but you can still keep your brain cells paddling along with these fantastic, downloadable, printable activity sheets from Swim England!

You could make them part of home learning, or try them out with friends and family as a quiz? Why not have a pool day at home and try them out?

Don’t forget – more Swimming Games and Tips here

#swimengland #watersafety #freeprintables

Competition and Survey!

Fancy a money can’t buy prize? YOU could feature in our next book, Mitch and Mooch Try Gymnastics!

We invite you to enter our Mitch and Mooch Competition and Survey, where the winner will feature (as themselves!) in the forthcoming children’s book, Mitch and Mooch Try Gymnastics.  The author, Jan Foster, is keen to talk to young gymnasts (or their parents!) to find out about how they felt when starting gymnastics classes.  This forms part of the story as the book is aimed at supporting children with first experiences and trying new things. 

What could I win?

The winner will be chosen from the anonymous entries and receive a signed copy of the book (when published later this year) and a digital cartoon of themselves to use as you wish!  Your cartoon will be used in the book also as a character in the gymnastics class – now how many people can say they feature in an actual book?  It could be YOU!

What do I need to do to enter?

Click HERE and answer some very quick questions about your experiences of starting a gymnastics class, and a winner will be selected at random on the 11th of May and contacted.  There is no right or wrong answers – the survey is purely to gather your feedback!

Don’t forget – you can find out more about Mitch and Mooch books here and more Fun Activities to do here.

Please share this post!



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Deadline for entries!

Live action with Mitch and Mooch!

One of the upsides to being in lockdown is that opportunities you never expected can come your way! I was delighted to be invited to talk about the story of Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming, how it all came about and what’s next by the well known Author, Bethany Stahl. The interview includes a demo of the awesome Swimfin, featured in the book, as well as some behind the scenes info on how the book was developed. Premiering in the UK at 3pm 10/4/20, 10am EST, you can head over to YouTube to watch it here – why not set yourself a reminder!

Yog-imming? Aqua-oga?

As an author, it is also interesting to see other people’s ‘take’ on your book; not in a million years could I have imagined that a Yoga Master would find a creative way to teach yoga as well as entertain with book readings, but the awesome Melissa Ross did! Catch the facebook live video here.

Need help nodding off?

I can let you into a little secret….bedtime stories on one of the most popular podcasts for children has chosen Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming to features as one of their stories! Specially adapted for audio only, your kids can listen to the story on Spotify with Lights out – Bedtime Stories for Boys and Girls shortly!

Don’t forget! Our amazing Lockdown Bundle is still available here…make your copy of a Readers Favourite book extra special by getting a signed copy for just £6 (plus P&P).

Lockdown bundle of goodies!

Rewarding Trying Something New…

My children love to have something to show for their efforts which isn’t always possible when it’s not ‘creating’ but an activity, or something sensory or emotional. Don’t worry – I have just the thing to help!

As I write, over half the world’s children aren’t able to attend school. Parents across the globe are challenged with motivating their small people, entertaining them 24/7, school work to be done with no classmates other than siblings, and attempting to keep boredom at bay. Whilst hopefully this is a chance for parents to bond with their children and try new things, sometimes, I know, this can be tricky! So I enlisted your two favourite monsters to assist…

Mitch and Mooch love to feel that trying something new, maybe even facing their fears, is rewarded. Here’s a lovely certificate you can download and print off to recognise the effort your children might be taking to try new things whilst at home! Why not tag a picture of your child with their certificate on Facebook or Tweet it to us? We’d love to see what new things you tried today!

Right click and Save As for this certificate as an image (png)

Don’t forget – we have a limited edition Lockdown Bundle on offer at the moment – which includes this certificate signed by the Author or Mitch and Mooch themselves if you prefer! Get your hands on a discounted copy of Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming, including a personal dedication, right here!

Launch Party!

I promised you ‘fun stuff’ here, and what could be more fun than a party, complete with competition and prizes! So, come on down and meet the Author, get a signed copy of the book, enter our Snazziest Shark Impression competition (to be judged by the Inventor of Swimfin himself!) and much more on the 28th March 2020 1pm – 3pm (GMT) at Buxton Road Cafe.

The event is free, open to all but we do have limited spaces, so let us know you are coming via the Facebook event on the @Mitchandmooch page there please.

Looking forward to seeing you there! Feel free to share this if you know anyone who would be interested in coming!

‘Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming’ launches, and the Reviews are making waves!

Don’t just take my word for it – copies of Mitch and Mooch Try Swimming are flying off the shelves… well, into Checkout Baskets anyway!

The e-book is currently sitting in 8th place in one category, and made it onto the Hot New Releases pages!

Just some of the fantastic reviews – thank you readers!

Hopefully it’s just a matter of time before Amazon can collate the reviews from all over the world into one place when they link the e-book and paperback editions finally!

If you haven’t grabbed your copy yet – you can do so on Amazon now! Also available as an ebook or on Kindle Unlimited.

There’s still time to grab your FREE Swimming Tips and Games booklet also – including the 20% discount from SwimFin