Let them play! The sacredness of free play in childhood

Is it just me, or is being busy a badge of honour nowadays, not just for adults but for children too? Parents ferry their children around from one after-school activity to the next. They go to piano lessons on a Monday, tennis lessons on a Wednesday and art classes every Friday afternoon. Already exhausted new mums are putting themselves through the hassle of baby swimming lessons. Parents seem to be afraid that their brood misses out on becoming the next Einstein or Andy Murray and want every free moment in their kids’ lives to be ‘educational’. Otherwise learning apparently does not happen. And then there is of course peer pressure. How about some calm parenting?

Just playing freely without a grownup in charge almost seems rare in the lives of modern children. What ever happened to ‘freerange parenting’? Surely, most of us were brought up like that and it did us no harm. No constant supervision, no constant entertainment, no constant demand to achieve and produce visible results. Freedom to just be a child.

Today I want to make a plea for the return of mindful neglect.

mindful parenting

It is almost impossible to arrange a play-date on a weekday, because most kids have extra-curricular activities every day of the week, on top of homework. Why? Does it really set them up to become incredibly good at anything? Develop a life-long love for learning? The full diary in their young lives perhaps teaches them that life really just is a busy to-do-list.

Calm parenting: give the gift of time

When I was little I was a stubborn little girl who didn’t want to do any activity outside school whatsoever. Not that my parents didn’t try and encourage me. They did. I just did not want to do it. No tennis, no ballet, no music lessons. Go away. Not interested. And you know what, for my parents’ attitude I am grateful. They may not have pushed me to take private sports and music lessons, and I was unable to play the piano like fellow twelve year olds, but instead they gave me time. Time to play and to be bored. Time to figure out what I like. The opportunity to learn how to feel happy in just my own company.

Natural curiosity, taking action when ready

When I was about 10 years old I eventually asked my parents if I could join the local gymnastics club. I also wanted to do art classes on a Wednesday after school. I chose my own interests, when I myself was ready and motivated. Until that moment I sat quite happily at the kitchen table drawing. No adult intervention whatsoever. I played with Lego and my barbies, built dens with my sister or played hide and seek with the kids next door. As a teenager at fifteen I discovered a forgotten guitar in the attic and taught myself some chords. I have been in bands ever since. I didn’t have to be ‘exposed’ to music lessons from an early age. No, that doesn’t make me special, and maybe I would have enjoyed music lessons at 5, who knows, it just shows a different approach to parenting. Letting things be. I was always going to find the things that interested me. And having time to figure that out, made me love it even more.

calm parenting

So what am I trying to say with all of this? I believe (but who am I but a mother with a humble opinion) that the rise in anxiety among even primary age children, comes from somewhere. Whether it is a crazy busy schedule, too much competition, high parental expectations or watching too much rubbish on Youtube (let’s not go into that, right), I strongly believe in free play.

Keep free play sacred

So much playtime has already been taken away from them in school, with kids as young as 3 years old learning how to write their name and do simple maths. It makes no difference academically if they would start at 6. As parents we can at least try and make free play outside of school sacred. Have them join football or do ballet, sure, if they want to – but also build in that bit of calm at home. Downtime. No matter if they lie on the floor yelling that they’re bored. Don’t worry. Bored is good. It serves a purpose.

Calm parenting. The importance of free play

So much research says unsupervised playtime in childhood essential. It is more important for the development of social skills than any adult led workshop or extracurricular class in childhood. Still, as a society and as parents, we believe we’re at risk of falling behind academically. Learning to read and write and count is important and schools have their role to play. But children will struggle to become independent, happy and well balanced adults at the end of childhood if they never get a moment to themselves. How will they know how to be at peace with themselves without the need for constant reassurance, distraction and entertainment from outside?

calm parenting. the importance of free play

As a mother of two boys I try each day to be a good mum. Each day I wonder whether I did and said the right things and not screwed them up. It is not easy figuring out calm parenting and finding the key to motherhood. Still, instinctively I feel underscheduling is the way to go for my family. I want to encourage a calmness in my boys and an appreciation of the little things in life. I want them to be creative, resourceful and contented. Soulful living, right?

Calm parenting and creating resilient children

I hope to see more unstructured play in the park without helicopter parents trying to join in. Unstructured play in the garden without a well meaning parent leading some kind of Pinterest activity. Building Lego without the instruction book. Making stuff out of rubbish without the help of a grownup. Letting siblings quarrel without immediately trying to solve their argument. Letting them figure it out for themselves before intervening.

No pressure. Trust. Mindful neglect. Conscious neglect with the sole purpose of creating happy, mentally stable, sociable and resilient children. Kids with empathy. Kids who know the world doesn’t only revolve around them. Good humans. It seems a no brainer and common sense, but we have forgotten how to put it into practice. Or we are afraid to put it into practice. Because all the other kids…

calm parenting. the importance of free play

Children are naturally curious. They don’t need to be taught how to learn. They know. Children have a natural desire to discover the world for themselves. Give them that space. Even though you as a parent may think your child is not learning much at a particular moment and you feel you need to teach them stuff, their brain is working hard. If they have questions, they will ask them (oh yes they will!).

Calm parenting: lead by example and stop overscheduling

Children learn by example and copy our behaviour. What example is a stressed out, tired parent making life way too busy?  Instead, show calm. Just be. Say nothing. Trust your child in his or her own learning. Silence and time are essential ingredients for stimulating creativity and imagination and they are so precious. Childhood is short, please let’s not take away the magic.

Further reading

An article that really resonated with me:

Why are our children more entitled than ever before?

Some great blogs and Facebook pages on the topic of free play and parenting:


@playcounts

playcounts.com

@amotherfarfromhome

@theteachertom

Upcycling tutorial: make a tote, basket or rug with plastic bag yarn

The plastic problem is still huge and creating big problems in oceans, in landfill and just generally making the earth look very ugly. Still, I am an optimist, and I believe change is coming, not tomorrow maybe, but we are heading in the right direction. People are generally becoming more aware of the ecological impact of especially single use plastic and social media is full of posts showing ideas of how to reduce the use of it in your own household. I am still guilty myself of doing unplanned, spontaneous grocery shopping, subsequently accepting single use carrier bags. I buy coffees on the go in takeaway cups. It is hard to be consistent and strict about these things while they are still constantly offered to us.

plastic-bag-sb10063890a-001.jpg

 


Last year India banned all forms of disposable plastic in Delhi. Europe is proposing a ban on single-use plastic items such as cutlery, straws and cotton buds in a bid to clean up the oceans. The legislation is not just about banning plastic products. It also wants to make plastic producers bear the cost of waste management and cleanup efforts, and it proposes that EU states must collect 90% of single-use plastic bottles by 2025 through new recycling programs.

upcycling tutorial

So that’s a bit about where we are at with single use plastic…but what about turning single use carrier bags into something that is usable for much longer, while they are still in existence? I am always in awe of how creative and resourceful humans are around the world. Who knew you could knit and crochet with the stuff?


How to make plarn?

 


1. Make a Crocheted tote bag our of plarn

 

plarn tote bag upcycling tutorial
Image and tutorial (in Spanish): La ventana azul

Image: MontClairMade


Plastic bags can be incredibly versatile and turned into very strong yarn for crocheting. When choosing bags for your project, consider color and texture. Select bags that are similar in thickness to create an overall good effect. Combine different coloured bags to create a pattern of colour, colour changes and patterns.

Supplies you’ll need:

20-25 clean grocery bags
Plastic crochet hook, size 6.50mm K
Scissors

Ready to give it a go?

Take me to the tutorial


plarn basket upcycling tutorial
Image: Jessyratfink

 

2. Make a basket out of plarn

A waste basket…out of waste! I love baskets for all sorts of uses, including toys, craft supplies, hats and gloves at the front door or yes, for paper waste.  How cute is this one made out of plastic carrier bags? And even better, no crocheting required.

Want to learn how?

Take me to the tutorial


3. Make a rag rug out of plarn

Great for outdoors, at the front door or in the bathroom, rag rugs made out of plastic carrier bags make surprisingly great mats. Here is an upcycling tutorial on how to make them. No crocheting needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eco friendly transport around town: adult scooters

I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to scoot away on my brand new ‘patinete’ or adult scooter, when I bought it in Valencia this spring. I felt like a kid again! Living in a city where you use public transport a lot and distances are sometimes a little bit far to walk (and arrive on time), it is extremely handy to have a portable vehicle to get yourself from A to B just that little bit faster. Adult scooters are perfect for short journeys, the school run or your daily commute with public transport.

oxeloscooter2.png
My trusted Oxelo scooter

My little boys have scooters and yes, they are usually associated with children’s activities, but believe me, the adult version is just as much fun. Wind in your hair, stepping away, gliding with ease, passing pedestrians and saving time. What’s not to like?

Scooters or patinetes (for the Spanish people among us) come in all shapes and sizes, with or without hand brakes. I bought an Oxelo adult scooter from Decathlon recently, for 119 euro. No hand brakes (instead you have a foot brake – you slow down by pushing the mud guard down on the back wheel with your foot), but it is foldable with a strap for easy carrying.  Even the handle bars fold inwards so you basically carry a scooter over your shoulder the size of a large bag. And not too heavy.  Very useful when getting on public transport! You can get actual carrier bags too if you want to take your scooter with you on longer journeys.

https---i.ytimg.com-vi-XpS0huGbJZY-maxresdefault


Electric scooters

There are also electric scooter available these days, which I must admit, look very attractive, especially at times when I am trying to push my non-electric scooter uphill, in 32 degrees heat. They are quite a lot more expensive, but would be a good option if you have difficulty walking long distances or need something a bit faster but still portable and easy to manoeuvre.

Which surfaces are best for adult scooters

Non electric scooters are particularly great on the flat or downhill, on smooth surfaces. Unless your scooter has big rubber tyres, don’t ride with them on old cobbled streets or very uneven roads. You get the idea, bumpetybump. Not great. Tiled paths are fine, although the bigger the tiles the better. In quiet residential streets I sometimes ride on the tarmac, as this surface is obviously ideal. Just make sure you watch the traffic and get back onto the pavement when it gets busy (yes, mum).

Wearing a helmet is always a good safety measure. If you live on a hill, it is a must. These scooters gain speed fast when going downhill, especially with a 75kg/150lbs adult on it. You really don’t want to hit a rock or curb and go flying without being protected.

micro-white-scooter-lifestyle-fold-SA0031.jpg
Micro-scooters is another great shop to find your ideal portable adult (or kid) scooter. Micro-scooter

Scoot to the gate: your micro scooter with built-in case

For the geeks among us, or rather the commuters who are traveling a lot, there is the Micro Luggage Scooter. No more running to the gate at the airport pulling your trolley case on wheels or clutching your cabin bag. And killing time waiting for your flight will never be the same again. Imagine the smooth surfaces in that departure lounge…

Happy scooting!

micro luggage scooter

 

6 Simple and Minimal Ways to Style Your Home

Minimalist living. Have you tried it? I have seen lot of bloggers and social media influencers pop up lately who talk about minimalist living. We all own too much, don’t we? It is suffocating. And where on earth do you leave all the stuff? I would love a house with less clutter myself. One day. Today on the blog have blogger and stylist Lisa Ramirez of  Casa de Rami (www.casaderami.com) sharing some ideas with us. She’s done it. She’s cleared the clutter and feels so much better for it! How did she do it?

minimalist living. scandinavian white kitchen
Image: Pixelbay

 


Lisa Ramirez Casa de Rami
Lisa from Casa de Rami

Lisa: I went through a major transition of ridding my home of all the unnecessary, so my family could live a more minimal life. This new way of living helped me realize that I was in fact over cluttering my home. I owned too many items that no longer served a purpose or fit in with my own style. Much of it was sadly the result of overbuying when my husband and I purchased our first house a couple of years back. Back then we felt the need to have to fill every room to the brim. But after downsizing to a smaller space, I learned that it’s not about how much you have, but what you have, and how you style it to serve multiple purposes.

From overbuying to downsizing

Styling your home in a way that makes you never want to leave is the number one goal for most of us. Displaying items and decor that speak to our personality and make us happy instead of feeling overwhelmed. Having a space that welcomes and comforts us, and doesn’t make us want to turn around and walk right back out. Those are the goals. But where do you draw the line between over doing it and getting it just right? In a society that constantly screams “More, more, more!”, how do you keep the balance between minimal & straight up too much. Here are some of the things I did to create a more minimalist home.


1.Clear out the clutter

This can be a fun process! Letting go of physical items is freeing. The more you toss, the more you gain. Make a plan and get going! Go through cupboards, closets, the basement. If you’re a family of four, you probably don’t need twenty plus coffee mugs, right? Pick through them, get rid of the ones that are chipped or broken and keep the good ones. Same for dishes, bowls, silverware. If you haven’t used an item in over six months, do you really need it?

Minimalist living. White kitchen
Having a minimal amount of serving ware allows you to be able to display it nicely on an open shelf or glass cupboard. Image: instagram.com/mariloubiz/

 


Go through your drawers, donate clothes that no longer fit you, and toss the ones that are too broken or stained to fix. Same for shoes, and accessories you no longer use or care for. And if you share your home have others do the same. If your kids are too young to decide, do it for them, ESPECIALLY when it comes to their mountain of toys! The more you clear out, the less you have to maintain and clean up. After the clutter is gone, you’ll be left with a new found appreciation for what you DO have – all of which serves a purpose, and you’re more than happy to keep and display in your home.


2. A place + purpose for everything

Now that you’ve cleared out the clutter, you should be left with only that which you truly need, and those unique + special items you love. Display them and use them. Everything should have a spot it calls home. Whether you want to display them on a shelf or keep in a cabinet, choose a proper place for each every single item.

Minimalist living. Clear the clutter
Clear jars aren’t only stylish, but just as functional. Image: instagram.com/lorewilbert


3. Display what you love + what makes you happy 

This part should be easy seeing as how you should only be left with items + decor that you love & enjoy. Display it all proudly. Style it with other items that pair well and create a cohesive balance. You want it to not only look good, but to also create a vibe of simplicity & calm.

Minimalist bedroom hygge
From the sweet message above the nightstand, to the stylish hats on the wall. It’s all being displayed in a way that says “these are some of my favorite things”. Image: instagram.com/cynthia_harper_


4. Take your time sourcing new items

After your big clutter purge, you may realize that you’re left with almost zero to no decor items. That’s OK! That’s actually a really good thing. That means you never really cared for what was in your home, and now you can start building a collection of items that will create the character and space your style speaks to. But try not to buy it all at once. Sometimes when we try and do this either at one particular store or online, we get easily overwhelmed because of all the choices that are out there. Take. Your. Time. You don’t need to fill your space in record speed. It’s not a race, but a journey. Pick out pieces little by little. Think it over, and you’ll see that your efforts will create the space of your dreams!

Minimalist boho living. The bedroom
Everything seen here has taken well over a year to source and put together. Our bedroom is finally coming together because we took our time to decorate and style it based only on what we truly love and makes us happy. Image: @casaderami


5. Cohesiveness is key

Creating an environment that has balance & simplicity is the perfect way to harmonize a space. Pieces that blend well in terms of color, style, texture & pattern help unify a room and bring it to life.

Minimalist interior design tips
From the bright whites & neutral tones, to the pops of dark blended with wood & greenery. It all creates a wonderful cohesive vibe. Image: instagram.com/cynthia_harper_


6. It’s all in the details

Details are what tell the story of your home. A picture of your family, an inherited heirloom sitting on the mantel, a worn out dresser that’s been given a hardware upgrade – it all speaks and lives in your home. This goes back to displaying only that which you love and makes you happy. You want to be able to look around your home, and have guests look around too and think, there’s a beautiful story to be told here.

Make it cozy, make it warm, make it inviting, make it yours.

 

Minimalist interior style tips
At a glance, there’s a majestic sense of history in this room. From the old fashion piano, to the vintage candlesticks on the mantel. Your home should tell a story. Image: instagram.com/mariloubiz/

For more inspiration from Casa de Rami:

www.casaderami.com
www.instagram.com/casaderami
www.facebook.com/casaderamiinteriors
www.pinterest.com/casaderamiblog
www.twitter.com/casaderami

Velvet inspiration: soften up your decor

Velvet is the one fabric I can’t walk past without touching it. Can you? It is very much on trend just now and many home interior stores are selling cushions, upholstered furniture and soft furnishings in this luxurious material. Here is some velvet inspiration to soften up your decor. A roundup of some gorgeous products for the next season. Enjoy!


Velvet fabrics for soft furnishings

velvet in home decor
Image: Dekoria

Rich velvet-like texture gives a luxurious look with irresistible soft to touch feel. Go for a decadent interior or bejewel a room with a few velvety touches for a must have look of 2018. Embrace the velvety look and give your living room or bedroom an on-trend plush update.

Where to buy velvet fabric?

Dekoria has a fabulous collection of fabrics that are – very useful – washable at 30 degrees. Affordable too at £17.00 / metre.


Luxurious velvet sofas

velvet sofa chesterfield in home decor
The Wellingtone sofa from Graham and Green

If you are looking for a beautiful luxurious sofa to make that grand statement in your interior, Graham and Green have a good selection. The one pictures shows the ‘Wellington 3-seater, a timeless sofa inspired by the classic chesterfield, in a royal blue velvet material. Luxury meets comfort here. It has beautiful scrolled arms and a plush button back finish creating a decadent focal point for your living room. Request a free swatch of your favourite colours to see and feel the material up close.

grey velvet sofa midcentury modern homelia
Image: Homelia

 

I really love this one, looking very midcentury modern and sleek. A long, rectangular 3-seater sofa from Homelia, online destination for luxury & designer homeware and furniture. The silhouette adds structure and style to a room whilst its plump back and seat cushions offer sink-in comfort as you completely stretch your legs out along its length. The small, angled legs in varnished chestnut add design-led flair.


Make a statement with a velvet armchair

If a 3-seater sofa is bit too much for you, why not go for a single armchair to add a smaller sophisticated statement to your interior? There are many shapes and sizes and with just the one chair you could go for something a bit more daring and different.

Knoll velvet dining chairs
Image: Knoll

A true vintage classic, these gold Platner armchairs by Knoll. No boring interior for you if you invest in one of those. Place them around the dining table or add a single one to your sitting corner for a wow factor.


velvet armchair in home decor
Image: Made.com


MADE
has a great selection of velvet armchairs, in both minimalist and bolder styles. I like this one with the elegant copper metal frame.

 


Snuggle up under a velvet blanket

velvet quilts
Image: Graham and Green

Because the evenings are getting chillier, little feels more luxurious and comforting than to snuggle up under a super soft blanket. These  Quilts With Printed Reverse (240 x 220cm) by Graham and Green are double sided and welcoming in every way. Besides that, the two colourways, Coral Red and Slate Blue are perfect colours for the winter months, treating your bedroom to warm tones while while the nights are getting colder. The quilt is soft to touch and showcases a neutral cotton reverse that has been embellished with hand block print work in a pale blue, inspired by floral Indian patterns. I’m sure I’d be loving these for a very long time, possibly forever.


 

How to be Happy. Interview with author Jacqueline Pirtle

How to be happy? Walk into a bookshop and you’ll find shelves full of books on happiness. We’re all looking for tips and tricks to lead happier lives with less stress and more focus. I recently stumbled across 365 Days of Happiness, a new publication full of daily inspirations to help you mindfully work towards living a more vivid experience of daily happiness. It is a rather, excuse the pun, happy book, with bitesize tips to start the day and focus your mind. Perfect for those of you who are not into heavy duty personal development books, but just need that little reminder each day that life really is OK.

I interviewed Jacqueline Pirtle, life coach, healer and author of 365 days of happiness and asked her about the book and what makes her happy.

Jacqueline Pirtle 365 days of happiness book


Jacqueline, happiness is a hot topic right now. Everyone seems to want a piece of the cake. What makes your book different?

Happiness is a great hot topic, yes! I believe that happiness is not something you do, but something you already are. It is about finding it inside of you. You are happiness and happiness is you, you two are never separate, but always one, so wherever you are, that is where happiness is too. To me this means that everyone wanting to be happy in fact means that people want to be more themselves, more of their truthful being. A beautiful way of living and experiencing this physical life.
My book is different in the way that it teaches mindful happiness, so no matter your circumstances, nothing has to change for you in order to be and live your happiness. You just have to start.

Are you a happy person by nature of did you become happier with time? What drives you?

I certainly have a very happy nature, but honestly I have my backpack of traumas,
hurts, health issues, worries and ups and downs too, just like everyone else. It is
part of living this physical life. The importance is how I look at, and feel about all these experiences. I believe that everything always happens for me, never to
me. Which makes everything and everyone always a gift for me, no matter what.
That creates a pressure-free way of living, where being happy and happier

is possible. Feeling good drives me. That is happiness for me.


Jacqueline Pirtle 365 days of happiness

You are originally from Switzerland, have lived in various other countries and now live in the US. Do you see big differences in happiness per country? Can you give examples that have inspired you or perhaps shocked you and given you a wake up call?

I love to travel and to really open myself up to every new place; to live and learn
what it is all about… every country in Europe that I traveled to was different and had
different values to teach. Every state in America I traveled and lived in
is different and teaches wonderful values. Every different country in Asia that
I traveled to had golden wisdom to teach…

I love to really, really experience every single thing and make it part of who I am. Here are a few: in Switzerland I learned about feeling safe, that staying private is nice, and to celebrate beautiful nature. Italy taught me about the essence of living a life full of beauty, food, and laughter. In the US I learned about thinking “big,” that “everything is possible,” and to “just go for it.” In Asia I learned about mindfulness, deep-ness, kind-ness, and whole-ness. In Madagaskar I learned about simplicity, nature, and smiles. And on every beach I was, I learned about simply “breathing” and “being.”


Happiness...you have to choose it, commit to it, and want to be it._


Are you ever miserable? When feeling low, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Miserable is a strong word… But yes, I do have times when I am not feeling good. But even that realization of “I am not feeling good” makes me feel good, because I know that it is a gift for me. For example: If I don’t feel good in my body, it is my body’s gift of telling me, “Hey, you are not taking good care of yourself!” This realization gives me the
chance to shift again to feeling better. If I don’t feel good emotionally, the gift
lays in looking at what old believes and feelings I can release. Either way, when I don’t feel good, I make sure to love that moment and do whatever it takes to shift to feeling good.
The key is to acknowledge that you are not feeling good without any judgement,
then to accept, respect, appreciate, thank, and love the “what” or “whom” you are
not feeling good about. Then out of that pressure-free and resistance-free space

you can shift yourself to feeling better with whatever you need to do for yourself.

I believe happiness has a lot to do with counting your blessings and not sweating the small stuff. If you had to bake a cupcake of happiness, what would be your three main ingredients?

Gratitude. Love & Kindness (counting it as one). Excitement.

Jacquline Pirtle is not only an author, she also works as an energy healer, mindfulness & happiness coach.Find more about here on www.freakyhealer.com

365 Days of Happiness is available on Amazon. Order the book


*Disclaimer: in return for writing this interview I received a free copy of the book. I only review books and products that I feel suit the topic and ethics of my blog. This book made me very happy!


Choosing schools in Spain. Emigrating with children

Moving abroad with children means making important decisions around schooling. Choosing a school in Spain means getting to grips with a whole new system, and lots of choices. Do you put them into a local school or a more international one? We moved to Valencia earlier this year and had to make decisions about schools in Spain for our native English speaking 4 and 6 year old sons, who had no Spanish whatsoever. Here is some information about schools in Spain and the different aspects to think about. *I am of course no expert, so this information is purely my personal experience and knowledge.


Choosing schools in Spain: preparation

Before the move we had done some research into choosing a school in Spain and particularly schools in Valencia. We visited a few too while my husband and I were over for a recce trip. Were we going to go for an English, bilingual or Spanish school? And what curriculum is best? It is hard to know where to start and like most expats, we looked at the best known private international or bilingual schools first. This was only because they are mentioned most in forums and on expat websites. There are so many

other choices which could be much better suited to your children and your lifestyle. It is worth ‘shopping around’. They may also save you quite a bit each month if you don’t have the funds or the desire to commit to private school fees.


multicolored abacus photography

Schools in Spain: Public, semi-private or private

I was blown away by the vast amount of schools Valencia. They range from public schools, semi-private schools (‘concertados’) to private schools. Many schools have nursery, primary and secondary school/baccalaureate all in one building. That way your child can stay in the same school their entire childhood. No wonder parents get quite anxious about finding the right school.

Public


Public schools are state-run, Spanish, and many parents are happy with their children to go here. They are free, but you pay monthly for the ‘comedor’ or dinner hall at school. That is if you want your children to eat at school and not come home for lunch. The public schools, there are of course many, are the trickiest to select as an expat. You just don’t have any knowledge about which ones are good. Also, if you don’t know where you are going to be living yet, it is pointless trying to enroll them since you need a postcode within the catchment area. But if you are looking for a way to get your children to speak Spanish as quickly as possible, going to a local, Spanish school is a good option.

Semi-private / concertado


The semi-private, or ‘concertado’ status means that they are run and paid by the state but as a parent you contribute a monthly fee to receive the extras that a school offers. This could mean perhaps an extra teacher per class, more freedom in terms of their curriculum and how they design their classes and activities. A lot of the semi-private schools are religious (Catholic). And whereas some of them charge about the same as most private schools (which is around a minimum of 300-400 euro per month per child, often more), others charge very little and are in fact very affordable.


Private, English or Spanish schools in Valencia

There are also a great number of private schools in Valencia. Some are small, other very large, and they are based on either the Spanish, British or American curriculum. The best known among expats are the Amercian school, Caxton College, British School of Valencia, Cambridge House and Mas Camarena. There is even a French Lycee. But there are smaller ones too, such as Los Olivos.

person s wearing white and black low top sneakers
Photo by Rogério Martins on Pexels.com

Even though a lot of the private, bilingual or English speaking schools call themselves ‘international’, almost 100%  of the pupils are Spanish children. Many Spanish parents nowadays want their offspring to become fluent in English. Future job prospects are important in a country where unemployment rates are still at almost 25%. Being English speaking therefore has advantages. The ‘international’ part has mostly to do with the fact that half or almost all lessons are taught in English or the curriculum is based on the American or British system. It also means for many of these schools there are waiting lists.

what language: Spanish, English, bilingual or…Valenciano?

Choosing schools in Spain, and Valencia, comes with another question. What language will my child be taught in? I believe that the younger the child, the less important it is what the main language is they are taught in and whether or not it is a British (or other) curriculum. Obviously children will learn Spanish much quicker with full immersion. Most expat parents with teenagers say their children adapted better to their new environment in an international school with a curriculum similar to what they were used to back home, especially if exams are on the horizon. A toddler? They just want to play and within weeks they’ll come home using a handful of Spanish words already.

Bilingual schools in Spain


There are a lot of bilingual schools (English and Spanish), with some following the Spanish curriculum, some the British. Some are 100% English spoken schools and then there are some other foreign languages with their own schools too (French, German). Last but not least, this is Valencia and they have their own language called Valenciano which is a bit like Catalan, although I am sure the locals will tell me otherwise.

Valenciano as a compulsary subject


Valenciano is compulsory in all schools, private or not, with a minimum amount of hours per week. It is a political thing, and depending on who the mayor is in any particular year, the hours could go up or down in the curriculum. Most schools choose to teach subjects like music, religion or science in Valenciano in addition to the actual Valenciano language classes, to make up for the required hours.

girls on desk looking at notebook
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Creating multilingual children

A lot of expats freak out about the whole Valenciano thing and get frustrated that their kids have to study it, but to me it’s just another language. This is my humble opinion. Surely it can only be beneficial for a young child’s brain to learn plenty of different languages? The biggest argument against Valenciano I hear all the time is that “they only speak it in the Valencia region so what’s the point?”. Now I am Dutch and Dutch isn’t actually spoken anywhere else in the world other than the teeny tiny Netherlands and a few old far away colony islands in the Caribbean. Any expat child moving to the Netherlands has to learn Dutch if they are not in an international school. Also not particularly useful as a world language.

Your child may not stay in the Valencia region when he or she grows up, but they’ll have had the benefit of studying another language. They will pretty much be able to understand Catalan too as a bonus. Just my personal opinion, you may feel differently. The only advice I can give is to ask the school if it is possible for your child not to get Valenciano lessons until his/her understanding of Castellano is good enough.

How to get a space in a Spanish school?

When you choose schools in Spain, the next question is, how to get your child in it? Now this is the tricky bit. Like everywhere, good schools are hard to get into. Almost all bilingual or fully English semi-private and private schools are very popular among the Spanish parents. They all want their brood to speak decent English. This means it is not easy to get a place.

Spanish parents often start looking at their preferred school almost as soon as their baby is born. Then they enroll their kids as early as they can possibly start. In Spain this is the year they turn 3 and in the private schools that are offering preschool childcare, they even babies accept babies. So by the time you arrive from abroad with your 4 and 6-year old, especially halfway through the year, classes are full. You may find yourself having to put your kids in a school that wasn’t even on your shortlist.

School enrollment times in Spain

Enrollment time is usually mid May and school websites and the local municipality publish the exact dates on their websites . To enroll your child in a public or concertado school you need to live in the right catchment area to score enough points. Other factors are whether you already have siblings in the school and some other criteria – check your council website for the details. For private schools the postcode area is not a concern, but they may still have waiting lists. Many private schools have school bus transport around the city.

painting and drawing tools set
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Choosing schools in Valencia: ask other expat parents

I hope this post has been somewhat useful for those of you thinking about moving to Spain as a family. It is tough knowing whether you are doing the right thing for your children! At the end of the day, you can start with one school and change down the line if it is not working out for you. I have heard that many people do this. It is also a good idea to join some local Facebook groups and check other people’s opinions on schools. Without one central international school in Valencia, expat children go to many different schools everywhere around town.

Be aware though that asking about schools on these forums is a bit of a mine field. Everyone has their own take on things. What suits them may not suit you and your family. Some love the all singing all dancing international private schools with the beautiful facilities and the matching price tags. Others sing the praises of their little local public school in their own neighbourhood. “The facilities may be poor but the teachers are fabulous”. If you have time, ‘shop’ around. You may just find a hidden gem.

Page turners. Holiday Book recommendations

Off on your holidays soon? Or just in need of some book tips? Holidays are the ideal time to catch up on that reading list. It is always helpful to get some book recommendations, so you don’t have to spend too much time browsing the shop – or amazon. I have been reading a couple of great books lately, so I thought I give you a little review of both. They are both very different, but great reads and not too heavy on the brain. Let’s face it, you are on holiday after all.

man in a hammock reading


book recommendations:
The Circle. Dave Eggers

This book really gave me a wake-up call about our obsession with the internet. What will it be like in the future? Mae, a young professional gets hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company. She feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users’ personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity. They are promoting a new age of transparency and want everyone to be on board. Mae can’t believe how lucky she is to work for them. But how dangerous is the Circle really, when even governments are being convinced to buy into their systems? The Circle is a book that is obviously fiction, but is not that far from our current reality and the way we use social media. This is a very topical book that draws you in, making you feel slightly uncomfortable at times, but is also highly enjoyable. A great holiday read.

Buy the book

book recommendations. the circle dave eggers


book recommendations:
The Forgetting Time. Sharon Guskin

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I read a book so quickly, because I couldn’t put it down. The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin is a wonderful and touching story about previous lives, whether or not you believe in it. Four-year old Noah lives with his mother in New York. He keeps having nightmares and calling out for his ‘other mother’ and that he wants to ‘go home’. He says his name is ‘Tommy’, not Noah. His teachers at school can’t handle Noah and his strange stories and behaviour. Doctors suspect schizophrenia. His mother is desperate and one night when she is googling her son’s symptoms, she comes across a researcher whose work is centered around reincarnation. She is obviously sceptical, but decides to find out more, to try and ‘cure’ Noah from his troubled mind. When they go on their mission to delve into Noah’s past life, they find out the gruesome truth… The Forgetting Time is a great book about life, love, motherhood, and loss. Two mothers, two different sons, one soul. It is a story that will definitely stay with me for quite some time.

buy the book

book recommendations. the forgetting time sharon guskin


*This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. This means that if you decide to order the books I recommend, Amazon will thank me by giving me a small percentage of the earnings.

Top 10 Vintage shops in Valencia

Valencia is a city where you can walk around aimlessly for days and still not get bored of the abundance and vibrancy of colours, street art, cafe’s, parks and many different little shops. Of course, with such a great vibe, there’s bound to be some real vintage treasures to be found. Do you love vintage shopping and finding a unique vintage souvenir when visiting a different city? Here is my Top 10 of vintage shops in Valencia.


vintage shops in valencia


1. Madame Mim

Calle Puerto Rico 30, Russafa, Valencia 46006
Hours 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM, 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Facebook page

Dimly lit as if entering the costume department of a 1920s theatre, you will find a weird and wonderful cabinet of curiosities. Glamourous sequined evening wear from bygone eras, retro telephones, a wall full of shoes, sparkly jewellery and racks of wearable vintage fashion, all reasonably priced. They call themselves a ‘second hand freak shop‘, but this is certainly one of the best vintage shops in Valencia.

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2. Flamingos Vintage Kilo

Calle Cadiz 17, Russafa, Valencia 46006
Hours 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Facebook page

Packed with fashion from mainly the 1980s and 90s, this shop is a great place to stock up on vintage jeans, dungarees, crop tops, maxi skirts and floral dresses. Also the perfect place for guys to get kitted out with a cool hawaiian shirt and denim jacket.

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3. Aiecle vintage store

Calle Cádiz 26, Russafa, Valencia, 46006


Probably the one with the best shop front of any of the vintage shops in Valencia, there is no way you will walk past this one. Aiecle Vintage Store is located just around the corner from Flamingos Vintage Kilo in Russafa. The shop stock is similar, with plenty of colourful 1980s and 90s vintage to choose from. Wearable outfits for OK prices.

vintage shops in valencia


4. Used

Calle Pinzón 1, Old town, Valencia 46003
Hours 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Facebook page

Used is a popular shop, online and offline and sells quality vintage, ranging from 1980s sports wear to vintage Levi’s denims. The hipster in you will drool over its collection. Find Used in the old town in the centre of Valencia.

5. Needles & Pins Vintage

Calle En Bou 3, Old town, Valencia 46001
Hours 10:30 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Facebook Page

A gem of a vintage shop right in the middle of the historic city centre of Valencia. Here you will find a colourful collection of vintage and handmade clothing and accessories. Plenty to choose from, whether you are on the hunt for a special summer dress or a cute top.

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6. Ruzafa Vintage

Vintage for the home has not really caught on here in Valencia yet, but there are some great little shops if you look for them. For midcentury furniture and retro accessories, try Ruzafa Vintage in Calle Puerto Rico. A mix of chairs, storage, lots of lighting and smaller items. And a lovely purple shop front.

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7. Second Chance

Gran Vía Germanías 41, Valencia 46006 map
Hours 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Facebook Page

Now don’t be put off by its unattractive shop front, because inside it is a treasure trove. Find anything from Atari computers to 100 year old oil paintings, and from vintage trunks to second-hand bikes. Prices can be a bit steep for some things, but nothing says you can’t try and do a bit of haggling. Worth a browse, for sure. Find it on the edge of Russafa, along the busy Gran Via near Estación del Norte .

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8 Studio vintage

Calle Purisima 8 bajo, Old town, Valencia 46001
Hours 10:30 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM. Closed on weekends.
Facebook page

A lot more upmarket than the previous shop and particularly interesting if you actually live in Valencia and want to invest in some gorgeous midcentury pieces for your home. But we can look, right? This shop sells vintage design from Spain, France, Britain and Scandinavia. Go here for a good sideboard, some funky lighting or a comfy teak Danish armchair.

vintage shops in valencia


9. El Monstruo


Hours: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Facebook Page

El Monstruo is one of the vintage shops in Valencia offering a fabulous eclectic mix of vintage, customised and handmade. There is in fact an in-house taylor. You can choose a vintage fabric and get your own shirt made. If you want to browse ready-made clothes, there is plenty on the racks, ranging from 1950s petticoats to cute sixties blouses and much more.

vintage shops valencia
vintage shops in valencia


10. Sabotage

Calle Purísima 5, Old town, Valencia 46001
Hours 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Facebook Page

This concept store and gallery,  across from Studio Design in the old town of Valencia, has a wonderful mix of art, prints, handmade and vintage finds. Some amazing framed artwork as well as screen printed bags and other handmade items by local artists. Well worth a look.

vintage shops valencia vintage shops in valencia

Three statement chandeliers to make with embroidery hoops

Today I am going to show you how to make an embroidery hoop chandelier. Create some fabulous decor pieces with embroidery hoops. Super easy, but stunning and they are very decorative both indoors and outdoors. Use them in your home interior or as party decoration. Try them as lampshades or as mobiles suspended from the ceiling of a nursery or other room. Add some fairylights for extra sparkle.


An embroidery hoop chandelier with photos

Super simple idea, but looking great: three wooden embroidery hoops in different sizes, suspended and attached to one another with thin metal wire. Glue small wooden pegs onto the hoops at equal distance. Print off your favourite black and white photos and clip them in place around the hoops.

Of course you can do this with all kinds of paper, they don’t have to be photos. Try vintage postcards or book pages as an alternative.

An embroidery hoop photo chandelier
Image: The Nester
book pages chandelier with embroidery hoops
Image: divertissementblogdotcom

Create an Embroidery hoop chandelier with ribbons

You can go for the three tiered embroidery hoop chandelier for a real statement piece or keep it simple and start with one hoop. Make just a small hoop or fill a hula hoop with long strips of fabric for more impact – the latter would make a stunning center piece in a wedding or summer party marquee too. All you need is a large batch of similar length ribbons or strips if fabrics in your favourite colours and tie them to the hoop until the circle is full.

embroidery hoop chandelier with ribbons
Image: Pinterest
embroidery hoop mobile chandelier with ribbons
Image: Pinterest

Make an Embroidery hoop mobile with felt and paper

The possibilities are endless. You can literally tie anything to a hoop as long as it is secured and not too heavy! How about saving up those wine bottle corks? Doilies? Tiny glass bottles with fresh flowers? Origami crane birds! Paper flowers, felt balls, feathers, little crocheted animals…you name it.

Hang your embroidery hoop chandelier over the dining table, in a corner of the living room or create something cute for in the nursery. You can even hang the hoop sideways and turn it into a bohemian dream catcher… Here are some more ideas.

crocheted animals mobile for nursery embroidery hoop
Image: Miss Moss
embroidery hoop mobile for nursery with felt balls
Image: Etsy
bohemian dream catcher with embroidery hoop
Image: Bridal Musings
paper circles mobile with embroidery hoop for nursery
Image: Etsy

Disclaimer: In this post I have included affiliate links to Etsy and Craft and Create who will pay me a small percentage of what you spend if you choose to click on the links and buy craft supplies from them. This of course helps me to keep going as a blogger. Your support is much appreciated!