CVS makes a sporty delivery!

It has been an amazing year for sport in the UK, creating a fantastic opportunity for families to get more active and try out new things together. To mark the occasion, at CVS we launched our very own ‘Summer of Sport’ campaign and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response it has received.

As part of the campaign we have been running a special competition on our Facebook page, giving families the chance to win £250 worth of sporting equipment (enough to keep even the most active child entertained for some time!).

We’re delighted to announce that we now have our lucky winners.

In the under-3s category it was water baby Florence from Long Eaton in Nottingham.

CVS sales director Iain Williamson dropped by to deliver the huge pile of toys and equipment, which was an early birthday present for the toddler who will be two at the end of October.

Mum Kate opted for the swimming-related prize package after saying how much Florence loves the water and enjoys her weekly water baby class. She has even more reason to want to stay in the pool now, after receiving everything from a ride-on whale toy, to a pool noodle, swim jacket and socks, poncho and special UV suit.

The Batchelor family from Rugby were the lucky recipients of the prize in the 3-16 years old category.

Joe, aged 7, and Katie, aged 6, watched excitedly as their prize arrived, containing everything from a football to a swing ball set, a bike, pogo stick, racket and balls, and a scooter. We just couldn’t hold them back from getting stuck in to all the toys straight away.

Thanks to everyone who entered and remember to check back in with our Facebook page regularly for more fun competitions, play ideas, inspiration and information.

The benefits of baby massage

Relaxation is really important for mum, dad and baby and using baby massage techniques is one way you can promote this, while also being a chance for some quality bonding time together. According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), the benefits of baby massage include helping the long-term emotional health of a child, the development of body awareness and coordination, reducing post-natal depression and improving mother/baby relationships.

There are also lots of other benefits, from helping circulation, digestive and nervous systems, to stimulating growth hormones. It can also help manage and relieve the symptoms of teething, colic and colds.

And it’s not just for mums – dads may find introducing a regular massage routine helps them feel closer to baby, especially if they are spending time away at work.

So what is it?

Baby massage involves the gentle and rhythmic stroking of a baby, generally moving from the legs to the arms, hands and body. It can also include the gentle manipulation of joints, such as fingers and ankles. It is done with the hands and you may choose to use baby moisturiser or similar to help your hands glide smoothly.

What do parents say

Before I had my own children I taught the IAIM technique of baby massage to new parents. Along with all the other positive outcomes it is a great tool to enable parent and baby to communicate, by taking time out from a busy day to concentrate on what he or she is trying to tell you.

Babies are born ready and very willing to communicate as a survival skill, but signs can get lost or misinterpreted. Dads can also often feel at a loss when mum is breast feeding, so this gives them a specific task and makes them able to ‘do’ something.

In my own family the massage time has had importance with each successive child, as protected one-to-one time with each specific child. We have adapted the moves as they have got older and they also do it to each other now, which is lovely.

Want to find out more

Check out what baby massage clinics are taking place in your area. A good place to start is to contact your doctor’s office or to ask your health visitor.

Guest blog provided by Beverley Squire, a health visitor and mother of three from Devon

CVS launches healthy families drive!

After December, the month of excess, January and February sees us flocking to the gym in droves and looking for ways for us and our families to be healthier in the coming year.

As a Dad with a young son, it’s a huge priority of mine to ensure that he is eating healthily. To make sure my wife and I have enough time to create healthy balanced meals for Gabriel, we make everything from scratch at the weekend – which only takes a couple of hours – put them in pop-out trays and freeze them. This means we can take something out each morning for his lunch and dinner and we know exactly what’s in his food. 

[caption id="attachment_738" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Gabriel"][/caption]

Gabriel's favourite is Annabel Karmel's Cod and Spinach recipe, which he gets very excited about, as you can see! 

To help inspire parents, CVS has launched ‘Health Kick’ our special healthy families drive, where we will be offering tips, advice and ideas on our blog and interactive Facebook page. You can choose from the following articles for advice from us and our guest bloggers:

Encouraging Children to Eat More Healthily – by Annabel Karmel
Healthy snack SOS!

Family bootcamp – top tips for family fitness by personal trainer Simon Parker
‘Super’ foods for kids

We’d love you to get involved and to share your own hints, tips and recipe ideas.

Perhaps you have a clever way to encourage children to get their five-a-day? Or maybe you have some fun ideas for getting more active as a family? Whatever your experiences, we’d love to hear from you, find us at

CVS is the UK’s largest dedicated provider of childcare vouchers. We work with thousands of parents and carers across the UK. To find out more about childcare vouchers and how they could help you save up to £1866 a year, visit

Encouraging children to eat more healthily – by Annabel Karmel

[caption id="attachment_773" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Annabel Karmel"][/caption] Food is the fuel that powers our children. It makes them grow strong, gives them energy and plenty of opportunities to wind up their parents. If you struggle to get your children to eat healthily, don’t let frustration take over, try not to respond to bad eating habits. Your child will soon find there’s not much point making a fuss if you don’t react. Let your child be hungry sometimes. A hungry child is often a less fussy child.

Try to avoid letting children graze between meals on unhealthy snacks.  Avoiding snacks will mean they are more likely to try new foods come mealtime. However for occasions such as after school when kids come home starving, having things ready-prepared and to hand, such as raw vegetables and a dip, a pitta pocket filled with tuna, or cut up fruit, means you don’t fall back on the easy option of an empty calorie snack such as biscuits or crisps.

Remember food is not just sustenance, but can also be fun. Making food more appealing is a great way to get children trying new healthy food. It is good to be a little inventive in how we present our food. Mini portions of dishes such as cottage pie in a ramekin dish looks far more appetising than a dollop of food on a plate. Noodle or stir fry dishes are a great way to up the intake of vegetables and get them to use child friendly chopsticks. When it gets warmer you can puree fresh fruit to make your own fresh fruit ice lollies.

A great way to get your children eating healthily is by getting them in the kitchen helping you. This is quality time with your children and can make them much more interested in trying new things. Once children are a little older give them the responsibility of cooking the family meal one night, give them a simple recipe that you help them with first time round, then let them make it once a week for a month and by the end they will know how to make one dish really well and be proud of their achievement.

Annabel’s recipe for Rainbow Ribbon Noodles - makes 2 toddler portions


[caption id="attachment_743" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Annabel's Rainbow Noodles"][/caption]

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 egg

1 tsp soy sauce


1 tsp water

Small clove garlic, crushed

Half tsp grated fresh ginger

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Quarter yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into matchsticks

Half skinny courgette cut into matchsticks

75g medium rice noodles (pad Thai type) prepared according to the packet instructions or 150g ready to use noodles

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp sweet chilli sauce

Half tsp sesame oil

Chopped fresh coriander (optional)

METHOD: Heat 1 tsp of the oil in a wok. Beat the egg, 1 tsp soy sauce and water together and add to the wok. Cook the eggs until just set and brown underneath. Break or chop into pieces and transfer to a bowl. Set aside. Heat the remaining oil in the wok and add garlic and ginger. Sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the carrot, peppers and courgette and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the noodles and spring onions and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes until the noodles have heated through. Stir in the soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and sesame oil, followed by the omelette pieces, then remove from the heat and transfer to bowls. Garnish with chopped coriander if you like.


Annabel Karmel is the UK's best-selling author of seventeen books on baby and children's food and nutrition. Her 'Essential Guide to Feeding your Baby and Toddler’ is available on iTunes for £3.99 with 120 recipes and 'how to' videos. For more information visit


 These opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services.

Healthy snack SOS!

[caption id="attachment_794" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="How to keep snacks healthy, even on days out."][/caption] As part of ‘Health Kick’, our healthy families month, we are offering parents advice and tips on ways to get healthier as a family.

In this blog post we take a look at junk food danger times, when unhealthy snacks and fast food may be hard to avoid, such as family days out.


Every parent wants their child to eat healthily, but even with the best intentions sometimes it can prove difficult - especially if you have a schedule packed with fun!

From a trip to the cinema, to family days out and long car journeys, there are a number of situations where you may find yourself tempted to reach for those high fat, high sugar foods.

When faced with rows of confectionary, nothing but fast food outlets and ‘pester power’ from the kids, it could prove difficult to resist even for the most resolute of parents!

But the good news is you can get through these ‘danger times’ with a little forward thinking – and in many cases save your bank balance as well as keeping your little ones healthy!

What are the junk food danger times?

The first step is recognising those danger times. How many of these situations have you faced?

  • Cinema trips – who can resist the bright lights of the confectionary counter, ice creams and pick’n’mix?
  • After school snack – the kids get back from school and want something the second they walk in the door, it’s all too tempting to reach for the biscuit tin
  • Days out – lunch time arrives while you’re out and about but there’s nothing but fast food outlets
  • Car journeys and service stations – desperate to keep them distracted a quick stop at the services with their sweets, drinks and fast food can suddenly seem very appealing
  • Theme park visits – from burgers and chips to candy floss, sweets and fizzy drinks, it can be a calorie-filled ride
  • Birthday parties – whether you have 5 or 20 children attending, the table could easily fill with crisps, cakes and other goodies

Getting prepared

The best way to breeze through these times is to be prepared. To help you we have compiled a list of quick and easy snacks, which can be used for almost any of these occasions, as a healthy alternative - whilst still being super tasty!

Homemade popcorn – Fun to make and fun to eat! What’s not to love as a healthy alternative to crisps? Popcorn can easily be made at home, either in the microwave or saucepan, and the kids will love listening and watching as each little corn explodes. This tasty treat can still be delicious without the traditional sugar or butter. Great for: Birthday Parties, Cinema trips, After School snacks.

Fruit & Vegetable bites – Carrot, cucumber, celery, pepper and anything else you fancy, along with berries and grapes, are great when you’re on the go or as an addition to your child’s lunch box. It’s an easy way to add extra fruit and vegetables into your child’s diet. To make it a little more exciting why not add a little houmous or cottage cheese for dipping. Great for: Birthday Parties, After School, Picnics/Days Out, Lunch Box, Car Journeys. 

Trail Mix – Nuts and dried fruit are another healthy snack option which is filling and releases energy for your child. Mix nuts, seeds and dried fruit such as raisins and cranberries can give your child a healthy and sweet treat. Great for: Lunch Box, Car Journeys, Picnics/Days Out, Cinema, After School. 

Taste the Rainbow – How many different coloured fruits and vegetables can your child eat in one day? Make it a competition for the whole family to take part in and reap the rewards which each different food gives you. Turning this into a game will help encourage fussier or less adventurous eaters to discover new foods they might not usually eat, such as blueberries or gooseberries. Great for: Lunch Boxes, After School, Picnics/Days Out, Car Journeys.

You will find more helpful hints and tips on our Facebook page and remember to share your own hints and tips to help inspire other parents.

You may be surprised to learn that you can use childcare vouchers towards the cost of days out, with vouchers covering a range of registered childcare including some of the top child activity centres - and it’s not just for toddlers, the vouchers can be used for children up to the age of 16. For more details, visit

Family bootcamp – top tips for family fitness by personal trainer Simon Parker

[caption id="attachment_780" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Simon Parker"][/caption] Exercising regularly as a family and encouraging your children to be active is a really important part of keeping them healthy. Coupled with a healthy diet, it is the best way to prevent your child becoming overweight and suffering its many associated health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

But how much exercise do you think your child should be doing each day?

10 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour?

The NHS actually recommends that children aged 5 to 18 should be doing at least one hour of aerobic activity every day. That is physical activity which gets them breathing hard and fast and that has their heart rate up quite a bit. It can be broken down into segments throughout the day.

For children under five who can walk unaided they should be physically active for at least three hours a day. This can be spread throughout the day, indoors or out, and can be things like jumping, skipping, dancing and running.

As well as doing activity which raises their heart rate, it is good to include activities that will help strengthen their muscles and bones.

Swimming is a great example. It is fun to do and uses every muscle group, so is great for cardiovascular fitness.

Stuck for other ideas? Then how about these suggestions for active games and play sessions:

  • Play a game of ‘tag’ or ‘Stuck in the mud’
  • Jumping or hop scotch
  • Building a den out of cardboard boxes
  • Play musical statues
  • Hula hooping
  • Running
  • Dancing
  • Playing football
  • Going for walks
  • Swimming
  • Cycling and bike rides
  • Roller skating
  • Scooters
  • Skipping

Older children and teenagers

Joining local or school sports teams or clubs can be a great way for your children to keep fit whilst learning new skills and making new friends. If they’re not so keen on sport or other activities, why not try getting them involved with the household chores (perhaps incentivised by extra pocket money). This can be a good way to encourage them to be more active, and may also give you a helping hand. Try suggesting the following next time they’re looking for something to do:

  • Washing the car
  • Cutting the grass
  • Walking the dog
  • Painting the fence
  • Hanging out the washing
  • Chopping wood
  • Cutting hedges
  • Digging up weeds and gardening

Simon Parker is a Personal Trainer -

These opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Computershare Voucher Services.