29 January 2017

Slugs, snails and puppy dog tails

Little 3 is now 22 months old, since the girls went back to school in the New Year he has changed a great deal, not only has he suddenly got a bit taller but he has had another language and developmental jump and he seems to be edging towards being a little boy and not so much of a toddler anymore.

He has always been bright, all the Little Ones are clever, but I think it also comes from having older sisters and a Mummy at home with a degree in child development and who never stops talking to him!

His language has been fab right from the off and he uses a couple of hundred words regularly although he can't quite say his h's and v's yet. He is able to communicate telling us what he wants whether it is food or a particular toy and recently has just started to string 3 words together to form some sort of command or basic sentence which has been really quite lovely.

For example, on a Saturday morning when it is just him and I up while everyone else has a lie in, he is allowed his breakfast at the little toddler table in front of the television (we normally all sit at the dining table on a week day) and I normally nurse a cup of coffee sat next to him on the sofa, the other week he sat at the table and said 'Mummy, sit chair breakfast' pointing to the chair clearly indicating to me that he wanted me to sit with him and so I wedged my bottom on the tiny chair and did as I was asked, the smile that lit up his face said it all and now I no longer sit on the sofa and I have my breakfast with him down there too.

It is great to see him interacting with his sisters as well. Now that he can tell us what he wants, he can join in the girls games and get them to do what he wants too. He was building his duplo train and showed Little 1 who was standing near him, she praised him and said 'Well done' to which he furrowed his little brow and said ' No, play trains' as he had wanted her to play rather than just look and so she stopped and played with him for a while. 

Little 3 is in some ways really quite different to the girls and I am not sure if it is because he is a boy or just because he is him. The girls would happily do puzzles and sit for ages drawing, they would spend a long time setting things up and playing with them but Little 3 is a bit different. He doesn't have much time for puzzles or the shape sorter and generally ends up throwing the bits around after a few minutes and drawing on the table or his hand rather than the paper but then he will sit for ages playing with the Postman Pat toys he has got out or the train track we have set out with him. He spends a lot of time in the play kitchen making tea or cups of coffee and will also chat to himself while he puts his play figures to bed in the little house both of which the girls did too.

But that is where the similarities end and his boyishness really comes in, Little 3 likes to play with balls and yo-yos A LOT, he likes to throw things, something the girls never did, and although this is usually accompanied by the word 'catch' as a ball sails past your ear. He just seems to have a slightly more physical streak than the girls did. Spinning round in circles with a yo-yo on the end of a string swinging around is another favourite activity and as I try to avoid getting hit on the kneecap while I ask him to give it to me, I have realised he is just a little more active than the girls were.

There isn't a mean or naughty bone in his body, Little 3 is a total charmer and everyone loves him, he is so cheeky and he knows it. He has such a mischievous grin and a cute smile and makes me laugh constantly. I have begun to think whether it is time he went to playgroup or something so he can have some fun with other children his age, get messy and run off some energy??

25 January 2017

Counting in sleeps, the only measurement of time!

Now everyone knows that if you are a child the way to measure time is by the number of sleeps, it may be tomorrow or the day after that but for the Little Ones all they want to know is 'How many sleeps until... Mummy?

I am not sure at what point counting the days or looking on a calendar begins to kick in but for the girls counting in sleeps is the only acceptable unit of time and woe betide me if I attempt to tell them any other.

At this point in time Little 2 is counting in sleeps for three separate things and every evening before bed and every morning I have to work out how many sleeps it is until the awaited events. She is currently counting sleeps until her birthday party (2 sleeps), her actual birthday (10 sleeps) and the day she will be able to attend her first Rainbows meeting after she has turned 5 (15 sleeps), as the numbers get lower she is getting more excited and I have been tempted to add on a sleep or two!!

I am not sure if it is a way to get the sleeps down faster or just the thought process in her head but Little 1 doesn't include the sleep she is about to have in her sleeps count. For example if something was three days and therefore three sleeps away she would say it was two sleeps away that night at bedtime because when she wakes up it will be two sleeps and isn't including the sleep she is about to have (confusing eh!). 

I understand her logic but it didn't half cause a problem at Christmas when she had convinced her younger sister that there was one sleep until Christmas (meaning one sleep after the one she was about to have) and Little 2 who counts sleeps in the normal way was then convinced Father Christmas was going to visit that night and we really had to explain that it was only going to be Christmas Eve, she went from super excited to really upset and grumpy, it wasn't the best bedtime!

The trouble is, it isn't just the number of sleeps for things that are nearly upon us that they want to know, Little 1 has already asked how many sleeps until our summer holiday, her birthday in October and Christmas. To which I generally reply 'oh there are too many to count', if something is more than a couple of weeks away I tell them in months or weeks before the counting in days begins. 

Do your children count in sleeps?

24 January 2017

5 easy, affordable ways to entertain the children this winter

It goes without saying that being cooped up inside during the winter can be boring, and keeping the Little Ones entertained without breaking the bank can sometimes be difficult. The nights get darker quicker, the air is cold, and when the weather is bad we will be stuck indoors looking for ways to amuse the Little Ones before they start squabbling again.

Winter causes the outdoors to be a lot less accommodating than it usually is, and can cause you to spend a fortune to go somewhere on a day out. However, there are ways that you can bring about some seasonal variations that will save on your budget and put a much more positive spin on what can be miserable months in winter. You can truly have more family fun, without having to spend a great deal of money doing so.

So why not try these 5 great tips when you want to have some affordable fun with your children this winter:

1. Think About A Conker Collection Competition

The Little Ones love conkers, and so do I. I remember cooking and pickling them and having conker fights at school. You could be surprised at just how much your children will love them and how much joy they can bring. Think about all of the delight that comes with breaking open the spiky, brown shell to show a shiny conker that is hidden on the inside. Whether you are simply collecting or you take it a step further to tie them up with string to play a fun game of conkers, this is a nice way to bring a bit of warmth and bonding to an otherwise cold day of winter.

2. Entertainment At The Museum

When you are feeling a bit claustrophobic with indoor activities, you can think about a change of scenery without having to make it extravagant. Take a trip to your local museum to see about their free offerings and take it from there. The admission will usually be free for children under a certain age, or they will get in at a dramatically reduced rate. Get on the bus, bring along a lunch to keep the costs low, and you will be there enjoying yourself in no time, also if you join freebie sites like FreeStuff Baby, they do post some good family day out freebies.

3. Teach Traditional Games

Put away the tablets, phones and other technology for a while so that children have a chance to understand that technology is not a babysitter or a lifeline. You can make winter a success by teaching children that there are plenty of wonderful family games that can be played, much like they did when the latest technology didn't exist.

Look for some of your old favorite games to play as a family, or even think about starting a new tradition with some different games that you haven't tried before. Even though there may be some initial whining when the gadgets are taken away, they will quickly forget once they start having fun and realizing that there are other things that can be done.

4. Make DIY Playdough

Think about the last time that your children had a chance to create and have fun with playdough (daily in our house). Instead of just buying some at the shop, try and make some DIY playdough that the children will love, they will enjoy getting their hands sticky and making their own. All it takes it bringing together some simple ingredients and you will be in for hours of fun, even when the temperatures dip down outside. This is a cheap way to have fun and bond with your Little Ones as well!

5. Bundle Up And Have A Bonfire

Even though you may only have time for bonfire night once a year, there is nothing saying that you cannot break the rules every once in a while. No matter how cold it gets outside, you can build a great bonfire outside, roast some marshmallows and enjoy each other's company for an inexpensive experience. Mmm, hot chocolate anyone?

N.B This was a collaborative post.

21 January 2017

Playdough- one of your 5 a day, right?

''Paydoughs' Mummy, Pease'' I hear coming from over by the craft cupboard, a look of longing on Little 3's cheeky face as he tugs on the hairband I have wrapped around the handles to prevent him getting all the paint out. There are very few days that go by where he does not ask to play with the colourful squishy stuff, I find it hard to resist that little grin and he knows it.

After selecting his colours and the box of tools he will take it over to the table and ask to sit in the highchair. It is quite a therapeutic thing playing with playdough when you are a grown up and I actually really enjoy it!

We make all manner of things together but often lots and lots of little balls, you see Little 3 has a thing about rolling and throwing at the moment and loves making the little balls of playdough roll around the table and generally litter the carpet with for me to clear up!

Little 3 is fully in discovering and investigating mode at the moment, he will sit for ages trying to put the lid on the playdough tub or looking at the shape cutters and cutting out shapes. He can name quite a few now.

We have picnic parties together, where we make playdough biscuits and plates of food. Little 3 is using a little knife and fork at meals now instead of a spoon and loves to 'chop', he spends a great deal of time trying to chop his playdough and practice cutting.

But like many things with a 22 month old, the playdough always ends up in his mouth, sometimes we will play for nearly an hour and others just 5 minutes before the stuff gets closer to those cheeky chops. 

He gets a warning and I tell him 'No' but still he looks at me with that sneaky look and tries a nibble, I tell him if he does it again we will put it away and then we do because inevitably he has put it in his mouth again. But playdough, it is one of your five a day right?

19 January 2017

Little 1 tries 'Education Quizzes'

Little 1 is a very conscientious student, she works very hard at school and is doing really well. After school she often comes home and starts writing out her times tables asking me to check them or sits down to write a story practicing her joined up writing which is coming along nicely. She is trying very hard to write neatly and accurately with her pencil hoping that she can earn her 'pen licence' at school soon enabling her to use a pen instead. 

Often she will ask me to write a few sums for her or pick up one of the educational puzzle books we have and spend a while doing that always asking me to mark them and feeling proud of her attempts and pleased with her achievements. 

She has a genuine interest in doing well at school and is often looking for a challenge, as a parent I am happy that she has a positive attitude to school and look for ways to nurture her interest whilst being aware that she is a young child and needs down time from school and work too.

We have recently been asked to take a look at a website called Education Quizzes, obviously this is a website containing lots and lots of quizzes for children right through from Key Stage 1 (Year one and two at Primary School) to GCSE level, with all the quizzes being written by teachers. Little 1 was really interested in having a go and after my help logging in and finding the Key Stage One (KS1) section for her age at the top of the page she delved in and had a look at some of the quizzes.

We both loved the fact that every subject is covered, English, Maths and Science are there but so is Geography, D and T, and PSHE too name a few and even times tables. Little 1 was really impressed that she could choose all the subjects and have a go at something different. She chose to click on History- I was impressed that there were over 50 quizzes on the history page and having looked at the other subjects over the past couple of weeks and had a browse myself through other age groups there are absolutely load of quizzes on each subject. All the quizzes are related to the curriculum and there are so many different things covered too.

Last term Little 1 learnt about The Great Fire of London and clicked on that quiz, the quizzes are multiple choice with an image to go with each question. Little 1 was pleased to get all 10 right and started looking at other things she had done in the past and trying to remember them before having a go at one or two things that she has not learnt yet.

Little 1 enjoyed doing the quizzes but she did find the format a little uninteresting and didn't stay long on the site at any one time although she has returned to it on several different occasions, particularly when she did something new at school and wanted to hop on and and test herself on it. I think, especially for the younger ones, something a little more interactive and attention grabbing would hold their attention longer rather than just clicking on an answer, like moving images or coloured interesting font perhaps.

I think the site is great for children like Little 1 who want to test themselves or see what they know about a particular topic and even Little 2 who is in Reception had a go alongside her sister at a few phonics quizzes. I believe the site is more attractive to slightly older children whose attention is better and who aren't bothered by the plain format of the quizzes. I think this site would be a great tool for revision before an 11+ or GCSE's as it covers such a range of topics.

The cost of the subscription to the site is £9.95 a month which is a bit too much for me but it's good value if you have several children who would use it. The subscription can be cancelled anytime so if you just wanted to join for a couple of months before some exams or over the summer then it would be a useful tool. Education Quizzes is also available for schools to subscribe to so that all their pupils can use it so if you think it is something your child and their classmates would like then why not tell your school all about it, it could win them brownie points with Ofsted too.

Education Quizzes also has a blog Nature Matters where they write a daily post all about nature - Animals, Seasons, and Science type posts, we hopped on and took a look. Little 1 loved reading some facts about Venus yesterday as she has an interest in Space at the moment, she has returned to this site each day to see what the next post is, I think she quite likes it and I find it interesting too!

N.B This is a collaborative post.

12 January 2017

Taking in the Winter sun at Slimbridge

For Christmas we received a years membership to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) from Uncle M as he knew the Little Ones love to feed the ducks and could only frequent the canal near us so many times before they were going to get fed up of the same few duck feeding haunts! We live a short drive away from the Slimbridge WWT centre and have been members before but not since Little 2 and 3 came along and so it was a lovely surprise to open our package, we couldn't wait to go and feed the birds.

So the day after Boxing day, having been indoors visiting relatives and eating far too much for two days, we decided to don the hats and scarves and go to see the birds. It was a beautiful fresh winters day, the sun was shining and everywhere was frosty and frozen.

After persuading the Little Ones to skip through the activity areas and puzzles indoors thinking we will come back and do those on a wetter day when we need something indoors to do, we stepped outside onto the boardwalk to admire the birds.

It was late morning and the sun was very low in the sky shining through the trees, the ground was wet as we had had a heavy frost the night before and there was still lots of ponds covered in ice and icy puddles to break and splash in. It was all quite beautiful, grey and dull winter colours, white, grey and brown muddy ducks yet the sky was blue with not a cloud in sight and the sun shone brightly reflecting off the water.

Usually you can buy a bag of seed to feed the birds but today some of the birds were ill and so the staff were just doing controlled feeds to help control the spread of infection from us visitors handling the seed. As the wheel barrow full of seed came around the birds all zoomed over and followed it around the edge of the lake, it was quite a view.

The keeper was happy to let the children throw out scoops of seeds and Little 2 got herself straight in the thick of it waiting her turn. She was one of the smallest there in the middle of the bunch but full of confidence putting up her hand when it was the next person's turn and pleased when she had had her go. Little 1 however was a bit nervous of the birds and preferred to wait the other side of the gate!!

Little 3 was happy to watch and enjoyed running along the path stomping in tiny puddles stopping to look at the icy ponds and watching the birds landing on the water.

We went for a short stroll but didn't venture far into the reserve this time, we looked to see if the harvest mice were hibernating and watched the otters swimming for a while. The children were getting hungry so I produced some cookies and we sat watching ducks trying to walk on the ice which made the girls giggle.

Soon we had been there 2 hours without realising and the little Ones were well and truly ready for lunch and it was time to head home, but not without a bit of tree climbing on the way back!

What I love about Slimbridge is that there is so much to do, not just all the birds and paths but there is a big play area further down on in where you can grab a coffee, a water play area for wellies in spring or a place to bring a costume and play on a summer afternoon. There is a tropical house, bird talks and places to sit and spot birds if you can persuade 3 Little Ones to be quiet for a moment.

I know we will come back a lot this year and do something different each time. On the way out we spotted a sign for a puddle jumping competition soon, the girls are eager to return and attempt the biggest splash, they have already started practicing!

7 January 2017

The Little Ones go ice skating

Over the Christmas holidays there was a pop up ice rink in town and Daddy and I decided to surprise the girls with an ice skating treat the day before Christmas Eve as they had both tried so hard and done well at school this past term despite being under the weather for the most part of it.

With Little 3 being too young to skate we arranged to meet Nanny in the cafe across from the rink so that she could watch him for us while we skated with the girls. We had not told the girls why we were going into town and there had been a little reluctance on the part of Little 1 about 'going shopping'!!

On arriving the girls were surprised to see Nanny waiting there and as we stood next to the rink they couldn't help but peer over the rail watching all the skaters. It was then that we told them about their surprise. Little 2 just broke into an ear to ear grin and looked rather happy while Little 1 totally forgot she was grumpy and fist punched the air jumping up shouting ' Oh, Thank You'.

Years ago, and I mean about 15 (possibly more) years ago when Daddy and I still lived at home, we used to go ice skating at least a couple of times a month and both owned our own skates (they are still in the loft but are in desperate need of sharpening now). While neither of us could do anything fancy we were pretty nifty on our skates and able to weave between the other skaters at quite a speed. I remember Daddy had even learnt to skate backwards a bit (although he says he didn't but his memory is pants!).

Taking the Little Ones ice skating was something we both wanted to do as we enjoyed it in our teens and it is great exercise too, we knew the girls would have lots of fun. Having arrived early for our slot we got our skates on and waited in the waiting room for our session.

Little 1 being of a nervous disposition could not sit still and although she was very excited she was a bit nervous too about whether she would fall over. Little 2 was rather excited and sat quietly watching the other skaters with a big smile on her face.

We had hired one of those whale things to help the girls, you can either sit on it or push it around to help with balance. Little 2 didn't want any help and as soon as she set foot on the ice she was off holding on to the rail and side stepping her way around, she was determined to be independant.

Little 1 first sat on the whale to get a feel of the ice but was soon wanting to get up on her feet too, Daddy found his feet faster than me and so he was off helping the girls around taking it in turns to do circuits of the ice.

It had started to rain a bit before we had to go onto the ice and there was a lot of surface water, being an outside rink this had made it incredibly slippy, with me not having skated for 15 years I was slipping all over the place and found it tricky to help balance a child and myself but we didn't fall over! 

We soon all found our confidence and our feet. After going around with daddy for a while Little 1 had a go with the whale and did quite well .

Little 2 who is fiercely independent at the moment, was not bothered by all the adults and older children on the ice, she got her whale and off she went, she took herself right into the middle of the ice rink skating around the tree in the middle and didn't look back. She was out there ages smiling as she went around, perfectly happy as we skated around her.

The rink is down now but the girls are still asking to go again, as they had great fun, Daddy and I enjoyed ourselves as well. The quality of the photos in this post is rubbish as I took them on my phone in the rain and fading afternoon light. I didn't want to take the proper camera on the ice in case I fell over and broke it! I think we will be checking out our nearest proper rink very soon.

3 January 2017

Robots and Gadgets factivity review with Parragon Book Buddies

Little 1 has an all enquiring mind and loves to delve deep into the inner workings of things, she has a great interest in the Human Body, Space and how things work at the moment. I find the best way to help nurture her curiosity is with books as she loves to read. 

This month as part of Parragon Book Buddies gang we have been checking out 'Robots and Gadgets', a Factivity sticker and activity book and I must say it has been very well received by both girls especially Little 1.

The book is aimed at age 5-8 year olds and boasts 48 pages filled with information and activities and 8 pages of over 300 stickers to stick in the relevant parts of the book.

The language in the book is age appropriate and informative, it is laid out in a bright and engaging manner with lots of little fact boxes and bits to read here and there. Little 1 (age 7) has no trouble reading it and Little 2 (nearly 5) is able to understand the facts too when we read the book with her.

The pictures within the book are colourful and interesting, they certainly got me wanting to read more let alone the girls who sat together on several occasions to read the book together and complete the activities.

Little 1's favourite part of the book was reading about the robots in space and designing one of her very own. Little 2, having enjoyed reading the page about 'gadgets on holiday', went around the house asking 'Is this a gadget?' to almost everything she saw!

Robots and Gadgets Factivity is a great introductory read for enquiring little minds and the book is entertaining too. Little 1 says, 'I liked this book, it is definitely not just for boys!'

N.B We received this book as part of the Parragon Book Buddies programme in return for a review, all opinions are our own honest thoughts.