Monday, 16 September 2013

Why should we take the children to the Play Park?

Everybody knows that children love to go to the play park – but is it of benefit for them?  And how do you get to enjoy it?  I’ll post this time about the benefits of the play park, and next time about how you get to enjoy it.

Play parks allow children to explore and develop balance and strength in a safe environment.  While some of us are lucky enough to live in rural areas where we can allow our children to build dens, climb trees, and play in streams, many are not so fortunate to have the space or the confidence to encourage this type of play in their children.  In urban areas a play park may be one of the few safe places for children to play.  It certainly beats building sites or derelict buildings!

Play parks provide a space to burn off energy and run around without causing stress.  A play park is usually in a fenced in area, so even young or more impulsive children can be given freedom to run and play without too much adult interference.  In the fresh air children can be allowed to just run and climb and jump without you constantly worrying that they’ll be upsetting the neighbours or breaking things in the house.  Physical exercise as children is crucial for their development, and for their lifelong health.  Enjoying exercise and movement at a young age is a great start for them.

Play parks provide opportunities for children to meet new people, and to learn harmonious social interaction.  Whether or not your children are used to spending time with other children, whether they attend toddler groups, pre-school or school, have siblings or not – they will all learn something from playing at a play park.  There is play equipment for a start, and there’s a certain etiquette that needs to be learned, from waiting your turn on the swings or the slide, to making sure not to step on somebody’s fingers on the climbing frame, giving someone else a turn on something or just working around somebody else’s game.  There are children of a wide range of ages and abilities.  Children need to learn to be careful of smaller children, to stand up for themselves with bigger children if need be, and to just generally be kind to others.  You’ll find that on busier play parks, just like in a big city, children tend to ignore one another; children might be quite happy to play alone on a quiet play park; but on a play park where there are a few children, they will quite often just start playing together.  It’s usually instigated by the more confident child, “Hello, I’m Isla, what’s your name?”.  They’ll happily play together until it’s time to go.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Embrace the Camera

My turn to get in front of the lens.  C took this picture yesterday.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson.  I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 23 – Sail away from rudeness and towards a new era of courtesy, civility and grace – BE GRACEFUL

Tom starts off by suggesting that capitalism and rudeness go hand in hand.  He suggests that the emphasis on “doing well”, “being successful” and “having money” get in the way of thinking about how other people feel and being kind to them.  People trying to sell you things you don’t want – bad manners; people focusing on their mobile phone when spending time with you – bad manners; to say nothing of the rudeness with which big business treats you if you owe them any money.  E-mails encourage abruptness, and often we spend time trying to fix misunderstandings and bruised feelings, just because we couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone or write a more complete, and polite, e-mail.

Hospitality also goes hand-in-hand with good manners.  It’s important to look after our fellow humans, to extend a welcome to all.

Be cordial, be polite, think about how other people feel and don’t tread all over them in the race to be “better”.

How does this match up to the ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?

I can’t quite get my head around this chapter.  I’ll always strive to do my best and be successful, so according to Mr Hodgkinson, that makes me rude, despite the fact that I have no intention of treading all over other people or being rude on the way.  I use e-mail a lot, though I am conscious that in some cases a phone call would be better, and I do still try to write at least one pen and ink letter every week – I know what a pleasure it is to receive one, so I am always keen to give that to somebody else.  Hospitality is also something I think I could do better.  I try to make my home welcoming to everybody, and use the “make yourself at home” comment, but neighbours and friends rarely drop by, so I don’t get a chance to practise often.  Which reminds me, I must invite the next door neighbours over for a meal on Sunday, I’ve been meaning to do so for months.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Fostering Independence - What can children do for themselves?

As I'm sure most mothers do, I want my children to grow up to be independent.  That isn't all - I also want them to be kind, happy, self assured, generous and honest.  But for now, lets look at independence.

What can children of different ages be expected to do for themselves?  Naturally every child is different, and some may be more or less eager or reluctant to do things for themselves, regardless of their actual ability.  C is quite reluctant to take responsibility for things, where Bug will insist on doing things for herself even if she physically can't do it yet - this morning I found her climbing on the kitchen cupboards so that she could get her own bowl out!
Here are some of the things that my children can, and are expected to do for themselves:

Bug - Age 2.5
  • gets her clothes out of the wardrobe (she can't reach the hanging rail yet so needs help there)
  • get her pyjamas and nappy off, wipe her bottom with a wipe, get herself dressed
  • select her breakfast cereal and pour it with help
  • choose her spoon and carry it through to the table
  • wipe face and hands after eating
  • sometimes carry her empty bowl or cup through to the kitchen
  • brush her own teeth with help
  • take herself to the toilet (help with wiping, help with hand-washing)
  • feed the fish with help
  • help hang the washing
  • carry her clean clothes through to the bedroom and help put them away
  • put her toys away when she's finished with them (for some reason she seems to think that this is my job!)
  • help sweep the kitchen
  • wipe the table
  • help clean up any spills
  • water her part of the garden
  • give the dog a snack
  • put her own shoes on when we're going out
  • be responsible for her own bag if she takes it out
  • at swimming change herself (she still needs help with the swimsuit)
  • ask the swimming pool attendant for a toy
  • at the swimming pool cafe collect her own cutlery and napkins
  • stirring and adding ingredients when cooking, chopping with help.
C - age 4
  • get up (not before 7am), go to the toilet, choose clothes and get dressed.
  • collect breakfast cereals, pour into bowl and pour milk with help
  • carry drink and spoon through to the other room
  • clear and wipe table
  • wipe own hands and face after eating
  • brush teeth (help with squeezing the toothpaste)
  • go to the toilet himself when needed
  • feed the fish and sometimes the dog
  • help with vacuuming and dusting, watering plants and cleaning windows
  • tidy up his own toys
  • put on shoes and coat
  • be responsible for own bag (still a struggle this one - he's a bit like a mad professor sometimes and would lose his head if it wasn't attached!)
  • get in and out of the bath and wash himself (help needed with hair)
  • at swimming change himself, dry himself etc.
  • ask the swimming pool attendant for a toy or float
  • at the swimming pool cafe collect own cutlery and napkins
  • when buying something, take the money to the counter, ask for what he wants, pay for it and wait for any change
  • open the car door, get in, and fasten seat-belt
  • chopping and grating, stirring etc when cooking
I'm sure there is more that they can and regularly do, but it's nice to see some progression here.  I'm trying hard not to do things for them if they can do them by themselves, however frustrating that is when I am trying to get out of the door and they are taking forever to put their shoes on.
Next steps for C include pouring more drinks himself; carrying bowls, plates and cups even when they have something in; washing his own hair and learning to shower himself;

I'm intrigued to see how this progresses - I'd love to know the types of thing that your children of different ages can do for themselves?

Monday, 2 September 2013

5 ideas to develop ABC knowledge with your pre-schooler.

  1. Cut the back off a cereal box and write the alphabet on the back.  Sing the abc song together while pointing at the letters.  Then start saying a letter and getting them to point to it, and letting them pick a letter for you to point out.  You can also point out a letter and get them to name something that begins with that letter.  I usually do these activities while giving them a cuddle in their bed at bedtime.  Keep it light and fun, and don't go on too long.  If your child isn't ready for the next stage, then just go back to the previous stage for a bit longer.  Do it regularly (at least three times a week) to help it stick.  I usually use letter names because it follows on from the abc song, but also say "What sound does that letter make?"
  2. Have a letter day - Choose a letter for the day and in the morning come up together with a list of activities that you might do that day beginning with that letter.  So, to choose a tricky one: "U" might lead to undressing the dolls; upside down - forward rolls etc.; undies - practise putting them on!; ugly duckling - sing it, read the story etc.; umbrella - go for a walk in the rain; under - play a game under the table; underwater - do something regarding mermaids, fish, submarines; universe - find out about planets; unload - unload the dishwasher or washing machine;  You get my picture here, U is a tricky letter and there are loads of ideas.  You then try to do as many as you can through the day.
  3. Invest in some letters - whether they are the wooden blocks in a trolley type, simple wooden ones, magnetic ones or your own cut out from cardboard.  To begin with show your child three letters and name them e.g. m, g, s, then ask your child to bring you the G, the S and the M.  Once they begin to be able to do this with three letters, increase to five.  When they can confidently name the letters, then leave them all in a pile, and ask your child to e.g. "find the D for Daddy".  
  4. Draw a large letter outline and get your child to trace it with their finger and say the letter (and sound).  You can then colour the letter, paint the letter, decorate the letter with glitter, make the letter shape with playdough.  Each time, you are talking about the letter and your child is relating that shape with that letter name and sound.
  5. Point out letters when you are out and about.  Start with their "name letter".  While you're waiting for the bus ask them if they can spot their letter on the posters, on street signs, on shop signs - show them that letters are all around them.