Saturday, 31 December 2011

Funny food fancies in toddlers

I knew it would be coming at some point, but the time has arrived.  C is showing some likes and dislikes with food.  I think all toddlers go through this, and the way to prevent it developing into serious food faddiness or fussiness is just to keep very chilled about it.  "Oh, you don't want to eat that.  Okay" (but don't go and cook something else for them!).  "You don't like mushrooms at the moment?  Okay, I'm sure you'll like them again soon.  Just leave them on the plate."

At the moment he eats tons for breakfast and lunch, but not much at dinner time (still likes his dessert though!).  He's not into potatoes, but loves his bread.  He's not liking mushrooms, but will devour peas.  
photo from 
The best one was today though, when he asked for some black pudding from daddy's plate while out at a cafe, and then announced that "Black pudding is my favourite."  For those not from the UK, where this dish is part of the traditional breakfast, black pudding is a sausage (you usually get served a thick slice, lightly fried) made from pigs blood, blended with onions and oatmeal.  Sound delightful?  It really is, though not something I would imagine many toddlers have on their "favourite food" list.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Pegging Out - Quick and easy activities for baby and toddler

Another super easy activity here:
Take a basket or bag of pegs, show the children how to peg them on to the basket or a box and then just play with the pegs.  You can peg them on to clothing, a low washing line, peg bits of paper together, peg pegs to one another.  You can also hide pegs and go looking for them, or create a trail of pegs leading to some "treasure".  You can draw little faces on pegs and have them talk to one another (or even better, a crocodile face with sprung jaws!).

Monday, 26 December 2011

Happy Christmas to one and all

Great news!
Santa heard about my broken camera and has brought me a new one for Christmas!

Disappointing news...
You'll note that blog posts have been thin on the ground over the last couple of weeks.  I've been getting myself in a tizz trying to make all the lovely presents I had planned... and failing miserably.  How many did I manage to make?  Pretty much zero.  Still, I now have twelve whole months to get on with it ready for next year!

We had a very calm and relaxed Christmas at home with the family.  C now knows about Christmas, and will be anticipating the fun next year.  It went over Sis's head a bit still, and of course she was content to either play with the paper or head for whichever toy C happened to be playing with at any given time.  Here she is opening one of her presents (note the beer in the background - we left it out for Santa):
and C opening one of his:

Monday, 19 December 2011

A moment in time

This was lunchtime today.  A brief glimpse into my world:
the Christmas cake is well on the way to being eaten...

somebody likes yoghurt!

yes, Sis loves it too (she's full of cold and all snotty through)

very disappointed - I thought a pigs trotter would be a special treat for the waggy-tailed-one, but she's just ignored it and it's here - abandoned

the birds are also enjoying their lunch - note to self,  must fill bird-feeders

you can tell you're in rural Scotland when you have wellies and a snow-shovel by the back door!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Baby Signing

Today I've been thinking about Baby Signing.  

For anybody that doesn't know, Baby Signing is an adaptation of Sign Language which you can use to communicate with your baby.  The idea is that you start using a limited range of signs when you say certain words, such as milk, all gone, more etc.  The baby then starts using the signs to communicate with you while they are still unable to talk.  For more information on it, here's Wikipedia and Baby Signing Mummy.

It's something I sort of half-heartedly tried with C when he was about 8-10 months old, but I soon realised that actually he was communicating pretty well without using any of the signs.  By watching him and being close to him, I was already able to anticipate mostly what he was trying to do or what he wanted from the context or from his body language.
I've also got this book, but the little ones don't seem to be interested in it.
Perhaps it's too big?
We're at a similar stage with Sis.  We have the Sing and Sign DVD, and we watch it occasionally, but more because we like the action songs than because I'm trying to teach the signs.  I don't use the signs at all otherwise.  By observing Sis and the context, she has so far not had to deal with any frustration following not being able to signal her needs or desires.  She is already trying out word-like sounds and I am convinced that by talking to her, by telling her what things are, by trying to work out what she needs, I am able to understand her, and her language is developing, without the need for any baby signing.

This may seem a little abstract, but as an example:  She's sitting at the table, munching on her dinner.  She starts waving madly and making noises.  What could she want?  I offer her the cup of water.  She smiles and reaches for it.  Another example:  She's playing on the floor in the sitting room.  I leave the room to start the dinner.  When I come back in she stretches up her arms and verbalises "mumumumum".  Hmmm, now that's a tricky one. "Would you like a cuddle?"  Big beam, more stretching up and now bouncing on her bottom until I pick her up for the desired cuddle.

So... my question... and please feel free to comment with an answer... do we need Baby Signing?

Check out some more Baby Signing debate at 

Friday, 9 December 2011

Teddy Train - Simple five-minute activities

Loving this quick and easy activity idea.  Get a bunch of little cardboard boxes - if you don't have a stash of shoe-boxes haunting a cupboard, then hold out until after Christmas and I'm sure you'll have a few boxes floating about!.  Punch holes in each end, join together with string, make a longer string for the front with a loop in the end.  Hey presto!  The soft toys have a train to ride around in which keeps them entertained for a good stretch of time.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How to be Free - Break the bonds of boredom

I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before.  He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”.  I love the principles expressed in “How to beFree” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

How to be Free

Chapter 2 - Break the bonds of boredom – PLAY THE UKULELE

Apparently, the word “boredom” was first used in 1760, is it a coincidence that this was also the year that the spinning jenny was invented, leading to the industrial revolution?  Before then, even the poorest labourers would have a mixture of tasks to do, for their overlords and for themselves.  Now we have dull monotonous jobs and labour saving devices which take a lot of the variety out of living.  People are bored, and to save themselves from this crippling deficiency, people will either pay large amounts of money to go and be bored in a gym, or for satellite television that shows boring television, or for more “stuff”.  Even shopping is boring as small independent retailers are being shoved out in favour of economies of scale and the dreaded supermarket.

The antidote to boredom and boring, is creativity.  Creativity is still alive out there.  There are some wonderful odd little museums out there, strange collections, quilting clubs, creative blogs, art, knitting, guerrilla gardening… it’s out there.  Embrace it.

How does this concept match up with the Ink Spots and Grass Stains life?

If you’re a regular on this blog then you’ll know that creativity is at the heart of the Ink Spots and Grass Stains philosophy.  Not because I have thought deeply about the need for creativity to fight boredom, but because I am naturally a creative person and this is just how I live my life.

I don’t understand people who would willingly waste an evening in front of Eastenders, Coronation Street, X Factor, Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing.  Don’t they have anything better to do?  I would be bored silly.  I don’t use the words “I’m bored”.  I think you can only be bored if you are a boring person.  Even in a long queue you can people watch, make up stories in your head or (heaven forbid!) chat to the people around you.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Soft Toy hanger

I'm pleased with how this has worked out.  I asked Hubby to put a hook in the ceiling in C's room and eventually got around to doing my part of the project, which actually didn't take long.  I got 6 strands of wool, tied them together at one end and hung them from the ceiling hook.  I bought one of those "underwear drier hangers" for £2 from the supermarket (plastic contraption with pegs attached).  I detached all the pegs from the hanger.  I then plaited/braided the wool in two strand sections, and every ten centimetres or so, attached one of the pegs into the braid.  Now, rather than taking up valuable shelf or bed space or being crammed into a box, all the soft toys are attached to the pegs (mostly by the ear) and so are on display, and easy for C to detach and play with.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

This November we have been mostly...

making cardboard rabbit hutch

watching the animals at the zoo...


...penguin parade.

collecting sticks out in the woods

autumn walks by the river

looking at lichen

Sis has her first attempt at cooking...

...and building...

...and big brother shows her how to do puzzles.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Freezer door advent calendar

Cut out 24 cards and fold them in half.

Write the numbers 1-24 on the front - toddler can help.

Think of twenty-four activities to prepare for Christmas.  Use your diary to add in the Christmas things that you are doing anyway and get your toddler to help you think of others.  Our activities include visiting Santa in his grotto, making wrapping paper, making the Christmas cake and pudding, salt dough decorations, going to the ceramic experience to make gifts, decorating the tree, watching a Christmas film etc. etc.  Write the activities in the card.  Depending on how much time you have your child can decorate them.

Blutac the cards closed and then blutac them to a suitable surface or hang them from a branch.  I wasn't prepared and all the branches around here are very wet, so I stuck them on the freezer door, and have explained to C that when we get to number 24, that's when Father Christmas comes and brings presents, and that we open one each day.

Sis is not quite patient enough for that, and I have to catch her before she pulls them all off and eats them.

Friday, 2 December 2011

November's theme was... Animals

I blogged way back in February about creating a theme for each month, and the theme for February was Birds, which went quite well.  Since then there hasn't been much theming going on. I've occasionally tried, but it's been a bit half-baked.  Something to do with having a baby in February and time vanishing since then I think.  I think it's about time to rediscover our themes each month.  Little Sis is getting big enough now that she's keen to join in (eat) our activities, and I think its time to go for it with both of them. 

The theme for November 2011 has been Animals.  

We read "Dear Zoo" by Rod Campbell, and looked at Wildlife Identification books and our Wildlife Factfiles.

We investigated animal patterns on giraffes, zebra, tigers, leopards and cheetahs.

We sang Old MacDonald had a farm, 3 Little Monkeys, 5 Little Speckled Frogs etc.

We visited the pet shop and the zoo.

We played with the toy farm and soft toy animals, 

We watched David Attenborough.  

We made animal noises.  We laced animal outlines.  

We compared the sizes of animals.  

I'd like to have done more, but hey ho... there's always next time.  Our theme for December is obviously... Christmas

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Daddy's Birthday Card

I love this card specially made by C for Hubby's birthday today.  Little C listed the things that Daddy likes - campervans, Landrover defenders, our hill, beer and cheese - for me to find pictures of, and he stuck them on to the card.  He then stuck on pictures of him, Sis and the Waggy-tailed-one so that Daddy would know who it was from.  Then he stuck on some sparkles and added some colouring and drawing.  How gorgeous!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A rush of mud to the head...

Woooshhhh!  Doesn't it feel wonderful when you've been really busy and really stressed, and then you complete a couple of things which have been hanging over you so you can relax a bit.  Then you feel all cosy but push yourself out into the wild blowy and rainy night for a run in the dark... and it's sooooo muddy, and you get wet and blown and mud soaked and you feel amazing... and then you come home and get in a hot shower for a really long soak.   

What an amazing evening to be out in the dark.  I seem to run faster when it's like this.  I just love it.  It seems all the better because I didn't really feel like going out.  After a while I just stopped looking out for the muddy puddles and started to enjoy the cold splash as I ran into them.  I think even the Waggy-tailed-one was shaking her head in despair.

I managed to complete a piece of work on Youth Involvement for the work group I'm on for Scottish Scouts before our meeting on Wednesday.  Then today our Scout Regional Training Team ran a support day for Trainers and Training Advisers, which went pretty well.  So I'm feeling pretty positive about the things which have been hanging over me lately.  Little Sis had to come with me to the course today.  She's been teething lately and feeding a lot.  I considered leaving her with Hubby for the day, but as the week went on she seemed to want more and more feeds, so I decided it wouldn't be fair on any of them.  She was good as gold.  

Priorities now are to get ready for Christmas... I'm sure that this time last year I had already made the Christmas Pudding and the Christmas Cake, had done most of my Christmas shopping and had all the Christmas Cards written and ready to post.  You've guessed it.  I've done none of that yet.

After that I can focus on a whole load more Scouting priorities, and making a birthday present for Little Sis.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Cooking and Baking with Little People

Oh dear, where have I been again this week?  I've just had yet another of those chasing my tail without actually getting anything done, children-sticking-to-me-like-velcro type of weeks.

As I love involving my children in cooking with me, I thought I'd share how we do it, for those a little nervous of plunging in with the aprons and wooden spoons.

Setting up
I open out the table in the kitchen and put the high-chairs and a chair for me around it so that we can sit down.
I also have a small step-ladder in the main part of the kitchen so that C can stand up at the kitchen counters and help wash the dishes etc.
I aim to get as much equipment and as many ingredients as possible out before C comes to join in, that way I can concentrate on him and Sis without having to dart into the pantry to find something - or worse still get halfway through a recipe and find I don't have something vital.

What to do with the smallest one.

Mine is just coming up to 9 months, and if yours is anything like mine at this age, she doesn't want to be left out of anything!

I put her in her high-chair, and leave within reach only what I don't mind her eating or throwing on the floor.  She gets to play, investigate etc. and can also see what we are up to.  On this cooking occasion we were making chicken stew, rock buns and soda bread.  She got to eat a bit of chicken and raw carrot, investigate the leek trimmings and some ice from the freezer, explore a sieve, some measuring spoons and a jug, and join in licking the spoon from the rock buns.  She also got a bit of packaging.

Before we start
We wash or wipe our hands and put our aprons on.  Then we look at the recipe, check through the ingredients and equipment list (I call it out and he checks to see if we have it on the table).  I usually put a little plate or bowl out next to him into which we add a few bits of interesting ingredients for him to taste - that way we aim to stop him tasting the mixture or stealing all the chocolate drops or whatever before it goes in the oven.

Two options
You choose from these two options depending on the age, experience and temperament of your child, and also on the recipe.  The two options are:
- The "I Can Cook" method (named for the CBeebies programme on which it is based.  In this one you split your ingredients in half and double up on equipment.  You make half with your equipment and your child copies you and makes the other half with his equipment.  The advantages are that it's entirely their own work and they really get stuck in with all the processes.  They get the pride in their finished article.  The disadvantages are that if they do a major step wrong it's ruined, and while they may learn from it, they would inevitably be disappointed.  Not all recipes work this way, it's tricky to divide an egg in half for example, or you might not have two small loaf tins (for which the cooking time would probably also be different than a large loaf tin).
- The second option is probably more common, particularly with younger or more excitable or easily distracted children.  It's the partnership approach.  This is where you work together.  You give your child as much involvement as possible, but step in where needed to "help".

Top Tips

  • Only ever bake or cook with your children if you have plenty of time and you are feeling chilled out and relaxed.  A frazzled temper will only ever escalate when cooking is involved.
  • Don't worry about mess.  In the grand scheme of things how important is it?  They will learn so so much from cooking, and it's always inevitable to do some clearing up after a messy activity - they should learn to help you clear up - part of the learning experience.
  • Be aware of safety at all times.  Don't stop your child from handling knives or glass bowls or stirring hot food - but introduce these aspects at an appropriate stage for your child and ensure that you teach them safety first, and are always there to supervise.