Thursday, 21 March 2013
Anyhow, here it is :) The idea was suggested by Natalie, and the instruction's she found for it looked really straightforward, with a really appealing looking end product: Take one water balloon and a mini egg. Insert mini egg into water balloon and blow up partially, so it is the size of a hen's egg. Mix equal parts PVA glue and water. Dip a length of string in this mixture and wind it round the balloon. Repeat with more string, making a mesh. Allow to dry, then pop the balloon. Hey presto, an adorable egg inside an egg gift is born.
I think I went wrong from stage one, when I used regular balloons because I couldn't find anywhere selling water balloons. I blew them up as small as I could, but as you can see from the picture, any hen trying to lay an egg that size would have been shouting for an epidural!
The next day when the wool had dried out it was all looking very promising, and Ollie had great fun popping the first balloon with a skewer (and close parental supervision!). Our poor egg promptly collapsed in on itself. We went wrong somewhere that's for sure, and I think the most likely candidate was the size of the balloon. I think I will up the percentage of PVA in our mixture next time to be on the safe side too.
A great thing about doing craft projects with kids is that the outcome is generally less important than the process. Ollie got a lot out of measuring out the glue and water and stirring it, and both boys were really taken with the wool. Toby draped lengths of it across his face and head, enjoying the different textures of the fluffy and smooth wools. Once the wool was dipped in glue, Ollie was the only one who was keen on it, but repeated chances for messy play for both the boys is really important. Even the failed eggs aren't a waste as the slightly crispy wool has gone back in the craft box to be reincarnated at some future time as a nest, or hair, or a spider web.
I'd love to know if anyone else has had a crack at this project, and what tips you can give me for next time :)
Friday, 15 March 2013
The boys (including big kid husband) really enjoyed the hunt, and it was incredibly cute watching Toby toddling around with his little basket grasped firmly in his fist. We had four encores, with the final one being me hunting for eggs that Ollie had hidden. Ollie spectacularly doesn't understand hide and seek or treasure hunt games, so I got a lot of help 'It's over there mummy, I put one there on the sofa!'.
Definitely a game we will be returning to. As well as the creative stimulation and fine motor skills involved in painting the eggs themselves, the boys both had plenty of chance to work on their gross motor skills charging around looking for the eggs, and climbing over cushion obstacles, under chairs and in their play tent. It's really important to encourage crawling in kids even when they can walk as it is thought to help the development of their general coordination and fine motor skills as well as the more obvious gross motor skills. There is even a therapy for helping dyslexia and dyspraxia in older children that involves making movements that simulate crawling type motions as it is thought that even at a later stage these can help forge brain connections that help to overcome these conditions. And as with all the games we return to time and again, we mainly do it because they boys have a great time :)
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
I think I was more impressed with the results than either of the boys. Toby dumped the plate, string and paper on the floor within a couple of minutes. When I cleaned up and
replaced it with playdough for him, Ollie decided that playdough looked much more fun too, so we all spent half and hour rolling and cutting and squishing (and in one case eating) the dough instead. All in all a really fun half hour, even if it wasn't quite what I had in mind at the start.
Varying the activity also targets different parts of their experience of the materials you are using. The plain snow was interesting in itself and we talked about how it felt, and looked and tasted. Adding the food colouring and flavouring added new descriptive language and ideas for play. Building snow castles was Ollie's idea and developed on from the sand castles he spends all day making at nursery. Finally bringing in the cars stimulated more imaginative play, rather than the sensory exploration we had been focusing on. By looking at how his cars fared when driven over the snow, we talked about the difference the size of the wheels made, and what happened when we compacted the snow into an icy road. In total the activity lasted half an hour, with very minimal clean up time (Ollie even enjoyed drying the floor with an old towel). It could have stretched even further, but as Ollie already had a cold I thought that thirty minutes of playing with a cold material was enough, and followed up with his favourite 'warm hot chocolate milk' (half and half milk and hot water, with a quarter of a teaspoon of chocolate milkshake powder in it).
Monday, 11 March 2013
The first time Ollie was given shaving foam to play with was as a nine month old baby at nursery, and I have to say I was very dubious about this material and actually quite worried, so I did a lot of ringing around and internet searching into its use and potential toxicity. It turns out it is very commonly used in preschool settings and is just soap, so if ingested the worst that will happen is a laxative effect. I still think nine months was too young for Ollie to have been left alone to play with it, as he had got it in his eyes as well as eating a lot and was in a sorry state when I picked him up that day. For this reason I've held off using shaving foam for play with Toby until recently, but he seems to have got the idea quickly that this isn't tasty and not to rub it on his face.
Both boys played happily with the foam for about ten minutes, at which point Toby got bored and 'asked' to be released from his booster seat. Ollie however kept playing with it for half an hour, filling up various small containers such as milk powder scoops, smearing it and squishing it. I then showed him that if he smoothed it out he could draw patterns in it. Ollie straight away started writing his name out, and then insisted that Matt and I both took turns in writing our names too, which he did his best to copy. I've noticed that his writing with a pen took a leap forward after this, so I think that presenting writing in a different way has stimulated an area of understanding that he hadn't reached before. I've seen examples of good practice in helping dyslexic children learn to write using trays of wet sand and their finger, so this foam play writing probably falls into the same category of multisensory learning. By tracing out large letters in the air, or in another medium such as sand, it stimulates the brain differently to writing small letters with a pen. Even for children as young as Toby, all that squishing and smoothing is building fine motor skills which ultimately help to prepare them for more complex tasks.
A great benefit of using shaving foam in this way is that because it is just soap, although it counts as messy play a quick wipe with a cloth and for once the table was actually cleaner after we'd played on it than before, perfect for getting ready for dinner.
Friday, 8 March 2013
Ollie has limited screen time, as more than an hour a day of TV or computer time is really negative to children's development, and he had never seen the Disney film. He's definitely not ready to sit through the actual unabridged book, so I thought a film night was in order. We made popcorn and watched the film together, while I sewed a pompom tail on his white rabbit outfit and made him a cardboard pocket watch. Ollie was actually looking forward to getting dressed up and showing his teachers and the next morning, for the first time, we had no tears. When I picked him up he was also really happy for the first time, back to his normal (extremely) chatty self, not the silent, depressed little boy I'd been bringing home for the last two months. To the contrary, he spent the next few hours until bedtime running around and shouting 'I'm late, I'm late!'.
I'm really lucky, as I seem to have had a much less stressful World Book Day than the other mums at the playgroup I took Toby to that day, whose children announced minutes before they left the house that they couldn't wear the costume that had been procured for them because they didn't have the book that went with it. At least at age three I expect Ollie to only give me a fraction of the information I need to get him ready for events at nursery - I must never lose this expectation in favour of the idea that older kids can and will relay on all the information they're supposed to :) Parents who manage to get their kids to school with even half the things they need, I salute you!
What's the rationale for over sized artwork in the house? As well as it being really healthy for your own mind to have some kind of creative outlet, it is also fantastic for babies and children to have a bright, visually stimulating environment. Interesting things to look at stimulate brain development in the same way that any other sensory stimulation does. I didn't want to make the room too chaotic looking though, as this is a space for sleeping as well as playing, so I'm hoping that opting for a natural scene I have struck a good balance. I left the bottom third of the door painted as plain sand so that as we find or produce pictures of savanna dwelling plants and animals the boys can add them in, probably with bluetack so they can be regularly added to and updated. Ollie's response was to ask if he could paint on the walls, so he seemed keen on the idea of banishing the magnolia, although I don't think I'm brave enough to let him free rein with his paintbox straight onto the walls. A big pinboard for his paper creations is definitely in order methinks.
Wednesday, 6 March 2013
I write this not to moan, although it was making an otherwise lovely walk a bit miserable. I write it because when you read parenting magazines and blogs there can be a tendency to rose tint the parenting experience, and then you start to doubt your own parenting abilities when your experience differs from the one you're 'supposed' to be having. Kids have off days, just like adults, and when they're little especially there can be a seemingly unending ungrateful stream of moaning at times. Distraction and humour can help, but other times it's enough just to try to get through it without blowing a gasket. The biggest temptation to avoid is just giving up and not taking them out when they're moaning they don't want to. Nine times out of ten they will end up having a great time, and it is especially important for kids to get out in the air for as much of the day as they can. Every day where the boys spend a couple of hours outside they are better behaved, eat well and sleep well. They're getting fresh air into their lungs, light on their faces (maybe not always sunshine in the goldenest sense of the word) and lots of exercise to help burn off their boundless energy. There has also been some suggestion recently that shortsightedness is massively on the rise due to the short distances children now spend most of their lives focusing on - the not very distant walls of their home and their t.v. screen. It may just be that by providing your little one with plenty of distant vistas, you are also safguarding the functioning of their eyes.
Instead of making a healthy sandwich for my boys, only to despair when they open them up and tip out half the contents, I decided to put the ball in their court and get them to make their own sarnies. I sliced up some favourite fillers such as cucumber and cheese and helped the boys to spread their butter, then left them to build whatever they fancied. I had envisioned that Ollie would patiently stack item on item between two slices of bread as he does over and over with his play food. However he quickly decided that since he was in charge of his sandwich, he'd eat it his way, and follow fashion with a deconstructed dish. So he ate the middle out of the bread first (after carefully removing the tomato as he 'couldn't see the butter'), then munched
his way bit by bit through a mound of other ingredients. Toby plumped for rolling his bread over cheese and cucumber slices, then demolishing it fajita style, followed by sitting on my knee and shoving lettuce in my mouth faster than I could swallow it. However they got there, the outcome was that both boys got a big helping of healthy food that they might otherwise have fussed over.
This is a good activity for developing creativity and decision making skills, as well as involving lots of sensory stimulation in seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling the different foods. You can use it to develop language skills by directing questions throughout the meal to encourage your kids to describe what they're experiencing, name the food types, and think about their favourite tastes, smells or colours.
An added bonus is that any time you can spend with your children where you are preparing and eating food together helps to banish food fears and fussy eating. Kids will eat pretty much anything if they've had a hand in making it themselves. You are also priming your kids to avoid prepackaged convenience foods later in life when they see food preparation as something fun and communal rather than just domestic drudgery. You might even come up with a killer sandwich recipe you wouldn't have dreamed could work (peanut butter is awesome with salad!).
Friday, 1 March 2013
|Spot the angel shark?|
Among the creatures of fascination where the anemones ("look mummy, anemones, like in Nemo"), the dogfish, sharks and rays that kept popping their noses out of the water right in front of him, and the shark egg cases (mermaids purses). Ollie was really amazed that the 'pebble' in the egg was a baby shark (or ray, I admit I can't tell the difference between their eggs without a field guide).
He also watched the Gurnard for ages, and had lots of questions about why it had 'legs' and why other fish don't have legs. The gurnard has specialised fin rays which it uses to feel in the sand for prey species, such as smaller fish, but it does really seem to walk on the sand. Ollie didn't quite get the idea that it is easier to swim in water with fins and a tail than to walk through water, so as soon as his chickenpox scabs really heal up we'll be off to the swimming pool to stride around in the water and then swim in it to see which is easier.
|Gurnard, with specialised fin rays|
I've had folks ask me when he was a baby why I bothered to take him to places like this, as 'he won't remember it anyway', but anyone looking at his little face gazing intently at the shifting colours and lights in the tanks would know instinctively the answer to this question. Any further justification needed? Well, the more new sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feels your little one is exposed to, the more neural pathways they form, and the more their interest in the world around them awakens. So the kids have always been to zoos, and aquariums and museums and galleries. They might not understand the same things from the experience that an older child would, but be sure they are taking away heaps of good stuff just the same.