Friday, 3 October 2014

Autumn Art

Life has whizzed past since Ted went back to school and I went back to work.
At this time of year (even when it is still 20+ degrees!), one of Ted's favourite activities is collecting conkers and leaves.
And leaves lend themselves to some very easy artwork........................

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

4 Hit the Lakes

This Summer Ted and I haven't been abroad for a holiday. Instead, when Finns #2 & #3 came to stay at the beginning of the holidays, we headed up to the Lake District, via Alton Towers.

So, here is a quick(ish) holiday blog.

Alton Towers is a few hours drive from us, so with a very, very full car, we set off early to ensure we were there before the rides openend. We got there and were greeted by a queue to join a queue simply to get on the monorail that gets you to the queues. However, once we got to the park everyone magically disappeared and we heaved a collective sigh of relief.
Finns #2 & #3 were sent off alone to the 'big & scary' rides, whilst Ted and I wandered off to CBeebies Land.
CBeebies Land was great - but a comparatively small area of Alton Towers and if I had spent vast anounts of money to get in just for that I would not have been happy. Interestingly, in the time we queued to go on the Postman Pat ride the Finns had done 3 of the 'big & scary' rides!

There are a good number of family friendly rides that everyone can go on together. All 3 boys loved the pirate ride - enjoying the challenge of shooting water at other boats, and the not so easy challenge of keeping dry. We failed and all got completely drenched!
 Having been advised to leave 'The Smiler' till the end of the day, we did just that, and in fact it was the only ride that the big boys had to queue more than a few minutes for. Ted and I sat around eating ice-creams and enjoying watching others terrify themselves!

So, thrills over it was time to head further North for a few Wi-Fi, TV free days, full of fresh air, exercise and er, torrential rain.
We stayed in a barn on a small working farm - a fantastic place to stay. It was in the middle of nowhere but handy for many Lake District tourist spots.
Tip of the month - ask Carol to make Cottage Pie for dinner - 'that was the best cottage pie I've ever had' (said a 13 year old). At £4 a head it was a great way to avoid looking for a pub in the torrential rain.
(this (minus the boy) was our view on waking & wandering)

 For Ted, the highlight of the trip was going to be a trip to The Rock Shop in Ambleside. .This is basically a shop selling all things gem & crystals with a couple of other things going on too. You can do a dinosaur trail, make jewellery, but all Ted was interested in doing was the gem pit.  You pay a small(ish) amount and the children can scrabble round the pit of gems filling a little bag with any they fancy. It was a lovely way to spend 20 minutes or so, and Ted and Finn #3 were happy with their treasures.

We also
Visited the Lakes Aquarium, went on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite steam train, walked up along a waterfall, found the Gruffalo in Grizedale Forest, visited the Beatrix Potter gallery in Hawkshead , cruised on Windermere, collected stones on Bardsea beach (an old childhood haunt of mine) and most importantly ate Cumberland sausages in a pub!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What else would you do with an old Lego box?

Of course, make an easy peasy, eye catching caterpillar. All Ted & his friend's idea. 1 empty Lego box, 1 mug to draw round for circles, a pair of scissors, a felt tip and a googly eye, and hey presto, a groovy caterpillar!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Silent Sunday

Homework, good or bad?

Whoops, been away from blogging far too long........ now back with posts galore in my brain if not down on paper.

So, the subject of homework has been rearing it's head alot in my playground circles recently. Ted's school doesn't do much in the line of homework, for which I am grateful on a daily basis. My not much he has had 2 mini projects since September, a few phonics sheets and that is about it. Obviously they bring reading books home, but I don't class that as homework.

Homework seems to split people down the middle. Many want lots (clearly the adults, not the children), and others don't want any. I think Ted's school have it about right. In KS1 mainly no homework, in KS2 they get a little bit more - a small amount once a week.

After a discussion about this with a friend, and me making some comment that I was glad he doesn't get daily homework, she said, 'but I thought you were pro education'. Strange but true. I am completely for educating children. If Ted asks a question it is answered, if he asks something I don't know we look it up in a book, if he notices something whilst out and about we talk about it and so on.
I don't think that means he needs to spend his afterschool playtime doing school work.

But, and this is a big but. Ted struggles with all things mathematical, and so at home I do many & varied activities with him. The difference here is that I am doing this off my own back to support my child, and am doing it at a time that suits him and at a speed that suits him. And always doing things he enjoys. (He also reads to me - not just when his book is changed at school, but every day. And in turn I read to him every day too.)

I hope that this supports Ted, and that he has an easier time at school because of it.
But, with homework, I hope the school keep going as they are and don't buckle to pressure from parents and the government. The schools results are good, the children are happy, and the children are certainly less stressed.

So, a few fun ideas to help with maths & numeracy development.

1 - raid Granny's button box and sort into size, colour etc

2 - Play simple dice games.

3- Use Compare Bears and do some (fun) workbooks together. Ted loves these counting/sorting bears. Over the years as a nanny & Mum they have been well used.

4 - Play Bingo. Really, really good and (moderately for the adult) fun way of learning numbers.

5 - Play Monopoly or other games that need to count money, move counters and generally use basic maths skills. (Junior Monopoly is fairly quick and nowhere near as tedious as it's better known original version!).

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Easter Nests.

I have been making these Easter nests with work charges and more recently with Ted for years.
I am not an especially brand conscience person, but for these I make an exception!

You need
Cadburys chocolate
Cadburys mini eggs
Shredded wheat.

(and if you have a 6 yr old with you, some fluffy chicks too!)

Break up the shredded wheat into small stick like pieces, melt the chocolate, stir them together and spoon into cake cases. Add a few mini eggs to each.

Ta da.

They are delicious.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mud, Mud, Magical Mud.

Inspired by a few tweets on Twitter, and having googled for several 'recipes', I, along with Ted & his cousins Pickle & Pop, set about making some very clean messy play!

Usually it seems this gloopy mess is called 'fairy mud', but for the sake of 3 cool & fairy doubtful boys, 'magical mud' is what it was.

1 bar of soap per child
1 large container per child
1 loo roll per child
1 bottle/cup of water per child.
A grater
Food colouring
A large space, patience, and no fear of mess.

First - give the children a loo roll each and ask them to get the paper off the roll. (expect mild hysteria - nothing is as funny as throwing loo roll round a garden!)

Then each child needs to grate the soap into a large bowl. We used Imperial Leather soap - I am sure any will do! Soap grates quite easily so the children could do most of it themselves.

When the soap is grated it is time to pour in the water and start making one very smelly, gooey mess. 
We coloured the water first.

and then slowly poured it into the soap, giving the slop a mixture between each addition of water. It was by now, quite repulsive.

When the soap is pretty much dissolved (I added some very hot water to help it), they then poured in the glittery stars.

And then, finally, the fun bit. Having ripped the loo roll into small pieces it was time to start adding it to the gunk. The aim is to have a mixture that can be modelled and squished, pummelled & poked.
It took a lot of loo roll, and a lot of stirring.

 But, eventually, we had 'magic mud'. Hoorah.

The boys verdicts?
Pickle asked me several times - 'Aunty, what is the point of this?' Good question, there isn't one.
Pop's eyes were rolling as he was in pure, soapy heaven.
Ted - loved making it, but hasn't played with it.

It was a great way to spend an hour, the boys had a great time, any neighbours that were watching will think I am mad (er than they thought anyway), and even the rabbit joined in.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Sausage & bean hot-pot

Another quick, easy and reasonably nutritious meal.

Like most meals I tend to make them up as I go along, so feel free to do the same and substitute one thing for another!

Ingredients - (this served 3 children & 1 adult)
2 carrots
1 onion
1 pack of sausages (8)
cup of water
tin of baked beans

To start off chop up the carrots & onions, cut each sausage into 3 and chuck everything into a  large pan and saute for a few minutes in a splash of olive oil.

When the sausages are starting to brown pour in about a cup of water and then cover, leaving to cook for around 10-15 minutes.

When the sausages and veg are fully cooked (this will depend on size of sausages and type of veg, but around 15 minutes) it is time to tip in the tin of beans. For this meal I used Heinz Barbecue Beans, but generally use any that I have in the cupboard.

Stir it all together and allow the beans to heat through, but not boil.

Serve (in this case with doughballs) and enjoy!

The results today - Ted and his cousins ate it with gusto, and that is 2-3 portions of the all important fruit and veg without even trying!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Master of Block Play!

Last week, 24.5 years of working with children all came to a head, when I attended a course and became a 'Master of Block Play'. My setting even has a certificate to prove it!

The short course was good fun and confirmed my belief that basic play is what children need. Toys that beep, buzz, move & shimmer have their place (a very small place in my view!) but basic wooden bricks are an essential for every modern child.

In a world of touch screens, talking books, continuous access to children's tv channels and other things that wreck a child's imagination, things are turning a corner and people are beginning to realise that boring is good.

My boy Ted, is 6. What he plays with more than anything these days is Lego, which really is an advanced version of block play. But he also still plays with good old fashioned wooden bricks. This is his selection of blocks (some from a lovely set, some very old, some random Jenga bricks)

The advantage of bricks is they can be anything. Give a child a car, it is a car, give them a piece of plastic pizza, it is a piece of plastic pizza, give them a.... you've got the idea. Give a child a wooden brick and it can be anything they want it to be.

Block play can be inside, outside, with large bricks, enormous blocks (think milk crates, supermarket boxes), freeplay, structured play. Most of the time Ted uses his imagination to play with bricks - yesterday I gave him my weighing scales to see what he would like to weigh. Straight away his bricks came out, and he was soon busy learning about kgs - (whilst thinking he was playing).

After a suggestion from the lady running the course ( the preschool setting where I work are going to introduce a 'block Wednesday'. On Wednesdays (obviously) we will concentrate more on blocks, and less on other things. A bigger space will be made on the floor, less tables will be put out and all things blockish will happen. I hope the children will look forward to these days and begin to give us input on how to make them progress. Meanwhile, my garage is full of Easter egg trays ready for them to build with!

So, these holidays how about getting those bricks back out? Children are never too old to play with bricks. Props can be added - Ted likes to put his 'compare bears' with the bricks, sometimes Sylvanian families appear, sometimes plastic soldiers.

To finish I leave you with 2 fantastic brick structures. The first Ted & Sarah made sometime ago - in fact before the 2012 Olympics, as this was their version of the London Olympic Stadium. Not bad for a then 4 yr old and a 9yr old helper. (these blocks are actually a marble run)

Secondly a structure I discovered in my living room a few weeks ago. A house and garden for some Sylvanians. (made by a tv deprived, not often bored 6 yr old).

'When free to experiment with the simplest materials, children find ways to express and develop their thoughts in imaginative play.' (I made a Unicorn - Community Playthings)

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Turn off the TV and go and do Something Less Boring Instead........

Now, that line is from a TV programme from my childhood - to be fair, it was obviously in an era when children were out playing a lot more and inside a lot less. It was a strange show, but did come up with some ideas to fill the school holidays.

As a general rule, watching TV is dull. I know millions of children would disagree with me, and probably most of their parents as well. But it is.

As a nanny, and a parent, I am reasonably obsessed with healthy eating, fresh air and no television (or very minimal).
I remember many people saying to me that 'when you have your own children you will let them watch tv just like the rest of us'. Well, yes I do. My boy watches TV roughly once a fortnight - we choose a film and watch it together on a Saturday afternoon.

But, what all my charges and children have had, is plenty of scope for outside play. Yes, we live in England, yes it is wet, but yes, you can get waterproof & warm clothes, and then go off and explore.

The past couple of years the National Trust have been running a '50 Things to do before you're 11 3/4' campaign. It is great. Full of inspiration to get children outside, climbing, rolling, mud pie making. Most of the activities can be done anywhere (with no expense), most of them involve you getting mucky, and all of them are fun. Some National Trust properties hold events where you can go along and do some of the activites - though you may need to pay an admission charge for this.

So, Spring is in the air, wrap up warmly and go out and explore - and here are just a few ideas from the National Trust 50 things booklet.........
Climb a tree.
Roll down a really big hill.
Run around in the rain.
Make a mud slide.
Climb a huge hill.
Find some frogspawn.
Set up a snail race.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Chickpea curry!

Over years of working with children, I have developed a passion for feeding them all (and my own son) with a good mix of healthy food.
This meal is almost as quick as cooking a bowl of pasta, and uses ingredients that you may well have in the cupboard or fridge.

So, quite simply you need a tin of chickpeas, a carrot (or other veg), an onion, 1/4tspn of turmeric, mild chilli, coriander & turmeric & a squirt of tomato puree.

Then, heat some oil or butter in a pan and add the chopped onion & carrot. When they are softened stir in the tomato puree and add the spices. Cook for a minute or so.
Pour in half a cup of water and tip in the can of chickpeas.

Simmer for around 5 minutes.

Ta da.

Serve with naan bread, rice - or just on it's own.

This is a much requested meal by my boy and lots of other children too.
Healthy & quick. Perfect.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

World Book Day

Hoorah, one of my favourite school events is upon us.
This week is world book day. A great event that 100s of schools over the UK join in with and celebrate. Schools come up with different ideas – normally the children go in fancy dress – dressed as a character from their favourite book. I heard of one school with a fab idea, all the children go to school in their pjs and take their favourite bedtime story with them!
So, in honour of World Book Day, I am going to provide you with a list of great books for preschoolers. Some are individual books, some are part of a series, but they will all be worth a read.
Here goes (as a general guide, the top of the list is for the youngest of children, and they will get progressively more grown up down the list!).
The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See – Eric Carle
Guess How Much I Love You – Sam McBratney
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen
Whatever Next – Jill Murphy
You Choose – Pippa Goodhart
The Tiger who came to Tea – Judith Kerr
Five Minutes Peace – Jill Murphy (along with the others in the same ‘Elephant’ series)
Kipper – Mick Inkpen – a delightful series about Kipper (the dog), Tiger and a whole host of loveable friends.
Hairy Maclary (all the series) – Lynley Dodd
Aliens Love Underpants (as do dinosaurs) – Claire Freedman
Alfie and Annie Rose stories – lots of them, all great – Shirley Hughes
Max – Bob Graham
The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
Winnie the Witch (each and every one of the picture books) – Valerie Thomas
Oliver Who Would not Sleep (and the others in the series) Mara Bergman
Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes – Anna Kemp
Tyrannosaurus Drip – Julia Donaldson
What the Ladybird Heard – Julia Donaldson
The Lighthouse Keeper series – Ronda & David Armitage
Mister Magnolia – Quentin Blake
So, not a complete list, I could go on for hours. You may notice a lack of Julia Donaldson books – 3 have made it on to my list, many of them I find tedious, but you may love them. There are many authors with many different series worth a try. Mick Inkpen books are always worth a read, as are Nick Butterworths. Some Dr Seuss books are fantastic, others not so great.
And, my 2 awards go to……….. (da da daaaaa)
Best series ever…. Winnie the Witch
Best Individual Book – Max (son of legendary superheroes)
Now, off you go and get reading.