Category Archives: toddlers

Little Princess – I Want to Play iApp

I’ve been given the chance to try out the new Little Princess I Want to Play iApp.  As I am always on the lookout for good apps for pre-schoolers, especially those of an educational nature I thought I would give it a try.

My first impressions were favourable – the Tony Ross illustrations are as vibrant as those in the books and there is a selection of 4 games to play.  The games are simple enough for young children to play, are very visual and have nice sound effects.  The instructions for the games are written on the screen.  As an app designed for pre-school children I feel it would be very helpful if they were also explained in audio, although once the rules are explained by an adult they are very easy to follow.

My 2 year old absolutely loved this app. She made her way through each of the games starting with pairs as this is familiar from many other apps. The cards are touched to reveal characters from the Little Princess stories and the object is to reveal all the matching pairs. 

 The dressing up game was a firm favourite, a selection of clothes and accessories are dragged onto the princess until she is dressed, you can then take a picture of your chosen outfit.  My daughter was a little disappointed that when she dressed the princess in her swimming costume complete with armbands, goggles, flippers and rubber ring, the princess did not go off for a swim.  Perhaps this could be an added feature? A helpful arrow appears to show where the accessories should be placed on the princess, helping to avoid unnecessary frustrations.

Bath Time was another popular choice, Puss and Scruff need to be cleaned.  To begin with you rub the animals to lather them up (an arrow appears to tell you if you have missed a bit) and once they are covered in soap, bubbles appear .  The object is to pop all the bubbles in the shortest space of time. Even my 9 month old enjoyed playing this one (much to the annoyance of her sister).

The final game is bunny bop.  Rabbits appear from rabbit holes and the object is to bop as many as possible on the head in the alloted time. If you bop Puss or Scruff points are deducted ( this didn’t deter my 2 year old who prefered to bop the cat and dog – clearly not as competitive as her dad then).

The app was a huge success with my 2 year old and my 7 year old enjoyed it too.  I wouldn’t say it has any particular educational value but is a very good entertainment app for under 5’s.

The Little Princess I Want to Play iApp is available to buy for £1.99. Money well spent I would say.

This app was tested on the iPad.

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How my 2 year old learned about deer and death.

dead deer in a gardenIt’s not every day that you wake up to the sight of a dead deer in your garden!  I was first alerted to the fact when my dogs hadn’t come to whine at the door after being let out. My 7-year-old went to find them and see if they had gone into the woods at the bottom of our garden.  She returned and said that there was something lying down behind the dog,  I asked how big and she said she didn’t know.  I was expecting to find a frog or maybe a bird but was confronted by the above.

I wasn’t sure whether to let my 2-year-old see it,  she really wanted to see the ‘reindeer’ but I thought she might be frightened.  However, I’m always keen to avoid sheltering my children so we went to the bottom of the garden so that I could gauge her response.

She was in fact absolutely fascinated by it.  It isn’t often that you will get the chance to see a deer that close so we could look at it and talk about it.  I pointed out its hoofs and she said

maybe it will get proper feet – does it have to go like this? (standing on tiptoe).

From the outset I talked about how it was dead.  I think children are very matter of fact about such things and their questions should be answered honestly but in a sensitive manner.  She saw that it had hurt its legs and was very concerned,

Maybe we could put it in the shower or in the bath and make its leg better?

I explained that we couldn’t put it in the bath and that we didn’t need to make it better because the deer didn’t hurt anymore, he couldn’t feel it because he was dead

Does it have arms?

No it has 4 legs like the dogs. Most animals don’t have arms.

But we have arms.

Yes.

Perhaps when we talked about the deer not feeling hurt, she was thinking of feeling as touch.

Not that it’s likely that many of you will encounter a dead deer in your garden, but would you know what to do if you did? Probably not, well neither did I and it took about 2 hours to find the answer. First port of call  the vets – I thought they might be able to point me in the right direction.  They gave me the number of the RSPCA and the local council.  According to the council a wild animal can only be collected from the roadside or public place, if it is on private property then the disposal is your own responsibility.  If I couldn’t find anyone to collect it then it became an environmental health issue and they would come and collect it.  The RSPCA suggested I contact DEFRA .  They said that they would normally advise people to dispose of animals in normal refuse, but that a deer probably wouldn’t fit! Their advice was to call the council again. The senior staff at the council finally authorised collection free of charge.

The men arrived and my 2-year-old delighted in showing them the way, saying ‘we think it is dead’.  I think they had visions of an animal that as soon as they moved it would start kicking out – I reassured them that it was dead.  The small antlers were caught around the tree and the deer was too big to fit in the bag they had brought so they carried it up the garden.

Oh look it’s awake now

my daughter said when she saw its eyes wide open.  She wanted to see them put it in the van and know where it was going.  I told her that they would probably bury it.  They put it in a yellow bag and onto the truck.

Are the mummy and daddy reindeer dead?

I don’t think so, they might be looking for it – poor deer

It’s alright reindeer you’ll get better soon.

We waved goodbye to the deer and the men.  So that was her first experience of death – we will see what other questions it raises in the coming days.  For now she has gone to bed with her cuddly reindeer kissing it’s legs and telling it she will give it a plaster to make it better.

Are Twos Really Terrible?

The bedroom door opens and a loud and enthusiastic voice proudly announces that she has opened her own door. She attempts to climb over everyone in the bed  asks for covers and then announces that she is hungry and wants breakfast. We are lucky if we get breakfast on the table without a shriek of ‘No me’ or ‘mummy do it’ if her sister tries to help.  ‘Me do it’ is the favourite phrase when getting dressed, followed by a Rumpelstiltskin stamp and jump if she fails.  Late for school again, we are lucky if we make it that far without  a tantrum over picking a flower, whether to walk or get back in the buggy, wanting to bring something we have left behind or failing to say hello to someone on our way.

Welcome to a typical morning in the McClary household  courtesy of my challenging middle daughter aged 2 and a half.  I don’t remember the 2’s being particularly terrible with my eldest, perhaps memory fails me, but then she didn’t have to compete with 2 sisters for attention.   I was once told that 2 year olds are not deliberately difficult, they just make mistakes.  I’m not always convinced – particularly when I say don’t wake your sister and she proceeds to shout in her loudest voice . We give her a hard press sometimes but always come back to how gorgeous she is.   When a day starts in this way it’s often difficult to focus on the positives but in reality there are lots of lovely things about 2 year olds.

The pride that they show when they achieve things – my daughter beams and says ‘I did it’ .  As difficult as it may be to let her do things herself , especially when we are in a rush it’s wonderful to see her achieve things.  Hopefully she will soon be independent and able to dress herself by the age of 3 like her sister.  I also remember my eldest making me breakfast for the first time before she turned 3.

Though often toddlers like to challenge us and do the opposite of what we say, they also love being helpful.  If you give my  daughter and her friend a special job to do they are eager to help.  She is good at tidying up, putting things in the bin, helping put the washing in the machine and feeding the dogs.

She is incredibly loving .  She loves to have hugs and often says ‘I love you’ .  She wakes me in the morning with a hug and a kiss and if her dad is away says ‘ I want my daddy’ and sometimes when her sister is at school ‘ I want my sister’.

I love the way she can hold a long telephone conversation .  She makes funny little mistakes like showing my dad that it is raining in our garden ‘ look, see, in this garden.  It is raining’ or that anything that happened in the past is referred to as yesterday. She sometimes has telephone conversations with her best friend.

Her vocabulary is improving all the time and never ceases to amaze me.  I love listening to her use new words and phrases and hearing  the things she has obviously picked up from us or her sister.

I love hearing her laugh – she is incredibly ticklish and it’s lovely to hear her unrestrained laughter.

She is still working out how things work so sometimes comes out with funny things.  Recently she said ‘mummy remember I lost you and you were in hospital, then we went to hospital to buy my baby sister’ or the time that she saw horse manure on the road and said ‘mummy has the road done a poo?’

I love that she is learning new things all the time and her beaming smile when she discovers something new.  Her latest discovery is rhyme and often recognises rhyming words  and proceeds to list as many word as she can that rhyme with the original word.

I love reading stories with her.  She has had a love of books from before she was a year old and is always asking for stories.  When she is getting difficult because she is tired she will sit and cuddle in to you sharing her favourite books.  It’s also lovely to see her ‘reading’ books for herself – reciting the well-known phrases verbatim .  If you give her a book with single words accompanied by a  picture she believes she can read and looks so impressed.

I often find myself hoping that the 2’s will soon end in the hope that we will have a more civilised little girl.  This exercise has reminded me of all the lovely things about her and that sometimes I should take a step back and remember those things. Children grow up so quickly and soon these times will have been and gone and I’ll wish I had appreciated them more.

Toddler Takeover @At-Bristol

watering cans
I’ve had a really fabulous day out with my 2 year old and her friend at the bi-monthly Toddler Takeover at At-Bristol.  At-Bristol is an interactive science centre with over 300 hands on exhibits.   The Toddler Takeover is a themed day targeted at the under 5’s.   The theme for today was ‘Come Rain or Come Shine ‘.  I’ve been impressed by the amount of exhibits that my 2 year old can enjoy when visiting with her older sister in the past.  There are 2 under 8’s areas that are always available .  A role play airport including a cockpit where the children can fly a plane, passport control, luggage and an x-ray machine and a hostess trolley.  When my eldest was 4 we spent most of the session playing here.playing airports  The other has an animal theme and includes a tunnel, dressing up, storytelling and a sticky spider’s web game where the aim is to throw bugs at it to try to make them stick in the web.

throwing

I once saw a superb storyteller in this area so was disappointed to have missed the storytelling session today.

As our children were under 3 we only had to pay for the adults therefore the day was good value for money.  In addition to the usual exhibits, there were a number of theme based activities  designed with the under 5’s in mind.  These activities were on the whole well thought out and there was a mixture of child directed hands on activities and more structured adult directed activities.  Some of the activities involved making an end product – a windmill or weather wheel and some were more exploratory such as musical instruments that made weather sounds, pretend snow and water play.  These were suitable for even the youngest children and each of the exhibits included a list of  suggested questions and discussion points .

There were a lot of staff helping the children to make the most of the exhibits including a number of volunteers.  Some staff were better at engaging the children that others but in all I felt that the level of supervision was excellent.

For an extra 50p the children could watch a show in the planetarium.  This was very interactive and visual and at about 15 minutes short enough to keep the children’s attention.  It may have been better presented by someone with experience of working with large groups of under 5’s but he managed to keep the interest of most children.

My little one enjoyed running through the lights best of all and is looking forward to returning with her sister so that they can do it together.

playing with light

We had a lost child incident whilst we were there and would just like to commend the staff for the efficient way that this was dealt with.  The child had wandered from the cafe to the main exhibit area.  When  staff  observed that he was without an adult, 4 members of staff  kept in close contact  without approaching him directly, so as not to alarm him. When reporting the lost child the reception staff immediately alerted all the other staff and the child was found .

On a practical level there are a number of baby change areas and buggy parks throughout and a picnic area where you can sit and eat your own food.  The cafe has its own small play area so the children can play whilst you have a coffee break. Parking is on the expensive side but park and ride or public transport are an option.

As an added bonus to the day out, outside At-Bristol there are a number of water features that on sunny days become a great place for children to splash about in.

splash

My only real suggestion for improvement is that there could have been better signage from outside that the event was going on . I’ll definitely be recommending this to my friends and am looking forward to the next one.

At-Bristol is also a great place to visit with older children too, my 7 year old wants to go tomorrow and is disappointed that she couldn’t come with us today. ‘I want to play with the fake snow’ she said when she found that it was only available for the toddler session.

http://www.at-bristol.org.uk/

Sesame Street on Kinect

Cookies_Are_Circular_

I know it’s a bit sad but I was very excited to hear this news.  Firstly, I am a huge fan of Sesame Street – my mum often attributed my intelligence to the fact that she watched Sesame Street whilst carrying me.  Secondly no more shouting ‘Get out of the way’ when my youngest tries to join in with Kinect games because this one will be aimed at her.  When we got our Kinect for Christmas I thought it would save all the arguments over controllers and my 2 year olds inability to handle them properly, but so far there hasn’t really been able to join in.  She has played bowling with some success and manages some of the games on Kinectimals but I do feel that she is a little young for these. So Hooray, finally a game aimed at pre-schoolers and with Sesame Street behind it I trust that it will be good.

I love that ‘Once Upon a Monster’ is aimed at families playing together – we often have 5 children trying to play ours and it can get a little manic.  The game is aimed at teaching young children about emotions like sensitivity, empathy and friendship that’s got to stop the arguments surely!

I can’t wait to see the finished product – I hope it lives up to my expectations.

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2011/04/sesame-street-kinect-game/

Brain Food – Junk Food may lower IQ.

As parents we are keen to get our children the latest educational toy, send them to the best nurseries and pre-schools and give them the best preparation for school that they can.    A research study conducted by the University of Bristol released today suggests that diet at the age of 3 may have an effect on how intelligent our children are at the age of 8.

The study bases its findings on participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) which tracks 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992.  It suggests that a diet of predominantly processed,  high fat and sugary foods up to the age of 3 may lower IQ at the age of 8.5. In contrast A diet rich in vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite.  Parents were asked to complete diaries outlining the food and drinks their children consumed at age 3, 4, 7 and 8.5.  IQ was measured at the age of 8.5.  After taking other influential factors into account it was found that children with a predominantly processed diet at the age of 3 were associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, irrespective of whether their diet had improved by that age. Similarly children with a healthy diet at age 3 were associated with higher IQ’s at the age of 8.5.  Diet at the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on IQ.  Though the findings are modest, the results are in line with previous research which shows that quality of  diet at the age of 3 is related to school performance and behaviour. A possible explanation is that the brain grows at its fastest in the first 3 years of life, therefore good nutrition may lead to optimal brain growth.

toddler-apple-snack-420x-420x0

So much marketing is aimed at parents and children, making parents feel guilty that they are not buying the child the latest ‘educational’ toy or taking them to classes to improve their language and social skills.  So why not use this as an opportunity to market nutritious food for the youngest children as brain food. Three years isn’t that long a time to limit processed foods and it sets children up with good habits for life.  So maybe next time my 2 year old is nagging for a biscuit or sweet I’ll suggest a healthy alternative –  ‘ Have some special magic food , it will make you clever’.

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac