Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lego Games – Just for Boys?

 

The good people at Netmums have been kind enough to let me and my 7 year old daughter review  a Lego game.  I say ‘kind’ because the original request went out to boys.  Strange, I thought, I’ve always thought of Lego as a unisex toy. Having heard good things about Lego games, I thought it was worth asking if they would like a girl’s perspective and hey presto our wish was granted.  My daughter has been eagerly awaiting the postman for weeks, especially as I promised she could invite 2 of her friends to test it with her.

The game that finally arrived was Ramses Return.  It is described as a memory game suitable for children aged 7+.  So far so good, Egypt is a fairly unisex topic and memory games are generally popular in our household.

WP_000291

Before playing the game you need to build the board and the die which adds another dimension to the toy.  We had fun building it together and the instructions were clear and easy to follow.  It comes with a funny little tool (the red thing in the picture) to lift the tiles from the die  if you want to change it around . This is (as are many of the other pieces) very small.  In our house this means that tidy away time would need to be supervised to ensure that no pieces went missing or were eaten by toddlers, babies or dogs.

The rules are easy to follow.  The object of the game is to move around the board collecting crystals and treasure, some of which are hidden under domes.  If the die lands on a colour, you have to check the domes to see if you can find a matching crystal, the domes then can be placed back on the board in any position, so you need to remember where each colour is. If the mummy passes through your space you lose a piece of treasure and go back to the start. The winner is the first to collect 3 different pieces of treasure. The treasure and crystals fit neatly onto the heads of the playing people, my daughter loved balancing the funny hats on their heads.

We have played the game twice so far, once just the 2 of us and again with 3 children plus my 2 year old and myself playing together.  When it was just the 2 of us it took about 10 minutes to play.  I liked this because often board games are quite long and it is difficult to find long enough stretches of time when the babies are not around for us to play. With 4 players it took considerably longer, one of the boys became bored before it finished and then they all gave up.  The boy who gave up playing was younger than the recommended age so this may have been a factor, also because the board is so small with 4 players it is quite difficult to sit around it.  We passed it from player to player instead.

The thing that I loved most about the game is that it promotes creativity by encouraging you to change the rules.  We changed a number of rules such as when a player landed on your space you had to give them a crystal and if you choose an empty dome you had to go back 2 spaces.  It was lovely to see the children negotiating the rule changes.

So was the game a hit with girls?  I think that is a resounding yes.

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.

And the winners are…….

Thanks to all those who entered  the Leapfrog Maths Adventure to the Moon DVD competion and congratulations to the winners

Laura Steward,  Gabrielle Svensson and MJ McNair.

Enjoy

Rachel

Children’s Parties – No More Party Bags Please

 

Party season has arrived again in our household.  My eldest has just had her 7th birthday and most of her class are spring and summer born babies so we now have an endless run.   In her book bag today I found 3 thank you cards, some written by the child and some by the parents.  What will I do with them?  Look at who they are from and put them straight in the bin. To the mums who spent hours writing them or the poor children who have been made to sit for hours signing their name, I am sorry.  Though I agree that it is right that children should be grateful for what they are given, when they go to so many parties is it really necessary that we get a thank you card from every one?  I’m probably known as the ungrateful or disorganised mum because I don’t send them.  At the weekend we visited friends and my daughter decided she wanted to write a thank you card for them, this one was written because she decided it was a thoughtful thing to do rather than because I had told her to do so – surely that means far more.

Women’s Hour today discussed  children’s parties and most of the views expressed were either that they were a huge headache both financially and in terms of organisation, or that they were a thing that the parents relished organising.   I have a friend in the latter category, who will throw a party at the drop of a hat, hand making everything to fit the theme including party clothes and food.  A part of me would like to be like that but time and inclination hold me back.  Besides which,  I’m sure my children would be just as happy with a trip somewhere nice and a shop bought cake.  We have tried various things from overcrowded parties in the house, hiring a big hall, not having a party but taking a few children to the theatre and this year an ice skating party. My 2 year old is yet to have a party as she doesn’t really have enough friends to justify one .  Parties in the house are far too stressful for me, the combination of noise, overcrowding, mess and organising food is a nightmare.  The big hall party was fine on the day (a joint party with 30 children) but organising what I was going to do with them, sorting food and all the things we needed to entertain them took a lot of time and energy.  The last 2 were relatively easy.  Ice skating with a group of  7 year olds was surprisingly stress free.  The children had a lesson and then were given penguins to hold to help them balance if they needed them.  There were plenty of adults around to help out so that even the 2 year olds had a turn.  The food was prepared by the venue and all I needed to provide was the cake. Party bags included a free ticket to come back and ice skate – so much better than the usual tat (though some of that was still there).

Why do we feel the need to provide party bags at children’s parties?  We all hate the little bits that come out of them that usually end up scattered around the house.  Some people  substitute the bags with presents but all children somehow expect to come home from a party with a present  these days. When we were kids this was never contemplated, if we were lucky we came home with a prize from a game.  Even pass the parcel now has a present in every layer – I remember the days when each layer had a forfeit rather than a prize.  My children so don’t need anymore stuff.  Call me a humbug, but I’m not going to do it anymore and hopefully lots of like minded mums will join in the boycott.

Is there any value in pre-schoolers using iPads?

 

As you may have read in previous posts I am very interested in harnessing technology to engage children in early literacy.  I have been reading a number of articles about using iPad with pre-school children and am still yet to come to a satisfactory conclusion. 

In Maine there is an initiative to give iPads to  pre-schools in the hope that it will open up new worlds of learning for students.  It is recognised that this it will take a great deal of thought to achieve optimum benefits.  The hope is that it will be used to open up new avenues for exploration and not purley for entertainment.

 http://new.bangordailynews.com/2011/04/22/education/ipad-use-among-kindergartners-sparks-debate/

This is where I struggle.  My 7-year-old has just been allowed a DSi and I had hoped that she would use it as a camera and music player, creating projects to share . As yet I have only seen her engrossed in solitary activity and pushing her younger sister away.  I fear that this could also be the case with iPads if the applications are not creative and far-reaching enough.  Are there any applications that promote creativity and open-ended activities?  Are there any that are designed to be used with groups of children collaborating on tasks?

I have looked for many recommendations but have so far found that most involve variations on the same theme.  The kind of things that have been around on children’s websites for years – memory match games, puzzles, flashcards, colouring in, matching and tracing. Also I have seen a number of interactive books which are great on some levels but would worry that they would replace important aspects like bedtime stories.

So I’m very much on the fence at the moment .  If anyone has experience of using an iPad with pre-schoolers (particularly in the classroom) or has found any ground breaking applications in line with an active, play based,creative and interactive classroom I would love to hear about your experiences.

There’s a Spider on the Floor – Fun with Rhyme

 

My 2 year old is just beginning to get the hang of rhyme and we often have fun at the dinner table making up rhymes for words. This morning at breakfast the girls found a plastic spider and I remembered a song that I used to sing with the children at nursery.

There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor
There’s a spider on the floor, on the floor
There’s a spider on the floor and it wasn’t there before
There’s a spider on the floor on the floor.

The children then choose where the spider should go next.  My 7 year old chose her head and rhymed it with bed.  This was a bit advanced for my 2 year old but she enjoyed choosing parts of the body – it was a great fun activity,  that they could both join in with at their own level and engaged them for about 10 minutes.  They liked it when I made up funny verses e.g. There’s a spider on my knee please don’t fall in my cup of tea.

Fun like this reminds me of the reasons I like to sit with the kids at mealtimes.

Turning 40 – What have I achieved in the past decade?

It’s my last week in my 30’s so I’m doing a lot of reflecting on the past 10 years.  I don’t really feel like I have done a great deal in that time but when you sit down and think about it there is quite a lot that I can be proud of.  Here are some of my greatest achievements in that time:

1. I Got Married 

Not much of an achievement I hear you say, perhaps not for some.  I remember saying to my mum when in my late 20’s that I didn’t think I would ever get married because I didn’t think I would find someone who would love me enough.  She told me not to be stupid and as always she was right.  When my husband proposed to me on the eve of my 30th birthday, I was overwhelmed that he loved me enough to want to spend the rest of his life with me.  I think that’s a great achievement and that we are still married after 9 years isn’t bad in the scale of things either.  Marriage isn’t all moonlight and roses and I’m not the best wife in the world.  Keeping it together is a huge challenge when you throw in the demands of young children, stressful jobs, working away and running a business, not to mention how much we change as individuals.  I don’t know if we will make it through the next decade, it will be my greatest achievement in life if we do.

2. Had 3 Wonderful Children

There was a time when we thought we would only ever have one child.  We tried for years to have a 2nd but suffered 2 miscarriages and felt it was our fate to only have one. My eldest is the most amazing child, clever, confident, beautiful, well behaved and sociable, you couldn’t ask for more in a child.  We still used to feel sad when she was playing on her own and hoped that one day she would have a brother or sister.  Now she has 2 sisters. My 2 year old can be hard work but is also clever like her sister, has a wonderful loving nature and frequently makes us laugh and the baby is a beautiful, happy, easy baby who smiles at everyone she meets.  I am proud to be raising 3 such lovely girls and I’m sure they will make me even more proud as they grow up.

3. Got a Masters Degree

My husband always makes me think outside the box and when I was unhappy at work he helped me to see that I had the power to change things and to go back and study.  I loved studying for my Masters and I found that I was surprisingly good at it.  I’m so glad that I did it.

4. Played Maria in ‘The Sound of Music’

I have been involved in musical theatre since I was a child and it was such a buzz to play Maria at Cardiff’s New Theatre, playing to full houses of 1000+ every night.  It was tinged with some sadness as it happened just after mum had died and I knew it would have made her so proud. 

Getting to do any theatre since having children has been an achievement in itself but I have done fairly well by appearing in a few musicals, playing Jane Eyre , a cocktail waitress in Shakers and appearing in my first opera.

5. Finding 2 Jobs that I Loved and in Which I Could Make a Difference.

In my early 30’s I worked with families of pre-school children who were on the autistic spectrum.  This was such an amazing job, I learned so much and met so many wonderful children and parents.  Watching the children progress and the families become more able to cope, I feel that I really did make a difference and that is so satisfying .

Between my first and my second child I worked for the local authority as an early years consultant.  Again I met some inspirational people, loved coming up with solutions to problems, learning about and sharing good practice and watching Continue reading Turning 40 – What have I achieved in the past decade?

Nominations open for MAD Blog Awards

MADs2011MADNominateNowBadge[1]   

I’m new to blogging and so far it has been a liberating experience.  In the few months since this blogs creation the readership has grown and I have been really fortunate in being part of Netmum’s  Blogging Network.  One thing that is odd about blogging is that although you can see how many people are reading your blog, unless readers share comments, you have no idea whether people actually like what they read .  I have had loads of positive feedback from friends and family both verbally and via Facebook and it always lifts my day when I get a comment on my blog – but what does everyone else think?

Then along came the MADS  – awards to celebrate the best in mums and dads blogs.  There are 15 categories for nominations  and the 5 blogs in each category with the most nominations will become finalists.  I would love to see that people enjoy my writing enough to nominate me for one of the categories.  As I am new to this game of course Best New Blogger would be the perfect category as would Best Pre-School Fun.  I would love to think people see me as a good writer by a nomination for Best Writer or Best Blogpost.

So if you have enjoyed reading my blog, or I have touched you in some way I would really appreciate it if you would take the time to nominate me for any of the above categories (you can nominate in more than one category). Click on the Nominate me button on the sidebar and it will take you directly to the MAD nominations page. The competition will be great as there are many blogs with a huge following , so I feel a bit like a small fish in a big pond,  even so it would be lovely to receive even a few nominations .

Breast Milk Ice cream

 

This made me chuckle.  I was just reading a news item on Netmums about an ice-cream parlour in Convent garden who are selling Breast Milk flavour ice cream.  They have paid £15 to mums for donating milk and they’re charging £14 an ice cream.

My middle daughter loved ice cream when she was a baby and this would have been heaven for her.  However at £14 a go – maybe not …. maybe I could have made my own.

Who on earth would buy this ? Even out of curiosity at £14 an ice cream I’m not really sure. Good marketing ploy, but not sure it would go down too well in our little village shop.

Sir Ken Robinson animation

 

I first came across Sir Ken Robinson when a colleague used his TED talk to illustrate the importance of creativity and critical thinking in the Early Years Foundation Stage.  This animation brilliantly outlines his arguments for a new type of schooling that moves away from academic achievement and looks towards those skills that will be most useful in the 21st century.

www.sirkenrobinson.com