Saturday, 12 April 2014

Day 7 of 30 Days to Transform Your Play

by Kate from An everyday story and Rachel from Racheous.

Oh, I am really falling behind following this series. Being a part time working mum does not allow for as much time spent with your children; and sometimes the days spent together are all about attention seeking. 

For creating playdough invitations for this series, I decided to address Mr A's current interests (insects and vehicles). Miss R is always happy to join in, still being at that 'I like to eat playdough and make mess' stage - she likes to squeeze it, make balls and throw them around, and finally put some in her mouth.

A couple of days ago I presented freshly made playdough on perspex mirrors with some fresh rosemary and dry larch twigs, wooden beads and plastic butterfly toys. They both loved it. 

Mr A created two different forests with butterflies resting on the ground and cocoons hanging of the branches. This carried on into making caterpillars out of playdough and some pretend play, until the grand finale when a monster truck arrived, got stuck in the remaining playdoug and the game was over (butterflies luckily unharmed). One most love children's imagination!

Miss R stuck a couple of branches in the playdoug, did her usual thing with tearing off playdough and throwing it around, but then proceeded to licking the mirror and chatting to herself in the mirror.


The following day, I prepared a tractor orientated invitation. Mr A didn't seem impressed. He bluntly ignored tractors and demanded butterflies from the day before. He stuck all of them in the blob of playdough and declared that he was done for the day. Retrospectively, I should have kept building up on the butterfly theme... Rather than playing with playdough, they both joined me at preparing some bolognese sauce for dinner. Failure or success? Well, I've learned something new about their play... and they know what goes into a bolognese sauce. 

Updated on 16/04/2014

The children like to help daddy in the mornings, while he is performing his ritual of making an espresso. So lately I have been putting out the playdough together with a manual coffee grinder, some cups and fairy cake molds. In that way, the children make their own pretend coffee and playdough cupcakes for everybody. 

The day after I posted about our playdough explorations, Mr A keenly ground the coffee, made the cupcakes and we sat together to enjoy the coffee. However, minutes afterwards he returned to playdough, brought out the butterflies and asked me for some plants. It was lovely to see him creating his little imaginary world, chatting to butterflies, feeding the caterpillar... He was so engaged, he even asked me to sit down with him and play with his favourite butterfly. I am glad he revisited the original invitation by himself.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Days 5 & 6 of 30 Days to Transform Your Play

I am a bit behind following the interactive series 30 days to transform your play by Kate from An everyday story and Rachel from Racheous.

30daystyp 30 Days to Transform Your Play: Day 1

Day 5 & 6: Preparing for Next Week

It is half term and Mr A is spending a few days with the grandparents. I would like to wait for him with a new creepy-crawlies related playdough invitation, so in the meantime I will hopefully continue with improving our play space. 

I am planning to make some fresh playdough tonight, while clay is already waiting for the forthcoming explorations.

Until Mr A returns back, I will continue using the existing playdough to prepare some simple invitations for Miss R

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Day 4 of 30 Days to Transform Your Play

Today is day 4 of the interactive series 30 days to transform your play by Kate from An everyday story and Rachel from Racheous.

30daystyp 30 Days to Transform Your Play: Day 1

Day 4: Identify interests

'This kind of play and learning happens slowly over time; sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes even years. But it is connected, it is authentic and it is meaningful to our individual children.' (Kate from An Everyday Story)

I have learned with my children that there is no such thing as covering one topic in one day or week and jumping over onto something else. There is a lot of observing, a lot of repetition, a lot of the same questions,... Any imposed activities are not only a needless distraction, they most often result in resentful behaviour and 'I don't want to do it!' attitude.

Quietly observing my children over the past months made me realise just how different they are.

  • Mr A 
With the spring here, it became even more apparent what is making my little boy tick, what is making him happy, what is making him peaceful. Endless hours of searching for spiders, ladybirds and caterpillars, collecting them in his little plastic containers, gently handling them and chatting to them, quietly observing, passionately explaining to other children, reading natural history books hours on end. He is one budding naturalist (I call him David Attenboroug in making), walking and climbing barefooted, getting bitten by creepy crawlies, lying in dirt just to observe ants walking along the wall. 

Yet on the other hand, this is a loud little boy, who needs to run around, cycle, climb or do insanely wild pretend play with daddy.  

As most of the boys of his age, he also loves cars, tractors and  trains. 

  • Miss R
She is a very sociable and loving little soul, constantly asking for cuddles and giving cuddles to pretty much everybody and everything (children on the street, teddies, cushions and even random items like a remote control). 

She loves dancing and playing instruments...
She loves dressing up and acting in front of the mirror...
She loves helping out with cooking, laundry, cleaning...
She loves all things moving, be it toy cars or marbles...

And as any little sister, she also likes to follow and copy her brother,  and play chase and hide & seek with him. 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Day 3 of the 30 Days to Transform Your Play

Today is day 3 of the interactive series  30 days to transform your play by Kate from An everyday story and Rachel from Racheous.

30daystyp 30 Days to Transform Your Play: Day 1

Day 3: Improving a Play Space

My visit to Ikea was reasonably successful taking into account that I got caught in traffic on M25 and that I kept getting lost in the shop. I haven't bought everything I was planning to, but the long journey proved useful for reflecting on how my children play.

I haven't got far improving our play space, because my brother is staying over with his family (boy 5 yrs & girl 2 yrs old both very different to my children). It has been incredibly interesting observing them at play - suddenly I see much clearer what are the favourite toys/activities of my children. So, I think there will be more toy culling happening over the next week; I will certainly be storing most of the puzzles and board games (Mr A could not care less for any of those). 

Ideally, I would like to tackle one shelf at a time, giving it a good thought on how the materials displayed speak to my children. 

I have decided to keep our story corner, since I've noticed that Miss R loves going there just to have a cuddle with the cushions. It also gives the room a bit of softness.

I shall be making a simple terrarium that we can have in the lounge. With the amount of temporary pets that we get through on a daily basis, this seems to be a no brainer. We already have a fish tank, which now hosts a goldfish and a pond snail (and two streaks of eggs). 

Since Mr A and Miss R play very differently and both seem to need a fair bit of space, it feels right to give them enough space to play without interrupting each other. I would much rather see them playing nicely together, but I can't force it. With that in mind, I moved Miss R's favourite toys in the little Expedit shelving next to the fireplace away from the main playarea.
For example, this should give Mr A enough space to build his train set and Miss R to dance, play instruments or dress up without being pushed away for destroying a precious train line (these photos are from about 6 months ago). 

I shall be posting some photos of our play spaces later in the month when I am satisfied that the changes we have adopted work for us.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Day 2 of the 30 Days to Transform Your Play

Today is day 2 of the interactive series  30 days to transform your play by Kate from An everyday story and Rachel from Racheous.

30daystyp 30 Days to Transform Your Play: Day 1

Day 2: Cull toys

Today's challenge comes at a perfect time. I have actually been purging toys (on and off) for a good week now and I am on my way to Ikea tonight to purchase some storage (Expedit unit, trolleycardboard boxes to serve as continent boxes and plastic boxes to serve as toy rotation storage). I haven't been to Ikea for a long time and I think I might get carried away. 

The problem I find with the entire toy presentation and rotation is the lack of storage space or perhaps the lack of organisational skills. We live in a 90 m square three bedroom semi-detached house and we are lucky enough to have a fairly spacious lounge with a dedicated playarea, but I still find it difficult to keep everything tidy and accessible.

Most of our toys and books are displayed in a large Expedit unit. We keep toys in baskets (e.g. cars, figurines, blocks, balls,...), which is all good until they start to over spill - this is always the case with Mr A's cars. 

Our arts and crafts shelving unit and the children's table are located in the dining area and also need some decluttering. Our music / instrument area is next to the fireplace and I am happy with it.

At present, toys for rotation are randomly stored in the upstairs airing cupboard and stashed in a wooden chest which serves as a nature table. I won't take the photo of the airing cupboard - I think it is not too difficult to imagine a mess containing my sewing supplies, children's toys and books, outgrown clothes and a couple of lampshades. 

On my to do list:

  • Donate
I would like to donate the giant Noddy toy and all Noddy books, some of the toy cars (how to convince Mr A?), baby touchy feely books, baby toys that I haven't donated already and little tikes climbing frame from the garden.

I have decided to give some of the nice duplicate toys to the grandparents to keep them at their house or their holiday flat.
  • Trash
I am quite good at this. I can't stand broken toys, so they go straight in the bin. However I still need to get rid off half ripped books that even our magic sellotape can't fix anymore.
  • Store / temporarily remove
We have a story corner / reading corner in our playarea which I love, but it does not get used often, as children prefer to sit on the sofa. So, I am deciding whether to remove the story corner and just space out the furniture / baskets / mirrors / plant in the playarea.

  • Organise toy rotation storage
I need to decide where to store toys for rotation and stick to it. I would love to have everything in one room, ideally with a giant storage space behind some hidden mirrored door. I think I might attempt to tackle our airing cupboard and repeat the same trash / donate/ keep action for clothes and other items.

However, given that my brother and his little family of four are coming over for a long weekend, I can't imagine how I could end up with more organised playarea...

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Day 1 of the 30 Days to Transform Your Play

I am taking part in an interactive series that Kate from An everyday story and Rachel from Racheous have prepared for us mummies: 30 days to transform your play

30daystyp 30 Days to Transform Your Play: Day 1

Kate and Rachel will be guiding us through a series of daily assignments over the next month to help us create more meaningful play. I haven't been so excited about an assignment / homework for such a long time, probably since I've completed my PhD nearly 10 years ago...

I've been reflecting on the first assignment for a good hour now. It feels like I should make it into a monthly routine, so that I never stand still when it comes to supporting meaningful play:

Day 1: Why do you want to make changes to the way you approach your child’s play?

- to give Mr A (4 yrs) and Miss R (2 yrs) freedom to explore and express themselves in a meaningful way (embracing 100 languages of children)

- to raise happy children / family :)
- to encourage my children to play together more often and play nicely
- to make sure I provide ample opportunities for my children to express themselves
- to encourage creativity
- to support independent yet meaningful play
- to feed their interests with meaningful materials / activities
- to parent with abundance vs scarcity
- to get the right amount of white space 
- so that I am able to say YES more often
- to create a flexible routine which will accommodate 2 children & 2 adults, which will take into account multiple inteligences and which will support child-led learning 
- to avoid buying new and rather use the existing materials / recycled materials in different ways

Friday, 28 March 2014

G is for Gecko...

'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.' (English proverb)

With the majority of organised activities Mr A's response is: 'Mummy, I will do it later.' or 'Mummy, you can do it yourself.' (both read as 'I don't want to do it!!'). 

Well, unless we are speaking about exploring the nature or playing with any sort of vehicles...

So far, all our literacy activities have been on an ad-hoc basis. But oh, when I step back and observe and catch that perfect moment, the activity evolves beautifully.