Monday, 31 October 2011

Tiny Tate

On the advice of @MumsnetBloggers, we headed to the Tate Britain on Saturday. Despite studying Visual Culture in London (which was largely a study of the museums and galleries around London), I've only ever been to the Tate Britain once. I don't know why I hadn't thought to explore it more before. This Saturday they had a special under-5s festival, Tiny Tate, which was lots of activities for the littlies and a chance for them to show off their new activities in their art trolleys.

Kit enjoyed exploring bits of the gallery with his cone, and enjoyed making a shapes collage. The best thing about the art trollies was that you could pick what you wanted to work with, which meant that Kit was fully engaged with the activity as he had chosen what paper and what he wanted to stick on it.

We explored letters in the Live Book, which Kit really enjoyed, I'm thinking I may use big letters on the floor as a way to help him with reading and spelling later on.

The only timed activity we made it to was the Sound It Out activity, which was great (although Kit wasn't so sure, as he kept trying to run away - I think it was really aimed at a little bit older kids). Basically, there were three people leading it and creating rhthyms with words.

We'll definitely head back to the Tate Britain and enjoy the art trolleys. I remember before I had Kit, on seeing kids in galleries doing art activities, saying I wanted to be the kind of parent that encouraged their child to interact with what they saw in that kind of way (I also said I wanted the type of child who ran around an art gallery with fairy wings on - so if you see a little boy running around with fairy wings that'll be me chasing them!)

Happy Halloween


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Why I may grow to love Ikea!

I was in desperate need of a new shower curtain and bath mat, my bathroom breeds black mould and the shower curtain was already off-colour when we moved in a year ago. I knew Ikea could provide me with the cheap bathroom accessories I needed to make my bathroom look clean and nice. We don't live that far from Croydon, and I've driven to Ikea before, but I hate driving. I only needed a shower curtain and a bath mat so I thought we'd try out the public transport route. We caught the bus to Beckenham Junction (the first or last stop on the tram line) and then we boarded our first tram. Kit really enjoyed riding on 'the train on the road'. The trip took a lot less time - or felt like a lot less time than I expected, and we didn't get lost once (which I would have done if I'd driven). Plus it didn't cost a fortune, in fact it was probably less than the petrol cost would have been.

We arrived at Ikea at lunchtime, and I had pre-planned that we would have lunch in the cafe/restaurant first. As a vegetarian, and since Kit doesn't eat red meat, meatballs were not on our menu. I am hugely impressed by the offerings that they do have for children though, Kit had fish, chips and peas, and I had their organic pasta and tomato sauce (which you could also get in a kids size but I thought I'd give Kit a treat although I ate most of his chips, I think he thought that peas were the treat!). Kit got a free banana with his meal, and I could have got a free organic baby food pouch with my meal, all for £3.98. I'm a fan of anywhere I can get a decent healthy meal for 2 for less than a fiver! Also did you know that you can get free tea or coffee in the week with an Ikea family card.

Now Kit is only 2 years old at the moment, but when he gets to 3 Ikea will open up a whole new dimension of admiration for me Smaland. Smaland is a creche for children 3+ to play in (which is essentially a soft play area) while their parents shop. Did I mention that it is free? Now I'm not a fan of soft play - I'm more of an outdoor play kinda girl, but if the weather isn't playing fair, I'm thinking that Kit would love the chance to run around, climb, and jump in a ball pit.

So here is my plan. Once Kit hits the big 3 I can go on an exciting tram adventure with him to Ikea, where we can get cheap lunch. I can then drop him into the free creche while I go back to the restaurant for free tea or coffee, in peace! I know it won't work that way (in reality I'd be reluctant to leave him in a creche anyhow) but even without Smaland, I think that we could be popping over a few times this winter, because look at the fun you can have just in the toy department!

I'm not sure that Ikea aims to be a play destination, but surprisingly Kit did not want to leave, and that it enough to turn it into one for me!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


We missed International Talk Like a Pirate Day this year, slack I know. But we don't need a celebratory day to be pirates. In this household we are always on the search for treasure - although what constitutes treasure differs slightly between the two of us. My idea of treasure is generally something that I can make something lovely with (which is why I have an epic wool and fabric collection!). Kit seems to consider treasure as either something he can eat or play with. Well, I combined the two, and used some of my pretty things (and a few bits from the rubbish bin) to create something that Kit could play with. We literally made treasure.

Firstly we found some scrap card and a bottle top. Drew around the bottle top and cut out lots of circles.

This is the reason that toddlers shouldn't play with scissors...

 'I cut my nose Mummy'

We were lucky because the card we found was already gold on one side, so when we did the next step of sticking two circles together we already had a gold coin, but if you don't (and we had one that the gold was torn on) then you could cover them in tin foil like we did.

We needed something to store the coins in so I whipped up a really simple bag from some piraty fabric I had in my stash. They are basically a strip of fabric folded in half and a flap folded over at the top of each side to create a drawstring. You have to do it inside out and then sew the flaps in and up the sides (but not the flaps as you need to thread the string through there) - sorry I'm dreadful at explaining!

I think my little pirate likes his treasure anyhow.


Natural History Museum

Kit became an explorer on Sunday. He discovered a wide spectrum of the animal kingdom!

We met up with the lovely Jess and took on the Natural History Museum. We've been a few times before, but we'd actually been avoiding it a bit because it is the museum in that area that always has a queue outside, and toddlers and queue just don't go! I don't think we chose the best day to decide to actually join the queue (maybe the Sunday before half-term is it's busiest day?!). It didn't take long to get in though, it was the queue inside for the dinosaurs that was ridiculous.

The previous times that we had been I'd always kept the buggy with me, and Kit had flitted between buggy and walking. It's always been fairly busy, and when your son's favourite phrase has become 'I run away Mummy', trying to juggle pushing a buggy and not loosing a toddler in a crowd did not appeal. The main reason that I'd never put the buggy into the cloakroom before was because I'm tight, and I didn't want to pay - if only I'd known that it is actually free! As I was splashing out (or not as it turned out in the end) I thought I'd also pick up one of the explorer backpacks for Kit from the information desk (turns out they too are free). I thought that it would probably be too old for him, but you don't know unless you try do you?! Kit loved the hat and binoculars (and wearing the backpack!).

You could pick which topic you wanted for your backpack, and I'd picked 'Monsters' for Kit, but that was the dinosaurs and we decided not to brave the extremely long queue to see them so we didn't get the chance to try it. I think I was more disappointed to not go to see the dinosaurs than Kit was, I've never seen someone get so excited about seeing some shells as he was when we entered the marine invertibrates section!

As we moved around the museum there were lots of buttons to press and telephones to listen into, which is any toddlers dream.

In my opinion the best section is the bugs section, although it does make me itch! There is loads to play with in there, and giant bugs are always fun. There is so much to see in the museum, it's a shame everyone is so focused on the dinosaurs really. The mammals were pretty empty, and actually seeing a blue whale, elephants and a giraffe was pretty awesome. If you head there pick up your explorer pack, dump the buggy and explore the bits without the queues! 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Bloomsbury Festival

We headed into London at the weekend to check out Bloomsbury Festival. There was so much going on for it that it was difficult to choose where to go and what to do. Given that it was a nice day we stuck to the outdoor activities. In fairness most of the museum and gallery activities for kids were for much older kids than Kit, so outdoors was probably better. We can explore places like the Foundling Museum and Grant Museum of Zoology when he is a bit older and can enjoy it a bit more, without me worrying he will break everything!

We started off in Russell Square for all the activities that they had going on. We were greeted almost immediately by a lady offering us a patch to decorate to go on the den!

We then headed through the Poets' Path: Poetry Under the Arbour, and wrote a line ourselves. You could pick out words and join them together, which was probably more fun for me than Kit, but he enjoyed looking at all the lines blowing in the wind. Our contribution was 'Oh let trees spread sun' (I won't give up my day-job - although I did get a poem published when I was younger).

They had a children's activity tent where you could do various activities. We joined 1A Arts etc and Kit did some leaf printing and decorated a picture frame. The activities were free but I noticed as we were leaving that they did request a recommended minimum donation of £10, which seemed incredibly steep for the activities on offer. I am more than happy to pay a couple of £s to entertain my son, but £10 seems slightly crazy.

We went to watch some of the music in Russell Square while we ate lunch and then headed over to Corams Field to play in the sand and visit the animals. We also got to listen, and join in with some amazing storytelling in The House of Tall Tales and Small Stories, and Kit got to make his leaf crown.

We were going to plant bulbs in a community garden, but Kit crashed out from all the fun so we jumped back on the bus and headed back to have dinner at Kit's Dad (so Kit could maul his brother and sister), and then home to get some sleep before we had even more fun the following day.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Boys are allowed to sew too!

I personally don't consider any activity to be gender specific and so long as Kit enjoys doing something it doesn't matter whether that is something that society says is a 'girl' thing or a 'boy' thing. When I look for things to do with him though, I frequently find a divide between genders and it irritates me enormously. So when I was procrastinating from studying researching fun activities for children on the internet, and I came across some lovely ideas for teaching toddlers to sew (all, bar one, of which were with girls - check out Jennifers sewing with her son) I thought how great it would be to teach Kit. It is a great aid to dexterity afterall!

My favourite blog for ideas was this Pre-sewing activities and Sewing projects for preschool age

I stole borrowed the idea that she had for using onion bags stretched across an embroidery hoop and I thought that I would break gender stereotyping and start teaching my son to sew.

He actually really enjoyed it. We were on a train at the time (hence the outdoors clothing and him being in a buggy - there were no seats!). I'm definitely going to try some of the other ideas from Roopa's blog posts. I think there is a niche in the market for unisex or boy haberdashery skills - maybe I'll start a boys craft club.

We ended our sewing session in a similar way to how Kit always wants to end (and often start) arts and crafts sessions, with me writing his name.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Visit Kent - Eynsford

Following on from the success of our daytrip to Shoreham a few weeks ago, I was inspired to explore more of the local area heading away from my normal haunt of London. Bickley, where I live is on the Southeastern Trains Sevenoaks line going in to London, so the plan is to visit the stops along this railway line (going away from London that is!). So last weekend we headed a stop closer to home, to Eynsford (a mere 13 minutes from our local station). It was beautiful.

In a very unplanning way we were relying on my i-phone google maps to point us in the right direction, which proved to be a mistake - a trip to the library for a map will be high on the priority list when we go to the next stop. We ended up crossing a railway line (at a proper footpath crossing - not trespassingly!), it was a first for me, and although in some respects it was exciting to be able to see the trains coming pass there, I was incredibly relieved that none came while we were walking across it!

The railway line cut across some fields with a public footpath which led up to Eagle Heights Wildlife Park, although we didn't go in (I'm sure we'll head there for a visit soon) we were lucky enough to see one of the eagles flying about. I'm surprised it didn't swoop down and try to pick up the small creature that kept running off the footpath and into the field!

As we carried on our walk we also stumbled upon Lullingstone Roman Villa, Lullingstone Castle, and then eventually Lullingstone Country Park where we popped in for lunch at the visitors centre. After having refuelled we continued our walk throught the lavender fields onto the The Hop Shop at Castle Farm.

It was a lovely day, and we found lots of places to come back and explore. Our walk back was a nightmare, but I'm hoping armed with a proper map next time it would be a bit more successful. We'll definitely be taking the grandparents up to the country park to follow one of their walks some day soon. Check back in a few weeks to see where we go to next! 


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