Friday, 8 November 2013

Pasta and Beads

While we were stuck inside, apart from watching a lot of TV and preparing for Halloween, I tried to find a few things that Kit could do to entertain him for a little while to settle him - I'm not sure who was more stir-crazy by the end of the day, but he would show his boredom by going wild while I showed mine by struggling to stay awake. We did a lot more Elmer elephants, started on our Christmas preparations, baked cookies, and played with spaghetti and beads.

When I first set it up I told Kit it was a hedgehog and it needed feeding beads on it's spikes. Since then Kit has moulded the playdoh and put the spaghetti on how he wants to.

When Kit was younger I used to always take pipecleaners and beads out on train journeys to entertain him and he has these out at home, with free access and often makes bracelets and necklaces with the  pipecleaners and beads. The spaghetti and playdoh was a new way for him to use his beads, and he is engrossed in the actvity. It's also taught him a bit about balance as he had some disasters where he concentrated too much on one stick of spaghetti and the whole thing fell over. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Elmer Day

One of the books that Kit had picked from the school library was that of Elmer the elephant by David McKee, a story about a very colourful patchwork elephant. If you've ever read the book you'll know that at the end all the elephants celebrate Elmer day by painting themselves in lots of patterns. Knowing that Kit is happiest when he is drawing I asked him if he would like to make some patterned elephants like in Elmer, he was very keen and insisted I cut out some elephants for him, which I've been instructed to do every night since and gradually they have been taking over our flat.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Conkers and spiderwebs

When we were at the Weald and Downland Museum we came across a Horse Chesnut tree with a large amount of children underneath it. They were all collecting conkers and we joined them in collecting our stash.

We're yet to have a conker battle, although we will. Some are making there way to Kit's school for their autumn table, and many have been used for making autumn decorations for our flat. Mainly we've been making conker spiderwebs, and teaching anyone who comes to visit us to do the same. I saw the idea on Emma Bradshaw's blog here if you want to know how. They look lovely hanging in the window, and Kit really enjoyed winding the wool, although he needed help.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Weald and Downland Museum Autumn Countryside Show

Earlier in the Autumn we went with my parents to the Weald and Downland Museum Autumn Countryside Show. Kit had a fantastic time, watching the craftsmen, exploring the houses, but mainly watching the tractors and the working horses. I think we'll definitely be regulars at all their shows next year. One of the craftspeople had also been telling me about the hands on activities they do for children over the half-terms and so next half-term we might head there for Kit to have a go (as we couldn't this half-term).

Monday, 4 November 2013

Pumpkins and vampires

We went to get our pumpkins from Slindon pumpkin farm to see their famous display.

This year I didn't think Kit was ready to carve one himself, although I will let him help next year. So I carved the pumpkin, but something scary happened.

One evening my mum carved a pumpkin...
  A vampire pumpkin.
It bit me and now I only feed on pumpkin innards...
 (Except I don't - pumpkins are friends not food so I've refused to try my mum's creations).

So to 'feed' Kit (or not) I made pumpkin soup

 I used a recipe from a pumpkin recipe book we got from Slindon, which was very basic, onions, pumpkin, milk, sugar, salt and pepper - I actually didn't weigh anything so that is technically all you need to know.

And baked pumpkin seeds (which I burnt but the ones that weren't burnt were yummy).

I boiled the seeds in salty water for 10 mins, put them in a pre-heated oven at 350C for about 50 mins, tossed them in cinnamon sugar and a bit more cinnamon and back in the oven for about 10 mins.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Zombie Invasion of Worthing

Yesterday Zombies invaded Worthing. Raising money for the Maybridge Keystone Centre (a local youth centre) Zombies of all shape and size paraded around the town centre and culminated on South Street to partake in a flash mob to Thriller. Kit was excited to see one of his friends (now a zombie clown) in the parade, especially as he hasn't seen her for two weeks. He was a bit scared of a few of the others though, and had said that he didn't want to be a zombie so we weren't joining in the parade.

Reports have been coming in that the zombies continued to invade into the evening, and that some of those were less friendly than the ones that we saw in the flash mob. Thankfully by this time we were both tucked up in bed. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Up and Down

The day before Kit went in for his operation we'd been offered tickets to go and see a new children's theatre company's production of Oliver Jeffers 'Up and Down'. I jumped at the chance as Kit has really loved the theatre productions we have been to before, and he loves Oliver Jeffers books, so I thought it would be a treat before he went into hospital. Despite us really struggling to get there and parked, because my sense of direction is appalling and I never normally drive around the London area, once we made it there Kit wasn't disappointed.

As a parent I enjoyed seeing him engage in the production, although I would say it wasn't as engaging for adults as some of the other children's productions I've seen. It was more engaging for young children though, which is the point afterall. The main part of it was mimed, with illutrations from the book to reinforce the story, it was very simple and clever in using a small stage to contruct several different sets. It stayed truer to the book than other productions that we've seen where parts were added to bulk the story out. This worked particularly well in keeping it short, which meant that it truely was suitable for babies upwards, as it wasn't asking to hold attension for an unreasonable amount of time. At a few points the actors came out into the audience to engage with the children, and while there were little words in show they communicated the story perfectly to the age group they were targetting. Kit loved it.

The show isn't running for much longer but we will be looking out for more Ga Ga Theatre Company productions. We just won't try to drive to Greenwich Picturehouse next time! They run their shows at various theatres across London, and they are all very easily accessible by public transport (or probably by car if you can read a map).

We disappered again... sorry

We've been busy doing nothing...

Kit was in hospital for a planned operation, one we have been waiting for a long time for him to have. He is pretty much all recovered from it now and enjoying being tonsil and adenoid-free and able to sleep all night without waking up to choke on them. (Although he now sounds like he's inhaled a helium balloon).

Since then we've been on house arrest as he wasn't allowed out for fear of further infections (he left the hospital with one already). And I had meant to blog in the evenings to let you see our Halloween preperations, and to catch you up on our summer, but I was very tired at doing nothing, and I had some uni work to do. Now, I should be reading Little Women for uni too, but I'm going to schedule some posts to catch up and I will get my blogging mojo back. I will definitely be back because I want to tell you all about the zombie flashmob that is supposed to be happening in Worthing tomorrow!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Our New Den

We're not quite at the stage where I'd be happy to give you a full guided tour of our messy, disorganised flat, but the reality is we may never be. We go for a very 'lived in' look around here. I thought that I would share a few bit with you though, give you a bit of a taste of the place we now call home.

Top left to bottom right: 'The Study', the den/book nook under Kit's bed, the lounge/where I sleep, the entrance to Kit's room with his latest art project (lifesize drawings of him and me).

Kit has the biggest, warmest and brightest room in the flat. I wanted him to have space of his own to play in this flat partly so that the whole flat didn't look like a toystore, but also because he is at the age now where he is happy playing alone and I didn't want us to be under each others feet all the time. I'm sleeping on the sofa bed in the lounge at the moment, but I do have a small single bedroom too (which is a dumping ground work in progress at the moment) it is going to mainly be a craft room though, as the lounge is warmer. I've separated part of the lounge off as a sleeping and TV den using bookcases, and the other half (next to the kitchen) is a dining room/study. I'm zoning in an attempt to make a small flat seem bigger. We've begged, borrowed and thrifted furniture to fill what we didn't have before (although we did Ikea a few bits). We are almost done but I can't imagine it will ever stay tidy enough to take nice photos!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

All Change

We've been gone for a while. It all got a bit stressful for a while, but now we are gradually getting life going again. We've been busy re-nesting in our new home, in a new town, in a new life.

Over the summer we left our little flat on the South London/Kent border and moved into a slightly bigger (although not significantly!) flat on the Sussex/English Channel border. We now live by the sea in Worthing, and Kit is enjoying splashing in freezing cold water and drawing in the sand. I'm enjoying my new fifteen minute commute rather than the old hour (if I was lucky) one. Kit is settling into school, almost. We've been busy having fun and re-exploring the town and surrounds where I grew up. I'm looking forward to Kit growing up here too. (His only complaint is that with the ten-minute walk from our flat we aren't close enough to the beach).

Monday, 22 April 2013

National Trust: Bodiam Castle

Kit's been showing an interest in castles recently. Mainly I think because he aspires to be 'Mike the Knight' but it doesn't really matter why, I'm just keen for him to explore what interests him. We've been to a lot of the National Trust properties closeby and I've been trying to pass them off as castle-like but I thought, as a treat, I'd attempt to take Kit to an actual castle, Bodiam Castle (I say attempt because my sense of direction when driving is dreadful and I don't have a navigator so I don't tend to like to drive places I don't already know how to get to). We made it to Bodiam fine though, and it was only an hour down the A21 from where we live, so I think we might go another time too. It was a really lovely place to go on a sunny day, which thankfully it was this weekend.

I would put caution to small legs because to travel around the castle there are a lot of high narrow spiral stairs (as with most castles), I was surprised by how well Kit managed them, I was having visions of him rolling back down knocking everyone over like dominos, but he held my hand and either the rail or the higher step and did remarkably well. The bonus is, because the castle is mainly ruin rather than stately home, he could clamber over things and explore fairly freely (within the realms of safety) without having to worry about not touching. He quized the 'real-life' knight who was standing in the courtyard, and promised to keep an eye out for the dragon for him. And he strangely (for Kit) chose to sit and seemed to enjoy watching the documentary showing the story of the castle. Spurred by watching Brave (it sounds pretty bad that everything Kit is interested in seems to come from TV or film but surprisingly he actually doesn't watch that much - about 3-4 hours a week if that) Kit was keen to have a bow and arrow, I had promised him one at Knole but they had sold out, so he was very happy that they did have one at Bodiam, it is going to take a lot of practise before he actually manages to master it though. I think knights might be an interest of Kit for a while now and as a lover of castles myself it's just an excuse to visit them all.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Horniman Museum: Music and Monkeys

We haven't been to the Horniman since they re-did the garden so when Kit started talking about seeing fishes I knew that we should head there rather than just to the local garden centre aquarium (yes I'm one of those parents - I will forever subject my child to garden centre visits, it is how I was brought up. I will draw the line at show homes though, sorry Mum and Dad but looking at other peoples houses isn't that much fun unless you have a commentry from Kirstie and Phil!). It was slightly damp on the day we went but between the spitty rain it was bright enough to have a run outside. Most excitingly they have installed some giant outdoor instuments, to extend from the already brilliant music collection inside. Kit was able to extend his learning from our Plan Toys Melody Xylophone to the big xylophone there.

It also reinforced all the learning that he has been doing about the frog and toad lifecycle. The aquarium has an interactive game about it, but more importantly it has tadpoles and frogs in the tanks. And it had starfish and a waterfall, which were really the attractions to Kit.

And it's always good to drop by on the relatives before you leave.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

National Trust: Dressing up at Knole

We actually went inside the house at Knole for the first time last week. I don't recommend it for a spirited 3 year old as it is very much a 'don't touch' type of place. Thankfully they have a deer hidden in each room so it does give you a chance to have a look while your child is looking for the deer, so long as you can get them to stand fairly still while they look. We were mainly going in because Kit wanted to have a look, we weren't inside for long. He did manage to get dressed up as a Tudor though, which was fun. And he did enjoy looking for the deer, so as long as you manage your expectations it probably is worth a look around the house if you go and are a member so it doesn't cost you.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Review: Plan Toys Melody Xylophone

My sister is now a music teacher, and when I was growing up a lot of the activities that we did were focused around music as both of us learnt several instruments and were in bands and ensembles. Since Kit was born we've been re-living my musical past through numerous visits to bounch and rhyme and songtime sessions at the libraries, and through a growing collection of instruments at home. So when Plan Toys offered us a chance to test out their Melody Xylophone I was happy to accept. 

Kit has a simple five-bar xylophone (actually it is the Plan Toys Oval Xylophone) which he has enjoyed playing for a while. The Melody Xylophone is the next stage on. With a whole octave of bars it allows you to learn to play actual songs. With the Xylophone you get a set of song-cards which set out the notes to be played, both by colour coding and by their placement on a stave. The bars on the xylophone match the colour of the notes for simplicity, my only criticism is that it would have been a fantastic opportunity to use letter-matching too as the bars on the xylophone have the letter on them but the notes on the music do not. It is a fantastic start to trying to learn to read music though, in linking the letters on the bars to match the bar of the stave the coloured note is.


I'll be honest, Kit is in no way ready to be reading the music at the moment anyhow, he isn't that focused, but I have no doubt that in the next few months he will learn to master one of the songs, and I think the fact he can have tuneful enjoyment out of it already and will still be learning from it later shows that it is the kind of toy that spans the ages. There is the added bonus that you (as the parent) can have a go at playing the songs and get your child to sing along, which is what we did too. It appealed even more because some of the songs were in French and Kit is currently learning French at pre-school so this supported his learning in that sense too. 

We are big fans of Plan Toys already, not just because they are an environmentally friendly, ethical company, but because they make beautiful, good quality toys which Kit loves to play with. I'm looking forward to watching how his ability with the xylophone develops and am glad to now include it to our ensemble. 

Disclaimer: We were sent a Plan Toys Melody Xylophone for free, for the purpose of the review. Any opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Homeschool: Lifecycle of a Frog

Given the current state of affairs with the school system and politics I'd really love to homeschool Kit (I'll save my rant for another day when I have more time). I've been testing it out, and it's incredibly appealing, the idea that I could educate him while I enjoyed a coffee at my new favourite cafe (if you are ever in Beckenham with a small child it's Deli Nene and the play area is as big as the seating area). I'm only really supporting Kit's learning from pre-school, he does actually miss out a little bit on the activities that they do at pre-school because he only goes for three days, although I'm sure it makes no difference. The fact that his pre-school teacher says that his favourite activity is running up and down the corridor might be more of an issue in whether he actually gets involved in the topics they cover. I know that he does though, and at his age I really don't think it matters that much, but it is nice to take advantage of the sponge-like state of his brain at the moment so when he shows an interest in something I jump on it.

This term they are planning on covering 'lifecycles' although the plan is that they will just watch a caterpiller transform into a butterfly, and as Kit started pre-school early he actually did that with them last year. We had 'rescued' some frogspawn from the path at a local park and Kit had paid an interest into what it was, so to support his learning about 'lifecycles' we've been looking at the frog lifecyle. I bought him a set of frog lifestyle figures, and some for the butterfly and ladybird too, and he has been enjoying figuring out the order and understanding the transformation. We've looked in the pond where we rescued the frogspawn to, looking to see if the tadpoles have grown and will hopefully find a frog there one day. We are rummaging in the charity shop book sections for frog books (most people would probably use the library for this, but until I manage to refigure my brain to remember to take Kit's library card with me, or to actually return the books on time if I take them out on my card it's cheaper for us to buy 50p secondhand books than to borrow them and incur the inevitable fine). Our favourite find has been The Teeny Weeny Tadpole, which I like because I think it also echoes the stage Kit is in at the moment developmentally where he is struggling with wanting to be able to do everything but not quite being capable of it all yet.

I'm literally just following Kit's lead, the materials are out there, and I'm going to do some sensory play with him later (I will share) and make some nonclamature cards for both lifecycles. When he has questions or wants to talk I just answer them.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Hours of Fun: Playing with coloured rice.

I dyed a mass of rice the other week for the class I assist at school to do some Rangoli with. Since I was already spending the evening on a rice-dying frenzy* I thought I'd add an extra batch in for Kit (I actually held back a bit of each colour for him so we can do some more things later on).

For our first foray into dyed rice, and for a more age appropriate dyed rice activity for a three year old, we used it for a bit of sensory play. Kit does a lot of pouring and spooning and tweezering of stuff at pre-school, as part of their Montessori activities, which I'm guessing influenced his choice of what he wanted to do with the rice. I presented him with the rice in a litter tray (classy!). We then collected a range of utensils and containers from the kitchen and I left him to his own devices. He said he was making cakes and we added in some coloured pencils for him to use as candles. Mainly he was just pouring and spooning it from one container to the other, and he enjoyed sitting playing with the rice for ages (which is a miracle for a child who suffers from ant-in-pant-itis). We'll be playing with it a lot more before we might actually use it for an art and craft based activity, I'm interested to see where his imagination takes him the next time I get it out.

*I dyed the rice by mixing the cheapest rice that I could find with some food colouring until it looked the colour I wanted, spread it out on a baking tray and left it overnight.


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