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.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Practical Skills: Making orange juice

We've had a plague on our house for the past week, as soon as Kit was well I was struck, which was a challenge as it was the first time for a very long time that I have been properly (in the struggling to even get out of bed sense) sick while having to look after Kit. He was actually quite good on the first day, after finding his own clothes and getting himself dressed he collected a magazine and some scissors he sat on the bed cutting out a Christmas scene (it was an old magazine!). I just about managed to pull myself together to drop him as pre-school and get home and sleep the whole day ready to pick him up at 4pm. Hopefully it won't happen again for a while, and by the time it is I might have managed to show him how to get his own breakfast too.

We have been working on skills in the kitchen a little bit. I've been gathering devices to make tasks a bit safer for Kit and I think he'll be cooking me three-course meals in no time. Maybe not, but he might have mastered a breakfast. At the weekend one of the first tasks we set to was squeezing oranges to make orange juice. It seemed an appropriate activity to try to boost our vitamin C and get us back on a healthy path.

I wasn't quite ready to trust Kit with a sharp knife so I cut the oranges in half for him so all he really had to do was use the juicer and pour the juice into the cup. I am planning on working on cutting with a knife with him so hopefully this is something that he will be able to do entirely by himself (with supervision) before long.

We were using blood oranges, if anyone is wondering about the colour of the juice.


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