acepuppets


So we have reached the halfway point of the summer holidays in the UK and exhausted many of the local attractions for children. It is important, especially during the summer holidays to make an effort to do some new, fun things with children without the pressure of the classroom. We’ve had a busy few weeks (and not a lot of blogging time) and so wanted to take a day trip out somewhere. All phones, computers, televisions and tablets were turned off and we headed out, not that the weather has been particularly good this week, what with hurricane Bertha! I wanted to do something different and creative (although was fairly certain a playground would be involved at some point, and sure enough it was)!

So we headed up to Penrith where I had heard good things about Crafty Monkeys – a craft studio for all ages. Unsurprisingly, being the school holidays it was quite busy when we arrived but with no time restraints we were happy to wait our turns. It was great fun! We painted a dinosaur, a mug and tried mosaicing (not quite as successfully though, it proved to require more patience than first thought) It was a great experience and all the kids there were loving being allowed to get messy and creative.

After we got cleaned up, I was begged to find a playground. Unfortunately it’s not until they get a bit older that they realise mums aren’t capable of just magicing a playground out of thin air. Luckily though, after asking another mum at Crafty Monkeys, I found out there was a playground not too far away, just outside of the city.

This was in fact the Great Salkeld play area. It had quite a lot to offer including slides, swings, a wobbly bridge, a small timber climbing frame with ropes and ladders as well as a big play area in the middle for basketball etc. It was a big area where the equipment isn’t too crammed together which I prefer as more space means more running around which means a tired out child at the end of it! The favourite piece of equipment was the wobbly bridge which, although met with some hesitation to begin with, was responsible for a lot of laughs.great salkeld play area

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I don’t know about you but the thought of entertaining children for a whole six weeks can be pretty daunting to even the most dedicated parents. Not only do you have to consider what on earth you are going to do with your little darlings you also have think about how much money you are prepared to spend on entertaining them.  Before you blow all of your hard earned cash this summer here are some ideas that will help you to keep your offspring happy and leave you solvent at the end of the holiday.

A Walk in the Park or Country

country

If you live in the countryside then any wide open space is a potential natural playground, if you live in the city parks are just as good.  Children are most manageable when there are few restrictions on them and plenty of natural things for them to explore.  If you have a young child be prepared to take a carrier bag with you so that you can fill it with a large collection of stones, feathers and twigs – for some reason little ones love to collect them.  Older children will enjoy the challenge of longer walks and more difficult terrain – if you find a lake or patch of water on your travels then that is a bonus because water will keep children busy for hours.

Fifty Things to do Before you Reach 11 3/4

50 things

Supported by the National Trust in order to to encourage children to explore and learn how to appreciate the world about them.  If you click on the link you will be able to visit the dedicated website and down load the full list as a tick list.  The, ‘Things’, include tree climbing, rolling down a big hill, building a den, set up a snail race, make a daisy chain, walk barefooted, camp in the wild and many many more.  In fact you may find that it keeps you entertained because you can fulfil anything that you may have missed out on during your childhood!

Put on a Puppet Show

puppet

When your children are quite young they have a wonderful imagination that can take them into amazing worlds just by giving them ideas.  You don’t need a puppet theatre or puppets – just toys and something that can be like a puppet theatre.  Chances are children will have been learning about story telling at school and will love to tell you an epic story using their toys.  The stories tend to be epic and pretty repetitive at first and you can rest while they are performing making sure that you laugh when you are supposed to and are able to comment when they ask you questions about what they have been doing.

Visit Different Playgrounds

barrow

You will be amazed at how varied different playgrounds are even in a small area.  The type of playground equipment is different in playgrounds even in a small area.  Children just love the opportunity to play with other children and meet new friends.  If you go to a different playground everyday you can enjoy different experiences and the walk to get there.  If you live in the country try to get to a more urban playground and vice versa if you life in a town.  The great thing about going to playgrounds is that you can walk their and generally buy treats at the local shop and make the occasion last as long as you wish.

Get Crafty

puppets2

Children love making things and are as happy sticking old boxes together as using expensive craft equipment from a shop.  You can choose to either have a structure approach where you have a lot of input and the end result looks pretty good or risk letting your child experiment themselves and produce something that is not as aesthetically pleasing but  has involved a great deal of learning in the process.

Your Children Want You!

What ever you decide to do with your children this summer remember they love being with you more than anyone else in the world so just enjoy spending time with them talking and reading and just being together!


So as I sit here typing this, the sun is shining and the view out of my window is glorious.  School is nearly finished for the summer and I’m sure many other people will be in the same situation as me and starting to question how am I going to keep a small child entertained all day every day for a whole six weeks?  It is a thought that is partly exciting when I think of all the new experiences and all the new things he will learn before starting school again in September but then the other part is wondering what are we going to do and how many times am I going to hear “I’m bored!”    We can’t be doing grand activities and trips every day as that’s just not feasible so sometimes it comes down to making staying at home fun and exciting.

Thinking back to my summer holidays as a child I only really remember being outside, riding around on bikes or doing somersaults down the steep slope in the front garden.  Nowadays it seems things have changed a bit and kids can’t play out as freely as we used to be able to. I’m hoping though that if the weather stays as it is right now, the garden will be the place to be.  We have a plain and simple swing out there at the moment but I’m wondering whether a small climbing frame or slide could be a good addition for the summer. Of course there are plenty of other games and activities for the garden that don’t have to involve any fancy equipment. Maybe a paddling pool could be a good idea? Actually, yes, I think I’ve just convinced myself of that, a paddling pool with some toys and maybe a water gun could lead to hours of self initiated play and if that means I can read the paper and enjoy a cold drink outside while I’m supervising then I will be happy too, though no doubt a splash here and there will also be included!  I’m always looking for ideas of simple games or activities that don’t involve too much preparation or equipment. I found a little list here of garden games which are the sorts of things I think I will be doing this summer – something creative, fun and involve a lot of running around to tire them out! Any other garden play suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

 

bubbles


Deciding that the computer was getting too much attention we decided to give Alistair a sabbatical from it for a while.  Expecting him to find it a hard ship we thought that we had a bargaining tool to enable some kind of control over him – but no my crafty son decided that he had enough of playing Cbeebies  games and quite like the old fashioned activities that require the input of an adult or an other unsuspecting grown up who couldn’t a valid excuse as to why they couldn’t play with him.

This is when I was introduced to the new craze of Loom Bands – now obviously my five year old son was not going to sit for hours trying to work out how to loop these teeny tiny bands together to make a bracelet – no that was my job.  I looked at the instructions and held the tiny crochet needle in my hands and decided to discard them and do them my own way.  Now Alistair has twenty bracelets and keeps ordering that I make more so that he can have more than his friends, needless to say I am looking forward  to the school banning the pesky things so that I don’t have to keep looping elastic bands together for the rest of my life!

Another thing that my son enjoys over any pieces of technology is playing with other children, he thoroughly enjoys the time we spend in the king George V playground next to the school in Allithwaite.  The playground is cherished by the local community and has a very active committee that keeps it well maintained and safe for the children to play in.  Just recently they organised a Cross Bay walk to raise money to replace a basket swing destroyed by a fallen tree.  Hopefully the money required will be raised soon and the local playground equipment company Playdale will be able to replace the swing for us and fill the empty space in the playground.

cross bay walk

Alistair is really god at climbing up things but seems to require my assistance when it is time to get down and it attracts the attention of all of the other children who think he is cute and needs rescuing.  Luckily he is a slight child and still light enough for me to catch – I don’t know what I will do when he develops a huge appetite – I will just have to put a sleeping bag at the top of the slide and feed him until he is big enough to get down himself.  The issue is that he doesn’t like the green and red tube slide in the playground and refuses to come down it – if he did it would only take a second for him to get down without all of the unnecessary fuss.

allithwaite playground

I must stop procrastinating as I have orders for three bracelets and have to go and get my pesky son from the top of the slide – why can’t he be just a little bit more fearless instead of anticipating potential dangers?


So this weekend we took it upon ourselves to visit somewhere new.  The sun was shining and it seemed like the perfect day to take a trip and do a little exploring.  We got the car all packed up; a picnic, some action figures, sunscreen and hats in hand.  After a hot car journey (but with plenty of cows, sheep and even llamas to entertain along the way) we arrived on the West Cumbrian coast.

It wasn’t long before we were making sandcastles and dipping our toes in the sea, as cold as it was!  We had our lunch on the beach, with only minimal sand getting into the ham sandwiches and with only one biscuit lost when being fed to a crab.  After the food and all of the questions about the sea attention started to wonder and a run around on a play area was needed.  Close to the beach was a small but great looking playground, all grass and all timber made.

Inevitably on such a nice spring day, it was filled with other families but there was enough playground equipment to keep everybody happy.  My son loved it! He was straight off onto the slide.  There was also a team swing which he had never seen before but made good use out of with a couple of other children (which grew into a small crowd once others caught wind of how much fun they were having).   There was also some timber climbing apparatus which he was a bit more hesitant about and just watched the older children play on for a while before heading back for another go on the swing!

Image

After the playground (which was a bit of struggle to tear him away from) was the aquarium, which was not too big and not too small.  Questions came about all the different types of fish and which fish were in the sea that we had just been in and then why didn’t we just go into the sea instead of inside the aquarium to see them?

As is quite often the case, when it was time to pack up and leave we were met with a few moans and groans but the sun was starting to set and we had to get home. The weather held out for us which was wonderful.  The journey back was filled with fewer questions, just a request to go back to the playground tomorrow.


I haven’t written for quite a while because life seems to have moved on so very quickly. My son is now nearly five and very settled in school and I am older, greyer and back in the adult world do adult things. I am starting to miss those care free days of taking our time to get out and just wandering around enjoying the joys of nature, instead mornings are fraught with having to make packed lunches and find socks – where do they go?

Meandering

I think one thing I miss the most is walking to the local playground saying hello to everyone we walk past and enjoying life at the pace of an inquisitive toddler. When my son learned to walk a typical twenty minute walk into a marathon, particularly as he often liked to collect stones, twigs and explore dubious verges where dogs had visited.
The Simple Life

Having a young child helps you to appreciate the simple things in life and the opportunity to breathe in the atmosphere of the world. Everything to a child is exciting, new and anything that they cannot devise an explanation for is magic. Being close to a child who is bursting with imagination is exciting and fun.

Playgrounds

I think that I became familiar with all of the playgrounds in my area and could choose which one to go to depending on the playground equipment available. The one nearest to us had very little playground equipment but it was still a lovely place to spend the afternoon never the less. I have video footage of my son at different ages on the springy motor bike – when he was tiny he could hardly fit his legs around the saddle but every year that goes on he becomes more vigorous and in the most recent videos he is shaking the bike and his whole body looks as if he is on a rodeo horse.  This photograph is of the playground near his school in Allithwaite where he now plays with his new friends after school giving me the opportunity to talk to the other mothers getting used to being their own person again.

george v alithwaite

Challenge

Like all toddlers my son seemed to have this drive to challenge his fear and his physical strength. It was obvious that he was developing his balancing skills, whether it was on bales of hay on the estuary or on playground equipment in the park. Sometimes the greatest challenge was learning how to interact with other children and understand that playing with them meant that you all played a game you all wanted to play not just one he wanted to play.

School Holidays

Luckily there are the school holidays to enable us to resume our Swallows and Amazon days and walking to the playgrounds involves proper conversations about life the universe and everything. I enjoy the fact that my son is now his own person with opinions, memories and a cracking sense of humour. We both miss the baby years a little bit and do cuddle like Mummy and Baby – he will always be my baby – even when he is the same age as me and a grown man!


I chose this phrase because I wanted to get the message across that I had a multisensory approach to developing learning and communication skills that would eventually lead to smooth progression into reading.

I approached my son’s language development with my philosophy in mind and spent all day talking to him and playing imaginative games based on stories we had read.  His grandparents also talked to him in the way that grandparents do – best source of heuristic play and introduction to stories.

Basically my son has heard a commentary of his life and been posed hundreds of questions since he could focus his eyes.  I have just got into a habit of talking and singing to him as well as pulling faces and making silly noises.

I am very pleased that his communication skills are great; he speaks clearly with a good vocabulary and sentence structure, he can tell stories with enthusiasm, his comprehension skills are good and his desire to ask questions is phenomenal.  He is also showing pre reading skills and can spell simple three letter words such as, ‘cat’ and ‘dog’.  So I am very pleased that he has taken on board everything we have been doing.

However, he does not stop talking from the minute he gets up to just before he goes to sleep.  He talks to me on the way to and from nursery, in the playground, in the house, when we go for walks, when we are reading books and he asks very interesting questions about who made us, ‘humans’ and why roofs are pointed or this bit of pavement is a different colour or texture.  I sometimes feel as if I am in the middle of Mastermind under pressure to answer so many questions – if I don’t answer straight away he gets impatient and tells me off for not listening and if the answer is unsatisfactory he keeps asking until he is either satisfied or I turn the tables on him and ask him what he thinks the answer is.

Sometimes I ask him to stop asking questions but he says that he likes to ask questions.  I asked him why and his answer was that I ask lots of questions. 

Provoking curiosity in a child is the best way to keep them interested in learning, allowing them to explore the world about them secure in the knowledge that you will keep them safe gives them confidence and being able to imagine that the world is magical gives children the ability to plan ideas in their head.

It seems with children that you need to model the skills that you want them to learn so that they can copy your example and practise good communication skills with other humans, invisible friends, school friends, teddies and any adult who says hello to them when you visit the shop.

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