acepuppets


#nowhere2play

The Association Of Play Industries (API) have become greatly concerned with the lack of play facilities for children, particularly in urban areas, and are conducting a survey to find out from parents the state of play facilities in their area.  The campaign is called #nowhere2play and is supported by Playdale Playgrounds Ltd who are experts in designing play equipment and installing it all over the world.

Do your children have public spaces to play in?  Even in the countryside we are seeing green patches of land being swallowed up by housing estates and school playgrounds sold off to building companies.  Is your local playground somewhere where you and your children like to meet friends and have fun or has it become dilapidated and rarely used.  The Association Of Play Industries (API) have become greatly concerned with the lack of play facilities for children, particularly in urban areas, and are conducting a survey to find out from parents the state of play facilities in their area.  The campaign is called #nowhere2play and is supported by Playdale Playgrounds Ltd who are experts in designing play equipment and installing it all over the world.

We are pretty lucky in this part of Cumbria, as there are plenty of places for children to play, and the majority of playgrounds are well resourced and maintained by committees. In Carlisle funding cuts meant that the council considered bulldozing unused playgrounds down, leaving spaces for imaginative play.  This article in metro.co.uk explains their intentions. I am not sure if they followed through with this plan or were stopped in their tracks.  To be fair the council were only considering removing playgrounds that were rarely used anyway as opposed to ones that were the meeting place of children in particular areas.

Are playgrounds used less these days because we are reluctant to let our children wander from our sight when they are playground age? There are significantly more cars than there used to be, causing us to be more overprotective than we may have been in the past. We are in an age where we fear strangers hanging around our children and allowing them to go and play out of our sight in a playground where there is no one to protect them scary.  Children don’t really gain independence until they are in the upper juniors or starting secondary school, depending on how sensible they are.

As the population of the UK increases we find our selves in a space paradox, we will have more families so we need more houses, we will have more children so we need play areas but the houses have been built on the land that was once a playground.  If children don’t get the opportunity to play outside they become obese and cost the NHS milions so what do we do?


I have to admit I have been a particularly bad parent this summer holidays because I have worked for most of it and only engaged in, ‘perfect’, activities a minimal number of times with my son.  So to write a condescending post about entertaining children seems exceptionally hypocritical.  It is not that I am not interested in spending time with my son because when we are together we gel so well that we chat and entertain each other with simple things.  I am constantly encouraging him to think for himself and find ways that he can entertain himself as a complete contrast to the intensity of the school day.  Is it my imagination or do children look lost the first few days of the holidays because nobody is telling them what to do.

When my son was born I dedicated all my efforts into getting him ready to learn and fortified him with so many words and sounds that he could pick them up pretty quickly when he got to school.  Now that he is six and achieving exactly what I was aiming for, I feel that it is time for him to start applying his skills more so that they become practical rather than theoretical so they are of concrete use to him.  This type of parenting involves only giving him a helping hand after he has tried or nudge him in the right direction – which looks like lazy parenting.  I put in such a lot of ground work to learn everything about my son when was small I don’t really have to nag him very much and only have to raise my voice to remind him that six year olds have to listen sometimes.

Next year is SATs for my son and although he seems to find tests quite amicable and just gets on with it, I feel rather sad that the first seven years of my son’s life is going to be summarised by some form of levelling, (which no longer seems clear). My son still believes in magic and is a cuddly and considerate little boy who can tell if you need kind words to make you feel better.  When he goes to the playground he finds friends to play with and enjoys socialising with people.  At school he appreciates everything that the teachers have set up for him in the school playground and never likes to leave.

Although I missed my son for part days during the holidays I did spend loads of time with him and just got used to him bouncing around singing, dancing, talking and cuddling up to me.  I am really dreading dropping him off at the school playground at the beginning of term because I love him more and more every single day and want to keep him in his magic bubble.


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It is going to be so exciting when the children go back to school in September because they will find some new playground equipment in their school grounds.  The PTA and local business Make Us A Website have put money together to buy playground equipment from Playdale Playgrounds.  If my memory serves me correctly when we go back to school in September there will be a new Story Telling Chair, climbing wall and a bird table. These pieces of playground equipment will be great additions to the playground simply because of the play potential the children can have with them at playtimes.

The school playground is quite small really but the imaginative teachers have utilised the space to its fullest potential by having different activities in all of the nooks and crannies.  It would seem that apart from the sand pit and mud kitchen, the favourite playground activity is to build wobbly towers using crates and terrify any observing adult that they may just tumble when they reach the top.  Parts of the playground remind me of the concept of the, ‘The Land‘, in Plas Madoc in South Wales, where children are able to use every day junk to create their own play area.  Whereas only a minute part of Allithwaite school playground is dedicated to this type of play (it would look really awful otherwise) the whole play area in Plas Madoc is devoted to imaginative play.

Apparently when you approach, “The Land. A Space Full of Possibilities.” (Guardian) it looks like a dangerous junk yard and would send chills down the spine of any over cautious parent.  The whole point of the area is for children to learn about risk in their own way and explore activities that they may be prohibited from doing elsewhere.  Children who play in The Land recall exciting experiences where they have built amazing dens and furnished them with mattresses they have found.  Others remember building a huge water slide.   Inspirational youth worker Claire Griffiths set up The Land and with assistance supervises the children from a safe distance, broken bones and grazes are inevitable but that is all part of the learning process.  Play experts from all over the world have visited The Land to observe and gain inspiration from the project.

Plas Madoc is a town stained with deprivation, the local leisure centre has closed and play opportunities are few and far between for children.  The Land gives these children a sense of purpose and achievement that can not be acquired in a structured environment.  Apparently the risk assessment for The Land is huge and is based on risk verses benefits from the activity, the fire risk assessment is nine pages long.  I was lucky to grow up in a time where there was enough space to do all of the things that the children do in The Land before over protectiveness took hold.  Being left to your own devices to play and learn about pain and your limitations gives you a strength and independence that cannot be found in a text book.

As parents we really do need to loosen our apron strings and let our children find out for them selves what they can create.  It is very difficult though because when your child hurts themselves you can feel their pain and you want to protect them for ever – sadly this does not protect them as it make it difficult for them to deal with adversity in real life.


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The summer holidays provoke a mixture of reactions from parents, some embrace the time with their children and others dread the constant need to provide entertainment.  Without a doubt the summer holidays is expensive and even if you cut down spending to a minimum, if you are living in poverty it can still be too expensive.  Children still require feeding and tend to develop an insatiable appetite because they are outside a lot.  If you are a family that has relied on free school dinners to ensure that your children get the food they need the impact of the holidays on your food budget can be catastrophic. Yes there are food banks but the sheer humiliation of having to go to one is enough to reduce families self esteem to zero.   Just recently the very astute SNP MP Mhari Black quite rightly pointed out that “Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are a symbol that the welfare state is failing” (New Statesman) whatever your political leanings are, you do have to agree that she has made a very valid point.

It is becoming more apparent that the establishment is making every effort to undermine families who have to rely on benefits to survive and the broadcasting companies seem to be in cahoots by producing belittling reality benefits programmes.  The shocking thing is how remarkably easy it is to go from a comfortable lifestyle to poverty simply through redundancy or ill health.  We are all part of the system and we are all at its mercy – maybe not today or tomorrow but sometime we will be, when we are most vulnerable. Getting out of the poverty trap seems to be like trying to climb out of a greasy pit and being pushed back in again once you see daylight.  People are having to apply for jobs in any sector of the workforce and can apply for hundreds of jobs just to be perpetually rejected.  Common sense tells us that it would be better if the Job Centre provided career guidance and directed people to apply for jobs they could be good at and enjoy rather than reduce self esteem to nothing and increase debilitating mental health problems.

Although the welfare of children is taken into account the emotional impact really is not, children suffer in every single possible way due to family poverty.  In April 2013 Caroline Hoggarth, headteacher of Greengate Infants School in Barrow, wrote an extensive report on poverty in the Furness area.  As Lead Commissioner of, ‘The Furness Poverty Commission‘, she lead a high calibre team on researching poverty in this area of Cumbria.  The research found that poverty is increasing and the impact on the town as a whole will continue the awful devastation caused by redundancy and lack of jobs.  The report includes quotes from people who had answered the questions and shows that they never aspired to be in the position they were in, it just either crept upon them or they were born into that lifestyle.

Living in poverty can be devastating for children as it deprives them of everything that is necessary to develop into rounded and confident adults.  When children go to school they are expected to spend their time learning and eventually applying what they have learnt to everyday life, in a perfect world this really does happen and a child does absorb themselves in their lessons.  However children who face the harsh truth of poverty and dysfunction are too distressed and tired to deal with learning, imagine trying to feel enthusiastic about capital letters if you have spent all night hungry, cold, listening to arguing  and feeling self concious because you haven’t had a bath.  The Furness Poverty Commission Report states. ‘The head of a junior school reported several children ‘unprepared for school- tired, hungry, struggling with emotional tensions at home. This dramatically affects their ability to learn’. A school adviser reported ‘the stress of family poverty seriously affects children’s ability to learn and to form supportive social relationships in school’

Every summer holiday children are uprooted from a routine that generally ensures that they are safe and teachers are making sure that they are well, they are receiving free school dinners and they are not alone.  As soon as they leave the school gate with their term’s work in their carrier bags they are at the mercy of their family circumstances.  For many they will enjoy days out, time with family and learning new exciting skills like how to swing as high as a bird.  Others will spend their holiday hungry, tired, lost and facing the reality of their situation.  Children are very much affected by their circumstances and suffering the effects of poverty and deprivation in your formative years can leave an emotional and educational scar that may never heal.


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I know that the Summer Holidays is all about making sure that children are entertained and not whining about being bored every five minutes but to me it is all about getting my son back.  I am really pleased with his progress in school and he has learnt an awful lot about a lot of things but now it is time for him to relax, enjoy playing and not have to do anything structured at all.  We have many plans to do simple things that are actually scientifically quite exciting like making butter and putting eggs in vinegar.  I am going to do a puppet show for him and his friend and no doubt we will go on adventures on the Estuary.  We will go on day outs and just enjoy being together.

I am so happy that my son is growing up to be such a wonderful human being and the fact that he is completely on my wave length is even more fantastic.  He has a thirst for learning, has an amazing imagination and is compassionate – yes he can be noisy, messy, whiny and just plain irritating at times, aren’t we all, but it never ceases to amaze me how much I fall in love with him more every single day.  When we first met I loved him because he was my baby and it is instinctive to love and protect him, now I love the person that he is and and am so proud of him.

The Summer holidays brings back memories of spending time in different playgrounds learning how to climb, slide, swing and look at the world around us.  Our shared experiences, when he was very young, have bonded us for ever and all of the times that I enjoyed like looking for fairies or messages in bottles he also remembers, we share the memory and become a little bit closer.  There have been times when I have taught him a lot of things and times where he has shown me that determination and never giving up is still a way to get there in the end.

I have learnt that true happiness comes from watching your child embracing life and confidently facing new experiences.  My greatest delight this summer is that my little boy has got a friend very close by to play with and have many adventures with.

The stellar speed at which time is racing past is the most important reason why I am going to make the most of being able to kiss and cuddle my son while he is still pocket sized because one day I will turn around and he will be man sized with children of his own.


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When A.A. Milne penned his famous poem, ‘Now We Are Six’, he displayed a completely accurate understanding of the different stages of children’s interaction with the world.  Now my son is six he really does believe that he is, ‘as clever as clever’, and seems to require an awful lot of negotiating to get anything done, if things are not going his way he has taken to putting on a whiny noise or fake crying, which is profoundly irritating.  He frequently reprimands me if I have forgotten to use my telepathic skills to remind him to do something that only he knows that needs doing, and gets annoyed with me if I keep mentioning that he should be doing this or that.  He is a very good reader and good at comprehension so he doesn’t require my assistance very much when he does things on the computer because he can follow the instructions.  Most of the time I feel as if we are only getting away with him not turning into a complete horror because he is fundamentally a good child.

Alistair is a bit torn between growing up and staying a little boy, he enjoys his exciting dreams, digging in the sand pit, collecting sticks and stones, wearing face paint, baking  and talking to imaginary friends. He often says that he doesn’t want to grow up (I have told him nobody does – it just happens) but can articulate that feeling so well that I am impressed with his use of language.  For all of his bravado he still likes me to rescue him from the top of the climbing frame in the playground but is very comfortable using the Trim Trail in school.  I have to admit that I really like it on the very odd occasion when he is ill, not in a Münchhausen By Proxy kind of way, because he becomes my baby again and is soft, cuddly and isn’t bossy for a short while.  However once he is back to full health he is like a busy bee exploring the exciting world around him.

If you look up childhood milestones on any parenting site one of the main characteristics of a six year old is the desire to test boundaries and see how mad they can drive you.  Apparently you are meant to stick to your guns and not budge, we however fail on that parenting advice and still work on the principle of choosing our battles wisely and then putting our foot down when, ‘peas get above sticks’, as my Grand dad used to say.  One battle we seem to be having at the moment involves teeth cleaning and saying that all of his teeth will fall out isn’t washing because the little entrepreneur that he is just works out how much money he will get for his teeth.  Also telling him that the Tooth Fairy won’t take his teeth doesn’t wash because that is just silly.  We have talked to him about the long term health implications of not cleaning your teeth and allowed him to watch little snippets of ,’The Truth About Your Teeth‘, on BBC 1 and he is slowly coming round.   When we visited the dentist, the dentist was impressed with his teeth and was surprised that he had made them sparkling white himself – I think that the fact that he just drinks water or milk and only gets sweets in rare batches helps too.  Prevention is always better than cure.

Alistair is really looking forward to the school holidays and so am I – it is a time for enjoying life just because you can, not to tick off boxes so that you can be categorised.  The greatest thing I want for Alistair is that he enjoys being who he is now in every stage of his life and can find his inner-peace when I am not nearby.


Illness has always been one of those things that I am terrible at judging, particularly with my own health.  For some bizarre peculiar reason I don’t consider myself to be ill until I can’t function properly and am unable to do the smallest things.  Unfortunately this has often resulted in me battling on incompetently and admitting defeat in a flood of tears. Everyone around me seems to know when they are ill and are really good at discussing symptoms and how it is effecting them.  My inability to detect illness makes it quite difficult for me to decide how ill my son actually is and therefore he has missed very little school because if he can walk and talk then he is well enough to go.

Last week he was really tetchy and everything I did or didn’t do for my son seemed to be an indication of how little I cared for him.  We went to the playground to play on the playground equipment and the mere prospect of leaving caused an unprecedented amount of fuss – well out of proportion to the request.  I had an inkling then that maybe he was going in for something and that hunch was correct as he spent most of the weekend sleeping and watching Miss Marple.  We decided to keep him off on the Monday to let him rest more until he felt better.  On Tuesday he woke up saying he didn’t feel well enough for school and I wrongly assumed it was because he had enjoyed being off too much so I sent him in anyway, dressed with green socks for sports day. He did pretty well and won one race, came second in three and lost another.

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Near the end of the school day I had a phone call informing me that Alistair was feeling sick and needed to be taken home.  Obviously I had made the wrong decision and he was in fact ill and maybe should have been at home.  As a result of this I am keeping him off for two more days and have had to cancel a much awaited play date – he didn’t make a fuss about that indicating that he really wasn’t feeling very well.

Alistair is very rarely ill and is always on the move so when he told me he felt ill and stayed unnaturally still I should have listened to him instead of suspecting that he was trying to miss school.  Being a parent is so difficult at times because you swing from worrying that they are seriously ill and in need of hospital treatment to missing the signs that they are ill.

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