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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category


Science is exciting, particularly when you can do it at home and make a big mess in the garden.  Some science experiments are so cool that even big kids like to have a go – you know on, ‘Wine Friday’, when you are being a rebel. Science experiments don’t have to involve expensive kits with copper sulphate in them to be great fun.  Kitchen cupboards and the corner shop provide the best ingredients for impromptu science afternoons.

The following five experiments are categorized into items used and different scientific concepts.

Vinegar And Bicarbonate Of Soda

These two ingredients can kick up a real stink when used in experiments, this is why it is advisable to set up a table in the garden and do it there.  These two experiments are really smelly but you will love them.

Bouncy Egg

You Need: Vinegar, uncooked egg in shell, a jar and a peg for your nose.

What to do: (This takes a bit of time so you could start it at the beginning of the afternoon)

  • Half fill a glass of jar with vinegar.
  • Put a raw egg in the vinegar.
  • Leave for two days.
  • Place egg in water and remove shell.
  • Feel how bouncy it is and shine a light through it.
  • Put on plate and cut egg to reveal yoke still intact.

If you haven’t got time to do this experiment – this video shows you what happens.

This happens because the egg is made up of calcium carbonate and the vinegar is acetic acid.  The acetic acid takes away all of the calcium leaving the egg soft.

What do you think will happen if you leave the egg on a plate for a day or two?

Inflating A Balloon Without Any Puff

You Need: Bicarbonate Of Soda, Vinegar, Balloon

What to do:

  • Pour the vinegar into a bottle.
  • Use a funnel to put some bicarbonate of soda into a balloon (That you have stretched a lot).
  • Put the balloon on the bottle neck – making sure it is firmly on.
  • Watch the balloon inflate.

Again watch this video to see what happens :-

This happens because the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the bicarbonate of soda and causes an effervescent chemical reaction.

What do you think will happen if you use more bicarbonate of soda?

Diet Coke, Mentos and Eggs

Experiments using these three ingredients cause excitement or are used as a warning about drinking Diet Coke in moderation.

Mentos And Diet

You Need: Lots of packets of Mentos, Diet Coke (still in its bottle) and goggles.

What To Do:-

  • Supervise all children (and silly adults)
  • Simply unscrew the lid off the Diet Coke
  • Put Mentos into bottle
  • Stand well back and wear swimming goggles

If you are too scared to do the experiment this video will give you a clue as to what happens:-

What is the minimum number of Mentos you need to make the fountain come out?

Egg In Diet Coke

You Need: 365 days, a jug you are not going to use for a year, a boiled egg and Diet Coke.

What To Do:-

  • Boil an egg
  • Fill jug with Diet Coke
  • Put Egg In Jug
  • Programme alarm in your phone for a years time
  • Go and enjoy yourself
  • Come back in a year and if it hasn’t been thrown away rince egg and see what has happened.

The egg shell is made from calcium – remember your teeth are made from calcium.

If you can’t be bothered to wait a year here is a time lapsed version of the experiment:-

Does Lemonade cause the same thing to happen?

Hydraulic Systems

A hydraulic system is used to increase or decreasing the force of a push by using different sized hydraulic cylinders.  Hydraulic systems are used all around us.  A good example is a brake in a car – you only put a small amount of pressure on the brake peddle but a lot more is used to make the car stop.

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Children will have probably made a simple hydraulic system at school using syringes, tubing and water. Here is a video showing a girl using a hydraulic system to make a lift.

What other kinds of objects can you move using a hydraulic system?

You can find many more great ideas on the internet for wild experiments.  Children please make sure that you are supervised by a responsible adult to avoid getting hurt.

 


Generally you don’t really take much notice of the condition of playgrounds until you get a child’s eye view.  Parents of preschool children tend to spend lots of time in playgrounds giving their children fresh air and getting out of the house.  Our local Sure Start centre even provide a list of the locations of playgrounds in our area to visit. Therefore it is hardly surprising that you notice how worn out playground equipment is while you sit in your shattered mother of a toddler state.

The little playground near to us is very basic with just a slide, swings and a couple of rockers.  I did consider fund raising to update the equipment but only got as far as contacting  Playdale and a lady who seemed to know about how to raise funds for playgrounds.  My only major issue was that I didn’t know enough people to start a committee with.  Unfortunately the five years you spend with your baby is very fleeting and before you know it they are striving for independence so you don’t really see the playground equipment close up any more.

Once your child has made the transition from toddler to infant and you are starting to foray into the adult world, the shoddy swings and ancient slide suddenly don’t seem to be important any more. New parents take your place in the playground and if they are all like minded they could work together to improve the local playground.  This is exactly what happened in our area but the playground in question is to be a new one on a big stretch of road quite away from where we live.  The playground project is extremely ambitious and aims to fulfill the recreational needs of all ages including adults.

The NCB has produced a fact sheet on how to raise funds for your playground. You can request a funding guide from playground equipment companies like Playdale Playgrounds who have produced a funding guide. They also follow up the request by contacting you to see if they can help with your project.  Once you have read through all of the instructions you will have to form a committee and be prepared to write detailed plans so that people funding your project know exactly what they are paying for.  In some cases you may need to think about why your project is more important than other people’s so you can secure grants from different organisations.

Hopefully you will have some very creative and dynamic people on your committee who will be full of ideas for fundraising events.  Eventually after a lot of hard slog and dedication you will be ready to speak to your local playground adviser who will help you to confirm which pieces of equipment you would like and where you are going to put them.  Once an installation date has been agreed the playground equipment installers will come and set up your playground.  Most playground equipment companies provide maintenance contracts to ensure that your playground remains in tip top condition.

All that is left is for your local community to launch the new playground and welcome children and parents into your amazing play area.

 


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These days it would seem that the Nicky Morgan and Jeremy Hunt make policies without actually talking to each other.  We are given such mixed messages when it comes to developing our children’s minds and bodies.  On the one hand the Education Minister wants to increase the amount of academic work our children do, including dreaded homework. On the other hand,  the Health Minister keeps telling us we are too fat and children don’t get enough exercise.  The amount of opportunities children have to free play and therefore exercise is decreasing with every new target that is added to the OFSTED process.

Tracey Crouch, the Sports Minister, tried to convince us that the Olympic games would make athletes of us all.  There was a little increase in sports participation but nothing to get excited about.  Our medalists didn’t inspire us to exercise more, rather they encouraged us to; open new bank accounts, eat Quorn and watch, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.  All of these activities could be done at home on the sofa and failed miserable to get anyone excited about sport. apparently there is no single reason why people don’t participate in exercise more.

School trim trails, climbing frames, climbing walls and many other pieces of playground equipment adorn our school playgrounds now, yet children are not getting as much time in the school day to play freely. In the late 70’s and early 80’s when I was at school our playground equipment consisted of a dangerous climbing frame, a huge field, crystal draining stones in a filled in stream, grass cuttings and magnifying glasses.  Incidentally the exercise we got from the magnifying glasses was running away from the dinner ladies when we used them to melt black bin bags.  If it was sunny we would go out and play rounders or cricket on the field.  If it was snowing we took our sledges to the nearest hill and didn’t worry that we were missing English or Maths.

These days, unless an activity has got a significant number of learning outcomes and can be incorporated into a success criteria anything that doesn’t have a box to tick doesn’t count as learning.  The notion that exercise has to be formal and that you should achieve some sort of accolade for participating in it is suffocating our love of sport.  My brother and I spent one summer holiday playing in our grandparent’s empty coal bunker, it was great because the adults couldn’t get to us and we got filthy.  The amount of agility and strength required to get in and out of a coal bunker is quite a lot, we slept well at night and fat kids can’t fit into coal bunkers.

We all probably interfere far more in our children’s lives than our parents did in ours.  For some reason we treat children like they are made of fine china and neither their feelings or their bodies should be hurt.  I had bruises and scuffed knees for most of my childhood – I didn’t get upset about it and our parents were caring but accepted that it was part of childhood.  Now I am terrified of my son getting bruised and scuffed simply because I am afraid of being judge as a bad parent.

Play is definitely the secret to getting children to exercise more because it is so flexible and the imagination takes away the boredom of training.  When I watch my son and puppy playing together they are both exercising but because they are playing then don’t realize it.


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This year nature seems to have provided us with a bountiful supply of mud.  Whether we have liked it or not country dwellers have been forced to contend with muddy feet and huge puddles on a daily basis.  Children have found having impromptu mud baths fun and washing machines have been working double shifts during this constant wet season.  If we think that sending our little darlings to school will prevent them from getting dirty then we are going to be disappointed.

Mud kitchens are all the rage in schools now, whether a DIY plucky Governor version or bought one, your children will spend some of their school day in mud kitchens.  This article from Playdale Playgrounds explains why mud kitchens are such great fun. At home children can pester Mum and Dad for old utensils, cupboards and buckets so that they can enjoy the glory of mud.  As with all aspects of play, a mud kitchen provides a rich learning experience that we just assumed was mucking about.

If learning objectives and opportunities are what floats your boat then this chart produced by blogger Worms Eye View applies EYFS Learning Opportunities to playing in mud kitchens.

Learning opportunities sheet Outdoor Kitchen

All children can enjoy playing in mud kitchens, as the activity provides learning experiences for children of all abilities.  Aspiring artists and those who like to touch and feel the world have wonderful opportunities to explore texture, consistency and the possibility of shaping mud.  Scientists will totally enjoy experimenting with water quantities and soil types. All children enjoy copying their home life and a kitchen environment is where a lot of the action happens.

Learning objectives aside playing with mud and soil is really pleasurable.  I remember my mud kitchen in the corner of the garden, consisting of an old pan, buckets and a sieve.  One very warm summer holidays 35 years ago was spent sieving dry mud to make a sandy dust – I can’t remember the expensive activities we did that year but playing in my mud kitchen is firmly fixed in my mind.

To make lasting memories kit your kids up with clothes that can withstand mud and frequent washing, old spoons and pans. These are the ingredients of happy childhood memories.


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I gave my parents a hard time and they gave their parents a hard time – I can guarantee that I will lock horns with my son as soon as he becomes a teenager.  All I can do at the moment is to give him a good grounding so that he can deal with the emotional coaster of being a teenager.  We bring our children up to be independent and have their own thoughts only to try to stifle the results of our training when they become teenagers.  I think parents are programmed to be stick in the muds and teenagers become bulldozers with the goal of knocking any boundaries down.

Unrequited Love

I am not a parent of a teenager yet but I vaguely remember that being one was quite bitter sweet. Life seemed to be a constant battle between concentrating on my exams and coping with unrequited love.  When you finally get to have a boyfriend you never think you are going to love anyone like that again and you are mortified when it ends. The truth is that you never will because next time that love is diluted a little with wariness and reality.  Like a toddler discovering the world, a teenager is discovering adulthood and everything is in technicolour.

Rebellion

I remember my hormones raging, slamming doors a lot and spending hours in the bath so I could spend time on my own.  I didn’t hang around the streets but had plenty of friends to be a teenager with.  We didn’t try to conform to adulthood but we thought that we had the moral high ground – which was true because we hadn’t had chance to make big mistakes yet to discover our humanity. Some of my friends rebelled in big ways while others pushed the boundaries more subtly. I tended to not tell my parents where I was going and did what I wanted – well as much as my limited finances would allow.

Parents Aren’t That Stupid After All

Being a teenager and a young adult is all about taking risks and causing your parents to be continuously worried about your safety.  If your relationship with your parents is pretty stable the rebellion eventually subsides. Once you discover that they weren’t that bad after all you have your own ideas and combine the both so that you can prepare your own child for rebellion.

Teenage Shelters

The biggest issue with feisty teenagers is that they don’t really have anywhere to go to hang out. This predicament results in them making the street look untidy and getting into trouble. Playdale playgrounds discusses this issue in an article. They have referred to studies that have found a marked reduction in teenage disruption when teenage shelters were installed near recreational areas. Teenage shelters are essentially a collection of seats covered by a roof. This means that teenagers can still have a meeting place, away from boring adults, without getting too wet.

Being a teenager is not always easy and neither is being the parent of one but being part of your child’s next adventure is exciting.


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I admit that I am pretty lazy at the moment and the thought of walking in the cold and rain doesn’t appeal to me what so ever.  Nine years ago I didn’t have any qualms about putting on wet weather gear and walking everywhere. That was until I finally passed my driving test and now I have become so reliant on my car,  walking seems to be so, ‘yesterday’,  in terms of transport.  It would seem that I am not the only lazy so and so in the land because the country as a whole has become more sedentary and we are all sitting on our backsides more.

Since technology has become more interesting and the internet is user friendly we can explore images and talk to people all over the world.  I have even noticed that I know lots about local Facebook friends lives but don’t actually say more than, hello’, to them when I seem them.  I waste more time now devoting myself to rubbish online than I ever did in the past.  My backside is definitely getting bigger and I need to get into my summer clothes this year.

There are many reasons beside having a huge bum as to why we should exercise more and these include:-

  • up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
  • up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
  • a 30% lower risk of early death
  • up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
  • up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
  • a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
  • up to a 30% lower risk of depression
  • up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
  • Source NHS Choices

This information is reinforced by an article by Playdale Playgrounds, ‘How to help your community with a trim trail‘, in it they discuss a study by Oxford university who found that ,‘Forty four per cent admit to not taking part in any moderate exercise meaning that British fitness levels are among the worst in Europe’. This means that nearly five million adults spend the majority of the day sitting down. 10% of adults admitted to not even walking for at least ten minutes a day‘. They also referred to a study by Cambridge University who claimed that sitting down all day was worse for our health than obesity.

As parents it is our responsibility to set a good example to our children, although they seem to pick up our bad habits better than our good ones. (That’s because underneath we are all pretty naughty pretending to be good!). There are some simple ways that we can encourage our children to put down their gadgets and get moving. As the weather gets brighter it will be much easier to go out and reduce the size of our big bums.

 

 

 


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When you are a child the title of this post is likely to mean playground roundabouts and swings rather than a balance of good and bad events. Some children have the misfortune of experiencing the low points of life because their families either unintentionally or deliberately expose them to chaos and disorder. These poor children never manage to get a stable grounding in life because their childhood has literally been swings and roundabouts.

We are not talking about children not receiving the presents they asked for or missing out on expensive activities because limited funds does not equal limited love. We are thinking about children who are deprived of emotion and parental guidance causing them to be let down when they need their parents the most. No parent is perfect because we are all flawed human beings so we can only do our best based on the upbringing we have had. Sadly not everyone has had the benefit of parents who have been able to give them the love and care they need so there are no good examples to follow.

Being a parent is a constant flow of making decisions that can affect our children deeply. We can sometimes qualify bad decisions by believing that children are too young to be affected by adult issues. Often hiding the normal ups and downs of life and how we deal with them from children results in them having chunks of coping strategies missing so when they come across hiccups when they grow up they don’t have the resources to help themselves. Children learn by example so they way we behave is imprinted on their minds and that is how they also behave.

Therefore if a child has not observed or experienced care and compassion they will be unable to look after their own children. While there will always be exceptions and people from such backgrounds will move heaven and earth to make sure that their children will not suffer in the way they did. Christmas is a difficult time of the year for everyone, many don’t have ‘a wonderful Christmas time, domestic violence increases and children get caught in the cross fire. The mix of alcohol and financial woes can cause emotional explosions and issues to be magnified. Children are vulnerable because they don’t have the safety of the school routine to protect them.

Life is never just going to be swings and roundabouts but as parents we can try our best to make childhood the most wonderful time in our child’s life. Children just want our time and company because we are the mist important person in their lives, the best we can do for them is to try our best not to let them down and if we do have let them know its because that is how life is sometimes.