Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A gorgeous show for the tiny people (and I loved it too)

I had such a lovely morning at the Polka Theatre (I was not expecting it to go well as my Little one had woken up at silly o'clock and had tried to fall asleep on the much too short bus ride). But once we arrived and he got to play on the rocking horses and stare at other little ones he was fine.
The show was called Drum and this version was aimed at the under 2s. I was a tiny bit sceptical at the beginning when one of the performers had do to a lot of slightly exaggerated dancing, mainly as this would be my own worst nightmare, but once my grown-up head fell off I was as captivated as all the little ones.
Images from the Oily Cart Website
The show was based around 3 massive drums, they were used as instruments as well as projection screens and as play areas. Everyone is drawn in by the strong drumbeats but they seem to have special magic powers over children. The whole show was so well thought out and multi-sensory but I especially loves the play session at the end, I sort of don't want to spoil it for anyone that might go but it was lovely. I will definitely look out for further productions by this theatre company (Oily Cart) and will continue to love the Polka for the fab things they book.

One thing I have already stolen from the show is a contraption they used during the bubble blowing section. They intially had normal bubble blowers and then they came out and blew bubble towers on the children's hands. All the grown ups cooed- must be just the change from normal bubbles, but its megga easy. It was just a short tube with a piece of muslin stretched over the end and secured with an elastic band.

We had lots of fun playing with it outside as well as using it to fill the bath with bubbles. There was one slight hiccup when the toddler wanted to have a go and sucked really hard intsead! After some slightly revolting noises everything was fine, but I kept expecting him to burp bubbles.

My bathtime revolution!!

I am very excited about bathtime! This has been a general feeling since the little one stopped screaming his way through it, but is more especially true at the moment. It is all down to a random find, one of those times when you come across a selection of objects, for which you have no understanding of why they are in your house. As a primary school teacher I do often find weird stuff, normally rubbish that I've put in a pocket to throw away but kept, anyway this time I found a whole bunch of little suction cups. Well this has completely changed bathtime...I am going to try and share although confused about the etiquette of baby bath photos and by the fact that my photos are rubbish Iphone photos as always- well I guess you'll get the general idea.

When I first found them- I boringly thought they might be good for tidying away but then thought this was much more fun....

They have instilled a new lease of life into the stacking cups- and is obviously all good Knowledge and understanding of the World stuff (for any other EYFS geeks out there, it's the English early years guidelines yawn).

With my new bathtime vigour I remembered these

That we used to use all the time in water play in the Nursery, I got them and the image fromAmazon. (I attempt where possible to be organic with the little fella so not entirely sure how soaking him in chemicals fits into that but hey...) My first go with these with the toddler was a resounding flop, my own fault entirely, it was a case of way too much all at the same time, bubbles, flashing ball, coloured water woo! And I may have possibly attempted to put the fizzing tablets into sealed bottles until my OH pointed out I had created a bomb. But using them alongside the magic suction cups worked a treat (even if my chosen colour made it look like a weird baby slasher movie).

Adding the water to the fizzy tablet in the pot.

Trying to figure out what is going on.

Trying to catch the magic water in his bottle.

Trying to catch it with his toes, bless.

I have plans for the next step of the suction cups- but this is maybe where my making skills let down my over excited ideas skills, but I think it should be the easiest thing in the world but you will soon find out how wrong/right I might be.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Inspired by "Elf on the Shelf"

Now it was a while ago so I can't remember where I came across 'Elf on the Shelf", but I read the review and thought it was a cute idea. I have never read the book so may have completely misunderstood, but what I think it is is an toy elf that gets delivered to you with the idea that he is real and at night-time magics back to Santa to tell on you! Then there are clues as to where you can find him the next day, as he will have reappeared somewhere new. I think this is cute and anything I can do to add to the magic of my little ones childhood seems like a good plan to me. So I kind of had my idea of how we could make our own family tradition inspired by it.
My plan is the weekend closest to the start of December we will go to the woods near our house armed with a very special letter from Santa to the toddler. It will explain that he has a new elf and he is learning his job and is going to come and spend the time before Christmas with us to make sure we are getting in the Christmas spirit, but that he will have to go home every night to sleep and catch up on his elf training. The problem is he doesn't know how to find our house so we have to search for him, with a few clues as to his whereabouts.
Every now and then I have a look for an elf that I think is cute enough (I want him to come back every year and then maybe come back to visit the toddler's toddlers). I have yet to find my elf but during my most recent search I came across this by etsy seller LovingLeeCrafted
I thought it might be cute to have a special doorway that the elf travels back and forward to Santa's grotto through? After a little more looking I found a few more people who make little doors too.
Nothing But Wood makes this cute little actual door.

I haven't quite worked out the how/why we will have to search for him each day but as I am fairly premature I am hoping that inspiration will dawn....

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Trying not to lose my marbles!

Now my little one is too small for marble runs at the moment, it would more likely be marbles for tea which I'm sure is a bad thing. But I love them and through my amazing old job I have spent more time than most grown-ups playing with them. The schools budgets though always meant we had the cheaper plastic versions (so often muddled up and different sizes very frustrating) but I now have my heart set on the Haba marble run!
Haba makes loads of lovely toys (I think Haba, Plan Toys and I'm are among my very favourite things) but I have become slightly obsessed with the marble run. Not only is it wooden, an amazingly cool construction kit but it can be musical too!!!!
All images are from the Haba website.
Surely all little people would love the bang bang bang as the marbles fell!! I may be the weird parent who would like it too.
Plink, plink, plonk.
Just the coolest thing ever! but until i can afford it and the little one won't eat the marbles he is going to have to put up with my weird cardboard contraptions

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Diddy Damien Hirst

So back to my art projects, after our Tate Britain trip I had thought spots would be a fun and fairly simple next project.

So taking inspiration from Damien Hirst, little one and I had a go. Now after a few indoor painting exploits, where I think I made more mess during the attempted clean up than the actual painting, I am very pleased that the weather has improved and we can spend more time outside. Although this has also inspired some early tantrums with the toddler not understanding why he ever has to come inside.
But armed with my newly purchased dabbers and spots out we went.

Obviously he needed some contemplation time.

And then he was off.

So with a little bit of protective clothing for the garden furniture, as not sure the other residents of our flats would appreciate any additions, we attempted some printing.

I think he did very well for his first attempt, the full bottles of paint did hold a magnetic attraction but still he moved on and had a go.

The finished master piece (in pride of place on the kitchen cabinet).

Then once he had decided it was lunch time, and once he had consumed nearly twice as much pasta as me we explored the spotty theme some more with the help of the light box and transparent counters.

Oh nice for colour mixing too...

Ooh I got an OHP

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Thursday, 10 March 2011

The day I met Melissa and Doug

So as I am very new to this blogging lark I have a few things that I'd like to write about that happened before I started so they will all be very out of synch with real life. One of those things was the Toy Fair. I went to the Toy Fair as part of my ongoing project to make my own educational toy/resources which I seem to keep over complicating and making very slow progress with. But it was a really good day, although keeping a toddler happy and calm surrounded by so many toys is quite exciting.

Now I have a bit of a wooden toy fetish so many of the plastic flashing noisy toys give me the Heebeegeebies! But this did mean the lovely toys stood out more.

I have a few favourite brands and one of them is Melissa and Doug. I came across them when I found a sweet wooden tool box in the local charity shop. I thought it lovely so did a bit of google searching and found lots of interesting things. So when we found their stall and the people working there were absolutely lovely and very accommodating of the marauding infant we ended up hanging out there for much of the day.

The toddler was very pleased with finding all these "dawgs"

Now my little one had got a lot of their products (mainly their lovely puzzles) for Christmas but I did manage to add a few more things to our wish list. One real stand out was the doorbell house. I don't think I've met a child that doesn't love keys and any kind of button, so I think this is lovely.
Each side has a door with its own 'real' key and doorbell. I have a feeling that the it my little one would care the least about is the little people.

Some other things I liked were some of the play food sets. I have a weird aversion to pretend food which is a leftover from my first headteacher who always said you should give children real food. Now I do agree with this where possible but its just not always feasible. So if it's going to pretend I think these are some of the best options.

If I had a little girl (and wasn't so mean about sugar) I would definitely get this.

I love the dry-wipe markers in the style of the icing pens. Such a nice way of encouraging pretend play and early mark-making without having your kids on a permanent sugar rush!

I really like this set too.

Although it is marketed at over 3s (sometimes I think these rules are very silly) I think I will get this for my toddler soon. Having the stick to put the food bits on is a really good way for little fingers to start threading so good for motor skill development which would also be supported by using the tongs. I think it would also help develop early maths skills with very simple sequencing as well as the pretend play again.

Now you can get Melissa and Doug toys from Amazon but i think its nice to try and support some of the smaller retailers so here are a few more that I found stock their products.

My first Culture Baby experience.

Now I can't quite remember where I found Culture Baby, but with my new found twitter habit it was probably there. Culture Baby was set up by Lucie Charkin last year, she is a mum of three and comes from an arts background. She realised that all women who had been interested in arts and culture don't stop being just because they have become parents, but how, with often the best will in the world of the establishments, once you are pushing/carrying a tiny and potentially noisy person around with you you can feel less than welcome. So she has started organising events for us! These are specially organised activities for mums with buggies to go around different arts and cultural places often with experts in tow. I was reading on the website about salon events which seem to be small groups where you get to meet an interesting person and have a adult discussion with them. I was very excited to read that scientists where included in this too as although I love all the arts side of life I do apparently have a science geek in me too!

So my first (of hopefully many) outings was to the Serpentine Gallery to have a guided walk around the Anish Kapoor sculptures. Unfortunately do to completely understandable circumstances the day of the walk had had to change so the experts were unable to spend quite as long with us, but we had a very thorough introduction to the exhibition (in which I had a fairly strong suspicion that I was surrounded by people who new more than me). And then on our walk Lucie managed brilliantly to share her knowledge and enthusiasm.

It was such a nice morning, if a little chilly, the other mums all seemed lovely and I could see myself making some new friends through the activities. As you know I am obsessed with little people and adore being a stay at home mum at the mo but I feel it is also really important to keep myself inspired so I can pass this on to my little boy. I loved having the chance to learn from other mums and experts in such a relaxed environment. I would highly recommend Culture Baby and will do so to my other baby friends. I look forward to my next outing and actually feel a little sorry for my non baby friends who aren't invited!

And the added bonus of being in a park!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Another fab Friday outing.

So as I said before I am trying to arrange fun toddler friendly outings for me and any of my baby friends who want to come. After the lovely Mudlarks we had a week off to let the halfterm children have their fun and last week headed to Discover in Stratford .This week was a complete photo fail, not just bad pictures but utterly useless don't show the place at all ones, so any images will have to be 'found'.

Discover is a children's story telling centre where they have created lots of role-play and imaginative areas. You could set sail on a ship to a dream destination, hide in a dark swampland or explore a curious cave. We had a brilliant time, after an initial bit of warm up time at the beginning my little one loved going off to explore the different areas. He loved discovering the coloured lights that made animal noises as you passed through them. There is just the right amount of physical play, a slide that luckily my bottom and the toddler fit down together, a steep mound to climb mixed in with the more cosy book reading areas. And as you would imagine there are books everywhere and opportunities and starting points for writing too.

We attended a free story telling session that they seem to run daily, it was lovely but I think next time I might skip it. It was at 11.30 which seemed to be a break in when the school groups were there. The school kids were lovely but when trying to let a toddler explore without getting knocked over or getting in the way it is simpler with fewer children.

It is a great place and has been open for a few years and you can tell it has been well loved, but I still think it is much nicer than pretty much all of the expensive play spaces I have been to. The areas are well thought out and open-ended enough for the children to explore at their own level. I can't wait to go back and explore the garden which we didn't quite make this time. I also think it is great value, it is £4.50 for an adult and children under 2 go free, but a years membership is only £25 which seems amazing.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The following is very loosely based on fact with possibly some ranting and a touch of personal bias!

I have been thinking about children's language development lately, I know, it's that much fun in my head. Anyway I also know that by the age of one children from different languages lose the ability to make the sounds that are not used in their native language. This occurs when it is only their home language that they are exposed to.

This initially got me thinking about phonics, again fun fun fun! But I think phonics are important, not the very structured all children in a class will now learn "a" regardless of whether they already know it or when asked what sound does car begin with replying with "brrrrmmmm" (clearly not ready yet). But the sensible support of children becoming aware of sounds and developing their listening skills.

I thought it might be "fun" to make a playlist of real/great/non-sweary music, one song for each phoneme. But this is where I need help as my musical knowledge and taste leave quite a lot to be desired due to my mum's penchant for country and my general lack of discernment. But I do think Babara Ann would good for "b" (but maybe because toddler has called bananas babaras from the start).

So any musically educated people who could help I would very much appreciate it muchly.

This train of thought then led me to wonder (with very dubious scientific backing) that if such a playlist could be created in each language, and played to babies whether this would be good enough to stop them from losing the sounds? So again if anyone with a different home language to English fancies a go it could be amazing? If you could add any suggestions as a comment then I will try to make a spotify playlist(s) (I have one already but am a bit to embarrassed to share).

Thank you I understand that I could be very much on my own thinking this is a good idea.

And then we could do ones in different genres and and and...... Oh dear oh dear

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Phew!!! Thank goodness for that.

So the little one has made me feel much better about his weird habit of getting in stuff! After yet again worrying me with wanting to get "inna" (he seems to have grown an extra syllable on the few words he has) a very tiny cup!

But amazingly once he had surprisingly failed to fit he did exclaim "big biiig"! So I am taking that as honest to goodness proof that he is developing his sense of shape and space! Possibly the fact I put him clothes that could fit me at a push isn't helping his sense of scale though, oh well onwards and upwards.
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