Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Are you able to help a family in need?

I am linking through to a post on a blog that I read today. It is a huge give away to raise funds for a family in desperate need this Christmas, packing up to move to who knows where for the second time this year, with a three month old baby, just days before Christmas, and with not enough money to feed their family. If you feel that you can help this family, please follow the instructions at the bottom of the blog post. With love, Jenni

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Chapter Books

I have been reading 'chapter books' to the girls for years and I love it! They each have a book on the go for bedtime that I read to them, a chapter a night (or more depending on how effective the begging is or how much I want to know what happens next!). When I first started reading them to Eve when she was four, I racked my brains trying to think of suitable books and remember what I had read as a child. If you are struggling to think of any, I suggest posting the question on any e-mail home ed lists you are on as it gets everyone talking and is such good fun to reminisce, exchange opinions and gather new titles to read to your children! Not all of the books that we read can be classed as 'quality literature' but the girls enjoy them and there is room for all sorts of reading material in encouraging your children to love books!

I have always hankered after having a house with an upstairs landing large enough to house a book case with comfy chair and lamp to curl up in with a good book! As that is seeming less and less likely with our house-moving luck, I have decided to live in the moment. I put a small bookcase that we were given in the hallway and stored all the girl's chapter books on there, right by their bedrooms for them to browse and enjoy!

I have listed the books and authors where appropriate that we have enjoyed in the past or are enjoying now:
  • Eve's current reading material is the 'What Katy Did' Series which is an 1872 children's series written by Sarah Chauncey Woolsey under her pen name Susan Coolidge. We are on the second book named 'What Katy Did at School' and we have three beloved copies that were my Nana's when she was a child!
  • Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder - we have read the first five which cover the childhood years.
  • Famous Five by Enid Blyton - Faith adores these and finds them really exciting. We have the unabridged copies complete with bookworm holes munched through them which are very charming. I tweak to suit as I read though to tone down the 'girls are weaklings' vein than pops up here and there!
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Books by Dick King Smith, most notable 'The Queen's nose', 'The hodgeheg' and 'The Sheep Pig'.
  • The Sophie series, also by Dick King Smith, Faith really enjoyed these, I think she identified with the main character somewhat!
  • Before we started What Katy Did, Eve and I read through the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis, we both thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and excitement in these books. I had started the series as a child but never finished them so it was a treat to get a second go!
  • We discovered the author Noel Streatfield by chance and have read 'When the Sirens wailed' which was topical and about children and historically accurate which was great. We have a second one named 'Ballet Shoes' on the go which is just as enjoyable but we are reading it more slowly!
  • We know Roald Dahl's books very well, although they can sail a bit close to the knuckle sometimes in terms of language, the girls seem to find them gloriously funny!
  • I have Harper Cory, Wildlife Ways lined up to read to Faith.
  • On Eve's list is Heidi, again an old family copy that I read as a child too and The Secret Garden.
I'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Montessori Style Toddler Toys

I have posted before about how I organised my toys whilst Childminding but not what those toys were, so thought it was about time I did! I am Montessori trained but rather than using it to the letter, I apply the philosophy to what we do. I get all of my toddler toys from second hand sales and apply a simple set of rules to buying them. They need to be simple, attractive and show clear cause and effect. That is so that the child can understand that something happens because of the action that they do. Many electronic toys are so complex and have a variety of responses of lights and sounds to combinations of buttons, that they are impossible to make sense of to a small child (or often an adult!) and so have little learning value and do not keep a child occupied for very long. I personally find the cacophony of different lights and sounds very irritating and prefer the calmer environment of toddler made noises! The toy collection is about 50% wooden and 50% plastic, I have nothing against plastic, as long as it meets my criteria!
 To start the tour, this Galt toy has a piece of sprung metal inside each of the bases, when the wooden pegs are pressed down and the finger slides off the top, they pop up and out, as you can see the green one doing in the picture.
 This is for hammering the pegs through. I have watched children automatically turning the toy to the next raised peg and they can keep going round and round until they are done.
 This a chicken punch and drop, you can see one of the balls in Idris's hand, but he was experimenting using different implements to push the balls through - a wooden knife from the food basket, the bottle brush that he pinched from the kitchen, his foot and several other things that he found. the balls are pushed through and come rolling out of the front, ringing the little bell on the way.
 This dinosaur pop up is simple to work out for toddlers, each coloured button corresponds with a coloured egg, although they need different actions to make them pop up. The eggs can be bashed back down with a satisfying clump. I used to have an animal version but I quickly realised that because the mouse popped out of a wedge of cheese and it was hinged, it trapped fingers and pinched skin so we upgraded to a safer and less frustrating model!

The click clack track behind is a classic toy, with four small wheeled cars each the colour of one of the slopes and the little cars roll down clicking from slope to slope - endless fascination.
 The chicken stacker is a beautiful version of a stacking toy, I love the harmonious colours and there is a hidden egg under the bottom layer. The roller toy next to it works with a cog movement, when pushed across the floor, the cogs turn and the patterns on the other side turn around. This hasn't been the most popular toy but I'm biding my time until Idris is a bit older to see if he starts using it more, if he doesn't it will probably go back into the next sale!

 This turtle toy, modelled by our lovely one-eyed Poppy dog, is really simple. The child pushed down all five shaped buttons and the head then pings out from the body. Push the head back in and the buttons pop back up again!
 This wooden clock is one of the toys that has never been put away or rotated, children of all ages love taking the numbers in and out, stacking them up with the magnetic buttons in them, trying to swap the shapes around etc.
I also have a wooden peg puzzle which isn't getting much use at the moment but that will come, and some magnetic vehicles that can be pulled apart (these were a gift, not from the sale).

I find that there are usually several permutations of the same toy around, so have a close look and see which you think is most robust, the most well-designed and the most attractive! The only downside to these toys versus electronic ones is that you tend to spend a lot of time collecting pieces back up to return to the box, but I much prefer them and think that the children get so much from them!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

More picture problems with picasa

Just a quick note to say that I am having yet more problems with Picasa and it now appears that all photographs uploaded before the 19th November can no longer be seen, I'm struggling to sort it out as I'm not tech savvie and Picasa are really hard to get hold of! Bear with me and I'll try to sort it - someone has suggested that I jump ship to wordpress instead...... hmmmm, watch this space!

Edited to add that I have fixed the problem by laboriously copying and pasting all of the missing photos into a different Picasa album, and they now appear to be back again on the blog - hurray!!!!

There are still a few missing and I cannot find them even on Picasa so as it is only a couple of posts I will go back through my files and re-add the photos one evening this week for your viewing pleasure!!

I investigated the 'moving to wordpress' suggestion and it looks like far too much hard work to even consider it - I like comfy old slippers not new ones that rub so I'm staying!

Thanks for your patience everyone!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Nature loving Toddler!

I wanted to post this collection of photos from the Summer months. They show Idris exploring the natural world in his own way. When Eve was this age, I didn't know enough to let her do this, I thought it was bad to let her climb into a stream fully dressed and spend half an hour moving rocks around. Over the years since I have learned so much and realised just how important and valuable it is to let toddlers explore in this way when the mood takes them. I had a towel and a change of clothes handy, and the girls were hill climbing with Dewi so we sat in the stream in Carding Mill Valley in Shropshire in the remnants of early September evening sunshine and he shifted rocks and I sat quietly and let him be!
This picture was in the overflow stream at Wightwick Manor which is our magical place to spend time. It has everything a child could wish for - ponds, running water, streams, woods, fallen trees, long grass to roll in, apple trees to scrump from, a long tunnel hidden in a clipped box hedge, little secret seating areas dotted around, a hut thatched with heather, soft fruit bushes, pine cones, flowers, and a tearoom that sells tiny tubs of handmade ice cream!!
This is Idris at the foot of an enormous Beech tree at Northycote - the girls love this Beech tree as the roots curl over each other and form hollows that hold water and potions to be mixed! the branches droop right down to the floor and in full leaf hide us from passing dog walkers (until our dog ambushes them from the leafy cover and the peace is shattered for a few minutes!). Despite the crunchy beech cases underneath, Idris goes barefoot here and was happy to stir the cauldren whilst the girls fetched supplies from the surrounding plants!
These are a couple more of Idris at Wightwick on the rocks of ages, practising his balancing skills.....
......... and bonding with our dog Poppy!!
.......and running away from me as fast as little legs will carry him whilst giggling all the time!
And here is one of many shots I have from this rainy Summer that has passed of our little rain baby who made a beeline for the patio every time it rained and pottered around, looking up at the sky, holding his hands out for the drops to fall onto, stamping in the puddles that formed and having a wonderful time! Like the stream at CArding Mill, we never stopped him, just dried him off when he was you can see he thoroughly enjoys it - a slightly photo but he is rarely still long enough for crisp ones!!!