Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Flares weren't the only good thing to come out of the 70s

Toys - they don't make 'em like they used to. Well actually I think what's on offer for kiddywinks today, in all their colourful, musical and educational guises, is rather brilliant, but there is something special about resurrecting  the toys of your past and passing them on to your children.
My parents, bless them, have been neatly storing all remnants of our childhood in the loft for three decades, so they were poised to entertain the moment grandchildren arrived on the scene. And so, week by week when we visit, the little man is being introduced the very best the late 70s and early 80s had to offer.
To begin with, the classic Fisher Price telephone made an appearance. Okay, the receiver is long gone and the decoration faded but it still rolls its eyes when it is pulled along and the bell gives a cheerful jangle as you turn the dial. The little man loves it.
Then chugging into 2012 came our plastic train set, together with the battery-powered Thomas the Tank Engine and that other red one nobody knows the name of (the latter was mine - my brother always got the best toys). Never mind the years that have passed, they still go like the clappers.
My faithful Fisher Price Little Snoopy with the wonky wheels is now making his wobbly way around the living room again, trailing behind my son as he used to behind me.
And at bathtime, all my old favourites can be seen bobbing about, from the life-like plastic crab which always gave me the heebie-geebies (still does if I'm honest) to my little wind-up duck that lies on its side and goes round and round in circles as if in its final death throes. It did that thirty years ago so I wasn't fooled for a minute.
Watching my son getting pleasure from these things, as I did so long ago, couldn't be a clearer indication that for me the circle of life is ticking along quite nicely and, softy that I am, this gives me a lovely warm feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Now step aside son, it's mummy's turn.

                    Here is the little man with my old toys, and a newer shinier one in the background.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Fancy a ciddle?

I have just invented a new word. Ciddle. A pleasing combination of a kiss and a cuddle. Lovely isn't it?
Okay - it was a bit of a flukey discovery coming about from a quick fire round of emails with a PR when I accidentally hit 'i' instead of 'u' and said I was looking forward to the little man having a ciddle with one of their latest fluffy products (more on that when it arrives).
But I rather like it now that it is out there and intend to adopt ciddle in our everyday family vocabulary - "Come over here son and have a ciddle with your old ma" - that sort of thing.
And the PR, tickled by my mistake, is adopting it too apparently. Perhaps I have inadvertently started a trend - come on everyone, get ciddling.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Thank you Supernanny

For Christmas, I was given Jo Frost's book Confident Toddler Care. I have always liked Supernanny; she seems level-headed and sensible so I was quick to dive in and see what nuggets of wisdom she could impart.
First stop - potty training. She claims this can be done in a week if you clear your diary and it all seemed to make sense but the little man is not quite ready to take that giant step (according to Jo's checklist) so more on that when the time comes.
More relevant for now is the chapter on play and stimulation. I am always accutely aware of my responsibility in this area. He seems to learn new things every day and the more I can help with that the better. It is always reassuring being told you are doing something right and a lot of her tips I am doing naturally with him; narrating what we are doing during the day, giving him simple instructions to follow such as "Can you bring The Wheels on the Bus book over to mummy please?" and to my astonishment he does, singing nursery rhymes and playing musical instruments. Even taking him to the supermarket gets you a brownie point although by the time we get to the checkout both myself and the little man would beg to differ.
Here are some particularly good tips I have picked out:
- Create an obstacle course using furniture and cushions and give instructions, such as "Go under the table, over the sofa and on top of the cushions". This really helps with body awareness in space. Try standing him on a chair, then in front of it and behind it etc.
- Refresh your toy collection. Sounds obvious but I can see how easily he could outgrow his toys without me even noticing. If he looks bored or isn't interested in playing with them, it might be time for a change.
- Pretend play helps with reading skills, according to Jo. When a child pretends a blanket is a cape, he is letting one thing stand for another which helps him to understand that words stand for thoughts and ideas. She suggests encouraging this imagination by getting play versions of everyday objects, such as plastic food or a cash register. Make finger puppets, invest in some blocks or Lego and make a house or be on the lookout for items to expand your dressing-up box. The last one is one of my new year's resolution - I have always wanted to be a household that can produce a fancy dress outfit in a blink of an eye. That kind of household is a fun one.
- Last but not least, Jo gently reminds us to change our mindset (if needed). An activity isn't about getting something done but being interactive, using your imagination and having fun. Cheesy but so true.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

My Spanish love story

Prospero Año Nuevo! Oh yes, I have gone all continental since coming back from a week spent in Spain, and for those of you not fluent in the lingo, I am wishing you a prosperous new year. It is about the only thing I do know how to say apart from "two beers please" and "where are the toilets?" so I say it loudly and with pride.
Apart from a firm grasp of Spanish, I have returned from our holiday with a profound love of the Spanish. More specifically, I have a profound love for their love of children.
Yes, they don't have fresh milk but the little man happily guzzled back the UHT (brave chap), and all their playgrounds seem to cater for three years plus and ignore anyone with short legs and boundless energy so we did spend a good deal of time running after him around their beautiful plazas. Mind you, witnessing one Spanish mother supervising her daughter as she pulled down her pants and widdled within splashing distance of the older kids' climbing frame did make me think we were best to keep our distance anyway. Could you see that happening in the UK?
But they really do love kiddies. We were continuously watched by cooing elderly Spanish men who broke off from their slow shuffle round the square to chuckle at the little man as he raced past. When our group headed out for an evening meal, something we haven't dared try over here, we were welcomed with open arms. Tapas was ordered for the adults and a Spanish omlette for the toddler. Without asking, his eggy offering arrived first, meaning we were able to feed him and were then free to eat ours in peace while he played with his books, happy and fed. Genius. Now, could you see that happening in the UK?