Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Poo is most definitely not a good replacement for playdough

The weather has been so beautiful recently and the little man and I have mostly been in the garden. I dusted off the paddling pool and he has spent many happy hours happily splashing about in the water, keeping cool and honing his pouring-liquid-from-one-vessel-to-another skills.
As he spends most of his days bundled up in a nappy, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for some toddler skinny dipping. It was lovely seeing him play, free from the constraints of undergarments although whenever he wandered bare-bottomed back into the house I couldn't help but tense up, fearing for our carpets and white sofa if an accident were to occur. When my nerves were unable to stand it any longer, I opted for a swim nappy.
The other day, he had been covered up like this for a good hour and, feeling guilty, I stripped him clear of all absorbent materials and sent him on his happy naked way. Before I knew it, he had run into the living room and proceeded to do an enormous poo on the carpet. I was close on his heels (but clearly not close enough) and  I picked up the little offender for a swift change upstairs (not before he had dropped another little present on the hallway tiles - always check to see if they have finished first before moving).
When I returned downstairs to clear up, I saw that somehow he had managed to push a good handful of poo into the bottom of a glass candle holder. That explained the grubby hands but how had he managed to get it so far down I wondered. Then I found the answer. We had been playing with playdough not long before and I had been showing him how to push it through a tube using a plunger. The little genius, on having deposited his goods onto the carpet, suddenly saw a whole fresh load of brown playdough and got to work as mummy had shown him.
I should imagine the panicked cry I emitted wasn't the reaction he had been after for all his hard work and now, with toddler and crime scene cleaned and disinfected, I am able to admire his ingenuity. Isn't it wonderful to be so free of constraints that you see everything as a potential source of play? More to the point, now he is preferring to do his do out of the nappy rather than in it, all the signs are there that potty training might be iminent, or I will be cleaning up poo from the carpets for months to come. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Our own little dawn chorus

The little man has always been a good sleeper. From six weeks old he had worked out that when it gets dark, the best place to be is in bed and often wouldn't stir before 8 the next morning (I can hear all you sleep-deprived parents grinding your teeth as I write this and I don't blame you - going without sleep is afterall a known form of torture in some countries).
So when he does wake up in the night, it is always a bit of a shock. It happened recently when our friends, who are trying to decide if they are ready to become parents, were visiting. They came down for breakfast the next day bleary-eyed and concluding they might delay any baby plans for a few more months at least.
And it happened again just last week. The first thing I noticed was a little voice in my dream saying "mummy, mummy" and gradually these croaky words began pulling me out of a blissful slumber and into the grim reality of a 3 o'clock wake-up call.
I stumbled into his room where, bright-eyed, my son stood singing to me. He was worryingly lively for such an early hour and no amount of warm milk and story-telling would persuade him to be otherwise. In the end I  broke all the rules and brought him into our bed.
While his daddy and I lay there, eyes closed and trying to sleep, he bounced about in between us having a wail of a time. We tried to ignore him, hoping sleep would eventually come, then clearly and with all the actions, he unleashed a perfect rendition of Wind The Bobbin Up all the way through. I have sung this to him pretty much from birth and he has never shown any signs of knowing the words let alone the accompanying moves. It was truly beautiful.
We might have suffered for it the next day but there wasn't anywhere else I would rather have been than lying awake at four in the morning listening to our clever little songbird. I just wonder what else he has been up to when we have been fast asleep next door.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Peace at last in the kitchen thanks to our lovely FunPod

I first came across the Little Helper FunPod at a friend’s house when my son was still just a bump. I thought then what a good idea it was and now, with a lively toddler running around my feet all day, it seems an even better one. So I was delighted when the lovely Kim, who came up with the idea, agreed to send one over for me to test drive.
Picture this. You are trying to make the dinner. Pots of boiling water are bubbling on the cooker, sharp knives are on the worktops and your little bundle of joy is hanging from your legs wanting to come up and see what all the excitement is about. Well that was me every mealtime – attempting to keep him safe and get the food on the table while feeling guilty the whole time that I was ignoring his attempts for attention.
And then the FunPod arrived.  I hate to sound like a PR machine but this thing is truly fantastic. I love it and so does the little man. The idea is simple. The pod is basically a solid wooden box with four feet at the bottom and a removable foot plate that slots into place and adjusts according to your child’s height.  The moment we finished putting it together I popped him in, pushed him up to the worktop and he stood there next to me, happily messing about with some playdough and watching me as I made his dinner.  The next day, he rushed into the kitchen, saying “FunPod, FunPod” and pushed it across the floor to where he wanted to go.
We have used it every day since. I have him with me stacking plastic cups, stirring bowls with my wooden spoons, or his favourite, transferring handfuls of teabags from the packet into a mug and pretending to make a cup of tea (we drink a lot of tea in our house). It has even become his little den. He sits down at the bottom, playing with a toy or hiding from us, emerging with a big grin and shouting “Peepo”.
It comes in a variety of finishes – white, black, red, buttermilk, maple, natural wood – basically something to suit all decors. Ours is walnut accessorised with Postman Pat stickers. Very fetching.
Here are the downsides. You do need the room in the kitchen. It is a sturdy piece of furniture – it has to be to stop it tipping over. It is fairly heavy although my 22-month-old has no trouble pushing it across the kitchen tiles, and it isn’t cheap. They come in at £112.99 on the Little Helper website (www.littlehelper.co.uk) although you can get it for less elsewhere. It might sound a lot for what is effectively a wooden box but it is well made, safe and it works. Kim and Sean Johnson came up with the idea seven years ago to keep their daughter safe in the kitchen and now their little invention can be found in homes across four continents. There is a reason why some things take off and some don’t, and this thoroughly deserves the success it is enjoying. 

Help with the washing up at last

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Young love

I have always found it rather amusing how babies and toddlers can be playing right next to, or even on top of each other but remain completely focused on what they are doing as if no-one else is there.
The little man has always been independent this way, showing no interest in interacting with children his age (he is mildly interested in older children but not much) and keeping them all at arm's length, quite literally. If one comes too near, he will hold out his hand full stretch to ensure they don't come any closer. That is until Lucy came along.
Lucy is two weeks younger and I have been firm friends with her mummy since we met weighing our little babies at the local community centre. It has taken a while for the love to blossom between them, although as the lady in the relationship, Lucy has always taken the lead showing her affection.
It began with her following him around, shouting his name and trying to feed him breadsticks. It was very sweet to watch as she tried to look after him, like a proper little wife. He wasn't keen for the attention but, lured by the promise of food, he tolerated her efforts at domesticity. Lucy has always been a quick learner and clearly she had already clocked that the quickest way to a man is through his stomach.
Then the little man began talking about her, even given her a cute nickname - Lucy-Lou. He would call it out when we were visiting somewhere we had previously been with Lucy and her mummy, and say it as we got close to their house.
So the other day, we took them on their first proper date - to the sealife centre at Weymouth. While they spent most of the time running up and down the small grass hills, and a disappointing amount of time looking at the wildlife we had paid to see, they were simply happy in each other's company. They danced to the music in the cafe, stood side by side to watch the penguins being fed, and the little man didn't even mind the occasional cuddle with his Lucy-Lou.
She just needs to bake him a cupcake or two and he is all hers.

Bonding over penguin feeding time

Dancing together at the cafe

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

DIY playdough

Wasn't the weather on Sunday horrid? The rain and wind was so strong our green plastic bin was hurled about the garden. I watched its unhappy course with fascination from the safety of our living room, happy to be inside. That said, being shut away does have its downsides, especially with an energetic toddler displaying all the early signs of cabin fever. Books read, puzzles done, Postman Pat watched and I was running out of ideas - so I decided to make some playdough.
The little man loves playdough - so much so that you have to spell out the word rather than say it otherwise he tends to get into an excited stupour before you have all the bits and pieces ready, and you end up getting all the bits and pieces ready with him following you around wingeing and trying to climb up your leg.
I realise I might sound a bit smug telling you I do DIY playdough but smugness didn't come into it - if anything it was sheer laziness.
I had two options that day - brave the elements and bundle a disgruntled almost two-year-old into the car to drive to the shops for some, or google how to make playdough and have a go myself. The latter sounded less wet with fewer tantrums.
And I am so glad I did. It was EASY. Everyone should do it. I found a recipe, bunged all the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat, stirred for a few minutes and there I had it - an enormous ball of playdough, ready for some serious shape cutting. Far too much in fact. I gave some away the next day to a grateful fellow mum down the road.
The end product of my endeavours was beautifully soft and worked a treat, entertaining the little man for a good chunk of the day. And after he had finished, I popped the playdough into a tupperware box and shoved it in the fridge for next time. Job done.
If you haven't discovered the joys of making playdough yet, here is the recipe I used, and it was brilliant. Happy cooking.

3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 teaspoons cream of tartar (yes, I did have some in the cupboard - they are well stocked)
3 tablespoons oil
3 cups water
Colouring as required

Stir play dough continuously over a low heat until mixture leaves the sides of the pan.