To toy or not to toy?

I’m not a great believer in toys. There I said it! Whilst a few toys along the way are beneficial I cringe when I see kids with rooms stuffed with toys, stacked up, piled up and often with half the pieces scattered far and wide πŸ˜–

Years of training in child development and mental health have shaped my view of the value of play but not in the enormous expenditure of toys that the big kid companies tell us we simply must have … Urgh.

Worst still from a well-being side I’ve worked with the parents that feel guilty and sub par because of the lack of money they have to spoil their babies with this toy and that. Often coining the phrase ‘I just want to give them everything I didn’t have’ or ‘so&so’s child has everything’. They look at me gone out when I exclaim that their child will gain no value from a room full of plastic, they’ll develop no more skills or become any better children for hoarding bright coloured gizmos or light up wotsits. 

My philosophy? Simply this: A child needs to be excited by play, given opportunities to use their own imagination to dream up new ideas, find out new things and consolidate this learning. Sure they (toy companies) may claim their toy helps kids learn their colours or match their shapes but by this logic for every new thing they learn a new toy is needed .. Catchy marketing that! (£££)

And as soon as the excitement of gaining a new toy has wavered, it quickly falls out of favour and into a dust collecting object doomed to either storage, donation or worse .. Landfill (side note: I’m pretty sure we are creating clever shape sorting, colour matching landfill bugs underground πŸ˜…). 

Let’s come at this from a different angle.. What do we want our Children to be? For me, I want to raise an inquisitive soul, a boy that questions all that he sees and recognises failures as a sign he’s improving. I want him to be curious about the whys and how’s of things that work, things that don’t. I want him to have confidence.

What toy do I buy for this? … None. 

Okay, very little (I’m not all out boycotting toys just 99% of them!). 

Give a child a prescriptive toy and he will learn to play with it as the manufacture intended, and once mastered, it will lose its persazz. 

Give a child an object, a cup and spoon, ball and bowl, blanket and pegs, boxes and spoons (you get the idea) they will take their hoard and find 50 things to make it into. Bowls become drums, hats or cooking pots. Shoeboxes, treasure chests, ovens, a bed or even a cave!  They learn to see through functional use and learn to test an objects structure. They submerse themselves into play and when bored of one idea they’ll dive into another .. A shoebox will always kick a toys butt for play, we all know kids on Christmas Day that unwrap toys only to play with the box .. They’re telling you something right there!

I did mention that not all toys are on my naughty list. There are indeed some that I love, the plain un descriptive ones. Plain wooden blocks (we have Jenga), play dough, bean bags, foam cubes, Lego, bats and balls, hula hoops and bears (they make the best customers for selling play dough cookies too!). 

But in our toy chest we also have: wooden spoons, mixing bowls, whisks, spatulas. Cushions from the sofa, placemats from the table, empty toilet tubes in empty cardboard boxes and paper bags too! 

And maybe I’ll write a blog post listing all the crazy imaginitive things over the years we have turned everyday objects into .. A bullet list of activities/ideas maybe? 

Spend less and play more. Everything at home/outside can be a toy if we truly believe in what it could become! 😊

Happy Monday folks x

Mudpie Fridays

Triangulation of 3 kids plus a baby!Β 

My stepson has 2 siblings at his Mums and this week we are looking after all 3 after school for a couple of hours.
So between the hours of 3-6pm we have A 10yo, 7yo, 5yo & a 7month old! Let me tell you things get crazy around here! The noise level goes up, the energy levels rocket as we attempt to get homework, food, play and reading mastered in under 3 hours. 

We are currently on day 3 and loving the challenge of positively influencing 4 tiny brains, all unique and wanting of quality attention. This isn’t the first time we’ve looked after these chuppas, in fact over the years we’ve had them for summer holidays, half terms and even once a week after school for a while. But this is the first full week with a new 7mo addition and it certainly ramps up the gusto needed. 

I thought I’d recount our routine below for a little insight into how we survive! 

1. Straight in from school it’s shoes off and book bags into the living room for homework. I purposefully position all 3 schoolers in a triangle shape around me. They all have different homework and different abilities, so to get through, there’s a lot of hopping from one to the other. If I centre myself in the middle I can pivot between them without running back and forth and stepping on a rogue toy or smacking a body part (mine) off the corner of some inanimate object .. Usually the table. 

The 7mo gets prime floor space and a plethora of toys to keep him occupied whilst we spend 30 minutes getting to work! 

2. Start with the eldest .. The 10yo has homework down to a T. So whilst the two younger ones gather their book bag, and pull faces at the 7mo, I spend a couple of minutes setting up the 10yo, checking he understands his homework and helping him plan what order he wants to do what. 

3. Next the 7yo, this boy has the energy of a nuclear reaction! Homework is a struggle if it’s a sit down task so he needs more one on one to excite his brain into learning. Today he found a pen lid on the way home from school … I asked him what he could turn it into and before I knew it, he was carried away in imagination of what he could use it for! Once home he collected paper and colouring pens and began to design his creation and annotate the parts with materials he would need (sneaky writing practice).

3. Now onto the 5yo! On the sofa we snuggle down to read her story book and practice spelling words, for every word she gets right it gets balanced on my head and with gentle encouragement to ‘break down’ the harder ones all words will end up on my head (zero fail opportunity!). If there are a couple of doozys we’ll shuffle them up and make a game of turning random ones over to read and put away once completed πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ

4. By this point the 7yo design is finished and annotated and I’m rifling through the recycle bin to find materials as he demolishes my craft drawer for tape, scissors and glue! In my eyes he’s learning to plan, sequence, to envisage, to be creative and to execute. So if he uses a roll of tape, scuffs a felt tip nib or glues half the creation to the carpet I’m generally laid back and rewarding for his efforts and input. 

5. Little 5yo by this point has jumped in with paper and pens and proceeds to start doodling and writing too, I’m happy to leave her to it! 

6. Back to the 10yo who by now has a few questions, needs guidance or wants to go through something. As the younger 2 are up to their elbows in creation this gives us a good space in time to delve in to homework and explore new learning, to chat and discuss what he thinks about science, or math or whatever he’s working on. I’m very much a ‘what do you think..’ responder when he asks questions and often let him lead himself to the answer, ‘how do you spell influence?’ Well ‘how do you think it is spelled?’ I reply .. Sure enough he gets it spot on and I get to praise his effort of working through and hopefully he feels proud of his work!  

7. Help! In this mayhem of homework my ace is my tag team partner, out in the kitchen he’s rustling up food or tending to the 7mo as he tries to chew cables when he thinks we’re not looking 😳. If one child finishes before I’m done with another, he’ll step in and start a discussion about their day, or encourage them to find a 5minute self led activity whilst they’re waiting. In the past I’ve not always had my wing man for support and in those moments I rely on enthusing the 10yo into a craft project too, so that I can steal 10 minutes to prep food. (The key is getting as many jobs done BEFORE they arrive .. Genius πŸ˜‚). 

8. If it’s a particular hands on snack I’ll bring it all in to the living room and have the kids prepare it themselves. We do homemade pizzas, fruit salads, baked loafs, rainbow smoothies, you name it, if it can be broken down into steps the kids are doing it! Does snack look award winning NO! Do the kids snaffle up every morsel YES! Because they got involved, they made it and more importantly they chose to do it! Plus I geek out at watching them hone their chopping/mixing skills.

9. Play. Outside is usually a winner in the good weather, we walk home from school so after a sit down and think activity getting up and moving is much needed! I try not to structure this as kids need freedom to be creative .. Rather I’m a facilitator. I’ve filled up watering cans umpteen times, watched tea towels be demolished by mud, played shopper as I purchase my own salad garden back and lost countless amounts of washing up utensils to the cause of imagination. I’m perfectly at ease with stumping the cost of a spoon, towel or other make-shift item, for the moment of immersed play that takes them miles away from a garden and into a world of infinite possibilities. This free time for them allows me time to feed/change the 7mo and read a book with him too, after all one day this will be his routine too! 

10. Gradually the kids will drift back in, we’ll be down to the last 15/20 minutes before its home time. Group play usually starts as we play something together, the spot the missing object under a tea towel game (don’t use a food based object as inevitably one of the kids will eat it to make it dissapear whilst we have our eyes closed!) or Jenga.. Which we’ve never used as instructed, preferring always to make our own castles, bridges and so on! Sometimes we play word association which always ends in someone linking a word to poo! 

Mum arrives and as quickly as it was manic it suddenly becomes quiet. My 7mo looks at me like he’s witnessed a riot and rather sleepy for it so we change for bed and I take him up for a feed before sleep. 

And that my lovelies is what we’re doing this week! If anyone has any handy tips to make parenting multiples easier please share! I respect you for your energy in raising multiples whilst slightly marvelling at the madness you’ve bought on yourselves too πŸ€—

x

Happy Fathers Day!Β 

Today’s the day! Up and down the country Dads are waking up hopefully to cups of coffee, toast a card and perhaps even a box of chocs. The present side of this day is highly irrelevant as really the most important gift is that Dads are shown that they are loved .. And whether this is celebrated today or celebrated everyday .. Fathers truly are a wondrous kind. 

Raising children is tough, Mum’s are there to provide nursing, to gift the first feelings of comfort and security but Dads, oh boy are Dads the secret to exploring life! Dads are the yin to Mum’s yang, they show our precious lil’ones a life separate from mum, one for taking risks, exploring, loving others and play. 

Today we shall be giving Daddy extra hugs for loving us as he does. 

This year my partner became a father to 2 boys, I’ve watched this man parent for 9 years before we decided to bring Leo into the world. I watched him show love, play and laugh. Watched him get a 4 yo to eat broccoli and red ‘batman cabbage’. Get up every Saturday to take the boy to sports, spend 30 minutes explaining math homework and now I’ve watched him juggle a teething baby whilst continuing to do all the above. 

To all the Dads out there, enjoy! To my own Dad, I love you. 

xx

Happy Fathers Day Ade .. 😘

Cycles of 3’s

Since the day Leo was born I have slept in cycles of 3hrs (minus the first few weeks where I slept barely at all!).

He has amazed me at his mechanical ability to rouse on the 3rd strike of every hour, rooting for a feed, cuddle and a change. He has always drifted back off to sleep with very little fuss, but sleep has been collected in pots of 3s from month 1 to month 7. 

I was prepared for this, my attitude to parenting comes from an innate belief that baby will lead the way, if he wakes he wakes, if he comfort feeds, so be it. I hear so many mothers declare that babies are only babies for such a short time and to cherish every minute because it won’t last long! So at 4am with eyes stinging and hair taking in a life of its own, I have nursed in the moment and tried not to let the broken sleep defeat me.

And then, last night …

7 months and 1 week old my baby settled down to sleep .. And slept, for 7hrs!! 😳 I woke to the usual sounds of a rooting baby but alas 7 hrs had passed and my chest was the size of footballs! In that moment I wanted to photo my Pamela Anderson impression, well until baby latched on one and the other gave out like a tire over spikes! 

So he fed, he rolled over and settled back to sleep and for the first time in 7 months I’d achieved 7hrs sleep! 

3 emotions hit me this morning

1. Sadness, in some small way these midnight moments that we have shared, just me and him are on their way out, soon to be a distant memory.

2. Chuffedness (real word i’m sure!), my baby is growing, he’s beginning to take on the character of a little boy ☺️.

3. Pain, as any breastfeeding mum will probably know all too well, when baby hasn’t drained these storage bags of milk, they swell.. And swell! In the day if particularly distracted or not overly keen to have a full feed I can express to relieve myself of that tingly, tight ‘about to blow’ feeling. Totally screwed if I’m asleep for the duration and wake up feeling what I can only imagine a stuffed Turkey on Christmas Day would feel like! .. This compounds a little as my baby still feeds ‘one at a time’ which means at 6:30 this morning I had diagonal boob syndrome (oO)

But to keep me on my toes and let me know that nothing really has changed and that he still needs me, Leo woke after another 3hr top up, crawled onto my chest and puked on me … What a darling! πŸ˜‚

Mummy Moments: Rhymetime


This week we ventured out to a baby class – rhymetime! 


Watch Mummy Moments Vlog: rhymetime here! 


For those not in the know, rhymetime is 30 minutes of group singing for parents/babies, covering all the greatest hits such as ‘wheels on the bus’, ‘row, row, your boat’ and my firm favourite ‘the grand old duke of york’. 

In our house this nursery rhyme was rewritten by my then 3yo stepson (now 10yo I may add!) to ‘the grandma duke of York, SHE had 10,000 men .. She marched them up to the top of hell and she threw them down again. Suffice to say we wet ourselves with laughter as he proudly stomped around the living room declaring the floozy like nature of grandma York! 

Anyhoo I digress, rhymetime! Held in our local library and free to attend, although I’m sure you need a child to accompany you as solo singers are most certainly frowned upon. 

We arrived early this week as on our first rhymetime outing I thought that arriving 5 minutes beforehand would be ample time, turns out this is NOT advised as we didn’t manage to get a coveted spot on the inner circle. Instead we had to join the ‘overflow’ seating at the back and spent the entire time singing to the back of a balding fathers head..delightful! 

So in plenty of time and now rather awkwardly making eye contact with parents and exchanging small talk, my child became quickly overwhelmed at the bustle of toddlers and colourful bookshelves penning us all in (Funny how in that moment of 15 jumping hoodlams I begin to notice how small and fragile my 7mo looks and how many germs must be circulating!). 

Soon enough we kicked off and I’m required to sing along to our beloved favourites. We manage 3 minutes of harmony before my best rendition of ‘baa baa black sheep’ is bought to an abrupt halt as I appear to sing the wrong words! Nursery rhymes since I was 5yo have gone through a revamp it seems and yet now no longer a child I missed the update memo, my singing after this became a little more reserved.. 

Leo must have sensed my awkwardness as after 10 minutes his attention had turned to feeding and he felt the need to nuzzle into my chest and flail about to indicate that he was hungry, we removed ourselves from the inner circle of bouncing kids and clambered around the corner to feed. In between gardening DIY and eat yourself well.. Apt for the moment! 

By the time we rejoined and had to barter a 5yo Princess Elsa for our spot back we had 10 minutes left and out came a box of musical instruments! We procured a lovely green jingle stick and the moment of pure pleasure on Leo’s face as he waved it around and bounced along as we sang made Rhymetime worth it! 

We did have a couple of moments where he thought I wasn’t looking and tried to get his new teeth round it but a couple of prompts and he just about understood the jingle stick was not a chew toy, I did see one kid use his blue jingle stick as a butt scratcher though so definitely not touching the blue jingle sticks next week! 

We sang happy birthday to princess Elsa to end the session and with that she took herself and a group of Mums/kids off to the cafe for tea and cake .. We weren’t invited exactly, I fear pushing her from the spot she pinched from us may have gotten us off to a poor start with the click but alas we had to retreat home because my grand plan of rhymetime and then weigh in for Leo failed as I realised we’d left his baby book at home πŸ™ˆ! 

Next week we shall go again and I will have the new song lyrics down and a bottle of antibac on hand should the butt scratching kid return! 

Happy singing! 

Conblogulations!Β 

I realise I am someone who talks a lot! At school every report had the fatal lines ‘Gemma works hard but needs to try harder at being quiet in class and not distracting others with humour ..’

Fast forward 20 years and I’ve not changed a bit πŸ˜‚. In fact I now find myself Vlogging and Blogging about life instead of leaning over a school chair and acting the class clown! 

I upload weekly ‘Mummy Moment’  videos on my YouTube channel, short videos of the calamities I find myself in whilst trying to be a positive parent! But each week I feel there’s always more! More moments that I want to share and laugh about .. Sure I’ve thought about daily Vlogging but as a child of the 80’s I certainly have commitment issues and such an idea sent me running for the duvet. 

So instead a blog, a little corner of the world where I can share my world as a mum, reluctant adult and serial waffler! 

Let’s go! 

YouTube
Instagram
Twitter