Easter Holiday Plans

I have been a little absent from blogging lately. This is mostly due to being employed now! Yes, after a long 7 month search, I finally found some part time work and, even if it is just at the local supermarket, it’s having a really positive impact for me. Plus, I managed to get hours that mean I can still take Pip to and from school. I miss a few hours of family time at the weekend but Pip and Husband seem to be really enjoying having some time on their own – something they’ve never regularly had. On top of work, there’s been studying and housework and childcare to fit in so while I’ve been getting used to this new routine, writing has taken a back seat. However, I am determined to start making time for it again. My general aim is to post once a week but sometimes it might be more or less, especially as I have a uni exam coming up in June.

Given that I now have even less time with Pip, it feels more important than ever to make the most of school holidays. I have 6 full days just me and her over the next two weeks and I have lots of plans for us! We’re going to be planting some seeds, doing some Easter and Spring themed crafts and, of course, playing lots of games.

I’m not a religious person so for me this time of year is all about Spring time, new life, growing plants and, lets be honest, the chocolate eggs and other Easter treats. We’ll be making some yummy stuff later this week, which I will be blogging about of course! It’s important for Pip to learn about other cultures and religions so we will also be looking at various Easter traditions from around the world.

Last week was Pip’s school parents’ evening. Her teacher gave a great report and I’m really pleased and proud of how well she’s doing at school. Of course, we’re very aware of how her learning is going anyway but having her progress confirmed by the teacher is still nice and it’s good to keep communication open so that we know what’s going on at school and vice versa. She gave me a few pointers on things we could do at home to help her learning. To that end, we’ll be doing some storytelling activities over the holidays as well, partly as a way to practice writing in full sentences independently and partly to help her focus her amazing imagination into an actual narrative. Pip comes up with some brilliant ideas and it would be great for her to start recording them on her own.

What are your plans for the Easter Holidays?

Welcome to the Little Gamers Guild!

I am thrilled to present my new blog linky for sharing experiences of playing tabletop games with our children, called the Little Gamers Guild. I have long thought, and said, that tabletop games are brilliant way to have fun as a family (even on the rainiest of days!) and are a fantastic educational tool. Please share your tabletop game related posts at the bottom of this page. To kick things off, I’ve created a list of our top ten favourite tabletop games to play with younger children. The linky will run on a monthly basis so look out for next month’s too! I’ll be creating a monthly round up of the best posts.

Little Gamers Guild Badge

With Pip quickly moving on to tabletop games intended for 6 years old and beyond, I thought now would be a good time to look back at all of the games for younger children that she’s enjoyed for the last few years, before they’re forgotten forever! I hope this list inspires you to try out some tabletop games with your little people.

(The list isn’t in any particular order, mostly because neither myself nor my daughter are any good at picking favourites!)

1. Skunk Bingo – For ages 3 and up, this game is great for developing social and memory skills. I particularly like the cute artwork and using the log as a mechanic.

2. Feed the Woozle – For ages 3-6 with 3 different levels of difficulty, this game is great for parties or just for a more active play. We always end up in fits of giggles over this one.

3. Create Your Own Fairytale Spinner Game – For ages 5 and up, this game is all about creativity and imagination. As a family who love telling stories and playing games, for us this is just a brilliant mixture of the two.

4. Snug as a Bug in a Rug – Like Feed the Woozle, this game is for 3-6 years and has 3 difficulty levels. I really like the original concept of this game and it’s great for learning to recognise shapes and colours and for counting, as well as some basic logical thinking.

5. Hoot Owl Hoot! – For ages 4 and up, this game is incredibly cute and we found it’s a really nice one to play when little friends are visiting. Be warned, there can be a bit of upset if the game is lost but luckily it’s quite short so you’ll probably have time for another go.

6. Elephant’s Trunk – For ages 4 and up, this is a really fun game to play as a family and it’s easy to transport as everything fits into the four tins, or ‘suitcases’, making this a good game to take on holiday. I really like the concept and design of this one.

7. My First Carcassonne – For ages 4 and up, this is a good choice for those parents who already love tabletop games and want to introduce their children to the medium. Our daughter saw us playing the grown up version of Carcassonne and wanted to join in but it was just a bit too complicated so this was a great solution for us. It’s a fun one even for the grown ups to play and we often get this out when family are visiting.

8. Race to the Treasure – For ages 5 and up, this game has a good original concept and introduces the idea of map coordinates to children. Being a cooperative game, it’s a great one to play as a family, working together to defeat the ogre (who we named Bogden, incidentally!).

9. Build a Robot – For ages 5 and up, this game did need a tiny bit of tweaking in it’s mechanic (see my review for more details) but it’s a great game, especially for little people that love robots. Like most eBoo products, the artwork is really nice.

10. Tell Me a Story – For ages 3 and up, this set of story cards is really multi-use so while it can be used as a tabletop game, it can also be used simply as a resource for learning about narrative and storytelling. We have two sets and we’ve been using them for years now.

Here’s the Little Gamers Guild Badge to pop on your blog:

Little Gamers Guild
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Click on the link below to enter your own blog post links!

Being a Parent is Awesome

I’m going to start this post with a mini rant. Since before I even became pregnant, I’ve been endlessly hearing how rubbish life is once you’re a parent. No more fun, endless mess to clear up and having to be responsible and serious at all times. Mostly this has come from people who don’t have kids. But I’ve also seen a number of parents in blogs and social media talking about all of the things they miss now that they’re parents.

So I thought I’d do the opposite. This is a blog post about how absolutely awesome it is to be a parent.

First of all, children know nothing. Now that sounded mean but it’s true. It means that they are amazed at everything new they learn. I remember the look of complete awe on Pip’s face when I explained to her that the sun isn’t moving up and down, it’s the Earth spinning. Watching someone discover every little thing about the world around them and be totally fascinated by it is just wonderful.

Secondly, being a parent gives you complete license to occasionally act like a child. Yes, obviously it’s important to make sure the child is safe, properly fed, healthy and you’re doing everything possible to give them the happiest life possible. Do you know what makes children really happy? Playing! I spend large amounts of my time building things out of LEGO, giving voice to inanimate objects and pretending that Pip is no longer Pip but is actually whichever character she’s decided to be on that given day.

That last point brings me to the next awesome thing about having a child. Their imagination is limitless. Pip makes up the best stories and characters. She’ll put on a costume and suddenly be someone completely different. She’ll make up a whole life for that character. They’ll go on adventures to places that she’s invented or from other stories or films that she knows. Doctor Who has come to rescue Rapunzel from Daleks before!

Children are completely honest. I do get a bit tired of people being polite and not saying what they really mean. I actually want to know if my new hair colour suits me or if the cake I made tasted disgusting. If you don’t tell me the truth, I can’t change these things. I will continue to obliviously have horrible hair and serve horrible cake. It’s great to have a child that will tell you the absolute truth. She has no concept of saying things to be polite or to spare someone’s feelings. Of course, one has to be careful because children also have no concept of what is socially acceptable. If I dressed up as a Disney Princess to pop to the supermarket, Pip would probably tell me that I look brilliant.

Children also have no shame. Pip will burst into song in any public place. Ok, so this usually earns her cheers and claps, rather than the laughter of mockery that I’d get for doing the same thing but still, it’s great that she can do that without feeling any embarrassment. She’ll also strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone. She says ‘Hello’ to everyone she passes (Oh, while I’m making that point, can I just say that if you ignore a five year old who has just cheerily said Good Morning to you, you are a complete misery and are making the world a more miserable place to be).

Having a child has reminded how happy little things can make someone. A single hug can change her mood from grumpy to elated. A hot chocolate completely makes up for getting soaked in the rain. An email from her Uncle will make her whole day better. It doesn’t matter to her what she’s doing as long as she’s doing it with people she loves.

Having a child, alongside being married, has been the best, most amazing and exciting experience of my life. We have fun every day. I love her so much and even when she’s at her naughtiest, I’ve never for a second thought that my life would be better without her. Yes, occasionally I think it might be nice to go out for an evening slightly more often but I wouldn’t trade being able to do that for being a parent. Plus, I know that one day, Pip will be grown up and I’ll be able to go out as often as I want and I’ll probably miss these days of her being small.

What are your favourite things about being a parent?

Fossil Hunting in Penarth

My daughter loves dinosaurs and really any ancient creatures. Learning about things that lived millions of years ago seems to just fascinate her. She has been insisting for about the last two years that she’s going to be a palaeontologist when she grows up. She wants to go digging up dinosaur fossils around the world.

After a little research, I discovered that we didn’t need to travel that far to find fossils. Penarth beach is a great place for finding fossils. So on Tuesday we went there to see what we could find.

We had a walk along Penarth pier when we arrived. There were beautiful views of the sea, of the English coast in the far distance and of the cliffs along Penarth beach.

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We walked along the beach, careful not to stray too close to the cliffs. There were warning signs about falling rocks and we did see quite a bit actually coming down the cliff face. This is actually the whole reason that this beach is a great place for fossils. As sediment constantly falls from the cliffs, so do fossils. We kept our eyes open for anything interesting.

We found an ammonite fossil, what we think is some fossilised coral and plenty of pretty stones and shells.

fossils & stones collage

We also found lots of fossils in larger pieces of rock.

Rocks at the beach

After a long walk along the beach, we sat in Alexandra Park to eat our packed lunch, then home on the train.

It was a brilliant family day. Pip absolutely loved being a Fossil Hunter for the day.

Of course for the perfect finish to the day, we had pancakes for tea!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Celebration days are a great opportunity for learning about other places and cultures. So today, because it’s Chinese New Year, we’ve been learning about China and Chinese culture.

We watched video clips on the internet about people living in China. The CBeebies website is great for finding videos on a wide range of subjects, all aimed at younger children. These taught Pip a lot about how Chinese people celebrate Chinese New year and the meanings behind their customs and traditions.

We used the Barefoot Atlas iPad app to find China on the globe then found out lots of facts about places and culture in China. I really like this app because it’s great either to use for looking at a specific country and getting an idea of where it is in the world but also for Pip to explore alone, finding places in the world that she wants to know more about.

For lunch, I made a yummy sweet and sour vegetable stir fry. Unfortunately it wasn’t a meal that Pip could join in with making but she did enjoy watching me make it and talking about all of the different ingredients.

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In the afternoon, we made Chinese style paper lanterns, decorated with stickers and glitter glue (really they should have been red but these were the colours we had in our crafty box).

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We’ve had a great time learning about China today. Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

June 23rd is Alan Turing Day

If you hadn’t already, you’ve probably recently heard of Alan Turing due to the major film about him starring Benedict Cumberbatch. While I really want to watch the film, I’m expecting it to be brilliant and I think it’s great that a film has been made about such an intriguing and important individual, I’m also in disbelief that he isn’t more celebrated or well known already.

Alan Turing, in my opinion, should be known by all as a national hero. He did extremely important work in decoding during the Second World War, heavily contributing to saving lives and actually shortening the war. He was also an early pioneer in computing, developing one of the first modern computers and early computer programmes, without which much of the computer technology we use today simply would not exist. Sadly, he was also the victim of barbaric prejudice because he was gay and was convicted for gross indecency in 1952, a crime in Britain at the time. Rather than face a prison sentence, he opted for ‘treatment’ which involved hormone injections to render him impotent. Posthumously, he was pardoned and received an official apology from the government.

To celebrate this extraordinary man and his vital work, I want to mark his birthday, June 23rd, as Alan Turing Day. It would be an opportunity to teach our children about him, to remember how much we owe to him and to remember how much our country has moved forward since the terrible days of gay people being labelled as criminals.

Alan Turing Day

Please join me in this celebration. Bake a cake, watch one of the films or TV dramas about his life, tell your children about him. Write about it, tweet about it, mention it on Facebook. Spread the word and help the world to recognise this amazing individual as the hero that he is.

Thank you for reading.

Half Term Plans

Next week is half term for Pip. As I am, by nature, a very chaotic sort of person with a memory like a sieve, I like to be ultra organised for any occasions or school holidays so that she doesn’t end up bored and we make the most of the time together. However, I have learnt over the last couple of years that actually scheduling activities for each day of a week simply doesn’t work. Weather forecasts can change very suddenly or turn out to be completely wrong, events can be cancelled or rearranged or illness can strike. So instead of intricately planning every moment of every day, I’ve simply made a list of activities I’d like to try and get through during the week.

  •  Library visit. We adore books and we’ve read every book at home many times. While Pip still enjoys them, it’s great to supplement our collection with some borrowing from our local library. With the recent fantastic news that Cardiff’s libraries are no longer being threatened with closure for the time being (Hurray!), I definitely want us to visit the library at least once next week. While the final decision is up to her, I try to encourage a good mix of fiction and non-fiction books, books that she can read and books that I can read to her. I think this makes the most of the huge selection on offer.  Normally I’d treat myself to something new to read too but with my literature course in full swing, I’ve already got a full reading schedule!
  • Making pancakes. Tuesday is Pancake Day and I can’t wait to make some. I’m hoping to get Pip involved in every aspect of this task, from helping me think up some tasty toppings, to helping me buy ingredients at the shop, mixing the batter and then putting toppings on the cooked pancakes. I think it’ll be lots of fun with plenty of learning going on at the same time.
  • Learning about Chinese New Year. This is next Thursday (19th February) and I’m going to use the occasion to teach Pip about China and Chinese culture. As a nice crafty activity, I think we’ll make some Chinese flags and lanterns and then have some Chinese food for lunch or dinner. Celebratory days are a great way of introducing children to different cultures and teaching them about different places around the world.
  • A day out. I always like to have one big day out during a half term. At the moment, I’m planning to take Pip to the beach at Penarth. We haven’t been to Penarth in years, since before we actually moved here and Pip was too little to remember that so it’ll be a new place to her. It’s also reputedly a great place to find fossils so I thought we’d do a little hunting as Pip recently expressed an interest in starting her own collection. It’ll also be a nice opportunity for some photography. Of course, this all depends on weather so I’ve also got a few indoor places like museums as a back up plan but at the moment, the forecast is looking ok.
  •  Visit from a friend. I’ve arranged for a school friend to come and play one day next week. It’ll be nice for Pip to get some social time outside of school. Pip’s hoping to share some of her favourite tabletop games and with such a large collection, it should keep them entertained for a long while.
  • Lots of little activities. For the times in between the big things I have planned, I’ve also got lots of little things too. Worksheets, colouring in sheets, art & craft, reading, films to watch and, of course, loads of games to play. These not only  keep Pip entertained for the entire week but also mean that if something does go wrong, we’ve got plenty to keep us busy in any case.

Obviously there’ll be lots of blog posts all about what we’ve gotten up to so watch out for those.

What are your favourite ways to spend half term? Have you got any exciting plans?