Weekly Report: w/c 23/11/15

This week did not get off to the best of starts, with Tom waking up in a foul mood on Monday morning. We had errands to run first thing, though fortunately he was fairly happy to sit in the buggy whilst I picked up groceries. In the afternoon, we headed out onto the Marshes for some bad mood therapy – more to come tomorrow.

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Wednesday was our family day, as usual. Tom and I spent the morning in the garden, testing out his new snowsuit and bopping about to the tunes played by next doors’ radio.

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Mr Techno works for a restaurant group owned by well-known chef Mark Hix and had been rewarded for two years of service with a £150 voucher for any Hix restaurant. So at lunchtime we headed to Oyster and Chophouse in Farringdon for a free meal. Tom very much enjoyed his fish, chips and minted peas, whilst Mr Techno and I sampled oysters, cockles, ox heart, hake’s head and liver. We like unusual food in this family! We rounded up with a Yorkshire Parkin shared between the three of us before heading home for a well-deserved nap.

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On Thursday, I walked Tom in to nursery as usual, but then had to travel to Exeter that afternoon. I didn’t get back until late Friday and Mr Techno has admitted they caught the bus in on Friday morning, so I guess that was a bit of a fail on the outdoor front.

Saturday morning Tom and I spent at the open day for Free Range Urban Kids, a new outdoor nursery opening in Hackney in January. Read all about it here.

Tom had a bit of a cough and clearly need some extra sleep, because he didn’t wake up from his nap until 4. The light was already fading, so we stayed in and he played with cloud dough instead.

Sunday was incredibly windy. We spent the morning in the park in the rain, splashing about in puddles. In the afternoon, we went for a walk on the Marshes. Tom did get out of the buggy for a bit, but found the wind too strong, so asked to get back in and ride his way round.

It’s been a bit so-so this week, with work commitments keeping me from spending as much time outside as I normally like.

 

Forest Kindergarten Open Day

I was very excited on Saturday to be going to an open day for Hackney’s new outdoor nursery, Free Range Urban Kids (FRUK). The group was founded by two local mums about a year ago, but has just now got all the right registrations in place to start offering full nursery days, rather than just the two-hour sessions they ran previously. They are accepting children from the age of three, which means Tom is still too young, but are also offering 2 hour ‘stay and play’ sessions twice a week for 0-3 year-olds and their parents. They are opening officially in January, so we were pleased to have a chance to go along to see what will be on offer.

Outdoor nurseries or forest kindergartens are relatively new to the UK and still pretty rare. The name is pretty self-explanatory – they are childcare settings where sessions take place pretty much exclusively outdoors, no matter what the weather (in a year of running their sessions, FRUK say they have never had to resort to their back-up indoor option). It is a movement that started in Scandinavia, but is beginning to spread to other parts of the world, in part due to the growing anxiety about the lack of time children now spend outdoors.

The philosophy of FRUK and forest kindergartens in general is very close to our parenting approach. Sessions are very much child-led and focus on free play  in nature. The staff at the open day talked a lot about the importance of teaching children to assess risk themselves, rather than removing them from it. So while they scour the play area before sessions start to remove any needles, used condoms or other unsanitary items often found in parks first thing in the morning, mushrooms, rose bushes and other plants are left in place. The children are taught not to lick or taste anything, and to identify plants that might be harmful, so they know not to touch them. They are encouraged to climb trees, swing in hammocks, and get muddy. They are taught to use tools, such as small hack saws and peelers for whittling wood. There will be a fire for warmth and cooking, so children will learn to respect both the uses and dangers that fire represents. Principles taken from the Montessori and Reggio approaches are brought into session planning and setting up the space.

I couldn’t get any pictures, as obviously there were lots of other kids wandering around and the nursery have a no phone policy, but the set up was impressive. Sessions are held in an enclosed area of Millfields Park, which has both a wooded area and an open space. A log circle was set up in the woods, with a tarp to keep people dry (thankfully not needed). Various toys, rope swings, and messy play stations were set up amongst the trees. They have a little tented toilet for the kids, and another tent for quiet time, reading and rest. Out in the open area, there was a wormery set up and a mud kitchen. There are various fallen trees and logs that the nursery have asked the park rangers to leave for climbing and imaginative play. It’s worth a visit to the nursery’s Facebook page to see pics of the site.

We had a great time at the open day – we toured the site, looking at the various play options and, in Tom’s case, trying to eat them (he sampled chalk, a lot of leaves and some clay. Enforcing the no licking rule may be a challenge with him!). It was especially nice to meet some other parents who are as mad about the outdoors as we are – sometimes I feel like a bit of the odd one out at Tom’s lovely, but very mainstream, nursery.

The only minor drawback is that the 0-3 year-old sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are both work days for me. However, I have spoken to Mr Techno, and he seems up for taking Tom on Tuesdays, so I’ll be signing them up (pending confirmation of fees). Roll on January!



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Leaving Your Baby Overnight

It’s been a bit quieter than usual on this blog the past few days, because I’ve been away. Not, sadly, on a lovely holiday to a warm beach, but in Exeter, where I was helping to organise a conference on cobbled paths in Devon’s churchyards. (It went well, since you ask).

Sadly, Exeter is a bit of a hike from London, so I had to travel down the evening before the conference (Thursday) and didn’t get back until late Friday night. Which meant when I kissed Tom goodbye at nursery on Thursday morning, I knew I wouldn’t see him again until Saturday morning, nearly 48 hours later.

This isn’t the first time I’ve left Tom overnight. That was back in June, when he was 9 months old and I had to go to Derbyshire to run a masterclass on the repair of slate roofs. I left him again in August to go to a friend’s hen do in Cornwall, and again for her wedding in September. Then again for one night of that five-day course back in October.

While leaving Tom during the day can often be a much welcomed break, I worry quite a lot when I’m away from him overnight, especially if it is somewhere it would take me a while to get back from. However, I have to say it is getting easier each time. That first time in June, I was pretty emotional (and had a stinking cold, which didn’t help). This time, I missed him and Mr Techno and thought about them a fair bit, but I was also very busy, so didn’t have too much time to dwell.

As well as keeping busy, it has been very helpful to know that I am leaving him with people I can absolutely trust. For most of my nights away, Mr Techno has been here so there has been no question that Tom will be looked after well. He was with me for the wedding in September, so my mum took Tom. She’s really great at following our preferences exactly and I can be sure that she will make sure Tom naps and eats and gets his nappy changed – and has a lovely time playing too. I’ve not left him with my mother-in-law overnight yet, but I know she’d be the same, as she is always brilliant when I leave him with her during the day. All of them are also great at keeping me updated – often with pictures sent over Whatsapp – so I know Tom is happy and well.

Because I am a control freak, anyone who takes care of Tom finds he comes with an instruction manual – really just a page with his normal routine, plus details of how to put him down for naps/bed, what to do if he is upset and how the cloth nappies work. Knowing they have it is really helpful to me in relaxing about being away, and also means that they have an easy reference and don’t have to call me every time something comes up. Leaving emergency numbers – contact details for both me and Mr Techno, and his doctor – is also a good idea just in case.

With all that in place, I can relax when I am away and know that Tom is well cared for. Though I was definitely very pleased to see this little face when I woke up on Saturday!

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Dressing a Baby in Winter

As an anxious new mum, I can remember spending a lot of time worrying about whether Tom was dressed right – too hot? too cold? too hampered by his layers? A well-meaning colleague had handed down one of those gro egg room thermometer thingys, and it seemed always to be telling me that the room was the wrong temperature. Fortunately, it broke after about a month, which was very helpful in lowering my stress levels!

As this is now my second winter with Tom, I hope I’ve learnt a few things about how to dress him appropriately for the weather. In the hope that it might be helpful to other new mums, I thought I’d put a post together comparing what Tom wore as at this time of year as a three month old with what he is wearing now as an active, outdoor fifteen month old.

Indoors

We had the heating on a lot more this time last year – 6 hours a day compared with 3 hours now. Tom was only able to scoot slowly around on his back though, where as now he never stays still for a moment.

Tom then – long sleeved vest, long-sleeved t-shirt or cardigan, trousers, and a pair of socks, with sock-ons to keep them on. If I was feeling especially lazy, he might have worn a sleepsuit instead of the t-shirt and trousers. Because the heating was on so much, he only needed a jumper indoors on the very coldest days.

Tom now –  it’s pretty cold in our flat during the day. Tom wears a short-sleeved vest, short-sleeved t-shirt, jumper, trousers and socks. The other day when it snowed, he also wore a pair of tights under the trousers and socks. Sometimes I will add an extra pair of socks, jumper or his dressing gown if he looks chilly.

Outdoors

Last year, Tom spent most of his time outdoors snuggled in the buggy or close to me in our wrap sling. We were rarely out for longer than half-an-hour at a time. Tom had just been diagnosed with an inguinal hernia, so we were spending most of our time going to doctor’s appointments and the hospital, trying to get a date for him to have an operation.

This year, we are out for at least an hour each day, often more. Tom either rides in the buggy, on my back in the carrier, or walks/runs by himself.

Tom then – in addition to his indoor clothes, he would wear a jumper and an all-in-one snow-suit, which had built in mittens and covered his feet. Depending on how cold it was, I either added a hat or just put up the hood of the snow suit.  We got him a cosy footmuff for Christmas, but before then he was under a blanket in the buggy, or sharing my body warmth in the sling. We tended not to go out when it was wet, but if we did I’d have the raincover on the buggy.

Tom now – over his indoor layers, I add a thickly lined waterproof jacket. He also wears a hat and his rain footies. If it is especially cold I add mittens (which he takes off and tries to lose), and an extra pair of socks. Sometimes a scarf. We still have the footmuff on the buggy. I struggle to get him into the carrier on my back when I’m wearing a thick coat, so we have been using that less since it got colder. If it rains, I put his hood up and add a pair of waterproof trousers. We still use the raincover if he’s in the buggy. He will soon start wearing shoes if it is especially cold out.

Sleep

This was the toughest one in the early days. I’d put Tom down warm from his bath, with the heating still on. But whatever he wore had to be warm enough to last him the cold hours of the night, especially as he was still waking several times (every 45 bastard minutes. I’m still traumatised now) Now days, Tom sleeps through and the house isn’t as warm when I put him down, so there is less debate over what to put him in.

Tom then – long-sleeved vest under a long-sleeved sleepsuit. We had some thicker, fleecy ones for especially cold nights. Initially he was swaddled, with one or two of those light weight cellular blankets. The zip on the swaddle broke mid-way through November, so we moved him into a 2.5 tog sleeveless sleeping bag instead (this probably contributed to the night-waking – we should really have kept him swaddled for at least another month). There is a really helpful chart here that I used to use to gauge if he was dressed right.

Tom now – short-sleeved vest under a pair of long sleeved pyjamas or a sleepsuit. Some of his pyjamas have feet, which I tend to use on colder nights. He uses a 2.5 tog sleeping bag, with no sleeves. He also sleeps with a blanket, but as a comforter rather than a cover. It usually ends up underneath him. I sometimes add a pair of socks and his dressing gown when he gets up for breakfast.

No pics sadly – not my first thought when I’m putting Tom to bed!

Top Tips

Babies have cold extremities. If you are trying to judge if they are warm enough, check their back and chest, not their hands or feet.

Look out for signs of overheating – flushed face, sweatiness, irritability – or coldness – blue lips, shivering, fretful crying.

Babies actually need colder rooms than you would think. A healthy temperature for a nursery is 16-20 degrees Celsius.

The best rule of thumb is to dress your baby in roughly what you are wearing, plus one light layer. So if I am heading out in a t-shirt, jumper, jeans and a coat, Tom will be wearing about the same, but with an additional vest and hat. The footmuff on the buggy makes up for the relative difference in activity between us if he is riding rather than walking along.

For advice on dressing young toddlers for even colder climates, there is a great post here from a mum who grew up in Scandinavia.

For advice on keeping yourself warm on long walks or hikes, see this post from the Helpful Hiker.

Hope you all stay warm this winter – and have plenty of outdoor play!

A Wintry Day in Lloyd Park, Walthamstow

After all the dire predictions that this winter would be the coldest winter in half-a-century (and other similarly doom-laden statements), the incredible mildness of the autumn months had lured me into a bit of a false sense of security. So it was a bit of a shock to look out of the window on Saturday morning and discover it was actually snowing. Quite heavily. And it is still only November.

I quickly grabbed Tom, and woke up Mr Techno, excitedly pointing out at the falling whiteness. Unfortunately the snow fall was relatively short, and none of it settled, but Tom was fascinated to see it.

Though the snow was brief, the cold was not, and we experienced our first properly cold day of this winter so far. After a morning of reading stories under blankets, we’d had enough of being indoors. Luckily the day had become one of those lovely clear days you get sometimes when it’s cold. I felt like a bit of a change from our usual haunts, so we headed into Walthamstow to visit Lloyd Park.

I love Lloyd Park. It’s a bit of a way from us, so we don’t get there that often, but it’s a really pretty park and, best of all, is home to the William Morris Gallery.

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The Gallery is housed in the childhood home of William Morris, one of Walthamstow’s most famous former residents. Most people know of the Victorian designer for his pivotal role in the Arts and Crafts movement, or his signature nature-inspired wallpaper patterns, but Morris was also a fervent socialist and a campaigner against the harmful ‘restoration’ of old buildings. In fact, in 1877 he was one of the co-founders of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the organisation I now work for.

As you can imagine, I have been round the Gallery a few times. I haven’t taken Tom as yet – though the Gallery is very family friendly and has some great exhibits for kids, they are better suited to slightly older toddlers (I’d say three and up).

We gave it a miss on Saturday as well, preferring instead to explore the gardens and park. It is really well equipped – play areas, basketball and tennis courts, a skate park, bowling greens, and open spaces. There is also a Children’s Centre, and, most importantly for trips with kids, two cafes – one in the Gallery and a more, ahem, affordable (read dirt cheap) one by the play area.

Tom, however, was interested in one thing only. The park has a moat, which is home to several species of ducks, Canadian Geese, and moorhens. Tom was in love. There was no hope of dragging him away from his new feathered friends, so I resigned myself to missing out on the playground. It’s just a shame I hadn’t thought to bring any bread with us.

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Despite the cold, we had a lovely afternoon in the park and were thrilled to see so many families doing the same. Plus Tom actually wore his hat and mittens for once, so we’ve finally justified buying them!

Life Unexpected

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