Weekly Report – w/c 16/11/2015

Well winter definitely arrived this week. After a mild start, the temperature plummeted at the weekend and we’ve been having to wrap up warm before venturing out. Here’s how we got on:

Monday started well, with a woodland walk in the morning. Well sort of a walk. Tom was in charge, so in fact it was more like the same patch of woodland over and over and over again. But he seemed happy! We popped to the playground in the afternoon and Tom enjoyed some playtime with a friendly 2 year old.

We started Wednesday back at the playground, which had been invaded by a preschool group on the hunt for autumnal goodies. They had a work-sheet and everything. One kind little boy tried to get Tom involved, only to be met with a blank look. Tom then toddled off mid-explanation. Those social skills have a little way to go!

We had planned a trip to Brooks Farm that afternoon, but it was grey, wet and miserable. Mr Techno was very reluctant to go out, so we made oobleck to play with instead. I thought it might interest Tom for 15 minutes or so, but in fact he was enthralled and played with it for an incredible hour and a half. The adults were pretty interested too.

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Thursday was clear for our walk in to nursery. In the evening, Tom explored happily. He was especially pleased to find a massive puddle, which needed to be walked through repeatedly. With giggling.

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Friday was much the same, though colder. I was a bit concerned about Tom’s hands, which he kept insisting on dipping in cold puddles. He was probably fine in fact, but my overprotective mother head kicked in and I made him get back in the buggy. Of course this did not go down well. I think it’s about time I read up on techniques for keeping calm in the face of tantrums.

We were amazed on Saturday morning to see snow falling. Sadly, it didn’t last long, but it did highlight a rather gaping hole in Tom’s wardrobe – his rain footies are fine for the wet, but wouldn’t be warm enough in snow if it was too settle. Time for a pair of barefoot shoes after all.

We wrapped up warm in the afternoon and headed to Lloyd Park in Walthamstow. Post to follow on our adventures there.

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Sunday was another cold day. So cold in fact that I could see my breath inside the house. Mr Techno gently pointed out that this was probably not healthy, so the heating is now on two hours in the morning and one in the evening, which has already made a huge difference. We spent the morning in Leyton Jubilee Park and I was hoping for a nice long walk in the afternoon. This was rather scuppered by Tom taking a three hour nap. By the time he woke up and we had done milk and nappy change, it was 4 pm and starting to get dark. Boy must be about to have a growth spurt or something!

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I have to say, I’ve been a bit uninspired this week. Rather a lot of time at the playground and being scared off by the weather. Time to buy some warmer clothes and head out for more exciting winter adventures!

Pros and Cons of Raising an Urban Wildling

Bearing in mind my commitment to spending time outdoors, it may not come as a surprise to learn that I never intended to be raising a child in London. In fact, I never even intended to live here myself.

For a few years after Mr Techno and I got married, I resisted the idea of moving to London, which was exactly what most of our contemporaries did straight after leaving uni. But eventually it became clear that we needed to be here for the sake of both our careers. After a few awkward months of commuting from Leighton Buzzard, I agreed to the move and we started renting the flat where we still live in August 2013.

In December 2013, we got a bit of a surprise when we learnt I was pregnant. A very happy surprise, but not one we had planned for! We were lucky that we already lived in a two bed flat (though the second bedroom was being used as a living room), so we were able to stay put. In August 2014, we welcomed Tom.

Raising a child in London has both pros and cons, especially when I’m aiming to raise a ‘Wildling’ rather than a city child.

Pros

1) It’s easy to get around locally on foot, meaning we get to spend more time outside.

2) Lots of green space. London is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. According to Visit London, there are more than 3,000 parks and open spaces in the city.

3) Good public transport links mean we rarely have to use the car.

4) City farms!

5) Endless toddler groups, soft play centres, and other child-friendly activities and events.

6) Easy to find like-minded parents – with this many people around, there is bound to be a group for parents who share your parenting approach.

7) Good choice of childcare. Outdoor space was a priority for us, so having a range of nurseries to choose from gave us the opportunity to find one with the space we were looking for. There are also different options such as Montessori or Steiner preschools for older toddlers.

Cons

1) Not much garden space. We are actually unusually lucky in that our flat does have a small garden. But we are on the first floor, meaning we have to go down a steep, narrow staircase to access it. It is also tiny, paved, and acts as a toilet for the local cats. Because we rent, there are limits to what we can do to improve the space. Though it will be my project for this spring.

2) Traffic. Cars, cyclists, even fast moving pedestrians can be hazardous to slow-moving toddlers who are just learning to walk and have little concept of personal safety.

3) Busy wild spaces. Although London does a good job when it comes to the provision of green space, the large population means that you have to share them, especially on warm days and weekends.

4) Limited step-free access. For those of us with buggies, accessing the tube can be difficult and frustrating. Buses are great, but slower. So getting to some areas of the city can be tough.

5) Pollution.

Hey, look at that! Seems like the pros outweigh the cons, at least for the moment. Truthfully, I am really happy with our lives here. It may not be what I planned, but raising a Wildling in London is not as much of an effort as I might have thought before Tom was born.

What about you? Do you have an urban family or are you rural all the way?

You Baby Me Mummy

Finding Time for Outdoor Play

On the days I don’t work, making time to play outdoors is no issue. We have a park around the corner, the Marshes nearby, and lots of other green spaces that we can easily access. Tom still naps twice a day, and we do have to find time for meals, chores, bath time and bed, but that still leaves us with a good chunk of time in both the morning and the afternoon to get out.

Work days are more challenging though. Tuesdays, Mr Techno has off so he and Tom can enjoy being outdoors together (though Mr Techno is rather more weather shy and prefers not to go out when it’s wet). But on Thursdays and Fridays both of us work and Tom goes to a lovely little nursery about half-an-hour’s walk away. The nursery have a great outdoor play area, with a separate bit just for the baby room, and their policy is to get out as much as possible, even when it’s cold. But it is very much a playground – they have that rubberised tarmac stuff on the ground – and I prefer that Tom have some time each day in a more natural environment.

So how do we find time for outdoor play on work/nursery days? Well, one of the unexpected blessings of the nursery being a bit further away is that we can walk in. In fact, because of the way the bus routes work, it only takes about 10 minutes longer to walk than it would to get the bus. We have a cosy footmuff on the buggy, and the rain cover lives permanently in the bottom of it, meaning we can walk in all weathers. I get a bit wet sometimes, but have taken to keeping a ‘kag in the bag’ in the buggy too, so I always have a waterproof to hand. Even better, the route takes us via our local park, so we get to see some greenery on our way.

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We aim to leave the house at 7.30 am. We actually leave the house at around 7.40 am. That gets us to nursery for drop off at roughly 8.10. The tube is close by, so I am generally at my desk by 8.45 at the latest. And I get in having had a bit of exercise, some fresh air, and a bit of quality time with my boy, all of which makes the working day a bit more pleasant.

We have a bit more time at the other end of the day. Unless snack time is running especially late, we generally leave nursery by about 5.30 pm. Tom has his bath at 6.30, so that gives us an hour free. Half-an-hour walking, and half-an-hour’s play in the park.

We are definitely missing the lighter, warmer evenings. Before the clocks went back, we had a good amount of daytime left when we got to the park. Tom could explore, point out doggies, and examine leaves to his heart’s content.

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The dark evenings have been a bit of an issue. But not as much of an issue as I thought they might be. Once I had gotten over my initial ‘I can’t let the baby toddle round the park in the dark’ panic, I realised that this was another case of exaggerating the risk. What, exactly, was I so worried about? Yes, it is a bit harder for bikes to see him, but the park is floodlit, I’m always close, and I plan to buy him a hi-vis jacket (many thanks to Tammy Twinkle for this suggestion!) So why shouldn’t he explore?

And he has had a great time. He’s discovered shadows, and is busy working on the idea that dark patches on the ground are sometimes shadows and sometimes puddles (in the name of science, he has to walk through each one several times to make sure which it is). We have occasional battles over which way to walk, but otherwise outdoor play in the dark is a lot of fun and a great way for us to bond after a day apart.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Life in the Slow Lane

If I could take one phrase that makes me a better parent and tattoo it on my brain, it would be this; slow down.

It’s no secret that we live in a fast paced world. And I am as guilty as anyone. Mr Techno hates walking anywhere with me because he says I go everywhere at ‘Lucy marching speed’ (which translates to ‘as fast as I can possibly walk and not actually be jogging’). At work, I am known for being speedy with my responses – because of a quirk with the computer clocks, I once confirmed a course booking before the time stamp on the email said it had actually been made. The Finance Department were rather bemused!

14 months ago, when Mr Techno and I found ourselves the unprepared parents of a beautiful newborn boy, I took the same approach to child care. Any cry had to be answered immediately. Nappy changes were done at racing speed. In the rare moments I was not actually holding Tom, I ate, showered, and went to the toilet as though I was being chased.

Fortunately, you spend a lot of time sitting when you have a newborn (because they will not nap anywhere but on you). So I had a lot of googling time. And what does an anxious new parent google except for…everything to do with babies ever written (did I mention I’m a fast reader too?)

Thankfully, amongst all that anxiety-causing advice, I stumbled across Janet Lansbury’s website and discovered RIE. And one of the key things I learnt was that to care for a young baby, you need to slow your pace to theirs. Instead of jumping up frantically every time Tom cried, I began waiting, watching, trying to determine what he was trying to tell me, and only then acting. Nappy changes became long, leisurely exchanges where I chatted happily to Tom, pausing before carrying out each step to check in with him, tell him what was happening and wait for his response before continuing.

These days, nappy changes are back to being a sprint rather than a marathon, as I try to get him clean and into a new nappy before he gets bored and wanders off, or climbs on the soft furnishings. But I’m glad to have discovered a slower pace of life. Because toddlers and fast really do not go well together (unless you have a bare bottom boy escaping from the change mat of course). Every walk turns into a voyage of discovery, as Tom investigates the different textures, smells, sounds and sights of his new world. We spent a good five minutes staring at a cat earlier today. Last week he refused to finish crossing a bridge until he had poked every bit of moss on the way across. And there was a lot of moss.

Obviously this can be quite annoying if we are trying to get home for a meal, or naptime, or so I can do some laundry. But in general I try to keep our days together relatively free of appointments, so that we can take the time to explore. If that means taking twenty minutes to walk to the park (which is two minutes away), because Tom likes the way the leaves crunch, then so be it.

We have to rush a bit more on work days of course – we have to be out of the door by 7.30 to reach Tom’s nursery by 8.00. And we are never out of the door by 7.30. But if I’m a tiny bit late for work some days, it isn’t the end of the world. I’ll make it up somewhere else. Time spent with Tom though? That I can never make up somewhere else. So I’m going to continue to enjoy the slow lane. The view is much better at this speed.

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Windy Day Play

The rain may have cleared, but Sunday was still pretty grey. When we went to the park in the morning, the wind was blowing so strongly that it actually knocked Tom over a couple of times.

Clearly there was nothing to do but to embrace the wind and turn it into our play theme for the day. Whilst Tom napped, I scoured the house for some suitable equipment. I gathered together some ribbons, a light silky scarf, some bubble mix we got given as a favour at a recent friend’s wedding, and Wind by Carol Thompson, a book we were given free at Tom’s one year review (I love it. Mr Techno…doesn’t). I attached one of the ribbons to a kitchen spoon with some sticky tape, with the idea that this might make it easier for Tom to hold.

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When he woke, we headed out to find a suitably exposed spot on the Marshes (and a fairly quiet one – the fewer people who witness me dancing around with ribbons the better!)

We quickly discovered two flaws with the plan: 1) Tom is still too little to be able to hold the ribbons high enough for the wind to blow them, and 2) Trying to take photos whilst simultaneously waving ribbons in the wind is damn near impossible. After a bit of tickling Tom with the ribbons, we gave up with them and attached them to the buggy instead, where they blew around merrily every time a gust caught them up.

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The scarf was more successful. Tom loves the parachute game that is sometimes played at toddler groups, so this was a good variation to do with just the two of us. He giggled happily as the scarf flew out in the wind and came down to settle over his head.

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The big success of the day was the bubbles. Tom loves them when we play at home, but the wind sent bubbles speeding off in all directions, making him whoop with excitement. Sadly he hasn’t quite worked out how to blow them himself yet, but it is only a matter of time.

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Tom then found the book in the bottom of the buggy, so we settled down in the grass for a read, the wind providing fitting accompaniment to the sound effects in the book. We tossed handfuls of leaves into the air as we read, illustrating the ‘rustling’ and ‘snatching’.

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Mixed success with the materials, but I can see us repeating this again on windy days. The ribbons may have to wait until he’s a bit older though!

Do you have any top tips for windy day activities for our next adventure?

Monkey and Mouse