Outdoors in East London with a Toddler: Springfield Park

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Springfield Park is one of my favourite parks. Partly because it always seems to be sunny there (although I may be getting cause and effect the wrong way round) and partly because the walk there from our flat either takes us over the Marshes or along the river. So getting there is almost as lovely as the park itself.

The park really is beautiful. It has both cultivated gardens and open green spaces. There’s a kids play area, tennis courts, fountains, and a cricket pitch. Best of all, there are stunning views out over the river and the marshes beyond.

That stunning view does come at a cost – the park is very hilly, which can be an issue with the buggy. But it is worth it, not just for the view but for the lovely park cafe. There’s not loads of indoor tables, but a huge outdoor seating area. And since it’s always sunny there, who needs to be indoors? Plus they do yummy hot chocolate. And a range of light meal options, many of which are veggie friendly.

Tom and I met a friend there on Saturday and I remembered all over again why I love it so much. Hurray for our local green spaces!

Life Unexpected

Baking with a Toddler

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I love to cook. And I want Tom to share that love. So I’ve been impatiently waiting for him to be old enough to start getting involved in the kitchen. He’s now 16.5 months and I thought I’d give it a first try.

Obviously anything involving cooking over the hob or sharp knives is out at this age. Which really just leaves baking. I had no eggs, and bread is a bit time consuming for a little one, so we went with biscuits as the best option.

I try to feed Tom a healthy diet. He gets ‘dessert’ after lunch and dinner, but it’s a piece of fruit or a small yoghurt. We don’t really have snack food in the house. Having said that, I don’t see anything wrong with the occasional treat, especially if it is something homemade. Otherwise I worry he will see those foods as forbidden, which will only make them more attractive.

I decided on peanut butter biscuits. Mainly because we had the ingredients already. Since Tom was going to have to stand on a chair to help, I got everything we needed together before we started.

Tom watched with interest as I measured out flour, then sugar, and tipped them into a measuring bowl. I couldn’t persuade him to help with this part, but he did find the tipping very funny for some reason.

He was more interested in helping with the butter and peanut butter. And by helping I mean eating. He managed to grab a handful of peanut butter before I could stop him, but I got the butter away in time.

Once I had the butter and peanut butter a bit more mixed into the other ingredients, he lost interest in trying to eat them and got involved with helping me mix. He really enjoyed this bit and kept looking at me and grinning. He was even more pleased when I put the dough out onto the table and showed him how to sprinkle flour over to stop it sticking.

For some reason, Tom got quite cross when I started rolling the dough out, and kept trying to take it away from me. I think he was enjoying patting it. He got back on board for the cutting bit though and, once I had showed him what to do, very much enjoyed placing the biscuits on the baking tray. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he kept taking the offcuts and putting them on the tray too.

The biscuits had a few fingerprints and were a bit misshapen, but for a first effort I’m pretty proud of our baking trial. We had a couple of them each after Tom’s dinner and they were yummy. I look forward to baking with Tom a lot more in the future!



Weekly Report: W/c 04.01.16

After the lovely long Christmas break, it was a bit of a come down to have to go back to work last week. Having said that, getting back to our normal routine was beginning to look attractive after having had so much going on.

We started on Monday with a much needed trip to the shop to stock up on some extra groceries. It then started raining as we ate lunch, but fortunately was clear by the time Tom woke up from his nap. Expecting more rain, I opted for water play in the garden, which was a huge success. I’ve resolved to do more with the space and am on the look out for inspiration.

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Tuesday was my first day back at work. I left Tom and Mr Techno to enjoy each others’ company, returning to find they hadn’t actually left the flat all day! Big fail on the outdoor front.

We had to wait in on Wednesday morning to have a new lock fitted. So I was keen to get out in the afternoon. Sadly, Tom and I had different agendas for our walk, making it a bit of a disastrous one. Isn’t parenting fun!

Thursday started rather wet, with a walk to nursery in the pouring rain. Tom was dry under his buggy’s rain cover, and I had my waterproofs, but it wasn’t the most pleasant walk we’ve ever had. Fortunately it had stopped by the time I picked him up again, though we skipped our normal stop off in the park, since I had to get us both packed and ready to go to Suffolk the following evening.

 

Friday morning was much nicer – dry and quite sunny, though cold. Tom was not in a great mood: it took us ages to get out of the house and he then grumbled all the way to nursery. I wasn’t in the best of moods either, which didn’t help. Bad time of the month! We didn’t have our usual walk back that evening, as Mr Techno came to pick us up so we could all drive to Suffolk to see my in-laws for the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday were spent in Suffolk, enjoying the beautiful countryside. Mr Techno went shooting on Saturday with his day, and Tom and I enjoyed lots of walks and exploring.

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It wasn’t the greatest of weeks – I was in a crappy mood and so was Tom, though I suspect his was at least a bit caused by my lack of patience and empathy. I’m fine at this parenting lark when everything is going well, but don’t seem to be able to cope with things going wrong. Must work on some techniques for maintaining standards even when I’m having a bad day (tips very welcome!)

Can Sick Kids Play Outdoors?

IMG_0331After a lovely weekend in Suffolk, we came back to real life with a crash on Monday, when Mr Techno got a call to pick Tom up from nursery. Poor little man had a temperature, was off his food and generally not his happy, bouncy self. Mr Techno had the day off anyway, so was able to pick him up and take him home for cuddles and naps.

By the time I got home from work, Tom was looking much better and his temperature was back down. He had a very flushed little cheek though and we’ve noticed his canines pushing through, so we guessed he was probably teething. He was fine first thing on Tuesday and ate his breakfast as normal, so we assumed all was well. I headed off to work, and Mr Techno took Tom for his first Nature Club session.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I had a text from Mr Techno telling me that Tom had been very grumpy at Nature Club and had then fallen asleep midway through the session. So either the teething was causing him more issues than we thought, or he is sick.

Straight off, I should say that we wouldn’t have taken him to Nature Club if we had thought he was actually sick, rather than just teething, as passing on germs to other babies is not exactly good behaviour. However, it has got me thinking about whether we should be keeping Tom inside if he is unwell. Logically speaking, I can’t actually see any reason why he should have to stay indoors – of course he should be kept warm, but if he is well wrapped up outdoors he’ll actually be warmer than he would be in our not-very-warm flat. Fair enough he may not feel like running around and will probably prefer to snuggle in the buggy, but do we really need to keep him in?

Like all responsible parents when faced with a medical question, I have turned to Dr Google for the answers. And come up with a bit of a blank, at least when it comes to an actual medical opinion. What I found instead was various forums and blog posts from parents who either advocate letting sick kids play outside, or who are horrified by the thought. So it seems we are left to trust our own common sense on this one, which is, quite frankly, terrifying.

First of all, I thought about how illnesses are caused. And since we no longer live in Victorian times, we are fairly clear that they are caused by viruses, bacterial or fungal infections, genetic issues, or autoimmune conditions. Not being out in cold weather. Having said that, I did wonder whether our immune systems might work less well when we are cold. A cursory search on Google Scholar didn’t turn up conclusive evidence either way – the best I could find was a study from the 1970s that seemed to indicate a reduced immune response in fish when the water is colder, but how applicable this is to humans is questionable. Lets just say that it is miserable to be ill and miserable to be cold, so ill people probably shouldn’t have to be cold if it can be avoided. Having said that, it is perfectly possible to be warm outdoors in winter, as long as you are suitably dressed.

Second, I looked into the claim that fresh air helps prevent sickness. According to this site, a Swedish study found that children who attended a forest school had 25% less sick days. I’ve seen this quoted before, but couldn’t find the original study (which is presumably in Swedish anyway). So I don’t know that this is true. A similar claim is made in this article from an actual academic journal, so there may well be truth to the claim.

Essentially, I could find nothing to say that being outdoors would make Tom worse, and a few things that indicated that being outdoors might help fight illness. So we will be continuing to get outdoors with Tom, although probably shorter trips, with the buggy to hand if he needs to curl up and sleep. We will, however, be keeping him away from the park and other places where he would be likely to infect other kids until he begins to get better. Because that is just good manners.

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Weekend with the In-Laws

Mr Techno grew up in Suffolk, in a lovely rural area near the coast. It’s where we spent Christmas this year. His family are very close – he has an older sister and younger brother – and all try to see each other regularly. Sadly, Me Techno’s schedule means that we rarely have days off at the same time, which can make it difficult for us to get up to see them as often as we’d like. We are doing better than usual at the moment though: not only did we spend a good amount of time there over Christmas, we also managed to visit again last weekend.

The main purpose of our visit was so that Mr Techno could accompany his dad on the local shoot, which my father-in-law runs. Mr Techno was taught to shoot as a child, and now always tries to have one weekend a year where he can go out. They shoot pheasants and partridge, which are then turned into pies for us all to fill our freezers with. I know some people will have issues with the idea of killing for sport (I do not agree with fox hunting, for example), but in terms of ethically sourced meat, shooting game birds scores pretty highly in my book. You don’t get much higher animal welfare than a bird who has been raised completely free in the Suffolk countryside.

They headed off on Saturday morning, well wrapped up against the cold and with a huge hamper of lunch prepared by my mother-in-law. Meanwhile, we women (and Tom) were left to amuse ourselves.

One of the things I love about visiting my in-laws is that they understand the need for people to have their own space. Although they are all very close, there is no expectation that everyone must join in with every activity, and people are always welcome to go off and do their own thing. This makes family time much more manageable and enjoyable! So on Friday evening, my mother-in-law and I agreed that we would have a relaxed morning, doing our own thing, and then head to Snape Maltings for a walk and a look round the shops in the afternoon.

Having arrived relatively late the evening before, Tom and I had a bit of a lie-in, not getting up until 7.45. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then got Tom togged up in his coats and wellies, and headed out into the garden. I was just planning a gentle explore of the lawn, maybe some swinging, but Tom had grander ideas and headed for the gate. So we went on a mini-walk down the farm track, across the road and down a footpath, accompanied some of the way by my mother-in-law and the dogs, who had caught up with us on their way to the village shop. Tom took a couple of tumbles and got a bit muddy, so we turned back to find him some lunch, whilst my mother-in-law continued on with her walk.

After lunch and Tom’s nap, we all piled into the car (dogs included) and drove to Snape Maltings, which is a collection of shops, galleries and a concert hall housed in buildings that were once used to malt barley for brewing.There is also access to a range of walks along the River Alde, which, because of it’s tidal nature, attracts lots of wildlife and birds. Raised walkways have been built around the estuary to allow people to walk without getting wet or stuck in the mud!

It began chucking it down with rain almost the moment we parked the car. Luckily we were all well prepared with hats and waterproofs, and snuggled Tom up in the buggy under the rain cover. The rain didn’t last long and eased off as we headed out along the river. The area has a stark kind of beauty at this time of year, with the bare trees making incredibly sculptural shapes against the flat land. I grew up in the Surrey Hills, and always feel the lack of slopes when I’m in Suffolk, but I can’t deny that it has its own attractions.

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After a lovely, though slightly muddy, walk, we headed back to the Maltings for a quick look around the shops. By now the light was fading, so it was time to head back home and get Tom’s dinner. We arrived home at the same time as the men, who were both very pleased with their performance. A lovely looking pheasant pie is now sitting in our freezer.

We were heading home after lunch on Sunday, but still managed to get out in the morning for a wander around the farm grounds (the fields are let out to local farmers, but the family still own the old farm buildings, keep chickens and grow vegetables and fruit on the remaining land). Tom very much enjoyed having both his parents with him to explore, although he did need a helping hand on some of the more uneven bits of ground.

All in all, a lovely weekend with plenty of opportunties to explore the Suffolk countryside. Plus plenty of good food, family time and good wine (for the adults).

Life Unexpected