Sticks and Stones…

…make really good toys!

There’s been a bout of conjunctivitis going round Tom’s nursery and, when I picked him up last Thursday, it was clear he had succumbed to it. Which meant he couldn’t go to nursery on Friday. Working from home with a toddler, especially one who is not really sick, is a far different thing from working at home with a baby who can’t yet reach your keyboard. Clearly, if I was to get anything done some of Ton’s energy needed to be run off first.

We’ve been working on building him a mud kitchen for the garden, so it seemed like a perfect time to gather up some natural materials to go in it. So off we headed, with an old plastic bag in tow, to gather up some stones from our local patch of woodland.

Tom though this was a great game, once I’d explained what we were doing. Although he was rather too keen to empty everything back out of the bag at various intervals throughout our walk.

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Once we had collected a fair number, we headed home to try out their potential.

They were put into boxes and emptied out. Dipped into plant pots and awkwardly stacked on top of each other. Thrown onto the paving stones to make a clunk and banged against tables. In short, stones are awesome.

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So awesome that Tom kept bringing me his shoes and coat at various points throughout the weekend so we could go back out to play with them again.

Hurray for stones! (And sticks which have provided many a diversion when out on walks)

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When Clocks Stop, Fun Starts

I have to admit to being ever so slightly controlling when it comes to time. Much as I would love to be an instinctive, child-led, responsive parent, I tend to have half an eye on the clock throughout the day. And, though I think that a daily routine is important in helping both children and adults feel more secure, eat better, sleep better, and manage change better, I do find that our routine has a tendency to err a bit too much towards the strict schedule side of things, which I am less comfortable with.

This week though, everything has been different. This is because my watch battery has run flat and I have been too disorganised busy to sort out a replacement. I would have thought that I would be lost without the constant reassurance of knowing what time it is, but in fact it has been rather freeing. It’s not as though I don’t have access to other clocks – there’s one on my phone, one in our living room, one in our bedroom, and one on any computer I happen to be sat at. There’s even one in Tom’s room. So I still have a vague idea what time it is, but am less able to check every minute and plan our day down to the last second. Which means we are operating much more to a nice gentle routine, and less to a military-style schedule.

Tom and I spent a lovely day together last Wednesday. It’s usually our family day, but Mr Techno has been busy with the opening of the new restaurant and has been around less during the week than usual (we did get him over the weekend instead though, which was both unusual and lovely). So I really wanted to make it a fun day for just the two of us, which are far and few between now I’m up to four days of work.

I put Tom in the sling and we headed to the playground in Millfield Park, which has the most amazing sandpit. Or I thought it was amazing at least. Tom was more interested in the ramp up to it – he was so proud of himself for being able to manage the slope and went up and down it over and over again. Then we played hide and seek around the little house for a bit and he had a go on the swings.

We left the playground and walked up the path back into the main park. Which caused a bit of an argument. Tom was absolutely adamant that he wanted to go play with the cars. No, not toys ones, the fast, dangerous, very big ones on the road. Unsurprisingly, I was not up for this plan, so a few minutes were spent picking him up, carrying him away, having him scream in anger, and then chasing him as he ran back towards the road.

Usually our day out would have ended at this point, with me checking my watch and deciding we had spent long enough outside. But with no watch to give me an excuse, I stuck it out longer than I would normally. And I am so glad I did. Because the running-chasing-and-carrying-away turned from a tantrum-causing event to an amazing game. I’m not entirely sure how it happened – one minute Tom was arching his back and having a shout every time I picked him up, and the next he was running away giggling and waiting for me to shout ‘I’m coming to get you’. Which was his signal to stop dead still and wait for me to come grab him and spin him round in circles. We played for at least an hour, until we were both exhausted. It was lovely.

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Walking Home at Dusk

Typical isn’t it? No sooner do I post about the first signs of spring appearing than we get a proper cold snap. It’s been, quite literally, freezing here the past few days, especially in the mornings. All the puddles were iced over when Tom and I walked into nursery yesterday and we were both wishing I had remembered our gloves.

Nonetheless, I can still see hopeful signs of the seasons changing. Green buds are appearing on all the hawthorn bushes, there are daffodils growing outside the Parcelforce depot, and the park rangers have cleared the undergrowth in our local wood ready for the year’s new growth. Even better, the days have been getting longer. Just a week ago we were starting the walk back from nursery in the pitch black, whereas now we arrive home as the sun goes down.

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We’ve been taking advantage of the lighter evenings to resume our old habit of cutting through the woods on our way back from nursery, rather than going on the road. It got a bit scary when it was properly dark – there is no lighting along the path and I didn’t like not being able to see what was ahead of us, especially when I’m alone with Tom. But yesterday was the first time it had been light enough to see properly, so we headed through the trees to the park.

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We were rewarded with an encounter with a cheeky urban fox, who stood and stared at us for a long while before disappearing into the undergrowth. I didn’t get my camera out in time, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Usually I get slightly irate seeing foxes so bravely wandering around the city, but seeing this one in the more natural surroundings of our local woods just seemed right.

Nature Club: An Update

Back in November last year, Tom and I went to the open day of our new local Forest Nursery and had a great time exploring their facilities and discussing the importance of free play outdoors. The full time nursery starts from 3 years old and up, but there is a Nature Club for the 0-3’s. We found out in December that we had managed to get one of the places (there seems to have been some competition) and Tom and Mr Techno have been going every Tuesday for the last five weeks.

They are currently on a break from half-term, so it seemed like a good moment to update you all on how they’ve been getting on. Of course, I am at work on Tuesdays, so have to rely on reports from Mr Techno, which can be a bit lacking in detail at times!

The first week they went, Tom was suffering with teething pain and was not in the best mood. Apparently he didn’t really join in and just wanted cuddles the whole time, which is understandable if he wasn’t feeling 100%.

From the second week on, though, Tom seems to have really enjoyed himself. The ethos of the nursery is very much about free, child-led play, which suits us down to the ground. Apparently there are always some organised activities available, but no pressure to join in – it is up to the child whether they want to or not. Tom generally chooses not to – he is so used to wandering at will that he is entirely comfortable doing his own thing outdoors. Plus, at only 17 months, he is not yet at the stage of playing directly with other kids. Mr Techno, like me, is entirely happy to let Tom roam, as long as he can see where he is.

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Unsurprisingly, Tom’s favourite time is snack time. Mr Techno forgot to bring food one week, so Tom happily Yogi-beared it off everyone else (yes, that is the technical term). Boy does love to eat!

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He has played with chalk, clay, and their mud kitchen. Apparently he has also gained some little admirers – there are some older girls who follow him around everywhere.

This Tuesday, which was the last one before the half-term break, the site they usually use had become a little, ahem, waterlogged (thanks, Storm Imogen). So they all headed out onto the Marshes for a nature walk. Unfortunately, our little man took a bit of a tumble… face first into a puddle. But he was well togged up with waterproofs and recovered with a little helping hand from one of my jumpers (which he has adopted as a comforter following the tragic loss of his former comforter…one of my bed socks).

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Mr Techno seems to be enjoying himself too. He doesn’t often get a chance to meet other parents, and there are some other dads there, so he doesn’t feel like the odd one out. And it is nice to be with a group who share similar values to us (and don’t think we are being irresponsible for letting our toddler play outdoors in the winter).

The next half of term starts in a couple of weeks and they will definitely be going back!

A Smell of Spring?

Is it just me, or is there more than a hint of Spring in the air? I mean, this has been the most ridiculously mild winter anyway, but the last few days have definitely smelt pretty Spring-like.

Tom and I were out on the Marshes on Wednesday, enjoying the afternoon sun after a rather wet morning. There was still a bit of a chilly wind blowing, but otherwise it was a lovely mild day. The kind that makes you want to explore.

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We had a great afternoon of nature play. Tom found a feather, which he then made me carry for the rest of the walk. 

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We stopped by a while by some fallen logs, which were perfect for prodding and climbing on.

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Tom got a bit tired of walking towards the end, so hopped back in the buggy for the final loop towards home. We passed hawthorn bushes with fresh young leaves just starting to appear, and this blossom laden tree.

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I know it’s not the end of winter quite yet, but I couldn’t help starting to make plans for when the weather is warmer…picnics and day trips and weekends in my mum’s garden. It’s that optimism that comes with the first signs of Spring.

Of course, these early signs, along with all the extreme weather we’ve experienced this winter, likely relate to climate change. Which is a dampening thought. But I still can’t stop myself from enjoying the thought of the changing seasons.

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