“No, No, No!”

Tom may only be 19 months old, but it’s clear that toddler-stubbornness is already setting in. Handily, he has decided to learn the word ‘no’ in order to explain to us exactly what we are doing wrong. Which currently seems to be everything!

To add to the already long list of things Tom doesn’t like, which includes things like getting dressed, having his nappy changed, having his teeth brushed by other people, having his face wiped, having his hair washed, vegetables… we now have to add baths without bubbles, getting into the high chair, getting out of the high chair, and having to take his shoes off.

I have to assume that being sick so much lately is partly to blame – we certainly have a huge step up in tantrums when he’s tired, and his response to being ill is to sleep a lot (I know. We are very lucky. Don’t hate me). Sadly though, I suspect much of this is just the wonderful world of self-assertiveness that is toddlerdom.

Fortunately, one of the few things Tom doesn’t say no to is outdoor play. In fact, I narrowly diverted a tantrum on Saturday morning when he brought me his shoes, and then his coat, so we could go play in the garden. He was still in his pajamas, wasn’t wearing a nappy, and refused to put his blanket down…but we rolled with it anyway. After all, next door’s cat was sitting on our fence so clearly needed it’s peace interrupting!

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Oops…

Well that was a slightly unintentional blog holiday, though those who have seen my last post can probably work out why!

Fortunately, Tom is now recovered from the conjunctivitis, oral thrush, a bout of croup and getting his lower canines through. And my stomach has settled down after two separate incidences of food poisoning (I’d like to point out that neither of these was caused by food I had cooked…). So normal service should now resume, assuming we have no further random illnesses in the near future.

Despite the various small disasters of the last few weeks, we have still been enjoying some outdoor play. Luckily, Easter fell in a rare patch where neither Tom nor I was actively ill, so we were able to enjoy a lovely weekend in the country with my family. My dad is currently living in Singapore for work and my sister’s boyfriend lives in Abu Dhabi, so it is a rare and wonderful occasion when all of us are able to be together in the same room. Sadly, Mr Techno did have to work most of the weekend, but managed to sneak down on Saturday to spend the day with us all (or, rather, to watch the rugby whilst eating his own body weight in hot cross buns).

The weather was less than fantastic, apart from Good Friday which was gloriously sunny. Tom happily splashed water in the garden and ‘helped’ his grandfather install a new watering system for the potted plants (I suggested a watering can, but apparently this is too lo-tech). Then we went to the park where Tom and my dad had some good bonding time. They see each other so rarely, but they really get on well. My dad is a bit British when it comes to emotions, but lets his guard down much more with Tom. Let’s hope that bond will last!

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Despite the wet weather the rest of the weekend, we managed to visit another park on Saturday and Tom and my mum went for a ‘nature walk’ around the garden on Sunday. They found some frog spawn and Tom chased the chickens. Or they chased him. Hard to tell really.

We’ve also been enjoying getting out on the Marshes now that the weather is warmer and it has been wonderful to be able to hang the washing outside – with the result that the laundry basket is actually empty for the first time in about…19 months?

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Literacy and Outdoor Play

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I have a friend who is a primary school teacher in a fairly typical inner city school. In fact, she is not just a teacher, but also head of literacy, despite only having been a teacher for three years. She is passionate about engaging kids with books and that just shines through when you talk to her.

A few months ago, we were chatting about the importance of reading to kids. She told me about reading the Gruffalo with one of her classes. She hadn’t got past the first page when one of the kids interrupted. To ask why it was dark in the forest. None of the other kids could work it out either.

Why? Because these are kids who have never played in a wood.

They don’t know that trees block out light to make forests dark. They have no personal experience to fit these stories into.

I don’t think anyone would deny that learning to read is important. But my friend’s experience shows that outdoor play is a key part of fostering a love of books. Kids need to experience the physical world in order to let the imaginative world of literature take shape. To learn that trees cast shadows. To learn that grass swashes and mud squelches (especially when hunting bears).

It works the other way too. Books can provide a framework for creative outdoor play. Tom and I have hunted bears (well…ok… multicoloured plastic crabs) on the Walthamstow Marshes and enjoyed windy day play with Carol Thompson’s Wind

Experiencing firsthand the wonders of nature is integral to encouraging literacy in kids. And vice versa. Plus, who can argue with a love of books and a love of nature as worthy things to nurture in our kids?

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In Search of Work Life Balance

Before Christmas, we were in a great routine. I was working three days a week, Tom was happy at nursery two days a week, and we had worked out a daily schedule of naps, meals and outdoor play. Plus a family day once a week.

The new year has brought huge change. I’ve taken a second job, bringing me up to four days a week of work. And so Tom is now at nursery three days a week and has also started nature club once a week. Mr Techno has just taken a new job, involving a restaurant opening, so is home less and stressed more. And in the midst of all this, Tom has dropped one of his naps (perversely he has dropped the afternoon one instead of the morning one that we were expecting).

Unsurprisingly, all this is having an impact on our outdoor time. Before, I was home with Tom four days a week. We tended to get out twice a day – a short trip after Tom’s morning nap and a longer trip after his afternoon nap. Now…we still walk to nursery and back on the days he goes. Whatever the weather. But both of us are adapting to the longer working weeks, so we haven’t been stopping off in the park for play on the way back  – Tom is almost always asleep in the buggy.

We also get out every day when I am home. But because Tom is taking one very long nap in the mornings (9.30-12.30 most days), we tend to stay in until after lunch and just do one longer trip out in the afternoons. And because we have fewer days together and almost never see Mr Techno for a full day, we have been mostly sticking to our usual parks and the Marshes, rather than heading further afield.

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I like the new job. It’s interesting and I can see ways I can make a difference. But balancing two jobs is difficult. Especially since both involve running events. Just looking at my calendar for this year scares me. 

I know we will find a new routine.  It will come with time. But it has been a real learning curve the last few weeks and I find myself missing our easy, lazy days. Much as I don’t want to wish my life away…is there someway to skip this transition phase and move right to the time when all this feels comfortable and everyday? Because I am more than ready to get there!

A New Park and a Winter Picnic

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Brr, it has been chilly the last few days. It’s taking me much longer than usual to get Tom and myself dressed in the mornings – we’re both wandering around wearing enough layers to be cosy in the arctic!

We’ve been trying not to let the cold scare us off going out. Mostly pretty successfully. We’ve walked to and from nursery every day that Tom goes, he and Mr Techno have started their weekly nature club, and Tom and I spent a great weekend wandering around the Marshes and Springfield Park.

Wednesday is my day off, and Mr Techno had to work, meaning family day has had to be postponed until Sunday. Irritatingly, the parcels that were supposed to be delivered earlier in the week hadn’t turned up, so we had to make a trip to the sorting office, a half hour walk away. As Tom has taken to napping late into the afternoons, it had to be a morning trip, which wasn’t going to leave us much time to get there and back before Tom wanted lunch.

I was determined not to give up our outdoor playtime, so had a good look on Google maps and spotted a little park close to the sorting office; one we had never been to before. And so a plan was hatched – we’d pick up the parcels, have a play in the park, then have a winter’s picnic before heading home for Tom’s nap.

The park turned out to be pretty small, with not much open space. But that didn’t matter at all as it had a huge play area. My one complaint about our local park is that even the toddler equipment doesn’t have easy to climb steps, so Tom needs help using it. No such issues here – there were perfect Tom-sized structures.

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After a good play, we settled down on a bench to enjoy a sandwich and grape lunch.

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By this point we were both pretty cold, despite our layers and the winter sun. So it was time to walk home for cuddles and naps.

I’m glad we made the effort to fit in some outdoor play and discovered a new park into the bargain!



Life Unexpected