Categories
Family Parent

Living In the Present

When you start to gain followers, or you are even simply posting or chatting to your friends, its easy to be hooked to our devices. Even before having Munchkin, I’d use my phone as a comfort blanket, allowing me to avoid conversation at ease when I felt uncomfortable.

However, I have recently had the realisation, when I think about Munchkin’s future, that while having a phone may be essential for him one day, we want him to prefer to play a game with us, read a book or get outside.

It is also stark when you have a look at that bit in your settings which monitors your app usage. I’m not going to say a number of hours I saw in mine, but, I can tell you I was shocked. Oh instagram, you are rather addictive.

One thing I realised, it that even if I put put only three to five stories in a day, I’d do them as they happened, then respond to responses instantly. This could take a lot of time, and that was time I was not then spending with Munchkin. It made no difference to take the photos and videos, then post later when I’m not missing the next thing. Particularly, when with a child, that next thing could be their first word, or first steps or any of the thousands of little but exciting developments they gain in their first two years.

Also, notifications don’t expire. You don’t miss something because you didn’t pick up your phone when it just buzzed. The notification will be sitting there later waiting just as it does when it comes through the first time. And 99 percent of the time, that message can wait, as the point of instant messaging is, messaging, not constant conversation-ing.

If you really need help avoiding you device, see if your phone has a built in focus mode, or download an app such as Freedom, or Forest, which let’s a hypothetical forest grow for all period of time you’ve saved. I found my phones focus mode has helped working from home.

So, I guess I’m sort of writing this as my pledge. To be the best Hubby and Daddy I can be all the time and stop Instagram (other social media devils are available) stealing me away from being in the moment.

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Categories
Baby learning Development and discovery Parent Learning

Montessori Methods at Home

Montessori play is something I’d never heard about before becoming a parent but is something so great for development. What it means to me is giving Munchkin that freedom to choose what to play or do, making those choices accessible, learn through play and learn life skills.

Here’s a quick what to do to set up Montessori style at home and how we’ve done it, some of which by chance.

  1. Designate an accessible place for everything

This comes down to making things easy reach for your child. From toys, to books, to arts and crafts and snacks and drinks.

For us, we have all toys in low drawers and shelves, clothes for nursery days in bottom drawers, books under the TV for little hands to grab, and Munchkin level snack shelves so he can choose when he’s hungry and what to eat (within reason!).

2. Emphasize Life Skills

This swings on how even young children are capable of pitching in around the house in one way or another and by helping, it sets them up to be considerate and capable adults.

With Munchkin, this occurred naturally. Start to clean, he wants a cloth to join in too. Approach the dishwasher, he wants to help empty it. Hang out the washing, he would help ‘sort’ and pass the items to be hung. I always take him to show him jobs like watering the plants. I’m just too scared to give him a watering can indoors just yet!

3 .Teach Concentration

This is one I could question, but when you read, its about identifying your child’s interests and setting things up to keep them concentrating and thoroughly exploring for a period of time.

We know Munchkin loves the outdoors and a good sensory play activity. So we set up some time and some space and try to make the activity evolve to keep his interest and therefore concentration. For example, we set up an ice play activity, then introduced bubbles and coloured water later to evolve the play.

4. Give them their best learning environment


Discover where your child likes to learn and provide that space. Some children prefer solitude where others like the middle of the room. We have two spaces, a playroom and a play space in the lounge. Munchkin chooses where to go to play, and whether or not to ask for our hand to lead us to join him.

5. Focus on Inner Motivation, Not Reward

This Montessori method is about rewarding behaviour and progress with verbal feedback in moderation, over physical rewards such as stickers or sweets.

This is an easy one and one that we do naturally. Say well done, that’s great, we are proud of you and clap with him at big moments.

6. Use Child-Sized Furniture

For this one we have a tuff tray for floor messy play fun and a mutable for Munchkin sized table activities. We use the high chair when baking to bring the mixing and making to floor level.

If you’d like to know more about Mutable, see my review here.

7. Make Their Bedroom Child-Friendly

This echoes some of the previous points by giving them a play space, so if they wake early they can move from bed to play on their own.

Munchkin rarely uses it, but we have always had a third play space in his room ready for when he moves from cot to cot bed.

Future Montessori plans for Munchkin

One idea we’ve had to expand our Montessori offering at home is to create seasonal nature trays and more role play tuff tray activities, such as making a farm or zoo.

Do you have any tips or things you do at home? Let us know in the comments.

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Categories
Holidays Nature Places to visit

Munchkin’ing around at Hobbledown

On the final day of our UK break away we visited Hobbledown, a farm and activity park a stones throw from Chessington World of Adventure, north of Epsom.

For starters let’s talk Covid. Hobbledown had it totally right. They had bookable arrival times so it was quiet on arrival, an app to book and order food and activities, a limited time at the park for busy days and bookable soft play time. We felt safe from the off.

For everyone here, there is a decent number of animals from the recognizable tortoise, lemur, pig and goat to the more unusual Rhea, Nilgai (Mighty Bloo) and Gibblegook parrot. It was a learning experience for Mummy and Daddy too! There’s also exciting ways to get up close with the animals such as the new Lemur walk-through.

There is then the soft play for the little ones (perfect for Munchkin who has recently realised that soft play is the play of dreams) with bookable slots. This is split into a large soft play for the tiny humans, a bigger one for the older kiddies and a hard play zone.

Back in the farm, for the older adventurers, there’s also the added experiences of zorbing and a high ropes course which can be added for a tiny supplement (high ropes was just an extra £2).

During the day they have an itinerary of events. On our visit was a fire show and bug eating try outs. On other days there are also bird of prey events and many more…

There’s also the best play park I’ve seen in my time as a parent. It’s huge, with a bouncy pillow, role play stations, a water play area and numerous slides and climbing frames, all designed around the quirky Hobbledown theme.

One of the amazing park areas.

When you need some munch, the onsite Hobnosh restaurant provides delicious street food in eco-friendly packaging. I had a chicken katsu curry and chips which was divine!

The best part for us adults is that it doesn’t break the bank. At £16 for adults and children (£18 at weekends) and free for under 2’s. Its an affordable fun-filled day out.

Hobbledown was the perfect end to our little breakaway, well suited to a 20 month year old. It’s already on the ‘visit again when Munchkin is older’ list!

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Categories
lockdown Mental health

Stay Happy Working from Home in Lockdown 2.0

I returned from furlough to support other departments in July. Then recently my role changed to computer based and naturally, it was right to work from home. So I packed a PC and got my little home office sorted. But, seeing those four walls and no people could drive anyone crazy. Here’s my seven simple little tips to staying sane working from home in lockdown 2.0.

1. Keep Connected

A lot of workplaces use instant messaging services such as Teams or Slack these days and if not, there’s always good old email. Have those little check ups and conversations you’d normally have in person, online. Get on a video call for a ‘social lunch break’ or catch up over lunch on a online game such as the ever increasingly popular ‘Among us’.

2. Keep a routine

Maybe its not the same routine, but a new routine to give yourself time away from the screen. Either way, find a routine and stick to it. I keep mine as close to normal hours as possible, as I take a real pleasure in the usual 5pm sign off. Also, take breaks from the screen as you would at work. It’s important to look after yourself in the same way as at work.

3. Treat yourself

Reward yourself with whatever makes you tick, whether that be that slice of cake or healthy snack, time to do something fun, or just to get out of the house and go for a wonder. Treat that brain with things that make it happy and it’ll look after you.

4. Celebrate the small things

Friday at home time for example…

5. Appreciate the little things

When is the last time in the office that you got to pick the radio station or take the DJ spot and mix the Spotify playlist, chose the optimum working temperature, or got to show up in your undies or in winter socks and robe (like me)? My point is to appreciate the little things and wins of not sharing your workspace with others, as much as you miss their adorable little colleague faces.

6. Set up the right space

Probably should be number one but hey. Set up your working from home space so it doesn’t interfere with your space to relax. Chose a corner of a room you don’t typically use, or another room entirely. This way you can prevent any negative work feelings encroaching your personal happy space.

7. Let the radio keep you company

It could sound silly at first, but after several days not hearing another human speak during work hours, the radio can be a welcome change. So tune in to your favourite show, and let them help keep you happy.

Happy working from home!

Do you have any other tips? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Categories
Halloween Holidays

A Howl-oween at Chessington

Sadly, Chessington came up with the Howl-oween pun, but I just had to use it for the title.

Chessington World of Adventures was our second day activity for our trip away. We thought it was a perfect choice with Julia Donaldson themed rides, zoo animals and a sea life centre all covered in the entry price. The entry price also can easily be lowered by using a Carex bottle too with £38.50 per adult knocked down to £24.

Lets start with Covid. I felt Chessington was the least prepared of our four spots we visited over our break. The website said numbers had been reduced, however cars absolutely packed the car park on arrival. Everyone also arrived simultaneously, and only the temperatures of adults were checked. That was a little disappointing.

The park opens at 10 am, which in hindsight is a little late for a toddler who woke at 6 am that morning and naps in the afternoon. That said, we had a good day. Although, we managed a grand total of three rides (queues were still up to an hour).

We quickly found out Munchkin wasn’t a fan of a the dark, starting on an indoor Mummified shooting ride, as he clutched to Mummy. It was a better, but similar experience for the Gruffalo ride too, but there was a mix of excitement and fear on that one. We won with the third choice though, a car ride where Munchkin got to ride and point out the animals. He loved that.

Beep beep

When it came to lunch, with a lot of the takeaway eateries closed, to help with Covid restrictions, and with a constant drizzle of rain, everyone was forced to eat indoors. This resulted in huge queues from 11:30, the worst time to try and get Munchkin to wait.

In the afternoon, it wasn’t long before Munchkin nodded off in his pushchair. Sadly, by napping he missed the zoo and sea life centre too which I rated highly. We must have tired him out at Cliveden National Trust. You can read about day one, with a double helping of National Trust by clicking here.

In hindsight it wasn’t the best location for a toddler, even with the 13 rides he could go on, there simply wasn’t the time with the late entry and his afternoon nap. It would be much better for us if it opened early for parents with toddlers, to make the most of that morning energy. This would also space out guests in light of the pandemic.

That said, the park is a perfect attraction for children of all ages, with gentle rides up to the slightly more thrilling (nothing upside down here). It’s a great park and on our revisit list!

Thanks for reading,

Categories
Holidays National trust Nature

A National Trust Double Down

Sadly, this is nothing to do with KFC, though I can confirm the double down is superb!


The last time we took Munchkin on a long journey (3 hours) was to see some family in Eastbourne in 2019. It was hell, with tears for the whole journey. With that in mind, we planned to break our journey down to Surrey into a few stops, putting our National Trust membership to good use.

Dunstable Downs

I think Natalie could have killed me when we stepped out the car into the fierce freezing winds of Dunstable downs, the highest spot in Bedfordshire, just off the M1, north of Luton. But the view was amazing with a sky that didn’t seem to end in any direction.

We had a short walk (there are several routes from 2 to over 6 miles) but as Munchkin wants to walk whenever he can, we only managed a short stroll down the hill and back.

On the amble, Munchkin pointed out all the people flying kits, with yells of ‘kite, kite, KITE!’. So we popped up to the cafe for some warmth, a coffee and a snack, and bought a kite.

We popped outside and got the kite into the air. We thought the amazement would reach sky heights however….there were some wooden posts nearby and well, Munchkin was more interested in them. Oh well, at least we have the kite for future fun.

Slide left to see our lovely kite, right to see what Munchkin was interested in

Dunstable downs NT is free for everyone to explore, however there is a charge for parking, but it is free with membership.

Cliveden

We popped back in the car for a short 50 minute journey to Cliveden, the main event for day one of our trip. This National Trust had a bookable slot system, with half an hour arrival times. Luckily due to Daddy’s impeccable planning (hehe), we arrived just 1 minute into our slot.

Cliveden is a huge estate, with a storybook play park, a woodland play trail, all set in beautiful woodland, high above a route along the Thames. We loved the park, pointing out all the storybook additions, as well as the wooden tractor and train (‘choo choo!).

There’s several routes along the woodland above the Thames. We took one of these then a slope down to the river. It is such a beautiful place for a woodland walk.

However when we got the few miles back down the Thames, we found the only was back up to the top, was many steep steps. To top that, Munchkin was asleep in the pushchair. It added a tough exercise to our otherwise relaxing day.

This has now probably topped our previous favourite National Trust property which was Belton House (Grantham).

Cliveden is £10 for adults and £5 for Children and free for NT members.

Thanks for reading,

Categories
Baby learning Development and discovery

Big Fish Little Fish

Our Number One Baby Class

When you first think about having a little one you’ll quickly realise that there are many classes avalible, from baby massage to baby sensory. However, taking cost and (more importantly) your precious time into account on top of the multitude of free classes you want to attend its hard to get to everything you want to do. Believe me, even on parental leave I struggled to balance the classes we carefully chose to attend.

So here is my number one class. It had to be baby swimming.

People without children always get surprised when I say we are taking Munchkin for his swimming lesson at the weekend. It seems unbelievable to them that you can take them at 19 months, even though you can actually start at 6 weeks with baby classes.

Our swimming class (Babybliss, Cambridgeshire) consists of splashing songs, fetch the toy games as well as core swimming skills. At 19 months we have already dipped our toes into independant swimming.

From six months old, the classes teach water confidence and aids their development and reflexes. But more importantly than that its also for safety. It teaches the little ones what to do if they swallow water, to spit rather than swallowing firstly, and how to hold on to the side and climb out. Useful skills if they ever accidentally enter water.

With swimming being part of the national curriculum and a pivotal part of any family holiday it was a no brainer to start swimming lessons so young, especially knowing he will be safe with his water skills in the future.

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Categories
Product Review

Mutable Review

From the moment we started trying for a ‘Baby G’, now known as Munchkin, I had created a list of products I wanted for him or her when they were old enough. At the top of that list, a Mutable by Mukako (https://uk.mukako.com/en/). We have had it over a month, and it hasn’t disappointed.

What is a Mutable?

The Mutable is an Italian designed multi activity table for kids up to the age of 8 as it grows with them. The table is made of a beautiful wooden design, with a modern shape and a splash of colour. It has screw on legs, with additional pieces to enable it to grow in height as your child grows.

There is an insert in the top which houses the ‘multi activity’ components. These are wooden discs which change the table from a simple table, to a lego or duplo table, a chalk board or white board, a round puzzle board or a city or world landscape. There is also further options such as playhouses, multi level lego towers, wooden train sets or playdough moulds.

For older children, there are app enabled toys and games, such as numbers and letters and ‘DISKcover’ history and geography.

Daddy and Munchkin’s view.

As I said in my intro the Mutable does not disappoint. From the morning it was constructed, Munchkin was eager to play with his cars on the town landscape, scribble with giant chalk on the white board and take his wooden train or cuddly toys for a ride up high.

Daddy loves it as its self contained. Every activity is stored within the table. There’s an attached pen/chalk pot which will be useful when Munchkin is older, and a storage bag for tidying up, which is filled by simply removing the centre and pushing the toys through the hole.

Overall I cannot fault it, and can’t wait to buy extra toys and games and use it as a learning tool for numbers/letters and humanities in the future. The only drawback is the price, but when you consider the amount of time it can be used with its variety of uses, its was an easy equation for us.

Those all important stars

Quality

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Price

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Useability

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Instructions

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Daddy reviewed, Munchkin approved.

Thanks for reading,

Categories
Development and discovery Family lockdown

The Return to Not Quite Normal

When the letter to return to work arrived my heart sank, whilst many may have struggled with lockdown and restrictions, we have relished in the bonus time together with our little Munchkin. If you have had a hard time, I am sorry and don’t worry, for that I feel very guilty.

But with a 15 month old at the start of furlough, we got to spend so much precious extra time together. I was luckily furloughed on full pay and Natalie had a lot to do to support her children she teaches, but could do a lot at home with us as well.

However, this time came to an end when I returned to my normal place of work, even if not for my normal job. And thats where the lack of normality begins. My hours are different and the job is different. We have queued to arrive at work, and to leave at home time and my closest friends are still working from home. Though that said, its been good to form bonds and develop friendships with those I haven’t had chance to before.

For Munchkin, he has returned to nursery this week ending his dream 6 months with Daddy and then Mummy. We have done, and developed, so much over this time, but it will be great for him to be back with kids his age to play and build friendships with. This is now the start of the stark difference from the nice and relaxed, peaceful furlough time to the mad rush again from home to nursery to work and back.

We finally started walking

The alleviation of lockdown has meant it has also been nice to visit family again, without staying garden bound and feeling like we shouldn’t even use the bathroom. Although, we are still far from the times of hugs and proper contact. Luckily for the Nanny’s, the return to nursery also means the return to Nanny childcare days. That’ll be good for them and Munchkin both. I know for sure its been very hard not seeing him properly for so long.

So while everything is different, let’s enjoy this time before the inevitable ‘second spike’ we have been warned of, which could be on the horizon. Though, let’s hope it doesn’t happen. As much as I enjoyed furlough, I dont think the country can afford to do it again…

To all those still suffering from anything Covid related, me and Munchkin are sending socially distance digital hugs.

Thanks for reading,

Categories
Uncategorized

Munchkin’s world of Nature

We discovered Munchkin’s love of nature young on a trip to a Natural Trust garden when he was just months old. His faced glowed as he admired the trees towering above him, the plants floating on the lake, the birds flying above and the beauty of the flowerbeds. Now at 17 months, on stormy days he crawls to the window of his playroom, stands, and tries to reach the handle to get outside.

Our first National Trust visit.

Writing this in lockdown, the situation has been slightly different with being limited to our garden and the local area. At home, we make sure we get into the garden whenever we can. We take some toys, but he soon gets distracted by the bugs that crawl across his mat. He has learnt how while he can stoke a cat, he shouldn’t stoke a delicate bug, and this makes for a proud Daddy. We planted some sunflower seeds and so are watching them grow day by day and learning what they need to grow. We will soon see them flowering too which is very exciting.

Planting his first seed was a messy affair

We are mid – garden development currently (although we may be mid-development for a while). Lucky for Munchkin, the future plans now include a mud kitchen, bug hotel and bird feeding station 😊.  We have chillies and tomatoes growing this year but will set up a planter so he can grow and learn about all different kinds of vegetables this time next year.

It’s fascinating to let Munchkin roam free in the garden, see where he goes and what interests him. If its not a bit of mud to squelch, he always admiring a new plant, or weed intruder on our new grass. He also often can just sit there and watch the birds overhead, pointing them out to us or having little conversations with them.

When we walk, which we do daily, we often try to escape the paths and roads and find ourselves powering down farm tracks or into fields. We admire the trees and we ‘talk’ about the farm fields and the crops, the wind turbines providing natural energy and the beauty of natural spots away from the hustle and bustle of the town.

A walk into the fields rocking the lockdown hairstyle

We recently found a huge field, just a short walk away which is the perfect spot for spontaneous picnics to explore the outdoors during lockdown. Its also been a perfect spot to count and wave at the numerous dogs, and more recently we also met a lovely little man of a similar age.

We recently took Munchkin back to the original National trust property which fuelled his love of the outdoors. We had opportunity to spot a rabbit and a frog, admired the plants and trees and enjoyed the fresh air.

When we are outdoors I’m always explaining what we can see, whether that be the plants and animals, or how wind turbines utilise natural energy. While we have these conversations with him, I know he’d rather hear about ‘Incy wincy spider’ or the ‘Five Little Ducks’, however I feel by talking to him about everything, including the natural world so young, he will learn to fully appreciate it.

Thanks for reading,