Being thankful.

We’ve heard them over and over again. Those words that feel like they are ripping your brain to shreds because they’ve been spoken over and over and over again… ‘Mum can I have….’ Well my little one takes asking to things to a whole new level.

It’s not just can I have… it goes on for days. ‘When I get this…’ ‘when you buy me that…’ ‘Mum please can you get me’. It’s constant and it’s annoying. The way he goes on you’d think he never gets anything or has no toys to play with. I’m probably not putting it into words very well, how painful it is. But last week it got to me.

I know he doesn’t have the life experience to know how blessed he is. I also know that all he knows is what he has and he’s also a completionist like me, so if you buy him a toy like Minecraft Lego, of course he wants all the other kits.

But I want him to become someone who is grateful for what he has, and to be a person who is thankful.

“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.” Quote from today.com

Having a thankful attitude changes something in you, it switches your perspective and helps you see the world differently. When my little one isn’t thankful he’s upset, moody and not content.

‘But what about when there is something horrible going on…’ I hear you cry. Yes life isn’t all roses and fairy cakes (or whatever the saying is) but I do think it’s a good practice to even in the hardest of times find something to be thankful for, even if it’s something tiny.

I’m sure my husband won’t mind me saying but about a year ago he was finding things tricky, he was feeling lost and like life wasn’t on his side. He couldn’t see the good things in front of him. So I encouraged him to write a thank you diary. So everyday now he finds 5 things to be thankful for, and it’s really helped him to see the good things to help him look at his day through a different lens and be positive. A friend of ours who is a music therapist says that ‘a thank you diary is the best form of therapy’.

So with this in mind and with my brain feeling torn apart by the constant pecking of ‘can I have’, I went into action.

I asked J to choose a note book – I have lots at home. We designed the front cover of ‘J’s Thank you diary’ then turned it over and on the back wrote ‘J’s wish list’.

So in the front of the book we write one thing we are thankful for from that day. He’s at an age that he can actually write this. But we’ve been asking him to find something he’s thankful for every day since he was 2 and he’s just said it out loud, but we could have written those down.

Then in the back, we sat down together and found pictures online and stuck them in the book of the things he would like, once we’d concentrated it down there were actually only about 5 things, it just felt like more because of the dripping tap effect. Our rule with the back of the book is, once it’s in there he doesn’t need to ask for it again, because if we want to buy him a present or it’s his birthday and we or others need ideas we know where to look. He is allowed to add to the list should he wish to, but he doesn’t need to go on about it. And do you know what, it’s worked. I think him writing down his ideas just meant there was a place to file them instead of him feeling like he had to all the time talk about them in case they got forgotten.

I also think the practice of gratitude at the same time as asking for things (because let’s face it we all want things) just puts the need for things in its right place not a dominant place.

We do talk about how blessed he is and we do talk about others who don’t have as much as us and we also talk about how we can help those who don’t have as much and put it into action.

I’m hoping this is a practice he will continue in his life.

Some other ideas to record things your thankful for…

• A thank you jar – decorate a jar together and have strips of paper ready and every night write down something you are thankful for. Then every now and then have a look through those wonderful thank yous.

• A thank you garden – cut up petals and write on your thankyous’ and then every so often add them together to make a flower. How big can your garden get?

• Over dinner time think of something to be thankful for and then share that, it could spark a lot of dinner chat.

Have fun creating your thankful ideas and thank you for reading!

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Plastic Easter Eggs

Don’t panic I’m not talking about getting rid of chocolate! That could never happen in my house. But this year I bought a few packets of plastic eggs and I’ve amazed myself at how much I’ve used them we’ve used them in many different ways.

You can buy these eggs in loads of places, but of course I bought mine from Poundland. I bought a pack of 10 large and a pack of 18 which included smaller ones too. In fact they had an amazing Easter range this year and I’ve lost count of how much I’ve spent. From eggs, bunny crayons, felt egg decorating and cute pom pom bunnies. (I promise they are not paying me to say this!)

You can fall into the trap of only using these eggs for an Easter egg hunt, but there are so many ways you can use them and we’ve loved it here at home and the many toddler groups I run too.

1. Tuff Trays

This one we used butter beans (dried) and mung beans and material for the pond. The eggs were brilliant as the kids loved opening and closing (great for fine motor skills) and also they made great scoops for the mung beans and the chicks. The rabbits and chicks also fit inside so that brought great fun too!

This one was for J. I don’t tend to spend too long on setting out Tuff Trays for him in case he doesn’t touch it. But he liked this one. I added spoons and cups to this one.

One surprise I added to all the trays I made, was felt eggs inside. So when they first opened them out popped an egg.

This is just so you can see the felt eggs. This is great for little fingers too as they try and push them back in!

I didn’t take pics of the tray I did for my under 3’s group. But it was just a tray full of the eggs and rabbits and they all had great fun opening, closing (and trying to open and close) the surprise of a rabbit inside never got tired!!

2. Easter Egg Hunts

I did use them for one Easter egg hunt. We invited some of J’s school friends round for an Easter party and egg hunt. Absolute chaos in my flat but the kids loved it. They ate lots of cake and choc, worked together as a team to find the eggs and then had a disco! Brilliant.

The hunt was for over 4’s so I wanted a bit of a challenge. We drew a giant egg on say yellow paper and then cut it into four pieces. Each piece went in a yellow plastic egg.

The kids were divided into colour teams and they had to find their colour. Once they had all four eggs they had to put together their egg puzzle then they could have another plastic egg which contained 4 mini chocolate eggs. This worked really well as some get really into the finding and some don’t. Which in the past when I’ve just put out chocolate eggs someone finds all the eggs and then leave non for those who aren’t so much into the finding.

3. Snack Time

Again sorry no pics 🤦🏼‍♀️! But on Good Friday we had a long long journey but train to Heathrow airport to meet up with some family who were arriving in the UK. So I wanted to add a bit more joy to snack time.

I used an egg box and in each slot put a plastic egg. I did sneak some chocolate into one of the eggs, but there was popcorn, dried pineapple and raisins.

His face when he asked for a snack and I pulled out an egg box was classic. Also it also made others peoples journey a little more fun because of J’s reaction!

4. Reading and Numbers

Now I bet you didn’t think I’d add that into my list!

Our homework from school was to learn our numbers from 1 – 21. So I wanted to make it a little more enjoyable for him. So in came the plastic eggs.

If you crack open the hinges you can then twist the top and bottom. So on one side I wrote either a 1 or a 2 and then wrote other numbers on the other side.

So at dinner time (our best fun learning time) he could twist the eggs and then he’d have to tell us what number he made.

I also made eggs to help support reading and tricky words.

This was his favourite type – there is a word on the outside of the egg, which we would help him read. Then you open it up to find the letters on bits of paper, which he had to put in the right order. Interesting when the word was ‘Was’ and you can put it back to front and make another word.

Another way we did it was with twisting again…

We’re working on diagraphs so I made an egg for beginning sounds and the different sounds you can make. These are now sitting in a bowl on our table so whenever it takes his fancy he can have a go.

5. Role Play

Eggs for your play kitchen. Make some felt eggs put them in a egg box and there you have some pretend eggs.

I’m sure there are loads more ideas you can use them for, but these are the few we have done over the last few weeks.

I have one Easter Party where they will come out again and then maybe next year I’ll think of more ideas!!

Chalk board Numbers

We went on our regular day trip to Ikea yesterday! We love a trip to our local store. There’s so much to see and do and now J loves going to the play room, whilst I have a sneaky cuppa!

Whilst there I found a wooden numbers puzzle. It was £4, which I thought wasn’t too bad.

When we got home J had a great time painting the backs of them.


Yes he painted the back, because I have painted the front, with chalk board paint.

J has shown an interest in numbers recently. So we are trying all sorts of ways to help him identify the different numbers. Counting isn’t a problem, but number recognition is a little more tricky.


I did two coats of the blackboard paint. Hopefully that will be enough to withstand the pressures of being drawn on. I also find that with one coat, the chalk doesn’t rub off as well.

Once dried, J can enjoy writing on the letters.


I’m also hoping to use at the toddler groups I’m involved with. I might get some wooden letters too!

Fixing meal times

Meal times can be a wonderful time of day. I have so many happy memories of family dinners and this is what I assumed would happen when we had our own family…but oh no!

For the last few years, they had become my worst time of the day and I would dread it. It would start with J asking ‘whats for dinner?’ I would reply and then he would say ‘and what am I having?’ I didn’t make him a completely separate meal, but he would mainly only eat white things. Dinner time would then arrive, and it would be awful. There would be food in his hair because he wouldn’t wipe his hands on a cloth, he would get up 10 times in one meal time, I would be kicked over and over because J couldn’t sit still, he would refuse to eat and then to top it off there would be a drink knocked over at some point again due to him not sitting still.

I think one night something literally snapped in my head and I had to do something about it and I went into solution mode…

Step 1
I bought a larva lamp (I bet you weren’t expecting that!). Over Christmas we had a candle on the table and J loved it. It gave him an object to focus on so I wanted something a little more permanent (and not as flammable) and he particularly likes it because ‘it looks like jellyfish.’ This helped a little but there was still some work to do.

Step 2
We made it so if J got down then he couldn’t have any pudding. Now this is a bit of a score for us because J loves fruit, so we didn’t even need to bribe him with chocolate: the thought of missing out on a fruit smoothie was enough to make him sit there! It took about four days of reminding him A LOT. I think he had one day where he missed out, but mainly it worked with reminding. We also made sure there was always a cloth on the table to wipe his hands without making out he has to get down to get a towel or a tissue or clean himself on my sofa!!

Step 3
After a few days of a more settled meal time, we started to work on fussy eating. I hadn’t done anything about it before for a number of reasons (or should I say, excuses). For a long time we thought J was colour blind as it does run in my family. J would literally only eat white food, save the odd strawberry, and I put this down to foods looking a bit ‘strange’ to someone who is colour blind. Excuse number two was that I just wanted pleasant meal times and didn’t want the fight so I just gave in. Well, we ruled out the colour blind thing and meal times were horrible anyway so there was nothing to lose!

I made a ‘J tried new foods’ plate rewards chart.

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Every time J tried a new food he would get a sticker – that sticker in the picture was roast chicken. J has essentially been a vegetarian since he was 18 months old, so this was a big deal.

And as of tonight his sticker reward plate is almost full and he got his sticker for eating spaghetti bolognese! You cannot imagine how proud I am of him.

I have been putting veg in a food processor, and using that as a base for sauces so we are getting veg in him, but it’s not as daunting.

The last week, we’ve eaten the same food and have been able to have lovely family meal times together. We’ve talked about our day and had a laugh together, which is such a difference.

It’s made me realise that you can’t always assume that over night these issues will change. Sometimes you have to make a battle plan and put in the hard work. Work out what you want the end goal to be and then work out how to get there.

Burglar Alarms

I never for a moment thought I would spend a large majority of my day thinking about burglar alarms (ba). But that is exactly what I do now. We go on ba scavenger hunts and we watch videos about how they are made. 

We’ve even used them to learn our shapes and letters! 


Walking down the street one day and J shouts out ‘that’s a Yale’, ‘how do you know it’s a Yale?’ I say. ‘Because it starts with a Y!’ 

J has wanted to make a ba for ages, but as you can imagine, I haven’t quite felt I’ve had the skills for it. But yesterday I achieved his dream. 

I’d been wanting to do some simple electronics with him, so bought a 3v motor, a 3v battery pack AAA and some alligator clips from Amazon. They didn’t come from the UK so they took a while to arrive. But it was so worth the wait. 

I taped the motor onto the side of a paper cup at first so we could clearly see it move and I added a sticker onto the motor for a clearer viewing. 

We then made our circuit. It was great because the cup moved, so this was our first robot. I’d got the idea to add Pens to our robot from researchparent.com so I taped on 3 pens and off our drawing robot went. 


This was so much fun (my tablecloth might not think so). 

Then J had the idea to make a ba. So we added our motor to a box. 


The fun we’ve had with this! We’ve played cops and robbers and J has loved playing with a ‘real burglar alarm’. 

His latest request is for an ADT burglar alarm birthday cake. 

My fear is I’ve now used all of my electronic knowledge so I’m not quite sure where to go from here! 

Tile Art

J goes to a great nursery that is the Emilio Reggio approach to learning. In their nursery setting they have a number of different artillier spaces, which encourage children to use materials to create and learn. The areas are so beautiful and use natural and lovely materials. 

The nursery helped me to set up my own at home. I loved doing it and after I wondered why I hadn’t done it earlier. 


It’s a simple space where J can initiate his own creations. I’ve slightly broken the rules by using play dough and not clay and I’ve used plastic cotton reels and not wooden, but I managed to create this all from bits I had at home. 

One thing I wish I could do is add a washing line somewhere near his play space (we’ve re named it at home) so I could hang up his works of art. 

The nursery gave me a few extra bits a few days after these photos were taken. And in the bits they gave me were some tiles. We’ve had a lot of fun with tiles. He’s made patterns, laid a floor and we bought some large ones to draw on. 


I bought some dry wipe pens, and it’s the perfect surface. J loved drawing – I’ve found that he prefers drawing on surfaces that aren’t paper!! We bought the white large one from Wickes for 99p. We also have different coloured tiles large and small. We’ve drawn round them, talked about the different colours and felt the different textures.

Who knew tiles could be so fun! 

 

Lifting Letters

I haven’t been around for a while on my blog! It’s a bit shocking that I haven’t written a thing since April!!! 

We’ve had the summer, and the only thing we got up to was to spend every minute outside. Then in September J started nursery and it’s been a bumpy ride, but after the first term we are starting to get there. Excuses now out of the way…

Today my husband went back to work after the Christmas Holidays so I had to remember how to do this parenting thing again. So at 7am I found myself putting out play stations to hopefully entertain J. 

We had tiles, which he made a great pattern with. 

We had some toys out and I made a cardboard surf board (after watching the ‘wot wots’), which we decorated. 

But I enjoyed adjusting an electronic crane we have, so we could lift up some magnetic letters. Now it wasn’t a great hit with J, but if you have a child with a little more focus, this might be fun. 


Now I am aware that not everyone has an electronic crane lying around, but some of you have manual ones or at least a digger. 

I taped a screw on the end so that the letter could attach to it. You can then talk about the letter names as you lift them. Try and make words too if you can. 


I was very excited about this idea! 

The dinosaur ate an icecream…

No I haven’t gone crazy, just getting creative. Now I know story stones are not a new thing and they certainly are not my idea but I wanted to try them out. On holiday we visited the Ilfracombe Tunnel Beach, which can I say has one of the best cafes and soft play I have visited yet. But on the beach they have lovely flat stones which inspired me to make some story stones. 

I kinda wish I had bought a load more home because there are so many uses for stones in our lives. Who knew… 

  

I bought some permanent pens from the pound shop (I was worried drawing on stones would ruin my best pens – it didn’t by the way). Originally I thought about drawing it and then painting with acrylic paint, but the pens came out brilliantly. The above picture is side one and here is side two…

  
I left them out for J to see when he woke up and all I could hear was ‘wow’ coming from the front room. 

I was a little bit dubious as to whether it would work with a 2.5 year old, but when I showed him how to do it he was away. 

‘The dinosaur ate an icecream and then a storm came and the boat went swish then the sun came.’ 

I would definitely recommend making some story stones and leaving them around and then you can see what amazing worlds they create. 

Octonauts and going shopping

We’ve just had a lovely Easter Holiday. We had a week away and a week at home, so we used our week at home to get sorting! J is growing up fast, so we have taken all things baby from his room!! 😢

I wanted to make his room a bit more of a fun place and not just a place where we store his toys. I’ve put away toys that have been out a while and have made more of a spectical of new toys and toys that he hasn’t played with for a while. 

Octonauts

I managed to pick up all of the Octonauts toys at a charity shop for £2! Massive bargain. So I wanted to make a bit of an under water world. Our holiday was in Devon so managed to pick up stones and shells which added to sea bed effect. I found some under the sea labels to add some more colour, but it’s been great for J to recognise letters and different animals. Speaking to a friend today, if I’d had some material I could have made a bit of a reading den with books about fish and the sea. But with no material and lack of space, that’s just a bit of a dream.

Going Shopping

We haven’t played with his till for ages. When we did play with it, I’m not really sure he knew what to do with it. So I made a little shop for him (you can see where I shop). He recognised the shop name straight away, which was great.

We had great fun playing today, we spotted different numbers and I told him what the different signs said, which he repeated this evening! His purse has money and cards in. I keep adding boxes as I use the contents in my kitchen. So he’s having fun recognising different food.

I had great fun making these little areas in his bedroom and have loads more ideas for when we swap them around with different toys. But it’s been lovely watching him play in such a different way and interact with pictures and words.

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Blog post update 

I noticed that the under water world and shop wasn’t being played with as much. So we’ve had a swap around. 

Farm


Our Farm has made an appearance. We bought this for his second birthday and it hasn’t really been played with. But placing out and leaving it out has meant that he’s found moments to go and build fences. He’s also enjoyed looking at the farm cards. 

Cafe

One of mine and J’s favourite things to do is to go to a cafe.  We don’t spend long in a cafe, but we do enjoy the idea. So we made J’s cafe. 

With open and close signs to help recognise numbers and a menu. 

J’s favourite food is chips, but I don’t have any play chips so I think I will have to make some from salt dough or something. 

Having these toys out is great, because he plays and can use his imagination in different play. But also today he realised he missed his octonauts so we started to play with that! Great! 

Cake Pops – yummy! 

For some reason, J has been asking for weeks to make cake pops. I’ve never been a fan of cake pops, if you’re gonna eat cake, eat a cake that’s bigger than a ping pong ball. But J loved it. I must say it was one of the best baking sessions we’ve had. 

I bought a cake pop mould, sticks and stand in poundland. Got to love a pound shop. 

Firstly we made a cake, which we cooked in the microwave, so that it was ready quicker. 

4oz baking marg

4oz sugar 

Mix together in an electric mixer. 

4oz flour

1oz coco powder

2 eggs

A dash of milk 

Mix together 

  
Put in a microwaveable dish and cook until you can put in a cake tester and it comes out clean. Prob about 6 mins. 

J had great fun measuring out the different ingredients. He was so good at not spiling, this is a definite improvement. He tried to read the numbers on the weighing scales which made me think I should get some electronic ones, so the numbers are clearer. 

Whilst this was cooking I melting some chocolate. Once the cake was out J had fun mashing up about a quarter of the cake into crumbs. 

Mix this with the melted chocolate and form into the moulds and pop into the fridge. 

Having tasted them, I should have mixed in more melted chocolate, probably the whole bag of giant chocolate buttons would have been better, but I wanted to eat some this evening! 

I think dipping in melted chocolate would have been nice too. 

  
But hey, we had fun!