Much as I love doing more structured activities with Monkey, to make cards, or pictures or baking, some of my favourite activities are a lot more free play based. Activities I can set up pretty simply and then leave him to it. Watching where his imagination takes me always cracks me up and it’s also great to literally watch him learning as he plays.
Since LM was born and with all of the illness we have struggled with this year, I have gotten a bit lazy with regards to setting up activities, mainly out of fear. Fear of the mess I have to clean up. Fear of how stressed I am going to get dealing with him and the baby at the same time. I have pulled myself together a little though and one day decided to get a job done that has needed to be done for ages, and involve Monkey in a bit of free play at the same time.
I remember making chocolate easter nests year after year as a child and it is a tradition we have carried on with Monkey, and will with LM as she gets older. It is such a great fun, quick, and easy make that kids of any age can join in with.
Monkey did it first 2 years ago at about 10 mths old, then last year at just under 2 and again this year. He still needs quite a bit of help but I imagine he will less and less help as he gets older.
A while ago I saw another Mummy Blogger (sorry I can’t remember where!) using potatoes to stamp easter egg shapes and I thought it was genius. I am always on the look out for activities to do with Monkey and while I had been meaning to do potato stamping with him at some point this was the push I needed to do it and thought they would make lovely easter cards.
I can’t believe my little Monkey is only a couple of months away from being 3! It feels so grown up and impossible for my baby boy to be that age… but at the same time it makes sense as he has grown up so much lately and is such a lovely little lad, he melts my heart daily (as well as driving me crazy multiple times a day !
So what is he up to? Well lots and lots he is always on the go! You may have read the recent updates about him – Monkey Says and Learning to Read but there is lots more going on too.
I feel like I want to write down every word that Monkey Says at the moment as most of it is really adorable! His vocabulary is coming on leaps and bounds all the time and his pronunciation is getting so much clearer too. He can pronounce his L’s now sometimes and is learning th rather than f. There is still plenty of cute mispronunciations though and some very cute sayings and phrases.
We have been working a lot on his manners over the last couple of months. I was always bought up to believe that manners were important (Manners Maketh Man my Mum always said :)) and actually because most of my day to day conversation is between Monkey and I it became really important to me to be treated with a bit of respect. Obviously when little ones first learn to talk the things they say are simple – want this, need that, give me this. After a while though as the main carer I started to feel like I was more of a slave. Being shouted at and ordered around by my toddler every day was not enjoyable. We had obviously been working on please and thank you for a long time but we have started to elaborate on it now and he is doing really well.
Now when he would like something he knows he has to ask nicely (sometimes he needs reminding but he is saying it more and more on his own too) “Please can I have some milk?” “Please watch Toy Story again?” etc. etc. He is doing very well and also says “thank you,” “no thanks” and when we thank him for things it is “You’re most welcome!” It just makes our home a nicer place to be and I think it is so important to ask for things nicely and say thank you. One of my friends always says that Monkey doesn’t have to say thank you to her if she gives him something, but I don’t think there are any exemptions to the rule, personally.
It is so cute hearing him be so polite though he is learning to try it on – saying please over and over when he wants a biscuit “twease can I have a biscuit, twease, twease, twease” and “no fanks” when he doesn’t want to do something, like eat his vegetables or have a nappy change! We try not to let him get away with it but occasionally he does get something because we can’t resist him asking for something so nicely.
We have some lovely little conversations with him at the moment. I was getting LM ready for bed and listening to Monkey and Daddy at bathytime and heard this cute convo.
Daddy: Its teethy clean time then story time
Monkey: And sleeping time and wake up and playing and eating
Daddy: Is that your day?
Monkey: (very happily) yeah
I just felt it was a really nice indication of how much he loves his little life at the moment!
We’ve also noticed how we are really having little conversations. Now when we pick him up from playgroup and ask what he has done, he doesn’t always say “I don’t know” and will now often tell us what he has got up to.
Mr Potato Head
He has such an imagination now too which is lovely and since watching Toy Story a few times he is now in love with his Mr Potato Head toy and is currently carrying him everywhere. He couldnt find his hat the other day and kept asking for it. I said he should look in his toy boxes, to which he replied ” I can’t, I not a good looker” really despondently. I helped him look (and he decided he was a good “looker” after all and once Mr Potato head was completed he shouted “Look! Like on the TV!”
Then we were sat at the table and he was chatting to Mr Potato Head and then he got cross and said “he not talking Mummy” lol. Despite the lack of response he is talking to him a lot “Come a me Mr tato head” and “it’s ok Mr Tato head, Mummy gone to get Monkey’s drink.” He is such a cutie with him!
Another thing that he says all the time is “Got that at…” pointing at objects, books, toys at home, in the shops, on the TV. Most of the time it is “got that at playgroup” as they have some of the same books and the same step for the sink, and various other bits. Then there is “got that at Nanny Pop’s house!” and “Got that at home!” which is very cute.
We are also very much in the “Why” phase at the moment. There are lots of “why” and “who not” though I am sure we are only just entering this phase and will have more um fun with this over the coming months!
He also likes to talk basically all the time and narrates everything he is doing and often will repeat things over and over until we say it too, which drives me potty. We can answer him in a hundred different ways but sometimes unless we repeat what he says he will keep going!
Monkey loves books, he has done for a long time. We read multiple times a day and he has so many books he adores. He knows all of his letters now, and can recognise them all. He sings the alphabet song almost constantly and we have been trying to help him understand the phonetics and sounds of letters too as I know he will need those at school and to help him with learning to read. He regularly spells out writing on things and so wants to read himself, and actually I think we are starting to head down the path of learning to read.
I am pretty impressed with this at his age I have to admit and as ever I am not saying “oh my son is amazing” or by any means taking credit for it. All kids learn at their own pace and he may be earlier with some things and later with other things. For example he is not ready for potty training yet but he does seem to want to learn to read.
He regularly points at words and wants to know what it says. When we say it, we try and spell it out and he will often repeat it. He now loves shouting Netflix whenever the big writing comes on the TV! One of his favourite books at the moment is a colours book from the hungry caterpillar collection, where he likes to spell out each word and read it. He is doing this with Daddy and how much of this is just memory I am not sure but it will hopefully help him learn that this is how you read.
Daddy is great at helping him with this and is explaining some of the more complex sounds like o o makes oo etc. I never know how far to go with it as he seems so little to me but at the same time he is so desperate to do it and to learn. He found a bottle of infacol the other day and traced the letters on the bottle and said “LM’s medicine” lol bless him!
He is so proud of himself when he tries which is just lovely and so I certainly don’t want to discourage him from it.
Were any of your kids early readers? I have no idea what is usual for this age and what isn’t!
With Monkey being poorly recently we have spent a LOT more time at home than we do normally. First it was a nasty bug where he was very poorly and spent a lot of the time in bed or slumped on the sofa poor thing. Then it was Chicken Pox, which he actually got off pretty lightly with. He didn’t have too many spots and for the most part wasn’t that poorly with either. But because he was contagious we were still pretty much consigned to the house – but with a full of beans toddler! Never an ideal situation for me and even 6 months ago I would have hated the thought of being stuck at home with him.
He is older now and easier to keep entertained, and more able to amuse himself thankfully, but we have still had to come up with a number of activities to keep him busy and out of mischief while we have been stuck at home! We have:
..made a Den and played Big Bad Wolf (thanks to Bing Bunny for that idea!)
..played in his tent and tunnel and had snuggles and silly selfies in there..
…and made some lovely super simple Mother’s Day cards for Nanny and Granny..
I basically let him loose with some glue and sparkles (loose-ish anyway) then cut a hole in a card like a window and stuck his sparkly collage on the inside.
We have also been watching a lot of TV. Thankfully he likes DVDs now and I have finally managed to persuade him just how wonderful Disney films are. So far he likes Wall-E, all of the Toy Story films and Cars but he is much less keen on Up and Monsters Inc which is a shame. I love some of his random TV viewing positions, they do make me chuckle even if I would prefer it if he wasn’t quite so close to the TV!
There has also been lots of drawing, we tape a big bit of paper to the floor and let our imaginations run wild – at the moment it is usually him telling me what to draw but that is still good fun and then he plays with the scene we have created – seascape, road, etc! Stickers and painting are always good too and as he has improved we have been out in the garden a lot too.
How do you keep your toddler entertained if you are stuck at home?
Monkey is a fussy eater. He wasn’t until he was about 13 months old then almost overnight everything changed. I’ve talked at length about it before and we have ups and downs with how fussy he is. We have been going through a very fussy patch lately. As he has been so poorly over the recent weeks he really hasn’t had as much of an appetite so we have been happy when he has eaten anything really. I am planning a seperate post about this but it is so difficult to be strict with them when they are poorly, especially with food as he needed to keep his strength up and things can taste really funny when you are poorly.
I’ve been watching “Junk Food Children who’s to blame?” on TV too recently, and well I think it is pretty obvious the documentary makers are laying the blame squarely on the parents. I think they are probably right, as they are the ones who buy the food for their children, but I can also see how it is a slippery slope and none of these parents do it with intentions of harming their children. Far from it, they are probably too soft on them and that isn’t always good for them.
Anyway it has made me think a lot about Monkey. He has a pretty good diet anyway, hardly ever has crisps, chocolate etc, BUT we could do better. He doesn’t really eat any fresh fruits (we get him eating dried, cooked, frozen pureed but no joy with fresh really) and we struggle with lots of vegetables too, and most things actually. Pasta, sausages, chicken, pretty much everything depends on his mood. Most dinner times are spent with Mummy and Daddy pretending to be the voice of a toy (postman pat, a bus, an owl, any toy really) as he is much more likely to eat something when a toy suggests it! Not ideal but we go with what works.
One great way to get kids interested in food is to get them to help with preparing and cooking food. Monkey does love cooking but after catching himself with the peeler a few months ago he has been more reluctant to get in the kitchen. He has expressed more of an interest though lately, and with poorliness and chicken pox meaning we have spent a lot of time at home, rather than out and about, I have grabbed the opportunity to get him back in the kitchen. We do a lot of baking, which is great, but there is no reason cooking can’t be fun too.
We love Annabel Karmel’s recipes, her veggie burgers are a firm fave and we make them regularly in big batches so there is always some in the freezer. Another regular is her hidden veggie pizza sauce, which again we make in big batches and freeze. I know not everyone is into hidden veggies and I would prefer Monkey ate vegetables without having to hide them, but while we work on that I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting them into him any way that we can.
We tend to double this and make a big batch (because so many of the ingredients are halved etc.) which gives enough sauce for 20 pizzas, so this would do about 10 pizzas.
Monkey helped me prepare the veggies, washing them and grating which is good as at least he knows there are veggies. He even announces that he loves leeks and courgettes – without tasting them. I love his enthusiasm though even if I don’t believe him for a second!
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion, leek, carrot and courgette and saute for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured.Add the garlic for one minute than remove from the heat. We have hard anodised pans and a hand blender so I add the remaining ingredients in the pan and blend in there, but if you have non stick pans, or if you prefer, you should move the veg to a blender or bowl at this point.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.Return to the pan and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool and then it can be frozen in batches.I usually spoon off a couple of ladles full into a tupperware which can then be got out to use with 2 pizza bases as and when. I would love to make our own pizza bases, but don’t have the time or energy at the mo – hopefully we will one day though!
The pizza sauce is great, but with the small amount of veg in there I doubt it would count as one of your 5 a day, and we really want to work on getting other veg into Monkey. Homemade pizzas are a great way of doing that, as cheese can help mask the veg, and you obviously get control of the ingredients. We use a half fat cheese, because it happens to be our fave and does help with our diets.
This is the fun bit that kids can really get involved with. We bought Monkey a child safe knife – which has a rounded tip and a fairly blunt serrated edge. It still cuts veg so you still have to be very careful around it, but the thought of Monkey cutting with it terrifies me a heck of a lot less than helping him use our big scary kitchen knives would! It means he can join in with the chopping safely and without giving me heart failure. (Yes he is wearing his PJs in these pics, I indulged him with a PJ day when he was poorly :))
So he helped me chop up the mushrooms and yellow pepper and had great fun doing it. The amounts and size of the bits I guess depends on your kid and their fussiness level. We are going for not too much, and fairly small at the moment as if they are big he will either eat round them or refuse to eat them at all. Even some of these size bits have been a challenge to get him to eat! Monkey is seriously stubborn and often goes to bed without eating any tea when he doesn’t like what is on offer (or at least he has decided he doesn’t like it even when we know it is something he does actually like!).
So anyway, yes our chunks are quite small. We also use some flavoured turkey meat for the most part, though do use other meats too sometimes to shake things up a little :). Monkey helped spread the sauce onto the pizza bases and then sprinkle the meat, veg and of course cheese on top. Yummy pizzas made :). Now I won’t say it was plain sailing. We make variations of this quite often and it depends on his mood and like I say at the moment he really is quite fussy. He did eat some though and moaned more about the chunks of meat than the veg and with him it really is all about seeing something he doesn’t like. If a mushroom or pepper is hidden under cheese he eats it no problem. If he can see them he doesn’t want it. So it is a work in progress but for my part, I thought they were blimming lovely and it is a good way to get him involved with cooking and vegetables so got to look at the positives!
Last weekend, Monkey was pottering about the lounge and Hubs and I were sat at the dining table, having a chat and Hubs had his laptop out. LM was asleep and Monkey was busy so we were enjoying a rare quiet few minutes. Monkey then came and sat next to Daddy. He grabbed the notepad and pencil that was there and said:
“Sooo Daddy, What do we need to do?”
It was a really adorable moment as Hubs and I like our lists and we are often checking things off of lists and talking about what else needs doing. Having said that we haven’t had a “jobs” weekend like this for a while, but Monkey has obviously taken it in previously and out it came.
Hubs and I had a good little chuckle and Hubs had a little chat with Monkey about what we needed to do and they started making a list of things to do. All important things like digging, and playing lol!
I love this series of shots, they aren’t the best and some are a bit blurry but it really captured the moment. It kept Monkey entertained for ages telling Daddy what we needed to do and what we needed from the shops. We were really impressed that fruits and veg were at the top of his list – wish he was that keen on actually eating them! Colours are always listed in rainbow order these days and apparently we had to make ginger bunnies in the shape of all the Bing Bunny characters.
I sat chuckling on the other side of the table as it was so cute watching their little conversation and watching them write their lists, hearing: “What’s next on the list Daddy?” and “what do we need on the list?” from our little 2 1/2 yr old! It’s amazing how much they take in, and then store away for a later date. I am still waiting for him to repeat some less cute phrases that have been uttered in stress, that we hope he hasn’t taken in!
Monkey, like most toddlers, loves getting outside and burning off some energy. So while I would probably prefer to snuggle up in the warm and watch a film, he is generally itching to get outside and have some fun. The good news is that for the most part he is easily pleased with regards to what we do when we are out there and doesn’t need some hugely imaginative activity. The simplest things really are the best sometimes, so here they are, 5 cheap fun ways to play outside in winter.
This post contains a few affiliate links, so basically if you were to click on the link and buy something it wouldn’t cost you extra but I would receive a few pence to go towards the upkeep of this blog (so far earnings from affiliate links have been negligable so not entirely sure why I bother with them) and I never link so something I wouldn’t buy myself :).
A lot of these we do in our garden as it is the easiest place for us to go when LM is having a nap but you can do most of these things out and about if you don’t have any outside space of your own.
An oldy but a goody and suitable for all times of year really. You can make your own bubble mix (though I haven’t dared to try yet I will admit) which makes it uber cheap or I picked a huge bottle of it up from a garden centre for only a couple of quid. The best investment we have made for bubble fun is a bubble wand. You can get one from amazon for less than £2 so we are not talking a huge investment, but they do make the best bubbles :).
Monkey loves running around the garden chasing bubbles around and they are a great enticement to keep him moving when we are out and about too!
Pavement chalks are great fun as they wash off in the rain. We have been known to take them out and about with us as great entertainment that do no harm to anyone. We chalk numbers, letters, shapes and even dinosaurs and rainbows! Admittedly most of the big things we chalk at the moment are drawn by Mummy and Daddy but Monkey is getting really good at doing the zigzags down the dinosaur’s back and likes drawing circles and all sorts really. I am sure in time he will take the lead and get really creative. We picked some chalks up from our local supermarket but someone bought us these Crayola ones which I have to admit are fantastic as they have a nice point and were even a bit resistant to snow!
Give Monkey a paintbrush and a puddle and he will occupy himself for ages painting, decorating, cleaning, and generally pottering about the garden. He just uses a brush that we got as part of a crafty set and after being outdoors for a while it has now started to rust a little on the metal bit, so a fully plastic one may be better, but whatever you have works. For a while he was using a really old paintbrush of ours… which he would probably still be using but I don’t know where it went – it possibly got buried or something :). It’s a great way to practise numbers, shapes and letters too. Once Monkey drew a huge 2, though I think it was a fluke!
Splashing in puddles
Great for rainy days and a firm favourite with most kids I think, puddle jumping! I do recommend a good pair of wellies and waterproof trousers/waterproof all in one to make the fun as comfortable as possible and make it last. We bought Monkey a huge pair of waterproof trousers that were far too big initially (I think I bought them well over a year ago) but fit perfectly now and still have a bit of room to grow – so I am definitely getting my money’s worth out of them! it is nice to know that I don’t have to worry too much about spare clothing too as he can splosh to his hearts content and stay nice and dry. A few weeks ago we found the biggest puddle ever! Great fun
If all else fails there is just good old running around. Monkey likes to run pushing things for some reason. He has a little wheelbarrow and a really rubbish cheap plastic lawnmower, but his favourite thing to push round the garden is his little toy buggy. He adores haring round the garden pushing the buggy round, and I have to admit I prefer him doing in the garden than in the house – there is a lot less things to crash into. He also likes just running around chasing each other too, or running up and down hills so no need for any props really!
Do you like playing outside with your kids, even in the winter? Or are you looking forward to getting out more in warmer days?