Ice Excavating with Monkey, age 4

Like many children his age, Monkey is constantly on the go and really interested in the world around him. The questions are endless and I am always trying to find new fun things to do with him, that he will be interested in. After seeing some programme about fossils on the tv I decided to have a go at an activity that has been on my to do list for ages, ice excavating!

It’s a dead simple activity and while I think most people excavate dinosaur toys out of the ice, we don’t actually have any so I just found some other rubbery toys that I thought would survive freezing, and a few jewels and set to work. In a big tupperware I popped a few toys in a bit of water and froze it for a few hours. Once that layer had frozen I added more water and more toys and then left the whole thing in the freezer overnight ready for Mummy & Monkey time.


The next day Monkey and I set to work. We set up in the tuff spot inside as the weather outside wasn’t great, popped the ice block into a big roasting tin and set to work trying to melt the ice and free the toys using some jugs of water, a couple of teaspoons and some table salt.PhotoGrid_1468231854163

As you can see Monkey absolutely loved every minute. There was so much to talk about too which was great for his vocabulary.PhotoGrid_1468232031232

Definitely a lot of fun and will repeat it over the holidays if we have a warm day I think as then the ice will melt even faster! As it was this kept us going for about an hour and there was still ice left afterwards.

Have you tried ice excavating before?


Technology and parenting

I’ve written before about how I think technology has changed the way we parent but I have been thinking about it a lot again lately. We’ve been watching the series Back in Time for the weekend which has been fascinating from a social history point of view. It’s been really fun to see the family thrown back in time and to see how much has really changed in such a short amount of time. We really are so lucky and I think we all take so much for granted we really do. Anyway it has made me really think about how technological advances have massively changed parenting. (I’m talking primarily about parenting small children here as that is all I have experience with so far!)


Image credit: Amazon. Would be an interesting read I bet!

In the 50s things were so different. There were less white goods and everyone in the country lived a very frugal existence. According to the programme, women at the time averaged over 70 hours of housework a week. Exhausting! So I can’t help but wonder what were their small children doing while they were doing housework? I know that babies and toddler’s were often sat outside in a pram to watch the world go by. Can you imagine that now? What about the rest of the time or when they were walking or climbing. Were little ones in a playpen or were they sat on the hip of a mum who was trying to get so much housework done? I have no idea how they did it to be honest! How much interaction was there between parent and toddler?

Over the course the next 60 years things have really changed so much. We now have lots more extra time to be with our kids which is great but I can’t help feeling that comes with problems of its own.

For a start there is issues surrounding boredom, and this is two-fold. Firstly, as a mum, yes I get bored sometimes. The mundanity of life as a SAHM is real. Doing the housework and looking after the kids isn’t always that stimulating so yes I do get bored. (I struggle to imagine a 50s housewife and mum having time to be bored as they knew no different). At which point I turn to technology. I grab my phone and play a game or check social media, but I will come onto that more later. There is also the issue of boredom related to our kids as in that we rarely allow them to get bored.


With so much technology, TV programmes, apps, YouTube etc. Sometimes it is hard to get them away from screens. In moderation this can be good and I’ve said before that I think kids can learn from TV but it obviously can’t replace interaction and games with parents. So I try to do lots of activities with the kids. But again how good for them are these activities?


There is huge amounts of pressure to do amazing things with the kids. Social media, blogs and pinterest all add to this pressure as there are so many wonderful activities, ways to entertain our kids and help them learn. Messy play, sensory play, small world play. Creating elaborate ways for them to play. Do they really need them though? I’ve read before that actually it is good for kids to be bored as it allows their imagination to step in. By constantly giving them activities that our imagination has come up with, are we doing them a disservice? All the sensory play and messy play that we are convinced is so good for children, parents never used to do it and we turned out alright didn’t we? Do they really need it?

We do all this from a good place as we want them to develop and learn and grow but I do question it sometimes. For my part, over the past 3 yrs I have learned that the more specific I want an activity to be the less it will work. My kids just don’t go for it and do much better when I allow play to be freer. To give them a material, be it crayons, paint, lentils or water and let them do what they want with it. The more I try to contrive a theme or set a purpose the less well it goes. But I figure that’s just the way we are as so many other kids seem to love activities set up for them by their parents.

We are able to do these sorts of activities because we have been freed by technology, to a certain extent. But does this all put too much pressure on us and our children. Are we now expecting too much of them. I wonder what the standards were in 50s, 60s, 70s etc. Did we expect kids to write their name before starting school? Or be on their way to be able to read, or learning to swim at such young ages? Is it a good thing that we now want them to learn at ever younger ages, that we have more time to help them learn… Or are we putting too much pressure on them so young? Expecting so much of them as proof that we are being good parents?

As much as technology has freed us from housework, it had tethered us in other ways. Smartphones. I was a relatively latecomer to the world of Smartphones. I was quite happy with my old phone which called and text and had basic games on. I had a computer for using the Internet so why did I need all that fancy stuff on my phone. Fast forward to today and my galaxy s6 is in my hand for far, far too much of the day. I know it is but it is a habit that’s has to break.

Smartphones are so much more than phones. They are our calendars, our email, our cameras, our games consoles, our dictionary, thesaurus and encyclopedia. They are how we communicate with friends, family and the world. They are how we consume the news, order our food shopping, track our fitness and exercise and, for many of us, are our creative outlet. I am blogging using my phone right now. So it is no wonder they feel permanently attached to us.

But they are so isolating too. How many times are you sat in a room and everyone is on their phone? I hate when I see the kids clamouring for hubs’ attention when he is glued to an article he is reading on his smartphone. The trouble is I know it is the same the other way and hubs hates seeing me on my phone when I am with the kids. It’s no wonder the kids want to play on them, what example are we setting? But as I mentioned earlier, sometimes when the kids are playing happily I know that if I get up to go and do something they will want me back, but sitting there I get bored so it is all too easy to reach for my phone and quickly check Facebook or Instagram a photo. The problem is that you get sucked in and it is rarely a ‘quick’ check.

Image credit:

Image credit:

That is something I am trying to work on. I use my phone as my primary camera and I love the snaps I take of them. I also enjoy sharing the pictures on social media… So I don’t want to stop but I do need to stop checking how many likes or comments there has been. I’m not even sure why I care really? I also need to cut down on my guilty pleasure of playing candy crush. I mean really. What a waste of time. But I feel it keeps my brain ticking over when I am bored and I can pick it up and put it down easily.

Hubs and I have both downloaded apps to monitor how much we use our phones. I am intrigued to see what they will say and we hope to use them to cut down that time. To create rules about not using them at the table or when playing with the kids. So we shall see how we go.

What do you think? Has technology helped parenting or hindered it? Does it make us put too much pressure on ourselves and our kids?

The Reading ResidenceAnd then the fun began...MummascribblesBest of Worst

Learning to draw at 15mths and 3 3/4

My word of the week this week has to be drawing, as both kiddies are making leaps and bounds with their drawing abilities at the moment.

LM has well and truly discovered drawing now and would love to be doing it all day every day at the moment. I have held back from letting her have crayons for a while (for fear of her eating them) and she has amazed me with the magna doodle things. Then lately we got a couple of crayons out and she was in her element.PhotoGrid_1454505406334

She does pop them in her mouth from time to time but is gradually learning not to I think. She loves it though and often takes herself off to the little table in the conservatory and sits swinging her legs. She has fallen a couple of times bless her but she just wants to get right back up.

She doesn’t distinguish that much between paper and table though and I have to control my feelings about this and remind myself that it doesn’t matter if she draws on this table. I am still trying to keep the crayons contained though as I really don’t want find her drawing on a wall or sofa one day! So it was lovely at the weekend when we got out in the garden with the pavement chalks as I could really leave her to do as she pleased. Again it ended up in her mouth once or twice but only very briefly and on the whole she was absolutely loving drawing on the pavement.PhotoGrid_1454505585883

Monkey was loving it too and it was lovely seeing them do it together.


His drawing is coming on leaps and bounds lately too. There is still a lot scribbling going on but they are usually something, at least in his mind, and are often roads. I was dead impressed a few days ago though when I was doodling while they were drawing and drew a tree with some grass by a river… And Monkey copied me! He did so well and it was lovely to see him create an actual picture of something.


He’s also coming on really well with his writing. He has been writing his name for some time now but it has definitely improved and then the other day he wanted to draw numbers so he was again copying what I did, and did such a brilliant job! I was so proud of him! (excuse the bag of clothes in the background ready to go to the chairty shop!) Of course some aren’t perfect but who cares, what a brilliant effort, such a clever Monkey :).20160202_091315So as you can see there has been a lot of drawing going on in our house. Do your kids love to draw?

The Reading ResidenceCountry Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall#ToddlerApprovedTuesdayEthans Escapades
Life UnexpectedNot My Year Off

Potty Training at Age 3

Conventional wisdom seems to be that when it comes to potty training you should wait until your child is ‘ready’ to do it. Yet despite this I think a lot of us still feel under immense pressure to do it as early as possible. Yes we want to get rid of the cost and faff of nappies but more than that I think a lot of us feel like we aren’t doing a very good job if we still have a child in nappies at age 3 or older. This may be because of ‘helpful’ comments from others or a feeling of competition with friends children who were potty trained by age 2. Whatever the cause, we put pressure on ourselves to do it early, we don’t trust our intincts and we rush into it.

Numerous friends of ours with older children have warned us of this and have time and again reiterated the “don’t do what I did, wait until they are ready” mantra. Of course some children are ready at age 2, all children are different after all, but some aren’t and that is the point and it really has to be about the child.

So with the very helpful advice ringing in our ears, we have waited. It hasn’t been easy and we did try too early. With comments such as “it’s about time he was potty trained” and the pressure of starting playgroup in January we decided to try to potty train Monkey then, when he was. And we failed. After 15 accidents in 3 hours it was clear he just wasn’t getting it bless him. He was clearly trying and was sat on the toilet for ages with nothing happening then as soon as the pants were back on he would go in his pants. With a tiny baby and constant mess we were stressed and he was stressed and we called time. Maybe people will say we gave up too easily but we knew it wasn’t right and for once we actually trusted our instincts and decided to relax about the whole thing.

I set a new vague goal in my mind of the summer (with ideas of running around naked in the garden and not having to worry about toilet training while at playgroup) and we took a new approach. I know people say that you should have potties around to get them used to them and we had done that but to be honest they were just gathering dust as Monkey was completely uninterested in them. We knew we needed to think about Monkey, rather than just general advice, and tailor our approach to him.

Monkey’s biggest problem in fact was that actually he didn’t like his privates. He didn’t like looking at them or touching them or us touching them. In many ways it is good as we know that he would never like anyone else touching his privates but he would get so upset if we went near them. So our starting point was helping him accept they were normal. I’m not sure why he felt like that but we started getting him to wipe his privates at nappy changes and Daddy spent a bit more time naked and talking about his bits to try and get Monkey to relax and realise thet are just another part of his body and totally normal.

20150818_104802Gradually he relaxed about this a little bit, and for a long time we had been talking to him about going to the toilet like a big boy and we continued with that. He started to hate nappy changes, especially pooey ones so we kept reiterating how much better it was to use the big boy toilet and kept asking him if he would like to use the toilet. His answer was always his singsong “nofankyouuuu” until one day at bathy time he stood looking at the bath and said to Daddy “I don’t want to do a wee in the bathy” and when Daddy immediately asked if he would like to do a wee wee on the toilet, he said yes. Daddy popped him on the toilet (we have a cute seat with steps) and he did it! Well done Monkey!!

The next day after playing out in the paddling pool, I let him roam about naked for a bit afterwards and asked if he would like to do a wee on the “wee bush” (a random bush we have picked for wees, apparently hubs and his brothers had one when they were learning) or go in the potty. He tried on the bush but nothing happened then sat on the potty and did a wee and a poo! (He is going to hate reading this when he is older!) Aah big surprise and cue Mummy feeling really proud (and wondering what to do with a pooey potty for the first time lol).

From then on he used the toilet every night before bathy for wees and poos and sometimes the potty during the day. But with still going to playgroup twice a week and a holiday with a long car journey coming up we held back and didn’t rush.

When we got back from our holiday and could spend a good few days pottering about at home (and just taking short walks nearby to get out of the house) it was no nappies day. Monkey knew it was coming and was excited to wear pants. He was now 3 yrs 2 months. And you know what, he was ready and it has actually been really, really easy.

He had 3 accidents on day 1 and another 3 on day 2 but had far, far more successes. We started taking him to the toilet more often and on day 3 we had no accidents and no more for the next few days. He was even dry at naptime and bedtime for a couple of days and we were just shocked but also massively relieved by how well it was going! There was a few strops about the frequency of toilet trips and I realised that actually he can hold it for quite a long time and that I have to trust him to know when he needs to go.

This has led to a few more accidents, mostly tiny drips in his pants when he realises he needs to go, and one big accident. Which is fine as he needs to learn and it is still very early days really! One of the key things for us though has been saying that accidents aren’t a good thing, without admonishing him. I have read that you shouldn’t say “ah that’s ok” or “never mind” as that gives mixed messages. So we try and say “oh dear, that’s a bit yucky, wee goes in the toilet not in your pants, doesn’t it?” So we don’t tell him off but don’t say it’s ok, if that makes sense? We also give him tonnes of praise for going to the toilet as we know that is a big motivator for him.

potty training

I’m no expert on child rearing and have only potty trained one child but here are my tips for smooth potty training:

  • Wait until they are ready and encourage them and talk to them about it but let them take the lead.
  • Don’t give into pressure from others (and yourself) and trust your intincts about when they are ready, and when you are ready to give it your proper attention.
  • Tailor your approach to your child. Do they like reward charts? Then use them. Is praise enough of a motivator? Then just use that. You know your child better than anyone so you will work out the best way to motivate them to potty train.
  • When they have accidents (because they will) don’t tell them off, but don’t say “it’s ok” either as it gives mixed messages.


Ethans EscapadesBest of Worst

Learning to read at nearly 3

Learning to read at nearly 3Monkey 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!

Ethans Escapades
Not My Year Off

How Ferber’s “Progressive Wait” approach helped our children sleep better

Before Monkey was born, whenever any friends were having troubles getting their little ones to sleep and they mentioned leaving them to cry themselves to sleep, I thought it seemed like a pretty sensible idea. Then when Monkey was born, I realised it wasn’t that simple, and the thought of doing it felt really really cruel. With him spending hours each day screaming in pain with his colic, neither hubs or I could bear the thought of leaving him to cry himself to sleep.

Monkey fast asleep - on his daddy not in bed!

Monkey fast asleep – on his daddy not in bed!

So we did what many parents do and helped him to sleep. We rocked and shushed and patted, drove him round in the car, took him out in the buggy and let him suck our fingers. We tried to use a dummy though could never get him to take one! We did anything that worked and our lives and sleep revolved around getting him to sleep and keeping him that way. Honestly? It was exhausting, and miserable. I spent a lot of time crying and feared for my mental health. So after a few months of this we started looking for other ways. We tried “The Baby Whisperer” but didn’t manage with her techniques at all. If anything her pick up/put down technique just seemed to mean that Monkey screamed louder and for longer. Every child is different but at the time we blamed ourselves.

I remember people saying to me “maybe he just isn’t tired” or “maybe he doesn’t need the sleep” if I complained I couldn’t get him to sleep. But to me the answer to that was then why is he miserable? He was clearly tired. I had no problem with a child who was awake and happy to be, my frustration came from comforting a child who was miserable and clearly tired, but who refused to stay asleep!

Although we had initially discounted the possibility of “cry it out” techniques, we eventually got desperate and came across Dr Ferber’s progressive wait method. It seemed a little kinder than what I had thought of as “cry it out”so we decided to look into it more. I wanted to make sure we did it properly, if we were going to do it at all, so I bought his book “Solve your Child’s Sleep Problems“* from amazon and had a read. This book covers children of all ages with problems sleeping, with advice on anything from night terrors to sleep walking. The section we were interested in though is about younger children and helping them sleep better without being rocked, etc. There is far more information than I could hope to convey so if you are having problems, I strongly recommend that you have a read.
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Educational TV for Toddlers

Guidelines recommend that children under 2 watch no TV at all and toddlers watch no more than 2 hours of TV a day, but how realistic is this really? I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with a bit of telly. I’m not about to dump Monkey in front of the TV all day every day, and to be honest he is so full of energy he would get bored with it anyway. We get out and about a lot, read books, do crafts and all sorts of things, but there are times of the day when the TV is very useful as it keeps him entertained while I get on with some other things. This is especially true since Little Miss arrived!

Am I wrong though? Am I neglecting my child or being a bad mum because he watches a few hours of TV spread throughout the day? In an article I read a while ago, Dr Trina Hinckley said TV viewing can be ‘harmful to children’s physical and mental health’ speaking specifically about children under 4. She said that although parents think that TV programmes help children with learning language etc, that this is not true according to research.
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