Category: Parenting

There are many advantages why a parent, mother or father should join a toddler group,( traditionally known as mother and toddler groups.) with their child. Firstly it is a fantastic opportunity to meet other parents in similar situations as yourself. A well run group will benefit your child as it will help to teach them how share, turn take and generally get along with other children all things that will aid them later in life at pre -school groups as well as at school.

I took my own children to such groups and also attended several when I was working as a registered child minder. During this time we all benefited because the children in my care got to socialise with more children. I could have some much needed adult conversation and from a professional point of view, I gained ideas for activities to carry out at home with the children and I also acquired more work. This was because parents could see how happy and relaxed the children in my care were ( at one time I was literally over flowing with enquiries for my child minding service that I was able to pass on the details of other local child minders).

Activities at groups vary but usually there is an opportunity to paint

and or do art and craft projects,

,

group singing time which includes singing to anyone who is celebrating a birthday

and a story session. Drinks and biscuits for both adults and children are provided.

Fees are usually minimal, starting at a few pounds to include a registration fee. Popular groups may well have a waiting list, so don’t delay in putting your child’s name down, often a group will allow you to go on a complimentary visit  before you commit.

Take my advice and join a toddler group, the benefits are endless.

Have fun with your children.

As always questions/comments are welcome

Karen

x

 

 

 

l

This is a mini blog to respond to a message sent by Claire Day, after she read my original piece on bedtime routines.  Claire has a 21 month old son who sleeps in a normal bed and wakes every night screaming and nothing will settle him until he’s ready, then he just rolls over and goes back to sleep. This can be 10 minutes or two hours later.

Thank you for your question, Claire and for giving me so much information into your son’s sleeping pattern.

I’m presuming that my suggestions, given so far, have been of little help. I suggest, now, that maybe you should look into your son’s diet. I say this because when my eldest was of a similar age to yours, he started having nightmares, he would wake up, suddenly, screaming that there were bees flying around his room ( there were none) the only way I could console him was to open his window and shoo the bees away, telling him that they were all gone now. I then stopped giving him orange squash to drink, replacing it with diluted orange juice (which has less additives) this seemed to do the trick, as the night terrors stopped. Try settling your son to bed with a warm drink of milk, followed by a calming bedtime story. Shirley Hughes is an author I would recommend to you, as her books are about calm family life, with fantastic illustrations for you to talk about together.

Another idea, for you, is to buy him a new cuddly toy and explain to him, that it is a sleep bear or bunny and that if he cuddles it, it’s magic powers will help him sleep. At 21 months he should be old enough to grasp this idea! You could also reward him for sleeping well by introducing a simple star chart, instead of using stars, give him Thomas the tank engine or Bob the builder stickers (I bet he loves both of them) then if he manages to earn 3 in a row, treat him to an outing to the park or take him swimming, something he really enjoys. When you put him into his bed, try leaving his door open and the landing light left on, so he doesn’t feel so cut off from you. If you think he might escape through the open door, use a stair gate across the door way, or give him a night light in his room.

Hopefully, this has given you some more ideas to work with. Good luck, try to stay calm, as he will pick up on your anxiety. Let me know how you get on and if you need any help on other issues, just let me know.

Karen x

 

The subject of this weeks blog, is a suggestion, from Erika; thanks Erika.

Before I start, I want to point out that I am very bias towards child minders (as I worked as one, for 14 happy years, only giving up due to ill health)


Child minders usually work alone, in their own homes and many have their own children.

My personal feeling is that babies are better with a child minder, than, say, a nursery setting, as a child minder is in a home enviroment and the adult to child ratio is a lot lower. It was one under one, three under five and six under eight  in my day. Child minders also cover a wide age range, usually birth – 14 years, so your child could stay with a child minder for many years, including before and after school and during school holidays, if necessary.

Most of my work came from word of mouth, so ask around at your child’s school. toddler groups, etc. if anyone knows of a good child minder.. Health visitors are also a good port of call, or contact Ofsted for a list of registered child minders, in your area.

My advice, would be to visit several before making your decision. Although all childminders, follow strict Ofsted rules and regulations, we are all quite different from one another and you need to find one that is on ‘the same wave length’!

Initally you will need to make phone contact. to check on vacancies and then make an appointment to visit.I used to try to interview prospective parents, during the day, while I was working, if possible, to give them the feel  of my setting while it was in use.

During the visit, parents should be shown, the registration certificate ( ideally this should be on display), insurance document, details of policies, Ofsted reports, first aid certificate and other qualifications gained, she should also explain about things like accidents / inicidents and make out a contract, if you decide to go ahead,so every one is clear about every thing ( like fees, arrangements for non attenance etc.)

Questions to ask the child minder are  how is behaviour managed? will there be extra fees for outings or  meals? ( or should a packed lunch be provided) what happens if a child is taken ill during the day,ages of other children who will be at setting at the same time, etc.

My last piece of advice is to go with your gut instinct, if it doesn’t feel right look else where. Most of my child minding parents told me that they knew when we first met, that I was right for them and their offspring. I have made some life long friends from both parents and children from my time as a child minder.

As always questions/ comments are welcome.

Karen

 

 

Samantha has asked me for some tips to make food shopping with her children a bit easier.

Food shopping at the supermarket can be quite stressful if you have young children with you.

When my 2 sons had to accompany me every week to the supermarket, my youngest who was almost 2 years old would have a temper tantrum as soon as I attempted to sit him in the trolley, he would make himself stiff and lie on the floor screaming, the reason behind this was because his brother who was two years older would walk around the shop rather than ride, in those days there were only trolleys available with one child seat. I tried to negotiate with him but this made matters worse, eventually I let him lie on the floor kicking and screaming inside the supermarket and we walked away letting him think that it was not a big deal. I must point out that I could see my child at all times and he was quite safe. He looked up, saw us walking away then jumped up ran after us and held up his arms asking to go into the trolley, I never encountered this problem again!

As my children grew older I came up with an idea to make shopping more interesting for them, we made shopping lists at home together before going to the supermarket. I would say that we needed sugar, for example, my 4 and a half year old would write an S mark on his list. When we started the shop and collected the sugar, he crossed the S from his paper, my youngest son, who was now sat strapped into the trolley didn’t have an S on his list to cross off, so the tantrum reared it’s head again, he threw the paper and pen onto the floor in frustration. In hindsight, if I had more time and energy I could have cut pictures from magazines and made him a visual list to use that he would have found easier.

When I was a child minder I didn’t attempt to do a full food shop with the children in tow, but occasionally we would pop in for a few items, I would encourage the older children to help weigh any fruit and vegetables. I once made a time consuming mistake of allowing a girl, of around 3 years to scan my shopping for me at the self service check out, she thought this was wonderful and wanted to scan the groceries of the customer behind us too, who was more than happy to let her oblige, if I hadn’t insisted that it was time to leave I think we would still be there!.

Once I was walking through the town after visiting the library with a child in a buggy, when I noticed that my favourite clothes store was having a sale, I took the child in his buggy into the changing room so I could try on a dress I gave the boy the token that the shop assistant issued stating how many items I had to look after, he thought that it was really important and held tightly onto it. As a reward for being so good while we were in the clothes shop I told Sammy that  we could either visit the toy shop or the pet store as a treat, he chose the pet shop and when he saw some cute baby guinea pigs he presumed that I was going to buy him one, luckily he was content to just watch and talk about them with me.

Back to the supermarket,on another occasion I was shopping alone before starting my day of child minding when I came across one of my minded children with her mother on seeing me the child informed her mother that she wanted to help me with my shopping as it was more fun and that is what happened , the girl came with me and the parent disappeared!

My tips, Samantha for successful shopping are try to make it fun by involving your children and reward good behaviour with lots of praise, there is more about this in my post on behaviour management.

As always questions/ comments are welcome

Karen

X

Kirsty Lavender has asked for tips on how best to wean her baby off his bottle and onto a trainer cup. Thanks for the request, Kirsty.

The best advice I can give is to have patience.

When I decided to coax my oldest son off his bottle, at around 12 months of age, it took several attempts before getting a result. I offered him a variety of different cups, until I gave him a small plastic beaker with about 6 tiny holes in the spout. He liked this one and never had a bottle again.

Don’t be tempted to swap and change between bottle and cup once your child takes to a cup, stick with it.

My mum tells me that when she got me off my bottle, she hid it away in a drawer out of view. Several weeks later on a rainy day she decided to let me help her tidy some drawers to keep me entertained. ( she had forgotten the bottle was in there). When I looked in the drawer, I saw the bottle teat and excitedly said “Look, I’ve found a malteser!”

Never give your baby sweet drinks from a bottle, as this will encourage tooth decay.

Nowadays, there is an enormous variety of trainer cups and tops available, from teat like tops, to plastic sippy cups. These are good, in the way that they are non-spill, but I have witnessed children actually shaking the liquid out of them, all over my carpet! while I was child minding.

My sister tells me that she gave up with a trainer beaker and let her children suck drinks through a straw and then progressed to a normal plastic cup with no top.

I am guessing, Kirsty, that when you give your son his bottle, you cuddle him. Try doing a similar thing when introducing him to a cup. Obviously, you will need to hold him more upright to prevent choking, but by holding him close, maybe sitting on your lap,it will be more familiar. Then as he gets used to it, give it to him in his high chair.

Hopefully, this gives you some food for thought and with trail and error and as I mentioned earlier patience, hopefully your son will soon happily be drinking from a cup and his bottle a distant memory.

Good luck Kirsty, stick with it and let me know how it goes.

Karen x

As always comments/questions are welcome..

 

weaning baby off bottle

Stranger danger is a difficult subject to administer. We all tell our children never to speak to or approach a stranger, and then we take them to meet Santa and encourage them to not only tell him what they would like for Christmas, but also sometimes to sit on his lap!

We also forget sometimes that people we know are often strangers to our children, but we still tell them “Say Hello, to Auntie Beryl.” etc.

I recall a parent telling me about a long conversation, she had had with her son. Telling him all about the dangers strangers can impose, she thought it had gone well until two days later when he innocently asked her “Mummy, what is a stranger!”

We must also be careful not to make our children so scared of people they don’t know, that they are afraid to go to one if they need help.

I used to tell my children when they were young, that if they ever got lost in town while we were shopping to go into a shop and tell the person on the till that they had lost me.

Similarly, I took a group of child minded children on a day trip to the park. I put a bracelet on each of them, with my mobile phone number written on the inside. I explained to them, that if they got lost they should look for a mummy with children and ask her to ring me. One little boy responded by saying, “But I don’t want to get lost, Karen!” I reassured him by telling him that it would never happen (as I didn’t take my eyes off them) but it was just in case. (I thought that approaching a lady with children, was the safest bet, if the worse should happen)

IMG_mubuhy


On the subject of getting lost, I also once heard a tale of a mum not being able to see her son suddenly while at a toddler group. She called his name and when he didn’t appear, the whole group started to look for him. Half an hour or so later, when his mum was starting to panic he popped out of the climbing frame and proudly announced ” I found a really good hiding place didn’t I? No one could find me!”

In summary; talk to children about the dangers of strangers, but not to the extent of making them so scared that they won’t go to one if they ever need to.

As always, questions/ comments are welcome.

 

My husband would say that I am highly qualified to encourage a child to talk; as I never stop! Even having suffering a massive stroke didn’t stop me, much to his disappointment! When I was in hospital he told me he thought he had gone deaf! When I was growing up my dad would tell people that I was vaccinated with a gramophone needle!

Other than attending a work shop on the subject, I have no formal qualifications this topic; only my personal experience.


In my opinion the more you talk to your child/baby, the better communicators they will be; as that is how they learn, by imitating us.

Despite me doing this with my own children,;they were all slow to talk (maybe because they never got the chance as I talked too much!) Seriously though, I think their problems were genetic; My sister was also delayed in her speach and required speach therapy. She used to call me “Ga Ga” I would say to her my name is “Karen” I would try to help her to say my name properly by braking it down “Say Ka” I would tell her; she would repeat it, then I would tell her “say ren” again she repeated it. “Now put it together and say Karen” ….” Ga Ga” she would say!


My eldest son didn’t say a lot when he was younger; but he eventually developed his own ‘language’ that only I as his Mummy could understand. For example; if he wanted a biscuit, he would say “Mum, Mum.” and he made up his own words for certain colours. This concerned me; as his 3rd birthday was approaching and he was soon to start pre-school. I mentioned my worry to my health visitor and she said she would put his name on the list to be assessed for speach therapy. The list must have been a long one, because almost a year later nothing had been done. I kept phoning her and eventually he was seen. He went for a few sessions, and he really enjoyed them. The results were amazing; he went from hardly saying anything, to non stop chatting in a few months!

My second son wasn’t quite so slow to talk, but I recall him saying “no man” (for snowman) and “poon” (for spoon) I spoke to my younger son’s speach therapist about this and she suggested getting him to say “SS…Sammy the snake says… SS” before saying these words. That really did the trick.

My third son also had his own language; referring to his siblings as “Nangnie” (Jamie) “Nangnang” (Damon) and “Nee” (Leigh) “Annie” was orange juice and “Aggie” was a boy called Alex (who I was childminding) He also had difficulty sounding “Th.”, we came up with the idea of getting him to put his top teeth over his bottom lip while looking in a mirror (like bugs bunny) before trying to sound “Th.” again. This worked very well.

I have also looked after several children (mostly boys) with delayed speech. I think their parents chose me as their childminder because I could understand them more than most. One child once told my NVQ Assessor that “Karn” (Karen) is an “oink oink” (pig!) I realised; and quickly explained that what he was trying to tell her was that we had recently been to a farm where they had pigs!


If you are at all worried about your child’s ability to talk; speak to your Health Visitor, or GP as in my oppinion; a speach therapist can achieve marvalous results.

As always, questions or comments are very welcome.

I was privileged to work as a registered child minder for many happy years, meaning that I never had to leave my children in childcare; other than in pre-school play groups.

Being a child minder; I was aware of a parents guilt, and hardly a week goes by without something similar being brought up on television programmes such as “Loose Women” and “This Morning.” I was once told by one of my child minding parents that she expected me to think that she was selfish because she chose to leave her baby with me while she went to work. In reality; I don’t think that many mothers have a choice going back to work after having a baby and that it is very much a necessity, what with the rising cost of living. As long as a parent chooses the right childcare for them and their child everything will be fine.

Going back to the child minding parent; she told me that she felt by leaving her child with me, for a couple of days a week while she worked would make her a better parent. She explained that she didn’t have the patience that I was blessed with and therefore only spending part of the week at home with her child would be better for them both. I replied by telling her that if everyone was like me and chose to stay at home with their children then I would be out of a job! This women was and still is an amazing  parent and she should be very proud of her daughter!

Other parents I have worked for have appeared not to be overly interested in what their child has to say when they come to collect them at the end of the day with me; they have nothing to feel guilty about, they may have had a stressful day and just want to get their child home to some peace and quiet.

I also came across a grandmother who had pangs of guilt, she felt that because she was the grandparent; she should be the person to look after her grandson while his mother at was work but when she really thought about this she admitted that she didn’t want to be tied to a young child at her time in life and after all; she had brought up her own children. Eventually, between us; myself, the mum and grandmother, we came up with a solution. She looked after her grandson for one day a week and paid the fees for me to have him the other two days required. This granny did tell me when I saw her her a few months later, that she felt that her grandson had benefited from also coming to me  as I did lots with him; such as taking him to toddler group sessions etc; whereas she tended to stay at home with him.

Another new mum became very upset when leaving her baby with me for the first time. I tried to reassure her by saying that I would look after him. She replied ”If I didn’t know that, we wouldn’t be here!” I told her that she was welcome to phone me as many times during the day as she wished; but she said she wouldn’t ring as if she did and heard her son crying in the back ground, it would upset her and if she didn’t hear him, she would worry why she couldn’t hear him!

The point I am trying to make from this post is that being a stay at home, or working mum is a personal choice. You need to do whichever is best for your family and not feel guilty about it.

I strongly believe that the children I looked after benefited from coming to me (not that I’m implying  that they wouldn’t have done equally as well if they hadn’t been in my care) but it certainly didn’t  harm them.

As always comments/ questions are welcome.

Another child minder (also called Karen!) has asked me for ideas that are suitable  for the older children. She also child minds after school;  however most of her activities and games are aimed at younger children.

The older children that I looked after liked arts and crafts (especially the girls) Making dolls out of wool was a very popular activity, the boys often referred to wolly dolls as woolly robots.

Quick pom-poms, which maybe a good starting point for you before you make wolly dolls are also very popular with older children.


Treasure Keepsake Box

Another popular activity suitable for all ages, is to decorate an empty shoe box to make a treasure box. Give each child an empty shoe box ( most shoe shops are only too pleased to give these away) P.V.A. glue and a variety of pictures and stickers.

I used to use my old Christmas cards that were saved from previous years to decorate their boxes. The older children may like to assist the younger ones in cutting out pictures.

You can supply glitter too, if you can manage the mess. I used to make these, with the children, in the run-up to Christmas and use them to store all the items they made at various toddler group sessions, they would then take the filled box home on their last day with me before Christmas. This idea could be amended for other occasions such as Easter, or as a holiday keepsake treasure box.

Bird Feeding Station

If you have a window that overlooks a garden it’s a great idea to put up a bird feeder.

I also got the children to make their own bird cakes by adding nuts, dried mixed fruit and suet to melted lard. Put the mixture into empty yogurt cartons, with string attached to the bottoms. When they are cold and set, take them out of the yoghurt pot and hang them upside down from a tree branch for the birds to enjoy . The children can look out for birds and use reference books to identify the different varieties and even work out which food the different breeds prefer.

Salt Dough

Salt dough is another activity older children may enjoy. It is simple and cheap to make, place a cup of flour and half a cup of salt in a bowl and slowly stir in up to a cup of of water, the mixture needs to be sticky, but not too wet., kneed together, then roll out and get creative. The dough then needs to dry out, 3 minutes in a microwave on a low setting works well. Then paint, or use glitter to decorate.


I am a great believer in getting children out and about whenever possible, this may not be suitable for after school; but good if you have older ones in the school holidays, as I did.

Something very popular in Autumn time is to take them on a conker and acorn treasure hunt.

I hope, this has given you some ideas.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Experts say that most children don’t get bladder control until around 18 months, so there is no point in trying to potty train before that age.

I must admit however, to placing my first born son Leigh, on his potty just after his first birthday. He seemed to be quite happy sitting there, whilst watching a children’s television programme (I couldn’t see any harm in this and thought that it was good that he got used to it) Whether it was just a coincidence or not; I don’t know, but he produced a No.2, so I did the same thing the following day and the same thing happened. This continued for about a week, then one day when I changed his nappy, he was dry so I asked him if he like to sit on the potty; this time he managed a wee so I made a big fuss of him by telling him what a clever boy he was and that we would tell his Daddy, when he came home from work and that he would be really pleased too.

My son still wet his nappies, but every now and again I would discover a dry one and put Leigh on his potty, sometimes he would use it and sometimes not. As time went on, I had more dry than wet nappies, and more success with the potty. At this stage I was still putting on a nappy when he went for a nap, over night and when we went out; as I knew he was still quite young.

When Leigh got to around 18 months or so, he seemed to understand more about the potty and would tell me when his nappy was wet. I decided now was the right time to really go for it. I explained to Leigh that we were going to go shopping to buy him some big boys pants that he could wear instead of his nappy. He chose some with Thomas The Tank engine on the front. When we got home I put the pants on him and asked him to tell me if he thought he needed a wee. He was brilliant and almost always stayed dry and used the potty. Of course, he did have occasional accidents, usually when he was busy playing with toys. After a few weeks I took Leigh out for a walk still wearing pants. I took a clean set of lower clothes with me (even socks) just in case of an accident and when we ventured out further I would also take the potty, in a carrier bag and hang it off the buggy (young children can find sitting on an adult toilet frightening)

I was extremely lucky with all 3 of my boys, they all took to potty training easily and all became dry at night quite soon after mastering it during the day. I just placed a plastic sheet under the bed sheet to protect the mattress.

To summarize, my tips are:

Don’t start too young
Praise your child big time for using potty
Don’t become too upset if accidents happen change clothes and hope for better next time
Always carry spare clothes (and potty if possible)
Don’t use pull-ups or confuse the child by sometimes putting on nappy
Purchase a seat to fit on adult toilet when time is right to progress.

As always, any comments or questions are most welcome.

Nowadays, keeping children entertained on long car journeys is relatively easy thanks to things like laptops, electronic games and tablets such as iPads. They can now watch a movie or play a game whilst they travel.

When my own children were young, there were no such luxuries. I once made a booklet for each of them with a list of things for them to look for on the journey such as a man up a ladder, lady pushing a pram, a red traffic light, roundabout, scarecrow in field etc.

They then crossed each item off the list once seen. My youngest son was too young to read at the time, so I drew pictures for him (I am no artist!)

When I was a child, my two sisters and I would travel with our parents, between North Devon and Merseyside, a few times a year. We used to look out for car registration plates going through the Alphabet and also made a chart of car colours to see which were most popular. We would also look out for horses (as we were all horse mad) and at Christmas time we would look out for Christmas trees in windows.

Drawing books and crayons are a good activity for children. Crayons are better than felt tip pens, as they won’t stain clothes if dropped.

Give each child a small ruck sack containing a drink (avoid fizzy drinks, i find that fruit juice or water is better) a snack, drawing book and pencils, a small toy and a picture book or comic for the journey.

Singing (if the parent can stand it!) is another past time, as are games like “I Spy” (you can spy colours, rather than sounds, for younger children.)

When I was childminding, I didn’t take the children on long journeys as such, but we did go on day trips and as my son went to Primary School a few miles away, we travelled by car to the school. I encouraged the children to look out for things like police cars, fire engines, ambulances and as we drove into a farming community; tractors.

The main thing is keep your cool, ensure everyone wears a seat belt and that young children are secured in an appropriate car seat; enjoy your journey. These activities can be adapted for journeys made by train, bus or plane.

As always comments/questions are welcome.

Many parents are under the impression that teaching their child to read is the responsibility of their child’s teacher.

While this is true to a certain extent, there is a lot you can do to help as a parent.

My eldest son started to recognize words from a very young age by the way they were written, e.g, he pointed to an advert in a magazine and told me “That says Boots” (it was for Boots, the chemist)  I can remember doing a similar thing myself when I was young, looking for Enid Blyton books, I would know they were written by her by the way she signed her name.

In my opinion for what it’s worth, a child is never too young to start enjoying books. Even a baby will get satisfaction from being read to whilst having a cuddle. Board books are great for babies and toddlers, as they can stand rough treatment and even being chewed. My all time favourite book for older children is “The Gruffalo” written by Julia Donaldson. It is written in rhythm, so children can often work out text for themselves. It also has amazing illustrations by Alex Scheffler. I recall a mother of a child I used to child-mind telling me that he they gone into a book shop and he picked up a copy of The Gruffalo and read it aloud all by himself! He wasn’t technically reading it, he was reciting it from memory (as I had read to him loads of times) but then reading is using memory really; isn’t it?

When reading to your child, point to the words as you go, so the child can follow.

Enroll your child in the library from a young age to encourage a love of books (after all, the library is one of the things we pay council tax for!) Libraries often also have story and music sessions, which can only help children to read. It is also worth knowing that most libraries have a selection of books for children with special needs, such as scratch and sniff and textured books for the visibly impaired. These books are often not on show for the general public, but are available if you ask a member of staff.

Let your child see you reading a book or magazine, as they often like to copy a parent . Get into the habit of reading to your child at bed time as it is a good wind down activity.

Children can be encouraged to recognize letters of the alphabet, by first learning the letters that are significant to them, such as “K” for Karen or “M” for Mummy and so on. My youngest son learned that “M” was for Mummy. One day when we visited the zoo, he pointed to the sign on a cage saying “monkey” and he shouted (rather loudly) “That says mummy.” A child I was child-minding once pointed to the “H” on the hot tap and told me, thats “H” for Hayden (the name of her Brother) and also pointed out that a road sign, saying “Park Lane”, had a “P” for Pippa (her Mum’s name  and a “K” for Karen, so she was well on her way; long before even starting school.

I hope that these suggestions will be a help, HAPPY READING TO ALL!

As always, comments/ questions are welcome.

When I met my second husband, my boys were aged 4 and 6 and he had an 8 year old son.

Once we settled into life as a “blended family” the boys didn’t call their step-parent mum or dad (after all, they each had an absent parent who they still saw) neither did we tell them that they had to refer to each other as brothers. I do however recall being in the post office when a distant relative of my step-son came over and said to him “Are these your new brothers?” to which he replied ”yes”

Another time I was in the school playground and over heard a mother say to my step-son, “Ask your mum if you can come to ours for tea tomorrow” to which he said to me ”Mum, can I go to my friends house for tea tomorrow please?”

My boys did a similar thing. to my husband, when he was referred to as their dad. I think they found it easier to go along with, rather than explain every time.

I believe that the fact that the boys made up their own minds on the subject, rather than being told how to act helped then to accept our “blended family”

Apart from a few minor disagreements, the boys got on very well.

Quite quickly into our marriage, my third son Adam was born. Not only was he a ‘joint effort’ for us as adults, but he also helped to bond the step-brothers.

The three eldest children would visit their absent parent a few times a week and at one time, Adam asked his dad if he would move out, so he could visit him (he felt he was missing out on something) At first my husband was upset by his remark, but we had a laugh about it later.

Years later, when I was childminding, new parents often wouldn’t realise we were a blended family, until I told them. People often remarked that the older boys looked alike and I was even asked once if they were triplets!

I’m not saying that blending families is easy and we did have arguments from time to time, but if you work at it; all comes right in the end.

My second son, is now married and has a step-son, as well as two daughters of his own. I feel exactly the same towards my step-grandson, as I do my grand daughters.

As always, any comments or questions are most welcome.

After catching up with Terry who originally suggested I write a blog on Child Led Play, he told me his Daughter aged 2 had recently been to a birthday party. He was surprised that all the small children played separately, instead of together.

This in my experience is perfectly normal for that age, and soon not only will children start to interact with one another they will also start to disagree. I have come across a poem, which sums it up brilliantly.

TODDLER RULES POEM

If I want it, it’s MINE.
If it’s in my hand, it’s MINE.
If I had it a little while ago, it’s MINE.
if I can take it, it’s MINE.
If it’s MINE, it is NEVER going to be yours.
If we are building things together, all the pieces are MINE.
If I give it to you and then change my mind, it’s MINE.
If I think it’s nice, it’s MINE.
Once it’s MINE,It will NEVER belong to anyone else, no matter what.
If it’s broken, it’s YOURS!
– Author unknown –

As children mature and their brains and imagination develop, hopefully harmony will be restored and they will play happily together, as I demonstrated in my earlier “Child Led Play – Part 1” long, where i told the story the “Santa Play” scenario.

Hopefully, this has explained things for you Terry. Enjoy your daughter, while she is tiny as they grow up far too quickly!

As always  if anyone has any questions or comments, they are very welcome. I aim to respond quickly.

Thanks to Terry who suggested that I write a blog about Child Led Play.

It is too easy to hover over our children while they are playing. It is much better take a step back and et them use their imagination.

When I was child minding, I sometimes laid out the tea set on a child sized table in my play room and watched while the children played with it.

Another way of encouraging child led play is to ask them open ended questions such as “What are we going to have to eat and drink?” rather than just asking for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

The most special occasion that I can recall of this was at Christmas time. There were three children, of varying ages in the play room. I was listening from just outside the door way. The oldest child dressed up as Santa, complete with glasses (without lens) had wrapped up random toys in sheets taken from the dolls cot she then placed them in a pillow case (santa’s sack) While this was happening the other children lay on the sofa and pretended to be asleep. “Santa” tiptoed over and placed a present beside each child as he crept out of the room, I saw one of the children open an eye, she then jumped up and squealed with delight “Wake up, quickly, Santas been!” to the other child.

Then they both unwrapped their gift, hugged and sang Jingle bells.

It was a magical moment for me to witness, made even more special because they didn’t know that I had been watching and listening, they retold the whole event when I went back in the room.

My grandaughter loves to play shops, her favourite is to be an ice cream seller. Instead of her Daddy asking for a vanilla ice cream, he asks what flavours she has, this not only makes her use her imagination, but also helps her communication skills.

Child led play is great for expanding a child’s imaginative play and vocabulary skills, while generally helping brain development at the same time.

Have fun and enjoy this special time with your children while they are young and innocent.

As always comments/ questions are welcome

The question of how to help a child with number recognition came up recently on social media. These are my ideas.

In my experience, most children start recognizing numbers by their age. Many youngsters are given birthday cards with their age on ( usually the number is large and brightly coloured) Some children walk around for days wearing a badge to show the world how old, or big they are!

My grand daughter who is three. learnt her numbers by watching videos on YouTube of people opening kinder eggs, she also learnt about colours and shapes at the same time.

My eldest son learnt about numbers by watching Sesame Street on TV. He also liked Blockbusters, which helped with his letter recognition.

My grandson learnt to recognise 0-10 from the dial on my mobility scooter (I am now disabled) he loved to sit on my lap and help me to steer. I recall one time when he saw some people ahead of us he shouted “Come on, Nana. let’s beat them!” whilst turning the control dial to top speed. Luckily I was still in control and soon turned it down again!

While I was child minding I used board games such as snakes and ladders or Ludo to help encourage number recognition (this is also good to teach turn taking and sharing) We also used to sing songs like “5 little ducks” and “10 little monkeys jumping on the bed” to help with counting.

The boys were always fans of Thomas The Tank Engine and as each train has a different number and colour, this can be very helpful too.

If we think about it, numbers are everywhere; on the remote control, telephone, calendars, car registration plates, house numbers, road signs, the list is endless. You could make a sort of number treasure hunt game for children to play while you are out and about.

Look out for numbers with children while you are shopping. Price tags on items or shelves and weighing fruit and vegetables in the supermarket is a fun learning activity.

Remember, if you give your children pocket money that coins have their monetarily value written on them.

Some television programmes, such as The X factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Children In Need will show numbers on screen, while the presenter reads them out.

In summary, numbers are all around us, make it fun for your children to learn and soon they will be telling you how much the latest video game, or toy costs!

As always, please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment.

I am hearing of more and more parents complaining that their children are addicted to electronic devices such as tablets such as iPads, MobilePhones and games consoles and that the children get stroppy when told to switch them off.

I had a similar problem when my eldest son became obsessed with his play station and although it kept him amused for a long period of time, he didn’t cope so well when asked to turn it off and do something else. It got so bad that we had to talk him into selling it and said he could have the money to purchase something else. He asked if he could get an Xbox!

With hind sight, I would suggest to parents going through the same dilemma that they make it clear to their children that they can have a short time ( perhaps 30 minute intervals) on the device and that they must then find something else to occupy themselves after that time.

The down side of using one of these devices at bed time, is that they can over stimulate the brain ( as can television and videos or DVDs) It can then be difficult to wind down and fall asleep.

Many adults are also addicted to laptop computers and tablets, thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As parents, we need to set a good example to our children. It will seem very unfair to them if they are not allowed to use theirs while a parent is sat tapping away. Try telling your child that while you are dealing with important emails they can use their tablet, then you both need to turn them off and that you will do something together.

Be aware, that children, of a very young age are often extremely savvy with such devices. My three year-old, grand daughter Sophia already knows how to unlock her mummy’s iPhone, accesses YouTube and sings along to the Frozen song “Let it go” I have also heard of a child ordering toys on line. The first the parents knew of this, was when a parcel arrived!

I was once using my new laptop when a visiting two year-old laughed at me, because I was apparently doing it all wrong “Oh, Karen” she told me,” You don’t need a mouse, you use your finger to move the cursor!” Well that was me, well and truly told.

There are more ideas for dealing with children who throw temper tantrums,for one reason or another in my “Behaviour Management” blog.

As always, comments / questions are welcome. I promise to reply to all as soon as possible.

Thanks to Tina for the suggestion of an absent parent, a difficult subject; but one I have had a little experience of.

My boys, were aged four and six years, when myself and their father split. I decided at the time that I was going to try to stay on good terms with my ex, to make it easier for my sons to adjust, but, of course I quickly realised it wasn’t as simple as that. I told my ex husband that he could see the children whenever he wanted, as long as it was pre arranged. This worked well for a while, but soon he was telling the children, “Daddy is all on his own now.” ( I had started a new relationship and he hadn’t) I tried talking to him about this, but he was having none of it and very soon was returning the boys to me ten minutes later than arranged.

I know Tina’s children are quite young, as were mine and so a certain amount of what is going on will go over their heads, but we mustn’t under estimate our off spring and therefore try to explain as much as you think they can deal with. I would tell them that mummy and daddy have fallen out with each other, but not with them and that none of it was their fault. Mum and dad may not love each other any more but they will always love them, and will always be their mother and father.

I don’t know Tina’s exact situation, but am presuming that they still have contact with their father. A friend of mine; Hilary, split with her husband when their daughter, Emma, was very young because Emma’s dad wasn’t all that interested in her when they were together. Hilary decided that he didn’t need contact with his daughter now they were living apart. This arrangement was fine while Emma was tiny, but when she started attending pre school and made a father’s day card Hilary wasn’t so sure she had made the correct choice, in the end she posted the card to him. Emma is now a mummy herself and everyone has a healthy relationship with granddad.

Of course, sometimes a parent is absent due to a bereavement. I have another friend, whose little girl lost her daddy suddenly a few years ago. A lot of children first encounter death by loosing a beloved pet. My grand children recently lost their great granddad and on witnessing her mummy crying, my granddaughter told her “It will be OK Mummy, great granddad will be able to look after nanas dog.”

Back to my friend; she is amazing the way she has coped with helping her daughter through this difficult time, they send presents to heaven by tying small gifts to a balloon and because Steve(the dad) liked mints they placed a few polo mints and a school photo inside the balloon. They then go to a local high beauty spot and release their gifts. I must also stress that it is not always the dad who is the absent parent, I know of two mothers who chose to leave their husbands and children to start a new life. Sometimes an absent parent may not be able to have direct contact with their child, due to a court order or similar, there are usually ways around this too. The children’s centre where I used to work, can arrange supervised sessions, where a parent can spend time with their child with a third party present.

Just remember, stay strong for your children, let them know you are always there if they want to talk about anything worrying them and finally, for any person moving onto a new relationship, my blog called “Blended Families” may be a help.

As always questions/comments are welcome.

Similar to learning about numbers and colours, the easiest way to teach our children about shapes in my opinion is to make it fun. Start by looking around your environment. Sitting in my living room, I can see several different shapes; square and rectangle picture frames, a round clock, rectangular windows and door frames, a round fruit bowl, even the buttons on the remote control are circles and squares, equally the square keys on my laptop keyboard.

I used to point out shapes to my child minded children when we were outside, as well as indoors. Road signs, for example, are mostly circles or rectangles, some are also square.

My granddaughter learnt to recognise shapes, colours and numbers by watching you tube videos, on her mum’s phone.

Of course, there are many commercial shape sorting toys on the market, for varying age ranges of children.

Many children will draw shapes in their pictures without realising it, for example a square house, with square windows and rectangle door and chimney and a triangle roof. You could also point out shapes to your children while they are playing such as the wheels on toy vehicles, or dolls prams and push chairs even the plates you serve their food on. You will be surprised how quickly they learn.

As always, questions/comments are welcome.

The subject of encouraging your child to do No.2’s (poos) on the potty, has recently come to my attention, both in person and on social media.

I did encounter, this problem, with my middle child, although his problem was of constipation; which in itself can be a vicious circle, it hurt him to go, so he tried to avoid it making the whole situation much worse. It took me a while to figure out, why he wasn’t using his potty for this, shall we say “activity” when he had been using it for doing wees for quite some time.

I actually found him one day hiding behind the sofa, sitting on his bottom in an effort to prevent himself from going. This is when the penny dropped and I realised this was more of a medical issue.

Regular readers will be aware, that I don’t give medical advice, as I am NOT qualified in this field. I only give advice on topics that I have experience of and that I believe will work.

I started to give my son foods that were high in fibre, such as brown bread, fresh fruit, plenty of fluids and even sprinkled bran (obtained from a health food store) over his breakfast cereal. Of course, I also took him to see our doctor, who told me that I was doing all I could to help him and she also prescribed some mild medication. As time went on, I discovered that diluted prune juice ( not syrup) did the trick, he drank it happily from his cup and I would then read him a story, while he was sitting on the potty, crouching down beside him.

Happily, with time and patience and lots of praise when he did manage to preform , he got over his fear and normal service was resumed! My elder son would do a No.2 in his potty, while he was watching his favourite programme on television. I have written more on general potty training in an earlier post.

As I have already mentioned, I don’t give medical advice, but questions of non- medical issues. or comments are always welcome.

Managing their child’s behaviour can be one of the biggest challenges for many parents, after all; the “terrible two’s” do start at around 18 months and finish at 18 years, don’t they?

The solution to this is simple – reward good behaviour and, wherever possible ignore the bad.

The best example I can give of this is when at a toddler group a mum approached me and asked for advice with managing her 3 year old son’s behaviour (let’s call him Sam) as since the birth of her 2nd child, 6 months ago, Sam was showing negative behaviour towards other children.

After observing them, I tactfully suggested that when Sam became violent towards others, instead of jumping up and telling him off, she should quietly and calmly remove him from the situation. (therefore not giving too much attention to him) When he was playing nicely, she should go to him and say something like”what a good boy you are being at the moment.”

I saw this lady again about a month later and she couldn’t thank me enough. She said she felt like I had given her back her good little boy!

Other tools for managing behaviour are star charts, stickers or just simple verbal praise ( A pat on the back goes along way.)

Another example I had was while childminding, a 5 year old girl in my care who always had to be the first to do things first – first out of the door, first into the car etc. While out walking I noticed that she liked to press the button on the pelican crossing so I used this to my advantage, explaining to her that if she was very good I would let her be the one to press the button in future. She changed from pushing and shoving to always be first to actually encouraging others to go ahead of her!

For a while I had a car which had a built-in pull-down child’s car seat in the back, which they all liked to sit in so I used this as a reward for being well behaved. A plastic pink spoon (a freebie, in fact) was a favourite for using to eat yoghurt at lunchtime, so again this became a reward.

I hope this has provided some food for thought. Ideas need to be adapted to suit the individual child, depending on their interests, age and stage of development.

If a parent feels that this isn’t working for their child and instead would like to give a punishment, then in my opinion, taking away a privilege is the way to go.

As always, feel free to leave a comment and ask any questions.

Another request from Sarah Knight, this time for fussy eaters. Thank you so much Sarah.

My experience with my own children, as far as eating goes is that they usually eat most things, until around twelve months, when the picky eating starts.

My eldest son would eat a varied diet until this age and then he started to get fussy.

By the time he started started school he refused to eat fruit of any description in spite of me giving him a good variety when he was a baby. He used to love mashed banana and stewed apple ( I used to stew eating apples for him,so I didn’t need to add sugar).

His school had fruit time mid morning, where the pupils where encouraged to eat fruit brought in from home. I thought that when my son saw his peers tucking into their fruit he would want to do the same, but I was wrong; he still refused to eat it! Eventually he was persuaded to take in a small box of raisins

When I married my second husband, my son was virtually living off peanut butter sandwiches and yoghurts. I was under the impression that because peanuts are full of protein this was O.K. but as the saying goes, all things in moderation.. My son was becoming hyper active and his behaviour was suffering. It was my husband who realised that the diet may be the cause of these problems, so we weaned him off the peanut butter and encouraged a more varied diet, within weeks my son was back to his old self. Now as an adult, he will eat anything!

As a childminder I came across a child who was afraid of certain food, worrying about making a mess (I feel I need to point out that I didn’t mind a mess) It was the child’s parent who was obsessed with cleanliness and made her child afraid of dirtying clothes. I reassured the child that I would sponge off any marks and if that didn’t work, I would change her clothes and wash the offending ones so mummy wouldn’t know. (I didn’t usually encourage children to be deceitful, but on this occasion, felt she needed reassuring) I have also heard of children actually becoming food phobic because of the worry of getting dirty.

Also when childminding I tried to encourage healthy eating by doing activities with the children, such as making a fruit salad. At this time I asked the children if they knew where grapes came from and one little girl informed me ”We get them from Tesco”

Another way of encouraging children to eat healthily is to set a good example and let them see you eat well. You could set aside a small area of the garden and let them grow their own vegetables, even cress grown on a widow sill is a start.

Basically give your child a varied selection of foods, avoiding too many sweet things from a young age. Try not to nag if your child refuses to eat, as it is all too easy for meal times to become a battle ground. Praise your child when he does eat, even just a small amount and give small portions, so they are not put off by the amount of food on the plate. TRY TO STAY CALM. GOOD LUCK AND BON APPETIT.

As always, feel free to leave a comment or ask questions.

During my time as a childminder I was asked; on a few occasions (usually by first time parents) what were my feelings towards using a dummy. When I was in my early twenties and expecting my first baby I was under the mind set that no child of mine would ever be seen with a dummy in it’s mouth, and luckily my first born was a “model child” so it never occurred to me to use one. By the time my next two sons were born, however, I gave in and gave them dummies. As I grew older and wiser I changed my opinion completely and by using a dummy for my second baby, it meant he slept for longer during the day and I could spend quality time with my other boys.

Always keep dummies clean – If you put them in the steriliser along with bottles etc you will be assured that they are spotless. I used to transport my sons dummy in a plastic container, but now there are dummies on the market complete with a teat cover that sterilises it too.

Dummy v Thumb?

My first born son did not have a dummy, but instead was a thumb sucker. This, in my opinion looked sweet, but of course; I couldn’t remove the thumb when I thought it was time to stop this habit! As a childminder, I have come across children with quite nasty sores on their thumbs, from the skin being constantly wet. At least with a dummy you can remove it away from all temptation.


TIPS FOR WEANING A CHILD OFF A DUMMY

When I decided it was time for my second son to ditch the dummy, Christmas was coming. I explained to him that we were going to give his dummy to Santa for baby Rudolf at a party we were going to attend. Damon thought this was a great idea and once the deed was done, never asked again for his dummy, but would proudly tell people where it had gone. Similarly, my father, who worked in a car factory, took my sister’s dummy to work for a baby car. I have also heard of a family who lived in the countryside left a dummy under a bush for the baby bunnies that came into their garden. My third son had two dummies, one he put in his mouth and the other he liked to hold. Giving up the first was easy, a neighbour had just had a new baby, so he handed it over to the mother for the baby (or so he thought) Loosing the second was more of challenge, one day he fell asleep with it in the car, it dropped out of his mouth as I carried him indoors. When I retrieved it I cut off the teat with a pair of scissors. Later Adam asked for his dummy at bedtime when he went to put it in his mouth, there was nothing to suck, so he threw it in the bin. (He wasn’t really old enough to think about asking me to buy a new one, so that was the end of that). I recall at the time, my husband telling me that I was cruel, but it never really did any harm.

Another idea to use is the dummy fairy, encourage the child to place the dummy in a gift bag and hang it on a door before bedtime for the dummy fairy to collect while the child is sleeping. It is a nice idea to leave a small gift for the child from the fairy as a thankyou for the dummy.

In summary then; dummies can be great, if managed correctly, kept clean and not over used etc as this can cause speech delay. Find a way to remove the dummy before they become a problem.

As always, comments and questions are more than welcome.

Personally, I have never experienced sibling jealousy with my own children.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I told my son who was almost two ,in language that he could understand. We looked at pictures of babies in magazines and borrowed library books etc.

He came with me for some of my midwife appointments and met other children whilst waiting, who were also going to get new baby siblings and he heard the baby’s heartbeat during the examination.

I let Leigh chose the wallpaper for his brothers room.

When the time came and Damon was born, I made a point of not having him in my arms when Leigh walked into the ward to visit. Instead I gave Leigh a big kiss and hug and said meet your brother. When the cover was pulled off Damon there was a present for Leigh (from Damon) I then asked if he would like to kiss his brother. which he did.

When we came home, I tried to include Leigh in Damon’s care as much as possible. When bathing Damon I put the soap out of reach on purpose and asked Leigh if he would pass it to me. “How would I manage without you?” I told him. I also gave Leigh a teddy which I told him to look after and he would mimic the things I was doing with Damon.

When Damon was asleep I tried to spend time with Leigh and when Damon was awake I encouraged the boys to interact. Leigh made a den under the table, so I put the baby chair in there, I sat back watching; Leigh was chatting to his brother.

I did similar things, several years later (but more age appropriate) when my third son was born (I had also gained a step-son by then)

A completely different situation, which I would like to share is while childminding a four year old (the youngest in her family) and a twelve month old baby at the same time, the baby started walking witnessed by the older child. The following day, her mother told me how excited her daughter had been and what a wonderful experience I had given her, as she would not otherwise ever see that, as they were not planning on having any more children.

As always, comments/questions are welcome.

Cooking with children is an activity that I have done with both my own children, and the ones I used to child mind. You can simply let the children help with baking, my own children used to like to stand on a chair beside me so that they could reach the kitchen worktop and help to stir and mix the ingredients together, then spoon the mixture into the cake cases.

They also liked to lick out the mixing bowl, but be aware that cake mixture will contain raw eggs. Children love to help with pastry too. Mince pie making was a favourite, as they could roll out the pastry and fill the tarts with the mincemeat. Let children have some of their own pastry and cut shapes and decorate with raisins and sultanas.

A favourite with the child minded children was at Easter. We made Easter nests, by mixing shredded wheat with chocolate and spooned it into nest shapes, When cool, place 3 or 4 mini eggs inside and you could even pop a yellow chick decoration (widely available for little cost, at this time of year) on top.

At Christmas, we made marzipan fruits by simply colouring the marzipan with a little food colouring and making fruit shapes.To achieve the mottled effect of orange skin, gently roll the marzipan against the fine side of a cheese grater then push a clove into the top for the stem, cloves also look effective on an apple, as the core, or a stalk at the end of a banana.

Don’t forget the simplest idea of mixing rice crispies, or corn flakes with chocolate, to make cakes that even young children can prepare, with little supervision as these won’t require cooking. My  son used to enjoy making cookie dough, for the child minded children to roll and cut out Christmas themed shapes, they would decorate when cool with tubes of coloured icing.

Cooking with children can also  be a good way of encouraging them to talk, about anything that  may be worrying them, as they are not having to look an adult in the eye, but  can carry on with what they doing, while chatting.

Always take care when children are in the kitchen, keep them away from a hot oven and ensure that sharp knives are well out of harms reach ( as they should always be!)

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or if you would like to contact me via email you can do so by clicking here