Category Archives: photography

Outdoor learning just in the garden

Tommy and LJ love our garden, they love Mamma’s greenhouse (Tommy has been calling me that since he began talking and couldn’t say grandma). We are learning so much by playing outdoors just in this small space.

I wanted to share some free and inexpensive  ideas for developing your garden and using it for fun learning

  1. I’ve left a patch of grass ‘wild’ to encourage butterflies and bees. It looks very wild now and the grasses are almost waist height for Tommy and LJ. They love walking through this and feeling the different textures as well as looking for butterflies.
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  2. Seeds – I saved seeds from poppies, sweet peas and foxgloves last year and we planted these earlier this year. They understand the sequence of plant pot, soil, seeds, more soil, water and writing a label and can now plant seeds with very little help.
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  3. We won a book on Toppsta called ‘Bee and me’ this is a stunning book all about the friendship between a little girl and a bee. It arrived with a packet of beautifully illustrated seeds. Obviously we planted theses and nurtured them ( toppsta is a site where you can look at book reviews and recommendations but can also win ‘ giveaways- well worth a look)
  4. As a result of the above we now spend a lot of time looking for ‘buzzy bees’ and talking about pollen and flowers.
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  5. I caught Tommy outside with his camera taking ‘photos of flowers like mamma’
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  6. We allow the kids to fill up the bird feeders and that’s one of the things they ask to do now.
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  7. Tommy has a digger with a bucket on the front and we collect small items to fit in, leaves, feathers, stones all the while talking about big and little
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  8. We listen for sounds – I could have cried when Tommy said ‘listen to the birds singing’ -Tommy particularly likes aeroplane spotting.
  9. We have picked tomatoes from the green house and eaten them outside ( I have stressed he must always ask me first before eating anything!! Paranoid grandma.)
  10. Tommy uses the hosepipe to water the tubs and we are gradually learning what is the correct amount of water – we’ve had weeks of too much water to get to this stage!


None of this is rocket science I know but I’ve really started to learn about the joys of outdoor learning as I have been privileged to work with Juliet Robertson ( take a look at her blog there are so many ideas on there!)  on two of her books Dirty Teaching and Messy Maths ( both by Crown House ). I now think about the language I use and can see joy in the kids faces when we lay on the floor to look at a green caterpillar or Tommy asks what the berries are on the tree. I love it when they are excited to see starlings feeding their young or when LJ makes piles of pebbles. Yes they get dirty and my hosepipe is Tommy’s favourite toy but they are outside playing and learning to love nature which has got to be a good thing 

We did buy some items, a magnifying glass which meant we could look closely for caterpillars and bugs, children’s gardening gloves – they were £1 a pair at a local hardware store, smaller watering cans and the children’s first book of birds from The RSPB.

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It’s the little things that matter …

I have been horrible this weekend. Bad tempered, snappy and irritable. Why? I’ve no idea – I just know I’ve been difficult to live with. You know those times when you can hear yourself and know you need to shut up but can’t – yep one of those days!

Two things made me stop and think about what mattered this morning both tiny little things but they made me stop and smile. I have lots of virtual friends on twitter – many of whom I’ve now met in ‘real life’ but this morning one of the ones I haven’t met yet  tweeted about my photos of wildlife and my grandchildren – it’s so lovely when people appreciate your work and what you are trying to share. Kathy typifies many of my followers – supportive, always caring and ready to share. Thank you for pulling me up short Kathy!

The second tiny thing was when I got to Tesco I realised that I hadn’t put my necklace on!

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I wear it all the time – it was a Christmas present from my two lovelies – it has their names, DOB and fingerprints and as my Daughter in law said ‘it’s so you can hold their hands even if they aren’t with you’. 

Strop over, irritation gone, I know how lucky I am and if I forget I can just hold their hands and remember 🙂

If you are interested the necklace was from pickle and pumpkin 

The (tongue in cheek) grandparent’s guide to indoor play areas

Tommy and LJ love ‘Play Valley’ and a trip there instigates almost mass hysteria. Never underestimate the pull of brightly coloured plastic!

It occurred to me yesterday that there are pearls of wisdom ( tongue firmly in cheek) I can pass on to Rookie grandparents

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  1. Footwear – never wear shoes that have laces or are difficult to get on and off. By ‘difficult’ I mean you must be able to just step out of them at a seconds notice to race after your charges. I know you will usually take them off when you get there but the same rules apply – no 2 year old is going to sit and wait patiently whilst you untie your laces!
  2. Clothes – nothing ‘posh’ nothing restricting – it may be years since you climbed to the top of a huge slide but once your grandchild runs up those squashy stairs and totters at the top – you will have no option but to scramble after them.
  3. Ball pools – may look empty BUT always assume there is a child hidden under the balls (99% of the time there is) so do not allow your grandchild to dive in head first
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  4. Do not assume you can sit at the side sipping your latte in a leisurely fashion – get that fitbit on and realise the only way to cope is to get in the middle of the melee and follow your grandchild within grabbing distance.
  5. Food – you are usually not allowed to take your own food but there will be an enticing ‘bag’ option. Do not even think about trying to steer toddlers into the healthier option, pick your battles – they are never going to go for a banana when there is the option of chocolate. Give in gracefully and eat half of it yourself.
  6. Don’t underestimate the fearlessness, agility or speed of your grandchildren. I am still cringing as LJ (who is 19months) pushed a 5 year old down the slide yesterday as she was sitting at the top too scared to move and was in her way!
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  7. Change their nappies before you go – they will create such a fuss if you try to take them away from the coloured plastic for something as mundane as a nappy change.
  8. The machines that require money for a ride are always ‘broken’ well that’s what I always tell my two – having once made the error of saying one ride only each …
  9. Always smile encouragingly and sympathetically at a grandparent who is trying to coax their toddler to leave – it won’t make a difference but hopefully someone will return the favour and smile in sympathy with you when it’s your turn to leave.
  10. Take your phone or a compact camera – the smiles and joy are worth all the aches and pains you will have tonight – and reliving it over a glass of wine in the evening will make you smile.
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A break through …

The lack of left handed cameras is frustrating, as is the lack of understanding on the part of major manufacturers. However, we are undeterred and yesterday saw a breakthrough for us.

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We were in a cafe when Tommy put his camera onto the table and looked at the live view screen, he shook his head and said ‘can’t see you mama’ He was actually trying to line up his shot! I am so incredibly proud of him. He usually balances the camera on his little arm and presses the shutter with his left.

JMH_1252  Later on I put my own camera away and realised I was thinking about tripods in the wrong way – he doesn’t need a proper size one just a miniature one. I had a very small gorrilla pod and attached it to his camera – we then laid on the floor – RESULT – look at this photo of LJ – Now look closely in the bottom right hand corner – total fluke but you can see myself and Tommy in the reflection in the cooker. Its not an ideal solution but it’s one we are going to continue to experiment with.

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#tenfingersareoverrated #luckyfinsrock

The joy of a cardboard box

Christmas Photography Challenge 2016

I posted a link to this article on twitter earlier this week.

http://www.creativeboom.com/inspiration/travelling-cars-photographer-goes-on-exciting-mini-adventures-with-tiny-toy-cars/

The photographer Kim Leuenberger has created some amazing images on her travels using toy cars. Several of my friends liked this and Dave  (@projectlgor) suggested we use this as  the basis for our Christmas holiday photography challenge this year. It’s simply for fun and anyone is welcome to join in.

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My son is now 28 and I know I’ve saved lots of old toy cars but obviously I can’t find them. A quick wander around the local antique centre produced this lovely battered Yellow VW for £3 – enjoy your Christmas fun and share your photos #minicars16

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Just the norm

Tommy and LJ had a ‘sleepover’ yesterday ( the reason for the inverted commas will be obvious to any grandparents out there). I’ve watched Tommy develop and am struggling with being amazed at what he can do with his little arm and being cross with myself for being amazed, as to him this is just the norm.He was ‘decorating’ ( yes those inverted commas again) the Christmas tree and couldn’t get the bauble string to go over the branch. I never do things like that for him although the grandma in me often has to sit on her hands to stop herself! He held the bauble with his left hand and pushed his little arm Into the middle of the string to hold it open. Amazing he’s worked it out, but why wouldn’t he it’s normal for him?

We snuggled reading books and he had a bottle of juice with a stopper, he opened with his left arm whilst tucking the bottle under his little arm, he used his little arm to press it down, he opened it with his teeth. I watched in fascination. He is oblivious as this is his world. I have hundreds of examples of where he amazes me but then I make myself remember he’s an ordinary little boy learning to do things his way.

He climbed over his baby gate yesterday and found his advent bag – one book a day for December and a toy on Christmas Eve -really grandma?? – well at least he and LJ have lots of books to read and play with now – my poor son was distraught and was going to wrap them up again but it’s just Tommy being a 2 year old.

LJ is now one and is the most independent child I’ve ever met. She meets life on her own terms, cuddles when she wants, climbs, feeds herself potters happily and has been walking for ages! Having Tommy so close in age she just copies everything he does – they come as a pair and he greets her like he’s not seen her for months when you pick them up from nursery where she is in a different room – here she is and a hug.


I’m so proud of the pair of them, I know they will cope with whatever life brings them – they will both have their own challenges and I need to be amazed by them as the brilliant children they are. 

Taking air quality for granted

There was an interesting article published in the Guardian today saying that 300 million children live in areas of extreme pollution.

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It made me think about the little things I saw in Shanghai last week about how pollution is a part of a school’s daily life in China.

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On the front door every day is placed an update about the atmosphere that day with a green/amber/red rating and any additional measures that need to be taken. As you can see here this was a green day – lots of rain that week so the air was quite clear.

The school has ‘pollution days’ where it is not possible for children to attend in the same way that in the UK we sometimes have ‘snow days’ and the school has to close.

In the grounds there is a large white tented structure which is used on amber days to allow the pupils access to outdoors whilst still being protected.

It was a little strange to see people wearing masks around school and in workshops but it’s just an accepted fact of life.

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I’ve been for a beautiful autumnal walk this morning at my local RSPB and it did make me think how much we actually take for granted.

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Playing with light – Photography

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One of the things I remembered to pack last week was my sunglasses – they were not necessary! The light quality in Shanghai during the day was poor from a photography point of view, very grey, dull and overcast. If you google images of Shanghai most of them are at night when the lit buildings are really impressive.

We had several days of heavy rain ( including a typhoon warning) which meant that I had to try and be creative. Fortunately my room was on the 19th floor and had  a huge window so I could sit on the floor with a tripod and just play with the light.  Some images didn’t work but I was pleased with a couple – the one below is an abstract shot of the skyscrapers at night.

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Just a quick post to say whatever the conditions you can still work around them if you think creatively x

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#Shanghai in the rain

Out of my comfort zone

Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’, well last week I was terrified. The offer of presenting at The Festival of Education, Wellington College, Shanghai was too good an opportunity to miss. BUT and it’s a big but, I’ve never actually flown anywhere by myself, I’ve never visited China and as you know i’m just an ordinary person ‘A granny from Barnsley with a camera’ so why would anyone want to listen to me?

I DID it! I was scared but I did it and I’m proper proud of myself so I want to share a few of the things I learnt.

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  • Your comfort zone is good but the highs that can be yours if you step outside of it are worth the risk.
  • If you put on an act of being confident then gradually that will become real, even to yourself.
  • It’s OK to ask for help – people are only too willing to help you, you just have to ask.I couldn’t lift my camera bag at times so actually getting it into the luggage locker on the plane was beyond me.
  • There are some amazing people in the world who are just friends you haven’t met yet.
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  • Kids are kids are kids wherever they are in the world, curious, inquisitive, sparkly eyed early years, cautious teenagers – but all willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and have a go. Be yourself – kids can tell intuitively if you are genuine or not.
  •  Sometimes ‘ordinary’ is good. Some teachers are over awed by ‘academics’ and the down to earth approach is what they need, they can relax and ask questions without feeling stupid. It’s Ok to laugh and enjoy yourself even if you are a teacher.
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  • I use twitter far too much and felt completely lost when I realised it wasn’t possible to access it in China. (The kids did explain all about having a VPN but I was too jet lagged to take it in )
  • Chinese coffee is awful!!
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Hopefully I’m going back in March for the Arts festival and already have lots of ideas buzzing. I’m processing what I saw and will blog again later.

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