Category Archives: Play

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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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. 

A strange time of year

The run up to Christmas is always busy but this year everything feels very strange. It’s sad that mum isn’t here and dad is struggling. Its wonderful that Layla-Jane grows a little every day and that Tommy is just so amazing.PicMonkey Collage

Its very much sadness and joy all mixed in.

Fundraising from the Dearne, trying to publicise our den book (On Amazon here )have been highlights but I must say thank you to my amazing friend Sharon @elaronndy for her funny account of den building for adults – please take 5 minutes to read it will make you smile. http://sharonabbott155.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/den-building-for-grown-ups.html

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I’ve worked hard on my sewing and gone from completely awful to maybe I could give this to a good friend as a present as they will understand and love me anyway! But I will keep working at it.

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The Christmas tree is up! Thanks to Zoe Whitaker! This is as festive as it gets as Tony is definitely from the ‘Bah humbug’ school of Christmas.

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I hope you all have a good week running up to the holidays, remember your loved ones and those who maybe need a bit of a hug J x

Den Building

Two years in the making, lots of laughs, disasters, tears (mainly from caretakers when Cathy broke something) – chaotic days of den building, pom pom making, cardboard cutting have resulted in our book finally being almost ready to send to print. It has a smart new cover, an ISBN number and is available to pre order on Amazon HERE

Den building Fort making

We have some lovely pre reviews on the Crown House site HERE – I love all of the comments but especially Jane Hancer’s  comment ‘It is clear that there is not enough den making going on in my life’. x

den Making
Maria, Tommy and kitchen chaos