Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The flip side

Following on from my previous post, I ought to write about about how I deal with my daughter when she is the one not playing nicely. She has a tendency to 'protect' her toys if friends come to our house for a play-date and will sometimes fight to keep possession of a new or interesting toy when we are out. We encourage our daughter to share and take turns but she doesn't always find it easy - mummy and daddy can usually be trusted to give things back; friends and cousins may have other ideas. She has been known to prise a favourite toy from another child's hands. Cue plenty of tears (on both sides)!

When I collected my daughter from nursery the other day, she was very upset but the staff didn't know why. They had been getting the children ready to play outside but my daughter had lain on her tummy in the reading corner and cried. She wouldn't tell them what was wrong and cried for me. In the car on the way home, she said she had made her friend cry by playing too rough in the garden earlier in the day. I asked if she had apologised and she said no. So, I told her that she should say sorry to her friend the next time she saw her.

Later, my husband got the full story - our daughter had pushed her friend off a trike because she had wanted to ride it herself. Clearly, this is unacceptable behaviour. We were duly unimpressed and told her that she hadn't treated her friend kindly. Pushing is not nice and her friend could have been hurt. We reminded her that she doesn't like it when other children push her and said that she must apologise to her friend. Our daughter was downbeat right up until bedtime; she understood that she had done wrong and she felt bad.

Under normal circumstances, if my daughter is not playing nicely with her friends, I give her a warning or two and, if there is no improvement in behaviour, I make her sit on my knee or take her to another room/away from the play-zone and I talk to her about what she has done. I get down to her level, so we are face to face, explain what she did wrong and ask her how she thinks she made the other child(ren) feel. We then discuss how she might make it better. I try to lead her to the answer so that she 'comes up' with the solution on her own. For example, if she has not shared properly or taken a toy, she should give it to the other child and wait her turn before she can play with it.

So, how did my daughter decide to make her friend feel better? She made her a card and asked me to write inside it: 'I'm sorry for trying to push you off the bike. I made a card to make you feel happy.'

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Play nicely!

What do you do when you find out that your child has been hurt by another child at nursery and spent time crying for you whilst you were at work? Apart from feel guilty, that is...

My daughter is well-settled at nursery and has made lots of friends. She is a popular girl who likes to join in with most of the games and activities on offer but there have been a couple of incidents which have upset her.

The first one was about a year ago but in my daughter's mind it was quite recent: one of the bigger boys pushed her over in the nursery garden. She wasn't hurt but she cried because it was unprovoked and she didn't expect him to play rough. She still talks about it when she feels upset. "Johnny pushed me." At the time, I asked her what she did about it. She said she cried and a grown-up came. I told her that if he tried to push her again, she should tell him not to because it's not nice. I also told her that she should tell one of the grown-ups. I explained that it would not be OK to hit him back. We don't hit - it's not friendly. The 'problem' resolved itself when Johnny then moved up to pre-school. My daughter didn't have any more trouble. Well, that was until she joined the pre-school class, where there are more children and the games can be rougher.

In the past month, one child took my daughter's hairband and snapped it into pieces in front of her, and another child tried to bite her! On both occasions, the offending child was reprimanded, made to sit out from the group with a grown-up to talk about what they did wrong and how it made my daughter feel, and had to apologise to her. The boy who broke the hairband bought my daughter a replacement - as close a match as his mummy could find - and my daughter says he is her friend again. So, that is nice.

The nursery nurses are very good at spotting when things are about to go bad and intervening but there will always be the odd incident that goes unnoticed. I accept this and support the nursery's approach to discipline. I always talk to my daughter about her day at nursery and I try to empathise if she tells me that some of her friends didn't play nicely. I ask her to describe what happened, how it made her feel, what action she took and what happened to the other child(ren). I praise her if she told a grown-up and stood up for herself by telling the other child to stop being unfriendly. I give her a cuddle and reassure her that it will be better tomorrow.

Of course, nursery isn't the only place where children play rough and fall out with each other. It can happens anywhere - with siblings/cousins, on play-dates, at the park/soft-play etc. I try to give my daughter space to deal with a problem on her own and only step in if necessary. I don't want to take away her confidence to stand up for herself but there are boundaries - it is not acceptable to repeat the bad behaviour, for example by hitting back.

I know that some of my advice has sunk in and that she has learned by observing the discipline procedures that nursery staff employ. My daughter knows that the best course of action is to get help from a grown-up and not to brawl with another child who has done something unkind to her. I'm hoping that this will stand her in good stead when she goes to school in just over a year's time and there will be more and bigger children to contend with.

Monday, 22 July 2013

See you in September

We are on the cusp of the Summer holidays. Last week saw the end of term for the toddler groups we attend: pre-gym sessions and Three-Four Time classes will not resume until September. How will we fill the void?

I understand why toddler activities are aligned with the school calendar but it does present me with something of a problem. I am not used to the school academic year because my daughter is not yet old enough to go to school (and I am planning to take full advantage of the opportunity to spend one more year going on holiday out of season and visiting attractions and parks during term-time) and our jobs are not linked with the school timetable.

It has rather crept up on me and I am now faced with the prospect of six long weeks with no organised entertainment or routine on my 'mummy days'! I'm not very good at thinking on my feet and I find it hard to entertain my toddler all day by myself, so I'll have to plan some days out and/or activities that we can do with our friends. The trick is to think of things that: (1) can be adapted if the weather is poor, (2) don't cost much money, and (3) are local or easy to get to.

At least we are lucky in Bristol, there are some free-entry museums and lots of parks/playgrounds and, of course, this year there is the Gromit Unleashed trail. An artificial beach (glorified sandpit) has been installed in the centre of Yate for the Summer, complete with deck-chairs, inflatable palm trees and buckets and spades. We spent two hours there last Sunday before the shops opened! We also have some good libraries and soft-play centres that help to pass an hour or two.

I'm also hoping to meet up with some friends from further afield and do a couple of day-trips: Dyrham Park and Westonbirt Arboretum (they have a Gromit!) are on my agenda.

Many of our friends have paddling pools and trampolines, so we can always do play-dates at home. We have just bought some glitter paint, so we could do craft activities on rainy days. I also have a couple of U-certificate films on the digi-box for bored afternoons - we could do cinema role-play!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Weather or not

I feel I need to record, for posterity, the fact that we have had nearly three weeks of hot, sunny weather! According to the media, we are in the grip of a heatwave.

In all honesty, it is too hot for me. I like warm and sunny but I tend to melt above 24-degrees and I'm so fair-skinned I have to wear lots of sun cream, put on a hat, and keep in the shade. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the nice weather, I do - I just appreciate it from indoors with a window open.

The last time I can remember us having weather like this was the year my daughter was born. I remember weeks of stripping down to underwear for sticky breast-feeds, when the heat of the day continued into the night and skin-to-skin contact made us irritable. We stayed indoors because I was afraid to take her outside during the day. We spent long afternoons in the lounge with the curtains drawn, watching the World Cup matches and stages of the Tour de France on the TV.

This year, it is better. Although we are both irritable when we get too hot, at least we can cool off by dipping in the paddling pool, having a water-fight and eating ice pops. On my non-working days, we try to have a lunchtime siesta and stay indoors between 11am and 3pm. "Kung Fu Panda" is our film of choice for matinee entertainment.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sounding it out

Our daughter loves books, stories, songs and rhymes. We have read to her since she was a few months old, when I introduced a bedtime story routine to put a short break between her supper feed and falling to sleep. Over the past three years, we have developed quite an elaborate bedtime routine: Daddy reads three bedtime stories - two in 'story corner' and one with our daughter tucked up in bed - then he tells her a 'pretend' story (i.e. one that he has made up) and she reciprocates with her own pretend story (always beginning 'once upon a time' and ending 'the end')!

We read stories during the daytime too and I point to the words as we read along. Our daughter can confidently recite the alphabet (although at one point, she thought that 'LMNOP' was a single letter - thanks alphabet song!) but doesn't recognise any words. We have tried to encourage her to recognise letter patterns but not made much progress. Often she will guess when I ask her 'which word says X' and just point at any word on the page.

So, approximately one year before she is due to start school, I have begun to think about 'teaching' her to read. There is no requirement for our daughter to be able read before she starts school but she is bright and I want to take advantage of her thirst for learning and discovery. They will not do any formal reading or writing instruction at nursery during her pre-school year (the staff tell me that the best preparation for school is simply to teach my daughter how to dress/undress herself and to be confident about going to the toilet), so if I want to develop my daughter's literacy skills, I'll have to do it at home. However, I don't want to inadvertently take steps that will hinder her reading progress once she starts school.

A friend of mine blogged about learning to read (her post can be found here). I too learned to read before I started school but I have no idea how. I must have learned to sight-read. My mother was a full-time SAHM and she spent time looking at books and manipulating letters and words with me. She tells me that I could solve simple crosswords aged 4 and I remember playing a game in which I had to match up words and pictures. I was ahead of my peers, completing the school's reading programme by age 6 - three years earlier than expected!

My sister-in-law is a primary school teacher and taught reception class for several years. She is well-versed in phonics and has recommended it to me as a method for teaching the ability to read. I have bought some story books (by Read Write Inc) but I'm trepidatious for a couple of reasons:
  1. I don't know when to start - I don't want to be a pushy mummy and put my daughter off reading!
  2. I have no experience of using phonics
  3. English is not a phonic language
  4. I'm not a teacher, so I don't really know how to teach someone a skill I take for granted
Thankfully, the books come with an instruction manual for parents/teachers, so I guess my first step should be to read the books myself. Then, I think it's a case of waiting for the right opportunity to introduce her to them and make a start on giving her a skill for life.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Laugh, and the world laughs with you

As laughter reverberated around the car, a tear pricked my eye. Not just because I was laughing hard but because I realised someone was missing.

My path to motherhood began with the aspiration for a noisy household. To hear the clattering of feet on floorboards and mischievous giggling in the playroom. To spend evenings cooking and supervising homework at the kitchen table, then eating a family meal and exchanging stories of how our days have been. To be busy with the traffic of little people, then teenagers, then grown-up children...

Last night, the car was full of people and singing - children making up nonsense songs with the real words substituted with gobbledegook! It was funny. We laughed all the way home and, as I listened to my daughter and my nephew having fun and making each other laugh, I realised that this is what I have always wanted...

A family with one child is quieter.

Friday, 12 July 2013

The final frontier

Our daughter has been out of nappies during daylight hours for about four months now but we have one aspect of potty-training left to accomplish - night-time dryness.

The past few weeks, we have noticed that the overnight nappy (pull-up style) is dry more often than it is wet. Perhaps she holds on all night and sometimes does a wee in it when she wakes up? Certainly, most mornings she will sit on the potty first thing and do a nice big wee! So, we have started to talk about leaving off the night-time nappy and putting the potty in her bedroom when she goes to bed.

On the few occasions we have put the potty in her bedroom, our daughter has got up and done a wee in it. Whether this was during the night or in the morning, I'm not sure but she definitely has the ability to use it by herself. I am confident that, when she decides she's ready to leave off the bedtime nappy, she'll be able to use the potty by herself in the night if she needs to.

I have bought some large incontinence pads for her bed, to put between the mattress and sheet, so that any accidents she may have are easier and quicker to clean up. (This approach yielded dividends recently, when she had a sickness and diarrhoea bug...!)

At the moment, I feel very relaxed about night-time training. I don't feel under any pressure to get my daughter to leave the nappy off and would rather she got a good night's sleep than was disturbed by bed-wetting or worrying about bed-wetting. So, I'm going to wait for her to suggest that we take the plunge.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Four-letter word

Why do I feel the need to apologise for working part-time? I recently attended a meeting in London and was doing a bit of networking over lunch. Exchanging details with someone, I said "I only work three days a week."

There it was. It just popped out! That four-letter word which belittles the effort I put in to managing my work-life balance - 'only'.

Lots of my colleagues work part-time, as do many of my friends. Other people I know take advantage of flexible working arrangements, for example working 9-day fortnights or compressed hours. Not all of the people I know who deviate from the 'normal' Mon-Fri, 9-5 routine have children but many of them do.

If I'm honest, I can't see myself working full-time for a long time to come. Indeed, I may never work full-time again! Whilst working part-time makes it more difficult for me to pursue meaningful career progression, it does afford me the opportunity to make the most of my daughter's childhood. I therefore hope to continue in part-time employment for the foreseeable future, perhaps changing my work pattern or hours when my daughter starts school.

It's high time I stopped apologising to the world for not working full-time. I'm not a superwoman - I can't juggle my home commitments and work responsibilities in a 5:2 ratio and I don't want to either!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Day out review: Bristol Zoo

My husband took the day off work and we went to Bristol Zoo Gardens for a family day out.

It was a lovely sunny day (and one of the hottest this year) and we arrived late morning. The car park was full, so we had to park on a side street nearby, but we had bought our tickets online the previous evening, which saved us some queueing at the entrance.

There are lots of animals at the zoo but, today, our daughter wasn't interested in any of them! We saw the lions, monkeys, penguins, seals, lemurs, pygmy hippos, okapis and meerkats but she refused to go into the Butterfly House and intensely disliked Bug World! She enjoyed pretending to be a joey in a kangaroo's pouch and stood behind the lion board for a photo but was mostly intent on going to the playground and splashing in the fountain.

The featured DinoZoo exhibition around the gardens terrified our daughter! After the Tyrannosaurus rex 'roared' at her, she wouldn't go near any of the other models. A nice zoo guide gave her a sticker and tried to convince her that the dinosaurs weren't scary but she was put off! The large bird-like one was the only one she 'liked' and she certainly didn't want Daddy to get too close!

We missed loads of stuff because our daughter was in a grumpy mood (probably heat-induced). So, we cut our losses and bailed out after about 3 hours. I had been considering buying annual membership for the zoo but, given the success of this visit, I think it might be better postponed until next year, by which time our daughter might appreciate the opportunity to see wild animals a bit more.

Before heading home, we took the opportunity of being in Clifton to spot a few Gromits and have a drink at the Avon Gorge Hotel's White Lion Bar!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

That which we call a rose

After Monty's stillbirth, a friend sent us a gift - a rose bush dedicated to his memory. It has just come into flower and it is beautiful.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Gromit unleashed!

We love Wallace and Gromit. The short films are delightfully British in humour and production and they are often my daughter's first choice when we ask her if she wants to watch a film. So, it is very exciting for us that a Gromit treasure hunt is taking place in and around Bristol this summer.

It's an art exhibition (installation, rather) and aims to raise funds for The Grand Appeal, Bristol Children's Hospital's charity.

Daddy and daughter saw a few Gromits newly installed before the Treasure Hunt was officially launched:

Having 'befriended' Gromit Unleashed on Facebook and downloaded the Detect-o-Gromit app, I know what we're going to be doing for the next couple of weekends!