Teaching a Toddler – Colours

Well August has been a terrible month for us. We have been sick with an awful cold that neither of us could seem to get over and a growing boy who is testing every fiber of my patience and the boundaries we have given him. For a kid who is only 18 months old he sure is acting like he has joined the ‘terrible two’s’ already.

Needless to say all my usual planning, prep work and routine has gone out the window and has been replaced with a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants attitude and way to many grumpy days. Although to be honest most of the grumpiness has been from me and not Mr B, oh whom I kidding, all the grumpiness has been from me šŸ˜¦

Anyhoo, spring has sprung down here in Australia and I’m determined to get over my grumps and move on.

We did get round to doing some afternoon activities. OurĀ theme this month was all about colour, which was great cause everywhere you go you see colour. So every outing was a chance to reinforce what we were learning at home. Throughout each activity I pretty much just let my son do whatever he wanted and while he worked/played I would talk about the colours and what he was doing. Most of the activities were about fun and playing rather than about dedicated learning šŸ™‚

Monday: Colour Wheel

IMG_3433

This was pretty easy to make. I took some plain paper and divided it into 8, then took some colour markers and coloured in the triangles. I then cut smaller triangles out of the scraps, coloured them in with the same colours and attached them to pegs with some tape. Since these activities only get used a couple of times they really don’t have to be very fancy or long-lasting. He loved this, but I think that may be more due to the fun of putting pegs on paper that the matching colours together.

Tuesday: Bicarb and Vinegar (OUTSIDE!)

SONY DSC

This activity speaks for itself and was lots of fun. We’ve done something like this before but it never gets old šŸ™‚ All you need to do is add some food colouring to some vinegar and mix it with bicarb of soda then stand back and watch…or in my son’s case, get messy. I should warn you to put on crappy clothes as the stupid food colouring stained everything, which I knew would happen but I wasn’t prepared for him to literally sit in the middle of the path and then pour vinegar all overs his legs.

Wednesday: Colour paper tubes

IMG_3313

I took 5 pieces of coloured paper andĀ tore them in half. One half I rolled into small tubes and just taped them closed while the other half I tore into 3 more pieces and scrunched them up into little balls. I then taped the tubes to our pantry door and placed all the little scrunched up pieces of paper into a small basket. We had lots of fun talking about the colours and placing the right colours into the tubes. I’m not sure Mr B understood that the colour of the tubes is what I was referring too as he still can’t identify colours but he can say all the right words, so we are half way there šŸ™‚

Thursday:Ā Matching sets.

IMG_3660

This is really easy to play and lots of fun, I walked around the house picking up different coloured items and putting them into his basket. Then I set out some butchers paper (seriously invest in some if you haven’t got any yet) and picked out items from the basket and asked him to match them to a colour. This really didn’t work at first but I think he got the concept by the last week although I wasn’t expecting him to get them all right at all. If you do this activity make sure you choose items that are predominantly that colour otherwise your kid might not get what you are asking of them.

Friday: Drawing

IMG_3424

Drawing is pretty new to us, even though I have exposed Mr B lots of times, he still hasn’t got the hang of it. I do all my prep work while he has his afternoon nap, that way I can put away other toys and it’s all ready for him. I drew small squares in different mediums (markers, crayons and pencil crayons) and gave him markers to try to match the colours. It was really fun and he loved scribbling everywhere, we have tons of sheets of butchers paper which I just stick to our coffee table with some tape so it doesn’t move while he is drawing.

Reading:

Reading is really important to me and my husband so we want to nurture a love of books in our children right from the start. When our son was first born my husband would read to him every night and we have kept that up ever since.

During the month we include books to our reading time with the theme we are doing at the time. Our local library is great when it comes to finding fun educational books however they are mostly for older kids and have a minimal range for young kids which is disappointing. But we love to challenge Mr B so we’ve introduced books that require him to sit still just a little longer and try to concentrate a little more, which are just a bit above his level. This means we’ve done a mix of difficult library and easy home books this month so he didn’t get frustrated with reading time.

SONY DSC

Home is where the heart is.

My heart will always yearn for Africa, for the place of my birth, for Cape Town; the city I will always call home. There are many many days in which I have felt very homesick and wondered what my life would be like if I had never moved a whole continent away from my friends and family.

But that’s no way to live my life. I know that my life is now here, is in Australia and the move I have made is exactly where I should be.
Little did I know when I met my husband, 4 wonderful years ago in a little Clapham bar in London that I would end up this far from home and yet here I am. I had been living in London for a while and he had just arrived a few months before. We were both spending a few years travelling around and earning some lovely, lovely pounds. Neither of us were really interested in anything to serious and we both just enjoyed each others company and seeing sights and sounds together. For a short while we decided to go our separate ways.
I was devastated, I don’t think I had realised just how much fun I was having with him or the fact that he was such a wonderful person till he was gone. But obviously we ended up back together and after a year and a half Ā of blissful happiness, he managed to make me even happier by asking me to marry him…. I said yes šŸ˜‰

And as they say the rest is history, we got married in London and moved over to Australia soon after that. In 2013 we were given the great honour of having a baby and being parents to the sweetest little boy we could ever have asked for.

I’ve had to make Australia home, not only for myself but for my family too. Don’t get me wrong I do dearly love my new home and all the first world luxuries and safety it offers us. We are also very lucky to be living in a stunning part of Australia and very, very close to my husband’s family so this post is really not about me complaining. I have made some amazing friends and together with our family I really feel like I have found a spot for myself here with people I can love and cherish and who I know love me back.

But as I’m sure any South African expat can agreeĀ Africa will always be in my blood and will always be what comes to mind when people ask me where my home is. They say home is where the heart is… my heart will always be in Africa!

What we’ve been up to

So despite being really busy working on my computer all the time, it mainly ends up being for my new little businessĀ or some other project I’ve said yes to when I should be saying no.Ā I rarely get a chance to just sit down andĀ shareĀ a small snippet of our lives like I really want to do.

We are very honoured to live in a stunning part of New South Wales and every time I take photos I’m reminded just how beautiful it isĀ here. I wish I had got more photos of the countryside cause it was a stunning day but I will instead throw some photos of our family having a fun day togetherĀ šŸ™‚

 

Teaching a Toddler – Zoo Theme

This gallery contains 7 photos.

To kick off our Teaching a Toddler series we did a Zoo theme through July. Although we don’t stick seriously to it, our days all have a pretty similar routine and these activities fit into our afternoon after a nap. … Continue reading

Teaching a Toddler

IMG_1819

Teaching a Toddler

So recently I’ve been inspired by some great teachers turned moms to be a bit more proactive with what I’m teaching Billy.
Once he hit toddler-hood I never really felt like I was doing enough when it came to teaching him even the simplest things like animal names or colours etc.

I started small by creating ‘invitations to play’. These were basically little scenes I would set up each night using the toys we already have. Mostly these were just things like a little farm or the train set and I would build the same little scene every night or whenever I was doing a little cleaning up. It helped me make sure I was rotating our toys regularly and keeping him interested in his toys.

Now that he has turned 15 months I have decided to up my game a bit and do more structured games/lessons. He is way to young to do anything for longer than 10 minutes, so I have kept the activities really simple and most importantly if he isn’t interested or doesn’t ‘get it’ I don’t push him or try force the game. Mostly I have to try to remember that this is not about me and my need to control every situation (I’m a way to much of an A type personality). The other thing I keep in mind when is that at this age repetition is key, so we reuse, redo and recycle most of our activities.

I have chosen to do a different theme every month. Not really for any other reason but the fact that it gives me a guideline so I can think up ideas, activities and outings.

Personally I like routine, I enjoy planning and packing what we will need the night before and that feeling of being on top of my day before it’s even started. If I forget or don’t do it for a few weeks I can see the difference in how I react to situations and how I feel a bit overwhelmed and seem to be a bit more short-tempered with everyone.
I try to menu plan every Sunday night so it’s pretty easy to know which snacks I’m going to pack and what we will be having for breakfast. Our day can start anywhere from 5:30 -7 am, although 7am wake up is very rare, we then have breakfast and have a play with whatever I set up the night before. Pretty much everyday we try to spend the morning out of the house, we are part of a few playgroups in our area and we meet up with some amazing other mommy friends that we’ve made. If we have nothing planned we might just head down to the part of go into town for a coffee. By about 12:00 we are home having a small lunch and heading to bed for an afternoon nap. I’ve been really lucky with how we do naps and B pretty much always sleeps for 2 hours (on really busy days it can be 3 hours). When he gets up from his naps we cuddle on the couch for about 15-30 min either watching ABC2 or just sitting together quietly while B wakes up fully. Then it’s on to our activities (which I don’t put any time limit/expectations on) and after that I start on dinner or if that’s all prepared already I might do some work while B plays independently. We generally have dinner at 6pm and its straight off to bath and bed afterwards which usually means B is in bed no later than 7:30.

This routine works for us and I try to be really flexible with it, it may not work for you or your child. Before he was 1 yrs we never really had a set routine I would always just take the days as they came or see how we felt. Some days I can tell we should just be having a day at home or he may be having so much fun in the back yard that we don’t end up going anywhere or doing anything else. But now that he is a bit older I have noticed that routine seems to suit him much better and he naturally fell into eating and sleeping at the same times everyday so I worked this out around him rather than try to change what he was already doing to suit me.

Is that really what I did?

I have the joy of having some amazingĀ mommy friends in my life. Ā Some have kids the same age as my own, some that are older and some that are younger, which means they are a treasure trove of great advice and they always help me to not make the same mistakes they did. I love watching them interact with their kids, hearing the many different approaches to discipline and the many different ways you can show each individual child love.Ā Watching them really helps me to see how I interact and treat my own son and I couldn’t be more grateful for them all in my life.

IMG_2379

However over he past couple of weeks I noticed something IĀ do that is not helping the development of my son at all but I know no one has ever mentioned it to me Ā or pulled me up on it.

I’m a hover mom! Yip that’s right I hover wherever we go and even at home, my poor child can never learn something new or try something on his own without me being there watching, so called helping and even doing it for him.

Mr B has been an introvert from the day he was born and he has been my velcro child from day dot. So I’m not really talking about how he interacts with others or how long it takes him to meet new people or feel comfortable in the places we go and the playgroups we attend. I’m so very happy to facilitate that side of him and slowly help him to learn how to make his introverted personality fit the situations we find ourselves in, the other more dominant personalities we encounter or especially the larger groups we attend.

What I mean is that he just has to look at me while he is trying to figure something out or learn something new and I am at his side in a flash telling/showing him how to do it and very often it’s resulted in me doing it for him and him no longer wanting to play with the item or try on his own.

Argh how annoying would that be?
I never wanted to be a lazy mom and I was so careful to not be neglectful and I do try really hard to treat my son like I would any other person I come into contact with. I think its valuable and important to make sure I don’t dismiss children or the way they feel, even if I think he is being petty or silly. I’ve always wanted to be really supportive of him and everything he wants to do. We practices attachment parenting and neither my husband or I believe in letting a child cry and we don’t think it’s a good thing for them to do.
But what I’ve done instead is go in a complete other direction and not let him grow and learn on his own. I notice it more and more as he is getting older and as he is able to do more things and it’s really making me step back a bit and let him be.

Thankfully I’m not to late to change my hovering ways. Instead of rushing to his side when he can’t climb off something or can’t figure out how to complete a task I have a few techniques I have had to use that I’ve had to teach myself:

  1. I tell him I’m coming, count to 5 and take a breath
  2. I walk over and I ask him if he needs help (although if he is on something high I move close to him straight away to prevent any accidents)
  3. (depending on his level of stress) I talk him through the task and support what he needs to do.
  4. Ā (once he achieves his goal) I celebrate with him

For example the technique play out something like this:

He climbs onto the bed and can’t get down so he usually starts to call me or express frustration (which in his case comes in the form of throwing something he has in his hand or lying face down):

  1. I count to 5 and ask him if he needs me.
  2. I sit on the floor below where he is trying to get off the bed and I ask him if he needs help getting off.Ā (I try and be really specific with my question so I know what he is trying to do), I usually try and do this until he responds to me in some form. He is old enough now (16 months) to say yes or no to a question I’m asking him and I find expecting and answer from him tends to stop the outbursts of frustration and bring him back to the task at hand. This may be different for your child so just try a few different things until you find what works for you.Ā 
  3. I explain to him that he needs to lie on his belly and slide off or just keep sliding off on his bottom if he wants to get off the bed. I also usually say something supportive like ‘it’s okay mommy will catch you if you fall’. I try not to sound rushed, judgmental, frustrated or change my tone of voice too much and most of the time manage to keep a soothing tone if I can. Pick your moments to teach though, sometimes we are rushing out the door and it’s easier to just pick him up, there will always be another time to teach him with patience.
  4. Once he has managed to get down (sometimes this can mean holding my hand or jumping into my arms in this example) I give him a cuddle, high five or clap hands for him and say something along the lines of “you did a great job trying to get off the bed, I’m so proud of you for not giving up”. I try not to use general terms like ‘good boy’ or ‘well done’ because I don’t want him to look to me for praise at every turn but I want him to feel proud of his achievements and his ability to try Ā instead of searching for acclaim from others.

It’s been a hard pill to swallow, I hate looking at what I do and realising I’ve been messing up. But I guess that’s all part of being a parent Ā and it’s not like I can’t change my behavior and or that I’ve doneĀ irreparable damage.

In fact, for me, that’s exactly what being a mom to this little man is all about. Evolving, changing, growing as he grows and making sure I check myself all the time. I don’t want to ever be the kind of mom that ignores her kid or neglects his needs and growth but I also think its really important to not over do and hover over everything he does and every interaction he has with other children. He needs me but he doesn’t always need my help, and that’s ok too

Daddy is not just an ordinary word!

I love writing down the little snippets of our lives. It’s been amazing looking back on our lives and how much my husband and I have grown as a couple and since Billy has joined us, how we have grown as a family.

One thing I love is watching my husband with Mr B. He is such a great father and I know he is deeply loved by our son. Every morning they get up together and leave me to have a mini sleep-in of an extra 30 min, which in mommy land is such a treat. Now there is one thing you should probably know about my dear husband, even though he never intentionally does it, he is definitely not quiet! No matter how often I ask him to keep it down, all I can hear from 6am when they get up till 6:30 when he leaves for work is the 2 of them chatting and playing together while Sean gets ready.
In fact “dada” was Billy’s first genuine word and thanks to some very persistent teaching on Sean’s behalf “daddy” has been his most clear word so far.
When Sean heads off to work we open the open bedroom curtains and Billy sits for ages waving goodbye to him from the edge of the bed and repeating “daddy’ over and over.

I couldn’t do this job of parenting without my best friend and partner so thank you Sean xx

Anthony John Featherstone

It’s been about a year since we lost my grandfather to cancer. My heart wretched when I got the message, especially since I live a whole continent away and could not see him while he was suffering in hospital. We knew it was coming and I think it was a relief to him, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself, but it didn’t make it any easier at all!

He meant the world to me, so much so that we gave Billy his name! I want to remember him as the strong, quiet farmer he was and I hope Billy will one day read this and get to know him a little through my eyes and heart, so I thought I would put down my memories of him so he can live on a little.

As a farmer in the Karoo, South Africa during so much drought I know he had a tough life. Even though it may not have been like that their whole life, I know my grandparents struggled, I know they worked hard and I know they truly tried to live off the land as best as possible. I remember many a holiday learning to bake biscuits, bread and cakes in my grandmother’s kitchen. Feeding chickens, lighting the old black Agga stove and playing with their many animals were just part of the farming life fun. As much time as I spent with my grandmother in the old farmhouse, I have some fond, fond memories of the time I spent with my grandfather.

He was always up at the crack of dawn, or at least a few minutes before that because it was always dark when he got up. As a young kid I would eagerly be lying in bed waiting to hear his beautiful black and brown Kelpies stirring and pitter-patter along the old floorboards to go outside. Shortly followed by the thudding sound of his veldskoene as he made his way past our bedroom to the kitchen for a cup of tea. I would sneak out the room and join him at the kitchen table in my pajamas while he sipped his tea and ate a yummy rusk or biscuit (which he would let me have too if I promised not to tell my grandmother or sister). He would head out to begin his day and as it was still to early to go out with him I would head back to bed and pretend to be asleep until my grandmother came to wake us or my sister would wake up and we would both sneak into her bed till the house staff came in to start work and make breakfast. Although now that I’m older and look back I’m sure they had all been up just as early as my grandfather, milking cows, starting fires, feeding animals etc. But in my childish mind I imagined that I had been up before anyone else and that he and I were sharing a secret moment in time where only we existed.
We would get ready for breakfast which had to be on the table at 8am, after which I could finally go out with him. I loved spending the day out on the farm with him while he worked. I especially loved that all I had to do was follow him around and he would give me little jobs to do at the same time. I learnt so much from him, he may not have even known how much he was teaching me at the time. But he gave me a true passion for animals, the outdoors and working out in the sunshine and wide open spaces. Even to this day my ultimate dream is to be on a small holding, working in my veggie garden, feeding my chickens; goats; pigs and geese and truly living off the land around us.
He probably also didn’t realise how many things he let me see that gave me a deeper understanding of the world around me, one such story remains with me. In south Africa there are these monkeys called Vervet monkeys and as much as they are a natural part of our ecosystem I now they are a great pest to farmers. There was a cage in each veld to catch them if they tried to eat whatever was growing in that field. One day I noticed there was a monkey caught in a trap, I was over the moon excited as I pictured my granddad telling me he would tame it as a pet for me (as if!). Instead he picked me up and put me into the back of the bakkie (ute) telling me not to hop down at all. He then got his sweet, sweet kelpies all riled up around the cage (I had only ever viewed them as the dogs I played with and would do anything I told them if I used the right commands). I had never seen his dogs so ferocious, even when they were working with his sheep or goats they were all business and obedience, nor had I ever seen these super cute monkey so vicious and scary. He then opened the cage and let the monkey out and the dogs went berserk, attacked and killed it. I was heart-broken, confused and good old-fashioned scared.
He told me that it made sure the dogs remembered how to protect his animals from predators and it was an important part of his dogs work and that the monkeys had become over populated because of the easy access to food on the farms as well as the fact that the farms were set up to keep predators away so they were over breeding.
I had never learnt that much about biology/science in the whole time I had been at school. I also learned that day that animals would always go back to their basic instincts when put into that kind of situation and as much as I love dogs, that day also taught me to respect them so much more. There were many, many more stories and lessons he taught me, some good and some bad but it would be way to many to put down here today.

He loved and trained his work dogs so well, they would know what he wanted them to do with just a whistle or command. He bred and trained them for other farmers and for me any memory of him was always accompanied by his dogs, who were either named Jesse and Jock or Sam and Lady, he reused those names constantly. If his bitch was pregnant you best know you don’t get to sit in the front seat of the bakkie, and if I managed to squeeze in I was NOT allowed to sit between her and him. So often I would be standing on the back with the male dogs and the farm staff while the female dogs got to sit on the front seat with him.

More than any memory of my grandfather the best thing about being with him was how he made me feel about myself. I love my family with all my heart and would never choose to be part of any other. But as a child I never quite felt liked I belonged, I always thought I was just not good enough, like I was supposed to be a better person or different somehow but I just couldn’t figure out how. I think I was a really naughty child, but not because I was trying to be naughty just because I never knew how to be anything different to who I was. Even today I have a constant inner fight between the free-spirited fairy I feel like I should be and the ordered, a-type personality that was instilled in me as a kid. My parents didn’t do a bad job and probably didn’t even know what was going on inside me, they just did the best they knew how to do and tried hard to give me discipline they believed I needed.
However when I was with my grandfather it all disappeared! He was like the calm within my inner storm. He stopped those nasty voices telling me how I wasn’t good enough and stopped all the fighting and the constant battle from taking over my mind. He didn’t try, he didn’t ask me how I felt, he didn’t do special activities with me… he just was. He didn’t need to talk to me, he just accepted me. He didn’t do anything special or try to connect with me on some deeper level, he just let me be who I was and never tried to make me do anything I didn’t want to do, he answered my questions without judgment and whenever I got into trouble (which felt like always) he didn’t pile on anymore. He just let me sit next to him on the couch and cuddle in silence, although he only ever watched the news which is kind of like torturing a child.

But no matter what happened or how I felt, no matter what I was doing or wasn’t doing I loved him. I felt at home and safe with him and whenever I would find out we were going there for holidays I would be over-the-moon, can’t contain myself kind of excited (my mom was a single mom so pretty much every school holiday would be spent on their farm). He was my safe person, my constant in our broken home, my friend when I felt like I had none and the one person I always felt like I could go to.

So to my grandfather: thank you for accepting me, thank you for loving me, thank you for teaching me, thank you making me feel OK with who I was and most importantly thank you for the memories. I love you more than words can say and miss you even more!

My little boy is SO big, 1 whole year has gone by!

I love this kid more than words can say. I could never express exactly how I really feel about him. Not only am I proud of the little man and who is growing to become, but he lights up my life in so many ways.
I enjoy every minute I spend with him… even those odd bad days end off on such a lovely note when I’m lying next to him helping him settle into bed for a nights sleep.
We do so much together and I never get sick of him, of his smile, the little games he plays with me or just watching him play by himself. Yes I do sometimes need a little bit of a break just to get things done but I don’t feel like he is a burden at all. I adore his little smile and that great laugh that you just have to giggle along with. I know he has so much still to learn but I can’t help but think he has such a great grasp of so many aspects of life and he seems so clued in to everything we are doing. He knows how to put his clothes on and take them off (with my help of course), he can brush his own hair and adores playing hide and seek with us.
Lights are his absolute favourite thing right now and I can guarantee if he is in your arms when you walk in a room he will want every light turned on and off a few times before you go any further.
He loves to be tickled, mostly under his feet but pretty much anywhere you touch can be a ticklish spot if you get him just right. He also loves to tickle our feet and can just crack himself up while doing it. He is getting more and more cheeky by the day, his newest trick is to pretend to hand me one of his toys and then snatch it back really quickly and laugh at his own joke! In fact I think he may be under the impression that he is the funniest person alive cause he is always laughing at his own jokes, It’s brilliant to watch.

We’ve been getting more into crafting and creating which he is enjoying more and more. From something as simple as sticking stickers everywhere except on the paper to doing his first painting on an easel at one of our playgroups. It’s been just as much fun for me to look up fun activities and plan our days as for him to do them all.
We have so much fun together bouncing around, dancing to the radio or playing outside. He is my world and I know I’m his.

We are so grateful to all the people around us who helped us through this first year, for all their support, love, tips and tricks and mostly for just being there when we’ve needed them.
To celebrate we through our little monster a monster mash birthday party. Thank you to everyone who came, for the super duper special presents and most of all for your presence.

Posted in Uncategorized