Wednesday, February 28, 2007

G only comes to my house once per week, and today was her third week. There seemed like a real breakthrough today, in that she was happy to arrive at the house, and settled very quickly, both in the morning and after our trip. I wonder whether seeing me at playgroup yesterday made a difference to her. A week is a long time for a toddler to remember, but a day may have made me so much more familiar. It is also noticable that she already has several favourite playthings (the books, the scarves) which she seeks out here. So, perhaps the objects too are becoming more familiar and friendly - and she more comfortable with the whole situation. (I'm making an effort to set up the living room in similar ways each Wednesday.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Trip to Otari Wilton's Bush

Today the Little Kids and I went on a trip to Otari-Wilton's Bush. This is a forest which only has native plants, and is very beautiful, being in a lush valley, with winding paths, small grassy dells, and a picnic area beside a stream. This was an organised trip with Playcentre, and I only went because my friend had room in her car, including a spare child carseat (I have one only).

There was a guide who talked to the assembled group of adults and children about the trees, plants and some wildlife. The Little Kids and I mostly ignored this (along with the other small toddlers and their accompanying big people), and spent out time examining fallen leaves, plants and trees which they could reach, and so on. Lovely sound scape (tuis, etc), and really peaceful ramble through the forest, with both girls happy to trot along at their own pace, stopping to look at things when they wanted.

There is an important rule when going on outings with children: always scout out the trip thoroughly beforehand. This is where my friend and I miscalculated. We mis-remembered just how far down the hill it is to the picnic area, and we thought there were steps, so I didn't take the double buggy. As it happened there were no steps that couldn't be avoided, and it was a looong walk back up the hill to the car after the picnic. I carried each child by turns, and carried both of them towards the end (which I knew I could do in a pinch). It made me think, though, that the sensible thing would have been to have our picnic on a grassy area nearer to the car park (of which there were several). Hindsight eh!!!

Photo is Google Images again.

Sandpit of the week

This is the sandpit at our local playgroup with I and E getting ready to play. The heavy frames leaning against the fence hold in place a couple of large tarpaulins - this seems to be effective against cats, but a bit of a pain to life out of the way.
In fact, today we spent very little time in the sandpit. E is currently fascinated with water - pouring it, carrying it, filling small containers from larger ones. I is very into spatial relationships: she puts her body into spaces (like the 'cosy coupe' ride-on cars), and she opens and closes things (door, letterbox).
I could try putting water into the sandpit for E. And I wonder how I(child) would like tipping the tip trucks in the picture?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tina Bruce on Play

I have an excellent assignment for the first two weeks of one masters paper. We have to choose a book on an education topic which we have always wanted to read but not had the time, read it cover to cover twice, then present a 5 minute seminar to the class on it. In the second week we have to do the same with a book by a different author.

I have been reading a book by English early childhood writer Tina Bruce. She is an advocate for play-based learning in an education system which seems to favour formal methods for quite young children.

What is interesting about this book is that she has created a list of 12 Features of Play - in essence, what you would expect to see in a child’s play when they are fully engaged, and are likely to be learning. Her list is reproduced below in full.

12 features of play: (p. 30)

  1. In their play, children use the first-hand experiences that they have in life.
  2. Children make up rules as they play, and so keep control of their play.
  3. Children make play props
  4. Children choose to play. They cannot be made to play
  5. Children rehearse the future in their role play
  6. Children pretend when they play
  7. Children play alone sometimes
  8. Children and/or adults play together, in parallel, associatively, or co-operatively in pairs or groups
  9. Each player has a personal play agenda, although they may not be aware of this
  10. Children playing will be deeply involved, and difficult to distract from their deep learning. Children at play wallow in their learning
  11. Children try out their most recent learning, skills and competencies when they play. They seem to celebrate what they know.
  12. Children at play co-ordinate their ideas, feelings and make sense of relationships with their family, friends and culture. When play is co-ordinated it flows along in a sustained way. It is called free-flow play.

She gives examples using narrative observations of actual children at play. She then analyses the examples according to her theory to illustrate the learning goals which the child is engaged in. Maybe I’ll try that out myself sometime.

She also makes the point that play is hard work for children when they are fully engaged - what she calls ‘free flow play’. I’ve certainly observed that free flow play takes a lot of concentration. She contrasts periods of this full-on play with periods of, for example, quite watching, or copying or helping an adult, or resting.

Food for thought. I’ve got out a couple of her other books to read (not for the 2nd seminar though!).

Quotes on the subject of play.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Working bee in play area

A bit of a working bee around here this evening sorting some outside things for the Little Kids. We have finally got the sandpit cover sorted (fingers crossed). We can go a long time with no "cat problems", but have been hit (in the sandpit) more than once lately. The previous cover was of the throw-a-tarp-and-some-bricks-on-it variety. We have now gone up-scale a notch: the tarp now has hooks all round to hold it on. If the local moggie (and we know your name!!!) gets under THAT, she'll get a fright and wish she hadn't.

I also got Bern to attach a short elbow of downpipe to the back of the sandpit. The idea is to encourage the Little Kids in pouring sand - and it should work for balls too. If it works out we might extend that idea. I'll be on the scrounge for off cut lengths of downpipe for other gradient applications too, such as water, cars, etc.

The other wee job was tidying up the 'garden in a bath' by the back door. This has a nice miniature flax and a native grass ("spikey" plants), and now it has some lettuces and silverbeet transplanted into it. It's got space for some other little veges too. The Little Kids can help me water it, and we might pick and eat the produce. Then maybe they'll leave the strawberries alone!
(Photo above is from Google Images, and is probably quite misleading.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Another gorgeous day here, and plenty of reasons to get out in it. We had a picnic in the Dell arranged with a Sunday School group, but in the end only a small number turned out for it. They were probably all at the Cuba St Carnival - which is where Sophie, Katie and I went afterwards. Saw some clever, funny, outrageous, courageous (by turns) street performers, and checked out the stalls. A good range of music too, but too hot to stand around in the sun. (And lucky if you could get a seat in the shade.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Yesterday (Thursday) was a teaching day, but I only had one toddler as E was away with her family. When there is a change in the routine (such as being down one child) I take the opportunity to do things which are difficult on other days. In this case I(child) and I went to town on the bus to sample some of the joys of city life. (They are not big enough to take two toddlers on the bus together.)

We did a bookshop, then a cafe at the library and a toddle across Civic Square. The seagulls came in for a bit of chasing - but even at I's fastest run they just remove themselves casually from her reach and look back scornfully as if to say "who are you little person to bother me". a great delight for her though.

Got some teaching resources and more books at a 2nd hand shop. I'm collecting scarves (silk, chiffon, etc) to use for dancing, hiding, dramatic play, etc. Then I(child) ate her lunch at the bus stop, and home for a sleep. Altogether a very satisfactory morning.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More on section 59 repeal. Russel Brown, blogging on Public Address, has some lucid comments here.

Repeal of s59 has passed second reading

It's good to see that Sue Bradford's bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act has passed its second reading in parliament last night. You can read more about it on the Green blog here.

In case you haven't been paying attention to this issue, section 59 is the part of the Act which says that parents may use 'reasonable force' when disciplining their child/ren. All well and good but for two problems: i) this clause has been used as a defense for parents beating their child with implements such as lengths of wood (that is, one person's 'reasonable' is another person's 'completely over the top'), and ii) this section has the effect of giving children less expectation of physical safety under NZ law than either adults or animals enjoy.

Now, OF COURSE parents must train their children. There are lots and lots of ways to do this, starting by being a good role model of how you want your children to behave. Some of the people who are against removing this section of the Crimes Act say that a parent who lightly smacks their child to correct them will be a criminal. My problem with that argument is as follows. If all you need is a 'light smack' to correct a particular behaviour, then there are many alternative (non-physically-violent) ways to achieve the same effect. If you can't use one of the alternative (non-physically-violent) behaviour management methods in a particular instance, then a 'light smack' is just not going to do it - I don't believe that you won't resort to something more than a 'light smack'.

I could blog all day about non-violent behaviour management (or 'positive guidance') methods. Suffice it to say that if teachers (early childhood and school) can manage behaviour by using non-violent techniques (which they must and do), then parents can learn some of the same methods.

So, good on Sue Bradford for keeping onto this.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It's really fascinating to watch the actions of a pre-verbal child, notice some repeated action and recognise a possible significance of it for them. Then you have the chance to respond with a follow-up action which may make a meaningful link for them, or help them achieve a goal.

This morning G(19 months) and I were in the sandpit at playcentre. After sorting out spades and some little tractors, G commenced to dig at the sand. A few minutes later I noticed her sitting in the sand making a repeated action. She was tipping sand from her spade into a little pile, and tapping the pile flat with the back of the spade. This seemed very familiar, and after a minute I realised that she might be reinacting the action you make when tamping down the sand in a bucket for a sand-castle. A hasty search around found some buckets, we filled one (tamped with the appropriate action) and turned it out. From her face, G was certainly pleased with this outcome - and she responded to a fresh sand-castle in time-honoured toddler fashion!
There is, of course, a sense of satisfaction in this glimpse into the child's mind and the feeling that you have helped them achieve a goal. What strikes me more on this occasion is that this is the first time that I have made a sand-castle with G. So she is bringing an experience she has of sand from home. She is making a connection between her life outside, and within, this new care relationship. Building (and knocking down) sand castles is a pretty common activity in Kiwi culture. In terms of our relationship, it is something that she brought, and an experience which we now share together.

Sandpit of the week

I have a couple of sandpits in mind that I'm going to get out and photograph soonish. But in the meantime, here's our local 'big sandpit' (aka, a beach). In some of the hot weather lately we've been getting out to this beach, and it has sometimes been as crowded as it looks in the photo! One unlooked for bonus (!!) is that not only do you get to play in the sand and the sea, you also get your exercise from having to walk a mile from your carpark!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Gearing up for the MEd

It's orientation time at Victoria University, and I have been to two postgraduate orientation talks in the last two days. Yesterday's one had wine, and today's had lunch, so this is not as reckless as it sounds. Anyway, having enrolled, and paid, the starting of the Masters is looming large. I have to admit that it's feeling a bit daunting - but 'exciting daunting' at this stage, so still keeping it together.

I have a book of readings for one of my courses (which is a first half course), and met the lecturer today. He has also given us work to do at home for the next two weeks, so it's 'heads down' from now on. The other paper (a full year one) doesn't start for a few weeks.

I took the two Little Kids to this mornings meeting. Fortunately I had Bern to help me as he was also going (he's starting a PhD). They made themselves quite at home - there was plenty of room for them to explore. I think that having children around must remind people why they are studying education in the first place.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Food for the Family

I've been thinking about posting about food for a few days. John Key decided to make political hay, a few weeks ago, about the existance of an 'underclass' in NZ, and that many kids go to school hungry. His, possibly well-meaning, scheme to have private businesses donate food (muslie bars) to low-decile schools lasted about 5 minutes, because the principal of the first school such an arrangement was made for didn't appreciate the implication that their parents couldn't afford to feed their kids. While there certainly are kids who go hungry in this country, this topic has raised a number of interesting issues in the paper. (I don't watch TV.)

One, in last weeks Dompost, was an article by Sophie Gray, of destitute gourmet fame. She is a foodie who gives cooking demonstrations on how to eat gourmet food on a tight budget. Her take on the 'kids going hungry' issue appeared to be that parents are responsible for feeding their kids, but that they have been suckered into giving the kids too much choice about what they eat. As an example, she says that her kids get to choose what to have on their sandwiches for lunch, not whether they'll have a sandwich or not.

According to the article, she has two kids, aged 11 and 13, and feeds her family of four on $100 per week. Which didn't look like much, until I considered that I have four kids around that age range, and feed the six of us on $150 per week. As a comparison, the Otago University survey on food price estimates it costs $85 per week to feed a teenage boy - an amount which Sophie scoffs at as much as I always have.

When I looked up her website (see link above) what I noticed was that the recipes she shares sound very much like the recipes we cook and eat here; her spaghetti bol or vege curry could be just what Rowena made for tea tonight. One of her points is to not use pre-packaged stuff (it's usually dearer). If you don't know how to make a sauce from scratch, or do reliable baking, then you have no choice but to buy more expensive pre-made ingredients or meals. And on a personal note, not being a driver, I find it much faster to cook 'fast food' (like pasta with some sauce) than get to the shops and buy 'fast food' (like F&C).

When it comes to being able to feed your kids, one point is knowing how to do that cheaply and nutritiously. Another is to have some basic principles around food in your family. "In this family we always eat breakfast - so what are you going to have if you don't want Weetbix?" And, of course, I firmly believe in bringing up kids to be competent adults, which means that in our house when you turn 10 years old you get a cooking night once per week. This took quite a lot of hands-on help at first, but now it pays huge dividends, and of course, the child really likes getting out of doing the dishes!
(photo above from destitute gourmet site)

And here are Sophie and Elanor cooling off in the paddling pool this afternoon.

Round the Bays 3

Well, what a gorgeous day was turned on for the run! Overcast at first (which keeps the heat down), with the lightest breeze. By the time we had been going 20 minutes the clouds cleared, but I had the sun behind me at that stage, so, perfect. I really appreciated the water station at the 3.5k mark, and several people were spraying their hoses across the road to cool people down, which was also really good. (A fire engine was doing the same thing at one point.) One of the houses along the way has a patio over a street-front garage, and a small live band was up there singing and playing over loud speakers.

It was quite exciting being is such a large crowd (about 11,000 people). Bern was ahead (he ran the first 1/2 of the course before his first walking break), and Sophie and her friend Jerusha were behind me after the first 1k or so. I found a good strategy was to choose a person and let them set the pace, and if I needed to have a walk, I would just choose someone else when I was ready to run again. There was one guy who carried two plain blue flags the whole race. I guess he was with a group, but he was very useful to me as he was going at about the right pace, and was very visable. Sometimes I would be behind him, and just keep up; sometimes I would be ahead for a while, and he would pass me while I had a walk. I think I finished the course just ahead of him.

At the end we were given water and bananas. The girls came in a bit later, and we missed them in the crowd, so we spent over 1/2 an hour looking for them. Lots of entertainment, food stalls, etc at the park at the end. It would be really good to be with a big group, and there were lots of corporate groups. We saw a few people we knew. We queued for the free sausages and then queued for the free bus back to the start point (where we'd left the car).

And my time? I was aiming to make the 7km in 60 minutes. The times will be confirmed in tomorrow's paper, but on arrival I was told I'd done about 46 minutes. I was stoked! (This might vary depending on how long it took for me to reach the start line after the hooter.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pigeons in the Park

It's one of the facts of in-home childcare (which is what my business is) that one can only have two under-2-year-olds at a time. (As regulated in the Home Based Care Order.) This, of course, is very practical as I'm not sure how anyone would go for walks with three under-2s. (OK, so you could use a double buggy and a backpack - but really, it sounds like much too much hard work.) But it is unfortunate because I have turned away two families wanting childcare this week - both with very wonderful little kids I'm sure - because they are too young.

My two Little Kids (aged 18 months both) and I found ourselves in a grassy park with pigeons this morning. They squeeked with delight when they first saw the birds. After being let out of the buggy (and the obligatory sandwich), the girls discovered the true delight of being a small biped around flying things. They trotted off to examine the pigeons, who walked around - and then suddenly scattered! The power of this seemed to go to I's(child) head. She threw back her head and laughed - and repeated the exercize several times.

Of course, I don't want to encourage cruelty to animals - maybe pigeons get tired of being chased at 1km/hour - but at least these ones were being paid for their entertainment value in sandwich leavings.
(by the way, the photo above is from Google Images.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Painting was magic for G.

Today was the first day for G (aged 20 months) at my house. She was a little unhappy with mum leaving at first, but easily distracted, and she 'warmed up' to us over an hour or so, until I would say she had an excellent first day. After her sleep she was singing, dancing, jumping and clapping with us, and with Sophie and Elanor after they got home from school.

I took the Little Kids to our local playcentre for a visit. At first they were both a bit shy, and I led G around by the hand, looking at different activities, for a while. Then she saw the painting! This must have really struck a chord with her because she painted several pictures, and kept coming back to this area. After that she was away, exploring and playing in a number of areas, both inside and out.

Meanwhile, I(child) had become very independant, exploring and generally getting 'stuck in'. Lots of time with the playdough for her, squeezing, patting, poking - and checking out what the other children were doing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

First day back at Playgroup

This morning the Little Kids and I went to our local Playgroup. Most of the usual suspects were there, plus some new faces for the new year. It was great to see the outdoor area had been set up and was being well used. After a patchy weekend weather wise it is definately Summer here again.

The water trough which Playgroup bought last year was out and seeing lots of fun. E, at a quite tall 18months, can just reach into it and grab cups and boats. She LOVES water at the moment so was as happy as ..... a toddler in a water trough!

I, (a shorter 18month old) mostly played indoors. My impression was that she needed to revisit the environment and equipment, touching and playing with everything in turn. Next time I'll see if she is big enough for that trough, or else we'll have to imporvise a step. There are a lot of kids about the same age (and size) at the moment.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sandpit of the week

Here is another sandpit where we have spent quite a lot of time. This is the new (as in, 5 years new) sandpit at our local Playcentre. It was built while Elanor was four. It replaced a smaller one in a low corner of the ourdoor area.

The sunshade pulls across on two cords, so that it is folded up zig-zag fashion when against the shed wall. It is secured with a bungy cord. The sandpit cover is canvas of some kind, fitted, and secured by a bungy around the edge which hooks onto small hooks about 40cm apart around the lip. Some major work was done after installation to improve drainage (which had previously been going into the carpart adjacent to the centre). Very handy having the shed right by the sandpit.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Round the Bays 2

Only one week to go until the event. We just went on a 6km walk/jog around the waterfront. The total length of the course is about 7 kilometres. What we have done is drive the course and work out a landmark for each ½ k mark. Then we park the car at one point, walk/jog a known number of ½ k’s and then back to the car. For me and Sophie, a brisk walk is 10 minutes per kilometre. I’m up to walking ½ k and jogging for ½ k. I was pleased with the time we made tonight, but a shame about the headwind that came up on the way back.

It was really nice coming round a point and seeing the fountain quite a long way off and watching it as we ran toward it. We also watched a cargo ship being guided into port by a couple of red tugs, and there are other joggers and dog walkers of course. Quite a few people have fishing rods (often more than one per person), and they seem to have buckets so I suppose they are catching fish, though I haven’t stopped to ask anyone.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

So how did the party go?

It was great. The games went off well, and sending everyone off to the swimming pool was a good dodge for me - meant I could get the food ready in peace! Everyone seemed to have a good time too, which was a bonus :-)

Playing Twister.....

Birthday party - but not at the beach

Well, the hot weather changed to a Southerly after tea yesterday. We had been planning a beach barbeque for Rowena's birthday today - should have held it on Thursday! The party plans have evoloved in the last 20 hours. We whipped round and borrowed Twister from a neighbour and sorted out a couple of other games to have at home.

This afternoon has been getting finer and finer, though still a wind. The final plan is to start with pressies, then take 8 or 9 girls to the swimming pool, then back here for the food (sausies done in the oven, not on the barbie). The party has started early as R had to be dropped off here, so they are warming up with Twister. It's a really good mixing game for 13 yr olds.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Round the Bays

One of my new year's resolutions was to "exercise more". Given that I was starting from a reletively low base last year (not even as much walking as usual), this has been quite achievable so far. I've been going for a brisk walk every other day, and adding in a bit of jogging too.

I've decided to do the Round the Bays walk/run on the 18th. If you haven't seen it, go here. Bern is doing the "run" version and Sophie and I are doing the walk. Though, to achieve my time goal I'll need to put some jogging in too. It's a bit of a chore training round here though. Any direction we go in involves a stiff hill at some point - often just before getting home again! My 'brisk walk' today was down the hill to town - 35 minutes at lunchtime. The bus took care of the hill climb. :-)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Quilt guild tonight

Sophie and I have been to Quilt Guild this evening. Rose G did a presentation on how to recognise and date vintage fabric. From the way she talked it sounded like a treasure hunt - using clues from dress labels and old magazine ads to date particular bits of cloth. She certainly was enthusiastic about the sport.

I've put a random quilt of mine in above - mostly because I already have the pic on my computer.

Your basic home sandpit

I couldn't have this blog title without a sandpit! We built this one for the Big Kids over five years ago and it still gets plenty of use. There were days when Elanor would only come inside for food! I'll be looking for other interesting sandpits to feature on the blog from time to time.

Summer's a great time to work outside!

It has taken a while, but Summer has finally arrived in town. Just a two day week for me this week, but both yesterday and today were scorching! The Little Kids and I spent a lot of time in the back yard, but we had to retreat inside for some shade near the middle of the day.

I set up the water trough in the shade this afternoon, and after the Big Kids got home Sophie and I got out the paddling pool. Great fun! E had an absolute ball, and both Little Kids were SOAKED when their mums came to collect them. I love my job!