Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Screw cap practice for toddlers

What is it about screwing bottle tops on and off that makes it s exciting?

Well, for a toddler trying hard every day to do everything that he sees you do yourself it's a big deal and immensely satisfying to be able to do these tricky little things.

I found a great way to help Freddy (28 months) practice with this toy made from the empty packaging of those squeezy fruit pouches.   One of the things that I love about living in France is that fruit compotes and purees are really popular (for adults as well as children) and there are many different types and fruity flavours to try so I have been saving up some packaging to come up with this.....
I used 4 empty pouches, an empty card packet and some strong duct tape.
 Just mark where each cap will be placed and cut with a knife.
My box was quite small so I cut most of the packaging away from the spout.
Which is then poked up from the inside in the box......
before wrapping the whole thing up with duct tape.
Whilst I was making this toy Freddy was painting a shark (hence the paint on his hands) but as soon as he saw that there was tape sticking happening he came to help out.  And of course he was the chief product tester.  What a great way to help build self confidence and Independence.
I have a love hate relationship with these pouches of fruit.  I love them because they are so handy to have in the handbag, Freddy (28 months) absolutely loves them and they contain nothing but fruit (no sugar, sweetener, water etc).  But on the other hand they are just so expensive and we are really not into wasting money.  Every time I open one I just think about I have a large jar of apple compote in the fridge which is a fraction of the price of these.

And then there is the question of plastic.  One of our daily endeavours is to reduce how much of the stuff we have in our lives and I just don't feel they are necessary. 

But don't worry I have a great plan up my sleeve to reduce our squeezy fruit outgoings...just you wait and see!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Turnng off that annoying word verification on blogger blogs

You know that completely annoying thing that makes you type in a word that you cannot read before you leave a comment?  Well it's gone from this blog - thank goodness.

I thought I'd share how I did it in case it helps anyone else.
The captcha tool is intended to make sure that it is a human posting a comment rather than a robot but I seriously suspect that it may only be robots that can decipher the strange hieroglyphs that are presented.

Us bloggers love to receive comments from our readers but this is the ultimate way to put people off from commenting:  I should know because I often don't go through with posting a comment when presented with the captcha unless I really really like the blog, I simply have much better uses of time than learning sandscript or whatever it is.
OK, so the example above isn't too difficult but that's a rarity I assure you!

Here's how to remove it from your Blogger blog (you'll can still choose to approve comments before they are published so you won't get spammed into oblivion).

Go to your normal blogger dashboard (by clicking on the Blogger bar at the top of your homepage on the right hand side and selecting 'design'. 

Why don't you try it out and leave a comment and see how easy it is?:)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Voilà le printemps !

Spring has really arrived in our little French town on the outskirts of Paris.
I realised that I don't write much about France and yet we have been here now for nearly a year.

Our town is much like every other beautiful town in France:  it has a bakery where the entire town buy baguettes and carry them home under their armpits, a pharmacy better stocked than most English hospitals, a Town Hall (plus Mayor) where all the important (and many of the unimportant) decisions are made and of course a town park where old pétanque playing men put the world to rights and everyone gathers to eat lunch in the sun during their 2.5hr lunch breaks.
 Perfect for a lazy day spent outside with the four of us.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Gunghäst (rocking horse)

I am in danger of starting every post with 'Henry (7 months) is growing so fast....' but I'll try hard to resist.

Anyway, I love this rocking horse because it was my husband's when he was a baby. 
I also love the fact that it was graffitied by my husband's sister.

It was made by the English company 'Tri-ang' and how fitting that this English made rocker should find it's way to Sweden to be given to a Swedish child who would go on to marry an English woman.
Henry's ability to pull himself to standing is getting better every day (unlike my ability to take photographs without cutting his head off).

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Peppa Pig (seriously)

We recently returned from a trip to the UK and who did we happen to meet in the English countryside??? Peppa Pig and her buddy George, that's who! 
It seems that we have been away from England for too long and I have become out of touch with popular culture because Peppa Pig is a bit of a celebrity and there are thousands, if not millions, of children who wake up each morning to watch the adventures of Peppa and her friends.

Well I didn't get the memo (perhaps because we don't watch television) but believe me there were a lot of fans who did because whilst we were looking for some sping lambs to coo over there was a line of children 3 deep all wanting to kiss and hug this pig at our local children's farm in south East England.

It really got me thinking about children and advertising and what is appropriate or not.  Did you know that on average a child will see around 3000 brands and logos in just one day??? All of these companies vying for the attention of my dear sweet little innocent boy, all hoping to make a consumer of him.  And then there is me desperately trying to shield him from it. 

But anyway, later that day we went to Sainsbury's to do some food shopping. Normally a stroll down the toy aisle is not too much trouble but this time Freddy found some Peppa Pig merchandise!
And then there it was again but this time in the magazine aisle.
I was just about to redirect his attention to the contents of the trolley but then I saw all the gossip magazines...... and they got me....
Perhaps one of the things you miss the most in another country are those things that you take for granted while you are there.  Us Brits are really into our magazines and weekly publications.    You can get magazines dedicated to almost anything - see the Earthmovers Weekly?  Must try to keep that one out of Freddy's sight.
Have I made any sense at all with this post?  Can you see how I totally got sucked in? Oh well.

Oh and don't you just love looking at pictures inside supermarkets from other countries? :)

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Picking up and letting go

A little while ago I told you about the eggs on the tray that had led to the onset of Henry's crawling.  Well, he seemed to like them so much that I set up a challenge for him.

His dexterity is improving every day but it's still pretty tricky for a 6.5 month old to actually pick something up intentionally, and letting go is just achieved by a little arm flailing until the object falls away.

So this game would give him lots of opportunity to practice picking an object up and then putting it down (or dropping it) back in the box or on the floor - because with so many eggs to choose from I thought he would be eager to hold lots of them.

But he just wanted to look at them...but Freddy wanted to touch...
And when Freddy couldn't resist the lure of the eggs Henry made him wait a little longer, as if something was about to happen.
Then, when the time was just right (and his big brother had got bored and moved onto something else) he started to rummage around slowly and methodically until he had chosen the egg he wanted to remove.
Quite a fun thing for him to experience - and noisy too!

Monday, 9 April 2012

And finally, our English Easter traditions!

I find it much harder to talk about English culture than Swedish which is strange right? Especially since I'm English?

But I think the reason is that when you learn about a new culture it's exciting and everything is new and previously unknown whereas I have grown up with English culture so it's harder to really describe it because it's just what we do without thinking.
But I cannot post about Swedish and French Easter traditions without a bit about my homeland, which of course means the customary image of a bell clad Morris Dancer!
Source: via Rachel on Pinterest

Morris dancing is of course an English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers whilst wielding (and waving) implements such as sticks, swords, handkerchiefs and bells.

When I was at school it was compulsory for all children to learn how to Morris dance and so once a week we practised in the freezing cold assembly hall in preparation for our 'big reveal' in front of the parents at the annual school fete.

I was incredibly surprised to learn from my (Swedish) husband that he has no idea what Morris dancing is!?  How is that possible?

Another tradition is the Easter Bonnet.  Easter was once a traditional day for getting married, that may be why people often dress up for Easter. Women would make and wear special Easter bonnets - decorated with flowers and ribbons.

In your Easter bonnet
with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.

                                                                                                                    Berlin 1933

Nowadays, children make Easter Bonnets or little egg filled Easter baskets at school to give to their parents.

I have to also show a picture of my sweet little crocheted chick.  I didn't make it myself but I think it would be pretty easy to.  This one is an egg cosy and you know how much us Brits like to have a cosy for our eggs, teapots, feet, hands, tissue boxes, toilet rolls (true) and just about anything else that would benefit from a woollen exterior.
And lastly the 'extremely tasty when toasted' Hot Cross Buns mmmmmmm.

Hot cross buns, now eaten throughout the Easter season, were first baked in England to be served on Good Friday. These small, lightly sweet yeast buns contain raisins or currants and sometimes chopped candied fruit. A cross is added to the top to represent the Crucifixion.

An old rhyme was often sung by children awaiting their tasty buns:

"Hot cross buns,
hot cross buns,
one a penny, two a penny,
hot cross buns.
If you do not like them,
give them to your sons,
one a penny, two a pen
hot cross buns."

Scooter sorting

Thank you to Charissa and Crafty Elsie who, in the comments of my last colour sorting post,  gave me the inspiration for this (and other) activities for Freddy (27 months).

You see Freddy seems to be in the middle of a very active phase of development spending hours every day just running, jumping, scooting and any combination of three together - so sitting still is becoming harder and harder for him.

Therefore, this activity is a direct appeal to his energetic self........
Scooter sorting is just like any other sorting 'game' except that it involves a short scooter ride in between each item being sorted:

I used the water table that hubby made and took out the metal bowls.  I replaced them with paper cut into streamers for a bit of fun.  Then I just placed two boxes under each 'chute' and used my laminated animal pictures to show which animal went in which hole.
I chose cows and horses because for some reason we have loads of them and I didn't want the game ending prematurely in order to restock the animals.

So, with a bucket of animals on one side of the room and the animal sorting station at the other the scooter was used to ride between the two with one animal at a time which was then deposited in the correct hole.
Simple, fun, energy sapping and great entertainment for Henry (6.5 months) who was able to watch the constant to-ing and fro-ing before his very eyes.

Any other ideas for toddlers that don't like to stand still?

[This post is linked to the wonderful Living Montessori Now where you will find a huge giveaway underway at the moment].

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Joyeuses Pâques!

Following on from my ode to Swedish culture I thought I should say a little about French Easter traditions since we have lived here now for a year (not that that makes us experts in French culture!).

Food in France is taken extremely seriously which means that there are some truly delicious chocolate masterpieces to enjoy.

But it is not only chocolate eggs that are eaten in France for Easter - the French also eat a lot of chocolate fish!

Although not directly related to Easter, chocolate fish adorn all the best chocolatier's windows and are enjoyed throughout the entire Easter season. The fish start appearing in shops on April 1st, when children use paper versions to play an April Fools type trick. The 'trick' is to stick a paper fish onto the back of as many adults as possible, then run away yelling, "Poisson d'Avril!" (April fish!).

The tradition is several centuries old. Some say it evolved from a silly 'fish trick' where one would send an unknowing person to market to buy freshwater fish when it was not in season - kind of like the British traditions of sending someone for a 'long weight' or a 'sky hook'.
In addition to the cholate fish on sale you can also buy 'chocolate flying bells' or 'Cloche Volant'.   

 "Pourquoi?" I hear you ask?
Well, during the 7th century the Pope banned the ringing of church bells between Good Friday and Easter. The bells fall silent in mourning for the death of Jesus, and start ringing again for his resurrection.

So what is a bell to do if one cannot ring?

They all fly to Rome where they are blessed by the Pope and filled with chocolates and eggs, which are distributed to all of the homes of France as they fly back to their churches.

Many children wake up on Easter Sunday and find eggs scattered about their rooms. They look in the nests they have placed in their yards or gardens and find Easter eggs in them.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Glad påsk!

Here's a little glimpse into Swedish Easter traditions - I promise you will be surprised!

Perhaps we should start with our Easter mantel piece....

Sickness, short nights and teething prevented the crocheted extravaganza that I had planned but I did manage to achieve a veritable mélange of Swedish, English and French traditions (more on the English and French later).

In Sweden, they don't only have Christmas trees, they also have Easter trees or 'påsk ris'.

The Easter tree is a handful of twigs and sticks (usually birch) which are placed in a vase with coloured feathers attached to the ends.

Swedish 'Easter tree's are decorated with hanging eggs, ornaments and the colourful feathers a bit like this one.

Well, I tried to find feathers everywhere here in France to decorate our påsk ris but just couldn't get any so our tree is slightly more German looking than Swedish especially since some of the eggs were a gift from my German teacher!.

The other eggs on our tree were made by Freddy and I during one of our early morning craft sessions (I'm talking before 7am!).
The religious traditions associated with Easter are of course similar within Christian cultures but Swedish people believe that witches are especially active and their black magic super powerful during Easter week.

On Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdagen) Swedish girls and boys dress up as witches with rosy red cheeks and freckles, long dresses and headscarves and visit their neighbours. Some leave a small decorated card, an 'Easter letter' or sing a song, hoping for a sweet or coin in return.

It is then said that all the witches fly off on brooms to have a big party with the devil at a place called blåkulla (Blu Mountain), returning the following Saturday.

Good Friday (Långfredagen) used to be a day of mourning: everything was closed and only funeral music was played on the radio and religious programs on television.

I'm not one to miss an opportunity to try out a local custom or tradition so I dressed up as a witch myself.....
Ha! I had planned on having a family portrait of us all dressed up as Easter witches but as soon as Henry saw me like this he went absolutely hysterical.  It's actually the first time that I have seen him crying as if he were scared :(  He wouldn't look me in the eye for more than an hour afterwards - sorry Henry.

Anyway.  The last thing to add is that Swedes tend to give paper eggs instead of chocolate ones.

They fill them with sweets or toys and then hide them for the child to find.

I think these eggs look lovely.

Here is my sister in law and her work colleagues as Påskkäring (Easter Witches).

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Play it again Sam!

Could we have a musician in the ranks?  Henry (6.5 months) is showing a real interest in serenading our normal family life with his little red piano.
Readers of this blog will know that I am not a huge fan of compulsively buying any old tat for the children but there have been two or three key things that we have bought (for Freddy originally) that were not necessarily cheap but have really proved their worth.

Take this piano for example.  It's beautifully made and the sound that comes from it is not horrifically torturous but actually quite pleasant no matter how hard the keys are thumped.  It was one of the first things that Freddy used to pull himself up to standing with.  We used to place it against the sofa so it couldn't tip backwards and then he would pull himself up.  The resulting 'music' of his adventures would spur him on to do it over and over again. 

Eventually he used to pull himself up on the piano and then cruise over to the sofa to continue his explorations.

Henry however, seems to just like the music rather than the standing but he does sway at the same time which is really funny to see; he even sings sometimes in a quiet wailing fashion.

I'm not sure that I need to say this but just in case you were wondering this is not a product review :)  I like this blog being ad free and product review free so any opinion I have is my own.  That said, I will be opening my own shop soon (fingers crossed!) so you can expect a discreet link to that I'm sure.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Bead and button colour sorting

Freddy (27 months) is still all about colours and there can never be too many colour sorting activities to do.  He is also starting to really develop an interest in little things and small details which I try to take into account with most of our activities.
This is a very simple game for him to put the right colour beads onto the matching buttons but it seems to really appeal to hm at the moment.
Having just said all of this I should add that although he is still keen to do these activities now and then I have noticed a definite shift in focus towards painting and creativity as opposed to these pre arranged works.  In particular he is completely obsessed with jumping off things, using his scooter and painting with his feet.

Has anyone else experienced this at around the 2.5yr age?
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