How to foist your interests onto your children

You know one of the great things about kids? They’re malleable. And they love everything. You’re into sports? Great, so is your kid! You like heavy metal music? So does your kid! Computer games? Hiking? Cross-dressing? Yup. In fact, as long as it’s legal and safe(ish) you will probably find your child is naturally drawn to what interests you. I guess they see you enjoying something and imitate that behaviour. Whatever the psychology of it is, children seem to enjoy pretty much all pastimes and even more so ones they can partake in with their parents. Embrace it! It’s a way to get more out of what you like doing AND some quality family time at the same time.

Where this has worked so far…

Singing. I sing: always have done so (well there was a brief interlude when I was at university and was more interested in going to gigs, drinking cider and black and learning Microbiology but other than that I’ve always been involved in some kind of choir / performance group). So therefore my kids of course enjoy not just singing, but drama and theatre in general. They go to a drama group every week and they come out exhausted but beaming. Then on the drive home we listen to the music they have been learning and talk about musical theatre and generally geek out about the whole thing. It’s glorious!

Geeky board games. Both husband and I are ex-Dungeons and Dragons players. I’d play it now but don’t have that kind of leisure time really anymore. But there’s something wonderful about a good strategic board game – Carcasonne, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Mysterium, Tales of Arabian Nights… we have a good collection but they are mostly quite advanced for little ones. So there are some we play that M and E can be involved in; there are countless board games and role play games that are either designed for younger players, or are simple enough for them to ‘get’. I have recently starting playing a storytelling game called Amazing Tales which is a very simple role play game and the girls adore it! It tests my ability to make up a story on the fly, too – but children are very tolerant of a lack of cohesive plot and don’t complain if all the ends don’t tie up nicely as long as the adventurers have a good time and beat the baddies.

Computer Games. Older kids do not need much encouragement to play computer games, let’s be honest, but at least at 5 and 8 years we can have a say over what they are playing and we’re frequently all playing Super Mario Brothers or Mario Kart or Minecraft together without too many arguments. The girls even discovered my old Sega Megadrive collection recently and were delighted to watch me navigate old Sonic the Hedgehog levels! They refused to play though – apparently computer games were “too difficult in the olden days”.

Running. Well, actually no. I tried this one but apparently going for a run is not fun. Not unless it’s ‘to the park’ or ‘to an ice cream van’. Can’t win them all!

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Learning to Read

E is in Reception year. She is learning to read and write. She knows most of the basic phonics (that’s letter sounds, to those not currently dealing with early years and primary education) and can sound out simple words. She can write her own name but usually misses out half the letters (not helped by most grown-ups spelling her name wrong – it’s not that’s unusual, is it?).

The thing is, E is not particularly interested in these activities. She is not motivated by the desire to learn and improve. She IS motivated with material rewards, but only to a certain extent. Practicing the reading and writing is, quite frankly, boring and frustrating. There doesn’t seem to be a single time of the day when it’s a Good Time to do the required reading homework – she’s always tired, bored, hungry or distracted.

The homework routine usually goes like this:

Biff had a red cup. It was full. Chip had a blue cup.

“Eleanor, can you read the first word to me please?”

“Buh ih fuh fuh – Biff!” (she knows it’s Biff because she’s seen the picture)

“Very good! What about the next word?”

“Ih suh – is. Biff is”

“No, that’s not the word. Look here – what’s the first letter?”


“No, look at it, don’t guess. You know this one”


“Nearly – look, it’s a tall letter. What does it say?”

“Huh! Huh ih suh – his”

“Not quite. Look. Huh – what’s the next letter?”

“I’m bored. My tummy hurts. Can I get a smiley face now?”

“No – you need to read some more. Look, Biff huh…”

“Aa suh. Has”

And so it goes on. Every word is guessed until she happens to get it right. A 12 page book can take us three days to read, a few pages at a time. I’m calm and cajoling, and a smiley face on the chart is given for every good bit of reading. But Oh My God it’s like pulling teeth at times! Writing is similar, but she doesn’t need to practice that at home yet thank goodness.

At some point I know the reading will Click (just like it did with learning the letters early on in Reception) and she’ll be sounding out confidently. I cannot wait for that!

But then I see her doing other work, and she’s so motivated to do it nicely! Her counting and adding is great. Her colouring is neat and considered. She loves sorting things, and her imagination is brilliant!

It’s funny having two very different girls. How did they end up with such different personalities and learning styles I wonder?


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Snow days

About once every 6 or 7 years we get decent snow. Snow that’s thick, and lasting, and suitable for all the usual fun-filled activities that snow has to offer. Last week was that time! We had two days of good snow, and as per the usual the schools were shut and I was allowed to work from home.

In between checking and sending emails, powerpoint presentations and other dull, grown-up stuff we tried to fit in some fun (wet and cold) activities. After all, M could be a teenager before she sees snow like that again! We weren’t going to miss it.

Timing was everything. I didn’t want to venture out with two children if it was still snowing and windy because they’d be cold and miserable in no time. But wait for the weather to improve and it might be too late – snow doesn’t hang around round these parts!

Day 1 we stayed inside, heating on full blast, PJs and dressing gowns and Lego and Disney films. It was cold and stormy and icy but not much snow yet.

Day 2 was The Day. More snow overnight, winds dying down, forecast for temperatures to rise and bring some rain so if we were going out it was now or never! So out we went, kids in snow suits and waterproof gloves and wellies, taking in turns to be pulled on the sled I had bought, optimistically, from a charity shop two years ago (£1! Bargain!). We hiked the slippery 1km to Ludgershall Castle. Roads were not very car-friendly and lots of vehicles had got stuck, it transpired, on the back road towards Marlborough. The council were driving supplies up in 4x4s to help stranded drivers, and lots of locals were helping out too – lovely to see community spirit!

The castle was bustling with people. It’s surrounded by lots of small hills of varying steepness so perfect for sledging and there’s a slope to suit all ages and levels of daring. M had first got, choosing a long but gentle slope and whooping the whole way down. E then had a turn, followed by me. The girls insisted I try ‘the big slope’ and pushed me down a significantly longer, steeper slope before I could argue. I stayed on – just! It was tremendous fun.

Then E wanted to try The Big Slope like I had and promptly fell on her face. Well, that was the end of sledging. She was cold and soggy and tired and hurt and we basically turned tail and came straight back. M was a bit miffed and managed to fit in about 5 more turned while I sorted out her little sister. She would happily have stayed sledging until her fingers turned blue I think!

The walk home was hard work – I pulled both girls on the sled most of the way as they were tired, which was a good workout especially up the hills! I was grateful for my universal snow spikes which fitted over my wellies. A very good Lidl purchase!

Home was hot chocolate and more movies, and not moving from under the blanket. M and I later built a snowman in the garden, and E stabbed it with sticks to see if it would fall down.

We kept the bird feeders topped up and saw lots of new birds in the garden, including a pair of Fieldfares which I don’t think I’ve seen before.

A lovely couple of days! All that remains now is a very small patch of snow where the snowman once stood. Everything else melted away as quickly as it came.

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A little update

Recently, randomly, I started reading my blog again. It’s been a loooong time since I wrote a post and I missed it! I decided I’d start it up again with no strings, no conditions, no promises – just enjoy the writing process for what it is.

 When I last blogged I had one girl just starting school, and another a toddler (nearly pre-schooler) in nursery. I worked part time. E was at the peak pretty much of toddler awfulness and we had just had what we now refer to as ‘That Christmas’. The one which turned E into a Gremlin, and me into a sobbing wreck.

 Fast forward two years and I have two girls at school. M is 7 and is bright, academic, determined, at times silly and moody and polite and potty-mouthed. She is obsessed with Pokemon, loves singing and is still fairly pink-n-girly but with a feminist streak and strong morals. I am proud of her frequently.

 E is 4, nearly 5 and funny, emotional, spirited, stubborn and delightful. She’s at her best removed from her big sister’s presence when she is charming to be around. She loves animals and nature, being outside, is a natural runner and finds everything fascinating. I am proud of her frequently, though she couldn’t be much more different from her big sister!

 In the past two years we have fully weaned E (she announced she would wean before she turned 4 – she did one better and decided ‘no more mummy milk’ early in January 2017 aged 3 ¾). E has been at school for one full term and loves it; she dislikes reading practice but loves learning. She doesn’t take the same pride in her achievements as M does so we will need to find a different way to engage with and encourage her! She still does not sleep easily, and frequently takes an hour or more to fall asleep at night and is often tired in the morning; I have decided she has a teenager’s biological clock and just wants to be a night owl. M has become a fast and confident reader and will take long books to bed at night to read to herself. She can swim 50 meters and is learning to dive. Both girls do Junior Parkrun occasionally and though not particularly fast, they will run most of the 2km distance and love it (especially when there are brownies at the end of the race!). I am running when I can and have completed two half marathons and am thinking about a full. I am neither fast nor skinny but I can run distance comfortably and enjoy the sensation of pushing my body to its limits. Thanks to a (very expensive) physiotherapist I can run without ankle support for the first time in years! I have lifelong orthotic inserts though. We lost our beloved pet, Miles Cat, and bought two guinea pigs which are small, noisy, and less affectionate than a cat but also pretty effortless to look after and the girls adore them. I still work part time and still agonise over work-life balance. There’s always too much to do at work, too much to do at home, and not enough time for the kids but such is the lot of the working parent!

 So: life update done, I will blog more in good time.

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Toddler tantrums and peaceful parenting

E is at the moment going through ‘a phase’. It started off as a nasty cold but as she recovered from that she became demon toddler. Screaming, pushing, shouting, refusing to communicate. Argh.

She’s always been a fairly laid back child. She occasionally gets a bit possessive or pushy with her big sister, but always apologises when prompted and is fairly easy to redirect. At the moment, however, she’s really taking things to a new level. I guess Christmas hasn’t helped; all the excitement, traveling, bad diet and materialistic stimulation has just pushed her over the edge!

The day after boxing day was bad. She pushed me and I asked her to say sorry. She just shouted “I don’t want to say sorry! I don’t want to ask nicely!” And pushed again. Then screamed to be picked up. I ended up carrying her round the house, trying to find a spot that was quiet so she could chill but everywhere was busy with family, toys, tv, cooking, lights and sound. All the while she was just screaming and I didn’t know what she wanted or what to do. I was crying, E was screaming, and then M came over to me and gave me a hug and I totally lost it. I sobbed and sobbed into her jumper. Poor thing, a 5 year old shouldn’t have to see her mum like that. But she was so good, quiet and kind and the contrast between the two children was so evident it really got to me.

While E had her cold I was nursing her more than usual. She wasn’t eating or drinking much so it was giving her some fluids as well as providing some comfort. Usually we just nurse once a day, in the morning; it’s been that way for some months now. But after getting better E seemed to assume she could have milk whenever she wanted. She demanded it, putting her hand down my top. I didn’t like it, so refused her and the milk became both and obsession and the cause of the tantrums for a while.

When it gets bad I just want to run away. I want to down out the shouting and hide somewhere. I can’t do the peaceful parenting thing when a violent tiny person is continuously hitting me. But then today I took her to the stairs and sat with her while she calmed down. Later on during a meltdown she asked to go sit on the stairs. She is trying so hard to do and say the right things but these silly overwhelming emotions keep getting the better of her. I know, then, that we’re doing the right thing. Sticking to our guns, but talking it through as much as is possible with a 2.5 year old. I ended up cuddling her to sleep tonight, she was all worked up but didn’t want to let me go. I cuddled her for as long as she needed through the screaming.

One day she’ll wake up and be sunny and wonderful once more. No more tantrums 50% of the day. No more violence. We’ll get there.


Our attempts at a happy family Christmas photograph.

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A (second) letter to CBeebies

Almost two years ago, I wrote a letter to CBeebies. Now, as rumours of BBC cuts hitting my beloved pre-school channel start gathering pace, I thought I’d write another letter.

Dear CBeebies,

I want to thank you once again for what you provide. Two years ago I was mostly praising I Can Cook as it was one of our favourite shows, and got M into the kitchen and cooking – more than just pink icing and sprinkles over cupcakes, too! Now though as our school adventure starts, I’m really starting to appreciate all the other stuff that comes with the CBeebies bundle.

Let me start with your website. It’s such a popular choice that it appears on the home screen of my browser, as one of the most visited websites. I am confident I can let M navigate her way through it without having to periodically check she hasn’t strayed onto anything less than savoury (hellloooo, Youtube!). M watches clips from Melody and tells me all about the sights, sounds and feelings of the music she was listening too. She works her way through the increasingly difficult levels of Nina and the Neurons problem solving puzzles, joyously shouting out when she finally figured out a really difficult level. She learns so much about dinosaurs from Andy that she corrects me when I call something a Pterodactyl, saying “actually it’s a Pterosaur, mummy!”. The website is so intuitively designed that M can navigate it with ease, and it naturally directs her to age-appropriate learning games and clips.

Then the apps. I loved the CBeebies app when it first came out – I love it even more now! It is updated just often enough to keep the interest there, and little details like collectable bugs, stamps and badges help enthuse young players. The Storytime app is also fantastic! A whole library of stories to read or have read to you, with interactive elements that entertain both my 2 year old and nearly 5 year old.

That’s all aside from the channel itself. CBeebies is there at 6.00am when I am up with a hungry toddler, who was also up in the night several times teething. It’s there at the end of the day when tired children need to flop and watch something soothing before dinner is ready (how I love Abney and Teal!). It’s there on lazy weekend mornings when we all squash into one bed and watch Postman Pat and Q Pootle 5 while eating toast and drinking tea. It’s there ALL DAY when children are poorly and just want to snuggle up under a duvet and watch something familiar and comforting.

And I love how it’s both entertaining and improving! Sure, some shows are just there for fun (I’m not convinced my children have ever learned anything from Peter Rabbit, unless it’s not to trust handsomely-dressed foxes or fly a home-made kite/glider in a storm), but many, many, of the shows are just perfect for my children. E learns familiarity with numbers from Numtums, while M can watch the same show and do the maths herself. They copy Squiglet and draw things they have never attempted before. The phonics of Alphablocks, the messy fun of Mr Maker, the amazing array of singing, dancing and music on ZingZillas. Everything inspires and I find myself drawn into the shows as much as the children!

So, thank you CBeebies! Thank for you providing for my children from baby to schoolgirl. And please, please do not be pressurised into cutting the budget from this wonderful service!

Yours, one grateful mum and satisfied customer.


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What a Busy Weekend!

Saturday, Tom was out on some kind of epic bachelor-esque 15 hour solid role play gaming session at someone else’s house. He wasn’t expected back until the morning, or if not that then very late indeed. Opportunity for some girls-only fun at Chez Moi!

I wish I’d had my camera with me all day. We did some great stuff! It was exhausting, and reminded me what maternity leave was like (and reaffirmed my belief that I am not cut out to be a stay-at-home parent. I’d drive myself into the ground!). We started off charity shopping in Tidworth. M was not keen on this prospect, because it usually results in me not buying her the bright pink batter-powered Sparkle Girls Rock Guitar, and looking at boring mummy-clothes for ten minutes. This time though we struck gold – a perfectly M-sized Moshi Monsters micro scooter, in pretty good condition and solidly-built, for a mere £3! E also found a Thomas the Tank Engine toddler-sized umbrella, so I bought that for her too.

We headed to the park next, via the car garage so I could assess the locally available estate cars since we will be upgrading soon. M got rather unexpectedly excited by the prospect of car shopping, and was jumping about shouting “Can we drive this one, Mummy? Buy it, buy it! Mummy, buy this one!!”.

We got to the park in one piece, even though I did get stuck at one point by letting both girls walk along a wall at the same time. I couldn’t let go of E to help M down, and E refused to come down anywhere other than right at the very end of the wall where M was standing, so I had to get E down, get M down, put E up again, let her walk the two steps to the end, then get her down again. Sigh.

Both girls were good at the park. Poor M was a little neglected, but I did try to explain to her that E was much more likely to get hurt if I didn’t watch her, so if M wanted me to push her on the swings she had to choose the swing CLOSE to me, not the other end of the park. I did try to divide my attention between them, but they do like running off in opposite directions…

We caught the bus home, which was VERY exciting for E. She sang various verses of The Wheels On The Bus all the way to the bus stop, all the bus drive home, and most of the afternoon after that.

While E slept, M watched The Aristocats, then we started painting. M wanted to do foot print painting, which is always fun but VERY messy! E woke up halfway through, so she joined in as well. Soon both girls were covered in paint on the feet an legs, and various other body parts. I got out a sink full of bubbly water for M, but E wanted her bath too so ended up in the kitchen sink like a newborn! Then they snuggled up on the sofa in their towels while I cleaned up the mess.

When they were dried and dressed we went to the shops for a few bits for dinner. M cycled and E was in the pushchair. I let M cycle on the road, as it’s a very quiet crescent and there are always lots of kids on bikes in the holidays. At the end we crossed onto the pavement. Then on the way home we were crossing the road – Me pushing E, M pushing her bike, when a car appeared (very slowly and a long way off). M panicked, tried to mount her bike, then flailed about not cycling anywhere and crying in complete blind panic. I had to run E to the pavement, abandon her there, then come back to help M. The car had, of course, stopped, but M was in floods by now. We had to have a chat about safe crossing of roads, and not panicking, and walking quickly but calmly. Last time I let her push her bike across though! She’s normally so good.

Once home we crashed. CBeebies website was located and I did dinner. The girls crashed out at about 7.00pm, though E took a while to fall asleep (she was happily singing The Hokey Cokey to herself until about 8.30pm). I settled down with a cup of tea and Downton Abbey. In the quiet (ha!) times I had also managed to make millionaire’s shortbread, banoffee pie (well, I had leftover caramel – what would you have done?) and caught lots of wees on the potty!

Tom came home at about 3.30am. I took the girls to church to let him have a lay in. M is notably bored when there’s no Sunday School, sadly. She’s too old to entertain herself with colouring pens and toy tractors from the toy box, but not yet old enough to want to pay attention, even what it’s a Christening and the vicar is using juggling balls to represent the Trinity. E, though, is happy as Larry playing with the other toddlers and not fighting too much over the best toys.

This afternoon we have played games, done washing, tidied, hoovered, gardened, and bounced on the trampoline. BUSY! But fun. 🙂

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