Why Hide-and-Seek is developmental gold dust.

Play doesn’t come naturally for all parents and after a busy day at work, or a day at home trying to keep on top of everything, it can be the last thing we feel like doing.  But a child’s request to play hide and seek (even though they are truly awful at it), or playing peek-a-boo for what seems like the millionth time that day/week, is actually really good for their development and not quite as basic as it first seems.

From a psychological level, children will only ask to play hide and seek if they’re confident that they’ll be found and this ‘simple’ game, holds so much potential for both their physical and psychological development.  Here’s where my psychology background geeks out, so apologies for the overly scientific approach here, but I find it interesting so hopefully some of you will too.

The developmental benefits of hide and seek begin in what could be seen as the baby version of the game: Peek-a-boo.  Peek-a-boo is a great game to play with babies and small children as it stimulates their senses, strengthens visual tracking and encourages social development.  Furthermore, when they reach the physical ability to begin to copy the action, it helps builds gross motor skills. 

So why do babies find Peek-a-boo so much fun?  Well children aren’t born with an “understanding of self”, or an understanding of “Object constancy”.  The process of seperation-individuation from their mother/primary caregiver occurs over several fairly chronological developmental steps (Mahler’s theory on baby’s psychological development, 1975).  Peek-a-boo provides a simple way of assisting children, in their development of these abilities and to become separate, autonomous (individual) little people.

Young children who have not yet achieved understanding of object permanence (that something still exists when out of sight) will perceive a person as completely disappearing when playing peek-a-boo.  This development occurs on both a physical and psychological level, so over time they will learn that not only does Mummy still physically exist when they can’t see her, but they can also psychologically access a soothing sense/memory of her, as their emotional maturity increases.  It is these emotional developments that help overcome issues such as separation anxiety.

In their journey to become emotionally secure individuals, children need to practise losing and regaining their mummy/primary care giver in a safe way, this is crucial for an understanding of self to fully develop.  For very young children however, the separation should only be for a few minutes at a time, which makes these games perfect.

Once they have outgrown peek-a-boo, Hide-and-Seek provides the next level of this development.  Children love chasing and hiding games and again the roots of this lie within their emotional development.  To be pursed is to be loved and the suspense and thrill of hunting and being hunted in a safe way, fulfils a number of areas of children’s psychological development.  It also teaches and reinforces that separations are only temporary, they experience the excitement of coming together again and learn that you will always come back.   

Playing hide and seek also gives children a platform on which to be powerful and independent.  It helps develop their imagination and problem solving skills, as well as teaching them about size and volume, “Can I fit in that space? Could daddy be hidden in that little box?” 

It is also great for teaching children about their senses, while you may not be able to ‘see’ the person who is hiding, listen carefully and you might be able to hear them.  This is especially apparent with young children, my eldest daughter used to shout from her (very good) hiding places “you won’t find me!” or giggle like crazy.

Hide and seek can also help with early mathematical skills, as you teach them that they have to count to a certain number (adjusting the number from 3-20 depending on age) before starting to look.

While these games quickly get tiresome for adults, the repetition is comforting for children and it is how children learn; play is essential for child development and children learn mostly through play.  So why not go and play a quick game of hide and seek?  You could always hide in the bathroom and actually get to pee in peace, or hide in the kitchen and scoff some sweets before they find you! 😉

Count to ten, ready or not, here I come!

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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Touch Screen Toddlers

When ‘screen time’ gets such a bashing from many parents, I may be seen as some sort of alien when I proudly say that my 1year old daughter can confidently and independently use an iPad, or smartphone to find her favourite games, programmes on Netflix, or songs on YouTube.  But not only am I quite a fan of quality children’s TV (I do ban a lot of shows but will happily have Cbeebies on for hours), I am incredibly proud of how ‘technology literate’ my children are.  I am also proud that they have been using touchscreen technology from the age of 7months.

Most households own at least one smartphone or tablet.  This is not a post designed to make parents feel they have to purchase an iPad for their children to use, this is just why I love my children using our iPad (that we purchased pre-children) and what educational value we have found in it.

Our children are the digital, touch screen generation and in the same way computers came into schools and homes when I was younger, electronic whiteboards and iPads are in the majority of Primary School classrooms today.  I can remember when there was a sudden switch in my schoolwork and I was expected to do most things on a computer.  This either meant booking some time in the I.T. lab, or doing it at home (computers in your home weren’t that common then)!  Shortly after that pretty much everyone had a computer at home (along with the fun of painfully slow, dial up internet that didn’t work if you were on the phone!).  I am digressing somewhat, but you get the idea.

Tablets are fantastic tools that are often overlooked, as parents just simply aren’t aware of all the great educational games and apps that are available and worry their children will just sit watching people open egg surprises on YouTube all day.  So here is a brief look at some of my daughters’ (1yr and 4yrs) favourites:

Top apps for 6months plus

  • Penguin Books – Happy Babies: Ladybird Baby Touch

This is a really lovely, simple and colourful app that is suitable from 6months.  It can be run on an auto-play function, or on a more interactive function that requires you or your child to touch the screen to reveal the next picture.  It is basically a digital lift the flap book (which makes sense as it is created by Penguin books), like the Ladybird books it features animals and then asks “Where’s your baby?”  before revealing them.  The music and voice over used it really good, gentle and calming.  The images and colours are attractive, visually stimulating for young children and friendly.  My favourite aspect is that when you touch the screen you get visual feedback (every time you touch the screen circles appear where you have touched) so children quickly learn the effect of their action.

     

  • Penguin Books – Peekaboo: Ladybird Baby Touch

This app is very similar to the one detailed above as it is made by the same company, but rather than just featuring baby animals, it is a Peekaboo game of Farm, Sea, Animals and Vehicles.  Again very much a kin to a lift the flap book.  With the same gentle music, nice voiceover, great colours, friendly appealing images and great visual feedback.  Peekaboo has a number of developmental benefits for babies and this fun interactive is great.  This game teaches the concept of object permanence (that things exist even when they can’t see them), problem solving skills and co-ordination.

     

  • Fisher-Price – Storybook Rhymes Volumes 1, 2 and 3

Most families will have at least one Fisher-Price toy lurking in their toy box and their apps are equally engaging.  I particularly liked these for my girls from age 6months as they feature popular nursery rhymes such as Incy Wincy Spider in a fun interactive way, helping the child’s language and literacy development.  Each app (I have used volumes 1, 2 and 3) has two books/rhymes, each of which have an option to ‘Read and Sing’ or ‘Read and Play’.  The voiceover used is really good and the words of the songs are highlighted (Karaoke style) at the bottom of the screen.  They have the familiar Fisher-Price design in terms of the images, so they are very attractive, child friendly and colourful.    

                                  

  • Blue Zoo Productions (Cbeebies) – Meet the Alphablocks

Any fan of CBeebies will know of the Alphablocks and I LOVE them, for anyone who hasn’t heard of the Alphablocks; it is a CBeebies programme where letters of the alphabet tell stories and make words using phonics and I love it because it teaches children the correct phonic sound of each letter.  This app is very basic in the sense there is no game involved and not a great deal of interaction, but it features all of the Alphablocks (every letter of the alphabet) and each one does a little song demonstrating its sound.

                               

  • Fox and Sheep – Nighty Night Circus Bedtime Story

This is a really lovely app with friendly and attractive images and calming narration.  The concept is that the circus animals (all housed in individual homes within the circus) are going to bed and you need to go and turn off their lights.  I think it is really good for teaching children a sequence of events and bedtime routine as after you turn off the light the animal settles down and goes to sleep.  As children can often find lights being switched off scary, this is a gentle way to reinforce this process as a safe part of going to sleep.  It is also just a fun game.

   

Top apps for 1/2years plus

  • Sago sago: Sago Mini Pet cafe

Sago Mini make lots of really good apps for children, this one features three activities that teach children about colours, shapes and numbers in a really fun way.  As the name suggests it is a cafe based game with a Cat, Dog and Bird.  Children can feed the animals by matching food to its silhouette (by swipingg or tilting), Count out and then feed food to the correct animal based on colour or Create a colourful fruit smoothy and experiment with mixing colours.  My 1 year old loves this game and is now a dab hand at all three activities, it has especially helped with her shape recognition.

     

  • Sago Sago Toys Inc.: Mini Space explorer

This is a brilliant game for younger children who are learning how to move things on the touchscreen by holding their finger down on them.  The play is an open ended activity as the child guides the dog through space passing by and playing with over 30 animations.  My daugher’s favourites are the farting planet and playing on the see-saw with the aliens. This game also gives children the opportunity to make up stories to go with the animations.

  • Sago Sago Toys Inc.: Ocean Swimmer

This game is pretty much the same as the above but set underwater and featuring a fish instead of a Dog in Space.  Again there are over 30 animations/ things for the fish to interact with and the child is in charge of where the fish goes and which things it interacts with.  My daughter’s favourite is the singing sea monster!  It is nice to have some games like this that teach a number of skills (how to drag and move things on a touchscreen, story telling and imaginative play) but also put the child completely in charge and not set to a particular outcome or goal.

  • BBC Worldwide (Cbeebies apps): Hey Duggee, Storytime, Playtime Island, Sarah & Duck, Charlie & Lola, Get Well Soon and Justin Fletcher apps

Cbeebies doesn’t really need much introduction or explanation so I have grouped them all together.  I would advise you search in the App store for ‘Cbeebies’ and choose your favourites as they are all good.  My daughters love Charlie & Lola, Sarah & Duck and Hey Duggee.  They are all good and have a number of different learning opportunities as well as featuring their favourite TV characters and well known Cbeebies images.

  • TinyHands apps: Towers, Sorting, What’s my pair, Tiny Hands, Racoons

Tiny Hands apps are developed with child psychologists (as advertised on the App store) and feature attractive and child friendly images and scenes.  They teach concepts such as shapes, colours, seasons, sorting, hand eye co-ordination, quantitative perception, concentration and vocabulary.  My 1 year old loves the sorting games and can now correctly and quickly sort objects on the game by colour and shape.  The different apps come in different difficulty levels and I purchased a bundle of apps and have been very happy with all of them.  They do offer free trial versions too.

     

Top apps for 3/4years plus

  • Motion Math: Hungry fish

This is a fantastic game for number recognition and basic maths skills, as you feed the fish with number bubbles and the fish can only eat a specific number at a time.  The difficulty level can be easily adjusted and children can do instant addition by putting number bubbles together.  This gives children an intuitive way to visualise addition and number recognition.  Further levels are available via in-app purchase that feature subtraction and negative numbers.

                                          

  • Toca Boca AB: Toca Robot lab

This game allows children to build their own robot with pieces of scrap, they pick the head, body arms and legs and after putting it together they fly it around the robot track, collecting stars, navigating their way past obstacles, through a maze like structure to get to the end.  They never make the same robot twice as different parts are always available each session and it is stress free play as the child is in charge of what parts they use and which way they go, yet it teaches some key skills such as problem solving, visual memory, hand eye-coordination and obviously use of the touchscreen.

                           

  • Fisher-Price: Think & Learn Code-a-pillar

This attractive and fun game teaches basic coding to children as they have to give the caterpillar the correct instructions to make it to the end of the maze and make it up to the next level.  This game teaches children the basics of coding – how following a multi step plan gets to the end goal, it also teaches problem solving, number recognition and sequencing.  Coding is becoming more common in areas of the curriculum now and this simple game (with varying and increasing levels of difficulty) teaches the basics in a really child-friendly way.

                         

  • Fairlady Media Inc.: Grandma’s Garden and Grandma loves bugs

The Grandma’s Garden App features an American crazy little Grandma and her garden of veggies.  Children match up the vegetables, identify letters, count objects, colour in and watch real gardening videos.  It is fun and engaging while teaching numbers, shapes, letters, colours, vocabulary and object differentiation.  The Grandma loves bug app by the same maker, features the same Grandma but this time children are spotting the differences between bugs, matching bugs, counting, spelling, colouring in, letter matching and recognising number groups.  Both of these apps have a lot of educational potential and although the American pronunciation and names for some of the vegetables is different to the UK it really has a lot to offer.  The Grandma offers lots of positive feedback and encouragement and even does funny little dances when you get things correct.

     

  • Innovative Mobile Apps Ltd: Monster hunt – Fun logic game to improve memory

This funny and engaging game features cute monsters hidden behind squares, the monsters are revealed at the beginning then you have to memorise where they are and select the correct squares.  You can adjust the reveal time and the size of the grid, so it can be adjusted to the child’s ability level.  If you don’t get it right a spooky sound effect goes off making it a fun game for children of all ages.  These types of memory games have been linked to increased mental sharpness and improved memory. 

                                    

Good entertainment apps

As well as playing the above games, tablets and smartphones are also useful for general entertainment and as I have already said, I believe there are educational benefits of children’s TV programmes and films, so these are my favourite apps for that:

  • YouTube Kids

This app is a simplified version of YouTube showing only videos classed as suitable for children.  It offers more control for parents.  My girls love watching songs on YouTube and their favourites come from Mother Goose Club, Super Simple Learning and Little Baby Bum.

  • iPlayer Kids

This is pretty self explanatory but I love that they have created a separate children’s version of the popular iPlayer app.  It has all your children’s Cbeebies favourites.

  • Disney Life

Use of this app requires a monthly subscription but if your child is a Disney fan it may be worth it, especially as there is no contract so you can unsubscribe at any time.  It features all the Disney feature films (although some very new releases will not be on there yet), you can also watch Live Disney TV, read stories and watch Disney TV programmes.  My girls love Sofia the First and Frozen so they go crazy for this app.

  • Netflix

Again this app requires a monthly subscription to use but you may not have been aware that you can set up a separate user within Netflix for your children and set it up as a child’s profile.  This means only children’s programmes and films are shown and they really do have a good range of shows and films on there.  My girls favourite is Max and Ruby.

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* Please note I haven’t included prices of the Apps as it is possible for them to fluctuate over time, but in general these apps range from Free to £2.99 per app and some are available in bundles which can be more cost effective.

* I have not received any incentive, payment or request to write this post, these are simply the apps I use with my children and have decided to share, images are photographs I have taken of the apps on my iPad.

Does your child use a tablet/smartphone?  What are your favourite apps?

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Money, money, money!

Lets talk money!

Do you ever feel like a walking wallet to your children?  You only have to step into a shopping centre with a toddler and before you have even stepped foot inside an actual shop, they are pleading with you to spend money on the car/train/plane/boat etc that moves ever so slightly and makes some horrendous noise for all of 2 minutes, while you stare at the space in your purse where the money used to be!  I’m actually a totally mean mummy and let my girls sit on said rides, but always tell them I don’t have the coins for it, especially as most of them now cost £2!! 

But as my eldest daughter is now 4, she asks further questions about money and says things like “we could just go and get some money mummy”.  Or as we have discussed that people go to work to get money, she says “After you have gone to work can I get that toy?”. 

I don’t believe that their are particular set ages to begin talking about topics with your children, as I think every child is different and you should base it on when they begin to be interested in certain topics.  But I am curious of what age everyone tends to start to talk about money with their children and begins to teach them financial responsibility.

Teaching children financial responsibility

One way many parents choose to do this is to give children pocket money, or an allowance of a set amount per week.  Personally I never had this growing up and it is not really something I plan to do for my girls, but I do plan to give my children responsibility of money from time to time.

I have started giving my eldest daughter some money every now and then, to put in her own purse in her own little bag.  This means she has an idea of what I mean when I say “I don’t have money for that”.  If she has £1 in her purse and wants a Kinder egg and buys it, then the money is gone and she can’t then put it in the ride etc.  So she can make her own decisions and learn through the experience.  She is always so proud when she has her own coins in her purse and I like the fact she is learning a sense of responsibility at such a young age (4years).img_9977

However, I did once take her into a shop with her £1 in her purse and she found a lovely thing, but in the total chaos that is negotiating a queue, till, purse, pushchair and walking child, I totally forgot to let her pay for it and whipped out my contactless card! Total fail as she then points out she needs to pay while we begin to walk away.  Luckily a quick whisper and pleading glance at the shop assistant and she managed to take the coin and then discreetly hand it back to me, without my daughter realising (thank you kind shop lady!).  Maybe I need to learn a few lessons in financial responsibility!

I have really enjoyed talking with my daughter about, what money is, why we have money, where we get money from, where we keep money and what things need money. 


Money activities to do with pre-schoolers:

  • Looking at coins – coin rubbing:

A while ago I did a money activity with both my daughters (1yr and 4yrs) where we looked closely at coins.  It is one of those activities that once you start it, you realise just how much there is to talk about.  We used metallic pencils to make Coin rubbings of all the different coins and stuck chocolate money wrappers onto the picture too.  While doing it we talked about the sizes, shapes, colours, numbers, writing and pictures on the coins.  It is a great ‘Spot the differences’ activity and also great for number recognition.

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  • Playing with purses, wallets and bags:

Playing with a Clippy purse is great for fine motor skills, as opening and closing them is actually quite tricky for little fingers (see our top 20 fine motor skill activities here).  And the same goes for velcro, press stud or zip wallets and bags, opening and closing these fastenings is all good fine motor practice and also great for teaching independence and helping children learn to dress themselves too.

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  • Playing shops / cafes:

My girls love playing with their till, shopping basket and toy food.  It is also a great opportunity to practise counting, especially if you make your shop a Pound Shop!  My eldest really enjoys lining up her toys in a queue at the till and taking their orders for food in a cafe too.  We use this activity to practice word recognition, reading and writing too as she reads and copies shopping lists and cafe menus.

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Twin Mummy and Daddy

Fine Motor Skills – Pre-Writing Skills

One of the things parents are often keen to tick off in the developmental checklist for their babies, is when they develop the ‘pincer grip’ and can pick up individual little things like cheerios, peas etc with ease and can then start to manipulate objects with their fingers.

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We love cheerios!

This is the first step in the development of your child’s FINE MOTOR SKILLS.

Why are parents so concerned about pincer grip?  Well in addition to picking up individual cheerios, the pincer grip helps the child develop the tripod grip (combined use of the index, thumb and middle finger, leaving the fourth and the little finger tucked into the palm stabilising the other fingers but not used in grip) required to hold a pencil and manipulate it with maximum efficiency.

So what are fine motor skills?

Motor skills are movements and actions of the muscles, these are categorised into two groups: gross motor skills (movement and co-ordination of arms, legs and other large body parts) and fine motor skills (smaller movements such as hands, fingers and toes).  One important point to note is that before children can gain full control over their fine motor skills in their hands they need to work on the muscles in their shoulders and back (upper body strength), so movements like making big circles with pom poms, scarves and ribbons and twirling are really good for this.

  • In order to write comfortably and hold a pencil well, children need to develop muscle control in their hands.
  • Developing hand arches – There are 3 arches in the hand, one is rigid but the others are flexible.  These need developing and strengthening so children have the stability and mobility required for writing, gripping and lifting.

What you quickly realise when your children start to write is that fine motor skills are REALLY important and I recently realised that I had become a bit complacent over my eldest daughter’s fine motor skills; she is only 4 and her independent writing and use of scissors are both really good and she has great control, so I thought everything was fine.  But then I realised just how poor her pencil grip was and although she has great control when writing, she is obviously only writing small amounts at the moment and when she is older and writing for long periods of time, if I don’t help her to improve her pen grip and build up those muscles, then her hands are going to be really sore and she will struggle with writing.

At the same time, I am not going to be there constantly rearranging her fingers and standing over her when she is writing, that will just make her uncomfortable and turn what she currently sees as a fun activity into a task!  So if I’m not going to do this, how can I help her? – through Fine motor skills activities and play.

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Pick a clothes peg up and you can easily get the correct grip on the peg, squeeze and open it, hand the peg to your child however and they may struggle.  When starting to do fine motor skill activities with your children you quickly realise just how often you use these movements/muscles everyday yourself and how important they are.  Just think how often you use one of these spray bottles! –

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Here are our top 20 favourite Fine Motor Activities:

Top 5 for hand arch strength:

  • Using tweezers to pick things up and sort objects (see image)
  • Using clothes pegs to attach things together
  • Using small hole punches to make patterns in coloured paper (see image)
  • Cutting with scissors
  • Spraying things with trigger action bottles, such as diluted paint (see image above)

Top 5 for control and hand-eye coordination:

  • Threading beads onto pipe cleaners
  • Putting cheerios onto spaghetti/ pipe cleaners/ kebab sticks (see image)
  • Putting paperclips onto toilet rolls or other objects
  • Poking straws/pipe cleaners into a colander (see image)
  • Weaving material or laces

Other favourites:

  • Painting with cotton buds (see image)
  • Playing with Play doh
  • Playing with stickers (see image)
  • Making pasta necklaces
  • Using squirters/pipettes/droppers
  • Practising doing up zips and buttons
  • Playing with spinning tops (see image)
  • Playing with clippy purses and bags
  • Popping bubble wrap (see image)
  • Sensory play writing with fingers in shaving foam

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Twin Mummy and Daddy

Making your own SNOW – Fine motor – Messy play – Science – Cornflour and Water

After our little flurry of Snow the other day, I thought I would do a fine-motor and messy play activity with my girls, so I thought the perfect activity would be playing with Cornflour and Water to make our own SNOW!

img_9272Depending on how much water you add, cornflour takes on a number of different consistencies and properties, so it is perfect for sensory messy play as well as developing fine motor skills and even teaching Science, so that is a lot of skill sets ticked with just one activity!

Before getting to the fluffy, snow stage (a sort of powdery material which is mouldable to small extent, a bit like sand) we had fun exploring the other properties of the magical mixture of Cornflour&Water which like snow appears to melt and looks liquid, but then (unlike snow) becomes solid again!

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When you have the consistency correct (just keep adding water a little at a time, or more cornflour if you get carried away) you create a NON-NEWTONIAN FLUID:

– The large Cornflour particles are suspended in the water, they are floating around so it creates a sort of SLIME liquid!  This is because the particles are packed close together but they are still able to move around.  When you leave the mixture to sit on the tray or just sit in your hands it appears to melt because the particles have time to move past each other.  However, when you pick some up from the tray, or try to make a ball, the sudden pressure forces the water to flow quickly away, but the cornflour particles don’t have enough time to move out of the way, so they stay temporarily packed like a solid.

Create your own Melting Snowballs! – By using Cornflour and Water to make a liquid that is also a solid (a Non-newtonian fluid) you can create ‘magical melting snowballs’.

– Try to make a ball by scooping up the mixture and rolling it in the palms of your hands, the pressure will make it solid and keep it in the shape of a ball, but as soon as you stop rolling it, it will ‘melt’ and trickle back through your fingers.

After we had lots of fun with this, I added more cornflour to get a more fluffy dry material and we added some blue food colouring too.img_9295                                     img_9298 unadjustednonraw_thumb_22f5

Want to have a go yourself?

All you need is Cornflour (I picked up a box at Asda for 75p), some water and a tray (I picked up a tray at Asda for £1), you can also add some food colouring if you like.

Worried about the mess?

Don’t worry, it mostly stays on the tray and any drops that don’t will dry up and can be easily wiped up or hoovered.  It really isn’t as messy as it looks (in terms of cleaning up).

Have a go and make your own Magical Melting Snowballs!

Routine charts for children with unorganised parents!

Some parents are routine supremes and have everything neatly planned and scheduled.

Some parents get their children to bed on time (at the exact same time) EVERY night.

Some parents manage to get their children to nap in their cots/beds at the same time everyday and actually get a few minutes reliable peace everyday (must be nice eh!?).

Some parents are always at the front of the queue at the school gate for drop off in the morning.

but…

As you can probably tell by the tone of those statements, I am not one of those parents. 

While routine is really important for all children and my girls do have a routine, I fail in comparison to many other parents when it comes to scheduling things like naps, meals and bedtime.  Mornings quickly turn into a last minute (no matter what time we get up) rush of “ where is your school jumper!?” “you were fully dressed two minutes ago, why are you suddenly totally starkers!?”

But while I may not be the routine queen, I wanted my girls to understand their routine and what was expected of them.  I wanted our bedtime routine to be clearer for them to understand so they knew exactly what was coming next.  In the past their bath time had moved around, so sometimes they had a bath then went back into watch bedtime cbeebies, but other days they went straight into their bedroom after their bath.

So a few months ago I created some routine charts for my eldest and I have got to say they have really helped.

I wanted an interactive chart for them to use themselves and understand, but I didn’t want to be constantly printing off copies of a chart or using millions of stickers, so this is what I made:

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I made the table myself on Word, Printed and laminated it to make it reusable, I then found pictures of each activity and printed & laminated them, I stuck velcro onto the pictures and the chart, so my daughter can see a visual representation of both her morning and evening routine and once she has completed an activity she moves the little picture across to the ‘done’ column.

She really enjoys using her charts and they have really helped to make her more independent and helpful in things like tidying up and getting dressed.

I would really recommend these charts to anyone struggling with routines for their children, especially chaotic mornings and stressful bedtimes!

Hope they help!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Writing letters to Father Christmas

Christmas obviously isn’t all about presents and toys and some people decide not to ‘do Santa’ at all, but the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” is one that most children will be asked around this time of year, so it is a great opportunity to practice drawing, writing and talking about what children like and don’t like.

Writing a letter to Father Christmas is a great activity for Toddlers and older children alike.  A toddler/younger child does not have to be able to write at all to make their letter, they can just draw pictures of what they would like, so it is a great activity for all agesimg_8514

You can go into the magic, naughty/nice and so on, aspects of Father Christmas as much or as little as you like.  Personally we don’t do the whole naughty/nice ‘Santa is watching you’ thing, we keep it simple, FC will bring them presents because he brings all boys&girls presents at Christmas and they can write him a letter to tell him what they would like.

Last year my eldest daughter was 3 and we did her first letter (see a video of it here) which was mostly pictures with an attempt at writing her name.  But I think my youngest will start earlier as she has her big sister to watch and we will do it all together, so really any age can enjoy this activity.

6m to 2 years

At this age range children can still get involved by making marks on their letter with pens, adding stickers, glueing&sticking and at the older end of this age range conversations about likes and dislikes are really good as well as learning about giving gifts.

2 – 4 years

Children can draw pictures of what they would like, begin to learn to write their name, trace over adults writing (use dots), copy words from a word mat* and dictate to adults/older children what they would like to write.  You can also help children in this age range begin the process of learning to read, by writing simple repetitive sentences out for them (eg. I like dolls.  I like trains.  I like cars.)

4years +

My daughter is now 4 and her writing is really coming along, she loves to write independently and has begun to sound out words too.  Children of this age can really begin learning to write, by copying words from a word mat*, writing their name and starting to learn about sentence structure using simple sentences.

*Creating a Word Mat – a page of common words that relate to the activity, along with some drawings/pictures of the words, is a really useful way to help children learn to read and write.  To create a Word Mat, get an A4 piece of paper and write down common words along with some small drawings if appropriate. See my Christmas Word Mat here –fullsizerender-3

Talking about what children would like and limiting them (we have a 2 under the tree presents from FC rule in our house) to a specific number of gifts are both really good learning opportunities too.  It is good for children to understand that they can only have a certain number of gifts and the reasons behind that and also that they can’t keep changing their minds, once they have written their letter and sent it, that is what they will be getting.

All children seem to love posting things (even posting small toys into places they don’t belong!) so this activity is also a fun way to talk about Postboxes, Postmen, stamps etc too.img_8517

When it comes to actually posting the letter to FC last year I put my parents address on it as my daughter couldn’t read so wasn’t any the wiser and I wanted to keep the letter 😉 but a quick google online will give you various addresses you can post them to which will give a reply letter too.
Such as the Royal mail address:  Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ

Do your children write letters to Santa/Father Christmas?  Let me know in the comments.

Twin Mummy and Daddy