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
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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

Highchair suggestions, comments and advice

IMG_0502To go along with all the weaning posts and videos I am doing at the moment I thought I would do a quick post with some highchair advice.  Mainly because we made a big mistake with the first highchair we had for our eldest.  It looked great, it had a comfy padded seat that was wipe clean and a removable tray so I thought I had ticked all the boxes and was pretty chuffed with it for the first few months.

But

What you don’t realise when first buying a highchair is the extent of the abuse they will suffer from your little darlings 🙂 so, although the chair we went for had all of the above good points it also had some massive negatives and these are common pitfalls of a lot of highchairs so I thought I would share them with you.

Look for straps that are DETACHABLE; the straps take a lot of abuse in the form of mountains of food often in pureed form falling on them so a wipe down clean will literally not scratch the surface.  The replacement chair we went for had detachable straps and I just bung them in the washing machine!

Look for seats that are EASY TO CLEAN, now the seat on the first chair was wipeable and I thought I was winning but actually again if you can’t detach it from the highchair frame then a wipe clean won’t do the job, especially if there are thick cotton seams in the corners as these get very grubby after a while!

So what sort of chair would I recommend?  A very basic looking one, as you will very quickly realise that some of the prettier ones in the shops only last a few months before they are so disgusting you want to bin them.  The chair we went for second time around was the Mothercare MiHi Highchair (good point maybe to note that the first chair we had and were now chucking out, was also a Mothercare highchair but completely different design).  The other highchair we would have got second time around was the Ikea Antilop highchair with tray as that has all of the same positive features.  Both of these highchairs are cheap as chips but trust me they are the best on the market!

We have also very kindly been given a second hand Stokke Tripp Trapp chair for our eldest (no attachments just chair) which I do love, although I have no experience of the attachments for younger children.  But if you are adamant to splash a bit more cash on your highchair then maybe look at the Stokke Tripp Trapp or similar chairs.

 

Please note: I am just a mummy giving my opinion on products I have purchased and used.

Weekends are for PJs not Prada!

IMG_0423Another day and another LONG list of things to do: have shower (yes I am a mummy now so having a shower is on my to-do list!), make breakfast for family, attempt to tackle the mountain of dirty clothes that is taking over the bedroom, ironing (at least hubby’s work stuff), wash dishes & clean kitchen, infact clean the whole house, hoover, spend one-to-one time with toddler doing her magazine while baby naps, play with children, be supermum, be super housewife, be super wife etc. My head hurts just thinking about it and I end up spending more time looking at my long to-do list and thinking “how the hell am I going to get it all done?” than I do actually doing any jobs!

The idea those other mums’ houses alway looks as clean and tidy as they did on that playdate that time and the facebook posts from those other mums bragging that it is “only 9am and they have already finished all of their housework and are back from a country walk” blah! rubbish!  A normal parents morning starts with being woken up at some ridiculous hour, with your children singing nursery rhymes over and over again, while asking if they can have cake for breakfast and you spending the whole morning in your PJs while wondering why the children are naked again when you got them dressed hours ago.

But sometimes, it is just good to know that it is okay if you spend the weekend in your pjs, or if the children look a mess, or if the house is a mess.  It is okay to not be superwoman, nobody really is!

As long as we all have enough clean clothes to wear, that mountain of washing can stay there (maybe just shove it down into the basket a bit) and as long as hubby has at least one ironed shirt for Monday then job done! You get the idea.  The most important thing to my girls is not how clean the house is and they wouldn’t know the difference between pjs and Prada, so today I will be a slummy mummy and proud of it!  We will play games, make mess, shove the dishes in the dishwasher and have fun.

That’s what weekends are for!

One of those school dates you don’t want to forget.

Now every parent will tell you that their children are beautiful.  But, we all know that sometimes our gorgeous little people are a real scruffy mess: uncombed hair, snotty noses, toothpaste down their clothes, well loved (overworn) clothes that have seen better days, the list goes on.  So, although we all endeavour to dress our children somewhat nicely and ensure they are well presented, lets face it, it doesn’t always go to plan.  Mornings can be so crazy sometimes that you just reach into their wardrobe with that one ‘spare’ hand you have, as the other hand holds the baby/your cold cup of tea/dry piece of toast/onto the wriggling child/well you get the picture.  Then you plonk the first outfit that comes to hand onto said wriggling child.

So….. my beautiful eldest daughter who has the most amazing curly hair, usually turns up at Pre-school looking very neat and tidy.  I usually wash, comb and plait her hair in the bath the night before so it looks lovely in the morning.  I usually lay out a nice outfit for her to wear the night before, so I can just grab and go.  I usually spend time carefully selecting some pretty hair clips and bobbles that will go with her outfit.

But!

This Monday I didn’t do any of those things.  We had been out shopping and for dinner on Sunday so by the time we got home both girls were asleep in the car, so it was a very shortened bedtime: no bath, no hair washing etc.  The baby is teething so I was up most of the night.  In the morning I grabbed the first outfit that came to hand, scooped up her uncombed (I’m talking one step away from dreadlocks) hair into a scruffy (not by design) bun and shoved in some Peppa pig clips.

It’s fine I thought, It’s Pre-school I thought, she comes out covered in paint anyway I thought.

I thought WRONG!

I get to the School gates and my friend starts talking about how she had put gel in her child’s hair this morning but it still wouldn’t lay straight, I’m thinking, what are you talking about.  Then she drops the bombshell that leaves me mortified.

Today is school photo day!!!!!

I live half an hour walk away, there is no time to go home, there is no option to change her awful top, or do her hair, I just about have time to grab a baby wipe and ensure her face isn’t covered in toothpaste and weetabix.  Then I say goodbye.

As all the other mums chatter about “I hope they smile”, “It’s their FIRST EVER school photo so I’ll buy it no matter what”, I think

SH*@

Mortified, gutted

Didn’t even have chance to prep her on how to smile – we’re currently going through a, not so beautiful, gurning stage whenever someone says “say cheese” 😦

Well, I now have a very uncomfortable wait until the photos come back.  Maybe we won’t be giving them as christmas presents to the grandparents this year.

Total Mummy Fail!

Take my advice parents; DO NOT FORGET SCHOOL PHOTO DAY!

 

My first blog post!

Hello, is anyone out there? 🙂

This is my first ever blog post ,so I thought I would start with a little HELLO and some general information about me and why I am starting this blog.

I am a mummy of two little girls (toddler and baby) and my husband frequently (and often as comeback in an argument!) likes to remind me that I have my dream job – a Stay At Home Mum.  It is true, I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than spending time with my girls and I am dreading the day when I have to go back to working a ‘proper job’.

My eldest daughter recently started Pre-School and it was that milestone which first sparked the idea for this blog.  To give some background to that, my daughter is never really left with anyone else, because we don’t have any family living near by and I am a SAHM.  So a lot of people expected her to have a hard time starting Pre-School.  But she took to it even better than I had expected, not a single tear was shed by either her or me!  This and other things happening at the time with friends’ children led to me being asked a lot of questions like: “How did you prepare her for Pre-School?”, “How do you get her to behave well at the park?” and “How does she know all those letter sounds etc.”.

So, I decided to vlog some top tips and dos & don’ts on helping your children start Pre-School.  It was/is very rough as I had never filmed anything before and my phone kept running out of storage.  But, the process made me realise that I wasn’t being big headed; I actually had a lot of good advice to share.  I know I am a good mum, I know being a mum is bloody hard work and I know that my children aren’t perfect, but I have learnt a lot along the way that I can share with others.  So here it is 🙂

I have created a YouTube channel where I am making videos specifically for children, teaching them everything a preschooler needs to know in a fun way; All children love it when their toys ‘come to life’ so follow the adventures of my toddlers’ toys as they go to Pre-School and learn all about colours, numbers, phonics and more.  I am also making videos for parents, sharing tips and advice I have picked up along the way and activities I do with my children, all things toddler & baby!

Please let me know what you think of my blog posts and videos, I would love to hear some feedback from some other mummys and daddys.

Anna 🙂