Thursday, 31 July 2014

Play With Your Food - Bento Lunches

It's funny how parents often tell children not to play with their food (me included), when actually playing with food is a great way of exploring and learning about the food that they are eating.  I've been thinking more about this as Ivy is nearly 6 months old and ready to start on solid foods.  All this planning for her has made me realise that I've got into a bit of a rut with Ethan's meals.  He has cereal for breakfast, usually some type of sandwich for lunch and one of only about 10 different dinner options.  It's all a bit boring, and it's time to add some excitement to all of our meals!  So I am starting with lunch, and jumping on the Bento bandwagon!  

I had a few things already, then bought a few more things to make my own little bento starter kit, so far we have:
I am certainly no expert at it yet, but I am enjoying being creative with Ethan's lunches, and he's having fun discovering what new things I'm putting in front of him each day.  It definitely encourages him to play with his food, aeroplane shaped sandwiches do have to fly around before being eaten, but as long as we're not in a hurry that isn't a problem.  As an added bonus he is eating a greater variety of things, because of the way that they are being presented.  I would love more bento and other toddler food ideas, please share your tips!  I have been inspired by the fantastic bento creations on Eats Amazing and Capture by Lucy, those Mamas are truly creative with their little ones' lunches, take a look at their blogs for some serious bento cuteness!

Play With Your Food is going to be a regular feature on the blog, with different themes each week.  Next week I'll let you know how Ivy did with her first tastes of food!  This post includes some affiliate links, and future posts will include product reviews as well.  If you've got a baby or toddler food or meal time accessory that you would like us to review, please do get in touch!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Chessington World of Adventures

We finally took Ethan and Ivy to their first proper theme park!  We went to Chessington World of Adventures for the day.  I think that I was more excited than Ethan was, he had no idea what he was in for.  He already loves going to a fair, so I was sure that he would enjoy all the rides.  As soon as we got into the park and he saw all of the different rides, he was overwhelmed!  He didn't know where to start, so we went to the bumper cars, which he could sit in with Daddy, to get him started slowly.  He was hooked, and as soon as he got off he was running to the next ride (even though he had no idea what that would be!)  He is a big fan of all vehicles, so obviously any driving rides were a definite favourite.  He loved the ones where he got to be the driver and one of us was the passenger, like the tiny trucks and the old fashioned cars.

My first tip would be to make sure you measure your child's height before you go.  I actually thought that Ethan was taller than one metre, so I thought he would get onto all of the rides that he liked easily, but he's actually just one metre tall exactly.  The first few rides that had a one metre minimum had to check and double check his height, so they recommended that we go to guest services to get him a wristband.  That made it easier and quicker to get on to the next ride.

My second tip is that if you go with two children, one of which is too small to go on many rides (like Ivy is) you can get a parent pass from the same place as the wristbands.  This meant that Daddy could go on a ride with Ethan whilst I waited with Ivy, get our pass signed, then if I wanted to Ethan on again we could just go straight on again (via the exit, and only available for certain rides).  It makes it more fun, then both parents get to see that look of joy on Ethan's face when the ride starts up!

We also went to see the Madagascar show, which Ethan and Ivy both loved, lots of music and entertaining characters!  And we even met the Octonauts!  We didn't tell Ethan where we were going (just in case we missed the time slot) but made it just in time to join the queue before they arrived.  Ethan saw the pictures of the characters, and I even asked him to stand beside the picture of Peso for a photo.  Then he saw Barnacles and Kwazii walk towards us and he was in shock, he was absolutely thrilled!  He was a bit shy at first when it was his turn to meet them, but eventually he did hold their hands and give them cuddles.  It was fantastic to watch.

We had such a great day, and stayed from when the park opened until it shut.  If your little ones aren't too tired it is worth staying until it closes as the lines for the rides are much shorter as many people go home early.  They also have a deal that children eat for free after 3pm, so we gave Ethan his dinner in the park as well, that way we only had to give him a quick bath when we got home.  He was exhausted and went straight to sleep, and we didn't hear a peep out of him all night!  

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Introducing Phonics Learning with Jolly Phonics

Ethan is like a little sponge, the way that he can learn new things and retain information is absolutely incredible.  He has an amazing memory, and loves to learn about everything around him.  He has been singing the alphabet song for almost a year now, but just like any other song that he has memorised.  We have plenty of letter puzzles and games around the house, and of course we read books everyday, but I never wanted to force Ethan into anything too early.  Lately he has been showing an interest in letters that he sees, and he's learned to say the letters in his name and to recognise a few letters as well.  So I decided that now would be a good time to start introducing him to the letter sounds, so that when he's ready he can start learning to read.  As a teacher I used a few different systems for teaching phonics, all of which I thought were very good, but the one that I used most extensively, and which I believe is the most commonly used, is Jolly Phonics.

As Ethan is so very musical, I thought that the first step for him would be to learn the Jolly Phonics songs for each letter sound.  The Jolly Songs CD has a different little tune for each of the 42 letter sounds.  The words are their own, but they are sung to the tune of popular nursery rhymes, which makes them easy to learn to sing along to.  Jolly Phonics are done in a specific order, starting with the letter 's'.  The song for 's' (to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell) goes: 

The snake is in the grass,
The snake is in the grass,
The snake is in the grass.

The next resource that we tried is the Jolly Phonics Games CD for the computer.  There are a variety of different games on the CD for varying abilities that teach identifying sounds as well as forming letters.  Ethan is actually quite good on the computer for his age, so he was able to use the mouse to choose the different options.  However I wouldn't say that these games are for beginners, as many include words to read, and we are not at that stage yet. If Ethan were to let me choose the simple games for him we would be fine, but of course he wants to try them all!  I think we'll save this one until he's a bit more confident with his sounds and starting to put words together.

We were also given a wall frieze and some sound strips to put up for Ethan to refer to, and a set of workbooks.  We've put up the sounds around the house to remind Ethan of them, as well as labelling some other household items so that he becomes more familiar with seeing printed words.  We have started looking at the first workbook as well, it has lots of fun activities in it for learning phonics.  As Ethan is still quite young I am not worried about him doing lots of worksheets right away, it's more important for him to be having fun whilst doing activities that he enjoys doing.

* This is a review post, Jolly Learning sent us these resources to use and to write an honest review.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Win a Tigger Littlelife Toddler Daysack

Last month we reviewed the Tigger daysack from Littlelife, and now we're giving one away! You can win a little backpack just like Ethan's (he loves his!)

Enter via the rafflecopter box below. Open to residents of the UK only.  Winner will be chosen at random at the end of the giveaway, and will be contacted by Littlelife directly to receive their prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Decorating a Book Bag

I was looking for a quick and easy craft to do, and a pile of bags in the corner caught my eye.  We get so many of those thin canvas bags that different companies hand out at fairs and events that we never end up using again.  I had a look at one, turned it inside out and found that it had been finished quite nicely, so it looked just as nice the wrong way around.  It was ready to decorate without me having to do any preparation at all!

I set the bag out on the table with some fabric crayons and fabric markers alongside it, and left it for Ethan to discover after his nap.  It didn't take him long to see the bag and crayons and ask what it was.  He was really intrigued by these different crayons that he hasn't used before and the fact that he was able to draw on a bag!  I just let him have free reign and draw as he pleased, although I did suggest that he draw some books on there.  If I had been more organised I could have found or made him some stencils to use as well.  I do like the way it has turned out though, it's truly Ethan's work, and now it's the perfect bag to bring with us to the library to carry his books home.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Books About Town

The National Literacy Trust have created a fabulous project called Books About Town. They have made benches shaped like an open book, and painted them based on 50 different books / series' of books. These benches are scattered all around London on 4 different trails that you can follow (maps are available on their website).

The other day we went on the Riverside trail and searched out book benches.  Of course Ethan didn't quite understand what we were doing at first, but once we found the first few, he was hooked!  He ran from one bench to the next around City Hall, so excited to find out what characters he would encounter next.  He was thrilled to find books that he knew!  I had been reading him a few of his favourites that we would be seeing for a few days to build up his enthusiasm.

We absolutely love reading Dr Seuss books, books by Julia Donaladson and Axel Scheffler and Paddington Bear books so these benches were his favourites of the day!  He loved looking at the other benches as well though, even if he didn't know the story or if they were based on grown up books, he still liked to look at the pictures.  I even got him to sit on the Shakespeare bench and recite a quote from Hamlet, a proud moment for a Shakespeare loving Mommy!

Of course now I want to take him on the other 3 trails as well!  I know that he would love to see the Elmer the Elephant bench, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, The Jungle Book bench and a few others.  If you're in London you have to go looking for these benches, it's a great day out that doesn't cost anything, you get to explore the city and inspire a love of reading in your children (and yourselves!)  You couldn't ask for anything better.  At one point during the day, as we were running around looking for another bench, Ethan turned to me and said "I love book benches!" and that just made the day even more perfect.

* This post contains affiliate links, they don't cost you anything extra, but if you buy from them some money will go towards keeping Play & Learn Everyday going.  Thanks *

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sitting Up

It hasn't been long since Ivy learned to roll over, and now she's gone and learned to sit!  It's so funny how children develop at such different paces (and how little it matters in the long run!) but Ethan rolled much earlier and sat much later.  Ivy hasn't even fully mastered rolling yet, she can only roll to the left and still gets stuck on her tummy.  But now that she can sit, it's all that she wants to do!

I am still very grateful for the Galt Playnest as it's easy to pop her in quickly when I need to help Ethan with something, and it's safer than just putting some cushions around her (that someone else might move!) But sitting has opened up a whole new world of play for her!  Toys like stacking rings, shape sorters and stacking cups can be explored when sitting up.  We can also start making Ivy her very own sensory and discovery bins and have her join in with our water play and messy play in the builders tray.  There's a lot of fun in store for her now!

* This post contains affiliate links *