Blogs and diaries for kids who can’t write yet

blogging

When my daughter was six she started a blog.

She had a blogging mum, she knew that I enjoyed writing about my bizarre crush on the comedian Richard Herring and the symbolism of the soft toys in local shops. I was keen to encourage her, so soon she had an account in her own name at Blogger.com.

In the same way that I’d been quietly proud that she was an early walker, I was happy to note this precocious interest in expressing herself.  I decided this was even better than her walking at ten months. Children who walked at ten months didn’t  go on to get brilliant at walking, or make a career as the best walkers in the world. Race walking might be a fine sport, but children who took their first steps early didn’t  grow-up to represent Team GB  by entering walk-really-fast races at the Olympic Games.

Writing was different. I harboured dreams that she had a creative soul. Mozart started composing at the age of five. Obviously that was music, and I didn’t actually know any great writers who had started a blog at the age of six… But I was optimistic that she would benefit from transcribing her thoughts to the world. I was her willing secretary, I waited eagerly to take down her first words. I would post these online, they would fascinate all with an insight into the mind of a child.

“I go to Fircroft School, and I hate school.” She told me. I typed her words into a blog post. “It’s rubbish!” she continued.

I nodded encouragingly, I kept typing, hoping the words would veer in another  direction, perhaps turning to  poetry. She continued, “I have 5 friends, and my best friend is Alfie.” No poetry yet then.

 “Alfie wants to marry Gozian, and I don’t know who I want to marry.”  I looked at her expectantly, at least she had a hook. I didn’t even know who she wanted to marry. “I might marry George,” she said. And then she ran off to play. So that was it.

It didn’t matter. We were writing about her world and enjoyed it, we made pictures for her blog, ‘Cat Cool’ we played with it for a little while. She lost interest after a few posts, just like most bloggers do. It ended with this sorry tale of six year old woe…

“I am not Alfie and Matthew’s friend any more. They are mean to me, but Matthew’s little brother is nice. Matthew bited his brother on the cheek, and Alfie was being mean to me at the park.” At least we managed a positive ending. “I am very strong. And don’t forget to look out for the baddies!”

Now my four year old asks me to write his diary. It’s not exactly a diary, more a clever bedtime prevarication technique. When he’s tucked up in bed he refuses  to go to sleep until I’ve written notes on his day. So I stand in the doorway,  pen in hand, knowing I must transcribe the words faithfully and fast. That way I get to leg it downstairs to enjoy my evening off.

So I write every word he says. Today it’s, “I don’t like cheese, tomatoes or pickle.” He thinks some more. “I do like double milkshakes.”

“Is that it?” I ask patiently, his humble servant, ever eager to please.

He thinks  a while. “I don’t like tomato juice.” He adds, and then he grabs his teddy and lies down.

I write it all. As far as I know he’s never tried tomato juice, but entering into a debate at bedtime is not a good idea.

So it’s, “night night” lights out, and I  scarper downstairs for my cup of tea and TV. 

I reach for my laptop. I load WordPress, I update my blog… Are my words any more profound than my childrens? I don’t think so.

It doesn’t matter, I write blogs just for fun. I’m glad my children enjoy playing at writing sometimes too.

I read my daughter’s blog and remember  how she was.

“I can turn into Tinkerbell. I can turn into Tails. I can turn into Bleyblade Girl. I can turn into Pikachu.”

To me those words, that memory, are better than poetry. That’s my girl.

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Filed under games, Imagination, Uncategorized

Eddie Stobart bingo, and other car journey games

Long car journeys are trying. We regularly trek 250 miles north to visit family, so we’ve invented a few ways to entertain our car-sickness prone kids.  In cruel moments we grown-ups play guess who’ll puke first.

Our favourite game for long journeys is Eddie Stobart bingo. On a motorway we’ll regularly see these haulage trucks go by, each one with a name on the door and front cab. The lorry in the picture is ‘Patricia Elizabeth’ and each lorry is similarly christened with two girls names. We  pick four of five names and score points when we see a lorry with the name we’ve chosen. It’s double points if anyone has both the lorry names, but so far no one’s claimed that prize. We give triple points if you spot the name and also get  the lorry driver to wave at you. I once won the game by spotting a ‘Clare’ and engaging in some manic attention seeking. I’m afraid I’m competitive.

Everyone in the family has different strategies for this game. I tend to go for old fashioned names like Emily, Annie or Rose. My four year old picks the names of his friends or favourite toys (we haven’t yet seen a Little Lamb or a Honey.) My boyfriend picks, “the sort of names lorry drivers might choose”  with Ashleigh, Britney and Kylie. Last time we played my daughter said, “I’ll take Sarah, Charlotte, and Amy, plus any  lorries with food pictures on them.”

We decided these new rules might be a Good Thing, so I  added to my list Waitrose lorries, and grumpy men with glasses. My little boy wanted to score points for spotting, “Haunted trees, pigs on farms, and grass.” My boyfriend said he would be seeking, “Sports cars and quiet children.”

The new rules were a great change. I gained an instant point for  a grumpy man with glasses (my boyfriend.) Then we all looked out for creepy looking trees. I think I was right to rule that woods accompanied by ghost impressions shouldn’t count. We saw 2 lots of pigs on farms, and my other half taught us a thing or two about expensive cars. We shouted every time we saw a Waitrose, food decorated, or Eddie Stobart lorry.

Predictably the smallest child won by earning 100+ points for grass spotting. We didn’t score anything for quiet children, but it was a better journey than most.

As we neared the end of the road I wrote, ‘glass of chilled white wine’ on my spotting-things list. My boyfriend nodded, and I added it to his list too. We claimed that when we got home for 10,000 bonus points each. I’d say we were all winners.

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Filed under car games, family, games

You Choose

Do you want to go to a castle high on a cliff, a beach in the sun, or visit a volcano with dinosaurs?

I’ve said yes to them all, but only because I’ve read Nick Sharatt’s ‘You Choose’ 6932 times and there are only 24 places to visit.

I counted the places, I’ll admit that 6932 reads is an estimate.

This is a simple picture book, but it’s also the cleverest book I know. Each page has a range of pictures with a subject like homes, vehicles, animals, and you must choose your favourite thing on every page. It’s not the words or the pictures that make it clever, it’s that you bring so much of yourself to the choosing. Although it must be said the cartoon drawings are witty, and the rhyming words just right.

It is my four-year-olds favourite book, it was his sister’s favourite book before him. I may groan when he insists we read it yet again, but even 6932 reads later it is my favourite children’s book too.

We share happy debates about which coloured terraced house we will live in, and I never argue when I end up living next door to my other half. On the hats page it’s a family running joke that I refuse to pick anything because I never wear hats. My boy points out that his sister is pictured in the ‘family and friends section, and picks her if they’re playing nicely today. This is the page where I sometimes wistfully choose the baby with the rattle.

The whole world is pictured in this book,and it may be aimed at pre-school kids, but it’s taught me a thing or two.  I’ve learned that my mum misses life in the country, I’ve seen great gran in a new light based on her discussion of rock climbing… I’ve regularly laughed at my kids surprising imagination, or groaned at their lack of it when they choose burgers as a favourite food yet again. Each and every teddy bear who shares my boy’s bed has been asked to choose their favourite things, and we’ve even pretended to be Jack Sparrow or Luke Skywalker to pick the things they’d choose.

‘Is there a job you’d like to do?’After a hard days work there’s ironic  satisfaction to be had in picking archeology and dreaming, and when  bed time drags on I inevitably choose the picture of the woman lying on a beach with a cocktail. When we reach the final page with beds from pirate hammocks to four-poster luxury, I don’t care which bed anyone sleeps in. It’s my last lap of a day of parenting, it’s, ‘You choose. Goodnight!’

This wonderful book even comes with a free joke.

“Which book should we have tonight?”

“You Choose.”

“Let’s read Harry and the bucket full of dinosaurs…”

“No! You Choose!”

“I just did. I said Harry and the bucket…”

“No..!”

And repeat.

It’s a book that is always different and always familiar. I think of it as our special family book.

If there were dozens of cartoon pictures of books and a line which said, ‘Which book would you choose?’ I’d choose ‘You Choose.’

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Filed under books, family, Imagination

First one to see a spider eats it

It would be nice if my boy was into nature. Sometimes it seems my best hope of getting him to learn about natural history is to direct him to some website game about birds or animals. Oh yes your kids will learn all about penguins at that online club…

Sometimes I unplug the kids and suggest we go Look For Nature. They stand in the garden, faces pale, blinking in the unaccustomed light.

“It’s cold,” my girl whimpers.

“Can we go in now?” My boy asks.

I look to the heavens hoping to see a pigeon fly by, so that I can point and exclaim,” Look a bird? Does anyone know which species?”

We live in a country town, we see few pigeons, like the foxes they’ve relocated to the city to get more action and eat better takeaways.

“Let’s look for bugs!” I exclaim. “First one to find a bug is the winner!”

I look enthusiastically under a rock, “Earwigs love to hide under things.” I explain. To the rock.

My son kicks a deflated ball across the lawn, if he found an earwig hiding undereath it he doesn’t say.

This isn’t working.

“First one to see a spider eats it!”

Amazingly this rule change works. My kids look at me, then they start to move at once. My girl squeals as she runs across the grass, she starts digging around among the daffodils. My boy stars rooting through a hedge.

I don’t know what to do if I find a spider, but I’m looking too.

“Have you found one yet?” I ask.

“You’ll find one first!” My daughter assures me, laughing viciously.

“Do spiders like trees?” Asks my boy.

I talk some tosh about the best location for spiders webs. We are all  happy. We are under the sun, looking for nature, and my children are  learning Important Stuff as they soak up the vitamin D.

Then it happens.

“A SPIDER!” My boy screams.

“You have to EAT it!” His sister informs him.

“No way!” He yells.

I hurry over, and we stare at the spider on the patio slab. It’s scrurrying towards the fence as if running for it’s spider life. It knows the rules – nature means eat or be eaten, nature is cruel.

My four year old stomps. We all stare at the crushed dead spider.

I wonder how to explain to my children the importance of life and death, our duty of protection to the natural world. I decide to  save this lesson  for another day.

“It’s cold, should we go in?” I say.

Game Over.

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Filed under nature, science

Sculpting with food

I gave the children pasta for tea yesterday, I usually throw a few pieces of broccoli into the pan, believing  every meal needs a token vegetable. My boy said his broccoli looked like a tree.  So we started thinking about other food that looked like things.

We decided peas were small green footballs, and my daughter thought cauliflower could be clouds. So today tried to model the world with food.

We had some broccoli leftover so our trees were sorted, we needed grass and we considered pesto, then there was a discussion about using peas. We soon realised you couldn’t have a garden made out of small green footballs.

So we settled on lettuce as our lawn, and I put some toast on for the house walls. Cream cheese worked as our food glue.

My boy insisted on dinosaur biscuits in the garden. I vetoed this on the grounds that dinosaurs are extinct. Dinosaurs simply couldn’t exist in a modern world of houses and people playing football.

But our house was made of toast and the person was made of celery and playing a football with a pea, so I decided to lighten up and let the dinosaurs move in.

This was my vital lesson in food sculpting. at first I wanted our food world to look real, I’d foolishly tried to hide visible cream cheese with marmite! Then I remembered it didn’t matter if it was rubbish and we enjoyed our game much more. My boys celery people didn’t even have limbs, but he had great fun placing them in the garden. He made sure they were out of reach of the dinosaurs to better enjoy their game of footpea.

I discovered the delights of cheese sculpting. I may well bring out a block of cheddar to entertain the kids another day.

Soon it was time for lunch. I served up a salad of two cheeses, celery, toasted granary loaf and biscuits. I’ve never seen the token vegetables eaten so enthusiastically.

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Filed under cheese, family, food, games

Secret museum games

I love museums and my kids do too.

I get away with seeing all kinds of adult-friendly culture by persuading my children that museums are play places. Often these days  they are geared up for youngsters, with buttons and interactivity galore. But my little museum explorers will enjoy any  museum because I tell them about Secret Museum Games.

I tell them to look for the pictures of animals, because some they see will be ancient and rare. This is exactly like Moshi Monster card collecting, only with Roman artifacts.

I tell them museums have games to play, and we find buttons to press or doors to open. This is like giving them permission to spend all day on the Nintendo DS.

I tell them they are Museum Explorers and they must lead the way. This is like they are in charge, while I do as I’m told. I get to see all kinds of fascinating stuff as I  tag along behind. Yes, I will follow their lead as we head for the Islamic Art Wing…

I make up stories about the exhibits we see to encourage their interest.  My guide book will tell me this is a relief from the first half of the 2nd century BC, it depicts the symbolic struggle between the cosmic order of the Olympians led by Zeus and the nether forces of Chaos led by the giant Alcyoneus…

“Look! It’s a really big battle! See, the Giants are attacking the monsters!”

A question.

“Oh yes, look the Giants had really big spears!”

This is like Disney Cinemagic channel, but better because the ancient gore makes it edgier. Most museum art wouldn’t qualify for a PG rating. The stories leave them begging to know more about ancient history. I direct them to the audio guide.

All these pictures were taken at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, we had a great time. If I were visiting with adults I’d be impressed because  it’s a fascinating place. With kids it’s better because it’s fun.

See these horses? They’re marble and made in 2AD.

Go to a museum with your kids and you’ll discover all kinds of amazing stuff. Like the amazing stuff they say when they see those horses from 2 AD…

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Filed under art, culture, Imagination

The teddy bear dance off

I used to enjoy indie hits at the Hot House, I would be first on the dancefloor, pissed on pound-a-pint student special beer. Now I’m the first on the living room floor with my arms spread wide pretending to be an aeroplane while yelling, “I could really use a wish right now, wish right now, wish right now-ow!”

When a day is going down the pan due to sulks, tantrums or rain stopping play I find the best cure is music, and music LOUD.

We grab a gang of teddies, all the cushions we can fnd, and throw everything in the air, or stage impromptu cushion fights as we dance.

Our dancing game usually ends up with a teddy bear dance off. It’s amazing how acrobatically a teddy can dance when the competition is fierce. My boy is the judge, and sometimes the teddies sulk when they’re eliminated. The winning teddy is crowned and we all join him in a dance to celebrate.

It’s better fun than any night at the Hot House, and it doesn’t take beer or cause any headache the morning after.

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Filed under family, games, music, soft toys