Thursday, 30 January 2014

Fun things to do with toddlers - Playing with corn kernels

This activity is very similar to the lentils activity which I posted a while ago, except it is far less messy, (as corn kernels are bigger the are much easier to pick up and find)  I did this activity in a large plastic box which also helped keep the kernels contained.


We scooped, we poured, we banged the measuring cups together, we drove cars through them, we even poured them over our heads!  It was all very therapeutic, them make a lovely sound when poured and feel great in your hands, also, unlike lentils, they don't stick to your hands quite so much. 


Boris had fun pushing them around with his fingers, hands, arms...yes he tried to get into the box.


All good fun.  We revisited the lentils activity a while ago using the plastic box to keep them more contained.  They were easier to manage but somehow I still found lentils in the nappies of both my children that evening!  Go figure!  

Later on we popped some of these kernels with butter as a delicious snack.

A Walk in the Woods

A couple of days ago, the sun was out (rare) so I decided to take the kiddos for a walk in some lovely woods near me.  The land which houses my allotment is directly next door to these woods and I am reliably informed by one of my allotment holder friends that the woods used to be an arboretum for a large manor house that used to stand nearby. There is a huge variety of trees in the small area of woodland which is fascinating and provides a fantastic learning environment for little ones to explore.
Here are a few snaps of our visit, even in the winter the place is beautiful, there are so many interesting textures, patterns and colours to stimulate the senses.

Puddles offer endless enjoyment to toddlers

Textures

Reflections

Beautiful vistas

The sun through the trees

I am much more relaxed when walking in the woods with Boris because I know he isn't likely to knock his teeth out if he falls, unlike if we are walking on the pavement.

Fascinating twisted trunk

Popping bubbles on the surface of a puddle


Feet photos



Lots of picking up of sticks and leaves

The all important selfie!

I really hope that as my boys grow up, visiting the woods becomes a part of our weekly routine, I think there is so much to learn from the forest and it makes me feel calm and grounded.  I hope they will find the same peace and tranquillity from the trees that I do.  I am so thankful that we have spaces like this near our home to enjoy. 
Do you have natural spaces near where you live?  Do you have children who like to explore the forest?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Fun things to do with toddlers - Paint in a bag



Like most great ideas, I got this fun activity off Pinterest.  Such a quick and simple way for a toddler to play with paint without all the mess! What could be better?

Begin by putting a few blobs of poster paint into a zip lock bag, then tape the bag to the table, floor, whatever. I taped it to the plastic mat that we put under Boris' high chair at dinner time.



The let them explore the paint with their fingers, they will probably wonder why the paint isn't going onto their fingers, Boris kept checking his!


Boris soon started getting quite excited, smearing the paint with his feet the lying on it and rolling around like a loon!  Love it!


Love the end result of the colours all mixing together.  Would be a fun activity to do with older children to help teach colour mixing.


I am not sure if I just have a toddler with a very short attention span or if this activity really is only interesting for ten minutes?  However it was good fun, super easy to set up and clean away, ideal for the mess-phobic out there.  I do have a bit of guilt in the fact that I am throwing away a plastic bag that will end up on landfill but in my case I couldn't use the bag again because Boris had started scratching at the plastic towards the end of the activity, damaging it so that it could easily have ruptured, potentially resulting in paint everywhere. I am definitely going to do this activity again with just black and white paint.  Could also add glitter to jazz it up a bit.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Halloumi, hummus and sundried tomato pesto sandwich

In an attempt to make our lunches a bit more exciting, and more specifically our sandwiches; which had become a sad combination of processed ham and limp lettuce leaves, I took in Pinterest and discovered this delectable ensemble. 





Simple toast two slices of brown bread, place some slices of halloumi on one piece and grill, then layer with sundried tomato pesto, sliced tomato, cucumber, lettuce and a good tablespoon of hummus (preferably home made) and voila, a delicious lunchtime treat which is both healthy and tantalizing to the taste buds. Plus it turns out my toddler loves halloumi!  As per usual I troed to use all organic ingredients in this sarnie, coldn't source any organic halloumi though.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Oh Dear Doctor Christian



Breastfeeding is wonderful, one of the most natural thing in the world, sadly it doesn't come naturally to everyone, many women who choose to breastfeed struggle, experience immense pain, feel terrible that they have to stop and some don't even begin because of all the horror stories they have heard or because of previous bad experiences.
My heart goes out to these women, there is not enough support for women who want to breastfeed their babies.
My own breastfeeding experiences and those of my friends caused me to want to help women who want to breastfeed but find it difficult, so I trained to become a breastfeeding helper. I am passionate about breastfeeding and it's benefits.  I am also passionate about women making their own choices, and perhaps more importantly informed choices.  So you can imagine my irritation when I read the latest misinformation that is circulating the magazine shelves of our country.

I am sure you have seen it trending, it came up on no less than four facebook groups that I am part of, Doctor Christian, the dishy Doctor of Embarrassing Bodies fame has made a right old boo boo when discussing breastfeeding with Closer Magazine. I know I shouldn't be surprised that a women's magazine is bashing breastfeeding, it isn't the first time and I am sure it won't be the last.


Last time it was grabbing readers attention by scaring them into thinking breastfeeding could kill their babies, now it's telling mothers that breast feeding is pointless beyond 6 months.


Doctor Christian tried to correct what was written saying via twitter/Closer magazine's website that he had been misquoted, but even his correcting himself was factually incorrect!

The attention grabbing subheading (above) was saying that after breastfeeding for 6 months there is no need to continue, in the Closer interview he says:

“Advice on breast feeding is always changing. The World Health Organisation recommends breast feeding for up to two years, while the NHS recommends breast feeding for the first six months.
(he says this as if the two are contradictory)
“Breast milk is beneficial to a baby's immune system for the first six months, but there is no harm in continuing to do it as long as the child has a healthy diet.
(suggesting that breastfeeding after 6 months is not beneficial to the immune system)
“If a child is being breast fed until eight, this may make them overly dependent on their mother. However if they are being breast-fed at four there is no harm in this.
“I support women who want to breastfeed and would never wish to discourage anyone from doing so.”

To begin with the World Health Organisation recommend breastfeeding for up to two years AND BEYOND.  It does not recommend to stop at two years.


Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond . Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production.”


The NHS recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and then supplementing with food after that. It does not recommend stopping breastfeeding after 6 months.  Babies cannot get all the nutrition they need from solid food and cows milk until they are a year old, until then babies have to have breast milk or infant formula to get all the nutrients they need. So if a woman is breastfeeding and happy to continue then why would she stop at 6 months?

Baby's immune systems continue to benefit from breast milk well beyond 6 months.
According the the Breastfeeding Network website:

Breastfeeding continues to be important for children’s nutrition, development and care after the first 6 months of life. Breastfeeding at current levels is considered to be able to contribute on average at least:-
  • 75% of the energy requirements for children 6–8 months
  • 50% for 9-11 months
  • 40% at 12–24 months
(When breastfeeding is well established and supported it can contribute an even larger percent to energy and nutrient requirements.)
Breastmilk is also a major provider of protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and protective factors. 
In terms of the psychological effect of extended breastfeeding, I am not aware of any studies that show it causes damage and can only assume that this is Doctor Christian's own opinion and is not based on facts.
So I am really not sure what Doctor Christian was thinking putting his name to factually incorrect information.   He must be quite cross at Closer magazine. I am extremely saddened and disappointed that this incorrect information has been put across as factual; misleading women across the country.  Women have a hard enough time establishing breastfeeding, some women take months till they are really comfortable, so to be told that there is no need after 6 months is such a kick in the teeth and really undermines their efforts. I mean I haven't continued to breastfeed my son for nearly two years because there is "no need"!  I really hope that women who have struggled and succeeded with breastfeeding do not take this article seriously or feel like their efforts have been in vain, and that any women thinking about carrying on breastfeeding after 6 months but aren't sure if it is worth it, do research the benefits before making a decision. Women should be empowered not undermined.
Sources:

  • How long should a mother breastfeed? (La Leche League International)
  • What are the benefits of breastfeeding my toddler? (La Leche League International)
  • Toddler Breastfeeding - Why on Earth? (Jack Newman’s Site)
  • A Natural Age of Weaning (Katherine Dettwyler Anthropologist)
  • How long should I nurse my baby? (Katherine Dettwyler Anthropologist)
  • Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet (Kellymom.com)
  • Monday, 20 January 2014

    Word of the year - Organise



    Choosing a word of the year is not something I have done before, I normally just produce a lists of usually somewhat un-achievable new years resolutions and attempt them with a typical end result of failure and disappointment. I had heard about using a word of the year through other bloggers and thought it was a good idea, although most bloggers who do this choose words like "brave" or "mindful" or "gratitude".  These words seemed a bit airy-fairy to me and didn't appeal, I wanted something a bit more concrete which involved things I could actually do and which would have visible results.
    With life being so chaotic since the birth of Biscuit, I had been having a strong desire to get my life in order, I had been wanting lists, calendars, plans and schedules.  I also felt like I wanted to get things done, weeks and months were passing without me feeling like I had achieved anything, and valuable weekends were coming and going without seeing friends, making visits or travelling anywhere.
    So it didn't take too much thought to decide my word of the year - Organise.  (I also really like the look of the word because it looks a bit like the word "organic".)
    So what do I intend for this word to inspire me to do?  Well essentially I want to get organised by:


    • Tidying my home, creating systems for our stuff and keeping it in order, and organising and sticking to a cleaning schedule,
    • Making plans for the year, organising meeting with friends and family who live further away, planning activities and holidays,
    • Re-vamping my diet and health routines, cleaning up our meals and introducing weekly and daily rituals to ,my health routine,
    • Being more active in  engaging Boris in fun, educational and creative activities.
    I have already started putting my word into practise by starting the 21 Day Junk Food Challenge, putting together a family planner, starting a 30 day toddler challenge and a 30 day organisation challenge.  I really hope I can keep my momentum going on this one, I want to get my life together and stop it being one long blur of sleepless nights, pooey nappies and endless breastfeeding sessions! I think I will keep re-reading and referring this blog post to keep motivated. I think 2014 is going to be an exciting year of me and my family.

    Do you have a word of the year, what is it?  Please share a link if you have blogged about it. 

    Saturday, 18 January 2014

    40 Soups - Bean and vegetable

    Life with a toddler and a small baby is HARD, by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and I thought parenting one child was hard, adding another to the mix takes parenting to a whole new level.  It can be very easy to forget to look after yourself when you are giving so much energy to your children.  In spite of my somewhat optimistic new years resolutions to take care of myself, my diet has been starting to slide, I had stopped planning meals and we were winging it at dinner time, cue lots of frozen veggie burgers, baked beans and *hangs head in shame* pot noodles.  So I realised it was time to inject some much needed vegetation into our diet.  So I planned a couple of veggie soups into our reestablished meal plan, one of which is this delicious and really healthy soup that takes hardly any time to make - Bean and vegetable soup.  


    Isn't it colourful? It's easy, just get:

    1/2 an onion,
    2 cloves of garlic,
    1 big carrot,
    4 leaves of cavolo nero (or any type of kale),
    Big handful of young spinach leaves,
    1 carton of kidney beans,
    1 chicken stock cube,

    Fry the onions and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil,
    Add the carrot chopped into small cubes,
    Add the finely chopped kale and spinach,
    Add kidney beans,
    Add enough boiled water to cover the vegetables and make it nice and soupy,
    Add the stock cube, 
    Cook on a medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the carrots feel soft,
    Partially blend with a stick blender.
    Enjoy your colourful soup with buttered toast. Yum, and at least 3 of your 5 a day!

    P.S. I use all organic ingredients because I prefer not to consume all those yucky chemicals.  

    Monday, 6 January 2014

    Fun things to do with toddlers - ball shuttle run

    This activity sort of evolved one week day evening, my toddler had watched Monsters University and was inspired by a scene where two characters race each other, he was posing as if on starting blocks then running up and down from the back door in the living room, through the living room to the front door.   I decided to make his running a bit more purposeful by placing a bucket by the front door and a small pile of plastic balls by the back door.


    I showed him how he could pick up a ball and run with it to the front door and drop it in the bucket. But his mama didn't raise no fool, he took two balls at a time! Clever boy!

    Then I remembered something I had seen on Pinterest with a child dropping balls down a paper towel tube taped to a wall.  I had always thought this was quite a fun idea except that my son would probably get board with it pretty quickly, so I decided to adapt this idea by taping a crisp tube to the wall above the bucket.  My son loved it!  He spent quite a while running back and forth with the balls and even carrying the bucket back to the living room and emptying the balls out onto the floor to start again.  He needed a bit of help replacing the bucket to underneath the tube as sometimes he was putting it into the wrong place and the balls were dropping on the floor.

    A fun activity that kept him entertained for quite some time, and gave him a good burst of exercise to tire him out! Also built on his fine motor skills and problem solving skills.


    Have you come up with any new fun activities for toddlers recently?  I would love to hear about them, also share your blog posts about activities you do with your toddler.

    Friday, 3 January 2014

    2014 Here I Come!

    Before I had children time used to go really slowly, I would be counting down the days of the week till the weekend came, weeks would pass agonisingly slowly as I would tick them off till the next school holiday and months seemed like years. When I went on a diet they would only last a few days because I just could not foresee keeping it up for a month let along any longer.  When I was pregnant with Boris it seemed like I was pregnant forever.  Time had little meaning, I barely noticed the seasons, there was little change in life.  Now time has taken on a new meaning.  Since having children it seems I can't keep up, time slips through my fingers like sand and before I know it a month has passed and I wonder what happened! My second son is two months old today!  Two months!  How did that happen? where was I and what on earth was I doing all that time?
    Since having children I feel far better at envisioning achieving goals that could take months than I ever could before because it seems I can see time in  new way, it feels more physical, I can see it pass through the changes in my children, through the rapid drift from one season to the next, so as we approached the new year I started thinking about all the things I would like to change about my life and how I can go about making those changes over the coming weeks and months.
    I have put together a Pinterest folder of images and links relating to some of the things I want to do and to help inspire me to get them done.  I would love it if you clicked on the image to take a look at some of my ideas.  Let me know what you think.

    http://www.pinterest.com/4helsbells/2014-here-i-come/ 

    I love making New Years resolutions don't you?  It's a fresh start, anything seems possible, you have the whole year ahead of you, and let me tell you, I have made a few, so many in fact that I have had to categorise them!  My first category is Self Care, and I am beginning the year by completing the 21 Day Junk Food Challenge; no fast food, crisps, chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cakes, pastries, white bread, fizzy drinks or alcohol.  I have really pigged out this Christmas and feel like I need a bit of a cleanse.  It hasn't been a great start though, on the 1st of January I accidentally ate a packet of crisps and a bar of chocolate.  I know what you are probably thinking "how on earth could you forget!"  I guess it's because eating junk had become so habitual that it was just automatic to pick them up and eat them without thinking.  I am not giving up though.  My altered perspective on time reminds me that one day out of 21 makes little difference and it is still worth doing in spite of my lapse of awareness.  
    I will share my other resolutions over the coming weeks (one is to blog once a week!) I think it will help me stick to them if I have shared them in a public arena!  Are you sharing your New Years Resolutions if you made them?  Leave a link and I will take a look.
    Here's to a brilliant 2014 for everyone!