Friday, 14 March 2014

Time to Say Goodbye

Today is the day I say goodbye to this blog and hello to my new website.

If you've been following the blog, you'll need to update your RSS feed and if you're looking for the podcast, you'll find it over there too.

See you there!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

It's almost here....

There's been some pretty exciting work going on around here that I can finally give you a sneak peek of....

the new website!

This weekend, the website will go live and host it's first podcast. It's a website that will have a layout that separates blog posts, podcast episodes and also my professional pages.

I can't wait to show you. It's very shiny!

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Art of Play

Well I had to write a post dedicated to Play eventually right?

It's no secret I am devoted to Play (capital intentional) both as an adult and for children. For me, play is about learning, being free and giving yourself permission to explore. Having a small toddler has reinforced any thoughts I had that Play is really so much more than 'free time'. Watching my little scientist actively learn concepts, acquire language and develop her understanding of the world has been mesmerising. 

The confusing thing for me is a constant barrage of suggested activities that come up on my various social media feeds. On one hand I'm delighted by ideas of what I can do to occupy a little girl always hungry for fresh experiences but on the other I'm left wondering if constantly finding activities makes it hard to just be free and Play?

There are very few times in a toddler's life (or indeed any age) when free time is just that. No chores, no routines, no need to be somewhere, no instructions, rules or boundaries. My Tot is a strong willed little person which will shock many of you I'm sure. While taking her to swim classes tires her out and gives her a vital skill there's always an exhaustion on both our parts at the bag packing, changing, wrestling into the buggy, navigating transport and 'please for the love of god, let's not be late AGAIN'-ness to it all. 

Last week I had two fun experiences that left both of us refreshed and content all day. I wanted to share them with you as I think sometimes simple, self directed Play is overlooked in value. I'm not here to preach, by all means work those pipe cleaners into an Easter scene and bake a million cookies (share them with me though, ok?). I just wanted to show what fun you can have by letting your child lead the way. 

We visited the V&A Museum last week as we had visitors from overseas. As soon as we got there, the Tot was keen and ready to point, discuss and explore. We initially tried to keep up with our friends who were having that kind of 'check things off a list' whirlwind visit that left me exhausted. However, the Playful Tot has a way of making things clear that she has her own agenda....

Yep. This is a zoomed in picture of my Tot, point blank refusing to keep up. She tottered to a doorway and stood for a long time enjoying the different lights between the rooms, the shadows that fell and of course, lots of people watching. I waved our friends on and instead crouched at her eye level and asked 'where shall we go next?' What followed was 2 glorious hours of a toddler tour of the museum. I honestly had no idea that there were so many plugs, or how wonderous those low fences are to a child of diminutive stature. She slept like a log and woke to babble away about the sculptures we saw and the magic truck we discovered. 

Pleased, I applied the same rules again but this time omitted the epic journey across London. Suited and booted with pockets ful of snacks and drinks, I took us just outside the house and plonked her down. With a little trolley to steady her or collect treasure with, we spent a good hour or so mooching along the path near our house. The thing that struck me most was the language that developed. Given the complete freedom to stop and comment or ask questions about things at her eye level, we talked about all sorts of new things. In the buggy or sling, we talk about things I can see or I deem interesting enough but from her position as leader, the Tot was able to open up a whole new world that I might otherwise have overlooked. 

It's a scary thing to just do nothing. We're programmed to feel we need to do MORE. The Tot however, is showing me and everyone else that if we trust her, she'll develop her own understanding just fine. 

Here's my top tips for self directed play:

- Take your time- This isn't something you allow 15 minutes for before you move on to the park. You might not make it to the park but that's ok. 
- Don't interrupt- This is key. We feel a need to narrate, explain or intervene at the tiniest frustration. It's ok. Learning doesn't need to be in a straight line. When we interrupt to add our explanation, we're changing the experience from theirs to ours. 
- Make safe- Toddler freedom comes with its risks. A busy roadside is not the best place to let your toddler be completely in control. Make sure things start off on the right foot by carefully choosing where you start your toddler led journey. 
- Permission- The Tot constantly looked up for reassurance, permission and guidance. I tried very hard to communicate to her that it was her choice. As time went on, she got bolder, stronger and more accomplished with her decision making. 
- Food and water- No toddler (or tired parent) functions well on low rations. Make sure you're well stocked so you don't have to pause when fully immersed to hunt out rice cakes. 
- weatherproofing- rain or shine, we go out and I take a splash suit and a jumper just in case. There's no reason a little rain should get in the way. Quite the opposite, the Tot is fascinated by raindrops on things. 
- Change your point of view- Ever sat in the floor at your gallery? Do it. See what your toddler sees. You'll honestly be amazed how different things look (or how many plug sockets there are). 

It's a weird skill to learn: the art of doing nothing. It's a vital one. Go forth and Play!

Friday, 7 March 2014

For the Love of Writing

A few nights ago I was melancholy. There were various events over the last week that left me listless, dissatisfied and a little emotionally raw. In the past I kept a journal which I poured my soul into but having stopped the habit years ago, picking up a pen now feels overwhelming.  I felt like that was what I needed though and while the blog helps my urge to write and tell tales, I don't have that same release any more.  

I started at an empty page wondering where to start. I needed to work through, cataloguing things to find a pattern, a catalyst and hopefully reach a resolution. I didn't know how to any more though. I was overwhelmed by the words I suddenly didn't have and still, there was this noise in the background, making it hard to focus. I wanted it out so I could move on. Nothing BIG was wrong. I was just blue and struggling to move on. 

So I put out a plea via Twitter, Instagram and Ravelry and found others who kept journals. A few different systems were suggested:

- Bullet Journalling (I NEED this in my life too, also I need something reflective too though..... how to incorporate?)
- One thousand Gifts. (while not religious myself, I found the idea of finding joy in each day interesting.... this could easily be included in the Bullet Journal format)
- Every few days, writing highlights and notes, collecting pages, adding details through tickets or photographs (note: I would love a polaroid for just this reason)
- 5 year diaries. A small note each day that you return to year after year. My grandfather has done this for decades. I hope to inherit these as I understand the preciousness of the daily act. 
- A journal with additional clips and sticky notes, colour coded for different types of note such as knitting, anxiety and shopping lists. I liked this idea a lot. 
- Doodles, yarn swatches and a visual index of things that have provoked a reaction. 
- Journals with prompts such as quotes or images already on the pages.
- Describing your immediate setting as a way to launch a meditative entry. 

I've been left with lots of ideas that I like so I wanted to share them with you. I might try and develop a 'system' and share it again, inviting you to join me. 

Do you write? And if so, how? Come tell us over in the group. There's more than just me who'd appreciate the inspiration I can assure you!