America’s Most Playful Family?

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We have recently received some very exciting news.  Our family have been selected from over 700 applicants as one of 50 semi-finalists in America’s Most Playful Family Contest. To enter we were asked to answer a number of questions about our play, including why it is important and how we make time for play.

I strive very hard to make my children’s lives playful and to share the things we do with others, so to be chosen as a semi-finalist makes me very proud.

washing the car

As a semi-finalist we receive a video camera and have been asked to create a 90 second video sharing tips to encourage other families to be more playful and showing that play can happen anywhere.  I have a huge list of things that I would like to show and it will be a big challenge to my editing skills to fit everything into 90 seconds. Brevity isn’t always my strength, so it will be good for me to pin down the most important messages to share.

walking on ice

The videos will be posted on a You Tube channel, so families can get tips and ideas about play and will be judged by a panel.  You will be relieved to know that I won’t be asking for votes but it would be nice if you would view the video and tell us what you think (I’ll embed the link here once it goes live).

sand man

The winner gets to choose a community in their state that deserves a very special playground.  This will be a great way to learn about local worthy causes and  help disadvantaged kids. Of course there are prizes for us too but for me being chosen as a playful family is a great prize in itself.

goop

Posted in competition, early education & play, families, games, happiness, Life in the US, parenting, play, Random Thoughts & Life Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

For my children…

rightfromthestart:

This post was originally written by a dear friend of mine who writes about her life since she was diagnosed with MS. We all want the best for our children but what do you do when you know that you may have passed on a genetic condition? Please visit her blog Memsand beingmum.wordpress.com to follow her story and to offer support to anyone you may know who lives with MS. She is a true inspiration to us all.

Originally posted on memsandbeingmum:

I was asked to write a guest post (re-blogged below) for the lovely www.stumblinginflats.com. Do take at look at her site. She connects with many other MS bloggers/survivors and is keen to network with others. Thanks to her for the guest blog opportunity. I decided to write about something that is a little unspoken for many of us mums whose lives have been touched by MS.

 

Anyone who has been diagnosed with MS knows this is big. The implications of your diagnosis for your children are huge, though in many respects are as yet unknown. Like so much about this condition, you are left with a cloud of uncertainty under which you must continue to raise your precious loves.  Like me I am sure many of you read the information and depending on what and where you read it, it will mean different things. At the very least your…

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Outdoor Play: Springtime

whisking water

Springtime in Seattle is as unpredictable as springtime in the UK.  Today we have glorious sunshine, yesterday we played in the ice and frost and a week ago we were playing in the rain.

Whatever the weather the girls are drawn to the outside and unlike the summer when they sometimes complain that it is too hot, they tend to stay outside for a long time.

ducks

 

We have a pair of ducks that are regular visitors to our garden in the spring. What better way to get the girls outside than to send them out to find the ducks and feed them.

 

A Bug Hunt

We had a bug explore kit for Christmas, so while I was doing a little gardening, the girls decided to look for bugs.  The warm weather had brought lots of spiders and beetles to the surface. They were fast and quite difficult to catch.

I found a beetle.

I found a beetle.

I have a spider

I have a spider

As I was turning over the soil, the girls decided to dig with trowels for worms and observe them in their pots.

The worm is very wriggly.

The worm is very wriggly.

Gardening

I’ve tried for years to grow wildflowers without any success. We chose to mix the seeds with sand from the sandpit, scatter them and rake them in.  We don’t need to water them too much this time of the year because of the rain and they are slowly starting to grow. Each day we check on their progress and talk about how delicate they still are, so to be careful where we tred.

 Painting the Ground

The girls began by painting pebbles with bright colours and then decided to paint pictures on the driveway.

pebble painting

I suggested that they might like to paint the stepping-stones, they thought this was a great idea.

 

When we take paint outside they nearly always decide to paint hands or feet.  The paint left footprints on the driveway.

foot painting

I know, we could play an easy kind of hide and seek. One person hides and we have to follow their footprints.

They followed the footprints across the path. When they got to the grass, they were difficult to follow, so they made arrows from sticks. We found a little piece of treasure, in the shape of one lonely violet.

violets

Echoes

As we were sat on the driveway painting they noticed that their voices were echoing.

Mummy why do our voices sound all echoing?

I don’t know, do they still echo when we stand up?

Yes

We moved something to see if that made a difference.

We are still echoing.

How do you make echoes?

You need a sort of tunnel. It works when we talk in a tube. The driveway doesn’t look like  a tunnel.

I’ll have to dig out ‘Little Beaver and the Echo’ and explore this further.

Flowers and Plants

I love it when they explore the flowers and plants. Heather is great for playing rain showers and we are looking forward to the blossoms falling from the trees and making ‘fairy rain’. The girls were so excited that the trees are full of blossom and ran to tell the other children in the street.

Harry Potter

Pavement chalk is  a big favourite.  When the children play in the street together they draw towns on the ground and play that they are visiting the shops or hospital.  Recently, they were playing Harry Potter and drew a huge Hogwarts castle in the road. They collected sticks for wands and branches for broomsticks (I left them the cuttings from trimming the trees) and with a tennis ball they played Quidditch.  The potion station is also perfect for mixing spells.

Water Spritz

I suggested that we take water spritzers outside filled with paint.  The girls tried the painting but were much more keen to take them out with only water in.

First they wanted to clean.

They wanted to spray each other, it wasn’t really warm enough but my 3-year-old had a good idea.  She ran to fetch her umbrella.

I know we could use this as a shield.

umbrella shield

With rain expected for the weekend – I wonder what other ideas they will come up with.

Check out other outdoor play ideas at Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

and The Outdoor Play Party

Posted in childhood, early education & play, home schooling, imagination, outdoor play, play, pre schoolers, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

I love Hot Cross Buns.  Years ago there was a bakery near my flat that baked the very best Hot Cross Buns, huge, glazed and sticky. I am yet to find anywhere here that sells them, so we decided to try making our own.  It is quite a long process but definitely worth it and a nice introduction to bread making for the children.

You will Need

Makes 24    nb. 1 cup = 1/2 pint or 1/2 lb  or  230 g (approx.)

3 sachets of yeast

3/4 cup of warm water

1 1/8 cup of warm milk

1/2 cup butter (melted)

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

6 cups of flour (2 of bread flour and 4 of plain/all purpose flour)

1 1/2 cups oats

1 1/2 cups raisins

1 1/2 beaten eggs

Glaze

1 cup icing (powdered) sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

2 tbsp. milk

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the water and sprinkle in a little sugar
  2. Melt butter

melting butter

3. Combine milk, butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon

hot cross buns

4. Stir in 1 cup of flour, oats, raisins, egg and dissolved yeast.

hot cross buns

 

5. Keep adding flour until it makes a soft dough. Knead, place in a greased bowl and cover for 1 hour.

dough proving

6. Press it down then let it rest.

dough

7. Form into balls and add a dough cross. Let them rise uncovered for 45 minutes

hot cross buns

8. Glaze with egg white and bake at 400 degrees F/ Gas mark 6  for 10-12 mins

hot cross buns

9. When cooled combine the ingredients for the glaze and brush on the top. Leave for 5 minutes.

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They were very popular; I may never get away with a shop bought bun again.

Posted in cooking with kids, Easter, parenting, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Furchester Hotel – The Sesame Street Gang Come to CBeebies

CBeebies and Sesame Street

 

It always feels good to get a little something from CBeebies drop into my inbox.  We miss CBeebies quality programming featuring British accents and no adverts. American children’s television isn’t all bad though.  Through childhood, student years and as a mother I have always been a huge Sesame Street fan.  The wonderful documentary Being Elmo made me an even bigger fan.  The latest news from CBeebies was the most exciting I’ve received in a long while. CBeebies and Sesame Street are working together to create a new series,  The Furchester Hotel.

Filming started on Monday 24 February, and will continue for just over three months. The enormous Furchester Hotel set fills all 700 square metres of the HQ2 studio at dock10, MediaCityUK, and was transported in 10 lorries from the three construction companies employed to build it over two and half months. It shows the interior and the garden of The Furchester Hotel and is raised 1.1 metres off the floor in order for the puppeteers to perform standing in the main areas. The set is double height with a sweeping staircase that guests take to the bedrooms when the lift isn’t working – which is almost always.

How amazing does that set sound and how disappointed am I that I can’t accept an invite to visit the set for myself? It makes me want to jump on a plane right away.

What is The Furchester Hotel?

The Furchester Hotel, is about a close-knit family of cheerfully incompetent Muppet monsters who own and operate an ‘almost’ world-class hotel. The proprietors are Funella Furchester, the welcoming monster owner, her loving husband, Furgus Fuzz, and their daughter, the unflappable Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz. The Furchester family is joined at the hotel by Elmo, Phoebe’s cousin who is on an extended visit, and Cookie Monster, who has landed his dream job as room service and dining-room waiter.

The Furchester Hotel aims to promote and build creative problem-solving skills for its young viewers. As the Furchester family scrambles to meet the needs of its guests, the monsters use their exceptional thinking skills to brainstorm possible solutions to problems that arise. And even when they think they have exhausted all the possibilities, their perseverance prevails because their family motto is, “A Furchester never gives up!” The daily mishaps and mix-ups at The Furchester Hotel will provide many opportunities for our young Muppet friends to model ways in which pre-schoolers’ natural curiosity and creativity can be harnessed to collaborate and solve problems.

Cookie Monster and Elmo are in Town

It takes approximately 70 cast and crew to make the series, including nine puppeteers and four assistant puppeteers. Experienced puppeteer Louise Gold plays Funella; Mak Wilson, who has been designated Puppet Captain, performs many of the guest Muppets, including resident guest Harvey P Dull; Andrew Spooner performs Furgus; and Sarah Burgess plays Phoebe. Elmo and Cookie Monster are played by Sesame Street puppeteers Ryan Dillon and David Rudman respectively and the head writer for the series is Belinda Ward.

“We’re so excited to be starting work on The Furchester Hotel. The studio set is truly amazing, and to see the puppets arriving on site really brings the project to life,” says Alison Stewart, Head of CBeebies Production. “We’re delighted to welcome The Furchester family, Elmo, Cookie Monster and their friends to Salford.”

“The excitement in MediaCityUK is palpable as we begin production on The Furchester Hotel,” says Carol-Lynn Parente, Executive Producer, Sesame Workshop. “We know this series will engage children with humorous problems and quirky solutions in ways that only the beloved Muppets can. We look forward to seeing The Furchester Family, along with their friends Cookie Monster and Elmo, delighting children and families on CBeebies for years to come.”

“Me cannot wait to ‘work’ as dining-room waiter at The Furchester Hotel,” says Cookie Monster. “Me hear their cookies are delicious. Om nom nom.”

The Furchester Hotel is co-produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organisation behind Sesame Street, and the In House Production team at CBeebies, the BBC’s pre-school children’s channel. The 52×11-minute series is set to debut on CBeebies in Autumn 2014 in the UK.

Hopefully I can find a way to watch it here too.

 

 

Posted in CBeebies, children, early education & play, education, pre schoolers, sesame street | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Water Play in the Rain

Once children are helped to perceive themselves as authors or inventors, once they are helped to discover the pleasure of enquiry, their motivation and interest explode.  – Loris Malaguzzi.

We’ve had a few rainy days so I decided to leave the lid off the water table to catch the rain.  We’ve had so much rain that it was nearly overflowing.  My girls looked out at the rain and decided to play in the water.  They know from experience that rain water is very cold so my youngest put on her waterproof gloves so that she could tolerate the cold water for longer.

I gave her a bottle and a funnel to add to the other materials.  I have recently noted her eagerness to transport things from one place to another and predicted she would probably use the bottle to empty the water from the table.  True to form she filled the bottle, carried it to the bench and poured the water through the slats before returning for more.

water play

Her sister is less eager to play outside but loves umbrellas so when I suggested she take her umbrella outside, she was out like a shot. Of course her sister needed her umbrella too.

I want to make an invention

What kind of invention?

Like we made before for serving drinks.

Last summer the girls had inserted a straw into a hole in a milk carton and made a drink dispenser. They worked out how to turn the tap off and where to place the tap so that they could drain the container of all the water.

What do you need?

A cup – this will be good (finding a coffee container)  a tube or something and some small cups.

I found a piece of plastic tubing and plastic wine glasses.

I need another pipe. One to blow into and the other one for the water to come out of.

I gave her another piece of tubing that her sister had been using to make a contraption the previous day.

It’s not working mummy, when I blow nothing happens.

Are there any bubbles coming when you blow.

No

The air isn’t getting through the pipe.

We put the container onto the floor so that she could keep the pipe straight without any kinks and still reach to blow into it.

I have to be honest I didn’t expect it to work but look what happened.

You have to blow so, so hard to make it work that it hurts your mouth, but that’s okay.

Meanwhile her sister was trying to catch floating objects with the tongs.

More fun

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More play activities for a rainy day

Posted in active learning, children, early education & play, EYFS, imagination, learning environnments, outdoor play, play, pre schoolers, Reggio Emilia, science, teaching | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Ideas for Learning Environments Inspired by Children’s Museum of Tacoma

I’d never heard of a Children’s Museum before I moved here but as I entered the door I was greeted by a little bit of play heaven. I think I was more excited than the girls.  My 9 -year-old remarked

It’s not really a museum is it?

True not in the traditional sense.

According to Wikipedia, Children’s museums are institutions that provide exhibits and programs to stimulate informal learning experiences for children. In contrast with traditional museums that typically have a hands-off policy regarding exhibits, children’s museums feature interactive exhibits that are designed to be manipulated by children. The theory behind such exhibits is that activity can be as educational as instruction, especially in early childhood.

In essence it’s like walking into a really well- resourced nursery or pre-school.  I loved that many of the exhibits used simple, cheap materials that could be replicated at home, like a blackboard with a pot of water and brushes.  I particularly like these; they would be a great addition to a child’s bedroom wall, garden fence or in a toddler room at nursery.

The water area was a huge hit with my youngest. My favourite was a water bath with a transparent window so that you could see what was happening under water.

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Behind the glass is an area for art based activities – musical instruments, painting, movement with ribbon sticks and scarves and drawing.   The metallic walls made it so easy to dry and display pictures. What a great idea for a messy play room.

There were 2 light tables in the space with very different activities, the girls chose to trace and draw.

light table with maps and plans

My eldest loved  den building best of all.  The smaller structures were not very stable so she negotiated with the other children in the space to create a big den together.

More building – drainpipes and gutters

drainpipes and gutters

I’m so glad we discovered Children’s Museums and I’m looking forward to visiting the others in the area and sharing more ideas.

Posted in active learning, art and crafts, children, days out, early education & play, education, imagination, learning environnments, play, pre schoolers, sensory play, shadow and light | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment