More Summer Holiday Activities

A couple of years ago I wrote this blog post about some activities we had road-tested for keeping the boys busy during the long summer holiday: Summer Holiday Activities . At the time they were 5 and 8. Two years on, they are now 7 and 10 and I am having to be increasingly inventive to keep them engaged. Although we do go out and about quite a bit, I also like to do some calm activities with them at home. LB needs as much encouragement as he can get to sit down and concentrate on something; I think creativity and STEM activities are of huge benefit and tend to be neglected at school and it’s nice to have a bit of time where the three of us do something together (this all usually happens while Grizzly is at work). So, here are some of our recent favourites:

Excavating

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We have had a few of these sets but the one pictured that I picked up in The Entertainer is by far the best in terms of value for money and the amount of time it kept the boys busy for. You can do it inside the box so it isn’t too messy and who doesn’t love a destructive task? Both boys have loved donning their protective glasses and getting stuck in with ‘real tools’. Pretty good for channelling some pent up aggression too, I reckon. Just mind those fingers.

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Black and neon

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I’ve bought canvases for the boys to paint on a few times now (you can pick them up really cheaply in The Works) and they have enjoyed painting on a more ‘grown-up’ surface than plain old paper. This time, I happened on some black ones in Sostrene Grene (I LOVE this shop – its brilliant for crafty bits and bobs as well as just generally lovely) and as we already had some neon paints from there we were away. I found some black card in the cupboard too which proved handy – LB doesn’t spend long on his paintings and without fail wants another canvas. I didn’t have one but the black card extended the activity for another ten minutes or so. A fun twist on a classic.

 

Glowing Eggs

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I found this experiment on Pinterest and swiftly nicked it because we have eggs from our hens and anything science-y tends to grab the boys’ attention. You fill a jar with half vinegar and half tonic water. You put as many eggs as you want in (leave them raw), close the lid and leave for 48 hours.

When we opened the jars up again, we were amazed to see that the vinegar had dissolved the egg shells and the quinine in the tonic water had caused them to glow. The glowing isn’t immediately obvious on a sunny day but it’s pretty impressive when backlit by a torch. Miraculously, the eggs don’t fall apart without their shell – the membrane holding them together remains intact – and they feel really strange and rubbery. The boys enjoyed poking and prodding them and eventually popping them just as much as the experiment itself.

 

The picture on the left shows a normal egg with one we’ve experimented on. We are holding a torch to it but when you do that to the normal one, nothing happens – there is no ‘glow’ at all.

I think this one gains you good parenting points because my two couldn’t predict what would happen and were genuinely impressed I knew how to make an egg glow. Thank you Pinterest.

 

Block Printing

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Of all the activities we have done, the set for this one is the most expensive. I decided to invest because it had enough stuff for all three of us to have a go and with a bit of investment in ink and polystyrene you could give it real longevity. Also, we have done almost every form of craft known to humanity and who doesn’t like something different?

The boys found it easy to create their design with a sharp pencil on their polystyrene tile and this kept them focussed for quite a while. LB in particular loved the roller and the ink and had a great time rolling ink onto his tile. I don’t think the results are spectacular but these activities are more about enjoying the process. I do think they would make nice cards though and had the set have included more ink colours, I think we could have got even more creative. That said, we’ve washed the tiles and they can be re-used. We also have 3 more spare ones so I’ll be putting this away for a while (long enough for them to forget about it) and whipping it out again in a future holiday when we need entertaining again.

 

Creepy Crawly Clings and other sets

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Towards the end of the summer term, I often have a mini-panic about how I’ll keep the boys entertained for 6 long weeks so keep my eye out for any unusual sets or activities that we haven’t tried. I find The Works has good ones and occasionally there are things to be found in Quality Save, B&M or even the supermarkets. This one involved mixing various potions together and leaving them to set over night. The result was sticky insects which caused a high level of hilarity when I let the boys stick them to the patio door. I have to admit that this led to over-stimulation as the ‘sticking’ turned to throwing which turned to pelting and insects hanging from the ceiling and falling on people’s heads. That was probably inevitable. Anyway, if your child can manage such things without said fallout, this one is fun.

We have also tried crystal growing, erupting volcanoes, make your own bouncy balls, grow your own pet, hatch a dinosaur egg, paint your own gnome/birdhouse/money box/ dinosaur etc. They all have their merits.

 

Slime

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I have been avoiding slime kits because many of them have high levels of Boron or Borax in them which has been linked to burns as well as irritability, digestive problems and even infertility. However, LB was bought this Elmer’s set for his birthday and I didn’t want to waste it. The set says its non-toxic and my Googlings suggest it contains only trace levels of Borax, compared to some sets which have been found to have five times the safe levels. I also knew we wouldn’t play with it repeatedly – just spending a fun hour or so with it one afternoon.

BB didn’t get involved with this one – he was out having fun with a friend – but it was good to have up my sleeve as something exciting for LB. Again he loved the scientific nature of the measuring and mixing and wondering about what might happen. The results were as gross and as sticky as you’d imagine and LB loved it. I do recommend this but with caution – don’t buy a dodgy set and do your research – no slime is worth chemical poisoning!

 

I hope you like our ideas – do let us know if you try any. I have to end by confessing that not all our activities have been successful. We tried chromatography first with white carnations and then with sturdy lettuce leaves but neither was successful. Everything died before it changed colour, so, err, maybe don’t try that one?! We might have one last ditch attempt with celery but I think it has to have leaves at the top which is quite hard to come by. Any advice for getting things to successfully change colour would be very much welcomed.

 

More Summer Holiday Activities

Is creativity beneficial for children?

I recently read a blog post by @butterflymum83 entitled  Can Creativity Encourage Good Mental Health? . In it she talks about her need to have a creative outlet and how having one has helped her to combat Post Natal Depression. It was an interesting read and it made me think about my children and how using creative activities with them has had really positive outcomes too.

Although I consider myself to be a creative person and have always had some sort of creative outlet in my life, I wouldn’t say that either of my boys naturally are, despite having fantastic imaginations.

When Big Bear was small my parenting style was different to how it is now. Between the routine parts of our days I tended to follow Big Bear’s lead. If he wanted to run around dressed as Batman then we did. If he wanted to play Lego and get me to “make the man talk” then I did. I always offered creative activities as a choice but Big Bear rarely chose them. In fact he rarely chose anything that involved sitting at a table.

Fast-forward to last year when I now had two boisterous boys to entertain throughout the school holidays. I realised my parenting style had to change. It was impossible to follow two children’s leads at the same time, especially when one child needed close supervision and the other needed to know that my love and attention for him had not been usurped by his brother. Ideally I needed chunks of the day where both boys were in the same place doing the same thing so I could be with both of them. And to be honest, for my own sanity, I did want some quieter times when they weren’t both running around crazily.

The truth is: I have hoodwinked my children into crafting! I took to setting up activities at the kitchen table then calling both Bears to me. They would walk through the door, I would pop an apron over their heads before they even noticed and the next thing they knew they were sitting down getting creative. I quickly discovered that despite the activities not being of their choosing they both loved them anyway.

You can separate the kinds of activities we do into two broad categories: those where I provide the raw materials and the boys just go for it in a ‘creative free for all’ and those where there is a specific outcome that we are aiming for. I have found that both have their own merits.

Having a creative free for all

I mean activities such as painting, Play-Doh, Kinetic sand, decorating biscuits, glue and glitter, Lego without instructions etc.

I started with these activities for Little Bear because he didn’t have much experience of crafty-type things and following the rules was extremely difficult for him. These tasks have very few rules (mainly just staying on the messy mat) so there wasn’t much for him to oppose. They were fairly low risk for this reason and therefore there was a good chance of success for him. Also, most of them are very sensory and suited his level of play at the time.

Whilst a creative free for all was ideal for Little Bear, they were generally fun and accessible for Big Bear too. One of the first times the Bears played together properly they were making Play-Doh ice creams.

My main reason for loving a creative free for all is the huge opportunity for praise-giving that it provides. Because there is no aim or expected end-product, literally anything goes. Imaginations can run wild and free and even if they don’t, you can still say that whatever they produce is beautiful.

Thankfully both Bears are accepting of praise. That being the case I don’t really think it is possible to give them too much. A creative free for all allows you to praise how hard they are trying (my favourite thing to praise), how neat they are being, how expressive/ imaginative/ creative, how well they are sharing materials, how well they are concentrating. The boys seem to have picked up on the positive nature of the task and now take quite an interest in what the other has produced too. They praise each other’s creations which is lovely to witness. They don’t know it, but we are working on lots of other skills while we’re at it. Sharing is one that has improved significantly.

When we have created something we tend to take photos to send to Grizzly or The Grandbearants or we find some space to display it on the shelves. I think this helps the boys to take pride in what they have made and builds their confidence in what they are able to achieve. Little Bear often says “I didn’t know I could make that”.

Over time we have explored different materials such as Bunchems, spray chalk (outside) and most recently craft maize. The latter is our current favourite and kept them both busy for AGES the other day. In fact, the main problem I had was trying to get Little Bear to stop because we needed to go out. You just dampen the maize and it sticks to itself or paper or card. It’s unbelievably easy (I’m not exaggerating, I actually couldn’t believe it was that easy after looking very sceptically at it in the bag) and it doesn’t keep coming apart so has a low frustration factor, which is perfect for the little dude. I highly recommend it.

Creating something specific

I generally mean any creative task that has instructions: baking (I’m nowhere near capable of making it up as I go along); Lego sets; Hama Beads (though you can go rogue); craft kits etc.

I do think children need more of an attention span and a bit of resilience behind them to get creative in these ways. However, I also think that sometimes you have to just try stuff and if you show your child you trust them enough to have a go, they often rise to the occasion.

I remember asking Little Bear’s foster carers if they had ever tried baking with him. They laughed and said “he’s too busy for that” and in so doing wrote off a whole chunk of his potential.

Admittedly I didn’t try it straight away but after a few months when I did, he was far more compliant than usual because the task was so novel and exciting for him. I love the photo I have of him proudly clutching the tray of cookies he made.

Because most of these activities are fun for children I think they are a good time to practise listening to instructions. The motivation to complete the task usually helps with the listening part. Obviously we’ve had our challenging moments but I’ve generally found that the natural consequence of not being allowed to complete the task if you can’t be sensible with it seems to keep them on track.

Little Bear continues to find tasks with too many steps of instructions difficult e.g. building a Lego model but I think the practise is helping to build his resilience and attention span. Getting to the end of a task (even if it’s with help) seems really beneficial. Seeing the end result and being able to say “I built that” (or “I builded it by my own” to be more accurate) is brilliant for both Bear’s confidence and I feel encourages them to have more of a “can do” attitude when faced with other challenges.

 

Now that both boys are in formal education I’ve noticed that the curriculum doesn’t seem to allow much space for expressing yourself so it feels even more important to facilitate creativity at home. I also feel that having more of these tasks around and having gently nudged the Bear’s in the right direction with trying them, they are both much more likely to choose them of their own volition now. This has definitely helped with getting Big Bear off his IPad (I know there is a place for technology but I honestly feel that Big Bear’s growing addiction to it was making him sad). I think he is much better now at finding something to do and doing it, rather than wandering about moaning he’s bored.

The benefits of getting creative have been wide and far-reaching for us. Apart from anything else, we enjoy doing the activities together and that alone is reason enough to carry on. I am struggling to think of any negatives, apart from the tidying up and the stress of having to surreptitiously bin a creation or 3 every now and again to make space for new ones!!

I distinctly remember a little girl we know constantly getting told off for not colouring in the lines when she was very small. It really upset my belief in freedom of expression. Creativity should be all about what you CAN do and not at all about what you can’t. Who cares about the lines? Draw in them, on them and outside of them if you want to.

 

 

Is creativity beneficial for children?

December at Adoption: The Bear Facts

December is quickly drawing to a close which can only mean one thing. It is round up time! Here all the best bits of the past month with the three Bears.

Events:

It’s a good job I keep notes over the month to help me write this post otherwise I would definitely forget about the things that happened right back at the start. It seems an age ago but the first events of the month were our craft fayres. My friend A and I accidentally agreed to run a stall at 2 craft fayres to sell our homemade Christmas tree decorations. I say “accidentally” because all I actually signed up for was a cup of tea and some grown up colouring in!

One of the events was an all-day thing at a high school and the other an evening event at the boy’s school. Despite being rubbish at the mental arithmetic part of things and being slightly stressed that at 37 weeks pregnant, A might give birth behind the stall, it was loads of fun. Between Facebook and our stalls we ended up making and selling about 600 decorations in the end. I was ready to have a break from making them but actually I’m starting to miss it a bit now and A and I did work very well together so you never know whether we might try to make our little business a bit more all year round in 2017… Plus, I did get a pyrography pen for Christmas…

Another positive aspect of the fayres was that Big Bear was really interested in helping me make the decorations. After panicking that he was going to use up our wood supply and that a 7 year old’s decoration is obviously not quite as polished as one made by a grown-up, I decided the best way forward was to let him set up a sister business. He made his own decorations in his own signature style (which I would describe as Avant-garde!) that he then sold from a corner of our table. He had his own float and managed his own sales. He spent most of the evening walking around selling from a tray and he was brilliant at it. He made about £22 which I think he should be extremely proud of. At one point I’m sure he was selling more than we were!

The following week, we ended up going out for tea after school with my parents. It is not something we would usually do as it’s quite challenging for Little Bear to behave himself at that time of day and in a place where you have to be relatively quiet and sit on a chair but he managed brilliantly. We have noticed a big improvement in his ability to engage with table-top activities and to spend a bit of time focusing on them. He is getting quite into drawing and trying to write which is the main way we keep him busy in restaurants etc. at the moment.

As term drew to a close there were quite a few school events to attend. Both Bears went on a whole school trip to the theatre which seemed to go without incident (?!), Little Bear performed in his Nativity and there was a Mince Pie Afternoon at which each class came in and sang a song, as well as there being performances from the different music groups.

The Nativity wasn’t a total success. At the performance that Grizzly and I and his Mum attended, Little Bear started off being quite entertaining with his dancing and off-beat singing but by the end my heart was in my mouth wondering what he was going to do. Half-way through the look came over his face which means “I am grumpy. I am looking for trouble. I could do literally anything now”. I saw him take a piece of paper from the TA’s hand. On the stage he squared up to a couple of children and I really thought he was going to hit them. He put his foot up on a bench to prevent the Angels from getting up on to it as they were supposed to. He started poking Mary in the head.

He didn’t do anything really naughty but he was just simmering on the cusp of it and it made for nerve-wracking viewing. When I reflected on it afterwards, I remembered that he hadn’t coped well before school either. Maybe it was a bad day? I also felt that the performance wasn’t very inclusive for him. All he had to do was stand there (for 45 minutes) which is pretty boring. The songs were far too wordy and fast for him, though he was trying to join in, and there weren’t even any actions for him to do. I decided that taking him back to school later on for the 5pm performance was probably one step too far. What if he actually followed through on the behaviour? I didn’t want him to go down in history as the child who knocked Joseph out.

However, the reason I include this tale here, in my post full of positives, is that when I suggested not bringing him back to his teacher, she said he had been really well-behaved the rest of the day and in the practises and she felt he could do it. In a very uncharacteristic moment I decided that as long as I couldn’t see what he got up to it was worth the risk (!) and kindly sent him along with my parents.

In the end, he did ok. I don’t think he was perfectly behaved but he survived it without major incident and it did mean that my parents got to see him performing. He was praised by everyone and he didn’t feel as though he had missed out by staying at home. Overall, I will take that as a win.

The Mince Pie afternoon was a far lovelier affair. Big Bear usually hates anything that involves singing what he describes as “boring songs” to an audience but he must have liked the one his class sang and looked very chipper throughout. Reception class came out last of all, with their noses painted red. They looked exceptionally cute and Little Bear proceeded to completely melt my heart by dancing from foot to foot throughout and singing very loudly a beat after everyone else (it’s not his fault, he can’t process the language any faster). At the end he shouted “that’s my mum” and blew me kisses. Just gorgeous.

On the 17th December, A’s baby arrived safely. I’m always happy to hear when a friend has had a baby but as this was a Rainbow Baby (A’s first baby, Lucas, came far too early and sadly left us far too soon) it was extremely good news. I don’t think I’ve ever known someone was in labour before but I did this time and it was incredibly nerve-wracking. The baby’s safe arrival has been a huge relief and one of the best things that have happened all year. We are both absolutely made up for them. We got to meet the gorgeous lady herself when she was 4 days old. Weighing in at 5lb 8oz she is absolutely teeny but completely perfect.

Over the last couple of years it has become traditional for our family to meet up with 2 other families and go on the Santa Train together. It’s a traditional steam train that is all decorated and the staff dress up as elves and are all extremely jolly. Santa goes down the train giving out presents; you eat mince pies and go on a little journey. A band comes on board and everybody sings Christmas carols. It marks the official start of the Christmas season. We had a lovely time as we usually do and Little Bear coped exceptionally well.

We also had a very successful trip to get our Christmas tree. I mention it because we have never had a successful trip previously. One year the process was very quick but the tree had a distinctive cow poo smell; another year the woman selling the tree was very rude to us; another year we queued to see Santa for nearly an hour and a half and Big Bear was furious to find out after the agonising wait that he wasn’t actually giving any presents!!! This year we ditched all attempts at going anywhere fancy and just went to our local garden centre. It was perfect. We chose a tree, looked at the decorations and had a hot chocolate. Big Bear chose a giant reindeer and Little Bear a dancing Santa which had them both in hysterics. The needles may have fallen off the tree prematurely but I honestly don’t really care. My friend tells me you need to water them with lemonade so hopefully that’ll be us sorted next year!

I loved the fact that the boys had made all the decorations and that was definitely the best thing about the tree for me.

 

Christmas:

Big Bear ended up staying at home on Christmas Eve and helped with preparing for Wigilia which was lovely.

I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging but we had a bloody brilliant time over Christmas. The whole family stayed, everybody mucked in, I didn’t bother getting stressed about any of it, the children loved their presents and it seemed to be over in a flash. Everybody spontaneously stayed a second night. ‘Twas all good in the ‘hood.

Since then the Bears have played well with their new toys. Grizzly re-lived his youth by sourcing a game he used to have called Super Cup Football for Big Bear. That seems to have gone down well and there have been some very competitive matches. Little Bear is very happy with his Transformers, a remote control monster truck he has randomly named “Fat Fella” (no idea how he came up with that) and his Playmobil boat for in the bath. I also got both Bears a box full of craft activities each. They have both chosen to do a few things from them already which has been nice to see. We got Little Bear some giant Hama beads which he coped really well with and managed to complete his dinosaur with a bit of encouragement to stay on task:

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Big Bear has coloured some sun catchers and been busy with his beads too:

 

Yesterday we had a trip to the zoo with some friends. It was cold but clear and sunny and some of the animals were very friendly. Both boys came to nose to nose with a tiger (through some glass) which doesn’t happen every day. We also enjoyed watching a mummy orang-utan and her baby climbing up to the top of their enclosure to feed. I could have watched them all day.

Grizzly is off work until next Wednesday so we are planning more family time and meeting with other friends over the next couple of days. Things are so much more settled than this time last year and I am feeling very lucky.

Operation Home Improvement

Our extension is currently half-built. It has walls, most of a roof and holes where the windows will be. Thankfully all the work so far has been outside and I’m still quite in denial that as soon as January rolls around it is probably going to start encroaching inwards.

I have been busy measuring and ordering various things. A fairly major item is our new front door. It is going to be custom sprayed mustard on the inside and outside much to the consternation of the man selling it to me. He keeps saying things like “but EVERYBODY has it white on the inside” or “I have never sold a yellow door in my career”. I know, I say, but trust me, it will look beautiful.

The builder also thinks I’m bananas as apparently he hasn’t fitted the glass we have ordered for beside the front door since 1978. Despite his protestations we are also going for an internal round window, which, again, he thinks is old fashioned. Retro, I say. Vintage. Trust me.

 

December at Adoption: The Bear Facts

November at Adoption: The Bear Facts

It feels like literally 3 seconds since I was sitting here writing last month’s round up but here I am again and November is over. Here are our best bits:

Events:

  • Half term took place in the first week of November for us. In order to curb Big Bear’s growing I Pad addiction and to encourage him to spend time doing other things, we started the holiday by limiting I Pad time to 30 minutes per day. I was also strict about TV time. It was allowed but I didn’t want the I Pad just to be replaced by another screen. It was the best thing we could have possibly done and I truly believe it led to a much calmer and more wholesome holiday. In fact, the half hour limit is now a permanent feature at our house (mean Mum!).
  • I spent the first couple of days on my own with the Bears. Day 1 was fairly disastrous (I can see a pattern forming, the first day always seem to be a disaster) but day 2 was lovely. We went to the shops, had a wander around, bought new shoes (how had their feet possibly grown again??) and went to the Library where we got involved with a craft session that happened to be on. I have been trying to engage Little Bear with the Library for a while now. It has been a bit of an uphill battle but I was really pleased on the day in question because he took time (seconds, but still) to choose his own books for the first time and then concentrated really well for the craft. Both boys made a rocket which I’m still proudly displaying on my shelf.
  • I treated Little Bear to a comic and Big Bear to some Match Attax then we got a hot chocolate and some toast. I felt as though they actually wanted to do that and we weren’t just sitting down because I was tired and needed caffeine! We sat for a quite a while and Little Bear coloured in his comic and Big Bear looked at his cards and we seemed like a civilised family!!!
  • That afternoon we went to the cinema to see The Trolls which we all enjoyed. We happened to bump into some friends there and spontaneously went to the nearby soft play area with them to burn off some steam. It was a really lovely day.
  • Grizzly was off for the second half of the week and we went to a couple of parties. I also baked twice with the boys that week. Previously I have had double of everything so that they could have all their own stuff and there would be no arguing over whether it was fair or not. This time I chanced it with one set of equipment and ingredients and took turns to give them little tasks to do. I was really impressed with how they coped with it and what a calm experience it was.
  • We went away for the final weekend of half term as a surprise for my Mum’s 70th birthday. The boys put lots of effort into making her cards and cake and we had a really good family weekend. Little Bear was a little anxious on the journey because the plan was quite complicated (we were going somewhere else on route and though we were meeting my Mum it wasn’t at her house) and he needed lots of repetition but he settled really well once we there.

 

  • Big Bear played in his first football match. After saying that he wasn’t headed for the Premier League (Bad Mum!) I couldn’t believe how well he played! He showed a real grit and determination on the pitch that I don’t think I’ve seen in him before. It was brilliant to watch and then I nearly wept all over the mud as they made him man of the match! Little Bear coped fairly well with having to watch and was very proud of his brother. We have avoided taking him to watch again though as I think behaving yourself on the side of a cold pitch for an hour is quite a big ask and there are probably better ways we can spend the time.

 

  • When the last match was on, Little Bear and I went to pick up Aunty Giraffe for a visit. It was lovely to see her as always. Little Bear is very fond of her and the fact he hasn’t seen her for a few months in between visits doesn’t seem to matter.
  • We did family things over the weekend then on the Monday Aunty Giraffe and I escaped for a spot of shopping. Grizzly ended up being at home and was able to pick up the boys. Very selfishly, I was really excited to be out past school pick-up time and shopping turned into the cinema (to see a grown up film!!!) and dinner. Very decadent but ace.

 

  • Last weekend we attended our VAA’s Christmas Party. I bumped into quite a few familiar faces: a family whose prep group I had spoken at and who now have a tiny baby in their charge through concurrency; some adopters who had attended one of my Communication Workshops and now have 2 little girls; a couple from our prep groups and their little girl. It was lovely to see everyone, especially to meet the couple from our prep groups again, in the same building where we first met, now with our little people in tow. I also met a not so familiar face: one of my Twitter friends. It’s quite surreal to meet somebody you know so much about and so little about at the same time but also lovely. Finally, our Social Worker had tasked us with finding another couple who didn’t know anybody. We did find each other and I think we have quite a bit in common (I suspect our SW knew that) so we are going to have coffee soon. Phew! My adoption network seems to be growing quite rapidly!

 

School:

School has largely continued to go well for Little Bear. There have been some incidents but I’m going to count them as positives as I’m really pleased with how school have handled them. All the incidents have taken place at lunch times when there is less supervision and the supervision comes from mid-day assistants, not teaching staff. The incidents usually involve Little Bear playing a game that he shouldn’t be e.g. fighting and the game usually ends in him kicking/ hitting/ biting somebody. From what I can tell, all hell usually breaks out at that point, a dinner lady shouts at him that’s he naughty and drags him to a teacher. Little Bear is unable to explain what has happened or why and he gets punished, not the other child who is usually also involved.

That sounds pretty bad but I spoke with his teacher about it as soon as I spotted the pattern and she had separately spotted it too. She had already spoken to the Head and SENCO to say that she didn’t think the usual system of giving a red card and getting a good talking to from the Head was appropriate for Little Bear. She had concluded that the supervision wasn’t appropriate and that the mid-day assistants needed more support in managing his behaviour in a more constructive way. She asked for my permission to meet with them and explain Little Bear’s needs to them in more detail. She would give them strategies that work in the classroom e.g. thinking time and if they didn’t feel sure about what to do, they could bring Little Bear to her and she would manage the situation. She confirmed that his behaviour is good in the classroom and it is just a matter of handling him more constructively. I did suggest he needed to be watched more closely too because if the opportunity is there, he will get into mischief. I usually ensure the opportunity isn’t there.

His teacher also said “he is not a naughty boy, he just needs more help with boundaries and knowing what is acceptable. I will not have him branded as a naughty child”. That was what I was planning to say but clearly I was preaching to the converted. So yes, there have been a couple of bumps in the road but top marks to school for their sensitive and child-centred handling of it.

There is now a protocol in place for the mid-day staff and so far there haven’t been any further mishaps…

In terms of his educational targets, Little Bear continues to make progress. He is secure in his knowledge of Phase 2 phonics so is now learning Phase 3 and working on blending Phase 2 in school. The blending is proving difficult, as I suspected it would, due to Little Bear’s speech processing and auditory memory difficulties. However, he is mostly able to identify the first and last sounds in words so I don’t think he’s as far off blending as I did a few weeks ago.

Now that he has found out what numbers come after 10, he’s got a bit muddled with seven and eleven and the whole sequence has gone a little wonky again… I’m sure we’ll get there eventually!

Little Bear has discovered pens and has even requested paper a few times recently. He is making some good first attempts at mark making now.

I am super proud of how he is getting on as always.

Me, Myself & I:

I have mainly been making Christmas decorations (our first craft fayre is tomorrow), cups of tea for builders and doing Christmas shopping. I have run another Communication Workshop which went well but we are now on a mission to improve marketing and hopefully get more people next time.

Snapshots:

  • Little Bear asking me to put the radio on then the two of us holding hands and dancing around the kitchen
  • Little Bear showing great empathy with his friend who was crying and trying to find ways to cheer him up
  • Little Bear going back into his classroom each evening when I pick him up, trying to share his treat with his classmates. It’s all good when it’s a packet of sweets, not so much when it’s a giant cookie that several children take a bite out of!

Big Bear’s mini projects:

We have made quite a lot of decorations for our tree now, with some help from Little Bear and I for one can’t wait to get a tree now. Here is a little selection of some of the different things we have made:

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Project Home Improvements:

The builders are in! Well, in fact, they are out. They are building the outside parts of the little extension we are having at the moment and they are going to wait until the New Year to knock through. Thank goodness! So far, it’s fairly painless and they are nice guys so apart from making a few decisions about where windows need to go etc. and making hundreds of cups of tea, it hasn’t really caused me any stress. It means I can do my favourite bit which is picking paint colours etc. Hopefully by the end of January I might be able to show you.

 

 

November at Adoption: The Bear Facts

October at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Here are all the best bits of the past month with the Bears:

Events:

I find that there aren’t that many events to report on during the school term as we tend not to get up to much after school, so it’s just the weekends. The first couple in the month seemed to be taking up with getting jobs done and maybe a trip to the park. A fortnight ago we had noticed a bit of a decline in Little Bear’s behaviour during the school week so decided to keep things easier for him over the weekend. We ditched the usual Saturday morning swimming lesson and cancelled an early evening party that he was supposed to be going to. We didn’t know the family who had invited him at all and given his behaviour at the time, it didn’t seem like a risk worth taking. Now that we were free from the confines of our commitments we decided that a family trip somewhere might just be what we all needed. It felt like ages since we had been anywhere different and I for one was excited at the prospect of just escaping for a while and having some quality time with my Bears.

We ended up driving out to Monkey Forest at Trentham Gardens. It’s quite far from us so we have never been before. It was great. The sun was shining, the leaves were beautiful. We ate pie and mash for lunch, had a little mooch in the shops then went for a walk around the forest where the monkeys are free to roam about. The Bears loved it, especially when the little ones jumped all spread-eagled from the bushes and the big ones chased each other, vying for a scrap. The boys rested in the car on the journey back and to, watching their DVDS and hubby and I were able to chat. The following day we took the bikes to the park and had some more family time. It felt like the perfect autumn weekend. Don’t tell anyone but I’d be up for ditching the commitments a bit more often…

Milestones:

We seem to have had a few firsts this month. Little Bear appeared in his first ever school assembly. It was a whole school one for Harvest but his class stood up and performed a song they had learned. It is very difficult for Little Bear to learn a song because there are usually a lot of words, they are not always clear because they are sung and the pace is often too fast for him. Other parents talked about their little one driving them mad singing the song repeatedly at home but we didn’t have any of that because he couldn’t. I had no real idea how he would be in an assembly because it involves a lot of sitting still and let’s face it, can be quite boring. However, he was a little star and I felt really proud watching him. Although he obviously hadn’t learned all the words, he joined in with the ones he knew and had made a sterling effort to learn the actions. His little face looked so proud and happy about performing and he was so animated in his gestures and dancing. He looked a lot happier to be there than some of his classmates and I couldn’t help thinking he was one of the best performers, despite the lack of being able to sing the song. Don’t worry I know that I’m a little biased.

Little Bear also had his first friend over to play. It wasn’t planned, his friend lives on the same road and playing outside led to a spontaneous invitation in. Apart from an over excited ending, most of the event went really well. Little Bear shared his toys and the two boys interacted really nicely, which bodes well for future play dates and shows us how grown up and sensible he is becoming.

Although the grandparents have picked Little Bear up from school before, they have never taken him out anywhere at that point, always bringing him home and looking after him here. He gets very tired which can lead to challenges with managing his behaviour so we tend to keep after school very low key to make things as easy as possible for him. However, my parents have been away quite a bit recently and wanted to get some quality time with each Bear whilst they were back. We decided to try them picking him up, taking him to their house, having a play and some tea then coming home and thankfully, it went really well. I don’t think we are quite ready for after school activities or clubs yet but it is a step in the right direction.

Talking of after school activities, Big Bear has had a first this month too. He decided he wanted to join a football club. He has been going to training after school for a while but they don’t play matches and he wants to be “a proper footballer” We had some anxieties about this because Big Bear is by no means heading for the premier league and we have found that some parents/ clubs take the whole thing very seriously. One child we know “plays” for a local club but spends the whole time on the subs bench. We didn’t want that for Big Bear because it’s demoralising and takes the fun out of it. He’s only 7, it’s great that he’s in to sport, but neither of us wanted it to be confidence sapping or a negative environment for him to be in. Grizzly did his research and we finally found a club that still had spaces and seemed good on paper. Big Bear has been twice now for training and he loves it. Grizzly is really pleased with the set up – the coaches are strict but fair and won’t accept any name-calling or unsportsmanlike behaviour (which unfortunately does seem to be quite widely accepted in children’s football) and they give each child the same amount of time on the pitch during matches, irrespective of skill level.

Big Bear is SO happy that he’s a signed up member of a team and can’t wait to get his kit. He also cannot wait to play in a match and for Little Bear to come and watch him.

Last weekend, we were invited to another party that would involve keeping Little Bear out late and up past his bedtime. This time it was a good friend who had invited us and the party was at her house. I knew that she would understand if things went awry or if we needed to leave early so it seemed a good event at which to try the staying out late thing. It was a fancy dress Halloween party with fireworks. Little Bear went in full dragon outfit with detachable tail and wings (obviously) and loved the whole thing. He was good as gold and despite me getting him ready for bed at their house he was wide awake all the way home as being out in the dark was just too novel and exciting. I don’t think I’d keep him out late often but it’s good to know that he can cope with it now, if the circumstances are right.

School:

Apart from a small blip for about a week, school has continued to go well. We had Little Bear’s parents evening just before term ended and it was a very positive conversation. They have seen fairly significant progress even within the 8 weeks he has been in school. He is doing really well with learning his phonics and his counting is coming along too. He finally mastered counting to 4 in the right order a couple of weeks ago and in this past week he has started getting to 10, pretty automatically. It is amazing how quickly his skills can progress, once all the right foundations are in place. He is already showing interest in what comes after 10.

A huge relief for me has been Little Bear’s behaviour in school and the fact that he has straight away accepted the teacher’s authority. Apparently he is largely co-operative and doesn’t even growl at them! Of course there are still things to be worked on: at the moment things like understanding physical boundaries/ not invading other’s space; not reacting by pushing/hitting/poking; and of course educational targets. However, all I can ask is that we are moving in the right direction and that I feel able to have frank discussions with school and that we are able to work effectively together. So far, I feel all of those things are in place.

It has been a long term for both Bears and they were both more than ready for half term when they finally finished last Friday. More about that next time…

Me, myself and I:

Last month I talked about filling my spare time and getting lots of house jobs done. This month things seem to have slipped a little on the home front because I have agreed to a few too many other things…

My friend, A, and I have been having fairly regular meet ups because she is currently off sick due to pregnancy complications. We decided to do some crafting, mainly for fun but also because it is therapeutic for her. When we were going through the adoption process, she gave birth to the gorgeous Lucas. Very sadly he arrived too soon, at 23 weeks gestation and though he put up a good fight, he only lived for 18 days. As I was off then too, we spent quite a bit of time together and made memory stones for friends and family with Lucas’ name on. The creative task was therapeutic for A and she went on to make Christmas decorations later in the year (I was kind of busy with Little Bear by then).

This year, she suggested we do some Christmas decorations together, over a cup of tea. What started out as a bit of a hobby to help pass the time and get her from one week to the next of her very stressful rainbow pregnancy, has well, grown out of all proportion. Over 200 orders later (generated from one Facebook post) and somehow having agreed to do 2 craft fayres, we both have Christmas decorations coming out of our ears!!

I also went a little blogging crazy during National Adoption Week and wrote a post for each day. I think it must have been first timer’s enthusiasm getting the better of me!

I also finally agreed to have some patterns shaved into the shaved part of my hair by a lady I met in the playground! It sounds foolhardy but it looked much better than it sounds (especially given that I’m not a teenage boy) and my new hairdresser is lovely. There are not many people who would shave patterns into a near strangers head without ever having done it before and without a plan of what it was going to look like. I liked her straight away.

I would sum up my actions in October by saying that I just kept agreeing to things but I’ve found that saying ‘yes’ can lead to some fun and fulfilling places. After years of automatically saying ‘no’, I think I might prefer ‘yes’.

Big Bear’s Mini Projects:

We’re still trucking as and when we can. We (I) have decided that we are going to home make all our Christmas decorations this year so that is mainly what we have been doing for our projects. Big Bear is very taken with the idea of the ones I’m making with A and has made some good attempts at helping me. He has also created some of his own. Here is some of our collection so far:

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I still cannot figure why it keeps putting the image sideways when it’s stored the right way up!! I apologise that you’re having to crick your neck!!

Project Home Improvements:

Nothing was happening and now everything seems to be happening. Isn’t that always the way? We seem to have a builder organised (though he has now been to our neighbour’s house twice in error and I have fears he will extend the wrong property). We don’t really understand what we’re doing with Building Regs but we think we’ve sorted that out (who knows?!) and we’ve had to move a load of big plants from the front garden to the back and cut a raised bed in half (harder than it sounds, it’s made of railway sleepers) to make space for the building work which could be happening imminently. I suspect I will get home one day soon and someone will be digging up my front garden. It is a good job we are used to chaos.

October at Adoption: The Bear Facts

Big Bear’s Mini Projects

When we considered adoption, one of our main priorities was making sure that Big Bear was going to be ok with the whole thing. He had been on his own for 6 years, getting our undivided attention. We knew that getting a brother or sister was going to be a HUGE change for him and as such we would need to ensure that he still felt secure and loved. From the onset we planned to have Special Time with him each day, as well as various other tweaks. We hoped that as he was getting a younger sibling, we would be able to stagger bedtimes and Big Bear would get some quality time once the new arrival was asleep. Luckily this did pan out as planned and Little Bear is frequently asleep before 7pm, sometimes at 6:30pm.

If Grizzly is at work, I settle Little Bear then come down and have Special Time with Big Bear.

Towards the end of last term I began to realise that all we ever did in Special Time was snuggle up on the sofa and watch TV. Whilst this is lovely and something we definitely should do sometimes, I began to think we were slightly missing the point of Special Time. We weren’t chatting and we certainly weren’t doing anything constructive. Somehow, out of that thought, the idea of Big Bear’s Mini Projects was born. Why not try making something or doing a small task together in Special Time instead? Always keen to get Big Bear off his I Pad and doing something more “wholesome” I was getting quite excited about this. I was also keen to use the hundreds of kits, pens, craft items etc. that we had accumulated over time and that neither bear ever chooses to get out when they have the chance (too busy being boisterous).

I floated the idea with Big Bear and he seemed keen. We agreed to do a mini project each night of the summer holidays. I tweeted about it and @NowWeAreSix suggested I do a picture blog about it at the end of the summer. So here we are:

Arts & crafty bits

We have used Blo Pens, stencils, colour changing pens, Spirograph, scratch foil, sequins, mosaics and good old colouring in. We have also discovered Hama beads which we hadn’t tried before (although ours were actually a Matalan version) and found them pretty addictive.

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Lego

Big Bear had his 7th birthday at the start of the holidays and was given a very large Star Wars set. We broke it down into about 6 or 7 mini projects so it kept us busy for about a week in the end! We have also built some of our own designs and Big Bear has got quite into creating flags.

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Kits

We have built cars, a mobile solar system, pom-pom animals, pipe cleaner animals, a wooden aeroplane and tried Origami. It’s hard! We managed some light sabres but need to brave something more complex.

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Miscellaneous

Big Bear helped Grizzly to spray paint his model car and we played the game Minotaurus.

 

 

I’ve had a lovely time doing Big Bear’s Mini Projects and it has definitely felt like a more productive use of Special Time. The fact that we can chat while we’re making/ doing/ creating is a big plus. I think Big Bear likes it too because now he’s back at school he’s still asking to do a project some nights. He’s tired so the TV is creeping back in again but even if we save mini projects for the weekend and holidays it will certainly be better than not doing them at all.

Do you have any suggestions for us?

 

Big Bear’s Mini Projects