Monday, 15 July 2019

Review: 'I, Pod' by Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson

DISCLAIMER: I was sent a copy of this book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Does anyone else find that their eldest children think they're totally capable of caring for their younger siblings despite still being tiny themselves? I remember Girl Child earnestly telling me that she could look after her little brother for me when she was only five! It's a pity we didn't have a copy of 'I, Pod' back then so I could show her how babysitting can go wrong!



'I, Pod' is the third book featuring the caveboy-inventor Pod - I reviewed the second book, the equally cleverly titled 'Game Of Stones', a while ago. This time, Pod is charged with looking after adorable cavebaby Nim. Things don't start out brilliantly when Pod tries to teach Nim to say his name, yielding some very funny results!


Pod decides to use his inventive abilities to make a swing for Nim, which she loves until disaster strikes.


Nim ends up swept down a river with Pod in hot pursuit, meeting lots of scary prehistoric creatures on the way. Parents will enjoy how Nim seems completely unfazed by the danger she's in - we all know babies and small toddlers who are totally fearless! Eventually Pod's pet mammoth saves the day, but will Pod be able to avoid getting into trouble with Nim's mum?

This is a very funny story, bound to be enjoyed by loves of the prehistoric era. It has plenty of action to keep little ones interested and the illustrations are bright, bold and fun. Look out for the little prehistoric bugs in some of the illustrations, great for spotting if your child loves minibeasts too!

Luckily Girl Child knows her capabilities a bit more now so is unlikely to offer to babysit for a while. That said, I wouldn't put it past her to invent some contraption for Preschooler to get into trouble with!

Linking up with 'Read With Me' hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and 'Kids Love To Read' hosted by Laura's Lovely, Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.

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Monday, 1 July 2019

Review: 'The MOOsic Makers' by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos

The list of things I love is a long one but fairly high up on the list you will find cows and puns. So when I received a copy of 'The MOOsic Makers' I was delighted!



Celery and Nutmeg are musical cows who love to entertain Farmer Joni. She enjoys their 'Moo-grass' tunes so much it makes the other animals a bit jealous.



But one day the roof is blown off the barn, and Farmer Joni needs to raise money to replace it. The cows turn to busking but don't get very far until Mr Smarm turns up with promises of riches. There's one hitch - they need to change their entire style to become famous.



Will they change to earn the money they need for the barn roof? Is Mr Smarm to be trusted?

I enjoyed this story - as I said, cows and puns, what's not to love? I was a little worried when Mr Smarm told the cows that Moo-grass music is for boys and they should wear pink dresses, but without wanting to spoil the ending, the cows reject his views and stay true to themselves - and even find a way to include the other animals.

It's a story about using your talents for good whilst not changing to suit others, being wary of strangers and supporting the people who are closest to you. It can be tricky to explain to young children that people don't always have good intentions, so Mr Smarm is an excellent character for introducing this topic. Heather Pindar is great at writing fun, puntastic animal stories and we're big fans of Barbara Bakos's illustrations - her farmyard scenes are always fun to study!

If your little one loves farm animals, music or just a lot of mooing I really recommend this book!

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of the book for the purposes of this review but all words and opinions are my own.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.



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Friday, 28 June 2019

A Collection Of Advice On Toilet Training

Wait until they're ready. But if you leave it too late they'll be resistant to the change. If you wait until they're over three you'll be done in a matter of days. Fifty years ago children were potty trained by eighteen months. It's rare for a child to be truly ready before they're two. In some cultures, potties are used from birth. Don't rush it. But if you leave it too long, you're a lazy parent, got that?

Photo by hermaion from Pexels


Signs of readiness include knowing when they're wet, going more than two hours between wees, seeking privacy and asking to use the potty. Signs of readiness are irrelevant as the biological processes needed to be ready occur between 24 and 30 months. You must start as soon as they're ready - any delay can confuse them. But make sure you can drop everything for at least a week to get them started.

It's best to use a potty so that you can keep one close. It's best to go straight to the toilet so that you don't have to go through a second transition. With boys you should get them comfortable going sat down first. Get them to wee standing up as that makes it easier when you're out and about. Speaking of which, don't go out for the first week if you can help it. But go about your usual routine. Use pull ups when out and about. Don't use pull ups as that will confuse them. But you have to use pull ups at soft play, it's the rules.

Use a reward chart. Don't use rewards as then they will regress when you withdraw the rewards. Make a big deal of them using the potty/toilet, using lots of praise. Praise should not be excessive and should be purely descriptive, e.g. "look, you did a big wee in the potty!" Make sure you take them to the potty every hour to begin with. Don't take them to the potty too often as they will get annoyed and refuse to go.

If they're truly ready they'll get it in less than a week. Once you've started don't stop as that will confuse them. But if it's been a month they're not ready so go back to nappies. Don't go back to nappies, that's signalling that they don't need to use the potty. If they regress it's probably behavioural. If they regress it's probably due to dietary or health issues. If they regress it's because you didn't do it right the first time.

Oh and this last piece of advice is universal: if you're struggling with potty training, be prepared for people telling you their kid trained in a weekend.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Review: 'Can You See Me?' by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott

A little while ago I asked on Twitter for recommendations for middle-grade fiction or chapter books featuring autistic characters. Over a year on from diagnosis Girl Child is still struggling with being different, so I thought books would help her with that. I will eventually write a post about the books I was recommended but there was one I read which really stood out for me.


'Can You See Me?' is a collaboration between author Rebecca Westcott and autistic eleven year old Libby Scott. It tells the story of Tally, an autistic girl starting secondary school and having to deal with changing friendship dynamics, unsympathetic teachers and bullying. Interspersed between the chapters are journal entries written by Scott, from the perspective of Tally, talking about what it's like to be autistic and giving a really powerful insight into common traits such as sensory issues, demand avoidance and meltdowns.

I found the story of Tally really involving and moving, to the point where I really didn't want to put the book down and was on the verge of tears at some points. The story is told with such empathy and clarity that it really helped me to understand better the viewpoint of an autistic child - I definitely have more empathy for Girl Child since reading it. I think it would be a really good read for anyone with a connection to an autistic child, particularly people working in schools because it deals a lot with how challenging school can be for autistic children, and how easily misunderstandings can occur.

Because there are some quite intense bullying scenes in the book I'm not sure about letting Girl Child read it yet, I think she would find it too upsetting and might make her anxious for the future. But I do think it would be a good book for children aged 9 or above, whether they are autistic or not. There are a lot of important messages in the book about acceptance and emotional well-being that are universal, and any book that encourages children to see the world from another perspective is really important.

My only very slight reservation with the book is that there are some parts of the story that felt unresolved - for instance, there is a suggestion at one point that Tally's older sister Nell is also dealing with bullying, but this is not followed up. I'm taking this as a positive though, hoping it means there will be a sequel!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.

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Thursday, 23 May 2019

Review: 'A Day In Nature' by Debbie Powell

I don't want to sound awfully British, but haven't we been having lovely weather?! I love spring - the new flowers, blossom in the trees and new life all around. With summer just around the corner I'm starting the think about how we can enjoy the outdoors more. A couple of years ago we did 30 Days Wild but I sometimes found it hard to fit in an act of wildness every day, especially on rainy days.

A few weeks ago we won a new book through Toppsta that I think will help with this. 'A Day In Nature' by Debbie Powell is a collaboration with RSPB which promises '101 Activities Inspired by the Outdoors'. I was expecting a book all about pond dipping and making corn dollies, a bit like '101 Fun Outdoor Activities For Children'. Actually this book is very different but no less inspiring.



What I love about this book is the mix of different activities. Yes, there are some which are intended to be done outdoors, but these are interspersed with mazes, colouring pages, drawing and writing prompts and various activities that can be done in the comfort of your own home. So even on a rainy day your little one can be thinking about nature.



The activities that do involve actually venturing outdoors are so simple they can easily be worked into a short walk in the woods, requiring little or no equipment or planning. In this sense it's a great book for various ages, from very little children who might struggle with complicated crafts to older children who might consider crafting a bit 'uncool'. Some activities are simply about identifying different flowers or noticing what you see around you, while others are a little more on the crafty side.



The illustrations are absolutely beautiful as well, bold, colourful and really evocative of the natural world. For this reason some of my favourite activities are the cut-out ones because they allow you to create really beautiful objects. Girl Child really enjoyed making this lovely basket.



I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to get their little ones interested in nature but doesn't necessarily have a lot of time outdoors, it really cleverly gets you thinking about flora and fauna without even having to step outside.


This book was won in a Toppsta giveaway and not given in exchange for a review on this blog, I have reviewed it out of love!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.
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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

We Need A Better Word For Tantrums - But Meltdown Isn't It

Tantrum. Strop. Paddy. Those are horrible words aren't they?

Image courtesy of Pexels


When we use these words the predominant mental image is of a ‘naughty’ child using tears, screams and stomps to get what they want. Of course, when you take a more gentle approach to parenting you realise this isn't the case - or at least, it's not that simple. Yes, the child may be crying because they didn't get what they wanted (and if their tears do produce the desired outcome they may come to rely on that option to ‘solve the problem’) but really all they're doing is expressing their frustration in exactly the way anyone would if they had limited communication skills, only the beginnings of emotional intelligence and no appreciation of social norms around not screaming on the floor.

The thing is, I've noticed that to avoid the negative connotations of the word ‘tantrum’, many people replace it with the word ‘meltdown’. And that's problematic.

I was one of those parents. I referred to every emotional outburst Girl Child had as a meltdown. But then we started to talk about the possibility that she's autistic and, as any bookish parent would, I went away and researched what that meant. It turned out that I wasn't far off the mark because a lot of her outbursts *were* meltdowns, but still, not all of them were. Some were just her way of expressing her anger or frustration with the limited emotional restraint and social skills she has.

Because a meltdown is something more. A meltdown is when the sensory and/or emotional conditions a child (or adult) is faced with overwhelm them and they lose control, mentally and often physically. They may fall to the floor (and not in the more controlled way a 'tantrumming’ child would) or lash out, or they may curl up and retreat. They can scream, but not be able to use many (or any) words. It can take them a long time to recover - an hour or more for very severe meltdowns.

This is a very different situation to child shouting and stamping because they're cross. You can often distract a cross child with a cuddle or an offer of a fun alternative to whatever they want. It is very hard to distract a child in meltdown - although some children may have particular ‘tools’ that help them to regain control, like fidget toys, snacks, a book or a comfort object. But in some cases, you just have to ride the wave.

Meltdowns are not unique to autistic people, but they are much more common in autistic people. Also, tantrums aren't just a ‘neurotypical’ thing - autistic children can just get frustrated without tipping over into meltdown, and some may experiment with pushing boundaries to see if a tantrum will make us relent, especially if that has worked in the past.

It's hard to see the line, but the line is there. Raising a toddler/preschooler at the same time as learning more about Girl Child's condition has taught me that. Preschooler might prostrate himself and cry if I say no to a biscuit, but if I give him a hug he will eventually calm down. If Girl Child is having a meltdown, she will not accept a hug and will not calm down until either the sensory situation has changed or she's exhausted.

Of course, if we as a society could shift our view of children enough to stop seeing a child expressing their feelings as spoilt or manipulative, then that would solve the semantic issue here. But I don't see that happening any time soon. And so lumping tantrums and meltdowns together just means that children (often very vulnerable ones with additional needs) get the same negative attention.

How do we fix this problem of language? I honestly don't know. I try where I can to refer to the feelings being experienced rather than the behaviour - i.e. “he's upset that his tablet time is over” instead of “he's having a tantrum because his tablet time is over.” Maybe if we talked more about managing big feelings instead of managing tantrums that would be helpful in shifting our perspective from dealing with a difficult child to helping a child finding things difficult?

I don't have the answers. But please, can we stop diminishing meltdowns by likening them to the normal expressions of hurt or frustration that every small child has as they work out how to handle life? Thanks.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Review: Maverick Early Readers

Are your kids in the 'book band' stage of childhood? Boy, was I glad when that stage ended with Girl Child. As much as I have a fondness for Biff, Chip and Kipper I think we can all agree that early reader books aren't always the most inspiring children's literature you'll ever read. It's understandable really, I imagine to qualify for a particular book band the author has to work to fairly rigid rules which isn't exactly conducive to creativity.

However, I recently received a set of 10 early reader books from Maverick Children's Books and was pleasantly surprised by them. Unlike many of the offerings that have come home via a book bag in the last three years, these stories are funny, quirky and a joy to behold.



What struck me immediately about these books, which cover book bands purple, white and gold, was the variety of themes contained within them. A lot of early reader sets follow the same characters or fit into a similar genre. However, in this set the books are all self-contained and cover different topics and genres, from a ballet story to detective fiction and several funny stories too. Each book is like a taster of a different genre, which is great for discovering what your little one is into.

I won't go through every book as that would make for a very long post, but I think my favourite one is 'The Time Train'. I love a bit of time travel and thought this story was really clever, exploring different eras in a humorous way. I also enjoyed the reinvention of the Cinderella story in 'The Coach, The Shoes and The Football' and the funny antics of the 'Chicken Knitters'.

All of the books include the bright, bold and witty illustrations that are a hallmark of Maverick's style, and that complement each story beautifully. Obviously the illustrations are smaller and therefore simpler than in picture books but they are still packed with character and detail to keep the reader interested and engaged with the story.

Despite having moved on from reading schemes a few months ago Girl Child was still happy to read through these books which surprised me as she's usually quite resistant to reading anything she thinks she's too old for. We even had to tell her to stop reading them because it was mealtime!! It'll be a while before Preschooler is ready for these obviously but I'm definitely going to put them away for when he's older to liven his reading material up!

DISCLAIMER: I was provided with these books by the publisher for this review but my words and opinions are all my own.

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog, Acorn Books and BookBairn.


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