Wednesday, 31 May 2017

'Zoe and Beans: Look At Me!' by Chloe and Mick Inkpen

Last week when I took Toddler to the library he started happily pulling books out of the boxes, and one of the books was very familiar. I'd borrowed it when Girl Child was a toddler and really liked it, so I thought I'd introduce Toddler to it.

I've mentioned this book before in passing, both on this blog and in my guest post for Let Them Be Small, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about why I love it so much.

Firstly, it features a boy-girl friendship. Admittedly this seems more common in picture books than in books aimed at older kids, but still it's refreshing to see a book which represents both genders and shows them engaged in the same activity. The story is all about Zoe and her friend Oscar dressing up as different things, and it's all fairly non-gendered. Zoe doesn't dress up as a princess or similar 'girly' character, and they both dress up as pirates and 'action'-style characters.

I also love the inventiveness of their dressing up. In fact, I used it as an example for Girl Child that she doesn't have to have an exact costume to dress up as something - a pan can be a helmet, a rubber duck can be a parrot. In this 'buy buy buy' culture where so many kids have an array of ready-made costumes, it's endearing to see a story about kids using their imagination and ingenuity.

I absolutely love the ending. Having exhausted their options, even using the dressing up box itself as a costume, they decide to dress as each other. This shouldn't be a bold move, but it is. There is still a stigma around boys dressing up as girls in particular, so seeing the kids happily playing as each other feels like a statement. And what an awesome statement to make - kids can dress how they want and be who they want!

And what does Toddler make of it? It's not quite as 'active' as some of the stories he's used to, but he still really enjoys looking at the pictures, and the onomatopoeic parts of the text really appeal to him. I might read it to him again when he's old enough to understand what's going on - but then he sees his sister dressing up loads so perhaps he understands more than I'm giving him credit for!

I really love the Zoe and Beans series, especially how the illustrations combine Mick Inkpen's familiar style with Chloe's quirkiness, and the playful nature of the stories. I'm looking forward to re-reading them as Toddler grows up.

I'm linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.

Read With Me

Friday, 19 May 2017

Fighting the Clutter and Simplifying Play

I've never been the tidiest person, but recently the amount of mess in my house has been getting me down. I was getting dragged into a 'my house isn't big enough' mentality, feeling sorry for myself, when actually the real issue is that we have too much stuff.

The amount of toys our kids have has been an issue for a while - even when Girl Child was a toddler, we already felt like we were drowning in toys. So of course now we have two, it's almost impossible to keep up with the sheer amount of stuff they have.

The thing is, they hardly play with it. Especially Girl Child. Whenever she complains about being bored I'll reel off a list of all the things she could do, but of course she's not interested. And Toddler will happily drag all his toys out of his box then proceed to play with the nearest non-toy item (preferably a dangerous one). I honestly think that the more toys a child has, the more overwhelming they find the choice and the less likely they are to play.

Alas, I think it is too late to get Girl Child on board with the 'less is more' message. But Toddler, being unable to speak and having a shorter attention span, can be merrily forced to go along with this as long as he doesn't see me getting rid of his stuff.

So, one nap time, I emptied out all his toys on the floor.

Yeah. What a mess, eh? No wonder it took me so long to tidy every evening, and no wonder he didn't seem to play with anything - there's just too much going on. So I set to work sorting through the mess.

I piled up all the cuddly toys - he hardly plays with these at the moment so I selected just one for him to keep, a little jingly Peter Rabbit toy. I fished out anything that wasn't actually his, as Girl Child's stuff had snuck in a little. I chucked away one particularly battered toy that we'd had since Girl Child was a toddler and was past it's best. I found all the teethers and put them to one side to wash. And I weeded out any toys that I thought he was a bit big for.

I ended up with this.

These are the toys that he will actually play with: a bead maze, his toy kitchen and play food, a shape-sorting bus, two push-along vehicles, a shaker, stacking blocks, soft blocks, a jingly ball and the aforementioned Peter Rabbit toy.

Most of the rest has been shoved in a bag for now and when we get chance we'll go through it and decide what to keep for when he's older and what can go to charity. The teethers are still awaiting cleaning, and will be kept somewhere safe so they can actually be used for their purpose rather than as toys.

I did this three days ago, and he doesn't seem to have noticed the sudden lack of stuff. But he does seem to be taking more interest in his remaining toys now he can find them more easily. And it's quicker to tidy everything away at the end of the day. Win win!

Have you found that less is more when it comes to toys? How many toys do you think your child 'needs'?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

'Rhyming Stories: Pip the Dog and Freddy the Frog' by Axel Scheffler

Another bookish post for you this week. In my mission to get Toddler reading books instead of ruining them, I've started getting down to the library more regularly. Last week we picked up this lovely book:

I love Axel Scheffler's illustrations - well, who doesn't? - and I really enjoy reading rhyming text so this is right up my street. It's also a really good choice for Toddler as the two short stories aren't too overwhelming for him - much as I adore them, he's not ready for the Donaldson/Scheffler stories yet.

Toddler's favourite of the two stories is Pip the Dog. Mainly because he thinks it's funny when I bark like a dog!

I'm happy to make silly noises in stories if it gets the kids engaged, and there are plenty of opportunities to practise my dog impression in this story. I'm still working on the difference between a happy woof and a sad woof, but I don't suppose Toddler's that bothered!

He seems less keen on Freddy the Frog - obviously my croaks aren't as funny as my barks - but it's still a sweet little story. There's no real plot to either story but then little toddlers aren't going to follow one anyway, so it's nice to just enjoy the rhymes and descriptions at this age.

Freddy the Frog is a good one to read with your little one on your knee, as then you can bounce them up and down to join in with the race! As I mentioned in my last post, I'm on the lookout for books that you can do actions to, so this is another fun one!

We've both really enjoyed this book - it's colourful, cheerful and gives opportunities for giggles with funny noises and bouncing about. I spotted another 'Rhyming Stories' book while at the library so think I'll be picking that up next week!

Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Love To Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.

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Laura's Lovely Blog

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

'Clip Clop!' by Nicola Smee

I haven't done a post about what we're reading recently. Girl Child is now a very independent reader (and reads the same books over and over) so I don't have much to say about her reading habits these days. And Toddler is in full-on book devastation mode so I'm ashamed to say I haven't been reading much with him.

Except for one book.

As you can see, this book hasn't escaped his destructive powers entirely, but a slightly bent and nibbled front page is nothing compared to some of the havoc he's wreaked. (I've even had to throw books away - sob!) I think he's sparing this book because he loves it so much!

It's a really simple, short story, perfect for older babies and younger toddlers.

This book is absolutely made for bouncing a baby along to. Every parent has played horsey one time or another, and this story gives you lots of opportunity to make your little one giggle.

The rhythm of the text encourages you speed up your bouncing until ...

This is Toddler's favourite page - I lean back for the HALT and forward for the fly and his face lights up every time!

I love the playful ending - anticipating the child asking for another read of it! Although Toddler is too young to say 'again' himself, he will often turn back to the first page, indicating he wants another 'ride'. It's so short and fun I'm more than happy to do a repeat reading.

I'm now on the lookout for more books that encourage actions - any ideas?

I'm linking up with Read With Me hosted by Mama Mummy Mum.