Friday, 26 April 2013

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud has moved!!

Hi there and thanks for visiting my blog. 

I've now moved over to a my own website 

Please pop over and say hi. I would be great to see you there!

Thanks again for visiting

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Our Very Hungry Caterpillars - Part I

Earlier this week our Painted Lady caterpillars arrived from Insect Lore Europe. I’ve been so excited about them arriving! In our house we love The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and I thought it would be a lovely idea to expand on the theme and grow our own caterpillars.

With our little man being only One I wasn’t sure how much he would get out of it but as soon as he saw the caterpillars he was watching them with awe. I love seeing his face when he sees something for the first time. It makes you stop and watch the world through his eyes, as if you are seeing it for the first time too. It makes it all magical!

The caterpillars are a great opportunity for him to gain a valuable first hand experience of nature and although he might not understand the whole life cycle process yet, he will still get the opportunity to watch the caterpillars grow nice and fat and become butterflies, just like the Very Hungry Caterpillar does in the book. I'm really looking forward to seeing his little face when we release the butterflies.

This week we were also lucky enough to win a £100 National Garden Gift Voucher from netmums for a photo I entered into one of their competitions. (winning pic below). So running with the caterpillar theme I’ve decided to spend it on improving our garden for butterflies. That way we can hunt for wild caterpillars and butterflies too. I can't wait!!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Our Weekend Outdoors

Practicing my walking ready for the real thing

Watering the plants for Mummy

Practicing my fine motor skills


All in a weekends work, topped off by learning to walk all on my own. 
There's no stopping me now!!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Dirty Ditches and Puddle Play

Yesterday morning we had a lovely time at an indoor play centre, Pickles Playhouse, with some very good friends. 
After a lovely morning indoors and with such mild weather outdoors I decided to dedicate the afternoon to some outdoor play. So we donned our waterproofs and wellies and headed outside.

Little Man isn't walking on his own yet but he does love to walk about with my support. I simply let him steer me in the direction he wants to go. First on his agenda was the swing, he headed straight for it and asked to get in. He has always loved the swing and I love to hear his giggles as I push him high. Eventually, he wanted to get down for more adventures.
I am a big believer in self directed play, particularly in the early years. I think it is vital for building confidence, developing imagination and allowing children to process the world in a way that makes sense for them. So with this in mind I allowed Little Man to decide where we were headed next. 
He knew exactly where he was headed, to the ditch that runs along the front of our house! I have no idea why he decided this was the place to go but he did and he was adamant we should get in. We stood at the edge of the bank and he repeatedly attempted to get me to walk him down into the water. This ditch is currently very deep and not the cleanest of ditches so needless to say I tried several distraction methods and tried to convince him that there were far more exciting places to go. In the end I had to carry him kicking and screaming all the way back to the swing. He immediately started to head me back in the direction of the ditch! Thankfully though he was distracted by a lovely puddle at the end of our drive.

He spent ages sat beside the puddle experimenting with throwing, placing and dropping stones into the puddle and watching the ripples on the water. It was fascinating to watch, I love watching the little cogs turning in his brain as he processes the information he is taking in. If the reality of life hadn't set in and I hadn't realised how close it was to his tea time, I would have sat there all day watching him and letting him discover the world. However, I knew he would be hungry soon and that I needed to be Mum and make sure he was well fed. Unfortunately at one, Little Man doesn’t yet understand the concept of time and we were in for another tantrum. This one didn't last long though (they rarely do at the moment) because as soon as we were indoors and washing our hands there was too much fun to be had with soapy hot water and thoughts of the puddle and all those stones soon slipped from his mind.

I’d love to hear about your latest outdoor adventures. Have they involved tantrums? Or have your little ones been completely absorbed by an outdoor activity that you haven’t wanted to interrupt them? 

*Please also check out this week's Nature Table at The Magic Onions for some more Nature inspired fun

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Why Getting Outside Whatever the Weather is Important

As you might have guessed I am an advocate for getting out whatever the weather. Come rain, snow or sun we spend time outdoors, even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time. With a tiny baby or pre-walking toddler getting outdoors in horrible weather can be daunting and as with any young child it can take half an hour just to get out the door what with all the wrapping up warm and refusals to get dressed! However, every time I struggle with the motivation to get up and get out I think of the positive benefits it has for my little one’s development.

Probably one of the most obvious benefits of getting outdoors is how the outdoor environment can benefit children’s motor skills. By letting our children play with sticks and stones we are supporting their fine motor skills, these involve the small muscles in the body that allow us to do things like use a pencil, pick up our food and do our buttons up. Allowing our children to walk and crawl across different terrains, climb and roll down hills and splash in puddles supports the development of their gross motor skills; these are the bigger movements children make like sitting and standing up and learning to walk. They involve balance and movement control.

Moving Smart is a great blog to follow if you want to learn more about the importance of movement in childhood

The outdoors can also support the non-physical skills that children need like self awareness. It can help them learn about being individuals and that feelings like being cold or wet are individual experiences. From this comes the ability to understand how to make themselves feel more comfortable, for example, if it’s raining I’ll put on my rain coat which will keep me warm and dry. For children who are talking it can be useful to have a conversation about how being out in different weathers makes them feel, not just physically but emotionally too. Did being out in the sunshine make them feel happy? Did the rain make them grumpy?

Playing outdoors can be great for building their self confidence too. Joining in when they discover something new and encouraging their independence can be a real boost for them. Climbing a tree for the first time, discovering a bug or simply finding THE best stick ever can do wonders for making children feel good about themselves.

Just being outdoors and experiencing the wind in your hair, the rain on your face or the freeze of ice on your fingers is an amazing sensory experience. Feeling, smelling, tasting, seeing and hearing the outdoors helps children make sense of the world. Even tiny babies stop still when they feel the wind on their face. My little boy used to gulp as if he was trying to take in as much of the wind as he could. He is one now and loves to put his face into the wind and feel it breeze over his cheeks and through his hair. You can see the amazement on his face as he stops and sits on the lawn listening to all the birds that I tell him are singing for him. He will quite often just stop still and take everything in; you can see all the little cogs turning as he processes all the information.

The great thing about being outdoors is it’s all there for you. The wind, the rain and the snow. The grass, the sand and the mud. The sticks, the stones and the flowers. It’s all there ready for your little one to explore and take it all in. So next time you think about staying tucked under the blanket with the little ones crawling about think about the amazing world there is to discover and how much your little one will learn.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

My One Year Old's Top 5 Reads and how to take them Outdoors

This is a book list with a difference, in that my one year old chose the books.
Ok, so as grown ups we have provided his book collection and ultimately chosen what goes into it but this list is based on the books he likes best. The ones he goes to on a regular basis and plays with, turns the pages, presses the buttons and generally interacts with.
I've also popped in some tips on how to take these books outdoors and use them to connect with nature, because ultimately that's what this blog is all about.
1.  My Quiet Book

This book is just beautiful. Little man's Aunty Ni Ni bought this for him and it is an absolute keepsake. He loves feeling all the different textures, pulling at all the attachements and turning the lovely thick fabric pages. He even cuddles the book and uses it as a pillow.

Tips for connecting it to nature and the outdoors

This book has some lovely illustrations about mums and babies which would be great for use in the spring time when visiting the local farm (although even I wouldn't want to get this book muddy!!)
The seasons illustration is a brilliant starting point for going out and finding signs of the seasons, collecting them where possible and even using them to make your own seasons diagram.



2. In the Night Garden: Happy Friends

 My son absolutely loves this book. He enjoys the bright colours, pointing at the things he find interesting and most of all turning the pages. The shape of the pages and the fact that this is a board book makes it really easy for him to use. I'll often find him flicking through it mumbling to himself and pointing to things as if he is reading it. 

Tips for connecting it to nature and the outdoors

One of the themes of this book is making music so pick up all those noisy toys you've got and take them outdoors, then try and replicate the sounds you can hear in nature. Alternatively, you can find natural things to make music with, such as tapping twigs on trees, rustling leaves or clicking two stones together to sound like a Wren.
In this story one of the characters, Makka Pakka, enjoys washing stones. Why not collect some stones and use them in water play? Experiment with which ones make the biggest splash, or simply enjoy seeing them change colour as they get wet.

  3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

 Who doesn't love this book? Our little one loves it so much we used it to theme his 1st birthday party, something which it lends itself to really well. When he was tiny and we were still in hospital with him he used to love the pages with the sun and the butterfly, he would stare at them for ages. Now he's a bit bigger he loves poking his fingers through the holes and because this is another board book it is really easy for him to turn the pages.

Tips for connecting it to nature and the outdoors

If not this year, then definately next year, I am going to buy some caterpillars and home grow them so that we can release the butterflies in our garden. You can buy kits on the net and it's something kids love. It provides a real hands on experience and gives kids a close up view of the caterpillar/butterfly lifecycle. It's a lovely project for spring and summer.
Another activity is the much loved minibeast hunting. Get out into the garden with a clear pot and a soft paintbrush and see what you can find. Whatever the weather there will be something out there, from slugs to beetles and the younger the kids are the less fear they seem to have. My little monster will quite happily sit mesmorised while a spider crawls across his hand.

4. Wish Upon a Star (Night Light Books)

This is a lovely bedtime story where the little bear goes hunting for a star. He can't reach one so goes home feeling rather sad until his Dad comes to the rescue. He has found him one and put it in his bedroom for him. Our little man loves to press the star and hear the song while we read it to him. This is another book with really easily turnable pages, which is something my little muchkin loves to do.

Tips for connecting it to nature and the outdoors

This book provides the perfect opportunity for Dad to get out there and go star hunting with the kids. If they are slightly older get them out at night and do some stargazing, grab some binoculars and see what you can spot up in the sky. There are some great phone apps which tell you what stars and planets you are looking at. During the day get them to try and touch the sky using a stick, experimenting with different heights. You could use hills, climb trees or the local park climbing frame to gain height.
You could also go looking for star shaped flowers, grasses and leaves or go to the beach and see if you can find some starfish (not to take home of course!) Another book with a similar storyline, which I would highly recommend is 'How to Catch a Star' by Oliver Jeffers. It doesn't have the same interactive elements as this book but the story is lovely and it will quickly become a favourite.

5. Dear Zoo

I think of all the books this has to be my little boy's favourite. You can get this book in lots of different versions but this one has the noisy buttons which make the sounds of each of the animals. He loves to lift the flaps and hear the animals make the noises at him. He giggles at the monkey sound, likes to try and copy the snake's hissing and the elephant always makes him jump. We have a couple of the 'noisy button' books as we call them and they are always popular.

 Tips for connecting it to nature and the outdoors

Go to the Zoo!! See the animals close up. Make the noises together and do the actions. Kids love to pretend and this gives them the perfect excuse to act like monkeys!

I hope you found this list useful. I'd love to hear what your kids favourite books are and what activities you have done that link with the book. I'm looking forward to trying some out some of your ideas

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

What is it with Boys and Sticks?

This weekend we went to the woods and as our little one is getting bigger he is getting more and more interactive with his surroundings. This time he did the typical boy thing and played with sticks, he scratched in the mud, banged them against stuff to make noises, tried to eat them and just plain enjoyed carrying them around with him.

So what is it with boys and sticks? I've worked with early years outdoors for a few years now and one thing I have noticed is that although girls do also enjoy mucking around with sticks, it's the boys who really use them to their full potential. I can see the attraction, a stick has a multitude of uses, they can be wands, walking sticks, drumsticks and swords, I've even seen them used as warning triangles!! They can be collected, compared and treasured and they often are. My little boy kept hold of one particular stick all the way back to the car and only gave it up to have a sleep. 

So is this just a boy thing? Has anyone else noticed that boys have more of a tendency to play with sticks than girls? Or do you have a little girl that gets just as much enjoyment from sticks? I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Little Man's First Shoes

If I had it my way my little boy would be barefoot as much as possible. I think it’s important for a baby’s development to experience the world through as many senses as possible and our feet provide fantastic opportunities for this. There is nothing better than feeling sand, mud or grass in between your toes. For me it creates a real connection with the world around me, something tangible that roots me to the moment. However, we have to be practical and with Spring refusing to make an entrance this year, it’s too cold outside to let my little one run around with nothing on his feet.

So this weekend we made our first trip to Clarks and bought our little man his first pair of shoes. They are called cruisers because they are designed for babies at the pre-walking stage. They are made of lovely soft leather and the idea is that they are soft enough to mould to my little one's feet and allow them to develop unrestricted. They are super cute and although I expect he will grow out of them in less than 6 weeks, they will allow the little monster to explore the outdoors in the upright position he is choosing to be in more and more. I do have to admit that for those lovely muddy moments we have already bought him some wellies but we’ll use the shoes for those less messy moments and allow his feet a little more comfort. 

Bring on the sunshine so we can all get barefoot and feel the grass and mud in between our toes again!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Is a love of nature inherent?

Ok, so this is my first blog. Scary, huh! Well it is for me so here goes….

When I had my little boy last February I was love struck, as most Mums are. However, the little man was poorly and we had to stay in hospital for 8 days while he had antibiotics and got better.
Finally, we were let out into the freezing cold snow and ice and sent home. One thing that struck me about those early days was how my little boy loved to be outdoors, even when it was cold and especially when it was windy. He loved to feel the wind on his face and take in all the elements as if he was a little sponge. Sometimes when he was crying and nothing else would settle him, a walk round the garden would do the trick, whatever the weather. It was as if his connection with the outdoors was innate, something he needed and wanted instinctively. It surprised me!

I was discussing this with a friend the other day, saying that I thought that a connection to nature and the outdoors was something built into us, something we are born with but something we lose as we get older through our constantly evolving indoor and virtual environments. She then reminded me of how much I was outdoors while I was pregnant. Whilst pregnant I completed my Forest Schools Level 3 Assessment, bushcraft training, practiced fire lighting and den building with my friends and colleagues and through my job as an environmental educator was outside showing kids the natural world on a regular basis.
Has all this had an impact on my little boy? Or has he picked up that I like being outdoors and therefore feels safe there? Or is a connectedness to nature innate, as I first thought? 

What do you guys think? I’d love to know if you have had a similar/different experience with your little one
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