Britax Kidfix SICT in carA guest post by the lovely people at Britax who want you to be safe on the roads this Christmas.

Travelling in the car over the Christmas holiday period to visit friends and family can be unpredictable.  The weather may be rubbish, traffic can be heavier and the darker mornings and early nights can make driving a little trickier.  Safety is important in the cold winter months and travelling on long journeys with children you also have to think about how to keep them amused, how to stop sibling fights and what to do when you hear ‘MUMMY I need a wee wee’ or ‘MUMMY I feel sick…’ Britax has developed some ‘Top Tips’ to make sure your Christmas journey is a little more stress free…

Getting your family ready

  • Make sure your car seats are fitted correctly so that your children will be as safe and comfortable as possible.  Check that the harness and headrest is at the right height for your child.  Visit www.britax.co.uk to see how.
  • Pack the car the night before so in the morning you just have to pop in the kids, the change bag and the favourite teddy bears.
  • Make sure you have extra drinks for the children and a flask of hot coffee / tea for unexpected delays.
  • Make sure your mobile is fully charged.
  • Have an empty plastic bag to store rubbish – think banana skins, chocolate wrappers, used baby wipes.  Also handy if there is an unexpected bout of travel sickness.
  • Best in-car munchies? Dried fruit, cheese sticks and the more chewy, less crumbly of the cereal bars.
  • Make sure you have a good collection of DVD’s that suit all the children for when they are allowed screen time!
  • If you have boys, make sure you have a couple of empty bottles if they need an emergency wee!
  • Have plenty of baby wipes for in-car nappy changes, dirty hands and chocolate faces.
  • Store a few surprises in the front seat for those un-timely fractious moments, such as pens and papers for extra games, some interactive books and a couple of little animal toys.
  • Try and plan your driving time around sleep times.  Sometimes letting the little ones run wild all morning lends itself to a more relaxed afternoon drive. Travelling at night may be preferable so they all sleep – although you need to make sure you aren’t too tired and settling a little one into a new environment late at night can sometimes be a bit testing.
  • Divide and conquer.  Keep as much space as possible between siblings in the back – the closer they are, the feistier they can get. Try a physical boundary like a pillow between them.
  • Pack some blankets and have hats and gloves ready should you need them at a moments notice.

Plan your route

  • If going on a journey that is likely to last longer than two hours, make sure you plan a stop as newborn babies should not be in car seats for longer than two hours at any one time.
  • Check online before you set off for any major delays or accidents and have in mind key service stations to stop at. Moto service stations have Baby Feeding Stations with free Organix babyfood, bowls, spoons, steribottles, nappies, bibs and wipes, plus high chairs.
  • Check out play facilities at www.motorwayservices.info where Britain’s service stations are reviewed and rated.  When you stop, try to allow enough time for your toddler or older child to have a run around before herding them back into the car. Having the chance to burn off steam helps to minimise squabbling and boisterousness when you set off again.

Britax Kidfix SICT in car

Getting your car ready

  • It is always important that your car is ready to hit the road when travelling in cold conditions.  Make sure you have an ice scraper or de-icer, some extra windscreen washer fluid and plenty of fuel in the car!  There is nothing worse than stopping 10 minutes into your journey with children to fill the car up, especially if you are travelling at night.  Give your car a small maintenance check, looking at tyre pressure, windscreen washer fluid, water and oil levels.  Make sure these are all topped up before you start your journey.
  • For more information on making sure your car is fit for the road and what to do if you breakdown on the motorway, visit: http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/breakdown_advice/general.html

Whilst on the move

  • It is no myth, when children hit a certain age, rather than simply cry, they constantly moan ‘are we nearly there yet?’  Keep a mental note of some good ‘in car’ games to while away the boredom that always hits on long car journeys.  A few of BRITAX’s favourite ones are;
  • Chocolate or cheese:  Each person takes turns to ask the question “If you had to choose between the following, which one would you choose?” For example, chocolate or cheese, or perhaps being able to fly or become invisible!
  • Granny’s Knickers:  Everyone asks one person a question to which they have to respond with the answer “Granny’s Knickers” regardless of the question, without giggling! (For example “What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour?”)
  • Guess the Animal: Someone thinks of an animal, others ask questions about that animal – can it fly? is it wild? To which the person can only answer yes or no. Or the person describes the animal and everyone else has to guess what it is.
  • The Yes or No Game: You ask one person questions to which they can answer anything except yes or no. If they say yes or no they are out and it’s someone else’s turn. (What’s your name? Anna. Are you sure?)
  • Rhyming game – start with a word (i.e. cat, love, chair) and see how many rhyming words they can come up with.

I feel sick….’ Whose heart doesn’t sink when their child utters those three little words? Especially when there’s no chance of stopping. Nausea is triggered by conflicting information being sent to the brain – i.e. while the inner ear detects lots of swishy motion, the eyes don’t. That’s why it helps to look out, especially at the horizon, or at least something in the far distance – rather than at a book.  Breathing slowly and deeply can help too, and opening a window might buy you enough time to pull over safely. If the worst happens, stop when it’s safe so your child can stretch their legs and rehydrate with sips of water.

and when you get there….

Just when you thought it was all over… Do remember that the children will probably fall out of the car when you arrive, either full of energy, sugar and thoroughly over excited, or groggy, car sick and nervous. Either way, plan for some transitional activity – whether that’s running up and down stairs or sitting quietly in the corner reading a book.

HAPPY DRIVING! AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

britax mumbassador

Now the girls are happily settled into school and I have all this time on my hands, often throughout the day my thoughts drift to wondering what are they doing?

I can’t hide that I have been just as excited as them this past month. I think starting school is an enormous step in their lives, a step when they begin to construct their own world outside of the home. They will choose their own friends, start making their own decisions and learn lots of wonderful things every day.

On asking my children after school ‘What did you do today?’ I repeatedly hear ‘I can’t remember.’ So when our school held an Open Classroom a couple of weeks ago it was the perfect opportunity to stalk my own kids and find out what they’d been doing with their time.

self portraits - Alice and Bessie aged 4

Just so you know who we are talking about, here are the two protagonists of today’s post as seen by themselves, pictures I will never tire of seeing  – can’t wait to see how they do mum!

Mrs T (for teacher) explained that a lot of their time is play time, most of the learning activities are centered around games and we have a fabulous outdoor area which is also covered so much of their time is spent outdoors in the fresh air.

Inside classwork will take the form of colouring, painting, cutting and a lot of creativity so children enjoy whilst they’re learning.

Me, Myself and I

Term 1 has been focused on Myself, this has included parts of the body. Bessie showed me her fist one evening and very proudly informed me

‘These are knuckles mummy.’

Myself has also included lots of work on how we are feeling and this also has brought home some interesting conversation, like when I called the girls upstairs for a bath one evening and heard Alice in her best moany voice (as she didn’t want to be dragged away from CBeeBies)

‘Mummy, you’re hurting my feelings.’

children's art work 'our bodies' reception class

Of course school wouldn’t be school if we didn’t spend time learning our alphabet and our numbers and here are the first signs of writing the satpin letters.

cursive writing in reception class

I think t for teeth has to be my favourite

Numbers play a good part and I discovered they use number lines, basically a strip of teddy bears or another object, each with a number on a laminated strip starting with 0 and ending with 10. The children are taught to use two fingers so they place the left hand finger on number 1 for example and add two (count two spaces) with the right finger. This introduces adding and further down the line taking away in a simple method that sticks.

Myself has also been recently extended to family and below is Bessie’s work as she portrays her sister on a stone. I love it and find it even more endearing as Alice was off sick whilst this task was being done.

sister

Last night’s first ever parent’s evening was fabulous, a ten minute chat about each child where I was told they had both settled in well, that after an initial separation anxiety when groups went off to do separate work (The girls have been split into different groups and it’s more Alice than Bessie who struggled with her sister leaving the classroom) they can now work very well individually. They are happy girls always smiling and although their personal organisation needs working on said Mrs T, they are very good and fun to work with.

I will take the blame for the personal organisation as hopefully other twin mum’s will, but when you’ve got two to prepare and get out of the house it’s so much easier to do everything for them rather than wait for them to do it. I’ll have to hold back and let them get on with it from now

Half Term homework

  • Practise using scissors as they’re not very good
  • Practise drawing lines (I have a roll of very long paper and we’re going to draw roads for the cars)
  • Practise shapes as Alice loves them
  • Reading, counting and letter writing

IF they will do it with me because one thing I have noticed is they will do anything Mrs T sets them but when I, at home suggest letters or numbers I am greeted with groans and moans, maybe it’s my teaching technique?

number puppy 6I must admit to great excitement in the house when it is our turn to have a number puppy for the night.

Today’s post is based on Number puppy 6, a puppy with a penchant for the number 6, the colour purple and the hexagon shape. Number puppy 6 is one of ten puppies who will travel around the class visiting our homes throughout the course of reception year. Friendly fellows who come in their own special bag containing a story book and an exercise book.

Children run out of class at 3pm smiling gleefully if they are one of the lucky chosen 10 and their parents have that smile-on-the-face-dread-in-the-heart expression as they wonder how they’re going to fit that too into the evening routine. You can see them mentally judging time routines and hoping the puppies’ shape is one easily found in the house.

It can also become a means of competition amongst the mummies – who produces the best homework :)

THAT is all I need right now so I plod on and try my best to keep it simple and achievable leaving the bigger and best to the others.

So purple loving Number Puppy 6 who is in fact pink, a beautiful shocking pink at that, loves the shape hexagon (How many sides does that one have?) Thank goodness the puppy is kind enough to remind us mummies it’s 6 – yep Number Puppy 6, there was a clue in his name.

Hexagon?

Number Puppy 6 has already visited two homes from the class, lucky Emily used 50 pence pieces – her mummy’s not silly and Liam’s scooter had a hexagon light on the front so we had to dig deeper.

number puppy 6

The biscuit cutter box came up trumps with two hexagon shaped cutters – one per twin because even if it is officially Bessie’s number puppy Alice still has a go too. So we drew round the biscuit cutters in the book, added an initial B to some of them (A,M,D to the last 3 – Alice Mummy Daddy) and wrote a line of 6’s, where I forced myself not to comment on how some of them were dreadful. Mummy then added a few lines mentioning we might make hexagon shaped biscuits the next day – that was Friday and nope they’re still not done but we might get round to doing them at some point.

number puppy 7

Last weekend Alice brought home number puppy 7, he was orange and liked ovals, he got eggs from the fridge and a trip to Broadstairs because Saturday was a nice day, we took a photo of him on the beach which is going to infuriate the competitive mums but hey ho…a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Could this be the start of puppy rage?

cursive alphabetWhat a great school the girls are in! All parents have been invited to three workshops last week to enable us to help our children get to grips with the learning system our school are using with our children and I am so pleased they are encouraging parents to take part and help them help our kids learn.

One of the most important messages they’re sending us is they cannot stress enough how important it is for parents to take an active role in their children’s learning and this imput doesn’t have to take up hours of a busy parents time, for example five minutes alone reading time and games played around the house all help the child memorise and utilise what they’ve been learning in class.

The main point being raised at the moment is our children are learning mostly through play, games in the classroom, lots of outdoor activity – even when it’s raining as we have a sheltered playground and a game may cover three of four different parts of the education syllabus.

Phonics for foundation stage

Phonics is a method for teaching reading and writing the English language by developing learners’ phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes—in order to teach the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them. – Wikipedia

The above jargon explained in ‘proper’ English means our children will learn the sounds that make words and although there are some ‘tricky’ words that will have to be memorised as they don’t follow the phonics rule it is proven by following this method of teaching, children learn quicker. There’s even a video on You Tube to help parents recognise the sounds

Another rule they will be following is learning to use cursive writing from the start. The teachers say they have seen excellent results already with previous years that have used the method and they will also encourage the children to recognise letters in many different fonts. In fact how can we as parents help?

Well, think of the logos, and fonts used in every day life from store names to cereal packets to comics and basically anything that has the written word on it. Encourage the children to recognise the letters.

Play games which encourage children to think about the word they’re saying ‘what sound does cat start with?’ c would be the answer (see video for correct pronunciation)

This morning at breakfast I asked ‘Who wants some ‘te’ for toast?’ followed by ‘Would you like ‘ge’ for jam or huh for honey?’ I’m not sure I’m spelling those phonics correctly but you get the point and what’s more the girls loved it.

We’ve been given lots of sites where we can play games with the children that I’d like to pass on to you too and also note down for myself in case I lose the piece of paper!

  • www.phonicsplay.co.uk click on games but also printables available
  • www.ictgames.co.uk – Phonic and numeracy games
  • Kent ITC games – Phonic and numeracy games
  • Starfall – American site
  • Crickweb – variety of games
  • CBeebies – alphablocks
  • Letters and Sounds – printable games

Reading foundation stage workshop

Our second workshop was to help children learn to read and to assist their learning we are encouraged to spend 5 minutes a day listening to them, even if it’s just a picture and they are telling you what is going on in that picture. To ask questions like “What happened next?’ How did it end? so they get a notion of beginning , middle and end of story.

Preschoolers reading a book

We shall be receiving books home next week with a special contact book to write each child’s progress and it’s not important they finish the book in one go but concentrate on one/ two pages at a time and get them right. Make sure the child understands what they are reading.

Useful sties include

Maths foundation stage workshop

Lastly today our maths workshop. Most games played outside will include a numeracy aspect or shapes, mass, size, weight, and proportion. children will learn to recognise numbers 1 – 20 and know which number comes next and before. Our role is to let them help us measure when we cook, show them numbers around the house, ie on the remote control, telephone, clock and so forth. Get them to recognise the numbers on number plates and ask them to add one on to a number to get the notion of one more.

John crane High Tea Shape sorter, number

some helpful websites are

So I’m sure you agree we have plenty of resources to help our little ones learn easily over the next year