Saturday, 6 October 2018

Eight Months Old

Yesterday my little guy turned eight months old. There's a quote about how 'the days are long but the weeks are short' and that couldn't be more true. It's so strange to think that eight months ago today I was sitting on the ward, feeling rather shellshocked and sore, post-surgery and blood transfusion, swollen, exhausted, achy like you wouldn't believe, and suddenly responsible for this new little person who I barely had the energy to lift, let alone stand and change his nappy!

He's just the most incredible little person. He's growing and changing all the time and it just fascinates me.

I love that he can sit and study my feet, reach out and touch them, hold my toe, try to put it in his mouth, blow raspberries at me when I wrestle it away from him (because, yuk! suck your own toes, kiddo!) and then sit and study it again. Or get distracted by the table leg. Or a mark on the carpet. Or the trees blowing outside the window.

Everything about the world is so intensely interesting for him. And it's making me look at the world differently too.

Suddenly I'm seeing everything through his eyes. Imagine being so small that you're just one tiny little person in a sea of giants. You spent your life in people's arms, or lying on the floor (at least until you get the hang of sitting up), or perhaps somewhere around waist height in a pram. And a lot of what you're seeing is brand new. Even if it's something you've seen one hundred times already, your brain is working really hard making connections all over the place, so as it develops your view of the world will change and develop too.

It's pretty mindblowing. And I know it happens with all babies, but getting to watch my very own son go through it makes me realise just how incredible he is.

I went to a baby and toddler group with him yesterday (loads of new toys to play with and of course he spent the first ten minutes playing with my shoes) and after a while he asked to be walked around. Obviously, he doesn't ask. It's not like comes up to me and says 'Mother, kindly hold my hands to help me walk around the room' but he's got his little ways of letting me know what he wants. Sometimes it feels like a kind of telepathy. I'm so used to doing it that I didn't think twice, but a couple of the mums commented on how little he is to be doing that and told me he'd be walking soon.

I don't have anything to compare these milestones to though, so to me it's just normal. I'll carry on celebrating the stuff he does do, and worrying about the stuff he doesn't, and reassuring myself that all babies follow their own schedules.

At eight months Laurie sits confidently and only occasionally topples over backwards. He can go from seated to on all fours/his belly. He can move around on his belly, rarely going forwards but mostly in circles and sometimes backwards. He can roll over and sit himself up from lying on his back (sometimes). He'll walk miles holding onto your hands (especially if there's a vacuum cleaner at the other end of the route).

He waves (all the time). He sings (loudly). He can pick things up between his fingers and thumb. He feeds himself. He knows how to use a spoon (though those spoons are tricky things to catch in your mouth). He says 'heh-woh' like a little parrot when it suits him and follows Tara shouting 'wu-wu! wu-wu!'

And as of today, the contents of his wardrobe are looking rather more like the clothes a little boy would be wearing, rather than a baby. I have to confess, I shed a little tear finally packing up some of his first outfits that he wore in the hospital.

The thought of parenting a little boy seems so much more daunting than parenting a baby. But at the same time, it's kind of exciting. I've loved getting to know this little guy over the last eight months. I can't wait to meet the little boy he's going to become.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Spider Week, Day 5: Watercolour Resist Spider Web

Our spider-themed week has drawn to a close today. It's been a busy one because a local baby and toddler group was having a music-making session today so I decided to drag myself out the house after originally planning to stop in all day.

My original plan was to get up at a leisurely pace, throw on a load of laundry, have breakfast and wash up, vacuum the living room and take it easy for the rest of the day, with some bonus painting thrown in for good measure.

Instead we left at about 8am and didn't get back until mid-afternoon. Then we decided to have a bath so everything sort of got shunted back rather a lot. But we did it while Mr Click was warming up the oven for tea.

What you need:
White wax crayon
White paper
Watercolour paints
Brush or sponge

Draw a spider web on the white paper using the white crayon. You might want to make sure that you've got good light for doing this. There were a couple of times where I found I was drawing over a bit I'd already done.

Set up the paints, water and paper. I tape our paper to the changing mat for art time because it means you can swivel it round easily and it wipes down afterwards. You might want to put a sheet or something down on the floor too (we dripped green coloured water on the carpet which I had to mop up with a wet wipe).

You're ready to go.

Can you spot the spider web in this picture?
What to do:
Preload the sponge/brush with water and let the little one decide which colour or colours they want to paint with. If I was sensible I'd have one of those watercolour sets with six or eight different colours to choose from, but all I had was my fancier watercolour set with the teeny tiny rectangles of colour. Laurie's sponge brush is about twice the size so it meant each time we aimed him at a colour, he'd get two or three on his brush.

Wave the paintbrush/sponge over the paper and watch as the wax crayon image appears as if by magic.

Repeat the above steps until the whole picture is uncovered or until your small person tries to eat the paintbrush.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I think I could maybe have tried to get a little more paint on the sponge for him because it faded a little as it dried and it's really hard to photograph, but you can make out the web in the picture there.

Like the spider handprint activity, we were doing this one late in the day and Laurie wasn't really as engaged as he can be in the mornings. It'd be interesting to see how long he'd have done this if we did it around morning playtime instead of in the run up to tea when he's getting fussy.

I quite like that he didn't uncover all of the spider's web. If we'd done the whole thing it wouldn't have looked like he did it.

We started off with Laurie sitting on the changing mat I'd taped the paper to (which you can see in the top picture) but part way through I realised it was a little easier for him if I held the mat up like an easel. This did lead to some watery paint dripping onto the floor, so in future I'll definitely stick a sheet or some newspaper down.

I used the same sponge brush that I'd used to get black paint onto Laurie's hand for our handprint spider activity. That worked really well for this because it soaks up the water so I only needed to dunk it twice (and probably didn't need to even do that the second time). I'd really recommend using a sponge if you're doing this with teeny tinies.

I think that this would be a really fun activity for older kids too. You could pre-draw the design for the younger ones and watch the magic as it appears through the paint, or for older ones they could write their name, trace a line drawing, design a pattern, etc.

I'm already planning a variation on this for January/December with a snowflake image and I'll keep an eye out for other variations which might work.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Spider Week, Day 4: Incy Wincy Spider

I had a visit to work scheduled for today so I knew I'd need to come up with an activity that Laurie could do with his Dad. Mr Click is a fabulous father but the arts and crafts side of things is really more my thing. A combination of an early finish at work, and a late lunch meant that this was an activity all three of us were able to do together. I handed Mr Click the camera so I was able to get some lovely (albeit slightly blurry) photos of Laurie and I.

Today's activity was inspired by the fact that today is National Poetry Day. I figured it was a good day to focus on a nursery rhyme. We've been singing Incy Wincy Spider since the beginning of the week (and for a while before that too) so it's on that Laurie's Dad is definitely familiar with. Mr Click enjoys singing nursery rhymes (and other songs) but he doesn't always remember the words and just makes them up as he goes along. It's good fun but they're not always easily replicated afterwards.

Laurie's a very musical child. My poor musical abilities don't seem to have hindered him in any way. He loves listening to music and has shown a definite interest in Mr Click's keyboard. He's got his own mini one now, and happily plays it while singing along. I think I might have a little mini Jools Holland on my hands!

We looked up an easy version of Incy Wincy Spider online, just the melody, we didn't need anything complicated. The main point of the exercise was getting Laurie to bang on the keyboard and have a go at making some noise.

I sang along too, poor kid.

We experimented with playing it faster and slower, choosing different 'voices' on the keyboard (Laurie was a fan of the Big Brass Band option, truly his father's son), and with me guiding his little hand to hit the right keys.

Mr Click is already planning on trying to find some more suitable music to play with Laurie on his lap in the coming weeks. We found a big book of children's music I acquired some years ago. It's got one of Laurie's favourites, the Mna Mna song from The Muppets, along with The Marvellous Toy (which is one of mine) so I think they'll be top of the list of requests.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Spider Week, Day 3: Handprint Spider

This was probably my most ambitious activity with Laurie to date. There's not much that can go wrong with throwing his toys into a laundry basket with string over it. And food is food, my son isn't going to turn his nose up at that!

Planning out a craft activity is a little more challenging. And what made it even more difficult was that we didn't attempt it until the evening, more specifically, after 4pm which is customarily Laurie's time for getting a wee bit cranky and not knowing what to do with himself. He doesn't want to nap, he's not long had a feed, it's too early for tea, he wants to be active and doing things but he doesn't always know what. Invariably this is the time which is spent walking him up and down the living room to study and talk to the vacuum cleaner.

In its simplest form, this is two black handprints, overlapping on the palm, with two googly eyes to make a spider image.

Isn't it the cutest spider you've ever seen?

That's my son's masterpiece.

There are no photos of the actual process we underwent to make this cutie, because it was a rather involved exercise. I'd originally planned for it to be a morning activity but I'm glad I had Mr Click on hand to help.

What you need:
Black poster paint
Googly eyes (as many as your spider will need)
PVA glue

Pour some poster paint into a small dish/tray large enough to get your small person's hand flat into. This was a bit of a mistake as we didn't get the right sort of container of poster paint so had to dab it onto his hand with a paint sponge. This was messy.

If your small person is likely to tear up the paper, tape it down.

What to do:
Place your small person's hand into the black paint (don't worry about getting paint on the thumb, ideally you'll just be getting paint on the palm and fingers), immediately afterwards, stamp it on the paper.

Rotate the paper 180 degrees, apply extra paint if needed, and stamp again so that the palm overlaps the original impression.

Voila! It's a spider.

Pick out some googly eyes and stick them on. Laurie chose one large and one medium. I suggested that he might like to pick a third, but he declined.

In the future I'm going to try getting the paint into some sort of dish to make the actual handprinting a little easier. My original go, with some pale green paper, was with Laurie sitting in the highchair but I couldn't get his hand at a good angle to stamp it on the paper (and the paper had to be taped down so he couldn't eat it, so not so good for quickly turning it).

The version that is now hanging on my kitchen door was taped to the changing mat (which made it easy to spin, just turn the whole mat). I took a bit of a risk by not putting anything down on the living room carpet to catch potential paint mishaps. I got lucky but in future I'll be using extra protection!

Laurie seemed quite interested in the finished product, though I think when I was painting his hand he was mostly just baffled. At this age, this is definitely more of a project for me than for him but as he gets older I think he'll enjoy the feel of the paint and will have fun decorating his creation.

I'll maybe give it another go later in the month to make a monster face, though if I'm alone, we'll maybe be doing that one sitting in the bath!

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Spider Week, Day 2: Spider Snacks

Well, it was Spider Dinner really, but that doesn't have that alliterative quality that I was looking for. I guess I could have said Spider Supper, but that isn't entirely accurate either. So Spider Snacks it is.

Today we continued our Spider theme with another go at the Spider Web Game. Laurie is an old hand at this now and has reached the point where he will cheerfully lob any and all items retrieved from the basket across the room. Of course, he can't crawl yet, so this is then followed by him crying because his toy is two feet away and he can't reach it.

I'd kind of hoped to get a bit of studying done while he occupied himself (I had a video I needed to watch) but I gave up on that idea and played fetch with him instead. Then he snuggled on my lap while we watched the video about the Kula Cycle and the Trobriand Islanders together. It was sweet.

We also listened to the Spider Songs playlist again a couple of times. I've made up a tickle game to go with 'There's a Spider on the Floor' (basically tickling the body parts as they're named).

That was really it for today until teatime, when I trotted out a masterpiece for his dinner:

These are fruity spiders. Each one is half a (small) apple cut into smaller segments and pushed back together again. Each leg is one-third of a breadstick (Laurie is a big fan of breadsticks because they're easy for him to pick up and gnaw on). The spider eyes are raisins, 'glued' on with Greek yoghurt, plus two bonus raisins which I've just placed in front to act as pincers.

These were a big hit. The apples were just getting soft so he was able to scrape the flesh out with his two teefs. The skin was soft also, though he did get it stuck in his mouth a couple of times (it just gets swirled round and round while he gets frustrated about being unable to swallow it), I just fished it out and he'd get on with his meal.

I'm not sure if he actually ate any of the raisins; I didn't count them when he was done. He's developing a pretty good pincer grip but some things still elude him and it wouldn't surprise me if he'd not been able to get to grips with these yet. Don't worry, he had some mixed in his Greek yoghurt for pudding so he didn't miss out.

This could be modified in a few ways. I used fairly small apples, but for even smaller spiders you could use tomatoes (either full sized or cherry tomatoes). For legs for smaller spiders, carrot batons would work well. I used Greek yoghurt to attach the eyes but cream cheese would work just as well.

I briefly toyed with the idea of adding a swirl of spaghetti as a 'web'. If I'd only made the one spider I might have done this (I had spaghetti for my tea). I think that a dried prune with a couple of slits in it with a couple of Cheerios/cornflakes/small slices of cheese for wings would make a nice addition as a fly for the spider's dinner too.

This was a quick and easy way to jazz up his dinner. He didn't notice the fact that tea looked like spiders, so it was more for my benefit than his, but I told him which bits of the spider he was eating. In the future he'll be more aware of this stuff and it'll give us more opportunities to talk.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Spider Week, Day 1: The Spider Web Game

I'm the sort of person who loves a project. Whether that project is colouring in, knitting, a degree or doing something with my son (yes, I realise that these things are on totally different levels from one another, roll with me here).

Ever since Laurie has been able to properly do things and express an interest in his toys, I've tried to find ways to make doing things interesting for him. I'll admit, this is a pretty selfish endeavour. There's only so many times I can sit on the floor making the various noises his cuddly toys make (what sound does a cauliflower make anyway?!) before I start to lose interest. He does too.

It's getting a little easier now that he can sit up by himself and sort of belly crawl around. I spread out his play mat on the floor, surround him with some of his favourites (BeatBo, stacking rings, jingle ball, teething keys) and let him get on with things. I can actually get things done while he entertains himself for 10-15 minute intervals. Sometimes a whole 20 minutes if something really grabs his attention (or is especially good for gnawing on).

Sort of linked to my ongoing quest to occupy my son is my determination to start some Christmas traditions. I've not really thought about Christmas shopping for anyone yet, but I've been planning an activity advent calendar. The idea being that each day in the run up to Christmas we do a different Christmassy activity.

You know how it goes, you start planning for Christmas, realise that the next month ends with Halloween and get distracted by planning out 31 days of Halloween/Autumn/October themed activities instead.

Yup. That's what happened.

So I've now got just over four week's worth of fun things to play, eat, listen to and do. So many in fact, that I've been able to divide them into individual themes within the general month theme.

Without further ado, allow me to welcome you to Day One of Spider Week! How ironic is that? I'm petrified of the things, and yet I've spent the day singing songs featuring the eight-legged monsters.

I'd never heard 'There's a Spider on the Floor' before but it's quite catchy.

Today I had planned an elaborate art activity, then realised that Laurie was itching for something to do and I didn't have the energy to strip him down and get the paint pots out, so we played the Spider Web Game.

What you need:

  • Laundry basket
  • Ball of string/yarn/scarves/ties
  • Selection of toys in varying sizes
Ideally you'll do this before you get the baby out to play, otherwise they may be inclined to 'help'. This is an educational experience for both of you.

Thread the string/yarn/etc. through the holes in the laundry basket. Wind it back and forth at different heights and in different directions to create a 'web' with varying gaps.

Toss in a selection of favourite toys of different shapes, textures and sizes. If you can get these through the string then your small person will be able to get them back out again too (if you put them in first you run the risk of creating a puzzle which is impossible to solve).

What to do:
Tilt your laundry basket on its side and just add baby. If you've got a stander or a walker you could leave it upright, but Laurie was at risk of tipping it over.

I did tell him that a big spider had come along and pinched all his toys and he would have to resuce them (so much for not encouraging fear of spiders in my son) but I figure he's young enough that this little lie shouldn't scar him too deeply.

Laurie figured out what he needed to do right away. It was great to see him working out that he needed to hold the string back out of the way in order to get the toys out. Within minutes he'd rescued about three of his toys and he continued working away at it for about ten minutes. I kept the game going by occasionally putting them back in the basket for him to get out again.

I didn't put it away right away as I wasn't using the laundry basket this morning, so after lunch when I put him on the floor to clean him up, he headed straight for the basket, so we had another play with it this afternoon. I guess that's the marker of a successful game. I've still left it set up now in case he wants another go at it tomorrow.


Obviously, this is a game you need to supervise closely. I worried about him getting entangled in the string. In the future I'll maybe experiment with different materials for the 'web'. Perhaps a mix of string and fabric, just to mix things up a little for him and give it an extra element of sensory play.

I got the idea from a 'laser escape' game idea where you basically thread string all over a room which kids have to climb through. I don't think I'd have the patience to essentially tangle up an entire room in my house, but it might be fun to try something similar (perhaps with a really big box or a stretch of hallway) for an older child who's walking to get them to stretch/bend/crawl, etc.

Laurie was such a huge fan of this one that I imagine I'll be recycling it in various different guises during future themes.