The Art of Play

Well I had to write a post dedicated to Play eventually right?

It's no secret I am devoted to Play (capital intentional) both as an adult and for children. For me, play is about learning, being free and giving yourself permission to explore. Having a small toddler has reinforced any thoughts I had that Play is really so much more than 'free time'. Watching my little scientist actively learn concepts, acquire language and develop her understanding of the world has been mesmerising. 

The confusing thing for me is a constant barrage of suggested activities that come up on my various social media feeds. On one hand I'm delighted by ideas of what I can do to occupy a little girl always hungry for fresh experiences but on the other I'm left wondering if constantly finding activities makes it hard to just be free and Play?

There are very few times in a toddler's life (or indeed any age) when free time is just that. No chores, no routines, no need to be somewhere, no instructions, rules or boundaries. My Tot is a strong willed little person which will shock many of you I'm sure. While taking her to swim classes tires her out and gives her a vital skill there's always an exhaustion on both our parts at the bag packing, changing, wrestling into the buggy, navigating transport and 'please for the love of god, let's not be late AGAIN'-ness to it all. 

Last week I had two fun experiences that left both of us refreshed and content all day. I wanted to share them with you as I think sometimes simple, self directed Play is overlooked in value. I'm not here to preach, by all means work those pipe cleaners into an Easter scene and bake a million cookies (share them with me though, ok?). I just wanted to show what fun you can have by letting your child lead the way. 

We visited the V&A Museum last week as we had visitors from overseas. As soon as we got there, the Tot was keen and ready to point, discuss and explore. We initially tried to keep up with our friends who were having that kind of 'check things off a list' whirlwind visit that left me exhausted. However, the Playful Tot has a way of making things clear that she has her own agenda....

Yep. This is a zoomed in picture of my Tot, point blank refusing to keep up. She tottered to a doorway and stood for a long time enjoying the different lights between the rooms, the shadows that fell and of course, lots of people watching. I waved our friends on and instead crouched at her eye level and asked 'where shall we go next?' What followed was 2 glorious hours of a toddler tour of the museum. I honestly had no idea that there were so many plugs, or how wonderous those low fences are to a child of diminutive stature. She slept like a log and woke to babble away about the sculptures we saw and the magic truck we discovered. 

Pleased, I applied the same rules again but this time omitted the epic journey across London. Suited and booted with pockets ful of snacks and drinks, I took us just outside the house and plonked her down. With a little trolley to steady her or collect treasure with, we spent a good hour or so mooching along the path near our house. The thing that struck me most was the language that developed. Given the complete freedom to stop and comment or ask questions about things at her eye level, we talked about all sorts of new things. In the buggy or sling, we talk about things I can see or I deem interesting enough but from her position as leader, the Tot was able to open up a whole new world that I might otherwise have overlooked. 

It's a scary thing to just do nothing. We're programmed to feel we need to do MORE. The Tot however, is showing me and everyone else that if we trust her, she'll develop her own understanding just fine. 

Here's my top tips for self directed play:

- Take your time- This isn't something you allow 15 minutes for before you move on to the park. You might not make it to the park but that's ok. 

- Don't interrupt- This is key. We feel a need to narrate, explain or intervene at the tiniest frustration. It's ok. Learning doesn't need to be in a straight line. When we interrupt to add our explanation, we're changing the experience from theirs to ours. 

- Make safe- Toddler freedom comes with its risks. A busy roadside is not the best place to let your toddler be completely in control. Make sure things start off on the right foot by carefully choosing where you start your toddler led journey. 

- Permission- The Tot constantly looked up for reassurance, permission and guidance. I tried very hard to communicate to her that it was her choice. As time went on, she got bolder, stronger and more accomplished with her decision making. 

- Food and water- No toddler (or tired parent) functions well on low rations. Make sure you're well stocked so you don't have to pause when fully immersed to hunt out rice cakes. 

- weatherproofing- rain or shine, we go out and I take a splash suit and a jumper just in case. There's no reason a little rain should get in the way. Quite the opposite, the Tot is fascinated by raindrops on things. 

- Change your point of view- Ever sat in the floor at your gallery? Do it. See what your toddler sees. You'll honestly be amazed how different things look (or how many plug sockets there are). 

It's a weird skill to learn: the art of doing nothing. It's a vital one. Go forth and Play!

Bach to Baby Beats Rainy Day Blues

It's been a while since I posted some music on here which is a shame as our house is always filled with music. Since birth, the Playful Baby has shown a strong response to music. She stilled to listen at first then would sit in deep concentration as she got older and now throws her hands in the air or asks an inquisitive 'do?' to a new instrument.

It's hard to find things suited to our needs when you have a feisty little one who does not appreciate sitting still in a circle or having to give back musical instruments she's barely began to explore. We've found one class which is pitched just right and often go to listen to piano playing at our local train station but on Friday we attended our first Bach to Baby.

It was, in a word, perfect.

The idea is to provide classical concerts for babies, toddlers AND adults. I love this. As a mum I find myself in the land of farm animals and astronauts on an almost daily basis but something as stimulating as Mozart is a rare treat. The performance is broken up into different sections, with a little vignette about what to expect in between. It was helpful in keeping the babies amused by changing the pace but also a delight to be learning something. 

We attended a concert locally, there's different venues and a regular turn over of musicians so its worth keeping an eye on their calendar. On this occasion we saw Andrew Brownell on piano and he was typical of the high caliber of musicians that perform. While prestigious and engaging, what I loved was that he remained completely calm and relaxed despite babies crawling round the piano and possibly the rowdiest audience he's ever played for. Watching a world class classical performer play twinkle twinkle was really quite sweet and utterly refreshing that it wasn't deemed beneath him. 

It's not often you get to watch someone play with such passion and skill in such an intimate setting either. I took the Playful Baby right up to the grand piano to gaze in to its cavernous insides and watch the strings go to work. While she learned about sound and pitch, I mused that I could see every micro expression on Andrew's face: all his passion and commitment to his years of studying music. It made it all the more special. 

There will be more mornings like this as it's a great way to bring music into both our lives and there's lots to choose from on the website. I especially like the fact that there's delicious cookies and Monmouth coffee for mummies to start off and plenty of time to explore and move round the venue both during and around the performance times, I could nurse and change little one easily and had I brought the pram, parked it with ease. I really approve of the loyalty card which means you get a free concert after enough attendance- that's a very nice touch.

A definite thumbs up from both of us. 

Bottle a Day

Lately I've written a lot about the tough times we've been having and it's dull quite frankly. Last Thursday we had the kind of day that, if I could, I would bottle and store as a reserve. I would lovingly mark the date on the label and tuck it away for those 'oh God I am so bad at being a mum' days. 

Yesterday was a good day. 

It started with little promise: rain, crossing London in rush hour, a failed nap. I suspected doom before I opted for my go to solution on such days and decided to walk it out. I grabbed our trusty sling and popped the Playful One in and took off in the hope that movement would divert us from an irritable tangle that I could see coming. 

I realised as we started moving that we were about to cross part of my favourite London walk. In my pre baby, pre London living days I would commute daily to East London and on Friday I'd pop in my headphones and jump off the train at the Tower of London. From here I'd cross the river via Tower Bridge, move down to the riverside, past City Hall, along past Southwark Cathedral, The Globe, Tate Modern, The Oxo Tower and finally into Southbank where I'd get home via Waterloo. I'd vary this journey by popping to Borough Market or watching some free music at the Royal Festival Hall for example but I loved this ritual. I never wanted to get home, just keep discovering, because every time I did it, I'd find something new. 

So I took the Playful Baby along a variation of it, opting for as many experiences for her as I could think of off the cuff. Here's how it went:

There's currently a herd of painted giraffe sculptures to celebrate Colchester Zoo's 50th anniversary in More London, right by City Hall. Between this and the water features, we were off to a great start with Playful Baby whooping and giggling in delight. Giraffes are very funny apparently. 

We then walked along the river, past HMS Belfast and ducked under a few bridges that I remembered had light installations. Much whooping and leg kicking from the mini one at this too. 

We waved at the knight who guards Southwark Cathedral....

.... Then we were in the midst of the noise, sounds and smells if Borough market. 

Delicious.

I finally tired her out with a train journey home (she loves trains) and we shared lunch and chatted about our morning. She was so tired that she napped like a champion that afternoon and I got in some baking! 

(More to come about these flapjacks- they're baby friendly and I have ideas for how to make them even yummier. Standby for epic deliciousness).

We had lots of fun that afternoon, bombing around the house, getting chores done....

.... And then redone....

We finished the day happily, singing to the radio and sharing flapjack for pudding. While little one dreamt of painted giraffes, I even got some knitting in. 

Sometimes, days like this happen. 

Playful Days

Most weeks seem to just shoot by so fast without me sharing what has kept us playful this week so let me correct that today with this post.

This week we have been....

....musical at Baby Bop. Playful Baby looks at Bea with a look that can only be described as pure love and we love the Beaver Dance. A great end to the week every time...

.... making things for our soon to arrive friends....


.... hunting for fairies, going on a Bear Hunt and giving up in favour of a picnic at Nature Play....

.... sharing some of my favourite places in London with the Playful Babe. The noises, the sights, the smells...


... and causing lots of mayhem and destruction. Being mobile opens a whole new avenue for house work that I never thought possible. Time to introduce the 'tidy up disco': hit play and get it all tidied by the end of the song. I'm hoping that it will catch on.

What's keeping you playful this week?



London Calling

Some time last Spring I noticed a tweet looking for someone to help with a new enterprise, an app and website dedicated to hooking (pun intended) crafters up with crafty connections in London. As with many freelance projects, I had the joy of watching an idea grow into a realisation but as is often the case, only glimpsed a small part as I worked through edits and emails back and forth. It's only now it's launched that I can see the overall picture and wow, I love it. 

The project was 'Craft Candy', a free online website listing of crafty suppliers and happenings around London. I can't speak for the app as I've not yet downloaded it to use in the wild but I'm already super excited by the website and have bookmarked it to help me plan my crafty-ness when I get back in the game. 

The website is easy to use and browse and has that magical balance of white space and great graphic design that I so love in an information website (I get confused and cross easily when it's too busy). What I like the most is the many aspects that are joined up: social media, blogging, listings, well known resource bases such as Ravelry.... it makes sense to me to have these things all in one place. 

So why have I broken my golden rule about not discussing work projects on my blog?

Because I hope to see you at an event soon. So go check it out!

Thank you

I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to every person who invested in the podcast for the donation incentive. I have now budgeted a year's worth of giveaways and trips and am so excited!

I have just hit the random number generator and have sent the emails to the 3 lucky winners. Please check your inboxes and spam and get back to me asap! 

Tomorrow I'll be announcing the pod-i-versary giveaway winners on the blog so please keep an eye here. 

Also, if you are a Londoner please don't forget to vote tomorrow for our London Mayor. London is having a huge amount of focus on it right now and after last summer's unrest, please take time to have your vote counted. If you're still unsure, there's a vote decider to help you get a summary of where you might sit.

Episode 11: Constructive

Aplayfulday is kindly sponsored by Superknits, the home of super yarns for super knits. Please show your support for our playful friend by clicking on the link above- go on, spoil yourself!!!

Show notes:

Notes:

The winner of a skein of Abstract Cat exclusive Aplayfulday colourway in the Superwash Blue Faced Leicester 4 ply weight is: Kaystir

Donation giveaway:

Sock knitter's kit= 4 skeins of Drops Fabel, 2 sets of stitch markers. 1 sheepy set from The Lollipop Stop and 1 set with clip stitch marker from a Little Bit Sheepish

.

Off the Needles

The Ulmus is no more.....

Deviate test knit by Lisa Mutch for the wonderful yarn club from

Lioness Knits in Silky Sock.

On the Needles

Test Knit for Rose Beck in Sundara Yarn Sock Yarn, in the colourway Brown Sugar over buttermilk and Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga in colourway KatyDid.

Little Colonnade by Stephen West in Madelinetosh Tosh Sock colourway Baltic.

Kai Mei by Cookie A in Superknits Mary, Queen of Socks, colourway 'With my tv and CD collection of Bob Marley'.

The Story of a Shawl

Sugared Violets by Rose Beck in Uncommon Thread Lush Sock in the Cumulonimbus colourway becomes a star for the day for Franklin Habit's friend Harry. And an interview. For more Rose Beck news, visit her blog here or join the RosyPosy Knitters Group on Ravelry.

To win a copy of the 'Be Mine' collection all you have to do is peruse her delicious patterns either on Ravelry, here or on her blog. Choose your favourite and comment here with it to let me know you'd like to win!

Podcasters Delite

Thought provoking and beautifully expressed thoughts on the UK disturbances from The Electric Sheep podcast.

I love My City

Poetry from Warsan Shire

For information regarding ways to help visit: http://riotscleanup.wordpress.com/

or

http://fromdisctilldawn.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/london-still-calling/ or http://www.riotremedy.org/

These websites also include legal information, insurance claim help and offers of photographers who want to help replace lost photo albums etc. There are many ways people are trying to connect in order to help. 

Thoughtful words from Russell Brand

http://www.russellbrand.tv/2011/08/big-brother-isnt-watching-you/

Donations and information on registered charities, helping relief efforts can be found at:

http://www.ukdisasterrelief.blogspot.com/

http://www.charitiesadvisorytrust.co.uk/knitForPeace

Why not join in the effort and have some fun?

A comedy night is taking place in Camden aimed at raising money towards relief and community efforts and there's a fundraiser in Ealing with the same intent. Have fun!

Erssie Knitting charts, supporting Operation Cup of Tea

If you know of any registered charity events in your area, why not leave a comment here to spread the news.

Songs:

Fly, Fly, Fly by Adrina Thorpe, available on Music Alley

So Much Better by Aubrey Wood, available on Music Alley

Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap

To London

Your streets were quieter last night,
Yet still we listened
Less tense
But wary

As sleep finally fell over me
For the first time in days
I returned to thoughts....
Our future

I will not shout
Cry out for cannons
Blame your lost parents
Just hope

That the community we found
Spreads to more corners
Than we swept.
Time for change.

We don't need your rhetoric
Nor your public school games
We need to listen
They're here now

A voice deep inside them
Has caught you now
It was angry and lost
Don't stop

Don't move your focus to courts
Locked rooms and closed ears
Stay with them a while
Time. For. Change.