Eight

Being a passionate (ex) teacher of the early years, eight is a new area for me. Seven just seemed to be an extension of six, but eight seems to be something very new. What does an eight year old boy like to do? What do they play with? Of course I CAN answer this question – friends, computer/video games, physical activity and lego. But what do you do if most children are in daycare in the afternoons, but your child is not? What do you do if you don’t own a computer/video game, and are not intending to buy one? What if the weather outside is bad and (again) all your friends are in daycare? And what if you want a change from lego?

This is something that I have been thinking about recently, and obviously something that Leon too has been pondering upon! The other evening he said to me, “It seems we have so little toys now” – ‘What?’ I thought to myself, are my children really spoilt and unappreciative?! “But you have masses of toys!” I replied. “But it seems they used to be so fun, and now they’re so little” he said. And then it dawned on me! The majority of our toys, games and puzzles are really for the early years crowd, and he suddenly feels he is too old for many of them!

Leon has rarely been one to utter the words “I’m bored” or “I don’t know what to do”. I know that to a certain extent, being in school for six hours a day, and having your activities planned out for you, being constantly told what you are going to do next, etc, must surely take away a certain lust to make your own decisions, use your imagination and learn how to use your time wisely. And so I realised that, for practically the first time,  Leon really needed help in finding things to do!

So, we pulled out the 1000 piece puzzle which had always been too difficult to complete, the meccano which hasn’t been touched for a year, and the board game ‘Blokus’ which Leon previously always insisted on making his own rules up for, in order to play. We decided together that he needed to have more responsibility for things, such as jobs around the house, and that I needed to trust him to do such things as cooking, and going to the shop on his own.

The next day he woke up with a new lust for life! He completed his lego model and cleaned up afterwards. He set the table for breakfast. He made biscuits, taking full responsibility for the recipe, telling Maya what to do, and the clearing up afterwards. He sat down to an art project and put 100% into it. He went outside and raked the leaves without being asked. He built and completed a meccano project. And then started on the 1000 piece puzzle.

But I can’t help wondering whether he would have needed this guidance had he still been learning at home? I have read that most children educated at home have a greater ability to take responsibility for their own learning. Comments please!

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“Autumn Holiday” in Kungsträdgården

Swedes are not big on Halloween. There is the odd shop which sells some costumes or decorations, but other than that there is just one main shop ‘Buttericks’ which has been around since 1923, selling the most amazing costumes and articles for parties and celebrations. We tried to visit it today with the kids, but unfortunately the queue to get in to the actual shop was so long that we only got a peek in the window!

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The ghost hanging around outside 'Buttericks'

We did, however, manage to get in to the large teepee at Kungsträdgården (the main city square) where all the Halloween festivities were taking place …

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In this spacious teepee, decorated with ghouls, ghosts and spiders, there was a magician to watch, some games to play, and some crafts to make. All very simple and with a slightly homemade appeal!

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Maya ingeniously made a pumpkin lantern – all her own idea! And Leon enjoyed playing air hockey with some kids he met there …

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And later on we had a look at the huge pumpkins, and piles of mushrooms in the Hötorget market …

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And that’s about the size of Halloween in Stockholm! But tomorrow we have our little Halloween party …

Television

Our kids rarely watch television, in fact they don’t even know that ‘live tv’ exists. When they do watch something it’ll usually be a 5 minute children’s program downloaded (often) from the BBC, and will usually be as an emergency problem solver, such as when the kids are crying out with hunger and there’s no dinner on the table!

But the kids do watch films, perhaps once a week, usually of an evening with the whole family. And lately they’ve discovered some new things, something more adult, something exciting!

‘Life’ by David Attenborough. The kids love it, and not surprisingly – the photography is outstanding and the creatures amazing. I didn’t realise quite how fascinated they would be, and now as we await the next episode, we have also introduced them to Walking with Dinosaurs (the tv series). They’ve learnt so much from it, ask so many questions, and have a surprising amount of empathy for the dinosaurs, and Leon, in particular, is very very intrigued!

He can swim!

Yes, it’s true, today our wonderful Leon swam three widths unaided, and I’m so very proud of him!

Leon has had swimming lessons both in California, and here in Sweden, and has always remained ‘luke warm’ about them. And yet, because swimming is one of those essential things you really should learn in life, we’ve always insisted he has them, despite some protest.

Until recently all three kids were having a swimming class, but because of the mad rush to get there at 9am on both a Saturday and a Sunday, we decided to give the lessons a rest, and go swimming as a family every week instead. This would enable the kids to both play and swim, and allow us to go when we like, and for as long as we like. Plus in the Stockholm area there are so many wonderful swimming pools with play areas and slides, that the choice is endless!

Today we went to Fyrishov in Uppsala – a fantastic adventure pool with play areas, slides, caves, floats, hot tubs, a ‘river’, and an extra warm training pool. We had a great time, staying for many hours, and it was here that Leon finally learnt to swim! Hooray!

It really goes to show that classes suit some people, but not everyone, and for many, you are your own best teacher…

Good Dinosaur Books

… For small people!

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‘How do dinosaurs say goodnight?’ and ‘How do dinosaurs get well soon?’ (Jane Yolen & Mark Teague) are funny rhyming books for young children – and much enjoyed! However, Alfie’s all time favourite right now has to be ‘Dinosaur Roar!’ (Paul & Henrietta Stickland) – a fun rhyming book, full of opposites and colourful pictures – to be read again, and again, and again!

I also managed to find some great dinosaur stencils, which Maya and Leon have both been enjoying. Maya made a frieze of a dinosaur land – which gave lots of scope to talk about a dinosaur environment. I particularly love the speech marks coming out of the dinosaur’s mouths shouting to escape from the volcano!

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"Get out of here quick!"

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"Eeek"

Walking with Dinosaurs

This weekend we went to see the BBC stage production of ‘Walking with Dinosaurs‘. It was totally fantastic! What would be termed ‘life size’ robotic models of dinosaurs on the stage, some wonderful plant and volcano effects, and an excellent ‘story teller’ (albeit in Swedish!) who steers away from the ‘fear factor’ and concentrates on the history of the dinosaur period, making it highly educational!

This, of course, has sparked off some dinosaur role play …

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We are lucky enough to own some fabulous play dinosaurs, and play mats, but also have a tray full of stones, shells, conkers, pinecones and feathers collected over the years, which also come in useful for role play scenes.

Interestingly enough, of all the children most interested, it is Alfie – funny really, because he didn’t see the show!

Coconut Balls

Leon decided to try his hand at some Swedish specialities – without any help!

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The use of flour instead of oats was perhaps a little ‘unusual’ – but not at all bad for a beginner without any help or recipe!