Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Birds, birds and more birds!

(Goblin is 4 years old)

Sometimes outings lead to Goblin discovering a new interest - like a visit To Duxford Imperial War Museum which led to his fascination with WWII planes. Other times his interest leads us to seek out good outings to support the subject and build his knowledge.
Anyone who reads the blog regularly will know that Goblin loves the Octonauts. This has sparked an interest in sea creatures. However a recent episode about Pelicans has sent Goblin off on a different tangent - birds!
We have been looking for opportunities to support his bird interest. The zoo is an obvious place to start. They have a great penguin enclosure and a twice daily bird display. During the week we are sometimes the only people at the bird display, and we were lucky enough to be able to chat with one of the keepers about the barn owls. I think he was quite surprised by how many questions Goblin had.
We've also taken Goblin to the local nature reserve that has hydes for bird watching. We took a monocular for him and binoculars for us (Monoculars are easier for little kids to use). The more experienced bird watchers in the hides were very understanding of our rather loud and enthusiastic ornithologist. They helped point out interesting birds to look at - including a kestrel.
Near my parents there is a place called Bird World. I mentioned it to Goblin and of course he insisted we went there. It was a good opportunity to catch up with the Grandparents and Goblin could share his enthusiasm with them too.
Bird World has not one but two different types of penguins. Goblin has recently learned that there are 17 different types and he is interested in where they all live so it was cool that we had African and South American (Humboldt) ones. We even got to see the Humboldt's being fed.
As well as outings we have found puzzles, matching games, books and documentaries to support Goblin's recent interest. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Learning about the body

Goblin is 4 years old
This post contains Amazon affiliate links meaning if you click and buy something I receive some money. I only ever recommend products I use with Goblin. 

Goblin has shown sporadic interest in how his body works. I've been collecting various resources to help show him. My favourite is an excellent Usborne Flap Book 'See Inside Your Body' . This breaks down the different systems into bite sized chunks and as well as Goblin, I have learnt a lot from this book. 
Another recent acquisition is a Human Body model. One of my current 'go to' bloggers An Everyday Story has a much larger version for her kids which I covet. But the big version is extremely expensive and I didn't feel I could justify the spend so I settled on a cheap smaller version. Unfortunately it means that Goblin can't really use it on his own because the pieces are too fiddly to handle, but he likes to watch me put it together and tell me what the different organs are. 
I wanted to give him an opportunity to handle some 'organs' himself and put together a body. So I decided to make some organ coloured playdough. Between us we created our own model of the inside of a human complete with heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines. We ignored scale incase you are concerned!
Once complete Goblin fetched his toy Octonauts and we sent them on an "InnerSpace" style journey through the digestive system (as well as through the respiratory system). Kwazi got stuck in the stomach and Captain Barnacles had to rescue him before he was melted in bile. Goblin thought it was hilarious when Kwazi reached the colon and we had to use peristalsis to poop him out.
I taught Goblin a little song to the tune of Frere Jaques, it goes

"Peristalsis, peristalsis, 
pushes food through, pushes food through, 
Pooping out the pieces, pooping out the pieces, 
in the loo, we did a poo".

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Quick and simple Imaginary play

Goblin decided that he wanted to make stew.
"I need ingredients" he declared. 

This was new. We'd done regular baking before but he hasn't done pretend cooking since he was about 2 years old. I love spotting changes in his play. I never know what it signifies but it intrigues me. 
Our kitchen is a treasure trove of ancient things that have been crystallising or gathering dust for decades, so I went off to find some fun ingredients for him. When I got back, Goblin has already found some for himself, including the star anis and cinnamon sticks we use with playdough, and some actual playdough. 
I offered the addition of some salt, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, curry sauce, bacon salt, the contents of a few (nasty) herbal tea bags, used coffee grounds, and an old tub of white pepper with a shaker attached (his favourite).
Goblin gleefully added all the random packets and jars, stirred enthusiastically and then fetched a jug of water to round it off. I also found some packets of cool aid in the back of the cupboard. When we added these they fizzed excitedly. We were both rather excited by this discovery.
Saying yes to this unexpected bout of imaginary play gave us a great opportunity to connect and have some simple fun. The only down side is that Goblin is so proud of his concoction he won't let me throw it away, and its very smelly!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Counting past ten

When Goblin was just a bit over 2 years old he learnt to count to 12. We'd been trying to teach him to count to ten and one day he lay on the changing mat and spontaneously counted to 12. "Whoop Whoop" we thought. Fast forward two years and Goblin can now count to .... wait for it .... 13! Yup, in two years he has learnt one more number. That's not entirely true. He knows the other numbers that come after it but always mixes up 14 and jumps to 16 and then just randomly dots around in the teens until we help him out.
So I wanted to provide more opportunities for Goblin to practice counting those big numbers. But he won't do anything unless he's interested. I can't just suggest we count pasta - his response would be "Er, no thanks!" So I needed to make up a game that would grab his interest.
His current obsession is Octonauts and the idea of helping them out would definitely capture his imagination. So I made up a sheet to encourage a bit of reading. It named a character and the sea creatures that character was counting. I asked Goblin to help his favourite character Peso to identify what each of the four characters were collecting, help the character collect them on their sticky back plastic "collection tank" and count them, and finally help Peso to write the correct number in the box.
The game provided opportunities for

  • letter identification/reading 
  • number writing practice
  • fine motor pincer grip (picking up the objects)
  • sorting
  • counting beyond 10

I used simple objects we already had: plastic sharks; sea shells; pompom sea urchins; and manta rays that I found on google images and printed off. Goblin stuck them to the plastic sheets provided and I helped him count them up.
When he'd arrived at the right number I wrote it down and he copied the number. We counted three of the four sets of objects and he wrote down two of them. That was pretty good going for us. We stopped because he got distracted when he discovered he could colour the inside of the sea shells with a felt tip pen!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Trying Something New

Hublet and I general find the philosophy of Positive Parenting resonates with us. As a result I have steered clear of many of the Super Nanny methods which tend to be more 'behaviour modification' techniques. I have never tried reward charts because they felt a bit like kiddy training but recently I have had to completely rethink my attitude to reward charts and behaviour modification.

I'm quite sold on the Positive Parenting idea that consequences should be natural and therefore linked as closely as possible to the specific action. This is easy if the action is throwing your toy on the floor and the consequence is that the toy breaks and gets put in the bin. But its much harder when the action is hitting your parents. What is the natural consequence to that? 

In the real world hitting someone usually has a natural consequence of being arrested or being hit back. Goblin has certainly been experiencing some natural consequences of Mummy and Daddy getting seriously pissed off and screaming at him not to hit because it hurts. But that doesn't seem like a satisfactory consequence and certainly doesn't fit with the idea of being 'respectful' to your child and trying to be calm and loving - concepts I find extremely difficult to muster when I have been headbutted across the bridge of the nose for suggesting we should put our shoes on.
Goblin is quite delightful when he is doing what he wants, but has been struggling with responding to things he doesn't want to do. Any request that doesn't fit with his desires is currently met with either throwing something (often something delicate like the computer mouse or my phone) or kicking, hitting, headbutting, scratching, biting etc often accompanied by growling.

We have tried to stay calm and explain that hitting hurts, we have tried to be respectful and step out of his way while acknowledging his feelings, we have tried carrying him to his room to keep him away from all the breakable stuff and give him time to calm down, and we have tried screaming loudly in his face that he is being horrible (yeah OK I knew that one wouldn't work but I'm only human). Sometimes these actions work at stopping the violence for that particular moment, but they haven't done anything to break the habit of resorting to violence at the drop of a hat.

I wanted to find something that would help to change his behaviour. A lot of the positive parenting blogs say that you shouldn't try and control your child's behaviour and that parenting isn't about training your child. But I am fed up of being hit, so I am choosing behaviour modification to allow our relationship to get back on track.

I asked on Taming the Goblin's FB page whether people had had any success with reward charts. There were some positive responses, some saying yes indeed and others saying they'd faired better with pebble jars than reward charts, some also said their child wouldn't fall for manipulation by stickers (I held out hope that mine would). I guess it depends what your child will relate to.

After much discussion between myself and Hublet about whether we were doing the right thing and how the process would actually work and what behaviour we were trying to tackle, I set to work to draw up a chart. It has the days of the week in columns and each day is split into sections. Each section captured a transition period - these are the times that most often cause Goblin's behaviour to deteriorate. As he is octonaut obsessed I printed little octoalerts and used double sided tape on the back. If he makes it through a period without violence towards myself or Hublet he gets an octoalert and if he makes it through a whole day without violence he gets to watch one episode of octonauts on TV.

We chose screen time as his reward for two reasons, firstly we are trying to reduce his screen time and this way he has to earn the screen time with good behaviour (or at least non violent behaviour). Secondly he loves octonauts so we are hoping that will act as an incentive to behave well.

So far we have had mixed success, but although he hasn't managed many whole days, and thus hasn't earned much screen time, his outbursts have reduced significantly. He has also looked at the chart and asked "Why did I get that sad face". When I reminded him, "that was on Monday afternoon when you hit Daddy", he has looked genuinely remorseful and said, "Oh yes, Sorry". So the chart is helping him reflect on previous behaviour in a way that he hasn't before.

As I said earlier I always thought that rewards charts were a bit of a blunt instrument but I have discovered that they can be much more subtle. I realised that not only are they acting on Goblin's behaviour, they are also changing the way Hublet and I are parenting. Because we both want him to succeed and win his octoalerts, we have been more cautious not to goad him into situations that will result in him lashing out. We have stepped back and reminded him of the chart and given him space to make the right decision where we might previously have kept nagging until he exploded. This has been an interesting and unexpected impact of 'the chart'.
Goblin has also insisted that I get a chart to deal with my bad behaviour - my yelling. This only seems fair.

I'm not saying that the chart is a roaring success, its too early to tell. And I'm not saying we will do this forever, in fact I'm hoping we won't. What I'd like is for this to act as a catalyst to break the habitual behaviour and give him an incentive to find alternative ways to deal with his frustration. Once he has settled on a less violent way of dealing with life's upsets I hope I will be able to drop the chart and we can regain some normality. That's the plan. lets see if it works. Wish us luck!
Taming the Goblin

Good reads from last week include
Finding Me time as a Mum ~ Cuddles and Muddles
Sometimes I feel like an awesome Mom ~ What's up Fagans 
Thoughts on Child Discipline ~ In the Playroom
Welcome to The Sunday Parenting Party, hosted by Dirt and Boogers, Play Activities, Crayon Freckles, Taming the Goblin, The Golden Gleam, Prickly Mom, and The Tao of Poop. The SPP is place for readers to find ideas on nurturing, educating, and caring for children, as well as honest posts about the stresses of being a parent or caregiver. Links to reviews and giveaways are welcome as long as they are relevant to the topic. All parenting philosophies are welcome with one exception: please do not link to posts promoting physical discipline, as this is something we would feel uncomfortable having on our blogs. (P.S. By linking up you agree that your post and photos are Pinterest, Sulia, G+ and FB friendly. We will be showcasing ideas on The Sunday Parenting Party Pinterest board.)

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