‘Rhinos don’t eat pancakes’ and being a listening mum

That was one of our books from the library this fortnight: Rhinos don’t eat pancakes, by Anna Kemp. The premise is that Daisy’s parents never listen to her, so they miss the fact that she is telling them that a huge, purple, pancake-eating rhino has taken up residence in their home.

My 4 year old rather likes it. So do I. But, and I might be being over-sensitive, I was also a little dismayed. Maybe because I’m not sure I want my son to have the negative thought pattern, ‘no one listens to me’. Maybe because it made me think about whether or not I am currently doing a good job of listening to him.

Listening, and communicating, is something I consider to be very important. It’s a way of showing care and respect for someone, and something my children deserve as much as anyone else. I try to stop what I am doing and focus on Zeph when he speaks to me, to show him that I am listening and that he and what he has to say is valuable to me. I try not to give him vague pat-answers like yes sweetie, that’s nice, or I think so because I am distracted and haven’t really thought about what he is saying. I try to answer all the four year old questions born out of insatiable curiosity and why why why. I try to repeat myself five times without taking an irritated tone when he repeatedly asks me what?

I try.

Some days I do better than others.

I want to be a listening mum.

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Box art

Before you recycle your boxes (nappies/diapers in this case), open them up and set the kids loose with their crayons, pencils and pens. Add in some stickers or tape for variety, or leave a big box intact and let them get inside to decorate it.

No set up, no mess. Sounds like a win win activity to me.

The is-the-baby-diabetic? stage

I don’t know about anyone else, but in my house this is now a well-recognised developmental stage.

It starts with the baby wanting to drink untold quantities of water at night. And continues with the baby wanting to drink untold quantities of water at night. He asks for a drink before lights out, lies down, drinks milk, asks for water, asks again as soon as the cup is put away or the bottle is closed, lies down and wriggles a bit then asks for more water… and it happens night after night potentially for weeks.

With my oldest I was genuinely worried about why he had suddenly developed a need to drink so much water.

With my second I know he’s playing me.

A pocket full of stones

Bring me sticks
Bring me pine cones
Bring me your pockets full of stones

A slow afternoon in the park, playing on the stepping stones across the river. Making sure the baby didn’t fall in. Though he did manage to dip both shoes to greater and lesser extents. Looking at the daffodils growing, wandering under the trees.

On the way home Zeph fell behind and called out to me, ‘Mummy! Wait! I’ve got to get some stones for Daddy!’

He came home with pockets full of stones and gravel bits and dirt.

He came home with pockets full of love.

Car park spelling

I’ve seen this car park spelling activity used as a name learning tool on Mummies and Daddies Facebook page. It’s really simple and perfect for car enthusiasts.

As Zeph has been interested in letters and word-making recently, I decided it was a good time to try it out. I wanted to do his name – it’s always interesting to know the letters for your own name, right? Plus it’s probably a useful bit of information for him to squirrel away before starting school. Though if he doesn’t then he doesn’t. However, we learn letters phonetically and ‘Zeph’ isn’t exactly the easiest phonetic word to start with. Plus, he’s just beginning to get how sound-blending works so I also wanted to reiterate that idea to him with a simple word or two. Now, a long time ago Zeph and I made a set of alphabet letters to stick on our wall and some sound pictures to go with them. So I decided on ‘cat’ and ‘ant’ as simple starting words that I had self-made images to represent.

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Zeph and I made the car park together while Elly was napping. We cut down a cardboard box as you see, used a ruler and marker pen to draw on car parking spaces and wrote in the words.

I had pre-prepared the letters to stick on the cars on squared paper. I liked using the grid instead of plain paper as it can be used like writing practice lines to show where the letter should be formed. My 4 year old is doubtless oblivious to this yet, but getting used to seeing letters properly placed definitely can’t do any harm and will hopefully help to subconsciously ingrain it.

Zeph counted the letters we had written on the car park and then went to find enough cars to match them. We stuck paper letters to cars using bluetack, and he was off.

He was only really interested in doing the parking activity fully once. I think if the car park had been bigger, with more words, he would have continued with them. But that would have been too much in terms of letter and reading practice. I intended to keep the car park piece to bring out and stick new letters/words on occasionally but sadly it proved not to be long lasting enough for my house!

When your kids make up their own activity

I had no intention for the boys to shred the polystyrene strawberry box. But at some point while I was cooking dinner that was exactly what they started doing.

And they had SO MUCH FUN!!!

They pulled it and poked it with their fingers, they tried scissors and pencils on it, they jumped up and down on it and smooshed through the pieces.

And I let them.

Yes, it made some mess. No, it wasn’t much fun to clean up because the itty bitty bits kind of static to things and kind of float around so it’s not the easiest thing to sweep. And I was slightly worried that Elly might start trying to eat it (he didn’t). But I did have help with the clean up. And they learned and experienced.

And I cooked peacefully with not one interruption throughout.

Little kitchen helpers: sweet potato chips

20180315_161723123109703.jpgI love homemade snacks (when I have time/energy to make them) because I know exactly what’s in them. Sweet potato chips are currently a particular favourite for me because of being on a pretty restrictive migraine elimination diet.

All you need are: sweet potatoes.

Give them a scrub (or peel them). My kids like helping with this bit.

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Slice them thin.

Lay them individually on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Make sure they aren’t overlapping. Mine always need a bit of rearranging after my helpers have finished.

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You can add any other optional ingredients now: a spray of olive oil, a bit of salt and black pepper, herbs like thyme or rosemary are all good options.

Put them in a preheated oven at around 190 degrees Celsius for about 40 minutes. Turn once during baking and keep in mind that the time might vary depending on your oven and how thin you sliced the potatoes. They should come out lightly browned.

Leave out to cool and harden.

We’ve also tried this with Irish potatoes which worked well; carrots, which came out too crisped without olive oil and not at all crispy but very yummy with oil – I think maybe I’m just missing the balance so far; and bananas which have failed miserably no matter what I do!