Thursday, 23 May 2013

A playful present project

For me, watching a baby at play is completely magical. I love how they immerse themselves in the experience of busy exploration, instinctively using all their senses to get to grips with whatever they're playing with - whether it's their toes or a toy. I'm a huge fan of heuristic play too - that is to say, discovery play with things that are not necessarily toys - everyday objects and natural materials especially. Putting together little collections of intriguing and baby-safe play-things for open-ended exploration was big round here when my two children were tiny. And how I loved to watch them play.

Recently, we had the opportunity of meeting our friends' baby twins. The babies are just under one year old, and of course, we wanted to get them each a gift - so I went shopping. I found the soft baskets first, and they really inspired me to make the babies each a little treasure basket full of interesting things to explore. As these baskets were gifts, I didn't use home-made and found items; I continued my shopping in search of interesting, open-ended objects and toys. I found some gorgeous silky ribbon, two chunky and smooth mini-scoops, and four hand-size but too-big-for-mouths colourful bouncy balls.

Back at home, I cut the ribbons into lengths of about 15 cm, then snipped the ends into a 'v' shape to prevent them fraying. I washed and dried the bouncy balls and scoops, and then filled the baskets with the goodies - ready to be handed over.

We were lucky to be able to watch the twins open their presents and, rather wonderfully, they started playing straight away. We saw them tipping out the contents of the basket, then putting things back in. We watched them clutch the ribbons and wave them around. They grasped the bouncy balls, they mouthed the scoops and the ribbons, and one of the baskets even became a hat. You could really see them engaging in the serious business of play; and I'm sure you could really see my enjoyment watching them. All in all, a resounding success.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Runner's need

One of the many things I'm enjoying about my children being big kids now - six and eight years old to be precise - is that there are things we can really do together on a level without much, or indeed any, compromise on my part. For example, my son and daughter now play a mean game of knock-out whist, we get to go for proper long family walks and, most recently, I've discovered that they can be with me, and indeed encourage me, while I'm trying something rather new; running.

Now this may not seem like much of a revelation to you, but to me it really is. Quite recently, and somewhat reluctantly, I've begun to run a couple of times a week - inspired mainly by my super-fit husband who just completed the London Marathon in under three and a half hours. I want to see whether I can really ever enjoy it; to get as much physical and mental strength out of it as he does. With no intention of running more than a couple of miles at a time, I began by going out by myself; earphones in, dance music loud. But it didn't get me fired up - and I was beginning to wonder if I'd carry on. However, my recent decision to take the children with me has changed my perception of it entirely. Having them with me has become my new favourite way of getting out there - I'm running, and there alongside me are my children; pedalling away on their bikes.

They're so encouraging as we do our lap around the park, even saying that I'm getting as good as Daddy sometimes. There's always a bit of chit-chat interspersed with one or other of them zooming off ahead, waiting for us at the next corner of the park. Today we covered a variety of topics from there being blossom on the horse-chestnut trees where there were once conkers, to favourite sandwich fillings and ideas for an up-and-coming birthday party. While I'd like them to one day want, and indeed be able, to actually run along with me - as I read about a mother and son doing here - right now I am quite content with how their pedal power complements my jogging pace. Of course this may all change in the months to come; they might get much stronger, fitter and faster - but then again, who knows? -  maybe I will too. In the meantime, we've definitely discovered something that is healthy, fun for all of us, and truly motivating for me; I'm actually looking forward to the next time I go for a run - something I thought you'd never hear me say.