Turning Five, Finally.

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“Who are important people?” Freya asked the other day.

It was ridiculously hot and we were sat on deckchairs on our balcony, trying to cool down. As her question was a bit out of the blue I thought for a few seconds and then said: “The prime minister, doctors and nurses, suffragettes…erm….”

“What about Barry Scott?”

The name was vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite place him. I frowned.

“Who?”

“The man on tv?”

“Wait, the cleaning man. Cillet Bang?”

At that moment we both said: “Bang! And the stain is gone.”

After we had finished chuckling I added: “Well, I guess he’s important to people who like cleaning?”

“I like a clean house,” she said, with what I thought was more than a hint of criticism.

We don’t use any of those products (I’m more a white vinegar type of girl) but I’ve seen the advert on the children’s channel that is sometimes on in the background. I’ve never seen Freya really pay attention to it, she’s not one for tv or sitting still in general, but he’s loud and enthusiastic – a bit like a children’s tv presenter. Maybe that’s what grabbed her attention?

What I’m learning about just turned five years olds is that they take in much more than we (I) give them credit for.

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That realisation has come in little sharp shocks.

No more having conversations in front of her, especially ones where you try and spell out the word you don’t want her to know.

“Ooooh park, yes I would really like to go.” She looks up, expectantly.

Then there are the deep questions, it started off with the odd one here and there but now most things she asks require proper thought – especially as I realise what she is asking often seems to be unrelated to what she actually wants to know.

If my brain was a television it would have been on standby mode for most of the last five years but it’s like someone has just accidentally sat on the remote and it has come back to life at full volume, making everyone jump.

She’s not going easy, we’ve had many of the big ones. Death, God, crime, homelessness, racism, how did she get in my tummy?

As difficult as I sometimes find them, it’s these random conversations that I’m going to miss now she’s back at school.

Year 1.

How did that happen?

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It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was looking down at the calendar I had just made -and still can’t quite bring myself to take down – wondering how I was going to fill the six-week summer holiday.

While it wasn’t without its days that seemed neverending (and not in a good way), on the whole I’d give it a thumbs up.

We were lucky enough to spend some time away from home, which I think helped break things up – for me at least. Freya would probably have been just as happy going to the local park every day (where we made some lovely new friends). I had one of those moments, watching her dance in and out of the water at the splash park, squealing with delight, where I thought: ‘Yes, this could be one of those perfect childhood memories.’

And, of course, at the end of the holidays, she finally, FINALLY had her birthday. I’m not sure why it seems such a landmark, probably because she’s made it so by counting down from January.

As, one by one, all of her school friends started blowing out their candles, Freya grew impatient for her own celebration. She had a long wait. We all did.

Finally five.

I really hope it’s as good as she thinks it’s going to be.

Little Hearts, Big Love

 

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Five Tips For Helping Young Children Enjoy The Great Outdoors.

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As much as I like the lifestyle living in a flat gives us as a family, it was lovely being able to open the backdoor, while we were staying at my parents’ house last week, and let Freya play in garden – and so easy.

I’m grateful to have lots of green spaces around us and we generally spend a lot of time outside but, even when we go to our patch of shared grass downstairs, it’s something of an expedition. Mostly Freya loves nothing more than jumping in muddy puddles or hunting butterflies but sometimes the extra effort of always having to go somewhere means she does need a little bit of convincing.

While I’m more than happy to let her have quiet days at home when she needs them, I firmly believe that for children to care about the environment, they need to feel part of it – and she can’t do that if she’s sat inside all the time.

In a way, because we can’t just pop outside, I think it’s even more important to encourage her to have that connection with nature, which is obviously good for her both mentally and physically too. As a result, over the last couple of years we have come up with a few tricks for getting her excited about being in the great outdoors which I thought I’d share.

1. Bug/nature hunt.

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Just like her mum, Freya loves a list. Suggesting a bug hunt is the most successful one for us, especially now she’s learning to read and write. When she was younger, I had a go at drawing the bugs or different leaves but now, with her help, we make a list. I just fold two sheets of A4 paper in half and then tie them with string (or ribbon, if I’m feeling fancy). She loves to tick things off.

2. Explorer’s kit.

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Every explorer needs equipment, which in our case is things we already had but were just randomly scattered about the flat. Now they live in their own bag (an Elsa lunchbox, of course).

We have a magnifying glass, binoculars (which I found in a charity shop), a pond sampler (which we were given at an event), pens and paper (if we don’t have a bug hunt book) and mini Collins gem guides to birds and bugs. If we spot something and we don’t know what it is, we look it up. Like this little fellow.

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We think its a cinnamon bug. One to add to the list next time.

3. Art scavenger.

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Generally I’m a ‘take only pictures’ type person – I certainly never let her pick flowers -but if we go to one of our local parks, which were are very lucky to have nearby, we will occasionally collect some leaves and twigs to make into ‘art’. We’ve also made them at the park and left everything behind too. If you’re like me and lack any sort of imagination for this type of thing, Pinterest is your new best friend.

Sometimes we also take paints or colouring pens outside on nice days. Leaves make good paint brushes or shapes to print around.

4. Bike ride/race.

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One of the main reasons we like to get Freya outside is because she has SO much energy. In the flat I’m always having to say “don’t lump around” (our poor neighbours) whereas when we are outside she can run, jump and generally race about as much as she likes. As she’s got older, we’ve added the bike/scooter into things. Also, one of the things we’ve found is that, if she starts moaning about having to walk, if you offer her a race to a certain tree or bench she will soon perk up. So competitive! She doesn’t get that from me.

5. Picnic.

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We usually go out fairly early so we can end up eating our picnic anywhere from 10am. Even though I’m not a fan of fending off assorted bugs, if it makes Freya happy, I’ll give it a go (I do jump about quite a lot though). It’s nice for her to sit for a while too (although she’s quite often looking at things through her binoculars in between bites).

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These things work well at the moment but she’s only four.  I do wonder how much longer we’ll be able to encourage her using these methods.

Have you got any tips for inspiring reluctant children outside?

Another Parenting Chapter: The School Trip.

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For her first school trip Freya went to…Tesco.

That’s right, the supermarket.

Apparently it was The Best Day Ever.

They got to go through doors you’re not normally allowed to enter, wear paper hats, bake bread and learn about all sorts of food.

It sounds amazing… and not at all like the exact same place we’ve visited almost every week of her life.

I’ll admit I was a little bit jittery about her going but it was just for a couple of hours, she’d been there before and it was only down the road.

I still drilled her full name and address with her a few hundred dozen times and gently talked about stranger danger but all in all I was pretty chilled…well, compared with her latest excursion anyway.

This time they were going to a forest.

A forest 45 minutes away.

In a minibus without car seats.

Along a very busy dual carriageway.

Yes, it sounded like a really fun and educational trip but there was a huge part of me that simply didn’t want to let her go.

“Imagine how I felt each time you announced you were jetting off somewhere remote and possibly dangerous,” was my mum’s input.

It was for work, mostly.

And I was in my 20s and 30s at the time, not FOUR.

But, yes, I can appreciate, now, how it might have been a little worrying for her. Sorry mum.

My dad was more sympathetic.

“I bet you feel like following along behind her,” he said. He was joking, of course, but his  laugh sounded a little nervous when met with my silence as I imagined myself dressed head to toe in black (not sure why as it would be daylight), following behind in the car and then hiding behind trees to make sure she didn’t wander off.

When I discussed it with some of the other mums it seemed like we might get a convoy going.

In the end I did manage to leave her in the classroom on the day of the trip with a cheery “have fun” – even though all of my motherly instincts were urging me to pick her up, run all the way home, wrap her in a blanket and snuggle her all day.

I walked home, via the shop for chocolate, very slowly in the hope that I would see her getting on the bus through the fence. I *might* have imagined seeing the bus pull out and then jumping on and clinging to the back door.

It’s not that I don’t trust her teachers to take care of her. They are brilliant and very experienced, I knew they would look after her. Freya is also used to being outside and exploring without any drama. I’m not sure whether it’s being a former news reporter or just an anxious mum but all sorts of horrible scenarios were going through my head. All day.

Thankfully all was well. Freya said the trip was brilliant and talked about seeing aliens on roller blades (?!). I’m not sure they were supposed to be there but as long as she’s happy.

I know I’m going to have to get better at this; at letting go of the reins a bit more. Although, if my mum is anything to go by, maybe you never get better at it? I want her to be independent and eventually to go off and explore the world. If she wants to. When she’s 30. But it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was pureeing her food and changing her nappy.

Any tips for making school trips easier (for me)? Maybe don’t read the news any more? Pretend to be four and go with her?