Half term activities

www.mykidsy.com is here to help you stave off the half term melt downs

Just when the new term feels properly underway, half term peers its head around the corner, reminding anyone attempting to have a professional as well as domestic life that children, when not at school, have the potential to stifle it. And while I am all for leaving them to their own devices and allowing boredom to stimulate some creative thought, it is not so easy to leave them lolling when you live in the city.

If you have not discovered it yet, I urge you to look at www.mykidsy.com, a website which lists a carefully edited selection of children’s after school, weekend and holiday activities in London and beyond. The section on half term activities is inspired.

I met the founder, Yasmine Mahmoudieh, and wrote a piece on her for the Telegraph Magazine in January:

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Doll Boy

Mac, the knitted boy doll from Red Nose Day Dolls

Not having dolls in the house is possibly the best thing about not having girls. No scary glass eyes to turn to the wall at bedtime. No grubby plastic contortionists flashing their pink jointed bits from beneath the acrylic blankets…
But, have you seen Mac, the knitted boy child of queen crafters Rose Badger and Emma Mitchell, one of 4 hand-sewn dolls to go under the hammer for Red Nose Day? There is a virtual frenzy of grown-up excitement around them ( check out their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/RedNoseDayDollies and blog www.rednosedaydolls.blogspot.com) not least because they are being kitted out by twenty of the country’s most talented crafters. Mac has his own Shetland wool jumper, sleeping bag, and dog, no less. He has even posted a camping video on You Tube.
All four dolls, plus their miniature crocheted dresses, tulle underskirts, needle felted wirehair fox terriers, and teeny tiny patchwork quilts go under the hammer on Red Nose Day’s official Ebay site on March 15th. With such a good cause in mind, there is no need even to pretend you are bidding on behalf of anyone but yourself.   www.rednoseday.com

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Chaos theory

Disorder and chaos

A few years ago we had a party. Knowing that everyone coming would have small, fidgety people in tow I decided to nail up the toy cupboards. It was bliss. And the cupboards stayed sealed for the whole summer.

Children have too many toys. The urge to shower them with plastic seems too strong to over-ride. My 6 year old has 2 enormous plastic dustbin lorries which sing, if he holds them steady, in hideous unison. TWO. Neither were presents from me. Neither will submit to the charity shop collection.

I had thought that moving to a bigger house with lots of cupboards would help, but the toys seem to have swelled behind closed doors and chaos is upon us. I met a pair of architects last week, living in an open-plan flat in London in apparent harmony with young children. There were, I realised, no cupboards. Everything was consciously on display, and therefore everything was ordered and valued. They admitted to frequent ‘toy culls’, and stuck to strong Montessori principles of only letting their children play with one toy at a time, and insisting they put it away nicely before getting another one out. “If you see everything, you remember to use it- whether it is a toy or a kitchen spice,” one of them told me from her beautifully ordered kitchen. “Children respond well to order and structure. They need to learn to  value their possessions, and that means looking after them carefully.”

Returning home, and wading through the deep litter of Lego and toy soldiers that carpet my 10-year-old’s bedroom, I could not help but feel I had missed a trick. But as I opened the toy cupboard doors, determined to begin the cull, an entire box of Playmobil fell onto my foot.  I hopped off to look for the hammer.


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Alternative realities

William gets a taste of reality

give a boy an ipod and they will sulk in their room; give a boy a kindling axe and he will feel like a man

There was a pick axe moment last weekend: either they came outside to help with the wood, or the ipods would be for the chop. There were complaints, excuses, delaying tactics, but once outside and put to task they were soon pink-cheeked and back to the violently physical, deliriously happy boys I thought I knew.

There is nothing like a hot ipod to tell you that your son is lying. Somehow the electronic devices that Boys 1 (10) and 2 (8) have patiently (and admirably) saved for have become the source of almost every argument (bar the one about flushing the loo). They say they are brushing their teeth when in fact they are playing Minecraft. They spot my laptop and beg for apps, seeking boyish fulfillment in Heligunners and Ishotgun Pro.

These shiny, long-coveted devices have become portals to an alternative reality, one which can make real life boring, and engaging seem far too much like hard work.

We now work on a rota of confiscation. Boy 1 lost his within days of buying it, got it back and then swiftly lost it for an entire week. For lying. About his Ipod. Boy 2 is fairing slightly better, if only for tempering his stories.

Boys need exercise. They need danger. They need to be challenged physically and mentally. You need to be brave to give a child an axe. You need to be clear with them about how to swing it, how not to hit their brothers, how not to take off their own fingers. But give them some real responsibility, in this case in the shape of a kindling axe, rather than fobbing them off in front of a screen, and they will shine. Mine did, and my log pile is now wonderfully large.

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Against all odds

In the garden the combined force of three brothers has met its match, as Spring continues to assert itself on and off the football pitch, despite their best efforts to trample it back into the earth. Beneath the thawing snow the ground had been recovering from the wounds inflicted by blades and bikes, spades and balls, and now that it has gone there are clumps of impossible snowdrops between the goal posts. I have taken these pictures as I suppose they will be trodden into the mud by the end of the weekend, but for now I feel that I have found an ally in Mother Nature.

impossible snowdrops in goal

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It’s glove weather….

It’s glove weather, and I can already feel the arguments about losing them descending on us like a dank autumnal mist. Last year my stinginess took me to the three for twos at Tescos, something I regretted the moment the first tears started rolling as wet hands froze in the snow.  This year I am applying the same rule to gloves for my boys as I do to sunglasses for myself: I am buying them a decent pair each and hoping they might remember to look after them. The over sevens seem to have a deep reverence for kit- shin pads, gum shields, rugby studs are all treated with respect- but the threat of sewing new gloves to a jaunty string, posted humiliatingly through the arms of their coats, hangs in the air with the freezing fogs as they set off to school each morning.

Here are some good ones…

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A Little Belter!

earlyrider balance bike

balance bike

Early Rider Bikes are excited about their new pedal bike launch for 2012. The Belter, and it is a belter. Designed from scratch to be lightweight, super-efficient and maintenance free. At 5.8kg it’ll be the lightest pedal bike on the market. Weight is key to get them riding effortlessly – if you consider the average 5 year old weighs 17kg, picking up and riding a 12kg steel bike is the equivalent of a 80kg man riding a 55kg bike. It just wouldn’t happen. The bike is simply easier for a child to pick up and get moving which will mean they will love riding it. It’s called the Belter because they’ve used a belt drive instead of a chain.

Of course, they’ve also added those little extras that we love about the Early Rider – a leather studded seat and matching hand stitched leather grips. Sweet. It’s likely to hit the market at around £230 and will be available around February 2012.

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