Archives for posts with tag: children

When I was growing up I was amazed at the interest my cousin had in animals. He spent most of his spare time reading about them, and he’s still the same. I didn’t have much of an interest. We didn’t have pets growing up – with the exception of a pup for three weeks! (He nipped a neighbour and was sent to a great big park somewhere!?) So, animals and pets are a new concept to me.

Now I see my children showing an interest in animals that helps me learn more about them as well. We have hens, a goldfish and a cat. Their numbers fluctuate over the years – the hens are fairly constant, the goldfish started with one, then two, then back to one. The cat likes travelling so he is like a teenager in the family – you see him when you see him. Oh, and we used to have a hamster or some small furry animal thing. It was more of a nocturnal creature so we rarely saw it during the day. I suppose it was also like a teenager.

Anyway, thankfully the interest we have in animals is easily fed when you look online. We have a few animal books in the house, but everyone has to agree the attraction of moving pictures is often more appealing to children (and some adults). Our main source of tv programming is through Netflix, so over the years my daughter has moved through the various age appropriate animated shows. There is a wide collection of shows that use animals or anthropomorphic characters telling a tale or sharing information. It’s a great source of learning.

Television shows are very informative nowadays, and many do a great job in making it entertaining and appealing to children and adults. While growing up, I learnt a lot from watching tv, and complimented this with reading; so I’m not the kind of parent that thinks tv is bad. Therefore, watching a selection of shows is a tool for learning used in this house.

I’m not a fan of Peppa Pig (earlier shows are very sexist), but the kids love it. However, the selection of other shows on Netflix is a great distraction. I’ve enjoyed, and continue to watch with my youngest, the talented works of Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear, Clifford the Dog, and more recently Wild Kratts. The latter is great and the information on animals is fascinating. Other shows that are watched here are Bubble Guppies (which has a great ‘rap’ for going outside) Animal Mechanicals (pre-engineering course), Busytown Mysteries (problem solving), and then for entertainment (very important part of all ages of growing up) we have watched Babar, Snow Dogs, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Open Season.

It’s great to have days outdoors, with (possible) sunshine, nature and fresh air. But if you happen to have a day indoors, I’d definitely recommend watching some of these shows with your child. You can switch off from adulthood and learn or be entertained with your child. Enjoy!

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Note: this post is part of the Netflix Stream Team promotion. As usual, all words and thoughts are my own.

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Thankfully, the warmer weather and brighter evenings have given us the opportunity to be outside more. After the winter storms, I have a bit of cleaning up to do in the garden, but I’m not naive enough to think the kids will want to help me with that.

So, I had to think of something that will encourage them outdoors. We have the trampoline, and they were excited about being able to use it again (after they remembered we had one!). But that wasn’t enough. I’m a fan of Pinterest, so I collected (pinned) a few ideas of ‘gardens for children’ over the winter months. This is the time to put some of them into practice. You can see below what we’ve done, and in an effort to prevent you from staying indoors reading this, I’m keeping this post short, and hope you enjoy the possibilities of good weather.

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The picture above shows our tic-tac-toe game. I gathered a few stones from a local beach and painted them to look like bumble bees and ladybirds. I also painted a pallet table we have in the garden to create the board, and now we have a outdoor board game.

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For less than €30 I got some concrete flag stones to put across our gravel path. Then with the magic of chalk, we also have a hopscotch game. The added advantage of these stepping stones is that the kids can cross the gravel towards the grass in their bare feet – resolving one of their issues from last summer. πŸ™‚

So, that’s just two simple changes to the garden this spring that brought the kids outdoors. We’ve also planted some seeds, so check back with us in a few months to see the results. Bye!

In an effort to try keep this Christmas a less stressful holiday, my wife and I decided to keep things simple this year. We planned and bought gifts early, and wanted to prioritise a family day out the weekend before Christmas. We wanted a day where nothing but having fun with our kids would be the task of the day – no last minute shopping! It sounds simple, but I’m usually unorganised at Christmas time, and therefore stress and tension creep in easily. Thankfully, our plan went well and we had a wonderful, family day. We also got to spend time with other members of our families – the in-laws, cousins and their family. It was wonderful.

The magic of Christmas was felt today. We had pizza at a very child friendly restaurant (Milano) that was decorated in festive splendour. We walked through streets lit with magical light displays. We got to visit a fairy-themed park and watch the kids ride a carousel, and eat chocolate filled crepes afterwards. It is definitely one of the days I hope to remember for ever. I’m also hoping our children will remember it as fondly. And it got me thinking about the happy memories I have of Christmas time with my parents when I was a child. There are many enjoyable moments, thankfully. One of the most memorable involved a lot of thought and action from my parents in order for me and my siblings to be surprised. I’m not sure how old I was at the time, probably about ten years of age.

The story involved the whole family at the time – my parents with their four children – heading to a Christmas Fair about two miles from our home. We arrived late in the afternoon so the visiting Santa was already gone. Four disappointed children were told that Santa left a message that he’d catch up with them soon. For the rest of that day we strolled around the various knickknack stalls and bought tickets to the raffle. We left with a few simple prizes and strolled home in the dark winter evening.

The next morning, we went to school as usual and then walked home that afternoon. A typical Monday for the average school going child. However, when we arrived at the back door of our house it was locked. Nothing strange, it usually meant my mother was probably gone to the shop, or a neighbour, so we just had to stroll around the block to the front of the house. In those ‘good auld’ days, a key was always in the front door. The four of us walked along the road to the front of the house. When we pushed open the front gate of the house we saw four wrapped presents on the doorstep. We ran and grabbed the gift that was left for us. A single letter was also on the doorstep, addressed to us all – a letter from Santa apologising for missing us at the Fair the previous day. He explained he had the presents wrapped and knew we were expecting something, so he dropped them off that afternoon. We stood amazed, we just looked at each other in awe – the idea of Santa calling to our house while we were in school, to drop off presents to us. It was truly an early Christmas present. It was magical!

Coincidentally, our parents arrived home ‘from the city’ within seconds of us finding the gifts. They were as thrilled as their four children at the sight of the presents and the letter from Santa. They celebrated this most extraordinary event with us. It is a lovely memory, and I still feel some of the excitement today when I think of it. The magic of Christmas is said to be in the time we spend with our family. Today was one of those days for me. I hope this Christmas brings such joy to others.

Merry Christmas.

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Picture Credit

It’s Friday 13th, and Christmas is near, so I thought you might find this short animated film interesting! This is a beautiful, creative and simple story on a child’s desire for new toys. Hope you enjoy it!

Watch it here

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Since Monday, an organisation known as Men’s Health Forum in Ireland (MHFI) is promoting Men’s Health Week, and it comes to an end on Father’s Day. It’s an event that is celebrated worldwide to heighten the awareness of men’s health issues and hopefully prevent problems through support and information.

Each year they choose a specific theme and ask individuals, professionals and organisations to help spread the necessary message that men need to be more aware and proactive in dealing with their health. This year’s theme in Ireland is ‘Action Men: Turning Words into Actions’

So, in support of this great cause, and to coincide with the forthcoming celebrations on Sunday (Father’s Day!), I wanted to share some essential information to unmarried fathers. I want to share this information in the hope that they will take action, if necessary, to get themselves fully recognised as a father, rather than believing that they have an automatic right to this title. I want them to realise that being a father is more than helping to produce children; there’s a lot more work after the birth they can be involved in. Even if the relationship with the mother of the child doesn’t continue, the child will still need paternal involvement.

In Ireland, when a man becomes a father it’s usually officially recognised through his name inserted onto the birth certificate. However, this really only means he has biologically assisted in the creation of a child. And many of us know, the parenting of the child – i.e. the guardianship of the child – is the essential part in helping that child survive. Fathering is more than a single moment event.

Therefore, I want to do my part for Men’s Health Week by promoting an attitude of ‘turning words into actions’ in the role of fatherhood. If you want to be an active father, and want to have this role officially recognised, and don’t want some of the problems of unmarried fatherhood arise, then keep reading and then be proactive. Talk to any man who has lost access to his child(ren) and discover how his mental and physical health has been affected by his struggle to remain a guardian in their life.

Many unmarried father’s are actively involved in the rearing of their child(ren). They may, or may not, be still in a relationship with the mother of the child, but they still make efforts to care for the child on a regular basis. There are fathers who are still in a relationship with the mother of the child(ren) and therefore see themselves as a part of a family unit, like many other families. Sure why shouldn’t they?

Unfortunately, in Ireland, it’s not that simple. It’s a little bit harder for an unmarried man to be recognised fully as a member of the family he produces. It comes down to the two prong approach to parenting. Parents can be the biological producers of children, and they can also be the guardians of these children. Married couples automatically acquire the two titles when they have a child together. They are guardians as well as the recognised mother and father. However, unmarried couples have to approach this differently and get these rights recognised by the State.

The woman that gives birth to the child will usually be considered both the mother and guardian. However, the man who played the biological part in producing this newborn, has to be recognised as father and guardian. Getting his name onto the child’s birth certificate will award him the title of the biological father. However, to be legally recognised as the child’s guardian, when not married to the mother, involves a bit more paperwork. It involves recognising the legislation in Section 6 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you read it – just be aware of it and know that you need to take action to be the recognised guardian of your child(ren).

To help you with all this, there is a lot of information through various websites, namely Treoir, Citizens Information One Family and FLAC. However, it basically boils down to completing a simple form known as S.I. 5 of 1998, a Statutory Instrument of the Guardianship of Children (Statutory Declaration) Regulations 1998.

So, on this week of Men’s Health Week, and focusing on the theme of ‘Turning Words into Actions’, I ask that any man who is a father, and not married to the mother of your child(ren), to print the S.I. form and get yourself recognised officially as the guardian of your child(ren). Mothers who are reading this; are you in a relationship with the father of your child(ren) and want the State to recognise him as the guardian, not just the biological father? Do you know any other man or woman out there who is affected by this classification of parenting? It’s rarely mentioned, so it could easily go unnoticed. Start talking about it more, but also remember to stop talking, and to take action! Do the practical thing – be an Action Man (or woman, don’t want to be discriminatory) – and get the form signed.

After all, with only a few days to go before you celebrate your role of fatherhood, do you want to be just a father to your child(ren), or do you want to be their guardian as well? Your health, and theirs, could depend on your actions.

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This week has thankfully proved to many of us that there is actually a season that brings sunshine and warmth to our fair land. I feel I deceive my children when I promise to do certain things outside “when the summer comes” or “when it’s a bit warmer”! Thankfully, this week, some of these promises were kept with our ability to picnic in the garden, splash about in the [birth] pool, and ‘galocher‘ ice cream several times throughout the day; and hats and coats were left in the boot of the car! It’s been a wonderful week and the kids seem happy to be around their parents; and the parents are happy to be around the kids! And it ain’t over yet…

So, feeling all positive about my stay-at-home-dad status, I was happy to discover that today – June 1st 2013, is now a worldwide celebration day of parents. So, Happy International Parents’ Day to all readers who are parents, or have parents!

So, before you start the cynical criticisms about this being another exploitative celebration from card-makers around the world – you’re wrong – this is actually a UN resolution (66/292 to be more precise) to recognise the role of parenting! Yes, the United Nations reckons we need to universally look at the positive role parents play in society. After all, would there be much of a society if there were no parents? Actually, who would provide a new generation of leaders to sit around the UN table, if parents were not here?

So, looking at it this way; us parents are very important people and therefore we should be celebrated. I know some of you are asking, do we really need a celebration day for parents? Sure we already have a Mothers’ Day and a Fathers’ Day? Why is this new parents’ day slotted in between these existing parental dates? Has the UN just placed parenting between the celebrated mothers and fathers of this planet?

This inaugural celebration day of parents is hopefully to show how “families built on the recognition of equality between women and men will contribute to more stable and productive societies.” Well, chronologically at least, the United Nations have certainly placed the day between women and men. As to how the ‘more stable and productive society’ will pan out after celebrating International Parents’ Day is probably based on the notion that men, if they clean the house more, will reap the benefits of a more amorous partner. πŸ˜‰ Not sure how true that is!? [Any comments on that Irish Parenting Bloggers?] And, I have to question how productive can a parent be while being a parent – I constantly feel everything I do is only half done.

But the UN don’t seem to have the half done scenario at all. Along with the three celebration days mentioned above, there’s even an International Day of Families observed on the 15th May every year. Did you know that? It was celebrated only a few weeks ago. I can’t remember it, but it supposedly ‘provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.’ Again, I think they’re trying to point out how parents rarely get out, money seems to evaporate and the sense of crowded isolation hits several times a week. Fair play to them for this recognition.

So, looking at the work of the UN in recognising Mothers, Fathers, Families, and now Parents; you’re wondering if they have left anyone out? Well the answer is No, because on November 20th each year we can celebrate worldwide fraternity and understanding between children, and their welfare, with Universal Children’s Day. And then there’s the people who are neither parents or children, and who might feel aggrieved by only getting an single day of recognition with International Day of Families, so the UN provides International Women’s Day on the 8th March, and then there’s International Men’s Day on 19th November each year

So all in all, there are a few days throughout the year that are universally recognising our great contribution to society, no matter how old you are in the family! So, if you are a young child reading this today, remember to treat your parent well this Bank Holiday weekend. No whining, fighting, screaming or shouting at us. Like our summer, it may only come once a year, but its still real.

Peter McKee ‘The Meaning of Life’ available here

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This evening I arrived home from work to an empty house. Those of you who are parents can probably understand the beautiful silence that this brings and the contrasting wondering of why is the house empty? Within five minutes my wife, with the kids, pulled into the drive. It was only five minutes of peace and quiet but it was lovely after an intensive day in work.

While we all gathered in the kitchen, my wife explained she wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to get into bed and forget everyone and everything. I can understand that – I think most people can recognise that feeling. So I suggested she go there and I will sort out something for me and the kids for the next few hours. She initially struggled with this notion of surrender but eventually disappeared.

So, first off was dinner. The kids didn’t want the spaghetti that was prepared for them earlier, they wanted chips. I have to admit I wasn’t in the mood of the salad my wife had made in the hope of summer showing up somewhere soon. So chips was a great idea for me as well. However, I took the lazy route and suggested we head down to the local chipper to get a ‘single of chips’. [this is a bag of chips in case you are wondering – heard Ian Dempsey explain this to his guests the other morning on his show].

The local chipper was quiet, just us and the two staff, with the intrusive sounds of the music channel playing on the tv in the corner. Although, I’m always grateful it’s not some sports or sky news playing in the corner. While we waited for our order to deep fry – this is not our regular diet to any health conscious readers – we stood looking out onto the street. Within a minute, a young man carrying a huge box of soft toys enters the chipper. The box contained a huge selection of various coloured animals of our natural and fictitious worlds. When he set the box down on the floor, my two kids jumped at it thinking Christmas had arrived again.

The guy proceeded to open the door on a vending machine (a claw-attempts-to-grab-a-toy type of machine) in one corner of the tiny waiting area to refill the prizes. I reckon I’m not alone in my loathing for the existence of these machines when visiting various locations in our locality – the shopping centre, the cinema, the chemist, the play zone. You know there’s a high chance of pestering going to happen and there’s a better chance of winning the lotto than getting a toy from the claw machine!

Well tonight our luck was here rather than the lotto. I had given the last of my money to the guy making the chips. There was no money left for this game and I anticipated the words of torment that can follow when the kids discover such ‘treasures’. The words were uttered, “Daddy, can we play the game when the man is finished filling it?”, as they rifled through the large cardboard box, picking out their favourite toys.

Before I could answer the question, the guy turned to my two eager kids and simply said, “Sure, take one now, don’t wait for me to finish!” It was so unbelievable that they didn’t really hear him. They asked me again, and I looked at the guy as he repeated his offer – “pick one out now before I put them into the game”. The smiles on their faces indicated that they heard him this time. They looked through the box again and picked out a prize each. They were thrilled. All three of us thanked the guy. The lads in the chipper added to the festivities and gave each of the kids a lollipop. This was one great trip on a Monday evening.

When we got home they shared the story with mammy and were thrilled to explain they got the toy for nothing, and lollipops, it was the best trip ever! Easy joy, easily shared. As we sat down to eat our chips, my daughter (still cuddling her newly acquired pet dolphin) explained that she wants to bring some of her other cuddly toys to the charity shop tomorrow. “I don’t play with them anymore so I’ll let someone else have them. Just like the guys in the chipper – I want to share”. Paying it forward was a nice lesson to start the week.

Anyone else want to share their ‘pay it forward’ story?

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I think we have several chairs like this in our home! πŸ™‚ http://pinterest.com/pin/66076319505256217/

A few weeks ago I met a long time friend for dinner, to celebrate the recent passing of my birthday and the eve of hers. It was a simple pizza and wine chat on what’s been happening since we last met. Inevitably, we discussed how we have changed from our interaction with family, friends, colleagues and society in general.

My friend is teaching and loving her job. She is aware that my wife and I home educate our children and she asked what ‘schooling’ my children were getting. I explained we were unschooling and this kept the conversation going for a while. We discussed the merits and worries of schools versus home educating, but I felt a bit lost for words in trying to explain the education style we use. In bed that night I decided not to go into the topic until I could explain unschooling better. Until now, that is. πŸ™‚

I’m writing this to try figure out my understanding of my decision. Each day I see my children learn something new. They interact with people of all ages quite well. My daughter asked to do some number games recently, after we finished baking cookies. My son is learning words and tries each day to say a few new words. ‘Ham’ is very clearly understood, but not so much the word ‘grandad’ at the moment! It’s a joy for me to learn with them each day, even when my learning involves me apologising to the kids for getting so easily annoyed about their behaviour at times.

In trying to establish an understanding of what I do in educating my children I’m always drawn back to comparing it to a school based education. However, that is one of the main reasons I want to home educate – to avoid the structures and categories of learning that schools implement. I liked the flexibility of my daughter baking with me, then sitting down to do numbers and tables. She called it her homework. Then she played a word game on the computer so that she could challenge herself to the next level of the ‘game’. She led all of this learning. I helped her follow the ideas she had to learn more. She wanted to learn and by doing stuff, and by doing this with her I learnt how much she loves moving from one task to another throughout the day.

I’m still not sure how to describe what I do to ‘educate’ my children, other than to say that I help them learn and then watch what happens. Just like many other parents. Around the world, every day, parents help educate their children whether the child is in preschool, primary school, secondary, university and the home. My children probably learn things in a different format to many other children their age; and they will probably prefer to learn some tasks more regularly than others – just like their friends. And this is another key concern for all parents – helping our children to interact with others and create friendships. This might be a bit of a shock to some people (based on the No.1 question I’m usually asked by adults) – Yes, my children have friends! Home educated children are not kept in boxes away from the community they live in. They interact with people every day and learn something from it.

I have learnt many things through school, work, university, travelling and simply by interacting with people and my surroundings. I continue to learn something new each day. I like to share with others some of what I’ve learnt. In my work outside of the family and home, I have many people who are grateful for me sharing what I know. I am often challenged to research something so that I learn something new. Thankfully, learning can be a reciprocal arrangement, if we allow it to happen.
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Cartoon taken from the brilliant imagination of Bill Watterson in his ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ books

I attended a La Leche League conference last weekend; an inspirational event for us in determining our actions and beliefs in parenting. The main task of fathers attending the conference is to do their parenting role in the lobby or hotel corridors. Each year I think I will get to listen to some interesting facts from one of the conference speakers, but it hasn’t happened yet. My wife is usually the one who attends the sessions (she is obviously more interested and appreciative of the discussion on breastfeeding than I ever will) so I’m happy enough with the way things are right now. This year’s conference was less demanding of my parenting skills as our children loved the play and crafting rooms.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to write about this event is because the mothers who take on the mammoth task of feeding their child through their breasts get a lot of stick for this choice. Society, health professionals, partners, family, employers, etc can often be the critical nay-sayers of this very important role. I can appreciate the complex situations that sometimes prevent a mother taking on the breastfeeding role, but there are instances of people strongly criticising or preventing the mother from making, or continuing with, the choice to do it.

So today, on this day celebrating motherhood, a big Thank You goes out to mums who do or support breastfeeding! For those who might be struggling through it, here’s some information that might be encouraging and of interest.

2012 ESRI Figures on Average breastfeeding rates:

Ireland: 5 out of 10, UK: 8 out of 10, EU: 9 out of 10, Scandinavia: almost 10 out of 10

A study in Brazil found that infants who were not breastfed at all had a 14 times greater risk of death than those who were exclusively breastfed.

830,000 deaths could be avoided if every baby was breastfed within the first hour of birth.

Spending on formula feed is worth $25 Billion, whereas breastfeeding costs us nothing!

Ref: Superfood for Babies, Safe the Children, 2013
The Journal.ie, 2012, National Breastfeeding Week

I also include the data because, if the stats are correct (and I’ve no reason to dispute them), there are more children celebrating mothers today because of her choice to not go with the new fad of bottle feeding!

Thanks mam. x

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