Week 5 of our holidaysย 

Wow what a busy week! We were hardly at home this week which meant that we hardly touched on any planned activities for craft and sensory play, but we were so lucky with the weather that time was spent at parks, friends’ houses and trips out.

1. Cous Cous sensory play.

I am always looking for more materials for sensory play, we’ve never tried Cous Cous before but Lou loved exploring this, “it’s like sand mummy” She observed. And then also explored what happened when adding a bit of water: “Now it’s slimy!”

2. Good old cut and stick.

Lou has always taken a great interest in catalogues! I remember when I was younger, myself and my younger sister would cut up old catalogues and stick the items we like onto paper, Lou really enjoyed this and has been waiting to get her hands on the scissors for a while now!

3. Our day out at ‘All Things Wild,’ Honeybourne, Worcestershire.

We love this place! We’ve visited ‘All Things Wild’ a few times since Lou was 2, there’s a bit of everything. We found that there are some new additions to the park such as a large climbing frame with a twisty slide that Lou just loved. Moo really enjoyed watching the Guinea Pigs, Prairie Dogs and rabbits, they were on her level and had domes to put your head in right up close to the animals. Another favourite were the Meerkats and Porcupines. We travelled on the Dinosaur train this time and enjoyed walking around the Dinosaur structures even though it was raining! There were new Digger pits and a sandpit where the children had to uncover Dinosaur bones.

We were lucky with the weather in the afternoon but Lou and Moo enjoyed the many indoor activities on offer, which is great if the weather is bad. Such as soft play, play tractors, and reptile house. There is also a great indoor sand pit room but we didn’t manage get in there this time as we were so busy!

We hope to visit again in October half term.

I cannot believe that were in our last week of the holidays! There’s going to be a bit of preparation this week for Lou starting school, but hopefully also time for more fun!

Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚


 

Week 3 of our holiday – craft and Sensory Diet activities

This week we got quite a lot packed in, we were able to complete more craft and sensory activities and we got a couple of days out as well due to daddy being off work for 3 days. 

1. Salt dough hearts.

This was one of those activities that allowed Lou to explore and she enjoyed the texture and feel of the salt dough but I don’t think I cooked the dough for long enough in the oven and therefore we found that the PVA went stringy on contact with the heart shape! Lou found this highly amusing and enjoyed touching it! I will repeat this activity next time and learn from the experience! 

The salt dough recipe we used to make salt dough was:

1 cup of salt

1 cup if water 

2 cups of flour

And we added in some pink food colouring.

We made a mixture of PVA glue and water to create a varnish effect and placed on some buttons and sequins.

I also found that the buttons and sequins should have been pressed into the soft dough but as it then couldn’t be put into the oven it would take several days to properly dry out.

2. Salt dough hedgehogs.

This was more successful than the salt dough hearts! We collected some twigs on a walk and these were used to create the hedgehog’s spikes. We allowed the hedgehog to dry out naturally then hope to paint it. We used the salt dough recipe as above. 

3. ‘Puffy paint’ practice.

I wanted to give this a go before creating some puffy paint ice creams, as I’d never attempted this activity before.

We used PVA glue mixed with paint and shaving foam. The texture was amazing and the mixture did puff up! Lou was immediately fascinated by the texture and tried a bit out on paper with a paint brush, but she much preferred feeling the mixture on her hands! 

This soon turned into a colour mixing activity and Lou was delighted as she said: “I’ve made green” and “I’ve made purple!” She wanted to print the new colours into paper. I’m unsure if I used enough PVA glue in the mixture as I’m running out, as when the pictures created with a paint brush dried they dried flat rather than puffy, or whether this is what is supposed to happen!  

4. ‘Soapy foam’ in water tray. 

Moo was really into water play this week, she enjoyed getting the soapy foam (children’s bath product) onto her hands and squeezed it! We cannot use shaving foam with Moo as it irritates her skin as she gets Eczema. Soapy foam is kinder to children’s skin and is moldable, bought from a supermarket. 

5. Day out for Daddy’s birthday. 

We went on a 10-minute train journey to Worcester where we moved from when Lou was 2. We are lucky to live very close to a train station and as daddy was off work on holiday, we were able to visit the park, had lunch out and discovered the fountains by the riverside close to Worcester bridge.

Worcester bridge, taken from South Quay (River Severn)
I’ve always loved this view of the cathedral I used to walk this way to work, beautiful in the morning. Even if this photo I’ve taken is slightly wonky!
Water fountains on South Quay, Worcester

Lou was curious about the water fountains but wanted to stay on the edge to watch. When I said that she could go in further she replied: “But I’ll get my shoes wet mummy!” Such a contrast to the 2 year old I took here regularly – when she used to run through the water! 

Overall I was so impressed with Lou on this trip, her usual limit away from home is 2 hours but she lasted 4 hours on this day! We had some little ‘wobbles’ but these were quickly averted. This is the first proper family trip we’ve successfully managed in about a year! We decided to put the reins on Lou as it was a very busy place and she still tends to run off or bump into things. We try and gauge the safety aspects and whether she should wear them or not.

This has to be my favourite still life photo from the day: 

The sculpture, by Malvern artist Victoria Harrison, honours the lives of the officers and men who were killed in the adjoining battles of Qatia and Oghratina during the First World War.

I hadn’t seen this sculpture in Cripplegate park before, as I haven’t visited for 2 years, I found it great to capture as it’s made from mosaic tiles. I had to Google the meaning behind this 9ft sculpture (as I often ‘Google’ stuff!) It was unveiled in April 2016. 

Week 3 was a successful and busy one! I hope that week 4 brings much of the same! 

I just love it when the kitchen is a hive of craft activity ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚ 

‘Mess Around’ session

At the end of July ‘Mess Around’ did a session at Lou’s new school, as she wasn’t able to attend I searched their website and was delighted to find that a session was being held on 6th August at a local village hall, only a few miles away from where we live. 

‘Mess Around’ provide messy play sessions from babies aged 6 months old, (sitting unaided) to children aged 5. These sessions are run all over the UK.

I was keen to book Lou onto the session as she thrives on messy, or sensory activities. I also wanted Moo to experience the session as she’s more on the move now and has already taken an interest in messy play, particularly sand and water play.

There was a great variety of experiences set out all over the hall including:

โ— Yellow gloop

โ— Coloured rice 

โ— Coloured spaghetti 

โ— Ribbons and streamers

โ— Paint with a variety of rollers and painting tools

โ— Purple play dough with cupcake moulds and stand

โ— Sand tray 

โ— Water tray including water beads 

โ— Coloured rice pudding 

โ— Balloons covered in shaving foam and tennis rackets/swatters 

โ— Coloured porridge oats – made into a Union Jack pattern 

This all made for a very inviting a colourful site on a ‘Carnival Sports Party’ them, which tied in nicely with the start of the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. The session included music of a up-beat, party style. 

The organisers had taken a lot of care and attention in laying out the materials on the sports party theme, and included medals and cups into the ‘Tuff Spot’ or builder’s tray. 

We hadn’t encountered ‘water beads’ before, both Lou and Moo were fascinated with their texture and Lou was surprised she could pick them up as she described them as “flat under the water.” 

We were fascinated with the yellow gloop mould that could be explored with cooking spoons and spatulas. 

The highlight of the session, especially for Lou, was the foam machine – at first she wasn’t sure but she got right in there and throughly enjoyed the feeling of the foam raining down! 

I would recommend Mess Around sessions to anyone, they are well organised and the staff are extremely helpful and friendly, they went around at various points with a bubble machine. There was an area that included wash bowls and towels to clean up at the end, it was also good to be reminded when booking the session to ensure the children wore old clothes so they could fully explore the materials on offer.

For more information please vist: 

Mess Around UK
To find a session.

Our session was run by Mess Around Worcestershire

Or visit their Facebook page.

Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚ 

‘Crafty Cooks’ session

Crafty Cooks run regional cooking sessions for children from 2.5 years. They recognise that this is an important skill for young children. A Crafty Cooks session lasts for 1 hour and is great for fussy eaters as the session includes tasting foods and where they come from. Children make both savoury and sweet items and a recipe card is handed out at the end of the session which can be referred to again. 

Lou attended a one-off holiday session, but for the children that attend weekly term-time sessions, they can collect lots of recipe sheets which can be kept in a canvas bag with the Crafty Cooks logo on.

In this session Lou made mini savory pasties. The children are given a set of equipment each and ingredients needed such as onion and jacket potato had been pre cooked. Lou made her own pastry, and each child could go up to the front to use some traditional weighted scales. As Lou is a ‘Sensory Seeker’ she thrived on using her hands to rub the butter and flour together, to make the mixture like ‘sand.’ I wish I’d been able to take photos of this process but it was lovely as parents are encouraged to get stuck in and help too! Lou also enjoyed squeezing the potato out of the jacket skin to help make the filling, and was delighted to use a cheese grater where she could turn the handle. 

To roll out the pastry and cut into circles reminded Lou of ‘play dough.’ She was happy to hand over her pasties on the oven tray for baking.

It was great that the children are encouraged to be independent, for example: To take their equipment to the sink area and get a cloth to help clean the table.

Once the pasties were baking in the oven the children were offered some potato wedges and a variety of cheeses to taste. I was keen for Lou to try cheese as we’re currently re-introducing dairy into her diet and she’s been unfamiliar with cheese after being dairy free from 6 months old. She tried different cheeses but she really enjoyed the sweet potato wedges, which I’ve made at home but she’s not wanted to try them until now. I’ll be making some more at home for her from now on! 

The end product pasties were lovely, we took them home wrapped in tin foil and Lou tried one for lunch and enjoyed it, and also saved one for daddy as “pasties are his favourite!” 

It was great seeing Lou making the pasties and I think this encouraged her to try the end product as she’d made it herself. And with Lou being a fussy eater, this has encouraged me to bake more at home with Lou. 

For more information please visit:

http://www.craftycooks.co.uk/
For the main website where you can search for sessions in your area. The session we attend was in a nearby village based at the session leader’s home.

Eeek it’s the summer holidays soon!ย 

I’ve written a lot of research posts recently, sometimes this blows my mind, but it’s so helpful in my quest to try and understand my child’s behaviour more and why she does what she does! This post is more of a ‘what’s on my mind’ post, and there’s always a lot on my mind! 

The summer holidays will soon be upon us, it feels like I’ve blinked and missed the past few months, When i was working in education I remember that feeling of elation that the end if term was nearing, knowing that you’d given your absolute all during the term and this was rewarded often with a meal, several drinks and socialising with chilled out colleagues! When I returned to work after having Lou we explored everywhere possible during the holidays, we went to parks, visiting friends and relatives and walked for miles with Lou enjoying the scenery of the countryside from the comfort of her pushchair. The last summer holidays in 2015 was the first time that Lou had experienced ending Pre School and not returning for 6 weeks. We lived in an upper floor flat on a new build estate with a park that wasn’t completed. We had to walk for about 30 mins until we reached a park or a shop, with Lou saying “my legs hurt” which since I recently found out she has hypermobile joints, does make me feel very guilty. The times we were inside the flat Lou would get frustrated and would throw any item she could get her hands on, which she is currently repeating at the moment. Even though she now has full access to a garden! I remember that feeling of absolute desperation, of trying to interact with Lou, setting up activities but she wasn’t interested in spending time with me, she wanted other children and was craving the routine that pre school provided. 

Around June time in the back if my mind I started to get anxious about the impending holidays as I’ll do anything I can to avoid a repeat performance of last year’s holidays.I often feel guilty about the fact that I don’t drive, I wonder if I took the children out further afield if this would reduce some of the stresses, I’ve tried lessons a few times since having an accident at 17, but it just petrifies me, I just don’t feel safe as I go into a trance like state when panic takes over behind the wheel,  I don’t feel that it’s me controlling the car, and it’s very scary. I would also worry about distractions if Lou wasnt coping in the car. I’d love to be able to take my girls here there and anywhere but I also have to keep in mind that as I’m not currently working and we’re a one income family for the time being, and we’re busy saving for certain equipment for our home in order to help to keep Lou safe. I am also at the point where I cannot take both children out without the help of someone else there, as Lou has had a meltdown everytime we’re in public and I’m often having to abandon Moo, like the time Lou ran upstairs in our local library and I had to leave Moo downstairs to quickly retrieve Lou as she was also screaming loudly and running around! I’ve had to accept that for the time being my child sees the world differently and therefore I can’t be getting jealous about what other people are doing with their children, as we have to take small steps with everything. We are lucky that we live only a few minutes walk from a train station and this allows myself and my partner to take both girls on days out, as Lou gets older she may cope better with train journeys so that we can visit places in the holidays,  but as with everything, we’ve just got to wait and see.

My key is to plan, plan, plan. Here’s a few ways I think I’ll try and survive the weeks: 

1. Make a sensory diet plan – As I discussed in my previous ‘sensory diet’ post I will set out specific activities to allow Lou to thrive in her ‘sensory seeking’ this will have a big emphasis on messy play. If there’s a time when we are at home and Lou is getting a bit frustrated or is running around I will get out the plan and offer her an experience that will hopefully keep her focused and absorbed. See: http://wp.me/p7BVlE-6S

2. Use Pinterest ! I get a great deal if my ideas and activities from here. I found a picture of a fairy jar recently and this was a huge successful activity for engagging Lou. Lou loves craft, getting the glue and the glitter out. See: http://wp.me/p7BVlE-4l

3. Outings with friends and play dates – we are extremely lucky to have made a wonderful and supportive network of friends in the past 12 months of living here, they understand Lou has certain difficulties and are so accommodating. Lou thrives when in the company of others, she responds better when it’s not just myself and Moo in the picture. Some days out are trips to a park or play dates around at each other’s houses which doesn’t cost anything. 

4. Visiting grandparent’s – Lou and Moo are very lucky to have their grandparents (my parents) only a 6 minute drive away! Lou absolutely loves my parent’s garden it’s far bigger than ours and she has a slide, swing and climbing frame that we can’t fit in our garden, Lou has named their garden ‘The Park.’ Lou also enjoys a visit to the park in the village, and there are some lovely parks to visit in the surrounding villages. 

Sibling bonding on the tractor at a local park

5. If in doubt… get outside! Fresh air does wonders, we have noticed after time outdoors, the public access walks through fields and countryside, that our children sleep better. Lou is a born explorer, she will collect stones,  flowers etc, and is more chilled in an outdoor environment.  

6. Accessing the SMILE centre in Malvern, Worcestershire. I’ve written a post regarding the benefits of Lou attending the SMILE therapy centre. She has requested sand messy play for her first session of the holidays. We hope to see the benefits of these sessions such as a calmer approach to situations, as these sessions allow Lou to be in full ‘seeker’ mode – she will attend for 1 hour per week of the holidays. For more information please see: http://wp.me/p7BVlE-Y

Helping water the flowers in Nanna ‘s garden

Exploring the flowers growing in a field near our house, she also found a ladybird!
Exploring park equipment

I hope to report back on how our holidays are going, I look forward to taking lots more photos to share the experiences we have. 

SMILE Centre Malvern

A review of our experiences with SMILE at ARCOS, Malvern, Worcestershire.

The SMILE (Sensation Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) Project is based at the ARCOS (Association for the Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral Skills.)
We were first introduced to SMILE via one of my daughter’s Pre School teachers who had visited the centre previously. After reading the information leaflets I was given, I thought that SMILE would be somewhere that would really benefit my child, Amber (4) who has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ASD and ADHD. I contacted Sam the project leader who encouraged me to visit the centre to have a look at the facilities. I first visited with my youngest daughter Maisie (15 months) she thoroughly enjoyed exploring the equipment such as bubble tubes, the snug area and had some time in the music, dance and drama room exploring the instruments, which is really her thing! This visited enabled me to ask questions and throughly get a feel for the surroundings. I talked with Sam about Amber’s current needs and problems she faces.
SMILE is great as it offers both group or individual session in both term time and school holidays.

I was given a leaflet about Family Fund – a charity that provides grants for disabled or seriously ill children. I’d not heard of Family Fund before but after an assessment they provided Amber with a grant to attend 8 sessions at SMILE to which I am eternally greatful.

The first time Amber attended SMILE we met Sam again and Charlotte who were fantastic at allowing Amber to freely explore the sensory room. They had set out a shop role play activity as this was one of Amber’s current interests. It was great to see Amber’s interaction and join in with the imaginative play. We were at complete ease during the 1 hour session I almost forgot where we were! It was truly amazing to have such positive interactions without the pressures and constraints if being at home and having to do everyday tasks, such as housework. These sessions will also benefit Amber’s father greatly to join in with creative or sensory play which offer such great interactive experiences, Amber’s father works full-time and has moderate learning difficulties, to interact in such a calm and relaxing environment will be of great benefit to us as a family.

In the second session Amber attended, she experienced one of her favourite activities which allows for her ‘Sensory Seeking’ this was baking some cookies. Charlotte, who led the activity had thought the activity out so well that she’d included a recipe without egg, being mindful that Amber is allergic to egg. She also included a ‘Social Story’ which Amber responded well to and I now use these at home. What I really liked about this session was that Amber could explore the baking materials, for example feeling the flour in her hands and it didn’t matter if she made a mess, which was like therapy for me to just allow myself to enjoy Amber exploring the activity. Whilst the cookies were baking Charlotte introduced Amber to the project’s new additions – chickens and cockerel! Amber throughly enjoyed meeting them and learning all their names, she has since told me that ‘Billy the Bantam’ is her favourite!

Amber is very much looking forward to visiting SMILE in the summer holidays. She requested a sand activity next!

I would recommend SMILE to any parents, it is a wonderful and supportive place. I just wish I took some pictures but we were both so absorbed in the activity!

You can find more information about SMILE here:
http://arcos.org.uk/smile/
And more information on Family Fund here:
http://www.familyfund.org.uk

A Family Fund Post, Leisure Activities

July Family Fund Blog Post.

A little background information

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This is Amber she is 4 years old and has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) with traits of ADHD and Autism.

Amber has a younger sister Maisie who is 15 months old and lives with Mummy – Nicki and Daddy – Paul in a village in Worcestershire.
Amber is a lively little girl who’s always on the go, she finds it difficult to control her emotions and frustration. She requires a calm place if it all gets too much at home. Amber is a ‘Sensory Seeker’ and therefore will thrive on all sensory experiences, the messier the better! Family Fund provided Amber with a grant for Sensory toys and equipment from Learning SPACE and sessions at a local multi-sensory centre called SMILE (Sensation Movement Interaction in Life Experiences) at ARCOS (Association for Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral skills,) in Malvern, Worcestershire. We have noticed a marked improvement in Amber’s ability to cope with sensory overload, frustration and anger and will use the toys and equipment in her calm place.

Keeping active.

As Amber has a great deal of energy, activities that ensure she burns this energy are of great benefit. She is very happy to try out any activity that allows her to run around and be free of constraints. She is looking forward to her Pre School Sports Day in July, and enjoyed practising recently. Amber has expressed that she would like to ask Father Christmas for a trampoline for the garden this Christmas, so already forward planning! We feel that a Trampoline would be a great addition for those times when she just wants to be constantly active and it all gets a bit too much for her indoors.

 

When Amber reached 4 her father and I discussed the possibility of a leisure activity to help build friendships and give her the opportunity to burn off the great amount of energy she has. Amber had expressed that she would like to try Ballet. I emailed ahead and explained Amber’s interest in the class and also some of the difficulties she experiences. We went along to the Saturday morning class, Amber seemed quite anxious as the waiting room was full of parents and their children and she clung onto me. The dance studio was spacious and Amber saw the opportunity to run around in circles. She was curious at first about what the other children in the class were doing but as her attention span is short she wanted to return to where I was sat for reassurance as this was a completely new experience for her. The other children had all been asked to take a teddy along to the class and unfortunately this request hadn’t been given to us, and this completely threw Amber and she could only concentrate on the fact that she didn’t have her teddy. Amber then wanted to run around the class, who were sat in a circle. The class teacher said to Amber “Please could you stop running around as it’s distracting the other girls.” This did upset me as I had told the teacher about Amber’s difficulties and especially as it was a completely new experience for her. Amber then approached me and said “Mummy I want to go home.” So we left the class, and she had a complete meltdown outside whilst on the way home.

We didn’t want to give up on an activity just yet and a friend recommended a local Football scheme for 3 to 5 year olds called ‘Footie Bugs.’ Again, I emailed ahead to the scheme leader and they were most helpful and understanding of Amber’s additional needs. Amber had to take in all the sounds from the large sports hall and being around unfamiliar adults and children, but for her first session we were impressed that she enjoyed kicking the ball about and joined in when a game of ‘Sharks’ was played! Towards the end of the 45 minute class Amber was tired and ran out of the sports hall but she was happy to return each week for a further 12 sessions. There was no pressure for her to join in as she could kick a ball around at the side of the sports hall and she wouldn’t disrupt the rest of the class. The classes are great as you can pick them up as and when required by booking in 6 week blocks, and still run through school holidays. What kept Amber engaged was that each weekly session would be based on a theme, whether it was Space, Zoo animals or Under the Sea. Amber particularly responded to the theme of ‘Superheros’ as at the time she had an interest in being ‘Spidergirl!’ The class leader would support Amber and another child during the session, especially if it looked like she was losing concentration.

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I had a great rapport with the leader and she would check how Amber was progressing. The absolute highlight of the session was when Amber got to bring the group mascot ‘Footie Bug’ home and we wrote in his diary about the week he’d spent at home with Amber!

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From September Amber starts full-time at school, we are waiting to see how she settles in and then hope to try either a gym class, street dance or swimming lessons as she is anxious about getting into the swimming pool, but has expressed an interestย in giving it a try. There seems to be more variety of activities once children reach the age of 5.