Monday, December 12, 2011

A Reluctant Bather

Upon finishing his dinner, which had been spaghetti with tomato sauce, Nicholas approached me. He was, as is typical after such a meal, rather orange. Looking him over, I asked whether he would like a bath.
"No!" said he.
"But you are covered with pasta and sauce," said I.
"Pasta," said he, "Nikki eat pasta!"
And from somewhere on his person, he procured a length of spaghetti and popped it into his mouth.
"Bathtime," said I.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Calendar

This post is a bit late, but I thought I'd share how we are doing Advent this year. I can't remember where I got the idea for this, as it was about 12 months ago! I decided this year to make Nikki an Advent book basket. Over the year I collected a variety of Christmas/Winter themed books, wrapped them up and put them in a basket. There are around 30 books in total (I wrapped 2 or 3 together to use them all!) and Nikki gets to unwrap a present every day! Much more exciting than a bit of chocolate!

Here's our basket from a few days ago:


Nikki's New Hat

What happens when you tell a hat-obsessed two year old that the wooly-circle-on-sticks you are holding is going to be his new hat? This!

Nikki insisted he try on his new hat whilst it was still on the needles!

I was quite pleased with how quickly it knitted up - three evenings and the hat was complete, and I made the pompoms the next morning. I am quite impressed that there are still three pompoms on the hat!



Final Discharge!

We had an appointment at the Children's Clinic at our local hospital on Thursday. This was our final developmental check at the hospital. I have found it incredibly reassuring that they don't just forget you once you leave the NICU. We have had several check-ups with the clinic, and are still awaiting our final 'show-off' appointment with the physio in January (she hasn't seen him since he started walking). The physio has been especially reassuring, since he was so slow to reach the gross-motor milestones. The fact that we were getting told every couple of months that he was doing well (and several times that he was able, just not confident enough to try) made it that much easier to watch babies half his age doing things he couldn't.

Thursday's appointment was mostly a cognitive development assessment. We played some games and Nikki performed fantastically - at the top end of the normal range for his actual age (or two months older than he should be). Proof that he is a clever little monkey!

We were also reassured that the heart murmur that is usually noticed by the GP when Nikki gets a chest infection is almost impossible to hear when he is healthy and is thus of no concern whatsoever. I thought as much, as they heard it occasionally when he was in special care and hadn't worried, but a confirmation is always nice!

We can now cross our fingers and hope that he never has to go into hospital again!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When Drawing Gets Boring...

What do you do when you are fed up of simply using your pens for drawing?

This is what Nikki did:


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Tree

Nikki has his own special Christmas Tree. I've been so eager to get this one out, but I waited until the 1st of December because I didn't want to be picking up the decorations all year!

I found it in the January sales last year - it is a little slot-together wooden tree with Winnie-the-Pooh decorations to hang from pegs on the tree. I was a little dubious about whether he could work it, as the decorations are hung by a thread (literally!) and I wasn't sure his fine motor and hand-eye coordination were up to it. Needless to say, he prooved me wrong!




Look at the concentration on that face!

A Bus Adventure

I had to go into town yesterday, and since I don't have a car and my Mum didn't need anything in town (I usually only go when she's going, so I don't need to worry about carrying back the shopping and a potentially over-tired-and-cuddly little boy) we took the bus. Now, I haven't taken Nikki on the bus since he's been old enough to understand what a bus is - we really don't go into town that often, preferring to walk to the local shops, which happens to mean we go right past the swings and duck pond...

Needless to say, it was a big adventure! Nikki made friends with various old men on the bus, getting them all to play peek-a-boo with him! He loved it so much that I think we might just need to get the bus occasionally, just for the fun he has.

He was such a good boy while I ran my errands that I even bought him a treat - toy helicopters! He is thrilled, as he has been carrying around a book on planes and helicopters for the last week, so now he has one of his own!

And since we're on an aviation theme - aren't these new pyjamas the cutest? A big Thank You to Auntie Sammy who got them for his birthday.

Little Astronaut!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tot School Update

We've not done much Tot School after all. Planned lessons went out the window a little bit to allow for Birthday celebrations and potty training. And now there's Christmas on the way, so I can't expect much more focused 'school' this year. Especially as I have to clear out and tidy before we get a whole lot more stuff...

That doesn't mean we haven't been busy, just that we've been ignoring any themes and planned activities. We do lots of counting and sing our ABCs (Nikki's favourite at the moment) and I am tortured daily by annoying Russian, Chinese and Japanese cartoons.

Nikki now often uses 3-5 word sentences. He is recognising when people are sad/happy/silly and is always talking or singing. Or making noise with his bells or xylophones or hammer...

He is learning Russian well - he loves learning his 'bookvi' (letters) and has a good vocabulary. He sometimes uses 2 word phrases, but his language skills are still noticably behind his English.

I feel a little guilty, but I have hidden his Chinese books for the moment. I just couldn't find the time to prepare them and there is no point in him listening if I can't read somewhat-accurately. He still has his music cds, LR and his dvds, though.

I am tentatively introducing Japanese. It was actually my first choice (I love the way it sounds, and it looks so pretty!) but there is a woefully inadequate supply of toddler-suitable learning materials. Or any oral-based materials, really. Chinese was just more available. I do have one vocabulary dvd (Wink to Learn) and some you-tube songs. I was so disappointed to see that Pim wasn't available with Japanese script, only an anglicized text. The same for Russian and the second Chinese set. Such a shame, but their loss!

In terms of planning, I have been working on a language curriculum for Nikki that we shall be starting in the new year. It is a gradual progression set of books which I am writing in English and Russian, designed to gradually introduce new phrases/grammar structures/vocabulary etc. We will use it primarialy as a language development course, but once he is reading independantly he can start at the beginning (back to the simplest phrases) and read them himself. I would love to have it in Chinese and Japanese (and any future languages that we may study) but I need to get fluent first!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nikki's New Friend

Harry the Hoover!

Finally, my new hoover has arrived. Nikki was sooo excited! He has been talking about his new friend Harry Hoover for weeks, and now he got to meet him.

Cuddles for Harry the Hoover

Monday, November 28, 2011

Finally...

I have a card for my camera! As you can probably tell from my previous post. I still haven't found the one Nikki 'tidied' away for me, and am hopeful that it will turn up eventually.

It wasn't as easy as I assumed. My positively decrepid 5? 6? year old camera will not accept the newest type of SD card. It is only thanks to my wonderful friend Sammy that I even have one now - she gave me the old card from her own camera. THANK YOU!!!

So now I can get back into blogging - there have been several things I wanted to share over the last couple of weeks that just wouldn't have worked without a photo.

An example would be this discovery - ice cream tubs are NOT microwave safe!!!

wool dyeing experiment gone wrong!
Sammy and I were experimenting with wool dyeing in the microwave and it honestly didn't occur to me that the tub would melt! Fortunately, not enough to make a mess or ruin the wool!

Little Ghost

Nicholas has been practicing being a ghost. At bedtime, for as long as he can get away with, he will sneak out. The odd thing is that he silently comes out of his room and silently stands in the hall - no calls for attention, he just stands in the dark, in silence, until I pick him up and put him back to bed.

This evening, he went to bed and demanded I put his sunglasses on. He then snuck out and I was greeted by this:


What a poser! He grinned at me as soon as he spotted the camera...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What are Grandfathers for?

In our case - not potty training! Nicholas was left in the dubious care of my father yesterday. I say dubious because he will allow Nikki to help himself to half a packet of biscuits and not think to take them away!

Yesterday, I sent Nicholas (who has had one or two accidents all week with me) in pants, with a potty. I left him for the morning, and when I went to pick him up, he was wearing a nappy that was hanging to his KNEES. At least I know he wasn't dehydrated!

I found out that he had two accidents within the first half hour. Apparently he didn't ask to go on the potty. Nor did my father think that after feeding him liters of juice, that he might need to go, despite clear instructions from me to PUT him on the potty frequently, especially after drinking. He might claim he doesn't need to go, but he is 2 - no is his favourite word!

Needless to say, he won't be staying alone with Granddad again until I am sure that he will ask for the potty.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Broccoli!

I don't know of many toddlers who eat their vegetables first and then ask for more with complete disregard to the meat and potatoes. This is what Nikki does. Often.

I am not complaining - it is much better than fighing him over his veg. Granted, he is quite limited in what he eats lots of (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweetcorn, cucumber) and there are some things he won't touch (tomatoes, green beans and peas come to mind). At least most of his favourites are in the mixed bags of frozen veg - it makes meal preparation so much easier on lazy days!

Now if only he would stop dropping all the peas on the floor...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Potty Trained!

I am now happy to say that Nikki is potty trained. He might not always remember to go and have a little accident (he is only two - playing takes so much concentration...) but he is now at the stage where he can wear pants and trousers and stay dry, rather than confuse them with nappies, and go 'on demand' - like when I know he's had a lot to drink or we are going for a walk.

We went out for a walk today, and although we were gone for nearly two hours, he was dry. I will admit to taking a potty with me, though! He just won't pee standing up!

We have been full-time potty training only 2.5 weeks - I think that is fairly impressive. Once he got over his fear of the potty, then figured out how to go when he wanted rather than needed to go, it fell into place really quickly.

The method we used can be broken down thus:
  • Lock yourself in the house for three days.
  • Bare bottoms at all times. Pants feel like a nappy so should be left off until they are confident using the potty.
  • Constantly ask 'where does wee/poo go?' and answer 'in the potty!' - one time Nikki stubbornly insisted it was on the floor!
  • Lots of fluids and dry/salty snacks (to encourage drinking) or watery snacks like cucumber and watermelon.
  • Keep a close eye on your child - when he starts thinking about peeing, say 'wee goes in the potty!' and put him on. Praise him for sitting there and get massively excited if he goes. If it goes on the floor, firmly say 'wee/poo goes in the potty!', put him on the potty to see if that's all, and get him to help clean up the mess (I simply made him fetch the cloths, unless it was only a couple of drops, which he could clean)
  • After a couple of days, put on trousers/skirt (no pants!) for a short walk.
  • Once you are mostly accident-free, put on trousers at home.
At least, that is mostly how I did it. Except for the locking myself in the house - not easy when you're on your own and need to buy food! Here is the link to the article I used.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Singing

Nicholas has started singing to himself all the time. His favourite is the ABC song, but he knows (parts of, at least) several others. This morning, I realised he was singing in Chinese! Only 2 of the words, but I'm still super-proud!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Escape!

I could not believe it when I heard my front door close. Nikki was down for his nap and had finally gone quiet, so I assumed that I had left the door open a little, or left my keys on the outside and someone was downstairs...

Someone was downstairs - Nicholas! The little monster was half-way out of the front door, wearing just a shirt, a nappy and one sock in the cold drizzle! Somehow, he had scraped his knee, lost a sock and blackened his hands and face.

Needless to say, he went straight in the naughty corner. And I locked the door and put on the chain. I'm just relieved that he spent time playing with the door, rather than running off down the road. Just the thought of it makes my heart race...

Potty Success

Today, we managed to go to playgroup with no nappy and no accidents!

We are still not there entirely - Nikki needs me to tell him to use the potty most of the time, but we are slowly getting there. He is still bare-bottomed at home, which makes it easier for both of us, and has a tendency to think of any kind of pants or trousers as a nappy. So staying dry while completely dressed was quite impressive.

Maybe he will repeat the phenomenon tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Japanese!

I know, I know. Nikki is getting so many languages, do I need to add more? Honestly, in a perfect world we would have a different language for every day of the week. Because I am a geek and can't help myself.

As it is, Japanese was on my list above Chinese. The only reason we are doing Chinese is because I couldn't get any resources in Japanese. At all!

The other day, in my relentless search for more diverse Chinese video (more language than Pim, but not generic cartoons with overly-complex stories) I was linked to the Smart Tiger Chinese program. The only problem is that the simplified Chinese version is not available outside China, so I am left with the dialemma of whether to pay out for materials in traditional characters, just for the dvds. Or just watch what I can find on youtube.

It is exactly what I was looking for, but half the materials will be useless to me unless I can make friends with someone in China.

However, it is really just a Chinese translation of a Japanese program. Now, I am really tempted to sign up for the Japanese version. We watched some youtube clips which Nikki loves. I just don't know if I can justify the expense...

Mind Your Language!

Nikki is now at the age where he repeats everything. This is incredibly cute when he is watching his Chinese dvd and repeating vocabulary. It is not so cute when someone says a naughty word and he decides to repeat it over and over and over...

Bonfire Night

It was Bonfire Night here in England on the 5th, a celebration of the thwarted attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up parliament in 1605.

The bonfire and fireworks desplay in our village is one of the best locally - people come from miles around to watch, and you can't move down the high street for people. I decided it was safest to stay home with Nikki, especially since the fireworks didn't start until past his bedtime.


That doesn't mean that we missed out, though! We could see about two thirds of the display quite clearly from my bedroom window. Nicholas was delighted with the 'fie-urks' and shouted 'bang' frequently. He wasn't really scared by even the biggest bangs, though he did need to sit on my lap and snuggle for them!

The display went on for at least 15 minutes, and towards the end, Nikki was telling me the colours he could see. Or at least, telling me they were green unless I corrected him. I don't know why he still automatically says green if asked what colour something is...

The last couple of days, Nikki has often pointed at my window and said 'bang fie-urks' or 'bye bye bang!' or something along those lines. He seems quite put out that I can't conjour more for him!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nikki's Jobs

Nicholas has a few 'jobs' around the house. I don't force them, but he enjoys helping me so I have given him specific tasks to do.

1. He is in charge of the 'on' switch on the washing machine and tumble dryer, and sometimes 'helps' me load and unload laundry.

2. He has to sweep/mop up any small messes he makes. Sometimes he 'helps' with the bigger messes, but that can increase my cleaning time a lot so I just leave a little bit at the end if he's keen.

3. He has to help tidy up his toys. Again, he hinders more than he helps here.

4. He is generally in charge of turning on/off lights. As he has now realised that by standing on his plastic step stool (which he can easily carry around the house) he can reach the light switches, I hope this will deter him from playing too much. And no, he's not a giant. Our house is fairly new, so the sockets are raised and the light switches lowered to make them reachable from a wheelchair.

To make the 2nd and 3rd jobs easier, I have invested in a load of little plastic baskets. Actually, they were 60p each in Tesco and a bit of a bargain.

One basket has been dedicated for cleaning supplies - Nikki's floor cloths and dustpan and brush. I'll post about it in more detail later - once I find where somebody hid the memory card from my camera...

The others are going to make their way onto his shelves. I simply need to find the time to organize what I want where. This should really help Nikki to understand where his different toys 'live', as well as make it easy to change out activities and keep his toy choices fresh.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Success!

Nikki has finally gotten over his fear of the potty! He not only chose to sit on it (which he hasn't done since February!) but he INDEPENDANTLY used it! This should make potty training so much easier than trying to catch him and put him on the toilet before he pees on the floor...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Self Medication

I mentioned that Nikki has a cold. He kept me up a bit last night, too, and I was not ready to play at 7am (especiallly bearing in mind the recent clock change) so took him back to his room so I could have a bit of a lie-in.

He gave me 5 minutes before he found his trick-or-treat bag and started demanding I open all the sweets for him. I gave him a couple of chocolate buttons and took the rest away for later. He complained at losing the sweets, but seemed happy to play while I went back to sleep.

I had another 10-15 minutes before Nikki woke me again. I couldn't understand what he was talking about, he kept saying 'hands'. I gave up on sleep, got up, and found Nikki at the end of my bed covered in honey!

Nikki doesn't understand what medicine is, beyond sweet tasting. When he has asked for more medicine in the day, I have been giving him spoons of honey (since he has a sore throat). When I didn't get up right away he decided to self-medicate. I am just glad that the paracetamol has a safety-top! Although, I am a lot more cautious with it and keep it well out of reach, whereas I thoughtlessly left the honey on the edge of the worktop last night.

So not only did I miss out on a lie-in, I had to deal with a very sticky baby (straight in the bath!) and half a pot of honey on my kitchen floor! Serves me right for trying to take some time off, I suppose!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! I hope yours was better than ours. Nicholas has come down with a cold, poor baby. He was up pretty much on the hour all night and refused to nap today, so has been very grumpy and extra naughty. I am hopeful that he will sleep better tonight, but he has already woken up once, so I am not optimistic.

We did have some fun this evening. We went trick-or-treating with Uncle Harry. Nicholas was a pumpkin again this year, because my sister forgot to return his cat costume (she's only had it six months...) but he was a very cute pumpkin.

I love this picture, but I expect he will hate me for it in a decade or two!


Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Trying to scare Uncle Harry.

Potty Training Days 2 & 3

Yesterday we had a 1 in 3 success rate; Nikki used the toilet 3 times! Today, we had 2 accidents and 2 successes, so 50/50. We also managed to leave the house for about an hour and stay dry.

Nikki is still not taking the initiative to go to the bathroom - he seems to enjoy me running him through the house every time he starts peeing. I am hoping that he will get the idea soon - I would like to go to playgroup on Thursday with no nappy, but I may be a little too optimistic.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Potty Training Day 1 - Morning

Nikki 2 - Potty 0

Yes, so far not so good. I am still very optimistic, though, since Nikki is actually happy to sit on the toilet. Considering that he has refused to go anywhere near potty or toilet since February, that is massive progress. The secret to this miracle - BUBBLES!

He's now nappied up for a snooze, but I'm aiming high for this afternoon. Fingers (or should that be legs?) crossed...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ice Skating!

Today, we took Nikki skating for the first time. I love skating (not that I'm very good - I can only do forwards well) and it is something that is great for balance and coordination. I just wasn't planning to teach skating barely a month after he started walking!

Amazingly, they have skates in size 5 - perfect for two pairs of socks. Nikki showed off his great balance skills by managing to walk fairly confidently in the skates straight away, though I was holding his hands. The only down side was that we went in the afternoon, and Nikki had only 20min nap so he was a bit tired and grumpy. Hence the liquorice bribe in the photo below...


The greatest thing about our local rink is that they have penguins. These are sturdy push-along toys for tots to use, which helps them find their feet much more easily! The down side is that until the kids are more independant (ie. don't need to be physically held up and propelled) it is bad news for mummy's back and thighs! I took three laps of the rink, folded over and using one foot to skate really slowly... ouch.

video 
Sorry it's sideways - I don't know how to turn video round.

Once Nikki got more confident in bearing his weight, we could go faster. He decided that we had to 'zhhhhhhhhh' across the ice. It is apparently what penguins do. Shortly before Nikki had enough, he was actually balancing and moving forward alone. I simply had a hand on his back so he knew I was there. He managed maybe 20 feet! He was probably skating for about 15 minutes in total, as we took several rest stops on each lap. I think he had fun, though!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Preparation...

We're taking a break from organized activities for a few days as I prepare (myself, my home and Nicholas) for Potty Training!

I've had to delay several times, with other things cropping up in our schedule, and am almost certain that this weekend will be free. We have already gone back to a couple of hours nappy-free time in the mornings, and although there is no force on Earth that will make Nikki sit on the potty, he has been persuaded to sit on 'Mummy's' toilet. He even went for a wee on it yesterday! He was soooo chuffed!

So, since we have toddler groups on Thursday and Friday, we will *fingers crossed* be nappy free (day time) from Saturday. I plan to use the three-day technique, which involves no pants or trousers at all for three days, before we can hopefully start leaving the house. It relies on me being super-vigilant and basically running Nikki into the bathroom every time he starts to wee, until he gets the idea and goes there on his own before watering the floor.

I'll keep track of his progress - it might even work!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Puzzle Time

I'm so proud! Nicholas has finally mastered puzzles! By puzzles, I mean the cardboard-with-knobs - he's been very good at wooden peg puzzles for ages!

For a long time now, he has been able to turn pictures the right way around and match puzzle pieces together. He can easily do 2-piece puzzles with flat sides, but he's really been struggling with fitting one puzzle piece into the next. Finally, today, he got it. He completed his box of six 2-piece puzzles with no help from me!

Tomorrow, I'm getting his harder puzzle set out. I want to see if he can manage 2-piece puzzles with two knobs (you know, the bits that stick the pieces together - is there even a proper name for them?) and maybe even the 3- or 4-piece puzzles!

It is so great to see a milestone achievement like this - most of the things he learns, especially fine-motor skills, come so gradually that it is hard to say when he mastered it. I like having the occasional fixed date when I can be proud of something specific.

Excuses, Excuses

Nicholas has learned how to make excuses. The other night, he was adament that he couldn't go to bed because he had to clean his kitchen. He has started demanding milk as soon as I take him into his bedroom to sleep, even though he had milk just before we went to his room. Last night he wanted to help me put on the laundry...

Oddly enough it is almost always bedtime when he does this. Should I be happy that he'd rather clean than sleep?

Here's an adorable picture from a couple of weeks ago - he insisted he take his balloon to bed with him...


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

I was planning on making pumpkin cake this morning. Unfortunately, Nicholas had a complete meltdown at my usage of the blender, so it ended up that we made pumpkin cake this morning.

Nicholas insisted that we use a fork (he's usually ok with the cake mixer, but the blender had him spooked) and on using a vertical motion for 'stirring'.



 Yes, that is a load of bibs hanging up behind him. I was distracted from his meltdown and didn't think of putting a bib on until after he had covered his clothes in gooey cake mess.


He did a good job helping, especially once I brought in a table to work at (I wish my kitchen were bigger). Unfortunately, they didn't turn out as well as expected - I cheated using a blender rather than grating my pumpkin as the recipe said, and the cakes were a bit squishy in the middle. They tasted ok, though!






Friday, October 21, 2011

L is for Leaves

This week we have been talking about leaves. Nikki has been fascinated by the leaves falling from the trees, and we've been collecting different coloured leaves on our walks. I've explained that the trees are getting ready to sleep for the winter, so the leaves are falling down. This led to Nikki's newest work of art!

This is the first 'school' we have done for a few weeks, since Nikki wasn't in the mood (we only do school when he's happy to), then his dad came and it was his birthday...Anyway, this project was done over a couple of hours, since we had to take several play-breaks to keep Nikki's interest (and save my gluesticks!).

I printed out a tree trunk template and we glued bits of brown paper on for the bark.


Nikki especially liked using the glue, we had to stick the picture and the pieces of paper! He was very careful putting the paper down, but insisted that I 'help' and do most of it for him.


After we covered the trunk, I cut around the outline and stuck it to coloured paper. I also cut out some leaf shapes in green, red, yellow, orange and brown.


 Again, Nicholas loved using the glue. Usually I am confiscating it from him (he likes to raid my desk) so he was making the most of being allowed to use it!


He was very careful to stick every leaf down...


 We got a bit excited sticking down all our leaves, so there isn't much of our carefully-decorated trunk to be seen. Nicholas insisted we added some leaves 'whirly' in the wind, hence some of them are higher than the tree itself.

Ta Da!

What a Cake!

Nicholas' wonderful godfather made this cake for him (using nothing but a photo of someone else's cake to do so) - isn't he a genius?!


Nicholas particularly enjoyed the 2+ kilos of icing and the decorative blue sugar balls. Not that I allowed him very much!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Who's There?

Nicholas is using a lot more Russian now. This morning, he was playing with nesting dolls - he shook them and asked 'кто там?' (kto tam - who's there?) and then took them apart to find out. This game fascinated him for about half an hour!


video


This incredible language development is leaving me feeling rather guilty that I haven't spoken more exclusively in Russian. I tell myself that I will, but it is hard to remember to speak a foreign language all the time, especially when my vocabulary is more directed at reciting history and analysing literature... I will make more of an effort, though.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Birthday!

My little dinosaur is TWO!
Birthday Breakfast

I can't believe it - he is growing up too fast. He even had two birthday parties this year - we went to devon to visit his Great-Gran and Godfather for the weekend.

He recieved a plethora of gifts - his favourite so far is a set of handbells (from Daddy). When he unwrapped them, I thought my suggestion was insane - three boys had two bells each and rang with all their might. It was horrible. I bravely put them on his shelves, and showed them, ringing each one separately for a few seconds and naming the note - he now plays them sparingly and tells me the notes of each bell when he rings them... or tries to. The colour-coding makes it easy to correct him. He's getting it right more and more, and he's only been playing with them for two days!

I have a load of photos to sort and upload over the next few days.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Russian Immersion

This week, Daddy has come to visit and Nikki is getting an immersion course in Russian. I am gobsmacked at how much more he is picking up and speaking Russian in 24 hours so far!

I do my best to speak Russian every day, and we watch Russian dvds, but I am not Russian. Nikki seems to get this, and although he uses a half-dozen or so phrases all the time, he doesn't say much more. Today he has been picking up Russian vocabulary at the same phenomenal pace (if not faster!) as he is picking up English. He has said several new phrases consistantly so far.

I am doing my best to speak Russian along with the boys and to make this immersion even more complete. I am also running around organizing a certain little man's birthday, so may not be posting much...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

First Shoes

We bought Nikki's first shoes today! They are called 'creeper' shoes - for children who are just starting to walk. The soles are solid and wearable outside, but the toes are rounded and not stiff to crawl in. Of course, it is just a marketing gimmik to get people spending out on shoes even earlier, but in Nikki's case I want him to be able to leave the pushchair when we are outdoors and the ground is wet. It is also an incentive for him to walk.

Nikki loves them, as do I - perfect for my little dinosaur!


We did try on some 'proper' shoes to see whether they suited him better, but he really struggled to move in them. He did about ten steps, waddling and tripping over his toes, before I took pity on him.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pretending

The other day, Nikki had me very confused. He spoke to me, turned around, and when I asked him a question he turned back to me and mouthed the answer. For about five minutes he didn't utter a sound, but seemed to be speaking to me - I was even starting to wonder whether it was possible to spontaneously loose your voice! Then he just as suddenly began chatting normally again. He was pretending that he couldn't speak!

Over the last few days, he's done similar things and this morning he was talking for his baby doll. It is amazing to see that his pretend play has moved from the obvious (such as drinking from an empty cup) to a much greater level of subtlety. I just love it when he does something new!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Circles

Today Nicholas surprised me. I knew he could repeat the word circle, but I had no idea whether he understood what he was saying. Turns out he did.

We were looking at his Russian magnetic shapes book: he picked up the circle magnet, placed it perfectly on the circle shape on the page and named it (in English). I was very impressed.

This evening we were drawing on his whiteboard, when he said circle - sure enough he had made a mostly-circular shape. You can see his success in the picture below (mummy was using the pink pen)



For someone who has only ever drawn straight lines and aimless scribbles, I think he did a really good job of tracing my circle shapes. I was planning to move onto shapes next week, anyway.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Success!!!

It took 23.5 months and a large number of teeny-tiny marshmallows for Nicholas to finally finally take his FIRST STEPS!!!

I was planning a post this morning all about the progress Nikki had made in his stubbornness - he was 'walking' across the hall on his knees. Then Uncle Harry invited us over to play in the garden (since it is unlikely to be garden weather for much longer) and after much crawling and bouncing on the trampoline we went indoors to give the poor cat some peace.

We were talking and Nikki managed a half-step half-fall towards me from standing in the middle of the room. Of course, we got all excited but he refused to repeat the feat. So, out came the teeny-tiny marshmallow bribery - if Nicholas took steps towards me, he got a treat. This worked as an incredible incentive -  in no time at all he was taking 12 steps across the room!

He is still wobbly and a bit bandy-legged, but once he got the confidence to actually let go he was off! We had him crossing the room for about half an hour before he refused to cooperate any more. Not surprising as he was half an hour past dinner time, tired and still feeling a little under the weather.

I have another lot of marshmallows ready for tomorrow morning!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sleeping Angel

I went in to check on Nikki this evening, and found him kneeling on the floor with his head on the matress, sound asleep! By the time I found my camera, he was like this:






This is the first time he has ever slept on the floor (that I know of). I was impressed with the gradual slide out of bed - I would never have known he was out of his bed if I hadn't popped in when I did.

Even more impressive, he didn't even stir when I put him back in bed - usually any slight movement will wake him up completely and even at night it takes a few minutes to re-settle him.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bees (part ii)

As Nikki still didn't have a bee he could play with, we made another out of paper. I cut out the body and wing shapes, and Nikki drew on the stripes with a black marker (which I think is the one he used to decorate himself, too).


We then stuck on the wings and pulled them off again!



 I stuck the poor crumpled bee back together and added a stick. Nikki had fun making him go buzzz around the room, but wouldn't perform for the video camera. 


Now we have two happy bees to play with!


Artistic Interlude

Before we began making bees, Nikki decided to decorate himself. I was not very impressed, but held off on stripping-and-bathing until after our impromptu crafting - best not ruin 2 outfits in half an hour!

It almost looks like someone wanted to become a bee...


Bees

Nicholas has become interested in bees recently. He likes to point them out in his books, and this afternoon he was quite insistent that he wanted one. So, we made bees.

 First, I used foam. I helped Nikki draw around an oval template on yellow and white, then cut them out. I cut the white oval in half for the wings.


I then cut som stripes from black foam and helped Nikki stick the bee together.


We then stuck a stick to the back and drew on a face to finish our bee.



 Unfortunately the glue didn't stick it that well and Nicholas easily de-winged it. I re-stuck it with PVA and hope it will fare better once the glue dries.



Friday, September 23, 2011

Colours

We are sticking with colours for the rest of the month, since Nikki seems determined that the only colour is green!

We are also falling behind our book challenge target, as Nikki keeps demanding we read his Chinese books - I now have 3 books memorized and two more  almost there! I also splurged on the 36-book set and some other billingual books. At this rate we should be good until around Christmas!

Colours Sensory Box

Over the summer, Nikki has been playing with a sensory box I made up of packing peanuts, a bucket, spade, rake and some shells. I have finally set up a new colour-themed sensory box!


 I have included:
  • coloured shapes cut from foam paper
  • coloured lacing buttons
  • coloured puffs
  • large plastic tweezers 
  • the coloured pots from his paint pallet
  • a large scoop
  • a clip-lid box containing a shoelace and large plastic needle

 I have also got colour flashcards to use together - a small English-Russian set that Nikki helped me paint at the beginning of the summer, and a larger English-Chinese-Russian set.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tea and Keyboards

DON'T MIX!!!!!

Nikki poured tea on my keyboard so it died (after spending a day shutting the computer down if I pressed delete or the right arrow key) so I am stuck using the on-screen keyboard for now. So forgive the lack of posts over the next week or so!


 Doesn't he look adorable in his baby hat! He found it and won't let me put it away - he keeps asking for his 'hat-eeeee'.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Little Reader

I must admit, I am fascinated by Early Learning, and as such Nikki has become my guniea pig. I am already amazed at his language learning, but most of all at how much he loves learning. I have always been determined to pass on my love of learning, and it appears that he will not be sated! Until he wants to stop, I will find every resource possible to entertain and teach him.

The best (and most entertaining) resource I have found so far has been Brillkids' Little Reader. This is probably the most diverse program you could find for teaching toddlers. It uses the whole-word approach to teaching reading, using flashcards, as well as showing pictures and (when appropriate) films.

I can't really say how much this program has been teaching Nicholas to read, because he refuses to be tested. However, it has been a fantastic way to teach him words. He knows more body-parts than most children his age, because he has learned about them on Little Reader. When we covered the lessons on animals, he very quickly learned what every one of 20 different animals 'said'. To me, the possibility that he is learning to read is an added bonus - his speech and vocabulary have literally exploded since we started using the program.

The central part of each lesson is fifteen words from three different groups. Each word is shown, followed by a picture then a video. To get the most out of the lessons, though, you must interact with your child. When shown a picture of an ear, I kissed or tickled or blew on his ear. I talk about each picture and listen to what he tells me about it. I help him perform the actions. For the 2-3 minutes of the lesson, my attention is focused completely on playing with Nicholas.

Apart from their 12-months worth of lessons built-in to the program, you can also make your own lessons and cards. There is a vast library on the Brillkids site of lessons that other parents have made, in many languages. Using some pre-made and some of my own cards. it has been easy (if time consuming) to create a Russian syllabus. This has had the effect of drastically increasing the number of Russian words and phrases that Nikki uses and understands. It has also helped me to focus on certain sets of vocabulary, building on what we have covered with Little Reader rather than picking topics at random.


Better yet, they have released a Chinese curriculum! This is by far Nikki's favourite, and he will demand it several times a day. Even if he only learns a handfull of the words presented, he gets to hear authentic Chinese 1-2 times a day and is being exposed to the idea of Chinese pictographs and how completely different they are from the Latin/Cyrillic alphabets.


We can't get enough of Little Reader in this house!

Jones' Geniuses

An American specialist in accelerated learning, Doctor Jones has developed methods for teaching Reading, Maths and Spanish. His first 'test subjects' were 20 inner-city 2nd-graders whose home language was Spanish and who were woefully behind in English and Maths. By the end of the year, their average reading age was a little below 4th grade and several went on to beat MENSA PhDs using calculators in a Maths test - using mental arithmetic. Hence the name Jones' Geniuses.

I found out about Jones' Geniuses on the Brillkids forum, where several parents were discussing the merits of using his early learning package with their young children. After much thought and speaking online to Dr Jones at an online seminar, I bought it.

Threshold to Reading is the language side of the kit. Here Dr Jones introduces a very thorough and complete breakdown of phonics (did you know there are 15 vowel sounds in English?!) and, most importantly, how to teach it! There are a set of fantastic animal-based flashcards, a reading book, parent's dvd and a guide on how to use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Once Nicholas has mastered his letter sounds, it should be a matter of 3-4 months to get him reading to a 3rd grade level. Or so Dr Jones says!


I am not expecting anything so drastic - I will be happy if Nikki is sounding out simple words by his 4th birthday. I am simply not one to wait until the schools say he can learn to read and would rather he have the one-on-one attention and affection he will have in learning with me. Besides, we spend barely 15 minutes a day on all our reading games, and that includes the computer time!

The Matrix Math kit covers everything from learning numerals to addition and subtraction. I am very taken by the simple method of putting the quantity inside the numeral. So far, we are only on stage one of the program - counting forwards and backwards to 20 and placing dots. We can't really progress until Nikki has mastered this, and can understand 'bigger' and 'smaller'.

Again, there is no pressure. By starting now, Nikki has three or four years to master the numbers and letters and still be ahead of his peers. I don't want to force him to learn, and only ever do these games when he wants to - he happens to love counting (perhaps because I allow him to bang the wall when we use the number line) and enjoys counting various objects on and off our Matrix dot flashcards.


I probably come across as a crazy pushy mother, but Nicholas is one headstrong child and if he doesn't enjoy something he is quick to tell me. Usually it is him demanding his 'lessons' and me trying to distract him with toys so that I can finish the washing-up or ironing.


Phonics

As promised, I'll talk a little bit about the early reading programs I am using with Nicholas. We are using two approaches - whole word and phonics.

There are a lot of people who say that the brains of young children haven't developed enough to learn phonics until around 5-6 years old. They say that they are simply incapable of associating a symbol with a sound. I am somewhat confused about what difference there is between learning that 'cows say moo' and 'a says ah'.

Since Nikki's language has developed enough to pronounce most of the sounds we use in English, I have decided that there is no reason not to start teaching the basics of phonics. We have a set of phonics flashcards from the Oxford Reading Tree (a charity shop bargain) and have been using the song from Leapfrogs Letter Factory. The program itself is quite good, and Nikki will watch about half, but at an hour long I can't allow him to see it very often. Although there are many dvds and computer programs that I use with Nikki, I limit his screen time to no more than an hour a day with very rare exceptions.

Using this rather tedious and repetitive song (which Nikki obviously loves) we are learning the 26 basic sounds of English. Today, for the first time, Nikki finished the song with the final sound for most of the 13 letters we reviewed.

We are also using the website Starfall to revise letter sounds. They have catchy animations for each letter, though it can be overly-American in places. Nicholas loves this site, though we only do a handfull of letters each time, to limit screen time and keep him interested - ie. always stop BEFORE he gets bored!

The final program we are using for Phonics is Threshold to Reading, which I will dedicate a separate post to.

Fashionista!

This morning I woke up to find that Nikki had once more turned out his underwear drawer. While creating the usual spread of pants, socks, gloves, swimming trunks and ties, he found a hat. The hat was from last summer and way too small, but apparently he likes it.


He's been wearing it all day, and doesn't seem too bothered that it comes off almost as soon as he moves his head! What a cutie!