Monday, July 18, 2011

Russian DVDs

I've been saving up to get Nikki Russian dvds with a bit more educational value than most of the cartoons on youtube can give. As I've mentioned before, he loves Pim. Unfortunately, when I went to buy their Russian dvds and actually watched the clip I was thoroughly annoyed to see that they had Romanized the Russian words. And not only that, but they'd done it badly! I can understand why non-Russian speaking parents would find it beneficial, but would it not be better to have the option - or at least the ability to turn it off?

So, very unhappily, I turned away from Pim. I spent a long time searching for other options. There are some quite funky singing-dinosaur vocab-builders, which I thought Nikki would love. He didn't seem very interested. The other down side is that you can only watch an English clip, so I have no idea what the Russian is like anyway. But I was ready to go for it until...I was sent the link to these fantastic Russian-made dvds!

Nicholas loves them almost as much as Pim. In fact he had a meltdown when the two clips available on youtube were finished and we ended up watching them twice more each.

There are 5 hour-long dvds in the set - I expect we shall have them all memorized in short order! They are quite pricey, especially considering the shipping on top, but definitely worth the money.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Toilet Training

As soon as Nicholas could sit independantly, I had him sitting on the potty at change time. I wasn't expecting him to do anything, it was more that I wanted him relaxed sitting on the potty when it came time to train him.

As it happened, in January we had nearly two months of horrendous nappy rashes, and he spent a lot of time in pants to help reduce the irritation. This led to him being almost potty-trained, as he would often hold on until I sat him on the potty (though there were a few puddles).

Suddenly, at the end of February, he started refusing the potty. He would actually scream when I tried to put him on it, so I put it to one side and tried every week or so to see if he'd changed his mind. He still hasn't.

Two days ago, we had a breakthrough. Out of the blue, he came up to me and said 'toilet' and when I asked if he wanted to sit on the toilet, he got excited. So we sat on his 'special' toilet seat (which he has always seemed afraid of) quite happily for about ten renditions of 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'.

Yesterday he didn't ask, and I didn't want to push the idea. Then today, he asked again. Amf this time he used it! I am really hoping that this is the start and my plan to try and be out of nappies by his birthday micht actually happen! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spooning Fun

Nicholas really enjoys spooning at the moment, apart from at mealtimes (when he can't get the food in quick enough and resorts to fingers or my assistance)!

As a game, he really enjoys it. He even collected his bowl and spoon when I gave him a snack of raisins, so that he could spoon them out of the pot before eating them!

But his absolute favourite is spooning cakes. I bought about 50 dolls-house cakes off ebay a while ago, thinking that they would be good for various sorting-type activities (there are four colours) and the moment he saw them, he wanted to play. Now he asks for them every time he spots the box.

He carefully spoons the cakes from his red bowl into a little glass jar. He likes the clink they make when landing in the jar.

Sometimes the cakes make a detour on the way...

Don't worry, though, he doesn't actually put them in his mouth. Just pretend eating!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shape Sorters

I didn't write much yesterday, as although I could finally use my new computer (yey!) due to recieving my new monitor, it came to light that the keyboard was broken and so I had to type with the onscreen keyboard which is slow at best. The customer service was great, though, and I had a new keyboard by lunchtime today.

Anyway. Pre-writing. As I said, there was actually a lot that we already do which can actually be classified under this heading.

Nicholas has always shown an interest in fine-motor activities, especially ones that involve putting things into holes. At just over a year old, I created this button jar for him:

I selected some large colourful buttons and cut a large hole in the lid of the tub. The tub is from hot chocolate powder, which works well because the plastic lid was easy to cut and it has a metal base that makes a nice noise when he drops the buttons in. It also has a lovely chocolatey aroma that several washes couldn't get rid of. I covered it in green paper entirely because it looks better on the shelf (and less like I hoarde 'rubbish').

I have since cut a new lid, as narrow as possible for the buttons to still go through. He will still play happily with this activity, though it is now easy for him.

We have progressed from putting random stuff into an empty tissue box, to shape-sorting puzzles. We have this lovely shape board that I found on ebay:

He still finds it a challenge with the more complicated shapes as it is quite a tight fit.

Today we got the Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Clock. To my mixed delight and dismay, he had zero trouble with the shape sorting part of it. I was hoping this would be a trickier progression from the sorting board, but apparently it is easier. He still enjoyed it, and there is some challenge getting the right hole for the shapes, as there are several similar ones. He also loves the clock - he keeps saying 'tick-tock' - and it has somewhat stopped him from asking me to take my clocks off the wall for him to play with (not that I did!).

I have also found the website Early Learning at Home which has loads of great ideas that I am in the process of adapting to use with Nikki.

A Table

You wouldn't think it was a hard thing to find. Apparently, it is.

After seeing how well Nicholas worked at a table with the psychologist on Monday, I decided to get a cheap and cheerful low table to work with him at.

Unfortunately, the only cheap options are bright pink and girly and not really that cheap at £30. Ikea do a nice low coffee table for a fiver, but it is ten pounds shipping which makes me think its not worth it. Although it is at least that in fuel to the local shop, so maybe it is.

For now, I'll have to keep using his highchair base-table, which is not ideal as it means I have to keep taking apart the highchair...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pre-Writing Skills

Nicholas is advanced in his ability to hold a pen correctly (with a little persuasion) and draw horizontal and vertical lines (if he wants to) so I have been looking up ways to develop this skill.

I was surprised to find that a lot of the ways to do this do not involve a pen at all, and we do a lot of these activities already! Spooning, transferring, pouring, pinching... all help develop the muscles and coordination for writing.

This is what I put together this morning:

Nicholas used his bucket and spade set to transfer packing peanuts, using either the spade or a little hollow dinosaur mould to scoop them up. He could also use his rake to move them around the big container. He LOVED this activity!

I also set up some red plastic crystals to spoon from one bowl to another, but he quickly realized it was quicker to use his hands... we'll have to work on his stamina!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Little Escape Artist

Whenever it is time to get dressed (or undressed) I get this:

That is a vest, not a bandana. I usually have to chase him down at least three times every time he needs a change. Sometimes, I'll be getting the nappy out of the cupboard and he'll say 'poka' (bye in Russian) and shut the door before zooming off. Mostly, he'll just wait until I let go...

Physio and Psychologists

Yesterday we had an adventure in hospital.

First trip was to the children's ward, where we met a psychologist. We had been invited to be part of a study involving the psychological development of premature babies, and help test a new home-check booklet that a local university is developing.

The booklet was full of little games to play at home, and I have been attempting all week to pin Nikki down long enough to complete them. They are simple assessments of baby development from 10 - 24 months; build a tower/open the box/find the hidden toy etc. Nicholas did really well with everything apart from matching similar objects. He just doesn't get the idea of 'same' yet.

The psychologist did a much more in depth test - they played lots of games while I watched and encouraged. For some reason he behaved for her! I think she was surprised by some of the things he could do - especially puzzles. He let himself down there, though, because she was timing him and he had to stop and clap himself after every piece - and when it is an 8-piece puzzle, that works out almost doubling the time! Silly. Not that it matters really.

The final result was that we stopped at the 'find the same object' games, because he just didn't get them. She wouldn't tell me anything beyond that his level is 'above the normal range for his corrected age', and I don't know whether the report they'll send out will be any more detailed than that. I suppose it is hard to be too specific at such a young age, as babies all learn different things at different times.

She really just confirmed what I already knew - he's a smart little boy! It was an interesting experience, and all in good fun.

Next stop was our routine physio checkup. We have been seeing the physio every 4-5 months since Nikki was born, just to keep an eye on his development because he was so premature. Finally she was really happy at where he is (before she has been saying that he seems fine, but slow) and wants one final check up in November when he his hopefully running circles around me! I have the option of cancelling that one if I feel he's doing really well, though. So finally he is at a point in his physical development that makes the professionals happy that there are no impending mobility problems. Not that I was really worried, but he is right at the slowest end of normal in starting to walk etc. so it is a big relief that he's nearly there!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


While I was trying to sort out the drama with the lack of functioning monitor for my new computer, Nicholas was quietly playing at the other end of the room.

I should have known that when he's being that quiet, there is something afoot, but I was distracted.

I'm not really a make-up person, but somehow the single tinted lipgloss that I own made its way into Nicholas' hands. I mentioned in an earlier post that Nikki loves lipgloss. He saw me use it once, then every time he spotted it, demanded I apply it again. So I gave him a toy one and hid mine.

But Nikki found it, and was apparently not satisfied with dabbing it on his lips this time...

He pulled out ALL the lipgloss from the holder (it was solid lipgloss, lipstick style) and smeared it all over himself and my BEIGE CARPETS!!! He also smeared the skirting, but fortunately didn't put any handprints on my white walls. Unfortunately, I had dressed him up in a white shirt...

Computer Drama

I just spent a fortune on a new PC that I can't use!!!

My faithful old laptop must be bearing 6 years old and has a fairly advanced case of digital dementia - it takes forever to start up and frequently crashes. Trying to do more than browse the web will cause it to panic and freeze, the mere thought of Media Player causes complete system failure...

So, I dug deep and splashed out on a new and shiny PC. It certainly looks the part, all black and shiny and sleek... unfortunately they didn't bother to send the monitor's power cable, so the whole setup is unuseable!

Not that this is a permant thing, but I really really want to play with my new toy!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Look What We Made!

There was the most adorable craft activity at toddler group this morning - Nikki was a bit young to appreciate it (though he enjoyed putting on the glue and bashing when I put the pieces in place) but I think it is just adorable and will definitely re-create it in a year or so, when he 'gets' what to do.

I know it's too neat for a 'real' toddler creation, but like I said, he added the glue and bashed the pieces down - he just wasn't interested in the intermediate stage of placing the pieces!

The teddy and blanket were already drawn on the paper. We were supplied with a big bag of pre-cut fabric squares to match to the squares on the teddy's blanket, and pre-cut teddy shapes. I suppose you can make it harder by having to cut out the fabric (or squares of coloured paper) for the quilt and maybe even the teddy's body!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Language Pick 'n' Mix

Nicholas has, it seems, inherited my love of languages.

Not long ago at playgroup, the other mums were discussing their kids' favourite tv programs - almost exclusively divided between Peppa Pig and In the Night Garden. Nicholas shows absolutely no interest in either.

He would much rather watch something in another language! Most of the time we watch the Wink to Learn dvds in Chinese, and occasionally (when I need an electronic babysitter) I allow him to watch the full twenty minutes of Little Pim the Panda. Usually  in Chinese, but sometimes in Japanese or Spanish.

I don't force this; he demands to watch his Wink to Learn Chinese every time he's near the computer. And he will come running from the other side of the flat, or instantly stop a temper tantrum at the sound of the Pim intro music...

But, it seems, he has started getting picky! About 80% of the words he uses are English, and almost all the rest Russian (since he hears both languages frequently during the day). He does know a couple of Chinese words, too.

However ALL words are spoken only in one language. It seems that he picks the one he likes best and sticks with is. The word 'dog' has dissappeared from his spoken vocabulary since he learned the Chinese word. Similarly for the word 'bellybutton' and Russian.

It is not that he chooses the easier option, though. Initially he said, very clearly, 'peese' for please. Then I taught him the Russian (pozhaluysta) and he went through a long transition of 'pee-poo-da' and similar mixes until he could pronounce the Russian word with accuracy (for his age, at least!).

I find this quite a bizarre, if cute, practice. I know that he understands a lot more Russian than he says (presumably he prefers the English word) and I suspect the same is true of Chinese, though I can't check with any accuracy.

I know this is a phase - he's not going to be ten and still using one language per word - so I'm not really bothered by it. Though it is hard to explain why he says 'goa' instead of dog...

 He is excited by and willing to use other languages - I can't fault that! I just hope it lasts a lifetime!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Today, Nikki had his FIRST HAIRCUT!!!

I've been putting it off and putting it off, but although I don't have a problem with long hair on a boy, I don't like long fine hair that enjoys sticking up in every direction no matter how many times you brush it.

The mullet had to go...

And so it did! It may not be the most instantly noticable haircut he'll ever have, but it is very much smarter and  easier to manage. I wanted to get a picture of Nikki in the barber's chair, but unfortunately he screamed as soon as I put him in it and had his haircut with me holding him up, instead. My arms ached, but other than the refusal to sit in the chair, he was an angel about staying (mostly) still and didn't even try to grab the scissors once!