Category Archives: Parenting

Review. I Can – Chatting with Children.

Sometimes my imagination fails me. I’m at a loss with new ideas for games to play with my little girl. I love playing with her, they are precious moments in which we connect, talk and listen in turns, and share our words.

So I was very pleased when I was sent Chatting with Children by I CAN, The Children’s Communication Charity. Chatting with Children is a set of 30 interactive activity and game cards to help build preschoolers’ confidence in their language development and communication skills. Chatting with Children is aimed at children aged three to five.

The activity and game cards are presented in a sturdy box, which is always useful for storage. The cards are divided into four essential areas of communication and really nicely illustrated. There’s Big Ears The Elephant for listening and attention games, Brave The Bear for understanding what is said, Brilliant The Butterfly for learning and using new words, Chatterbox The Canary for speaking in sentences, and my little one’s favourite, Mischievous The Monkey for talking socially activities. The instructions for each activity are presented very clearly, they detail the learning opportunities, and suggest ways of making the activity easier, or more challenging, depending upon the skill set of your child.

The cards are a nice large size, and when we first opened the box, my two and a half year old whiled away the time by taking all the cards out and placing them back in the box again and again, and again. Luckily, my little one was a very early talker and I consider her language skills to be quite advanced for her age, so although the activities are pitched from three and upwards, I found she got on really well with quite a few of them. I think as long as your toddler is talking and understanding quite well, there are enough games she or he will be able to play. Some of the games my little one wasn’t ready for, being more advanced for older children, but this is no bad thing, as she’ll get plenty of fun and learning from these activities over the coming years.

At the moment there are four activities/games my little one particularly enjoys…

1. Stop And Go. The game where she runs around and around in circles banging loudly on her tambourine (or on any other object) until I say Stop, whereby she stops, and when I say Go, she continues the din once more! To make the game a little more challenging I whisper Stop and Go to encourage her to pay attention, and listen carefully for my commands.

2. Listen For The Word. We had a lot of fun with this. The aim is to listen for and respond to key words, mixed up with other words in the sentences of a story. So we chose ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’, and every time my little one heard the word bear, she was to give her very best growl. Needless to say, we smiled and laughed grrrrrrrring and rooooaring.

3. Copy Cats. This games encourages turn taking skills, and to look at and pay attention to another person. I put my right leg forward. Little one does the same. I stick my tongue out. Little one does the same. We swap. Little one wiggles and waggles her bottom. I do the same. Little one shoves her finger up her nose. Er, I do the same. I can’t stop laughing at my toddler’s inventiveness.

4. Mummy Says. Another version of the favourite Simon Says. Little one really enjoys my instructions of touch your nose, touch your toes, wiggle your bottom, smile like a cheshire cat. Then I up the ante by joining instructions together, which she cleverly follows without a hitch!

The great thing about these activity cards is that you can pull them out for a quick five minute game, and they provide plenty of ideas for indoor things to do now the days are getting wetter and shorter. And of course, they are a great tool for improving your child’s language and social skills in preparation for school.

Chatting with Children is available in paper back for £7.99 plus p&p or hardback for £12.00 plus p&p, and you can purchase it from the I Can bookshop.

The complete Early Talkers Boxset (Babbling Babies, Toddler Talk and Chatting with Children) is also available in paperback for £19.99 plus p&p from the I Can bookshop.

All proceeds go towards I CAN’s work with the 1.2 million children in the UK who have long-term speech, language and communication difficulties.

Rachel Cusk – A Life’s Work.

Older Mum rates this …..

In Rachel Cusk’s ‘A Life’s Work On Becoming a Mother’ I found a writer who clearly and elegantly voices a mother’s ambivalence about being a mother.  She bravely names the more unpleasant realities of what it means to look after a baby; the boredom, loneliness and feeling trapped in the web of an infant’s unrelenting demands. She demolishes the myth of the gushing mother so often perpetuated in Western culture.

The story is about Cusk’s pregnancy, birth and first year with her daughter Albertine.  During the early stages of pregnancy she suffers a serious accident on a walking holiday in the Pyrenees; she literally falls down a mountainside and is bed bound for weeks with vertigo.  She then goes on to experience a traumatic birth (cesarean section) at 8 months gestation followed by three months of colic hell and a year of sleepless nights. Now that’s got to be tough.

By her own admission Cusk denied the event of birth and then felt totally unprepared when her baby arrived. Her experience is bleak and this never lets up. She moves about in the shadows of her old life clutching Albertine in a constant state of unknowing. A lost soul, she mourns for her old life. This might all be very depressing if it wasn’t for the fact that ‘A Life’s Work’ is peppered with dark humour – I love her dissection of the NHS annoying Emma’s Diary.

‘A Life’s Work’ is essentially a woman’s mission to rescue some autonomy and sense of self after being overwhelmed by her newborn. Cusk’s many ‘bids for freedom’ often come at an emotional price. On the evening of Albertine’s first bottle feed Cusk writes movingly about her guilty feelings of denying her daughter the expected comfort of her breast.  She purchases Albertine’s silence ‘brutally, illegally’ whilst sleep training her after a year of broken nights.

No matter what she does Cusk feels confined to the role of mother. She hires a number of quite frankly incompetent baby sitters but can barely prise herself away from her daughter; Albertine is quite naturally always at the forefront of her mind. When  the family relocate to a university town she feels imprisoned by her new surroundings, out of place at the mother and baby group and almost outnumbered by the older mothers she passes on the street; ‘I would occasionally find myself staring like a prude at women with grey hair and pregnant bellies’.

Critics of her novel accused Cusk of selfishness and being woefully ill equipped to look after and love her child. This simply isn’t the case.  Cusk undoubtedly loves Albertine. I get the sense she wrote this story to ground the shock of the first year and retain some essence of her adult identity.

‘A Life’s Work’ fills in the cracks of many child care manuals so that all together you have a much more rounded view of what being a mum can be like. Cusk astutely observes that to be a mother is to simply bear witness to the infant’s experience. In caring for her daughter she also touches upon the vulnerability of her own early existence; a fragile, preverbal world of ‘milk, shadows and nothingness.’

If you are looking for something real, something that echoes your experiences of early motherhood then Older Mum highly recommends this book.