Tuesday, 23 August 2011

5 A Day Books Challenge

Last week I stumbled across The Imagination Tree's 5 A Day book challenge and decided to give it a go with Eden. I've always been an advocate of reading to Eden, and books have been part of daily play at home. However, I love the idea of introducing a bit more of a structure to reading books, rather than the randomness of picking and choosing whatever happens to be lying around, that has up until now been the form.

On the subject of literacy skills, The Imagination Tree highlights the importance of developing TALK and LISTENING skills first, before focussing on reading and writing skills in children. I guess another way of putting it is talking and listening are the BUILDING BLOCKS providing the foundation for reading and writing.

The 5 A DAY challenge involves the following

  1. Choose 5 titles from your book collection or the library
  2. Read them every single day for a week
  3. Short pictures books with rhyme or rhythm are especially useful in helping children's memory of words, so they can join in too
  4. This empowers them to be able to 'read' and re-tell stories from a young age.
Our books this week and how we got on:
As it's our first week on the challenge, the books I chose this week were ones that had a theme of interest to Eden, that I knew she'd enjoy.   

Rabbit's  Nap (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler)
One of our current library books, picked out as the authors are the creators of The Gruffulo, a fave of Eden's. As the week progressed, I noticed Eden's increasing interest in rabbits, learning the word 'hop' and putting her own rabbit soft toys to bed for a nap. This book's great as a wind-down before a child's own nap-time or bed-time, and on the last page, rabbit finally gets her nap 'ssssshhh!'  

Bath Time (David Bedford and Leonie Worthington)
Another library book, and another book featuring rabbits (part co-incidence). There's a repetitive theme and rhyme all the way through about various animal's 'likes' at bath time. What I noticed with Eden reading this book everyday, was how she picked out a certain bit of 'detail' on each page - her own 'thought' and repeated it each time. For example on the lion page she would notice the bubble on lion's nose, and on the monkey page she'd notice the toy ducks. It was really interesting to see her thought processes through the book. 

That's not my monkey (Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells)
Great for exploring textures, the bright pictures hold Eden's attention. I picked this book as Eden loves monkeys, and we haven't read it for a while. 

Spot Goes to the Farm (Eric Hill)
Spot goes on a lift-the-flap adventure to find baby animals with his Dad. A good book for teaching animal sounds, and learning about baby animals - something Eden has taken an interest in having recently got our own kitten.  

Postman Pat's 1,2,3 (Heinemann Books)
I wanted to include a counting book this week, and Eden really enjoys talking through what's happening on each page of this book - pointing out Postman Pat's glasses and hat, the cat, the sheep walking across the road. For a 20 month old like Eden, the pictures on each page contain just enough detail to have an interesting story behind them that she can recognise. 

So there we have it, our first 5 A Day! I've really enjoyed it, and the repetition of the same 5 books has led to the bonus of watching how Eden's responded to each book in different ways - something I wasn't aware of previously.

You can read more 5 A Day challenges from this week here

Friday, 19 August 2011

Potty training: We've decided to 'go for it'....

As  it's the summer holidays our social diary has been pretty free this week, with none of our regular toddler groups running. I thought I'd take the opportunity to spend the majority of the week at home with Eden and concentrate a bit more on potty training. She's 20 months now and has been showing signs of being 'ready' for a good 3 months, I'm sure part of this is to do with her being in cloth nappies. In that time we've had lots of nappy-free evenings at home where she's successfully used her potty, taking her lead and just going at her pace. This week I've taken it a step further and left her nappy-free (with just a t-shirt on) all day at home.

Since the beginning of the week, Eden's made her own way over to the potty when she's already started 'going' realising that's what the potty's there for. As a result we've only had a couple of full accidents all week, although we've had plenty of trickles on the floor before she's made it to her potty. She likes our little routine that we have, of taking her potty to the loo to empty, flushing the loo afterwards and washing her hands (she loves that bit), so this has kind of been a reward in itself to her using her potty and has worked well. However, until today we hadn't progressed any further with her getting to the potty in time before starting, or with her telling me she needs to go (although she quite good telling me about poos).

I was confident that with an extra incentive we could get her weeing on her potty without any accidents, so this afternoon I bought her some chocolate buttons, and they've worked a treat (for a little girl who never has chocolate she thinks this is amazing)! Since introducing the chocolate buttons as a reward (this is different to a bribe) she's cracked it, and has done 4 wees and a poo with absolutely no accidents on the floor. She's also wee'd when I've asked her to on the potty, something she wasn't doing previously even if she needed to go.

So we appear to have taken the plunge, and made enough progress this week to be considering not going back into nappies in the day. I've got the trainer pants out, and her big girl's pants, the next step is to introduce these, and she has her 'My Carry Potty' travel potty ready for out and about.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Courgettes Galore!

With limited growing space (and time to devote to nurturing growing veg this year having taken on our new house), we went a little overboard on the courgette plants in the garden, we have nine to be precise. I'd like to stay I naively planted nine not knowing what I'd let myself in for, but truth be told, I knew we'd end up with loads! Having for the past five years had a satisfying chest freezer full of home-grown produce from our previous garden and allotment, this year is a little shock to the system, and the glut of courgettes is some small consulation!

I've made some lovely recipes recently though, and thought I'd post them up for anyone else who has hundreds of courgettes taking over their kitchen at the moment!

1. Courgettes fried in Beer (a great starter)
  • Slice the courgettes thinly.
  • Make a batter by adding water to flour, while whisking. Once smooth, add in 1/4 can of beer, continuing to whisk. The batter will froth.
  • Dip the courgettes in the batter, and fry in a little hot oil until soft.  
2. Grilled courgettes with mozzarella
  • Slice the courgettes lengthways into 1/4 inch strips
  • Coat in olive oil
  • Grill for 8-10 minutes on a medium grill, turning halfway, until soft
  • Whilst grilling, arrange sliced mozzarella in a circle around the outside of a plate
  • Place some olives and any other salad veg in the centre of the plate
  • Drizzle the cooked courgettes in a little more olive oil and some balsamic vinegar and black pepper
  • Arrange the courgettes inbetween the mozarella slices and serve
3. Courgette, leek and pea slow-cooked soup
I made this the other day by just chucking all our leftover veg from the fridge into the slowcooker, the results were impressive!
  • Slice 3 courgettes and 2 leeks - put in slow cooker
  • I shelled a bag of peas (took ages!) and added them too, you could use frozen peas instead
  • Sprinkle a vegetable stock cube over the veg, and add boiling water to the slow cooker to give a good covering to the veg
  • Put the slow cooker on auto (if you have the setting) or otherwise high for an hour, then switch to low
  • I cooked for 4 hours
  • Once cook, use a hand blender to blend into a smooth soup
  • Add a good-size wedge of grated parmigiano cheese (approx 50g)
  • Serve with crusty bread
4. Chocolate courgette brownies 
These were delicious! Taken from www.rivercottage.net
  • Ingredients:
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 40g best quality cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 250g grated courgette
Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas 4. Grease and flour a 22x33cm baking tin. In a large bowl miz together the oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 40g cocoa, bicarb and salt: stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the courgettes. Spread evenly into the prepared tin. bake for 25 - 30 minutes until brownies spring back when gently touched. 

So there you have it - a few of my recent recipes for anyone who's in need of a little courgette inspiration!