Guess what my wife and I have been up to this week? Correct. We have indeed been wandering into each other in a sleep deprived haze at around 3.16am every morning. But on this occasion, that’s not actually the answer I am looking for. Oh no. The answer I am actually looking for is: “You’ve been on a bunch of school visits in a bid to try and get your heads round where on Earth you are going to send your son when he reaches school age.”
Bingo! That’s exactly what we’ve been doing, folks. And talking of bingo, along with making me realise just how clever today’s kids are, teaching me what an adverb is, and giving me an idea of the best house of education for my little man, these school visits have inspired me to create a fun, new parenting game.
It’s called School Visit Bingo, and it’s an extremely uncomplicated, eight-step activity that works like so…
How to play
Have a child (I appreciate this seems like an obvious starting point, but it’s a funny old world and this is the internet and all that).
Arrange a school visit or open day appointment.
Print out the School Visit Bingo card I’ve positioned at the top of this article.
Stow it safely in your pocket.
Sneak it past security (read: the middle-aged receptionist).
Take it out of your pocket.
Tick off every entry that emerges from the mouth of the head teacher/tour giver.
Shout “Bingo!” if you manage to complete card (important note: if you complete the card at a school you might actually want to send your child too, feel free to swap excited wailing for a more socially acceptable option – e.g a smug grin and mini fist pump).
And then what? Then the game is over and it’s time to go home and argue about whether Jaffa Cakes are cakes or biscuits. Not really. It’s actually time for you to start discussing whether the school you’ve just seen is a good fit for your child.
A massive learning opportunity
Given my son has just turned two, I imagined this would be quite difficult to do, but it’s amazing what my wife and I have managed to glean from these visits. Like? Like… …this school’s kids are pretty robotic and dull; this school’s facilities haven’t been updated in years; there are way more boys than girls at this school; this school’s teachers seem pretty old school; there are no hot lunches on offer at this school; this school has a greater focus on play; this school is really hard to get to on public transport… …the list really does go on and on and on.
Well, what are you waiting for? Don’t just sit there acting like this article hasn’t changed your life. Get up, get on the blower and begin arranging visits to the schools your son or daughter might end up attending.
If your lucky, this list will consist of one or two schools. If you’re not, it might consist of ten or 20. But either way, your will learn loads, you will get to play my awesome School Visit Bingo game and, if you go to a school that’s really pulling out all the stops to impress prospective parents, you might get some free wine or soup.
It does. But that’s not the only reason I’ve brought this franchise back from its gap year in Bali. Oh no. I’ve also been issued a challenge by the parent blogger who simply does not sleep. I am of course talking about the venerable Daddy Poppins.
When this man isn’t looking after his children, he’s flooding the world wide web with dad jokes. And when he’s not doing either of those things, he can be found eating biscuits, watching rugby, posting Instagram stories and bringing the parent blogging community together with bizarre GIFs or post-based challenges (yes, all at the same time). The latest of these challenges saw him dare a bunch of parenting writers to produce a list feature titled “10 things that really get my goat”*.
Over the last few days, the others writers have done theirs and now it’s my turn to do the business. So, here we go. Ladies and gentlemen, please behold my midweek list of 10 things that really get my goat.
1. My son never crying for me
Grandpa? Tick, my son cried for him all of Monday. Nano? Tick tick, my son screams for her whenever Mummy isn’t around. Mummy? Tick tick tick, my son wails for her pretty much 24/7. Daddy? Um, well, come on little man, I’m waiting and I have been for two long years.
“You guys have a great relationship and I’m sure he does it when you’re not around,” assures my wife, before getting annoyed at me for getting annoyed about it. She’s definitely right about the first part and probably right about the second, but still. It hurts.
2. Parenting guilt
Am I working too much? Am I spending too much time with my son? Should we shorten his days at nursery? Am I allowed to enjoy myself when my kid isn’t around? C’mon parenting, get off my back and give me a break.
Over £1,000 a month and we have to bring in our own wipes and nappies? Why the British pre-school system you really are spoiling us.
4. People smoking when they are with their children
Please ladies and gents, give their lungs a chance.
5. Facebook’s bots
Given all the hate in this world, you’d think Mark Zuckerberg’s high tech artificial intelligence team might have better things to do than ban me from promoting my articles for sharing this satirical post about a man who managed to please his wife and son at the same time. But no. According to the automatons, it’s fake news, so I am a persona non grata. Oh, and to rub salt in to my wounds, the bots don’t appear to have informed the marketing department, so Facebook keeps sending me emails with subject lines like “promote your business to grow your business”. UNSUBSCRIBE!
It’s just a really annoying time. And one that, thanks to my son’s blatant disregard for humanity’s need to sleep, my wife and I see far too often.
7. The amount of sugar in a Petit Filous
You think you’ve found a healthy snack that your kid actually likes and then… boom! You look at the label and discover it’s got more than 4.5g of sugar in every pot. I have no idea how the makers sleep at night, although I imagine it’s a damn sight better than my kid after he’s mainlined two pots.
8. The price of family holidays
“Sorry Janet, for a second I thought you said £4,300 for a week in a self-catering apartment in Portugal and return flights from London to Faro on Ryanair.”
9. Scotland’s national sports teams
Rugby, cricket, football, I don’t care what you play. For once, could you please, please, please, just give your long-suffering supporters a lousy, boring, dull victory instead of glorious failure?
10. The fact no-one reads my blog
To paraphrase Chumbawamba, “I get knocked down (every time I post a well-written, interesting and funny article and it gets less than 50 views), but I get up again (to post another well-written, interesting and funny article that gets less than 50 views). You are never gonna keep me down (although sometimes I do read some of the crap other bloggers post that gets loads of views and retweets and think, ‘The game’s a bogey, why am I doing this to myself?’).
P.S. genuine request: if you did enjoy this article or any of the others on my site, please help to spread the word, by sharing it.
Aaaaannndddd…. stop the clock. Challenge complete. Poppins appeased. Nursery calling, most likely about fees, so Father Hood is out. See you next post :-).
*Actual challenge title slightly more sweary, but this is a family website and it was pretty easy to source free pics of a goat.
No doubt about it, this is a fantastic query. But before we get on to the ins and outs of teaching your kid colours, I have a confession to make. This morning, while researching this article, I discovered something that shook me to my very core. It turns out that I, that I, that I… just say it, man. Fine. Here goes. It turns out that I have spent the last 35 years singing the incorrect words to the rainbow song.
I’m serious. Instead of warbling, “Red and yellow and pink and green. Purple and orange and blue, I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too,” I’ve been crooning, “Red and yellow and pink and blue. Orange and indigo too. I can see a rainbow, see a rainbow, can you see one too?”
Astounding, isn’t it? I mean, how did I come up with these words? Why did no-one tell me? Have all the other parents at singing group been laughing behind my back? Are there any other popular songs I’m butchering on a daily basis? Have I ever even looked at a rainbow? There are just so many questions, but right now the one desperate to emerge from your voice box is: look mate, this rainbow stuff is all well and good, but are you ever actually going to get on to answering the actual question this article is supposed to be about, because, you know, time is money and I’ve got a kid waiting to learn colours here?
Okay, okay, keep your hair on. Now I’ve shared my rainbow shame, I do indeed feel ready to reveal the four separate methods my wife and I are using to teach our kid colours. Which are…
1. “What colour?”
You know how your toddler just loves to ask you the same question over and over and over and over and over again? Well, now it’s payback time. And what I mean by this is: whenever you show or give him or her anything, tell them what colour it is and then ask them what colour it is – e.g. “This blanket is blue, what colour is this blanket?” or “This is bowl is red, what colour is this bowl?”
Admittedly, this technique gets pretty dull pretty quickly, but the teacher who told us about it assured us it would help and she was bang on the money. After a few weeks, we dropped the opening statement in favour of simply posing the “what colour is…” question. And do you know what? Provided he isn’t ridiculously tired or in the middle of an important episode of Fireman Sam, our son gets just about every one right.
2. The fetch game
To play this game you need 16 traffic cones, three washing machines, a working iPhone, a pre-paid credit card and a piece of sticky-back plastic. Not really. You simply need a bunch of coloured balls or a box of multi-coloured fridge magnets. Got them? Great, then let the fun begin.
Place the balls or fridge magnets at one side of the room and then stand with your son or daughter on the opposite side. Now ask them to go to the other side of the room and bring back a green/yellow/red/blue (delete as applicable) ball or fridge magnet.
If they bring back the correct colour, whoop, holler, high-five, chest bump and generally make them aware that they’ve done something amazing that’s made you really proud. And if they bring back the wrong one, calmly say, “No, this is blue, I’d like a green one,” before sending them off to the other side of the room again. Hopefully, they’ll pick the right ball or magnet this time, but if they don’t keep repeating this process until they do.
Important note: don’t give too many colour options, as results will vary to begin with and there are only so many times your kid is going to cross the room before he or she stomps their feet and screams, “Free me from this fresh hell you demonic authoritarian.” Or, you know, “Nooooooooooo. Waahhhhhh. Nooooooo.”
3. Repetitive singing
Our son’s first nursery – which taught him absolutely loads – swore by this method, which sees parents sing the name of a colour on a pretty much tune-free repetitive loop until their kid is a blue-recognising genius. For example, “This bag is blue, blue is the bag. Blue, blue, blue, blue bag. This bag is blue. B-L-U-E, blue. Blue, blue, blue.”
Painful? Yes. Effective? Also yes.
4. Multi-disciplinary craft activities
It’s time for this post’s second big revelation. Which is… I originally planned to publish this piece in the run-up to Christmas. Why am I telling you this? I’m coming clean, because, when they heard that I was preparing an article about teaching a kid colours, the good people at Education.com kindly offered to send me an exercise that was proven to help to children with both their colour recognition and their counting.
This type of fee-free, brain-boosting double whammy doesn’t come along very often, so I instantly gave the learning website’s PR lady the thumbs up. A day or so later, she sent me a fantastic December-centric activity involving Christmas trees that, because it’s now February, I’ve turned into the below activity involving plain old green trees.
Green tree counting
What you need
Green and yellow construction paper
A pair of scissors
A hole punch
A glue stick
Some string or thin wire
What to do
Take out the green construction paper. Emphasise that the paper is “green” and then ask your child to draw a tree on it.
Cut out this tree and then use it as a stencil to cut nine more trees.
Take out the yellow construction paper out. Emphasise that the paper is “yellow” and then ask your child to draw ten small stars on it.
Cut out ten stars and write numbers ‘1’ through ’10’ on each star.
Encourage your child to glue a “yellow” star to the top of each “green” tree.
Ask your child to read the numbers on the “yellow stars” that are on the “green trees”.
Show your child how to make a small ball using Play-Doh.
Ask your little one to make the specific number of balls that are written on each “yellow star” and then press these balls on to the star (note: they should stick for a short while naturally, but if you want them to permanently stick use glue).
After your child has finished pressing on the balls, ask them to count them out loud, while touching each ball. If they count all the numbers correctly, give them a big celebratory hug. If they don’t, calmly make any necessary corrections.
Make a small hole in the top of every tree, weave a piece of string or thin wire through these holes and then hang the trees in a long row somewhere in the house.
Keep re-visiting the decoration with your child, making sure to ask them questions about both the colours and the numbers.
Got all that? Great, then all that remains to be said is: party at Baber’s house, wooooo! Sorry, I have no idea what just came over me. What I actually wanted to say was: I know that we parents are all battling to get ahead, but there’s no need to worry or call in a tutor if your toddler doesn’t nail his or her colours instantly.
How do I know this? I know it, because my mum used to be a teacher and, according to her, it was pretty common for five-year-olds to struggle with their greens, browns and blues. Given this information, it’s fair to say your has a bit of time yet :-).
Hands up if you’re ready for a long and rambling post, where I go off at various tangents before casually winding back round to the point and offering an insightful and entertaining conclusion. If you’ve just propelled your arm skywards, then boy do I have a treat for you. Namely: this article about the fun, games, stresses and strains of putting together a toddler’s birthday party.
That’s right, folks. My son has officially completed his transition from baby to boy by turning the ripe old age of two. Which bring me to my first tangent. He’s only two! The incredible little man, who is speaking in full sentences, knows his colours, can dribble a football, makes up his own nursery rhymes, tells us when he is going to go to the toilet and can count to 30 (excluding 16, he often misses 16 for some reason) is only two. That’s amazing. It’s sensational. It’s something I need to begin appreciating, because right now I’ve fallen into that classic parent trap of fretting about the things he can’t do because “he’s only two” rather than proudly screaming from the rooftops about the astounding things he can do despite the fact “he’s only two”.
But back to my son’s big day. It was a happy occasion that he marked with 12.05am, 3.30am and 5.15am wake-ups, an ill-timed nap, an hour of clinging to mummy for dear life and some of the cutest smiles I have seen in my 37-and-a-bit years on this planet.
So pretty much a standard 24 hours, then? Kind of, but also no, as instead of going to work, swimming, the park or Boogie Babies, my wife and I spent the morning cutting up fruit and chicken (more about that later), and our son spent the morning watching Fireman Sam and tugging at our legs and pleading “play”. Stop! Tangent two!
Two games my son currently enjoys are catch/throw and hide and seek. The former is a game of two parts. Part one sees him stand on his throwing spot and either bouncing a tennis ball to mummy or daddy or hurling it “in the sky” to mummy and daddy (note: we quickly discovered that giving him a pre-assigned throwing spot was a crucial part of keeping order/ensuring he didn’t just chuck the tennis ball at the window or cooker).
Part two sees him stand on his catching spot, hold out his hands and attempt to collect a football that daddy lobs in his direction at a very slow speed. Sometimes he catches it, sometimes he doesn’t and other times it hits him in the head. Whatever happens, everyone laughs and he does that little shake your body, lean over and bend in half thing toddlers do when they’re happy.
Hide and seek is slightly more self-explanatory, but we try to ensure that our son seeks as well as hides, as this gives him an opportunity to both practice his counting and develop his imagination (we’ve now got to the stage where he prolongs the game by pretending to look for us in different spots, even though he knows where we are. Again, “He’s only two!”). Tangent over. Repeat: tangent over. Now, back to our toddler’s birthday party
Once the food was prepped, we packed the car, wrestled the bubster into his finest outfit and hit the road to the RAF Museum for an afternoon of fun, stress, laughs, tears and everything in between. Here are the main things I learned.
The guest list
Invite the neighbours? Ask every kid and their dog from the nursery to come? We ummed. We aahed. I gesticulated and then did that facial expression where you screw up your face to portray angst. And then we decided to make our toddler’s birthday party an event for close friends and family.
The main negatives of us going down this route were:
The party didn’t feature many kids that were around our son’s age.
Some of our good friends lived further away and weren’t able to make it.
But, on the plus side, the positives were:
We didn’t have to spend a significant proportion of the afternoon making small talk to people we barely knew.
Leaving our son’s nursery peers off the list dramatically reduced the number of times guests uttered phrase “come on, you need to learn to share”.
We managed to keep the numbers relatively tight, which helped us to limit costs and fit in to the venue we’d chosen. Talking of which…
After holding the bubster’s last couple of shindigs at his grandparents’ house, we went a bit renegade with this year’s choice. And by this I mean, we held our toddler’s birthday party at the RAF Museum in London. Oh, cool, so you got a room? No, that would have been far too costly and easy.
We actually decided to bring our own food and host the party on the picnic tables in the museum’s Aeronauts Gallery (read: kid’s play area). Our reasoning for this was simple:
We have been at the Museum a couple of times and our son loves it.
We figured that the mix of toys, educational features, space to run around and cool planes would excite everyone on the guest list (from a crawling baby to an elderly auntie) far more than a kiddy class-style entertainer singing songs and blowing bubbles.
The Museum is free to get in to.
We had spoken to the people on the front desk and they assured us that people were allowed to bring picnics into the Aeronauts Gallery (obviously we forgot to mention that our picnic would be for 40 people and include cakes, balloons and banners at this point).
It was different and we like to be different.
But was it a success or not? If you’d asked me at 2.30pm, when the picnic area was packed with other families, not many of our friends had turned up, my in-laws were looking somewhat underwhelmed, my son was refusing to leave my wife’s side, and my stress levels were somewhere between sky high and through the roof, the answer would have been stop asking questions and start passing alcohol.
If you ask me now, when my abiding memories are my son spending the final 90 minutes running around in an excited, happy blur, our relatives praising the venue and all of all friends’ kids demanding to stay, the answer is a big, fat yes.
As ever, naps were the main consideration when trying to work out the party’s beginning and end times. Right now, our little man is the world’s most inconsistent napper, but if he does fall asleep he tends to do it about lunchtime. This, when allied with the Museum’s opening hours, left us with 10-12 and 2-5 as our two potential slots.
Due to the distances some of our friends were driving, we went for the afternoon option. On the down side, this meant…
Guests with kids who napped in the afternoon arrived late.
We had to think about providing a decent amount of food for the adults as well as the children.
The children’s energy levels were slightly lower.
Our bubster took a while to warm up, as he was still waking up.
We had enough time to drive back to the house for all the stuff forgotten (and then back to the house for all the other stuff we’d forgotten).
More of our friends were able to make it.
We didn’t have to feed the kids lunch.
By the end, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, so could take a bunch of awesome photos, like the one at the top of this article.
What do you value more – your time and blood pressure or your money? If the answer is your time and blood pressure, then don’t even think about shopping for fruit segments. Book a caterer and book them now. And if your answer is money, then put the phone down and start planning your menu, because doing the food yourself will save you ££s.
Obviously, the nibbles you serve will depend on what your venue allows you to take in or produce (e.g. we weren’t able to bring in hot drinks and couldn’t heat up food), but if you are looking for general lessons, here goes.
Presentation and location is crucial. We put the roast chicken I’d taken around three hours slicing slightly away from the rest of the food and it barely got touched. Yes, I am bitter. And yes, I did end up eating it all myself.
Sure fruit makes you look good to other parents, but in reality kids barely touch it.
Hummus with sliced cucumbers, carrots and peppers is a massive winner.
Adults love spring rolls and samosas more than cheese sandwiches.
Kids love crisps more than Petit Filous.
No-one eats quiche.
The insightful and entertaining conclusion
Wow, I really made a rod for my own back with all my big talk at the start of this article, didn’t I? Okay, I’m ready. Looking back at my toddler’s birthday party, the main thing we did extremely successfully was think about our son’s needs rather than our own.
This may sound like an incredibly bleeding obvious thing to do, but I’m not sure it is. After all, how many parents rule out a venue due it being “a little scruffy round the edges” or “not having a kitchen”? Kids don’t see these things. They see fun or no fun.
Does this imply that you need to focus solely on your child and completely ignore the needs of those on the guest list? No. It means that you need to begin with a plan for your kid (e.g. he or she loves going to this park, that soft play centre or this class) and then work out from there depending on your budget, variety of guests, potential venues and so on.
This might sound like a lot of effort, but I guarantee that your kid’s beaming smile will make the time, stress and hassle worth it in the end. And if it doesn’t? Then life sucks. But hey, it’s only 12 months until you get to re-run the fun and try again.
Friends, Romans, countrymen, if you’re reading this article, then you have probably been there. And by “there”, I mean sitting at your desk, looking out of the window (or at the wall, if your office doesn’t have any windows) and thinking, ‘Stuff this, I’ve had enough. It’s time to hand in my notice, go freelance, spend more time with my family and generally live the dream.’
But is quitting your job and becoming a freelance parent really the land of milk and honey that mums and dads with a boss they hate/commute from hell/brilliant idea for a company/desire to work from home/dream of retiring before the age of 134 think it is?
As someone who has been living this ‘make some cash, while cleaning poo off your fingernails‘ parental fantasy for the past two years, I feel like I’m in a brilliant position to tell you that… …you too can make £600 a second from your sofa without lifting a finger or changing out of your pyjamas.
Sorry, I’ve been reading too many of those clickbait “make money like me” comments you see at the bottom on online articles. What I actually meant to tell you was that… …there are both positives and negatives to jacking in your job and going it alone. A comment that sounds spectacularly unhelpful, until I reveal that I’ve listed said pros and cons in an easy-to-digest fashion mere millimetres below the words you’re currently reading. Ready for them? Great, then here goes…
The pros of being a freelance parent
Put in a holiday request only to find that a vaguely organised colleague has already booked the days off? Forced to use up half-a-day’s annual leave because it’s your little one’s setting in period at nursery? The freelance parent has no such issues. Due to being our own bosses, we have the opportunity to holiday whenever we like, for as long as we like.
You set your own hours
Working 9-5, what a truly prehistoric way to make a living. As a freelance parent, your day has no set beginning, middle or end. So you’re free to: complete the nursery drop-off without stressing about being late for your train; take an hour out of your morning or afternoon to go to a baby class; or pitch some ideas while doing the night feed.
You enjoy your work more
Okay, okay, so this is more of a hunch than a guarantee. But, let’s face it: if you’re going to give up a secure position with a set wage in favour of going freelance and starting each week at zero, the chances are you’re going to pick a profession you like. And if you don’t? Well, then the word masochism springs to mind.
Everything you do has a price
This sounds a bit mercenary, but hear me out. When you are a freelance parent, there’s no muttering or getting angry about “why” you are in the office until midnight finishing off this report or that presentation. The answer is simple. You are doing it because the report is worth £250 and the presentation is worth £475. And while money isn’t everything, in this context it is extremely motivating.
A better work/life balance
Oh god, is he going all yoga pants and mindfulness on us? No, I’m not. I’m simply saying that being a freelance parent has enabled me to get far more involved in my son’s early years than I would have done if I’d been commuting to an office each day.
The cons of being a freelance parent
When an employed parent takes a holiday, they still get paid. When a freelance parent takes a holiday, they earn absolutely nothing. In theory, this doesn’t matter as, “You’ll make it up over the course of the year.” In reality, you panic, accept a little bit of work and end up in the bad books for answering emails by the swimming pool.
Although there are a number of benefits to the lack of structure that freelance working allows (see above), there is also one major downside. It’s called guilt and here’s how it works. You feel guilty when you can’t look after your kid because you need to hit a deadline and earn money. You feel guilty when you can’t hit a deadline and earn money because you need to look after your kid. And you feel really, really guilty when you’re too hungover to do either.
More than a year on, I stick by the stuff I wrote in the article ‘Dear Father Hood: is it possible to work from home with a baby?’ You can read the full, glorious post here, or make do with the following summary. It’s hard to work hard when your kid’s in the house, because you will hear them cry, you will get dragged in to help and you will feel left out.
Add in the items on your ‘You’re at home, so here’s some stuff to do’ list (e.g. call the builder, complain about the internet speed) and the lure of social media, and it’s quite frankly a miracle if a freelance parent finishes a sentence without having his or her concentration broken.
You can’t just dial it in
I’m not saying that most parents who have full-time jobs are able to get away with being little more than a zombie occupying a desk after a rough night of bed-wetting and wake-ups. Wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. If you have a job, you have the opportunity to do slightly less than usual without it affecting the amount of money you take home at the end of the month. Freelance parents have no such luxury. If we do the bare minimum or nothing at all, we risk either losing a client or earning zilch. And, according to my accountant, neither of these is a good thing.
Your earning potential is limited
I’ve been freelance for nearly a decade, and, from a financial perspective, the two years that my son has been around have been by far and away the least lucrative. Some of this is due to a downturn in the industry I work in, but a lot of it is due to a change in my priorities. Simply put, I used to hit tight deadlines by working at all hours of the day and night. Now, I’d rather feed my son breakfast or, you know, catch up on some sleep.
And that’s it. Those, in my experience, are the positives and negatives of being a freelance parent. If you enjoyed the article, please share it far and wide. If you didn’t, please share it far and wide. Now on to the next post. Catch you soon…
Guess who had one of those eureka moments tonight? Too slow, the answer is me, Father-Hood. It came around 47 minutes ago and it has made all my struggles to get my son to sleep in his own cot suddenly seem so simple.
Here’s what happened. My wife, who implements my son’s bedtime routine 99.99% of the time, had to work late this evening. It’s a situation we’ve experienced in the past, and one that tends to lead to tears, punches and a recurring whining sound from the bubster (note: if your kid does this you’ll know a) what I’m talking about and b) just how quickly it drills through your skull and into your very soul).
In the past, we’ve attributed this reaction to the following reasons.
He’s a mummy’s boy, especially after the hour of 7pm when he is tired, slightly under the weather and/or teething.
The Achilles injury that meant I was able to do absolutely hee-haw with him during an extremely key time in his development.
My son being a bit of a prima donna, who knows what he wants and how to get it.
There is more than a modicum of truth in all of the above, but less than an hour ago I discovered something that, depending on whether you know it already or not, is either really interesting or blindingly obvious. And that thing is… there is an ‘I’ in routine.
What the? Come on, mate. This isn’t a cryptic crossword. Okay, okay, I’ll explain a little further. Before tonight, whenever I implemented the bedtime routine, I attempted to copy what my wife does almost to the word, beginning with, “7.15, you know what that means… bath time” and ending with the “I love milk” song.
In my head, this made perfect sense, as it was what the bubster was used to. But do you know what? It doesn’t work and it never will, because – drum roll, please – I don’t talk like my wife, sing like my wife, react like my wife, hum like my wife, back pat like my wife or indeed look like my wife.
No s***, Sherlock. But why is this problematic? It’s a problematic because it means that the more myself or someone else tries to copy my wife’s routine, the more we are unsettling my son by ramming home the fact that his go-to parent isn’t around.
So what’s the solution? The solution, judging by tonight, is to stop playing substitute mummy and start being myself. Really? Yes, really. The moment I began performing a slightly alternative routine featuring my own songs, words, mannerisms and Dinosaur voice was the moment my son stopped whining and started settling.
Eureka moment over. Blog post over. Hopefully my son sleeps through the night and this article has taught you something that will help you in the future. Now, let’s all go and get dinner, shall we?
Greetings fellow earthlings. ‘Tis the season to sit around a table ramming ourselves full to the brim with meat, veggies, stuffing, cheese, port, Christmas pudding, trifle, a variety of chocolate and whatever else we can lay our hands on.
In many ways this is exciting, but when you are the guardian of a living, breathing, screaming-fit-throwing 22-month-old it is also wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-a-cold-sweat daunting. Just how do parents make it through Christmas lunch with a toddler without raising their blood pressure to dangerous levels or losing the plot completely?
The most obvious answer is technology. Sit your teeny tot down, plug them in and then mainline your meat and drink of choice until the gizmo’s battery runs out or, equally terrifyingly, there’s some kind of issue with streaming.
I’ll be honest and say that parenting by gadget is not my cup of tea, but if you want to do it, do it. It’s your life and your kid. And if you don’t? Then step right in while I give you an insight in to the games my wife and I have come up with to get us through Christmas lunch with a toddler*.
1. Peekaboo napkin
Even if you’ve never played this game, you can probably guess the drill. Round one sees you get your toddler’s attention, hide behind your napkin and then pop out and cry “peekaboo”. And round two sees your toddler fail miserably to hide behind a napkin, look really pleased and then shout “peekboo”.
Note I: when doing Christmas lunch with a toddler napkins can be replaced by paper hats, banner or the 99p sunglasses that came out of your cracker.
Note II: the older your kid gets, the less this game will work.
Note III: you will get bored long before your toddler does.
2. Find the card
The upside of this game is that is takes up a lot of time, boosts your little one’s fine motor skills and involves very little effort on your part. The downside is that the contents of your wallet could end up being hurled into a stranger’s chicken katsu curry (true story: Wagamama London Southbank 22/11/17).
Read that disclaimer and still up for it? Great, then here’s how it works. Show your child one of your library/gym membership/supermarket points reward/credit cards (we use my Costco card, as it has my picture on it) put it back in your wallet and then challenge your little one to “find the card”. When they do, cheer and high five them. Then put the card back and do it all over again and again and again and again and again…
For the record, this game isn’t a one-trick Christmas lunch with a toddler pony. It’s also done the business for us during nappy changes and traffic jams.
3. Which hand?
First, grab a small-ish object from the kitchen or table (e.g. a teaspoon, wrapped sweet or salt sachet). Second, put it one of your hands and clench your fist. Third, show your fists to your kid and ask them to pick one. If they pick the correct one, celebrate and then begin the game again. If they don’t, get them to pick the other hand, celebrate and then begin the game again.
Note I: over the top celebrations and overtly happy facial expressions are key for keeping your kid’s interest in this game.
Note II: if your kid’s anything like mine, he or she will pick the same hand every single time.
4. The alternative ice bucket challenge
Good news, adults. This game is less about raising money for charity by having ice-cold water poured over you, and more about getting your kid to put an ice cube in an ice bucket (or some other kind of jar, bowl or glass).
So far, so easy, but here’s the key rule. Instead of calling upon their hands, your son or daughter must perform the act using a set of tongs. Ooh, that sounds hard. It is. In my experience it will take your pride and joy 10-15 minutes to get to grips with this, so a) watch out for flying ice during the first few runs, and b) make sure you take a video of their massive smile of achievement when they eventually get the ice to its selected destination. Like my one at the top of the page? Yes, just like my one at the top of the page.
5. The impossible to open jar
Behold the small pot of snacks, marmalade or pepper that is usually easy to open, but for the next 10 minutes IS ACTUALLY THE HARDEST THING TO TWIST IN THE WORLD EVER. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Mummy can’t open it. Or Bubby. Or Daddy. Or Granny. Or Bubby again. Or the waiter. Or bubby for a third time. Or the guy at the next table…
You get the picture. This Christmas lunch with a toddler game can go as far as your imagination and the laws of the country allow – from napkins for “extra grip” to two people trying to open the pot at the same time via choreographed chanting and wrestling-style elbow drops (although the last of these is probably a move for your own home rather than a Michelin-starred restaurant).
And that’s it. Explanations over. Post over. Games over. Commit them to your memory, source the utensils and then go out there and prepare to absolutely own Christmas lunch with a toddler. Or, you know, ensure that it is at least an hour before they start to do this.
Enjoy and good luck.
*bonus special Christmas pressie. These games DON’T just apply to Christmas lunch. You can (and we do) bust them out whenever you eat out.