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Thursday, 27 August 2015

Smiler plays with (toy) fire


I wrote here about how it can be difficult to find toys for Smiler - the mix of his learning difficulties and his sensory needs and his strength and his size make it complicated.  At the age of 14 he gets the most enjoyment from toys aimed at toddlers, but having been at that stage for maybe four or five years now, it is becoming tricky to find anything new!  Hopefully that might go some way towards explaining my excitement in finding a whole group of toys he hadn't shown the slightest interest in before.  

These wooden toys, manufactured under the brand name of Grimm, are available from a range of places, including where I got these - a family focused UK based website called Little Acorns to Mighty Oaks.  Great range, speedy delivery, and (importantly to me) not charging daft amounts.  Their range of Grimm toys is extensive, and I found myself wanting pretty much all of it - not just for Smiler, to myself.  Take a look, and let me knew if you do too - Mr absolutely does not get it!  {Not a sponsored post or anything like that by the way, the toys are just that great, and the online store just that impressive!}

Anyway, I wanted to share these photos of Smiler playing with one of his new toys from Little Acorns.  This was the one that he had chosen from the website (on a particularly taxing day when he (and I) desperately needed distracting) and as soon as I handed it to him, a piece at a time, I knew he'd remembered - "fames! Fames ummy, fames!" [Flames! Flames mummy, flames!]
But did he want to fit the pieces together to make a single multi-coloured flicker of fire?  Of course not, that would be boring.  Instead he made himself a beard, and then a beak ...
"Ud ... ud me" [bird ... bird me]

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Have a quick sniff, maybe a crafty lick when no one's watching - actually not a problem, as the dyes used are non toxic - then instantly transform them into the snapping mouths of crocodiles, playing together.

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 And ears.  The face there, that's because he was he was vocalising - loudly - I can only imagine he was checking whether the new ears were working...

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Feeding the orange crocodile, and sliding the littlest flames in underneath the tower . . . As you can see, these beautiful wooden shapes have already brought Smiler a lot of joy, and they're so lovely to touch, so deliciously more-ish-ly tactile, that we've all been joining in - I've had to remind Petal and Noah several times to let Smiler have them back!  There are not many things - be they games or toys or even conversations - that all three will sit together and enjoy, but these seem to have hit the spot!

I actually got a few others at the same time (because I couldn't bear not to) from the same series, and there are a few more I'm trying to work out how to slip into the house unnoticed, but if you're struggling to find something different for a young person like Smiler, then I would seriously recommend you go and check them out!  Even as an adult I'm a bit tempted to get one for myself - rearranging it on my windowsill every so often as a piece of abstract art I guess!  They are just that beautiful.

Have you struggled to find toys that suit your child?  Have you come across any gems that you think I should check out?  Any and all suggestions gratefully received!

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Monday, 24 August 2015

School holidays!

Yes, I know, I've been absent without explanation.  So here it is.

School holidays.  Children children everywhere.  Needing meals and clean clothes and new pencil cases and time and attention and thought.

New house.  Needing electricians and plumbers and builders and lining paper and floor sanders and mugs and radiators.

We've been to seven separate appointments at three different hospitals.

Visited Legoland and Bristol Hippodrome and Wales.

Planted seeds and blown bubbles, chosen new socks and painted walls, made muffins and had haircuts.

All in all, too busy doing to be writing about doing.

Usual service will be resumed shortly!

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Sunday, 2 August 2015

But only girls like pink!


Don't know about you, but I often find myself questioning my parenting.  I want the kids to be polite, but not a walkover; friendly, but not dependant; confident, but not arrogant.  And then every so often one of them says or does something that gives me a warm glow inside and I beam with pride.  

Yesterday we were in a big diy store, choosing paint tester pots (exciting!).  Smiler had made a considered choice, but they didn't have any tester pots out in the shade he wanted, so Noah and I went to the customer services desk to ask if they might have any elsewhere in the store, or whether it was worth traveling to another outlet.  The guy at the desk saw the colour we were asking about, and commented jokingly to Noah "this isn't for your room is it?"
No, it isn't. (Solemnly shaking his head)
For your sister is it? (Big smile, raised eyebrow)
No, my brother. (Deadpan)
Little brother? (Quizzically, seeking some kind of acceptable explanation)
No, big brother.  Well ... kind of bigger and kind of littler.  I'm taller than him, but he's older than me. (Important point)
Oh. Bit girly, don't you think? (With a smirk)
Why? (Oh so innocent face)
Well ... because it's pink.  Only girls like pink, don't they. (More than just slightly confused)
But if only girls like pink, and my brother wants pink walls in his room, wouldn't that mean girls would want to spend time with him in his room? 


Smart arse. 

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Friday, 31 July 2015

When a new toy isn't just a new toy

Smiler had a tough week - you know those times everything seems to go a bit sideways and your well thought out back up plans are frustrated too?  That.  Anyway, because he really needed the distraction I suggested to him that we choose a new toy for the school holidays, something that we could keep at the new house and he could play with when he was there.

You see, a new toy to Smiler isn't just a new toy.  It's the looking, the thinking, the finding; the comparing, the concentrating, the choosing; the waiting, the planning, the anticipating.  From my perspective, his excitement at deciding which toy he wants was an activity in itself - he's occupied, he's engaged, he's focused.  Once the order was put in, he told his brother and his sister and his dad about the toy he'd chosen, which required a complex level of communication as they started off with no idea what he was talking about.  Smiler thought about what he was going to do with it when it arrived, and even picked out where (in his new bedroom) it was going to go. Course, it's not difficult when your bedroom currently has nothing - and I mean nothing - in!  The lovely wide windowsill in his gorgeous bay window is the perfect place,  according to Smiler.  So, he has thought things through, communicated with others, and experienced the anticipation involved with delayed gratification!

Our parcel arrived today, and when he heard the doorbell Smiler scooched along the hall to answer the door with me, rewarding the somewhat surprised courier with an unexpected round of applause when I confirmed the parcel had his new toy inside.  Squealing with glee and shaking with excitement as I opened the box, he grabbed at the paper on the top but - surprisingly - listened when I asked him to wait.   What he didn't know was that as well as the toy he'd chosen, I'd ordered three others too, knowing I can use these to occupy him all over again another three times, and each new toy will add more and more play opportunities as they can all be enjoyed together.  But I didn't want him to see them all at once, as that would have ruined the surprise! 

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Finding toys that are safe for Smiler isn't easy - trying to match up the understanding and attention span of a two year old with the strength and size of a thirteen year old is complicated.  He struggles to play creatively, needing to be led by those around him, and if encouraged to play independantly tends to revert to - let's call them 'classic' methods of interaction such as mouthing a toy, banging it on any surface in reach, and turning it over and over and over in his hands.

I've been tempted before to choose toys that will challenge him, be educational, offer opportunities for him to learn new skills; but while I might wish he'd use them in that way, over the years I've learnt that those choices are about me, not him.  He much prefers very basic toys, simply because he understands how they work and what they do, so I've moved on too, and through watching how he plays I've begun to understand what draws him to pick up a toy car over a toy boat (he likes to spin the wheels with his fingers); a drum over a whistle (he struggles with breath control but can make a sound with his hands on a drum); and a plastic figure over a soft toy (the solid shape doesn't trigger his tactile defensiveness the way a soft floppy toy would).

While some of his choices relate to his sensory needs, others are based on his seeking a sense of achievement, or maybe more accurately avoiding a sense of failure.  Because of this, open ended toys that don't have a specific function necessarily are appealing to him - with no expectations of what to do he is free to explore as he wishes.  The new toys he (and I) choose will provide him with enjoyment, which is, after all, exactly what he needs from them.  Non toxic, visually appealing, tactile, safe, strong enough to survive being dropped (or thrown), opportunities for cooperative play, for imaginative interpretation - they tick all the boxes.  Now all I need to do is sort some photos of Smiler playing with his new toy to share with you ... watch this space!

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