Thursday, November 21, 2013

Playing LeapFrog: Snap Happy

Following on from here and the fabulous opportunity that presented itself for me to review products by LeapFrog, the children’s educational entertainment brand, comes another app toy, this time something a little more creative and well, arty to say the least.
Designed again for 3-6 year olds, the Creativity Camera Protective Case and App combine the camera power of iPhone or iPod touch with creative learning fun!   After another rather slow download of the free app, the Creativity Camera was ready to go and not a moment too soon as it was promptly dropped by the toddler in our midst!  It's great that this product doubles as a protective case, not just from bumps and scratches, but from grubby, sticky fingers too.  Moments after the camera was picked up from the floor, it was taken by N, E and 3 of our neighbours, all off to explore its potential.
Very quickly there were lots of giggles coming from the bedroom; they had found the menu easy to navigate and were already adding funny graphics to their silly faces - which were now even more silly!  The graphics were easy to move around the screen and could be enlarged by expanding the graphic on the screen.  The giggles continued but then they started to argue - "it's my turn!", "NO! It's MY turn!" - as children tend to do.


Check out these silly faces; now I can see why there was so much hilarity!

The app toy kept them amused for hours that afternoon, allowing my neighbour and I to have a cuppa and a good old catch up.  They were able to find their way around the menu, exploring the six learning modes offered: they made silly faces, changed the colours of their photos and even caught images of magical flying creatures. 
The Creativity Camera may not have made Lord Lichfield's out of them, but the crazy 5 (aged between 18 months and soon to be 10) had a fab afternoon and were begging for more time to play.  In true N and E style they rated the app toy for me,
"It's GREAT! Definitely a ten out of ten, mum!"

Two little things I'd like to add, however - and I'm just being pedantic - firstly, the camera lens is very easily obscured by little hands grasping the case and secondly (and most importantly!) us adults couldn't find the final images easily to allow me to download them - but as my neighbour said "we should have just got the kids to do it!".
At a very reasonable £14.99 I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this as an affordable and safe way for children to explore photography, while having the chance to create individual pieces of art and have fun along the way: the fact that the case also adds protection is a huge added bonus too.
Disclaimer - I have been asked to review this through my role as a BRITAX Mumbassador - a unique and exciting community of parenting bloggers who work closely with BRITAX to review their products, discuss topical parenting issues and to share fun family experiences with!  I have received no fees for this post - but instead benefited from being able to keep the Creativity Camera - but instead have written it because I believe that it's important for our little ones to express their individuality and be creative.

Hospital: 5 nights

Oral antibiotics weren't enough:
bilateral patchy changes on x-ray,
oxygen saturations too low.

A consultant and a friend,
"You know where this is going?"
and the tears fell.
An admission to hospital.
places to recuperate,
to rest,
to mend
and sleep?
Hell no!
A 6-bedded bay,
acute receiving:
2nd in,
4 to follow.
A constant busyness
and noise.
The bubble of humidified oxygen;
the hiss of the nebuliser;
the hum of the air conditioning;
the beep beep beep of the sats monitor;
the alarm of Alaris.
Irritable, unwell children;
screaming, shrieking infants;
tired, tired parents,
soothing, reassuring;
nurses chattering and checking.
The squeak of the bed;
the rattle of cot sides;
telephones ringing,
heralding admissions;.
lights dimmed, always on;
curtains drawn, never closed;
Every hour,
every single hour,
and the minutes between,
And then
the ward awakens.
Lights on,
beds away,
linen changed,
cleaners sweeping,
hoovers on,
obs done,
antibiotics administered,
time for breakfast now.
teams of doctors;
the ward round begins.
Will we see sleep tonight?
no sleep to be had;
not tonight
or tomorrow
but maybe by the weekend.
let sleep rest its gentle head upon us,
bless us,
heal her,
save us from our nightly torment:
there is no sleep to be had here
in this house of healing.
let us go home.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Playing LeapFrog: Mr Pencil


You'll be aware that E started school in August - now this is challenge enough for any child, but more so when you are 4 and a half and have weak muscles.  Muscles are required to write and you might not think that you need much strength to write but you need a certain amount and E needs to use soft pencils to help her make her mark using the strength that she has.  E is falling behind on her writing so I was ecstatic when, through my association with the Britax Mumbassador Program I was given the opportunity to review products by LeapFrog, the children’s educational entertainment brand, especially as the first product was a learning to write app learning toy.  Learning needs to be fun, doesn't it?

The Learn to Write with Mr. Pencil  app toy helps turn your current iPhone, iPod touch or iPad into a learning adventure and priced at £14.99 is an affordable way for children aged between 3 and 6 to learn and be entertained.

The app was easy - if a little slow - to download from the App Store and Mr Pencil helped unlock the door to Doodleburg.  Mr Pencil is a chunky, funky stylus more suited to little chunky fingers; both E and N (who is 6) found the stylus to be awkward and a tad cumbersome: perhaps a slightly slimmer Mr Pencil could be used, enabling the child to develop a normal pencil grip which proved difficult in this instance for both the girls.
E was introduced to Dot and Dash who guided her through the activities, writing letters (both lower and upper case) and numbers (1-20) and drawing shapes.  By completing the levels she decorated the buildings, playgrounds and fountains of town Doodleburg in rainbow colours in time for a celebratory parade.  The animation is simple but cute and engaging; E's favourite piece of animation was the tiny paper aeroplanes which took to the sky with sound effects that made her smile.
E found the drawing and writing to be a little frustrating - the iPad is very sensitive and it's important that nothing else is touching the screen bar the stylus; E often had a finger or wrist in contact too so I would definitely recommend using the iPad and Mr Pencil at a table in a good sitting position.  She also found that she couldn't stray far off the guide without a resounding "Good try!" or "You can do better!" and her quickly replying "You're so annoying!": a little bit of inaccuracy should perhaps be allowed, especially if the app toy is aimed at younger children who might lose their patience easily.
Overall E and N loved the app; although finding it frustrating at times, the animation and sense of fun they got from playing - and learning - made Mr Pencil a hit, with them enjoying plenty of time in Doodleburg.  E even let her friends "have a go" and play with it when round for a play date; if that isn't recommendation enough, I don't know what is!
Finally - because we often rate our days at school out of ten - E and N sum up this review:
"Mr Pencil?  He's a 9/10!"


Disclaimer - I have been asked to review this through my role as a BRITAX Mumbassador - a unique and exciting community of parenting bloggers who work closely with BRITAX to review their products, discuss topical parenting issues and to share fun family experiences with!  I have received no fees for this post - but instead benefited from being able to keep Mr Pencil - but instead have written it because I believe that learning should be fun.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mince & Tatties

When the nights fair draw in,  
sometimes your heart craves simple, home-cooked fayre...

(and then you need to blog about it to get back into the swing of blogging!)

Mince and Tatties

I dinna like hail tatties
Pit on my plate o mince
For when I tak my denner
I eat them baith at yince.

Sae mash and mix the tatties
Wi mince into the mashin,
And sic a tasty denner
Will aye be voted ‘Smashin!

Poem by J.K. Annand

The question is though, sauce or nae sauce?

Disclaimer: I feel that I do have to point out that I make mince and tatties once in a blue moon - good Scottish fayre is truly an exception to the rule in this house!

Friday, November 08, 2013

No need for hand cream today

Many of you may not know that I work as a doctor in palliative care, a specialty renowned for our hand holding..  I stumbled across this piece by Dr Derek Doyle today and it confirms for me how important physical contact is, not only in my role as doctor but also as a human being.  A visiting anaesthetist at work recently remarked on the number of hugs he saw us have on a daily basis: wouldn't it be great if I could write a prescription for physical contact - a hand held, a hug, a kiss?  The world would surely be a happier place...

"Forgive me if you have heard my story before. Old men tend to be anecdotal. 
It concerns an old lady newly admitted to a hospice where I worked. As I did with all patients, I asked how she thought I might be able to help her on what she knew was her final journey.
"What do you expect of me?” I asked.
“If you had asked me that a year or more ago I would have said ‘Use some of those letters after your name. They tell me you are clever, well trained and well travelled and that your peers have honoured you.' But things are different now! What I want from you in the time that is left is….what shall I call it? Hand care.”
“Do you mean manicure?” I asked.
"Oh dear me no! I mean that when you come to see me I may hold your hand to feel safe, and when you come to me and find me asleep you will still touch my hand, and when my time comes one of these lovely nurses or you will hold it as I slip away. You see, dear, there comes a time when a loving hand is more useful than all those letters after your name!"
Busy we certainly are but never too busy to give a moment’s hand care"

Dr Derek Doyle OBE is recognised worldwide for the contributions he has made to palliative care

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Neck, Tummy, Hat

"Neck, tummy, hat" said Eilidh

Neck, tummy, hat?

and then she shouts, "NECKTUMMYHAT!"

Neck, tummy, what?

This is how E sees the number 5.

This is how the number 5 is taught.

When she sees the number 5, she says "neck, tummy, hat"; she remembers the process of drawing the number but not the number itself.

"1, 2, 3, 4, neck-tummy-hat, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10"

Or is she pulling the wool over our eyes?

I don't know...

And neither does her teacher!

After the debacle that was E's registration at school, the worry regarding her starting school at the tender age of 4 (and 6 months!), and the reassurance that we got from her nursery teachers and educational psychologist, it proves that a mummy does know best; I should have listened to my heart, I should have deferred her starting school.

School have a number of concerns - 
her pencil skills
her concentration
her understanding
her phonics 
her numeracy

None of these were concerns a year ago at her at her co-ordinated support plan (CSP), nor at her last Staged Intervention (STINT): yet now she sits with seven other little primary 1s in a NetStart group going over the basic sounds and pencil skills, and she's not progressing onto subtraction because they feel her numeracy is so poor that she would get lost.  So who got it so wrong?  

I am angry and disappointed with her nursery - they had my trust to support, care and educate E - because I feel that they have failed my daughter.  I am angry at myself and disappointed for not listening to my mother's instinct that shouted out to me, "keep at her home, she's only little, she's not ready...".  And I will also admit that I am angry at myself because I feel that I am letting E down too because I cannot spend more time with her amidst this discombobulated life I lead, because I lose my patience with her at homework time...

But I should remember that E is not 5 until January; that her psychosocial development was hampered by her lack of early mobility; that children with SMA typically have a higher than average IQ; that she is finding her own way in life, her life, her way and in her own time.  Children develop naturally and I cannot assume that this is not the case for E.  We have placed her in a high achieving primary:

"OLM fosters tolerance, care, concern and respect for ourselves and others. The learning and achievement of all children is valued and high aspirations and ambitions are actively promoted. All children are enabled to develop strong foundations of knowledge and understanding and become successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens"

because we hope for the best for E; we hope that she will be gifted intellectually - as if this will compensate in some way for her physical disability - and as a result that the world will be her oyster. However, I must remember this; there is nothing wrong with seeking high educational standards and accountability, but there is surely something very wrong indeed if this comes at the cost of natural development. Eilidh will find her way, she will... my mother's instinct tells me so.