Friday, 29 March 2013

Pirates ohoy!

Number One Son’s birthday party this year could have not been more different from the last year’s. Last year all the children from his nursery group were invited to a big party in a hall with a bumpy castle. This year we had a small party for his best friends in our house. It was slowly snowing outside and the temperature was freezing, so there was no egg hunt in the garden. The bubble machine arrived two days after the party, but that had been better to use outside in sunshine – that was not on offer.

Last year it was partially overcast, but it was basically a T-shirt wearing day. This year one would have been blue in a couple of minutes without a coat. People arrived with skiing suits and warm hats. Wellington boots were a hot ticket.

The theme was pirates, but Number One Son refused to have his costume on. Anyway, for him it was more important that he could jump up and down with his best mate. Archaeologist Husband had baked a treasure chest chocolate fudge cake filled with fruit sweets and chocolate coins. It was a sure hit with all the mothers who apparently wanted to have Archaeologist Husband to come and bake their birthday cakes as well!

The food hit among the children was the bright orange cheese puffs. They vanished without a delay. Grapes were popular, too, and all the kids liked to drink their juice from their cartons with straws. Just when the atmospheric temperature was rising after all the children had eaten a lot of salty and sweet treats, I draw my ace from my sleeve. I had found pirate sticker packs from Poundland and all the guests became visibly more concentrated and relaxed when sticking treasure chests onto island scenes or pirates onto a sea map. We avoided any accidents or children starting to fight when the children did not get overexcited. Only one kid was missing a bumpy castle, but perhaps next year...

Friday, 22 March 2013

Praising Finnish Saturday Schools

Being a Anglo-Finnish bilingual family is made a lot easier by the international network of Finnish Saturday Schools. These Saturday Schools are not unique, since the Germans have their own Saturday Schools and the Chinese tend to teach their children communally Chinese. The Finnish state sponsors through the Finland Society fortnightly lessons during the ‘Finnish’ term time between September and May/early June for children with a Finnish parent or two. Finn-Guild and the Finnish Church in Finland are essential to provide training and support for the teachers on annual courses.

These schools cannot teach children who mainly speak English, who are spoken very little Finnish or have decided to speak English Finnish. Not the lessons are not frequent enough without an extra input at home, but they help to maintain the existing language skills, meet children in the same situation and just have plain fun by running around during the break and playing games and participating in activities during the lessons.

The schools often mark the main national celebrations, such as the Independence Day in December, May Day in May – or May Day Eve – and Midsummer and have special parties. The last is often the biggest celebration back in Finland, but many families cannot join the bonfire night in Finland, since it is school term time in England. Thus, a barbecue in UK is a fun day out in late June.

This praise is not only because I happen to be in the committee of our local school and have been updating our East Midlands web site for a couple of years. No, I would be happy about the Finnish peer support, even if I only popped in for an occasional coffee...

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Bad mother...

I and Archaeologist Husband realized last week that we really have to plan Number One Son's birthday party. You have to give the invitations at least two weeks before. We managed this after opting for an intimate home party (‘intimate’ in this case referring to the size of our front room – estate agents would say ‘bijou’). Somehow the actions where left for me, but that does not matter so much, since I quite like parties. At least I got it right this time.

There are small things I miss when dropping Number One Son to the nursery. The continuous flow of different charity activities normally passes me totally by. I do not bake – mainly from the consideration for the others – and I dare to say that I am not that excited about the Children in Need or Red Nose Day. However, I really have to start pay attention to these dressing up days, though, since children actually like them. I managed to take the costume to the nursery after dropping Number One Son there. I even managed to be without handing in my contribution afterwards – nobody collected the money and reminded me at the end of the day. Or the beginning of the next.

However, I have totally forgotten about providing Number One Son a drinks bottle to the nursery. Since the nursery has been handing out the old ones, I was wondering, if they had started to make the children to drink from the cups or mugs as Number One Son does at home. I had just finally realized that the bottle I had taken to the nursery a long time ago had somehow wandered back to our home. My assumption of ditching the bottles meant I did not leap into the action. On the contrary. However, about a week ago I realized that the bottles are still there and Number One Son was slurping from some random bottle. Thus, I managed to buy a bottle that duly wandered back to our home. Luckily, I managed to get the slippers in a long time ago. After contemplating it for weeks...

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Drawing and painting

For a long time Number One Son was totally ignorant of pencils, pens, paints and crayon. He was not apparently interested in colouring or holding a paint brush. In a playgroup I could manage to get him to stick absent-mindedly a couple of stars onto a paper, but then he normally wondered off. Similarly, toy cars were always preferable to a sing-along-a-song, and I ended up learning all the English nursery rhymes and songs while Number One Son was running away from the point of action. Keeping him sitting down was a chore.

Suddenly, all has changed profoundly. He absent-mindedly joins a familiar song in a playgroup, although he is still more likely to wrestle with pillows or go and look for a toy car. With his slowly improved talking, he has also found a flair for paints. We customarily keep paint bottles visible in his room and he quite often asks for a paper and paints for a while for surfaces of colours or smiley faces or crosses and zigzags.

It just seems that with the creative activities and music just as with anything in Number One Son’s development everything is related to the point when he is ready and decides voluntarily to start doing something. As a parent, you get a lot of brainwashing about the beneficial effect of singing, listening to stories and crafts to early learning. It is so easy to feel guilty, when your son just likes to run and be physical. Nevertheless, the right time for everything is crucial and it seems the right time is so personal that there is no point ‘forcing’ involvement in educational activities when there is no interest. You want to keep their enjoyment and excitement in crafting and creativity.