Mega minecraft maze…ostensibly built for the children…

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Just made the kids something fun to find tomorrow! Not sure I will keep the rules section as is, but for now I’m pleased. Lots of little nooks and crannies to discover – a house, several gardens, mini art gallery, swimming pool, cheddar cheese area, snowman corridor, lookout platform, survival station, chicken farm, etc.

The plan is to add new stuff to our Adventure World map until we have a whole world of awesome – can’t wait to see what the kids build!

Have I mentioned I LOVE minecraft?

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Stone circles, the zoo, family’s houses, softplay germpits, and…the woods?!

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As I wrote my post on Monday, bemoaning the endlessly grey, rainy English weather, the rain miraculously stopped and some weak sun filtered through the clouds.

I tell you, it was action stations. I jumped up from my chair and was like, ‘Let’s go out! Who wants to go out??!?! LET’S DO THIS!’ An hourly weather forecast promised a few rain free hours, so we jumped into the car and went to the zoo.

Let me say this: the hourly weather forecast is a liar. A dirty little liar. Oh, it was bright enough (read, not dark gray) to leave the raincoats in the car and wander far enough into the zoo to not be able to easily return to the car. We sat down in the outdoor eating area, sheltered by a large canopy, and the heavens opened. When it calmed to a drizzle, we carried on.

The height of awesome was running for the meercat house as some sixth sense let me know shit was about to get real. We made it just as a total monsoon hit. It was hot in the meercat house, and being crammed in with the other six people who were braving the zoo made it hotter. The kids asked to go outside.

We did. The roof extends and forms a sort of porch like shelter – which was fine until gale force winds slammed a wall of rain into our shocked faces. We ran back to those meercats like hellhounds were at our heels.

But you know what? We stayed pretty dry. We had an AWESOME time – the zoo was practically empty and we spent ages looking at various animals. It sort of bolstered my going-out-in-the-rain confidence….which is saying something, considering a group of people planning to go spend the day in the woods Friday suggested they stage an intervention for me, since we have yet to make a woods meet up because it is always raining. Always.

Monday was so great that even though I messed up our Tuesday plans, we ended up spending the day at Suzy’s mum’s house. Lots of running around, drawing, building with blocks. Wednesday we met two other families at a local soft play, and the kids had a great time discovering various hidey-holes and running around together.

Today I woke up wedged halfway between wanting to go on an epic adventure versus wanting to remain unshowered and in slippers. I’m trying to find some cooler places in a slightly wider radius, and discovered a mine/caving system that we loosely planned to go to (a continuation of the Minecraft obsession), but we ended up going to a stone circle that, while very near to us, we’d never been to.

I’m in the process of making a list of 100 things to do in 2014, and visiting a new stone circle made it pretty high on the list. So off we went!!

It was fabulous. Lots of mud, tonnes of standing stones, and bizarrely friendly cows that kept approaching us. We were the only people there, and all you could see was rolling hills, a church tower, the occasional house secreted away in the hills. It was amazing. Afterwards we ate lunch in the boot of the car (it’s big, folks) and the kids ran around sans coats.

We came home to no wind and actual sunshine (!), and they were immediately barefoot in the front garden, looking for ants to watch and feed, playing with cars, finding the only remaining daisy. No coats, no sweatshirts, no problem.

So while I started the week upset about our lack of snow and the constant rain, I’m approaching the end thankful for living somewhere with very mild winters.

You’ll be reading this Friday morning, though I’ve written it Thursday night. Friends have threatened to pull up outside our house and honk horns until we emerge to join them for a trip to the forest….so hopefully while you read this, we’ll be staying dry (please god) and exploring a bit of the woods we’ve never seen before.

I hope your weeks have been incredible. We have a new tradition of evening dance parties and I tell you, this whole dancing to various songs of my youth in the evenings and going out in the day despite the weather….it makes for a good time.

 

How they are developing…

S and M are different people with different focuses.

S is into a lot of ‘academic’ stuff. Today, for instance, she spent hours playing maths apps and has mastered symmetry, furthered her understanding of fractions, and continued working towards consistently knowing the difference between right and left. She’s been able to do oral maths problems (that she creates, and that people around her do) since age two, and these are gradually gaining in complexity and her speed in solving them.

She has been desperate to learn to read and started begging me to teach her about six months ago. I’ve gone along with her, but also tried to emphasise all the stuff she’s doing already is helping her learn. She started with a fascination for road signs and recognising a handful of basic words. She somehow learned every letter of the alphabet, and three days ago discovered that each letter makes a sound. At dinner yesterday she pointed to most letters on her alphabet placemat and made the correct sound.

She’s done all this herself – obviously I’ve strewed interesting things in her path and explored them with her when she wanted, we read books of all shapes and sizes together, etc – but there have been no school like sessions of memorising sight words or formally doing phonics.

S also delights in medical things – skeletons both human and animal, organs, the senses. She has said she wants to be a vet and adores animals; she has a knack of making them like her very quickly. She’s very musical and into horns; she makes up tuneful songs all day long and narrates what we are doing through them. S loves doing ‘shows’, both with her as the key performer, and making shows with her toys for us to watch. She also insists on being called Baby Kitten about 98% of the time, and acts accordingly. She spends a lot of time upside down, trying to fully master headstands, and taught herself the perfect forward roll at age one. She loves her Bunny above all other things (and recently has discovered a love for soft toy animals), and Bunny now wears pyjamas just like S (think of pyjamas as her uniform). S knows her mind and is not afraid to be very clear in expressing her opinion…sometimes quite fiercely.

I often think of M as a creative engineer or film director. He likes making things, and delights in watching YouTube videos relating to Angry Birds and Minecraft, then replicating things he’s seen in physical form in our house. This often takes the form of directing us to do his bidding. He adores YouTube in general, and calls a kid on there who does product reviews his friend.

As a toddler, he saw a bike rack on a car for the first time. He came home, found some sticks, and put them on the roof of his Little Tykes cozy coupe. Ditto windshield wipers. This has not changed; his basic, shining belief that we can make whatever we wish. The recent project has been making Minecraft guys and worlds from Lego, though he also makes fantastical creations from pipe cleaners…and…well, anything he can get his hands on.

He is a collector and wants all of whatever it is he is interested in. His current joy lies in Angry Birds Star Wars telepods and mystery packs. Often he is satisfied if we make whatever it is – a superhero house of out cardboard boxes, a Frank combine from Cars out of yogurt containers and toilet paper rolls, an Angry Birds Death Star out of tinfoil. He is a visionary thinker, and his confidence in relation to his creativity astounds me.

We have collaborated on making a CD of Minecraft song parodies, and he has learned all the words. He begged us to let him get chilli pepper seeds when he loved the chilli pepper on Plants vs Zombies (and we ended up with a HUGE crop that none of us really ate!). He has two stuffed dogs and one stuffed cat he really likes, though only as good friends. He loves babies and will often zero in on the baby or toddler left alone at soft play, remaining by their side as protector and guardian until their parent returns. He is tender hearted, loving, and the first to rush over and ‘blow’ on someone’s body if they get hurt. He doesn’t like the cinema, and in fact often doesn’t want to watch new DVDs at home as he gets too upset when characters are in peril. Yet he stages grand battles between piggies and birds, creepers and Steve. He is now deeply into road signs and often hangs around when S and I are discussing reading related things. M is very, very outgoing and will happily to speak to anyone of any age. He delights in roughousing and recently made two friends who do, also. He loves Christmas decorations with a grand passion. He dances frantically and while laughing.

Both love playing together and independently. Likewise, they love their friends (including the grown up ones, and children of all ages), but also love just hanging out at home, too. Each can play for hours in created worlds using small figures. S often ropes me into hide and seek, while M wants me to sit with him and play Minecraft.

I’m interested in who they are, what they enjoy, how they learn. I wonder what their adult lives hold in store. Whatever the case, I hope the things they are learning now always hold true – it is worthwhile to discover your passion and pursue it, it is okay to try something different or stop doing something you no longer enjoy, the world is full of possibility and adventure.

Fingers crossed.

Just say yes – and then watch what happens.

‘Yes’ is the most powerful message you can give to your children. Some things are direct requests.

Can we sleep outside?

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Can we go see that horse?

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Can we play Twister before bed?

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Sometimes your child makes a decision to try something that is new, or seems interesting or worthwhile. You don’t need to say anything, then. You just stand back and watch….and sometimes, you fetch whatever they need to help complete their scheme.

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‘Yes’ really means:

You are capable of making good decisions.

You can choose things based on what you find exciting or are curious about.

I trust you.

Sometimes it is a small yes. Sure, we can make cookies. We can pick up endless sticks and rocks while we walk. We can opt to skip going to gymnastics to stay home and all watch a movie together in my bed.

Often it’s bigger – and means having to stand back while they assess risk, solve problems, or get incredibly messy.

We are lucky in that we have lots of time. Nothing is so pressing that we cannot explore things along the way. We have lots of space to just be, to choose what to do as we go along. So that makes things easier for us, but not impossible for people with busier schedules, or school, or …well, whatever, really.

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So try it. When your child asks to do something, or just goes ahead and does it – and your natural inclination is to say no or hurry them along – just pause. Do you have five minutes to let them do this thing? Are they safe? Then say yes.

Have that wild dance party in the kitchen. Watch them collect fifty conkers and spend ages ‘washing’ them in a stream. Laugh to yourself as they wear costumes out of the house.

And this is the most important part: look at their face. Really pay attention to those moments when a child is learning about joy, about passion, about curiosity.

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