Lucy's learnings: inspirational (and easy!) Dad Lab activity ideas, revelatory building block organisation and how to get your kids learning some fancy words!

It's nearly Christmas!  The last time I wrote this blog we were all poncing around in our pants (OMG erase that from your mind, just the kids) in the woods having picnics and playing in the mud. Now the Christmas mugs are out (I am that person), Kit has already eaten 2 packs of mini stollen (we are on 5 December as I type), Sam has smashed it as Shepherd #3 (a non-talking role - can you believe it?!) in the 2 showings of his nativity and we are all limping our way to the end of term.  Our first term with two out of three at school (my little tiny Sam, despite turning 4 three weeks before school started, has thrived after a first week of horror that involved a lot of tears (both of us), existential crisis (both of us), talk of home-schooling (both of us) and wine-drinking (just me).

I have mentioned The Dad Lab in a previous blog; a man who shares cool experiments and art projects that he does with his two sons on Instagram.  I was delighted this Summer to discover he has published a book, which I immediately ordered and is packed with loads of really cool, simple ideas that are perfect for small investigative minds (ie. Walking on eggs, a balloon 'light switch' and how to draw an electric circuit that will light up bulb).  He rescued a rainy afternoon a few weeks ago by providing us with inspiration to make a shadow puppet theatre out of Duplo. Both my older two are real Lego fanatics, but have never outgrown Duplo either (and Kit obvs loves it too) and it has provided us hours and hours of entertainment, but this was one of the best things we have done, as well as providing us with lots of ideas for thinking outside the box for future building work.  All you need is some Duplo, a piece of paper and a mobile phone with a torch in it. They (we) loved it!

On the subject of small building blocks, an epiphany.  Before I had kids, I thought I had some ideas about what I would find stressful about it; them screaming loudly in public places (turns out I couldn’t care less), them eating healthily (turns out I have less energy to care about this than I thought), me having no time to myself (I have literally forgotten what it feels like to have time to myself so this turns out not to be an issue at all).  Lego storage didn’t factor and it SHOULD HAVE. Then a coffee at my friend Kat's house changed everything. It opened my mind. She showed me magical boxes with separate compartments. I went to Clarke's Stationers and bought three boxes (for the price of two) with lots of perfectly sized compartments and Nancy, Sam and I have spent HOURS sorting our sizeable collection into colour and subject.  The organisation alone has been endless activity but actually having the blocks (and people) so visually separate has definitely helped in the dark hours of "Mummy, can we re-build that Ninjago jet plane with four turbo boosters that has been in separate pieces since we built it last Christmas - here are the instructions". I don’t think my friend will mind me passing on her great idea of those little boxes that hold screws in hardware shops on the wall filled with the different colours as well, which I would definitely have copied, had we the space.  

My book recommendation is an easy one.  When Nancy was born, my lovely friend/ex-boss Sharon sent her a book she had found on a recent trip to the US entitled Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor.  The eponymous hero has a penchant for the glamourous things in life, including sparkles, feathers and all things French. This gorgeous, colourful book has obviously always been a big hit in our house and I finally bought a collection of Nancy's adventures called '5-Minute Fancy Nancy Stories' which contains about 20 different stories, all of which we have loved.  But the best part about it (in my humble opinion) is that Nancy loves using fancy vocabulary so every story is peppered with wonderful words, which she then explains in brackets (an example: "Not to brag, but my technique is flawless (That's fancy for doing it perfectly"). I get the kids to guess what each fancy word means as we go along, and am amazed how many of them they take on and have started using in everyday life (unique, perplexed, frolic, splendiferous(!) to name a few) .  Such a clever way to expand little vocabularies and the books deal with lots of every day issues like feeling left out and getting in a stew about little things at school etc. Only positive feelings about all of this from me!