Tuesday, 29 March 2011


I've just realised I never finished this post! We had a lot going on around Christmas time so it just got forgotten about.  So here it is, finally finished....

When James and Charlie were babies I used to take bubbles to entertain them with at the park whilst their older sister played and a lovely memory I have of this time is of an elderly lady approaching us one day.  I was thinking 'oh god, here we go again, its going to be 'Are they twins?'/'You've got your hands full' time, but instead she really joyfully wanted to see our bubbles and tell us how much she loved to watch them floating about! She did coo over the babies too and I often think of her when we play with bubbles. 

So bubbles have been an ongoing theme for years.  Even when the boys were at their most distant, bubbles would still get a small reaction and were one of the few ways we could engage them in 'play'.  We use them for communication games, by blowing some bubbles and then waiting for a cue that they want more.  At first this would be just the tiniest bit of eye contact, gesture or murmur.  Latterly this has developed into signing 'please' and now signing 'more please'. 

Recently we had a whole week of 'bubbles' at the end of our 'water' project, so here are a few pictures of the different ways we experienced them.

I think the bubble wands are great for our lads. They are not able to blow bubbles yet, but can make bubbles themselves by waving or spinning around with the wand.  They were fab on the beach because it was windy and the bubbles did themselves!

The tasting of 'bubbly water' was not a popular activity!

The following were taken at '@-Bristol' who we found to have a great attitude towards home educating families, people with disabilities and carers, very refreshing!!

Here are a few random pictures of the bubble machine....

they build up really nicely when we set the machine off over the table, only to be whooshed away!

Here's an older one of our stand in bubbly 'thingy'....

This is (I think) a Natural History Museum toy, I can't see it on their website now but then this picture was taken 2 years ago.  It is a really good activity and works very well. 

We also have tried Touchable Bubbles which I find a bit strange. They hang around for ages though so are great to keep going back to for observations - they wrinkle up.  They also leave marks on everything!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Emergency Threading

We've been learning about 'Emergency' Vehicles this week.  We have to make activities really interesting to get the boys to take part, so I used James' desire to thread everything as a way to encourage him to look pictures of fire engines, police cars and ambulances. 

He loved this, so I imagine we will repeat it for various things we learn about.  I add in 'lables' by just saying the words as he threads them onto the cord.  With other threading activities we may talk about colours or count the items threaded.  I've found this article about Non-Verbal Thinking from the TEACCH Autism Program very helpful for both understanding James' developmental stage, and for ideas of appropriate activities within that. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Today we went down to the bottom garden to look at the daffodils the boys had planted in the Autumn. 

Charlie was content to sit and look at his pot...

...but I knew it was going to be more of a challenge with James who loves sticks, reeds and flowers with long stalks!  It was his pot of daffodils so I just let him do what he wanted with them.  No, I did not find this potential mutilation of our first spring flowers easy, but they are his and we have more! 

I wanted them to pick one each out of their pots as I recently bought a flower press and wanted to put some in there with them.  James picked two and made them into his 'thing'. 

He also grabbed a tulip on his way out!!  It's been saved.

We've also been looking at the potato we are growing in a bottle as it has sprouted some exciting roots...

....I think this is a really nice way for James and Charlie to have some visual understanding of how the potatoes grow.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Planting our Potatoes

Today we had to plant the 'Potatoes for Schools' potatoes.  Luckily it has been a beautiful day here.

Truck Sensory Box

I am very averse to sandpits. I am hardly a domestic goddess but we have had a couple over the years and I have found them quite stressful to manage. I think the combination of the boys inability to keep the sand in one area, their desire to eat it as soon as my back was turned and my inability to remember to put the lids over them on rainy days was just too much.  I did however, relent a little a couple of years ago when I saw this purple sand, bringing it out in small amounts on trays which has worked a lot better for us.  So when I was scraping around for something to load our truck with today, this is what we ended up using.  Sadly it was the last bit and there wasn't enough so I mixed it with some red lentils.  We also threw in a few lolly sticks as an extra thing to 'load up'.  We rolled our smaller trucks through it to make tracks and we loaded the big yellow truck up with a small trowel, adding the word 'in' as we loaded up, which resulted in James running around the garden shouting 'in in in'!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Bus Model

This has been a really successful joint activity.  Basically we have done repeated coats of paint on the box over 3 days (2 coats a day), and then when it was all dry we stuck on the wheels and photos.  We used a really large masonry brush to paint with to cut down on time and maintain interest. The photos of the boys are them actually riding on a bus this week.  Both boys visibly enjoyed all of this activity but especially the part where they stuck the photos on which was lovely to see.

Cars and Jelly

I lovingly made this transport play board out of an old bit of hardboard and some paint samples.  It looks nice but convincing the boys to play with it was another story!  They have had a few little goes and we will keep using it through our transport theme but we have had much more success with sitting in the hallway and taking turns to roll the cars back and forth shouting, "Ready, Steady, GO!" 

These car shaped jellies were more successful.  A big hit with both boys and we had their big sister asking to join in after school one day so we ended up doing this three times!  We went to our local shop and the boys chose the colour jelly they wanted.  They helped make them and then we put them out to be played with but there was lots of tasting going on too which was great.

Some other car related activities we've attempted are car sandwiches,

car painting,

and playing with the remote controlled car - we drew a chalk 'road' outside and sent it down the road (well tried to anyway, my steering is not great and the dog thought it was alive and chased it all over the place!)  We also used the road for some number work by drawing 5 different coloured cars on there and doing giant steps along them whilst counting. 

Of course, we looked at real cars too! That means the most to James and Charlie's understanding.  We had visited Haynes Motor Museum a few weeks ago whilst our building work was happening.  Its the second time I've taken the children there and I have to admit, despite being usually totally bored stiff by car talk, I've really enjoyed both visits!  There is so much to see which for our lads is probably enough, but there are also quite a few brass rubbings to do as you go around.  We attempted a couple but that was pushing our luck with activities involving crayons and paper out of context.  They also have a nice play area, play bus and cafe with nice cakes.  (Most important thing to know for a day out in my opinion!)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Transport Theme Squeezy Mat

I was inspired to make these by this post on Eye Spy Bags at No Time For Flash Cards.

I cut out the vehicle shapes from foam sheets and used clear hair gel in the ziplok bag.  We'll be bringing it out for a few minutes at a time throughout our transport theme and talking about the vehicles and their colours and hoping that not too much gel squeezes out of the little hole at the end because I didn't get around to buying the tape!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Pancake Day

It's been a very successful pancake day in this house because Charlie ate one!  And it had sugar and lemon juice all over it - result!

James did some pretty fabulous lemon squeezing and stacking too.

I made a pretend pancake to go with a little rhyme I found in the TES resources but it all went wrong because my poor little pancake just kept sticking to the pan! 

I think I might make some material ones for next year and get a better pan!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Too many pushchairs?!

I recently worked out that since birth, James and Charlie have had between them, 7 single and 5 double pushchairs! 
I've come across many a debate within the autism community about whether the extended use of pushchairs is 'right'.  This is definitely not a post about justifying our using them.....I'm completely comfortable with that! It is however, a subject which most people seem to have an opinion on, even if they have only just met us at the supermarket checkout!  I, on the other hand, really don't have fixed opinions on this other than that 'you do what is right for your children and family at a particular point in time'.

Our time using pushchairs is I think, coming to an end.  Partly due to the boys outgrowing their current ones and partly because home education has meant that this is an area that we have already been able to put a lot of work into.  They are walking much better, for longer periods and with more independence where it is safe for them to do so.  Development does happen but at a much slower pace and as I look back now, I can see them moving through similar stages for walking out and about as a toddler would.  It's just taken much, much longer and this is, I suppose, why special needs pushchairs can help.

I will remain eternally grateful for our 12 pushchairs which have enabled us to get out of the house in all manner of permutations, ranging from baby and toddler in double buggy and baby on front in the early days, to one boy walking with mum, another boy being pushed by sister most recently.  We will probably keep using our battered special needs 3 wheeler (luckily we managed to buy this really cheaply on ebay as it was very well used) for music festivals for a year or so more but that's about it. 

I won't miss trying to get through doorways with this one which was kindly donated to us by the The Elifar Foundation.

These are adapted from 2 single Maclaren Major Buggies and are 38" wide!! Very useful at the time though, at a point where I would have struggled to leave the house in the school holidays without it.

I do however, miss having somewhere to put my shopping!

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Potatoes for Schools

I registered for 'Potatoes for Schools' ages ago and then forgot all about it. Then a big envelope arrived a few weeks ago with our free potato growing kit, just around the time I was thinking about what we might do with our little growing space this year and how we might involve the children with it.  Our garden is mainly a second playroom for the boys, but I have over the past couple of years, cleared away a lot of junk from a small (tiny actually!) courtyard area I have which is fenced off.  I had given up on being able to grow anything ever again until I reclaimed this space as little fingers will pull flowers, leaves and tomatoes etc. off plants so this little area is quite precious to me and our daughter. I do however, let the boys in there while supervised to do little gardening activities so the potatoes for schools thing seems a great little project for them, particularly as they have recently started eating them! 

There are very strict dates for doing this project if you want to enter the competition (which we do because the prize is an interactive whiteboard which would come in very handy!) so today, as per instructions, we started chitting the potatoes - an ideal task for little boys who like to put things 'in'.

The 2011 Potatoes for Schools registration is closed but you can already register for 2012 here. There are lesson plans and worksheets on the website too.  Most is not relevant to our way of learning but there is a picture of the plant which we will maybe use later on for colouring and talking about the different parts of the potato plants.