Art shelves at 16 months

Hello! I’ve been very quiet this summer – work was busy, we’ve been on holiday (post to follow once I’ve caught up!) and life in general keeps getting in the way, so I allowed myself a summer holiday from blogging. Now the leaves are starting to turn and the nights are starting to get cooler, however, my urge to blog has returned.

Frida has been really interested in art materials recently, so I thought I would share with you what she has on her art shelves. I took the bold (crazy?!) decision to allow her free access to her art materials, in order to truly “follow the child” and be as child led as possible with our activities. 

In practice this is working out ok, although her favourite art materials by far are her paints, which also happen to be the messiest. She often decides she wants to paint, so I am learning to try and let go a bit and just go with it. Pre-breakfast painting? No biggy. You’ve just had a bath and you’re clean and you want to paint? That’s great! We’ve got guests arriving soon? Ok! 

I’m trying to gently remind her that when she wants to use her art materials it’s good for her to do so 1) at the table and 2) using paper! We are slowly getting there. 

The paints we currently use are these “squeeze and brush” paints. They have easy to remove lids and there’s no need for water or brushes which make them perfect for infants and toddlers. They are lovely bold colours too which make for fab paintings. 

We also have on her art shelves:

Coloured pencils. These are simple, thick ones from IKEA I think. 

Felt tips. Ditto! She also enjoys taking the lid off the jar and putting them in and taking them out.

Stockmar wax crayon blocks. We love these. They smell so good, are a great size for little hands, and come in beautiful colours. I very much recommend them.

Stamps! Frida has still not quite got the hang of how these work yet, but she’s close. She seems to also like sticking her fingers in the ink pad…

Stickers and sticker books. To make it easier for her I have peeled the backing away from her stickers so that she can peel them off by herself. She seems to really enjoy them.

We’ve put up lots of her paintings and drawings – it’s her space after all! And she also has a blackboard with chalk available to her

I’m really enjoying watching her working with her art materials and hope that this is the start of years of creativity!

We love… Books about wildlife 

Like most young children, Frida is fascinated by wildlife. Mammals, birds, insects, fish – you name it, she loves it. Because of this we read a lot of books about wildlife and animals (“ana!”), and these are probably her favourites (as well as her ever-growing collection of Mog books and Lynley Dodd books). 

We do a lot of talking and pointing when we read wildlife books. We are constantly amazed by how many animals she recognises when asked. At 15 months I genuinely think she might know more animals and birds than my husband! Moorhens, coots, blackbirds, great tits, owls, herons, geese, ducks, buzzards, goldfinch, bullfinch – the list just goes on and on. Children really do have an absorbent mind. 

Frida also enjoys getting out her collection of Holztiger animals at the same time to do matching and play. 

Some of our favourites include:

Wild animals.

This is probably her all time favourite. A beautifully illustrated book containing images of British wildlife. I think some of the appeal is that we can often spot animals we have seen on our outings or in our garden, such as squirrels, foxes, magpies, ducks, starlings… 

Outside your window.

A beautiful book which has illustrations from around the year, as well as some practical ideas for fun things to do in nature. Lots of rabbits and birds and sheep cover the pages of this pleasant book, and I can really see it growing with Frida.

Beautiful birds.

“A is for albatross, the admiral of the sky. B is for bee-eater, beware any bug that flies…”

We love this book. Bright drawings, rhyming, and a fabulous selection of birds make it so much fun to read and look at. My husband and I almost know it off my heart and have been known to recite it on difficult car journeys!

Animalium.

A classic. This is still a little bit big for Frida – physically, it’s a huge book! The gorgeous drawings make it an enjoyable read for her now, but it has so much information that I can see it being on her shelves for years to come.

Animals.

This is a similar layout to the wild animals book, but include animals from around the world. It also has pages dedicated to each colour, and animals are grouped by characteristics which makes it  a fun read because all the pages are so mixed. 

Mog (or, on being child-led)

“Follow the child”. 

I love this concept, and it forms the core of how we choose to parent. We try hard to follow Frida’s interests, providing her with opportunities to explore and play and learn which are guided by her likes and desires.

Enter Mog. Frida is obsessed with the Mog books by Judith Kerr. Since she started to speak, all cats have been “muh” and the object of much delight and fascination. My husband and I have read the books to her over and over again, and she never tires of them.

Last week I took Frida to a Bach to Baby concert (which was brilliant) which went brilliantly until Frida spotted a little girl with a Mog soft toy. Although the little girl kindly let Frida have a look at it, she was so sad to have to give it back and seemed really distressed to have to leave the “muh” behind. 

I am not an enormous fan of soft toys. Frida already has a lot of them – in fact, she already has a lot of toys full stop. But I decided that if I was really going to be child led then maybe I should listen to the fact she would get a lot of joy from having her very own Mog.

I took to the internet to look for one, where I was horrified to see them being sold for £75! Eek! Happily my wonderful friend Cara came to the rescue, sending us one, and Mog had hardly left Frida’s side since she arrived. 

As you can see she’s pretty happy about it.



Vauxhall city farm

Frida is a child who loves animals. And I mean really loves them. If she’s sad and a bee flies past – wham, smiles. A cat walking down the street? Best. Thing. Ever. Don’t get me started on ducks and geese…

Because of this love of animals there is no better place for Frida at the moment than a city farm. We have taken her to Deen City Farm by Morden Hall Park (our favourite place) a number of times, so I thought we’d try a different one, and we headed to Vauxhall.

When going to a farm it’s very important to wear appropriate clothing, in this case a dress with ducks on. This dress gets chosen a lot, perhaps unsurprisingly! 

Now Frida can walk independently she is able to interact with spaces so differently. She seems much happier to potter off and do her own thing.
Vauxhall City 

Her absolute favourite activity was hand washing, and we stayed at this sink for a good 10-15 minutes. Every time I asked her if she was finished she would say “no!”. 

Vauxhall City Farm is brilliant. There are: goats, alpacas, sheep, all of which you can feed. Donkeys, horses, pigs. Chickens, a turkey, and lots of ducks. Small mammals such as rabbits, hamsters, degus. 

Frida very bravely fed a goat and now will hold her hand out to you flat if you ask her to show you how to feed a goat. 

It also has a great, pleasant cafe, with good coffee and delicious gluten-free cakes, as well as tasty looking proper meals. Because entry is free I don’t begrudge paying for tasty snacks. 

I really recommend the farm for toddlers; in fact, we’ve already been back once with friends.

Grass soup: sensory toddler play 

It’s a beautiful day today in London, and we have spent all morning in the garden. Frida was starting to get a bit grumpy so I thought that I would offer the one thing that usually cheers her up immediately – water play! 

We had not made grass soup or potions before so I thought I’d see how she liked it. 

It’s the simplest activity to set up ever; all you need is a bowl or pan and a spoon. Just fill the bowl with water and your toddler can add “ingredients” from the garden (maybe gently steer them towards grass, leaves and weeds rather than precious roses!). 

This kept Frida entertained for a long time, and her soup was delicious😉

Montessori entrance hall 

Continuing the slow work of making our whole home child-friendly, we have updated our entrance hall with Frida in mind.

We added a low mirror with a built in shelf and pegs (we chose this one – from IKEA, where else!) so that she can hang her cardigans, hats, and coats up.

Frida is still not quite tall enough to see in the mirror so I added a simple step which she uses to see herself. This also has an added bonus of providing her with climbing / stepping practice.  

We have left a space for her shoe basket right between ours so she always knows where they are. 

This set up means that she has access to her scooter at all times. She currently loves to go over to it and spend five minutes just ringing the bell over and over again. Good for her fine motor skills (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself). 

Just a few simple changes make the space feel very child-centred and encourage independent dressing and self-care, I think.