If you’re a parent (or work with children) I don’t think you can help but have come across You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and illustrated by the awesome Nick Sharatt.
It’s a book full of pages of gorgeous illustrations and you choose where you’d like to go, where you would live, how you would travel, what family you would have, what you would wear and so on and so on. This is a book that can keep children engaged for ages, or which you can flip through pretty quickly. We tend to go through it and take turns choosing things on each page. Sometimes we’ll try to come up with something that’s not in the pictures (which is really quite hard, because it’s all there!). Sometimes we’ll go through being an alien or a monster, sometimes we’ll go through being royalty…
But I wanted to share something we’ve been doing recently which as proved (for the moment – these things don’t always stick) incredibly useful and rewarding. LaLa, who is now four, is in a bit of a boundary-pushing phase, particularly when out and about. Getting to school (playgroup/nursery for her, but we’re usually taking RoRo to school first) or to her two new activities (swimming and gymnastics) is often quite a struggle (more for me than for Chris, usually) with her deliberately doing things she knows she mustn’t do (opening and closing people’s gates, running off the other way, trying to bait dogs in people’s gardens, climbing where she’s not supposed to climb, standing rock hard still and refusing to bunch, even running across a road – though fair play to her on that one she did look really carefully and make sure it was safe before she did so). I’m trying to build up a bunch of strategies to cope with this, including trying to leave earlier, having sweets for bribes (sorry, rewards), talking in a calm monotone voice and repeating what I want to happen (this is what Chris tends to do, and it mostly works for him) and, of course, the old favourite… distraction.
Keeping the walk (wherever we’re going) fun is the main trick (is it a trick, really, though, or isn’t it just obvious?), while also keeping in mind safety and the need to be somewhere by a certain time. We’ve built up a little arsenal of games to play, including I Spy; Rock, Paper, Scissors; I Want in My Castle (a bit like My Grandmother Went To Paris, but with things you want to put in your castle – huge library, ballroom, big treehouse, stables…) and the simple, but quite effective for getting somewhere quickly, Tag. The other day, though, LaLa herself started playing You Choose. And we were essentially going through the book without it being there (obviously, you do need to be quite familiar with the book for this to work) – I think we did miss out some pages, but we went through most of them. The girls both know it well enough that they can remember almost every item on every page without the book there. I can even picture a lot of it, and my memory is hideous. The beauty of this one is that it can really last a good long time.
If you don’t have this book (we actually have two copies!), then you really, really need it – why not pop into your local children’s bookshop and pick up a copy?
What strategies do you use to keep your children happy and amused on walks to activities and school? I’d love to add few more games or tricks to my arsenal to keep myself from getting really, really frazzled and shouty!