Category Archives: Babies and toddlers on sailing boats

The flow of imagination

Orbit's slot car set

Orbit’s slot car set

At the start of our house sitting adventure, I took Orbit shopping for a new toy. Once in the toy aisles he looked, walked, paused, looked some more, pondered, sat, thought, re-traced his steps, and thought some more. Choosing a new toy was obviously a very serious decision for him.

I wasn’t sure if he would ask for more than one toy (even though I explained he could only have one) or if he would choose an expensive toy (he doesn’t have the concept of how much things can cost yet). As we walked the aisles together I started to have second thoughts on the decision I had given him – was it too risky to give a three year old open choice for a new toy? Was there a tantrum of my own making waiting to happen in the next aisle?

After about half an hour he decided to get a slot car set. It was a large slot car set, set up it was over 2m long and a bit on the expensive side. So we sat down and I explained that he could have a slot car set but the smaller one would be better because we could take it back to Medina with us, as well as play with it in the house. Plus, he would be able to carry the box around the shop, if we got the larger one, mummy would have to carry it. I was relieved when he agreed to get the smaller set and he was proud as punch carrying it around.

Using the 'cards' to make up stories

Using the ‘cards’ to make up stories with Orbit’s ‘road’ and cars

Once we got home and the slot car set was set up, it gave Orbit’s hand-eye coordination a good work out. It was fascinating to watch his facial features change as he worked out how the make the cars go faster and slower by the amount of pressure he put on the button of the remote control. But after a few days of setting the full set up each morning and taking it down again every evening (which needed the Skipper’s or my assistance), Orbit started to make his own ‘road’.

To make the ‘road’ a bit more interesting, I made some features, like on a real road. Using old paper (the clean sides of printing I no longer needed), I tore the paper into 2 or 4 pieces to make ‘cards’ and drew some traffic lights, trees, flowers etc. Orbit took this idea and ran with with it. He asked me to draw some shops, the doctors, his Aunty Miranda and his cousin Tilly, Hairy Maclary (a dog from one of his favourite stories), Medina, stop signs and many other things. We then used the ‘cards’, the road and his cars to make up different stories.

The idea of the slot car set and the cards gave me an idea for a game we can play when we are back on Medina. We could make a boat out of a box, pop some blue material on the saloon table as water and make ‘marine’ cards. We could include all sorts of marine animals but also navigational markers, islands and other boats. I’ll let you know how it goes …

Orbit and his 'shop'

Orbit and his ‘shop’

We were playing shops the other day when Orbit stopped, said “Mummy, idea!”. He disappeared into another room and bought back the two cards that had “shops” written on them. So we taped them to the chair that was his shop and continued to play. Orbit continued to add more cards to his shop as he thought about them. Hairy Maclary ended up sitting out the front of his shop and his Aunty Miranda and his cousin Tilly were customers.

Seeing the transformation of how one ‘game’ (the slot car set) can lead to another (card inspired road stories) and to another (cards and the shops) has taught me to keep my imagination open, to ‘go with the flow’. With Orbit’s imagination starting to flourish and enjoying role playing, who knows what the next adventure will be!

Draw mummy, draw please (but don’t sing … please!)

Three jelly fish

Three jelly fish

One of the activities Orbit and I discovered while having a break from the blog was drawing songs. I am quite keen to develop his love of music whether its listening to it, playing it or in this case, drawing it.

Whether on Medina, in the car or in a house, we usually have some type of music playing in the background, anything from classic through to modern, by Australian and international artists. It could be a CD, the radio or playlist on our ipods/iphones. We have given Orbit the Skipper’s old iPod. It has his own music, so he can listen to what he wants to by either plugging it into Medina’s stereo, listening on his headphones or straight out of the iPod.

I am slowly building a playlist of age appropriate songs that Orbit can listen to, sing along to and dance to; but don’t annoy the Skipper and I (not an easy balance). Let’s be honest, children songs are great but after an hour or so they can get a bit annoying (particularly if its the same song on repeat)!

Our recipe for Orbit’s playlist was to start with some modern children songs (there are some great songwriters, producers etc out there producing some fantastic children’s music), throw in some of the old classics (can’t go past Play School and Anne Murray) then round it out with some everyday songs (i.e. songs that don’t have naughty words in them). If only I could describe how proud I was when Orbit started to sing along to Sunsets by Powderfinger and Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap.

Singing a Cowboy Song

Singing a Cowboy Song

We also try to use music in everyday learning. For toilet training we used to sing Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band (more relevant for boys than girls). Doing the actions to Open, Shut Them has been a fantastic way to build the strength back in Orbit’s hand after the splint was taken off.

Back to the discovery. It was a rainy day and we were stuck inside Medina, busy doing our own thing with Orbit’s playlist in the background. Orbit was playing with his cars on a ‘roadscape’ drawn in his scrap book. After a while, he looked up and said “draw mummy, draw please”. After a few questions and failed attempts at drawing what I thought he wanted me to draw (i.e. more roads, trees, stop signs etc), I realised, Orbit wanted me to draw the song.

Lucky the next song was something easy, Three Jelly Fish, so as I drew I sang along to the song. Which Orbit promptly stated, “no mummy, no singing, please!.” Those of you who have heard me sing will know, if there is something I do really well, it’s sing very very badly! The next song was the Singing a Cowboy Song, a bit harder to draw, but then relief when the third was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Twinkle Twinkle Litte Star

Twinkle Twinkle Litte Star

The trick to the activity is being able to draw the song, before the song ends, which can be quite a challenge when a song is only about 60 seconds long and the playlist is on random, so have the crayons out of the pencil case and ready to go!

I was meaning to get photos of the drawing the songs on Medina, but got distracted by other events, and I forgotten that we have discovered the activity until during the week when Orbit was going through his scrap book and was singing the songs as he got to the pictures. This activity will be great for when we are cruising, as we’ll be able to do it on angle of sail. And am so looking forward to when Orbit does the drawing and not just the singing!

Toys? Who needs toys?

It never ceases to amaze me how much Orbit enjoys playing with his ‘non-toys’. Non-toys are things that Orbit plays with, which were designed for something other than entertaining toddlers.

A zip tie garden

A zip tie garden

I have already posted about Orbit’s ‘non toys’ when he was younger and he still plays with some of them, but in a different way. For example Orbit still loves playing with the Skipper’s zip ties. Instead of being satisfied with just threading the zip ties so they lock, he makes zip tie flowers. Orbit loves giving them to the Skipper and I, or anyone else on Medina at the time. This week he combined zip tie flowers with play dough and made ‘zip tie’ gardens.

Ropes are another non-toy that has lasted into toddler-hood. Lucky we live on a sailing boat, we have plenty of ropes! Orbit is genuinely interested in how they knot together. We were in the process of teach Orbit how to tie knots, just the simple ones, but that has been put on a slight delay until his finger heals and the splint on his arm can come off. The splint hasn’t stopped him doing many things. It has been wonderfully reassuring to see him adapt to everyday tasks and not be afraid to hurt himself. But learning to tie a knot with one hand is hard enough for an adult (something I am yet to master), so it might be a bit much to expect a three year old to learn.

One of Orbit’s coat hanger sculptures

A recently discovered non-toy was a set of spare coat hangers. We are lucky to have hanging space on Medina, and I always kept a small stash of spare plastic coat hangers stored away, for what reason I am not sure, and now they have a very good use. Orbit found them the other day and spends a great deal of time (toddler equivalent of time that is) making lovely ‘sculptures’ in the cockpit. Once he completes a sculpture, he announces “I did it, I did it. Mummy, photo, Mummy photo please”.

One of my concerns about raising a baby/toddler/child in a small space and on a sailing boat, was keeping him entertained. But slowly I am coming to realise I don’t need to keep him entertained, he does that himself. I just need to give him the freedom, the space to use his imagination, and to support him, then its just a case of enjoying his self-learning journey.

Do your kids like playing with non-toys? If so I’d love to hear what they are and how they play with them.

Mud crabs and tinny shoes

The Skipper, Orbit and I were heading to our tinny after a lovely afternoon on the beach. All three of us were barefoot, walking through sand and sea grass exposed by the falling tide.  We weaved a wriggly path, trying to avoiding the ‘swams’ of soldier crabs, so we wouldn’t be nipped or step on them. We were almost at the tinny when we heard a child scream followed by a ‘controlled yell’, ” [insert name of child’s father] do you have a pair of pliers on you?, quick hurry, please hurry!”.

Orbit in his new tinny shoes

Orbit in his new tinny shoes

The three of us spun around to see a family trying to do the best for their toddler. A mud crab (luckily it was only a small one) had latched onto the toddler’s big toe, causing a great deal of pain.

We were focused on solider crabs, we never expected a mud crab on the exposed beach. So, the Skipper and I promptly picked Orbit up and put him in the tinny (hoping the mud crab didn’t have a brother or sister interested in taking one of his toes). We rummaged around to see if we had anything in the tinny to help – had the Skipper left his fishing bag there? There was a pair of pliers in the fishing bag. Nope.

The only thing we had to offer the family, was a box of sultanas (which I had bought with us in case Orbit wanted a snack). As I carefully walked over to the family, the mud crab had let go of little boy’s toe and he was ok. The grandmother was grateful for our small gesture of the sultanas and used them to distract the little boy from his predicament. I offered to go back to Medina and get some ice, first aid kit or anything else she needed, but she explained they were going to head to the local medical centre to get the little boy check out there. Luckily it was only a short drive away.

It was a very good wake up call for the Skipper and I. If this sort of thing could happen on the beach of one of favourite anchorages (where there is a medical centre close by), what would it be like if we were more remote? Even within Moreton Bay, medical help can be a few hours away.

So I took a three-fold approach:

  1. How to prevent the incident – Tinny shoes
  2. If something did happen, what would we do – Create a ‘just in case’ bag
  3. Review our first aid kit on Medina.
Orbit loves wearing our new Musto backpack - it also doubles as our grocery bag when it rains

Orbit loves wearing our new Musto backpack – it also doubles as our grocery bag when it rains

I headed off to the shops to buy tinny shoes. We had briefly discussed getting tinny shoes, but had not thought it was too urgent as we had previously carried our thongs (also known as flip flops and jandles) in the tinny. Thongs are great but aren’t good for walking through water, so we did this barefoot. I was after shoes that could be worn in water and out, would protect our toes but could also breathe, essentially so we could walk from the water into a coffee shop, do the shopping or go on a hike.

It was easy finding shoes for the Skipper and I, but I had trouble finding shoes for Orbit. As luck would have it, the son of a friend had recently grown out of his, and my wonderful friend offered them to us, without even knowing I was in the process of looking for the shoes. How lucky were we!

I have also started the process of putting together a ‘just in case’ bag with a basic first aid kit etc to take with us when were go on our adventures. Nothing too over the top, but a realistic collection of items that may come in handy if something does go wrong. My plan is to update the ‘just in case bag’ depending on where we are, e.g. focusing on stingers as we head up north.

IMG_6994I have to admit, I did lash out and by a rather flash Musto waterproof backpack for the purpose. My logic being that we can use the bag for shopping (especially on a rainy days in the marina), it’s big enough to fit Orbit’s life jacket in and it will be great for transporting our laptops etc in ‘relative safety’ (when in the tinny). We preferred the backpack (as opposed to a carry bag) because it would be easier to hop in and out of the tinny, easier to carry if we decide to go on longer walks and leaves it two hands free. So we’ll see how it goes, I’ll let you know. 

Medina’s first aid kit seems to be a constant work in progress. We tend to add and update things on a regular basis. It reflects our learnings and our experiences such as the one described and advice from other families (sailing and land based). I am sure it shall continue to do so.

Hope you have an amazing adventure this week – no matter how big or small it may be 🙂

Orbit’s hugs

Yamba getting a one arm hug

Yamba getting a one arm hug

Orbit is at the wonderful age of being very affectionate. He loves giving and receiving lots of hugs and is happy to sit for a cuddle. Although there’s never a bad time for a hug, there are times, when, let’s be honest, it’s not safe (e.g. making a coffee), practical (e.g. when cleaning shower) or convenient (e.g. on the head).

In preparation for this year’s Mother’s Day, Orbit and I pulled out the trusty craft box and started to look through hoping for a creative spark of something to make for his grandmothers.

While Orbit giving me a big hug, the spark came – we could make hugs! Based on what we had in the craft box and making it up as we went along (with some inspiration from Mister Maker and Play School) I think we came up with something pretty special.

Orbit’s hugs are very simple to make with lots of room for variation so they can be tailored to what your child would like to do.

  1. Cut a heart out of a piece of cardboard
  2. Decorate the heart with what ever you like (we choose pictures of flowers out of old magazines. Orbit wanted to put a face on his, so we used some goggly eyes and drew on a smile
  3. To make the arms, fold long strips of cardboard back on forth on itself, creating a concertina effect and glue one end of each to either side of the heart
  4. Trace your child’s hands (right and left) on paper or cardboard and cut them out
  5. Glue ‘hands’ on to the other end of the arms
  6. Finish decorating
IMG_6747

Orbit and a hug he made for his one grandmothers

I left pegs on the ‘folded arms’ over night to help them stay folded, but I am not sure if this is necessary.

It was with a great sense of pride that Orbit gave his hugs (followed by real ones) to his grandmothers on Mother’s Day. Orbit’s grandmother’s thought their hugs (and the real ones too) were pretty special. Orbit’s hugs are now are stuck on the doors of their fridges.

So although Orbit’s cardboard hugs are special, safe, practical and convenient at all times, everyone agrees they don’t make up for the real thing.

Big hugs to everyone out there and thanks for reading our little blog 🙂