Tag Archives: Activities for 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!

The freedom

I think we are addicted to sailing … or at least the feeling you get when you start the engine, throw the lines, leave the marina, set the sails and turn the engine off. Or maybe its the feeling of being closer to the elements, of being away from suburbia and the rat race, I am not sure, but what ever it is, we need our ‘fix’!

When we were setting the sails yesterday, I said to the Skipper “I can’t believe it’s been five weeks since we last took Medina out”. His response was that he didn’t know how we managed to survive eight months of Medina not leaving the marina.

We had a good excuse for Medina not leaving the marina for eight months. The Skipper was rebuilding the engine and refurbishing the anchor well while working full time. With hindsight I now know how much we relied on the hope, expectation and believing in our dream that one day we would become a long term cruising family.

But enough about the past, we are out here now (if only for a few days) and life could not be any better. We have the basics to go long term cruising and we’ll just do what we can and what we can afford to do in the time we have left. We’ll tackle the residual items as we go, we accept that it will never be complete, there will always be something to do.

I managed to snap a candid shot of Orbit running to the Skipper on the beach this morning (Medina is in the background), I thought it summarised my feelings extremely well – after all a picture says 1,000 words. So on that note, I shall leave you with the photo and hope you all have a top week!



Rainy days on Medina

Running off excess energy on the beach

Running off excess energy on the beach

Raining days are alway interesting on Medina. I love the thought of them, I have this vision of relaxing, listening to the rain fall on the deck while a good reading a book. However, throw in an active toddler and a dose of reality (i.e. places to be, things to do) and it’s not something that happens very much.

When we are in the marina, the rain doesn’t stop us, we pop on our raincoats and stick to our routine, hoping not to get caught in any great downpours as we walk from the Medina to the car or vice versa. But I have always wondered how we would go when cruising. Two weeks ago I found out.

Rainy day on Medina (at anchor)

Rainy day on Medina (at anchor)

We were safely anchored in one of our favourite spots when heavy showers over a 12 hour period were predicted.  Preparing a sailing boat for rain isn’t that hard as they are designed to be water tight, but we put up a water proof cover to give the cockpit extra protection. It also allows us to leave the companion way open, which lets fresh air in the boat, as all the other hatches are closed.

Once Medina was sorted, we turned our minds to preparing Orbit (or maybe it was preparing ourselves?). Preparing Orbit to be cooped up for up to 24 hours in a relatively small space meant getting him as tired as possible. So we were in the tinny and off to the beach for the morning. We’re pretty lucky, Orbit is an explorer by nature and needs no encouragement to start running around, looking for new things, jumping in puddles and playing in the sand.

Maintaining the engine with the Skipper

Maintaining the engine with the Skipper

With one very tired little boy, we headed back to Medina (he nearly fell asleep in the tinny on the way back), ready for the rain to begin. The rain started when Orbit was asleep for his afternoon nap, he was happy to remain contained to the boat after he woke up till it was time to go to sleep after dinner. The next day was a bit more interesting …

We all woke to the sound of rain falling on the deck and none of us were particularly keen to get out of bed – there was no rush, nothing urgent to check as the Skipper and I had been up checking on things through the night. After our bladders would no longer let us lay in bed, we were all up having a lazy breakfast. We checked the weather (again) and the forecast was for rain all day and had to accept that we would have a full day on the boat, contained below so we had better get ready to continue relaxing.

Puzzles are always a good way to fill in time

Puzzles are always a good way to fill in time

This is fine and dandy for the Skipper and I, but what about Orbit? How were we going to keep him contained, occupied and happy? I should not have worried, he usually mirrors moods of the Skipper and I, so as long as we were relaxed, he was relaxed too. He managed to fill his waking hours of the day, copying the Skipper and I. When we were reading books or on the computer, he was reading or playing on his ‘computer’, he was more than keen to ‘help’ the Skipper check the vitals in the engine, learning how to use a spanner and generally kept himself busy doing puzzles and playing with his toys. Orbit just seemed to potter through the day with us.

I am not sure if he would have survived another day of being confined below decks, and thank goodness we didn’t need to find out because we woke to a brilliant sunrise the following morning. But on the day, that fateful day of being confined to Medina for over 24 hours, I did get to make my vision a reality … I got to relax, listening to the rain on the deck while reading a good book. And it was even better because I got to do it with my two favourite people in the world, the Skipper and Orbit!

Fancy Pants Christmas Decorations – “made by Orbit”

Last year the Skipper and I decided to start a new family tradition of making fancy pants Christmas decorations. So quite a few weeks ago, I put on my thinking cap on and tried to come up with some concepts. I was keen for the decorations to be as “made by Orbit” as possible, so the concept would have to be age for Orbit. I also wanted to make Christmas decorations for Orbit’s grandparents and our ‘marina family’, so not only did they have to be Christmas tree friendly, but they had to be boat friendly too.

Sorting the bits and pieces - the lip on the saloon table came in handy!

Sorting the bits and pieces – the lip on the saloon table came in handy!

My initial (and only) concept was to make a Christmas decoration that had an existing decoration at the bottom, with beads threaded on top and finished with a bit of ribbon so it could be tied to various places on a boat or a Christmas tree.

With this ‘broad concept’ in mind, Orbit and I headed off to our local craft store. I was bit worried as we drove to the craft store – would the concept practical and if not, prayed that I would be inspired for a Plan B at the craft store.

In the spirit of making the decorations as “made by Orbit” as possible, I gave him a lot of the decision making about what materials we used. After I selected a range of decorations, beads and ribbons to choose from, Orbit choose the particular ones he wanted or pointed over my shoulder to the ones he wanted. I was surprised by his decisiveness, I think he has inherited my low tolerance for shopping, so was able to make quick decisions.

Using a plastic needle to thread the beads

Using a plastic needle to thread the beads

Back on the boat, the first step was to unpack and sort out purchases. I helped Orbit split each of the decorations, beads and ribbons in individual packets so we could work on one decoration at a time. Again, in the spirit of trying to make them “made by Orbit” as much as possible, I left the decision of which and how many beads went with which decoration and ribbon to him.

After the first decoration was made, we had our process down pat. I was pleasantly surprised that that my concept worked and wrapped that Orbit enjoyed making the decorations.

One of the completed fancy pants Christmas decorations

One of the completed fancy pants Christmas decorations

Once all the decorations were complete, we then laid out all the decorations and I asked him which one he would like to give to his grandparents or members of our marina family. Orbit then decorated bags to deliver the decorations in, adding final element of the “made by Orbit” to the process.

This whole process from heading to the craft store to delivering the decorations took about four weeks. It was a great project for a number of reasons, Orbit could work on each decoration pretty much independently of me (he just needed me to set them up and finish them off); and it involved very little mess (once the initial distribution of materials was complete).

Merry Christmas from my little family to you and your family, hope you have a fantastic time over the Christmas and New Years!