Lost toys

Zac reading in a secondhand, energy efficient Prius (car)

What do you do when a favourite toy gets lost? Plus the joy of books – the story stays in your head…

Reading aloud to children is my absolute favourite activity. I hope this is a sentence that will never start “Once upon a time…” as I’d like to keep doing it – and of course when your own kids grow up you can read to relations, kids’ kids, volunteer at nearby schools, babysit for neighbours etc.  This post is by Nicola Baird (the pic is of Zac, one of the children starring in the book, studying a book in a secondhand Prius)

The more you read a story, and toddlers love the repetitions, the more easily you can repeat it word for word without the book. It’s amazing how Michael Rosen’s tale, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt,  has inspired my children (and their friends) to keep going often at points when they would prefer to flop by the roadside or be carried. Whenever the grass grows tall then we have to swishy swishy through it. But it’s fun to stumble and trip too as we rush away from that big bear.

Although Lola has been quick to turn into a bookworm she still enjoys the occasional read aloud night session (just like Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime) so at the moment we are all reading The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1844). It’s brilliant, and I hope my two daughters will now also always remember the names of the three – a vital part of  Slumdog Millionaire’s plot  – as well as d’Artagnan (FYI: Athos, Porthos and Aramis).

This family ted has stayed at home for 60 + years

If books are the thing I’d least like to lose then for most little children it is their special toy that is a matter of life or death (this is a pic of Papademitracopolus that belonged to my mum, and now me, not sure how I’d cope if he disappeared which proves we are all big kids sometimes).  So here are some easy ways to sidestep that terrible moment when you realise THE toy has gone:

* Designate  the special toy as an indoor toy (although this is hard if you go and stay away anywhere) and never let it leave your home/the bedroom.

* Make (or buy) two so you can occasionally wash it and have a chance of dodging sleeplessness and misery if one should be lost. You have to really luck out at the charity shop/car boot sale to get two identical toys though…

* Tie your child’s toy on to the buggy or backpack, or even sling. This is essential if your child is riding high behind you as unless you are equipped with a mirror you can’t see what’s been dropped, and may not be able to bend to pick it up anyway.

* Recognise that the old blanket is now a hot favourite so cut it in half, being sure to keep the silky/blankety contrast. I think this is something you should warn your child you are going to do. This should give the blanket/old nightie/special bit of material a bit of a longer play and comforter life. As you can see from this pic of Jago invisible under his special blanket (above) these types of super loved items are invested with magical powers.

* For more ideas about things to make (including your own homemade songbird bed socks which surely are fit for any little prince or princess’s toy collection) have a look at Cath Kidston’s book  Make.

* If you lose your child’s toy and consolation just doesn’t work try a creative goodbye. (1) You could suggest the teddy has gone on a big trip (you could even send postcards from the errant Ted. (2) You could draw a picture from memory and stick it to the fridge/above your child’s sleeping area. (3) Or you could have a lost-at-sea type funeral where you pick some flowers, light a candle, leave a biscuit or simply sing a song of goodbye. Expect to find yourself in tears even if your child is enjoying the new focus…

In love with board books
The books I absolutely loved reading and rereading to my toddlers were the picture stories by Shirley Hughes. I loved the way her mums looked like me, a little bit frazzled by the experience of having small kids in the kitchen, and the kids were just as real. And the best of these – although the Alfie series is fab – has to be Dogger,   (this link includes a short film which introduces us to the real 50-year old one ear up, one down Dogger).

Dogger is the story of  Dave coping when he loses his special toy to the throwing out bag. Nothing can console the little boy until Dogger is found on a bric-a-brac stall at the school fete. Shirley’s pictures are delicious, especially the bird’s eye view looking down on to the school fair. When I was hugely involved in my children’s primary school PTA (parent teacher association) a friend, Julie, and I used to look at this picture for inspiration for running the summer fair!  No wonder it is also a matter of great pride to me that Shirley Hughes has written a cover endorsement for Homemade Kids (which isn’t due out until July 2010). She calls it  “A splendidly inspiring book, which will encourage all the family to enjoy going ‘green’.”

If you have any ideas how to prevent favourite toys getting lost, or what to do when they have share them in the comments section. It could save someone’s day! Thank you.

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