Sunday, 23 August 2015

Books and Arrows

Or the attempt to trick an active child into a quiet reading session.

Driving home from a play date Matt decided to nap. This is a problem. He rarely sleeps when it is convenient. On day two of Matt's life on Earth I asked the midwife why he would not sleep like the other babies. She said 'you just have one of those babies'. Not the finest moment for the NHS. On day three, a nurse told us that we would have our hands full as he was far too alert. Almost four years later, Matt still fights sleep and is indeed A LERT (Grandad Rob loves a lert joke). For Matt, sleep is BORING, he doesn't want to miss anything, and he wants to be where Mummy is at all times. The only place he willingly submits to the zzzzzs is in the car. The automobile has magic powers that lull most little people into the dream world. In desperate bedtimes I have driven Matt around the village to force him to sleep. The irony being that the very times I want to keep him awake are the times he sleeps most deeply. There are two detrimental consequences to the daytime nap: firstly, it means that Matt gets to recharge his batteries and I do not. Don't bring that sleep when they sleep claptrap to my door- I am pretty sure you aren't meant to snooze whilst driving. And even if I got home and Matt stayed asleep I would have the age old dilemma: eat chocolate and catch up on social media or try to relax enough to catch a quick doze. On the odd occasion that I opt for the latter Matt usually wakes up before I have had chance to dream so I wake up even more tired than before. The second problemo is that Matt considers a nap to mean that his sleep is complete for that 24 hour time period and I end up wrestling him to sleep around ten pm. To prevent impromptu nappage I used to avoid going out after noon, then as he got older I would avoid going out after three. However, the hermit life does not suit us so sometimes we live dangerously and take the risk. This was one such occasion. I had already written off my chance of an evening and was pondering how to get through the afternoon following Matt's unscheduled powerboost. I was panicking not least because I was well aware that Matt's plans for the afternoon were pretty active. Matt was given an archery set by his grandparents. He was chuffed and so was I as it meant I could have my coathangers back from Robin Hood(ed towel).
I was worrying how I was going to keep up with him as all I really wanted was a quiet book session under the shade of a tree. Preferably my book but I thought that was too much of an ask so his books would suffice.

It was whilst we trundled along in the car and Matt snored away and plotted wild schemes, that I became a genius! Every moment in my life had led to this discovery. I yelled EUREKA and considered whether I should apply for my Nobel prize now or wait a while. For the purposes of modesty I decided to wait. Let this hesitation not over-shadow my discovery. I had created a way for a bouncy boy and a tired mum to have both their needs met. I had devised a way for the child to be active and for the adult to just watch and, at most, read. No worries, you are most welcome.

I originally named this beaut of a game- Barchery. But I decided against it based on the fact that it sounded a little like a drinking game or the consequences of such. I spent the next five minutes coming up with an amazing title and I would like to present to you Books and Arrows (patent pending).

I devised the following simple but fun rules:
a) Place books on washing line.
b) Fire an arrow with bow.
c) Whichever book it hits you read to, with, or at child. 
d) Parent sits, watches, cheers, takes photos, reads, and crucially rests.
Foolproof Fun for Child and Mum (patent still pending)

Sitting Ducks (or books. Ho hum)

After Matt woke, he was fed, watered, and shooed into the garden. He was excited about the game but then he announced a rule change. I was TOTALLY fine with this. (Big sobs as she mourns her precious rules). The revised plan was that Matt wanted to shoot all the books first then read them all. It was a risky strategy and I feared he may skip the reading part afterwards but I recalibrated my brain and decided it was ok to proceed with this idea if only to stock up on the child-led points.

Flat cap is optional

So off we went. Matt was really into it. I loved watching his stance and the concentration on his face. I especially loved it all from the comfort and safety of my blanket on the grass.

There were amazing celebrations when Matt hit a book. Although he was disappointed that the books didn't fall off when they were hit. I was most relieved. He kept up the momentum until all six were shot down.

So to the reading. We sat down and Matt said 'I want to read this one first and I don't want to read this one until later'. He then ordered the books; it was interesting to watch the process. We won't critique all six books here but the top of the pile was All Pigs are Beautiful by Dick King Smith. Matt was obsessed with this book last year. The book is aimed at age 5+ but I won't tell Matt if you don't. Or the editors. The book has the right amount of detail, humour, and interest for a pre-school farm-fan. I may ever so slightly leave out the bits about pigs biting. And, I don't technically read every word but I figure it means there will be some surprises for him when he learns to read it himself! I am afraid that I do struggle with the title. I would like to change it to All Piglets are Beautiful because if you have seen a fully grown large white or, more specifically, smelled one, I imagine 'beautiful' would not be your primary adjective. This book is worth reading even if you just like pigs. It is also good because it provides a break from picture story books. We own and have borrowed (from the library, not from people or shops) a variety of the Walker Nature Storybooks and would recommend them. We could return to this series at some future point. Remind me? 

After our pig-fest we read some more but the reading session halted after four books when Matt asked if we could do the arrowing again. I was initially disappointed but then he said 'with different books' and I made the mistake of thinking 'Wahoo'. This bubble was soon burst when Matt said 'and also instead of a bow and arrow please can I use my water pistol?' I gently dealt this request a swift and definite NO! Rubber Arrows are fine but water pistols are not to go near my books. His books I mean. Obviously.

After letting Matt down with a firm NO! (Incase you also missed it the first time). He asked me to spin him around. Aaaargh Come in Mother your book time is over. It was good while it lasted. Evidently you can't trick a child into doing something for long so enjoy the magic while it lasts! I would also like to add that reading should not have to be part of an elaborate game or ploy they are enough themselves but sometimes we need to innovate. This book based activity gifted me a quiet hour in the garden and Matt got to grips with a new skill. So, you can encourage a child to slow down and read but be prepared for the sudden gear change! Never rest or your laurels (wherever they may be). For whilst I thought I was an excellent Game Maker I had underestimated what incredible Game Changers children can be. Sometimes for the worst (let's try making a pond on the carpet) but sometime their rules are for the better. Matt got what he wanted from this activity and I got just what I needed.

Disclaimer- no books or children were hurt in the making of this activity but if he gets that water pistol out...


  1. Brilliant Emma! Love the introduction of new words like "nappage"! FYI - I have quizzed Lauren about why she preferred Stan's "monotonous" reading to my vibrant style. Apparently, she liked to imagine her own voices etc and when he read, she got more words per session which meant more of the story. Sigh!

  2. Love it, Carol. I can imagine you really giving it some welly.x