Spirited Children

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A while back (when it was out) we took some of the boys to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. It was a complicated day because everyone wanted to watch something different and I think we ended up roping in Grandma to sit with one boy in a film. But then Middlest got scared by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and we all ended up watching Dragon 2.

I didn’t realise at the time that it was a PG cartoon and that it had attracted criticism on the internet for being quite grown up in its themes and treatments. Anyway (and apologies for spoilers) when it got to the big funeral scene, Youngest started crying. I just cuddled him (quite easy at our cinema, the arm-rests go up) and when that scene was over he got on with the film.

But, it has stayed with me for a number of reasons. Firstly I don’t think I appreciated quite how involved and intense their childhood is. They (and I include all my boys, and other spirited children) don’t just go to a film and wonder about what’s for dinner, and critique the actors and think about what the time is. They just dive in and live in that world for a bit, total identification and immersion. Of course, this presents its own raft of problems when it’s not a film, but instead a play activity. Sometimes you need to get them out of Minecraft or Lego and into school or onto whatever other timed activity is next!

Secondly I’m really proud that the other children just accepted crying as something that happens and haven’t ribbed him about it. That’s how I want my children to grow up – accepting of their emotions. In fact, Middlest was brave as well in saying that he found his film too scary and he wanted to leave even though we’d rearranged everything for him to see that film.

Finally I think I like the idea of my children having an emotional roller coaster. Of course, no-one wants their children to be sad, but on the other hand, having a dull monochrome existence could possibly be worse. And I’m too much of a realist to think that they will go through their entire childhood (or lives) with only bright sunny days full of nice things and rainbows. There will be disappointments and sadness – if for no other reason than we have pets which have a shorter lifespan than us. If they grow up knowing that there will be not only bad days, but parents to hug them and support them while they go through them, then can only be good.

One final thing before I sign off. Littlest went out with Grandma for a morning and bought a pre-schooler book to read. This reminded of something I was told a while back. Even when they move through key stages – Littlest is Yr 2 already – there is huge value to be had in going backwards and letting them have play that is simpler. I changed the light bulbs and commented that the box looked like it had eyes. Next minute, Middlest and Littlest had raided the cardboard recycling and had started junk modelling robots. Usually this is a really popular activity for pre-schoolers, but it had enormous value for them to revisit it. After all, how many times have grown-ups joined in with activities for their children, and ended up enjoying it just for itself because it’s fun! So, that’s my message really – enjoy yourself, have sensory play, make stuff out of junk, dig holes, just enjoy!

Occasional Updates 5

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It’s been way too long since I updated the blog. The Summer Holidays have long since departed and we’re into the familiar September routines. All three boys have settled into their new years and are even wearing jumpers when it gets cold! Seriously, this has been a battle that’s been going on for at least eight years in some cases. We have a rule in this house, if you can see your breath then you have to wear either a coat or a jumper. Without this it’d be shorts and T shirts in the snow!

One thing to fall by the wayside was the Summer Challenge Box. Unsurprisingly the handwriting was the least favourite thing and they did like taking photos of animals and birds that they saw around. I really need to clear the main table so we can assemble the Lego Army. When that’s done I’ll open up a spreadsheet and see what it all adds up to. It had better be soon, as every time we fire up the Wii it takes more and more coaxing to work.

One reason underlying all the slow progress is that my shoulder’s playing up and disrupting my sleep. It’s not serious but the cumulative effect of going without enough sleep and having low level pain for several months is very wearing. Also, I’m working on a new novel and most days writing over a thousand words, which also means I’ve been neglecting both the blog and the housework!

Occasional Updates 4

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Well today turned unexpectedly into one of those perfect summer holiday days. It didn’t start out well – Youngest overslept. In fact, he’s been going to bed later and later every night, and getting up later each morning so by the time he goes back to school, he might be nocturnal! Anyway, the weather looked good and The Wife was working from home so we decided to go out for the day.

Spending the whole day out wasn’t ever on the cards however. By the time I’d made a picnic lunch, found three boys, found socks and shoes for them all, and then disengaged them from their activities, it was nearly midday. Never mind, we went to Caerleon and had lunch in the sunshine of the amphitheatre there. Then the two younger played hide and seek round the amphitheatre, while Eldest compared it unfavourably to the Colosseum in Rome (he went on a school trip at the beginning of July) and I explained what provincial meant.

Finally, we made it to the National Legionary Museum, down the road also in Caerleon. (If you don’t know the area, Caerleon is the centre of all things Roman in South Wales.) It being the summer holidays, they had a couple of re-enactors there, showing off cooking and weaponry plus a display of medical science in Roman times. They also had a lovely quiz or treasure hunt that took in the whole museum and gardens and occupied the younger two. Youngest was chuffed to get a golden pencil (not sold in the shop, prizes only) and a bag of Haribo! This spurred Middlest to find everything and get his prize.

Aside from that, they tried on armour, practised with wooden swords and shields, and played ancient games. I even caught the Eldest, usually a surly teenager (he’s just turned 13), dressing up as a Roman with Middlest and thoroughly enjoying himself. Middlest dressed up as Cleopatra just to reassure us as parents that we’re bringing them up as gender neutral as we can!

We then had a quick dash round the Roman Baths museum – a place I love but the boys tend to get bored with before going home.

Once we’d recovered, I got all 50s Dad and fixed a bicycle. It is Middlest’s favourite bike, even though it was a birthday present from 5 years ago so it’s tiny for him. It is a BMX so it kind of works anyway. Then, the weirdest thing happened. To explain let me digress.

My father (passed away over twenty years ago) was an avid cyclist. Before he married, he’d cycle down to the south of France for a holiday. He was a lifetime member of the Cycle Touring Club. When my Mum tidied up she found some of his medals and awards and split them between my brother and I.  There were year badges back to the early sixties along with awards for doing a set number of miles in 24 hours and other such things.

So, growing up, my brother and I just naturally rode bicycles. When I went to secondary school, I rode two miles each way from the age of eleven. Cycling was just in our DNA and second nature to us. So with the older two kids, when they were four or five, we taught them to ride. I still have memories of long summer evenings holding the back of the saddle while they rode up and down the drive. (I’m 6’3″ so it’s a bit of a stretch for me to bend over and run holding a saddle!) I remember the long arguments when eldest didn’t want me to take off the stabilisers. From my patchy memory I think they both had it cracked by the time they were six.

But Youngest is different. He is super-stubborn. He doesn’t want to learn ride a bicycle. He’ll be seven in May and had shown no interest in learning to cycle whatsoever. He’s even happy to tag along on a scooter while his friends and older brothers ride bicycles. We’ve offered to teach him, we bought him a balance bike which went rusty in the garden until Middlest raided it for parts. But he wasn’t budging, not one inch.

So, there I was with this fixed up tiny bicycle and Youngest asks if he could have it to learn on, and could we buy him a bike? I check with Middlest and he’s fine with it which is weird, but he also insists it will always be his!

So, Youngest gets on the bike, with no training, Middlest holds him steady and pushes him, and he cycles off. No wobbling, no stabilisers,  no-one holding him up, no falling off – he just gets on and cycles.

Admittedly he needs to learn some road sense and not to just stop in the middle of the road and drop his bike but basically he’s done. Ten minutes and he’s learnt to ride!

I still can’t get my head around it. The other two spent a few weeks at the very least on stabilisers, and certainly that long being held up and gradually gaining confidence. But he just got on and rode off. He’s not perfect, but the whole balancing, pedalling and braking thing is sussed.

After that shock, we repotted an orchid and that was our perfect day. Kids are now watching TV before we start putting ’em to bed.

Occasional Updates 3

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This update comes to you from deep within the school holidays. Excuse the spelling, typing mistakes and general bad structure as I persuade the boys not to have a “who can bounce a tennis ball highest in the house” competition.

Let’s get scientific

A couple of weeks back I was talking to Eldest about bananas and why we have a banana hook. I had one of those moments where you say something out loud and realise how weird it sounds. I said, “Well, when a banana ripens, it gives off this gas which makes other fruit around it ripen faster.” We looked at each other and said “Huh?”

So, we decided to carry out an experiment to see if this was true or not. Now, he’s just about to go into year 9 so he’s had two years of doing secondary school science investigations. He knew about establishing a control and making everything as much the same as possible. So, on 26 July, this is what we had – identical sized bowls, two apples from the same pack, and one green banana.

The beginning

I will confess that we then went off camping and totally forgot about the experiment. Which actually kind of worked out OK! We then left it for another few days until we were about ten days in. By then, the banana as you can see, kind of looked horrible and brown spots. (I know some people view this as a matter of opinion but it’s true, black bananas are evil!) More importantly, the banana apple was definitely more wrinkly. I don’t know if it shows on the photos, but it also has more spots on it. For a final, scientific approach, we put stickers on them and gave them to The Wife, so she could independently assess their ripeness. She also agreed, the banana definitely did make the apple ripen faster.

photo 2 With banana The end

Exercise time

I have a weakness – those special offer, limited time only items for sale in Aldi and Lidl. A few months back I picked up a lovely chin up bar, which could be used in a number of ways. But it needed brackets fixing to the wall which took me a while to get round to. Yesterday I managed it, and we tested it on the children, in ascending order of weight, from Youngest to Eldest. Middlest however has been going to gym for more than half his life. With a chin up bar, he flipped over, hung like a bat, went right over and then flipped back. But, there was a problem. When he swung to and fro, and then let go and tried to “regrip” the whole thing banged on the door frame and made a nasty bang! I think that if he had his way, we’d have it up all the time, and argue with Youngest for the use of it.

Summer Holiday Challenge

Well, as I could’ve predicted the boys are really un-keen on doing their best handwriting. But other things have appealed. There is the Lego army, which as you can see has taken on a life of its own. Not satisfied with the conditions that specified all the the people had to have a hat and something to hold, they went further and made wagons, chariots, space-ships and mounted troops on horses and motorbikes. Of course, they wouldn’t do anything like simply make figures the way Lego intended – for example Gandalf’s hat is now on a clown/robot wearing pyjamas and wielding a magnifying glass!

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Anyway, this short update has suddenly got rather long and I ought to sign off and go and be more parenty!

It’s not you it’s me

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This is going to be a tough post to write – a kind of follow on to confessions. Sometimes I seem to get into head-to-head arguments with Youngest. I know it’s something that everyone says, but he really is unbelievably stubborn. Well, maybe not stubborn – let me explain by way of a detour.

I guess I approach parenting like any other skill in life – learn what you can, do what feels right and look at feedback to correct your course. It was becoming obvious last year Youngest wasn’t happy. He was getting into trouble at school and having more tantrums than we expected from a five to six year old. So, I decided to seek help. I wasn’t convinced that a five year old should sit down with a child psychologist or therapist. So instead I went to the doctor, school nurse and health visitor to see if there was any parenting support out there. I found myself in a bit of a gap – babies and toddlers have health visitors, but young school age children seem to be catered for by a mix of charity and council funded operations. Finally we did make contact with a family information service and got was a reading prescription from the doctor. This is a fascinating idea, it’s basically a list of books that have been pre-vetted for certain subjects that are kept separate within the library. It worked for us and we ended up buying the most useful book so we could keep it and keep reading it.

This was a book called Raising Spirited Children. it is a bit American and it involves ‘reframing’ your conversations with your children. And recognising the traits that are difficult in your children are the very same traits that would make them successful in the future when they are adults. So now, instead of describing our boys as stubborn, we acknowledge how focussed they can be and praise them for that level of focus. Then, we gently suggest that maybe, instead of being focussed on how to make the perfect Lego pyramid, they could focus on getting ready for school?

Actually this is another interesting discussion right here – labelling. In short, there is, in a child’s subconscious, a world of difference between “you are being naughty” and “that was naughty thing to do”. In the first, you’re labelling the child, in the second it’s the action. I fell foul of this when I worked in a pre-school – because you’re not supposed to use the word “naughty” even if you’re labelling the action.

So, back to the thread… we got in contact and much to my relief, I managed to avoid being sent to parenting classes but I did get the assistance of a lovely woman called Amanda. Aside from the technical support, which was very valuable the other thing was that it was a chance to talk honestly with another parent, and an expert at that. I’ve written before about competitive parenting and many forms it can take. I always felt that if I talked about my children’s problems with another parent, then there would be a risk that it would turn competitive, either in a positive “my child doesn’t misbehave” or a negative “you think you’ve got problems” way. I know it’s not fair, and I do have friends who are helpful and supportive but having a neutral place to talk really helped.

One result of all this is that we tend to go for (excuse more Americanisms) conflict resolution. I see a large part of the problem between Youngest and me (and anyone else who tries to impose authority) is that it’s very easy to project your own interpretation onto the situation. So, when he kicked off in the petrol station (Occasional Updates 2) I was thinking that it was embarrassing because it looks like my children are spoilt and expecting me to buy them junk food. Also, I knew that we were going on to a shop that was cheaper with a better range than the petrol station. But really, all that was going through Youngest’s mind was that he was hungry and I was going to leave a place with food. Of course, being six he can’t articulate these thoughts, so he blew up! As I said, once we calmed down a bit I asked him what was wrong and we found a way to ensure he got some food, and I got an apology from him for his behaviour. Actually it changed my behaviour because I made sure I bought him enough food to eat, and not just a treat or snack. But I think the initial problem happened because I was stressed and running late, and had other things on my mind.

I spoke to a medical professional about an issue Youngest is having, which I won’t go into here as he does need some privacy! But, I was explaining that it would help if The Wife and I didn’t get into a head-to-head argument with Youngest, but got an agreement with him instead. To my surprise she reminded me that I was the father and he was the child! The very strong implication was that I should just lay down the law and insist he does what we want because we say so. I happen to think there’s a more subtle way forward than having a stand-up row with him. I don’t give in and I don’t excuse his bad behaviour, but I also don’t see that getting him all angry is going to achieve anything. If anything, especially over this issue, it would drive him to a place where he won’t want to explain what’s going on with his parents, and we will have a distance that could be dangerous to him.

This does mean that I make some compromises – for example Youngest is most often late to school, because the 9 year old Middlest tends to walk himself to the bus to avoid being late. The simple fact is that conflict resolution sometimes takes longer than yelling and forcing him to get dressed and out of the door. He isn’t actually that late but we do tend to compromise on him doing things like finishing his Lego, learning to read or playing games which improve his mental arithmetic. The very major upside is that when he does get to school, his mood is better and his behaviour has definitely improved. I think that’s worth a few late notes in his record.

The title of this post is back to the fact that all this book reading, outside help and soul searching led me to a revelation. Often when there are problems, they start with me, or whichever adult is getting involved. Recently I’ve had a stiff shoulder from sleeping awkwardly and this is making me me tired in the mornings. So, if I’m not right on the top of my game, then the morning will go wrong. All that Youngest is thinking is that he would like to wake up, and play with either Lego or the tablet. To be honest, he’s normally not even that bothered about breakfast.

In essence children are quite simple. They want to feel safe and loved, have enough to eat and drink and enough fun things to do to occupy their brains. Pretty much, most of the time, that’s all they want. As I said before, if they don’t get these things then they are unhappy, and depending on age they will express that in any way from “bad” behaviour to complaining or being non-compliant. I’ve observed that often grown-ups tend to embroider these basic needs with their own problems – saying things like “he’s just being defiant” or “she’s just doing that to wind me up”.

So, that’s where I’m at. I do have bad days and yell at the kids, but I’m starting to see that they usually happen when I’m not on top form for some reason or other. I’m being more accepting that some things will not happen or will happen late. Another thing is that, especially towards the end of term, life becomes really pressured. Here’s a shocking thought – I don’t have to do everything. Sometimes I say no. And that takes the pressure off me, which ripples through the family and makes things better.

What do you do? How do you resolve conflicts?

A challenging summer holiday

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But not for me, for the children. When they woke up on Monday morning, this is what they saw.

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Inside the envelopes, one for each boy, was a mathematical puzzle (suited to their ages). When they’d solved all three, the numbers combined together to reveal the code for the lock.

Inside the box is a white book, an exercise book, pens and a digital camera. The white book contains a list of challenges to be completed before the end of the holidays. Each challenge has a monetary value that’s going towards the fund for a new games console – either X-Box 360 or PS3. They’ve had a Wii for years and it’s just starting to show its age – you can’t buy new games any more either.

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Some of the challenges are pure fun. As I type this, the boys are working together to build the Lego Army. Every Lego Minifigure that’s properly assembled earns them 10p. Doesn’t sound much but our house is totally overrun with the little people! Others are more homework like – for example hand writing practice, which is much needed by all three. Others are like super I-spy – collect evidence that you’ve seen things in categories, like mammals or birds. Or that you’ve visited places built in different time periods. There are bonuses for things like not arguing all day as well. Oh, and at some point I’ll drive them to a shop and let them plan, buy and cook us an evening meal. There’s also a calendar for coloured stickers so we can track their progress.

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So, I’ll keep updating this throughout the summer, especially as a lot of the challenges have photographs as part of them.

 

Typewriters!

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I’ve seen those really funny YouTube clips where they show modern teenagers old gadgets like Sony Walkmans and record their appalled reactions. Well, our three boys are slightly different. A while back I bought a couple of typewriters from a jumble sale. They’ve been cluttering the place up because I bought them with a view to converting them into USB keyboards, but they’re not quite old enough and would be a bit tricky. Instead, I bought new ribbons from Ebay and forgot about them. (There are several clues here as to why our house is so untidy!)

Anyway, over the weekend, Middlest stepped up his nagging about the typewriters. For some reason, he’s been fascinated with them. Finally, I gave in and suggested he brought them downstairs so we could look up their model numbers and see if ribbons were still available. When we opened the cases (they are “portable” models) I found that I’d already bought them, so all three boys fell upon them. Youngest just seemed to like hitting the keys and the noise and sensation of it. Middlest wrote an entire short story, and Eldest wrote lists of what songs he likes, and other stuff.

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I think the appeal was freedom of expression. Previously, you had to log on to computer, fire up Word, battle with the spell-checker, figure out where to save it and try to make the printer work. Now you can grab any scrap of paper, feed it in and start typing and see your results instantly. There’s a special magic as you can see the hammers fly and understand how it works. Eldest was particularly happy when he realised that the letters were raised and just press through the inky ribbon onto the paper. Middlest loved the fact that the shift key actually, physically shifted the entire set of letters. And there was the added joy of discovering why they’re called lower and UPPER case!

I must admit I was tempted to type poetry as the look of the type is totally unlike anything else and would make a nice presentation piece!

Do your children like old tech? What do they do that surprises you?

Minecraft for grown-ups

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So, if you have both children and any form of computer or games device, you probably know about Minecraft. It is more than just another computer game – it’s become a phenomenon. In Life Before Children I was a computer programmer and I made the decision to plunge into the world of Minecraft so I’d be able to talk to my children about what was becoming a major part of their lives. As a parent and grown-up I’ve written this guide so you’ll be able to see what your little ones are up to and make an informed decision about Minecraft.

What is it?

It is what’s called a sandbox game. This means that there aren’t levels, scores or anything to actually achieve. It’s been very accurately described as digital Lego (not by me I hasten to add). It gives the children tools to create their own structures and to shape the world how they want it. It’s a game that’s made by a Swedish company called Mojang and you need to pay for it and register, so unless you have savvy teenagers, you’ll need to be looking over their shoulders for this bit. (If you want extra bonus points with your kids, Mojang was started by someone called Notch, real name Markus Persson.)

As far as I know, it is available in three variants, one for consoles like X-Box and PS4, a version called Minecraft PE for tablets, iPads and phones. (You can also install it on a Raspberry Pi if you want.)  There is also the main Minecraft game which runs on PCs. This one can run on Windows or Mac or Ubuntu machines and is the most advanced and offers the biggest range of experiences. It should install fine but sometimes it needs a bit of tweaking and setting up – it’s nothing too tricky and there are plenty of walk-throughs out there to help if you need it.

Once you’ve got Minecraft installed on your machine, you are faced with two choices:

Creative vs Survival

When you start up Minecraft, your first job is to make a new world to play in and to choose whether it will be a creative or a survival world.

In Survival there are mobs (mobile entities, basically things that roam around, like animals but also includes zombies and skeletons) which are trying to kill you. Much like other games, you have a store of hit points and can make weapons. But there is a mechanism that gives the game its name – you mine for ore and then craft new objects. This is what makes the game so addictive, finding rare ores, and learning recipes. Once you have a crafting table, you can put mined ore (or wood, bone, etc.) down on it in a 3×3 grid pattern. If you get the recipe right, then it makes new things  that you can use. For example, the common recipes are for pick-axes, shovels, bows, arrows, swords, etc. It’s a nice balance between this and trying to survive the night when all the monsters come out!

Creative is the other side of the coin. Here, there are no monsters. Even more importantly, there are no restrictions on the materials you can use. If you need lots of wood and stone to make your dream fantasy castle, you just go straight ahead without any mining and crafting. Here is where their imaginations can really take off.

There is a whole sub-area here, involving something called redstone. It’s not a code-word from a Tom Clancy novel (actually it might be!) but a type of rock that can be placed in the world. The important thing is that it works kind of like electrical cable. It can be made to power things, or used to make remote switches or pistons. Some people have even built rudimentary computers with red-stone logic gates.

The Community

This is what really made Minecraft stand out from the rest – the community of players and their relationship with Mojang. They are actively encouraged to hack the game and see what they can make it do. Even without modifying it (more about that below) the components can be combined together in interesting ways, from working redstone elevators, to entire cities built by groups working together. There are whole websites and forums dedicated to the remarkable creations – everything from cruise ships to vast historical sites and on to whatever can be imagined.

Modifying

Now we get into the meat of Minecraft. On the PC versions, you can modify the game. Mojang let people change the game, as long as they don’t try to make it free to use. Once someone has written a modification, called a mod, they release it onto the internet and users can download it.

There are as many mods as there are people. Some change the game totally – adding spaceships, for example. Others make minor changes, like better torches, or more animals, or camping equipment.

But this is where my children learnt real life IT skills. They had to navigate folder structures, copy files around and wrestle with version numbers. Mods only work for the version number of Minecraft they were written for, so you need to keep an eye on your configuration and which version they were written for. Additionally there are platforms for loading mods – the most common is Forge and it has a really easy installer and generally makes the whole process easier.

Also, sometimes, many mods are combined into a pack, often with its own software to load it in. So when the kids say they’re playing Tekkit, I know it’s a heavily modified Minecraft they’re playing.

Videos, books, etc.

This bit I don’t quite get. People play Minecraft and record videos of it explaining what they’re doing while they’re playing. These videos then get uploaded to YouTube. They have, by all accounts, taken over YouTube. Previous heavy hitters, like Justin Beiber and One Direction are now all behind people playing Minecraft and other video game. I don’t understand the attraction but my children will happily watch half hour videos as long as I’ll let them. I’m so used to the sound of Dan’s (TDM) voice just from walking into the room when they’re watching videos that I refer to him as the babysitter.

One common subject for videos is for new mods to be reviewed and custom maps to be played through – giving the ordinary player a chance to see what else is out there and what’s worth downloading. Also, some of these people, like TDM and PewDiePie have become celebrities in their own right and are making a very good living out of this. There is a whole culture here that the children understand and participate in.

Actually I can start to see the attraction of it – these people are expert players who get further into the game and install more mods and explore more thoroughly than usual players. On top of this, the ones that rise to the top usually have good presentation and script writing skills.

So, is it dangerous?

Well, it is very addictive (I know, I’ve made my own worlds and dabbled with creating mods and videos) so you need to limit your child’s time on it as you see fit. Also, IMHO, I would encourage your child to spend some time creating and exploring and not just watching what other people are doing. If you have the skill, you could help them download mods, and explain why they do and don’t work together.

There are multi-player servers out there which have both collaborative and competitive games on them. These servers do have a chat function and many are unmoderated. While I haven’t heard of them being used for grooming, you must check which servers your children are on, and spend some over-the-shoulder time with them first. Also you must make them aware of basic internet safety if you’re going to let them on multi-player servers as there will be adults there too as well as older children.

Finally, a lot of the mods are downloaded from free hosting sites, so I’ve found a lot of what’s called crapware (no really, go Google it!) onto the computer. When they’re installing mods, I have to educate them how to remove it and how make really sure they’re clicking on the right thing. Some of these sites have adverts with big “download here” buttons, so even I find it tricky to get what I really want.

To sum up

I know I ended on the dangers, but if you keep them safe on multiplayer and savvy about downloads, it is a great place for children. It builds their imagination and technical skills. Equally importantly, it lets them be part of a culture they can discuss in the playground with their peer group.

What do you think? Do your children play Minecraft? Do you join them or leave them to it?

Occasional Updates 2

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As those parents in the UK will know, yesterday was a public sector workers’ strike, and this included teachers. I took advantage of a day off, (and The Wife working from home needing peace and quiet) and took the children to the zoo. Unfortunately this now means I think today is Monday, because yesterday felt like the weekend. Or maybe like the beginning of holidays. I’m still not entirely sure what day it is!

One reason for this is the Middlest’s obsession with Lego. (To be fair, it comes and goes, but at the moment he loves the stuff!) Anyway, here is his latest masterpiece.

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Now, you may notice several things (not least that I need to hoover) – it has ears that flap, a tick on its back and has, errm, just done a number two! Although this is a tad gross, I think it shows that he has a good understanding of biology and the natural world, together with an eye for detail. Or he’s just being a typical nine-year-old, fascinated by all things scatological!

As I mentioned in a previous post, our approach to food is often at odds with the establishment around us. This was borne out when we went to the zoo. On the way, we stopped for petrol, at which point Littlest had a huge screaming tantrum when I attempted to remove him from the petrol station shop without chocolate or ice-cream. When we’d all calmed down, I realised that this was not normal behaviour, and soon established that he was hungry. He’d had a small breakfast and it was gone twelve by the time we actually set out for the zoo. Stopping in Spar yielded the strangest lunch ever eaten by a six year old. He had, one Pepperami, one Cheestring, some strawberries, an entire pack of salami and a Kinder egg, all washed down with a Fruit Shoot. However, our low carb (apart from the Kinder Egg!) approach worked, he didn’t actually need another meal until nearly 4pm, having spent the rest of the time on his feet at the zoo.

So, that’s where we’re at – I haven’t mentioned Eldest as he’s just trogging along, being a fairly normal (for us anyway) 13 year old boy! We’re one week away from the Summer Holidays, which I really ought to get on and organise!