Issue 1

Plans, conkers, Instagram

Hello and welcome to the very first issue of Notes from the Treehouse. I’m looking forward to sharing what I know and what I learn, as well as getting to know you: my readers!

Inside this book

My son (nearly 3) has been enjoying Shh! We Have a Plan this week. By the ever-brilliant Chris Haughton, it features a trio of characters trying and failing to catch a bird. Their small companion has a different idea, but they just won’t listen…

This is a really fun one to read. You can whisper the dialogue and really build up the tension with the “ready one, ready two, ready three” pages. There is lots of repeated language and my son has started joining in and completing some of the phrases when I started them. I also add my own sound effects to go with the bird-hunters crashing and splashing as the bird flies away.

You can watch the author read it here.

Some learning/play ideas:

  • Everything except the birds is different shades of blue (plus black). Get out blue, white and black paint and let your child experiment with colour mixing. If they want to, they could do their own illustrations using the colours they make. And it doesn’t have to be blue! They might like to try different shades of their favourite colour instead/as well.

  • Just pretending to be the characters and moving round the house is fun. Use a soft toy or your imagination for the bird. Try not to overthink it: have a blast shushing each other and collapsing in a heap.

  • Talking/writing prompt: can you come up with your own plan? How would you catch a bird? How would you catch the moon? How would you steal the crown jewels? How would you erect Stonehenge? How would you…

  • Ask your child why they think the characters want to catch the bird. Do they think this is ethical? You could do some research together about hunting and conservation.

  • Your child could draw or write what happens next. Will they try a different approach with the squirrel?

Outside the house

Here in the UK Autumn has popped up out of nowhere. The pavements are littered with leaves, seemingly overnight and we are finding lots of conkers. Hopefully you have some horse chestnut trees nearby so you can make your own collection.

  • Explore the textures. As your child handles the outside and inside of the shell and the conker itself, ask them what it feels like. At home you can press them into play dough.

  • What other seeds do they know about? Can you find any more on the ground at the moment? Who eats the different seeds?

  • Dissect one! We did this at the breakfast table this week. My son noticed a crack in the conker that was (obviously) next to his cereal bowl. I had finished my cornflakes and dug into the crack with my spoon. We had a great time puling it apart and finding out what it was like inside. His main (repeated) question was whether he could eat it. I must find a sweet chestnut tree so we can try some. Anyone know of one in South East London?

  • If you build up a big collection, you can use them to make patterns and count how many you’ve found.

  • Combine them with other seeds, leaves and sticks to form a picture or sculpture. You can do this at home or while you are still in the woods or park.

  • And of course, drill a hole through them, put them on string and whack them til they break. Classic.

Inside your head

I’m nervous about sharing this but I want to contribute to the movement towards more honesty when it comes to mental health and parenting.

On Monday I got so cross with my son that I had a migraine for three days. We got frustrated in the park and both ended up shouting and crying. As always, looking back I can see how the hot weather, my hormones and his lack of nap contributed to it. But at the time I couldn’t see that and sunk into the familiar spiral of thinking I was an awful mother and he’d be better off without me.

My husband sent me this on Instagram later that day:

This illustration is by Catie Waterworth. It was so useful to see this and the comments below it and remember that those dark thoughts are not the truth and that I am far from alone.

So if you have felt like that, I’m passing the message on: you’re not alone and are a good parent.

Out of the blue

Talking of Instagram, I find the Curious Parenting account really useful. In their own words they are “empowering children by providing community resources for caregivers.” The examples of specific language to use in different situations are particularly helpful, as are the explanations of the causes and consequences of certain behaviour of both parent and child.

They have a Patreon, which unlocks lots more resources, but you still get loads of tips just from their grid and stories. Tips I could have done with remembering on Monday!

Thank you for reading Issue 1. Do forward it to a friend if you think they’ll like it, or click the button below to share.

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