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Vera&Bob paperback now available (learning theory for kids)

*PLEASE SHARE* Vera&Bob Paperback now available on amazon (link below – also in kindle format)
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Do you want your child to be safer around animals? this book promotes observation of behaviour and positive interactions as well as introducing basic learning theory principles that are transferable between species (including humans) and can help understand the way we ourselves learn. Vera’s story encourages readers to follow their dreams and uniqueness.
‘Vera is a young bilingual girl who loves running barefoot around the garden and exploring nature. On her Seventh birthday her Mum (a behavioural scientist) surprises her with a pony called Bob, but there is a catch; he is a rescued wild pony who is not used to being close to people.
The story follows Vera learning about training techniques and behaviour, overcoming criticism and obstacles to train Bob using humane methods and compete and demonstrate what she has achieved, at equestrian shows.
The book contains a lot of moral life messages that are applicable and transferable to other scenarios. It introduces complex equestrian specific terms and psychological language with definitions and illustrations.
The book employs the well known mnemonic device of story telling to introduce a complicated subject. Ideal for horse mad children, young adults and those new to or interested in owning horses.’
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Dubrovnik: Travel with a two year old

Recently we returned from the Dubrovnik region of Croatia. Seeing as nearly the whole country has been protected and assigned UNESCO Heritage status I wanted to check it out. There is so much to do that it wouldn’t all fit in one week or from one base so we decided to do Dubrovnik then in a few years go back to the Istrian region and Plitvice. Have to say, we would not recommend the travel agent we used (online company who will be reviewed on tripadvisor) whilst they seemed to be helpful and be trying to do things for us, there seemed to be a problem in communication between them and the Croatian providers that created a few hiccups and extra work for us to organise. We had to go for car hire as the hotel (despite being described as Dubrovnik) was approximately two hours away and tour/excursion companies wouldn’t collect us from the hotel because it was too far. I definitely recommend everyone check the distance of hotel to the points of interest before confirming the booking. That said; if we hadn’t stayed in Orebic we wouldn’t have hired a car and would have missed out on so many wonders and details.

It is our second holiday outside of the UK, travelling with just hand luggage again (plus a car seat that is free with most if not all airlines) we were very proud of our toddler who travelled amazingly well (only minor tears when the security lady blocked her from following me to the scanner – note to self: don’t wear a top with buttons that could be metal) Gatwick airport was great and had a soft play area to occupy little ones. We were let on the plane first and once she had ‘checked the seatbelt for bugs’ she settled nicely and fell asleep on take off and stayed asleep until just before landing.

Everything had gone so smoothly that we were chatting about how something was bound to go wrong… sadly it was the car hire: prepaid and arranged with a company that deal with debit card deposits (if you didn’t already know car hire companies (nearly all) only accept a holding deposit using a credit card, which we did not have. I suggest you get one before travelling as it widens your options) anyhow the card didn’t work, we still haven’t got to the bottom of it but it was the only card other than a prepaid one that we had. We were stressed to the max trying to find a solution, my husband was on the phone to the bank, my palpitations set in and all the while our beautiful little girl amused herself on the forecourt with her fluffy white dog toy she calls ‘kitty’. The staff were ever so helpful and took us to another booth where we could pay cash and no deposit. This was our (slightly costly, but only) resolution. Now dark and still wound up, we set off on the two and a half hour journey to the hotel, my husband thrown in at the deep end on the opposite side of the car and road in the dark. The roads were long and never straight as they followed the mountain. In a way I am glad we couldn’t see the sheer drop at the edge of the tarmac although you could sense some danger and height.

The other good thing about our journey in the dark was the mammals that ran out ahead of us (thankfully we didn’t hit any) we saw four jackals and a few mongoose dart across the road ahead which was certainly a first for us.
Arriving at the hotel at about 10:30pm we just about made it before last check in. The hotel had kindly put aside a cold dinner plate for each of us as we knew we would miss the dinner period. Finding our room was fun as there were several buildings and ours was the furthest from the front desk and on the top floor (so glad we didn’t take a buggy!). Important to note there health and safety is definitely not the same as in the UK… there are several sheer drops without safety barriers, like the bottom of the stairs, walkways next to the sea, narrow roads. We were on an all inclusive basis and the hotel did ‘lunch packets’ for the days we were out during the lunch period. In the hotel the meals were buffet style and there was a wide selection of hot and cold good quality fresh food.

Day 2 we had a private tour of Dubrovnik old town, our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly explaining the history of Dubrovnik’s independence and the ancestry of the people.

We then had a boat ride to Cavtat and free time to wander the backstreets. Baby fell asleep on the boat ride home (motion + engine noise = zzzz) The old town is beautiful but even though it was a friday outside of school holidays I still found it crowded.

Do not bother with a buggy, get a carrier as there are steps everywhere and a lot is very steep. We had a prearranged tour with our holiday provider but another tour we booked on Viator and it was cheaper than direct with the supplier, they had some great combos for Dubrovnik too. If you don’t pre arrange, there are plenty of stands, especially around the harbour if you want a boat ride and they also have the semi submarines that let you see under the water which is crystal clear and warm (23° whilst we were there).

On the drive back to the hotel there was the most beautiful sunset and everyone, like us, was pulling over to photograph it.

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Day 3: was a little more leisurely, we spent the morning in the children’s pool at the hotel and after lunch headed up to a franciscan monastery that overlooked us. The peak of the mountains were in clouds and it was much cooler so we attempted to climb Sveti Ilija mountain; I severely underestimated its steepness and how high 961metres is, even though reviews said the route from Bilopolje was one of the hardest. I thought it would be a hike we could do in the advised 2.5-3hours, forgetting I was carrying 13kg of toddler on my back and there is nowhere to sit and rest unless you want to risk getting bitten by the horned vipers that live up there. We got half way, before I decided it would be silly to proceed and suffer for the rest of the trip. It is great or insects up there, we saw several butterflies and giant crickets and grasshoppers. My top tips (other than not carrying a child) would be to make sure you have stable footwear (although I think some of those shoes that have toes would have been pretty good as my toes rubbed on each other rather than my shoes) take walking sticks and/or one of those lean on seats and obviously lots of water. As we went in the afternoon we also set an alarm for 2.5hours before sunset so we didn’t get stuck up their in the dark and noted down the rescue service numbers on the signs at at start. As exhausting as it was the views offered were unbeatable and entirely worth it.

Day 4: we walked along the promenade and got the foot ferry across to Korcula, it is incredibly beautiful there and doesn’t take all day to get around if you want to chill out or do something else on the same day. The ferry runs roughly every 30min all working day. Everybody went crazy for our toddler who decided to sit and eat lunch on a cannon and had everyone cooing and taking pictures so she is probably in photos all around the world now.

Day 5: was our next prebooked excursion; a 3 island tour of the Elaphiti islands on a Karaka (looks like a pirate ship but was actually a huge cargo ship) with live music and lunch. It was incredible and we almost missed it because before we opted for car hire we found out that the tour could not collect us from our hotel as was too far away… we were so glad we didn’t it was a real highlight of the trip. (If you are travelling by car you can park at port gruz car park – the machine take notes and gives change. It was about 100HRK for the day.)

Our first stop was Kolocep a small island with no traffic but important because it was once the home of the karaka. You get long enough for a little wander to the church, between us we spotted lizards, small butterflies and a big hornet. There are also lots of fish visible through the clear water and black spiky sea urchins.

Our next island was the biggest; Sipan does have cars but not many so they can take you by surprise, there is a fortified residence right by the harbour which is lovely, we couldn’t go in as it was for sale. Here we saw many little lizards and at least 6 species of butterfly that I chased around like a mad lady. All around Dubrovnik there are fruiting trees, with pomegranates being so beautiful when they split, pears, apples, figs, olives and of course grapes – if you didn’t know the peljesac peninsula is filled with vineyards and winerys, literally every hamlet and village has at least 3 wine shops.

Our final destination of the day was Lopud and they sure saved the best for last. The streets were so charming, there are no cars on the island and it is really laid back and antiquated. We wandered around the bay and up a side street, stumbling across a public garden and art instillation that really inspired my husband with its concept of increasing sensory perception. The view down to the harbour with our boat floating in the middle was like something out of Pirate’s of the Caribbean. We had a little dip in the bay but be warned the diesel does seem to get washed up so wear sandals. There was a guy constantly raking the debris and rubbish up. It also has a lovely little playground for children to run around and use up what’s left of their energy before getting on the boat for the home stretch. My mini me did amazingly well, she didn’t nap all day and loved the onboard music, even putting on a little dance for people and bowing to the crowd. The minute we got the car moving she was asleep completely worn out by our adventure.

That night we enjoyed our last sunset over the sea.

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We checked out at 10 and headed to our final destination; Ston, the fortified walls here are 7km long and steep up the side of the mountain. It was a beautiful little place and the parking is cheap (but only takes coins and is pay and display so allow at least 3hours if you want to walk the full length and stop for photos.) We did of course walk the wall. Precariously pulling myself and toddler (on my back) up the seemingly endless narrow steps. I would like to thank the lovely lady who said I deserved a statue or award for reaching the top lol. Rather spectacularly there was a thunderstorm whilst we were up the left hand side but we managed to shelter under an arch/view point. When it got level we took our little one out the harness and let her explore on foot, she loved feeling like we were in a castle and looking down over the various points. I strongly suggest everyone walk back along the road from Mali Ston to Ston as it is much quicker and less exhausting. Your ticket to the walls also gets you in to the fort (there are free toilets in the fort otherwise it is 5hrk but babies go free). Ston was a fabulous ending to our trip and one we would have missed if we didn’t hire a car.

We didn’t have long to wait in the airport until boarding (thankfully as they only really do sandwiches inside but there is a good duty free section) and she amused herself doing floor angels and counting the gate numbers. We got to our seats and our toddler got straight in her seat and put her belt on, much to the amusement of the guy behind. She had a snack and promptly fell asleep upright in the seat, only waking once to have water and then when the wheels bumped along the tarmac at Gatwick. We brought a hyperactive child home who was super happy to see all her toys but feel blessed to have shared this trip with her.

 

The Dubrovnik region is definitely for you if you love hiking, mountains and beautiful views, swallows and butterflies, history (which it has in abundance) and of course if you like wine. The one thing that we struggled with was the amount of cigarettes. People smoked everywhere (outside) and we were constantly smelling or walking through peoples second hand smoke it is just not something we are used to since the ban in the UK.

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Despite that it is a beautiful country and we look forward to going to the istrian region to see the other nation parks and sights.

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Our Favourite Children’s Books of Educational Value

davMy two year old loves books. We read a few every night and have done since she was a few months old (I used to read my books out loud when she was tiny until I realised she started paying attention and was bored by the content of my non fiction scripts.

I have always felt that learning to read and enjoying books was one of the key focuses for me to try to encourage and teach her as it opens up a wealth of learning opportunities and encourages imagination and abilities to communicate eloquently.

Below are our quick reviews with links to the books and why we loved them (not in any particular order):

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Listen Listen by Phillis Gershator This is a dual Russian and English Book and while I currently read it in English as he understanding of Russian language grows it will help expand her vocabulary in both languages. I am a big fan of dual language books on the whole but you do tend find the translation a bit iffy. It can be difficult to translate some words and meanings and we have found Spanish ones that are ‘directly translated’ but when read by a native Spanish speaker, they do not read how a native person would say it. This one however is good. It gets top marks from my two and a half year old who made me read it every night for at least a month until she was able to recite it end to end to me, using the previous sentence and images as prompts. Brilliant for learning the seasons and what changes during the year.

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If You Were My Baby by Fran Hodgkins I love this, my little one used to want me to read it every night (until I hid the book) she would name and count all the animals. It exposes them to different animals and suggests what the mother might teach the baby of that species and ends with humans.

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Who Ever You Are by Mem Fox I wasn’t sure about the illustrations when I bought this but my mini me selected it repeatedly for bedtime and the content message is wonderful. it artfully explains our similarities and differences with particular focus on uniting people from different backgrounds and ethnicity all around the world.

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Baby Loves Quarks by Ruth Spiro It is safe to say it was not just my baby that learnt something with this book. It perfectly explains what the world is made of starting with Quarks – my baby’s favourite bit is describing the quarks as ‘holding hands’.

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Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering by Ruth Spiro As above explains flight in a simple and easy way. Starting with ‘bird’ and ending with rockets. (Not quite as complicated as Quarks). Given how much we love the Ruth Spiro books we can not wait to read Baby Loves Thermo-dynamics and Baby Loves Quantum Physics new out since we purchased the previous two and currently on our Christmas list.

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Non-Euclidean Geometry for Babies Sounds complicated but the layered approach to explanation makes it easy. I didn’t think the graphics would be that stimulating but my baby loves them, it is just lines and dots but it makes it really easy for her to engage and she loves the way the book asks her questions. We have added words like ‘perpendicular’ and ‘parallel’ to our 2 1/2 year old’s vocabulary and I love that. Bring on the STEM fields.

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All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka Another delightful book using poetic descriptive words about the colour of skin and hair. Beauty comes in all variants.

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Vera&Bob by Elizabeth P Burakevic I couldn’t do a book list for educational story books without adding my own some where. Introducing the concept of the science of learning, conditioning and behaviour observation (Learning theory) through a young girls journey training her rescue pony. It also mentions equine management (food and housing) and welfare. I have not yet read it to my baby… it is a bit long, aimed more at children who are able to read themselves or are about 7yo and up. It should be a brilliant way to introduce pony mad kids to what it takes to care for and keep a horse and enjoy a safe and enjoyable relationship.

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Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty The rhyming in this is excellent. It is funny, clever and introduces historical architectural buildings and terms as well as a core message of following your dreams. We had to get it seeing as Daddy is an Architect and it did not disappoint.

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Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty Encouraging girls in STEM fields, perseverance and not being deterred by a failed first attempt. All with the same funny and clever rhymes as the previous title. I notice my little one dancing around pretending she has a cheese spray hat on to protect her head from snakes so she clearly remembers and is inspired by Rosie’s inventions. I hope and assume that Beaty will write a story for every child in the classroom and I am looking forward to reading  Ada Twist Scientist  the third book in the series.

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Peep inside the ZooPeep inside Animal Homes  & Peep inside the Garden by Anna Milbourne  are all lovely for children to lift the flaps and enjoy discovering animals, where they live, what they eat and more. Great for encouraging an investigative and exploratory approach to nature and life in general.

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Pass the Energy Please by Barbara Shaw McKinney and Chad Wallace Excellent is the best way to describe this title. A little too long for my two and a half year old but she still enjoys it. Very well thought out rhymes and layered approach to educating the reader on food chains. Starting with photosynthesis as a 1 link chain and I believe ending in a chain of 6.

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Owl Babies by Martin Waddell A classic and I know why. This has been one of my girls favourites since the day we got it, especially as it allows for different character voices. She expresses concern and empathises with the owlets sadness and rejoices with them when they ‘jump up and down on the branch’ at the return of their mother. Every one should have this book.

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The Otter who Loved to Hold Hands by Heidi and Daniel Howarth A story with a crucial message of independence and bravery. Explaining that it does not mean you are alone or that you can not ever cuddle and seek help. This was a crucial book for us given my little ones strong fear of one on one attention with people that are unfamiliar and when she was younger her reluctance to play on something new with out a parent.

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen A fun exploration of sounds in nature, great when read with energy to add emphasis to the content. Encourages family time outdoors, exploration and environment. It is quite cute to be walking along with a toddler who recites passages from the book and describes things she finds the forest using reference to the book. ‘a river, we cant go over it, we cant go under it, we have to go through it’ is a sentence you will get used to hearing a lot.

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Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aadema I love trying to find stories from different cultures and this one exposes your little one to a very different way of life and animals. Great for encouraging global acceptance and awareness.

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Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones & Sarah Ogilvie Our latest purchase and impromptu discovery. It is much the same in principle as ‘Rosie Revere’ but it also introduces cross species compassion and relationships when Izzy takes home an injured crow and tries to give him a fulfilled life.

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Little Changes by Tiffany Taylor A story of evolution. Brilliantly explains what causes things to evolve using these funny little made up creatures. A little long and complex for my little one at 2 1/4 years but by 3 I fully expect her to be well into this from start to finish.

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Over in the Jungle , Over in the Ocean Over in the Arctic by Marianne Berkes These books have great educational benefit and content. With counting being the most obvious. Introducing lesser known animal species, a behaviour they might do and the environment they live in. The Rhyme is set to a tune which is noted in musical format in the back so you could use as lyrics to instrumental accompaniment. Each ends with a hide and seek type page to improve searching skills. The books also have facts in the back like ‘how many babies they actually have’ and a section that shows the illustrators process. Meaning there is plenty of longevity in these books to grow with the child. The Artic one also has several small animals for the children to look back and find. Needless to say I have been made to read them repeatedly.

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This list while it feels extensive really isn’t I feel like I have missed some but I have tried to include books that are of educational value either for knowledge, imagination or emotional growth. I am sure there will be others; post Christmas I expect a load more we want to share with you and I will be doing a short list of child friendly dvds with a good message so look out for that.

 

Child development record: tracing lines

She has tried this over the last couple of months but this week I notice a marked difference in the results. Her pen holding is good, sometimes she holds it at the end so I tell her to hold it near the tip for better control so she does and gets what I consider very accurate for a two and a half year old.

She occasionally uses either hand but at present favours the left and has marginally better control.

This is an activity that she asks to do and loves doing, especially when we applaud a good effort. I would never push this activity on her as research shows even many 4-5year olds do not have the fine motor skills to write and this is one of the concerns with the British education system.

What next?: continue allowing her access to practice as she wants, encourage her to realise what she is doing when she traces the square so that she might transfer the action to drawing a square for herself, without the lines. Work on the pressure as currently she tends to push down to hard reducing her control. Explain again that the red dots are a guide to where she should start.

Life Sentence – FIV

Meet Thor. Rescued from a river bank at about five weeks old, alone and vulnerable. A few weeks later he went to a new home and quickly became ill – lethargic and floppy. After little improvement, weeks in the vets on a drip and antibiotics, the vet suggested we test for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (the feline equivalent to HIV); this wasn’t a standard practice as kittens can give false readings if their mother was infected. The quick snap test was done which was positive so to confirm a full blood sample was sent for a titer test to confirm the level of infection and rule out a false positive. Sadly he was confirmed to have the virus which in an instant changed his future and world.

Many cats in rescue centres do end up getting put to sleep with this virus as they are harder to rehome; some people worrying that they can be infected (not the case – it is species specific and harder to spread than you might think), they have to be kept indoors as an only cat (unless the other cats are also infected). The main reason for them having to be kept separate is their own health – they pick up infections easily and can get very sick. There is also a social responsibility to keep them away from other cats to reduce the spread of the virus.

Spread by mixing body fluids like blood in fighting, mating and in some cases saliva. It can also be passed to unborn kittens by the queen.

In Thor’s case he was in a multi cat household, attempts to rehome him failed for various reasons but mainly due to his attachment to his owner. He spent the first few years having the bedroom and ensuite to himself and later moved to a pen in the garden where he had more stimuli by way of sight, sounds and smells. He also could see the other cats in the house but at a safe distance.

He is a very loving and cuddly cat (although due to not growing up with litter mates he doesn’t understand not to play rough) statistically cats have six years of a-symptomatic life after diagnosis, so at nearly seven we know he may start having problems soon but he is currently bright and happy.

Many years ago I researched the virus and found some countries had a vaccine to prevent infection but due to the rigorous tests and standards to pass a drug in the UK it wasn’t available here. This was so frustrating as he could have lived playing with the other cats. Although it wont help Thor I hope that the vaccine can make it to the UK as it could change the lives of many cats in the country.

When life tells you a joke

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I understand donkeys can not read (as we do) but this was one of those times I had to stop and have a good giggle to my self.

Reflecting on it now it raises the question of rules and regulations. Some people seem intent on defiance whilst others wouldn’t dream of the slightest little flexion in a rigid system.

For me following a moral compass is far more important than legislation (although many laws obviously are designed on the same grounds)

I hope to instill to my child core principles that mean doing ones best to avoid inflicting suffering on others (all species) both directly and indirectly. Be a considerate and contributing member of the world. Actively seek to protect and preserve the environment. Understand that all species should have freedom of choice and the right to exist without needing a human assigned purpose. Understand that you can only plant an idea in to someone’s thoughts; you can not force on them your ideas and beliefs, results are much longer lasting when the individual reaches the conclusion themselves.

Share if you agree.

Exploration: New forest photography hunt

If you follow us on social media you will know we take regular day trips around the New Forest; trying to capture beautiful shots of landscape and ponies and enjoying the scenery in general.

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This time of year is great for photos, the heather is on the turn and the bracken is flowering, baby animals roam and rest (usually precariously in the road) but they are old enough not to be too scared and the mares have relaxed their guard slightly (though don’t be fooled – I did witness a woman get kicked in the leg for trying to move a stubborn mare and foal from her path) you can usually get quite close for some nice angles and details.

Here is a selection from our travels: follow us on instagram or facebook for more regular imagery.

Barefoot like the donkeys

The cows are more cautious

Magic mule

Don’t be tempted to feed them, it makes some of them pushy with people, aggressive to each other trying to guard the resource but most of all it attracts them to cars and the road – this one was not rewarded for exploring my car so hopefully she wont bother again.

Cutie pie

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Looking to the other side.