Exploration with a two year old: The Blue Pool

This is a link to the post that is on my facebook page as there are so many images it was easier to upload there: see full post


‘We have reached that wonderful point where she is starting to drop her nap and doesn’t get tired as quickly and she is able and happy to walk for long periods meaning we no longer have to drag the buggy round, avoiding the interesting narrow or steep paths or awkwardly carrying the buggy up and down steps in defiance.’

Vera&Bob – Learning Theory for Kids

The time has finally arrived. In 72hours Vera&Bob should be available on Amazon Kindle etc. The Paper copy should be available in August.


‘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.’

Are your children safe with animals?

I have been sharing and posting a lot more on my facebook page recently so please consider following that for more regular posts. I found an article that discusses animal and children interactions and the worrying level of videos and photos that are described as cute when the child is in fact in potential danger.

View facebook post and original article

Small children are unpredictable and move irraticallyIMG_20170504_105904.jpg with strange noises. I don’t think I have seen any animal not show some kind of anxiety, avoidance or appeasement behaviours around small children. Most try their hardest not to lash out physically because non human animals naturally avoid physical violence in case of injury to themselves, but this is why the parent should always monitor the situation and remove the child after short periods to give the animal a break and not push their thresholds too far… once the animal has snapped or acted more aggressively and found you remove the child it is difficult to reverse and they can learn to go straight for this step with less warning as they know it works.

‘Negative’ side effects of Rewards


Although I have read quite a lot on rates of reinforcement and treat value. I discovered by trial that I was giving a too high reinforcement to my mare. She was agitated and frustrated and not able to do anything in a calm manner which made the stand and wait training impossible. She is a fidgety type and that is what I had always put it down to, I did not think it possible to be giving her too much reward as she was only getting pony nuts, the same as she does breakfast and dinner, I certainly could not (in my opinion) lower the value much more. A couple of weeks ago , during a mixed session with targeting and obstacles it occurred to me that maybe I was giving her too many pony nuts at a time, I dropped to one single pellet per click and the results were instant… no more funny faces (most of the time) greatly reduced fidgeting and much more calm overall… I could now leave her standing and walk all the way round and a couple of metres away from her without her moving (she is better one direction than the other for me to walk away but I have yet to discover whether this is down to a sight problem/difference, the right hand being the one that delivers treats, or just general habituation to a particular direction). I had been so eager for her to receive high praise given the difficulty we have in overcoming certain challenges that I had lost sight of the appropriateness of the reward.


All animals can be ‘trained’ using rewards but the value of each type of reward is different based on individual preference. For non human animals it is advised to lay a selection of different rewards down and observe what they choose first. In humans you can ask them and in young children your attention and praise is usually sufficient (I personally would never use food as a reward in children; unless for example, it was that they got to choose where we ate.)


It occurred to me when writing this that I sometimes over praise my daughter as well. She dislikes being the centre of attention and sometimes when she does something that we then clap or say well done for, she initially smiles but it then turns to a frown and closed body language and sometimes crying, similar to embarrassment, this can then lead to her not wanting to try again or avoiding ‘performing’ for a couple of days and this behaviour is particularly common if in presence of more people than just mummy and daddy. It can be difficult to know what to do as we want to celebrate her achievements but have to sometimes be ready to look away and downplay our excitement so as not to overwhelm her and put her off. I personally similarly experience embarrassment if people ‘over’ celebrate something I have done, and it indeed puts me off repeating the behaviour around those people again. This I think can be said of most animals with a sensitive or shy disposition and is important for us to be aware of.

Child Development record: Scribbles and art


Scribbling is an important activity for child development, learning to hold a pen, pressure control, mark making and discovering how the symbols that make up our written language are formed.

Once discouraged and even punished in favour of following an ‘adult’ model, scribbling is now known to be important and is even encouraged with adults in art therapy (also known as free drawing – the person draws a continuous line for a few minutes, with their eyes shut).


This is our alphabet and number wall with posters of the Russian, Spanish and English alphabets and the white board which is intended to contain words and definitions but is currently being used for drawing. This is one of her first drawings as a two year old an contains flowing lines and small concentrated patches of scribble. When colouring premade pictures she always scribbles these dense patches over small details such as stars (have picture somewhere if I can find it). I photographed it as I was quite pleased with all the different types of marks and the fact she uses the whole canvas. She loves drawing and always asks for the pen in the kitchen. Experience has however taught me not to leave her alone with the pen (and that white board markers clean off the wall quite well with washing up liquid!)


Art and creativity are an important part of expression and aid relaxation and meditation in fostering a happy life.

Child development record: Impending ‘terrible two’s’


As we look forward to her impending second birthday we are amazed at where the time has gone but also that she is actually real… that amazing feeling of pride knowing that you have nurtured this little being to where she is and that life (with out us realising at the time) must have been so empty before her.

Mushy reflection over, I am bracing myself for the rocky road of toddler demands and independence. We have been very lucky so far – she has always been a lovely, happy baby who was relaxed and as happy amusing herself with her toys as walking the dogs, feeding the horses or running about at the playground. She even came to like the supermarket – it allowed for observation and interaction with strangers at a safe distance… nobody usually tried to touch her or invade her (rather large) personal space zone. However in the past month or two she has displayed an increasing number of mini tantrums, can turn the tears on and off like a switch and being linguistically advanced has provided us with some quite confrontational (yet humorous) vocabulary… I think my favourites have to be:

‘Why not?!’ Said with a defiant tone.

‘I the boss!’

Me: ‘do you want to use the potty?’ Baby: ‘no potty… it dangerous!’

When walking home from ballet and I prevented her walking up and down any more steps: ‘uh this is boring!’

That along with all the other little independent assertions and persistently trying to turn us into frogs with her wand mean I await the next few months with both anticipation and camera ready to capture the side that we will one day look back on with humour.

The amygdala – fear vs prey drive.

The attached article discusses how scientists have discovered the location in the brain of the prey drive/hunting instinct. I must add that it is far better written and balanced in Science magazine than the shock headline ‘… turned mice in to killers’ of a mainstream media article and video.

I just briefly wanted to comment on how they talk about it seeming odd for the fear and prey drive to be controlled by the same part of the brain. But I am not…. if you consider Panksepps core emotions and the situations in which they are activated. Hunting will activate the SEEKING system. If you then think about how animals react to a novel object/animal they might run away initially but if they dont get chased they most likely turn around and start to try and look at the object, moving their heads up and down, side to side to develop a full view, they might also start to follow or approach the object; at this point both their FEAR and SEEKING systems are activated. In addition in my opinion the fact that these are core emotions indicates we probably have had them since the start and it would therefore make sense for them to be controlled by one of the older parts of the brain.