5 ways to get kids away from screens, on dark and dingy days.


To be honest, its hard to motivate myself to go outdoors with some of the miserable weather we are having this January. But it’s one of our biggest challenges to get our, now thirteen year old, to do the same.  His preferred position is in front of a screen with a controller,  cuddled up under an old duvet. Especially at weekends, which he reminds us are “for relaxing.” Even when he was younger he had very strict rules about what weather could be engaged with. For example, if there is even a hint of rain he can’t go out on his skateboard, as the bearings will get rusted.

So, working with rules and routine, we have always made it clear that unless there are extreme weather conditions he will go outdoors at weekends and the holidays, once a day, but we give a choice of  up to 3 activities he can do. I’m not saying that this means it’s plain sailing every time, but now he has got used to the idea it generally works well. And it’s great to see him come back from an activity that he has enjoyed and done well at, despite the initial moans. We also try to regulate screen time.

1.Special interests are our friends!

What are your child’s special interests at the moment? Museums, visitor centres and other attractions are less busy at this time of year. Look out for new exhibitions or workshops or creative days that might fit in with something they love. Even going to see one specific item can be enough, we frequently do this at our local military museum, because I know that once he has spent a long time with the big gun, I can get him to look at other exhibits, and maybe go to the park on the way home.

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2. Get happy in the big outdoors.

Do your kids like dinosaurs? Get fossil hunting at your nearest beach. Trains or planes? go spotting, photographing and recording what you find.  Animals? Wrap up warm and visit a local wildlife park with hot chocolate to follow.


3. Find an outdoors/indoors activity that can become routine.

In our case that would be something we have had to keep trying at. We have had happy spells doing archery, cycling, cricket, walking and skateboarding. But not many last long, so its a question of trying a variety of new things for us. At the moment our son is enjoying badminton and climbing, and drums regularly.


4.Family outings.

It’s difficult to get our son to go out and do things as a family, so more something we have to insist on and model. However, usually add a food venue into the equation and you can succeed in an at least partial win for all. Volcano ice creams or slush puppies are high on our list. At Christmas we managed a good walk with the promise of a ginger beer at the pub at the end. Some would call this bribery, I prefer to use the word motivation! Recently, we were freezing on the beach as our son got engaged with some rocks and mud for ages, after insisting he was not leaving the house, and had a great time!


5. Finally, if you can’t beat them, join them.

On really foul days outside we stick on the Wii and play winter sports together or do Mario Racing. We get out forgotten Christmas gifts to play with or make, and this weekend made smoothies and burgers. There are lots of sites out there that are more creative and interactive which if they are having screen time you can encourage, such as Kerbal Space Program and Fire Boy and Water Girl, also umpteen places where you can draw, sketch, paint and build.

Good luck. Don’t give up!


Occupational Therapy at Home School.



Although 13 now, my son still needs support with fine and gross motor skills. Thanks to Father  Christmas we have been given some excellent ways  to practice fine motor skills.

My son loves playing with sand related kits and was given a gold panning kit which requires lots of patience with tiny minerals, tweezers etc., but the reward of the (fool’s) gold makes it all worthwhile!


He also loves sand art, which again comes in reasonably inexpensive kit form, or you could colour your own sand and collect some unusual shaped bottles or glasses to put it into. IMG_0003.jpg

Other activities that  we have had on the go, doing 10 -15 mins a day, are jigsaws based on my son’s interests, such as aeroplanes, advanced lego kits, or small ones for younger children which are more quickly done independently, and special interest kits made by    Airfix (look out for Airfix Quick Build, looove these, made a fab Bugatti with so little hassle). You could look for kits or themed items you can make that relate to games or special interests that your child might have, such as Minecraft or Halo. We’ve made a Minecraft board game for example. One of my son’s friends got us drawing happily using one of the many sites that are out there now which take you through how to draw a favourite cartoon character for example, step by step. Since then we have become more confident and tend to google characters, copy and draw them into situations, towards a comic strip, or make greetings cards.

I hope that this gives you a few ideas and the confidence to do some OT yourself at home.


Launch pads.


One of the things I love about home schooling is the ability to be flexible to follow your child’s interests, or to use material to explore new directions or make links with other subjects. To my glee my son loves the Willard Price books that I also read avidly when I was his age. Who wouldn’t be attracted to titles such as Volcano Adventure and Whale Adventure? Written by a real life adventurer and explorer in the 1950’s (beware some aspects of the books are a little dated, but this makes for some useful discussions), we have learnt a lot about wildlife, different habitats, natural phenomena and other cultures. We are currently reading Cannibal Adventure and this has led my son to research unusual animals such as the cuscus and taipan.  We have learnt about the geography  and climate of New Guinea, tribal markings and shrunken skulls, and discussed human evolution as a result of the tribe described in the book being still in the stone age. We hope to visit the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford where another famous explorer’s collection of tribal artefacts and shrunken heads can be seen. Most recently we learnt a bit about witchcraft and powerful beliefs! I love home schooling, where your mind and imagination can be the launch pad to amazing places.


30 Days Wild 2017

Love, love, love, this initiative from The Dorset Wildlife Trust  dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk

They send you a calendar, stickers etc and challenge you to do 30 acts of random wildness in June! So far we have rescued a bumble bee that got stunned by heavy rain and collected sycamore “helicopters” to revise seed dispersal, and to dry out for some fun later. It can be something as small as this, or much bigger like a nature walk identifying the plants and insects on their challenge sheet for example. Use your imagination. Make up your own chart and challenges. Have some fun in the big outdoors.

Raining again this morning, so we researched St Johns Wort, to identify out and about later. Tomorrow we are going to plant some seeds and go on a river walk. @30 Days Wild.


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Flexi Schooling. Does it work?

So our ASD son is now 12 going on 18, and is about to embark on the Summer Term of his Secondary School career where we have been flexi schooling him. Has it worked?



Well, reader, it has!  You might remember that we embarked on this road with no small degree of trepidation. The Secondary School seemed enormously supportive, but previous experience had led us to discover that, outward appearances can be deceptive. Continue reading