Emotional development resources 1: Puppet led communication.

Sometimes a storm may hit the family. It could be a bereavement, a change of routine or a general increase of stress when the winter months turn in. Children are sensitive beings and often pick up on stressful changes but may still be unable to communicate clearly about the emotional turbulence it’s creating for them, especially for under 5’s.

Sometimes trying to talk too directly about the source of stress or the emotions can feel a bit daunting or result in ‘nothing’s wrong’ responses. These can feel like you are at a dead end and not addressing anything.

At times like this, especially with younger children, it can be useful to use an in between distraction to take the focus off the child you are trying to get to open up, and focus onto something else. This slowly takes off the pressure to talk about something they may not yet even have the vocabulary to express.

One method I have used is family puppet making. The butterfly puppets above represented different family members. We coloured them in and played with them. Flapping the wings around. Then the free play evolved into a more specific game led by the child. Free flow non directed talking through puppets was part of the game. We had a pencil pot and added colours when we felt like it. Each night for about a week we played with the puppets in our pyjamas before bed. Allowing the child to lead and the parent carefully responding when needed.

We actually used this technique when the children’s grandfather died from cancer and everyone was feeling very overwhelmed in the household. It allowed our eldest son at the time to play different emotional roles, and the adult butterflies to nurture, rescue and play protecting roles in the butterfly in danger adventure game that was slowly created. Over the weeks and months, finally we all felt able to add more expressions on the butterflies faces and talked about why the butterflies were now smiling and what their colours and patterns represented. The puppet time had helped to gradually scaffold an emotional language, metaphors ¬†and scenes that helped our then little boy talk about his loss and questions about the future for himself and his granddad.

What you need:

  1. Uninterrupted time 30 mins a day
  2. cardboard from cereal boxes, scissors, colouring pens or crayons.
  3. selotape and a puppet stick or old pencil.

How to make butterflies:

fold the card and draw half a butterfly and cut out , open up to get a full butterfly shape. Colour in and sellotape down a puppet stick to hold in place.

Name them and play. Remember for this to work best it needs to be mostly child led play. The parent puppets role is to be nurturing and responsive when needed. Do this regularly to bond and develop a common emotional language from the sceneries enacted. Sometimes children can find it easier to talk about a puppets feelings and feel OK to talk about what a puppet could be thinking and feeling, then actually talk about their own worries. Using a puppet can help break down the steps of communicating needs and worries till eventually they feel more equipped and able to share directly.

We still play with our puppets many years later and it’s lovely to see how their colours and patterns have changed, and how our perceptions about them have evolved. Of course , you could make anything – dinosaurs, monkeys, cats, or cars!

Remember if you struggle to offer a nurturing role, because maybe you are still working through your own emotions or are juggling too many things, do get support for yourself. Go into the games with an open free mind. The aim is to spend quality time together.




Ramadan is here! Festivals and celebrations

Well, we are on day 6 of Ramadan – the holy month of fasting for Muslims.¬†I had been meaning to write a bit about the importance of festivals and celebrations in childhood, and how they contribute to the growing minds’ conception of self and the understanding of ones place in the world. Children use their early experiences as reference points to draw comparisons with later on. My children often came home from school having learnt about Christmas and Devali – buzzing from the crafts and fun activities they had been doing that day.¬† Ramadan is also a festival – it is the festival of the Quran, the Muslim holy book. The spirit of Ramadan is to fast from dawn till dusk, in order to obey Gods command. The focus of the Month is to celebrate the Quran through recitals in groups or in solitude, to draw deep reflections on the messages and to set goals for personal change.¬† Some Muslim cultures¬†place importance on providing¬†feasts to fasting people within their family or communities,¬†and the month is perfect for¬†offering a lot of charity to the needy too.

I will add more to this page throughout the month of Ramadan.

Coming soon…

Activities with the children:

Here are some ideas that we have tried this year..

  1. Ramadan calendar РWe created a lunar calendar in order to track the days of Ramadan.  See gallery for the photo.  We filled them with sweets and made a routine of counting down the days and sharing the sweets amongst the children after the late noon prayer.  This time is our family marker of reflections and reviews of what Ramadan is, and what we are learning and gaining so far. We use this time to gather on the prayer mats and read our prayers aloud, to read out the Ramadan posters we created, before finally allowing the children to count the days till they reach the day that is due to begin at sunset (the lunar calendar day begins at sunset).  This has been a wonderful experience this year and has become a natural habit for the family to gather to pray, reflect and do the calendar!  You can fill the calendar with messages, jokes, small games too.  We went for sweets this year.
  2. Ramadan treasure box. My eldest son generously donated his hand made treasure box and pirate treasures for a Ramadan game to keep us entertained.¬† He wrapped up old pieces of treasure (my old bits of jewellery and other things important to him) and provided us with a dice. Each night, usually after calendar time, one of us rolls the dice and whosever number it falls on gets to choose some treasure.¬† Sometimes we practice sharing or giving the treasure to eachother as gifts [don’t worry, he donated thinsg he was comfortable with giving away in the game].
  3. Ramadan daily Goals and wishes cards.  I made a set of sparkly cards to write 3 goals and 3 prayers inside.  Each night my eldest son brings everyone their card and we individually reflect on how we are doing with our goals and if we have remembered to pray for the three special things we chose.
  4. Ramadan Banner and moons decorations.  there are lot of youtube videos on how to make your own decorations for Ramadan and eid. we chose to cut out stars and moons and string them around the stair case .
  5. Quran tent for children.
  6. Iftar baskets and  lamps.

Celebrating Ramadan/festivals and nurturing identity development:

I am writing a separate article about this topic. See archives soon!


Muhammad Ali

He advised a mum of a 9yr old, what did he advise? She wanted advice for her son who attends boxing lessons. What he advised was don’t think about becoming a professional boxer, but learn and get knowledge. Youth is an important time to learn. Whilst watching this interview he did in Newcastle in the 70s, I did not expect that kind of answer. Did you?

Its funny just this past few days I have been planning our home education curriculum with a desire to teach world history and world literature. Yes, the passing of Muhammad Ali today has reminded me of a few things.

  1. His was a literature rooted in causes he believed in, not boxing, but peace and of owning ones identity. He was not just a professional boxer. He was a poet and political thinker too.
  2. He talked openly about oppression and the White privelege system, black stereotypes and prejudices that still exist.
  3. He was not shy about his faith. Nor was he afraid to share his spirituality, he did not split that part of him off from his public persona.

I remember one time in supervision at work, I was asked if I had a legacy I wanted to follow or share. At that time I had not looked deeply into these thoughts. Different ideas and themes were emerging and eventually we settled on looking at Muhammad Ali’s biography. The choice as he was a powerful figure who overcame subjugating narratives in his life. Some lessons and journeys were to be found there about his deep identity reformation, congruence of self and confidence in himself. Therefore, to understand at a deeper level of how he navigated the hurdles of loving himself in a White priveleged¬†world would not only have been useful for me but also in understanding my client group at the time who were majority Black minority ethnic ¬†with some form of spiritual beliefs. You know what, I did not do it. I forgot or something else took over, and it became one of the things I will do one day.

A family therapist once said to me that every man (and woman) wants a legacy, needs a legacy, to join or reinforce a legacy…not knowing your legacy is like darkness. Uncovering your legacy can be like a shining light that brings congruence in your actions and life. I see legacy, identity and self esteem as very closely linked. Muhammad Ali knew his legacy. Rest in peace Muhammad Ali, rest in peace.

So to teach world history and world literature would mean to us that we are not missing out on knowledge and important lessons about different civilisations….and we are Becoming aware of parts of ourselves that don’t appear to fit a dominant white Eurocentric discourse, but are still proud of them. ¬†It would enable us to hold multiple narratives and discourses, and not just the dominant ones which have in history and in present day too, become narrow – and thus oppressive.

So, we will be studying the poetry and life of Muhammad Ali- yes most definately we will…His life will form part of our identity curriculum as well as in the literature and spirituality strands that I am developing. I am so grateful for this opportunity!



A father’s voice: Cooking with my boys [RECIPE 2]

Orange Almond Cake – Soft, moist and delicious!

By Muhammad Po.

My little boy loves the mixer. Sometimes he will just run to me and say lets make food with the mixer.¬† It’s a delight to see his eyes light up to see the mixer in action. I learnt to cook much later in life and I think the earlier children can become involved in cooking the easier it is for them to try new tastes and learn this important life skill.¬†¬†This morning, still in pyjamas, the boys sat at the kitchen worktop, ready for cake action!

Warning Рthis recipe requires some preparation- you will need to boil oranges before hand, but once that is done, the rest is easy! You could use any kind of mixer or egg beater for the mixing, obviously it will take longer by hand and the oranges will not blend smooth by hand mixing and may likely be lumpy Р but more fun in the process. I got the oranges ready the night before so we could get going without having to watch the oranges cool down.  You could make the orange boiling process a part of a science experiment with older children and talk about heat energy and changes in solids if you do not get chance to prepare the oranges beforehand.


2 large oranges or 3 medium/ 6 eggs/ 250g caster sugar/ 250g grounded almonds [peeled]/ 1tsp baking powder.

  1. Boil oranges till soft (about an hour). cool.
  2. Cut the oranges into slices and blend till smooth or whatever texture you prefer if u like to taste bits.
  3. Beat 6 eggs. Add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Now add the egg mixture to the blended oranges. Fold in well.
  4. Spoon in to a greased baking tin and sprinkle caster sugar on top.
  5. Place in a preheated oven at 190 celcius- cook for one hour or till golden brown. The cake needs to cook slowly. If you find the cake is browning too quickly you could move it to a lower shelf in the oven or turn the temperature slightly lower.

You can add chocolate buttons to decorate while still warm for a chocolate melted orange flavour for the children who are not keen on fruit flavours, but in our house this soft and moist cake is a definite winner! Also, you could add a spoon of vanilla ice-cream if eating cold.

We decorated our cake with a dusting of icing sugar, sliced strawberries and slices of orange pulp from a left over boiled orange. We scooped some double cream on the slices of fruit and ooh so delicious! Yum yum. Even the fussy eater finished all on his plate!

Photos coming soon…


Tips from children: Tip 2…

Tip 2

 By Abraham, age 7;  and Joseph, age 4.

 When you have to help with the house work, like hanging wet clothes up to dry,

 then it is fun to pretend to be wind up robots helping. You can talk in a robot voice


 your back or on your belly) is not working and your grown up will have to wind up

 your pretend key to make you move again and again; then it all feels like a game.

 If you are really tired, you can pretend that your key is broken.

Star Wars and story lines…

Today we visited a friend and her children for a play date. We are still deschooling and not doing direct book based work. Reflecting upon the day now I can count many instances of natural on the spot learning that we took advantage of. It was a great day and on the way home we popped into our local pound shop to pick up book bargains – picking out books was not initiated by me! I usually love to pop in to charity shops for books but we didn’t have any en route home…Anyway, the learning point I thought would be useful to share was in relation to the children discussing Star Wars!

The conversation came about as my son had said that the old Star Wars were better, and his friend came to me for an explanation of what he meant.

Now how do I explain this? What had actually happened was my son had overheard and later joined in conversations I had in the past with my best friend who is an Enlish Literature fanatic and teacher. Our conversations were rooted in the Star Wars phenomenon being a part of film culture in the 70s and 80s, and predicting what might happen to the quality of storylines now that a different film maker has taken over.

So I tried to explain that the statement about the newer films (I have not watched all Star Wars nor am I a follower as such, my kids enjoy Star Wars Lego and comics, and sometimes I let them watch Star Wars cartoons…not the actual films. We have lots of conversations about the force and what a force can be. A lot of these conversations link very closely to spirituality and identity themes)…

So yes, the statement was in reference to the quality of the plot and element of twist /surprise that was present in the first film released. I explained that as adults me and my friend were discussing whether those qualities would be upheld or whether there would perhaps be more sensationalist content irrelevant to the plot. The discussion born out of our wider discussion about changing cultures and attitudes to what is expected from entertainment today. ¬†The boys listened carefully whilst the mums tried to explain these concepts of culture, sensationalism, entertainment and inspiration for ‘good’ story plots. Then they continued to play! I wondered what it was like for them to have something they were really positively interested in to be talked about in a different way? I could see the seeds of reflective thinking being planted in their minds…I will know more from my son when we formally return to our Sunday morning ‘movie writing’ time in a couple of weeks!

There are no plans for story/movie writing just yet as we are still reorganising the house for home learning purposes. For now My boys are enjoying an early summer and are building up their imaginative minds with a creative momentum.



A fathers voice – Cooking with my boys [RECIPE 1]

Finally as a father I feel I have full permission to embrace my passion for good food as a life skill and art to teach my children in homeschool. It feels great that i can share this with my boys, and today we actually stepped out of our comfort zone to make our very own home made ice-cream! We all thought it tasted totally awesome! Enjoy the recipe.

By Muhammad Po.


  1. Pour 400ml of evaporated milk in a pot, warm on low heat and stir.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder and mix.
  3. Remove from the heat.
  4. In a different bowl mix 400ml concentrated milk and 400ml of whipped cream/ fold the mixture and
  5. Add pistachio nuts (grind them to smaller pieces first). keep folding and mixing.   Now also add in the evaporated milk.
  6. When the mixture is completely mixed well – spoon into an airtight container or lolly pop moulds and freeze.
  7. Enjoy!

Photos coming soon….