Pre-schooler Books for Autumn

preschool books for autumn littlestarandme.comIn my Autumn List post I talked about tackling the toy and book mountain and putting some away for future use. We are getting there with the toys but have sorted through Seren’s books and chosen 25 to read over the next month or so (before the Christmas ones come out!). These are:

preschool books for autumn

Halloween books: Meg and Mog (Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski), Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler) and Charlie and Lola: Boo! Made you Jump! (Lauren Child).

preschool books for autumn

New birthday present books: Oliva and the Fairy Princesses (Ian Falconer), about a pig who doesn’t want to be a pink princess like all the other princesses; The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams), we’re reading this bit by bit; WOW! Said The Owl (Tim Hopgood), a beautiful book about colours.

preschool books for autumn

Number books: a shape sorter one and one inspired by The Gruffalo along with the brilliant Toddler Treasury book. We’re focusing on counting and number recognition at the moment.

preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn

Autumnal (leaves, woodland, moon and stars inspired) books: The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler), Seren has gone back to The Gruffalo after it inspired the Crafty Chefs session we went to recently; Superworm (Donaldson and Scheffler again); We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen); Gruff the Grump (Steve Smallman and Cee Biscoe); Moon Rabbit (Natalie Russell), Goldilocks and the Three Bears; The Gingerbread Man; How To Catch A Star (Oliver Jeffers); George Catches A Cold (from Peppa Pig) and That’s When I’m Happy (Ben Shoshan).

preschool books for autumn preschool books for autumn

And some others: Spot Loves His Friends (Eric Hill), Seren is hugely in to the concept of friendship at the moment; Dinosaur Sleepover (Pamela Duncan Edwards), sleepovers are another favourite thing; The Little Mermaid, another favourite thing is mermaids, her next birthday party is going to be mermaid themed apparently; Each Peach Pear Plum (Janet and Allan Ahlberg) and Mister Magnolia (Quentin Blake).

We rotate the books and Seren picks two to read before bed. It’s definitely more helpful and less overwhelming to have a small-ish number out at one time.

Books Lately | Seren aged 2.5

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Autumn Hand Print Tree Play

autumn sensory - play dough and handprint treesI mentioned last week that Seren and I had been working on an autumn sensory project. My plan is to bring the pieces together in a big sensory tub in the next week or so. It makes me so much more motivated to do little craft projects with her knowing that there is an end purpose!

The first step that we took was to paint a large piece of paper (using one of the rolls of drawing paper from IKEA) in seasonal colours. We had collected some leaves from outside and used them to guide us in choosing paint colours. I asked Seren what colour paint we should use, she immediately said “pink and purple are my favourite” (it’s almost like she has been conditioned to say that!). We talked about what colours the leaves were and eventually choose yellow and red then also mixed orange and brown. We free painted on the paper and watched as some of the colours mixed again. I forgot to take any photos of that but we also did a fingerprint autumn tree which I remembered to photo! I might stick that on the lid of our autumn sensory tub.

autumn sensory fingerprint leaf painting autumn sensory fingerprint leaf painting

When the paint was dry we drew round Seren’s hand, then she asked me to draw round mine too, I wasn’t going to do that initially but pleased I did as we now have different sized handprint trees. Then using the handprints as a template, we cut out a few more too and painted them on the back in the same autumn colours. When they were dry we sandwiched them onto a craft stick using PVA glue and then we had our trees!

autumn sensory handprint trees

I made some bright green play dough, using this recipe and rolled it into balls.

green homemade play dough

Seren enjoyed squishing it to make a hill shape then she stuck in our trees and some pasta shapes too.

autumn sensory handprint forest autumn sensory handprint forest autumn sensory handprint forest

As per usual, Seren took things off in her own direction and decided to play ‘Peppa Pig World‘.

peppa pig world play peppa pig world playThe bright green play dough is a very similar to the green colour used on Peppa Pig. We found a little Peppa and some other little bits from party bags to stick into the play dough and she played ‘digging for treasure’.

See our Autumn Salt Dough Leaves

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Think, Stop, Look & Listen

road-safetyWe went to a Road Safety session at our local library yesterday, put on by kids’ music duo Munchkin Melodies and it was fantastic! Seren is pretty good at following our road safety rules but does have the odd blip, especially when she is with one of her friends (because if there’s more than one of you you’re invincible oh yes).

As the session was a freebie I wasn’t sure what to expect but when I turned up to see Caroline and Mike from Munchkin Melodies setting up with their puppets and guitar I was impressed already. The session started with a little Q&A covering what the children already knew about road safety, what things they might see on the roads and what happens if they walk into the road without looking, that sort of thing. It was the first time I’d seen Seren in that sort of “classroom” environment and I was pleased that she confidently called out some of the answers including saying that cars might squash you (which is what I tell her). She also volunteered extra information, telling the group that she had been on a bus with nana and grandad!


Caroline introduced the children to the concept of Think, Stop, Look and Listen (I remember Stop, Look and Listen from primary school in the 1980s, Think sounds like a sensible addition) and used signing for the phrase as well (children love actions!). She then brought out the puppets, including Billy and the loveable Dazzle the Dog wearing his reflective yellow scarf and told a story about their trip to the park with lots of road safety messages built in.

road-safetyThen we sang songs such as “Twinkle twinkle traffic light, standing on the corner bright, red means stop, green means go, amber very very slow…”. Out came the instruments, parachute, scarves (red, green and amber ones) and other props to test the children’s understanding and remind them of the key messages.


At the end we were given a reflective disc to hang from Seren’s coat, a ‘Be A Safe Pedestrian’ story booklet with stickers and colouring and a CD of the stories and songs from the session.

It was an engaging workshop and Seren paid attention for about two thirds of it which isn’t bad for her age. I’ll definitely take her again when we get the opportunity. She did spend the afternoon telling Imogen that she needed to Think, Stop, Look and Listen (not necessarily in that order) so at least some of it has sunk in!

If you are local to us then there are two more sessions at Enfield Town Library on Thursday 30th October (call 020 8379 8392 to book). Hopefully they will arrange more in the future too. If you are further afield then I would check out whether Munchkin Melodies bring their Road Safety roadshow to your area or whether your council or library offer something similar.
Munchkin Melodies on Facebook

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Autumn Salt Dough Leaves

autumn salt dough leaves Seren and I are working on an autumn themed sensory project at the moment. We are pulling together a sensory box, something a bit like this and we’re making and collecting various bits and pieces for it. Last weekend we made some cinnamon salt dough leaves using this tutorial from The Imagination Tree. We made up the dough together and Seren helped by mixing the dry ingredients. I told her we were making salt dough which is like play dough though it seemed a bit like we are making biscuits. She told me that you shouldn’t eat play dough as it will give you a tummy ache! We split the dry mixture into 4 separate bowls then I added the gel colours to hot water one by one and then added this to the dry mixture. I wanted to do this myself as I know how intense gel colour can be after ending up with black icing which was suppose to be lilac. You really only need a tiny bit! We started with yellow, then mixed yellow with a dash of red to make orange, then red on its own and finished by mixing red, yellow, green and purple to make brown. We had a good chat about colour mixing though I don’t think she understands this concept yet.

autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves autumn salt dough leaves

When the balls of salt dough were formed, we both rolled bits out until it was around 5cm thick and cut our leaf shapes out. Seren still needs help with this but not as much as she did a few months ago. We talked about the colours, about the cinnamon smell and which trees the different leaves came from. We looked out of the window at the different coloured leaves we could see on the trees and compared them to our salt dough leaves.

autumn salt dough leaves

Our hands became super salty and I had to keep washing them before seeing to Imogen as she chews my hand quite a lot. They also picked up some of the colour but this washed off easily!

autumn salt dough leaves autumn-salt-doughWhen we had 2 trays of leaves, I got some cocktail sticks to draw veins in them and put holes for hanging up into some of them. Seren wanted more sticks to draw and play with and went off piste at this point. She told me she was making a birthday bicycle and that the sticks were candles and we had to sing happy birthday to all the children.

autumn salt dough leaves

She wanted to put the leaves into her play oven and I let her do this for a while whilst our dinner was cooking before putting them into the real oven to dry out. I’ve varnished the decorative ones with clear nail varnish but the rest are for Seren to play with. She has enjoyed pretending they were porridge this morning, cooking them on her play hob and putting them in a bowl to pretend to eat.

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Star Buys | Potty Training

potty-training-star-buys--www.littlestarandme.comPotty / toilet training is still going well (I first wrote about it here). Seren is becoming more confident at going to the toilet by herself and is also better at holding on when we are out until we get to a public loo. She hasn’t quite grasped the concept of ‘going’ before we leave the house “whether you need it or not”. I suppose having just learnt the triggers of needing to go, telling her to override that doesn’t make sense yet. Hugely annoying though when we have days like we did on Monday when 2 minutes after leaving the house we turn back again so she can do a wee. And then 2 minutes after leaving toddler group the same thing happens…

Anyway, like with many stages of parenting (and perhaps life) we forked out on some “must have” potty training products and some worked better for us than others. Looking at the picture above this is the most overwhelmingly pink post on LS&M yet but hey, know your audience and in trying to entice Seren to use the potty, the pink worked. Here are our star buys:

1 – Princess Polly’s Potty – a potty training story book for girls. Seren enjoyed reading this in the run up to training. It’s the story of how Princess Polly undertakes potty training and the book has an annoying sound button that toddlers will love. There is a Pirate Pete version for boys. I’m not usually one for “girls” and “boys” things but you can’t deny there are key physiological differences here! Of course not all girls want to be princesses. Not all boys want to be pirates. Not all parents want to read books with drawings of poo in them but there you go.

2 – Huggies Pull-Ups. These were invaluable in our “in between” phase of having left nappies behind but not being quite ready for pants. We told Seren that these were big girl princess pants (they are slimline nappies that you put on as if they were pants) and they helped to build her confidence by a) not wearing baby nappies anymore yet b) protecting her (and the floor) from accidents. We still use them at night time and probably will for a while yet. Pull-Ups are Disney branded with Princesses and Minnie Mouse for the girls’ nappies and Cars for the boys. Seren enjoys seeing which character is on her Pull-Up each night.

3 – A pink potty – we started with a potty before moving on to the toilet. The potty phase only lasted about a month and we found this basic, cheap potty from Kiddicare did the job. We got one for upstairs and one for downstairs. They had to be pink though.

4 – We let Seren choose some pants to buy and started putting them on over her nappies sometimes. Then we put them on all her soft toys to get her used to the idea.

5 – Flushable toddler wipes like these Earth Friendly Kids wipes, make bottom wiping easier for you and them. Remember to seek out flushable ones though unless you want a blocked waste pipe!

6 – Potette Plus Convertible Travel Potty – I can’t tell you how much I love this! It’s a collapsable travel potty with disposable liners that can also be used as a training seat on top of a toilet seat. Super handy for car journeys or in the park or on the beach. The liners aren’t cheap but we are still using a pack we bought 3 months ago. My only criticism is that there is a real knack to getting the legs into place and the potty collapses if you are rushing and haven’t done it correctly. I hold it in place now when Seren sits on it just to make sure.

7 – Pink training seat for home. We found this was necessary in encouraging Seren away from the potty and onto the toilet. At first she really thought she would fall into the toilet so this helped her to feel safe. Again we found a simple (cheap) one like this one from Toysrus to be OK.

8 – A stool. Another Toysrus buy. Useful in enabling toilet going and hand washing independence.

9 – Chocolate buttons! Our secret weapon. We really turned a corner when we added in chocolate rewards though that could’ve been a coincidence. Or your child might respond well to reward charts and stickers.

I also wanted to mention Dry Like Me Toilet Training Pads which are a pant liner that will absorb small accidents. I bought some but never managed to get Seren to use them, a friend swears by them though.

Happy potty training (!)

Disclaimer: we were gifted Huggies Pull-Ups at the recent event we attended but if we didn’t love them I wouldn’t write about them here. Everything else has been bought or borrowed! 

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Imogen at 5 months

Imogen-5-months Imogen-5-months 5 months old! She’s snuffly with a cold at the moment and hasn’t been sleeping well (neither have we). Doesn’t she look cheeky though? Here she is compared to the other monthly photos.

Imogen-2-weeks-+-1-month Imogen-2-+-3-months Imogen-4 + 5-months

She’s growing though is still quite dinky. She weighed in at 14 pounds and 4 ounces last week which is back up on the 50th centile.

We’ve finished our 4 week baby massage and swimming courses. She loved swimming and we’ve signed up for another course in November. Here she is before her first lesson 
She enjoyed baby massage too but didn’t want to lie still for it and was constantly wriggling, getting on to her tummy and trying to get close to her friend Arthur.

imogen 5 months

She’s pretty frustrated that she can’t move around more and props herself up on her tummy, furiously moving her arms and legs trying to set off. She has discovered her feet though and likes chewing them.

She’s getting much better at sitting up too and we’ve started to put her in her high chair to get ready for moving onto solids soon. She is very content sitting up at the table with us or watching me in the kitchen.

We’ve had a busy month with more birthday parties so she’s been a social butterfly.

imogen 5 months

We tried out the baby session at Monkey Music (more on that soon).

And of course she’s tagged along with Seren, here she is hanging out with the babies whilst their older siblings making sausage rolls at Crafty Chefs.

imogen 5 months

I definitely feel like Seren was in more of a routine at this stage but we are still going with the flow somewhat here. She is an incredibly light sleeper and naps are often broken by noise or having to go out. Her day is a bit like this:

7am – wake up and breastfeed
9.30am – nap often in the car or buggy en route to our morning activity
10.30am – breastfeed
1pm – a bottle feed either of expressed milk or formula
2pm – nap often in the car or buggy again
4pm – breastfeed
5pm – nap, she usually nods off on her playmat or I will put her in her cot
6.30pm – bathtime and story with big sis
7pm – formula feed and bed

Then she will wake at around 11pm, 2am and 5am and want a quick breastfeed to be settled again. That is starting to wear us down, Seren slept through the night for 10-12 hours from 5 weeks old! We were incredibly lucky with that I know.

Over the next few weeks she will start eating solids and it will be time to move her into her cot in her own room. Both of which will impact her routine, hopefully for the better!

Imogen at 4 months, 3 months, 2 months, 1 month and Imogen’s birth story

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Autumn at Alexandra Palace

alexandra palace autumn 2014Andy and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been parents on every one of our wedding anniversaries, for the 1st one Seren was just over a week old, for the 2nd one we did manage to escape both to London for lunch and for a night away to the Suffolk / Essex borders where we had got married and for the 3rd one we had a day at the Harry Potter Studio Tour whilst I desperately tried not to be sick through ‘morning’ sickness. This year we celebrated with a family day out to kick through autumn leaves in the park at Alexandra Palace. We were planning to head down to Highgate Woods but were having car problems and decided that the most hassle-free public transport option with the girls was to get the train to Aexandra Palace. The Palace (known affectionally as Ally Pally) was built in the late 19th century as a centre for recreation and entertainment, it became home to the BBC in the 1930s. There is still a BBC presence there today as well as an ice rink, exhibition hall and pub. Sadly, 40% of the building is in disrepair though a regeneration programme is in the planning.

We’ve been a few times before with Seren, primarily to go to the softplay place in the park there, Little Dinosaurs. As softplay places go, it’s pretty good though always very busy. Anyway, we managed to avoid it on this trip due to some sneaky parental behaviour but don’t judge us too harshly, we did do some other fun stuff.

alexandra palace autumn 2014 alexandra palace autumn 2014

En route from the train station up the hill to palace we found a couple of tree trunks to clamber on. Seren said that they were “steep” whilst she was climbing over one of them, her language skills seem to be going through another noticeable explosive phase. We went round to the back of the palace to the playground and watched some college students filming themselves rapping and dancing before playing.

alexandra palace autumn 2014 alexandra palace autumn 2014

After that we were getting hungry, so dragged Seren out of the park to walk over to Muswell Hill for lunch. We walked back round the front of the Palace and took in the views and looked up at the BBC mast. You can just about make out the shadowy City of London in the photo below.

alexandra palace autumn 2014 alexandra palace autumn 2014

We went to Giraffe for lunch, I think it’s a pretty good compromise between somewhere that is child friendly but serves decent food (and cocktails!). I had the veggie Heuvos Rancheros along with a green smoothie and both were excellent.

alexandra palace autumn 2014 alexandra palace autumn 2014

We walked back to the park avoiding the aforementioned Little Dinosaurs, popped into garden centre and picked up conkers along the way.

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Before heading to see the deer.

alexandra palace autumn 2014 alexandra palace autumn 2014 alexandra palace autumn 2014Then making our way back to the train station to beat the commuter rush.

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Ideas for a Pre-Schooler Halloween Party

Are you holding a Halloween party this year? Seren has invited a couple of friends round for a Halloween get together. I think we’ll keep it fairly fun and on the lighter side of Halloween with witches, bats, cats, spiders and pumpkins. I’ve been searching for party inspiration and in my fantasy pre-schooler Halloween party we would:

Halloween-Invites | Little Star And Me

Cut out bat (1. tutorial from All You) or pumpkin (2. tutorial from Martha Stewart) shapes to make cute invitations. Or order these invites online (3 and 4 from Not on the High Street). Or go with a halfway (haunted) house option by getting some templates to download from Etsy (5 and 6). I’m loving the stripey tights look this Halloween!

Halloween-Decorations | Little Star And Me

Decorate the house with sparkly cats (1. from Sainsbury’s) and spiders (2. from Tesco) and hang these stripey tights Welcome and Boo signs on the door (3. from ASDA and 6. from Matalan). We would blow up a few balloons (4. from Waitrose) to play with or perhaps even grab this fun Spooky Boots party pack to keep things simple (7. from Party Pieces). If we had time to spare we could cut out our own bat decorations and make a little haunted street (5. tutorial from MADE).

Halloween-Costumes | Little Star And Me

Dress up of course! Baby Imogen could wear this cute bat print onesie (1. from Marks and Spencer) or I could spend a bit more on this cat face sleep suit (2. from John Lewis) which she could easily wear after Halloween. If she was a bit older then a toddler spider costume (3. from ASDA) would be really creepy! Seren would want something girly with at least a touch of pink so this witch’s costume (4. from Tesco) would be ideal. For less girly guests then skeleton glow in the dark pyjamas (5. from Tesco) which could be worn afterwards could be a good idea. Or I could match the sisters in cat outfits with Seren in this fabulous dress (6. from Not on the High Street). Mummy would need to get in on the act too perhaps with a little witch’s hat fascinator (7. from ASDA). We would pick up a face paint set with our grocery shopping (8. this one is from Ocado but most of the supermarkets have them) and follow these tutorials (9. tutorials from Tesco) to paint some little faces.

Halloween-Activities | LS&Me

Kick things off gently with these colouring in templates (1. downloaded from Tesco). Or make biscuits using these pumpkin shaped cutters (2. from Not on the High Street) and this yummy recipe. We could up the mess factor with Halloween inspired sensory bug slime spaghetti play (3. from The Imagination Tree).

When all the guests have arrived we would move onto party games. Netmums has a great list of game suggestions which lend a spooky side to old-fashioned favourites such as What’s The Time Mrs Witch?, Pin the Tail on the Cat and Pass the Pumpkin.

Halloween-Eats | LS&MeWork up an appetite it’s time for party tea! I would try to avoid too much sugar early on so offer some goulish savoury options first such as veggies with a dip served in a scooped out pumpkin or squash (1. recipe from The NapTime Reviewer) and bandage style pizza (2. recipe from Green Plate Rule) and sausage rolls (3. recipe from Aldi). We would then follow up with jack-o-lantern orange jelly (4. recipe from Tesco) and spider cakes (5. recipe from Sainsbury’s).

Have a disco to round things off. We would dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the classic Monster Mash and theme tunes from Ghostbusters and The Adams Family.

Trick or Treat | LS&MeBefore having our own little Trick or Treat fun and grabbing a bag of treats to take home. These personalised bags (1. from Not on the High Street) are adorable or how about a Halloween twist on the traditional stripey sweetie bag (2. from Not on the High Street)? I’m really taken with this novelty treat bowl (3. from Tesco)! There’s a huge variety of Halloween treats at the supermarkets such as Chocolate Pumpkins (5. from Waitrose via Ocado) or a Maoam Halloween Mix (6. from Ocado). Or for special little tricksters, lollies with glow sticks (4. from Not on the High Street).

If you are on Pinterest then check out my Halloween board for more ideas.

Happy Halloween! 

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Vitalise Women of the Year Event

women-of-the-year-awardsI’ve never really spoken about my work-life-world here, mainly because this is a space to talk about my mumma-life-world and and also I’ve been on maternity leave for the last 6 months anyway. But sometimes worlds collide and last Friday I got to step back into work mode when I attended the Vitalise Women of the Year Lunch & Awards at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham. I was invited by my boss who was up for the Business Woman of the Year award (and won, hurrah) and it was great to catch up with her and some of my colleagues (and absolutely wonderful to have 4 hours of solo travel to read and drink coffee).

women-of-the-year-awards women-of-the-year-awardsThe lunch (which kicked off at 10am with a shopping event and ended at around 5pm so the term ‘luncheon’ really does not do it justice) is an annual charity event to celebrate women’s achievements. This year’s supported charities were Vitalise (who provide respite care for disabled people and their carers), Alzheimer’s Research UK and Ladies Fighting Breast Cancer. Two awards are presented, the Business Woman of the Year award I already mentioned and a Woman of Achievement accolade which was awarded to Claire Lomas. Claire is a former event rider who was paralysed in a riding accident 7 years ago. Since then she has undertaken significant challenges – such as completing the London Marathon using a robotic suit – to raise awareness and fundraise for Spinal Research. She has also got married and had her daughter Maisie. Her biggest challenge is to be able to walk again and I was impressed at her positivity towards achieving this goal. The video showing Claire’s journey and her acceptance speech on stage brought a tear to my eye, she is powerful example of strength and courage over adversity.

women-of-the-year-awardsThe whole event was empowering and I felt inspired as a business woman and mum to two girls who will hopefully grow up to feel like the world is theirs for the taking and that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to. The speaker programme was of a high calibre. We heard from Dawn Elson, Head of Engineering at Gatwick Airport, who is committed to encouraging girls to take Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects at school, Baroness Debbie Stedman-Scott, CEO of employment charity Tomorrow’s People and Lord Digby Jones, patron of Ladies Fighting Breast Cancer.

Lord Jones laid down three actions for the audience (which was 99% female by the way) to achieve over the next year:

  1. To engage in, and encourage other women to engage in, the democratic process, specifically the upcoming General Election
  2. To go into schools and inspire teenage girls to pursue their career goals
  3. To give a helping hand or sympathetic shoulder to any woman we know or meet who is suffering or being held back due to problems such as domestic violence or FGM

I, along with the rest of the audience, committed to do these things so watch this space!

The day was the longest I had spent away from Imogen and, of course, I felt a bit wobbly about that but she was absolutely fine. The hotel kindly provided a room I could express milk during the event. Andy took the day off work to look after the girls and they all had fun, messing about in the garden and making biscuits.

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Sisters | October 2014

sisters-october-2014After nervously preparing Seren for Imogen’s arrival, it’s been wonderful to watch the special relationship between these sisters develop. I spent some time yesterday with both girls cuddled on my lap and Seren telling me that Imogen was her darling. There have been a couple of blips, principally in the early days when Seren was prone to new sibling induced tantrums but these have calmed down lately.

sisters-october-2014 sisters-october-2014

As soon as Seren gets up in the morning, she wants to see Imogen and ‘coochee coo’ at her. Imogen repays her with beaming smiles. If Imogen is crying then Seren will tell me to pick her up and give her milk. She will say to Imogen “it’s OK baby Imogen, your mummy is here”. Imogen saves her best smiles for her sister and I’m sure the reason she rolled over so early is that she is super keen to catch up with big sis. She’s trying to crawl now when she’s on her tummy, head raised, arms and legs flailing and making very frustrated noises.


Seren is mostly a little too enthusiastic with her cuddles and we tell her over and over to be gentle. The one person that doesn’t grumble is Imogen, who shows no distress at being dived on by Seren. During a long car journey recently Imogen was crying and Andy and I were trying to soothe her from the front seats with no luck. As soon as Seren started to coochee coo and sing to her, the crying stopped. They share a special bond that we aren’t part of and I’m excited to see how it develops.

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