Mini-Me and I have gently forayed into the realm of ebay. It’s quite wonderful, really, and easy enough, even for us. I sold her ballet shoes for a few quid (hopefully to someone who needed and appreciated the bargain) and am in the process of selling her old coat. I sold a hideous and unworn designer jumper for £10! And that £10 buys me two pretty, carved-wood framed mirrors. I bought a sturdy keyboard stand for £3 and collected it after my classes in Harrow so no delivery fee. I’m still dropping off to the charity shop - they need it - but sometimes I need to leave the gaps longer, as Mini-Me is annoyed to spot some of her things on the shelves! If you haven’t already heard of it, it’s worth looking into your local Freeecycle website (just search on the net as all the areas have are different addresses). Admittedly, sometimes there are just bizarre items on offer such as cat food samples and used shampoos, but you also get baby equipment and furniture quite a lot, posted by people who haven’t the time or inclination to sell. Useful if your family is growing and money is tight. People collect all types of stuff, too, so if you have stuff to get rid of, even if it’s broken (just always be honest!) saving your stuff from landfill is the way forward for our children’s environment. There are certain safety precautions you should take (like not being alone when people come to collect) which are detailed when you join.
Mini stayed up with me watching a programme on Charles Darwin hosted by David Attenborough to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth (– Darwin, not Attenborough). You can watch a clip featuring an animated explanation of the Tree of Life at www.wellcometreeoflife.org. It proved to be as exciting and absorbing as the slightly less cerebral Come Dine With Me, which is another favourite. Featuring fossils and missing links between species as proof of evolution, some of it went over my head but, happily, lots entered the jumbled soup of knowledge I had previously poured into hers. We had gone last year to the Welcome Institute in Euston which has an exhibit showing the gradual evolution of fish into man - via lizard, ape and everything else - which she actually remembered (so the exhibition wasn’t just a bridge to Pizza Express for her). To continue the theme, I decide to take her round the corner to Bushey Museum (which we had, shamefully, never been to before) to see their latest kids feature: Age of the Dinosaur. Once she had got over the near hysterical shock elicited by seeing a 100 year old photograph of her school (half laughing half crying, “Mummy, my school! I can’t believe it! I recognize the windows!!”) we made our way up the stairs to see fossils up close and play with interactive displays. Mini-Me used a brush to seek out “real” fossils in the sand, just like on Fossil Detectives on the telly. We found out the differences between body shapes of herbivores, carnivores and omnivores and even saw a model of a hatching dinosoaur egg. Mini-me was engaged by the whole thing and I’m half considering going back to the charity shop and buying back her annoying plastic dinosaurs if they haven’t been snapped up already. Mind you, maybe it’s not necessary because she witnesses a fossil turn into a live dinosaur every morning when I get out of bed…
If your kids, like my Mini-Me, are interested in all things science you should look into Mad Science classes and activities which currently run in Rickmansworth, Bushey, Northwood, Radlett and other areas. Mini-Me and her friends really enjoy the day camps that run at her school (when I’m organised enough to book them!). The staff are really friendly, they all have funny scientific monikers (Super Sian, Cosmic Kate etc) and they make science accessible and fun. They even do birthday parties. More info can by found by contacting email@example.com or visit madscience.org/east. Want to continue the good work at home? I found an internet site called ilovebacteria.com which boasts answers to those difficult questions our kids ask us, experiments you can do at home as well as a careers section for older ones considering their options in the field of science.
Now I’m donning my rubber gloves and protective eyewear so that I can conduct my own science experiment: clearing my blocked sink - yucks.
Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com