Tuesday, August 22, 2017


A couple of weeks to go with school holidays. 

I find the more you involve yourself with the pastimes the more fun.



You need to have more than one TV remote control for your telly. We have a Sky one and the one that came with the TV. Turn the TV to BBC1. Arm yourself and 1 child with a remote each and designate a different channel to each (eg BBC2 for you and ITV to the child team). On a count of 3 shout "Draw" and it's the first to change to their channel.  NB; ensure that a score is kept and that, assuming it's the first to 20, that the child team gets a slight lead and maybe gets to 19-17 in the lead. Whatever else happens, they must win.


Get a sheet of newspaper and roll it into a tight stick. Teach them to roll their own. It's a harmless 'sword/light sabre'. Whether you or they are Robin Hood or Darth Vader, they win.  


A volcano has erupted and the entire floor is red-hot lava. They must get from A to B without touching the floor. And they do! Yay!


Kids love climbing. Devise a 'mountain' in the home that's challenging but safe. In our house a good one is to climb the stairs without touching the carpet (there's a sturdy skirting board on one side and gaps between the bannisters on the other). Again, the trick is to make it You versus Them, the dimension of them winning adds so much more.


This is brilliant. You take a position somewhere in the middle of the house and open the front and back doors. They have to sneak from the bottom of the back garden to the front of the front garden without you seeing them. Obviously you are selective in how often you 'see' them with your peepers of doom. I find I can play this one at the kitchen table while doing my fostering paperwork!

You just have to think on your feet, all the time. I've done others I won't recommend, merely mention to illustrate the lengths I've gone to in the past while remaining responsible and sensible (just).


This was a twist on baking cookies. Normal baking is good, but one foster child we had found it twee, refused point blank. Hmmm. The challenge became; who could cook the most obnoxious stew/cookie/pie (okay it's a sort of a waste of some ingredients, but no more a waste than paint and paper). In went his pet hates; tomatoes, onions, mustard, brown sauce, parmesan. This game was largely dependent on a good sport (my partner), being willing to 'taste' the results and decree that the kid's concoction was the winner.


Okay you can see why I'm not recommending this one, but it's no more irresponsible than 'playing' pirates or cops and robbers. 

Years ago we'd bought some motion sensors and an alarm after our garage was broken into. You can move the sensors around, they're battery operated. The players had to close their eyes while I placed the sensors in different parts of the house and challenge them to 'steal' the prize - a Harry Potter book - the location of which I'd tell them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Part One

Summer holidays aren't the easiest time when you foster although for concentrated hectic-ness Christmas takes the beating. The summer is a bit of a long haul.

If its sunny that's one thing; the back door can stay open and the floor space available for play is increased. If it's cloudy or raining the foster parent is up against it.

"I'm bored!"

People my age reminisce that when we were children we used to wander off and mess around in the meadows, and there's some truth in that. Parents weren't so pre-occupied with potential dangers.

The big challenge for us in fostering nowadays is how to combine the essential household jobs that must be done with keeping our foster children organised and (relatively) happy.

Look, I'm no expert. But I've picked up plenty in my years of doing this, and some of below might be useful.

1. Tell them it's good to be bored. Ask them what they'd be doing at 9.45am on a Tuesday IF IT WAS A SCHOOL DAY. They will stop and tell you, and be suddenly happy in their boredom. This buys enough time to clear the breakfast dirties and straighten the kitchen.

2. Hold meetings to discuss what they would like to do. Generally they can't come up with anything themselves, or if they can it's unrealistic ("Alton Towers?" "Go-carting?"). If you want to try suggesting your own ideas, fine, go ahead, but expect to see noses being turned up right left and centre. Take charge yourself.

3. Say; "Okay, here's the plan for today; after hot dogs for lunch we're going to...!". It doesn't matter what you say the activity is, as long as you say it with enthusiasm and authority. And if you haven't thought of anything yet, say it's going to be a surprise. This trick buys you enough of the morning for bedroom-tidying, laundry etc. It trumpets that lunch is going to be fun in itself (foster children generally love food, especially fun food). It implies that the whole day is structured and because you have stipulated that after lunch everyone (including yourself) is going to join in whatever it is you have in mind, the rest of the morning will feel like free time to them and, 9 times out of 10 they will idle the morning away making their own entertainment, which is actually good for them as well as you. Most important of all is the word "WE'RE". You don't say "After lunch YOU'RE..." Because remember, big golden rule I find;

             The most important plaything in the life of a foster child is their foster parent.

Doesn't matter if you actually play the game or not (I am getting quite good at football BTW), all you have to do is be present and participate with your attention "Well done!" "That was good!" "No, I don't think it's broken, but you might have a nice little bruise in the morning."

4. Household jobs done, hot dogs cooked and eaten, time for the 'entertainment.

5. Yes, God has given us board games and skate parks, He has given us sports we can play in the garden or the park such as footy and cricket. He has given us clay and paints. He has given us the cinema and the bowling alley. So go get 'em sister (or brother)!


Big but...many designated activities cost, and we are not a bottomless pit. In any case those activities are bog-standard and lack the essential novelty and spontaneity you want to try to instil in your kids. You want them to be able to make play out of nothing. And the only way to do that is to improvise, and not only show them you're improvising but encourage them to contribute.

NB.If you have more than 1 child to amuse try to include team-building in the games.

In Part Two I'll throw in a few suggestions.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Sad news Glen Campbell died, I'm not a huge Country fan, but Gentle On My Mind was absolutely brilliant.

I remembered that someone once told me Glen was fostered so I Googled him, turns out he wasn't.

But the search threw up some interesting geniuses in all sorts of fields who were fostered;

Business: Steve Jobs

The man who founded and made Apple the world's most successful company. Driven. Considered impossible by ordinary business types - bad tempered, intolerant, explosive, rude, unpredictable, but worth it. He glowed in the dark. Lamented (movie of his life).                    Died young.

Hollywood:...(Female) Marylyn Monroe

The greatest of cinema's great icons. Driven. Considered impossible by ordinary movie types - impulsive, fragile, impetuous, unreliable, but worth it. Lamented. 
                                                         Died young.

Hollywood:...(Male) James Dean
Cinema's most lamented young genius actor. Considered challenging and enigmatic by ordinary movie types - unreliable, impulsive, arrogant - but worth it. Driven. Lamented. Died very young.

Music:...(Male) John Lennon
The voice of dissent in the greatest band ever. Considered troublesome by ordinary music folk, but worth it. Driven. Lamented, cherished. Died young.

Music:...(Female) Cher
Massive show business star of music, TV, and movies. Driven. Troubled - how many marriages? Still doing it. Cherished.

People who were fostered aren't all like the above. For example, did you know Nelson Mandela was fostered? Mind, I suppose the apartheid government thought he was difficult...

And he's very much lamented. And cherished.

I don't think any of the foster children who we have enjoyed in our house will be stars of business, politics or entertainment (mind, you never know). 

What I'm reminded of, looking at the lives of the famous people who went through fostering as children, is that it's a massive experience for them which leaves them out there. Not quite gripping onto life in the same way they might have done in a family that held together and held them dear.

But at the same time I'm reminded that - provided we foster carers accept and celebrate the quirks they are bound to bring with them - they have a chance to go on and do alright.

Or even better than alright.

Whatever; while they are with us they are cherished.